Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Power of the Poor

The other night I was watching my local PBS station and was fortunate to stumble on a documentary called The Power of the Poor about the work of economist Hernando de Soto in his native Peru. The documentary describes the work of de Soto’s non-profit organization called The Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) which he formed almost 30 years ago and continues today as its President. It describes how the ILD through the power of its ideas defeated the Shining Path Guerrillas, a militant Maoist group intent on ruling Peru in the 1990’s. Ultimately the Guerrillas were captured, convicted and jailed by the Peruvian government, and de Soto continues his work in Peru and abroad spreading a form of libertarian capitalism tailored to the poor and intent on lifting them from their poverty.
The video The Power of the Poor is available from Free to Choose Media and is a wonderful explanation of how poverty can be eliminated (as is happening now in Peru) by reducing government red tape and making small changes to the legal status of individuals by granting them property rights.
A great way to start a New Year.

De Soto received The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in 2004 from the CATO Institute.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Another victory for Terrorism

It’s worth watching U.S. Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano rationalizing the Christmas Day attack on an Amsterdam to Detroit airliner with these words:
“The system worked, everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to ninety minutes of the incident occurring all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures.”

Who knew that passengers are part of the system, deputized by the situation to act on behalf of American Homeland Security? Too bad the hero was a Dutchman; I hope he receives honorary U.S. citizenship as soon as he passes the security check.

This latest terror attack highlights the gaping holes in airport security that still exists despite a couple of generations of airliner hijackings culminating with the 9/11 attacks, the shoe bomber etc…etc... Has there been a single attack that has been foiled by airport security measures in use today? Not that I could find.

Sure there was the liquid explosive plot that the British foiled, but that did not happen during an airport security check. That incident and all the others have resulted in passengers being subjected to some pretty stupid rules. But removing your shoes will be just a tiny indignity imposed on us compared to the Full-Body Scanners that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intends to implement at all major airports. If Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam had this device, maybe this latest incident on Fight 253 would have been foiled, maybe not. Reading the Globe and Mail this morning I came across the story of one passenger on Flight 253, Shama Chopra, who lives in Montréal. Prior to boarding she noticed Adulmutallab the accused on Flight 253 acting strangely.

“I was looking at this guy and his hands were on his forehead,” she recounted to CTV about her encounter with him in the airport. “He was thinking very hard. I was thinking, ‘Why is he standing like this?' They checked him again. He's the last one they let on the plane,” she said. Too bad.

So here we have a Canadian deputy of Homeland Security, who like anyone getting on an airplane these days has a heightened sense of foreboding about the flight, but in this case she was prescient beyond her wildest nightmares.


Almost 40 years ago I took a flight from Tel Aviv back home. Prior to boarding I was questioned by Israeli Security. A young very fit man with a distinctive Israeli accent searched though my luggage and carry-on and asked me series of questions about my business in Israel. Some of the questions were repeated, he was trying to trip me up and I was getting annoyed, I shouldn’t have been. “Open your transistor radio, let me see your watch, let me see your camera”, and on and on. There were no high-tech search devices, just a well trained, persistent questioner. My answers were not recorded; he was not really interested in my personal life, just the way I acted, my body language, speech patterns, ticks, whatever.
No airplane leaving Tel Aviv has ever been hijacked. Ms. Chopra from Montréal points the way to real airline security. Use the Israeli model and just as important let the airlines take care of their own security. They have much to lose if people become more fearful of flying than they already are. Airlines will develop reputations like Israel’s EL AL; safety records can be compared and passengers can be treated with dignity. Water bottles and toothpaste will be allowed again, bathroom breaks prior to landing will be allowed, security, speed and courtesy will be improved under competitive market conditions. As evidenced again, the current model is not working.

Monday, December 21, 2009

You can't take it with you.......

This was posted by The Advocates for Self Government (see links on the left of this page). While the context is American, and the actors are all gone, the message can't be repeated often enough, enjoy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n03_MvqaN4&feature=player_embedded

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Democracy is over rated!

My daily copy of FEE—In brief arrived by email as usual today. Normally I wouldn’t mention it, but one of the FEE Timely Classics of the day was called “Democracy Versus Liberty” by James Bovard. I don’t recall ever reading it but I read it today. It’s fairly lengthy; there are no snappy catch phrases, just a long and relentlessly persuasive argument that drives home the point that Democracy is mob rule, and that coercion created by elected members of a government is still coercion and that doesn’t make it right.

Of course the focus of the essay is entirely American, but for those of us that inhabit The Great White North the ideas are easily transferable and all the names a recognizable. If you have read it, then you understand, if you haven’t, then do yourself a favour.

Though Ontario Judge is rebuked he is still correct

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that Ontario Court Judge J. Elliott Allen overstepped his position when he spoke at length against harsh penalties for marijuana growth and possession as he gave a conditional sentence to a Brampton area marijuana grower. The article appeared in today’s Globe and Mail.

Perhaps Judge Allen should be recruited to run for the Ontario Libertarian Party in the next Provincial election in 2011.

The judge is quoted as saying: "Nobody has been deterred. People have been going to jail for drug offences for a couple of generations now and the drug plague is worse than it ever was....If something doesn't work, do I try doing it again and again to see if it does work? Isn't that the definition of insanity?"

Can you imagine this coming from a Canadian Judge in court? Canada is going to pot.......the sooner the better. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apocalypse Soon?

While I can't agree with everything in Neil Reynolds' most recent column (the Dawkins and Darwin stuff particularly) the gist of it is eminently sensible and ultimately wise. This column injects a little perspective into an issue that sorely needs it. Have a look: For every age, an apocalyptic delusion

Are there alternatives to complex "fixes" for AGW?

Who understands Cap-and-trade? Are you ready to buy and sell carbon credits, futures in carbon credits? Will these "fixes" to AGW be readily accepted by the Western democracies? These are all questions that need answers before governments spend billions, sacrifice jobs and generally dampen an economic recovery that is currently still on life support. Are there less costly fixes? There are, here is a thought:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYWviOjwPGk

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whose Bad?......We're bad.

Gerry Nicholls says we're bad. That's just fine with me.
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/12/15/gerry-nicholls-the-new-canada-mad-bad-and-dangerous-to-know.aspx?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Petition against Green Protectionism

Would you like to voice your objection to possible arbitrary trade restrictions brought forth in the name of saving the planet? Why not allow the planet to be saved by the only proven method so far in the history of humankind? Click on the link, read the petition, then sign it and pass it on.
http://freedomtotrade.org/content/petition-against-green-protectionism

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The big guy in the sky causes climate change

That's right, the Sun, our neighbourhood star......
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng4gzvo6sDo

The Science is settled on AGW....right?

Wrong. Is it possible that Al Gore is wrong? Is it possible that there are other causes for climate fluctuation? Of course it is. Do yourself a favour and listen to this audio clip from FEE. Last Saturday in a lecture given at FEE HQ in Irvington NY another point of view was voiced. Its worth your while to listen to Dr. Willie Soon.
http://fee.org/wp-content/uploads/audio/events/2009/WIllie%20Soon%20on%20Climate%20Change.mp3
 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are you ready to subsidize pollution?

Yesterday's Globe and Mail Report on Business ran the regular column of Gwyn Morgan. His opinion is always worth reading and frequently puts a different spin on issues of the day. The issue of the day is the potential power and money grab being orchestrated in Copenhagen. How much more are you prepared to pay for fuel? Clink.

SixthSense Technology

Wondering where the world of computing is going in the near future? This video will blow you away. Watch Pranav Mistry (an inventor) explain his ideas. Wow!
http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

Friday, December 4, 2009

ClimateGate on the People's Network

Last night we may have witnessed a turning point in the Canadian discussion of Anthropogenic (human caused) Global Warming (AGW). Readers of the Toronto Globe and Mail have long known that two regular columnists Margaret Wente and Rex Murphy are AGW skeptics and have written courageous columns to that effect on many occasions in the past. Rex Murphy also happens to be an employee of the CBC, and has a regular opinion piece every Thursday on The National led by Pastor Peter Mansbridge. As a regular viewer of The National and a fan of Rex Murphy's way with words, I don't recall a broadcast where Rex has been unleashed and spoken so bluntly about his views on AGW.


CBC and AGW have been like peanut butter and jelly, that close and supportive of one another. To see Rex Murphy let loose finally on one of his pet peeves was jaw dropping. Have a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am3-HpSnE9Y

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Change you can't believe in!

Canadian and American news media paused last night from speculating about Tiger Woods’ domestic distress as Barak Obama announced that an additional 30 000 US troops will be sent to Afghanistan soon. No surprise really, since that information had been leaked last week. The only surprise was that troop withdrawals would begin in the summer of 2011 just in time for Obama’s run at a second term. This time of course will be different, the US and NATO’s ISAF (including Canada) will expunge the Taliban, train the Afghan army, restore the Afghan government (after getting all the warlords to become democratic) and leave Afghanistan to take care of itself. That should keep us all safe.


The Globe and Mail editorial today called this new surge of troops “a welcome move by Obama”. The editorial said that this surge will take pressure off Canadian troops and Obama’s speech was “a necessary reminder that this remains a necessary war”.

Afghanistan has had a tortured past of war and conquest going back to pre-Islamic times. In the 2500 years for which there are records two things stand out; Afghans don’t like foreign occupation and the place is run by warlords. At no time in its history was there a grassroots democratic movement that sought to bring the rule of law to the entire country. Expecting the puppet government now in Kabul to have full control of that country is wishful thinking. Expecting the future Afghan army to keep order against the Taliban and Al-Qaida is ridiculous. Expecting American troops to leave Afghanistan once the mission is accomplished is equally insane. Afghanistan has been the place where previous empires have died; I fear the US will be no different.

Mr. Obama has disappointed us yet again but this month he will pick up his Nobel Peace Prize. What’s wrong with that picture?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Give me a break

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is coming up. Ready to have your pockets picked some more? Watch this John Stossell video, it will help get you into the mood.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHCJ-UhZFT4

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ammunition to use on your Eco-tard friends

The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference starts Dec. 7 and goes until Dec. 18, 2009. Prepare for a media onslaught that highlights the urgency of the situation. Armageddon is on our doorstep.


So just how much of an impact will the proposed reductions in Greenhouse gases have on your life? How much will it cost? How much do you know about our dependence on fossil fuels up here in the Great White North?

Here is some ammunition to increase your energy literacy care of Gwyn Morgan, former CEO of EnCana Corp. from ROB.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Researcher says text proves Shroud of Turin is real!

Sure it is.

Lessons missed twenty years after the Wall fell

Twenty years ago this month the Cold War ended with ballyhoo and beer, not a shot was fired. The Iron Curtain was breached; the Berlin Wall became a gateway to the West instead of a barrier. The decades long sham battle between free market capitalism and centrally planned statism was all but over, or so it seemed. This most extreme form of statism or socialism we called communism was revealed to be a paper-mache façade crumbling in a rainstorm. Its infrastructure rotten to the core, its ideology was as many of us suspected, a lie. By the time the final dominoes had fallen, hundreds of millions of formerly repressed people had freedoms restored that you and I take for granted every day.

The Cold War was the overriding paranoia of my generation. Soon after the Second World War, governments in Canada, the United States and Western Europe created a military alliance called NATO to defend from what everyone feared would be eventual certain attack by the communist hordes. It was soon clear the Soviet Block Iron Curtain countries we feared made prisoners of their own people, and the Berlin Wall was the physical manifestation of this. In the West governments were obliged to fan the flames of fear to keep funding their military spending over the next 30 years, especially in the United States. The fall of the Wall left a vacuum, the enemy was really a mirage and NATO was redundant, and needed new enemies. We all know now where NATO’s new enemies are. Paranoia still lives in the West, but that is another story.

Is there a lesson for us here? In 1992 it took 52% of Canada’s GDP to support government programs at all levels. Mercifully that number has fallen a bit since then, but the bloated size of our governments along with its numerous layers qualifies Canada as a statist country, albeit a kinder gentler statism, statism-lite if you will. Yes we still enjoy most of the freedoms that our cousin’s in the former East Block lacked. But our economic freedom is severely restricted by government spending and taxation. Today 45% of the income of the average Canadian family goes to some level of government for services delivered whether wanted or not. Now, you will say that we get services for that price, but are we getting value for money spent? Does government deliver essential services most efficiently, free of the corruption and cronyism that characterized our former Soviet block enemies. If statism/socialism was repudiated 20 years ago why does Canada still practice aspects of it? Do we think by tweaking it just right it will work to our benefit or are we deluding ourselves like the Eastern Block nations did before the Wall came down? In 2007, the most recent year I could find, Canada’s Federal government had 87 departments or agencies employing almost 334 000 people, including Assisted Human Reproduction Canada and the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, both vital to our democracy I’m sure. Remember that’s just the Federal layer of government and it keeps growing.

In his book Fearful Symmetry the fall and rise of Canada’s founding values, Brian Lee Crowley explains why he thinks government in Canada grew so large and ultimately needs to shrink. He compares Canada to the Americans; we are each others greatest trading partners, have similar lifestyles and once had a similar standard of living. According to Crowley, in 1960, Canada and the U.S.A. spent similar amounts of their GDP to support government programs at all levels (Canada 28.6%, USA 28.4%). Our standard of living was similar, differing by just 8% less for Canada. Take a snapshot 40 years later, American government spending increased by 6%, Canada’s by over 20%. Over those same 40 years American per capita income increased by 222% while in Canada just 126% over the same period. Clearly there was a cost to having a big government.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vatican searches for ET

Looks like the Pope and the Jesuits want to get ahead of the curve this time. Almost 400 years after putting Galileo Galilei under house arrest, the Inquisitors in Rome seem to be becoming more inquistive.
For daring to disagree with the Vatican in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was charged with heresy, forced to recant and spend the rest of his life in his home. What did he do? He had the temerity to agree with Copernicus that maybe the earth went around the sun rather than the other way round.
Now the Vatican thinks that E.T. (if he exists) should phone Rome. Just in case there is anyone out there the Church wants us all to know that they are "part of creation" too. Hallelujah and lets cover all the bases.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The H1N1 debacle

I wrote this letter to the Globe & Mail the other day:

Marcus Gee seems to think that the H1N1 vaccine debacle is beyond anyone’s control in his column Panic and blame won’t help cure the flu (Nov. 3). Blaming the various layers of the government administered public health authorities is “simplistic and unfair” and according to Mr. Gee “they have done reasonably well”.


This reminds me of the current I’m a Mac and I’m a PC ad. PC implores viewers to “trust us” for each new and improved version of the PC operating system. But in that case consumers have a real choice PC or Mac.

What choice do we as consumers of the vaccine have? The Federal, Provincial, Regional and Municipal layers of government health authorities have colluded with the vaccine manufacturer to control production and distribution for the good of everyone.

Wait your turn is the operative phrase even if you get the flu odds are you will survive, don’t panic. These are reassuring words aren’t they? Maybe central control isn’t the best way to go, maybe its time to think differently.

It’s great to know we have choices in trivial matters like a PC operating system but when it comes to matters of possible life or death, trust us.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Arbitrariness, confusion, fear and panic

Strange week here in the centre of the universe; it started off with a new law, as if we don't have enough laws. The new hand-held wireless law is the Ontario Government's latest attempt to make sure we are all paying attention to the roadway while we drive our vehicles. You would think this is a no brainer and there must already be some law about reckless or dangerous driving (there is), but the powers in Queen's Park think that is too vague. Now drivers will be allowed to push just one button to activate a hands-free device but that's it. No mention about applying lipstick, putting in contacts, peeling an orange, having a hot drink or cigarette or sandwich or doing all of these things simultaneously while taking off your jacket. This seems kind of arbitrary. Soon we might expect a requirement that auto makers put a closed circuit TV camera in all vehicles attached to a "black box" so that a driver's actions may be scrutinized after collisions like airline pilots. Don't laugh.

The strangeness didn’t end there. This is the big rollout week for the recently approved H1N1 vaccine. Media types were falling over each other to make certain the public was well informed about vaccination? Medical types were interviewed, all recommended the vaccine and we all learned a new phrase – vaccine adjuvant. The Americans aren’t using the adjuvant but Canada is. Just to be different? No, it makes what little vaccine there is go farther. But is it safe? Well it’s been used in Europe and in Australia during their winter without adverse effects. Each radio and TV News cast in an effort to cover the story only confused the issue. Much time was given to the conspiracy-anti-vaccination movement. Variations of these groups likely existed back in the day (late 1790’s) of Edward Jenner who first used cowpox blister pus to immunize people against the deadly smallpox. Jenner was ridiculed in the press of his day with cartoons that pictured his subjects as getting cow-like features after vaccination. In fact the word “vaccine” is derived from the original cow-pox injection. The thing is it worked, cow-pox vaccine was improved somewhat, but the original concept ultimately wiped smallpox out, so immunization is not a new theory.

Getting the H1N1 vaccine is probably a good idea if it is delivered in time. The waffling about the vaccine displayed by many people early in the week came to an abrupt end after a healthy 13 year old boy apparently died of H1N1. Parents were spooked, medical officials advanced their schedules and released the vaccine for the most susceptible within communities, but the fear and resulting panic caused long line-ups, queue jumping and frustration. By weeks end things got worse, GlaxoSmithKline, the company that manufactured the vaccine could not deliver sufficient quantities (ironically because they switched from producing the adjuvant and non-adjuvant versions) to meet the demand and now the future clinics for the general public will be delayed. In the end this may reduce the need for vaccination, if the main wave of infection has passed then why bother? It takes a week to ten days for the vaccine to mobilize the immune system in most individuals so if you are vaccinated in mid-November it could be December before protection is effective.

The finger-pointing will begin soon, people will get sick, panic, some may die but I’ll bet the root cause of this debacle will likely be at the feet of government. Sometimes even your nanny-state cannot protect you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How big government inadvertently stifles enterprise.

The other day I was listening to the Current, a CBC Radio morning program. The documentary segment was titled The Philosophy of Pig. The producer/narrator interviewed a woman, Barbara Schaefer from the Ottawa area who had lost her job as an environmental policy advisor for the Federal Government. Rather than look for another job in her field she chose to become a pig farmer, running her own business. As a farmer Ms. Schaefer breeds and raises a rare heritage variety called the Large Black Pig in as natural a way as possible. Recently she has expanded her operation to other rare heritage breeds of cattle, chickens and ducks. Now this may seem rather unlikely but Ms. Schaefer explained that she enjoys the active life of a farmer over the sedentary life of a policy wonk. So she’s happy and productive, and likely far more productive as a farmer than she was at her government desk job.

The point of this is; here is a very well educated person using her energy and wit to produce a product that would likely not exist, thus creating wealth for herself, her family and the surrounding community from which she buys and sells various products and services. As a government worker she was technically in the employ of the taxpayer. Her salary was taken from government revenue and added to the size of the government. Presumably her creativity and talent were directed at supporting government policies and while she may have produced good work for her department, what was produced likely added little to the gross domestic product of Canada. Now I don’t mean that her government work was useless, it may in fact have had great impact on government policy when and if it was implemented. But as a farmer her efforts are often immediately obvious and her product, if it can be eventually sold, fulfils basic human needs.

Take this individual and multiply her by thousands, there are thousands of well educated government workers whose talent and creativity have been removed from private enterprise so that they can manage, conduct, administer, advice, coordinate, control, regulate, oversee, well you get the picture; these people are not in the private domain, they are governing. Of course most of these people are grateful they have a job and their government job likely has good pay and good perks, and they may even provide a necessary service. The issue that I have is there are too many government employees in too many government departments for me to believe that all their talents are being used efficiently and effectively. I think government is far too big; of course that’s another issue.
Imagine the economic impact on Canada if just a few thousand of these clever individuals were in Ms. Schaefer’s position, that is, in the private sector, the part of the economy that actually adds wealth to the country rather than in government where budgets and salaries are taken from redistributed collected taxes. Imagine the new products, new services, new investments, and new jobs created; it’s all good. Big government not only diverts huge sums of money from the private domain, but also diverts entrepreneurial talent. That cost is almost incalculable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Evidence for Evolution......yet again.

I was in a store yesterday and I spotted Richard Dawkins new book The Greatest Show on Earth. I was tempted to buy it but I have so many books to read now that I decided to wait. The book is subtitled The Evidence for Evolution, and the fact is I don't need to be convinced having taught the subject for many years. I'll get around to buying the book at some point - but the subtitle bothers me now.
The "evidence for evolution" is a commonly used chapter title in high school and university level textbooks throughout North America and probably around the world. The troubling part to me is that the evidence takes up a large amount of space in these books often at the expense of whats new and wonderful in the field at the time the book was published. I'm sure the Dawkins book has a lot of the latest information in it but don't you wonder why the evidence must be rehashed over and over again? Of course that's a rhetorical question, I know why. No other theory as well entrenched as evolution has such organized and vocal opposition. No other theory needs to rehash its origins in such great detail again and again. No other theory needs to rationalize its very existence as Dawkins' new book seems to be doing. Texts on modern atomic theory, the theory of flight, the heliocentric theory, Newton's Theory of Gravity and on and on give short shrift to origins and evidence. Newton's Theory of Gravity is still routinely taught in high school even though its been shown to be wrong, but because the math works at speeds not approaching the speed of light, its still taught. Everyone believes in atoms and molecules but the details of this theory are astoundingly complex and way beyond the comprehension of most people, but not a peep of opposition. The evidence for evolution is "over-freakin-whelming" and the theory is simple enough to be easily grasped by a high school junior student. Maybe that's the problem its too simple. Every week new evidence is reported, check out the new "missing link" flying reptile discovery announced this week.
In a few weeks we will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species" Darwin's monumental explanation of the myriad varieties of life on Earth. Its time to examine that book's subtitle: by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. That is what needs to be studied - that is one of the mechanisms of evolution, as for the evidence, its all around you, if you don't see it get the Dawkins book.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Baraking News............

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31nqvyBTWis

Cashing in on the audacity of hype

No matter what you think of the United Nations whenever it functioned as a way to defuse world tensions and prevent or delay conflict it served a purpose for that moment. Late in October of 1956 Israel, France and Britain invaded Egyptian territory when Egypt announced it would nationalize and blockade the Suez Canal. Egypt was reacting to the withdrawal of funding to build the Aswan Dam when it recognized the new Communist regime in China at the expense of the Taiwanese. A Canadian diplomat, Lester B. Pearson, defused a potentially volatile situation by negotiating a withdrawal of the invading force replaced by a UN force (UNEF) led by "neutral" Canadian Troops. So began the "tradition" of Canadian Peacekeepers and because the Egyptians objected to the Union Jack on the Canadian Red Ensign Pearson eventually proposed a distinctive new Canadian Flag while he was Prime Minister of Canada in 1965. For his efforts in brokering a peace that reopened the Suez Canal during a dangerous time in the Cold War, Lester Pearson received the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize.
Today it was announced in Oslo that US President Barak Obama will be given the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. So how do his accomplishments compare to Lester Pearson? Well, Obama doesn't like nukes, but hasn't removed any from the American arsenal. Obama doesn't like war, but America has two wars going on with little chance of either ending any time soon. Obama doesn't like torture but Guantanamo Bay is still in business with no closure imminent. Obama doesn't like climate change because..........it's bad. Obama provides us with hope for a better future.......that's starting to get lame. What's he done exactly? Well Obama isn't Bush......maybe that warrants a prize.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

eHealth - What is a Billion Dollars?

Just over a week ago I helped organize an information booth for the Ontario Libertarian Party at a large book fair in downtown Toronto. Our purpose was to publicise the party and solicit new members. We used a technique developed by The Advocates for Self-Government called Operation Politically Homeless where we asked passersby if they thought government was doing a good job. Depending on their answer we followed up with a short quiz to determine if the participant had libertarian leanings or not. From the few that did, we asked if they would like us to contact them. For us it was a productive day that gave us insights to the mood of a small select portion of the electorate. Of those people that consented to be interviewed roughly half were satisfied with government (typically we did not specify what level of government but we are Ontario-centric), the other half not so much. I think this degree of satisfaction (troubling to me) is likely a function of general apathy, ignorance and complacency. Most people don't really pay attention to government except during elections and then usually to the promises on the table rather than the record of the past. Of course that is part of the reason that governments grow larger, the promises invariably include new programs that allegedly benefit the taxpayer, spending increases and so must taxes. So when governments set out to save tax dollars by instituting efficiencies it sounds good but too often that's not what happens.
Ontario joined the other provinces and territories to create an Electronic Health Record (EHR) 10 years ago to streamline patient care across the country and save the Canadian health-care system $6 billion a year, a worthy goal. In Ontario the project was started by the Harris Tories and continued by the McGuinty Liberals and to this day Ontario lags most of the country in developing and implementing these EHRs. In a report released today, Auditor-General Jim McCarter concludes that "Ontario taxpayers have not received value for money for this $1-billion investment." The money was squandered. I find it hard to get my head around a billion dollars, that of course is to the advantage of the government, its just a number. In the current Great Recession it doesn't even sound like much considering all the bailouts that have occurred. But look at it this way, a billion dollars pays 10 000 people a $100 000 salary for one year - good salary. Or it pays 286 people a salary of $100 000 each for their entire 35 year working career. Or if you had a billion dollars in the bank at the current pitiful 1.05% interest rate (the daily rate today at the most popular Internet bank) you would make $10.5 million in interest a year, $875 000 a month! Oh, to dream! So now imagine this money frittered away by the Ontario government, just one of the many levels of government under whose jurisdiction your pockets are picked. Is it possible that the other levels of government are frittering away money? Do bears poop in the woods? Does the government do a good job?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Scientist duplicates Shroud of Turin "effect"

An Italian scientist financed by a group of atheists and agnostics claims to have reproduced the photographic effect seen on the Shroud of Turin the alleged burial cloth of Jesus. The Shroud was shown to be a fake 20 years ago when it was carbon-dated to the 13th century, but no one until now has reproduced the effect using techniques available back then. The controversy continues, but only in the minds of theists.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Yet another missing link in Human evolution


Tomorrow in the journal Science eleven papers by 47 authors from 10 countries will describe the analysis of a discovery made in 1992. That discovery may help solve the problem of how the ancestral line that led to humans split from the the line that led to chimpanzees for which there has been virtually no evidence until now. It may be that the newest creature, Ardipithecus ramidus (Ardi), which predates the widely know "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis) by over one million years is in our lineage from the common ancestor between chimps and humans. The discovery made near where Lucy was found suggests that continued research in that part of Ethiopia could lead to that last common ancestor of humans and chimps. This also shows the deliberate slowness of scientific discovery, 17 years of research, peer review and debate before a joint announcement is made. Another missing link in the long list of missing links that creationists claim don't exist.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rescuing the Rescuers

The economy is in recovery, the financial world has survived its greatest test since the 1930's, at least that's what all the pundits on most media outlets are proclaiming. I don't necessarily believe that history repeats itself, but I am suspicious of the sales pitch that we are getting right now (because there is still huge amounts of cash around the world sitting on the sidelines waiting for the second shoe to drop). In the Great Depression the first market crash was followed by a recovery of similar proportions to what has happened since March 2009. But government interventions in the 1930's prolonged that recovery resulting in World War II. We may now be in a similar situation. The market tinkerers especially in the United States will soon be required to unwind there positions without upsetting the applecart. All countries where market interventions were large will be doing the same thing, the trick is timing. Its hard to imagine the arrogance of these guys. Few of them foresaw the extent of the market crash in 2008, most "experts" predicted a short and shallow recession. Yet now, these same experts know exactly how to fix things and can predict the consequences of their actions. They are smarter than all the millions of investors around the world and everything will be fine. Yeah right!

In Canada, Prime Minister Harper issued a "stimulus report card" yesterday proclaiming that things are just hunky-dory and he's doing a wonderful job. Two recent articles in the Globe and Mail cast some doubt on the possibility that a recovery can be controlled. Preston Manning wonders how long it will take to recover from the stimulus, and Gwyn Morgan wonders why governments fail to learn from past mistakes. Free-market capitalism is not the cause of the financial crisis as Morgan points out, and has lately been popularized in a movie by Michael Moore. In fact, recent elections in Europe are not supporting socialist ideals as may be expected due to the Great Recession. Even in Canada polls show there is no rush to support the Liberals or NDP. Maybe people aren't fooled, maybe not. Are we out of the woods, or have we just come to a clearing in the forest? Time will tell.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Growing Federal Parliament

A Bill in the Canadian Parliament will be introduced soon that will change the number of seats in the House of Commons from 308 to 342. All of the additional 34 seats will come from Ontario (21), Alberta (6) and British Columbia (7). The rest of the country remains unaffected. This change will go some of the way to repairing the gross underrepresentation of these provinces while at the same time bloating the size of parliament. An interesting article by Brian Lee Crowley called "How rep follows pop - and what it means for Quebec", discusses how this change may be the beginning of a Canadian transformation away from the socialist economic and social policies that have catered to Quebec for the past 50 years.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Casualty of the Toronto Garbage Strike

In a surprise announcement this morning the Mayor of Toronto David Miller, said he would not seek a third term. Citing family reasons for not running, Miller proclaimed that he had accomplished all he wanted to do to get Toronto on the right track. The political reality is that polls have shown him far behind possible other candidates which would make fund raising difficult with the election just over a year away. The garbage strike in the midst of the Great Recession showed everyone for a moment what it means to support union "rights" at the expense of taxpayer expectations. The disclosure yesterday of a $200 million error in the "sick bank" account (coincidence?) makes Miller look like he was hiding facts from everyone to favour the unions. Miller will serve out the rest of his term as a lame duck, possibly positioning himself for Michael Bryant's old job as CEO of Invest Toronto which he has taken over. Doing two jobs by a lame duck, isn't bureaucracy wonderful?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anthropogenic Global Warming: Who put the hype in hypothesis?

A blog by Peter Foster in the National Post (Full Comment) caught my eye this week. I have studied and taught science for more than 35 years so I am well familiar with the Scientific Method and how it is used. Mr. Foster's comments on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) pretty much says it all for me.
I have no doubt that Global Warming is occurring or has occurred, otherwise I'd be writing this from under at least 1000 metres of ice that passed through these parts during the last Ice Age. The ice is gone, so it must have melted because of rising temperatures whose cause has yet to be determined, but it wasn't us. In fact the melting continues and has now reached Canada's most northern outposts including Arctic waters. As well, glaciers and ice sheets around the world seem to be shrinking, and yes it is possible that certain gases released by human activity have accelerated this melting; that is the hypothesis that underlies AGW. Make no mistake, it is still an hypothesis. In science an hypothesis is not a fact or even a theory. To use an hypothesis to make predictions, extrapolate consequences or anything else is bad science and of course that is the basis of the general belief that AGW will lead to global catastrophe. A tenuous cause predicts catastrophic events that are accepted by a consensus of scientists and politicians. The effect is accepted before the cause is proven. Why governments and many scientists have acceded to this idea with apparently little dissension is discussed in Mr. Foster's article but no real explanation is provided. Here is where I must show how utterly cynical I am. If you were a scientist working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) it is not in your self interest to question the need for your employment. If you are in government and you can expand your power to include huge amounts of money and influence it is not in your self interest to question the authority of the IPCC.

All science always operates under varying degrees of uncertainty, even the simplest weather forecast is couched in terms of probability of this or that happening. Weather prediction is a science because as more data is gathered the degree of uncertainty is diminished and weather events can be predicted with reasonable accuracy in the short term. Climate prediction is very different. Although our computer climate models show temperature increases in the future with potentially catastrophic effects, the models and the very computers themselves are so new that the accuracy of their predictions is questionable at best compared to currently used weather models. With that level of certainty is it wise to spend billions or more to mitigate a situation that may not happen? Then why do it? Self interest - but not yours.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What are the entitlements of Canadian Citizenship?

What are the entitlements of Canadian Citizenship if one is detained or in trouble in a foreign country? A good question given recent news of the Somali-born Canadian who was "detained" by Kenyan authorities for 3 months. Not only did Canadian authorities ignore her pleas for help they actually invalidated her valid Passport. Why didn't Canadian authorities investigate the valid Passport she carried? Was it stolen? The women had a pocket full of other Canadian ID; was that not worthy of investigation? Is this a case of racial discrimination? One might expect Canadian Border Services to consider such a case as worthy of further investigation, at least check out her story and do the minimal due diligence. Instead she was ignored. Fortunately for her, an extraordinary genetic test showed her to be the person described in the Passport and a remedy for her plight exists in Canadian law, she is suing Canada for $2.5 million and an apology. This case highlights our government in action (no pun intented) for all to see. Is the government obliged to protect its citizens and if not what other purpose does it serve? Hmmm.....good question.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Religion losing its grip on America

America is becoming more secular....slowly. In a survey released by Trinity College of Hartford: the ARIS 2008 the headline in part is "Non-religious on the Rise". Finally!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Charter Cities

In recent years Cuba has been a destination for many Canadians to escape the winter. For me the politics of that place for the past 50 years is a turnoff and I'm not a fan of sun and surf anyway. But a small and problematic part of that island is run by Americans, Guantánamo Bay, may become a bargaining chip in Obama's overtures to Latin America. If the Cuban ruler, the younger Castro or whoever takes over, has any smarts they may opt for an idea put forth by economist Paul Romer. Romer unveils a bold idea: "charter cities," city-scale administrative zones governed by a coalition of nations. Could Guantánamo Bay become the next Hong Kong? Watch:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Government bailouts and Moral Hazard

Another great column today by Gwyn Morgan in the Globe and Mail titled: Bailouts and the nasty consequences of 'moral hazard'. It points the finger at the cause of the financial mess that started in the U.S. and then proceeds to explain how "they gets us coming, and they gets us going." Morgan rehashes much of what has already been said, but he is more lucid and speaks with the authority of a Canadian business person and says it far better than I could. Do yourself a favour and read it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Seasteading Institute and The Israel Test

I often hear people ask where are the libertarian countries that exist today in 2009? The answer is simple, there are none that have all the components of a libertarian society, but there are many countries that operate to a limited degree under some libertarian principles. The most immediate hope for a completely libertarian society is TSI, The Seasteading Institute. Under the direction of Patri Friedman the grandson of Dr. Milton Friedman (see YouTube interview below), TSI seeks to establish autonomous ocean communities to improve the human condition by enabling innovation with new political and social systems - hopefully libertarian systems. The young Friedman gives up on attempts to change our societies from within, instead he thinks we should start from scratch - at sea. I certainly understand the frustration from which an idea like that can originate so I will watch TSI with interest and anticipation. In the mean time I will continue to pound the table for change here, on dry land, within easy driving distance to just about everything.

In a recent column, Neil Reynolds wrote about a book The Israel Test, which discusses Israel's extraordinary free market achievement and posits that "Israel has become one of the most important economies in the world and is second only to the United States in its pioneering of technologies that improve human life." The book also discusses achievements of Jews (a minority group if ever there was one) in general and of Israel in particular. Israel was established in a hostile environment just 60 odd years ago and has evolved from a pseudo-socialist democracy to a country that has "sloughed off its manacles of confiscatory taxes, oppressive regulations, government ownership and socialist nostalgia." Here is an experiment like the one TSI aspires to, that shows even a small measure of liberty has impressive results. The results are more impressive given the achievements of those nations, mostly dictatorships and religious autocracies surrounding Israel by comparison. Imagine what a large measure of liberty would nurture - in any nation.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The good news of the Toronto garbage strike

There are rumblings in some Toronto media that a political shift has occurred and the tide has turned in the politics of the City of Toronto. The cause is the 39 day garbage and city workers strike that seemed to hinge on the issue of bankable sick days. The city's mayor insists that a victory was achieved and that the city will save $140 million over the next five years which amounts to an annual saving of less than 1/3 of 1% of the city's operating budget of $8.7 billion (2009). The union thinks their membership did well; obviously someone is wrong. The problem is that the city's negotiators were hamstrung. They did not have the option to negotiate with another entity like a private contractor. The city was negotiating with a city sanctioned union monopoly and no one else. This "partnership" between the city and the union benefits the union at the expense and inconvenience of the city tax payers. As a result of the strike the good news is that city tax payers are beginning to realize this as evidenced in this poll (see the PDF on the right). The idea of contracting out garbage collection (as exists in the former City of Etobicoke and many other municipalities in the GTA) is finally becoming a viable option for many Toronto voters (see the poll). Only when competition exists can prices be set that are fair both to the taxpayer and the city worker given market conditions of the day. In the midst of a recession with GTA unemployment approaching 10%, you would think that even unions would contemplate concessions. Why should they given their monopoly position? So is the mayor of Toronto right in declaring victory, or is this a wake-up call for all voters? I think its time to wake up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

T.O. garbage strike over

The Toronto garbage/city services strike is over, only the BIG clean-up remains. How did Mayor Miller, formerly of the NDP do? Well, the simple fact that this entire farce lasted as long as it did tells you something of Mr. Miller's allegiance's. Miller claims that the agreement falls within Toronto's budget restraints. For me, "budget restraints" when set high, define the term oxymoron.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where is Global Warming?

Where I live we are having one of the coolest July's in my memory. But one cool summer does not make a trend. But is there a trend? Are you certain? The issue of Climate Change/Global Warming or whatever you like to call it seems to be settled as far as the the G8 Summit 2009 Leaders are concerned. To them the trend is apparent and world-wide action is required right now, whether you like it or not its for your own good. But there are dissenting views and these views are worthy of your time. Maybe the issue is not yet settled, see what you think, check this out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Enough with this union monopoly of the public sector: Time to contract out

The headline of this blog is from the Globe and Mail Report on Business section of July 21, 2009. The article was written by Gwyn Morgan, and it gives me great hope that things like the garbage crisis in Toronto may result in a brighter future for all of us. Click on the title to view the article, it's well worth your time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Toronto Garbage & Services Strike - Day 30

Its been a coolish summer so far in the heart of the Great White North. Not much sign of global warming here. That's the good news, the bad news is that garbage is still piling up in Toronto and if it ever warms up this summer the smell ought to be interesting. Driving through most parts of town the effect is surprisingly minor, but it could get worse quickly.
This is what its like being held hostage by a union, CUPE, while the municipal government allows the union to run roughshod over the rights of its citizens. Pickets are preventing citizens from bringing their garbage to transfer/holding stations and temporary dumps.
Rumours are that many of the non-garbage workers are returning to work. The government looks like its out to break the union, not a bad idea, but governments at at fault here. Past contracts that were poorly negotiated by civic leaders are coming back to haunt everyone. The only good coming out of this, is the discussion around private garbage collection and allowing municipalities to divest themselves of responsibilities they should not have taken on.

July 20, 1969

"Ambivalence" is the only word that comes to mind when I recall the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I'm a space junkie from the days of Sputnik 1 when I was just ten years old. By the time of the moon landings I was a young adult and I understood the global politics around the space race and the enormous costs involved. The night of the landing, those first steps, the wall-to-wall television coverage, that was amazing. But the reality was that the race was over, America had won and there was nothing more to prove. To underline the propaganda aspect of the whole thing, the US Congress began to scrutinize the expense, eventually cancelling one "science" mission and by the end of 1972 (Apollo 17) manned exploration of the moon was over never to return again.
You can imagine my delight when the X Prize was announced in 1996 inviting private enterprise to enter their own space race and even greater delight when the prize was won only 8 years later with an interesting libertarian twist. So lets hear it for to tourists in space without government subsidy!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite 1916 - 2009

Growing up in the sixties, my views of religion and politics were being formed. By the end of the sixties I realized that religion was ridiculous and politics was corrupt. But there was Walter Cronkite whom I trusted and admired even as a Canadian boy. He was the journalist's journalist and maybe the last of his kind. His nightly newscasts cultivated in me a hunger for news - that I still have. His obvious delight of space exploration and science in general reinforced in me the same feelings. Very few of my actual teachers had the same influence. So I was very sad to hear this and be reminded of mortality.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Human Evolution in 5 minutes

This is very cool video. Using "morphing software" the people (person?) that posted this on YouTube show the presumed evolution of humans from "Australopithecus to Homo sapiens in 5 minutes, following five fossils in and around our lineage in this artistic rendition." The rate of change is about 500 generations every second. Of course this presumes that all the information about human ancestry, that is, all transitional fossils in our direct line have been discovered. This may not be true as evidenced by the recent controversy following the discovery of an extinct, diminutive people known as "hobbits" from the Indonesian island of Flores and thought to be a new species of primitive humans (Homo floresiensis) and not just modern pygmies. But whether the morphing video is the final answer to the story is not the point. As indicated in the YouTube information the authors suggest that evolution is ongoing, there is no such thing as fixed species as supposed in the Creation myths. There is variation and selection based on suitability to environmental conditions, evolution is ongoing and continuous and not goal oriented. Enjoy the video, but you may want to turn down the sound as I think the music a little off putting.

Friday, July 10, 2009

GM out of bankruptcy - Take one!

It only took 40 days and 40 nights (almost biblical) for General Motors to exit from bankruptcy (but parts of the former company are still in bankruptcy liquidation which may take years to settle). The GM CFO, Ray Young, says that a lot of hard work and planning went into the bankruptcy to help speed it along. I'm sure some of the creditors that were stiffed wish that GM had planned as well when they were a real car company and not just a branch of government as it is now. So now there are just four different models, its leaner and meaner and ready to sell cars and compete with those nasty Japanese auto makers. By the way I have a Honda, its one of the best cars I've ever owned. GM stills owes $11 billion not to mention the $50 odd billion it owes the governments. Its going to be a very very tough road for them. Didn't Chrysler go bankrupt back in the '80s? Its done really well since eh?

Americans value science, but not all of it

This was an interesting survey on a quiet news day. While showing that 90% of scientists (didn't say what kind of scientists) support Evolution by natural selection, only 33% of the American public does. At the same time 84% of scientists say the Earth is warming due to human activity and less than 50% of the American public agrees.
What likely wasn't asked in this survey was why these these beliefs exist. Apparently objective evidence has very little to do with the "thinking" of respondents from the public in this survey. Evidence for Evolution is overwhelming and yet only 33% believe it. Evidence for Global Warming due to human activity.......really not so much. Mostly its very indirect evidence not cause-effect-type evidence. Yet just under 50% believe it. All this shows is that climate change environmental activists have a stronger lobby than the evolutionists. So science has more to do with American Idol than with reality.

"Charity in Truth" - another view.

This morning in the Globe and Mail's Report on Business Neil Reynolds takes a whack at the latest Papal Encyclical (see below). Mr. Reynolds gives a more thoughtful analysis of the Pope's message and its implications. Its a must read!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pope knows how to fix Global Economy etc.

The Pope issued his latest encyclical today - Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). In it he suggests that there is urgent need for a true world political authority..........oh what the hell, here is part of what he said:

"To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.
Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth.

Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights.
Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations."

What is stunning to me is the naivety that underlies this kind of message. Lets put aside the assumption that this is a good idea (which it most definitely is not). Short of invasion from another planet (see Will Smith in Independence Day) what would cause world leaders to submit to any global authority? Is there unanimity at the United Nations - ever? Not that I can remember, and why should there be? Like everything else that is true of the Pope and his church its only the needs and aspirations of ordinary people (just about everyone) that are ignored. Remember the Pope is a celibate priest that frowns upon birth control and advises his constituency not to use condoms even if it might prevent HIV-AIDS. Whose side is he on? Not yours.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Garbage Strike

Toronto is still in the throes of a garbage strike by CUPE workers (see Government Monopoly). A letter today on the Comment page of The Globe and Mail from a former Torontonian shows that municipalities can shed many responsibilities like garbage collection. The writer states that he pays $21.50 per month for twice weekly pickup. He can choose from a number of other providers so competition exists, costs are low and the threat of strike is slim. When households are forced to use government supplied and union controlled services, strikes are inevitable. Do you know how much your monthly garbage bill is? I know I don't because its hidden in my real estate tax bill, like yours. Its time for a change.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Canada Day and Independence Day

This is the week where the wealthiest parts of North America celebrate their creation. In Canada July 1st is Canada Day; once more accurately called Dominion Day for the federation of the remaining British North American colonies into the Dominion of Canada (1867)and remaining under limited control by Britain until 1982. In the United States July 4th is Independence Day (1776) signifying the day that the Declaration of Independence was finally approved by that first Congress of thirteen British colonies. Its likely that the Canadian birth was hastened by the Americans. At the end if the American Civil War in 1865, the Union Army was victorious, exhausted, but still the strongest military force on the continent. Politicians in the Canadian colonies probably thought that a unified country (Charlottetown Conference 1864) was better than individual colonies if the Americans had designs on a northern acquisition.

On July 1st each year Canadian media outlets attempt to define what it means to be Canadian. All the lame inventions Canadians are "famous" for are trotted out: the zipper, the Blackberry etc....etc.... Mostly attempts are made to distinguish us from Americans; outwardly and culturally we are very similar. Toronto is so similar in appearance to Chicago and New York that it is often used to stand in for those cities in Hollywood movies. Its true the culture is similar but equally true the differences are great. Canada began as a union of two cultures (French and English) and two languages. Canada's bilingual nature, entrenched in government policy, led to multiculturalism which eventually became policy. Canada is not the melting pot that is America. In Canada immigration and acceptance over the past 50 years has led to a diverse multicultural (especially in the major cities) and uniquely secular nation. Not so in US; despite the First Amendment to the US Constitution which says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .", American governments past and present have a distinctly religious tone. The strong affiliation between government politicians and the Christian religion in the States would not be tolerated in Canada. That makes Canada different in very many ways and it could make the US as dangerous as any nation that claims some special relationship with a god.

Peace and Liberty

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Government Monopoly

Turmoil this week in Ontario and especially in Toronto. Yet another garbage strike in the city; piles of rotting garbage in parks midsummer. Children playing amidst the stench and the vermin just when the children are out of school. Not a pretty picture. The disagreement is between the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416 (CUPE) and the City of Toronto on the issue of bankable sick days; the workers want it, the city can't afford it especially in the midst of the Great Recession.

For me the most interesting development in this story was the rise of private garbage removal entrepreneurs immediately after the strike was announced. These new businesses will remove trash usually based on volume of trash and happily do it for a profit. Removing trash based on volume, encourages homeowners to reduce their trash production to save money - its win-win. The current system encourages homeowners to recycle but removes the real incentive to reduce trash - namely a separate bill for the cost of removal. When faced with real costs people become much more environmentally aware. The private trash collectors would compete with one another lowering price and improving service and the chance of a another city-wide garbage strike is almost zero. The removal of garbage is a service just like lawn mowing and haircutting. What are the chances of a city wide barbers strike or a lawn mowing strike? Just go to a different barber or select a different lawn mowing service or do it yourself. Garbage collection and removal requires no special skill and can be done by oneself exactly as it is in cottage country north of Toronto. I know we're talking about a major city and the cottage analogy doesn't apply, but why is it necessary to have a government monopoly on waste removal? Yes the issue is much greater than that. Where would the trash go, Michigan, like it does now? Trucks full of trash travelling down the 401 from Toronto to Michigan - imagine, only a government would come up with such a creative solution, ridiculous. Its time to think differently about the entire issue.

While I'm looking at government monopoly Ontarians were rattled recently by the possibility of an LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) strike. The threat caused near panic buying across the province. The LCBO is one of the last vestiges of Ontario's puritan past. As a result of federal and provincial laws in Ontario the control of the so-called vices by the religious majority made it impossible to shop on Sunday, sell liquor, beer or wine without special government permission and on and on. The Charter of Rights (1982) began to slowly loosen the grip of Church and government on Canadians. In Ontario however, liquor sales and distribution is still regulated by the Province. The LCBO has a monopoly on the sale of liquor in Ontario that each of us pays extra for. Does anyone seriously think that the LCBO somehow benefits consumers in Ontario? Imagine if there was a monopoly on the sale of soft drinks, would there be price competition as there is now? Would there be more or less brand selection than there is now? Exactly what are the benefits of monopoly to the consumer? There are none. Its way past time to end the LCBO , ASAP!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The seeds of war?

The news out of Iran of late has been very heartening. Iran it seems is not just an Islamofascist regime bent on nuclear proliferation and the eradication of Israel. No sirree! Iran is much more. Iran's close ties to the United States during the reign of the Shah planted seeds of liberty among the population. As a result it is one of the more "westernized" Islamic Republics in the region and apparently ready to question the power of the ayatollahs. The massive demonstrations after the recent presidential elections shows that vague feelings of freedom still exist even after more than 30 years of repression under the ayatollahs. But what will be the result? I suspect the result will be just as surprising as the current protests are. No one predicted that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would lose this election and he did not, according to the supreme leader ayatollah. But people don't seem to trust the results (also not predicted) and that is the most significant thing to happen in Iran since the revolution of the late 1970's.

So here we are in the midst of the greatest economic turmoil since the 1930's (just before the last major world war) with global unemployment levels still growing despite hopes that the great recession is ending. Is the stage being set for global conflict? Well look at the region that neighbours Iran. The failed or failing states of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east and Pakistan has nuclear weapons in its simmering conflict with nuclear India (farther east). American occupied Iraq and the hated Israel are to the west with Russia to the north. Mix in the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the strategic oil reserves of the Saudis et al and voila, all you need is the right igniter. Oh, lets not forget the Chinese and their oil interests in Sudan. Global conflict? I wouldn't bet against it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

GM = Government Motors

North American governments announced yesterday that they collectively own about 72% of General Motors. The US owns 60% and the Ontario and Canadian government about 12%. This announcement caused nary a ripple among the opposition benches in Canada. Where is the Official Opposition in the Federal and Ontario governments? Do they have no criticism, nothing to say about the outrageous debt obligations incurred yesterday? Or are the oppositions as devoid of principles as the current governments? On these important issues that will impoverish generations to come, all Canadian governments and their parties seem to conform to one idea, save some jobs and damn the consequences. All that’s left to oppose the governments are a few sensible journalists like Margaret Wente. How can Canadians choose between parties if all our elected representatives follow the same policies? We have achieved here in Canada what we have criticised in totalitarian regimes around the world. Elections in those countries are a foregone conclusion, the "government" will do the same thing no matter who is elected. All the so called political parties have the same goals and solutions, the electorate just has the choice of personalities. Canada has arrived at that nadir of democracy. At least American politicians voiced their opposition. Apparently our politicians are sucking so hard at the nipples of the unions they can't speak.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Toward the millionth English word

In high school English, years ago, I studied from a thin soft covered book titled Words are Important. There were several levels (colour coded) of this book introducing my classmates and I to increasingly more and more difficult English words. We learned their meaning, to spell them, use them in sentences, followed by periodic quizzes. It was drill and memorization, and all the supposed bad things about education, but it was effective and still remembered almost 50 years later. Why were the books soft covered, so flimsy and tenuous? Of course the answer was probably related to cost, but maybe the authors were prescient. English evolves, it grows, it changes, adapts and thrives. The soft cover books were the clue that this is not a static language. This week we are told that English will soon acquire its millionth word and I humbly offer up a new one that came to me while washing dishes. Bibledygook, it's not a word yet but here is how you can use it. Have you ever been in the presence of a deeply religious person who quotes scripture to you as though it was convincing scientific evidence? This could be from the New Testament, Talmud, Koran, whatever, words offered up to "prove" a point, illustrate a rule or demonstrate how to be righteous. Sometimes the quote is incisive, witty and appropriate. But more often than not I will roll my eyes because I hear jargon, gibberish and mumbo-jumbo. This is bibledygook, a noun, that refers to biblical gibberish or biblical gobbledygook. Not that I don't respect religions, well lets put it this way, I respect people's right to observe whatever religion they wish. The problem occurs when religious people think they know how other people should live, act, behave or run their lives. Frequently these religious types will try to entrench their beliefs in laws that we must all follow, based of course on the bibledygook that runs their own lives. That's where I have a problem. But isn't English wonderful?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Politics is a dirty game (2)

Governments like economists, rarely make accurate predictions about issues related to money. That's ironic of course, because that's what they both supposedly deal with much of the time. Neither were able to predict the economic meltdown that we are in the midst of, and neither can predict the costs involved with trying to fix the meltdown. Governments tumbled over one another to come to the aid of the moribund North American car companies, yet Chrysler and GM are either bankrupt or soon will be. A lot of good that did.

In Canada the Harperites reluctantly tried to staunch the bleeding by throwing money at the wound created by the meltdown. The problem with throwing other peoples money is that its difficult to properly estimate amounts. First they estimated a $34 billion deficit this year, today they estimate a $50 billion deficit, about a 47% miss - oops. If this type of reckoning holds true we could be looking at close to a $70 billion deficit. But its only money right? Will that fix the problems? I predict they will have the same success as they had trying to save the auto sector, which is to say - none. Of course the loyal opposition headed by newly crowned prince-in-waiting Mikey Ignatieff and his economist henchman Johnny McCallum screamed that the government was irresponsible running up such a large deficit and that Finance Minister Flaherty should resign for bad guessing. The two opposition characters first criticized the Harperites for too little stimulus and not getting the money out the door fast enough. Its a dirty game.

In the end though, we're all going to pay for this one way or another. Large deficits add to the (check out the CTF debt clock) federal debt and will need to be paid off somehow. Either governments raise taxes or restrain spending. Are either of those serious options for future Canadian governments? Not unless more Libertarians are elected really soon....so not likely. The only hope for governments here and everywhere else is to pay off the debt with inflated future dollars. Why not print the money? This guarantees that our future dollars are worth less and the more that is printed the less your money will be worth and the smaller the debt the government will have to repay. Inflation is still under control right now, but some of you will recall just a few short months ago when deflation was a worry. You needn't have worried, the government will defeat deflation by the power of the printing press.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Separation of Church and State Bush-style

Once upon a time I was naive. As a Canadian, jealously, I believed that America was truly the land of the free and home of the brave. America was something to emulate, to aspire to. Slowly, over many years and events, that illusion has been shattered for me. McCarthyism, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, the Religious Right, the anti-abortion debate and so many other events have soured my view of America. The past eight tumultuous and long years while "W" was president has brought those views to an all time low. The election of the current President, while hopeful superficially, does not change my opinion when one examines what he stands for. Worse than that, recent revelations about the workings of W's Cabinet (click the title) indicate that for the Bushies, the Iraqi war was religiously motivated. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's security updates contain biblical exhortations little different for al-Qaeda's intonations that "god is great". Its hard to believe that the First Amendment to the US constitution says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .". Well they may have freedom of religion but freedom FROM religion is a dream.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Green Shoots

The Great Recession is over or ending, at least that's what is being said by politicians and prognosticators of all stripes. In the U.S., Obamas' gang has seen "green shoots" the first signs of new growth. The stock market has been in rally mode since the second week of March. Is it really over? Look at it this way, did the business prognosticators and politicians see this worst economic setback in 80 years coming? Not really, most claimed that we were in for a slow down, maybe a mild recession and then back to normal. But normal looks a long way off. The news is only getting less bad (unless you just lost your job). So based on the accuracy of past predictions those green shoots could be weeds and this thing could take years.

Politics is a dirty game

If you have been near a radio or television this week in central Canada it would have been impossible to avoid hearing/seeing stories about alleged shady politicians both here and abroad. The Canadian stories seem very tame compared to the blatant misuse of government money and privilege that has been reported in Britain . Here at home we have the continuing saga of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his relationship with German Businessman (or in the press: sleaze-ball and influence peddler) Karlheinz Schreiber. Its pretty clear that Mulroney received cash payments from Schreiber for jobs undertaken where Mulroney would use his contacts and influence after leaving office. The money was not declared as income initially to avoid the CRA possibly, not really a bad thing, but for a former PM maybe not appropriate. The upshot will be that presiding Judge Oliphant will chastise Mulroney, whose legacy is already dirtied, maybe suggest some new rules for politicians and that will be that. While this was going on the current Conservative government (Mulroney's cronies) seems to have created a diversion that accuses a prominent Liberal, Ruby Dhallah, of mistreating some employees. Not really something that is any bodies business but those involved. This appears to be a smear tactic (by the Conservatives) to divert public attention from Mulroney. Mostly I don't think the large majority of Canadians care about either story, but this is what passes for news here in Canada. Politics is dirty and power corrupts. The Mulroney incident is a lesson to those that think government should be involved in economic matters, any economic matters. Politicians in or out of office can always be trusted to use their power and influence to lie, cheat, steal and do whatever they can get away with just because they can. Its human nature to take advantage of a situation. For that reason alone, government has no business meddling in a free economy. The Dhallah incident is just ridiculous, and no bodies business.



While all this is going on citizens of Toronto have been held hostage by the effects of a civil war half a world away. The large Tamil population (mostly civil war refugees) of Greater Toronto (GTA) has been trying to raise awareness to their cause claiming genocide in the 26 year old civil war. The Tamils want the Canadian government to sanction the Sri Lankan government, trouble is the Canadian government has declared the Tamil Tigers (organizers of this protest) a terrorist organization. So official sanctions are unlikely. This hasn't stopped the local Tamils from illegally disrupting other inhabitants of the GTA, blocking highways, disrupting business and generally depleting the police budget. The police and the city have been gentle, too gentle with the Tamils. After all what is the function of police if not to protect the rights of citizens? People blocking highways and roadways makes it difficult or impossible for ordinary commerce and infringes on individual freedoms. Certainly the Tamils should be free to protest whatever they choose, but when their protests disturb others peoples rights then Tamil leaders should be arrested and fined.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Same old, same old...........

Is it wrong for one blogger to reference another? I don't think so.
When I was a Biology teacher I often mentioned to students that textbooks, especially science textbooks need to be rewritten periodically to keep up with changing ideas, discoveries, theories etc. This, I pointed out is very different from religious books like the bible, where stories and ideas never change. Yes of course religious commentary is ongoing, but the fundamental (no pun intended) "knowledge-base", never changes. The word of god is the word, period.

Science books change all the time. There are now 8 planets in our solar system, Pluto is no longer considered a planet because several other Pluto-like objects have been discovered out there in the Oort cloud. rather than increase the number of planets, astronomers reclassified Pluto. Arbitrary? Yes, but it sells more books. Biology, especially Evolutionary Biology changes all the time. The new transitional seal fossil (see older blog), the new Hobbit-like species of Homo, these and other discoveries will change the texts much to the chagrin of all teachers.

So when I saw this on another blog: The Biology Textbooks are Wrong? , I didn't think much of it until I saw who was saying they are wrong. Take a look at the "Fox News" video.
The guy, Casey Luskin, is from the Discovery Institute , which certainly looks scientific until you start reading the fine print. Click under Science and Culture and read About CSC. These guys are creationists with heavy make-up. The more things change, the more they................

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Canadian Aboriginals and the Catholic Pope

Sometimes its worthwhile to get a different perspective on an issue at home. In the case of Canadian Aboriginals the story linked to the title, says it all for me. One of the oldest and most out spoken critics of religion is a publication from the United Kingdom (1881) called the freethinker. I could not have said it better, hence the link. The damage to aboriginals around the world by religious missions and missionaries is incalculable. For Canadians who smugly think theirs is a welcoming and multicultural society, well think again. We are still burdened with past racism and the glacial speed at which the problems are being addressed boggles the mind.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Puijila darwini

I would love to hear how Intelligent Design creationists explain this one. Another transitional fossil in the loooooooong list of transitional fossils has been discovered by shear serendipity. A team led by scientists from the Canadian Museum of Nature found the fossil in 2007 during an expedition on Devon Island in Nunavut. While driving an ATV near the Haughton Crater part of the team ran out of gas. To pass the time waiting for assistance Carleton University student Elizabeth Ross starting poking around. She found a small, black bone that she showed to Mary Dawson, Curator Emeritus with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. They then found the jaw and limb bones spread on the surface and eventually 65% of the creature's bones.....amazing! It was a "seal" with legs not flippers and it was named for the Inuit word for a walking seal and Charles Darwin who predicted that one day such a fossil may be found. A wonderful discovery that will rewrite the books again!

So yes kiddies....all that stuff in the books about evolution looks better and better as we transition from bipedal-dumb-asses to rational Homo sapiens sapiens. Its a trip that some of you will never make if you don't use your head.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Word of the Day: Islamofascism

So I'm still busy with bringing my computer back from the dead and doing taxes, also linked with death (there is a joke in there). I couldn't help but to comment on Iran's Jew-hating, Holocaust denying President Mahmoud (Ahmadinejad) Ime-a-nut-job. What is there to say really? Little Mahmoud was the first speaker in the U.N.'s Antiracism Conference or should that be Anti-antiracism Conference. On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Ime-a-nut-job shows what kind of slimeball he really is, lashing out at Israel and calling Israelis "racist perpetrators of genocide". This of course caused most of the Western nations that were there to walk out. Others, Canada and the U.S. included were clever enough not to attend the conference. Which brings me to the word of the day: Islamofascism and that makes Little Mahmoud an Islamofascist. I'm not going to bore you with definitions or reasons, but if you look at that oily sand hill called the middle east, I believe Israel is the only sliver of dirt in the region that even resembles a democracy. The only place you can get a fair trial and not fear of having an appendage or worse chopped off. The only place where freedom can and does exist - even if it's underpinnings are religious. Israel of all the countries in that region should be the model that the Islamofascists can aspire to. Little Mahmoud should go home to his sandlot and stay there.