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Economy

Good vid that demontrates the powers of robust stats…

I particularly like the last paragraph on the BBC 4 site:

“…without statistics we are cast adrift on an ocean of confusion, but armed with stats we can take control of our lives, hold our rulers to account and see the world as it really is.”

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The so-called “bipartisan” agreement in the U.S…

… is only putting off the inevitable unless something more substantive can be done to alleviate the unfathomable levels of American debt. Americans are going to have to pay now – because the price to pay later will bring their proud nation to its knees.

Usually, The Onion is a work of satire. Usually. But after reading this entry this morning, I kind of have to think that the authors were being a little more than tongue-in-cheek…

Following Sunday’s pathetic excuse for an agreement on raising the government’s borrowing limit, Democrats and Republicans took time to celebrate the meager, ineffective deal, calling it “a testament to the not-so-great things that can happen in Washington when both parties barely come together and agree to not really accomplish anything.

American politics has become so damned polarised in the past decade that simply agreeing on the time of day can be considered an occasion worthy of celebration. The arrival of the radical Tea Party-ists has made the finding of any common ground between Republicans and Democrats next to impossible.

And this is really bad news for my American friends as this is a critical time in their history. In my very humble opinion, I think that not since their Civil War has there been a greater crisis. All levels of government and many households and businesses are barely treading water or are on life support.

My thoughts are in sync with those of Jeffrey Simpson when he wrote this:

Americans can blame foreigners if they want for some of these problems – currency manipulation by China, unfair trading practices, companies shipping jobs offshore – but they’re mostly responsible for their own problems. Systematically, Americans have refused to tax themselves at levels commensurate with their spending. The result of this collective irresponsibility has finally caught up with them.

They waged wars while cutting taxes, as in Iraq and Afghanistan under George W. Bush’s disastrous regime. They let the Pentagon budget explode, raised the costs of public health care (as in Mr. Bush’s unfunded drug plan for seniors), kept the cost of gasoline below that of any Western country, left the financial sector largely unregulated until its excesses brought the economy to its knees, and designed an immensely costly and, in many respects, quite foolish Homeland Security apparatus.

In the days when the King of the land decided to go to war, he sent out word to his Lords that they must help to fund the mission. The Lords, in turn, sent out tax collectors to the towns and countryside to get what they could in order to fund their Lord’s obligation to his monarch. Without these monies, the King could not run his wars nor keep the royal treasury stocked. Credit was non-existent save for some parts of the world where usury was an accepted practice.

No money. No way to pay for arms, arrow fodder and supplies. Ergo, no wars.

Flash ahead to today. Americans of all stripes must simply realise that in the absence of adequate personal and corporate tax levels they cannot wages wars – or live in a modern democratic country – without paying for a significant proportion of its operations.

 

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Quebec or Bosnia : who has safer public infrastructure?

Honestly, after reading this, I think I’d take Bosnia over one of the Montreal bridges, overpasses or tunnels…

What a shame. And disgrace.

But look y’all, before we in the RoC start feeling all smug-like, start looking at the condition of some of the streets etc. in your neck of the woods. Many of us are not that far behind QC, infrastructure crisis-wise…

Big bills coming up… just saying…

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1032836–large-concrete-slab-collapses-in-montreal-tunnel?bn=1

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Do the banks know something that the rest of us do not?

Seen yesterday at the BMO branch at the corner of Smyth and Russell.

20110712-071946.jpg

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Another financial meltdown in the U.S.?

President Obama is warning of one if the debt ceiling is not lifted.

The American government will exceed its legislated debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion in August.

Trillion.

14,300,000,000,000.

Holy crap.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (yeah, they’re weenies and you’ll seldom hear me say anything good about them), our debt stands at $559 billion. That puts our national debt about 4% of the American debt. And we have about 10% of the population.

Wow.

Neil Macdonald wrote this article a few weeks back on the American attitude to debt. In short, the goal of  many Americans is not to pay your debts, but to try everything in your power to wriggle your way out of them altogether or to negotiate a lower payback.

Before he dropped out of the Presidential race, that looney-tune Donald Trump basically said “meh” when asked what happens when the government hits the legislated debt ceiling and is no longer able to borrow money and service their debts.

“I don’t think you have to default,” he told a White House reporter. “You’re going to have to make a deal someplace.”

And this is a normal attitude of many who inhabit the land to our south.

Watch commercial TV in this country for a few hours and you’ll see what I mean. It’s strewn with advertisements for companies that claim they’ll “stand up to your creditors.”

Owe more than $10,000 in back taxes? Hire us and we’ll negotiate with the IRS for you. You might only have to pay a fraction of what you owe!

Big credit card bills? Hire us and we’ll deal with those awful banks. We may persuade them to forgive some debt!

Can’t pay your mortgage? Hire us and we’ll negotiate a “principal reduction.” There are even government agencies to help with that one.

Try Googling “personal debt negotiate reduction” and look at the number of hits. Seven million plus.

Pair this thinking with the widespread opposition to any further government borrowing and Trump’s make-a-deal idea is crack for the masses.

So whose fault is it?

Politicians that fall on the Tea Party side of the wacky ledger say “Hey, no worries! We’ll keep taxes low, privatize just about everything and no one needs to feel any pain!” And the voters buy these lines eagerly! They fear those damned socialists in the White House who are asking to put the country into more debt. Yet they had better leave my services alone.

And it is a-OK to walk away from your debt and damn the consequences.

I don’t like this mix. Too much globally depends on a healthy – or at least a breathing American economy.

Neil Macdonald is scared by all this – and so am I.

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End of da week miscellany

This is a day early once again as the 2 youngest sub-units and I head to my hometown tomorrow morning. The RLG is off to NYC for the weekend, so why not get outta Dodge too!

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Gulf oil spill – let’s hope this works.

In the meantime, I have been watching the right-wing coverage of the disaster and there be a lot of hootin’ it up in those quarters because they see the BP spill as a slam against Obama… hell, blame him for the U.S.A. losing the gold medal hockey game against Canada while you’re at it, eh?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., writing for the Huffington Post, has a different spin on this. Turns out this whole debacle may have been avoided – or minimized, if not due to Bush and Cheney cozying up with Big Oil…

Here is a key quote:

The absence of an acoustical regulator — a remotely triggered dead man’s switch that might have closed off BP’s gushing pipe at its sea floor wellhead when the manual switch failed (the fire and explosion on the drilling platform may have prevented the dying workers from pushing the button) — was directly attributable to industry pandering by the Bush team.

…between January and March of 2001, incoming Vice President Dick Cheney conducted secret meetings with over 100 oil industry officials allowing them to draft a wish list of industry demands to be implemented by the oil friendly administration. Cheney also used that time to re-staff the Minerals Management Service with oil industry toadies including a cabal of his Wyoming carbon cronies. In 2003, newly reconstituted Minerals Management Service genuflected to the oil cartel by recommending the removal of the proposed requirement for acoustic switches. The Minerals Management Service’s 2003 study concluded that “acoustic systems are not recommended because they tend to be very costly.”The acoustic trigger costs about $500,000. Estimated costs of the oil spill to Gulf Coast residents are now upward of $14 billion to gulf state communities. Bush’s 2005 energy bill officially dropped the requirement for the acoustic switch off devices explaining that the industry’s existing practices are “failsafe.”

So there you go… the Bush and Cheney administration just keeps on giving and giving…

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Brits go to the polls today!

In what has to be one of the most interesting races anywhere in a long, long time, the British will vote in Parliamentary elections today. A minority government is almost certain due to the rise of the Liberal-Democrats from a wanna-be party to a major player – largely due to its charismatic and young leader, Nick Clegg.

Polls point to a high level of support for Clegg’s party but it is fairly even across several ridings – having the effect of giving them only 70-90 seats despite a percentage of voter support. But this would make the Liberal-Democrats the kingmakers after the dust settles on Friday.

This should be fun!

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World-wide economic shitstorm – deuxième partie

Still in Europe – this whole Greek thing has got me a little worried. Four countries in the Euro zone are on the edge of financial collapse. While Greece is the first to ask for and receive handouts from it neighbours, many think that Ireland, Portugal and Spain aren’t far behind.

So while bail them out at all? Well, what might start in Greece may well spill over into the other 4 countries and beyond… and Germany cannot afford to bail out all of the rest of Europe.

Slapped in the face by this ugly scenario, the Europeans decided to throw everything they and the I.M.F. had at bailing out Greece.   The program as announced has only a small chance of preventing eventual Greek bankruptcy, but it may still slow or avert a dangerous spiral downward — and enormous collateral damage — in the rest of Europe.

A small chance, yes. But there is a chance that the funds will slow down the Greek death spiral and allow other exposed countries to make some fiscal policy adjustments that will at least delay if not avoid their own Greek scenario.

But… a few of us were discussing last night how your average German must feel about all of this…

Let’s see, I have to work until I’m 67 at a reduced pension to pay off the debts incurred by my government to pay down the debts incurred by the Greeks… so the average Greek can retire at 57 with full pension benefits… hmmm… something doesn’t seem right with this picture.

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Organized crime? Really???

Finally, the Harperites are once again playing on the fear factor that has tended to garner them mucho votes and is reintroducing  a draconian Bill called the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act.

Touted to fight organized crime and make the streets oh-so much safer for seniors, soccer Moms and kids (have any of the Cons ever watched Weeds?), the Bill imposes mandatory jail sentences for offenders…. starting with those surly and vicious mobsters who grow SIX freaking plants!!!!!

Apparently, the Mom and Pop who grow a bit of weed in the outside shed or the college kid in his flat are now considered by the ReformCons on the same scale as the Hell’s Angels and inner city Drug Lords!

Are they kidding me? Mandatory means that the judge will NOT have any leeway and that Grandpa, Bob Jr., and anyone else who likes the odd toke without having to buy it off the street will AUTOMATICALLY go to the joint (forgive the pun)!

Whether or not you are for decriminalization of weed, a sane and rational human being surely must see that growing a half-dozen plants is does NOT mean that you should be lumped in – from a legal perspective – with organized crime!

Will the Opposition band together to stop this? I suspect the Dippers and the Bloquistes will… but the Grits… I dunno.

Proposed New Mandatory Sentences for Serious Drug Offences
Schedule II drugs (cannabis and marijuana)

OFFENCE MANDATORY PENALTY NOTES
w/
AggravatingFactors- List A1
w/
Aggravating Factor – List B2
w/
Health and Safety Factors3
Trafficking 1 YEAR 2 YEARS n/a Offence would have to involve more than 3 kg of cannabis marijuana or cannabis resin
Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking 1 YEAR 2 YEARS n/a Offence would have to involve more than 3 kg of cannabis marijuana or cannabis resin
Importing
Exporting
1 YEAR n/a n/a n/a Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking
Possession for the Purpose of Exporting 1 YEAR n/a n/a n/a Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking
Production –
6 – 200 plants
6 MOS n/a n/a 9 MOS Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking.
Maximum penalty will be increased to 14 years imprisonment
Production –
201 – 500 plants
1 YEAR n/a n/a 18 MOS Maximum penalty will be increased to 14 years imprisonment
Production – more than 500 plants 2 YEARS n/a n/a 3 YEARS Maximum penalty will be increased to 14 years imprisonment
Production –
oil or resin
1 YEAR n/a n/a 18 MOS Offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking

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Michael Moore’s new pic

Yeah, I know Michael Moore goes over the top to get his point across. And yeah, he’s a big doofus.

But the fundamental points of his rants (i.e., movies) are sound – if sometimes a little exaggerated. The system is most definitely broken.

And don’t give me that right-wing, everyone for themselves, entrepreneurial crap. The financial institutions in most countries (1) have been playing the public and the governments for patsies for decades and have gotten away with it. And are still getting away with it.

Capitalism is a good way to run things… if for no other reason than all of the alternatives have failed miserably… but it needs fixing.

Facts

In the United States at the end of 2001, 10% of the population owned 71% of the wealth, and the top 1% controlled 38%. On the other hand, the bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation’s wealth.[15]

In 2003, the 1% with the highest salaries paid more than 34% of the nation’s federal income tax; the 10% with the highest salaries paid nearly 66% of the total income tax; the top 25% of paid 84% of the income taxes; and the upper 50% accounted for nearly 97% of US income tax revenue, primarily because, as stated above, the bottom 40% had comparatively no wealth (less than 1%) to be taxed in the first place.

World_distributionofwealth_GDP_and_population_by_region

1. ‘cept in Canada! Go Canada!

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I’ll give ya 5 bucks for that garbage truck…

Things are bad for a household when it to start divesting itself of some of its goods for cash in order to make its basic financial obligations, like mortgage payments, gas and electricity. But it does happen and sometimes all that is needed to return to solvency is a quick jolt of ready cash to get over the hump. Hell, when I was younger I had to do the same thing… I was a full-time student with a little kid and had to sell some cool paper money that I had collected. But it needed to be done and I did it.

However, it’s a bit of a different story when an entire state of 30-odd million folks has to draw down its capital to do the same. Bu that is exactly what is happening in Arnie-land. The state of California is having a massive sale of state assets in order to raise cash to pay down its debt!

Eh? Shurely you jest!

Uh-uh…

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came up with the idea of the “Great California Garage Sale” after slashing the government car fleet by 15 per cent. He’s since become the garage sale’s biggest promoter, holding news conferences, discussing it in web chats and Tweeting about it to followers.

“Welcome to our garage sale,” Schwarzenegger told reporters during a warehouse tour in Sacramento Friday morning. “As you know, we’re trying to raise some extra money here, getting rid of the old stuff we don’t use anymore.”

Some items could be bought at the warehouse while others were available online on eBay and Craigslist.

The sale raised $1 million US in its first day and continues Saturday, with some items set to stay up on eBay until early September.

Gee, I knew that they were strapped for cash, but man – this is a sign of desperation! I guess that’s what you have to do when you are constitutionally forbidden to raise taxes!

No word on whether or not Arnie is telling purchasers that they…

(wait for it…)

Can’t bring it baaaack…

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Grits and ReformCons – no statistical difference between the two

The latest Harris-Decima poll conducted for The Canadian Press shows that neither party is within reach of a majority and both would be risking a defeat at the polls if one of them forces an election this fall.

Thirty-two per cent support for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the Harperites ain’t gonna buy you a whole lot of love at the ballot box..

This is in stark contrast to a we threw darts a the dartboard Ipsos-Reid poll that indicated – contrary to any other poll done over the summer – that the Harperites had built up a huge lead.

Predictably, the Cons are are jumping up and down like a nudist standing on an ant hill about how a forced vote would create political instability, cause dogs and cats to mate and bring about a plague of locusts. This is all in response to Iggy suggesting having a fall election wouldn’t be harmful at all to the economy. I can understand his position because those ReformCons are damned tough to work with and he is not sure how much longer he can hold his nose.

“There’s not one single person in the world who’d agree with him on that. You can’t just say things that are so outrageously false,” Transport Minister John “So what if my face looks like a pitbull” Baird said.

Mr. Baird said an election would mean government would “grind to a halt,” and all those really important decisions (like what colour jumpsuit to wear on a helicopter) just wouldn’t get made.

Hmmmm… the Harperites weren’t too concerned about shutting down the House last Fall  in order to avoid a non-confidence vote… just as the economic shitstorm was picking up steam… funny, that.

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In light of the unemployment numbers that came out today…

…and the fact that more and more Canadians are becoming “self-employed”… allow me to share this gem with you – courtesy of Non sequitur.

imgsrv.gocomics.com

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