Wednesday, 24 September 2008

And now a word from our sponsor

Another poke at Palin

Not original - just something that came into my in box

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year-old rancher, who's hand was caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Palin and her bid.

The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Palin is a 'Post Turtle.'"

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was.

The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a 'post turtle.'"

The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued to explain. "You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, and she doesn't know what to do while she's up there, and you just wonder what kind of dummy put her up there to begin with."

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Financial Bailout: America's Own Kleptocracy

The events of the last couple of weeks have been amazing. Amazingly bad that is. The deregulated trading in securitized debts has brought America to its knees - and threatens the world's economic system. But instead of all that free market discipline that was supposed to protect us the "hidden hand" remains hidden - and it is the people who pay taxes who are on the hook - not the crooks who engineered the collapse.

But don't take my word for it - click the title of this piece to read what Michael Huddon has to say about it. Who's he?

President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1972 and 2003) and of The Myth of Aid (1971).

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Hong Kong is world's most free economy: Fraser Institute

There is something endearing about how the Fraser Institute continues to bumble along blissfully unaware of the pillars of the free market economy collapsing around it as it pronounces. There is a network of these right wing "think tanks" across North America. Except that they are not supposed to think too deeply - or indeed question the wisdom of the right wing agenda. "the importance of letting people get on with their lives" i.e. without interference from government.

Except they don't really mean that either. It is not people they are concerned about but corporations.

The collapse of Wall Street - and related financial institutions in other countries too - is the direct result of deregulation. During the Bush administration almost all the regulatory framework surrounding banks and other financial institutions were either relaxed or removed altogether. Many of these rules had been put in place in the wake of the last great crash (1929) and the subsequent banking crisis (1931) with a view to preventing such events recurring. So it should come as no surprise that recent events on Wall Street bear a very strong similarity to what happened then.

And, of course, the only solution to these financial problems is for the government to step in and prop up these worthless banks and insurance companies with taxpayers money. The government is expected, always and everywhere, to come to the rescue of the free market titans when they demonstrate their herd instincts and basic foolishness.

Deregulation has now been shown to be a very silly thing to do - and even John McCain is advocating tougher rules. He really couldn't do anything else, could he. And while we get to watch AIG pulled out of the muck, and Lehman Brothers' assets get snapped up at firesale prices by Barclays (how much longer before they need to rescued like HBOS?) there is the Fraser Institute bleating on about economic freedom.

Crisis? What crisis?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Medical Service Plan Premiums

I got a bill in the mail today. I get the same one every month and it is not trivial. $54. Everyone in BC has to pay this fee. Many people have it paid for them by their employers - who often will also chip in to a private plan to cover the essential healthcare costs that are not covered by our public health care plan. Prescription medications, dental and eye care. All of which are not some kind of bonus benefit but essential to maintaining good health.

We Canadians like to think that our system is better than the Americans. Which is true, but hardly remarkable. The Cubans have a better heath care system that the Americans!

It is not as if BC is desperately short of money - we have even managed to find our way out of being a "have not" province and every year, isn't it marvellous, we have another budget surplus bigger than was expected. Yet seven (out of ten) other provinces levy no fee at all. Because we have a publicly funded system that is based on taxes, not flat fees. Because income based taxes are progressive. Those who have plenty pay more than those who have little. Yes there is "premium assistance" for those who cannot pay - but that is not the same as health care that is free to everybody but paid for out of taxes.

There is a provincial election coming up next year. Any party that promises to scrap MSP premiums will get my vote

Monday, 8 September 2008

Federalists welcome to vote for the Bloc: Duceppe

This could only make sense in a place like Quebec.

By definition, someone who is a "federalist" supports the idea of Canada from sea to sea to sea. The BQ thinks that Quebec should separate. So as far as I can see if a "federalist" votes for the Bloq then they have switched sides and are now a separatist.

This is not just semantics - separation is a principle - but not one that federalists share. And I think it shows that Duceppe is really not thinking very clearly right now - probably too much coffee and not enough sleep.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

New weekly treatment for type 2 diabetes works better than twice-daily injections, say researchers

A weekly treatment for type 2 diabetes has proved safe and effective for patients in a trial involving 259 volunteers.

The formulation is a version of a previously available treatment called exenatide, which mimics one of the body's hormones. The existing version must be self-injected by patients twice daily. The trial showed that the slow-acting form was more effective than the original at keeping glucose levels in the blood under control, and more convenient to use.

"There is currently no available therapy for type 2 diabetes that patients can receive once a week," said Dr Daniel Drucker at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto. The new formulation will need further clinical trials before being licensed for use by patients.

Penalties for partners who block child access

About time too.

Fathers have been campaigning for this for a long time. The courts nearly always give care and control to the Mother. And while there are stiff penalties for fathers who default on their responsibilities - usually payment of child support - there have been none for mothers who do not allow fathers to see their children. And sadly use of the children as tools in post marital disputes is only too common.

Of course community service is the last resort, but that these women need is a better understanding of what the absence of their fathers does to their children. It is essential to the children's well being that they are not in the middle of a fight. But some people are too wrapped up in their own concerns to see that

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

New Radio 2

So far pretty much as expected. From 1000 to 1500 you get almost continuous classical music from a somewhat predictable play list, with much less talk than before. "Here's to You" was requests and Eric Friesen loved the sound of his own voice. So this is now probably an improvement over old Radio 2 in terms of "audible wall paper". Not particularly original or engaging, and not really "company". Eric did get regular studio guests who were worth listening to, and regular live performers too. One of the good things that radio can do is introduce you to people and music you have not heard of before - like Gabriella Montero. Somehow I do not see this happening now. And while I am talking about company, Tom Allen former host of "Music and company" is still on the morning show - but what a load of old pop - and again there are much better sources if that is what you want. Rock 101 would be my first choice here.

Outside of those times it seems classical is not tolerated but any other "genre" is as long as it is Canadian. Sadly, there seems to be very little quality control. And even as a nice noise while driving I find myself pushing the off button. I really do not understand why Country and Western music should get so much air time. There are plenty of stations that do that already, aren't there?

"Disc Drive" is of course gone. And in it's place, the unimaginatively named "Drive" - playing a much less diverse collection of music (though mercifully no Boutine Souriante) and no humour. Perhaps they forgot the L at the end of the title.

But for me today the good news is that London Drugs got a new stock of USB turntables. So right now I am listening to an old LP of John Williams playing some lovely guitar music - it is an old CBS three record box set and somehow the "liner notes" are missing - at least the English ones anyway. It's Villa-Lobos Etude No 8 in C sharp minor. And I am going to have to find some instructions for Audacity to clean up the snap crackle and pop before I burn it to anything. But it is nice to have playing through the computer speakers while I type.

The Passport Office

Most people write about their dealings with bureaucrats to complain. Not this time.

The process for renewing your passport has been streamlined - and it worked very well for me. You can download the form and instructions on line. You can get anyone not related to you to be a reference (no need to go looking for a registered professional) and if you are just replacing a current or recently expired passport you don't even need to get the pictures signed.

One puzzler for me was that the office in Richmond has moved - something I could have checked on the downloaded form. But I know where the passport office is - I've been there before only a little while ago (in my mental map) - but all there is now at that location is a big hole. Fortunately the photo shop that used to do a brisk trade in passport snaps has a sign on its door telling you where to go.

I was in and out of the passport office in ten minutes precisely. I did not have to wait in any line up and was seen immediately at two separate counters. I don't know why it cannot be done at one, probably some seniority thing. And while there was capacity to deal with lengthy line ups, today at 3pm there were none. And the service was polite and efficient.

Well done.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Amy Goodman Arrested

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police violently manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her.

Following on the earlier post about the seizing of a permaculture bus. The police in the US seem to have taken leave of their senses - or are enjoying the new powers that they have been given. Holding journalists on the specious charge of "suspicion of rioting" would not stand up in the worst banana republic. "a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights"


In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

Martin Niemöller

The good Pastor explains why a Canadian in BC is concerned about the behaviour of a bunch of police officers in Minneapolis - which just happens to be the place where the Republican convention is happening.

Similar overreaction to perceived "threats" also marred the Democrats convention. Mostly all this does is confirm our worst suspicions about what has happened to the "Land of the Free" in the last eight years. Try telling someone that "In God We Trust" is a useful guide to behaviour is a supposedly free and democratic society, when you are apparently not allowed to travel by bus to teach about permaculture near where an unpopular President may or may not be speaking.

A little bit of tax evasion seen as OK, study finds

There is of course a double standard at work here. People who run their own business think "small business pays too much tax, government wastes the money it collects anyway and small business people deserve compensation for working long hours." They see it as "their money" that they are entitled to keep. Of course the law does not support this belief.

But exactly the same people are absolutely certain that cheating welfare, or fare evasion on transit, must be severely punished. But that is about the same - or often much smaller amounts - of public funds. If you do not pay your taxes, the public till has less in it. If you get an overpayment from some public source, a tax refund that you are not really entitled to, or EI for a week when you picked up a few hours casual work, or something similar the loss to the public till is exactly the same. And the fact that someone on very low income, on welfare rates that are too low to survive on, when they have to chose between eating or getting a bus ride feels equally "entitled" is not an excuse that would get accepted either.

One of the silliest notions that has emerged in recent years on the far right edges of the political spectrum is "zero tolerance". This appears more south of the border of course, but is based on the notion that every broken window pane or graffittied bus stop sends a message about lawlessness. Canadians in general, and our legal system, seem to be able to survive a small amount of law "bending". We do not go apeshit over possession of small quantities of pot. We think we can tell the difference between a toker and a dealer. People speed all the time - but usually stay at around 110% of the posted speed. Indeed back in the days of photo radar they were told that was alright.

People do not so much "obey" the law as comply with it - mostly. That is not to say they think it is right. For instance, most airline passengers wonder how on earth you could hijack a plane with a pair of toenail clippers, but realise there is no point in arguing. But that does not mean that they do not try to get stuff through - meaning the practice of confiscation of personal property without any due process at all occurs every hour of every day. Most Canadians also will bring stuff back across the border and not tell the agent about it. There are plenty of malls just south of the 49th parallel which depend on people who make day trips - and I doubt if more than a handful actually pay any Canadian taxes at the border on their way back from their day trip.
Catherine Jolicoeur, spokeswoman for the CRA, said the study will help the agency inform and educate businesses about the "risks and consequences" of participating in the underground economy and to refine its strategies for addressing the problem.
Yes it's all about "messaging" and "optics". Ethics, morals or legality are of no concern at all.