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  • Author: Talbot Manvel
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Toward the end of the 19th century, James J. Hill built the Great Northern Railroad across the American Northwest. This remarkable railroad transformed that barren land—labeled the “American Desert” on maps of the day—into a vibrant, productive region. Even more remarkable than the railroad, however, is how Hill built it. Hill was born in 1838 on a farm in Ontario, Canada. When he was fourteen, his father died suddenly and Hill went to work in a general store, where he learned much about what farmers in that cold but fertile region of Canada needed in order to produce their goods. A few years later, armed with this knowledge and just four years of formal schooling, the young Hill set out to make his fortune. In the summer of 1856, he arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, a city situated on high bluffs at the end of the navigable section of the Mississippi River where the Falls of St. Anthony prevent the movement of boats upstream. As such, the city became the terminus for steamboat traffic on the Mississippi and an increasingly popular destination. In 1849, eighty-five steamboats plied the river to St. Paul; when Hill arrived in 1856, more than eight hundred steamboats were making their way there each year.1 The reason for the increased steamboat traffic to St. Paul was the bounty of the Red River Valley to the north. The bottom of an ancient glacier lake, the Red River Valley is covered with the most fertile soil in the world, and in the mid-1800s its creature-rich forests provided an abundant supply of fur. Although the high bluffs provide St. Paul protection from seasonal flooding, they made it difficult to transfer goods from the river to the city. Agile young men had to move freight from the steamboats down narrow planks to the riverbank and then manually hoist it onto horse-drawn wagons that would then climb the slippery embankment, risking accident and damage. Taking note of the scene as he stepped off the boat, Hill became an independent shipping agent on the spot. As a shipping agent, he was responsible for moving goods from ship to shore and for paying boatmen for the transportation costs of the goods delivered. At the frontier in Minnesota, all the goods needed for living had to be shipped in from elsewhere: nails, groceries, salt, plows, harnesses, saddles, sewing needles, books, and so forth. These goods passed through many hands in transit, and at each transfer point shipping costs mounted. As shipping agents managed and tracked the flow of goods, they would pay for the prior leg of shipping and tack on new charges to cover their own costs, which would then be paid by the next agent, and so on. As a shipping agent, Hill not only came to appreciate the value of the goods exchanged; he also became keenly aware of the costs of transportation. Hill realized that transportation costs often amounted to more than the cost of goods being transported. For example, from a shipping receipt in 1864 Hill noted that it cost $1,200 to ship 560 barrels of salt from Milwaukee to St. Paul, even though the cost of the salt itself was only $1,000. Of the transportation cost, $400 covered shipment by rail from Milwaukee due west to the Mississippi River town of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and the remaining $800 covered steamboat passage up the Mississippi to St. Paul. Knowing that the distances of rail and steamboat legs of the journey were roughly the same, Hill also realized that railroad transportation was cheaper than steamboat transportation, in part because no reliable railroad had been built to compete with the steamboats.2 To earn more business, Hill lowered his own charges, noticeably reducing the shippers' exorbitant transportation costs while raising his profits through increased volume. A quick success on his own, Hill was soon hired as the shipping agent for the Davidson Steamboat line, a position in which he set the shipping rates for goods throughout the line. As he had done on his own, Hill reduced rates to increase volume, and the Davidson line thrived as more and more businesses took advantage of the bargain. This strategy of low prices and high volume would become a mainstay of Hill's business practices. . . .
  • Political Geography: America, Canada
  • Author: Andrew Brannan
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Oil is crucial to human life, not only as a source of energy that fuels our homes, businesses, cars, airplanes, and hospitals, but also as a key component of countless products on which our lives and prosperity depend—from medical devices and cell phones, to roads and tires, to books, CDs, footballs, and tablecloths. Nonetheless, the oil industry and the men who animate it are widely loathed and frequently maligned. Read any news outlet for examples. In the face of this relentless anti-oil sentiment, Ezra Levant has written Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands. Levant explains that conventional oil fields (such as those in Iran and Saudi Arabia) have been decreasing production at a rate of 6.7 percent per year due to depleted reserves, and that, today, the largest exporter of oil to the United States is Canada (having displaced Saudi Arabia in 2004). Most of the oil produced in Canada, he notes, is extracted in Alberta in a geologically marvelous region called the Athabasca Oil Sands. Unlike conventional liquid oil, the oil sands are a type of bitumen—“oil mixed with sand and clay . . . [that] has the thickness of peanut butter”—that is more difficult and expensive to extract (p. 8). Levant explains that higher oil prices, and hence higher oil company profits, have led to capital investment in new technologies and extraction processes that have made “the oil sands economically viable” (p. 9). The first oil company to work the oil sands region was Suncor, in 1967. The open-pit mines that many people think of when picturing the oil sands are a relic of the early days of oil exploration and extraction. Today, Alberta's oil sands are easily one of the most technologically advanced resource operations in the world. Behind every dump-truck driver are teams of computer modellers, engineers, geologists, and technical operators. For every strong back working a shovel, there are a dozen M.A.s and Ph.D.s somewhere working a computer. (p. 117) Most of the thick bitumen (80 percent) is deep in the ground and must be drilled for and pumped out using steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), whereby steam is injected to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen, which then drains, by force of gravity, into a pipe below the steam and is pumped out. Using this technology, Canadian oil sands companies are able to transform what was once “considered an experimental project” into an oil-generating powerhouse (p. 9). In 2008, Canada shipped 715 million barrels [of oil] to the United States, far more than the 550 million barrels the Saudis sold. From 2003 to 2008, the oil sands had helped cut Saudi imports by 80 million barrels a year. (p. 9) But as Canada has become a larger player in the global oil market, Levant explains, environmentalists and other critics of the oil sands have increasingly condemned this technology and the companies that employ it. The critics claim that the oil sands are “140,000 square kilometers of toxic sludge” and “giant toxic lakes” inhabited by deformed fish, and that “migrating birds sometimes stop to rest” at these toxic sites before dying by the “tens of millions” (p. 1). Critics further claim that because of the high volume of water required to extract oil from these sites, “the mighty Athabasca River is about to become a small, dirty creek” (p. 2). They claim that the oil sands are “poisoning the aboriginals” in the region and “poisoning our very planet” (p. 3). And they claim that Fort McMurray, the urban center of oil sands production, is afflicted with all the “social ills of a boom town—the violence, the mistreatment of women, the addiction problems, and an artificially high cost of living that makes almost anyone with a job part of the working poor” (p. 3). Levant contends that the foregoing criticisms are “false . . . [e]very one of them” and sets out to refute them and others, and to show that the oil sands are ethically superior to the alternatives on multiple fronts (p. 3). . . .
  • Topic: Oil
  • Political Geography: Iran, Canada, Saudi Arabia
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I recently sat down with Sandra J. Shaw to ask her about her work, her views on art, and how she became a sculptor. Ms. Shaw's sculptures are owned privately throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in England, Australia, Bermuda, Singapore. Her work can be viewed on her website, www.sandrashaw.com, or by appointment. The interview is accompanied by several images of the works discussed. —Craig Biddle Craig Biddle: Thank you for joining me, Sandra. I know our readers will be delighted to hear from you and get a peek inside your fascinating world. Sandra Shaw: My pleasure. CB: Why did you choose a career in sculpture, how and when did it begin? SS: I didn't set out to become a sculptor; I had no interest in being an artist. I grew up in Canada, which did not have a thriving fine art culture that I was aware of, or a fine arts profession that was promising to me. The art schools where I grew up were preoccupied with anti-art. So I was not attracted to the art world or the lifestyle that I thought artists lived. That being said, I ended up becoming an artist simply because I love making art. I just couldn't get away from it. I tried. I did other things. For instance, I enjoyed writing and pursued a career in journalism for some time, which I thought would be an interesting living. But I never gave up my art. I've always made art from as long ago as I can remember. I drew throughout my childhood—that was my passion—and I knew I was developing a facility for art. So I always knew that I would have art in my life. While in high school I attended night classes at a couple of colleges to explore journalism and commercial art. I even made some headway in the commercial art business, making some album covers and posters for the music industry, of all things. But by the time I'd graduated high school, I knew I didn't want a career in commercial art. Sculpture came to the forefront when I was in my freshman year at university. I'd decided to pursue journalism and went to university so that I could become a knowledgeable writer. I didn't want to have writing skills without knowing something about the world. To pay tuition, I got a summer job working in the art department for the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. At that time they were making a series of dioramas on the history of North American natives. A museum diorama is a three-dimensional scene that typically has figures and a painted or photographic backdrop. After a while it was apparent to me that the diorama project would be improved if they made better headway making the human figures. I knew the scenarios they wanted for the dioramas, so I drew up designs of the figures and showed these to the head of the art department. That's how I got the job of sculpting nine life-size human figures—my first job in sculpture, and three important years of studio experience in sculpture. I picked the simplest, most fully draped figures to do first, and left the mostly nude figures for last. This way I could master the head and hands in the beginning, and after a couple of years was able to sculpt the full figure. That was great training. It was how I converted my brain from drawing to sculpting in three-dimensional form. At the end of that project, I knew that I loved sculpture so much that it would be terrific if I could do this for a living. The idea of casting a figure into a permanent medium was thrilling to me, so I tried casting some small figures in bronze. And I eventually found that I could sell my bronzes. I continued to study the figure in life drawing classes, and advanced my skills at the National Academy in New York. CB: What have been the greatest influences on your work? SS: The great art of the past and the human figure per se. I think the greatest inspiration and influence began with the drawings of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. I don't remember how I got my hands on them, but for some reason I had access to Renaissance drawings before I was ten. I suspect that they were featured in art books that my parents had. I remember being thrilled by the line work and the kinds of human beings that Michelangelo and Leonardo portrayed. Although I didn't know it at the time, I was responding to the possibilities that those gorgeous, heroic figures suggested—they were god-like human beings with overarching gestures, physiques, demeanors. They captivated me. I examined and copied those master drawings. Later I had the opportunity to draw from Greco-Roman statuary in the ROM antiquities collection. That was long before I'd thought about sculpture, but I found classical form intriguing and pleasing. Those works showed a world of glorious men and women that stayed with me. Anatomical drawings also had a big impact on me—both master drawings and drawings in anatomy books for artists. Around age twelve I started copying anatomical drawings. I also recall drawing a human skull at a natural history museum. The facts of anatomy were core to my understanding of what I was looking at in the Renaissance works, and the structures of the human body fascinated me. Around the same time I became interested in the human face and in how a portrait can convey a kind of soul. I drew from photographs and from life—friends and classmates. The human figure and face have remained inspiring sources that translate for me a certain kind of life. . . .
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada
  • Author: Heike Larson
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Infidel is a heroic, inspiring story of a courageous woman who escapes the hell of a woman's life in the Muslim world and becomes an outspoken and blunt defender of the West. Ms. Hirsi Ali takes the reader on her own journey of discovery, and enables him to see, through concretes and by sharing her thought processes, how she arrived at the conclusion that Islam is a stagnant, tyrannical belief system and that the Enlightenment philosophy of the West is the proper system for human beings. In Part I, Ms. Hirsi Ali describes her childhood in Muslim Africa and the Middle East. With her father imprisoned for opposing Somalia's communist dictator Siad Barré and her mother often preoccupied with finding food for her family, young Ayaan and her siblings grew up listening to the ancient legends their grandmother told them-legends glorifying the Islamic values of honor, family clans, physical strength, and aggression. Born in 1969 in Somalia, Ms. Hirsi Ali moved frequently with her family to escape persecution and civil war, living in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. At a colonially influenced Kenyan school, she discovered Western ideas, in the form of novels, "tales of freedom, adventure, of equality between girls and boys, trust and friendship. These were not like my grandmother's stark tales of the clan, with their messages of danger and suspicion. These stories were fun, they seemed real, and they spoke to me as the old legends never had" (p. 64). Forced into an arranged marriage, she was shipped to Germany to stay with distant family while awaiting a visa for Canada to join the husband she didn't know. At age twenty-two, alone and with nothing but a duffle bag of clothes and papers, she took a train to Holland to escape the dreary life of a Muslim wife-slave. "It was Friday, July 24, 1992, when I stepped on the train. Every year I think of it. I see it as my real birthday: the birth of me as a person, making decisions about my life on my own" (p. 188). In Part II, Ms. Hirsi Ali shares her wonder of arriving in modernity, and her relentless effort to create a productive, independent life for herself. After being granted asylum, she worked menial jobs, learned Dutch, became a Swahili translator, earned a vocational degree, and finally graduated with a degree in political science from one of Holland's most prestigious universities. An outspoken advocate of the rights of Muslim women, she was elected to the Dutch parliament in 2003, as a "one-issue politician"-she "wanted Holland to wake up and stop tolerating the oppression of Muslim women in its midst" and to "spark a debate among Muslims about reforming aspects of Islam so people could begin to question" (p. 295). She became a notorious critic of Islam, at one point daring to call the Prophet Muhammad a pervert for consummating marriage with one of his many wives when she was only nine years old. In 2004, she made a short film called Submission: Part 1 in which she depicted women mistreated under Islamic law raising their heads and refusing to submit any longer. Tragically, the film's producer, Theo van Gogh, was brutally murdered by an offended Muslim, who left on van Gogh's body a letter threatening Ms. Hirsi Ali with the same fate. Since 2004, Ms. Hirsi Ali has had to live under the constant watch of bodyguards, often going into hiding for months at a time. Although the straight facts of her life are in and of themselves admirable, Ms. Hirsi Ali's intellectual journey as presented in Infidel is truly awe inspiring. This journey begins in Africa in the disturbingly dark world of Islam-with its disdain for thought and reason, its self-sacrificial ethics, and its corrupt, tyrannical politics-and ends in the West with her having become an outspoken champion of reason and freedom.
  • Topic: Government, War
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa, Canada, Germany
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of TOS—and a special welcome to our new Canadian readers who, with this issue, are discovering the Standard via newsstands in Canada's largest bookstore chain, Chapters/Indigo. We are excited to add our northern neighbors to the list of countries we infiltrate with principled discussion of the moral and philosophical foundations of freedom.
  • Topic: Economics, Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Canada