Environmental info

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I recently ran into this new site that has tons of info: Earth Portal. It looks partnered with the also new Encyclopedia of Earth which is like the Wikipedia of the environment and climate change. It’s content produced by a large number of scientists and makes for some good reading.

For example, these are interesting: Energy profile of Canada and Energy profile of the US.

Amazing new Hubble image

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Great new image from the Hubble telescope: The Carina Nebula: Star Birth in the Extreme

This was also a reminder for me to look through the rest of the galleries here and pick a new wallpaper. I really like this one: The Sombrero Galaxy (M104).  The scale is just incredible.

Health care in US vs. Canada

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This isn’t new information, but it’s good to see it being proven out in yet another report: Health outcomes often better in Canada than U.S.: review.

But, don’t just read the title of that article, read the whole thing. This is the key data point: the US spends 2.4x for the same quality of health care, or worse.

This is important because:

  1. Americans are fed a lot of propaghanda that their private health system is cheaper than Canada’s semi-public one.
  2. Canadians pushing a private or 2-tier system try to feed this same propaghanda.

So, next time you hear someone say the American system is cheaper, call their BS. As someone who lived in the US for 4 years I really thing every Canadian should have to live there for a year, then they’d stop complaining about our health care. I didn’t find the care there any better, and on top of that everyone’s always trying to upsell you on stuff you don’t need. Ours definitely has problems, but we should definitely NOT be using the US as a model to replicate.

Now, the one thing that is true is rich people likely get better care in the US. But, again, I think we should optimize our system for the other 98% of us.

One interesting example is the health system in France. Their delivery system is entirely private but the government is the insurance provider, guarenteeing it for everyone. This apparently works pretty well there.

160 is greater than 33

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So, today there were 160 people killed in Iraq. Did you miss that? You may have if you live in the US.

A quick scan of the major US news sites (CNN, MSNBC, Fox) provides some sad results. The 160 dead Iraqis are barely qualifying as “front page news,” rather are being shown after multiple stories about the Virginia Tech killings. Stories about the killer stalking people in the past, memorial services, etc.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong, per se, but it’s still sad. Let’s put things into perspective. 160 people killed TODAY are less news worthy than gorging on analysis about 33 people killed 2 DAYS AGO.

It’s sad that US news media thinks these 160 deaths are less news worthy than 33 deaths 2 days ago. Either Iraqis are worth less than Americans, or Iraqi deaths are so commonplace that they no longer warrant front-page news.

Had these happened on the same day I could understand this prioritization because the American deaths are “closer to home.” But, the unending media overanalysis is unnecessary.

Also, for some more perspective just remember what the Iraqis are going through. An equivalent to the Virginia Tech incident happens every day in Iraq. The death toll of civilians is now at least 60,000 Iraq Body Count.

P.S. – Note that both the CBC and BBC had the 160 dead Iraqis as their top story at this time.

Audio enlightenment

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Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of dropping audio files of radio shows, interviews, debates, etc, onto my MP3 player for listening in the car.

This was an interesting debate: We’d be better off without Religion. It’s a formal-style debate held recently at Westminster Central Hall in London. Worth listening to.

This site has a ton of interesting radio programs: In Our Time – Listen Again From the Archives. The archive files are in Real Audio, so you can’t save them for replay as easily. I’m looking for a good way to save them as MP3, that doesn’t involve installing Real Player.

Love your Immigrants!

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This is not a new story, but I’m betting you haven’t heard much about it. Statistics show that immigrants are far less likely to commit violent crimes than their fully assimilated grandchildren. Even when they live in poverty, with minimal education, normally risk factors for crime, first generation immigrants, even illegal ones, are less likely to offend than those born and raised as naturalized citizens under the same conditions. Generally speaking, newcomers are grateful for the opportunities offered by their new home, whereas natives are bored and restless, taking such opportunities for granted.

Despite the numerous studies and statistics, it would be blasphemous to promote this idea in the US, because the vast numbers of immigrants from Mexico, illegal or not, are drastically and rapidly changing the landscape of the southwest. Fortunately, Canadians are a little more accepting of immigrants, but perhaps only because we have so much open space and free resources that we aren’t as afraid of running out.

There are two things shocking about this data. First, it points the finger squarely at us, the citizens, for the problems we face. We love it when that finger is pointed elsewhere, and hate it when it’s pointed at us. Second, it forces us to question one of the sacred cows of modern prejudice.

These days, with the mass media talking heads screaming the same nonsense in a loop on a hundred channels, it’s hard to be sure you’re getting the facts. And there are facts that they don’t want to have to convey, including any that reflect badly on the parent corporation and its subsidiaries. Rather than investigate the causes of our problems, lest they uncover some inconvenient truths, journalism is now about confirming the worst fears of the viewers, and assuring them that if they stay tuned, their salvation will arrive after the next commercial break.

The best way to do this is to know what the audience is afraid of and remind them of it constantly. And never, ever reveal how toothless these threats really are. Illegal immigrants, liberals, climatologists, muslims, and foreign governments. These are the sacred cows of mass media, beloved for how easy they are to hate and how difficult they are to dispute. These are the pinatas of modern society.

Go ahead.  Have your knee-jerk reactions.  Keep your easy answers.  But recognize them as such.

Derailing the conservative machine

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Has the conservative movement finally, permanently, gone off the tracks?

Fox, Imus, and the Crumblin’ Walls

I noticed something funny on the Conan show last night. Now, to be fair, I haven’t watched late-night talk shows in years (except the Daily Show and Colbert, of course), but it seemed a small window into the current climate. I don’t ever remember Conan being political in years past, but last night he definitely was. Here are some rough quotes from a sketch he did last night pretending to go through an autograph book:

Alberto Gonzales: The restroom was out of toilet paper. Good thing I brought the Constitution with me!

Dick Cheney: 666

I’m also reminded of Bill O’Reilly being publicly shamed by David Letterman.

This is some evidence that it’s becoming socially acceptable, even popular, to talk critically of the conservative movement. Does that matter? Definitely. This is such an interesting point in time because, honestly, this administration deserves a lot more than to just be made fun of. They have been proven, in multiple ways, to be completely corrupt and deceitful. Yet, they still maintain some, admittedly small, amount of credibility as a government.

I think there are 2 reasons these fools do maintain some credibility:

  1. The conservative “noise machine” is fantastic. They manage to almost completely drown out all but the absolute worst scandals.
  2. People are very tied to political parties in the US. They often grow up “as a Republican” or Democrat. For those people there is basically no reason for which they would abandon their party because it means admitting a part of themselves is wrong too. A consequence of this is that they will also accept a lot of sketchy evidence/logic to help hold their position.

While many books could be written on this interesting situation, I only mention it to discuss the current climate. If you look at the approval numbers of Bush, the whole administration, or the Iraq war, the numbers of say 30% seem exceptionally low but would imply a non-trivial amount of support. But, I would suggest if you were able to separate the “fanatical” supporters from the true supporters (based on real ideological agreement), the fanatical ones would take up most of that 30%.

So, I think the media is seeing this and becoming more comfortable talking critically of the administration, but I think the idea that the entire conservative movement is being derailed is overblown, because:

  • It’s really showing that this administration is being derailed. Any knowledge of the US political system will show the “liberal” and “conservative” movements cannot be derailed. There are cycles as to which side the moderates feel comfortable supporting.
  • Approval numbers shouldn’t drop more than they are now, if the reasoning about fanatical supporters earlier was sound. Though, it will help solidify the moderates/independents on the Democrat side.
  • We all know absolute power corrupts, which is what the GOP had until recently, and the same thing happened to the Democrats a few decades ago.

Some companies going green by themselves

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Rather than waiting for our current conservative North American governments to do anything serious on greenhouse gas emissions, which they won’t, some companies are doing it on their own.

Some recent examples:

It obviously needs to happen more frequently to have a large effect, but it’s a start. It’s also great PR; it increases my respect for, and therefore usage, of Google. I always liked Whole Foods but on recent business trips I made an extra effort to shop there after hearing this news.

Related to this, there’s a growing movement to go “Carbon neutral.” David Suzukis site has a good write-up on what carbon neutral means and how to do it. I had also heard recently about an energy company in the Canadian oil sands that was attempting to go carbon neutral, which is huge since apparently oil sands production will make up 47% of emissions growth from now until 2010. I can’t remember what company that was but this has some data on oil sands emissions: Report: Carbon-Neutral Oil Sands SCO Possible for an Extra $1.76 to $13.65 a Barrel.

This is interesting, from the report above:

For as little as US$2.50 per barrel an oil sands company could eliminate 100 per cent of its GHG pollution. To put this in perspective it costs up to US$1.75 per barrel to remove lead from gasoline.

—Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute”