Archive for the ‘International politics’ Category

The newspaper stories coming out of Canada in the past couple of weeks have not been kind to freedom. They could have just as easily come from the U.S. or any other Western country, but they happened to come out of Canada this time, so I’m going to do a mini-link roundup, just for Canada.

  • Headline: “Why do we still subsidize care for the well-to-do?” It is every bit as stupid as it sounds. This dough-faced old socialist wants to make sure that the people who pay the highest taxes don’t get the same healthcare as everyone else by means-testing them. Look, I don’t like government healthcare one bit. But if you made me pay a damn fine chunk of change into the system and then told me I wouldn’t get to enjoy the benefits of it because I was rich, I would surely burst into flames of rage. You already soaked the rich once to get your system, soaking them again to prop it up just makes the crime worse.
  • Welcome to Kelowna, B.C., a beautiful city in the heart of the Okanagan…and now home to a waste collection policy even more draconian than the one infamously employed in Cleveland. They have installed cameras and scanners on their garbage trucks to make sure everyone is being an obedient little serf and sorting his or her garbage properly. See if this sentence scares you: “And while miscreant residents won’t face fines, they can expect a visit from the garbage police, who will offer friendly guidance on separating paper and plastic.” Or how about this one: ‘The on-board cameras’ image resolution “isn’t high enough to look at detailed information,’ he said.” Oh, sort of like how the nude scanners can’t save images? Not only is Kelowna’s program a horrifying little exercise in the slippery slope of personal liberties, but also it completely fails to make sense in the midst of a recession.
  • Headline says it all: “Sorry if progress is hurting the bottom line.” The “progress” they are talking about is the yet-more draconian DUI laws adopted in B.C. In addition to the full DUI awarded at a BAC of .08, cops in B.C. can now give you a mini-DUI at .05, such that you receive a warning point, a 24-hour suspension, and a bill for towing your car. Naturally, people are scared of getting in trouble, such that bar sales may be down as much as 25%. There is nothing that low-margin businesses like more than losing business in a recession! But hey, you silly business owners, you need to shut your damn mouths and salute the flag so we can have some progress around here! I mean, the politicians need to look tough on crime. Screw you for wanting to eat, you obstructionists!!
  • Meet Michael Schmidt, Canada’s leading raw milk advocate and the founder of Cow Share Canada. Fresh off a victory in Ontario, Schmidt is expanding his efforts across the country. The thing I love about this story is that he goes to help some raw milk farmers in Alberta, but leaves as soon as he decides their cleanliness isn’t up to his standards. Huh, what do you know, maybe individual actors can responsibly regulate themselves without the coercive intervention of the state and its cartel buddies!
  • Some idiot who used to work at a vegetarian fashion house in Montreal called Matt & Nat is complaining that the company violated her rights by not allowing employees to eat meat on site. You violent little fool, no one made you work there! If your bacon sandwich is so damn important, find another job! Or just leave the office and eat at a restaurant or in a park, geez! I can’t believe people really think they are important enough to potentially ruin the livelihood of someone else just because they had their feelings hurt. What a doltish thug.
  • Headline: “Canada’s culture can still make its mark on the internet.” Ah, and what intrepid ideas does this editorial offer? Why, by using the Canadian Media Fund to subsidize internet content providers and helping them establish intellectual property rights! Or by using money stolen from taxpayers to achieve the logistically impossible goal of supplying universal broadband access in the second-largest country on earth! It pains me to think that multiple people were paid to come up with this drivel. Do they honestly think the internet needs state support to succeed? Even though it has succeeded in spite of it for the past 20 years? The blind faith in the state baffles me.

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The National Post recently had two good articles on what are called “equalization payments” in Canada. Basically, ever year, the wealthy Western provinces like British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and especially Alberta transfer wealth to the federal authorities, who then redistribute it to have-nots in the East. The worst culprit this year is capitalism-bashing Quebec, which will receive more than $8.5 billion from “greedy” Western oil and timber barons.

The whole system is quite distasteful–to think that people in one part of the country have some claim to the wealth of people in another part of the country. If Quebecers want a slice of Alberta’s pie, then maybe they should move to Alberta. But it is unsurprising in our world of nationalism. Rather than let Quebec go, federal governments have bought them off with equalization payments and allowed them to get by with unsustainable fiscal policies. Rather than respect federalism and let people in Alberta and B.C. keep their money, federal governments act as if they are somehow entitled to arbitrarily redistribute it.

The first article I read was about how equalization payments come not just in the form of direct transfers,  but also much higher rates of federal employment in the have-not provinces. Personally, I think Alberta should feel lucky to have fewer bloodsuckers per capita running around than those on Prince Edward Island, but that’s just me. In any case, this article got my long-established anti-equalization hackles up.

But the second article sort of knocked me back on my feet. Canada’s Atlantic provinces have often benefited from equalization payments, leading Canadians elsewhere to look down on them a bit. And I would have continued to do so myself if not for this article which pointed out that Atlantic Canada had a vibrant trading relationship with the Eastern United States until the mid-19th century, when protectionist industrialists in Ontario and Quebec ganged up on them and obstructed trade with the U.S.

So yes, the equalization payments of today are a gross demonstration of the idea that some people have a claim on the wealth of others just because they happen to live inside the same imagined borders. But the equalization payments of today might not have been necessary if state-allied business owners of a century and a half ago had not used government’s coercive force to protect their interests and crush the productivity of others. Both in the 19th century and the 21st, the state is picking sides and messing things up. As the equalization fatcats in Quebec would say, plus ca change

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Remember when China lost their heads over dissident Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize? The mess remains in progress. His wife, supposedly given the chance to visit him and give him the news of his win, is now under arrest, too.

Then there’s nice, friendly People’s Daily Online, the cute little English-language mouthpiece of the regime. Look at how liberal China is being, they are even letting them write about Liu winning the Prize! Oh wait, they are just writing propaganda pieces that recycle vile commentary from the same bunch of Western useful idiots and reactionary Muslims. One of these useful idiots is especially worthy of our opprobrium:

Meanwhile, Morits Skaugen, chief executive officer of the Norwegian marine transportation service company I.M. Skaugen SE, published an article in the Norwegian-language newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday, saying that it is China that should get the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Development in China is probably the greatest economic experiment we have seen ever,” Skaugen wrote.

My nostrils are flaring. How do you sleep at night, Morits Skaugen? Do you hear the screams of the 65 million innocents Mao butchered? Do you feel the blood of the Tibetans and the Uyghurs and Falun Gong and the Christians and the dissidents and everyone else brutalized by this regime on your hands? Maybe you would like to try a taste of the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward. How much I would love to see you live happily ever after in peaceful old late communist China. How much I would like to see you locked up without any rights in a black jail. Some day you will look back on this statement and wish you could have sewn your own mouth shut. You are an awful human.

Do your part to spit in the face of the murderous Chinese regime–read the Charter 08 document (H/T: Tyler Cowen) that put Liu Xiaobo in jail. For people used to living in freedom, it might not read as very interesting. There’s even some rather wishy-washy junk about social democracy that I have no use for. But the point is, people were willing to risk their lives and freedom for this document. It deserves to be read. It deserves to be shared. This regime deserves to be brought to its knees and the murderers who run it Ceausescu’d.

Your time is coming, Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao. Enjoy crushing the people for now. They will crush you in due time.

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Great news today–Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was just last year that the Nobel committee recognized warmonger and torture-lover Barack Obama, which was probably their worst mistake since recognizing terrorist Yassir Arafat. This year’s result gives me hope for them yet, though I do have to say that some other dissidents are saying Mr. Liu is not a great dissident.

Predictably, China is incensed. They’re even threatening economic repercussions against Norway. Hey guys, guess what? Norway doesn’t care. It’s one of the least-conformist countries on earth. They’re going to have a high standard of living with our without poisonous Chinese baby formula and lead-painted toys. Try threatening Japan again because Norway’s not buying it.

I hope this will be a sign to the Chinese leadership. Yes, there are all manner of useful idiots in the West happy to do your bidding and praise your many construction cranes that rise above the bones of executed prisoners to build more uninhabited apartments that will keep your property bubble going. Yes, everyone does seem to want to study abroad in China these days. Yes, when most people complain about your crimes, they speak only of Tibet.

But that does not mean all of us are unaware of your thuggery and don’t look forward to your downfall.

You can lock up dissidents for now. You can put petitioners in black prisons and execute people by the truckload. You can tell people how many children you will “allow” them to have. You can prop up an even more evil regime next door in North Korea. You can do these things for now, for sure. In fact, enjoy it while you can.

The problem for you is that history is on the side of the oppressed. Your regime will only last so long as you keep driving the standard of living higher. Once that property bubble bursts and all the world sees that the emperor has no clothes, to the dustbin of history you shall go. I don’t like violence, but there is some part of me that hopes you all end up Ceausescu’d. That even means you, Wen Jiabao, you supposed democrat, you smiling butcher. Sic semper tyrannis.

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There were two unrelated but equally weird and disturbing Facebook-related cases I saw out of Quebec recently. In the first case, police in Montreal did an overnight, guns-drawn raid on a man accused of posting death threats on Facebook. The man-child–28 years old and still living at home in a bedroom filled with video game paraphernalia–claims it’s all a misunderstanding and that he was just trash-talking about video games. His parents support his story. Are you ready for the creepy part? Police seem to have been encouraged to make the raid because they were able to use Canada’s recently-renewed federal gun registry to match the IP address up to a gun-owning home.

The statists would say this is evidence the gun registry works. I’d say it’s evidence that it just leads to paranoia, violations of privacy and anti-gun profiling.

Elsewhere in Quebec, a court upheld an $873 million fine imposed by a California court on Adam Guerbuez, a prolific Facebook spammer. How’d they reach they $873 million charge? By imposing a fine of $200 per spam message sent.

Let’s establish some facts. #1–I hate spam even more than most people. #2–This guy hacked accounts to make the spamming possible. #3–He sounds like a real slug who has tried to exploit his infamy for the past two years.

But $200/message? $873 million for spamming people? He will file for bankruptcy and Facebook will get only a pittance out of him, but just the idea of it is nasty and to see such excessive damages awarded cheapens our court system. On second thought, go ahead and award excessive damages. Cheapen the biased system away, yes!

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A judge in Ontario did something pretty cool this week and took a machete to Canada’s federal anti-prostitution laws, effectively decriminalizing prostitution in that province. Federal government officials are already preparing an appeal. If the decision stands, it could have a rapid trickle-down effect across Canada since precedent would effectively be set for the remaining provinces.

Here’s hoping it stands. It makes no sense that we accept consensual, mutually beneficial economic exchanges of any number of goods and services, yet we hold some puritanical prejudice against doing it for sex. We allow it to be given away for free, sure. But put a dollar figure on it? Exercise control over your own body and do with it what you want? Heavens no!

The only thing that I don’t really like about this decision is that the judge did it not because she agreed with the principles I just established–namely, the idea that we are sovereign over our own bodies–but because she researched the issue enough to come to a pragmatic decision about sex workers’ health and safety. The benefits to their health and safety are tremendous secondary pluses and should not be discounted, but this is not a pragmatic issue. It’s a philosophical, ethical issue about who holds sovereignty over our bodies. Right conclusion, wrong logic, judge.

The Canadian papers have covered the issue quite a bit this week. My least-favorite article was a glowing profile of Swedish prostitution laws, where sex workers are not penalized but the customers who solicit them are. The logic behind the Swedish approach is that violence and other crimes enter the sex trade through the customers, not the providers.

Ugh. I’d love to know how many of the johns who have been charged were chubby-faced middle-aged businessmen versus those who were woman-beating gangsters. My suspicion would be that the businessmen are amateurs dumb enough to get caught, whilst the gangsters operate far enough underground that they don’t have to worry. Even if I’m wrong, it’s still a gross principle for a law. So long as violence and exploitation are not entering into the equation, neither the customer nor the client is at fault in a prostitution transaction. It’s just two consenting adults setting a mutually agreed-upon price for a service.

Did you hear that, state authorities? Mutually beneficial. Consensual. No violence. No force. Maybe you should try following those principles in your relations with us, your slaves.

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The Western media has actually done a pretty decent job of reporting on the recent dismissal of seeming-may0r-for-life Yuri Luzhkov, the ex-Mayor of Moscow. I’m still surprised it happened. The guy had been mayor since 1992. He was close to the people in power. He was a nasty man who loved corruption, banning gay pride parades, tweaking the collective nose of Ukraine and encouraging destructive attacks on nature (another example and another). I am not sad to see the schmuck go. You can read more about his legacy here.

It seemed like Putin was ok with him sticking around and this battle was entirely about Medvedev. Maybe that was just good cop-bad cop. It would be nice if this did turn out to be a sign of a newly-assertive Medvedev capable of defeating Putin in 2012. Medvedev is no great liberalizer, either, but he seems better than Putin.

So you’ve already heard those storylines. What you haven’t heard is who has replaced Luzhkov as acting mayor and who are the leading candidates for the permanent job. The acting mayor is Vladimir Resin. Moscow Times provides us five facts about this guy, one of which is the delightful disclosure that someone who has never risen higher than deputy mayor already owns the most expensive watch in Russia, a $1 million Swiss piece. Well, at least it doesn’t sound like he is corrupt!

MT also did a cheat sheet on likely contenders for the office. They say the likeliest is Vladimir Kozhin, head of the Office of Presidential Affairs. Also mentioned are the deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. It is an appointed office, of course. I tend to agree with opposition man Boris Nemtsov, who is quoted in that story as saying the new mayor will likely be “dull, weak, dependent and loyal.” Yep. It was insubordination that started this, so I can’t see Medvedev giving what is probably the third most-recognizable office in the country to a troublemaker or even just a personality who might steal popularity.

I wish there was better news to report. At least Luzhkov is gone. Let’s hope the unintended consequences of getting rid of that jerk don’t end up being even worse for Russia.

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