Monday, December 29, 2008

Surviving with Style?

John Ray, a strong friend of the State of Israel, runs the excellent Dissecting Leftism Blog that I requently read. Recently he published a series of articles on the fate of the Jews and the survival of the English...The articles can be found on

Here is my reply - Part I

To John

I am a regular reader of your blog, as mentioned in earlier correspondence, and have much admiration for your way of thinking especially your strict adherence to logic and reason. While I don’t agree with you on some points (usually economics) I find your insight into history refreshing. It’s a shame that you have received some abuse (probably from a few of my co-religionists) with respect to the ‘Success of the Jews’ theme that you have been expanding on but cooler heads are too often a rarity these days.

Nevertheless I wish to add some objections to your core thesis that agues that the English have survived in style for the last millennium and a half.

While on the surface this carries with it an apparent truism it overlooks the fact that English history, despite a popular misconception, has not been in and of itself peaceful. Looking at the period after 1066 (the time when England was last successfully invaded) Albion has witnessed on local soils rebellions by the Saxons against Norman Feudalism, the Baron Wars, Peasant Rebellions, the War of the Roses (which really spanned the era between Richard II and Henry VII), the English Civil War, the Jacobite War and the insurrection of Monmouth. If one adds in the American Revolution (which for all intent of purpose can be looked at as an internal struggle between English speaking people) it is evident that the English have had a long history of warring amongst themselves.

In addition if you add in the numerous English lives (mostly commoners) that have been lost in the pursuit of Empire on a global basis –not to mention those lives foregone in conflicts with Spain, the Netherlands, France, Scotland, Denmark, the United States etc – the idea of surviving with style, at least how it reflects down to the bulk of the populace, is found wanting.

Now I will not deny the fact the English have been very successful in transmitting their culture on a worldwide basis. The dominance of the English language and systems of education and governance attest to this phenomenon but it has come at a price which I believe cannot be swept so easily under the proverbial rug.

The English are a very admirable people (I have been somewhat of an anglophile for most of my life although my enthusiasm has waned as of late as British institutions which I once respected continue to shed ground to the Stealth Jihad) but the accident of geography that has afforded them island status clearly played a large role in their success (yes the Scots and Welsh could harass the English but by shear force of number were unlikely to ever win the upper hand….).

Winston Churchill was correct in arguing that the island situation was an advantage that could not last forever and that Britain would need to work on establishing alliances to ensure survival. This was not a novel idea at the Empire level (regional alliances with the Iroquois, the Basuto, the Sikhs were common) but in the more critical area of European politics it was particular loathsome to the English mindset. After the Napoleonic Wars and the obvious realization that the European Powers (Russia, Prussia and Austria) were intent on turning back the forces of liberalism and nationalism (via the Concert System) Britain retreated into a type of ‘splendid isolation’ where it focused on growing its Empire alone without outside interference. With the possible exception of the Crimean War this attitude characterized British geo-politically thinking up to the Second Anglo Boer War. It was only after the South African conflict, where British resources were stretched to breaking point by the guerilla tactics of well organized militia that the need for global allies would become a necessity. In fact one can pinpoint this change in policy to the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 1902, a framework that set the foundation for the Entente Cordiale with France and the Anglo-Russian Entente.

However even in this regard the Brits were slow to the post, for one the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was already well established. Germany also had cultivated an ally in the Ottoman Turks. One could even argue (with hindsight) that Britain’s decision to enter into a system of alliances and thereby join the trend was ultimately what caused the weakening of the Empire by forcing London to engage in a vortex of events leading to the disastrous Great War (although I suspect that you will argue otherwise using the pretext that the growing influence of German Naval Power made war inevitable).

I believe that the success of the English people resides with a combination of factors. They are a very resourceful people (their pragmatic creativity during the First Industrial Revolution and beyond bears this out) but so does a commitment to the free inquiry. The former has its structural origins in the English Reformation, but was further augmented by the battle against autocracy during the Civil War and the Hanoverian transfer of power during the reign of George I. These changes were not as forthcoming amongst Britain/England’s continental rivals who were forced to delay the coming of modernism to the Enlightenment Period.

However what has most served the English is their ability to adapt – to take the best from the outside and make it somehow English. They did this with the Roman system of laws, Grecian Rationalism, Judeo-Christian Ethics, Stoicism and Iberian naval proficiency. It is this same characteristic that the family branch of the English, the Americans, have utilized with remarkable success today (Another island nation the Japanese are similar to the English in this regard).

It is this adaptation that has created the illusion that the English have resisted invasion. While no army since William the Conqueror have overwhelmed the English on the home front since the 11th century (although the Hungarians humbled the English football team at Wembley in the 1950s) it is equally true that the English monarchy has resided in the hands of foreigners since then. The Normans were of a Franco/Norse stock, the House of Plantagenet, and its spin offs in Lancaster and York were all Gallic, the Tudors were Welsh, The Stuarts - Scottish and Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Windsor were/are all German. Yes not since the ill-fated Harold Godwinson (aka Harold II) has England had a monarch of English ethnicity and before that power was invested for some time with Danish kings such as Canute and Hardicanute.
What is most remarkable though is that within a short period the English turned these foreigners into extensions of England itself… that their ethnicity is more a matter of historical detail than anything else.

However with each addition and influx of change a point of saturation is neared. Changes are rarely neutral with respect to key factors. The utility of adaptation carries with it a double-edged outcome. At what point in a series of changes is the system or the people no longer English?

British Internationalism, the overriding policy of adaptation, that dominates the nation in 2008 is a consequence of this underlying tendency, however in subjecting itself to the relativism of multiculturalism the Brits seem to have shot the bolt and traded away the base in one foul swoop. Could it be that the English will simply whither away? Over adapted themselves to death? …Maybe there is a grace in this style but I am at a loss to find it.

I am working on the Jewish side of the argument and will send you a reply soon……….

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Epistemology

I am prepared to admit with a sense of pride that I am a lover of knowledge. However like all those with a similar affection I am mindful of ensuring that what I accept as real knowledge is in fact exactly that. Philosophy has realized this problem from the early days of its Athenian youth
The earlier Milesians had more a rudimentary understanding of epistemology and appeared to be more concerned with the nature of things - in a sense they were the first theoretical physicists.

A sceptic would have one reject all that there is and build upwards from a non-reducible point. For Descartes this was the working of his own mind, for others its the basic axioms of mathematics and logic while a third group puts faith (and indeed it is a faith) on the competency of sense. Many object to the three approaches altogether preferring an external metaphysical explanation that transcends both rationality and experience. However such a line of thought seems anathema to the Western Philosophical tradition that sees an explanations within itself.

In my thinking on this topic I have noticed that many thinkers are much better at destroying structures that have been built than creating sturdier constructs the next time round. In fact our philosophical tradition is inherently critical in a way that screams 'destruction'. Its no wonder that after 2000 plus years of bashing and building we are no further ahead in our overall understanding of some of the big questions in epistemology than we were at the times of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Yes, we have terminology and lots of it but are we much better for that?

This does not mean that all avenues of human intellectual pursuit have been so convoluted. Scientific progress is real as have been advances in other areas of philosophy (particularly ethics and politics) but I am still not convinced that epistemology itself has even progressed forward.

Perhaps it can be argued that epistemology is one of those subject areas that abhors an absolutist system of measurement. In fact it can be further articulated that its strength lies in cementing relationships between other disciplines, a process that indeed defies analysis based on looking at the field of study as a stand alone entity. This is indeed a possibility which I will investigate further.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nazism a Far Left Ideology

I was challenged by somebody on the left with the following question in a response to left vs right ideology

Where do you fit in the mass confiscation of First Nations land and property here in the Western Hemisphere? Were the monarchies of england, portugal, spain et al leftists?

My reply is in Red:

No but neither were they rightist.
Left and Right are two sides of a political force that emerged during the enlightenment but solidified more clearly as independent dynamics during the American and French Revolutions. Both opposed Absolutism and Feudalism. Rightists believed that the system had to be changed in a way that was more inclusive (especially with respect to human and economic freedoms) but also that those foundations and traditions that had proven to be workable should be maintained (such as private ownership of property). Hence the association of rightism with conservatism...
Leftists wanted a complete overhaul of the system and its remodeling along new lines. Hence its association with Radicalism and Utopias.
Rightists looked to thinkers such as Edmund Burke, Mirabeau, Montesquieu and John Adams. Leftists favored Thomas Paine, Rousseau, Voltaire and Robespierre.

Initially both sides worked together especially in France but the Jacobin driven Reign of Terror (an early example of an all-too common leftist inspired genocide) bought about the final schism.
The American Revolution was a Rightist triumph, the French Revolution was driven by both sides initially (the progressive parts such as the Declaration of the Rights of Man) but eventually descended into leftist driven chaos that resulted in untold suffering and the dictatorship and wars of Napoleon (I have read some interesting arguments that Napoleon was perhaps the first leftwing strongman…eat your heart out Hugo Chavez).The parallels with Russia after the Bolshevik takeover and the emergence of Stalin are very clear.

He later continued with this line

The amount of influence that corporations wield in the US government is enormous. And colloquially speaking I've heard the Bush admin described as a right-wing government

My reply is in Red Once again

Yes another misconception….Bush has increased the size of big government, and spent money hand over first in a way that would make Jack Layton (leader of the Canadian NDP) blush….He also has been overly accommodating to Islamofascists in the US, done very little to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico and championed economic handouts of tax payer money to failed financial institutions (flogging a dead horse is more a leftist way of thinking) an idea that runs in the face of free market capitalism (as mentioned earlier) He is at best only a social conservative……

More on the Bulletin Board

Here is another posting dealing with my history on this board (the board is associated with the York University Education Department)....

To All

I have posted on this bulletin board for well over two years now introducing articles for all to peruse, offering support for some lines of thought and challenging the assertions of others. While I have found agreement with many on here I have probably clashed heads with more than my fair share of individuals. At times I admit that my style has been biting but I believe that this is a reflection of my passion for debate and well constructed argument in general.

A plethora of topics have been addressed that include the more mainstream issues of NAFTA, Mid-East Conflicts, Canadian Politics, Obama v McCain (to death I believe….) and economic methodologies to the more esoteric subjects of the Venezuelan economy, the origins of the Korean War, Ward Churchill and at one time…believe it or not…. gay rights in Somalia.
Consensus has been reached on some issues but for the most part we have agreed to disagree and left it at that……..I have no issue with this nor do I believe have most on this board.

In short I have enjoyed the exchanges although I am under no illusions that there are some who would be happy to see my back against the wall when the revolution finally comes. I have tried to take this in all in stride

I don’t believe that there were many low points over the two years although *******'s use of the phrase ‘feeding the troll’ in reference to myself is a worthy candidate in this regard. Not so much that it is personally insulting (which it is.. I have a thick skin though...although I use cream everyday) but because it has inadvertently (I am sure it wasn’t his intention) acted to discourage the sort of challenges and counter-arguments that should emerge on this bulletin board. This however is a topic for another thread.

There have been times when I have considered not posting on this board…especially when one receives personal e-mails describing oneself as jerk and so forth…..but to do so would be to cave in to the uniformity of thought so craved by some.

I am aware of the fact that I fail the litmus test required by a certain subset of educators who believe that no teacher should ever support the Conservative Party (the best of a rather bad bunch on the Canadian front in my opinion) but this does not bother me in the least and unlike many other conservatives teachers I choose not to remain in the political closet with respect to my beliefs. Perhaps it will cost me in the future especially in an environment that is becoming increasingly attuned to a monoculture of belief. I am proud of my stance as a Classic Liberal (I use classic liberal and conservative interchangeably as they are the same ideology in the contemporary sense) and see it as the best mechanism of winning and maintaining the freedoms inherent in the success of Western Civilization (a point I have reiterated on several occasions).

In short I will continue to post and challenge (I am a bit stubborn) as I am rather fond of this board (including several of my consistent adversaries) and the intellectual exchange it does offer.

Keep Well and Happy Holidays


On Leftisms

I plan to follow this up with additional submissions but this is what I posted to a Bulletin Board that I am active in (I am the resident classical liberal/conservative).

I went into some depth several posts ago where I made a strong case for why I believe National Socialism(the Fascism of Hitler and Mussolini) to be a Far Left Ideology. This flew in the face of some who had always believed that the Nazis and co. were a product of the Far Right. I stand by my position here as I have yet to see a good argument to the contrary. However I do not wish my disdain for the radical leftism to be taken as an indictment of all types of viewpoints that originated from the left.

There is much that is positive that can be taken from philosophies of the left especially when it opens itself up to pragmatism. I call this aspect of leftist philosophy – the good left. It was the good left that rallied against Anti-Semitism in the Dreyfuss case (bravo to Emile Zola), convinced the conservative German chancellor Bismarck to implement a pension system and backed the Shaftesbury child labor reforms in England and elsewhere. It was also the good left that recognized the dangers of totalitarianism in both Fascism and Communism and took a strong stance in forging the pro-active anti-isolationist stances of both FDR and Truman. This was a left that I would have been a part of had I been alive at the time. A left that was proud of the fact that it was advancing a platform that valued human rights while at the same time maintaining the high standards and gains of western historical development.

However the good left has been in decline in North America since the late 1960's (it died long before that in Western Europe…probably around the 1930s). Taking its place is the vengeful left that has wedded together the anti-establishment forces of the 60's, with the discredited (but reinvented) Marxist-Leninists of earlier time. It is a left that detests the West (especially the US), and wants nothing less than destruction of the old order both economically and socially. It is the vengeful left that seeks to clog the wheels of business with endless regulation, drown out quality study with post-modern gibberish and weaken the foundations of society with excessive law suits based on relativistic posturing. In short its aim when taken to a logical conclusion is to demolish and rebuild a new world in its own image . The vengeful left is ultimately utopic but chooses to advance its agenda by control of a central all-powerful state (which its most idealistic believe will ultimately whither away in accordance with Marxist prophecy).

As a force it is most influential in academia, labour unions, and the ranks of societies most marginalized groups where its message resonates most strongly. Initially on the outside of mainstream politics (during the Eugene Debs era) it has maneuvered its way to the inside via its influence on a host of politicians: Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and of course Barack Obama. The danger of the vengeful left, and a fact overlooked by its enablers on the small ‘l’ side of liberalism, is that its philosophy is undepinned by an intense hatred for the status quo….a hatred that is built on abolishing the system in true Jacobin-like fashion. That there are consequences to such radicalism is of no concern to the vengeful leftist as was the case with its earlier progenitors in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Soviet Union, Khymer Rouge Cambodia and Maoist China.

It is this left that I most take issue with.


Monday, December 22, 2008

A few updates

School has ended so I am enjoying my first leisure day of the December break. Since there are no leisure weekends when you have young kids as I do, a leisure day, which comes once in every three months or so is most welcome. Tomorrow I will be back to the grind battling some challenge that has reared its ugly fret though its all good...I am very grateful to be in the overall life situation that I am.

I have been tutoring externally a bit this semester mainly in Mathematics and Physics but also in Chemistry. While the added income is most welcome what I have found most useful about these sessions is that it allows me to keep sharp in material that I am not teaching per se in my regular class. As a teacher who loves the subject matter of these disciplines this is vital to me. I am always on a quest to expand my knowledge base while consolidating the fundamentals at the same time. In a sense I am old fashioned in that I believe students are best served by teachers who show high levels of competency in their subject matter. Just as I like to challenge my students intellectually I welcome the reciprocal...My regret at the moment is that in my current teaching position I have received too little of the latter. Although I suspect that the potential for such outcomes may emerge soon.....

At one time I swore I would never join Facebook but like so many others I have been drawn into this universe of friends and updates. Nobody is to blame, the ultimate choice was mine, and the decision to set up shop has been fruitful. I have made numerous connections with forgotten names and contact from a wonderful childhood in South Africa....a walk down the hall of nostalgia that has served as a worthwhile distraction during these snowy months.

Liverpool are leading the English Premier League (as of this time of writing) but the key word that I forgot here is barely. The Reds are drawing too many games to make life easy for themselves and my fear, like so many fans of the game's-greatest-team (no bias there), is that this will haunt them in the future. I don't have a good feeling as the season carries on. For some reason as well I have been less enthused by the league race this year. Maybe its a realization of the futility of it all...perhaps its a reaction to Man U's successes in 2007/2008 I don't know. It could also be the onset of my maturity (it took me forty years but better late than never) and the fact that my mind has been more focused on issues of philosophy and spirituality.

My personal philosophical concerns have centered on several issues:
  • an analysis of what is meant by the political right and left (the grand ideologies of rightism and leftism) and a study of how these terms have evolved over time from their original manifestations;
  • a composite theory of knowledge that links together both scientific and extra-scientific knowledge (if the latter is indeed relevant) and
  • a meaningful reformulation of the purpose of life within my own framework of theistic and rational inquiry.

Not easy topics but certainly ones that reach out to me to wrestle with.....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Quick Worldview

I debate and argue about politics on a university bulletin board...Recently, I was asked to outline my overall worldview ...This is what I wrote

These issues are complicated so if I have to give a straight yay or nay I would risk oversimplifying the subject matter.

In short I am a theist (a conservative Jew) and believe in a universe with purpose. I also place much credence in science, reason and logic. Having said that I am mindful of the limitations of human philosophy both in the naturalistic as well as the metaphysical sense.

I believe in the unfiltered exchange of ideas, oppose censorship and champion freedom of speech. It is for this reason that I am not in favour of Hate Laws, Speech Codes and Politically Correct mindrot.

On economic issues I favour a free market system with a lesser role for big government. I am not a libertarian – as I reject the radicalism of limited government favoured by Mises, Rothard, Nozick etc.

I am a strong champion of Western Civilization and the Representative Democracy. If I were alive at the time of the French Revolution I would probably agree with the thinking of Mirabeau as opposed to the Jacobins. I believe that Judeo-Christian ethics is central to the success of this model but by the same token argue for manageable and thoughtful progress within the context of the working framework (this is what Conservatism is all about…and I take heart from this ideal…For more on such thinking read Edmund Burke).

I have at times categorized myself as a Classic Liberal as I believe that Classic Liberalism (as it evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries) is truly what modern conservatism is. I reject the paleo-conservatism and isolationism of Buchanan and co. Contemporary Small ‘l’ liberalism is more like social democracy an ideology which sits in antithesis to my thinking.

Roller Skate Park

I wrote this article for a Science Teacher's Publication

The internet abounds with some great (and not-so-great) java applet simulations available for physics teachers. My favorite locale is the widely acclaimed Colorado Physics site[1]. In my pedagogy I have made use of about half the simulations available at Colorado but perhaps none with more success and gusto than Energy Skate Park (ESP).

ESP is specifically designed to demonstrate the key idea of Conservation of Energy (a central theme in both the Grade 11 and Grade 12 Physics courses – university and college) and in this regards it doesn’t disappoint. When entering the simulation one is presented with a parabolic roller coaster track. This track can be manipulated by the user to take on a somewhat diabolical appearance by the addition of extra tack or by the gerrymandering of the standing track into a variety of shapes….(loops, figures eights are all possibilities). Students love this.

A moving body, to be studied, can be selected from a number of alternatives (I am partial to the dog myself although many of the students liked the bug). The body is then released from a pre-determined height and bar and/or pie charts showing the transformation of potential energy into kinetic energy (and of course vice versa) with respect to time and position can be generated. For a more detailed analysis of motion the view of the system can be superimposed with a grid and the pause button can be utilized to better understand entity values at instantaneous points.

As an adjunct it is also possible to change the acceleration of gravity to mimic conditions on Jupiter, Earth and Space. The teacher can then ask the students to predict how the motion may vary in each of these cases and then test their hypothesis with the simulation. For an additional challenge one can vary the zero potential line as well to see how the relationships adjust.

Like all simulation lesson plans ESP works best with a worksheet that scaffolds the student through the learning process before allowing them to draw general conclusions about their observations. The worksheet is paramount and should have as its focus the elimination of key misconceptions. One such false belief is that if friction is added to the roller skate park then energy is not conserved. The ESP simulation allows one to model both the friction and non-friction case to show how thermal energy buildup is enhanced as the coefficient of friction is increased. The teacher could then use such feedback to make a distinction between the total energy available in the isolated system and that of the universe at large. Path length movement can also be related to thermal energy ‘loss’.

A further feature of this simulation is that it has a path locator feature that acts like a ticker tape attached to the skater. In working with college level students, in particular, I have found that this can act to supplement the students understanding of the influence of uniform acceleration on the displacement of an object.

Above all making use of ESP is a fun education positive exercise. I can vouch for that. My students thoroughly enjoyed it and I could see from evaluation feedbacks later on in the course that many of them had cemented the central idea of Conservation of Energy. This is a definite four star program that is well worth the effort of the lesson plan.

[1] See

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Canadian Political Crisis summed up

Someone sent this to me via e-mail. Source is unknown. It is hilarious nevertheless

Toronto Maple Leafs Win Stanley Cup!!!

Canada was stunned Monday when it was announced that The Stanley Cup will be awarded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, possibly as early as December 6th. The cup will be stripped from 2008 playoff champions the Detroit Red Wings and awarded to the Leafs who didn't even make the playoffs.How is this possible, Canadians ask? Well, the Leafs formed a coalition with eastern conference semifinalists the Montreal Canadians, and conference quarter finalists the Ottawa Senators, now outnumbering the Red Wings. According to current Leaf coach Ron Wilson "the Red Wings have lost the confidence of the league and should hand the cup over immediately to our coalition".NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is cutting short a European trip to try to resolve the unprecedented hockey crisis that could force a second playoff series, or see an opposing team coalition take the cup.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


One of the most difficult facets about being a teacher is keeping your motivation level up. I suppose this is true of any profession but in teaching it seems to hit you squarely between the eyes. I left engineering in 2002 and entered the teaching profession soon afterward. My motivation was to share my love of learning with others and help my students grow in both ability and knowledge. It still is a central theme of my philosophy and I have several students that I believe that I have helped in such regards. But overall I am unsettled.....I don't feel as though I have done enough. Too often my efforts have been in vain and ultimately fruitless. A a colleague of mine said 'teachers often want more success for their students than students want for themselves.' This appears to be a truism but it is one that eats at the heart of my motivation. Negativity abounds and one has to dig deep to find the inspiration to continue the fight and not abdicate to the futility.

My strong belief in G-d and a life of purpose is what drives me from my deeper soul (I see faith and reason as being complementary paths not mutually exclusive phenomena) but in the world of the material where life plays out I struggle with the realization of such a drive. If I was a Christian I could argue that it is the cross I must carry. However I don't see it in that light. I hate spinning wheels and too often it just seems that that is what I am doing.