Sunday, November 30, 2008

There’s a smell of freedom in the air

I have been busy all day, buying gifts for the grandkids, out there helping the economy, which for some reason is turning into weekly weekend chore.

Anyway it suddenly struck me that there was a something distinctly different today in the way people are interacting.

Canadians for some reason still believe that it is impolite to talk about politics in public, so no one was running around yelling Coalition, Coalition, Sign Up Now! Sign Up Now!

But I tell you there certainly was a feeling that something big was coming.

People were holding the doors open for each other, smiling, comparing purchases, talking about how they are cutting back this year because of recession.

And no one, not one single person seemed worried that the Harper government is about to fall.

Wow so this is what change and hope feels like.

Coalition now, sign the petition, we need to spread this feeling.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Well that takes Buddhism off my list

It was my dollar ninety five they were taking away

Despite all the cynicism from the conservative media, about how the opposition parties care only about their share of 27 million tax payer dollars, it was my 1.95 the Harper government was planning on taking away.

The 1.95 per vote subsidy was introduced by the Chrétien government in 2003 as an attempt to clean up political financing by weaning the parties off big corporate and union donations.

The same type of interest group financing that has corrupted the US system where large corporations and industry lobbyists fund both sides of the house in order to exert their influence on overall law making.

Canada was just as guilty with our largest corporations of the day Imasco, BCE, Bombardier not to mention energy and resource giants, the banks, unions and pension funds all insuring their pound of flesh when push came to shove.

The representative financing alternative introduced by the Liberals provided a honest and fair mechanism for Canadians to make their votes count.

As an example from the last election most Canadians that voted for the Green Party were voting on principle and were doing so to support both morally and financially a party they realized would not get in power, nor have a chance of win a riding in most cases.

Without this representative financing new political movements and parties can not form and our democracy would be weakened.

Ands that was what the Tories were trying to do, weaken our democracy.

Oh and they pissed off the professionals on the hill too.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Remember, Remember the 28th of November

Or December 8th or whatever day this happens.

Damn just when I thought the left was uniting

From the CBC:

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office confirms a controversial plan to strip political parties of their public financing won't be included in a confidence vote on the fall fiscal update.

On Friday, Kory Teneycke told CBC News that only tax measures will be part of the ways and means motion that parliamentarians will vote upon on Monday.

Harper is both economically and ideologically corrupt

Putting aside the ideologically arrogant, petty partisan move to cut political party funding and under mind the functioning of our democratic process, for a moment (which is a big point to put aside)...

The early reaction by Canada’s economists is that they are mystified by the basic conclusions and forecasts put forth in Flaherty’s economic update.

With the global recession worsening our government’s first move is to cut back, which is exactly the opposite of what most economists recommend.

From BMO Nesbitt Burns
On balance, it's quite the opposite of supporting growth.

Under the current circumstances, it's unusual, to say the least, given that almost every other major country in the world is moving to stimulate the economy.
Another economist from U of T who worked on Flaherty’s update can’t believe the government’s conclusions.
I just can't imagine that this document will have any shelf life at all.

His own detailed forecast was central to the federal government's case for showing a surplus, but only because Ottawa took his numbers and changed them to assume government cost-cutting, Mr. Murphy said.

My cynicism has reached new heights. What else can I say?
From Bank of Nova Scotia
The government's oil forecast is far too high.

Scotia Bank is forecasting that 2009 growth will contract by 0.2 per cent, a number that will likely be revised lower today.

Ottawa sees the oil price averaging $72 (U.S.) a barrel next year, while Scotiabank sees it at $60 which would make the government revenues will be much lower than Ottawa hopes
From the OECD
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development sees a 0.5 per cent decline for Canada next year, not an increase.
From Merrill Lynch
Merill Lynch is forecasting a decline of 0.3 per cent next year, which will also be revised even lower next week.
And now to the point.

Although the less than accurate forecasting is confusing to the countries economists, the political challenge put forth yesterday seems to be understood by some political and constitutional experts.

Michael Behiels, University of Ottawa political historian and constitutional expert.
Behiels is convinced Harper is determined to trigger his own defeat to take another stab at winning a majority before a deep recession sets in.

He's got the Liberals on the ropes and he's using the funding of political parties as a way to provoke the crisis," he said. "I think he's angry he didn't get the majority.

He came so close, and now the longer he waits and the deeper the recession gets the chance of coming out smelling like a rose is diminished.

So it's best to catch all the opposition off guard, force them to defeat the government and browbeat the governor general into giving him another election as soon as possible.

This is politics at its highest form of gambling. Harper is going for broke. He's going to play all his chips, all his cards," Behiels said.
While a majority of Canadians are now starting to be concerned about the economy, cutting back on spending and worried about loosing their jobs, Harper has put forth a fiscal update that is not only contrary to common accepted logic, but one that contains key funding cutbacks intended to provoke an unwanted and unnecessary constitutional crisis.

This is not what our country needs right now and is certainly not leadership.

See previous post.

References: Globe and Mail on economists here , and CNEWS on Behiels here .

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Like Dawg said, Bring Them down

What an asshole.

Bjorn Borg - Love for all

For all the confused civil marriage commissioners, for all the people who broke away from the Anglican Church and for all the Mormons, this is the way it is supposed to be.

Cross posted in HD here

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hmm should I sell out or be bailed out

BCE announced today that due to analysis by KPMG on the future solvency of the proposed new private company, the deal would not be allowed to proceed.

The solvency opinion is a condition to the closing of the transaction and one that BCE originally put into the deal.

BCE only has until December 11th to try and work with KPMG on a re-evaluation and many experts believe the deal is now dead.

Maybe BCE sees better funding options on the horizon.

Just a thought.

Reference The Guardian here .

Sorry we don’t let queers on this bus

Excuse me is this the Lutheran license bureau.

Read the sign buddy, this is a Mormon McDonalds, you’ll have to go to the wandering Jews Wendy’s across the street.

Shit, now my Muslim mailman won’t deliver my Christmas cards.

Sound a bit bigoted?

Well apparently not to Orville Nichols, a government certified marriage commissioner in Saskatchewan. who refused to perform a same sex marriage back in 2005.

A Saskatchewan human rights tribunal cited him for discrimination last May and he was fined $2,500.

Well now Orville is suing the province, claiming that his rights have been violated under the charter of rights.
Orville and his lawyer believe that marriage commissioners should have the legal right to not perform same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. 
His case will be heard on December 23rd.
However so far Saskatchewan seems to sort of have its act together...
Justice Minister Don Morgan said the tribunal's ruling is binding on the province

Commissioners that are unhappy about the law have the option of turning in their licences to perform civil marriages. 
We have sent a letter to all of the civil marriage commissioners indicating to them that it is an option to them to surrender their civil marriage certificate and to obtain a religious one if they wish to affiliate themselves with one of the churches. Morgan said.
Well there you go Orville, you’re a devout Baptist, so give up the provincially certified, secular,  civil marriage job and align yourself with a church.

Then you can legally allow your personal prejudices, biblical bigotry and silly superstitions, influence how you are going to perform the duties of your job.

But that’s not really the point of this suit, is it.

Reference: CNEWS here .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Take a bite of Jesus for Xmas

A German chocolate maker has set up his Sweet Lord, chocolate Jesus, making business to restore some traditional religious values to Christmas in Germany.

Some German christians think it's tasteless .

Reference MSNBC here .

Tories caught lying to parliament about Abdelrazik

Abousfian Abdelrazik launched a law suit against the Canadian government back in June in an effort to get home.

Abdelrazik is the Canadian citizen who has been stranded in Sudan since 2003 during which time he was arrested twice, tortured and finally released by the Sudanese who claimed they no longer wanted to imprison an innocent man.

It appears that both the FBI and CSIS have been responsible for his original detention and successive Canadian governments are complicit in failing to protect this Canadian citizen (timeline of events here).

However it is the now the Harper government that is lying about their failure to protect him.
Although ministers told the House of Commons last spring that Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, had received full consular assistance, the documents show a senior Foreign Affairs official explicitly ordered Canadian diplomats in Khartoum to stay away from the interrogation by U.S. agents.

"Mission staff should not accompany Abdelrazik to his interview with the FBI," ordered Sean Robertson in a secret cable to the Canadian embassy in Khartoum on April 3, 2007.
And what happened at this FBI interrogation.
More than a month later, the diplomats told Ottawa that the U.S. FBI agents had warned Mr. Abdelrazik (who is not an al-Qaeda operative) he would never see Canada again unless he implicated others as al-Qaeda operatives.
And sure enough he remains on the US no fly list, with Harper’s government still refusing to re-issue his passport which had expired thus preventing him from leaving the country by any means.
Officials in the office of the current minister, Lawrence Cannon, didn't respond yesterday.

Eugénie Cormier-Lassonde, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, said, "We continue to provide Mr. Abdelrazik with consular assistance," but added: "As this matter is currently under litigation, we cannot comment further."
And Abdelrazik continues living in the Canadian embassy in Sudan while his daughter grows up in Montreal.

Meanwhile Glenda Hutton a white, 66 year retired school secretary from Vancouver Island has found herself on somebody's no fly list also and she isn't getting any answers either.

Maybe Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive of Research in Motion, who believes Canada needs to counter the perception that we are weak on security can use these stories.

References from the Globe here the original April Globe story here, CBC here about Glenda, and Balsille from MSN Finance here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

400th post and strangers poking around

Welcome to my 400th post.

Hitting a 100th mark gives you the opportunity to pause and reflect on how the blog is progressing, where you're taking it or where it's taking you. Similar to other addictions posting regularly does seem to affect your personal life or lives (I happen to have two and try to keep them separate).

Anyway August and September were a bit rough when Prog Blogs was having server problems and only one in five posts were getting through. It's a bitch posting and not getting any feedback, but in keeping to our motto of consistency over relevance and quantity over quality we blogged on.

Hey if you want the good stuff check out the sites on the right.

Besides focussing on site visits and ProBlog votes really screws up your choice of topics and the rest, so I'm really trying hard to ignore the numbers, which is very difficult for an old salesman.

The original idea was to go after the hypocrisy of it all and leave the big stories for the pros on the blog roll, but sometimes you end up just going for the low lying fruit.

Thanks to Beijjing York I am now getting strangers checking me out for the Blog Awards, which is cool I guess and for which I thank her. But it would of been nice to get a couple better posts up.

And of course now the pressure is on, not to become last in your category, which could happen when you check out the other nominees. It's like being the last one chosen for the team.

If you're a stranger, thanks for coming by and don't feel obligated to vote. If you are a regular visitor feel obligated to vote at least once.

Oh and thanks for coming by regularly, I really do appreciate it.

Friedman wants to move the inauguration up

Thomas Friedman, the not so progressive NYT columnist is concerned that Bush is going to screw things up and is suggesting here that the inauguration should be moved up.

Apparently it has happened in the past...

In 1933, the Great Depression deepened as the country drifted between the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his inauguration. In an attempt to prevent that from happening again, the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution moved presidential inaugurations from March up to January -- but now even January 20 may not come soon enough for the struggling American economy.

Friedman believes that the worst is yet to comefor the US economy.

There is a storm coming," Friedman continued, "and it hasn't hit yet.

And I believe the decisions made, possibly in these next two months, could determine the next four years.

This administration could be over before it starts -- over in the sense that it will spend the next four years digging out of a hole that has been created right now, that may be deeper and darker than anyone realizes.

Apparently some of the Senators on the hill want this to happen too or at least get Obamas team involved.

Can’t see Bush who has spent the last eight screwing up the US would want to stop doing so now.

He still has too many pet projects he wants to complete.

Reference: Raw Story here.

Technically Harper missed the point of APEC

Contrary to all the press that we have received over the weekend about APEC and Harper’s revelation that Canada is about to officially go into recession by the end of March.

The APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference was actually about trade and commerce.

Basically building relationships with foreign countries that surround the Pacific ocean in an effort to increase trade and commerce. Actually a pretty good idea when your country is heading into a recession.

Unfortunately Canada might not of as done as well as expected, at least according to this article from the Star .
But for most here, the real story of Lima was China. Chinese President Hu Jintao's every movement and utterance was watched and commented on.

Upon his arrival, he was met by Peru's president and accorded a triumphant motorcade, complete with horse guards, through the streets of Lima.

Harper, by comparison, was met at the airport by Peru's mines minister.

When Hu spoke to business leaders invited here, those present said an audible frisson of excitement ran through the room.

The reason is simple. China is the world's rising power and with its $1.9 trillion (U.S.) in foreign reserves also make it the world's richest.

Countries here are courting Chinese investment and cash. The Chinese have an apparently insatiable appetite for raw materials.

Harper didn't get to meet Hu here.
So as Harper was lecturing the world about not putting up trade barriers, the other countries were busy working on trade deals.

And apparently Harper to hang out with his buddy George.
Harper had to make do with George W. Bush, the lame-duck U.S. president who used the summit to justify his time in office and complain about anti-trade Democrats.

The Americans continued their push for an Asia-Pacific free trade zone. But so far, the only countries that have been willing to consider the idea are Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei.
It is starting to look like China is flexing it's economic muscle and might be a little pissed off at the last two remaining neocons.
A Canadian official, whom the government allowed to speak to reporters only on the condition that he not be identified, said Thursday that Ottawa doesn't think this so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership is worth the trouble.
Unfortunately Harper doesn't handle humble very well, even on the world stage.

Reference the Toronto Star here .

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Enough already with Iceland

For a country that has one of the least appealing names, Iceland gets more than it's share of press.

A year ago...

Rich free-market countries dominate the top places, with Iceland, Norway, Australia, Canada and Ireland the first five but the United States slipping to 12th place from eighth last year in the U.N. Human Development Index.

And last May...

Iceland, the block of sub-Arctic lava tops the latest table of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index rankings, meaning that as a society and as an economy - in terms of wealth, health and education - they are champions of the world.
However the cracks started to appear last April...

None of Iceland's financial experts dispute that the economy is likely to slow, but they bristle at the notion that the situation could reach crisis level. Iceland's financial regulator recently stress-tested its banks, and found they would still be solid after loan losses of 20 percent.
Then this week...

Four Nordic countries and the International Monetary Fund on Thursday pledged a combined US$4.6 billion in loans to help Iceland recover from its economic meltdown.
And finally today..

A few hundred people made their way to a police building, where they demanded a fellow protester being held since Friday be released. Five people were injured when officers repelled some demonstrators that tried to storm the building. The crowd was finally placated when authorities freed the man in custody, after someone agreed to pay his outstanding fine.
Some one has to say this...

And it isn't that nice a place.

Iceland has the highest birth rate in Europe, the highest divorce rate and the highest percentage of women working outside the home.

In other words the highest percentage of single working mothers.

Iceland's under regulated financial system delved in the derivative debt purchases, funded by offering unsustainably high interest rates to international institutional investors.

When money got tight and the institutions withdrew their cash, the wheels feel off.

Iceland's government has been running in deficit for years and the countries total corporate and household debt is equal to 350 percent of it's gross domestic product.

Oh and for future reference the easiest way to get someone out of jail, is to the pay the damn fine.

References: too many to list.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The worst cringe worthy crazes of all time

A poll of 3000 on line shoppers at came up with a list of the worst fads of all time and the Mullet with its combination of shorter hair on top and at the sides and a shaggy mane at the back came in number one. No argument from me there.

Here’s the top ten as selected by this poll:

  1. The mullet hairstyle
  2. Shell suits
  3. Crazy Frog ring tone
  4. The bubble perm
  5. Tamagotchi virtual pets
  6. Reality television
  7. The Macarena dance
  8. Ponchos
  9. Adidas popper tracksuits
  10. MySpace, Facebook etc

To me the second worst should be Elephant pants which I at one time owned and they didn't even make the top twenty ...

and I am a little upset that the poll even included Lava Lamps as number 12.

Where else can find bubbles that actually rise and fall with music?

Reference: Telegraph UK here .

How James Moore curbed John Bairds spending

It started back here when CNEWS (one of Quebecor’s units) decided to go after the CBC and one of their executives by digging up the 2006 expenses of a vice president of CBC.

Of course one of Harper’s immature ministers, James Moore who has taken over Heritage (responsible for the CBC) jumped in here to make points with his boss, by publicly scolding the CBC.

Well the Chairman of the Board at the CBC came roaring back on Friday, not only defending his executive but outlining in detail what the CBC has been doing to control costs and explaining why Quebecor ran the attack piece.
The CBC also pointed out that since they were added to the list of agencies subject to the to access to information laws after the Conservative government came into power in 2006, they have received far more than those received by other Crown corporations.

In fact more than 150 access to information requests this year alone with the bulk of these requests have come from two sources.

One of which is Quebecor, who are currently suing the CBC and the CBC executive that they attacked.
Of course James Moore, the seemingly over reactive new minister, would of known all this, if he had actually communicated to agency that is supposed to be responsible for, instead of trying for the ideological framing.

But it doesn’t end there.

Apparently the Star came out with a report that John Baird spent over $60 grand to fly to one environmental conference last year and now the government is announcing a total review of all traveling expenses for it's ministers and aides.

Well at least some good might come of this.

It would be both less expensive and less embarrassing to keep Baird at home.

Vatican finally turns its other cheek

Well isn’t that nice and so Christian like too.

The Vatican has decided to absolve John Lennon for his 1966 remarks that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ.
In a lengthy editorial marking the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' famous White Album, L'Osservatore Romano the Vatican’s official newspaper heaps lavish praise on the British band.

Saturday's edition of the Vatican's official newspaper absolves John Lennon of his notorious remark, saying that "after so many years it sounds merely like the boasting of an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success".
John on the other hand had apologized at a Chicago news conference back in 1966.
Reporter: "Some teenagers have repeated your statements - "I like the Beatles more than Jesus Christ." What do you think about that?"

John: "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. 
I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

Reporter: "But are you prepared to apologize?"

John (thinking that he just had): "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."
For any devout Catholics out there who might have strayed on to this site by mistake and might have missed the release of the White Album 40 years ago today here's Piggies, a George Harrison song. He was one of the Beatles also.

References: Telegraph UK on Vatican here , Image John Lennon in Type by artist Dencii Manayak 05/16/08 found here .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Supreme Clarence Thomas to review Obamas citizenship

The US Supreme Court has accepted the Philip Berg challenge to Barack Obama’s citizenship for conference on December 5th.

A conference is a meeting held before a supreme to review the validity of moving the complaint forward towards a challenge before the court.
It appears the case was first submitted to Justice Souter, who denied the request.

When resubmitted to Justice Thomas, one of the Justices who helped decide the 2000 election, the petition was accepted.

The hearing will be on December 5th.
This challenge will not go anywhere, but it shows you how crazy Thomas is.

Here's some of his other views from Wikipedia.
Racial issues
Thomas believes that the Constitution forbids any consideration of race. He believes the Equal Protection Clause disallows any kind of race-based affirmative action or preferential treatment. He has said directly that any use of race in college or law school admissions is always violative of the Constitution.

Thomas has advocated the reversal of Roe v. Wade. He joined the dissenting opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said "... the longstanding traditions of American society have permitted abortion to be legally proscribed.
More from All Spin Zone here and from the whack job Berg here.

Hey Deficit Jim where have you bin Deficit Jim

As most Ontarians have been expecting, our Federal Finance Minister is about to the bring back federal deficits as early as this fiscal year, at least according to the government's own budget watchdog.
The federal Parliament's budget watchdog, Kevin Page, warned on Thursday Canada is at risk of recording deficits starting this fiscal year, and the annual shortfall could reach nearly $14-billion next year as it believes its worst-case scenario represents a "more likely" outcome.
Part of the reason for this years decline of course was Flaherty’s much heralded 1% cut to the GST which has dramatically reduced government revenues in this critical year.

However you could tell the wheels were going to fall off, back here on October 8th when Deficit Jim assured the country that he had everything under control.
There will be no deficit on his watch, even on a temporary basis, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Wednesday.

In responding to the worsening global financial crisis that has slowed economic growth in Canada and elsewhere, “we'll do what we have to do, so long as we remain economically prudent. We're sure not going to run a deficit ... We will maintain a surplus in Canada and we will continue to pay down debt.”

Asked if running even a small deficit would be bad in these difficult times, Mr. Flaherty said flatly: “Yes, it would be.”

In other news The White Album turned 40 years old this week.

References: Globe here , Financial Post here , and Winnipeg Sun here .

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Get real Jack

Layton is going to oppose the throne speech.

At a time when Canadians who in Layton's own words want “bold action” on the approaching economic shit storm we are about to face, forcing the country into another election, or turning it’s governance over to a coalition lead by an outgoing Liberal leader, might not be the best plan of action right now.

Harper like every other government leader, is not in control of this economic maelstrom, things will get worse and there will be plenty of opportunities to block ill defined legislation or eventually bring his government down.

However it would require some cooperation between the opposition parties, a coalition per se that offers some alternative solutions.

Not opportunistic, knee jerk, symbolic reactions.

Reference: CTV

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Light up, marijuana fights Alzheimers

Talk about good news for aging boomers.
Smoking marijuana could actually keep your brain young by reducing inflammation and even stimulating the formation of new brain cells.

Research by a team at Ohio State University suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Any new drug's properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects.

When asked if people could smoke marijuana to prevent Alzheimer's disease if the disease is in their family?

Gary Wenk the principal investigator on the research replied: We're not saying that, but it might actually work.
Good enough for me.

Where the hell did I leave the papers?

Reference: Telegraph UK here.

Bush leaving one last law for the fetus fetishists

The Bush administration is planning to grant “sweeping” new protections to health care providers  , who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds.
The law will prohibit hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, drugstores and the like, that receive federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The rule would also allow employees in pharmacies to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives or sell condoms.
Some state officials said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.
Just one last gift from Bush to the crazies that supported him.

And one more Bush, presidential proclamation that the Obama transition team will have to try and reverse .

Reference: NYT on Bush here and Guardian on Obama here .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Harper wants to play nice and why the opposition should not

According to Kory Teneckye here, Harper has retreated from his original plan to make his anti-crime initiatives a confidence vote (you know locking up 14 year olds for life and the like).
As Teneckye puts it the primary focus will be the economy and everything else is secondary and they are not willing to go to an election for secondary causes.
In typical Tory framing, Harper is looking to work co-operatively with the opposition and focus on the economy.
In other words Harper is looking for the opposition not to embarrass him by asking “What the fuck are you doing?”.

Harper has claimed that Canada didn’t have the same problem as the US and boasted that they had taken steps to prevent a financial meltdown.

Yet here is his finance minister buying $75 billion in mortgages from Canadian banks. Anyway you cut it, that is 10% of the $750 billion that the US is spending which looks like the same size problem to me.

Although it doesn’t appear that Harper and Flaherty need parliament’s consent to spend this $75 billion of taxpayer money, I believe we all need a better explanation than "we will do whatever it takes".

  • How will the government ensure that the banks will free up credit for Canadian small to medium sized businesses that are now starting to feel the credit squeeze?
  • Why are the banks holding up the long term rates on consumer mortgages?
  • Why are the interest rates on credit cards remaining high, when lower rates would relieve consumers and assist retailers by increasing purchases through the xmas season?
  • What steps is the government planning to assist the expected increasing number of unemployed? 
  • Will they extend the unemployment benefit period as they are planning in the US?

In other words we, the majority of Canadians who did not vote for this government and who haven't drank the cool aid, actually need some facts about how bad this impending recession will be and what our government has planned to assist Canadians through it.

And the role of our opposition is to ask those questions and get those answers.

As they say in the US,  the bail out just can’t be for Bay street it has to help Main street too.

Reference: Canwest News Service

Monday, November 17, 2008

The US Auto Industry and the Ripple Effect

Video from GM on what the effect will be on the US if the big three don't get funding.

Random notes from the weekend

Recession Pool

As we all surprisingly know an official recession is declared when a country's economy records negative growth for two consecutive quarters

So far, Germany who released their data on Thursday is the first G8 country to officially announce that they are into a recession.

Japan, the world's second largest economy officially announced it’s first recession in seven years on Saturday

Despite the fact that the US and Britain are both in recession, they won’t have to officially announce until January.

In Canada, Flaherty can probably hold off his official recession announcement until the end of March as he squeaked by last quarter, which will be accompanied by exclamations that our economy is the "bestest economy" in the world.

Con Con in Winnipeg

Read a lot about the Conservative Conference in Winnipeg over the weekend, but Dawg’s Blawg seems to have more coverage that the MSM.

I get that they are socially conservative but you think you would have some resolutions about protecting the environment, at least recognizing that we have one.

Obama the communicator

Obama released the first of his weekly addresses to the nation on Friday, via radio, (similarly to his predecessors) and via You Tube. Talk about new communication to younger voters.

Apparently he also sent letters to federal employees in seven government agencies, outlining his goals for change back in October.
Obama echoed in his letters a long-standing lament of federal workers -- that the Bush administration starved their agencies of staff and money to the point where they could not do their jobs.
Talk about getting all your ducks lined up. Truly amazing organizational skills.

Speaking of organizations, Parliament reopens tomorrow.

References from various media.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dont you love the smell of deficits in the morning

Apparently Canadians can breath easier.

As our prime minister peaks fresh from the G20 meeting,
In a press conference, Harper said events are forcing his government to abandon its dislike of interventionist government spending.

During the recent federal election campaign, the Conservatives said they would never run a budget deficit.

But the government now acknowledges that, with the world economy falling so much faster and farther than anyone expected, a budget shortfall cannot be ruled out this year and next.

This is not business as usual these days, Flaherty said in an interview.
In other words you cut your revenue stream, wasted our surplus on ideological, vote buying projects, placed all our eggs in one basket by focussing on one region of our country and one segment of our economy to detriment of others, ridiculed the opposition who raised the economic recession during the election, made false bravado like promises of fiscal superiority and now feel that you have the consensus and enough excuses to move into a deficit position this year and next.

You have no other options or controls to avoid one, Mr. Harper.

The only thing that could have prevented a deficit would of been non ideological fiscal foresight and financial management and you do not have those either.

Reference: CP here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama first Weekly You Tube address

As announced here, Obama is planning on recording a weekly You Tube video address as well as the traditional radio messages used by former presidents. Here's the first.

Reference Telegraph UK here.

Why the employees at Industry Canada are happy

Apparently our ministry of environment decided last spring that they could not longer extend the funding to fully manage the United Nations water monitoring program that Canada has run for the last thirty years.

The program collects data from 2,600 global monitoring stations and then reports it’s findings on a scientific database that is used by scientists and environmentalists in 70 countries around the world.

Originally funded by a Liberal government trust fund, the program was determined to be expendable by the departments management team, as part of the government wide reviews that the Harper government is always talking about.
We considered within the department at our management board last spring whether there was any opportunity to replenish the trust fund, and we could not find one reported, reported John Carey, the acting assistant deputy minister, last week.
In other words there was no way that they were going to get funding for a Liberal program that their minister Baird, the then current anti-environment minister thought was archaic.

After all it was liberal and had something to do with protecting the environment.

So the pragmatic bureaucrats at the ministry cut funding, laying off two scientists that interpreted the data and kept three employees, working out of two offices to post the data up on a web site.

Well the shit hit the fan on Thursday, or at least as much the shit in scientific circles hits fans, and there was criticism of Canada’s abandonment of the program and some good shots taken about how Harper is changing Canada’s perception in the world.

We certainly can’t have that and Jim Prentice our new environment minister (formerly at Industry Canada), who up until then was silent on the issue, got the call and immediately jumped into action.
Prentice says he, and only he, will rank top issues - and they include the system to track dwindling water supplies in more than 70 countries.

We'll continue to fund the program at the level it has been funded. I made that very clear to the department and no one has my authority to disagree with that.
Oh so it was just an confused bureaucrat that spoke out of turn and this means that Canada will be restoring the funding, hiring back scientists.... Well unfortunately not.
I'll deal with the funding issues with the department, our minister further responded.

My point is that we are carrying on with this project. And any statement to the contrary was made incorrectly and without my authority.
No the point is Minister, your management style sucks.

The bureaucrat was simply stating fact and the shit storm raised was small in comparison to what you are going to facing in your new assignment.

This appears to be another one those times that you are speaking before you know what is actually going on, similar to your text messaging fiasco over at Industry Canada in the summer.

What you should of done was keep your mouth shut or come out with some bain response like Harper and Baird do all the time.

Something like “Canada will continue to play a key role on the international stage".

Instead you attack your employee, one that sounds like he actually know what is going on at Environment Canada.

Yep the the employees at Industry Canada are celebrating.

Reference: From Macleans here, and the original announcement from CBC here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bob Dylans idol turns 63

You know that you are one important guy when Bob Dylan goes out of his way to visit your childhood home.

While on tour in Winnipeg Dylan sought out the house that Neil Young grew up in. He talked the current owner into letting him walk through the house.

Anyway Dylan's idol turned 63 this week. Here's Neil Young and Crazy horse from six years ago doing Hey Hey My My.

And my favorite Neil Young song Helpless from the Last Waltz.

The best musician that ever visited my home was Ted Gerow, the keyboard player for the 5 man. Ted is a really cool guy, but there's only one Dylan. Of course then again I'm no Neil Young.

Hiding our governments complicity in torture

Turning prisoners of war over to known torturers or to those who would abuse them is a war crime, under the Geneva Conventions.

Apparently our government is not concerned about a few front line soldiers getting investigated for potential war crimes, they just don’t the want the public to know that it was government officials that issued the orders.

Harpers’s government have now filed a suit to block the long delayed MPCC (Military Police Complaints Commission) hearing into the turning of prisoners of war over to the Afghan government to be knowingly tortured.
Their suit is seeking a court order to prohibit the commissioner and the commission from investigating the allegations.

The government is now claiming that the MPCC by attempting to review policy decisions made by officials in relation to the transfer of Afghan detainees falls outside of the confines of the mandate of the MPCC.
So much for the cooperation promised by Harper and MacKay back in the spring.
There is no refusal to co-operate. Harper said in parliament.

The MPCC “will get the co-operation with respect both to information disclosures and the funding necessary to have a full-blown hearing,” said MacKay.
After continually trying to obstruct the process, this is really the last attempt by the government to have the hearings actually cancelled.
Government censors have blacked out key passages of secret documents that showed that ministers knew that torture was rife in Afghan prisons.

They also have blacked out details of torture allegedly administered personally by Asadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar province and a key Canadian ally.
Khalid if you recall was the Afghan governor that Maxime Bernier met with, just before he walked out in the town square and went public with Canada's desire to have Khalid replaced.

Although Bernier ended up looking like a fool by going public, no one has ever questioned what the purpose of Khalid meeting was in the first place.

Was Bernier sent to get Khalid to back off on the torture, which would then of proven the government's knowledge of the torture or was there some other deal in the works?

That is the problem when a government tries to cover up their complicity in illegal acts, you are just left to conjecture.

Meanwhile Canada continues turning prisoners over to Afghan authorities and refuses to to say how many prisoners it has turned over, or whether it can account for all of them.

Reference Globe and Mail here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Foolish Feckless Fiducially Free Financial Floundering

In other words Flaherty gets an F.

While continuing to profess confidence in Canada’s superiorly regulated financial institutions that his government continues to financially back, including an additional $50 billion yesterday, Flaherty of Finance has decided to write off Ontario’s auto industry industry.

Based on conversations he has had while walking down the street our Finance Minister went on national TV yesterday to inform us that the Canadian auto industry could disappear.
There are many people saying we should do something with respect to the auto sector," Flaherty said Wednesday.

But I can tell you even in my own riding, where I was yesterday, in Whitby-Oshawa ... there are lots of people who say, 'Don't do anything. Don't use my tax money to bail out an enterprise that may not survive.

These are not highfalutin rich people that are saying this to me - these are people on the street.
There are 150,000 workers directly employed by the Canadian auto industry and at least five times that number in supporting industries.

If one of our governments options is to sit back and let the Canadian auto industry disappear, what plans are they working on to handle 500,000 Canadians loosing their jobs.

I don’t think moving half a million Ontario workers to Saskatchewan is going cover this.

Of course this is just exaggeration and conjecture on my part.

Eventually Harper’s government will follow the US lead and if they provide a financial package to the auto industry, Canada will follow suit.

I just have less and less patience for this loose lipped finance minister that continues to forget where his seeds were sown.

Reference: Macleans here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I am really getting tired of these people

Until the rest of us get a do over, you know getting our credit lines extended with tax payer dollars or selling some of the worthless purchases we have made over the last four years to the government...

Like the $15 Home Depot, DVD player that only lasted a week or the pair of shoes I bought from Wal-mart that fell apart after a month, the cheap things that I foolishly thought were a bargain...

Nothing that these top economists from the five major banks say should be considered of any importance. and certainly should not be reported as an expert opinion when it comes to handling the current financial meltdown.

From now on the chief economists of the five major banks have to STFU.

Gentlemen you have no credibility left with me, none, zero, nada, zilch.

There now I feel better.

Obamas first 100 days or so

There has been a lot of conjecture about what Obama will try to get accomplished in his first 100 days.

How does one actually start to clean up the mess left from the worst president in the history of anything that ever had president?

Henry Champ who has supposedly retired, is apparently still writing a column and as the former Washington Bureau Chief for the CBC he probably has as good an idea as anyone on what we can expect.

Here's Henry's Take on what Obama has planned so far.

Immediate moves on economy
  • tax cut for the middle-class, to help stimulate the economy
  • tax increase to those making $250,000 or more
  • short term extension of unemployment benefits
  • health-care funding to states to cover increasing number of unemployed who have lost coverage
  • rescue plan for Detroit’s automakers, if Bush continues to balk
  • redirection of the 700-billion program to include struggling homeowners fighting foreclosure
New plans for Iraq and Afghanistan
  • new plan for Iraq that brings majority of troops home within 16 months
  • remaining forces for training and protecting assets
  • move 20,000 troops to Afghanistan
  • increase effort to to tackle al-Qaeda and to capture Osama bin Laden
  • battle map to include the tribal regions of western Pakistan
  • greater effort from Pakistan military expected and/or to be demanded
  • full assumption of command in Afghanistan
  • review of commitment to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
  • work with assembly of Afghan tribal elders to select a replacement if necessary
  • reach out to moderate Taliban leaders in Afghanistan as an exit strategy
  • explore talks with Iran to see if shared objectives can be found
Some immediate action on some of Bush’s nightmares
  • close Guantanamo, reject the use of torture and recommit to the Geneva convention
  • remove restrictions on abortion counseling that blocked foreign aid
  • remove restrictions on funding stem-cell research
The bigger question for Henry and a lot of other pundits is what will Obama do about the major components of his change platform: healthcare, energy, education and the environment, considering that he is in the middle of the worst financial meltdown since the thirties.

Should he charge ahead with his agenda despite the financial situation like Reagan and FDR did in their first year or should he delay the major changes like Clinton was forced to do, to a second term and then fail to get the full agenda passed.

Either way Obama is not going to increase his popularity with the still divided US and as Krugman is advising if you already have a trillion dollar deficit what does it really matter how much more you spend.

In any case he certainly has lot more already planned than his counterpart in Canada. Of course he has probably devoted more than a three hour listening, meeting to the problem.

By the way, I was always enjoyed listening Henry Champ. He never played gotcha journalism like Duffy at CTV and he never appeared to laude it over you that he had some inside info, he just reported it. Of course that doesn't excuse me for ripping off his article here , but I actually think I organized it in a more readable format.

Reference CBC here and 100 day chart from Good Magazine here .

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald sank on Nov. 10, 1975 during a Lake Superior storm killing all 29 hands.

The 222-metre ore freighter was the largest Great Lakes freighter of it's time and the last and largest to be lost on the Great Lakes.

The Mariners' Church in Detroit rang its bell 29 times today, once for each life lost, as it has done since 1975.

And Gordon Lightfoot wrote a great song.

Ocarina iPhone Stairway to Heaven Video

One of the reasons that Apple has sold over 10 million iPhone 3Gs so far this year is that you can add some really cool apps and the new Ocarina from Smule is just that.

The ocarina is an ancient family of instrument (believed to date some 12,000 years), and one of the easiest instruments to learn.
The Smule Ocarina both preserves this instrument and extends/transforms it for your iPhone.  Blow into the phone/instrument. Control pitch with different fingerings. Learn to play countless melodies.
Smule even provides musicial scores (where to place your fingers) on their site including how to play O Canada.

Like most iPhone apps Ocarina by Smule sells for 99 cents at the iPhone store.

I really have to get an iPhone, I just don't like Rogers.

Harpers minority sets sail today for a two hour meeting

This afternoon’s two hour, first ministers meeting will actually be the initial launch of Harpers new minority government or at least the first time we get to see it in action.

The Prime Minister will meet with the premiers and territorial leaders this afternoon to discuss the global economic crisis.

Harper has billed this afternoon's political summit as an "exchange of ideas" in advance of his trip to the G20 meeting next week in Washington.

Unfortunately by the sounds of it, the premiers who have already had one meeting on the economy since the federal election, have a list of ideas that are more focussed on fixing the immediate problems here in Canada.

Changing of RRSP rules from Gordon Campbell & Gary Doer
  • Federal rules force 71 year olds to cash in your RRSPs, which this year would be disastrous
  • Companies would be required to inject their own cash into the pension plan to maintain that federally mandated ratio.
  • Bankruptcy created through pension insolvency doesn't protect workers
Support of manufacturing through federal loan guarantees from Charest and McGuinty
  • Banks believe it's too risky to lend money to a manufacturer whose biggest assets may be accounts receivables from a big U.S. customer.
  • The premiers are looking for loan guarantees that they say will give the banks confidence enough to lend money.
Removal of all inter-provincial trade barriers from Campbell and Stelmach

Infrastructure spending is on the wish list of all premiers
  • Municipal leaders last week said $3 billion in unspent infrastructure cash is a ready-made stimulus package just waiting for action.
Although the expectations are high for the premiers and even Jack Layton who hopes "Mr. Harper will bring forward — finally — a plan for the Canadian economy in this economic crisis", I don't really think you can expect too much as today's meeting.

The meeting doesn't have a formal agenda, no communiqué will be issued when it ends and as Harper noted on the weekend "Obviously we are in a period of global economic instability. There are no easy solutions".

But a plan would be nice.

Unfortunately it seems that Canadians choose the Skipper and Gilligan and not the professor.

Reference Montreal Gazette here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The barking tail of the dog

Ed Stelmach the bumptious premier of Alberta was in the news again this week, responding to Harpers somewhat premature overtures to Obama about seeking a joint climate change pact.

Either Ed has some doubts about Harper’s sincerity in protecting the tar sands production or he just can not help himself, which I sadly believe is the case.

In typical Ed like fashion he decided to rub the tar sands in Obamas face.
Premier Ed Stelmach has a message for United States president-elect Barack Obama: You need Alberta's oilsands to provide cheap energy to help the sagging American economy.

To provide that hope and to provide progress that is going to ease some of the pressures that people are experiencing today, he's going to need affordable energy.
Ed also had a message for Harper...
Stelmach said Albertas voice needs to be heard because any deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have a significant impact on major energy projects in the province.
and the rest of Canada.
Whatever the agreement is it has to be fair to Albertans, who own the resources, and that's why we have to be at the table
Unfortunately, Ed, I believe there are some flaws in your logic here, not to mention your timing and your typically poor execution.
The Americans are your largest customer and if they decide to use oil from cleaner production sources (if there was any way to actually determine the source) it is your problem Ed not theirs.
There are other sources for oil Ed. Apparently 40% of the world’s yet to be discovered oil is suspected to be sitting under the western deserts of Iraq.

I somehow think that the US, even under Obama’s new administration will have no qualms about accessing that so called lighter crude. Rightly or wrongly, they probably believe that they have earned the right.
And about the affordable price part.
With oil being a traded commodity, price becomes more of a concern for the supply side versus the demand side, you know Exxon and the like. At $40 a barrel to convert tar sands to crude versus $8 a barrel to suck light oil out of the desert, your pricing argument seems to be misdirected if not pointless.
But I do agree that Alberta deserves a voice at the bargaining table.
However the importance of your voice should be proportionate to the size of your population not the size of your oil reserves.

A new North American climate pact will affect us all.
And lastly, although this might be a mute point, I don’t know if you can still claim to own the resources after you have sold the rights to develop them.
I believe that the oil companies tend to claim ownership of the reserves or at least get to list them on their financial statements and then, unfortunately you relegated to the role of say, a commissioned sales rep, left to go out and shill for the vendor.
Or at least that is the way it seems.

Reference: Obama and U.S. need tarsands oil: Alberta premier, CTV here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New music for an old man

Nothing makes me feel older than when I realize that I missed out on something that is really cool, especially when it comes to a new painting techniques, new software or a new style of music. Well I totally missed electronic music. I wrote it all off as E-based disco. Well I think I was wrong.

CFTPA or Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is a solo project/one man band, of 31 year old, Owen Ashworth. His musical style is "characterized by the use of electronically produced beats, cheap keyboards, and slow, frank lyrics".

It reminds me of some of tracts from Dylan's last albums. Except Dylan was lamenting about the angst of an aging boomer and Ashworth is lamenting about angst of a lost Xer.

More CFIA tinkering

New listeria testing protocols to be launched.

Here’s a novel idea why don’t we go back to the testing protocols we had in place before Harper secretly gutted them.

You know, REGULATED testing like the ones used before Canadians started dying.

Reference CBC here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Damn unrepentant old unicorns

Harpers plan to hold Obama over a barrel

Believing that you might as well get your only card on table Harper is seeking to protect Alberta's tar sands projects from the new US climate change rules.
Harper is proposing to strike a joint climate-change pact with Obama, an initiative that would seek to protect Alberta's oil sands projects from potentially tough new U.S. climate-change rules by offering a secure North American energy supply.
Because in Canada when we talk climate protection we mean protecting tar sands production as explained by our new minister of the environment, Jim Prentice.
When you're talking about the environment, you're also talking about energy, and when you're talking about energy, you're also talking about the economy.
Obama on the other hand has criticized the reliance on “dirty oil” from the tar sands and has promised tougher climate change action.

But Harper is hoping that Obama will be more concerned about the US eliminating it’s dependence on Middle East and Venezuelan oil which he also campaigned against and will cut a deal to protect the tar sands production.

Somehow I think Obama has bigger things to think about right now, like the US financial crisis and I think he is smart enough to see through Harper’s tar sands protectionism even if it is wrapped with a green environmental ribbon.

This should be fun.

From the Globe here.

I guess Mound was right

Every major global climate record was broken last year and 2024 could be worse, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday,...