10/23/2002

Bad Language Warning


Another exercise in the politics of screeching was launched by Svend Robinson just this past hour. Stephen Harper made some comments about "mug shots in post offices" in the HoC, apparently a reference to the cover of the National Post today. The NDP champion of self-promotion promptly stood up to express his horrified outrage and Harper dismissed his objections by saying that he "... was sure that Robinson's photo appeared in better places than just post offices."

Right on cue, Robinson fairly races out into the lobby to call Harper "a homophobe and a scumbag." The media, of course, ignores every single fucking thing of substance that happened today and latches onto Robinson's moral indignation and you can rest assured that you'll hear nothing else in the news for the next few days.

Why in the fuck we have to pander to these juvenile assholes day in and day out is, quite frankly, bewildering to me. Robinson injects himself into a series of statements that have sweet dick-all to do with him and when Harper dismisses him as the useless asshole that he is Robinson starts screeching "HOMOPHOBE!!!" like he believes there is no other possible basis on which to dismiss him.

Newsflash for Svend Robinson; You are a pointless but noisy waste of time and that has everything to do with your character and nothing to do with your sex life. Take your false outrage and your consistently wounded sensibilities and open a one man show on Broadway where that kind of narcissism is appreciated.

Newsflash for Stephen Harper; Stephen, you can not say one word to, about, around or within earshot of Svend Robinson that will not be immediate fodder for a media more in love with their own agenda than with the truth. You are the bad guy and you will never be anything else. Don't expect one ounce of integrity or fairness from the media cause it's not forthcoming. Give Svend Robinson exactly as much attention as he deserves which is 4/5ths of fuck-all.

Goddamit, I am pissed off.

10/08/2002

Fresh Hell


Fresh Hell is a fridge magnet that's smaller than a matchbox! It flies like a rocket and keeps your breath fresh for up to twenty-four hours.


A fun and weird website via Flit

Here are some more;

Jean Chretien is a credit card that swears!
Howard Wilson is a first-aid kit! It is made from recycled cardboard!
Kyoto Protocol is a samurai sword that's also available in white! It is perfectly safe to use.

Honest Howie is Heading East


Howard Wilson is taking his farewell tour to PEI "later" this week.
The federal ethics counsellor will travel to Prince Edward Island later this week to investigate Solicitor-General Lawrence MacAulay's awarding of an untendered contract to a political ally's accounting firm.

Howard Wilson said yesterday he needs to meet directly with those involved in the $140,000 contract to determine whether rules were broken. He and three other government officials conducted interviews in Ottawa on Friday and yesterday but won't finish their work until at least the end of this week, he said in an interview, adding, "It's our highest priority."


Please send in your predictions for the verdict and the timing. Since I get to go first (blogger's prerogative) I'll pick Friday, Oct 11 at 4:45 EST. The verdict? Innocent. It's probably silly to even include it as a category but we'll treat it like a wildcard. Old Howie might get unnaturally bold, what with his impending retirement and his hurt feelings over diplomatic goodies that have passed him by.





If you get a chance, tune in CPAC tonight to catch the repeat of Question Period and catch John Manley's act. This guy is such a piece of slugbait. I'll be sure to link to Hansard tomorrow but the printed word does not really do this thing justice. Towards the end of QP some opposition backbencher (I did not catch his name) gets up and asks a fairly impassioned question about the changes to the disability provisions of the Income Tax act. This fellow's daughter is apparently in a wheelchair and the guy wants to know about the rationale for the changes and he makes the point that business lunches are 50% deductible whereas wheelchairs are only 20% deductible.

Manley gets up and comes on all offended and replies with wounded dignity that he doesn't see the need 'to get personal about it.' It's such an incredible display of arrogance and petty spitefulness that it could almost turn your stomach. Manley gives all the appearance of a social retard who suddenly finds himself in the spotlight and, believing himself deserving of that spotlight, promptly reaffirms the wisdom of his high school tormentors. I remember questioning Manley's ability to resist the moral rot at the head of this government and boy, oh boy, I wish I'd put some money on the question. He's right up there with the crème de la scum now.

10/05/2002

Kyoto Sucks but This Sucks Harder


There's nothing I hate more than a boneheaded move by the home team.

An Alberta medical officer of health says he has been fired because of his public support of the Kyoto Protocol, a dismissal he and the province's Liberals condemn as political meddling.

David Swann, a public-health officer in southeastern Alberta, was fired on Wednesday by the board of directors of the Palliser Health Region.


A stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do. Censorship is wrong in principle but it also makes a really bad impression in practice. Don't silence your opposition, refute them. You wouldn't think that such a basic tenet would need to be repeated so often. All the Board has done is discredited themselves and created a Kyoto/free speech martyr. That's a lose/lose/lose/lose/lose outcome. Reinstate the guy, apologize for being boneheads, and then make your case if you can.

I've been scrambling to keep up with the news let alone comment on it... In order to overcome that 'who goes first' logjam - that's the one where four or five people do stutter steps and false starts at the elevator door for 20 seconds and then jamb the door simultaneously - I'm just going to start posting about the first thing that occurs to me and hope to catch up the rest later...

I got an email from Rick Glasel about the Kyoto Protocol. Rick is, if such a thing is possible, even more adamantly opposed to the thing than Ralph Klein.
I think Rex Murphy's 9/28 column in the Globe should be read by and to every Canadian. He is bang on, the Kyoto debate has absolutely nothing to do with science.

Here's the facts as I see them:

1. There is indeed some evidence, but no conclusive proof, that the planet, or at least a good portion of it, has experienced a general, but not continuous, trend towards statistically significant, but not dramatically so, higher average temperatures since the Seventies. There definitely isn't enough evidence to support any trend going back more than 30 years. It is not possible today, and it certainly wasn't possible thirty years ago, to calculate the total heat energy on earth with less than a 1% margin of error. A 3 degree Celsius temperature change is about a 1% change in degrees Kelvin. Those who beat the drum for Kyoto claim a warming trend of 0.2 to 0.3 degrees per decade. Temperatures close to the earth's surface appear to be affected by ocean temperatures, temperatures in the troposphere, microscopic dust particles in the atmosphere at all kinds of altitudes, and a number of other factors that we simply cannot measure all over the world all of the time. Even if we could measure them, we don't know enough to accurately predict their effect on weather. Climate is just weather viewed at a macro level. When was the last time Environment Canada consistently forecasted weather with 99% or better accuracy? Climate change that can cause the extinction of numerous species (never mind killing 16,000 clothed Canadians a year), or raise ocean levels enough to make New York or Tokyo unhabitable, probably has to
occur over hundreds or even thousands of years, although we don't even know that for sure. I'm pretty sure that less dramatic repercussions from global warming can be adapted to by humans and other living creatures.

2. Natural events have a bigger impact on climate than the rate of change in carbon dioxide emissions from industries in the northern hemisphere, which is all that the Kyoto Accord is concerned with. When Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, fine particles of volcanic ash stayed in the atmosphere for years, and there were claims that the eruption temporarily cooled the earth by as much as 1.0 degree Celsius. Surely the deforestation in Northern Africa and encroachment of the Sahara Desert (which may have begun two thousand years ago, or more), and the cutting down of forests in Europe and Asia over the last thousand years would have
led to climate change on a scale equal to what has been claimed for the last 30 years, and in fact the northern hemisphere experienced climatic cooling from about 1400 AD to about 1900 AD that was far more dramatic than the current perceived warming. But no one is blaming our ancestors for almost starting another ice age. As much as human beings would like to believe that they can alter the planet on a grand scale, human engineering is no match for natural forces. Does anyone believe we can eliminate
tornados or hurricanes by slowing down the rate of increase in greenhouse gases? How are we then going to alter the overall temperature of the globe? After all, Kyoto is based on the idea that if we reduce current and future emissions, then the overall percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere will eventually (in 50 years from now, or longer) stabilize. Even if we could somehow make CO2 levels stabilize, how can we make sure that the world doesn't get warmer for some other reason? It takes a special kind of
hubris to believe that global warming on a catastrophic scale is only happening because we make electricity by burning hydrocarbons instead of using hydro dams or because Canadians like to keep their homes warm in January. It also takes a lot of chutzpah to believe that a gaggle of politicians can put an end to climate change, when Mother Nature has been making climates change since the beginning of time.

3. You can only consciously control an enormously complex system through minute tinkering with only one variable if and only if you have a complete understanding of every aspect of the system. Even then, your perfect knowledge might only result in the realization that no matter how much you change that one variable, the system is going to produce different results than you wanted, anyway. That is why Kyoto will never produce the desired result. You don't have to argue that global warming isn't occurring, and you don't have to argue that increased CO2 levels haven't caused global warming, and you don't have to argue that life as we know it won't end
because global temperatures increase 3 degrees in fifty years, to know beyond a doubt that the Kyoto Accord is wrong. And you have to know beyond a doubt that implementing the Kyoto Accord has an economic cost, because if there were perceptible economic benefits to implementing it, the accord wouldn't have to be legislated into existence. Anyone who believes in the Kyoto Accord believes that they know how to run our lives better than we do ourselves. Legislating Kyoto isn't the end of life in the free world; the
world will find a way to ignore it, or make the global economy work in spite of the Kyoto Accord; but why go through all that grief if we don't have to?

Sorry about the long essay, Lawrence, but I get so choked up about this, I can't stand it. What I have put down here is available to anyone with high school physics, an Encyclopaedia Britannica, daily delivery of a newspaper, and a willingness to think it through. I feel better already.

No need to apologize, Rick, I quite enjoyed it. Besides it gives me the opportunity to point out a view good news links that I've seen recently; like this one about new polls in Alberta that show 72% of Albertans opposed to Kyoto, and this one about the apparent dissension within the Liberal government on meaningful Kyoto numbers. Chretien attempted to present Kyoto as a fait accompli but public opinion is swinging against it and the Liberal caucus is showing some signs of independence. I'd never call myself an optimist but I don't think that Kyoto is a done deal just yet.

P.S.

10/01/2002

Mark Wickens has been all up and down that "16,000 deaths" figure as presented by the Toronto Star. He even managed to get a correction notice out of the Star - good for Mark and good for all of us. I'm so cheered up by his success that I've decided to go ahead and post a bit of number-crunching I did the other day when this figure was first tossed out.

According to the OMA, "about 1900 deaths" occurred in Ontario in 2001 as a result of air pollution (let's ignore the fact that air pollution and greenhouse gases are different animals for the moment). So if 1,900 deaths occurred in Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, where did the other 14,100 deaths occur? Ontario accounts for only 12% of the alleged pollution deaths even though Ontario has 38% of the population of the entire country and the overwhelming majority of that population lives in the very belly of the smog-belching beast - industrial southern Ontario. I guess they must be dropping like flies in Vancouver and Montreal because Toronto, Hamilton, Sudbury and Oshawa are apparently safe-havens as far as environmentally-induced mortality is concerned. The OMA states that 88% of the deaths (14,100 deaths annually) are occurring outside of Ontario among 62% of the population. Your odds of biting it from smog in Ontario in any given year are .000016 but your odds outside of Ontario leap up to .000073. According to the OMA's figures, you are 4.5 times more likely to be killed by the environment in Brandon, Manitoba than by the environment in Windsor, Ontario.

Of course, I'm being a smartass. It's only folks like David Suzuki and the Toronto Star who present statements like that last one as if they expected you to believe it.

9/30/2002

I've been really disappointed with the media's non-reaction to the story about electoral commissions and the Speaker of the House that I was ranting about last week. I guess that it is judged to be too esoteric or too procedural to interest the average reader. Thank heavens for the Hill Times. They have printed an editorial this week that, while it isn't as hysterical as I'd make it, is at least addressing the issue.
We encourage MPs to continue to publicly discuss their concerns about the process because this is, as Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley said, "one of the pillars of our Parliamentary democracies," and these commissions are supposed to be independent bodies.

But MPs should not be personally interfering in picking members of the commissions. The commissions are supposed to be independent. Mr. Kingsley told the conference for chairs, members, secretaries of federal electoral Boundaries Commissions in 2002 in Ottawa that: "In 1964, Parliament decided to make independent commissions, one for each province, responsible for readjusting electoral boundaries. Your independence as a commission is a fundamental element of the readjustment process. It is one other element that sets Canada apart as a world leader in electoral democracy.

"Moreover, the fact that the act prohibits any Senator, any Member of Parliament or any member of a territorial or provincial legislative assembly or council from being part of a commission illustrates this firm intention to shield the process from undue political interference."

Some opposition MPs are alleging the opposite is happening. If the process is flawed, MPs from all parties should band together and make their arguments clear and strong. Otherwise, it looks like they're just fighting to protect their own political fiefdoms.
The point is well made. The only people who seem to be making any noise on this thing are those who are apparently getting the short end of the stick. I'd like to see the principle of independance defended on a purely abstract basis but, if we can't have that, then self-interest is better than no interest.
Is there a connection between the cancelled Sea King helicoptors of 1993 and the used submarines that we got shafted on? Scott Taylor says yes...
Taylor said he believes Canada was pressured into buying the four Victoria-class submarines after it cancelled its 1993 contract with Britain for high-tech military helicopters to replace its aging Sea Kings.

The helicopters became an election issue in Canada in 1993, as the then-opposition Liberals criticized the proposed new choppers’ hefty price tags. After he was elected prime minister, Jean Chretien scrapped the deal. Taylor said sources told him immediately afterwards that Canada would be buying the submarines as an unofficial compensation for breaking the deal.

Canada was on the hook for $500 million after it cancelled the helicopter deal.

“It was never the choice of the Canadian navy to buy these (subs),” he said. He said there were other, better options, such as vessels being offered by Australia, but the political pressure swayed the decision.
I'd love to see some confirmation of this. If it's true then there is a much larger price tag than we first thought to that cynical and indefensible cancellation of 1993.

9/28/2002

This letter is printed in the National Post today. What is wrong with this country that we let this shit happen?
Just over two months ago, my brother, Captain Colin Sonoski, and Captain Julie-Anne McKenzie, were killed in Newfoundland after the military helicopter they were piloting crashed in the wilderness. Two others on-board were also seriously hurt.

Why did it crash? Because the tail rotor literally fell off the helicopter, in-flight, while they were out on a search and rescue mission trying to save the lives of other Canadians.


Colby Cosh continues to surprise... Now he's actually come out and declared himself "a worse-than-average" driver. What the fu...? Nobody is a worse than average driver. Well. Maybe some girls and really old guys with hats. But for an average adult male to claim 'worse than average' as a driver is an affront to the natural order of things. Colby, don't blame yourself. Blame other drivers, blame stray animals darting into the street, blame the vehicle or the road conditions or the sun in your eyes, blame a freak reflection off of a tin roof, but don't ever, ever, blame your own driving skills. It upsets the entire balance of the automotive world. Take it back, Colby, say you were drunk or high or engaged in automotive sex but never, never say "mea culpa" or "my bad" - there's just too much at stake.
Dalton McGuinty is the leader of the Liberal opposition in Ontario and, if you believe the polls, destined to become the next Premier. What I don't understand is why anyone takes this doofus seriously. Dalton has just announced his plan to turn schools into prisons for all children between the ages of 16 & 18.
Under an Ontario Liberal government, students would be forced to remain in school or a training program until the age of 18 and their parents would face cash fines if they drop out, Dalton McGuinty, the party leader, said yesterday.

Mr. McGuinty, who polls suggest could succeed Ernie Eves as premier of Ontario after an election expected next year, announced a $1.6-billion education and subsidized childcare program to be funded by cancelling $2.2-billion in corporate tax cuts planned by the Conservative government and scrapping private-school tax credits.

Along with raising the legal school-leaving age from 16, which is the standard across Canada, Mr. McGuinty said he would guarantee that 75% of students in Grades 3, 6 and 9 will pass province-wide reading, writing and mathematics tests within a Liberal government's first four years in office.

It's so typical of these morons, set yourself a goal that is admittedly worthwhile (who could argue with more and better education for our children?) and then work out the most intrusive, authoritarian, counter-productive measures you can imagine to create a whack of new problems and make the goal secondary to the implementation strategy. It's not just the stupidity of the idea that amazes me, it's the fact that this strategy was presumably conceived and discussed and debated and fine-tuned by a raft of (presumably) well-meaning political thinkers and it still saw the light of day.

Bulletin to Dalton McGuinty: There are some problems, some mundane human failings, that you simply can not legislate out of existence. You can punish those failings, if that's your inclination, but punishment will simply add resentment and bitterness to the existing problem. That's not win/win... that's lose/lose. The failing student becomes a captive and the willing student suddenly has to share his school with a group of disruptive, unco-operative prisoners who actually have the legitimate beef they've been looking for all along.

This idea sucks from top to bottom.





Real science doesn't do polls.


Rex Murphy comes through again. This time he's questioning the same 16,000 deaths figures I did a couple days ago. If only I could write like him...
A lot of scientists agreeing on something is not the same thing as a scientific consensus. Any sentence that begins "A majority of the world's scientists agree . . ." is not reporting a scientific finding; it's announcing a preference. It's a poll. Real science doesn't do polls. E = MC2 wasn't arrived at by a show of hands; the equations that spell out the workings of the universe were not put to a vote.

When we hear of a consensus on global warming we are being told -- covertly, but told nonetheless -- that it isn't a scientific fact. And when we're told that it "contributes" to the death of 16,000 Canadians, even when we're being told by David Suzuki, we're being hectored, as opposed to informed.



9/26/2002

Here's an interesting item from CTV news. It concerns the fact that the PMO is hiding information from the Liberal caucus as well as the general public. It's a sad commentary that we can only be surprised at the former deception and accept the latter as the normal course of business. Anyway, there are a couple of secondary points that I wanted to make and this article seems as good a jumping off point as any.

1) David Suzuki is quoted - "I want to remind you that before the civil war in the U.S., the southern states said, 'We can't afford to abolish slavery. It'll ruin our economy.' Some things have to be done just because they're right,"

Surely that's the most inappropriate analogy under the sun, right?
You wish. Here's Environment Minister David Anderson on the same topic: "If Winston Churchill had said in 1939 that we are not going to challenge the Nazis until we know exactly how much it will cost and how long the war will last, then we would never have won the war," Gee David, I hadn't thought of it that way.

The other thing that's contained in the article is mention of the medical community jumping on the Kyoto Bandwagon.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 doctors say the economic debate over Kyoto is overshadowing the public health benefits that would result from meeting the accord's targets.

Canadian scientist David Suzuki joined doctors supporting Kyoto, along with 50 medical and health associations from across the country, in signing a statement in support of ratifying the protocol.


Although the treaty focuses on greenhouse emissions, it also calls for the reduction in other smog-causing pollutants, which the doctors blame for an estimated 16,000 premature deaths annually.

Let's fact check these statements;

David Suzuki did not 'join' these civic minded physicians, he recruited them and formulated their statement for them. Are you curious how the doctors arrived at the 16,000 premature deaths figure? The government told them... According to the government of Canada, up to 16,000 Canadians die prematurely each year from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.

Nifty trick eh? The government feeds them some complete horseshit statement and the doctors parrot it back to the media and the horseshit statement becomes an accepted factoid untainted by association with the government. How long before Chretien or one of his senior flunkies is repeating that '16,000 stiffs' garbage as independent corroboration of the wisdom of their views? I'd guess about 48-72 hours myself.