Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The new news: news is the news

As clearly as at any time before, last weekend may just as well be regarded as a watershed moment in the history of Canada's two largest newspapers, the pivot around which the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star finally relinquished any semblance of a mission to provide information and embarked on the full-scale construction of a politically-unassailable edifice of mass opinion instead. Two full-page cover stories with imposing and inferential headlines backed by large, carefully selected and context-driven images… two full-artillery assaults to choke off any remaining deviance from engineered norms of opinion on climate change.

The first was Saturday's op-ed epic by Martin Mittelstaedt in the Globe & Mail,

Welcome to the new climate

lavishly illustrated with a spread of colourful and suggestive photographs of fallen trees, polar bears, snowdrifts… or anything that could have been taken from the stock photo archive of any news agency since the advent of colour printing. But the context is the thing, and it is the context for which readers have been carefully prepared over the past few years of climate reporting that overwhelms critical scrutiny and allows the appearance of substantiating fact by entirely substituting it with opinion. The basic premise of Mittelstaedt's story is established in the lede:
Climate change is no longer a vague threat. A new Globe polls finds that 4 out of 5 Canadians say they’ve seen it first-hand. We fear for our children and our grandchildren. We want action. We’re ready for sacrifices. But what action? And which sacrifices?
It is the ellipsis between the first two sentences that betrays the intent:
Climate change is no longer a vague threat because 4 out of 5 Canadians say they've seen it first-hand.
It would seem that even memory has become an engineering project these days. To those whose memories do extend ten, twenty, forty or sixty years in the past and not in the immediate domain of the media's suggestion, weather is no more remarkable now than it has ever been. The difference is that a context has been supplied within which every storm, every front, every high or low, every occurrence can be remarked… and it is. So the media giveth, and so the media taketh away the statistic that is critical both to their stories and to guaranteeing their position to suggest the answers to the questions they generously put in our mouths: "But what action? And which sacrifices?"

Because we who "want action" and are "ready for sacrifices" obviously don't know, and we're evidently not prepared to answer these questions for ourselves either! Don't tease us! We've only been taught how to react, not what to think! Wait, don't tell us… as long as the action and the sacrifices keep the steady fix of "may," "might" and "could" of our context addiction going.

The second article, Who's still cool on global warming? by Peter Gorrie on the front page of the Sunday Star, was prefaced in the print edition by a large-font leader superimposed on a half-page graphic,

Do climate change skeptics have a hidden agenda?

…which is conspicuously not subtitled, "Or do climate change proponents have a hidden agenda?" Again, the ponderousness of opinion is the "news," and, in fact, it's the only news really worth telling.

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The future face of London

The Corrupt Corporation of the City of London promoted their commitment to fiscal bankruptcy this past weekend at the Home Show:
The Future Face of London is a 2,300-square-foot display that will showcase new municipal initiatives from riverfront beautification to new "green" technologies.

Lois Langdon of the London Home Builders' Association, which stages the 14-year-old annual event, said this is the first time the City of London has been a major participant in the show.

The city will have information and displays on issues such as bike paths, urban design awards and environmental and waste management programs.

Langdon said the Future Face of London will tie in to the Ambassadors program, a community promotion program recently announced by Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best.

"Part of the objective is to make people passionate about their city . . . To get passionate you have to know what is here and what is coming," said Langdon.

Mainstreet London will display its artistic metallic trees that will installed [sic] in the downtown core next year.
There's nothing positive on the horizon in this mismanaged city, unless of course you relish paying more taxes each year for replicas of what could have been. People passionate about their own well-being are advised to leave while they can, (why don't we!) before the iron curtain asphyxiates all counter-revolutionaries.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

London Public Library: out of control

The London Public Library created a stir at city hall on two fronts last week when it submitted its $15.25 million budget request to board of control during deliberations on the 2007 city budget. As with other boards and commissions, city administration had set a generous target increase for the Library of three per cent above its previous funding level of $14.58 million — above both the rate of inflation and growth in the city's assessment revenue — allowing the Library to propose an increase of $437,000 to its budget for a total of $15.02 million. The submitted budget represented instead a 4.6 per cent increase, or $230,000 over target, which the Library defended to support the hiring of literacy and youth co-ordinators and to expand collections.

Anne Becker, the Library's chief executive officer, warned board of control that it would have to look at closing library branches or reduce operating hours, or both, if it did not receive the additional $230,000 in funding, setting off a minor tempest on the board:

"This is an issue that concerns me," said Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best … "I have difficulty hearing 'If we don't get $230,000 now we've to go back and look at (closing branches).'"

[Controller Gord] Hume and other board of control members said they were "caught off guard" in budget talks by what they interpreted as a threat to get more funding.
And in what can only be interpreted as a coercive budget coup by the Library to put pressure on council, Becker told the board that it had already hired the two co-ordinators. Nevertheless, board of control relented to some extent and agreed to recommend to council that it give the Library $128,000 from assessment growth revenue to hire the literacy co-ordinator and to expand collections — $53,000 and $75,000 respectively, the latter $25,000 less than the Library's demands — which would be an overall budget increase of 3.9 per cent. However, the Library's threats still hang over council as it reviews the tax-supported budget in February. But despite their reception by politicians and their portrayal in the media, it is not necessary to construe them as threats at all — in fact, they should be welcomed as opportunities.

The Library is a case study in out-of-control city departments, resulting from both unsound political direction and its own administration. The city's funding of the Library increased 14 per cent between 2003 and 2006, averaging an annual 4.8 per cent increase, and the Library is forecasting further increases above the city's three per cent target in the next two years (Boards & Commissions PDF). And according to the city's own Financial Report Card 2006, the city spent $52 per resident on libraries in 2005, well above the $44 median of other Ontario municipalities as compiled from the BMA Municipal Study 2006. At the same time, the Library's holdings of 3.08 per capita are significantly lower than the average of 3.30 according to OMBI data (Service Growth PDF). Although most Londoners would probably be satisfied with the Library system's service, much of their relatively substantial investment is hidden in taxes, for which they appear to be receiving a relatively poor return.

The implicitly expensive holding-to-cost ratio of London's Library and its apparent operating budget shortcomings in spite of abundant budget increases over the past four years owes in large part to the political opportunism of council and the mayor in directing the great capital expansions of the early part of the decade. Rapid expansion of branches and system space, including the Central Library relocation and expansion, as well as costly refurbishments of existing branches, served as aggrandizing and shiny electoral advertisements for politicians at the time, but were also responsible, along with other projects, for huge increases in property taxes to support capital budgets and for a massive escalation in the city's debt and debt servicing costs. From the Library's operating perspective, however, the capricious expansion necessarily left it with increased servicing and maintenance costs just to sustain previous levels of service. Arguably, the 14 per cent increase in the Library's operating budgets is not sufficient to keep pace with the increase in demand inherent to the expansions, and both the Library and city staff do in fact make this argument. In view of this, however, the city would appear to be continuing its reckless course without regard to the demands of operating budgets by approving land acquisition last year for a new Northwest Branch Library to open by 2012 — and during the last election, DeCicco-Best was making promises to build five new branches!

The carelessness and lack of planning by politicians should not serve as an excuse to the Library board either, however. As with many bureaucracies, the Library is top-heavy in administrators who are unaccountable to the public and whose principle objectives, in the absence of other incentives, inevitably become the satisfaction and expansion in the number of their administrative fellowship; i.e., literacy and youth co-ordinators, positions which the Library has managed to exist without during its history and the justifications for which (available here) are poorly communicated at best and contrived at worst. The limited onus on the Library to justify only its targeted increase — which it preempted by shuffling existing spending to obtain some of the objectives of its over-target budget — instead of its entire previous budget is an invitation for its administrators to set increases, and a lost opportunity to promote restraint and reduce their bureaucratic sense of entitlement to those amounts.

Much of the chaff of administrative overkill in the London Public Library could be eliminated by requiring it to justify its entire expenditure on at least a semi-annual basis and by the political will to thoroughly scrutinize the proffered rationales — an obligation that, by the way, should be extended to other city departments and boards as well. In the absence of such an exigency, however, there are already immediately obvious courses of action to reduce the Library's budget and, oddly enough, among them are the Library's own "threats:"
  • in fact, the Library should close some branches; the Glanworth branch, for example, is only open four hours a week, and the Northridge and Carson branches are both one-staff branches that are open limited hours and whose locales are serviced already by the Masonville and Crouch branches;
  • by the Library's own calculations, eliminating Sunday opening at the Central Library — a recent innovation anyway — would save $65,000, in part because regular staff are paid extra-time for Sundays; and
  • the Library should stop the acquisition of entertainment DVDs for circulation purposes as this service duplicates (and unfairly competes against) the services of existing private businesses.
The provision of "free" public services in itself, of course, distorts any gauge of actual demand, and the Library's claims for service demand for acquisitions and other services must be met with some corresponding skepticism. The solution to this and many of the Library's other problems is attack the operating budget from the revenue end — that is, to simply institute service fees relating to the costs of recovery for its services. For just one example, fees for use of computer time could not only help recover the growing costs of a rapidly expanding part of the Library's service but would also provide useful and meaningful indicators of present and future demand for the feature. Even more fundamentally, a basic user fee for library cards alone would close the gap between the library's own revenue and the demands it makes on the city taxpayers.

Unfortunately, both the Library and the city's politicians are engaging in political gamesmanship over their perquisites and public image, at great cost to the taxpayers of London. Until the political will exists to overcome populist pandering and implement reforms, the Library's budget will continue to make disproportionate demands at budget time.

See also We're only in it for the money.

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David Suzuki gathering material for lobbying efforts

David Suzuki is planning a “If you were Prime Minister” cross-country tour beginning February 1st. The question: What would you do for the environment if you were Prime Minister? His entourage will include other Canadian "celebrities" such as Anne Murray, Sarah Harmer, Rick Mercer and NHL players Andrew Ference and Robyn Regehr. Comrade Suzuki plans to take his findings to Ottawa at the end of the "dialogue."

"People of all stripes are lending their support to the tour because the environment isn't a partisan issue, says Dr. Suzuki. "Issues like global warming not only threaten our environment, but also our economy and even our national identity."
Global cooling, or depletion of the ozone layer, or global warming - the doomsday prophecy currently in vogue - is indeed something to be concerned about, though for rather different reasons than Suzuki would espouse. The hysteria over climate change, and the corresponding assumption that Big Government can do something about it, is currently one of the greatest threats to the overall well-being of citizens worldwide. I'd have more respect for the guy if he planned on walking across the country to deliver his lectures, but needless to say, he'll be traveling in style.
The David Suzuki Foundation is committed to reducing and offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions by going Carbon Neutral. All of the major emissions associated with this tour, as well as from day-to-day Foundation operations (including staff commuting, paper use, electricity consumption, and air travel) are offset through investments in sustainable energy projects, such as wind farms, solar installations, or energy efficiency projects.
As Bono continues to justify his attempts at tax evasion by drawing attention to his efforts at raising awareness while he lobbies governments worldwide to funnel even more money into third world countries that will ultimately end up in the wallets of despots, so this apologist for Stalin is "progressively" demanding the government control the amount of carbon emitted, though he is one of the more profligate contributors.

Though London is not currently on the list of cities scheduled to receive Comrade Suzuki, Londoners will still have a chance to learn how to tread lightly, lest they incur the wrath of the Earth Goddess. On Saturday, February 17, Suzuki will be "Leaving a Small Footprint" at the London Convention Centre, beginning at 1:00pm.

Also appearing at Dust my Broom. Remember to send Fenris all of your Canadian Tire money so he can crusade against intellectual poverty as earnestly as Bono and Comrade Suzuki.

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More Thames delta blues

While drowning their never ending stream of sorrows at a local watering hole, Thames delta blues artists, Diversity Workshop, made the acquaintance of a mysterious character who slipped them the confessional lyrics to which he insisted DW add one of their lethargic 3 chord progressions.

"City Hall Operative".

When pressed for the identity of the song writer, Le Fou insists that he himself was nearly passed out at the time, and that seeing two identical people stuff the napkin on which the lyrics were written into his pocket, strangely enough, didn't help him remember the songwriter's face.

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Victor David Hanson Asks the Right Question

When Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman pulled up to Savannah, Ga., after his legendary March to the Sea in December 1864, he was savagely slandered in the Southern press as a renegade leader of a "vandal horde."

But at that same time, leading Confederate officers privately appealed to him, hoping he would guarantee the safety of the relatives they had left behind in Savannah. Why, Sherman wondered, would his sworn enemies trust that such an enemy might be kind to their loved ones — unless they knew that their own slurs about him were mere rhetoric?

That same sort of pretense is evident in the Middle East, where the leaders of countries and organizations hostile to or critical of the United States often trust us far more than they let on.

Nabih Berri, the Lebanese Amal militia chief who is now allied with both the anti-American Hezbollah and Syria, has much of his family residing in Dearborn, Mich.

Amr Salem, until recently a cabinet minister in Bashar Assad's anti-American government in Syria, was a senior program manager at Microsoft. His family still lives in the U.S.

Bilal Musharraf, son of Pakistan strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has been a Boston-based consultant and a Stanford business and education student. Meanwhile, his father's government is either unwilling or unable to arrest on his soil the remnants of al-Qaeda, among them, most likely, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States and high cabinet official in a monarchy that funds much of the world's radical Islamist madrassas, is selling his 56,000-square-foot mansion in tony Aspen. The asking price is $135 million — the most expensive home ever put up for sale in the United States.
read the rest

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Over the board: 4.6% tax increase in store

Three days of deliberations by board of control last week on London's 2007 budget have produced so few departures from the original recommendations of city management in its draft budget proposals that the exercise of the board's oversight powers seemed on the whole at least a partial vindication of the criticisms of proponents of its elimination. Board of control substantially approved the $739 million draft operating budget "with few cuts" and, per the recommendation of chief administrative officer Jeff Fielding, gave additional approval to funding some service growth initiatives from assessment growth revenue, including:

  • $128,000 to the London Public Library to hire a literacy coordinator and to expand collections,
  • $170,000 to hire two new planners,
  • $200,000 for garbage collection, and
  • $100,000 for an education program to support the 2008 ban on pesticides.
The $142 million draft capital budget was also approved by the board "with only minor tinkering," but with the approval of motions to extend capital grants to:
  • the Palace Theatre, $100,000 over four years for a facelift,
  • the Grand Theatre, $400,000 over four years instead of the requested $500,000 over two to renovate the main stage, and
  • the Salvation Army Village Day Nursery, $200,000 over four years.
Of the $8.1 million in surplus or over-collection of taxes and fees from last year, board of control made the recommendation to return only $600,000 to taxpayers for the purpose of reducing this year's tax levy increase, and appropriated the rest as municipal assets, recommending:
  • $3.7 million to pay for projects instead of adding debt,
  • $500,000 for "downtown parking initiatives" instead of the $2.5 million for a parking garage suggested by budget chief Tom Gosnell, but leaving the question, what are "parking initiatives" and who administers the funds?
  • $1 million to replace portable radios for police,
  • $500,000 to establish a "severe weather stabilization fund," presumably in deference to alarmist climate change scenarios — again, though, what is this fund, and who is in charge of it?
  • $200,000 to plant trees,
  • $300,000 for up to three new buses for the LTC, and
  • $1.2 million for roads.
Board of control's recommendations amount to an increase of approximately $7 million in tax revenue for the city above the amount proposed in the draft budgets, or an increase from last year of about 4.6 per cent instead of 4.3 per cent. What explains, then, the curious headline from Friday's London Free Press in the wake of the board's deliberations announcing that the tax hike is "down to 2.8%"?

When budget deliberations began, the tax hike stood at 4.3 per cent…
…reports Joe Belanger of the Free Press. But the Free Press is playing games with the numbers to make city hall's demands look comparatively benign. While the draft budget called for an increase of 4.3 per cent in tax revenue, it also called for 1.7 of the anticipated 2.0 per cent increase in assessment growth revenue to be applied as part of that revenue, bringing the increase on the property tax rate on assessed values to 2.6 per cent. Instead, as a result of the board's deliberations, that figure now stands at 2.8 per centup, rather than down. Moreover, the overall tax hike now stands at 4.6 per cent instead of 4.3 per cent; the favourable headline serves to excuse the board of its profligacy.

Confused? I shouldn't wonder… numbers are crunched in a manner designed to delude simple grasp and to obscure the real growth in taxes. In fact, municipal governments benefit in the exercise of public relations from the compartmentalization inherent in a value-based property tax system, as well as from the default expropriation of surplus revenues and the blurring of jurisdictional boundaries of revenue collection and distribution. During the course of its deliberations, the board found itself the beneficiary of an additional $615,679 in assessment growth revenue and $850,000 in provincial grants, allowing an extra $1.465 million in spending at one fell swoop without having to even blink at the constraints implied in the draft budgets. As well, surplus revenue from last year is allowed to stand as municipal assets for spending outside proposed spending increases outlined in the draft budgets, despite the fact that that revenue is nothing less than overtaxation by the city above and beyond what it needed to spend to meet its obligations, from which the board of control allowed itself $3.8 million for additional spending. From these sources, $5.25 million were obtained for additional spending over and above proposed spending. Nevertheless, the board's recommendations call for an increase of approximately $7 million in spending — some of which, it should be noted, are operational expenses that will be expected to be funded in future years as well.

Allowing these incidental increases in revenue to count against the reported property tax increase of 2.8 per cent, however, is itself grossly misleading. Growth in assessment revenue, 2.1 per cent up from the anticipated 2.0 per cent, is by itself a tax increase since even applying the existing property tax rates to higher assessed values results in an average increase in taxes to property owners. The 2.8 per cent increase in the property tax rate is applied on top of increased assessed values, leading to a much larger average increase in property tax paid by property owners. The net result of a 4.6 per cent increase in tax revenue is, of course, an average of roughly 4.6 per cent in property taxes paid by property owners, although a small percentage of that increase is deferred to new property owners, and the net increase will vary considerably according to the change in assessed values. In fact, the one-time growth in revenue is actually about 4.9 per cent, although the increase passed on to property owners in the form of assessment growth and property tax rate hikes is offset in part by taxes collected in advance — the "surplus" — and by provincial grants. The fact should not be neglected, however, that surplus revenue and provincial grants also come, in the long run, from the pockets of the same taxpayers who are being called upon now to fund the city's direct revenue collection increase of 4.6 per cent.

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Embrace thine enemy

Will the film Jaws soon be banned because the film-makers failed to respect the special status of killer sharks as eco-victims?
(BBC) The attack on 41-year-old Eric Nerhus came as a senior wildlife official called for water police to carry rifles to protect swimmers after a 6m shark was seen off Phillip Island in Victoria.

"I suggested a .22 (rifle) with blunt-head ammunition because to kill a shark that big you would need the explosive to go off in its head," senior park ranger Graeme Burgan told The Age newspaper in Melbourne.

He said shooting the giant predator would be "a last resort."

The comments have alarmed environmentalists.

"To have a police officer on a boat willing to shoot a shark that comes near for no good reason really is in effect breaking the law," said Michael Kennedy, director of the Humane Society International's (HSI) Australian branch.

"The great white shark is a threatened species, and there's a need to be compassionate about how you treat them," he urged.
Unnatural swimming practices of humans disrupt the ecological balance of our planet. Though sharks are not subject to our laws, they do enjoy special predatory advatages:
Dr John Stevens, a shark biologist and government scientist based in Hobart, Tasmania, said: "Sharks, as one of the top predators in the marine ecosystem, play a very important role in structuring fish communities.

"And if we perturb natural ecosystems, then there are likely to be very dire consequences even though, at this stage, we don't fully understand what those consequences may be."

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Bono leaves a bad taste in your mouth

"It's actually, I think, more honest to say we're rock stars, we're havin' it large, we're havin' a great time and don't focus on charity too much -- that's private; justice is public."

Bono, in an interview with Dublin-based Sunday Independent newspaper, in June 05
In other words, the war on poverty should be fought with other people's money, so don't expect Bono to contribute any of his income to the cause. His public lobbying sessions with world leaders designed to raise awareness more than compensate for his lack of financial aid, thus justifying his own capitalistic enterprises and clever attempts to reduce his tax burden.
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- During the final concert of U2's world tour on Dec. 9, Bono, the Irish rock band's lead singer, launched into ``One,'' a song about a love affair gone sour. ``Did I disappoint you or leave a bad taste in your mouth?'' he sang to 47,000 U2 fans at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

At Bono's command, some of the fans held aloft their cell phones and sent text messages of support to ONE, the U.S.-based group that's lobbying the U.S. government to donate an additional 1 percent of the federal budget to ending poverty.

Bono made the same tie-in for the lobbying group during most of the 131 concerts on the Vertigo tour, which began in March 2005 and was seen by 4.6 million fans in Europe, North America and Asia. They sent about 500,000 text messages of support to ONE, according to the group.

While Bono was making his appeal, U2 was racking up $389 million in gross ticket receipts, making Vertigo the second-most lucrative tour of all time, according to Billboard magazine. No. 1 is the Rolling Stones' current tour, which by the end of 2006 had received $425 million.

Revenue from the Vertigo tour is funneled through companies that are mostly registered in Ireland and structured to minimize taxes. ``U2 are arch-capitalists -- arch-capitalists -- but it looks as if they're not,'' says Jim Aiken, a music promoter who helped stage U2 concerts in Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s.
Go read the whole article, as it is a nice summary of the many hypocritical faces of Bono.

"U2 were never dumb in business," Bono says in "Bono on Bono." "We don't sit around thinking about world peace all day." In that respect, his extensive lobbying efforts are best viewed as marketing activities designed to boost record sales.

C/P: Dust my Broom

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Unbackwardsing the Upside-Down

"He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative."
- G.K.Chesterton
Preaching tolerance makes you look cooler, than saying something like "please lower my taxes." This is why the only true form of rebellion left on this planet is conservatism. Conservatism, by rejecting the trademark forms of romantic rebellion (anarchy, activism, nipple rings) turns out to be far more subversive than anything on the planet. The conservative, every day, knows that he or she says things that aren't considered cool among the media elite. Yet the conservative still comes out and says it. This is why, Dick Cheney is closer to the Hell's Angels than Hunter S. Thompson ever could be.

And why Jon Stewart is about as daring as a diaper filled with Nilla Wafers.
- Daily Gut HT RC

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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Democratic Dictatorship of the People

The National Council of Free Handouts is demanding the government establish a four year plan to make poverty a priority, as if we weren't impoverished enough already by lobby groups and bureaucrats who grow fat from the proceeds of the hard work of others.

Canadians want the government to put a higher priority on fighting poverty, according to a new report by the National Council of Welfare.

The NCW’s study, released Thursday, drew on the input of 5,000 individuals and more than 400 organizations who responded to an online questionnaire on poverty and income security. The results will be delivered to the federal government.

[..] The top actions that respondents thought could make a difference included a guaranteed livable income, affordable housing, childcare and education and training.

The NCW, an lobby group independent advisory body, says that the country’s “tattered patchwork of programs is not working,” and it proposes four areas of focus to solve poverty: creating a national anti-poverty strategy; developing a coordinated plan of action; ensuring accountability; establishing official poverty indicators.

It calls its four-part plan, a made-in-Canada strategy that offers a practical foundation upon which the government can build.
The actual result of such a scheme is that less and less of the funds collected in the war against poverty go to those most in need and instead are redirected to those who least deserve it - i.e. the administrators of plans reminiscent of those implemented by the most staunch Soviets.

A partial list of some of the respondents joining the line with their hand out:
Of the great number of grassroots, service, labour, corporate and other organizations that have contributed to making the questionnaire a success, many have agreed to be named, including:

AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington County, Ontario / Association de défense de droits en culture et éducation des arts, Québec / B.C. Men's Resource Centre, British Columbia / BC Coalition for Health Promotion, British Columbia / Canadian Association of Social Workers, national / Centre d'action populaire de solidarité du Québec Inc, Quebec / Centre for Northern Families, Northwest Territories / First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, British Columbia / Jewish Family Service Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia / Jewish Family Services, Montréal, Quebec / Kids First Association, Nova Scotia / LiteracyWorks, Manitoba / Mt Waddington Harm Reduction Program, British Columbia / Northeast Avalon Community Action Network, Newfoundland and Labrador / Nova House, Manitoba / Pacific Health & Development Sciences Inc., British Columbia / PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise, Thunder Bay, Ontario / People Advocating for Change through Empowerment, Ontario / People in Transition (Alliston) Inc., "My Sister's Place", Ontario / Service Budgétaire Populaire des Sources, Québec / South Okanagan Women in Need Society, British Columbia / Southern & Central Alberta Food Bank Federation, Alberta / Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec, Québec / Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group, Ontario / The AIDS Network, Ontario / Westlock Human Rights Education and Awareness Foundation, Alberta / Winnipeg Inner City Missions, Manitoba / Women’s Network PEI, Prince Edward Island / Yellowknife Women’s Society, Northwest Territories / Yukon Women’s Directorate, Yukon

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La la

Ontario's universities need an additional $300 million over the next three years…
London Free Press, January 23, 2007
For a long time I've felt that the success of students in the social sciences and humanities in universities these days is determined by their faculties more by an aptitude for the correct intentions than by any aptitude for scholarship, let alone by actual scholarship itself — and in first- and second-year courses just the faintest hint of having any sort of intention will do.

Nothing again will ever make me surrender this opinion after reading The Elevator by Lisa Bridges, one of 2005's outstanding essays in the third-year Environmental Context class from the University of Wollongong's Science, Technology & Society department. Perhaps the only essay ever to actually reproduce the text "la la" three times, its academic credentials are apparently attested to by the inclusion of footnotes… and what very precious footnotes they are! The Elevator must be suffered to be believed!

Source: Tim Blair, via David Janes. Cross-posted to Dust my Broom.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Freedom Party of Ontario Media Release:

January 25, 2007, Burlington, Markham & Toronto - Freedom Party today confirmed that it will be bringing its "Lower Taxes, a Better Life" campaign to voters in all three Ontario by-elections to be held on February 8, 2007.
To which I will add that in almost four years of government by the Liberal Party, Ontario 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.

The alternative for voters is the Freedom Party of Ontario, the only party working to reduce the scope of Ontario's government and increase the opportunity for individuals to govern their own lives. The Freedom Party is running the following three candidates in the upcoming byelections:
  • Barry Spruce: Burlington
  • Cathy McKeever: Markham
  • Wayne Simmons: York South-Weston
The Freedom Party's platform includes these three key planks:

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.

  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).
  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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2+2= who cares

According to some commenters over at Rabble who would apparently like to return to the days of short life expectancy, mathematics is a tool of oppression. If we are considering the junk science propagated by people like Al Gore, I might be inclined to agree, but what is being expressed here is a wholesale rejection of common sense and rationality. Click here to read one of the most unbelievably insane comment threads I have read for a good while.

I've come to realize that probably one reason I struggled with algebra, geometry, was that it seemed to me that these were basically reactionary academic disciplines, useful for designing weaponry or potentially repressive computer technology, but not with any obvious humanistic or social positive uses.
And a little further on ...
I agree. The uses of mathematics are primarily to serve the elites and powerful within society. Thanks to mathematics, the United States was building rocket ships to collect pebbles on the moon while they had hundreds of millions of their own citizens at home starving to death. Mathematics is great for building nuclear war heads, weapons technology, software to line the pockets of millionaire fat cats, or creating non-sense to feed the bullshit rationale for junk sciences such as economics. But for the poor working family just trying to get by, mathematics has very little to offer.
No need to balance your personal budget, so long as that government check keeps on coming. So what if our social programs are bankrupting the country? The government can simply print more money.

HT: Little Tobacco

Also appearing at The Broom

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On the boards, by the board

According to the London Free Press, city boards and commissions met today with board of control to defend their budgets before controllers submit their overall budget recommendations to council. Administration had set a generous target for the municipal boards for a three per cent increase above previous funding levels, above both the rate of inflation and growth in the city's assessment revenue. Significantly, the target was set without requiring those boards to justify previous expenditures but only the amounts in excess of them — a lost opportunity to promote restraint and reduce a bureaucratic sense of entitlement to those amounts.* Nevertheless, four boards failed to submit a budget within the target increase, and although their reception has not yet been reported, budget chief Tom Gosnell signaled beforehand a sympathetic disposition.

"They've all had some challenges, but they're not too far out," Gosnell said. "There will be some discussions and we'll see what more can be done, the cases they make."
At the very least, chief administrative officer Jeff Fielding certainly has their ear, and has been advising council not to focus "on areas of the operating budget that achieved target" but instead "to focus on service growth" and consider the requests. As well, the Free Press adds the assertion, not directly but presumably attributable to Gosnell, that "city staff have endured several years of budget cuts." Cuts in this sense must on the whole be taken to mean that some departments have not received every increase requested, since municipal spending has risen in the past six years well over the rate of hikes being proposed this year; certainly "staff" themselves have not endured cuts. Making apologies for the boards' requests in advance may constitute either a warning to taxpayers that the requests will be accommodated, at least in part, or a memo to appease and maintain internal relations if requests are not granted. When expectations of constituents are to be addressed, the city is reminded that municipal departments, boards, commissions and other civic organizations are its more immediate constituents than taxpayers — politicians and administrators must face them every day instead of once in four years. The history of this board suggests that the apologies serve both purposes, and that some or parts of the requests will be recommended to council.

The total of requests exceeding targets is $1.5 million, or an additional 0.4 points on top of the preliminary tax levy increase of 4.3 per cent. The offending boards are:
  • City police, 4.6 per cent (above a target of 3.7 per cent in this case). "Most of the increase is related to pay wage hikes related to the hiring of 113 officers over the last few years."
  • Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, 12.6 per cent, "after several years of underfunding by the province and city." Notably, the UTRCA received a 7.9 per cent increase in funding from the city last year, and an overall 14.3 per cent increase since 2003. Further, it has not provided the city with information or reason for requested amounts for "lands and facilities" and "research" that make up $120,000 of their requested $207,000 increase. This is no doubt because council does not have express control over the Authority's budget. [Regulated Programs PDF]
  • London Middlesex Housing Corp., 14.3 per cent. Requests are due to a projected decline in revenue receipts, the costs of "collective agreement impacts," utilities, property taxes and insurance. Municipal funding of the Housing Corp. increased over 65 per cent between 2003 and 2006, from $2.6 million to $4.3 million, and the request would push the amount to $4.9 million. Although the Housing Corp. is a regulated program, Council has the authority under the Social Housing Reform Act of 2000 to "amend, delete or add to any of the accountability rules" set out under regulations. "It is open to Council to add a rule or rules which would provide express control over the budget." [Ibid.] Now would apparently be a very good time to start.
  • London Public Library, 4.6 per cent. The city's funding of the Library increased 14 per cent between 2003 and 2006, averaging an annual 4.8 per cent increase, and the Library is forecasting further increases above the 3 per cent target in the next two years. [Council Direct Control PDF] The city spent $52 per resident on libraries in 2005, well above the $44 median of other Ontario municipalities, according to the city's Financial Report Card 2006. The city does have express control over the Library's budget, and may likely deny this request from a board that has directed very little restraint over spending.
New controller Gina Barber is expected to be a strong supporter of at least the Housing Corporation's and Conservation Authority's requests, as well as quite likely the Library's.

The Free Press article also notes that board of control was scheduled today to review capital spending options as well as other requests from city groups and organizations, including the Grand Theatre, Palace Theatre, London Ski Club, Fanshawe Chorus London, Salvation Army, London Regional Children's Museum and Boys’ and Girls’ Club of London. With a tax levy increase of at least 4.3 per cent, it is needless to say that London ratepayers cannot afford these requests — except through their voluntary donations and patronage, if they should choose. The $83.7 million draft capital budget includes the following proposals that should be struck or at least reduced, but most of which will likely be approved:
  • Grants to the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College, $1.5 million,
  • New North London recreational centre, $4.2 million,
  • Parks projects, $3.3 million,
  • Social housing, $4.2 million,
  • Woodland acquisition, $300,000, and
  • "Enriched Cultural Identity," i.e., municipally owned heritage buildings, $200,000.
Elimination of these capital project requests alone would reduce the city's budget by $13.7 million, reducing the property tax levy increase down to a more manageable 0.7 per cent. By such simple acts, council could at least begin moving toward fiscal responsibility, some relative relief for the long-suffering taxpayers of London, and — eventually perhaps — restored economic competitiveness. This, however, would only be chopping off the tip of the iceberg — there are many other items that could be cut or reduced as well.

On a related note, the city is distributing a print Budget Guide 2007 — light to moderate on information and moderate to heavy on unprepossessing propaganda — that includes a quote from Budget Chief Tom Gosnell describing the extravagance of the city's spending increases this year and last compared to those of previous years:
"We are heading in the right direction."
Such are the low expectations of the people controlling London's finances.

*We do note that, according to the article, at least some boards that are regulated by the province, like the Upper Thames Conservation Authority and the Middlesex-London Health Unit, are only legally "obliged to submit bills to the city." If this is not a gross oversimplification, the city's targets must have been in the first place either simply a willful pretense of restraint for public consumption or a request to the boards to continue only deferring spending to future years. However, in either case the city would neither be in a position to debate the requests nor to deny them. To the extent that boards and commissions are regulated independently of the city that finances them, it would be more appropriate for local politicians to devote their lobbying efforts to the province to amend this situation, rather than simply begging for more money.

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A revolutionary solution to reduce wait times

There are those who say that this bill will interfere with basic human rights and freedoms, and I guess there are a number of arguments to address that. The most obvious one is that we have a public health care system, and the cost of treating someone in that system who's had a preventable accident is something that we should not bear; it's something we should ask people to prevent.

MPP John Milloy defending his "helmet bill" in the Ontario Legislature on November 4th, 2004
Though the Ontario Liberal's goal to create a "culture of safety" is progressing well according to the Party's four year plan, so far, Liberal MPP John Milloy's campaign to introduce legislation making "helmet-wearing on our public roadways by cyclists, in-line skaters and others" mandatory, has been unsuccessful. Luckily for Milloy and gang, they have the support of their brethren in Toronto. HOW MANY MORE LIVES???!!!:
Two city councillors from suburban Toronto say it may be time to make helmets mandatory for tobogganers, after the winter activity resulted in the deaths of two Canadian children this month.

"I would support any helmets, any type of safety equipment that could be put on. I think that it's something we need to look into and legislate," said Sandra Yeung Racco, a city councillor in Vaughan.

"You may see in the next little while I may just bring it to the table."
And don't forget to put on your body armour suit before getting up to go to that table. The overburdened emergency wards cannot be expected to treat patients who fail to take the proper precautions.
Tobogganing accidents have killed at least seven people in Canada since 2003, including two this month. On Sunday, an eight-year-old Quebec girl died when her sled hit a tree in St-Michel-Des-Saints, north of Montreal. On Jan. 7, a 12-year-old boy from Gilbert Plains, Man., was killed after hitting his head on a patch of ice while tobogganing with his older brother.

No laws in Canada regulate toboggan safety.

"If it's going to save a child from permanent injury or death,'' Councillor Mario Ferri of York Region said of mandatory helmets, "it would make sense to me that there should be some provisions for that."
There are also no laws in Canada making it mandatory for pedestrians to wear helmets although at least 7 people in this country have tripped over their own feet in the last five years resulting in fatal head injuries. It makes sense to me that there should be some provision for that. Or rather it makes sense if you believe you are endowed with more common sense than everyone else.

If in doubt, ask the Mayor.

Also appearing at Dust my Broom

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Cost of living in London continues to rise

Council last night passed the first part of the city's 2007 budget, approving five and eleven per cent rate increases for sewer and water charges respectively, adding an extra $48 to the cost of living to the average London homeowner. Two points of the eleven per cent hike for sewer bills will be set aside to build a future pollution control plant in the south of the city, a controversial measure according to environmentalists who fear that an additional plant will enable further growth. Sewer and water charges in London increased over 50 per cent between 2000 and 2005, and the new hikes come on top of further 9.6 and 5 per cent increases respectively last year as well. Whether service levies are seen as a proxy for taxation or not, the precipitous climb in rates over the past seven years indicates that alternative methods of delivery through privatization should be explored to reduce the financial burdens on Londoners. At the least, independent examination of the service budgets should be undertaken to find inefficiencies and to lower costs to the city.

Passing the service levy portion of the city's draft budget that calls for an overall increase of 4.3 per cent in spending and tax revenues receives much less attention for council than the property tax levies. One hopes that the rest of the proposed budget does not pass with such ease.

London 2006 Financial Report CardOn the subject, the city has released its 2006 Financial Report Card (PDF) to measure political progress towards "strategic goals." The picture presented is more a celebration of the relative stability of the city's finances and economy than the serious difficulties they still face — and a stability, it must be noted, that is relative to the reckless and barely restrained increases in taxes and debt between 2000 and 2005, or what the city likes to call "investments." It should also be noted that the municipal government's taxes, spending and share of the overall economy still continue to increase, and still at percentages above inflation, but only that the rate of those increases has subsided relative to the six years prior to 2006. So break out the champagne, but hold on to those dixie cups because we're still going to need them.

Although the self-congratulatory tone of the report is struck with a pleasing balance of dry modesty, there are a few items of interest to the casual taxpayer, if not administrators and politicians as well, littered among the frequent disclaimers about "factors" like "service level, age of infrastructure, demographics, geography and weather" or whatever that are meant to deter us from making any kind of conclusion or interpretation. Financial performance is evaluated on just six indicators and only in comparison to nine other Ontario municipalities and the median of an undisclosed number of municipalities compiled from the BMA Municipal Study 2006. Unsurprisingly, London scored much higher than the median for Debt Per Resident ($1,129 vs. $745 in 2006), although London's credit rating does allow it to finance its debt at a slightly lower per-dollar cost, a pyrrhic consolation at best.

More surprisingly, however, London's Property Tax Per Avg. Home (including education charges) scored only slightly higher than the median ($2,854 vs. $2,723 in 2006) and the Net Levy Per Resident ($1,071) was actually slightly lower ($1,093), although this apparently contradicts a 2005 study that showed that the owner of an average bungalow in London paid $3,734 in property taxes and surcharges in 2005 while owners of similar homes in eight of nine other municipalities paid on average $392 less. Nevertheless, London's administration also scored slightly better in 2005 than the median for the Net Expenditure Per Resident on various municipal services (notably for council as it considers the library's budget request, it is much higher for libraries in London). But the unincriminating value of these per capita statistics is compromised by the lower median family income of Londoners — a more telling indicator would be that Londoners paid the twelfth highest percentage of their incomes on property taxes and surcharges of 67 Canadian cities studied in another report by BMA. And on the subject of economic growth, the city's report card uses a flattering measure of growth in assessment revenue, a very indirect indicator for Londoners who not only suffer from declining median family income relative to other Ontario cities but also higher unemployment rates between 2004 and 2006 as well.

In all, the apparent consolation of London's relative financial stability according to the report is tempered really by the poor performance of other Ontario cities. The average homeowner in London is still on the hook for well over $4,000 in taxes, surcharges and debt — a fancy layout and graphics won't buy a celebration of this most important fact.

Update: Reader Jake pans the report card in the comments in the way I wish I could have done:

… No publicly-traded corporation would ever distribute a Year End Financial Statement in that format.
… and Ian Gillespie provides his "new and improved translation" of the city's fiscal strategies, among them:
"Contain Costs: Vital to creating the capacity required to accommodate growth, cost containment initiatives have been implemented across the corporation to close the gap between the cost to provide services and the ability to fund them."

Translation: We're really, really, really going to try not to spend a whole whack of money on crazy ideas that sound good, but then end up costing us a whole whack of money. Honest. Cross-our-hearts and hope-to-die.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Playing poker with Kyoto credits

During times of extreme famine caused by the attempted implementation of utopian schemes that defy natural laws, the ruling totalitarians in Communist countries have historically blamed "the people", citing mismanagement, corruption and sloth. Rather than admit their own stupidity, lawlessness and greed, the regime understands that it is more convenient to blame the very same "greedy" and "corrupt" masses they claim to represent in the first place.

Similarly, in Canada, our current shortage of health care can be blamed not only on the 'counterrevolutionary' parties, but also attributed to the increasing number of global warming casualties. And we all know who causes global warming, don't we? Though our farms are subsidized and regulated, thus far farmers have escaped near total collectivization. However, failure to contain those farting cows might soon change the carbon balance:
The Federal Liberals are putting the onus squarely on the NDP to prop up or topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and most Liberal MP's admit they have little interest in sending Canadians to the polls this year. But as the Liberal caucus met in Quebec City, many MP's made it clear they won't support the Conservatives budget just to avoid an election.

[..] NDP Leader Jack Layton says any support for the coming federal budget will depend on how the Conservatives advance the battle against climate change.
C/P: Dust My Broom

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Affordable housing, unaffordable taxes

A study from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy places London near the top of affordable housing in Canada as measured by median house prices divided by median annual income. On average, it costs London home buyers three times their annual income to buy a house; of 35 Canadian markets surveyed, London is the sixth most affordable in Canada by this metric. But as David MacLean of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation notes in a link sent to us by a reader, housing prices are a mixed message: while low prices are certainly a benefit to residents, low relative prices are often signs of a moribund economy, a conclusion sustained in London by its relatively low median family income as well.

Overall, however, housing prices are as likely to be the product of urban planning than of local economic well-being. Prices in most high-priced markets like Vancouver are driven by artificially enforced scarcity through regulatory restrictions on land use and development, which is why on average it costs home buyers there 7.7 times their annual income to buy a house. Fortunately, London has been spared much of the anti-sprawl zoning agenda by an administration that calculates for the time being at least that assessment revenues are simpler to obtain through horizontal growth than vertical, even to the extent of subsidizing the expansion of the housing market. The lax policy on urban planning is a sorely needed reprieve for Londoners who, in part because of the excessive subsidization of urban life here, pay a higher percentage of their relatively low incomes on property taxes than 55 out of 66 other Canadian municipalities, according to another study last year. There's no consolation for local politicians in any of these statistics.

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"Minimum-wage laws are the enemy of the disadvantaged"

Via the Von Mises Institute, George Reisman demolishes the arguments of minimum wage advocates. Warning: those offended by rationality and common sense enter at your own risk. The London Fog is not responsible for any worker's uprisings or party purges that may result as a consequence.

When it comes to matters such as the theory of evolution and stem-cell research, so-called liberals—i.e., socialists who have stolen the name that once meant an advocate of individual freedom—ridicule religious conservatives for their desire to replace science with the dictates of an alleged divine power. Yet when it comes to matters of economic theory and economic policy—for example, minimum-wage legislation—these same liberals themselves invoke the dictates of an alleged divine power. Their divine power, of course, is not the God of traditional religion, but rather a historically much more recent deity: namely, the great god State.

Traditional religionists believe that an omnipotent God came before all natural law and was not bound or limited by any such law, but rather created such natural laws as suited him, as he went along. Just so, today’s liberals believe, at least in the realm of economics, that the State is not bound or limited by any pre-existing natural laws. In the case in hand, the State, today’s liberals believe, is free to decree wage rates above the level that would exist without its interference and no ill-effects, such as unemployment, will arise.

[..] What is present in this analysis is merely an application of Henry Hazlitt’s one-sentence summary of his great classic Economics In One Lesson: Namely, that “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
Do be sure to read the whole essay.

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Super Bowl als Sieg gegen die Apartheid

For the first time in its history, not just one but both head coaches in the next Super Bowl are black. In the U.S., that is cause for some note as a minor historical occurrence, but one that will soon be forgotten. But in Germany, it's cause for oblivion. Here's the headline in the German daily Die Welt:

Super Bowl as Victory Against Apartheid
Er… may the blackest team win? Unfortunately, Europeans derive much of their jaundiced view of Americans from these low blows and other stunning, vindictive and infantilizing distortions of American life. Via David's Medienkritik, and cross-posted at Dust my Broom.

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The inevitable result of uncontrolled governmental spending

Writing for Strike the Root, Bill Losapio on the monopoly of the money supply:

No document of government can hold back the tide of tyranny even when that government initially is not the interpreter of the text. It will make itself the sole interpreter of its own limits of power, by force of arms if necessary. Putting it another way, self-interest by those seeking to benefit from the levers of power in time destroys all checks, all balances, and ultimately, any protection of individual rights.

Where I’m going with this: I wonder if money itself must undergo an inevitable cycle of decay just like a well-written constitution. Money organically comes into being through indirect trade. Self-interest eventually leads to some cabal of diabolical fruitcakes turning the medium of exchange into a mechanism of burdening the trusting and naïve with debt, warfare, and servitude. The system grows like a cancer until the ghost of Murray Rothbard flushes the big economic toilet, fire and brimstone falls from the sky, dogs and cats live together, and back to the barter system we go for those able to sit the whole thing out. A system of slavery, controlled collapse, some other ugly unmentionable stuff, and then back to square one. Neo, call the Architect. I think he’s about to press the reset button.
HT: jomama

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LFPress letter to the editor: Budget editorial fails…

This is the text of a letter to the editor published in Saturday's London Free Press (letters are not archived) regarding its editorial coverage of the public input meeting in front of board of control as part of the 2007 draft budget process. The author, Mary Lou Ambrogio of London, was one of the presenters of the submission to board of control referred to below, and reprinted in The London Fog. Additional commentary on the presentation can be found here.

The editorial, Give each budget bid fair review (Jan. 12) following the public budget session daintily tip-toed around questioning the kind of spending council was asked to do, and finally alighted on the opinion that the spending should be done but helpfully asked council to make sure they consider each request carefully and give each beggar their due.

I was hoping The Free Press might make the point that already overburdened taxpayers shouldn't continue to fund these requests that have no tangible or immediate benefits, especially given that they acknowledge in the same editorial that there might be more pressing spending needs, such as road and sewer work.

Contrary to the Free Press reports, not every presenter at the session was asking for money. One group was asking council to stop spending like drunken sailors. Arguably, this one group might just represent the 57 per cent of Londoners who didn't bother to vote in the last municipal election because they felt their voices wouldn't be heard anyway. It seems that 57 per cent of the voters were right and despite all the lip service paid to fiscal restraint by candidates, council is still determined to use tax dollars irresponsibly.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Turn of the Screw II: Revenge of the Governess

Peter Jaffe, a London school board trustee and psychologist, was at the head of a coalition of Ontario teachers federation presidents and some parents at a news conference at Queen's Park urging federal and provincial governments to exert political controls over violent content in media. The group demanded provincial age-based ratings and restrictions on sales of music, federal broadcasting laws preventing radio and television from broadcasting violent content or "material intended for adult audiences" before 9 p.m., and, most injudicious and tractable to willful misuse, explicit protection of women and children into federal hate-crime legislation to "curb objectifying programs and websites." Jaffe is also conducting a personal crusade to ban fighting from Ontario Hockey League games, and pushed a motion by the Thames Valley District school board to "warn pupils and parents of potential on-ice violence."

"Politicians must help parents control the violence their kids watch, hear and download," warns Jaffe, lending the appearance of modest ambition to the demands of his coalition — disingenuously, however, because there is nothing in those demands that would involve parents in the slightest way; precisely the opposite, the proposed policies would have federal and provincial governments assume authority from parents.

But this turns out to be only the least misleading aspect of the presentation. The premise behind the demands would appear to Jaffe's contention that there is "a causal connection between exposure to media violence and violent attitudes and behaviours," a relationship that, it should be noted, must suppose a number of assumptions, perceptions and arbitrarily defined variables in the first place. Real or perceived, however, it is entirely beside the point. The critical but unspoken premise is of course that political control over exposure to media violence would somehow reduce actual violence among youth, and on this subject Jaffe's "decades of research" are — unsurprisingly — mute. Fortunately, history and common sense are not.

In fact, the decisions, choices, actions and behaviours that children may make have been increasingly circumscribed and censured over the past few decades by political controls in the form of growing regulations, laws, bans and supervision. So it should not be seen as a coincidence that violence, vandalism and anti-social "attitudes and behaviours" have risen over that same period. The confines of personal conduct and responsibility have been to a large degree replaced by the confines of policy — policy in which youth have had no part in making, and the merits of which they have neither been given nor expected to understand or judge. Children are as much or more likely to learn that an individual sense of responsibility is of little use if the initiative for deciding and managing it has been taken over from themselves and from parents by a cold and indiscriminate political and bureaucratic administration. The punishments for violating a promiscuous and only haphazardly methodical regulatory regime of conduct are themselves necessarily arbitrary and, as much as the political appropriation of personal responsibility wishes to flatter itself, light as well. But more importantly than failing to disclose the negative consequences of anti-social behaviour, political controls deprive children of the natural incentives to discover the mutually agreeable and reinforcing benefits of abiding by voluntary restraints on behaviour to build for themselves a useful, profitable and non-violent society. The added tragedy is that these are the children who grow up into being parents themselves; it is no wonder that they defer their roles as fathers and mothers as well to the government, to no less accidental and detrimental effects.

Simply put, educators and psychologists — the experts — have held greater rein and scrutiny over children than ever before, and perhaps it is time that their failures should be acknowledged. The logical extension of their theories and conclusions, in fact, would be that children should be given over entirely to their administration, by the agency of political power, except that the mediocrity of their good intentions deter them from promoting the absolute communist economy of children. Nevertheless, the expanse in regulatory power by the government affords a beguiling prospect for influence and importance for educators and social scientists. It is too big a job for bureaucrats alone — the system must be outsourced to the rule of experts. The most important variables in their studies, for whatever they can be worth, are most often overlooked or omitted for the seduction of power promised by the trappings of expertise. For this reason, and this reason alone, they are to be doubted.

Bonus: Sonny Drysdale gives his take in Sonny Demands Government to Get Peter Jaffe to Shut His Fuckin' Mouth

But you know, maybe Jaffe does have a point. Maybe the media is a bit to blame in all this. But only for giving him free press and broadcast coverage everytime he opens his big mouth.

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It's not really about oil, but equality and sustainability

Sean introduces the concept of "correct crude" over at SDA:

It has become rather fashionable these days to question what exactly it is that you get when you plunk your money down for a service or product. Are you uncomfortable with the notion of drinking coffee that has been picked by child labour working under dangerous conditions? Well then, you can pony up a bit of extra cash and enjoy a delicious cup of fair trade coffee, fair trade products having been certified to have been produced in a most politically correct manner. Worried about investing in a company that exploits the marginalized citizens of some third world nation? If so, ethical investing has been created with your peace of mind, in, um, mind. Your returns from ethical investing may not be as great, but hey, you're doing the right thing.

But what about when you fill up your vehicle with fuel?

When you fill a vehicle with fuel produced in Canada, you're paying for health care, national infrastructure, a bit of looney social engineering, and the occasional award for freaks who like to splatter their bodily fluids all over public places. Now contrast this to oil products from Arab nations. When you buy Saudi oil, you're helping the rulers of Saudi Arabia finance the export of a death cult that likes to put homosexuals to death, brutalize women, and turn young men into walking bombs who kill innocent civilians in night clubs and cafes. You're literally putting a jihad in your tank each time you buy Saudi oil.
The envirocommies will counter that the frequent use of private cars is contributing to climate change so we really shouldn't be filling up our tanks in the first place. The earth gods are angry at mankind; compared to the animals, with the exception of those methane producing domesticated cows, the ecological footprints of humans are far heavier. As animals are inhabitants of the very same earth that could any year now succumb to carbon poisoning, it is now more than ever before imperative that the collective mass adopt the visions of the young Stephane Dion, thus taking an interest in the society of animals before considering the society of man.
“My first interest was for the society of animals, not of man,” he recalls. “We had a neighbour named Gaston Moisan, a biologist who was a deputy minister of natural resources. He set traps for the rabbits, to band them, and used to take me with him. He was 5-foot-7, but he was a giant for me.”

A charming childhood anecdote — except, according to Mr. Moisan, it never happened. “I don't know how he could have imagined that,” the retired bureaucrat and university professor says. “I had nothing to do with Stéphane. And I never sensed any interest on his part for my work.”

Could he have dreamed it? “Stéphane had a lot of imagination as a child,” chuckles his older brother Patrice, 53 — he's the one who went on to become a microbiologist and now teaches plant science at Laval. “He was always creating his own fantasies. And he had a fascination with animals, especially with wolves and foxes.”

The envirocommies understand the earth gods must be placated and they know just what is to be done because they listened to Al Gore. Accompanied by nightmarish visions of melting ice caps, dying rainforests, and David Suzuki, the common man is strongly encoraged to walk, cycle or take the bus. The great dignitaries among us will, whenever possible, do their part and renounce private and chartered flights in favour of scheduled flights.

C/P: Dust my Broom

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Prince Charles contributes to the carbon crisis!

Though Prince Charles believes climate change is "the biggest threat to mankind", he is about to embark on a carbon packed trip to the US with his entourage to accept the Global Environmental Citizen award from Harvard. What better way to raise awareness of climate change than to contribute to the supposed problem?

To underline his commitment to reducing his 'carbon footprint' - the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere during the flight - he is to travel by scheduled flight instead of a chartered or private jet.

But he and his 20-strong party will travel exclusively in the first and club class sections where there are a total of 62 seats.

This means their effective 'carbon footprint' is three times what it would be if every seat was used and the short return trip to New York will result in the emission of 24 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

To 'offset' this, the prince would need to pay £177.60 to plant trees.
When the four seasons do not run according to the four cycle plan, it is necessarily necessary to intervene.

HT: Drudge

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


In "Breaking News" in the London Free Press this evening, Anne Marie DeCicco-Best announced today at the annual Mayor's breakfast sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce her new initiatives to enhance economic growth in London, which amount to in essence:

  • talk about it more,
  • promote talking about it more, and
  • lobby … sorry, "leverage" … the redirection of more federal tax revenues to the civic government.
Typical… our politicians have been so remorselessly marketed to us for so long that marketing has become the only thing they can even think to do. Breaking news? Rather more like repackaged news, but with new and improved Powerpoint presentations.

Update: Ian Gillespie pokes fun at the obligatory annual catchprase in DeCicco-Best's breakfast speeches, "Roots to grow, wings to fly," and reviews the memorable but discarded "golden phrases" of years past, including:
  • "Momentum builds momentum, which builds momentum." (2001)
  • "Now is our time," and "The best is yet to come." (2003, to which Gillespie adds: "A mixed message there.")
  • "Each day is a new beginning." (2004)
Best line of the article:
Even though I listened carefully and later studied a printed version of her speech, I have no idea what she was talking about.
Even the City Hall/Free Press translator backfired this time!

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Enter stage left - the non-partisans

Women, aboriginals and the disabled may be forced to make room for those other visible minorities. HT: Darcey.

The Public Service Commission of Canada has announced it is studying why disproportionately few visible minority job candidates are hired as federal public servants.

Commission president Maria Barrados said Wednesday the agency will examine all stages of the application process from the initial computerized screening to the final selection to find out why minorities are hired into only 10 per cent of public service jobs even though 25 per cent of applicants self-identify as visible minorities.

[..] The study will find out whether the selection process screens out qualified visible minority candidates by demanding Canadian cultural experience or other things that may not be necessary for the job, or by appraising credentials in a certain way, she said.

[..] The commission is an independent agency meant to ensure Canada's public service is competent, non-partisan and representative of the population.

The gap between the number of visible minority applicants and hires was noted in a presentation to the Public Service Commission Advisory Council in December and will be released as a full report shortly, said commission spokesman Tom Kelly. The study found that aboriginals, women and the disabled were not underrepresented in the same way.
Even before the public is treated to the results of this "study", it is safe to conclude that though many newcomers have a poor grasp of English, such arbitrary standards as good communication skills are racist and discriminatory. Public service jobs should be available to everyone, unless of course you are a bourgeois white heteronormative male.

Let the purges begin! because the bloodstained carpet is the only path to true non-partisanship!
The PSEA [Public Service Employment Act] states that you may engage in any political activity as long as it does not impair or is not perceived by others as impairing your ability to perform your duties in a politically impartial manner.

Your right as a federal public service employee must, therefore, be examined in light of the need to maintain a politically impartial public service. The political impartiality of the public service is a fundamental value that ensures Canadians benefit from non-partisan delivery of services.

2. Do these provisions apply to political activities outside work hours and off work premises? If so, why?

Yes it does, because regardless of when or where a political activity is exercised, it may, depending on the nature of the activity and on the employee's specific circumstances, impair or be perceived as impairing the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties in a politically impartial manner.

The situation must therefore be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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Never Trust A Hippie

A fascinating biography of the American Waffen-Al-Qaeda Adam Gadahn, a/k/a Azzam al-Amriki (AC-130 be upon him).

HT Hugh Hewitt.

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Jailing Galileo

From Wikipedia... scientific heresy:

  • ...Galileo was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy in 1633. The sentence of the Inquisition was in three essential parts:

    1. Galileo was required to recant his heliocentric ideas; the idea that the Sun is stationary was condemned as "formally heretical".
    2. He was ordered imprisoned; the sentence was later commuted to house arrest.
    3. His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial and not enforced, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.
From Peaktalk ... scientific heresy:

Re-purposing the concept of hate speech, The Weather Channel’s (TWC) and well-known climatologist Heidi Cullen advocates that:

" ... that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming"

I've never been aware that TV-weathermen and women were 'certified', in fact I have always believed that they were just channeling whatever the meteorological reports said. So, engaging in a debate - scientific or not - is actually some good news. But according to Cullen any debate will have to start at a certain level of undisputed knowledge, hers to be precise:

Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk
political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval.
Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It's not a political's just an incorrect statement.

Crushing dissent or manipulating the global warming debate? Probably both.

From ....
Note: Authorities of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo to renounce his belief in the model of the solar system proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus. Galileo had to assert that the Earth stands still, and the sun revolves around it. A famous legend holds that Galileo, after making this public declaration about a motionless Earth, muttered, “Nevertheless, it does move.”
Via David Janes:
I’ve seen countless geology-department professors bury their integrity as they morph from respectable paleontologists or geologists from other specialties, to “climate change” experts, then watch the research funding roll in.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quick links

Stupid cities

Discussion of anti-growth or anti-sprawl policy objectives in London is driven primarily by an active dogmatic environmentalism that excludes calculation of the costs and benefits of historic and existing land uses and consideration of the deleterious impact of regulation in favour of what has become a reactionary and ultra-regulatory hysteria. The promotion of such vague and inscrutable non-concepts like "smart growth" and "sustainable growth" is itself an indictment of the agenda's perception of problem and solution. Nevertheless, the movement to apply such whimsies with regulatory force does find some complacent approval with many taxpayers who, already owning their own homes, may or may not appreciate the advantages to incumbents of artificial property price inflation or sustaining visions of a bucolic if contrived status quo.

But so far there has been little evidence that anti-sprawl has become an active and significant political objective in London's city hall, although this has more to do with an administrative calculation that at least as yet growth in assessment revenue needed to blunt actual rate hikes is easier to obtain with horizontal development than with vertical. Some local politicians, however, have endorsed the political calculation of environmental anti-growth hysteria, and at some point placatory noises will be heard in the city's influential planning department as well. When that happens, Londoners will be in for a tall order of economically detrimental policy and regulation… and although it will be cloaked with the requisite deference to the authority of environmental political correctness, it will again be the product of another baser calculation, being that the city's indebtedness and the liabilities of its massive non-essential spending have finally outstripped its capacity to fund increases in basic services due to growth. Proving that there are more crooked paths to an environmentalist's heart than straight ones…

I was reminded of this by the latest editorial in the Financial Post by Terence Corcoran, who finds that some municipalities in Canada, notably Toronto, are already hitting the wall when it comes to providing basic services.

In a normally functioning market economy, supply emerges to meet demand as entrepreneurs building the facilities to give people what they want. Governments work in reverse. Demand is taken to be a drain on city resources. If demand grows with the population, the burden on government expands, the costs seem high and in the end nothing is done pending arrival of the inevitable crisis.
And the inevitable crisis is just as inevitably paid out in increased taxes and regulation. Londoners may only a few years and, if fortunate, a few more federal and provincial handouts from realizing this itself. The conventional wisdom of growth, of course, is that it is both an aspiration and an opportunity, and if wisdom is not straight-jacketed by politicians, bureaucrats and activists it will become seen to be an opportunity to allow the private sector to meet the actual demands of people.

The new B.A.

Ontarians have become inured to the utter iniquity of the idea of forcing potentially productive and independent citizens to remain in school until the age of 18 by habitual reference to the historically iniquitous legislated custom of forcing them to remain until 16. No matter, then… they are a sore sight, and the longer they are removed from the public, the better! And if they are even sorer sight for their indenture of even two more years, well, that is two more years we don't have to think about them at least.

Another custom to which we Ontarians have become inured is the vapidity and uselessness of a high school diploma. The government of Dalton McGuinty's Liberals is intent enough on this custom to ensure the complete destruction of the diploma's purpose and meaning, even so far as to remove actual education as its requirement. From the London Free Press:
Some high school dropouts can now earn part of their diploma doing administrative jobs for the Ontario government as the province comes up with new ways to keep kids in school until their 18th birthday.

The expanded program — which now includes high schools in Windsor, Ottawa and Toronto — is part of the government's aim to have nearly 100,000 more students graduate from high school by 2010.

[…] Programs like this will help boost Ontario's graduation rate — currently hovering around 70 per cent — by tailoring the high school experience to individual students, Wynne said yesterday.
It is not, of course, the attainment of academic standards that shall be the judge, it is the having of "experience"… which, incidentally, is compelled anyway. What our goverment won't do for a little self-serving statistic, even if it serves no one else!

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