Being an aggregator
November 29, 2008
There is so much information online that we now have aggregators, that will scan blogs, news feeds, web pages, for you, and collect in one place as a series of links. Some you choose by their stated slant, some you can customize yourself. Same as we do when choosing which newspaper of magazine or news station to follow.
So I thought I would try something similar. My jam-packed retirement day starts with CBC 1 news, then a read of the Globe and Mail, and the Ottawa Citizen - in depth or not, depending on the content, brand of coffee, other activities planned. But I do often come across interesting things I would like to share with others. Sometimes it's family or friends, sometimes Facebook virtual friends.
So - here's a start ...
Why don't we reshape our cities to fit an efficient public transit design, rather than try to adapt the transit to a poorly designed city? I'm reading Who's Your City, by Richard Florida, so was attracted to this article by Jack Diamond in the Globe and Mail (Nov 27/08). Ottawa has been trying to address this for years, we have some expressway bus routes, and local feeder buses to main stations, but most of the express routes funnel right through downtown. The concept initially was that you could board in the suburbs and often ride the same right downtown. And that bus would then continue back out to another part of the suburbs. This antiquated design clogs the downtown, and discourages decentralization. To travel between two different suburban areas, you usually have to do it via a downtown loop. Here's an except from the article:
Just as Detroit was warned about fuel-inefficient automobiles, so was Toronto alerted to unsustainable sprawl in 1996 by the Golden report.
It has been clear for some time that fuel-inefficient sprawl is an obsolete, unsustainable form of development. As difficult as it is for General Motors to restructure its business, with so-called legacy issues imbedded in the way it does business (gas guzzlers, too many dealerships, union contracts and so on), so it is difficult to restructure the shape of our cities. But it is not impossible, and like GM, we have no option. The sooner we acknowledge the problem, the better our prospects for a sustainable future.
Not only did the Big Three automobile manufacturers fail to recognize the problem of excess gas consumption, they actively resisted the call for fuel-efficient automobiles. So, too, did Mike Harris's Ontario Conservatives ignore the recommendations of the Golden report. Even the most efficient automobiles are nothing in comparison to the fuel efficiency and pollution-reducing characteristics of public transit.
It doesn't end there. Both hard services (utilities) and soft services (schools, universities, clinics, libraries and research facilities) cost far more spread out over hell's half-acre than they do in compact urban configurations. As a result, we're going broke - for every $1 earned in real-estate taxes in low-density areas, the city pays $1.40 to service the land.
Papers are full of articles and commentary on the current economic crisis, and the Conservative's response, or lack of it. This article, by Lawrence Martin in the Globe and Mail (Nov 27/08) offers a comparison to the Dirty Thirties in Canada, and how the depression was followed by two decades of non-Conservative rule. Here's an excerpt:
In Peru on the weekend, the Prime Minister spoke of having studied the history of the Great Depression. If so, it was time very well spent. Stephen Harper knows the dangers, the havoc, for one thing, that the Dirty Thirties wreaked on his conservative flock. It almost killed them.
On this continent, they spent two decades in the wilderness. In Canada, the Liberals, under Mackenzie King and later Louis St. Laurent, governed from 1935 to 1957. In the United States, the Democrats held power from 1932 to 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower arrived in the Oval Office with his golf clubs.
With the Depression, the primordial economic pillars of conservatism crumbled, giving birth also to the CCF, later the New Democratic Party. Today there isn't such a blanket invalidation of the precepts. But the shift to the Keynesian approach is proceeding with vigour. Its embracers include a reluctant Mr. Harper, who, in making an abrupt and somewhat embarrassing turnabout on the question of deficits, is at least demonstrating a flexibility that some of his political forebears did not.
Here's another one from the Globe (Nov 29/08), by Jeffrey Simpson, that describes Harper as "economist with a tin heart, politician with a tin ear". He says, in part:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called an election to secure a majority, and failed to get one.
This week, he created a completely unnecessary crisis that now threatens his government's very survival. And they call Mr. Harper a great strategist and superior tactician?
Thursday's economic statement was an economic lame duck and a political boner. It revealed, among other things, the kind of Conservative Party that all but its core supporters suspected would eventually be outed: a group of ideologues, led by a Prime Minister who discarded his campaign sweater to reveal an economist with a tin heart and a politician who looks everywhere for political advantage.
Instead of trying to grow Conservative support, he appealed only to his party's core. Instead of acting in a statesmanlike fashion at a time of crisis, he opted to play politics, proposing to cancel public subsidies for parties, a move that would disproportionately benefit his.
Instead of reaching out, as leader of a minority government and as president-elect Barack Obama is doing by talking to moderate Republicans, he smacked his opponents in the chops. Instead of heeding the advice of economists everywhere that the economy needs stimulus, he got his Minister of Finance to present a budget that offered cutbacks and tiny surpluses that absolutely no one believes will be realized.
Lightening up a bit, Tabatha Southey of the Globe (Nov 29/08) discusses an upcoming book, Bailout Nation. The book puts the bailout dollars in a different perspective:
Louisiana Purchase: $217-billion (all costs in current U.S. dollars, adjusted for inflation)
New Deal: $500-billion (estimated)
Marshall Plan: $115.3-billion
Korean War: $454-billion
Race to the moon: $237-billion
Vietnam War: $698-billion
National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $416.7-billion
Savings-and-loan crisis: $256-billion
Invasion of Iraq: $597-billion, to date
The combined total cost is $3.92-trillion.
The cost of the bailout is set at around $7-trillion.
She proposes an interesting scenario - they borrow it, say from China, save the economy, and quickly pay it back.
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