November 23, 2011

BC Supreme Court upholds law against polygamy

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:34

I’m somewhat surprised that the court upheld the existing law: I’d expected them to strike it down as overbroad.

Polygamy remains a crime in Canada, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled Wednesday. In his ruling, Bauman said the law violates the religious freedom of fundamentalist Mormons, but the harm against women and children outweighs that concern.

Bauman reserved judgment on the landmark case in April, after hearing 42 days of legal arguments during the unusual reference case, with opposing parties arguing the right to religious freedom and the risk of harm polygamy poses to women and children.

The constitutional issue was referred to the B.C. Supreme Court by the provincial government after polygamy charges laid against Bountiful, B.C., Mormon leaders Winston Blackmore and James Oler were stayed in 2009.

While this particular case involved Mormons, the majority of people whose marital arrangements would be affected are Muslims: there are an unknown (but growing) number of polygamous marriages among recent Muslim immigrants to Canada. If the existing law had been struck down, there would have been a scramble among regional and local government agencies to cope with the expected increase in demands for appropriate housing and support from newly legal multi-spouse families.

Sing a song, go to jail

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty, Soccer — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:09

This is rather disturbing:

Imagine the scene. A dawn raid. A vanload of police officers batter down a front door. A 17-year-old boy is dragged from his home and driven away. He is charged with a crime and appears in court. His lawyers apply for bail, but the court decides his crime is too serious for that. So he is taken to a prison cell and remanded in custody.

What was his crime? Terrorism? Rape? No, this 17-year-old was imprisoned for singing a song. Where did this take place? Iran? China? Saudi Arabia? No — it was in Glasgow, Scotland, where the 17-year-old had sung songs that are now deemed by the authorities to be criminal. The youth was charged with carrying out a ‘religiously aggravated’ breach of the peace and evading arrest.

Why haven’t you heard about this case? Why aren’t civil liberties groups tweeting like mad about this affront to freedom? Because the young man in question is a football fan. Even worse, he’s a fan of one of the ‘Old Firm’ teams (Celtic and Rangers), which are renowned for their historic rivalry, and the songs he sang were football ditties that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Draconian new laws are being pushed through the Scottish parliament to imprison fans for up to five years for singing sectarian or offensive songs at football games, or for posting offensive comments on the internet, and this 17-year-old fell foul of these proposed laws.

The political delusion: “We must re-establish the primacy of politics over the market”

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Germany — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:06

That’s Angela Merkel, expressing the thought that many politicians have, but rarely speak out loud. There’s a lot of wishful thinking wrapped up in that statement:

“We must re-establish the primacy of politics over the market.” That sentence, spoken a little while ago by Germany’s Angela Merkel, sums up the startlingly unoriginal character of the approach adopted by most EU politicians as they seek to save the common currency from what even Paul Krugman seems to concede is its current trajectory towards immolation.

As every good European career politician (is there any other type?) knows, the euro project was never primarily about good economics, let alone a devious “neoliberal” conspiracy to let loose the dreaded market to wreck havoc upon unsuspecting Europeans. The euro was always essentially about the use of an economic tool to realize a political grand design: European unification. Major backers of the common currency back in the 1990s, such as Jacques Delors and Helmut Kohl, never hid the fact that this was their ultimate ambition. Nor did they trouble to hide their disdain of those who thought the whole enterprise would end in tears.

From the common currency project’s beginning, economic considerations were continually subordinated to the goal of using the euro to cement political bonds. That’s why most countries were allowed to enter the euro despite not having met some basic entry criteria. It also explains why no one really seemed to care too much when Greece admitted in 2004 that it had fudged, distorted, and lied its way into the euro club. Now, however, Europe is discovering what happens when political games diminish a currency’s ability to reflect economic facts on the ground.

H/T to “Monty” at Ace of Spades HQ, who commented:

This in a nutshell is everything that is wrong with the sovereign governments of both Europe and the United States (and China, and Russia, and…well, you get my point). The “market” is not a thing to be managed, or a process to be controlled. The market is just an aspect of the natural world, working on the creatures who move through it. Merkel’s comment reflects the combination of arrogance and ignorance that is at the root of so many of our economic problems.

QotD: How the sequester is a symptom of political cowardice

Filed under: Economics, Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:40

Those who can do. Those who can’t form a supercommittee. Those who can’t produce a majority vote in a supercommittee sequester. Those who can’t even sequester are telling the world something profound about American inertia.

As Veronique points out [. . .], the “automatic” sequestration cuts would over the course of ten years reduce US public debt by only $153 billion. Which boils down to about a month’s worth of the current federal deficit.

Yet even slashing a pimple’s worth of borrowing out of the great oozing mountain of pustules will prove too much for Washington.

Mark Steyn, “Happy Sweet Sequester’d Days”, National Review Online, 2011-11-21

Tim Harford on credit rating agencies

Filed under: Economics, Government — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:52

I think it’s safe to say that he’s not over-impressed with the organizations involved in doing credit risk assessments:

What are rating agencies again?

They are private companies that express opinions about the likelihood that, for example, Italy will pay the money it owes bondholders. Sometimes they express opinions about how much money people will get back if Italy defaults on its loans. One way or another they’re providing opinions about the risks that creditors face.

That’s it? Just a bunch of opinions?

Basically, yes. And there are plenty of other opinions out there from journalists and particularly from people who put cash on the line and buy and sell these bonds. But the rating agency opinions have real-world significance in a way that a bloke in the pub doesn’t. Many investment funds promise their investors that they will only hold assets with ratings above a certain level. If a rating is downgraded, those funds have to sell, even if they think the asset is a bargain. Ratings are also hard-wired into regulatory rules, with similar effect. And another thing: unlike most opinions, they’re quantified.

Quantified on a scale of 1-10?

No, quantified on a scale of D through CC+ and BBB- all the way to AAA. Or alternatively, au choix, from C through Caa2 and Ba1 to Aaa. Depending on which agency you’re looking at.



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