Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Cod stocks improving: Let’s fish!

November 19, 2010

I am down in Nevada at the moment and listening to NPR radio while I drive.

I just heard a comment there that cod stocks were improving and that commercial fishermen wanted to get back fishing them. The commentator noted that he had sympathy for that point of view.

Well I sure the hell don’t. The commercial cod fishery has a lot to answer for.

The commercial fisheries raped the resource for years. Not only fishing well past the capacity of the resource, but dragging the seabed with some of the fishing techniques and destroying the habitat there as well.

A major factor that contributed to the depletion of the cod stocks off the shores of Newfoundland was the introduction and proliferation of equipment and technology that increased the volume of landed fish. For centuries local fishermen used technology that limited the volume of their catch, the area they fished, and allowed them to target specific species and ages of fish.[51] From the 1950s onwards, as was common in all industries at the time, new technology was introduced that allowed fishermen to trawl a larger area, fish to a deeper depth and for a longer time. By the 1960s, powerful trawlers equipped with radar, electronic navigation systems and sonar allowed crews to pursue fish with unparalleled success, and Canadian catches peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[52] These new technologies adversely affected the Northern Cod population in two important ways: by increasing the area and depth that was fished, the cod were being depleted to the point that the surviving fish were incapable of replenishing the stock lost each year;[53] and secondly, the trawlers caught enormous amounts of non-commercial fish, which although economically unimportant, held huge ecological significance: incidental catch undermines the functioning of the ecosystem as a whole, depleting stocks of important predator and prey species. In the case of the Northern Cod, significant amounts of capelin – an important prey species for the cod – were caught as bycatch, further undermining the survival of the remaining cod stock.

Their attitude was akin to the old buffalo hunters who competed to see who could kill the last buffalo. (OK, I know they’re Bison).

If you want to read an excellent book on the issue pick up a copy of Cod: A Biography of a Fish That Changed The World, by Mark Kurlansky. Or check on it at a used book store. A review of the book here.

However in doing a bit of google research (I didn’t get to hear the actual story on NPR) in appears that the North Sea cod are making a bit of a comeback, but the Newfoundland stocks are just holding their own at this point.

But of course we are still fishing them.

The cod population off of Newfoundland’s south coast is neither rising nor declining, reveals a Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) research report released Wednesday.

This inconclusive assessment will be used by fisheries managers to set commercial quotas in the coming year.

“It’s certainly frustrating from everyone’s perspective, from our own and from the fisheries managers and indeed from the fishermen, too,” said John Brattey, a DFO research scientist.

The assessment addresses fishing zone 3PS, which has been in steady decline since 2000, reports CBC.

Recently, fishermen in the zone have reported catches of mature cod that are larger than those seen in recent years. This could mean the area is not being overfished, Brattey said.

He said, however, that it is too early to tell how many young fish will survive to maturity.

“We don’t feel that a single mathematical model can reconcile the information into a single assessment of the stock as a whole, so we don’t feel it would be appropriate to do it at this point,” he said.

Cod stocks off the south coast of Newfoundland are one of the healthiest in the area, but only in comparison to other stocks, which remain low.

It was only in April of last year that DFO scientists reported that cod population in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence had reached a record low point, with only 50,000 tonnes of cod remaining in the area.

The cod stock off the Island’s northeast coast remained in a diminished state even after more than 15 years of a total ban on cod fishing in the area.

The south coast was also closed to commercial fishing in 1992, and only limited areas were ever reopened.

Actually a large part of the blame has to be laid at the door of the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) which was (supposedly) responsible for managing the fishery and under whose watch the fishery collapsed. There are many complaints that they are equally responsible for problems in the westcoast fishery.

But then again the DFO can’t win no matter which route they take. If they allow the commercial fisheries to take precedence they get hammered by the conservation and environmental groups, and if they err on the side of a conservative strategy they get crucified by spokespersons for the commercial fishery.

The initial jubilation over the massive bounty of returning salmon sockeye is now being washed up in criticism, with Conservative MP John Cummins saying fishermen are furious with the way federal regulators have delayed the fishery.

“People are just disgusted with the way they’ve managed this, these guys haven’t a clue,” charged Cummins, an experienced commercial fisherman and MP for Delta-Richmond East.

Cummins says reports of a large return of Fraser River sockeye started coming in three weeks ago but the industry was forced to sit on the sidelines as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans refused to allow a fishery.

That delay is now the subject of intense debate, with one expert saying that millions of returning sockeye are going to overcrowd spawning grounds, causing significant numbers to die off before spawning — a terrible waste of fish that could have been caught earlier by fishermen.

Cummins agrees and is now calling for a shakeup at DFO.

Although I find the argument that fish performing their natural process of spawning and dying being a ‘waste’ of those fish  pretty amusing, it is however consistent with statements that I have heard over the years from commercial fisheries people to the effect that any fish that got past the commercial nets were ‘wasted’.

We could also talk about commercially fishing down the food chain, but that’s another story.

California votes against legal pot:Too bad

November 7, 2010

If you can imagine such a scenario, California voters defeated Proposition 19, which would have made marijuana use legal in the State.

Of course there was a concerted campaign against the measure with the federal government and local police being front and center against legalization.

Certainly that was to be expected, as the police have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo on this issue.

A cynical view?

Possibly, but police forces get their money by convincing politicians (and the public) that crime is running rampant and the more they can make their case in that regard the better their budgets are likely to be.

So if marijuana was suddenly, with a stroke of a politician’s pen, made legal a great deal of ‘crime’ as now defined would be off the table.

It would also reduce the number of people being convicted and spending time, at taxpayers’ expense , in our jails.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have never used marijuana nor have I ever had the inclination to do so. I quit smoking regular cigarettes over 50 years ago and have never felt the need to suck smoke into my lungs since that time.

But that doesn’t change the fact that our laws regarding the weed need to be changed and California had a chance to do so and muffed it – although the dissenting vote came at just under 54%, which is not a ringing rejection of the idea.

What it come down to is that successive governments have made the same mistakes with marijuana that the US government made with prohibition.

They have spent decades putting people in jail and destroying lives for an activity that harmed no-one – possibly with the exception of themselves and that is debatable.

In the process they have also facilitated the growth of a criminal element that feeds richly off the illegal drug trade. A trade so lucrative that in places like Mexico they effectively maintain their own armies and hold the government to ransom.

And for what?

To try and prevent the use of a drug that is widely used by a large percentage of the population, while allowing and profiting from the use of alcohol which by all accounts causes much more disruption to the social fabric.

None of it makes much sense to me. It seems to be another case of stupid, outdated laws making criminals out of citizens for doing something that society as a whole increasingly finds to be – if not completely accepted – at least not a criminal act.

California had the opportunity on November 2nd to embark on a bold experiment, but unfortunately came up short.

All that being said, there were marijuana users in California that were opposed to Proposition 19 as well. They believed that the wording of the proposition was such that if passed it would be used to make their lives much more complicated.

In part:

For instance, Prop 19 supporters are excited about the ’5 foot by 5 foot’ cultivation area they think they would be allowed i.e., one space per residence, no matter how many occupants. But most don’t realize that police will continue to arrest people who can’t show written documentation from a landlord or property-owner giving them permission, which is impossible to get for most. But unlike now, localities will also be able to impose huge monetary fines on such individuals, in addition to the criminal charges.

Cities would also decide how close to minors growing will be allowed.  Undoubtedly many will rule that in the same apartment-complex is too close. Prop 19 creates new felony charges for anyone crossing those limits. So it can be asked: how does Prop 19 make us marijuana-users more ‘free’?

In addition, unlike now, localities will be allowed to enact steep fines for any person caught without a permit for 5 foot  x 5 foot cultivation area – that can be 1 plant. For property-owners the fines can be added on to your property-taxes, so you have to pay. For renters caught without a growing permit, a fine and jail time.

Prop 19 gives localities the power to collect as much money as they want through these fines & fees (wonder how much that’ll be?). Rancho Cordova’s ordinance will charge homeowners $600 per square foot of garden, or $15,000 per year for your 5 foot x 5 foot cultivation plot. And charge homeowners caught exceeding that area $1000 a day for the ‘nuisance’. The same charges and fines also appliers to renters.

All of this is aimed at the same purpose as Prop 19 itself: to discourage people from growing pot themselves and funnel all consumption through high-priced dispensaries (the more they charge, the more tax the locality gets), and at the same time give police clearer criteria of their powers that they can use to bust people.

Going on the above, it’s clear that under Prop 19, pot smokers would be better off buying a doctor’s recommendation.

In short, the objections of pot-smokers to Prop 19: They now live in a climate where anyone in California can get a doctor’s recommendation for less than $100, and with it possess and cultivate amounts 10 times that of Prop 19. Anybody else already has the right to possess 1 ounce.

Prop 19 introduces a plethora of fines and fees for governments to cash in on and making many basic acts which are legal now, illegal, such as smoking in the same home as a minor, or handing a joint to someone who hasn’t turned 21 yet.  Legally defining what amount ‘personal use’ is.  Not even to mention the loss of an entire, thriving cottage-industry — to large corporations. And the negative tax and economic consequences of that.

Looking at the whole picture, it becomes clear what Prop 19′s true purpose is: to empty the wallet of the marijuana user for the benefit of dispensaries, big business and governments. All while the voters embrace it with a big stoned smile.

As they say, ‘the devil is in the details’, and they may very well be right in believing that Proposition 19 left openings for serious abuse.It wouldn’t be the first (nor the last) time that groups got sandbagged by the lawmakers. But legalization something that will eventually come and when it does the people who will be affected need to be very involved in the process.

One more annoying B.C. HST example and you gotta love the Green Tax.

July 7, 2010

In my posting about the B.C. HST which came into effect on July 1st, I neglected to mention the most egregious attack on my personal lifestyle. A large cappuccino at Tim Horton’s went from $1.92 to $2.05. This could add up to a lot of money over my remaining years.

This is almost as bad as the Green Tax on gasoline that the provincial government stuck us with back in 2008. (Well in time I’ll probably get used to the extra $0.13 on my cappuccino but the gasoline tax I won’t forget or forgive as it rises to an additional $0.07 per gallon by 2012).

Actually, on July 1st we also got a $0.0112 rise in gas a BC pumps. We are now paying an additional $0.0445 for gas in this province thanks to the Campbell government’s green tax initiative. The gift that keeps on giving.

Just another government tax grab as far as I’m concerned.

(I was going to post this under ‘humour’ as well, but then I got into the gasoline tax business and found that my amusement factor had zeroed out).

The Joke in Copenhagen

December 23, 2009

I have now gone from being merely skeptical of the global warming frenzy to being angry by the revelations that we have been defrauded by people who have manipulated data and stonewalled any critical analysis of their findings and who have had the unmitigated gall to call themselves scientists. I am angry because  politicians and bureaucrats seem determined to forge ahead with policies that will do mortal damage our economies in spite of the information now becoming available that data was doctored in order to prove a predetermined hypothesis.

To add to all of this, after the e-mails out of East Anglia and just when the “scientists” and the global warming theorists were getting into their damage control mode attempting to explain that what the e-mails said meant something entirely different than what it sounded like, they were hit by a report from Russia that the temperature database from that country had been manipulated by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to show greater warming in Russia that was actually the case.

From there we went to the circus in Copenhagen where demagogues such as Venezuala’s president Hugo Chavez received standing ovations for his attacks on capitalism and his arch-enemy the U.S.

Assembled world leaders cheered on Chavez Wednesday during his first, scheduled speech, a ringing attack on all things capitalist that earned him standing ovations from leaders of the Third World.

Chavez berated developed nations for creating an “imperial dictatorship” that rules the world and urging his audience to “fight against capitalism,” the “silent and terrible ghost” that was haunting the elegant conference chambers in the Danish capital.

“I promise I won’t talk more than others have talked this afternoon,” he said at the start of a rambling, 25-minute diatribe that outshot other speakers by a full 20 minutes. In the wide-ranging speech, he called capitalism the “road to hell” responsible for poverty, murder, AIDS — and even unfair climate agreements, the Toronto Star reported.

And there were others -

Over in Copenhagen, we have Robert Mugabe, perhaps the most brutal and corrupt despot in Africa, whose life’s work has been to destroy the once-prosperous country of Zimbabwe, lecturing the West on the “hypocrisy” of its position on climate change. (Zimbabwe doesn’t have to worry about greenhouse gas emissions, because, thanks to Mugane, its economy is in a state of collapse.) Update: Here’s Stephen Lewis talking about a new report on Mugabe’s use of rape as a weapon.

We have the government of China, which won’t allow its citizens free access to the Internet, complaining that the climate summit is “not transparent.”

We have Hugo Chavez, who took time off from shutting down Venezuela’s radio stations to fly to Denmark, complaining about western “dictatorship.” (If anyone back in Venezuela disagrees, he’ll toss them in jail).

Of course we also have the patriotic Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, standing up for Canada – sorry, my mistake. You have David Miller slamming Canada by volunteering to accept a Fossil award in Canada’s name.
“Like most Canadians, I’m embarrassed … our government continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement,” Mr. Miller said as he accepted two “Fossil of the Day” awards on behalf of Canada last week.
Two other commentaries that are well worth reading.
As always, a well-written, thoughtful column by Rex Murphy, which says in part:

If the hard science of global warming, or at least as much of that emergent discipline that may be called hard science, is to be the factual and scientific fulcrum on which policies for the world’s energy are to be decided, then it logically follows that such science must be absolutely untainted. That it not be infused with the activist spirit, that advocacy follows the science, not that science seeks to comport with advocacy. It is really impossible to read some of those e-mails and not to take, from both their tone and their substance, that the necessary neutrality and disinterest of true scientific enterprise – the essential virtues of science – have been severely disobliged.

Has the science been tainted, is the question of our time. Has the authority and prestige of scientific practice been invoked at the very moment when its methods – its practice – has been, to any degree, corrupted or degraded? This would be a reasonable question – and let me stress it is still a question – even if the project or subject was one of far less consequence and scope than the planet’s climate and its economic practice.

That question is not being asked with the rigour we should expect. There is something about the great cause of global warming that tends to disarm scrutiny, to tamp down the normal reflexes of tough questioning and investigation that the press brings to every other arena. The great conference at Copenhagen seems to have whistled by the quite momentous challenge that the East Anglia e-mails presents to the centrality of the claims made by the global warming cause. Lots of fossil-of-the-day moments – not many hard press conferences.

Then another by Roger J. Simon on Pajamas Media, who was in Copenhagen for the conference and who observes that the conference was less about CO2 reduction than about moving power into the hands of the UN.

It will say the same of Copenhagen, no doubt. At least the presence of the various despots (Chavez, Mugabe, the re-upped A-jad, etc.) was not as damaging this time. It was more of sideshow, compared to the true objective of COP15 – the cementing of UN bureaucratic power under the guise of CO2 regulation. That was why the Climategate revelations were particularly poorly timed for the United Nations. Yes, they were largely ignored or dismissed at press conferences, but they were an overwhelming presence about which many were aware.

But much of the reality of the conference seemed to me to be an opportunity for third world countries to try and extract money from the west to use for their own purposes. This comment from a US agricultural reperesentative at the conference had the same take on the proceedings.

“To me, it appeared like they wanted our money to fix the problems they have that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with greenhouse gases or climate change,” he says. “It’s just the fact that they wanted to redistribute the wealth.  They wanted our dollars because we were the ‘rich Americans’.”

I think that pretty much sums it up: redistribution of wealth. That’s the plan.

The incompetence of the elected

March 20, 2009

I have noted on occasion that before anyone is allowed to run for government they should be given some kind of intelligence test. But even that might not save us from the stupidity of elected officials as common sense and intelligence don’t necessarily go hand in hand anyway.

As long as the world is in reasonable shape our system of electing people, who may know how to talk but not necessarily how to think, works reasonably well. But when the bottom falls out of the bucket we find that our legislators really don’t measure up.

It happens everywhere, but unfortunately it really shows up in the U.S. where everything is bigger than life.

Like when you vote for a $787 billion stimulus bill without reading it and then find that companies that are getting government money are paying out contracted bonuses to senior employees. When you rise up in righteous anger over this terrible wrong you discover that you in fact have effectively approved those payments when you voted for the bill. But of course you – the representative of the people – have no responsibility here, it is those evil people with valid employment contracts who need to be demonized.

But I like this one.

When the U.S. closed the southern border to Mexican trucking last week — in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement — Mexico promised to retaliate. Yesterday it did, releasing a list of 89 U.S. products that will face new tariffs of 10% to 45%.

Mexico’s decision wasn’t taken lightly. Since 1995, three successive Mexican administrations have worked to get the U.S. to respect its Nafta obligation of allowing long-haul trucks across the border. In 2007 the two countries agreed to a pilot program that permitted a limited number of Mexican carriers into the U.S. under rigid safety regulations. After 18 months that program proved that Mexican carriers are as safe as their U.S. counterparts. That was bad news for the anti-competition Teamsters union, and last week it got Congress to kill the pilot program. Yesterday Mexico fired back.

Trade wars are never pretty. But given the downturn in demand that already exists in the U.S. economy, this one could be ugly, and dangerous. Mexico is the U.S.’s third largest trading partner and the new tariffs will affect some $2.4 billion in goods across 40 states.

California, an important supplier of fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts to Mexico, will be hit hard. Table grapes will face a 45% duty at the Mexican border; wine, almonds and juices among other agricultural products will pay 20%. Some 90% of Christmas-tree exports from California and 65% from Oregon go to Mexico. It’s doubtful volumes will hold up beneath a 20% tariff.

Alongside Oregon, Washington state will pay dearly to protect the Teamsters. Four out of 10 pears that the U.S. exports go to Mexico and half of those come from Washington. Under the new rules, American pears now face a 20% tariff, as do a host of paper products from the Pacific Northwest and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s scrap battery industry, which exports $128 million annually to Mexico, won’t be as competitive after it pays a 20% tariff. Nor will New York’s $24 million annual exports in personal hygiene products or its exports of $250 million in precious-metals jewelry. President Obama’s home state of Illinois can’t be happy to learn it will lose competitiveness under a 20% tariff on its plastic tableware and kitchenware exports to Mexico ($57 million annually) and on its printed leaflets and brochures ($68.7 million).

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan sponsored the amendment that closed the border and his constituents will pay. North Dakota only exports $1 million in oil seeds annually but 80% of that goes to Mexico. They now face a 15% tariff.

Like, what were they thinking?

How you know when times are tough

February 9, 2009

It turns out that not even gangsters are recession proof. The economy in the west has become so iffy that eastern hoods are migrating back home – in this case, Ottawa.

Ottawa street gang members who had moved out West to chase a dream of dealing drugs and getting rich are heading home, police say, forced back by tough times in their cutthroat trade.

There had been a steady flow of these street-level entrepreneurs, from Ottawa and elsewhere, who left their hometowns to deal drugs in Alberta when the economy there was red-hot.

But as the overall economy has worsened, so, too, have gang members’ fortunes: Now there is less money to be made and increased competition for the business that remains.

You know that times must be tough when drug dealers and their like are feeling the economic pain. Hard to ramp up any sympathy.

The Value of Greed

February 8, 2009

Beautiful.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

U.S. protectionism raises it ugly head

January 30, 2009

It didn’t take long into the new U.S. administration for the trade protectionists to jam in an amendment to the bail-out stimulus bill.

The stimulus bill passed by the House last night contains a controversial provision that would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects laid out by the $819 billion economic package.

A Senate version, yet to be acted upon, goes further, requiring, with few exceptions, that all stimulus-funded projects use only American-made equipment and goods.

Proponents of expanding the “Buy American” provisions enacted during the Great Depression, including steel and iron manufacturers and labor unions, argue that it is the only way to ensure that the stimulus creates jobs at home and not overseas.

Opponents, including some of the biggest blue-chip names in American industry, say it amounts to a declaration of war against free trade. That, they say, could spark retaliation from abroad against U.S. companies and exacerbate the global financial crisis.

The provisions also confront President Obama with his first test on trade policy. He must weigh the potential consequences of U.S. protectionism against the appealing slogan of “Buy American” and the jobs argument.

It would appear that the U.S. is prepared to back away from the global economy and build a wall to keep out the rest of the world.

This could set the tone for the Obama presidency and the bloom could be off the rose earlier than anyone anticipated.

Greed, Stupidity and the Sub-Prime Mortgages

December 10, 2008

This is an great article on the history of the sub-prime mortgages and some of the people who saw the problem and the inevitable results early on.

The funny thing, looking back on it, is how long it took for even someone who predicted the disaster to grasp its root causes. They were learning about this on the fly, shorting the bonds and then trying to figure out what they had done. Eisman knew subprime lenders could be scumbags. What he underestimated was the total unabashed complicity of the upper class of American capitalism. For instance, he knew that the big Wall Street investment banks took huge piles of loans that in and of themselves might be rated BBB, threw them into a trust, carved the trust into tranches, and wound up with 60 percent of the new total being rated AAA.

But he couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says.

As an investor, Eisman was allowed on the quarterly conference calls held by Moody’s but not allowed to ask questions. The people at Moody’s were polite about their brush-off, however. The C.E.O. even invited Eisman and his team to his office for a visit in June 2007. By then, Eisman was so certain that the world had been turned upside down that he just assumed this guy must know it too. “But we’re sitting there,” Daniel recalls, “and he says to us, like he actually means it, ‘I truly believe that our rating will prove accurate.’ And Steve shoots up in his chair and asks, ‘What did you just say?’ as if the guy had just uttered the most preposterous statement in the history of finance. He repeated it. And Eisman just laughed at him.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Daniel told the C.E.O. deferentially as they left the meeting, “you’re delusional.”
This wasn’t Fitch or even S&P. This was Moody’s, the aristocrats of the rating business, 20 percent owned by Warren Buffett. And the company’s C.E.O. was being told he was either a fool or a crook by one Vincent Daniel, from Queens.

Just a stunning expose of the mess that the financial institutions made and how most of them didn’t even know it was happening.

Saw this over at Blunt Object who also points to neo-neocon and Coyote Blog.


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