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 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................