Quotulatiousness

February 5, 2013

Ontario facing fiscal crisis that is worse than California’s

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:17

In the Financial Post, Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis look at the under-reported fiscal problems Ontario has to deal with … and soon:

‘I do not want Ontario to become like California,” Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan once proclaimed. And it’s not hard to understand why — California is a fiscal nightmare. It has the lowest bond rating in the United States and its own treasurer, Bill Lockyer, referred to the state budget as “a fiscal train wreck.”

Yet, despite all that is said about California’s finances in the media and financial markets, Ontario is in much worse shape.

Back in 2002-03, the fiscal year before the governing Liberals took office, Ontario’s net debt (assets minus liabilities) stood at $132.6-billion. In the ensuing decade, the province’s debt ballooned by almost 78% to $235.6-billion (2011-12). Most worrying, however, is that if Ontario continues on its current path (status quo in terms of spending and revenues), its debt will balloon to over $550-billion (66% of GDP) by the end of the decade (2019-20).

[. . .]

On a per-person basis, Ontario’s bonded debt (the concept of net debt is not used in U.S. public accounting) currently stands at nearly $18,000, over four-and-a-half times that of California at $3,800. As a share of the economy, Ontario’s debt (38.6%) is more than five times that of the Golden State (7.7% of GDP). This is a stunning difference in the burden of debt, particularly given the attention and concern focused on California compared with Ontario.

While the two jurisdictions face similar average interest rates for their debt, the large difference in the stock of the debt means equally large differences in interest costs. Specifically, Ontario spends almost double what California does on interest costs in dollar terms and a little over three times what California spends as a share of the revenues collected, 8.9% compared to 2.8% of revenues. This is money that could have been spent on health care, education, public safety.

The President’s “license to kill”

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:56

At Reason, Jacob Sullum has a few concerns about the information that came to light in a Department of Justice memo leaked to the media:

The Justice Department white paper on “The Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force,” noted earlier tonight by Mike Riggs, fills in the fine print of the license to kill claimed by President Obama in several ways, none of them reassuring. The main conclusion of the paper, which was obtained by NBC News, is that “it would be lawful for the United States to conduct a lethal operation outside the United States against a U.S. citizen who is a senior, operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force of al-Qa’ida without violating the Constitution or…federal statutes…under the following conditions: (1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation is conducted in a manner consistent with the four fundamental principles of the laws of war governing the use of force” — i.e., “necessity, distinction, proportionality, and humanity.”

[. . .]

More generally, the white paper fleshes out the Obama administration’s argument that U.S. citizens killed by drones are getting all the process that is appropriate in the circumstances; hence the Fifth Amendment, though implicated, is not violated. And since these targeted killings are lawful acts of self-defense, the Justice Department says, they do not violate the law against killing U.S. nationals in foreign countries or the executive order banning assassination. After all, “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination.” Duh.

The problem is that to accept this position, you have to put complete trust in the competence, wisdom, and ethics of the president, his underlings, and their successors. You have to believe they are properly defining and inerrantly identifying people who pose an imminent (or quasi-imminent) threat to national security and eliminating that threat through the only feasible means, which involves blowing people up from a distance. If mere mortals deserved that kind of faith, we would not need a Fifth Amendment, or the rest of the Constitution.

What did King Richard III look like?

Filed under: Britain, History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

A facial reconstruction based on the skull of Richard III:

A facial reconstruction based on the skull of Richard III has revealed how the English king may have looked.

The king’s skeleton was found under a car park in Leicester during an archaeological dig.

The reconstructed face has a slightly arched nose and prominent chin, similar to features shown in portraits of Richard III painted after his death.

Historian and author John Ashdown-Hill said seeing it was “almost like being face to face with a real person”.

The development comes after archaeologists from the University of Leicester confirmed the skeleton found last year was the 15th Century king’s, with DNA from the bones having matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.

I was unable to find an image of the reconstruction that is okay to use, but you can see various pictures on Google Image Search.

Japan lodges formal protest after Chinese ship targets Japanese ship near Senkaku/Diaoyu islands

Filed under: China, Japan, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:13

The BBC has the details:

“On 30 January, something like fire-control radar was directed at a Japan Self-Defence Maritime escort ship in the East China Sea,” Mr Onodera told reporters on Tuesday.

The minister said Japan’s Yuudachi vessel and the Chinese frigate were about 3km (one mile) [ed: conversion error here, 3km is about 2 miles] apart at the time, Japan’s Kyodo News reports.

Asked about the delay in filing the protest, Mr Onodera said it took the ministry until Tuesday to determine that a fire-control radar had indeed locked on the Japanese ship.

He added that a Japanese military helicopter was also targeted with a similar type of radar by another Chinese frigate on 19 January.

“Directing such radar is very abnormal. We recognise it would create a very dangerous situation if a single misstep occurred,” he said.

Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands

I was getting hungry after reading the first two paragraphs…

Filed under: Asia, History, India — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

What is curry and where did it come from?

What is curry? Today, the word describes a bewildering number of spicy vegetable and meat stews from places as far-flung as the Indian subcontinent, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean Islands. There is little agreement about what actually constitutes a curry. And, until recently, how and when curry first appeared was a culinary mystery as well.

The term likely derives from kari, the word for sauce in Tamil, a South-Indian language. Perplexed by that region’s wide variety of savory dishes, 17th-century British traders lumped them all under the term curry. A curry, as the Brits defined it, might be a mélange of onion, ginger, turmeric, garlic, pepper, chilies, coriander, cumin, and other spices cooked with shellfish, meat, or vegetables.

Those curries, like the curries we know today, were the byproduct of more than a millennium of trade between the Indian subcontinent and other parts of Asia, which provided new ingredients to spice up traditional Indian stews. After the year 1000, Muslims brought their own cooking traditions from the west, including heavy use of meat, while Indian traders carried home new and exotic spices like cloves from Southeast Asia. And when the Portuguese built up their trading centers on the west coast of India in the 16th century, they threw chilies from the New World into the pot. (Your spicy vindaloo may sound like Hindi, but actually the word derives from the Portuguese terms for its original central ingredients: wine and garlic.)

But the original curry predates Europeans’ presence in India by about 4,000 years. Villagers living at the height of the Indus civilization used three key curry ingredients — ginger, garlic, and turmeric — in their cooking. This proto-curry, in fact, was eaten long before Arab, Chinese, Indian, and European traders plied the oceans in the past thousand years.

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