November 22, 2011

QotD: Our Charter of “rights” and “freedoms”

On the evening of January 12, 1981, justice minister Jean Chrétien sat in front of the special parliamentary committee on the Constitution. “I am proposing that Section 1 read as follows: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” he said.

“This will ensure that any limit on a right must be not only reasonable and prescribed by law, but must also be shown to be demonstrably justified.” Translation: “This will ensure that even though we pretend the public has rights that are fundamental to any free and democratic society, we can take them away at will, so long as we can convince a judge that such measures are justified.”

The language used by Mr. Chrétien would eventually become Section 1 of the Charter, which gives government the constitutional cover to infringe the supposedly “fundamental freedoms” that follow it. In order to figure out when such infringements are in fact justified, the Supreme Court came up with the Oakes test.

Using this two-step process, laws that violate our Charter rights must have a “pressing and substantial” objective, and the means of effecting the limit must be reasonable and proportional. The infringement has to be connected to the law’s objective; it has to be as minimal as possible; and it must balance the consequences of such a limitation, with the objective that is being sought.

Jesse Kline, “Freedom shouldn’t come with caveats, but it does”, National Post, 2011-11-22

The biggest threat to the environmental movement

Filed under: Economics, Science, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:50

No, it’s not some ferociously polluting corporation, or a dangerously powerful conservative politician or a candidate for the GOP nomination in the United States. It’s algae:

“We can engineer, humbly, like we have been domesticating plants for a long time,” one scientist told me. “We engineer the algae to do biochemically something quite different to what they’d be doing in the wild: they still take photons from the sun, and via biology, turn it into a useful captured molecule. We have them doing something similar but with stunning efficiency: it’s 40 to 100 times more efficient,” says Elbert Branscomb, chief scientist to the US Department of Energy.

There are (at least) around 60 startups hoping to produce oil and diesel biologically, with accelerated fermentation or photosynthesis techniques to produce an end product that is 100 per cent compatible with the existing infrastructure. Some, for example, tweak the algae to make them do photosynthesis anything from 40 to 100 times more efficiently. LS9 received $30m in funding and has a one-step process to convert sugar to create renewable petrol. It expects production within five years. If oil prices remain high, say over $40 or $50 a barrel, then it’s viable.

So why is this the biggest threat to the environmental movement?

But the greatest challenge cheap hydrocarbons poses is for people whose outlook is founded on what I call “End Times logic”. The most successful political movement in recent years is environmentalism, which expanded from specific concerns about pollution and conservation into an all-encompassing worldview, complete with very preachy appeals to changing parts of our lifestyles.

These ranged from “Don’t flush the loo too often”, to “Don’t fly for a weekend break”, to “Eat less red meat”. Very few politicians have felt courageous enough to contradict this. And the movement has achieved its ascendancy through urgent, apocalyptic appeals, rather than using calmer methods of rational persuasion which involve costs and benefits to be totted up. These new energy sources pose a profound problem: they saves the planet, and we carry on with minimum disruption.

I expect that one effect will be that environmentalism will become much more about everyday concerns such as pollution, and conservations again, back to where it started. But it grew into a vacuum, after the end of the Cold War, when great political ideas seemed to lose credibility. As a way of driving the political agenda, it will become currency without value. Buzzwords such as “sustainability”, founded on a resource-constrained view, will no longer be credible. People will simply laugh at them.

Another case where “spending cuts” still mean increased spending

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:40

No, not the US government, even though the media will be talking up the “savage” spending cuts coming because of sequestration (which will only reduce the rate of increase, not actually reduce spending). In this case it’s Britain:

Why is Britain growing more slowly than other developed nations? Why have we been outperformed over the past 12 months by every EU state except Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Romania?

Let’s start by dismissing the Labour-Guardian-BBC explanation: the idea that the economy is shrinking because of ‘the cuts’. As this blog never tires of pointing out, net government expenditure is higher now than it was under Gordon Brown. We are set to borrow at least £122 billion this year. Spending is above 50 per cent of GDP. How much more ‘stimulus’ do critics want?

What the international league tables show is that the countries which decreed the biggest bailouts experienced the sharpest contractions. Far from ‘stimulating’ the economy, these various programmes have taken money out of the productive sector. If stimulus spending worked, the Soviet Union would have won the Cold War.

Acronym watch: “In the euro zone farmyard, it’s time to forget about the PIGS and start counting the broken EEGs”

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Germany, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:36

The journalists will appreciate this new acronym:

The euro zone needs a new acronym. For the past three years, PIGS has served as a catchall for the cash-strapped states on the single currency’s periphery. But now that the crisis has moved to the core, a change is overdue.

PIGS has proved surprisingly durable. When it was first coined, citizens of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain were understandably upset at being lumped together in such a derogatory way. Yet as Ireland and Portugal followed Greece in seeking bailouts, their similarities outweighed historical differences.

Some felt the acronym was self-fulfilling, giving attention-deprived speculators a handy shortlist from which to select their next sovereign victim. However, its survival was also an accident. When Italy got into trouble earlier this year, it slotted smoothly into the slot previously reserved for bailed-out Ireland. Politically sensitive bodies avoided the zoomorphic insult by reshuffling the letters to create the GIPS.

[. . .]

A better idea might be to start with the one remaining euro zone member that isn’t under attack from the bond markets. Andrew Balls, head of European portfolio management at PIMCO, now describes the euro zone states being shunned by investors as EEGs: Everyone Except Germany.

Herman Cain and the most awkward anecdote so far

Filed under: Media, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:16

I suspect Herman Cain has managed to talk himself out of the GOP nomination race with little anecdotes like this one:

Cain speaks for nearly a half an hour and despite a couple fleeting “999” mentions, keeps his speech to topics of faith and his recent battle with cancer. He begins with a story about how he knew he would survive when he discovered that his physician was named “Dr. Lord,” that the hospital attendant’s name was “Grace” and that the incision made on his chest during the surgery would be in the shape of a “J.”

“Come on, y’all. As in J-E-S-U-S! Yes! A doctor named Lord! A lady named Grace! And a J-cut for Jesus Almighty,” Cain boomed.

He did have a slight worry at one point during the chemotherapy process when he discovered that one of the surgeon’s name was “Dr. Abdallah.”

“I said to his physician assistant, I said, ‘That sounds foreign — not that I had anything against foreign doctors — but it sounded too foreign,” Cain tells the audience. “She said, ‘He’s from Lebanon.’ Oh, Lebanon! My mind immediately started thinking, wait a minute, maybe his religious persuasion is different than mine! She could see the look on my face and she said, ‘Don’t worry, Mr. Cain, he’s a Christian from Lebanon.'”

“Hallelujah!” Cain says. “Thank God!”

The crowd laughs uneasily.

Oh, good. He’s not quite xenophobic, just religiously . . . cautious. At least he chose the right kind of place to tell this little story:

By the time Herman Cain took the stage, Jesus had already been crucified, resurrected and returned to Earth to collect the faithful once that day.

Cain made a campaign stop Friday at The Holy Land Experience, a Christian-theme amusement park in central Florida where visitors pay $35 to watch a reenactment of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ just minutes from Disney World.

In the park, which is run by the religious television station Trinity Broadcasting Network, employees dressed as shepherd boys, pharisees, Roman soldiers and merchants from first-century Israel lead the faithful on tours through the re-created streets of old Jerusalem, perform re-enactment shows and serve as baristas in the coffee shop. Over the course of a day at Holy Land, you can take communion — fed to you from the hand of a bearded actor playing Christ with flowing brown hair — browse an impressive collection of early Bibles, rock out to praise-song karaoke, get baptized and even have your picture taken with Jesus on a Harley.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link.

NFL week 11 results

Filed under: Football — Tags: — Nicholas @ 09:01

Not a bad week straight-up, but a bad one against the spread (now languishing with the also-rans at 20th in the AoSHQ pool):

    New York (NYJ) 13 @Denver 17
    @Cleveland 14 Jacksonville 10
    @Detroit 49 Carolina 35
    @Green Bay 35 Tampa Bay 26
    @Miami 35 Buffalo 8
    Oakland 27 @Minnesota 21
    Dallas 27 @Washington 24
    @Baltimore 31 Cincinnati 24
    @St. Louis 7 Seattle 24
    @San Francisco 23 Arizona 7
    @Atlanta 23 Tennessee 17
    @Chicago 31 San Diego 20
    @New York (NYG) 10 Philadelphia 17
    @New England 34 Kansas City 3

This week: 9-5 (5-9 against the spread)
Season to date 96-64

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