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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Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The shortcomings of the US presidential candidates

Talking about the need for politicians to create a narrative in order to engage the public, the New York Sun's Nicholas Wapshott captures the essence of the Republican and Democratic frontrunners' shortcomings very neatly:

"Among the Republicans, John McCain has a story, and a great personal back story, but it has become tired in the telling. Fred Thompson sounds like an actor without a script, Mitt Romney a script without an actor. Rudy Giuliani can only talk about himself.

Ron Paul grasps the imagination with both hands, but he and his version of events are so eccentric they fail to resonate. Only Mike Huckabee talks with ease about issues, but he has yet to find a persuasive theme.

As for the Democrats, Barack Obama mouths the words, but they appear to have little meaning. John Edwards, once the darling of the Democratic party, has quite lost his ability to charm.

Governor Richardson appears to be talking to himself. Mr. Biden can speak, all right, but he does not know when to stop, having spent too long in the Senate, like John Kerry before him. And Hillary Clinton addresses us as if we were recalcitrant children kept in after school."

The Tory road to barbarism

The Toronto Star editorializes that with yesterday's announced tax cuts Canada's future is threatened, we will descend into barbarism and ... who knows, perhaps even have to pay for a little of our healthcare:

"It has been said that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. Yesterday the Conservatives made this country a little less civilized by killing the hope of the poorest in our midst for a fairer society in which everyone has a roof over their head and enough to eat."

You see, if there is no big surplus laying around, it will be harder for a future Liberal-NDP government to ram universal daycare down our throats later. Or as the Star puts it, not having the revenue from excessive taxation (those were my words) is a "financial straitjacket they will impose on Ottawa for years to come in terms of dealing with the huge social and infrastructure problems that currently plague Canada" (those were the Star's). The Star editorial writer's ask, what about money for "affordable housing," "public transit" and "other municipal infrastructure"? In other words, why didn't Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hand over our hard-earned tax dollars to Toronto Mayor David Miller?

The Star's "socially progressive" Canada might well be threatened if Canadians get too use to keeping their money, and that is a good thing and reason enough to applaud the Tories for the modest tax cuts they announced yesterday. It is also another reason for the government to cut taxes even more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
My 2-cents on the economic statement

And that's just a bit less than the tax cut, but not by much. In today's 'economic statement' Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a combination of GST, personal, corporate and small business tax cuts spread over the next five years. I like tax cuts and the more the better; but the bigger, the better, too, and these could have been bigger. John Williamson was being polite when he said on the CBC earlier that the government did a decent job but left a lot of room to do more. But how much more? According to the Globe and Mail:

"The Conservative government, apparently swimming in more cash than even the most optimistic economist had predicted, will fulfill a campaign promise to cut the GST and introduce income tax cuts that will be felt when Canadians file their taxes for the current year.

The multi-billion dollar package of tax relief announced Tuesday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is intended to appeal to voters as Parliament prepares for a potential spring election. Even after the tax cuts, which will amount to more than $10-billion in the current fiscal year, there will be a projected surplus of $11.6-billion."

So after the tax cuts, the government will still be over-taxing us by nearly $12 billion. To my mind, there was room for another $12 billion in tax cuts.

Best horror movies of all time

It's a typical Time list -- good but not great, some deliberately provocative inclusions such Bambi.

A much better (and more interesting) list is the Libertas top 15 conservative horror movies.

I re-watched The Exorcist this week. I haven't seen it since I was six or seven years old (a sadistic teenage babysitter), when it scared the hell out of me; for nearly two decades I've almost wet myself when I hear Tubular Bells. But having watched it as an adult, I didn't find the movie nearly as scary. The idea of satanic possession is frightening, but the movie not so much.

For most of the past week, I've been watching a pair of horror movies each night. I've recently given up comedy movies which really aren't funny in favour of horror movies, which are. The zombies in Dawn of the Dead are so cheesey they're great fun and Freddy vs. Jason is so over-the-top it is probably the funniest movie I've ever seen. Now that might be a list: the top 10 funniest horror movies. Tonight I'm watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and the famous chainsaw fight with Dennis Hopper. Should be cheesey great.

And the exodus begins
Or, Bye, bye Bombers

First A-Rod. Now, apparently, Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. Reports have former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers skipper with his old bench coach, Don Mattingly, joining him in that same post. It appears that Joe Girardi, who amazingly won Manager of the Year in his first season with the Florida Marlins in 2006 and still got fired, will become the next manager for the Yanks.

We'll see if this trickle becomes a waterfall. I just can't imagine Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera in anything but Yankee pinstripes although Rivera might follow Torre to LA and bolster a bullpen that needs some help. Thus far, the Yankees are not making the right decisions. A few quick thoughts.

1) The so-called firing of Joe Torre need not have been as ugly has it was. First things first: it was perfectly legitimate for the Yankees to not re-sign him. Torre is the highest paid manager (by a factor of two) and hasn't had the results (a World Series) the team wants and needs. But they didn't have to insult him and the fans by offering a contract he was sure to turn down. That little trick didn't fool anyone and no one is going to blame Torre for this mess.

2) How could they have not brought Torre back with class? First, don't threaten to sack him mid-way through a playoff series. Then bring him into the Steinbrenner/Cashman suites and tell him that with the next generation of Steinbrenners taking over, it is time for a change. Thank Torre for his service, ask him to name the day of the year he would like to be honoured for the next five years at Yankee Stadium, ask Mayor Michael Bloomberg to have a day honouring the former Yankee skipper sometime next year, retire Torre's number, etc... I haven't been the biggest Torre fan and I think he handles his bullpen horribly, but he has always had class; the Yankees in the past month, have not had none. Torre deserved better and what is perceived to be his firing could end up a public relations disaster, especially if some loyal players join him in leaving New York.

3) Considering that former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine didn't want to leave Japan -- and he was never asked for an interview by the Bombers brain trust -- Don Mattingly was probably the best choice to replace Torre. I don't know if he has the smarts to be the Yankees manager but he has the pedigree and it would, PR-wise, be the best thing for the team because it was the move most likely to keep some of the disgruntled veterans in pinstripes. The fans, the media and the team admire and respect Mattingly and he is probably the only person who could 'replace' Torre in the collective minds of those three groups. The former manager has big shoes to fill.

4) I'm not sold on Joe Girardi for the reason I note above: getting fired and winning the Manager of the Year Award is difficult to pull off and there must be a reason. It appeared that he butted heads with the Marlins ownership; is it any more likely that he'll get along in New York, especially with the transition of control from Papa Steinbrenner to his kids and the battle for control between Brian Cashman and the rest of the 'baseball people' and those with the surname Steinbrenner?

5) The Yankees need to not just remain competitive but come out of the gates contending or they will lose any goodwill the fans might be inclined to show them early next year. To do that they need to keep Rivera, Posada and Andy Petite. Job number one right now is to throw money at the first two and make the third one extremely happy. Then go find an impact bat at one, preferably two positions (3B/1B/LF or RF if Bobby Abreu isn't around).

Monday, October 29, 2007
And now the off-season begins

The Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies and deserved to. The BoSox are a great team, exceptionally well-constructed and one can easily see them winning the American League East division for the next few years and contending for the World Series, too. That is if they do nothing but replace Curt Schilling. Now imagine them landing Alex Rodriguez, one of the five best players of all time, who has opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees. That decision of A-Rod's will change the entire complexion of the American League.

The Yanks could be a quite different team next year if catcher Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera also leave, which they might if they don't like the team's prospects without manager Joe Torre and Rodriguez. Even if they don't go, A-Rod himself is worth 3-5 games more than any other 3B they'd get to replace him, so they are already out of playoff spot if they merely stand pat.

In a nutshell here is what the Yankees need to do: sign Don Mattingly as manager, offer generous 2-3 year deals to Posada and Rivera and try to sign both LF Barry Bonds and 3B Mike Lowell with the money saved by not re-signing Roger Clemens and losing A-Rod. Those bats would make up for the loss of Rodriguez. They would benefit from acquiring a power-hitting 1B but this team seems to think it can get by with glove-first, mediocre-bat first basemen like Doug Mientkiewicz. They don't need to trade for Johann Santana; Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Petite, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy should make a decent starting five with Mike Mussina ready for a pinch (he's got one more year). I'd like to keep Chamberlain in the bullpen but that won't happen, which makes some bullpen improvements necessary. The key to a decent bullpen is to have a lot of relief pitchers ready to pitch. The Rockies did that with a combination of journeymen relievers and minor league prospects and enough of them worked out well enough for the Rox bullpen to be an asset. Taking a chance of Eric Gagne and other seemingly washed up pitchers is a worthwhile risk if the price is not too great.

Right now, the Yankees look to be a long-shot for the post-season. The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are better teams than the Rodriguez-less Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels will be in on the A-Rod hunt along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Red Sox. The Bronx Bombers are still better than the Toronto Blue Jays and will likely be better than the Seattle Mariners. And to put his all in perspective, the Yanks would still be one of the top teams in the National League. All that said, perhaps it's a little early to be making predictions for 2008.

And now the second best sports season, the Hot Stove League, begins.

Friday, October 26, 2007
The whole ball of wax

From the Calgary Herald:

"Footage apparently showing the man tipped to become Australia's next prime minister eating his own ear wax has proved a hit on Internet video-sharing website YouTube.

The clip of opposition Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd has been posted three times on the website and attracted more than 200,000 web browsers.

While Rudd enjoys a massive opinion poll lead heading into the Nov. 24 election, the news website suggested the footage 'could do more damage to (his) election chances than any policy blitz' ...

Rudd appears to gaze around in a bored manner before inserting his left index finger into his ear, twisting it a number of times, then placing it into his mouth and chewing."

I have to give this more thought but I'm leaning toward considering eating one's own ear wax as a disqualifying issue for a candidate to become prime minister.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007
World Series

Here is my analysis in brief: The Boston Red Sox are the superior team; they'll win the World Series, unless they don't.

A slightly longer analysis:

The BoSox have an edge in hitting. David Ortiz is slightly better than Matt Holliday; Manny Ramirez is slightly better than the Rox second best hitter, Todd Helton; Mike Lowell is slightly better than Brad Hawpe, and so on and so forth. The edges are not great but they can add up. Ortiz and Ramirez might light up the Rockies pitchers in at Coors Field. A slight but significant edge to Boston.

The BoSox have the better rotation. Jeff Francis is a good but not truly ace pitcher. He is consistently good and the rest of the rotation is consistently average or slightly better. The BoSox have Josh Beckett, possibly a better playoff pitcher than Sandy Koufax, a genuine ace who steps it up a notch in October. Their second ace is Curt Schilling who is one of the better October pitchers of the past 20 years and although he got knocked around in game two against Cleveland (9 hits and 5 runs in less than 5 IP), he rebounded for seven innings of two run ball to win game six in the ALCS. Daisuke Matsuzaka is getting tired, pitching the North American standard of once every five days compared to once a week in Japan. But Boston will be happy to get five decent innings in which he gives up three or four runs in game three in Colorado. John Lester, who fills in for injured knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is as good as anyone the Rox will throw at the Sox after Francis and the Rockies have announced that Aaron Cook, who has not started a game since before Labour Day, will be the game four starter. Big mistake. Big edge to Boston.

Both teams have deep and useful bullpens although BoSox manager Terry Francona should resist the urge to use Greg Gagne unless the team has a ten run lead. The Rox have setup man Brian Fuentes and closer Manny Corpas and they are one of the best one-two punches in baseball. The Sox, however, have the best one-two punch in Hideki Okajima and closer Jonathan Papelbon; both are capable of pitching two shutout innings which might turn games into five inning affairs. Edge to Boston.

Neither team has an impressive bench but Boston's is slightly more useful with either CF Coco Crisp or CF Jacob Ellsbury a decent pinch runner or defensive replacement if necessary. Boston has a pinch hitting advantage in Colorado. With David Ortiz playing 1B, Kevin Youkilis will be riding the pine until called upon. That will, however, weaken both the defense (Ortiz resembles a pilon when standing near first) and the lineup (not having Youkilis' ridiculously patient bat). If Youkilis moves to third to make room for Ortiz, Mike Lowell (324 average, 378 on-base percentage and 501 slugging percentage -- and better in the post-season) will be available off the bench. Edge to Boston.

Both teams play solid defense. The Rox 1B-2B-SS combo will turn a lot of double plays because they are skilled glove men with good range; rookie SS Troy Tulowitzki is playing Gold Glove defense and has cannon for an arm. The rest of the team isn't shabby, either. The Red Sox have Manny Ramirez who makes leftfield, er, interesting and rookie 2B Dustin Pedroia is substandard but everyone else on the team is among the best defensive players at their position in the AL. Slight edge to Colorado.

Both teams have respectable managers who don't play around with in-game strategies other than decisions concerning the bullpen. That means neither team is likely to manage their way into a loss. Clint Hurdle has proven himself to be a good manager (I predicted at the beginning of the season he would be the first NL manager to lose his job), but Terry Francona has the experience. Edge to Boston.

The Red Sox have experience; the Rockies have won 21 of their last 22 games. Some baseball pundits are putting the words 'Rockies' and 'destiny' or 'Rockies' and 'fate' together. It is worth remembering, however, that a 21-1 record also involves luck (such as a botched call against the San Diego Padres in extra innings in the play-in game on which the Rockies won the Wild Card). The Rockies are due for a loss and their nine day rest might have wrecked their momentum. Unless it hasn't. That is the wonderful thing about baseball. By all accounts, the Red Sox are the better team and any thoughtful analysis will have them coming out on top. But anything can happen in a best-of-seven game series and anything might. I predict the Red Sox in six. But I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rockies sweep or win it in Boston in game seven.

Bob's back

After a month of not blogging and after just returning from Japan, Bob Tarantino points to a story about the historic meeting between the leaders of Iran and Russia and is reminded of 1980s WWF wrestling. And that's WW with an F.

Monday, October 22, 2007
Speaking engagement Thursday

I'll be talking to the Toronto District Right to Life this Thursday, October 25, evening at the northern district library (40 Orchard View Blvd, just north of Yonge and Eglinton) at 7:30 pm. My talk is entitled, "The glass is half full: A pro-life reflection on the virtue of hope." It is less a philosophical treatment of hope than reflecting on the good news in the culture wars, the signs of hope in our midst that the nattering nabobs of pro-life negativism regularly miss. The talk is open to the public even though it takes place during the RTL's annual general meeting. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 21, 2007
George Brown Day

Instead of providing reasons not to inaugurate and celebrate Pierre Trudeau Day, Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings provides a counter-proposal: George Brown Day.

And Five Feet of Fury suggests PET Day activities: "We'll celebrate it by stealing each other's money, flushing it down the toilet -- then screwing Liona Boyd!"

Happy birthday to me

Today I turned 35. What a wonderful day, year and life it has been. I am very blessed with a loving and beautiful wife and five adorable and healthy children, both my parents are alive and well and endlessly supportive (as are my in-laws) and I have a job that combines my interest in writing and politics. I am very fortunate and I never cease giving thanks for my blessings.

Although I'm 35, I still enjoy the presents. I would have been very disappointed if I didn't get Bjorn Lomborg's Cool It and the DVD of the Yes, Minister series. (I got both). My wife always gives the best presents (in the past she has given me tickets to a Yankees game on the July 4th weekend in New York, an autographed picture of George F. Will, etc...). My children, on the other hand, give wonderfully self-serving presents. This year, the boys combined to get me Wii's FIFA (soccer) game, which I'll enjoy playing with them but which I can't help but think they mostly got for themselves. Then again, when I was their ages (10 & 17), I bought my parents a stereo stand so I could get their old one and my dad a briefcase so I could get his hand-me-down. The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

Blogging will be light for a while. New books, Yes, Minister, the World Series and FIFA on Wii will be calling for the next week or so.

Saturday, October 20, 2007
Heaven help us

Toronto Liberal MP Mario Silva has tabled a private members bill that would, if passed, officially recognize the birthday of former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau each Oct. 18.

Crime and politics

A few news outlets this week pointed to the seeming contradiction that the Stephen Harper government is pursuing a tough-on-crime agenda at the same time that national statistics show crime is decreasing, most notably the homicide numbers. The Toronto Star cited Rosemary Gartner, a University of Toronto criminology professor, who, in the paper's words, said that "despite the fact the homicide rate has been on a general decline since the mid-'70s, some politicians can't resist turning crime into a hot-button issue." Gartner said, "The easiest way to make points in politics is to be seen as being tough on crime." One might add that the easiest way to make points in elite liberal circles is to be seen as sympathetic to criminals.

But there is no contradiction in Harper's agenda and the crime statistics. The anti-crime bill is not aimed at a particular rate of crime, but crime. Sure the homicide rate may be falling but 605 murders is still too many. And even though crime is falling, it might still be too high and demand more police powers and tougher punishments. This argument -- that crime is falling so we don't need tougher measures -- has been trotted out for at least a decade, but it is a red herring. The Harper crime agenda is not targeting a number (the crime rate) but people (the criminals).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Isn't science fun? Part II reports that it is completely a myth that gum stays in your stomach for seven years when swallowed; more like seven days. Pediatric gastroenterologist David Milov of the Nemours Children's Clinic in Orlando says that chewing gum, "is pretty immune to the digestive process... It probably passes through slower than most foodstuffs, but eventually the normal housekeeping waves in the digestive tract will sort of push it through, and it will come out pretty unmolested."

I saw on SpikeTV's Manswers last week and they informed viewers how to get drunk faster. The ways most people think -- drinking through a straw or mixing beer and liquor -- won't work. But according to gastroenterologist Dale Prokupek, taking alcohol rectally will get you drunk very quickly. In fact, having one beer 'up your ass' over 20 minutes is roughly equivalent of having 19 beers over 20 minutes in the more traditional way, because the alcohol goes directly into the blood-stream (thin membrane). It might also kill you and will probably give you alcohol poisoning and the show (and this blog) does not recommend rectal consumption of alcohol.

Isn't science fun?

Researchers at the University of New Mexico have found that ovulating strippers make more than non-ovulating strippers. This, apparently, demonstrates that we have indeed evolved from apes (first direct evidence of estrus). The abstract at Evolution and Human behaviour can be found here, a brief story can be found at Also, a tip for any strippers that might be reading this blog: contraceptive use can decrease earnings at certain times of the month.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fox News reports that artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht predicts that within 43 years human beings will be marrying robots and consummating the marriage. Upon hearing this news one could commit all kinds of sociology or go about moralizing or predict the end of mankind. Instead, I had two questions. First, will wifebot get 'headaches'? And, when wifebot doesn't have a headache, do you still have to cuddle afterward?

No weathervanes allowed

CP reports:

"Politicians in Quebec's legislature will have to come up with a new way to slag their opponents now that the word `weathervane' has been added to the list of unparliamentary language.

Speaker Michel Bissonnet judged the word to be 'hurtful' as the legislature resumed Tuesday after the summer break.

Premier Jean Charest has called Opposition Leader Mario Dumont a weathervane on numerous occasions recently, elevating him on Tuesday to "national weathervane" during the legislature session.

Charest made the crack near the end of the heated debate as he reiterated his belief that the Action democratique du Quebec leader is like a weathervane in the wind because he is always changing directions."

If a politicians would be 'hurt' by being called a weathervane, perhaps said politician shouldn't be in politics. Like really, are adults that fragile? Mr. Charest should addressed the Speaker with some other unparliamentary language in reply to such stupidity.

Throne speech

I've just woken up from the Throne Speech-induced slumber. Wow, that was dull. Not bad, just boring, which considering the source, sort of fits. Nothing exciting, very little new, reiterating tried and tested themes, and not rocking the boat; in other words, exactly what you would expect from the Harper government. Those increments that Tom Flanagan talks about are small. Really, really, small. The government will continue its dialogue on Senate reform and reintroduce a term-limit for senators. A commitment to talk about Senate reform is an easy promise that might not amount to much, but as Flanagan (and Harper's office) might say, at least they'll get the country talking about it. And I'm sure there were a few other tiny movements to the political goal posts, I just can't remember them. I don't mind incrementalism, I just want to be able to see it with the naked eye.

That said, the Throne Speech presented the kind of agenda that won't frighten Canadians and gives just enough to the Tory base (the promise of some sort of tax cuts and asking Parliament to get rid of the long gun registry) that Harper and his government come out winners. They look reasonable and moderate, eschewing conservative ideology. I'd give him a C+ for moving in the right direction (too slow and not enough specifics) and a A- for the politics. I want to know more about how the Tory government would limit federal involvement in provincial matters because right now it sounds a lot like latter-day Liberal promises. I always like tax cuts, but will they be large enough to really benefit individuals, families and corporations? Getting tough on crime is always good but will it get pass the Liberal-dominated Senate? I like that the government talked about tough environmental enforcement and not about new regulations; if they follow the rhetoric, that's a step in the right direction.

Overall, a non-event with the devil in the details to be unveiled later determining whether it is good for the country. I just don't see anything the country -- even the Official Opposition Liberals -- can object to. I wouldn't bet on an election and if there was one, the Conservatives could win another minority term for their cautious conservatism. The Harper government might have dropped the 'New' from rightly mocked Canada's New Government branding, but its the same old New Stephen Harper.

Cuba's vaunted health care system has a quick look at the "world's healthiest countries" including Sweden, Iceland, Japan, France and Cuba. Here's the downside of Cuba's health care system, though: "Nutrition and treatable diseases have been on the rise thanks to shortages, and the more open a post-Castro Cuba becomes to the outside world, the more likely it will become susceptible to the deadliest U.S. import of all: the American diet." It is seldom mentioned that nutrition and treatable diseases are a problem on the island prison and I find it typical and amusing that America would get blamed for a problem that does not yet exist. Still, a useful reminder that Fidel Castro's paradise is mirage -- healthy countries don't have problems with nutrition and treatable diseases.

Private fuel conservation methods will never pay for themselves

The London Times has the story an a study by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, but here is the key detail:

"The RICS data shows that putting in all eight measures, including insulation, condenser boilers and double glazing, would cost £23,547. This would knock only £486 off fuel bills and would take 48 years to recoup."

Once you take into account mortgage rates, that 48 years turns into an eternity.

You means communism doesn't cure corruption?

From the New York Sun on the communist party get-together in Red China:

"Despite promising political reforms, President Hu of China has made clear he expects that his country will never embrace Western democracy, relying instead on "socialist democracy" until the year 2020 and beyond.

Mr. Hu, addressing the 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing yesterday, said corruption in China was widespread and he promised more involvement in decision making by individuals, but he emphasized that the Communist Party will run China for the foreseeable future."

Nearly 60 years after the Communists came to power in mainland China and corruption is still a problem. I thought socialism was supposed to fix that.

And so much for capitalism dulling the sharp edges of communist China. It seems they are as prepared as ever to continue restricting freedom.

Monday, October 15, 2007
Various items of interest

The annual survey on Canada's healthcare suckiness, the Fraser Institute's 17th annual Waiting Your Turn is out. Key piece of info: "Total waiting time between referral from a general practitioner and treatment, averaged across all 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed, increased from 17.8 weeks in 2006 to 18.3 weeks in 2007."

Lots of thanks to the 'centre-right' in Norway. As reports: "The left-leaning government of Norway has issued an ultimatum to businesses: increase the number of women on the board of directors or be dissolved... Equality minister Karita Bekkemellem told Aftenposten that companies failing to meet the 40 per cent quota will face involuntary dissolution from January 1. The policy was put in place by a previous centre-right government coalition and enthusiastically endorsed by the new Labour party government."

Shouldn't a blog entitled The Green Skeptic perhaps be a little skeptical of the bullshit envirozealots peddle? But Scott Edwards Anderson's blog piles on the BS, or as he describes it, The Green Skeptic is, "devoted to challenging assumptions about how we live on the earth and protect our environment."

According to, 21-year-old problem actress Lindsay Lohan spent $7 million last year. It breaks down thusly: $1 million on clothes, $500,000 on a luxury hotel suite in Hollywood, $500,000 on "wild nights out," $500,000 on a personal chauffeur, $350,000 on legal fees related to a pair of DUI charges and $137,000 on rehab. That still leaves about half of her spending unaccounted for.

Conservative shadows better than Labour ministers

So says William Rees-Mogg in the London Times. Rees-Mogg says that starting with the leader through to the defense, foreign affairs and chancellor, to the London mayoral candidate, the Conservatives have more competent, dynamic and generally younger shadow ministers than the Labour Party has actual ministers (or in the case of Ken Livingstone, mayor). Starting at the top, Rees-Mogg says:

"The most important comparison is that between David Cameron and Gordon Brown. To start with, the age gap is 41 to 56. It is hard nowadays for politicians to last long into their sixties; Mr Brown has 18 years’ more parliamentary experience than Mr Cameron, but perhaps 15 years’ less parliamentary future."

Nice point and it might actually matter.

On Chancellor and shadow chancellor, he writes:

"Last week gave Alistair Darling the opportunity to show that he would make at least as capable a Chancellor as George Osborne. He muffed it. Here again, the Shadow Chancellor has youth on his side. Mr Osborne is 36; Mr Darling is 53. Mr Darling’s reform of the capital gains tax was a butcher’s job, with inadequate consultation, oppressive to small businesses, damaging to job creation, as welcome to the farmers as an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Mr Osborne got his proposed reform of inheritance tax right. Mr Darling got his reform of capital gains tax disastrously wrong."

On foreign affairs and defense, Rees-Mogg writes:

"William Hague is the Shadow Foreign Secretary; he is 46, and against the young Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who is 42. Mr Miliband is at his weakest on the European constitution. Mr Hague has both experience and youth. Liam Fox (46) has much more impact as Shadow Defence Secretary than Des Browne (55), who doubles up as Scottish Secretary; he performs neither job well. His combination of roles does not constitute serious government; both defence and Scotland are areas in which Labour is losing its grip."

And so on and so on. As Rees-Mogg writes, "This young group of Cameron, Hague, Osborne, Fox, Gove and Johnson – there are others of promise – are individually more than a match for the Labour ministers they shadow. I find them impressive; they have real political talents." This, along with the Tories polling in majority territory for the first time since 1992, might have something to do with Gordon Brown holding off on calling an election.

The issue when it comes to the environment

George F. Will in this week's Newsweek captures very plainly what the real environmental issue is:

"The question, plainly put, is: How much are they willing to pay—in direct expenditures, forgone economic growth, inefficiencies and constricted freedom—in order to have a negligible effect on climate change?"

The answer to that is simple: not very much. That's why voting Green is so wonderful for environmentally minded Canadians: it feels good but as along as they are not electable, there is no cost.

Sunday, October 14, 2007
Why call it pandering?

Barbara Yaffe writes in the Vancouver Sun about the Harper government's drug policy and ambivalance toward Insite, a supervised injection project (that borders on becoming a permanent program) in Vancouver. Insite requires federal exemptions from drug laws to operate and recently Health Minsiter Tony Clement extended the exemption until next June. Yaffe writes, "the refusal to commit to the $2-million-a-year Insite as part of the strategy smacks of right-wing ideology, a pandering to the Conservative base over reason and science." Why assume that the Conservative government is pandering? Is it not possible that the government, the prime minister, the health minister or Health Canada doubts whether the Insite project is working or perhaps even has principled arguments against it? Why assume this is some sop to some segment of narrow-minded Conservative voters? Is it not possible that the Conservative government is seeking answers to doubts they may have about Insite? Perhaps the Tory government is putting policy ahead of politics -- something very few pundits ever do.

Gazette on Conservative government's foreign investment limits

I like the Montreal Gazette's editorials on economic issues. They lean toward free markets, believing in their efficacy but never in an ideological way and always understanding there are political realities with which governments, even conservative ones, must deal. Yet, in their final analysis, the wiggle room they leave keeps the door wide open for erring on the side of freedom. This is once again the approach when in comes to foreign investment in Canada -- 'the hollowing out of Canada' the Left worries about. The Gazette editorialized today:

"On balance, foreign investments have brought much-needed infusions of capital into Canada's economy, bringing new ideas, new methods, new investment, and new contacts in a globalizing business world.

Can there be too much of a good thing, though? No U.S. government, for instance, would contemplate permitting the purchase by a foreign firm of Boeing. Some deals can, in theory at least, have the potential to do harm. Would it be good for Canada if Boeing acquired Bombardier? If Texas Instruments bought RIM, makers of the BlackBerry phenomenon?

We doubt it. The loss of head office positions and of world-leading high-technology research and development jobs could be huge, not to mention the spinoff jobs in finance, accountancy and law.

So where's the happy medium? What would strike a right balance between too few and too many?

In reality, any such line would be arbitrary and subjective. No single answer could possibly cover the multitude of scenarios of takeovers.

Perhaps that's what led Prentice to set out what Gazette columnist Jay Bryan this week called 'a policy of tough-talking inaction.'

Prentice promised new examinations of any proposed takeovers involving sovereign investors - foreign governments or their companies - and of deals which involve national security.

We'll see what this all really amounts to. Tougher rules for foreign-government investments could make sense in certain cases, but we need to avoid a situation in which some government body approves or rejects deals summarily or arbitrarily. There's too much potential for abuse there. And the emphasis should still always be on openness, not on protectionism."

The Bryan column the editorial alludes to makes a great point about foreign investment: Canada needs it because we're small. As Bryan wrote on Thursdsay:

"Far from hollowing out Canada's business landscape, a constant transfusion of foreign money and ideas keeps new life flowing into an economy. This is especially beneficial in a smallish country like Canada...

Has it escaped the attention of the foreign-investment doomsayers that even as we accept a wave of foreign investment, unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in more than three decades and average wages are rising briskly?

That's not to claim that every foreign-owned company immediately starts hiring and raising wages. Some lay off or reorganize. Others take their time about upgrading their newly purchased Canadian operations.

But over time, as Statistics Canada research has shown, foreign owners tend to produce better productivity, more research activity and higher head office employment in Canada."

Belated baseball predictions

I forgot to put up my predictions and analysis of the League Championships. Originally I had predicted the Rockies over the D-backs in six and the Red Sox over the Indians in seven. However, with Colorado winning both in Arizona one can easily see them sweeping the series and it is hard to imagine them having to return to Phoenix. Colorado's lineup is just too good. Furthermore, Arizona's good pitching and fourth worst offense are both misleading considering ballpark effects; their home park is almost as hitter-friendly as the famously hitter-friendly Coors Park in Denver so the D-Backs offense is actually worse than their stats would suggest and their pitching better. But the Rox have enough good hitters to hurt Arizona's good starting rotation and superior bullpen, as they did with Brandon Webb in the opener.

Boston and Cleveland are pretty evenly matched: strong lineups, rotations, bullpens and defense with moderately decent benches. The Indians have the edge in the rotation top two candidates for the Cy Young (C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona) although the first two starters for Boston in the series (Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling) are both World Series MVPs. The Sox have the edge on offense (Travis Hafner is the equal of David Ortiz, Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez are the Tribe's equivalent of the Sox duo of Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew, but Cleveland doesn't have a match for Manny Ramirez). The Red Sox have the best closer in the game (Jon Papelbon), Cleveland the worst (Joe Borowski) but otherwise Cleveland has a slight advantage with a deeper bullpen. Neither manager is likely to make obviously stupid mistakes.

New and updated predictions: Rockies over the D-backs in four, Red Sox over the Indians in seven. Boston-Cleveland will be one of the best series of the past seven years, save for the Red Sox-Yankees series, even better than the World Series. How couldn't it be when the Indians and Sox were tied for the best record in baseball and they both beat the next best two teams to get to the Championship Series. Both are well-rounded, nearly complete teams. The Rox, on the other hand, will, sadly, pick up buckets of new fans.

Sundry items

I'm on TV tonight in Ontario and Alberta at 7 pm local time on Behind the Story on CTS talking about Ontario's election, Alberta oil royalties and much, much more.

You can email me your comments about this blog or the show at paul_tuns[AT]

George F. Will disses social workers and no wonder. As he wrote: "A study prepared by the National Association of Scholars, a group that combats political correctness on campuses, reviews social work education programs at 10 major public universities and comes to this conclusion: Such programs mandate an ideological orthodoxy to which students must subscribe concerning 'social justice' and 'oppression'." It's worth reading.

21st century conservatism

From Gods of the Copybook Headings:

"I, and many like me, are often accused of political nostalgia. We want Mike Harris, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to resurrect themselves. Times have changed and we must change with the times. Ontario and Canada face new challenges. Very true. So why, my dear Red Tory friends, do you keep proposing the solutions of the 1970s? If yearning for the happy days of Mike Harris is being stuck in the past what's trying to get Bill Davis II elected Premier of Ontario?"

Great question, but I think the answer is obvious: the left, which includes Red Toryism, thinks that it is always the Right that must change and never themselves. Conservatives must change and align themselves with the imagined world of liberals, not liberals with the real world. Thus is has always been and always will will be.

So how to change? Publius, who is willing to accept that (political) conservatives need to change, proposes Randy Hillier as a standard-bearer to bridge the rural-urban divide by highlighting the theme of freedom. Sounds good, but I doubt that many leading Conservatives would act on this suggestion. They talk about freedom but will not do anything -- protect private property rights, speak up for freedom of speech and religion, stand against the kangaroo courts we call human rights tribunals, etc... -- to actually defend freedom.

Saturday, October 13, 2007
More on Gore and the Dems

From the New York Times on Al Gore presidential nominations now that he is a Nobel laureate:

"The question now is what he will do with the prestige and attention that comes to him with the Nobel Peace Prize. The answer appears to be that he will neither embrace nor reject another quest for the presidency, but harness the speculation about his intentions to become a more formidable force on environmental policy and a power within the Democratic party."

Democratic strategist and former Gore advisor Paul Begala says, "He knows there’s a Democratic field that Democrats are happy with, and that they don’t need a white knight riding in." That's party right. But the anti-Hillary Clinton crowd could use someone to rally 'round and Gore is that someone.

It is best for Gore to play coy, if he does want to run. He may appear like he is leveraging his increased profile to champion the environmental and other issues -- and if ultimately he doesn't take a plunge into the Democratic presidential pool, he can continue agitating for unnecessary and extreme environmental regulations. But ultimately there is no issue as important to Al Gore (or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama) than himself or herself and that's why I think Gore will enter the race. The storyline that Hillary Clinton is not just the front-runner but now the inevitable winner, cries for a white knight to make this a real race and to give the left-wing of the party some hope. Gore doesn't want to seek the nomination; his ego requires that he be dragged into the race by adoring supporters that absolutely need him. He will effectively be drafted by the Left. So he's playing his cards right by not showing anything and notice, too, that he has yet to fold his cards.

The Left wants Tory to stay

For years, conservatives in this country have chosen leaders, candidates and policies to satisfy their political opponents, as the Reform was more concerned about the editorial board of the Globe and Mail than potential rural and small-city voters in Ontario and the provincial Progressive Conservative Party cared more about friendly coverage in the Toronto Star than their own conservative base. It generally doesn't work.

On election night, Marilyn Churley, a former NDP MPP, said on TV that the party should not necessarily dump their leader and should definitely not chose Tim Hudak who is "more conservative and not from the progressive wing of the party." Today, the Toronto Star, endorsed the idea that Tory should stay on as leader. The paper says, "we believe the Conservatives need a progressive leader like Tory to keep the party close to its traditional roots near the political centre with which the vast majority of Ontario voters identify." Another way to put this is: "We believe the Conservatives need a leader closer to our editorial point of view than to the views of their own base, a sure-fire way to ensure they will never be elected."

The Toronto Star does not have the best interests of the party in mind. Instead, they -- and Churley -- want to see leaders that will not challenge the basic assumptions and policies of the Left so liberalism and socialism will have a monopoly on the political debate. They are also wise enough to know that the PCs cannot energize their base and find new voters who are displeased with the center-sucking politics of the day with a Red Tory at the helm.

If the Progressive Conservative Party wants to please its political opponents and ideological enemies, by all means it should keep Tory as leader. If it cares about winning or even challenging the Liberals, it needs someone who remembers that there is both a progressive and conservative element to its party.

Ikea: not gay enough

Writing in the Toronto Star's Living section, Brent Ledger says that this year's Ikea catalogue is rather dull and complains that straight people are invading their queer space (read: Ikea stores):

"Because lately Ikea has been failing me and I don't think I'm the only one who's bummed out. You used to see oodles of gay couples at Ikea (almost as many as at the Yonge St. Canadian Tire), but not any more. Now, it's young straight couples at the North York outlet and large extended families at Etobicoke.

Ikea used to be a gay icon. Like Target in the United States, Ikea sold high style to people with small pocketbooks. Its sleek minimalist stylings fit the hip urban lifestyle perfectly.

Downtowners even joked that Ikea was Swedish for homosexual and for awhile it looked as though the company believed it.

The North York store used to feature a wall-sized photo of two guys preparing dinner together and it was so obviously an appeal to the gay market that a friend and I thought of them as pals and called them Ted and Steve. Unfortunately, Ted and Steve have left the building."

Now Ikea talks more about design but at the cost of being actually stylish:

"Now, acres of sofas, rooms full of beds and, worst of all, kitchens filled with swoopy taps that droop like tired penises. It's all so killingly practical. Instead of something that's fun, you get something that works."

I'm not surprised that a group of people who are unsure of which side to use during intercourse have little use for practical home design. And to gays, there's nothing less practical than a drooping, tired penis.

Socons and Giuliani

William E. Simon, a pro-lifer who ran for governor of California as a pro-lifer, in National Review Online on why he supports Rudy Giuliani and why socons should too, especially if the former New York City mayor becomes the GOP standard-bearer in 2008:

"Much has been made of Rudy’s position on abortion and the concern it has caused members of the pro-life movement. But as a committed pro-lifer, let me explain why I am entirely comfortable with Rudy Giuliani as the Republican nominee, and why I know he will be a far better friend to social conservatives than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

First, the primary battles on the life issue are being fought in the courts, and the ultimate determination regarding our nation’s policy on abortion will come from the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. We have made tremendous progress over the last six years in populating the Federal Judiciary with judges who are committed interpreting, not inventing, the law — with the culmination of that effort being the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. That is progress we simply cannot afford to lose. Rudy Giuliani, relying on the advice of such conservative legal stalwarts like Ted Olson, Miguel Estrada, and Steve Calabresi, will appoint strict constructionist judges in the vein of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. I assure you that’s not the type of justice we’ll get out of another Clinton administration.

Rudy has also pledged to uphold the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on the funding of abortions here at home, and the Mexico City Policy, ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not be distributed to non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas. He supports parental notification laws and agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the partial-birth-abortion ban.

As one of his 12 Commitments to the American People, a bold vision aimed at moving America forward, Rudy has declared, 'I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children.'

This declaration, like so much of what Rudy says, means more because he has a record of results to back it up. During his time in New York, he created the first independent agency dedicated to protecting children, helping to increase adoptions in the city by 133 percent. During his tenure, abortions fell almost 17 percent, which is 30 percent faster than the nation as a whole. By getting people off welfare and into jobs, cleaning up the streets, reducing crime 56 percent and boosting the economy, Rudy had changed the culture to one that instilled personal responsibility and real hope for the future."

The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes offers an opposing view:

"Rudy Giuliani has a problem. It's bigger than he imagines and could doom his presidential prospects. The problem is his pro-choice position on abortion. It's one he cannot finesse by simply saying he "would keep the balance exactly where it is now." That means abortion would remain legal, limited only by a few minor restrictions. For social conservatives in the Republican party--millions of them, I suspect--that situation is unacceptable."

But wait a minute. After eight years of George W. Bush, often with a Republican Congress, abortion remains legal, limited only by a few minor restrictions. Those restrictions are mostly being enacted at the state level. What socially conservative Americans need now is a president, like Bush and as Giuliani promises, that will appoint sensible judges that respect the constitution. These judges would permit state restrictions to stand. A Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Al Gore administration would appoint socially liberal and activist judges that would thwart the will of the people to enact pro-life and other abortion-restricting legislation at the state level. Furthermore, while Giuliani would leave the federal status quo alone, one can easily imagine a Democratic administration pushing the envelope and move to end restrict funding of abortion both at home and abroad.

I'm not saying that social conservatives, especially pro-life Republicans, should back Giuliani for the GOP presidential nomination. I am saying that the criticisms of him are sometimes over-the-top and lack context (abortions declined in New York under Giuliani) and that they prevent working working with him should he win the nomination. I understand that when the choice is among Giuliani and Sam Brownback, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee, Giuliani doesn't look so great. When the choice is between Giuliani and Clinton or Giuliani and Obama or Giuliani and Gore, the choice is so much easier.

Nobel Peace Prize lost credibility long before Al Gore

From the Montreal Gazette editorial on Al Gore co-winning the Nobel Peace Prize:

"But in another way this award, announced yesterday, is a surprise: Gore has done a lot, by any measure, to publicize the problem of global warming. But he has accomplished little to solve the problem, either when he was at the heart of the U.S. government or since."

The paper says that Gore hasn't done anything, unlike, say, "Kenyan sustainable development pioneer Wangari Maathai" who had women plant trees in the east African nation. My question is what did Maathai or her trees do to promote peace? But the list of Nobel Peace Prize recipients that have done little to achieve peace is long.

In 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei were recognized by the Nobel Committee "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way." Their inability to prove or disprove Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program paved the way for the Iraq War in 2003. At the same time this award was given, the world knew that both Iran and North Korea were working on developing nuclear weapons.

In 2001, Kofi Annan and the United Nations were recognized "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world." That the was the year of 9/11 and the beginning of the latest Afgahn conflict. War continued in several African nations including Congo and the Ivory Coast. Two years later, the United States became embroiled in a war in Iraq that lasts until this day. The better organized and more peaceful world has yet to become a reality.

In 1997, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Joy Williams were recognized "for their work for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines." Landmines are still used in conflicts around the world a decade later.

In 1995, Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms." We're not there yet. Not even close.

In 1994, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were given the award "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East." That obviously has not worked out.

In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was given the prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" in Burma. What a heroic woman, but the struggle continues. As recent events show, the Burmese regime may be worse than ever.

In 1988, the Nobel Peace Prize was given the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, "for participation in numerous conflicts since 1956. At of the time of the award, 736 people from a variety of nations had lost their lives in peacekeeping efforts." Six years later: Rwanda, where UN peace-keepers shot at dogs to stop them from scavenging on the bodies of those killed in the genocide but would not shoot at the those committing the genocide.

In 1986, Elie Wiesel, an author and Holocaust survivor, was awarded the prize. But what did he do to achieve peace?

In 1984, it was given to two delegates to the UN General Assembly on Disarmament, Alva Myrdal and Alfonso García Robles. See 2005.

In 1971, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt was given the Peace Prize for appeasing the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Well.

'Nuff said.

Me on TV

I'll be on Behind the Story talking about the provincial elections, oil royalties in Alberta, speed racing laws, the 'inevitability' of Hillary Clinton's nomination and much more. It can be seen on CTS at 7 pm local time in both Ontario and Alberta.

Friday, October 12, 2007
What is a think tank?

A debate over at Gerry Nicholls' blog about the NCC has one commenter posting this:

"Our politicians used to debate these issues in public forums like the House of Commons, for instance.

Now, these politicians seem to visit their favorite think tanks to borrow a set of policies.

As such, the public feels uninvolved in the process, gets cynical and tunes out.

Is that what the think tank's real goal is?"

A couple of thoughts, in reverse order of the points made above.

1. A think tank's goals should be to develop ideas for public discussion and political consideration.

2. I think there are other reasons that the public gets cynical and tunes out and it is precisely because serious ideas and policies are no longer discussed by politicians and never raised by the media. Rather, politics is a game of gotcha and the media covers it like a horse-race (who is winning and who is losing based on phony issues and gotcha games).

3. Few politicians in Canada show up at think tanks. Ideas are not taken that seriously in politics anymore.

4. The problem of parliamentary debate is not a function of limiting political discourse to a limited set of like-minded politicians and think tank scholars, but control by the party elite over backbenchers whose function is now to raise their hands when the leader tells them to.

Let the Democratic race begin

Over the past few weeks there have been quite a number of columns and articles written about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic Party's presidential nomination next year. Neither Barack Obama nor John Edwards has the combination of funds, organization, organized base, rallying issue(s) and popular support to mount a serious challenge against Hillary. But with the announcement today that he co-won the Nobel Peace Prize, former Vice President Al Gore is in a position to make the Democratic primary a real race. The only person to win an Oscar and a Nobel Prize, Gore has the name recognition, the organized hardcore left, an issue (the environment), a rallying cry (the Democrats can win back what they unjustly lost in 2000) and organization (the thousands that promoted An Inconvenient Truth over the past two years). I've predicted this for more than a year; Gore is the only person who can enter the race late and not be at a huge disadvantage. It won't be easy, but he does have a pool of people loyal to him, willing to donate large (and small) sums of money, and activate new or disengaged voters. Let the race begin.

As an aside, why is bringing attention to the cause of global warming considered advancing the cause of peace? As Tom Gross notes at NR's media blog, "While Gore isn't in the category of putting back peace, as Carter and Arafat clearly are, it is not quite clear what he has done to advance peace." Truth in advertising would require that the Nobel Peace Prize be re-named the Nobel Prize for the Advancement of Liberalism.

Thursday, October 11, 2007
Conservatives should be led by a conservative, Part II

From Terence Corcoran in today's National Post:

"[B]eing a good moderate Conservative of the old Red Tory school, he played the game according to the old rules: Don't rock the boat, keep a middle course, hew occasionally left if necessary and fight a clean fight...

To be sure, Ontario Conservatives ran a particularly slow version of incrementalism. Under the Tory plan, it would have taken 100 years just to get the government out of the liquor business, and that would be about it. The Conservative platform was an alien document to conservatives -- and one suspects to large numbers of Liberals who know in their hearts that Dalton McGuinty's big-spending, high-tax blundering Liberal government is a train on track to a wreck. Give us something else to vote for!"

Conservatives should be led by a conservative

Headline from LifeSite editorial: "Maybe the Leader of the Gay Parade Shouldn't Head-Up the Ontario Progressive 'Conservative' Party." As John-Henry Westen concludes, "After all his pandering to homosexual activists some may call it poetic justice that Tory lost his seat in the Legislature to incumbent Education Minister Kathleen Wynne - an open lesbian."

What the ...

Guess what organization's leader said this:

"Access to healthcare should be the top priority of the Ontario government over the next four years ... The first promise Premier McGuinty needs to keep is the promise to hire more nurses and doctors in this province. There are over 1 million Ontario residents who do not have a family physician, and the first step to improving access to Ontario’s healthcare system is to hire the number of medical professionals necessary to meet the needs of this ever growing province."

If you guessed Peter Coleman, president of the National Citizens Coalition, you'd be correct. And you probably cheated. Doesn't sound like less government or more freedom to me; sounds like more spending and socialized medicine. It also sounds strange coming from a group that bills itself as "Canada’s largest organization that stands for defence and promotion of free enterprise." Since when is the government hiring doctors and nurses 'free enterprise'?

The NCC promises to be a thorn in the side of McGuinty's government. What's next, calling for a larger increase in the minimum wage? More funding for public transit? More teachers? At least the NCC is also calling for tax cuts -- or at least that's what I assume they mean when Coleman says, Ontario should create "a tax environment that will attract new manufacturing jobs to the province" but nowadays you never know.

A few election thoughts

1. If, as some political science profs are telling the papers, mixed member proportional lost because voters were ignorant about the issue of electoral reform, is it not possible that the Liberals won because voters were also ill-informed about the party leaders and platforms? I'm just saying...

2. Bold prediction: Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) will be the next leader of the NDP, and sooner rather than later.

3. Stephen Taylor says: "Nobody needs a degree in punditry to know that it was the issue of faith-based education and the public funding of religious schools that lost John Tory the election." This is the standard explanation but I think it is too simple and lets Tory off the hook too easily. Funding religious schools is a symbol for the larger problem for the Progressive Conservatives: the PCs lost because they did not present a distinct enough alternative to the McGuinty government. The reason the media and opposition focused on religious schools is that it was one of the few issues that separated the leaders. Given a choice between two liberals, voters chose the one honest enough to admit that he is one.

4. Pundits are saying that Dalton McGuinty didn't win the election, John Tory lost it. But when did the Progressive Conservatives ever lead in the polls? Tory didn't lose anything, it was McGuinty's to lose and Tory's to win. Tory ran a horrible campaign, advised and run by the party's C team. McGuinty ran a safe campaign which is what premiers of governments do when things are rolling along relatively smoothly in the province. But it doesn't matter whether Tory lost the election or not; McGuinty is still the premier.

5. Will this affect whether there is a federal election? Probably not. But I'd be cautious if I were Stephen Harper because the McGuinty victory gives the federal Liberals hope at a time when they are in disarray; there is election machinery in place and ready to roll. The Liberals might be a little bolder than they were if their provincial cousins lost a dozen seats.

6. From Political Staples: "So John Tory led PCs did not match the results by the Stephen Harper led CPCs - and Tory was supposed so moderate and Harper so scary."

7. I am wondering who the Red Tory leadership candidate will be. Liz Witmer? Who else is there? I'd like to believe that there are hardly any left, but they are like cockroaches: there are always a few hiding somewhere and they are impossible to kill off.

8. Am I the only one who would like to see Tony Clement vie for the Tory leadeship? To see him out of Ottawa. To see him lose another leadership race?

The Western Standard interviewed me about the demise of Ezra Levant's magazine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A lesson, perhaps

In 2002, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party chose Ernie Eves because the party would not be electable with Jim Flaherty as its leader.

In 2004, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party chose John Tory because the party would not be electable with either Jim Flaherty and Frank as its leader.

In fact, the 'electable' leader seldom is. The adjective was bandied about in connection with John Kerry over the unelectable Howard Dean in 2004 in the United States Democratic primaries. Electable usually means 'acceptable' to the talking heads in the media.

Some Conservatives are mentioning the name of Tim Hudak as the next Tory leader, others will push for Frank Klees. Other than those two, there are few other legitimate candidates but no doubt some Red Tories will float the name of one of their own promising that only he (or she) is electable and that Hudak and Klees -- MPPs from the Conservative wing of the Progressive Conservative Party -- are not. Tonight, we've seen how electable is a poor reason to choose a leader. I hope the Tories will learn the right lesson.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

David Weigel shills for Rep. Ron Paul, a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination who consistently polls at >1 to 2%, in The Guardian:

"Put in that perspective, Paul's graduation from the fringes to a serious presidential campaign says as much about his party as it does about him."

I like Rep. Paul. I think he is an interesting and, more importantly, principled candidate. I admire his fidelity to the US constitution and am thankful for his example of pro-life libertarianism. If, by some miracle, he becomes the GOP presidential candidate in 2008, I'd fully support him. But under no circumstances do I consider him anything but a fringe candidate at this time and I don't think we can take seriously anyone who would argue otherwise. Sure Paul can raise money effectively over the internet, which is more a reflection on the changing nature of political campaigns than it is his viability as a candidate in the vast, Republican field. But until a candidate breaks out of the low single digits, he doesn't graduate to seriousness.

(HT: Quotulatiousness)

I'm underwhelmed

Trying to address the lackluster Liberal performance overall, party leader Stephane Dion named Bob Rae, who doesn't even sit in Parliament, the new foreign affairs critic, Dominic LeBlanc the new intergovernmental affairs critic, Sue Barnes as the chair the newly-formed Caucus Committee on Justice, former Tory MP Garth Turner is now special advisor to Dion for riding and constituency outreach and Paul Szabo will chair the Standing Committee on Access to Information and Privacy. I'm sure this will excite Canadians so much that Dion will bounce well ahead of the Tories in the polls. If Dion thinks any of this will matter, whether in an immediate change of perception or a change in the Liberal performance in Parliament generally or during Question Period specifically, he's wrong.

The rich get richer

And so do the poor and middle class. From The Tax Foundation (US):

"In sum, between 2000 and 2005, pre-tax income for the top 1 percent group grew by 19.1 percent. On the other hand, in that same time period, pre-tax income for the bottom 50 percent increased by 15.5 percent."

In other words, the wealthy are getting richer, but so is everyone else, although not quite as quickly. It is also notable that the wealthy carry a widely disproportionate share of the tax burden. The top 1% of income earners pay nearly 40% of the country's taxes, although they earn just over one-fifth of America's adjusted gross income. Where's the justice in that?

Boring new journalists

Over at the National Post's Full Comment, Jonathan Kay says, apropos of the demise of the Western Standard:

"Over dinner last week, a journalist friend and I commiserated over how boring our profession had become. A generation ago, newsrooms were full of cranky rageaholics with mysterious contacts in low places, a bad reputation with the copy girls, and a fifth of hard stuff in the top drawer. These days, we tend toward boring middle-aged Google-jockeys who drink diet coke, eat low-carb, and spend our leisure hours updating family photo montages on Facebook."

In short, journalists are politically correct, from their opinions to their hobbies.

Kay says of Ezra Levant, the publisher and sometimes editor of the now defunct Western Standard,

"Ezra, on the other hand, had just come off a stint as the Reform Party’s Question Period strategist: He knew that a good political idea didn’t mean anything unless you could wrap it around an attention-getting stunt, slogan or human-interest angle. While campaigning against the anti-smoking propaganda in the Hollywood film The Insider, he dug up dirt on the story’s activist star, suggesting he was a wife-beater and liquor-store thief. In a column denouncing the squishy politics of the Canadian Jewish Congress, he wrote 'The J doesn’t belong in the CJC anymore.' When he found out the Liberals were doling out large grants to left-wing gay groups, he wrote a column mocking the 'Millesbian Fund.' I was appalled. But as the Post’s editor at the time put it, 'Ezra is good coffee'."

You see, when Kay complains about the boring modern journalist, he is part of the problem. If Mellesbian Fund appalls him, so would have 90% of the stuff that came out of the mouths of journalists a generation ago; I find Millesbian Fund hilarious and I find the old journalists offensive, although in a charmingly anachronistic way.

Back to Ezra Levant for a moment. One reason we haven't heard the last of him is not just his personality, which Kay argues is so forceful that Levant cannot be held back. No, the reason Levant will be around is because he is so damn compelling. Writers with something to say and a good way to say it cannot be out of the print spotlight for long. Whether on dead tree or online, Levant will be a force within the conservative movement for a long time to come. I don't know what Ezra is like in person -- maybe he is a tofu eating, diet coke sipping, prissy boy, although I doubt it -- but his prose is definitely not boring or politically correct.

Monday, October 08, 2007
Prosperity wise, we have much to be thankful for in Canada

L. Ian MacDonald in the Montreal Gazette:

"On Friday, StatsCan put out the best labour-market report in 33 years, which is to say in nearly two generations. Unemployment fell to 5.9 per cent in a country in which six per cent, because of our generous social safety net, is considered full employment. In September alone, the economy grew by 51,000 jobs.

Employee earnings are up 4.2 per cent over a year ago, while the consumer price index is up only 1.7 per cent. While there's more money in the system, inflation is so far being held in check, with no consumer-driven pressure to raise interest rates. With the loonie at par with the greenback, there are no rate raises in terms of protecting the buying power of our dollar. If anything, purchasing power parity is lagging the loonie's flight.

Ottawa is so awash in petro-dollars that it just paid down $14 billion, or three per cent, of the national debt, in one shot. Indications are that the surplus will exceed $20 billion in the current fiscal year, allowing a margin for both debt reduction and tax cuts in the next federal budget."

Only an extremly nerdy pundit would sit down and give thanks to increasing employee earnings. That said, if it were to happen, I would be thankful for large, broad-based tax cuts. I'd prefer those so my unmarried friends can enjoy lower taxes, too. But my guess is that the budget will be mostly geared to the couples with children that the Harper Tories are targeting for votes.

Killer pumpkins

Professor John Palmer, the Eclectecon, has pictures of a number of great Jack O'Lanterns. Check it out.

Thanksgiving baseball blogging

The Church of Baseball comments on what the TBS baseball coverage does well, and not so well. Among the 10 best, the ones I most agree with are # 4 (the announcers are not Tim McCarver or Joe Morgan) and #3 ("There aren't commercial breaks between every pitching change and you actually get to see some of what is happening at the game - kinda makes you remember what it's like being AT the game").

The New York Yankees -- and Joe Torre -- live to play another day, demolishing the Cleveland Indians 8-4. One of the TBS announcers last night said that the Yankees offense was like a 2 litre bottle of soda that had been shaken and was just waiting for the cap to explode. And then they unleashed for seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings, the first time this series they got back-to-back hits. Joba Chamberlain pitched well and although he his fastball was in the mid-90s by the end of the eighth inning (low for him), he had a filthy breaking ball and managed a 20 mph difference in his best fastball and his breaking ball that utterly fooled the Indians hitters. Mariano Rivera threw 10 pitches in the ninth, striking out two of the batters he faced, so he should be good for up to two innings if necessary today.

The Yankees will go with game one starter Chien-Ming Wang on three days rest. He only pitched 4.2 innings on Thursday and is a much better pitcher at home than on the road; if they do tie the series, they'll start Andy Petite at Jacobs Field on Wednesday. Great, ahem, managing.

Replacement Level Yankee noted that "the updated ALDS odds play[ed] out the rest of the series on Diamond Mind 1000 times" is:

Indians in four: 317 times (31.7%)
Indians in five: 357 times (35.7%)
Yankees in five: 326 times (32.6%)

Of course, simulations are not perfect predictors, but Wang over Paul Byrd should favour the Bronx Bombers and then anything can happen in a game five.

Yesterday I said it was a mistake for George Steinbrenner to publicly state Joe Torre would not back if the Yankees lost. The announcers last night talked about how Steinbrenner might have went public in order to take the pressure off the players (by putting it on the manager) or even rallying the players to win one for their beloved skipper. I'm not sure King George is that crafty, but if that was his plan, it worked.

I also said yesterday that Torre was likely to stick with Roger Clemens too long in the game considering that Torre's job was on the line last night. It is true that Torre took Clemens out after one out in the third, but he had no choice. It was obvious to everyone watching, including when he walked off the field, that Clemens was hurting, and, in fact, should never have started. If the Yankees don't make it to the next round, Clemens might have thrown his last pitch in pinstripes or any uniform. How fitting that the last batter he faced struck out.

Alex Rodriguez is playing famously awful in the post-season, including 4 for 50 over the past three seasons and 0-10 this year until last night's match when he collected a pair of hits. But fan favourite Derek Jeter -- or he was fan favourite until Joba came on the scene -- is a miserable 1 for 12. Melky Cabrera is 2 for 12 and Jorge Posada is 1 for 10 in the series and Hideki Matsui was 0 for 7 in the first two games; Johnny Damon was 1 for 9 in Cleveland (with a homer) before returning to the Bronx and exploding for three hits and four RBIs. The point is that there is lots of blame to around and to focus on A-Rod is wrong.

Keith Law at looks at the National League Championship Series. In short, the D-Backs are screwed.

Unrelated to the current post-season, and in a moment of absolute immaturity, I simply note the worst sports name ever: Dick Pole. A record of 25-37 over six seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox, sporting a career 5.05 ERA.

Sunday, October 07, 2007
Finally a real proposal to address the doctor shortage

The Calgary Herald editorializes:

"Medical schools have a larger role to play in solving this problem, starting by encouraging more students to go into family practice. They can do this by easing the acceptance process so that a broader range of students get in."

They also suggest existing family practitioners show their faces around med schools because aspiring doctors now come across specialists almost exclusively. I don't want a former C minus student tending to my children, but "easing the acceptance process" doesn't mean the elimination of standards -- or the qualifying of doctors at the end of med school. The Herald seems to be onto something worth further investigation.

Extremism in the defense of purity no virtue

George F. Will comments on the left-wing, anti-war types who might run a third-party candidate if the Democratic presidential nominee is insufficiently progressive (Hillary Clinton)and the right-wing, socially conservative types who might run a third-party candidate if the Republican presidential nominee is insufficiently pro-life/pro-family (Rudy Giuliani):

"But do not underestimate the temptation, to which the intense cohorts on Democratic left and Republican right are susceptible, to kick over their party's furniture for the fun of it. The pleasures of moral purity are available to those who fancy themselves a small-church militant in an unconverted world."

I follow William F. Buckley's advice to support the most conservative electable candidate. If that means supporting Rudy Giuliani when he faces Hillary Clinton, so be it; that may not mean supporting Giuliani, however, in the primaries. Though it might.

Cool it

Bjorn Lomborg in today's Washington Post:

"All eyes are on Greenland's melting glaciers as alarm about global warming spreads. This year, delegations of U.S. and European politicians have made pilgrimages to the fastest-moving glacier at Ilulissat, where they declare that they see climate change unfolding before their eyes.

Curiously, something that's rarely mentioned is that temperatures in Greenland were higher in 1941 than they are today. Or that melt rates around Ilulissat were faster in the early part of the past century, according to a new study. And while the delegations first fly into Kangerlussuaq, about 100 miles to the south, they all change planes to go straight to Ilulissat -- perhaps because the Kangerlussuaq glacier is inconveniently growing.

I point this out not to challenge the reality of global warming or the fact that it's caused in large part by humans, but because the discussion about climate change has turned into a nasty dustup, with one side arguing that we're headed for catastrophe and the other maintaining that it's all a hoax. I say that neither is right. It's wrong to deny the obvious: The Earth is warming, and we're causing it. But that's not the whole story, and predictions of impending disaster just don't stack up."

Read on, because as Lomborg concludes, "But embracing the best response to global warming is difficult in the midst of bitter fighting that shuts out sensible dialogue. So first, we really need to cool our debate."

Not helpful for today; vital for next year

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has said the manager Joe Torre probably won't be back next year unless the Yankees manage to get past the Cleveland Indians, which has a two-games to nothing lead in the best of five American League divisional series.

Just watching the games, it is obvious that Torre has no passion for the game, his laissez faire attitude on the bench a definite minus for the team. He just stood there and watched Friday night as Joba Chamberlain lost all control, distracted by the swarm of bugs around his face. In the eighth inning Chamberlain walked a batter on four pitches, hit two batters, and threw a wild pitch, allowing a runner to score. Chamberlain lost his control and his manager didn't do anything. Torre watched and didn't get anyone up in the bullpen until the fifth batter Chamberlain faced, when it was clear during the first batter that inning that Chamberlain was not up to the challenge. At that moment, a call to the bullpen to warm someone up should have been made, to be at least prepared. Only after Chamberlain's complete meltdown was well beyond the point of repair did Torre head to the mound to say something.

Anyone who reads my baseball posts on this blog knows that I don't like Torre and don't think he's much of a manager. But Steinbrenner by publicly putting this additional pressure on his manager has not helped his team. It might be that Torre was resigned, so to speak, to not returning next year, but now with this pressure, he has to win. No doubt Torre will put all his managerial eggs in the Roger Clemens basket: if he's going to lose his job, it might has well be in the hands of a veteran, never mind if he is actually the best pitcher for the job. Now if Clemens gets in a jam, what are the chances that Torre will take the ball out of his hands? Very little.

If Steinbrenner doesn't have confidence in his skipper, he should have replaced today. Bench coach Don Mattingly or broadcaster Joe Girardi (and last year's National League Manager of the Year) could both be called to service and certainly do a better job than the present manager. I don't know if such a move would be unprecedented, but it is highly unlikely. It would also be better than putting the present manager's back against the wall.

But even if Torre wins this series, he should be gone next year. Despite their amazing comeback, the team's strength are their players, not how they are managed. The team would do better with someone else at the helm.

Life is cheap

The Ottawa Sun reports:

"A 26-year-old Kanata woman faces a charge of second-degree murder after police allege she gave birth to a baby boy, killed him and put him in the trash.

Police Staff-Sgt. Monique Perras said Angela Kuehl was arrested yesterday morning without incident and charged later that afternoon following a five-month investigation into the death of her newborn."

As the Sun reports in another story, women who kill their newborns are seldom severely punished. As Kirsten Kramar, a sociologist with the University of Winnipeg, told the paper, "Women who commit this crime [infanticide] are not a danger to society. Sending a woman to prison to serve hard time is not a deterrent to other women." So that makes it okay for them to kill their kids? Just consider it an extension of a woman's right to choose.

Saturday, October 06, 2007
Foreign aid reform

It's been a while -- just more than two years ago -- since Ottawa announced that it would make Canada's foreign aid more effective, by limiting its focus both in terms of recipient countries and the sort of projects it funds. The Globe and Mail reports today that the Conservative government is almost complete its review of foreign aid which, thankfully, ignored the non-governmental organizations (Oxfam Canada, the North-South Institute, and the Canadian Council on International Co-operation) that live off the foreign aid industry like parasites. It appears that Harper's government seeks to make Canada's foreign aid more effective by limiting its focus both in terms of recipient countries and the sort of projects it funds.

Canada could do more for people in the developing world by doing less: giving to fewer countries and focusing on the primary health and education needs of desperate people while avoiding large infrastructure projects. But there are challenges, both from noisy special interests like the ones mentioned above, as well as domestic politics. The article quotes John Richards, a professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University and the Roger Phillips scholar at the C.D. Howe Institute, who says, "There are lots of small ethnic communities in Canada who will not be happy to see countries fall off the list." It would be shame if domestic policy considerations prevented Canada from playing a useful role in alleviating suffering and promoting development abroad. But sadly, also predictable.

Exposing the self-importance of pollsters

The Canadian Press reports:

"A recent rise in support for the Green party, coupled with a belief by many people that the support would hold firm in a fall campaign, could make results of an election more unpredictable than usual, a new poll suggests."

And where does this analysis come from? A poll on a poll. As CP explains:

"The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey found most Canadians think that voters who currently say they support the Green party will continue to do so come election time.

Of the just over 1,000 Canadians asked, 37 per cent believe Green party support will hold while a further 28 per cent think it will actually increase. One in four respondents said they think support for the party will decline."

This is effectively a poll asking people whether they think recent polling numbers will hold. Very odd and sort of amusing. Bruce Anderson of Harris-Decima explains to CP:

"It adds a new and interesting dimension ... That's why we're focusing on it now, to try to understand where this 10 per cent came from. Where was it before?"

I've said many times before that the media writes about itself (other journalists, the interaction of politicians and journalists, how the 'media' covers a particular story) because journalists don't find anyone else quite as interesting as they find themselves. It appears that pollsters caught the same disease.

But aside from the narcissism of pollsters, what does it all mean? Well, we need Anderson's unique insight to help us understand: "The Green party will pull votes that used to go to other parties, obviously, if it scores 10 per cent," which means "the outcomes are more unpredictable." I was going to say, 'Thank God Bruce is here to explain this to us,' because, as he says, this is pretty obvious. But then I realized that is might not be true. With about one-in-three Canadians eschewing the polling booth on election day, the 10% Green support could come not from other party's supporters but rather people who have dropped out of the political process. The Green Party argues that people who have never been involved in politics before are interested in their refreshingly different message. That is, the Green Party is not an alternative to the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP, but rather they are an alternative to staying home.

Anderson is providing an analysis that might be true and probably is true, but which is based not on data but an assumption. He could find out if his assumption is true by asking respondents if they voted in previous elections. But I doubt that the folks at Harris-Decima are really that curious. Nor are the journalists who faithfully report on (and sponsor) their surveys.