November 30, 2010

Ireland’s debt problem

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:48

James Howard Kunstler looks at Ireland’s plight:

When you’re out of the country, as I was last week, it’s good to know that the home folks are keeping up with the Kardashians and bravely venturing into the blood-splattered chambers of cable TV’s latest hit, Bridal Plasty — where candidates for marriage are transformed from Holstein cows into inflatable sex toys by magic surgical technology — not to mention all those humble guardians of freedom who kept the parking lots of WalMart safe for consumerism in the wee small hours of Black Friday. These are, after all, perilous times.

Elsewhere, Ireland and the rest of Europe wore themselves out with soul-searching all week over how to handle national bankruptcy within a currency system that bears only a schematic relation to reality. Does the bankruptee go broke all at once, or is she recruited into permanent debt slavery so that the bond-holders of various banks can keep their loved ones in marzipan and Fauchon’s wonderful marrons glacés for one more holiday season? As of Monday morning, Ireland has been commanded to, er, bend over and pick up the soap, shall we say, for about a hundred billion euros in loans that will not be paid back until a mile-high ice-sheet covers Dublin (something that might happen sooner rather than later if the climate mavens are right).

We’ll see how this bail-out goes down with the French and German voters, too, who have to pay for it, after all, especially as Portugal, Spain, and Italy line up at the cash cage for their cheques (and bars of soap). Of course, a few more basis points in the interest rate spreads could prang the whole Euro soap opera — does anybody really believe this game of kick-the-can will go on after New Years? I’m not even sure it goes on past this Friday, but I am a notoriously nervous fellow.

This is almost as good as the (temporarily discontinued) daily Financial Briefings from Monty.

H/T to Terry Kinder for the link.

Apparently, the only solution is for us to all die off

Filed under: Americas, Environment, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:43

James Delingpole has some entertainment paraphrasing the Cancun climate talks:

Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said today in a quote I’ve made up but which is only slightly less absurd than what he actually said:

“Since the hacked Climategate emails, we expert Climate Scientists have come in for a lot of stick from sceptics and deniers in the pay of Big Oil who claim that we’re just a bunch of misanthropic eco-fascists for whom freedom of choice is a concept more abhorrent than a baby polar bear pickled in shale oil. But nothing could be further from the truth. We believe that it should be entirely up to the people of the earth how they choose to kill themselves. If they don’t wish to follow any of the fun suggestions outlined in the Royal Society’s latest paper ‘So you’ve decided to die for Mother Gaia?’, we’re more than happy to send round a team of our experts to do the job for them.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for David Cameron said he believed an outbreak of mass extinction would be “Great for Britain. Great for jobs.” He pointed out that after the Black Death in the mid-fourteenth century, there had been some kind of similar economic revival as a result of there being more land, or people dying, or class barriers breaking down or some such, but that the exact details would have to wait for the forthcoming report on history teaching by Simon Schama, entitled: “Why death is the very least Britain deserves for the despicable colonial record which shames us all!”

Assange says next target is a “major American bank”

Filed under: Media, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:35

Julian Assange talked to Forbes about the next big WikiLeaks release of confidential data:

Early next year, Julian Assange says, a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out. Tens of thousands of its internal documents will be exposed on Wikileaks.org with no polite requests for executives’ response or other forewarnings. The data dump will lay bare the finance firm’s secrets on the Web for every customer, every competitor, every regulator to examine and pass judgment on.

When? Which bank? What documents? Cagey as always, Assange won’t say, so his claim is impossible to verify. But he has always followed through on his threats. Sitting for a rare interview in a London garden flat on a rainy November day, he compares what he is ready to unleash to the damning e-mails that poured out of the Enron trial: a comprehensive vivisection of corporate bad behavior. “You could call it the ecosystem of corruption,” he says, refusing to characterize the coming release in more detail. “But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest.”

The big hole in the TSA security screen

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:28

Even if the TSA is backing down on requiring pilots to go through the full pornoray scanner or humiliating pat-down, they’ve continued to leave a huge security hole open — apron workers and contract ground support staff:

Although the X-ray and metal detector rigmarole is mandatory for pilots and flight attendants, many other airport workers, including those with regular access to aircraft — to cabins, cockpits, galleys and freight compartments — are exempt. That’s correct. Uniformed pilots cannot carry butter knives onto an airplane, yet apron workers and contract ground support staff — cargo loaders, baggage handlers, fuelers, cabin cleaners, caterers — can, as a matter of routine, bypass TSA inspection entirely.

All workers with airside privileges are subject to fingerprinting, a 10-year criminal background investigation and crosschecking against terror watch lists. Additionally they are subject to random physical checks by TSA. But here’s what one apron worker at New York’s Kennedy airport recently told me:

“All I need is my Port Authority ID, which I swipe through a turnstile. The ‘sterile area’ door is not watched over by any hired security or by TSA. I have worked at JFK for more than three years now and I have yet to be randomly searched. Really the only TSA presence we notice is when the blue-shirts come down to the cafeteria to get food.”

H/T to Cory Doctorow for the link.

Stinson: Fantino ideal for Tories

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:13

Scott Stinson thinks that Julian Fantino’s victory in yesterday’s Vaughan by-election is great for the Tories’ “tough on crime” rhetoric:

Here’s what Mr. Fantino, who won a byelection on Monday to end a 22-year Liberal hold on the riding of Vaughan, had to say five years ago in response to a weekend of gun violence in Toronto, where he was chief at the time.

“People don’t like me talking about stiffer sentences,” he told the Post. “But in actual fact, so many of the people we deal with have been given but a kiss by the system, and I would say that the majority of them are all career criminals.”

Chief Fantino’s solution? A 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for gun-related crimes. Why, it’s the kind of thing that must put a twinkle in Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s eye.

[. . .]

And it’s the stuff for which Mr. Fantino has most recently been hotly criticized — allowing two-tiered policing at Caledonia, where native occupiers were allowed to break the law indiscriminately at a disputed housing development and his Ontario Provincial Police effectively abandoned the area rather than risk confrontation — that suggests he’s used to following orders.

The Ontario government didn’t want any trouble in Caledonia, and thanks to the see-no-evil strategy employed by its police force, it has so far avoided an Oka-type battle down in Haldimand County. That this tactic saw the OPP giving passes to the same criminals for whom Mr. Fantino would typically demand harsh punishment apparently did not trouble the force’s former commissioner. He seemed OK giving them “but a kiss by the system.” He was being a team player.

For someone carrying such a “tough on crime” reputation, he has an odd view of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and other trivial matters when they’re being exercised by the citizenry. Due process? Not something he appeared to care much about during his time at the OPP.

Update: Of course, no day is complete without someone trying to encourage the Liberals to bump off Michael Ignatieff:

Itching to see last night’s federal byelection result in Vaughan blown completely out of proportion? High-profile cop defeats Liberal nobody — when will Michael Ignatieff commit ritual seppuku next to the Centennial Flame? That sort of thing? The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson has the goods for you.

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