Free trade

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There’s been a lot of talk in the presidential campaigns so far about Free Trade. As a Canadian on a free trade Visa, I probably have a fairly obvious point of view. But, I’m at a bit of a loss about what the real arguments are against free trade. I understand some people in richer countries think their jobs will disappear, which may be true. But, in the big picture I think there’s an advantage for poorer countries to get more jobs.

I do see one of the major problems with the way FT is setup right now – that companies from richer countries can take advantage of people in poorer ones. But, I think a restriction that somehow imposed restrictions that companies have to pay a good wage for the area they’re going to would fix that concern.

Cautious excitement

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I’m in Austin this week since I’m once again working for an American company. As such, I don’t think I need to feel quite as guilty for being so interested in US politics. (I’m mostly joking, I think everyone should be interested in US politics considering how much impact they have in the world, not always in a positive way)

I’m starting to feel a bit excited about the prospect of an Obama victory. As I’ve said before, I think Hillary would make a decent President, but Obama stands a better chance against McCain and most importantly he seems committed to handling things differently. As the news media is saying, we don’t know for sure all the ways he wants to do things differently, but considering how poisonous the atmosphere is in Washington I think his tone will improve things by itself.

The US federal government is so obviously corrupt that some major changes need to happen. The most depressing part is that it’s been corrupt for so long most voters don’t even care about it any more, it’s normal.

Choosing how to be more sustainable

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Over at YouSustain we recently added a new feature to more easily find the best ways to become more personally sustainable. We call them Recommendations, and you can view the various sustainable solutions by:

  • Popularity
  • Lowest Cost
  • Most CO2 Reduced
  • Most Cash Savings

We have already had a lot of great feedback on this, because different people have different priorities. Some people want to save the most CO2 they can. Others want to save the most money.

The popularity view is a great way to see what others are actually doing in real life. We all hear about the bigger ideas like converting your house to solar or buying a hybrid car, but that’s not feasible for everyone. The popular solutions tend to be the small, low-expense, ones. However, these small ideas add up to a large impact when several are done together.

Questions about Canadas mission in Afghanistan

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I have been unable to form a good opinion on the Afghanistan mission so far. I believe most Canadians are in the same situation, because if either the “stay” or “leave” sides were favoured by any significant margin we would have already had an election.

Some good thoughts are here: The Liberals purported Afghanistan amendments look reasonable. and My particular reasons for voting no to the Cons motion on Afghanistan

I’m not in favour of Canada being part of a war we didn’t start and against a country that didn’t attack us. I do agree that if left alone the terrorists may eventually attack Canadian interests, but conversely I believe that being part of a military occupation of a Muslim country will only make that happen sooner. Further, I would only believe Canadian interest may eventually be attacked, were Canada not in Afghanistan, if we were actively supporting US foreign policy in other, non-military, ways. I am not at all a believer that the terrorists want to attack “the West” just because they hate our freedoms. Their reasons are well-known but unfortunately ignored in the media and political rhetoric.

I could be in favour of a missions similar to that proposed by the Liberals, where Canada is in more of a peace-keeping role. However, in some ways that seems naive. If the reality on the ground is that the Taleban are actively growing in strength and will be attempting to re-take the country militarily, I don’t see how this option is reasonable. This option would eventually lead to a position where Canadian troops are outnumbers, overpowered and run out of the country, depending if other countries are staying on the offensive. So, we would be leaving our fate in the hands of the other countries, in a sense.

Lastly, what would a full withdrawal lead to? Assuming other countries followed suit, Taleban re-take full control of the country. This isn’t really in anyone’s interests, especially not the vast majority of Afghanis.

I think the real answer, which probably isn’t politically realistic, is that all the NATO members in Afghanistan need to act under a common plan and strategy as opposed to each nation trying to decide independently the role of their troops. To me it feels counter-productive to leave troops there but declare they’re no longer eligible for the role played by most other troops. Commit to working in unison to get the situation as quickly as possible to the point where a peacekeeping role is feasible.

Alternatively, pull out all the Canadian troops. I think it’s difficult to predict if this would be in Canada’s long-term interests. However, moving to a peace-keeping role prematurely feels like a political maneuver by those who want withdrawal but don’t have enough votes for it.

Faster train in France

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Very cool: France unveils super-fast train. It’s top speed will be about 360 km/h.

Both times I’ve been in Europe I’ve traveled almost exclusively by train and I much preferred it to air travel. It’s so much easier and more comfortable. Depending where you are going trains are much faster than air travel because you don’t have to be there 2+ hours ahead or wait to pick up luggage. When in France recently I was on the TGV trains which go about 250 km/h and our total travel time from Paris to Nice was less than 5 hours at about 900km distance. That was a great train ride, and probably less or equal to the total time to fly.

I recently had to travel to New York City, which is about 7-800km away. I looked into train reservations instead of flying and the estimated time, not including the time for at least one connection, was about 13 hours. That’s ridiculous. I understand train travel isn’t currently feasible for quick cross-continent travel but it should at least be better than 13+ hours for only 7-800km.