Thursday, September 23, 2010

What is Freedom?

Its been while since I've posted, so I'm going to cut right to the chase (after this bit of nonsense).

Freedom is the strength to resist. (Yes, this is simplified to the max.)

Oppression can be from any source: governments, corporations, shiny advertising, etc.  Anything that would cause you to do something that you otherwise would not.

But the irony of it is that unless you plan to live as a hermit, with no contact with anyone else you're going to need help to make yourself strong and keep yourself that way.

Those choosing to living on their own will mostly likely hit the Hobbesian wall of having this lives cut nasty, brutish, and short.

So, what is strength?

Strength is not just physical power.  Really living in a modern western democratic society, I'd say that physical and military strength (see also gun rights) is probably the least important factor in the resilience of a democratic citizen.

Education, health, and wealth are the three most important factors in ensuring that citizens are as free as they can be.

All else being equal no one can deny that:

One who is healthy is stronger than one who is ill.
One who is educated is less likely to be duped than one who is not.
One who has financial stability is more willing to resist than one who has nothing.

This is why strong citizens demand that these three things be provided to them by the government.
This is why these are the first things that strong governments take away from their people.

If I am educated, then I can recognize that which threatens me.
If I am healthy, then I can oppose any force that threatens me.
If I am financially stable, then I have the time and resources to make my opposition meaningful.

"Freedom from government" is the largest and most successful ruse that has ever been pulled on a democratic society.  It takes the fears and realities of 250 years ago and applies them to today, convincing people that the very things that are good for them are poisonous.

In colonial America, the biggest threat to freedom were foreign and domestic governments, who through the power of armies and navies could come and seize your lands and enslave you to their will.  Today, domestic democratic government is the tool of citizens to enable their freedom.  It does seek to enslave its populations as it once did because it doesn't make sense.  Such a system is far too expensive to maintain, and doesn't generate anywhere near the wealth and power that would be necessary to maintain themselves.

The freest democratic countries in the world are those that have universal healthy care, inexpensive and excellent educational programs, and low disparities between rich and poor.  This figure is even more apparent when you take away net financial growth figures, that artificially keep countries such as the USA higher on the chart than their status actually warrants. (

Freedom means having the strength to demand that the government provide the means to strengthen citizens against them.  It means demanding that the government direct its power to prevent powerful interests from manipulating and poisoning us with lead infested toys, false and misleading advertisements, under priced goods made by slave labour and so on.

Freedom is using government, and the fastest way to lose it is to be 'liberated' from it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Economics of War

Last week in The Star a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Defence stated that the Conservative government had encouraged a policy of Canadian soldiers dying overseas rather than coming home injured because it was more cost effective.

I've tried various ways of expressing my outrage over this, and I can't think of anything that isn't captured by the cold reality.

Dead Canadian soldiers = Cheaper than injured soldiers.

Lives have been given a monetary value, and they're apparently not worth the cost.

$16 billion on shiny new planes is a higher priority than making sure that our men and women of the armed forces who serve over seas will be properly taken care of when they get home.

I want to express my deepest sorrow for the families and friends for all those who have died in Afghanistan and won't be coming home as a result of this heartless policy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where caution goes too far

This is more of a rant than my typical more academic approach.

At some point politicians and citizens need to be able to say enough is enough and stand up to their government and demand an election.

For me this happened years ago when Harper decided to "save" $0.10 per Canadian, but scraping the Charter challenge fund, which helped regular Canadians afford the cost of taking legislation to court for violating the constitution.  Trudeau considered this absolutely vital to making the Constitution a safeguard for the people.  But the Liberals and the opposition squabbled little over this and it was destroyed without much of a fight.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Clement lies about Survey

Well this was no surprise.

The Star

The Globe and Mail

So the Conservatives lied about StatsCan's support of their plan to make the mandatory long form census into a voluntary survey.

Turns out that StatsCan was opposed to the idea since it deteriorates the value of the census and makes it more difficult to use the data as a benchmark against other surveys.

The two parts of this story that I really liked were how the documents surrounding the government's decision were redacted as though they contained some secret material (about statistics).

And how Harper's office asked former head of StatsCan Munir Sheikh to alter his statement saying that the new survey would not be as valuable as the traditional census; to "StatsCan is confident that it will meet the needs of a broad range of users.

Which completely conveys the same message and makes me wonder what other areas the Harper government is filling our lives with such truthiness.

Friday, July 30, 2010

From my Bleeding Heart: The Census and Discrimination

When the Harper government announced its intent to make 54 of the 62 questions on the long census form voluntary, Harper and Tony Clement claimed that it was to protect people’s privacy from invasive questions.  I, like many businesses, academics, politicians, government agencies, and rationally minded citizens, felt that explanation seemed… lacking, which made me suspicious of Harper’s actual motivations.

One month later, while the controversy over the census rages on, the CPC announces that they intend to “review” the government’s hiring policy in regards to affirmative action. 

So Harper has modified the census so that it will be harder to determine if there is racially based discrimination in the job market, then he seeks to remove a program designed to combat the same problem.
The only way privacy makes sense as an explanation for the changes to the census is if it refers to the government’s “right” to enact legislation in private, without “interference” by the opposition, media, and non-white Canadians.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In response to Searching for Liberty's "Advice on filling out the Long-form Census"

Original Post

The response after the jump is based on all information up until my comment on the original post that reads:

"My rebuttal is getting rather long, when I finish it I'll post it on my blog."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Census: the Long and Short of It

Harper has reduced the long census from 63 to 8 because he claims that the rest of the questions are overly intrusive on our individual right to privacy.  Lets have a look at the new census and then the questions that have been left out.  Please be aware that I have paraphrased them to keep this post as short as possible.

F-35s... Why?

I know this topic is being talked about to death... but I saw the bandwagon and said, "me too!"

So, a few weeks ago Harper stated his commitment to reducing the deficit by half by 2013.  His first major action after that: $16B for 65 state of the art F-35s.  $9B for the planes and an estimated (though not confirmed) $7B for maintenance.  To put that into perspective that's four times the amount that was set aside for the economic action recovery plan.

The CPC has said that the cost is necessary to replace the aging fleet of CF18s that are currently in use.  All of the remaining 79 of which are finishing a $2.6B upgrade to a wide variety of their systems.

So if we're upgrading the existing planes why do we also need new ones?

The CPC's reasons were that we had already invested $168M into the development of the plane (as have many of our allies) and that we need to keep pace with our allies in terms of military capability.  Also, the airframes on the CF-18s are getting old and do need to be replaced, but that can also be done at a fraction of the cost.

The first reason is filled with so much stupid that its not worth making a serious argument against it.  It's like buying a ticket to a hockey game then buying the entire team to justify the ticket's expense.  At best $168M gives us the option to choose to purchase then jets.

Which allies are we trying to keep up with?  It seems that the cost of the F-35 is a major problem for all of the countries that have invested in the program except us.  The US and many of the other countries involved in the project have cut the size of their orders, and the Dutch have withdrawn from the program altogether.

The original cost of the F-35 was slated at $55M each, which had ballooned to an estimated $115M as of May of this year.  Now in July we've agreed to pay $138M per plane... I think Harper needs to work on his bargaining skills.  We're purchasing from the first production run, which typically is rife with minor technical errors; if we had waited until the fourth run, we could have paid half.

During a financial meltdown it seems like a better use of tax money would have been to stabilize and expand the economy.  As mentioned before the F-35 expenditure is four times greater than the stimulus fund.  But maybe we need the jets more than we need to repair and upgrade our infrastructure, help struggling businesses and families, and oh yeah prevent further expansion of the deficit.

As I read through the Toronto Star I was amused that the very next article following one about the F-35s was about the dire condition of our existing infrastructure.  Apparently the cost to bring Ontario's roads need about $160M to maintain them at a minimum safe standard.  But hey, its not like infrastructure has anything to do with the economy, right?

To conclude, I was annoyed with this decision in light of the recent commitment to reduce the deficit by a half in three years.  But I guess if you make it as big as possible this year, halving it will be all the easier.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Part 2: Understanding Progressives

As promised in an earlier post here's my review of what George Lakoff has to say in the Political Mind about the progressive mind and view of the family.

Nurturing Parent Model:
Quoted from the Political Mind
[T]wo parents, with equal responsibilities, and no gender constraints - or one parent of either gender. Their job is to nurture their children and raise them to be nurturers of others. Nurturance is empathy, responsibility for oneself and others, and the strength to carry out those responsibilities.  This is opposite of indulgence: children are raised to care about others, to take care of themselves and others, and to lead a fulfilling life.  Discipline is positive; it comes out of the child's developing sense of care and responsibility.  Nuturance requires setting limits, and explaining them.  It requires mutual respect - a parent's respect for children, and respect for parents by children must be earned by how the parents behave. Restitution is preferred over punishment - if you do something wrong, do something right to make up for it.  The job of parents is protection and empowerment of their children, and a dedication to community life, where people care about and take care of each other.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Implications of an Elected Senate

Since his election in 2005 Harper has been pushing to reform the Senate. As witnessed in his 2006 and 2010 senate reform bills he wants senators to be elected and have a term limit of about 8 years. By doing this Harper says he hopes to bring accountability and legitimacy to the Senate.

There are a number of problems with his plan.

1. He can't change these things without a constitutional amendment

The Constitution Act 1982 §42 (1)(b) states:
(1) An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1):
(b) the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators;

This means that if Harper wants Senators to be elected or to have an 8 year term limit, he needs to get the approval of Parliament, the Senate, and at least 7 provincial legislatures who have a total of at least 50% of the population. The CPC has argued that the election part of this can be circumvented since, the PM will simply appoint whoever wins the elections. But lets not fool ourselves, even if I accept this method it's facially still a change to method of selecting Senators.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thoughts on Electoral Reform

Electoral reform has been a topic of debate for many years in Canada. I thought it was time that I weigh in with my "highly informed" opinion .

Canada currently uses the first past the post system (FPP) which we have inherited from the the British. The idea is that whoever gets the most votes win, even if they don't have a majority.

Andrew: 36%
Bob: 29%
Cathy: 35%

Andrew wins.

The problem with this system is that most time the winner doesn't have the support of the majority of voters. Andrew wasn't supported by 64% of those who cast their votes. If you think that's silly, you're probably right.

Over the years this has resulted in majority governments typically being formed with only around 35% of the popular vote. Only 2 federal governments have been formed with at least 50% of the popular vote since 1950. Despite what Harper may say; it is constitutionally possible for several parties to band together to form a coalition government.

Ex. Bob and Cathy agree that Andrew would make a bad leader and will use his twisted ideology to cause irreparable damage to the country. So they decide to work together to prevent Andrew from forming the government. But in this case Andrew whined and grossly misrepresented the constitution to the public.

Wait what was I talking about and why do I suddenly feel like perogies? Oh right... electoral reform!

So why don't we change to something better? Well there are two reasons: most politicians don't want to change it and we can't agree on what to change it to.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Re: Searching for Liberty's "Liberals: Touting 'Evolution', Yet Ignoring Its Lessons

I had a good rapport with Harvie over at Searching for Liberty but when I saw this I couldn't help but comment. But my comment got a little long so I gave it its own post.

Original Post can be found here

Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

Mention the theory of "intelligent design", and every liberal worth their salt will come flying out of their dark little caves in coffee shops and book stores and suddenly begin espousing Charles Darwin, and asserting themselves as experts on the "settled science" of Evolution.

And from my own perspective, so they should.

While evolution may have been a random occurrence of nature, or a creation of an intelligent God, there is no rational denial of the reality that, to simplify, things that work tend to survive and things that don't, tend to, well, not survive.

Intelligent design doesn't postulate that evolution was a creation of god. That's a reasonable reconciliation between religion and science. Also there's a bunch of evolutionary traits that have nothing to do with survival, but sexual selection. There are even cases where sexual traits are chosen above survivable traits. (See rock crabs).

Funny thing is, however, after finishing their strident defence of the theory of evolution, when they go back to their coffee shops and book stores, they do everything they can do to assure that the theory comes to a full stop for modern man.

In other words.. natural selection be damned. Regardless of how foolish we are, the state should step up and kiss our boo boos and assure that no negative consequence are suffered as a result of our own stupidity.

Yeah, "more socially adept," which means that we're social creatures... Hey isn't government a social creation?
Oh noes! We're using an evolutionary advantage to help us survive!

Imagine Liberals,however, 35 thousand years ago. While Cro Magnon man learned to use advanced tools, to organize in cohesive social groups and to hunt with more efficiency when times became lean - the Liberals would have, no doubt, said, "No, this is no good. Take your food and feed the Neanderthals.

Maybe, if they were living in our society. But this argument is the equivalent of saying, "Hey! That orangutan is hungry! I better feed with the limited food I need to eat to survive!"

I think liberals would have been more like: "Hey! if we work together we can get more food and then everyone can eat!"

While conservatives would pout and say: "No! I'm going to get my own food, and if you can't get your own food then you don't deserve to eat!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Understanding Conservatives

I have been reading "The Political Mind" by George Lakoff and highly recommend it.

Lakoff postulates that people view their nation as a family and way a person structures the idea of family in their mind determines whether they are a conservative or progressive. When reading please understand that I am paraphrasing Lakoff's argument and that the views in the conservative model are his hypothesis for the basis of conservative thought.

The Conservative family model is based around the idea of a Strict Father who is the moral leader of the family and needs to be obeyed if he is to protect them from the evil in the world. He must 'win' in a competitive world in order to provide for his family. The father has to do this since "mommy can't do it." Children are born bad and need can only learn right from wrong if they are strictly and painfully punished to create an incentive to do right and avoid more punishment. This is how they build discipline, which enables them to do right and when they grow up they will use this discipline to be successful in the market and become strict fathers themselves without having to anyone meddling in their family affairs (including their own fathers).

Fathers need authority to rule and dole out punishment, children need to be obedient to learn discipline. This explains why conservatives are against homosexuality and abortion. The strict father model is highly dependent on a specific view of masculinity and any deviation from it threatens this type of family, thus homosexuality cannot be permitted.

Similarly, abortion is about choices made by women: between career and motherhood, whether or not to have premarital sex, etc. These are an affront to the strict father. Conservatives believe that the husband should determine whether his wife gives birth (hence husband notification laws), and the pregnant teenager has disobeyed her father and needs to be punished (hence parental notification laws).

There is an underlying presumption that discipline = winning competitions = success. This makes competition important as the forum to test and hone one's discipline. A father deserves his authority because he has earned it. Hierarchy is important to conservatives, but the logic works both ways.

If one is disciplined they will be successful.
If one is successful they must have been disciplined enough to earn it

I'm sure you'll agree that these aren't the same thing.

Similarly, in competitions there can only be a few winners so only the most disciplined will win and anyone who loses wasn't disciplined enough.

Therefore: Wealth = winning = discipline = moral
so wealth = morality.

In politic this means that the President or PM is the father, and we are the children and only byobeying the father can we be good citizens. Which explains why conservatives are so blindly supportive of their political masters.

Lakoff expands on this idea much more than I have and I encourage people to get this book and read it. I'll post about the progressive model later on.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Anarchists and Protesters: not the same thing

Reading around the blogosphere I've noticed that many people - I'm looking at you neocons - are conflating protesters with violent anarchists

Let me clarify

Protesters are the people who are peacefully exercising their democratic right as outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There's nothing about their actions that are undemocratic or fascist.

The morons who are assaulting the police, smashing windows, burning cars etc are not protesters. They're criminals who are using violence, vandalism, and looting; to advance their ill defined purposes.

The belief amongst some right wing bloggers that the police should use deadly force against the protesters is bullsh*t. Anyone who supports this idea must also believe our police to be so unprofessional as to let the situation to get so far out of hand to need to use deadly force.

These criminals deserve to be arrested and tried in a court of law.

G20: That's a LOT of Police

I was walking to the subway yesterday and needed to walk past the US consulate. There were easily over 100 RCMP officers parked outside, armed and carrying their riot helmets. And they were holding off the evil forces of myself and a couple walking their dogs. Now I understand that Harper is a paranoid nut and he wants to make sure that everything goes off smoothly but these guys were just sitting there all day doing nothing but chatting, walking to Tim's to get some coffee, and redirecting pedestrians off the consulate's street.

I have loads of respect for the Mounties, they're one of the top police forces in the world, but I can't help but believe that this was massive overkill, it would have made more sense for the standing force to be smaller and to bulk up the security when VIPs were transported to and from the consulate. On the other hand I'm sure the local Tim Horton's appreciated the added business.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Free Trade Tariff

One of the things that bothers me about free trade is that it promotes outsourcing of jobs to countries that have little to no labour standards because these countries can also produce goods at a lower rate. In a truly free market there is an underlying assumption that competitors are on relatively equal footing. Country 'A' may be able to produce textiles for less but their workers are ought to be treated as well as in country 'B'. Under these circumstances it makes perfect sense for a textile company to set up in country A and I have no problem with that. But suppose that Country A's textiles are cheaper because they demand longer hours from employee working in unsafe conditions, they don't pay them enough to make ends meet, and/or they don't give them benefits that make for fair employment. Is it right to support such business practices just so Country 'B' can buy tube socks for less?

For those of us who have the slightest inkling of humanity the answer should be a resounding NO. We need to create incentives that will encourage corporations to uphold basic workplace standards while not depriving the Country 'A's of the world of the much needed jobs and capital that comes with foreign investment. The answer is to impose a tariff on goods imported that have not been produced with fair labour standards.

If this were done it would still make sense to set up shop in less developed countries because the cost of living is so much lower. This means that even if companies paid employees equal purchasing power parity they would be able to live as well as employees in developed countries, but at lower cost. Similarly, if a company provides benefits in one country it should be reflected in any other country they choose to set up shop in. Any other option is exploitation, which any citizen of a democratic country ought to disapprove of because to exploit is to enslave and no democratic citizen should be a master of slaves.

I understand that I'm greatly simplifying this problem and if this solution were put in place it would quickly be condemned by the WTO and decried by both corporate interests and neo-conservative economic thinkers. But I welcome more detailed conversation in the comments.