From the CBC. I guess he figured the Liberals would never bring down the government for fear of precipitating another election... but it seems he was wrong.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has temporarily stymied a Liberal plan to bring down the government and propose a governing coalition with the New Democrats, delaying the opportunity for a no-confidence vote by one week.
In an address delivered from the foyer of the House of Commons on Friday, Harper said the government should be empowered by Canadians — not through deals negotiated in the shadowy halls of Parliament.
"While we have been working on the economy, the opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it," Harper said.
The prime minister has cancelled Monday's opposition day, which the Liberals intended to use to introduce a motion to topple the Conservative government on the grounds that it has failed to recognize the seriousness of the economic downturn.
Harper said the next opposition day will be set for Dec. 8.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
From the CBC. Now I don't want another election any more than anyone else, but contrary to popular belief it doesn't have to happen, even if the fiscal update is voted down. If the opposition parties can convince the Governor-General that they can form a government, power could shift without having to go to the polls again. It happened in Ontario, when Frank Miller's minority government was defeated in 1985. I say bring it on.
Canada's opposition parties said Thursday they will vote against the Conservative government's fiscal update, sparking speculation the country could face another election in the midst of a global economic crisis.
The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois said they would not support the update introduced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty because it contained no stimulus package to spur Canada's slumping economy and protect Canadian workers during the crisis.
The update is a confidence vote on Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government and could be voted on as a ways and means motion as early as Monday evening.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
So the biggest telco in the country, which you'd think would be bulletproof, is in trouble. Seems absurd, given that it seems like a can't lose business. After all, people don't stop making phone calls (or, hopefully, reading this blog), and BCE's flagship subsidiary, Bell Canada, is the gatekeeper to the phone and internet network in Canada's two largest provinces. MTS, their counterpart here, is doing fine (their stock is only slightly below where it was a year ago, though they had a temporary dip today while BCE's stock was crashing). Nevertheless, if they've
Shares of telecommunications giant BCE Inc. remained deep under water early Wednesday afternoon, after plunging 40 per cent at the opening bell following a warning by the company that its massive planned privatization is in jeopardy.
The shares were trading at $25.09 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down $13.26, or 34.6 per cent, from Tuesday's close, having earlier fallen as far as $23, or 46 per cent below the $42.75 price the would-be buyers, led by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, agreed to pay in June, 2007.
The rout followed a pre-opening warning from BCE that its planned $35-billion privatization was in doubt because it had failed a preliminary solvency test conducted for the would-be purchasers.
Interesting things are arising as a result of all this chaos. Canadian Silver Bug has found an interesting site, the Free Lakota Bank:
The Free Lakota Bank is the world's first non-reserve, non-fractional bank that issues, accepts for deposit, and circulates REAL money...silver and gold. All of our deposits are liquid, meaning they can be withdrawn at any time in minted rounds.I have mixed views on this. I like the idea; it's great to see the Lakota nation reclaiming control of their economy (and I imagine that the Mohawks and others are watching this closely). And I do see some merit in the way they're doing it; fiat currency isn't looking particularly good right now. But I can't help but thinking that if full reserve banking worked as well as many precious metal enthusiasts think it did, someone would already be doing it. Not to mention, seeing them quote Ayn Rand sort of dampens my enthusiasm for the whole thing.
Then again, if you are going to try this, it's a very good time. Precious metals are down considerably from earlier this year, but I tend to agree with those who think they will increase dramatically in value as the US dollar devalues again.
From the CBC. The OECD thinks, however, that other countries will have a harder time of it. The situation in the UK, for example, is not looking good:
The global financial crisis could increase jobless numbers in OECD countries by eight million people, hit Canada with a recession and boost the country's unemployment rate to 7.5 per cent, according to a report.
The latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development outlook said Tuesday the world is entering the worst economic downturn in decades.
"We project that 21 out of 30 member economies of the OECD will go through a protracted recession of a magnitude which has not been seen since the early 1980s," said Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel, the OECD chief economist.
The gloomy outlook predicts Canada's economy will shrink in the fourth quarter by 1.6 per cent and in the first and second quarters of 2009 by 1.4 per cent first and 0.3 per cent respectively, meaning the country will be in recession.
Mr. Brown certainly has his work cut out for him; here's hoping his bold moves help. On the other hand, it looks like the "lucky country" may continue to be lucky for a while:
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned of a "severe" economic downturn in the UK in 2009.
The Paris-based body has predicted that economic output in the UK will fall by 1.1% next year, more than any other major G7 country.
Unemployment in the UK is predicted to rise significantly to over 8% by end of 2009 from 5.5% in 2008.
Australia will avoid a recession next year, one of only a handful of developed countries whose economy will continue to grow, a leading global think tank says.
As financial markets wrestle with the meaning of the latest last-ditch US bail-out - a $500 billion prop for the ailing banking giant Citigroup - the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts the richest economies in the world will shrink by a collective 0.4 per cent next year.
"Many OECD economies are in or are on the verge of a protracted recession of a magnitude not experienced since the early 1980s," the chief economist, Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel, said.
"As a result, the number of unemployed in the OECD area could rise by 8 million over the next two years."
Australia's economy is likely to grow by a relatively healthy 1.7 per cent.
Meanwhile, a Wayne Simpson, an economist at the U of M, is being interviewed on CBC Radio as I write this. He thinks Manitoba is better poised than just about anywhere in the world to weather the downturn, because we have a fairly diversified economy that doesn't have big boom and bust cycles. He thinks we may be in for a mild recession (particularly the resource sector of our economy; have you checked commodity prices lately?) but nothing compared to most of the developed world. Of course, any or all of these claims may turn out to be nonsense; it is, after all, economists who are making the predictions.
On another note, some of you may know that CUPE 3903, at York University, is on strike. Unfortunately, the domain name they wanted to use is being held by a cybersquatter, and they need the hits to go to the right place, obviously. So here's my shout out to them. Facebook users can also show their support here. Apparently they want to link the phrase "York University Strike Information" to their site, so here it is.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown swept aside three decades of economic orthodoxy with tax increases on the rich and plans that will double Britain’s national debt.From here. The extra tax on the rich is long overdue; I can't comment, though, on his debt proposal. It might be a good idea, but it might also be a very bad idea, and whether it's good or bad depends partly on what international investors think. As noted previously, I suspect part of the reason why the US has gotten away with running up huge debts is that said investors are reluctant to bet against the US dollar; the fate of the pound, though, is a lot less critical on an international level, so they might well just pull the plug on the UK. On the other hand, anti-Keynesian sentiment may have declined somewhat since Bob Rae tried this approach in the early 1990s, and it might significantly mitigate the worst effects of the crisis on Britain's population. The situation definitely bears watching; the world economy is in very bad shape indeed, and if Brown can mitigate this to a noticeable degree, a lot of people will want to follow his lead.
Brown’s proposals yesterday to mitigate fallout from the global economic slump would cost 25.6 billion pounds ($38.7 billion) in the U.K.’s biggest round of stimulus since 1988.
The plan, which will result in the largest budget deficit among the Group of Seven industrialized nations, represents a retreat from policies that have shaped the British economy since Conservative Margaret Thatcher’s 12-year tenure that began in 1979. Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair called himself a proponent of “New Labour” and advocated policies Thatcher had promoted, including spending restraint, low debt and tax cuts for the rich.
“It is back to the 70s,” said Bill Jones, a political scientist at the University of Manchester. “It’s a return to the two-party divide and a temporary end to consensus politics. It’s like Labour has suddenly burst out of its straitjacket.”
Labour’s traditional union supporters backed the proposal by Brown, 57, to impose a new 45 percent tax on those earning more than 150,000 pounds a year, while opposition Conservatives accused him of irresponsibility for running up debt that will exceed 1 trillion pounds by 2014.
Monday, November 24, 2008
From the Guardian.
A gang of Jewish teenagers were today jailed by an Israeli court for a 12-month campaign of neo-Nazi attacks.
The sentencing in Tel Aviv, which comes over a year after the arrest of the eight youths, closed a case that has sparked revulsion across the Jewish state.
The judge, Zvi Gurfinkel, sentenced the teens, aged 16 to 19, to between one and seven years in prison for a "shocking and horrifying" year-long spree of attacks that focused on foreign workers, gay people, ultra-orthodox Jews and homeless men.
The ring posted pro-Hitler video clips and recordings of their attacks on the internet. Its members also planned to attack Arabs.
They were arrested in September 2007 and reports said that searches of their homes unearthed Nazi uniforms, knives, guns and the explosive TNT.
Gang members had tattoos popular with white supremacists – including the number 88, code for "heil Hitler", H being the eighth letter of the alphabet.
From here. Just how long can they keep this up? It bewilders me that the US still has an AAA credit rating; the Rae government in Ontario was nowhere near as far in debt as the US is, yet its AAA rating was taken away early in their term. Of course, there's a difference; if the US defaults, the result could be a bigger devaluation of the US dollar than foreign investors are prepared to cope with. So maybe the bond rating agencies are reluctant to act even in the face of mounting evidence that the Yanks aren't worthy of such good credit, for fear of toppling the world economy into an even bigger mess than it's already in. It's noteworthy, though, that there may be limits to the agencies' patience:
The U.S. government unveiled a bold plan Sunday to rescue troubled Citigroup, including taking a $20 billion US stake in the firm as well as guaranteeing hundreds of billions of dollars in risky assets.
The action, announced jointly by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., is aimed at shoring up a huge financial institution whose collapse would wreak havoc on the already crippled financial system and the U.S. economy.
The sweeping plan is geared to stemming a crisis of confidence in the company, whose stock has been hammered in the past week because of worries about its financial health.
"With these transactions, the U.S. government is taking the actions necessary to strengthen the financial system and protect U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. economy," the three agencies said in a statement issued Sunday night. "We will continue to use all of our resources to preserve the strength of our banking institutions, and promote the process of repair and recovery and to manage risks," they said.
It is the latest in a string of high-profile government bailout efforts. The Fed in March provided financial backing to JPMorgan Chase's buyout of ailing Bear Stearns. Six months later, the government was forced to take over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and throw a financial lifeline — which was recently rejigged — to insurer American International Group.
The United States may be on course to lose its 'AAA' rating due to the large amount of debt it has accumulated, according to Martin Hennecke, senior manager of private clients at Tyche.From here, via the Huffington Post.
"The U.S. might really have to look at a default on the bankruptcy reorganization of the present financial system" and the bankruptcy of the government is not out of the realm of possibility, Hennecke said.
Friday, November 21, 2008
FEARS of the unknown long-term effects from the global financial crisis have sparked a new gold rush.
With retail and wholesale clients around the world stocking up on the precious metal, the Perth Mint has been forced to suspend orders.
As the World Gold Council reported that the dollar demand for gold reached a quarterly record of $US32 billion ($50.73 billion) in the third quarter, industry insiders said the race to secure physical gold had reached an intensity that had never been witnessed before.
Perth Mint sales and marketing director Ron Currie said the unprecedented demand had forced the Mint to cease orders until January, with staff working seven days a week, 24-hour days, over three shifts to meet orders.
He said Europe was leading the demand, with Russia, Ukraine, Middle East and US all buying -- making up 80 per cent of its sales. One European client purchased 30,000 ounces for $33 million.
"We have never seen this before and are working right at capacity. And we are seeing it from clients in the shop buying one ounce, right up to 30,000 ounces from overseas clients," Mr Currie said.
Robert Jaggard, manager of bullion and rare coins dealer Jaggards, said business had picked up strongly and he expected it to increase further.
"All around the world there has been a heavy run on physical gold and there is a shortage of supply," he said.
Via audrey_girl in this iTulip thread. Some might wonder if gold really is such a good investment right now, since although gold does well when inflation is high, many of the pundits are now talking about deflation. And under deflation, the price of everything tends to drop - including gold. However, the party line at iTulip is what they call "Ka-Poom theory" (I shit you not). The basic thesis is that the present economic crisis will unfold with, first a deflation, and then a spectacular inflation. If their theory is true, buying precious metals is a great idea, because the "ka" gives you the opportunity to buy them cheaply, and when the "poom" comes you'll be sitting pretty. Whether their thesis is more plausible than the pundits who fear a deflationary spiral, I can't say.
Of course, the tinfoil hat crowd are saying that prices are being delibrately manipulated by the Illuminati, the Elders of Zion, or some such organization (and I'm not exaggerating; try googling site:kitcomm.com "elders of zion" some time and see how many of the folks at that site take the Protocols seriously). Apparently the wicked conspirators first pushed the price of gold down by shorting gold-backed securities, then bought all the gold in bulk so there's none left for the rest of us. Or something like that. I tend to figure on something much more mundane - like, the bullion wholesalers were taken by surprise as much as anyone was by the direction the economy has taken, and as a result they didn't have enough supply built up to take advantage of the opportunities. The sociological corollary to Ockham's Razor - never invoke conspiracy to explain that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
U.S. lawmakers deadlocked on a plan to bail out the Big Three automakers, leaving General Motors Corp. facing the prospect it could run out of cash before a new Congress can come to the rescue next year.From Bloomberg.com. Of course, Obama's inauguration (along with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress) might change the situation, but some fear that GM, at least, might not even survive that long.
Democratic congressional leaders disagreed with Republicans and President George W. Bush's administration over how to provide $25 billion in aid to GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Only two days remain in a lame-duck session for lawmakers to resurrect a compromise.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, suggested yesterday the situation was dire and refused to set aside time today to debate a compromise proposed by Senator Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican. Reid said Bond's plan hasn't been put in writing and the House of Representatives is about to adjourn.
``We have to face reality,'' he said. ``The reality is that we tried a number of different approaches.''
Bond and fellow Republican George Voinovich of Ohio insisted they weren't giving up on their proposal to speed up and broaden access to $25 billion already approved for fuel- efficient vehicle development that was a compromise.
``We've made great progress,'' Bond said. ``We are down to the point now where wording challenges are about the only remaining things to deal with.''
This illustrates just what Obama is up against. After his honeymoon period ends, he's going to be facing mounting criticism as the US economy sinks further. Unless he is able to work miracles, he could find himself vulnerable in the 2012 election. A Nehemiah Scudder type (like, say, Mike Huckabee) could be a real threat; these people, for instance, would undoubtedly be enthusiastic backers of the likes of Huckabee.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
From here. It's a start, anyway, and hopefully this won't be the last indictment issued against members of the Bush administration.
McALLEN, Texas -- Vice-President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted on state charges involving federal prisons in a South Texas county.
The prisons have been a source of bizarre legal and political battles under the outgoing prosecutor.
The indictment has not yet been signed by the presiding judge, and no action can be taken until that happens.
The seven indictments issued in Willacy County included some targeting public officials connected to District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra's own legal battles.
Guerra himself was under indictment for more than 18 months until a judge dismissed the indictments last month.
Guerra's tenure ends this year after nearly two decades in office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March.
Guerra said the prison-related charges against Cheney and Gonzales are a national issue and experts from across the country testified to the grand jury.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Three big European credit insurers have removed cover from suppliers of troubled U.S. carmakers General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., the Financial Times reported on Friday.From the Globe. If this is true (and in the absence of sources it's hard to separate facts from mere rumours) this is really big. Either a bailout or a nationalization seems inevitable; the US will not likely allow those companies to fail, and probably won't allow them to be taken over by Toyota or Honda either (assuming that those companies even want to make such a risky investment in this climate).
The withdrawal of credit insurance, which covers suppliers against the risk of the car companies failing, was undertaken by Euler Hermes, Atradius and Coface, which control more than 80 per cent of the world's credit insurance market, the newspaper said.
The three are refusing to write policies for suppliers trading with GM or Ford on credit, it reported, without citing sources.
In a sign the administration doesn't accept full responsibility for the world's woes, Paulson said yesterday that while the U.S. is ``well aware and humbled by our own failings,'' it wasn't alone in making mistakes. The ``lack of consumption and accumulation of reserves in Asia and oil exporting countries and structural issues in Europe,'' also hurt the global economy, Paulson said.My emphasis. Right, so it's those lesser breeds without the law who are to blame, 'cuz they're not spending like drunken sailors the way good ol' Americans would when they come into some cash.
There seems to be a lot of "blame China" sentiment out there lately. Look at this one:
It wasn't that long ago that pundits were counting on China to rescue the world from economic calamity. Now, China may be poised to become a key source of the problem.
After a recent visit to China, Nobuyuki Saji, chief economist and equity strategist for Japanese investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, issued a report warning that China could be on the verge of pushing the world into a deflationary spiral. The problem? Swelling industrial overcapacity, which threatens to undermine prices both for China's exported goods and its imports of raw materials.
He estimated that China's production is running as much as 50 per cent below capacity, as many industries that have been expanding rapidly are now being hit by slowing demand both domestically and abroad. Based on his estimates, China alone represents 7 per cent of the global supply/demand gap.
"We believe that once Chinese companies start to fully factor in a 2009 recession in the global economy in terms of significant shipment and selling-price cuts, widespread global deflation will be inevitable," he said.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In John McCain's home state of Arizona, the recent economic downturn took its toll on The Don's Sport Shop.
Gun sales at the Scottsdale store slowed to a crawl last month, even as the state's hunting season rolled around. On an average day two weeks ago, shop owner Manny Chee was eking out only $2,000 or $2,500 in gun sales.
"The housing crisis has hit our state pretty hard," he said. "It was kind of like everybody's in limbo."
But Barack Obama is good for business. Last Wednesday, the day after Mr. Obama beat Arizona's own Mr. McCain to become the president-elect, Mr. Chee sold $30,000 worth of guns - mostly the semi-automatics the National Rifle Association claims Mr. Obama's administration will restrict.
"The election came, and now it's just a madhouse in here," said Mr. Chee, 31.
Between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received 374,000 requests for background checks on gun buyers - 49 per cent more than the same time last year, CNN reported.
The NRA believes Mr. Obama would restrict handguns and raise taxes on ammunition, effectively quintupling the cost of bullets.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
My own family were very lucky. My maternal grandfather was too young for WWI and too old for WWII, though he had a couple of brothers who were killed in action. My paternal grandfather might well have gone to war in WWII, had it not been for the fact that he was a tugboat captain on the Great Lakes, and as he worked in an essential service he was ineligible for the draft. On the other hand, the father of one of my friends fought in Korea while his mum and siblings pissed away the money he sent home. Despite this, he was never bitter about it, though he didn't talk about his combat experiences.
I'll leave off with the words of Charles Clarence Laking, one of the last veterans of WWI, who died in 2005 at the age of 106:
Monday, November 10, 2008
Police in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, stopped a 9-year-old boy driving the family car alone to his grandmother's house Monday.
The boy had driven about 3 km — halfway to his destination — before being stopped, police said Thursday.
"I learned to drive by watching my father and at game arcades," the third-grader was quoted as saying.
As Monday was a national holiday, traffic was relatively light in the morning and the boy caused no accidents.
Police cautioned his parents to watch the car more carefully.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Via robbie_dee in this babble thread. It sounds like something from South Park, but unfortunately this is the real deal.
Several sixth-graders from suburban St. Louis are being disciplined for creating "Hit a Jew Day" and then hitting Jewish classmates.
Four or five students at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield could be suspended and undergo counseling for last week's incident, school officials told the Associated Press. Others who taunted Jewish students or encouraged others to participate face lesser punishment.
Officials said fewer than 10 of the school's 35 Jewish students were hit. One was slapped in the face and the others were hit mostly on the back of their shoulders.
"There is a mix of sadness and outrage," said district spokesman Paul Tandy. "The concern is a lot of kids knew about it and they didn't take action or say anything."
Saturday, November 8, 2008
From the Toronto Star. I'd still take Obama over Harper (or McCain or Palin, obviously), but in my mind Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe, Elizabeth May, and even Stephane Dion are far more progressive than he is. Although, if Obama were running in Canada instead of the US he might have adjusted his platform to suit the electorate. Certainly I have little doubt that if Harper were running in the US he'd be taking clear and strident positions against same sex marriage, and possibly abortion as well, and endorse the death penalty.
He supports the death penalty for heinous crimes, while acknowledging that capital punishment is likely not a deterrent.
He is opposed to same-sex marriage, though noting that time may prove he's on the wrong side of history on this issue.
He wants more combat troops in Afghanistan, while vowing to take American soldiers out of Iraq within 16 months of assuming office.
He had himself baptized as a Christian in adulthood.
Barack Obama is not the Canadian version of a liberal politician, even while occupying the far left – as a United States senator – of the political spectrum. In Canadian terms, he'd barely qualify as a Red Tory.
On a completely unrelated note, this story caught my attention:
The main drag looked like a scene from a horror flick last night after a leaky truck spilled 4.5 metric tonnes of chicken blood down Queen Street.And I thought Halloween was last week...
The tanker truck, headed from Schneider’s poultry plant in St. Marys to Kitchener, was headed west down Queens Street at about 11:30 p.m. when a valve broke off.
“We got the call first from a citizen who said there was a liquid on the road,” said Const. Glen Childerly of the Perth County Ontario Provincial Police.
“When we went there, we discovered it was blood. . . . There was blood everywhere and in spots it was three inches thick.”
The blood trail spanned more than five kilometers through the centre of town.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Not every ballot initiative was so positive, of course. Final results are still pending, but it's looking like California may have the ignominious distinction of becoming the first US state to ban same-sex marriage after it was legal. Probably supported by folks whose preachers told them that they'd burn in hell if they voted No. Oh well, that's how America works, I guess.
Michigan became the 13th state to legalise marijuana for medical use, while Massachusetts decriminalised possession of one ounce or less of the substance, making the offence punishable with a citation and a $100 fine.
"Tonight's results represent a sea change," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which backed the Massachusetts and Michigan ballot proposals. "Voters have spectacularly rejected eight years of the most intense government war on marijuana since the days of 'Reefer Madness.'"
Incidentally, remember those "militia" organizations that were so prominent during the Clinton years and faded into the background during the last eight years? (I use quotes around the word "militia" because really, as Chomsky points out, militias are raised by states; these are really private armies, or in some cases actual terrorists). In any case, expect to see these folks being a lot more visible in the next little while, because most of them are not going to be happy with Obama's win at all.
And bugsybrown reminds us that Bush will still be president for 76 more days from today, which gives him time to do an awful lot of damage.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
A company that makes the commonly used herbicide ingredient 2,4-D is challenging the Quebec government under the North American Free Trade Agreement for banning its product.From here.
The Canadian unit of Dow AgroSciences alleges the prohibition of the weed killer is without any scientific basis and in violation of the trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
"We are of the view that this is in breach to certain provisions of NAFTA," Jim Wispinski, president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, said in a press release. "We don't welcome this step but feel it is necessary given the circumstances."