Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Group Raises $40,000 on Kickstarter to Film Disappearing Magicians

No pun intended!

A threatened colony of magicians in India will be digitally preserved at least by a group that put together a proposal and posted it on Kickstarter.

The colony of street artists, magicians and jugglers came together in the 1950s as the life of the traditional traveling performers in India became difficult to manage.

Now, the land in Delhi has been sold to developers and has an appointment with the bulldozers. So the film is

The producers raised the $40,000 needed with about four days to spare.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eco Art: Community Installation Creates World's Largest Paper River

A fascinating collaborative community environmental art installation created a "River of Life" in a Missouri town last year.

The installation started at the "grass roots", with elementary schools collecting paper to be recycled.

The paper was then converted to a pulp and dyed blue with a biodegradable dye. On the big day, people from the entire community got involved to create the impressive "river", which wound through area parks and fields.

The pulp created was biodegradable, so the entire river would return to the earth.

The kicker was that the pulp was also impregnated with non genetically modified winter wheat seeds, which would sprout and grow in the spring into a river of wheat! Therefore the project's full name, "River of Life - Bread of Life"!

The entire project was conceived and supervised by eco and fibre artist, Shirah Miriam (Mimi) Aumann. Photos can be seen on the artist's facebook page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Montreal Art Center Attracts Cultural Clout to Thriving Griffintown District

One of downtown Montreal's last frontiers is "Griffintown".

Nestled along the north side of Lachine Canal between the Old Port, Old Montreal and Little Burgundy, At one time this area was the industrial heartland of an entire country. Where there used to be barges lined up waiting to go through the Lachine Canal locks loaded with chain and grain, now you are most likely to find aspiring actors and actresses lined up hoping to get on as an extra with one of the area's film studios or shoots.

One of the latest arrivals into this storied scenario is the Montreal Art Center. Located in a former engine works, the Montreal Art Center is already home to approximately 30 artists and will be adding more in the coming months up to a maximum of about 100 once the second stage is completed next year. The artists work in open concept studios and all have the opportunity to hang their work in their own spaces and in the main gallery. The Montreal Art Center is a private venture that neatly complements the condo developments and general atmosphere of the area, which also includes the Notre Dame St. antique dealers, the Lachine Canal National Park and cycle path. Also quite nearby are cultural features such as the Parisian Laundry art gallery and the reborn New City Gas complex, home to such events as C2-MTL, a "creative commerce" conference planned for May, 2012, in the structure, originally built in the 19th Century to provide light for the streets of Montreal.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Artprize: Making Art an Economic Force to Be Reckoned with

The third Artprize just wrapped up in Grand Rapids MI a couple of days ago.

ArtPrize 2010 Retrospective from Paul Moore on Vimeo.

In case you haven't heard of it before, Artprize is the unique visual art competition that takes over an entire city and awards a $250,000 prize for the winner. The winner is selected American Idol style by the general public from amongst 1,500+ artists.

This year's winner was Mia Tavonatti, who entered a monumental 9'x13' stained glass mosaic entitled Crucifixion.

A powerful example of the economic impact, consider: one restaurant alone was planning this year to increase its sales by more than $300,000 over the course of the event. That is, one single restaurant brings in way more than enough from the event to pay the cost of the grand prize.

Last year, estimates of the total economic impact were in the range of $7 million. This year a more detailed study will be done.

No doubt these studies will only graze the potential benefit of converting this mixed economy city, known for furniture manufacturing, Amway and religious publishing among several other industries, into a high profile cultural center.

Back in the early '80s, Chemainus on Vancouver Island showed how a small town could leverage art and creativity to literally turn its fortunes around with its innovative mural program. That success spawned dozens, if not hundreds, of copycats. Most likely the same will hold true for the Grand Rapids Artprize.

Before you know it, there could be an "Artprize" type event in every state and province. Hey, the more the merrier!

This event has proven a novel experiment in many ways. Not only is it a wake-up call for the many detractors who fail to see art and culture as an economic engine - people who would rather spend money building jails - it has also been a lesson in humility for the art establishment, many of whom see themselves marginalized in all the hoopla, as they are left on the sideline to whimper about what they call the "poor quality" of the work in general, or the final 10, etc.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Can't Be Rich on Shattered Land

This song about fracking by Alex Hickey is pretty self-explanatory. Sad song and beautiful singing...

Alex is enroute from her home in NS to a tour of a few stops in Ontario after appearing in Montreal last night. You can check out the tour schedule here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Citizen Journalist Charles Leblanc Arrested for Protesting on a Megaphone

 Freedom of Speech at Issue

Two videos from Leblanc's blog.

First a detailed and interesting report on the situation shown on CBC in New Brunswick. Second Leblanc's own video, showing his arrest.

It brings to mind an encounter I had in New York a few years ago with a group of artists, including Erika Rothenberg, who were setting up a reprise of the installation shown at right, the "Freedom of Expression National Monument".

They were setting up right in front of the court house in downtown Manahattan, as shown below on an image borrowed from Rothenberg's website.

 Certainly gives one pause to consider.

One of the CBC stories above gives quite a bit of background into Leblanc's history with the Fredericton Police and of him being "banned" from the NB Legislature.

At this point I am near speechless.

The fact is that we have much less "freedom of expression" than is commonly believed. Will have to digest this for a while... and one can only imagine how Charles Leblanc feels.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Happened to the REC Mega Solar-Grade Silicon Plant Announced for Quebec?

Obama credibility not the only casualty of solar power outage

Three years ago, "REC Silicon, a division of the Norwegian multinational group Renewable Energy Corporation, has announced its intention to invest more than $1.2 billion to build a manufacturing plant in Bécancour," Quebec, northeast of Montreal.

The Quebec government and REC made a lot of hay over this, emphasizing how the company had done an exhaustive analysis before deciding to set up shop here.

As this was supposed to be up and running in 2012, to all appearances things have been rather quiet on the REC front.

A quick search turns up a couple of articles in French, one from Radio Canada a year ago and another from this January in Le Courrier Sud, a newspaper in the Bécancour area, both of which indicating that the project is presumed shelved or ditched altogether.

Interesting that no cancellation announcement appears on the REC website, nor anywhere that I can find, at least in English.

Looks like this became another casualty of the problems that seem to have plagued the solar industry since the onset of the recession. Sept '08 certainly not the most opportune time to have made a major announcement in solar energy.

Interesting also to consider this situation in the context of the embarrassing time that Barack Obama has been having with the whole Solyndra solar debacle, bankruptcy, FBI investigation etc. One thing it seems to show is that market conditions could hardly have been worse for anyone trying to implement this type of project.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is Terrance Corcoran a Leaf Fan? Losers Lead - Leaders Lose?

It would appear the answer is "yes", as this person is clearly impaired in his ability to tell a "leader" from a "loser".

Case in point: his piece in yesterday's National Post stating, "New global report shows Canada among leading nations in Internet, communications technology". Considering that Canada's ranking in this report came out at 13th, 14th, 57th, 12th, 111th, 24th, 13th and 17th, as seen on Michael Geist, Canada is anything but a leader!

The overall rating of 26th is pathetic - wouldn't even get us into the G20 in tech. Needless to say, Canada's relatively low connection rates in mobility are probably somewhat a reflection of our mobility providers' overpriced and predatory sales practices.

Perhaps Corcoran forgot what finishing 27th out of 92 countries looked like at the '76 Olympics in Montreal. In that event, placing 27th out of 92 countries, meant we harvested 11 out of a total of 613 medals given out. That's what finishing 27th out of 92 countries looks like on the world stage beyond a pundit's keyboard.

Given the economic situation in the world right now, and the fact that our government is promising to fill billions of dollars worth of new prisons with new inmates, and is bound and determined to cut arts, culture and social programs, and the cost of education is soaring, it is scary to contemplate that we just received something like 11 out of 613 medals in internet and technology.

Go Leafs Go!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"One Random Year" Artist's Video Shows Snippets of Life

Montreal visual artist Bettina Forget is working on an art project in which she videos a random minute each day for a year.

The videos will be edited into a 6-hour film, which will be shown at Visual Voice Gallery (in the Belgo) in Montreal in 2012.

The clip above is done with the 1-minute clips edited down to five seconds, for a one-month preview.

Interesting. My first response is to wonder how random it could possibly be. Thinking about that question makes it that much the more interesting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Farmers Vote Against Conservative Plan to Remove Canadian Wheat Board Exclusivity

62% of all western Canadian farmers who grow wheat have voted to retain the Canadian Wheat Board as a "single-desk" to buy farmers' wheat and market it to the world.

The Conservative government has declared its intention to allow other buyers to get into the action. This will dovetail nicely with the Conservatives' ongoing program of selling out all Canadian resources to corporate foreign control.

That would also open the door to the classic exploitation of small farmers that has existed since time immemorial, where farmers would basically be bidding against each other to sell their crops and buyers could shop around for the lowest prices.

Another obvious result would be the continuing erosion of the viability of the family farm, as larger farms would be in a position to bid prices lower and eventually continue to buy out smaller farmers who would have a tougher time to compete. The end result - a landscape of corporate-owned mega-farms.

Now that the farmers have voted decisively on the matter, the Conservative government is left to spin the result this way and that, quibbling about who was qualified to vote, etc., and stating that the vote is not binding. Meanwhile, the farmers say that the government does not have the right to shut down the CWB without first consulting them in a vote. So they will force the issue in court if the government follows through with its delared intention to end the CWB's exclusivity as of Aug., 2012.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Arctic Ice Extent Near a New Record Low

The most recent satellite data indicate that there is a strong possibility that the extent of ice in the Arctic could be at a new low before melting stops later this month.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year's ice pack is already quite a bit below the minimum levels reached in all other years except for the record low 2007. So, even if the ice-covered area began growing again as of today, 2011 would already have the second-lowest ice coverage in the Arctic ever measured. In addition to 2007, 2008 and 2010 are currently the 2nd and third lowest ice years.

Global warming deniers can huff and puff and blow a lot of smoke, but it is pretty tough to explain how the ice in the Arctic, that has endured for millions of years, continues to vanish right in front of our eyes, year after year. Especially difficult when you consider that changes in the ice extent should occur gradually and randomly. Without global warming it is impossible to explain how four of the past five years are also the four lowest years of Arctic ice in recorded history.

The minimum ice mark will only be confirmed after a clear pattern of ice expansion returns, however the minimum could be reached any time between today and the next 1-3 weeks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Glass of Water is Source of Creativity

1995: Ballard Power says their new battery will power a car and the only exhaust will be a glass of water. "All you need is hydrogen."

2008: MIT's Dr. Daniel Nocera discovers a way to produce hydrogen from a glass of water using photosynthesis. "A glass of water can power a house for a day."

2010: A glass of water is still a mystery to physicists.

2011: Co2 Art hypothesis: Unlimited creativity can be derived from a glass of water * therefore * creativity can power the world..

Saturday, September 3, 2011


As Canadian journalism transforms from the rudderless, so-called objective ideals of people whose typewriters could almost be heard from the barrooms they so often frequented, into today's slick new, well-oiled communications arm of the global petroleum industry, we thought there should be a way of saluting the pioneers of the new paradigm.  

You don't have to look far to find merit worthy candidates. You basically just have to open your eyes in the presence of almost any corporately owned newspaper.

So TODAY'S SUNSHINE SHILLS are proud to offer you a couple of gems: The Vancouver Sun, with:
Green economies don't create wealth, but dissipate it, which should send a shudder down the spine of every person in Vancouver

Neither of these articles are clearly labeled as opinion pieces on the online versions.

Neither of these articles provide a rudimentary news story anywhere within all the chicken feathers you have to shovel through to get at any actual information.

Both of these stories read like haphazard collections of cut-and-pastes lifted from right wing comments found on the internet and canned talking points.

This is truly outstanding work. That peregrine falcon stuff was classic!

Congratulations one and all!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Expo No Go: Why Acknowledge a Mumbo Jumbo of Countries Which Don't Appreciate Our Conservative Values and Tim Horton's Culture?

Can you spot the trend?

"Canada refuses to back Edmonton's bid for the 2017 World Exposition"

"Canada pulls out of 2012 World Exposition in Yeosu, Korea"

With the soaring triumph of Expo '67 in Montreal now a distant memory, and the transformation of Vancouver into a world-class city with Expo '86 also a fond, fading memory, has Canada now reached the point of being an internationally inept cultural basket case?

Does anyone seriously believe that we are able to spend $30-60 million on a Libya mission but Heritage Minister James Moore is unable to scrape together $10 million for a Canadian pavilion at Expo 2012 in Korea? At least 100 other countries will be participating in this global event and Liberal Small Business and Tourism critic Joyce Murray is urging Harper to reverse this decision.

Harper spends a billion in the blink of an eye for his G8 meeting or for increasing imprisonment of Canadians - yet they refused to spend considerably less for Edmonton to shine on the world stage in 2017?

It is very unlikely that budget constraints alone are the real reasons for these incomprehensible moves. What could possibly explain such a trend of decisions that are so blatantly anti-business and reflect so poorly on our country from a cultural or economic point of view?

One possibility is simply a lack of know-how and confidence. Perhaps the government just does not know how to participate in an international exposition, let alone host one, and wants to save itself the embarrassment. Perhaps Harper is just weary, or wary, of seeing his policies ridiculed on the international stage.

Or, perhaps the core issue here is something darker, something a little more evil. Something along the lines of "why should we acknowledge a mumbo jumble world of countries we can't even pronounce, which clearly do not appreciate our Conservative Canadian values and Tim Horton's culture?" Let's just continue to soak our supporters' minds in culture they can relate to and forget about all these foreigners.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bigotry within Our Borders

Canada's chronic illness, the reciprocal bigotry infecting two of its three founding nations, is threatening to lurch into pandemic status under the Harper Conservative majority.

Until anglophone and francophone Canadians get over their apparently uncontrollable tendency to attack one of the main important strengths that their country has going for it, the future will continue to be uncertain, if there is a future at all.

We now have a  conservative territorial government appealing a Supreme Court of Canada decision requiring the Yukon to build a french-language high school. Bad enough that it would take a court edict to force you to build a school where none exists. The fact that you would go to such lengths to avoid having the phenomenal asset of a regional high school in a second language is simply incomprehensible.

One needn't look far to find other examples of governments promoting ignorance in this country. Quebec, of course, has it down to a science, legislating poor second language skills on 80% of its children!

It must be said, however, that there is no greater force in the service of bigotry and ignorance in Canada that I am aware of, than the Sun media group. Never mind that this is where propaganda is presented as journalism. Never mind that  thousands of pages are painstakingly dumbed down to ensure that no reader might accidentally acquire any useful morsel of information. No, Sun Media's master genius lies in its ability to bolster circulation and spread conservative/Conservative propaganda so efficiently, by inflaming anti-Quebec and anti-ROC sentiments simultaneously on both sides of the Quebec border - like a double-headed serpent!

Then we have our Conservative federal government which, as speculated by Dr. Dawg and others, may now be at the point of writing off Quebec altogether and instead seeking to build support in ROC by fanning the ever-smoldering anti-Quebec flames.

Memo to the Yukon: A brand new high school is a good thing.

Memo to Canadians: A second language is a good thing.

If we can't embrace our obvious assets and remove bigotry from within our borders, it is hard to imagine Canada as the country I have always pictured it as.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canadian ETC Group Warns Against British Geo-Engineering Experiments

A wacky British "Earth-cooling" project that has the flavour of mad science or a '50s comic has attracted negative reaction from around the globe, including Canada.

A group of British scientists are preparing to unleash an experiment intended to mimic the effect of a volcano, ultimately scattering water and other particles into the atmosphere, with the result of "cooling" the Earth. The project involves a balloon the size of Wembley Stadium connected to the ground by a hose.

According to the Guardian article, ETC Group, a multinational NGO based in Canada, has come out strongly against the whole concept.

"What is being floated is not only a hose but the whole idea of geo-engineering the planet. This is a huge waste of time and money and shows the UK government's disregard for UN processes. It is the first step in readying the hardware to inject particles into the stratosphere. It has no other purpose and it should not be allowed to go ahead," said Pat Mooney, chair of ETC Group in Canada, an NGO that supports socially responsible development of technology.

ETC Group has created a body of work that addresses global environmental issues and has been actively cautioning about jumping into geo-engineering of many types.

In an open letter to the IPCC's working group meeting held in Peru this June, ETC said, "The prospects of artificially changing the chemistry of our oceans to absorb more CO2, modifying the Earth’s radiative balance, devising new carbon sinks in fragile ecosystems, redirecting hurricanes and other extreme weather events are alarming."

Among the potential risks are "accidents, dangerous experiments, inadequate risk assessment, unexpected impacts, unilateralism, private profiteering, disruption of agriculture, inter-state conflict, illegitimate political goals and negative consequences for the global South is high".

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Burning Man Sees Role as Global Catalyst for Creative Culture and Social Entrepreneurship

Burning Man 2011 is now in full swing, as the organization behind the event seeks to spread its philosophical approach to creative community building around the world.

The week-long annual assembly of thousands of participants in the middle of the Nevada desert is now in its 25th year and this year's event began yesterday with the art theme: "Rites of Passage".

As a rite of passage for the organization, Burning Man's new, or additional, orientation as a vehicle for social change and entrepreneurship provides an obvious connection with the theme. The event known as a place for radical self expression and radical self reliance now becomes a catalyst for radical, global, cultural community building.

Burning Man's new vision for itself as a catalyst, called the Burning Man Project, was announced in a series of press releases over the past number of months.

The project's endeavours will tap into BM's unique body of know-how and experience, gained over decades of creative community building of both the practical and conceptual sort. The physical and logistical challenges alone of bringing tens of thousands of people together to live, create and share in the middle of the empty desert, putting up and tearing down "Nevada's fifth largest city" are easily imagined. One of the ideas of the project is that the knowledge gained from this work gain be applied in many communities around the world where similar challenges are faced. Since the Burning Man settlement, Black Rock City, is built from scratch each year and removed without leaving a trace, a multitude of basic issues such as food, water, shelter, sewage, refuse, communication and transportation are dealt with.

The Burning Man Project has six pillars: Art, Civic Involvement, Education, Culture, Philosophical Center and Social Enterprise. Each of these related areas are being addressed from the standpoint of the "ten principles" of Burning Man. All of which is elaborated in plenty more detail on the links given.

Burning Man Live Webcast

To see Burning Man right now, there is a live webcast feed here. The soundtrack on it is from the BM radio, BMIR.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

German Nuclear Shutdown Will Cost 9,000-11,000 Jobs, New Dangers of Nuclear

Is the world already too dependent on nuclear power?

Germany's decision to shut down nuclear power generation years early, following the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan this March, will result in up to 11,000 job losses at E.ON, the country's largest energy company.

This was confirmed last week as E.ON posted a net loss of €1.49 billion for the quarter ending in June, compared with a profit of €1.63 billion for the same period last year. Company officials blamed the loss on the government's decision to bump up Germany's nuclear free date from 2036 to 2022, as well as on a new tax on nuclear fuel introduced last year.

In order to cut costs over the next years, CEO Johannes Teyssen said the the company's board needed to make deep job cuts, primarily in administrative areas, according to a report in

"We cannot afford any unnecessary management levels, processes, and duplication of work," Teyssen said when presenting E.ON's half-year results in Dusseldorf.

The company is now projecting profit for the year in the order of €2.1-2.6 billion, a reduction of 30-40% on earlier estimates.

Meanwhile the nuclear shutdown is continuing to reverberate around the Germanan economy. Bayer, for example, employer of 35,000 in Germany, has threatened that they may have to pull out of Germany if energy prices are not competitive. As it is, Bayer is in the midst of a 4,500 worldwide layoffs, while planning to add 2,500 employees in Russia, China, Brazil or India.

In abandoning nuclear, Germany will have to replace the 23% share of the country's energy it produces. The share of renewables is expected to rise from an already high (in proportion to many countries) 17% to an estimated 35%.

The situation is also impacting other countries. A Swedish energy company blamed huge losses on the German decision. E.ON announced a 15% price hike to its 5 million U.K. residential customers and France, which is highly dependent on nuclear, is now faced with the sudden unrelated difficulty of extremely low water levels in rivers that are used to cool their reactors. At one point in June, Switzerland had requested that France shut down one of their reactors.

While just scratching the surface of recent developments, it is evident that, as countries struggle to readjust their power models in the wake of the Japan earthquake, there is another danger of nuclear power that has been overlooked.

That is that nuclear power is extremely addictive for world economies.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Guy Still Thinks He's Orchestrating a Campaign for Richard Nixon

Could the truth really be worse than you ever imagined?

In this case, quite possibly.

A fascinating read in The Guardian concerning the rise of Roger Ailes and Fox News.

Everything that you always suspected is true.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Murdoch-Fox Journalism is not Postmodern, it is Dishonest

Canadians were taken by surprise a month ago by the sudden resignation of CTV Quebec City Bureau Chief, Kai Nagata.

"Nagata's personal experience is an in-the-flesh example of how the adoption of economic values and assumptions, this time in the TV journalism industry, have slowly overtaken journalism's traditional values," wrote Flora Stormer Michaels a few days ago in The Tyee, in a perceptive analysis of Nagata's very public statement.

Over this same timeframe, Canadians have also had the benefit of dissecting the whole News of the World phone-hacking scandal in the U.K. This scandal has rocked the right-wing Murdoch's global media empire to its core, with subsidiaries Fox News and others treading very carefully around the perimeter of this issue as best they can.

The story got a lot of traction, which was surprising, in a sense, because of the dismal reflection it cast on all contemporary media. But of course other networks and papers had more to gain by making Murdoch look bad so they ran with it for all it was worth, until the Norway incident and U.S. debt crisis knocked everything else off the front pages.

Sniffing around on the morning after journalism's brief moment in the news, we wonder what can be gained. Does Nagata's initiative end as an item with "100,000 page views and 1,300 comments" on a blog? Does Murdoch go one step back and two steps forward?

Micahels writes that Nagata inadvertently refers in his "manifesto" to two competing cultural stories about what journalism is:  The "old" journalism is about keeping citizens informed for the public good, where information, which wasn't a commodity, allowed citizens to hold their democratic leaders accountable. The "new" journalism is about using whatever attracts eyeballs.... (...for the purpose of generating revenue).

This view suggests that the current state of journalism is a postmodern movement, where reality is defined by a socially scripted story, which has become (as if randomly): "create content that will generate the most interest and revenue."

Sorry, I don't buy it.

What Michaels refers to as "new journalism" is not what they wish it were.

It is not a "cultural story" that the good corporate citizen has gone MIA. It is simply greed at work in an unethical age.

Over and above basic greed, a political filter which demands cultivating good will for the political system perceived to be most favorable towards business, is also now entrenched. This is present in virtually all news media today, to a greater or lesser degree. It is up for discussion whether this has been premeditated, or has just been a gradual encroachment.

Let's hope that the actions of Kai Nagata and other enlightened journalists can turn this around.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Free Energy?: Waste - to -Oil not Free But Good to Go

With several promising technologies for producing "free energy" now amongst us, experience is showing that, while nothing in life is "free" something looks sure to give in the near future. Thermal depolymerization, the technology required to efficiently transform plastic and all sorts of waste into oil and other usable products has been around for years.

These technologies were invented in the 1990s and the industry has been spearheaded by a privately-owned company, Changing World Technologies, (CWT) since it was founded in 1997 by Brian S Appel.

Unlike many world-changers, this one actually has or had functioning units in the field on a fully-scaled basis. But, just as the company seemed ready to literally change the world, a combination of factors have apparently stalled its progress.

A subsidiary started jointly with ConAgra Foods, Renewable Environmental Solutions, LLC,  (RES) has an industrial facility in Carthage. MO, that has proven capable of transforming 250 tons of turkey offal and fat per day into 500 barrels of renewable diesel. Located adjacent to the ConAgra Butterball turkey plant, the RES facility has run into a variety of problems, including higher than expected costs, resident complaints about odor, an unsuccessful IPO by the parent company, and presumably the collapse of oil prices in '08. It operated for years, was shut down in 2009 and is expected to reopen (or has reopened) shortly, apparently as a wholly-owned CWT property.

Appel has stated that by processing all the agricultural waste in the U.S. using this system, enough oil could be produced to eliminate imports.

Similar technology has been developed by the Blest company of Japan. This concept focuses on plastic to oil, also has working units in the field and has demonstrated some scalability. Again this technology has been around for a while.

Plastic to Oil Fantastic from UNUChannel on Vimeo.

Another plastic to oil player is Agilyx, in the U.S. They have been running a pilot operation in Portland, OR, and are presently ramping up a demonstration scale plant. Agilyx has recently announced major "upstream and downstream" investments from Waste Management and Total.

Agilyx, whose process yields approximately 200 to 240 gallons of synthetic crude per ton of waste plastic, is eyeballing the 162 million tons of industrial and municipal plastic finding its way to landfills each year.

Keeping in mind the these multiple ways of producing enough petroleum to quench American thirst are already out there, and that the oil sands of Alberta are also ramping and ready to build and fill new pipelines, it only adds to the intrigue when one considers, for example, the 38 million hectares of the non-edible oil crop, Jatropha, that are on the drawing board in India.

In a deal announced today between Bharat Petroleum and SG Biofuelssome 80,000 acres were specifically identified out of a total of 250,000 involved in the project. Under Indian government targets, in order for biofuels to meet 20% of the petro supply, 38 million hectares will need to be planted. According to regulations, the inedible oil crops must be planted on wasteland so as not to jeopardize food security.

We will continue to follow these developments as we try to get everything in perspective and develop an overview of the global energy situation, as we ll as Canadian and North American perspectives..

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pierre "Bourqueing" Up the Wrong Tree

For the past couple of years and certainly through the recent federal election campaign, Pierre Bourque's Newswatch has been one of the more balanced general news sources out there.

His coverage of the Turmel situation, unfortunately, is fast undoing a lot of hard-earned cred from the perspective of this writer.

Even today (eons, in media terms, after the story broke), this non-issue continues to hog headlines on Bourque's front page with Sun-esque, simple-minded, empty derision, the likes of:

'Chompers' Turmel a huge liability

 The article linked to, in the Hill Times, is far more even-handed in its treatment of Turmel, mentioning precedents, such as Transport Minister Denis Lebel, who belonged to the Bloc Quebecois prior to joining the Conservatives.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Canada Now Being Lectured by Croatia on Democratic Practices

“In the past few months we have encountered many difficulties in organizing the exhibitions, usually connected to interventions of the Canadian Government or institutions under Canadian governmental control.  We continued to look for ways to collaborate with the homeland of the artist, although at times we felt patronized and even intimidated, as a small NGO trying to reach an understanding with a powerful state. This was most surprising given Canada’s reputation over many decades as a leader in promoting democratic freedoms, the right of free expression and also supporting the international community (through its role as a peacekeeper and in many other ways).  It is clear that Canada has a difficult position to resolve in relation to its narrower national interests (in particular the exploitation of natural resources) and its wider responsibility in the international community.” ~ Sandra Antonovic, Nektarina Non Profit

I first saw this issue mentioned on Creekside

Friday, August 5, 2011

Eco Art/Art Basel Miami The Effort Someone Will Go to to Get 72 Views on Vimeo in Three Years

One fine day, a pair of twins, Sunny and Joy, decided to go to Art Basel Miami and make a video about some of the artists there doing eco art.

They called themselves "The Traveling Twins" and made about 13 videos over the course of a year or two, shot in such varied locales as India, Sardinia, Portofino, New York and Miami.

The eco art video was one of their earlier ones, featuring interviews with several of the artists and even the mayor of Miami.

So I click on this video yesterday and see that it has received the grand total of 72 views in three years!

This is far from the worst video on Vimeo. It is easy to see that there was tons of work involved.

They interviewed architects from Situ Studios, Wes Rozen and Matthew McGuiness, in the process of putting up their "Solar Pavilion" and a dude named Rudolph who was working on a statuary pipeline.

Then they have a pretty good interview with German artist Dida Zende, who was setting up one of his earlier versions of FIT — "Freie Internationale Tankstelle" (translation: free international filling station). Which dispenses the "energy of creativity" for "free" (although the Goethe Institute I believe incurs some fairly considerable expenses in keeping the supply of this creative energy flowing!) Interestingly, Zende set up one of his free gas stations this year at the Waldorf Hotel "creative compound" in Vancouver.

There is a brief visit with Niki Pike, who has an adopt-a-plant project.

There's a guy called Luis Valenzuela from Art@46. A fair organizer from Green Art and yet another guy named Rudolph, who has a contraption called an Ozotron, and there could have been a few other interviews.

Check it out:

Eco Art-Miami Dec 2007 from The Travelling Twins on Vimeo.

As all of their videos, this one is well scripted for amateur work. Some of them are a little boring, but you would think they would find an audience. In some cases the exotic locations really compensate for any lack of pizzazz. The idea behind the presentation is ok. The twins, who were "born in New York and raised in Paris" have faint French accents that just sound like a weird way of speaking. They could have worked on that, I think.

All in all, I come back to my first impression. It is simply astounding that anyone would go to all this work to get 72 views on Vimeo! Since there is nothing new on their website for the past two years, I presume the twins have gone on in other directions.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When Society Progresses in the Reverse Direction

When I saw this post, it reminded me of how I met up with a friend from elementary school last summer and, over the course of our conversations, we realized something unsettling was at work in the country.

I don't really know what this phenomenon is called. But I do know what it is. What happens is, society forgets the lessons it has already learned and we begin to progress in the reverse direction.

Sometimes we are just so stupid that we don't even learn the lesson in the first place. Like for example, "You can occupy Afghanistan but you cannot make it into the Truman Show."

But there are many lessons we have learned. Like, "libraries are a good thing". This is a historical fact.

We learned that a strong middle class is a good thing. We learned that child labour is not a good thing. We learned that a 40-hour work week was something that had to be fought for,

So why does Rachel Maddow have to give lessons on MSNBC about the benefits of collective bargaining?

Why can you find a rather cutesy (so as to be even more insidious) defense of child labour on one of the country's more popular blogs? (I won't link it - look it up if the urge takes you) Why is there an eclectic mix of pro and con comments on something like a Youtube video showing a Nazi bookburning in 1933 with narrative by Dr. Goebbels?

For one thing, there is an intense propaganda war, the likes of which Goebbels never even imagined, going on which is extremely one-sided.

One problem is obviously that financing for typical "right-wing" media is far easier to assemble than it is for progressive media. Another part of the problem is that those who would carry the banner of equality of opportunity and the rights of the middle class do make the assumption that we have already learned our lessons and shouldn't need to learn them again.

So there has been a great deal of neglect in terms of education of young people. Perhaps there is also an element of the young rebelling against the ideas of their baby boomer parents.

There has been a presumption on the part of many that the lessons learned by society had successfully created a playing field where the landscape was level and the rules were fair and fairly applied. Suddenly you open your eyes and see that it is not true.

For crying out loud, libraries are under attack!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lithuanian Traffic Blotter: Vilnius Mayor Flattens Illegally Parked Car with a Tank

He looks like he's had some practice at that, too!

Update: they're getting something like 50,000 views an hour. Great publicity stunt for the city. Putting Vilnius on the map may be a tough assignment, especially with Youtube audiences, but you gotta hand it to them for trying. 

Down Syndrome: Technological Advances Raise Soul-Shaking Questions About the Meaning of Life

Within a matter of months, the progress of science has outstripped our ability to process the new reality of Down syndrome and, unnoticed by most everyone, stands on the precipice of redefining human life.

Ever since the rise of humanity, Down syndrome, or trisomy 21, has been an integral part of the human condition. Despite all the efforts of medicine and therapy, Down syndrome has always been present. The population with Down syndrome plays a considerable role in almost all communities around the the globe. This may not be the place to discuss the extent of this role. Suffice to say that it is significant, it has existed since time immemorial and it provides a window into the human soul that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to find. Sooner rather than later, it is going to be left up to us to decide what value this role has to humanity.

Now, as has become widely known over the past number of weeks, the possibility of non-invasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome in the first trimester is imminent. This in itself is a development that pushes the philosophy and boundaries of human reproduction in a new direction that could take decades to assess and understand. It also represents an idea that will be controversial and contentious for all foreseeable time.

Then, just as this bombshell has landed right in our philosophical kitchen, science has launched another barrage on another front. As discussed here yesterday, drug therapies that can be expected to improve memory and other cognitive abilities in people with Down syndrome, are in human trials. And, even if this particular drug isn't as effective as hoped, there is plenty of reason to believe that some other drug will be identified in the near future. 

Where does this all leave Down syndrome?

The fact is that the new prenatal testing regime is just around the corner and its use will spread prolifically. After all, it seems inconceivable that society would forcibly put the responsibility of raising and caring for Down syndrome children onto people who do not feel able to accept this destiny. At the same time, many people will work to slow the effect of this testing. Pro-life advocates and religious fundamentalists will be front and centre. There are countries, even in the advanced western world, such as Ireland, that don't even have prenatal screening because abortion in any form is illegal.

So things will take some time to unfold completely. Who knows? The possibility of effective cognitive therapies may even give more people the courage to see Down syndrome pregnancies through to term even when screening comes out positive.

Yet, even with that outcome, we may find that Down syndrome as we know it will eventually come to an end as drug and other therapies mitigate the effects of the condition to a point where it becomes beyond recognition.

Which brings us back to the original question - do we have the right to interfere with this process?

Considering that, as it is, as many as 90% of Down syndrome pregnancies end in miscarriage, it could be understood that any birth of a child with Down syndrome is a minor miracle of nature all by itself. Something like the salmon that leap raging waterfalls to make their way upstream to spawn. Only a small few make it through. But do they have an important job to do? Virtually everyone who has had contact with Down syndrome people inevitably declares that their lives have been changed and that Down syndrome people have brought them joy, insight, empathy and even some kind of magic.

Many many people have tapped into the metaphor (or is it a cliche?) of Down syndrome children as "angels".  You may or may not understand this in a religious sense. However, you may be mistaken if you view this question as one of religious vs. secular values. Or, for that matter, pro-life vs. pro-choice. For a person with Down syndrome, there is no "versus." (ok, perhaps a little self-defense in a tight spot)

Yes, having a child with Down syndrome is challenging and painful in many ways. But is this a necessary pain for humanity? Is it the price we pay to have messengers of unconditional love living amongst us?

Is this one kernel of the essence of humanity that we cannot do without?

(this has been largely double posted from one of my other blogs)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Conspiracy Theorists Rally to Oslo

Not surprising, when you think about it.

First there are obvious anomalies, such as the police taking such a long time to get to the island where the massacre took place.

Then there is also the possibility/probability of people manufacturing "evidence" that would imply conspiracy and disseminating it on the internet.

People saying Breivik has different coloured eyes, people saying there was more than one shooter, people saying that both the entire operation and the downtown bomb were too complex for a lone operative and so forth.

So let the theories rain down from cyberspace. The possible motives and conspirators out there would boggle the mind!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Scientist, You May Speak Freely

Quite the kerfuffle erupted last week over the federal government muzzling a leading fisheries scientist whose work could shed light on the reasons for the crashing of salmon stocks off the west coast of Canada.

This has led to further criticism of the Conservative government's poor relationship with science in general, the meddling in grant allocations, and other attempts to control the message and the undertakings of science in this country.

A refreshing departure from this trend would seem to be the work of the Pavilion Lake Research Project, which is exploring a pair of lakes in British Columbia that are endowed with an extremely rare bio-geological phenomenon. Underwater structures there, called macrobialites, are thought to have been created billions of years ago due to the actions of ancient bacteria which were some of the most primitive lifeforms on Earth.

The cool thing about this project is that there is a fairly comprehensive Youtube record of activities, as well as a blog that many of the scientists have participated in since 2009.

Since the exploration occurs underwater, with many complexities in a hostile environment, the project makes an excellent model (or "analog" as they say) for possible future space missions. Therefore, the partners in the project include NASA, the Canada Space Agency and several universities. A truly multidisciplinary project.

The relatively wide open public communication of this project could be due mostly to the fact that there is little conceivable controversial material that could emerge, and the win - win dynamics of the operation across several fields, not the least of which the Vancouver developer of the submersible exploration unit, Nuytco Research Ltd.

Be that as it may, the public information they make available is extremely interesting and is a prime example of how the work of science can be shared with a public that would love to have more of this information.In fact, getting more exposure for this type of information would probably be the best thing that could ever be done in order for science to capture the interest of more young people.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

African Famine Blamed on Land Grab - But the People Need Water - Not Land

There has been a sudden rush to blame the famine in the horn of Africa on the "African Land Grab".

News sources as diverse as The Local (Germany), Al Jazeera and the Montreal Gazette (online link to the July 30 article supressed or unavailable) have jumped on board to lay blame on industrial farming practices (notably by the Chinese) over the past few days.

If fact, the accusations may hold some truth, or much truth. However it must be remembered that the main reason for the famine is drought. Most probably the second reason is civil unrest in the affected countries.

The logistics involved in making sure that aid gets through to those in need are incredible.

There aren't readily available statistics on what percentages of land in Ethiopia, Somalia, etc., are falling into the clutches of the land-grabbers (i.e. "agro-investors"). But the quantity of land that is unproductive due to lack of water must account for vastly more than the corporate farms.

What the affected areas really need are reliable water supplies.

The installation of desalination plants around the Horn of Africa would unquestionably go far towards alleviating this situation.

Ideally, 9 out of 10 of these plants would be dedicated to supplying fresh water to people, farmers and communities on an individualized basis.

There is a Canadian company called Saltworks that is pioneering a new, energy efficient desalination process. I couldn't think of a more appropriate testing ground for prototypes that the coasts of Somalia.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peter n Chris 'Save the World' on Numerous Occasions

Since these guys (Peter n Chris from Vancouver) are "Saving the World" on a regular basis, the right thing to do would be to give them a gratuitous plug.

The next gig is Vancouver's Havana Restaurant. August 4 and 5. Be a friend of the planet and do the right thing.

This clip is from Montreal Fringe.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bombardier Cuts 1400 U.K. Workers: Welcome to the Hallucina-Scam of "Free" Trade in Europe

Tough news yesterday for 1400+ workers being laid off at the Bombardier train factory in Derby, U.K.

Therein a very stark and hard-boiled lesson for naive Canadians who believe that "free" trade with Europe means anything of the sort.

The lay-offs come as a result of the U.K. conservative coalition government handing a $5 billion contract to build rail cars to the German company, Siemens.

The government's decision is almost impossible to fathom and has set off a storm of protest from all corners of the country.

U.K. government officials blamed "complex EU rules" for the seemingly indefensible decision, as reported in The Sun:

The Coalition Government picked Siemens to build the Thameslink carriages last month as it offered "better value for taxpayers"
Yesterday Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said his hands were tied by the terms of the tender that Labour set up - and complex EU rules.

Quoted in the Montreal Gazette, Hammond acknowledges the preposterous reality of the situation, while other critics said that the French or German government would have used tricks in the procurement process to safeguard their own local suppliers.  

Hammond agreed with critics who argued that the French and German governments would never award such a large procurement contract to a foreign bidder despite European Union rules requiring open procurement bidding system.

"The French routinely award contracts for trains to French builders and the Germans award contracts for trains to German builders," Hammond said.

In 2010, overseas firms from China and Spain tried to railroad Quebec into giving the contract for new Montreal Metro cars to foreign competitors, using similar "legal" arguments. However the Quebec government finally passed a law to avoid that particular bit of nonsense.

What kind of "free" trade forces a government to throw local workers out on the street in order to give a contract to foreign competitors of a local company?

Time to say, "Thanks but no thanks" to free trade with Europe.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Who Were Peter and Lou? (revised with added clip of Peter and Lou in Wisconsin)

Way back when, a pretty much unknown couple were immortalized in song by the Canadian folksinger Valdy, in his song, 'Peter and Lou'.

So who the heck were Peter and Lou, frozen in time "skating on winter's frozen lake"?

They were Peter and Lou Berryman, a young couple from Wisconsin who were folk singers... and anti-war protesters who came to Canada as many young Americans did during the Vietnam War.

Someone who knew them, Craig Wood, was so inspired by their "joie de vivre" as to pen the song that became a  successul single for Valdy in Canada in 1976.

Eventually Peter and Lou returned to the U.S. but this spring returned to the protest scene. Now married to other spouses, they still perform together but were back on the protest lines again at the state capitol as the Wisconsin government went on the attack against workers rights.

"Canada should be a refuge from militarism"

-Pierre Trudeau, who opened the door to some 50,000 young American pacifists, draft dodgers and war protesters

Does this Canada still exist?

Apparently, or perhaps, yes. Below is Valdy singing the song a few weeks ago...

And here are Peter and Lou Berryman today, now some 35 years after Valdy first sang about them.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ruefrontenac Shuts Down Print Weekly

Searching for Honest Journalism:

A rather unique model of alternative journalism, is the creation of the 253 members of the Syndicat des travailleurs de l'information du Journal de Montréal who were thrown out of work when Quebecor locked them out over two years ago.

The lock-out was finally ended this Feb 26, when 64.1% of the workers voted to accept a mediator's recommendation that they take an offer that would restore jobs for 62 of the workers and pay out $20 million in severance to the others. All pending a back to work protocol, which isn't germane to today's topic.

Meanwhile, had been steadily building its online edition and had started publishing a print edition, which ran for 25 issues before announcing its closure yesterday.

In yesterday's article, ruefrontenac's Richard Bousquet writes that the demise of the print edition, despite growing support, is a result of media concentration and the preference of large advertisers to deal with agencies that can place their ads across the country, rather than deal with individual publishers.

It also goes on to say in the article that the future directions of ruefrontenac are still in development and that it continues to grow in popularity.

It is hard to imagine that Quebecor, i.e. Sun Media, would be super excited to have precipitated a 25-month lock-out ostensibly to shore up one end of its business, only to set up most of the locked out workers in competition against them. It is very easy to imagine that the everyday Quebec reader would gladly pledge allegiance to ruefrontenac, who would appear to be holding plenty of cards, so it will be very interesting to see how the whole thing unfolds.

One thing for sure is that has already developed a significant brand and a fairly professional product. They call their enterprise a little adventure. It has been a small but valuable gift to the people of Quebec.

Unfortunately, as someone said in the comments of yesterday's article, even a small Gaulish village that stands up heroically for what is right, eventually becomes Romanized.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"You guys are hypnotized, no?" Blogger'' Charles Leblanc Discovers Explanation for Conservative Win

Searching for Honest Journalism

The NB blogger Charles Leblanc, known as simply "Blogger", may be the most honest journalist in the country.

He may also have discovered the real reason for the Conservative win on Monday.

You guys are hypnotized, no?

That was a pretty good line.

How does it compare when held up against "the essence of middlebrow"? Read today on Simpleposie.

Strange, after analysis, these two phrases contain not one single common point of comparison. However they do appear to be identical.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3: World Press Freedom Day a Dark Day for Canadian Journalism - Canada's Free Press in Intensive Care?

The one most obvious outstanding fact after yesterday's election in Canada is that some sort of media/press reform is absolutely necessary in this country.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that there is not a free press in Canada.

A few facts from #elxn41:

* 31 newspapers in Canada endorsed the Conservative Party
* 0 newspapers endorsed the Liberal Party
* 2 newspapers endorsed the NDP
* 1 newspaper endorsed the Bloc Quebecois
* 0 newspapers endorsed the Green Party
* 2 newspapers endorsed multiple parties

* Coverage in the newspapers was perhaps not biased to the extent of the lopsided and disgraceful endorsement record (which followed a similar pattern in 2006 and 2008) however there was still an obvious slant of favouritism towards the Conservatives in much of the coverage.

A few examples:

* The Edmonton Conservative candidate, Ryan Hastman, who was in an uphill battle against the NDP's Linda Duncan, was able to put out an appeal for campaign volunteer help in an Edmonton Journal news story!
* The Journal de Montreal (Sun Media) on May 1, ran two prominent pieces about how the NDP was running candidates in Quebec who couldn't speak French. It also buried Ignatieff coverage completely on the same day and gave way more prominence to an "optimistic" article about Conservative Larry Smith's race in Lac St-Louis.
* The Calgary Herald made a huge deal about how only a couple of students showed up for a "vote bus" that someone organized during advance polling 
* The Globe and Mail was a huge disappointment throughout the campaign, featuring such articles as this perplexing and ridiculous column fished out of the sky right when Stephen Harper needed it to appear, calling for abolishment of corporate tax as a "worldwide failure"

* Coverage on the network news television was similarly slanted in favour of the Tories. Early in the campaign, it was noticed that the opposition's criticisms of Harper and the Conservatives were rarely presented without the Conservative counter-argument quickly thrown in at the same time. However, when negative news came out about the NDP and Liberals, it was less frequently given with the counterargument.

* With the limited time available on the major newscasts, it was disappointing to see the Nanos segment eating up time every day, while CTV skimped on actual news on issues from the campaign. Although Nanos polling came close in some ways, the Leadership Index was terribly skewed in favour of Harper. One just has to believe that the daily repetition of this inaccurate Leadership Index in the Globe and Mail, on CTV and online, had some influence on the overall outcome of the election.

* Why did Peter Mansbridge play hardball with Ignatieff and slo-pitch with Harper?

* Why did the media fail to demand release of the auditor general's report on the G20 debacle?

* The whole "Ignatieff planned the Iraq war" scam

* Of course the dirtiest trick of all, the Layton Smear goes without saying

Unfortunately, time does not permit a more thorough analysis of all the media coverage of this election.

The picture is plenty bleak enough just looking at the newspaper endorsement line-up. Toss in the arrival onstage of Sun News on TV, with no counterweight of any kind in sight. Without forgetting that millions of Canadians are already unduly influenced by the rhetoric, attitude and coverage produced by Fox News.

The inescapable conclusion is that the objectivity of the Canadian news media is in condition critical in intensive care.

Young up and coming journalists are not blind. It is easy to see to see that the best way to increase your earnings is by working for an outfit that has the cash to spend and is willing to spend it on publishing news that sings to a certain ideological tune.

Is there a way for honest journalism to be profitable?

It is fairly easy to imagine a huge well-funded wave of further-right journalism arriving on the scene in Canada. Where the funding comes from can be left to your imagination. It is not easy to see what can be done to counter this problem. There is a certain amount that blogs and individual online efforts can achieve. Realistically, however, it must be assumed that these efforts will be matched by similar efforts on the right fringe of things. Same for the Tyees and Rabbles of the world. And don't look now but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the internet to be completely swamped by astroturfing. Even worse than that, a two tier internet could effectively tilt anything resembling the level playing field internet we have now, such as it is.

Even if a Bill Gates or a Jeff Skoll or someone else with world-saving wherewithal were to step up, how much of an impact could one project really have?

Is there a way in this day and age for honest journalism to be profitable?

If there is a positive answer to that question, someone ought to find it quickly.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ignorance Run Amuck - Conservative Candidate Says Autism Not a Disability, But a Special Interest Group

Conservative James Moore, the candidate in the  Port Moody–Westwood–Port Coquitlam riding, said that autism is not a disability - it is a special interest group, at an all candidates meeting.

In response to a question about whether he would support legislation to amend the Canada Health Act to include autism treatment (ABA/IBI) under Medicaree, he said,  "No, autism is not a disability and The Canada Health Act is not for Special interest Groups."

Now we see precisely why Conservative candidates all across the country during this election were either not allowed, or were afraid, to attend all-candidates forums.

Because they, and their campaign managers, know that the views of many Conservative candidates will not stand up to public scrutiny.

Following is the verbatim report taken from the Medicare for Autism Now website:

Asked at Riverside Secondary All Candidates Meeting today in School Gym for RIDING:
Port Moody–Westwood–Port Coquitlam

Incumbent JAMES MOORE was present. He has missed one meeting and was scorned in the local newspaper for his absence when caught tweeting about the hockey game.
* Kevin Kim Green Party of Canada – absent
* Mark Ireland New Democratic Party- answer YES
* Stewart McGillivray Liberal Party of Canada -answer YES
* James Moore Conservative Party of Canada – answer NO – autism is not a disability and The Canada Health Act is not for Special interest Groups.
* Paul Geddes Libertarian – definitely not – medicare should be privatized – the night before his reply to creating laws to Civil Rights for disabled people received the answer that minorities can’t expect handouts.

On the same website there are reports that several Liberal and NDP candidates responded positively to this question.

Thank-you to Facing Autism in New Brunswick for bringing this issue to the forefront.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Are We on the Cusp of de facto Proportional Representation?

Of all the interesting trends this election, the increased ability of politicians and ordinary citizens to effect change in public opinion is surely the most important.

The case of the NDP's sudden unpredicted rise in Quebec and across the country is one example. Another is Elizabeth May's strong showing (and hopefully election) in Saanich. Another, the well organized strategic voting information available for ridings across the country, and peoples' apparent willingness to consider exercising their vote strategically. There have also been vote mobs and the high turnout at the advance polls.

With all of these events combined, there is obviously a new volatility in Canadian democracy. This, despite 95% of the media being subverted by a new style of corporate interference in favour of the Conservative Party.

A perhaps telling, if little-noticed, event this campaign has been the appearance in it of North Vancouver Independent candidate Nick Jones

He puts forth a somewhat convincing case for his candidacy on his website. Including such interesting elements as the following:

When there is an upcoming vote in the House of Commons, I will poll the citizens of North Vancouver using a web-based and/or phoned bases service and will use the feedback that I collect to guide how I vote on behalf of the riding.

About a week or so ago a tweet came through announcing that Jones was endorsing Liberal candidate in the riding, Taleeb Noormohamed.  (At present it looks like North Van would be a prime constituency where Greens and NDPs would be very well-served to cast a strategic ballot in Noormohamed's direction.)

The quick rise of the NDP, the ability of independent candidates to reach out with their message on the internet, and the progress in strategic voting sophistication, are all epic shifts in electoral behaviours. Probably more important to realize is that we are now in the era of change, fast results and instant gratification.

With this in mind, a few things to expect for the next election, be it in one or more years: additional Green Party candidates (bonjour, Georges) with strong chances to win in well targeted ridings, probably a higher profile for the Christian Heritage Party or some other far right group, more independent candidates with more interesting, unique ideas, and continued development in strategic voting concepts, vote mobs, vote trading, etc.

As early as the next federal election, we could be witnessing some form of de facto proportional representation. This will result in election of perhaps 5-10 candidates from the Greens, lesser parties or independents, which would all be good for democracy.  The constitutional wrangling that would be required to ever implement proportional representation would be daunting and probably take decades... but it may still be possible using social media!

Oh and to provide equal opportunity for the NDP to pick up another seat in this election.... a call for votes goes out to Libs and Greens in Kamloops riding. This seat can be taken from the Conservatives. Vote NDP!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Call Sun Media a Bunch of Sleazebags if You Want...

But how many times have you heard the phrase "Global News" in the past month?

The tougher question is,

How do you start an "Ignore Sun Media" campaign, while ignoring Sun Media?

p.s. Don't forget World Press Freedom MIA Day May 3

Artists Redraw the Canadian Political Landscape

The Canadian political landscape is due to be redrawn by artists.

ABC could stand for Art, Books, Culture, but for many people this April, ABC means, "Anyone But Conservative". 

For the past five years, we have been governed by a Conservative Party that won't even bother to spell out its policy on the arts. As a result, Canada's potential for achievements on the world stage has been severely curtailed, something that has been, unfortunately, par for the course over most of the nation's history.

Due largely to the dearth of leadership on this issue, Canada's weak support for the arts extends from the higher echelons of government and business, right through to ordinary people, who often fail to see much value in art of any description. Many thousands, if not millions, of Canadians have been conditioned to agree with Stephen Harper's assessment that the arts are frivolities, pastimes for the elite.

There was a local example a year or two ago. One of the municipal bureaucrats was defending the expense incurred installing modern artificial turf on one of the local soccer/football fields, as opposed to spending on any kind of art or culture. The reasoning is, that these sports fields get very high usage by the public, compared to many public galleries in other communities, which we notice are often sparsely attended.

The comparison is readily accepted by most people and almost appears valid. Until you really think it through. What we should compare the hundreds of kids playing soccer and football on the fields to, are the thousands of kids doing art, music and creative activities on a daily basis until they get pushed in other directions in their teens. To make matters worse, emphasis on arts and music has further decreased in many school districts in the past few years.

This federal election could mark a turning point for the arts in Canada.

The Conservatives are hopefully being sent a very strong message this coming Monday. Perhaps they will even be sent the ultimate message, which they so rightly deserve.

The difference this time, as opposed to the 40 other federal elections in Canadian history, is that, regardless of the exact result, the NDP will come out of this election with a huge new influence.

As satisfactory as the Liberal platform for the arts appears in this campaign, and it appears roughly as sincere and thorough as the NDP's platform, the fact remains that decades of Liberal rule have failed to raise Canada's international profile in the arts to where it could be, where it needs to be.

Make no mistake, the Conservative platform of stifling and breaking youngsters to conform to a particular indentured ideal, only to spend billions on prisons for the ones who go bad, is light years away from anything acceptable. And anything the Liberals do for culture, we hope, will be headed in the right direction.

But now, we have a new possibility - the possibility that a Canadian government could put a high priority on arts and culture. Investments in the arts now will reap many-fold benefits for the country down the road and open up multiple new opportunities for youth and economic diversity. This is unquestionably one area where a strong NDP influence on policy could be an economic boon for the country. Jack Layton is not going to get three or four cracks at muddling through, as Harper has done. Jack needs to go to work effectively for the country right away. If he is as smart as he appears, he will make arts a top priority.

It's as simple as ABC: Artists Build Canada. And it just may be spelled N-D-P! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Oh no, turns out he was only 12 at the time.

(Note to fledgling media networks - this information may require "further legwork" to verify.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What If There Were a Liberal-NDP Merger, and the Liberals Who Didn't Like it Joined the ...Greens!

The nightmare scenario of a Liberal-NDP merger has once again cast a shadow upon the land.

Some think it is a possible way for "Liberals" to still win some momentary fleeting hold on power. Most Conservatives probably think of it as a dream scenario, setting up a polarized electorate along phony left-right or "free-enterprise vs. socialist" lines. Conservatives are salivating over this as they imagine hoards of Liberals painting their urban and suburban streets blue, rather than orange.

And, yeah, I agree.  Merge with the NDP would be one of the dumbest thing the Liberals could do. If only because of the divided, polarized nation that would result. 

But, if  I were a Conservative, I wouldn't be so quick to count chickens. There are not many Liberals left who are likely to ever support a Harper-style ReformCon party. If the wackos peeled off to start something with three eyes and left basic PCs, it might be a different story. Some Liberals would go to a PC party. Anyway, merging would still be dumb because it definitely sets up the left-right contest which is destructive and no win.

A possible interesting outcome from a merger though, would be if a large enough bloc of Liberals suddenly went green. Those old dogs like Chretien and Broadbent probably haven't even imagined such a thing. But after witnessing the events of the past week, it wouldn't surprise me a bit.

The Lib-Greens would be a little more centrist than the Lib-NDPs, and could possibly thwart the left-right nightmare. And, who knows what could happen with a dynamic leader. Whether it be a Georges Laraque or someone else

Might even result in a 30-30-30 split of voters, with single digits for the Bloc and who knows, maybe a far-right party. Whereas, in any purely 2-way, left-right contest, progressive forces would be rather hard pressed to win. However, if we had Lib-Greens and Lib-NDPs, it is easily conceivable that progressives could hold onto a 60-80% plurality.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Harper Beat-Down Remains a Strong Possibility

Between well-informed, disciplined, strategic voting and polls like this, we could soon be saying "good-bye" to Stephen Harper. Plenty of reason to keep the neg focus on Harpocalypse.

AG's Report Must be Released - "Suppression of Information" Relating to the Public Interest Unjustified By Law or Convention

The Auditor General's Report on the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund should be released to the public according to a former clerk of the Public Accounts Committee, writing in The Hill Times.

The law does not specifically say that such a report cannot be released when Parliament is not in session.In fact, there are a few conventions in place which would actually support releasing the report, according to the article.

The article reads:

The first edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at p. 376, states, "During the period when Parliament is dissolved, however, ministers or government departments may authorize the release of any return, report or other paper required to be laid before the House."

To any reasonable person, the necessity of releasing this report prior to the election is obvious.

There is also a resolution adopted in Parliament in 1887, which reads, in part, "That the practice now in force, requiring the withholding of Blue Books and Departmental Reports till the assembling of Parliament, results in the suppression, often for periods of many months, of information relating to public affairs which the public interests require should be promptly made public. That the Blue Books and Departmental Reports for each fiscal or calendar year should in future be made public as soon as practicable after the same are prepared, and that no unnecessary delay should be permitted to interfere with the issuing of the same."

By failing to release this report in a timely fashion, in order that the people of Canada have all available pertinent facts at their disposal before the election, Auditor General Sheila Fraser is doing a disservice to the country and is probably incorrect in judgment, according to the facts as presented in this article.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Wedding Security to Cost $860,000,000 Less than G20 Toronto Security

This should hardly raise an eyebrow, as Stephen Harper has already been proven Canada's most trustworthy and competent political leader  by the Nanos Leadership Index.

Anyway, it's apples and oranges. The Royal Wedding may be the largest security event ever in British history, dwarfing the G20 event held in 09.

It's estimated the event will now cost as much as £20m, which dwarfs the £7.4m price of security at the G20 protests in London in 2009.

Bur clearly, England is a much smaller country, and video cameras are already installed across the country, so obviously costs in Canada would run a good 100 times more - it's only logical.

But, if there were any confusion whatsoever, (and there absolutely is not, as the Conservatives wrote a report that, by pure accident, falsely quoted the auditor general stating that the G20 meeting was very well managed), no need to worry - the Auditor General's final report on the matter will be presented to Parliament after the election.

Furthermore, if there was anything to all this white noise and bickering, surely that crafty newsman, Peter Mansbridge, would have nailed Harper to the wall during his recent interview.

No, there is nothing here at all but old fashioned English thriftiness.  Now go watch hockey!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nanos Leadership Index Flawed and Biased Towards Harper

For the entire duration of the election campaign to-date, Canadians have been marveling at the superb leadership ratings that Stephen Harper has been scoring on a daily basis on the Nanos Leadership Index. Typical numbers have shown Harper at around 100 or over, Layton at maybe 55, Ignatieff at 50, and Duceppe and May at around 10 or 15 points each. The index supposedly rates the leaders on trust, competence and vision for Canada.

The Nanos polls are at least mentioned on a daily basis on CTV and in the Globe and Mail, and are repeated ad infinitum on a near endless parade of blogs and other media, so may be presumed to have an influence on voter perceptions of the leaders. Nanos calls these ratings a "driver" of voter intentions, a forecast, if you will, of how people may be considering voting.

There's only one problem. The Nanos Leadership Index is inherently flawed and biased towards Stephen Harper.

The Polling Observatory, a website whose mission is "to report on and provide an analysis of the election polls and their media coverage", has issued a report that cites two problems with the index: One, a flaw in measurement methodology and the other a structural characteristic "that seems to overstate, in rhetorical terms, the magnitude of the differences in Canadians' evaluations of the leaders".

The Polling Observatory is funded by the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. You can go ahead and read what the Polling Observatory says on its site. But rather than just take their word for it, look at the methodology yourself. The problems are pretty obvious.

The methodology is: each person is asked

Which of the federal leaders would you best describe as:
* The most trustworthy
* The most competent
* Has the best vision for Canada's future

Every day, Nanos will report on a daily leadership index score. The leadership index score is a summation of the three leadership indicators (trust, competence, vision). For example, on March 15th (M15), Elizabeth May received a Leadership Index Score of 11.6 because 4.3% of Canadians identified Elizabeth May as the most trustworthy leader, 3.4% said she was the most competent and 3.9% said she had the best vision for Canada. 

You know that 30-40% of people would be expected to name Harper in all three categories.So, his score will be the sum of his three percentages, or somewhere around 110 or 120. That leaves as little as 60% of the opinion to be split up between the four other leaders. As stated in the Polling Observatory, the result gives an overstated, exaggerated view, with the difference between each leader roughly tripled.

The overstatement is compounded by the context. The title "Leadership Index", as well as the terms, "trust", "competence" and "vision for Canada", imply some kind of insightful, carefully weighed valuations have been thought through by the respondents. In fact, these numbers represent little more than exaggerated representations of voting intention.

As of today, the Nanos leadership index has shown some life for the first time, as Layton jumped some 17 points and Harper fell by an equal number.

Further evidence of the Nanos Leadership Index's irrelevance, though, can be found in today's Abacus leadership poll, which shows Ignatieff and Harper neck and neck, with Layton jumping ahead, as well as a Harris Decima leadership poll that shows similar results to Abacus.

"Appearing to overstate" (by a huge factor) Harper's appeal to Canadians relative to other leaders, on such issues as trust, competence and vision for Canada, on a daily basis, for the full 40 days of the campaign, across all the media, has to be considered a pretty significant unfair advantage for Stephen Harper. What can be done about it I do not know..