Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Impact of NAFTA on Canada: Introduction and Basis of Research

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Here's the introduction to my research article analyzing the economic effects of NAFTA on Canada and canadians. It gives backgrounrd on the topic, and explains how and why the research was conducted as it was. You can see the results of the research here: GDP and GDP per capita, Household and National Savings Rates, Unemployment rates, Wages and remuneration. The first part of our commentary concerns the disconnect between growing GDP and relatively stagnant wages. The rest of the commentary and paper may be gotten by subscribing to the website's newsletter by email or RSS. We have a total privacy policy, so you needn't worry about spam. Once you subscribe, just email me (Shplarz @ and let me know you'd like a copy.

Without further ado, I present the Introduction and basis of my research on NAFTA'S economic impact on Canadians.

The word "economics" comes from the ancient Greek words "oikos" and "nomos," which mean, respectively, the "family estate" and "laws of man" (as opposed to "physis," the laws of nature). One can reasonably infer from this knowledge that economics has existed in some form since even Antiquity. It follows that there a multiplicity of economic theories must have been created and expounded upon since then. Since Adam Smith's famous "Wealth of Nations," modern economics has focused on measuring the health of national economies. More recently, this macroeconomic approach to things has been contrasted with microeconomics, whose focus is on the transfer of wealth on a smaller, individual scale. An example of such contrasts are the contemporary measures of economic well-being: GDP and GDP per capita represent the macroeconomic approach to calculating wealth, while the Household Savings Rate and Average Income are important representatives of the microeconomic approach.

Judgements are based on criteria. To ensure sound analysis, the criteria used must be relevant to the issue at hand, and should account for as much data as possible. Thus in order to determine the effect of any particular economic actor, one should use measures of economic performance, which ought to be drawn from both the worlds of macro- and microeconomics. These are the means proposed to assess the impact of NAFTA on the Canadian nation, and on Canadians as individuals.

To be more specific, the data reported by the following measures of economic health is that data which will be used to weigh up the economic outcome of NAFTA in Canada. The measures are: GDP (Gross Domestic Product), GDP/Capita, National Savings Rate, Household Savings Rate, Unemployment Rate, Labour Productivity, and.

Two likely measures have been left off this list, namely the Current Account and Investment Rates. In the case of the former, the omission is due to the fact that measuring a nation's balance of trade is outdated, and doesn't give a true indication of economic welfare. In the case of the latter, the omission is due to my inability to find the relevant data.

If you enjoyed the post, you may want to subscribe to our newsletter. Other options (links below) include reading some suggested posts on related subjects or picking your own related material to read from the archives. A free copy of the full text (including commentaries not available on this site) of the research findings on NAFTA is offered to subscribers.


Posts relating to Economics and NAFTA:
  1. GDP and GDP per capita since NAFTA - Next in the series.

  2. Unemployment in Canada since NAFTA

  3. Outline of the impact of NAFTA on Canadians' research project (discusses non-economic criteria for evaluation)

Monday, February 27, 2006

On Democracy and Liberalism

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On Democracy and Liberalism

Many people suggest that as democracy spreads around the globe, we will see an emergence of liberal societies. The popular media and the White House make this assertion when suggesting that as democracy spreads through the Muslim world, peaceful and liberal governments will emerge in place of belligerent and oppressive tyrants.
To be honest, I believed it all myself until recently. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and so a confluence of recent events have allowed me to see why this is not so. In addition, I’d like to take the opportunity to make the distinction between democracy and liberalism.

Event 1) Two semesters ago, I took an excellent course entitled the Middle East Today, whose focus was Islam. I learnt that “the door to ijtihad was closed” (Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D, President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc) sometime around the early 1300s. Ijtihad is, in the clear words of Dr. Syed, “individual intellectual effort” used for the “articulation and interpretation of Shariah (Islamic law).” As scholarship in the Muslim worlds predominantly meant the study of Shariah, shutting down ijtihad basically meant putting an end to critical thinking.
Event 2) The Muhammad cartoons published in a Danish newspaper stir up controversy in the Muslim world months after their initial publication. I noticed that the Middle East’s Muslims rioted, while those in the West protested. Note the nuance between rioted, as in trashed and burned things, and protested, as in peacefully voiced their displeasure.
Event 3) Elections in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt have shown powerful support for Islamists. Religious groups have won majorities in the former two, while a majority of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidates were elected in Egypt (not enough to form a government, since it didn’t run candidates everywhere).

From these events I drew the following conclusions.
Firstly, and most importantly, Muslims in the Middle East do not have liberal values; their values are primarily religious. Whereas liberalism advocates the separation of Church and State (Mosque and State as it were), Muslims in the Middle East are looking at drafting laws and constitutions based on Sharia. Like Paul Martin said, you vote for people based on your values. As we in the West are so steeped in the liberal tradition, we inherently associate liberalism with democracy. However, democracy means voting for people who reflect your values, and if your values aren’t liberal, you won’t have a liberal democracy.
Secondly, the liberalism to which Muslims are exposed to here, mainly in the form of freedom of speech and freedom of the press (i.e. an open door to interpretation), has rubbed off. At a Hamas run school, losing a debate (topic: Who’s filthier: pigs, rats or Americans?) could mean losing your head, literally (assuming they have debates). In the West, losing a debate means learning from your mistakes and improving your critical thinking. This exposure to liberal values explains why the reaction to the cartoons here in North America was letter-writing rather than flag-burning.

Adolph Hitler was elected democratically. If we want to encourage liberalism in the Muslim world, promoting literacy (as Dr. Syed suggests), freedom of speech, and exposure to various philosophies is probably the best way to do it. Democracy is not synonymous with liberalism.

Posts/articles relating to Liberalism and Democracy:
Freedom vs Religious Extremism
Canada a Secular Country?
Ijtihad, by Dr. Syed

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Hamas' Abu Tir a Homosexual

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Political humourist Potfry (one of my favourites) wrote this great piece on Hamas leader Abu Tir. Here's an excerpt:
"Indeed, as many Hamas leaders chanted "God is Great," a smaller faction of Tir-supporters tried to start a chant of "Flay the Skin of the Great Satan Who Colored the Beard of Our Beloved Leader Mohammed Abu Tir," but they struggled to stay together on the chant and it dissolved into an angry mob of frustrated babbling."
He later discusses Tir's homosexual leanings with considerable hilarity.
Not to be missed either is Potfry's post on Osama Bin Laden's decision to become a chef.

We have serious coverage of Hamas too, though:
This post discusses Iran's offer of aid to Hamas, besides linking to most of our posts on Hamas and our analysis of the Muhammad cartoons.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Canadian Centrism (Carnival)

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Hello and welcome to the first edition of Canadian Centrism. Actually, make that welcome to the first Moderation Station. Okay, no scratch that, that's cheesy. Anyways, welcome to the first edition of a carnival on moderate politics, whose name has yet to be determined. We'll have posts for you on economics, foreign affairs, medecine, and a few other miscellaneous areas. FYI: centrism and moderation don't mean wishy-washiness. The centrist philosophy means the third road, and the best alternative, and is in contrast to narrow-minded partisanship. Check out wikipedia on moderates for more.

If you think your material fits here, you may be interested in writing for Centrerion, or perhaps doing some web work with us. On a related note and before I forget, here's how to submit to upcoming editions (the links are now also in our sidebar, for future reference):

1) Read our submission criteria. They're just guidelines though, so if you think your post fits in the carnival, even without respecting the criteria, just let us know why when you submit. Some of those here weren't perfect fits.
2) Use the Conservative Cat's Easy Post Submission form. There's an example already filled in, so make sure you edit all the fields. TTLB's Ubercarnival is also of interest, for finding carnivals
The main incentive for this is, of course, that Carnivals boost traffic to your blog. In addition, the links you get help boost you in Google's search results.

On with the show.

Foreign Affairs:

Tigerhawk lets us know that Iran is holding Israel hostage (with it's "civilian nuclear energy" program?). The irony of the thing, is that that may actually be stabilizing. An interesting argument, though one wonders at how rational the actions of Iran's leaders are, and thus whether this analysis is necessarily applicable.

Israellycool has connected the dots between different anti-Christian events going on in Gaza. Gee, Hamas takes power, and suddenly Dhimmis, er sorry, non-Muslims are in trouble? Yeah, that's a surprise.

The Moderate Voice has a really great discussion of the National Journal's rankings of Congress. According to a number of variables, but principally their voting, a list was compiled of how conservative or liberal each Representative and Senator is. Appearently, there is a long list of centrists in the House. A commentator named after a salad posted that Republican Jon Porter of Nevada ranks a 53 on social issues but in the 70s and 80s on
economics and foreign policy. A Canadian type Conservative it seems.

Far and Wide
, a fellow Non-Partisan Canadian, has insight into the 'militarization' of American politics. He says that Bush's emphasis on national security has led to the Democrats trying to outflank him, and are thus actively recruiting former military personnel (though he fails to discuss the Democrats running away from Iraq, like Tigerhawk's post, above). The left is now a void (not a good thing, in yours truly's opinion).

Small Dead Animals - one of the first blogs to link here (that means they're smart) - has this excellent editorial on the goings-on in Australia concerning Shari'a. For those who aren't aware, Sharia is Islamic law. What I appreciate is the way he links this current issue with another one, the Muhammad cartoons. The Vatican's spokespeople didn't sound too smart on this one. The speech behind the post discusses Australia's traditional values, which, considering Australia began as a British penal colony (i.e. an island prison), is pretty funny.

The Lebanese Bloggers
have an excellent piece on politicizing religion. The context for the post is the fools claiming to speak for Islam while terrorizing Danish diplomats and such.

Federal Politics:

Our colleague the Blue Grit has posted this fascinating article on the mainstream media's arrogant coverage of the Liberal leadership race. He's also got some interesting thoughts on the Liberal shadow cabinet.

The Progressive Right
is opposed to a big brother-like program of national ID cards. It dissapoints me to see this coming from Stockwell Day, an ardent defender of Israel and generally intelligent man when it comes to foreign policy.

The Big Cajun Man (living in Canada) at Canadian Financial Stuff has a belated election wrap-up (made all the more belated by my personal slowness in setting this carnival up; my apologies). It's like Buckley's cough syrup, says the Big Cajun: tastes awful, but it works.

Mathieu Laberge's site, De Nottingham | From Nottingham, explains what many Quebeckers think about federalism vs separatism. The post is in response to an earlier article, from which people falsely thought he was endorsing one option over the other (though he admittedly leans separatist overall). He's a good source for the pulse of French Canadians, so you might consider bookmarking De Nottingham.

Big shot Liberal Warren Kinsella has an equally astute piece about freedom of the press (I couldn't get a link to the specific post). His post is actually a bit of a collection of material, but the contrasts are excellent. I was surprised to read that a person who'd visited Auschwitz could believe people have the right to openly deny the Holocaust, while being opposed to any speech which promotes violence. Uhm, FYI: propaganda that dehumanizes others, of which minimizing their pain is a part, legitimizes and facilitates violence. Thus we had propaganda for months in Rwanda before the genocide there. I haven't checked up on the history of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, but I'm certain there's been a similar shitbucket of propaganda there.


The ever-classic Blast Furnace Blog (who seems to also have difficulty naming things) has more great economic analysis (more, relative to his earlier analysis of Harper's GST tax cuts, which numbers came out similar to my own). He reports that our business leaders want to get rid of child poverty. Now if only he can have a more visually appealing background.

Economist's View has some interesting material on the Bank of Canada boss, David Dodge, and his opinions on the role each nation has to play in the global economy.


That's it for this week's piece. I'd like to ask everyone to spend some time over at STAND Canada's website, which I mentioned above. Students Taking Action Now: Darfur is a student run NGO (non-governmental organism) aiming to halt the genocide being committed in Darfur. Read up on the STAND's fight against genocide, and do what you can to help act against the barbarity of the government in Sudan (of which Darfur is a province). I've been to some of their fundraisers myself, and its immediately apparent that these people are well-informed, on the ball, and a very proactive group.
I'll try and post a bigger piece about this group soon.

Thanks for dropping by the Moderates' Non-Partisan Carnival of Canadian Centrism and Foreign Politics and ...

Thursday, February 23, 2006


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The Carnival of Education is up. It mostly discusses issue of US education, but there's some important and relevant things about home schooling, provocative dressing, and more.
We submitted our article on the Politics of Education in Quebec.

Iran Offers Hamas Aid. Also: Hamas DOES Recognize Israel

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The BBC reports that Iran has offered official aid to Hamas. That means, of course, that Hamas won't have to hide its ties to Iran anymore. It doesn't mean that Palestinians will have more money.
On a related note, I'd like to correct some misconcenptions about Hamas.
a) Hamas DOES recognize Israel. The problem is not that Hamas doesn't recognize Israel, it's that Hamas doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist (where it is; with this aid, it's likely Hamas will suggest moving Israel to Europe or Alaska like Iranian President Mohammed Ahmadinejad did). If Hamas didn't recognize Israel, it would mean that a) they were lunatics in denial and b) there would be no problem, because you can't fight something that doesn't exist. Hitler recognized the Jews' existence; the problem was that he wanted to end that existence.
b) Hamas doesn't need to renounce terrorism. Hamas needs to renounce violence. It's no good if Hamas turns its terrorist gunmen, suicide bombers and rocketeers into a regular army devoted to Israel's destruction. Hamas needs to quit violence, period.

Here are some other articles related to Hamas, terrorism, and Iran.
- Canada Can Cut Aid to the PA
- Militant Islam Confronts Europe (from a Middle East think tank; reprinted with permission)
- Appeasing Iran, Russian Style (more think tank material)
- Moderate Analysis of Hamas and the Direction of International Relations with the Palestinians
- Palestinians Chose Hamas (they didn't not choose Fatah)
- Freedom Versus Religious Extremism
I've also put up several articles on the Muhammad cartoons.
- Muhammad Cartoon Riots: A Photo Essay
- Potfry: West Bank Protest Delayed By Lengthy Search for Danish Flag to Burn (humour)
- Muhammad Cartoons, Daniel Pipes - 5 Short Comments (a response to columnist Daniel Pipes' "right to insult")

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Montreal Expos Still Sucking As Washington Nationals

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For our beloved hometown readership: be aware that your no-longer hometown Montreal Expos are keeping up the headaches in their new American location. Gen X at 40 reports on a report (yeah, I love those commentaries on a commentary on...) by the Times that Bygone Sports, a throwback sports merchandising firm, owns the rights to "Washington Nationals". The MLB and them are duking it out with lawyers and dollars.
I liked the Expos when they were around, but it's this sort of thing that makes you realize they were more trouble than they were worth. More politicking over sports... except the 'spos weren't worth the politics. Wow, I'm asking for hate mail with that one.

Here's some related material on Montreal, sports, the (retarded) CBC, and other local yokel digressions.
- Politics of Hockey (Habs games)
- Martin: Entire Budget to Ontario and Montreal (humour)
- Language Centrism in Quebec and Montreal (education)
- Surprises in Quebec's Election Results, re: CPC
- Separatism and Bilingualism in Canada

Canada Can Cut Aid to the PA

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Terrorist group Hamas controls the PA, and Canada (and especially the US and EU) can and must cut their aid to the PA. On the topic, a certain 'genius' said:

Mazen Sinokrot, the present Palestinian economy minister, also warned of chaos if the flow of funds to the Palestinian Authority was cut off. "Next week we have to pay the salaries of about $100m workers. Where will this money come from?" He said its 135,000 employees were the main breadwinners for 30 per cent of Palestinian families. "If these salaries do not come in, this is a message for violence."

A message for violence? I've never heard such a blatantly threatening and extortionist comment in my life, but then I guess that's what we should expect from Hamas' Minister of the Economy.
Telling the Palestinians they can vote for terrorists and we'll still give them money is the real message for violence, here. "Oh, you want to annihilate your neighbours and carry out acts of terrorism against innocents? Well, we'd rather not, but I guess we must keep financing you. It would be "chaos" if the Palestinian economy "collapsed", after all."

Reality Check:
a) The Palestinian economy is not entirely dependent on foreign aid. A big problem with the current war is that many Palestinians couldn't go to their day jobs in Israel, for security reasons (though that is beginning to be solved, and Palestinians are returning to work). So actually, financially supporting Hamas would cause chaos in the Palestinian economy, because Hamas is dedicated to destroying Israel, the source of (non-corrupt/tainted) income for many Palestinians.
b) A message for violence? Yeah, telling people you're going to send suicide bombers after them if they don't cough up the money is really going to get you somewhere. The expression that comes to mind for me, personally, is 'go to hell'.

On a related note, I'd like to point out that Hamas is on Canada's official list of terrorist groups. Sending money to the PA then would be funding a terrorist group. If we're going to have accountability from government, it starts with the government respecting it's own laws.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Militant Islam Confronts Europe - by Yisrael Ne'eman

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Liberal, socially democratic Europeans are exactly where they thought they would never be – on the firing line for radical Islamists who condemn their societies, way of life and “non-values”. In particular the riots over the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed (yes, they were first printed in September) and Islamic frustration over opposition to the Iranian nuclear program have Europeans at loggerheads with militant, totalitarian Islam. Most everyone is analyzing the Islamists, but an understanding of Europe itself and its inability to stand up to the extremists is necessary to explain why the Islamists know to press their offensive against a frightened society preaching civil liberties.

The most fundamental value of human and societal continuity is missing in central and Western Europe where the reproduction rate is less than 1.5 children for women of child bearing age (certainly men can raise children too). Moslem European families have many more offspring. Christian Europeans have consciously decided that they do not want children, meaning they do not want the continuation of their own societies or culture. Selfishness (like charity) begins at home. To raise children one needs to invest quality time, tremendous physical and spiritual energies and much money, not to mention lost income and possible career opportunities. To ensure national and cultural continuity the older generation must consciously decide to pass on its values to the next generation. The surest - but obviously not foolproof – way of doing this is through nurturing youth in the values of their parents. By not doing so, today’s dominant European society slowly commits suicide.

There are certainly values and societal norms to pass on: liberty, fraternity, equality, democracy, the rights of minorities, social justice, etc. Like all liberal-democratic societies not everything is realized, but most function quite well in comparison with the rest of the world. Western/central European nations have high standards of living and well developed social welfare systems. Governments guarantee certain norms of functional equality and physical well being. From here there is no longer a personal responsibility since one pays taxes, especially in Scandinavia, and the government is entrusted with caring for all. The average person is devoid of religion, pursues a career, thinks not of family or society and lives for personal success and/or a hedonistic existence. “Life is good” and there are very few worries.

The materially satisfied European is looked upon as a mortal enemy by Islamists who have close family, religious and societal ties. Ideologues are those who are willing to die for what they live for. Committed Moslems will die to ensure the continuation of Islam knowing their children will carry on in the name of Allah. But religion need not be the unifying factor. Many Europeans (esp. the British) and Americans fought for freedom and nation over dictatorship in WWII. (Okay, so the Russians did not fight for freedom). But would today’s Europeans be willing to fight to the death to guarantee the existence of their liberal, socio-democratic societies with all the extent material well being? For whom would they defend their society?

European rights to freedom of expression (Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed), liberal sexual norms, and individual human rights are seen by Islamists as permissive aberrations damaging to a cohesive society. Where Islam rules, individuals must “submit”. Europe is the antithesis and no greater tragedy could be had, than if such a “valueless” way of life would be absorbed by Moslems.

What are the collective values and loyalties of today’s Europe? Is the age of European cultural pride at an end? Many have died for the collective of peoplehood, religion and nationalism over the centuries. But who is willing to die for their own individual rights? After all, once you are dead the game is over.

Europe is perceived as a bastion of materialism, worshippers of the Golden Calf, where morality has no absolutes. Islamists are no fools as they watch post-modernist, cultural relativist (or whatever) European “intellectuals” equate the killing of innocent civilians by suicide bombers with the elimination of those who sent the bombers by western (and esp. Israeli) security forces. These same European groups scratch around for an excuse, such as the “oppression of Moslems” even though the Islamists make it clear that all their actions are directed at Islamic world domination. The Islamist can only explain such interpretations as self incriminating and view the Europeans as a people who have no respect for themselves and acquiesce to the end of their own existence.

In contradiction to the European commitment not to hold talks with the Hamas until they recognize Israel and renounce terrorism, the Russians with French support have already reversed their promise. After the ruckus caused by the Danish cartoons we can expect a healthy dose of self-censorship throughout the continent and despite the threats made against the Iranians concerning their nuclear program Europe will waver unless Washington succeeds in kicking them into line.

As a big, soft, wealthy patsy, Europe tried to compromise with the Islamists for as long as possible. Now comes the moment of truth where Europe may attempt to stand up to the Islamists. But with a sharply declining birthrate and the need for a cheap (and later disenfranchised) industrial working class to prop up their comfortable lifestyle one can expect a continual growth in the Moslem population and its radicalization.

Reprinted from Middle East on Target, with permission from Elliot Chodoff. Middle East on Target is a think tank and source of commentary on the Mid-East. On a related note, I'll be posting my essay on the confusion between the terms democracy and liberalism in today's mainstream media. That idea was inspired by all the talk of democracy in the muslim world, and by the recent cartoons 'scandal'.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Impact of NAFTA: Canadian Government Muddled?

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The impact of NAFTA can be divided into two broad categories, economic and social. As I was researching the economic impact of the North American Fair Trade Agreement (for long), NAFTA at 10, a Canadian government report had this interesting statistic:
When measured using market exchange rates, the U.S. posts the highest GDP per capita at US$36.2 thousand per person. Canada lags somewhat at US$23.4 thousand, while Mexico trails significantly at US$6.3 thousand per head.
Excuse me? Canada's GDP per capita is US$23,400 (then ~32K)? That means that the average Canadian is working full time for about 17$/hour (about double minimum wage; the minimum wage is extraordinarily low). That figure is arrived at based on a 40 hour workweek, and four weeks total vacation yearly (including christmas). I know people who work at upscale department stores selling cosmetics earn about that much. Is the government saying then that the average Canadian works for Holt Renfrew selling eyeliner?

Well, ironically enough, the government seems to disagree with itself on that point. Statscan has published a piece in its daily letter saying that average after-tax income is ~$30,000. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the GDP/capita doesn't look at after-tax incomes, does it (please correct me with some comments if I'm wrong)? Assuming I'm right and that GDP per capita considers pre-tax income, the problem here is that the Department of Foreign Affairs is contradicting Statscan. The primary impact of NAFTA is confusion amongst government economists.

Finance, Investing Information, Capitalism

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Update:Financial markets, the economy, investing and more capitalism is the soupe du jour at the Stalwart.
My Money has a related investing carnival up. They've got things on valentine's day, dividends, stocks, real estate, and other investing related issues you might imagine. They've also got our post on Trade Deficits and surpluses being a ridiculus concept.
Similar material on investing and personal finance is on at Free Money Finance. Let 'em know we should have been linked to higher!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Separatism and Bilingualism in Canada

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Bilingualism doesn't exist in Canada, says a Separatist on Though I acknowledge the point about many people outside Quebec being unilingual, I'd suggest Quebeckers are also unilingual. I also reject her point about being able to survive in Montreal without French. First, you're going to learn it here whether you like it or not, and second, you need French for any public institution.
Her ideas are as dated as Argus' abuse of French Canadians. Tout ca c'est dans le passe, as we say.
Also note her own weak English rife with francisisms, which are the English equivalent of anglicismes. That is, she directly translates french expressions, such as 'en region', meaning rural areas. Thus English isn't spoken very well 'in region'.
It's also amusing how she suggests that separatist strength would be even higher if they were in power. Actually, being in opposition you get to dress up as a holier than thou saint, without having to do real work. Thus your support is likelier to run higher when you're sitting in opposition. Besides, it's always easier to say you support separatism than to actually vote for it.

See the original nonsense here:
"Seperatist" can't speak English (francisisme).

Note to wikipedia: she calls herself a SEPARATIST. Not a SOVEREIGNIST. Teh damn wikipedia article says they should be called sovereignists... yet another instance of francisisms. Damn propagandists dominating wikipedia...
Bilingualism is alive and well in Ontario, Quebec, and other places here and there, though it could be better. But from there to what this separatist is saying... she's just totally out of touch, clearly living in the past.

Haveil Havalim, Tangled Bank

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The Tangled Bank is a science carnival, with some excellent, digestible material on a variety of issues. We sent them our post on portion sizes and the associated variables. This issues has archeology, birds, stem cell research and more. Look for the Tangled Bank to be hosted here soon.
Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Israeli and Jewish-relevant topics. We submitted our 5 comments on Daniel Pipes post, with regard to the muhammas cartoon controversy. There's a fair bit about Tu Bishvat, the first day of spring in the Jewish calendar, which coincides with the first tree blossoms in Israel, and about Israeli politics.

What does this have to do with Canadian politics? Nothing really. You see where it says all rights reserved? Well that includes the right to digress.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Republican Resigns Over Corruption

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The good man behind a fellow centrist blog (can you guess who? Give you a hint... his is probably the biggest, even though google tops us over him for 'moderate analysis') has reported that the Republicans are crooks too. A commentator pointed out the irony of Republicans, the party of 'values', saying their corruption is okay because the Dems are corrupt too.

In a related story, Liberals everywhere are thanking American politicos for the company.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Education Politics in Quebec

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The Quebec education system is underfunded. By that, I don't mean post-secondary education needs more dollars, I mean that grade schools are chronically underfunded. Consider the following points.
  1. My mother teaches at a public elementary with 600 students. There is no money for a paid librarian, and the social worker that is trained to deal with psychologically troubled kids is there for a half/day a week. Naturally, that's hardly enough time to deal with all the troubled kids, who are plentiful there for demographic reasons.
  2. After a career in education, my mother still earns the average Canadian salary of about $60,000/year. She has a masters in education. For whatever reason, seniority stops counting towards raises after 16 years. My mom's 35 years of service are only important for her to be able to get a better pension.
  3. To gain admission to study education at McGill University in 2004/2005 (the most recent data I have; it's unlikely to have changed since), one needed a 24 or 25 R-Score (CRC), depending on specializing. 25 means a student is exactly average, while 24 is below average. The situation is similar at other Quebec universities.
  4. There is a severe lack of elementary teachers in Quebec.
  5. The Charest government just passed a back-to-work law ordering public-sector unions, including teachers' unions, to stop striking and return to work. The law ended negotiations, imposing a raise of 12% over 8 years, including monies that were owed from another issue (salary equity), thus essentially counting each dollar paid as two payments.
  6. This is amidst a "reform" of the grade-school educational system that has been proving to be a catastrophic failure, which Charest and co. are desperately trying to cover up (La Presse reported that people had to use the access-to-information law to force the Ministry of Education to hand over documents on the reform).
For all these reasons and more, we need to put money into primary education. Funding post-secondary education is unimportant if people hate school from an early age because it's staffed at least partly by barely average people.

Trade Deficits and Surpluses are Ridiculous and Outdated

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Balance of trade, that macroeconomic idea that tells us whether we have a trade surplus or deficit, is an absolutely ridiculous, outdated idea. It's foundations are in colonial mercantilism. Mercantilist policy being a discredited idea, it is a wonder that "trade surpluses" and "trade deficits" are still considered important today. Furthermore, the philosophy behind trade surpluses and deficits is ethically bankrupt, and practically illogical. Lastly, balance of trade is a terrible indicator of the economic health of individuals within a nation, and must therefore cease to be used as a measure of economic wellbeing.

Mercantilism, which was the economic philosophy that dominated much early colonial trade, saw home countries buying natural resources from their colonies, then exporting finished products back to those colonies. The value of the exports to the colony being greater than those from the colony, the colonizing nation would have a trade surplus and grow wealthy. The result of this thinking was the bankrupting of the citizens of the colonies as their revenues were much smaller than their purchases. Mercantilism doesn't work.

Nowadays, discussions of trade still have this fixation on surpluses and deficits. Practically speaking, this should mean that for every economy in the green with a surplus, there should be one in the red with a deficit. For an economy to function at the expense of another is morally reprehensible, in a similar way to choosing who of two people gets to live, in a situation where only one of the two may live.
Practically, thinks don't even work out properly according to that neat 1 surplus = 1 deficit model. In a recently published textbook on macroeconomics - co-authored by no less a credible figure than the new chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke - it is revealed that globally, there is a net deficit of over 150$ billion dollars. Developed economies have a net total deficit of a bit more than 210 billion, while developing economies like India, and former communist economies, have a net surplus of approximately 60 billion. The difference, the book explains, is due to holes in accounting.
So not only is the surplus/deficit idea ethically bankrupt, but it doesn't even work properly in the real world.

The Montreal Gazette recently published an article showing that Canadians average salaries over the last ten years had climbed a palry 10 cents. At the same time, leading economists are shouting how wonderful it is that our GDP has grown and grown. If the GDP has grown while salaries have stagnated, the logical conclusion is that the beneficiaries are businesses. Thus business is either merely reinvesting the money in itself to grow, or else paying the top employees more, and the bottom rung ones less, so that the average is stagnant and the gap between the poor and the rich keeps growing.
To see how this works, let's show some numbers. Say GDP is 100$, in year 1, and 200$ in year 2. There's a single company, and it's top employee gets 50$ a year, the bottom four get 10$ each, and 10$ is reinvested in the company. Average salary = 90$/5 people = 18$ average salary. In year 2, the boss gets 65$, and 95$ goes into the company. There's 40$ left for the four employees; they each get 10$.
The key things to note in this example is that for the regular employees to have their salaries stay the same, one or both of two things had to happen:
1) The top employees wages go up, as a percentage of the total salaries disbursed. Thus the boss's salary went from 55% of revenue to 72%.
2) Investment in businesses goes up as a share of GDP.

Now, it is also possible that employees are getting remuneration in the form of stock options and investment, and thus are seeing greater revenues, in conjunction with the greater GDP. In other words, the money is going back into the businesses, but the employees' wealth has grown, and thus the gap between the rich and everyone else hasn't increased. (That possibility will be examined in a future post, though it is likely that the overall average wealth of Canadians is also stagnating, which idea is reinforced by the fact we are spending beyond our earnings.)
The point is that seeing a trade surplus while there is stagnation in salaries proves yet again that trade surpluses/deficits aren't all they're cracked up to be. That's because on the level of average Joe Canadian, trade surpluses don't necessarily translate to greater wealth.

Let;s get rid of the concept of balance of trade. Surpluses and deficits in trade are ideological relics from colonial times, created by a discredited economic model. Ethically, this way of thinking makes the assertion that one group of people are more deserving of well being than another. Practically, the model doesn't even hold up, as accounting holes demonstrated by the global deficit show. Thus perhaps Canada has a deficit, and we just haven't been counting beans properly? Finally, balance of trade doesn't indicate how we as individuals are fairing, so calculating it is a waste of time and energy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Quip of the Day

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If those with mustaches twist and play with their 'staches, do others caress their unibrows?

Devised by Jiggy and I on the bus today.

Related posts are archived in and s.
Previous Quips:

Teens and the Economy

For the unartistic amongst us
The implication of wearing Converse
When it's acceptable/not to do drugs
Ugly people's beautiful friends

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Quip of the Day (aka Quote it!)

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Quip of the day:

The good news is that teens are a driving force in the economy. The bad news is that our economy is based on Hilary Duff.

Related posts in the categories: , and .

Liberal and NDP Bloggers Battle

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The blogosphere made it personal today when a Liberal and Dipper started duking it out. The Dipper's got some funny sarcasm, though I suspect the Liberal has a bigger readership, so he kind of wins anyways.
They're fighting over Liberal Jason Cherniak's attacks on the NDP, calling them, amongst other things, "a waste of a political movement." Dawg's Blawg responds by hitting at Liberal sleaze, and Cherniak's hypocrisy in denouncing the NDP booting Hargrove, when the Liberals dumped Parrish for similar reasons.
I like the NDP blogger, and he makes some good points. Oh, fyi Mr. Cherniak, the NDP is not a waste of a movement. It allows for a progressive and far left left to have a home outside the centre, and outside sleaze. I'm not crazy about the far lefties, but hey, BC told Svend Robinson to stuff his little "I'm back" act back up his wazoo ( which is considerate, given Svend's gay and would probably would enjoy that), so there's hope yet.

CBC and Jack Layton Sound Idiotic, Again

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Reporting on a probable hate crime here in Montreal, the CBC wrote, "Tensions have been high in the city's Muslim community since two Montreal mosques were damaged during protests in the Middle East over the publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad."
Oh really? The Montreal mosques were damaged by protests in the Middle East? What, did the soot from the burnt flags carry over the Atlantic and leave black stains on the domes? How do Canadian mosques get damaged by protests in the Middle East. Ah yes, clarity of expression, our national media outlet's strong suit.

Jack Layton was sounding self-righteous once again. Everyone's pick for Most Likely To Be Sainted said he wouldn't have given Buzz Hargrove the boot. No, huh? Your scandalized reaction during the election was just a dance and mask then, I suppose.

The CBC and Jack Layton... Two birds of a feather. One feather killed with one stone. Ahhh, the sound of silence.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Muhammad Cartoon Riots Irony: A Photo Essay

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Muslims were portrayed as terrorists and intolerant by the now infamous Muhammad cartoons. While Western Muslims have reacted peacefully, those in the Middle East have reacted in a way that actually supports the cartoonists' claims. Ironic, don't you think?
Three pictures from Google that display the irony of this situation.

Muslims ask for respect, in what looks like a Western country. Picture from the Dallas news.

Above: Muslims burrning an embassy in Syria. From

Below: The newly closed European Union (EU) office in Gaza. From the Turkish Daily news.

NAFTA's Impact on Canadians

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What has NAFTA's impact on Canadians been? Has the free trade agreement been beneficial or detrimental us? The results of NAFTA's implementation which will allow us to judge this can be broadly categorized into two disciplines of the social sciences: economics and sociology.
In the coming weeks I will be researching this highly controversial topic and presenting my findings, analysis and conclusions to you.
Since I'm a centrist, I don't already have a position on NAFTA. In fact, my interest in the agreement is due to the fact there are so many people spinning the data to make their own case that I thought analyzing the information and impacts myself would be the best way to make an informed opinion on the topic.
Broadly, in economics, I will be using the following measurements and indicators to analyse NAFTA's impact.
  1. GDP growth per capita. This includes real GDP and nominal GDP, and the difference between the two to look at inflation.
  2. Average salary change.
  3. Net trade balance: surpluses and deficits. I may also get into the current and capital accounts. If you don't know what these terms mean, there'll be an explanation of all this technical jargon to clear it all up.
  4. Savings/Investment rates. Are Canadians putting their money aside and/or making it grow? These indicators should tell us.
In sociology, the Gross Progress Index is a great idea, and it's much better for measuring progress than the misued GDP growth rate. The metrics and measurements I'll be using are:
  1. Life expectancy.
  2. Pollution - air and water will be the primary areas of interest, but if I can find information on forests, and on flora and fauna generally, I'll try and integrate that in.
  3. Equality of social groups. Races, wealth, education, etc.
  4. Criminality.
  5. Homelessness.
  6. Drug usage.
  7. Poverty.
  8. Infant mortality.
  9. Literacy.
Of course, it's not enough to see what's been happening. Correlation does not imply causation, so whatever I find, I need to show causality. To do that, I will compare the 10 years since NAFTA to the 10 years before. Since globalization in the modern, tech-oriented sense (as opposed to the Europe just discovered the New World sense; "presenting, ladies and gentlemen, and children of all agesGlobalization! New colonies and fur trades!...)of the word is pretty new, this is a fair time period to look at.

I hope you keep following these posts, as the research and findings will be fascinating, and if they're good enough, I may even try and pitch the concept to a few newspapers/journals.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cocaine in Bolivia, Moderates, and Canadian Weed Decriminalization

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The International Herald Tribune has a fascinating article on Bolivia's difficulties with Coca. Newly elected President and Amerindian Evo Morales was an coca grower. He wants to allow coca, but keep the ban on cocaine. He argues that if Coca-Cola, whose name comes from it's former use of coke in its drink to addict people (hence the caffeine since coke was banned) could use it in the past, Bolivia can too. The real argument is that there are non cocaine uses for coca which are legitimate.
I think moderates can see this as a very interesting issue. However, knowing Morales is an accolyte of Venezuela's nut-left Chavez (and I don't believe it's only the Americans' portrayal of Morales as such, which makes me think he's a crazy lefty, though the US may exaggerate Morales' own left-wingginess a bit), I'm also a bit apprehensive and anxious about actually endorsing this argument. Not to mention he was backed on it by a group that thinks the war on drugs has been counter-productive. The article shows it hasn't, reducing enormously the quantity of coca grown, and thus cocaine manufactured.
From a Canadian perspective, this issue is likely to relate somehow to our own marijuana decriminalization debate. I personally favour keeping weed illegal, and its use criminal. I researched it, and there's only anecdotal evidence on it's benefits as an anaesthetic and appetite enhancer (albeit credible, and abundant anectodal evidence, not to mention it's hard to do serious research when such research would break the law somewhere along the line). Even if there were clinical proof, I recently read an interesting doctor's opinion suggesting weed isn't necessarily better at these things than other drugs, so why bother.
Lots of interesting food for thought, at any rate.

Democrats Lead; Moderates Worry

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I read over at the Moderate Voice that the Democrats are leading in polls in the 2006 Congressional race. I felt very strongly about it, so here's a repost of my comments from that site. I edited them a bit for coherence and grammar.
It seems like it might be helpful to balance things out a bit. However, I'm concerned the Dems would bow to far left pressures and pull out of Iraq before getting the country back on its' feet. I see the far left as winning either way if that happens, and as we all know, extremists coming out on top is never a good thing.
I mean that if Iraq falls apart because the soldiers leave, then the Islamists the far left adores (those fantastic 'militants' of al-qaeda, hizballah, hamas and co.) will be in a strong position to take it over. This in itself would be enough to rejoice over for the left, but they would also blame it all on Bush and the right, for entering Iraq in the first place, and could potentially score a victory domestically too. Furthermore, if America pulls out, the impractical 'pacifists' will claim moral victory, and say their pressures won out. Pacifiers, as they should be called (for their attempts at appeasement of Islamists), shouldn't see their efforts rewarded.
In short, my concern with the Dems retaking Congress, is a hasty and catastrophic withdrawal from Iraq that abandons the country to the Islamists, and score a victory for the far left. Oh, did I mention Israel would be in even greater danger?
On a related note, Ann Coulter discussed the Middle East at CPAC, showing extremism and stupidity is not limited to the far left.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Centrerion - #1 for Moderate Analysis, says Google

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Centrerion is number one on Google for Moderate Analysis, ahead of approximately 25.5 million other sites. The photo was taken at 10:58 pm, Saturday, February 11, 2006. I do have a life and I do go out, but I was sick.
There are now (February 22nd - 3:43 am) 39.5 million websites on google about moderate analysis, and this post is now number one, replacing our previous number one post, about why Palestinians chose Hamas.

Appeasing Iran, Russian Style

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Written by Yisrael Ne'eman
Tuesday, 17 January 2006
Israel’s National Security Council Chief Giora Eiland and Director General of the Atomic Energy Commission Gideon Frank are on their way to Moscow to halt a deal over nuclear cooperation between Russia and Iran. Their chances of having an impact on President Vladimir Putin or anyone else are close to non-existent. Over the past few months Iranian President Ahmadinejad has led the charge of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic statements demanding the destruction of the Jewish State, denying the Holocaust and accusing Jews of being oppressors. Simultaneously the Iranians are developing their nuclear program in defiance of the US and the European Union. The oil rich Iranians continue to claim that it is all for peaceful purposes. Not even the United Nations believes them.

The US, Britain and France (since Iranian missiles can only reach central Europe at the moment, the French must figure it is only a matter of time before Paris can be hit) want the issue brought to the UN Security Council where the possibility of sanctions can be discussed. The Chinese who have a permanent seat on the council, are not interested in sanctions, have economic interests in Iran and are apparently not afraid of an attack. The Russians want more diplomacy and options and thereby are suggesting they process nuclear fuel for Iran, giving the impression of “control” over any attempts by the militant ayatollahs to build a nuclear device.

Israel is going through the diplomatic motions of attempting to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran. Big money interests are involved and even if the West demands an “embargo,” Russia, China or both can veto the proposal at the UN. If there is a decision for an embargo, one can trust Moscov, Beijing and quite a few Western business interests to circumvent it.

The Russians are following their own immediate interests to the detriment of their medium and long term security. It is reminiscent of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of cooperation between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany in August 1939, a week before WWII broke out. In 1942 Stalin would explain to British PM Churchill that he had not expected the West to stand up to Hitler, leaving cooperation as the only avenue since the Soviets could not face the Nazis on their own.

Despite their own fears of Islamic terror, especially from Chechnya, the Russians feel they have to cooperate with Tehran. They have economic interests at stake but this should not be the overriding factor when considering the atomic threat. Moscow is sending mixed signals, one as a go - between to end the crisis with Iran while at the same time stepping into that role due to fear of Western cowardice. Stalin’s policy of appeasement through cooperation to buy time is repeating itself. In the world of nuclear confrontation a four year slugging match accompanied by Russian winters is not an option.

The Iranians will charge ahead with their nuclear development. Western threats or sanctions will be dismissed for the useless policy they are. If the West wants to stand up to the extremist Islamic regime in Iran it can only be done by taking such a staunch position as to intimidate the Russians into making no compromises. To prove so, they must convince Moscow (and Tehran)that a military option is always available to halt the nuclear program by Khomeini's sons.

Israeli Government's New Law Enforcement Hypocritical, says Think Tank

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Amona Syndrome or Two

By Yisrael Ne'eman, of Middle East on Target. Reprinted with permission from Elliot Chodoff.

Over 200 were injured in last week’s clash between security forces and settlement activists at the Amona outpost on the edge of the West Bank ( Judea and Samaria) development of Ofra. Nine permanent structures built by settlers on Palestinian lands were torn down by the government. The left wing Peace Now movement brought this to the attention of the authorities even though it appears the Palestinians themselves were in the process of selling the property.

Just a few years ago it would be a non-issue if Jewish homes were built on Palestinian lands during their sale. Today, and especially after the Gaza and northern Samaria Disengagement of August 2005 radical changes are in place. If permanent settlements can be removed then there is no question concerning illegal (by Israeli law) outposts. There are another 22 to go.

The message is political/diplomatic. Acting PM Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party is committed to Ariel Sharon’s platform of “demographic boundaries” ensuring a Jewish majority in the State of Israel to the detriment of retaining the entire Land of Israel. The agreement made with the Americans committing Israel to take down all outposts built after March 2001 is the excuse, but the real answer is in the policy of unilateralism being pushed by Olmert and supported by Labor. Just to Kadima’s right is the Yisrael Beitanu Party led by Avigdor Leiberman who also hints strongly that they support such policies.

Ofra is seen to be outside Israel’s permanent borders-to-be. If such a neighborhood was built on the edge of an existing settlement inside the fence it is doubtful anyone would be enforcing the Supreme Court decision. All would seek compromise (as is happening in Modi’in Elite at the moment).

Over the years everyone duped everyone else with a wink and a nod. For decades settlement leaders from the regional councils in Judea and Samaria built illegally and received monies and legal cover from Knesset members, ministers and the government after the fact. Ariel Sharon was # 1 conniver. Olmert expressed no objections nor did other former Likud members in Kadima of today.

In true Israeli fashion we sent the ideologues forward to lead the people and the power elite stood behind them. Sacrificing the people in the name of development and security has always been part of the nation building syndrome. Look at the immigrants sent to development towns in the Galilee and Negev in the 1950s and 1960s far from the center of the country to guarantee population dispersal and Israel’s borders after the War of Independence. They were given not much better than minimum wage jobs in the Histadrut (Labor Union) industries and built an economy as they were exploited by state capitalism while the government reinvested in infrastructure. Kibbutz and moshav ideologues went to the frontiers, farming by day and guarding by night in the name of the socialist, agricultural and secular Jewish national ideal. Today they are marginalized, privatized and bankrupt ideologically. Those who moved to Sinai in the 1970s were removed by 1982 (Ariel Sharon was defense minister and plowed down their homes) to enable peace with Egypt. Very few doubted then or now that such a move was a mistake.

The difference is that with their Land of Israel ideals the National Religious settled anywhere and everywhere. The law was of no significance as they followed Godly (led by the rabbis) exhortations. As opposed to the above mentioned groups certain parts of the younger generation of the National Religious separated themselves from the secular Jewish State and became a master unto themselves, going so far as to reject the Yesha Council leadership and members of Knesset from both the hard line secular and religious right. They were perceived as selling out by participating in the secular state apparatus.

Furthermore, enforcing the law seemed like an enormous plot to undermine the right of the Jewish People to the Land. The law was not enforced before, so why now? The world did not see legality to the housing developments where they lived and many of their families settled illegally (by Israeli law) but gained law abiding status in the aftermath. The long sustained legal evasion and law breaking was “the norm.” Law enforcement was considered theoretical and extraordinarily out of place.

As in a chess game some pawns will be sacrificed and others will survive. For 30 years the legitimacy of the State was undermined once one stepped across the 1949 -1967 armistice lines. For the settlers, today's “arbitrary” law enforcement is a rule change.

For the government such law enforcement is a tool to realize a larger domestic and foreign policy goal of a democratic Jewish State in alliance with the USA. It is no surprise that so many on both sides of the argument view these efforts of “law enforcement” with such a heavy dose of cynicism.

Friday, February 10, 2006

To the Honourable Mr. Turner

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(Cross-posted at Blue Grit)

To the Honourable Mr. Turner:

Thank you so much for your service to Canada. In only five days as an MP, you have done the principled thing as opposed to the easy thing. For disclosure’s sake, I am a Liberal, and am thus extremely disappointed that a Conservative is now representing my riding (replacing the Hon. Peter Adams). However, if you were my member of parliament, I would not feel nearly as disappointed - in fact, every member of the riding of Halton should feel proud that they have an MP who has already earned the title of “Honourable”, Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, Independent or any other.

I will admit that your committment to popular democracy is not shared entirely by me (I am a skeptic when it comes to “the people”); I also respectfully disagree with you on floor-crossers. That being said, what I do admire is the fact that you campaigned on honesty and integrity, and unlike 99% of politicians who do so (of all parties), you are actually showing honesty and integrity.

I hope that you are not browbeaten into submission by your party, and I pray that you continue to be one of the few MPs in the House of Commons that I truly respect. Unlike some Liberals, I will not invite you to join our party, because if you did, I think I would be disappointed. Not that I would be unhappy to have a principled, honourable man in the Liberal caucus (to replace Mr. “If the Liberals have won I’d still be a Liberal” Emerson), but your joining the Liberals would sort of defeat the purpose… unless you resigned and ran in a by-election… so on second thought, how do you feel about getting a hero’s welcome to the opposition benches? Just (half) kidding.

Keep fighting the good fight, sir.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Potfry: West Bank Protest Delayed By Lengthy Search for Danish Flag to Burn

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Potfry: West Bank Protest Delayed By Lengthy Search for Danish Flag to Burn: "At first, we figured Denmark was a U.S. state," he explained. "Then we found out it's actually a country, with a flag and everything. We went down to Faruk's Flammable Flags, and he had never heard of it."

Canadian Parties' Tax Policies

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I'm doing a bit of research for school on free trade and it's effects on Canada. I felt I might help people distinguish where each party stands in terms of economic policy, and redistribution of wealth. This came to me when I was reading over Harper's cabinet nominations, and it just felt totally stereotypical of conservative policy.

Conservatives: "We gotta protect the rich people's money and assets, throw some handfuls of dollars at the middle class, and f the poor. The poor don't vote or pay taxes, do they?" (note: I actually personally believe the poor are less inclined to vote, mainly because they need to work longer and can't afford the break from work, and have more pressing concerns.)

Liberal: "We gotta protect the rich, but we'll have some programs for the poor too, because we need the socialists to vote for us.
Reporter: How will you finance this?
- You ever heard of the middle class?"

NDP: "We're strongly against bringing religion into politics and all... but it's like what that hippie looking dude with the halo was saying ... you know, the poor are better than the rich! Save the poor! Let's tax the rich and their pimply corporations full of lawyers!
Reporter: And the middle class?
- There's a middle class?

Bloc: "Impose a tax on English. A nickel per sentence spoken in English anywhere northeast of Toronto. Oh, and let's also do the ethnics and money voters ..."

Green: "Tax oil companies. Uh, we mean SUV drivers. Uh, make that obese people ... they drive lots of SUVs."

Note to the Green Party: Taxing oil just decreases discretionary spending. Demand is inflexible, as recent price hikes have shown, so taxing oil won't decrease the demand. What will happen is people may try and drive less, initially, then just become accustomed to the increase in price, and keep on keeping on. What you can do to reduce pollution is use existing gas taxes to offer car manufacturers subsidies for making eco-friendly cars, or subsidize new technology that will reduce oil refineries pollution. Taxing citizens doesn't work out.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sick again.

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I've been unable to shake my cough and other symptoms, and all in all it's causing me to have a backlog on schoolwork. The result is the irregular updates to Centrerion. I apologize for that. I'm going to beat whatever I have, get my schoolwork done, and I'll be back, and Centrerion will be renewed better than before. In the meantime, thanks for being patient and understanding.

Muhammad Cartoons, Daniel Pipes - 5 Short Comments

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I keep reading about these Muhammad cartoons. Daniel Pipes wrote an interesting column on Islamic Imperialism. He notes we can't bend our society and freedom to Islam, and Islam's idea of turning the world into Dar-al-Islam, or the House of Islam. I agree with him there, but he riled me by suggesting "nivellement par le bas." Here are my thoughts on the issue.
  1. Insofar as Muhammad can be interpreted as representative of all Muslims, caricaturing him as a terrorist incites hatred of Muslims. For this reason, I oppose the publication of the cartoons. Freedom of speech is limited by respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
  2. Insofar as reaction to the cartoons is not that Muslims were generalized and stereotypes about, but rather that Muhammad was insulted, the cartoons are in bad taste.
  3. With respect to freedom of the press, I keep reading that Muslims will not impose their taboos and thoughts on our press. I wholeheartedly agree. Islam can be criticized. Muhammad can be represented, regardless of whether or not Islam allows this. Hindus aren't told they can't worship many gods just because monotheistic religions oppose the concept.
  4. Others have discussed the hypocrisy of the Arab-Muslim world. In denouncing these cartoons, but not the slander and libel regularly published in the Arab-Muslim world's newspapers and schoolbooks - which go far beyond stereotyping and incite to hatred and genocide of Jews, Israelis, and the West - the Arab-Muslim world once again shows it has no credibility in matters of free speech.
  5. Most importantly, I condemn absolutely the "nivellement par le bas," as we say in French, which has been suggested as a response to Muslim hypocrisy on free speech. "Nivellement par le bas" roughly translates to making everyone equal by making everyone mediocre. I'm referring to the suggestion made by commentator Daniel Pipes and by others that we should balance out the stupidities and racism published in Muslim newspapers and texts by protecting our "right to insult" each other. Since when do we a) have the "right" to insult each other? and b) did we get rid of the right to having an upstanding reputation unsullied by libellous and idiotic comments? This wasn't an argument for freedom of the press as much as an argument favouring limitless liberties for fools.
Of related interest in this Muhammad cartoon 'scandal' is that Muhammad can be depicted.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Moderate's Analysis of Hamas, and the Direction of International Relations with the Palestinians

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Here's some analysis of terrorist group Hamas, and what might happen now they've taken power.
I met Mr. Chodoff at a conference recently, where he was speaking. Impressed by his analysis of Hamas and associated subjects, I asked if he could write for us. Mr. Chodoff said we could reprint the material from Middle East on Target, the think tank he works with, so long as it was credited.

Hamas Wins – Now What?
by Elliot Chodoff

The Hamas election victory has left much of the leadership in the West in a quandary. Having touted democracy for years, it would seem that reality has caught up with the adage, “Be careful what you wish for – you might get it.” Faced with the surprise show of electoral power of Hamas (if they had been reading our columns, they would not have been so surprised) these leaders now must navigate through an apparent minefield, largely sown by themselves. They put the election cart before the democracy horse, and now they have a radical Islamic terrorist organization as the rider.
\n \n \nThe first issue that needs to be addressed is that of democracy. While the elections that put Hamas in power certainly reflected the will of the Palestinian population, the system of the Palestinian Authority is still a far cry from democracy. Elections are important, but a democratic system is reflected in an electoral process and not defined by the holding of elections. Fiscal transparency, civil rights, the rule of law, a process of power sharing and turnover as well as stable institutions are the components of democracy, not elections.\n \n \nWe would do well to remember that Hitler came to power in the last democratic elections of the Weimar Republic. In that historical case, the elections were not a manifestation of democracy but rather, for the next twelve years in Germany, of its demise. Democracy after all, is not about how leaders come to power; it is about how they are removed from power.\n \n \nWe should not be overly impressed that Hamas campaigned on an anti-corruption platform rather than one of terrorism. Political parties campaign on issues that make them distinct from their opponents; a campaign based on terrorism would have been lost in the universalism of that phenomenon among all the major candidates in the elections. Opposition to corruption certainly set Hamas apart.Hamas will now attempt to play the West off against itself, requesting funds for humanitarian purposes as it continues to preach and generate terrorism. Caught on the horns of its ideology Hamas, having run on a platform of honesty, will be hard pressed to retreat in its policy of all out war with Israel. The result will be a multi-pronged policy of clean government, Islamic law enforcement and terrorism."

The first issue that needs to be addressed is that of democracy. While the elections that put Hamas in power certainly reflected the will of the Palestinian population, the system of the Palestinian Authority is still a far cry from democracy. Elections are important, but a democratic system is reflected in an electoral process and not defined by the holding of elections. Fiscal transparency, civil rights, the rule of law, a process of power sharing and turnover as well as stable institutions are the components of democracy, not elections.

We would do well to remember that Hitler came to power in the last democratic elections of the Weimar Republic. In that historical case, the elections were not a manifestation of democracy but rather, for the next twelve years in Germany, of its demise. Democracy after all, is not about how leaders come to power; it is about how they are removed from power.

We should not be overly impressed that Hamas campaigned on an anti-corruption platform rather than one of terrorism. Political parties campaign on issues that make them distinct from their opponents; a campaign based on terrorism would have been lost in the universalism of that phenomenon among all the major candidates in the elections. Opposition to corruption certainly set Hamas apart.

Hamas will now attempt to play the West off against itself, requesting funds for humanitarian purposes as it continues to preach and generate terrorism. Caught on the horns of its ideology Hamas, having run on a platform of honesty, will be hard pressed to retreat in its policy of all out war with Israel. The result will be a multi-pronged policy of clean government, Islamic law enforcement and terrorism.
As we have seen with the request for continued funding from the West (the same West that it openly despises – proving the Yiddish saying Gelt shtinkt nisht [money doesn’t smell]) there will be an attempt at outward appearances of separation between terrorism and administration. The best of all scenarios for Hamas would be for the West to fund its social and humanitarian programs, increasing popular support for the Islamic regime, while funneling all other funds into\nterrorist operations.\n \n \nIsrael and the West should have none of it. A terrorist organization remains a terrorist organization, even when it runs nursery schools. While it would behoove us to wait and give Hamas a chance to show what it really has in mind, we should be prepared to respond in the harshest possible terms to any manifestation of violence coming out of the Palestinian Authority. Abu Mazen and his gang are no longer in the position of saying that they will not engage the terrorist organizations in armed conflict but will try to co-opt them into changing their ways. Now we have a Hamas led PA, and any terrorism it sends our way should be taken for what it is: an act of war. And from now on, we also have an official return address.nAdditional articles can be found at Mideast: On Target"

As we have seen with the request for continued funding from the West (the same West that it openly despises – proving the Yiddish saying Gelt shtinkt nisht [money doesn’t smell]) there will be an attempt at outward appearances of separation between terrorism and administration. The best of all scenarios for Hamas would be for the West to fund its social and humanitarian programs, increasing popular support for the Islamic regime, while funneling all other funds into terrorist operations.

Israel and the West should have none of it. A terrorist organization remains a terrorist organization, even when it runs nursery schools. While it would behoove us to wait and give Hamas a chance to show what it really has in mind, we should be prepared to respond in the harshest possible terms to any manifestation of violence coming out of the Palestinian Authority. Abu Mazen and his gang are no longer in the position of saying that they will not engage the terrorist organizations in armed conflict but will try to co-opt them into changing their ways. Now we have a Hamas led PA, and any terrorism it sends our way should be taken for what it is: an act of war. And from now on, we also have an official return address.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Freedom versus Religious Extremism

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Cross-posted at Blue Grit

(Forgive the generalization, as it is just that - obviously there are exceptions.)

One thing that continues to trouble me about, broadly, the "Left", is the tendency for leftists to ally themselves with brutal enemies of western civilization. There were many leftists during the Cold War who empathized with the Soviet Union. In the same vein, today, there are many who try to make excuses for the Islamists. The ironic thing is that they (correctly) attack Christianists for their extremism, yet remain silent when it comes to the Islamists, or if they do have something to say, it is understanding, even sympathy. A perfect example is Michael Moore referring to the terrorists killing civilians in Iraq as "freedom fighters". I wonder if he would apply the same label to the Islamists who are threatening to kidnap and murder innocent European civilians over the silly Muhammed cartoons? Well, I'll cut Michael some slack on this one - they are freedom fighters, in the sense that they are fighting freedom, along with their allies, the PC Left. Take this example of a French newspaper editor who has been sacked for printing the cartoons. Also take note of the lefties on the Wikipedia talk board attempting to get the article censored.

It troubles me because I identify much more strongly with left of centre values than I do with right of centre, yet the values of the left are so frequently and disturbingly used to make excuses for the twisted values of the far right. Political correctness is a decent idea in principle, but when it is used to justify the shutting down of free speech and expression, something is terribly wrong. Liberal ideas should not be used as a weapon against liberalism.

It becomes that much more perplexing when, as mentioned above, these same people will (again, correctly) vehemently opposed and attack the ignorant, irrational, anti-science, anti-freedom, anti-logic, anti-everything-that's-fun Christian right, but they will often go so far as to be apologists for the Islamic right.

Personally, I will have none of it. People of the left must start to recognize that what we are dealing with here is actually something even more dangerous than the Christian fundamentalists - they may be neurotic, sex-obsessed control-freaks, but they do not carry around guns and threaten to kidnap people in order to force "self"-censorship.