Intentionally missing the point


The advocates for the Energy East pipeline are, in my opinion, acting unethically because they’re trying to sway public opinion in their favour by means that are not authentic.

Evidence-based policy-making is the best known way to make policy. But it’s not enough to depend on evidence, even if the evidence were fully recognized by all participants.  The agents who develop evidence – discover, measure, and communicate it – are biased by their value system.  Beyond that, policy-making itself has its own biases independent of the nature and quality of the evidence used.
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A note on dying with dignity

DonaldLow[NOTE: I wish I could properly cite the interview on which I am basing this post, but I just can’t find it.  If anyone can provide me with a link to the actual story, please let me know.]

On 25 September, around 7:00 pm, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio 1 (Toronto) of a professor of Disability Studies from Ryerson University.  The interview was essentially a commentary of a powerful video by Dr. Donald Low, the exceptional microbiologist who steered Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis. In that video, Dr. Low called for new standards to provide dying with dignity to everyone.  The commentary by the Ryerson professor, herself disabled, raised warning flags about Dr. Low’s call.

She talked – very eloquently – about all the different ways that one can define “dignity” as a social norm, and that any such norm would lead to a slippery slope that would end up with the disabled being euthanized without their consent because society had decided they lacked “dignity” in their lives.  Essentially, she argued that every life has some kind of inherent dignity that must be respected – even if that means denying them dignity in death.

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Sam’s Teats

Sam's Teats (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Sam’s Teats (Courtesy Wikipedia)

There’s a bit of drama going on in Toronto these days regarding the (in)famous sign that used to adorn the storefront of Sam The Record Man.  The admittedly iconic sign was safely put aside before the store was demolished as part of the revitalization of that part of Yonge Street.  Ryerson University is erecting a new Student Centre on that site now, but it may well be that the sign will have to be re-mounted elsewhere.  This is causing ‘way more of a fuss than it deserves.

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SunTech’s bankruptcy underscores flawed global business model

The world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, China’s SunTech, appears to be going into bankruptcy.

What I see here is a series of problems, caused by business and political concerns, that that created the problems both that led to SunTech’s bankruptcy and that will impact the employees and investors, and indeed, the entire global economy.

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Ideals matter

I find the term “ideological” is used far too often these days as a pejorative, especially in politics.  I find this disturbing, because ideals are very important.

It seems that every time there’s a row at Queen’s Park or in Parliament, someone somewhere ends up accusing their adversary of being ideological, as if that were a bad thing.  Oddly, those on the political left use the term as often as those on the right (based on my very unscientific “survey” of listening to the news while driving to work).  Or perhaps not so oddly; after all, politicians are all aliens.

I suppose they’re trying to say that pragmatism was needed, and that being ideological is being the opposite of pragmatic, and therefore wrong.

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Politics, promises, and pandering to self-absorbed voters

There’s an election in the air.  It’s the Ontario Provincial election.  And, as usual, the politicians are pandering to voters by promising all kinds of silliness.  And voters are going to base their choices on election day based on the clearly falsifiable proposition that the politicians who are elected will keep their promises.  There’s a better way, though: voters should vote based on a politician’s (and a party’s) performance in the past, not their promises for the future.

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The sad state of research funding in Canada

NSERC logo shattered
NSERC is broken.

Robert G. Latta recently had a piece in the CAUT Bulletin on recent changes to the way NSERC funds research in Canada in engineering and the sciences. You can read the article here.  Dr. Latta  makes abundantly clear that the changes NSERC has instituted will not end well for researchers. I agree with him, and would go even further.

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Tom Flanagan, Wikileaks, and shameful behaviour

Image of Tom Flanagan
This man shames academics everywhere.

Tom Flanagan, professor of political science at the University of Calgary, said on a national news program that Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, should be killed.  This is wrong in so many ways, I don’t even know where to start.

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Goodbye ASME

Earth held in a child's hands
I have to do the right thing.

I disagree with those who think that there is a “debate” about climate change.  I disagree so strongly that I’ve decided to dissociate myself from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), of which I have been a member since 1992.  For a mechanical engineer in North America, dropping one’s membership in the ASME is a big deal, but I’ve had enough of some of their actions in regard to climate change, and I am compelled to take decisive action.

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C-311, we hardly knew ye.

I’ve just joined the David Suzuki Foundation and its supporters in denouncing the undemocratic move by Conservative senators to kill the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311), November 16.

Please join us in demanding that the federal government defend Canada’s democratic traditions and the Earth’s biosphere by making governments accountable on climate change – and, if possible, ask three friends to join us, too.

Take action at