Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have you been 'Greenwashed'?

Green-wash (green’wash’, -wôsh’) – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.
Let me reassure you, this posting is 100% fat-free, sodium-free, sugar-free, cyclamate-free, aspartame-free, phthalate-free, BPA-free, and its organic, carbon-footprint-free and, well, just plain free! I think I may be channelling George Carlin, I wish I had his talent.
This week an environmental marketing firm called TerraChoice released its research on the claims made by almost 5300 products as to their "greenness" and found almost 96% were lying. What a shock, companies exaggerate the effectiveness of their products! Of course this a tradition as old as, well, really old, I was going to say snake-oil salesmen, but I'm pretty sure the tradition goes back to the very first days of the idea of marketing. There are a couple of stories here, first there is TerraChoice.
TerraChoice is like the Underwriters Labs of the 'green universe'. In fact it has been acquired by Underwriters Labs - ULC (Canada) in a very recent deal. A TerraChoice endorsement should give consumers some confidence that the product so endorsed is legit. Nothing wrong with that, I like the idea of UL/ULC or CSA labels on any of the things I buy, and a TerraChoice label sounds like a good idea. Of course I'm still skeptical, not necessarily of TerraChoice but of the need to buy 'green' products, but that is another story. People should be free to choose whether they want to be 'green' or not and I'm OK with that.  Here is a private company that can survive by confirming claims made by manufacturers as to the efficacy of their products based on empirical evidence and thus benefit consumer choice.
So what about empirical evidence? In the last few weeks the Canadian government has declared bisphenol A, also known as BPA to be a toxic substance. This is after it declared BPA banned from baby bottles, now it is toxic at any level and needs to be removed from food and beverage can-liners and even cash register tape. 
Canada is leading the charge in this endeavour, the problem is no one is following. Even the Europeans think that BPA is perfectly safe because, well, there is no empirical evidence that supports banning it at these levels.
Claims have been made that BPA is linked to breast and prostate cancer, obesity, diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity, autism, liver disease, ovarian disease, disease of the uterus, low sperm count and heart disease. As John Stossel says in a recent posting "when a chemical is said to cause so many disorders, that's a sure sign of unscientific hysteria."

You are being milked!

Most Canadians don't know that the price of milk in Canada is more than it should be. Should be? Thats right, the price of an item should be determined by its scarcity and the demand for it. The scarcer an item, the more it should cost in relative terms.
That U.S. gallon (3.7854 litres) jug of milk over there costs $2.79 at ShopRite stores in urban New Jersey, a 4-litre bag in Southern Ontario costs $3.99. Given that the currencies of the two countries are roughly at par, why the discrepancy in price? The answer is complex, so complex that the milk producers and the Canadian government are happy to keep the electorate "blissfully ignorant" as reported this week in the Financial Post.
The Post article blames the Canadian Dairy Commission or CDC, a Crown corporation that arbitrarily sets the price of milk and other dairy products based on something called supply management and without regard for market conditions. Of course an arbitrarily high price affects the poor and needy the most. Does the government care?    

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not just tilting at windmills

One of the "promising solutions" to global warming is reaping energy (carbon-free) from the wind. This of course is only part of the solution proposed by the AGW alarmists.
An article by Larry Solomon in the Financial Post: Wind: The new nuclear, compares the building of more windmills to the construction of nuclear power reactors in the 1970's and 80's. Back then groups of environmentalists banded together to prevent construction of these power plants all over the Western world. Hollywood helped stoke the public fear with movies like the China Syndrome. Nuclear power was a no-no until James Lovelock (one of the earliest AGW alarmists) pointed out that nuclear was relatively carbon-free despite all its other faults. Strangely, a lot of those same protestors back then have changed their minds on nuclear.
Today a new group of protestors has come forth to push against the proliferation of wind mills. Solomon's article is an interesting look at all the issues involved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Happy Creation Day! According to Bishop James Ussher Oct. 23, 4004 BC, was the first day. Who can argue with that?

Friday, October 22, 2010


The other night I was watching the disaster movie 2012.  I've seen the big earth collision movies, like Armageddon and Deep Impact and the global warming epic The Day After Tomorrow. None of these are great movies, but all of them gave CGI technicians a multitude of challenges but I loved watching. People are fascinated with disasters, disaster movies, train wrecks, car wrecks, explosions and on and on, I am anyway.

That got me thinking about the global warming debate and several similar debates that have gone on when I was younger. Some of you will recall the population explosion and ecology scares of the 1960's and 1970's. The TIME cover (Jan. 1960) on this page was emblematic of the population scare and the Malthusian idea that humans were heading for famine, disease, and pestilence. The limits to growth idea, sold magazines and books then slowly morphed into an ecological disaster scenario which morphed into a variety of minor green issues that finally gave birth to the current disaster anthropogenic global warming or now more euphemistically called climate change.
We humans, NEED these kinds of threats, it brings humanity together. That became more evident after that photo taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft in December 1968. There was tiny Earth in the blackness of space, our fragile home that must be saved from the ravages of us. People like to believe that they can save the planet, that's why we watch those disaster flicks, we enjoy the vicarious thrill of coming close yet averting catastrophe by collective action. We yearn to make that difference by being environmentally friendly in our daily lives.
With the help of a variety of alarmists in media (CBC is very guilty in Canada), among reputable scientists, and political leaders, we have a wonderful new disaster unfolding before us. This time it's a global problem, so it must be coordinated under the jurisdiction of the United Nations IPCC and it that requires the scientific and political elite of the planet save us from ourselves. The theme is the same, only the threat is different, bigger and more immediate and even worse, people and governments actually believe it.
Not everyone believes it, Vaclav Klaus the President of the Czech Republic doesn't believe it. In a speech given this week and excerpted here Klaus defiantly disagrees with many other world leaders about the veracity of anthropogenic global warming. He did that just weeks before COP16, the next conference (in Mexico) of the scientific and political elite who stand to reap enormous benefits for themselves by subjugating humanity to a global carbon tax regime like cap and trade.
Since most scientists view global warming as a boon to government/academic research grants for their work, they are loathe to bite the hand(s) that feeds them. These days it doesn't take much to get such funding, all that has to be done is to tack the phrase "....and its impact on (OR how it is affected by) climate change" to the proposal. Do that on all proposals to whomever, and get the funding! Current scientists won't fight this, the retired ones will, and so will the amateurs.
The argument against anthropogenic global warming is a bit like trying to disprove the existence of god, its tough, almost impossible to prove a negative. Even worse there is no money in it but that doesn't stop people from trying.
Here is a video from an educated amateur (Warren Meyer) that represents for me, one of the most comprehensive attacks on the idea of anthropogenic global warming I have ever seen. It's fairly lengthy, I saw it over a couple of days, and its done on a budget, but it is definitely worth your time if you are sitting on the fence about this issue.

Catastrophe Denied: The Science of the Skeptics Position (studio version) from Warren Meyer on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reasons why big government hurts economic growth

This week Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney backtracked on his outlook for the Canadian economy. Things aren't as rosy as he once thought from his lofty perch in Ottawa. Down here in the real world lots of people have large debt, governments around the world claim to be cutting their size and spending because of debt, debt seems to be in abundance. So it makes sense that people and governments will rein in their spending and slow economic growth. That sounds right on paper but is that really the cause of poor economic growth?

Here is a view from Dan Mitchell at CATO that was produced over a year ago. It focusses on the American situation, but each of the reasons listed applies just as much (maybe more) to Canada.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bubble Head - Serving and Protecting

The repercussions of this last summer's G20 protest in Toronto keep surfacing in the daily news. The latest story involves the touchy cop "attacked" by a bubble-blowing dissident provocatively blowing bubbles at him. The cop threatens to arrest (see below) the offending bubble-blower and charge her with assault if she persists. Later she is seen being arrested for some other "offence" and charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, the catch-all charge. 
Apparently video of this "incident" which was posted on YouTube has been viewed 300,000 times, and has spawned a cartoon: "Officer Bubbles" that depicts a beefy-black cop wearing sunglasses arresting someone for dancing then joking that the next video will show him shooting a kitten stuck in a tree. The cop involved - Constable Adam Josephs is now suing YouTube because he wants the identity of those responsible for posting the cartoon, defaming him, and bringing threats to his family.
This comedy continues and really does not make anyone look good particularly the Toronto Police. Obviously, now everyone will stop picking on this cop.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Be it resolved that religion is a force for good in the world...

The next Munk Debate (Nov. 26, 2010) pits former British P.M. Tony Blair against writer Christopher Hitchens arguing if religion is a force for good. Is there really any point? It might be an interesting evening, but here we will see Blair defending the indefensible and Hitchens arguing for the intolerable.

Who knew that politics gave Blair the credentials to argue in favour of religion? Oh, wait a minute "power" is central to both, and there is corruption, control, obfuscation, and extortion in both; maybe he is qualified. Certainly Blair's recent book tour where he defends Britain's entry into the war in Iraq qualifies him to defend the indefensible.
Hitchens' is a widely respected atheist who certainly qualifies as a worthy opponent, but his position as posted on the Munk website is: "If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world." That is as intolerable to me as religion itself. Imagine "instruction...not allowed", quite a different world indeed. Hitchens' shows us in that statement his true conservative roots - and when I use the word "conservative" I mean it in its most derogatory sense. What an ugly comment, what an ugly thought!
I don't have a problem with anyone practicing and perfecting their religion, just leave me out of it and keep me away from bigots like Hitchens'.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Balancing a budget sometimes means spending less on frills!

According to Dan Mitchell at CATO, spending less on government departments that are not really (according to the US Constitution) functions of government, will quickly balance the US budget. I know that sounds unbelievable; have a look for yourself:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It will always come down to morality

Last week I mentioned the talk given by Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio (FDR) fame. The event was recorded and the YouTube posting is now available. The video spans virtually the entire evening; 90 minutes long, and recorded at a pub in Toronto early in September 2010. The evening was sponsored by the Ontario Libertarian Party
Stefan talks about the one unavoidable fact that libertarians frequently fail to address in any discussion and I am as guilty as anyone. It is a fundamental belief, a starting point really of libertarianism. 
All libertarians will agree that the initiation of force in any interactions between people and other people, between individuals and groups of people including organizations and of course government is immoral; period. It is the non-aggression principle very simple but with huge repercussions in daily life. Stefan uses this interactive-talk to expand on his acceptance of the non-aggression principle versus the rationale people use today to justify our democracy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lessons from the European Union

Is America lurching toward European-style statism? Many people think so, I think so. Here in Canada we already "enjoy" a generous helping of European statism. We don't have the same libertarian beginnings as our cousins south of the border, but many of us aspire to those values. Lately the problem has been that the Americans, I should say the American leadership, has the appearance of being worse than our own leadership (if that is possible). The good news of course is that both of our countries share a common heritage, similar political and business practices, and it is not too late to heed warnings when they are given. The CATO video below is a warning we should take to heart.  

"Daniel Hannan's new book, The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America, urges Americans not to take such things as federalism, the rule of law and limited government for granted. He believes the United States could find itself lurching toward European-style socialism even more quickly. He spoke at the Cato Institute September 29, 2010."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Truth in humour - no pressure

This past weekend I had occasion to attend an Annual General Meeting and lecture and sit among some very dedicated environmentalists. The lecture was about the sex-life of song birds, interesting and especially to me because of my biology background. The lecture took me back to my own school days where a variety of Professors tried to convince me that things like the spruce-bud-worm infestation was a serious threat to our Boreal forests, it was a threat but not nearly as bad as they thought, but back to the bird lecture. During the course of the afternoon speaker after speaker kept alluding to the threat of climate change. One of the leaders of the group even suggested that their work helped counter "the ravages of climate change". The group leaders presented the mayor of my town with an award for the town's tree planting program, well deserved I'm sure, we have a lot of newly planted trees here.
I've got nothing against protecting and preserving the environment, using resources in a cost effective manner, minimizing pollution, all those apple-pie and motherhood issues I'm happy to oblige because I think they are good ideas. My problem starts when my choices are limited. That meeting left me with the thought that this group would like to limit my choices with some intrusive new rules; not a good feeling.
Later that day at home and I came across this informative website posting on the issue of climate change. Within the posting there was a graphic video that I saw which I at first thought was a joke, have a look:

It's not a joke. Need proof that those innocent looking environmental types really want to force their will on you and the rest of humanity?   I'd say that is proof, it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but there is truth in humour. These were ads in the UK for TV that were pulled and deemed inappropriate (imagine that). The group 1010global is real though, with a section in Canada. There is even a kinder, gentler version of this "green-or-else-snuff-video" for the Canadian market. I understand this and others have been running in British Columbia recently:
No pressure eh?