Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.From the New York Times (h/t flintlock at iTulip). Despite the dismissive attitude taken by flintlock and other iTulipers in that thread, I don't think Krugman's warnings should be ignored.
Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.
And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
From the Guardian. I suppose this may change as gas prices increase, but it's remarkable how resistant Americans seem to be to this sort of change.
Just at the moment when the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill has generated two months of non-stop headlines about the dangers of oil dependency and the federal government in America finally has something of a platform to call for Americans to wean themselves off oil dependency, cities, counties and states across the US are decimating their public transit systems and forcing people, willy-nilly, to return to their cars.
In most countries, one might expect fiscal collapse to lead to more people taking public transport. After all, while buses, trams, light rail, and underground systems are less convenient than private vehicle usage, and while using such systems oftentimes involves sharing one's environs with too many people and too many competing body odours, at least it's cheaper than filling up one's car with gas and driving miles each day. Utilising public transport is a sensible, relatively painless way to penny pinch.
But, in America, at least in part because public transport has not, in recent years, won the hearts and minds of the politically influential classes in many regions of the country, these systems are peculiarly vulnerable to cuts during the down-times. In fact, a poll released in early April by the Economist indicated that, faced with declining government revenues, more than twice as many Americans would want federal public transit subsidies cut versus reductions to highways expenditures. At a local level, too, many Americans' relationship to public transit systems is tendentious at best. And hence the tragic irony: as local governments continue to haemorrhage revenues, and thus have to look for evermore ways to tighten their belts, so public transit systems suffer.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Jesse Rosenfeld, a Canadian activist journalist who has written opinion pieces on the G20 for the Guardian newspaper, has been arrested and possibly beaten, his friends and father say.Source. Admittedly, the police were a bit on edge following a riot, but that hardly justifies the treatment of Mr. Rosenfeld (witnessed, incidentally, by a TVO reporter).
His girlfriend, Carmelle Wolfson, called Mr. Rosenfeld late Saturday night, only to have him tell her he was in police custody at the Novotel, where dozens of protesters were arrested en masse after a protracted sit-in.
“He said, ‘The cops are telling me that they’re going to arrest me. I’ve told them that I’m a journalist, but they’re not recognizing my press badge and they’re telling me that they’re going to arrest me,'” she said.
“Then he told me to get on the phone with his editor.”
Mr. Rosenfeld, a Canadian activist journalist based in Tel Aviv and Jaffa in Israel, was in Canada for the summer. Ms. Wolfson said he was on assignment from Britain's Guardian to cover the G20. He was also helping to organize the summit’s alternative media co-op, whose coverage has been sympathetic to protests.
Friday, June 25, 2010
U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, who abruptly halted President Obama's deep-water drilling moratorium Tuesday, held stock in the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, according to his 2008 disclosure form, the latest available.Now to be fair, his share in Transocean was pretty small (around $15,000) but his portfolio is described as "heavy in energy companies", all of whom stood to lose a lot from the moratorium. Oh yeah, and Feldman is a Reagan appointee according to his bio at the Federal Judicial Center. And sadly, the appointment of judges is a highly politicized affair in the US.
Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? However, the Sun Media crowd aren't talking about it; they're too busy applauding the tougher sentencing laws the federal Conservatives are bringing forward, despite the huge expense involved. And the sheeple will probably applaud along with them...
"We are now just getting a handle on what's working, what's not working. Unfortunately, we [won't be able to] go further with it to make it work at 100 per cent," said Lionel Houston, who works with aboriginal teens at Circle of Courage, a prevention and intervention program for aboriginal male youth between the ages of 12 and 17.
It costs about $9,000 to put a teen through the program as opposed to $80,000 a year to keep a prisoner in jail, Houston noted.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one month before a well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental disaster.
Mr Hayward, whose pay package is £4 million a year, then paid off the mortgage on his family’s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be valued at more than £1.2 million.
In related news, a judge in the US has struck down the government's moratorium on deep-water drilling. I guess we have to have some compassion for those poor oil companies...
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
A Nebraska town, angry over a surge in the number of Hispanic residents, is voting today in a referendum on a new law that would require foreign nationals to get a licence to live in the town.From the Guardian.
The referendum in Fremont has been prompted by a sharp rise in Hispanic people drawn by work at meatpacking plants, combined with fears over job losses and demand placed on the town's social services because of the economic downturn. If approved, tenants who are not US-citizens would be required to get an "occupancy licence" from the city council. Even residents of nursing homes would be required to obtain such a licence.
Federal law requires employers to verify the immigration status of workers, but the proposed law would also open violators to local sanctions. Supporters insist it is not racist and is essential to protect jobs, healthcare and education because the town's Hispanic population has grown from 165 to more than 2,000 in 20 years.
It is unclear what proportion of those are in the US illegally, but the big meatpacking plants where many work say they only employ people whose immigrant status has been verified.
The Fremont Tribune has reported cases of Hispanic people who are legal residents being verbally abused and told to return to Mexico.
Friday, June 18, 2010
From the Huffington Post (h/t jblaque). Just when you think the Democrats are in for a beating in November, the Republicans do something to give you hope. And the Repubs will really look silly saying stuff like that if predictions that they might have to, say, evacuate nearly three million people turn out to be true (thanks again to Blaque for that one).
Republicans on the Hill have calculated that President Obama's successful demand that BP set up a $20 billion escrow account to pay out claims is ripe for political attack. In the wake of Wednesday's White House announcement, a host of GOP officials are raising questions about both the process by which the deal was made and the deal itself -- going so far as to apologize to BP on America's behalf.
"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) during a hearing on Thursday morning with BP's CEO Tony Hayward." I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown -- with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future."
Thursday, June 17, 2010
From the London Free Press. Think they'd have been detained overnight if they put up posters about a lost kitten?
About 200 kilometres from where world leaders will soon gather, two London political activists spent the night in city police cells over posters inviting people to Toronto to protest the G8 and G20 summits.
Darius Mirshahi, 25, and Andrew Cadotte, 19, flashed a peace sign and stood on the courthouse steps moments after their releases Wednesday afternoon and ripped open the police-issued, clear plastic bags containing their personal effects.
As the wind whipped up and papers flew, defence lawyer Dale Ives cautioned them: "Don't let that blow away guys or they'll charge you with littering."
Mirshahi, a founder of the Fanshawe College social justice club and Cadotte, who raises money for the Red Cross, Greenpeace and Amnesty International, are accused of gluing protest posters on government-owned mailboxes and hydro boxes.
They're each charged with seven counts of mischief.
But observers think the message, not the crime, was what kept them in custody.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
From the Record. I have to wonder why the issue of the high dollar is not mentioned, even in passing, in the article. You'd think any reporter worth his or her salt should have at least asked someone at Arvato if the dollar was a factor. Of course, it's possible that the reporter did ask and the editors removed that part, but it's more likely that it never occurred to them to ask. After all, it's always being drummed into us that a high dollar is great. Many of the Arvato workers probably rejoiced at the rising dollar -- "Wow, I can drive down to Buffalo and get even more shite for my money than before!" Of course, that only works when you have money...
KITCHENER — Arvato Digital Services, a Kitchener-based call centre, plans to lay off up to 200 workers later this summer after losing a couple of major contracts.
Currently, about 1,200 people work at the call centre, which occupies three floors of an office building at 235 King St. E. in downtown Kitchener.
Greg Brown, Arvato’s vice-president of human resources for North America, said a couple of major clients “consolidated their industries” in reaction to the global recession and took away projects handled by the Kitchener office.
These were global clients who didn’t want the business handled in Canada anymore, he said Tuesday in an interview from Arvato’s head office in Washington, D.C. “It’s part of the cycle of business.”
Edited to add: A friend of mine, who is a veteran of the industry, tells me that nobody in the call centre industry in Canada wants to admit that the success or failure of many of these businesses is largely dependent on the exchange rate, a factor that's outside their control. Presumably they'd like to keep the illusion that they're masters of their own destiny. Still, that doesn't explain the failure of the reporter to ask the question.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Mary, I’m not so much concerned with FIXING the problem (which is impossible – there’ll be no return to status quo ante) as with providing the business schools with a valuable case study of how one of the world’s largest corporations destroyed itself for want of a nail.Makes sense to me...
The world isn’t facing a water shortage. Anyone who lives by the ocean knows that.From the Star. Interesting stuff, and a lot less troublesome than pumping water over the Rockies (or blasting out gigantic trenches with nuclear bombs, as Gary Filmon supposedly advocated in his master's thesis).
What we are running short of is fresh water. Only 3 per cent of the water on this planet is considered fresh water, and of that about two thirds is locked up in glaciers.
Most of the rest isn’t close to the people who need it most, with parts of Australia, India and the U.S. southwest being some of the better known water-scarce regions.
This has brought heightened attention recently to the importance of water desalination, and more specifically, lower-cost ways of removing salt from seawater that don’t require enormous amounts of heat and electricity.
On this front, a start-up from Vancouver called Saltworks Technologies has been breaking new ground with a process, explained below, called “thermo-ionic desalination.”
By way of background, most of the world’s desalination plants today separate salt by distilling seawater, but this requires an immense amount of energy to rapidly vaporize and then condense the water.
Newer desalination plants typically use a process called reverse osmosis. This is when the seawater is forced against a membrane that filters out the salt and other minerals. The approach is less energy-intensive than distillation, but the big pumps that push the water through the membrane still require lots of electricity.
How much electricity? Economist Jeff Rubin, in his book Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, cites the example of Saudi Arabia’s Shuaibah 3, the world’s largest desalination plant. It can produce 880,000 cubic metres of fresh water daily. The electricity to run this facility comes from a massive oil-burning power plant.
Shuaibah 3 is just one of several large desalination facilities in Saudi Arabia that get their power from oil-fired generation stations. “The World Bank estimates that the Middle East will need roughly another 50 to 60 billion cubic feet (1.42 to 1.7 billion cubic metres) of water annually over the next 10 to 15 years to meet the region’s burgeoning water demand,” writes Rubin. “Desalinating that immense volume of water could ultimately require the use of a million barrels of oil per day.”
This is why a company like Saltworks is so important. It has figured out a new process that can cut the energy demands of a desalination plant by more than half, and in some cases by as much as 80 per cent. Ben Sparrow, the mechanical engineer who co-founded Saltworks in 2008, says a small pilot plant is already operating in Vancouver that can process 1 cubic metre of ocean water a day.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
From the Star. Of course, the consulate is simply making an educated guess about who they'll be dealing with come fall, but it comes across as kind of presumptuous. Still, worse things have happened.
The Chinese consulate seems to be stepping into Toronto’s mayoral race by sending one candidate — George Smitherman —to speak at an “international mayors’ forum on tourism” in central China.
The four-day, expenses-paid trip starting Thursday, which includes a side trip to World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, is raising eyebrows because Smitherman has never held city office.“The Chinese consulate is showing favouritism toward one mayoral candidate and that’s not very diplomatic,” said rival Giorgio Mammoliti, adding: “If Smitherman wants to go to China and pretend to be an expert on tourism, so be it.”
My dad told me once that before the 1988 federal election, a US official was asked by media about the progress of the Canada-US free trade agreement, and in explaining that the issue would be more settled after the election, casually mentioned the date of the election, before it was called. If true, this would mean that the Mulroney government told a foreign power about when they would call the election, before telling the Canadian people. That's far worse than a consulate speculating about who would win...
The former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is spearheading a bid by Quebecor Inc. to set up a Fox News-style TV station in Canada with an unabashedly right-of-centre perspective.From the Globe. The scary thing is, this might work, and could have an impact on the electorate.
Quebecor has filed an application with the CRTC, Canada's broadcast regulator, to operate an English-language news channel. The application has not yet been made public but a source says an announcement on the venture is “imminent.”
Kory Teneycke served as director of communications to Mr. Harper in 2008 and 2009 and this week was appointed vice-president of business development at Quebecor Media Inc.
He's been working since last summer on contract for Quebecor, investigating the feasibility of creating a more unconventional news outlet that speaks to conservative-minded Canadians.
Researchers at McGill's department of natural resources, the National Research Council of Canada, the University of Toronto and the SETI Institute have discovered that methane-eating bacteria survive in a highly unique spring located on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada's extreme North. Dr. Lyle Whyte, McGill University microbiologist explains that the Lost Hammer spring supports microbial life, that the spring is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars, and that therefore they too could support life.From ScienceDaily. However, there's a caveat here; while those conditions allow life to exist, it's possible that more hospitable conditions are required for the origin of life (hard to say, of course, since we've never seen it happen). The microbes discovered by these researchers may well have invaded from elsewhere.
The subzero water is so salty that it doesn't freeze despite the cold, and it has no consumable oxygen in it. There are, however, big bubbles of methane that come to the surface, which had provoked the researchers' curiosity as to whether the gas was being produced geologically or biologically and whether anything could survive in this extreme hypersaline subzero environment. "We were surprised that we did not find methanogenic bacteria that produce methane at Lost Hammer," Whyte said, "but we did find other very unique anaerobic organisms -- organisms that survive by essentially eating methane and probably breathing sulfate instead of oxygen."
Monday, June 7, 2010
In the most comprehensive investigation to date of health professionals’ involvement in the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program (EIP), Physicians For Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration apparently conducted illegal and unethical human experimentation and research on detainees in CIA custody. The apparent experimentation and research appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies governing the use of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques. The PHR report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, is the first to provide evidence that CIA medical personnel engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture.Source (h/t escherichiacola at ontd_political). If this is true, it marks, not so much a new level of barbarism for the US, as a return to an old one...
This evidence indicating apparent research and experimentation on detainees opens the door to potential additional legal liability for the CIA and Bush-era officials. There is no publicly available evidence that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that the alleged experimentation and research performed on detainees was lawful, as it did with the “enhanced” techniques themselves.
From the Star. If I was them, I wouldn't have any compunction against striking at all 32 hotels; the G20 is already disrupting the city in a huge way, so why not stick it to them? Of course, the government would probably declare hotel workers an essential service and legislate them back to work if that happened...
Just three weeks before the G20 summit, workers at 32 Toronto hotels have voted 94 per cent in favour of authorizing a strike if negotiations break down.
“If we do not reach an agreement, we intend to take a strike action on June 24,” Paul Clifford, president of Unite Here Local 75, said Thursday.However, Clifford said that workers at only one hotel – the Novotel on the Esplanade – would actually go on strike, even though a third of the unionized hotels are currently in negotiations. About 100 workers at the Novotel are Local 75 members.
Local 75 does not want to disrupt the city during the summit of world leaders, he said.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Source (h/t -=+=- at babble).
Athens - Israeli commandos killed a Turkish activist on a ship trying to ferry aid to Gaza last week in order to halt the transfer of video images to the internet, a Greek activist said on Sunday.
"Up to half an hour after the attack, despite the electronic warfare measures, the Mavi Marmara continued to send images to the internet thanks to an ultra-modern system run by a Turkish volunteer," Greek activist Dimitris Plionis told the Eleftherotypia newspaper.
"Then, I saw him dead, with a bullet wound in his torso," said the mechanic, one of two Greeks on board the Mavi Marmara.
"The Israelis above all wanted to shut down the transfer of images. The Turks had installed maybe a hundred cameras that continuously broadcast images. The system went silent after its administrator was assassinated," he added.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
An Arizona elementary school mural featuring the faces of kids who attend the school has been the subject of constant daytime drive-by racist screaming, from adults, as well as a radio talk-show campaign (by an actual city councilman, who has an AM talk-radio show) to remove the black student's face, and now the school principal has ordered the faces of the Latino and Black students to be changed to Caucasian skin.From the Huffington Post.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Job hunters are facing a new trend: businesses asking recruitment companies to keep unemployed people out of their job pools.Source (h/t Rajiv in this iTulip thread). Nice, eh?
Peter May, of Atlanta, said he was hoping Orlando-based recruiter "The People Place" would help him find a job with Sony Ericsson. The company is moving its headquarters to Buckhead, which is located outside Atlanta. May said he was mortified when he read the message on the website. In all caps, and bold type, it said, "No unemployed candidates will be considered at all."
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Date and Time (Modified): 2010:06:02 10:37:58There's a bunch more like that one as well. Don't tell the Canadian government, though; they won't believe you anyway.
YCbCr Positioning: Co-sited
Exposure Program: Aperture-priority AE
Date and Time (Original): 2006:02:07 04:49:57
Date and Time (Digitized): 2006:02:07 04:49:57
From the Irish Times, via davincicomplex at ontd_political. It seems Israel is finally starting to lose ground in their PR war (funny how committing an act of piracy on the high seas can do that).
Earlier today, Taoiseach Brian Cowen warned there would be “most serious consequences” should any harm come to Irish citizens involved with an aid flotilla destined for Gaza.
Both Mr Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin called on Israel to allow Irish humanitarian ship, the MV Rachel Corrie , pass through its military blockade of Gaza.
The cargo vessel is ploughing ahead with its attempt to deliver aid to Gaza despite yesterday’s deadly attack by the Israeli navy on a Gaza-bound flotilla.
Mr Cowen called today called for the immediate establishment of "a full, independent international inquiry into yesterday’s events, preferably under UN auspices”.
He called on Israel to release "unconditionally" Irish citizens who he said had been taken to Gaza by the Israeli authorities and asked to sign papers allowing for their deportation.
Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders' Questions, the Taoiseach said said the presence of Irish diplomatic personnel in Israel provided "better prospects" that the citizens would be released "sooner rather than later"
"But I will make this point. If any harm comes to any of our citizens, it will have the most serious consequences.”
Edited to add: It's been brought to my attention that I'm slightly out of line in calling this piracy. From Craig Murray (h/t skdadl at Bread 'n' Roses):
A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.My apologies for this error.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Conservationists are hoping a wildlife success story - the large blue butterfly's return to the UK - will continue this year with a new record for numbers flying at a site where it was reintroduced.Unfortunately, this seems to be the exception to the rule; this species and many others are declining on the European mainland.
The large blue had vanished from the British countryside by 1979, but a successful reintroduction project over the past 25 years has seen it return to 25 sites, including the National Trust's Collard Hill near Glastonbury, Somerset where it was brought back in 2000.
Last year a record 827 large blue butterflies emerged and flew on the National Trust site - a 22% increase on 2008, which in turn had been a record year.
Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone says that, if elected to the top job, he’ll let people vote from their BlackBerry or home computer in 2014, and push the province to allow some non-citizens to help choose the mayor.From the Star. I understand that he wants to increase voter turnout, but doesn't he remember all the controversy over electronic voting in American elections? And don't forget, part of the reason many people don't vote is that they don't think their vote matters. Such people aren't likely to feel any better about the usefulness of their vote if they figure that the election could be easily rigged, are they?
Additionally (though this is secondary to the main concern) these sorts of things always have teething problems. Centre Wellington experimented with voting by phone in the 2000 election, and the result was a huge fiasco; the lines were overloaded and many people were disenfranchised as a result. It's telling that the township's website no longer seems to have any reference to telephone voting; I guess they've learned their lesson, and Toronto should as well.