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October 10, 2007

The Lesson Not Learned

One simple lesson. But they never do learn, do they?

When Andrew Coyne is not writing about MMP, he's Canada's best columnist. In today's piece he smacks around those politicians that think their targeted industrial strategies, supply management programs, and regional development initiatives do any good at all. Actually, 'those politicians' are pretty much 'all politicians'. It's pretty hard to find one that doesn't believe that taking money from some and giving it to others (accompanied by a photo-op, of course) is not a good idea. Read the whole thing, but I especially enjoyed this paragraph:

All of economics is devoted to the proposition that there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of politics is devoted to the opposite conviction. All economics teaches that you can’t get something for nothing. All politics supposes that you can -- or that you can at least persuade other people that you can. Economics is about scarcity, universal and inescapable. Politics is about limitless plenty.

October 08, 2007

A very, very, very good idea

Glenn Reynolds just tosses this out:

I think that everyone should pay at least some tax, and it should vary each year with how much the government spends, and should be enough to give people an incentive to care.
Possibly this might break the strange mind-block that many people have about government spending. It's not the government's money they're throwing around. It's your money! If something like this was in place, people might not be quite so enthusiastic about all the spending announcements the politicians make -- especially around election time. The would know that they will really be paying for these targeted boondoggles come tax time.

A law that would reduce the incentives for politicians to overspend would be miraculous. But what party would be foolish enough to propose such a thing?

July 30, 2007

The new brownshirts

Paramilitary groups, fanatically loyal to Vladimir Putin, are becoming more powerful in Russia.

Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.

Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.

Bizarrely, young women are encouraged to hand in thongs and other skimpy underwear - supposedly a cause of sterility - and given more wholesome and substantial undergarments.

Twenty-five couples marry at the start of the camp's first week and ten more at the start of the second. These mass weddings, the ultimate expression of devotion to the motherland, are legal and conducted by a civil official.

Attempting to raise Russia's dismally low birthrate even by eccentric-seeming means might be understandable. Certainly, the country's demographic outlook is dire. The hard-drinking, hardsmoking and disease-ridden population is set to plunge by a million a year in the next decade.

But the real aim of the youth camp - and the 100,000-strong movement behind it - is not to improve Russia's demographic profile, but to attack democracy.

Under Mr Putin, Russia is sliding into fascism, with state control of the economy, media, politics and society becoming increasingly heavy-handed. And Nashi, along with other similar youth movements, such as 'Young Guard', and 'Young Russia', is in the forefront of the charge.

Read the rest. The resemblance of these groups to the Nazi SA is frightening.

It never fails to amaze me. A violent and fanatical ideology is spreading through the Muslim world, killing thousands each year and breaking any opposition with murder and intimidation; Russia is quickly becoming a fascist state; China is already there and maintains its power through tight censorship and massive human rights abuses; genocide is occurring in Sudan -- yes, right at this very minute; and a tinpot dictator is dismantling a democracy in South America and using his country's wealth to export this tragedy to neighboring countries. Yet it seems to me that 90% of the outrage over the state of the world is directed at one man.

I truly believe that the intellectuals and media's mad obsession with this one man has given cover and comfort to these regimes. And one day we'll all pay the price for it.

July 04, 2007

The Contrarian View

Ted Nugent. In the Wall Street Journal:

Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," which was the calling card of LSD proponent Timothy Leary. Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco.
I link to this not necessarily because I agree with it, but for the contrast with the rose-tinted retrospectives soon to be featured in every news medium. RTWT.

June 10, 2007

The Journey of Mankind

Take a few minutes to explore this flash presentation on how Homo Sapiens spread over the earth. It's based on the latest scientific info and contained quite a few nuggets that surprised me.

(via the Mayor of Mitchieville)

June 09, 2007

Why I hate art

Actually, I don't hate it. I recognize that the creativity, ambition, and determination of people that can only be called 'artists' give me great pleasure and happiness. The people that write the stories, make the movies, play the music, and yes, design the computer games are those that create the vast, complex culture we live in. But they aren't whom most people think of as 'artists'.

'Artists', of course, are those that the CBC fawns over, a self-perpetuating oligarchy of pretentious hacks moving in a crowd, with very little to say. A huge government bureaucracy sustains them, and most of their energy is spent making sure the spigot stays on -- and congratulating themselves for it.

Robert Fulford visited the latest gathering of this crowd in Toronto, for the opening of a very expensive new museum. The situation is worse than I thought:

The performances filling most of the evening were also worked into the religious theme: In between acts, Paul Gross, our host, conducted an argument with a booming voice (Gordon Pinsent's) that claimed to belong to Time. We all realized that Time represented God, who would have come Himself if He hadn't been made illegal.

Time turned out to be just as pushy as the God of Genesis, though less interesting. He said all civilizations die and our time had come. He was "pulling the plug" this very night because we were growing less creative and polluting the earth.

In our defence, Gross offered the show we were watching (rap singers, Celtic dancers, an opera star, native drummers, whatever) as proof of our creativity. Time seemed unimpressed (and nobody would blame him). Besides, that still left Earth-despoiling. What could we say about that?

At this point the producers wheeled out David Suzuki, that national menace, to declare that the world is reforming itself by going green. As an example he cited some young girls who saved some old horses. He mentioned "my friend Al Gore."

Eventually some of us began pawing through the program to learn who conceived this twaddle. It said "Writer: Bernard Rothman." He's a TV guy from Montreal who has spent the last 35 years in Los Angeles, accumulating a modest list of credits (wrote for My Three Sons, produced a George Burns special, etc.).

June 01, 2007

A pause for inspiration

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann 1927

May 11, 2007

'The road to Heaven-on-Earth passes through Hell and never re-emerges'

Front Page magazine has a great interview with Canadian poet David Solway, who dramatically shifted his worldview after 9/11. In it, Solway warns of the threat of militant Islam and berates the modern left for their tacit support of this ideology. Because of his command of language, he is able to do this very well. Here he describes the Canadian political scene:

Ignoring the supple manoeuvring of the enemy within and the gathering storm of the enemy without, we concentrate instead on tiny tempests in the nanny-state teapot, cozily swaddled within the cocoon of our facile self-preoccupations. The majority of those who constitute our political elite would steer the country toward a flaccid accommodation with a grimly Hobbesian world, seconded by our dial-a-cause literary organizations with no grip on the way things are. A new government may, hopefully, alter this trend, but the malaise is deep-seated. A telling illustration of this penchant for denial, this flight from reality, was the repealing of anti-terror legislation in the recent parliament at the hands of the pacifist opposition parties, an act for which we are likely to pay a heavy price in the future.

Canada is not only an incoherent country but a country gone soft, more than half its citizenry believing that world peace is achievable through parliamentary posturing, expressions of highfalutin sentiment, unquestioning support for the corrupt and ineffectual U.N., the admission in principle of the equality of all cultural perspectives (with two exceptions: our own and Judaism’s), the enunciation of good intentions and impetuous calls for immediate ceasefire. It is a country that has enfeebled its military to the point at which, as historian Jack Granatstein has indicated in Whose War Is It?, it would be unable to respond effectively to a national catastrophe. It is a country which believes that soldiers are meant to keep the peace even if there is no peace to keep, but that they are certainly not meant to risk their lives on the battlefield. The job of the army is to build schools, hospitals and bridges, but not to prevent the enemy from blowing them up the moment they are in place. Canadians tend to be deeply concerned that the terrorist detainees in Afghanistan—those who plant roadside bombs, kill wantonly, mutilate and behead—may not be receiving proper treatment from the Afghan authorities to whom they have been turned over. That these are members of the same Taliban organization which sheltered al-Qaeda and enthusiastically endorsed and abetted its project to murder and maim as many innocent civilians as possible, including those who piously wish to defend the terrorists’ rights and wellbeing, seems of little or no importance.

RTWT, there's plenty more where that came from.

See also: Nick Cohen.

(Hat tip: Dust My Broom)

February 19, 2007

Green is the new red

Joe Noory at ¡No Pasarán! is a little pissed and has a few things he really needs to say:

It takes some of that fantastic magical thinking to try to plausibly say that Maoism, or any other mutation of Marxism is "green" or ever was. They were the biggest polluters that ever were, completely against anything non-standard or biologically diverse, and were the lovely sort who tried to force people into a mono-culture using as their tools good old fashioned lefty "re-education" camps, mass-starvation, and repression.

And yet, and yet, there is a large subculture of zombies out there who think that red-makes-green. It might, but only in the way Arbeit macht frei, and there’s no-one left out there to pollute the world with their horrible dependence on oxygen. Despite all the facts, despite reason, they still believe that the environment would somehow be better when more people are farming smallholdings, and being less productive – which is defined by the amount of activity, including energy, chemical, and human that it takes to produce anything.

They continue to believe this trash because they are a cult. They are offered the grand, redemptive perfection of a future bucolic existence that would require them to spend their shortened lives in backbreaking work in the fields, even though the adherents are almost entirely urban, young, and employed for 35 hours a week if they have work at all. They are scared with a Armageddon story, but not SO MUCH or SO MEANINGFUL an Armageddon story that you can't repeat it to them incessantly to keep them hooked in. They are fed a steady repetition of the exact same “it’s worse than we thought” story every 2 to 3 weeks. The world-view sold to them is meant to reinterpret modernity, just as a cult tries to keep adherents well programmed by destroying their understanding of the outside world.

The buzzword is "decroissance" or dismantling of the sustained civilization we live in for one sustainable at a miserable level. They literally want to dismantle the product of active human effort of the sort that feeds, heats, employs, inspires, and entertains civilization. They don't want to be the only ones to pack up and leave town to live a third world existence, they want everyone else to as well. Granted, going back to a subsitence level would make "happy valley" a crowded place, which is why virtually all of humanity doesn't actually do this anymore by choice, so I guess 95% of us will just have to die for their sustained happiness.

David Suzuki and Stephane Dion, he's looking at you. With a slightly deranged stare. But then, maybe he's right. Read the whole thing.

January 31, 2007

Why is the world upside down?

For the past few years I've had the feeling that global politics is moving into the Twilight Zone. So many politicians, reporters, and members of other elites have been appeasing and making excuses for one of the most vile ideologies in history. The United States and a few of its allies have fought against this ideology, making difficult sacrifices to try to grow democracy in some very poor soil, and those same intellectuals seem very clearly to want this effort to fail. Can it be that they hate Bush so much that they want to see an entire nation fall to fascists so that he doesn't have the honour of a 'victory'? Sure, there have been mistakes, but if I recall my history, the allies in World War II didn't follow a perfectly executed plan either. But they won, despite setbacks and disagreements, because they understood the consequences of defeat.

[Former?] Leftist Nick Cohen can't understand what's going on either, and has some questions for his 'comrades':

Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?

In short, why is the world upside down?

Read the whole thing, he's just getting warmed up...

January 12, 2007

The second biggest issue of the 21st century

The Chinese state media agency Xinhua has admitted that China gender imbalance is growing deeper:

A report released here Thursday said there will be 30 million more males of marriageable age in China than females by the year 2020, which will make it difficult for men to find wives.

The report, issued by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, said China's sex ratio for newborn babies in 2005 was 118 boys to 100 girls, compared with 110:100 in 2000. In some regions, the sex ratio has reached 130:100.

The Chinese Communist government has decided this is a bad thing, but that their brutal family planning policies had nothing to do with it.
The report predicted that in the year 2020, Chinese men of marriageable age will find it difficult to find wives, especially those with low income or little education. This will create social instability.

Liu said the sex ratio imbalance was not connected to China's family planning policy. "It is more a result of the deep-rooted notion in Chinese culture that men are superior to women," she said.

It's hard to imagine what China will be like when there are four men to every three women. I'm very pro-woman myself; I believe that those of the female gender contribute much more to the 'glue' that binds civilization together. Single men are capable of all kinds of trouble -- especially in groups -- but when matched with women they become contributing members of society. Without women, these unmatched Chinese men will be attracted to gangs or aggressive political movements.

I'm also of the opinion that the booming Chinese economy is due to throw a piston in the next five years. Too much of the business of the country is driven by state-managed industry and financing, and not enough by real demand. It will run into trouble for the same reasons that Japan's government-managed economy fell flat fifteen years ago. Will Hutton summarizes it like this:

China's economic growth is based on the state channelling vast under-priced savings into huge investment projects driven by cheap labour. Some 200m of China's 760m workforce are migrant peasants employed in factories, construction sites and offices in its new towns and cities—the biggest migration in history. The Communist party has permitted free movement of prices, encourages profit-seeking and has sharply lowered tariffs on imports and obstacles to inward investment. Its success in creating annual growth of some 9.5 per cent for a generation, lifting 400m people out of poverty, is widely acknowledged. But the party keeps firm control of ownership, wages and company strategies—and of the state. In other words, China occupies an uneasy halfway house between socialism and capitalism; its private sector, although growing, is still puny. It is a system of Leninist corporatism—and it is this that is breaking down.

The breaches in the model are all around. How much longer can China's state-owned banks carry on directing billions of dollars of savings into investments that produce tiny or even negative returns and on which interest is irregularly paid? Poor peasants' ability to create the savings needed to fuel growth is reaching its limits. And in any case, for how long can a $2 trillion economy save at more than 40 per cent of GDP? It is reaching the limit of its capacity to increase exports (which in 2007 will surpass $1 trillion) by 25 per cent a year; at this rate of growth they will reach $5 trillion by 2020 or sooner, representing more than half of today's world trade. Is that likely? Are there sufficient ships and ports to move such volumes—and will western markets stay open without real reciprocity on trade? Every year China acquires $200bn of foreign exchange reserves, mainly dollars, as it rigs its currency to keep its exports competitive. It is absurd for a poor country like China to be lending to a rich one like the US; in fact, it is unsustainable, and the financial markets seem to agree.

China would like to lower the current feverish growth rates, but the tools available in the west—raising taxes, cutting spending and lifting interest rates—are not available to China. The party dare not trigger protests by raising taxes; officials in state enterprises and provincial governments ignore orders to lower spending because their careers depend on generating growth and jobs. And raising interest rates could create a credit crunch as loans go sour.

Chinese history is remarkably consistent. China is always united under one dynasty, which grows corrupt and weak. Sparks erupt in the backwaters -- minor revolts against local rulers -- but most are snuffed out. But eventually one catches fire and starts to claim more territory until a new dynasty is founded. In this way the Ming were replaced by the Qing, who were replaced by the Kuomintang, who were replaced by the Communists. In each of those transitions, there was a huge loss of life.

With the growing gender imbalance and the teetering economy, the groundwork is definitely in place for a dynastic change. And it's not going to be pretty.

December 03, 2006

Who will get the last word?

A trivial post at Andrew Coyne's blog simply announcing who won the leadership convention has morphed into a rock 'em-sock 'em debate over the validity of the greenhouse effect. There's over a hundred comments so far, and yet there has been no agreement. Imagine that! Some well reasoned arguments have been advanced by both sides, but they've been mixed with lots of nasty ad hominum stuff as well. Which makes it so fun to read.

UPDATE: Now what to do about Afghanistan is being debated. I'm glad these guys are working so hard to clear these issues up.

July 30, 2006

Obsession

I'm sure this video is busily being linked to around the blogosphere, but that's because it's very, very good. Obsession tells the story of modern radical Islam. It's over an hour long, but it's very much worth your time. There is a huge fascist movement building in the world, and the impression given by our media is that it is only small minority committing terrorism and that they are acting out of legitimate grievances. Hopefully this will open a few eyes.

It's also a very pro-Muslim film. It features many Muslim speakers and ends by countering the many examples of Islamist hate it had shown with exhortations from Muslim clerics and leaders to stand against fanaticism.

July 05, 2006

More justification for Neo-Imperialism

Rule of law, adjudicated by even-handed justice, simply does not exist anywhere in the developing world and this is the real culprit that stifles development and condemns the poor to live in zero-sum societies. All developing countries are failed states to one degree or another and most of their citizens are miserably poor. In fact, calling them "developing" is misleading because it suggests an upward spiral. But these people are the great grandkids of folks who were poor a half century ago when we started giving out foreign aid in large chunks.

Without laws -- and the institutions to administer them fairly -- people make up their own rules. Society requires predictability to function and so absent national law they create informal rule-sets. But rules without the force of law can only be sanctioned through bribery or physical force. If the beat cop has no rules, he follows the local norms, the neighborhood rule-set. But to use his monopoly of force on behalf of the neighborhood rule-set he will extract a price. A bribe.

When that happens, the law comes to mean corruption. And since this system is not just accepted but actively reinforced by a network of beneficiaries, corruption becomes the organizing principle of society. At that point, demands by aid donors that governments control corruption are not just impossible to meet, but could even be dangerous and destabilizing for recipient governments and so are largely ignored.

Peter F. Schaefer sounds like a decent guy, and details his extensive knowledge of corruption in the Third World. It's not a very optimistic look, because he sees corruption as being too deeply entrenched in these cultures to stop. His only advice is for aid donor nations to take a harder line on this corruption and freeze the ill-gotten plunder as soon as it reaches the Western banking system. Good luck on that -- and even if it could be implemented it would do nothing to stop the low level corruption the people in these countries endure every day.

What these countries really need is a fair legal system and civil protection, coupled with a smaller, less intrusive government. The problem is that most of these countries model themselves on Western governments, with our big sprawling bureaucracies. This is not as much of a problem in the West, because our bureaucracies are, for the most part, not corrupt. But it's disastrous in countries where the ruling principle is, "What's in it for me?"

I read an interesting article in the Economist a while ago, and it described the efforts a reporter had to make to visit a train station in some God-forsaken country in Africa. He had to get numerous authorizations and pass through many check points -- each autorization and checkpoint requiring a bribe. When he finally got to his destination, he found the building and all the trains deserted, and looted of everything that was not too heavy to carry.

What happens is, the rulers of these countries sell portions of their power to underlings, who further divide up and sell their powers to others, who resell it again and so on -- creating a vast tentacled network of suckers, each using their tiny portion of the power of the state to feed on the public.

But imagine an occupying Imperial force, free from the stifling PC conventions of the day, occupying a country like this, cutting off the leeching network at its source, and providing security and a system for resolving disputes. Wouldn't everything be perfect from then on? No, of course not. But it would be a start, and allow the stability and safety people need to improve their lives. And it would be much better than the hopeless situation that stands today.

Unfortunately, I think the political climate in the world is a just a little unready for this kind of thinking. Better to just support whatever's the latest fashionable idea for saving the Third World -- what was it again? Oh right, debt forgiveness. That'll work, for sure.

July 03, 2006

Let's give Neo-Imperialism a chance!

It's not too often that you read a really new idea; something big that opens many new avenues of thought. But No Pasaran has posted an essay by a former US State Department officer has enough food for thought to keep you going for a week. Here's a sample:

The United States has a terrible case of the Post-Imperial Blues.

The only cure is an intellectual realization that not all places are fit for present self-government as based on the ample empirical evidence from decolonization and subsequent UN and NATO protectorates in the Balkans. Knee-jerk anti-imperialism must be jettisoned in addition to the corresponding obsession with the nation-state as the only just and most effective form of international political organization.

It seems like a shocking proposition at first, but he fills in the details quite effectively. Read the whole thing.