Category Archives: Opinions

Corporatism and Fascism

Some years ago, I was humming and hawing over whether I should purchase a first edition copy of “Facism” by Benito Musolini. I spent two weeks trying to decide if I should drop the cash for what was really a boring book. I would regularirly return to the book store, take the book off the shelf and read a couple of pages. I flipped through the book and felt that for the most part, it failed to define Facism effectively, and therefore wasn’t worth purchasing… except for the introduction.

I read the entire introduction and found it rivetting.

Written by one of Musollini’s (and Facism’s) political admirers, Winston Churchill, it gave clear expression to the the fact that there was no clear definition of Facism at the time (it was getting made up as they went along) but did offer a clear perspective of what it was shaping into. To this day, Churchill has offered the clearest explanation of what Facism is, that I have ever seen.

Continue reading Corporatism and Fascism

Councillor McWade of Annapolis County

[Originally Written 2011-09-07]

A couple of days ago, I went to a town meeting involving the Annapolis County Council. What a horrifying group of people!

We have placed these people in a position of power in the hopes that they will be able to protect our communal interests. It is a clear sign of danger when they use speaking techniques in an attempt to control, rather than guide us.

Especially disturbing was Councillor McWade. I have never seen a more blatantly deceptive, and power hungry individual in my life.1 Without exception, every statement he made was designed to either intimidate or misdirect his audience.

Appeal to Authority

Early on, Mr. McWade chastised members of the public for questioning whether this was a good idea or not. His reasoning, Annapolis County has hired a Policy Planner (refered to only as “Albert”) who according to Mr. McWade is very qualified, has been the president of the Planners Association of America, has done planning for Chicago, and several other large US cities. This guy is so qualified, that if “as a private citizen you wanted to hire him, you couldn’t afford him”.2

Wow! This guy must really know his stuff, and be really important, and a real authority on the matter. Except, it doesn’t preclude him from being wrong.

According to Wikipedia,

because the argument is inductive (which in this sense implies that the truth of the conclusion cannot be guaranteed by the truth of the premises), it also is fallacious to assert that the conclusion must be true. Such an assertion is a non-sequitur; the inductive argument might have probabilistic or statistical merit, but the conclusion does not follow unconditionally in the sense of being logically necessary

In other words, you can only state that the expert is likely true, not absolutely true.  Just because you are an authority, doesn’t mean you are right.

I don’t know what brought on this three minute tirade, during which he angrily glared at the attending public, but what ever the case, he was attempting to intimidate them for questioning the councils authority.

Democratic Tyrants

Councillor McWade made a point of chastising members of the public regularily throughout the meeting, leading to some real jaw dropping statements comeing from him. My personal favourite tirade was regarding the offence he had taken at members of the public questioning his authority as a council member; after all we live in a democracy!

This was possibly the most ridiculous and silly statement McWade made during the time we stayed. McWade was pointing out that he was personally offended that members of public would question the work done by council. To start with, that anyone would take personal offence to a critique of their work is a clear sign of a poor work ethic. It indicates that the individual is more interested in being right, than in doing a good job. This is doubly true for political figures, that a political figure would be surprised at being critiqued is lunacy, that is the very nature of western politics (as opposed to politics in other parts of the world).

Instead, McWade suggests that the public is not to question its duly elected officials, that they are to do as the council members instruct. After all, we live in a democracy, and “if you don’t like it, you can go live somewhere else”. I find it interesting that Mr. McWade’s method of advocating democracy3 involves informing the public that they have no recourse to criticize their government, a trait often upheld as a benefit of living in an western nation. To then inform people they should go live elsewhere if they don’t like it… perhaps Mr. McWade could be encouraged to sit through some Junior High Social Studies classes.4

Aristotle defined democracy as “Rule by the People” (Politics), and we can see that McWade does not even have an Aristotelian understanding of democracy. McWade instead prefers to side with Aristotle’s Teacher, Socrates, and his preference for tyrants.

Prestigious Jargon

During his arguments, Mr. McWade made a point of attempting to sound sophisticated. My personal favourite was that he mentioned a “Socratian Principle of Debate”, inferring that his debating adversary had withheld information.

Socratian Principle? Really?

Nobody talks like that unless they have something to hide. In fact, it is one of the classic techniques of obfuscating (or hiding) information: use language that sounds really impressive and that your audience is likely to not understand (Argument By Prestigious Jargon). While it is sometimes necessary to use jargon (words specific to a particular field) to explain a point, it is generally bad discussion technique to do so. A speaker should attempt to tailor his language to be understood by his audience, unless he is intentionally misleading them, and does not want them to understand what he is saying.

Please Remove Him

This article is full of argumentative improprieties, but this is an opinion piece, not a formal discussion.

Mr. McWade can quote all of the “Socratian” principles he likes, if he continues his studies, he may be able to bring himself up to speed with some of the more modern principles of debate and discussion that have been published since the Birth of Christ (Kantian, etc). Frankly, its clear he hasn’t even moved on to realizing that democracy is “rule by the people”, something noted by one of Socrates students, joining instead with Socrates’ preference for tyrants.

I hope the residents of Mr. McWade’s district realize that the emperor has no clothes. While Mr. McWade is quick to use obfuscating language, it is not because he is intelligent, rather Mr. McWade is hiding a lack of understanding of the underlying issues, an inability to focus on the task at hand, and anything resembling critical thinking skills.

Residents of District 6, Councilman McWade is trying to bamboozle you with fancy talk. The key to ensuring the success and continuity of government is trust, and trust in government can only be gained through transparency. His attempts to hide what he is saying, behind confusing language, makes him dangerous; I would encourage you to remove him from office at the soonest opportunity.

***

Don Lindsay, a paranormal sceptic, has compiled a good listing of various fallacious argument techniques.

http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html


  1. I’m sure I’ve seen worse, but they have at least made an attempt to hide it and appear they are looking out for other’s interests 

  2. At one point “Albert” indicated that he would only create policy as requested by the council. I would question whether he is worth having. One of the reasons to hire highly qualified, very expensive, experts is to have them tell you when you are suggesting to do something stupid. You want to draw on their experience, experience you lack. Albert indicated that he would not advise council, it was their job to make decisions, he would merely craft the wording of the policy. What is he a highly paid expert at if he won’t offer advice of any kind? 

  3. I do need to point out that McWade is actually flawed on two fronts on his view of democracy. We don’t actually live in a democracy. By definition, if we lived in a democracy, every issue would need to be voted on. We would not have councillors that represented us, we would be our own representatives. Not only is McWade incorrect in his assessment of what democracy is, if we did actually live in a democracy, his behaviour would be judged even more harshly… and he would be out of a job. 

  4. I will state it flat-out for Mr. McWade: living under a duly elected tyrant, typically goes poorly

Mens Rea

Can you be found guilty of committing a crime if you didn’t know you were committing a crime?

That it is possible to plead innocence based on insanity, is based on the principle the people must be able to comprehend that they are doing something illegal. Having said that, how can we apply the principle, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”?

Traditionally, there have been more moral constraints than legal constraints; if something was “illegal”, it would be “wrong”, if a person just avoided doing “wrong” things, they would be all right. This doesn’t hold true any-more, there are really obscure laws that carry very scary punitive measures.

This article, while being about US law, discusses several incidents that  make the point very well.

 

In Praise of Lawn Farmers

The back-to-the-landers, small-holders, self-reliance, hobby farmers and homesteaders are a pretty small community, while each of the categories of small farmers tends to have its own reasons for why people started their journey, and widely different ethics and political frameworks, ideas for caring for the land tend to move through these groups very quickly. People tend to belong to more than one of these categories and, even if our reasons for doing it are different, we all have roughly the same objective: make a living from the land.

One thing I have heard from several people is an anger towards what some call “Lawn Farmers”.1 Lawn Farmers are those individuals who have urban jobs, have likely made a good living at it, and have decided to purchase an acreage, build a nice home on it, but not become farmers. Typically, these people will have 2-3 acres of lawn surrounding their home. This lawn is what gives them their moniker.

Among the Farmers-to-Be, Lawn Farmers are a group to be ridiculed. Don’t they know that we have a responsibility to take care of the land? Don’t they know that their lawn does not produce food? They drive up property prices in the area so that poor homesteaders can’t afford to purchase land. They are urbanizing rural areas. They should have their land seized and given over to proper stewards of the land.2

I would recommend that people not be so quick to judge. There are advantages to lawn farmers, and I would like to see more in my area.

Customers

As a small farmer the greatest challenge we need to overcome is access to markets. Producing the food, managing the land, and finding means to finance the whole operation are serious and persistant problems; but if we are to move beyond the start-up and become stable and sustainable, we need to find people to trade with for those things we don’t produce ourselves. While large producers can make contracts to supply large processors, who in turn can meet the supply requirments of large retailers, the small farmer must find their market one customer at a time.

Lawn Farmers are that market.

Large farmers are able to charge less for each item, making their money by selling large volumes. Small farmers, on the other hand, sell a lot less produce, and therefore need to charge more per item to make a reasonable profit. Because of this, every little cost can have a significant impact on price and transport represents a significant one. For most small farmers it is not economical to transport their produce large distances; it just isn’t possible to absorb the cost. Further, small farmers often got into farming to fill some different style of farming such as organic agriculture, ethical animal raising, or sustainable agricultural; further increasing the cost of produce in exchange for a perceived higher quality. Based on this, small farmer’s target market must share many of the same values that the small farmer does, they must also have expendable income, they can’t be farmers themselves, and they can’t be very far away.

Lawn Farmers are that market.

They have moved to the country for a better life.

First of all, it is expensive to purchase land that does not earn its keep; right there they have demonstrated that they have produced and saved enough to be above subsistance level. They can afford to pay for better quality produce rather than just worrying about fending off starvation.

Next they recognize that there is something wrong with the modern urban life-style, that is why they have moved to the country. Based on this, they share some of the perspective of the small farmer: both groups recognize something is wrong, and want a better life for themselves and their children. This urge to experience the country lifestyle means they will be more willing to go out of their way to purchase produce from local suppliers (rather than the convenient large retail store).

In the past, rail-roads and ships transported goods all over my area. Small farming communities had a buyer present at every rail-road station and every dock, ready to buy produce and take on the responsibility of transport to urban centres, and absorb the risks of retail sales. Now the rail-roads have been pulled up, and the great river has been dammed, transport must be handled by road, and by the individual. That means a lot of travel for the small farmer. Thankfully, rather than staying in an urban centre and requiring the farmer to come to them, Lawn Farmers have moved closer to the producer, absorbing some of the transport, and marketing, costs on that face the small farmer.

Lawn Farmers are the small farmer’s market.

Custodians

There are four ways land can be held: urban (paved), wilderness, agriculture, and lawn farm. Breaking pavement, and clearing forest, are both resource intensive tasks. I am envious of the small farmers that have purchased land in a state that can easily be recovered for agriculture: the Lawn Farms that only need to be tilled.

Lawns serve an important role in keeping the weeds at bay. Having an agricultural field next to an unkempt property would mean that every weed that has taken root in your neighbors land would be present in yours. A nicely manicured lawn next door ensures you have fewer worries when it comes to weeds choking out your crops, and fewer pesticides to keep them at bay.

Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have been plagued by a serious problem: erosion. As the land is tilled nothing is left to hold the soil down. Wind and water take the valuable nutrients away, stripping the land of its agricultural value. There are only two known ways to prevent and slow this process: terracing, and cover crops. That’s what lawns are: erosion prevention. It keeps the soil in place waiting for a farmer to come along and seize its potential.

The land I live on once was rolling pastures and orchards as far as the eye could see. Hundreds of acres of active agricultural land. Now, 50 years later, its bush. When I say bush, I mean the dense, impenetrable bush like I witnessed in the jungles of Cambodia. All of it thick rose, blackberry, and hawthorn. The kind of stuff you can’t cut your way through with a machete.

How I wish someone had taken the time to mow it once a week, just to keep the forest at bay. If I were faced with mowed lawn, I could just hire a tractor, and turn the sod over into fresh fields. Maybe I could walk out and put a fence around the perimeter to contain cattle. As it stands most of my time will be spent clearing forest to make room for me to plant fields, or lay fencing.

Lawn farmers hold the land in wait. Lobby groups spend spend thousands of dollars attempting to get governments to spend millions of tax dollars protecting land from wasting away. Whatever their personal motivations, Lawn Farmers fill that role without our insistance. They save us precious tax dollars, by using their own pocket books, in the preservation of precious agricultural resources.

Lawn Farmers are custodians of the land.

I Want More

I recently read that Joel Salatin (a famous, small-farm activist), is known for chastising his customers for walking away when it came time to slaughtering chickens.3 I believe he is dead wrong for doing this. He is the food producer, not them. It is their unwillingness, or inability, to produce food that allows him to stay in business and experiment with novel approaches to food production.

I personally am grateful for the patronage, and the stewardship, the “lawn farmers” have undertaken, and would like to extend an invitation to anyone who does not produce their own food, and lives in my area, to come stop by and see how the food I go about raising and growing food. If you would like to trade for some of what I produce, all the better.

I will not ask you to handle the animals if you aren’t comfortable with it.

I will not ask you to mend a fence if you aren’t up to it.

I will not ask you to pull weeds if you don’t want to.

You are welcome to join in if you want, I enjoy showing off my home and business, but I don’t expect you to do my job. This is a life I have chosen, and am glad to do this work for you; in exchange for the work you do that I have chosen not to.

Mostly, I thank-you for doing your part in conserving our agricultural land.

 


  1. Lawn farmers are not the same as Grass Farmers. Grass Farming is a popular idea of pasture maintenance and is well liked in “ethical agriculture” circles 

  2. This is a paraphrase of something I have heard repeatedly, and is a common sentiment (see No Farms No Food). I believe this to be one of the most horrific ideas present in Nova Scotia. By “proper stewards”, these people mean people who share their philosophy, unfortunately there is no guarantee that their philosophy is correct. Using force to compel compliance with your pet project is abhorrent: if you get it wrong, you have not only done more harm than good, you have injured someone in the process. We don’t need to do something, we need to do the right-thing; what the right thing is, is usually not obvious. 

  3. http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7339411618153269630&postID=2044725397873399987 

Bicycles vs Autos

I just read an article regarding the antagonism between Cyclists, and Auto Drivers. The author views the subsidies towards drivers to be the proble, and proposes increased subsidies to bicycle paths, public transit, et cetera.

This antagonism [between car driver and nondriver] traces directly to the creation of the modern car driver, a privileged individual who, as noted, is the beneficiary of a long course of subsidies, tax incentives, and wars for cheap oil. But the same subsidies that created this creature (who now rages about the roads while simultaneously screaming of being a victim in some war) can—and must, beginning now—be used to build bike lanes, sidewalks, light rail, and other benefits to the nondriving classes.

I kind of agree. I agree the issue is with subsidies, but TPTB have demonstrated they cannot allocate subsidies in an effective manner therefore the answer is not more subsidies. The solution would be to stop subsidising oil production, and to stop subsidising roads.

Once subsidies on oil are removed, fuel costs normally hidden in taxes, would increase encouraging alternate energy sources to be used, and making them more financially competitive. People would look at the expense of purchasing a tank of fuel and start looking more closely at other options. ((Gas Taxes are just plain stupid. I have a tractor for food production and property maintenance. It is not registered for the road, and cannot be legally driven on the road. Why in all hells am I paying to finance the roads every-time I fill up the tank?))

Roads could be direct billed rather than hidden in taxes: people who register their car would pay a significantly higher fee but those that do not use the roads would not pay anything at all. The increased visibility of the costs associated with road usage would also encourage people to seek alternate modes of transportation (public, bicycle, walk).

The answer is not more subsidies, but to remove all subsidies. Stop charging people for services they don’t want, and don’t use. Instead start direct billing for the services people do.

Annapolis County’s Political Incompetence

While at an Annapolis County Advisory Comitee meeting, The Wife and I watched councilors argue vehemently about whether to impose bonds on Wind Farm opperators. Councilors also became enraged with members of the public for daring to question the hard work the councilors have done.

Councilor McWade vehemently chastised the public for daring to question the members of council who have worked on this (including the question of whether to impose a bond) for over 2 years…

One woman asked how the posting of a bond would work. Council’s legal representation said they did not know. Council’s spokesman informed her, flat out, that nobody present was qualified to answer her question.

You are telling me that after two years of debating this issue, nobody on council has the slightest clue of what they are talking about?

 

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

It has been a while since I have last written, I’m not sure I still have the knack of it, but here we go…

In my last post, I discussed that some of my writing seemed to have gotten me into trouble with people I had met. People were misunderstanding what I was saying. What I was really saying is I seemed to be getting ostracized for some reason, and all I could think of was the fact that Annapolis Royal is a fairly Anti-Firearms community (in the way that is typical of urban areas) and I had written a Pro-Firearms article. I’m starting to think I was mistaken.

Continue reading Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

Firearms, Farms, and Family

Man with Rifle in Grocery Store (swiss)
While the laws are similar, I don’t think this would be culturally acceptable in Canada.

I was recently reading an article on firearms in Switzerland and was surprised to learn that their firearms laws are very similar to Canada’s. What was so surprising about it is that the public perception of firearms in the two countries is widely different.

I enjoy firearms and it drives me batty the way people view them as dark and dangerous things. When Sharon and I started dating, I wanted to ensure that Sharon had a minimal amount of training with them and to ensure that she was reasonably comfortable around something that is somewhat important to me. So I took her to a firearms safety course, and we got our firearms licenses. This was the first time Sharon ever handled anything like a firearm and it took a lot of the mystery out of it for her. Suddenly, they weren’t as scary.

This is the perception of firearms that I want in the world. The more I see people being scared of firearms, the more I feel the need to correct their perceptions.
Continue reading Firearms, Farms, and Family

Our Oceanfront Property in Alberta

Sharon and I sold most of our investments years ago.

We had both entered a phase of our lives where we had saved enough money to think about investing and not just day to day expenses. First we did our homework on what investing was all about, where best to allocate our resources, and what to expect from markets. We then approached our bank’s investment departments and began talking with their “Investment Advisors”, only to find they were selling us things we didn’t think were good investments (based on our own analysis). More research indicated to us that there is a conflict of interest: the banks don’t make money on giving us sound advice, they make money selling us advice. It doesn’t matter if we make money, they make money either way.
Continue reading Our Oceanfront Property in Alberta