Social Engineering of Bad Ideas

I have always been fascinated by how legislators and the population at large are influenced. Recently I have been introduced to two new ways social engineering is applied to current issues to limit the debate and range of issues considered. Traditionally, social engineering of decisions is applied by ensuring that the deciders and their audiences only see the view from one side — that opposing views and other inconveniences are excluded from the discussion and framing of any potential solutions. Cynically this could be considered an advertising campaign that drowns everything out — especially the truth. What was that line from ‘Brave New World?’ — 10,000 repetitions make one truth?

Paul Krugmans’  columns in the New York Times have introduced me to some additional techniques — terms that effectively have been hijacked to support this conceptually engineered world. For instance, politician-speak for ‘realistic’ has nothing to do with whether a proposal addresses the problem at hand but rather whether it has any chance of getting accepted by their opponents. Or supported by their financial backers… Of late there have been some interesting discussions about ‘realistic’ gun control legislation in the US.  Or ‘realistic’ energy and climate change policies in Canada.

And even more widely used is the idea of ‘serious’, as in ‘all serious people think…’.  This bit of newspeak translates as a ‘serious’ person or idea is one that the proponent agrees with. If you don’t agree then you cannot possibly be considered ‘serious’. Effectively, dissenting views or inconvenient truths can be excluded from the discussion by asserting that their advocates made no serious proposals. Recently we have been barraged with commentary on ‘serious’ proposals to address the deficit, for example, or ‘serious’ proposals to address climate change and the need for ‘green’ energy. And a couple of really choice columns in the Canadian papers about how wind farm opponents just need to look at the facts to realize the error of their ways, stop shouting and listen to the politicians, wind farm executives and other serious people who have an exclusive lock on ‘the truth…’.

I really must add ‘green’ to the list of hijacked terms. Calling anything green has become such a blanket term for covering abuse that it has lost all its original meaning. The line runs ‘but don’t you want to be green and save the planet?’ A putdown for anyone who questions monstrosities like the Ontario Green Energy Act, which is neither ecologically nor economically beneficial to the Province, but allows a small group of well-connected investors to do damage on a large scale. Those who object are of course a minor group of unserious nimbys… Watching our Premier deflect a question on the economic consequences of ‘Green’ with a diatribe on how urgent it was to clean the air for our children was fascinating. What a cynical move…

If one were to rely on the media or government press releases for information and ignored other sources — like the people affected by the issues, one is likely to have a hard time disagreeing with what is being done.  Industrial wind farms are portrayed as beautiful in open fields with no sign of houses anywhere — but with children gaily playing in the foreground. (Must have been imported from elsewhere.) No mention anywhere of the constantly running gas turbines ready to step in when the wind dies — or the impacts on some from the noise and flicker.  Food packages show images of small family farms with happy animals wandering in spacious enclosures — instead of the grim acres of tightly packed captives wading in their own manure, forcefed and medicated until processed on an unimaginable scale.  It is interesting, though, that government rules weave a tighter noose on small producers and groups — even the church supper fundraiser is being threatened. The official excuse is that the agencies are ‘protecting’ us from health hazards — though the scale and frequency of food-related health issues seems more tied to the industrialization of food production.

But we all seem to be fine with this — all the press most people read tell us these things are wonderful and only NIMBYs disagree.  All serious people think this, so…  And since it may be difficult to get ‘the facts’ we are left with the opinions of those who would profit from our belief. And in a culture that avoids making objective choices based on facts or killing programs that don’t work (or even coherently articulating the reasons for making specific decisions), we are left with the fog of social engineering. It is not surprising that problems exist and usually get worse rather than better as a result of additional policies. The real miracle is that anything works at all.

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The alternate reality of wind power

A couple of days ago an article appeared in Slashdot and several other places suggesting that ‘wind turbine syndrome’ was a matter of mass hysteria — communicated by word of mouth rather than exposure. Following the entrails the source for this was a wind advocacy group. The discussion on Slashdot was the usual chain of viewpoints — offering opinions but few facts. And plenty of off-topic remarks about nuclear power and cell phones.

On the face of it this would appear to be a counter-strike to the rising rural opposition to the invasion of large scale wind power into unwilling communities. And a good study from last year where high levels of very low frequency sound were measured in the homes of people in a wind plant in Wisconsin. But part of the problem with this is the insistence that there is no evidence that harm is even possible. It is as though the wind advocates are telling people that noise and flicker from huge wind turbines obeys different physical laws than anything else in the world. In this alternate reality, low frequency sound from a wind plant will have different physiological effects than similar low frequency noise from a large industrial blower, military sonar or aircraft vibration. So if analysis shows that noise in the frequency ranges that the US military found made some pilots ill, or that weapons developers were using for crowd control — if the source is a wind turbine it will have a different effect… and we should believe them? And do any of the proponents (David Suzuki, for example) live anywhere near these things?

But there seems to be a lot of this willing suspension of disbelief going around. Our leaders and their propagandists are telling everyone we need more and more wind power — and soon rural areas (to say nothing about bird habitats and migration routes) will be covered with these things.  But the evidence is that much of this power is unusable as it is created when demand is low, so is sold off at a loss. And hydroelectric power is being spilled to make room for wind, as is nuclear. So with gas turbines on standby to step in when wind falters more greenhouse gases are being released than ever.  Why?

We are assured by these same folks that the Smart Grid ™ will losslessly move power across the province and successfully juggle the hundreds of randomly varying generation sources to support our electrical workloads. In the final report on the 2003 blackout one observation was telling – the scale of the blackout was due in part to an inability to manage the interactions within the grid. The power industry (plural, really) has been interconnecting things without any real grasp of the  complex dynamics of the resultant structure. So a failure in one place propagated in seconds across the grid causing multiple failures and overloads. Somehow I doubt that the folks who run the politicized and balkanized power system in Ontario are that much smarter. Listening to them it sounds more like a big drug dream than the result of any sober engineering work.

But it goes even deeper. A few days ago I had a discussion at the ‘public’ meeting with one of the wind company people who are planning on carpet bombing Amherst Island with wind turbines.  Tightly packed lines of these immense monsters will cover the landscape — guess they had to have a certain number to make the project. So they did… Reading the alternate energy press one gets the idea that the engineering objective is to provide enough spacing to minimize noise and multi-turbine wake losses. Even the Wikipedia article on wind plant engineering talks about this. The measure is in multiples of the turbine blade diameter — so if the target spacing (per Wiki) is 10-15 rotor diameters, a 150m rotor would space these things 1.5km apart as a minimum. Doing a little ruler work on their map shows some as close as 3 diameters. But these folks said their ‘science’ says they can do this… really makes me wonder if they use pi as 3 for convenience as well. Glad its not my money at risk… a pity I will be paying for it through one of the highest power costs in North America.

An aside on power costs: There was a recent column in the New York Times about the negative impact of soaring power costs on economic activity in Europe. What was interesting was the mention that manufacturers were starting to talk about moving their facilities to the US because of lower power costs. I must wonder if anyone thought through what the costs of the Ontario Green Energy ™ program would do to Ontario businesses? After all, to pay for all this one must have positive economic activity — same goes for tax revenues to pay for all the government. One does not build a prosperous society by driving out employers. But once again these folks seem to inhabit a bubble untouched by the same realities the rest of us inhabit.

Back in the days of the Roman Empire, when an engineer designed a bridge or an arch, he was required to stand under it as the construction supports were removed.  That way, the engineer had a real, personal interest in getting it right.  But in the alternate reality of Ontario’s wind invasion — are any of the designers or advocates at risk? Somehow I doubt it. They all seem to be pretty enthusiastic that someone else should take one for the team — but I don’t see any of them doing it. How many of these folks even live near a wind farm? Perhaps after construction the team should be required to live in and amongst the things for a while — a year would be a good start.

But short of that unlikely measure, the only thing that might help would be to simply admit that wind farms were part of the same physical reality as everything else. And that factors found to be harmful to some people when generated by other sources could be harmful when generated by wind plants. To expect anything different is really insane.

Death of 10,000 Cuts

I was saddened to read in today’s Toronto Star that VIA, the Canadian ‘passenger’ rail service, is being cut again. So once again communities in southern Ontario will loose their rail service. I read the self-serving hand-wringing of the executives, that their dream of a profitable passenger service that is completely user-funded, just isn’t happening. So they just have to keep cutting and cutting — preserving their jobs to the last, of course. This was reinforced by the announcement recently that VIA has tripled its profits after allowing for the on-going government subsidy and is looking to further fine tune its profit model…

Over the years we have had many pleasant train experiences. From riding the Indiana and South Shore interurban from Chicago to South Bend. To the incredible JR Shinkansen, flying on the ground from Tokyo to Kyoto. And watching the sun set over the Rhine from a very comfortable DB compartment. In our experience, passenger rail is a wonderful experience — except Canada.

Several years ago my son was going to school in Thunder Bay. I was astonished to discover that to get there one either drove or flew, that all the communities along the lake shore have been cut off. Oh, one helpful guy at VIA allowed that one could get off at a whistle stop someplace out in the bush 100km north and west of Thunder Bay, but how to get closer he could not help me. No buses either.

Later on, we joined my wifes’ relatives in Vancouver, after a wonderful guided tour of the city from my oldest and his wife. Nice town, wish we could afford to live there… The plan was to take the VIA Canadian back to Toronto. And we did. Going through the Rockies was wonderful but when we got out to the Prairies things changed. The train was constantly being shunted to the side to allow long, slow freights to trundle past — usually on sidings that serviced a crumbling wreck of a former station.  And when the train was moving the condition of the roadbed was all too clear — shake, rattle and roll. By the time we got back to Toronto our semicircular canals were so frothed that it took almost a week before our balance normalized. Like being peas in a can — definitely shaken (but not stirred). Sleep was always a challenge under these conditions. Nice to read the VIA press about this trip but our experience was a bit different. I would not do it again – even if it was free.

Growing up in a big city I have always been a big believer in the power of public transportation in general and passenger rail specifically to reduce congestion and pollution. The economics of rail — the low cost, simple infrastructure (compared with air travel or highways) and the ease of going from city center to city center as demonstrated in the rest of the world, seemed clear. And as Canadian history shows, rail can be an effective means to bring people and goods to remote areas — tying a large and thinly populated country together.

But instead, VIA is following an opposite course. Service continually shrinks as more and more stations are abandoned. Ticket prices float in an inconceivable stratosphere where air travel now becomes a bargain, ignoring the hassles of security and just getting to and from the airport. There is nothing that we would love more than leave our car in Kingston and take the train into Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal. But with gas, parking and time on the road, driving is still faster and cheaper than taking the train. Be nice to sit in a comfortable seat, watch the Ontario landscape roll by, and arrive relaxed and refreshed for a day of sightseeing. Like we can do almost anyplace else in the world. But not here.

The one thing that really troubles me about this is that transportation is the glue that holds the country together.  After the canoe, Canada was built by the railroads — and there should be no mistake about the amount of subsidies poured into their construction. Highways are built by taxpayer dollars and maintained in the same way. The air system is also heavily funded by governments. So it is disengenious to expect passenger service to survive when cut off from the background funding that built it and sustains the other forms of transportation. But a car full of grain will complain a lot less if left stranded on a siding for a day or two — than a car full of passengers.

Recently I have been reading about the (many) ghost railways in Ontario — many were constructed to tap rapidly vanishing timber or mineral resources and folded when the supply ended. But others had more interesting demises. At one point Ontario had a huge network of electric light rail that linked communities together in a way folks in Toronto can only dream of today. Where I used to live in Toronto it was once possible to walk to the end of the block and get a train that ran to Guelph. Must have been nice, would have made my son’s life in University a tad less isolated. This network was destroyed by explicit Ontario government decisions forbidding municipalities from raising money for their rail service. Some were replaced by buses, many just vanished. Shipments of mail used to underwrite the costs of passenger service — until the federal government decided this was just too retro and cancelled the contracts en mass in favor of trucking it. Competing lobbyists? Really bad drug dreams? Who can tell? Look at Toronto now — worked well, didn’t it?

The real worry is what will happen over time to the widely dispersed communities? Rail is an effective link to remote locations, being cheaper to build track than to lay a decent highway. And enormously more fuel efficient. And over the last century there has been much practice in supporting remote locations with the train. And since bus lines have been allowed to drop rural service in several parts of the country — one is either well off enough to fly or drive to get anywhere. If you are poor, sick or infirmed — forget it. Live in the big city or die seems to be the message. A pity that large masses of people dependent on external services are more vulnerable than a dispersed, partially self-sufficient rural one.

The message appears to be that getting around is not for everyone — and that it no longer matters for one to be able to get someplace for economic reasons. Remote communities can be left to drift into oblivion while agencies wring their hands over how expensive it is to service them. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate — pursuing economies of scale that simply don’t exist with human institutions. It is a shame, really — but from the policies at many levels to dismantle the transportation network, ugly cracks are starting to show in the country as a whole. One more step in dismantling the country  — will it break into warring principalities? (Quebec seems to be going that way…) Or collapse and be absorbed by the giant to the south? Or are some folks dreaming of a resurgence in feudalism? After all, in the good old days (if you were a hereditary lord) the peasants were tied to the land so they HAD to work for you and support YOUR lifestyle…

Meanwhile, if I want to take a train, I will have to go someplace else… passenger service in Canada, unlike the rest of the world, is heading for the museum and the history books. The real pity is that the country is likely to follow.

The Problem of Evidenced-based Policy and a Suggestion

There is one small problem with my ongoing wish for evidence-based policy on behalf of our leaders. Who gets to pick the evidence? I am reminded of the seemingly endless stream of health impact articles where different groups massage the medical literature and come up with contradictory analysis and recommendations. Another is the endless rants from conservatives and others about how the markets will punish governments who fail to enact severe austerity on their people. Or the closely related view that making life better for the rich will somehow trickle down to improve the lots of everyone.

So I will admit that the problem is really more along the lines of what happens next as opposed to selection a priori of the evidence on which the initiative claims to be based. If one is to read the literature of major projects (My favorite is ‘Anatomy of Major Project Failures’), one common thread of failures is the lack of implementation metrics and goals to gauge the success of the initiative. So one may start out to implement a project to do X, which is claimed to provide benefit (usually measured in money) to society. But too often the cost to do X wildly exceeds the projected costs and so swamps the projected benefit. Or worse, completely fails to produce the benefits. And some of the largest failures include the redoubling of effort by management after it should have been clear that they lost their way.

So I would suggest that the real objective for this probably mythically-based idea that policy (and projects) should be evidence-based is not that one should have reasons for actions (never hurts). But establishes guideposts to determine if the desired results are being achieved. Even in the closed, contained world of corporate IT this is not easy therefor too tempting to skip. But in the real arena of public policy where there are multiple dimensions of interactions and effects it is much more difficult. But still, rather than blindly acting and ignoring the consequences it is the responsibility of leaders to see if the intended results are being achieved, even better at an affordable cost.  And the real test is to have the courage to stop and walk away if not. In any arena the later is rare indeed. The miracle, as I often think, is that anything works at all.

Words of Wisdom from Star Trek

There is a speech given by Pickard in the movie ‘Star Trek Insurrection’ that has relevance to a lot of what is happening today. When told that only a small number of people would be harmed for this project, so it was ok”, Jean-Luc asks the question ‘How Many Have to Be Harmed before it becomes wrong?” In a sense we are living though that today.

Changes to the food supply for decades in the name of greater profit and ‘efficiency’ have created factories where the safety of the food supply gets lost in the huge volumes being produced. Chemical additives long regarded as safe, which are almost ubiquitous, have been shown to affect human physiology in various subtle but destructive ways. But we are continually being reminded that this is all safe… by the vendors and lobbyists who stand to profit from our believing such and who (unfortunately) influence legislation far more effectively that the voting public.

As as I have commented on elsewhere, the extensive push for wind energy in Ontario, facilitated by effectively suspending due process for rural communities, is another example.

Today there was an article about problems with water in Texas because so much has been pumped for fracking that it is starving communities and agriculture of their water supply. And no one really knows how it will affect other areas — but when the effects are obvious, like chemicals and food processing, it is sure to be extensive.

So we come back to this — how careful should we expect our leaders to be when being pressed by business and lobbyists to permit a certain highly profitable activity? Do we accept their assurances that it is safe? Or that wonderful benefits will accrue to others? Do we rely on those assurances to ignore or suppress evidence to the contrary? (One assumes that this behavior is actually rooted in the common executive belief that if something bad happens it won’t affect them.) And if the few must be sacrificed to the good of the many, how many can be harmed before it becomes wrong?

I think to some extent it is a statement about our culture and civilization (or lack thereof) as to where we draw the line (or broader shadow) on these issues. So far it don’t look promising.

Amherst Island Tragedy

Amherst Island, sometimes called the jewel of Lake Ontario, is located in eastern Lake Ontario just west of Kingston and roughly 2km offshore from Bath, Ontario. It has been inhabited by settlers for centuries — and at present is the home of 400 full time residents, a mix of retired professional folk and long time farming families. We bought here in 2004 and moved here full time in 2006, leaving behind the bustle of Toronto for almost unimaginable quiet and the delight of casual wildlife encounters.

As with far too many rural communities, Amherst Island has been targeted by wind developers and is scheduled to be the home for 37 immense industrial turbines, 20% larger than the ones that tower over Wolfe Island, just to the east of us. As with all these projects, the developer secures leases on agricultural land, done in secret to maintain negotiating leverage and to keep others in the dark until its too late. Then the developer bids on a power contract. Once this is secured, the dance begins that ends with the bulldozers rolling over the community. Oh, the developers and the various government ministries like to talk about the detailed process that must be followed, and the reams of consulting reports to insure that all the right things are done. But the net of it is that implementation is guaranteed after all the process boxes are ticked off. (One might think that this is an admissions fee paid to the agencies and lawyers involved to be able to play the game.)  Neither natural resource considerations nor objections of the other residents seems to do more than slow the projects down — and any inconvenient issues are brushed aside by the ever-helpful ministries.

What has seemed odd to me is that in the decades that I have been living in Ontario, there have always been signs posted for new projects that might disturb the residents with opportunities for public comment and in some cases projects were cancelled or altered due to local issues. But people were advised ahead of time and offered opportunities to object.

But not with wind projects. These are developed in secret and comments and protests by the residents at best ignored. Developers are seemingly given a pass to break whatever laws  they want just to get those behemoths rammed into unwilling rural communities — to produce, it seems, even more unwanted and unaffordable power, hardly ever when it is needed. And even more egregious is the fact that the exclusionary zone around a turbine is mostly on unleased land — in effect a stealth expropriation that renders the adjoining properties undevelopable by the owner but still taxed at the same rates. A colossal waste, to be sure.  And leaving behind natural and cultural wreckage that will haunt Ontario for decades if not longer.

But the real tragedy is how destructive the whole process has been to a formerly close knit and mutually supportive community. The pro-wind leasees, who get a regular stipend for their as yet unused leases, are now firmly divided from their neighbors — farmers and retirees alike. One point of view is that they should be allowed to do what they want with their land. No one really disagrees save for one small detail — the impact of these things goes far beyond the boundaries of their land. For pretty much any other activity, laws and processes are in effect that ensures the actions on ones’ land that might affect others are controlled. The wind company fairy stories are that these things are harmless and beautiful and besides — don’t you want to save the planet? But it is hard to ignore the growing body of evidence that a wind farm depresses the value of other properties around it and that some people are strongly affected by the low frequency noise they emit. And that noise is likely to affect other communities as well — I read this morning that in Australia researchers found evidence of wind turbine noise illness many kilometers away from the wind farms. So likely Bath and Amherstview will hear them too.

But more than that, a community has been torn apart and even if the turbines never come, it will take a long time for the wounds to heal. And no doubt numbers of retirees who had come to this beautiful and tranquil island will be forced to leave if the monsters go up, sacrificing a not insignificant part of their personal capital to escape. And if they stay, the inevitable rise in property taxes to maintain the public spaces consumed by the wind farms will make it more difficult — even if the flicker and noise do not bother them. The community, once as comfortable as this beautiful place, is no more. Instead there are pools of very angry and upset people.

Unless the Province has an attack of sanity, in a year or two yet another beautiful rural Ontario community will be bulldozed and covered by huge, spinning tombstones. A small number of people on the island will laugh all the way to the bank and everyone else will suffer and pay — emotionally, physically and economically though capital losses and higher costs.  Acceptable collateral damage? I don’t think so… but clearly, some do. But it is a sad day when anything outside of a real war or national emergency justifies such wholesale and unjustified destruction of communities.

Danger, Politicians on the Loose

Reading the news today reminded me of how much politicians are like ill-tempered teenagers loose with Daddy’s credit card. We have the province of Alberta which has been spending like drunken sailors for years, floating on the idea of unlimited, never-ending oil wealth. And Ontario, which under the new premier has announced that they are going to impose stricter income tests for some provincial benefits to ‘spread the pain’ of the $12billion deficit (so far) but shows no sign of backing off on any of the expensive and wasteful projects they have been backing since politicizing the electrical grid. (And we won’t even touch the mess in Health Care…).  So we can create new boards with suites of expensive ‘C’ type jobs but don’t have the money to help the citizenry struggling with their declining fortunes. Alberta has been complaining that their growing oil supplies from the tar sands has not been selling well or at the prices of the much easier to refine West Texas Intermediate crude — and that the world in effect owes it to them to pay top dollar for a growing surplus. At least Ontario hasn’t been complaining that the increasing amounts of unusable electricity their frantic wind farm buildout has been producing is not selling for world-class prices. I hear that in effect they have to pay other areas to take it. And yet, with some of the highest power prices in North America, industry leaving with loud complaints about unaffordable power, natural areas being despoiled and rural groups becoming increasingly opposed — their enthusiasm continues seemingly stronger than ever. One wonders if the business relationships between the leaders of the Ontario Liberal party and wind companies had anything to do with it?

I have been thinking that in effect, the Ontario government has declared war on rural Ontario with the Green (Greed) Energy act. So I wrote a letter to the Premier with copies to various and sundry:

“An Open Letter to Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

Extraordinary problems require extraordinary measures. This is the justification behind emergency measures implemented in wartime and during disasters. From its approach and impact, the Green Energy Act is such a measure.

The Green Energy Act allows specific kinds of energy projects to bypass local authority, ignore environmental rules and dismiss the concerns of affected residents – democracy, as we know it, has simply been suspended. Recent egregious examples are the siting of wind projects in environmentally ‘protected’ areas like Ostrander Point, important migratory bird areas like Amherst Island and the removal of an eagles’ nest, a protected species identified by MNR, by a wind developer.

Rural communities and the ‘protected’ natural areas around them have been targeted by wind farm developers. The implementation process makes it clear that local and environmental concerns are at best merely acceptable collateral damage. The environmental assessment process being followed including the public meetings are a cruel hoax if the project is never at risk – only the unwilling ‘hosts’ who cannot say no.

It is starting to be realized that property values around wind farms are impacted and the statutory value for property taxes on alternate energy projects limits their contribution – two factors that will harm rural communities for decades.

Soaring power prices in Ontario means that instead of an Ontario advantage there is now a liability – how high will power prices and the rapidly mounting debt go? And the FIT program has kept the prices of private alternate energy solutions high – sustaining the costs for systems that are increasingly economical elsewhere. And it is ironic that these prices rise as Ontario produces larger power surpluses – an increasing hardship for people on fixed incomes.

Recent revelations of health impacts from wind plant noise and flicker suggest that the potential for harm is more than just economic.

Your government has clearly indicated continuing support for the Green Energy Act although you have allowed that communities might have a say in projects at some point in the future.

Rural communities are being asked to make personal and economic sacrifices for the foreseeable future as a result of the Green Energy Act. What your government has failed to do is provide a credible explanation of the nature of the extraordinary emergency behind doing this. The rural voters and their families enduring this sacrifice deserve nothing less. Failing that, the entire Green Energy program should be scrapped immediately.”

As with everything else, the silence of yet another rock falling unheard and unseen, is deafening…

The problem is that ignoring all the socially engineered babble about saving the planet, this whole program has very real costs to the people it is being inflicted on. Fortunately, the costs of dumping all this unwanted power is being absorbed by everyone.

And let us not forget that Ontario hired Enron and its Canadian business partners to help re-architect the highly successful Ontario power system. One of the arguments was the debt that had been run up developing a highly successful and economical power system — with the bulk of the power then coming from hydroelectric and nuclear. Proponents are fond of showing the installed capacity graphs for the time and ignore the capacity utilization data. Right now burning natural gas accounts for 1/4th of Ontario’s power — not so green. Every time I look the infamous coal accounts for only a few percent, much like wind, but it was only ‘fired up’ when there was a big demand. One could say that they helped develop a California solution for Ontario with all the potential for abuse that implies. And that debt, which is being paid for by direct deduction from our power bills, has become just another revenue stream flowing into their coffers. Maybe someday they will apply it to the real debt. Which seems to be a tiny fraction of what these folks have run up since…

I guess the root of the problem is that the one thing we do not have in the political arena (nor seem likely to ever get) is evidence-based policy. Oh, there are official excuses for various actions to be sure. But no one articulates any measures of what the policy is to accomplish, then publish those metrics and the real results. To say nothing of having the guts to kill a program when the results don’t get realized. Instead, we follow Einsteins’ definition of insanity — repeating the same failed processes over and over and expecting different results.

Or what is worse, spinning fables about what the results are supposed to be and keeping quiet about the real ones.  Sometimes it makes me wonder if instead of thinking of Canada in general and Ontario in specific as democracies we were to think along the lines of classic Chicago or perhaps recent Zimbabwe. So regardless of how irrational or wasteful a policy might seem or how much these folks persisted in actions despite all visible evidence to the contrary — we could relax, comfortable in the thought that the right people were making money, too bad about the collateral damage.