Monday, November 29, 2010

Nietzsche and The Great Recession

Great post by Brad DeLong:

Think of that when you consider this: The U.S. unemployment rate is stubbornly high, yet aid from a federal government that can borrow at unbelievably good terms could allow states to maintain their levels of public employment, and those public workers would then spend their incomes and so boost the number of private-sector jobs as well. But the voters are against that. No, they say. We have lost our jobs. It is only fair that those who work for the government lose their jobs as well -- never mind that each public-sector job lost triggers the destruction of yet another private-sector job. It's the underlying logic that has led to a wave of austerity across Europe that is now headed for America's shores. And it's the same logic that says, "It is only fair that homeowners lose their money" -- never mind that everyone's home prices will suffer. What does not kill me makes me stronger.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

WikiLeaks

Frankly i'm not sure what to think about the latest WikiLeaks document drop. You place yourself in a bit of a difficult position when you take a stand against people knowing... stuff.

In a perfect world all governments would be completely transparent. Wouldn't have a need for things like intelligence agencies and secret diplomacy. But here we are and secrets and information matter. The first story that struck me from the release was about Chinese hacking. Whose interests are served by everyone finding out what the United States knows about Chinese intelligence efforts? It's possibly, maybe likely, that the Chinese already knew all of this stuff, but what if they didn't? What if this kind of release provides the piece of the puzzle that identifies some human asset in Beijing?

How does knowing that certain leaders in the Middle East were/are pushing for the bombing of Iran help anyone? Is there any way that ends well for the region?

Same goes for all the diplomatic "locker-room" chat, as the American Ambassador put it. Is anyone really looking forward to the release on Thursday when, much to the delight of certain media in Canada, we all get to read about how little American diplomats think of us?

In theory something like WikiLeaks is a great sounding idea. Certain things, like much of the Iraq stuff, should be made public. This latest drop though, strikes me as a shot in a personal crusade by Assange against the US. There will probably be some information in there that needs to be made public, but for the most part I think State is about right, this is going to put quite a few lives in danger.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Danny Williams

How interesting is it that the Globe throws in a bit of federal speculation into its report on Danny Williams' exit?

Tradition seems to last a bit longer out east and Williams is a pretty good example of it. He is a real conservative. A nationalist most definitely, though a Newfoundlander, not a Canadian nationalist. Yet the bit in the end about "nation building" certainly made me sit up a bit. The post Harper CPC looks more interesting by the week.

Cognitive Dissonance

A perfect example in this Sun editorial. The weaving back and forth over hospitality expenses is hilarious, though eventually they find a way out... has to do with ponies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday, Monday

Quite sure I've never seen such a depressing set of Canadian headlines in my life.


Ontario voters would turf McGuinty: poll
Alberta safe for Tories to ignore
Government to CBC: Be open, comply with law
200,000 sign petition calling for Jean Charest’s resignation
Michael Ignatieff faces daunting 'enthusiasm gap'
Is Canadian democracy in real danger?
Kinsella: Liberal rumour
Fantino the man to beat in the vote the country is watching
Taber: By-election nastiness makes it to the House of Commons
Canadians tune out destructive politics
Bob Rae zips from dove to hawk
AECL up for auction but West’s industries protected
Defence department critics win booby prize

I'm not sure whether I should take solace in the fact that most Canadians don't care.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Election Day!

I note from a few dozen tweets that today is election day under Harper's fixed election rule. So get out there and vote!

EDIT: Actually that's not right at all! Twitter let me down!

The Bored Media

Coyne posts on the CPC's abandoning of principles. Not the first time he's written about it. I keep wondering when someone is going to tap him on the shoulder and let him know that it's a minority government.

Now, this isn't the good Liberal way of talking about the situation. As you can see from the comments it's alot of "Yeah! Coyne is right! The Conservatives are unprincipled!" But I still cling to the hidden agenda. I know it's there because I know the politicians, because I know where they come from, because I know their supporters. A minority situation forces governments to abandon their princples, for the life of me I can't figure out why this confuses Coyne so much.

However, let's assume for a second that he is right and that the CPC isn't ideologically sound. Why do pundits believe that politics exists to entertain them? Because that's the impression you get from Coyne's article, that elections in Canada are stupid because they don't result in massive swings from communism to anarchy. It's such an absolutely bizarre point. Elections in Canada produce exactly what Canadians want, a middle-of-the-road set of policies that at least presents the illusion of good governance. They get the last part wrong regularly, and have it horribly wrong right now, but eventually it corrects itself and the other guys get a shot.

Does anyone really believe that the American model of highly charged ideology is what we should be after? How can the media look with envy at the swing from Obama to Tea Party in the United States and suggest that it's a better way of doing business?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Austerity and Gold

A post on some of the nonsense economic talk going around.

First a good video on austerity and the fallacy of composition.

Second, I just wanted to address this little slice of insanity from World Bank President Zoellick:

The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values.... Although textbooks may view gold as the old money, markets are using gold as an alternative monetary asset today.”


It is, as DeLong points out, just plain wrong. Gold is not an alternative monetary asset. It is a commodity. That's it. I blame the internet for all this gold standard craziness. Suddenly every schmuck with access to google considers themselves an economist and the romantic notion of gold tricks people into thinking it's the solution to all our problems. They forget the problems that gold actually caused us and simply refuse to acknowledge the impossibility of going back to a gold standard. This economics "dark age" is starting to worry me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Religion

There are a few areas I split from what I consider traditional Canadian conservatism. One of the bigger ones is religion.

Religion has had an undeniably huge role in the development of the Canadian identity and psyche. The striking split down the middle of our founding cultures, English Anglicans on one side and French/Scots-Irish Catholics on the other, defined our society and politics. So it's not surprising that Christian conservatives, all of us romantics, usually embrace religion as another facet of Canadian nationalism.

I was born a Roman Catholic in the Irish-Canadian tradition. I'm from a family of five with an extended family that I can't be bothered to count at the moment. I was raised in a Catholic community in Ottawa, largely french. Went to a Catholic school. Attended Mass at least weekly. Served as an altar boy. All that good stuff. I was a good Catholic right through the first couple years of my undergraduate degree.

Yet as I aged my relationship with the Church changed in a strange sort of way. From real faith and devotion I moved away from the religion itself and came to identify more with the community than the faith. It had nothing to do with the scandals or past sins of the Church. Horrible though the abuse scandals are, they have yet to touch me or mine personally. Other historic misdeeds are important to recognize and acknowledge, but they don't change anything about the faith or traditions of the religion. Rather, I turned away from the faith because I got to know the history of Christianity and the Catholic Church. Any religion depends on a certain amount of mystery and myth. Tracing the development of a church unfolds the mysteries and washes away the myth. You're left with historical facts. You're left not with sacred practices and divine instruction, but with practical policy and political goals.

There's another part to it, a problem that most atheists have with religion. It's the simple "How could a billion Hindus/Muslims/Buddhists be wrong?" The realization that, because of simple flukes of geography and history, more than three quarters of the world's population is doomed.

I'm not a militant atheist. I'm grateful for the role that religion played in my early life. Some of the greatest experiences in my life continue to involve the Church or Christianity in some way. An Irish Mass in the Gaeltacht, a Semana Santa procession in Galicia, Handel's Messiah at the NAC. Stuff like that makes it tough to hate religion. Honestly, I'm still not sure how I'm going to approach the issue when I eventually have children. Chances are they'll be raised liberal Catholics like my girlfriend and I were.

I posted the video "Science Saved my Soul from Religion" yesterday because it showed just how awesome life is even without religion. Winged angels, burning bushes, and hell have nothing on the unfathomable size and mysteries of the universe. Atheism doesn't have to be shallow compared to religion.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Science Saved my Soul

Hopefully I'm not the last person to have seen this, excellent stuff.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Eye on Prentice

Glowing send offs all around for Jim Prentice today.

And all of them are thick with the same political speculation in Kinsella's piece.

"Mr. Clean", as Weston calls him above, predictably played down all the musings about a future re-entry into politics, but the talk won't go away and his name will probably still come up in the prayers of traditional conservatives still hanging around the CPC.

He is the Liberals' worst nightmare, a moderate with feet firmly planted in West and East. More importantly he's Reform's worst nightmare, a spectre of the Progressive Conservatives, who, as a leader, would threaten to beat the populists back down and possibly reignite the flammable and delicate truce that is the Conservative Party of Canada.

Harper has one more election in him.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On the Potash Bid

Fascinating stuff.

Fascinating because the issue is exposing one of those dirty little secrets of the market economy... actually it's not little, the implications are massive... and it's not a secret, everyone knows it, but the great thinkers in the liberal camp just ignore it. Free markets create monopolies.

One of the main concerns that the Calgary business community has is the near monopoly this hands BHP over potash production. Irony of ironies, unless the government intervenes and stops the deal, the free market will destroy itself. Potash prices will no longer be set by the market, they will be set by BHP. The simple fact is that laissez-faire and the market economy just don't get along that well.

EDIT: In other free market news, the feds reject a mine proposal on environmental grounds. When will government learn to just trust the free market with the environment!!!???