The Churchill Falls curse

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This is basically all Newfoundland and Labrador got out of the deal.

Today the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear: Newfoundland and Labrador is stuck with one of the one-sided business deals in history for the foreseeable future.

The Supreme Court of Canada will not force Hydro-Québec to renegotiate a 65-year contract to buy low-cost electricity from the Churchill Falls power station in Labrador.

The decision means Quebec’s power utility will continue to reap enormous profits from the Churchill Falls deal. But it’s a blow for Newfoundland and Labrador, which has seen a small fraction of the benefits from the project.

The price of electricity dramatically increased after the agreement was signed in 1969 but Hydro-Québec has refused to alter the terms of the contract to account for the changed market.

The Churchill Falls Corporation took the utility to court in 2010 to force a renegotiation, arguing that Quebec’s Civil Code meant that both parties had to treat each other in “good faith.”

In the decision released Friday, the Supreme Court upheld two lower court decisions in favor of Hydro-Québec, with seven justices in agreement and only one, Justice Malcolm Rowe, a Newfoundland native, dissenting.

The court said Hydro-Québec had no legal obligation to renegotiate the deal.

“The duty of good faith does not negate a party’s right to rely on the words of the contract unless insistence on the right constitutes unreasonable conduct in the circumstances.”

The court rejected Churchill Falls Corporation’s claim that the original contract was akin to a joint venture, with both sides sharing the risks and rewards. And the court found there was nothing implicit in the contract to suggest it would be renegotiated if the market changed.

The deal finally expires in 2041.  With Newfoundland’s luck, they’ll probably have perfected cold fusion or something by then.

Barrie McKenna explains what the Churchill Falls fiasco means to Newfoundland and Labrador, and how the provincial government tried to avoid repeating that big mistake by making another big mistake:

The obvious lesson in the latest failed lawsuit is that Newfoundlanders should move on. This should be the end of the story.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruling hasn’t erased deep financial and psychological scars. Newfoundland unknowingly blundered once by agreeing to the 1969 contract. And it doubled down a generation later by blindly forging ahead on its own with the high-risk Muskrat Falls megaproject on the Lower Churchill River, which is slated to begin producing hydroelectric power in 2020.

For former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams, developing Muskrat Falls was never just about generating hydro power. It was about sticking it to Quebec, and righting the perceived wrongs of the Churchill Falls contract. Never again, he vowed, would Newfoundlanders let themselves be exploited by Quebec. So instead of selling the power from Muskrat Falls to the most obvious customer – Quebec – the province opted to go it alone, with all the inherent risks. It will repatriate the power to Newfoundland and finance a circuitous underwater transmission line to Nova Scotia.

The unfortunate consequence of this energy hubris is that instead of being cheated by its neighbour, Newfoundlanders are fleecing themselves. Delays and cost overruns on the $12.7-billion megaproject will cause residential hydro rates to more than double across Newfoundland by 2022 and could eventually bankrupt the tiny province. A provincial inquiry, charged with uncovering what went wrong and whom to blame, is slated to release its final report late next year.

[…]

As the Supreme Court pointed out in its decision, the contract was specifically structured “to have Hydro-Québec assume a risk that CFLCo did not want to assume.” The low fixed price and the long term were Hydro-Québec’s compensation for taking on that risk, the court concluded.

The court did point out that the province stands to get back full rights to Churchill Falls and its cheap power in 2041, reaping the windfall gains in the decades beyond.

That won’t help Newfoundland in the short-term. The province is caught in an economic, fiscal and demographic trap. The federal Parliamentary Budget Officer has warned that the small and slow-growing province must either slash spending or dramatically raise taxes to avoid a debt trap, and bankruptcy.

It’s Trump, but not just Trump

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That’s not a MAGA hat.

Has President Trump contributed toward the mainstreaming of antisemitism and bigotry?  Put it this way: a GOP candidate in Connecticut had no qualms about sending out a mailer showing his Jewish opponent grasping for money.

I don’t know if Trump is himself antisemitic – as his defenders point out, his daughter is a convert to Judaism – but he’s certainly indifferent to it among his supporters.  And as we saw in Pittsburgh this past weekend, it’s a short journey from antisemitic hatred to the mass murder of Jews.

But it’s called “the oldest hatred” for a reason.  As Philip Klein points out, antisemitism was prevalent long before Trump ran for President, and unfortunately it likely won’t go away even after he’s perp-walked out of the White House.

The reality is that anti-Semitism is an evil that has been with us for thousands of years and, despite the great blessings of freedom and religious liberty enjoyed by Jews here, it existed in America long before Trump entered the political scene. If we only talk about anti-Semitism within the limited context of Trump, we will fail to understand and combat it.

Since the FBI started keeping data in 1996 and through 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics were available and the year prior to Trump’s presidency), there were 19,023 anti-Jewish hate crimes recorded. That represented about two-thirds of all religious hate crimes in the U.S. — a shocking statistic considering that Jews only make up about 2 percent of the population. Those crimes occurred under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

It’s common for Jews to navigate armed guards, police, and metal detectors when going to worship at synagogues, drop their children off at Jewish daycare centers, or attend activities at local Jewish community centers.

The Pittsburgh shooting was the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, but for many of us, something like it has felt inevitable for a long time. There were were shootings at a JCC in Los Angeles in 1999; at the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006; at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009; and the Overland Park, Kan., JCC in 2014. Bomb plots have also been thwarted. Those were fortunately less successful for various reasons, including heroic efforts of security and law enforcement personnel.

As somebody who has spent a long time raising alarms about anti-Semitism, it’s frustrating to see that people who have ignored the festering problem for so long only care about it when they can weaponize it against Trump.

Anti-Semitism comes in many shapes and is not confined to Right or Left, either in the U.S. or throughout the world. It thrives among those who are completely ignorant and among educated elites. In recent decades, it’s often been cloaked as opposition to Israel.

Even as the bodies of Jews murdered at prayer were being removed from the Tree of Life Synagogue, serial plagiarist C.J. Werleman was ensuring his Twitter followers that Hamas, whose Charter  cites The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to justify a war against the Jews, isn’t really antisemitic because something something Israel:

It is remarkable, how antisemitism ceases to be antisemitism when you substitute the word “Zionist” for “Jew.”  And also how people who insist Israel doesn’t really represent the Jews are quick to bring up Israel whenever Jews anywhere else in the world are attacked.

Meanwhile, here in Halifax, James Petras is still listed as a faculty member at St. Mary’s University.

The proto-Beto

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While Democrats convince themselves that Beto O’Rourke can knock off Ted Cruz next month, Jim Geraghty  notes that we’ve been here before:

Way back in 1996, a little-known high-school teacher named Victor Morales won the Texas Demo­cratic Senate primary. He beat two better-known and better-funded members of Congress, John Bryant and Jim Chapman Jr., and Morales was the first non-white candidate for Senate to win the nomination of either party in state history. The media were enraptured with the tale of a humble teacher who put 60,000 miles onto the odometer of his dented white pickup, crisscrossing Texas, taking on incumbent GOP senator Phil Gramm.

Richard Estrada of the Dallas Morning News wrote that “Morales fairly oozes sincerity. He is the consummate outsider. In truth, Morales is not just a viable candidate, the enthusiastic re­sponse he is receiving signals that he is a political phenomenon.” The New York Times declared that Morales “could energize Hispanic Democrats to turn out for him this November, maybe even providing major help for President Clinton here or for other Democrats.”

Texas Monthly tracked how Morales had become a media phenomenon: “Morales has been profiled in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Miami Herald and on the Today show, Dateline, and CNN. Perhaps most important, he has sat for the obligatory, underdog-championing portrait in People.”

Despite all the hype about Morales, the race was never all that competitive; Gramm went on to win by eleven points, one of the early chapters of a long, painful stretch for Texas Democrats…

Ted Cruz briefly showed flashes of courage when he wouldn’t endorse Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and then promptly returned to form.  If O’Rourke beats him I won’t want anything else for Christmas.

It’s not impossible – FiveThirtyEight gives Beto a one-in-five chance – but I still wouldn’t bet on it.

 

Where to buy your weed

Cannabis will be sold legally in NSLC stores starting at 12:01AM on Wednesday.  I never thought I’d see the day.  And I’ll give credit where it’s due: after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected I said marijuana legalization was probably the only thing I agreed with them about, and the Dauphin actually kept his promise.  (Supporters of electoral reform weren’t so lucky.)

Of course they won’t have a full supply ready for October 17, because government.  Private dispensaries, meanwhile, are being raided.

Tomorrow twelve NSLC stores will be selling cannabis: two in Halifax and one each in Amherst, Dartmouth, Lower Sackville, New Glasgow, Sydney River, Truro, Yarmouth, New Minas, Bridgewater and Antigonish.  Online sales through the NSLC will also be available.

According to NovaNewsNow, you the legal aid for buying and possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana in Nova Scotia will be the same as the drinking age: 19 years.  If you’re 18 or under, or if you provide the demon weed to a minor, you can still face criminal charges.   Smoke-free rules apply to marijuana just like tobacco, so bad news for Haligonians looking to toke in public.

And if you want to enter the United States, admitting your marijuana use could get you barred from the country.   Eight states and Washington, DC beat Canada to legalizing it for recreational use, but the drug war continues on a federal level.

I’m not going to encourage people to go out and smoke marijuana, but in my two decades or practicing law I haven’t seen it destroy lives the way alcohol does.  I think regulating it and taxing it makes much more sense than waging a futile war against it.

And now, some celebratory music:

Jaguar’s all-electric future

In an age where Tesla outsells Mercedes-Benz in the United States, and with Jaguar trying to differentiate itself from other luxury car brands, I think this is an intriguing idea:

According to Autocar, company product planners have laid out a yet-unapproved strategy that would see the marque shed all gas-powered vehicles within the next decade. The inspiration for this plan is rooted in anger — specifically, that of Tata, JLR’s Indian owner. Tata doesn’t like how sales are trending, especially in light of its recent investments.

Reportedly, planning is at a fairly advanced stage. The outline of the strategy would see the flagship XJ convert to a full EV in the next couple of years (a plan already well advertised), with the XE and XF sedans bowing out in 2023. Their replacement would be an electric crossover slightly larger than Audi’s E-Tron, which would show up around 2025 — the same time as the phase-out of the F-Pace and E-Pace crossovers. There’ll also be a new I-Pace EV crossover (due in the U.S. this fall) appearing at this time. A new range-topping utility vehicle, the J-Pace, will launch for 2021 and enter retirement around 2027.

As for the F-Type sports coupe and convertible, it won’t make it halfway through the coming decade. No direct replacement is planned. Just to reiterate, this plan has not received a go signal from JLR.

Were JLR to pull the trigger, execs imagine a near future where Jaguar, with four or five models available, captures a large slice of Europe’s burgeoning premium EV segment. Other markets, China being at the top, could prove receptive as well.

Might work, as long as the Prince of Darkness isn’t involved.

Literally Hitler

Der Fuehrer never had any children that we know of, but he does have some great-nephews now living in the United States.  And the oldest of them is a Never-Trumper:

Alexander Stuart-Houston, 68, is the great-nephew of Adolf Hitler. He was born in Long Island in New York State.

[…]

During the interview, Mr Stuart-Houston — whose middle name is Adolf — revealed he was a Republican voter, but that he was not a fan of the current President.

“The last person I would say I admire is Donald Trump. He is definitely not one of my favourites,” he told Bild.

“Some things that Trump says are all right … It’s his manner that annoys me. And I just don’t like liars.”

Everybody, and I mean everybody, has at some point been compared to Hitler during an online argument.  When it happens to Stuart-Houston he can respond, “you have no idea.”

(via The Daily Chrenk)

Harvard Prof: Abort the Court as a Last Resort

Me: Okay, liberals, you lost on the Kavanaugh thing.  It’s important that you keep your wits about you, regroup and not get too crazy.

Vox:

I reached out to Mark Tushnet, a law professor at Harvard University, to talk about the case for abolishing the Supreme Court.

Tushnet, taking a position I’m absolutely sure he held before Justice Kavanaugh was sworn in, seriously argues against the very idea of judicial review:

…as a matter of basic democratic principle, the people ought to be able to consider policies and then vote on them without having the courts step in and say “no.” So from a democratic point of view, it’s hard to justify allowing the courts to single-handedly overrule popular will whenever they choose.

Here in Canada that’s why we have section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, aka the “notwithstanding clause.”  And in Quebec it’s working out just great for vulnerable, marginalized groups.

I can’t say I’m happy with American politics at the moment.  But please, Democrats, spare me your whining about rules you were perfectly okay with when you were winning.

UPDATE: you will not be remotely surprised to know Tushnet felt differently when he thought Hillary was going to win.

When Sears sold houses

As the once-mighty Sears retail empire faces bankruptcy, the 99% Invisible podcast features the houses Sears once sold through its mail-order catalog.  Yes, houses.

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From 1908 to 1940, the Sears Modern Homes Program offered complete mail-order houses to the would-be homeowner — what would come to be called “kit homes.” Customers could select from dozens of different models in Sears Modern Homes Catalog, order blueprints, send in a check, and a few weeks later everything they needed would arrive in a train car, its door secured with a small red wax seal (just like the seal on the back of a letter).

This seal was to be broken on arrival by the new owner, who would open up their boxcar to find over 10,000 pieces of framing lumber, 20,000 cedar shakes and almost everything else needed to build the home — all the doors, even the doorknobs.

The lumber came precut, kind of like a giant Ikea set, along with an instruction booklet. Sears promised that, working without a carpenter and only rudimentary skills, a person could finish their Sears mail order home in less than 90 days.

[…]

Then, in 1911, Sears began offering mortgages to their customers. Like everything else, they made these easy — maybe too easy. The Sears home mortgage program started out as one of their keys to success. In lowering the barrier to entry, it had allowed Sears to sell far more kit homes far faster than any of its competitors. But when the Great depression Hit, things got ugly fast. The company ended up foreclosing on tens of thousands of its very own customers. It was a public relations disaster.

After years of declining sales, Sears would finally close its Modern Homes department in 1940. A few other kit home manufactures — ones that hadn’t sold mortgages — survived, but the Sears kit home boom was over. Then came World War II, and with it, the next modern housing boom, featuring the rise of the suburbs and the prefab home — the kinds of homes we know today.

Once largely forgotten by history, historians and architecture enthusiasts are tracking down Sears homes that are still standing all over America – many of whose owners have no idea their houses came from a catalog.  There’s an outside chance some of them may have had Allstate compact cars, also sold by Sears, in their driveways.

Sears didn’t come to Canada until long after it closed down its mail-order house program, but a company called Aladdin Homes filled the void.