Archive | November, 2008

Biggest Losers

26 Nov

It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has a billion to lose when the do lose it but here’s a list of some of the year’s biggest losers (so far).

Can’t believe how much money you’ve lost in the past couple of months? Neither can we.  But we’re pleased to say that our misery has some serious company.

We’re pleased to present our list of The Biggest Losers: 20 global moguls who have gotten creamed in the recent economic collapse.

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City Hall’s connection to the US

26 Nov

Samuel Johnson once said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.  As I watch the maneuvering in City Hall I’m reminded of his line.  After getting decimated in the recent civic election the NPA is now talking about the perils of US influence in our city politics.  Counselor Suzanne Anton is leading the charge.

“American residents are not allowed to donate to the campaigns of our prime minister or MPs,” she notes. “So how is it right that they can help elect our mayors?”

Anton adds: “Supposing I took a donation from the NRA, what would that do to my political career?”

But ironically, as the reporter from the Sun points out:

Not much. And that was obvious before the 2006 federal election when the U.S.-based National Rifle Association was found to be advising Canadian gun clubs on how to lobby Canadian politicians.

Svend Robinson, then a federal Vancouver Centre candidate, called it appalling. “The NRA has no place in Canadian politics,” he said.

So the NPA doesn’t have a fantastic track record of defending our national honour.  And if the NPA is suddenly going to wrap itself in the flag then it should also be talking about the most influential foreign force in our city — the IOC.  Let’s also talk about the big US developers who are getting $100 million dollars of our money as the result of the Olympics.

The Sun’s piece goes on to talk about US involvement in charities and worries about whether this should be accepted.  This kind of logic is flawed from the start – flawed and dangerous. 

If the tables were turned and Canadians were not allowed to donate money to US charities how would we feel?  The effect of this would be potential devastating.  Think about the victims of Katrina.  Geo-fencing charity separates worthwhile organizations from people who have the means to help. 

And lets not get too cocky.  Canada has benefited tremendously from the investment Americans have made in this country.  Whether it’s local business like biotech or new media or local charities, Americans have the means, comfort with risk and willingness to support worthwhile Canadian causes.  To oppose that support would place the burden on Canadians alone and slow our growth at a time when we need to encourage growth.

The Sun says:

That doesn’t tend to raise eyebrows in Metro Vancouver because the grant money tends to go only to politically correct causes.

But if it went to campaigns beloved by, say, free-enterprisers and gun advocates, there would be howls of anti-American outrage.

But to call green causes ‘politically correct’ seems a bit 1991.  Whatever your opinion is about gun control is, it is  political.  But in 2008 there are very few people who see the environment as a side show and supporting its preservation is not politically correct but biologically necessary.

Terror, Mentally Ill Threaten Games Polling Station for Vancouver Teachers Federation possible Strike

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Dow Gains 15% in 7 Hours

25 Nov

Astonishing: The Dow has run from 7450 to 8598 — more than 15% since Friday at 2:30

Once in a while it’s nice to see some good news (however fleeting it may prove to be).

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Conversation cops at Queen’s

22 Nov

Hardly a day passes these days without Queens’ University screwing something new up.  Today I got an email from the school (I am an alumni)  explaining that they hadn’t instituted a policy of deploying thought police onto the campus.  ‘Thought police’?  That was the first I heard of it so I googled the story and got this from The Globe:

The Kingston university has hired student facilitators to step in when they overhear homophobic slurs, remarks bashing women or racially tinged insults, along with an array of other language that could be deemed offensive.

That means tête-à-têtes in the residence hallways may no longer be just between friends.

“If people are having a conversation with offensive content and they’re doing it loud enough for a third person to hear it … it’s not private,” said Jason Laker, dean of student affairs at Queen’s.

The purpose of the University’s email was to counter the belief that this program was Soviet in style but I don’t buy it.   The whole premise seems very dubious and I am glad not to be a student now.  But not only is this a dumb idea, it also appears to be poorly executed.  According to Patricia Gurin, one of the founders of the concept:

“It takes a lot of skill to do this work,”…

She said that facilitators who haven’t been trained properly could end up reinforcing defence mechanisms of privileged students.

But not to worry because:

The Queen’s facilitators went through an intensive 11-day training course that touched on a variety of social issues and possible scenarios.

That is ridiculous.  How is 11 days of training going to qualify someone to make these kinds of delicate decisions?  

This is the second time I’ve wondered about the judgement of the school in the last week.  Earlier it was announced that the school had cancelled homecoming, a tradition that has existed for decades. 

Random Photos 2000 003 Street party on Aberdeen Street Stupid Girl The Flegg House Ponacka Party

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Canada Sleeps Through War to ‘Save the Internet’

21 Nov

Net neutrality. A bland phrase capable of sparking a digital revolt.

In the United States it’s the hot-button Internet issue of the day, a threat deemed so grave to free expression it gave rise to a stunning right-left coalition and galvanized celebrities and rock icons like REM with church groups, rights groups, academics, the CEOs of Google and Amazon, web pioneers Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee and the 1.5 million Americans who sent a petition to Congress. (Not to mention providing the raison d’être for this hip short film primer on the topic.)

In Canada, on the other hand, the latest count on Kevin McArthur’s online net neutrality petition clocks in at, well, a paltry 217 signatures.

Today I’m embarrassed to be a Canadian.  We should be ashamed of ourselves for letting this happen.  This is an example of the kind of behaviour that will keep us in the business of digging stuff out of the ground and nothing more.  This is not the kind of policy that will result in a vibrant Canadian new media culture.  Given that everything is becoming more and more digital, this means that we will not have a vibrant Canadian culture.  Anyone who has any interest in this country should pay attention to this issue and oppose throttling in any form.

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Bloodbath in California housing market

20 Nov

These are some very scary numbers.  If you want into the market in Northern California you can now pick up property at almost half what it was going for a year ago.

Despite an increasingly uncertain economy, thousands of homebuyers around San Francisco Bay kept snatching up foreclosed homes last month, dragging down the median home price by 41 percent from a year ago, a real estate tracking firm said Thursday.

The median home price in the nine-county region plunged to $375,000 in October, compared with $631,000 in the year-ago period, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick.

Then again, you may want to hold off.

HONG KONG UNDER STORM! Schwarzenegger Talking with Cyber-Rain Team

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Buffett investments value down 43%

20 Nov

It appears that nobody is above the fray.

Feeling mauled by the seemingly undying bear market? Take a look at the year-to-date performance for some biggest of the big-name investors and consider yourself in good company

  • Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway): -43%
  • Ken Hebner (CMG Focus Fund) -56%
  • Harry Lange (Fidelity Magellan): -59%
  • Bill Miller (Legg Mason Value Trust) -50%
  • Ken Griffin (Citadel): -44%
  • Carl Icahn (Icahn Enterprises): -81%
  • T. Boone Pickens: Down $2 billion since July
  • Kirk Kerkorian: Down $693 million on his Ford shares alone

My guest John Roque, managing director and technical analyst at Natixis Bleichroeder, suggests these staggering losses are simply a matter of the fact that “a bear market gets everyone” — even Wall Street legends.

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