Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis's executive assistant has apologized for sending letters to several Ontario newspapers, written under a different name, and highly complimentary of her boss.From the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin. Of all people, she ought to know better, given that her husband ran into trouble some years back for his creative use of staffers.
After being questioned about the letters on Tuesday, Jessica Craven first tried to deflect questions from the Enterprise-Bulletin. Hours later, she admitted to writing them, and then offered a formal apology to "anyone that may have been offended."That apology extended to her boss, who Craven said did not know she was writing letters to newspapers, or that she signed them Jessica Morgan, which is Craven's married name.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
What does $80-per-barrel oil say to you?From the Globe.
Three years ago, it would have told you that global oil markets were at record tightness. Back then, the U.S. president was making a personal pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia to vainly plead for more production. And economists were worrying about the implications for global economic growth.
Today, it seems the goalposts have suddenly moved. After filling up on $4-per-gallon gasoline only two Memorial Day weekends ago, today’s $2.20-per-gallon average gasoline price doesn’t seem so expensive to American motorists anymore.
And suddenly, $80-per-barrel oil is no longer seen by the Saudis as threatening global oil demand, but is instead viewed as a minimum price for their nation to invest in new supply. And as far as my fellow economists are concerned, we’ve heard not even a peep from them about what these types of oil prices may mean for the global economy in the days ahead.
But how much longer can the world pretend that it won’t soon be facing another energy shock, one every bit as challenging as the one it faced two years ago?
Monday, March 29, 2010
Source (h/t Blaque). It should be noted that the "weapons of mass destruction" referred to are "Improvised Explosive Devices with Explosively Formed Projectiles", which seems bit of a stretch (it's a far cry from nuclear or biological weapons). Still, this is serious business, and requires serious action on the part of the authorities.
Nine members of the Christian militia group Hutaree have been indicted on multiple charges involving an alleged plot to attack police, including seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Attorney in Michigan announced this morning.
"Six Michigan residents, along with two residents of Ohio and a resident of Indiana, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence," according to the government's press release, which you can read in full below.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
From the Telegraph, via DailyKos.
Robert Harrison used his ingenuity and a collection of cheap parts worth just £500 to take the spectacular shots using a Canon camera which he launched 35km above the planet's surface.
The 38-year-old father-of-three has launched 12 High Altitude Balloons since his hobby started in October 2008.
Thing is, the margin of error appears to be greater than the gap between the parties (though rounding might figure in the published results), so the NDP can't rest easy just yet. And another thing stands out:
NDP 42 per cent
Tories 39 per cent
Liberals 11 per cent
The province-wide omnibus telephone survey was taken between March 8 to 25 among a random and representative sampling of 1,003 Manitoba adults. The results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Probe found that outside Winnipeg, fully one-half of rural voters back the PCs (51 per cent, up from 49 per cent in December), while support for the NDP has slipped from 39 per cent to 32 per cent.In the short term, this is good news for the NDP, since a decline in rural support won't cost them very many seats (they don't hold very many of those seats anyway). However, if the Liberals start to surge back, things could change considerably. Fortunately, I doubt Jon Gerrard is the guy to do that.
In vote-rich Winnipeg, the NDP continues to have the support of 49 per cent of decided voters (down slightly from 52 per cent in December), while the PCs now sit at 32 per cent support (up two per cent from December) and the Liberals remain unchanged at 13 per cent. There are 57 seats in the Manitoba legislature: The NDP has 36 seats, the PCs 19 and the Liberals two.
Also, the timing of the poll is unfortunate, since it straddles last Tuesday's budget. I'd be interested to see the results of a poll conducted entirely after the budget came down, to see if it had an impact on public opinion.
The newly disclosed reports include an incident in 2006 in which an Afghan soldier strikes a bound prisoner in the back of the head with a rocket launcher; a nudge-and-wink admission by one Canadian soldier that Afghan counterparts “don’t necessarily follow our policies on detainee handling if you know what I mean”; and allegations by one soldier being treated for post-traumatic stress that detainees handed over to Afghan authorities were taken behind a building and executed.From the Star. Nothing to see here, move along. Equally interesting is this:
All of the incidents are deemed unfounded by military investigators, but the documents also show a disturbing trend of front-line soldiers and senior military officials keeping their own police investigators in the dark and even threatening them at a time when sensitivity to how Canadians treat and handle their Afghan detainees was at its highest.
In January 2008, for example, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall reports that a military policewoman was grabbed by two unknown assailants at Kandahar Airfield as she was leaving the shower one night. They “grabbed her arms, pushed her against the shower wall and told her: ‘MPs mind your own business.’“
Even after the troubled Canadian detainee transfer system was first exposed in mid-2007, there was a “preference to keep MP (military police) from advising and investigating rather than adopting a transparent and proactive approach,” according to a Feb. 27, 2008 report by Provost Marshall Capt. Steve Moore.
An apparent slipup in the federal government’s censoring of Afghan detainee documents shows Ottawa is using its black marker to hide potentially embarrassing information, a military and information law expert says.Oopsie. What's interesting about this is that it's pretty hard to see why this should have been redacted; it's not going to help your average Taliban dude. In other words, to nobody's surprise, stuff is being redacted that doesn't relate directly to matters of security (except perhaps Stephen Harper's job security).
Under pressure from opposition parties, the Harper government made public 2,600 pages of heavily censored records on the detainee controversy this week. It insisted that civil servants, not Conservative staff, decided what to keep secret – only withholding information judged to be injurious to national security.
But in one instance, a description of rebellious activity by detainees is apparently blacked out in one portion of the 2,600 documents but inadvertently disclosed in another section. It’s presumably the result of diverging censorship decisions by separate officials.The sentences in question describe how detainees began testing and challenging their Canadian captors in early 2008. Prisoners are held in a short-term Forces detention facility before being transferred to Afghan authorities.
Source. No information on whether the alleged assailant has any direct connection to teabaggers, but I bet he's a fan of the same media that they are, at the very least.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville man says he and his 10-year-old daughter were victims of road rage Thursday afternoon, all because of a political bumper sticker on his car.
Mark Duren told News 2 the incident happened around 4:30p.m., while he was driving on Blair Boulevard, not far from Belmont University.He said Harry Weisiger gave him the bird and rammed into his vehicle, after noticing an Obama-Biden sticker on his car bumper.
Incidentally, there's an update in the story of the bullet that broke a window at the office of a Republican member of Congress:
Police said a first floor window was struck by a bullet at around 1 a.m. on Tuesday. The building was not occupied, police said. A preliminary investigation determined that a bullet was fired into the air and struck the window at a downward direction, landing about a foot from the window. The bullet had enough force to break the windowpane but not penetrate the window blinds, according to a news release.From here, via bluicebank in this DailyKos thread. As someone else points out further down that thread, it's really difficult to target a bullet that's fired into the air like that, which makes it much less likely that Cantor's office was targetted. Then, still further down, we find this:
As you say, that's one hell of a shot -- if done with a firearm. I'd like to know if there is powder residue or rifling on the bullet, because this is not so difficult to do with a direct shot from a wrist-rocket.Actually, the presence of powder residue or rifling might not prove anything either, because it's not too hard to fire a bullet and then pick it up and fire it with a slingshot... and that could conceivably have been done by someone on either side (Dems wanting to send a message, or Repubs wanting to make it look like the Dems were in on the bad behaviour too). More likely than either of those, though, is a stray bullet; that happens a lot in many American cities.
One thing that some people have pointed out is that an awful lot of the teabaggers you see at those rallies are quite old, which reduces the likelyhood of them being at serious risk of becoming violent (James Wenneker von Brunn notwithstanding). However, they're making an active effort to recruit folks who carry guns professionally. The Oath Keepers are soldiers and police officers who have vowed to resist orders that they consider to be unconstitutional, and that could be really dangerous. Think of all the shell-shocked veterans who are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq; a lot of them are going to be very disgruntled with the government, and they know how to shoot. While a military coup and/or civil war is far from certain, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility...
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Georgia lawmakers reacted to Wednesday's news that their Attorney General, Democrat Thurbert Baker, would not sign on to a multi-state lawsuit to block the health care bill in his state by filing papers to have him impeached.From the Huffington Post, via nebris (in a comment to a Blaque post, natch). Interesting to note Baker's comments on the lawsuit:
The blog Peach Pundit reports that the resolution to impeach Baker, also a candidate for Georgia governor, now has at least 30 signatures and is still going forward.
"I cannot justify a decision to initiate expensive and time-consuming litigation that I believe has no legal merit," Baker wrote in a two-page response to Gov. Perdue. "In short, this litigation is likely to fail and will consume significant amounts of taxpayers' hard-earned money in the process."Sounds quite reasonable to me. Funny thing is, it's usually the right that goes on about frivolous lawsuits and the need for tort reform, yet they're impeaching a guy for refusing to sign on to a lawsuit that he believes to be frivolous. He might or might not survive the impeachment, but either way a clear message has been sent. In any case, the governor has decided to appoint a "special attorney general" specifically for the task of signing on to the lawsuit.
Oh, and a Democratic member of Congress from New York just got sent some white powder, too. Turned out to be harmless, but a none too subtle message either. The teabaggers, at all levels, are using whatever means they think they can get away with to get what they want. Scary stuff.
From here, via Blaque. And it seems the other side is starting to shoot back... literally:
The slashing of a gas line at the home of U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother’s house was a “deliberate act of vandalism” that “could have posed a danger,” Albemarle County officials said today.
On Monday, two conservative Tea Party activists posted the home’s address on the Internet, believing it belonged to the congressman. They urged others to “drop by” the house to “express their thanks” for Perriello’s vote in favor of health care reform.
A day later, Perriello’s brother’s family smelled gas and found that someone had severed a supply hose connecting a liquid petroleum tank to burners on a portable gas grill. The grill was on a deck adjacent to a screened-in porch on the back of the house.
“Investigators believe that this was a deliberate act of vandalism and that the supply hose was intentionally cut,” a statement from Albemarle County said. “While there was no immediate threat to the residence and its occupants, investigators believe the leaking gas could have posed a danger had there been an ignition source nearby.”
The slashing of the propane line was discovered the same day that someone sent the home a “threatening” letter addressed to Rep. Perriello.
Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said at a news conference today that someone had fired a bullet through the window of his campaign office this week.Source, via arthur_sc_king in a comment to another Blaque post. It's only a matter of time before lives are lost, and what then? Maybe it will knock some sense into people, but it could just as easily escalate things further.
"The legalization of marijuana will be the single most devastating economic event in the long boom-and-bust history of northern California," said Anna Hamilton, 62, a Humboldt County radio host and musician who said her involvement with marijuana has mostly been limited to smoking it for the past 40 years.
Local residents are so worried that pot farmers came together with officials in Humboldt County for a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday night where civic leaders, activists and growers brainstormed ideas for dealing with the threat. Among the ideas: turning the vast pot gardens of Humboldt County into a destination for marijuana aficionados, with tours and tastings -- a sort of Napa Valley of pot.
Pot growers are nervous because a measure that could make California the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use could appear on the ballot in November. It appears to have enough signatures.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
More Americans now favor than oppose the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against the legislation.From USA Today.
By 49%-40%, those polled say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms — as "enthusiastic" or "pleased" — while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry."
The largest single group, 48%, calls the legislation "a good first step" that needs to be followed by more action. And 4% say the bill itself makes the most important changes needed in the nation's health care system.
The U.S. and Russia are close to signing an agreement to slash their arsenals of nuclear weapons, officials said Wednesday, setting the stage for the two former Cold War rivals to sign a treaty in Prague shortly after Easter.From the Miami Herald.
"We're very close to getting an agreement," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
He said the two countries can't finalize the deal until President Barack Obama speaks personally with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, but added that they're likely to talk within the next several days.
"The president, I think, hopes to speak to the Russian leader in the next several days, but there's still some things that need to be worked out," Gibbs said.
"The two presidents will talk soon to finalize the language, but terms have been agreed to and both sides are expecting a signing in Prague in early April," said a person close to the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Officials in the Czech Republic said Wednesday that the two leaders are expected to sign the START II treaty in Prague sometime after Easter, or April 4. That would be almost exactly a year after Obama delivered a major speech there spelling out his hopes for a nuclear-free world.
Interestingly, U of M economist Fletcher Baragar thinks that the balanced budget legislation should be scrapped entirely. I'm inclined to agree, though it might be hard to sell the public on the matter.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
From the London Free Press. Happily, her planned appearance in Ottawa was later cancelled.
A 17-year-old Muslim student sparked the testiest exchange and the loudest cheers and jeers at a speech by controversial U.S. conservative Ann Coulter at the University of Western Ontario Monday.
After a wide-ranging speech attacking gay rights activists, the mainstream media and the Barack Obama administration, Coulter took questions from an audience clearly divided in its support for her style of attack conservatism.
Fatima Al-Dhaher, a political science student from London, rose and spoke about comments Coulter made after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The firebrand Republican had suggested Muslim countries be invaded, their leaders killed and all Muslims converted to Christianity. She later suggested Muslims denied air travel take "flying carpets" instead.
"As a 17-year-old student of this university, Muslim, should I be converted to Christianity? Second of all, since I don't have a magic carpet, what other modes do you suggest," Al-Dhaher said to loud and sustained applause.
"I thought it was just American public schools that produced ignorant people," Coulter replied, prompting her own round of applause.
Coulter then noted many Japanese were converted to Christianity after the Second World War and "we haven't heard a peep out of them."
To shouts of "Answer the question," Coulter finally replied, "What mode of transportation? Take a camel."
When the law becomes a deadly tool of tyranny, it is no longer a good thing to be obedient and "law-abiding." It is, in fact, suicidal.This guy is drawing analogies to what the "Sons of Liberty" did in the days leading up to the American War of Independence, but some have pointed out that there's a more recent analogy. And people have been acting -- Blaque, in the same post linked above, has catalogued five instances of such vandalism since the vote, and that may be only the beginning. One Democratic member of Congress has had her family threatened:
Yet, given the federal mandarins' willful ignorance of our very existence and conviction that we have no opinions that they are bound to respect, is there anything that can be done to prevent civil war?
Yes, there is.
We can emulate the Sons of Liberty of old.
We can break their windows.
These windows are not far away from where you are reading this right now. In virtually every city and county in this land, there is a local headquarters of Pelosi's party -- the Democrat party. These headquarters invariably have windows. When the Sons of Liberty wanted to express their opposition to the actions of the King's ministers, they would gather in front of the homes and offices of his tax-collectors and government officials in Boston or New York and break their windows. Glass was expensive. The King's minions were often the most well-to-do. The Sons of Liberty hit them in their pocketbooks.
The same day a brick crashed through her Niagara Falls office, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) says her staff discovered an assassination threat aimed at her family members. The Democratic headquarters in Rochester was also targeted.This is fricking nuts. No doubt they're trying to provoke the authorities into overreacting, so they can escalate their own activities...
Monday, March 22, 2010
From the Winnipeg Free Press.
Somebody forgot to tell Manitoba's credit union system about the economic downturn.
The province's 44 credit unions posted double-digit and near-double-digit returns across their major indicators in 2009 -- deposits were up 10.5 per cent to about $15.9 billion, loans increased 11 per cent to about $13.5 billion and assets jumped 9.8 per cent to about $15.9 billion.
I think he may actually be right on those two points; I just disagree with his thinking that it's a bad thing. I do wonder, though, how the teabaggers will react to defeat. I don't doubt that some of them are the sort to take The Turner Diaries seriously.
Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.
It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:
(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.
(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
This is actually relatively benign as these things go, since the protesters are relatively civil there, but have a look at what happens when they try to answer simple questions about why they're there. It would be amusing if that were all there was. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Exhibit B:
The way they treated that guy is horrible. And this isn't the only example of their true colours coming to the surface, as this HuffPo story shows:
Just in case you didn't already know that. And check out some of the pics in that story too (particularly the "If Brown can't stop it, Browning can" placard). These people are potentially very dangerous. A commenter on one of the YouTube videos above suggested that if Fox News told them to start killing everyone except white conservatives, a Rwanda-like massacre could result, and I don't think that's so implausible anymore. Especially considering who else is getting involved:
A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot," as protesters shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president's speech, shrugged off the incident.
But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.
"It was absolutely shocking to me," Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. "Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday... I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins... And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus."
It’s no secret that conservatives have a hard time keeping racism out of their ranks (airwaves), and now it seems it has surfaced in even their grassroots (astro turf) movements. The whole tea party thing (except with representation and a high income bracket this time) is being organized by conservative corporate lobbyists, Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity, who are no doubt milking this all the way to their billion dollar bank accounts.Blaque has suggested in an earlier post on his blog that lefties (at least in the US) should start buying guns, because the righties already have them. I hate to advocate that, given how arms races generally end up, but if any First World country is headed for civil war, America is probably the prime candidate.
If that wasn’t hard enough for real [sic] conservative activists to swallow, they are really going to hate showing up at rallies only to rub elbows with white nationalists. Kris Kobach got the party started in Kansas on April 4th when he hosted a joint tea party/anti-immigrant rally with Billy Gilchrist, Topeka chapter leader for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. In 2004 Kansas Republican leader Timothy Burger wrote in response to Kobach’s failed congressional run, “It doesn’t help matters that Kobach was hired by FAIR, widely perceived as a racist anti-immigrant group during the campaign.” But that stinging accusation hasn’t stopped Kobach from working for the John Tanton network ever since, or from dipping his tainted toes into anything that smells ripe for manipulation and publicity.
From the Star. The blog entry in question can be found here. Best of luck to him when the sentence is handed down; it probably doesn't help that the 26th of April is a Monday.
A Toronto science fiction author involved in a December dust-up at a Michigan border crossing has been found guilty of resisting and obstructing a police officer.
Peter Watts, 52, could face up to two years in jail and a $2,000 fine. He will be sentenced April 26.
In a blog written shortly after the St. Clair County jury’s verdict, Watts said he was disappointed by the decision but would live with it.
“I still maintain I did nothing wrong; but as far as I can tell the trial was fair, and I will abide by its outcome,” he wrote.
Still, the author criticized the law, saying it was too open to interpretation and that his resistance and obstruction was simply asking the guard, “What is the problem?” while being ordered to the ground.
“Whether that’s actual noncompliance or simply slow compliance is, I suspect, what the jury had to decide,” he wrote, noting that the jury’s 5 1/2 hours of deliberations showed they took their job seriously.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Mary Kelly said the decision reaffirmed the fact that “the rules apply to everybody, no matter who you are.
“An officer gives you a command, you have to listen,” she said after the trial.
Here in the U.S. we have a never-ending competition among the states to see which one can enact the dumbest laws. This past week, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed a law that tells schoolteachers how to present the evidence for global warming. The lawmakers who wrote the bill clearly don’t believe that global warming is a reality, so they simply created a law to promote their version of reality. Interestingly, they used the same strategy used by creationists in their efforts to ban the teaching of evolution: the “teach the controversy” approach, where you claim you simply want children to hear both sides of the issue. But the part that really got my attention was the law’s claim that “astrological dynamics” are one of the driving forces behind global climate change.Source (h/t Peter Watts).
Friday, March 19, 2010
Brian at Just Damn Stupid dismisses this out of hand based on the poll methodology. I'm no expert, but I'm not prepared to dismiss these results, much as I might like to. While it is an online poll, it's a far cry from those worthless polls you seen on every media website; Angus Reid is a respectable firm and they make a serious effort to ensure a sample is representative. However, another factor may be in play here:
An Angus Reid poll released Thursday -- on the eve of the release of the new provincial budget -- shows Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives out in front of Premier Greg Selinger's New Democrats.
"This sets up Tuesday's budget," said the University of Manitoba's Jared Wesley, an assistant professor of political studies. "This is when Manitobans will have a first real look at the premier."
Wesley said Selinger and Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk have to make a good impression on Manitobans to take any momentum away from the PCs.
"Anybody who's in politics has to take it seriously because it's coming from Angus Reid," Wesley said of the poll.
It found 44 per cent of decided Manitoba voters say they would support the Progressive Conservative candidate in their constituency if a provincial election were held tomorrow. The governing NDP is second with 37 per cent followed by the Liberal Party with 13 per cent and the Green Party with three per cent.
The NDP is ahead of the Tories in Winnipeg (44 per cent to 36 per cent), but the opposition party holds the upper hand in rural Manitoba (55 per cent to 28 per cent).Some of the government's policies in the last few years have been unpopular in rural Manitoba. In particular, the new wastewater regulations and the moratorium on new hog operations have been spun by the Tories and various interest groups as an attack on the heart of rural Manitoba. The thing is, though, most of the rural constituencies are already held by the Tories; it does a party no good, from an electoral point of view, to gain popularity in constituencies it already holds.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
A French TV documentary features people in a spoof game show administering what they are told are near lethal electric shocks to rival contestants.From the BBC. Note that in the original study, "only" 62% complied; could this mean that TV is even more powerful in driving people to behave badly?
Those taking part are told to pull levers to inflict shocks - increasing in voltage - upon their opponents.
Although unaware that the contestants were actors and there was no electrical current, 82% of participants in the Game of Death agreed to pull the lever.
Incidentally, there are some caveats here. I'd like to know more about the methodology; for instance, I'd like to know if the subjects were questioned beforehand as to their familiarity with Milgram's original study. Also, it should be noted that Milgram's subjects were given counselling after the fact (and today some people consider the study unethical in spite of that); I wonder whether similar precautions were taken here.
From the Vancouver Sun.
When it comes to predicting the future of the Detroit Three automakers, outspoken consumer car critic Phil Edmonston doesn't mince words:
Chrysler Group LLC "is doomed." General Motors, if it survives, will be ratcheted down to one brand -- probably Chevrolet, and Ford, "has a future, for the time being."
Edmonston's pessimistic outlook is included in his 2010 Lemon-Aid New Cars and Trucks guide, which has been a key reference for new vehicle buyers over the past four decades. A former NDP member of Parliament, Edmontson, 65, has been a thorn in the side of automakers -- domestic and foreign -- taking them to task and, in some cases, to court over substandard quality and mechanical defects.
As U.S. and Canadian automakers and dealers face bankruptcy and unprecedented downsizing, the task of buying a car has become more precarious than ever, said Edmontson.
"These are treacherous and challenging times," Edmonston said in a phone interview from his home in Panama. Especially if you're considering buying a vehicle from a GM or Chrysler dealer, he warned.
"Chrysler buyers face huge risk of becoming orphan buyers," Edmonston said. The Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker -- which received billions in U.S. and Canadian bailout funds -- has no hope of long-term survival despite its partnership with Italian auto giant Fiat SpA.
"Chrysler hitching its wagon (and minivans) to Fiat will be like two drunks propping each other up," he said. "Both of them have inherent quality problems, and Fiat cannot 'Fiatize' Chrysler because you're looking at different platforms, different cultures.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
From the Globe. And why, you might ask, would this be so harmful to the drug companies? Perhaps because they charge a lot more for the same drugs in other jurisdictions:
Helen Stevenson, the high-profile bureaucrat in charge of drug policy, will often refuse to list new medications on the provincial formulary, and in some cases threaten to delist drugs already on it. Her justification usually comes down to price and value relative to the competition. But then the drugs will wind up being listed, ostensibly at the same price as anywhere else.
In reality, the government pays much less than the listed price, because the companies return part of the money through rebates. To avoid other governments and private drug plans demanding the same deal, those rebates are kept confidential.
To maintain that secrecy, both the government and the industry have had to spend a lot of time fighting freedom-of-information requests. But in late February, acting on orders from the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner, the government finally released a big chunk of records.
Those records don't explicitly list off the discounts on specific drugs. So government officials seem to think they've held up their end of the deal.
Manufacturers aren't appeased. They're afraid that from the available information – including the names of 47 drug companies, and the amount they gave back to the government in quarterly lump-sum payments – it will be possible for informed interests to deduce some of the specific discounts.
In an urgently worded four-page letter to provincial officials, obtained by The Globe and Mail, the president of Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceuticals Companies – the national association more commonly known as Rx&D – spelled out those fears.
“It appears that highly sensitive and commercial information of our members has been disclosed, despite the [Health] Ministry's attempts to resist disclosure,” Russell Williams wrote.
Because of course, if the drug companies are forced to stop gouging customers in the US -- their biggest market -- the sky will fall.
If that information becomes public, companies will come under pressure from other provinces to offer comparable savings there. It will also cause a great deal of friction with Ontario's private plans, which generally pay the listed price rather than the discounted one.
But the manufacturers' biggest concern, according to some sources, is how the issue would play beyond Canada's borders. It's not helpful for multinational corporations to highlight the disparity in what different customers pay. And with legislators in the United States trying to curb the highest prescription-drug prices in the world, the timing could be especially problematic.
From the Globe. Among other things, advocates of capital punishment should take note of stuff like this.
Gregory Turner feared he was bound for life in prison after an RCMP lab reported odds of 163 trillion to 1 that a tiny amount of DNA on his gold ring could have come from anybody but a 56-year-old woman found murdered in rural Newfoundland.
The only real evidence in a first-degree murder charge against Mr. Turner, the golden sheen of DNA appeared certain to become a silver bullet in the hands of the Crown.
"I told my lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, that there was no way in the world it was true," Mr. Turner recalled in an interview. "He believed me. He said that I was too stupid to commit that crime and leave no evidence."
A lucky hunch by Mr. Kennedy - now Newfoundland's Minister of Health - saved Mr. Turner from a life behind bars. He sought the name and DNA profile of every technician who had worked at the RCMP lab. It turned out that the technician who had tested the ring had also been working on the victim's fingernails a few inches away, creating a strong possibility of contamination.
The technician conceded at Mr. Turner's 2001 trial that she had also contaminated evidence in two previous cases. In another disturbing twist, it emerged that she had mistakenly contaminated Mr. Turner's ring with her own DNA, causing police to waste considerable time on a futile search for a presumed accomplice.
Mr. Turner still has nightmares. "I remember the judge saying that he was denying me bail based on the likelihood I'd be convicted based on a DNA match," he said. "I think DNA can be good, but its only as good as the people who perform it. I spent 27 months in jail for a crime I didn't do."
Friday, March 12, 2010
From the Telegraph. If this is true, I wonder how many of the people responsible for this crime are still alive and fit to stand trial?
In 1951, a quiet, picturesque village in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously struck down with mass insanity and hallucinations. At least five people died, dozens were interned in asylums and hundreds afflicted.
For decades it was assumed that the local bread had been unwittingly poisoned with a psychedelic mould. Now, however, an American investigative journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD as part of a mind control experiment at the height of the Cold War.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Problems with the new diagnosis abound. There is no guarantee that clinicians will be any less likely to prescribe antipsychotics for this disorder than for bipolar disorder. Though the intention is to view this disorder as biologically based, the authors of the justification report acknowledge that evidence for the biological basis of any psychiatric disorder is “very preliminary.’’ Insurance companies may not cover treatments other than medication.
Allen Frances, chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and a harsh critic of DSM-V, refers to the diagnosis as “a misguided medicalization of temper outbursts.’’
He worries that the diagnosis would be very common in the general population and promote a large expansion in the use of antipsychotic medication. I agree that this is a risk. Aggression and temper tantrums are a healthy normal part of development. It would be wrong to label children exhibiting these behaviors with a disorder.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
From the Globe. Unfortunately, this may reduce the likelyhood that any high-ranking officials will be prosecuted, since it will diminish the Liberals' enthusiasm for a public inquiry.
A Canadian diplomat with extensive experience in Afghanistan says she raised the possibility that detainees transferred from Canadian to Afghan custody were at risk of torture back in 2005.
But Eillen Olexiuk says her concerns were ignored.
She tells the CBC she arrived in Afghanistan in 2002 and was second in command at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.
Ms. Olexiuk says she told the Liberal government in power at the time that the transfer agreement didn't do enough to protect detainees.
She said Canadian officials didn't monitor detainees after the transfer, and that left detainees vulnerable once they were in Afghan hands.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Prime Minister Stephen Harper downplayed revelations of a "contingency plan" to deal with accusations that prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities were tortured.Source. The more we see, the more it looks like a lot of top officials (military officers, senior civil servants, cabinet ministers, and maybe the PM himself) ought to be facing war crimes trials. Whether they will, of course, is another question.
As first reported by CBC News on Monday, Canadian officials started drafting a plan on how to deal with accusations that prisoners in Afghan custody were being tortured as early as March 2007 — months before allegations of prisoner abuse at the hands of Afghan authorities first appeared in the media.
Monday, March 8, 2010
From the Star.
Canada now ranks 50th on the world scale of women's participation in politics, trailing Pakistan, Bolivia and the United Arab Emirates.
"It isn't that we're electing fewer, but other countries are electing more," says Trimble. "Across Canada, women have 23 per cent of the legislative positions."
Stack that against a formidable 57 per cent in Rwanda, 47 per cent in Sweden and 45 per cent in South Africa.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
For the past year, this Bible Belt city of 200,000 has been consumed by a culture clash between Repent Amarillo and their targets, a list that includes everything from gay bars to liberal churches. For the Route 66 swingers, Grisham’s “special forces” have been a near-constant presence. Jobs have been lost, families estranged, assault charges filed and businesses shuttered. So far, no public official has stood up to defend these businesses, which operate legally. To the contrary, Repent Amarillo has managed to turn the city’s own laws and employees into an effective weapon. Amarillo, it turns out, doesn’t have the stomach to stick up for gays, swingers, strippers or even Unitarians. Absent a peacekeeper, the conflict might end up being settled the old-fashioned way, frontier-style. “This will not end until somebody gets hurt, either us or them,” one swinger warns.Source (h/t zombienaught in a comment to this entry at Blaque's blog).
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Source. If this is true, it's no wonder the government is so desperate to avoid having to turn the documents over to Parliament...
Until now, the controversy has centred on whether the government turned a blind eye to abuse of Afghan detainees.
However, Attaran said the full versions of the documents show that Canada went even further in intentionally handing over prisoners to torturers.
"And it wasn't accidental; it was done for a reason," he said. "It was done so that they could be interrogated using harsher methods."
Friday, March 5, 2010
From the Georgia Straight. I'm not saying the company was responsible for the ad (I'm sure they weren't) but it sure looks bad on them...
This isn't the first time Black Press has been caught up in a controversy involving aboriginal people.
In 1998, company owner David Black prohibited his papers from publishing editorials in favour of the Nisga'a treaty, which was the first modern treaty in B.C. history.
Black also ordered his editors to publish eight columns opposing the treaty, which were all written by Mel Smith.
Smith, a former assistant deputy attorney general, was perhaps B.C.'s most outspoken critic of the Nisga'a treaty at the time.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Source. I'm not exactly sure what evils could befall the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as a result of the evil capitalist running dog imperialists finding out how much its citizens pay for rice, but I guess something really awful could happen. I mean, Dear Leader wouldn't kill a guy for nothing, would he?
SEOUL - A North Korean firing squad publicly executed a factory worker for sneaking news out of the reclusive communist country via his illicit mobile phone, Seoul-based radio said Thursday.
The armaments factory worker was accused of divulging the price of rice and other information on living conditions to a friend who defected to South Korea years ago, Open Radio for North Korea reported on its website.
The man, surnamed Chong, made calls to the defector using an illegal Chinese mobile phone, the broadcaster said, citing a North Korean security agency official it did not identify. The report didn’t say when the phone calls were made.
Source. Not surprising; they don't want to rock the boat at this time. In particular, they're not cutting transfer payments as some feared. I guess they figured that much as they might like to stick it to Manitoba and Nova Scotia, they can't do that without sticking it to Quebec as well, and they need to satisfy Quebec if they're ever to win a majority.
When he delivered the last federal budget, dubbed Canada's Economic Action Plan, in January 2009, he pitched it as a two-year plan to pull Canada out of the recession. The latest budget stays largely true to that, continuing to roll out the stimulus spending already announced while winding down other temporary measures and taking initial steps to tackle Canada's first budget deficit since the mid-1990s.
On top of the $37 billion in economic stimulus funding spent last year, the new budget outlines the specifics of the additional $19 billion that is to be spent this year, which will be beefed up with $6 billion from provinces, territories and municipalities. By the time it's wound down in 2011, the stimulus plan will have funded more than 16,000 projects across the country, more than 12,000 of which have begun construction or have been completed within the past year, the budget document says.
Incidentally, Margaux Watt just interviewed the slithy Toews a few minutes ago; she asked him how the budget might differ if the Cons had a majority. Amusingly, he said with a straight face that it would be no different. Sorry Vic, but a lot of us find that a bit hard to believe.
In any case, the Liberals have said that they won't bring down the government over this one.
Source. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this will hold. I'd like to see some seat projections based on these numbers; the difference between 15% and 20% can be huge.
Across the country, 33 per cent of decided voters (-1 since mid-February) would cast a ballot for the Conservative candidate in their riding if a new federal election took place today.
The Liberal Party is second with 29 per cent (-1), three points ahead of the proportion of the vote that the party received in the October 2008 federal election.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is third with 20 per cent (+2), followed by the Bloc Québécois with nine per cent (=), and the Green Party also with nine per cent (+1). This is the best result for the NDP since an Angus Reid survey conducted in the middle of the 2008 federal campaign.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
From the Guardian. Depending on how far short Labour falls, who would be the most likely partner in a coalition or accord? I'm thinking the Liberal Democrats (if Labour isn't too far short of a majority, Respect is a theoretical possibility, but that seems like too much to hope for). What kind of concessions might the Lib Dems extract? This could have interesting consequences, especially if electoral reform is on the table.
A ComRes survey for the Independent showed the Tory lead over Labour narrowing to five points in the past month. A YouGov survey for the Sun gave the Tories a seven-point margin, well up on the weekend's low of two but still short of the double-digit lead David Cameron needs to be confident of a Commons majority.
Both surveys were conducted before the Tory peer and fundraiser Lord Ashcroft revealed he had "non-dom" tax status yesterday.
The polls reinforce the recent trend showing Labour gaining ground on the Tories as the election, expected on 6 May, approaches.
The Independent survey was taken over the weekend, when Cameron admitted to his party's spring conference that the Conservatives faced a "real fight" to win power.
While the findings give the Tories a bigger share of the popular vote, the poll rating suggests Labour would be returned to government with the most MPs under the first-past-the-post electoral system.
This would leave Labour short of an outright majority, however, and so it would be forced to strike deals with the smaller parties for support on controversial issues.
Fears of a hung parliament sent sterling temporarily to a nine-month low against the dollar yesterday following another YouGov poll at the weekend suggesting the Tory lead was down to just two points.
From the London Free Press. This just seems so wrong. I wonder, is this being done simply out of stupidity, or do they have good intentions in mind (e.g. not wanting to penalize large families)? I wish the reporter had at least tried to ask that question of someone... but journalists like that seem to be a dying (or at least retiring) breed.
SARNIA -- Conservationists beware.
If you don't use much water, your bill will dramatically increase under Sarnia's new water and sewer rates.
Jeannie and Dennis Marshall were shocked by a Bluewater Power water bill they received for a vacant residence owned by Jeannie's deceased brother.
The bill came to 17 cents for five weeks of water consumption, and a staggering $78.53 for water distribution and sewer charges.
No one lived at the property during the billing period of Dec. 24 to Feb. 1.
Jeannie Marshall said she was stunned to see the high fixed costs.
"I think it's ridiculous," she said. "Council should really rethink this."
Source. Full marks for not being self-deceptive, I suppose, but it's kind of a slap in the face to his candidate and the campaign workers -- especially since the candidate was taken by surprise when asked about this:
"We don't have any champagne on ice over at party headquarters in anticipation of a big surprise tonight," he said.
"I expect that the NDP will … own the podium when it comes to Concordia tonight."
However, Biebrich seemed somewhat stunned when told what McFadyen had said.
"You know, that's something he's, uh, you know, him or myself, we wouldn't want to appear overconfident," Biebrich said in response. "We want to make sure every vote we can get gets out."