Sunday, April 24, 2005

Three Trillion in Fake US Bonds

Now this is insane - two Brits were nabbed recently with 3 trillion dollars worth of bearer bonds in their possession.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday said it has arrested two British nationals with $3 trillion fake US federal bank notes in their possession, DZMM reported.

Just imagine the inflation that would have caused, had it made its way into the U.S. Economy.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Open Letter to the Bilderberg Steering Committee

I guess you can say that I've "joined" and am now a "known associate" of Rob Furs. My first post is an open letter to the Bilderberg Steering Committee, and you can read it here. Rob's makin' claims that I have to aspire to be a Paul Krugman-type of commentator. Krugman is cool.

Two points worth clarifying, though:

1). There are better economists out there like Rob Shiller, Michael Hudson and Henry C.K. Liu.

2). The Open Letter to the Bilderberg Steering Committee is tongue-in-cheek. You can write write Maja and she will write you back, as will Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper and even Mark Steyn. A little openness is all anyone wants from these people.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bracing for the next boondoggle: the national ID card

First it was the gun registry. Next, it's going to be the Kyoto carbon-trading and daycare. After that, it's going to be a National ID card. Ah, the Canadian governmental boondoggle - it's a pattern that just doesn't seem to want to go away.

Right now in the US, the Senate is attempting to bring in a form of National Identification under the pretext of anti-terrorism. It's called the REAL ID Act, and quite a few people are wondering if it will lead to similar initiatives here in Canada.

The main movers behind the bill are from the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, and they hope to make the USA a safer place to live and work. They seem to have forgotten Benjamin Franklin's dictum that "those who would trade liberty for a little economic security deserve neither".

Here's one guy's summary:


"Ostensibly, the law would create a national driver’s license (NDL) by imposing federal "standards" on the states, which traditionally have set and enforced their own criteria for licensing motorists as part of their "police powers." The "Real ID" bill would change all that by giving the Department of Homeland Security power to mandate a nationally computer-linkable federal license. The measure provides for minimal "consultation" with the states on regulations and no real privacy protections. Under the Real ID, state driver’s licenses and ID cards would become federal documents. By converting state licenses and ID cards, which just about everyone has, the government could make the change to national IDs seem less obtrusive and objectionable than making everyone apply for a new document."

Implementation of the REAL ID Act implies implementation of the proposed Driver's License Agreement. Check out what its jurisdiction is:

"Jurisdiction definition--The DLA defines "jurisdiction" to allow participation by a territory or province of Canada and by any state of the Republic of Mexico or the Federal District of Mexico. Under the current DLC, no foreign jurisdictions can participate. The NRVC defines jurisdiction to include provinces of Canada and other countries."

Canada too, eh? Back in 2003, we had a Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that asked the question of: A National ID Card for Canada?, and the committee's results were inconclusive - the jury is still out. If REAL ID passes, you can expect to see more of it here in Canada. But because the political climate is shifty right now, don't expect it too soon.

However, it might be good to examine who might want to have an ID Card for Canadians. CIPPIC states:

Another proponent of national ID card systems is the biometrics, document security and data management industry. A nationwide ID card, possibly mandatory for every citizen above a certain age, is a project worth billions of dollars to this industry. It would require manufacturing the cards, setting up and maintaining registry databases, as well as a secure network infrastructure and the distribution of thousands of card readers and possibly biometric scanners. Clearly, many industry players have a vested interest in the development and implementation of a national ID card in Canada.

Here's what the Task Force for the Future of North America had to say:

"The three countries should develop a secure North American Border Pass with biometric identifiers. This document would allow its bearers expedited passage through customs, immigration, and airport security throughout the region. Over the longer term, it should be possible to rethink fundamentally the systems for national control of intracontinental travel and trade. This will be particularly true if the three countries make genuine progress toward establishing a common security perimeter.

North America is different from Europe, of course, but it is instructive that the members of the European Union have managed largely to eliminate physical border controls. The governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States should commit themselves to the long-term goal of dramatically diminishing the need for the current intensity of the governments’ physical control of traffic, travel, and trade within North America."

That last line is pure Orwellian Newspeak.

For an excellent overview of the Canadian Biometrics industry, see the Strategis website, especially the summary:

"Increased activity in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional construction, and renovation projects coupled with events following the September 11, 2001 attacks continue to fuel the demand for commercial security equipment in Canada. Currently, the total market in Canada is valued at approximately USD$1.5 billion, with a growth potential of 22-25 percent predicted through 2005. U.S. firms already control almost 30 percent of the market. The commercial and government sectors are expected to remain the most important end users in the commercial security industry in Canada."

Back in 2003, the interim Privacy Commisioner stated that "[t]he costs associated with such a system would be enormous. Just creating it could cost between $3 billion and $5 billion, with substantial additional costs to actually operate it." The biometrics industry in Canada could double in size with one big federal contract, hence the impending boondoggle.

Over the next few years, look for the biometrics industry to lobby hard to get this contract. The debate is still open; it's just sitting there, waiting for someone to take it up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

From Pope-athon to Prophecy-thon

Cardinal Ratzinger, a former Hitler Youth, has assumed the name of Benedict XVI and the internet is abuzz with discussions about the Prophecies of St. Malachi.

St. Malachi was a visionary who foresaw only 111 Popes (some say 112).

St. Malachi wrote down names of the Popes and their "motto" or something that gave a general description of who the Pope was.

PJPII was de labor solis - or "of the sun's labor". People say that there was an eclipse on the day PJPII was born, and one on the day he was buried.

Why all the buzz about Pope Benedict? St. Malachi prophecied that the next pope's motto would be Gloria Olivae - or of the Glory of the Olive.

St. Benedict, however, prophecied that his order, the Benedictines, would triumphantly lead the Church in a fight against evil in the end of days.

The Motto of the Benedictines is pax, or "peace", the symbol of which is the olive branch. The olive branch is also a symbol for the Jews in the New and Old Testament.

Pope-watchers who are familiar with St. Malachi have traditionally taken this to be an indicator that the next Pope would have been from the Benedictine order, but instead it seems as though Cardinal Ratzinger has just assumed the name of Benedict XVI.

What can we expect?

I was surprised to find this old article from Catholic Planet, which stated:

b. Some say that this prediction of St. Malachy, “From the Glory of the Olive,” refers to the Order of St. Benedict, because they have a well-known group within their order called the 'Olivetans.' There is some merit to this idea. But it does not mean that this Pope will come from the Order of St. Benedict, but rather that he will take the name of Saint Benedict and will live in imitation of him.

c. The next Pope after John Paul II will take the name Pope Benedict XVI, in imitation of Saint Benedict and also of Pope Benedict XV. Just as Pope Benedict XV was an emissary of peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI be an emissary of peace. Just as Pope Benedict XV sought peace and spoke of peace and wrote papal documents seeking peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI do also. Just as Pope Benedict XV failed to achieve peace in the world, so will Pope Benedict XVI fail to achieve peace in the world. Just as the Pontificate of Benedict XV began prior to World War I, so will the Pontificate of Benedict XVI occur prior to World War III. After the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, World War III will begin. The Arab nations will threaten and attack the United States; they will threaten, attack, invade and conquer Europe; they will threaten, attack, invade and conquer the northern part of Africa. It is God's will.

Note to self: move to New Zealand.

Monday, April 18, 2005

US Economy at brink of meltdown - nobody cares

Last week, the Dow Jones Index fell by triple-digit amounts for three consecutive days and just last night, the Nikkei fell to a four-month low. This does not bode well, that's for certain. Economists like me are adherents to a dismal science and are always wary of the doom on the horizon. You know it's bad when the Times basically comes out and says that the Empire has no clothes:

"The key players in this game are the Asian nations, led by China, which have pegged their currencies to the dollar. These countries’ central banks have continued to acquire billions in US Treasury bonds as they act to prevent their own currencies rising against the greenback. The resulting strong Asian demand for Treasury bonds keeps US market interest rates low, even as America’s debts spiral upwards. So Americans can carry on borrowing and spending, while Asia can carry on selling them its goods at artificially competitive exchange rates.

What worries the IMF, Mr Volcker and many others is that, as this situation persists, and the resulting current account imbalances grow ever wider, something has to give. The US cannot live on borrowed funds for ever and payback time will arrive. And as the pile of foreign claims against American assets grows ever larger, Asian and other creditor countries may lose their willingness for ever more dollar holdings.

Economists acknowledge that the Asian-American quid pro quo could perhaps carry on indefinitely. But the nagging fear is that it could unravel abruptly, with grave repercussions. If markets were to decide that the situation were unsustainable, triggering a collapse in the dollar, Wall Street would be hit hard, and US Treasury bond prices would tumble, driving US market interest rates upwards. The result would almost certainly be an American recession, and perhaps an outbreak of protectionism."

In America, the Lifetime Income Hypothesis does not seem to hold. The LIH basically maintains that low taxes and high expenditures today implies budget cuts and high taxes in the future. The US is racking up some huge debt numbers and plenty of economists are getting edgy. But a lame duck president does not care about the future - it's best to milk the Beast for all she's worth, damn the torpedoes and let some future Presidential Candidate deal with it.

The Plunge Protection Team

One of the best analyses of the US situation was written by Robert Bell where he details the "Hidden Hand in Financial Markets" - the Plunge Protection Team, which basically maintains faith in the market through intervention. Check out the nuggets of insight in his conclusion:

"All who imagine that the mythical market forces will prevail seem to deliberately avoid actually looking at what the so called markets really are, including their concentrations, Plunge Protection mechanisms, and Plunge Protection’s extensive access to a variety of pools of other people’s money. The mechanisms and the market concentrations permit the Bush administration to systematically sell off U.S. assets to pay for its more wars/less taxes policies. The Bush administration is comparable to a group of corrupt trustees for the family fortune of a lazy and incompetent heir. They siphon the money out by selling off the inheritance while the heir is too stupid or drunk to notice. He still has his mansion, his fleet of big cars and his monthly check, and he doesn’t notice that the assets are shrinking. He may not for a while. This family’s fortune is big and there are a lot of assets still to sell off."

Something's on the horizon, and it ain't pretty.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Capital investment: the laptop bag

With all this serious talk about politics, economics and media, it's almost time for an equally serious debate over the best laptop bag for the buck. I've been shopping around for that laptop bag. You know the one. The cool one. Several candidates have emerged. I bought a somewhat crappy Targus Fusion messenger-style laptop bag. I figured that it would be good because it had a handle on the top, but man was I wrong. I paid 59.99 at Best Buy, and this was too much. It's getting returned ASAP. This is not the laptop bag you want becuse it has zero room for things like extra files, charger, cables and mouse. Oh it makes claims that this is the case, but in practice it is not so.

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Targus Fusion

Now, one of my economist buddies spent a hundred dollars on a laptop bag from Alienware. Don't get me wrong - it's a nice bag that has tons of padding inside and even some extra room. But once my buddy found out that it is really just a version of the same bag made by Mobile Edge, he was a bit choked, as he could have spent 60 dollars at Future Shop for essentially the same bag, minus the handle. Yes, the handle - the Mobile Edge Messenger bag without the handle. That's why I went for the Targus with the handle. I would have preferred the Mobile Edge over the Targus.

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Alienware Bag

Another one of my Economist buddies in Calgary is a huge fan of Timbuk2 messenger bags in general, and would certainly approve of a Timbuk2 laptop bag.

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Timbuk2 Commute

I heard that Redbike in Edmonton (Near the Sugarbowl) sells them - based on a back of the envelope calulation, I figure that they ought to run in the $130 + range. I haven't actually gone in to see what the prices are, but that's what I would expect to pay. Pretty pricey, but the computer geeks rate them quite well. One of those computer geeks maintains that while the Timbuk2 is cool, a guy's gotta look at Crumpler bags. In Canada, these are carried by Store OS, and start at $130 and range upwards of $249 - a good kick in the junk. If given a choice between a Crumpler and a Timbuk2, I'd pick a Timbuk2.

Now, if the economic axiom of transitivity holds, I ought to either prefer or be indifferent between a Timbuk2 (around $130) and a Mobile Edge ($60). Does the Timbuk2 really have twice the benefit of a Mobile Edge? I sort of doubt it. The Timbuk2 is a nice bag, and people who choose this over the Mobile Edge will likely be cyclists who really, really like the brand. I'd say that, based on the major shortcoming of the Mobile Edge messenger bag not having a proper handle, it still beats out a Timbuk2. However, I really like the idea of being able to carry a laptop without a shoulder strap, so the two bags aren't even that comparable. In order to get a Mobile Edge bag with a handle, a guy has to fork out at least $90. Even when the features are adjusted, the Mobile Edge still beats out a Timbuk2. But damn, those Timbuk2's are sweet.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Unification the real Canadian Bilderberg agenda

A couple of years ago, I brought up the importance of the Bilderberg meetings in shaping the Canadian political agenda. The 2003 attendance of Stephen Harper was a signal that the Global Crony-Class had placed its bets on Harper taking the leadership of the Conservative Party, and it proved to be a pretty good indicator of the outcome of the Conservative Leadership Race. They seem to be pretty good at picking the up-and-comers, as Bill Clinton was but a podunk Governor when he went to a Bilderberg meeting.

Unfortunately, I have been among a handful of Canadians, besides Edmonton's See Magazine and anonymous posters to Indymedia websites to comment on the Bilderberg meetings. David Frum and Mark Steyn, both noted Canadian “Journalists” have attended, but nether has commented on the inner workings of these meetings. Why is that? Conrad Black should invite National Post columnist Colby Cosh to this year's event, and he should be allowed to blog live from the venue, just to prove that the Bildies have nothing to hide.

The real Canadian Bilderberg agenda has nothing to do with health care, marriage or Charter Rights. The real hidden agenda is that Mssrs. Martin, Harper, Harris, Manning and Klein all agree on one thing: that Canada must integrate further with the USA, and this could be a bad thing. Several of these clowns have been the stars of a Canadian political drama that has been unfolding in recent weeks, and it's pretty clear that they are using social issues to distract us from economic ones.

Masters of the Universe

Readers may wish to bone up on their understanding of the informal consensus-generating mechanism that is called "Bilderberg". By far the best report on the Bilderberg meetings in recent memory is Pepe Escobar's article for the Asia Times where he detailed the rift in the 2003 meeting over the issue of Iraq. The main points of Escobar's article are:

* The Bilderberg meetings enable world leaders to form an informal consensus and create a forum away from the public eye where disagreements are allowed to air amongst the attendees.

* The Nazi-sympathizing Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands formed them in 1954 to "increase understanding between Europe and North America".

* The Bilderberg meetings are usually held just prior to the G-8 meetings to give a preview of the issues for G-8.

*In 2003, an "influential Jewish Banker" (Soros? Rothschild?) warned that the West was on the brink of financial meltdown.

* Part-time employees at the 2003 meeting were sent home, the ones left were ordered not to speak of what they saw or heard, nor could they speak unless spoken to by a Bilderberg attendee, and finally, they were told not to look attendees in the eye.

In other words, this is a meeting for global movers and shakers - most of whom are beholden to the ideology of destroying nationalism through economic ties. It is based on the idea of economic determinism - that economic ties are stronger than political ties, and if you want to break down nations, you work on their economic linkages.

Party Time

Each year, Sir Conrad Black and his partner-in-crime Henry Kissinger get to invite all their buddies to the big Bildie-bash, as they sit on what is called the “Steering Committee”, which shapes the themes of these annual meetings. Just like any boys club, you want to invite people with similar interests and goals - such as something called the “neoliberal agenda”, as the commies call it.

Any shortlist of Canadian Bilderberg Alumni ought to include: Paul Martin Jr., Jean Chretien, Mike Harris, Lloyd Axworthy, (all 1996, Toronto), Stephen Harper, (2003, Versailles), Frank McKenna, (2001, Gothenburg), Ralph Klein, (1995, Zurich), and Preston Manning,(1998, Turnberry, Scotland).

On one hand, I highly doubt that Conrad and Kiss secretly brainwash every Canadian attendee into some sort of privatization Manchurian Candidate, but on the other, I equally doubt that the meetings are inconsequential to the general theme of Canadian politics. These politicians are wedded to a common ideology of political economy - be it “neoliberal” or otherwise - and seem to be invited on this basis. But the overarching ideology - at least as it pertains to Canada - is that of continental integration or unification.

Unification - the Real Agenda

The main ideology of the Bilderberg meetings is that of unification. It seems logical that any attendee would hold continental unification as a virtue, given recent developments in Canadian politics. Last month, Paul Martin met with George Bush and Vincente Foxe to work towards an integrated customs union between AmeriCanexico to foster trade, which, it seems, has failed.

I would encourage you to read this link. Now, if Martin really did fail this meeting by bringing up bilateral trade issues at a trilateral meeting, isn't it odd timing that he returns to a veritable sh*tstorm of political sh*thawk-testimony upon his return to Canada? Come to think of it, the Gomery mess didn't really fire up until after this meeting. It's not a conspiracy, but man, the timing is great.

Thankfully for Martin, fellow Bilderberg boys Harris and Manning have decided to pick up the unification slack and have come up with a plan to integrate Canada more completely with the USA. The Fraser Institute report entitled: A Canada Strong and Free, calls for less government involvement in health care and overall public spending - things any conservative would agree to - but the media is ignoring one omission: it also calls for increased integration with the US and its ever-increasing debt-bomb, which is worrying many economists around the world. You can read the report HERE.

As if in chime, the Canadian media has focused on the strawman of "healthcare reform" HERE, HERE and HERE. This is a fake issue that will serve to keep Canadians distracted from the real agenda of both parties, and will omit any public debate over whether or not it is in Canada's best interest to implement the policies outlined in the Council on Foreign Relations agenda called "The Task Force on the Future of North America. Or T of effin' A, as I prefer to call it. You be the judge and decide whether or not that is the future you want for Canada. In my estimation, it's not that rosy.

I've noticed a methodology of smoke-and-mirrors politics here. Just like Adscam tends to distract attention away from bigger scandals such as the UN Oil-For-Food program, the Harris/Manning report has created some "election fodder" for the Liberals and Conservatives. Of course, not that the NDP are any better, because they'll bite the hook, line & sinker. Already the lefties are getting distracted by it.

An Illusion of Choice

Here is how it works, folks. Manning and Harris (inadvertently or not) dropped a "Medicare Bomb" in Harper's lap, which allows Martin to go on the offensive through fear-mongering and going on about the Conservative's "hidden agenda". Uncle Ralph chimes in whith his two cents, reassuring Canadians that he won't scrap the Health Act. It's all a dog-and-pony show, becuase these guys can all agree on one thing: that inegration is good - but is it?

In case you didn't read the first part of this article, did you know that the characters in this two-bit drama are all Bildie-buddies? Does that even matter? I think that it does, because the "Healthcare Bomb" dropped by Harris and Manning has drawn attention away from where these guys are in agreement. These boys really want greater economic unification with the US and hope that we will be distracted enough with medicare to ignore it.

From the Report's Executive Summary:

"Trade and Security Through a Canada-US Customs Union: After examining the decline in Canada’s international influence and relationship with the United States, Harris and Manning propose advancing Canada’s interests in continental trade and security via a new Customs Union with the US. They propose the creation of a common tariff and quota system, elimination of rules of origin, mutual administration of common tariffs and trade regulations, and mutual acceptance of responsibilities for border security."

So here we have Manning and Harris dropping some useful election fodder to make it appear that the Conservatives are ganging up to gang-rape medicare, and Martin, eternal defender of Canadian values, can essentially hold medicare hostage for an increasingly older population who are risk averse and would prefer things to stay the same. What a conflict. What high political drama! Isn't it weird that Uncle Ralph gets to chime in as the voice of reason in the midst of this rhetoric war?

Agenda Hidden by Both Parties

I can guarantee you that the real hidden agenda is not the Conservative's position on medicare, marriage or any other social issue - all these are political strawmen to give the illusion of choice. The choice seems to be between a corrupt incumbent government offering social liberties and a challenging (hopefully less corrupted)government that offers economic liberties. Either way, we're gonna get a party in power that integrates Canada with the US and makes us more dependent on this market.

But is that what we want? By the looks of things, it might not matter.


BBC News, "Bilderberg: The ultimate conspiracy theory", 3 June 2004.

BBC Radio 4, "Club Class", 3 Jul 2003, 20:00 GMT.

Guest blogger: Gullible Nation

I recently asked a few friends to submit guest blogger entries, and the first one came from Darryl "Pops" Braaten.

Gullible Nation

Darryl Braaten

With Canadians soon to go to the polls again to elect a government, here is what I predict to be the outcome, based on good old fashioned lemming predictions.

First of all the Liberals in the campaign will bring out the scary trump card bemoaning that the Conservatives will:

• Destroy health care.

• Disallow gay unions or shall we say ‘special privileges’.

• Put Canadian soldiers on the ground in Iraq (we already have a Canadian destroyer on the way to the Mid East and soldiers in Afghanistan).

• Bring Canada closer in all ways to the USA. Martin already did that this spring with his signing of the accord with Mexico and USA. Many Canadian companies are already supplying technology and materials to America’s War in Space program.

• Squash the rights of minorities.

• Close off immigration.

• Cheat the Natives.

• Make the East Coast a work for welfare state. (Gee, I thought that was already happening)

• Scaremonger the city mayors they will lose their infrastructure funding if the Conservatives win.

• Destroy the environment. Seems like the Liberals who have been in power for years are doing a good job of it.

• Just about every fear that good old fashioned ignorant Canadians who can’t see the forest for the trees will fall for.

What Else?

They’ll tell our poor cousins in Eastern Canada if you don’t vote Liberal, the Conservatives will give you a shovel and set you to work. And you folks will buy it.

They’ll threaten Quebec with cutting them off the Federal teat of the money flow. And Quebec will give them enough seats.

They’ll threaten what is left of the Canadian Manufacturing base in Ontario that workers will lose jobs en masse to offshore competition. (Although that is happening more and more and will so under Martin’s sell off to America and Mexico). Ontario will again fall for the lie.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be a mixed bag of Tories, NDP and Liberals. They too will succumb to the Mouseland Story. But fear of losing whatever money Mr. Martin will promise the farmers and ranchers.

Alberta will go Tory 100%. The only province with enough sense to see through the sham that has been Liberal CONfederalism for years. At least they’ll get it right.

British Columbia. Well, they’ll send their usual contingent of Socialists and will be gullible enough to follow the Liberal Provincial party line and elect enough Federalists to assist Mr. Martin. The interior of the Province understands. They will send in their usual Tory contingent.

Wet coasters or shall I say Left coasters will vote Liberal simply because they can’t think of voting NDP. If they have a look, the two are pretty much the same. They’ll send a mix of both from the Lower La-La Mainland.

My prediction is that the Liberal party will return to power with either a slight majority, or we will again have a minority government.

Canadians are predictable as the sun rising and setting. For the most part, a gullible nation of dumbed down masses. They loath the Liberals, but fear what the Tories may do.

They prefer the Liberal lie to the honest truth of integrity in government. Don’t forget to spend the 16 bucks Mr. Martin gave you as a tax break this year.

You think the Gun Registry was a fiasco, wait until you get a load of the Kyoto Cash and National Day Care largesse being mismanaged, your tax dollars at waste.

Hey. Mr. Martin, how about returning some of the 46 Billion you overcharged the working class on the Unemployment Insurance deductions.

Here is what a lot of Canadians are saying, “This wasn’t the Paul Martin Government who did this, it was Jean Chretien and his gang.”
Excuse me, ignorant people, would you please wake up? Martin was part of Mr. Chretien’s gang and so were most of the Liberals sitting in Parliament. In the last election, if you didn’t notice, over 150 Liberals were elected, all of whom are pretty much part of the old gang. If you check the records, there are not 150 new Liberals sitting in office. Sheesh, when I hear that asinine comment, my blood just boils at the ignorance of people.

It’s the same old circus and the same old clowns folks.

Like dirt swept under the carpet, they know its there, but will put up with it, just like always.

Good little soldiers, just following orders, like mind controlled slaves you are. Docile, easily handled, lemming-like, sheeple, blind following the even blinder. Listen to the government, they know what’s best, you timid Canadians.

Happy 100th Birthday, Norway

The home of my Breserker ancestors, Norway, is turning 100 years old this year. Funny thing is, so is Alberta.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Adscam and the economics of attention

I have long been a fan of the theory of the economics of attention. Economics is the social science concerned with how people allocate limited resources (supply) in a world of unlimited wants (demand), with or without the use of money. Likewise, attention is a scarce resource, and even it is surrounded in economic terminology. People often offer a penny for one's thoughts, our mothers tell us to "pay" attention in class, speakers often begin a speech in a rowdy room by asking if they can "have" it, whereas Marc Antony, in Shakespeare's play entitled Julius Caesar, asked his friends, Romans and countrymen to "lend" him their ears.

The main feature of the economics of attention is the concept of opportunity cost, which is the cost of not undertaking the alternative economic venture available at the time. For example, the money I spend on a laptop could go towards a vacation, so the opportunity cost of getting a laptop is the foregone opportunity of going on a vacation.

Understanding this concept has enabled me to think clearly about how the media can sometimes manipulate the perceptions of what is of importance. It also goes a long way in understanding smoke-and-mirrors politics, of which Paul Martin is a grand master.

Now, the blogosphere is raging over Adscam and Paul Martin's claims that his books are clean, and there's a lot of attentio beind paid to this subject. But what is the opportunity cost of paying attention to Adscam? Could there be other, more hefty topics worth discussing and investigating?

How about the U.N. Oil-for-food money-laundering scheme? has archived an important article concerning a Ms. LoiseFrechette's role in the U.N. Oil-for food scandal, and it seems that the tactics she deployed may have been learned from the Grand Master himself, PMPM.

"Four years into the seven-year Oil-for-Food program, with graft and mismanagement by then rampant, Frechette intervened directly by telephone to stop United Nations auditors from forwarding their investigations to the U.N. Security Council. This detail was buried on page 186 of the 219-page interim report Volcker’s Independent Inquiry Committee released Feb. 3.

This decision from within Annan’s office left only the Secretariat privy to the specifics of the waste, bungling and contractual breaches detailed by U.N. internal auditors in dozens of damning reports. The extent of what Annan’s office knew was not available either to the Security Council or the public until Congress finally forced the issue and the United Nations produced the reports in conjunction with a Volcker "briefing paper" in January."

Now, the reason why we pay so much attention to Adscam is because it has a more direct relationship to Canada than does the U.N.O.F.F. scandal. Adscam is more directly related to Canadian politics, which sells copy to the public better. However, let's not forget Canada's connection to this $110 billion boondoggle, Ms. Frechette.


"After leaving her first post at the United Nations, Louise Fréchette returned to Canada serving from November 1994 to June 1995, under then Minister of Finance Paul Martin, as his Associate Deputy Minister. Paul Martin held Canada's Minister of Finance position from November 1993 until June 2002, becoming Canada's 21st Prime Minister on December 12, 2003. Together, in 1995, Martin and Fréchette worked on several issues including the Halifax G-7 Summit, and participated in the "Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade." Inquiries to Prime Minister Martin's office were not answered as of press time.

Louise Fréchette joins the illustrious Canadian connection in the UN Oil-for-Food Program, where there is her former boss, Prime Minister Martin who replaced Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Jean Chretien’s daughter, France is married to Andre Desmarais, the son of Paul Desmarais. Desmarais is the chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Canada's Power Corporation, and the largest shareholder and director of France's TotalFinalElf. TotalFinalElf was one of the largest benefactors of Oil-for-Food contracts. According to the Financial Post, "In 1974, Desmarais, Sr., made Martin president of Canada Steamship Lines and then in 1981, he made him spectacularly rich by selling the company to him and a partner for $180 million." As CFP previously reported, Canada, the seventh largest contributor to the United Nations, will not investigate the Oil-for-Food Program."

The economics of attention would have people ask themselves whether or not a thorough discussion of Power Corp.'s role in making Prime Ministers constitutes the opportunity cost of the Adscam scandal. The incestuous relationship between the Power Corp. cronies and the PMO over the last 30 years has not been at the forefront of Canadian politics as much as it could be - why is that? The one company who has made Prime Ministers out of rich, Quebec-affiliated lawyers for the past 30 years always turns up absent from the public eye when a scandal hits.

Here's how the smoke-and-mirrors seem to work:

Situation A: Huge, damning scandal exists, and it needs a cover-up.

Problem: Cover-ups draw attention to Situation A.

Situation B: Less damning scandal.

Solution: The problem is the solution. Cover up the minor scandal to draw attention to it and away from the larger one.

This might not be the case here, though, as the Adscam inquiry may bring the government down, but it shows how lesser scandals can be used to draw attention away from major scandals.

So does Power Corp. factor in here, and if so, how?

Stay tuned.

Libs, Deloitte have a conflict of interest

My little bro, Matt, has created quite a firestorm of activity after he pointed out the fact that the Liberal "audit" was no such thing, as it was only conducted on those select bits of information that the Liberals chose to disclose to their auditors, PWC and Deloitte.

Matt raised the issue of whether or not the large amounts of donations by the accounting firms to the Liberals created a conflict of interest. Well, it did, and in all likelihood, the accounting firms in question did cover their butts by not doing a technical audit, which requires the opinion of the auditor concerning the integrity of the financial statements. So this begs the question - why do the Libs claim that their books are clean when A) the assessment was done on pre-selected bits of data and B) the accounting firms presented no opinion on the matter?

If I were a Chartered Accountant, I'd be wondering why the Liberals are claiming that their books are somehow "clean", because the condition of "clean books" requires the opinion of the auditor. The Libs are engaged in gross misrepresentation of fact when they claim to have been audited by a big four firm. One wonders why PWC and Deloitte have not clarified the difference between the audit they performed and the audit the Liberals claim they had done.

But back to that conflict of interest. The accounting firms are cleared for legal liability because they did not technically endorse the Liberals' books as clean - there was no opinion on the matter. So, even though PWC and Deloitte have donated huge sums of cash into Liberal coffers, their butts seem covered. As for the Liberals, well, that's another matter.

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Case in point: Pierre Pettigrew. Did you know that Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign affairs was the former vice-president of Samson Bélair Deloitte & Touche International (Montreal) from 1985 to 1995 where he acted as a business consultant to companies with dealings in international markets?

It turns out that Matt may not have been the first to spot the issues embedded within this Liberal "audit". Back in February, Hugo Roy of the National School of Public Administration stated that: "the first thing that people will ask is, 'Is that firm a friend of the party? And the obvious answer is yes."

CTV was quick to point out that the Liberals had hired a "Friend of the Party" to do their books. But to Matt's credit, even back then people were assuming that the Liberals were subjecting themselves to a full-fledged "Gang Audit" where an army of accountants shows up and combs through the account data with a fine-toothed comb of analytical tools.

I can just picture the conversation that may have occurred between Pierre Pettigrew and his old pals at the Montreal Deloitte office:

Pierre: "We're gonna need our books done to make it look like all our dealings were properly issued and receipted - any suggestions?"

Deloitte: "Well, in this post-Enron, Arthur-Andersen world, we can't cook the books like might have done back before you went into government, Pierre".

Pierre: "What do you mean?"

Deloitte: "Pierre, when you request an audit, we'll have to show the good things with the bad, you do realize that, right?"

Pierre: "Non. I pay you good money so you can donate it back to the Liberal Party, and if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours - you know, just like Chretien"

Deloitte: "Pierre, no. If we did an audit, we'd have to tender an opinion on the matter and actually endorse the books. We can't guarantee that we'll endorse them"

Pierre: "No, I'll give you the best info we have, so I can guarantee that you will endorse these books. I used to work for Deloitte, so I know what looks good and what doesn't"

Deloitte: "Yes Pierre, but you were a business consultant, not an auditor. If you spent more time in the audit department, you'd understand that we need everything. And by everything, I mean..."

Pierre: "Ah, Taber-effin-nac!"

Deloitte: "Here is what we can do, Pierre. We can look at what you submit and basically report on it, but not endorse the books . . "

Pierre: "Well, that's all I want - a big-four accounting firm's name on the books!"

Deloitte: "Okay, but please understand that this is not going to be an audit, all right? We don't want people getting the wrong idea. Plus, do I need to remind you that there is a conflict of interest here? If we endorsed the books, any accounting student with an interest in the PMO will point that out. Promise that you won't misrepresent our services".

Pierre: "Promise? What's that?"

Deloitte: "Never mind. Just don't claim that it was an audit".

Pierre: "An audit? I asked you to do the books for me!"

Deloitte: *click*

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Liberal's "Audit" not what it appears!

This is a blatant and outright LIE:

"Brison maintains the Liberal party has been "completely open and accountable," pointing to results of an independent, internal audit that he said shows "all contributions were properly handled and received."

The Liberals had appointed auditors Deloitte Touche and Price Waterhouse Coopers to audit the books of the Liberal Party in Quebec, to find out whether any of the money that went to Quebec advertising and communications firms in the sponsorship scandal made it back to the Liberal Party.

"Both Deloitte and Price Waterhouse Coopers . . . came back with audits saying all contributions made were properly handled and received," Brison said.

"It's important to realize that the Liberal party has cooperated fully in this process."

See THIS post by Matt to find out why.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Thinking about Coachella

It's almost 2am, Wednesday, and I'm at school in a computer lab - the "sweatshop" I call it - and I've just finished organizing data for my econometrics project. The paper is on gender equality and Information Communication Technology, and I'm gonna go all Cobb-Douglas on it with a trans-log functional form. Pretty lame stuff. I'll publish my data and command files at this blog.

Three papers, four exams, two weeks. One helluva ride. As soon as I'm done my last exam, I'm going to California. Coachella, that is.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New stuff

Matt designed me a new header for the blog. "The bill's in the mail" he writes, as he always does after doing someone a favor. He added, "that would have cost you $15,000 to have an ad firm draw up - $1,500,000 if it was in Quebec". OOOOOOHHHHHHH!

Jaywalking the Publication Ban

Well, the Martinite Gomery Inquisition is trying its hardest to plug the holes in its publication ban created by Canadian bloggers over the weekend. Why? Well, one form of logic states that everyone has a right to a fair trial, and a fair trial includes having jurors who are untainted by media coverage concerning the issue at hand. But really, will it be that hard for Gomery to find "untainted" jurors? Justice Gomery can take heart that there really are a lot of uninformed people walking the streets - Jaywalking that is.


The lawyers on this case should take comfort that they can hire none other than Jay Leno to help them find jurors who haven't the foggiest idea concerning current events. All they would have to do is send Jay Leno out on the streets of Toronto, and they could find some really ignorant people who don't give a rat's ass as to what's going on here.


Maisonneuve has just highlighted something important: Montreal's La Presse is owned by none other than Liberal Oligarch Paul Desmarais - yes, the man who owns the path to power in Canada, and who has made kings of rich Quebec lawyers since the days of Trudeau. As Maisonneuve queries - guess whose daughter is married to a Desmarais progeny?


Writing about Gomery, Gmart had this to say: "We cannot act as individuals because we are part of a social culture that demands subservience to a hierarchy of Liberal control."


TECHNORATI SEARCH: "Gomery", Brault, Captain's Quarters, "Blogger, Minneapolis, Gomery"

Alberta Liberals ponder a new name

Via the Chretien Broadcasting Corporation, we find out that the Alberta Liberals are trying to distance themselves from the Federal Liberals by changing the name of the Provincial party.

Just plugging the word "Liberal" into THIS anagram server yields some interesting results:


Maybe Taft figures that if Albertans are forgetful enough to re-elect Uncle Ralph, they'll forget that the Liberals even existed in Alberta.

Blogosphere reacting to crackdown

Bound By Gravity used to have a great collection of blogosphere coverage of the Publication ban, but they took all their links down.

Small Dead Animals claims that since CTV has generated so much coverage of Captain's Quarters, fears in the blogosphere of a crakcdown can be pretty much laid to rest, even with PSAC people combing blogs.

Something fishy is going on in the Atlantic

THIS story from Florida sure is interesting. There's been tremendous amounts of species displacement down in Florida, leaving Fish & Wildlife biologists perplexed. Back in November, about 115 dolphins beached themselves in Australia. I'm no biologist, but I sure do wonder if these critters know something we don't.

GMart's new template.

MKBraaten fired up a sweet new template for GMart's blog. GMart is a smart guy. I'm glad he finally fired up a blog.

Ice Cups, Stockholm Ice Bar, October - 2004

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Gomery Inquisition Crackdown on Thoughtcrime

Oh man this is funny. Best post. Ever.

If you want something different, GMart has a new blog.

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Warren Kinsella - Lost in the blogosphere

Now, Warren Kinsella is a fairly well-known and respected member of the blogosphere - why? In his latest post he shakes a finger of shame at the Globe & Mail, CTV and others who have, in his eyes,broken the court-ordered publication ban regarding the Gomery Inquiry by linking to websites in other jurisdictions. Wake up Kinsella - the internet is a free market of ideas that do not obey court-ordered publication bans. Warren Kinsella, defender of the Stalinist mode of media straightjackets would prefer that we don't know what's going on. He'd prefer that we put blind trust in corrupt elites rather than trying to find out for ourselves. I for one, do not wish to legitimize such illegitimate and draconian bans on information.

The Canadian media have paid very little attention to the Gomery inquiry because it lacked the razzle-dazzle they wanted. By introducing a publication ban, Justice Gomery has just escalated the attention Canadians are willing to pay to this, and I doubt that any violations of this publication ban will go prosecuted. The publication ban has engaged folks who would otherwise not have paid notice to this; Gomery has piqued our interest in it.

Kinsella argues that the Tory bloggers should do everything they can to make sure that no mis-trial is declared, and that bloggers should do everything they can to help Justice Gomery do his job. But let's not forget that it was Paul Martin who appointed Gomery in the first place. It's a free country Kinsella, and anyone can link to anything they want irrespective of a court-ordered publication ban. He's just choked because an American blog has stolen the show.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

OOOOHHHH Snap! (election)

** Shout out to Bound By Gravity - thanks for linking to me **

I've just been catching up on this Gomery inquiry mess, and it seems like Judge Gomery opened the Liberal Adscam Kimono to find several nasty items. There's a publication ban on the three people who came forward to testify, but Captain's Quarters suggests things are about to get pretty bad. As in "Snap Election" bad, as the Martinites scramble to call an election before all the dirt gets aired. Old Gilles Duceppe is rumored to be voicing a no-convidence vote in Parliament over this. Too bad the guy's a separatist and that Albertans can't run on a Bloc ticket, eh? Way to go, Gilles.

Angry in the GWN has found an interesting tidbit at

The allegations are so great that the publication ban will be broken, especially if an election is called. Everyone will know about this in a week, that's how juicy it is. It's bad, but not as bad as the media is making it sound. But still bad. It's about as bad as you think it is.

I'll give you one guess as to who that MKWB poster from Edmonton is.

SmallDeadAnimals has a pretty good hub of material and links worth checking out. Furthermore, Instapundit, the world's # 1 Conservative blog has caught a whiff of this. Let's hope that there are enough bloggers outside the country who are willing to publish the details of this inquiry asap.

Response to Matt

Here is my response to Matt's latest post.

There is also a difference between state "provision" and private "delivery". The provincial government has a mandate to provide a service called healthcare in general, but how it delivers the service is another matter.

For example, consider your dental benefits. Pretend that your dental benefits provider is the government. You get the service delivered through a private professional corporation - the dentist - who bills the benefits provider based on a list of charges for certain procedures. Hence, there is a difference between provision and delivery.

This is a weak argument because corporations will theoretically do business if they can even make 10$ per year.

Somewhat true, but there's a difference between accounting profits and economic profits. If the corporation's total investment were $100, it would make a 10% return. If its investment were $1,000,000, it would make a fraction of a percent and would have been better off investing the money in bonds. In the long run, corporations have to earn an economic profit in excess of their opportunity cost of investing.

The current system is plagued by free riders, but a private system might give way to rent-seeking. Free riders include people who go to emergency rooms for a cold at 4 am and take up resources that could be used elsewhere. Also, people want to pay low taxes and get the best service possible, but one result has been overcrowding and rationing - which has led to lengthly wait lists. To these people, the hospital seems grossly inefficient, when it turns out that it is a combination of over-demand and under-supply. In the absence of a price mechanism to coordinate behavior, the provider has to ration.

Health care expenditures are growing at a rate twice as fast as the economy's ability to grow, which implies that either taxes go up (don't want that!) or cuts are delivered to other areas. Clearly something has to be done.

The benefit tax has become de rigeur in public finance. It basically says that if you personally benefit from a service, then you should pay for it. This is popular because it discourages free riding. By being aware of the costs of your treatment, you can do your own cost-benefit analysis.

But health is a tricky thing. Some people get cancer due to externalities generated by industry. Ft. Saskatchewan Alberta, has one of the highest miscarriage and brain tumor rates in Canada (I'll have to find the citation). Do we want these people to pay higher health care fees simply because they live in proximity to a polluter? That's where Paretian optimality comes into play, but I won't go into it here.

I would be concerned about rent-seeking, and your idea of a "billable" list would prevent that. If you and I agree as private MD's that one stitch is worth $2, but is worth $2,000 when we sell it to the government, the collusion could cause costs to skyrocket.

Furthermore, something has to be done to lower the costs of doctors and nurses. Typically, doctors enter Med school with higher debtloads than other bachelor's level grads, and they incur even more debt to become MD's. This debt is affecting their locational choices upon graduation. Very few want to work in small, rural practices where they won't be able to recoup the return on their investment. It's funny, because this is where all the old people are.

So yeah, it's clear that something can and must be done to change the system; the debate of course, is how to go about doing it. Thanks for the ideas.

Super Patriot American Freak

Some Kick-ass tunes.

Sonic Youth

Michael Franti


Paula Cole

Friday, April 01, 2005

Analysis of 2004 US Election Exit Polls

I couldn't let this one slide on by without comment. That shady quadrennial event called the US election seems to be at odds with the exit polling results. I've written about it before for the Gateway.

Several methods have been used to estimate the probability that the national exit poll results would be as different as they were from the national popular vote by random chance. These estimates range from 1 in 959,000 to 1 in 1,240.3 No matter how one calculates it, the discrepancy cannot be attributed to chance.

The report states that:

There are Three Primary Explanations for the Discrepancies:

1. Statistical Sampling Error – or Chance
We agree with Edison/Mitofsky that the first possible cause, random statistical sampling error, can be ruled out.

2. Inaccurate Exit Polls
This is the theory that Edison/Mitofsky put forth. They hypothesize that the reason the exit polls were so biased towards Kerry was because Bush voters were more reluctant to respond to exit polls than Kerry voters. Edison/Mitofsky did not come close to justifying this position, however, even though they have access to the raw, unadjusted, precinct-specific data set. The data that Edison/Mitofsky did offer in their report show how implausible this theory is.

3. Inaccurate Election Results
Edison/Mitofsky did not even consider this hypothesis, and thus made no effort to contradict it. Some of Edison/Mitofsky's exit poll data may be construed as affirmative evidence for inaccurate election results. We conclude that the hypothesis that the voters’ intent was not accurately recorded or counted cannot be ruled out and needs further investigation.

Don Hill has a plan

I was creepin' at the Sugar Bowl cafe' today with my new friend Don Hill, ex-host of the Wild Rose Forum on the CBC and it is evident that he's not set back by the recent turn of events that have left him without the same platform he once had. Don Hill, it seems, has a plan.

Don contends that the people in Alberta have a two year window to effect some significant changes in Alberta's political landscape, and that Albertans are beginning to wake up and smell the funk that Uncle Ralph and company have fallen into as of late. God bless them, but the Klein Cronies are getting old and are running out of ideas. I think it's time they step aside and let another generation of idealists take the reigns of leadership in this province. The problem, of course, is finding said people.

Oh, the power of an idea. One idea that has taken a firm grip in Alberta is that of deregulation. Don argues that the Kleinians used as their Bible, the book entitled Unfinished Business by Roger Douglas, former Finance Minister for New Zealand. The outcome of implementing the policies described in this book is the "Privatize and tell lots of lies" strategy adopted by the Alberta Government over the past decade. It's almost Straussian in design because it works around the "democracy problem" through a simple three-pronged approach at management.

1. Move hard, move fast and damn the torpedoes.

2. Remain steadfast in the presence of criticism.

3. Eliminate, denounce or silence opposition.

The interesting thing is how well this strategy is working for the Old Boys. The Kleinians (or Kleinites, Kleinarchians, Kleinistanians, and Kleintopians) really think they have this province bagged. Of course, when you look around in search of alternatives the natural result is to look at the Liberals, but I really doubt that they present THE alternative. This fall, Uncle Ralph may announce his final ride into the sunset and the PC's (who are neither Progressive nor Conservative) will be in search of a new leader. The PC "Golden Boy" is none other than Jim Dinning, followed closely by Ted Morton.

So IF Uncle Ralph decides to fade out into the sunset this fall or next, we will be looking at the possibility of re-electing the devil that we do know, headed by either T-Mort or JimDin. Maybe, just maybe they know that they have a two-year window before the "Enron thing" blows up any further and are hoping to God that more of it doesn't spill out into the public sphere. So it's a race between who gets control over how to spin this scandal that has potential to rock Alberta.

The whole problem with the Enron thing is that many of the characters in this high drama have fled into private life (does Steve West ring a bell?) where accountability is a moot point.

So Albertans who want to effect some changes in Alberta - no matter what their political stripe - have a two-year window in which to act. I'm a fan of change myself, but the problem is a lack of a real alternative to Kleinocracy. But I will tell you this: Don Hill has a plan, and it's interesting.

Stay tuned.

Matt is a Manchurian Candidate

My little bro, Matt, has finally started to put some of his insights out into the public domain and has started his blog - the MKBraaten Project. He's suddenly a huge fan of Modest Mouse and talks them up like they were going to save the world fromt he moral vaccuum created by the Pope's certain demise.

Matt makes some claims in his post on Paul Martin's recent love-in with G. Bush and V. Foxe down in Waco, Texas, particularly that "[w]e are essentially sacrificing our liberties so that Americans can be safe". I concur.

PMPM is a master of the smoke-and-mirrors game of manipulating public opinion. He first built up all this political capital by pretending to stand up to Washington's plan for Missile Defence and then he sells Canada out while down in Waco. A bunch of whack-nuts have come up with this idea called the "Task Force on the Future of North America" and claim that the path to Canada's prosperity lies in deeper integration with the US. I think it's insane.

It's insane because it is advocating that Canada partner up with an empire in decline. I love the USA and think that a lot of good sincere Americans are wondering wtf is wrong with the direction this country is taking the world. The US is racking up huge deficits and debts and these must be repaid. It's by design.

The only reason the US can wage wars all over the world is because it is able to sell its debt abroad. In fact, it's the only thing the US exports besides dollars. The US just prints those dollars and buys up the goods that other nations actually produce. These nations can hold onto the dollar as a reserve currency and watch their reserves devalue through inflation, or they can buy the #1 US export: debt. By buying debt, the banking sector is actually able to earn some sort of return, and the US can just roll it over in a never-ending Ponzi scheme. At some point though, the banks in Eurpoe and Japan will begin to question the ability of the US to meet its debt requirements and may require a risk premium in the form of a higher interest rate. That's bad news for Americans who are already over their heads in credit debt.

The US debt is a beast that needs to be tamed. Canada has done an okay job, but once the effects of this debt start to be felt in the real economy, we're gonna suffer. As Trudeau said, when the US coughs, we get the flu.