Monthly Archives: February 2011

A lunatic can still be a menace

Although I regret the loss of innocent life and fear the outcome, I derive grim satisfaction from the impending demise of Moammar Gadhafi. And the pointed lessons it teaches.

First, it was highly instructive to watch the rambling, disastrous speech by Gadhafi’s son Saif alIslam last Sunday. I mean watch literally; I speak no Arabic. And yet it was plain that here was a man -hailed last year by Landon Thomas Jr. in The New York Times as “the Western-friendly face of Libya and symbol of its hopes for reform and openness” and praised by the U.S. State Department as recently as Sunday -who had never heard an honest disagreement in his life.

Forced to attempt to speak frankly to his people in a crisis, he was catastrophically ill-equipped for the task, alternately threatening and patronizing and above all plainly bored at having to waste so much of his evening talking down to ungrateful morons.

At that moment we suddenly saw a great weakness of all tyrannies. Continue reading

Tax as you go

It’s surprising what really bugs me about public policy. For instance The New York Times trying to whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood just slides off my back. But I’m still fuming about something dopey a politician said about taxes last Monday.

Look: The New York Times embraced Stalin, declared Hitler harmless and welcomed Pol Pot and I can’t get excited when they do it again. I’d feel weird if they didn’t. But what can explain Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak’s vacuous pirouette last week after his office issued a statement apparently pledging him not to abolish Dalton Mc-Guinty’s hated health premium-taxflip-flop thingy? Continue reading

What crime statistics don’t tell you

A lot of crime takes place in the dark for obvious reasons. That’s no reason to conduct the public debate about it under similar conditions. Yet while informed discussion is the cornerstone of self-government, on this central question of the state’s duty to protect citizens from crime and public disorder, Canadians are not as well served as they should be.

The problem is not just that we don’t have some numbers we ought to have. It’s that we have a high-profile, apparently excellent source of data on crime that is unsuitable in important ways. Once a year Statistics Canada releases a comprehensive review of police-reported crime statistics (the “Juristat report”), generally suggesting that crime rates are low, and falling, and generally leading commentators to suggest that anyone who thinks crime is a serious problem in Canada is an ignorant fear monger and probably a hayseed to boot. But in a new study from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, where I am managing editor, former Crown prosecutor Scott Newark makes clear in detail that there are a number of serious flaws in the way the Juristat numbers are collected, presented, and interpreted. The result is to deprive Canadian policy-makers, opinion-makers, and citizens information on which to make difficult decisions about the complex social phenomenon known as crime. Continue reading