Thursday, September 4, 2014

When their research has social implications, how should climate scientists get involved?

My response to this Guardian position.

Taking a position as a political advocate means that you are no longer adhering to the prime directive of objectivity that is the due of true Scientists. In many ways you are no longer open to dissent when pressing your objectives with emotional zeal. You have become a believer.

If protecting your reputation is important than it is incumbent upon any professional to distinguish between their work and their hobbies.
Many climate alarmists have embraced the "Precautionary Principle" as the basis for their prescribed remedies, making them, in effect insurance salesmen. My understanding is that if you want to keep the price of insurance down, consumers must be persuaded to buy it, not compelled. The hard evidence so far leads many of us to discount the need for such a policy.

Political advocates prophesizing that the Arctic will be ice free by 2014 or that a child in New York will never know what it is like to throw a snow ball doesn't sell many insurance policies.

It devolves into the realm of opinion which by its nature, even if supported by evidence is subjective. I might take the evidence that red cars are more likely to be charged with speeding than blue cars. Yet that is only my opinion that your red car will get a ticket.

In order to come to a political solution opinions are important, but they must be distinguished from a scientists work, otherwise they become an inflexible dogma.

The point is that Political Advocacy is not Science. Everyone in a free society has the right to an opinion on political solutions, especially scientists. But, an opinion, even from a scientist, cannot be regarded with the same validity as an experimental deduction.

Indeed many scientists hold conflicting opinions on the best course of action we should take even if CO2 touches off a violent series of positive feedbacks.

It would be refreshing for a lay person like myself to see more debating and defense of prescribed actions in the public arena.

Either I have missed it or I have not seen a serious public rebuttal of: 1) The evidence that shows the climate has not warmed over the last 10 to 15 years despite an increase in CO2. 2) The polar ice is increasing in size. 3) There is no evidence that the number of tropical storms has increased. I think most of us are open to conflicting evidence when presented honestly & without bias.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Has the Public Sector reached a Critical Mass?

On June 12, 2014 another Liberal Majority government was elected despite a record number of scandals that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. What should have been a public shaming and humiliating defeat for the incumbent has turned into a clean slate to pursue a policy of empowered paternalism.

How could this happen?  I asked a prominent economist from the University of Western Ontario for his opinion on why the Tories were failing to catch fire with the electorate. His only answer was “it means that errors were made” (by the Tories). The answer could lie in an examination of those so called “errors”. The Tories had campaigned with a moderate plan to create private sector jobs and stabilize the fiscal deficit. They had called it the “Million Jobs” plan that would require a slowing in the growth of government. The result was a tidal wave of alarmism from public sector unions, and surprisingly from a few private sector labour organizations such as the Journalist’s Union.  The Tory plan was portrayed as a “slash and burn” agenda that would, believe it or not, destroy the province's economy. Was Tim Hudak’s error that he did not hide the fact that he believed something had to be done about provincial spending? Was it a tactical error to endorse the chopping of 100K public sector jobs? Was it a mistake to focus on Ontario’s competitiveness? Some pundits think so. Yet, this is a reaction to a plan that focused on fiscal responsibility (I would argue in a very moderate manner) and its failure to attract support points to a much deeper transition that has taken place within the province.

Over the past decade the Ontario government has aggressively broadened its powers to influence and distort the economy. It has dramatically increased the cost of energy with its draconian implementation of the Green Energy Act. It has thwarted entrepreneurial growth within the health industry by enforcing professional privilege that restricts less expensive resources from providing services. It has mandated that automobile drivers should be harassed with insurance services they don’t need and cannot opt out of, while forcing them to comply with overbearing and expensive inspection requirements. It has broadened the scale and cost of the education system so that children are drawn into the system at a much younger age.  The government has also lavishly spent its treasure on computerized databases that watch every detail of a citizen’s health status and drug purchases, driving habits and other metadata intrusions. These incursions have contributed to the explosive growth of Public Sector employment and Private Sector Cronies who are funded in whole or in part by the government.

The growth of the Public Sector has a corollary growth in the mandate for organizations that are designed to protect and expand the incomes and jobs of those who work for the government. This mandate includes political action in favour of more public spending. With the continuous growth of the Public Sector it will soon reach a critical mass where this vested interest has the power to elect the government it chooses.  Ontario is now faced with the terrifying prospect of being at the mercy of its own public infrastructure. It explains why a Liberal Party that has been in power for almost a decade and has been responsible for the most expensive scandals in the Province’s history can be re-elected with a majority in the Legislature. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Curious Tale of the Burton Stone

This is the account of Percival Alexander Burton, born April 11 in the year of our Lord 1899, in the County of Essex, Dominion of Canada.

It is my purpose to commit the tale of an enigmatic heirloom to paper in order that the record may be passed to succeeding generations with the full appreciation of its history. What has come to be known as the “Burton Stone” has had an extraordinary and yet mysterious passage on its way to my possession and care. This stone is not to be confused with the celebrated plague icon from the Middle Ages titled the Burton Stone which resides in York, in the United Kingdom, rather it takes its name by coming into the possession of Sir Richard Francis Burton in 1860.

North American Shawnee Indians believed that a crystal stone descended from the firmament cradled inside a suspended light – In February, 1759 near a place in the Ohio Valley where the Shawnee War Chief Puckshinwa had taken up residence. This stone’s sudden appearance was construed by Puckshinwa’s mother Methotase to be a sign of some indecipherable significance.   In consultation with her British husband, a trapper named Rogers, she kept the peculiar stone securely concealed, passing it on to Puckshinwa upon her death.  His mother’s cryptic gift became Puckshinwa’s constant companion and oracle. It was the focus of his meditation, which at times, would proliferate into a dark prophetic vision. He named the crystal stone; “The Feline” in honour of his tribe, The Kispoko (meaning the dancing tail of a great cat). After years of contemplation Puckshinwa came to appreciate the icon’s purpose as a gateway through which he gained inner peace and the force of will to thrive and endure disquieting circumstance.

For Puckshinwa war was a constant menace upon his people - Be it first the Iroquois and their French allies, then the westward expansion of the British Empire, he felt they were constantly under threat of annihilation.  It is said that Puckshinwa contemplated the oracle of the Feline Stone before going into battle. But, before a great confrontation he rejected his introspection, being overcome with rage before a battle in 1774. He left the crystal with his son Tenskwatawa and was never seen again.

Tenskwatawa was devastated by the loss of his father and sought to sooth his sorrow with opiates and drink. At the very moment of despair it is said that Tenskwatawa began to contemplate the Feline stone and his life was renewed.

Tenskwatawa adopted the Lenape philosophy of self-reliance as revealed by their prophets and credited the crystal/stone for his rebirth. He was able to entice a large following of diverse tribesman with his beliefs and soon was regarded as a foremost spiritual leader.

The War of American Independence removed many of the official restraints, imposed by British foreign policy, to westward expansion of the colonists. This brought conflict with indigenous people wherever their interests overlapped. Tenskwatawa rejected the ways of the colonists and promoted a traditional Indian lifestyle. He eventually founded his headquarters in a new village he called Prophetstown.

Hatred slowly infused itself into Tenskwatawa’s creed. He soon became the prophet of an apocalypse that would descend upon his enemies. It was at this time that his hubris took control of him and he discarded the Feline Crystal - giving it to his older brother Tecumseh.
Tenskwatawa encouraged resistance to the new American Nation by attacking settlers and building a defensive confederacy of Indian tribes based in Prophetstown. Rage began to guide his actions and he rejected council from his brother who himself had begun to contemplate upon the Feline Stone. The Governor of the Indiana Territory, Willian Henry Harrison, was convinced that the status quo was intolerable. He organized a military force and in 1811 advanced on Prophetstown with the intention of destroying the village and the confederacy.

Tecumseh counselled Tenskwatawa to leave the village as Harrison approached, but Tenskwatawa in a fit of rage rejected his brother’s council and ordered a preemptive attack on Harrison’s force. The Indians took Harrison by surprise but were soon defeated leaving the way open to Prophetstown. Harrison completed his mission by burning Prophetstown to the ground and returned home. The Shawnee, now lead by their chief Black Hoof rejected Tenskwatawa and banished him.

It is said that Tecumseh thereafter consulted the Feline Crystal and proposed that independent Indian lands, echoing the great Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, were to be considered commons for all to use. But Indian elders were not in agreement and some of them, in the name of all, signed a treaty that sold their lands for the exclusive use of the settlers. Tecumseh was enraged, but he kept his composure and went from village to village espousing his vision with rhetoric and scintillating logic. He went so far as to meet with Harrison on a number of occasions to make his case for lasting peace. His nascent appreciation that his dream of an independent Indian state had swiftly become a forlorn hope led him into the depths of despair.  

The tides of history soon transformed everything. Tecumseh was swept up in the World War that came to North America in 1812. He found a kindred spirit in Sir Isaac Brock, the British commander in Upper Canada, and soon his idealism was revived. After contemplating the Feline Stone he engineered one of the greatest bloodless victories of all time. Tecumseh and Sir Isaac bluffed the commander of Fort Detroit, Brigadier General William Hull into surrendering without a fight. 

Sadly Sir Isaac Brock was killed shortly after while leading his men at the Battle of Queenston Heights. Sir Isaac was replaced by Major-General Henry Procter whom Tecumseh held in low esteem. Procter’s strategy was rejected by Tecumseh who wanted a more aggressive campaign against the Americans. Tecumseh became despondent after a number of defeats where he had not coordinated his actions with the British commander. It is at this time at the Fork of the Thames River, in October, 1813 that he gave the Feline Stone to a member of the British liaison contingent, Lieutenant Andrew Bulger. That very day Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames.

Andrew Bulger had immense respect for Tecumseh and had accepted the stone with great reverence. Tecumseh had discussed the history of the stone with Bulger in great detail and it became a prized possession. Much of what is known about the Feline Stone was preserved by this British officer.

Fatefully Bulger settled in Western New York State after the war. He came in contact with a man by the name of Joseph Smith who espoused a doctrine he named the "Latter Day Saint" movement. Smith had transcribed something he called the “Book of Mormon” which had been written by American Indian Profits. Knowing the story of the Feline Stone Bulger informed Smith of the story of Tenskwatawa and his conversion to Lenape philosophy and prophecy.

Smith immediately appreciated the significance of the stone and convinced Bulger to release the stone into his custody as an icon of his movement. It is unclear what the movements of the stone were from that point in 1830 and its subsequent rediscovery in Salt Lake City some 30 years later.

In 1860 Richard Francis Burton, the prolific writer, remarkable linguist, pilgrim to Mecca and world famous explorer embarked on a trip to North America. He had a keen interest in religious and sexual practices of exotic cultures. Predictably the Mormons of Salt Lake City were a prodigious curiosity for him.

He arrived in Salt Lake on August 28 and spent 3 weeks observing them. Burton met with Brigham Young and proposed that Young make him a Mormon. Knowing Burton’s history of religious insincerity, Young politely declined. Not to be thwarted Burton is said to have befriended certain young Mormon women, who incidentally were to ask him to marry them before he left. He was able to persuade them to reveal where he could gain access to the deepest secrets and icons of the Mormon Tabernacle. It is at this time that the Feline Stone somehow came into his possession.  Brigham Young had given Burton a historical overview of the many stones that were brought to the Tabernacle, but of all the "seeing stones" the Feline Crystal struck him as having the most meticulous lineage and an odd emission akin to a vibration.

Why or how the Crystal/Stone left on a stagecoach for San Francisco with Richard Burton no one knows. Suffice to say Richard left town quietly without fanfare while oddly no one at the Tabernacle has ever publicly wondered where it went. Perhaps they were glad to be rid of it since those who had come into possession of the Feline Stone had sooner or later rejected its meditative enlightenment and paid a heavy price.

Upon returning to England by December of 1860, Richard Francis Burton married his devoted sweetheart Isabel Arundell and then embarked on a somewhat lackluster diplomatic career. It is unclear if Richard ever used the Stone as a tool of contemplation or even where the Feline Stone was kept until Richard’s death on October 19, 1890. Burton's temperament did not seem to allow for patient introspection. Certainly Isabel was eager to discard it along with anything else she felt might reflect badly on Richard’s legacy.

My father Fredrick W. Burton, who fancied himself as somewhat of an impresario, upon hearing of Sir Richard’s death immediately contacted Lady Isabel via the post to request a memento for a distant relative.

Now of course Fredrick had no idea if he was related to Sir Richard or not – it was just an instinctive grasp for what he perceived as an opportunity for profit. I am told that when a parcel arrived from Lady Burton, without an explanation of any kind, he could hardly conceal his amazement. Mother said it was quite comical to see him open the package only to find a rock in a threadbare purple velvet sack and a few pages of brown note paper with scarcely readable details written hastily upon them. Fredrick called it the “Burton Stone” and regarded it as an emblem of the folly of unrealistic hope (a hope he would maintain throughout his life). The Stone languished among Fredrick's forgotten possessions for 51 years until on a spring day in 1941 I came upon it and asked my father what it was and where it came from. He said it was a family heirloom given to him by Lady Isabel Burton in 1890, but of course it wasn’t worth anything. I don't believe he had ever taken the time to study the notes Richard had enclosed in the sack.

I painstakingly copied the notes to preserve the story the best I could - they were disintegrating in my hands. I have tried to contemplate upon the Crystal to no effect and I am filled with apprehension that the dereliction my life has become is in some way a fable to this folly. This account is all that is left of the tale which I hope will be passed down to successive generations of the Burton family so they can touch an icon from the mists of time. It might have easily been lost and I regard my contribution to saving it as my imprint upon immortality. PAB December 31, 1963

This account along with the "Burton Stone" were passed to me by my Great Uncle that New Year's Eve in 1963. I was only seven years old. I still remember sitting in my Grand Father's parlor watching the Red Skelton Show when Percy asked me to keep something of great value safe and secure for all time. Percy was a lost soul but was someone I had developed an affinity for. Passing on the Burton Stone may well have been the major accomplishment of his life. I fully intend to fulfill my promise to do the same. Christopher J. Burton July 8, 1983 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Does Prohibiting Prostitution Enhance Freedom?

A rebuttal of Mr. Hampson's rebuttal of Anthony Furey's Libertarian defense legalizing Prostitution

Mr. Hampson has attempted to rebut a rational defense of prostitution with an emotional justification for state paternalism.  His argument presumes that human beings aspire to be indolent ne’er-do-wells, who, without the states intervention would become ideal fodder for manipulation by tyrants. They just don’t know what is best for them without his help.

Freedom is a two edged sword. It requires one to be responsible for one’s actions and most importantly to bear the consequences of those actions. The described man who only wishes to smoke marijuana and immerse himself in Pop culture must at least create enough wealth to pay for cable TV & his supply of pot in a free society. Only overbearing parents or the Nanny State could enable this lifestyle without contributions from the under achiever.

It is responsibility that gives human life its dignity. This is why slavery, initiated violence against others and child pornography are wrong. The use of force robs an individual of the dignity of responsibility and compels them to accept the consequences of someone else’s actions. Hence, the use of force by the state to engineer proper behavior in its citizens is inherently degrading.

By prohibiting prostitution the state is in effect creating a protected market for criminals who can demand high margins for a service with supply that is artificially constrained. In a free society it is a fallacy to claim that a woman is “being bought” and used. By her own volition she or he has traded value for value from a negotiated agreement.

Freedom also provides a moderating force to self-destructive activities. The freedom to speak one’s mind in a forum that does not violate the rights of others could be used to impart moral lessons and wisdom to all who would listen. It also provides us with the ability to use our compassion freely to whomever we think is worthy.

One can only conclude that by prohibiting sovereign individuals from engaging in an activity like prostitution the state has robbed us of the dignity of responsibility. This, I counter, makes us much more susceptible to tyrannical manipulation than if we truly were to choose our own course of action.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Revisiting the political divide

 Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)                              John Locke (1632 - 1704)

For lack of an argument many antagonistic partisans prefer simply to label their opponents as right-wing or left-wing in the hope it will relieve their audience of the necessity for any further thought. This is particularly irksome for a lucid adversary when the debated activity is misaligned on the political grid. But, what is this grid and is there a test that will reliably place one’s ideas in its proper place?  

I realize that this would be detrimental to anyone obfuscating their message deliberately, but I believe the time has come to agree on a universal political spectrum.

In 1789 the political divide was loosely defined by the seating in the French National Assembly. The spectrum consisted of a Jacobin elite on the left-wing of the house supporting what they called a republic and a Legitimist elite on the right-wing defending various implementations of the Monarchy. The overriding theme of the time was which elite would exercise absolute power over the unfortunate citizens of France. In hind-sight we know that the Jacobins would self-destruct by implementing an unprecedented orgy of political genocide known as the Terror - While the right-wing elites would implode by escalating destruction into the monumental catastrophe known as the Napoleonic Wars.

The French were unwilling or unable it seems to appreciate the evolutionary road to enlightenment that was unfolding in Britain and her empire. The dominant theme in Britain was the long road leading to the rejection of absolutism in all its forms. This began to unfold after the signing at Runnymede in 1215 of the immortal Magna Charta. Evolving with time half the British political spectrum could be defined by the classical liberal John Locke who advocated freedom through his justification of property rights and by proposing the separation of church & state. He became a major inspiration for the rebellion in 13 of Britain’s colonies in North America. The other half, perhaps best embodied by Edmund Burke have taken the view that tradition and religion were the best bulwarks against tyranny. The idea was that existing institutions could be modified, not replaced, to protect the rights of individuals. The consequences of these two roads have produced the “Constitutional Republic” and the “Constitutional Monarchy”. Both of these systems are designed to overcome the impulse toward absolutism – one overt and the other subtle.

Through the 19th and 20th centuries absolutists experimented with many different implementations of their trade. The Pragmatism of William James and John Dewy became the justification for all manner of tyranny under the rubric; “the end justifies the means”.  Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Islamism and Socialism are the resulting abominations. The dominant theme for modern day absolutists is the demand for group rights that are identified as the “collective”, the “people” or the “class”. By advocating for a group with a uniform message this structure is by its nature elitist. In response to the elitist experiments proponents of individualism began to question the legitimacy of the right to govern. The logical conclusion of this thinking is an ideal state of anarchy where no man is governed by another.

Today the political spectrum is inherently coloured by the clash of the elite forces of absolutism and the individual’s rational desire to be free. Boiled down to its bare essentials this is collectivism on the left of the grid and Individualism on the right.

Now you should know where you stand. If you advocate policies that require or justify the use of force against other people such as; government social programs or other wealth redistribution schemes, State monopolies like education or the post office and restrictions on free speech then you reside on the left-wing of the Political spectrum. If you advocate volunteerism, believe in free enterprise and freedom of thought & conscience then you reside on the right-wing of the grid.
Now that that is cleared up; are you a collectivist or an individualist, an elitist or an individualist, an initiator of force or an individualist – If you think about it you may change your mind.