Archive for May, 2010

The incompetence of lawmakers

May 31, 2010

I  was fascinated to read that while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had roundly criticized the Arizona Immigration legislation and was supposedly reviewing it to determine a possible challenge by the U.S. federal government, he admitted that he hadn’t even read the bill.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who has been critical of Arizona’s new immigration law, said Thursday he hasn’t yet read the law and is going by what he’s read in newspapers or seen on television.

Mr. Holder is conducting a review of the law, at President Obama’s request, to see if the federal government should challenge it in court. He said he expects he will read the law by the time his staff briefs him on their conclusions.

“I’ve just expressed concerns on the basis of what I’ve heard about the law. But I’m not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people are doing the review, exactly what my position is,” Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee.

However, in spite of his lack of familiarity with the wording of the legislation, Holder had lots of opinions.

This weekend Mr. Holder told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the Arizona law “has the possibility of leading to racial profiling.” He had earlier called the law’s passage “unfortunate,” and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.

(If we can go sideways for a minute, the following video pokes a little fun at the “haven’t read it” crowd).

(Too funny not to insert).

All of which led me to think that Mr. Holder’s (and others) lack of diligence was a reflection of a deeper problem that we have with our elected officials when it comes to talking about and voting for/against legislation that is tabled.

This has become increasingly apparent when we look at the ambitious legislation that has been passed in the U.S. in recent months.

The obvious one was the legislation to reform health care in the U.S. or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. which weighed in at over 1,000 pages of bureaucratic legalese. To the extent that a Democratic Senator said that he would not read the  the actual legislation.

Sen. Thomas Carper (D.-Del.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told CNSNews.com that he does not “expect” to read the actual legislative language of the committee’s health care bill because it is “confusing” and that anyone who claims they are going to read it and understand it is fooling people.

“I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life,” Carper told CNSNews.com.

In fact, the the Senate Finance Committee apparently never even dealt with the language in the legislation, but instead relied on the “plain English summary” of the bill. Which strikes me as being a bit problematic as who is to say how accurate the “plain English” interpretation is. Anyone who has ground their way through the bureaucratic wording inherent in most legislation soon recognizes that regardless of the understood intent of the legislation, the question is how some bureaucrat or even a court may interpret the wording at some later date. Too often the original intent is lost in the mists of time.

The recent passing of the U.S. government’s financial reform legislation is no doubt more of the same. Since many of the so-called financial experts were obviously baffled by some of the more esoteric financial transactions that contributed to the financial disaster, I can’t see where very many (if any) elected politicians voting on this legislation would have had any deep understanding of the bill’s ramifications.

The public at large just assumes that those writing the various bills have a certain amount of competence in what they do. Not always the case.

I remember – years back when I was still involved with corporate tax issues – going to a professional seminar on some esoteric tax issue where the presenters stood at the podium at one point and said flat out that they had no idea what the wording of a specific section meant. And these were the tax specialists. Obviously they weren’t getting much advice from Revenue Canada bureaucrats either. It was at that point that I wondered just what the hell I was doing there.

I think that it can be safely assumed that the MPs of the day who voted in favour of the existing tax legislation had no idea of what they were voting for at the time, and not just in regards to the more complex aspects of the Act. Their understanding of the details within the Act would have been minimal at best. They just voted the way they were told to vote.

The other side of the equation is that if the government waited until every MP had actually read the various pieces of legislation and could actually demonstrate that they understood what the wording meant, very little would ever get passed.

Of course, that could be a positive result in many cases.

Anyway, to beat the dead horse just a bit more, there are 29 bills pending in the Canadian Parliament right now. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the MPs have read what percentage of the bills.

On poverty and crime

May 24, 2010

I wish I had written this. An old link but still worth reading.

The canard that “poverty causes crime” is the  product of lazy correlation. We associate crime with poverty  because criminals are so often poor. However, the association is an inversion – people don’t become drug-addicted thieves because they’re poor – they’re poor because they’re drug-addicted thieves.

If poverty were a root cause of crime, the six-figure executive wouldn’t embezzle, the limo-driven politician wouldn’t defraud. There’d be an income threshold at which crime was no longer “necessary” for survival. Poverty and ruin are simply possible consequences when high-risk, high-return windfall economics trump morality, honesty and the work ethic.

What the white-collar criminal and inner-city gang member have in common is something quite different, and it’s unrelated to birthright or economic misfortune.

What they share is a sense of entitlement. They have convinced themselves (through varying measures of rationalization and socialization) that they are entitled to our money, our property, our lives.

The world is truly an amusing place

May 24, 2010

With everything that goes on in the world it is sometimes difficult to keep a straight face. A couple of items I recently came across amused the hell out of me.

The first was a blog by a gentleman by the name of J. Neil Schulman.

May 21, 2010 — Author/filmmaker, J. Neil Schulman, today announced his intention to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement of his 1979 novel, Alongside Night, which tells the story of the collapse of the American economy due to massive government overspending and the issuing of unbacked money and credit to pay the interest on the national debt.

Schulman intends to name the United States government as his primary defendant. According to Schulman, “The United States government — both the executive and legislative branches, aided by the courts, have stolen the entire premise — and a lot of the plot — of my novel!”

Schulman also intends to name, as co-defendants in his copyright infringement lawsuit, the Federal Reserve Bank, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, General Motors, and the country of Greece.

“Just look at TV news or read a newspaper,” Schulman said. “Plot point after plot point is identical. In my 1979 novel I have General Motors go bankrupt — General Motors then files for bankruptcy. I have Europe issue a common currency in my novel called the ‘eurofranc’ — the European Union then goes and issues the ‘euro.’ In my novel I have a European Chancellor, based in France, accuse the U.S. President of having the monetary policies of a banana republic — then the President of the European Union — also based in France — slams U.S. plans to spend its way out of recession as ‘a road to hell’ and says President Barack Obama’s massive stimulus package and banking bailout ‘will undermine the liquidity of the global financial market.’ The copycat nature of all these plot points and dialogue” — says Schulman — “could not be more obvious!”

Aside from the obvious satire of the proposed lawsuit, the book, Alongside Night is an award winning novel. But if the novel parallels the current economic crisis as Schulman says, he must have been having a vision when he wrote it back in 1979. Nevertheless, a very funny piece which will probably renew interest in the book. (Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer).

The second item was not a joke, but a little byplay in the ongoing war of words with Arizona over their illegal immigration legislation.

In response to the Arizona legislation, the city of Los Angeles voted to boycott all official travel there and end all future contracts with Arizona businesses.

Well, as it turns out, Los Angeles gets 25% of its power from Arizona.

Upon which, the commissioner of the Arizona Corporation Commission wrote a letter to the LA mayor.

I was dismayed to learn that the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona and Arizona-based companies – a vote you strongly supported – to show opposition to SB 1070 (Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act).

You explained your support for the boycott as follows: “While we recognize that as neighbors, we share resources and ties with the State of Arizona that may be difficult to sever, our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona. Our intent is to use our dollars – or the withholding of our dollars – to send a message.” (emphasis added)

I received your message; please receive mine. As a state-wide elected member of the Arizona Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the “resources and ties” we share with the City of Los Angeles. In fact, approximately twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.

If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights of Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.

People of goodwill can disagree over the merits of SB 1070. A state-wide economic boycott of Arizona is not a message sent in goodwill.

Sincerely,

Commissioner Gary Pierce

The letter doesn’t actually threaten to cut off the power to Los Angeles,  as some news media have implied, but it does point out the hypocrisy inherent in the Los Angeles call for a boycott.

Whether the situation will further deteriorate from this point on is an unknown, but Pierce must have thoroughly enjoyed writing the letter.

One can find humour almost anywhere you look, especially in politics.

Expensive golf

May 20, 2010

Every month I get my golf magazines in the mail and every month I get annoyed once more.

What bugs me is their continuous plugging of golf resorts (although I think that any place that has a motel next door qualifies as a resort these days) and horrendous green fees that they seem to think are acceptable.

If some unsuspecting golfer asks a question about where to find a reasonably priced golf course in his or her travels, $100 for a greens fee seems to qualify.

I beg to differ. There are lots of good golf courses out there (particularly in the U.S.) with green fees in the $60 range and less, including a cart.

Of the 10 courses I played in Phoenix this past March, the most I paid for a round was $52 U.S. with a cart included.

Granted, these weren’t high end, polish your clubs, every blade of grass in place, facilities. But the courses were fun to play and the condition of the courses was good, particularly the greens.

I am constantly blown away by the fact that people are willing to plunk down $495 in cold, hard, cash to play Pebble Beach. I can only believe that a lot of it must be corporate money (it would be interesting to know how much their green fee play has dropped since the financial crash), but to many it is apparently the Holy Grail of Golf, to be played at any price.

In the current Golf Magazine there is an article on golfing the Monterey Peninsula where they list Spyglass Hill as being a “must play” at $350. But the ‘hot tip’ is that if you book the twilight rate you can play for as low as $185, but of course you may not have time to finish the round before darkness descends.  Take a flashlight.

By the way, the $495 for Pebble and the $350 for Spyglass only includes a cart if you are a guest at the resort. The lowest price for a room at Pebble Beach Resort? $695.

OK, so there a lot of people who have a lot more money than me (a given) and price is obviously of no concern.

God bless them. They keep the economy rolling.

In an attempt to be fair I will note that Golf Magazine did list one actually reasonably priced course on the Peninsula – Pacific Grove Golf Links – which is a shorter course at 5,583 yards. Weekday rate of $40 which doesn’t appear to include a cart which is an additional $17 for a shared cart. Presumably the course is walkable.

Of course the obvious answer to the various golf magazines pushing the high end facilities is that they advertise in their magazines, whereas the munis don’t, and most certainly many of the writers get to play and stay, if not for free, at a reduced rate, as long as they write up their golf excursion and expound on the excellence of the course.

Part of the problem with exorbitant green fees is the mentality that if it’s cheap it can’t be good. I know of at least one course in BC that increased their tourist play by raising their fees and I am sure there are others who have done the same. Sadly the policy seems to work.

Even Papago, my favourite course in Phoenix, has been refurbished and the old $20 green fee that I paid on my first foray into Arizona is only a fond and distant memory with the winter rack rate now set at $99 for non residents (although Phoenix residents get to play for $59 – lucky dogs).

Seems to me that I bitched about this subject many blogs ago. An ongoing irritation that obviously isn’t going to get any better.

Have a good game.

What has the Gun Law Wrought?

May 19, 2010

The Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) recently did a poll amongst gun owners regarding their perception of law enforcement.

The poll is still in process, but the results as of a few days ago are as follows:

1. As a legal firearms owner, who are you more afraid of? Police or Criminals?
Police    – 63.9%
Criminals – 36.1%

2. Since the implementation of the Firearms Act, do you still trust Canada’s police?
Yes –  25.7%
No   – 74.3%

3. Do you believe the Police Associations represent their member’s views regarding firearms issues?
Yes –   5.5%
No  – 94.5%

4. Do you believe the Police Associations are misrepresenting the facts regarding Canada’s long gun registry?
Yes – 96.7%
No  –   3.3%

5. Do you believe Police Associations should be involved in the creation of laws?
Yes – 12.1%
No  – 87.9%

6. Do you believe Police target firearms owners?
Yes – 83.3%
No  – 16.7%

7. Do you personally know someone unjustly charged with a firearms offense?
Yes – 46.3%
No  – 53.7%

Granted, the majority of the people answering this poll are probably those who are more active in the firearm community and have a deeper understanding of the issues. Regardless, the figures are staggering.

Now maybe the police don’t give a rat’s hind end whether they are mistrusted or not, but it seems to me that it is a sad state of affairs when a core group of citizens have been alienated to that extent.

Gymnastics made easy (The Chinese way)

May 9, 2010

This is an absolutely amazing video that I first saw posted on Small Dead Animals. Many of the gymnasts are very young, indicating that they were brought into the training systems at a very, very young age (maybe pre-birth?).

I could speculate on what happens to these kids once they grow out of the job or get injured along the way. Hopefully they are getting a good education in the process, but who knows.

But in the interim this is spectacular viewing.

WiFi on the road

May 9, 2010

This article makes note of something that has struck me as amusing (and annoying) when I am traveling. It seems that the more expensive the hotel, the more likely it is that you will be charged to access their WiFi system.

A while back I was in Ottawa and staying at a downtown hotel which stuck you for about $10 a day to connect into their WiFi. However literally all of the low to medium cost motels and hotels that you stay at around the country has their system available as a free service.

Obviously they figure that anyone staying and paying in the top dollar hotels is probably on company business and will charge the cost back to the company, so they really aren’t too concerned about the extra cost.

But it does seem rather bizarre that if you are staying at a $200 plus hotel you get tapped extra for internet access but in a $50 per night unit (and there still are some decent ones out there) you get your internet with no charge.

However, it’s better that way than the reverse.

The above-noted article also links to Hotel Chatter.com which has its 2010 Annual WiFi Report.

In its Worst Hotel WiFi section, they note that Las Vegas is consistently bad in trying to get decent WiFi. I suspect that they are talking specifically about the casinos. When passing through Sin City we usually stay at a Clarion Hotel just off the strip, which does have free WiFi, but not a very strong signal. To the point that I found it mostly unusable. But I gave them a slight nod for at least trying.

Last fall while in Laughlin for a golf tournament, the Casino where we stayed had no WiFi at all (and probably the crappiest TV I have found in a hotel for a couple of decades), but I reasoned that they wanted you down in their casino flushing your money through their machines and not sitting around your room watching TV or surfing the internet.

I suspect that if there is poor WiFi service in the Las Vegas casinos it would be for the same reason.

Breaking News: They cheat at bounties

May 1, 2010

It seem that people may be shooting coyotes in Alberta and collecting the bounty in Saskatchewan.

Conservationists say offering a bounty on animals inevitably leads to mass killings of the kind that resulted in the death of 37 coyotes whose carcasses were found in an Alberta park last week.

The carcasses were found with their paws cut off near Cypress Hills Provincial Park, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and is about 80 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat, Alta.

Alberta wildlife officials say the paws were likely taken to Saskatchewan, which had been offering a $20 bounty for every coyote killed to control the population and its livestock prey. Authorities suspect the culprits tried to pass the paws off as having come from coyotes killed in Saskatchewan.

But then it’s not like this has never been done before.

Of course, I am shocked. Totally shocked. Shocked that they obviously didn’t expect this to happen.

An e-mail from my Federal Liberal Friends

May 1, 2010

I don’t know where Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal bagman got the idea that I was their friend, but that was how their recent e-mail to me was addressed.

Friend –

Barely 48 hours after Michael Ignatieff proposed sensible changes to make the long gun registry fairer and more effective, Stephen Harper has opened the Conservative war chest – and teamed up with the gun lobby – launching personal attacks against MPs and police who support gun control. As the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser, I need your help right now to fight back.

The attacks began as Conservative spokesman and Saskatchewan MP Gerry Breitkreuz compared Canada’s police chiefs to “members of a cult” who “should be ashamed of themselves” for defending the gun registry – a tool police officers use over 11,000 times each day in their work protecting public safety.

Close behind was a deluge of radio ads targeting Liberal MPs in rural ridings, spreading misinformation and questioning the integrity of our MPs for doing exactly what you and I elect our representatives to do – listen to their constituents and work to adapt the laws of the land in ways that find common ground.

Police across the country tell us that they rely on the gun registry. I believe them. Law abiding gun owners tell us the gun registry has problems in its current form and I believe them too. So we need a balanced solution and the Liberal proposal provides it. Now, our MPs who helped to create that solution are under fire and need our support.

That’s why it’s critical that we respond with a targeted ad campaign of our own. Canadians need accurate information about the changes we’ve proposed, and the MPs under attack need to know that Liberals from coast to coast to coast are standing behind them.

(Then followed an appeal for a donation starting at the $100 level)

The Conservatives continue with tactics that attempt to divide rural and urban Canada. You and I can’t let that happen.Thank you.

Adam Smith
National Director, National Liberal Fund

The appeal was amusing in that it closed by saying that the Conservatives are attempting to divide rural and urban Canada, when this is exactly what Jean Chretien and Alan Rock did when they brought in the the Gun Control Act, Bill C-68.  And now Michael Ignatieff is willing to do so again, by whipping his party’s vote to try and defeat Bill C-391 which would get rid of the long-gun registry and which to the Liberal leadership’s horror passed second reading and only needs to get a passing vote in 3rd reading to become law.

The Liberal fundraising letter whips out many of the old saws: The (evil) gun lobby working hand-in-hand with the Conservatives to eliminate the long-gun registry and the police accessing the gun registry data 11,000 times a day “in their work protecting public safety”.

I’ve never been able to figure out just who this powerful gun lobby is that the anti-gun people grow hysterical about. I presume that I am part of it. Along with other hunters, target shooters and collectors. Then again, the writer of the fundraising letter tells us that he agrees with law-abiding gun owners that there are problems with the system, which makes me think that maybe we law-abiding gun owners aren’t part of the evil gun lobby. All of which leaves me more confused as to whom or what constitutes the gun lobby. Or is it – dare I say – simply a political bogey man?

Our efforts pale in comparison to the efforts put forth by groups like the Chiefs of Police who have a direct pipeline to the top politicians and bureaucrats and who lobby the government on a regular basis for more funding and changes to the laws of the country.

It has been said that if the police were unfettered in their efforts to obtain more powers, we would all be fingerprinted, be required to carry identification papers, be registered in a DNA registry and would be subject to stop and arrest at the whim of any officer on the street. (Seems to me that the random stop idea is what the Federal government is musing about right now as it pertains to randomly testing drivers for drinking offenses. It seems to be resonating with some in the media, but if the police are given that power it will no doubt lead to abuses, with that authority simply being used as an excuse for a stop).

But back to the donation letter.

Mr. Smith, the National Director of the National Liberal Fund, bemoans the fact that their Liberal MPs are having their integrity questioned “for doing exactly what you and I elect our representatives to do – listen to their constituents and work to adapt the laws of the land in ways that find common ground”.

But I thought that was exactly what those MPs did on the 1st and 2nd votes on Bill C-391. They had a free vote and voted for what they and their constituents wanted. Which in some cases meant that those Liberal MPs voted in favour of eliminating the long gun registry.

But by Mr. Ignatieff whipping the votes for his caucus he eliminates the opportunity for those very same MPs  to do so on the next vote on 3rd reading. By doing so he has said to all of his caucus – “to hell with your constituents. You will vote as I tell you to vote”.

It may not totally be a lack of integrity that will cause those MPs to change their vote the next time around, but intimidation will certainly be part of the picture..

What Mr. Ignatieff gave his recalcitrant caucus members, who had dared to vote in favour of Bill C-391 when it was a free vote, was a number of talking points that they could use to try and to explain to their constituents why they had now switched their vote.

The truth is, anyone who buys into this new line of reasoning probably still believes in the Tooth Fairy as well.

I am sure that there are still some principled politicians somewhere in Ottawa, but they seem to be increaingly hard to find.


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