By Andrew Potter - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 7 Comments
From Nate Fick’s book One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer:
From Nate Fick’s book One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer:
Two guys in a bar bump chests, get up in each other’s faces, and yell. If a fight follows, it’s about honor, about saving face. That’s posturing. Marines on the battlefield must exhibit predatory behavior. In that bar, a predator would smile politely at his opponent, wait for him to turn around, and then cave in the back of his skull with a barstool.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 8:40 PM - 2 Comments
Well, I linked to the news about Mad Men negotiations going awry, so I also have to link to the less suspenseful news about the resolution of those negotiations. Short version: creator Matt Weiner will stay on for this coming season (in preparation for 2012) and two more seasons after that, and then he’ll probably be ready to end the show.
As to the budget/advertising issues, it looks very much like Weiner lost on the issue of running time, but gets a way to say he didn’t lose. Only the first and last episodes of the season will be the usual running time in all formats. The other episodes can be as long as Weiner wants in other formats (including online) but on AMC they will run 45 minutes — and the AMC version, of course, is still the one most people are going to see for now. The need to deliver episodes that make sense in the shorter cuts may change the rhythm of the show in subtle ways; certainly many “extended cuts” of TV episodes feel like over-long versions of regular-length episodes.
It’s probably not a big deal for the show itself; lots of long-running shows have had to adjust to shrinking running times. I just find it a bit sad that the battle for longer running times and fewer commercials in TV is being lost everywhere: if Mad Men can’t win this then no cable show can, and certainly no broadcast show will for a long time. And it does suggest that things have changed a bit at AMC since two years ago: either the network can no longer afford to give Weiner whatever he wants or he can no longer expect to get it.
On the bright side for Weiner, the network and/or the studio appear to have backed off on the demands for cast cuts, and the article plausibly implies that it may have been a negotiating tactic to scare him straight on the matter of budget overruns. (Just getting word out there that the show came this close to genuinely damaging budget cuts, in other words, could make the producer more budget-conscious.)
The thing that probably doesn’t matter much one way or the other is the product placement issue: there are few shows where product placement is less obtrusive than a show about advertising. As long as Weiner gets to say how the products are incorporated and they don’t start giving Don an iPod, there will be no change.
Weiner talks to Mary-Kaye Schilling about the deal and how he’s “thrilled” that it went through at last.
I’m running out of clips from movies that may have influenced Mad Men, but there’s still Lover Come Back, the ultimate cynical ’60s comedy about the advertising business (cleverly disguised as a Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedy).
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 8:30 PM - 19 Comments
Former U of W president second highest-paid public sector worker in Ontario
Governor-General David Johnston made over $1-million dollars as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, making him the second highest paid public sector worker in Ontario. All told, Mr. Johnston made $1,056,813 in salary and bonuses in 2010. Tom Mitchell, President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation, topped the list, making $1,335,000 last year. The Ontario Government’s ‘Public Sector Salary Disclosure’ list contains the names and salaries of 71,478 public sector workers in the province making at least $100,000.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 7:21 PM - 43 Comments
What both the preceding posts point to is the urgent necessity of reforming how we do the debates. We need to take the process out of the hands of the networks, and the parties, with their self-evident biases. And we need to set the rules for elections in general, rather than negotiating them ad hoc, each time, in the middle of a campaign.
The problem now is that everyone involved knows where their self-interest lies. This doesn’t just affect decisions of who gets in. It permeates every line of the rules. The party that is ahead in the polls, for example, wants to have as few debates as it can get away with: ideally, none. The party that’s behind wants to have six. So they saw it off at two: one in each official language.
Again, I have my preferences, you have yours. For me, I’d like there to be several debates, perhaps one a week for the course of the campaign. That would take away some of the prize-fight nonsense: we would be less obsessed with who “won” or “lost” the debate, as if that were an indication of anything, and more concerned with what we learned about each leader and their positions on the issues, which surely ought to be the point. The leaders, in turn, would be less wired and over-rehearsed if they knew they could recover from a bad performance in subsequent debates.
We should also abolish this odious business of having separate debates in each language. The end result is not only to halve the audience for each debate — an election, of all times, ought to be a time when the whole country comes together — but the French debate becomes, inevitably, a debate for and about Quebec, with shameless pandering to match.
If there were no other way to accommodate the two official language groups, that would be one thing. But it’s not. We needn’t have all the leaders speaking both languages all the time. We could divide up each debate into half-hour or hour-long segments, alternating English and French between them. We’re quite used to simultaneous translation in this country. So why on earth do we put up with this linguistic segregation?
Holding more debates, each of them bilingual, would open the way for other innovations. Perhaps some of the debates could be devoted to particular subjects. Perhaps instead of just the leaders, they could be between the critics for a given portfolio. Perhaps we could experiment with different formats. And so on.
Best of all, more debates would give the media something to talk about, besides gaffes, and photo-ops, and broken-down bus metaphors. I can’t see us changing otherwise.
Anyway. Whatever format we choose, whatever rules we set, they should be set outside the confines of any one election campaign. We have to stop pretending that televised debates are some sort of novelty. They’ve been with us for 50 years, and are now as integral to any election campaign as lawn signs and all-candidates meetings. It’s time they were incorporated into the election laws.
To be sure, the parties would have their say: there’s no way of setting rules that could not involve them. But if no party knew where it stood in the polls — if the rules were set behind a Rawlsian “veil of ignorance” — then it should be possible to agreed on rules that were fair to all, and accepted as such.
Otherwise we are condemned to repeat the same travesty, election after election after election.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:53 PM - 23 Comments
Some propose going further than just excluding the Greens. Why, they say, are even the NDP or the Bloc invited? These aren’t, after all, realistic contenders for power. The next prime minister will be, let’s face it, either Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff. Surely the debates should be a one-on-one affair.
The party leaders can debate who they like, of course, and the networks are free to broadcast them if they wish. If someone — even Maclean’s — would like to arrange an additional debate between just Harper and Ignatieff, I don’t suppose I have any objection. But the idea that this should take place instead of a debate featuring all of the leaders (all except one, of course), as Harper apparently suggested, and as some commentators would prefer, is just not on.
And it’s based on a flawed premise: that when we vote in elections, we vote, collectively, to choose a government, or indeed a prime minister — as if the ballot contained the names Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff et al. We don’t. We elect a Parliament. We vote in 308 ridings, and in every one of those ridings the choice is not between prime ministers or even parties but candidates.
We choose, what is more, between several candidates, not just two. But whichever one of them we elect, they do not disappear into smoke if they do not happen to come from the party that wins the most seat, or the party that finishes second. Indeed, we may vote for them in the full knowledge that they have no chance of forming a government, but wanting to be represented by them nevertheless. That is just as valid a choice, and the MPs from those parties are just as legitimate as the MPs from the two parties that traditionally contend for power.
So the premise that there is some special merit in a one-on-one debate between the leaders of the two parties which the best chance of winning suffers from a fatal flaw: that’s not actually what goes on in a Canadian election. I don’t mean that leaders don’t matter, or that they are irrelevant to voters’ decision to support this or that candidate in each riding. Of course not: indeed, they are probably the single most important factor, at least for uncommitted voters, in deciding which party they prefer, and party preference is overwhelmingly important in deciding the choice of local candidate.
So a debate between Harper and Ignatieff would be of compelling interest — to voters who were undecided between the two. That is, voters who had narrowed their choice down to one the two parties, Conservative or Liberal, but were not firmly committed to either. That’s about 10 per cent of the electorate. The rest — that is among the relatively small percentage that have not already made up their mind — are facing different choices: between the Conservatives and the NDP, or between the NDP and the Liberals, or between one of those parties and the Bloc, or the Greens. Or any combination of the five.
If helping voters to make up their minds is the objective, in other words – as opposed to providing an prize-fight atmosphere for the networks, and horse-race coverage for the media — then there is no particular reason to single out the Harper-Ignatieff combination.
And there is even less to hyper-ventilating about who challenged whom, and who backed down, and all the rest of the ridiculous macho posturing in which otherwise sensible people have indulged the past 24 hours.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:33 PM - 0 Comments
For some it’s a tryout, for others a tune-up for the regular season. A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Blue Jays at spring training.
By Mike Wilner - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:28 PM - 0 Comments
From a Canadian star’s comeback to the Mets’ money troubles, what to watch for this year
Already blessed with one of big league baseball’s strongest starting rotations— Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt were a combined 40-22 in 2010—the Philadelphia Phillies landed the biggest catch of the off-season when free-agent lefty Cliff Lee signed a five-year deal worth US$120 million (Lee turned down the New York Yankees, despite their offer being worth US$28 million more). The Phillies’ rotation, which some say is the best in major league history—at least on paper—now boasts three Cy Young Awards, 13 All-Star appearances and a World Series MVP to its credit.
PLAYING IT SAFE
Justin Morneau’s season ended abruptly last July when the Minnesota Twin took Toronto Blue Jay second baseman John McDonald’s knee to the head while sliding into second base. The 2006 American League MVP, who was one of eight big leaguers last year to miss games due to a concussion, was hitting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs at the time of the injury and was scheduled to start in the All-Star game. But even by the time spring training rolled around, the 29-year-old New Westminster, B.C., native had yet to be cleared to play. Morneau, who carries many of the Twins’ hopes for a repeat trip to the post-season, managed to work his way into some pre-season games by mid-March; he believes he’ll be back for opening day.
By Shi Davidi - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:28 PM - 0 Comments
It starts with a talented farm team and a major league approach
Development always takes precedence over winning in the minor leagues. But if a farm team enjoys some success, all the better. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, succeeded on both fronts last season. Many of the Jays’ top prospects—including pitchers Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart, as well as shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria—blossomed, and the club finished second in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division with a 79-62 record. The result: plenty of post-game dance parties. “There was a strobe light hooked up to the rafters in the clubhouse,” says left fielder Eric Thames, his face brightening at the memory, “and there was a fog machine.”
Though the party ended abruptly in the semifinals when the Fisher Cats were swept in three games by the Trenton Thunder (the New York Yankees’ AA club), the way the club groomed its players has become a model for what the Jays hope to achieve system-wide. This season, the organization will implement what assistant general manager Tony LaCava calls “a major-league-centric approach” to player development. The plan is to institute uniformity throughout the organization when it comes to coaching, ingraining the game’s fundamentals from one level to the next.
The goal is to create “an expectation that when you come to the major leagues, you do things a certain way,” says LaCava. “It’s really going to be a lot of the mechanical things. Certainly the different bunt plays, pick-off plays, our approach to stopping the running game—every aspect of the game.” In theory, this would prevent players from needing to decipher different coaching philosophies as they rise through the ranks, allowing them to focus instead on adjusting to the stiffer competition.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:15 PM - 53 Comments
Let’s suppose Ford, GM and Chrysler sat down with all the television networks, and agreed to ban Toyota ads from the airwaves. Would anyone think this was right? To be sure, these are all private companies, who are entitled to decide for themselves with whom they will deal. But there would presumably be some anti-competition concerns raised even then.
But now suppose we are talking not about the auto industry, but an election campaign — the very essence of a public matter — the centrepiece of which is a televised election debate: the more so because there will be only one such debate, in each official language. Yet the dynamics of what has just happened are the same: the networks, in collusion with the four established political parties, have agreed to exclude another party from the debate(s) — that is, to exclude one of the established parties’ competitors, the Green Party.
Personally, I think this is outrageous. It’s obviously impossible to include every single party, no matter how marginal, in the debates, or mayhem would ensue. But the Greens are hardly a marginal party. In the last election, they pulled nearly 1-million votes, or 7 per cent of the vote: all the smaller parties combined added up to less than 1 per cent. The Greens have clearly broken from the pack. They have much more in common with the big four than the others, including running candidates in all (or nearly all) 308 ridings.
Whoops. The Bloc runs candidates in barely a quarter of the ridings, but they’re in. But — as a thousand bloggers rise to point out — the Bloc has seats in Parliament, unlike the Greens. But why should that be the decisive factor? Surely that’s a comment more on our broken electoral system than anything else. As it is, the Greens are able to attract nearly a million voters to trudge to the polls on their behalf, in the certain knowledge that they will not elect a single member. Imagine how many votes they might get if they actually had a chance of electing someone. Or if people had a chance to see their leader in the debate(s).
Anyway. I have my views on whether the Greens should be allowed in, and you have yours. But there should be some transparent, generally accepted rule that guides these decisions, rather than ad hoc negotiations behind closed doors. And surely we can agree that whatever the rule is, it should not be set by a consortium of the self-interested, but by some independent, impartial arbiter. Yet here we are, yet again, with the same rampantly conflicted crew being allowed to decide the rules of our democracy.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:10 PM - 0 Comments
It’s only his first year, but Farrell says his Jays will be a ‘contender’
In the summer of 1987, the biggest story in sports was Paul Molitor’s bat. The future Hall of Famer had smacked a hit in 39 straight games—one of the longest streaks in baseball history—and was threatening to break the unbreakable: Joe DiMaggio’s 56-gamer. On the last Wednesday of August, with all eyes on Milwaukee, Molitor and his Brewers hosted the last-place Cleveland Indians.
On the mound for the visitors was a rookie right-hander named John Farrell. “I shouldn’t have even pitched that night,” he says now, smiling at the memory.
He is not exaggerating. At 25, Farrell was mere days into his big-league career, and only got the starting nod because a teammate twisted his ankle. Even then, the game almost never happened; heavy rain hit Wisconsin all afternoon, drying up just in time for the national anthem. “There was no batting practice,” Farrell recalls. “Did that have something to do with what happened? Possibly.”
What happened, of course, was Molitor went 0 for 4, with a strikeout, a double-play groundout, and nothing close to a base hit. The streak was snapped.
Nobody knew it at the time, but for Blue Jays fans, the box score from that night offered a glimpse of the glory to come. Playing first base for the Indians was Pat Tabler, who, five seasons later, would help hoist Toronto’s first-ever championship trophy. The Cleveland left fielder—Joe Carter—was destined to be a post-season hero (“Touch ‘em all, Joe!”). And Molitor, who joined the Jays in 1993, would bat .500 (12 for 24) and earn MVP honours in the same World Series that ended with Carter’s bottom-of-the-ninth blast.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:00 PM - 0 Comments
Travis Snider, J.P. Arencibia, and Brett Lawrie take up residence in a Clearwater mansion
Three young men with money to burn, living in a mansion in Clearwater Beach, Fla., while coeds on March Break stroll nearby streets in their bikinis. What could possibly go wrong? Fortunately for the Blue Jays, outfielder Travis Snider has a well developed sense of responsibility. The 23-year-old has rented the digs for the duration of spring training, and agreed to house rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia, 25, along with infield hopeful Brett Lawrie, 21. The idea is to keep them out of trouble—or at least, try to. Reassuringly, Snider’s father Denne is there to help, while Lawrie’s parents, Cheryl and Russ, also drop by for a visit. The atmosphere is frat-house deluxe: a typical night entails a dinner of barbecued chicken filets and hamburger patties (no buns—too many carbs), followed by games of Nerf basketball and dips in a lavish-looking outdoor pool featuring faux rocks and a waterfall.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:54 PM - 1 Comment
José Bautista breaks down a life-changing home run, explaining the power swing that’s made him a star
As half-truths go, it at least had the virtue of utility: “I don’t measure my success in home runs,” José Bautista said during a recent break from Grapefruit League action in Dunedin, Fla., and somehow he kept a straight face. The idea was to manage expectations, of course. At that the Blue Jays’ Miracle Man of 2010 has proved surprisingly adept. “As long as you’re driving in runs, scoring, getting on base for your teammates,” he will say, “that’s all you can really ask.” Or: “Sure I hit a lot of home runs last year. But we didn’t make the playoffs. I’d rather hit 30, or even 20, and have our team win 100 games.”
It’s the sort of howler you serve up when you know you’ve become an every-day player at the ripe age of 30; when you’ve just taken a magic carpet ride up the major league home-run rankings; when, on the basis of one astounding 54-dinger season, you have just inked a deal for enough cash to buy a small Caribbean island.
It’s a bit like hearing Barack Obama say he doesn’t care how many votes he gets, and don’t think for a second that Bautista believes it. Whatever the merits of bunts and sacrifice flies, any baseball-related conversation he has these days eventually works its way back to the subject of homers—more specifically, the subject of 50 homers. Because when Bautista stepped up to the plate last fall in a game against the Seattle Mariners and hammered a Felix Hernandez fastball into orbit over the Rogers Centre, he knew as well as anyone that his life had changed. Fifty thrusts a player into the same sentence as Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. It lumps him in with scarlet-lettered stars like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, or invites comparisons to one-season wonders like Brady Anderson—the Alannah Myles of the American League. Bautista would hit four more before the season was out. But 50 is the yardstick with which others will now measure his performance, even if he does not.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:40 PM - 104 Comments
The reporters travelling with Mr. Harper’s campaign used some of their few questions today to ask Mr. Harper why he permits so few questions. Mr. Harper typically takes five questions each day: four from the reporters travelling with him, one from a local reporter. For the sake of comparison, Jack Layton took 22 questions by my count this morning. My notes for Mr. Ignatieff’s media availability in Montreal four days ago list 13 questions.
For a number of reasons, disputes between politicians and journalists are rather fraught and problematic. In this case, Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald is siding with the the man who appointed him to the Senate. One of the reporters named by Sen. MacDonald is defending her profession.
But regardless of profession, partisan affiliation or distrust for either journalism or politics, perhaps we could agree that, as an objective observer of Canadian politics once observed, “Canadians’ freedom is enhanced when journalists are free to pursue the truth, to shine light into dark corners, and to assist the process of holding governments accountable.”
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:28 PM - 0 Comments
Canadian Brett Lawrie’s go-go attitude has, at times, led to trouble. But it also makes him a prized acquisition.
Greg Hamilton has witnessed a few tours de force in his time with Canada’s national baseball program, but none compare to the show a brash teenager from Langley, B.C., put on three years ago during a double-header in the Dominican Republic. Playing as an 18-year-old with Canada’s national junior team, Brett Lawrie cranked five home runs over two exhibition games against a team of Seattle Mariners prospects, cementing his status as one of the game’s up-and-comers. Scouts drooled, and Lawrie whipped up the major league draft rankings. Hamilton, now coach of this country’s national team, was struck not so much by the number of homers as where Lawrie hit them: “He literally went foul pole to foul pole. I’d never seen anything like it. I think you’d have to poll a lot of baseball people to find one who had.”
The Blue Jays, in short, got themselves a bona fide blue-chipper last winter when they dealt pitcher Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for the infielder, the highest drafted position player ever to come out of this country. But fans expecting an athlete in the Sidney Crosby mould—all maple syrup and say-the-right-thing—might want to brace themselves. Lawrie is not the sort of player to tread lightly on people’s sensibilities. “I don’t try to piss people off,” he tells Maclean’s, “but I think my personality has sometimes had that effect.”
To this, the 21-year-old attributes his upbringing, and unbridled ambition. Raised in a sports-mad family, Lawrie took his competitive cues from his father Russ, who coached him in Little League, and his sister Danielle, who went on to become a star pitcher with the Canadian women’s fastball team. Russ was known as a tough coach, says Brett—to the point that other parents were aghast at how he dealt with his own kids. “At the ballpark, my dad would yell and scream at us,” he recalls. “But it kind of set us straight. My sister and I both had a high level of intensity. My dad was always there to push us to go further in the game.”
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:02 PM - 0 Comments
Rajai Davis was once a pigeon-toed kid in ankle braces. Now he’s a base-running wizard.
Rajai Davis wears low-top cleats because he likes his ankles to breathe. “It makes me feel faster,” he says. “I’m convinced.” The stats certainly support his theory. Last season, while playing for the Oakland Athletics, Davis and his size-10 Nikes swapped 50 bases, third-most in the majors—and just eight shy of the entire Blue Jays roster.
It was an impressive feat, considering the feet. Davis, one of Toronto’s key additions for 2011, was born with “pigeon toe,” a deformity that left both his feet pointing inward. “When I was a baby, I couldn’t walk right so I had to wear braces on my legs,” he recalls, after a recent round of batting practice. “My heels were connected like Forrest Gump.”
In truth, the device wasn’t quite as elaborate as the movie version. But it was depressing enough that his mother, Diana, couldn’t bring herself to snap a photograph. “I hate that I never took a picture,” she says now. “But it was a difficult time for me. It was hard to see your kid in such a thing.”
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:02 PM - 2 Comments
How Ricky Romero went from a kid in East L.A. to opening day starter
Some words burn into a player’s memory, motivating or enervating—unbeknownst, in many cases, to the men who speak them. For Ricky Romero, they came courtesy of a vigilant groundskeeper at Goodwin Field, the pristine ballpark at Cal State Fullerton, when the future Blue Jays ace was nine years old. Having encountered a jug-eared Latino kid gazing wide-eyed across the meadow, the man jerked his head toward an open gate in the left-field corner. “You can’t be here,” he said.
Young Ricky had been standing on the warning track, drinking in the sight of the fabled Fullerton Titans as they shagged flies, and, as he puts it, “grass like no grass I’d ever seen.” He was at the university that day with his father Ricardo, a sewing machine repairman who was making a service call on the campus, and who had urged his son to catch a glimpse of the field. Now, chastened by the scolding, Ricky trudged back to his dad’s beat-up company truck. “I got in and told my dad they’d kicked me out,” he recalls. “My father turned to me and said, ‘You watch, one day you’re going to be pitching from that mound.’ ”
The memory still gives Romero chills. He would indeed pitch from that hill—as the ace of Fullerton’s 2004 championship team, while riding a fully funded scholarship into the 2005 Major League amateur draft. He’d fight injury and self-doubt on an unexpectedly long route to the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation, and with each milestone passed, he made a bigger liar of that groundskeeper. Last week, Jays manager John Farrell announced that the 26-year-old left-hander would be the starting pitcher at the team’s home opener, and the irony hit Romero like a wave. Opening day starter is an honour reserved for the presumptive leader of a pitching staff. Not only is he here, he’s evidently here to stay.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 4:26 PM - 35 Comments
Here’s some video I shot while covering the Harper campaign. On Wednesday he was outside Toronto. On Thursday he was in Halifax. Both times he delivered a strong economic message to a handpicked Conservative party audience. And on the first day he issued a challenge to Michael Ignatieff he would soon regret.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 4:12 PM - 63 Comments
Conservative leader refuses to explain the limits he places on reporters
Prime Minister Stephen Harper held his news conference Thursday and declined to tell journalists—corralled behind a yellow fence over 12 metres away—why he limits the daily encounters to just five questions. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton place no such limits on questions. When pressed about the dearth of communication with the media, Harper ignored the question. Harper appears intent on limiting his exposure to the public. He has not done any “walkabouts” on city streets; photo-ops have been pre-arranged; and he gives just one news conference per day, where journalists who are travelling with his campaign tour are, as a group, only allowed to ask four questions, with one additional question by a local journalist.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 4:03 PM - 0 Comments
A new shareholder-approved head to take the helm
After 50 years at the helm of Magna International, Frank Stronach will step down after the company’s annual meeting in May. In a move that is part of his disengagement from the global auto parts company, the 78-year-old will stay on the board as honourary chairman and founder. The directors will then choose a new chairman from among themselves. If shareholders approve, a revamped board of directors will consist of 10 directors, eight of whom will be independent.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 4:01 PM - 1 Comment
Assad forms judicial committee to investigate deaths
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ordered an investigation into the deaths of civilians and troops amid countrywide protests and promised to consider lifting Syria’s emergency law. “The committee will work in accordance with the law provisions and may use the help of anyone it deems appropriate to accomplish the task entrusted to it,” said a report by the Syrian Arab News Agency. The judicial study should be completed before April 25. The 50-year-old emergency law allows the government to conduct “preventative arrests” and overrule constitutional and penal code statutes, and its abolishment is a key demand of angry street protests throughout the country. At least 16 people have been killed in violent clashes with troops on Wednesday, bringing the estimated total to 61 killed since protests began on March 16.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 3:43 PM - 2 Comments
Software giant accuses search engine giant of violating competition laws
Microsoft is accusing Google of abusing its status as the EU’s dominant search engine, and has filed a formal complaint with the European Commission. Among other claims, Microsoft alleges Google has prevented it from becoming a competitive alternative by restricting access to the Google-owned YouTube, which has produced only “limited” apps for Microsoft’s Windows mobile software while releasing superior ones for the Google Android platform. “Having spent more than a decade wearing the shoe on the other foot with European Commission,” Microsoft said, acknowledging its own experience as being the subject of one of the biggest antitrust complaints in recent history, “we recognize the importance of ensuring that competition laws remain balanced and that technology innovation moves forward.”
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 3:36 PM - 35 Comments
Barring coalitions, things can only get worse from here on in
Which is more annoying?
(1) Politicians in a democracy moaning about the inconvenience of having to audition for their jobs (that is, run for election); or
(2) The innumerate mantra, “four elections in seven years.”
Since No. 1 is merely par for the course among our grumbling political class, perhaps we should strive to erase the second from polite discourse. When Barack Obama runs for re-election next year, not a single American will complain, “two presidential elections in four years, that’s too many; as for two Congressional campaigns in two years… well!”
Yet that’s exactly the way the 4-in-7ers calculate, counting only elections and not the periods in between them. This is actually Canada’s fourth election in 11 years, since the campaign of 2000. That’s one vote every 2.75 years, not too far off the historical average of one every 3.6 years.
As for other parliamentary democracies, Continue…
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 3:06 PM - 37 Comments
In 2009, the federal government’s balance sheet went from showing a surplus of $9.597…"[The Conservatives] spent all kinds of money to put us into a deficit before the recession… We found ourselves confronting a record deficit."- Michael Ignatieff
March 28, 2011
Bull Meter score:
In 2009, the federal government’s balance sheet went from showing a surplus of $9.597 billion to a deficit of $5.755 billion. Last year, the deficit was a record $55.6 billion. But how did we get here?
According to a November 2008 assessment by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, the Tories’ decision to cut the GST, coupled with an increase in government spending caused the deficit—not the global economic crisis. By February 2011, the budget watchdog’s position was much the same: the deficit is structural, caused by policy not recession. The PBO also said that contrary to the federal government’s budget forecast of a surplus for 2015-16, a deficit of $10 billion would remain by mid-decade. “Sustained fiscal actions,” Page reported, are needed to “avoid excessive debt-to-GDP accumulation.”
We called Stephen Gordon, an economist at Laval University, to get his take. “Yes, the Conservatives caused the structural deficit,” he said, adding that cutting the GST was a mistake. “They basically blew $10 to $12 billion, and that’s the PBO’s estimate for the structural deficit in 2015. But at the time [when GST was cut in 2006 and 2008], we were taking those $10 to $15 billion surpluses for granted.”
Heard something that doesn’t sound quite right? Send quotes from the campaign trail to email@example.com and we’ll tell you just how much bull they contain.