In Praise of the Easyjetset

A lot of ink had been wasted on those things called low-cost airlines lately.

For some they are flying buses à la Laker Airlines, for others they are flying zoos, but one thing is sure that these low-cost airlines have changed the industry. There are limits of course of what the industry could achieve, and it’s a fact that many actors had not survived this complex and ruthless industry.

Of course, there is a big difference of philosophy and vision between those who consider commercial air travel as flying hotels or flying buses. No doubt that customers still want the former for long haul flights but for a flight lasting for a few hours, having "no frills" could do the job very well.

As much had flying low-cost have downsides (very few services, a pay-what-you-get-for-attitude, sometimes badly located airports) it also have massive upsides as it had made European travel much easier and accessible to many just like the third-class train made seaside resorts accessible to the Average Joe for their vacations in the last century.

So, was it really better yesterday when air travel was reserved for the elite (the 1% if you want) with prices (even without considering inflation) which were even higher than today? I don’t think so.

To give you an example, 20 years ago, a place like Estonia was in the USSR, it was seen as far away and somewhat exotic and you usually had to take Aeroflot to get there and pass through Moscow. Now, 20 years later, you reserve your ticket online, you go at Stanstead or Gatwick airport and bam you are in Estonia for a fraction of the cost and the time a few years ago. And you have not reserved your hotel yet? Some "low-cost" airlines even now got free wi-fi.

So, except of seeing the people behind companies like Ryanair and Easy Jet as monsters, could we see them as benefactors for the less fortunate, people who made travelling to the four corners of the continent easy, fast and even if not very comfortable, enjoyable because you can fly to places which are interesting this while being able to not spend a fortune on transportation.

Instead of seeing air travel as a way for the state to tax more, could the state for once tax less air travel which is a very taxed industry for the customer? Is it too much to ask for the customer just to not have a tax bill which is higher than the airline fare?

Le culte du BS de luxe

Vous vous souvenez du débat sur les frais de scolarité, ou sur la question des garderies à 7-8-9$.

C’est du BS de luxe. Oui, oui, rien à voir avec la justice sociale. Au lieu d’être des programmes ciblés c’est un buffet. Mais lorsque le pauvre veut s’y servir alors que ceux qui sont connectés ont passé en avant de la ligne, il reste pas grand chose.

C’est comme la question des fonds de pensions. Est-ce juste que celui qui paie sa passe d’autobus à chaque mois doit payer plus pour renflouer le fonds de pension de ceux travaillant à la société de transport. Est-ce juste d’avoir des syndicats dans une situation de monopole vouloir des salaires et avantages plus haut, alors que ce sont les citoyens eux-mêmes qui doivent payer. Est-ce que cela la justice sociale? Malgré qu’il est vrai qu’ils n’ont rien volé, certains dans le monde municipal ont dû droit à des avantages qui ne sont pas durables.

Le plus triste c’est qu’un système universel favorise ceux qui sont bien connectés. C’est pas une question d’équité envers les moins nantis, mais bien de faire le plein de votes.  D’avoir des politiciens qui veulent se donner une bonne allure. Il est évidemment noble de vouloir aider ceux de milieux moins nantis d’aller à l’université pour espérer une vie meilleure, mais pourquoi pas aider ces gens en premier en payant leurs études?

Le Québec est le champion Nord-Américain en subventions en tout genre. Il a un gouvernement parmi les plus interventionnistes par capita en Amérique du Nord. Il a des taxes et des impôts qui sont élevés. Pourtant le Québec est loin d’être riche, est extrêmement endetté et a un choc démographique important.

Ceux qui sont de milieux défavorisés sont laissés pour compte. Beaucoup décrochent du système scolaire. Mais peu en parlent.

J’ai peur pour l’avenir. Lorsque tu as une société où de plus en plus vivent de l’état et que le contribuable à imposer devient de moins en moins nombreux, ça va finir par tomber. Le Québec n’est pas la seule juridiction au monde à avoir ce problème, mais le plus que le problème va être poussé par en avant, le plus que la chute va faire mal.

Le Québec est le champion Nord-Américain en subventions en tout genre. Il a un gouvernement parmi les plus interventionnistes par capita en Amérique du Nord. Il a des taxes et des impôts qui sont élevés. Pourtant le Québec est loin d’être riche, est extrêmement endetté, a un choc démographique important et a d’énormes problèmes de corruption. Et malgré les beaux mots de certains acteurs politiques qui veulent changer les choses, rien ne semble changer.

Is a being green about feeling good or doing the right thing?

One great economic debates in the west right now is if having a carbon tax is a good fiscal tool.

I don’t have a fixed opinion on this. Many economists are supportive of it for a good reason, is that it’s better than any top-down policy to reduce the carbon footprint. Of course, I am more wary of old school pollution than the fixation of having the lowest carbon footprint possible mainly because it’s incredible that we are able to make people having a better quality of life. This require more carbon emissions, but the tradeoff is worth the price as living with Middle Age carbon footprints would be awful. Sadly, since a decade or so, many greens are not quite interested on things like air, water quality rather than going to international symposiums with airports filled with private jets full of dignitaries.

But the problem with a carbon tax is that it could be a policy which hurts some people a lot. In a place like Singapore, it’s easy to impose a policy like that because it’s a place where it’s 100% urban.

In a place like Canada, however some people, living in rural areas, they need to travel to go everywhere. They don’t live in condos like urban hipsters. Also, people living in rural areas do important work. It is very difficult for people in a city to live without products and work by people in rural areas.

The other problematic with a carbon tax will raise the price of everything in remote communities because they have to import many things by air or road. It’s wishful thinking to think that the price of a carbon tax will not be put on people. In a place like Canada (or Australia), there is a score of remote communities which have a cost of living crisis, which few people in larger cities in the south could understand.

Remember how the tax on gas was supposed to be used for roads and public transport, the carbon tax will also be used sooner or later as a general revenue tool like for the gas tax. Some people are right to say that they use carbon as an excuse to tax more to fund multiple things. Where is the breaking point in term of taxes and public utilities fees? This is why that without an important reduction in other taxes, any carbon tax will be seen as a new tax on top of other taxes.

This is exactly what that in France and in Australia, the carbon tax had become a toxic tax. In France, there was riots in Brittany because of a eco-tax on agricultural fuel. Many farmers and people in the agro-business were scared that this would kill their industry.

And yet, there is a sense more and more that the green movement is strong on one-sized-fits-all solution. To prioritize wind energy with his high costs and low rentability (as opposed to hydroelectricity and nuclear energy) makes many people skeptical about the green lobby. Are politicians building wind turbines are more interested about feeling good, or about having the cleanest energy possible which is also efficient at the same time?

You want to know how do I live with #autism?

In the last few years, the buzz about autism is so great, yet it is so misunderstood. Seeing the rise in autism cases, we want to know what autism is, yet even the specialists in the world on autism still know very little about this condition.

Decades ago, when people were thinking autism, they were thinking of this Dustin Hoffman’s rainman character who was counting card at the casino with the character played by Tom Cruise. Now, the question of autism is on everyone’s lips, but with the great particularity that it is a concept so big and uniform that it’s difficult to categorize correctly.

I know what autism is like firsthand. I was diagnosed with autism in 2002, I was 13 at the time. In April 2002, when I was in Grade 7, all my life collided, I had a psychotic crisis and a big depression. This is when specialists have discovered that I have autism. It’s since that time that I take medication. In 2003, I was sectioned by my own will at the psychiatric wing of a Children’s hospital. I must say that I was (and am) still lucky, as I had incredible parents who did their a great job to help me as being an only child.

Even if I had some problems during my four years of high school especially with teasing and bullying from some other students, I did well in high school. University went well and I was able to graduate after 5 years with a Bachelor in International Development. Being trilingual, I have a great skill to analyze about politics, the economy and international relations. Having an encyclopedic knowledge helps, but also being able to analyse a situation is a great passion.

Today, I am working in a part time job for a large corporation in policy analysis, in a great work environment. However challenges remains high as I still don’t know if I can work one day without medication or if I am independent enough to live alone. The other problem is that Obsessive Compulsive Behavior is something common with my persona. I like doing repetitive things and I am obsessive for many things. I am a bibliophile, and when I buy (used) books, I buy them in chucks, just like I enjoy writing electoral statistics during my spare time. I still don’t know if this is something chemical, but if I don’t do these things, I feel bad. I feel is there is something missing in my life.

The other problem with my life with autism is the social sphere. I am able to have a few close friends but I don’t know how to have a relationship with someone else in a couple having close to 25. I am polite even if I never feel at ease with large groups of people. Like many people with autism, I am unable to be at my best in places which have strong lights, a lot of noises even if I am able to talk to a group setting.

Telling my personal story is the easy part. The complex part is that each person with autism have a different story. Each individual also have different capacities. This question of difference is indeed, why I think why cases of autism always existed, but were badly or not diagnosed. The irony is that even if I have autism I am unable myself to cope with people with some forms of autism because they tend to shout and emit loud and unpredictable sounds. These are all reasons why giving help and support to people with autism (and especially when they become adults) is an arduous task.

But people with autism have great qualities. Whatever their particular condition, having a condition related to the autistic spectrum means being tenacious. You work harder for doing many things, but you grow stronger doing it at the same time. You think differently also for some things and in this day and age, thinking unlike other people even with some ideas which could be considered as "crazy" will get you further in today’s world.

Finding a way to help better having autism have a better life is better than a cure. Even if they have many challenges, many people would never want to be normal, because they see their autism as a sort of gift. Of course, many people who have autism have mental health or psychical issues and this is something very important to consider for getting any help with people with autism.

No doubt that in conclusion, it’s not surprising that many organisations are trying to recruit people with autism.  We perhaps need less normal people and more people who think outside the box. People who speak with the heart like I am doing now, but who also think with their head.

On #womenagainstfemimism

Many women cringe against #womenagainstfeminism. They are right up to a certain point, but they are wrong in thinking that people who are against contemporary feminism are raising some important points on how certain feminists use this concept to have an anti-women ideology.

The first major problem with contemporary feminism is with the aversion of choice for women. Take how certain feminists cannot understand that certain women want to raise a family and do it by choice, and not because they think they are inferior to men or they are forced to do it. Is contemporary feminism about informed choices or about following a pre-determined path in a form of quasi-paternalism?

Another big problem is how feminism is putting an important issue as the realm of women only. Rape for example. It’s worrying and terrible that some man rape woman and it’s still too frequent, but it’s also worrying that in some cases (like in prisons) man are raped by men themselves.  And in great numbers. And with similar consequences.

The other thing is negativity.  How some people use the concept of feminism to say that men are the enemy of women  is reductive and reactionary. We all have differences as human beings whatever our gender,  and how some feminists (which I suppose are few) are blushing this concept away is anti-human in itself. To say that all men "are the same" is as stupid as saying that all women should stay at home because they "are all the same".

But after all, isn’t a big victory of feminism when a women raises on top of their league, not because she is the token woman, but because she is the best person for the job? This is why feminists of all stripes should applaud people like Margaret Thatcher. Because they have done what feminism was supposed to be at the start, putting the same opportunities whatever your gender and making it a normal thing that a woman be on top.

Only capitalism and trade will save the Middle East

Looking at the images in this Middle Eastern conflict thousands of kilometres away is making me sad.

Sad because of some decent people who are incapable of making the difference between being critical of the actions of the Israeli government (just like in any free society) and vile anti-antisemitism. It’s sad that the human cost of this conflict is terrible like in every other conflict. It’s destroying not only schools, houses and industries but also lives on both sides of the conflict like those of some young IDF soldiers who are doing their national service.

But the saddest thing is how the conflict in the Middle East seems to go against every basic economical concept. As for hummus is good with pita bread, both Israelis and Palestinians agree that the economy is a priority for them. This is one of the explanations of why a party like Yesh Atid did so well in the last legislative election. But the problem is that jobs, the cost of living and the arrival of new capital both things which don’t do well without any long lasting peace and an end to economic blockade.

There is no doubt that peace will be fostered through free trade in the Middle East due to one basic fact, that you don’t bomb your neighbour who is a good trading partner to you. The other thing is that trade, which means a better quality of life both for people in Israel and the Palestinian Territories will cut the feet of extremists like the Hamas who work on their fear rhetoric in part because of the dire economic situation for people in Gaza. On the other end, having Israelis having more trade with people with Gaza and in the West Bank will only foster better links and a much more sensible prospect for a real lasting peace. The same thing could be said with Egypt closing their border with Gaza.

This is why that even if peace become more and more of a dream in the Middle East, having a pro-free trade policy could be something which could work as a win-win situation for both Israelis and Palestinians while also destroying the shallow arguments of the fear mongers like those in the Hamas who think that shooting rockets will do anything worthwhile. It’s far from being a perfect magic formula, but it could not be worse than the current situation which bring an awful situation to everybody on the field – albeit for different reasons.

Because sadly, as the French economist Frédéric Bastiat said centuries ago, "If goods don’t cross the border, armies will". Sadly the situation in the Middle East is a living proof that Bastiat was perhaps not wrong after all.

 

That is perhaps having an economic blockade will make everybody poorer at the end.

Harper’s real hidden agenda (it’s not what you think) #cdnpoli

It’s my duty as a citizen, taxpayer and as someone with a free mind to not follow any leader or political party blindly, but I must say that some in the anti-Harper crowd are really not helping their cause.

Why? It’s because of that some go into full blown hate. Since 2003, they have been running the same hidden agenda thing. After eleven years it’s starting to sound tiring. It’s seems like the boy who cried wolf, because when you rip your shirt for everything and nothing, at the end, people don’t believe you when it’s something important. I am not talking here about people who don’t vote CPC, but about a crowd who are hating Harper, up to the point of losing all their rationality. It’s agreeable that the CPC gov’t had done some bad policies and have a problem in term of transparency and communication, but Harper is not the devil.

If Harper policies are so bad and evil, why do the Liberals support 90%, and the NDP support about 70% of them? Even on foreign affairs, the three main parties have a very similar foreign policy platform.

This is somewhat the major problem with the Harper government, there has been very few bold policies. Many policies are status quo, other are policies which are really bad, like giving a gazillon tax credits and pass that as "pseudo-tax cuts" instead of having a simple, fair and non-loophole tax code.

So what’s the beef with the hidden agenda, you say? It starts with the Liberals in the 1990’s.

There is also a sort of mysticism related to the former Liberal government. On the environment for example, action haven’t followed all the cheap talk. Under the Liberals, GHG emissions had been up for example.

The other big mysticism is in foreign affairs. The Liberals under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were not like Mother Theresa, it had some peacekeeping missions which turned into massive disasters (like Somalia) and no doubt that the mission in Afghanistan was horrible as the Canadian troops were into a very difficult region of Afghanistan. It is a good thing that the Canadian Forces did not went into Iraq, but they had a mission in Afghanistan which was probably the most traumatic of any mid-sized countries in NATO.

This was the Liberal "hidden agenda" in the 1990’s. They were able to sell a policy and do the complete opposite. It’s indeed an incredible feat to have a party running on the Red Book in 1993 to be able to be re-elected when going against many of their promises. Free trade not repealed under the LPC, it was doubled down. The GST was not abolished it was "harmonized" under the Liberals.

Now with Stephen Harper "hidden agenda".

The paradigm is that having so-called "progressive" ideas needs new revenue tools. And in a federal system of government like in Canada, the tax pyramid is higher because it’s divided in three.

And any new taxes which are giving new money are unpopular. Why? Because you have one way or another to raise the GST, the income tax for the middle class or to rise fees or charges in order to have any sizable new revenues. There is no magic money tree in any other option.

It’s no doubt that it’s really difficult to win an election on a platform of tax raises for the majority of voters. It’s a third rail issue and one of the reasons why governments in Canadian politics become really unpopular, really fast just like the former NDP government in Nova Scotia. The HST raise is also not helping lately the Manitoba NDP government in power since 1999. In British Columbia, even if the BC Liberals were re-elected, the unpopular HST measure was defeated by referendum even if poorer people had HST rebates.

This is Stephen Harper real hidden agenda. Based on circumstances and perhaps not by his own intent, he made it impossible for anyone to run on tax raises for the middle class to have a shot at winning any election.  Even the BCNDP had understood that by opposing the HST while it’s a very good tax to raise money for social programs. Even in Quebec, when her election campaign was going nowhere, Pauline Marois was promising out of the blue tax cuts as quick as possible.