Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Publishers: we can't afford to fact-check

Slashdot discusses the Wall Street Journal's reporting on the vanishing of fact-checking in publishing, following the Oprah-James Frey controversy. Apparently publishers don't make enough money to check facts and the publisher of Frey's book was lauded for "taking one for the team" following Oprah's tongue-lashing.

This all makes criticisms of Wikipedia, which survives on donations, rather amusing in their ferocity when the so-called professionals aren't doing it and the printed word is much harder to amend once released. This is not to say Wikipedia shouldn't get it right and keep doing so, merely that relying on the word of Doubleday as a primary reference source doesn't seem safe either.

The Minneapolis-St Paul StarTribune reminds us of their 2003 reporting of questions about Frey's book which makes the publisher's defence rather less tenable.

The verdict from one Slashdot user:
"Money has a strong influence on the weak minded."
--Oprah-Wan Kenobi.

NOW Buzz off

It's amusing to see the flailings of NOW to try defending those it loves (primarily David Miller and his new press spokesman, formerly of that publication) including Buzz Hargrove, who is quoted in this week's issue that strategic voting was a success. This comes as a surprise to most NDPers (the ones wearing "Buzz off, I'm voting NDP" buttons) who are saying so publicly. I imagine Sid Ryan is saying so too - beaten by a Tory thanks to that brilliant CAW voting trick. That said I have little sympathy for smug Adam Giambrone and the guy he couldn't get elected, Gord Perks who did not give up his eye soapbox for the campaign.

NOW is positively apoplectic at the thought of Marilyn Churley running against Hizzoner and possibly letting in Jane Pitfield on a split vote - can't see it happening myself once she calms down, and anyway Jack did her the most damage by evicting her into Beaches-East York.

If anyone saw me on a Thursday evening plucking NOW from the box and eagerly carry it off for the TTC ride home they might wonder at why - with the craven City Hall reportage, the railing at the Island Airport, the disgraceful American Apparel ads and all - but their one saving grace is Dan the Man.

As for strategic voting - if the Liberals elect a leader and opposition front bench Jack can support, a Lib-NDP pact would bury the Tories and be reasonably workable. The problem will be the usual Liberal "entitlement" to a majority of their own. It will be interesting to see what if any effect Buzz will have next time out - if he survives that long.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Duckworth School of Journalism strikes again.

One is always torn about how to react to the boorishness that emanates from the Sexational Sindo, whether it be that 03 team of scantily clad yoofs or the ever declining quality of Brendan O'Connor's output. Does one merely treat it as background noise, albeit one bought in distressingly large quantities, or try and divine whether new lows have been reached.

We used to define ourselves in terms of fairly well run nations (and Italy) but apparently if Eilis O'Hanlon is to be believed, anything is acceptable as long as it's worse in Estonia or India or Poland. President Obasanjo of Nigeria's outrage towards "unBiblical" homosexuality would be better directed against the practise of female genital mutilation in his country, for instance, by Christians as well as other religions.

I mean, crikey, there are some total basket cases in the world, Haiti and Iraq coming first to mind, but that doesn't make those our law and order baseline surely? As long as there aren't burning crosses or even marches behind huge pictures of DeV and the Virgin Mary then you're doing all right Jack?

I suppose Little Britain is terribly topical and all and some young advertising exec probably told the "editorial" staff at the Sindo that an article linking LB to the "homosexualists" going bonkers over the recent All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's report on the family would be terribly amusing to the ABC1s. Well, in that case the legions of nepotistic place holders could knocked together something which could possibly have been written off quietly as Sindo ranting. Putting O'Hanlon's byline on it meant it had to be confronted.

I witnessed the reaction of some Cork people to a tiny 2003 Pride gathering in Bishop Lucey Park in Cork and amusing it was not. Gay people in Ireland are not "all right Jack", and whether you accept all, some or none of the all-party report, we should all agree the only standard against their condition should be judged is an dignified one.

The fallout from de Londras vs Waghorne

Sicilian Notes has been monopolising most of Mental Meanderings' output this weekend, which means we got no post-game report on Amelie Mauresmo's first grand slam title. Some controversy about the manner of her win, although it seems she had her own problems to contend with.

That said, if ever needing a reason to watch a French woman on telly, I'd sooner watch the news.

It's about Toronto's power

Earlier this week I wrote about the impending (hell, current) power crunch in Ontario. Yesterday's Star has an editorial and today quotes Premier McGuinty on the issue of the city's power future. One of the statements it makes is quite stunning - that no power is generated in the City of Toronto. It's also not quite true - all over the city various facilities such as hospitals have generators which could be used to maintain city power at crisis points if the means to exchange power with the grid existed, and sufficient safeguards were built into the system to ensure the generator could isolate itself from the grid to protect the facility it is powering if the grid itself becomes unstable. Power grids generally are quite old-school in their lack of flexibility compared to telecoms which are accelerating towards fully distributed operation. The ideal is for power to be produced as near its users as possible, to enable communities to be more self-sufficient and the grid to be more fine-grained, promoting small scale solar, wind and water power as well as promoting off-peak power use.

The current model in Ontario is heavily dependent on large, somewhat remote from their end-user facilities like the nuclear stations of
Darlington, Bruce and Pickering and the slated for closure coal fired Nanticoke. None of these are within the city of Toronto, the biggest power user in Ontario. Hizzoner's current stance would keep it that way, making life difficult for the proposed 550MW plant in the portlands, near or within the decommissioned Hearn station. He insists the plant be co-generating to increase efficiency, with the waste steam being used for district heating. This is a capital idea, widely implemented worldwide, with one teeny-weeny problem - there's nothing to heat nearby since the nearby Portlands are currently derelict, a victim of the ongoing penny-pinching and power struggles between the three layers of government. The Mayor also pushes conservation when decrepit Toronto social housing stock is a huge user of power from window airconditioning and electric heaters.

The attitude that the rest of Ontario should put up with generating stations, even relatively clean gas fired ones, to power Toronto (and requiring ugly high tension pylons to bring said power) is the reason so many people in Ontario hate Hogtown, not just the rest of Canada! The same attitude which says our trash is someone else's problem, which says our air transport needs and the consequent noise is Mississauga and Brampton and Pickering's problem.

Toronto needs a better grid, the Portlands station, the proposed 60MW Lake Ontario offshore wind farm and some turbines along the Toronto Islands too, expansion of the Enwave water cooling system if feasible and serious carrot and sticks to the city's landlords (including TCHC) to improve the efficiency of its buildings. McGuinty has to make this work or his promise to close the coal plants will result in the closing of many other businesses from brownouts. David Miller should get on board or get out of the way - sadly his left-wing allies in the downtown wards (as well as Beaches NDP MPP wannabe Peter Tabuns) probably won't let him.

The taming of Hamas?

Can't help but feel the best reaction the "international community" (there's a joke) could have to the recent Palestinian election is to ignore the fact of who was elected and pretend it's really still Fatah in power, sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting LALALALALA if someone says the H-word.

If the Shinners are any guide, the best way of neutering them is to turn them into, essentially, class traitors by drowning them in money, ministries and motorcades. There will always the residual "Ruairi Bin Bradaigh" types left screaming for martyrdom but the "Peace Process" moved faster in NI when the ban on having Grizzly Adams on the telly was lifted and even faster once they got into Stormont.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Taking responsibility", Scooby style.

On the Macleans blogs, Paul Wells discusses what it means to "take complete responsibility" for a disaster from the perspective of Liberal strategists by means of comparison to stock Scooby-Doo plots. It's an entertaining read but hardly novel, as resigning and meaning it as opposed to hoping it will be shortly forgotten (David Blunkett, Peter Mandelson) or just plain brazening it out (Harinder Takhar) is the modern way of things. The last resignation on the grounds of taking responsibility I can recall was Lord Carrington for failing to foresee/prevent the Argentine invasion of the Falklands in 1982. Still, worth a look I think.

Haliburton


For any of you who think I think I'm posting dirt about Dick Cheney's old firm, (spelled Halliburton) move along, nothing to see here :)

I refer to Haliburton, Ontario, a gorgeous part of the world 220km northeast of here I was fortunate to spend this weekend on due to the generosity of our hosts whose family have a cottage in the area.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's about power

There's an ongoing kerfuffle about nuclear power plants here in Ontario, refitting old ones and building new ones. There is an unhappy history of capital cost overruns and dubious reliability of the ones that get built, not to mention that it is de facto corporate welfare for AECL - and last week's West Wing won't help either.

Windfarms are starting to happen but not at the rate of the anti-nuke crowd's paragon, Germany. There is also conservation, where some folk say if only we used less power we'd be fine. The name of the last update to the building code which imposes optional standards for energy efficiency is R-2000 which gives you an idea of how old the standard one is. Premier McGuinty's promise of shutting all coal fired plants will place massive stress on a grid which doesn't have enough power as it is, and residents groups are successfully opposing new gas plants in Mississauga and the portlands of Toronto.

As supply is falling with the ending of coal plants and the delay of their replacements, demand is rising not merely because of lack of conservation. Ontario grew by over 656,000 people between 1996-2001, a rise over 1.2 percent per year, and a similar increase is likely to be shown in the 2006 census in May. Add to that the increasing density of iPods, cellphones, blackberrys and so on means that while the devices are more efficient, there are more of them so at best we're treading water and a significant reduction in usage per person is unlikely. Gas fired stations are more efficient but not immune to opposition, emit CO2 (if less than coal) and the price of gas is not being helped by reduction in production to enhance oil well pressure and opposition to sour gas extraction.

The Green Party of Canada got a lot of stick for its internal politics at this election but also has a lot of enemies in the green movement worldwide, not just because its leader used to be a Tory, but because unlike many of their counterparts they use eco-capitalist tax policy rather than regulation as the primary driver of getting people to go green - in that the most harmful activities to the environment would attract penal "Bads and Services Tax", low impact activities would hardly be taxed if at all. While it may not be the most "ideologically pure" method it strikes me as the one most likely to work, just as higher oil prices have driven the auto industry into taking hybrid engines and biodiesel seriously.

The greatest

Sadly in addition to "reality" tv the other thing media folk have discovered is really cheap to produce hours and hours of is stuff you used to talk about in the pub with your mates - who's the best ever punk band or could Spiderman "take" Batman or was de Valera a better leader than Julius Caesar. Now we have the best song ever or the Greatest Canadian (a knockoff of yet another disease spawned in England, like Pop Idol (of which more later) and the Weakest Link). The CBC thinks that Tommy Douglas was voted greatest Canadian because of medicare but really he got votes because he's related to Kiefer.

Anyway, Paige responded to my post on Sonia O'Sullivan, mentioning her post on Roy Keane's selection as greatest Irish sports star ever. Due to Roy's involvement in seven of the eight Premiership titles Manchester United have won since Liverpool last won an English League title, Dunner was naturally quick off the mark in joining Paige in condemning Roy as a disgrace etc. Firstly, you'd think Gerry Ryan would have figured he's not cut out for TV but god bless him he's still trying. Any show helmed by him is going to go for a selection not intended for sober nodding of the head but fierce partisan argument.

Not every country can have a Gretzky, a guy who combines an impeccable on field temperament, an all time leading scoring record and a steadily improving coaching record to the point where he is a favourite of aficionados and advertisers like. Most countries' heros have deep flaws - think of Maradona. As for Sonia - she attracts more respect than love methinks.

My response is that I think the selection of Roy as greatest sports star ever is a load of crap - not because Roy is not a legend (he is - the Stadio dell'Alpi vs Juventus in 99 is to him what Wembley vs Benfica was to Best in 68) but these competitions are crap - they are all skewed to recent people or events because people know them best.

Anyway, the greatest Irish sports star ever was Cúchulainn. Or maybe Shergar. So there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hypocrisy

On Boxing Day 2005, white middle class Toronto got a wake up call with the death of Jane Creba, a student shopping downtown, killed by a stray bullet from lowlifes trying to off each other. Toronto's something of a sleepy place though and it already looks to me (and Dunner) like the snooze button has been hit - black people getting shot in poor areas of the city are treated as background noise. However, for that few days, talk was all about policing the border more strictly, searching more often for weapons and arming the currently unarmed (save for pepper spray) Canada Border Services agents.

Now, the US-Canadian border is a pretty funny place. The US is big on hauling non US/Canadian citizens into the office for a chat and also enquiring about meat or dairy. The Canadian side gives the impression of being all Customs and Revenue and no Immigration. It's kinda like when I arrived at Cork airport a while back and the Irish posters are all about farming stuff like bovine TB rather than human stuff like SARS.

People don't want their cars searched for weapons when they have hundreds of dollars in stuff bought in the Niagara Falls, NY malls in the back of the car. They do of course search some cars - I've seen them do it - but the perception is that the number is small.

Now this happened. The customs agents left their posts, and it was explained later that health and safety policies allowed them to leave their post in the face of the armed criminals. The Irish Gardai and Army must have wished they could have done during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 80s, when two of my uncles (one Guard and one Army) served time on the Border and questionable characters were intent on crossing to seek haven in Dundalk housing estates. The incoming Tories have today promised to arm the border guards, something they were probably going to do anyway but now have the perfect excuse to expedite. RCMP are currently called on in cases of trouble but they are often not stationed nearby and are already overstretched. However, without increasing the resources available to the Canada Border Services Agency in areas such as sniffer dogs which can detect firearms and so on and a more updated list of previous deportees to end the boomerang effect some dubious characters seem to have, the public will still see tax collectors - just better armed ones.

Evidence

The Irish media is buzzing in the wake of the sentencing phase of a criminal case at Ennis Court, in which 11 year old Robert Holohan, died and a neighbour, Wayne O'Donoghue (20 at the time I understand) was charged with his murder. The jury acquitted on the murder charge but convicted of manslaughter. The judge in the case, imposed a four year sentence (of which one year has already been served), stating that previous judgements of his imposing harsher sentences had been reversed on appeal and he was not going to go head to head with the Court of Criminal Appeal this time. With remission he is likely to be released at the end of 2007.

Now, I'm not going to get into the two issues causing the buzz, namely the reluctance of the prosecution to introduce evidence relating to semen found on the body, and the victim impact statement delivered by the victim's mother, which is alleged to be at variance with the version shown to defence counsel, in which several allegations were made. These will be done to death by others I am sure.

What I did find worth commenting on was an article in "de Paper" quoting Paul Anthony McDermott BL as follows:

"We may need to change our laws of evidence and trust juries a bit more than we do at the moment. Juries are 12 members of the public - maybe we should put all the evidence before them.

We have some of the strictest rules of evidence anywhere in the world and a good example of that is the exclusionary rule. Any evidence obtained in breach of your constitutional rights is excluded, no matter how relevant it is, no matter how small the breach of rights in getting that evidence, no matter how the jury needs it to make a fair decision."

I know PA McD slightly and have seen him on TV - he's a very smart guy indeed. He is also qualified in law which is more than I can say. Which makes this later comment of his, defending the prosecutions reluctance to enter the semen analysis into evidence rather odd:

"The DPP must ensure that the accused person gets a fair trial and ensure he doesn’t lead a judge into making a mistake because, if he does, all that will happen is that the conviction will be overturned".

This seems like "running with the fox and hunting with the hound" to me. We have an tight exclusionary rule, managed by the judge of the case. This makes it safe to enter all the evidence, but we shouldn't do in this case in case the appellate courts reverse because the rule wasn't properly applied? The first part reads like a trenchant vote of confidence in the ability of the DPP to manage prosecutions and judges to handle exclusions and then withdraws that confidence in this case - for what reason? He actually believes this next bit or he is a mate of the prosecutor in the Holohan case and doesn't want to make him look bad? One can only hope the Examiner writer butchered the interview (wouldn't be a first) but it reads very badly as it stands.

In any case, I also doubt his assertion that juries can sort the forensic wheat from the chaff, given the devotion of juries in the United States to CSI, treating with scepticism any unfortunate coroner without a Jerry Bruckheimer forensic lab, one can understand why there was uncertainty on the DPP's side, even on DNA evidence which the public has come to think is bulletproof.

Now we've got to share "our" Sonia

Apparently Sonia O'Sullivan has acquired Australian citizenship so she can try out for Australia in the Commonwealth Games 5,000 metres (for those readers who don't know, Ireland has not been in the Commonwealth since the 40s). The games are being held in Melbourne in March where she has a home. She has pledged to never run against Ireland however. I have no doubt she will be as top an Aussie as she is an Corkonian.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Typical Ireland...

one (small) step forward has to be accompanied by two (large) steps backward.

I can only hope for another humiliating defeat in Zappone in the same vein as Norris. What a great thing to hope for one's country :(

UPDATE: Three steps backward. RTE have updated the first link to say there will not in fact be possible cautions for cannabis possession.

Hail fellow Mick well met...

So there's more of us in Toronto... this lad seems very distressed by the events mentioned in this post though...

Mostly Blue

Well, I'm definitely showing some naivete in the early going. There seems to be as much chance of a Tory ever being elected in Scarborough as the cRaptors winning the NBA championship. Especially as Lee, Karygiannis, John McKay and Wappel are on Tory ground on the issue of same-sex marriage and Cannis wants the Khadrs deported (even the ones who are Canadian). The Toronto Sun probably doesn't have much problem with them.

The only problem is that means both major subway projects pass through incredibly solid Liberal territory.

The only transit authority in the GTA with legitimate hopes under this 905/519 government is GO Transit.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Big deal

The CBC website is moaning that election coverage can't start until 10pm Eastern time. That's because that's when the polls in British Columbia close (7pm Pacific time). CBC stations in various parts of Canada are allowed to post results from polls closed so far, so in Ontario they will be allowed broadcast results from 9.30 eastern, but BC stations will be showing something else until 10.

It eludes me what is to be gained by publicising the results while people anywhere in Canada are still going to the polls, as they used at the last election. Even if polls in Ontario are not closing now until 30 minutes before, it's a principle which should be protected. I also think returning officers should be precluded from releasing any results in progress until this time, so the Newfs would just have to wait for their counterparts on the other coast. Better yet - don't count until the following day. Just because something is technically possible doesn't mean it should be done.

Why should B.C. voters, no matter how many, potentially have information the rest of the country doesn't? Anyone who thinks it doesn't affect turnout even slightly is in a dream world (or running an election results internet site, or the National Citizens Coalition, Harper's old mob), and some B.C. seats will probably be very tight races indeed. Asymmetric information is just plain bad for democracy. Hooray for the British Columbia Court of Appeal (and the Supremes for denying a stay pending full hearing).

(Edited with clarification of the difference between tv and internet coverage)

Election day

This guy certainly exercised his franchise. That much exercise makes me feel tired sitting here!

"Userfriendly" blogging

An early reminder not to take this thing too seriously.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Religion

In yesterday's Star, they reprinted in part a column from Faith Today magazine (www.christianity.ca), asking the party leaders registered with Elections Canada "What role do you think faith should play in developing public policy, and what is the place of religious institutions in contemporary Canadian society?"

Paul Martin: "Since becoming Prime Minister in December 2003" - yes Paul we know. What's worse, it feels like it's been ten years already. He reminds us he met the Dalai Lama, not at Sussex Drive but at the RC Archbishop of Ottawa's pad. Yes, the PM is so fearless in defence of religious liberty, his fear of losing AECL Chinese nuclear contracts and other goodies means he hadn't the stones to have one old guy in a sheet visit his own house. NEXT!

Stephen Harper: "the notion of separation (of church and state) refers to the state not interfering in religious practice and treating all faith communities impartially". Well, yeah, but you want to turn that around and make certain faiths the arbiters of those of other faiths (ones tolerant of same-sex marriage for instance) and of none. He also mentions Smith and Chymyshyn v. Knights of Columbus and Hauser and Lazar which had nothing to do with forcing religious groups to accomodate lesbians and everything to do with a bit of human decency or lack thereof. Harper should consider himself lucky he doesn't live in Italy. NEXT!

Jack Layton: Blah blah multicultural blah blah fluffy bunny blah blah globalisation blah blah we love religion just couldn't eat a whole one. NEXT!

Gilles Duceppe: (in full, translated) On behalf of Mr. Gilles Duceppe, Member of Parliament for Laurier–Sainte-Marie and leader of the Bloc Québécois, we acknowledge receipt of your e-mail dated November 18. We appreciate that you have taken the time to contact us. However, we believe you will concur that matters of faith and religion enter into the realm of private affairs and that consequently, decisions regarding them rest with the individual. You will understand, then, that we will not respond to the question you have submitted to us. We thank you in advance for your understanding. Rest assured that the Bloc Québécois will continue to adopt a responsible attitude and to act in every situation in the interests of the Canadian people.

Kind regards, Marie Bourgeois Correspondence Coordinator

To channel Jon Stewart for a moment: DAMN YOU SENSIBLE SEPARATISTS!

Best of a bad lot?

No thanks to Rogers Digital TV Guide or Friday's Toronto Star, I finally found out United v Liverpool was actually being shown this morning. Sunday's paper finally had it right. After Burton Albion were dispatched during the week by Joe the Yank et al, today Rio Ferdinand decided to make himself useful. Maybe he's figured out finally that with big money comes big responsibility?

Why does second place to ChelsKGB seem so dire? It's probably the knowledge of how bad things would be without Mighty Mouth and the Dutch contingent up front and right at the back. It's also a forboding as to how bad things might be for Scholes.

It's always cheering to see the Scousers emotionally crushed with a last minute winner (shades of Eric), but surely a lot of the current squad (Fortune, Silvestre, John O'Shea if he doesn't improve smartly) will be seeking new homes next season, even though one who will surely be dumped should never have to leave, and apparently there is still hope that he won't.

False Sens of security

Okay, I think we've lulled them enough now.

Another disaster on Monday in Scotiabank Place (so far from downtown Ottawa it might as well be in Nova Scotia) and maybe Pat really will be in trouble.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cork airport shambles

Cork airport's never had it easy really. Stuck on top of a hill, public transport links dubious, god awful when it rains. Runway 17/35 maybe a little short for direct transatlantic, and too sloping over the end for a Category III instrument landing system. 07/25 cut off by the Kinsale Road so only for the smallies. Fog all the time, cue excursions to Kerry, Dublin and Shannon. Meanwhile the airport gains its (kind of) independence from Dublin but loses key personnel, promised airbridges and promised debt-free beginnings.

But it's Cork's and not doing too badly in attracting more traffic, especially since Jetmagic persuaded Aer Lingus that people actually wanted to go somewhere other than Heathrow and Amsterdam.

We were getting a new terminal which hopefully wouldn't involve incoming passengers to wait on the apron in the freezing cold/wet/wind because of an overflowing immigration queue, missing flights because of check-in queues etc. Michael O'Leary offered to make the old terminal a low-cost pier and let Cork Airport Authority have it's gold plated toy. Well, it's more like fool's gold.

The airport operators committee (the airlines and other users of the airport) wrote a letter to the airport which the Indo picked up on Thursday. (rego required)
  • Space for queuing in the old terminal is better than in the new terminal.
  • Space for ticket and check-in staff is totally inadequate.
  • Self-service kiosks are located in the wrong area.
  • Only three passenger screening/X-ray arches are planned, totally inadequate for current passenger throughput.
  • Provision of only one air-bridge is a flagrant disregard for demands for better passenger embarkation facilities.
  • Despite the lack of air-bridges, passengers will not even have covered walkways for getting to and from aircraft.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la mauvais? Pardon my French...

Tax deductible transit

I'm sure Joe Mihevc thought he was doing his NDP mates a favour when the TTC commissioner said the Tories 16% tax deduction for transit would merely be the spur for the TTC to hike fares by the same figure. Instead he looked spiteful at the prospect of a looming Harper administration, and while he might have every right to fear it, he may have done his cause more harm than good, at a time when he might have been expected to keep his head down after his less than deft stick-handling of the St. Clair Right-Of-Way. The only surprise is that if a TTC commissioner was likely to say something stupid, it wasn't the Chair.

Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association told the Toronto Star existing vehicles are full up at rush hour. Someone should tell the TTC to stop adding riders.

My thinking on this is that a tax credit gets people out of cars. This is a good thing - people who can afford to park downtown definitely pay enough tax to reclaim it with a tax credit.

Should that be the only support for transit, given that the tax credit doesn't build new subways or reduce the cost of transit for poorer people who don't pay income taxes? No. Ireland has tax incentives for employers and employees to use annual commuter passes but still funds capital projects.

Is there an equality issue, that poor people may pay more for transit? Maybe, perhaps that can be worked out with refundable credits or other measures, but the poor for sure can't afford to escape to cottages when the fumes from middle and upper class commuters' cars are choking them on smog days (48 in 2005).

Will telling the Tories your transit system will sabotage their tax credit induce them to pony up infrastructure dollars? Doubtful - more likely that the construction lobby are rubbing their hands that their new highways are even more certain, now the doors to subway and LRT lobbyists are going to be slammed shut, spurred on the neo-con wing of the Tories.

The Tories are also proposing to make bulk purchases of TTC fares tax deductible as well as metropasses. A metropass encourages off-hours transit which increases ridership at times when subways and buses are emptier because there's no incremental cost. Bulk tokens just make 10 journeys a week to and from work cheaper but don't encourage use at weekends as much. Until a metropass costs the same as 10 tokens a week there is no incentive for me to get one, especially if I get the same tax credit on both. More importantly, since the TTC ticket machines have started to disappear, the longer queues at subway station ticket collectors will grow longer still if everybody seeks receipts rather than the few who already do, and the remaining ticket machines are pulled out of service for refitting with receipts, as happened with the new $10 and $20 bills.

James Bow has posted a measured response to these events at Transit Toronto.

Certainly the York University subway extension must be looking shakier. With the Greg Sorbara investigation ongoing the biggest provincial cheerleader is missing in action and that part of Toronto has provided the Liberals with its widest margins of federal electoral victory. If the Tories win seats in the east of the city but not in York then if there is new infrastructure money it may be the SRT replacement which is built first.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why?

It beats pestering the Letters editors of the various Toronto and Irish newspapers with my spleen I suppose. Never thought this blog thing would keep going - in fact now I've given in and started one seems like about time it died... back in the days of Mosaic it was so much harder to interest people in Tim Berners-Lee's invention and now you can't pry them off it.

There's just too many things that just bug me - especially during this federal election campaign as I still have taxation without representation, (roll on 2008) but even if I did have a vote, there's just no place for a socially liberal fiscal conservative. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. The incumbents are floundering and attempting to buy off all and sundry, forgetting that's what got them in trouble in the first place. Then there's the other crowd who constantly display their schizophrenia, really wanting to be fluffy bunnies but unwilling to forgo their buddies in Big Auto, who then abandon them at the first sign of Reform.

Then there's the few good blogs I've come across, especially the Bouncer, but more recently this firebrand I used to spar with.

To me, however, message boards and now blogs are cathartic - I've been to Speakers' Corner (but only watched) but as I get older I understand the impulse more - to have one's say, even if it won't change the mind of more than one person in the crowd, or even change one's own by the act of verbalising the turmoil inside.

Perhaps we've swapped the mass demos of our predecessors in the 60s and 70s for a more individualistic approach but we still care. Arguably, blogs now are more influential on the political process than protest marches then (and certainly more than protest marches now). Is this a good thing? Probably not for political or sociological purists. It plays into the media's hands, giving them a lazy way of filling column inches in the Star or filching quotes on sensitive subjects from forums clearly labelled speculative. But it sure beats the alternative, where nobody can disrupt the increasing safety-first, damn the individual effect, sclerotic thinking of bureaucracy everywhere.

That thinking is also part of the backlash against Wikipedia. I'm an editor there, and therefore this opinion is probably not strictly NPOV, but the whole is judged by the actions of the linkspammers and the people who get off on anonymous slander. Neither of these can come close to the social good that is a world wide movement of people dedicated (mostly) to expanding the pool of knowledge, the ease of access to that knowledge and most importantly operating by consensus (even if we're all still figuring out what that is). It doesn't replace traditional sources and yes, not enough people keep that in mind but it's a startling achievement none the less.

I still keep in touch with stuff back in Ireland, especially in the field of infrastructure and architecture, two of the many fields I think about a lot with no qualifications of any kind to back it up.

I have no idea where this blog is headed, but hopefully someone will decide to follow anyway. If not, it's still more comfortable than Hyde Park in January.