The Canadian Independent

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock built by the ingenuity of millions of individuals…

Posted in Fuzzy Philosophical or Moral Issues, The Economy by dave on March 27, 2010

Commerce, the business of individuals exchanging goods and services for profit, is fundamentally healthy for human civilization.

“…all working for their own gain, but whose efforts were coordinated by the prices for labor and materials and finished goods provided by the free market. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the shower head, pipes, and sanitation facilities whose construction also involved the efforts of thousands of people acting in their independent interest. After that, I turned on the TV to The Weather Channel, whose owners include one of the largest multi-national corporations and private equity companies, to see the week’s forecast presented in a clear, informative (and even entertaining) manner. I watched this while eating breakfast of General Mills’ inspected food and taking drugs whose strong brand name gives me confidence in its safety.

At the time which millions of people coordinate their activities to take advantage of each other’s knowledge and skills, I leave for work. I get into my Japanese-designed, Mexican-supplied, Michigan-assembled automobile and set out to work on the roads built by construction contracting companies and named after corrupt politicians, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel that was shipped from the Middle East by an oil company at a per gallon cost many times lower than the price of having a letter delivered across the street by the government monopoly that loses millions of dollars each year. To make the purchase there is no need to leave the pump; I am able to slide a piece of plastic into a small slot and get credit extended to me by a bank who has never met me in person. On the way out the door, I put out the Fed-Ex envelope containing the documents I need to arrive across the country tomorrow morning and drop the kids off at the public school which is attended by only the best students, thanks to the high home prices in the area.”


Oops, what are you talking about Coulter

Posted in America, Blogs & Bloggers, Politics by dave on March 27, 2010

Coulter calls Canada the least diverse country she’s seen
Few protesters on hand before U.S. pundit tells crowd they’re least diverse she’s ever seen

The polite crowd of 900 listened as Coulter talked about diversity, gays, and bias in the media.

The audience gave a huge cheer when Coulter proposed making Calgary the 51st of the United States.

She said Canada was the least diverse country she’s seen — which brought objections from the audience, but she pointed out that everyone in the crowd looked like she did.

Huh. I guess its too bad Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world.

Picking your Battles: Lefty Profs vs the Military Myth

Posted in Afghanistan, Blogs & Bloggers, Foreign Policy, Politics by dave on March 26, 2010

One of the stories making waves in the Blogosphere are conservative types being outraged by this story. Essentially some lefty profs got together and wrote a letter to the administration of the University of Regina about the “Project Hero” program. This is a scholarship program which provides a $1,000 scholarship to the children of deceased Canadian servicemen or women.

In our view, support for “Project Hero” represents a dangerous cultural turn. It associates “heroism” with the act of military intervention. It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices.  In signing on to “Project Hero”, the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the “good war” of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.

These guys have the right idea.

Militarism is a real problem for Western societies. For all societies. Its waste, first and foremost. Using resources to produce goods and create jobs that people don’t legitimately demand in society, simply those that the government demands, is wasting those resources. Aggressive foreign intervention ruins our moral standing in the world, and makes Canadians less safe by creating enemies with at no tangible benefit to the Canadian people. In response to these enemies, the Canadian state must reduce our legal protections and privacy to keep us safe from them. The Canadian state must tax us more and take more of our income to maintain an aggressive military so they can “get him before he can get us.” (Even though its this kind of thinking that often creates these “blow-back” enemies in the first place.)

I’ve only had experience with one of the professors on the list. George Buri, Department of History. He and another “labor historian” gave a

The Anti-Imperialist League, a collection of anti-war Classical Liberals.

presentation about how the Afghan war is wrong at a university that I was attending a few years ago. While I do think Afghanistan is a mistake for Canada to be participating in, his was a lot more Marxist in tone. Essentially everything was a plot by the United States to do better for itself.

Then again, what do you expect from “libertarian socialists.”

No matter. These people have the right idea, but they are picking the absolute wrong battleground. You can argue passionately and convincingly against militarism, but the place to take your stand isn’t about a scholarship program for kids whose dads and mums are dead because of bad government policy. The actual valuable point they are trying to make, will just get lost in the noise that ensues.

The Great American Discussion

Posted in America by dave on March 26, 2010

The Great American Discussion

Tagged with:

The Myths and Facts about Obamacare

Posted in Uncategorized by dave on March 26, 2010

From here

1. This is a universal health care bill.

The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance.

Per the CBO:

* Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million
* Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24 million (44%)

2. Insurance companies hate this bill

This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009.

The original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint VP. Since Congress released the first of its health care bills on October 30, 2009, health care stocks have risen 28.35%.
3. The bill will significantly bring down insurance premiums for most Americans.

The bill will not bring down premiums significantly, and certainly not the $2,500/year that the President promised.

Annual premiums in 2016, status quo / with bill:

Small group market, single: $7,800 / $7,800
Small group market, family: $19,300 / $19,200
Large Group market, single: $7,400 / $7,300
Large group market, family: $21,100 / $21,300
Individual market, single: $5,500 / $5,800*
Individual market, family: $13,100 / $15,200*

4. The bill will make health care affordable for middle class Americans.

The bill will impose a financial hardship on middle class Americans who will be forced to buy a product that they can’t afford to use.

A family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income — out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible.

5. This plan is similar to the Massachusetts plan, which makes health care affordable.

Many Massachusetts residents forgo health care because they can’t afford it.

A 2009 study by the state of Massachusetts found that:

* 21% of residents forgo medical treatment because they can’t afford it, including 12% of children
* 18% have health insurance but can’t afford to use it

6. This bill provide health care to 31 million people who are currently uninsured.

This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured must purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. Some will be assisted with government subsidies.

7. You can keep the insurance you have if you like it.

The excise tax will result in employers switching to plans with higher co-pays and fewer covered services.

Older, less healthy employees with employer-based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.

8. The “excise tax” will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits, and they will pass the savings on to employees in the form of higher wages.

There is insufficient evidence that employers pass savings from reduced benefits on to employees.

9. This bill employs nearly every cost control idea available to bring down costs.

This bill does not bring down costs and leaves out nearly every key cost control measure, including:

* Public Option ($25-$110 billion)
* Medicare buy-in
* Drug reimportation ($19 billion)
* Medicare drug price negotiation ($300 billion)
* Shorter pathway to generic biologics ($71 billion)

10. The bill will require big companies like WalMart to provide insurance for their employees

The bill was written so that most WalMart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage.

11. The bill “bends the cost curve” on health care.

The bill ignored proven ways to cut health care costs and still leaves 24 million people uninsured, all while slightly raising total annual costs by $234 million in 2019.

“Bends the cost curve” is a misleading and trivial claim, as the US would still spend far more for care than other advanced countries.

In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP.

Annual cost of health care in 2019, status quo: $4,670.6 billion (20.8% of GDP)
Annual cost of health care in 2019, Senate bill: $4,693.5 billion (20.9% of GDP)

12. The bill will provide immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition.

Access to the “high risk pool” is limited and the pool is underfunded. It will cover few people, and will run out of money in 2011 or 2012

Only those who have been uninsured for more than six months will qualify for the high risk pool. Only 0.7% of those without insurance now will get coverage, and the CMS report estimates it will run out of funding by 2011 or 2012.

13. The bill prohibits dropping people in individual plans from coverage when they get sick.

The bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they’re sick.

There are already many states that have laws on the books prohibiting people from being dropped when they’re sick, but without an enforcement mechanism, there is little to hold the insurance companies in check.

14. The bill ensures consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to challenge new insurance plan decisions.

The “internal appeals process” is in the hands of the insurance companies themselves, and the “external” one is up to each state.
Ensuring that consumers have access to “internal appeals” simply means the insurance companies have to review their own decisions. And it is the responsibility of each state to provide an “external appeals process,” as there is neither funding nor a regulatory mechanism for enforcement at the federal level.

15. This bill will stop insurance companies from hiking rates 30%-40% per year.

This bill does not limit insurance company rate hikes. Private insurers continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws, and are free to raise rates without fear of competition in many areas of the country.
16. When the bill passes, people will begin receiving benefits under this bill immediately

Most provisions in this bill, such as an end to the ban on pre-existing conditions for adults, do not take effect until 2014.

Six months from the date of passage, children could not be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, though insurance companies could charge more to cover them. Children would also be allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. There will be an elimination of lifetime coverage limits, a high risk pool for those who have been uninsured for more than 6 months, and community health centers will start receiving money.

17. The bill creates a pathway for single payer.

Bernie Sanders’ provision in the Senate bill does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, so no, it doesn’t create a pathway for single payer.

Obama told Dennis Kucinich that the Ohio Representative’s amendment is similar to Bernie Sanders’ provision in the Senate bill, and creates a pathway to single payer. Since the waiver does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, it is nearly impossible to see how it gets around the ERISA laws that stand in the way of any practical state single payer system.

18 The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.

Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.

* In 2009, 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy
* Of those, 62% were medically related
* Three-quarters of those had health insurance
* The Obama bill leaves 24 million without insurance
* The maximum yearly out-of-pocket limit for a family will be $11,900 (PDF) on top of premiums
* A family with serious medical problems that last for a few years could easily be financially crushed by medical costs

Women should use guns to kill people who threaten them: reprint

Posted in Crime & Punishment, Politics by dave on March 23, 2010

(Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of an article I wrote in 2007.)

Since I have been warned by a member of the Women’s Collective, who shall remain anonymous, to stop ‘milking’ the issue of women’s rights, I have decided to pen a piece about a ‘woman’s’ issue. I was impressed by the recent “No Means No” campaign on our campus, with its sharing circle, films, march and social, but I feel that while the intention of the campaign was admirable, it overlooked an important piece of advice for women: Buy a gun, and learn how to use it.

Rape is one of the most monstrous crimes that exists. It is an offense that deserves the death penalty. (Ed note: Funny, I no longer believe in the death penalty. Oh how we change.) I am sorry to say that no amount of marching, sharing circles, films or awareness is going to bother the typical violent rapist. Coming face to face with the end of a barrel or being shot, on the other hand, will bother him greatly.

While both men and women can be the victims of rape, the consequences for women tend to be  much more serious. Fighting back tends to not work nearly as well for women, as typically their assailants are male and, on average, men are stronger than women. Guns are a type of equalizer for a woman, a powerful tool for self-defense. More powerful than the conventional weapons liberals point us to (mace and kicks to the groin). A well aimed shot from her hip to his head will have a greater deterrent effect than a weak kick to his thigh.

What about the police? Isn’t it their job to protect people? Of course it is, but police aren’t always around and they’re often busy, taking time to respond. Police are a necessary and useful service in our society, but to entrust one’s personal safety’ and the safety of one’s family solely to the police is irresponsible at best, immoral at worst. Indeed since many crimes are never solved, the justice system may be less of a deterrent to the criminal than the knowledge that their potential victim may be carrying a firearm. The fact that guns deter crime is well known to liberal politicians and celebrities, who while arguing vociferously for handgun bans, often have armed bodyguards or escorts.

This is not to say that guns are not dangerous and, similar to automobiles, if used recklessly they can lead to accidents. However, the leftist approach to firearms is a single-minded one and can blind them from seeing that guns, just like automobiles, can make our lives better and much more secure.

Gun ownership is the not the only means to prevent or deter rape. A well-founded understanding of the inherent dangers of drug and alcohol use, as well as a recognition of areas which are traditionally dangerous for anybody, not just women, is a good way to avoid criminal incidents. With some ‘street smarts’ you can avoid the majority of incidents, and with training, practice and experience with a firearm, you can defend yourself in the case of unavoidable incidents.

10%ers are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to politics at the public expense

Posted in Politics, The Public Sector by dave on March 23, 2010

Jane Taber blogged today about the issue of blatantly political 10%ers going out to constituents, paid for by tax dollars. Its ridiculous to have political parties publishing and mailing political material at taxpayer expense, but that’s only one small way that political system uses tax dollars for partisan, political or campaign means.

Established political parties in Canada receive a taxpayer-funded welfare cheque of millions a year. The Bloc, the secessionist party in Canada, receives 86% of their total party funding from Canadian taxpayers. Under this scheme parties receive $1.95 per vote they received in the previous federal election. From the 2008 election: “the Conservatives earned $10 million in subsidies, compared to $7.7 million for the Liberals, $4.9 million for the NDP, $2.6 million for the Bloc Québécois and $1.8 million for the Greens.”

As well, the breakdown of how that translates into operating budgets is as follows:

But because the Conservatives have such a strong fundraising base, their subsidy represents only 37 per cent of the party’s total revenues.

By comparison, the subsidy amounts to 63 per cent of the Liberals’ funding, 86 per cent of the Bloc’s, 57 per cent of the NDP’s and 65 per cent of the Greens’.

Look at the branding done by the federal government regarding their Keynesian stimulus package, Canada’s Economic Action Plan. Radio and television ads, smooth corporate branding, all assuring us that indeed the government, and Stephen Harper, is here to save us from the economic apocalypse by spending money. Oh, and vote for him next election. This kind of abuse of public funds isn’t blatantly partisan, but its just as political as sending out 10%ers which feature ridiculous caricatures of the Liberal party. You don’t need caricatures to find the Liberal party ridiculous.

And indeed, Canada’s Economic Action Plan is a political vote-buyer in the first place. Its long been a strategy in electoral politics to smear money around to those areas you want support from. Individual ridings that are close, those ridings which have supported your party. In the United States they often piggyback legislation and use earmarks to achieve this. In Canadian politics, the party system and the legislative system is much more centralized, and individual parliamentarians don’t wield the kind of legislative influence as individual congressmen, so this kind of spending has to be plot out centrally by government figures. Likely whatever Doug Finley, Stephen Harper, Guy Giorno thinks will win the next election.

The reason we should be concerned about public funds going to the operation of political parties in Canada is three-fold. First, I think that it significantly degrades the quality of the political discussion in Canada. It makes parties lazy, and it allows them to rest on their laurels. Money is another vector to gauge political support, if your party is making the kinds of noises you like, you reward them with donations. If your party is ignoring the base, or passing policy which is alien to them, then donations dry up and the party does worse in the polls. Having parties work for donations is fundamentally important for the political system because it keeps that party responsible to those people who support it with their time and money. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we’re all starting to drift towards cadre parties, who just throw out whatever set of policies they think will win the next election?

This german woman has it right. It would be more useful to burn our money for heat than to give it to political parties.

Secondly, it’s waste. Its waste because its spending money to solve a problem that isn’t a problem in the first place. Theres no serious problems that arise out of political parties having to work to build their own donation base. It’s waste because its money that could be spent somewhere else solving (or attempting and failing) another problem. Its waste to approve of projects in certain areas because you think it will win you political votes, because you are not judging the projects based on their merit or value, but rather their ability to score you points at the polls.

And thirdly, its not the proper role of government. Taxation isn’t a neutral force in society, it has real effects on real people. It takes money out of their pocket, that they can’t spend on their families or mortgages or food or sports cars. When you take people’s money away from them and spend it on frivolous activities, such as politicians throwing cocktail parties and sending out mailers, its wrong because you are decreasing the net welfare of society and wasting that money. You are making people worse off. Poorer than they would have been otherwise. Even if its just a fraction of a cent, those fractions add up. Add up to on average 38% of the GDP at this moment. Taxation is also force, and I’m not sure we should be taking people’s money away from them with the threat of property confiscation or imprisonment so some politicians can try to buy votes and play their little game of political chess, at other people’s expense.

And thats not even counting all the special funds for political lobby groups!

Why the Obama health bill cannot work

Posted in America, The Economy by dave on March 22, 2010
The way insurance works is simple. Its a risk pool. Individuals pay premiums into a central pool, and claims are paid out from the central pool. Actuaries gauge the statistical risk of potential clients to either accept them, reject them, or accept them with various exclusions or a rated policy.
A rated policy is one where premiums are higher than they would be due to extra risk from a pre-existing condition or habit. An exclusion is where the policy won’t cover certain pre-existing conditions, for instance if you had problems with your back they may accept you but exclude claims based on your back.
The Democrats have suggested rhetorically that companies will no longer be able to reject people because they have pre-existing conditions. This means the average amount of risk per client will rise, as people with serious medical problems will be able to get insured and immediately add a considerable expense load on the risk pool.Insurance firms generally only make 3-4% profit margins at the end of the day.
The idea that you can force companies to have a considerably higher expense load on the risk pool, without significantly raising premiums is a fantasy. If you block them from raising premiums, the companies become insolvent.

Don’t ban the hijab, niqab, or the burka…

…but don’t bend over backwards to accomodate them either.

The decision to allow an Egyptian-born woman dressed in a face-covering niqab to attend a government-funded French class was “stupid,” says a stalwart of Quebec’s sticky debate over reasonable accommodation.

André Drouin, a former city councillor from the town of Hérouxville and author of a controversial 2007 code of conduct for newcomers, made the comments Saturday after giving a speech in Ottawa.

They come as Quebec’s Human Rights Commission considers a complaint lodged by the Montreal woman after she was ordered to uncover her face if she wanted to continue attending the class.

This is a bit absurd. I believe the standard for when government should act, or not act, is very simple; government should act to prevent others from violating the rights of others, or to resolve the disputes that follow thereafter. In the story above, the woman’s wearing of the niqab really can’t have been detrimental to whether or not she could learn french. She could still speak, hear, read and write.

Whether or not a woman chooses to wear a hijab, niqab or a burka is a matter of personal choice. Shes not violating anybody elses rights by choosing to wear that kind of clothing, so why should we actively violate hers by forcing her to wear something we believe is acceptable?

However, it is a choice. And sometimes, choices should have natural consequences. You shouldn’t be able to get a drivers license without a photograph due to a niqab or a burka. When you make the choice to wear a concealing outfit, you forfeit the ability to become licensed with photo ID.

I don’t think the job for government is to intervene to enforce some rigid cultural standard, be that Christian, Muslim, or secular. The job for government is to protect peoples rights so they can be free to pursue their own values as long as they keep their hands to themselves. Even if those values lead them to wear sheets.

Duck the debate and lose, Win the debate and win

Posted in Blogs & Bloggers, Ontario, Politics by dave on March 21, 2010

The president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa has barred a volunteer organizer from putting up posters advertising the upcoming appearance of American right-wing columnist and political commentator Ann Coulter.

She is to talk about political correctness, media bias and freedom of speech Tuesday night at Marion Hall as part of a Canadian lecture tour. Canadian conservative political activist Ezra Levant will also speak at the event and introduce Coulter.

“The federation does not support Ann Coulter speaking on our campus,” said student president Seamus Wolfe. “We’re trying to work with the administration to see if we can ask her to do her speaking event somewhere else.”

This is becoming more and more common at University campuses in Canada. Student unions which are obviously leftwing in composition trying to duck debates about controversial topics (Abortion, global warming) and with controversial people (Ann Coulter.) So in order to duck these debates, they remove funding, support and “student space” for groups interested in those topics, and speakers they disapprove of.

I think this is well within their rights. I don’t think it is horrible attack on free speech that some people always like to make these issues out to be. This is an issue to be parsed by property rights, because in a free society, thats how we determine who has authority over what. The student union owns a student union building (often called “student space”), it has money that it can give out to people if it chooses, and can choose not to.

If the student union says that you can’t put up posters in their building, and that they’re not going to give your group or speaker any money, thats not a violation of free speech. Thats not a violation of free speech anymore than if I asked you not to host a meeting of the transsexual NDP caucus in my livingroom. Thats just individuals exercising the right to control their own property.

However, from a strategic standpoint, this kind of strategy is stupid. It takes an otherwise minor event and turns it into a huge struggle. It focuses media and internet attention on the issue. And it makes it look like the left is scared to have a debate. Its a strategy that makes the left look weak.

“There is an interesting line between what is free speech and what is hate speech,” he said. “As difficult as it is to navigate that boundary, Ann Coulter has a history of hate speech and we wouldn’t invite somebody who spreads hate to come to our campus.”

If it is true that Ann Coulter is hateful and awful and stupid, then it should be very easy to have the debate and win it, rather than trying to duck the debate, and in the eyes of public opinion, lose it.

This isn’t the first university that this has happened with on this issue:

via fivefeetoffury

via strictlyright