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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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Rushing to the FB's Defence

The ever thoughtful Ian Welsh at The Blogging of the President 2004 takes a run at my remarks about Michael Moore as a strategic asset for the Republicans. Ian is always pithy and he suggests that the real liars are not Moore but rather assorted members of the Bush Administration,
Finally when you've hit the point of calling someone "Fat Bastard"... and "distortionist" rather than liar (because in fact the vast majority of what's in f9/11 is fact) then you've got problems.

It's a fact that Bush sat there like a stunned idiot for 7 minutes.

It's a fact that no WMD of any significance was ever found.

It's a fact that the Bush and Bin Laden families have been in bed for decades.

It's a fact that companies that Cheney has a financial interest in have been ripping of the taxpayer in Iraq.
Ian Welsh
Of course Moore is fat and, simply by dishonouring the dead of 9/11 with the title of his movie, not to mention insulting Ray Bradbury, is certainly an honourary bastard in my books.

Substantively, sitting, stunned, for seven minutes is hardly a sign of imbilcility or lack of leadership...what would Ian have had Bush do, grab the football and nuke...well no. The man was stunned and he had to digest the news on camera in front of a bunch of grade schoolers.

The fact is that WMD's in small quantities are being found. But whether or not those "count" or if, in fact, it turns out that WMD intelligence was just plain wrong - wrong enough that virtually every intelligence agency in the world looked like a donkey - the elimination of Saddam and the Baathist terror was more than justification for the war.

The Bush and binLaden families in their various ramifications apparently have done some business. So what - do you really thing Bush Sr. and Jr. said, "Hey, tell your son Osama to go ahead and hit the WTC." Gee, I don't and I wouldn't even if the bin Ladens held the paper on the house at Kennebunkport.

I would be careful on say Cheney currently has any financial interest in any companies which are alledged to be ripping the taxpayers off. Deferred salary is some distance away from a financial interest.

Bush hating is a popular sport with the deep belief that somehow hatred of Bush means taking out Saddam is a bad thing.

Moore is the lightening rod for this sort of magic bean thinking and, as den Beste points out, that is a fantastic plus for the Republicans. The Dems, no matter how much they may want to cut the FB lose, are stuck with him because of the tremendous credibility his distortions have for the looney left of the party weaned as they are on conpiracy theory and the paranoid style in American politics.

The FB panders to the ignorant left and forces the Democratic Party along for the ride. Thus Billy Crystal makes jokes about 9/11 and Bush's IQ at a Democratic fundraiser with Kerry in attendance.

More Transfer Payments

Yes, I know Canadian political accounting is just slightly duller than watching lichen grow; but it helps to explain the nature of the weird Canadian political system.

Here is a list of provinces and territories. Beside each is the total amount of their provincial fiscal 2003 budgets came from their own sources. (The figure for Quebec is artificially high because Quebec has negotiated tax abatement programs with the feds which make it appear to be raising more money than it actually does.)

Nanavut 8.5%
Yukon 30.5%
NWT 48.4%

Nfld. 57.4%
NB 61.1%
PEI 62.1%
NS 63.9%

Man 66.0%
Sask 78.6%

Que. 82.2% (notional)
BC 87.8%

Ont. 87.7%
Alta. 92.9%

(source:finances of the nation 2002, pdf)
Since these numbers were compiled British Columbia has slipped into receipient status.

The point the numbers make is that for much of the country transfer payments have become a way of life. However, what that way of life implies has not really been appreciated by any of the political parties.

Each level of government has only one source of revenue - the taxpayer (and yes I realize that it is possible to make money from Crown Corporations but it doesn't happen often) in all of his many guises. Which effectively means that the taxpayers of Ontario and Alberta are handing money to the taxpayers of the rest of the country.

This would not be a problem if a) there was a trend towards transfering less money each fiscal year and b) if there was an end in sight.

At the moment the Conservative Party of Canada has no coherent economic policy other than a program of tax cuts for individuals supposedly offset by reductions in "corporate welfare". For a number of reasons it has been difficult for the Party to come up with an overall economic policy.

One way of bringing coherence to such policy might be to set as a goal and an ordering principle the creation of policies which, over time, would reduce the dependency on transfer payments of the various jurisdictions.

A good deal of such a policy would be on the economic development side of the ledger; but as the bulk of transfer payments are per capita a strategy of encouraging relocation within Canada would make sense.

To give some idea of the dimensions of the problem it is worth considering that as of 2001, since 1957, 180 billion dollars has been transfered by way of equalization with virtually no change in the relative positions of the have and have not provinces. This is not a system which is working.


denBeste finishes off the Fat Bastard

It is rare for a political faction to be blessed with an opponent who is so charismatic to his fanatical supporters, so repulsive to non-supporters, and so vulnerable to criticism and caricature. I can't think of a high-profile leftist I'd rather have "at the centre of things" than Michael Muqtada al-Moore.
In the end Moore really does not need to be taken on. He pretty much does the job himself. However, denBeste draws the comparison between the Shi'ite fanatics who supported al-Sadr and the looney lefties who are so bereft of leadership they have no choice but to rally round Moore.

As Neil Postman explained at length in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” the effect of television is to eliminate the formality and the logic of print based arguments. For a generation raised on TV the idea of a logically constructed argument, political or otherwise, is often an unknown country. Instead, the cultural and political landscape are moulded by the quick edit and the factoid. Bullet points and PowerPoint dominate discourse.

Moore has mastered the art of the half truth and the telling edit. In this he is using the tools of his culture much as al-Sadr rallied his milita to their deaths using the tools of the Shi'ite martyr cult. Both prey on ignorance. Moore's run is likely to last longer than al-Sadr's. Which denBeste sees as a good thing,
Moore has planted his flag smacko in the middle of the Holy City of anti-Americanism. To defend that position, the LL's will now vocally proclaim something many have long believed but avoided admitting: they hate America and everything it stands for. That is not a message that will sell well to the broad electorate. They will proclaim that they love this nation, but... and then make clear that they despise most of the people who live in it, and despise the very features of this nation that the majority of us see as its greatest virtues. And they will poison the leftist political position even for non-loonie leftists. (Since Moore's supporters constitute a significant base of support for the Democratic Party, they're going to represent an ongoing headache for the Kerry campaign by their antics. And that will force him to continue to equivocate about his position major issues, to avoid alienating them, and at the same time avoid alienating the broad electorate.)
If the Republicans can make Moore rather than Kerry/Edwards the issue - and Billy Crystal comparing 9/11 to Bush's SAT scores is certainly helping - there is very little doubt Bush can win the next election in a walk.

Update: Spinsanity takes on Fahrenheit 9/11. It is not pretty and the Fat Bastard is called out as the distortionist he is.


Transfer Payments

Over at Blogs Canada egroup there is a discussion going on about the prospects for Western political power. I have been commenting on transfer payments and am getting ready to write a piece on them.

The economics are fairly clear - years of transfer payments create dependancy and economies in decline in the receipient provinces. In the donor provinces the economics are equally destructive - taxes are set higher than they would otherwise be in order to finance the transfers. This, in turn, removes capital from those economies which ensures their rate of growth is reduced.

As for fairness - what transfer payments essentially do is root people in particular locations regardless of the economic viability of those locations - thus we have sports fishing in Newfoundland disguised as a commercial fishery.

The long term effect of intatutionalized transfer payments is roughly the same as handing welfare to generation after generation in the same family. It debilitates the receipients.

There is nothing wrong with short term, dire need, transfer payments; but ongoing, entrenched payments are, in Jane Jacob's memorable phrase, the "transactions of decline."

However, selling cuts to transfer payments will be tough indeed. But I suspect rather easier than pretending that the Tories are just rather more efficient Liberals.

Cutting transfer payments might begin with the capping of all non-healthcare related payments - of which there are many. Capping, with a modest inflation would act as rolling cut.

The other element might be capping the total per capita transfer from Ontario and Alberta. Again, this would reduce the total amount of money available for transfer and focus the minds of the politicians as to what really needs to be spent.

Finally, and importantly, there should be uniform standards for things like UI eligibility so that people in depressed regions are not rewarded for living in depressed regions. This is particularily true when there are emerging labour shrtages in some of the more dynamic regions of the country.

While the Ontario goose seems willing to continue being plucked there is no reason to believe that the Albertans will keep putting up with sending billions down the road. Especially if there is no end in sight or potential reduction.


Mum and Dad

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin
Reading the Monger's account of the 13 year reign of terror two parents inflicted on their children I could not help but quote Larkin's poem which was written in a gentler time.

The Monger goes on to say,
Before I went into medicine, I was very close to choosing law instead. I wrote the law school entrance exam, applied to law school, and was accepted. Thank goodness I changed my mind. At least in medicine, we don't have to rely so much on the opinions of other people. We can be right, or wrong, and there is usually a way to prove it one way or the other. In law, it looks to me like we're all utterly at the mercy of whatever stupid theory is popular in legal circles, or fashionable on Parliament Hill. The monkeys are running the zoo.
the monger
The temptation to suggest that a sentence of 9 months for a case of such vile abuse is the fault of the system is nearly overwhelming. But there is no reason to believe that, after an appeal, the trial judge's bizarre sentence will not reflect the idea of punishment rather that some more current, hipper, idea.

Coyne on wooing urbanites

Andrew Coyne, writing for the Western Standard, but publishing at his blog, writes:
Certainly Conservatives have to learn to speak in the language of urban Canada -- but that's a matter of presentation, of cultural codes, as much as anything. What's more important is to stop implicitly apologizing for their policies, whether by concealing, downplaying, softening or otherwise seeming to acknowledge the rightness of their critics' accusations.
andrew coyne
He is dead on in terms of cultural codes. The sheer dowdyness of the Conservatives and their failure to understand that the problem with so called social issues is not the "scare factor" or the label "extremist" - both of which are serious but not fatal - but rather the fact many urbanites have long since ceased to care about gay marriage, abortion, pot and the other socon bugbears. The reason the Conservatives kept having to appologize for their mavricks taking runs at bilingualism and abortion had as much to do with a lack of style than the substance of the remarks.

This does not mean the socon issues can't be talked about. They can; but not defensively and not with the sense of trying to create a better yesterday tomorrow. Instead, if the Tories want to address abortion maybe they should talk about the demographic fact that Canada needs more babies and then address how to encourage Canadian women to opt to keep their children. If they don't want to reform pot laws then come up with something other than the long discredited nanny knows best argument. Get those researchers out there making the link between pot use and schizophrenia.

For the next few months the Tories need to figure out how to position themselves with style, content, up to the minute information and a serious attempt to fashion their message to appeal to urban voters. This means style as well as substance.

Still at large and better in places

There have been lots of comments on my run in with the RCMP in the person of one Constable Scott Hildersley. I'll be post ing more later in the day but the bullet is this. Hildersley showed up about 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon. He arrived at my cabin door and arrested me. Full on magic finger touch "You are under arrest."

My immediate question was, "For what?" Well, it turns out that the best that the Constable could come up with was a Section 810 Peace bond. Now this is a promise to keep the Peace and carries no criminal record. Best of all from the Constable's perspective it can be obtained if the police officer believes that the complainant believes that there is a threat. In other words on virtually no evidence at all.

Normally, the proceedure is that the accused simply sign the bond which includes a no contact undertaking. However, I was not about to sign anything which even tacitly admitted guilt for something which I did not do nor would I sign anything which would require myself or my family to leave premises we had a legitimate right to occupy.

This did not suit the Constable. He handcuffed me and put me in the back of his rather hot police truck. He then had a chat with Susan. Then he drove me up to the Madrona Lodge parking lot to talk to Susan. Not a happy moment with the baby and Sam hanging about and Susan amazed at the Constable's actions. Bless her she laid into him - verbally of course - suggesting that he had not bothered to conduct a proper investigation, was accepting the word of a woman who was prone to fits of temper and any number of other choice bits which I would have loved to say but thought it best not to. Hinderley was not willing to budge. So I got back into the back again and off we went.

But, he was not done yet. He went back in to talk to Susan and we had another round in the parking lot. In the hot sun with the handcuffs really beginning to hurt. By this point both Susan and I had had more than enough. I made the offer to have no contact with the complianant but to retain possession of the premises for a couple of days. No dice. So off we went to the Pender Island RCMP offices. I had a pen and a copy of Stendal, The Scarlett and the Black.

On the way down Island, after being under arrest for the better part of an hour and a half, Constable Hildersley asked me if I would be wanting to call a lawyer when we got to Pender or if I would be representing myself for the hearing on the Peace Bond. I replied that I would represent myself.

About a minute later I requested that, when we got to the lockup at Pender I be provided with the witness statements, the Constable's notes, his report to Crown Counsel and a copy of the Criminal Code of Canada, ideally Martin's for the annotation so that I might prepare my position prior to the telephone hearing with the duty Justice. "We'll see."

We took the RCMP boat from Montagu Harbour to Otter Bay Pender Island. Lovely trip made more pleasant by the Constable removeing the handcuffs on my undertaking not to attack him or run away. (Not a big temptation with the gun and everything.)

We were met at Otter Bay by an older officer, Lyall - whose last name I did not get. A short drive, still uncuffed and then chacked into the lovely Pender Island Police HQ. Shoes, belt and pen confiscated - I asked again for a Criminal Code and copies of the witness statements. No chance, So Stendhal and I settled into the rather clean yellow cinderblock cell. The "bed" was a two and a half foot wide, two foot high, poured in place hunk of concrete with a bright orange inch and a half thick mattress and thinish orange blanket. Not uncomfortable but not something I would want to wake up to every morning.

Time passed. A lot of time passed. The reason why time passed became apparent at the telephone hearing later. The Constable had rushed up Island to arrest me on this sissy charge - a charge that carries no criminal record and has an unimaginably low standard of evidence - without having written up his own report or having in hand a witness statement from the complainant. (Yes, I will be adding to my complaint.)

Essentially I was being held in a cell while the Constable completed the paper work.

The hearing went rather as I expected it to. Given the absurdly low evidentiary requirement for 810 it is effectively impossible to defeat the charge at the preliminary bail hearing. Which I knew going in. My point was to have a judge actually impose the conditions rather than agreeing to them simply because the Constable wanted me to.

The conditions were duly imposed by the judge with a further hearing on July 28. I was no longer under arrest. The Constable and I now made our way back to Galiano. A nearly full moon over Trincomali Channel lighted our way into the last glow of the late June sunset.

We got off the boat and went to the truck. Constable Hildersley drove me up the Montegue Harbour Hill and dropped me ten miles away from home at 11:40 PM. "You'll get a ride with someone from the pub. If they are drunk, you drive."

I walked home. Got in the door at 2:05 AM.

We moved the next day. To a much nicer place.

Constable Hildersley put on his scarlett serge tunic and lead the Canada Day Parade on North Galiano. We all went to the parade and waved our Canadian flags at the uniform, not the man.