January 18, 2012

Stephen Harper “[C]ertain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Environment, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:06

Investigative blogger Vivian Krause discusses American environmental groups’ interference in Canadian affairs in the Financial Post:

For five years, on my own nickel, I have been following the money and the science behind environmental campaigns and I’ve been doing what the Canada Revenue Agency hasn’t been doing: I’ve gathered information about the origin and the stated purpose of grants from U.S. foundations to green groups in Canada. My research is based on U.S. tax returns because the U.S. Internal Revenue Service requires greater disclosure from non-profits than does the CRA.

By my analysis and calculations, since 2000, U.S. foundations have granted at least US$300-million to various environmental organizations and campaigns in Canada, especially in B.C. The San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation alone has granted US$92-million. Gordon Moore is one of the co-founders of Intel Corp. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation have granted a combined total of US$90-million, mostly to B.C. groups. These foundations were created by the founders of Hewlett-Packard Co.

[. . .]

The Great Bear Rainforest is a 21-million-hectare zone that extends from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the southern tip of Alaska. Environmentalists now claim that oil tanker traffic must not be allowed in the Great Bear Rainforest in order to protect the kermode bear (aka the Great Spirit Bear). Whether this was the intention all along or not, the Great Bear Rainforest has become the Great Trade Barrier against oil exports to Asia.

Speaking on CBC last night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “But just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process [for the Northern Gateway] is all about.”

First they came for the smokers, then the drinkers, and now the meat-eaters

Filed under: Britain, Government, Health, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:52

Rob Lyons on the flimsy case for declaring that “eating meat causes cancer”, and the rising tide of buttinsky government and their nudge, hector, prod, and persecute urges:

Meat causes cancer. It’s been said so many times that you’d have to be an idiot not to believe it, right?

The latest confirmation of this apparent common sense was a report published last week in the British Journal of Cancer Research. The authors, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, brought together 11 studies — published between 1993 and 2011 — that assessed the risk of pancreatic cancer from eating red meat and ‘processed’ meat. From this meta-analysis, the authors found that red meat increased the risk of pancreatic cancer for men, but not for women, and that the risk of pancreatic cancer rose by 19 per cent for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed.

The simple claim that ‘processed meat causes cancer’ was widely reported after the study was published. However, it would be wrong to assume that such claims about risk are all they are cracked up to be.

[. . .]

There are so many ways in which the crude tools of epidemiology could screw up the result of studies like this that it is normal for fairly small risks — like the 19 per cent increase in this case — to be treated with a massive pinch of salt. The authors of this study even note: ‘All studies controlled for age and smoking, but only a few studies adjusted for other potential confounders such as body mass index and history of diabetes.’

[. . .]

So, to sum up: the association between processed meat and pancreatic cancer is so weak it might well be a mirage; the increased risk might not be caused by the processed meat itself; and even if it is, the risk is so low that it’s really not worth bothering about. Yet still we are advised to consider cutting down on our red meat and processed meat consumption. Life is, frankly, too short to miss out on such tasty foods on the slim chance that we might lose a few years of life in old age.

[. . .]

Now that the precedent has been set for the government to lambast those who engage in unapproved habits, it’s open season on any habit that a campaigner or columnist disapproves of. Ban it! Tax it! Make them get a prescription for it! Deny them medical care! Ellen’s article is objectionable but it only follows the remorseless logic of so many others.

There is another lesson from the meat-and-cancer story: at a time when all sorts of dubious claims are made based on junk science and dodgy statistics, only some panics get wide publicity; others just pop up and disappear again in a matter of hours. The difference is that some play to an existing political or media agenda and some do not. The idea that meat causes cancer appeals to health busybodies, politicians scrabbling around for a sense of purpose, vegetarians who can’t win a moral argument about animal rights, and environmentalists who have failed to convince us that increasing the ‘human footprint’ — by wanting to eat more meat, for example — is killing the planet.

Why the rent seekers have been pushing for SOPA and PIPA

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:41

Max Titmuss at the Adam Smith Institute summarizes the key points that make SOPA and PIPA so attractive to rent seekers:

The provisions put forward in SOPA and PIPA enable the closing down and harassment of websites (not even necessarily located in the US) on the flimsiest of pretences: government censorship masquerading as copyright protection. But what exactly makes the laws so odious? There are four key, objectionable provisions, all of which are ripe for manipulation by rent-seeking parties (summarised from this link):

  1. The Anti-Circumvention Provision, allowing the US government to close sites who offer advise on merely circumventing censorship mechanisms;
  2. The “Vigilante” Provision, which would grant immunity from prosecution to internet service providers who pre-emptively block potentially offending sites, leaving them inherently vulnerable to pressures from a host of interested parties;
  3. The Corporate Right of Action, enabling copyright holders to obtain an unopposed court order which would cut off foreign websites from payment processors and advertisers;
  4. Expanded Attorney General Powers: therein giving the Attorney General the power to block any domain name and have their results barred from search engines: they would effectively cease to exist.

You don’t need to be a rabid libertarian to realise both SOPA and PIPA are anathema to a society which readily proclaims its commitment to spreading liberal democracy; an integral part of which is the freedom of expression. After all, western nations have waged war purportedly in support of ‘freedom’ and regularly (this time rightly) criticise those nations which continually suppress freedom of expression online.

Mother Jones puts on the rose-coloured glasses over SOPA

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:07

In an otherwise good summary of the SOPA/PIPA issues in Mother Jones, Siddhartha Mahanta and Nick Baumann start the touchdown celebration prematurely:

Late Thursday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead sponsor of the House bill, announced that he would consider dropping the DNS-blocking provisions from the bill. Late on Friday, Smith, SOPA’s sponsor, did Leahy one better, removing the provision altogether. Not long after, six Republican senators — including two co-sponsors — released a letter they wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), asking him to hold off on a January 24th vote to end debate on PIPA and move to passage.

By this weekend, the writing was on the wall. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House Majority Leader, announced that SOPA would not come for a vote in the House before the controversy over the bill is resolved — essentially killing it for the time being. The White House issued a statement opposing significant portions of the bills. And Issa cancelled the hearing planned for Wednesday, saying he’s “confident” the bill is dead in the House.

Big Hollywood isn’t entirely beaten yet. PIPA, the Senate legislation, could still get a vote and move closer to becoming law, and a modified version of SOPA could conceivably come to the House floor at some point in the future. Wikipedia, Reddit, MoveOn.org, Mozilla (the maker of the Firefox web browser), the blogging platform WordPress, and others are still planning to go dark on Wednesday, just in case. But as of right now, a combination of grassroots activism, blogging, tweeting, boycotts, and the mere threat of having to scroll through 1500 LOLCats without Icanhazcheezburger (another boycott supporter), seems to have beaten an avalanche of money and lobbying. Those 1950s onion farmers would be proud.

Keep your powder dry, boys: the battle is far from won. This is just the latest skirmish in an ongoing campaign, and premature celebration of the victory is just what we don’t need.

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