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Economy

Harper is talking about our recession…

… er, economic downturn in front of a crowd of Grade fivers because…

– They are only a few years younger than the PMO short pant staffers who set up this photo-op, so could talk about cool stuff common to them in between takes…

– He has found a group of economic advisors with better insights into the Canadian economy than the Finance Minister.

– In true conservative fashion, they dodged labour laws by having to pay the stand-ins only a few freezies for their time,

– Just for kicks, the PMO opted for a background of bored kids as opposed to the usual background of bored adults.

Bottom line – they may want to think twice before making an economic announcement in front of a bunch of kids next time. Maybe talk about your foreign policy objectives… those are pretty much at the 10-year-old level…

harper

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This is likely…

… the reality for most parts of the planet.

Including Canada.

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For my economics-savvy friends…

… and I have a few…

Tell me something.

Greece. Italy. Portugal. Et cetera. All that economic shit-storm stuff that is happening in those corners of the planet…

I see the main root of the problem being the consequence of horribly enforced tax collection regimes. Tax evasion has been a hobby in these countries – and this is documented widely. But until recently, all levels of government in these nations have turned blind eyes to this.

And… some of these nations have been ruled by left of centre parties for a while, so and the nations’ monetary and fiscal policies have reflected this.

So my question – is the sorry state of these nations’ economies the result of socialist monetary and fiscal policy – or poor revenue management? I’ve seen it blamed on both…

What say you?

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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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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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The home reno tax credit – supporting the sturdy, glossy envelope industry since 2009!

stephen_harper_prime_ministerIt is really easy to see what the Harperite’s cornerstone will be for the next election campaign.  Oodles of dollars are being used by the CPC trumpeting their Economic (In) Action Plan. The ship of state is being calmly steered through the economic malaise with your good Captain Stevo at the helm… ably assisted by his wacky crew.

I don’t watch a lot of TV but I saw the ad for this the other day.  The home renovation tax credit is the centerpiece of the cornerstone in this instance. This is completely expected as the ReformCon script always calls for simple messages targeted at their weak points – electorally speaking. What better way to sell the Harper brand than by putting some coin back in the pockets of young, middle to upper middle class home-owners?

At least this is what the ad says to me.

All that aside, what struck me about this was the prominent use of the Big Green Envelope that can be used to store all of those receipts for the new brickwork, water heaters and bidets.  Hey, it’s not like we needed those trees  anyway, right?

Here’s a partial pic of one of those envelopes… best I could find.

ap-pa-eng

Now, here’s my reckonin’. The ReformCons will never pass a policy / take up a position / take a crap unless there is some political gain to be had. Yeah, yeah, yeah… they ALL to this to a certain degree – that’s politics. But I am still of the mind that the CPC has this principle as the overriding deal makers or killer. If it doesn’t score us political points, then we ain’t doin’ it. Period. The other parties take political gains into consideration but I am yet to be convinced that the cynicism is as deep as in the meanderings of the Harperites.

So if we take as given the envelope and the campaign around it as a purely political move, then what happens next?

The envelopes will be made available to “home improvement” retailers this fall. My Mom, for example, can go to her Home Hardware Building Centre, buy a new sink and ask the cashier for one of these handy-dandy envelopes to store it in. She takes her rather sturdily-made (at least it seems sturdy – and heavy… glossy too – by the looks of it) home and stores all of the rest of her receipts for the tax year.

Then it is that wonderful time of the year where we file our taxes. I do mine electronically, but my Mom (or anyone’s Mom) likes to do them long-hand (By the way Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m not really talking about you… just using you as a hypothetical example…love you!).

And after carefully doing the additions and subtraction and having carefully stored all of those receipts in that wonderfully-made envelope, what does she you do now?

Why she mails that sturdy package to the government for processing, of course. Yes, she knows that you need only produce your receipts on request. At least that is how things were done in the past. But this sturdy envelope looks so official. Has that nice flag in the corner and everything. Surely I am meant to send it back! Why would the government give me something like this and not expect me to use it? That wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it?

Hey – maybe Mom should take the sturdy, glossy envelope back to Home Hardware?

My observations are as follows:

  • A lot of tax payer $$$ was put into the design and production of these politically motivated sturdy and glossy envelopes.
  • A lot of tax payer $$$ will be spent distributing them to the retailers… postage and courier costs will be sky-high.
  • Tax payers will likely send them back to the government along with their cheques or claims for rebates… and the government folks who receive them won’t know what to do with them… et voilà – landfill fodder!
  • Retailers will be confused when folks bring their receipts back to the store.
  • And, knowing the CPC, they won’t stop at simply making them available at the retail level; they will target some borderline ridings with just the right demographics and do a wee bit of a direct mail. So, if you see a big, sturdy, glossy envelope in your mailbox this fall, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  • How many of these sturdy, glossy envelopes might we expect to be distributed? Hard to say for sure, but I figure there are at least 50 “national retail establishments and their affiliates where home renovation products are sold” (the CRA’s description) here in Ottawa, and that’s conservative. So, that’s about 1 for every 16,000 people in the City. Extrapolate to Canada and you get about 2,125 outlets. The Harperites spare no expense when it comes to matters political, so pencil in 1,000 envelopes per store. That’s 160,000 sturdy, glossy pieces of political paper. I just ordered quite a few thousand brochures to be printed and they cost about 20 cents per brochure. Given that these envelopes are undoubtedly of higher quality stock and almost definitely heavier… with glue and stuff to hold everything together, I’ll estimate the production of these to be about 50 cents per. That’s 80K to produce. Add about 2 bucks a pop to distribute them and you get a grand total of :

400K!

And that is before advertising costs, outreach, help lines, etc. And before the costs associated with the (I’m presuming) distribution to targeted ridings.

In short, once again we are seeing the real costs of the Harper’s government approach to governing. All politics all the time and damn the bank account!

Thanks Steve!

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The U.S. adds to its troop strength

In yet another valiant attempt to add to its already $37 gazillion budgetary deficit, the Obama administration has decided to increase its troop strength to deal with pressures overseas.

Though it is sometimes difficult to keep track of exactly how many wars Uncle Sam has his fingers in, these new low income, inner-city and naive brave troops will be based in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, can someone please explain to me what kind of warped logic would lead otherwise rational men and women to, during the greatest economic crisis since the 1930’s (and possibly ever) decide to add to America’s growing economic malaise by investing further in two wars that are going very, very badly.  It is akin to a household with multiple and huge credit card debt to take out another credit card, draw the max cash advance, and give the money to that lazy uncle who you know is going to head straight to the track and lose the bundle. Bad idea, right?

Here’s a thought for Obama and for Harper too. Instead of digging yourself deeper in these unwinnable wars, start planning your exit strategy. The money spent on troops can be more wisely invested at home on helping your countries get through these difficult economic times.

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Iggy comes clean – sorta

The Grit leader says that he will support the budget only if the neocons agree to provide clear budget updates in order to track fiscal progress.

Stevie should be able to live with this.

I hope.

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2009 Federal Budget

The neocons have done the impossible and have managed to largely exclude their normal partisanship and opportunism from this budget.

What does this tell me:

  • Harper is under extreme pressure form the caucus and the party executives to tone it down a little since the ramrod approach clearly isn’t working with the vast majority of Canadians.
  • They accept that their government is a minority and any budget items that would have pushed the limits of their situation would not be accepted by the House. In other words, they are trying to at least give the semblance of governing like a minority government.
  • They are a bit scared about the outcome of another general election should the Grits push them that far.

What should Iggy do?

  • Pump out his chest and say that dang-nab-it, we cannot support this thing in its current form but here are a few minor amendments that would make it more palatable… then, yeah, we’ll grudgingly support it.
  • Build up the profile of his party and himself over the next 16-18 months. This will buy some time to sell the Liberals as a real alternative to the neocons and will also buy some time to build up the Grit treasury.

This budget should pass. The coalition idea, although appealing on many fronts does not have broad base support and, while it would stand for the short term, would harm the Grits for many years to come in the long term.

Plus, the country really does not need another election right now.

Do the right thing Iggy. It really ain’t so bad. And this is one long-time Grit who will support you on it.

In other news… talks broke down between the City and the ATU… yet again.

Bastards.

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