Enter Stage Right hands out its monthly awards...

The April 1999 Earth is Flat Award

A celebration of the inane, insipid and asinine...

I'm sure we're all used to politicians claiming credit for things they had virtually nothing to do with. An an example, any time any politician claims credit for an improving or strong economy, remember that there is nothing they could have done -- besides get out of the way, which is not much to claim credit for -- to have any real effect, other than negative.

Here's another example. If you're like me, you thought the Internet is an extension of a computer network created in the late 1960s by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA. Propellerheads working for ARPA, which was under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense beginning in 1969, initially connected computers at the Stanford Research Institute in California, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. This original network, the very first computer network, was called ARPANET.

See, if you're like me, you thought that people of vision -- scientists and engineers -- created the Internet. U.S. Vice President Al Gore thinks differently. On March 12, presumably to draw attention to his love of technology if not his lack of intelligence, Gore claimed that he was in the lead in the creation of the Internet.

"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," he said when asked to cite accomplishments that separate him from another Democratic presidential hopeful, former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, during an interview on CNN.

Gore's spokesman, Chris Lehane, defended his boss's claim, saying Gore "was the leader in Congress on the connections between data transmission and computing power, what we today call information technology. And those efforts helped to create the Internet that we know today."

Ah, of course.

A man -- judging by his 1992 tome Earth in the Balance -- who has never seemed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer apparently believes that he helped create the Internet because he voted for bills which just happened to have money for an obscure computer network used nearly exclusively by academics. This from a man who described himself as a propellerhead in the mid-1990s because he learned how to use his e-mail.

See, ARPANET was created in the 1960s (and the idea for it well before that), long before Al Gore began serving in the House of Representatives in 1976, and then in the Senate in 1984.

Gore is a lawyer so I'm sure that he could make a case for having invented the Internet because he simply voted to spend money, but for the rest of us who know that the Internet was created by geniuses, we know that something so rational, freedom promoting and beautiful could have never been created by someone like Al Gore.

I wonder what claims U.S. President Bill Clinton can make on the subject of family values...

One lesson I learned a long time ago is that if you want someone to defend your freedom, make sure that a liberal or Leftist is not leading the charge. Simply put, a Leftist is willing to sacrifice a freedom if it helps to promote their agenda. The free speech movement was free only as long as a liberal was speaking, property rights exist only so long as it's property that "belongs to the people" and privacy rights only go so far as it doesn't inconvenience a liberal's plans.

Witness Adam Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Last month, Borovoy attacked federal government bill C-54, created to protect the privacy of Canadians in the so-called information age. Borovoy didn't slam the bill because it contained loopholes that allowed government or business to shred our privacy or because it was an utter failure. Borovoy attacked the bill because it protected privacy too well.

That's right, according to Borovoy, the bill actually goes too far in protecting a Canadian's right to privacy because it may impede "legitimate social advocacy causes."

As an example (reported on in our Tidbits section), Borovoy says that Bill C-54 would not allow an activist agency from testing whether there was discrimination in a business by sending in whites and blacks and seeing what happened because that business would have to be notified in advance that a study was being performed.

Borovoy is suggesting an amendment allowing collection and release of information without the consent or knowledge of individuals if the accuracy of that information would be compromised by consent, effectively gutting a bill which would have protected our privacy even from governments. Since the bill is aimed at preventing commercial invasions of personal privacy, Borovoy suggested an amendment exempting the voluntary non-profit sector.

With that loophole, virtually any intrusion by a social agency -- doubtless funded by the government -- into someone's life is permissible.

Guardians of liberty remember this, trust a liberal to defend your freedom and you'll be on the alter of sacrifice faster than you can wonder what happened. Americans should look to Bill Clinton as a homegrown example.

A Canadian politician supporting a new tax? I realize it's hard to get too excited about that, but a proposal put forward by a Canadian to reign in those uncontrollable international markets is odious enough to merit special attention.

Though no one expects anyone in international finance to support such a tax soon, politicians from all of Canada's major federal political parties are lining up to support the introduction of a new tax on all transactions in international financial markets.

The small tax, first advocated by American Nobel-winning economist, James Tobin, would be applied to every international financial market transaction to slow down such things as currency speculation and capital flight from weak economies.

Another application touted for the tax would be to raise money for international projects such as environmental cleanup or Third World development.

Based on financial market activity in 1995, a Tobin tax of 0.1 per cent on trading transactions would have raised US$175 billion.

Federal Finance Minister Paul Martin, who first raised the Tobin tax at the G7 in 1995, said he agrees that the tax would be a good international fundraiser and for that reason should be discussed.

Depending on what side of the political spectrum you look at it, the reasons for supporting this tax are varied. On the left, politicians droll over the possible windfall and argue that the influence of nation states declining in a globalized world and that some sort of mechanism is needed to raise money for international projects such as environmental cleanup or Third World development.

On the right, politicians leery of capitalism are demanding a mechanism to punish or slowdown currency speculation.

So would this 0.1 per cent tax actually accomplish anything? Liberals should realize that over US$1 trillion has been spent in the United States alone since Lyndon Johnson instituted his massive expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s with little being accomplished. Conservatives ought to wake up to the fact that a tax small enough not to harm investment is also too small to discourage speculation. Either way, the Tobin tax is a loser.

Only saving us from a worldwide tax on capitalism is the fact that tax has been opposed by the United States, Germany and Britain as well as most of the international financial community, which hates the idea. All agree that to be effective the tax would have to be jointly implemented by all major industrialized countries and that unanimity simply isn't available.

The April 1999 Vinegar in Freedom Award

There is an old Serbian proverb that says vinegar in freedom tastes better than honey in slavery. This award is meant for events and people Enter Stage Right considers to be positive.

When he co-starred on NBC's Law and Order, I disliked Michael Moriarty because I thought he was a typical Hollywood liberal. He must have been a better actor than I thought because as it turned out, he's as rightwing as a person can be.

After testifying against the Clinton administration's plans for labeling content on television, Moriarty's award-winning career was all but shredded so the American-born actor moved back to Canada to work. He's adopted this country as his own and plans to obtain his citizenship as soon as possible.

Now I get nervous any time someone compares themself to Ronald Reagan, and Moriarty did just that when he announced recently that he wants to be the Canadian version. To that end, he has formed the Republican Party of Canada and wants National Post columnist Diane Francis to be leader.

Moriarty also says he wants to be the mayor of Calgary because he said he believes Alberta is the place to make a stand against socialism, "the triumph of mediocrity."

"Everything points to my coming here. I feel like Churchill on the beaches of Dunkirk. My England I'll retreat to is Alberta and out of Alberta, we'll turn this (socialist invasion) back," he said last month.

America didn't seem to have much use for a freedom-loving conservative actor, but I'm sure we Canadians can do something useful with him.

Have someone you want considered for the Earth is Flat Award or the Vinegar in Freedom Award? Email ESR with your candidates!

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