Saturday, October 04, 2008

You Want to Get Tough on Crime?

Here's crime you should get tough on:

Melamine laced products remaining on store shelves.

I remember watching a program, eons ago, where Health Canada/CFIA officials were entering grocery stores to make sure that ready-to-eat food was being kept hot enough. Where it wasn't, store personnel were made to throw it out. The officials came back a day later and found the temperature had been turned back down.

If your ethics are that bad - if you're risking your customers' lives by leaving melamine products on the shelves or serving stale food, you ought to be shut down. I should not have to worry, in a modern, developed country, that recalled food is still sitting on shelves waiting to poison me.

You want to get tough on crime, Mr. Harper? Get tough on that. Pass a law that seriously punishes unethical businessmen. Shut down those stores for a week. Fine them enough that the CFIA or Health Canada or whoever handles these things can go through every product in the store with a fine tooth comb and clean them out. Make it embarrassing. Make it a public humiliation as an effective deterrent to the next guy who tries.

That's a tough-on-crime bill I could get behind.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Harper's Creepy Smile

Just finished watching the debates.

The one thing you have to acknowledge is that Harper is calmer and better-spoken than the rest. Dion, while earnest, has trouble in English and always looks like he's about to cry. Layton, though English is his first language, seems to speak in an odd halting fashion that makes you think he might not really believe the things he's saying.

But what I find way creepier is the weird half-smiles and smirks that he seems to inject at random in to his responses. There was one right in the middle of his speech about the sadness of war, another in the middle of talking about the tragedy of crime and his desire to put 14-year-olds in jail for life.

What is that about?

It's as if the man is completely unaware of the gravity of what he's saying. Someone must have told him that he comes off as unbearably stiff in conversation. So he set a vibrating stopwatch in his vest pocket that goes off once every 57 seconds to remind him to smile. It doesn't matter what he's doing, he must smile every 57 seconds.

What else can I say about the debate? Frankly, I agree that we probably can't get those manufacturing jobs back. Not without a radical shift in the world's economy. We would have to rewrite NAFTA and disassociate ourselves from the WTO and IMF in order to seriously protect those jobs. The real problem is that we aren't retraining people to work at even better jobs (high technology, green technology etc.), we're sending them over to work for poorer pay and poorer job security at call centres and as greeters at Walmart. If people in factories could move from those jobs to less dangerous jobs for better pay, we wouldn't care about manufacturing job loss, would we?

Dion has to work on his delivery. If he wants to call Harper a liar for his assertion that the Green Shift would result in a tax increase, he's got to do it with a heavy hand and a thoroughly practiced wave of dismissal. The earnest, worried look he used lacked the real force it could have had.

What I saw when I watched that debate were four people attacking the Prime Minister. Although, on a purely technical level, the other four had platforms published that were better structured than anything from the Conservatives, the overall impression was that all five of them knew Harper had this election in the bag and they desperately trying to take a piece out of him.

The worst part is that I would actually support many of the things that Harper said (with obvious exceptions like his hard-on-youth-crime bill). I just know that the things he said have nothing to do with what he's done or what he will do. He pretends that he doesn't support the war in Iraq. He pretends that he isn't a Bay Street economist. He pretends that he doesn't think the free market can fix everything. If he were what he pretended, he'd be a worthwhile leader.

But he's really something else entirely. He's a corporate candidate who will create all kinds of tax cut loopholes for the wealthy, ingratiate himself to the Americans, put our country in to deficit and keep us at war.

The bad part is that, even with his creepy smile and empty eyes, he's got more charisma than any of the other options available. There's simply no one there that is going to provoke any widespread inspiration in the populace of Canada. It seems like Canada is dying to see a real leader who supports our ideals of peace, generosity, cooperation and ingenuity and presents those ideals with passion.

I just don't see such a leader.

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Taliban Stephen

Can we start calling him Taliban Harper?

I was disappointed that I didn't see any mention of Listeriosis in last night's debate. Why aren't we beating up the government over the 19 people they killed with the deregulation of the meat inspections?

But this comes from the Globe and Mail's translation of Stephen Harper:
"Mr. Harper, on negotiations with the Taliban?" asked moderator St├ęphan Bureau.

"This is not entirely new," said Mr. Harper. "The government of Afghanistan has made local efforts from time to time with the Taliban. President Karzai is looking for a political solution and a democratic debate instead of a debate with arms. It's an essential part of his program and I support it."

So the Conservatives couldn't stop calling Layton "Taliban Jack" for saying that a peaceful solution should be found.

I presume, since they aren't hypocrites, they'll start calling our current Prime Minister "Surrendering Steve" or "Osama bin Harper".

Of course they will.

Update: Apparently there was mention of the Listeriosis outbreak. I must have run my find incorrectly. Thanks, Scott.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't Bail Them Out

There's no good reason to bail out the gamblers on Wall St.

From a free market perspective, they all deserve to go bankrupt. Every CEO and Executive who was in charge of one of those companies knew that they were trading and investing in bad mortgages. They knew they were gambling irresponsibly. They lobbied to have the regulations changed so that they could gamble irresponsibly.

They deserve neither sympathy nor money. But if you want to give them sympathy, go ahead. You can cry all over the outside of the tinted windows of their limousines and then wonder if they're even looking at you.

No, these people deserve none of the taxpayers' money.

The question is: what of the rest of us? If we let these firms collapse - as we should according to the laws of the free marker - what of the the rest of us?

Certainly the people who took out mortgages for houses they could never afford do not deserve to keep those houses. Sure, they were tricked and cajoled in to "leveraging" their nothing. Sure, the Wall Street bandits suckered them in for the sake of a commission. That means those Wall Street bandits should go to jail (and definitely don't deserve a bailout). But it doesn't mean those people deserve those houses.

So irrational Wall Street brokers deserve to go bankrupt. Some of the should go to jail.

The people with houses they can't afford will not get to keep them.

Fair is fair.

What about everyone else? Will the economy really fall apart if the U.S. taxpayer doesn't bail these people out? Somehow I doubt it. The U.S. has earned a long recession due to its attempt to stave off the recession that should have occurred in and around September 11, 2001. This can not be avoided. It's part of the natural cycle of the economy.

But will the whole world go in to a depression because the United States has a financial crisis involving irresponsible Wall Street gamblers losing money?

Somehow I doubt it. Somehow I think someone will create a financial instrument that will let it go on without the craziest, most irresponsible thieves on Wall Street. Somehow, I think we can live without billionaire investment brokers who don't actually produce anything.

But I don't think anyone really knows for sure, and the people who want this bailout to go through also have the power to punish the rest of society if it doesn't go through the way they want it.

That's what we have watch for.

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Olmert Epiphany

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on his way out, had a sudden realization.

Apparently, Israel is going to have to abandon its settlements on the land it seized, then return the land, if Israelis ever want peace.

No kidding.

The last Israeli Prime Minister who proposed this was shot by a Jewish fundamentalist. Maybe Olmert, on his way out, can avoid assassination.

It's an interesting change of view, though, for Olmert. The man was apparently a very pro-settlement type himself in his younger days. He was in to all of that "facts on the ground" stuff. Decades of politics have somehow reshaped his views. "All is vanity", and all that, perhaps.

Well, best of luck to him in educating his countrymen and bringing peace to the region. Best of luck that he doesn't get shot.

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