Showing posts from February, 2009

Walkom: Obama's very own quagmire

This is from the Star.

This article sums up the Obama policy in Afghanistan so far quite nicely and accurately. Possibly his policy may change after his review but so far Obama is following in Bush's footsteps but with more troops engaged. Once the coffins start flying back to the US in greater numbers the American citizenry may oppose this campaign as do many in Europe and Canada.

I will be away in the Philippines for a month so my posts might not be very frequent.

Obama's very own quagmire - Opinion - Obama's very own quagmire
February 25, 2009 Thomas Walkom
Will Barack Obama provide a way out of Afghanistan? Perhaps. But I'm not optimistic. The new U.S. president talks about the importance of diplomacy and development. However, his actions so far have focused on extending the war.
Obama is continuing the policy, started by his predecessor George W. Bush, of bombing suspected Taliban hideouts in Pakistan. As well, the U.S. has sent about 70 military "a…

Obama mainly continuing Bush foreign policy

Certainly on domestic issues Obama has taken some new inititiatives although on such matters as bailout funding even the Bush administration initiated considerable spending. While Obama's spending is much larger he still refuses to nationalise failing banks a step that even Greenspan the Ayn Rand devotee suggested might be the best policy. However, on foreign policy Obama is for the most part toeing a Bush line or being even more aggressive.

True, Obama is to close Guatanamo and he has also outlawed some of the severe---aka torture--methods used by Bush. However at the same time he will allow rendition. In effect, Obama is outsourcing torture. He has also defended the use of the state secrets defence to avoid giving information to those suing the government. On warrantless eavesdropping he has flip flopped and now takes the same tack as Bush did.

On Iraq withdrawal, he is now going to leave 50,000 troops in place after withdrawal including some who may have a combat role.…

Govt: Cost of Afghan mission could reach 11.3 billion

This estimate is actually below another estimate that was over 18 billion or 1500 dollars per Canadian household. This present estimate does not include long term medical expenses. The long term health care costs are not included in this estimate because they are difficult to account for. This is an interesting excuse. Obviously if you want to have a lower estimate leave out whatever is difficult to account for!
Added to the monetary costs are the lives lost as well as the loss of quality of life for the wounded. However on the plus side one has a great stimulus package for the military-industrial complex.

Cost of Afghanistan mission could reach $11.3B, government says
Last Updated: Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:15 PM ET CBC News
The Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan could cost taxpayers around $11.3 billion by the time it ends in 2011, according to a new government estimate.
But the report, posted on the government website Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan, suggests that the …

Third Child Dies After Afghan Explosion

One would think that range practices would take place only in specific areas that are well marked and off limits to locals but maybe that would be difficult. In any event the area was obviously close to a village and not properly cleared before being abandoned.
Events such as these just make the occupiers even less welcome. However, as far as I am concerned we should never have been there from the very first. We are simply helping to promote the aims of US imperialism.

3rd child dies after Afghan explosion
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 10:18 AM ET CBC News
A third child has died from wounds sustained an explosion in an Afghan village that residents alleged was caused by a shell left by Canadian troops.
The Canadian military announced Monday it was launching an investigation into the incident in the village of Salehan, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.
A Panjwaii district elder claims the children were killed and two others were wounded when they came across an u…

Canadian Climate-change action to move at snail's pace.

This is from the Chronicle Herald.

It is clear that Canada is going to drag along behind the U.S. The carbon capture technology still may not be actually employed significantly for years yet and it is quite expensive. Harper so far has done little even with respect to programs he announced some time ago. Harper is quite happy with moving at a snail's pace but moving fast when it comes to rhetoric on environmental issues.

Climate-change action to move at snail’s pace A lot of Canada’s strategy depends on what U.S. does
The Canadian PressSat. Feb 21 - 5:44 AM
OTTAWA — Curious about those heady plans for Canada and the U.S. to trap nasty greenhouse gas emissions underground? Don’t hold your carbon dioxide.
Ditto for new fuel emissions standards on gasoline, Canadian greenhouse gas reduction targets and a common position on the next phase of the Kyoto Accord on climate change.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new dialogue on …

Canadian Churches take up cause of five Guantanamo detainees

Groups in the US have also offered to help the Uighurs adjust if they were sent to the US. Originally a US court ordered them released to the US but this was overturned by an appeals court. Sweden has accepted one detainee.

Given that the detainees were originally detained by US authorities in Guantanamo and declared way back in 2004 that they were not enemy combatants it would seem that the first US court decision was only fair given that the detainees might not face fair treatment in China.

There is no sign that Harper is making any moves on these detainees or even on Omar Khadr who is a Canadian citizen.

Canadian churches take up cause of five Guantánamo detainees
The churches have applied to help the men – who cannot be safely returned home – resettle as refugees in Canada.
By Jane Lampman Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 23, 2009 edition
Anwar Hassan, in limbo after seven years of imprisonment at Guantánamo, has a glimmer of hope. A group of churches in …

NDP's Martin wants details about what crown agencies are to be sold.

This is from the Winnipeg Free Press.

As Martin says this is the absolute worst time to sell anything. The whole review is about trying to implement standard conservative ideology which tries to open anything and everything to private investment through privatisation whether it makes sense or not. The excuse in this case is the budget deficit but even if selling some of these assets did make sense, selling them in present circumstances is a bit of idiocy from the standpoint of the public interest. Only from the viewpoint of the buyers who probably would be Conservative supporters does the sale make any sense.

Martin wants details about what's on chopping block
By: Mia Rabson
OTTAWA - Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin is demanding the finance minister outline exactly what crown corporations are on his chopping block and why.
Martin said the “fire sale” of government assets is unacceptable and said Jim Flaherty owes Canadians an explanation of exactly what he is planning to do.
“We’ve seen n…

Report: Health Bang for Buck Unclear

The bang for the buck that the public happens to get for spending in the health care section is collateral good that may or may not accompany the bang for the buck private companies obtain from the expenditures. The greater the expenditure the greater the profit other things being equal. In some areas margins may be lean because of competition but in such areas as prescription drugs manufacturers are protected from competition by patents over long periods of time.

February 24, 2009
Health bang-for-buck unclear, report charges
OTTAWA -- Health-care spending has more than doubled in the last decade, but no one has any idea whether we're getting good value for all that cash, says the Health Council of Canada.
"We can account for how money is spent, but not, in any precise way, for what it achieves," the council says in a blunt report that asks whether citizens are getting the full return from their costly health system.
"Canadians don…

Canadian December Retail Sales drop 5.4 percent

This is from the CP.

It seems that Canada is less immune from the global recession than was first thought. Only last fall Flaherty was telling us how well off Canada was. At least he has dropped all that and adopte a more realistic stance. However his stimulus package is relatively small and it is not clear how much it will achieve.

December retail sales suffer biggest monthly drop in over 15 years
1 hour ago
OTTAWA — Widespread declines in all sectors pushed retail sales down 5.4 per cent in December to $33 billion - the largest monthly decline in over 15 years.
Statistics Canada says three-quarters of the December retail decline was rooted in the automotive sector, without which retail sales fell 1.8 per cent. In volume terms, the agency says retail sales fell 4.1 per cent, mostly reflecting a large reduction in unit sales of motor vehicles at new-car dealers.
The automotive sector posted, by far, the largest monthly decline in December, with sales falling 12.7 per cent, mostly on a 15.…
This is from the Canadian Press.

This is rather puzzling. I suppose the eight hours is the average aimed at for both those with complex and non-complex conditions. As the article points out they want an average of four hours for less complex conditions.
One would think that a more relevant statistic would be wait times rather than time spent in emergency. It is the wait time that is crucial.
In my area in the boondocks whenever I have gone I have never waited more than ten minutes! Even when I used to live in a city in Brandon, I never waited more than twenty minutes or half an hour.

Ontario to set eight-hour target for time spent in emergency rooms
3 days ago
TORONTO — Health Minister David Caplan is setting a target today to have patients spend no more than eight hours in the province's emergency rooms.
The provincial government will also be releasing ER wait times from hospitals across the province. According to government figures, nine out of 10 patients with complex condit…

Nurse practitioners to head 3 new Ontario clinics

This seems a progressive move given the shortage of doctors. Also, many of these duties can be performed as well if not better by nurses with the proper extra training that nurse practitioners have. No doubt these duties are also less expensive when carried out by nurse practitioners and can free up doctors' time for other duties.

Nurse practitioners to head 3 new Ontario clinics
Last Updated: Friday, February 20, 2009 4:08 PM ET
CBC News
Nurse practitioners in Ontario can treat common illnesses and injuries, and order diagnostic tests. (CBC)
The Ontario government is going ahead with three new clinics headed by nurse-practitioners, the first of 25 set to open by 2012.
The clinics will focus on primary care, including chronic disease management and health promotion, the Ministry of Health said Friday.
They are intended to fill gaps in primary care, especially the shortage of family doctors.
"Today’s announcement is the answer thousands of people have been waiting for," Wendy Fu…

Ontario gets set to see red.

Ontario now joins Alberta and BC in having deficit budgets but that is hardly surprising given that manufacturing has been hard hit in Ontario. Of course the Conservatives would like to use hard times to cut spending and wages where possible. The opposition is united in their view that delay in releasing the budget also delays stimulus programs.

This is from the Toronto Sun.

Ontario gets set to see red
After weeks of delay, province announces March 26 budget
The deficit-heavy provincial budget will be released March 26, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said yesterday.
It will be Duncan's third budget and the first after five years of straight surpluses to record a shortfall.
The extent of the deficit is not yet known but it is widely expected to be at minimum $5 billion and perhaps as high as $10 billion.
"There will be a significant deficit," Premier Dalton McGuinty said recently.
Duncan said last fall the province would record at least…

Sudbury Star: Layton's Ideas worth debating.

This is from the Sudbury Star.

Layton doesn't get that much publicity compared to Harper or Ignatieff and not often relatively favorable mention as in this article. The article is critical of Layton for not costing out his suggestions but that criciticism is certainly fair enough!

Layton's ideas worth debating -
Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton was at his provocative best during a town-hall style meeting with Xstrata workers and other union members in Sudbury on Tuesday night, but there is some merit to his methods, even if the firebrand tactics are eye-rolling.
Parliament isn't sitting at the moment, so Layton has organized a travelling road show (he went to Sarnia on Wednesday) to take his message across the country campaign style.
He is pressing the federal government to lift the two-week waiting time for laid-off workers to collect employment insurance, he wants Ottawa to force Xstrata to honour its pledge not to lay off operations personnel until at least July, and he want…

Obama will listen to us on Afghanistan: Ignatieff

In another interview Ignatieff mentioned that he would ask for the repatriation of Khadr but most articles do not mention this any more. Both Harper and Ignatieff seem to envision a non-combat role in Afghanistan even after 2011 dumping more money into the Afghan sewer. Also, even non-combat roles can involve casualties and a role can involve self defence and conflict even if it is not directly a combat role.

Obama 'will listen to us' on Afghanistan: IgnatieffLast Updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 2:39 PM ET Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he will press U.S. President Barack Obama during their meeting on Thursday in Ottawa for a clear, consistent strategy for Afghanistan, while also urging the U.S. leader to take more action against protectionist trade measures and ensure a free-flowing border.Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, shown, is scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama for 20 minutes on Thursday at Ottawa International Airport. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian P…

Major Canadian Government Assets could be sold.

This is the same crap that was in the original economic update that got Harper in so much trouble that he had to prorogue parliament to stay in power over the holidays. Now he is at it again but there is hardly a peep from the opposition. The opposition did ask for a list of the assets that might be sold. Now this article makes clear what some of them are. Where is the outcry?
The government is supposed to fund a multi-billion dollar bailout but owning something that might make some money to fund social programs that is heretical.
Even if it did make sense to sell some government assets now is the worst time because they will be bought only at fire sale prices. This government is not even interested in making a good deal. All it wants is to sell out the people's property to corporations friendly to the Harper govt.

Major Canadian government assets could be sold

By Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 17, 2009

The Harper government is pressing ahead with a review that may…

David McNally on the Financial Crisis

There is a long paper on the financial crisis by David McNally of York U. at this site.

McNally writes in a rather roundabout and complex style but the article is quite interesting and it is worthwhile reading.

Mexico shows effects of recession

The pattern in Mexico seems to follow that in Canada with the Mexican economy showing growth in 2010 with a decline this year. It would seem this years forecast will probably be revised downward.

UPDATE 1-Mexican economy shrinks faster; peso too weak -MEXICO CITY, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Mexico's economy is slowing faster than expected and will probably shrink by more than 0.3 percent this year as the U.S. recession slams Mexican exports, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.
'Recently released data on developments in late 2008 suggest the Mexican economy is slowing faster than we anticipated,' Vikram Haksar, the IMF's mission chief to Mexico, said in a statement.
The IMF forecast in January that Mexico's economy would contract 0.3 percent this year but Haksar said the IMF would likely provide a new forecast soon.
He said in a conference call from Washington the estimated contraction would be roughly 1 percentage point more than the IMF's current view if it fa…

Philippines economy to slow sharply this year

This is from forbes.

While the slump is from 4.4 growth last year to 2.9 this year, compared to Canada or the US or most countries in western Europe this is not a bad performance during this global recession.
Inflation also is declining but still rather high. There is no mention of wage rates.

Thomson Financial News
UPDATE 1-Philippines economy to slow sharply this year -
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Growth in the Philippines is set to slow sharply this year as the economy faces 'strong head winds' from falling global demand and a drop in remittances from Filipinos working abroad, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.
In its annual review of the Philippines economy, the IMF forecast that gross domestic product growth will ease to 2.9 percent this year, down from a projected 4.4. percent in 2008.
The IMF said inflation targeting has helped anchor inflation expectations in the Philippines and urged the authorities to cut interest rates if inflation expectations contin…

British Columbia budget

This is from the Globe and Mail.

Interesting that while many argue for tax cuts to put money in the hands of individuals who will then spend it and stimulate the economy when it comes to wages they are to be cut even though this obviously removes money from individuals and makes them less likely to spend!
This budget is an anti-union budget. Social spending even on crime prevention is being cut, the latter by a government that is supposedly tacking gang crime as a priority. No doubt the NDP in BC will suddenly be the party that wants to be tough on crime.
At least the BC government has the sense to override its balanced budget provisions. California on the other hand is stuck with a disaster as it has to balance its budget.

In B.C., lean budget sets stage for election battle
Forecasts $740-million deficit over two years; spending cuts include clawback of wage boosts for civil servants
February 18, 2009
VICTORIA -- B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hanse…

Reactor shutdown affects hospital isotope supply.

This is from the Globe and Mail.

You would think that the company that supplies the isotopes MDS Nordion would be arranging for supplies from elsewhere given the age and recent history of the Chalk River source. The reactor should have been put out to pasture some time ago and has had a series of shutdowns.

Reactor shutdown affects hospital isotope supply
February 18, 2009
Another shutdown at the aging nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont., will leave hospitals with a diminished supply of medical isotopes this week.
The reactor was shut down Sunday to repair a mechanism that extracts the medical isotope rods from the reactor, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited said yesterday. Isotope production continued at a slower pace during the repairs.
Yesterday, the reactor was brought back online, but AECL warned that production of isotopes will be slowed until Saturday.

Obama on side with Canada's Afghan policy

Huh? Canada's policy is not to send more troops but to end the combat mission entirely in 2011 as far as our troops are concerned. Is that what Obama wants? I think he would be much happier if we also sent more troops in line with the US sending more!
It is true that both Harper and Obama agree that a solution involves more than military action. Harper probably would send more troops if he thought he could get away with it politically so maybe he the article is right. Both Harper, Obama, and Bush were on the same wavelength with respect to Afghanistan.

Tuesday » February 17 » 2009

Obama on side with Canada's Afghanistan policy

Mike Blanchfield
Canwest News Service
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama suggested Tuesday he will not pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal.
In an interview at the White House with CBC television, in advance of his visit to Ottawa on Thursday, Obama sa…

Ignatieff woos western Canada

This is from the Star.

Perhaps the former Green Shift of Dion is going to be replaced by policies similar to those of Harper friendly to the oil patch. Having abandoned the Green Shift the Liberal party has adopted the Harper Shaft as its new environmental policy as a means of attracting the power brokers in the West.
Ignatieff doesn't even mention agricultural policy or at least it was not significant enough for the article to report on it.

Igantieff woos western Canada - Canada -
Igantieff woos western Canada
February 15, 2009 THE CANADIAN PRESS
REGINA – Venturing deep into Conservative territory, Liberal Leader Michael Igantieff visited Saskatchewan and acknowledged that his party has blundered in its treatment of Western Canada.
"God knows this party has made mistakes out in the Western Canada and I know them," Ignatieff told about 300 people in Regina on Sunday.
"We have to be honest enough with our neighbours and citizens to say `We didn't alway…

Governor General gets a geography lesson

I suppose the Governor General should know these things but the Rockies get all the publicity and it seems when you are flying over from Vancouver to the east that there are just continuous successive ranges so perhaps they might all be the Rockies. Myself I know the Coast range and the Rockies and inbetween are just nameless mountains. Anyway it is nice to know that Senators are of some use and Nancy Greene has not had much publicity for a while. Also it is quite harmless to correct the royal representative these days. She is in no danger of going to the Tower.

Governor-General gets a geography lesson
From Friday's Globe and Mail
February 13, 2009 at 4:18 AM EST
When speaking to a group of children yesterday, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean got schooled herself - for mixing up her mountain ranges.
Ms. Jean was leading about 200 children in a light-hearted Olympics geography lesson at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, one year ahead of the opening of the Games.
"So where is Vanco…

Presidential limo coming with Obama to Ottawa

The media gets all excited by the big auto executives flying about in their corporate jets. Obama not only gets to fly around in a special jet but his limousine also gets flown about too so he can travel by it when he lands. No doubt the limousine is a hybrid that get great gas mileage with its huge weight and armour!
Given the humungous security costs it would seem more in tune with the times to have a friendly secure conference call but then where would all the hoopla and media bytes be and all the photo ops? The circuses must go on but where is the bread? I guess that is supposed to be the stimulus packages.

Presidential limo coming with Obama to Ottawa - Canada - Presidential limo coming with Obama to Ottawa
Security detail: Duty and the beast
February 15, 2009 Richard J. BrennanOTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA – When the president and the beast come to town Thursday, the scene will be right out of a Hollywood movie.
There will be a specially made limo – "the beast" – blac…

Harper government wants to hire economist as advisor.

Harper is an economist. Maybe he can advise himself and cut govt. spending. This should please his former bosses at the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation. On the other hand he could hire Nouriel Roubini "Dr Doom"'and get some realistic advice for a change.

Economist wanted, apply OttawaPosted in Political Bytes Posted on February 13, 2009 02:46
Companies across Canada are laying people off. But the department of finance is hiring!
Well, to be fair, it's looking for one person.

Alison Crawford
In a help-wanted ad, published in newspapers across Canada, the department says it's looking for an "experienced financial economist" to act as its Senior Chief of Economic Analysis and Forecasting.
Ideally, Finance says, it is looking for someone with a master's or PhD in economics and a minimum of five years experience in the field.
The lucky candidate's future duties will include providing strategic advice to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, representing Canada…

Alberta calls for Stricter Environmental Rules on Oil Sands

This is from Bloomberg.

The Alberta policy sounds quite good but as critics point out there is little in terms of specifics and has nothing that binds the developers. Perhaps Alberta wants to sound clean so that it can continue to market oil sands production to the US where Obama has said that the US will not purchase "dirty" oil. At any rate with the present price of crude the pace of increase in oil sands production is sure to decline over the short term.

Alberta Calls for Stricter Environmental Rules on Oil Sands

By Mark Chediak
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Alberta government called for stricter environmental rules as the province’s oil sands are developed.
The province’s 20-year plan recommends that companies use less water in the extraction of bitumen, the tar-like raw material processed to make crude. It also seeks faster restoration of mined land and controls on tailing ponds and greenhouse gases.
“When it comes to Alberta’s oil sands, we believe that Canada can be a leader i…

Critics say new federal legislation will damage waterways

This is from Canwest.

This is an example of the Great Leap Backward on environmentalism while talking progressively about following the Obama lead to better environmental policies. Layton was quite right in saying that the Harper government cannot be trusted. I wonder what Ignatieff will have to say about this? Is this a violation of Harper's probation. Ignatieff will hold his peace or make a few harmless noises.

Critics say new federal legislation will damage waterways

Tory amendment to existing act could mean various projects will be exempt from environmental assessments

By Juliet O'Neill, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 12, 2009

Canadians face a potential loss of waterways from the stroke of a politician's pen under measures the government "smuggled" into Parliament in the budget bill, critics said Wednesday.
The government's proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act removes an automatic trigger for federal environmental assessment for the build…

Acknowledging high risk of death, RCMP revamps rules for taser use.

This is from the Globe and Mail.

While this move seems an improvement in policy Elliot apparently isn't regarded by some in the RCMP as determining what happens. The chairman of the RCMP Safety Committee claims that in actual "real life situations" the situation is complicated and the supposed rule could be broken! Elliot is not himself from the cop culture so it seems that culture can contradict him and get away scot free. Will the chair of the RCMP be requested to resign for insubordination. Don't hold your breath.

Acknowledging high risk of death, RCMP revamps rules for taser use
February 13, 2009
OTTAWA -- With a report from The Canadian Press
Given the "high risk of death" in some cases, RCMP officers are now limited in their use of tasers to individuals who pose a clear threat to the public or police, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said yesterday.
Mr. Elliott used two public appearances to provide new details on the RCMP's taser poli…

Siddiqui: Missing out on Obama's Afghan Plan.

This is from the Star.
Actually Canada is not missing out. We are there and participating in the military and other aspects of the mission. Harper for his part has left room for a non-military involvement in Afghanistan after 2011.
The Afghans are right when they think that reforms in Afghanistan to conform with western value sounds like imperialism and colonialism. That is exactly what it is. As long as the govt. remains a western puppet client state even the progressive non-military help that Siddiqui speaks of will still be part of that project. Harper may very well divert more money to such purposes should Obama request it.

Missing out on Obama's Afghan plan - Opinion - Missing out on Obama's Afghan plan
February 12, 2009 Haroon Siddiqui
A fundamental shift is underway in American policy on Afghanistan. And Canada should be scrambling to be part of the process.
If we don't, Barack Obama will be handing us, and all the NATO members in the Afghan missi…

Cancer drugs cost soars

This article makes it clear that more expensive drug treatments are not being covered by public plans. As a result, only those who can afford supplementary private insurance will have access to the drugs. These drugs are being rationed on the basis of income not medical need. Even many who can afford extra insurance will find themselves unable to afford the co-payments involved and no doubt the private insurers will often put limits upon coverage.
No doubt patent protection makes it impossible for cheap generic equivalents to be marketed.

Cancer drugs cost soars

By Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver SunFebruary 10, 2009

With the cost of new cancer drugs spiralling out of control and cancer about to overtake heart disease as the country’s leading killer, Canadians who don’t have a private insurance plan that covers drugs should get one or risk financial ruin, says a B.C. cancer specialist and lead author of a new report.
“Anyone who doesn’t have a private insurance plan for drug coverage shoul…