Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Saturday, August 25, 2007
Blogging break

I need to re-charge my batteries. Due to a number of freelance jobs I took this summer, I haven't had any down time. I'm going to take a break from my computer --email, blogging, the daily news -- until Labour Day. Re-acquaint myself with the family I've been neglecting for the past two months. Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Friday, August 24, 2007
Some thoughts on the 101 People Who Are Screwing Up Canada

Impressive endeavour this 101 People Who Are Screwing Up Canada blog that, since late last year, has been counting down the Canadians who are, as the title suggests, screwing up Canada. Some of the top 15 warrant comment:

#15: Francine Lalonde, a Bloc MP is both a separatist and promoter of assisted-suicide. Definitely top 15 material.

#14: Svend Robinson, a former NDP MP and a thief, he has promoted a radical secular, gay and anti-life agenda for decades. And he is plain rude.

#13: Heather Mallick, a writer for ... where does she write now? I wouldn't place her this high because I think she is mostly irrelevant. But I think blog creator Tony Spinks is right on identifying why she shouldn't be listened to: she offers nothing but name calling and vitriol.

#10: The National (Parliamentary) Press Gallery. The pack has not done its job as the fourth estate -- essentially the fourth branch of government, but one whose only role is to keep the others accountable and honest. Too many journalists think they are only doing their job when they are taking an adversary position, but there is a difference between holding the government to account and being antagonistic. If the press corps were doing their job, many of the people on this list of 101 wouldn't have been able to the damage they've done.

#9: Belinda Stronach, Liberal MP and Magna heiress. It might seem wrong to criticized the babe with breast cancer but Stronach's role in 1) increasing the cynicism of Canadians have about politics with her floor-crossing in May 2005, 2)keeping the Martin government alive by doing so, 3) allowing the Layton-Martin budget to pass that month, and 4) the subsequent passing of the gay marriage law in June 2005, should never be forgotten.

#8: Serial killer Clifford Olsen is repugnant but I don't know about his effect on the country (other than his victims). This seems high.

#7: Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. I think that his legacy in politics is toxic, but at least he never increased government spending 25% over two years.

#5: Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin probably deserves a spot closer to number one. Her promotion of judicial activism, the decisions and her public spats with the Conservatives are all extremely dangerous for this country.

#4: Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe might want to break up the country, but he hasn't done anything to advance his cause in his decade of leader of the separatist party. His views may be treasonous but he is inept in advancing them. The fourth-place spot gives him way too much credit.

#3: Maurice Strong may have his tentacles in too many pies but he has disappeared since the Oil for Food scandal broke. Good riddance.

#2: If we follow the advice of environmentalist zeolot and de-population advocate David Suzuki, we endanger both the prosperity and existence of not just Canada, but the species.

#1: Abortionist Henry Morgentaler. He's eliminated tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of unborn children, literally destroying the future of the country. As Mr. Spinks explains: "How much harm has Henry Morgentaler done to Canada? It’s enormous and will continue long after he’s gone. Number one? There was never even a contest." And not only does he have blood on his hands, but he has a God-complex, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007
Happy blogversary Gods of the Copybook Headings

Canada's best blog celebrates its third anniversary and in a typically GCHian post that marks the occasion, examines what Canada has become and describes the role of GCH blog, concludes:

"We can't remind Canadians what the Old Canada was like, very few remember it. It must be re-taught, always mindful that nostalgia is as much a distortion as giving the impression that every White Anglo Saxon Protestant before 1967 was a deranged sexist bigot itchy to rape, murder and pillage the weak and oppressed. The message must be simple and is true: Freedom is our tradition."

And Publius identifies the challenge we Canadians face:

"Since the methodology of debate is compromise, not an analysis of first principles and context, to change the context one merely has to make more radical demands to make the old radical demands seem less so. Thus the policies of the CCF and NDP entered into the platforms of the Liberal and then Progressive Conservative parties, not because very many people really wanted them to, but because no one had the courage to oppose them, lest they fail to compromise. It's a cycle that has to be broken and Stephen Harper is as good a man, and politician, to do it. This is who we are, this why it matters, this where we need to go. Without vision the people do indeed perish. At a certain level it's not even about the ideas themselves but about the methodology, the rejection of the cult of compromise."

I might quibble with the notion, as an example that Publius provides, that what was on offer was abortion on demand (and socialized medicine) and then Canada 'compromised' to some (slightly) lesser evil; Canada has abortion on demand with no effective restriction on it at all. And it isn't compromise that prevents total state-run medicine, but reality creep.

And finally, the best of the past year at GCH.

Schwartz on Friedman

Anna J. Schwartz in the current issue of the Cato Journal remembers Milton Friedman. Read the last paragraph on page one about his concern for low income and other disadvantaged individuals was one reason for his support for school choice (vouchers) and his opposition to the welfare state. The left will never understand that.

The Scandinavian model reports that the centre-right government of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Denmark will significantly cut taxes over the next two years by raising the income ceiling for middle and top income brackets and nearly doubling the employment tax deduction. Furthermore, it has vowed to not raise taxes at all between now and 2015. Except for green taxes on energy consumption which will rise next year to in an effort to make the tax cuts revenue neutral for the government. Overall, this is a step in the right direction.

Housework is good for women

Physically active women are healthier than women who are not physically active. The newsworthy part of this study is that housework counts as physical activity. As the Calgary Herald reported:

"Although all physically active women had some protection against the disease [endometrial cancer], it was those who spent three or four hours a day working around the house who cut their risk in half."

You hear that ladies? Three to four hours each day. You see, when your supposedly lazy husband is watching sports on the television and not picking up after himself or the kids, he is actually helping you.

Family (values) guy

Pete Vere has a story on Bill Murphy, the Family Coalition Party candidate in Sault Ste. Marie, at the website. A taste, in which the candidate is speaking about being more than just against abortion, after discussing the need for income-splitting:

"'Being pro-life and pro-family is not just about being against abortion; it’s about providing real choice to women.'

Noting that his daughters are of high-school and college age, and that some of their friends have found themselves pregnant, Murphy sympathizes with the situation which leads them to contemplate abortion.

'They’re worrying about finances, their education, how their parents will react, and the stresses of becoming a single parent,' he says.

'The FCP will provide women in this situation with the support they need to finish their education, learn good parenting skills, and overcome the obstacles presented by society'."

I'm sure that Murphy's form of (genuinely) compassionate conservatism will offend the more libertarian types on the right, but he should dispel the notion that the FCP is a one-issue party and that pro-lifers are all fire-and-brimstone judgemental jerks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
In or out

The New York Sun is right to 1) call Senator Fred Thompson to account on potentially violating the law with his undeclared candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination and 2) call upon Senator Thompson to take a lead in fixing the silly law, which he helped get through Congress, so candidates do not have to play games as before formally announcing that they're running for office:

"Fred Thompson's 'testing the waters' status in the presidential race may have gotten him in some hot water. As our Ryan Sager reported yesterday, a liberal blogger, Lane Hudson, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the former Tennessee senator has gone beyond what he's allowed to do with his current committee under the law. While Mr. Hudson's motives may be partisan, his reasoning appears to be sound, and Mr. Thompson's campaign will have to give a serious answer to the charges 15 days after the FEC formally serves it with the complaint. That said, while Mr. Thompson must certainly follow the law as it is written, the law he's fallen afoul of is rather silly. As an author of some of this silliness himself, having helped shepherd the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-regulation law through the Senate, he could go a long way toward restoring his good name by challenging these rules head-on.

What's gotten Mr. Thompson in trouble is that in order to be considered in the 'testing the waters' phase of one's campaign, one cannot make 'written or oral statements' that refer to one's self as "a candidate for a particular office." However, in order to keep up interest from voters, Mr. Thompson has had to play a little peek-a-boo with statements such as: 'You're either running or not running. I think the steps we're taking are pretty obvious.' But why should our election laws encourage candidates to engage in such charades? The 'testing the waters' status allows candidates to delay disclosing who their donors are and how much they've raised, but this only muddies the waters as voters and donors consider a potential candidate. The only other thing the status accomplishes is to create uncertainty for potential campaigns as to what they can and cannot do as far as raising and spending money and communicating with voters. Having gotten it wrong could end up costing Mr. Thompson more than $1 million in fines.

Better, it would seem, that this testing-the-waters status be eliminated in its entirety."

More on Chinese biz practices

Via Lasso of Truth, this story on the latest safety/cleanliness problem product in China: chopsticks. Reuters reports:

"A Beijing factory sold up to 100,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks a day without any form of disinfection, a newspaper said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of food and product safety scares...

Officials raided the factory and seized about half a million pairs of disposable bamboo chopsticks and a packaging machine, the Beijing News said in a story headlined 'Dirty Chopsticks'."

I think the Beijing company should plead environmentalism: not using disinfectants is just part of being green.

Three other notable parts of the story to bring to your attention.

1. Initial stories said the chopsticks were re-used or recycled. Apparently this part of the story was "corrected." I'm not sure that means that the initial reports were untrue or whether there was a ChiComm-style "correction" in which a wrong was made right (wink, wink).

2. Reuters reports: "China lacks the manpower to enforce food and drug safety regulations at home or for export." China lacks manpower?

3. Again a quote from Reuters: "A lack of business ethics and a spiritual vacuum after China embraced economic reforms in the late 1970s have been blamed for unscrupulous business practices and corruption." That would be the legacy of communism, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
D-backs an unsurprising division leader

At the beginning of the season, I said that the Arizona Diamondbacks are not quite ready to win the division. If I am remembering correctly, I think I said with a lot of luck (and a little bad luck for the Padres or Dodgers), the D-backs could contend. Chris Jaffe at The Hardball Times says it is entirely predictable that the team is doing well and predicts that they could even go far in the post-season:

"They should win the division even if they are outscored this year. And the funny thing is, they could do pretty well in the playoffs. There’s no really strong team in the NL this year, and back-end pitching matters far less when you’re only playing 4 games a week. With Brandon Webb and that bullpen, some minimal offensive presence could propel them to their second pennant title."

Bloomberg out. Probably

AP reports:

"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a definitive-sounding denial that he will run for president in 2008 during an interview with television newsman Dan Rather taped for airing on the HDNet cable network Tuesday night."


"The comments came after Rather raised the speculation that Bloomberg, a billionaire media magnate, might stage an independent presidential bid — a topic that has drawn intensified interest since Bloomberg, who holds strongly liberal views on most social issues, quit the Republican Party earlier this year.

When asked by the former longtime CBS Evening News anchorman if he would run, Bloomberg first simply stated 'no.' When Rather pressed further, asking if there were any circumstances under which Bloomberg would run for president, Bloomberg first responded that he didn’t know, then added, 'If I don’t say "no" categorically, you’ll then read something into it. The answer is no'."

Here's to hoping that no means no.

There is a debate about the 400,000 killed in Darfur

The Foreign Policy blog has a brief but thorough precis of the controversy over whether 400,000 actually died in the genocide in Darfur started by Time Africa correspondent Sam Dealey's New York Times op-ed criticizing Western aid groups which use this number. As if it matters if 100,000, 400,000 or one million people have been killed. Which is Dealey's point.

Chinese business practices

For what these are worth, two items on doing business in and with Red China:

1. Not really a news flash, China Labour Watch says labour and safety standards in China are, em, sub-standard.

2. The International Herald Tribune, says that Beijing are the colonizers of Africa.

3,000 words of nonsense

Michael O'Brien goes on (and on and on and on -- because that is what Michael O'Brien does) about Harry Potter for a very long time and manages to say nothing new from earlier criticisms of J.K. Rowling's books. A taste:

"Those in thrall to Potterworld may, for a while, be pleasured and distracted from their real condition by the orgy of sensations, by stimulated affections and the rush of adrenaline, by blood and gore and fright and lore, by fabulous imagery and ingenious invention. But take note that throughout the very complex web of plots and subplots the traditional symbols of Western civilization are simultaneously used and misused, are mutated, hybridized, contradicted and even at times inverted - because in this 'fantasy' world, nothing is as it seems nor is it reliable, and even the architecture of thought slips and slides, leading us wherever the whims of the author wish to take us. A poor story-teller would not get away with this for a minute. But Rowling is a talented story-teller, and the massive symphonic effect of her dissolution of civilization's basic principles is justified by many because she has entertained us and because, well, 'it's all about love.'

Genuine freedom is possible only where there is genuine love. And genuine love is not possible without truth. As Tolkien once pointed out in his essay on fantasy literature, the writer who hopes to feed the imagination in a healthy way must remain faithful to the moral order of the real universe, regardless of how fantastic the details of the fictional world may be. The Natural Law which God has written into our beings cannot be entirely eradicated, but it can be gravely deformed, leading to distortion of consciousness and conscience, and hence our actions."

Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes a book is just a book.

Monday, August 20, 2007
Things I'd blog about if I weren't so tired

I just got back from London, Ontario. It's been a long day that began at 5 am. If I had the energy, I would blog about:

1) There is a great line by Baylis in Homicide about train stations being depressing places. So are trains.

2) I've noted before that London (Ontario) is the armpit of Canada. Sadly, the VIA Rail station is the least depressing part of the downtown.

3) During the three-hour ride to London, I read Dick Morris and Eileen Mcgann's Outrage: How Illegal Immigration, the United Nations, Congressional Ripoffs, Student Loan Overcharges, Tobacco Companies, Trade Protection, and Drug Companies Are Ripping Us Off blah, blah, blah. The book deserves some comment, but not right now.

4) On the way back, I read two interesting articles in The Atlantic Monthly -- Matthew Scully’s criticism of former speech-writing colleague Michael Gerson and Joshua Green’s criticism of Karl Rove's commingling of politics and policy in the Bush White House. Neither are available online, but are worth reading. It is worth the six dollars (or whatever it is) to purchase a dead tree copy of The Atlantic for these two articles.

5) The St. Louis Cardinals are 8-3 in their last 11, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-4. Despite their sub-500 record (59-62), they are now just three behind the division-leading Cubbies.

6) Just wondering why National Review Online didn't have anything today about the passing of Michael Deaver, a long-time aide to Ronald Reagan. The American Spectator did.

Of all these, I will probably only get to numbers 3 & 4.

Sunday, August 19, 2007
I won't say this often

But Steve Simmons, the Toronto Sun sports columnist, is right. Today he said:

"J.P. Ricciardi isn't afraid to make the big move, just not necessarily the right move. He didn't care for Kelvim Escobar, but loved A.J. Burnett. Escobar is the better pitcher. He didn't care much for Orlando Hudson or Miguel Batista and traded them from Troy Glaus. Hudson, a defensive whiz, has more RBIs than Glaus, who has a bad back. Batista has 13 wins for a Seattle team fighting for a playofff spot."

I said at the time that Burnett is a nothing but a fragile 500-pitcher. And I also said at the time that Hudson was a defensive gem with an under-rated bat. And I also said at the time that Glaus will be injured too often to contribute to the team much over time. Anyone but the most partisan Jays fan -- and the Jays GM, apparently -- could see these things. Although I don't recall anyone in the Toronto sports media questioning Ricciardi at the time. I guess better late than never. But if the Toronto papers are looking for a baseball writer that doesn't get caught up by hype and excited by undeserved reputations because he knows how to read the statistics that matter, contact me at paul_tuns[AT]

Congratulations Smoltz and Santana

Atlanta Braves starter threw a magnificent game today, pitching 8 innings, striking out 12 while allowing five hits, three walks and two runs against the surging Arizona Diamondbacks, leading the Braves to a 6-2 victory over the D-backs. He passed Phil Neikro for the all-time Atlanta Braves lead in Ks with his 2,920th career strikeout. That's quite something considering the guys Smoltz has played with.

But Smoltz will be over-shadowed because in the AL, Johann Santana's pitching was the difference in a 1-0 victory over the Texas Rangers. Quite something that the Rangers get a good outing from their pitching squad (Kevin Milwood and C.J. Wilson) which gives up just one run and they still lose. But that happens when Santana pitches 8 innings, allows two hits and strikes out 17.

I'm utterly convinced that the premier is Norman Bates

I've always thought that, but even more so after watching the video under Dalton Unplugged on the website. My favourite quote: "You know what the biggest challenge of the job is as premier? Is trying to stay normal ..." Remember that while you watch Norman Bates, er, Dalton speak. Its not just the haircut and silly man-of-the-people plaid shirt; he even has shifty eyes.


Dion and the loony left

CanWest News Service reports that Tory MP Pierre Poilievre has responded to Stephane Dion's attack on the Conservative government negotiating a 'secret' water trade agreement with our southern neighbour: "Stephane Dion has filled his brain with conspiracy theories cooked up by the loony left. If he has any evidence whatsoever that the government of Canada is negotiating a bulk-water agreement, I urge him to immediately produce that evidence." I won't hold my breath.

You can't rebuild New Orleans in day

The New York Times editorializes:

"How quickly the sense of urgency flags. Even as Hurricane Dean heads toward the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is frighteningly far from being prepared to withstand a storm with even a fraction of Katrina’s power.

As John Schwartz reported in The Times on Friday, New Orleans is still a city very much at risk. The task of rebuilding its rickety system of levees has proved hugely difficult, while the government’s efforts have been far less than what was promised and what is needed...

And though most of the task remains to be done, the corps seems to have lost its sense of urgency. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which experts say funneled floodwater into the city, has not been closed off. The corps says it is waiting for proposals from contractors to do the job, which might not be finished for years."

And imagine if it was completed quickly and a year or two down the road a hurricane caused great damage to the city again. You just know that the Times would be blaming Congress and the Bush administration for hurrying and doing a lackluster job. Furthermore, my guess is that the hold-ups are due to safety, environmental and other regulations that the Times has previously supported. Just an educated guess.

Solemn and history-making

The Halifax Herald headline noted that the grooms (read that closely: grooms) at Scott Brison's wedding looked 'radiant.' The Herald reports:

"History was made Saturday in an emotional ceremony inside a weathered clapboard church on the Minas Basin shores.

Scott Brison and Maxime St. Pierre walked down the aisle to the song It’s A Wonderful World and emerged 30 minutes later as a married couple, making it the first same-sex wedding of a Canadian member of Parliament.

'It was a solemn ceremony and it was joyful,' former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna said after the service. 'It was respectful, and I think everybody in the room felt like they were part of a history-making event'."

And adding to Stephane Dion's flakiness factor was his description of the "historic" moment: "It is a sunny, sunny day in our hearts." It's hard to sum up a gay wedding more gayly.

Best defensive plays in post-season history

Major League Baseball is inviting fans to vote on the best plays of October 'ball and this week is part II of the best defensive plays. This should be easy: "The catch" by Willie Mays. It is amazing to watch -- although MLB doesn't show the full play which included an equally tremendous throw back to second to keep Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians from tagging up and taking a base. Bob Costas has said that the only question at the time in everyone's mind was whether the ball that was lined deep over the head of Mays in centerfield by Vic Wertz was going to be an in-the-park homerun or a triple. Mays' New York Giants team-mates didn't think he would get to it. But as May told fellow Giants outfielder Monte Irvin on the trot back to the dugout, "You kidding, I had that all the way." (Willie Mays also once said, "I don't make history. I catch fly balls.")

The next best defensive plays are a pair of remarkable outfield catches that robbed the batter of a homerun and then were turned into double plays: Endy Chavez for the Mets in 2006 and Dwight Evans for the Boston Red Sox in 1975.

Hafner and the Cleveland Indians

Sports Illustrated's Gennaro Filice notes that Cleveland Indians' DH Travis Hafner is having a mediocre season by his own standards. Last year at this time, Hafner was hitting 302 with 35 homers, 105 RBIs and a 1059 OPS. (He would later miss much of September with an injury.) This year during which Hafner has been injured and playing through a pulled hamstring and swollen knee, he's hitting 254 with 18 homeruns, 71 ribbies and 816 OPS. Indians GM Mark Shapiro said Hafner's "still having a good year by mortal terms." And that's why Hafner, who sits half the game in the dugout while his team-mates take the field, gets paid the mortal dollars (he signed a four-year, $54 million contract extension last month), right? No doubt Hafner is playing below the club's and his own expectations -- but sometimes that is to be expected.

What Gennaro Filice doesn't make mention of is that this doesn't seem to be affecting the Indians too much. The Tribe in on top of the AL Central division with a 68-54 record. Another way of looking at it is that for all of Hafner's offense in 2006, on the same date last year, the Indians were a 54-67 club. Last year, shortstop Jhonny Peralta (among others) was playing below expectations. In 2005, Peralta had a great line for a middle infielder: 292 BA, 366 OBP, 520 SLG, with 24 homers and superb defense. The Tribe just missed the playoffs with a great late-season run but the Chicago White Sox held on to win the Central. The team expected great things from Peralta again in 2006 and that the team would stride into the post-season. Instead, Peralta's defense slid and his offense disappeared: 257/323/385 with 13 homeruns. Not that Peralta was the sole reason for Cleveland's fourth-place finish and sub-500 record, but young players or players with exceptional seasons are unlikely to repeat their phenomenal performances. Counting on them doing so is silly and will, as often as not, lead to disappointment.

Hafner had an MVP-quality season last year: 308/439/659 with 42 HRs and 115 RBIs. That was a step up from his 2005 season (305/408/595 with 33 HRs and 108 RBIs in 8 fewer games) and much better than his career numbers. Expecting a repeat of 2006 was not realistic. Sure, Hafner should not have regressed as much as he has, but some regression was likely. Still, the Indians and their fans can't help but wonder how their team would be doing with extra offense from Hafner.

Brown's quangos

Rob Watts has an excellent story in the Sunday Telegraph on how more than a decade after Chancellor Gordon Brown declared war on the bureaucrats, experts, government panels and agencies, etc.. in London, the problem has gotten worse. Much, much worse. Definitely worth reading, but here is the bottom line:

"In fact, the cost of executive agencies, advisory bodies, independent monitoring boards and other quangos has mushroomed under New Labour. Spending on such agencies soared to £167.5billion in 2006, up from £24.1bn in 1998."

Anti-gun website linked to Michael Bryant

Nice work by Steve Janke who has determined that far from being a grassroots effort, the anti-gun website in fact has close links to Ontario Attorney General (and anti-gun fanatic) Michael Bryant. As Janke notes at The Western Standard blog who is behind NoFunNoFuneral:

"* The riding president of the St Paul's Liberal Riding Association, Glenn Brown, is the site administrator. The riding of St Paul's is Michael Bryant's riding.

* Michael Bryant's director of operations, Nikki Holland, is listed as owning the site's administration mailbox.

* The phone number of the site goes to the Michael Bryant Election Campaign.

None of this in on the website. It is all on the site domain administration information. The average visitor would never know any of this."

Janke notes that "Michael Bryant came clean" saying:

"[I]t's my website ... It's bizarre that people who don't want to register their guns think I should register my website as a dangerous weapon."

As Janke replies, "People want to know the agenda behind the message. That's not bizarre at all." There are only two conclusions that one can make about Bryant, a lawyer by training: he is either disingenuous or a complete idiot.

Toothpaste: the next victim of green fascism

The Globe and Mail reports:

"[T]he widespread use of whitening toothpaste, mouthwash and home kits - products that often contain sodium hydroxide, considered a poison by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - have worrying health implications, not to mention their effect on waterways as they swirl down the sink."

So sodium hydroxide is a 'poison' that may harm humans but the focus of the article is on the potential damage to the environment. Nice priorities, there.

But don't fear, greeniacs, there are alternatives: we can follow the lead of many Africans and south Asians who use neem sticks, "a natural disinfectant that polishes teeth."

Saturday, August 18, 2007
What a flake

I've long said that I think Elizabeth May is a flake. The Green Party leader looks like a not-very-good high school debate club president playing among the big boys and political professionals. Stephane Dion is about to join her in the flake club. The Liberal leader says that there are secret negotiations to sell Canadian water to the Americans. He has the proof but he can't share it. According to the Toronto Star, Dion said, "I believe there are secret negotiations. We want to an end to these negotiations," and "I have information that these discussions are going on." So let's see it. Oh, not quite yet, says Dion. The Globe and Mail reports Dion saying, "I have information that I cannot show." Sure, ya do, Stephane.

The Globe mocks Dion, reporting:

"To back up its argument, Mr. Dion's office followed up the news conference by sending journalists copies of a report by the Council of Canadians in which it purports to disclose 'damning evidence of how North American integration is being carried out by stealth.'

In fact, what the council uncovered are a series of panel discussions organized by a group of think tanks - Center for Strategic and International Studies of the U.S., Conference Board of Canada and Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas of Mexico - where bulk water exports apparently were discussed."

Apparently Dion doesn't know the difference between an academic exercise by think tanks and official or quasi-official government discussions. But, there's more. The Globe noted that the Liberals also quoted new Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, a former executive at the libertarian-leaning Montreal Economic Institute, saying that water is a commodity just like milk or food. Sure, Bernier said that when he was a candidate in 2005, but he was only made the Foreign Affairs Minister this week. Are the water-trade discussions that recent?

The Globe, unlike the Star, held up Dion's claim to implicit ridicule, which was more than deserved. Dion is an unserious politician. Stunts like this will help more Canadians realize that.

I just noticed this

The NCC hasn't had anything to say -- nothing on their blog, no press release -- on the cabinet shuffle this week. (They do link to articles in the mainstream media, but it is not clear that the pundits or reporters share the NCC's view on this political development.) In fact, their blog has now been silent for exactly one month.

On the plus side, their website promoting health care reform, while non-committal in the direction the organization would like to go, is very well done.

Friday, August 17, 2007
Muslims changing Malaysia

Consider this opening paragraph from a story in the London Times:

"Over a drink of green coconut at what used to be called the Passionate Love Beach until his Islamist party came to power and scrapped the name, state minister Takiyuddin Hassan outlines the victories in the war on sin."

Think about that for a moment -- the government had the power to change the name of a beverage -- before you continue:

"To the south, in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, celebrations are starting for Malaysia’s 50th year as an independent state. Its proud achievements are modern universities, a buoyant economy and a respected place in the world as a moderate Islamic nation.

Mr Hassan’s party boasts a different set of achievements: banning mini-skirts, chastising unmarried couples and renaming Kota Bharu’s favourite beauty spot. They also closed down nightclubs, banned nearly all bars except a few Chinese restaurants, where no Muslims are allowed, and refused to let a proposed cinema open unless there were separate sections for men and women.

In a sign of their clout, the American pop diva Gwen Stefani has agreed to wear traditional costumes in her Malaysian concert next week after conservative Muslim youths protested at the 'indecent dressing and obscenity' of her skin-baring act. An Islamic opposition party demanded that her show next Tuesday should be cancelled."

Never mind banning mini skirts and nightclubs. I'm still baffled that that you can still order Passionate Love Beach in Kota Bharu, just not by that name, because the Islamist government says so.

Perhaps a sign the GOP are about to get their butt handed to them in '08

The AP reports that nine-term Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) and six-term Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss) are not seeking re-election. Sometimes a retirement is just a retirement. Sometimes its not. A sign that these a more than mere retirements and a signal of some deeper problems reflecting the GOP's political viability will be if former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro will decide by the end of the month if he will seek Pryce's seat. Already State Senator Steve Stivers has said he has no interest in replacing Pryce.

More gangs, more guns

The RCMP released its report on organized and they found that the number of gangs operating in 2007 jumped to 950, up 150 from the prior year. That's almost a 20% jump in one year. That seems a lot and I'd say perhaps the federal police are looking for more money for crime-fighting.

The CanWest story reports:

"The illegal drug trade still makes up the bulk of organized crime activity in Canada, with about 80 per cent of all gangs involved in it...

Closely connected to the drug trade is the illegal gun trade, the report said in a feature section on firearms. Criminals need guns to commit their crimes and for personal protection, and the drug trade fuels the demand for guns because it is 'highly competitive, extremely profitable and consequently fertile ground for violent disagreements between and within criminal organizations.'

The report said the United States is a 'significant source' of guns smuggled into Canada and that there are unmanned border crossings that can be exploited by criminals."

Here's a shocker: criminals are using illegal guns. So instead of harassing legal gun users by forcing them to register their firearms, it is time for Ottawa to get serious about patrolling the border (tourists complain about the wait to get into America, not the return trip back to Canada) and impose some serious prison sentences for those who use guns to commit crimes.

Divisive diversity

Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner considers the recent study of diversity by noted liberal Robert Putnam that questions that sacred cow of liberal ideology. Gardner is pretty fair and is right to note that conservatives have been a little too quick to hold up Putnam as a kindred spirit.

The column is worth reading but I found this interesting:

"One fact that should never be overlooked is that diversity isn't permanent. People from different ethnic groups meet, talk and move in next door. Some marry and have kids. Lines shift and blur. Sometimes they disappear: There was a time not so long ago that Italians were a despised, marginalized, ghettoized people within North America, but today they are the old stock wrinkling their noses at the strange habits of newcomers."

That is, everyone hated the wops until there was someone else more different to hate.

Furthermore, as Gardner cautions, while it is easy to count the costs of diversity, it is not so easy to ascertain the benefits:

"Quantifying the benefits of diversity isn't easy. What's the value of the diverse restaurants in a diverse city? How can we count and weigh the new ideas generated when diverse perspectives are shared? Jane Jacobs worked on these questions. So have others. But the math of diversity remains elusive."

So Torontonians are not properly equipped to determine an answer to this question: Is the high Jamaican crime rate a good trade off for having a greater number of places to order jerk chicken?

Ultimately diversity is not an economic question or a sociological question but a values judgement. And then the Left brings out the heavy hitter, racism, to thwart all discussion.

Gardner, despite much effort to illuminate the discussion, is still more heat than light.

No need for protectionism, just discriminating consumers

The Ottawa Citizen editorializes:

"In the 1970s, U.S. Senator Dick Clark said his country couldn't meddle in South African policy. 'But,' he added, 'I think we ought to meddle in our own.' The same could be said of Canada and China today.

Canada's government is not obliged to ignore the Chinese government's human rights record. Canadian families are not obliged to buy their children dangerous toys or use contaminated products. And Canadian companies are not obliged to do business with a country that has a systemic safety problem.

That doesn't mean we should officially break off trade with China, only that we should be discriminating in what we buy. We don't have to shrug off safety concerns as the cost of doing business cheap."

Thursday, August 16, 2007
Do women only care about is the number of skirts in cabinet?

Feminist Montreal Gazette Janet Bagnell thinks so. She writes:

"Since he did nothing in his cabinet shuffle Tuesday to correct the impression that women are, in his view, trustworthy for only soft, i.e., traditionally female, portfolios such as culture, we can conclude that he apparently thinks he can win a majority without them...

Harper's one concession to women was to not let their numbers drop. Diane Ablonczy was made the new secretary of state for small business and tourism, replacing Carol Skelton, the former minister for national revenue. This move kept at seven the number of women in the 32-member cabinet."

The fact is the Tories don't have many women to choose from and Harper seems less interested in numbers games than competence. I assume that most Canadian women care more about Harper picking the best, er, man for the job than setting aside some cabinet spots for unqualified women. Or do female voters care less about competence? If that is so, perhaps it is time to reconsider whether letting them vote is such a good idea. I challenge the likes of Ms. Bagnall -- and the Liberal and NDP talking heads who appeared on TV this week bemoaning the lack of women in the cabinet -- to name better qualified women than the men in cabinet while maintaining some semblance of geographical balance. Certainly if women bring a different perspective than men to the cabinet table, so, too, do representatives from different regions bring different perspectives.

Moments in religious tolerance

The Scotsman reports:

"Hospital staff in the Lothians have been told not to eat at their desks to avoid offending Muslim colleagues during Ramadan. NHS Lothian has advised doctors and other health workers not to have working lunches during the 30-day fast, which begins next month."

I'm sure that Christians would be similarly accommodated in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. For instance, Saudi authorities would certainly permit American soldiers to erect Christmas trees on their own military bases. Well, not quite. As Daniel Pipes reported in the National Interest in 2002:

"In Saudi Arabia, the U.S. government submits to restrictions on Christian practices that it would find totally unacceptable anywhere else in the world-starting with the U.S. president's not celebrating Thanksgiving in the Kingdom, as mentioned above. The hundreds of thousands of American troops in Saudi Arabia in December 1990 were not permitted to hold formal Christmas services at their bases on Saudi soil; all that was allowed to them were "C-word morale services" held in places where they would be invisible to the outside world, such as tents and mess halls. The goal was for no Saudi to be made to suffer the knowledge that Christians were at prayer."

Another reason no one would care if the dikes broke

The Associated Press reports that a Dutch Catholic bishop, Tiny Muskens, said: "Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will call God Allah? God doesn't care what we call him." I'm impressed. Bishop Muskens actually said "God doesn't care what we call Him." But the tiny bishop has also said in the past that the poor can justifiably steal and that the really horny can use condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS so he really isn't that Catholic. But such is the state of the Catholic Church in Holland. When I was in the Netherlands in the mid-1980s, I met a Catholic priest who had two daughters with his shack-up and didn't bother to show up for Mass. He taught theology at a local university.

The green agenda hurts poor people

Indeed, one might consider environmentalism a plot to keep the poor and disadvantaged in the developing world that way, to the benefit of the rich and already productive West. This has been well-covered terrain but Ross Clark's cover story in last week's Speccie is worth reading. Consider:

"[Bush] won’t be suggesting, for example, that China be allowed to emit extra carbon emissions to compensate for the fact that the country now produces 43 per cent of the world’s cement. Neither will he be negotiating a target which would limit China to the same per-capita carbon emissions as the US. Rather he will attempt to make a deal which will effectively cap China’s emissions permanently at a fraction of those of the US. In other words his aim will be to institutionalise the gap in wealth between rich countries and poor ones, and give the US an inbuilt advantage against Chinese producers.

While this will cause outrage in India and China, those countries shouldn’t expect a great deal of sympathy from Gordon Brown, who has already made it his ambition for Britain to benefit from global warming at the expense of the poor. Imagine if you were a Third World peasant listening, on a crackling, wind-up radio set, to the then Chancellor’s pre-budget report last December: ‘I can report that following the Stern Review, 31 countries in the EU and EFTA have already signed up to emissions trading as the first step to this global framework. And we are bringing together the major financial institutions: our aim, to make London the world’s trading centre for carbon trading.’

In other words, the driving force behind the Prime Minister’s great mission to extend carbon trading worldwide isn’t so much to prevent climate change as to boost the profits of the City. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme forces companies and organisations which emit more carbon than their agreed targets to buy carbon credits from those who undershoot their targets. That it is a bizarre piece of bureaucracy which enriches those good at negotiating their targets at the expense of those who are less good should already be obvious following the revelation that Shell has made a £49.9 million profit and BP a £43.1 million from selling their unused allocations, while the NHS has made a net loss of £6 million. But it will be even more absurd when industries undergoing expansion in developing nations are forced to buy carbon credits from shrinking industrial operations in Europe, helping in the process to buy Porsches for big wheels in the City."

When did the Left abandon is liberalism, its compassion and it progressiveness? The modern liberal is cruel and barbaric.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
And Peter MacKay was the Foreign Affairs Minister and son of MP Elmer MacKay

From the Halifax Daily News:

"When Maritime soldiers returned home from Afghanistan a week ago, a Cape Breton man was waiting to see his son arrive, when he had a run-in with MacKay. Talking later to his family, he laughed about how, for the first half of the conversation, he couldn't remember who MacKay was.

'Imagine, I'm talking to the premier and I don't even recognize him,' he marvelled.

'No, no, you're thinking of Rodney MacDonald. That's Peter MacKay, he's the Foreign Affairs Minister,' his wife corrected.

The man looked confused.

'He runs ACOA,' said his son.


'He's the one who dated Belinda Stronach,' the wife tried.

The mans eyes lit up. 'Ohhhh! He's the fella she dumped for Tie Domi!' he laughed."

If you needed any evidence that cabinet shuffles don't matter politically, there it is.


Send comments, questions and complaints to paul_tuns[-AT-]

More on the cabinet

Paul Wells, who will always be too cute even if he's hardly ever right: "The prime minister unveils his new team and none of them get to speak. But I'm sure nobody noticed that."

Gerry Nicholls makes an important observation: "[T]he only true small 'c' conservative in cabinet, Maxime Bernier, is out of the country on the Embassy circuit." Hmmm. That can't be good news for conservatives.

Adam Daifallah doesn't like one part of the shuffle:

"The letdown is Josée Verner to Heritage. Verner is not going to do anything to promote conservatism in this ministry. Culture is an area where we could make a lot of headway if we had a minister with a mandate and some courage. Verner will just traipse around giddily handing out piles of cash from the panoply of slush funds at her disposal and continue to try to appease various special interests in the arts and "cultural" communities, all of whom will never ever vote Tory.

I was hoping Myron Thompson would get the call, but we'll have to wait till next time."

Adam, you'll be waiting a lot longer than 'next time' but I'm with you on Verner not helping conservatives in her new post. This is how I would have handled the cabinet shuffle: drop Gordon O'Connor from cabinet altogther, make the other refinements (keep Bernier in Industry until all the necessary deregulation stuff is completed, maybe move Prentice to Defense) and since Harper needs an Ottawa-area MP in cabinet, name Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton) or Pierre Lemieux (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), real, solid conservatives as Heritage Minister. The nuts and bolts issues are handled by bureaucrats but the minister and his staff would veto the objectional projects and scale back the costs of others.

Time for Brownback to hang it up

Rich Lowry, the strongly pro-life editor of National Review, says it is time for Kansas Senator Sam Brownback to end his campaign to become the GOP presidential nominee in 2008. Lowry says:

"The Brownback campaign is essentially premised on pro-life purity. The Kansas senator himself would insist that it is based on his “whole life” views. I admire those views and think they are very important. (I was genuinely delighted to see Brownback hugging, if I’m not mistaken, a woman with Down Syndrome in his Iowa straw poll video — good for him) But it’s not any of the particularly whole-life issues — care for the elderly and disabled, Darfur, prison reform — that are driving his campaign.

Instead, it’s attacks on other candidates for not being pro-life enough, or more precisely for not being pro-life soon enough. I find this pointless. I don’t believe that Mitt Romney is ever going to go back to being pro-choice. But, fine, maybe his conversion in 2004 is of too recent vintage to be believed.

Then, there’s Fred Thompson. The former Tennessee senator converted to pro-life sometime after 1994. That’s long enough ago to grandfather anyone in to his new position. But it’s presumably not long enough for Brownback, who is running his campaign less on ideology than on chronology.

What would be long enough? How about someone who’s always been pro-life? That would be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who demonstrated in Ames last week what was already pretty clear: He has more political appeal than Brownback in a presidential race. Huckabee has shined in the debates, is a natural orator, and has considerable crossover appeal to the media. None of this can be said of Brownback.

The logic of Brownback’s campaign suggests that he now must try to tear down Huckabee — because he needs to clear out Huckabee the pro-lifer before he can effectively tear down the other, higher-ranked pro-life candidates. On what basis he can go after Huckabee remains to be seen. It’s doubtful that he’s going to win the chronology contest with a guy who was a Baptist pastor before he entered politics in 1992."

Indeed, Brownback continuing his Quixotic quest might end up harming the pro-life cause. That would be unfortunate and unconscionable. If Brownback truly believes in the sanctity of all human life -- and there is no reason to believe he doesn't -- then he would be better off letting another candidate take up that mantle.

About Garth Turner

Does anyone still give any thought to MP Garth Turner? I guess you have to if you live in the riding. Rempelia Prime observes: "[I]t’s embarrassing to me to have a Member of Parliament walking around looking like the caveman from the Geiko insurance commercials. His family should stage an intervention."

Small wonders

The Canadaeast News Service reports: "Tamara Small, a political science professor at Mount Allison University, said Harper unveiled a 'very conservative' shuffle, moving only a small number of ministers." Is seven ministers changing portfolios, one dropped from cabinet completely, one secretary of state added to the cabinet and a new secretary of state really "only a small number"? Eight new ministers out of 26 is quite significant -- just under 30% of the cabinet was shuffled. That's quite big, really. Perhaps Professor Small's analysis is affected by her problem with numbers. Small said, "It looks like Harper has made as few moves as possible, moving five or six people in and out, and it wasn't a dramatic shuffle." If you don't include Diane Ablonczy's move to Secretary of State (Small Business and Tourism), you still have eight people nine people affected by the cabinet changes (including dropping retiring MP Carol Skelton from cabinet). Numbers can be difficult for people in political science, but usually troubles do not arise until one reaches, at least, double digits when counting beyond fingers and thumbs becomes difficult.

What Canada thinks about the cabinet shuffle

Or at least its newspapers.

The Montreal Gazette calls it effecient and finds that it is designed to help the mission in Afgahanistan, saying:

"As his government moves past the average lifespan for minority administrations, Harper has refused to submit his cabinet to a cosmetic facelift, preferring to make just some tweaks, addressing only a few glaring problems.

Even the ministers who have plainly under-achieved, or worse, remain in the cabinet, although in lesser roles. This is a measure of Harper's own self-confidence. Having chosen the best people, he is telling us, I see little reason to start chopping and changing now.

And yet Harper has found a way, in his minimalist shuffle, to bring his heavy weapons, so to speak, to bear efficiently on his biggest issue. With Maxime Bernier at foreign affairs and Peter MacKay at defence, this government now has two capable, popular and articulate ministers in position to manage and explain our efforts in Afghanistan."

The Halifax Herald says it is all public relations, but not much has changed:

"Stephen Harper moved Tuesday to put a happier and more voter-friendly face on his inner circle, in hopes Canadians will smile back with approval of his ruling Conservatives come the next election...

It was out with the old and back in with the old in all cabinet posts but one on Tuesday."

The Edmonton Journal says it was definitely not a PR exercise:

"When a prime minister shuffles his cabinet, excited observers invariably assume the main goal is political. Well, Version 3.0 of Team Harper -- the second reprogramming in a year -- clearly contradicts this rather trivializing notion.

If political impact was the objective, an announcement late in the day in the middle of August isn't the way a savvy politician like Stephen Harper would have gone about it. If political fallout was on his mind, the Calgary leader of a precarious minority government probably would not have further boosted the already eye-catching dominance of Calgary and Southern Alberta in the province's ministerial delegation.

One is left with a single, inescapable conclusion. Stephen Harper's focus this week was simply where Canadians would want it to be -- on his vision of doing a better job of running the country."

The Calgary Herald says the shuffle reflects the importance the government places on foreign affairs. The paper likes moving Peter MacKay from Defense to Foreign Affairs:

"Thanks to Afghanistan and heavy procurement, defence is hot, an unusual phenomenon in this peaceable dominion. There could hardly be better preparation for a defence minister than time well-spent in foreign affairs; MacKay cannot fail to have noticed how much diplomats need generals. It is now the articulate MacKay's job to push the government line -- Canada must be in Afghanistan, but Parliament must agree.

That Harper trusts him with this sensitive task works a second rope, reassuring restless Maritime Conservatives their man is still big enough to speak up for them about equalization. Plus, there's no downside giving the region's most prominent Conservative defence, when 40 per cent of Canada's armed forces hail from the Maritimes."

The Windsor Star is generally unimpressed, but like the Herald, applauds the move of MacKay to Defense:

"MacKay, for his part, is an able communicator and, from the government's standpoint, that is essential if the value of Canada's role in Afghanistan is going to start getting across more effectively.

But overall, Tuesday's cabinet shuffle seems like change for the sake of change -- with the hope that it will somehow help the Conservatives break into majority territory in the polls."

The Ottawa Citizen comments only on the shuffle's effect on the mission in Afghanistan:

"If the job is difficult in peacetime, it's more so today thanks to Canada's intervention in Afghanistan. We live in a post-9/11 world. A defence minister is charged with defending his or her country, a task that is more complex today than it ever was.

Mr. O'Connor was a plain-spoken defence minister, but clearly a more sophisticated grasp of today's security environment is needed to explain, to Canadians, the importance of Afghanistan. Canadians are divided on whether our role in Afghanistan justifies the cost in blood and treasure. The new minister, Peter MacKay, needs to be able to demystify the campaign in both official languages."

The Victoria Times Colonist editorial headline says it all: "Cabinet shuffle - different cards, same deck."

The Vancouver Province says the shuffle is notable for only three reasons -- Gordon O'Connor is out of Defense, Jim Flaherty is still in Finance and Chuck Strahl heads to the 'high profile' Indian Affairs but otherwise:

"The changes are typical Harper -- pragmatic moves aimed at shoring up a tightly-controlled election team."

Not surprisingly, the Toronto Star is unimpressed, parrotting the Liberal and NDP talking points. The paper finds Harper:

"trotting out better salesmen to sell skeptical Canadians on an unpopular war. It signals the beginning of the Conservative relaunch after 18 months of failing to connect with the voting public. It was also a less than dramatic moment...

Unless the Conservatives also shuffle their policies, yesterday's personnel changes may prove an exercise in futility."

The Sun Media chain signed editorial (written by Licia Corbella) likes it, concluding:

"Moving Peter MacKay out of foreign affairs into defence was smooth as was moving suave Quebecer Maxime Bernier out of industry into the largely diplomatic role of foreign affairs, boosting the government's profile in Quebec.

Harper insisted that these changes don't represent a "U-turn" for the government; rather it's an opportunity to broaden his ministers' base of experience.

All in all, this appears to be a shuffle that's a win for this government and therefore the country."

The Kingston Whig-Standard said it doesn't matter:

"[H]e needs to loosen the fetters the Prime Minister's Office has placed on all members of his government. That doesn't mean cabinet ministers galloping madly off in all directions; it simply means giving trusted, experienced people some broad direction and letting them move forward...

Instead, Harper has held the spotlight on himself, and most decisions have been made by his office and announced through it. His senior ministers have been little more than props."

The Regina Leader-Post unsurprisingly puts a spotlight on new Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, or as the editorial calls him, the Minister of Hot Potatoes:

"He's a good choice, raised on a family farm and having several years experience running his own operation. He's been chair of the standing committee on agriculture and was agriculture critic while in opposition.

Ritz is now Saskatchewan's lone cabinet minister following the departure from cabinet of former minister of national revenue Carol Skelton, who is not running in the next federal election.

While Ritz's new job can't be compared to the powerful finance portfolio held in the last Liberal government by Wascana MP Ralph Goodale, it will significantly raise the province's profile in Ottawa."

Overall, I think the reaction is predictable -- right-leaning papers say the shuffle provides the opportunity for the Tories to do better, left-leaning papers said nothing really changed because the same policies are in place. Of course, they are both right. There is no change in direction but Stephen Harper hopes that the new faces will help sell the old policies better than the old faces. With the exception of MacKay at Defense, Maxime Bernier at Foreign Affairs and perhaps Jim Prentice at Industry, there is little reason for Harper's optimism that his policies will be better received.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Interim-sponsored show achives now available

I got this email from Tony Gosgnach, host of Culture Watch, which can be listened to live online at every second and fourth Thursday from 6:05-7:05 pm (and replayed every first and third Wednesday at the same times):

Six previously aired Culture Watch programs are now available to listen to on demand through a new archive feature established by Radio Maria. They can be accessed at and include:

- Former Alliance party MP Larry Spencer, who was expelled from the nascent Conservative party in controversial circumstances over alleged statements he made criticizing homosexuality
- Film director Deiren Masterson, who produced the film McLuhan Way, which explored the faith life of famed Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan
- REAL Women of Canada national vice-president Gwen Landolt, who speaks about the crisis in Canada's judicial system, especially as epitomized by the case of Roy McMurtry, and Camille de Blasi Pauley, of the Healing the Culture organization, which offers a new, wholistic approach to the pro-life battle
- Tim Bloedow, author of the recently published book State vs. Church
- Calgary musician and painter Scott Kelly, who recently released his debut CD, 70 X 7
- Fr. Joseph Singh, who addresses the Theology of the Body program as outlined by Pope John Paul II

More programs will be added to the archive in the near future, as well as a feature that will allow the programs do be downloaded for later listening or on other sevices such as iPods.

Canada's New New Government

The cabinet is shuffled and I'm underwhelmed. The CTV story here. Globe and Mail here. The National Post reports that Maxime Bernier is the big winner. The National Post editorializes that the cabinet was well shuffled and that Stephen Harper is ready to manage his government better; let's hope he lets his cabinet ministers manage their portfolios better. Colby Cosh says the Tories are election-ready. Some thoughts:

1) This whole shuffle was precipitated by Gordon O'Connor's incompetence at Defense. But Stephen Harper could not admit that he was wrong so instead of moving O'Connor out of cabinet completely, he demoted the retired Brigadier-General to Minister of National Revenue. On the plus side, we never hear from the Revenue Minister. On the negative side, O'Connor is still in cabinet. You would think that Calgary MP Diane Ablonczy would have been a nice fit, adding the skirt and a veteran (and competent) MP to the cabinet.

2) I think Maxime Bernier is a star and he deserves the promotion to a high profile job like Foreign Affairs. But that said, two observations: 1) the portfolio is often thought to be a way of putting future leadership contenders to forget about partisan politics as they jet around the world so this might thwart Bernier's leadership ambitions, and 2) Bernier's important free-market work at Industry is not done yet. Still, he deserves the vote confidence shown him.

3) I hate the Chuck Strahl move for two reasons. First, it shows weakness on the government's part in the handling of the Wheat Board. The portfolio needs a fighter and Strahl is a fighter. The government risks having the farmers push them around now. Second, he moves to Indian Affairs (or whatever its called now) where his being feisty won't serve him well.

4) Josee Verner and Bev Oda trade spots. The Quebec MP becomes Heritage Minister, the Ontario MP becomes minister for international development. From what I hear, Verner is not very bright, has steep learning curve and doesn't get much accomplished. So she can now bring her incompetence to domestic issues rather than foreign aid. From what I hear, Oda may or may not be competent but that most of the problems emanating from her portfolio can be laid squarely on the PMO's doorstep. But Harper needs both in cabinet: Verner is his only female MP from Quebec and Oda is a female visible minority MP from the GTA. Competence doesn't matter; biographical details, do.

5) Peter MacKay can do nothing in the Defense portfolio as well as he did nothing in the Foreign Affairs spot. Defense is a difficult file and while he might win points with military constituents, his problems might be enough to pre-occupy him for a good while and help Elizabeth May get elected.

6) I hope that we don't see Jim Prentice's reddish hue in Industry.

7) The media was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. A week ago, it was going to be a small shuffle. And then it was going to be an enormous shuffle. In the end, a bunch of people changed places, retiring MP Carol Skelton was replaced by some other anonymous Saskatchewan MP and Ablonczy finally got her due. But Jason Kenney did not get his anticipated promotion and Jim Flaherty was not ushered out of finance. Neither was likely. Kenney mostly does political work and a real portfolio would hamper the outreach conservatives are doing with the immigrant communities. Moving Flaherty would be admitting that the entire direction of the Conservative government was wrong. Harper isn't going to do that.

8) Best comment belongs to Adam Radwanski: "Now that this is over with, is it about the right time to file a missing person's report on Tony Clement? Harper evidently didn't dislike him enough to move him, but I won't hold my breath waiting for him to let his health minister actually start doing stuff, either."

9) And today's village idiot award goes to "Conservative political strategist" Phillipe Gervais who on the CBC tonight noted Bernier is now Foreign Affairs Minister and criticized the Liberals asking the rhetorical question, when was the last time the Grits had a Foreign Affairs Minister from Quebec. Er, 2004-2006.

Monday, August 13, 2007
Fewer blacks playing baseball

Usually these stories are the domain of papers like the Toronto Star. Today, though, it appeared in the Washington Times. In fact, it is the first of a three-parter. I'm saddened by this not because having fewer blacks is necessarily an issue -- I tend to think that any racial or gender divide usually represents the choices of individuals so racism and sexism are hardly ever factors. Rather I'm saddened by the fact that anyone would be turning their back on the truly beautiful game.

Here are some numbers regarding blacks in baseball:

"Whether it's a problem, a crisis or merely a trend, it is evident throughout all levels of baseball. According to the NCAA, 6.1 percent of its Division I players in 2005 were black. Only one of the seven teams in the historically black Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had more black players than white players this season, according to a published report. Three of the 16 players on the Wilson High School baseball team, which just won its 15th straight D.C. Public League title, are black, even though coach Eddie Saah estimated the school's enrollment at 55 percent black."

The usual explanation from journalists is that baseball is slow, boring and less glamorous. Despite the fact that there is more money, longer careers and greater opportunity in organized ball than football or basketball, blacks, it is said, gravitate to these other sports because of the lifestyles -- or at least images -- of their athletes are closer to what young blacks want. Considering the thuggish and gangsterish image of many NFL and NBA players, there seems to be a tinge of racism in such explanations.

Sunday, August 12, 2007
Amazing stat

The San Diego Padres have pitched 29 games in which they allowed either zero or one run. In those games, they are 29-0, with 16 shutouts (which, of course, they won). The Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins, on the other hand, have all lost four games when they have allowed just one run.

For team record according to runs allowed, check out Baseball Prospectus.

Yankees surge

Having swept the Cleveland Indians, who began the series ahead of the New York Yankees in the wild card spot, the Bronx Bombers are 9-2 in August and 23-8 since the All Star break, are now in sole possession of the wild card and are just four games behind the Boston Red Sox for the AL East division lead (and best record in MLB). The Yankees, who were a sub-500 team at the All Star break, are now the fourth best team overall. All of this is truly amazing, although they have had strength of schedule; but for the Indians, the past month has been easy stuff: the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. The rest of August should be much more challenging: three against the Orioles followed by a home and home series with the Detroit Tigers, three in Los Angeles against the Angels and then back home for three against the Boston Red Sox before the Devil Rays return to town. That is 14 of their next 17 games are against the three American League division leaders.

There is little chance the Yanks can maintain their nearly 750 winning percentage, but if they stay above 500 over the next 18 days, they face KC, Baltimore and Tampa a total of 14 times in September and they have a home and home with Toronto. The only real challenge down the stretch is a three game series at home against the wild card-contending Seattle Mariners and a three game series in Boston.

Considering that the average AL wild card team has had 94 wins, the Yankees would only need to go 28-17 in their remaining 45 games. A fair clip, but one that they've demonstrated they can pull off. It is a worry that Jorge Posada has missed three games in a row with a stiff neck. On the other end of things, though, rookie pitcher Joba Chamberlain seems to be the real deal and they got DH Jason Giambi back.

First casualty of 2008 presidential season

Tommy Thompson. And with him, the best chance for a serious discussion of entitlement reform or addressing the country's healthcare needs.

Politicians know best

George Will notes in his Washington Post column today (about the politics of judicial appointments) that Senator Barack Obama told Iowa corn farmers that they don't paid enough considering the prices for other products that he sees on shelves at the Whole Food stores at which he shops. Says Obama, "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?"

What gets me is that Barack Obama thinks he knows what the price of corn or any other product should be. And not just Obama, but any other politician. The beauty of the market is that the preferences of millions (and now billions) of people are balanced to come up with a fair price. The incredible and indescribable hubris of any one person, especially a politician, suggesting they know what prices should be charged for anything is amazing when you really think about it. It's the kind of hubris that should disqualify a person from any elected office.

The limits of the Iowa straw poll

Some in the press seems to think that Mitt Romney gets a big leg up because he won the Iowa straw poll. The Washington Post says it, "helps elevate him from relative obscurity six months ago to the top tier of the GOP field." I don't think so. The New York Times strikes the right note when it says "the political significance of this event was questionable." None of the other front-runners took part (Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain sat out the event) and straw polls are notoriously unreliable (a reflection of organization rather than support). But more important, considering these factors, Romney won with only 32% when his three main rivals didn't bother to participate. It was the kind of event that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got 18% and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback got 15%. (And Brownback was trying real hard to undermine Romney.) Rep. Tom Tancredo received 14% of the vote and Rep. Ron Paul pulled in 9%.

If you get just one-third of the vote in a straw poll that your rivals didn't even bother with and in which you made an extraordinary effort to organize for, you have effectively lost. Sadly, this meaningless straw poll will have meaning for those who cheered along the doomed campaign of former Wisconsin governor and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. He said he would drop out if he didn't finish second; he finished sixth with just 7%.

Also notable -- and bad for the GOP -- is that while 30,000 Iowa Republicans participated in the straw poll, that number is down 8,000 from 1999. That might not bode well for the Republicans in 2008 if it is a sign of frustration with the party.

See also the coverage in the Des Moines Register.

Thursday, August 09, 2007
I'm not sure about this distinction

WorldNetDaily reports:

"A judge in New York has ruled evidence of 'hatred' is unnecessary for a prosecutor to pursue a 'hate crimes' case against three men arrested for the death of a homosexual man.

The written ruling came from Judge Jill Konviser of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, and concluded prosecutors only need to show that the man, who was beaten and then hit by a vehicle in a robbery attempt, was picked because of his sexual orientation, according to a report in the New York Times.

The judge said that is enough for prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties for the defendants, if convicted, under the state's Hate Crimes Act of 2000."

It appears that hate crimes don't need any hate for increased penalties to apply. I don't quite understand how the law can ascertain when a person targets a designated victim over race, religion or sexual orientation because of hateful intentions and when such targeting occurs for non-hateful reasons. All this does is remove the burden on prosecutors to prove hate on the part of the accused. It appears that this decision is an attempt to make it easier to get convictions for alleged hate crimes.

The little porkers on Congressional Hill

The Club for Growth has a report card on politicians and their voting records on 50 anti-pork measures introduced in Congress. (Only one passed.) Some tidbits:

* Just 16 congressman, all Republicans, scored 100% (that is, they voted for all 50 anti-pork bills).

* Average Republican score was 43%, while the average Democratic score was 2%.

* Only one Democrat scored above 20% -- Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee voted for 49 of 50 anti-pork measures.

* Democrat David Obey of Wisconsin scored 0% even though he introduced an amendment to strike all earmarks from a Labour-HHS appropriations bill. Obey didn't even vote for his own amendment.

* Overall, 105 congressman scored 0%, including 24 Republicans.

Individual Congressmen's scores can be viewed at the Club for Growth. Notably, Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), the former Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988 and a candidate for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination has a miserable 29% rating, voting for just 12 of 41 anti-pork measures.

Catholic Jonestown

NewsBusters points to Nightline (is that still on?) co-host Martin Bashir interviewing Tom Monaghan, founder of Ave Maria University and a Catholic community of that same name in which the university will be based in Florida. Parrotting criticism of Ave Maria, Bashir says of Ave Maria, "it’s been described as a Catholic Jonestown, a kind of Catholic Iran, where individual rights and liberties are curtailed." Bashir asked if Ave Maria would be as "welcoming to unbelievers" as it is to Christians, leading Scott Whitlock to wonder, "Would it ever occur to ABC to ask, for instance, if San Francisco would be welcoming to conservatives?"

Monaghan was feisty and fought back. It criticized the notion that holding traditional values made one strange and shot back to Bashir, "Maybe you're odd." It's about time that we stopped taking the media criticism and returned fire ourselves. Kudos to Monaghan.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The great thing about laboratories of democracy is determining what doesn't work

John Stossel says let Wisconsin experiment with universal state-run healthcare so it can show all of America how it works -- or doesn't. As Stossel says, "it's better to experiment with one state than all of America."

Cautions about Gardasil

The Calgary Herald warns politicians to slow down in the effort to vaccinate young teenage girls against human papilloma virus (which can lead to cervical cancer) through the generous funding of Gardasil until it is determined to be safe. The paper editorializes:

"The rush to embrace the vaccine is understandable. A vaccine that protects against cancer seems like a miraculous invention, after so many years of struggle on the cancer war front.

But the hoopla surrounding Gardasil is uneasily reminiscent of that which accompanied the advent of the Pill. That drug, too, was hailed as an amazing breakthrough in female reproductive health and doctors rushed lemming-like to prescribe it.

It was only later when women began suffering blood clots and sometimes fatal strokes, that concerns about side effects came to the fore.

Two other drugs also prescribed to women and considered safe were thalidomide and DES. The horrendous effects of those drugs included respectively, limbless babies and reproductive cancers in the daughters of women dosed with DES.

If the fears raised by epidemiologist Abby Lippman in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and others like her, are valid, a whole new generation of women might be the guinea pigs for yet another cure-all being pushed on them too hastily."

The Interim covered this in the June issue. Oz Clark, our economics reporter, said that the politics surrounding the drug's approval are suspect, its benefits limited and its safety unproven. Like the Herald editorial, we say that concerns that widespread vaccination against HPV will lead to increased promiscuity is a non-argument. One issue that we didn't get into (although Clark suggested we do) is whether it is a cost effective way to save lives. I thought such an argument was inappropriate in The Interim -- Canada's pro-life paper -- but it is nonetheless an important question. Colby Cosh raised this issue in February National Post column. Cosh said, that considering the cost ($360 per vaccination) for up to five years of highly effective protection against 70% of HPV cases which can but does not always cause cervical cancer and the relatively small number of cervical cancer cases (about 1,350 Canadian women are diagnosed with it each year), the $300 million federal spending spree (and more by the provinces) might not money well spent. That sounds callous, but so is wasting taxpayers' dollars.

Happy anniversary to me

Six years ago today, I became editor of The Interim. Here's the first issue for which I was responsible (September 2001). And no, Wesley Smith is not holding up a giant condom.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
If Iggy's apologizing, can there be a Liberal leadership far behind?

Montreal Gazette columnist Don MacPherson says that Michael Ignatieff's mea culpa in the New York Times Magazine over his support of the war in Iraq is a sign that he is positioning himself for the leadership of the Liberal Party when Stephane Dion inevitably loses (whether it is a general election or the faith of the party in his leadership). All true, and immediately obvious to anyone with a brain. All of which makes MacPherson's conclusion puzzling:

"History teaches us a would-be leader who waits until the post is vacated to begin campaigning for it usually loses. Ignatieff's article doesn't mention that lesson, but its very publication suggests it's one Ignatieff has learned."

If Ignatieff has learned that lesson why did he make his required admission of error on Iraq now? Isn't his mea culpa a part of campaigning for Dion's job?

I found another part of MacPherson's column puzzling. He says:

"[I]t was fitting that Ignatieff do so [apologize] in the U.S. magazine that had published his earlier justification of U.S. actions in Iraq, even at the risk of reviving suspicions that he identifies more with the United States than with Canada."

It sort of revives those suspicions but liberals of the correct bent generally get a free ride about these things. If a Conservative wrote in National Review or the Weekly Standard, that would become front-page news. Of course, Ignatieff could have had it both ways by writing for the Asper family's The New Republic.

Winning Iraq

The New York Post editorialized about the winning conditions that are, the paper claims, achievable in Iraq:

"* Al Qaeda ejected from the country - with Iraqis working to keep the insurgents out permanently.

* A waning Iranian influence.

* Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict at a tolerable level."

The realism in these goals are admirable but they are a far cry from the original goals (a peaceful and democratic Iraq that would be both a beachhead and a model for the Middle East). And no matter what the tolerable number of deaths resulting from sectarian violence, you know that the United States (not just the Bush administration but the whole country) will be blamed. And one last point -- the Post says that just a few short weeks ago such goals would have been a pipe dream but because of the recent progress, the three objectives are reasonable. Is three weeks of slight progress justification for renewed optimism?


You can send 'em to paul_tuns[AT]

I wonder what Stephen Taylor has where most men have their balls

The Blogging Tories are unprincipled and cowardly, having warned members not to post items about Free Dominion's human rights complaints. What a bunch of loathesome little snots.

Blogging Tories moderator Stephen Taylor, a liberal in Tory clothing, says:

"Just a moderator's note: Please do not repost material from FreeDominion that is the subject of the CHRC complaint. Doing so exposes us, and this warning serves as clear notice that we will pursue civil action against anyone that in turn exposes us to CHRC action related to this complaint against FreeDominion.

Translation: here's a warning that says if you get us in trouble with the CHRC for material we've warned you not to post, we will do what we can to recover our damages (from you) because this warning also indicates that as moderators and site owners, that we don't want to have anything to do with the material that lands a person (rightly or wrongly -- which is another debate) with a human rights complaint.

We think that a country is freer with true free speech and the Canadian laws are not ideal. Regardless, imperfect as they are, we must comply with them and we'd ask that you do the same.

Also, please do not post the name of the complainant or any information about her as there are specific laws against harassment that we must be aware of as well."

In other words, the Blogging Tories are happy to live with the trappings of modern liberalism rather than hold them up to contempt.

(HT: Relapsed Catholic)

Monday, August 06, 2007
The terror of the roads

Gregg Easterbrook in Sunday's Los Angeles Times:

"Suppose 245,000 Americans had died in terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. The United States would be beside itself, utterly gripped by a sense of national emergency. Political leaders would speak of nothing else, the United States military would stand at maximum readiness, and the White House would vow not to rest until the danger to Americans had been utterly eradicated.

Yet 245,000 Americans have died because of one specific threat since 9/11, and no one seems to care. While the tragedy of 3,000 lives lost on 9/11 has justified two wars, in which thousands of U.S. soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice, the tragedy of 245,000 lives lost in traffic accidents on the nation's roads during the same period has justified . . . pretty much no response at all. Terrorism is on the front page day in and day out, but the media rarely even mention road deaths. A few days ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that 42,642 Americans died in traffic in 2006. Did you hear this reported anywhere?

This phenomenon is not just American, it is global. Traffic deaths are the fastest-rising cause of death in the world. Yet you've heard far more about H5N1 avian influenza, which has killed 192 people worldwide since being detected five years ago, than about the 6 million people who have died in traffic accidents in the same period. Last year alone, 1.2 million people were killed on the world's roads, versus about 100,000 dead as a result of combat. The last decade is believed to be the first time in history that roads posed a greater danger to human beings than fighting (which is partly a reflection of the decline of war)."

All very interesting, but what does it mean? Do we need a war on highway dangers? Easterbrook answers yes. He supports a variety of new regulations, some named (limiting cell phone use during driving, "pedestrian-activated warning lights at crosswalks" and "horsepower regulation") and some unnamed regulations. These would, Easterbrook says, "save thousands of lives a year." He cares little about the liberty argument against such limits on ownership and activity saying there is no constitutional right to own or drive a fast car.

Easterbrook implies that is obscene that we care for the relatively small number of terrorism deaths simply because they are the result of deliberate homicidal acts but tolerate many times more accidental traffic fatalities. But that distinction -- the deliberate taking of life through actions designed simply to kill innocents compared to the accidental (collateral damage?) deaths resulting from an activity that has another purpose -- is not inconsequential. Easterbrook wrote an interesting column but not a meaningful one. That is not to say that we shouldn't attempt to reduce traffic fatalities, but rather that comparisons to the War on Terror seem out of place, even desperate, not to mention intellectually dishonest.

No paper Crisis

Crisis magazine is going exclusively online after the September issue. Five years ago I would have lamented this development but increasingly I see little need, although I personally prefer reading, dead tree. But there is no reason to believe that the quality will decline and, in fact, there are opportunities to do more online than in the traditional magazine format.