Thursday, March 31, 2005

Yeah? Well you're a big meany!

Babble on.

I'm no expert on stumpage fees or trade rulings, but when the U.S. ignores trade agreements and mugs Canadian companies to the tune of $4 billion, couldn't we do something more than slap them with a lace glove and surtax their oysters, swine and cancer-sticks?

Because when we do a cool $1 billion of trade across the border every day, $14 million in retaliation seems positively underwhelming to me.

Babble off.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A liberal education

Babble on.

From Kate at SDA, we learn of this story from the WaPo:

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

"What's most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field," said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. "There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It's a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you'd expect to be dominated by liberals."

Ben has weighed in recently on this issue - it's about to become a very personal one for him yet again - and while he remains skeptical, others are not so sanguine about the perceived bias.

Buried way, way below the lede is a telling quote:

When asked about the findings, Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said, "The question is how this translates into what happens within the academic community on such issues as curriculum, admission of students, evaluation of students, evaluation of faculty for salary and promotion." Knight said he isn't aware of "any good evidence" that personal views are having an impact on campus policies.

"It's hard to see that these liberal views cut very deeply into the education of students. In fact, a number of studies show the core values that students bring into the university are not very much altered by being in college."

It would be interesting to look first-hand at the studies to which he refers, but unfortunately, the WaPo remains frustratingly linkless. It's obvious to even a no-degree dunderhead like me that the next study that needs to be commissioned is an impact study: how does the established liberal bias of university faculties affect the way they admit, teach, and evaluate students? Moreover, how does this bias affect the hiring and promotion of faculty, and the research and publishing they choose to do?

Declan links somewhat apocalyptically to this story from Florida:

Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.
The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

“This is a horrible step,” he said. “Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might have to pay court costs — even if they win — from their own pockets. This is not an innocent piece of legislation.”

What a ridiculous, nanny-statist, legal nightmare of a solution to the problem of academic bias. But just because the solution proposed is an awful one doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist, as Declan implies.

Conservatives shouldn't create specious legislative remedies with this sort of an issue. They should simply create an alternative structure to promote conservative thought. Easier said than done, I know, but it's the right way nonetheless.

Babble off.

A mule would be an improvement...

Babble on.

Jay Random has a well-written post up from the weekend about the prospects for a federal election, and why it may be a good idea not only from a principled point of view - lumping the Atlantic Accord in with Kyoto is typical Liberal garbage - but from a practical one as well:

Actually, these [poll] numbers are a disaster for Emperor Dithers and his party, and would probably produce a Conservative minority government if they held up on election day. Why? Oddly enough, because the Liberals are the only political party with support in every province of Canada.
In other words, the Grits are trailing the Bloc in Quebec, and trailing the Conservatives in the rest of the country.

Once he gets through the intriguing speculation about poll results in our FPTP electoral system (it's like reading tea leaves, or gazing into the ether: fun, but hardly a science), JR branches off into a lecture about compromise in the Dominion, and produces this little gem of an analogy:

Canadians keep thinking that Compromise is the highest of all political virtues. It isn't. As a general rule, it's nowhere near as high as Minding Your Own Business. A saddlehorse is a fine and useful animal, and so is a pack donkey. But if you try to make a compromise between them, the best you can get is a mule, which is a poor substitute for either. And if you're not careful how you arrive at your compromise, you'll end up with a hinny, which is no use to anyone.

The Liberal Party has built its hegemony by promising the country a mule. It has done untold damage by delivering a hinny instead. Why not decentralize the works, and let each province choose a horse or a donkey, as it prefers? And if some provinces deliberately choose a hinny, at least the rest of us won't have to suffer for their mistake.

Consider that argument too, when you follow the advice proffered at Occam's Carbuncle, and think about electing an admittedly flawed Conservative government.

Babble off.

Flags raised, flags lowered

Babble on.

Brenda at Tipperography has raised the latest edition of The Red Ensign Standard.

The Canadian political scene can be interesting, but it is also largely inconsequential and irrelevant to anyone not living in Canada. On the other hand, it has also been incredibly refreshing to get political commentary from this group. I would have despaired greatly at the thought of going back to a place represented uniformly by the CBC and The Globe & Mail. But the Red Ensign bloggers let me know that there are other Canadians (some living in and and some, like me, living outside of Canada) along with a few citizens of other places with ties to Canada who care about this country and who have found a way to give a voice to the viewpoints that don’t come down from on high.

I cannot characterize them all as having the same perspective that I have. (Just take a look at a few of the links.) But they are all different voices and they all have a lot to say. They are the “other Canadians” and they are Canadians making a difference. I hope I have done justice to them with this week’s standard.

She surely has. In fact, given the fresh, creative formatting approaches taken by Tipper and Rue before her, I'm sure I'm not the only longstanding Brigadier shaking my head at how deeply in a rut we obviously were. Well done, Tipper.

It also saddens me to note that two bloggers I read regularly have gotten out of the game.

Don at All things Canadian... has decided to hang up the cape indefinitely. His opinion, both on his own blog, and as one of the few conservative voices at Jim Elve's E-Group, will be sorely missed.

More troubling for me is the loss of Chris Taylor from the Canadian blogosphere. I can't even link to the beautifully laid-out Taylor & Company anymore, as all archives seem to have disappeared. Reading Chris' posts, one came away with the unmistakable impression that he is a gentleman, in the finest sense of the word. I've had the opportunity to share drinks and a meal with Chris and Wanda on a few occasions over the course of the past year, as well as to correspond with him by e-mail, and I can confirm that impression. Chris is one of the good-guys, and while I will miss his reasoned and articulate commentary, I cannot wish him anything but the best.

Babble off.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ombudsman? A band-aid solution to a huge problem.

Babble on.

Andre Marin is currently finishing his tenure as the Canadian Armed Forces' first ombudsman. He opened the office in 1998, operating out of a cubicle at NDHQ. He's leaving the position with a staff of 50 civilians and a $5 million per year budget.

"I'm not a military basher. To me, it's tough love. I'm a great fan of the military. Soldiers need a voice, and this office is uniquely positioned to provide an unbiased, independent perspective on military issues."

Often, he says, the military is its own worst enemy, touting baby steps as monumental change, resisting criticism where it's often warranted and imposing damage control that can look disturbingly like cover-up.

"It's inbred," he said.

With statements like that, he hasn't won many friends in the upper echelons of the CF establishment. In fact, some have speculated that DND is looking to replace him with a former senior military officer - someone less likely to publicly embarrass the brass when they screw up. But the same article by Scott Taylor points out why that is precisely the wrong way to go:

To maximize this public clout, Marin found it necessary to reach out to the national media and thus earned himself a reputation as a truly independent watchdog. But the more reports released by Marin garnered headlines of wrongdoing, the more the generals and bureaucrats closed ranks to shut him out.

As the rank and file became aware of this widening rift, the once-ridiculed Ombudsmidget became the well-regarded and trusted Budman. The shift in the troops' loyalty only further miffed the generals, particularly when soldiers made their common concerns known to the ombudsman during his numerous fact-finding missions to operational bases.

Because I believe ordinary members of the CF desperately need a champion, I support the office of the ombudsman. Having said that, I'd like nothing better than to see it wither away completely from disuse. Let me elaborate.

I understand why the uniformed establishment is uneasy with the concept of a civilian ombudsman. The backbone of any military organization is the chain of command. Greivances are supposed to be handled within that chain.

But the need for an ombudsman - and make no mistake, there is a need - is a symptom of the fact that ordinary rank-and-file soldiers, sailors, and airmen have lost faith in their chain of command. The problem is that, while an ombudman can be an effective band-aid for the most glaring examples of DND organizational stupidity, it can't do anything about the underlying problem.

An ombudsman can't make the troops regain faith in their chain of command.

And without that faith, no matter what budgetary remedies or White Paper policies we adopt, our military will remain crippled.

Babble off.

Update: More about the evolution of, and need for the Military Ombudsman's office here:

"...for the rank-and-file soldiers, Marin's office has been a welcome arbitrator able to break through the red tape and bureaucratic intransigence that could make life hell. The proof is in the complaints that flooded his office — upwards of 1,300 a year — about benefits, release, medical concerns, recruiting, harassment and other issues."

Thirteen-hundred complaints per year? Thirteen-hundred situations that CF members felt weren't handled appropriately by their chain of command? Thirteen-hundred circumstances egregious enough to file a complaint with the office of last resort?

For shame.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Babble on.

Three bloggers for whom I have the utmost respect (Jay Currie, Nick Packwood, and Sean McCormick in any order you'd like) have publicly declared they will be unable to vote for the CPC due to its SSM stance adopted recently at the Montreal policy convention.

"As prime minister, I will bring forward legislation that, while providing the same rights, benefits and obligations to all couples, will maintain the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman." Stephen Harper - March 18, 2005

As someone who disagrees with my own party's stance on this issue, but also disagrees with the Ditheral and Dipper positions; and as someone who is also committed to putting a CPC majority government into the House of Commons as quickly as possible, my fellow bloggers' stance disappoints me. I'm sure my stance disappoints them as well - sauce for the goose and all that. Fair enough.

Personally, I prefer the approach of these folks: work from within the party to push forward their strongly-held beliefs.

Bob Tarantino has a fairly comprehensive round-up for those interested in the history of this conflagration. After you've read that, I'd suggest you look at Debbye's take on the whole situation, and specifically this section:

I will state outright that I am annoyed that proponents keep pushing the notion that calling gay unions anything other than marriage is somehow an instance of "separate but equal" -- a barely disguised effort to connect this issue to the civil rights movement in the 60's -- but which displays either ignorance about or indifference to the institutionalized inequality of African-Americans in some states.

As those of us who were actually alive back then remember, "equal" was hardly a description of the public institutions and facilities made available to African-Americans who lived in states with Jim Crow laws (and in Northern urban areas.) There were also the matters of little or no police investigations into lynchings and the rapes of black women, being denied the right to vote, and being denied protection and due process under the law.

So unless it can be demonstrated that the designation "civil union" (or a more agreeable term) means fewer benefits, legal rights and protections, I am unconvinced that the failure to alter the ancient definition of marriage equals bigotry (nor can I deny there are some extremely homophobic voices raised against gays as well as gay marriage. That's the real pity and has clouded the debate somewhat.)

Given the fact that every major federal political party now officially endorses equal protection under the law, the real fight is now over a single word: marriage. I understand that the concept of 'equality' is worthy of a single-issue vote; I'm not sure if the semantics of 'civil marriage' is.

Babble off.

Update: Speaking of working for change from within the party, I'd also like to point out a recent addition to the Blogging Tories roll:

My name is Fred Litwin and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog will report on a variety of conservative issues - while supporting gay marriage.

Welcome aboard Fred.


Babble on.

For the past couple of days, I've been meaning to write a clarification of what I was getting at in the post below, since many of the commentors seemed to miss it. Given the fact that I didn't actually spell my questions out, I guess that's understandable.

I'm not anti-libertarian - in fact, I've found myself slipping further and further in that direction over the course of the past year or so, reading some of the more lucid and thoughtful libertarian bloggers out there. But over the years I've also had life-changing experiences subordinating my own selfish interests to the aims and objectives of a group, and I know first-hand the value of that sacrifice, and the importance of making it. I'm not yet sure how libertarian thought addresses that, and I was hoping to provoke some more substantive responses than I got with my poorly-conceived devil's-advocate prod below.

To the point: I think I've got a rudimentary understanding of the importance of rights to my libertarian friends, but not of how responsibilities fit into their philosophy. Is there a place for "the greater good" in what they believe? And if so, where does it fit?

Babble off.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The click you hear is a rhetorical weapon being cocked

Babble on.

Nicholas Russon of Quotulatiousness has thrown down the gauntlet by quoting from this article in The American Conservative without further comment.

...libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

The author admits not all libertarians profess every belief he ascribes to them, but he heads off their objections with the following glove drawn rapidly across their cheeks:

...I decline to allow libertarians the sophistical trick of using a vulgar libertarianism to agitate for what they want by defending a refined version of their doctrine when challenged philosophically. We’ve seen Marxists pull that before.

After having discussed an outrageous tax bill recently, and come to a conclusion I wasn't entirely pleased with, this line resonated with me:

And is society really wrong to protect people against the negative consequences of some of their free choices? While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes. People are allowed to become millionaires, but they are taxed. They are allowed to go broke, but they are not then forced to starve. They are deprived of the most extreme benefits of freedom in order to spare us the most extreme costs. The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.

The entire piece is interesting reading, and the excerpted tidbits I'm tossing at you are a poor subsitute for the full argument. But I'll leave you with the following three paragraphs at the heart of the author's rationale:

Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free? What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners? What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society? What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways? What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

In each of these cases, less freedom today is the price of more tomorrow. Total freedom today would just be a way of running down accumulated social capital and storing up problems for the future. So even if libertarianism is true in some ultimate sense, this does not prove that the libertarian policy choice is the right one today on any particular question.

Furthermore, if limiting freedom today may prolong it tomorrow, then limiting freedom tomorrow may prolong it the day after and so on, so the right amount of freedom may in fact be limited freedom in perpetuity. But if limited freedom is the right choice, then libertarianism, which makes freedom an absolute, is simply wrong. If all we want is limited freedom, then mere liberalism will do, or even better, a Burkean conservatism that reveres traditional liberties. There is no need to embrace outright libertarianism just because we want a healthy portion of freedom, and the alternative to libertarianism is not the USSR, it is America’s traditional liberties.

I can already hear the roars of righteous indignation from OC and Monger, and can feel the subsonic rumbles as they fire up their rant-engines. I'm guessing it will take Jardine a good couple of days to calm down enough to write.

Me, I'm going to get some popcorn and a comfy seat ringside: this is going to be fun. Until I get blood in my popcorn, that is.

Babble off.

Stealing other blogs' best lines

Babble on.

I'm glad Brian Mertens has decided to dispense his Free Advice to denizens of the blogospheric VRWC once again. Because his most recent post regarding Cuba's tyrant-based economy is absolutely perfect:

An official statement by the Cuban government said that Cuba “has the fairest income distribution in the world.” Sure, the entire population lives in abject Marxist poverty. That’s like saying a graveyard is the “fairest distribution of life.”


Of course, Brian needs to write more if he expects me to continue lifting his best stuff for my own blog. With lines like this one readily available for the swiping, I'm beginning to think original content is overrated. Either that, or I'm getting lazy - and before it even starts, the women in my house are cordially invited to pipe down.

Babble off.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Brazenly copying Andrew

Babble on.

With apologies to He Who Remains Rooted To The Ground, I give you some Quick Hits today:

  • If Ripudiman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri aren't guilty of the Air India bombing - and notwithstanding Japnaam's support of his dad, the rest of us don't really know one way or another - then who is? It seems almost certain that the bombs originated in the B.C. Sikh community. Someone within that community probably knows who was responsible. Why have they not come forward - if only to keep all B.C. Sikhs from being tarred with an extremely wide terrorist brush? And how did the Crown proceed with the most expensive trial in Canadian history without a better case than this? What a complete and utter farce. (And has anyone noticed any international press or blogging about this, the largest airline terror incident in history prior to 9/11? Me neither.)

  • I'll be raising a glass at lunch to Private Johnson Beharry, VC. He's the first recipient of this transcendent award since 1982, and the first to live through the actions that earned him the medal since 1965.

  • Especially after this post yesterday, I'm disgusted, but not surprised that anti-American elements within the Liberal Cabinet have been allowed to tamper with the upcoming foreign policy review. Yelling "LALALALA! I can't HEAR YOU!" doesn't make the U.S. go away or sink into insignificance. As Burney so pointedly remarked, "'Independence' is not a legitimate objective for foreign policy." What a bunch of petulant children.

  • We bought their subs. I wonder if we'll take helicopters off their hands too.

That's enough bile drained to allow me a relatively calm Friday lunch.

Babble off.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Babble on.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Who to believe? The American soldier who has seen the situation on the ground with his own Mark I eyeballs, or the avowed Chimpy Bushitler-hating Mayor of Socialist-Utopiaville?

I know where I stand.

Babble off.

Update: I may have written this with one too many glasses of green wine last night (don't ask, it's a pretty pathetic St. Paddy's Day story). Timmy is a passionate advocate of his positions. While I believe he allows anti-Americanism (not simply anti-Bushism or anti-Republicanism) to creep into his monologues far too often, I also know that I have my own blind spots. I may disagree with him on this issue, but I can't fault him for being honest about his beliefs.

Of course, he's still a Greenpeace-funding, tofu-eating, picket-carrying, NO BLOOD FOR OIL! screaming, commie-pinko moonbat, so maybe he deserves what he gets. ;)


Babble on.

People across the country are astonished, and in many cases outraged at the Air India decision by a B.C. judge. Two men labelled Sikh extremists have been acquitted of this vile crime, and the Crown seems to have run into a dead end seeking justice and closure in this case. Speculation about appeals and inquiries abounds.

Meanwhile, a blogger has his father back. I wonder how many Canadians bemoaning this verdict know more details of the case than he does? I certainly don't.

No matter what your opinion of this decision, however, it leaves one burning question: will those guilty of blowing 331 lives away in a single moment in 1985 ever be brought to justice? After twenty years, I sincerely doubt it.

Babble off.

"More coherence, less pretence"

Babble on.

I have flown a multi-engine military aircraft. Oh, I didn't get it into the air or land it - I just held it straight and level at 8,000 ft. An actual pilot did the rest. You see, anyone can hold an aircraft straight and level in clear and calm skies if they have enough distance between them and the hard and unforgiving earth below.

Which brings me to our Liberal overlords: since gaining power in 1993, the Grits have occupied Canada's pilot's seat, smiling and mugging for the cameras, making sure everyone sees what a fantastic job they're doing 'flying' the aircraft of state through the clear blue yonder. They've done such a fantastic job of looking the part of a pilot that nobody in the back of the plane has noticed they don't actually know where they're going, and what's more, the plane's altitude is gently declining.

Derek Burney's not fooled, though. He recently gave this year's Simon Reisman Lecture at Carleton University, entitled Foreign Policy: More Coherence, Less Pretence, and it hit the mark.

We seem to prefer a role in world affairs that is long on good intentions but short on substance, confusing activity or attendance with results and photo-opportunities with achievement; putting process above purpose and being more concerned about how we are perceived rather than by what we actually do.

While the entire speech is well worth your time to read, a number of passages jumped out at me:

What the Third Option and Diefenbaker's 15 percent diversion reflected, however, was what might be called the Canadian conundrum on foreign policy. Having evolved slowly from colony to independence, Canada has tried, over the years, to straddle first the nostalgic pull of Empire and, ultimately, the proximate advantage of the U.S. while, at the same time, painstakingly asserting a course of greater independence.
Defining Canada's place in the world can be a difficult balancing act particularly when notions of "independence" assume a virtue in themselves. It does not need to be that complicated. After all, the primary objective for Canadian foreign policy should be to ensure a prosperous and safe Canada within a stable, more humane world. The real test of Canadian foreign policy should be its effectiveness in advancing these fundamental objectives..."Independence" is not a legitimate objective for foreign policy. It is an illusion especially in an increasingly interdependent world.
Be wary of nostrums on the virtues of multilateralism. Canada is staunchly in favour of all forms of multilateralism as if the process was an end in itself rather than the means to an end. We can pretend that multilateralism will offset excessive dependence on the United States but history has demonstrated that, without U.S. commitment and involvement, multilateralism has limited effect. That is why, in years past, a major foreign policy objective for Canada has been to try to keep the United States actively engaged in the multilateral system.

Burney's cogent ideas on trade policy also serve to highlight the paucity of Liberal strategy in this vital area:

Our objectives in trade policy need to reflect genuine Canadian aspirations and not be manufactured, like instant meals, to provide a convenient press release for a sudden Prime Ministerial or Ministerial visit...Over the past five or six years we have initiated a flurry of free trade negotiations, but concluded none. What are our priorities and why are there no results? Regrettably, our trade policy actions have become as obscure as our foreign policy objectives.
...we need to shake off the last vestiges of a colonial mentality that have us perennially seeking a deeper relationship with Europe, one for which the Europeans generally, and the EU in particular, repeatedly demonstrate is of no interest to them. As others push to integrate more within their regions we should accept and work with the reality and the opportunities of our own hemisphere.
Since 1990, China's economy has grown four fold. But, in the past three years, Canada's exports have increased by only 17 percent, whereas those from the U.S. are up 53 percent and Australia's - our natural competitor - are up 58 percent. The fact that we are steadily falling behind Australia and others in exploiting export opportunities in China is proof positive that the spasmodic lunges of high level trade missions are no substitute for strategic thinking, careful analysis and targeted resources.

Burney concludes with the following sentence:

Instead of offering a "model" to the world infused with sentiment, let's make a real contribution anchored by a coherent assessment of our interests and a practical view of what we can achieve along with resources that will allow us to make a contribution in kind.

Hear, hear.

Babble off.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Stepping back

Babble on.

This blog is turning into "All Joe Wood, All The Time."

Apart from her mildly comical indignation ("Most engineers can't put a coherent sentence together without cramping their simian little brains." - there's something to be indignant about, my dear), Ginna at Gin and Tonic effectively dismantles much of Steve Maich's argument in the latest round of discussion over Joe Wood's tax bill. So does RJ. So does Sean.

The real killer blow, though, comes from Shannon (who should definitely post more often):

Every once in a while, though, even people who are very clearly not socialists fall for this sort of socialist thinking. Usually it’s because of an emotional reaction to some misfortune suffered by an innocent person with whom it is easy to sympathize. Instead of looking rationally at whether the rules under which this result occurred are reasonable, or whether the rules were applied fairly, we just assume that, if something bad happened to a decent person, either the rules are wrong or they were applied unfairly. But the fact is sometimes unfortunate results can happen even if perfectly reasonable rules are applied fairly.

It's a long post, but you should really read all of it. She's quite persuasive.

Allow me to indulge in a little nitpicking, though. I don't buy the idea that remuneration in goods (like stock, or a company car) is as valuable as remuneration in cash - if tax deferral has a value as Shannon suggests, so does liquidity. Otherwise banks wouldn't have to give you progressively better interest rates for locking your money into progressively longer term deposits. My problem is that I can't for the life of me figure out a way the government could deal with that difference in value fairly. And SD's right when she admonishes me for demanding a cure that could well be worse than the disease. Mea culpa.

In my defence, I think the CPC suffers from a general perception that they're more hard-hearted than the other parties, and this seemed like an opportunity to show we can stand up for the little guy. Especially since the Liberals said they'd stand up for him, and broke their promise. In hindsight, this situation is a fragile club with which to beat the mendacious weasels who run our country. My party needs to show the average Canadian it's eager to fight for a better life for each and every one of them, but I've come to believe this isn't the right battle.

I still support Joe Wood. I support the government offering him a generous tax payment plan. I support anyone who publicly points out that Paul Martin personally mislead the man in the sleaziest way in order to buy votes during an election campaign. And anyone who draws attention to the injustice of using Ministerial discretion to eliminate the obligations of a questionable but well-connected individual like Radwanski but not of this ordinary Joe. Finally, I support Joe's right to declare personal bankruptcy if he absolutely has to - if the government can take advantage of the letter of the law, we shouldn't begrudge Joe doing the same.

But unless there's a compelling argument nobody has unearthed yet, I no longer support the idea that Mr. Wood should receive special treatment from the government, or the idea that the tax law should be changed because of his most extreme circumstances. Thanks to all who helped me realize I was wrong.

Babble off.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Rebutting the rebuttals and smacking the Martinis

Babble on.

Now that the "I Support Joe Wood" campaign seems to have taken off - or at least started lumbering down the runway - Steve Maich has posted a reply to his detractors (Sean, Ginna, and Shannon (in comments) - I'm looking at you!).

I've received a lot of feedback on my recent column on this issue. The same thing happened when I wrote about this same issue for the Financial Post, about a year ago. There were many sympathetic letters. But there were also many people DEAD SET against providing any sort of relief to the JDS workers.

Since I don't have time to get into email debates with dozens of writers, here are the main arguments against the JDS workers, and my responses...

Quite frankly, some of Steve's points are better than others. The differences between how income and capital gains are treated from a tax perspective is quite frankly beyond my expertise - hell, some days it seems balancing a chequebook is beyond my expertise - but should be discussed in more detail before advocating changes to tax law.

But the one argument he doesn't make here - the one I think the Conservatives and the press should both make a big stink over - is the fact that Paul Martin promised during the election campaign that he'd take care of this.

Kind of makes his convention speech ring a little hollow, doesn't it. Especially since trustworthiness isn't too high on the list of qualities Canadians associate with the Libranos right now.

“Paul Martin is a man who, when he says he will accomplish something, he does and his government reflects that. As he told us in his speech, when he makes a promise he keeps it,” said Steve MacKinnon, national director of the Liberal Party.


Babble off.

Standard magic

Babble on.

The irrepressible Rue of Abraca-Pocus fame has posted the latest edition of The Red Ensign Standard. And she gave it a much-needed facelift.

Go read.

Babble off.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Cogging in the media machine

Babble on.

I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't having a bit of a puffed-chest moment reading this article this morning:

The initial exultation over military spending promises in last month's federal budget is giving way to sober second thought by some in the defence community.

Upon closer scrutiny, the government's promise of $12.8 billion in new spending over five years may not be all it's cracked up to be, say observers.

For at least the next three years, spending - adjusted for inflation - will still be well below peak levels in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

And there are no guarantees the minority Liberal government will be around to keep the promises, or that the economy that must support the spending increases will hold up.
One-time increases in defence spending over the next two years have been pegged at $500 million and $600 million, most of which is targeted specifically for infrastructure upgrades.

But figures adjusted for inflation indicate this and next year's budgets are only equivalent to or less than adjusted spending last year, when planes were grounded and ships tied up for lack of resources to operate them.

A look at defence spending from 1986 to the present suggests the military is still far below the peak 1988-89 level of $16.1 billion adjusted to 2005 dollars.

A look at defence spending since 1986-87, with figures converted to 2005 dollars in brackets. All figures represent billions of dollars. (Conversions were made using the Bank of Canada's Inflation Calculator):
1986-87 $9.9 ($15.5)

1987-88 $10.7 ($16.1)

1988-89 $11.2 ($16.1)

1989-90 $11.6 ($15.8)

1990-91 $12.3 ($15.7)

1991-92 $11.7 ($14.8)

1992-93 $11.9 ($14.7)

1993-94 $12.0 ($14.7)

1994-95 $11.8 ($14.3)

1995-96 $11.4 ($13.6)

1996-97 $10.6 ($12.4)

1997-98 $10.2 ($11.8)

1998-99 $10.3 ($11.8)

1999-2000 $11.5 ($12.9)

2000-01 $11.5 ($12.5)

2001-02 $12.2 ($13.2)

2002-03 $12.4 ($12.8)

2003-04 $13.2 ($13.4)

2004-05 Projected at $13.3

2005-06 Projected at $13.4

Mr. Stephen Thorne is a man of his word.

What strikes me is that the government of Canada spent more on our military in constant dollars in 1995-96 than it will in 2005-06. So much for a "renewed commitment" from our Liberal oligarchy.

I am inordinately proud of having played a miniscule role in all this. More than that, I'm glad someone's saying what needs to be said: we can't continue to underfund our Armed Forces if we're going to keep sending men and women in uniform into dangerous situations. Even if you put moral issues like that aside, our lack of miltary resources is crippling our foreign policy. The Liberal smoke-and-mirrors budget is a drop in the bucket - no, a promised drop in the bucket.

Now, since a picture is worth a thousand words, we need to get a graphic presentation of these figures into circulation. Time for this techno-idiot to get off his duff and finally figure out how to post an original image with Blogspot.

Babble off.

Update: VW at The Phantom Observer beat me to the graphic. I still have to figure out how to put something like that up myself, though.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

How the other half lives

Babble on.

Maybe my online experience is just too cloistered, but this actually shocked me (via Dean in the comments at POGGE's place).

I understand it's just a just a cartoon, and that it's meant to be over-the-top. Politics is a rough game, the best comedy is always edgy, yadayada. I get it. But am I the only one who thinks it's a little OVER-over-the-top? Like stalking Jodie Foster over-the-top?

Stephen Harper is just a guy trying to do what he thinks is right for the country, as is Paul Martin, as is Jack Layton. They disagree about the best way to make our nation a better place, but none of them is trying to destroy it. I find it creepy that people are comfortable making this sort of a demonizing - literally demonizing - message about a political opponent in Canada.

Babble off.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Babble on.

The past two days have been most interesting for me as a blogger.

Reading this article, and this one yesterday pushed my blood pressure up a notch or twelve. The articles, drawn from a CP story by Stephen Thorne, were sparked by a DND report entitled Canada's Soldiers: Military Ethos and Canadian Values in the 21st Century Army.

Generally, those interested in joining the Forces "tend to be lacking in life goals and feel alienated from society and its values."

"They are attracted to violence more than the average member of Canadian society and accept violence as a legitimate means of getting what they want," says the report.

Any time I see a story that casts our uniformed defenders in a negative light, my initial reaction is to smack it and the *spit* cheap journo who penned it. Especially since most of them wouldn't know a rifle from a rivet, or a Sergeant from a Major. And since I've been spoiled by the blogosphere, where primary sources are generally hotlinked, my frustration was compounded by the host of questions the piece left unanswered.

Which DND department commissioned and wrote the report, and why? How will it be used to shape DND policy? What survey questions were asked, in what order, and how were they worded (especially important, as much of the data seems to have been gleaned from a larger CROP Inc. survey)? Without answers to these questions, it's difficult to rebut a piece that paints potential armed service members as violent, selfish louts, and only midway through admits many of those types are weeded out through the application and training process.

Since Blogspot was somewhat testy yesterday, kicking me out of my unfinished post a couple of times and refusing to let me sign back in, I never did finish my screed. Instead, at the end of the day, I decided to Google this Stephen Thorne guy to see if he was some unrepentant Che Guevara groupie with a reporting gig. You know, the type who never pass up an opportunity to tear down anything remotely related to the military.

Hmm. He was awarded the Ross Munroe Media Award in 2002 by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Conference of Defence Associations, and a Canadian Newspaper Award that same year for his work covering Operation Anaconda. Seems he was the only reporter to go in-country with the PPCLI in March 2002 as they rooted Al-Qaeda terror-drones out of the Whale's Back in Afghanistan. He also wrote some pretty decent military-related pieces recently here, here, and here (although he makes the mistake of calling the entire $12.8B "new" money) - not to mention my personal favourite. This is definitely not your typical Canadian LLL ink-stained wretch.

With my preconceived notions turned completely upside down, I shut down the computer and left work for the drive home. Headed up Hwy 400, I thought "I should see if I can get in touch with this guy tomorrow and get some of these questions answered. It can't be that tough to track down a senior reporter/editor at CP, assuming he'll talk to me."

Imagine my surprise when, not an hour later, I looked at my e-mail at home, and discovered a message from - you guessed it - Stephen Thorne. It seems he'd followed last week's link from Inkless Wells (thanks Paul!), and liked the way I'd adjusted budget numbers to account for inflation in my analysis. He couldn't figure out how to do the same, and wanted to talk. Too freaky.

So I had a short chat with Stephen this morning. He asked me what I do for a living, and when I told him, he asked why I posted to this website. I told him *ahem* blogging helped keep me from yelling too much at the TV or newspapers. He laughed when I mentioned my initial misconceptions about him and my mild embarrassment at how wrong they were. I think he was a bit surprised when I pointed out the hotlink to an inflation calculator embedded right in the quote he'd found so intriguing; more proof most dead-tree writers haven't yet discovered what Kate calls "the ethics of the link."

As it turns out, Stephen has DND budget figures dating back to 1987, and wants to do some constant-dollar comparisons. I hope he follows through, because while Canadians have finally woken up to the fact that our military is woefully underfunded, I still don't think they understand the true extent to which we've abandoned our men and women in uniform from a funding perspective. I hope he can help get that story out.

In the meantime, I'm trying to wheedle a copy of the report that started me down this path. Fair trade, right? Wish me luck.

Babble off.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Rules are no substitute for good judgement

Babble on.

Kudos to Steve Maich at Maclean's for bringing attention to a dismal situation, and to the astounding level of Liberal duplicity that has allowed it to fester for so long:

Part of the JDS benefits package was an employee stock purchase plan, which let workers buy company shares at a huge discount. As JDS's stock surged in 2000, workers were able to get shares worth more than $300 for roughly $2 apiece through small deductions from their paycheques. Plant workers with modest incomes suddenly had visions of expensive cottages and early retirement. But the celebration was short-lived. The stock peaked in March of 2000, then tumbled almost as fast as it rose. By the end of the year, it had dropped by 68 per cent.

The plunging share price was a disappointment, but the real disaster came that winter, when the tax forms arrived. Because the workers got stock at a discount, they were taxed on the difference between what they paid and the stock's value on the date it was issued -- $305. Joe Wood worked as an engineer at JDS for $40,000 a year, and he suddenly had a tax bill for $138,000. By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late to sell -- the shares had fallen by 80 per cent and were worth a fraction of the taxes he owed. To make matters worse, JDS closed its Victoria plant in the summer of 2001, putting Wood and hundreds of others out of work, with no way to pay their tax bills.

John McCallum has the power to overturn any unfair tax assessment, and this certainly qualifies. In fact, Paul Martin promised just that on the campaign trail last year. Of course, power and promises aren't necessarily connected in the Liberal psyche. Here's the latest Liberal position, as recently stated by McCallum to Parliament:

"What is critical is that each and every taxpayer knows that he or she will be treated exactly the same as every other taxpayer," he said. "The integrity of the tax system requires that each and every taxpayer be treated in a manner that is fair in comparison with other Canadians."

Way to hide behind the red tape, McCallum, you spineless twit. To think this weasel used to be our Minister of National Defence. Maich's scathing response is absolutely perfect:

If Ottawa can't bring itself to address the legal flaw of taxing income that never existed, it should at least be willing to recognize the tax code was never meant to crush people for the sake of phantom stock profits. But in lieu of fairness, Ottawa offers equality, and it's a poor substitute. Bad news: government is willing to screw you, and take everything you've worked for, on the basis of a foolish technicality. Good news: at least everyone gets screwed equally. How reassuring.

Maich has a blog, and if he can pen pieces like this, I'll be reading it.

Babble off.

Update: I nail the landing on the ever-elusive flip-flop here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Am I really that boring?

Babble on.

I'm not big on the whole internet quiz thing - generally speaking, it seems like self-indulgent navel gazing. But The Great Beer 'Sampling' Scot got me wondering if I even have Five Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't. Here goes:

  1. Flew to Germany, stayed three days, flew home - without a passport.
  2. Drove a ten-speed for a couple of kilometres on Highway 401 outside of the dark during the wee hours of the morning.
  3. Lived in thirteen different homes in my first seventeen years.
  4. Watched a professional sports league cancel an entire season in the company of one of that sport's greatest players over the past twenty years. Blogged it too.
  5. Rappelled 'Aussie style' (face-first) down the wall of a three-storey building using a bed frame as an anchor.

Actually, that's better than I thought. Although since only one of those events happened in the past ten years, I've obviously become thoroughly domesticated. Time to go bungee jumping or something! (Assuming my wife will let me - *grin*)

Babble off.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Gr. 4 math problem

Babble on.

Remember this line in a post I wrote a couple of weeks back?

The Toronto Star reports (registration required) that DND will also be required to find $640 million in cost-savings/efficiencies, although they don't specify over what time period.

As it turns out, Chris Wattie of the National Post has tracked down all the sordid details (ht:CFP):

Major-General Douglas Dempster, the Forces’ director-general of strategic planning, told the National Post yesterday that the military will be required to give back $178-million — which amounts to 35.6% of the hike — in the coming fiscal year.

In the year after that, when Defence was to get a $600-million increase, the department will be required to return $272-million — or 45.3% of the hike — to the government’s central coffers.

This is starting resemble a Grade Four math problem:

Q. If you give Gen Hillier $500 million this year, and $600 million next year, but force him to give back $178 million this year and $272 million next year, what is Gen Hillier left with at the end of the day?

A. A disgraceful misrepresentation of the true level of military funding in the Liberal budget.

Babble off.

Look at me! I'm not washed up! Really!

Babble on.

Lloyd Axworthy's little letter to the Secretary of State of the United States of America has garnered quite a bit of attention around the blogosphere these past few days.

You can find a 'heartfelt' response here, and another one here. Three guesses as to which one comes closer to my own 'heartfelt' response (not posted due to extreme language).

As usual, I am in awe of Bob's ability to consistently smack what needs smacking:

Whatever. The ramblings of a political retiree happily ensconced in a provincial sinecure are hardly worth noticing. Especially a political retiree who sneers at what he perceives to be US actions which violate international law, when said political retiree was quite enthusiastic to violate international law in participating in the bombing of civilians in Serbia. (Axworthy was named as a defendant in this filing made with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.)
You'd think a guy like Lloyd, former-Minister-of-Foreign-Affairs Lloyd, big-proponent-of-the-ICC Lloyd, all-around-smart-guy Lloyd, would have at least a vague understanding of how international law works. Evidently not. So here goes. You know how Lloyd does that sneering thing about "you might want to consider using the ICC to prosecute people doing things in Darfur"? That would be an awfully neat trick. Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC. There are no allegations that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC have been committed on the territory of a state which has ratified the Rome Statute. Sudan is refusign to accede to ICC jurisdiction. There is thus only one way in which the ICC could possibly have jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes committed in Sudan: the UN Security Council would have to refer the matter to the ICC pursuant to section 13(b) of the Rome Statute.

But guess who keeps threatening to veto such a referral? China.

Strangely, a Google search doesn't turn up any "open letters" from Lloyd to the fine folks in Beijing.


I must also recognize the more quiet effort of John the Mad:

Back in 1973, John the Mad was a very young, newly employed, Liberal political staff member on Parliament Hill. In the first few days on the job I had occasion to attend a committee of the House of Commons to listen in on some discussion relating to rail freight rates, or some such matter. Lloyd Axworthy MP happened to be speaking.

At first I was in a state approaching awe and wonderment at actually being in the committee room with men of state talking about great affairs of state. Gradually, however, as I listened and watched Mr. Axworthy MP, I lost my sense of awe and became aware that I was in the presence of a pompous ass. He effected a certain condescending tone that, even I as a young Liberal, found off-putting. I have not had a good reason over the years to change my assessment of the man and his recent letter merely reinforces that three decade-old sense that Mr. Axworthy is in love with himself.
The thing that caught my eye was the next sentence. What can Dr. Axworthy mean by this comment?

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game..

At first blush he gives the impression that he believes he is not prepared to support the wasting of billions of taxpayer dollars on anti-weapons systems that don't work. But this cannot be the case. Look at the Liberal gun registry. (Babbler's bold)
Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

Need I bring to your attention the utter gall of a leading member of "Canada's natural governing party" accusing the Bush Republicans of running a one party state. Didn't the Yanks just have a bruising knock 'em down, electoral race that had all the thrills and spills of Northern Dancer winning the Queen's Plate.

Checks and balances? Canada? Third parties can't even participate fully in electoral campaigns here. Checks and balances are very few in this centralized, caucus whipped, PMO run federal government.

If international law is only important when Axworthy wants it to be important, if flushing billions of taxpayers' dollars down a government money-hole in the name of security is only important when Axworthy wants it to be important, and if running a one-party state is only important when Axworthy wants it to be important, then isn't it fair that the misplaced condescension of an embarrassingly puffed-up hypocrite will only be important when Condi wants it to be important? I thought so.

Babble off.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The cart driving the horse

Babble on.

Nicholas Russon at Quotulatiousness discusses the trend in both the U.S. and Israeli armed forces towards decentralized decision-making, and highlights the changing relationship between civilian society - especially the business community - and the military.

...the Israel military is supplying a de facto business education, as Betsy Cummings suggests in the title of her excellent article in today's Times: I got my MBA in the Israeli Army.

This is certainly not your father's army, nor even mine. Elite military forces have emphasized individual initiative and decentralized decision making for decades, but this is moving the entire army in the direction of individuality. This is, to mix a metaphor, quite a sea change.

For western countries, this is probably an inevitable shift, as we grow less and less willing to subject ourselves to the kind of rigid military discipline and less willing to support existing military disciplinarians. This would have been a weakness twenty or thirty years ago, but today can be a huge strength — because the technology to empower the individual soldier is now coming out of the lab and into the field.

The push towards an "Army of One" also takes advantage of demographic trends in western society, instead of resisting them. As Donna Winslow states in the Canadian Military Journal:

For the military, the core values of Army culture are subordination of the self to the group and the idea of sacrifice: the individual must be willing to subordinate him or herself to the common good — the team and common task. Furthermore, there must be a willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the team in peace and war — without this, an armed force will risk defeat. However, in a more individualistic Canadian society, a lower priority is given to values of the community and the subordination of the self to that of the team. We can say that Canada is not a militaristic society, nor is it likely to become one in the future. Patriotism, as it might be expressed in “proud service to one’s country”, is not widespread.

But if our armed forces can properly encourage and harness individual talent and initiative in the pursuit of the organization's goals, the conflict between military and civilian cultures becomes far less pronounced. Military training and experience also becomes far more attractive to the business world.

Unfortunately, since unification in 1968, and the establishment of the monolithic NDHQ in 1972, the Canadian Armed Forces seems to have incorporated all the worst aspects of the business world and society at large. Bureaucracy reigns in an ossified, top-heavy command structure that rewards career climbers over true contributors. The prime qualification for flag or field rank seems to have become an ability to manage downsizing rather than to lead troops at a strategic level.

Canadian military structure and ethos should be leading business, as the U.S. and Israeli militaries have, not following it.

Babble off.

We mourn

Babble on.

Photo credit

It will be small comfort to those who lost a loved one in this senseless crime, but a nation mourns with them.

Babble off.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Actually, it's both

Babble on.

Michael O'Hanlon of the Christian Science Monitor swims against the prevailing current of U.S. media opinion and lays blame for Canada's missle-defence refusal at the feet of President Bush:

Many are viewing this as a slap in the face from Ottawa to Washington, and a change in the position Canada seemed to be taking a year ago. They expect it to poison relations between the two neighbors - ensuring, among other things, that next month's three-way summit with Mexican President Vicente Fox will fail to make progress in broadening NAFTA. It would seem that the knee-jerk liberal Canadians just could not get over their nostalgia for the ABM Treaty, as well as their visceral dislike of missile-defense systems.

This interpretation is badly mistaken. The Bush administration made major diplomatic errors in handling this topic with Canada. It asked for blanket endorsement of an open-ended US missile defense program, rather than for specific help with specific technical challenges and defensive weapons. This was a fundamental mistake, and the US has mostly itself to blame for the resulting fallout.

He's at least partly correct. Even Stephen Harper has said that Canada shouldn't commit to the plan until we know exactly what is being asked of us - now and in the future.

What O'Hanlon fails to realize is that while Bush made undeniable diplomatic mistakes dealing bluntly with the stand-for-nothing, finger-to-the-wind Liberals, many Canadians - especially in the soft Liberal underbelly of Quebec - have profound nostalgia for the ABM treaty, and really do harbour a visceral dislike of missile-defence systems. The two scenarios aren't mutually exclusive.

In fact, one could argue that it's principally because of Canadians' knee-jerk opposition to all things military, American, and Republican that Bush should have soft-pedalled the issue, instead of proceeding in his typical forthright style to challenge PM Dithers publicly.

O'Hanlon goes on to reach just a little beyond his grasp with the following passage:

What Bush administration officials need to remember is that they almost surely could not get blanket endorsement for all of the above missile defense systems even in the US. Congress has provided funding just for deployment of a limited land-based system and for research and development of other possible concepts. It has not bought into a grandiose architecture of the type that many Pentagon planners still envision. Nor is Bush unwise enough to request such an open-ended endorsement from Congress.

Indeed, his budget request for 2006 cuts missile defense, in recognition of the facts that the relevant technologies are proving slow to develop and that other, nonmissile threats seem more pressing. Yet it was at this moment the president asked Canada for something he probably could not get from the Republican-controlled legislature in his own country.

But that's not really a fair comparison, is it? In Canada, Bush seems to be asking for moral support. In the U.S. Congress, he's most definitely asking for money. I can tell you, if he was asking for money in Canada, I'd be lining up with those opposing the plan at this point. Morally, I think defensive military hardware is easy to justify - unless the bad guys attack, it doesn't threaten anyone. But spending gazillions of taxpayer dollars on a system whose efficacy could be charitably described as speculative, to combat a threat that realistically ranks lower than that of a lone jihadi dumping a shoe-box of anthrax-powder into the air-conditioning system at Mall of America requires a leap of faith Canadian politicians would be foolish to make.

The bottom line is that Canada is a high-maintenance diplomatic companion in North America, the Bush administration has no patience for high-maintenance relationships, and as a result, Ottawa's influence in Washington continues to be negligible. Until the Bush administration learns to be less of a bull in the Canadian china-shop, or until the Martinis become vertebrate, that situation is unlikely to change.

Babble off.

Say it ain't so

Babble on.

Trudeaupia's going inactive:

I'm afraid I'll be on hiatus for many weeks at least, spending time deep in secure network environments.

If someone would like to take over this blog let me know. I could make an occasional guest appearance some time in the future.

I should really make polite, encouraging noises and wish Kevin all the best. And I do wish him all the best. At the same time, I quite selfishly wish the writing muse grabs him by the throat and forces him back to a keyboard soon.

Babble off.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Condescension, thy name is Spector

Babble on.

The following is snipped directly from the Western Standard's Shotgun group blog - which I have been visiting lately the same way one slows down on the highway to gawk at a car crash (ht: Dr.M):

In the absence of links, I guess I'll just have to console myself with a column in the Globe and Mail, Le Devoir, the Vancouver Sun and the Times-Colonist, tv/radio work and the odd mention in the mainstream media of my "hot" website and "the most memorable battle in the history of the blogosphere" which ended in Warren Kinsella's truce declaration.

Face it Kate--with a few exceptions, the blogosphere is a miasma of ignorance, paranoia self-indulgence and prejudice.

Many bloggers haven't the foggiest idea of what they're writing about. Many blog readers haven't the intellectual capacity to differentiate between high quality and the absurdities that pass for so much of the content.

Many of the quality bloggers--such as Sullivan and Frum in the US, or Wells and Coyne in Canada--are also present in the mainstream media. Many of those who are not in the mainstream media are waiting for their chance to get a real job. In the meantime, many would have very little to write about if it were not for the content of the mainstream media.

Granted, there are a lot of errors in the mainstream media that provide considerable fuel for bloggers. However, the errors in the mainstream media are infinitesimal compared to the large amount of junk that fills cyberspace. As a quick experiment, one need only compare the average quality of the material in the Western Standard to the average quality on this site.

Kate, it hasn't been easy to draft this note within the rules against personal attacks that have been conveyed to you and me by Ezra Levant. I hope I've succeeded; if not, I apologize to him.

Posted by: Norman Spector | March 1, 2005 08:36 AM
(Babbler's Bold)

Y'know, you could substitute 'consumers' or 'voters' for 'bloggers' in this little rant, and come up with an entirely unoriginal argument against capitalism or democracy. Elitists don't like self-correcting systems because they don't get to be in charge.

This man's ego has developed its own gravitational field. Norm: Get. Over. Yourself.

Babble off.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Can we correct the record, please?

Babble on.

Given his typical distrust of Martinite propaganda, I'm guessing Paul Wells hasn't swallowed the government's pronouncements regarding Canadian military spending hook, line, and sinker. Having said that, he's doing an awfully good job of regurgitating their propaganda.

From his blog earlier today:

Unfortunately, some people are harder to buy for. Condi Rice wasn't impressed with a $12.5 billion investment in our military. Apparently Condi doesn't like time travel, so even if Pierre Pettigrew takes her aside today in London and tells her about every decision that'll be made at next week's Cabinet meeting, she may still be in a bit of a snit. So sad. (Babbler's emphasis)

As you might remember, that figure can I say this politely...ambitious, since 91% of that money is scheduled to arrive in DND coffers from 2007-2010, and nobody expects this government to last longer than 2006.

Rick Mercer even joked about it last night when he said the feds will put $13 billion into the military...over the next 13 billion years...with most of the money coming in year 13 billion.

This post from the February 23rd is a little more subtle:

Imagine it's 1991 and someone is seriously proposing a budget that would subtract from the federal debt; cut corporate and personal income taxes; build our military and development-assistance capacity; add jillions to health care and equalization; reallocate billions in stale spending toward new priorities; and project a half-dozen similarly deficit-free budgets out into the future. (Babbler's bold)

In 1991, Canada spent $12.3 billion on national defence. In 2005, Canada will spend $13.8 billion on national defence. Looks like an increase, right?

Except that when you adjust for inflation, $12.3 billion (1991) is actually $15.8 billion (2005). So how exactly is projected spending of $13.8 billion an increase?

Some would argue that Wells' comments need to be taken in the context of a year-over-year increase. I say if you're taking things in context, you should look at the fact that compared to 1991, the 2005 defence department is much more in need of a cash infusion - which again makes the comparison misleading.

The funny thing is that the main thrust of these two posts isn't even the military. I don't think Wells is spreading disinformation intentionally; he's just using the government's defence budget propaganda numbers as a convenient blunt object with which to beat his intended targets.

But I'm finally going to get to my point here: if Paul Wells - a well-respected, widely-read journalist who is openly critical of the Martin government - is going to use misleading figures on defence spending casually, in stories that aren't even about the military in the first place, what hope do those of us who care about the Canadian Forces have of getting the real story out?

Because the real story is this: since the Liberals took power in 1993, the actual budget of the Department of National Defence has declined 6.8% in inflation-adjusted terms ($11.97 billion (1993) versus $13.8 billion (2005)). As a percentage of GDP, our military expenditures have been almost halved over the same time period (1.9% to 1.0%). Put into that context, the Liberal's wishful-thinking five-year spending plan barely begins to repair the damage they have done to the Canadian Armed Forces.

There's a story, if only someone with a bigger audience than mine were willing to tell it.

Babble off.