banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, March 30, 2009

"What was needed was more public-spirited pigs"

Poet T.S. Eliot, during his tenure as an editor at Faber & Faber, rejected George Orwell's novel Animal Farm. The rejection letter has recently been released by his estate along with other papers from Eliot's collection. Eliot said this of Orwell's classic novel:

“We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the current time,” wrote Eliot, adding that he thought its “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing”.

Eliot wrote: “After all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

(ht: Ann Althouse)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What do we want? Free trade!

Here's a brilliant column by Boris Johnson, mayor of London, with advice to the protesters descending on the city to disrupt next week's G20 meeting. Some excerpts:
So here we go again, folks. It is now 10 years since the anti-capitalists attacked the City of London, and next week they intend to outdo themselves. In student bedsits and in terrace Kensington houses, the alienated children of the middle classes are planning to subvert the G20 summit. Across the desolate wastes of the Leftie internet, their wrathful campfires are already burning, and when April dawns they will surge like the orcs of Mordor in the general direction of the Bank of England.

They will taunt the police. They will paralyse traffic. They will do their utmost to spoil your day; and when they have been sufficiently whipped up by the oratory of Tony Benn, and when Billy Bragg has finished his ditties, it is a safe bet that they will begin the chant of hate. Somewhere in the crowd, a nose-ringed twerp will drain a mouthful of cider and call to his comrades. "What do we want?" he will demand.

And at that moment, a great silence will fall in the carnival of cretinous crusties. The papier mâché horsemen of the Apocalypse will turn their heads inquiringly in his direction. "What do we want?" he will demand again, a shade more hysterically, and by this time the rioters will be looking at their feet and coughing. Er. What do they want?

...

So, in a spirit of compassion, let me give the G20 protesters the slogan they need. Here is a demand they could make that would transform the lives and hopes of millions of the poorest people on earth. It is a global stimulus package that doesn't involve borrowing untold trillions from future generations. It is something the world's leaders have been trying and failing to do for the past nine years, and if I were the man with the megaphone my cry would be: "What do we want? The completion of the Doha Round of world trade talks! When do we want it? Now!"

(ht: Tom Palmer)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lights on for Earth Hour 2009

The insanity of Earth Hour is back with a vengeance - I'm celebrating again this year by turning my lights ON at 8:00 pm on Saturday. I'm not doing it to deliberately waste energy but to challenge the stifling political orthodoxy around this event. Join me while Earth Hour is still voluntary.

There are many legitimate reasons to conserve energy - the efficient use of resources, saving money and reducing our dependance on sources controlled by despotic wingnut regimes that don't have our best interests at heart, among others. Unfortunately, that's not what Earth Hour has become - it's now a way of publicly identifying and shaming members of households and businesses who don't agree with the anti-development, anti-capitalist anti-globalization movement. It's an annual metaphorical scarlet letter.

Right -wing paranoia? Perhaps. But consider the following items:

This is an excerpt from a letter to the editor that appeared in my local weekly community paper the week after last year's Earth Hour:
In some places, you could see the glow of a television. In others, the flicker of candles. A few seemed to have one light visible - perhaps for safety? A number of houses were darkened, but this was because no one was home. Fair enough. Yet, as we proceeded, lights were visible in more and more houses. Some people appeared to have gone out of their way to turn on every light they had. I almost wanted to knock on their door and ask if I could help them find any they had forgotten.

Still, I was sure the situation would be different downtown. I had faith the businesses of Stirling would do us proud with their participation and show of concern for the principle behind the activity.

Was I in for a disappointment! It did not appear as if even one had made any effort at all. A couple of stores were darkened, but they normally are anyway. Most others were lit up like proverbial Christmas trees, even ones I had definitely expected to participate. External signs, internal lights, the works. One store even had all the lights inside its deli counter fully ablaze. Sure wouldn't want those cheeses to spend the night in the dark.

Our public buildings were little better. Did you think no one would notice? Did you think your interest (or lack thereof) doesn't matter? Do you truly not care at all?

Certainly, in the larger scheme of things, the actual impact of the Earth Hour action on our energy use and environmental impact is irrelevant. That wasn't the point of the event. The point was to make a visible demonstration to governments, corporations, and to each other that we recognize there is a problem, we think it is important, we care, and we want to do something. Evidently, many residents, business people and public officials in Stirling do not fall into this category.

Shame on you.

Or this comment left by a commenter at SDA:
Last year when all the lights on the street went out I turned on every light in my house. My neighbors a few doors down had people over and were drinking wine by candlelight on the porch. One of them came down and banged on my door. I guess I kinda ruined the moment for them. She asked me if I knew it was earth hour. I said yes. Then she said ok and left.
In their defense the are very nice folks and apologized the next day. I just managed to tweak them at the right moment.
You know they are going to try and force us to turn out the lights soon. It will be considered a hate crime against the planet to leave them on during Earth Hour.

Or this item from Britain:
Now snooping on the public has reached new heights with local authorities putting spy planes in the air to snoop on homeowners who are wasting too much energy.

Thermal imaging cameras are being used to create colour-coded maps which will enable council officers to identify offenders and pay them a visit to educate them about the harm to the environment and measures they can take.

A scheme is already under way in Broadland District Council in Norfolk, which has spent £30,000 hiring a plane with a thermal imaging camera.

It's going to come to this - your neighbours will be roaming the streets politely suggesting that you comply "voluntarily". School children will be spying on their parents, shaming them into turning off the lights and reporting back to their teachers. Municipal officials will be dispatched to "educate" you about the harm you are doing to the environment. Isn't this a little creepy?

This year, Earth Hour compliance is being monitored by global warming activists to make a political statement. Consider this message at voteearth.org:

This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming. For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.
...
In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.
We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.

Do you really want these people to "take control of the future of our planet"?

Peter Foster of the National Post wrote the best analysis of this phenomenon last year around this time in an article Earth Hour's soft fascism. Some excerpts:
Light, both natural and artificial, has traditionally been associated with The Good. A critical element of civilization has been the development of ever brighter, more flexible, and more reliable forms of illumination, from the tallow candle, through whale oil and kerosene, to Thomas Edison's marvellous invention of the electric light bulb.

Conversely, the absence of light is associated with primitivism and ignorance. Is it not significant, therefore, that radical environmentalists are seeking to persuade citizens of the world to flick the switch? Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver are among the cities planning to dim their lights this coming Saturday between 8 and 9 p.m. as part of "Earth Hour."

The cause, masterminded by the World Wildlife Fund, WWF, is allegedly to raise awareness of climate change. But what needs raising is not so much awareness as knowledge. People are woefully ignorant both about the uncertainties of climate-change science and the implications of climate-change politics. However, the WWF has no interest in discussing or debating the issue. According to them, we should "stop talking and start acting." Check your brains at the door.

Far from being a harmless gesture of support for the environment, Earth Hour is symbolic of a spreading soft fascism, aided by well-meaning individuals and well-meaning and/or cynical and/ or scared corporations. Indeed, what is truly astonishing, and disturbing, about this turn-out-the-lights exercise is how many businesses and corporations have signed on to it. According to the WWF Canada, they haven't had one "no" from any company they've approached.

...

WWF Canada, supported by -- among others -- the Toronto Star, Virgin Mobile, the City of Toronto, Toronto Hydro and Canwest's Global TV (Canwest owns this newspaper), is using Earth Hour as an opportunity to take its environmental indoctrination deeper into schools. It suggests that schools hold an event this Friday, and perhaps turn their gyms into cinemas, where they might show films such as -- you guessed it --An Inconvenient Truth!

I would suggest that the biggest current threat to our planet is not either climate change or the financial "crisis," but the mindless conformist tendency to support ideas such as Earth Hour, which are aimed at the levers of both electrical and political power.

If you love civilization, freedom and the use of reason, keep on all the lights you need on Saturday. Take Back the Night.

Do it now while you still have a choice

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Teen angst poetry

Who says romance is dead? I found this on the floor of the post office today, obviously torn from the three-ring binder of a budding Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Love hurts and brings tears to my eyes.
Love brings undesired feelings to my heart that I despise.
Love is stupid and pointless and a waste of time.
Love makes me feel as if I spent all day rolling around in the dirt and grime.
Love sucks fucking ass.
I hate it, love is retarded.
I hate every bit, love just makes me want to die
But instead I lay on my bed and cry
Because I'm in love.

Ah yes, in the spring a young woman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ... rolling around in the dirt and grime, sucking retarded ass.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Celebrate "Human Achievement Hour" on March 28

Here's a movement I can get behind. The US Competitive Enterprise Institute has announced a new one-hour holiday called "Human Achievement Hour" which, coincidentally, takes place at the exact same time as Earth Hour on March 28:
Washington, D.C., March 19, 2009—The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a leading free-market think tank, plans to recognize “Human Achievement Hour” between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on March 28, 2009. The new one-hour holiday coincides with Earth Hour, a period of time during which governments, individuals, and corporations have agreed to dim or shut off lights in an effort to draw attention to climate change.

“We are so proud that millions of people plan to show their appreciation for human achievement by doing things like eating diner, watching television, going to the movies, and brushing their teeth,” says Human Achievement Hour Founder and CEI Policy Analyst Michelle Minton. “Never before has a new holiday caught on so quickly.”

The new one-hour holiday, unknown prior to this press release, has already received overwhelming support from many of Washington, D.C.’s leading institutions. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, for example, tells CEI that it does not plan to shut down all of the city’s bus and rail lines for the “Earth Hour.” The Kennedy Center, likewise, has scheduled a performance of the long-running play Sheer Madness, a jazz concert, and a dance performance to coincide with the Human Achievement Hour. Washington, D.C.’s Target store, furthermore, will remain open until 10:00pm on the evening of the 28th. The Smithsonian Institution also plans a film showing that will extend into Human Achievement Hour.

“We salute the people who keep the lights on and produce the energy that helps make human achievement possible,” says Myron Ebell, CEI’s Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy.

Other organizations around the world and the nation have planned events in support of the new holiday. For example, The United States Marine Corps will continue its combat and humanitarian operations around the world during Human Achievement Hour. The New York Times confirms that it intends to put out a paper on March 29th, 2009 (preparation and printing for that issue will take place during Human Achievement Hour). At least 30,000 movies will also be screened in celebration of Human Achievement Hour. Hospital emergency and operating rooms, likewise, will remain open in Washington and in the rest of the country. Nearly all of the nation’s Wal-Mart locations will also be open during Human Achievement Hour.

Those wishing to celebrate Earth Hour, however, do not need to take part in Human Achievement Hour. “Earth Hour is a viable alternative to human achievement hour,” says CEI Senior Fellow Eli Lehrer. “Those who wish to celebrate Earth Hour should sit in the dark, turn off the heat, and breathe as little as possible.”


(ht: Tom Palmer)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Memo to Toronto School Board: suck it up

There are a few things that can be counted on to happen at regular intervals: the swallows return to Capistrano, the Roll Up The Rim To Win cups appear at Tim Horton's, and the Toronto District School Board threatens to close indoor swimming pools in its schools at budget time.

According to this story in Thursday's National Post, the TDSB is threatening to close indoor pools at 39 of its schools unless various governments come up with funding to cover its $26 million deficit.

Here's a free comment for TDSB trustees from a taxpayer out in the rural hinterland of Eastern Ontario; your complaints don't carry much weight out here. We have schools that don't have gymnasiums, and many many students here spend their days in moldy 30-yr-old "temporary" portable classrooms outside buildings with no cafeteria and no science labs. Indoor pools in elementary schools? There isn't a public indoor pool ANYWHERE out here unless you want to bundle the kids into the minivan and spend an hour on the road. We have schools here whose facilities would be embarassing in a third-world country.

If the residents of Toronto want indoor pools in their schools they can damn well pay for them themselves and quit whining to the province when their school board can't balance its budget. The rest of us are getting a little sick of hearing about it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Oppressive laws should be challenged, not respected"

Canadian libertarians should read George Jonas' column in Saturday's National Post: Whatever happened to 'strong and free'?. The column is a response to the intrusive nanny-state policies of Dalton McGuinty's government in Ontario (specifically the ban on smoking in cars with under-age passengers), but broadly reflects a libertarian attitude to government in general. Some excerpts:
I'd celebrate the day police officers ran into some bad attitudes while pulling over taxpayers to enforce the latest, and possibly most arrogant, government intrusion into their lives. If Canadians actually believed that smoking in their own vehicles shouldn't be a police matter in a free society, there would be hope for Dalton McGuinty's corner of the Canadian Reich -- but I'm afraid the freedom train carrying such beliefs left the station a couple of generations ago.

One day, historians may view our society as an anomaly. Canada fought long and sacrificed much for freedom-- then gradually adopted the philosophies and practices of the dismal societies it defeated. Canadians, who used to offer their lives for liberty, now offer their liberty for a modest increase in life expectancy: Seven years, on average, for non-smokers.

...

People no longer believe they have a right to smoke--or speak, crack a joke, own a pet of their choice, or wish each other Merry Christmas -- without approval from Big Nanny. Canadians whose fathers and grandfathers fought fiendish despots to defend their freedom and independence have surrendered, without firing a shot, to the social engineers of the liberal-fascist state.

...

Elections don't mandate intrusions. Oppressive laws should be challenged, not respected. There are times when good citizenship requires civil disobedience. Every human right, every constitutional protection, comes from an irate citizen snapping one day and saying: Enough! A bad attitude to arbitrary authority is the bedrock of liberty.