January 31, 2009

The System

The Future of Canada

by Doug Christie

As originally posted: Douglas Christie
[Post date not given]

Will Canada continue to exist? Canada has only existed for some time now as a tax-gathering and patronage agency which bribes certain groups with funds to stay in business. Canadian culture when it actually existed until just after the second World War, was really just a remnant of British traditions of law, politics and parliamentary democracy.

The Christian church, which played a major role in the establishment and maintenance of Canada as an institution from at least the conquest in 1759 to the Second World War, has lost its influence since the Second Vatican Council. Canada as a multicultural nation is in fact just a transitional phase to disintegration into various cultural ghettoes. Surrey and Richmond B.C. are the legacy of multiculturalism and the wave of the future.

The real nature of multiculturalism is European genocide. Canada simply does not exist as a cultural, economic, political or philosophical entity. It is a remnant of the British Empire, held together by the power to tax and spend. It will disappear even as that in twenty years. Nothing in the heart holds it together. It is ripe for the invasion which is occurring

Should it continue to exist? A better question is: Why should Western Canada with 75% of Canada’s agriculture, 90% of its oil and gas, 60% of its fishery and forestry, 60% of its hydro-electric power potential and vast quantities of other minerals including coal and gold allow it to continue to dominate our way of life and resources from 2,500 miles away in Ottawa?

Why should all four western provinces be satisfied with 88 seats in the Commons to Ontario’s 105 and Quebec’s 75? Why should the English-speaking west which produces 70% of Canada’s international exports continue to allow Ottawa to decide on immigration, language, banking, international trade, foreign policy, and more while Ontario and Quebec run Ottawa?

When all practical matters are considered, a Western Canadian who watches everything from gun control registries to energy policy, to the federal equalization, transportation and Wheat Board policies, to the media control by Central Canada to federal immigration policies, must clearly realize that Canada is a disaster. Reform is impossible. Separation and a new nation of Western Canada remains the only solution.

Bay City Electric, Light & Power (BCELP)

Freezing death of Mich. man in house sparks anger

by David Eggert

January 28, 2009

BAY CITY, Mich. – When neighbors went inside Marvin Schur's house, the windows were frosted over, icicles hung from a faucet, and the 93-year-old World War II veteran lay dead on the bedroom floor in a winter jacket over four layers of clothing.

He froze to death — slowly and painfully, authorities say — days after the electric company installed a power-limiting device because of more than $1,000 in unpaid bills.

The old man's sad end two weeks ago has led to outrage, soul-searching and a resolve never to let something like this happen again.

"There's got to be a way in today's computer age they can find out if someone's over a certain age," said Chad Sepos, 37, a copy machine installer who lives a block away in this Lake Huron city of 34,000 people, about 90 miles from Detroit. "It's just sad."

One of the saddest things of all was that Schur appeared to have plenty of money, and, in fact, one of the neighbors who entered the home reported seeing cash clipped to a pile of bills on the kitchen table. Schur's nephew suggested the old man's mind may have been slipping.

Schur, or "Mutts," was a retired foundry worker who lived alone, his wife having died a couple of years ago. The couple had no children. He could often be seen through the big front window of his comfortably furnished home of 50 or 60 years, watching TV or keeping an eye on his neighborhood.

On Jan. 13, a worker with the city-owned utility installed a "limiter" on Schur's electric meter after four months of unpaid bills. The device restricts power and blows like a fuse if usage rises past a set level. Electricity is not restored until the device is flipped back on by the homeowner, who must walk outside to the meter.

Bay City Electric Light & Power did not contact Schur face-to-face to notify him of the device and explain how it works, instead following its usual policy by leaving a note on the door. But neighbors said Schur rarely, if ever, left the house in the cold.

At some point, the device evidently tripped and was not reset, authorities said. Schur's home was heated by a gas furnace, not electricity, but some gas furnaces do not work properly if the power is out.

Neighbors discovered Schur's body on Jan. 17 in his home, a yellow house with peeling paint. The outside temperature ranged from a high of 12 degrees to a low of minus 9 on Jan. 15, the day he was believed to have died. A heating pad was on his favorite armchair by the window. The oven door was open, perhaps to heat the place.

"The body has a tremendous fighting power for survival. He died a slow, painful death," said Dr. Kanu Virani, who found frostbite on Schur's foot when performing the autopsy. Investigators are trying to establish how long he was without electricity.

City officials are reviewing their procedures and in the meantime have suspended shutoffs and removed all limiters from homes after using the devices for 18 years.

The medical examiner is looking into whether Schur suffered from dementia, particularly after police found enough cash lying around in the home to cover his bills. His nephew William Walworth said Schur told him two years ago he had $600,000 in savings.

"It's definitely not a situation where money is an issue. The issue has to do with the mental faculties you have and your ability to make good decisions," said Walworth, 67, who lives in Ormond Beach, Fla.

"I think the utility's policies are horrible and insane," he added. "For 50 years he paid the bill on a regular basis and never had problems. If people would know who their customers are and take concern for their customers, maybe they'd go knock on the door and see if everything is OK."

Neighbors and others have posted messages on the Internet, complaining it was a shabby way to treat a veteran and demanding city employees be fired or prosecuted for not taking a few minutes to check on Schur, who was a medic in the South Pacific and earned a Purple Heart.

One blogger noted that even a pet owner who leaves his dog outside to freeze can face charges.

Sharon Gire, director of the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, said Schur's death was preventable. "He was one of Michigan's most vulnerable citizens in need," she said. "It is a tragedy that he had to suffer such a painful death."

Michigan's big, state-regulated utilities are not allowed to shut off power to senior citizens in the winter and must offer payment plans to the poor. State regulators also discourage the use of limiters. But Michigan's 41 smaller municipal utilities — Bay City's included — are not overseen by the state.

Schur's death has prompted Michigan lawmakers to start writing legislation that could ban the use of limiters by municipal utilities.

"The concern was particularly with elderly customers; they can be frail or confused," Public Service Commission spokeswoman Judy Palnau said. "Anything that can require some sort of mechanical intervention can be overwhelming."

Bay City Manager Robert Belleman said that he was "deeply saddened" by Schur's death and that State Police will investigate. But he also said neighbors have a responsibility to each other.

"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."

(This version CORRECTS utility name to Bay City Electric Light & Power, not City Electric Light & Power, in 8th paragraph and CORRECTS spokeswoman's first name to Judy, not July, in 21st paragraph.))

January 30, 2009

"A Devious Cynical, Crass and Corrupt Politician"

Blago, Gov No More

by Ben Protess

As originally posted on: ProPublica
January 29, 2009

Rod Blagojevich joined the ranks of the unemployed this evening.

Illinois' senators voted unanimously to convict the Illinois governor in his impeachment trial, thereby expelling him from office immediately. Blagojevich, twice elected, is the first Illinois governor to be booted midterm.

"We have this thing called impeachment and it's bleeping golden and we've used it the right way," said Democratic state Sen. James Meeks, making reference to Blagojevich's alleged description of Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

And if conviction weren't enough, the senators also voted unanimously to prevent Blagojevich from ever holding office in Illinois again. (Sure, he could always run for president.)

Lieutenant Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat like Blagojevich, has been sworn in as Blagojevich's replacement.

Earlier this month, the Illinois House voted 114-1 to impeach Blagojevich, sending proceedings to the senate where the trial began on Monday. Today, all 59 senators voted to convict.

For the first three days, Blagojevich ignored the trial, instead choosing to go on a national media tour. While on tour, Blagojevich referred to the trial as a "kangaroo court," saying "the fix is in."

The governor refused to challenge a prosecutor's evidence or present witnesses because senate rules prevented him from calling witnesses related to his federal criminal case.

But today, Blagojevich returned to the state capital and presented his closing arguments. (In actuality, they were his only arguments).

In an impassioned 47-minute speech, Blagojevich made his case before the Senate, saying he did "absolutely nothing wrong" and "never, ever intended to violate the law."

"I'm here to talk to you, to appeal to you, to your sense of fairness," Blagojevich told senators. "I'm asking you as I speak to you today to imagine yourself walking in my shoes."

They weren't too receptive.

"The governorship was serious business. It isn't show business," said state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican. "After that performance today, I wish him luck on his new Hollywood career."

Sen. Dale Righter, also a Republican, described Blagojevich's arguments as "words and deeds of a devious cynical, crass and corrupt politician, and someone from whom the people of this state must be protected."

Some of the senators noted that Blagojevich is not solely responsible for Illinois' hard-fought reputation as a corrupt state.

"I believe our state government must enter rehab," Republican Sen. Randall Hultgren said. "Moral rehabilitation."

What's next for Blagojevich? Well, after he cleans out his office, he might have a criminal trial to prepare for. He was arrested last year on a raft of corruption charges (including for allegedly trying to sell Obama's seat for personal benefits), but has yet to be indicted. His arrest set in motion a weeks-long impeachment process that ended in his conviction today.

Presiding over the trial was the chief justice of the state supreme court, Thomas Fitzgerald, (not to be confused with Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney who is prosecuting Blagojevich).

"The Bankers"

The Banks Have Stolen Enough; It's Time to Take Them Over

by Dean Baker

As originally posted on: The Huffington Post
January 25, 2009

Hold onto your wallets. The bankers are coming bank for more money. They burned through the $350 billion that we gave them in the first round of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and they are worried that even the second $350 billion will not be enough money to keep them solvent. The selective leaks from Treasury tell us that the banks will need far more money to cover their bad debts.

The latest story is that the banks want to sell us their bad assets at above market prices, which was the original plan that Treasury Secretary Paulson proposed, except the banks want to push off their junk on an even bigger scale. In one version, the government would set up a Resolution Trust-type corporation (RTC), like we did with the bankrupt Savings and Loans in the 80s, which would hold all the garbage and then gradually resell it to the private sector to recover a portion of what the government paid.

This is a reasonable course, except there is one big difference between what we did with the S&Ls in the 80s and the leaked plan being floated. The S&Ls were taken over by the government and then resold to the private sector. These were bankrupt institutions that were put out of business. The stockholders were wiped out, which is what is supposed to happen to stock holders when their company goes bankrupt.

But this is not what happens in the plan being discusses. In this plan, the taxpayers just do the banks the great favor of paying above market prices for their junk so that we can relieve them of the burden of their past mistakes. The taxpayers get to eat the losses and the bank executives and their shareholders go on their merry way.

These folks are not market fundamentalist types. The Wall Street view of the world, and apparently the view of at least some people in the Obama administration, is that the government always is there to help a bank or banker in need.

The idea that we would give one more penny to this crew that has wrecked the economy should make taxpayers furious. There is a legitimate public interest in keeping the banks operating; a modern economy needs a well-operating financial system. But, there is zero public interest in rewarding shareholders and overpaid banks executives.

These executives bankrupted their banks and brought the economy down with them. They belong in an unemployment line not collecting multi-million dollar paychecks in their designer office suites.

The obvious answer is to take over the insolvent banks, just as we did with the insolvent S&Ls. The government should form an RTC as we did in the 80s, which would dispose of the assets over time, collecting as much money as possible for the government. The bankrupt banks would be restructured and sold back to the private sector as soon as their books were straightened out. The point of the exercise is not have the government run the banks, the point is to keep the financial system running without giving even more money to the richest people in the country.

This is the only reasonable solution to the mess that the bankers have created. The other solutions are simply efforts to transfer dollars from hardworking taxpayers to overpaid and incompetent bank executives. It is hard to believe that anyone would take it seriously, if not for the enormous political power of the Wall Street gang.

It's too bad that the Republicans' anger over giving tax breaks to workers who did not pay income taxes does not extend to giving tax dollars to Wall Street banks who have wrecked our economy. Where are the anti-government conservatives when we need them?

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Blagojevich ousted by Illinois state senate

by Malcolm Gay and Susan Saulny

As originally published: International Herald Tribune
January 29, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois: The Illinois State Senate Thursday convicted Governor Rod Blagojevich on a sprawling article of impeachment that charged him with abusing his power. The vote prompted the governor's immediate and permanent ouster and ended nearly two months of political spectacle in which he sought unsuccessfully to salvage his reputation and career here and across the country.

Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat who rose from the ranks of Chicago ward politics on the strength of his charisma and family connections, is the first governor in the state's history to be impeached. The senators voted 59 to 0 in favor of removing him after a four-day trial and about two hours of deliberation.

According to state law, Pat Quinn, the lieutenant governor, assumed chief executive power upon the vote and was expected to take the oath of office for ceremonial purposes before the end of the day.

The vote capped a trial that took a dramatic turn on Thursday morning as Blagojevich arrived here in the capitol and delivered an impassioned closing argument in his impeachment trial before the Illinois State Senate. The city was captivated — as were people all across the state — as Blagojevich pleaded his innocence in blunt, unsparing terms.

"You haven't proved a crime and you can't because it hasn't happened," he told the legislators. "How can you throw a governor out of office with incomplete or insufficient evidence?"

After Blagojevich's statement, and a prosecution rebuttal, the lawmakers began their deliberations on the governor's fate, with each senator having the opportunity to speak.

In his remarks, Blagojevich asked the senators to put themselves in his shoes, and cast himself as a hard-working pragmatist who did whatever it took to help the people of his state — even when that sometimes meant skirting legislators and their rules. He flatly denied any criminal wrongdoing, excoriating the process that led him to the low point of essentially begging to keep his job. And he picked apart the articles of impeachment against him one by one, straining at times to present his point of view in sympathetic terms.

"I'm appealing to your sense of fairness," he said, adding later, "I did a lot of things that were mostly right."

He ended his remarks with a general apology for the frenzy that has enveloped the state as a result of his case and told legislators, let's "continue to do good things for the people."

In an interview after his statement, Senator Christine Radogno, the Republican leader of the Senate, said she was not persuaded. "I'm immune to his speech giving," she said. "We've seen those tricks before."

"He gives a good speech," she added. "He's a performer. He's very good at that. Perhaps he can get a job in the arts."

After Blagojevich appeared, the lawmakers took a recess to allow Democrats and Republicans to meet in separate groups. When they returned, David Ellis, the House prosecutor, rebutted the governor's statement, criticizing him for not speaking under oath or taking questions.

"He simply says there's no evidence and walks off the stage," Ellis said.

"He says, 'walk a mile in his shoes,' " he continued. "Well, if I were innocent and I were in his shoes, I would have taken that witness stand and I would have testified and I would have told you why I was innocent. The governor didn't do that."

When the rebuttal was over, the senators again split by party and went into private caucuses before beginning their deliberations.

Earlier this morning, spectators had packed the Senate gallery in anticipation of possibly seeing, for the first time in the state's history, the removal from office of a sitting governor. A line of people stretched down the corridor, waiting to get in. The session opened with the prosecution's closing argument. The governor's statement had been expected to last an hour and a half, but took only about 45 minutes.

Blagojevich's announcement on Wednesday that he wanted to address the Senate on Thursday came about an hour before the prosecution rested its case, and brought negative reactions from lawmakers. Many had previously lamented the governor's absence from the proceedings and had repeatedly requested he testify.

"It's somewhat cowardly that he won't take questions," said Senator Dan Cronin, a Republican, on Wednesday. "If he had something to say, he should have come down here like a man and faced the music."

During a publicity tour this week, Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat who was arrested Dec. 9 on U.S. government corruption charges, repeatedly professed his innocence, calling the impeachment trial unfair, and complaining bitterly that many of the statements attributed to him on recordings of his telephone conversations, made by U.S. agents, had been taken out of context.

Senators here denounced the publicity campaign. Earlier on Wednesday, the Senate president, John Cullerton, a Democrat, challenged Blagojevich to appear in Springfield. "If he wants to come down here, instead of hiding out in New York and having Larry King asking questions instead of the senators — I think he's making a mistake."

Impeachment proceedings against Blagojevich erupted in the days after the governor's arrest by U.S. agents. Among other things, the case includes accusations that Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment of President Barack Obama's former United States Senate seat to the highest bidder and threatened to withhold money from a local children's hospital, unless its executives contributed money to him.

In Thursday's session, senators will cast votes on two issues. The first will be whether to remove the governor from office. The second will be to determine whether Blagojevich should be barred from holding office in the future.

To remove the governor from office, the senate must vote by a two-thirds majority (or at least 40 of the 59 senators). If that happens, Pat Quinn, the state's lieutenant governor, would immediately replace him. Blagojevich would then become the first governor in the state's history, and the first governor nationally to be removed since 1988, when Arizona lawmakers removed Governor Evan Mecham from office.

Monica Davey contributed reporting.

January 29, 2009

"Canada Inc."

We are Separatists

by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean

As originally posted on: Challenging the Commonplace
January 28, 2009

Daphne and I have been holding onto this post, waiting for the right moment to publish it. This is that moment.

Michael Ignatieff has declared that the Liberals will accept the Harper budget, under the proviso the Conservatives issue progress reports. This condition does not speak to the issues we raised in this post, that one and in others on this blog. With Budget 2009, there'll still be nothing for those already desperately poor, nothing for those who are the most vulnerable to the economic downturn - the Other poor to those deserving "vulnerable" who the neocons favour for assistance. (And even that will be too little to make a difference.)

Here's the post we've been saving...

For a long time, I've pondered the benefit of my community, now Vancouver Island, being part of the political entity that is the Dominion of Canada. Not because of any dislike for Canada's land, waters or people - that aspect of being Canadian makes me go all mushy inside - but because I can't see how a nation so large, structured as Canada is politically, can fairly represent and administer and distribute justice to all of its people.

As long as Canada maintains the power structure that it has now, then I would prefer that British Columbia be a nation unto itself - i.e., separate from Canada. Even better, that Vancouver Island go it alone.

Our top-tier government has only grown more powerful over the decades, not less. It has been steadily sucking political power from the nation's provinces, territories, regions and municipalities. Thus the federal government, together with its puppet masters, has steadily been eroding the ability of citizens in their communities to directly influence change.

More and more, citizens are taken as irrelevant by our politicians. The support of the federal government by large corporations powers the agenda of Canada's politicos. Their concern for the people functions only as an electoral device to "win" a mandate to govern, one that is rigged by our outdated voting system. And then the winning party governs for the CEOs. For "ordinary" Canadians (to which our political parties so fondly refer), to think otherwise is to be delusional.

Recently, I emailed these reflections to Daphne, and asked: Have you ever thought about things like this?

We don't always agree and I wasn't expecting agreement here.

"Yes," replied Daphne, "have pondered this and have talked to others over the years... At one time, I printed T-shirts which depicted Vancouver Island as forming the Vancouver Island Liberation Organization, hence breaking away from the rest of Canada."

We are not alone in wanting to detach ourselves from the rest of Canada, friend Daphne explained. An emerging notion is that of Cascadia. The boundaries of Cascadia vary but in most proposals, all or part of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington state are included.

While some notion of Cascadia might be workable in the future, Daphne and I prefer thinking only in terms of BC or Vancouver Island separating from Canada.

Seriously, we're fed up with successive governments which are supposed to be OF, FOR and BY the people being instead OF, FOR, and BY Canada's CEOs. And a heckuva job those CEOs have been doing lately!

Consider one example which exemplifies the joined-at-the-hip relation between Canada's government and big business.

Successive governments have been selling off our[1] resources under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership "agreement" endorsed by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA. (Don't be fooled. The name keeps changing, but the agenda remains the same.)[2]

Instrumental to the SPP is our very own Grand Ayatollah, one Tom d'Aquino, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Mr. d'Aquino is one busy guy! Read the article. You'll understand why we two, having trashed our rose-coloured glasses long ago, prefer to divorce ourselves from Canada Inc.

[1] A sizeable chunk of "our" natural resources are on and in traditional native land and water.

[2] The Conservatives have just removed the Government of Canada's page on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (perhaps to keep up with all the name changes!). Here's the Google cache version. Excellent Canadian sites for information on the SPP include Global Research and the Council of Canadians.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

The System

The New Budget: Affirming Everything Wrong with Canadian Politics

by Rob Harvie

As originally posted on: Searching for Liberty
January 28, 2009

You know, as a Conservative blogger, it seems the job of arguing with the Liberal and NDP left never ends - countering baseless complaints and comments with the facts that so frequently get ignored in their zeal to create a socialist utopia.. but, today, after considering the budget, next time a Liberal or NDP talks about political double-speak coming from our Conservative government, well, I'll have nothing to say.

"I know economists will say well, we could run a small deficit but the problem is that once you cross that line as we see in the United States, nothing stops deficits from getting larger and larger and spiralling out of control."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Oct. 6)

Yes - I know the party line - the recession hit harder than we anticipated, so, our plans had to adapt, and all that.. but, deep down, we all know what really happened, so let's not be coy.

Harper tried to pull a power-play, seeking to use the financial crisis to withdraw political funding - gambling that the Liberals were so decimated, that they would never force an election over the issue, and never in a million years, imagining the formation of a left-coalition.

Well.. we know how that turned out - so, in a move that I would have thought could be accomplished by no one but the Liberals, our government did whatever it took to hold on to power. End of story. If anything thinks Harper would have produced this budget if he held a majority, they are dreaming. This budget is a lifeline to hold power. And that is not only disappointing, it's sad.

The Reform Party, for all its warts, held promise at one point. It was a party formed to try and change the "business as usual" culture in Ottawa, and when Harper succeeded in becoming the PM, well, there was a small glimmer of hope. That glimmer today has faded to black.

Politics in Canada is sick and broken. And don't look elsewhere for an answer. The formation of the coalition of the power-hungry is no less an act of power-greed than the current Conservative budget.

As a Conservative - I would have welcomed Harper falling on his sword - saying to the Canadian people - I know you won't like this, I know this will no doubt result in either another election or the coalition, but I prefer to govern based upon conviction, not based upon the desire to hold power at any cost.

As it is, Harper will no doubt survive, for a while. He'll continue to hold he wheel of a bus that we all know is going to crash anyway, and no doubt, he'll be blamed for a world economic collapse that he didn't cause and couldn't fix - and the Liberals will get elected.

Daveberta, on his blog yesterday, commented that if he didn't know better, he would have thought the Liberals were in government after seeing the budget. Good call Dave.

At the end of the day, if you don't stand for something as a leader, well, who are you? That's the question I have for our leader today.. Mr. Harper, who are you?

January 28, 2009

The Harper Conservatives and "the Canadian Fiscal System"

Terence Corcoran: Flaherty digs himself a deep, dark hole

by Terence Corcoran

As originally posted on: Full Comment
January 27, 2009

Give Jim Flaherty high marks for rhetorical restraint: The words “shovel” and “ready” do not make it into the Finance Minister’s budget speech and appear only once in his massive 360-page budget plan. That’s where restraint ends, however.

Otherwise, there’s a shovel on almost every page. Within weeks, all Canadian taxpayers can expect delivery of summary budget documents accompanied by a shovel with a tag that says: Dig a hole, throw in $85-billion, and then hope you can get out of it when its all over, sometime in 2014, unless the fiscal winds shift and it gets deeper and you have to dig some more.

And it will get deeper. A federal budget is more than just a federal budget; it’s a fiscal blueprint for the nation’s politicians. Even if by some miracle of forecasting accuracy never seen in Ottawa’s budgetary history the federal government pulls out of deficits by 2014, by then the provinces and municipalities will have dug their own deficit holes.

Add in the looming provincial and local deficits that have been mandated by Ottawa, and the 2014 net national debt will have risen by another $30-billion or $40-billion on top of the $85-billion in cumulative deficits Ottawa forecast on Tuesday.

It’s the nature of the Canadian fiscal system, a tangled interlocking web of federal-provincial-local politicians whose spending and borrowing feed on one another. Here’s $500-million to build new arenas, says Ottawa to the provinces and the cities. But you have to throw in your own $500-million to get the money.

Since the provinces currently have no surplus money, and are in fact heading for their own deficits due to the economic downturn, they and their municipal governments will have to run their own $500-million matching deficits, thereby doubling the increase in the national debt by $1-billion.

Mr. Flaherty’s budget calls this “leverage.” Ottawa estimates that its economic action plan will add $40-billion worth of “stimulus” to the economy. The leverage factor, by the budget’s numbers, will boost provincial and local government deficits by at least another $12-billion over the next two years.

But even before the provinces begin to look at borrowing to pick up their share of Ottawa’s infrastructure, housing and other programs, they are already looking at billions in deficits. Last October, Ontario forecast a $500-million deficit. With the collapse in the auto industry and other sectors since then, Ontario could be heading for a pre-infrastructure deficit of up to $5-billion. If Ontario takes up its share of Ottawa’s infrastructure burden, Ontario taxpayers could again find themselves in Bob Rae territory. As NDP premier, he ran Ontario into a $9-billion deficit back in the 1990s.

Other provinces may not be in as rough shape as Ontario, but recent Canadian fiscal history shows that where Ottawa goes, so go our provinces. In 1995, when Ottawa last had a $35-billion annual deficit, other levels of government racked up $16-billion in deficits, for a grand total $51-billion.

All of which might be bearable or even welcome if such deficit spending actually contributed to long-term economic growth and job creation. Mr. Flaherty’s budget documents contain numbers that appear to show how various “expenditure and tax multipliers” will turn the deficit spending into more growth and jobs. The whole plan, they say, will increase Canada’s GDP by 1.9% by 2010 and create 189,000 “net new jobs.”

That might sound like a lot, but in the scheme of Canada’s economy, these are small changes. The 1.9% gain in growth, for example, is about the same size as the current economic growth forecasting difference between the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance.

What these numbers don’t show is even more important. First, they don’t factor in the impact of the massive politicization of infrastructure and other spending that inevitably follows panicky government scrambles to build arenas, fund broadband networks and finance extravagant public transitprojects.

Second, the calculations behind these “multiplier” effects fail to take into account the cost to taxpayers and the loss of other more profitable and beneficial investment opportunities that will be squeezed out by the surge government spending and borrowing.

If government deficit spending is such a great contributor to growth and jobs, then Ottawa and the provinces could adopt deficits and big spending budgets as a matter of routine. But they don’t, and for good reason. Even the budget’s multiplier numbers show that they have no lasting impact on growth. By the second year, the impact of the stimulus spending barely exists at 0.2%.

The jolt is gone by 2010, even if one accepts the analysis. The money will have been spent, and taxpayers will be left holding the shovel they will need to dig themselves out.

National Post

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Blagojevich Skips Trial, Hits Tube

Governor Is in N.Y. As Illinois Senators Decide His Fate

by Peter Slevin

As originally published in: The Washington Post
January 27, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Jan. 26 - Gov. Rod Blagojevich skipped his own impeachment trial on Monday, racing instead from studio to studio in New York to tell television audiences that he is not guilty of the corruption charges that have made the Elvis-impersonating governor and his mop-top hairstyle a late-night punch line.

Ducking the hard questions and leaning into the soft ones, Blagojevich told interviewers, including Diane Sawyer, Larry King and the women of ABC's "The View," that he is a do-gooder who has fallen victim to vindictive politicians in Springfield and Washington.

His ouster, he said, is a foregone conclusion, perhaps within the week.

"The fix is in," he said as 59 Illinois senators gathered 700 miles away in the state capital to decide his fate. He told NBC's "Today" show, in an interview recorded Sunday night, that he thought of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. last month while FBI agents were leading him away in handcuffs.

No longer the rising star with Chicago working-class roots who once imagined a run for president, Blagojevich is so friendless that he avoided the somber scene that unfolded in the ornate chamber where President Obama spent eight years as a state senator, in the town that launched Abraham Lincoln.

Signs everywhere point to the upcoming celebration of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. After the pride-inducing Nov. 4 election of Obama, who announced his candidacy here in Lincoln's honor and took the oath of office with a hand on the 16th president's Bible, legislators are lamenting the reminder of the state's tawdry side.

"I'm embarrassed by the fact that Illinois once again is being drug through the mud of corruption," state Sen. Frank Watson (R) said during a break. "We're the laughingstock of the nation."

The governor is facing legal troubles on two fronts. The Senate trial appears certain to cost him his job after six years in office and two statewide victories. And a federal indictment expected this year threatens his freedom.

Edward Genson, Blagojevich's attorney, quit the case in frustration, not with the governor's pursuers but with his client. The prominent Chicago lawyer told reporters the other day, "I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen."

On television, Blagojevich said the Illinois legislature's true motivation for ousting him is so that it can raise taxes by Memorial Day. He also revealed that he considered naming Oprah Winfrey to Obama's Senate seat.

The heart of the impeachment trial, mandated by a 117 to 1 vote of the state House this month, is a 76-page FBI affidavit that persuaded a Chicago federal judge to order the governor's arrest. The document uses Blagojevich's own words and the testimony of informants to show him profiting from his official actions.

A central charge is that Blagojevich, 52, who had sole authority to name a U.S. Senate replacement when Obama resigned to become president, tried to sell the seat to the highest bidder.

"These words will be front and center in our case," House prosecutor David Ellis told senators in his opening statement, citing a detailed pattern of abuse of power. "The evidence will show that these words went well beyond harmless chatter or idle speculation to active plotting to personally enrich himself."

Blagojevich told his New York interviewers, however, that the charges against him are "a couple of allegations" based on conversations taken "completely out of context."

"I know what the Senate's going to do. It's a political witch hunt," he told CNN's King. "I'm a big boy. I'll get over it and move on."

And he asked Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America," "What ever happened to the presumption of innocence?" He said it is wrong for a sitting governor to have no "chance to have due process, to bring witnesses and to defend himself."

Illinois legislators consider Blagojevich's charges absurd. They said Monday that he can call witnesses, challenge the evidence against him and testify about the conversations captured on FBI tapes.

"The rules clearly permit him to be here and to testify in his own defense," Ellis said.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, saying that he does not want to jeopardize the criminal case against Blagojevich, has informed both sides in the impeachment trial that certain witnesses are off-limits, including people who spoke with the governor about filling the Senate seat.

Blagojevich said he would like to call Obama advisers, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, as witnesses who could say that they discussed no quid pro quo with the governor.

Lawmakers said Blagojevich, if he were not boycotting the trial, could introduce Emanuel's televised statements, as well as a report from Obama White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, that showed no evidence of horse trading.

Ellis said the governor's illicit intentions were clear from his own words. On tape, when it came time to fill Obama's seat, Blagojevich described his criteria: "Our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation." As the affidavit describes it, Blagojevich called the appointment a "golden" opportunity for himself. Ellis said the governor at first set his sights high, hoping for an Obama Cabinet appointment, or perhaps an ambassadorial post.

When told he could expect only the new president's "appreciation," Ellis said, Blagojevich sought political contributions and other favors. He reminded the senators that the FBI secretly recorded the governor telling a fundraiser: "You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody's listening. The whole world's listening."

Blagojevich went on: "I would do it in person. I would not do it on the phone."

Ellis referred to other allegations in the Senate case against Blagojevich, including a series of actions not contained in the criminal case. One was the decision to order $2.6 million in flu vaccine despite his knowledge that importing the vaccine would be illegal and that Illinois residents did not need it.

"This is a governor who believes that his policies should not be hamstrung by the letter of the law," said Ellis, who expects Tuesday to play about five minutes of secretly taped conversations of Blagojevich discussing what he wanted in return for signing a bill to help the horse-racing industry.

As the trial began, all 59 senators answered to the call of the roll and heard a reminder from Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald that each had taken an oath to be fair. He called it "a solemn and serious business that we're about to engage in."

"The record will reflect," Fitzgerald said, "that the governor has chosen not to be present."

"Mr. Harper's Conservative Party"

Here's Harper's unconvincing change of heart

A shift from principled policy to precarious process

by John Ivison

As originally published: National Post
January 27, 2009

The key sentence in yesterday's spartan, seven-minute Speech from the Throne concerned the government's agenda. "Old assumptions must be tested and old decisions must be re-thought," said Michaelle Jean, the Governor-General.

A stone-faced Stephen Harper, sitting on her right, looked like a man who has been experiencing a crisis of political faith. All he has professed to believe in - private enterprise, deregulation and limited government - have proven unequal to the current economic crisis, and he has been forced to turn to those values he professes to despise as bad policy - corporatism, subsidization, public/private partnerships and state investment funds.

Today's budget will be the final act in a long transformation of Mr. Harper's Conservative party from a policy-driven, principled voice for conservatism to a process-driven electoral machine, intent only on surviving the coming budget vote and winning the next election.

That Mr. Harper is uncomfortable using the visible hand of government to try to spend the country out of recession was evident in a recent interview, when I asked whether he believed the state could really make things better. "I always think government's actions are important, whether they are good actions or bad actions. They always have an impact on the economy," he said - hardly a ringing endorsement for interventionism.

And no wonder he is lukewarm. He appreciates that the history of government's using fiscal stimulus to escape economic downturns is a catalogue of failure. There are just too many moving parts in a modern economy for the state to anticipate with any degree of precision - from lower tax revenues, to higher Employment Insurance payments; from lower inflation to higher savings levels.

Yet, such is the severity of the current downturn that even the most conservative-minded economists have conceded grudgingly the government must step to the fore with timely, temporary and targeted counter-cyclical fiscal policy. However, they warn that the stimulus package must be focused on economic growth and employment - and that spending must be reined in when the economy recovers.

On the current evidence, that is not what the government is proposing. The focus of this budget is not on setting Canada on the road to recovery. Rather, the principal goal appears to be ensuring a Conservative victory at the next election.

If the Bloc Quebecois votes against the budget and we are forced to go to the polls again, the Conservatives will be able to champion the $160-million in new spending on cultural projects that Heritage Minister James Moore revealed exclusively to La Presse over the weekend. If the Liberals and NDP vote against the government, the Tories will point out that they are denying the most vulnerable Canadians $2-billion in spending on new public housing.

We are even going to see a new $250-million economic development agency for southern Ontario from the Prime Minister who campaigned for the elimination of all corporate subsidies and industrial development schemes in the 2004 election.

The $64-billion question is: Will the government's plan work?

Dale Orr, managing director at Global Insight Canada, suggests that this stimulus package will add perhaps 0.5% to economic growth this year - welcome but hardly transformative.

Bill Robson, president of the C. D. Howe Institute, is far more pessimistic, believing that the large deficits anticipated in the short term will persuade people to retrench because they foresee higher taxes, reduced government programs and higher debt service costs in future years.

"I'm not sure we're going to see much benefit for the economy because the bigger the numbers get, the more frightening they get. And this overall budget number is pretty frightening.

"[Governments] act as though the world is about to end unless we throw tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars onto a fiscal bonfire, just as they are doing in the U. S. Well, the world won't end," he said.

In the life of every ministry, there comes a moment when convictions have been worn down by the constant pressures of power, leaving the government on all sides of every issue, standing for everything and nothing.

Stephen Harper's government may well have reached that point with this budget.


January 27, 2009

Newfoundland and Labrador Lawyer Donald Singleton (a/k/a Don Singleton) and the Judicial Council of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador

Appointee resigns after impaired driving conviction revealed

Almost a judge

by Sue Hickey

As originally posted: Advertiser
January 15, 2009

A lawyer who was just one of many in the province's legal system became an unwanted public figure last week - and his situation has forced Justice Minister Tom Marshall to introduce a new review process for people applying to be judges.

Don Singleton, a lawyer based in Goose Bay, had been appointed as a judge for provincial court in Grand Falls-Windsor.

However, he had been charged in 2005 for illegally purchasing alcohol and tobacco at a military base in Goose Bay. He later received an absolute discharge.

But it later became known that he was convicted more than 20 years ago for impaired driving.

The resulting public attention prompted Mr. Singleton to withdraw his application.

While Mr. Singleton didn't want to comment on the situation that opened him to public scrutiny, he maintained that he wasn't coming to central in the first place.

"I was never coming to Grand Falls," he said. "That only lasted for four or five days. The appointment to Grand Falls was only effective for four or five days.

"They were going to leave me here in Goose Bay. I was never going to Grand Falls. I was never coming to Grand Falls at all. The appointment was for Grand Falls and then within less than a week, I was advised that there was going to be a vacancy in Goose Bay.

"Then I was told by the chief justice that it was going to be here in Goose Bay."

Kelvin Parsons is the Opposition justice critic.

He says the severity of the charge is what justifies people's response to Mr. Singleton's earlier appointment.

"What happened, the severity of it and so on. I don't think there's too many people who would suggest if you had a traffic ticket, for example, that you not be a judge," he said. "It depends on when it happens. Something might have happened in your youth, a minor thing, lots of time may have passed. The problem that we have here is that the gentleman failed to disclose.

"He disclosed the 2005 piece where he got into trouble over a federal customs act when he failed to declare he had alcohol and tobacco. He disclosed that, but the application asks you a very long question - actually, there's three questions: have you been convicted with or charged with an offence under the Criminal Code or any other statute, and you're supposed to answer that truthfully."

Mr. Singleton didn't disclose the earlier charge, saying he forgot.

"I would think, I know if I were pulled over by the police, arrested three times and told to take the breathalyzer on three different occasions, charged twice, one of which was dismissed at trial, another one I got a conviction, lost my licence for six months, and I'm sitting down and filling out an application for a provincial court judge's job, and the question was if I had any trouble with the law, I would think unless I had amnesia, I would remember that," said Mr. Parsons. "Maybe that's just me."

He added there was a case of a provincial court judge, who while he was on the bench, got charged with impaired driving and he left.

"My point is, if you have 30-40 applicants all of whom had the academic qualifications, have the time served because you must have the time served and you don't have any such baggage? Why would you pick up someone who had the baggage?

"I think it shows that the committee itself didn't do a proper job."

Review called

Justice Minister Tom Marshall has called for the review in question, spurred by the case involving Mr. Singleton.

"We had a call from the chief justice saying that there was another conviction of Mr. Singleton, impaired driving, 20 years ago," he said. "That hadn't been disclosed to the judicial council, and I said 'why?' So we have to make sure that never happens again, and I asked him (the chief judge) to tighten up his regulations. They were not doing an independent court check of the applicants. I've asked him to tighten up his rules and procedures. I've asked him to show it to me to review it."

But Mr. Parsons said he thinks it ought to go a bit further than that.

"In my view, once the council has reviewed the applicants, if they recommend people, I believe that the list should be made public," he said.

"We talk about openness and transparency and we're appointing people to one of the most influential positions in our society where utmost fairness and integrity is required and it's all being done right now under cover of darkness with this committee and we saw what could potentially happen if it's not done right."

But the minister doesn't agree with that thinking.

"The problem with that is that some people applying for a job on the bench may not want their names public," said Minister Marshall. "They may not want people to know they've applied and it would be the releasing of personal information, and government is precluded from doing that according to the privacy laws."

In the long run, Grand Falls-Windsor provincial court won't need a new judge.

A judge in St. John's had indicated that he was going to retire, said Minister Marshall.

"That would leave an opening in St. John's. The chief judge informed me that he was going to transfer a judge from Labrador to St. John's and that would leave an opening in Labrador. He was going to put Mr. Singleton in Labrador and ask the minister to get a different judge for Grand Falls.

Judge Timothy Chalker was scheduled to be transferred to Gander to replace a judge there who was named to the federal court, however that move is no longer planned.

"This Person who Is the Prime Minister of Canada" and the Harper Conservatives

Harper accused of ditching principles

Some who revered his conservative ideology believe he's sacrificing it for political expediency

by Richard J. Brennan and Bruce Campion-Smith

As originally posted on: TheStar.com
January 26, 2009

OTTAWA – From the Senate to fixed-date elections and government appointments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has seen his political principles tested and turned on their head in recent months.

Tomorrow, Harper will put a price tag on that political journey – as much as $34 billion – as the minority Conservatives unveil a budget that will spill red ink on a scale not seen in more than a decade.

This from a prime minister who just months ago vowed there would be no deficit.

"We will not be running a deficit. We will keep our spending within our means. It is that simple. The alternative is not a plan. It is just the consequence of complete panic, and this government will not panic at a time of uncertainty," Harper told a Toronto audience on Oct. 7.

Times change quickly and, with them, the politicians who rule.

The story of Harper these past few months – as he grapples with a minority Parliament and a fast-changing economic downturn – has been one of political principles meeting reality and, to some, principles sacrificed for political expediency.

"He's turned his back on so many things. He said he would never appoint senators the way he did. Sure enough he broke that promise. Election dates, appointing Supreme Court justices, the list is pretty long," NDP Leader Jack Layton told CTV's Question Period.

In case of the deficit, Harper has a good excuse for breaking his word – an "extraordinary" economic crisis, a Conservative strategist said.

"Opposition is utopia. Government is messy. It's constantly a question of scorekeeping as to what you have to trade off to accomplish whatever your overall goal is."

There are some who don't buy Harper's conversion to pragmatism, but instead accuse him of losing his way and being willing to sacrifice his principles to stay in power.

"Absolutely he has abandoned his principles ... I don't even recognize this person who is the Prime Minister of Canada," said Gerry Nicholls, who worked with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition.

Harper is a one-time head of the coalition, a non-partisan organization for the "defence and promotion of free enterprise, free speech" and accountable government. "He was a principled small-c conservative who believed that ... conservative politicians should stick by their principles," Nicholls said. "I think he began to care more about public-opinion polls than his principles."

Harper's turnarounds include:

• The Senate. He was adamant he would not resort to the old politics of stacking the upper chamber with party cronies. But faced with the possible defeat of his minority government, Harper moved fast before Christmas to fill 18 vacancies with loyal Conservatives, many failed candidates or with party ties.

• Fixed election date. In May 2006, Harper proposed fixed election date legislation that would set the next election date in October 2009, to stop political leaders from "trying to manipulate the calendar."

Instead, Harper called an election last September, saying that Parliament had reached an "impasse." But he was also hoping to capitalize on his own promising poll numbers and a weak official Opposition before the economy worsened.

• Supreme Court appointments. In December, Harper appointed Thomas Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, bypassing a parliamentary hearing process he championed to more openly scrutinize nominees.

• Government appointments. The Prime Minister had promised to implement a public appointments commission to eliminate cronyism in such appointments. It was to be part of the government's much-vaunted Accountability Act. It never happened and, since winning its first minority government in January 2006, the Tory government has made some 1,500 appointments, many based on political pedigree.

Tom Flanagan, a former Harper campaign organizer and strategist, said Harper has transformed from a conservative ideologue to a political survivor, but remains a victim of his own dark side. "Both sides are real ... but what you see more and more is the political Harper," said Flanagan, author of the acclaimed Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power.

Flanagan said the "Machiavellian" side is far more troubling than his political transformation, given that it almost cost him his government. "He lost the initiative by provoking the other parties into this potential coalition against him ... and now he finds himself having to put together a budget which is really a coalition budget ... the government's hand is fairly weak right now."

January 26, 2009

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Harper's Padlock Comes Off Canada's Parliament Today

by "leftdog"

As originally posted on: Buckdog
January 26, 2009

I am not sure that Canadians truly understand what happened in this nation six weeks ago.

The Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, attempted to unilaterally break a deal that he previously had agreed to with regard to financing for Canada's federal political parties. Harper's crafty power play to try and cripple his political opponents, blew up in his face and his government teetered on the brink. To save his political ass, he suspended Canada's Parliament, locked its doors and used the best political spin doctors that public money could buy to try and redefine his motives.

The loser in all of this was the people of Canada. We pay the taxes, we pay the bills for the entire operation of democracy in Canada. Yet we have a Prime Minister who is so convinced of the correctness of his position, that democracy became secondary to him. He placed a padlock on the House of Commons and representative democracy flickered out for a moment in this nation.

Even during the excesses of Pierre Trudeau (when he invoked the 'War Measures Act' in 1970 and suspended civil liberties in Canada), the House of Commons continued to sit and the elected representatives of the people still had the ability to question him and to express their concerns for what was happening in the nation. What Steven Harper did by padlocking Parliament, was to completely suppress the elected representatives of the Canadian people from having a voice and from questioning the government.

The padlock comes off today. Our elected representatives once again are able to practice parliamentary democracy in Canada. Members of Parliament can ask questions of the government.

But remember .... for six weeks democracy was denied in Canada. Stephen Harper padlocked the House of Commons. His actions should be held in contempt for the remainder of his political career.

"The Centralizers"

Diseconomies of Scale - Dismembering Leviathan

by Donald W. Livingston

As posted on: Vermont Commons
September 29, 2005

“Free trade,” like “free love,” is a beguiling abstraction that hides more than it reveals. Absolute free trade would be an exchange of commodities between two people without the coercive intervention of a third party. But economic exchange is always embedded in a cultural landscape of noneconomic values, which impose restraints. Blue laws prevent trade on Sundays, medieval Christendom prohibited charging interest on money, and some think no decent society could legalize the sale of drugs or firearms. If someone disagrees with these restraints, it is because he rejects the moral ideals they express, not because he favors “free trade.” Within the restrictions imposed by usury laws, trade flourished in medieval Europe; indeed, it gave rise to the practices we call “capitalism” today. Those who value liberty may seek to minimize these constraints, but economic relations cannot exist outside of noneconomic restraints.

The failure to understand this leads to a number of modern superstitions. One is the illusion that there are economic experts in the way there are experts in medicine or chemistry. But economics is not a predictive science, because it does not have deterministic laws. We act on the basis of our knowledge, and no one can predict future knowledge (to do so would be already to possess it), much less predict how people would react to this knowledge. No one, for example, predicted the stagflation of the late 1970's. So-called economic laws hold only as long as the shared noneconomic restraints obtain. The “iron law” of economics—that there cannot be full employment and low inflation—does not hold if, like the Romans, you are willing to live by tribute.

Adam Smith correctly observed that it is from the self-interest of the butcher, baker, and brewer that we expect our dinner, not from their benevolence. Friedrich Hayek won a Nobel prize by refining Smith's argument to demonstrate that the planned economies of socialist and communist countries were doomed to failure because no central agency could ever possess the knowledge needed to achieve what a market can accomplish without planning. This solid insight into a part of social experience would be transmuted by some into a doctrine of the whole: the ideology of laissez-faire capitalism. As Michael Oakeshott observed, Hayek's plan to prevent planning is perhaps better than socialism, but it is still a centralized plan that could and did collapse into another modern superstition.

To understand this, we should ask a question that Hayek failed to ask: How did communist and national-socialist regimes come to be? They emerged out of a Europe whose social order had been shattered by World War I, a war that was largely the work of liberal regimes. Milton Friedman and others have praised the period from the Congress of Vienna in 1814 to 1914 as the century of laissez faire and, consequently, as the century with less war than any other in modern European history. But it was also the century of wars of unification and centralization, in which smaller political societies of all kinds were crushed into vast states. This period was a century of relative peace only if the concept of war is limited to conflicts between large-scale nation-states. But if we consider the wars of unification in Germany, Italy, the Brazilian war to suppress the secession of Sao Paulo, the American war to suppress the secession of the Southern states (the bloodiest war since the Thirty Years' War), and similar wars of unification elsewhere—not to mention global imperialism—we must conclude that it was one of the most violent centuries in European history.

The vast territorial states created by this runaway disposition to centralize justified themselves by claiming that they had cleared away petty, localist polities to make the world safe for cosmopolitan laissez faire. But any power strong enough to destroy the political independence of the German principalities or the Southern American states would not be content with merely playing the role of the “night-watchman state” of laissez-faire fantasy. Like everyone else, the night watchmen had ambitions, and with centralized power flooding in around them, they naturally graduated to estate management. When these oversized liberal leviathans collided in 1914, they left more corpses on the battlefield in four years than in the two preceding centuries of war in Europe. The old saw that liberal regimes are not disposed to war is true only if liberalism is viewed not as a concrete practice but as an abstract idea, since abstractions, of course, cannot do anything. It is no exaggeration to say that the 19th century was a Hundred Years' War against smaller polities of all kinds in favor of unification, centralization, and consolidation; and the 20th century was an Eighty Years' War between the gigantic leviathans created in the 19th century.

These disasters were the unintended long-term result of the disposition to centralize, first pursued with single-mindedness in the 19th century and justified in part by laissez faire. Centralization led to a spectacular increase in economic liberty for the centralizers, a massive loss of economic liberty for the smaller polities crushed into large-scale liberal states, and the elimination of most economic liberty in the new socialist and communist states that emerged in reaction to the spectacular mismanagement of power by liberal regimes. Lord Acton and John C. Calhoun warned their liberal contemporaries about the evils of ritualistic centralization, but no one listened. Their insights would later be given systematic shape in that school of economics known as “public choice theory,” which is associated with Nobel Laureate James Buchanan.

Whereas Hayek, following Adam Smith, had explored the “spontaneous order” generated unintentionally by individuals pursuing their self-interest, Buchanan discovered a principle of what could be called “spontaneous disorder,” generated unintentionally by the centralized governments required by vast-scale liberal states. Governments are disposed to grow at the expense of society by creating “public goods” that benefit their clientele. The only way to prevent this is by a constitutional system founded on the principle of a veto, including the ultimate veto: secession. (James Buchanan has urged that the European Union include in its treaties the right of a member state to secede.)

With this teaching, the 300-year adventure of Enlightenment liberalism comes full circle. Economic freedom may require not further unification but the division of liberal leviathans back into the smaller polities from whose destruction they violently emerged. Hayek, contemplating the clumsy leviathans of his time, observed that, in the future, liberty might best be preserved in small states. (Unfortunately, he never developed this insight.) This brings us to a question raised by Plato and Aristotle but largely ignored by modern political theorists: How large should a political order be?

Aristotle argued that everything in nature has a proper size, below which or beyond which it becomes dysfunctional. A cottage is not a small mansion, and a mansion is not a large cottage. The charm and beauty of both is lost when the size is out of scale. What is the human scale of political order? From Plato, Aristotle, and St. Augustine down to the present, there has been remarkable agreement regarding the optimal size. A city-state of 50,000 to 200,000 is all that is necessary to produce a flourishing culture. Some would push the limit to 500,000, but beyond that, nothing is gained. Experience confirms this. Athens (with 50,000) and Renaissance Florence (with 40,000) produced cultures that excelled in nearly every form of human endeavor and from which we still gain inspiration.

As the population of a city increases arithmetically, space increases geometrically. Problems of transportation, water, sanitation, crime, poverty, and corruption, which were easily handled on a human scale, increase geometrically as the population of a city moves into the millions. Vast bureaucracies are erected, often creating as many problems as they solve. Corruption and political alienation grow, and entire sections of the megalopolis (which can no longer be called a city in the traditional sense) are written off as blighted areas and resemble the results of carpet-bombing. A megalopolis in the millions, such as Sao Paulo (19 million) or New York (8 million), requires more resources per capita to maintain the monster than would be required for a city of human scale, leaving fewer resources for the cultural luxuries that are the reason for the polity in the first place.

Cities of this dysfunctional size appear only recently. The largest cities during the revolutionary period in America hovered at 30,000. New York did not gain 100,000 until 1820. The monster cities of the last 150 years are the creation of the centralized states in which they are embedded. Around 60 percent of Americans were on the farm in 1900; today, only around two percent remain. As the farmers disappeared, so did an entire order of villages and small towns. This shift did not occur merely because of “free choice” or “market forces” but because the rules were rigged to favor agribusiness and urbanization. The message from the Department of Agriculture in the 1950's was “Get big or get out.”

Since the history of such small states as Athens and Florence prove that states of vast scale are not necessary for human flourishing, some other justification must be found for their size. For this purpose, another economic superstition has been useful, namely, that economic integration requires political integration. This argument was used to justify the big “unions” of the last two centuries: Great Britain, the nationalist union of France, the German federal union, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the European Union. But the scale of political integration has nothing to do with economic integration. Little Switzerland—one of the ten richest states in the world—is integrated into a global economy, but it is politically independent. It is not a member of the European Union or even of the United Nations. The city-state of Singapore is economically integrated with the world but has maintained political independence since seceding from the Malaysian federal union in 1965.

There is more economic freedom in small states because they must trade to survive and thus must allow fewer regulations on the economy. Large states contain a greater diversity of skills, labor, and resources, and thus they can afford to impose onerous regulations that benefit special-interest groups at the expense of others. The tangle of regulations emerging from the European Union centralizes the economy, reduces economic freedom and consumer choice, and benefits large-scale corporations that engineer the spirit-numbing uniformity of an increasingly mass culture.

The pursuit of economic liberty (what Hobbes called “commodious living”) through political integration is the one constant theme in the three-century-old story of modern politics. It is time that we rethink the entire project. The monster states created by modernity are not necessary for economic or political freedom or the flourishing of culture; taking their history as a whole, they are responsible for spectacular losses of both. Aristotle is right: The presumption must be on behalf of states of human scale. Extensive political integration is good only for domination and war. While it is true that size is sometimes needed for defense, federations of small Greek city-states defeated the monster empire of Persia, federations of mere tribes defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, and Vietnam defeated the United States. No country since Napoleon has thought it prudent to invade Switzerland and face her well-trained citizen army. Does anyone think that the large states of France, Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy, Japan, and Britain were safe places to live in the last century? Is the United States a safe place to live today? With a military presence in every corner of the globe, the American regime is suffering the same fate as all empires whose reach has extended beyond what prudence can peacefully hold.

We should pause to reflect on just how far the United States has moved beyond anything that could be called a human scale of political order. The Constitution was framed for three million people in 13 sovereign states. When the first Congress met in 1790, there was one representative for every 30,000. Since only property-holding white males could vote, that was close to Plato's ideal figure of around 5,000 voting citizens per state. By 1910, the U.S. population was 90 million, and Congress capped representation in the House at 435, where it remains today. Now, however, there are 285 million Americans, yielding a ratio of one representative for every 655,000. If we apply this ratio to 1790, there would have been only five members in the House of Representatives.

Or to put it another way, if the ratio of the Framers existed today, there would be around 9,000 members in the House. A deliberating body of that size would be out of scale. But does that mean that the ratio of the Framers is out of scale, or that the union has simply grown too large?

Congress and the president now spend over two trillion dollars per year, about two thirds of the gross national product of Germany. This vast amount runs through the hands of only 435 representatives, 100 senators, and one president. Never has so much financial power been controlled by so few. But it gets worse: Nine unelected Supreme Court justices make major social policy for 285 million, and the executive branch, through its creation of “administrative law,” has become a vast legislative body not answerable to the people in any meaningful sense.

Many during the founding generation wondered whether the Constitution they had formed could hold if the union grew too large. By 1860, it had swollen to some ten times its original size. It was probably too large by the 1830's; it was definitely too large by 1860; and it is certainly too large today. Lincoln made war on the seceding states on the grounds that they were not and never had been sovereign states. He said they should be thought of as counties in a unitary state. Although he was historically and legally wrong, that is how most people think of the states today. How large are these “counties”? If California were an independent country, its GNP would be the seventh largest in the world. Texas's GNP would be larger than that of Brazil, and Florida's larger than Australia's or Argentina's. Illinois and Ohio, taken together, would have a GNP larger than that of Canada. New York State would be the fifth-largest economy in Europe. These vast polities look like countries, not counties. Should they not be treated as such?

Florida, California, and Texas spend billions to cope with the effects of legal and illegal immigration, though they have no control over their own borders and virtually no control over immigration policy. Entire ways of life and traditions are melting away from forces over which the people of these states have no control. Vermont's population is 600,000. Its debt for the $500-billion savings-and-loan bailout debacle of the 1980's was $1.1 billion, even though it had no failed savings-and-loan associations. What value is there in continuing to prop up a union of this monstrous size?

This does not necessarily mean that the union should be dissolved, for there are ample resources in the American federal tradition to justify states and local communities recalling, out of their own sovereignty, powers they have allowed the central government to usurp. But such recalling of jurisdiction requires a degree of civic virtue on the local and state level that no longer exists and can be restored only by seriously examining the value of the union itself.

Economists divide the union into five economic regions: the North, South, Midwest, West, and Pacific. If the states in these regions constituted independent unions, the smallest would have a GNP larger than France or Britain. The South, if Oklahoma is included, would have the second-largest GNP in the world, behind Japan. Each of these unions would be a significant player in the world. Even if they all had the same constitution, each would end up with a different interpretation of it. It is doubtful that these unions would have entered the European conflict that began in 1914, which would have reduced the scale of that horrible war. Without the prospect of American intervention, it was likely that the stalemate reached by 1915 would have led to a settlement. If so, there might have been no communism or Nazism, no World War II, and no Cold War. What happened did not have to happen. It is doubtful that these five unions would have concurred in the global gamesterism of the United States after World War II, even if they had united to fight the war. Each of five unions would be more inclined to mind its own business and to heed the advice of George Washington against the pursuit of glory in global entanglements. They likely would not have reached consensus on the wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, or Serbia. Troops from this hemisphere might not today be in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in an Islamic world that has long been allergic to a dominating Western presence. And if one or more of these unions had become aggressive and imposed its military around the world to protect the expansion of its commerce and culture, the terrorist blowback would have fallen on that union, not the others.

This is only a fantasy, not a suggestion for a political project; it may remind us, however, that there is a human scale to political order, that a great state is not necessarily a large one, and that a state can grow too large for its function. When that happens, it must be downsized toward a more human scale. Liberals are forever telling us that America is a country of change; they celebrate the rapid mobility of labor and capital and the massive influx of immigration, legal and illegal. We are told that we must get used to change and that the dissolution of traditional American society is the price we must pay for a freer and more universal society. We never notice that the change they celebrate is in the service of greater centralization on the part of the state and of corporations. Change always heads in the direction of giantism—of the Tower of Babel. Freedom and human flourishing might require not more unity and centralization but more division, separation, and diversification. The day may not be far off when the centralizers, having flourished for three centuries, will have to learn to live with change.

January 25, 2009

The System

A Landlord is Really a Type of Tax Collector

by Mike O'Mara

As posted on: The Progress Report
[Post date not given]

There is no basic difference between a tax collector and a landlord. Both have the following three traits:

1) Tax collectors and landlords each claim the right to collect revenue from all occupants of a given territory. This revenue is called "taxes" when collected by tax collectors, and is call "rent" when collected by landlords.

2) Occupants do not have the freedom to secede or to stop paying taxes or rent. Instead, they are told to "love it or leave it." Some governments may occasionally allow a region to secede, but it is not an automatic right. Similarly, a landlord may sometimes let an occupant secede, but only if the occupant buys his or her freedom, by purchasing some of the land, thereby obtaining freedom from paying rent to the landlord. This is like requiring an individual to pay the government a bribe in order to be allowed to secede.

3) Tax collectors and landlords each claim that the right to collect taxes or rent is based on a legal document. That legal document is called a "constitution" in the case of tax collectors and their governments, and is called a "deed" in the case of a landlord. But if the origins of constitutions or deeds are traced back, they are found to be based either on confiscation of territory from other people, or arbitrary territorial claims that rest on no legal principle that is clear and consistent.

In cases where the origins of such constitutions or deeds were based on confiscation of territory, does the passage of time eventually make them legitimate? If it does, then anyone who endorses allowing landlords to collect rent without interference or limit must also endorse allowing tax collectors to collect taxes without interference or limit.

In the few cases (if any) where a deed to land did not involve any confiscation from anyone during its history, the claim of ownership still does not rest on any clear and consistent legal principle. For example, suppose the legal principle is "first discoverer gets the land." But how much land can a person or government claim? Did the first person to enter North America have the right to claim the whole continent?

Or suppose the legal principle is "to claim land, mix your labor with it, such as by cultivating it, or fencing it." That principle might enable someone to own the top few inches of soil, and the fence itself. But how would it enable someone to own a mineral deposit twenty feet below the surface, or air space twenty feet above? Also, how much mixing of labor is required?

The only consistent principle of land titles seems to be the one proposed by Henry George and Thomas Paine: each individual has an equal right to land, since no person made the land (that is, spatial locations, or the natural resources there). If a person possesses more than an equal share of land value (based on location value, not the buildings there) that person is displacing others from land, and therefore owes them a displacement rent, equal to the difference between the total location value that person possesses and the per capita location value. Titles to land would then be compatible with liberty.

Manitoba Lawyer David Davis

The following disciplinary case summary has been edited in terms of formatting.



Case 01-04

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Called to the Bar
June 29, 1989

Particulars of Charges
Conduct Unbecoming

- Sexually harassing client, contrary to Chapter 20 of the Code of Professional Conduct

Date of Hearing
May 23, 2001

D.J. Miller, Q.C. (Chair)
J.E. Neufeld, Q.C.
W.W.A. Riedel, Q.C.


- 45 day suspension
- costs of $1,000.00

C.K. Dangerfield for The Law Society of Manitoba
R.L. Tapper, Q.C. for the Member


Sexual Harassment


Mr. Davis represented a client in respect of her claim for convention refugee status before the Immigration and Refugee Board for a period of approximately six months commencing in July, 1999. Between July, 1999 and December, 2000 Mr. Davis sexually harassed his client by making comments and overtures of a sexual nature to her. Notwithstanding her resistance to his overtures, he kissed her, or attempted to do so, on a number of occasions. He attended at her home and presented her with a gift which she refused to accept.

Mr. Davis admitted that he had sexually harassed his client and that his conduct amounted to conduct unbecoming a barrister and solicitor.

Decision and Comments

The Committee determined that Mr. Davis had sexually harassed his client in circumstances where he could reasonably expect that his conduct would cause her discomfort, given that she explicitly and consistently resisted his advances.

The Committee concluded that sexual harassment is a serious type of professional misconduct in that it involves a breach of trust that fundamentally undermines the lawyer/client relationship. As such, the breach can be as serious, or more serious, as one resulting from the misappropriation of trust funds.

In the circumstances of this case, the seriousness of the member's conduct was buttressed by the particular vulnerability of the client. Mr. Davis was aware that her claim for refugee status was based in part on the client's allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault suffered at the hands of her employer prior to fleeing to Canada.


The Committee concluded that a suspension of 45 days was appropriate. Had it not been for the member's genuine remorse, his history of service to the legal and volunteer communities as well as his prior good character, the Committee would have been inclined to impose a suspension of a longer duration in accordance with the seriousness with which the Committee viewed the member's conduct.

The member filed an appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal from the Committee's decision with respect to sentence. The appeal was dismissed on September 6, 2001 with costs.

January 24, 2009

"Lemon Socialism"

How America Embraced Lemon Socialism

by Robert Reich

As originally posted on: Robert Reich's Blog
January 23, 2009

America has embraced Lemon Socialism.

The federal government - that is, you and I and every other taxpayer - has taken ownership of giant home mortgagors Fannie and Freddie, which are by now basket cases. We've also put hundreds of millions into Wall Street banks, which are still flowing red ink and seem everyday to be in worse shape. We've bailed out the giant insurer AIG, which is failing. We've given GM and Chrysler the first installments of what are likely to turn into big bailouts. It's hard to find anyone who will place a big bet on the future of these two.

It gets worse. While Washington debates TARP II, the Federal Reserve Board continues to buy or guarantee or provide loans for a vast and growing pile of questionable financial and corporate assets, much of which are likely to be worth far less than the Fed has paid or guaranteed or accepted as collateral. We're talking big money here - so far over $2.4 trillion. (The entire TARP - parts I and II - in combination with the proposed stimulus package come to just over $1.5 trillion.)

Taxpayers are on the hook for this Fed bailout money, too, of course. We have to pay the interest on the ever-growing debt used to make these payments or guarantees and loans. Yet while TARP II and the upcoming stimulus package are receiving a great deal of attention, this much larger public commitment by the Fed is not. That's partly because the media doesn't much of understand it, but also because the Fed is doing it in secret, using provisions of its charter never before utilized, and avoiding discussion before the full Board of Governors for fear such meetings would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Put it all together and at this rate, the government - that is, taxpayers - will own much of the housing, auto, and financial sectors of the economy, those sectors that are failing fastest.

Consider too that the government already finances much of the aerospace industry, which is still doing reasonably well but depends on a foreign policy that itself has been a dismal failure. And a large portion of the pharmaceutical industry and health care sector (through the Medicare and Medicaid, the Medicare drug benefit, and support of basic research). These are in bad shape as well, and it seems likely the Obama administration will try to reorganize much of them.

What's left? Most of high-tech, entertainment, hospitality, retail, and commodities. So far, at least, we taxpayers are not propping them up. And when the economy turns up - perhaps as soon as next year, most likely later - these sectors have a good chance of rebounding.

But the others - the ones the government is coming to own or manage - are less likely to rebound as quickly, if ever. If anyone has a good argument for why the shareholders of these losers should not be cleaned out first, and their creditors and executives and directors second - before taxpayers get stuck with the astonishingly-large bill - I would like to hear it.

It's called Lemon Socialism. Taxpayers support the lemons. Capitalism is reserved for the winners.