Friday, March 31, 2006

Existential angst

Crispin Sartwell:

In the words of The Rascals and George W. Bush, people everywhere just want to be free. The point seems almost trivial: We want to be able to do what we want, and we don't want people stopping us.

But many events give me pause as I stand to mutter my Bushy cliches about the universal love of liberty. Here's one: Tens of thousands of people gather to mourn the death of their beloved dictator. One might think it difficult to regard the regime of Slobodan Milosevic -- featuring war, ethnic cleansing, rape camps and other hijinks -- with affectionate nostalgia. And yet, after his richly deserved croak, people were sobbing on the streets of Belgrade.

In St. Petersburg, a group of Russian communists renamed a scenic boulevard "Slobodan Milosevic Street." This made sense, as the Russian people responded to the chaotic Yeltsin administration with an explicit nostalgia for forced collectivization, one-party elections, hilarious show trials and the gulag. And now that they've got a good, strong leader in Vlad Putin, their desires are well on the way to realization.

Lest one think an enthusiasm for personal subordination is limited to the Slavs, let me assert that it is a universal feature of our admirable species. Indeed, since the development of the political state, human history is incomprehensible on any hypothesis other than that people hate and fear their freedom. On the hypothesis that everyone aspires to freedom, it is difficult to explain why we are continuously subordinated.

In France, hundreds of thousands of students are protesting or rioting. What do they want? Anarchy a la mode? No, no, no. They want the state to guarantee them a job, no matter how badly they perform. The last thing they want is to be responsible for themselves.

[..] We want the government to guarantee our health, deflect hurricanes, educate our children and license us to drive; we want to be told what to eat, what to smoke and whom to marry. We are justly proud of the fact that no enduring society has ever incarcerated more of its people. Noting that the policeman has a pistol, a club, a stun gun, a can of pepper spray and a database that includes us, we feel happy and secure.

Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.

The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.
HT: Hammer of Truth

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Proportional representation —
recommended by 4 out of 5 activists!

Note the most vocal proponents of proportional representation: invariably they are activists or advocates for special interests. Why is this? Ask yourself what special interests have to gain from political representation. But begin with the question of what they have not gained from the current political system — nothing less than their political objectives, of course. Frequently frustrated by their failures to achieve their objectives, or the slow implementation of those objectives, activists for political interests mischievously recast their complaints as failures of a democratic model.

But, as Paul McKeever, leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario, reminded Ontario's select committee on electoral reform in October of last year:

Elections and voting are not, per se, democracy. "Democracy" is a term derived from the Greek word "dēmos," meaning "people," and "kratos," meaning "power," not "rule." History is filled with examples of democracies that differed wildly in terms of who was permitted to vote or how they voted, but all of those systems have something in common. Properly understood, democracy, or "people power," is the belief that government gets its authority from the governed.

[…] Because one frequently finds lawmakers to be chosen by way of elections in alleged democracies, and because candidates win elections only by winning more votes than their competitors, elections and voting widely have been confused as being synonymous with democracy. However, in truth, elections themselves are not democracy; rather, they are a very effective tool for the defence of democracy. Specifically, by removing law-making authority from the lawmakers at regular intervals, and by requiring would-be lawmakers to obtain law-making authority from the people, elections continually and effectively remind everyone that the authority to make laws comes from the people. Put another way, elections remind the people that government answers neither to God nor to itself, but to the people it governs. Elections remind us that we believe in democracy.

The relevance of this to electoral reform should be noted. Different electoral systems may differ in how effectively they "kick the bums out," but it would be utterly false to suggest that one electoral system is itself more or less democratic than any other electoral system. Just as elections are not democracy, electoral systems do not differ in how democratic they are. As this committee drafts its final report, I would urge it to keep one thing in mind: Do not let your endorsement of one electoral system over another be based on the false notion that the electoral reform will lead to "greater democracy" or the elimination of a "democratic deficit." Though it may lead to a better or worse defence of democracy, it will not lead to more or less democracy.
Having dismissed the notion that proportional representation or any variation of it is inherently "more democratic," and noting that proportional representation refers more to an electoral outcome than to a system, McKeever goes on to note that suggested electoral reforms have much more to do with how governments arrive at decisions, and that here "the implications of electoral reform are truly immense."

Indeed, the concerns of special interests in democratic nations such as ours are generally not for democracy itself, but the achievement of their objectives. Their objectives and their methods both being political, their interests are unquestionably better served in arenas where decision-making is entirely political in nature; that is, where decisions are negotiated between competing political interests, where deals are cut between the brokers of political parties and lobby groups, for one thing only: political advantage, It goes without saying that such arenas are further removed from citizens. There exists already, of course, opportunities for such political arenas — what proportional representation will achieve is to make such arenas almost inevitable. They are called minority governments. McKeever continues:
In a majority government, the party in power has the opportunity to govern by doing what it believes is right, even when it's unpopular for it to do so. In a minority or coalition government, the process is almost entirely different. The issue is not one of right and wrong, but of compromise and negotiation. On its face, that sounds very friendly and up-with-people. But in reality, the difference between majority government and minority or coalition government is dramatic. Specifically, when we replace majority governments with minority or coalition governments, we move from a system that accommodates ethical decision-making to a system based on the rejection of ethics and the substitution of whims and numbers -- ballot-counting, or hand-counting, if you're talking about the Legislature. We move from a government guided by reason to one guided by emotion; to one guided not by what's right, but simply by what you want.
Objections can be made, and sustained, that the current electoral system already provides the opportunity for minority governments, and that majority governments as well are arenas in which decisions are made for political advantage. The point is, however, that majority governments at least allow an opportunity for rational, ethics-based decisions without regard to political horse-trading, an opportunity which almost cannot occur in minority governments. With this understanding, it is easy to judge the appeal of proportional representation to special interest groups. What then is the appeal of proportional representation to the average citizen? Simply, there is none except for duplicitous and misdirecting characterizations of democracy from those who have something to gain by it — how democratic is that then?

McKeever's interest in the subject may itself be of interest — as the leader of a party that has never elected a representative, he might be expected to support an electoral system that promises his party at least a chance of putting a chip on the table. Possibly to their political detriment, but to their credit, the Freedom Party is founded on and governed by principles that entirely exceed their pursuit of political advantage. Specifically, McKeever's presentation was incited by the Ontario government's feelers on electoral reform. It appears now that Ontario is moving closer to treading the path of BC. Lawrence Solomon, writing in the Financial Post, provides examples of what we in Ontario could someday look forward:
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform this week, giving it the task of explaining how a system of proportional representation or other electoral reform might work for Ontarians. Electoral reform bodies in B.C. and P.E.I. last year -- each of which put forward their own vision of voting nirvana -- failed to explain the benefits of the more sophisticated -- some say convoluted -- voting systems preferred by many activists. The provincial populaces voted down both schemes.

Ontario's Citizens Assembly -- 52 women and 51 men chosen randomly from the province's 103 ridings, including one aboriginal of unspecified sex -- have a tall order. They need to become experts in the world's voting systems in a matter of months. The assembly will meet for the first time in September, then come to its decision and issue its report on May 15.

To help the Citizens Assembly educate itself, I've produced a primer on proportional representation, the reform favoured by most activists, using this week's election in Israel as illustration. Israel is a model of proportional representation.

1. Don't think in terms of having a majority government run by a single political party with a coherent governing philosophy; think in terms of minority government comprised of a collection of special interests.

2. Don't think in terms of voting for the candidate of your choice.

3. Don't expect to know who will form the government after the ballots are counted.
Read the rest here, and judge for yourself the benefits of proportional representation.

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"Building a Community Architecture"

Brain Lemon does the math and estimates the cost of a National Daycare Program assuming everyone eligible to claim their entitlement lined up for their ration.



And with admirable perseverence, Joanne's Journey looks for the facts supporting a statement recently made in a top story CTV article and fails to find any.
I voluntarily undertook the assignment on behalf of some of my fellow bloggers [..] to try and track down the data that led to CTV's statement that "most Canadians would prefer a national day-care program over a federal cash payout", as it related to the YWCA's recent media circus over their report, "Building a Community Architecture" in support of universal daycare.

I simply wanted to know what facts supported the data; a simple question, I thought. After all, this Parliament could fall on the daycare issue, and the politicians' beliefs about Canadians' opinions in this regard could be the tipping point. I never realized how persistent I would have to be to ferret out the truth.

You can read some of my previous posts to discover how much digging I had to do to climb up the chain of command at the YWCA National office. Nobody seemed to know much about this report. Even the co-author, Fahreen Beg had to direct my enquiry to Jenny Robinson, Director of National Initiatives, who apparently coordinated the project and report.

At this point I was getting a little suspicious. The co-author didn't know anything about it?

Several more emails were sent out to Jenny asking how CTV came to the conclusion from the report that 'most Canadians would prefer a National Day Care Program...'

In reply, I simply received form letters referring to the study.
The search ends with the writer of the article, who based her findings on a Canadian Press article and a portion of the YWCA report - seems she didn't really bother to read the entire agenda.

CTV:
CTV.ca News Staff [Alicia Kay Markson with help from Canadian Press and YWCA representatives]

Most Canadians would prefer a national day-care program over a federal cash payout, says a new report prepared by YWCA Canada.

"You can give people money in hand, but if there is nowhere to spend that money, it's not going to help them in any significant way," said Debra Mayer, the principal researcher for the YWCA Canada study.

[..] Although YWCA Canada supports the government's decision to give money to families with young children, Mayer argues that this money "doesn't help a child with a disability attend an inclusive program."

Four community task forces were set up in Halifax, Vancouver, Martensville, Sask., and Cambridge, Ont., to look at how child care could be strengthened.

Each of the groups said they wanted integrated services and they wanted it publicly funded, said study director Jenny Robinson.

"What we find is that if parents have money to buy services, there are still no services to buy, so we need to build a system,'' she said.

[..] The report's findings were based on four focus groups consisting of 25 to 30 community volunteers, who met at least five times during the year to discuss child care in Canada.

The focus groups included representatives from the child-care community, government, media, business and non-profit groups.
HT: I AM (also) CANADIAN

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Your hard earned dollars at work in London Ontario

A London park was filled with raw sewage after a city worker drilled a hole into one of the city's largest sewage pipes while working on the 3.9 million dollar traffic-light synchronization program.

City workers replaced sewage-soaked soil from a London park yesterday in the cleanup after a contractor drilled open a sewer line.

More than 136,000 litres of the foul-smelling liquid spilled from a four-inch diameter hole drilled into one of the main sewer lines flowing into the Greenway Pollution Control plant Wednesday.

A contractor working for the city, not London Hydro as first reported, was installing underground wiring as part of the city’s traffic-light synchronization program when the sewage started to flow around 9 a.m.

“We’re still investigating the circumstances around what happened,” said Dave Leckie, the city’s director of roads and transportation.

Leckie said he understands the contractor obtained information about the location of various underground pipes before drilling.

“But I don’t know if the information they received was inaccurate, or if their machine went awry or what.”

Estimates on the cost of the cleanup won’t be known for at least a week, Leckie said.

[..] The sewer line — one of the city’s largest, at about 1.2 metres across — runs only 1.2 metres below the road, staff said.

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Don't hold your breath for one-tier health care


From the London Free Press:
[Ontario Medical Association] president Dr. Greg Flynn yesterday said there are good intentions behind the McGuinty government's promotion of the [family health] teams that are designed to bring together doctors, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, mental health workers and dietitians.

But the teams also are causing serious inequities and fostering two-tiered medicine, according to the association.

[…] The contentious part of the system is that patients of the new teams will be given free access to a number of services, such as physiotherapy, diabetes management and health education. But if their doctor is not part of the limited number of teams, patients will have to pay for services such as physiotherapy out of their own pockets.

"This represents a two-tiered structure, a have and have-not scenario, in which the vast majority of 12 million patients do not have equal access to primary health care," Flynn wrote in an editorial in the Ontario Medical Review.
All well and good for the president of the OMA to call attention to inequities in what is supposed to be an egalitarian system — but what makes the OMA think it could be otherwise? When the government has a monopoly on the distribution of resources, people must be dependent on unequal political interests and the motivations of connected special interest groups to have their health care demands met. Moreover, the distribution of individual health care demands is and can never be equal, and the distribution of funding health care cost liabilities is far from equal. Ontario has never had equal-access one-tier health care.

Not that the OMA is worth listening to on the subject of health care allocation anyway — it turned itself into little more than a crown corporation a long time ago.

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Common myths of Liberal government

#1 Fiscal Prudence. William Robson in the Financial Post:

In the past five years, Ottawa has underestimated its fiscal capacity -- how much new revenue it would bring in, and how much interest saving it would enjoy -- by some $34-billion. A fraction of this extra fiscal room turned into surpluses that paid down a small amount of Ottawa's half-trillion-dollar debt. But most of it -- more than $27-billion -- spilled out in unbudgeted spending. The over-run in the most recent fiscal year was a stunning $17.7-billion -- more than the entire cost of Employment Insurance, fiscal equalization or defence, and fully 59 times more than the much-ballyhooed $300-million that income trusts were estimated to "cost" the federal treasury.

These kinds of in-year spending over-runs preclude other fiscal choices, such as larger debt pay-downs or tax relief. They expand the size of the federal government -- not because of strategic thinking about what the country needs, but just because the money is there.

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Once again science fails to answer life's most fundamental question?

The scientists, led by Dr. Herber Benson of Harvard Medical School, emphasized that they looked only at the effect of prayer on the patients in their study – and could not address questions such as whether God exists or answers prayers.



The volunteers were given a patient's given name and last initial, and prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications."

Patients were divided into three groups:

* One set of patients was being prayed for and knew it.
* The second group was also the subject of prayers, but only knew it was a possibility.
* Patients in the third group weren't prayed for, although they were told they might be.

. . .

The researchers said they had no explanation for the higher complication rate among patients who knew they were being prayed for.
Frater P says . . .
ONION PEELINGS

The Universe is the Practical Joke of the General at the Expense of the Particular, quoth FRATER PERDURABO, and laughed.

But those disciples nearest to him wept, seeing the Universal Sorrow.

Those next to them laughed, seeing the Universal Joke.

Below these certain disciples wept.

Then certain laughed.

Others next wept.

Others next laughed.

Next others wept.

Next others laughed.

Last came those that wept because they could not see the Joke, and those that laughed lest they should be thought not to see the Joke, and thought it safe to act like FRATER PERDURABO.

But though FRATER PERDURABO laughed openly, He also at the same time wept secretly; and in Himself He neither laughed nor wept.

Nor did He mean what He said.

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Syed Soharwardy: Thug Life

Gee, who would have ever thought that human rights commissions would be used by totalitarians to intimidate their political enemies? Well, apart from anyone with any familiarity with history and an appreciation for the arguments for the rule of law, that is. Human rights commissions operate outside of the court system, respect no traditional reason-based rules of evidence, and judge scientifically non-investigable matters such as hurt feelings and offended sensibilities. These third-world style troikas are tailor made for cretins who have no respect for other people's consciences and want the police to judge disputes about what kind of art is offensive to fictional characters.

The particular totalitarian ignoramus you see above is Imam Syed Soharwardy of Calgary, who has applied to the Albert Human Rights Commission to punish the Western Standard. From publisher Ezra Levant:

He asked the police to arrest me for publishing the cartoons. They calmly explained to him that’s not what police in Canada do.

So then he went to a far less liberal institution than the police: the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Unlike the Calgary Police Service, they didn’t have the common sense to show him the door.

Earlier this month, I received a copy of Soharwardy’s rambling, hand-scrawled complaint. It is truly an embarrassing document. He briefly complains that we published the Danish cartoons. But the bulk of his complaint is that we dared to try to justify it - that we dared to disagree with him.
Wait until "Silence!" Syed finds out that women are allowed to drive here.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

And just what am I getting in return?



I was the victim of internal workplace spam today. Arriving in my work inbox was an email completely unrelated to my work although sent by a fellow employee I've never met. And I was only one recipient among many, the sender taking advantage of a fairly extensive email list to propagate a communist agenda, at the expense of their employer and co-workers. In the email, the sender encourages the receipients - also wasting their employer's time as they stop to read - to visit this page calling on The People to honour and protect the Liberal National Childcare Solution. They fail to explain why the Liberal Party of universal suffrage does not currently enjoy majority status in parliament.

The place to start is by protecting the early learning and child care agreements between the Government of Canada and the provinces. The federal-provincial agreements on child care were negotiated in good faith. They lay a foundation for a full system of early learning and child care that can meet the needs of all Canadian families. Cancelling them sets back the development of a national child care program for years to come, leaving families with young children to fend for themselves.

[..] While income support for families is a valid policy goal, a taxable family allowance and a tax credit for employers will not create early learning and child care services that are high quality, available and affordable. Families need income supports and publicly funded child care services. We call on all governments to protect and enhance progress on child care.
If the bunch of vultures clamouring for "free" childcare and entitlements really feel so strongly, why not provide them with the option of checking a box on their annual tax assessment indicating they would like to contribute a portion of their taxable income to the day to day operations of national daycare centres. But then, that would be sort of be like paying for it yourself and that's not fair.

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Freedom Party running candidates in three Ontario byelections

Three byelections will be held tomorrow, March 30th, to seat three representatives in the Ontario legislature. Ontario's governing Liberal party is currently overseeing a province that in three years has seen higher taxes, increased spending and public debt, deteriorating public services like health care, unnecessary and politically-motivated regulatory intrusions into people's private lives and property, and looming energy shortages during its administration. In the past three years, the provincial Liberal government has shored up its support by placating piecemeal-fashion various special interests and, in a neverending performance, has deferred responsibility for its shortcomings and failures to federal and previous provincial administrations. Worse, the other two "major" parties, the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, promise only cosmetic differences in their approach to government — slapping a new label on an old, past-date product.

There is one party in Ontario that advocates a new direction and approach to government — the Freedom Party of Ontario. The Freedom Party is the only party to have released its 2007 election platform — its principles do not change with shifting political winds. More importantly, however, the Freedom Party is the only party working to reduce the scope of Ontario's government and increase the opportunity for individuals to govern their own lives. Voters in tomorrow's byelections may wish to consider the candidates of the Freedom Party of Ontario who are running in the three ridings: leader Paul McKeever in Whitby-Ajax, Franz Cauchi in Toronto-Danforth, and Jurgen Vollrath in Nepean-Carleton.

The Freedom Party's platform includes these three planks that are the main focus of the byelection campaigns:

SCRAP ONTARIO’S INCOME TAX

An income tax functions as a punishment for doing good: a fine for working and earning. Ontario’s income tax is even worse: in Ontario, when you earn more, you are required to pay a higher percentage of your earnings to the government. It is a tax that punishes you for increasing your productivity and growing the economy. That is not only wrong: it is also bad economics.

LEGALIZE BETTER HEALTH CARE

  1. legalize private health care insurance;
  2. in compliance with the Canada Health Act, continue to offern non-profit public health insurance that is publicly-administered, comprehensive in its coverage, available on uniform terms and conditions, portable, and accessible;
  3. make no requirement to purchase either public or private health insurance;
  4. end the current practice of dividing physicians and other medical professionals into public and private systems — physicians will be free to serve publicly-insured patients, privately-insured patients, and pay-as-you-go patients;
  5. legalize non-profit or for-profit health care facilities (e.g., clinics that specialize in diagnostic measures, such as MRI and CT scans; nursing or paramedical facilities that can carry out simple procedures at low cost).
SCRAP PROPERTY TAXES
  1. scrap Ontario’s taxation of property;
  2. convert Ontario’s PST into a broader-based value-added tax, and lower the PST rate as necessary to make the conversion revenue-neutral;
  3. give to each and every Ontario municipality the discretion to add a municipal premium to the PST within its respective geographic borders.

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A collective standard necessarily leads to public scandal

Yet another city worker suspended, with pay. City manager Jeff Fielding has hired an outside law firm to investigate a public inspector "accused of placing public safety at risk".

A probe by the fire department and city hall led London chief administrator Jeff Fielding to hire the London law firm Hicks Morley to investigate the allegations.

Fielding said investigators were examining fire safety plans created by inspectors to make sure buildings are safe for occupants and firefighters.

The safety plans, required of most commercial and multi-residential buildings, enable inspectors to order changes that could cost tens of thousands of dollars, those in the field say.

Sources say among other things, city hall investigators had asked if the inspector used his position to profit by moonlighting to perform work required by safety plans.

[..] Changes ordered by an inspector can cost a building's operators small change or as much as tens of thousands of dollars, say operators of businesses that perform such work, London Fire Equipment Ltd., Advanced Fire Protection and Brennan Fire Equipment.

"I've had clients spend as much as $10,000 and I've heard of some spending $50,000 to $100,000," said Steve Almond of Advanced Fire Protection.
The details are scant, but the information contained in this article suggests either a) the accused is under investigation for ordering changes unnecessary under current requirements so he could make some extra cash on the side; or b) he offered to do the work which he was professionally required to order anyway, perhaps saving the owner some cash by undercutting the price of other contractors. However, the central theme of the Free Press article and Jeff Fielding's comments is public safety suggesting a third alternative: c) did the inspector thus fail to impose regulations in exchange for a bribe from the property owner?

As Jay Jardine so eloquently said in a comment here regarding mixed economies and the problem of sorting out right from wrong:

"It really is like trying to unscramble an egg."

Drizzten's comments on 'good cops' versus 'bad cops' are of interest in this context:
What is the difference between a good cop and a bad cop? I'd bet that most people would say the former doesn't use the position for personal gain, doesn't abuse or torment citizens for fun, doesn't take bribes, and applies the law objectively and fairly.

[..] The truth about cops is they have to apply the full panoply of law to everyone. From the generally legitimate prohibitions against murder, assault, and theft down to the foul restrictions on smoking in "public" buildings, running a business, and tax enforcement, the fundamental duty of police officers to protect the innocent from predators is increasingly swamped with the duty to shut down unapproved markets and socially unacceptable activity. Theoretically, the police aren't supposed to pick and choose which laws to enforce. However, you are as well aware as I am of people who praise some police as "good" specifically for letting them off the hook of some non-crime.

A bad cop might be bought off by a single mother desperately trying to avoid going to jail over possessing a baggie of weed. A good cop will either arrest her or demand she dispose of it and give her a warning. A warning of what? Of arrest.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Songs In The Key Of L

London-Middlesex Health Unit:
Bells Ringing For The City Of London.mp3
(3.2 MB)


you can hear them in the downtown/where there's more abandoned buildings than smiles

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Shameless

Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution on cheating:

What has brought about the moral change in question is precisely this attitude: that immoral actions are no longer the responsibility of the individual concerned, who is perceived as an innocent let down by the system's deficiencies - deficiencies which can be corrected by social expenditure of resources.

This philosophical position, a mainstay of the academic left, is also prevalent among left-leaners in general; working together, such groups and individuals have largely succeeded in the creation of a society based on the principle of individual blamelessness.

This isn't to say that blame isn't freely assigned, of course. It's just that it's institutions (government, corporations, even society itself) that are generally held culpable. Individuals are invariably seen as victims of these greater institutions or their failures; hence, money must be spent on "reform" - changes to those systems, of course to be made along the lines suggested by those who've identified the problem (namely, the academic left). This reform will be financed by "the people" for whom leftists so often claim to speak…

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A gathering of vultures scheduled for East London Library

. . . . one vital distinction between a genuine and a spurious “right” is that the former requires no positive action by anyone except noninterference. Hence, a right to person and property is not dependent on time, space, or the number or wealth of other people in the society.

[..] On the other hand, an asserted right “to a living wage” is a spurious one, since fulfilling it requires positive action on the part of other people, as well as the existence of enough people with a high enough wealth or income to satisfy such a claim. Hence such a “right” cannot be independent of time, place, or the number or condition of other persons in society.
Murray Rothbard - The Ethics of Liberty

Be sure to join Irene Mathyssen, a NDP MP here in London, along with London city councillor Bill Armstrong and London-Fanshawe Liberal MPP Khalil Ramal on Wednesday, March 29th at the East London Library from 7-9 pm. Just because you breed, it doesn't mean you should be expected to look after your own children. You have a "right" to those entitlements! Get out there and demand your portion!
Londoners deserve a national child-care program and they should mobilize to get one, says Irene Mathyssen, the NDP MP for London-Fanshawe.

Mathyssen is hosting a community town hall session Wednesday night at which representatives of federal, provincial and municipal government will speak about the need for a national day-care program.

The federal Conservatives have announced they will scrap the program created by the former Liberal government later this year.

Instead, the Tories plan to give parents direct $1,200 payments for each child under age six.

"We're hoping to have a lot of people come out to fight for child care," Mathyssen said yesterday.

Her London-Fanshawe riding, especially, needs high-quality, regulated child care because of the large number of working families, she said.

Mathyssen said more than $1 billion has been set aside for child care, but the money has never flowed to Ontario.

"There is a lot of concern about what the Conservatives will do," she said.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

A sunny Sunday morning in London Ontario

Yesterday morning, a 78 year old man out for a morning walk in a quiet neighbourhood in the Pond Mills and Commissioners roads area, was bashed in the head with a basebat bat by an attacker apparently after his wallet.

LFpress:

. . . the vicious robbery of a 78-year-old man has London police roping off part of a shocked south-end neighbourhood, where blood-stained concrete and a black jacket were left behind by the hospitalized victim.

[..] The pretty neighbourhood is a complex mix of winding roads and cul-de-sacs.

[..] In what Sgt. Mike Eagen called a "bizarre incident," the elderly man was strolling down a quiet residential street at 8 a.m. yesterday when he was attacked and his wallet stolen.

"It appeared to me that he was out for a walk," Eagen said, adding witnesses saw a bat-wielding man leaving the scene.

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Monster pot hole swallows SUV in East End



LONDON, ONTARIO - A city street collapsed under a sport utility vehicle early Monday, leaving the vehicle nose down into a deep sinkhole that city engineers said was caused by mysterious events beneath the city.

The driver of the SUV escaped without serious injuries but was taken to a hospital for treatment of shock, said a Fire Department spokesman.

The vehicle was barely visible from street level inside the 12-foot-wide hole, partially in a pedestrian crosswalk a few blocks east of Adelaide. It was resting atop a gas main and crews had to wait for the gas to be turned off before removing it, said a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.

City officials have been evasive in their response to the issue. One source, who wished to remain annoymous, said city hall is trying to play down the issue as it's sure to draw more attention to London's current pothole situation.

"Just try and get an answer about this one - they'll probably deny it's even happened."

Her Worship, when faced with reporters on her way to chambers, would only say "I think people are really making a bigger deal of this than it deserves. This might be a problem if there was somewhere worth going to in the east end. But there's not."

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ruth Collins-Nakai has ashtray mouth


There is evidence that eating tofu and soya products is harmful to your health. This means eating tofu slowly kills you. This means tofu is bad for you. Unsuspecting consumers have been drinking soya milk and eating tofu burgers under the impression they are engaging in healthy eating practices. Soya products lack warning labels, are readily available at your local grocery store, pharmacy or 7-11 - on the shelf - and the price is set low enough to allow and entice children receiving even the most modest allowance to purchase the substance posing as nourishment.

The residue from your choices pollutes my water supply. From the Brandon Sun:
Under a plan pitched by the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Canadians would shell out a fat tax for unhealthy foods like chips, cookies, pop and other fat-laden snacks.

“We want to make healthy choices more easily available, so healthy choices, whenever possible, should be cheaper and more readily available,” Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai told reporters after throwing the idea out to the Canadian Club of Ottawa on Wednesday.

The idea of making people pay for the food that slowly kills them isn’t new. Britain and Australia has considered passing a fat tax. The Ontario government also raised the issue a year ago, but retreated from it pretty quickly when anti-poverty groups claimed it would put a high burden on people with low incomes.
But surely the poor fat person, albeit a victim of capitalist oppression, is as much of a burden on the public health system as his wealthy counterparts? There is only one queue.
Collins-Nakai argues the idea is no different than the taxes governments charge on cigarettes. In Manitoba, for instance, the amount the government collects on a pack of smokes has steadily increased because the government argues it needs the money to pay for long-time puffers suffering from a whole host of smoking-related ailments.

[..] previous decision-makers had the courage to make a pack of cigarettes — which were once almost as inexpensive as a cup of coffee — cost as much as a decent meal out. They were also brave enough to do the same thing with alcohol, which also exacts a toll on our health system each year.

In order to pay for the coming epidemic of fat-related illnesses, it would be a good idea for some government to suck up the courage and price the foods that kill us further out of reach.
Be Brave Proletariats! The Courage enforced by your elected State will emerge triumphant! The anonymous we, represented by the Brave government of shifting responsibilities, will co-ordinate your collective preferences after calculating the costs and benefits effecting the pool of public preferences by hitting the equal button.

control + alt + delete / alt + apple + esc

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"Say a prayer for Toronto before you sleep tonight"

Royson James predicts the future of David Miller's Toronto:

The Day Toronto Goes Broke may be closer than you think — say, four years; five at most.

That's what city officials fear — unless Queen's Park, the "banker of last resort," rescues Canada's largest city and its spiralling $7.7 billion budget.

Failing that, Toronto is on pace to clean out its reserves next year, impose double-digit tax hikes in 2007, bury itself in debt for the foreseeable future and still that won't be enough to forestall bankruptcy.
Miller has made a policy of being the kind of profligate and irresponsible welfare case that make welfare cases so popularly reviled.

Update: Bob Tarantino figures there's been enough of the David Miller-led council and hopes that somebody will do something about it. His efforts harken back to an excellent earlier entry that is well worth the read.

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Sprawl — new opportunities for planners and activists

In a recent post, I suggested caution that the engineering and design ideals of the "new suburbanism" model of suburban growth would present a temptation to London planners to regulate the fashion into existence not only because of its appeal to the professional planner's predisposition for templates but also because their pretensions to authority over people's living choices would be flattered by sympathy from urban elites and activists. In response, James Bow, who himself was educated as a planner, wrote in a comment that the existing sprawl of suburban development is as much or more the product of planning regulation as any remedies that would be imposed by planners in the form of "new suburbanism." Indeed, the worst aspects of post-war suburban development — the homogeneity and indifference to location — have been entrenched by regulation. However, new models of suburban growth that advocate higher density are themselves tendered to regulatory interests and are designed as commercially acceptable surrogates for the demands of far more interventionist agendas. Where Bow and I would depart is that where he suggests that sprawl is driven more by regulation than consumer demand, I would maintain that sprawl itself is driven as much or more by demand for low density suburban housing and that only the worst aspects of sprawl are driven by regulation. Typically, however, the worst aspects are made to be representative of the whole and the causes entirely misattributed by those vocal interests whose own advantages compel them to condemn sprawl — "urban elites on aesthetic grounds [and] activists of progressive or socialist stripes who find little common ground with or support from residents of self-owned property." Their dominance of media, academic and local political venues has imbued their agenda with the pretended authority of common wisdom — "it's so, so I know that it's so" — and invested their anti-sprawl policies with enough general sympathy to countenance even tighter restrictions on the free market and property rights.

I highly recommend this article by Dr. Ronald Utt appearing in the Heritage Foundation that precisely defines the real problems of urban sprawl:

One of the great myths spread by opponents of suburban development is that the land-use patterns we have today are the result of free-market forces, greedy developers, and unregulated property rights. Contrary to urban legend, gaudy strip malls and tacky subdivisions are more often a consequence of over half a century of zoning and land-use planning conducted under the guidance of professional planners in cooperation with elected officials. What repel us today are not the unintended consequences of free enterprise, but planning concepts from the 1960s that have dropped out of fashion.

Having failed us once, planners are asking for a second chance—along with more regulatory power than ever before—to impose their aesthetic sensibilities on the rest of us, the philistine masses. Instead of letting the planners have their way, communities should work to restore and strengthen individual property rights. Part of this is giving property owners and builders the freedom to construct housing that people want, not what the planners want to impose on them.

[…] Despite the rapid spread of zoning in the 20th century, local officials and zoning boards still tended to respect the rights of landowners, often granting reasonable requests for variances from master plans. This careful balance between freedom and regulation began to tilt away from property owners in the 1990s, when the Smart Growth and New Urbanism movements rose to prominence. The activist wings of these movements gained traction by vilifying the suburbs and their residents. In response, many communities altered their zoning laws to slow the pace of suburbanization. The consequence has been to encourage leapfrog development—in what we now call exurbs—and even more sprawl.

It is revealing to look at the list of model communities that advocates of smart growth hold out as worthy of emulation. The Sierra Club conducts anti-sprawl tours in the Washington, D.C., area, and its guides highlight the beautiful neighborhoods of Old Town Alexandria in Virginia and Georgetown and Capitol Hill in Washington. Elsewhere in the country, anti-sprawl activists hold up Charleston and Savannah, both elegant cities, as role models, along with Society Hill in Philadelphia, Oakleigh in Mobile, the Garden District in New Orleans, and Beacon Hill in Boston.

These communities share a common trait besides their exquisite beauty and historical status: All were built before the advent of zoning, government planning, building codes, building inspections, building permits, and restrictive covenants governing the color of downspouts and window shutters. In short, they represent the spontaneous order of a cowboy capitalism long since regulated out of existence. Indeed, no enterprising developer could construct any of these communities today; the zoning ordinances of most of America’s counties and towns would stop him flat. Typical zoning provisions establish minimum lot sizes, minimum front and side setbacks, and minimum street widths. They make driveways and garages mandatory and prohibit mixed commercial and residential development. The lauded neighborhoods of the past, held up as examples of an ideal, wouldn’t measure up to today’s zoning. Building a neighborhood like that today requires local zoning and planning boards to grant a myriad of variances from existing rules. The boards, however, are seldom willing, in large part because citizens oppose higher density housing and the congestion it creates.

That zoning and planning laws effectively prohibit the construction of “ideal” neighborhoods reveals one of the ironies of the current debate on suburban land use: Advocates of smart growth and new urbanism are among the major casualties of land-use regulations that diminish property rights, despite their large role in encouraging such regulation.

Criticizing typical suburban developments with single-family detached houses on quarter-acre lots, smart growth advocates encourage higher-density development (smaller lot sizes) to conserve land and other resources; increased “walkability” and transit use to discourage auto use; greater social interaction among neighbors; and a mix of commercial and residential establishments. While some in the smart growth movement consider these high-density developments a lifestyle choice that should compete with typical suburban subdivisions for buyers, the movement’s activist wing would mandate high-density living. The activists would prohibit new lower-density suburbs because of the social costs that the activists say they impose on society.

These more extreme elements of the smart growth movement rely on harsh criticisms of suburban subdivisions to promote their alternative. In the process, they level many outlandish charges against suburbs and suburbanites—a sort-of national vilification. Typical of the abuse heaped on the inhabitants of cul-de-sacs is a recent Atlantic article by new urbanist James Howard Kunstler:
When we drive around and look at all this cartoon architecture and other junk that we’ve smeared all over the landscape, we register it as ugliness. This ugliness is the surface expression of deeper problems—problems that relate to the issue of our national character.
Not to be outdone, former National Governors Association executive Joel Hirshhorn argues that sprawl kills:
Know this: Sprawl is killing people, some 300,000 premature deaths annually because of the sprawl sedentary lifestyle, and it is killing our natural environment, scenic vistas, biodiversity, rural towns, and much more. The pursuit of happiness by the few profiting from sprawl land development is killing the future pursuit of happiness by the many. Spread this idea virus: sprawl kills.
Read the rest here — also recommended is The Costs of Sprawl Reconsidered: What the Data Really Show which debunks some of the economic planning rationales for limiting low density suburban growth.

This too, from a review of Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History in the Weekly Standard, Vincent J. Cannato writes:
Critics charge sprawl with all manner of sin: causing global warming, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources, aiding the nation's so-called obesity crisis, increasing economic and racial inequality, destroying the family farm, and despoiling open spaces, killing off American cities, encouraging "big-box" retailers like Wal-Mart who underpay their workers and kill "mom-and-pop" businesses, and creating conformist communities whose residents neglect the public interest for their own personal "privatopia." On top of that, they argue, suburban sprawl is just plain ugly.

The ideology of the anti-sprawl camp is easy to pare down to basics. Cars and roads are bad, public transportation is good. Low-density development is bad, high density is good. Local government is bad. Regional or metropolitan government is good. Private, "unplanned" development driven by the market is bad. Planned development according to the dreams of urban planners is good. Cities are the apex of American civilization and society. Suburbs and exurbs are drab, conformist, and politically reactionary.

[…] While suburban sprawl might not be everyone's cup of tea, (including mine) sprawl-like communities seem to afford a large number of people the kinds of lives they wish to lead. Sprawl critics have yet to convince large numbers of Americans that their solutions for engineering private choices about how and where to live and work will result in greater social benefits or happiness.

Sprawl is messy, chaotic, and sometimes annoying. In short, it is everything one expects from a free and democratic society. Leave the neat and clean societies for totalitarian regimes. Sprawl creates problems, just like every other social trend; but to damn it for its problems is akin to outlawing the sun for causing skin cancer.

Robert Bruegmann reminds us that much of the anti-sprawl crusade is a result of a rising level of prosperity, and the complexity of millions of individual decisions made on a daily basis by millions of citizens. Better to have to deal with long commutes and strained infrastructure than malaria, cholera, or declining life expectancy.

In terms of problems, I'd take sprawl any day.
HT Liberty Corner whose comment on urban sprawl is appropriately snarky.

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Illegal immigration and price controls

The debate on the fate of the illegal Portuguese immigrants cuts typically and neatly along left-right political divides, with the left rationalizing objectives through unrelated means for the sake of victimhood advocacy and the right frequently neglecting the premises and rationality that inform the respect for law and order that is often reflexively invoked. Publius of Gods of the Copybook Headings considers what has brought about the situation in the first place, in Canada and among the immigrants, and casts his verdict — against central planning: Throw the Bums Out.

As with the price controls mentioned earlier, the state has declared that it knows best, and proceeded to create a large problem. When the market has found a way around this problem the state has imposed an arbitrary constraint. When hard working and morally decent people subvert this constraint they are punished with a rigour that should be reserved for genuine criminals, but so rarely is. If a law is to mean anything it must be enforced and done so equally, this does not, however, stop the law from being an ass. It also does not diminish the necessity of the law's reform or abolition.

The first duty of the state, it's only real duty in fact, is to protect its citizens from force and fraud. It's immigration policy should reflect such a belief and bar from admittance only those that constitute a genuine threat to public security. When the state plays God in economics, by presuming to know what a national economy needs in terms of its labour supply, or by presuming to dictate its cultural composition by adjusting immigration quotas - from "White Man's Country" to "No Portuguese Need Apply" - it fails for the same reason, and in the same way, as when it presumes to tell us what price a good or service should be sold at.
Read the whole thing here — and as always with Publius' weekly magazine, the rest of his examinations of current subjects are worth the time. And I always enjoy a good swipe at hippies:
Muscular Christianity has always been rather more, shall we say, practical. Yes, it is good and noble to forgive and sacrifice, but evil is evil and it must be fought otherwise good might be destroyed or weakened. Mercy is right and proper, but justice must have its say too. Compassion to the poor and weak is heroic, unless it cripples one's own capacity to live and turns the poor and weak into dependents, doing neither themselves or others any good. Muscular Christianity takes the New Testament with a grain of salt and much common sense. The Hippies, whether among the early Christian communes in Rome and Judea, or their heirs in the Woodstock muck, are far more literalist than the much decried fundamentalists. Modern liberalism isn't a mental disorder, it's Muscular Christianity's half witted bastard nephew. Modern liberalism is a secular degeneration of Hippie Christianity.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

"The compulsory deficit"

Terence Corcoran on the Ontario Liberal government's budget:

Ontario's Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, yesterday invented a new fiscal concept: the compulsory deficit. Come hell or high water, no matter how many billions in new revenues roll in, the government of Ontario will not under any circumstances abandon its unwavering commitment to operate in the red. Premier Dalton McGuinty has finally found a promise he can keep.
In a budget that mangled fiscal concepts and invented new ones to suit the McGuinty Liberals' spending agenda -- up 8.8% this year on top of 8.9% last year, a record for a province allegedly suffering from a fiscal imbalance -- Mr. Duncan declared Ontario to be a bedrock of "fiscal prudence." Highlights of the prudence: program spending is now back up to 15.7% of provincial GDP, the highest since 1998, tax revenue is rising and tax cuts nowhere in sight.
Read the rest here. Gerry Nicholls notes the creation of a Move Ontario fund in the budget — unintended consequences, as they do, increasing proportionally with increased government intervention, the moniker may prove appropriate as people and investment move out of Ontario. Speaking of unintended consequences, Lawrence Solomon describes a few anticipated results from the Liberals' heroically massive planned-economy investment of tax dollars in transportation:
A Toronto megalopolis, 150 kilometres in girth, will be born of the Ontario provincial budget announced this week. The budget's big-ticket transportation projects will drive this outcome through measures that will undermine public transit in the city while accelerating suburban sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
Read the rest here. Should anyone get the impression that the London Fog is selectively citing only negative commentary on the budget, we present reaction from the city of London as reported in the London Free Press:
In yesterday's harsh morning light, the Ontario budget looked a lot better to Londoners than it might have when tabled a day earlier.

London MPPs yesterday detailed to interest groups the Liberal government's spending blueprint, initially criticized Thursday as too focused on Toronto, but which also included $14.3 million for London roads and bridges.

"There's probably more in it at second glance than first glance," said London Chamber of Commerce president Gerry Macartney, who met with London Liberal MPPs Khalil Ramal, Deb Matthews and Chris Bentley yesterday. "We're getting a fairly good chunk of change ourselves. That number was not articulated (on Thursday)."
Oh, well, as long as we're getting some! The Liberal MPPs may have captured the appreciation of their special interest group audiences, but the pitch to the ordinary taxpayer should not be so successful. Whatever the political merits of politically-motivated redistribution schemes to particular political interests, all London and Ontario residents will pay for the unnecessary deficits and high taxes in the budget. $14.3 million for London road and bridges does pique the attention, however, given the current state of those structures, but…
That $14 million, which can be spent at the city's discretion
Despite the soundings of Dave Leckie, London's director of roads, does anyone really believe that a discretionary fund handed to city hall will be spent entirely on such politically drab projects?

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Anne Marie is breathless with anticipation

Our worship's conditioned response to the provincial budget:

London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco at first said London had "faint hope" of seeing much new money in a budget that "we see . . . is meeting the concerns of Toronto."

Later, she backpedalled after officials learned London will get what DeCicco termed "a substantial amount."

[..] Liberal MPPs Chris Bentley of London West and Deb Matthews of London-North-Centre agreed details about money for London will come soon. Finance officials said about $90 million is earmarked for Southwestern Ontario.
If I don't get any, it's wrong, but if I do, I guess it's okay.

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Europe as a model: incurring liabilities and debt

With every riot, failed reform and capitulation to authoritarian economic and social interests, the day would hopefully draw nearer when Canadian labour and progressive activists would stop cajoling us to emulate the European model. Given the systematic underappreciation of evidence by European authorities and the willful avoidance by the activists, however, failure of the European model will for a very long time at least be ignored or attributed to the completely wrong things, somehow, like capitalism. Nevertheless, Martin De Vlieghere and Paul Vreymans draw attention to the cautionary lessons of the European model in this article in the Brussels Journal:

Europe’s present social model is unsustainable because it is based on robbery of future generations. Keeping the system in place would jeopardize the next generation’s future with an unbearable and uncompressible tax burden, and would seriously add to the risk of a total collapse of Europe. Moreover these expansionary social policies have not worked so far. In spite of the largest debt buildup in history Europe’s growth has remained weak anyway. Europe’s social model is built largely on credit to be paid back by its own children.
See also: EU: Causes of Growth differentials in Europe.

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Dividing up the spoils

Yesterday, the Ontario Liberals officially announced their spending agenda for the next five years or so. Some highlights from the trough fest:

  • $159 billion: the debt -- the total of all budget shortfalls in its history -- Ontario will be running by the end of the 2006-07 budget year, up $500 million from last year.
  • $87.1 billion: Total spending in the budget for the year ahead.
  • $83.9 billion: Total revenue, up $2.25 billion over last year thanks to stronger-than-expected economy.
  • $35.4 billion: Total health care spending, which will eat up about 41 cents out of every dollar Queen's Park spends. Overall health spending up $1.9 billion over last year.
  • $11.2 billion: Total spending on schools, up $424 million. College and university spending rises by another $500 million.
  • $9.4 billion: The amount taxpayers will spend in interest charges on Ontario's red ink in the year ahead.
  • $2.4 billion: Projected budget deficit, or shortfall, for 2006-07; includes $1 billion contingency fund.
  • $6 million: Budget spending for libraries and literacy programs on First Nations reserves.
The big winner was the city of Toronto, which is to receive most of the $1.2 billion reserved for infrastructure spending. Taxpayers across the province will be paying for improvements to Toronto roads, bridges and public transit.

Nor was the art community left out. The province is spending your beer and diaper money on art:
The Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and other art institutions will get nearly $50 million from the province to support future projects and exhibits, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said yesterday as he tabled his budget.

And film production houses will see their 18-per-cent tax credit extended to March 2007, a promise the Ontario government made earlier this year, Duncan said.

"One of the many success stories of Ontario's diverse economy is the entertainment and creative cluster," Duncan said. "This cluster has great potential to grow and create jobs and it boosts economic growth by attracting tourists, businesses and investors."

The Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum and the National Ballet School were among a half-dozen institutions -- all of them based in Toronto -- slated to receive $49 million over three years, Duncan pledged.

[..] The budget also establishes an Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund of $7.5 million over the next three years for skills development, product development and marketing.

A tax credit for smaller digital media businesses will increase to 30 per cent from 20 per cent.
Anyone who hopes to have a future for themselves and their families in this province should familiarize themselves with the Freedom Party of Ontario. The Freedom Party already has their 2007 election platform in place and they are currently running candidates in the three ridings holding by-elections on March 30.

Jurgen Vollrath is running in Nepean-Carleton, Franz Cauchi in Toronto-Danforth and leader, Paul McKeever in Whitby-Ajax.

Paul McKeever is the only male candidate running in his riding. I urge all women eligible to cast a vote to consider individual freedom before gender equality.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Possibly the most important 7-11 in the world

It can't be a good sign when the aspirations of London's east end economy are dependent on a 7-Eleven! But low expectations for the east end are the going return on the area's long-term investment in dependence.

London's Old East Village Business Improvement Area is worried the closing of a 7-Eleven gas bar and variety store at Dundas and Quebec streets could be a major setback in the area's revitalization efforts.

Yesterday, the group asked board of control and council for help to ensure the site, owned by Imperial Oil, is cleaned up and sold as soon as possible.
Who do they think runs these stores? The barbiturates of central economic command thinking have put the east end right to bed.

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This is breaking news?

That's what it's filed under in the London Free Press:

Most Londoners don’t feel safe downtown at night, according to a police department survey released Thursday.

[…] “The majority of respondents feel safe in most places, however, in downtown at night, only 30 per cent feel safe,” police planning analyst Joan Atchison told the police services board Thursday.

A survey done in 2002 showed 27 per cent felt safe.

“At least I know there is some improvement,” Mayor Ann Marie DeCicco said.
This is the summit of intellectual perception and acuity in the service of public whitewashing from our mayor. Three per cent in four years… hmmmm… well done, city of London! Ever hear of margins of error and confidence levels, Ms. Mayor?

Just below the summit:
DeCicco suggested public perception of the downtown was tainted by media reports of violence.
No, public perception of the downtown is guided by the violence itself… and the beggars, boarded up shops, loutish swaggering and aimless youth, trash, drug addicts, grubbiness…

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Local twit on the fate of twits

It's God swill.

Local peace activist Allen Slater of the Christian Peacemakers is only slightly less grudging in his devotion to the "flat equivocation of all values in the name of 'peace'" than his comrades in response to the rescue of three of their members from captivity in Iraq. The Free Press is merely afraid to make the suggestion that values exist at all:

His feelings are mixed, too, about coalition troops who may have freed the hostages.

“I would say thank you . . . (but) if the occupation had not been going on, there would not have been a kidnapping.”
Slater would say thank you, he says… a childishly peevish way of pointedly not saying thank you. Like a poorly raised child, he has no appreciation of the freedom to exercise one's conscience in the face of reality instead of smothering it in the fairy tales of activist collective imagination. "[I]f the occupation had not been going on, there would not have been a kidnapping"… Slater and his gang of stunted collaborators can speculate on their puppet-strings as long as they want, but the only incontrovertible reality is that there would not have been a kidnapping if the pacifist idiots hadn't been there in the first place. As far as the reporting by Jonathan Sher of the Free Press, what's with the "may" in "coalition troops who may have freed the hostages"? Glad to see he's earning his journalism badge by making sure the truth is as dubious as the value of his byline. In any case, really, the whole response by the Christian Peacemakers Teams is incredible.

Ed Rasimus sums it up with, as Billy Beck says, the right amount of snarkiness:
So, let me see if I can interpret all of this. We’ve got a quartet of well-intentioned, incredibly sincere and arguably naïve fools that go to Iraq to gather information on how the Coalition forces are abusing folks. They wander around until, almost predictably, they get captured by a nice group of those folks which they are there to support. The nice folks then make cute videos of the four, surrounding them in well choreographed arrangements dressed in fashionable black masks and carrying an array of the finest in clandestine terrorist armaments.

After a suitable length of time, the friends of the pacifists execute one of them for maximum publicity impact. And, according to the reports from this morning’s action, the good group of repressed Iraqi militants regularly whip up on the remaining three so that when they are recovered this morning they must be whisked off to Coalition medical facilities.

Who recovered these dolts? Why it was those nasty ol’ Coalition military people. They were the ones who gathered the intelligence, planned the operation, and then executed the mission. They were the ones who came in regardless of the possibility of their own death or injury to rescue these people. They were the ones who built, supplied and manned the medical facilities that are going to nurse these fools back to health. Coalition Forces in Action

Gratitude would be a reasonable expectation under such circumstances, wouldn’t it? Might there even be a possibility of some education having occurred. Might the touchy-feely pacifists have reconsidered who is the villain in this scenario? Might they not have thought that the folks they supported didn’t much care for them and the folks who rescued them at great personal risk might have been better than they originally assumed?

Might they even have concluded that they didn’t know much about the situation and that they unnecessarily endangered themselves? Don’t they bear a bit of responsibility for the whole episode?

Well, here’s the official statement: Ignoring the Obvious

I read it twice, looking for some acknowledgement of the folks who rescued them. I wanted to see at least a cursory thank you. If not a thanks, then how about an honorable mention? Nah, apparently it was expected and the guys with guns weren’t really a part of God’s plan.

Stupidity among pacifists runs rampant. I hope they get a bill for this.
Update: "Pacifism either tempts us to make no judgements at all, or to give an undue preference to tyranny." — Reinhold Niebuhr, cited in Oliver Kamm's generously moderated dismissal of the CPT's belated and grudging mention of gratitude to the soldiers on their website.
I cannot but think that the moral compromises (I use the weakest and most generous term I can find) involved in this type of politicised pacifism have their counterpart in the response of the Christian Peacemakers to the rescue of their comrades. Servicemen took personal risks to free the pacifist captives; tardiness in expressing thanks has the mark of the dogmatist. That is a politer term than bigot, but in this case the difference is a matter only of degree.

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Global Hysteria

The predicted bird flu pandemic is the answer to the destruction of the entire planet from global warming or global cooling. The World Health Organization should do everything within its power to spread the virus. A reduction in the number of people on the planet would necesarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions by humans. Of course, once universal vegetarianism is adopted, the number of sheep and cows will increase as the slaughter houses are barricaded.

Oh! Just what are we to do?

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The Red Green Show

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty recently described David Suzuki, the man who wrote

We must aim, not for zero growth as Paul Ehrlich advocated a few years ago, but for negative growth
as his "childhood idol," according to the Canadian Press. This may come as a surprise to a large part of the Ontario electorate who had guilelessly imagined that their government would be the caretaker of economic prosperity, but it is not to be wondered at, really, as the policies of most governments, and in particular McGuinty's Liberal government, have been largely aimed at obstructing economic growth, more or less inadvertently. As a leading player in Canada's party of cynicism, however, McGuinty only cherrypicks from Suzuki's stone age pieties — the parts advocating top-down social engineering by the state for political agendas. So Suzuki sees green and McGuinty sees red — as a citizen, I'll just split the difference and call it shit-brown.

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Absinthe and Wine

A lesson:

Conversation simulators are computer programs which give the appearance of conversing with a user in natural language. Such programs are effective because they exploit the fact that human beings tend to read much more meaning into what is said than is actually there; we are fooled into reading structure into chaos, and we interpret non-sequitur as valid conversation.
Depending on the breadline you're in, successful completion of a PHD does not necessarily command unconditional respect. Our daily chronicle of idiocy informs Londoners that Liberal MPP Deb Matthews has completed and successfully defended her thesis in sociology.
London will begin shrinking in less than 30 years if it doesn't lure more immigrants, hang onto young workers and attract other Canadians.

So concludes the city's latest Ph.D-holding demographer, Deb Matthews, the Liberal MPP for London-North-Centre, whose just-completed thesis gazes into the city's future.

[..]"We need to work toward a more balanced distribution of immigrants," Matthews said. "We have to promote London as a destination for immigrants . . . and create a more welcoming environment."
As Deb gazes into the crystal ball of diversity and tolerance, the rest of us might want to consider the impending crash that is the inevitable result of social spending untempered by adverse future consequences, divorced from personal responsibility as it necessarily must be. Exactly noone is responsible but we all must pay.

London isn't crumbling because we lack immigrants. It's crumbling because the redistribution scheme is particularly badly managed in this city. "Surpluses" at budget time are used to fund special pet projects of council while shortfalls are blamed on the province. There is no good reason for people to stay here, let alone immigrate or move here, unless of course, there are taxpayer funded incentives in place that "benefit" you, because you "belong" to a "group" currently granted special status by the ruling authorities. There is "free" health care besides, although the lineups are getting longer. But at least it's fair, so long as your entitlement continues to roll in. But what happens when the wealthy are no more and the poor are forced to fund themselves?

Let us ask the mayor, who is soon to receive a pay increase, meaning her annual spoils will amount to $96,137 annually, in addition to free meals and her travel allowance.

Anne Marie politely disregards the data in favour of her own agenda:
Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said the city tracks population growth and demographics.

"I'm not sure I looked 30 years down the road. I know when we continue to track population growth, we knew there was a time that it peaks and you have to look at what you want to be after that," she said.

"We're still in growth mode," she said. "We can't stand still . . . There is much we can become as a city."

DeCicco said immigration is vital to help London reach its potential. She recently announced a "welcoming cultural diversity plan" with the London Economic Development Corp., to make London more attractive to immigrants.
5 year plans are highly favoured here in London. The indifference of the populace will ensure the five year plans will carry on for at least thirty years and Anne Marie won't be around to deal with the mess.

We don't need to read Deb Matthew's thesis to understand why prospective and current residents alike would want to move beyond London's borders. If a region has nothing to offer but high property taxes, pothole-ridden streets, crappy employment opportunities and rising crime rates, a prudent person would do best to look elsewhere, unless they are looking for a job at city hall.

"Cultural diversity" plans do not alter the reality of basic economics. And publically subsidized amusement centres will do nothing to attract doctors to London.

Yet more reasons to forget about London. The chronicles of mismangement and waste continue:

Hockey comes first in London, but ironically, an abandoned bid by council to host 2009 world junior hockey championship will likely result in worse roads. As Fred Tranquilli reminds us, "There's no sense having good roads if you have nowhere to go."
Unable to find a skating partner, London has abandoned its bid to hold the 2009 world junior hockey championship.

The city also says smaller markets have effectively been shut out of the bidding process now dominated by cities with National Hockey League teams.

"Our first priority for the bid was to try and find a partner city and we contacted as many as we could, but, for a variety of reasons, they were not able to participate," said Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco.

[..] London had hoped to put together a bid guaranteeing Hockey Canada a $10-million profit with expenses of about $6 million.

That's the amount John Winston, executive director of Tourism London, said would be needed to win the bid, based on the $9 million Vancouver earned last year.

But, Winston said, the guarantee proved too risky for a partner city that could only offer games involving second-tier teams.

In a letter to Hockey Canada, Winston asked for a review of the bid process.

Winston said he's convinced London could have met the profit target, but "our optimism wasn't shared by the (other) cities.

"The financial risk was perceived to be too onerous," Winston wrote.

That's because the city providing the secondary venue would have had to charge more than $50 a ticket (a 10-game package for $500), about the same as the host city where the top teams play.

"It is clear that the risk has outgained the benefit in this instance," Winston wrote. "Based on this experience, it has become our view that as long as the existing business model exists and NHL cities are allowed to bid, we are resigned to the fact that the majority of second-tier Junior A markets are no longer viable candidates as hosting communities."

[..] London had approached Mississauga, Kitchener, Hamilton, Guelph and Sarnia about partnerships.

"It's a shame, because the real (junior hockey) fans are being replaced by the suits," said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

Sarnia would have had to guarantee $1.5 million and generate $2 million in revenue from games.

"It's no longer about the hockey, it's about money," Bradley said. "When we have roads to fix and other basic things we need to take care of . . . I'm not going to gamble with taxpayers' money."
Not all memories are equal. Not all buildings qualify for heritage status. It all just depends on the flavour of the day.
A London councillor vows to fight a recommendation to largely demolish a popular community centre and rebuild it -- minus its indoor tennis courts -- at twice the cost.

It's the latest twist in the saga of the North London Optimist Community Centre, which began with a promise of a $2.3-million facelift and ended in December when a pre-renovation inspection found weaknesses in the building's roof.

The building, owned by the city and North London Optimist Club, has been closed since then. The roof renovations were pegged at $750,000.

Today, city council's community and protective services committee will be asked to approve a demolition and renovation of the main building, a gym renovation and a demolition of the tennis wing.

All told, those moves would cost as much as $4.5 million, double the original plan to repair and upgrade the centre.

[..] "We're not here to tear down, we're here to build -- that's the way your city grows," said Ward 3 Coun. Bernie MacDonald, who opposes the proposal.

"It was less to keep the tennis courts and now it's twice as much to get rid of them. Someone's got their wires crossed. . . . This isn't what we voted on," he said yesterday.

[..] "We don't need more outdoor courts. We use those indoor ones continuously year-round," said Barry Fay, president of the Huff 'N' Puff group.

"We have private indoor courts, but these ones are for the general population . . . those who like the game but don't want to commit to big money."

Many people can't afford to pay club prices for indoor tennis and others -- including many seniors -- can't play outside in the summer heat.

[..] MacDonald said he thinks administrators have recommended the building core be demolished and rebuilt because of legal liability fears.

"Repair the roof -- fine. But don't go into this major construction. It's upsetting when council made a decision and now they're shifting the pace," he said.

A staff report to the committee says the indoor courts will unusable [sic] if the rest of the ceiling is lowered to get rid of the building's second floor.

MacDonald recommends doing the upgrade in stages: First, pay for the facelift and roof upgrade with this year's budget, a total of $2.4 million already budgeted; then, find the money to upgrade the tennis area while keeping the indoor courts.
More bylaws and restrictions result in more revenue for the city which explains how council will "find the money".

Student housing is as undesired as body rub parlour patrons. Shut them down.
City hall is targeting landlords and tenants in a two-pronged crackdown against student housing problems in north London.

The Ontario Municipal Board last week reinforced a temporary bylaw preventing landlords from developing houses with more than five bedrooms, and a proposed bylaw to be discussed at city hall today would make it easier to punish drivers who park on front yards in student areas.

"This is very exciting news," said Ward 1 Coun. Judy Bryant, who's been fighting for the measures, part of the mayor's task force on student housing, for months alongside Ward 3 Coun. Bernie MacDonald and Ward 2 Coun. Joni Baechler.

"This is a really, really good result for smart planning in the city," Bryant said yesterday.

[..] Crowded houses are especially troublesome downtown and in areas near the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College, where house parties can cause noise and vandalism problems.

"It's destroying established neighbourhoods," said Bryant, adding the city receives 300 to 500 complaints a year from the Fanshawe area.

Today, meanwhile, council's community and protective services committee will discuss a proposed bylaw targeting unauthorized parking.

The bylaw would allow for instant fines of $125 for vehicles parked on front yards and $30 for illegal street parking.

[..] The bylaw would also streamline enforcement, because fines could be issued by officers already out enforcing garbage violations. "It will greatly improve customer service in our community." Bryant said.

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The dog that didn't bark

Ha.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The international order, for your own benefit

The same United Nations that has designs on regulatory control over the internet has, to noone's surprise, its own particular views on the subject of free speech. From Agora, a translation of a part of a report by UN special rapporteur Doudou Diéne on the Danish cartoon controversy:

Finally, the Danish government’s first reaction - rejecting to take an official position on the nature and publication of the cartoons while referring to Freedom of Speech as well as rejecting to meet with the ambassadors from the Moslem countries - is symptomatic not only for the political trivialisation of Islamophobia but also, due to its consequences, to the central role those politically responsible have for the national extent and the international consequences in the shape of demonstrations and expressions of Islamophobia.

Judicially, the Danish government ought therefore, especially considering its international obligations, to have, respecting Freedom of Speech, taken a position not only on the consequnces of the caricatures for its community of 200.000 Moslems but also for the protection of peace and order.

[…] Their uncompromising defense of a Freedom of Speech without limits or restrictions is not in accordance with the international rules which are based on a necessary balance between Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, especially to combat calls for racial and religious hatred, and which all the member countries of UN have decided are the basic rules for Human Rights. This attitude shows an alarming lack of sensitivity and understanding of the religious conviction and deep emotions of the groups of society in question. Thus the newspapers strengthen the connection between Islam and Terrorism which arose after September 11th and which is the most important reason for Islamophobia being on the rise in the world at large and in their own countries.
"[T]he connection between Islam and Terrorism which arose after September 11th"? Read the whole thing here. HT The Brussels Journal.

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