Thursday, June 30, 2011

Royal Rejoicing

John Ivison has an appropriate and funny column in the National Post today. He is covering the "Royal" visit of two young people from London (in the picture) and his comments will make anyone smile.
The news media will be all over the Royal honeymooners and Gay Pride week here in the centre of the Canadian universe during our National holiday weekend.
I can't think of how to relate these two events. Yes, there are queens involved, not royal. There will be Royal parades and Pride parades, pomp and pageantry at both and ass-less chaps and mounted horsemen (I'm not going to touch that one).
The Royals aren't coming to Toronto, too bad. Maybe it had to do with Pride Week, competition you know. But missing Toronto is a bit like trying to get the flavour of France without going to Paris. Why choose the Calgary Stampede over Pride week? Why piss off the animal lovers AND the LGBT community?
The big media story here this entire week, has been the failure of the newly installed Mayor of Toronto (Rob Ford) to acknowledge the Pride events in his city. Maybe we should be pissed off at the Royals too?     

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Krugman in Canada

Want to see how the "pen is mightier than the sword?"
Paul Krugman is in town today, speaking to the Economic Club of Canada, and he wasn't very optimistic about the future, but not for the reasons you might think. Krugman thinks that governments are not doing enough to stimulate their economies. Really? Yup, “We’re living in a time in which, for the time being, virtue is vice, prudence is folly.”  What does he mean? Spend more dammit! Sigh.....
As I was saying about the pen and sword, read Peter Foster today in the Financial Post, he splays Krugman open and the insides aren't pretty. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Without economic freedom, there is no freedom.

Click your mouse on that map. Only New Zealand and Switzerland are shaded bluish indicating they have greatest degree of economic freedom according to the Fraser Institute in 2008.
The map is part of a List of Freedom Indices that someone created for Wikipedia, and it is a wonderful resource for anyone on the planet to compare their country on issues of political, civil and economic freedoms.
The Freedom Indices are mentioned in a great column in today's Financial Post written by Karen Selick the litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation. Ms. Selick's column "Pursuit of one's trade," argues that without economic freedom all other freedoms are jeopardized.
Of course the reality is, liberty cannot be rationed into press freedoms, civil liberties, and economic liberties. True freedom requires all of them, not two out of three. Just as life requires air, water, and food, the rationing of any one impinges on life, period.

Bonus addition:


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bubble Bubble toil and trouble....

My apologies to William Shakespeare, but is the Canadian housing market in a bubble? There is some concern that the events in the United States that led to the Great Recession, namely their artificially low interest rates over the past decade could be happening here. The Federal government is concerned as well, earlier this year the "rules" for getting a government backed mortgage were tightened. Thats right the government has rules for getting a mortgage, why that should be a function of government is beyond me. You would think that our vaunted bankers would be clever enough to make their own rules about mortgagees and mortgagors.
An excellent column in the Financial Post by Lawrence Solomon this week, outlines how the government may be stoking the fires of a mortgage crisis not unlike the mess created by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac that led to the 2008 housing collapse in the States. The effects of that collapse are still being felt in America and around the world. Solomon points to CMHC as one of the chief culprits, but more than that he outlines some of the myriad other housing enticements that encourage demand and inflate the housing market. He thinks it's not too late to "fix" the problem.
My friends at Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada had a more in depth examination of the Canadian housing market last week in this posting: The Canadian Moral Hazard Corporation (CMHC) and the author suggests it is already too late. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blue is the new Red?

Is this clever marketing or should you protect your children from a blue scourge during the Saturday morning cartoons?

A French writer and sociologist, Antoine Bueno claims in "The Little Blue Book," that the Smurfs are, "the embodiment of a totalitarian utopia, steeped in Stalinism and Nazism".

You could say that explains the Socialist NDP surge in Quebec and elsewhere during the most recent Canadian federal election. All those voters were subliminally affected by the Smurfs in their childhood, now they are just a practicing what was preached to them. Its all a giant plot designed to turn the world into a Statist Utopia (see oxymoron). Who knew?
Or, this could be clever capitalist marketing in advance of the Smurfs' new movie where they resurrect the career of Jonathan Winters, 85, - yes, he's still alive and he is the voice of Papa Smurf in the new movie The Smurfs in 3D opening July 29, 2011. 
Yes, the Statist Smurfs arrive in New York City the Capitalist capital, and proclaim "where the smurf are we?" Statist Europe is already deeply involved, with blue villages popping up all over.
Here is Antoine in his own words, after the promo:   

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Price System

Why are prices important? Prof. Daniel J. Smith of Troy University describes the role that prices play in generating, gathering, and transmitting information throughout the economy.

The Pencil

Milton Friedman in his own words:

The power to declare war

In some way the International Energy Agency (IEA) announcement to release 60 million barrels of strategic oil reserves over a month is a tacit admission that the bombing of Libya is all about oil, and not much about protecting Libyan civilians as was stated originally in the Canadian House of Commons: "that the House deplores the ongoing use of violence by the Libyan regime against the Libyan people; acknowledges the demonstrable need, regional support and clear legal basis for urgent action to protect the people of Libya".
Canada has been involved in Libya since March 2011 and it recently extended the mission. Canada should not be involved, but at least the House of Commons was asked. Contrast that with what happened in the US care of Cato@Liberty:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Need a dose of freedom?

This looks promising, maybe.
Gerry Nicholls has announced "a new promote and protect conservative values.....called ."  He writes: "I want to provide a principled, non-partisan voice for the conservative ideals of smaller government, free markets and individual liberty. My hope is this site will help win the war of ideas and mobilize Canadian conservatives to push our political parties in the right direction."
On the website the 'About us' says:
 "A strictly non-partisan site, is dedicated to promoting, defending and celebrating our economic, political and individual freedoms. Its aim is to offset the anti-market bias so prevalent among the mainstream media, political parties and special interest groups and to raise awareness about the moral underpinnings and principles of democratic capitalism and individual liberty. In short, this site is for Canadians who believe our country needs less government and more freedom."

Sounds good right? Here is my problem: since when are smaller government, free markets and individual liberty conservative values?

The word "conservative" is liberally sprinkled all over this website, over and over again. I did a word search for "libertarian" and three articles came up, but none of them actually used the word libertarian, none. So what's up with that? Does strictly non-partisan mean strictly not libertarian, but conservative is OK? Don't words mean anything anymore? Does this new site advocate keeping the status quo? Isn't that what the non-partisan word 'conservative' means?
The dictionary definition of the adjective conservative as in the phrase "conservative values" where conservative modifies values is: conservative (adjective) - disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change. OK, maybe "restore traditional" values, that works, but who is there in Canada that remembers those values?  By the way the libertarian movement is all about limiting government not limiting change as conservative implies.

Yes, this website looks interesting, even promising. My advice to Gerry and any other writers on this site is that the word libertarian as an adjective actually means "advocating liberty or conforming to principles of liberty." Isn't that closer to the ideals of smaller government, free markets and individual liberty? I think so. Use the damn word!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More lessons from "Smilin' Jack"

Last weekend was the 50th Anniversary celebration of Canada's only openly declared and still socialist political party.
In my last posting I suggested that there is much to learn from the rise of the NDP to official opposition status. So continuing that thought, let me direct you to an interesting article in MacLean's magazine this week. The article, The making of Jack Layton by John Geddes, is way more than I ever wanted to know about Jack, but I found parts interesting and useful.
The article shows that Layton is a natural leader type, going back to his school days and is obviously related to his family's entanglements in the world of politics. Layton grew up in Quebec, in the politically volatile time period of the rise of Quebec Nationalism. His activism put him on the periphery of groups involved in the October Crisis in 1970. He eventually came to Toronto and became a politician in the municipal arena. Two lessons in the article, first this story from the article:    
"In 1985, a barbed joke in a bar prompted him to rethink his political style. He went to meet one of his younger brothers, then doing graduate work at the University of Toronto, at a downtown pub. “He’s introducing me to his buddies, and one of them—he’s had several beers—says, ‘Oh, you’re Jack Layton. I thought your name was But Jack Layton. You know, you read in the paper, ‘The mayor proposes this, but Jack Layton,’ or, ‘They want to do this, but Jack Layton . . . ’ ” The jibe stung. “I was opposing things,” he says."
Lesson one: criticize yes, but offer constructive alternatives, Layton took that to heart. Lesson two: Layton lost in a bid to become Toronto mayor in 1991, and in a Federal election in 1993. Learn from losing, yes it sucks, but it is the market telling you that your message needs improvement. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making a difference

In the federal election just passed, the number of rejected ballots in Markham-Unionville beat my total as the local Libertarian candidate, again. But this time it was closer. I’m not discouraged because I know I made a difference. People don’t necessarily vote for or against a particular individual or party, so I don’t feel slighted in any way with only 0.5% of the popular vote.

As a case in point, look at the NDP surge in Quebec and elsewhere. One young NDP candidate never set foot in her riding, had no election signs or campaign office, spent a week of the campaign vacationing in Las Vegas, and was virtually invisible, but won her election handily. Effectively she was a “paper candidate,” riding on the coat tails of her leader, Jack Layton. The Harper majority has presented her with a four-year contract and an annual salary of $157,731 plus perks, just for showing up; not bad for agreeing to help out her party. She obviously made a difference with very little effort. For the NDP it was important to field candidates in every riding across the country for the sake of credibility, even if their candidates were not credible themselves. Helping the party is one important lesson for Libertarian candidates and potential candidates in the upcoming Ontario Provincial election.

For all the considerable effort that I put forth in this election campaign, my vote count barely budged from my 2008 results. It was not for lack of trying. I had an unpopular package to sell the voters of Markham-Unionville. Some day, in the future, that package may look more attractive to voters, but not yet.

This campaign was my second attempt. This time I had signs throughout the riding, attended “all-candidates debates” (except where I was involved with other party matters), I was profiled on the local cable channel, and local newspaper, had a widely heard radio interview on a Toronto Rock station, I used social media like my blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. I also had short YouTube clips online, and a website dedicated to the election campaign. I campaigned with pamphlets from door-to-door and in public areas.
Did it have an effect?
Well it certainly did not translate to votes. However, on several occasions people that I met on the campaign told me that they saw my signs, but didn’t know what the Libertarian Party represented, or more often, they had never heard of the party before. The point is, now they have. No party wins voter trust instantly, and it takes repetition and familiarity; look at the NDP story.

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the NDP, and it has taken 50 years of repetitive collectivist rhetoric and thinking for them to achieve the trust of a large percentage of the electorate. Over 30% of voters across Canada (much improved from 18% in 2008) chose an NDP candidate in this election, making the NDP the official opposition for the first time. In those 50 years Canada has changed enormously from a nation that accepted a relatively limited role for government with emphasis on individual, family and community responsibility. The current paradigm in Canada, is one where government should do as much as possible for as many as possible. This happened in a slow but steady evolution, with the assistance of politicians that pandered to the public sector unions, corporations, and was abetted by the public school system, and the mainstream media.   

The other important lesson we Libertarians should take to heart is the role of leadership. If we are going to act like a political party and ask people to vote for us, they need a face, and a persona to go with the party name. The NDP example demonstrates my point; look at what Jack Layton accomplished. In ridings all over the country, disenchanted Liberal and Bloc voters chose NDP candidates sight unseen. That will not happen to us necessarily, but an effective leader allows the generally lazy mainstream media to zero in on one individual who can deliver the message for us all.   

We have much to offer to a thinking electorate. We are the only party where principles of freedom would direct policy.  The only party that openly advocates free enterprise, reduced spending, reduced government, and actually means it. The problem is we are few, and it will take each of us to make a difference, but make no mistake, you can if you try.

The above article originally appeared in The Libertarian Bulletin, The Newsletter of the Ontario Libertarian Party Summer 2011, Vol. 31 No. 4

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The perfect propaganda circle

"Peer review or Pal review," that's the gist of an op-ed from Patrick Michaels in Forbes online this week. Michaels points out that the process of peer review, long held as the gold standard method of sussing out truth in science, is failing miserably because the double-blind rule is ignored in climate science. Unlike blogging, getting published in scientific journals is supposed to be tough, Michaels says.
In peer review, names are removed from submitted manuscripts to avoid favouritism or any other conflicts. Very sensible, and by and large the process works....eventually. Even hoaxes like Piltdown Man, are exposed, except that one took 40 years to fix. Michaels argues that climate science is riddled with favouritism and the double-blind rule is ignored. What about objectivity and fairness? He points out that: "in the intellectually inbred, filthy-rich world of climate science, where billions of dollars of government research money support trillions of dollars of government policy, peer review has become anything but that."
Rex Murphy in the National Post echoes some of Patrick Michaels' points but goes on to discuss the supposed great saviour of our planet: renewable energy. Murphy tells about Steve McIntyre's revelation that the "IPCC used a Greenpeace campaigner to write a key part of its report on renewable energy and to make the astonishing claim that 'close to 80% of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies' " (my emphasis). But that same "Greenpeace campaigner approvingly cited a Greenpeace report that he himself was the lead author of. He peer-reviewed himself." So much for conflict-of-interest or any of that double-blind bullshit; it is as Murphy calls it the "perfect propaganda circle." That last story is detailed earlier in the week by Lorne Gunter and Steve McIntyre.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Government sanctioned riots

House party gone wrong   
It's a common plot devise in Hollywood movies. The teenager's parents are away or on vacation, the teen has the big house to him/herself, invites friends who invite their friends and so on. The teen provides the house, the toilets, the entertainment, and before you can say: "Animal House" a mini-riot ensues. Drunkenness, drugs, police, the home is get the picture. That is just what happened the other night after the hockey game, except this party was held on behalf of the citizens of Vancouver.
The government of the City of Vancouver in its wisdom, announced (via Mayor Robertson) that the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a community affair, funded by local taxpayers (because the city is flush with oodles of cash?), and presented for "free" to one-and-all in the downtown city core. Forget that a hockey riot had occurred in 1994, trust the City Council, this time it will be different, just remember that the 2010 Winter Olympics were a blast. The estimated price of this event will be half-a-million-dollars, chicken feed for all the good press vibes it will attract. Interestingly, I found this police report from 2010 that estimates that just the additional police presence, would cost almost $1 million. OK, lets forget that, for the moment because the City of Vancouver will set up "two giant TV screens mounted on flat-deck trucks that are expected to lure fans to the free, family friendly events." There will be sanitation costs, lots of port-a-potties, and on and on, come on down it will be fun. Lets not be too concerned that local business will be disrupted for many days, even weeks, lets just look at the benefits that will accrue, lets just look at one side and forget the other.
If this scenario sounds familiar to Canadians, let me cast your mind back just one year to Toronto and the G20 riots. This was to be a great boon to the city of Toronto, touted by all levels of government, attracting all sorts of media and prestige for the city. Well, businesses and individuals are still trying to recover damages from that mess.
Both of these events were effectively government sanctioned riots. Government officials set the location, set the time, provided the amenities, and invited the mobs and rioters; "bread and circuses" comes to mind. But even more obvious for me,  was the timeless essay written over 160 years ago by Fredrick Bastiat that should be required reading for anyone in government: That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.
By the way, there was an event almost totally ignored by the media during these really important Stanley Cup Finals. There were no invitations issued by government through official announcements, the media seemed to be totally oblivious to it, so barely a mention. In fact the media was busy, all over Anthony Weiner  who "tweeted his meat" (more bread and circuses). But this gathering was potentially world changing, or not, depending on your belief in conspiracies. It was the Bilderberg Forum of 2011 in St. Moritz Switzerland. Apparently only bloggers and conspiracy theorists are interested in this, no riots there.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fifty Million Climate refugees by 2010 - oops

Just for fun I thought I would post he United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) prediction that by 2010 there would be 50 million “climate refugees." I mentioned this in yesterday's posting.  That's the number they gave in 2005 when Al Gore was making climate news and the "evidence" was mounting that a climate catastrophe was imminent.
The handy map you see above left has been removed from their website with the excuse you can read for yourself from their website just to the left there below the map.
Interested in other comments? Check this out, and this, and this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Predictions are unpredictable

Tarot Cards
Ritualistically at the start of each new year psychics, astrologers, crystal ball gazers and fortune tellers trot out their predictions for the year. The media laps it up (because news is usually slow except for the Bowl games), and in days all is forgotten. Rarely are these sooth-sayers held to account and held up as the charlatans they are. People just seem to shrug it off with a wink and a nod as if everyone knows its a scam. The fact that a Psychic has a store front 5 minutes from my house, and manages to stay in business, tells me that it's not quite everyone.
You would think that things are different in the scientific community and you would be wrong. The old saying that physicians bury their mistakes, holds true in the broader biological community as well. Mistakes are buried in piles of new data , or conveniently removed by those whose predictions fell short of reality. That is what is discussed in two columns in the Financial Post today. Both columns discuss predictions related to global warming, one was written by two biologists and pertains to the extinction of species. The other written by Peter Foster looks at the millions of climate refugees. Neither prediction has come to pass, or is likely to in our lifetime, but both are still referenced by climate warmists.
Yet another prediction related to climate appeared in The Register, a British online newsletter the other day. It suggests that our Sun may be headed into another Maunder Minimum - a prolonged sunspot minimum. How is that climate related? It seems that low-sunspot activity is associated with colder temperatures on Earth. The Maunder Minimum coincided with the Little Ice Age of the 1600's and the famous River Thames Frost Fairs.
Global warming, little ice age, I don't know what to do? Maybe I'll check out that local psychic for advice?  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Leveraging change

In my last posting I suggested that we will never know when the electorate is ready to accept libertarian ideas. Can we encourage them? Can we help create the conditions for the cultural shift that might result in electing a libertarian? Good news, it's happening right now, without our help.
Nouriel Roubini a professor at New York University and a market analyst who famously predicted the financial crisis of 2007 - 09, peered into his crystal ball recently and suggested that: "a perfect storm" was brewing in the global economy as a result of sovereign debt restructuring and economic stagnation in the US, Europe, and Japan.
Roubini like others, uses the metaphor of governments and individuals kicking-the-can-down-the-road of too much public and private debt. But the can is getting heavier, and at some point, someone will trip up. Roubini thinks things come to a head in 2013, maybe, who knows, sooner or maybe later.
In Canada household debt has just reached record levels, and though many think the Canadian government is fiscally sound, factoring in provincial (especially Ontario and Quebec) and municipal debt, things are just as bad here as anywhere.
Of course with all this going on, people are starting to notice (finally). It's becoming apparent even to Joe A. Canuck (not from VYR) that government is not the solution to ALL that ails us, in fact, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, government is the problem.  
Of course it almost goes without saying that libertarians are deeply suspicious of government and are well aware of all the above. They are critical of just about everything to do with government, but most libertarians in Canada do nothing about it, and I mean NOTHING. In fact someone wrote about the libertarian malaise here five years ago, so this is not a new phenomenon, have a look.

Its time to get off your butts folks, you don't have to move the Earth like poor old Archimedes in the picture, even a small gesture multiplied by many times will do the same work as that first class lever the old Greek is using. Our mechanical advantage will not be force, but money. One hundred dollars from one hundred people is $10,000! Since Canadian politicians know how to take care of themselves, the tax break is excellent. In a moderate tax bracket you will get 75% of your donation refunded. At least you would be doing something. Why stop there?
In Ontario this Fall, the Party of Choice will be fielding a much larger slate of candidates than the last time (2007). It would be wonderful to have a candidate, real or on paper, in each of the 107 ridings across the province.
Be part of the change, join the party, be a candidate, donate to the party, volunteer for a candidate, do something, because apathy doesn't work.

Are we there yet?

The idea that a libertarian government will not happen until and unless there is a major cultural shift in our society, has almost become a mantra among libertarians around here. Imagine what that sounds like to new enthusiastic young or even older libertarians. Wait until the time is right, then we will come riding to the rescue and like the cavalry in the old cowboy movie, and we will win the day. Just wait!

Its time to cast aside that idea, because that kind of thinking only blocks action, stifles creativity, and squelches debate. We must accept that day will never come, we will never know when the time is right, and no one will whisper in our ear the magic word: "now!" It's not going to happen.

So here is a challenge, how can we make this happen? How can we engage the unengaged? Those people who know in their gut that something is wrong, but can't imagine an alternate universe, and can't or won't get out of the rut of our current paradigm. (I'll have more on this soon)

If the libertarian idea is so powerful, why do we have such a problem making it sound desirable?

How often do you find yourself using negative terminology when explaining an issue in a casual conversation with someone. For example, on health care: libertarians would abolish government programs, yes they would. On education: libertarians would get rid of the public school system, in a heart beat. On energy: libertarians would privatize the electrical system and remove government from its monopoly on power.
All of these issues are ULTIMATE GOALS of libertarians, and more often than not, expressed in a negative way. We would remove this entitlement, or stop that monopoly and of course rarely do we offer a better option. That's a turn-off, no one likes to have the status quo upset and turn expectations into uncertainty. Most people would argue that things are working fine, maybe not as well as they could be, but "I'm satisfied" they would say. "The governments are trying, and if they screw up, well, we are free to boot them out. Whats wrong with that?" 

Isn't that what you hear in the conversations you have? I hear that ALL THE TIME. That's the problem, our so-called solutions aren't really solutions, they are dreams and most often improperly framed and poorly presented. People then walk away thinking: "what a kook with a kooky idea." Before long libertarian equals kook, and can you blame them?

So, to the question in the title, I think we're there, and I'll have more to say on this.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Life is carcinogenic

More worries. An announcement from the WHO recently about risks from Radio Frequencies (RF) associated with mobile phones was all over the news.
Remember the WHO, they are the group that announced the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic, that caused no end of consternation among world governments, but proved to be a tempest in a teapot. So what are we to make of this?
Its well known that ionizing radiation can result in molecular interactions at the level of living cells and tissues. X-rays and Gamma radiation are the most common form of ionizing radiation we humans are exposed to. X-rays are generally considered "man-made," gamma rays are naturally occurring, and for most people these two would be considered identical in their effects depending on dose: exposure time.
But radio frequency (RF) radiation is non-ionizing, ie. it does not mess with molecules by breaking chemical bonds when electrons are moved around. RF is a bit like visible light, shine intense light or RF on something long enough and that light or RF will be absorbed by the something and converted to heat, another form of non-ionizing radiation. It might help to have a look at the electromagnetic spectrum to see how all these radiations are related. Or not, this is starting to sound like a physics class.
Here is what the WHO announcement said with regard to my last paragraph:
"Tissue heating is the principal mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency energy and the human body. At the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body."
"A number of studies have investigated the effects of radiofrequency fields on brain electrical activity, cognitive function, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure in volunteers. To date, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating. Further, research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self-reported symptoms, or “electromagnetic hypersensitivity”."

Is this anything to be concerned about given those comments? There is no discussion about possible mechanisms, or comparisons with other heat producing devises. What if a heating pad is held to the head for an extended period of time? Does it present a risk? Is heat the problem or is there something special about RF? What about cordless phones so common in many homes? What about microwave radiation from leaky ovens in homes? What about the fact that we in the industrialized world, are bathed in an ocean of RF and microwave radiation almost all the time?
The online version of Reason Magazine has an article that addresses this very issue, and gives it much needed perspective. For me the entire issue sounds like a way for scientists to scare up some money from various governmental organizations, for further study to no one's benefit, quite the contrary in fact. Then there is the line I heard the other day on radio, if this were true about cell phones, entertainment and sports agents would be dropping like flies.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Magnetic bubbles at the edge of the solar system

The Voyager probes have been traveling away from Earth for over 30 years now. I occasionally check back on them because I have always been a bit of a space nut. Voyager 2 was special, because my son was born on the day it was launched by NASA in 1977. It was the first one launched and so was my son. Other than my little story, the Voyager Program was involved in the first Star Trek movie as a hybrid robot entity called V'ger, you might recall. That was 1979!
It's humbling to appreciate that these probes are now just at the edge of our solar system, past the orbit of Pluto the former planet, and hurtling into interstellar space. Space is really, really big, beyond imaginings!
These probes have returned a wealth of scientific data, and made discoveries that would be impossible in their absence. The latest one is that the edge of our solar system is filled with frothy magnetic bubbles. Here is NASA's explanation:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Popping the balloon of big government.

What came first: Big government OR Lobbyists? That is not a chicken and egg question, the answer should be obvious. There is no point in lobbying a small, powerless limited government. Only big, powerful and unrestrained governments are worth lobbying.
POTUS Gerald Ford said this in 1974 to a joint session of Congress: "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." He understood that there are two sides to the power of big government. Lobbyists and special interest groups know how to work both sides, this is true in the USA, Canada, and everywhere there is big government. Of course even in free and democratic countries there is corruption in government despite the best efforts of the law makers and the judiciary, corruption seems to be a "function" of government AND a function (in the mathematical sense) of BIG government. (yes two meanings of 'function').
Dan Mitchell at CATO produced a short video that suggests how to avoid corruption. Even though its content and advise is directed to an American audience, there is much to learn from it:

Monday, June 6, 2011

I am not a conspiracy theorist.

A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in a lengthy Facebook thread on anthropogenic global warming (AGW - a favourite topic of mine as many of you know). In the thread we had arrived at the point where links to websites like 'green-goblin' or 'green-man' or something were being posted. As if those links would provide me the missing bit of evidence that suddenly made me accept the theory of AGW. It reminds me of arguing with a Creationist who uses parts of the bible as his evidence, sorry.
One of the aforementioned thread participants (not a friend) called me a "conspiracy theorist" when I suggested that the entire issue of global warming may lead to a form of world government. I let the insult pass without comment, but I get his point. The fact is though, the UN and its IPCC sprout, already have the aura of a world government. I'm convinced however, it is no conspiracy. There is no plot by political leaders to force the world to trade carbon credits and it's not going to happen, no one is that stupid, oh wait, maybe the Europeans. Now there is a conspiracy of the stupid, the European Union, one of the dumber idea's of the last century.
If there really were such things as secret conspiracies I suspect we would already know about them, or soon will. In a world hungry for information it is almost impossible to keep things secret for very long. Reals secrets are worth real money to anyone that has the secrets to sell. People even give secrets away, free! Case in point, that fellow who leaked to WikiLeaks,  Bradley Manning, he gave it away, the military can't even keep a secret.
Most conspiracy theories are ridiculous yet still have relatively large followings. You know what I mean, UFO's and Area 51, the JFK Assassination plot, Faked Moon Landings, Chemtrails, the 9/11 Truthers, and my favourite, Jewish World Domination, yeah right. The list is long.
How hard is it to keep a real secret? Ask the US Air Force about the billion dollar secret unmanned space plane called X-37B. It seems a couple of Canadian backyard astronomers with math skills outed X-37B. You can go out and spot this secret space plane, just enter your postal code or zip code into this webpage, and you will get a list of satellite flybys and at some point during the week X-37B will be overhead. Don't tell anyone.        

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 6th is Tax Freedom Day.....

Tax Freedom Day in Canada is Monday, June 6th, 2011, two days later than last year. Many libertarian bloggers, writers, and philosophers will tell you that taxes effectively make us slaves because your taxes are spent largely without your direct input, and often in ways you would not prefer. Slaves don't have much say in their lives either, but here in Canada we are only slaves for the first five months of the year. This gives us the illusion of freedom.
How many of you out there are in favour of continuing to bomb Libya with pricey "smart bombs" so that we may protect Libyans from Gaddafi? Not I! Of course that justification is a ruse, the primary reason NATO wants Gaddafi out of Libya is to ensure that oil continues to flow to our NATO partners in Southern Europe. Was their even a vote in Parliament about this issue? I don't recall, the point is your taxes are being used over there, on the shores of Tripoli as the song goes.
The Fraser Institute does a good job of reminding us each year of our impending freedom from slavery, here is where to find the latest reminder. They have even come up with a little song for this year:

Just so you don't feel you have no say at all, the National Post has a survey that you might try. Who knows it might influence the government in how they spend the taxes the stole took from you this year. The survey has its own ambiguities, especially if you have libertarian leanings, give it a try, here.   

Friday, June 3, 2011

Copyleft and right

Imagine if someone could copyright the idea of automobile, computer, or airplane. Those people would be wealthy beyond dreams, wouldn't they? Well, maybe they would, if they actually did a good job of producing and marketing, then sold their tangible idea (product) to willing customers. The good news is, none of those ideas were actually patented, these were just ideas that were "intellectual," in the mind, like the idea of soup or bread.
Ownership of intellectual property is a disputed issue amongst libertarians. When should someone be accused of theft of intellectual property? In fact is it possible to make such an accusation? Is it possible to own an idea to the exclusion of everyone else?
Do yourself a favour and follow this link to Sheldon Richman's short article called Slave Labour and Intellectual Property, then check the Freeman Online for this longer piece, and all will be revealed and you too can join in the discussion.  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another supposed ecological disaster averted

Can an environmental advocacy organization ever admit that it has made an error (or worse)? Apparently not.
The David Suzuki Foundation has claimed for the past 10 years that eating farmed salmon is dangerous and that just farming salmon adversely affects wild salmon by spreading sea lice to them, and decimating the wild salmon populations. Both claims are at best exaggerated, and at worst just plain false according to Vivian Krause, a Vancouver researcher, writer, and blogger. 

Ms. Krause's most recent article was in the Financial Post. I have written about this before here. Ms. Krause's column points out that The Suzuki Foundation has been quietly removing all references regarding their 10 year battle against farmed salmon. Why? Is it because its wrong, or worse is it because they have accepted funds from lobbying organizations to dissuade people from eating farmed salmon for the purposes of marketing?
Thanks to Ms. Krauses' investigative work, we can get a peek inside the environmentalists cabal, to see just how they get their money and realize that science can be just as shady as politics. Check out this video:  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Natural selection should guide economics

Look carefully at that picture. See the moth? There are actually two of them.
In the world of evolutionary biology, the story of the peppered moth has almost iconic status when it is used to explain natural selection might work. It's fairly easy to explain the selective advantage of camouflage, especially for something as helpless as a moth on tree bark.
In high school biology, illustrating the concept of natural selection can be this simple, or a bit more difficult using the Hardy-Weinberg Principle of shifting allele frequencies. Either way the concept of Natural Selection can be used to explain biological evolution. For those who understand this stuff it's fairly clear that it can be used to explain and predict events around evolution. Though many people might think that evolution is random , the truth is, if enough information is known the direction and even possible outcomes may be predicted.
I thought of evolution the instant I read an article by Steven Horwitz in this months issue of The Freeman: Free Markets Are Regulated: The myth of disorder. The article argues for the proposition that unregulated free markets, are in fact regulated by the rules of economics, creating order without design. This is an argument I wholeheartedly support.
Now I'm going to make a sweeping generalization. I suspect that there are many who believe that the Theory of Evolution is the best way yet devised to explain the diversity of life on Earth. Whether natural selection is the primary mechanism, or whether there are several other mechanisms, is not really important. What is important is, that there was no "guiding hand," no "intelligent designer" involved in directing the evolution of those species currently extant. Their very existence was regulated by a complex interaction between environmental conditions, species variability, reproductive rates, and chance. I'm willing to bet that many who believe these ideas about evolution, also believe that governments should regulate the economies of countries, and not leave them to the supposed vagaries of the free market. In other words, many who read the blogs associated with Planet Atheism (which I am happy to be part of), who support the teachings and the truth about evolution, many of you are collectivists, statists, socialists etc. etc.
You believe that somehow science is not involved in economics. I believe economics is a science as much as evolution, and as such, there are rules that can be understood and used to make predictions. Furthermore, to interfere in a free market to my mind, is a bit like believing that a god, or an intelligent designer, somehow can make a few tweaks to improve the process of evolution. While that is not going to happen, governments do interfere in free markets, and Steven Horwitz's article explains that when they do they create disorder and randomness. By "regulating things" the state destroys order.