Scientifically Proven

THE CONTRARIAN   The claim ‘Scientifically Proven’ is a good sign of a scam. The claim ‘Unconditional money back guarantee” is usually a sign of a scam.  If you see both together, it is almost sure to be a scam.

Engineers are scientists, and I am here to tell you that ‘scientifically proven’ is impossible most of the time. Science is not a closed book, we are making new discoveries all the time, and each new discovery shows that something we thought was scientifically ‘proven’, is wrong, especially in what is called the ‘soft sciences’, but even in such hard science fields as physics.  Too much of what passes for science is found looking at an isolated effect rather than a whole spectrum, sort of like looking through the wrong end of a telescope and seeing what looks like a picket fence half a mile away, then looking at the big picture and seeing the picket fence is really the teeth of a wolf about to devour you!

Too much is based on fractured logic, as in roses are red; roses have thorns, therefore everything red has thorns.

Too much is based on extrapolation.  A typical test for toxicity of say a new medicine is to feed increasing quantities to a flock of rats, then dignifying the dose that kills half of them by calling it ‘LD50’ (lethal dose 50% of the time).  Divide that by 1000, and that gives you the promoted, ‘scientifically proven’ safe dose.  Guinea pigs are a thousand times more susceptible to dioxin than rats.  If we are a thousand times more susceptible to the poison being studied than rats, the ‘safe dose’ is not safe at all, 50% of us will die!  On the other hand, if a quart of alcohol will kill most men, then by this method a safe dose is a quart divided by a thousand, say about a teaspoonful.  So a ‘scientifically proven’ safe dose of wine would be a teaspoonful, while our dietitians claim a glass of wine a day is ‘scientifically proven’ to be good for you.

In other words, ‘scientifically proven’ is an advertising term, and means nothing.  Similarly, no guarantee can be ‘Unconditional’ – there are always conditions, such as you have to prove you actually purchased the item.  Just advertising terms.

It seems there are many more scams being tried now that the internet has made it so easy to contact so many people, but they have always been with us, in flyers, magazines, on the back of comic books (Have muscles like Tarzan by using this new gizmo 15 minutes a day!) Some 60 years ago one of our neighbours was impressed by an ad in the Free Press Prairie Farmer.  “New Breakthrough Fly Killer”, the ad proclaimed.  Scientifically Proven! Unconditionally guaranteed!  So he sent in his $9.95, and waited patiently for his new scientific breakthrough Fly Killer, maybe even inspired by Martians!

He breathlessly uncovered it when it finally arrived, to find that it contained a block of wood, and a small wooden hammer, along with the instructions “place fly on block, hit with hammer”. What could he say; it actually does kill flies as claimed!  Scammed!

Unfortunately the art of the scam has entered too much of our daily lives including our governments, our politicians and political causes. Save yourselves some trouble, and maybe even $9.95 for a block of wood, by looking at every extravagant claim with great suspicion.

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The Wisdom of Crowds

THE CONTRARIAN — Contrarians like the book “The Wisdom of Crowds”, by James Suroweiki. It starts with the premise that there is a thread of common opinion or belief in any large group of people. It offers case histories to demonstrate that this common opinion always leads to better outcomes for the group than the direction in which any elite tries to lead them.

This of course is the basis of the political philosophy classically called “Populism”

Classical Populism seeks to determine the common wishes of the people, and govern so these common wishes are met. Of course the trick is to determine what that common opinion is – people have all kinds of side issues, they tend to repeat what they have been told, and to tell interviewers what they think the interviewers want to hear, so it takes some digging.

Preston Manning is Canada’s primary Populist, and back about 1989 it was his particular genius to set down a program which nicely encapsulated Canadian common opinion, what he would call “the common sense of the common people”. I would summarize it as ‘we are sick and tired of an educated elite using government’s power to try to change us from what we are to what they think we should be’. When the Readers Digest published a well-written summary of Preston’s program (April 1991, if my memory is any good), millions of Canadians breathed a sigh and said, “finally, someone who is expressing exactly what I think”, and thousands sat down and wrote a check to join Preston’s Reform Party. It quickly became the largest political movement in terms of members in Canadian history, outnumbering all three traditional parties combined, and most of the members had never joined any political party before, truly a ground-swell in Canadian politics.

In hindsight, I think that another thread of that common sense of the common people is the realization that the huge disconnect between what the people think, and what our leadership thinks, leaves Canada vulnerable to takeover by a Hitler or Castro demagogue. Perhaps Reform was too much of a one-man show, and Preston too effective a public speaker for his own good. This coupled with the massive and unrelenting propaganda campaign by our Educated Elite telling us that only an evil and rotten person would support the Reform resulted in many members quietly, even sheepishly slinking away, repudiating their membership and pretending it never happened.

Of course a new and wildly popular movement attracted large numbers of opportunists and ideologues and wingnuts and weirdo’s. Preston and his disciples went to Ottawa, and were infected with the brain-rot that seems to get everybody who goes there. Between the ideologues and the brain-rot, the notion of ‘unite the right’ took hold. This is just plain silly – there was no ‘right’ to unite – populist Reformers had more in common with rank and file NDP (which grew out of a populist movement, the CCF), than with the Progressive Conservative party, which had for decades been refashioning itself into a slightly more class-conscious (some would say snooty) version of the Liberal party. Canada needed two Liberal parties like I need a third ear growing in the middle of my forehead (actually, maybe that’s not a bad idea – I might listen more and talk less). But that is what we ended up with, as Populist Reform was destroyed and subsumed in the new Conservative party.

So we common people get to choose between three parties, Tweedle-dee, Tweedle-dum, and Tweedle-dopey, all under control of an elite stuck on the ideas of 1960’s California university students, and we are more cynical than ever. And therefore even more vulnerable to a Hitler-type takeover.
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I wrote all this several years ago, (never published anywhere), and ran across it while cleaning up my files. I believe the ‘common sense of the common people now is “we are even more sick and tired of an educated elite using government’s power to try to change us from what we are to what they think we should be.” Over the 20 years since Reform was destroyed, we have seen our rights to privacy, property, free speech, eroded, our opportunities strangled with miles of red tape and regulation, our services and benefits rationed.

The ‘educated elite’ has become an entrenched Establishment with the support of both big government and big corporations bent on destroying entrepreneurship and small business and social structure, we will all be sheep and the Establishment will be the shepherds. They have redefined ‘populism’ as any who disagree with any part of their one world, sheep and shepherd agenda, and equate it with ignorance, stupidity, even tribalism. So you have to know what kind of populism we are talking about – classical Populism good, newly defined populism bad.

It seems a pretty good bet that there will be a clash between the real people and that agenda-driven Establishment, and the outcome is not likely to be pleasant.

Just a cynical opinion from a contrarian.

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A page from Willy Brant’s Diary – Neighbour over on the 4th concession went down to Toronto to some kind of agricultural meeting. Told me he was walking along the underground mall at rush hour, after breakfast. He was heading back to his hotel, and the Torontonians were streaming off the subway and heading to work, going the opposite way. Said they reminded him of a flock of sheep heading for the feed trough, all scurrying along with their heads down, not looking at anybody else as though the other people didn’t exist.

He said he felt like Crocodile Dundee in New York, the only real person in the place, until he noticed a few other farmers from his meeting. They were walking like him, heads up, looking around, a bunch more Crocodile Dundee’s, and he worried if he looked as out of place as they did. I allowed he probably did, because one thing I notice when I travel, which is not a lot any more, is that city people do not meet each other’s eye when they meet on the sidewalk, there are just too many and it is seen as personal, like ‘what are you going to try to sell me?’.

I thought some more about this on my way home. City people do seem a lot alike, maybe even as alike as sheep, sheep do have some personality, but not much. Probably more alike than goats, goats each have an individual character, and have their own ideas. The city folk probably get beat into the same mold, reading the same newspapers, watching the same television, fighting the same traffic, talking about the same weather, supporting the same sports teams, doing the same things until they are all homogenized, they all think alike and talk alike. They make a big fuss about ‘diversity’, but really, except for the immigrant who just got here last week, they are remarkably alike.

Compare that with our small town people who all have some individuality and personality. Maybe we export our weak, colourless, wimpy, bland surplus population to the city, where they can be homogenized, and keep our characters and independent thinkers at home in our small towns and on the farm. Maybe real Canadians are only found in small towns, not the cities. Shows we shouldn’t pay too much attention to what the big-city newspapers say, that’s just sheep talk, and we are all goats.

Joe says that’s why we need an Elected Senate, so the brainwashed city can’t so easily impose its ideas on the real Canadians scattered across the land. He points to the US, where each state gets two senators however small or remote it is. The senate can over-ride the Congress, which is based on population and dominated by the cities. He says that’s why the US doesn’t concentrate everything in a few big cities, but scatters stuff across the country, such as the space program is in Texas. He says our Senate was given lots of power in theory, but because senators are appointed by the prime minister rather than elected, they really can’t use the power they have. So we get city-bred attacks on our way of life, like the over-the-top gun laws, or snomo regulations, or the endless useless licencing requirements. Who could imagine a world where a farmer needs two or three licences just to cut up a tree that has fallen on his pasture fence!

Joe finished with “And maybe if Senators were elected, they wouldn’t be so handy with the expense accounts”. He does come up with some interesting stuff.

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Regular readers will know that my favorite tree is the tamarack, otherwise known as ‘Eastern Larch’.

Tamarack is a different kind of tree; some botanists say not a tree so much as a plant relic of dinosaur days. Its wood is tough, flexible, and strong – old-timers used it in places where those properties were needed. It is almost as rot-resistant as modern pressure-treated stuff, and most of our pioneer buildings were built on a foundation of tamarack logs placed right on the ground.

It grows well here in the boreal forest, but it is not very popular, not much used, and certainly not propagated by those in charge. It doesn’t work very well for making wood pulp. Being neither softwood nor hardwood, it doesn’t fit very well into the lumber market. All the tamarack around here was killed by an epidemic of ‘Larch Sawfly’ in the 30’s; it is coming back now, but it is still a bit scarce. For all these reasons it is not treated as a commercial species.

What prompted this article was seeing a truckload of wooden fence-posts going through from west to east on the TransCanada. Tamarack makes dandy fence-posts; and I asked myself “why aren’t we producing them?” It is also dandy for decks and docks, no slivers, and doesn’t need to be pressure treated or sealed or painted. Space-age material.

Gordon Franklin was a local boy, grew up on a farm in Britton Township, and became a Forester. A good one, he worked in a number of places around North America and even in New Zealand for a while. With that background he had a solid grounding in what is good about what tree. Gordon’s favorite tree was also the Tamarack. He thought it was high time somebody developed the technology to grow it commercially.

Gordon had a strong sense of community, for example, he was a mainstay of the Dryden Historical Society. After he retired, he went to work on propagating the Tamarack as a community project. He collected seed in the bush. He did various experiments, including some using Osvalda’s oven, and she did not complain. He was successful in hatching some seedlings, and he enlisted his cousin Wayne to help him plant them on the farm he grew up on. Sadly, Gordon passed on before he could finish this project.

His plantations seem to be doing just fine, in fact, tamarack grows quite rapidly. I remember a Forester friend expounding that we ought to plant our entire country to Red Pine, because it will produce the most cords per acre per year. This is probably true in the sandy parts, but Red Pine doesn’t grow at all in poorly drained soil. Tamarack does.

The dominant species in much of our poorly drained country is Black Spruce, which grows slowly and doesn’t regenerate very well. So it seems there is an opportunity for better use of our forest land. Advance Gordon’s technology for propagating tamarack, and plant it in places where the black spruce is gone and what grows now is mostly weeds. Develop a brand or market for tamarack; fence posts, docks, or whatever, and create a new industry.

Of course the last time I stuck my Engineers nose into Foresters business, the District Forester advised me to stick to fixing potholes, and leave the trees to him. Still, just saying.

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Cell phone conversation, sometime in the future.

Hollow, tinny voice, slightly sing-song accent: “Hello, this is your 911 operator, what is your location?”

Agitated male voice: “Hello 911, you have to send the police and an ambulance right away, there has been an accident, a woman is laying in the road and might get run over, my wife is with her, I am running up the road to try to stop traffic —“

Hollow tinny voice, interrupting: “calm down sir, what is your location?”
Agitated male voice: “Right here on Sandy Beach Road, just past the 7th green on the golf course, there has been a car crash, a pickup is laying on its side, there is a woman—“

HTV: “Sir, one thing at a time, what country are you calling from?”

AMV: “What country?? Where the hell are you? Canada of course!! We need the police and an ambulance! Oh sh–, I hear a car coming fast around the corner up ahead!! I hope I can stop him—“

HTV: “ Now we are getting somewhere. Canada. What province?”

AMV: “You Imbecile!! Ontario, of course. Dryden. Sandy Beach Road. Hurry!!”

HTV: “No need to call me names. Spell Trayton for me, I can’t seem to find it in my Ontario directory”

AMV: “Omygawd, the gas tank on the pickup just exploded, you should see the fireball!! It’s Dryden, D-R-Y-D-E-N.”

HTV: “Now calm down sir, no need to use profanity, aha, I have found it, Dryden. What number on Sandy Beach Road?

AMV: “Number?? There are no numbers, you nitwit. It is a country road. Tell them just past the seventh green, they will know.”

HTV: “Calling me names does not help. There must be a number.”

AMV: “Oh-Oh, here comes that car, oh, he just blasted right by me, OMYGAWD, I think he ran over the woman, and maybe my wife! Now he has rolled over in the ditch! Get the police, you moron! Oh, never mind, I hear sirens, somebody must have seen the explosion!! Forget it you idiot” as he runs to wave down the police cruiser he hopes is coming.

HMV: “Calm down sir! What is the nature of your emergency? You will have to be more coherent if I am to help you”

AMV: “Have a nice day. “ Hangs Up.

There really isn’t any substitute for local knowledge.

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A PAGE FROM WILLY BRANTS DIARY — The girl on the radio goes “Do that to me one more time, once is never enough with a man like you”.

Now maybe I have a dirty mind, but it seems to me that this old song, and a lot more explicit new ones are nothing but a celebration of mechanical sex, sex which has nothing to do with love, sort of a mutual masturbation with somebody you might not even like.

My life has had its ups and downs, mostly due to my own character flaws, but I am here to tell you that the Victorian notion of romantic love, love without sex, is just as valid as the modern idea of sex without love, sex as a bodily function, something like going to the bathroom but more fun. Us old guys know that normal human development involves boys falling in love with girls, and girls falling in love with boys. People are happiest when we are in love with someone who loves us, and unhappiest if we fall in love with someone who doesn’t have the time of day for us.

I mentioned this line of thinking to Joe, my bachelor buddy who knows a lot and has an opinion on all subjects. Joe said this kind of music is all part of the socialist-feminist plot to remake the world with them as boss. So we have to get rid of families and have us all live as individuals, enjoying casual sex and having babies out of wedlock for the socialists to brainwash . So we can’t have people going around falling in love and getting married and raising kids to believe in traditional values.

Wow, Joe is cranky again today. He goes on to say they are attacking the church for the same reason. “Every Day’, he says, “there are murders and multiple deaths and bank robberies and all kinds of horrific things happening, but what makes the national news? Some guy claiming a priest did something immoral to him 30 years ago. That’s pretty terrible, but compared to all the other things going on in the world, it is not news. It is just propaganda, aimed at discrediting the church and religion in general.”

I did my time in the navy, and Joe is right, every night all kinds of perverted assaults go on in every city all around the world. But the, maybe most of the news is really just propaganda, and not news at all?

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