2010-04-30

New York Times: Hell's Bible

I've made my opinion clear about how the secular West attacks religion a little too harshly. However, this stance is mitigated by the sexual assault scandals within the Roman Catholic Church. I do expect the Vatican and deal with the issue once and for all but it doesn't seem to be forthcoming.

Do I feel this tarnishes the entire religion? No.I'm not prepared to impugn an entire entity as some are apt to do on the force and actions of a few. Although this is extremely serious. I noticed the NYT has taken it upon itself to editorialize the criminal actions of a few priests but who knows what their agenda is?
Commonweal - a Catholic magazine - offers its alternate perspective.

Is It Better To Be Talented Or Ordinary?

We used to ask, when talking about if we were building a sports team, if we'd rather have a talented team that didn't work hard or a less talented team that worked hard.

I always go back and forth on this but in the end, how can you not go with work ethic? I will always value the person who works hard to perfect themselves as best they could over the person who takes their blessed talent for granted. It's all mental. One guy I used to play sports with would always say, "Heart wins over talent."

Which made me wonder if this can translate from sports into something like a country. What makes a country "great?" Setting the criteria for this would be challenging and probably would have to encompass things like economic might, history, number of influential figures and branding power. While those are usually the criteria that prevail, what about less tangible stuff like moral fiber, work ethic, education, manners, keeping promises and so on?

In other words, is it better to be a "talented" country that through its innovations and ideas changes the course of history or one that is "ordinary" but does all the little things that sustain a functional civilization that can last indefinitely?

The Right Decision By The Speaker

This is good for Canadian parliamentary politics. After all, the PM is not a King. From Guelphy Mercury news:

This past Tuesday, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, ruled that the privileges of members had been breached by the government in its refusal to release unredacted documents pertaining to the Afghanistan detainee controversy. Many observers are seeing this as a historic decision. While critically important, the ruling was not precedent setting. Had Milliken ruled in favour of the government, it would have been a precedent. But there was little fear of that. The ruling should have been foreseen by the government from the outset.

How Ike Handled Illegal Immigration

I love historical pieces.Here's one from the Christian Science Monitor describing how President Eisenhower handled the illegal immigration problem in the 1950s.

2010-04-29

Islamic Banking

Have always liked parts of the principles that guide banks in Islam.

Quebec To Subsidize Fertility Clinics; Other Topics Of Interest

A former colleague of mine at FPC still maintains a relationship with a couple of clinics. One happens to be a fertility clinic and was explaining the province of Quebec will soon be subsidizing people who want to be, erm, fertilized.

While it will be great for his business, the doctor is concerned about the impact this will have on society moving forward. He feels this is just a plump, plain bad idea. He already has been getting calls from people on "welfare" already with large families asking for the "free" service.

The problem he argues, and one in which this blog hammers out every chance it gets, is that someone has to pay for this.

Subsidizing as a tool for progressivism is foolish.

***

My cousin was talking to a Bell worker from Mexico. The agreeable gentleman was telling how the word is out in Mexico about how easy it is to get a loan for education in Canada. His words, "it's party time up here. Everything is free."

***

Speaking of paying, again, something tells me Americans are paying a lot of dough to support illegal immigrants. There IS a cost to that. So, how is this fair exactly again?

***

Read a great comment somewhere - I forget which blog - earlier today and it stuck with me. The poster was concerned with Obama's ubiquitous presence in many facets of American life at all levels. He doesn't believe one iota one man can take on all he claims to be able to solve. For him, a president is not meant to be interventionist but one in which he leads and galvanizes the right people outside the state to solve the problems that afflicts a society.

***

And then there's this gem of a comment made by George Soros to CNN in February.

"Soros wanted the banks nationalized, but added that Obama “made the political decision that that is un-American, will not be accepted.”

Ring, ring, ring! Aside from the delicious irony, why does Soros want the banks nationalized? Think about it.

Bad Summations

This is a rather poor - and frivolous  - attempt at describing libertarians.

Without a doubt, hands down, libertarianism is the most misunderstood of the major political and social philosophies. One of the reasons, and this is just my suspicion, is because people - mostly liberals - have passed off their freedoms and live vicariously through the state. So whenever they hear "kooky" libertarians they view them as though they're monsters under the bed. Yet, to me, it's the simplest of all isms to grasp.

It was published at the SF Chronicle. The author is psychologist Doctor Taylor.

Interesting Political Comments From Reid and Guess Who

I didn't know Harry Reid used politics to practice his comedy routine. And now folks, give a nice hand for the funniest cat on Cap hill, Haaarrrryyyyy Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!

*One person coughs*

Customer: Waitress, there's a fly in my lime bud.


Check this logical doozy out:

"A party that stands with Wall Street is a party that stands against families and against fairness."

You know, because Wall St. is charged with family affairs in society.

And then there's this gem by the "It's a mistake" President; I paraphrase: I'm not against people making money though I wonder how much is enough."

This gets into the mindset of the President doesn't it? So much jammed packed in that sentence. Why is he even saying that? Is it any of his business how much people want to make? Would he, in a perfect world, want to have a salary cap? And if so, who gets to decide how much is enough?

I'm just saying.

Ah, class and identity politics and populist rhetoric.

You've Got A Friend In Me: Brown And Obama Could Form Special Bond

All I can keep thinking about is Monty Python when I watched this. Oh. And can someone please explain to me what exactly did this woman say that was so bigoted? We live in a time when you demand fiscal responsibility you're a "right-wing ideologue." Name calling is a powerful weapon to some.

And, erm, Brown is a douche.



As I always say, maybe it's time to call this blog "Fall of the West."

***

Obama sent a note to Brown. It actually was Randy Newman's 'You've got a friend in me' downloaded from iTunes. It read, "Itsokay Brownie. We must stand together against the tidal wave of bigotry. Love ya."

2010-04-28

More On Arizona

Not an expert. Especially on immigration laws. However, the more I read and listen to debate the Arizona anti-illegal immigration legislation the more that state is acting responsibly and the Federal government irresponsibly. Why is this such a politcally charged issue?

It's not, from what I can tell, an anti-immigration policy nor is it "draconian" or "fascist." So far I haven heard Arizona be compared to Nazi Germany yet. All it does, and it explicitly forbids abuse of police power, is ENFORCE the law already on the books. It's a way to send a smoke signal that it's time to monitor the borders better.

What's wrong with that? Liberals who go off on about "the papers" thing make the same projections they accused conservatives of doing during the health care reform debate. The civil liberties concern is a legit one as I mentioned earlier but I don't see how enforcing the law is a liberty issue. In fact, it's the opposite. Permitting illegals to gain access to a host nation - regardless of their good intentions - tramples on the rights of the citizens of that host nation. For example, paying for health costs, committing crimes etc. while not citizens. It's like accepting the arrival of Vandals and Goths into your country.

Again, as I said in the last post, plenty of hypocrisy to go around and surely this is not an easy issue but, President Obama's concept of "fairness" is hardly impressive.

One must wonder why I'm writing about this from Quebec. I'll tell you why. I've no interest in watching America whither away because it can't find the fortitude to enforce its own laws. America carries Western civilization; they fall we all fall. A little dramatic I know but to those students of history who look beyond borders this notion resonates.

Remember, among many reasons, Rome fell because it failed to adequately protect its borders.

America won't fall because "immigrants" are crossing the limes illegally. America is but about immigration and revolution. It will fall because it fails to stick up for itself.

Alas, I'd prefer to hear from Americans on this. I'm clearly missing something.

The State Of Quebec Roads

As I swerved around pot holes the other day it occured to me the state of our roads are a metaphor for our how the state runs health and education.

Our corroded bridges, crumbling overpasses and cracking roads make us, in my mind, a banana republic. It's absurd, insane and unacceptable given our access to talent and technology to have to witness this crap. Right before our eyes we're seeing bureaucratic bull in action as they hem, haw and argue over the proposed revamp of the Turcotte interchange.

Meanwhile, it's a game of chicken for commuters as they always peak over overpasses or speed up (of course, with photo radar in place making that option incresingly stressful. Suddenly drivers are faced with a "my life or ticket I can't afford" ethical dilemma) to make sure no concrete slab is about to fall like something right out of a Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Only this time the slab doesn't come with an ACME imprint.

I don't understand how Premier Jean "The Poser" Charest doesn't once and for all assume real leadership and put a god dang end to the ineptitude and corruption. We're a laughing joke when it comes to our roads; pure and simple. It's that dangerous to drive in Quebec. And if one more city official goes on tv urging us to take public transit I'm gonna hurl.

When I drive I sometimes look into the bus next to me and all the people jammed and crammed like sardines with iPods. Sure. Just what I want in mid-July. Smelling natural human ordors settled in for the day mix with Irish Spring. Sure.

The system is already stretched and now they want pretty much the entire population to ride buses and bikes? So impractical. So unrealistic and so not cool.

It's hard to avoid anectodal evidence in these circumstances. I know. We observe what we see, and what we see can be deceiving as well as the truth.

When I look at the state of our roads, it's a good way to imagine what education and public health look like if they were visible to the naked eye. Geez. The one thing the state should be taking care of - infrastructure -they can't even get right. Imagine the more complex stuff like education and health care.

I wonder if there's an innovative way to integrate private solutions to work in tandem with the pubic sector. After all, it just can't continue like this.

Gotta go. Going to play chicken with Transport Quebec.

2010-04-27

The Commentator Has New Fans

I just discovered family members are actually wasting their time reading this blog. No more stories about my sex crazed, drug bingers folks.

Sorry. 

For the longest time no one cared about what I was up to here. Hell, I barely care.

Nonetheless.

Defend the dividend!

Taxing dividend income is evil and if you have no idea why then you're evil.

Superiority Complex Through The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect.

You know the type.

Not sure if this classifies as DKE but years ago there was a soccer player on our high school team who basically thought he was DiStefano-Maradona-Pele-Baggio-Messi rolled into one. We were a team of "stars" who played elsewhere in higher leagues and in comes this nobody who filled out a roster spot speaking highly of his own skills. No one listens to guys like that until they prove it. It didn't take long into the warm up to see he was full of shit. He rode pine the whole season - as he deserved - only to come in to replace an injured player or in a blow out.

As one team mate guy put it, "coach, why don't you put Gretzky in? We're up 5-0!"

How Not To Handle Debt

"I come first."

Never convince yourself of this when you owe money.

Your debt, the one you freely incurred, comes first.

That 60 bucks you're planning to buy something with is better off going to service the debt. It's wrong - even immoral - not to pay someone back.

Big Band As Rebellion

Every generation has a youth rebellion. In the 1950s, the rockers of that era (the original punks) shocked older Americans with all those possessed violent hip gyrations. "Why in my day music wasn't about sexuality!"

Yeah, right. Like the Jazz age was innocent. Whenever I see big band orchestras I see a form of rebellion in its own right. To what, I'm not sure. Ragtime? Classical music? Vaudeville?

Cab Calloway seemed pretty "possessed" to me.

Differing Views Of Conservatism

Here's a personal classical liberal perspective of Tea Party conservatism. Classically liberal is a personal favorite blog.

Just want to offer an alternative thought. Notice I said 'Tea party conservatives' because I see them as an "offshoot" of traditional conservatism. The (oft cited) idea that conservatives can't reason on a secular level is patently ridiculous - certain conservatives are certainly warped but not all . I reject it outright. I also scoff at the "conservatives are angry" angle. How to even measure but for reliance on perceptions? I see a whole lotta anger too on the left if you ask me. Just like there are morons and extreme elements within the conservative ranks we have them in the progressive liberal ranks who are equal to the task of depraved intolerance.

Here's a conservative perspective of conservaitsm.

Hardly a 'Tea Party' type I reckon.

I enjoyed this passage because it's exactly how I view life:

"I believe conservatism is a protest against marching forward merely for the sake of marching. As I noted earlier here, G. K. Chesterton said we need to have some idea what our destination is if we want to progress. If progressives have no idea where we're going other than toward some vague goal of fairness, then how do we know if we're progressing at all? If I begin a journey without a destination, how do I even begin?"

I hate doing things "just because." I see that in sports all the time. Aimless teams make bizarre decisions all the time without progressing much even though they give the impression they are. Everyone's snapping fingers, shuffling papers, saying things but what gets done?

I guess it comes down to the speed of change. Progressive want it quicker, conservatives would rather be cautious.

2010-04-26

Green Team!


More Annoying Assertions: It'll Become A Habit So Chill

What's the big deal? Why are people complaining? So what if they have to bring their own bags to grocery stores and pay a nickel? We're changing habits - not sure to what ends - but it's all good we're sure. I pay the nickel or dime each time. I have a problem with using reusable bags when I buy chicken and they don't use those little plastic bags for meat anymore.

It'll become a habit. Fuck I hate sentence.

No fucking kidding it'll become a habit. We're creatures, for the most part, of habit! Which is why the state and corporations love to prey on that little genetic glitch.

It's one thing for people to carelessly say such things but when I hear politicians and so-called intellectual pundits saying it....fumes from my ears.

Just because something becomes a habit doesn't mean the premise that led to the change was the correct one.

Gang de'cris de moutons.

The Kitchen Sink Party

Tea Party. Townhalls.

What about the 'Kitchen Sink' party?

Now to find a purpose and platform. Let's start with beer commercial hotties and mover from there.

***

Heard a GOP-type say: Obama is the most radical president in American history.

Now, people are losing their minds.

Then, I guess, so too was Bush.

Arizona Passes Anti-Ilegal Immigration Bill; The Great Canadian Illegal Immigration Problem

That extreme liberals are insane is well documented. We also know far-right conservatives suffer from several mysterious mental disorders as well. And no doubt, they will both chime in with their take on the anti-illegal immigration bill in Arizona. A bill that seems to make illegal immigration, erm, illegal.

Now. I'm Canadian. I can't possibly begin to understand what the fine folks living in states that border Mexico are witnessing. My confused province of Quebec shares a border with Vermont for cripes sakes. Bo-ring! No shoot to kill orders round here.

Aside from all the strawman fallacies being put up, the fact remains, people are gaining access into a host country illegally. If citizens of the leftist-tilt believe in the rule of law as they claim (and they do), then isn't dealing (and not with this bill in particular) with this problem a must in order to preserve the foundation of what is liberal democracy?

People have rightfully pointed how it can pose problems on civil liberties. But. Does anyone see a delicious irony here? Liberals have no problem trampling on civil liberies so long as it serves their purposes. Like those on the right, they cherry pick what they bitch about. And don't look to the right for suggestions since they're all for law & order enforcement authoritarianism.

Assigning blame won't do much good either. It looks like everyone has a hand in this. Including Corporations and private individuals addicted to cheap labour and government officials who turned a blind eye to it.

Clearly, something has to be done, no? After all, people are breaking the law! As for those already in the country, well, that'll be an interesting thing to see how our friends handle that. I wonder how many of them find their way into Canada.

***

Which brings me to the great anti-illegal immigration crisis of 1862. Only this time it involved Canadians. Their motives were different than the Mexicans as they sought to escape the numbing boredom of pre- BNA-Act Canada.

1 million Canadians of both French, English and gosh, Scottish extraction illegally poured into the northern U.S. states to pick strawberries, make beer, perform in comedy theater during the Civil War, and play a peculiar and violent sport that can only be described as a hybrid of hockey, lacrosse and curling.

Soon after the war, immigration became a politically charged issue and Canickians (as Canadians were called) were thought to be corrupting blacks by encouraging them to sing the blues and filling Americans with frivolous notions of "peace, order and good government."

Eventually, half the Canickians returned to Canada and decided to make a country of a land expected to carry the torch of the British Empire. They signed the BNA Act and the rest is history. No really. It became a historical fact when the Dominion of Canada was born in 1867.

As for the remaining Canickians who stayed behind not much is known of these "sojourners." Some may have split for Mexico, others like the Beauchamps became the Bowchamps or the Nicefields. Some believe they continued to influence American culture behind the scenes. One theory traces Canadian comedians working in Hollywood are in fact part of the same tribe who performed for soldiers during the Civil War.

Either way, illegal immigration was dealt with and its lasting impact remains with us in strange ways.

Brother To Run In Poland

The twin brother of deceased President of Poland Lech Kaczynski has decided to run.

His slogan? "It's like he never left!"

Only in Poland.

Thanks, you've been great. Getottahere! Crazy cats. I'll be here all week!

2010-04-25

Pet peeve

The other night I was switching back and forth between three basketball and hockey games. You'd think think the odds of you avoiding commercials were pretty high, no? Right. On more than one occasion all three games cut to commercials.

It's like it's all planned.

Mark-a-ting Gee-nyus

Zevon And Newman Not in R&R Hall Of Fame. Who Knew?

I'm not much of a "Hall of fame" (except for baseball because, man, it's hard to get into that) kind of guy nor am I much for awards ceremony. Oscars, Grammy's etc. Never watched an episode. Art shouldn't be about that shit anyway. Besides, nothing beats reruns of The Littlest Hobo on Vision TV around 2am. Damn that dog.

That being said, I scarce believe my eyes when I looked over who's in the Rock'n roll Hall of Fame. Madonna? Abba? Earth, Wind & (fricken) fire? Aside from those three, I guess the list is fair but for two glaring omissions: Warren Zevon and Randy Newman?

The same bizarre oversight happens at Canada's Walk of Fame as they continue to snub Andy Kim for some reason.

Zevon: "Who wanted Werewolves of Lima?" Classic.



What Is Godwin's Law?

I observed Godwin's Law during the Bush years without knowing it actually existed since 1990.

During his administration I complained a lot about people who constantly made attempts to compare anything and everything with Nazi Germany. Most had no idea how to connect the past with a contemporary issue. It became retarded at one point.

More Campus Problems In Canada

Personally, I think the commenters are missing the point about freedom of speech.

Slippery Slope On A Concrete Highway?

My friend was telling me about how his brother was ticketed by photo radat at 4am for speeding. The idea behind photo radar is to reduce speeding because you know the saying, "speeding kills." So do strokes. Bah.

However, what dangers to others are there really on the road at 4am? My friend was surprised that radars weren't shut off at those times. For him, this was nothing but a cash grab.

Duh.

But people don't really like to ponder the potential intrusion on personal responsibilities by the state. They buy the "well, it's only good for you" line and move on. They assume the state will be logical in its application of rules. Yes, I do feel radars should be shut off at certain points on highways. It's on the residential roads where zero tolerance should be applied. If the speed limit is 30 km/hr in a school zone and you're clocked doing 40, yes, you deserve all that's coming to you. Doing 130 km/hr on an empty high way poses little risk except to yourself - and that's a personal choice.

***

Speaking of speed limits, I assert Transport Quebec and the government of Quebec have acted irresponsibily and illogically by setting the limits on the service road of the Met (Trans-Canada; Highway 40) at 50 km/hr. I use that road everyday and each time I fear an accident. 50km/hr is waaayyy too low for that spot. 70km/hr is far more reasonable. I do 50 and not a km more because I don't want to get pinched by the cops and give them my money. However, believe me when I tell you I cheat death often.

***

I mentioned in the previous post about how liberals love to describe the populist/capitalist narrative as the "sheep and the wolf." Obama seems to take that posture when he says companies who don't "bilk" people don't have to fear his reforms.

One liberal commentator couldn't have put it any more clear about the entire philosophical outlook of how liberals view life and why they accept state control: People can't be trusted. I have a liberal friend. A smart cookie at that. He tends to see life through that prism. People are stupid and if they won't listen they should be forced (or mandated) to do so and comply.

Sure thing O'Brien.

The latest battle is regarding the FDA's decision to force companies and restaurants to restrict the use of salt in processed and cooked foods.

The science behind salt isn't complicated. It does lead to high blood pressure and too much of it isn't good for you. That they want to do this is not necessarily a bad thing or wrong. However, it's another example of "saving people from themselves." The sheep must be protected from the wolf.

Interestingly, Campbell's and Kraft had announced they were cutting salt and I've seen many products and companies with a "'less salt" tag well before the state decided to get involved. There were moves to make changes.

Last, above all, I take offense that someone would say, "I can't be trusted" because I happen to be one of those people who carefully reads ingredients on the back of cans and boxes. So, that commentator can kiss my ass. "One-size fits all" has its limits and I'm growing tired of having to pay for the sins of others.

Blame As A Means To A Political End

Since I'm on the topic of investments, it's crazy how politics works eh? When Bush jr. attempted to beging the process of reforming Wall St. (what a nutty neo-con, eh?) he was stopped by? Anyone? Dodd and Obama and other Democrats. They probably said things like "government has no place on Wall St."

Now, the tide has changed. Obama wants to reform Wall St. because it's the populist and vote winning thing to do. The scapegoat? Because we all need one, right? Anyone who watches sports knows there always has to be one. Never look at the team or management. Look for the "lazy European" or isolate one little play that cost a goal. Same crap in politics. Of course,Obama has a halo on his head and it's so easy to blame banks so it's a no-brainer to single out Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs did play a risky game. No doubt about it. However, it wasn't illgeal; it was unethical. It was a form of short selling at its worst but I'm willing to bet, like my example in the last post of the client who wanted a portfolio of nothing but income trusts, most of the investors involved knew exactly what they were doing. Only liberals believe in the philosophy of the sheep and the wolf - more on this in the next post. But the company has been arond since Doyle was writing Sherlock Holmes. It's one of the most successful banks in history. That they're arrogant is inconsequnetial. The New York Yankees are arrogant too. Who cares?

The truth is, Obama is absolving the role the government played in all this. Actually, they probably started the whole damn thing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Bonnie & Clyde). They're the ones who hastened the housing bubble. Coercing banks to lend money to high risk clients was a government idea; not a private bank one. Another issue was the Federal Reserve being looser than wives of Roman emperors using their assets to further their political ambitions with credit.

Which brings me to "reform." Sure. Reform away. But doing it by blaming one player should give pause to the quality of the cure for a disease. Remember: The process does matter.

One of the things Obama is looking for is "transparency." I'm all for transparency. He forced, for example, credit cards to stop the fine print bull. That was good. Still, in life, certain things are best left unsaid. Investments have so many mercurial attributes it's impossible to regulate it unless you flat out take it over. It's human economic interaction at its height and you have to, dare I say it, trust it. Pink sheets, OTC trades - whatever - are risky investments too. The best thing to do is be vigilant and hope you have a broker with wise words to share. The government can't do it all.

Ironically, bonds are notorious for their "wild west" characteristics. Getting information on some bonds is so hard you're probably better off trying to find out who killed JFK. Yet, they're the "safest" investment out there - depending on the quality.

Income Trusts Were A Loss To Investors

I find myself in absolute agreement with the author's assessment about income trusts. It was indeed a major disappointment that a "onservative leader like Stephen Harper would abolish it. Income trusts, when used appropriately within a diversified portfolio, were an excellent investment option; one in which Americans didn't have I might add.

Just give you an idea how people become attached to a good thing, one client needed a certain amount per month to meet his living expenses. I couldn't meet his requirements within the current structure of the portfolio and suggested he rethink his goals. Relative to the funds available, it was impossible to squeeze the portfolio anymore unless we invested in high risk investment. Of course, he wanted maximum return with the least amount of risk. They all do. Their concept of risk is different from an advisor.

Finally, he first asked if we could convert the entire portfolio into income trusts because of their tax advantages and outstanding high yields. When we balked at it explaining the inherent risk - putting eggs in one basket, what if gas and oil (most of the top income trust were energy and gas and oil based) drops in price?, what if the government changes the structure? etc. It's called hedging your bets by keeping these considerations at bay - he complained to the managed of the branch and ordered we do it.

So we did. He paid all the necessary fees and next thing I knew, his $450 000 nest egg was an income trust onto itself. I nodded my head in disapproval but at least he got his monthly take - barely.

Soon after I left the business - thankfully - and shortly after my departure Harper pulled his income trust nonsense. I shutter to think what happened to the client. He probably blamed us no doub.

It does happen where a client is explained in detail about the risky endeavour they're about to embark on and they turn around and try and blame you when things go sour. The classic case is the semi-sophisticated investor who plays big boy games in the options market with a margin account. The leverage effect is vivcious on a downturn. Naturally, the bank wanted its money when a margin call came. The client, in turn, would be surprised at how much they owned. No matter how many times you explained how margin works, they would still claim "robbery."

It's why we did very little option trading and/or margin investing. Margins were reserved for the sophisticated, high net worth investor as an added tool if needed. Used properly, margin can be beneficial but it takes enormous caution and discipline.

Back to the post. Yes, I agree with his assessment on income trusts. I agree less with how he chose to connect it with the debate in the U.S. regarding health care reform. What is "Misinformation" is really depends where you sit. Despite "death panels" there were legitimate concerns attached with the bill; prime among them was how those selling didn't read the bill itself. The size of the bill is absurd thanks to all the kickback not only to those who opposed it but to assuage and gain the votes of Democrats. In the end, it still narrowly passed. And then there's the whole democratic notion of listening to the majority of which most were against. One could argue because of the "misinformation" but I'm not so sure of this.

Financially, and the author ought know this, America is not in the best position  to take on such a task at this time. One need only look at Canada to see how fast universal health care costs rise. In Quebec, health takes up 45% of our budget. Most of the costs go to labour.

And there is a valid debate to be made with overall quality to cost; that is, is Canada's universal health care system providing quality care? Not when one looks at OECD studies. Everytime I read it, we rank at the bottom.

In any event, finacially speaking, there is no doubt in my mind the math used by the Democrats was confused and enaged in misinformation as well. They deliberately used vague buzz words like "deficit-neutral" and that taxes would not increase. Look, only two ways can pay for such a thing: You borrow the cash or you raise taxes. Or both.

Yes, and the author mentions it, if you happen to feel caring for all is worth the cost then so be it. It's a fair and humane argument. Almost enough to put up with how government runs things. However, it doesn't follow because people don't agree it automatically makes them unsympathetic and spreaders of misinformation.

All this to say, I enjoyed his post.

2010-04-24

2010-04-23

Vacations Are Not Rights

Paid vacations a "right?"

No. I don't think it is.

While it's important to keep an eye out for the well-being of employees, saying paid vacations are a right confuses wage agreement, privileges and rights. 

Can privileges graduate to rights? It seems that's what we do.

She's A Natural Part Deux

The other day I was cleaning up my four year-old daughter in the bathroom and accidentally left the water running. She told me in French, "daddy, in school they always tell us to not waste!" Why, the little twirp.

Doesn't she know I eat babies like her everyday? That I'm an evil right-winger incapable of rational thought? I looked at her straight in the eyes and said, "No dinner for you, kiddo."

Bring your environmental bull shit in this house will ya? I'll show you.

But then I realized I was wrong and earth day was around the corner and so I unchained and fed her.

After all, she did have a point about waste. I talk of financial waste all the time so why not water waste?

The Welfare State And Society

We've come a long way since Otto von Bismarck designed the first welfare programs in Europe in the 19th century. He also transformed the German character to one of a highly militarized and organized one. Other nations soon jumped on the band wagon and we then moved from a welfare society to a welfare state. The costs associated with a generous welfare state are a growing concern.

This may come as a surprise to some of you but I don't "hate" the welfare state. I'm just concerned about its growth. The welfare state, it seems, has become a means to an end where the state has decided it must involve itself in large parts of the economy and private lives.

I don't subscribe to some of the criticisms against the welfare state like it "creates lazy people." I think most people have enough pride and self-worth to use welfare as a means to get themselves up and running again. It's a shame some game the system contributing to waste, but just like I don't like capitalism getting whipped based on the actions of a few, it's only fair to assert social programs shouldn't be abolished because of some lazy, moron.

While I would like to believe the welfare state leads to lower national incomes, there isn't evidence of that...yet. The closest thing to it is the Pareto improvement.  Inefficiencies - however you desrcibe them - happen in both the public and private sectors. Which is worse?

Sweden is over taxed but still functions although the alarm bells are ringing. Which brings me to taxes. Western countries (excluding Switzerland) tax anywhere between 30% and 60% of personal income. When you cross the 50% line is it unreasonable to think the state is slowly taking over?

That being said, I'd still prefer less interventionism. 50% of personal income going to the state is high for my taste. It's how I'm wired.

Taxation Around The World

List of most taxed countries as a percentage of GDP.

2010-04-22

Everyone Gets The Shaft

Leftists believe the private sector is giving them the shaft. Rightists believe it's the state giving them big shaft.

I'm left handed. I'm so confused. 

***

I keep hearing about how Obama wants to be more transparent. In fact, his administration has proven to be more secretive with the press according to the LA Times.  He bypasses that by using social media to give the impression he is 'open.'

Where Culinary Integrity And Reality Collide

The best movie you've never seen: Big Night. Fantastic acting all-round.

There's a little of Primo and Secondo (the brothers played by Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci in the scene) in me. I've seen first hand in restaurants clients make total asses of themselves. Asking for things that make no sense. The lady in this cut (the Philistine criminal according to Primo) chimes in with a "oh, look it comes with leaves" to describe basil.

As a restaurant owner starving for clients what do you do? Do you give into the ignorant demands  - and yes eating risotto AND pasta at the same time is a crime against food - or do you ask them to leave? Clearly, the brothers didn't have a choice but it robs Primo of his artistic soul.

Petty Crime Doesn't Always Need A Punishment

In The Blue Carbuncle, Sherlock Holmes explains why he chose to not report a thief to the authorities:

"This fellow will not go wrong again. He is too terribly frightened. Send him to the gaol now, and you make him a gaolbird for life."

How many people, I ask, are doing time for petty crimes? How many of those would be better off serving society and community otherwise? How many have we indeed lost for being too harsh? Crime and punishment is a delicate balancing act. Go too soft and that sends the wrong signals, be too hard and you run the risk of destroying lives that could be saved.

Yes, it's true we've taken these words to heart in some cases but in others can it be said the same? Then again, how many people roll their eyes whenever they see someone ask for leniency? When I watch Law & Order, I sometimes find myself against McCoy and the DA. Over aggressive DA's scare me.

I do believe a person who commits a crime can be frightened to the point of never repeating.

Call me a bleeding heart. Ga'head.

Contemplating Renovating Overhaul At Royal Victoria; Build It And They Will Come

I was at the Royal Victoria hospital, the other day. The hospital, for those interested, was built through the philanthropy of Scottish immigrants - oh, how we've come a long way! The government acts as a philanthropic donor now.

As I walked up to the beast overlooking the city; architecturially designed in the "Scottish Baronial" style which was part of the Gothic revival in the late 19th century, I wondered if the place had its time.

I don't mean we should gut it but with all this talk of the superhospital (more on this in a minute), perhaps we could undertake a massive renovation project to modernize the Vic while keeping key architecturially preseved by blending it into a new design. I don't know if it's feasible or if building a super hospital is simply a better option.

When I hear about "Super Hospital" - expected to be built in 2014. Bets anyone if that will happen? - I keep thinking a cape will be sewn around it. As if all our problems will be whisked away under a modern structure to keep up with the times. It also conjures up other metaphors like "Super Bureaucracy" and "Super Taxes" and "Super Mismanagement."

The idea of a new mega medical Wal-Mart sounds interesting and I want to believe it will be all for the good but really, it's not like the original blue print went perfectly. The proponents talk a good game with all their sexy buzz words like "patient-centric" - which makes me wonder what the heck was it before if not patient oriented? Cost- centric? Did someone suddenly snap his finger in a hospital cafeteria while wolfing down terrible food shout, "I got it! We're a hospital, right? And hospitals are filled with people - sick people, right? Ok. follow me. It should then follow we focus our energies on, get this, PEOPLE! Next thing you know, high-fives and big fat thumb-ups are exchanged and the douche is promoted.

The major problem I have with this thing is most of the talk is on the "brick and mortar" with a lot of assumptions thrown in between. It's like a bunch of drunk guys talking about putting a softball league without much thought to the particulars: Like, can we play? Do we have enough guys? Which league will we join? What level? Who will sponsor us? Who will get the equipment? Will we have cheerleaders and groupies? Can we drink beer as we play? Maybe we should play hard ball instead? Will Pierre play since he's the best player in town? Etc.

Very little talk about what's going to be inside and how we'll achieve better service is discussed. We have doctor, nurse, equipment and bed shortages and I've yet to hear a comprehensive and enlightened plan of action to remedy this.Again to borrow another analogy, it reminds me of separatists who take for granted all they say will take place once they split,  actually take place. There's no reason to accept their assumptions at face value. I've never really seen a real, I mean real, document clearly and decisively explaining how we'd be better off and what steps will be taken to tackle practical issues brought up over the years. It's the "let's separate and we'll see" philosophy and I ain't buying into it.

I'm not optimistic because the government is just coming around to realizing the mess they've made of education and that's a simple issue next to health care!

This "built it and they will come and everthing will work itself out" approach will lead us into a super nightmare I reckon.
 
***

Speaking of tearing down architecturial gems, twenty years ago my family visited Italy and France. In Genoa we met up with a man at the behest of a friend (I think) who took us on a mini-tour. He was an annoying, condescending European twit not unlike you see on TV, meet in person or read in the papers about how great fucking Europe is and how young, impetuous and ignorant the new world is. Blah, blah, blah.

He kept saying in a mocking tone how much we "American drink Coke" with our meals. Pft. I never drink Coke. Or Pepsi for that matter. I don't drink soft drinks, really. Ok, the occasional Ginger-Ale, 7up and Sprite but that's it. Anyway. It was like, "what's up with this douchetard?" Well, my brother-in-law had enough. As we overlooked the picturesque and colorful apartments nestled on bridges and hills, the man continued on about the superiour-es-ness of Europe and asked my brother-in-law, "what-a doyou-a think-a? You don't-a have-a this-a in-a America-a, right-a? To which he answered, "No, we don't. That's because I'd tear all that crap down and put up modern condos."

The look on the guy's face was priceless even as I slapped my hand to my forehead. I'm not sure what happened to him afterwards but I'm sure we sang "na,na,na,na - na,na,na,na - hey, hey, hey, good-bye!"

I later asked my brother-in-law why he said it, and he replied, "He bugged the shit out of me. But I really would put up condos here."

Eat Earth

It's Earth day. Because every other day isn't.

2010-04-21

Vile Words!

With our obsession of being politcally correct I wonder if the phrase "To each his own"will be altered.

I'm sure some professor earning 100k a year will ask it be change "to each his or her own"  down the road. Probably the same chick who wanted to amend the lyrics to 'O, Canada' so it was "gender neutral."

Heck, why not just abolish the words 'his' and 'her' altogether!

Oof.

Life's A Bitch

These humorous pics, among others, came to me by way of email. The title was "How fairy tales really end." To my left is The Little Mermaid. I can't show this to my daughter given her love of The Little mermaid. Unless I really want to be cruel and laugh my ass off. The second one is Snow White.

Poet Emperor Wu Ti

An ode to a concubine:

The sound of her silk skirt has stopped.
On the marble pavement dust grows.
Her empty room is cold and still.
Fallen leaves are piled against the doors.
How can I bring my aching heart to rest?

Nothing like finding poetic inspiration in a mistress. I wonder what Emperor Wu Ti of the Han Dynasty would  have written for his wife.

She would wu-tee me with a delicate pinch that would send my soul directly to the gods above. Confucious says, she's a keeper.

2010-04-20

High Drop Out Rate In Quebec Rapes Our Future

This article is in French.

It gets straight to the heart of Quebec's education crisis. As I read through some of the comments, who would have thought Quebecers could have such a libertarian streak? There's an awful lot of calls for privatizing education in them there hills. It can't be worse than the absolute mess the government has made.

The author points out the drop out rate is beyond a problem; it's a tragedy. He also correctly points out it's a question of values as well.

It's not like the future is in good hands - recall Reagan's "Sell your bonds" after a sign that read "We're the future." He's looking more and more right with each passing day - as kids will be too stupid to solve societies problems. And don't look to parents to be part of the education process. They pay their "taxes" and don't want to be bothered with any of this. BUT, don't you dare give little Timmy retard a failing grade. Then the teacher will take a tongue lashing from the parent. So let's lower standards across the board! Let's make kids "feel" good. Let's keep tuition for post-secondary education artificially low because quality is nothing next to providing mediocre education to as many people as we can.

It gets worse of course. While parents do abdicate their effen responsibilities, some do take their jobs seriously and when they come to discipline their kids, they're taken to court where idiot judges over turn their punishments.

The bigger the welfare state, the smaller the will to achieve.

Sports Rivals, Enemies And Nationalism

On the same drive to Ottawa I mentioned in an earlier post, my friend and I talked about a lot of things including, not surprisingly, sports. Specifically, we talked about small countries who punch above their weight in different sports. Two countries that came up were Croatia and Serbia (and Montenegro) who have been known to produce great soccer, basketball and tennis players for small populations.

Eventually, the conversation steered to Gaetan Boucher and his remarkable and improbable two gold medals for Canada in speed skating at the Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984. Even back then I understood the significance of the achievement given Canada wasn't exactly a power in speed skating. Norway - another tiny country - the Netherlands, Germany and the United States tend to own that sport. It's only in the last 10 years or so has Canada become a major player and even power.

Years later, Boucher recounted his accomplishment on RDS - a French language sports program like TSN or ESPN. I told him the story of how Bocuher walked around what was once the outdoor speed track since unkept and infested with grass thanks to the civil war that ravaged the former Yugoslavia.

The conversation inevitably turned to politics and history about the region. We talked about the nationalist fervor and long memories the peoples in the region have. In some cases, the hatred stretches back to actions that took place 800 years ago. Letting go and moving forward is not an option it seems down there.

I witnessed first hand how fanatical Croat and Serb nationalism can be. Years ago I dated a girl of Croatian heritage. Her family was Catholic and hardly ones to bring the baggage from the motherland home. They were Canadian. Period. One day, we sat at the table drinking and eating perogi's with her extended family (cousins, uncles etc.) and they spoke of the war. Suddenly, the jovial talk turned dark. The uncle spoke of how he wanted his sons to go fight and die if necessary for Croatia.

My girlfriend's brother and I exchanged uncomfortable glares just before he said, "but uncle, you're willing to let your sons be killed in a war that has nothing to do with us?" Well, fists pounding on the tables were never so powerful. The brother persisted, "you came to a peaceful and beautiful land and you mock this place with this nonsense?"

I don't remember what happened exactly after but I do remember the rage in their eyes to defend their beloved country. Me? I just wanted to watch The Simpsons.

Years later, another friend of mine had tickets for a water polo match at the Aquatic championship held in Montreal. I figured what the hey. I hate water polo but it was outside and it was a nice summer evening. It's not like I was going to watch the Expos since they split town for that lousy place. As fate would have it, we watched Croatia and Serbia - mortal enemies - do battle. At one point, it felt it wasn't a sports match anymore. The shouting between the opposing fans grew more and more sinister as the game progressed. I observed Serb fans inch closer and closer to the Croat side as the cops began to hover. There stood two hams, yours truly and my friend, between it all.

I think Serbia won. I didn't care much. I came away with much more than a water polo match.

Profound Thinkings With The Commentator

Sometimes I really challenge myself intellectually. To the point, really, of exhaustion. Sprawled across my bed with my tongue sticking out exhaustion. Like the time I beat myself silly wondering who I would marry: Betty or Veronica. Pros and cons to both I tell ya. I went through the same exercise with Wilma and Betty. So tiring.

So it was when I wondered - out loud of course - if I'd sleep with one of those Avatar aliens. I didn't see the film but it's still worth pondering. How bad can it be? Sure, I'd be wary - what with the possibility of contracting an unknown disease - but man, chances are she'd ravage me.

Captain Kirk was famous for banging green aliens and he didn't seem to get sick. I doubt condoms were effective against alien juices I reckon.

2010-04-19

Brain Teaser

I want to know how Americans went from "Protesting Bush is patriotic" to "Protesting Obama is racist."

Anyone?

Similar shifts in outlook take place here in Canada too. Canadians accepted Chretien's dictatorial attributes - which is standard stuff given the high concentration of power residing within the PM's grasp - bestowing upon him majority rule for 13 years but harp on Harper's "mean-spiritedness" and "hidden agenda" despite a minority government.

CBS Poll On Tea Party

Like this CBS poll about the Tea Party. Interesting figures.

Hardly "angry, old, white, poor, racist men" trumpeted by hasty opponents. As I suspected, a little more complex. True, most are men and white but if this movement has any real traction that may moderate along he way. It's still too soon to tell if they're for real or just a temporary motivated organization.

Speaking of tea, I find the caffeine in tea sometimes keeps me up all night. It's more powerful than espresso. I'm sure some liberals are kept all night with the prospect of Palin riding on a TP or GOP ticket. To be honest, I understand their concerns.

The More Perspectives The Better

When will the McLoughlin Group bring in a pundit from the libertarian ranks on the panel? Say, from Reason magazine.

Generally, the show generally has a stable cast of two leftist liberals and two rightist conservatives hammering one another in a game of one upmanship. If Motherjones gets representation why not someone outside the socialist/liberal/conservative clique?

Clinton's Words Matter Too

Words do matter. Yet, the former President - who still hasn't had the good grace to fade away with Presidential dignity - presents us with his own specious logic. I don't necessarily disagree with the basic tenet but his analogies ring hollow. 

Attempting to connect Rush Limbaugh and/or the Tea Party movement to radical domestic terrorism is quite an assertion to make without a shred of evidence. Especially coming from a politician who capitalized politically on the tragedy of Oklahoma tragedy. Clinton can't protect his legacy forever from the "vast right-wing conspiracy." And more here.//volokh.com/2010/04/19/the-clinton-terror-bill/#comments

Of course, this argument works in reverse. The right shouldn't play similar games.

Here in Quebec politicians have become artistically adept - wittingly or otherwise - at saying one thing but winking at the same time. They'll say stuff like, "We believe in a tolerant and pluralist society" on one side but then they turn around and hire more OLF inspectors to harrass businesses for breaking draconian language laws. "There's too much English indeed" is the signal it sends. Therefore, it negates the original assertion of claiming to be "tolerant."

Clinton is not helping matters by coyly summarizing neatly a logical position with what is in fact a smear by painting one person or persons with one huge brush.

We see a lot of that on both sides of the ideological divide.

Incovenient Truths, Convenient Lies

I was thinking about Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' while chomping down on an egg roll earlier. I didn't watch the film nor do I plan to. Obviously, this post shan't attempt to review the film itself. However, the subject of the film is enough for me.

I'll tell you what'll be incovenient. If 10,20,30 years from now the film will still be shown in classrooms or the data will continue to be adjusted so as to meet the ever challenges of nature's demands.Some pony tailed dude in broken down sandals weakened physically (with a brain fed on nothing but sunflower sprouts - which are delicious in a sandwich and salad by the way. I add toasted almonds to that and hm-mm! Good feedin'!) by a vegan diet will continue to preach to a new generation of kids about the inevitability of it all. At some point, dude will be right, right? Give the guy some credit for sticking to his beliefs. Seriously.

Further inconveniences will happen if sequels are made. The only reason why I bring this up is not because I don't believe we abuse the earth (I think we do), but because (as a somewhat of a betting man), I wage that the doomsday scenarios depicted if  "we don't act" won't happen. Not at the speed, at least, posited by global warming/climate change practitioners. I don't know what to call them anymore.

One last note about Gore, why does he hide behind a movie to espouse his views but doesn't debate publicly about the terror in our midst? One would think if we're in dire circumstances the guy would tirelessly hit the public speaking discourse.

How convenient!

Now's A Good Time To Buy Toyota

On our drive to Ottawa to catch the Senators play the Pittsburgh Penguins, my buddy (an engineer) and I talked about a bunch of things and one of the topics was Toyota. According to him, if you've always wanted to buy a Toyota, you'd be smart to buy one now since they have to rebuild their brand. There are deals to be had.

We both agreed it was absurd for Toyota to be put in this position. 30 years to build a stellar reputation and one faulty mechanical issue to destroy it?

Dumb. Thank the media and U.S. government for their part in this. Of course, the government was acting like any corporation since they, you know, essentially own General Motors (the Lada of North America at this point). So what better way to further superficially prop up a piece of crap product in addition to bail outs) by bashing your main competitor to death? It's just good business from their perspective.

Now it's coming out that it was, as some asserted when the story first came out, possibly driver error that launched this hysteria to which the media and government were all too willing to capitalize on. It's called pedal misapplication and it does remind me, now that it's been brought up, of the "sudden acceleration" problem with Audi in the 1980s.

I was skeptical about the Toyota scare all along. A company like Toyota doesn't suddenly become terrible and inept. As for the Americans, maybe it's time they stop the bull shit of bringing back retro cars of the 1970s repackaged for the 2010s and start using their talents in designing innovative cars.

Why are you still reading this post? Git!

2010-04-18

We're In The Movies

Why is it cast members of SNL (and SCTV) are in the movies more than those of MADtv ?

America Turns Its Back On Mankind

President Obama recently unveiled his new "vision" for NASA. While he increased funding for NASA, he shut down the Space Shuttle and Constellation programs. From what I gather, not too many people, including former astronauts, will not miss the space shuttle. Given the current economic climate, there wasn't any stomach or inspiration to keep it going. Obama's plans, essentially, will off shoot certain operations to private industry and focus on robotic technology. Human interaction with space comes to a screeching halt.

This move reminded me of a couple of things. First, so much for the humanist Renaissance outlook of man challenging himself. Those in favor of Obama's plans cite NASA no longer had a clear purpose and was a cash sinkhole. Perhaps, but isn't that the role of government to instill inspiration and a clear objective through effective policy? Second, it reminded me of a discussion held among historians about China's lack of presence during the Age of Exploration despite having the technology and know-how to reach all corners of the globe. Just as the West opened itself up, China began to look inwards and secretive. Hence, they missed the boat - excuse the pun - on exporting Chinese culture abroad.

I can't shake the feeling that on some level, this is exactly what the Americans are doing. Citing economics, they've decided to forego their role in human-manned space travel in a frontier we've barely begun to explore. This will leave the door open to countries who still see value in it. Chief among them being China.  Wouldn't that be ironic?

I've heard people cry, "we can't take care of our people here so why should we care about space?" I think this is a myopic view. Why does it have to be one or the other? You'll never be in a perfect situation to explore. Portugal was the poorest nation in Europe (still is among the poorest) when it undertook its maritime exploration adventure in the 15th century. Economics works both ways, you seek new trade routes to enhance a poor position or you avoid it because you think it's too expensive.

In a different vain because we weren't and aren't a maritime power, here in Canada, we used the same logic in the 1990s when the debate centered around funding the military. Everyone wanted to pour the money into health as if it were all a means to an end and that it was the only aspect of our being worth preserving.  When athletes asked for funding it was the same response, "give it to health." Naturally, both our sports amateur programs and the military whithered.

It's a shame to see America take this route. America was always about the future. Leading a great nation and people into frontiers unknown to mankind. They, at one point, were the torch bearers of the Renaissance, Englightenment and Age of Exploration. Now? Where are they? Obama's decision raises bigger questions about America's overall role in mankind.

2010-04-17

The Color Of Skins

Ever wonder why we have black and white skinned people? Ok, there's yellow and brown but you know what I mean.

Why not blue? Or red? Or green?

Mind you, I thnk we turn green from time to time after a few drinks. I still can't drink Black Russians after that night. I'd rather not get into it.

From Old Dominion To Lower Canada

Zeus is Watching (though I always wonder what exactly. The NHL playoffs?) enlightens readers with a post about the American South.

A couple of comments by he and Paul captured my attention.

Paul:

"This reminds me of a conversation I had back in 1967 ot Salvo campground in North Carolina’s Outerbanks. I was chatting with an about 20 years of age campground employee while shaving. At one point I told him:”Donald, hearing you talk you’d think the Secession war is not over”; he shot back:”You’re dang right it ain’t”. But that was 43 years ago. He must be around 60 today. I wonder if he still thinks the same way?"

Zeus - still watching I presume:

"The one I’ve heard not long ago is “Lee surrendered. We didn’t.”

I had to chime in with my nickel and dime in the thread as well. These comments, I reckon, can be applied to Quebec as well with a different twist. I've heard nationalists/secessionists/patriotes say in different variations that while Quebec's original signatories officially made Quebec a province within the Dominion of Canada, they didn't."

Newspapers Rebounding

Look at it this way, at least Americans will likely be spared of a newspaper bailout for now.  

United Kingdom: Winston Who?

Squatters are quite the social problem in the UK - a place that's slowly losing its marbles. Don't believe me? Read this story.

The same kind of stupid and insipid thinking happens here too. Even if you rightly and justly protect your home by shooting or beating down a tresspasser looking to rob or harm you, you can bet your sweet buttocks the criminal justice system will try its best to defend and protect the bum who initiated the incident.

Just another example for future historians to trace back where and how the West fell.

2010-04-16

It's Official!

With the arrival of my permit and the city okaying our renovation plans, I now officially own a day care center.

Now. To fill that sucker up with 57 kids.

Nanny State Knows All

Heard a New Democrat Party (NDP) member on the radio say something roughly sounding like, "we're against privatization of any kind and want a 100% public health system."

This after someone had just called in and reasonably said, "I like private MRI clinics. It was covered by my company insurance and I enjoyed the experience. If I can afford it why should it be denied to me?"

EXACTLY.

If the NDPer had a chance to respond he would have said, "Are you some sort of right-wing nut who doesn't have a heart?"

What-evah. Talk to the hand, broth-ah.

I can't believe we live in a time where we're coerced and badgered into a one-size fits all philosophical framework in the best interest of the collective. I don't believe it's right or fair. Have a public system but if people want private options LET THEM.

Police Ticket Man For 'Wandering'

I don't know. This seems a little excessive on the part of the Lasalle police if you ask me.

It's a fine line between doing their jobs and abuse of power.

A couple of weeks back they ticketed a young black girl for putting her school bag next to her on a public park bench. It's amazing how many laws are in the books but enforced on a whim it seems.

2010-04-15

Of Slippery Slopes And Obamacare's True Cost

The other day I heard Montreal city councilor Alan de Souza  - a rmember of Gerald Tremblay's party Union Montreal  - defend Quebec's decision to increase taxes with a "it won't put people in the poor house" rationale. It upset me quite a bit. Because it won't allegedly put us in the "poor house" is not a proper justification to raise taxes. After all, what's two cents here and three cents there? Just be glad we're not doing what we really want to do!

Taxes are inherently inefficient and contribute to the erosion of wealth. Taxes expropriated to "balance books" distorted by government policy is something I find hard to support. Which leads me to this article in Le Quebecois Libre.

On Obamacare:
From a libertarian perspective, President Obama’s recent triumph in the healthcare reform fight was not cause for celebration. Libertarians object to the legislation’s guiding philosophy, neatly captured by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that healthcare is “a right and not a privilege.” But a right to be free from something merely requires others to leave you be; a right to something requires others to act and to pay for the cost. The basis of libertarianism is that no one is allowed to tell competent adults what to do, or to take their property.


This argument is unlikely to win converts, though. Ours is clearly a society in which the idea that government is entitled to tax and spend has widespread legitimacy. In practical terms, some believe that state-run medicine is too expensive, even if moral. Others claim that public healthcare reduces costs by eliminating administrative and marketing overhead and the need to turn a profit.
On Slippery Slopes:


Slippery slopes can be good things. Slippery slopes brought us desegregation, secularism, legalized abortion and gay marriage. Good things all, in my view. But even if you disagree, the point is that policy is not static. Like a shark, it is forever in motion. Sometimes it moves in directions you like, sometimes not. Sometimes it moves in your favoured direction and reaches your ideal destination—only, to your horror, to continue along its way, by which point your feckless cries of “Too much!” go unheeded.

Assessing Government Policy With A Critical Eye And Mind

Great, neat post I enjoyed about how bad government policy can be and its twisted results.

Why settle on just that post? The entire The Market Watch site is a great source of information.

What Consensus Looks Like To Some

Ouch.

21 of 44 chapters in the United Nations' Nobel-winning climate bible earned an F on a report card released today. Forty citizen auditors from 12 countries examined 18,500 sources cited in the report – finding 5,600 to be not peer-reviewed.
Contrary to statements by the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the celebrated 2007 report does not rely solely on research published in reputable scientific journals. It also cites press releases, newspaper and magazine clippings, student theses, newsletters, discussion papers, and literature published by green advocacy groups. Such material is often called "grey literature."
More findings at Citizen Audit here. Ugh.

How Much Is That Surgery In The Window?

I enjoyed this post at Classically Liberal.

I remember, being the inquisitive mind that I am, asking my doctor how much an ACL surgery costs. He looked at me perplexed with a "what do you care it's covered" look. At which point I stared back with a "yeah, but someone has to pay for it" smirk. He didn't really know but he guessed around $15 or $20 000.

Guessed. As in, how can you possibly think we can control costs if the damn doctor doesn't even know how much things cost!

I invite people to perform this exercise for fun whenever they go into a hospital. Rather than be painfully and blissfully unaware, stop, look, listen to what the birdies are saying. Everything costs money. Of course, to a liberal-socialist-statist-progressive, it's not about the money but the compassion component.

I guess even compassion is a commodity with a price tag.

Brown Bag It

We've been hearing about "brown bags" or envelopes with money (our money by the way) exchanging hands for years in Quebec. So when I heard the revelations revealed by former justice minister Marc Bellemare about rampant corruption in the construction industry it didn't surprise me the "brown bags" came into the discussion.

Look. Quebec has always been a hedonistic and corrupt place.

Anyone who owns property or runs a business or pays close enough attention to the political landscape or lost a vote during the 1995 referendum knows this. We're like a small Southern state like Mississippi or Alabama with dreams of being Scandinavia. To what extent the corruption reaches I don't know. People realistically tolerate "wink, winks" in life. We all try to gain an edge somewhere.We're flawed and to think we can eradicate corruption smacks of naivete. However, the trick is to control it. When it becomes obvious, you will feel the heat.

Premier Charest is fast losing serious credibility. First, he denied Quebec's pension funds were in disarray - which they were - next, he faced a dubious metro car contract and now the construction fiasco. 

The construction industry is one big DUH. No kidding it's corrupted. I've worked on and off in the field for over 20 years. I've witnessed first hand how it works. For Charest to try and insult the collective intelligence of the population in this matter is rich. By the way, this involves both companies AND the government. I've never seen so many agencies and departments in place to "protect" me. Anyone know if a Canadian chapter for the Tea Party is coming? We can call it The Beer Party here.

On a side note, as I continue my quest to open my day care, I keep getting letters from all levels of government with several names attached to my file. It's like a parasite attaching itself to the host. Wait to I describe my encounters with the municipal town I'm dealing with. Now there's a swell and swift bunch.

Back to the Bellemare allegations. If it's all false, then Charest should spare us the law suit and hold a public inquiry. After all, if he's innocent and the system is fine, then he has nothing to worry about, right?

Riiighhht.

What Is The Source And Make Up Of The Tea Party?

I must profess I don't know a whole lot about the Tea Party in terms of hard evidence. I have my thoughts surely and I shall impart my dimitted views with you. Unleash the Pigstalator!

Don't bother googling or yahooing Pigstalator. It is of my own invention. For private thoughts.

Bon. Ontowards the Tea Party. The way I rationalized them is probably different from the usual liberal-conservative narrative. Or the race issue. While, no doubt, each play a part in what seems to be a more diverse group than being described, I don't think it's the only bits to consider. As to whether it's an "astroturf" grass roots movement, I've yet to really read a credible in-depth examination of it. Much of it is reporting but I fear most reporters are focusing too much on the lowest common denominator and apply to small an overall prism to rationalize the movement properly.

To me, it feels more like a "state versus individual" issue. Just because some among the movement may come off as extreme to "moderate" sensibilities - indeed, I'm not so sure Palin is the perfect spokesperson for it. Although I have to admit, I just don't get people who chastise the movement's overall point: Smaller government, please - doesn't mean it must be dismissed. It may be a passing fad, time will tell. However, it may be best to pay closer attention to it rather than cajole its members.

So. Who are these folks? 

If they were really hip and savvy, they'd call it The Green Tea Party. Or The Decaf Green Tea Party.

***
The one thing I don't appreciate, if I may bring the liberal-conservative dichotomy back into the fold, is how liberals launch their own hyper-anectodal attacks on the Tea Party issue. Liberals were the great protectors and conveyors of the notion that dissent is healthy - if not necessary - to a healthy democracy. On that point, they were right. So why pick and choose which is good and bad demonstrative public protests?

Maybe some good can come of this whole episode?

2010-04-13

She's A Natural

The education department continues to set schools on a terrible course. We're fast approaching a situation where classes will be split between regular students and special needs students. It doesn't take a genius to figure out this is a recipe for disaster. The government is in a fine pickle because there's a growing shortage of teachers. What a mess.

The other day my sister was going on about the same tired liberal-esque drivel and assumption the state is the best mechanism to solve a society's problem. My brother-in-law, hardly a political type, sat and listened along with me. I injected my odd comment to set her on a different course to let her know, well, there are different ideas out there and to further point out what I consider to be faulty assertions. It was all amicable.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear my 12 year-old niece chime in with her opinion. She's an athlete not an academic. You'll find her on a basketball court rather than read a book; unlike her younger brother who's the exact opposite. But the chick has cool, street smarts and sense. As she listened to the conversation she said, "but what do people in government know about what teachers really need?"

I was blown away by that proclamation. Already to hear it from an adult is refreshing but froma pre-teen it's pure delight. "She's a natural" I said to her parents much to the semi-chagrin of the mom. She didn't stop there as she embarked on an "ergo" route. "What do people in government.." I interjected with "bureaucrats, honey." "What do burrowcrats know about how hospitals should be run? It makes sense to have doctors run health not politicians who have other interests."

Blown. Away.

I wanted to adopt her right there. Alas, I settled for an espresso and a wink to my brother-in-law. "Sorry, sis. You lost this one."

***

Of course, this doesn't mean there aren't enlightened ministers or civil servants. One need to only read Paul and Man of Roma who are kind of enough to take the time to impart their collective well-aged wisdom on this blog to know this is true.

However, I fear (and this is anectodal on my part) the majority aren't. I've never heard of a stringent test needed to become one. There are no special schools to groom people like days of past to serve the public with an enhanced mind. Most civil servants I meet are remarkably daft. Some treat you with contempt. I have no use for them.

I mentioned education earlier. I don't think anyone can seriously argue we aren't more educated and healthy - as a whole - than any period in history. We've done well to spread the love if you will. I always wonder, is the "dumbest" person in a highly educated society smarter than the "smartest" person in another period? Does the average citizen today possess more knowledge and wisdom than, say, a politician did five hundred years ago? Of course, I do not include pure men of genius like Moliere, Galileo, Plato and the sort in this lot. I mean, specifically, as a species and a living organism, I wonder if an intelligent person today was transported back to the past, how would he fit in intellectually, morally etc.?

2010-04-12

Arrgghh! The Process Matters!

I'm growing impatient with people who keep saying the process doesn't matter. Damn straight it does. If you don't follow a process you have no substance. Simple.

I was cooking the other day. Careful attention was made to ensure the integrity of the process for if I didn't do that my meal wouldn't taste the way it should. Could you imagine cooking while breaking the laws of gastronomy? What's a pinch of a salt? Nothing! But do it several times along the way and you got yourself an issue with drinking too much water later on.

Ever try and bake something while ignoring the process? Ga'head. Try.

So why should it be different in intellectual discourse, politics or making documentaries?

When I see someone bending the process out of shape it gives pause to raise my inner-skeptic.

It doesn't surprise me the process means little now. To be honest with it takes discipline and integrity. These days - these contemporary times - we live in are wrought and rot with shameless celebration of the weak mind.

***

Confirmation reached my niece and nephew yesterday. As I sat in Church, I tried to find a story to tell but couldn't find one - unless you want me to go dirty and talk about MILF's but I guess I shouldn't. The only quibble I had was listening to an Anglo butcher the names of Italian kids. You know, as my brother-in-law said, one would think, after 10 years of working in a school with three principle nationalities the person would take a moment to learn tn to pronounce a fricken name. People still act and talk as if Italian names are from Mars. A few years back, at a Bank banquet, another chick stared into her salad and wondered "what those green things were." My brother-in-law informed her it was arugala to which she smugly answered, "that's right, you people eat a lot of weird, bitter green things." Folks, it was 2003.

Italian names are the easiest to pronounce. The Italian language as a whole is damn easy. As its spelled you pronounce. It's vowel based. You just have to learn to speak with some panache and learn some basic rules but that's about it. It ain't French which is far more complicated - to me anyway.

Anyhow. What-evah. Let 'em eat cake. The other part that caught my ears was when the singers kicked into an acoustic version of Let it be by The Beatles. M'lord, I waited for Hey Jude where everyone would freak out at the end singing "naaaa-na-na-na-na-na-naaaa-na-na-na-na" but it was not to be. You know you've hit the big leagues when your music is played in a French-Canadian Roman Catholic Church.

I also thought about the battle between rational thought versus mythology. A war that's been battled in Western Culture since the Enlightenment. The period, basically, launched an attack on the notion of romantic mythology spread during the Renaissance. In any event, both are an integral part of our collective heritage. Why must it be a battle? I never chose sides. I think a balance of both is needed. I'm not interested in being like Spock. There has to be some Captain Kirk in us. Not that I watched Star Trek too much but I always found the collusion of both characters fascinating. Both would impress and grate me at the same time.

As many of you know, I dislike and distrust people who claim to be "progressives" and preservers of "rational" thought. Who died and left you captain of what is rational and not, eh?

2010-04-11

Newfoundland Is Free To Explore Secessionist Aspirations

Newfoundland was once a nation. Ergo it can seperate. So thinks BQ leader Gilles Duceppe.

Already Quebec's economic situation is precarious imagine Newfoundland! The poorest (but happiest) of all provinces. I hope to get there soon.

If Quebec wants to go off into the sunset so be it. Provided Quebec once and for all clearly conveys how it intends to operate alone.  None of this "we have the right to the passport and transfer payments" nonsense. In addition, what will it do should the city of Montreal and Cree nation decide to secede?

The idea of Canada operating like the EU is sort of misplaced. The EU is highly centralized with little democratic transparency with all powers increasingly funneled into Brussels. I doubt Quebec or Newfoundland would like that.

Canada is already the most decentralized federal state in the world. Federal structures offer flexibility and Quebec has benefitted enormously from it. In fact, one could even say there's little more to be gained by leaving the confederacy. The calculation has to be on a risk reward basis. Do the gains justify the risks?

I don't think it does.

In any event, Newfoundland doesn't have a secessionist movement that I'm aware of so the discussion is moot. If they did, they'll have to change their name to Newlostland.

The Ghost Of History Past And Present

So. Does history set patterns for contemporary times and it's up to us to detect them? History is riddled with lessons. Some are, well, riddles and others are as clear as crystal. The trick is to figure our which applies to our circumstances. Just because says or shows us something doesn't necessarily mean it condemns us to it. Otherwise, if we only consult history we lose our faith and ability to want to change things.

"History has shown..." Yes. It has shown. Past tense. Too many factors play into humanity for us to take history at face value. We should instead not so much to read it in conclusive manners but interpret it with fluid senses. History has shown us many things. Some of it can't be changed - for example, laws of nature, economics, humanity etc. Some of it can be moulded to fit our times.

You know when they say about a mutual fund past returns may not be repeated? We see the track record of a mutual fund. Indeed, despite that record it doesn't promise the same ones in the future. The past can only give us an idea. For instance, if one mutual consistently gives us a 9% return, then with some reasonable financial computations, we can assume over time we'll be in that neighborhood. If another mutual fund provides an average of, say, 2% (which would make it a really shitty fund) again we have an idea of what it can do. Then we match and decide which to go with.

No different with history. We can spot the patterns. The art is to determine which applies and how.

The Secret Life Of Obamabush

I still can't see how different Obama is from W-Bush. The belief is Bush is one of the worst presidents in history. But if Obama is following Bush almost in lock-step (especially militarily with an accent on engagement although W-Bush did maintain communications with selected nations) does it then not follow Obama is equally as bad?

Also in this equation is the expansion of off shore oil drilling (which the Americans should be doing along with restarting their nuclear program. It's nuts how political this issue has become. Environmentalists have set America on a backward path), ehnahnced bail outs and increased debt and taxes, focus on education are just some of the issues Obamabush are one and the same. If Obama is a socialist wasn't Bush?

Ah, but Obama is "smarter" you say, eh? He sees thing through a prism of long-term calculations. That means little if you're models are misguided or plain wrong. The only vision I see of Obama (if you can call it that) is the usual brand of 20th century socialist-leaning tendencies. Been there. Seen that.

Personally, I don't see Obam'a allegd superiour intellect. I think they're both smooth in their own way but I don't believe one is smarter than the other. Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of the present administration.

There is, nonetheless, one notable difference. W-Bush was more religious while Obama is one sensitive dude willing to air out his displeasure. The religious aspect is interesting because Bush was a steadfast aly of Israel. Obama says he is but one could assert he's not commited to it.

Ok two differences. Obama likes to roll his sleeves and speak in professorial tones. Bush spoke more like he was about to pop a Coors Light. Shoot. There's a third. One is black (well, half anyway) and the other is white with Northeastern roots despite the Southern sensibility.

Let's take two controversial events that marked each administrations: Iraq and Obamacare. W-Bush, as far as I can remember, didn't publicly voice his displeasue or frustration on national TV. Bush accepted it despite being mercilessly demonized. In other words, he was wise to not say anything.

The Democrats, for their part, did take to attacking the public (on average 50%) who were against Obamacare - Pelosi and Reid calling Tea Partiers "Nazis" to cite one example. Obama on the other hand, confident in his abilities no doubt, is a little loose with his rebuttals - again, think "the police acted stupidly."

The other day I heard Obama chastise Palin for her "lack of foreign policy expertise." He's right about that. However, he's no expert himself and why is he saying silly things like that in public anyway?

That all being said, either the two of them are hastening the destruction of the United States and its Constitution or they're not. The left and right have drawn their lines as to who is worse. It's up to the so-called "centrists" or indepedents to break the tie.

One can argue they're doing (or did) better than we think given the seemingly rigid polarization of the country. Under those circumstances and with the weak powers of a president (relative to Prime Minsiter in Parliamentary politics anyway) maybe it's not erroneous to interpret things this way. Then again, hasn't America (heck, any country) always been "polarized?"

2010-04-10

Exercising Consumer Power

After busting my hard drive I took advantage and sank further into debt to uprade my computer. Among other things, I bought a new router. I had been using Linksys (owned by Cisco Systems) but I migrated to D-Link. Here's why. When I upgraded I was asked for a security key. I was told the only way to get it was to call Linksys. No sweat, right? Just call them and they'll give it to you. Na-ah.

Instead, I was basically told I had to pay 40 bucks - by way of a one-year warranty - to get it. I explained to the girl I didn't want that and planned to buy a new Linksys router (never really had a problem with the service although I find Indian customer service to be a tad impatient despite the knowledge) but in the mean time wanted the security key. She refused citing company policy. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. After pleading, she told me, ina nutshell, to fuck off and go with another company.

Fuck her. And I did.

I was surprised about the rigidity to say the least.

No more Linksys. Ever. Hello D-Link.

War Is A Part Of The Human Experience

Obama recently signed a treaty with Russia beginning the process of the reduction of nuclear weapons. On one side, there's indeed an argument to be made about how many stockpiles does one nation need? Surely the U.S. can afford to cut military spending a little and still maintain the most powerful army in the world, no? They can focus on maintaining and improving equipment and technologies without necessarily adding to the point the military budget is the largest component of GDP. On the other hand, what if it begins a process of reducing the American military into disrepair? Moreover, what does such a treaty signal to more hostile nations who have aquired and will aquire a nuclear arsenal?

The vision of a world free of nuclear weapons is noble but breathtakingly naive. As long as pride, pugnacity and the need to war for resources and other vices humans still posess, war will remain a part of our nature and the ultimate arbitrator for some time to come. Obama is probably calculating American morality must lead the way on this front. I doubt China, Russia and even more so, North Korea, Iran and Pakistan will share America's visions. The world of eternal peace is thousands of years away I reckon - if at all.

Canada has taken the naive, if not foolish path to reducing its army to the point we can't defend ourselves effectively. We have a capable and stellar army but it's too small relative to our land mass.

To the pacifist, there's no need for one because "no one wants to attack Canada." While this may be true at the moment, things can change. It's unfortunate Canada is incapable of defending its borders and interests. Look at it this way. People work out to keep in shape. You don't want your muscles to weaken. It's no different with a country. It's prudent and wise "in case." Alas, Canada chose an "Obama-esque" and "Wilsonian" route. The irony of course, for a country excessively proud as Canada, should the time come (heaven forbid) we need to defend ourselves, it will be the Americans who will do it. So much for our sovereignty.