Monday, December 18, 2006

Politicians out of fashion

This year's Christmas issue of Time Magazine has its own tribute to the WWW, entitled Person of the Year: You, which is quite revealing. According to the author, the Web is slowly changing human relationships, moving from a a relationship of authority, from politician to common man, to a relationship of equality, from individual to individual. I could not agree more, and this change is all for the better.

"Best of" the article :

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Sure, it's a mistake to romanticize all this any more than is strictly necessary. Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.

But that's what makes all this interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person.

Friday, December 15, 2006

US and Somalia governments at extreme opposites

Somalia: Islamic Courts Deny Al-Qaeda Operatives In Country :

Yusuf Mohommed Siad Indho-adde, the chief of the Islamic Courts security section, warned African states not to send their troops to Somalia or that Somalia would the graveyard for the African troops.

UN Security Council members unanimously approved a US backed draft resolution to lift the arms embargo that was imposed on Somalia in 1992 to let regional peacekeepers enter the country and support the tenuous government based in the town of Baidoa, 245 km southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Asked if the American government had particular interest in Somalia, Mudey said "The American government wants to impose democracy in Somalia and that is completely unacceptable to Islamic Courts, because we know the Koran and we believe it is our constitution".

Mudey's remarks directly contradicts [US assistant secretary of state for foreign affairs] Ms Frazer's who said that America was strong-minded in finding a democratic government in Somalia and that US could not accept an Islamic republic in the Horn of Africa.

Let's just hope these comments are only meant to improve each party's public image and that the fine people of Somalia can finally enjoy peace and prosperity. 

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Canadian Food Guide a Haven of Multiculturalism

Toronto Star's Megan Ogilvie has a piece today concerning the upcoming revision of Canada's Food Guide, which is "designed to help Canadians make wise food choices, [by translating] the science of healthy eating into a practical pattern of food choices that meets nutrient needs, promotes health and minimizes the risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases." 

From the article :

A draft version from April obtained by the Star shows Health Canada has made additions to the food guide's signature rainbow graphic in an effort to make it more relevant to ethnic and cultural groups. It now includes pictures of bok choy, couscous, naan, soy milk and squid, for example, while white bread has been dropped.

Liberal health critic Ruby Dhalla (Brampton-Springdale) said the revised guide doesn't go far enough in reflecting the evolving needs of Canadians or taking into account differences between ethnic groups.

"The Chinese community eats a lot of rice," said Dhalla, who also sits on the standing committee on health, which has met with both stakeholders and Health Canada officials about the new food guide. "Will it take into account those types of differences?"

So, how exactly does taking into account the differences in eating pattern and "reflecting the evolving needs of Canadians" reconcile with the mission of the Guide which is, to repeat, to "help Canadians make wise food choices?" Aren't wise food choices independent of what culinary tradition one follows? 

The new food guide outlines a pattern of healthy eating based on the best science available, said Mary Bush, director general of the office of nutrition policy and promotion at Health Canada, who has overseen development of the guide.

Again, since when is nutritional science dependent on the varying tastes of individuals? Has it become healthy for North Americans to eat fast food in large quantities because it is now part of our tradition? Obviously not. Why then would a governmental food guide try to convince people of what they already believe in?

But according to Dhalla, the standing committee on health has heard from various health professionals, including family physicians, and experts on aboriginal health and childhood obesity, that Health Canada did not undertake a comprehensive consultation process. The stakeholders worry that Health Canada sought advice only on the optics of the food guide, not on its nutritional content, she said.

Well, that would actually be better than reality. Reality is that the CFG is intentionally designed so to keep the population fat and stupid, by including harmful products such as refined carbs, sugar and whole grains.

But it's so damn pretty! 

Regulation, source of the disease

Michael R. Eades, the co-author of Protein Power, has a "beef" against food regulation. 

You can read it here.

The Internet as a haven of diversity and capitalism?

Great post from Bruce Sterling on Wired News
. An extract : 

The future of the Internet lies not with institutions but with individuals. Low-cost connections will proliferate, encouraging creativity, collaboration, and telecommuting. The Net itself will recede into the background. If you're under 21, you likely don't care much about any supposed difference between virtual and actual, online and off. That's because the two realms are penetrating each other; Google Earth mingles with Google Maps, and daily life shows up on Flickr. Like the real world, the Net will be increasingly international and decreasingly reliant on English. It will be wrapped in a Chinese kung fu outfit, intoned in an Indian accent, oozing Brazilian sex appeal.  [...]

As a futurist, I've often licked my chops over rather grim possibilities. But my lasting fondness for the dark side is a personal taste, not an analysis. I'm frequently surprised, and when I consider the biggest surprises, I'm heartened that they were mostly positive. The Internet, for instance, crawled out of a dank atomic fallout shelter to become the Mardi Gras parade of my generation. It was not a bolt of destructive lightning; it was the sun breaking through the clouds.

Everything we do has unpredicted consequences. It's good to keep in mind that some outcomes are just fabulous, dumb luck. So mark my last little act of prediction in this space: I don't have a poll or a single shred of evidence to back it up, but I believe more good things are in store, and some are bound to come from the tangled, ubiquitous, personal, and possibly unpredictable Net.

I heartily share his optimism.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

La loi anti-tabac fait des victimes inattendues

Comme toute intervention gouvernementale, la loi anti-tabac qui est entrée en vigueur au printemps dernier entraîne des répercussions inattendues.

Des OSBL craignent d'être à court de fonds pour Noël à cause de la loi antitabac.

Certains organismes sans but lucratif de Montréal et des environs, qui se financent grâce aux soirées de bingo, se sont mobilisés mardi matin pour démontrer que la loi antitabac leur cause un grave préjudice financier

Selon eux, l'interdiction de fumer a engendré une baisse de 35 à 40 pour cent de joueurs par séance de bingo. Une diminution de 50 joueurs signifie un manque à gagner d'au minimum 1000 $ par soirée, une perte considérable pour chaque organisme. Un des services mis en péril est la capacité de ces organismes à offrir aux familles démunies des paniers de Noël.

À leur avis, les grands perdants de la loi antitabac sont les organismes caritatifs et les programmes qui soulagent la misère et la pauvreté et qui offrent une multitude d'activités sportives et culturelles à la collectivité.

Un autre exemple éloquent du principe de Ce que l'on voit, ce que l'on ne voit pas de Bastiat.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Couche-Tard fait faillite!

En fait, pas exactement... Mais c'est tout comme si on en croit son PDG. En réaction au projet de loi visant à permettre aux supermarchés d'avoir plus d'employés sur le plancher en fin de soirée et la fin de semaine en soirée, M. Bouchard mentionne dans un article de la Presse Canadienne :

"Pour un consommateur qui une fois dans sa vie va aller acheter un steak à 3h00 du matin, on va bulldozer les petites surfaces. Ca n'a pas de sens."

Un argument quelque peu éxagéré et fondamentalement erroné. Si le seul plan d'affaire viable pour les petites surfaces est de criminaliser toutes les alternatives à leurs commerces, il y a un léger problème.

M. Bouchard représente une coalition de détaillants de petites surfaces (dépaneurs, épiceries de quartier) selon laquelle "le ministre du Développement économique favoriserait uniquement les grandes chaînes d'alimentation au détriment de tous les autres. La coalition lui demande notamment d'instaurer des heures d'ouverture fixes en dehors desquelles les grandes surfaces devront fermer, d'abandonner complètement la règle des quatre employés et d'obliger la fermeture des supermarchés lors de certains jours fériés."

Qulle étrange façon de voir les choses. Permettre à tous d'opérer selon les mêmes règles équivaut à favoriser certains, alors qu'un réglement qui est plus strict envers les supermarchés serait lui parfaitement juste!

En fait, le problème est qu'il faut absolument que les dépanneurs se protégent de la compétition des supermarchés pour pouvoir vendre leurs cochonneries 25% plus cher que l'autre bord de la rue. Avec les mêmes règles s'appliquant à tous, les consommateurs bénéficieraient de prix plus bas, d'un service de meilleure qualité, et les dépanneurs s'en tireraient tant bien que mal en vendant de l'essence, des slushs aux petites filles et des bonbons aux adolescents gelés.

A-t-on vraiment besoin de payer 4$ pour un pain vieux d'une semaine? 

What you need to know about vaccination

A passionating document entitled Vaccination : What you need to know can be found on the Vaccine Risk Awareness Network (VRAN) website. The article is an excellent overview of the main medical arguments against vaccination. One not so surprising argument put forward is that high-carb diets could have a great negative impact on a person's immune system.

From the article :

During the late 1940’s Benjamin Sandler, MD discovered polio could be prevented by eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugary foods from children’s diets. Later, in the 1970’s, Dr Cheraskin showed that an hour after we eat a few teaspoons of sugar our white cell count is lowered 50% or more and doesn’t return to normal until 5 to 6 hours have passed.

It seems anytime a medical issue is honestly researched, it turns out refined carbs and sugar are shown to be somewhat responsible. Scores of expensive and dangerous treatments could be avoided simply by changing one's diet to more natural, healthy habits that include essential animal fats and proteins.

Another great article made available through the Prison Planet website is Why You Should Avoid Taking Vaccines, by Dr. James Howenstine, MD.

Of course, the broader issue of vaccination is quite complex and one cannot make up his mind only through reading a couple of articles online. But still, learning about alternate viewpoints is essential to keep oneself informed, especially when the issue in question is as vital as one's health.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pinochet passes away

The CBC reported minutes ago that Augusto Pinochet died this morning.

Former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet has died, a military hospital in Santiago said Sunday.

Days earlier, he had been moved from the Santiago Military Hospital's intensive care unit to an intermediate care room.

Pinochet, 91, had been at the hospital since Dec. 3, when he suffered what doctors described as an acute heart attack.

Doctors performed an angioplasty, in which a catheter is introduced into a clogged artery to enlarge it and allow restoration of blood flow to the heart.

Disturbed minds make for good songwriting?

I've recently discovered the Swedish black/death metal band Dissection. Having never been a huge fan of guttural vocals and relentless blast beat in the first place, it was a surprise when I happened to enjoy the selection Pandora had made for me of a band with a name that cliché of black/death. The band's music is quite original, with pleasantly aggressive vocals, an almost progressive rhytm, and most importantly, for once, the quality of actually being able to hear each instrument distinctly.

The threesome, however, describe themselves as the "Anti-Cosmic Metal of Death", a satanist troup on a mission to bring the revelation to the world. But what Swedish death-metal band isn't?

The difference with this bunch is that they actually believe it. The proof? The guitar player and vocalist for the band killed himself this summer because "he felt that he had fulfilled his self-created destiny."

From the band's official website :

Jon Nödtveidt was a man who lived his life according to his convictions and True Will. A couple of days ago he chose to end his life by his own hands. As a true Satanist he led his life in the way he wanted and ended it when he felt that he had fulfilled his self-created destiny. Not everyone will have understanding or acceptance for his personal path in this life and beyond, but all must respect his choice.

Those of us who have met him in his last days can assure that he was more focussed, happier and stronger than ever. It is our full conviction that he left this world of lies with a scornful laughter, knowing that he had fulfilled everything that he had set up for himself to accomplish. The empty space that he leaves behind will be filled with the dark essence that he manifested through his life and black-magical work. His legacy and Luciferian Fire will live on through those few who truly knew him and appreciated his work for what it really was and still is. As our brother's goal in life and death never was to "Rest in Peace", we will instead wish him victories in all battles to come, until the Acosmic Destiny has been fulfilled.

For the glory of the Dark Gods and the Wrathful Chaos!


So, do disturbed minds make for exceptionally creative songwriting? Weren't a lot of artists from the past especially deranged, such as Van Gogh or Baudelaire? If there is a causal relationship, what direction does it take? In other words, which causes which?


90% true...  

Saturday, December 9, 2006

National Post gets it right!

It has been brought to my attention that Harvard professor of economics Gregory Mankiw, the author of the textbook used in my Microeconomics course, has started the Pigou Club. The purpose of this club : to get the American government to raise Pigouvian taxes, or what we common people usually call green or social taxes. Well, that was bound to happen.

The best thing about the Pigou Club, however, is that it gave rise to an opposing movement, the Nopigou Club. Championned by Financial Post (now part of the National Post) editor, Terence Corcoran, "the club's purpose is to counter the ideas of the Pigou Club, an informal assembly of economists and pundits who support the idea of raising gasoline taxes."

From their website :

Arthur C. Pigou was an early 20th-century British economist, one of the fathers of welfare economics. He believed governments can shape policy for the better by raising taxes on bad things and subsidizing good ones. In the view of the Nopigou Club, the Pigou approach is just another form of central planning dressed up in free market terminology.

Go take a look at their websit or blog, and see what great things Canadians (sometimes) have to say.

Indian men too "small" for condoms

India might me a rising superpower, but there is apparently at least on category in which Westerners have nothing to fear. A BBC News article reports on a study made on more than 1000 Indian males, and males only. The results : the average Indian shares the Japanese South Park Character Syndrome.

But hey, as says "Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men's magazine Maxim : It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters." Classic! 

Because the primary topic of the article is the relative oversize of condoms for Indians [!], notice the inevitable AIDS remark, essential for bringing the news piece back to a more serious tone. 

The issue is serious because about one in every five times a condom is used in India it either falls off or tears, an extremely high failure rate.

And the country already has the highest number of HIV infections of any nation.

So, if I get it right, Africa, Brazil and India all have the highest number of HIV infections. Interesting.

But let's not allow the dreaded BBC to spoil our fun here and get back on topic : Indians' tiny-wienies. Unfortunately for them, another Pulitzer contender from the BBC tells us that

The majority of men who have penis enlargements end up dissatisfied with the results, a study says. [...] The study said rather than having surgery the men should be referred for psychological counselling.

Other experts agreed it should be a last resort.

Damn, I guess there is only one option left for the poor Indians : shut their borders to competition.

The point of all this? The BBC rocks. For real. 

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Martin Masse à Télé-Québec

Pour ou contre Wal-Mart? Martin Masse à Il va y avoir du sport

À ne pas manquer sur les ondes de Télé-Québec vendredi le 8 décembre 19 h 30 (ou en rediffusions, les dimanche 10 décembre 18 h 30, et lundi 11 décembre 14 h 30) à l'émission Il va y avoir du sport de Marie-France Bazzo, un débat intitulé «Pour ou contre Wal-Mart?» Pour l'occasion, les panélistes invités sont, dans le coin droit: Pierre Duhamel, journalise blogueur de L'actualité et Martin Masse, directeur de la recherche et des publications de l'Institut économique de Montréal; et dans le coin gauche: Dario Iezzoni, directeur général de Commerce équitable Oxfam-Québec et Pierre Thibeault, rédacteur en chef du journal ICI-Montréal. Selon la rumeur, M. Masse se serait fait de nouvelles amies lors du débat…

Faites un petit effort et retrouvez sur quel poste se trouve Télé-Québec. Parions que leurs cotes d'écoute battront de nouveaux records, puisque le Québécois Libre compte un tantinet plus de lecteurs que la télé nationale québécoise compte d'auditeurs réguliers...

David Suzuki, libertarian?

Conserving nature is like money in the bank

Ask folks what they value about nature and most would probably be quick to mention aesthetic and spiritual properties like beauty, serenity and peace. We hold these values dear to our hearts because they resonate with strong emotional ties. But there are other, even more pragmatic, reasons to value nature - reasons even a hard-headed economist can't deny.

As I discussed in my last column, we've lost touch with the fact that everything we have depends on nature. Without the rest of nature propping us up, we could not survive - a fact so obvious that it seems silly to point it out. The problem is, we don't behave as though this were obvious. We behave as though the economy is completely separate from the world in which we live. Industrialized society is geared entirely towards output - how many Playstations, SUVs and cans of Pepsi we can create, sell and consume. What aren't factored into the equation are the natural services needed to support this output. Why? Because nature's services are considered free.

And in a standard economic sense, they are free. Nature is the source of clean air, water and fertile soil with no strings attached. However, with six billion of us now shuffling up to nature's buffet, the "all you can eat" sign will have to come down soon or those at the back of the line - the next generation - will be left with nothing but Jell-O salad.

Exactly, David. Exactly. You're right on the money on this one : natural resources are not efficiently managed because they are free, i.e. they are collectively owned. Privatizing as much of the resources of the planet as possible is the only way to avoid environmental catastrophe.

Or is this really what you meant? Well, probably not, but I don't care! I'm using you to further the market-anarchist agenda anyway.You'll be proud someday, you'll see...

Monday, December 4, 2006

9/11 conspiracy theories : Bullshit! bullshit.

Because I  normally have much respect for Penn and Teller : Bullshit! , it pains me to watch them make fools of themselves on a topic as sensitive as 9/11. The team acclaimed for their witty ability to expose the flaws in "common knowledge" had to join the mainstream current and fall right into the trap of logical inconsistency. Because a few nuts are making absurd claims about what happened on 9/11, we must accept the official theory without further inquiry? Is that what scepticism is all about? 

David McGowan has so ineptly described the nature of this trap :

As several researchers have lamented, these [wacky] theories can only serve to damage the credibility of the 9-11 skeptics' case. To be perfectly blunt, I can't think of too many things that would be more counterproductive than trying to convince people that they didn't see what the entire world is pretty sure it saw (i.e., planes crashing into tall buildings). The effect is the same as if, in the years following the Kennedy assassination, while skeptics were presenting the case for Kennedy having been shot from the front rather than from behind, a group of researchers suddenly began arguing that he wasn't actually shot at all!

This 'emerging' evidence seems to be specifically designed to discredit, through the time-tested method of guilt by association, the evidence indicating that the Pentagon was damaged by something other then American Flight 77. Since the Pentagon evidence can't be discredited directly, it must be tainted indirectly, and the best way to do that is to introduce into the skeptics' literature dubious claims about the attacks on the towers.

Shame on you Penn and Teller for using your reputation of truth seekers to discredit every conspiracy theory, past, present or future, that actually make some sense. 

I guess you're real patriots after all...

IRS desperate to crack down on virtual economies had an article yesterday entitled IRS taxation of online game virtual assets inevitable.
From the article :

Most governments are only beginning to become aware of the substantial economic activity in online games, but the games' rapid growth and the substantial value of the many virtual assets changing hands in them is almost certain to bring them into the popular consciousness.

"Given growth rates of 10 to 15 percent a month, the question is when, not if, Congress and IRS start paying attention to these issues," said Dan Miller, a senior economist with the Congress' Joint Economic Committee, who is also a fan of virtual worlds. "So it is incumbent on us to set the terms and the debate so we have a shaped tax policy toward virtual worlds and virtual economies in a favorable way."

For those of you who may not have read the marvelous A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, and there might be quite a few, I strongly encourage to do so. This anonymously published novel, which has the elaboration of a free, virtual market as its central plot might be the single work of fiction that best represents the ideals of free-market anarchism.

Put in perspective with the virtual economies newspiece, it seems clear that the tax authorities are growing desperate to crack down on alternative, voluntary economies. The best thing we can do for liberty is to increase our levels of productivity and wealth. We should actively welcome virtual economies as they do just that, by providing voluntary alternatives to coercion-based, corporatist economies.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

World AIDS Day

Friday was World AIDS Day , a day "dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection." In honour of this terrible affliction, I thought I'd introduce you folks to some good readings on the topic of the HIV/AIDS scam.

You read well, HIV/AIDS is a scam, and here's why :

Out Of Control : AIDS and the corruption of medical science The moving story of Joyce Ann Hafford, a single mother who died of AIDS treatment. The article is also a good summary of the HIV/AIDS controversy.

Duesberg on AIDS Peter Duesberg, professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, is the leading dissident voice of the scientific community on the topic of HIV/AIDS.

Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives Raises questions about the accuracy of HIV tests, the safety and effectiveness of AIDS drug treatments, and the validity of most common assumptions about HIV and AIDS. Their mission is to help people diagnosed with HIV inform themselves on the nature of the virus and the alternatives to resigned medication.

CDC Recommends Routine, Voluntary HIV Screening In Health Care Settings A frightening mainstream article which provides good clues on the motivation behind the HIV/AIDS propaganda.

State Science is Bad for Your Health A few selected health-related scams, including HIV/AIDS, perpetuated by our beloved governments.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Metal Earthquake at Cafe Dekcuf

Jason Decay
Geddy Lee

I went to see the Metal Earthquake last night in Ottawa's Cafe Dekcuf. Great gig guys.

The main attraction was a band named Cauldron from Toronto. Although the guys were a little too gay-looking for my tastes, they put up a good show. Their writing is original and they sound great on stage. They remind me of the early Megadeth albums, which is in all respects a very good thing.

One interesting fact : I genuinely questioned myself for a good part of the show as to whether the lead singer/bass player, Jason Decay, formerly from Goat Horn, was the son of Geddy Lee from Rush. Well, who knows? 

But the highlight of the night was undoubtedly the bold performance by local band Toxicator

Accompanied by a handful of their very loud and energetic fans, the band managed to wake the otherwise absurdly quiet crowd up. The level of energy displayed on stage was phenomenal, despite the fact that the vocalist had to sit in a wheelchair for the whole act because of a broken leg. The band's music is pure metal. Solid riffs, powerful, fast drums, over the top guitar solos, and of course aggressive, high-pitched vocals make up for a sound which is as close to perfection as it can get. The best thing is, these guys are like 15 years old. And this is on average; one of the two guitarists must be about 12. Great things await these boys, if their moms let them at least. 

Did I just say that? Anyway...

So if you're in the Ottawa area, check out Toxicator's myspace page for upcoming shows. One of their songs, New Born Metal is also available on there. This tune is not necessarily representative of the band's overall sound, but still makes for a very good listen.

Kudos to you guys. The world need more bands like yours.