The Pursuit of Happiness

Thom Hartmann just couldn’t resist drawing some obvious conclusions the first World Happiness Report released earlier this week showing that the world’s happiest countries are all in northern Europe with Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands taking the top four spots. Canada came in a respectable fifth and the United States a distant eleventh place.

According to the report: “Happier countries tend to be richer countries. But more important for happiness than income are social factors like the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom.

Over time as living standards have risen, happiness has increased in some countries, but not in others (like for example, the United States). On average, the world has become a little happier in the last 30 years (by 0.14 times the standard deviation of happiness around the world).”

I wonder if someone will remind Stephen Harper of his now infamous quote from 14 years ago when he was vice president of the National Citizens Coalition speaking to a Montreal meeting of the right-wing U.S. Council for National Policy where he lamented the fact that “Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.”

Indeed we are – and maybe it seems, that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Great American Debate (With a Poll!)

Hard to believe that’s not necessarily an oxymoronic construction, I know, despite the terminology having been debased by countless so-called “debates” as part of the contrived circus/televised horse-race that is the primary political process in the USA.

This past weekend, ABC News staged an ideological face-off, ostensibly about the proper role of government in people’s lives, between conservative columnist George Will and Republican congressman Paul Ryan on the one hand and liberal economist Robert Reich and retiring Democrat congressman Barney Frank on the other. The results were… at times, surprisingly interesting.

If you have the patience to sit through the whole thing (despite the multiple videos, it’s not actually that long), take a moment to cast a vote in the following poll as to who you think/feel “won” the debate:


Rewriting Socialism

“We have the first time in the history of the profoundly stupid American debate between those who do not fear socialism and those who do, something of an agreement as to what socialism is and isn’t.”

Why Americans can’t accept that the plain fact that they have a mixed economy has always escaped me.

Lament for a Nation

Fascinating discussion from TVO’s Agenda program about the current state of Canadian nationalism within the framework of political philosopher George Grant’s ideas and particularly his seminal essay Lament for a Nation, written in the wake of the 1963 election that toppled the Diefenbaker government.

Just as an irrelevant aside, I had no idea that David Warren was once editor of The Idler… That was such a wonderful magazine! I must have been one of its (evidently too) few subscribers back in the day.

No Labels

I’m not quite sure what to make of this new “grassroots” political movement taking shape south of the border, but as a something of moderate centrist by nature, did find a certain amount of affinity with its non-partisan objectives.

What struck me as amusing, and perhaps an unintentional legitimization of its core premise, was the vicious reaction from both the most vocal left and right poles of spectrum immediately following its launch.

On a recent “Worst Persons” segment, Keith Olbermann described the group as “ludicrous” and then went on to embellish that by denouncing the organizers as “a bunch of fraudulent, conservative democrats pretending to be moderates and a bunch of fraudulent Republicans pretending to be independents.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the hyperpartisan battlefield, there was comedian Rush Limbaugh blasting the group as nothing more than a bunch of unemployed liberal hacks reacting to the insurgent mandate of the mid-term elections, as you can see here:

In a later broadcast, Rush went on to dismiss No Labels as “elitist snobs” and furthermore claimed for good measure that the group was “racist” in nature, by virtue of an obscure ruling from a court in South Carolina that determined not having party designations on the ballot would somehow disadvantage black voters…

And so it goes in the land where, as Jim Hightower famously said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow line and dead armadillos.”

The Passion of Ayn Rand

Who knew? Apparently, it was a 1999 TV movie. I only happened to run across it quite by accident while searching for a particular track from one of my favourite progrock bands, but it struck me as quite amusing. Anyway, a little late night music.

Feel free to discuss objectivism if you like… I know our libertarian friends are completely enthralled by the allure of selfishness, the romance of individualistic heroism, and so on. By the way, whatever happened to all of those pissed off conservatives that were “Going Galt” earlier this year? Haven’t heard much from them lately.

Hungry Kids & Other Observations

Sorry to carry on the Thanksgiving buzzkill here, but this was another story from CNN this morning that’s both depressing and kind of uplifting at the same time, concerning Sherrie Gahn, a school principal in Las Vegas who is making an effort in that capacity to feed and clothe homeless kids attending the Whitney Elementary School.

But hang on… there’s no poverty in America! Kathy Shaidle has said so, and even if there are a few thousand genuinely poor people (according to her course reckoning from the far side of Jupiter), it’s their own damn fault anyway:

The so-called poor have cars and cable tv and free medical. They live in America in the 21st century, where school is free and libraries are free and a bus ticket to a better town costs less than a bag of crack. If they’re “poor” it’s because they were too lazy and stupid to a) finish high school and/or b) keep their pants on. Jesus had something to say about folks who didn’t properly manage their money or other people’s, and who squandered free gifts and good will. He told the adulteress to sin no more, not to find herself another baby daddy.

And there’s more “conservative compassion” from that classic rant:

No one I know uses food banks. No one THEY know uses food banks. It is a common feature of human nature to think that invisible “other people” must be suffering even though my neighbours and I are pretty much cool. The people I’ve heard about who do spend all their government cheque money on beer then go to the food bank, or dress up as poor people to scam the Daily Bread.

Well goody for her. I must travel in different circles, because I know a number of folks that rely on food banks and they’re far from invisible “other people” — one of them happens to be a very dear friend who’s unable to work and now lives on a modest disability pension. I guess that leaves him out of the privileged group that’s “pretty much cool.”

And, at the risk of testing your patience (or raising your blood-pressure) there’s this gem from the same post:

That’s why I don’t care about the poor. They’re no more real than Bigfoot. Those we and these lefty Christians call “poor” are “poor” because they’ve made a series of stupid choices; spend all their (actually, my) money on lottery tickets, beer, tattoos and manicures; are suffering from undiagnosed but easily treated mental illnesses; had too many kids too young; smoked behind the gym while I spent recess in the library, etc etc etc.

I grew up with them. They were jerks and losers. (Believe me, innocent Lefty Christians: you haven’t met real “racists” and “sexists” and “homephobes” until you’ve spent time with the “poor.”)

Jesus said “the poor will always be with you” and all the crooked exegesis on earth can’t make that line read “you are ordered by Me to eliminate poverty forever using dubious economic theories and your own stubborn yet puny human will power.”

Good grief, what a sanctimonious cunt that woman is. Note how she claims that the poor don’t exist (any more than the mythological Bigfoot), but then immediately declares that she grew up with them, before proceeding to demonize such people (who don’t really exist) as nothing more than useless slackers and immoral reprobates.

Sorry for dredging up Shaidle’s reprehensible old screed, but I couldn’t help bring it to mind when I watched this story, as I do whenever the issue of poverty raises its head in our discourse. Sadly, Shaidle’s morally superior disdain for the “ungrateful poor people” that “are a corrosive on the average heart” is quite typical of the despicable attitude held by the extreme fringe of so-called “conservatives” who presume to instruct us in matters of charity and compassion based on the callous teachings of von Hayek, Friedman and Rand.