Monday, April 27, 2009

Endangered Species

I copypasta'd the BIG 3's 2009 SUV models into a lovely collage. When you see them all together its hard to imagine that this industry is surviving in its present form. I doubt enough debt holders will bite on the equity swap proposed by GM to keep it out of bankruptcy. Now, I don't know much about marketing, perhaps excess product differentiation is the key to selling cars, but 30 models of SUVs from 3 companies seems pretty stupid.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Socotra: Greatest island on earth

This little island off the coast of Somalia is only 100km by 40 yet hosts the most diverse terrain and plant life. The debate over whether life exists on other planets seems pretty inconsequential knowing I will likely never set foot on this island.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Suzuki outs his own Fascism

News Item: Class Action lawsuit against casino.

This week, a class action lawsuit was filed for 3.5 billion dollars against Ontario Lottery and Gaming. Let me put aside the issue of whether the state should be operating casinos in the first place. What I found most interesting was the affidavit filed by litigant Peter Dennis:

"I could not stop myself from gambling."

I'm not a lawyer but isn't this a pretty undeniable admission of personal liability? I could not stop myself from gambling. Doesn't the very statement acquit the defendants? But after reading a little further, I see the suit claims that problem gamblers put their names on a "do not let me in" list which was then ignored. That shows negligence doesn't it? So let me get this straight. I tell the casino to not let me in. And then I sue them when I don't get caught for defying my own wishes. Attention unemployed mortgage-backed asset portfolio managers, I have a new business model for you!

News Item: NDP gets chaffed for opposing Carbon Tax

I'm enjoying the election in BC these days as the NDP is having to defend its opposition to BC's carbon tax with environmentalists in and outside of the party. You couldn't concoct better parody of informed dialogue than listening to the NDP debate carbon tax with the Suzuki Foundation. NDP leader Carole James defended her arguably populist and mainstream position by claiming among other things that the new tax hasn't limited demand as it ought to. Someone explain to Carole what price inelasticity is. Suzuki gave the NDP an earful and led the charge against the NDP.

“If [Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell] goes down because of axe the tax, the repercussions are the carbon tax will be toxic for future politicians,” David Suzuki said Friday.

“No politician will raise it. That's why environmentalists are so upset.”

"Toxic for future politicians" is pretty clear. Don't give people the opportunity to express their wishes since it will be harder to contradict those wishes in the future. He's never come so close to just being open about his contempt for public discourse. This very clearly admits that Suzuki et al have abandoned using reason and argument to persuade people and instead must use blunt power before people get a chance to express their will. Suzuki, rather than convincing people resorts to power justified by his own vision of the public good. The ends justify his means.

Finally, the NDP is forced to defend itself from its own brand of poorly reasoned and ill considered criticism.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Freedom to/from Sprawl in Calgary

-Google view of North Calgary where citizens are indentured servants to automobiles.

Much applause from me this week for the Plan It Calgary group that released its findings on city planning and sprawl. They actually quantified the extra cost of servicing low density neighborhoods on the edge of Calgary versus more higher density projects closer to the center.
11 billion dollars.
It's hard to believe this isn't a ubiquitous metric at city hall. Traditionally city growth is at the whim of land developers whose only interest is making a king's ransom from buying land and subdividing it on the periphery.
This week Plan It suggested that high density was the only way the city could afford to grow. The developers cried foul with suggestions that the market should decide. Freedom and fairness, they suggested, was being violated. The interface between city rules and a free, unfettered, organic development is interesting. Like many other markets to date, the housing marketplace has only appeared to act freely.
Up till now, developers and the market have been free to build at improbable distances from the core, while everyone else subsidizes the additional cost of providing what few services are brought to these areas. Public transportation is hardly viable in these areas and the high cost of automotive infrastructure is not borne by the people who chose to live there. If these ridiculous costs were fairly borne, the marketplace would very quickly reveal that not many people would freely chose to live there after all.
Suburban living is incommensurate with my lifestyle but I am sympathetic to it. A new 3 bedroom house in my neighborhood currently sells for $850 000 while a similar house and yard in the newest suburb sells for $550 000. Under those conditions its easy to see where demand concentrates but that cheaper house in the suburbs only exists when everyone in the center defrays the extra costs of infrastructure. The tens of billions of dollars that Calgary will spend over the next ten years could be put to far better use elsewhere. Imagine what a city could do with 11 billion extra dollars! So Hurrah for Plan It and the hard money math that few in city hall can now avoid.

I'm all for a free market in real estate. When one appears, I'll support it.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Barbarian States of America

With regard to the latest mass murder in America, I notice everyone asking :

An easier question to answer is: How? He did it with two concealed handguns.

The Barbarian States of America claims a dozen more victims. How do thinking, considerate Americans live with this slaughter? Why aren't people rioting in the streets over the infestation of handguns? A pox on republicans, democrats and gun lobbyists. I can't wait for Lou Dobbs to build a wall between Canada and America.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Encana building takes Shape. Dave achieves sense of Calm

After much construction teasing (the 6 underground floors,) the Encana building is finally taking shape. "The Bow" footprint as well as the first atrium floors have been welded into position. Steady progress is expected to follow in the spring and summer months.

Rendering of the new skyline. The Bow is the big silver one.

Most buildings are concrete core with glass curtain walls on the outside. The Bow is all steel construction which means frenzied cranes hoisting tinker toy frames and a spider web network of steel-work at blistering speed. Fellow construction voyeurs can follow along this spring and summer with a live camera feed.

-with thanks to everyone at "the bow" thread on for insight, information, pictures and zeal.