Friday, December 31, 2010

My New Years List

This past week the media were awash in prognostications for 2011 and 2010 year-in-review lists. I won't be doing that.
Once upon a time when I was young, I lived under the illusion that the media tried to present the news in an unbiased and factual manner. That was not true then, and it's definitely not true now. All news is edited, filtered, and coloured by media employees, and company or government policies; consequently so are the year-end-reviews.
Since I don't pretend to be a member of the media and my bias starts at the top of the page, I don't feel bad about repeating the list below. The list comes from Libertarian Quotes (#895), which itself is a wonderful list of over 1300 quotations that have a libertarian flavour. This site is maintained by the Libertarian Party of Boulder County Colorado.
If you ever feel in need of some inspiration, the collected wisdom of the list on the LPBC site is not only refreshing, but the anonymous quote at the top of their list says it all:
A quotation at the right moment is like bread to the famished. – Anonymous
So here is a list for 2011 and beyond that everyone including our governments should follow.
Have a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful 2011.   

The Ten "Cannots" of Political Economy:
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the wage earner by tearing down the wage-payer.
You cannot further the brotherhood of mankind by encouraging class hatred.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative.
You cannot help man permanently by doing for them what they could do and should do for themselves.
Source: Libertarian quotes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can government monopolies destroy holiday plans?

Last week I mentioned the ridiculous delays at Britain's largest airport hub Heathrow. The amount of snow that fell on Heathrow Airport and surroundings was by Canadian standards tiny given the chaos that resulted. Apparently British transport authorities knew that even a small snowfall (such as this was) would result in massive problems.  Compare that to the half-metre snowfall in the New York Metropolitan area over the last few days, and one can appreciate just how unprepared the Brits were. Though the huge post-Christmas storm (5th worst ever)  on the US Eastern seaboard caused major delays, New York area airports are prepared for just such emergencies, and delays and disruptions were minor compared to the British mess.
So why were the Brits so unprepared? This link has a good explanation of just why government monopolies can ruin your holiday plans.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Capitalist Christmas

Christmas has arrived, and it certainly is more than just a "big celebrity birthday" as Dave Letterman joked in his monologue of Dec. 23, 2010. The CBS censors cut that bit from their Late Show webpage so don't bother checking.
Christmas is ostensibly a religious holiday (but it really is nothing of the kind) and the modern celebrations associated with it, have been criticized for being too commercial, too material and too gleeful, for a religion that worships self-sacrifice and rebirth into the after-life. Since Christianity (and several other religions) have a large antilife component, the celebration of the birth of a saviour deserves a more serious tone according to Christian orthodoxy.
In a wonderful essay, first delivered on a radio show fifteen years ago, Leonard Peikoff explains how the Christmas celebrated today by Canadians and Americans was an invention of post-Civil War America, a creation of "the happiest nation in history."
Dr. Peikoff was born a Canadian (Winnipeg, Manitoba) in 1933, and became heir and executor of the estate of Ayn Rand upon her death. I first read his work in The Objectivist magazine 40 years ago. Today he is a leading advocate of Objectivism and founder of the Ayn Rand Institute. His essay is published annually in Capitalism Magazine and can be viewed here. Enjoy, and Happy Christmas!      

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Couldn't close Kyoto at Cancun, warmist push fades

Don't let the picture scare you, a row boat in your garage is not yet a necessity. The ice caps are not melting that fast, not according to this posting, in fact, Arctic ice seems to be increasing. That may just be a short term blip, but in the UK, the Meteorological Office (Met) seems to have blown its own early guess (and I mean guess) as to the severity of this winter.
Around 4 inches of snow (9 cm at Heathrow, 11 cm at Gatwick) has crippled pre-Christmas air travel in the busiest hub on earth and across much of Europe. In Canada or the northern US states that amount of snow would cause a few delays. Maybe the Europeans have taken to heart the warming-alarmist view that winters will just get milder from here on. At the same time, some in Britain think that global warming has stopped.
Peter Foster of the Financial Post discusses the Met's blown prediction and the general issue of AGW in an almost humorous article this week that includes this paragraph:
"No doubt the warmist crowd will be quick to express outrage at this blatant confusion of global climate with local weather, but that won’t wash. The Met makes its short-term forecasts on the basis of the same brand of massive computer power and Rube Goldberg modelling used to project the global climate. The suggestion that forecasting the climate is easier than forecasting the weather comes into the same category as acknowledging that governments couldn’t run a lemonade stand, but then believing that they can “manage” an economy."
The Cancun Climate Conference, which ended a couple of weeks ago, was almost a total disaster for the warmists, but the Mexican government did not want Cancun to be remembered as the end of the struggle. Some last minute back-room arm twisting, and an attitude of agreeing to disagree, ended the conference with an agreement to "kick-the-Kyoto-can-down-the-road" until next year in Durban South Africa. No binding GHG reduction targets were set beyond the already surpassed Kyoto targets for 2012. The Kyoto Protocol is still alive (but zombie-like) until next year. An agreement to set up a $100 billion/year bullshit fund by 2020, with few actual details of how to collect the money was also reached. I have a feeling that economic priorities will neuter that deal and any others.
In Europe and around the world the rules of economics have made the huge government subsidies of the so-called renewables industry unsustainable.
The Spanish have cut support for wind projects by 35% and solar payouts by 45%, and Spain is still on the verge of needing a bailout (from whom?). In France and Germany solar projects have been severely cut back. In Australia, solar-power producers had their payouts cut by 66%. In the UK a backlash against rising power rates has forced cuts to wind projects causing the Danish Vesta company to close five factories in Denmark and Sweden and layoff one-seventh of its global workforce. The green collapse is spreading to the United States and it won't be long before the greenest of all the provinces in Canada, Ontario, follows suit.
In a series of scathing columns, Lawrence Solomon of the Financial Post outlines how Ontario will need to "renege on the egregious green contracts" that were put in place by the irresponsible McGuinty Liberals. Solomon suggests that is the only way for the province to escape bankruptcy in the near future. According to Solomon, the power future for Ontario, for Canada, and the world is still fossil fuel for now.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bankrolling subway expansion

Last week I made an outrageous comment in a posting 'Essentially a disservice,' where I suggested how a government transit monopoly might be broken up in stages. It probably wasn't the best suggestion, I know there are many other ideas that are better. The truth is, if I knew all or even some of the answers to problems like this, I would not be blogging. What I do know is that there are problems of governance that can be approached from other directions different from the prevailing spend and tax paradigm. That is the beauty of a free market and a competition of ideas.
So I was pleased to read a story in one of Toronto's newspapers that a member of the Ontario legislature, MPP David Caplan, suggested that subway expansion in Toronto  could involve private sector money to help finance this very expensive project. I'm not saying that this will break up this particular government monopoly, but that kind of thinking needs to be encouraged. The other good news about this idea is that the newly elected administration  and mayor of Toronto, might be amenable to Caplan's suggestion unlike the socialist mob that ran the city for the past 8 years.    

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Which genocide was the worst?

“We should look at every genocide equally.” That is a quote from the president of the German-Canadian Congress in their complaint against a permanent Holocaust exhibit at the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. This article in the National Post on the weekend, shows how divisive government assistance can be. The controversy highlights two issues, the first being which genocide was the worst?
The Armenian and Rwandan Genocides were horrible and tragic events; but to compare them to the Holocaust is a disservice to the memory of those lost through the 1930's and 40's, and the survivors.  
The Holocaust was unique in human history because it involved legislation by the German government of the time, including the participation of the professional class and the entire legal system. Furthermore, for the president of the German-Canadian Congress to compare any of those events to the expulsion of Germans from East Prussia at the end of the Second War is intolerable.
Secondly, this new museum in Winnipeg is heavily funded by taxpayer’s money from various levels of government, Federal, Provincial and Municipal, including to their dismay, citizens who are members of the German-Canadian Congress.  Government cannot and should not try doing all things for all people. If the museum was funded entirely by private and corporate donations this controversy would be moot.

"If it ain't broke.." The internet does NOT need fixing

Grow or die!
That's probably the reasoning behind the FCC's push to regulate the internet, and protect us all from the unfair practices of the major internet service providers. Wait a minute, what unfair practices?
The internet seems to be working fine, but government agencies need to justify their ever growing budgets and hunger for power.
ReasonTV supplies 3 reasons why the FCC should keep hands off in this short video clip:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keep the Internet Free of GOVERNMENT interference!

If you have not yet heard of "Net Neutrality" read this description from Reason TV:

"Net Neutrality is a proposed set of regulatory powers that would grant the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the ability to control how Internet service providers (ISPs) package their services. Proponents argue that such rules are necessary to ensure that ISPs treat all data on the Internet equally and don't slow or even restrict access to various websites and other parts of the Internet."
"However well-intentioned, the practical effect will be to limit consumer choice and grant the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet, all in the name of fixing a problem that doesn't exist in any meaningful way. Indeed, examples of the behavior that Net Neutrality will combat are few and far between."
Now watch this 4 minute YouTube video produced and animated by Austin Bragg. Written by Zach Weissmueller.
You may wish to subscribe to's YouTube channel and receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The debt of doom must be repaid!

Watch this clip a few times. The cartoon bears will explain STAGFLATION according to the Austrian School. When you're done send it to your MP or Congressman. Tell them to watch until they get it, who knows the jackasses mentioned in the clip may also watch. It can't hurt.

Do as we say, not as we do!

The ratio of Canadian debt-to-disposable-income has just recently surpassed that of the United States according to Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a media barrage this past week. All three warned that too much debt is dangerous in this low interest rate environment, because rates may move upwards quickly putting many families in jeopardy. Of course they are the ones creating the low rates, but they are just playing with you, don't be fooled!
Why are the rates low? To encourage borrowing and spending of course, but don't you borrow because the aforementioned three money-micro-managers are concerned that there is too much borrowing going on, even though governments continue to borrow. Just do as we say, not as we do! Is that confusing or what?
Amidst all this Keynesian crap rides Maxine Bernier carrying the banner of the Austrian School in his most recent column in the Financial Post. Bernier gets right to the heart of the matter, puts the blame where it belongs, and leaves no doubt that he just does not belong in Stephen Harper's Conservative Party.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Essentially a disservice

The last time I wrote about public transit was February of this year, and in Toronto, Canada's largest city, the only thing that has changed is the city's administration. I think the change was for the better, but that doesn't mean I agree with the administration on this (or any) issue. The new mayor of Toronto wants to declare the transit system an essential service, effectively eliminating the right to strike for TTC employees during a labour dispute. The argument for, centres around avoiding a citywide disruption by holding the riders hostage, the argument against points to the fact that compulsory arbitration generally favours the employees and usually hurts municipal budgets or requires a fare hike. With only those alternatives many will say lets declare this an essential service and ensure the smooth operation of the city, no matter what the cost. Of course that attitude has escalated budgets, taxes, debt, entitlements, etc.
What has not changed since the election, is that the TTC is still a monopoly in cahoots with its unions! What needs to be asked is: how difficult is it to drive a TTC vehicle? Does driving require years of schooling, or can just about anyone who can drive do that job? The job requires a Grade 12 education and a 30 day training course, and pay starts at about $22.56 per hour rising to $29.43 after 2 years or just over $60,000 per year, not including overtime. A non-unionized truck driver gets about $18 per hour, a school-bus driver can make just over $16 per hour. Yes, truck drivers do not interact with riders, but the jobs are similar and in many instances the truck driver has a tougher more demanding job. The school bus driver also has a special responsibility. How to reduce the cost of TTC employee compensation?
Is it possible to automate some of the TTC jobs? Absolutely! For example, when was the last time you personally interacted with a bank teller to do your banking? I require a human bank employee maybe two or three times a year, at all other times my banking is done remotely by phone, computer or ATM. Are there TTC jobs that can be done by machine? Yes, but the important question is, is it possible to automate jobs and get around the public sector unions? I suspect automation will come eventually happen as it has in many other cities.
But I'm avoiding the elephant in the room. Is it possible to break up the TTC monopoly and give transit riders real choice? How about getting the city to sell the bus routes to a private company or consortium? The subway and streetcar lines may be kept in the public sector for the time being, those being the easiest to automate eventually. The private sector bus routes could become directly competitive with the remaining public system. TTC administrators would have less responsibility and need a much smaller budget. The two systems would operate in parallel, supporting one another where it was mutually advantageous. The private sector bus drivers could be offered a profit sharing deal, maybe shares in the company, dividends and other incentives. Is this crazy? Only if you are still stuck with the idea that government is there to solve all problems, look around, it's not working. Competition will improve transit, to consider anything else at this point is essentially a disservice to riders.    

Monday, December 13, 2010

Electric dreams, cold reality bites

That picture is the visual readout for the Chevy Volt on a cool late fall morning. Battery operated things don't work that well in cool/cold conditions, all Canadians know that, and electric cars of course run on batteries. If the temperature is less than minus 4 degrees Celsius (26F), the fossil fuel engine on the Volt comes on to help "condition" the battery, then shuts down after 3 or 4 minutes. The electric engine works optimally at 20 degrees Celsius (70F).
So as I look out on this frigid mid-December day, where I doubt that the temperature reached minus 12 Celsius (8F) with a minus 20C windchill, I wonder how the Volt would have performed. Probably not to well. The Volt doesn't like extremes of temperature, that is lower than minus 4C. Extremes!!
Gwyn Morgan has an interesting take on electric car dreams in the Globe today. I guess those booster cables will be really busy in the future. Can you boost an electric car?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lights. Camera. Activism.

Those of you that have read Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged, may have heard rumblings of late, that we are in fact living the novel. Atlas is shrugging, the novel is prophetic!
I suspect Rand thought exactly that, when the novel was published 53 years ago, but who knows. Certainly there are aspects of today's news stories that resemble Atlas Shrugged, but thats true of Orwell's Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four and other dystopian fictions.
The people at the Ayn Rand Institute however, want to stir the pot a bit and possibly catalyze some action through activism. They have sponsored a short video contest, submissions have closed (Dec. 8/10), the purpose being to continue the current rumblings. Why not? It's a great idea, some of the videos are very clever and the good news is, you may still vote for your favourite until Dec. 22nd, 2010. All the videos are located here, all deserve commendation, and I have posted one of my favourites below.
The entire enterprise anticipates Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 (the movie), scheduled for release on April 15th, 2011. Isn't that income-tax-deadline-day in the U.S.? Coincidence? 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The myth of deflation and wisdom of economics professors

Tugwit-the-Terrible strikes again.
The fear of falling prices and thus the fear of a currency that could buy tomorrow, more than it bought yesterday (deflation), keeps government central bankers awake at night. Imagine borrowing a ton of money (like most countries already have), then having to repay it? Its much easier to repay the money if you could print some of it in your basement and scam the lenders. The sad truth is, that IS the job of central bankers like Ben Bernanke in the US (whoa to the Chinese). That's called inflation, and despite what Mr. Bernanke says, he LOVES inflation, he needs inflation, and will do anything to encourage it.
One of the first things central bankers do before they warm up the printing presses, is to hint to the media that deflation is possible, and that it is bad. I'm not sure why its bad, I like the fact that my computer today is faster, better, and CHEAPER, than my previous computer. I think that is deflationary, in fact my standard of living improves as prices deflate! Don't they? I'm confused, so I will let the people at the von Mises Institute explain.
After you have looked at that, watch this from Mr. Tugwit's Channel. Tugwit pulls no punches!    

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jack and Dave explain Quantitative Easing

The following video was created by Tugwit the Terrible and can be found on Mr. Tugwit's Channel. You may have to watch this more than once, I did.
Just imagine trying to explain this scenario on a news program to the general public. Imagine the news anchor or reporter trying to keep the audience's eyes from glazing over.

I was very pleased to hear that Rep. Ron Paul has been named to chair the House Domestic Monetary Policy Subcommittee when the Republican majority takes over the US Congress in the new year. This will give Rep. Paul oversight on the Fed and maybe shed some much needed light onto its actions. Last year Ron Paul authored a book titled End the Fed. We can hope.    

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The freedom NOT to associate

Have you ever had a job where you were told that you will automatically "join" a union as well? I have. I was just happy to get the job, way back then. I was young, really needed the job and as a bonus I belonged to this large group of like-minded individuals all striving for the betterment of education, in this case. They didn't even call it a 'union', it was a 'federation' (OSSTF) so I felt better about belonging. They had lofty goals, some that I liked, some that I didn't like, but my dues were automatically removed from my paycheque, and I was too busy doing my job to really concern myself with the doings of the federation/union.
That's very likely the way it is for many Canadians who have jobs in a variety of businesses, not just government related fields like teaching.
The Charter guarantees the rights of individuals to associate freely. But do workers have the right NOT to join a union? That is the question that will be appealed in this interesting case described by Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shooting the messenger: A hit on Julian Assange

Private Space!

I've always been a "space junky" - outer space that is. I can vividly remember that day in October 1957 when Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviets (yes I'm old - check out one of my favourite movies October Sky). Back then, and for some time afterward, I was brainwashed into thinking that only governments could "afford" to explore space. Space was to be explored by countries; and of course this was troubling to me because by the time I hit my late teens I was thinking that governments maybe should not be doing this with taxpayers money. In those pre-libertarian times, I had some problems rationalizing my love for space exploration and my political philosophy. I've written about this before, but today I'm pleased to say I feel better about the whole thing now, thanks to Elon Musk the CEO of SpaceX Corp.
SpaceX, a private corporation, announced this morning (Dec. 8, 2010) that they have launched the first large capsule into earth orbit, the Dragon spacecraft. Now Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic could have competition for tourists! Marvellous!

Hearts and Minds

Apparently the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle-East can be fought without bullets. To paraphrase Victor Hugo "there is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." So listen-up NATO, ISAF, and all the military forces over there, protecting our freedom, and keeping us safe in the Great White Frigid North. Thanks to WikiLeaks (and published in the Guardian UK) we now know a better, cheaper way to bring freedom and tolerance to the Muslim masses. Just inundate them with American television programs, they watch, they listen, and most importantly they absorb (check out the link) US culture (such as it is). Bring the troops home and lets sell some popcorn!
Here is an excerpt from some US Embassy cables published in the Guardian:
//David Letterman, Agent of Influence//
11. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX said the American programming on channels 4 and 5 were proving the most popular among Saudis. A look at the December 17 programming menu for MBC channel 4 reveals a 24-hour solid block of such programs as CBS and ABC Evening News, David Letterman, Desperate Housewives, Friends and similar fare, all uncensored and with Arabic subtitles. Channel 5 features US films of all categories, also with Arabic subtitles. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that this programming is also very popular in remote, conservative corners of the country, where he said "you no longer see Bedouins, but kids in western dress" who are now interested in the outside world.
12. (S) Over coffee in a Jeddah Starbucks, XXXXXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXXXXXX elaborated on the changes in the Saudi media environment. "The government is pushing this new openness as a means of countering the extremists," XXXXXXXXXXXX told Riyadh press officer. "It's still all about the War of Ideas here, and the American programming on MBC and Rotana is winning over ordinary Saudis in a way that 'Al Hurra' and other US propaganda never could. Saudis are now very interested in the outside world, and everybody wants to study in the US if they can. They are fascinated by US culture in a way they never were before."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Flipping through the newspaper this morning, as I do most mornings, its difficult to avoid headlines that remind me of ineffective and inefficient government spending programs. So today I read that "Canadians (are) waiting longer for surgery" or that "Canada (is) slipping in math, science and reading skills". A quick glance at the articles and I'm not surprised to read that things are a little worse than last year. I'll bet things will be a little worse next year, in fact I'll bet that prior to the next federal or provincial election the ruling party will promise to fix these problem areas by spending more money on them. I will also bet that is exactly what they promised prior to the last election. But my friends I don't think governments can fix anything, and today I have a specific case in point as illustrated by a guest writer.
Rod Rojas holds a Canadian Securities Course designation, is a member of the Ontario Libertarian Party, and has written articles for Here is his take on how government deals with the perennial issue of homelessness.

During the recent mayoral campaign in Toronto, the issue of homelessness was addressed in the particular case of a 40 bed homeless shelter being built at a cost of $11.5 million, an outrageous $287,500 per bed. The original estimate for the entire project was $5.5 million. As a reference point, the average price for a condominium apartment in Toronto is $279,000.[1]
The $287,500 per bed is the net price tag paid to the contractor only. We should not forget that any act of government carries with itself a huge handling cost. This includes the tax dollars that need to be collected, the civil servants and politicians that need to be paid, and the huge infrastructure of government that needs to be maintained BEFORE the money is disbursed. In most governments this amounts to several dollars of government overhead for every dollar spent, which implies that the real cost of each bed is in fact a multiple of the above mentioned figure. Once the facility is finished, we need to add the cost of running the entire project with generously paid civil servants.
The unseen costs of this, and any government expenditure, are the consequences incurred by the taxpayer. Let us not forget that every dollar consumed by government is a dollar not consumed, saved, nor invested by private citizens. Every –unproductive- government job is a productive job lost in the general economy.
In regards to the cost of this new shelter, Phil Brown, the General Manager of the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration for the city of Toronto said: "Is it worth $11.5 million to be able to serve the downtown homeless folks who are some of the most vulnerable in the city? I’d say yes."
As irrational as Mr. Brown’s declaration may seem, we must remember what the incentives a person in his position would have. To begin with, he is spending someone else’s money. Then, he runs the department in charge of the shelter, so the cost overrun is an embarrassment exposing his own ineptitude. We should also point out that increase in funding and responsibilities for his office increases his job security and power. Additionally, in the future, whenever the humanitarian issue of homelessness is raised, especially when something bad happens to a homeless person, he will look like a hero who fights for the rights of the “most vulnerable”. On the flip side, if he opposed the project due to its cost, and anything bad happed, he would be the bad guy of the story, having to defend himself while not saving a penny for himself or advancing his best interests.
Lastly, all types of welfare are open ended expenses, meaning, there is no end to how much money we can spend in better shelters, more nutritious meals, more counselling etc…this is the danger of unrestrained government, they use other people’s money for open ended expenses, so there is no rationing mechanism.
For 2007 the cost for each and every homeless person in Canada, not including government overhead, was conservatively estimated to be between $20,000 and $40,000 per annum and rising[2], while the number of homeless persons keeps increasing. For example, in Toronto, the number of homeless persons rose by 21% from 1990 and 2003.[3]  The explanation for this phenomenon is very simple: when the price of a good or service is lowered, its demand will increase. In other words, homeless help is actually a homeless subsidy, we are encouraging homelessness, and the demand for free accommodation and meals is virtually endless. We will have as many homeless as our politicians and civil servants want to pay for.
Rod Rojas

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given
This article originally appeared in the Libertarian Bulletin Vol. 31 No. 2 Winter 2010, the Newsletter of the Ontario Libertarian Party.

[2]  Laird, Gordon (2007). "Shelter-Homelessness in a growth economy: Canada's 21st century paradox." A Report for the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership as reported at the Teapots/OCAP Seminar on Homelessness
[3]  Gaetz, S., Tarasuk, V., Dackner, N., Kirkpatrick, S. (2006) "Managing" Homeless Youth in Toronto: Mismanaging Food Access & Nutritional Well-being.

Monday, December 6, 2010

WikiLeaks: A Cyber-Deep-throat?

The Watergate Scandal of the early 1970's ultimately led to the resignation of US President Richard M. Nixon in August of 1974. The whole thing began as a little noticed story; a break-in at the Democratic Party National Headquarters, followed by arrests, cover-ups, tapes, denials and finally presidential resignation. The whole process was fuelled to the end by enterprising journalists from the New York Times and especially Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. Many of the details came from the Post's whistle-blower source nick-named 'Deep Throat' but now known to be former Associate Director of the FBI W. Mark Felt.
I'm not sure if the WikiLeaks data dump(s) from Julian Assange will have as much or even more impact than the Watergate story, but I'm hoping it does. I'm hoping its bigger.
The stories coming out of WikiLeaks have already had an impact as far as I'm concerned. Canada's new three year commitment to the Afghan debacle has been immediately spotlighted from the WikiLeaks releases. Now everyone here knows that Hamid Karzai and his gang of thugs is corrupt, if there were any doubts before.
Canada has lost 153 dead and thousands injured physically and mentally, with billions of dollars frittered away by spineless politicians and bureaucrats. What is our strategic gain from this mess? Are Canadians, Americans, anyone, safer today than they were a year ago? Five years ago? Will we ever leave Afghanistan?
We also know from WikiLeaks that Hilary Clinton thinks the Saudis, American allies, are the "most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." I'm sure glad all the terrorist funding sources have been plugged up almost a decade after 9/11.
Talking about 'plugging,' its good to know that American security is so tight, that a 23 year old soldier who can lip-sync Lady Gaga can steal thousands of classified documents and show that government incompetence is forever and everywhere.
In a strange way WikiLeaks is reassuring, how can anyone believe in government conspiracies after this? How can anyone believe in any kind of conspiracies? How can anyone believe in government/politicians announcements? WikiLeaks encourages skepticism, and that kind of disbelief is what will keep us all free.
To those who think Julian Assange should be prosecuted or worse, executed for treasonous acts, I think otherwise. I think he's done us all a great service, in fact I think we should remove the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize from its undeserving winner and hand it over to Assange. That would be a worthwhile tribute. By the way the 2007 Peace prize was also undeserved, but that's a story for later.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The last Gulag?

A column in the National Post today (Dec. 3/10) by Jonathan Kay made me just shake my head.
The column titled The Invisible Gulag describes conditions within North Korea through the eyes of a German doctor, Norbert Vollertsen, who was given unimpeded access throughout the North Korean countryside for his act of charity. Vollertsen, who worked with an international NGO, describes horrors in the article that reminded him of NAZI concentration camp prisoners he had learned about from the Second World War. Eventually his disgust with conditions in North Korea led him to a surreptitious protest and an eye-witness report that appeared in the Washington Post 10 years ago. For this he was expelled from the North and now lives in South Korea as a human-rights activist.
Vollertsen is dismayed that the media seem to focus on relatively small-scale Western and Middle-Eastern human rights abuses while ignoring what is a virtual concentration camp in North Korea in 2010.

From the Brights: Earth and Life: Changes over Time

It's a poster for classrooms, or as a gift, and according to The Brights' it is unique. They describe it this way:
"Earth and Life: changes over time" is a pictorial representation of evolution from the “Big Bang” to current times. The unique feature of this poster is that it combines physical science and life science events on the same time scale. The viewer will be able to see connections not seen in other timelines of evolution. Educators will be able to show students the impact of physical and geological events on the evolution of life, while others can enjoy the grandness of the presentation and gain a new perspective of the processes involved in our changing world.
Have a look here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Econ 101: The Keynesians have it backwards

Its income and savings that drives an economy, not spending and consumption. Watch: