Quotulatiousness

December 4, 2016

Conservative leadership race – Bernier and Chong at the “grownups’ table”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Chris Selley surveys the competition for federal Conservative leader:

Kellie Leitch has won the most headlines thus far, thanks to her store-bought populist appeal to suspicions about immigrants’ values and grievances with the political establishment. Campaign manager Nick Kouvalis is playing the media like a fiddle: at every mention of screening immigrants for “Canadian values” we squeal and writhe with high-toned outrage, incredulity and mockery. Kouvalis simply collates it, presents to the considerable majority of Canadians who think it’s a perfectly reasonable idea, and asks if they would support both the policy itself and the policy sticking in the craw of these jumped-up “elites.” The answer in many cases seems to be yes.

At the grownups’ table, however, a proper battle for the sanity and the soul of the Conservative Party of Canada has taken shape. Michael Chong reminds party supporters that a fiscally conservative party that claims to want to fight climate change should support market-based tools to get the job done — the simpler the tool (i.e., a carbon tax), the better. As leader, Chong could credibly hold a Liberal government to account for its less-than-pure commitment to carbon pricing and its inevitable failure to meet emissions targets.

Maxime Bernier reminds Conservatives that in 10 years, the party did almost nothing about Canada’s insane supply management systems. There is a constituency that believes a free market in dairy would of necessity pump our children full of bovine antibiotics, hormones and steroids. There is a much larger constituency that trusts Canada’s food safety system and would prefer cheaper groceries. If a conservative party can’t sell free markets when the upside is cheaper groceries and the downside is inconvenienced millionaire quota owners, it should close shop.

Bernier planted himself even more squarely in the Canadian policy mainstream with his recent proposal to reform the CBC as an ad-free broadcaster focused on “what only it can do” in a modern media market: he suggested more local programming, documentaries and foreign correspondents, “more programs about science, history, or religion.” He proposed a funding model like NPR and PBS, which rely heavily on private and corporate donations.

For the record, I don’t think carbon taxes are the way to go, as experience should tell us that governments rarely if ever bring in “revenue neutral” tax changes, and the carbon tax would end up being added to existing tax tools, rather than replacing them. I’m also on the record as being a fan of Mad Max for PM (although I’m not a Conservative, he’s the most libertarian mainstream politician since Laurier).

December 3, 2016

Capitalists and communists

Filed under: Bureaucracy, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren notes an odd similarity:

The last generation of Communists in power, in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, suffered from a debilitating foible. They did not themselves believe in the ideology they were preaching. Their efforts were thus directed to getting around the realities their forebears had not anticipated. They thus became their own enemies, working against their own unworkable socialist principles, and in the course of their tireless if frazzled ministrations, the Berlin Wall came down.

Capitalism suffers from the same problem today. The principles of Adam Smith are not seriously believed by any of its nominal advocates. They are not even known. Nor could they be, for like Marx, Smith is not even read. I have derived pleasure, on many occasions, from pointing out to some ideological enthusiast for Capitalism, that its supposed author was refulgently opposed to joint-stock companies. Which is to say, to the form of business ownership that controls — oh, I don’t know — ninety-five percent of the so-called “private sector” economy today?

I observed that, apart from any consideration of morality (and he was, after all, only an amateur economist, but a professional Perfesser of Moral Philosophy), Smith believed that joint-stock companies were inefficient, because essentially bureaucratic. This is inevitable when ownership is separated from management. “Growth,” or Bigness, subtly replaces profit (both mercenary and non-mercenary) as the principal aspiration.

As a general rule of thumb, when you want to get something done, use the smallest possible organization to achieve your desired goal. I always found it a warning sign of future decline when small companies I worked for started to take on the trappings of bigger companies … when the bureaucratic rot began to set in. In some cases, just the transition to having an “HR Department” (rather than managers hiring directly) was enough to trigger bureaucracy growth and efficiency losses.

December 2, 2016

QotD: Socialism

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

December 1, 2016

Rolling Stone calls out the Washington Post for shoddy journalism

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:21

Pot, I’d like to introduce you to Kettle. Kettle, please meet Pot.

However, that’s not to say that Rolling Stone is wrong about this:

Last week, a technology reporter for the Washington Post named Craig Timberg ran an incredible story. It has no analog that I can think of in modern times. Headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” the piece promotes the work of a shadowy group that smears some 200 alternative news outlets as either knowing or unwitting agents of a foreign power, including popular sites like Truthdig and Naked Capitalism.

The thrust of Timberg’s astonishingly lazy report is that a Russian intelligence operation of some kind was behind the publication of a “hurricane” of false news reports during the election season, in particular stories harmful to Hillary Clinton. The piece referenced those 200 websites as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.”

The piece relied on what it claimed were “two teams of independent researchers,” but the citing of a report by the longtime anticommunist Foreign Policy Research Institute was really window dressing.

The meat of the story relied on a report by unnamed analysts from a single mysterious “organization” called PropOrNot – we don’t know if it’s one person or, as it claims, over 30 – a “group” that seems to have been in existence for just a few months.

It was PropOrNot’s report that identified what it calls “the list” of 200 offending sites. Outlets as diverse as AntiWar.com, LewRockwell.com and the Ron Paul Institute were described as either knowingly directed by Russian intelligence, or “useful idiots” who unwittingly did the bidding of foreign masters.

Forget that the Post offered no information about the “PropOrNot” group beyond that they were “a collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

Forget also that the group offered zero concrete evidence of coordination with Russian intelligence agencies, even offering this remarkable disclaimer about its analytic methods:

“Please note that our criteria are behavioral. … For purposes of this definition it does not matter … whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point: If they meet these criteria, they are at the very least acting as bona-fide ‘useful idiots’ of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny.”

What this apparently means is that if you published material that meets their definition of being “useful” to the Russian state, you could be put on the “list,” and “warrant further scrutiny.”

RCAF to get “the barest minimum the government can get away with providing”

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

[Updated, see below] The Canadian government has not been in any way serious about providing sufficient resources to the Canadian Forces since the end of the Louis St. Laurent era, and that state of affairs is not about to change under Justin Trudeau’s leadership. The Royal Canadian Air Force either is (if you believe the Minister of National Defence) or is not (if you believe the Chief of the Defence Staff) in the grip of a “capability gap” that requires the immediate sole-source purchase of 18 new Boeing Super Hornets. Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 Hornets are, despite the minor nomenclature change, very different aircraft than the F-18 Super Hornets (here’s an overview of the differences).

CF-18 at the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario, 2015.

CF-18 at the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario, 2015.

The RCAF is a small air force and does not realistically have the capacity to support too many different types of aircraft at current staffing levels. The CF-18 and the Super Hornets count as different aircraft, so there will need to be duplication of maintenance and training facilities to ensure that the RCAF is able to keep both types operational at all times. Adding in the complication of yet another type of aircraft — the F-35 (most likely) or one of the European offerings (Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, or Dassault Rafale) would require a third set of maintenance and training facilities to support the latest addition to the fleet. The government will not be willing to provide the RCAF with enough funding to do this, based on historical patterns and general apathy toward military spending among the voters.

Michael Den Tandt says that no matter what happens, the government will almost certainly leave “the ‘brave men and women in uniform’ where they’ve always been — last on the list of priorities”:

It’s truly remarkable, given how Liberal and Conservative MPs speak so often and sincerely of their sacred covenant with the “brave men and women in uniform,” that this country’s air force is obsolete and decrepit, and has been so for as long as anyone now living can remember.

You’d think, given the volume of talk in the House of Commons over the past decade on their behalf, that RCAF pilots – one of whom died Monday, tragically, in a training accident in Cold Lake, Alta. – would be flying X-wing fighters out of Star Wars by now, and not a ragtag fleet of 1980s-vintage refurbs that were new when many members of the current parliament were children.

[…]

Had the Conservatives dared to quietly grow the RCAF fighter fleet by 23 per cent, at a cost of $65-$70-milion per plane, the Liberals would have called them warmongers and spendthrifts. To be sure, the Liberals may be embarrassed by the very mention of the CF-18 – having made such a to-do about withdrawing them last spring from the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Having beaten swords into ploughshares, they’re now buying more swords. How awkward.

More disingenuous still is the claim that a proper, open fighter competition is impossible in short order. The five possible selections are the F-35, Boeing’s Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen, and Dassault’s Rafale. The specs, per-unit and operating costs of all these aircraft are known. Given an abridged new statement of requirements, a competition could have been run and a new fighter selected in 2017, industry sources tell me.

Follow the Liberal strategy to its conclusion and you end up with this: A mixed fleet, comprising some CF-18s, 18 newish Super Hornets, and years hence, long after the punters have forgotten Campaign 2015, the F-35 – by which time it, too, will likely be obsolete.

It boils down to this: The “brave men and women in uniform” will get the barest minimum the government can get away with providing, until another military crisis on the scale of the Afghan war forces its hand, after which it will buy whatever equipment it can find, in a panic. It’s how we roll, here in Canada.

Update, 2 December: Ted Campbell explains why there are differing opinions on whether there’s a “capability gap”.

Team Trudeau may have found a way to (at least) appear to square the fighter “capability gap” circle. The report quotes RCAF top dog, Lieutenant General Michael Hood as saying that “The government has announced a policy whereby the Royal Canadian Air Force is required to simultaneously meet both our NORAD and NATO commitments,” Hood told senators … [and] … “I am at present unable to do that with the present CF-18 fleet. There aren’t enough aircraft to deliver those commitments simultaneously.”

But, the article goes on to say, quoting General Hood’s testimony, again: “Before the change, while the air force had standing commitments to NORAD and NATO, Hood suggested there was more flexibility to manage the fleet” [but] “That commitment is now a firm commitment with respect to this policy change so we will meet it,” he said [and] “I’ve been told I will be given all the resources I need to increase the numbers available. I’m happy the government is investing in the Royal Canadian Air Force,” he said.” That does solve the problem of General Hood’s previous statement that there was no “capability gap;” the government just changed the rules and created one.

[…]

The previous government did not pull that number of 65 completely out of thin air (or some other place where the sun doesn’t shine). You can see some logic to it: 2 squadrons, each of 12 aircraft (24) dedicated to NORAD (only 24 because the F-35 Lightening is very, very much more capable in the NORAD/interceptor role than the CF-18) and 2 more squadrons (24 aircraft for a total, thus far, of 48) in “general” roles ~ available for NORAD or NATO or other tasks, and one squadron (12 aircraft) as an “operational training unit” and 5 aircraft for logistical and maintenance stock. At $9 Billion for that fleet it was seen to be pretty much the top end of the fiscal load that the Canadian taxpayer might be asked to bear.

QotD: Victim mentality and “white rage”

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The media is always fretting that ginning up “white rage” will produce “backlash” — violence — against minority communities.

Okay, let’s say I accept that’s a possibility.

Is it not also a possibility that ginning up minority rage over agrievements, both those that can be characterized as possibly real as well of those of the #FakeNews contrived paranoia variety, can spur non-whites into their own “backlash” mode?

If not, why not? Are whites singularly evil in this world? Are they alone the only race capable of being whipped up into a hateful, violent lather by racial paranoia and racial grievances?

[…]

If it’s dangerous for a strain of white identity politics to nurture a fear and hatred of “The Other” — different races — and that such a strain of grievance-mongering and paranoia may result in the murders or assaults of minorities, why is it (as the media and mediating institutions seem to believe) not dangerous at all for minority ethnic groups to gin up their own fear, paranoia, and hatred against whites or society in general?

Will the media or any government official ever address this, given the weekly assassinations of police, and the newest barbarism committed against OSU students due to one lunatic steeping in the hatreds of identity politics?

Ace, “Jim Geraghty: OSU Jihadi Proves That the Progressives’ Victim Mentality Kills”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2016-11-30.

November 30, 2016

Swept along in the wake of Trump’s election victory

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kathy Shaidle didn’t make any friends among the alt-Right with her most recent column:

Weeks later, Trump’s triumph still seems slightly unreal; I permitted myself to purchase Time magazine’s special commemorative issue — can you imagine how much it pained them to put that out? — to serve as cerebral smelling salts and snap me out of those sporadic “Holy shit, he’s the president!” flashes.

But that lapse aside, I put not my trust in princes.

Of course, not everyone shares my horror of personality cults, or the man never would have won. Twitter’s upstart counterpart Gab, for example, is overrun by Trump cheerleaders, for whom fun memes like that “Deplorables” Photoshop or “Donald Crossing the Delaware” aren’t just a split second’s amusement, but the bunting of a burgeoning civic religion.

[…]

Whatever the benefits of a Republican presidency, one of the unavoidable side effects is an emboldening of our side’s flakier elements, who weave two most unsavory obsessions — the occult and “pedophile rings” — into singularly elaborate and ultimately groundless conspiracy theories.

Sure enough, right on cue: Type “Pizzagate” into YouTube’s search engine and soak in the overblown paranoid hysteria.

These kooks and simpletons were harmlessly wrong about Harry Potter turning your kids into witches, and tragically mistaken about the “Satanic panic.” At the very least, they’re a colossal embarrassment, but they also undermine serious business undertaken by serious people.

A big difference this time around is that the president himself won’t be immune to the lure of such twisted, empty-calorie distractions. Trump used to be Birther-in-Chief, remember? And he’s on Twitter.

“Bush is full of surprises”

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

That’s Kate, not George or W or ¡Jeb!:

Name: Kate Bush.

Age: 58.

Appearance: Rare.

Occupation: Artiste.

This is the Kate Bush, right? That’s right. The art-pop prodigy and now reclusive doyenne.

What has she done? Is it a new tour? It’s a new tour, right? Please can it be a new tour? Nope. It’s a political opinion.

I’d have preferred a new tour, ideally. Yes, but you’ll have to wait.

It’s not fair! And political opinions are so boring! Just about every artist in the world is either leftwing or very leftwing. Not so fast. Bush is full of surprises, remember. And the latest is that she loves Theresa May.

November 29, 2016

Justin Trudeau’s 15 minutes of internet fame

Filed under: Americas, Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In his statement on the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went unexpectedly viral and his phrasing was turned into a hilarious Twitter hashtag: #TrudeauEuologies. In the National Post, Colby Cosh sums up the responses:

The Prime Minister has received a thousand-bomber raid’s worth of invective for his formal statement on the death of Fidel Castro, the communist dictator of Cuba who was an old friend of the Trudeau family. You probably need no reminding of the first sentence of the press release, already lampooned worldwide as a triumph of putrid euphemism: “While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’.”

Habitual readers will know that when I see a thousand people gathering stones to throw at one, I try to see things from the side of the one. So my first impulse was to search for even a half-satisfactory justification of the PM’s statement. Alas, nothing came to hand. Just more rocks.

There is the “diplomacy is the art of lying about terrible things” defence: the idea that the interests of Canada might demand that Justin Trudeau use the opportunity presented by Fidel’s demise to suck up to his family and inner circle. This seems to me like an upside-down understanding of diplomacy. The Canadian government may sometimes be obliged to take, and even defend, morally ambiguous actions in the name of state interests. Merely telling sweet-sounding falsehoods about individuals is rarely involved. Like Trudeau’s acknowledgment that Castro was a “Comandante” — a pompous sadist who turned a beautiful country into a giant barracks — the diplomacy defence tacitly confesses the truth: Cuban government is lawless personal rule — as of now, the rule of a restless ghost who must be placated.

The statement might even be taken as a cryptic critique of the Castro regime, but there is no evidence the Prime Minister’s friendship with Castro was anything but genuine. When Trudeau writes “I know my father was very proud to call (Castro) a friend” he is stating fact. If the younger Trudeau does not believe that Castro was just a superhuman social reformer, and he really sees Cuba’s generations of exiles and political prisoners as more than hazy abstractions, then his family’s sucking up to Castro is fully conscious, fairy-tale evil, rather than the aftertaste of Fidel’s long-standing glamour cult among halfwit intellectuals.

Update: In Maclean’s, Terry Glavin twists the knife:

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Ever since his election as Canada’s Prime Minister last October, Justin Trudeau has revelled in global tributes, raves and swoons. He’s the Disney prince with the trippy dance moves, the groovy Haida tattoo and the gender-balanced cabinet. He’s the last best hope for globalization, the star attraction at the Pride parades, the hero of the Paris Climate Summit, the guy everyone wants a selfie with.

Trudeau made himself synonymous with Canada. He made Canada cool again. It was fun while it lasted.

By the early hours of Saturday morning, Havana time, Trudeau was an international laughingstock. Canada’s “brand,” so carefully constructed in Vogue photo essays and Economist magazine cover features, seemed to suddenly implode into a bonspiel of the vanities, with humiliating headlines streaming from the Washington Post to the Guardian, and from Huffington Post to USA Today.

It was Trudeau’s maudlin panegyric on the death of Fidel Castro that kicked it off, and there is a strangely operatic quality to the sequence of events that brings us to this juncture. When Trudeau made his public debut in fashionable society 16 years ago, with his “Je t’aime, papa!” encomium at the gala funeral of his father in Montreal, Fidel Castro himself was there among the celebrities, as an honorary pallbearer, lending a kind of radical frisson to the event. Now it’s all come full circle.

November 28, 2016

Legalized political corruption

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Walter Williams on the real danger the hyper-rich pose to the body politic:

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, having a net worth of $81.8 billion, and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, having a net worth of $70.4 billion, are the nation’s two richest men. They are at the top of the Forbes 400 list of America’s superrich individuals, people who have net worths of billions of dollars. Many see the rich as a danger. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote, “It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.” His colleague Paul Krugman wrote, “On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.” It’s sentiments like these that have led me to wish there were a humane way to get rid of the rich. For without having the rich around to be whipping boys and distract our attention, we might be able to concentrate on what’s best for the 99.9 percent of the rest of us.

Let’s look at the power of the rich. With all the money that Gates, Bezos and other superrich people have, what can they force you or me to do? Can they condemn our houses to create space so that another individual can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run — and doomed — Obamacare program? Can they force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Can they force us to buy our sugar from a high-cost domestic producer rather than from a low-cost Caribbean producer? The answer to all of these questions is a big fat no.

You say, “Williams, I don’t understand.” Let me be more explicit. Bill Gates cannot order you to enroll your child in another school in order to promote racial diversity. He has no power to condemn your house to make way for a casino parking lot. Unless our elected public officials grant them the power to rip us off, rich people have little power to force us to do anything. A lowly municipal clerk earning $50,000 a year has far more life-and-death power over us. It is that type of person to whom we must turn for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and do myriad other activities. It’s government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce us and rip us off. They have the power to make our lives miserable if we disobey. This coercive power goes a long way toward explaining legalized political corruption.

The Liberal Archipelago

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The New York Times analyzed the voting patterns from the 2016 presidential election and outlined the distinctive areas where Democratic and Republican voters dominated. The Republican map looks mostly like the continental US with a few urban voids, but the Democratic map looks like an elaborate archipelago of islands in a wide open seascape:

the-liberal-archipelago-of-2016

November 26, 2016

The war on science

Filed under: Environment, Health, Politics, Science, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In City Journal, John Tierney explains why the most serious threats to science come not from the right’s creationist bitter clingers, but from the left’s highly selective “pro (some) science” activism:

I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left.

November 25, 2016

QotD: Megalothymia, the malady of our age

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… so many people want to glom onto the moral stature of the civil-rights movement and reenact it for every single American with a grievance (save for conservatives who, like the Civil War re-enactor who’s always forced to play a Confederate, must always be cast as the bad guys). If you take all the people idiotically, reflexively, and sanctimoniously invoking Jim Crow at face value, it’s hard not to conclude they’re reflexive and sanctimonious idiots — or simply dishonest. And while that’s probably true of some, it’s clearly not true of many. Instead, I think you need to see this tendency as a Freudian slip, a statement of yearning, a kind of self-branding or what you (well, probably not you) might call moral megalothymia.

Megalothymia is a term coined by Francis Fukuyama. It’s a common mistake to think Fukuyama simply took Plato’s concept of “thumos” or “thymos” and put a “mega” in front of it because we all know from the Transformers and Toho Productions that “mega” makes everything more cool.

But that’s not the case. Megalothymia is a neologism of megalomania (an obsession with power and the ability to dominate others) and thymos, which Plato defined as the part of the soul concerned with spiritedness, passion, and a desire for recognition and respect.

Fukuyama defined megalothymia as a compulsive need to feel superior to others.

And boy howdy, do we have a problem with megalothymia in America today. Everywhere you look there are moral bullies utterly uninterested in conversation, introspection, or persuasion who are instead hell-bent on grinding down people they don’t like to make themselves feel good. If you took the megalothymia out of Twitter, millions of trolls would throw their smartphones into the ocean.

Make no mistake: This is a problem across the ideological spectrum, because it is a problem of human nature in general and modernity in particular. But in this context, it’s a special malady of elite liberalism.

Jonah Goldberg, “Moral Heroism without Morality”, National Review, 2015-04-03.

November 24, 2016

The Ontario government’s anti-Midas touch in energy projects

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:54

All governments at every level waste money. It’s one of the things that governments do far better than the private sector. Yet the Ontario provincial government takes wasting money to a state of near perfection in their Wolfe Island offshore wind farm dealings:

A few years ago, I took this photo of some of the onshore wind turbines on Wolfe Island. I don't have any photos of the offshore installations, because they haven't been built.

A few years ago, I took this photo of some of the onshore wind turbines on Wolfe Island. I don’t have any photos of the offshore installations, because they haven’t been built.

In 2010, the government of Ontario, keen to jumpstart its green energy sector, signed a 20-year deal to buy 300 megawatts of electricity from turbines that the New York investors behind Windstream agreed to erect.

Things got messy mere months later in February 2011 when the provincial Liberals, fearing they would lose an election, slapped a moratorium on offshore wind projects, none of which had ever been built. Around the same time, Ontario cancelled two unpopular natural gas power plants, a move that cost provincial taxpayers about $1 billion.

After waiting five years to get approval to build their wind turbines, Mars and his group lost their patience.

“I have a group of very high-net-worth individuals who invest across energy and technology,” Mars said in a series of interviews from his office in Manhattan. “The contract remains in force. We would like to either build it or come up with an amicable solution. We have gotten many mixed messages on this.”

They complained to the Permanent Court of Arbitration under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A panel of three arbitrators heard the case in Toronto last February.

“The claimant’s claim that the respondent has failed to accord the claimant’s investments fair and equitable treatment in accordance with international law, contrary to Article 1105 of NAFTA, is granted,” the panel ruled last month.

Police are now apparently probing whether Ontario government employees broke the law when they deleted documents related to the offshore wind project. A source told the Financial Post that Mars will answer police questions in Toronto next week.

So, a billion dollars to cancel two natural gas power plants, then a paltry $28 million that the federal has to pay, as it’s the NAFTA signatory (and the total bill could go up to $568 million or more, with nothing actually being built). As the old saying has it, pretty soon you’re talking real money.

H/T to Ken Mcgregor for the link.

QotD: Black hats and white hats

Filed under: Economics, Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When considering the major failures of recent American governance – the 2008-09 financial crisis, the catastrophe that is U.S. policy in the Mideast – the one thing that any honest-minded person must conclude is: Nobody meant for things to turn out this way. It is impossible to make precise predictions about the effects of government policy; that is the nature of systems characterized by high levels of complexity. It’s one thing to predict that it’ll be colder during the winter, but another thing to predict down to the millimeter how much snow will fall on a particular acre in rural Maine on the third Wednesday in February, which is really what we expect from our public policy.

Classic cowboy movies, in contrast, are not complex at all: The good guys wear white hats, the bad guys wear black hats, all hats remain firmly affixed to all heads at all times, and that’s that. You can pretty much always predict how an old Western is going to turn out.

But that isn’t how the real world works.

On Tuesday, I had a conversation about Elizabeth Warren and Wall Street, pointing out that the popular version of that story – Senator Warren vs. Wall Street – is so oversimplified as to be not merely useless but misleading. The reality is that there are people working on Wall Street who dislike Senator Warren – investors and bankers, mainly – and people who adore her – notably Wall Street lawyers, who are reliable donors to her campaign and to those of other Democrats. My naïve interlocutor said: “Hopefully, it’s the lawyers that fight against Wall Street,” as though there were such a thing, as though there weren’t nice progressive lawyers in Manhattan who jokingly refer to their yachts as the SS Dodd-Frank.

Spend any time writing about this sort of thing and you’ll hear angry and panicked denunciations of derivatives-trading from people who pretty clearly do not know what a derivative is, just as you’ll hear paeans to Glass-Steagall sung by people who don’t understand the difference between a commercial bank and an investment bank, who don’t know how Goldman-Sachs makes its money or what it is that Standard & Poor’s does.

But they’re quite sure they know who is wearing the black hats.

Kevin Williamson, “Black Hats and White Hats”, National Review, 2015-04-15.

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