Smart Picks -- Big Stuff, Ann's Shock, Liberal Wobble, Google Says Goodbye, Learning, The 'P' In Piigs

Our position has been that the cost of being wrong about climate change is so much greater than being right that action is imperative. The Economist has two outstanding pieces that set out this case that are required reading for anyone interested in the fate of the planet. Ok, a little over the top, how about anyone who would like to sound very convincing at dinner parties. The US and Russia are on the verge of an agreement to make big cuts in their nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Ann Coulter must love Canada, silly University of Ottawa bigots and weak kneed university administrators have elevated her fame. Wouldn't  'she came, she said stupid things, and she left' been a better strategy? Well yeah. Jim Travers tells Liberals what is what, and what is not pretty. Thoughts about Google exiting China. India trying to learn from Switzerland about vocational schools. And now its Portugal's turn to upset the Germans, the 'P' in Piigs.

With the health care reform victory in their hands, the Democrats may refocus on climate change.

CLIMATE-change legislation, dormant for six months, is showing signs of life again in Washington, DC. This week senators and industrial groups have been discussing a compromise bill to introduce mandatory controls on carbon (see article). http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=15720419

The Economist on why they should. There is enough science that makes action justified.

FOR anyone who thinks that climate science must be unimpeachable to be useful, the past few months have been a depressing time. http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15719298

Slaying the environment threat to humankind is one thing, slaying the threat to the planet held by the few countries with nuclear weapons is another. The United States and Russia on early steps to reduce that threat.

The United States and Russia have broken a logjam in arms control negotiations and expect to sign a treaty next month to slash their nuclear arsenals to the lowest levels in half a century, officials in both nations said Wednesday. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/world/europe/25start.html?ref=world

It would be tempting to belittle the mess around Ann Coulter's visit to Canada following threats to our planet from warming and nuclear bombs, but it would be wrong. The checkered visit has raised important questions about freedom of speech in Canada, the dark shadow of political correctness, and the role of universities as platforms for dissent. 

On free speech.

It's springtime in Ottawa and, as usual, young men and women's fancy turns to – free speech and censorship? Such, at least, was the case at the University of Ottawa this week after Ann Coulter's non-visit visit. While the facts are still fuzzy (even to those of us who attended), we shouldn't let that stop us from using it as an opportunity to discuss the nature and complexity of democratic free speech.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/the-real-meaning-of-ann-coulters-non-visit-visit/article1511097/

How the University of Ottawa failed. Remarkable how the very people that claim diversity as a right deny it to people who have a different opinion.

When protesters at the University of Ottawa derailed a planned speech by the conservative U.S. pundit Ann Coulter this week, the forces of intimidation won out over public inquiry. It was a defeat of the university's basic mission to educate and enlighten. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/a-university-fails-in-its-mission/article1511279/

How suppression -- in a globally connected world -- elevates the view.

 
Oh, and in Quebec, the handful of women that choose to wear a niqab, a perfectly acceptable method of religious expression, are such a threat that special laws are made to exclude them from accessing public services. Ah the power of the majority. Bend Canada, ultimately it is the right thing to do.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his cabinet have introduced sweeping legislation that effectively bars Muslim women from receiving or delivering public services while wearing a niqab.  http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/785036--quebec-niqab-bill-would-make-muslim-women-unveil?bn=1
There is a moral centredness to Jim Travers that makes him one of the best national political commentators in Canada (like David Brooks). This note on the problems with the Liberal Party are telling.
Drape the long-suffering political party in mourning. Another nail is being driven into the coffin of grassroots democracy by a weekend Liberal conference dominated by professionals, not the eager amateurs whose energy and ideas once propelled parties forward. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/785033--travers-liberal-fest-will-be-lost-weekend
Will this weekend's policy conference make any difference?
Almost 11 months ago, Michael Ignatieff told cheering Liberals at the party's national convention that Canadians were fed up with Stephen Harper and his governing Conservatives. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/784874--no-guts-no-glory-for-ignatieff-and-the-liberals
Two articles that examine Google's decision to leave China. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Google’s decision to stop censoring its search service in China on Monday was a principled and brave move, a belated acknowledgment that Internet companies cannot enable a government’s censorship without becoming a de facto accomplice to repression. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/opinion/24wed2.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
If Google produced iron ore as well as providing an internet search engine, it really would have been conflicted. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d4a981f4-376b-11df-9176-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=rss
One of the key premises of Canada's Excellent Future is that the world is a laboratory of economic and social policy that smart countries can learn from http://www.excellentfuture.ca/second-step-comparing-excellence. Here a discussion of importing Switzerland's successful vocational education system to India. This is why we are such fans of the book How Australia Compares http://assets.cambridge.org/97805217/12453/frontmatter/9780521712453_frontmatter.pdf.
Switzerland has maintained one of the lowest unemployment rates, even during the recent economic crisis. It also has one of the highest proportions of skilled workers.  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/interviews/Vocational-courses-backbone-of-our-education-system/articleshow/5716750.cms
Finally, now its Portugal's turn to sabotage the Euro. The Germans must be getting very cross.
Shares on Wall Street pulled back from their recent winning streak on Wednesday amid concerns about debt problems in Portugal and disappointing home sales in the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/business/25markets.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a6
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Twin Virtues: Inequality of Outcomes & Equality of Opportunity©

Twin Virtues

Ultimately, the most successful societies find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

The new politics must marry the twin virtues of unequal outcomes and equality of opportunity.

When too few get too much everybody loses.

Feminism is about women living their lives on their own terms, marshalling the resources of the society to make that possible, and men embracing this as vital to a successful society and their own liberation.

Can it be that striving for equality of opportunity however imperfect the process not only benefits the individual but also creates benefits for the society that are unintended but wonderful?

Economics must be a 'moral enterprise' as much as politics claims to be. Economic outcomes need to be framed in terms of right and wrong not just efficiency if only because these often align in surprising ways that are good for society and the economy.

My vision of Canada is that any Canadian child from a family of limited circumstance can expect to have a chance at lifetime of unlimited opportunities.

Free trade is a wonderful thing. Time and time again economists have proven that free trade creates enormous wealth for each country 'on the whole'. Historians have shown that free trade is usually associated with rising political, social and cultural liberty. The perennial problem is that free trade always creates tremendous disruption for thousands even millions of individuals often concentrated in one geography, and where the state is idle, not investing in best in class instruments of social justice, free trade can be a permanent ticket out of the middle class, down, not up.

Tax policy should be founded on the principle of generating steady tax revenues sufficient to maximise environmentally sustainable economic growth in order to fund fair government.

Public policy should be designed to decrease inequality before the law and increase equality of opportunity.

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

Content is always more difficult to argue than conspiracy.

Let the state regulate and the market operate (most things).

Welfare strategies are best designed as a hand up, not as a hand out.

Political debate should not be fact free fighting.

Explanation lasts longer than eloquence.

Always favour empowerment over dependency.

The most enduring public figures are embraced for the causes they fought for and not the concept of themselves they hoped others would remember them by.

Find your voice and don't be the echo of somebody else.

It is possible to operate on two different levels: the practical, cautious and conservative; and the realm of ideas, open, free, and radical.