Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Sun Talk for May 23, 2012.

Still playing with the format a little here. Rather than complain about everything the Sunites (good name? bad name?) have to say, I'll stick to just the main topics. Otherwise, this gets very long, and pretty tedious for me. I can only complain so much!

Daily Brief

I suppose I should say at least something official about the whole "Dutch Disease" thing, and it did come up in Akin's show. Tony Clement wandered around pretending to represent all Ontarians and said that Mulcair didn't know what he was talking about.

Yes, "Gazebo" Tony Clement tried to criticize someone else's grasp of sound economic thinking.

In any event. Dutch Disease is part of the problem, unquestionably; if you don't believe that, you don't know what Dutch Disease is.

The overall decline of manufacturing in North America is another part of the problem, however. Every manufacturing sector is hurting, likely because of the inevitable march of efficiency. All economies which focus heavily on one sector -- whether it's farming or resource extraction or manufacturing -- run into this. Sooner or later, any sector will be able to produce as much as is needed, if not more, with fewer and fewer workers. Efficiency gains are inevitable, as said, and they ultimately lead to unemployment. Unless you have a mixed economy, of course, plus some reasonable ideas on how to transition people into new sectors.

The other part of the problem is the unmanaged shift of the Canadian economy from a producer to a supplier. I call it "unmanaged" because it is. Effectively, the provinces and the feds are inviting foreign multinationals to come in, extract what they like, pay some pittance of a royalty, and skedaddle back to where they came from, laughing all the way. Going whole-hog for resources will lead to decline, either when the prices crash or, as noted above, when we get so good at doing it that we don't need as many workers.

The solution is to have a real industrial policy, with an emphasis on overall sustainability. (A word I'm starting to like, incidentally.) That would be not only environmental, but also economic. The Cons aren't providing that; the Liberals never have. Give Mulcair credit for seeing that we have a huge gaping policy hole and trying to draw attention to it. Like most, I'm waiting to see what the NDP comes up with in terms of fixes, but I'm willing to give them time to construct something. (Rather than the standard Liberal trick of stealing an NDP idea and using it to brand a pre-existing Conservative policy.)

Arena

You should see my notes here. Yeesh. The stupid, it does indeed burn.

The fundamental problem I have with Coren is he doesn't understand what he's talking about most of the time, and yet is too arrogant to just shut up and let someone more intelligent/informed explain things to him. For example, last night he was whinging about freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. In his view, both are violated when governments do such horrible things as, say, require Catholic employers to fund all healthcare for their employees, including reproductive services (this would be the US), or require Catholic schools to allow gay-straight alliance clubs, with the primary goal of illustrating that gays are not sub-human (this would be Ontario).

He's a very silly man, clearly. Freedom of conscience stops when it starts to infringe on other people's lives. You can believe whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. The moment it starts having a negative impact on me, however, then your freedom is exhausted. There is no freedom for someone -- Catholic, Muslim, Wiccan, whatever -- to impact on my life through their beliefs. If you're a Catholic employer and you don't want to provide healthcare for your employees, then you're basically screwed. Either don't employ people at all, or give them the healthcare they want and need.

Similarly, there is no freedom to take public money and spend it in a way which harms other people. If Catholic schools want to teach students how icky it is to be gay, then they can simply return all that lovely tax money they've received, and we'll plow that into the public school system. Hey, there's an idea for McGuinty: if he really wants to save money, why not dissolve the Catholic school system?

And, no, I have no idea how this all relates to freedom of speech. Coren invoked it a few times and I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about. Freedom of speech, legally, just means that the government can't force you to shut up. In these cases, actions other than speech are clearly what matters, so it's not even relevant. Furthermore, the government isn't telling people not to say things. So, who knows.

Adler

Mark Bonokoski. That's who this knob is.

We had a lot more nonsense tonight about "victim's rights", including the Vince Li case. Did you know that the mother of Tim McLean, the guy Li beheaded, is trying to get a law passed forcing all mentally ill people to be hospitalized indefinitely against their will?

You won't find this on the Tim's Law website, though. (Incidentally, if anyone from that site finds this page: it's "moot" point not "mute" point. Although, being mute would probably be a good idea in your case. Remember what Kipling said about fools.) They're very careful not to reveal the actual agenda, but Bonokoski tipped their hand a tish too far. The idea is that mentally ill people are so super scary, and psychiatry so super stupid, that all people who are mentally ill should be treated as sub-human animals and locked up to protect us decent normal folks.

I've frequently noted that there's a concerted effort in the world to wind things back to the Middle Ages. At least Bonokoski et al only want to wind us back to the Victorian era, with all its glorious asylums and abuse of the mentally ill.

Yes, of course, victims matter. The point is that offenders, mentally ill or not, matter, too. All this bullshit we're currently seeing, about reintroducing the death penalty (post-Rafferty trial), chucking the mentally ill into asylums, even those execrable "victim impact statements" that are now being read in courtrooms, shows a frightening degree of deference to the judgement of emotionally overwrought people, to such an extent that we forget that all people, even criminal people, are still people. And I know of no decent, reasonable morality that treats some people are deserving of more consideration than others.

(Suck it, egoists.)

Byline

Tra-la-la, climate change denialism. Love how they didn't mention that this is the last ever Heartland Institute Conference on Climate Change Nonsense. Open up your chequebooks, Sunites! You have nothing to lose but what little sanity still remains! Oh, and Tim Ball was on, with no mention of his economic ties to the oil and gas industry. Straight talk! What the consensus media won't tell you! And so on.

"Progressive" Blogger Warren Kinsella was featured in a bit on human rights. (I've never seen Kinsella as all that progressive, unless we draw the silly inference from Liberal to progressive. Furthermore, any aggregator that thinks the interests of women can be dispensed with in a discussion of abortion is not particularly progressive, either.) The discussion was about Human Rights Commissions "inventing" "fake" human rights. Scare-quotes for a reason; keep reading.

I'm with Bentham on this one, folks; rights are nonsense, and natural rights are nonsense on stilts. Now, I'm not enough of a Bentham historian to be sure, but I've always interpreted this as a point about morality, rather than a point about law. (With Bentham, it really could be either; his greatest work was, after all, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.) So, morally, rights are nonsense, unless you've got some kind of constructivist metaethic, in which case they are superfluous. (Everything a right does theoretically can be done by a carefully formulated duty; the converse, however, does not hold.)

Legally, however, rights make good sense. There are lots of laws which create rights, and those laws have (more or less) justification behind them. But that's the trick, innit: the law invents legal rights. They don't exist out in space somewhere, waiting for the law to recognize them. Law makes them up. So any debate which turns on a distinction between invented legal rights and non-invented legal rights is fatuous. All legal rights are invented.

The right question to ask is whether a legal right should be invented. The answer's not always "yes", of course, but it's equally not always "no".

The other point raised in the discussion related to the Charter, but anyone who takes the Canadian Charter as the last word on legal rights needs to swot up a bit. There are many other legal frameworks of rights, and it's far from clear that ours is the best. I'd suggest, in fact, given that the Charter does not protect a right to necessities of life nor a right to strike, that it very clearly isn't.

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