Current Belgian Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem apparently stumbled into a Belgian bar in New York City on Monday evening with his entourage. Following his visit, bartender Nathalie Lubbe Bakker blogged about their visit (in Dutch), talking about how disgusted she was of how drunk De Crem was and how embarrassed she was about his behavior. Worst part, she wrote, was the fact that one of the politician’s advisors admitted to her that the meetings they were there for on taxpayer’s money were in fact canceled because the UN was meeting in Geneva (which is about 330 miles from Brussels). He reportedly told her they had decided to come to NY anyway despite being aware of the cancellation because the policital situation here was ‘calm’ and that he’d ‘never visited the city anyway’.From TechCrunch. I've been a bit nervous of this myself; I started to get paranoid about employers finding this blog at some point, which is why I've been periodically going through bursts of moving posts about my own life to my LJ.
A couple of days later, someone from De Crem’s office had a telephone call with Nathalie’s boss, after which she was promptly fired. This was initially denied by the politician, and it remains unclear if her termination was a direct result of the call or the blog post in question.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said the biggest U.S. automaker got “what we asked for” with $9.4 billion in U.S. loans over the next 24 days. Investors bet that it’s not enough.From Bloomberg. No information about Chrysler, but then it's no longer publicly traded so they don't have to disclose as much information. Ford is apparently doing considerably better; they could well end up being the last survivor of the American automakers. But all of the automakers are hurting; even Toyota is facing its first operating loss in 70 years. The brutal truth is, cars simply can't continue to occupy the central place that they occupy in today's economy. The energy, environmental, and infrastructure demands are too great. They won't go away, of course (many people still live in areas where public transit is unfeasible) but they're going to have to be much more of a niche item than they are now. Which means a lot fewer people making their living building them.
GM slid 6.8 percent today in early New York trading to extend yesterday’s 22 percent plunge. Credit-default swaps on the company’s bonds jumped 2 percentage points in a sign of increasing concern that the Bush administration’s bailout may end in a default.
The stock-price slide erased the 23 percent gain on Dec. 19, when Detroit-based GM received a federal aid package to help the automaker stay in business until March 31 while it crafts a plan to shut plants, shed brands and reduce debt.
“It’s almost impossible for a management that invested in the assets, that hired the people, that put forth the strategy, to change so dramatically in such a short period of time,” Edward Altman, a New York University finance professor who created the Z-score formula to measure bankruptcy risk, said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
There is a “high” likelihood of a GM bankruptcy, Standard & Poor’s said yesterday in reducing the rating on the company’s unsecured debt to C, or 11 grades below investment quality. Robert Schulz, an S&P analyst in New York, said creditors can expect “negligible recovery” should the automaker default.
GM has slashed output and won union concessions since saying Nov. 7 it may run out of operating cash by year’s end. The automaker said it would need as much as $18 billion in aid or face a possible bankruptcy.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I snapped another picture. The cops noticed this time. One of them strode directly over to me.From here, via skdadl at pogge.
“You can’t take pictures of this,” he said. His tone was aggressive.
I slid my camera back into its case.
“Okay,” I replied.
“Erase it,” he ordered me.
“I said ‘Erase it’!” he said, “I work undercover and I don’t want my picture anywhere.”
I really didn’t want to erase my picture. Not unless I had to. Besides, if he’s so concerned about keeping his undercover identity secret, he shouldn’t walk around in a police uniform.
“Do I have to?” I asked.
“I told you, I don’t want my picture anywhere.”
“Is it the law?” I asked.
“I asked you nicely,” he said, but he didn’t say it very nicely. It sounded threatening to me.
“Is it the law?” I repeated.
“I asked you nicely,” he said menacingly as he stared down at me, “Are you refusing?”
I looked at him. Maybe if we were in a dark alley with no witnesses, I would have deleted it. But here? In broad daylight, surrounded by witnesses, with a tiny, bleeding, unconscious, handcuffed woman lying on the street? He was probably in enough trouble already.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m refusing.”
“Real nice,” he said in disgust, “Thanks a lot.”
And he turned around and started to walk back to the knot of officers and the unconscious handcuffed woman.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
From here. Thanks to highryder in this babble thread for the link.
Sammad’s got a problem. The recent downturn in the economy means that he can’t drive his car; he’s racking up a ton of debt, and soon, he might lose his livelihood.
“Pretty soon I’ll have to get a regular job,” he says with a chuckle.
Sammad’s not the typical victim of financial turmoil; he’s not a factory worker or a car dealer; he’s a different kind of dealer.
Sammad sells cocaine from his apartment in the suburbs of Vancouver. What used to be a lucrative profession is going south for him and the economy is primarily to blame.
It might be surprising, but the saleability of Sammad’s product really does depend on how well the economy is doing, and in particular, how well males between the ages of 18–40 are doing in that economy. A lot of uneducated male workers are losing their jobs, and for Sammad, they are his prime clienteles. Compound this with police in the United States intercepting a major shipment from South America destined for BC, and you get a product with a skyrocketing price and a market that can’t afford it.
“A kilo of coke used to be 18 G’s, now it’s 42,” he complains. “I can’t even make a profit unless I sell these chinsy little bags. My half-grams used to cost $25; now they’re $40 and even then I only make, like, five bucks off each one.”
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
From the Winnipeg Free Press. I find it particularly galling that the Kiwis want to nail the CWB, but want to protect their own analogous agency. Not to mention the fact that Harper probably isn't even going to bring this up with the WTO.
Harper has an out. He can abandon his dirty tricks campaign against the CWB and still "walk over" democracy by turning to the World Trade Organization. The WTO's Doha Round, if it survives, is more than prepared to dispatch the pesky marketing agency for him.
The day after the CWB director elections, Crawford Falconer, New Zealand's WTO ambassador and agricultural chair, released a new text that would declare the CWB illegal in 2013, the deadline for a new agreement.
The CWB is isolated at the WTO. The former Australian government abolished the world's only other single-desk wheat board. And the WTO draft text contains a footnote exempting New Zealand's kiwi fruit exporting agency from the CWB's fate.
Dustin Gosnell, the CWB's director of strategic planning and corporate policy, says the WTO "is one step closer to cementing language that would cause us to lose the single desk and how it's happening is really most discouraging. It's really the chair railroading it through."
National Farmers Union president Stewart Wells says the WTO is a "most undemocratic organization." Canada isn't even in most of the meetings involving agriculture. They are dominated by the U.S., European Union, Argentina and Brazil.
From the Brisbane Courier-Mail.
Livermore describes the order as a sect and has written a book, Hope Endures, chronicling her experiences.
Mother Teresa's mistake, says Livermore, was in thinking that obedience was more important than compassion.
"That's not something that's widely known and not part of what the media says about her. It was dictatorial. I should have got out sooner," she says, shaking her head.
When she finally left, she turned to the medical degree she had spurned when she joined the sisters and became a doctor, working in Timor, the Northern Territory, the Congo, Sudan and
One casualty of her time with Mother Teresa was her religion.
"I ended up an agnostic," she says. "I just couldn't believe it any more but if, as when I was in Timor from 2000-2003, you can do something for the kids, then for some people at least, you can make a difference."
Livermore blames no one but herself for what happened.
"After all," she says, smiling, "no one handcuffed me. It was my own silly choice. My mother told me I was a drongo but once I was in there, I couldn't get free.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Branson Hunter, writing for the Big Bear Observation Post blog, reports that the Marine Corps Air and Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) and the local California Highway Patrol will be working together over the holiday “in a joint effort to reduce accidents and drinking and driving” in San Bernardino County.Indeed. From Infowars, via Rattlesnake in this Kitco thread. What can be the reason for this? You have to wonder if Awakened1, in the same thread, is right in suggesting that it's "just another case to condition the people to seeing a military presence in the public". Can anyone think of a better reason for US Marines to be used to find drunk drivers?
Hunter contacted Corporal Knuesn of the MCAGCC Provost Marshal office and MCAGCC Public Affairs Chief, Gunny Sgt. Chris Cox. Both confirmed the USMC will be present on public roads in order to setup a military presence during routine DUI check stops. “They will be working closely over the month to cut down of traffic accidents,” said Cox, “the Military Police will observe DUI check points and watch for their own guys. The intent is to have military presence out there.”
Infowars attempted to contact the MCAGCC Provost Marshal office and MCAGCC Public Affairs to confirm the story but we were unable to reach them.
Dispatching Marines on California highways is an obvious violation of the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed on June 16, 1878. The Act prohibits members of the federal uniformed services, including military police, from working with state and local police and law enforcement.
However, since September 11, 2001, the federal government has increasingly ignored Posse Comitatus. On October 1, 2008, the U.S. Army announced its 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team will be under the day-to-day control of the Northern Command, ostensibly “on call” to respond to emergencies and disasters.
“They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack,” the Army Times reported on September 30. “Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the ‘jaws of life’ to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.”
It is not explained how assisting in traffic accidents falls within the purview of Homeland Security and the military. It appears that the Marines are using this very pretense in San Bernardino County to “cut down of traffic accidents,” a task normally reserved for local law enforcement.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Source. You'd think it would be in the public's interest to know what the government is doing with that much money, wouldn't you? I mean, it's not a matter of national security or anything, is it?
Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.
Bloomberg filed suit Nov. 7 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act requesting details about the terms of 11 Fed lending programs, most created during the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The Fed responded Dec. 8, saying it’s allowed to withhold internal memos as well as information about trade secrets and commercial information. The institution confirmed that a records search found 231 pages of documents pertaining to some of the requests.
Friday, December 12, 2008
On November 27 the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement with the US under which the 150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq, in a few weeks time. Private security companies will lose their legal immunity. US military operations and the arrest of Iraqis will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. There will be no US military bases left behind when the last US troops leave in three years time and the US military is banned in the interim from carrying out attacks on other countries from Iraq.So it's all over -- except for the tiny fact that lots more Iraqis and Americans are going to die senselessly in the next three years, and the US will continue to accumulate more debt as well as more antipathy from the rest of humanity.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional. America’s bid to act as the world’s only super-power and to establish quasi-colonial control of Iraq, an attempt which began with the invasion of 2003, has ended in failure. There will be a national referendum on the new agreement next July, but the accord is to be implemented immediately so the poll will be largely irrelevant. Even Iran, which had furiously denounced the first drafts of the SOFA saying that they would establish a permanent US presence in Iraq, now says blithely that it will officially back the new security pact after the referendum. This is a sure sign that Iran, as America’s main rival in the Middle East, sees the pact as marking the final end of the US occupation and as a launching pad for military assaults on neighbours such as Iran.
It would be "irresponsible" to hurt the economy by letting the Detroit Big Three automakers fall, a White House spokeswoman said Friday following the Senate's rejection of a massive auto industry bailout.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, press secretary Dana Perino said the White House is considering using money from the $700-billion US Wall Street rescue fund to support the domestic automakers.
Perino said the administration would not typically make such a move, but said the White House would consider the option due to the economic distress confronting the United States.
"While the federal government may need to step in to prevent an immediate failure, the auto companies, their labour unions and all other stakeholders must be prepared to make the meaningful concessions necessary to become viable," Perino said.
From the CBC. Whether this will help in the long run is hard to say; some are saying it's too late for GM. One thing is clear, though, the unions are getting a disproportionate amount of the blame for the automakers' troubles. For instance, ever hear that "$73 an hour" figure, about how much money the auto workers supposedly make? Well, it's misleading to say the least, according to no less authority than the New York Times:
Seventy-three dollars an hour.
That figure — repeated on television and in newspapers as the average pay of a Big Three autoworker — has become a big symbol in the fight over what should happen to Detroit. To critics, it is a neat encapsulation of everything that’s wrong with bloated car companies and their entitled workers.
To the Big Three’s defenders, meanwhile, the number has become proof positive that autoworkers are being unfairly blamed for Detroit’s decline. “We’ve heard this garbage about 73 bucks an hour,” Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said last week. “It’s a total lie. I think some people have perpetrated that deliberately, in a calculated way, to mislead the American people about what we’re doing here.”
So what is the reality behind the number? Detroit’s defenders are right that the number is basically wrong. Big Three workers aren’t making anything close to $73 an hour (which would translate to about $150,000 a year).
But the defenders are not right to suggest, as many have, that Detroit has solved its wage problem. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler workers make significantly more than their counterparts at Toyota, Honda and Nissan plants in this country. Last year’s concessions by the United Automobile Workers, which mostly apply to new workers, will not change that anytime soon.
And yet the main problem facing Detroit, overwhelmingly, is not the pay gap. That’s unfortunate because fixing the pay gap would be fairly straightforward.
The real problem is that many people don’t want to buy the cars that Detroit makes. Fixing this problem won’t be nearly so easy.
Get it? It's not because the Detroit Three are being bled dry by the unions. It's because too many of their cars suck.
But now for some good news. Not all vehicle manufacturers are doing badly:
New Flyer Industries has racked up more than $1 billion in orders over the last three months, driven by the recent spike in fuel prices and concerns about the economy.
It is the first time the Winnipeg bus maker has reached the $1-billion sales milestone during a quarter. The value of its order backlog has ballooned by 50 per cent this year.
The company said Thursday it is further evidence of the recession-resistant nature of the business.
Glen Asham, New Flyer's CEO, said the strong sales are a result of increased ridership throughout North America, spurred on at the beginning of the year by sky-high fuel prices and more recently by economic concerns.
"I would suggest the current recessionary environment we are in is causing people to watch their cash flow," Asham said.
The largest of the new orders was from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) which is purchasing up to 900 60-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses. Since 2002, CTA has ordered a total of 1,258 buses from New Flyer.
From the Winnipeg Free Press. Let's hope this last trend continues; maybe New Flyer could buy up some of those shuttered auto plants in southern Ontario and put some of the people back to work making vehicles for the 21st century rather than for the 20th.
From the CBC. Expect the pundits to be pouring blame onto the UAW, while ignoring management salaries and benefits (not to mention the fact that the Big Three have been making a lot of shitty and/or impractical cars of late). There's a thread about this aspect of the story on babble. Of course, there's still a chance that they'll go back to the table, and some or all of the automakers may be saved (for now at least). In the long run, though, the auto industry is going to have to contract a fair bit regardless; we use too many cars in our society.
A planned $14-billion US federal bailout of the Big Three carmakers died Thursday on the U.S. Senate floor after negotiations between Democrats and Republicans collapsed over a dispute about wage cuts for autoworkers.
The Senate rejected the bailout 52-35 on a procedural vote — well short of the 60 votes needed to pass the plan.
Ahead of the vote, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was "terribly disappointed" to see several hours of unprecedented private talks in Washington with Senate Republicans, representatives from the country's auto industry and labour groups come to naught.
"There's too much difference between the two sides," Reid said from the Senate floor.
Asian financial markets fell sharply Friday as news of the failure emerged, with the Nikkei and Hang Seng both down more than five per cent. Reid could only speculate on the potential fallout when North American stock markets opened.
"I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow," Reid said late Thursday night. "This could be a very, very bad Christmas as a result of what takes place here tonight."
Note that even before this happened, some (such as the folks at iTulip) were predicting unemployment rates of 25% or more among American men between 18 and 25. As Fred points out in the linked thread, unemployment in that demographic in Greece has been in that range for several years, and we've seen where that can lead.
As an interesting side note, the price of platinum group metals is dropping significantly, presumably owing to a likely reduction in demand for catalytic converters. Indeed, platinum is actually slightly cheaper than gold as I write this, according to Kitco:
Platinum isn't the only thing falling either. The price of recyclable materials is crashing, according to the Waterloo Record:
Last summer, our garbage was suddenly worth its weight in gold.
Today it's priced like garbage again and probably even less.
Blue box revenues have fallen through the floor since July, mirroring the price collapse for oil and other commodities.
* Newsprint has dropped from $190 per tonne to $35. It's the biggest waste stream at 13,400 tonnes.
* Cardboard has dropped from $130 per tonne to $25.
* Aluminum has been slashed from $2,000 per tonne to $1,000. It's the most lucrative waste stream at 420 tonnes.
* Scrap metal has dropped from $310 per tonne to $40.
* Plastics are down from $800 per tonne to $400.
It's a roller-coaster plunge but Jim Archibald, regional director of waste management, isn't fretting about taxpayer impacts.
If garbage prices stay low, the region will dip into savings and rely on an industrial subsidy to cushion impacts, he said. But Archibald expects prices to recover to more reasonable levels next year.
"It has dropped significantly since the summer but those prices were ridiculous," he said.
Residents generate 36,000 tonnes of blue box waste a year.
It's good that their committment to recycling remains strong; let's hope other municipalities don't decide to cut corners.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
China’s exports fell for the first time in seven years, more evidence that recessions in the U.S., Europe and Japan are driving the world’s fourth-largest economy into a slump.From Bloomberg. The long term situation may be far worse, though, if this story is accurate:
Exports declined 2.2 percent in November from a year earlier, the customs bureau said in a statement on its Web site today. Imports plunged 17.9 percent, pushing the trade surplus to a record $40.09 billion.
China’s leaders pledged “more forceful measures” to help small companies and create jobs in statements within hours of the trade report. The export collapse intensifies pressure on the government to add to last month’s steepest interest-rate cut in 11 years, extend a 4 trillion yuan ($581 billion) spending plan and let the yuan depreciate.
“The figures are horrifying,” said Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at Industrial Bank Co. in Shanghai. “Plunging imports show that on top of faltering global demand, domestic demand is also shrinking as the economy cools.”
Thanks to meatball in this Kitco thread for the link. What will the consequences be for the rest of the world when a country with over a billion people (not to mention a substantial nuclear arsenal) finds that it can't feed itself?
Two new reports – one from the Chinese government, the other based on criteria developed by the United Nations – should be enough to scare every government, economist and investor in the world about the future of the Chinese economy, currently the one global bright spot.
The underlying question raised by these reports is this: How can a nation’s economy grow when its soil is rapidly eroding and its water is rapidly becoming so polluted that it isn’t just unsafe to drink. It’s even unsafe for fishing, farming and factory use.
In short, how can a nation’s economy grow when its ecosystems appear on the verge of collapse?As reported late last month by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, “A three-year investigation reveals almost 40% of China’s territory, or 3,569,200 square kilometers of land, suffers from soil erosion.” Reuters news agency put it this way: “Over a third of China’s land is being scoured by serious erosion that is putting crops and water supply at risk, a nationwide three-year survey has found.” The survey reportedly was carried out by China’s bio-environment security research team.
Monday, December 8, 2008
From the Portage Daily Graphic. Makes a certain amount of sense, for sure. The stores singled out in the email will no doubt be desperate to suppress this story, because it will further cut into their revenue stream, but likely to no avail. I say it serves them right for introducing expiry dates.
Experts are issuing buyer beware warnings advising consumers to avoid buying gift cards this year.
With a growing number of retailers going under from the strain of the recession, holiday gift cards run the risk of not being honoured with companies in the midst of “restructuring.”
“We’re not crazy about them in general, but, particularly this year, until merchants become serious about protecting their funds, buy a real gift,” said Anthony Giorgianni, money advisor for Consumer Reports.
It’s a warning that also stems from an e-mail that’s gone viral in cyberspace. The e-mail, of unknown origin, advises consumers to avoid buying gift certificates at several major retailers because they’ve either filed for bankruptcy or are on the brink of going under.
Regarding the economic crisis in general, I don't know enough to say whether this will be the next Great Depression or just a nasty recession like we've had a number of times in the postwar era. I also don't know if anything good will come from this, but it's possible; the public works programs that have been announced in the US were overdue already, for instance, and if they spend a lot on developing clean energy sources, the world could come out ahead on the deal. George Monbiot thinks that the environment might also benefit simply from the decline in industrial activity, though others think that the lack of availability of credit might hamper the development of green energy by the private sector. But this is a perfect example of why we need a public sector. Thank goodness that Manitoba Hydro, for instance, is around to do stuff like this.
And then there are the more unpredictable benefits. Consider what happened in the last Great Depression:
On Dec. 5, 1933 — nearly 75 years ago to the day — America was buried in the Great Depression. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed, industrial production had halved, and the Dow was more than two thirds below its 1929 peak. There was, however, something to celebrate.From the New York Times. Curiously, the story doesn't discuss the new prohibition that the US introduced a few years after and then forced the rest of the world to agree to (though several of the posted comments bring this up), but one has to wonder if the legalization of some prohibited drugs (at least marijuana) might finally be possible. Massachusetts just decriminalized it, after all, and some jurisdictions are likely to recognize that they could collect an awful lot of badly needed tax revenue if they went a step beyond and actually legalized it. Are you reading this, Barack?
At 7 p.m. that evening president Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the ratification the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which nullified the Eighteenth, making drinking alcohol legal once again. The event was celebrated in New Orleans with a 20-minute cannonade, and in New York cargoes of premium spirits owned by Joseph Kennedy, Sr., were unloaded from ships that had been waiting for the announcement just offshore. Prohibition — what Herbert Hoover in 1928 had called a “great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose” — was over. The writer and social commentator H.L Mencken compared its effects, in terms of the suffering it had caused, to the Black Death in Medieval Europe and marked its passing with a glass of water — “my first in 13 years.”
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Baird may be a bit more worldly than some of his colleagues, but he isn't any smarter than most of them. Which will create a problem for the Cons when Harper passes his "use by" date (which may have happened in the last week, though it remains to be seen how much damage this episode will do him). Because really, who in that party, besides Harper, has any brains? Belinda Stronach and Scott Brison are not stupid, but then they're no longer Cons either. Peter MacKay, perhaps? Doubtful, given that the whole country has seen him backstab David Orchard. So who does that leave? Inky Mark? Cheryl Gallant? Maybe Tony Clement or one of the other former Harrisites could pull it off, but their entire claim to fame is the economic model that is now unravelling at the seams. No, I think that the Conservative Party will spend quite some time in the political wilderness after Harper's reign ends. And that, my friends, is a Good Thing.
American International Group Inc., whose bonuses and perks drew fire from lawmakers after the insurer accepted a federal bailout, will make special retention payments that more than double the salaries of some senior managers, according to a person familiar with the matter.From Bloomberg. They don't blush easily, do they?
Some executives among 130 recipients will get more than $500,000, about 200 percent of their salaries, to stay through 2009, said the person, who declined to be named because the information hasn’t been publicly disclosed. An undetermined number of lower-paid employees will also get cash awards to dissuade them from quitting, the person said.
“It seems like more than what you’d need to pay to get people to stick around,” said David Schmidt, a senior consultant at executive pay firm James F. Reda & Associates. “Nobody’s hiring, so where are you going to go?”
Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy is encouraging top employees at AIG subsidiaries to remain so the units retain their value while he seeks buyers. The New York-based company is selling businesses, including its U.S. life insurance and retirement services operations, to repay loans in a $152.5 billion government rescue of AIG, which had a record $37.6 billion in net losses so far this year.
Friday, December 5, 2008
The remnants of businesses crushed by the economic slump now sit in Liquid Technology Inc.’s warehouse by the Hudson River in New York’s Chelsea district.
Hundreds of servers, personal computers and routers -- some shrink-wrapped, some on pallets, some tossed in a cardboard box to be made into scrap metal -- fill the 11,000-square-foot warehouse of the company, which buys liquidated technology and sells it for pennies on the dollar.
“There’s a lot of bad news driving the business,” said Richard Greene, Liquid Technology’s vice president of operations. “It’s the first wave of the tidal wave.”
The wave may sweep away sales of new systems from companies like Cisco Systems Inc. and Dell Inc., which are already suffering amid the recession and increasingly competing with sellers of their own used products.
From Bloomberg. Myself, I don't see this as a bad thing; it might keep old hardware out of landfills. Tough for the manufacturers, though.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Canadian Parliament Closed in Bid to Keep Prime Minister in Power (New York Times)
Canada's PM clings on to power as parliament suspended (The Guardian)
Canadian PM suspends Parliament to avoid defeat (People's Daily)
It's pretty obvious to foreign journalists what Harper's real motives are. Of course, the domestic press wants to seem impartial (except the Sun Media papers; Winnipeg's example had the screaming headline "NO! NO! NO!" the other day).
The Economist has a nice piece on this. It's a reasonably fair summary; if I have any quibble it's that their treatment of the Bloc is a bit one-dimensional (yes, they are sovereigntists, but there's more to them than that).
Meanwhile, Sean in Ottawa, with a bit of help from josh, has this to say on babble:
Maybe Harper should consider what happened to many of those leaders. In a similar vein is this video, courtesy of The Harper Dictatorship:
Stephen Harper wants to shut down Parliament just because he does not agree with it.
Some say this is unprecedented.
In fact, Harper is following parliamentary tradition. Consider the following precedents:1629: King Charles I in England
1799: Napoleon in France
1913: Victoriano Huerta in Mexico
1933: Adolf Hitler in Germany
1936: Fransisco Franco in Spain
1939: Benito Mussolini in Italy
1973: Augusto Pinochet in Chile1975: Indira Gandhi in India1999: Perez Musharaff in Pakistan
2008: Stephen Harper in Canada.
My suspicion is that over the holidays the Cons will temper the budget a bit, and the Liberals will get nervous and chicken out come the resumption of Parliament in January. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing; the budget will be less harsh than it would otherwise be, and the Cons will thus be in power just long enough to be blamed for the hard economic times that we're in for.
Canada isn't the only country facing a parliamentary crisis, though:
Politicians in Australia’s most populous state could be breath-tested for alcohol before voting on laws after a series of late-night incidents that have embarrassed the centre-left government.From the Times of India.
New South Wales state lawmaker Andrew Fraser resigned from his conservative opposition frontbench role after shoving a female colleague at the Christmas party celebrations.
“Breath test this mob,” said a front page headline in Sydney’s mass-selling Daily Telegraph newspaper. State police minister Matt Brown was dumped from his portfolio in September after allegedly “dirty” dancing in his underwear over the chest of a female colleague after a drunken post-budget office party.
Conservative opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said he would support alcohol breath tests for drunkenness for lawmakers before they entered parliament, while Green MPs John Kaye and Lee Rhiannon also backed the plan, along with the parliament’s speaker.
The separatist Bloc Québécois was part of secret plotting in 2000 to join a formal coalition with the two parties that now make up Stephen Harper's government, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.From the Globe and Mail. No big shock here. The Tory apologists, though, are getting desperate, as evidenced by some of the comments:
The scheme, designed to propel current Conservative minister Stockwell Day to power, undermines the Harper government's line this week that it would never sign a deal like the current one between the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc.
Bloc officials said that well-known Calgary lawyer Gerry Chipeur sent a written offer before the votes were counted on election day on Nov. 27, 2000.
Why can't people understand the difference between making contingency plans and actually putting those plans into action?Right. The "defunct" party has nothing to do with the present party - it changed its name when it took over the PC party! Why can't the "liberal media" see this? And Stockboy is just a cabinet minister now, not the head honcho! Well sure, whatever you are inclined to believe I guess...
Secondly, I don't see what the relevance is of plans made by the former leader of a now defunct party.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Interesting, and worrisome. Could they actually put their own stooge in place of Ms. Jean? That wouldn't look good on them in the long run, of course, but it would force the opposition to reconsider their short term options.
"We will use all legal means to resist this undemocratic seizure of power," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday.
Here are the ten options the Prime Minister is likely reviewing:
1. Preemptively Remove Michaëlle Jean
This is the true nuclear option for Harper: a preemptive strike against Jean to remove her from office, and replace her with a governor-general sympathetic to the argument that the people should decide in an election.
The roots of this option are found in the last major constitutional crisis in a British Parliamentary democracy, the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.
I'll let you review all the background in this excellent Wikipedia article, but the key passage for our purposes is this:
"(Governor-General) Kerr was unwilling to warn (Prime Minister) Whitlam that he was contemplating dismissing him, fearing that Whitlam's reaction would be to advise Elizabeth II, the Queen of Australia, to remove him as Governor-General instead - advice the Queen would be compelled by convention to follow. Though this might appear to be an unlikely proposition, it was constitutionally possible, and in the peculiar circumstances of the crisis could not have been ruled out."
Monday, December 1, 2008
The Liberals and New Democrats signed an agreement on Monday to form an unprecedented coalition government, with a written pledge of support from the Bloc Québécois, if they are successful in ousting the minority Conservative government in a coming confidence vote.From the CBC. The full text of the agreement is here. The Reformatories are now panicking, of course, but I really think they went too far when they covertly taped an NDP conference call. That sort of shit tends to undermine any remaining credibility they might have had.
The accord between parties led by Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe came just hours after Liberal caucus members agreed unanimously that Dion would stay on to lead the Liberal-NDP coalition, with support in the House of Commons from Bloc MPs.
So what now? A coalition is an interesting prospect; the new government will face big challenges, though:
The benchmark TSX index took a record dive Monday, dropping 864.41 points, or 9.3 per cent, to 8,406.21.Not an easy task governing the country under circumstances like this. The new government will indeed likely have to go into deficit if they hope to significantly soften the economic blows we're likely to be taking in the next few years.
The percentage drop was the second-biggest on record, after the 11.3 per cent plunge on Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987. The TSX point fall broke the record set on Sept. 29, when it fell by 840.93 points.
The Dow Jones industrial average also plummeted, falling 679.95 points, or 7.7 per cent, to 8,149.