Crawl Across the Ocean

Sunday, September 14, 2008


True, there's an election going on here in Canada, but really, that happens every year or two so it's no big deal. Less frequent (in the developed world, at any rate) is the sort of financial industry carnage this weekend brings in the U.S. What a mess!

Perhaps relevant, from a Paul Krugman column from last December:

"Mr. Greenspan wasn’t the only top official who put ideology above public protection. Consider the press conference held on June 3, 2003 — just about the time subprime lending was starting to go wild — to announce a new initiative aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on banks. Representatives of four of the five government agencies responsible for financial supervision used tree shears to attack a stack of paper representing bank regulations. The fifth representative, James Gilleran of the Office of Thrift Supervision, wielded a chainsaw."

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Opposite & The Green Shift

George does the opposite:

I was somewhat surprised to see Stephen Harper say the other day that the Liberals proposed shift of taxes from incomes to carbon would "wreak havoc on Canada's economy, destroy jobs, weaken business at a time of global uncertainty."

Sadly, no reporters were on hand, to ask, if increasing taxes on carbon and reducing taxes on income would destroy the economy, shouldn't Harper be raising income taxes and slashing carbon taxes in order to create an economic boom? If he truly believes what he says, isn't he showing gross negligence with respect to the Canadian economy. Given that the economy is currently struggling - couldn't he fix this with a reverse green shift, e.g. black shift?

* * *

Looking forward, the following scenario seems plausible:

1) Conservative party forms the next government
2) Canada goes into recession (we're pretty much in one already)
3) Conservative apologists explain that only a moron would blame the recession on the Conservatives because the federal government's policies are not so influential that they can change the course of the whole economy.

If you're childish like me, it will be fun to throw Harper's comment in the face of Conservative supporters when that time comes.

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Green Shift vs. Black Shift

So, the Liberal party is proposing higher taxes on carbon offset by lower taxes on income, with what they are calling the Green Shift. Meanwhile, the Conservative party is proposing lower taxes on carbon, offset by higher taxes for future taxpayers (who will pay interest on the debt not paid off due to the tax cut on oil).

It seems like a pretty clear choice to me, but no doubt the Conservative plan will play well with people who want what is easy now and who don't worry about the future.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Secret Climate Change War

Via Deltoid, a fascinating story of some of the political history on climate change in the U.S. A snippet:

Even today few people have heard of Jason. It was established in 1960 at the height of the cold war when a group of physicists who had helped to develop the atomic bomb proposed a new organisation that would – to quote one of its founders – “inject new ideas into national defence”.

So the Jasons (as they style themselves) were born; a self-selected group of brilliant minds free to think the unthinkable in the knowledge that their work was classified. Membership was by invitation only and they are indeed the cream. Of the roughly 100 Jasons over the years, 11 have won Nobel prizes and 43 have been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences.


In 1979 they produced their report: coded JSR-78-07 and entitled The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate. Now, with the benefit of hind-sight, it is remarkable how prescient it was.

Right on the first page, the Jasons predicted that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would double from their preindustrial levels by about 2035. Today it’s expected this will happen by about 2050. They suggested that this doubling of carbon dioxide would lead to an average warming across the planet of 2-3C. Again, that’s smack in the middle of today’s predictions.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Old Boys Club

Update: Looks like public reaction actually forced a positive change for once as apparently the Greens will now be included in the debate. I may have to reduce my cynicism meter from 9.8 to 9.7 (out of 9) - although I still think we need to establish some sort of objective criteria for who is included/excluded from televised debates during elections.

Dear Unelected and Unaccountable Media Consortium,

During the 2006 Canadian federal election, you stated that the Green Party was excluded from televised debates because they did not have an MP in the House of Commons. As we head to a 2008 Federal election, the Green Party now has an MP in the House of Commons and you are now saying that they can not be included in the debate because, "it is better to broadcast the debates with the four major party leaders, rather than not at all."

I am trying to decide which is worse, a) that you continue to lie about the true reason the Green Party is excluded from the debates (do you really expect us to believe that if there was a televised national debate, the other political parties would rather allow the Green Party to have the floor to itself for 3 hours of prime-time television than participate?), or b) that whatever your true reason is, you felt that it was better to claim that you had to exclude the Green Party because you were blackmailed by the other federal parties.

My conclusion is that, absent your establishing clear criteria for deciding which parties will be included in the debates, this matter should be decided for you by Elections Canada.

In the meantime, your credibility as anything other than a defender of the status quo and established interests continues to dwindle.

Yours truly,

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Things You'll See During An Election: Part 1

#1: Trivialities

There is a sense in Canada that both the media and the citizens have an obligation to care about politics in general, and elections in particular. The reasoning is that the policies enacted by the government have important impacts on people's lives and since we shape these policies through (among many other, often more important ways) the votes that we cast during an election, we should attempt to make an informed decision.

However, it requires some effort to try and determine both what set of policies are best and which vote will likely result in the closest approximation to said policies being enacted. Additionally, many people find discussion of policies and their impacts quite boring.

Faced with this situation, the media and the citizens generally respond much like a group of schoolchildren tasked with homework who would prefer instead to gossip about their classmates and teachers.

To take just one example, City TV (Vancouver) was running a poll this morning on which politician you would most like to have as a friend on facebook. Less obviously, but just as trivially, you will see endless coverage of tactics and strategy and much forecasting of results, almost none of which has any bearing on which policies will bring the best results or how citizens should use their vote to encourage good policies to be enacted.

Of course, the one difference between students gossiping and the media focusing on politics related trivia is that the students are under no illusions that gossiping is getting their homework done, whereas much of the media actually seems to believe that polls about facebook friends and the like actually discharges their duty to cover politics and inform citizens in a responsible manner.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008


Just a little thing, but when a media organization of the stature of the New York Times can't/won't point out that 2+2=4, we've got problems.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Just Under the Wire

I see that B.C. Hydro has introduced a two tier set of rates whereby anyone using more than 1,350kwh of electricity over two months will be charged a higher rate. I checked my consumption and my highest two month period over the last two years topped out at around 450kwh, so there's not too much to worry about on a personal front, I guess.

In general, it seems like a smart way to cut overall electricity use. One concern is that in the long run we're better off using electricity (which is generally renewable here in B.C.) than natural gas (which isn't) and this rule might encourage people to stick with gas rather than electric heat for their houses.

Another concern is that it might have been more fair/effective to vary the target based on region as some parts of the province (Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island) have a climate that makes it much easier to stay under this threshold and other parts of the province have a climate that makes it pretty difficult.

Of course, higher consumption is higher consumption, but the incentive to conserve won't be very effective in areas where everyone can easily stay below the limit without conserving, nor in areas where even exceptional efforts aren't enough to reduce the usage below the threshold.

On the other hand, maybe the rule provides some compensation for us poor Vancouverites forced to live in little apartments due to high (albeit falling!) housing prices, while folks in other parts of the province can take advantage of slightly less crazy housing prices to buy detached homes...

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