The Government of Ontario today announced that it has suspended the competitive RFP to procure two replacement nuclear reactors planned for the Darlington site....This makes Ontario the latest in a long line of jurisdicions that have abandoned nuclear when they get a look at the bill.
Only the submission from AECL was compliant with the terms of the RFP and the objectives of the Government. However, concern about pricing and uncertainty regarding the company's future prevented Ontario from continuing with the procurement at this time.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Oil went way up after WWII in the US, then it came waaaay down. Despite being the wealthiest country on Earth, the Americans have not been able to cheat basic geology. Is anybody optimistic that the rest of the world can? Do you trust the dynamism, intelligence and accountability of the Saudi royal family?
2) Changing my Twitter or Facebook picture to some shade of green. See above.
3) Getting exercised over the fact that the President of the United States took a question from a blogger. Dana Milbank is a fucking idiot. Hey Dana: if the question was planted, why didn't Obama answer it? Moron.
1) Mike Harris beat you. Twice.
2) Mike Harris has been out of office for more than 7 years. Perhaps he is no longer a relevant political opponent? Perhaps those of us who live in this Province hope, maybe in vain, that our government would have had a new idea between now and then?
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
To dissent slightly in a way that I don't think he'll disagree with, there are plenty of serious First World problems that actually do need action. See, for example, this:
With unabated greenhouse gas emissions, the world faces a growing risk of ”abrupt and irreversible climatic shifts”. This is one of the conclusions in a scientific synthesis report released Thursday.
Based on more than 1,400 studies presented at a congress in March in Copenhagen that attracted some 2,000 scientists from more than 70 countries, the report presents the newest scientific evidence that has emerged, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report came out in 2007....
”Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of serious impacts, including the crossing of tipping points, and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult and costly,” the report warns.
 Seriously, people in this town are treating an LCBO strike as if there's a war coming.
The country is getting increasingly less white — and that might be the biggest problem facing the GOP right now. Ronald Reagan could afford to suffer losses among blacks and Hispanics and still win. John McCain couldn't. As The New York Times' John Harwood recently noted, McCain won the same percentage of the white vote that Ronald Reagan did in 1980 — and lost.The Ontario provincial Conservatives, I'd wager, will not be so successful.
No matter how you cut the numbers, they're devastating for the GOP. Consider this fact from Gallup: Since 2001, Republicans have lost votes in every demographic group except churchgoers. And the party is sucking for air among young voters; Obama beat McCain by 35 points among voters under the age of 30.
If Republicans don't find a way to appeal to future generations of voters soon, they could be lost for decades; research shows that if young voters support the same party in three consecutive elections, they're likely to keep doing so for the rest of their lives.
"We can't go through another presidential election where we lose the youth, lose women and lose minorities and think we're going to get to a majority," said McCarthy.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Nevertheless, it was explicitly part of the reason that the TTC was legislated back to work so quickly.
Now, however, you have increasing problems of illegal dumping of household wastes in places like public parks which is in actual fact a clear and present public health threat, and yet people are more angry at the idea that somewhere, somehow city workers are getting 3 weeks of sick days.
Gee, it couldn't be that the people who thought the TTC was putting us all at risk of getting the bubonic plague were simply grasping at straws for a simple-minded justification as to why organized labour should lose a basic right? Could it?
Monday, June 22, 2009
Last night I was consolidating the files scattered across three different hard drives when the USB drive I was using decided to cack out on me. I have, it seems, lost all of the recordings of my interviews.
Gun in mouth ---> pull trigger.
Man, I fucking hate computers. Anyone know a good service that can recover data from a corrupted USB drive?
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
A local architect thinks it is a good idea to add a roof to the Gardiner Expressway that could be turned into a park with trees, bike paths and concession stands – while cars would zip along underneath....This would go a small, small way towards beginning to level the amount of transit space devoted to pedestrians and cyclists. If you could do the same thing to the DVP, and link it to the railpath that's being built in the west end of the city, you would have something close to a cyclists and runners highway, analogous (and in some cases, literally on top of) the motorists highways that bring them in to the city.
"I've been appalled at the folly of taking down the Gardiner," Klein told the Star in advance of his speech. "It's about thinking innovatively, keeping it, adding on to it, renovating it, and renewing it. That's the fundamental part of the organic growth of cities."
His idea, dubbed the Green Ribbon, calls for the addition of a new level about 8 metres above the highway's elevated section from Dufferin St. to the Don Valley Parkway. Columns would be added to the side to anchor a new level, which would become a linear park stretching for 7 kilometres. The estimated costs range from $500 million to $600 million.
One thing you'd want, given the height of the Gardiner, would be a pretty roomy elevator system to bring cyclists and pedestrians up to the top.
Cars don't need pretty places, humans do.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Does it really matter how Dion was treated by CTV, particularly by Mike Duffy?Look, I was a fan of Dion's, but if Liberals want to know why they've lost two election in a row now, they really need to stop blaming external factors. Dion never really surpassed Harper in any meaningful way, and the big drop in his numbers came in early September, well before the Duffy interview. Indeed, it seems like the biggest impact on Dion's numbers came at the beginning of the campaign, as voters realized they might actually have to vote for the poor bastard. As for 2006, the upward movement in Tory numbers starts a week before the RCMP announcement. Dodgy, certainly, but I've never been convinced it was a primary factor in explaining the Conservative win.
Actually, yes, particularly in a country where the RCMP might well have determined the outcome of the 2006 election, when it announced an investigation, in mid-campaign, into allegations of irregularities on the part of finance minister Ralph Goodale. It caused a sensation. The Liberals lost that election; no charges materialized.
Last October, the polls suggest the Liberal party's ascent stalled after the interview. While we cannot say if Dion's momentum would have brought his party victory, it isn't impossible.
Now, I'm of the opinion that the Party itself is to blame for this, for never really getting behind Dion and basically waiting for him to fail so that Iggy/Rae could have a go at it. But more than a few observers have put the failures of 2008 squarely on Dion's shoulders, so maybe they're right.
But the myth that somehow the RCMP, CTV, or some other boogeyman can explain away objectively bad politicking on the part of Liberal politicians is not helping matters. It would really help things if the Liberals would choose people of demonstrated political ability, instead of dubiously qualified academics.
Rob Farley has, as he puts it, "a long, largely unoriginal rumination on the state, coercion, the Odessa Steps, and Tank Man." But I think that probably the most useful thing for citizens of modern states to understand (except for the exponential function) is this:
The most common interaction we have with the state is thus; the state demands property that we regard as our own, and if we refuse to hand this property over it sends men with guns to our house. If we resist these men with guns, they imprison us. If we resist too effectively, they kill us. This is true of every modern nation-state. Liberal democracies differ from authoritarian states in that they allow us to complain loudly about the process, to minimize its arbitrariness, and to have some (very) small say in how our property is reallocated. This difference isn't trivial, but it isn't as large as normally assumed.Vague, rambling question: The nation-state is as much a product of the technology it draws upon as anything else. Mass conscription only makes sense when armies can be armed relatively inexpensively, and bureaucracies administered easily, and both of these conditions were fulfilled during the latter half of the 19th century.
But, at least in the wealthiest countries on Earth, neither of these conditions is true anymore -- armies are expensive, and even the most ruinously expensive ones (say, the US Department of Defense) are shockingly incapable of executing political missions (say, pacifying a Southwest Asian country.) Administration, meanwhile, is also expensive and always getting more so. (Both of these assertions are contestable -- feel free to do so in the comments!)
So here's the query: are the stresses placed on western nation-states a sign that a) western nation-states are in trouble; b) all nation-states are in trouble; or c) John is reading too much in to the fiscal situation of western democracies, and the nation-state is alive and well thank you.
Bonus question for people who choose answer B: What forms of political organization could replace the nation-state, assuming the rules that Rob Farley outlines are correct -- what form of organization would be a better killing machine?
I'm personally a fan of answer A -- I think the nation-state has already undergone substantial changes in the last 150 years or so, and assimilated them more or less well. I expect it to remain a vital, healthy killing machine well into this century and beyond. (See, I can be optimistic!) However, the political situation in western democracies makes me think that younger, more reform-able nation-states such as India or Brazil may become more competitive killing-machines, on the margins, than western ones. I've written before that I suspect we haven't seen the last Big War in human history yet. We just don't know what it will look like when it comes.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In a sign of growing concern in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government over US President Barack Obama's Middle East policies, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled proposed Israeli sanctions on the US in a letter to cabinet ministers on Sunday.Uh.... hmm.... I... Uh...
In the 11-page letter, obtained by The Jerusalem Post from a minister on Monday, Peled recommends steps Israel can take to compensate for the shift in American policy, which he believes has become hostile to Israel.
"Obama's ascendance represents a turning point in America's approach to the region, especially to Israel," he wrote in the letter. "The new administration believes that in order to fight terror, guarantee stability and withdraw from Iraq, a new diplomatic slant is needed involving drastic steps to pacify the Muslim world and the adoption of a more balanced approach to Israel, including intensive pressure to stop building in settlements, remove outposts and advance the formation of a Palestinian state."
Wow. Israeli sanctions against the United States? Boy, how effective could this be? According to this, total Israeli imports from the US in 2007 amounted to... $14.4 billion. That's just a bit more than 1/10th of one per cent of US GDP. In terms of a trading partner, Israel ranks behind India, Belgium, Switzerland, and Korea.
Meanwhile, this delusional scenario would put Israel's exports to the US in obvious risk, meaning almost half of all of Israel's trade, amounting to 1/5 of its GDP, would be threatened.
Not to mention that the IDF is totally, entirely dependent on American trade to keep (among other things) its air force flying. This proposal is just totally insane, but its a mark of what the far-right in Israel is thinking at the moment -- a ruinous trade war with the US, rather than withdrawal from the West Bank and negotiations with the countries on Israel's borders. ("Neighbours" is probably the wrong word, in this context...)
I'm not even going to go in to Peled's suggestion that Israel get involved in domestic US politics to pressure Obama... though if there were any justice right now, people would be lining up to apologize to Walt and Mearsheimer.
And, just so we're clear, Peled has a home in the governing Likud Party, not one of the further-right fringes. Who, for further clarity, have a home in the governing coalition. Yeesh.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Canadian taxpayers must continue to finance AECL's commercial business even if the government moves forward with its plan to privatize the nuclear Crown corporation, a report from the C.D. Howe Institute says.Lemon socialism at its finest -- privatize the rewards, socialize the risks. Kind of funny to see the CD Howe Institute come out in favour of further subsidies. Aren't they usually pro-market?
Ottawa would be expected to cover the monetary risk of regulatory delays, both in the certification of AECL's new Accelerated Candu Reactor (ACR) and in environment reviews required for the siting of plants in Canada, says the report released by the business-backed think tank.
At the same time, the government will have to underwrite the research and development costs of reactor design if AECL is to compete with international rivals, whose governments provide significant support for their nuclear companies.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
In a nearly 6,000-word address Thursday extending an olive branch to the Muslim world, President Barack Obama managed never to utter the one word that comes to mind most often when many Americans think about Islam: terrorism.Uh, he mentioned al Qaeda a bunch, spoke about September 11th, and declared that the Palestinians need to give up violence and adopt non-violent means of protest. But no, he didn't use the word "terrorism". For this, you clear A1?
Okay, maybe the Internet isn't the future of journalism after all.
I can't stand Miller, BUT unfortunatley he will get elected again. Look on a higher level at what he's doing. He's basically getting all the young votes with the bikers, and he's getting all the immigrant votes with the protests and going to all their events and all that. And since the immigrants and young people make up the majority of the city, he's got the vote and he knows it.Yes, it's a crying shame that Toronto happens to attract immigrants and young workers, and that elected leaders cater to the needs and desires of the majority. If only Toronto could be more like the older, more homogenous communities like Flint, MI or Youngstown, PA, we'd be set.
I'm with Royson James on this one -- the idea that Miller is going to lose the next election over the feverishly imagined "War on the Car" or some variant thereof is a joke. Yes, the last census says that driving is the dominant form of transportation in Toronto. But a rather more important metric is how many people identify as car-dependent. And guess what? Drivers are in the minority in Toronto. Only Montrealers rely on their cars less.
I have my disagreements with Miller, but the thing that keeps me in his defense is the mendacity and obnoxiousness of his enemies. The "War on the Car" is really "A War in defense of the people who live here", and if Miller is making the lives of suburban commuters marginally more irritating so that those of us who live, work, and play here can have substantially more enjoyable, liveable communities, I have no problem with that.
UPDATE: Oooh, actual data!
Of note on the issue of transportation, an overwhelming majority — 61 per cent versus 27 per cent — told Environics that they prefer transportation spending to go to public transit instead of roads .... Given recent rhetoric, those numbers have to be an encouraging sign to a city council moving forward on sustainable transportation issues.Clearly, Miller is doomed.
But the bottom line is this: After implementing a set of controversial tax measures earlier in this term of council and while weathering a global recession, the number of Torontonians satisfied with their municipal government is identical to Mayor David Miller’s 2006 election totals.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Exactly the kind of local, relevant, and effective news that will save newspapers, if anything will.
I suppose the one thing I'd say is that America has been, is, and will continue to be a country where terrorism works. It worked to reverse the tender shoots of racial equality post-Civil War. It worked to keep southern blacks out of any positions of power for generations. It is working today to deny poor women the right to choose the fate of their own bodies. (Wealthy women will continue to have options when their Republican husbands leave the poor none.)
Even moderate conservatives have been pretty atrocious in the last few days. When you can't even make an unconditional declaration that murder in church is bad you've really lost the plot. But it's the hypocrisy that really angers me, as it angers Fred Clark here:
Such condemnations seem to be self-refuting. How can they condemn men like Hill or Roeder just for taking their own arguments seriously?You cannot regularly compare your political opponents to Nazis, mass-murderers, and genocidaires and then demand that the rest of us believe your words are without consequence.
Paul Hill argued that abortion was the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust -- just like the National Right to Life Committee, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and dozens of other evangelical groups said it was. If that's true, Hill said, then he wasn't merely justified, but obligated to take up arms against abortionists. If you're confronted with an evil equal in magnitude to that of Adolf Hitler -- as all these groups insisted was the case -- then surely one is obliged to do more than vote Republican every four years in the hopes of one day appointing enough judges to change the law of the land. Confronted with what all of these groups assured him was the Holocaust, he decided to become Claus von Stauffenberg.
Yet when Hill repeated their own argument and their own rhetoric back to them, these groups all recoiled. They all claimed to share Hill's premise, but not to share his conclusion. That won't work. Hill's violent conclusion arose logically from that shared premise. If he was a madman to be condemned -- as all those groups suddenly insisted he was -- it was because of the madness of that premise. So how was it possible they could repudiate him without also repudiating that rhetoric that compelled him to act?
What I realized then, in 1994, as I watched these groups line up to condemn violence against "mass-murderers" and to renounce armed opposition to "the Holocaust," was that these folks didn't really mean any of it. They were horrified by the spectacle of someone taking their own rhetoric and arguments seriously. "We don't really mean anything we say," these groups rushed to announce. "We don't really believe any of that."
And since they no longer bothered to claim they believed it, I stopped trying to believe it too.
And this isn't over. Listen to this video, especially starting at 05:15 :
The same voices that are cheering Tiller's death in private will cheer the next death, and the next one, and the next one.
Similarly, in terms of % of GDP Canada's deficit isn't that far from Ontario's current deficit: According to the headlines today, Ontario will run an $18 billion deficit this year. Ontario being 40% of Canada's GDP, that works out to the equivalent of running... a $45 billion deficit nation-wide. Liberals who are unconcerned about Ontario's deficit don't have much ground to criticize Harper. And Conservatives who aren't concerned about Canada's deficit have absolutely no basis to criticize McGuinty.
Now, the size of the deficit isn't the only thing that matters -- it's how we got here, and how we get out that matters more. Here, I'm in the "pox on both your houses" camp. Both McGuinty and Harper have given too much away in tax breaks, though Harper has been more egregious on this count. And looting the commonweal, as Harper proposes to do, is the worst form of false economy: coming out of a recession we'll be left with fewer tools at our disposal to build the sustainable economy we need.
I'll also state that neither Ontario nor Canada have covered themselves in glory, given that large chunks of this deficit are the direct result of the decision to throw piles of money at the auto sector, in the vain hope that an industry that's shed tens of thousands of jobs over the years will continue to shed jobs at a slightly slower pace.
All that said, McGuinty at the very least is spending money -- and crucially, encouraging others to spend money in a big way -- on new green energy projects, which have a better chance of bringing us out of this slump than most other sectors.
So the first beneficiaries -- before we even get to the letter E in environment -- are businesses. And lo, Gee can't even get that right:
There is more sanctimony than sense behind this rule, which took effect Monday and which will require even the hard-pressed corner store guy to post signs explaining the five-cent charge.The sign, whatever it costs, will cost less than one month's order of the "free" plastic bags. In a recession, especially for small retailers, lifting the cost of bags off of the balance sheet could make a difference. I work for a large retailer, and without giving away trade secrets I can say it makes a difference for us. Smaller stores, operating on smaller margins, ought to do even better. Given that retailers are free to keep the five cents per bag, and plastic bags cost less than five cents, this is basically a win for small businesses.
Okay, but then there's the environmental aspect of things. And here, Gee goes from wrong to nonsense:
Yet plastic bags are already one of the most heavily recycled items around. People use them to line garbage bins, which means they don't have to buy garbage bags at the store. They use them for kids' school lunches. They use them to pick up after their dogs. In short, plastic bags are darned useful – so useful that most people keep a stash of them somewhere in the kitchen or the broom closet, ready to grab....A few things to unpack here:
What is more, says a city report, “plastic bags do not degrade significantly over time and therefore this volume of plastic bags will persist if landfilled.”
But that is one of the plastic bag's virtues. Sitting inert in a landfill, it doesn't decompose and let off methane gas that could escape into the atmosphere or degrade and poison the soil.
1) Regular readers will know my skepticism of mainstream economics, but even I can figure out that if you give a bunch of people Good X for free, the demand for X will be high. And if X can reasonably be substituted for some other purposes, even imperfectly, that would otherwise cost, then people will use X. Gee sees a bunch of uses for the free plastic bag, and assumes that those uses are inherent to the plastic-ness, instead of the free-ness.
2) These bags -- especially (hopefully!) those used to line garbage cans and pick up dog feces -- are not being re-used that many times. I pack my lunch in them, you get two or three uses out of them before the holes start to form and you have to pitch them anyway. Yes, they're useful. No, that doesn't stop them -- like most of our plastics -- from ending in a landfill.
3) This is rather important: not all of our plastics are sequestered in a landfill. Indeed, much of it makes it to our rivers and lakes, from there eventually to the oceans. Gee is allegedly a journalist -- should he maybe have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? The North Atlantic has its own counterpart in the Sargasso Sea, and given that Toronto sits along one of North America's premier waterways -- and owes its existence to a direct route to the Atlantic -- it's not unreasonable to think that maybe we ought to minimize our plastic use.
We then arrive at the third and final act of this mediocrity:
So the main problem – if there is one – is the space it takes up in the ground.Right, and Toronto is so beloved by the other communities in this province -- who would never dream of making fun of us for our lack of winter preparedness, for that matter -- that they'll be happy to take our trash, ad infinitum, for a few smiles and a handshake. Oh, and of course we'll magically be able to transport our trash to these cheap, magical new dumps north of Sudbury, without cost or carbon emissions.
But is that really such an insuperable hurdle? Since the city bought the Green Lane landfill site near London, it has had a backstop for the landfill sites in Michigan that it used to rely on so heavily. Toronto now has landfill space until at least 2024 or 2025, more than enough time to find new sites, even taking into account the huge regulatory and not-in-my-backyard difficulties. If Ontario has anything in abundance, it is space.
And I'd like a pony.
But all of Gee's column is an excercise in magical thinking. Plastic bags should be free! Why? Because shut up, that's why! And garbage doesn't cause any problems? How? Because shut up, that's how! And we'll always be able to find more places to dump our trash! Where? Shut up, that's where!
It's true that plastic bags are a small part of the overall municipal waste stream. But charging for them isn't just symbolic -- it's a cost-free way to let businesses run smarter and reduce the environmental impact of daily shopping. And if we can make this work, then yes, let's take on the disposable drinks and bottled water while we're at it. So you've got to wonder: what's not to love?
Actually, scratch that. You've got to wonder: why is Marcus Gee getting paid by the Globe and Mail?