Confidence? Not in the Conservatives.

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Looks like the wheels have been put in motion for a no-confidence vote to potentially bring down the Liberal minority government in Canada.

Stage set for government defeat

Such a strange thing, seeing the NDP and the Coservatives on the same side.

Recent polls seem to agree with my feelings: even with a scandal involving a few tens of millions of dollars, I’d rather have that than the Conservatives. It will cost this country a lot more when the Conservatives bring down public health care. (If you doubt that read In Their Own Words: Stephen Harper)

I’m not sure which party I align with most right now, the Liberals or the NDP, but I’ll definitely vote Liberal to help stop the Conservatives. The likely outcome of this election will be another Liberal minority. But, even if the Conservatives won a minority government it’s still not that bad. The NDP and Liberals are much closer together ideologically and would be fighting the Conservatives the whole way.

What do you believe?

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NPR has a series called “This I Believe” where people write short essays.

Two very topical ones, considering the current state of religiousness in the US, are:
There is no God by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller).
How Is It Possible to Believe in God? by William F. Buckley, Jr.

Whether or not you think you’ll agree with their premise, based on the titles, they’re both well written. I love reading about, and participating it, debates on this topic since there’s no provable answer. There are so many interesting ways to look at it.

Big Business is waking up to climate change

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In an interesting change, business leaders are calling for stronger action on climate change. It does make sense. People are realizing their workers will get sick and they could face losses due to rising sea levels and worse weather. A small investment now will pay off big later.

Business leaders call for climate change action

The One-Tonne Challenge

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I saw a commercial on TV yesterday that was really good. The Canadian government is running a campaign called the “One-Tonne Challenge.” It’s a call for everyone to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne.

The One-Tonne Challenge

They have a calculator to help determine your current emissions level and then suggests ways to lower it.

Also interesting is that the government has reduced its emissions by 24% since 1990. It again drove home how much pollution comes from our vehicles: 50%. Let’s carpool, take transit, walk and bike.

Let’s see more of this.

Phew. It’s a great year since no one got killed.

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How sad is it when headlines about your awards show are excited there was no violence this year? People are so used to violence now they’re reaction is “phew” not “what the hell is wrong with us that we attack each other at awards shows?”


Mariah Tops Melee-Free Vibe Awards

Is God on your side? How about Pat Robertson?

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Wow. When I started reading this I honestly thought it might have been something appearing on The Onion.

Apparently a town in Pennsylvania voted out all 8 school board members for trying to push “Intelligent Design” into the school system.

This doesn’t seem that odd on the surface. It seems to be democracy, or “freedom” as it’s been rebranded, in action. But, then came the wrath of Pat Robertson:
- “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city”
- “God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in his eye forever”
- “If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them”

Wow. This from the same guy who calls for the assassination of world leaders not friendly to the US. Also in the article: “In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to ‘kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.’”

And this guy gets his own TV show? And people watch? I guess I could understand it from a “can’t look away from the train wreck” kind of thing.

Pat Robertson Warns Pa. Town of Disaster

Wealth vs. Quality of Living

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Last night I was reminded of a fairly common thread in American thinking that has always bothered me. I was watching a talking-head show and the topic was the refusal of parts of South America to sign up to Bush’s new free trade area. The pseudo-economist was inferring that it’s the fault of those other governments that their countries aren’t as well-off as the US due to their social systems and less-free-market system. (The free-market argument is a lie. Have you ever seen how much the US government subsidizes argiculture? Also, as a Canadian I’m well aware of all the protectionism going on against various products.)

My thoughts on this subject inevitably lead me to my knowledge that the US never ranks at the top on various surveys of quality of living. See UN Human Development Fund. This report takes into account education, literacy, life expectancy and poverty.

It’s interesting to see the US come in at #10. The countries in the top 10 are, and always have been, ones with heavier social systems, which makes sense. This never seems to resonate with hardcore “pure captitalist” folks, though. I think the reason why is that the talking heads discussing these topics are all “upper crust” people who have lots of money. It’s undeniable that the potential standard of living in the US is very high. But, these economists are not the average people. A good portion of the US population is not doing very well. About 20% of the population has zero access to healthcare. 25% of African-Americans live below the poverty line. Quality of education has dropped fairly dramatically as other countries become centres of engineering and sciences.

I also find it fascinating how some American economists talk so strongly about how every other economy is bad compared to the US based solely on the figure of growth. They will put up their nose when comparing 6% growth in the US vs. 3% growth in a country that has a heavier social system. They can’t understand why anyone would want to live in such a country. I’ll tell them why: the overall quality of living is often better for most people in one of those countries. From a purely monetary perspective, does it really matter to me if I’ll have $500k saved at retirement or $700k, given that my quality of life will be better for my full 90 years? Not really, because my health care will be covered, which is one of the biggest expenses after retirement. Overall I’d say you’d come out at least even. If you think about where the money is going, the extra $200k would have gone to taxes to pay for your health care. The argument for the US system is that public health care is less efficient so people are better off spending the money themselves. However, we should all know that’s not true because as a comparison Canada spends half per capita on health care of what the US does. (U.S. Media Favor Radical Health Reform– for Canada)

Why don’t these facts ever resonate with a lot of Americans? Do people still cling to the hope they will be the one in a million to climb out of poverty, so they don’t want to rock to boat? I guess I can understand this view but it sure gives the rich people a free ride. They get to keep riding the backs of the poor and nobody complains.

Science + Vatican = Sanity?

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Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’m floored by this request by the Catholic Church: “the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, and warned that religion risks turning into ‘fundamentalism’ if it ignores scientific reason.”

A cardinal asks faithful not to discount science

Wow, that hits the nail on the head. It very concisely describes the fundamentalism going on in some American religious circles.

Also, on the topic of “Intelligent Design” vs. Evolution, the Vatican says “‘Evolution is more than a hypothesis because there is proof.”

It’s good to hear people using their heads.

Real Heroes

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Great article at Salon (requires viewing an ad to read the article) about 28 heroes of the global warming struggle.

Climate warriors and heroes

Some of these stories are really interesting and suprising. I wish people like these got more press so our kids would idolize them instead of people like Paris Hilton.

Teen pregnancy rate drops

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There are a lot of articles regurgitating this news that the teen pregnancy rate dropped again last year.

Quote: “The birth rate for girls and women ages 15 to 19 was 41.2 per 1,000, down from 41.6 in 2003 and a record low. The teen birth rate was 61.8 in 1991 and has been declining since.”

Births to unmarried moms hits record as rate among teens falls

This is good news and what I think is missing is a discussion about why. Of course the “abstinence only, don’t even talk about contraceptives” crowd that’s being pushed by Bush will claim some victory, but those will be lies. This latest data is only from 2003 and by far biggest drop was before 2000.

It’s also useful to note that the highest point was reached right after the end of 12 years of Republican rule in the US. Should Clinton then get some credit? Of course not, that’s not allowed in the US media.