Month: October 2008

CMA condemns Asbestos

The Canadian Medical Association Journal is denouncing the federal government for what it expects will be Canada's continued efforts to block international controls on asbestos at UN-sponsored negotiations next week.

A strongly worded editorial, appearing in tomorrow's issue of the journal, says the government "knows what it is doing is shameful and wrong" and compared Ottawa's moral stature in continuing to promote the use of the cancer-causing material to that of arms traders.

The negotiations, known as the Rotterdam Convention, are to start Oct. 27 in Rome. The focus of the talks will be on whether to add the chrysotile variety of asbestos to the world's list of most dangerous substances. Once a substance is listed, countries must give prior informed consent that they know they are buying a highly dangerous material before being allowed to accept any imports.

via globeandmail.com: Medical journal blasts Ottawa for promoting asbestos abroad

Canada’s national shame, its export of a killer product not used by Canadians to developing countries where the safeguards it insists on for the ‘safe” use of this product can’t possibly be carried out or enforced. For god’s sake, it’s 700 jobs, and people who can be retrained to do something that does not kill people.

Sri Lankan Government registers all Tamils

The Americans put all citizens of Japanese origin into camps for the duration of the World War. Did you know that?’She did not say anything.‘What if we place all Tamil citizens in camps for a period of one year,’ I asked. ‘We’d use that year to flush out and kill all the rebels hiding in the Wanni. You can’t blow up our cities when your bombers are not allowed free access to economic and civilian targets, pretending to be innocents.’‘That idea is barbaric. It is only a short step from there to the gas chambers,’ she said furiously and then brightened. ‘But I like the idea. When you start on it, the whole world will condemn you…. It will help our cause in other ways as well. We’ll have plenty of new recruits and funding from our expatriate community will increase immediately.’‘Oh, I understand that the idea is impractical but we don’t have many options.’”So goes the dialogue between Captain Wasantha Ratnayaka, the Sinhalese officer in the Sri Lanka Army, and Kamala Velaithan, a female cadre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who pretends to be an informer of the diabolical plans of the Tigers, in the much-acclaimed novel of the late Nihal de Silva titled The Road from Elephant Pass.On September 21, the Sri Lankan government almost made real this surreal scenario with its diktat that all citizens from the five districts of the LTTE-dominated North who have been living in and around Colombo (Western Province) for the past five years “re-register” themselves with the police.The professed logic of the government, or to be precise the Defence Ministry, was almost on the lines narrated by Captain Ratnayaka in the novel but with a twist. While the officer-character portrayed in the novel concurs with the illogic of its logic, the collective wisdom of the Sri Lankan establishment did not betray signs of any such reasoning. Even assuming it did, the drumbeats of war have numbed its senses to such an extent that Colombo has stopped bothering about the repercussions of its actions.The latest move by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime is astonishing to say the least as just over a year ago the government was condemned from within and without for a similar action. Besides, it comes at a juncture when the armed forces have driven the LTTE into wilderness in its own heartland and the entire world is lined up behind the government in its war.

Profiling problem

More on the Sri Lankan government’s astonishingly appalling treatment of Tamils. Clearly, they do not view Tamils as equal citizens of Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese state bears equal responsibility for Sri Lanka’s problems. I do not know what this sudden increase in pressure from India will do. There is some indication that the Sri Lankan government is paying attention.

A day after India officially communicated to Colombo the need for a peacefully negotiated political settlement to the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday to give an assurance that all necessary measures were being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of Tamils in the island nation.

Very empty and meaningless words. My question is, who will speak for the Tamils in a negotiated settlement. Are there any credible voices for peace on either side of the conflict?

Bye Bye, Bisphenol A

Canada is expected to formally declare on Saturday that the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is a hazardous substance.

The move will make Canada the first country in the world to put the chemical on a list of toxic substances that will ban the material from being used in such products as baby bottles.

via CTV.ca | Canada to put BPA on toxic substances list

Good for Canada. Timing of when cans (the biggest potential source of adult exposure) will be BPA free is up in the air.

Tamil MPs play hardball for LTTE

Members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu will have to resign if the Centre does not come forward to ensure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka within two weeks, according to a resolution adopted at an all-party meet chaired by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Tuesday.

Asked if this meant Ministers in the Union Cabinet and MPs in the Rajya Sabha would resign in the event of the ceasefire not happening in two weeks, Mr. Karunanidhi told The Hindu that he meant that all MPs would tender their resignation. “Ministers are MPs first, are they not?” he asked.

via The Hindu : Front Page : T.N. MPs to quit if Centre fails to ensure ceasefire

As Malini Parthasarathy points out in her editorial, this sudden increase in rhetoric coming from the DMK and other Tamil parties seems to coincide with an apparent impending military breakthrough by the Sri Lankan army. Why apparent? Because the only sources of news are the SL army and the LTTE, and neither, are, shall we say, neutral! Overt support for the LTTE has been absent since the late ’80s and especially since Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, so the timing most definitely reeks of LTTE’s covert influence on the Tamil parties in Tamil Nadu. This would be a good time for the LTTE to get some breathing room and regroup.

The Central government would become a minority if this threat was carried out. Which is why the Sri Lankan envoy was summoned and India’s “concerns” were addressed, whatever that means.

I think that the LTTE is a band of ruthless terrorists who should disappear from the face of this Earth. They have systematically eradicated moderate Tamils in their bid to be the only Tamil voice. Additionally, they have killed many civilians, Tamil, Sinhalese and Indian over the course of their bloody insurgency. The Sri Lankan army and polity, of course, are guilty of mass genocide and human rights themselves. But, they have the power of the nation state behind them and smell a final victory. I don’t seem them stopping now.

How is this going to end? Not very well for the central government, who will lose quite a bit of support after only recently surviving a confidence vote. Not too well for the millions of civilians caught in the conflict, who will bear the brunt of increasing desperation on both sides of the war. Will the LTTE ask for a negotiated ceasefire if things get too hot for them? Probably. Will the Tamils of Northern Sri Lanka ever get the autonomy they so deserve? Not if the Sri Lankan government sees itself as being in a position of strength. So, why was this war fought? I don’t know. But, I don’t believe in war, so there…

As a great believer in the educational power of fiction, I heartily recommend Love Marriage, a story set in the Sri Lankan tamil community, tells the history from the tamil side. You can read a Q&A with the author at the always excellent Sepia Mutiny.

Corporate tax cuts, solutions to credit crisis top PM's agenda

The Conservative tally and their wins in all regions of the country will give them enough power in the Commons to press ahead with their economic agenda, which, among other things, includes $50 billion in corporate tax cuts and possibly big-buck solutions to easing the credit crunch. The party also promised in the campaign to enact a tougher crime package aimed at young offenders in particular.

Corporate tax cuts, solutions to credit crisis top PM’s agenda

Yes more tax cuts is always the answer, and lock up the kids!! Don’t pay any attention to crumbling infrastructure, or increasing homelessness or the inadequacy of funding for the healthcare system. Just cut taxes for the rich, worked out very well for our Southern neighbours!

Under the current system, the Conservatives will need to really screw up to lose power. They are the only right of centre party in the country, and under our unrepresentative and unresponsive system, one will need a big percentage point swing towards the Liberal, or a complete collapse of the NDP, or the other way around to change the reality. Alternatively, a split in the conservative vote as existed till a few years back.

My neighbouring riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands is clear indication of vote splitting, and other major problems with our election system. The conservative candidate won by about 2500 votes with the Green Party candidate drawing 6500 votes and the skinny dipping candidate who pulled out of the election, but did not withdraw his name won 3500 votes, how about that! Atleast voter turnout was more than 50%.

We need any system other than a first past the post I can win with 60% of the electorate voting against me system.

Oil Sands work even with carbon pricing

via RAND_TR580.sum.pdf application/pdf Object.

More on this later, but according to this lifecycle analysis, oil produced from the oil sands of Alberta can be cost competitive with crude oil even if carbon costs are taken into account.

However, ramp up of production will lead to very high water usage and massive local and regional impacts.

In other words, Alberta, you’re screwed, rest of the world, you’ll die at the same rate!

Vote Strategically for the Environment

via Vote For Environment / Voter Pour l’Environnement.

This site wants you to vote strategically to avoid splitting the anti-conservative vote on the assumption that all things being equal, the conservatives are much worse for the environment than any of the other parties. This is not really how you want an election to be decided, but a party that represents the minority of Canadians should not get a parliamentary majority simply because of a flawed voting system.

I would heartily endorse a preferential ballot system for us. How does this work?

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a voting system used for single-winner elections in which voters have one vote and rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first preference rankings, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and that candidate’s votes redistributed to the voters’ next preferences among the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until one candidate has a majority of votes among candidates not eliminated. The term “instant runoff” is used because IRV is said to simulate a series of run-off elections tallied in rounds, as in an exhaustive ballot election.

Under this system, if you like the Green Party the best because of their environmental policies, but know they cannot win, you can still vote for them. Just have the liberals/NDP as the second choice. It is overwhelmingly likely that if you like the Green Party policies, you like the policies of the conservatives more than the policies of the liberals or the NDP. With our current system, that’s exactly what your vote will say. Your vote for a Green Party candidate in this election is essentially a vote for the Conservatives.

In the absence of the preferential ballot, or instant runoff voting, using web 2.0 methods to vote strategically is the next best thing, and a great idea!

Zardari calls J&K militants terrorists

Declaring that India is not a “threat” to his country, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has described the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir as “terrorists,” the first such admission by any top Pakistani leader.

“India has never been a threat to Pakistan. I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad,” Mr. Zardari told Wall Street Journal in an interview.

He spoke of the militant groups operating in Kashmir as “terrorists,” the paper said, noting that former President Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called them “freedom fighters.”

Indicating a major shift in Pakistan’s well-known position, Mr. Zardari had, as chief of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in March that the ties between the two countries should not be held “hostage” to the Kashmir issue, which should be left for future generations to decide, raising hackles at home

via The Hindu : Front Page : Zardari calls J&K militants terrorists.

Apparently, “our terrorists” ≠ “your freedom fighters” any more. I am not sure it changes the equation much in Kashmir, which, last I checked, was still burning.

Predictably, Mr. Zardari is getting a lot of guff about his statements and his foreign minister has already walked them back. He is more used to being a monarch maker who works in the background, put a microphone on him and his gaffes are McCainesque.

Harper = Bush Lite?

Harper's economic strategy, if it can be called that, is looking more and more like George Bush's: tax cuts and military spending. While gutting our revenue by $60 billion over five years, Harper laid out a plan to spend $490 billion in addition to the annual defence budget over 20 years to build up the Canadian military. This economic policy is well on its way to bankrupting the U.S. and could do the same to Canada.

We could instead bring together unions, capital, universities and provincial governments and make Canada a leader in green technologies, potentially providing hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs and literally thousands of profitable companies. But under Stephen Harper, Canada's economic ship of state just drifts.

Our economy is completely on its own, pulled this way and that, and ultimately down, by faltering corporate globalization and the catastrophic collapse of American casino capitalism.

Six Ways Harper Is Wrecking the Economy :: Views :: thetyee.ca.

The Tyee makes a compelling argument, not in the sense that Harper is a bumbling incompetent know nothing like Bush, but that the ideology of continuous tax cuts + deficit spending + cutting government programs will eventually lead us to where the U.S is at this point in time, and I don’t think too many Canadians want to be Americans at any time, especially the present.

That and his impotent and irresponsible approach to climate change make him a dangerous choice. Canada is where the US was in 2004, at the cusp of choosing a leader whose optics are better than his performance.