Edwards may be the one

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Within the Democratic primary, I’ve never paid too much attention to Edwards. I’ve always agreed with what I’ve heard of his positions but I assumed he’d get crushed by Hillary or Obama. Now I think he’s starting to distance himself from those two and while it’s risky there is a chance it could pay off. I think a lot of Americans really are hungry for some kind of real change.

This is from a recent Edwards speech:

“Real change starts with being honest — the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It’s rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. It’s rigged by the very wealthy to ensure they become even wealthier. At the end of the day, it’s rigged by all those who benefit from the established order of things. For them, more of the same means more money and more power. They’ll do anything they can to keep things just the way they are — not for the country, but for themselves.

[The system is] controlled by big corporations, the lobbyists they hire to protect their bottom line and the politicians who curry their favor and carry their water. And it’s perpetuated by a media that too often fawns over the establishment, but fails to seriously cover the challenges we face or the solutions being proposed. This is the game of American politics and in this game, the interests of regular Americans don’t stand a chance.”

An article on the speech can be found here: Edwards Goes After the ‘Corporate Democrats’ — Is This a Turning Point for His Campaign?

Canadian cities top the most liveable list

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An article in the Economist ranking cities by a “liveability index”: Where the grass is greener.

Canada has the most liveable city (Vancouver) and 2 of the top 5 (Toronto being the other).

I did always find it humorous, when living in the US, that most Americans respond to these kinds of reports with “I don’t believe those reports because those countries have much higher taxes and less economic growth.” Americans have been led to believe lower taxes (therefore I would assume more in-pocket money) gives happiness. But, is it worth paying a bit more in tax (which is actually somewhat equalized by not having to pay for health care), to live in a clean, low-crime, terrorism-free city?

Obviously for me the answer was yes, since I moved back.

American-style administration stone-walling?

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Doesn’t it seem incorrect that the current minority government is refusing to implement laws passed by the majority of Parliament?

Tuesday marks deadline for new Kyoto law

“At the time of the bill’s passage, Environment Minister John Baird called it a “toothless tiger” with no consequences or penalties if the conditions of the bill aren’t followed.

The government has hinted strongly that it could simply ignore the law, and would be prepared to face any resulting lawsuits or even a non-confidence motion that could trigger an election.”

I’m no political historian, but I don’t ever remember anything quite like this happening before (but if someone has examples I’d really like to hear them). What Harper is doing is flagrantly un-democratic. A majority of the democratically elected Parliament passed a law, and a minority of Parliament deems themselves wise enough to ignore it.

Also, this next article shows 2 things: a) we could, with heavy investment, meet the Kyoto targets without the massive loss of jobs Harper and Baird claim, and b) Baird cares infinitely more about politics than the environment, for which he is the minister.

Analysis questions Baird’s warnings of Kyoto disaster

Quoting Baird: “We’ve got to get countries like the United States, like China, like India on board [with] efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in a meaningful way,” he said. “Seventy per cent of the world’s emitters were excluded by the Liberals in the previous round. They weren’t successful in getting them on board and that’s a failure.”

Notice that Baird points out a problem, does not suggest any way to solve the problem, instead proceeds to spend the rest of his time blaming the Liberals.

You know what, John? An elected government has to do much more than point out problems and blame the previous government. You have done zero to further environmental causes, rather have cozied up ever closer to the polluters. I hope this is the issue that unseats your government in the next election.

Some truths about recycling

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A lot of people assume that recycling is somewhat useful, but not necessarily very effective. I think this partially stems from the fact that recycling is not always profitable by itself.

Here’s an article with some good facts: The truth about recycling

  • Using the US as an example, recycling reduces CO2 emissions by an estimated 49 million tons per year, of about 1.5 billion total, which equals a reduction of 3.3%.  This is a big deal for the worlds largest polluter.
  • The above reduction in CO2 is roughly equivalent to taking 8.3 million cars off the road in the US.
  • Quote: “Recycling aluminium can reduce energy consumption by as much as 95%
  • Quote: “Savings for other materials are lower but still substantial: about 70% for plastics, 60% for steel, 40% for paper and 30% for glass.

So, as we can see, recycling is obviously a worthwhile venture.

Ontario election reform

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This is the beginning of my own exploration of the proposed election reform in Ontario. This will be voted on in a referendum this coming October.

The problem this effort is trying to solve is that in our current electoral system, Parliament does not reflect the popular vote of the entire Province. Here’s a quote from fairvotecanada:

“In the 2006 federal election, more than 650,000 Green Party voters across the country elected no one. Meanwhile, fewer than a half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada alone elected 20 MPs. In the prairie provinces, Conservatives won three times as many votes as the Liberals, but were given nearly ten times as many seats. But more than 400,000 Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver couldn’t elect a single MP. The NDP attracted a million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats and the NDP 29.”

Further, note that in the 2003 Ontario election, the popular vote went about 46% Liberal, 35% PC, 15% NDP and 4% other. The makeup of Parliament was 70% Liberal, 23% PC and 7% NDP. Those numbers are pretty far off and are clearly not a true representation of the intentions of the voters, and are the results of the current First Past The Post system.

A panel recommended for Ontario to adopt a version of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) which is used in many areas of Europe. The basic changes to our current system are:

  • You vote for both a local candidate and a party
  • 39 new seats are added to Parliament, which are allocated between the parties to make their overall representation reflect the popular vote for the parties

I’ve read quite a bit of debate on the issue so far and I’m leaning towards supporting it. I think it will be an improvement in that MMP will better reflect the intentions of the electorate.

It seems the typical arguments against MMP are:

  1. More minority governments
  2. The 39 “list members” are not directly elected by a constituency, so are perhaps less accountable

On #1, while I think MMP will change the way politics works, I can’t assume that’s a bad thing since that’s really what the voters intended. Our current liberal “70% majority” was only elected by 45% of the population. Coalitions might ensure more peoples interests are covered and is typical operating procedure in most of Europe.

On #2, this is what causes me some hesitancy. Parties will likely hold some kind of semi-democratic vote for their list members, but it’s still not truly democratic. I don’t know what the best answer is but I don’t think this is enough cause to not implement the system. I might hope for a clause in the law like “The system for choosing list members should be revisited in 2015.”

Further reading:

Vote For MMP

All Politics Is Local: MMP Posts

Ten lies about MMP

My objection to MMP

The market movers

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As much as I both like and dislike Ben Stein, this is a fairly good analysis of what factors will move the stock market: How Speculators Exploit Market Fears.

The point is basically that a small number of people create a false impression of the market which then causes people to emotionally overreact to the news. The major fund owners do this because they need volatility to make money.

You can see some analysis of the overreaction here: Stock Price Recovery After a Drop. This seems to show there’s a significant overreaction because the market corrects and regains most of the lost value within several days of a large price drop.

To me these actions by the fund owners seem borderline illegal, but proving their intent would be near impossible. It’s not incorrect to speculate that the stock market will drop as house foreclosures increase throughout the US. Ben’s point is that the market movers imply this will be a significant drop to scare people into selling but the real impact of housing should be minimal.

On the end of the “illegal spectrum,” a few months ago market commenter (and former hedge fund manager) Jim Cramer admitted that fund managers will call news organizations and plant completely fake stories to help them make a profit. See some discussion of that here: Cramer and Personal Responsibility.