Saturday, 28 July 2012

Nexen and China - The Education of Senator Schumer

So China, crap manufacturing superpower of the world whose year-over-year oil consumption is up 26%, decides to plunk down $15 billion of its hard-earned Walmart and Apple slave wages to buy Canada's 12th or 13th biggest oil and gas firm: Calgary, Alberta-based Nexen Inc.

Queue the usual paranoid dopes in Canada yelling about human rights and/or communism and/or yellow peril.

These people, mostly old, probably have little to no idea how the world functions.  Even if the board of directors of Nexen found China's official communist ideology or human rights violations odious, nothing talks like a briefcase of cash money. The hell in a China flag-draped handbasket crowd's skepticism of the deal more likely has to do with their perception  that this is somehow related to the "Asians" who have "moved in" to their neighbourhood and are "taking over". 

I wasn't even going to bother addressing their batshit-crazy comment board weigh-ins about Nexen  (which for what its worth has over 100 drilling platforms on four continents, but because it's "Canadian" is implied to be Ma and Pa's Ye Olde General Store).  But it is simple to.  This deal will go through because a price was offered the company was willing to accept and the last thing a Canadian government trying to diversify its export markets is going to do is block the country with the world's largest population from completing a legitimate business transaction.  That's easy.

But here's U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer weighing in with his idiotic and ignorant lambasting of the Nexen deal, saying that the U.S. should block it and that it represents a unique opportunity to punish China for its unfair trade and business practices.

Reflexive Anti-Americanism is on the wane, here in Canada and elsewhere, probably because America's misguided military adventures and economic sins have left most of its citizens feeling a bit humbler.  I've noticed it abroad for sure.  There is also, I sense, a general sentiment that America does not necessarily need to be as taken seriously as it used to now, what with an incredibly moronic stuffed suit Republican presidential nominee that makes G.W. Bush look like a phd holding Nobel laureate, the Kardashians and T Cruise's divorce notwithstanding.  Yet apparently the "Exceptionalism is over" memo never got to Schumer's Capitol Hill Office.  The hypocrisy of his tirade is so stunning that it inspired a Lacking Credentials posting.

Schumer's beef is that China manipulates its currency by pegging it to the dollar and making it artificially low.  His argument might hold water if America was not the principal beneficiary of this phenomenon.  But America is, because all those U.S.-based companies' corporate profits, half of which are realized outside the U.S., are possible because of China's cheap manufacturing. And those cheap goods on sale for American consumers at Walmart, Home Depot, and Gap are also possible because of Chinese cheap manufacturing.  Here's an example:

Apple, Inc. of Cupertino, California, manufactures ipad sold in Romania in China.
China Wages & Shipping=$5
Romanian bureaucracy=$7
Retail Price=$500
Apple profits=$388

I guess C Schumer wants to see that $5 go down to $2.50.

And if he's concerned about currency manipulation, maybe he should take his chauffeured limo down to the fed and talk to U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose job seems to have morphed into currency manipulator in chief.  You can see my comments about that before Monday.

Finally, Nexen is a Canadian company, so I'm pretty sure the decision on whether this takeover is going through happens up here in Ottawa, Canada.  As we established 200 years ago this year, this country is not some afterthought provincial backwater of the United States.  At moments like this we notice that this fact still hasn't sunk in for some people.  Granted, Nexen does trade on the NYSE and it's estimated that 10% of its capital and assets are U.S. based, but this by no means gives the U.S. veto power of the deal.  It's like me saying to him that Walmart and McDonalds shouldn't do business in China (which they both do, obviously) because their enormously profitable "Walmart Canada" and "McDonald's Canada" divisions somehow give me a say in their operation, even though those are just the regional operating names up here for two U.S.-based corporations.

Get your head out of your yin-yang, Schumer.  Not every superpower acquires oil by invading a country with 150,000 soldiers and building an "embassy" the size of the Vatican in its capital.

In other news, Amazon CEO and tech billionaire Jeff Bezos contributed 2.5 million to the legal PR battle to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State. Former and current Microsoft leaders and 0.001 percenter-extraordinaires Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer also chipped in 100k each to the effort.  Wow, America's elite really has its priorities straight and is taking the lead. That 2.7 mil could have provided a quarter's worth of income to 550 destitute U.S. households.  Or been pitched into an effort to bring down the endless breakneck deficit ratcheting that threatens to break the U.S. treasury and destroy the nation's economy.  Instead, they're investing in a legal battle about something that affects nobody other than the people getting married, and other than that is no one else's f----ing business.  But keep wagging your finger Schumer.  You obviously come from a place uniquely positioned to lecture the rest of the world about its priorities.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Dear Rob...

A few days later: The media reaction to the mayor of Toronto’s rant about gang members, to which I responded with the below letter that I’m still considering mailing to his office, was largely confused.  Is he talking about immigrants? Does he want to expel immigrants? Surely the mayor is not stupid enough to think he can restrict Canadian Citizens’ movements in and out of the city of Toronto?  Media, you made this more complicated than it needed to be, and gave the mayor too much credit.  I can assure you, and all the remarks he’s made confirm as much, that the mayor does want to expel Canadians from the city, and he is that stupid.

Dear Rob,

In response to your latest statement that gang members should "permanently leave the city and go somewhere else", I have three questions:

#1) Why would the mayor of "anywhere else" be any more willing than you are to have them around?

#2) Exactly what constitutional authority do you or does anyone in the city of toronto exercise to be able to force anybody to go anywhere? And even if you did

#3)With what mechanism (and again, with what constitutional authority) do you propose to limit Canadian citizens' entry to the city of toronto?

I understand a tragedy happened and you may have been a bit emotional, but such an ignorant and ridiculous statement by a person in a position of authority like yours is totally inexcusable.  It demonstrates that you clearly inhabit an idealistic dream world in which you can wish your problems away, and that you cannot be counted on to exhibit any leadership or good judgment in a difficult moment such as this.  As if everywhere outside the 416 area code is some parallel universe with excess capacity to take all your poor city’s problems on.

Just to clarify your remarks, you later said that you were going to lobby the Premier and the Prime Minister to “everything in their power”.  And that you wanted people permanently expelled, or in your words “no getting out of jail and coming back to live in the city again. Go somewhere else.”

I think it’s going to take a couple of days before everyone’s emotions settle, but rest assured when they do, people will notice what I can’t believe mainstream news sources haven’t already when they published your comments – that this is some of the dumbest, most misinformed shit any Canadian politician has ever said, even compared to all your previous nincompoop diatribes.

I can picture it now – “ok, just sign this lease…” HOLY CRAP!  The Ford brothers are busting the door down! (like that’s hard for them).  Oh, sorry, I guess you’re in violation of their new “Go somewhere else” statute.  Yeah, that looks pretty painful, getting dragged by both ears by two 300 pound oafs.  Looks like you’re going to have to take the bus back from the other side of Steeles where they drop you off.”

Thanks for making my hometown an international embarrassment every time you open your dumb ass mouth, mr mayor.  Then again, what else should be expected from two uneducated chumps like you and your brother, who inherited their successful dad’s business and political connections and think they’re fortune 500 CEOs?  I guess the real blame for my disgust lies at the feet of the 347000 morons who actually voted for you.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Gas Plant Cancellation - The Last Straw

In case anybody who comes here is convinced of the contrary, let me just say I have no pre-existing or dogmatic dislike of the Ontario Liberal Party.

I am not a troll on a forum who throws insults and catcalls at anyone I perceive to be Liberal, a label I use to  describe people as morally deficient, wilfully blinded, and suffering from early-onset dementia.

I was never in danger of supporting, say Tim Hudak, who can go on all he wants about waste and mismanagement, but was part of a government that paid big buck$$ to fill in a subway tunnel that was already dug on Eglinton Ave., the damn line they still are trying to build today 15 years later.  Not to mention the debt we still cover on our hydro bills from that botched Ontario Hydro privatization.  And how far ahead did that whole water treatment privatization/deregulation scheme put the province after every resident of Walkerton had to be compensated?

No, the leader of the opposition's a gasbag and I'm not telling you to dust off your tory blue signs.  What I am telling you is Ontario's man-in-charge, premier Dalton McGuinty, took the taxpayers of this province for a ride last fall that he's going to regret.  He cancelled a gas-fired power plant, that was already under construction with concrete and transformers on site, because some old ladies brandished placards opposing it.  

Take a look at those hotties' faces Dalton.  This is what you gave up 9 years of majority government for.  I hope it was worth it.

This government's made some mistakes.  They've pulled the wool over our eyes a few times.  They've gotten away with brassy scandals like eHealth and ORNGE.  But this is just fucking pathetic.  Excuse the profanity but I only use it if it's really deserved.

Let's see...5.5 million out of 13 million Ontarians live in the GTA, and it's starved for power (A number greatly inflated by this and previous governments non-existent urban planning).  The GTA is something like the 6th largest economy in Canada and it's basically powered by two long extension cords - one going out east to the nuclear reactors in Pickering and Darlington, and one snaking west down to the Nanticoke coal plant on Lake Erie.  So a plant burning natural gas (much cleaner than coal, cheap, and without the risk and intense capital requirements of nuclear) is halfway built inside the GTA, and this one guy, our premier has the authority to tear it down. 

I don't know how such a catastrophe can happen.  But he's gonna pay for it.  You read it here first.

I can see the Liberal war room and spin machine running full tilt right now.  "Oh, it's summer, so nobody pays attention to politics." "Oh, they said we were done with e health and ornge" "Oh, we just gotta win this Kitchener Waterloo by-election and we got a majority again."

No big deal.

I beg to differ.

When a critical mass of Ontarians realize not only at what point Dalton abused his executive privilege and the public trust, to move a vital infrastructure capital project to friggin' Sarnia, they'll be mad.  (Know how much of that power generated in Sarnia is still available by the time it arrives in Toronto? Much less).  When they realized that the only reason he did this was to save seats (already common, public knowledge), this guy is going to appear so full of BS he will turn into electoral plutonium.  Can you imagine how this would play out in a leader's debate? How could you defend this without sounding like a complete moron?  Is a town (Waterloo) voted an Internation Intelligent Community in 2007 filled with people this stupid, to vote for a party led by someone willing to engage in such a pointless and irresponsible action?

The most sickening thing about all this is not the pathetic desperation or the wasted money, it's the calculation.  The sheer calculation that Dalton himself personally puts into this.  This man is willing to coddle and cowtow to the GTA suburbs to no end.  If you live in a rough Northern mining town, a medium sized burned-out Southern rest belt city, or an Eastern francophone village in Ontario, Dalton and the Liberals pretty much take you for granted and know they can count on your support.  What's the worst you can do, elect an NDP candidate? No sleep lost.

But if you are a 905 suburbanite, belly up to the taxpayer funded, open bar where Dalton's whipping bottles around like T Cruise in Cocktail.  You've got a McMansion, two leased cars and 2.5 kids? Ding Ding Ding lucky day.  You're the "Ontario Families" the Liberals of Dalton McGuinty are the tireless champions of!

Don't believe me? Oakville's gas plant was cancelled too, but at least it wasn't already in the process of being built.  2008? How'd you like this nice, 2.2 billion$ auto sector bailout, Durham?  And now the stinker to end all stinkers, the creme de la creme, the Mississauga gas plant cancellation.

See, it's not just your, um, demographics.  We've literally got parents with kids all over the place.  It's just that you guys in the suburbs, well, we know you like to vote conservative.  You've done it before.  And the suburban, higher income quadrants you reside in are literally just packed with the status-quo lovin', well-paid government employees we also hate pissing off.  Who else could afford to live there?  Teachers, cops, doctors, office workers and senior functionaries of all types - precious 905 votes, assiduously courted by the Liberals.  Toronto is the legislative capital after all, and you guys keep it going.

No, you really do.  No disrespect to any hardworking public employees residing the 905.  But to you and all my fellow Ontario residents, remember the next time an OLP candidate knocks on your door to employ a good bit of Irish slang and say forward together my arse.  The premier is Irish after all.  And I'm tired of living in his fantasy world with no consequences.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


As a vet of the internet collapsitarian scene, I`ve been reading breathless rants like this one regularly for some three years.

Yes, James Howard Kunstler is breathless.  He's a bit obnoxious.  But if his verbose, scathing predictions of impending doom become repetitive and wearisome week after week, I still give him a free pass for making them witty, irreverent, and entertaining.

Despite the fat balance in humanity`s hubris account that financial failure, the end of the world, and catastrophic climate change failed to materialize in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and now, more than midway through 2012, I am not hanging this over JHK`s head.  Not at all.  If his refusal to turn it down for one week is irritating, it is only mildly so compared to idiotic permanent bulls like Daniel Yergin at the Wall Street Journal or our very own PM S Harp, who think the earth is more than willing to underwrite colossal wastefulness in the form of Ford Expeditions and 250,000 square foot retail outlets indefinitely.

The truth is, the bad situation in Europe is always in the news because it is bad.  Banks across the developed world are routinely exposed to be involved in massive frauds (see JP Morgan ``trading loss``, Barclays `LIBOR scandal``, etc).  The American government is permanently dysfunctional and spending itself into oblivion.  The Coral reefs have declined 70% and species are dropping like flies.  Oh, and it is hotter than hell here in Ontario and Quebec.  Have you noticed?

The thing is, when you read the things humanity`s lived through (even starting with something relatively innocuous like Frank McCourt's Angela`s Ashes, a funny and excellent memoir about growing up dirt-poor Irish), you just don`t find anything that compares in modern society.  You just can`t picture these conditions in modern society, even if wage growth has been stuck in a permanent ditch since the mid 1970s.  The poor today are not starving; they are disproportionately obese.  They also evidently find money for things as diverse as chemical dependencies, neck tattoos, data plans, pop and, okay, they probably have no money left after that.  My point is, there is too much collective knowledge out there to support a scenario of stern-faced breadlines circling the block and miserable poverty everywhere.

Or maybe there isn`t.  Maybe it`s going to get too hot to grow food, the oil`s going to run out and the human race will experience a spectacular collapse.  The planet will flame out in a millisecond to a speck in the universe, the way it started.  It will happen one day anyway when the sun expires.  Stars don't live forever, you know.

The hypercomplex world we`ve created is of course vulnerable - to government defaults, disruptions in the food supply chain, uncertainty in the availability of a resource we depend so profoundly on.  But dooming all the time is exhausting, and it`s depressing.  There's one exciting statistic on the horizon - yes we are actually running out of something bad for a change - the number of countries where women still accept being assigned the permanent role of baby making machine is dwindling and falling fast.

So everything is in a state of flux.  Meanwhile, the sun is almost certain to rise tomorrow.  Have a beer, phone an old friend, go see a grandparent, make love to your spouse, and book a flight somewhere you`ve never been.  Because even if the world goes down the toilet in six months, you might die tomorrow.  All that`s certain right now is there`s some daylight you could be standing in instead of hunching over your computer reading my claptrap.  This daylight is the symbol of our current human condition - we have no idea what the farg is going to happen, of course, but we are alive.  Right now.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The delusional lib establishment - La grande délusion part deux

I have to admit that I had been repulsed by the Liberal party’s endless public handwringing and bellyaching over the future of the party and the upcoming leadership race.  Simply put, there was nothing more excruciating than seeing a party starting at zero with no single serious contender act like it was still relevant and this was the event of the century.

Right or wrong, Bob Rae knows his imaginary baggage is electorally radioactive and did the smart thing by bowing out.  It’s too bad, because with his wit and pragmatism, he was probably the best person for the job out there.

So that means the race is wide open.  And to lead a party that endlessly blathers on now about “renewal”, “modernization”, and eschewing “old-style politics”, and wants to avoid a coronation of insiders, heavyweights, or cronies to avoid adding to the record levels of cynicism maintaining the party’s current stratospheric heights of irrelevance, two good women threw their hats in the ring first.   

One was Deborah Coyne, a constitutional lawyer who happened to have a fling with Pierre Trudeau and bore his youngest child.  She recently wrote an op-ed for the Star that basically explained everything that is wrong with the country in the broadest, most sensible terms possible.

Meanwhile, one time M.P. and Leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay wrote a well-researched and thorough academic paper at the University of Calgary questioning the market shielding and indirect subsidies provided to Canadian dairy farmers that is infamously known as “supply management”.  Right or wrong, it was a non-dogmatic and thoughtful sortie that took a stand, something no Liberal policy or person has done in as long as anybody can remember.

So what did the mighty Liberal establishment think of these two female fresh faces with big ideas and balls-kicking intentions, who were asking to lead a party that has literally nothing to lose?

Well, it derided and mocked them, of course.  Told them to sit down and shut up.  The future of the party is at stake here, and we don’t need the exciting race that’s required to rescue it from oblivion clogged up with distractions and sideshows.  Only credible, serious, national profile Liberal males need apply. 

I realize Bob Hepburn doesn’t speak for every card-carrying Liberal party member in Canada but as a senior editorial staff member of the country’s biggest lefty broadsheet, he might want to be a bit more responsible and showcase a little bit less of the deluded, entitled, ignorant, tribal, bullshit mentality that has driven his party into oblivion.

Is he really in a position to be lecturing people about the dangers of thinking outside the box when the last two inside the box Liberal leaders were complete disasters?  Who are the “serious” and “exciting” candidates Hepburn wants Canada to pre-ordain? Marc Garneau? Justin Trudeau? Scott Brison? Can you picture any of these guys commanding more than the 20% support Bob Rae currently does? I can’t.  Hepburn, outside of his terribly concealed charisma-royalty-saviour Justin wetdream, thinks the 41 year old is a serious contender because he has 139,000 Twitter followers.  Apparently nobody has explained to Mr. Hepburn that clicking “follow” is not an action reserved for dyed in the wool partisans, and that as many environmentalists probably follow Ezra Levant as climate change deniers follow David Suzuki.  Really just an irresponsible, terribly thought out piece overall.

Here, Bob, want to see what a “strong, credible” Leader’s resume looks like?

1979 – Drop out of U of T after two months
1980 – Work in mailroom at oil company where dad is an executive
1981-1985 – Attend U of Calgary, become Milton Friedman acolyte/neo-con ideologue
1987 – Attend “West wants in” and “Winds of change” conferences
1990-present – Alternatively head National Citizens Coalition, an extreme-right, social conservative fringe think tank, and make six figures in the house of commons culminating in a 230000, lifetime guaranteed gold-plated pension
1998 – Pen “firewall” Alberta separatist letter
2003 – Write op-ed for Wall Street Journal apologizing for Canada’s non-involvement in Iraq.

As you can see, credentials and accomplishments mean absolutely zero to the Canadian public, and nobody can tell you that better than the gadfly above who’s been elected prime minister three times.  So maybe an armchair quarterback like you should think twice before pouncing on people who have accomplished way more than you have who want to lead a party you are a supporter of.