Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Love That Word Democracy

Was reading this story, about the 'Conservatives' appointing their own party members as 'liaisons' for constituents in NDP held ridings to go to in their dealings with the federal government because, in the words of the Conservative party's B.C. caucus head, Dick Harris (MP for Cariboo-Prince George), "Having an MP from the fourth party in the House just doesn’t cut it when it comes to actually getting things done for the folks in Skeena-Bulkley Valley."

Now I'm not sure what authority the Conservative party has to appoint a replacement for the democratically elected MP from Skeena-Bulkley Valley (Nathan Cullen of the NDP) - and as the Canadian Cynic says, 'That's a nice riding you've got there, be a shame if anything happened to it', seems like a succinct summary of the underlying attitude.

But for some reason the whole affair makes me think back to the early days of the Royal Canadian Air Farce, with Don Ferguson making fun of how Preston Manning said the word 'Reform', and then Manning himself appearing in a good natured guest spot, saying 'Reform' in the same drawn out (Refoooorm) way that Ferguson did. And it makes me a little sad, to be honest. I never supported the Reform party, it's true, but at least you could believe they honestly wanted real reform, not whatever this so-called Conservative party is turning out to be.

Help Wanted

I need a blogger
I'm holding out for a blogger 'til the end of the night
She's gotta be strong
And she's gotta post fast
And she's gotta be fresh from the right

Great Opportunity for Right-leaning Canadian Political Blogger!

Attention right-leaning Canadian political bloggers! The recent departures and/or hibernation of some of Canada's most interesting right-leaning political bloggers has created a vacancy in the CAtO Blogroll. Are you the fresh thinker who can fill this void?

About CAtO:

A dynamic, peopleperson driven venture, CAtO is revolutionizing the synergy between out-of-the-box real time insight (random opinions) and the robust provision of just-in-time opinion-based communication conduits (links).

The position:

Over to the right hand side of the screen, with the rest of the political bloggers. Some scrolling may be required.


Must have at least 2 weeks of hands-on blogging experience
Excellent oral and written communication skills (OK, written will do)
Team player with positive 'con-do' attitude
Capable of mustering a coherent argument on a reasonably consistent basis
Ability to maintain political position to the right of CAtO editorial staff without abandoning science, compassion, basic decency and/or reason.
Creative and strategic thinker who thrives for continuous challenges and personal growth (note: this point is more of a 'nice-to-have' than a real must)


CAtO offers an innovative, high growth fast paced environment which can help you develop and prosper in your blogging career. We offer an attractive Total Rewards compensation and benefits package that rewards excellence and retains top performers.

More to the point, here's what you'll get:
One permanent link on CAtO blogroll under the top-billed 'Canadian Political Blogs' category (Note: initial placement will be at bottom of blogroll with excellent opportunities for ascension - no, not that kind of ascension)
Additional 'in-post' links awarded on a merit basis.

Note: CAtO is an equal opportunity blogroller.

Inquiries and/or recommendations should be forwarded to the editor, or can be left in comments on this posting.

Note: thanks to Workopolis job postings for providing most of the text of this post.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Vancouver: Number 1 and Number 6

According to the Economist, Vancouver is the world's most livable city.

Meanwhile, Forbes has photos from the 10 worst cities in the world for overpriced real estate, and here we are only #6 (with a Forbes computed real estate p/e ratio of 28.61) , although with the U.S. mess still unfolding, we should pass L.A. any day now.

(Forbes link via the comments at Vancouver Condo Info)

Says Forbes,
"Vancouver has one of the lowest rental yield rates of any city measured, at 3.19%, despite high prices. Across Canada, despite the same tax system, the effective annualized return rate resulted in a much better P/E of 16.31. Owners need to be aware that such a large spread keeps the rental market strong and the market for sellers more stagnant. The pool of buyers remains relatively small as renters can get the same property at significantly less cost and invest the difference."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Better Find That Information Quick

Via the Gazetteer a Canadian Press (CP) article on suspicions that some of the 'protesters' at the North American Leader's summit in Montebello, Que. were actually cops looking to stir up trouble.

See the video for yourself.

The final lines of the CP piece,
"Neither the RCMP nor the Surete du Quebec would comment on the video or even discuss generally whether they ever use the tactic of employing agents provocateurs.

"I cannot answer your question because I don't have the information," said Const. Kane Kramer, a spokesman for the RCMP at the summit."

Update: The Quebec police have now admitted that the three 'protestors' in the video were actually cops. I assume that in future any media coverage of violent protests will carry a disclaimer that the violent, mask-wearing, rock-carrying anarchists in question are just as likely to be undercover cops.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Flat Tax Debate

Over at the Great Canadian Debate site, you can read my case against a flat tax along with Adrian MacNair's case in favour.

As it turns out, it's not much of a debate as me and Adrian seem to basically agree - but there you go - I'm not surprised the Great Debate organizers were unable to find anyone willing to come right out and argue in favour of increasing taxes on the poor and middle class so that they can be lowered on the rich (as would happen in any flat tax that we would actually see implemented in Canada as opposed to some magical pony* flat tax which is more progressive than the current system.)

Anyway, any comments on the topic can be left in the relevant forum at the great debate site

* Blog lingo for plans which sound good on paper but, since they will not ever actually be implemented, only serve to provide rhetorical cover for those who want to implement something which sounds similar but is actually far worse.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Two Small Things

1) Here at CAtO we aspire to someday combine politeness and scathing criticism as well as Josh Marshall does in this post ending with, "I grant you that the blogosphere needs better bloggers. But, as usual, the need for better critics seems even more acute."

2) Andrew Sullivan links to what he terms a 'much praised account' of the rise and fall of the CD.

The subheader of the article in question:
"In recent years, the economics of pop music have been upended. The market for CDs has collapsed, and not even the rise of legal downloading can offset the damage to record companies. Meanwhile, demand for live performances has rocketed"

And here's Paul Krugman, forecasting the 21st century (by pretending to be writing at the end of it and looking back), in a prescient 1996 article:

"While business gurus were proclaiming the new dominance of creativity and innovation over mere production, the growing ease with which information was transmitted and reproduced made it harder for creators to profit from their creations. Nowadays, if you develop a marvelous piece of software, everyone will have downloaded a free copy from the Net the next day. If you record a magnificent concert, bootleg CD's will be sold in Shanghai next week. If you produce a wonderful film, high-quality videos will be available in Mexico City next month.

How, then, could creativity be made to pay? The answer was already becoming apparent a century ago: creations must make money indirectly by promoting sales of something else. Just as auto makers used to sponsor grand prix racers to spice up the image of their cars, computer manufacturers now sponsor hotshot software designers to build brand recognition for their hardware. The same is true for individuals. The royalties that the Four Sopranos earn from their recordings are surprisingly small; the recordings mainly serve as advertisements for their concerts. The fans attend these concerts not to appreciate the music (they can do that far better at home), but for the experience of seeing their idols in person. In short, instead of becoming a knowledge economy we became a celebrity economy.

What? Not every post has a point, you know.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

One More Thing Before I Go

Since the first debate has been posted, I have added a link to the 'Great Canadian Debate' on the sidebar, for the time being.

It's lame for me to complain given that I could have provided an opinion on the best way to run the debate and didn't, but the 'Debate' site sure is a vivid reminder of why I like blogs and hate forums. Simplicity over functionality, any day, in my book.

Ignatieff, Cabinet Shuffles, Electronics Recycling and Housing Prices

Not much to say, just figured it had been a while since the last post, and what with being on vacation next week and all, thought I'd better say something. Since I've gone to the trouble of logging into blogger, here are a few random thoughts - mostly other people's but a few of mine.

Cabinet Shuffles - Imagine if you went to a parent teacher interview to talk about how your son/daughter was doing in high school - and you were informed that the school principal had decided to do a teacher shuffle. Chemistry would be taught by the erstwhile gym teacher. Art by the French instructor. French by the math teacher. Math by the history teacher. Personally I wouldn't be too impressed. Are all federal ministries so interchangeable that you can just move people randomly around from being in charge of one to another and it doesn't do any harm?

In short, the whole concept of the cabinet shuffle has always been kind of mystifying to me.

Meanwhile, from David Rees, here's a hilarious take on Michael Ignatieff's (typically) absurd Iraq War mea culpa from the NY Times last week.

On a happier note, I was wondering the other day how I was going to get rid of an old laptop which was broken beyond all repair when I saw this post from Sacha. As of August 1, a new provincial government program goes into effect whereby you have to pay an extra fee when you buy certain electronics, and in return you are able to dump said electronics without paying any kind of dumping charge.

Sacha also links to a fascinating (for a certain type of person, anyway) detailed breakdown of what goes into B.C.'s dumps.

Regarding my post from a week or two ago on the Vancouver housing market. The biggest reason for me to think that prices might just keep going up here is that they seem to be doing that in some other places around the world, notably England. So, if there, why not here? But the odd thing about the English housing market is that even though prices have been going higher and higher, there has been little increase in the supply of housing.

The government even commissioned a study (The Barker review) on the situation.

Some notes from the report that resulted,
"Demand for housing is increasing over time, driven primarily by demographic trends and rising incomes. Yet in 2001 the construction of new houses in the UK fell to its lowest level since the second world war. Over the ten years to 2002, output of new homes was 12.5 per cent lower than for the previous ten years."

and from the review's interim report...

Formal estimates of supply responsiveness suggest that housing output in the UK responds relatively weakly to changes in house prices. Against a background of rising demand, this will contribute to higher house prices than might otherwise be the case:

• international comparisons show that the supply of housing in the UK is less price
responsive than in most other major economies. Our housing supply is only half as responsive as the French housing market, a third as responsive as the US market,
and only a quarter as responsive as the German housing market;

• studies also show that supply has become less responsive over time. Before the war, it was up to four times as responsive as it was through most of the post-war period;

• the responsiveness of housing supply has declined further in the 1990s, falling
almost to zero, implying no change in housing output in response to the increases in price. Increasing demand has therefore fed directly into higher house prices.

Which raises the obvious question: if prices are so high why don't developers build more houses and make easy money? The Barker report, as far as I can tell, writes this off as being simply due to a shortage of land, which seems somewhat odd.

Of course, if it was true that entire country of England was running out of land, and that this was causing the supply of housing to flatline despite rising prices, that would be a pretty solid indicator that Vancouver, almost as densely populated as London and somewhat lacking in land compared to England, was destined for ever increasing prices.

Except that in Vancouver, higher prices still seem to mean higher supply. See here, for example. Note that while housing starts haven't matched the peaks of the late 80's/early 90's, population growth is a fair bit lower now than it was then as well.

Anyway, I don't know what's up with the lack of housing in England. Maybe they are out of land, or there is too much nimbyism, or there is a refusal to build upwards rather than ever outwards, but whatever's got the English housing supply down, it doesn't seem to be affecting Vancouver.