Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The morning's papers

Brian Platt observes: "Apparently the comment editors at the Vancouver Sun fell asleep at the desk today, or are mentally retarded." Actually, those editors are pretty smart, which makes it that much more surprising that they would have published the gibberish that Platt's letter so thoroughly demolishes.

Also in The Sun, Craig McInnes sensibly points out:

Harper's attack on the Liberal's proposal to revamp the tax system with a "Green Shift" is simplistic and fundamentally dishonest, but also brutally effective as long as Canadians are as lazy as he appears to believe we are. The inherent weakness in the Liberal plan is that they need a 48-page brochure to explain how it works and the Conservatives need just just four words -- "a tax on everything" -- to dismiss it.

So instead of a useful debate on competing views over changes to our tax system; whether, for example, it's better to cut the GST, as the Tories have done, or reduce income taxes, as the Liberals propose, we get the ridiculous spectacle we were treated to earlier this week.

Roughly paraphrased, it sounded something like: "You're a liar." "No, you're a liar." "Am not." "Are so."

Vaughan Palmer also illustrates the irreplaceable benefit of proper journalism:

Turns out this year is the worst for timber harvesting on Crown land since 1981-82, when levels were driven down to 46 million cubic metres.

That year marked the bottom of the worst recession since the Great Depression. B.C. was hit harder than any other part of the country and not just in the forest sector. The provincial gross domestic product contracted by a full seven per cent.

In the Globe, Marcus Gee asks, How long will we ignore North Korea's misery?

Mr. Lim, a Korean-Canadian Christian who is a veteran of aid work in dirt-poor Afghanistan, says he has never experienced anything quite like the misery of North Korea, which he has visited seven times over two years. Fellow aid workers have seen bodies floating in the rivers - victims, it's thought, of a renewed food shortage. Whole mountainsides are said to have been turned into mass graves. The average North Korean seven-year-old is estimated to be nine kilograms lighter and 20 centimetres shorter than her southern sister.

Also in the Globe, Jeffrey Simpson answers: In Canada these days, all politics is parochial.

Mr. Harper burned through Peter MacKay and the hapless Maxime Bernier as foreign affairs ministers, then unfortunately lost to retirement David Emerson, who had the intellectual ability to do the job. Ask this question now: Which Conservative minister or MP by training, interest and experience could be foreign affairs minister? Answer: None.

The New Democrats are scary on foreign policy. They have almost no one with a rounded view of the world and international experience, and who is untainted by the visceral anti-Americanism and anti-Israel attitudes so deeply rooted in the party and much of the Canadian left.

The Liberals actually do have some people with a lot of international experience, although not their leader. Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff are internationalists, and MP Bryon Wilfert knows Asia.

But the Liberals don't talk much about foreign affairs, either, perhaps because they're searching for coherence or, more likely, because they understand that, in Canadian election campaigns, all politics is parochial.


Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Maybe Canada is not a real country, just a province of mind. Thanks for doing the Gee piece.


5:07 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Rather than Harper's mendacity, isn't the problem with the "green shift" the fact that individuals can use the tax cuts it offers to continue to consume carbon at the same rate as they were before - that is, if my home heating costs go up by x% but I get a tax cut in return I can still afford my old level of consumption.

Or am I missing something?

On the other hand, with cap and trade the most efficient companies might figure out a way to lower their CO2 emissions without raising their prices significantly.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...


You're asking me? I only recently discovered it was "buy low, sell high."

10:25 AM  
Blogger Craig said...


Are you sure? I always thought it was the other way 'round.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

The merits of an internationalist foreign policy aside, North Korea holds Seoul hostage by force of arms.

Foment coup? how? The people are too hungry and too scared and too broken to revolt, and the society is too closed for a revolution to be likely.
Invade? Kiss Seoul goodbye in retaliatory artillery and rocket attacks.
Aid funding? Has the DPRK started accepting that again?

These outcomes aren't guaranteed. Maybe an invasion would trigger a revolution, maybe the soldiers would stand down rather than level Seoul. Maybe their military force is nonexistent. But even if you would bet in favor of those possibilities, you're taking a hell of a chance with the people of South Korea.

That's just how it is. If there is any plausible and sensible solution to the problem, please step forward.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Oh, and Craig, the reason a "green shift" works is because people are not dumb.

Basically, it prices the externalities of carbon consumption into the carbon-generating activities, and the refund is only to make the result revenue-neutral, so that the thing isn't just a pure tax grab.

This rewards those who reduce their carbon consumption by leaving them with more money in their pockets. That, economists predict with considerable confidence, will lead us to reduce net carbon consumption.

6:26 PM  

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