Monday, August 27, 2007

Once a pirate

One hundred and fifty years ago, even America's closest trade partners were despairing about our cheating ways. Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842, was, like many Britons, stunned by the economic ambition of our nation's inhabitants, and appalled by what they would do for the sake of profit. When he first stepped off the boat in Boston, he found the city's bookstores rife with pirated copies of his novels, along with those of his countrymen. Dickens would later deliver lectures decrying the practice, and wrote home in outrage: "my blood so boiled as I thought of the monstrous injustice."


In the literary realm, for most of the 19th century the United States remained an outlaw in the world of international copyright. The nation's publishers merrily pirated books without permission, and without paying the authors or original publishers a dime. When Dickens published a scathing account of his visit, "American Notes for General Circulation," it was, appropriately enough, immediately pirated in the United States.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

McGuinty opens door to constitutional change

There is no other way to interpret this:

"If you want the kind of Ontario where we invite children of different faiths to leave the publicly funded system and become sequestered and segregated in their own private schools, then they should vote for Mr. Tory."

"If they think it's important that we continue to bring our kids together so that they grow together and learn from one another, then you should vote for me."

But it might be a good idea to take it up with his wife first:

Some proponents of change, however, disagree with the Premier's position. Mr. McGuinty, his wife, Terri, and the couple's four children all attended Catholic schools. Ms. McGuinty continues to teach part time in the Catholic system. York University professor Eric Lawee said he sees "tremendous hypocrisy" in Mr. McGuinty's opposition to extending funding to religious schools.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SPP Conspiracies

I'm not a conspiracy theorist and neither is Stephen Colbert. Which makes me think the protesters at the Montebello summit could be on to something.

Still, I don't quite get what they are going on about. Wudrick is puzzled too and has a great post on the incoherence of their rage. Not to belittle their cause, for many it was a good opportunity to get some fresh air, show off one's piercings and, to keep things lively, throw things at the police to see if they would strike back (which they did). In the end, however, it leaves me doubting whether the protesters have thought these issues through.

Despite what some claim, there is really nothing that secret about the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have had informative websites on the initiative for some time. Mexico probably does too (although I'm not inclined to search for it). There is more than enough to debate and discuss without making stuff up.

For the most part, it is hard to argue against a cooperative approach to trade and security issues. In the end, if Canadians don't like what the Harper government agrees to, they will eventually have recourse at the polls. There is nothing anti-democratic about that.

Of course, Harper will have to be on guard against U.S. efforts to load the SPP with extraneous commitments. Michael Geist points out how the U.S. managed to slip in its intellectual property priorities in the final agreement. I'm not too keen on Harper giving in on that. Still, the SPP provides an indispensable forum to address common issues and, ultimately, to protect our economic interests. It would be foolish not to participate.

Update: New source of video provided as previous source expired.

Venezuelan poor getting relatively poorer

Hugo Chavez pictures himself as the champion of the poor. Yet, the Venezuelan poor are getting relatively poorer.

Hugo's friends must be doing very well indeed. How come I'm not surprised?

h/t: Marginal Revolution

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hurtling toward have-not status

Dalton McGuinty is now arguing for more social program spending by the federal government.

Canadian premiers foreshadowed a coming clash with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday over his pledge to diminish Ottawa's role in creating national social programs, warning that poorer Canadians could suffer.

"I'm a bit concerned about it. Are we talking about preventing the federal government from at some point in the future setting up social programs like daycare or pharmacare? Because I don't support that," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said as the premiers wrapped up their annual meeting.

Not long ago, McGuinty was complaining about Ontario having to pay the bill for other provinces.

Upcoming election or not, this apparent change of heart would seem to reflect the expectation that if the Ontario economy continues to slip relative to the rest of the country, it won't be long before the other provinces are on the hook to pay Ontario's bills.

Isn't equalization wonderful?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ode to the (multicultural) mall

We do have something in common after all. We like to go to the mall.

We might not want to admit it but the best place to see Toronto is at the mall. Where else does a nearly complete cross-section of the city exist in one spot? On those rainy, overcast Sundays, when melancholy blankets the city, I like to ride the Spadina line out to Yorkdale Mall and walk in circles with some of the up to 70,000 people who head there on weekends. Apart from being anonymous in the only crowd available, I see all sorts of Torontonians I don't run into on Queen West, the Annex or even Harbourfront – all those places we might prefer to see them. Women in hijabs parade past shellacked Holt Renfew-bound ladies, who brush by the guys who wear the baggy shirts that go to their knees, who follow the teenage girls with impossibly visible thongs, who are dragged away by weary moms into the Gap to “buy something nice.”


With its recreated streetscapes and multicultural and class mix, Yorkdale's hyperreality may be where the reality of Toronto's celebrated diversity actually exists in one place.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Blogging Weenies

Kathy has a point:

Blogging Tories are pathetic, cowardly weenie-heads

Thank God not every corner of the Canadian conservative blogosphere is inhabited by sucky baby lawyers and other grasping, careerist wimps.

But there are enough of them out there to be an embarrassment to any principled person[.]

I know Stephen Taylor is just covering his ass. No one wants to pay legal fees. But the Free Dominion case is about the most fundamental principle of our democracy: the freedom of speech. If as bloggers we cannot stand behind this principle, then what are we blogging for?

It was not long ago that individual Blogging Tories stood up for the right to publish the Danish Muhammad cartoons to protest Muslim efforts to censor the press. Even Stephen Taylor had some words on the subject:

If a modern Martin Luther had published the 95 Theses in a blog, would German embassies be burned across the "Catholic World"? More troubling is to ponder if the press would be successful in sheltering the population from these transformative messages. In the case of the Muhammad cartoons, the message is hardly transformative, yet the defiance of organizational dogma certainly is.

Is this what power does to us?

Bush has nothing to do with it

Despite wishful thinking on the part of the Toronto Star, general contempt for George Bush has likely had little effect on increasing immigration flows from the United States to Canada.

An analysis of immigration statistics done by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies showed the number of Americans who moved to Canada in 2006 hit a 30-year high, almost double the number who moved north in 2000 when Bush was elected for a first term as U.S. president.

The analysis also showed the southward brain drain is being narrowed somewhat, and most of the American migrants are highly educated people who may be moving to Canada for quality of life and social reasons.

The numbers were not huge – 10,942 Americans moved to Canada last year, far smaller than the influx predicted when bogus maps of the United States of Canada began hitting the Internet in the waning days of the 2004 campaign.

Sure, the number of U.S. immigrants almost doubled. But we are talking about an increase of only 5,000 people. That would hardly be a story even if every single one of those immigrants came here explicitly because of George Bush.

If you want to go down the path of spurious correlations, one could just as easily say more Americans are moving here because Canadians have finally come to their senses and elected a Conservative government. Undoubtedly, that will motivate some Americans to overcome their reservations about moving to high-tax, socialist Canada.

That interpretation, of course, is anathema to The Star. It is far easier to interview one gay, antiwar, labour organizer from Seattle to make the case of Canada as a progressive nirvana providing refuge against the Republican fascists:

For 34-year-old labour organizer Tom Kertes, the move last April from Seattle, Wash., to Toronto was based on human rights.

"The words 'human rights' are foreign words in the U.S.,'' Kertes said.

"They only apply to other countries.''

He moved to Toronto with his partner Ron Braun and the two plan to marry, something they could not do in Washington state.

He also cited the war in Iraq and the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans – and the failure of the Bush administration to clearly disavow such practice – as contributing factors to what is a major decision.

Much has happened since the year 2000. The election of George W Bush coincided with the bursting of the technology bubble. Several people I know (Canadians all) who moved down to the States have since retreated back to the land of free health care after being let go by Nortel and other technology firms. They made a lot money while it lasted. And the fact that U.S. income taxes are low and the Canadian dollar was trading at 67 U.S. cents made it seem like even more.

Today, the tables are turned. Resource industries such as oil and metals are going gangbusters, while the Canadian dollar is trading a little shy of par. The unemployment rate is the lowest in more than thirty years.

With the Canadian dollar having risen more than 30% over the 2000 to 2006 period, Canadian salaries look much more attractive to any American considering the possibility of working here, even taking into account higher personal income tax rates in Canada. That is tantamount to a 30% raise.

It is a real stretch to try to read anything political into the latest immigration statistics. Economic factors are driving migration flows, no matter what Toronto Star editors might believe.