Sunday 28 March 2010

How can it be?

Just another nutbar? Is that it? What do I say then?      Silly me.
Up, Down.

Denial & Defiance.might want to keep in mind that the crown he is talking about is a crown of thorns eh?

Abishageveryone knows - nothing broken is ever mended again, watching John Boorman's film In My Country yesterday, and I already knew that no personal injustice would ever be balanced, knew it this long time, but at some visceral fundamental level I still hoped

for some reason in these few weeks it has hit home, even if someone gave me a garden now I could not kneel to dig & delve - my knees are shot, the mantra is migrating from 'Fuck you fucking bitch!' towards 'Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry ...' waking in tears day after day, oh well Easter's coming, "Look out boy, that train gonna come 'long an' suck you right off!" ... C'mon train!

'descending into Chinese' as a lawyer friend used to say, or Vonnegut's Bokonon, "Live by the little lies that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy," and yes, this much I can do - I can still dependably get a smile from bank tellers and the girls at the post office and the food store :-)

Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia miliiAnd can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain —
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia miliiHe left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace,
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia miliiNo condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

     Charles Wesley, 1738.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

     Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot.
Kateri Tekakwithaa few short bits from Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers:
Book One, 2:

I am a well-known folklorist, an authority on the A----s, a tribe I have no intention of disgracing by my interest. There are, perhaps, ten full-blooded A----s left, four of them teen-age girls. I will add that F. took full advantage of my anthropological status to fuck all four of them. Old friend, you paid your dues. The A----s seem to have made their appearance in the fifteenth century, or rather, a sizable remnant of the tribe. Their brief history is characterized by incessant defeat. The very name of the tribe, A----, is the word for corpse in the language of all the neighboring tribes. There is no record that this unfortunate people ever won a single battle, while the songs and legends of its enemies are virtually nothing but a sustained howl of triumph. My interest in this pack of failures betrays my character. Borrowing money from me, F. often said: Thanks, you old A----! Catherine Tekakwitha, do you listen?

Book One, 5:
While I sat downtown preparing a paper on lemmings she crawled into the elevator shaft and sat there with her arms around her drawn-up knees (or so the police determined from the mess). I came home every night at twenty to eleven, regular as Kant. She was going to teach me a lesson, my old wife. You and your fictional victims, she used to say. Her life had become gray by imperceptible degrees, for I swear, that very night, probably at the exact moment when she was squeezing into the shaft, I looked up from the lemming research and closed my eyes, remembering her as young and bright, the sun dancing in her hair as she sucked me off in a canoe on Lake Orford. We were the only ones who lived in the sub-basement, we were the only ones who commanded the little elevator into those depths. But she taught no one a lesson, not the kind of lesson she meant. A delivery boy from the Bar-B-Q did the dirty work by misreading the numbers on a warm brown paper bag.

Book One, 6:
F. talked a great deal about Indians, and in an irritating facile manner. As far as I know he had no scholarship on the subject beyond a contemptuous and minor acquaintance with my own books, his sexual exploitation of my four teen-age A----s, and about a thousand Hollywood Westerns. He compared the Indians to the ancient Greeks, suggesting a similarity of character, a common belief that every talent must unfold itself in fighting, a love of wrestling, an inherent incapacity to unite for any length of time, an absolute dedication to the idea of the contest and the virtue of ambition. None of the four teen-age A----s achieved orgasm, which, he said, must be characteristic of the sexual pessimism of the entire tribe, and he concluded, therefore, that every other Indian woman could. I couldn't argue. ...

Kateri TekakwithaBook Two, 14
Le P. Chauchetière and le P. Cholenec were baffled. Catherine's body was covered with bleeding wounds. They watched her, they spied at her kneeling before the wooden cross beside the river, they counted the lashes she and her companion exchanged, but they could detect no excessive indulgence. On the third day they became alarmed. She looked like death. "Son visage n'avait plus que la figure d'un mort." They could no longer attribute her physical decline to her ordinary infirmity. They questioned Marie-Thérèse. The girl confessed. That night the priests carne into Catherine Tekakwitha's cabin. Wrapped tightly in blankets, the Indian girl was sleeping. They tore off the blankets. Catherine was not sleeping. She only pretended. Nobody in the midst of that pain could sleep. With all the skill she had used to weave the belts of wampum, the girl had sewn thousands of thorns into her blanket and mat. Every movement of her body opened up a new source of outside blood. How many nights had she tortured herself like this? She was naked in the firelight, her flesh streaming.
—Don't move!
—Stop moving!
—I'll try.
—You moved!
—Fm sorry.
—You moved again!
—It's the thorns.
—We know it's the thorns.
—Of course we know it's the thorns.
—I'll try.
—I'm trying.
—Try to keep still.
—You moved!
—He's right.
—I didn't exactly move.
—What did you do?
—I twitched.
—I didn't exactly move.
—You twitched?
—Stop twitching!
—I'll try.
—She's killing herself.
—I'm trying.
Malvados RessacaAnn Coulter - It's all about me!
1) Working with a hangover

You can sleep using dark glasses
You can sleep by faking diarrhoea
But only grand masters sleep using the 'desk repair' technique

I know it's wrong to judge but I can't help it and anyway my reasons are not as obvious as they may seem, so, on the maggot list this week:
Ann CoulterAnn CoulterAnn CoulterRahim JafferRahim JafferHelena GuergisHelena GuergisTaslima NasreenTaslima NasreenTaslima Nasreen

for people of a certain age and with a certain experience, having made a certain number of cross-Canada road trips, Ralph Cramden's "To the moon Alice!" meant Sudbury ...
Inco SudburyInco SudburyInco SudburyInco SudburyInco SudburyInco SudburyInco SudburyRoger AgnelliRoger Agnelli w AndreaRoger Agnelli

of course, even at the University of Calgary, they can't come right out and say that there is no problem with the bees, but there are alternative techniques such as the waffle-blur-frequency

Toronto Bogus RecyclingToronto Bogus Recyclingno brainers & fit for trash: CITES failure to protect the Bluefin Tuna, Barack Obama's decision to finance nuclear reactors in Georgia for Southern Co., the ongoing Heathrow 'third runway' fiasco, recycling in Toronto that apparently does not include making plastic wood but does include serious sanctions and publicity campaigns of dubious merit, except to the agency who did the work of course, like the Toronto 'carbon footprint' website, it's nothing but a trough ... oink?

while the New York Times shills for 36 Hours in Phuket, Thailand, aka 'how to make an environmental mountain out of a blow job,' the Globe for A long weekend in the Caribbean, the Star for where ever, and the ideological snake of correctitude eats its tail at the University of Regina over 'Hero Worship', I rest my case ... I'm sorry to be like this on Palm Sunday and all.

1. Nickelled and damned, John Gray, Mar 25 2010.
2. That's all, folks, John Boorman, Sep 6 2003.
3. Too-Busy Bees, Lawrence Harder, Mar 24 2010.
4. How bureaucrats decided not to save the bluefin tuna, Adam Mynott, 27 March 2010.
5-1. Southern Co. spent $3.9M lobbying in 4Q, BW, March 25 2010.
5-2. U.S. Supports New Nuclear Reactors in Georgia, Matthew L. Wald, February 16 2010.
     5a. Investing in Clean, Safe Nuclear Energy, Obama's speech, February 16 2010.
6. Heathrow third runway opponents win court challenge, BBC, 26 March 2010.
7. $720 fine for trash mistake just stinks, Royson James, Mar 09 2010.
     7a. City of Toronto Garbage and Recycling.
8-1. Letter from University of Regina professors opposed to Project Hero scholarships, March 23 2010.
8-2. Anti-scholarship scholars, Editorial, March 27 2010.

Nickelled and damned, John Gray, Mar 25 2010.

The bitter strike at a Canadian icon pits the new breed of global mining giant against a union clinging to the past

Down the road from the Copper Cliff smelter, where the Inco Superstack reaches 380 metres into a clear winter sky, striking Steelworkers stamp their heavy boots and feed a smoking fire pit with scrap wood. Massive ore trucks, engines growling, wait for permission to drive through the picket line. It is a familiar ritual; after 10 or 15 minutes, the picket captain signals the drivers to proceed and go about their business at the smelter—their business being strikebreaking.

When Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers walked off the job at the Vale Inco nickel mines, it was mid-July. The progression from agreeable summer weather to minus 20 C has been brutal. The best to be said about minus 20 is that it’s better than minus 30, just like strike pay of $200 a week is better than no pay at all. It’s hardly surprising that there’s little of the bravado that usually sustains picket lines.

The downbeat atmosphere may also reflect a sense among the strikers that the world has changed and that their strike has not been noticed by Canadians. There have been many strikes in Inco’s history—but every other one was decided in Canada. Now Inco is a subsidiary of a company based far away.

If the long stalemate in Sudbury had a sound, it might be that of the other shoe falling. When the takeover binge of the mid-2000s saw many of Canada’s pre-eminent companies disappear into foreign hands, the debate over the “hollowing out” of the domestic economy was muted. After all, Vale, like other acquisitors, made undertakings to preserve jobs and, in fact, to carry on much like before.

Now, it appears, things look very different to Vale.

The Steelworkers are on the receiving end of a global consolidation of the mining industry that has accelerated in the last decade, putting once-dominant companies like Inco in the shadow of giants like Australia’s BHP Billiton, Swiss-based Xstrata and Vale of Brazil, a company that can now boast 100,000 employees dispersed on every continent save Antarctica. “A pimple on an elephant’s ass. That’s how small we are,” is the summary of Wayne Fraser, the Steelworkers’ district director.

It’s not as if Inco didn’t see it coming or didn’t try to stay in the top tier itself. In its heyday, Inco was one of the largest and most prosperous companies in Canada and, for a time, the world’s largest producer of nickel. But in the year-long bidding war over the future of Inco and Falconbridge, Inco was hobbled by having overpaid for the Voisey’s Bay nickel deposit in Labrador: Inco paid $4.3 billion in 1996, and later wrote down the value of the acquisition by $1.5 billion.

And so Inco could not consummate its defensive efforts to buy Australia’s Western Mining, or Inco’s own long-time local rival Falconbridge (and alongside it Noranda). The latter deal petered out in indecision. Yet the union would have made a lot of sense—certainly more sense than the two old rivals holding on to their separate shafts on opposite sides of the street. An Inco-Falconbridge merger could have created, once again, the biggest nickel mining operation in the world. More important, it would have kept ownership in Canada.

Instead, while the federal government watched indifferently, Vale took over Inco in 2006 and Xstrata bought Falconbridge the same year, each of them paying about $19 billion. It seemed like a sad turn of events for a country that had been a global leader in mining. But then, there was never much love lost between the Steelworkers and the Canadian owners of Inco. Consider the list of strikes against Inco after the Steelworkers finally squeezed out their local rival, the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers, as the top union in town: 1966, 1969, 1975, 1978-’79, 1982, 1997, 2003. The longest strike was in 1978-’79: 261 days.

However, conflict between Vale and the Steelworkers did not seem inevitable. In his pitch to shareholders before they approved the purchase of Inco in the summer of 2006, Vale’s chief executive officer, Roger Agnelli, declared, “Canada is a mining country. It’s a country that has the legislation, experience, tradition, and very good people who work inside this sector. So it was very important for us to be in a country like Canada...we had a dream to be there.”

Agnelli also met with senior Steelworker officials that summer. The unionists’ recollection of the meeting was that he promised that Vale would change nothing. Agnelli said Vale bought Inco because it had a skilled work force that was among the most productive in the world. And, once again, he stated that he was proud to buy a Canadian operation.

That tone was echoed six months later when Murilo Ferreira, the Brazilian in charge of Vale’s nickel division, spoke to the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce: “What can Sudbury expect from the new owners? In reality, I expect you to see very little change. We are well aware and very proud of Inco’s place of prominence in the Sudbury community and we are not looking to make major changes in how things are done. This is a very successful company.”

A few months after Ferreira’s reassuring words, he was out the door. In his wake went dozens of other staff and executives from the Vale offices in Toronto—veterans of the Inco regime, including prominent figures such as Fred Stanford, the president of Vale Inco’s Ontario operations.

Vale was suddenly whistling a different tune. Agnelli now complained that “In Sudbury, there are deeper mines that have a higher cost.” Lest that be misunderstood, he spelled it out: “Sudbury is Vale’s highest-cost operation and it’s not sustainable.”

Any comparison of Vale’s operations in Sudbury and Vale’s vast and varied mining interests elsewhere in the world is difficult, if not impossible. Most of those other mining operations are open pits, worked by relatively unskilled employees. In Sudbury, the Inco mines go down two kilometres from the surface.

When Wayne Fraser went to work at Inco in 1969, there were 17,000 employees; when the strike began at Vale Inco last summer, the head count was down to about 3,000, but nickel production was the same as 40 years ago. The work force has dwindled over the years, in large part because most of the work is now done by sophisticated machinery, and the hard-rock miners are now technicians.

The surprise about Agnelli’s new attitude was that the fundamentals of Sudbury had not changed since Vale began its due diligence on the purchase. True, the Sudbury mines were deep, but they had always been deep, and the ore was rich enough to persuade Vale to invest more than $19 billion in it.

Fraser was following in his father’s footsteps when he joined Inco and the Steelworkers in 1969, at age 20. He has been director of the Steelworkers’ District 6 (Ontario and Atlantic Canada) since 2001.

Fraser has been on the Steelworkers’ bargaining committee in Sudbury since 1978, when the record-length strike began, and he has been chair of the bargaining committee since 1986. The strike that began last summer is his 11th set of negotiations. In the first talks with Vale, he admits, “we didn’t get off on the right foot there.”

The wrong foot was when Vale started to spell out the new tune that Agnelli had been whistling. The essence was that Vale wants to have the same style of operation that it has in the rest of the world. In particular, Vale wanted to end the Inco defined benefit pension plan and move to a less onerous defined contribution plan, such as the one Vale miners at Voisey’s Bay have. Next on the list of changes was a reduction of the profit-sharing plan known as the nickel bonus, which in the rare years of soaring nickel prices could increase pay dramatically.

With that, Fraser says, “The fight started, and they’ve been holding our members and this community hostage ever since.”

In fact, although the Steelworkers are firmly opposed to changes in the pension plan, they cannot claim to be completely surprised at Vale’s stand. The idea of switching to a defined contribution plan had been raised by previous management—and is an inescapable issue across the country.

However, what might have been a reasoned discussion five or 10 years ago was no longer possible—not when the union was confronted with what it took to be Vale’s threat, since invoked endlessly in Steelworker offices and on the picket line, blunt and unmistakable: “We’re going to change your culture.”

Both the takeover and its aftermath are tied up with the price of nickel. In the year after the sale of Inco and Falconbridge, the international price of nickel, spurred by Asian demand, jumped from about $14 a pound to almost $24 a pound. The profits from nickel sales in that period were enough to cover at least part of the purchase price of the two mines. But then, with the commodity boom fading, nickel prices slid down almost as abruptly as they had risen, hitting about $8 in January.

A related legacy is the nickel warehouse of the London Metal Exchange. When the two miners were taken over in the autumn of 2006, there were about 6,500 tons of nickel in the Exchange. At the end of last year, there were about 158,000 tons available. The buildup was such that, last spring, both Sudbury mines announced shutdowns because they had so much nickel on hand.

“The pipeline is full,” said Vale spokesman Cory McPhee. “We are not selling all the nickel we produce in Ontario and so this allows us to clear the pipeline.… When we return to work we are going to be in a much better position.” What he did not say—but was obvious to anyone who inquired—was that Vale could suffer quite a long strike before the mines had to get back into production.

Nonetheless, mid-strike, Vale started limited production in two of its mines and at the Mill in October. It then started the smelter in mid-January. Vale was careful not to disclose how much production was achieved or how many people—replacement workers or managerial staff—were involved. However, spokesman Steve Ball said “the vast majority of those performing the work are staff and not replacement workers.”

The resumption seemed designed to rattle Steelworker nerves, and the sight of smoke coming out of the Superstack did exactly that.

It’s a strange and painful world out on the picket line. When you’re not talking about a Brazilian company wanting to change the culture of Canadian mining, you talk to strangers about things you wouldn’t normally discuss, like relying on the Steelworkers’ food bank, or trying to find clothes and shoes for the young lad who is outgrowing everything he owns. It’s not just the shortage of money; you’re used to working. Unless you’re on the picket line, you’re just sitting around home doing nothing. Your life is totally different.

One miner, who has been at Inco since 1976, following two generations of his family before him, peers at the smoking fire pit and ponders the future: “How do we tell our kids to work here after this?”

Conversations can turn almost anywhere, so the guy you met for the first time 15 minutes ago says he has not seen much of his kids recently because the strain of the strike finished off his 11-year marriage. This draws a sympathetic nod from another striker whose marriage also broke up a couple of months ago. A third miner has a brother on staff at Inco who has continued working through the strike; unsmiling, he concedes that family relations are not happy at the moment.

The luckiest suffer no more than having to put their dreams on hold. There are others who have to use all of their strike pay and savings for food, so some of them are losing their cars and their homes.

The surprise is that there is not more visible anger in the 12-hour shifts on the cold and boring picket line. The mood is more of a slow, apprehensive simmer. The talk is about the security guards hired by Vale, and about surveillance cameras, and about scabs, particularly the guy who was a picket captain last week and this week crossed the line.

Most of the time, everyone is restrained. A driver heading for the Clarabelle Mill is told to proceed through the picket line, and he acknowledges the green light with a brief and courteous wave of the hand. He doesn’t hear the muttered anger of the picket: “Don’t wave to me while you’re going in there to do my job, asshole!”

If there is an apprehension of disaster, it may be because it doesn’t feel like a fair fight. How come, the strikers wonder, Vale Inco made $4.2 billion in profits (by the union’s reckoning) in the first two years after the Inco acquisition? True, the Steelworkers internationally have 700,000 members, and the Steelworker strike fund stands at $200 million (U.S). Fraser cites someone from Vale as having said that the strike is costing the company $7 million a week—for most companies an astronomical amount of money, but for Vale Inco, which has $21 billion (U.S.) in current assets, not that much.

For a brief time it looked as though the federal government was going to step in to level the playing field when the company announced its eight-week shutdown last summer. Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement announced briskly that this was “not welcome news” and there might be “legal options” facing Vale under the Investment Canada Act.

This was a bit of a surprise in view of the Conservative government’s reluctance to meddle in the marketplace. The basis of Clement’s reaction was Vale’s promise when it bought Inco that there would be no job cuts for three years, ensuring that the takeover was a “net benefit” to Canada.

However, a few weeks after his initial announcement, Clement dramatically changed his mind. Bad Vale suddenly became good Vale. If the Brazilian company had not come along, he said, Sudbury would have been a “valley of death.” Without Vale, “There was going to be no buyer, there were going to be no jobs, there weren’t going to be any capital investments, there was going to be no employer.”

Explaining his change of heart, the Industry Minister said that “one of the things I look for is: Is there an equality of pain around the world in these international enterprises?...And judging from the shutdowns, in Brazil for instance, and other parts of the world, it seems that they haven’t targeted Canada or targeted Sudbury for their shutdowns. So that’s obviously something in their favour, so at this point we’re not going to be proceeding with any actions with respect to Vale Inco.”

Former Inco president Scott Hand, who had tried to build Inco into a Canadian world-beater, fired back: “Anybody who thought we were going out of business was naive indeed. It wasn’t just Vale that wanted to buy Inco, it was Teck Cominco and it was Phelps Dodge.” (Since then, Hand has kept his thoughts to himself and refused interviews.)

The mood of Vale Inco going into the strike was unmistakably combative. A company strategy workshop held a month before the walkout complained that mining costs in Sudbury are 50% to 100% higher than corresponding “world-class mines.” The report from the workshop said it now costs Vale between $4 and $5 to produce a pound of nickel. That cost, it said, should be lowered to the $2.50 level. Assessing Sudbury and costs in the world-class mines, the document said, “The differences are largely in numbers of direct employees.” If costs are not reduced, it warned, in five years the Sudbury mine will be “out of business.”

Although the workshop was held in June, the report on its proceedings saw the light of day only in January, just after the six-month mark in the strike, with both sides hunkered down for the long haul. The report was leaked to newspapers in Sudbury, presumably as a prod to the union.

A further prod—another leak—was a letter from Vale Inco president Tito Martins warning that workers in Sudbury can expect the same kind of contract that Vale workers get elsewhere in the world: “There is no logic in making our Canadian operations an exception as we move forward with the business. Our position is clear; we want to give everyone fair and equal treatment.”

For all that, Vale does not seem eager to see comparisons of wages in Sudbury and Brazil or other Vale holdings. Asked how much Vale miners are paid in Brazil, spokesman Steve Ball replied, “Sorry—I have no idea, though you cannot compare apples to apples with Canadian wages and those in Brazil, given our higher living standards and everything else Canadian.” In response to further e-mailed questions about wages in Brazil, Ball replied, “I don’t mean to be unhelpful—I just don’t know and don’t have any contacts in Brazil who could help with this answer.”

An unexpected and perhaps annoying jolt for the company came in January from the trade magazine Metal Bulletin. Regarded by some as the bible of the metals industry, the magazine bluntly described Vale’s hard line as an attempt to break the union.

The magazine pointed particularly to Vale’s prosperity, citing a nickel trader who said that the company “is making money hand-over-fist and can afford to dig their heels in.” In the same vein, the writer concluded that “Vale depends far less on the Sudbury nickel operations for its revenue than Inco did.” And high stock levels at the London Metal Exchange give the company breathing room. As one analyst told the magazine, “If the management wants to take a strong view, there is some slack in the system.”

As the strike dragged on through the winter, Vale’s cards were held close to the company vest. The most senior executive to comment publicly was John Pollesel, vice-president production services and support for Canada and the United Kingdom, and general manager of Vale’s Ontario operations. At that, his comments were made by open letter. As public relations chief Cory McPhee explained: “We haven’t really made John available, honestly, to the press at this point in time.”

In his letter, Pollesel argued that infrastructure at Inco had not been sufficiently upgraded for the past 15 years. Therefore, billions must be spent in the next five years. Sudbury’s productivity is more than 50% lower than that of competing mines around the world. Sudbury runs the risk of being a “swing” producer, running only when nickel prices are high. “The union keeps shouting that Sudbury is the richest ore body in the world—it quite clearly isn’t and hasn’t been for some time,” he wrote.

McPhee described the “bit of a perfect storm” that had hit the Vale operation in Sudbury—a combination of having sunk money into the mine, the worldwide recession and record prices for nickel that meant miners were taking home more money than their supervisors (to the extent that some of the latter wanted to go back to the union ranks). “A huge labour relations problem for us,” McPhee said.

Between the nickel bonus and the pension dispute, the company’s demand for “cost certainty” remained the obvious stumbling block when the two sides finally resumed meetings in the last weekend of February.

Curiously, two days after the return to the table was announced, Vale Inco filed a more than $1-million lawsuit against the union, complaining of “unlawful thuggery” by Steelworkers. The union was accused of assault, intimidation, threats and sabotage of company property.

In its statement of claim, the company alleged that trucks carrying explosives and fuel were prevented by large fires from crossing the picket line; it said hydro wires were cut, rail equipment was damaged and roads were littered with spikes to puncture truck tires.

The allegations have not been proven in court. Fraser described the lawsuit as an antagonistic measure, a nuisance and untrue.

The surprise of the Sudbury strike is that the city will emerge stronger than most had expected from a long walkout. Although the weekly incomes of 3,000 Steelworkers were slashed down to $200 in strike pay, the city itself was perhaps staggered but certainly not grievously wounded.

Dick DeStefano, executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association, estimates that the purchase of goods and services by Vale Inco in 2008, the last full year before the strike, amounted to $450 million. Since the strike, he estimates that has dropped to $150 million. But to his knowledge, only one supplier has been bankrupted by the strike.

For a time, it was hard to tell whether the city was hurting more from the recession or the strike. DeStefano estimates that in October, the peak of the recession, 85% of local companies were working at three-quarter capacity. But restaurants and stores were apparently busy, and when a new Walmart opened at the end of January, it was jammed with crowds.

The good news was that Xstrata settled a new contract in the final hours before a strike deadline at the end of January. A strike would have been a further $150-million loss to the Sudbury economy just in Falconbridge’s direct spending on goods and services.

So the picture is not pretty, but it could have been far worse—like the marathon strike of 1978-’79, say. Mayor John Rodriguez recalls that “the whole town came to a halt. I mean, it was devastating.”

After that crisis, the city’s leadership got together to figure out what they could do about the future—what should the city look like in the year 2000? They decided that their immediate goal should be to cement Sudbury’s position as the hub of Northeastern Ontario for health-care delivery, education, government services, tourism and retail.

Significantly, mining did not get a major role in this imagining of the future. Teachers, health-care workers and bureaucrats may not make as much as miners on their good days, but their paycheques are regular, and they are not usually dependent on the vagaries of commodity markets.

In that way and others, the Sudbury of today is not the Sudbury of 1978. The 3,000 Vale strikers account for about 5% of the city’s work force. In 1978, the Inco strikers constituted about 25% of the work force. The city is now much more diversified; two-income families are far more common.

As he talks about how Sudbury has developed in the last 30 years, Mayor Rodriguez bubbles with the same quick enthusiasm that he exhibited in a 17-year career as a New Democrat MP. If he ever gives up on politics, he would be an impressive tour guide: Science North (“the second-best science centre in North America”); the cancer treatment centre (no more flying patients to Toronto); a new hospital; a new school of medicine; the overflowing campus of Laurentian University; the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

Then there is the re-greening of Sudbury. Decades of sulphur dioxide pollution had made the rocks black and wiped out virtually all vegetation. The first step was to build the $25-million Inco Superstack, which spreads the pollution further and thinner. After that, 4,000 hectares were limed to reduce the impact of the sulphuric acid rain; grasses and some 14 million trees were planted, so that endless tracts of slag heaps became grassy hills. It is not yet a lush green paradise, but Sudbury no longer looks like the moon.

But like most of the other 153,000 residents of Sudbury, Rodriguez, whose party once regularly called for the nationalization of Inco, is still a helpless spectator of the struggle that has wounded his city. It was at a press conference to urge both sides to the bargaining table that he confessed that in his 48 years in the city, he has never seen such aggravation—“a whole new level of aggravation.” It was a moving appeal, but it was not clear that anyone was listening.

If the Steelworkers had their way, the strike would rekindle the sort of economic nationalism that Rodriguez used to be identified with. The Steelworker response to the strike has been a skillful and persistent evocation of Canadians’ lurking xenophobia. Thus Leo Gerard, a onetime stalwart of Local 6500 who is the international president of the Steelworkers, talks of Vale’s “Third World ways” and vows that “the union and Canadian workers in general will never submit to a labour relations culture imported from another country by a foreign corporation.” John Fera, the president of Steelworkers Local 6500, was particularly effective in February when he called in Mayor Rodriguez and Richard Paquin, the head of Mine Mill (now absorbed into the Canadian Auto Workers), for a joint appeal on behalf of the Sudbury community. Even though the days of bitter Steelworker-Mine Mill rivalry are long gone, the appearance of the two union leaders on the same platform was a powerful signal that this was Sudbury against the world.

“Who are the Vale leaders that speak for our community?” Fera asked. “Does it not bother anyone that nobody in this company speaks for Sudbury?” And he turned the sharp edge of wounded national pride against the federal and provincial governments: “When are they going to speak for the working families that pay the freight in this province and this country?”

In the end, it is Fera who has delivered what may be the saddest judgment on one of the most painful of Canada’s labour disputes: “I don’t think they speak the same language as us. I don’t think we’re on the same page when we talk about negotiations. They don’t seem to understand how we talk and, in fairness, I don’t think we understand how they talk. It’s not the same language. It’s not the same meaning.”

That's all, folks, John Boorman, Sep 6 2003.

Big movies now cost $100m and that figure is going up. How can the studios afford it? They can't. Film-maker John Boorman on an industry facing meltdown

When I was a child in the London blitz, a blockbuster was a massive bomb that could knock out a neighbourhood. The blockbuster movie, now utterly dominant and crushing better films, is set to destroy the Hollywood studios; the monster is turning on its makers. The blockbuster now costs so much to make and market that no one can afford them any more.

The American military, able to crush every opponent, is in danger of bankrupting the US. Is there an inherent flaw in a system whereby everything gets bigger and bigger until it collapses under its own weight?

Until the 1980s, movies opened in a handful of cinemas, one in each major city. There they would sit for a few weeks then roll out gradually as word of mouth created demand. Then they started advertising on national TV. It was so expensive that to make it worthwhile the movie had to be available at "a theatre near everyone". Radically, they opened with 1,000 prints, then 2,000, 3,000 and eventually 4,000. Five million dollars for prints alone. Costs escalate each year. Marketing a picture can run to $30-40m, as they swamp the multiplexes in attempts to squeeze out the opposition. Between 25% and 30% of a blockbuster's box office will be taken in the first weekend.

Certain basic elements are required to manufacture one of these: an A-list star ($20m) who will lend the picture instant recognition; spectacle and action, but no real violence or sexuality since the film has to achieve a PG rating (an R rating cuts the take by 30%); digital effects where the bar is raised with every picture. Industrial Light and Magic needed $40m to make the creature in Hulk.

Dolby stereo and huge amplification in the cinemas give audiences an experience comparable to a rock concert. Typically the music will be almost incessant and costs several million dollars. A hundred million dollars is now the norm for a blockbuster and going up every year.

The studios can no longer afford them but must go on making them. More and more they swallow their pride and split costs with a rival studio. Massive German tax shelter money has kept them afloat for the last several years, but is running out. With stakes this high, they try to buy guarantees: subject matter that the audience can instantly relate to, sequels, films based on TV series that the audience watched as kids, or stars in a storyline that copies last year's big hit.

In my memoir, Adventures of a Suburban Boy, I describe how Deliverance was made. Warners hired me to write a script. I submitted it. They said, OK, if you can cast it and make it for a price, go ahead. How naive that sounds by today's standards.

Today, I would have received pages of detailed notes from a number of studio executives. I would have been obliged to hone the script down to a simple direct storyline that is clear and undemanding, and eradicate any eccentricity or quirkiness.

When the script satisfied their requirements, the studio would send it out to a star. If the star passed, the studio's response would be to hire a new writer. Further rejections by two or three stars and the project would be dropped.

If they found a star who was interested, the title, cast and storyline would then be test-marketed, asking people in the street if they would go to see such a film - four men canoeing a river and one gets buggered. Only with positive results would the studio go forward. Clearly, there is no place for originality in this method. In fact originality is anathema. How can you ask people if they want to see a film that they cannot relate to another film?

To this end, script gurus like Robert McKee have brainwashed a generation of screenwriters into constructing scenarios along rigid lines: introduction of characters, statement of conflict, development of narrative, division into three acts, carefully placed climaxes, conclusion. This contributes to the sameness of movies, and feeds into audience expectations of comfortable patterns and makes them uneasy if a film diverges from that formula. Little by little movies become more and more similar to each other, with marginal variations. One can imagine them evolving like No theatre into a form where only an audience inured to them can discern any differences. "Those Rocky movies," someone asked, "how do you tell them apart?" "It's easy," said his companion "they're numbered."

Ang Lee said of his experience of making Hulk that the blockbuster requires not talent but endurance. The nervous studio executives exert relentless daily pressure over every aspect of their investment. The other day a studio fired the cameraman on a big picture. The director was not consulted.

The studio will insist that every scene is shot in such a way that it can be malleable to editing, because when the picture is put together it will be test-marketed. Audiences will tell the makers what bits they don't like. These will be recut or cut out or reshot. The audience is asked to rate the movie as excellent, very good, good, fair, poor. To be successful, a film must achieve over 80% in the top two categories. If it falls short, recutting and reshooting will continue until it does. During this process, any remaining fragments of originality that have slipped through the net will be ruthlessly expunged.

Putting all their money into blockbusters, the major studios are making fewer films, down from 20-24 to 10-12 per year. Whereas films are traditionally developed by directors who work with writers and designers to shape a project to the point where it can be shot, the blockbuster is built by the studio.

They manufacture the script, decide on cast and budget. Only then will the studio audition directors. With fewer films being made, the competition is intense. More and more, directors will arrive with a visual presentation, often quite elaborate, with scenes from other movies or animated storyboards. With many directors vying for the first Harry Potter movie, Warners elected to assign it to the applicant who had made the most movies that had grossed over $100m. The winner was Chris Columbus, famous for Home Alone.

Those of us excluded from this elite, or lacking the stomach for film-making of this order, are increasingly relegated to the mean streets of the independent film, the arthouse ghetto of low budgets and deferred fees.

The independent film has to squeeze into margins and corners not occupied by the bullying blockbusters. The finance is cobbled together from co-productions, tax shelters, territorial pre-sales and, if you are lucky, as I was with my film Truth, money from the Film Council (I won £2m on the lottery without buying a ticket).

It took 18 lawyers to reconcile the contracts of all the participants. During those long weeks as I waited in South Africa with my cast and crew, the picture teetered on the verge of collapse. A feature of independent films is that most of them fall apart, often days before they are due to start shooting, and, even sadder, sometimes a week or two after they have begun.

Legal fees were one of the biggest items in my budget. Everyone who puts in a bit of money, or introduces you to an investor, demands to be an executive producer. I ended up with 6 producers and 5 executive producers and 2 associate producers. Billy Wilder was once asked: "What is an associate producer?" "Anybody," he replied, "who's prepared to associate with a producer." When it comes to showing the picture to them, their lawyers, accountants and assistants, is there a screening room big enough?

But once the tortuous process of patching the picture together is accomplished, you make the movie without the advice and intercession of studio executives. Here originality is not penalised, an individual vision is allowed, ideas are tolerated, and the final vindication comes at the Academy awards, which have increasingly become an independent film festival. Somehow we stay alive, we limp along as we wait for the blockbuster to reach critical mass and implode. In the rubble and ruins of Hollywood, we will emerge to baffle and bemuse that pre-programmed audience.

Too-Busy Bees, Lawrence Harder, Mar 24 2010.


IN the past five years, as the phenomenon known as colony-collapse disorder has spread across the United States and Europe, causing the disappearance of whole colonies of domesticated honeybees, many people have come to fear that our food supply is in peril. The news on Wednesday that a Department of Agriculture survey found that American honeybees had died in great numbers this winter can only add to such fears.

The truth, fortunately, is not nearly so dire. But it is more complicated.

There is good news: While some areas are seeing a shortage of bees, globally the number of domesticated honeybee colonies is increasing. The bad news is that this increase can’t keep up with our growing appetite for luxury foods that depend heavily on bee pollination. The domesticated honeybee isn’t the only pollinator that agriculture relies on — wild bees also play a significant role, and we seem intent on destroying their habitats.

To understand the problem, we need to understand the extent of the honeybee’s role in agriculture. Humans certainly benefit from the way bees — and to a lesser extent, other pollinators like flies, beetles and butterflies — help plants produce fruits and seeds. Agriculture, however, is not as dependent on pollinators as one might think. It’s true that some crops like raspberries, cashews, cranberries and mangoes cannot reproduce without pollinators. But crops like sugar cane and potatoes, grown for their stems or tubers, can be propagated without pollination. And the crops that provide our staple carbohydrates — wheat, rice and corn — are either wind-pollinated or self-pollinated. These don’t need bees at all.

Overall, about one-third of our worldwide agricultural production depends to some extent on bee pollination, but less than 10 percent of the 100 most productive crop species depend entirely on it. If pollinators were to vanish, it would reduce total food production by only about 6 percent.

This wouldn’t mean the end of human existence, but if we want to continue eating foods like apples and avocados, we need to understand that bees and other pollinators can’t keep up with the current growth in production of these foods.

The reason is that fruit and seed crops that are most dependent on pollinators yield relatively little food per acre, and therefore take up an inordinate, and increasing, amount of land. The fraction of agriculture dependent on pollination has increased by 300 percent in half a century.

The paradox is that our demand for these foods endangers the wild bees that help make their cultivation possible. The expansion of farmland destroys wild bees’ nesting sites and also wipes out the wildflowers that the bees depend on when food crops aren’t in blossom. Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands have found that the diversity of wild bee species in most regions in those countries has declined since 1980. This decrease was mostly due to the loss of bees that require very particular habitats — bees that couldn’t adapt after losing their homes and food sources to cultivation. Similarly, between 1940 and 1960, as land increasingly came under cultivation in the American Midwest, several bumblebee species disappeared from the area. It is difficult to count and keep track of wild bee populations globally, but their numbers are probably declining overall as a result of such human activity.

Even if the number of wild pollinators remained stable, it would not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand for agricultural pollination. Could domesticated bees take up the slack? By looking at data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we found that the number of managed honeybee hives increased by 45 percent during the past five decades.

Unfortunately, this increase cannot counteract the growing demand for pollination or the shortage of wild pollinators. Domesticated bees mainly produce honey; any contribution they make to crop pollination is usually a secondary benefit. In most parts of the world, they provide pollination only locally and not necessarily where it is needed most.

Thus a vicious cycle: Fewer pollinating bees reduce yield per acre — and lower yield requires cultivation of more land to produce the same amount of food.

Eventually, a growing shortage of pollinators will limit what foods farmers can produce. If we want to continue to enjoy almonds, apples and avocados, we have to cultivate fewer of them, more sustainably, and protect the wild bees that help make their production possible.

Marcelo Aizen is a researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina. Lawrence Harder is a professor of pollination ecology at the University of Calgary.

How bureaucrats decided not to save the bluefin tuna, Adam Mynott, 27 March 2010.

BBC News, Doha - The latest two-week long meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) saw bureaucrats sweep aside expert advice on how to save the bluefin tuna.

There is no disputing they are important - vital decisions have been taken here in Doha in the past few days affecting plants and creatures great and small.

But international conferences as journalistic assignments struggle to quicken the pulse or stimulate the mind.

They are monuments to bureaucracy and they present a televised world stage to middle-ranking bureaucrats who, once they have pressed the button on the desk in front of them illuminating a red light indicating their microphone is on, seem very reluctant to switch it off again.

Middle-ranking bureaucrats are incapable of generating anything other than middle-ranking oratory.

There are moments of excitement, if that is not too strong a word. When the vote came through not to allow Tanzania to sell a stockpile of elephant ivory there was applause in the hall: a victory for conservation. There were equivalent levels of excitement and outrage when delegates voted not to protect the bluefin tuna and several species of shark which are being fished steadily to extinction.

Degree of suspicion

CITES delegates come together every two or three years to add and amend legal protection for a multiplicity of species.

Their decisions sit on top of years of detailed, dedicated research.

It is the high-profile, emblematic animals that get most of the attention - the tigers, elephants and gorillas - and crucial measures to protect other species like cacti, caterpillars and clams pass through often unnoticed.

Most issues are agreed by consensus but some contentious ones are pushed to a vote.

Balloting now takes place electronically. Member countries have voting buttons on their desks, and because the counting is electronic and less transparent than a show of hands, it is viewed with a degree of suspicion.

To build confidence, the chairman periodically carries out a few dummy runs to satisfy everyone there are no gremlins in the software. On day nine as crucial votes loomed, delegates were invited to check the electronic balloting device once again.

"This is just to test the system," the chairman said.

"Here's a simple question to make sure the buttons are working properly: Is Doha the capital of Qatar? To record Yes, please press button number two."

Thirty seconds later, once the 150 delegates had reached forward to prod the relevant button and the votes were recorded, two nations, Croatia and Cameroon, had voted No and - perhaps from force of habit long-established in security councils and global gatherings - China abstained.

The Cameroon and Croatian delegations could not or maybe did not want to explain why they appeared to have learnt little about the city in which they had spent the past week.

The Chinese delegation remained inscrutable and said nothing.

Perhaps they thought it might be giving too much away if they stated unequivocally that Doha was the capital of Qatar.

What this identified, I think, is a level of cynicism and mistrust that is new to the convention.

Shock decision?

CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - exists to save the planet's endangered species.

An international treaty mechanism which enables man to come together and stop the destructive exploitation of other creatures and plants.

No decision is taken without the support of expert evidence, and I cannot help but feel huge sympathy for the scientists and naturalists who tramp through dense jungle and wade through swamps to collect data.

They compile, assess and deliver a recommendation about the protection of a species that they understand in greater detail than anyone else on the planet; all too often that expertise is swept aside by baser instincts.

Maybe it is naive to be surprised that that CITES' lofty ideals have become sullied and tarnished by geo-politics, but it is impossible to apply anything other than a very cynical interpretation to the bluefin tuna vote.

Years of research by marine and fisheries experts have concluded that the bluefin tuna's days are numbered, and unless there is an immediate ban it will become extinct in the very near future.

Some experts fear its population in the Atlantic has already fallen below sustainable levels.

Delegates were being asked to give the fish the very highest level of protection and ban its sale. Leading opposition to the ban was Japan, where most of the world catch is consumed in sushi restaurants. The Japanese had applied months of diplomatic and not-so-diplomatic activity to their preparations for CITES and they took a 30-strong delegation teeming with fisheries experts to the Doha gathering.

Japan argued that a ban would be unfair, but the science supporting reasoned analysis was pushed to one side by politics, amid claims that Japan was trading promises of donor aid to developing countries in exchange for votes.

Japan prevailed and the bluefin tuna may be doomed.

Southern Co. spent $3.9M lobbying in 4Q, BW, March 25 2010.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Power generator Southern Co., one of the nation's biggest consumers of coal, spent $3.9 million in the fourth quarter lobbying on such issues as climate change, renewable energy standards and energy efficiency standards, according to a recent disclosure report.

That is down from the $5.4 million it spent in the year-ago quarter, but up from the $3.2 million it spent in the third quarter of 2009.

Southern, one of the nation's largest power generators, also lobbied on coal ash regulation, electricity transmission and the program that helps low-income families pay utility bills, according to the report filed Jan. 20 with the House clerk's office.

Southern has been working with Congress on legislation that would impose cuts on emissions of carbon dioxide of power plants that are credited with contributing to global warming. While the Obama administration is pushing for Congress to pass a comprehensive climate bill this year, officials have not ruled out controlling greenhouse gases through regulation.

Southern also became the first power company to win a government loan guarantee to help finance two new nuclear reactors that it wants to build in Georgia.

The $8 billion in loan guarantees are considered essential for utilities to being able to finance new nuclear plants that the Obama administration is counting to reduce the nation's carbon footprint.

Southern lobbied Congress, the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Regulatory Commission, the Council of Environmental Quality and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

U.S. Supports New Nuclear Reactors in Georgia, Matthew L. Wald, February 16 2010.

WASHINGTON — Speaking at the headquarters for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, Md., President Obama said the government would back two new nuclear plants in Georgia.

President Obama, speaking to an enthusiastic audience of union officials in Lanham, Md., on Tuesday, underscored his embrace of nuclear power as a clean energy source, announcing that the Energy Department had approved financial help for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia.

If the project goes forward, the reactors would be the first begun in the United States since the 1970s.

The announcement of the loan guarantee — $8.3 billion to help the Southern Company and two partners build twin reactors in Burke County — comes as the administration is courting Republican support for its climate and energy policies. With climate legislation stalled in the Senate and its prospects for success dim, Democrats are seeking new incentives to spur clean energy development and create jobs.

At the same time, the president’s embrace of nuclear energy has drawn the ire of environmental groups that have long opposed any return to a reliance on nuclear power.

In his speech, Mr. Obama portrayed the decision as part of a broad strategy to increase employment and the generation of clean power. But he also made clear that the move was a bid to gain Republican support for a broader energy bill.

“Those who have long advocated for nuclear power — including many Republicans — have to recognize that we will not achieve a big boost in nuclear capacity unless we also create a system of incentives to make clean energy profitable,” Mr. Obama said.

Some Republicans, however, said that the announcement would have little effect on their votes.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, said that Mr. McConnell had repeatedly praised Mr. Obama for favoring additional loan guarantees for nuclear power plants. But, he said, this would not translate into support for a cap on carbon dioxide emissions.

“It won’t cause Republicans to support the national energy tax,” Mr. Stewart said.

He added that Republican and Democratic ideas on energy policy overlapped in some areas, but that much of Mr. Obama’s energy program did not fall into those areas.

Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said that she thought nuclear power was “a core component of a comprehensive energy plan,” but that she would vote on an energy bill as a whole.

“One or two provisions aren’t going to offset bad provisions,” he said.

The announcement of the loan guarantees, which had been signaled in advance, drew immediate praise from the nuclear industry and criticism from some environmental groups.

David M. Ratcliffe, the chairman and chief executive of the Southern Company, said that a nuclear renaissance was in the wings and that “we will get on with that at a more rapid pace now that we’ve made this first step.”

Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, however, said that nuclear power was not the fastest or cheapest way to reduce the greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

“The loan guarantees announced today may ease the politics around comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, but we do not believe that they are the best policy,” he said.

Despite the financing, the reactors are far from a done deal: their design has not yet been fully approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose staff has raised questions about whether changes made to harden the plant against aircraft attack had made it more vulnerable to earthquakes.

The builders hope to have a license to build and run the plant by the end of next year, under a revised process that is supposed to eliminate problems that caused huge cost overruns in the 1970s and 1980s, when regulatory changes during construction added billions to costs. About 100 reactors were abandoned during construction in that era.

The Southern Company applied two years ago to the commission for permission to build and operate the reactors, adjacent to its Vogtle 1 and 2 reactors.

The loan guarantees were authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. If the reactors are built and operate profitably, the borrowers will repay the banks and pay a fee to the federal government in exchange for the guarantee; if the borrowers default, the federal government will repay the banks. Critics have argued that the chance of default is high, and the loans have been delayed by protracted negotiations over what the fee should be.

The money for the reactors is the first award from $18.5 billion in loan guarantees provided for under the 2005 act. But Mr. Obama proposed this month to triple that amount. The guarantees can cover up to 80 percent of the estimated project cost, although some builders may ask for less. Southern asked for 70 percent, but the project may also be eligible for loan guarantees from the Japanese government; the reactors were designed by Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba.

The Energy Department is negotiating with potential borrowers for three other projects, two of which could win guarantees soon. The Scana Corporation and Santee Cooper want to build a nuclear plant near Jenkinsville, S.C., and UniStar is planning a reactor in southern Maryland, adjacent to the Calvert Cliffs reactors. A third project, in Texas, is in some doubt because of rising cost estimates and a lawsuit filed by the municipal utility serving San Antonio against its partner in the project, NRG of Princeton, N.J.

The United States has 104 operating power reactors, but all the reactors ordered after 1973 were canceled.

Heathrow third runway opponents win court challenge, BBC, 26 March 2010.

Campaigners have won a High Court battle over plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Councils, residents and green groups had said the government's plan was at odds with climate change targets.

Lord Justice Carnwath said the public consultation process used was invalid as it was based on out-of-date figures.

The decision does not rule out a third runway but calls for government policy to be reviewed. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the runway was still needed.

The Department for Transport vowed to "robustly defend" the plan.

'In tatters'

The judge, sitting in London, said the government's public consultation did not take account of the latest information on economic benefits and climate change and was based on figures which were eight years old.

The coalition that sought the judicial review into the government's decision, which was made in 2003 and confirmed in January 2009, includes six local authorities, Greenpeace and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The coalition said in a joint statement that the government's Heathrow policy was "in tatters this morning" after the judge ruled the decision to give the third runway the go ahead was "untenable".

The statement said: "If the government wants to pursue its plans for Heathrow expansion it must now go back to square one and reconsider the entire case for the runway."

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell, who has led the campaign against the expansion of Heathrow for the past 30 years, said: "This judgment is a victory.

"It means that whichever party is in government they will not now be able to force through Heathrow expansion."

In his ruling, Lord Justice Carnwath said: "Whether there should be a third runway at Heathrow Airport is a question of national importance and acute political controversy.

'Full capacity'

"It is a matter on which the main parties are currently divided and which may well become a significant debating point at the forthcoming general election."

He adjourned the hearing until after Easter to give both sides time to consider what formal orders the court should make.

Following the ruling, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis reaffirmed the government's support for expansion, stating that Heathrow Airport was currently operating at "full capacity".

He stressed the judgement did not rule out a new runway, but called for a review "of all the relevant policy issues, including the impact of climate change policy".

Lord Adonis said: "A new runway at Heathrow will help secure jobs and underpin economic growth as we come out of recession.

"It is also entirely compatible with our carbon reduction target, as demonstrated in the recent report by the Committee on Climate Change."

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, the prime minister said: "We are taking seriously both the concerns that people have and the need for public consultation.

"But we took a tough decision, the right decision necessary for the future of Britain and the economy, and a new runway will help secure Britain's economic future."

Conservative leader David Cameron said the ruling showed the government had made "the wrong judgement".

"We said the third runway shouldn't go ahead, we were absolutely clear about that."

The coalition against the runway had argued that there was no evidence to support the government's claim that there will be enough public transport to serve it.

'Change of policy'

In approving the third runway, the government had said it could meet the environmental conditions for expansion at Heathrow set out in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper (ATWP), relating to noise, air quality and access.

Nigel Pleming QC, for the coalition, said the "economic and environmental" position had fundamentally changed since 2003, which raised the question of whether the government should continue to support the expansion.

Lord Justice Carnwath ruled the coalition's submissions "add up, in my view, to a powerful demonstration of the potential significance of developments in climate change policy since the 2003 White Paper".

He said they were "clearly matters which will need to be taken into account" under the new national policy statement dealing with airport expansion.

While ordering it be reconsidered, the judge refused to quash the government's decision to "confirm policy support" for a third runway, stating that he doubted whether such an order would be appropriate.

ANALYSIS, Richard Scott
The decision was greeted with jubilation by campaigners.

Outside the High Court they waved their copies of the judgement and drank champagne.

The judge agreed with them that the consultation carried out by the government into a third runway did not take account of the latest evidence.

The decision means that Labour would have to re-evaluate the evidence if it wins the election and still wants to press ahead with a third runway.

Campaigners hope that will give Labour the perfect excuse to drop the policy.

But Labour says it is still in favour of a third runway adding it was always intending to re-examine the evidence as part of a national policy statement on airports next year.

And the judge accepted this argument, saying it did not much matter that the latest evidence had not been taken into account in the consultation, because that would happen in the policy review.

So he said he would not quash the government's decision to support a third runway.

In the end, both sides are claiming victory.

$720 fine for trash mistake just stinks, Royson James, Mar 09 2010.

You could take your clothes off and run naked and drunk through the streets of Toronto and, only if you are unlucky, get yourself a minor fine from some enterprising constable.

But make a mistake and leave a small bag of recyclables in the wrong bag at the wrong place? Boom! The city's garbage police will sock it to you.

Such is the experience of Queen St. W. businessman Mark Wright, who's survived on the strip for almost 25 years without running afoul of the city's eager-beaver licensing officers.

Then in late January his elderly cleaning lady misplaced a small bag of dry office refuse she was sorting while doing her laundry at the laundromat. One thing led to another. The garbage police sniffed out the crime. And the long, weighty arm of the city bylaw came down on Wright with a thud.

Fine: $720. That's $360 for "deposit waste on or in a public street or other public property." And another $360 for "set out waste not in appropriate regulation container."

That's more punitive than the penalty for running a stop sign. You could hurt somebody and get off with less damage to your pocketbook.

"I don't want to be the poster boy for what's wrong with the city, but the city is out of control," says Wright, owner of Prisma Light, a video production company.

"I have four kids and we are avid recyclers at home. At the office, we have a very small footprint. Some weeks we produce less than the equivalent of one bag of garbage and recycling combined.

"So how, for goodness sake, did we get to the point that a small error, a cleaning lady forgetting to tag a garbage bag, results in fines that exceed almost all other fines?"

You have to feel for the guy. He's credible. He seems conscientious. It seems there's been a bit of a mistake – one that should be remedied without court appearances and angst and the like. But court is where he might end up.

Wright's councillor, Joe Pantalone, is advocating on his behalf, but even that may not be enough. The fine can't be wiped out just because a councillor intervened – even if the councillor is the deputy mayor and is running for mayor.

"My sympathies are 100 per cent with this businessman. It was an honest mistake," Pantalone says. He's asked, in writing, for a review of the circumstances around this citation. If the bureaucracy is unmoved, Pantalone promises to write a letter of support on behalf of the business – something Wright might be able to take to court to plead his case.

The cleaning lady did her sorting of three bags of office refuse while doing her laundry – two doors away from Prisma Light. She forgot the small bag but took two other large bags when finished. The laundromat owner put the discarded bag of recyclables out on the curb. Bylaw enforcers rifled through the bag and identified the culprit from correspondence.

No warning. No second chance. No questions. Bam. $720 fine.

"We are good recyclers and good community neighbours ... trying to do the right thing," Wright said Monday. "With a reasonable fine, a warning, all of this could have been avoided. But as many people believe, this isn't really about garbage or dumping or caring about this city – this is about generating revenue. And doing it on the backs of businesses like mine."

Pantalone acknowledges the penalty is excessive, but says fines need to be large to spark compliance. "Discretion" is needed here, he says.

Letter from University of Regina professors opposed to Project Hero scholarships, March 23 2010.

Faculty of the University of Regina say No to "Project Hero" and Canadian Imperialism: An Open Letter to President Vianne Timmons

Dear President Timmons:

We write to you as concerned faculty members of the University of Regina, to urge you to withdraw our university immediately from participation in the "Project Hero" scholarship program. This program, which waives tuition and course fees, and provides $1,000 per year to "dependents of Canadian Forces personnel deceased while serving with an active mission", is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We do not want our university associated with the political impulse to unquestioning glorification of military action.

"Project Hero" is the brainchild of Kevin Reed, a 42-year-old honorary lieutenant-colonel of an army reserve unit in southwestern Ontario, who has said publicly he was inspired by the work of retired Canadian General Rick Hillier. General Hillier, one of the most controversial figures in the recent military history of this country, was the first to introduce "Project Hero" at a Canadian post-secondary institution, just after he took up the post as Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since then, a number of other public Canadian universities have come on board.

In our view, support for "Project Hero" represents a dangerous cultural turn. It associates "heroism" with the act of military intervention. It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices. In signing on to "Project Hero", the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the "good war" of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.

The majority of young adults in Canada find it increasingly difficult to pay for their education. If they do make it to university, they rack up massive student debts which burden them for years. Instead of privileging the children of deceased Canadian soldiers, we suggest that our administration demand all levels of government provide funding sufficient for universal qualified access to post-secondary education.

The University of Regina has always been closely tied to our Saskatchewan community, and the strategic plan, mâmawohkamâtowin, means "co-operation; working together towards common goals". We do not think that "Project Hero" is a common goal chosen by those of us who work in the University; it is not drawn from the values of this institution. We think it is incompatible with our understanding of the role of public education, or with decisions made by a process of collegial governance.

In addition to withdrawing from "Project Hero", we think the issues we raise should be publicly debated. We are calling on the U of R administration hold a public forum on the war in Afghanistan, and Canadian imperialism more generally, at which the issues we raise can be debated. This forum should be open to all; it should take place this semester, before exams, as "Project Hero" is set to start at U of R in September 2010.

To summarize, we are calling for:

(1) The immediate withdrawal of our university from "Project Hero".

(2) An institutional deployment of public pressure on both orders of government to provide immediate funding sufficient for universal access to post-secondary education.

(3) A public forum on the war in Afghanistan and Canadian imperialism more generally to be held this semester before exams begin.

Joyce Green, Department of Political Science
J.F. Conway, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
George Buri, Department of History
Emily Eaton, Department of Geography
Jeffery R. Webber, Department of Political Science
David Webster, International Studies
Annette Desmarais, International Studies
Darlene Juschka, Women's and Gender Studies and Religious Studies
Meredith Rogers Cherland, Faculty of Education
Garson Hunter, Social Work
John W. Warnock, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
William Arnal, Department of Religious Studies
Leesa Streifler, Department of Visual Arts
Carol Schick, Faculty of Education
Ken Montgomery, Faculty of Education
André Magnan, Department of Sociology and Social (?)

Anti-scholarship scholars, Editorial, March 27 2010.

Who would have thought the day would come when university teachers would band together to oppose a scholarship program that permits young people to pursue a higher education?

Sixteen University of Regina academics have not only done that, but have gone one better in an open letter to university administrators, branding the scholarships a "dangerous cultural turn."

It is hard to fathom a less dangerous idea than the offer of modest educational compensation to children who have lost a parent in the service of their country. Yet the program the academics have targeted, called Project Hero, is nothing more sinister than that, paying tuition and providing $1,000 each year to the children of fallen servicemen and women.

The academics would probably prefer to focus on deconstructing the discourse of heroism as imperialist and fellow-centric, and thereby reflective of the dominant paradigm of violence perpetrated against women and ethnic minorities, to use jargon familiar to them.

But their open letter is revealing. The academics complain that by accepting the scholarships the university is "implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military and state elites as the 'good war' of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics."

In other words, it is the academics themselves who are implicated in a disturbing construction by their use of an uncontroversial scholarship program as a cover to make a political point against Canada's mission in Afghanistan as, as they evidently see it, a "bad war."

The academics further complain that the university's acceptance of the scholarships "erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices." It accomplishes no such thing. Just as they are free to issue contemptible open letters, so too are they able to carry on as before in their "critical discussion of military policy and practices."

The university is not compromised. It's business as usual on the U of R campus. All that has changed is that there is now a greater probability that one day the child of a soldier killed in action, a fallen hero, will stand up in class and challenge the pervasive and doctrinaire leftist analysis of the mission in Afghanistan.

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