Sunday, January 28, 2007

Darwin Award seeker "youtubes" own speeding in Dublin Port Tunnel

Dublin driver driving an articulated vehicle at way over the posted 50km/h limit in the new Dublin Port Tunnel with U2 blaring and one hand on his mobile phone. Hopefully with enough eyeballs on it this person will either be prosecuted or get a good kicking, whichever is convenient, before other people have to suffer.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A suggestion for Ontario's minimum wage

Cheri DiNovo, NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park, has been spearheading an increase in the Ontario minimum wage to $10 an hour. The current wage is due to go from $7.75 to $8.00, an increase of 3.2%, on February 1st subject to certain exclusions. I am a bit wary of the round number of $10 since like the publishing of public service salaries over $100,000 it tends to be worth less over time and might take a while to edge up again - instead it should be linked at least to the Consumer Price Index.

I also note that in the U.S. there are moves to increase the Federal minimum, which is popular in many states since those states already exceed both the existing and in some cases the new federal floor, although it has run into trouble in the Senate. In Ireland the rate is C$12.68 with some exclusions.

The Liberal government, who just raised MPPs salary's by $22,000 annually (2,750 hours at minimum rates just for the increase!) opposes this and bloggers duly went to bat, with Jason Cherniak's hamhanded defence of the McGuinty position leading many including myself to pile on. However, my concern is that McGuinty will not want to give the NDP a win and especially one to an MPP sitting in what used to be Gerard Kennedy's seat. With Marilyn Churley openly talking about a run on the federal seat in the Beaches and the likes of Giambrone and Perks in City Hall the yellowing of southern Toronto must be worrying federal and provincial Liberals alike.

I'd like to offer a compromise. Of particular concern to me is the number of people living on the minimum but who don't work 40 hours a week - instead working 8 hours here, 6 hours there. I would propose essentially splitting the difference for a 40 hour week worker - the first 20 hours at $10/hr and the next 20 at the existing $8.

This gives a substantial increase and is a disincentive to employers who dribble out hours here and there forcing people, especially single parents, to work multiple jobs involving multiple commutes and loss of family time. Surely the Liberals must realise the folly of their meagre raises to date especially given the need to break the welfare trap and given that John Tory is moving (obliquely to avoid alienating his paymasters) to highlight McGuinty's discomfort.

Wow, this FF/PD Government really loves Fermoy

BUPA closing down, so are FCI. But never mind, have a prison instead! Obviously since Portlaoise was bypassed the law and order types in Cabinet felt the youngsters travelling from Dublin-Cork could do with the sight of a depressing edifice. Not really sure that counts as public art...

Monday, January 22, 2007

On both sides of the border, oil subsidies under threat

As Environment Minister Baird muses aloud about how those pesky Liberals like Stephane Dion subsidised the tarsands and he can't figure out why, the U.S. House of Representatives votes 264-163, including 36 Republicans voting with the majority Democrats, to repeal US$14bn of oil subsidies and other financial benefits. (NYT, rego required)

Garth Turner fires back at Baird, pointing out some interesting issues:
  • Dion was not involved in the programme Baird mentioned
  • the programme began when oil was at $21/bbl, not $50 as it has been recently
  • tarsands get more financial benefits than conventional oil and gas - in fact the same incentives as renewables
Turner goes on:
what we don’t need is an environment minister who has started his mandate lying about who did what, when, instead of what he’s going to do, now.
Indeed. However, it would have been good to see the Martin government think aloud about these subsidies when they had the chance. From when Martin took power in December 2003, the price of a barrel of oil gained from about $33 to $55 the following October. Even with the political uncertainty the U.S. fuel use in its Iraq operations and the effect of war and sabotage on the oil fields were unlikely to depress the price very far and Martin had only one Alberta seat to lose, and they lost it anyway. His minority props the NDP and BQ would have supported the rollback. This lost opportunity has the hallmarks of the dithering over the board of AHRC.

But then without the federally assisted boom in Alberta they would have had to do something about the unemployment situation in Newfoundland and the rest of Atlantic Canada. Instead they simply watched them move west to Fort MacMurray, burning greenhouse gases on their commute to and from their families on the Rock.

SNAPping into place

I'm trying out SNAP which gives you a preview picture of a link when you hover over it. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SK down, QC up - ON... still paying the bill.

Harper's trial balloon for equalisation is peeking out and it looks like $1.5bn more for Quebec and $600 million less for Saskatchewan. This is achieved by only counting 50% of resource revenues. Now SK might complain that other provinces benefited more or less in the past but the 50% is ridiculous. Resource revenue should be counted the same as everything else. Transitional equalisation payments rather than immediate clawback should be a function of equalisation rather than of how provincial revenues are counted. The effect is the same but the sense of fiddling with the system is removed.

This is how structural funds work in the European Union. Ireland still managed to draw down quite a bit after we approached 100% of average EU GDP by use of regionalisation due to disproportionate economic growth in certain areas like the east coast.

Like the income trust tax, the 100% exemption for Saskatchewan was a bad promise but it's a pity the Tories couldn't be similarly daring in this volte face. As for Quebec, the least they could do is put signs with trilliums (the old ones not the Liberal ones) outside their $7/day daycares.

Real-ly bitter

That David Beckham's move to LA is more about money and a possible film career for Victoria is one thing. Real Madrid's reaction in its childishness, with Capello's public decision not to select him for the remainder of the season essentially constructively dismissing Beckham and then the club criticising him for wanting to join LA Galaxy early rather than sit in the stands is shocking and I hope true Madrid supporters are ashamed.

This is a club that has had no compunction about raiding clubs for their players by declaring their interest (especially when Presidential elections are afoot) but for once are confronted by a deal they can't match even with the historic assistance they have had from various levels of government. This behaviour is making the Americans look like the classy ones - how did that happen?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Add this to Mugabe's crimes - harbouring a genocidal fugitive

Robert Mugabe's laundry list expands further, adding to
  • persecution of homosexuals
  • disenfranchisement and persecution of opponents
  • gerrymandering of the Courts
  • provider of State mercenaries
  • thief of productive land to reward the returning mercenaries
  • election rigger
  • unwanted guest.
Now he gives haven to Mengistu Haile Mariam, convicted with a life term for genocide in Ethiopia. Zimbabwe continues to suffer, China props them up, South Africa stands idly by. Given his status as a Catholic, it's worth noting the Vatican's relative indolence. I suppose they are busy with the more serious crisis of same sex marriage and all.

First Muslim Arab nominated to Israeli Cabinet

Raleb Majadele has been nominated to the Cabinet as Minister of Science and Technology by the leader of the Labour party Amir Peretz. Labour is in coalition with Kadima whose leader Ehud Olmert serves as Prime Minister.

This follows the appointment of a Druze (though without portfolio) in 2001. Despite the opposition from hardliners I hope this appointment sticks and is a tangible step towards better co-existence with Arab Israeli citizens - certainly better willingness for co-existence than Binjamin Netanyahu displayed recently.

Wanted: full service airline. Apply: Dublin Airport

Aer Lingus check-in agents will now be getting 10% of excess baggage payments, to a minimum of 1,000 Euro (C$1,500) in year one. So don't count on discretion if you're a half-pound over any more.

Why Dion should have pushed nuclear in Calgary

This isn't a follow up to Thursday's post but rather to Far and Wide's entry about Stephane Dion's speech on energy in Alberta during the week. I was posting in response to another comment by someone called "Sceptical Environmental":
Answer me this: if Dion were sincere in wanting us to use less gas, why did he vote against California-style mandatory emissions standards last year? Dion also said his solution to climate change in the oil sands is to have nukes power the whole thing. Who says this guy's an environmentalist??
Dion said the absolute opposite - that while energy generation is a provincial matter, he does not believe nuclear is a viable option. I disagree. Given the size of the comment my disagreement seemed to be generating, I opted to move it here.

Please note at this point - I believe in aggressive conservation, supply management and innovations like Deep Lake Cooling but this is a province where peak demand has grown 20% or 1646MW in the four years from 2001-05 due to the oil sands but also to inward migration. Treading water would be a superb achievement at this point. Putting multiple small baseload reactors in Alberta would
  • remove the need to use fossil fuels to produce heat for bitumen extraction and processing
  • facilitate electrification of high speed intercity, freight and commuter rail and the expansion of existing urban light rail in the Calgary-Edmonton-Fort Mac corridor
  • backstop the Alberta wind power industry which will be limited by the need to provide reserve balancing power, which displacing base load gas generators to reserve would provide
  • co-fund the next generation of reactors with Ontario to lower both provinces costs
  • kill existing plans to expand or add coal generation and close all existing coal generators
  • sell low-GHG power into the interconnectors to MT, SK and particularly BC grids, given Gordon Campbell's insane rush to coal
  • reduce or reverse Alberta's energy deficit (net electricity imports about $125m in 2005 alone)
Alberta Generating Capacity [MW]
Coal 5,840; Gas 4,335; Hydro 900; Wind 287; Biomass 183; Fuel Oil 12 - Subtotal 11,557
Planned expansions include: 170MW bitumen in Fort Mac, 30MW + 160MW coal plant upgrades, 900MW coal in Luscar, 450MW coal at Keephills No.3.

Coal is the primary enemy - in addition to carbon dioxide, conventional power stations release mercury, radioisotopes, particulates and sulphur oxides, and despite "clean-coal" promises the same kind of coal plants keep being built. If I were Dion I would advocate building six or seven 700MW ACRs and maybe an 1200MW or two and if really ambitious some SLOWPOKE-3s in the 2-10MW range for distributed power. By using Canadian uranium and using AECL designs adding to Canada's national energy deficit is avoided.

If you don't want to throw the Alberta coal miners out of work (though more for the impact on their communities than the lack of labour opportunities elsewhere in the province) but don't want to send the product to China to end up as a beige-stained cloud on the Pacific Ocean jetstream heading back towards Canada, use the reactors to power syngas processes. This would produce SNG or low-sulphur diesel out of the coal but without releasing the radioisotopes, sulphur and mercury from burning it.

In addition to producing nuclear energy such stations should facilitate other energy options such as wind and solar power, biogas/waste-to-energy, pumped storage and so on to leverage grid connections and provide peak load capacity.

Dion is going to have to face facts - he can oppose nuclear power and fail utterly or he can follow the lead of ex-Greenpeace founder and president and now hated apostate Patrick Moore and realise that while it would be nice to wake up one morning to find the world powered by deuterium-tritium or (p + 11B) fusion or better still vacuum energy that we can't leave things as they are.

No matter what people say in surveys, they answer more truthfully in their purchases of 50" plasma screen TVs. Even with conservation of residential and industrial power, the electrification and expansion of public transit and railfreight and the Liberal policy of 1% immigration per annum will continue to increase net power requirement even as residential per capita use drops. Simply pushing up electricity pricing tends to impact disproportionately on low income communities housed in ageing facilities where electricity is both ambient heat and water heat.

The long term goal should be a fully interconnected National Electricity Grid where provinces with abundant hydro and wind and with the money to invest in nuclear, displace both coal and baseload gas, from other Canadian provinces but also the US, whose coal plants are also expanding and whose exhaust also tracks over Canada.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What is up with Gordon Campbell's love of fossil fuels?

It is a basic tenet of Canadian politics that political and federal versions of a given political party are often more first cousins than siblings, such as in Quebec where a former Tory MP is leader of the Liberals and Premier.

In B.C. the contrast between federal and provincial parties is coming into sharp focus on the issue of the environment. Stephane Dion came to power promising strong action on climate change, Gordon Campbell can't get stuck into offshore oil drilling and coal powered electricity fast enough.

Does the Premier of B.C. think his fossil fuel production will have grandfathered immunity under a Dion regime or will he be ensconced in retirement in a comfortable corner office and beyond caring? All this in a province with the strongest Green party support, where local opposition managed to prevent a gas generation station across the US border with higher emission standards than the two coal plants Campbell's government just approved and where Chinese coal particles are being deposited from the Pacific winds?

How hard is it to spell a four letter word?

It's Wajid Khan for pity's sake, not Kahn. Blogs on all sides can't manage it. Bloggers are bad, so-called national newspapers worse. If there was any spelling error to be made in his name I expected it to be "Wajit". Other Khans in history:
As for Kahns, well, there's
Now all you bloggers out there, Tory gloaters and Liberal spiters alike, get it right before I set Ricardo Montalbán on your ass. He may be old but I bet he's got some moves. And you Tories - what a prize you have. A guy who used to spend his mornings gorming with on FAN590 with Landry and Stellick. God help us all if the guy from Korry's on Danforth who advertises on the FAN runs for office, even if it's against fungus face.

Beckham: you read it here first (well, sort of)

Toronto cares only about (fully grown not baby) Leafs in hockey terms, and a team doesn't have a European name, they aren't interested in soccer either. I mean, they hired SuperMo/Judas as coach which spiked interest for 10 seconds but still, we're not in the New York Cosmos days of Pele and Beckenbauer right? Hang on - maybe this guy will attract some interest. His best years are behind him and he would attract an enormous salary. Sounds just right for a Toronto team, especially one owned by MLSE. (From Cork to Toronto, November 12).
Right League, right player... wrong suckers. RTE Sport, on the other hand, had the suckers spot on. Though having done a little digging, it seems ESPN were even more on the ball.

Toronto FC may have sold 100 more season tickets today on the strength of the announcement of Goldenballs' impending visit with his La-La-land teammates, bringing their total sold to 7,000, but can they really assure us that the minion in charge of Ted's Shed hasn't received a call from the Borg drone at BMO Field inquiring about the availability of a near 50,000 seat venue for one date next summer? I suppose the Bank of Montreal would have something to say about that though.

As for which overpaid foreign player Toronto will feel obligated to splurge on? Speculation on the FAN590 (Bob McCown talks soccer - voluntarily!) includes a nice Portuguese boy. I'm sure a chat with the current most famous Portuguese-Canadian (and Toronto resident) Nelly Furtado could sell him on it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

You make me happy, when skies are grey

Updated to fix some dead links.

For a Celtic and Manchester United supporter, this is a dream combo -
"Larsson (Solskjaer 78 mins)"
"Goals: Larsson 55, Solskjaer 90"

The players who share a song shared the 2-1 win in the FA Cup Third Round - I trust Ole has no problems sharing with a Swede. Pity Martin O'Neill, who managed Larsson for Celtic in the glory days of the Seville UEFA Cup final, who must have feared the worst seeing him in a United shirt to face his new Aston Villa charges.

Larsson is due to leave United at the end of his loan period on March 12 when Helsingborg's season begins but the buzz to keep him is merely a reflection of the desperation that sets in when you cut loose a world-class striker and have to deal with being without him. Sadly they did "take my Larsson away" from Celtic and I think it might be best that Henrik has a brief but stellar stay and leaves for Sweden with everyone getting what they originally wanted from the deal - goals for United, match fitness for Helsingborg.

BBC's Shockwave replay system doesn't work for Solskjaer's goal (do we need any more conspiracy hints when BBC still employs Alan Green) so once again, we look to Youtube to save the day.

Larsson opens his United account

Solskjaer shows once again he is the man that replaced Cantona when it came to finding a way to score at the death - especially when it counted the most (Treble, at least!)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

On global warming denial

One of the problems with podcasts is that one rarely gets to listen, they build up and you feel obligated to at least try and catch up. I was listening to an audio podcast from the December 13th the Agenda on TVO (about which I have written previously) which concerned the question of the amount of room for true debate in modern media. At one point the question of the use of the word "denier", usually linked to those who dispute or downplay the Holocaust, being used to describe those who do not subscribe to the theory of Global Warming while discussing a recent column by Rex Murphy. One of the participants said (and I have done my best to transcribe accurately and all emphasis below is mine):
Until today I never heard the term "global warming denier" okay, until I read Rex Murphy's column. I don't think... I haven't heard that term. I hear "sceptic", is the term I hear. If someone's using the term "denier" that's the wrong term because it makes of us think of the Holocaust, which is a fact. Global warming is a theory. Now, it's a very widely held theory, but it's still a theory.
The speaker was apparently (as I said, audio only) Judy Rebick, of I was curious as to which fringe theorist Murphy had found using such an inflammatory term. I found this as the second google hit, a June 2nd piece in the Washington Post. which led in from the reading of a form letter by Senator George "Macaca" Allen, now unemployed (or not employed on Capitol Hill anyway) but then a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"Oh God," interrupts Gore, cutting the performance short with a weary sigh at yet another example of what he likes to call the "global warming deniers" -- people who may have come around to the acceptance of global warming as real, but who still cling to what he calls the "manifestly untrue" explanation that it's all, or mostly, the result of natural causes.
Al Gore, this is the fringe theorist using this inflammatory term. But it wasn't a direct quote so I tried googling but adding Gore's name. This produced the following from the Seattle Times in reference to Congressman Dave Reichert (Rep.):
"C'mon! And this man is a United States congressman?" asked Gore. "You know, 15 percent of people believe the moon landing was staged on some movie lot and a somewhat smaller number still believe the Earth is flat. They get together on Saturday night and party with the global-warming deniers."
It also produced this op-ed by Gore in the Daily Telegraph:
The global-warming deniers in the US were so enthusiastic about this particular canard that our National Academy of Sciences eventually put together a formal panel, comprised of a broad range of scientists, including some of the most sceptical, which vindicated the main findings embodied in the "hockey stick" and definitely rejected the claims that Monckton is now recycling for British readers.
I do agree with Rebick. Gore should not use this term in such a blanket manner as it does have connotations beyond scientific debate. The CBC broadcast a Fifth Estate programme, The Denial Machine, (google video) though the CBC programme does deal with active efforts to suppress and alter government materials so the description seems more apt and the people who did it are clearly identified, especially with reference to the previous antics of the tobacco industry.

There are many things that could be done to reduce the disproportionate effect North Americans are having on the planet per capita and rather than do some work on it, even where it would have little economic impact, there is a coterie of politicians and business people who prefer not to acknowledge the issue. Some Senate Republicans seized on Gore's term, declaring there would be "Nuremberg trials for skeptics" (although reading that linked release and who they're complaining about makes you wonder how the US got as powerful as it has with such a weird system of governing).

Japan's resource dependency has kept them intensely focused on getting more benefit out of less energy. (New York Times - rego or bugmenot required) The US focus is merely on getting more energy, continuing to rely heavily on coal for domestic power and refusing to consider major investments in renewables and with no plan to develop new nuclear facilities while the clock runs out on the existing ones. Japan's energy efficiency has created products which are now a US$7.9bn export industry, ten times the figure in 2000. There politicians lead by example with the Prime Minister installing fuel cells at home, and the average Japanese home uses about 40% of a US household's electricity demand.

Reducing global warming impact often has implications for improving production efficiency in general which can create positive economic impact and reduce non-GHG impacts too. When the Montreal Protocol required the elimination of trichloroethane from the production processes of a company I worked for, it made them look at not merely replacing the solvent but finding ways to reuse and reclaim the replacement. Even if it turns out, as many sceptics think, that natural processes are causing climate change to the extent that human intervention is not significant, this kind of environmental action is not wasted and if it turns out to be humans then it's a good job we did it.

For those "conservatives" who still don't want to know - it's the economy, stupid. One day that phrase will doom US conservatives as surely as when Bill Clinton first coined it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dammit Jim, I'm a drummer not a goalkeeper!

Tommy Lee has done many things in his life - musician, participant in a world famous sex video, college student (sort of), reality show judge. Now he tries to help Macclesfield Town throw Chelsea out of the FA Cup.

John Murphy's equaliser had briefly raised Town's hopes of causing a shock.

But Macclesfield's dreams were cruelly shattered seconds after the re-start when goalkeeper Tommy Lee* was harshly adjudged to have felled Andriy Shevchenko in the penalty area and was sent-off.

Macclesfield's dreams of a cup upset disappeared when goalkeeper Lee was harshly sent-off for colliding with Shevchenko a minute after the re-start.

The Ukrainian forward had been put through by Wright-Phillips but lost his footing and was already falling when he fell over the onrushing Lee.
Poor Tommy. He's so misunderstood.

* Yes, I know it's not the same one. Work with me people.

"He won't be showing that video to the grandchildren"

On the BBC quiz show "A Question of Sport" there's a "what happened next" thing where a video clip was shown in part and the teams had to figure out what (usually pretty unlikely and/or amusing) incident happened at the end. This clip is an excellent contender, when Patrik "king of flub" Stefan misses an open goal with 11 seconds left to make it 6-4 for Dallas, then Edmonton's Ales Hemsky heads down the ice to score with 2 seconds left, making it 5-5 to force overtime and get an unlikely point.

Fortunately for Stefan his teammates bailed him out in the post-overtime shootout to take the win. Given that Edmonton had blown a 4-1 lead they were probably relieved to get anything out of the game.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jack Layton's broken promise?

James Bow notes that a promise Jack Layton made has not been kept - to lose his face fungus in a charity bet. Perhaps someone out there knows why he hasn't followed through yet.

Photoshop from Sweet Neo Conned

Update: Northern BC Dipper has found that KISS-FM failed to come up with the $1,000 required to meet one of the bet's three conditions. Couldn't he have just have run a deficit?

Monday, January 01, 2007

This is what you do when people think you're getting too sensible.

Ken Livingstone had a bonkers idea - congestion charging. Ken was used to his bonkers ideas drawing ridicule and fury and ultimately collapsing under their ideological weight. Ken's congestion charge idea largely worked though and he was at a loss - people were starting to take him seriously. Never mind! Our hero, not having an oil industry to nationalise like Hugo Chavez, came up with the next best thing - a two million pound sterling (C$4m+) street party in Trafalgar Square to celebrate 50 years of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution. No doubt the extension of the congestion zone and the hike in the charge he said wouldn't need to be increased for 10 years will pay for it.

Red Ken - back in business!

(seen at: Political Quote)