April 25, 2011

Majority in reach for Harper, if Ontario numbers hold up

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:17

The latest Nanos/Globe & Mail poll shows that the Conservatives might just be able to reach majority status if the Ontario numbers stay steady for the final week:

Nationally, the NDP is statistically tied for second place with the Liberals. But another story is emerging out of Ontario, where they are running third; the party’s surge in Quebec and other regions has not given it a similar bump in Ontario.

Pollster Nik Nanos sees this as a boon for the Tories — one that could well provide the Conservatives a route to that coveted majority.

“Talk about Jack Layton in Stornoway has actually helped the Conservatives in Ontario,” Mr. Nanos said Monday. “The Conservatives best chance to win a majority is in Ontario. If their numbers hold or start ramping up in Ontario that could be good news for the Conservatives. One of the scenarios that we could be looking at now is a squeaker of a majority government.”

Of course, the regional numbers are subject to a larger margin of error:

There is a margin of error of plus or minus 64 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, for the provincial sample.

I hope there’s a decimal place somewhere in that MoE.

Grameen Bank cleared of “irregularities”, but Yunus will not be re-instated

Filed under: Asia, Economics, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:06

The Bangladeshi government has completed their investigation into financial irregularities at microfinance specialist Grameen Bank, but the founder, Muhammad Yunus, will not be brought back:

Yunus, 70, was dismissed by a central bank order — upheld by the high court and supreme court — on the grounds that he had overstayed in his position and refused requests to quit.

Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel peace prize, set up Grameen, which means village in Bengali, and had been the bank’s managing director since 2000.

Lauded at home and abroad by politicians and financiers as the “banker to the poor”, he has been under attack by the government since late last year, after a Norwegian documentary alleged the bank was dodging taxes.

Yunus denied any wrongdoing and a Norwegian government investigation later also cleared him of any malpractice.

Taliban tunnellers re-enact the “Great Escape”

Filed under: Asia, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:41

This is going to hurt:

The Taliban has staged a jail-break from a high security prison in Afghanistan, freeing 541 prisoners through a network of tunnels that took five months to dig.

In scenes reminiscent of war film The Great Escape, insurgents constructed a 1,050-foot (320m) route into Sarposa Prison, in Kandahar.

Diggers finally broke through into the site last night and hundreds of prisoners, including around 100 Taliban commanders — streamed through the tunnel to freedom over four-and-a-half hours.

They were met by a fleet of cars which whisked them away to freedom. The breakout was completed at around 3.30am.

Rational debate on tax policy MIA in this election

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

Stephen Gordon wishes there was a way to disentangle sensible tax policy discussions from politics:

The Conservatives implemented two major tax cuts in the past five years: the two-point reduction in the GST, and the three-point reduction in the corporate income tax (CIT) rate. The GST cut was almost certainly a mistake, but no opposition party has challenged this decision in the election campaign.

On the other hand, every opposition party has promised to increase the CIT — the tax that is most harmful to economic growth. What is going on?

I see two answers to that question, and both are based on the presumption — possibly well-founded — that voters do not understand the concept of tax incidence. If you don’t understand how corporate taxes are passed onto workers, then the idea of taxing ‘wealthy corporations’ has a certain appeal: “I’m not a wealthy corporation, so it’s no skin off my nose.”

But of course, it is. So the only question is whether or not the opposition parties campaigning on increasing corporate tax rates understand who actually pays the CIT. If they do not understand that higher CIT rates reduce wages, then their competence as a government-in-waiting leaves something to be desired. If they do understand, then they are being less than honest about what the effects of their proposals will be.

The most efficient tax is broad-based and as close to non-distorting as possible. That is also the most hated form: the Goods and Services Tax. The Tory cut in the GST was terrible economics, but great politics. There, in a nutshell, is why stupid tax policies are the only ones on offer in the election campaign — because sensible policies require people to actually face up to the costs of the government they want. People much prefer the illusion that “someone else” is paying for the goodies.

LM Bujold’s Cryoburn is a Hugo nominee

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:01

Lois is delighted to announce that her most recent Vorkosigan novel, Cryoburn has been nominated for a Hugo award:

The Hugos are voted by the membership of the annual World Science Fiction Convention, this year to be held in Reno, Nevada, Aug. 17 – 21: http://www.renovationsf.org/

Both attending and supporting members have the right to vote on the Hugos. In recent years, almost all of the fiction nominees end up being made available on-line, by various links, so the opportunity to be a truly informed voter is better than ever.

CryoBurn is my ninth nomination in the best novel category. My prior novel nominees (title and year of publication) were:

Falling Free (1988)
The Vor Game (1990) *
Barrayar (1991) *
Mirror Dance (1994) *
Memory (1996)
A Civil Campaign (1999)
The Curse of Chalion (2001)
Paladin of Souls (2003) *
CryoBurn (2010)

* — award bestowed

As chance would have it, about the year my work first started garnering nominations, the WorldCons hit on the idea of giving all the nominees a little Hugo lapel pin/tie tack, in the shape of the traditional rocket, by way of memento. (I immediately thought of them as “Hugo seeds” — take it home, cultivate assiduously, and maybe next year it will grow into a full-sized one. This proved to actually work…) The pins quickly caught on, and became a tradition. Over the years, I collected quite a handful of these, together with some Nebula pins and other oddments. (I think the shrunken head of Howard P. Lovecraft, the pin for the World Fantasy Award, probably qualifies and an oddment.)

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