Month: May 2008

BC's Carbon Tax Chugs Along

Premier Gordon Campbell says he won’t bend to northern concerns about his carbon tax, but avoided saying so yesterday in a keynote speech to a meeting of northern B.C. communities, who have challenged him to revise the tax. ‘We are not changing the carbon tax. No,’ B.C. Premier says

One of the loudest arguments being made against BC’s pioneering carbon tax proposal is that communities in Northern BC, much colder and much more rural than Vancouver and Victoria, will pay an “unfair” share because they need more carbon to heat their homes and drive their cars/trucks longer distances. The weather and lack of density ensure that they will pay higher carbon taxes, so it is unfair.

Well, sorry! Victoria and Vancouver have been paying a fair weather premium for years in higher home prices, higher property taxes, higher prices on lots of things because that’s what city dwellers do without complaint. You can buy an average single family home in Prince George for $125,000, which may get you a garage in Vancouver!

Cities are more efficient, and use far less energy per capita because of the density and transit options. Pricing carbon starts bringing some of these efficiencies to the forefront and that is a good thing.

BC’s carbon tax is not perfect by any means. But, it is a start and it gets people thinking about consumption. Believe me, carbon’s on a lot of people’s minds here in BC. There’s tons of talk about carbon sinks and sources in the media. The carbon tax has definitely contributed to an increase in conversation about choices and their consequences. The funny thing is that the proposed carbon tax on gasoline has been dwarfed by actual market driven increases in gasoline prices. The important difference is that a carbon tax is a revenue stream that goes to funding carbon free energy sources. So, a tax, however small, is still preferable to the profits going to companies that deal in carbon.

Hurray for BC and its carbon tax attempts. It is a decent start and one that I hope will be adopted by the rest of Canada and that wee country south of the border!

Roy Cooper: Ignorant of Basic Law

No federal law prohibits North Carolina from admitting illegal immigrants to its colleges and universities, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said today.The statement from federal officials contradicts a letter sent this week by the office of state Attorney General Roy Cooper.The letter from Cooper’s office advised the state Community College System that federal law bars the admission of illegal immigrants to public colleges and universities, even if they pay out-of-state tuition.The letter said that the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, was responsible for enforcing the law and offered to ask the department for further clarification of the law. | Feds: College OK for illegal immigrants

So, what kind of person randomly makes up U.S Federal laws about undocumented immigrants (illegal, he calls them) and college? Well, the top lawyer of North Carolina’s government, Attorney General Roy Cooper of course! Glad that he was caught out.

The issue? The hordes (350 or so scattered around the University and Community college system) of undocumented immigrants who pay out-of-state tuition and are admitted on merit to attend colleges in North Carolina. Conservatives want college systems to enforce immigration law. What next, have your papers checked every time you fill gas? The claim has often been made that there are a lot of hidden costs that this out of state tuition does not cover and actually, even out of state tuition paying students are being subsidized. No data has been put forward to back up this claim. Note the hactackularness of this tome by the John Pope institute, which makes a lot of conclusions based on their analysis of census data while not actually sharing any of the analysis/results.

Clearly, undocumented immigrants are not overwhelming the system, or even making a dent. So, this is all about demagoguery and I am glad that Governor Easley has overruled his attorney general and come out against colleges acting as immigration police. Life for one of these students is hard enough as it is, getting past the high admissions standards, affording the steep out-of-state tuition, they don’t need to keep looking over their shoulder every time they go to class.

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Genes Make Indians Fat

Scientists have pinpointed a reason why people with Indian ancestry may be more prone to weight problems.They have found this group is more likely to carry a gene sequence linked to an expanding waist line, weight gain and type 2 diabetes.The sequence, discovered by a team led by Imperial College London, is carried by 50% of the population – but is a third more common in Indian Asians.

BBC NEWS | Health | Genes ‘up Indians’ obesity risk’

Relax, all desis, it’s not your fault, it’s genetics.

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Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody

Mr. Bah’s relatives never saw the internal records labeled “proprietary information — not for distribution” by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the New Jersey detention center for the federal government. The documents detail how he was treated by guards and government employees: shackled and pinned to the floor of the medical unit as he moaned and vomited, then left in a disciplinary cell for more than 13 hours, despite repeated notations that he was unresponsive and intermittently foaming at the mouth.

Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody – New York Times

Life can go wrong very quickly if you’re in the States, brown and immigrant. This man lived there for a decade and had a large network of friends and family, yet, he was “disappeared” by the inhuman prison society that is the U.S correctional system.

Disgusting. Read the whole article. Yet again, no one will suffer any punishment or consequences, least of all, Corrections Corporation of America – “Prison Privatization at its Best”.

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BC Bicycle Helmet Law – NC Connections

(b.1) that a person operating or riding as a passenger on a cycle on a path or way designated under paragraph (b.3) must properly wear a bicycle safety helmet

British Columbia Helmet Law

I got my bike on Thursday and finally, the vile flu that laid me low for a week has decided to sink slowly back into a tuberculotic cough. Blogging should get back to normal speed and topics as I unpack, start biking, and can live life again without being racked by chills and bad dreams.

Figured I should get back on my bike ASAP, but I decided to first check if BC had any bicycle helmet laws, because we’re like that, we have a lot of what would be considered “paternalistic” laws south of the border. And, it does, and guess what, the project evaluating the law was performed by UNC’s Highway Safety Research Center, small world, ai!

Apropos nothing, here’s the US list of states and their various bicycle/motorbike laws. Note that only 20 states (and DC) require the use of helmets for motorcyclists, quite insane. Fall on your bare head at 50 miles an hour and you are dead, vegetable, or both. In contrast, All of Canada is under universal motorbike helmet laws. Of course, no U.S state has bicycle helmet laws that cover adults. In contrast, four Canadian provinces have mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

Is Chronic Occupational Pain a Class Issue?

Americans in households making less than $30,000 a year spend nearly 20% of their lives in moderate to severe pain, compared with less than 8% of people in households earning above $100,000

Millions of Americans in Chronic Pain – TIME

Based on a study published in the Lancet (much moolah required to read, funny that the authors of an article on the class/money based nature of pain would publish in a journal that requires all kinds of money to read, heard of PLOS?), one would have to say yes. People in low paying service jobs don’t have the luxury of mid afternoon yoga, or that once a week massage, or being able to take a “mental health” day, or any such luck. Also, the work is physically demanding, long hours of standing, heavy lifting, and repetitive motions the body was not designed for.

Krueger notes that the type of pain people reported typically fell on either side of the rich-poor divide. “Those with higher incomes welcome pain almost by choice, usually through exercise,” he says. “At lower incomes, pain comes as the result of work.” Indeed, Krueger and Stone found that blue-collar workers felt more pain, from physical labor or repetitive motion, while on the job

It is very sad, but a lot of this pain is avoidable. Next time you go to the grocery store, notice that the people at the check out counter stand all the time. Why? What about their job requires continuous standing? I’ve been to other countries, Germany for instance, where they are provided with high chairs that help them move the items from the conveyor through the scanner to the bagging area with much less effort. How many chairs have you seen in a grocery store lately?

Why can’t this very simple system be implemented? It would provide much relief. Three major issues:

  1. Lack of bargaining power: Unions are a dirty word. Last I heard, the unionization rate in the states was 12%. No one speaks for the cashier. It is considered a low paying, low skill occupation where people can be replaced easily and without “pain”. So, you’re on your own, ask for a chair, and you’ll be seated in one very soon (at home, your ass fired and tired).
  2. Money: And this is linked to point 1. Implementation of any programs designed to make workers’ lives a little easier costs money up front. Since workers are expendable and have no voice, it’s easiest to steal from them and deny them basic comforts.
  3. The American notion of individualism: You deserve what you get based on how hard you work and how intelligent you are. Grocery store cashiers must be lazy and dumb to be where they are. they “deserve it”

I don’t see it changing at all. But next time you walk into a grocery store and find a rather sullen clerk, it’s not that she’s lazy or has a bad attitude, she may just be in a lot of pain.

Happy Sunday!

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