Monthly Archives: July 2015

Election Fever! Liberal Collapse Edition

Canadian Election

Supermoon Rising – Liberals Setting – Election Coming

In my little resort town the yahoos are drinking hard and yelling now that it is too dark to run the jet skis – but with a full moon rising that may not last.

The idea that we are only a day or two away from the thrills and chills of a long writ and a Fall election has yet to make the rounds at Timmy’s and, even after it is called, it will be a week or two before this solidly NDP neck of the woods pays much attention.

The economy is crappy. But the boys are still hauling logs down the road in front of my place. The old guys I drink with once in a while, NDP to a man, will, occasionally rise to a joke about Justin. But they just hate Harper. Incoherently, viscerally, they hate him. They have hated him for the decade he’s been in power and they are not going to change now.

Mulcair is not Harper and that is really all that matters.

On the grander scale, outside the “yokels with pitchforks” demo there are plenty of Harper haters. The question for the NDP is, “Are there enough?”

The coming election, whether called this Sunday or a few weeks from now, will be all about whether or not the NDP can attract enough Liberal Harper haters to win. The seeming collapse of Justin – well deserved but is it real – puts a segment of the Liberal vote into play. (The dimwits in the Maritimes will vote Liberal as a matter of limbic function.) In a hundred ridings across Canada Liberals will either stick with the sinking ship Trudeau or they will jump. If they jump the question is which way.

There are plenty of left Liberals but, to be fair, they are the dumbest and likely to be most loyal to Justin. Much as they hate Harper they love the idea that the Liberal Party really is the natural governing party of Canada.

Liberals of convenience – principally the New Canadians who see the Liberal Party as a way of paving their future – are a wild card. Politically they trend conservative, culturally they have no particular stake in the identity politics of the left simply because so many of them are doing so well. There is no particular reason to believe that Chinese Liberals or Sikh Liberals, when they realize that the good ship Trudeau is holed beneath the waterline, are going to jump to an anti-business, anti-growth party like the NDP. More to the point, there is no hard evidence that New Canadians loathe Harper with quite the passion that the media and political class do. In fact, years of Conservative outreach to the New Canadian world may actually pay off.

Business Liberals, the lawyers, dentists, doctors, bankers and such like who liked the Liberal party for the social cachet are unlikely to jump to the high tax alternative of the NDP. There are BMWer leases to pay and private school fees to cover. While they may never admit it, I suspect about a 4:1 Con split of the Business Liberal class.

Liberal youth, official women, green zealots, will not be coming over to the CPC. They hate Harper. But a fair number of them are dim enough to shoot right past the NDP and vote with their hearts for loony Green candidates. These people are dumb as planks and the very concept of voting strategically is well beyond their comprehension level.

A true implosion of the Liberal vote will obviously favour the NDP. But riding by riding it is not obvious that the NDP will take a lot of seats. If the New Canadian vote goes to its interest, the collapse of the Liberal Party could well enhance Tory chances in many ridings the Grits took in the last election.

People are now shooting off fireworks and bear guns…Election fever is a distant thought under the blue super moon shining across the lake. Sunday is still two drinking days away.

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Future Work

3d_printing-partsMy 14-year-old got a strange little cable from China the other day. It has a USB thingie at one end and a big honking industrial grade connector at the other. It came with a CD. To get it to work he had to partition his $15 ThinkPad’s hard drive, install Windows XP and then install the software. He can now do dealer level diagnostics on about sixty different sorts of older cars. It cost him $20 which he earned himself doing online reviews (big hint, diet pills don’t actually work.)

He got it running just after installing a new keyboard on my AIR – chocolate milk is not your friend as his younger brother has been learning. And before that he did a sketch-up version of a forty dollar plastic part for a BMW rear window awning which he sent off to an online 3D printing shop and which should be here for $15.00 for two, including shipping, in a couple of days.

One of the reasons why we homeschool is that I am pretty much convinced that the idea of a “job” economy where you punch assorted academic tickets and then take an entry-level position and work your way up is pretty much over. Yes, there will still be lots of STEM jobs where the ticket punching makes a lot of sense – you can’t design or build a serious integrated circuit without a good deal of electrical engineering training – but a lot of the other career paths manufacturing, banking, government, even teaching, are undergoing radical transformations. So are the low skill jobs like taxi driving and retail sales.

[I am going to ignore the AI elephant in the corner. Once that gets out of the lab a lot of bets are right off the table.]

The whole question of “what do you need to know to get a job” is a moving target. There is no question at all that the ladies at HR will be looking for “qualifications”. Captain Capitalism suggests that college has become a fourth layer of government in the US because you can’t get the good jobs without having passed through its sorting hat. I suspect he is right, he usually is. But it is the layer of government which is easiest to evade.

I went to college for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I learned many things. I had an excellent time and would recommend the experience highly. I also started university when a year’s tuition was $450 and when I went to law school it was something like $2800. (Yes, I really am that old.) But to put it in perspective, I paid for a third and fourth year myself as well as grad school and law school with part-time jobs. It was totally doable. Now, as my elder son is finding, it is close to impossible.

The credential itself is a lovely thing but, by the time you are in your early thirties, no one ever asks what you did as an undergraduate. They are interested in what you can do for them right now.

Richard Feynman got off to a great start taking apart broken radios in the 1930’s. Eventually, he understood enough that he could actually fix the radios. He learned about locks and security systems and, eventually, noticed that a brittle O-ring brought down the Challenger and proved it with an elegant little experiment.

I am a huge fan of university. I am also aware that the life expectancy of my children is, as I write, something on the order of 100 and probably closer to 150. Taking four years when you are 25 or 30 to study something you are interested in makes a lot of sense. But, if you have a capacity and a curiosity about how stuff works and how to fix it, it may make a lot more sense to run with that for a few years in your late teens and early twenties. If there is a credential required, a trade ticket is forever. Robots will serve you that Big Mac, they will not rejig the fuel injection on your BMW or get your cooler to be cold.

Building apps is a wonderful thing. It is nice, clean work. Hacking code is lovely and it is very lucrative. The Google guys who made Sketch-up and 3D printers have given kids like my son the ability to make “things” which would have taken a complete machine shop to build a decade ago. And that is changing the nature of work in ways which make the entire idea of credentials seem rather quaint.

A kid who goes into a trade program already knowing how to make custom parts without the machine shop is in a different world. We didn’t teach Sam how to draft or how to take measurements with a set of digital calipers. We told him it was possible and that there was a need for a particular part. He taught himself the rest.

The new jobs are going to be the old jobs with new technology. Fixing your cooler will be the same set of HVAC issues but being able to scan and replicate the broken part changes the entire ball game. More importantly, knowing that it can be done is the key bit of knowledge which will change how work is done in the future.

The credential is a “nice to have”, the knowledge is essential.

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Politics as if Economics Mattered

We are watching Greece being put into receivership for debts which, almost certainly, it will be unable to pay. We are watching the City of Chicago sink into a morass of unfunded pension liabilities and a school system which is effectively bankrupt. Ontario has had its credit rating downgraded with one economist noting “Ontario’s debt ratio “has risen by more than any other province” since the Great Recession.”

It is an endless refrain of crazed right wingers like myself that governments spending more than they take in is a bad idea. Oh sure, it can be a good idea for a year or two to keep the wolves from the door, but as soon as possible a government needs to put its budget in mild surplus.

We are about to enter the federal election season in Canada in earnest. At the moment we have a mild surplus in the last federal budget but that is almost certainly gone with the collapse in oil prices and thus tax revenue. And you don’t have to be much of a cynic to think that finding a billion dollar surplus six months before the election was pretty much a sure thing.

Now, the dangerous thing about elections is that the political class from all parties likes to run on a platform of “doing things”. Increasing the child tax benefit, going green, “child care, health care, job creation, renewable energy and investments in infrastructure” all cost money.

With a slowing economy, declining tax revenues, a tanking Canadian dollar, a rising trade deficit promising more spending looks more than a little nuts.

Promising to do more with less, to reduce non-essential federal programs, to reduce the overall percentage of GDP the federal government takes, reducing the size of government in real terms would all seem to make more sense in a shrinking economy.

But a really clever party would pay attention to the structural changes which are coming to the Canadian and the world economy. We have an aging population and we have a birth rate which is below replacement. We have housing prices which disrupt family formation. We have an immigration rate – from countries which have populations with little to offer Canada – which is hitting 300,000 new Canadians a year. We have an oil economy which makes very little sense at current oil prices. And, around the corner, we have everything from driverless trucks to robotic fast food. Add to this a legal, First Nations, environmentalist veto over critical resource infrastructure and projects and you have a nation which is fast running out of runway.

I have very little time for any of the three leaders or their parties; but I would be willing to vote for anyone of them which was willing to embrace policies which grew the real economy. A litmus test is looking at what Whynn is doing in Ontario and doing the exact opposite.

Canada has the capacity to use its abundant energy and other resources to create well paying jobs and thriving businesses. We have a stable society – for the moment – with sound banks and a legal/regulatory system which has avoided a good deal of the corruption which plagues our friend to the South. We should, by rights, be thriving. But we are not. A party or a leader who asks why we are not is on the right track.

A government committed to growing the Canadian economy will, in a short while, have the money to pursue its spending priorities. Before you slice the pie you have to bake it.

Wish there was one around.

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Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez v. Marines

A gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two military facilities Thursday in Tennessee, killing at least four Marines and wounding a soldier and a police officer, officials told CBS News.

The shooter also was killed. Two law enforcement sources told CBS News that the shooting suspect was identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. cbs news

Altogether now:

  • Lone Wolf
  • Nothing to do with Islam
  • Islam is a Religion of Peace
  • Root Causes!

Those poor people. There is a war being fought if anyone would actually notice it.

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Rate Cut, Dollar Drops…

Canada dollar, interest ratesBank of Canada dropped the bank rate a quarter point today. The dollar dropped about a penny against the USD.

The Bank cited a mild recession in the first half of the year for the cut.

The immediate effect of the cut has been to have the banks trim their mortgage rates slightly. Which will have a small effect on housing prices taking the price of a crack shack in Vancouver from 1.1million to 1.2 million. Now some people might think the crack shack at 1.1 million was fairly priced (others of us will tend to say things like…Are you insane?). But in the grand scheme of things putting a tiny bit more air in a bubble simply postpones the day when the bubble pops.

Out in the real economy it is very unlikely that a company thinking about a multi-billion dollar investment in an Oil Sands play will change its mind because money is a little cheaper. The price of oil is just a wee bit more significant. Nor will a 1/4-point cut change many investment or employment decisions in smaller scale businesses. And the corresponding drop in the value of the dollar, while it may make some Canadian manufactured goods more attractive to our American friends, will be offset the next time you go to buy lettuce.

So what is really going on?

At a guess, the BOC realized it was going to have to cut and decided to cut well outside the election period coming up. The next rate-setting window is in September and that is very close to the October election. But there is another issue at work as well: for a variety of reasons – mainly outside the control of the BOC – the Canadian economy is looking a bit flaccid. Obviously oil prices have hurt. But so has the massive overinvestment in houses and the building market. The crack shacks are one side of that, the towers full of 500 square foot condos are another. Keeping the housing bubble inflated may not make much economic sense but it is critical politically. When the bubble bursts, and it will, a vast number of Canadians will be deeply worse off on paper. They’ll still have their houses but those houses and condos will drop significantly in value. think 30%.

People living in a $600,000 house with a $550,000 mortgage will be deeply underwater. They will feel poorer. In fact, when they come to pay the monthly they will feel broke as Hell and, in a market where the supply of houses will vastly outstrip the demand, they will be profoundly illiquid. They will be stuck and they will be angry and they will be frightened.

For the last decade the Conservative government has followed a policy of deficit containment rather than elimination. Provincial governments have ignored containment and have sped ahead to staggering deficits. All of which means that the room for fiscal manoeuvre in the face of a housing sell off with its resulting loss of confidence is minimal. The Conservatives strategy was ill considered, many of the provinces – looking at you Ontario – were simply reckless.

Poloz, as Governor of the BOC, is rightly considered non-political. However, the politics of the coming debt crunch in Canada are non-partisan. They will favour no party because all of the parties will be stuck with the same mess. Worse, none of the parties, governments or the BOC will have many tools to fight the fire.

Today’s cut kicked the can a few months down the road. The federal election can take place without any of the participants having to face the looming crash. So they won’t and we’ll have an election which studiously ignores the fiscal and monetary catastrophe waiting in the wings.

I can hardly wait.

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A Campaign Suggestion for Mrs. Clinton

hillary clinton, iran treatyTo date Hilly’s campaign has been sub par. Not awful but hardly inspiring. She ducks questions, herds compliant media, promises to “fight” for ordinary Americans and over uses her insanely annoying pointy finger. An ancient backwoods Vermont socialist is in a position to beat her in a couple of primaries. At the moment she is no more than a “meh” in the electoral sweepstakes.

She’s waffled on today’s Iran Nuke treaty, supporting but wanting to talk about enforcement. Which is a sensible first response to a complex insturment. But what if, on careful reading, she were to come out and denounce the treaty and say she would be working hard for its defeat in Congress. Basically say, “As a former Secretary of State who launched the negotiations leading to this treaty, on reading it in detail, I have to say none of my goals have been met. Sadly my successor has bought a pup.”

That sort of pivot is doable for the next couple of news cycles.

Realistically, no one likes this POS. Obama loyalists have to pretend to but most are not convinced it is a good deal for America. What if Hilly stood up and said so?

Running against a lame duck President from her own party on national security grounds would be a gutsy move. It would define her campaign in a way that endless talk about banning Uber is never going to. It would define her as a Democrat who put America first. And it would give her real talking point for the next sixty days. If she has any passion it could be on display as she fights to have Congress reject the treaty and then over-ride Obama’s veto.

Would she believe in what she was doing? Actually, she probably would. But, more importantly, by taking a stand on a serious issue, against an Islamic state which has never been America’s friend, she would set herself apart from an increasingly unpopular Democratic President and, by hounding Congress, would show the fight she claims to have.

It would take guts. It is very unlikely to happen. But Hilly could climb out of the cesspool of Democratic “go along to get along” politics once and for all.

Which would give people a reason to actually vote for her, something she lacks at the moment.


The Iran Treaty Sideshow

iran nuclear treatyNo one in the West, with the exception of Obama, is hailing the Iran Nuclear Treaty as a piece of brilliant diplomacy or even as a bit of realpolitik; it is a crappy deal with limited inspections and a set of pious promises which, even now, hardline Iranians are indicating they will not keep. Of course it is possible that the US Congress will have the wit to defeat the treaty and Obama’s veto of that defeat but that will take an act of statesmanship which, I suspect, is well beyond the reach of the low information legislators America insists upon electing. A measure of just how bad this treaty is can be had by noting that Russia and China both fully support it.

There are many pixels being dispatched on what the treaty “means”. My view is that the treaty itself means nothing at all because Iran has no intention of any but the most cosmetic compliance with its provisions. What the treaty signifies is much clearer – the United States, under Obama, is prepared to be seen caving into a third, or maybe fourth rate, power at the cost of long standing aliances in the region. bin Laden’s remarks as to the “strong horse” seem prescient in the circumstances. Not that the US did this alone – it had assorted Euro drips along for the ride.

The treaty is, in fact, a sideshow. The main event is an American President saying to the world that America was no longer willing or able to stand up for its allies or even itself. This is the treaty’s real significance.

We saw the beginning of the collapse when Obama drew a red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons and then allowed that red line to fade out of existence. If anyone was paying attention, and the entire Middle East was, that failure of nerve signalled the collapse of any serious American involvement in the Middle East. From ISIS to Iran, from Syria to Saudi, America hauling down its battle colours told a shocking but apparently true tale of a President willing to countenance crimes against humanity for the sake of a quiet life.

There is a perfectly legitimate line of neo-isolationist argument that says that the US is well rid of the Middle East and its endless wars. But that was not the argument Obama was following; in fact it is not clear that there was any particular rationale at all for the American retreat. America’s allies could make of that what they would. They could also consider America’s ill-advised support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or its bizarre “pinpricks and lily pads” strategy for dealing with ISIS. But what the Middle East and the world could not ignore was that America has largely given up any coherent strategy in the region. Embracing the humiliations inflicted by the Iranians in the treaty negotiations was just another instance of America’s tacit surrender.

My own interest in the Middle East is almost entirely focused upon Israel. It is a country which I admire and support and I think, contrary to the current Israeli commentary, today’s treaty was a huge win for Israel. One way or another Iran was going to get a nuclear device in the next few years. And the Muslim mystics who run the place are on record as saying that Israel is their first target. The fact Obama sold the farm to get a crappy treaty which might delay the reality of a nuclear Iran for a few years gives the Israelis two huge benefits: first, they know exactly where they stand vis a vis the US. What little trust there had been is now gone. At the same time, the Americans, for domestic reasons but also because they need to try to contain Israel’s actions, are going to spend the next year or two bolstering Israel’s defences any way they can.

Israel has been screwed by this treaty. But it does nothing to change the fact Israel was going to have to deal with a nuclear Iraq sooner rather than later. Now, at least they know that they cannot count on the US when they confront Iran and that means they really have nothing to lose in the manner of that confrontation.

In the course of praising his abortion of a treaty the ever dim John Kerry announced that Iran has the nuclear material to make ten bombs right now. (He claims that the treaty will ensure the destruction of this material…right.) No sensible Israeli war planner will assume that the diplomatic dimwits have found all the material and will further assume that Iran either has or will very soon have at least a couple of bombs. So will any Saudi or Egyptian general. So will anyone interested in the region. So, the simple question to be answered is whether Iran is to be permitted a first strike.

Oddly, the idiot treaty does not change that calculus. Because there are no surprise inspections, because there was no disclosure of the Iranian secret progress to date, the only rational expectation is that Iran has the bomb. A good treaty might have managed to extinguish that expectation, but this treaty leaves Iran’s neighbours with exactly the same level of concern.

The Israelis have their calculation to make, the Saudis have another. While Israel holds a place in Iranian mythology as the little Satan, Saudi Arabia is a much more basic enemy. The Shia/Sunni war is a basic fact of the Middle East. The whole of Israel could be evacuated to Vancouver Island (Just the Jews please, the Israeli Arabs can stay to welcome the Palestinian “refugees”.) and the Shia/Sunni war would continue. If the Iranians had just one bomb and the choice was between Riyadh and Tel Aviv it is not obvious which would be picked. But, and this might tip the scales, if Iran hits Israel, Iran will have large sections which will be glassed in a matter of minutes. The Israelis have that capability. The Saudis do not. Yet. (United Saudi/Israeli opposition to deal...who would have seen that coming?)

If Iran has a bomb or is about to get one, the Saudis will absolutely want a bomb of their own. And they have the money to buy several from the North Koreans or the Pakistanis. Unlike the Israelis, the Saudis do not have a history of proportionate, nuanced response to aggression.

In general treaties are supposed to make the world a marginally safer place. The Iran Nuclear Treaty did the precise opposite. It made an already unsafe region less safe. And it revealed the intellectual bankruptcy of the Obama regime.

UPDATE: The great Mark Steyn says:

But that’s not what the talks were about. Obama’s vision of the post-American Middle East sees Iran as the dominant power, and that’s what the negotiations were there to finesse. As I said to Sean, Obama’s belief that American power and influence has been bad for the world extends beyond America itself to America’s allies. So on missile defense he takes the side of Russia over US allies like Poland and the Czech Republic; in the Falklands he takes the side of Argentina over the United Kingdom; and now in the Middle East he takes the side of Iran over the Sunni Arab monarchies and Israel.

This agreement will have bloody and brutal consequences.

Mark Steyn

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Campaign Strategy

American PoliticsI have nothing to add to this.

If the Republican Party wants to win something more than a seat at the pork table, its candidates will have to fight. They will get hurt. They will get beaten. But if they fight hard and well enough, the momentum will shift. Playing defense will never shift the momentum. At best it will extract the occasional meaningless victory that will end up disgusting even its own supporters.

The basic formula isn’t hard. Take an issue. Punch the left in the face over it. Don’t go on the defensive when the media whips up outrage. Don’t justify, apologize and explain. Instead punch harder. David Greenfield Front Page

Well, other than read the whole thing.

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The total sum the U.N. says is needed each year is $267 billion. “Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I personally think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger,” Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

Though much progress has been made in recent years, nearly 800 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Most live outside cities. reuters

Climate change idiots claim that we are now spending 1 billion dollars a day to “fight climate change”. (cite)

Given that there has been no global warming for 18+ years and that CO2 emissions continue to rise, maybe we should think about feeding real, hungry, people rather than pissing away billions on windmills and bio-fuels.

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Tom Mulcair

NDP leader Tom Mulcair 

Apparently the Lying Jackal is stuck in an airport and he writes,

Bottom line, as noted above: most of the job in politics, now, is simply getting people to pay attention. My hunch is that the hue and cry about that CPC/ISIS/JT ad has helped to achieve the mission’s key objective: i.e., to get the electorate to pay attention in the sleepy Summer months and agree, yet again, that Justin Trudeau “just isn’t ready” to deal with the Satanic horrors that seemingly occur daily in this world.

That may make you mad. That may leave you outraged. But it’s unlikely you were ever part of the audience the CPC had in mind when they did the thing up on some staffer’s computer, for about ten bucks.‎

Oh, and why was I stuck in the WestJet waiting area, for hour after hour?

Because the airline had been targeted by a bunch of bomb threats in recent days, that’s why. ‎People getting hurt jumping out of planes, planes getting grounded so the cops can search for bombs.

Hope and fear: they work.

Fear works particularly well when, you know, it corresponds with reality. lying jackal

He is referring to the now notorious CPC ISIS ad. Which will, having done its job, be forgotten by October. But there is a larger picture emerging which the CPC will be mining for the next few months. It is about headlines.

Greece Collapses/China’s Markets in Freefall/Vancouver Housing Prices in Orbit/Ontario Bond Rating one grade above Junk/Fire Engulfs West/Drought!/ISIS battles Egypt/Refugees Flood Italy/Iran Outwits Obama/Putin outwits Obama/Mexicans outwit Obama/Missing IRS emails found on Hilary’s Private Server (OK, I made that one up)….

Write your own. If they are not true they soon may be.

At the moment the world is a rather hostile and confusing place. Central banks and governments are out of bullets when it comes to the next financial crisis. Canadian housing prices – in Vancouver and Toronto – have hit heights where even the people who own the houses are beginning to wonder if this is all a bubble. There are real terrorists in the world and they certainly have the capacity to land on European and likely North American soil.

Much as Canadians may loathe Harper, and many do, the question of security, broadly defined, is a huge factor in the next election. Taking a flyer on Justin is emerging as a non-starter. Mulcair? Perhaps if the economy was booming or the terrorists back in their caves he’d be a grand alternative to Steve the Dull. But right now?

The oil patch is trying to adjust to $50-60 oil prices. We’re running a significant trade deficit. The Canadian dollar is weak. We’ve had a couple of lone-wolf, ISIS inspired, if not directed, terrorist attacks. Is this the time you want to trade the bland, but largely competent, Harper for the untested Mulcair and his band of one term MPs?

The CPC does not have to sell Harper. We know exactly what we are getting. But the NDP has to sell Mulcair and, as they do, they open up his flanks to the doubt ads the CPC will run. We know Justin isn’t ready. Is Mulcair? Plant that question in the minds of a nervous population and Harper wins in a romp. Not because people like him, not because people embrace the CPC’s limited vision for Canada, rather because in conditions of uncertainty “change” is terrifying.


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