October 19, 2013

CETA as a lever to (finally) loosen rules on inter-provincial trade

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:18

In Maclean’s, Paul Wells thinks that the new free trade deal between Canada and the European Union will be one of the historical successes of Stephen Harper’s career, but also notes it has a potentially great domestic influence:

Flip it around. Every delay in reaching an agreement with the EU on freer trade in goods and services has been merrily mocked by a few critics in the gallery, yours truly first among them. And if Stephen Harper had failed to conclude this deal, having taken negotiations this far, he would have durably wrecked Canada’s reputation as a serious trading nation.

(That goes doubly so now that Canada and the EU have reached an agreement in principle. Could it still fall apart? It could, although my test on this, for reasons I explained long ago, is the reaction of the Europeans. I’m told there is no love lost between Harper and José Manuel Barroso; Barroso would not waste time in Brussels on an empty dog and pony show so Harper could duck a few questions about Mike Duffy. The Europeans think this is real. For now we should take today’s announcement at face value. The Council of Canadians sure does.)

Well, if delay was worth criticism and failure would have been read as a career-threatening personal defeat, success must be counted as a personal triumph for Stephen Harper. When his political career ends, this is one of the first three things the newspapers will mention.

But as he notes, there’s a long-term, nagging domestic trade issue that might also improve under the new international agreement:

Best of all, any advantage offered by any province and its municipalities to European importers must, in simple logic, be made available to businesses from other Canadian provinces. This accord will act powerfully to deepen the still fragmented internal Canadian market. In a week when some cabinet ministers were turning cartwheels because it will now be legal to drive from Hull to Ottawa with a bottle of wine, that’s an overdue change. I’m on the record being skeptical Harper couldn’t close this deal, and I’m happy to eat crow. This CETA deal will be the most powerful pro-market accomplishment of any Canadian government in a quarter century.

As Wells correctly notes, this isn’t a true free trade deal but it’s a “free-r trade” agreement that moves us a few notches closer to actual free trade with the EU. Regulators and bureaucrats of all stripes will still have a lot of say in what goods and services are actually exchanged between the signatories, but that will still be less than the influence they currently wield.

In which Jonah Goldberg compares the Tea Party to Nazis

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:02

This week’s Goldberg File email included a brief analysis of Raiders of the Lost Ark and tied it to the last couple of weeks of Washington political theatre:

If the Tea Party isn’t pissing someone off, it’s doing it wrong.

Like the skinny guy everyone in prison is afraid of, much of the Tea Party’s political power is drawn from the perception that it’s just a little crazy. Boehner’s hand has been strengthened over the last few years by his ability to tell Obama, “Hey, look, I’d love to cut a deal with you but you see those guys over my right shoulder? — DON’T LOOK THEM IN THE EYE! They are crazy and if I walk back there with what you’re offering they will rip off my legs and beat me to death with them. And then they will get mean.”

So why did I get crosswise with them this time? Because I didn’t think their strategy would work. But going over all that again feels like airing dirty laundry during Thanksgiving dinner just so you can get grandma riled up about grandpa’s escapades during the war. “You weren’t fighting Communists! You were fighting syphilis! We’re going home!”

Still, like most of my colleagues, I didn’t think the strategy would work. And that was a risk for the Tea Parties themselves. Sometimes to use power means to lose power. Good hostage-takers are always careful to ask for a ransom the victim’s families can afford to pay, otherwise what’s the point?

Indiana Jones and the Tea Party of the Lost Ark

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon introduces his girlfriend, Amy, to the Raiders of the Lost Ark, which she’d never seen before. She liked the movie, she explains, despite the big “story problem.” Sheldon is aghast at the suggestion there could be any story problems with the “love child” of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. “What story problem?” he demands to know. She explains that Indiana Jones is absolutely irrelevant to the story. If he’d never gotten involved, the Nazis would have still found the ark of the covenant, they would have still brought it to that island, and they would have still had their faces melted.

I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s actually a very close parallel complaint to the one I’ve written about many times. My dad — who loved the movie — always laughed at the idea that the Nazis would be able to use the ark for their dastardly purposes. The idea that God would be like, “Darn, it’s out of my hands. I guess I have no choice but to lend you my awesome powers for your evil deeds,” is pretty ridiculous. They even returned to this idea in the third movie, when the Nazis tried to get their hands on the Holy Grail — because, you know, Jesus would totally say, “Nazis!? Rats. There’s nothing I can do. It’s life everlasting for the SS!”

I’m no theologian, but I just have a hard time believing that’s how God rolls.

Anyway, I bring this up because I think you can say something similar about the last few weeks. There was a whole lot of action, but at the end of the day, things worked out the way they were going to all along. I’m sure there’s a really good extended metaphor in here somewhere. Default was the face-melting ark, but we looked away at the last minute. Or defunding Obamacare was the Holy Grail, or something like that. But I want to get back to why I feel pretty good about how things worked out.

Amusing maps – US population distribution in units of Canadas

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:19

You can find the most interesting things on Twitter. Here’s @Amazing_Maps with a map of the United States divided up into units of Canadas:

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggenate

QotD: Army leadership

Filed under: Britain, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Long ago I had learned that in conversation with an irate senior, a junior officer should confine himself strictly to the three remarks, “Yes, sir”, “No, sir”, and “Sorry, sir”! Repeated in the proper sequence, they will get him through the most difficult interview with the minimum discomfiture.

Field Marshal William Slim, “Student’s Interlude”, Unofficial History, 1959.

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