Categories: misc, personal, technology

quelques recontres

J’ai l’intention de participer à ces evenments:


Categories: politics

parc is parc

from patrick, chalk one up for the good guys.

UPDATE:
says mayor tremblay on the radio this morning: “I have learned that the opinion of citizens is important.”

glad to know such important lessons are in the process of being absorbed by our leading politicians.


net neutrality panel, ottawa tonight

Net Neutrality: A Public Discussion on the Future of the Internet in Canada

Date and Location:
Tues, February 6, 2007 , 7 pm
Admission: Free
Ottawa Public Library Auditorium
120 Metcalfe St.

Moderated by:
Pippa Lawson: Executive Director, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa

Panelists:

* Michael Geist: Professor of Law, Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa
* Ren Bucholz: Electronic Frontier Foundation Policy Coordinator, Americas
* Andrew Clement: Professor, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto; Principal Investigator, Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking
* Bill St-Arnaud: Senior Director, Advanced Networks for CANARIE, Inc.


Categories: data, media, technology

if you got digg, you gotta dog

For the hardcore info junkie, there was no better feed for your veins than diggdot.us: a feed of the purest quality, distilled from a mix of digg.com, del.icio.us/popular, and slashdot.org.

Cease and desist letters sent. diggdot.us is now doggdot.us. No harm done I guess, but digg are jerks.


Categories: books, review

BookReview: The Human Stain

The Human Stain

Book by Philip Roth

This is my first Roth book, which is a little embarrassing since he’s considered by some to be the greatest living American writer. The Human Stain is supposed to be among his best, and it is a well-crafted work of great skill: about a black man who lives as a white, turfed from his professorship for uttering a racist slur (a false accusation and a witch hunt), who recedes into bitterness and starts an affair with a younger (he’s 72; she’s 34), illiterate cleaning woman. Things end badly. A violent ex-husband, a truck, and a lake are all involved. In the back-drop, Clinton-Lewinsky (with parallels to the older Coleman Silk and the younger Faunia Farley) surfaces and resurfaces, and provides the political grounding of the novel, a campus morality tale where those most harshly judged are the petty faux-puritains maurauding around the quiet college town, and indeed the whole country.

Roth didn’t quite catch me with this book: it seems very much rooted in its time (1998, when the President’s offences involved fellatio and cigars, and not dubious wars), though there was much more in there, among other things: race relations, violence, Vietnam, the Greeks, the lies we tell ourselves and those closest to us. But something felt forced, the allegorical structure a little too present, a little too solid. Still, a master craftsman, to be admired.

My rating: 3.5 stars
***1/2


Categories: environment, politics

climate reality check

We seem to have reached a tipping point in public and policy opinion on climate change, which is something of a relief, but also very scary. Up until even the last few weeks, I felt that my tiny contribution to the debate was through occasional posts here, addressing some of the science as we know it, mostly in an attempt to make known the state of science. (In a previous life, I spent a few years working more directly on climate change issues, in policy, finance, and technology development).

But now that, in Canada at least, it has become politically untenable to deny climate change – the Liberals, NDP and Bloc are all climate believers; the Conservatives have just converted, either for political expediency, or after finally coming to terms with the science. There is no going back, unless the science changes. So the question is no longer: Is it a problem? or Should we do anything? but: What (the hell) do we do now?

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc have all come out demanding that the Conservative inplement policy to make Canada “meet Kyoto’s targets.” This is inane political posturing, and on the part of the Liberals, a little hard to stomach. The Liberals presided over the entire Kyoto era, and agreed in 1998 to GHG emissions reductions to 6% below 1990 levels; and in 2002 ratified the Kyoto Protocol (meaning those reductions became “binding”). As the Conservatives keep telling us (rightly) the Liberals signed and ratified the Protocol without putting in (or even proposing) one shred of binding policy, or any kind of serious plan to meet those targets. Under their dismal environmental stewardship, Canada emissions grew to something like 30% higher than the targets they agreed to as ratified (and is, by the way, twice as bad as the US that signed, but never ratified Kyoto). Stephane Dion may have a dog named Kyoto; and he may be serious about the environment, but his party sure as hell has not demonstrated any leadership on climate change in the past, except for ratifying an international treaty that binds Canada to reductions without giving any thought to how those reductions would be met. Which has one positive impact: it highlights in glaring blod face how much work we have to do.

Which is why the Libs/NDP/Bloc calling for the Conservatives to meet Kyoto targets is dishonest and laughable, though it does put the pressure on to come up with concrete policies (which, to their credit, the Conservatives have started to do, for all the criticisms heaped on their Clean Air Act).

To put it in context, to meet our Kyoto targets we would have to do several things (based on 2003 numbers):
1. make all Canadian houses 30% more energy efficient
2. make all Canadian cars 30% more efficient (or, say, make every Canadian take a bike to work two days a week)
3. make every business (including industrial manufacturing, mining, and oil production) 30% more energy efficient (or close them down for 2 days of the week).
4. shut down all thermal power plants (about 30% of electricty production in Canada, the balance being hydro 60% and 12% nuclear) and replace with nukes, or some other renewables, equalling a 4x increase in nukes, or a 2000% increase in renewable contributions, going from roughly 500 MW of wind to 10,000 MW of wind, an investment on the order of 10 billion dollars).

We should be doing these things, but the scale of change to our society needed is truly massive. All areas of energy use must change: housing, transport, food production, manufacturing, urban planning, oil and gas production. To make that happen the empty posturing of the Liberals and NDP and Bloc is perhaps politically useful (if disingenuous), but it does nothing to solve the problem, which transcends party lines.

What IS needed is a massive investment in time and energy to come up with some concrete and serious ways that we can address the issue in a reasonable way without throwing the country on its ear. The sooner we start the better. It would have been nice to start in 1998 when we first signed Kyoto, but for whatever reason – political or practical – that hasn’t happened.

I’m no great fan of the Conservatives, but they are in theory the hard-nosed pragmatic doers, not the political dreamers we lefties are supposed to be. That’s encouraging (though I said the same thing when Bush won the presidency on a CO2-regulation platform in 2000, and look where that got us). So: do the Conservatives have the political will to do something about climate change? Or are they just shifting their rhetoric in response to polls? We’ll find out.

Also, just an asside. What can the world of the web do to help address this problem in a serious, significant way? Anyone have any ideas?


the web is us/ing us

Explains what the hell is going on on the web in a pretty compelling way. If you know all this, its fun to watch. If you don’t know all this, it might be too fast to follow. But entertaining nonetheless.


Categories: data, politics, technology

visiblepolitics.org (again)

So it’s registered and up and running: http://visiblepolitics.org/

VisiblePolitics is a project to create a complete listing of Canadian federal politicians, parties and ridings, with information about policies, funding, voting records, public statements, press, among other things. VisiblePolitics is a source of information; it is NOT a source of, or forum for advocacy of any kind.

A totally open project if anyone wants to join in to help out. Doesn’t have to be wiki I guess, but I just cant see another way to get the info in so easily. I guess project discussion should happen here: About the Project. There’s a short list of things that could use some help, but I didn’t think very long or hard about it. No idea if this’ll work or not…

The one thing I REALLY want is someone who can help me install/figure out how to use this:
XFeed-RSS Aggregator

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Find out who your Member of Parliament is
2. Visit the site: http://visiblepolitics.org
3. Add some info about your MP (you can copy some stuff from Wikipedia, some from the Canadian Parliament website, and ideally from the mess that is Elections Canada’s financial info site).

OR:
4. Help with layout, wikiness, project direction, and tools (RSS aggregator in the wiki!!)


climate (& iraq?)

According to a recent Globe & Mail poll, suddenly, strangely, climate change has become the most important issue for the majority of Canadians (climate change topped the list for 26% of Canadians, followed by health & security). A curious and surprising event, perhaps an interesting result of the democratic system.

When the Liberals (as a centrist/left party, theoretically more enviromentally friendly than the right wing Conservatives) were in power, they did NOTHING on climate change. No policy, no effective strategy, no concrete action, and no results, except a 30% increase in CO2 emissions. But when the Liberals were in power, the official oposition was the Conservatives, right wing, oil-based, and hostile to policies addressing climate change (which will have a big impact on the oil industry and energy-intensive business). So agressive climate action on the part of the Libs would have resulted in strong opposition from the Conservatives. So the Libs did nothing.

Now, the Conservatives are in power, and they just got slaughtered (by the Libs, Bloc and NDP, and public opinion) for their weak stand on climate change in their recent Clean Air Bill (tho, in their defense, at least they tabled serious policies/laws with actual impacts on industry: the Libs never did). Stephane Dion is leading the charge, and in all the hooplah, climate change lands at the forefront of issues in the mind of Canadians. Harper shuffles his deck, and climate change becomes the Conservatives shiny new focus.

So, strike one up for Minority government as a good way to get things done that people actually want: those who pull the strings in power (the Conservatives) are forced to adjust their policies according to pressures from the other side of the spectrum. Which, theoretically at least, is a good way to ensure balanced government…And one hopes, a step in the direction of taking climate change seriously as a problem.

Hopping from government to media, interesting shift in the Globe and Mail this weekend too. Rex Murphy is the Globe’s shrillest climate alarmist-alarmist (he worries endlessly about the climate change propogandists and doomsdayers that run the National Academies of Sciences in all the biggest countries and economies of the world). He has spent the last 5 or 6 thousand years scoffing at, sneering about, and dismissing climate change, with few updates in his rhetoric for annoying things like the scientific advances. But even Rex seemed to back off in his weekly column yesterday. Well, almost. He presents a couple of examples of climate research gone wild (an Italian study linking suicide with climate change, and Al-Qaeda’s insistence that the US sign the Kyoto Agreement) as evidence that the rest of the scientists are single-minded fools. Yet he after all that silliness, he finally says:

“If we believe global warming is as big a problem as the world’s experts are telling us, we also have to believe the world’s politicians are capable of fixing it.”

And concludes that their inability to fix potholes suggests they won’t be much good at fixing climate change. He might have a point there, who knows? But there was a subtle, grudging, shift, almost imperceptible, but present. A back-handed acknowledgment that maybe, perhaps, it’s possible that all those damned scientists might be worried about something worth worrying about. Even if he does not trust politicians to do anything useful about it.

Margaret Wente is another of the Globe’s usual “climate change is bullshit” columnists. A sample of her headlines from the last few years (the Globe is subscription only, so you can’t read the articles): “Ice the ‘polar bears are drowning’ theory,” “Will we freeze or will we fry?” “Kyoto always was a fantasy,” “The collapse of climate ‘consensus'” “The Kyoto-speak brainwashers” … etc.

In an article in this Saturday’s Globe, Wente finally, finally, finally actually talks to some mainstream climate scientists, instead of the odd-ball guys she fished up in previous articles (it’s all good and well to say there are scientists who don’t agree with the consensus, but they are a small minority, and often not active scientists, and more often not regarded as very serious in their research).

In any case, her article in Saturday’s Focus section of the Globe, is titled “A Questionable Truth.” She has spun her argument something like this: Al Gore’s movie an Inconvenient Truth exaggerates the likelihood of bad effects from climate change. And mainstream scientists think the probability of catastrophic climate change is … uncertain. In fact, much of climate science is uncertain. So …

And here is the interesting thing. In the past Wente’s “So…” used to be followed by, “So the climate alarmists are a bunch of propagandists, and we should ignore them…”. But this time she ended (almost, as well as a swipe at Gore) with: “So what can a worried citizen do?” To answer, she quotes Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University, who answers: “Lobby the politicians to put policies in place immediately that put a value on the environment … Drive your car to Ottawa if you have to. The most important thing is to get policies in place that are intelligent.” Translation (I think): we have a problem here, and something should be done.

(Not content to leave it at that, however, Wente finishes with a swipe at Al Gore, “even though much of what he says is dubious or just plain wrong, he’s going to win that Oscar anyway.”)

But when you read the text of her article, and what the actual scientists say (rather, what she decided to quote them as saying), it’s a funny thing. There is not one scientists there arguing that climate change is not a major problem worth addressing. Not one person saying: climate change is not happening. Not one person saying: humans have no impact on the climate. Not one person saying: there is nothing to worry about. Not one person saying: we should do nothing. The scientists she interviews, instead, are cautious, level-headed, and, like most scientists, uncomfortable with sensational headlines. Says one, “The probability of another metre of or sea-level rise in the next 50 years isn’t zero, but it isn’t 90 per cent either. And if you pinned me down to tell you what it really is, I couldn’t do that.” That is, there is a risk of serious problems, and scientists can’t pin down just what that risk is. Which hardly suggests: a) that there is no risk, or b) that we should do nothing.

Another interesting thing: Wente and some of her pals at the Globe (the paper probably has had a 50-50 split on the issue) have spent the last ten years pillorying the Kyoto Protocol. Yet when discussing how to address climate change in this article, she writes: “But climate economists generally agree that the first and most important thing to do is to put a value on the atmosphere. You do this with carbon taxes and emissions caps. If emitting carbon costs money, then people will have a big incentive to cut down on it.” The Kyoto Protocol was a loose international framework whose objective was to a) get nations to agree to emissions caps on their national emissions, b) provide a timetable to try to meet those targets, c) provide some loose mechanisms to meet them. The Kyoto Protocol does not say ANYTHING about how any one country should meet their targets; that is left to countries figure out for themselves. (Which is why the “Made in Canada” solution trumpeted by Harper is hogwash: Kyoto’s objective is to get every country to come up with their own solution). Wente’s main expert’s opinion about how to address climate change suggests, essentially, that we should have started working within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol years ago. Wente manages make it sound as if she had just uncovered a sensible and innovative answer to this climate problem, a solution ignored by the hordes of rabid alarmists with Kyoto as their bible as they made their joyful march to climate apocalypse. That’s pretty disingenuous. The whole point of Kyoto was to do exactly what she seems to agree with here. And she has spent 10 years mocking Kyoto. At least, Ms. Wente, have the decency to utter a quiet little mea culpa. There is more dishonesty (intentional or accidental, I don’t know) in that article, but Rome was not built in a day. Ms. Wente has written her pivotal article on climate change, hovering on both sides of the argument, but she won’t go back to her old ways. She will continue to be distrustful of the enviros (which is fine), but I’d wager that she’s now convinced that things must be done.

I wonder: does the Iraq debacle Iraq have anything to do with this sudden turn-around in the public’s climate opinions? After all, those for the Iraq war tended to be, on balance, those against doing anything about climate change. And personally I always found it strange the dichotomy between the logic of spending billions on Iraq as compared to billions on climate change. Both threats (Saddam’s WMDs/climate chaos), according to their proponents, could have catastrophic impacts on all of us. Both would take massive amounts of resources, effort and policy will-power to address. Yet Iraq will gobbled up an estimated $1 trillion, with probable results of: destabilizing the Middle East, weakening the American position internationally, both among friends and foes, exposing the US as bad failed occupiers, stretching the military to the breaking point, and emboldening enemies (after all, the US can hardly make any military moves now, and Iran is the big winner in their blunder). All this sold by the same folks who told you not to worry about climate change (including Wente, including Murphy). So, maybe this is the effect of a little reality settling in. If the right was SO wrong about everything in Iraq, maybe it’s time to wonder what else they might have gotten wrong. Is the collapse of the Neocons and their grand vision for Iraq a chance for thier more moderate cheerleaders (in the press and public) to examine everything they sold with a new eye? After all, you only buy a lemon from a car salesman once. After that you steer clear.

It’s pretty hard to believe anything the current President says these days. It always was, for me; but it seems the naked emperor and his disastrous war has been revealed. So if you don’t have any more faith in the guy who is President, maybe it’s time to take a look at what the other guy, that guy who *could* have been President, has been parroting on about for the past few years.

I didn’t like the movie, and sure he goes too far in parts, and gets some things wrong. But hark: that’s the sound of Wente and Murphy reevaluating climate change. A good sign.


Categories: climate, politics

wente & murphy getting hot?

Splitting my previous climate post into 3 (since it was 3 separate ideas):

Interesting shift in the Globe and Mail this weekend. Rex Murphy is the Globe’s shrillest climate alarmist-alarmist (he worries endlessly about the climate change propogandists and doomsdayers that run the National Academies of Sciences in all the biggest countries and economies of the world). He has spent the last 5 or 6 thousand years scoffing at, sneering about, and dismissing climate change, with few updates in his rhetoric for annoying things like the scientific advances. But even Rex seemed to back off in his weekly column yesterday. Well, almost. He presents a couple of examples of climate research gone wild (an Italian study linking suicide with climate change, and Al-Qaeda’s insistence that the US sign the Kyoto Agreement) as evidence that the rest of the scientists are single-minded fools. Yet he after all that silliness, he finally says:

“If we believe global warming is as big a problem as the world’s experts are telling us, we also have to believe the world’s politicians are capable of fixing it.”

And concludes that their inability to fix potholes suggests they won’t be much good at fixing climate change. He might have a point there, who knows? But there was a subtle, grudging, shift, almost imperceptible, but present. A back-handed acknowledgment that maybe, perhaps, it’s possible that all those damned scientists might be worried about something worth worrying about. Even if he does not trust politicians to do anything useful about it.

Margaret Wente is another of the Globe’s usual “climate change is bullshit” columnists. A sample of her headlines from the last few years (the Globe is subscription only, so you can’t read the articles): “Ice the ‘polar bears are drowning’ theory,” “Will we freeze or will we fry?” “Kyoto always was a fantasy,” “The collapse of climate ‘consensus'” “The Kyoto-speak brainwashers” … etc.

Wente finally, finally, actually talks to some mainstream climate scientists, instead of the odd-ball guys she fished up in previous articles (it’s all good and well to say there are scientists who don’t agree with the consensus, but they are a small minority, and often not active scientists, and more often not regarded as very serious in their research).

In any case, her article in Saturday’s Focus section of the Globe, is titled “A Questionable Truth.” She has spun her argument something like this: Al Gore’s movie an Inconvenient Truth exaggerates the likelihood of bad effects from climate change. And mainstream scientists think the probability of catastrophic climate change is … uncertain. In fact, much of climate science is uncertain. So …

And here is the interesting thing. In the past Wente’s “So…” used to be followed by, “So the climate alarmists are a bunch of propagandists, and we should ignore them…”. But this time she ended (almost, as well as a swipe at Gore) with: “So what can a worried citizen do?” To answer, she quotes Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University, who answers: “Lobby the politicians to put policies in place immediately that put a value on the environment … Drive your car to Ottawa if you have to. The most important thing is to get policies in place that are intelligent.” Translation (I think): we have a problem here, and something should be done.

Not content to leave it at that, however, Wente finishes with a swipe at Al Gore, “even though much of what he says is dubious or just plain wrong, he’s going to win that Oscar anyway.”

But when you read the text of her article, and what the actual scientists say (rather, what she decided to quote them as saying), it’s a funny thing. There is not one scientists there arguing that climate change is not a major problem worth addressing. Not one person saying: climate change is not happening. Not one person saying: humans have no impact on the climate. Not one person saying: there is nothing to worry about. Not one person saying: we should do nothing. The scientists she interviews, instead, are cautious, level-headed, and, like most scientists, uncomfortable with sensational headlines. Says one, “The probability of another metre of or sea-level rise in the next 50 years isn’t zero, but it isn’t 90 per cent either. And if you pinned me down to tell you what it really is, I couldn’t do that.” That is, there is a risk of serious problems, and scientists can’t pin down just what that risk is. Which hardly suggests: a) that there is no risk, or b) that we should do nothing.

Another interesting thing: Wente and her pals at the Globe (the columnists are probably 50-50 split on climate) have spent the last ten years pillorying the Kyoto Protocol. Yet when discussing how to address climate change in this article, she writes: “But climate economists generally agree that the first and most important thing to do is to put a value on the atmosphere. You do this with carbon taxes and emissions caps. If emitting carbon costs money, then people will have a big incentive to cut down on it.” The Kyoto Protocol was a loose international framework whose objective was to a) get nations to agree to emissions caps on their national emissions, b) provide a timetable to try to meet those targets, c) provide some loose mechanisms to meet them. The Kyoto Protocol does not say ANYTHING about how any one country should meet their targets; that is left to countries figure out for themselves. (Which is why the “Made in Canada” solution trumpeted by Harper is hogwash: Kyoto’s objective is to get every country to come up with their own solution). Wente’s main expert’s opinion about how to address climate change suggests, essentially, that we should have started working within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol years ago. Wente manages make it sound as if she had just uncovered a sensible and innovative answer to this climate problem, a solution ignored by the hordes of rabid alarmists with Kyoto as their bible as they made their joyful march to climate apocalypse. That’s pretty disingenuous. The whole point of Kyoto was to do exactly what she seems to agree with here. And she has spent 10 years mocking Kyoto. At least, Ms. Wente, have the decency to utter a quiet little mea culpa. There is more dishonesty (intentional or accidental, I don’t know) in that article, but Rome was not built in a day. Ms. Wente has written her pivotal article on climate change, hovering on both sides of the argument, but she won’t go back to her old ways. She will continue to be distrustful of the enviros (which is fine), but I’d wager that she’s now convinced that things must be done.