Friday, March 25, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.    We're headed for yet another election.   In the last hour the House of Commons voted 156-145 to find Stephen Harper guilty of contempt of Parliament.

It really didn't have to come to this.   Recall Lucien Bouchard's famous taunt to Kim Campbell:   "What is the real deficit, ma'am?   What is the real deficit?"   All Harper and Co had to do was provide realistic estimates for their crime and defence budgets and the House and Senate committees could have properly vetted and reported back.    Forget the Bev Oda memo -- her admitting to the doctoring should really have been the end of that one.

Instead, another $300 million election and even more negativity.   And yet another minority -- either Liberal or Conservative -- with more gridlock.  God, we really do need PR.   It would ensure permanent minorities but also functioning coalitions as well.   Even give fringe parties like the Greens a chance to have a voice for once.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Final Countdown ... [video]

As we approach the Final Countdown to what is almost certainly going to be a no-confidence vote based on contempt of Parliament tomorrow -- a first anywhere in the Commonwealth -- I just want to point out that it's weird that for a party that claims to "Stand up for Canada," they are using a website to attack Iggy -- namely ignatieff [dot] me.   Why on earth would a "pro-Canadian" party route traffic about its main enemy through Montenegro?    Just asking.

Now without further ado ...

Let's make this election about the issues for once -- not about the personalities.   It would be refreshing for a change.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

World strikes back against Libya

I've often felt that military intervention is warranted when there are gross human rights violations, but often it has not happened where it was most needed or when it was too late -- think Rwanda and Bosnia for instance.   But now the rubber has hit the road, and several countries -- Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy and Spain among others -- are now striking Libya.   Canada has two ships and 6 F-18s there, although it's still not clear whether they'll be based in Italy, Malta or Spain ... (we never should have closed our bases in Germany).

Let's just get the job done quickly to get rid of the idiot running the country and not get bogged down into yet another quagmire (think Afghanistan).

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tenno speaks

It must be getting really bad when Emperor Akihito of Japan goes on TV to address his subjects about the multiple disasters that have hit that country.   Let's just pray that nuclear reactor doesn't actually become another Chernobyl although it's getting awfully close.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan tsunami

No politics, entertainment, business or whatever, and for the obvious reasons ...

Certainly this is a sad day with the news about one of the biggest earthquakes (8.9, off Honshu, although some reports say as much as 9.2) and tsunamis ever recorded causing massive damage to Japan and other countries, even affecting the West Coast of North America to a lesser although by no means insignificant extent.   This is actually the fourth in a series of quakes over to hit the Ring of Fire -- after major quakes over a series of the previous three days off of Papua-New Guinea (6.5), the China-Burma border (5.4) and a smaller tremblor also off Honshu (7.2).  Even for a fully developed country like Japan, which is used to natural disasters and are normally prepared for incidents like this it is still a major blow especially if the death toll turns out to be high as feared (one radio report I heard this morning suggested 88,000).

So please say a prayer for the victims both dead and alive ... while Japan as I said can certainly afford to rebuild, they'll still need our helping hand to get through this.   It's times of crisis that determine who are truly are our friends and enemies.   Who knows when it'll happen to us and we need to rely on them?

And if you can, please donate to a reputable charity of your choice.    It can be non-sectarian or a faith based group, but it should be a group that has been around long enough that they have earned their credentials.    I've said this before but I'll say it again:   Don't be misled by those who ask for blankets, clothes, etc -- these items cost a massive amount just to ship.   And forget food:  It's the same problem, it may perish by the time it gets there and it may not even meet the dietary requirements of the victims.   Cash and equivalents are what's needed.  Organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and so forth know how to procure the resources locally as needed, at cost, and they have an excellent record in providing relief.

To the people of Japan, hang tough.

(On a side note, I read that the earthquake may have actually sped up Earth's rotation ever so slightly but enough that the day is just slightly shorter than before, as was the case with the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Chile earthquake.   Maybe that's why we have had only two leap seconds since 2004 -- remember when they used to happen practically every six months?   Just saying.)

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Double contempt, cheap shot

Technical issues have kept me off this forum for a few days .. so I'm going to comment on a couple of things at once -- the double contempt finding by Speaker Peter Milliken yesterday, and the Montréal cheap shot.

I wrote before about the unfunded mandate that Ottawa is trying to offload to the provinces and territories for the expected larger numbers of people who will be incarcerated under the "get tough" approach to crime.   Mr. Milliken ruled that the "Harper Government" shirked its responsibility to provide cost estimates, no matter how half-baked, to the House Justice Committee, so the impact of the policy change could be debated.   And on the Bev Oda saga, the Speaker also found a prima facie case to hold her in contempt for the doctoring of an appropriations request.

It appears that over the ten years he has been Speaker, Milliken has totally lost his patience with both the Liberals and the Conservatives.   Forget the in and out scheme -- this time Team Harper was caught red handed and the people may actually finally be pissed.   Isn't it time we pulled the plug and force an election?   Harper and Co are doing their own set of dirty tricks and it cannot be tolerated any longer.


Now about the incident the other night when Zdeno Chara of Boston slammed Max Pacioretty from behind and smack into one of the polls holding up the protective glass.   Pacioretty has a concussion and verterbrae injuries, but all Chara got was a game misconduct.  And only that.   Because it was deemed to be a "clean hit."

That's it?   How about a suspension?   Maybe even criminal action?  (Regardless of whether this was tit for tat for a prior altercation or not, this really does smell of very possible criminal intent, in fact the Montréal Police are investigating that possibility at this time -- of course I'll leave it to them to make the decision.)

More interesting is the letter that Air Canada sent to the NHL regarding the head shot.    In it, the head of communications for the airline, Denis Vandal, stated that while it has been a long time supporter of pro hockey in both Canada and the US, it may have to revisit its sponsorship agreement if sometime isn't done soon to crack down (pardon the expression) on the violence in hockey.   The quote (courtesy of the Ottawa Sun):
We are contacting you (Wednesday) to voice our concern over (Tuesday night's) incident involving Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara at the Bell Centre in Montreal. This is following several other incidents involving career-threatening and life-threatening headshots in the NHL recently..
From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.
Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey.

As a strong supporter and sponsor of NHL Hockey in Canada and several U.S. cities, Air Canada is very concerned with the state of hockey today.
While we support countless sports, arts and community events, we are having difficulty rationalizing our sponsorship of hockey unless the NHL takes responsibility to protect both the players and the integrity of the game.

I don't think Air Canada is bluffing this time.  With no viable US TV contract, corporate sponsorships are what keeps the league going.   No clue as to how much the deal is worth although if you consider how much they paid Céline Dion to sh(r)ill for them several years ago I'd guess a few million per year.   But someone has to take the first step.   And I hope other companies follow through.   Enough of the crap.   Violence is what we expect in professional wrestling -- not hockey.   There's a difference between clean checking and just plain mean crap, which may be fine for Don Cherry but is unacceptable to most of us who just want to watch an entertaining game.   It's like the old joke, "I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out ..." if you know what I mean.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ireland hits the polls, and the wall

In terms of politics, this is truly an earthquake.

True, the top two parties in Ireland are pretty much Tweedledum and Tweedledee (they're both centre right) but after all the ballots have been counted in Ireland the party that has pretty much dominated politics in the South for 80 years or so, the Fianna Fáil  (Soldiers of Destiny, the party that opposed the Irish Free State created in 1921 and created the modern Republic in 1937) lost big time to the Fine Gael (literally the Gaelic Kindred, the party that supported the Free State).   Matter of fact, the FF dropped to a humiliating third place.   Seems tribal loyalties don't matter much in the age of the EU and post-Great Recession.

The FGl will likely team up with its usual partner in crime, the left wing Labour.   It looks like the grouping won't have to rely on Sinn Féin, but even that party more than tripled its seat count and finished in fourth, an indication just how angry Irish voters are.

The new Taoiseach (Irish PM) is Enda Kenny.  He's promised to renegotiate the rather humiliating terms his country had to come to in order to be bailed out by its fellow EU members.   In exchange for getting a credit line of €85 billion or USD 113 billion, the country has had to float bonds at a pretty high rate right now, 5.8%.  When you consider the overnight rate in the Eurozone (i.e. the rate banks charge each other, not regular Joe and Jane Blows like you and me) is 1% and in the States it's a paltry 0.25%, Mr. Kenny has a pretty steep hill to climb.   Not to mention that the population of the country drops by about 10,000 every month, so desperate young people are to leave.


One:  Don't bail out the banks for the mess they created.   Ordinary people suffer if the government has to absolutely backstop everything.   While the floor on deposit insurance in the EU is maybe still too low, €50,000 per depositor minimum although countries can set higher limits than that, it was insanity for Ireland to guarantee an unlimited cap (even the US has a USD 250,000 limit which covers maybe 95% of people).   To think that in just the course of a few months in 2008 Ireland and the rest of the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) could have brought Europe to the brink is simply astonishing.   Where are the prosecutions for bank officials who screwed it up?  Why can't the politicians be called to account either?

Two:   Economic integration has its benefits but also its downfalls -- not the least of which is one country may be forced to bail out another against the interests of its own people.   Germany, France and the Benelux states are already pulling their hair out over Greece and Ireland.   When the next shoe drops (probably Portugal) the fit will really hit the shan.    The US may not be able to handle another huge shock to the system and I think we in Canada need to say that we're not going to be handing out blank cheques willy-nilly to either the US or Europe once China gives up on its enemies.

Three:   Don't be so cocky that you think God is on your side.   Every election is a new cycle with a new story developing.  We've seen many parties around the world with this kind of hubris -- even Canada's Liberals.   It can take just one event and a misplaced or ill-timed response to make things go haywire for the incumbent party.   Look for instance as to how long it took for Canada's Cons to respond to the Libya crisis.  The bank accounts should have been frozen the day the rebellion started -- not waited all the way until now.  And only now we're sending two frigates?  It's not quite the same level of course, but these things tend to pile up and eventually your credibility is shot.

Iceland went the exact opposite route to Ireland.   The people there are pissed off at the "reparations" they've had to pay to depositors in other countries.   And they have had huge short term pain when the government forced the banks to fail, but the country is recovering relatively quickly.   Enough that it could get early entry into the EU, maybe as soon as 2013.   I can't see Ireland being kicked out of the grouping -- once you're in you're in -- but Ireland will need more than just more friendly terms from its partners to get out of its pickle.  It needs to make hard choices.  Choices that sooner or later much more prosperous countries will have to make.

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