Polls Don't Reveal Certain Truths

That's why I ignore them.

I love this article titled "Our disinformed electorate" from factcheck.org - God bless them.

"There are deeper reasons as well. We humans all have a basic disposition to embrace our side's arguments and reject or ignore those offered by an opponent. Our polling reflects that. After taking differences in age, race, gender and education into account, Republicans were still 4.4 times more likely than Democrats to believe that Obama would raise taxes on most small businesses, and Democrats were 3.2 times more likely than Republicans to believe that McCain would cut Medicare benefits. Simply put, partisanship trumps evidence."

"Voters aren’t highly knowledgeable about government to begin with. Our poll shows that nearly one in three (31 percent) think Congress or the president, not the Supreme Court, have the final call on whether laws are constitutional. Nearly one in 10 (9.9 percent) think Republicans still control the House of Representatives, even though they’ve had two years to catch up on results of the 2006 elections."


Link Of Interest: A Primitive Take On War

I really don't know how I land on these sites but I do. Primitivism.com posted an article titled "War by Assassination" which while interesting left me slightly perplexed.

Isn't most of what the author is proposing already in place? Aren't the Americans already shifting their military to fight "borderless" wars in which they target the political leadership of an enemy?

On his thoughts about a "bounty system" and the employment of private armies, again isn't this in place?

He writes:

"Private mercenary groups that would implement specific assassination policies can be funded as necessary by speculators."

Didn't Machiavelli single out mercenaries as self-serving and therefore disloyal to Italy? What would be the rules and conditions to ensure a different fate for the Americans?

On Second Thought: Sweden Reverses Phasing Out Nuclear Energy

Elizabeth May needs to read the fine print better. She claimed on a Montreal morning show on CJAD 800 that "Sweden is phasing out nuclear power." She got part of it right, Sweden did have a phase-out policy but it has since been reversed since February of this year. All she (Ms. May is against nuclear energy) had to do is go to Wikipedia. Actually, all you had to do is type "Sweden gets off" or "rethinks nuclear power" and you get all sorts of information.

Nice try, Liz.

I'm still trying to figure out if the "madness of crowds" principle applies with environmentalism. It exists in the stock markets so why not here? If we rush policies without thinking and learning without fear, it may very well prove costly. Of course, the third world will end up having to pay for our actions. They always do.

And can we stop obsessively citing Scandinavia for all things?

Don't Take Xanax In Texas And Get A Free Get Out Card For Crimes In Quebec

When I read this, I realized just how stupid, insipid and ignorant people can be. I feel for this teacher. She was "charged with drug possession in a drug-free zone". All this stress and humiliation for TWO XANAX PILLS?

"Harris County Assistant District Attorney Joe Vinas said he dismissed the charges after deciding he could not prove the case against Herrick beyond a reasonable doubt."

No! Really? What a miscarriage of justice! Put her away for good! What's disturbing to me, a person's standing in the community seems to carry little weight anymore.

Surreal and sad at the same time.

Peter Niedzielski: Remember this name. He may be the tipping point where citizens once and for all rally to put an end to court rulings that protect criminals. At least, this is what I hope.

This person should BE IN PRISON. I don't care he took the steps to "rehab" he must first serve time and then society will determine if he's ready. He did the crime now he has to pay the consequences. Simple as that.

Like the judge who overturned a father's decision to punish his daughter, Judge Isabelle Rheault is continuing the insane push of removing personal accountability for one's actions. Rheault has failed us here. I don't know what the rules or procedures are but SOMEONE has to step in and appeal this case. I also demand she be removed from the bench.

Which begs the question: Should judges be elected? If they're going to make horrible decisions which effect us all, then they must be held accountable with the public they serve.


Giving Globalization A Bad Name

Globalization is probably the most over used and over hyped word, like, ever. Canadian flags being manufactured in Canada (funny how Canadians don't squawk that we've always bought finished goods from abroad. I seem to recall a time, which still may be happening, when we'd sell our natural resources to countries only to buy back the finished goods at double the price. I think it's called mercantalism) is one example how we simply react by blaming "globalization."

Everything is blamed on "globalization" as if it started 20 years ago. Truth be told, it's been around for a long time. Didn't the "Age of Exploration" have global economic implications? What about the great armies of the past invading and conquering lands across the globe? This had definite economic (social, cultural and political of course) implications.

The reaction against globalization is more about political policies and international rules of trade engagement. In short, international suprastructures like the IMF and World Bank dictates what's good for countries based on Western principles and practices. That is, we know what's best for all. True, ours is an advanced economic enlightenment however it doesn't mean it's smart business to impose it on countries not ready for it.

In any event, globalization is the interaction of many people from many places and it has a long history. Let's keep that in mind next time we blame China and outsourcing on everything that ails us.

Taxing As A Tool To Save People

Interesting piece from Health and Fitness Advice about the state of New York and its (misguided) attempt to tax soda consumption.

"In the attempt to save us from ourselves two so-called public health officials are have written a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in which they claim a penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks could reduce consumption by 10 percent while raising over $1 billion dollars in revenue for the state."

Hm. Sounds like just about every other poorly thought out scheme pimped out by bureaucrats. Tax people, save them from themselves in the process, reduce consumption of "A" or "B" and watch cash flow in - and out into the pockets of (insert).

Here in Montreal, I can think of the water meter scam and the push to make the city green by paving more bike paths in the core of the city. I have no problem with the idea but have you driven on de Maisonneuve street? I'm a pretty good and calm driver and let me tell you that area stresses the living daylights out of me. It's rather confusing to the point you're afraid to turn lest someone bumps into your car like a bird flies into a window. Pedestrians and cyclists don't usually observe the signals and lights.

More thought could have been put into this.

In any event, urban road planning is not Montreal's strong suit.


Obama's Post-Material Economic Visions

Voici (that's French) an article from the Washington Post questioning Obama's green and health plans.

Americans should be wary of emotional rhetoric (so prevalent since the late 1970s) and basing their economic future assuming capitalism failed them.

The so-called next 100 days will be interesting.

Free Market Question

Has it ever occurred to free market triumphalism that maybe, just maybe, some people aren't all that interested in what they're saying or trying to push?

Comic Humour That Eludes

For years and years and years and years I dutifully read, whenever I get my hands on them, comics of any kind. I pretty much have what I've been told an "enhanced but disturbed" sense of humor. I'll take it!

But that doesn't mean I "get" critically acclaimed comic strips. For instance, I never did get hooked on Doonesbury.

I'm sure Garry Trudeau is trembling in disappointment.

On the flip side, I share a similar penchant for humour with a good friend I grew up with and he loves Doonesbury.

Interesting how tastes intersect and divert.

Can Soap Be Dirty?

Have you ever been called "soap scum"?


Eleanor Clift Has Jumped Off A Cliff

Eleanor Clift made a startling comment today on the McLaughlin Group - the American Original.

I don't know. I try and "get" Clift but her unabashed unwillingness to be critical of anything liberal or Democratic is too much for my taste. It's like, dude, how's sticking your head in the sand good for liberalism? I wonder what a debate between Clift and Sean Hannity would be like. Yeesh.

So it didn't surprise me when she chimed in with this gem:

"Obama is out to save capitalism."

My head went into an immediate tailspin. First, it was what the fuh? Then it was, what the fuh did I just hear? Hold the espresso! Next, I laughed is she for real? How can you be a contributing an editor of Newsweek and say things like that? Did anyone laugh in the background? Did people hurl their coffee? I mean, really. Man, I know Obama has people euphoric (I like his tough language with the credit cards by the way) but come on.

I collected my thoughts and wondered, is it the job of any President (or leader) for that matter to intervene and try and "save" capitalism?

I wonder if she believes Obama walks the streets at night as the Caped Crusader. While he's at it he may as well perfect socialism, eradicate poverty, kill every terrorist, reinvent the internet, redefine democracy and defeat the Mexican drug cartels. Oh, and make love to Lois Lane 007 style. " 'Bama. Barack Obama."

Get a grip, Ms. Clift.

The Match King: Ivar Kreuger - Unrestrained Roaring

Bernie "Made Off" Madoff had predecessors. Always remember, we've seen all this before. The most notorious schemer was Charles Ponzi but there was also Ivar Kreuger during the roaring 1920s.

Like most swindlers, his life didn't end so good.

Classic Bob Newhart

Whenever a discussion comes up about the greatest comedians of all time, Red Foxx, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy tend to always be mentioned. To say nothing of Milton Berle, Red Skelton and all those famous and legendary comedians who got their start in Vaudeville.

But there's one name I don't hear as often and it belongs to Bob Newhart. That guy is fun-nee. There aren't many clips of Newhart doing standup but here are some sketches. For his appearance on MAD TV go here.

And for a classic routine with Dean Martin dating back to 1965 check this out.


Links: Molester Gets $4 Million; Environmental Expert Wants To Cap Humanity; Not Even Latin Can Make Dignitas Digestable

In the "wow" portion of this blog...just wow.

Other links of interest:

Jonathon Porritt Is not a guru of any kind; he's a douche. Population control, however you describe it, is evil. Anyone who posits this in the name of protecting the environment should be ignored outright. They call this vision. I call it arrogance. Imagine that, playing God to protect the environment.

Now do you understand the police state is here? It comes in many forms and this is one of them.

Since we're on the subject of evil. Ever hear of a euthanasia group called Dignitas? Now you do. It's enough to send shivers down your spine. They call it dignity. I call it depraved. From wiki:

"Paul Clifford, 40, said the family had had a ‘terrible’ experience and likened the [Dignitas] flat where his mother died to a ‘backstreet abortion place’ with graffiti-covered walls. To add to his shock, when Mrs Coombes raised concerns that her son might struggle to cope with her death, a member of staff said he, too, could die at a ‘cut price’ rate. ... ‘He wanted us to go out of the room while he checked she was dead. We had to sit on a flight of stairs which stank of urine. ‘We went back in but two police officers, the state prosecutor and two staff and a medical examiner arrived. We were asked loads of questions, with my mum still slumped there, at the same coffee table, in her wheelchair. We were there for at least two and a half hours."

But imagine how much we'd save on the public health system! I'll tell you what, if saving cash for the public system means cutting down lives then it ain't worth squat.

Now think about what kind of world we'd have if these people ran it. Think it to its logical end.



Bottom: Stephen Hawking: Drain on the health system?

Top: Ashley Hegi. Rest in peace my child.


My Alleged Mother Is An Anti-Catholic Manchurian Candidate Who Once Dated An Alien From Quebec!

Prof. Richard Hofstadter wrote an interesting essay titled "The Paranoid Style In American Politics" first published on Harper's magazine in 1964. Today, some of the more popular conspiracies swirl around the New World Order, Amero, Tri-Lateral Commission and of course 9/11.

Occam's Razor eludes con theo's.

Here's are some excerpts:

"...The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent—in fact the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world. It is nothing if not scholarly in technique. McCarthy’s 96-page pamphlet, McCarthyism, contains no less than 313 footnote references, and Mr. Welch’s (Welch founded the John Birch Society)incredible assault on Eisenhower, The Politician, has one hundred pages of bibliography and notes. (Yes, they look and sound convincing) The entire right-wing movement of our time is a parade of experts, study groups, monographs, footnotes, and bibliographies."

"...The paranoid style is not confined to our own country and time; it is an international phenomenon. Studying the millennial sects of Europe from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, Norman Cohn believed he found a persistent psychic complex that corresponds broadly with what I have been considering—a style made up of certain preoccupations and fantasies: “the megalomaniac view of oneself as the Elect, wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary; the refusal to accept the ineluctable limitations and imperfections of human existence, such as transience, dissention, conflict, fallibility whether intellectual or moral; the obsession with inerrable prophecies…systematized misinterpretations, always gross and often grotesque.”

"...A distinguished historian has said that one of the most valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to developing such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him—and in any case he resists enlightenment. We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well."

When there are gaps in history, that is, inexplicable black holes because of a lack of evidence or facts, something has to fill them in. This doesn't mean strange or questionable things don't occur but human nature is so vastly complex that reducing it to a conspiracy theories in itself seems implausible.

Jesse Walker put it this way on Reason Online:

"Why all the paranoia? In part, of course, it's because there really are conspiracies out there. Power does attract the power-hungry. No, Hillary Clinton did not murder Ron Brown—but her explanations for her good fortune trading cattle futures do not bear close scrutiny. John McCain is not a deep-cover Manchurian Candidate, but he was a charter member of the Keating Five. Barack Obama is not a closet Islamist, but there are legitimate questions about his ties to the corrupt developer Tony Rezko. If politics is the art of compromise, then politicians will inevitably be compromised."

A conspiracy theorist is willing to expand on these facts and take it to levels most of us wouldn't.


Cartoon Master Doug Wright

My latest post at Whoweare.ca discusses the recent publication of The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist.

For those older than I, you probably remember Wright's popular comic strip, Nipper.

Beyond this, Canada's comic and cartoon history stretches back to the 18th century.


Cynicism Is Ageless

From the Cynic's Sanctuary.

Everyone thinks their age is the most cynical. But, as Juvenal shows, cynicism has been around forever.

"Roman cynic par excellence. His sixteen verse Satires rumble and grumble about life in the Empire. Peevish, pompous and judgmental, Juvenal wins our sympathy with his dark humor and wounded sense of justice. Here was a gifted man who (unlike his friend Martial) lived in near-poverty while he watched wealthy airheads make merry... a virtuous man who simply couldn't restrain himself from ridiculing the follies and evils of his day. (And those were days to rival ours in the folly-and-evil department!) His eloquent outrage makes him a fine companion for any cynic who feels at odds with the times."

The line in bold in particular hit home. I'm often reminded that intelligence is not needed to achieve financial success. I know (I think) how Juvy felt.

Quick word on Susan Boyle (just google her); the Scottish singer from "Britain's got talent" that has taken the world by storm. I read what some in the press have written over in the UK and I must profess the English can be quite the menacing bunch. Not sporting of them to call her the "hairy angel." It brings to light the following quote:

"Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it." Confucius

Crime Severity Index Published

Police-reported Crime Severity Index published at Statistics Canada: "...a new tool that, for the first time, tracks changes in the severity of police-reported crime."

More on PRCSI here.

I like the tricky headlines at the CBC, Canada.com and CTV.ca: "Crime Severity drops over 10 year period and "Crime Severity Declines" Serious criminal offenses on decline" respectively.

It's true.

But this was a result in a 40% drop in break-ins.

Reading further, violent crime is holding steady:

"In contrast to the downward trend in the seriousness of police-reported crime as a whole, the index for just violent crime stayed relatively stable during the decade. This suggests that the situation with respect to serious crimes against the person was about the same as 10 years ago.

In 1998, the Violent Crime Severity Index value was 98.0 and in 2007, it was 96.5, a drop of about 2%. The traditional violent crime rate was also at about the same level in 2007 as in 1998."

And for cities:

"Among Canada's three largest census metropolitan areas, crime was less serious overall in Toronto in 2007 than in either Montréal or Vancouver.

Canada's largest metropolitan area, Toronto, had a Police-reported Crime Severity Index of 65.6 in 2007, well below the national average of 94.6 and the lowest of all 27 census metropolitan areas.

Montréal had an overall index of 94.3 while Vancouver's overall index was 128.5, well above the national average and sixth highest of all metropolitan areas.

On the other hand, Toronto's violent severity index was almost the same as the national average while the indexes for both Montréal and Vancouver were above. Vancouver's violent index was sixth highest of all the metropolitan areas."

UN With Egg On Its Face


And this time it may leave a scar.

Iran's leader embarrassed his nation - an important country in world history - and every civilized person in the world.

The ranting and the irrational screeds must come to an end. Stop giving "chairs" and leadership roles to irrational players like Ahmadinejad.

I hope his absurd speech is a tipping point and I'm glad nations, including Canada, are not standing for it.


Credit Card Companies: An Unhealthy Recipe To Make Money

Who is Elizabeth Warren? I didn't know until I stumbled on this interview. It's long but worth it. Deregulation, complicated "movable" contracts and lack of transparency has allowed credit card companies to profit off the backs of the American middle class.


...Why are they so profitable? They're so profitable because they're no longer charged 9.9 percent; [now] they're charged 24.9 percent. And as long as they'll make minimum monthly payments, skipping one here, making one there ... that's the single most profitable customer in the credit card portfolio..."

"...What they're doing is, they've figured out the way to maximize profits for the credit card company. And the best way to maximize profits for the credit card company is lend to everyone at 9.9 percent. And as soon as you think you've got someone who won't be able to go somewhere else to borrow the money, change the price, and move that price way, way up, hit them with $29 late fees and $35 fees and $50 fees, and collect, collect, collect. That's how it is that credit card profits have been rising every year over the past 20 years at the very same time that bankruptcy losses and bad-debt defaults have also been rising.

"...That's why I lay this at Congress' feet. ... When the court said, "The language that you used effectively turned the credit card companies loose on interest rates and whatever it is they want to charge," Congress had no enthusiasm for stepping up to the plate and saying, "No, ... that's not what we meant. We never intended to deregulate the credit cards." Because Congress is stupid?

No, because it's credit card companies who make big political contributions; it's credit card companies who have been the number one givers in Washington. Not big oil, not big pharmaceutical -- big consumer financial services."

"...What the credit card industry wants is uniform deregulation, uniform protection from any state regulator that might move in and say, "What you're doing is an unconscionable contract, or a violation of our own usury laws, or our own consumer protection laws." The credit card companies are trying to maximize their profits. And in an era in which interest charges and fees are effectively deregulated around the country, the best way to maximize their profits is to change the interest rate after you've borrowed the money, to load on the maximum number of fees, and to write contracts in a way that will conceal rather than reveal how much this credit will really cost and what kinds of risks it runs."

"...I like my credit card. Don't take my credit card away from me. I just want ... some minimum regulation, just like the consumer product safety regulation, and that is the regulation that says you can't change the terms after I borrowed the money, and there are caps on what kind of fees can be imposed and what kind of interest can be imposed. They can be high, but they can't be that high.

And you've got to have right there on every credit card statement, "If you make the minimum monthly payment, here's how long it's going to take you to pay it off, and here's how much you'll pay in interest over that period of time." In other words, I believe in contracts, I believe in the freedom of both sides to come in and enter these contracts; but I think the consumer has a right to know what the terms of the contract are going to be, and I think the consumer has a right to have some minimal protection in the kind of contract that can be written."

"...Well, the history of usury starts at the Bible. There are multiple references going back to Deuteronomy about the evils of usury, about those who have money lending it at excessive rates to those who don't. It really just means a cap on what lenders can charge. It's sort of like consumer product safety [regulation]. Creditors and debtors ... can make their decisions within a range, but they can't go crazy; they can't go over the top. We've had usury laws in the United States since colonial times, but in the early 1990s, we just very quietly got rid of them."

William Shakespeare's Stunt Double Revealed?

Now here's an interesting article. A judge (let's call him Justice John Paul Stevens) claims William Shakespeare's plays were written by one Edward de Vere. Not more is explained about who de Vere was. '

His position is part of the Oxfordian Theory.

"Nonetheless, since the 19th century, some have argued that only a nobleman could have produced writings so replete with intimate depictions of courtly life and exotic settings far beyond England. Dabbling in entertainments was considered undignified, the theory goes, so the author laundered his works through Shakespeare, a member of the Globe Theater's acting troupe."

History: you can't live with it or without it.

Needless to say, this will be one battle among the main players. I spotted this interesting comment:

Interesting to hear that Justice Stevens has become intrigued by the authorship question, but it's too bad that Mr. Bravin characterized the issue as equivalent to the Flat Earth Society, or didn't speak to anyone more knowledgeable about current research and opinions. Far from being the case that "nobody gives any credence to these arguments," there are many reputable theatre professionals and scholars who do, including Mark Rylance (original artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London), the esteemed Shakespeare actor Derek Jacobi, and Kristin Linklater, the internationally known text and voice coach long associate with the Royal Shakspeare Company.

When I first heard about the Oxford theory I scoffed, but after almost 25 years of reading on the subject, and from my professional work with the plays as director, actor, and producer, I certainly lean strongly toward an Oxfordian point of view, both because of themes, language, and subjects in the plays and because of specific circumstances in the life of Edward de Vere and the Stratfordian.

It's a misunderstanding to say that belief in the Oxford theory is based on the premise that only an aristocrat could have written the plays and a common man could not, or to deny genius. It's not a matter of genius, but of education and exposure. Genius will get you a long way, but the plays show specific and deep understanding of disciplines and areas of learning - law, seamanship, falconry, geography and culture of Italy, among others - that a relatively uneducated player/playwright would be unlikely to have gained.

My first reading on the subject was Charlton Ogburn's meticulously detailed 600-page "The Mysterious William Shakespeare", but there have been many other books written on the subject since. Whether the evidence convince someone or not, they deserve more than being brushed off as ridiculous.

Gillian Bagwell
Founder and Artistic Director
Pasadena Shakespeare Company


Finding Liberalism

Alan Wolfe asserts there's no distinction between classical and modern liberal. In fact, to Wolfe, there's no such thing as a modern liberal. Read it here in The New Republic.

Liberalism was once synonymous with imperialism and still has nationalist impulses. Do liberals of today accept imperialism? I would think not. Liberalism has evolved since the "good old days." It has revised its intentions and thinking. It may share some simalarities with classical liberalism but is it enough to claim there's no distinction? Is Wolfe saying all liberalism is cut from the same cloth? Conversely, on the conservative side, is there such a thing as a neo or paleo-con? I realize neo-cons are disaffected liberals.

The criss-crossing and cross-over between classical liberalism, its modern version, conservatism and its offshoots, libertarianism and socialism is dizzying. No wonder people pragmatically claim to be a mixture of each. Though I'm not sure if that's even possible. I think most people have no clue or have no interest in trying to define on what part of the political scale they exist.

Classical liberalism claimed government invovlement was fine as long as it benefited the entire society - sort of like Bentham's utilitarian principle. But don't "modern" liberals use government as a means to an end?

In the end, I don't know who claims to be a classical liberal anymore. Libertarians claim lineage. But they advocate no government interventionism and I'm not sure liberals of the Enlightenment were as against it.

Or maybe modernity is such that political/philosophical labels (rigid definitions of them anyway) are as futile as trying to guess what the next lottery numbers will be?

What About The American Dream?

According to Metlife:

"...the last twelve months have not only had a profound impact on Americans’ financial stability, they have also had a dramatic effect on how Americans define and approach the dream. This year’s study reveals that the American dream has been revised — not reversed — and is now buoyed by American pragmatism rather than consumerism. These tectonic shifts would typically be expected to span decades. Yet, according to MetLife’s research, the country has experienced major changes year-over-year that will likely have a lasting impact on how Americans achieve and sustain the dream."

American pragmatism is making a comeback?

Relatively Speaking, It's All Relative So Why Bother?

Please join me in an 'Intervention" saving Man of Roma from relativism. I think I'd rather have him snorting coke than tolerate relativism.

Tongue firmly in cheek of course.

Seriously, MOR (bless his Roman soul) asked me what my problem with relativism was. First, here's a primer.

-If you often say, "whatever," "who cares," "its all relative," etc., you probably are a Cultural Relativist. Lord, how many times I've heard this. Another one is "what's the big deal?" It induces vomit.

-If you believe there is no relevant truth (Certainly no absolute truth!) in reality, you probably are a Cultural Relativist. I believe there are truths to be found. I further believe right and wrong are not relative.

-If you believe in social anarchy as a prime metric for a free society, you are well on your way to Cultural Relativism.

-If you believe chaos reigns over all reality, your roots are deep in Cultural Relativistic soil.

-In quarter four of Millennium II, if you say, "I am politically correct," you are one of institutional academia's ex-cathedra Cultural Relativists. (However, note your own non-"political correctness" of saying you are.)

I'm a mid-tier thinker. Nonetheless, it's what I perceive and I'm glad I'm not alone in this fight against what I regard to be "irrational" intellectual forces.


Calling Out All Pretenders

Most of you are already aware that campuses around this continent have been infected by a disease known as post-modern (I admit I have no idea how modern can go postal) relativism and revisionism. It must be quite the frightening ordeal for a sane, professional and responsible scholar to coexist with such bullshitters as well as proponents of the preposterous intelligent design gibberish.

What will it take to stabilize the situation? Or has this always been the case in place of higher institutions where a group of pseudo-thinkers take over and impose their quack, quack inventions?

On my humble part, I thought about Eastern Europe. A region that's always played a major, if not under stated, role in Western history.

As it stands, it's hard not to think we've entered a Second Dark Age. At every internet corner we find new "texts," "documents" and "theories" about the inherent arrogance and racism in Western culture from its religion to science. Piece by piece an attempt to rebuild our history in a particular mold is curently taking place.

As I was saying. Eastern Europeans aren't buying much of any of this. They've been through this sort of stuff under communism. They can spot a second rate second-hand car salesman from two feet away. It's not surprising they see democracy and capitalism in a different (positive) light from us given their experiences.

This is why there's hope our intellectual heritage and traditions will be preserved in this region until the present crop of inte-shnooks are thrown into the wind never to be seen or heard again.

In North America, Alan Sokal is one academic with enough courage to call out the pretenders in what became Social Text affair. He published a piece of gibberish work titled, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" which was ate up, swallowed and published by a journal run by relativist theorists.

It was written in a way such that any true thinker worth their salt would have spotted the incoherence with the math theories. The editors at this rag didn't and the rest is history - to be revised of course.

Sokal has been a welcomed and vocal force in confronting the scourge known as relativism. Here's a link to "Postmodernism and its problems with science."

I'm surprised blogs have not jumped on this important issue and event.


Deadpan Humor Of The Day

"I think it's wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly."

Steven Wright.


The Beginning And Ending Of...

I've always had a hard time grappling with Francis Fukuyama's "The end of history" assertion. It's like saying "the end of politics" or "the end of science" or "the end of sex therapy."

It struck me as one of those spectacular "hit or miss" proclamations. Of course, it worked as Fukuyama has become a recognizable face in academia.

But, really, how can history "end?" There is no beginning or end point to "history." Maybe one can be assigned to recorded history but...history as an abstract term?

Think about it.

As long as we exist, history will trail taking notes.

To Pay Or Not To Pay

Would you pay for online subscriptions?

It's complicated. I don't see a problem with it but I'm not willing to pay for articles written by writers I may not like or trust. I mean, you really need to wow me if you get my point. Maureen Dowd, for example, I wouldn't pay for. An in-depth original piece by Malcolm Gladwell? I'd consider it. I know he's going to give me something to ponder.

As more and more newspapers file for bankruptcy, one option is going digital. The problem is to figure out how to make money online. Ironically, while the internet gives a paper say, in Seattle, a chance to branch out to a wider audience that stretches beyond the state of Washington, higher readership doesn't mean more cash. That is, they gain exposure they could never dream of with a printed, localized circulation.

Here's a special report from Editor and Publisher. It's long but interesting. And it's free.

"He notes that an advertiser generally pays a cost per thousand (CPM) of around $35 for the Sunday edition. "Newspaper Web sites get less than a $1 CPM," he says. "The rates are so low for two reasons: The advertising is very ineffective ... and people don't spend very much time at newspaper Web sites."

"Hussman isn't against the Web. He'd happily "junk" the printing presses if he could get an online CPM of $35."

That's why you need a lotta, lotta, lotta hits on your site. In other words, your traffic has to make up for the $34 difference. Good luck.

"My sense is there are a lot of newspaper people who feel sorry for themselves," says Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and author of Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions. "That is not the way the world of business works." The history of newspapers is storied, he notes, but businesses have to earn the right to exist. He adds that newspapers can start charging for content, but it's a tall order: "It has to be best in class ... and something they cannot get for free elsewhere."

Bingo. I don't want to pay for something filled with tired cliches or poorly thought out. We have enough of that. I mentioned above I would pay for Gladwell but not Dowd. If an online newspaper charged me, I would want to do it a-la carte and pick my favorite writers. None of this all or nothing package. We pay for stuff we don't want all the time with cars. Newspapers should avoid this. Give people CHOICE.

In the brutal economic downturn, newspaper executives are reaching for anything that can float. "I think it's the consequences of the times," says Ken Doctor. "People are acting out of frustration given the straits the industry is in. There is this romantic notion that 'gosh darn it, those readers should just pay.' The value of the newspapers is slipping away. Their jobs are slipping away. Charging for content seems like it could be a scheme to reverse the bad fortunes of newspapers

We should. If we value unique information.

And there aren't a shortage of suggestions or ideas. The question is can they work. How to monetize websites? Here are more excerpts:

"Someone is always willing to pay something for content, of course. The question becomes how many someones, at what fee, and is it worth the effort to get them? When putting a price tag on select content, even pennies on some articles, what's to be gained?

"Matt Lindsay, an economist with Mather Economics in Atlanta, believes there is a way to make revenue even by collecting very small sums of money or "micropayments" — pay per click or per article — but this approach requires small expectations from the outset. "I think there are a lot of people willing to pay," he says. "They just need a vehicle for doing it."

The model is feasible, Lindsay contends, if publishers keep the following in mind: Don't shock the system. If a Web site introduces micropayments to some or all of its content, its users should experience as as little disruption and intrusion as possible. Seeding the accounts with money at the beginning will ease users, who have the expectation of free content, into the process.

"Rosenstiel, and the report, advocate a different approach: What about adopting a cable-content model? The companies providing Internet access to consumers could could build in a monthly fee for accessing that content — as Time Warner does for premium cable access — and give it to the news producers. "News industry executives have not seriously tested this enough to know if it could work, but these fees provide half the revenue in cable," the report says.

Another trial balloon being floated: charging aggregators such as Google. It worked for the book industry, which recently won a suit against the Web giant. No longer can Google distribute material for free with no compensation to the publishing company.

"Why aren't newspapers and news magazines demanding payment for use of their stories on Google and other search engines?" asks Peter Osnos in a column for The Century Foundation. The search engine struck licensing deals with news agencies in Europe and Osnos thinks U.S newspapers should push for the same, as well as an ad-revenue split from aggregators profiting from that content."

"Clay Shirky, a media consultant and adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, believes the problem is really much bigger. In mid-March he wrote on his blog Shirky.com: "Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know 'If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?' To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the Internet just broke."

Indeed, it will be interesting to see what happens.

United States Of Russia?

From the Financial Times by Martin Wolf.

"In its depth and suddenness,” argues Prof Johnson, “the US economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets.” The similarity is evident: large inflows of foreign capital; torrid credit growth; excessive leverage; bubbles in asset prices, particularly property; and, finally, asset-price collapses and financial catastrophe.

“But, there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests – financiers, in the case of the US – played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse.”


"Yet Prof Johnson makes a stronger point than this. He argues that the refusal of powerful institutions to admit losses – aided and abetted by a government in thrall to the “money-changers” – may make it impossible to escape from the crisis. Moreover, since the US enjoys the privilege of being able to borrow in its own currency it is far easier for it than for mere emerging economies to paper over cracks, turning crisis into long-term economic malaise. So we have witnessed a series of improvisations or “deals” whose underlying aim is to rescue as much of the financial system as possible in as generous a way as policymakers think they can get away with.

"I agree with the critique of the policies adopted so far... (on) Tim Geithner’s “public/private investment partnership”, the critics are right: if it works, it is because it is a non-transparent way of transferring taxpayer wealth to banks. But it is unlikely to fill the capital hole that the markets are, at present, ignoring... Nor am I persuaded that the stress tests of bank capital under way will lead to action that fills the capital hole.

Yet do these weaknesses make the US into Russia? No. In many emerging economies corruption is egregious and overt. In the US, influence comes as much from a system of beliefs as from lobbying (although the latter was not absent). What was good for Wall Street was deemed good for the world. The result was a bipartisan programme of ill-designed deregulation for the US and, given its influence, the world."

Wolf closes:

"Yet decisive restructuring is indeed necessary. This is not because returning the economy to the debt-fuelled growth of recent years is either feasible or desirable. But two things must be achieved: first, the core financial institutions must become credibly solvent; and, second, no profit-seeking private institution can remain too big to fail. That is not capitalism, but socialism. That is one of the points on which the right and the left agree. They are right. Bankruptcy – and so losses for unsecured creditors – must be a part of any durable solution. Without that change, the resolution of this crisis can only be the harbinger of the next."

Quick! Everyone, go learn Russian! And Spanish and Japanese and...

The Past Repackaged

I found an article by Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith in The Atlantic Monthly.

The opening paragraphs grab you in:

"It was a grave problem, however, that in the event of failing earnings and values, leverage would work fully as powerfully in reverse. All income and value, and in practice more, would be absorbed by the outer debt and preferred shares; for the originating company there would remain literally—very literally—nothing. But of this in 1929 no one, or not many, thought; a rising market combined with the managerial and investment genius of the men who built these structures made any such concern seem irrelevant in the extreme.

Here the parallel: after fifty-seven years investment trusts, called closed-end funds, are now coming back into fashion, although still, I would judge, in a rather modest way as compared with 1929. The more exciting parallel is in the rediscovery of leverage. Leverage is again working its wonders. Not in utility pyramids: these in their full 1929 manifestation are forbidden by law. And the great investment houses, to be sure, still raise capital for new and expanding enterprises. But that is not where the present interest and excitement lie. These lie in the wave of corporate takeovers, mergers, and acquisitions and the leveraged buy-outs. And in the bank loans and bond issues, not excluding the junk bonds, that are arranged to finance these operations."

It was written in 1987. If you recall, in October of that year the market plunged 508 points - or a 22% drop. Parallels, like today, to 1929 were inevitable.

In 2000, the tech bubble burst. Back then, tech companies were believing their own drivel about how they were changing the business landscape. It was all stupid and insipid. I was barely into my first year and found the rhetoric a little rich. Companies with no cash flow were trading, in extreme cases, over 100 times PE multiples. It was completely crazy. We were apparently buying into the future; into a dream.

BUT, this time it's different in 2009. This time we're surely going to collapse.

Forgive me if I yawn.


Rasputin Redux

I don't know. I'm speechless.

"...Astonishingly Mr Roskov, 22, survived and managed to stagger back upstairs with barely a scratch after the 50ft fall.

But while his wife called for an ambulance and began to scold him, he jumped again.

Amazed medics treated Mr Roskov for minor cuts and bruises before releasing him.

Mr Roskov says he is now teetotal after giving up drinking, and added: "Now I can say just one thing - I was very lucky.

No, really?

"I have no idea why I jumped the first time but when I came back up and I heard my wife screaming angrily at me I thought it was best if I left the room again - out of the window."

Most of us just walk away and jump in the car. This guy jumps...off for a 50-foot dive.

Who knew a potato based alcohol could be so menacing. I wonder if he was listening to the Steve Miller Band while he drank.

Remember how tough it was to kill that rascal Rasputin? Must be something in the water.


Moody's Cuts Berkshire's Credit Rating

Times really are tough.

Moody's downgrades Berkshire. That's code for Buffet.

It's Crapitalism To Some

Barely half (53% to be exact) of Americans in a recent survey said capitalism is better than socialism.

Well, at least it's a majority, right?

Happy Easter To One And All

I typed "easter" on Google images and came across interesting images all right. It was stunning to note the first three pages had nothing to do with Easter as a religious holiday. No Jesus. No Good Friday. No resurrection.

All I saw were...bunnies and chocolate.

I assume it's still safe to say "Happy Holiday?"

Enjoy Raphael's "Resurrection of Christ."


Thomas Jefferson Encylopedia

Came across this passage on the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia:

18 624? Is that it? Pft. I wonder if he had carpal tunnel.

"In proposing a new edition of the Jefferson Papers in 1943, Julian P. Boyd estimated that Thomas Jefferson had written 18,624 letters in his lifetime. Ever since then people have been rounding up or down from that estimate. Despite its curious precision, there is no reason to regard it as anything but the loosest of estimates. For the period prior to Jefferson’s acquisition of copying machines and his creation of the epistolary record in which he logged most of his incoming and outgoing letters from 1783 to 1826, one would need a time machine to come up with anything but a wild guess. There is also plenty of room for disagreement over the definition of "letter": Jefferson did not record brief letters of invitation or one-line grocery orders to local merchants in his epistolary record, but he addressed them and sent them, and one could certainly describe them as letters. They seldom survive and are, again, hard to quantify. When the Papers of Thomas Jefferson are complete, it will enable one to undertake a solid count of letters printed, noted, and no longer extant but known to have existed. For the reasons stated above, this will still supply only a lower bound. That lower bound may well be somewhere near the ballpark figure established by Boyd. Until then, it is probably reasonable to use a figure of roughly 19,000 letters written by Thomas Jefferson in his lifetime, if only because it is idle speculation to try to get more precise at this point."

Remembering Schlesinger

Liberal scholar Arthur Schlesinger jr. didn't bite on the ridiculous causes left-leaning special interest were championing - remember the sophomoric and hideous anti-intellectual slogan, ""Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s got to go." I certainly do. Many "thinkers" in university were fond of repeating it - as if they knew something about our heritage us commoners overlooked or pretended wasn't there.

Read a review of Schlesinger at the Hoover Institution here.

I somehow doubt Schlesinger would approve of these types of liberals: Mind you, with all due respect, I think Penn & Teller used a better word to explain what you see in the video. Some people are "joiners." They follow trends but lack any substance behind the cause.


RIP Richard John Neuhaus

I'm terribly late on this obituary. Please accept my sincere apologies.

I enjoyed reading Neuhaus at First Things over the years and was shocked to hear of his death.

Raymon J. de Souza wrote about it at The National Post:

"Father Richard John Neuhaus died yesterday -- America's leading religious commentator; Lutheran convert to Catholicism who became a dominant figure in Catholic intellectual life; civil rights activist, Vietnam war protester and pro-life champion; author of landmark books arguing for religious pluralism against secular fundamentalism; pioneer in Christian-Jewish dialogue; interlocutor of popes and presidents; and impresario of the journal, First Things, which readers would read back to front so as to get right to his back pages survey of matters weighty and whimsical."


Homer Gets To Be Licked

And it's about time.

Although I would have chosen a different look for Homer's stamp. But hey, at least America's true first family (they be The Simpsons) will grace envelopes across the American land. Watch out! And d'oh!

To my American friends, don't even think to send me a letter without a Simpsons stamp. I won't open it.

Have a sneaky peaky here at ups.com.


Diplomatic Gaffes

Do we make too much of them?

Here's an article from Newsweek discussing gifts leaders exchange.

Some leaders we simply love to blast, others we try to give a pass.

I Need Quality Family Time

It is with much regret I inform you all of my decision to stop blogging to spend more time with my family.

It's also my great pleasure to announce I'm back with gusto and glee.

What's the big deal? People retire and come back all the time.

I really enjoy public figures - be they businessmen or politicians or whatever - always say they want to "spend more time with their family" after leaving a post.

CEO: My time here has been nothing short of remarkable. When I took over this company, it was a shitty stock on the exchange. Now, it's a mid-size piece of shit that pays an unstable but modest dividend. I made great friends (and love with various corporate mistresses and skanks) over the years and will cherish you all forever - or at least for the next few days. But my time has come. Through the ups and downs (mostly downs but we spun them to make us all believe they were up) we stuck together like a family (albeit a fabricated one). Speaking of family, my decision was made easier just thinking of taking Little Timmy fishing, helping Jane with her homework and engaging in...endless...enthusiastic...nagging...conversation...with...my...sigh...wife...Roberta. Keep on that Curves diet honey! We're all so very...proud. Excuse me.

Man walks up to CEO and whsipers in his ear.

CEO to man while covering microphone with hand: GM wants me to what? Take over? Yes! This is so cool.

Man: What about fishing?

CEO: What? Oh, shut up!

Removes hand and speaks into microphone.

CEO: Listen, folks. I gotta go. Keep it real!


The State In Family Affairs

Quebec father sued by daughter. I don't know what's what and it may be an "isolated" case but I will say a few things based on what's been reported:

1) It's a no win situation for anybody.
2) The parents need to once and for all set their differences aside before they possibly lose this
year old girl - for good.
3) The courts have effectively removed the father's power to raise her - the father didn't have sole custody but she chose to live with him. Now what?
4) Sounds as though the child was pushed by someone behind the scenes to file suit. Is she a pawn in a sad parental game?

I read some of the comments by some who assert this is not something to be concerned over. I beg to differ. This is something of serious concern. I recognize courts get involved on serious issues in family court but this seems somewhat frivolous. It comes off looking as though the state is willing to overturn parental decisions for their children.

The family unit as we know it is under duress. This much is clear.


Von Mises And Bail Outs

In a time where freedom's back is firmly pressed against the wall with a knife at its neck, some publications continue to fight the good fight. The Freeman is one such publication - brush up on your von Mises. Here's a link to the "Bailout Reader" at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

To some, as one fine economic thinkers put it here a while ago, von Mises is essentially anarchism but he seems far more classical liberal to me. Remember that term? Von Mises was too astute, I believe, in understanding human nature to fall into the anarchist ranks.

Here's an interesting explanation (one I've made on this blog):

"In the following excerpts from the works of Ludwig von Mises, American readers must keep in mind the differences in terminology which are sometimes encountered between the way Americans use political labels today and the way those same words were used by Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century European scholars such as Mises. For example, the term "liberal' does not here refer to the Big-Government, welfare-statist tax-and-tax, regulate-and-regulate, and spend-and-spend modern American "liberalism" which characterizes political life in the United States at this time and which is advocated most avidly by the American Democrat Party. Quite the contrary, what Mises means by "liberalism" is classical liberalism -- the system of limited constitutional government, politically unhampered markets, respect for private property, and freedom for the adult individual who lives at peace with his neighbors. In the United States, these ideals are generally called "conservatism" today as the U.S. has strong classical liberal traditions and institutions including the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, private ownership of property, free enterprise (in earlier times of our history at least), respect for the rule of law, etc. When Mises extols the benefits of what he calls "liberalism" here, he does not mean the Big-Government authoritarian leftism of modern American liberalism as demanded by such politicians as Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Albert Gore, Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, or the Clintons, but rather the free and open society that emerged as a result of imposing on government (both kings and parliaments) constitutional and legal restrictions -- and especially the general policy of laissez faire with respect to non-violent activities of production and trade -- so that individual freedom and enterprise could thrive without coercive interference."

Those pragmatic voices among us will say it's counter productive to yell against government interventionism. It's better to accept that government has a role to play in today's society since they're not going anywhere.

Socialism is the idea of having no faith in your fellow man to make the right decisions or choice. For socialists, government is the soul and conscience of a people.

Les Expos Sont La! We Love You (1969-2004)

The Expos, nos amours, are no longer here or there. They now live within the confines of our minds and memories.

Baseball season is upon us and every April, from year to year, it's becoming harder and harder to accept the absence of this gem of a team.

The day the Expos left was the day Montreal ceased being a major league sports city.

Now if you don't mind I'm off to cry like a baby.


Assisted Suicide And Euthanasia: Preserving The Sanctity Of Life Part 2

Everyone was singing, girl is washed up On Redondo beach and everyone is so sad. I was looking for you, are you gone gone ? Pretty little girl, everyone cried. She was the victim of sweet suicide. I went looking for you, are you gone gone ?
Patti Smith, Redondo Beach, 1975.

"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable — except for having just jumped." Ken Baldwin who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.


Hugh Anderson's article titled, "The death for euthanasia could be death for us all"in the Montreal Gazette, contained a couple of paragraphs that left me queasy:

"Imagine carrying around with you at all times a sort of get-out-of-hospital-alive card, sometimes called a sanctuary card. Its message: I do not want to be killed even though my quality of life seems to you to be unbearable.

Hard to imagine? In Holland and Belgium right now such cards are in demand."

"...The strange thing is that we do have an ominous real-life or real-death demonstration of what this kind of thing can lead to. Holland legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide three decades ago, first in practice and later by law. Advocates said it would be limited to competent adults who are terminally ill and ask to be killed. Then it was extended to competent adults with incurable illnesses or disabilities, although not terminally ill. Then it was extended to competent adults who were depressed but otherwise not physically ill. Then it was extended to incompetent adult patients like Alzheimer's sufferers, on the basis that they would have asked for death if they were competent.

And now it is legal for doctors in Holland to kill infants, if parents agree, if they believe their patients' suffering is intolerable or incurable. This is a long way from the soothing image of an elderly person choosing with full understanding to die with dignity, assisted by compassionate relatives and friends."

This part reminds me of Peter Singer and his chilling version of bio-ethics. There isn't a whole lot distinguishing eugenics (even Nazi social engineering) from what Singer posits. For an interesting read, see Margaret Sommerville/Peter Singer debate here.

For his part, philosopher and psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argues suicide is the most basic right of all. If freedom is self-ownership, ownership over one's own life and body, then the right to end that life is the most basic of all. But he does not believe physicians have a place in preventing or assisting in suicide. In fact, he applies a scathing attack on "euthanasia as practiced in the Netherlands as nothing more than physician assisted murder of the Holocaust."

Personally, I agree. It's also state-sanctioned murder.

We speak of "safeguards" but who really believes safeguards to be effective with such an issue? The safeguards are meaningless when the process gets infected with political and money concerns.

Which brings me to a letter to the editor I read:

"Being of sound mind and body, I do hereby declare my steadfast commitment and irrevocable desire to cling to life with every available means - medical technological or miraculous - even if everyone else around me disagrees.

I insist not only on being hooked up to any and all life-sustaining equipment, but demand that the equipment itself be hooked up to emergency generators in case the power fails.

For those around me who declare themselves unable to cope with my decision or my suffering, might I suggest that they consider euthanasia for themselves. After all it's their misery not mine. As for those in the medical profession who might feel that they would be doing me a service by ending my life with dignity, I say, just make sure the hydro bill is paid and leave my dignity to its rightful owner."

Alex Stavropoulos

I applaud this letter since it confronts the prevailing view which is presently taking root.

I indeed lament the lack of debate concerning the issue. We're using big words like "ethics" and "dignity" but do we really know what the imply in the context of euthanasia?

Here's the conclusion of one researcher:

"The definition of euthanasia remains narrow, with terms such as „unbearable suffering‟ continuing to be interpreted widely. There is not adequate protection for the disabled, elderly, children or anyone with reduced autonomy and little appreciation for the fact that people can come out of suffering. An alarming reality is that non-voluntary euthanasia has been justified as „necessary‟ or in some cases even good palliative care. Palliative care, whilst improved, is still not sufficiently provided. This is indicated partly by a cut in funding. Reporting, also improved, remains inadequate. Whilst there has been an improvement of compliance with guidelines it remains as John Keown wrote: „The reassuring picture of the euthanasia landscape portrayed by the Dutch is surreal."

Indeed, the most startling fact beginning to emerge is doctors in Belgium and Holland are beginning to kill people without consent.

Sommerville notes:

"...the desire of so many Oregon officials to keep from public scrutiny the facts about assisted suicide in Oregon, is particularly troublesome. … Particularly disturbing in Oregon — and most similar to the Netherlands — is that those administering the law and those sanctioned by government to analyze its operation have become its advocates and its defenders." "By 1995 there had been an increase in the number of deaths in which physicians gave pain medication with the explicit intention of ending the patient’s life from 1,350 cases [in 1990] to 1,896 (1.4 percent of all Dutch deaths). … As reported by the physicians in the 1995 study, in more than 80 percent of these cases (1,537 deaths), no request for death was made by the patient. Since these are cases of nonvoluntary, and involuntary (if the patient was competent), euthanasia, this is a striking increase in the numbers of lives terminated without request and a refutation of the investigators’ claim that there has been perhaps a slight decrease in the number of such cases." As a result of such information becoming available, a new group of people who oppose euthanasia is emerging. The traditional opponents are those who believe it is inherently wrong to kill another human being. The more recent opponents — some of whom have favoured legalization in the past13 — are coming to believe that abuses cannot be prevented and that the most vulnerable people in our societies — especially disabled and aged people — would be placed at the greatest risk of being victims of the abuse of legalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide."


It must be made clear, there's a distinction with cases of extreme pain and terminal diseases with what is being discussed here. The point of this post is to convey the path it can lead us onto. It's as if we become more and more comfortable with death (if not indifference to life) as literally a means to an end.

It's not just the Dutch who have grappled with this; it's just that they've decided to cross the pond. In Italy, the Eluana case has certainly led to debate there. Man of Roma discusses it here. In the United States we had the Schiavo case and in Canada Richard Latimer. Man of Roma does a great job describing how ancient societies and Christian world viewed suicide. There are many philosophical views about suicide.


Certainly, something is happening in society regarding assisted suicide. It's not enough to say "well people will continue to kill themselves by barbaric means so why not get a doctor to do it?" This logic is replete with so many holes and short sightedness it demands further investigation.

I will ask a question that may not seem to correlate to the discussion here but I think it does in some way:

Are we a post-nihilist society?

Are the lines between science, logic, compassion, indifference and murder now blurred?

G-20 Meeting And Dutch Progressiveness

What did we learn at the G-20? Answer to everything for Europe? Regulate! Regulate! Reg-u-late!

Answer for the Americans? Spend, spend, spend!


Questions: Is Holland truly a progressive nation? Are they social "trail blazers?" Are nations engaging in group think citing it as a nation to look up to it on social issues? Maybe their views on social matters is good for its populace but does it export well?

What is progress? Is the progressive social agenda nothing but politics by other means?

Here in Quebec, the intellectual and political classes tend to hold Scandinavia and Holland in the highest regard and seek to copy them on social issues. This raises a red flag for me.

Seven Medical Myths

Found on Yahoo.

Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh and duh.

Years ago a naturopath told me I needed to drink eight glasses of water a day. I thought that to be excessive. I was skeptical but I gave it a try. Man, it's hard to drink eight glasses of water a day. Water fills you up. It can literally take away hunger. Not only that, when I explained to her it was increasing the visits to the bathroom, she said my body and bladder had to get used to it.


I drink about half of that and usually follow my espresso with a glass of water.


There's A Lot I Don't Know

Don't look at me for answers. I don't know.

The Pansification Of Hockey

This blog stands by Mike Milbury for using the word "pansification" to describe contemporary hockey in the NHL. Here's an interpretation from a gay perspective - thank God reason exists. Although it wasn't Don Cherry who said it.

It's absolutely ridiculous that a gay right activist group would make an issue of it. I think most readers of this blog are capable of taking this sort of thing to its logical end.


If this is a serious issue in society then we truly, madly have problems. We're way too sensistive these days.

Freedom. People. Freedom.

Try it sometime. It just might, well, liberate you.

Bunch of pansies.

Preserving The Sanctity Of Life: Part 1

With euthanasia in the news I've decided to tackle this issue. There is no right or wrong; or at least it's not an easy issue to discuss and debate with the intent of arriving at a conclusion. Indeed, the issue of compassionate assisted suicide has its merits but it also has its pitfalls. Its implications not fully understood.

Mental illness (autism, depression and bi-polar disorder) runs in my family and so my views will reflect this reality.

The first part is a personal story.

Years ago my father slipped into a coma following complications to replace his aorta.

And the complications kept coming. He suffered from what I can recall at this moment: kidney failure, a stroke, flooded lungs and contracted hospital bacteria. Soon after he awoke, he lost the services of his voice because of the trachiatomy he needed to help him breathe.

It was awful but at no moment did we ever entertain the thought of "pulling the plug" on him. Instinctively, morally and spiritually we knew this was not right.

The doctors in the intensive care unit thought otherwise.

A standoff between science and spirituality ensued. Although, the surgeon and nurses sided with us.

The pressure to end his life was intense. At one point, it came to be so unbearable we considered legal action. I myself had to step in and request a private conversation with the head doctor of the ICU. In those five or ten minutes, he proceeded to lay a logical track about "what we were doing to my father." That even if he were to survive his ordeal, his quality of life would be minimal. In other words, he was going to be mentally and physically useless. He implied we were not letting him go with "dignity." It stunned me.

I don't know what happened but the sudden surge of inner-strength to rise and challenge him was powerful. I kept my calm and proceeded to reverse and throw his "logic" into his face.

It was a paternalistic and presumptuous of use of a broad term such as dignity.

My angle was simple. I put myself in his shoes to understand where he was coming from. He was playing the percentages. ICU is essentially a death warden. He knows when the Grim Reaper comes and selects his victims. However, in time, I explained a few things about my father; my mother (who was an "irritant" as he put it) and my family. Life is not just about logic.

I don't remember what I said in detail but I do recall the look on his face change abruptly. He had met his match. A lady came up to me and said, "I heard everything. I'm proud of you."

Long story short, my father survived. The doctors were stunned. He's not at full capacity (he's not allowed to drive and can't work. Luckily for him, he was essentially retired and built himself a strong financial base as a small business owner) but he's far from being a "vegetable."

Far, far indeed.

So much so it was spine tingling to listen to him speak about his dreams while in a coma. In one instance, he had a conversation with a long lost brother who died (possibly killed in a mental institution) before my father's eyes when he was just a child.

Next: Are we in a post-nihilist society?


The Beautiful Jackie Wilson


Does The Winner Take It All?

This piece in The American Prospect titled, "Talent and the winner takes all society" dates back to 1993 and is rather long but worth the trip.

Some scattered excerpts and quotes to intrigue you into reading the article:

"Largely unnoticed in these discussions has been a more fundamental change, namely, the growing prevalence of what Duke University economist Philip Cook and I have called "winner-take-all markets." These are markets in which a handful of top performers walk away with the lion's share of total rewards. This payoff structure has always been common in entertainment and professional sports, but in recent years it has permeated many other fields--law, journalism, consulting, investment banking, corporate management, design, fashion, even the hallowed halls of academe

"...the evidence simply does not support Bok's claim that runaway salaries at the top are the result of insufficient competition. On the contrary, top incomes have grown because structural changes have made the top players more valuable as competition for their services has intensified."

"For every author who receives a million-dollar advance payment, there are thousands of others, many of them as talented, who never manage even to support themselves."

"Winner-take-all markets give rise to two important forms of inefficiency. One is that they tend to attract too many resources away from markets with more conventional payoff structures. To see why, we must first examine the cost-benefit criterion for deciding how many contestants should enter a winner-take-all market."

"When an additional person decides to pursue an acting career, for example, the cost to society is the value of what that person could have produced in some other occupation. The benefit from having the additional contestant is to raise the expected value of the ultimate winner's performance, since there is always some chance that the entrant will prove superior to the existing contestants. With relatively few contestants in the market, the expected gain from having another entrant will sometimes be high. But as more and more people enter a winner-take-all market, this gain diminishes sharply (just as the fastest runner from a high school with 1,001 students will be only imperceptibly faster, on the average, than the fastest from a school of 1,000). In an ideal economic world, we would keep sending additional contestants to a winner-take-all market until the expected gain in the value of the winner's performance was just large enough to compensate for what the last contestant could have earned in another occupation.

But when people choose occupations on the basis of narrow self-interest, we generally end up with far more than this optimal number of contestants. This happens because potential contestants ignore the fact that their presence will make other contestants less likely to win. We get too much pollution because people ignore the costs they impose on one other. And for just the same reason, we get too many aspiring actors and rock musicians--and too many aspiring Wall Street lawyers."

"Bok eloquently defends an activist role for government and makes a strong case that more of our most talented citizens should be involved in the public sector. Yet greater government involvement need not entail the vision of government as direct provider of goods and services. On the contrary, governments often do the most good simply by requiring individuals to take the full social costs of their actions into account. Thus, for example, a group of Northeastern states eliminated a large component of the litter problem virtually overnight by simply enacting deposit laws for soft-drink containers. Bok is too quick to reject the possibility that greater reliance on similar market incentives might enhance bureaucratic performance."

On the other hand, many of Bok's recommendations do take us in the right direction. I especially applaud his passionate call for a reexamination of American values. Material incentives are indeed given too much weight in many spheres and in any event cannot hope to solve many pressing problems. How, for example, can the threat of a fine induce someone to drive 30 minutes through traffic to dispose of unwanted pesticide properly, rather than just pour it down the drain? People will incur such costs only if they are socialized to believe it is the right thing to do.

I also share Bok's view that we have become too cynical about the role of government. Like it or not, government will remain responsible for a host of activities that shape our lives. Bok is persuasive that the harshly anti-government rhetoric of recent years has made it needlessly difficult to recruit and retain the competent public servants we so desperately need."

Market forces are ruthlessly effective in getting people to act in their narrow material interests. Often these forces produce benign social outcomes, as when the struggle for market shares leads to cost-saving improvements in technology. Other times, as in the case of winner-take-all markets, market forces guide resources in socially undesirable ways. But when market forces do lead us astray, the attendant social problems are less likely to be solved by traditional bureaucratic interventions than by creative attempts to bring private incentives more closely into balance with social incentives.

On the subject of talent, I often ask myself if any of this can be connected to the question, is Western achievement in the arts and science in decline? More specifically, are we still capable of producing the likes of Da Vinci, Edison, Beethoven and so on? Given the low standards we've designed for ourselves in education and the constant need to produce for a mass audience and its tastes, it's no wonder we don't seem to be in a hurry to find the next Newton. It seems the ball is in the mediocre court so to speak.

This is not to say we're not producing great minds but I wonder about the pace of it.

The title "winner takes all" also reminds me of the notion in sports a silver or bronze medal is useless or means "you lost gold." It completely misfires on the subject of personal achievement. Earning a bronze in an international competition is something to be praised, not dismissed or even sneered at.

In general in society at large, it feels like competition is more fierce than it was just 25 or 30 years ago. It's a rat race to find a specific niche in hopes of carving out a unique existence with financial rewards.

Technology has essentially given voice, through the Internet, to every person with access to a computer. There's more of a chance to be heard but the chance to make cash is just as elusive as it ever was. Getting you piece of the pie, though seemingly closer than ever, can be an optical illusion. The truth is money is scarce; always was and always will be. Finding the "next musical genius" takes a lot of work through searching because pop charts and radio are no longer custodians are great music.

This means the cash is in the hands of a few "gatekeepers" who will make you or break you. Of course, most of the jobs are given to friends and family first so it's even harder to get in. You simply have to find a way in to get your share.

I fear this has gone on long enough. My little brain can't handle all this. It's like digesting garlic. As I'm fond of writing, I'll leave it to greater minds to discuss and offer further insights.