Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winds of change blowing in Nova Scotia

In a big way:
A new poll, to be released shortly, predicts an NDP majority with 30 seats or more.

The poll conducted by Nova Insights Market Research & Consulting of Kentville places the NDP well in the lead with the support of 45% of likely voters, followed by the Progressive Conservatives at 25%, Liberals at 24%, and Green Party at 4%.

The initial release suggests these numbers predict "with certainty" an NDP majority.

Nova Insights calculates the NDP is on track to take 30 seats with the possibility of up to four more in ridings which are considered too close to call.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Conference Board's reports on copyright contained plagiarized information


One of Canada's most respected research organizations has a black eye after being forced to withdraw three reports on copyright and intellectual property because they contained plagiarized information from a study by a U.S. lobby group for the entertainment industry.

The Conference Board of Canada said it recalled the reports Thursday after an internal investigation showed that they relied too heavily on – and included entire paragraphs lifted from – a document produced by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA).

Globe and Mail

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A history lesson for Hugh McFadyen

Some astute readers may remember the name Roger Bilodeau. In the early 1980s he successfully fought a traffic ticket on the grounds that the law behind it (along with virtually all other Manitoba laws) was invalid on a technicality, namely that the law had not been translated into French. Of course, the laws continued to be enforced, subject to the condition that the province had to translate them within a certain period of time. Presumably McFadyen, and Kelvin Goertzen, Bonnie Mitchelson, and the rest, would say that anyone who had ever been convicted of a provincial offense in the province before that point should have their fines refunded. Heck, maybe we should be paying the estates of people who paid fines in the distant past. Adjusted for inflation, even.

Needless to say, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the Tories to advocate this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BC election post-mortem

Not only did Gordon Campbell win a third straight majority, the STV referendum was soundly defeated as well. Last time around it should have won, coming very close to the required 60% of the vote, but this time it failed to crack 40%. I don't know what went wrong there. My initial thought was that maybe this time STV supporters didn't bother to vote, but turnout is only down about 8% from the 2005 election. Go figure.

The one bright spot, such as it is, is the fact that there is now a precedent for a government introducing a carbon tax and winning reelection afterwards. I certainly understand the objections many leftists have towards a carbon tax; it is, afterall, an unavoidably regressive form of taxation. My response to this would be to say that instead of balancing it with lowered income taxes, which is the usual approach to this, we should use a carbon tax to replace the sales tax. Then at least you're replacing a regressive tax with another, rather than replacing a progressive tax with a regressive one. Sure, implement cap and trade as well, but I don't think we can afford to go on without every available tool to reduce our emissions.

Critics of carbon taxes also raise the point that if a carbon tax actually works, the government soon loses revenue (since people buy less of items subject to the tax). Now being the pinko commie bastard that I am, I'd say replace declining carbon tax revenue with a hike to the upper income tax brackets, but that's just me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An interesting commentary on STV

STV, as most of you probably know, stands for single transferable vote, which is the subject of a referendum in BC during their provincial election this coming Tuesday. Here's former BC Liberal cabinet minister Christy Clark, now a radio host, arguing the case for STV. What's interesting is the fact that she admits that her opposition to STV when she was in office was motivated by self-interest. Good for her for coming clean.

Oh, and if you're in BC, please vote yes to STV on Tuesday!

U.S. teacher broke law by calling creationism "superstitious nonsense"

More delights from south of the border:
A US teenager has successfully won a lawsuit against a teacher who described creationism as "superstitious nonsense".

Chad Farnan, a devout Christian studying at California's Capistrano Valley high school, persuaded a judge that his European history teacher, James Corbett, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which courts interpret as banning government employees from promoting, or displaying hostility towards, religion.
From the Guardian, via Unionist in this babble thread. Maybe the teacher was being unnecessarily rude, but you have to wonder what kind of chilling effect this ruling might have on other teachers. To be fair, the judge dismissed a lot of the complaints, and only the aforementioned comment was deemed to cross the line, but still...

Indeed, American culture seems to be getting more and more anti-intellectual as time passes. Here's a nice piece by Heather Mallick on the subject, in which she discusses Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason:

On September 11, 2001, New York author and historian Susan Jacoby headed home, not unreasonably stopping at a bar first, where she overheard a conversation between two men in suits:

"It's just like Pearl Harbor," one of the men said.

"What's Pearl Harbor?" the other one asked.

"That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbour, and it started the Vietnam War," the first man replied.

Yikes. And it's getting worse, not better.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The run on America's gun shops continues

In some places, finding ammo is well nigh impossible:

VICTORVILLE, Calif. -- Ever since it became clear that Barack Obama would be our next president, there's been an unprecedented run on guns 'n ammo in America. Partly this is fueled by fears, some justified some not, that Obama will outlaw a broad range of assault weapons; partly it's fueled by socioeconomic factors, racism and right-wing hate.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in Victorville, a desert exurb of Los Angeles that boomed faster with the subprime craze than just about any city in the country and fell harder when it all collapsed. Today, guns and ammo are in short supply here in Victorville. But there is an abundance of despair and paranoia.

There are a lot of guns around these parts, too. The barren desert surroundings are perfect setting for gun enthusiasts of all stripes, and it feels like most everyone here owns a weapon or two. And why not? You can drive 15 minutes beyond city limits, turn off onto a backroad and start unloading to heart's content. That is, if you are able to get your hands on some ammunition.

In Victorville, every single gun store is out of all types of ammo, all the time.

"I went through 11,000 of 9mm rounds in two days. That's an awful lot for a little shop like this. I would never ever stock that much," an owner of a gun shop tucked away in a corner of a strip mall told me. "All the people that make ammunition are making more than they have in any other year, but they are still running out."

Excessive target practice did not even come close to explaining the insatiable demand for ammo. Even the local Wal-Mart, the pioneer in demand-driven distribution, can't keep up, selling out of as soon as soon a new shipment comes in.

Rumor on the street has it that Wal-Mart has sold more ammo year-to-date than any other year in its history. And while Wal-Mart's media relations department would not confirm or deny that information, citing proprietary concerns, all one has to do is visit their two stores in the area.

From AlterNet. The whole article is worth a read; it paints a scary picture of what Victorville is going to look like in a few years. Massive unemployment, and guns everywhere. Yikes.

Manitoba's economy still holding its own

Well, we've been hearing for a while how messed up the economy is, and on a national or global scale, this is true. According to this article, the national unemployment rate in April was 8%, unchanged from the previous month. That's actually not bad all things considered, though the fact that the new jobs are all "self-employment" makes me feel uneasy, for reasons pointed out here.

But in the same Free Press article, we find this:

Here's what happened provincially (previous month in brackets):

-Newfoundland 14.7 (14.7)

-Prince Edward Island 12.4 (11.5)

-Nova Scotia 9.2 (8.9)

-New Brunswick 9.5 (8.8)

-Quebec 8.4 (8.3)

-Ontario 8.7 (8.7)

-Manitoba 4.6 (5.1)

-Saskatchewan 5.0 (4.7)

-Alberta 6.0 (5.8)

-British Columbia 7.4 (7.4)

So Manitoba is actually well ahead of the game here. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how long this will last:

Export Development Canada predicts Manitoba's export sales will plunge by 16 per cent to just under $10.8 billion in 2009 from $12.8 billion in 2008.

That would be the biggest percentage decline since at least 1981, according to EDC chief economist Peter Hall. It's also more than four times bigger than the next worst decline in the last 28 years -- a 3.8 per cent drop in 1986.

But if it's any consolation, most other parts of the country are expected to fare worse, Hall told about 85 guests at a noon-hour session co-sponsored by the EDC and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

The EDC predicts Newfoundland and Labrador's export sales will plunge by 51 per cent this year, Saskatchewan's by 37 per cent and Alberta's by 34 per cent. And Canada is looking at a 22.2 per cent drop, which Hall said would be its biggest annual decline in more than 48 years.

From this article. It's good that even here, we're expected to be ahead of the game, but we'll definitely see some hard times.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Terrorists entering Canada from the US?

You have to wonder what this guy was up to:

RCMP stopped a vehicle and seized a number of firearms after an American driver ran the border near Goodlands, Man., Friday afternoon.

Six firearms, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and several containers of fuel were found in the cargo area of the van, police said.

RCMP said the vehicle, bearing Wisconsin licence plates, was travelling north on Highway 21 when the driver refused to stop for police.

The Mounties used a spike belt to stop the van, 10 kilometres north of the border in an area roughly 60 kilometres east of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.

From the CBC. One thing I want to know -- is this guy just a common criminal, or is he one of those militia fellows? And if the latter, what the hell are they up to??