Monday, November 5, 2012

Canadian shot in the butt, dies 11 days later in Guyana - Crime a growing factor in Caribbean

Sometimes it takes an incident that hits a bit closer to home, in order to draw attention to the everyday iniquities and injustice that go unnoticed in many countries around the world.

For example, a person identified in the Guyanese press as a Canadian, Jean Le Blanc, died in hospital just over a week ago, after being shot in the buttocks almost two weeks earlier.

The man was shot in a bar during the assassination of an alleged gangland figure. According to some reports, Le Blanc claimed he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time", although some of the speculation is that he may also have been targeted.

After several days in the hospital, Le Blanc was said to be recovering well and was scheduled to leave the country, but he died quite suddenly on Oct. 26 (2012).

Since then, an autopsy has been delayed, purportedly because "financial arrangements" for storage of the body post mortem were being made, in connection with the Canadian Embassy.

No mention of this situation has appeared in Canadian media that I have been able to find. One Guyanese report mentioned that Le Blanc was a Montreal resident.

There is a photo of a person identified as Le Blanc in the hospital in Georgetown on a few Guyanese websites.

Meanwhile, a UN report recently released has revealed that crime rates in the Caribbean have been rising dramatically, even while they've been dropping in most other parts of the world.

A quick scan of the news items for the past few days in the Guyanese press is enough to informally confirm this, as you get the impression that there are more violent crimes in this small country of only 750,000 people, than there are in most of our big cities in Canada. Crime is bad enough when it occurs in developed countries. In less developed countries, it can destabilize the delicate balance of economic viability and social development. 

As the The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012, prepared by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) says, the increasing crime rate is threatening economies and livelihoods in Caribbean countries.

“Violence limits people’s choices, threatens their physical integrity, and disrupts their daily lives,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the report’s launch.

Anyone think that more free trade deals and sweetheart corporate tax giveaways will improve this situation? 

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Romney-esque Day at the CHLPA

There has been a flurry of reports over the past two days concerning the CHL Players Association and the mystery surrounding the identities of some of the people purportedly connected with the group.

One of the better accounts is by Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports.

According to this and other reports, the union's executive director, Georges Laraque, has now announced he will be leaving the union, saying he would like to pass the work done to date on to a person or persons who would have the wherewithal to move the endeavour forward.

Also word that two law firms that were doing pro bono work for the group are bailing.

There is a whole series of clips and interviews that can be seen on TSN.

There is certainly no denying the sketchiness of any of this. On the other hand, I haven't seen much, if any concrete evidence to show that the CHLPA's activities have not been on the straight and narrow.

The sudden appearance of all this "noise", without identifying any concrete transgressions that you can actually put a finger on, all has a kind of "Romney-esque" feel to it. Considered along with other factors, such as the sabotaging of Laraque's car, just as players are starting to vote on union certification, one is left with the feeling that there remains much more to this story than we have yet seen.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Georges Laraque's Car Sabotaged - CHL Union Organizing Related?

NHL enforcer, Green Party of Canada Deputy Leader, animal rights activist, vegan entrepreneur, and now Executive Director of the new Canadian Hockey League Players Association, Georges Laraque has never been afraid to tread where the treading gets tough.

Two days ago, someone loosened the lug nuts on his hybrid vehicle, causing him to lose control on the highway. Thankfully, no injuries resulted.

This comes with news today that the players of the Sherbrooke Phoenix will become the first team to offically join the CHLPA, which seeks to represent junior hockey players.

Junior hockey players normally receive nominal, though variable, compensation, often considered to be below minimum wage. According to one report, a ridiculous $35 a week, plus some expenses, for the untold hours the players spend playing, traveling and training.

At least one other team will be voting soon and the union is using a range of strategies in attempts to line up the participation of players from other teams across the country.

Against this backdrop, a bizarre series of stories has appeared in the Toronto Sun and other media, where the identity of a CHLPA representative is questioned, although according to the CHLPA website and twitter feed, the person in question is to be interviewed on TSN today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hi! My Name is Sandy, This is Your Wake-Up Call!

At the end of a U.S. election campaign that has ignored climate change and global warming, Mother Nature has weighed in with a persuasive argument.

Sandy's wake-up call couldn't have been any more loud or clear. (note - the link to the Huffington Post article is not working at time of posting due to power outages effecting the site's operations)

Numerous cities and towns along the U.S. eastern seaboard have experienced flooding and damage on a scale never seen before.

Despite tragic loss of life and billions of dollars worth of damage that has already occurred, it seems that we may have dodged a bullet to some extent. If the water had been one foot higher, or the winds a little stronger, no telling how much worse it could have been.

Unfortunately, the latter scenario is exactly where we're headed.

Worldwide temperatures are on the increase. The sea level is rising. Extreme weather events are becoming larger, more frequent and more extreme.

Katrina was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Sandy, another once-in-a-lifetime event. How many lives do we get?

This year, the Arctic ice cap melted down to 20-30% less than the previous record low level, which had been set in 2007.

The increasing pace of melting ice packs and rising sea levels, combined with higher global temperatures, can only mean more severe and more frequent weather events in the near future.

Sandy is telling us that measures to reduce co2 emissions are desperately needed.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alexandre Trudeau: embedded in Justin's campaign.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Sacha Trudeau is "stepping up" to act as senior advisor to his brother Justin's campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Unlike the story in the WFP, I would never stretch this so far as to mention "Jack and Bobby" in the second paragraph of the story. (oops)

Nor would I mention that I saw this coming and predicted it here. (oops)

But I will say this: anyone who thinks that the Liberals under Justin Trudeau will be "same old same old" may well want to reconsider.

Sacha is probably most well known for his film, Embedded in Baghdad, which he made before, during and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Certainly no lack of courage, conviction or imagination in this young man.

Given the low profile Alexandre has kept, it is difficult to say what his influence will be and how much he will have. Just a gut feeling that he could be bringing a leftish perspective to things, but this could be altogether wrong. His role will probably be more that of the trusted confidante, rather than a strategist or policy advisor.

Indeed, I could see a Liberal Party under Justin (best case scenario) that would transcend left and right, neutralizing this whole "Fox News vs Daily Show", "right vs left" sham of political discourse that exists. When one considers that the vast majority of Canadians (and Americans) really live outside of "left" and "right" interest groups, it becomes plausible to hope that there is room for other more valid movements.

Anyway, Justin's first week on the campaign trail has been a success and I presume it will be very interesting to keep an eye on as the campaign unfolds...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Alexandre Trudeau: “It’s not my show tonight”

For anyone tempted to speculate that the Liberals under Justin Trudeau would be "same old same old", there was one new face in the crowd last night whose influence may yet become powerful, even if not necessarily front and centre.

Trudeau’s younger brother, Sacha, was on hand with his young family, too, but politely rebuffed reporters’ questions. “It’s not my show tonight,” he said.

The operative word being, "tonight"(?)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Canadian Business Innovation Tanks Under Harper

Canadian business innovation has dropped from 11th to 22nd place in the world over the past year.

Earlier this month, and for the second consecutive year, Canada dropped two places overall in the annual ranking of global economic competitiveness by the World Economic Forum. Canada's economic competitiveness has now gone from 9th to 14th since 2009. This is just a small part of the story though.

The real story came out a couple of days ago in a report issued by the Conference Board of Canada, entitled Who Dimmed the Lights? Canada’s Declining Global Competitiveness Ranking.

In this report, it is revealed that Canada's innovation and business sophistication dropped 6 places, from 15th to 21st over the past year. Even worse, the report says that Canada's innovation performance dropped from 11th to 22nd.

The innovation performance indicator measures factors such as such as "university–industry collaboration in R&D, quality of scientific research institutions, capacity for innovation, company spending on R&D, and government procurement of advanced technology products".

Don't tell me - sending raw materials to Asia and buying stuff churned out over there in sweatshops no longer qualifies as "thinking outside the box". Combine this with the Conservative government's war on science and it is easy to see how Canada has dropped so quickly.

I don't even know how this all meshes with what's going on on the street. For example, at least four pharmaceutical multinationals closing major research labs in the Montreal area alone this year. The latest of these, Boehringer Ingelheim, will result in 170 high tech job losses.

On the link above, there is a table which further breaks down the indicators into sub categories. Canada is worst in Nature of Competitive Advantage (81st), Value Chain Breadth (53rd), Government Procurement of Advanced Technology Products (47th) and Quantity of Local Suppliers (33rd).

Solving the problem won't be a matter of simply ramping up university graduate numbers though - Canada is already 6th in availability of scientists and engineers.

Exactly how we're going to turn this around, I don't know. One thing for sure is that current Harper government policies have us headed in the wrong direction with a bullet.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The fossil fuel industry does not need subsidies

"In 2011 the five largest oil companies made $137 billion"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Omnibus Scandalbus

Recently Canadians have begun to take notice of the Harper Conservatives' tactic of piling dozens or hundreds of pieces of legislation into one supersized bill, so that most of what is in it slips under the radar of public scrutiny and accountability. Much of the content of this legislation goes unnoticed and undebated, as has been well documented in the case of the 2012 omnibus budget bill, for example.

What many of us haven't noticed, unfortunately, is that they have brought this same tactic into play in another sphere of politics. This would be the always fertile branch of creative corruption and scandals.

Rather than throw all their transgressions and wrongdoings into one or two baskets, such as the Liberals or previous Conservative governments have done, so that the opposition can yammer on about them for years or decades, the Harper Cons have perfected an excellent new strategy.

The new strategy is called the "Omnibus Scandalbus". The Omnibus Scandalbus has room for all the Conservative MPs to ride in luxurious comfort (no need to upgrade your seat, Bev Oda!), while reflective windows and tight security protect the MPs from any prying curiosity seekers or journalists.

All questions for any passengers, from accredited stylists and party enthusiasts, are to be submitted a month in advance and will answered by a professional bus driver most knowledgeable in right turns and obstructions.

The Omnibus Scandalbus is a highly efficient means of scandal management pioneered by Harper's brilliant strategists, enabling the Conservative government to ride in air-conditioned comfort, while, all around outside, the cacophony of a supersized gaggle of scandals fades into the innocuous hum of background noise.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Japan PM to Restart Nuclear "Under Intense Pressure from Banks"

The PM of Japan has approved restarting nuclear reactors despite public opinion running at over 70% against the move.

According to this report in Bloomberg, the decision was taken under "intense pressure from banks". With the peak summer season approaching, there has been concern that electricity shortages could result in slowdowns at factories.

Meanwhile, there are new reports of radiation entering the global food chain from the Fukushima disaster.

Procedures to restart reactors are said to be beginning immediately.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quebec tuition fees among the highest in the world

Surprise, surprise! As usual, the media has been giving us the wrong dope. 

This time, it's the intrepretation fed to us by the corporate media regarding the student "strike" in Quebec that has been going on for the past few months.

From the very beginning, our media, even the CBC, has entirely ignored the details of the students' position, to the extent that most of us, myself included, have been led to believe that they are probably being unreasonable. Rebels without a cause, as Jacques Villeneuve called them.

That's because, as the media has repeated dozens if not hundreds or thousands of times, that "Quebec already has the lowest tuition fees in Canada / North America" by far.

What the media has failed to deliever is a comprehensive comparison of our tuition fees with those in other countries besides the U.S.

I myself tried to look up this info and did find that one or two Scandanavian countries have nominal tuition fees. But I didn't readily find anything about our major G8 partners like France and Germany.

Finally, a day or two ago, the following link was included with a CBC story (120 or so days into the student strike):

I also found another so-called comparison today ~ this also looks like a "promo" for charging higher tuition fees, but the reality of low tuition fees in may countries is evident:

So, bottom line, it turns out that the vast majority of developed countries in the world have tuition fees that are much lower even than Quebec's. Only the U.K. and a couple of other countries around Europe have tuition fees anywhere near as high as ours.

It is a known and proven fact that higher tuition fees work as a deterrent to low and middle class individuals pursuing an education (everyone's "I put myself through college..." stories notwithstanding)

So, what about it? Despite the extremely skewed presentation of the situation our media gives us, it seems that the Quebec students at least have a sound basis on which they are making their demands.

As a sidebar, we already know what a failure the U.S. profit-driven healthcare system is. U.S. healthcare costs being anywhere from 50-100% higher than all other countries, yet their life expectancy is substantially lower than Canada and many other developed countries.

Perhaps we need to rethink our approach to higher education?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Could Someone Bring Down e-Commerce?

Is it possible to prevent technology from running out of control?

Is it already out of control?

It may be that we won't know the answers to those questions before it is too late.

Case in point:

Do a google search for "Accept PP/CreditCard ,One World One Price", in quotes.

This will bring up 100,000s into the millions of results.

Every single result is another page or profile of an extremely dubious (to give the benefit of the doubt) selling site. The sites in question contain thousands of pages of copyrighted material listed for sale without the knowledge of the copyright owners, complete with famous logos, icons and trade names of numerous familiar and reassuring corporations and e-commerce entities. The sites include a mind-boggling array of domain names and sub-domains, some of them, at least, indicating (or appearing) that they utilize a well-known new generation domain name server that is known for secure hosting features. Each individual site contains a number of confidence building features, right down to a phony online chat window that says something like "Mandy Johnson is standing by to answer your questions".

The activities of this site have come to the forefront because of apparent unauthorized use of thousands of pages of material from one high profile e-commerce site in particular, although there could be any number of other transgressions.

The concerning part about this is the apparent automated duplication of the site over massive numbers of domains and sub-domains. It is presumed that, if the site is indeed illegitimate, it will eventually be closed one way or another.

But the question must be asked, what if someone, with access to near-free labour, decided to pull a scam in this same spirit ~ but actually did a better job of it? What if they built it to be really convincing and created a thousand or a million clones simultaneously?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Quebec Total Ban on Fracking as USGS Links it to Earthquakes

Last Tuesday the Quebec environment minister announced an absolute ban on fracking while the process is studied.

That move is looking like a stroke of genius today, as the U.S. Geological Survey is releasing a report showing an unprecedented increase in earthquakes occurring in the U.S. heartland.

The study identifies a six-fold increase of magnitude 3.0 or higher quakes that has occurred since 2001 in the U.S. heartland. Significantly, the scientists say that the cause of the increase in seismic activity is almost certainly manmade.

Quebec has been shown to have significant natural gas reserves in the St. Lawrence Valley that could potentially be accessed using the fracking technique. The process involes horizontal drilling and underground blasting with high pressure mixtures of waste water and chemicals to release gas trapped in shale formations..

There has been a moratorium in effect in Quebec since last March. However the new ban will include even experimental fracking designed to test the process. Testing will now occur only in the lab.

Last month, a series of small earthquakes in Ohio was blamed on fracking.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wildrose Tainted by Association with Harperism?

Danielle Smith: A wildflower blooming virtuous and free on the Prairie...

or a programed-from-youth apparatchik of big oil corporatocracy and U.S. Republicanism?

A legitimate enough question.

If only it were the only question.

The problem for Wildrose is that the federal Conservatives are not only their ideological "soulmates". The Conservatives also now stand accused of crimes against Canada: perpetrating election fraud in ridings across the country, and deliberately misleading Parliament on the question of procuring billions of dollars worth of fighter jets.

The links, ties and parallels between Wildrose and the federal Conservatives run broad and deep and are well described in yesterday's Globe and Mail article by Gary Mason, even if it only scratches the surface.

University of Calgary political science professor Tom Flanagan, who has served as a mentor for both Danielle Smith and Stephen Harper, is the same guy who called for the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. (and later "withdrew" the comment)

Flanagan also wrote two books on property rights (Theories of Property: Aristotle to the Present and Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights). Danielle Smith founded the Canadian Property Rights Research Institute and worked as an advocate for Alberta rural landowners.

Flanagan played a major role in Harper's rise to power and is now the campaign manager for Wildrose's provincial election campaign.

So let's get this straight. The same guy who called for Julian Assange's assassination is philosophically somewhere near the heart of the "libertarianism" subscribed to by Danielle Smith. Awesome!

Wildrose's rise in the polls over the past couple of years is beyond remarkable. How does this information react with what we now know about the Harper Conservatives' ethical approach to influencing an electorate?

Harper's Conservatives, who also got their start as a "breath of fresh air" from the Prairies, are now mired in such a quagmire of election fraud, misleading Parliament and misspending of hundreds of millions of dollars, that the mere adventures of a Bruce Carson fly totally under the radar!

Given the close ties, philosophical similarities, familiar faces, geographical location, shared causes and power bases, etc., between Wildrose and the Harper Conservatives, the question must be asked: Does Wildrose respect ethical standards? Does Wildrose believe in democracy and the Canadian Parliamentary tradition? How far is Wildrose willing to go to win power? What will they really do with that power?

Is this potentially a case of guilt or smear by association? Or is association too loose a term to describe the ties between Wildrose and Harperism?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Election Fraud: This is Where the Ben Johnson Principle Should Kick in.

You Cheat You Lose the Gold Medal

The citizens group the Council of Canadians is filing to overturn election results in seven ridings over election fraud.

The seven ridings across the country all experienced shady live or "robo" phone calls which appeared to have the objective of interfering with people's attempts to vote. All seven ridings were won by the Conservatives and all but one of them by less than 1,000 votes.

While the article discusses ways of "measuring" the impact of the fraudulent calls, that should not be necessary. The fact that illegal and fraudulent means were employed with the intention of affecting the election should be enough to render the result null and void.

This is where the "Ben Johnson" principle should be in effect. No one had to prove how much speed Ben Johnson gained by taking steroids. It was proven that he took them and he lost his gold medal.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sir, your room in the ice hotel is currently flowing down the St. Lawrence River

A couple of years ago, the biathlon (normally includes cross country skiing) at the B.C. Winter Games had to be replaced by haha the "summer biathlon".
This year, if you had a room booked at the Montreal Ice Hotel during the last two weeks of March, you room is now flowing down the St. Lawrence River!
Just followed a bus that had an ad on the back for the "Village des Neiges" (Snow Village) in Montreal. It said, "...until March 31". Obviously they weren't counting on five straight days of 22+ C (75 F) temperatures in the middle of March. Great for bike riding - but if you had a reservation at the Ice Hotel, your room is now one huge wet bar!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Should Quebec Students' Strike for Lower Tuition be Spread to Rest of Canada?

Students in Quebec have been protesting a 75% tuition increase over five years announced by the provincial government.

there are two sides to this story

In favour of keeping lower tuition

1. many countries, such as Norway, Sweden, Brazil, the Bahamas and Scotland, have free university education, and it is a worthwhile ideal to strive towards
2. Quebeckers pay higher taxes than anyone in Canada
3. Something like $890 Mil of corp. tax breaks have been given away over the past number of years, so the students might presume the gov't has spare cash to fund education
4. tuition is only a small part of the cost of supporting oneself while attending school
5. Increasing the cost of education could cause some to lose their chance for an education
6. The commitment of spending years studying is substantial enough, without forcing students to work in bars or corner stores or ??
7. Poor management, gratuitous buy-outs for admins and execs, and wastage in general, have been "noted" in the academic field as others

In favour of higher tuition

1. Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in Canada by a long shot and exponentially lower than in the U.S.
2. The government is hard-pressed to find areas to save
3. the cost of quality education is increasing and Quebec schools may lose competitive advantage
4. The tuition fees have been raised very little in years
5. Everyone has to pull their own weight at least to some extent
6. Because Quebec has CEGEPs (jr college, approx. equiv to grade 12 + 13), students only have to attend three years of university to obtain a basic undergrad degree

I hate to sit on the fence, but haven't made up my mind on this issue.

In principal, I would favour free education. But having tuition fees drastically lower than the rest of Canada doesn't seem sustainable to me. Perhaps the drive for lower tuition needs to be taken to the rest of the country...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

People die for their opinions and here in Canada "we let the bastards get away with everything" -Merlin, 96

A moment of zen at a Toronto Danforth byelection Green Party town hall yesterday with Elizabeth May, Georges Laraque and Green Party candidate Adriana Mugnatto Hamu in the frame.

A woman, identifying herself as "Merlin", 96 years old, steps to the microphone and says,

"I've seen a lot of elections, in England, and during the War..
The main thing about Politiking and elections, is that there's a lot of ground swell.. that people have to hear about you and your policies..
Get the word out, because without people knowing what is going on..
Canadians are well known for their apathy and their indifference..
People in Libya, Somalia, all over the world, are dying for their opinions, they're dying to make their words heard, and we here in Canada just sit here and we let the bastards get away with everything."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Warm Winter: No Ice in the Baltic Sea

Normally, the Baltic is Frozen this time of year

Normally this time of year, the northern section of the Baltic Sea (the Gulf of Bothnia) and the Gulf of Finland have a lot of ice cover, similar to the above, if not completely covered.

This year, both bodies of water are almost completely ice-free.

Meanwhile, last year it was Hudson Bay in northern Canada that was near ice-free until much later in winter than usual. This year, Hudson Bay is close to normal.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Rio Tinto Alcan Locks Out 800 Workers in Quebec

It seems that corporate tax cuts do not go a long way to slake the thirst of profit loving foreign owned corporations.

Maybe something you could get away with at some point, like 3 years ago when they shut down the Beauharnois plant that was using outdated technology, and the price of aluminum had dropped by half. (RTA is continuing to make efforts to assist the Beauharnois region to transition to potential new economic drivers)

But considering that Rio Tinto made $14+ bil in 2010...

and the occupy movement has helped people understand just how vastly disproportionate the earnings of the wealthy are to their contributions

and Quebecers voted for a guy who tragically died in the last federal election

and Harper's gloriously generous corporate tax cuts have only served to foster greater corporate greed

and (last but definitely not least) the Habs are really stinking out the joint...

I do not like Rio Tinto Alcan's chances of coming out of this smelling like a rose... despite any of Steve Harper's best efforts to sell out his fellow Canadians

More likely - they will be smelling like a smelter