Friday, July 24, 2009

I blame Alberto Tomba

Apparently Hugo Chavez has a grudge against the Romans. From Boston Review, via Anthony Dick:
The World has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ. . . have taken control of the riches of the world.
Yes, I know who he was really talking about, but I'm tired of the whole blame-the-Jews thing. Do you want to know who killed Christ?

We did.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"I'm not a kidnapper; I just play one in real life."

Horrific. Absolutely Horrific. Perhaps when we storm the Bastille, the doctors should be first.

About 14 months ago, a new 'contributor' joined CG&A. She was perfect, but, nonetheless, the medical establishment was overbearing and deceitful (it's too bad Mike Harris didn't close down the Montfort when he had the chance). This story from New Jersey is frightening, and I do not plan to allow doctors and nurses to try to force themselves and their self-importance into the birth of our next child (should we be so blessed).

Paul Krugman agrees with National Review

President Obama on Wednesday Night:
Now, I want to change that. Every American should want to change that. Why would we want to pay for things that don't work, that aren't making us healthier? And here's what I'm confident about: If doctors and patients have the best information about what works and what doesn't, then they're going to want to pay for what works. If there's a blue pill and a red pill and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that's going to make you well?
Paul Krugman (from The Conscience of a Liberal at The New York Times):
Reading various reactions from the commentariat to last night’s presser, I had a horrible insight: many of them had no idea what Obama was talking about with the red pill-blue pill thing.
Greg Pollowitz (from Media Blog at National Review Online):

And from The Matrix:

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

No wonder President Obama wants us to take the blue pill.

Welcome to the dark side, Paul.


I've started reading Freakonomics. As with so many recent posts, I'm a little behind the curve on this one (4 years behind, to be precise), and it is unfortunate that I'm reading it knowing that its most (in)famous claim has been contested. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting read. The idea of The Hidden Side of Everything is very alluring, and I look forward to reading about sumo wrestling and the reasons drug dealers live with their moms.

I've only just started it, but one thing is popping out to me. It's a dismal read. Economics seems boring to many people, but not to me. And economic analysis of non-economic phenomena (such as the price elasticity of demand of suicide - which I learned about in university) can be quite interesting. I've always said that economics textbooks are some of the best written, so a best-selling, accessible economics book should be great.

Unfortunately, so far (about two chapters in) the writing is horrible. Steven Levitt had such a great opportunity (and it is probably still a good book), but it seems to be a miss.

Maybe I should just read Tyler Cowen's book instead.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Of buses, speech, God and freedom

Alright, I'm a little late to the game on this, but I just felt that I had to weigh in on this. There's been a mini-controversy regarding political and religious advertising on buses throughout Canada. There was a B.C. case that is to have an impact on the buses in Halifax. I don't live in either of these places, so I'm going to take a look at it from the vantage point of the Ottawa bus system (OC Transpo).

The column I link to is titled, Supreme Court gets a free speech case right. At first blush, that seems like an accurate analysis. Whether you want to encourage people to vote, promote a specific issue for voters, or comment on the existance of God, in Canada, you are free to speak your mind.

However, this case isn't about an individual (or group) saying anything; it is about someone using someone else's property as a vehicle for spreading their message (no pun intended). Just as each person seeking advertising space has a right to speak freely, the bus companies (in Ottawa's case, OC Transpo) have the right control what is said via their buses. OC Transpo, or more specifically its management, has an equivalent claim to freedom of speech. If such a company decides they do not want certain types of messages on their buses, that is their right.

Oh, but wait, here's the twist. In Ottawa's case (and I'd venture to guess in B.C. and Halifax), the bus company is not a private entity. OC Transpo is run by the city of Ottawa... not to mention, funded by them. The city of Ottawa has no inherent right to curtail free speech. Consequently, one can legitimately argue that an entity like OC Transpo does not have the right to deny broadcasting these controversial messages.

Alright, so now we've got the municipal government stomping on the free speech of its citizens. Well, that really is a violation of western liberalism, and, more pertinently, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So we're back to the original column's point that the Supreme Court got this one right.

But now we're not really talking about free speech. OC Transpo, though they do have their own revenue streams, are, in part, funded by the government... and by that, I mean taxpayers... private individuals with the same rights as those who wish to place controversial ads on the buses. So it's not free speech; it's subsidized speech.

Just as a true private company has the right to decide what messages it broadcasts, each taxpayer has the right to decide what messages he or she broadcasts... except the Supreme Court doesn't seem to agree. They have brought us to a point where people have the right to have the public fund thier speech.

So what's the answer to this? In some ways, there is no good answer. Generally, free speech should trump just about any regulation imposed against it (perjury is a good exception). Generally, the rest of us should not be on the hook for someone else's "free" speech. I'm inclined to think that the right thing to do in such a conflict is to side with the people who are having someone else's "freedom" imposed upon them. If the government is taking your money, it'd be nice if they didn't then use it to promote an idea you find abhorrent (of course, this isn't an idea always shared by the government of Canada), but I'm not really comfortable taking the side of what seems like censorship.

So, again, what's the answer to this? Well, there is a good answer, a damn good answer: the government should not be running a bus company.

This is actually a ridiculous controversy. We shoudn't be worried about a government-as-owner censoring bus ads. If OC Transpo were a true private actor, the Supreme Court (not to mention the municipal government) would have absolutely no business telling them what they can and cannot place on the sides of their buses (though, I'm sufficently accomodating to agree that porn could be censored - quite gracious, I know).

I imagine their would be objections to this. People do not like paying an appropriate fare for transit, nor do they like the idea of limiting bus service only to places and times when their is sufficient demand for it. I've thought about such objections, but this post is getting pretty long, so I'll address such concerns in another post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Was I unfairly critical of Ernie Eves?

Maybe I should have called out Janet Ecker instead.

My memory is fuzzy, but I seem to recall Eves' government backing away from the supporting public education. I thought they had repealed the Equity in Education Tax Credit, but some quick googling seems to prove my memory a liar (though some reports imply that he may have halved the credit - that doesn't quite make him a champion of liberty).

I thought Eves had buckled under public opinion, but, as the link shows, it may have just been his prominent backers. At the very least, I think it can be said that the Progressive Conservatives lurched towards the progressive side during his tenure as Premier, at least as far as school choice is concerned.

Why did I pick on John Tory?

In this post, I single out John Tory as one of the people working against educational options for children. Tory is a pretty minor, forgettable figure (who might not have the career he does were it not for his last name), so some may wonder why I mention him.

Well, here's why.

Tory and the PC's got raked over the coals for their proposal to expand the current funding of religious schools. I'm not arguing that religious schools should necessarily be funded by the government. Well, I'm not directly arguing that. The point isn't religious schools anyway. The point is that Tory abandoned this very minor step towards educational freedom for Ontario's students.

Tory and the Tories were championing school choice... or, at least, that is what they should have been doing. Giving parents control over their children's education is not merely defensible, but it is also one of the few 'feel good' sort of policies that conservatives/libertarians/right wingers actually evangelize. A leader who will fight for middle- and working-class parents against unions and bureaucrats is the type of leader we need.

So, with this entirely worthwhile initiative, what does John Tory do? He makes it appear as a sop to religious voters, looks at some polls, and then abandons the idea - tacitly supporting the current oppressive system.

I didn't have a daughter when Tory's craven political ambitions superseded any honourable platform the Progressive Conservative Party might have been able to cobble together, but I have one now. It would have been nice if Tory had shown some leadership on this issue.

It would have been nice if Tory, not by act but by omission, had not worked to hinder my daughter's future.

[UPDATE: JTL has a nice little line on another reason to disdain Tory. I may disagree with JTL on what constitutes "public" education (though I'd say his idea of public education would match my idea of "public" education if that makes any sense), but, damn, I miss J.C. Watts and Skip Walker.]

Monday, July 20, 2009

But which one's Anastasia?

Richard writes about the democratic deficit of Obama's czars. I'd say he's pretty much right on, though I would disagree with his conclusion. I don't think the ideal scenario is to have Obama's czars face congressional confirmation; I'd rather he simply had fewer (or none at all). But that's a minor quibble.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Well... we all have our off days...

Richard Albert has another column up, this one at (full disclosure: I know nothing about this web site, other than the fact that they have published Richard). The column is about the Sotomayor nomination, and the fact that it would/will mean six of nine SCOTUS judges will be Roman Catholic.

(On a bit of a pedantic note, Richard's column repeatedly refers to six "Catholic" judges, but there are currently seven Catholic judges - Souter and Stevens are catholic, but they are not Roman Catholic... granted this doesn't really mean much of anything for this discussion.)

As any regular readers will know, I am a fan of Richard's writing. However, I just don't know what his point is on this one. He speaks of the fact that the R.C. make up of the court is being ignored by pundits (though it's not), and that this may be a good signal of America's progress away from anti-Roman Catholic bigotry.

However, he then goes on to write:
That said, there remain some very serious problems– like this or this–that prevent the United States from making real, for one and all, the promise of religious freedom.
But what is he saying in that sentence, and what does it have to do with Sonia Sotomayor's religion (or Clarence Thomas', or John Roberts', or Sam Alito's... or Ruth Bader Ginsburg's, for that matter)?

His first "this" leads us to a story about Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, which posted an anti-Islamic sign (reading, "Islam is of the Devil"). Well, this may be offensive; it may be distasteful; it may be abhorrent. Regardless, it is an example of religious freedom (and naturally, freedom of speech). The Dove World Outreach Centre has the freedom to believe that Islam is, in fact, "of the Devil", as well as the freedom to believe that it is their God-given duty to profess this notion*.

His second "this" leads us to a story about James von Brunn (the guy who shot up the Holocaust museum). Yes, this may be an example of how the U.S. is not "making real...the promise of religious freedom." Fair enough.

...but what does that have to do with the religious make up of the court?

The citizenry might be worried about how the religion of a judge might affect the decisions the judge (though it certainly wouldn't explain Kennedy's decision in Casey), but (a) I would be more concerned with the judicial/political/philosophical record of the prospective justice; and (b) Richard doesn't make this argument.

I've re-read Richard's column a number of times, assuming that I have missed something, but I just can't see what. In the opening paragraph, the R.C. dynamic of the court is said to be incredibly important, but the rest of the column just doesn't follow through on it.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that I'm missing something here. I'm also willing to believe that Richard is right to express concern, but that it wasn't properly articulated in the column. I would really like to hear Richard expand on this topic, because, as it stands, I have to say that this column is a bit of a miss.

*The final word of this paragraph was altered as the meaning was not clear in its original form.

Won't Someone Please Think of the Children!

I used to be a high school administrator. Such an occupation is an easy way to become completely disillusioned with the government school system. Further, as you may have guessed, I have never been a huge fan of government schools.

Thankfully, through the course of my marriage, the wife's political leanings have drifted to the right - or at least, they have drifted in a libertarian direction (the two dimensional political spectrum can be quite annoying). So, she no longer feels a civic obligation to stuff our child into a government school.

Unfortunately, we do not make enough money right now to consider private school (and certainly not for 14 years of education per child). As such, we have thought a lot about homeschooling. So, stumbling upon this post at The American Scene was interesting and encouraging.

A lot of emotion was spilled in the comments, and it's really not surprising. People have so much invested in the way they bring up their children (and the way their parents brought them up), that an intelligent discussion can be difficult. Further, regardless of whatever is best on aggregate, that says nothing as to what is best for your child.

My daughter is only 14 months old (in about 12 hours or so, to be almost precise), but, still, this weighs on me. It may be the default to send your kids to public school, but I have no plan to ever raise my child by default. I need to make thoughtful choices, and such choices might lead me away from government schools. I'd like to think I have the right to make choices regarding my child's education. Others agree with me.

Sadly, people like Ernie Eeves, John Tory and Dalton McGuinty don't seem to care one bit. They prefer to feed our children to the leviathan.

A Coup is in the Eye of the Beholder

Richard has a new (well, it's kind of old now) column on the Honduran coup, er, defence of their constitution.

When I devised this bolg, the intent (what little of it there was) to have a libertarian-leaning/fusionist blog. I wasn't planning to comment on all things political; I wanted to have a narrow focus. Nonetheless, I'll shoot my mouth (keyboard) on this one.

Richard is right. This wasn't a coup. Or if it was, it was an attempted coup by Zelaya. Zelaya was acting in a treasonous way. Seemingly, he broke the constitution and broke the law. The rest of the structure of Honduran democracy stood up against him. The military did the right thing (there are a lot of links I could find to back this up, but I'm feeling lazy).

This report is quite sad. It's sad because there is still an international presence pushing for Zelaya's re-instatement.

It's sad because the recent defenders of democracy (Canada, America, Britain, France, Holland, etc.) have not been supporting this nascent democracy. They've actually been part of the seige.

It's sad that they still use the word coup. Actually, it's insulting that they still use the word coup.

Thankfully, the "coup leaders" are following the path of a number of other "coup leaders", General Brock, Winston Churchill, the French Resistance - to name a few. I pray for their strength and perseverance, while the rest of the world catches up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

How the h*ll did this happen?

I'd like to say "howdy" to everyone reading this blog. I checked my Stat Counter yesterday, and there were 7 page loads and 5 unique visitors (none of whom seemed to be returning visitors... depending how much you can trust cookies). I don't think there had been more than 5 unique visitors previously in the history of this blog (and I checked, none of those 5 were my wife). So, thank you for turning this blog into such a howling success.

Of course, now I feel obligated to put more effort into blogging (and since our internet was finally hooked up this morning, I will have more opportunity). So, please feel free to drop by any time. I will add fresh content semi-regularly.

And to think, the only reason I started this blog was because I thought it'd be funny to have a site called Canned Goods and Ammunition.

[UPDATE: I just checked Stat Counter, and there have been no visitors today. I guess my 15 minutes of fame are over.]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

OK, I may have a strong dislike for the "Patriot" Party of Canada, but...

...this is f-ing crazy.

And if I ever have to explain why it's crazy, I will probably cry.

Richard read my blog!, or, In which our hero is unfairly assailed.

Here I comment on Richard Albert's article about senate reform. I sent Richard a note about my response to his article, and he, in turn, sent me a note saying he appreciated the critique (which was only a partial critique) and that he bookmarked this blog (which puts the pressure on to post more).

I was checking The Mark to see if Richard had written anything more, and I noticed a comment on Richard's column that began thusly,
I'm not normally a fan of the current federal government, but to characterise senate terms as an opportunity for pork barrel politics apparently ignores the fact that the current government has twice before introduced legislation to elect senators...
and ended,
I think your commentary is quite off the mark on this one.
OK, first, no where does Richard write about pork barrel politics.

Now, I obviously had a few quibbles with Richard's article, and I think the commenter ("Steven Hurdle") has some useful points to add to the debate. However, to begin a posted comment with "I'm not normally a fan of..." and then present some Conservative Party talking points, seems disingenuous. Make no mistake, that doesn't invalidate the bulk of his comments, but it does colour my reaction as the reader (though I should note that Steven is respectful in his response).

Further, Richard is most definitely not "quite off the mark on this one."

From what I've read, Richard has one of the best minds for democracy of my generation. I do not know Richard's political leanings or affiliations (though I have some guesses), but his writings all come from the viewpoint of defending democracy, not any particular partisan position. In my response, I noted that Richard, perhaps, needed to differentiate between the value of the particular policy proscription and the realpolitik implications of the policy. I kind of find it funny that Richard has been criticized in a seemingly partisan way for a potentially realpolitik sort of argument. Saying that the Conservative government has been better on Senate reform than any other party or administration (which I think they have been) does not refute the notion that this particular policy proscription will have detrimental effects.

Sure, in this situation, the perfect might well be the enemy of the good (which was kind of my point), but I think Richard could easily argue that "the mediocre can also be the enemy of the good."

By the way, if you're interested in reading more from Richard, here's a column about democracy and India. Indian democracy is certainly beyond my area of "expertise", so all I'll say is, he better not be slagging Jeb Bush.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Palin's Departure

So, less than a year ago, I was (on a different blog) quite pleased with John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Obviously that didn't work out too well (though I also noted that if she bombed all she might cost us was a McCain presidency, and despite the fact that I have no love for the Obama administration, I have no delusions that a McCain administration would have been so much better).

As time wore on, I became a little tired of Palin's populism. I don't like populism, and I tend not to support populism. Still, I thought Palin had potential, and I still think she does. There may be a lot of work for her to do if she is to salvage her political career, or to become the politician I hoped she'd become. However, if she's done, well the 'Repubs' still have people like Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal and Tim Pawlenty to turn to. I can't get too upset about 'losing' a politician... and if I were, it'd probably be the 'loss' of former Rough Rider quarterback J.C. Watts. So close to a Grey Cup championship, but I digress...

What I find sad about it all is the way it went down. There was an unfounded and incredible vitriolic response to her. The dislike for her policies seemed to spread to a hatred of the person. Sadly, she, her 'people' or her handlers (or all three) never seemed able to properly handle any of this. The back and forth deification and demonization grew quite tiring.

All that being said, the poorly formulated (or maliciously formulated) rape and hooker jokes about her young daughter were too much. No matter what the situation, the children of politicians should never be treated that way, regardless of their parent's policy decisions or whether or not they or their teenage sibling got pregnant out of wedlock.

(Hell, if Letterman ever made such jokes about my daughter, I'd probably accept the invitation to go on his show and then beat the sh*t out of him; Everette v. Rome would be an episode of Firing Line in comparison.)

Hopefully, the Sarah Palin phenomenon (both positive and negative) will die down. Assuming she actually tries to leave the spotlight for a while, I hope that everyone will just let her. I hope that her life can get back to normal, or atleast to some other state where her kids aren't mocked and she can be happy. If she re-enters politics, hopefully we can all just address her policies and judge her fitness to serve on those grounds.