Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday drive-by blogging

1. Google has published its Transparency Report which includes the User Data Requests from governments around the world. A helpful comparative tool. Canada made 50 user data requests, reported there to be part of criminal investigations, with a compliance rate of 48% by Google. They write: "We review each request to make sure that it complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law, and we may refuse to produce information or try to narrow the request in some cases.

We hope this tool will shine some light on the appropriate scope and authority of government requests to obtain user data around the globe." It is interesting to see the numbers of requests around the world. We are on the low end with the U.S. winning this one handily.

2. Another shocker from Parliament Hill, sit down for this one: "Tories move probe of Veterans Affairs cuts behind closed doors." The $226 million in veterans cuts that a Conservative produced witness justified as being a natural effect of aging veteran demographics is disputed by the veterans ombudsman. Yet we're not allowed to see any deliberation over that disparity because the Conservatives have choked off the issue for the public.

Meanwhile, it appears that there is money to spend on an emotional veterans advertising campaign that is appearing on our TV screens at the moment. With the message that our veterans matter, the government supports and promotes veterans. In the halls of Parliament, we just can't tell to what extent they're living up to the advertising.

3. Yesterday in Toronto:
Austerity programs adopted by the United States and Europe are “effectively a suicide pact for our economies,” said Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

Cuts to government spending only lead to more job losses, resulting in further slowing of demand, Mr. Stiglitz told business leaders in Toronto.

“It’s a vicious circle,” he said.
...
Instead of pumping liquidity into the financial system as the U.S. and has been doing, it should be investing in building schools, airports and other infrastructure where it can create jobs in the short term and improve the country’s competitiveness in the long term, he said.
4. Flaherty starts to back off deficit reduction targets.
Slower growth means less revenue for the government, meaning it will have to decide whether to make up that loss with higher taxes, deeper spending cuts or by pushing out the deadline to erase the deficit.

Mr. Flaherty declined to say whether 2014-15 is still his target. “We will stay the course,” he said. “We will maintain the fiscal track so that we can achieve a balanced budget in the medium term. For the details, you’re going to have to wait for the fall economic update in the next few weeks.”
A fall economic update with Jim Flaherty, always a rocking good time. And just what does medium term mean? Not so short, not so long, just right I guess. One of these things that gets thrown around and glossed over.

This talk about our deficit and spending cuts seems to be worthy of questioning anyway. When you're spending $35 billion on a shipbuilding program, you have money (or at least you're borrowing it at very low rates) and are willing to spend. And there's more that could still occur, in the form of needed useful infrastructure, given the tightening in growth economists are now projecting with a still possible recession on the horizon. Deficit talk just seems to be a convenient shield in order to slash the things the government wants to slash. They're having it both ways.