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Showing posts from February, 2014

Will Ukraine's Revolution Be Good for Its Jews?

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[The are many opinion pieces springing up about US support for neo-Nazis in Ukraine, so I thought I would post this story from a Jewish newspaper. *RON*]
With Foot in Both Camps, Community Looks Beyond Protests
By David E. Fishman, The Jewish Daily FORWARD, February 26, 2014.

I teach modern Jewish history. Usually, when I mention Ukraine in class, my students’ eyes glaze over. But lately that hasn’t been the case. The eyes of the world have been turned to Kiev, the city that was home to Sholem Aleichem, and the birthplace of Golda Meir. People are now wondering whether this revolution is good or bad for the approximately 100,000 Jews who live in Ukraine.

The political parties that led the protest movement, and that have now assumed power, represent a wide spectrum of Ukrainian society. Anyone who was fed up with the corrupt, kleptocratic and dictatorial regime joined the protests. This included many good guys, and not a few anti-Semites.

Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American Liberals

Original article is here, behind a pay wall.

[An excellent overview of what has been happening to the political left. *RON*]

Adolph Reed Jr., March 2014, Harper's

For nearly all the twentieth century there was a dynamic left in the United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism generated unacceptable social costs. That left crested in influence between 1935 and 1945, when it anchored a coalition centered in the labor movement, most significantly within the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It was a prominent voice in the Democratic Party of the era, and at the federal level its high point may have come in 1944, when FDR propounded what he called “a second Bill of Rights.” Among these rights, Roosevelt proclaimed, were the right to a “useful and remunerative job,” “adequate medical care,” and “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.”

The labor-left alliance remained a meaningful presence in American poli…

SEC Employees Are Freakishly Good Stock Traders

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[Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? *RON*]
LINETTE LOPEZ, FEB. 28, 2014, Business Insider

Two academics from the University of Virgina got a hold of the trading records of SEC employees — then they built a mock hedge fund to see how it would do. The results are all in a paper presetned at UVA's Darden School of Business.

The academics, Emory University professor Shivaram Rajgopal and Georgia State University accounting PhD candidate Roger M. White found that SEC employees tend to sell a company's stock before the SEC takes enforcement action against the company.

The result, they wrote, were abnormal returns of about 4% for the market in general, and about 8.5% for the U.S. stock market.

That's significant.

While an SEC employees' stock purchases are normal, their stock "sales appear to systematically dodge the revelation of bad news in the future," according to the paper's findings.

In One Chart, Here's How Government Austerity Is Still Crushing GDP

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[Anything above zero contributes to GDP; anything below it takes away. I wish it was as easy to find similar Canadian statistics, but Harper has really taken care of all that! *RON*]

STEVEN PERLBERG, FEB. 28, 2014, Business Insider

This morning, Q4 GDP growth was revised down to 2.4% at an annualized pace from the BEA's initial 3.2% call.

This chart from Bloomberg LP chief economist Michael McDonough shows what is adding and subtracting to changes in GDP.

Anything above the x-axis is adding to GDP and anything below is taking away.

As you can see, government spending is still a large drag.

Here's the chart:

The Worst Unemployment Chart In The World

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[When the economy reached a state of stag-flation in the 1970s it was all over for Keynesian economics. Now we have a new phenomenon - a flat-lined economy with permanently high unemployment (stag-ployment?). Is it all over for neoliberalism and austerity? The Financial Times today also reports that European inflation is less than 1% - yippee for the wealthy. *RON*]
JOE WEISENTHAL, FEB. 28, 2014, Business Insider

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. This chart of Eurozone unemployment is the worst in the world.

It's not that it's getting worse (it's not) it's that in the midst of what should be a "recovery" for the Eurozone, it's just going nowhere.

Once again, according to Eurostat, unemployment refuses to budge at 12.0%. So the economy is flatlining — marginally improved from its worst levels, but really not showing any traction at all. There's an ECB meeting next week. Will they do anything?

Vermont Citizens Push to Form a State Bank, But Will Ratings Agencies Kill the Idea?

Read the original article here.
[One thing guaranteed to bring down the full wrath of the Too Big To Fail free marketers is competition. *RON*]
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Yves Smith at nakedcapitalism.com

Martha R wrote to tell me that a serious effort is underway in Vermont to launch a state bank. 20 towns will be voting on town meeting resolutions to establish a home-grown, public bank. The objective is not to set up a retail bank (say along the lines of a Post Office bank) but to save the fees that are now paid to large financial institutions and to fund public projects. She writes:
Town meetings cannot make it happen but they serve as a litmus test of existing political will and they send a message to state government that is heeded. There’s already a bill in the state senate. As readers may know, the one state bank in existence, that of North Dakota, has been a success. As we wrote in 2011:
The Bank of North Dakota has an enviable track record, having remained profitable during…

Canada Job Grants: Provinces, Ottawa Reach Deal On Funding

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[This deal results in less money overall for people who need training; it still specifically diverts funding away from marginalized groups. But that, clearly, is fine by the Provinces as long as it doesn't increase Provincial debt. Thus, taking money away from the Provinces, but not forcing them to also pay extra for that privilege is what Kenney calls "a win-win for both sides." Incidentally, why don't the corporations who are uselessly sitting on billions of dollars of profits pay for the missing one-third of dollars from the original proposal? *RON*]

By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press, 02/28/2014


OTTAWA - Ottawa has reached a deal on the Canada Job Grant with all the provinces and territories except Quebec, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said Friday.

"At the end of the day, this will be a win-win for both sides," Kenney told a news conference at the Manning convention, an annual networking conference of conservatives…

LNG's threat to water sustainability in B.C.

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["Currently, the industry pays nothing or virtually nothing for that water, while taxpayers foot all downstream environmental and human health costs." We're talking about at least a half-billion litres of water permanently eliminated for use by any living being. *RON*]
BY BEN PARFITTDAVID HUGHES on rabble.ca, FEBRUARY 28, 2014

One glaring problem with the provincial government's strategy to turn British Columbia into a liquefied natural gas exporting juggernaut is that it scuttles any chance B.C. has to be a climate-change leader.

But equally problematic is how our government's economically dubious fixation with gas exports jeopardizes our irreplaceable water resources.

In Alberta as well as numerous U.S. states where natural gas companies operate, there is a growing public backlash against industry operations. Gas-drilling and hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" -- a process where immense quantities of water, chemicals and sa…

Kinder Morgan's letter to potential NEB hearing intervenors criticized as undemocratic

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[Of course, it's not really Kinder-Morgan's letter that is undemocratic, it's the Harper legislation that made it possible in the first place. Mind you, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to find that the relevant portions of Bill C-38 were written by K-M lawyers; Harper has a history of passing legislation written by the industry that it's meant to control. *RON*]

Some experts fear the 15-page letter will intimidate people unfamiliar with the process into withdrawing their applications.
Erin Flegg, Posted: Feb 27th, 2014, Vancouver Observer

In what some call a preemptive strike, Kinder Morgan's legal counsel sent a letter suggesting that some experts and community members who signed up as intervenors for Trans Mountain pipeline hearings may be considered ineligible. The 15-page letter outlines the key changes in the NEB Act -- brought about by the controversial Bill C-38 in 2012 -- and emphasizes why being an expert or having…

Bureaucrat Ducks Vital Question on Flawed DOT-111 Tank Cars at Oil By Rail Safety Hearing

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[It quite painful to watch the video. This bureaucrat is congenitally incapable of giving a straight answer to a simple question. *RON*]
 JUSTIN MIKULKA, Thu, 2014-02-27 12:38


On Wednesday February 26th, the long-awaited congressional hearing on oil-by-rail safety finally occurred. The main portion of the hearing featured representatives from the relevant government agencies as well as industry, such as the American Petroleum Institute’s President and CEO, Jack Gerard.

For those following crude-by-rail safety, there are several pressing issues, but the one question everyone wants to know the answer to is when will the government stop allowing the inferior and unsafe DOT-111 tank cars to be used to ship crude oil?

At the hearing, Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) testified that “multiple recent serious and fatal accidents reflect substantial shortcomings in tank car design that create an unacceptable public risk.”

Not much …

Federal snooping agency gets big budget increase, watchdogs face cuts

Read the original article here.

[Making his priorities perfectly clear. *RON*]

By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, 02/27/2014

OTTAWA - The budget of Canada's electronic eavesdropping agency will almost double this year as it prepares to open swanky new Ottawa headquarters.

Estimates tabled in Parliament on Thursday show Communications Security Establishment Canada will receive $829 million in 2014-15, up from just under $444 million this year.

It includes a one-time increase of $300 million for a contract payment related to delivery of the spy agency's new facility, and over $100 million related to maintenance of the complex, built through a public-private partnership.

The headquarters includes a vast data storage unit the size of a football field, extensive new office space and a public meeting centre near the entrance to the campus.

In addition, just over $6 million will support CSEC's mandate of gathering foreign intelligence and protecting federal computer systems.

At the sa…

Exxon CEO Wants to Keep Fracking Out of His Backyard

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[No comment required. *RON*]
 By Marcia G. Yerman
The Internet has become a stomping ground for outrageous stories that are destined to go viral. The latest one concerns Rex Tillerson, Chief Executive and Chairman of ExxonMobil Corporation. It's the kind of material that late night comedians dream of.

Tillerson has become part of a legal suit against the potential construction of water tower near his property. He actually showed up at a town meeting in Bartonville, Texas, to express his distress and dismay. He owns a horse ranch that covers 83 acres, as well as a home situated nearby on an 18 acre spread, that are in close proximity to the proposed construction. The tower would measure 160 feet high, or the equivalent of 15 stories. The lawsuit that Tillerson is a part of, along with former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, claims that its placement is illegal within the context of local zoning ordinances.

And the purpose of the tower? To store water fo…

Unions Are Dying. What Will Replace Them?

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[Unions aren't dying - they've been killed off by a four decades of regressive repeals of the legal protections that labour requires to express its power without being squashed like a bug. What is needed is to re-assert those fundamental protections. Who else would stand up for labour besides labour? Big government? That's one really bad idea. *RON*]

—By Kevin Drum, Thu Feb. 27, 2014 8:09 AM GMT

Last week, Evan Soltas wrote a column that basically told liberals to give up on unions. "Unions can no longer solve labor’s woes," he wrote. "That’s not terrible, because the way unions gave workers power created its own problems."

In response to criticism from Michael Wasser, he wrote this:
The heart of the matter, it seems to me, is whether union decline is basically irreversible....If the decline is permanent, [] Wasser's claim about uniqueness has no independent policy implications — it's merely a statement of pessimism. …

Win! Tsilhqot'in Nation stops the New Prosperity mine

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BY BRENT PATTERSON, FEBRUARY 27, 2014

[The fact that a proposal is known to be environmentally harmful and opposed by First Nations has not stopped Harper previously - he must be preparing to horse-trade for support on pipelines. *RON*]
The Council of Canadians congratulates the Tsilhqot'in Nation for their successful protection of Fish Lake against a twice-proposed open-pit gold and copper mine.

Yesterday, the federal government issued a media release stating, "The Minister of the Environment has concluded that the New Prosperity Mine project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated. The Governor in Council has determined that those effects are not justified in the circumstances; therefore, the project may not proceed."

Williams Lake chapter activist Keith Monroe says, "We are relieved by the government decision not to approve this project. After participating in two federal environmental asses…

UK spies 'intercepted webcam images of Yahoo users'

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[More via Snowden. Things are getting more than a little beyond the pale. *RON*]

27 February 2014 Last updated at 10:27 ET

British spy agency GCHQ intercepted webcam images from millions of Yahoo users around the world, according to a report in the Guardian.

Yahoo denied prior knowledge of the alleged programme, describing it as a "completely unacceptable" privacy violation.

According to leaked documents, sexually explicit images were among those gathered - although not intentionally.

In a statement GCHQ has said all of its actions are in accordance with the law.

The Localization Movement. Creating a Viable Local Economy. Challenging the New World Order

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[Localization is part of a trend that is looking for alternatives to globalization and the environmental and human degradation that goes along with it. This article addresses the question of how to create broader buy-in on the concept. *RON*]
By Richard K. Moore,  rkm@quaylargo.com, Global Research, February 27, 2014, http://cyberjournal.org

A number of different initiatives are being pursued at the grassroots level, all aimed at building resilient and sustainable communities. These include local currencies, buy-local campaigns, Transition Towns, farmer’s markets, community gardens, local co-ops, and others. Such initiatives are springing up all over the world. The movement is growing geographically, but unfortunately it is not succeeding in significantly transforming very many local economies.

Activists are leading the initiatives, and early-adopters are participating, but most people are not typically getting involved. Without widespread participation in …

Alberta doctor tells U.S.: Canada is ‘lying’ about tar sands’ health effects

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[American Senators told that oil sands are linked to a huge spike in cancer, despite Canadian government claims. *RON*]

Mychaylo Prystupa, Posted: Feb 26th, 2014

A northern Alberta doctor warned U.S. Senators on what he says have been the devastating health impacts of the tar sands on families – effects, he says, that have been willfully “ignored” by the Canadian and Alberta governments.

“I appeal to you to keep up the pressure – this is an ongoing tragedy. A total disgrace,” said O’Connor, Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

He cited statistics for rare cancers – of the bile duct for example – that have shot up 400 times for what is considered normal for a tiny community, such as Fort Chipewyan – which is downstream, to the north of the oil sands.

From space, North Korea is a sea of darkness

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[At night, North Korea looks like Europe might have in around 800 AD. *RON*]

By David Wogan | February 26, 2014 | 1

I never tire of satellite images, and especially those of North Korea at night. Take a look at the latest image by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. South Korea and China are readily visible – their cities and industries lighting up the night sky. But in between…. is that an ocean?



Not an ocean in the literal sense, but perhaps in terms of an open expanse of… nothingness. Except we know millions of people live and work in North Korea. During the day a satellite image would reveal roads and cities and settlements. But at night? Darkness.

Want more? See North Korea by night from 2011 and 2012.

Props to: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. “The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.”

US patient as Canada tries to 'liquidate' oil, gas resources, researcher says

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[In other words, Canada's and British Columbia's planned levels of LNG exports threaten our own energy security. *RON*]

By Mark Hand, SNL Financial, February 18, 2014

Aside from seeking to "liquidate" its energy resources as quickly as possible, Canada does not have a coherent energy policy, according to David Hughes, president of the consulting firm Global Sustainability Research Inc. and a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.

Canada is pushing hard to produce its oil and gas resources and then export the supplies to the most attractive markets without any consideration of its own long-term energy needs, Hughes said in a recent interview. "The U.S. is far more conservative in that regard than Canadians," he said, referring to both the relatively smaller amount of LNG exports that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the ongoing U.S. ban on oil exports.

The British Columbia government, for example, has made expor…

RMR: Fair Elections Act

Feds get top Teddy award for wasteful spending

Read the original article here.

[Austerity? That's only for plebeians. *RON*]

By The Canadian Press, Posted: 02/26/2014

OTTAWA - The federal government has been given a dubious award for spending millions of tax dollars to promote a job grant that doesn't exist.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is awarding its Teddy Award for wasteful federal spending to Employment and Social Development Canada.

Former Toronto Pan-Am Games CEO Ian Troop wins the provincial award for getting a salary of over $550,000 while overseeing an event that is $1.1 billion over budget.

Vancouver's TransLink gets the municipal award for building a $4.5 million parking lot that almost no one uses.

This is the 16th year that the awards have been announced by the CTF to highlight the waste of tax dollars.

The awards, which are a small pig statues, are named for Ted Weatherill, a former federal appointee who was fired in 1999 over his expense claims, which included a $700 lunch for two.

Taxing The Rich Not A Drag On Economic Growth: IMF Paper

Read the original article here.

[I've sent this to both Christy Clark and Stephen Harper. Straight from a bastion of neoliberal economics. *RON*]

By Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press, 02/26/2014

OTTAWA - A new paper by researchers at the International Monetary Fund appears to debunk a tenet of conservative economic ideology — that taxing the rich to give to the poor is bad for the economy.

The paper by IMF researchers Jonathan Ostry, Andrew Berg and Charalambos Tsangarides will be applauded by politicians and economists who regard high levels of income inequality as not only a moral stain on society but also economically unsound.

Labelled as the first study to incorporate recently compiled figures comparing pre- and post-tax data from a large number of countries, the authors say there is convincing evidence that lower net inequality is good economics, boosting growth and leading to longer-lasting periods of expansion.

In the most controversial finding, the study concludes that re…

TransCanada found non-compliant in safety audit

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[As noted the review was only launched because of a whistle blower, and the NEB itself is totally unrepresentative, including many industry insiders, no environmentalists and no Northern residents. *RON*]
BY BRENT PATTERSON, FEBRUARY 26, 2014


A National Energy Board audit of TransCanada -- the company behind the proposed 1.1 million barrels per day Energy East pipeline and the 830,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline -- has found that the company is non-compliant in four areas:


Kinder Morgan slammed for 'accidentally' omitting oil pipeline maps in federal application

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[Parliament asked to require Texas company to "re-start" its application after it neglected to upload oil pipeline maps to NEB website for people to see. By the way, in case you've forgotten the previous name of Kinder Morgan, they used to be the people that everyone loved to hate at Enron! *RON*]

Mychaylo Prystupa, Posted: Feb 25th, 2014, The Vancouver Observer

Kinder Morgan was harshly criticized in the House of Commons Tuesday for not filing a complete application with maps for its Edmonton-to-Burnaby oil pipeline -- a project that may disturb dozens of homes through several B.C. cities, depending on the path.

“These are people in charge of a $5 billion construction project, and they ‘forgot’ to include their maps? Absolutely extraordinary,’" Kennedy Stewart told the Vancouver Observer on Tuesday.

“It’s a 150 metre-wide corridor going through the city."

The Fed Cares About Inflation 10 Times More Than It Cares About Unemployment

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[No surprise here. No erosion of capital and it keeps the proles begging for any job they can find. *RON*]

—By Kevin Drum, Tue Feb. 25, 2014 2:00 PM

Ryan Avent, having exhausted his conventional analysis of the Fed's 2008 transcripts, turns today to a more analytical approach: counting words. I think others have already made this point without numbers, but Avent's most powerful finding is that the Fed cares way more about inflation than it does about unemployment:

There is only one winner in the dual mandate. The word “inflation” (or variants thereof, such as “inflationary”) was mentioned a cool 2,664 times in 2008; “unemployment” pops up just 275 times.

I'm assuming he played fair and also looked for variants of "unemployment," like "employment" or "jobs." In any case, I don't think this comes as much of a surprise to anyone, since it's been obvious for decades that the Fed not only doesn't care about un…

How U.S. evangelicals influenced the Ugandan Gospel of Intolerance

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LNG Pipedreams: Global investors getting cold feet?

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[The evidence continues to mount of a very real risk that the BC Liberal LNG promises are purely fairy tales. See also Natural Gas Has Been Getting Destroyed. *RON*]
by Anna C. Novacek, Posted February 25, 2014 by Common Sense Canadian



The projections supporting the BC Liberals’ prosperity fund rest on the assumption that there will be indefinite demand to buy into BC’s fledgling LNG market. However, as the Common Sense Canadian has reported, the numbers guaranteeing prosperity to Canadians, while assuring maximum profit for investors, aren’t adding up. The indicators below demonstrate examples of a rapidly shifting LNG market and early signs of hesitation from international proponents.

Past Time to Close Loophole That Exempts Oil by Rail Companies from Spill Response Planning

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[I've given up on trying to post every story on railway oil spills - an entire blog site would need to be dedicated to these stories alone. *RON*]
 JUSTIN MIKULKA, Tue, 2014-02-25 11:37

In 2013, with the rapid expansion in the use of rail to transport crude oil, we learned that there was a huge increase in the the amount of oil spilled as a result of rail incidents.

Just two weeks ago, a train derailed near Pittsburg and spilled 4,000 gallons. More than 1.15 million gallons of crude spilled from rail cars in 2013. And this does not include the 1.6 million gallons that spilled in July of 2013 in Lac-Megantic in Canada.

To put this in perspective, the 2010 Marshall Michigan Pipeline spill — currently the largest and most costly spill on land in US history according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) — only spilled 843,000 gallons.

Harper Says Income Splitting 'Good Policy' Despite Flaherty's Misgivings

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[Flaherty committed to only mortal sin in Harperland - he spoke the plain truth. Flaherty said we need "to see who it affects and to what degree, because I'm not sure that overall, it benefits our society." Harper got elected, in part, by promising that income splitting would benefit Canadian families, then structured it so that it only benefits the rich, yet he still goes around saying it is good for all families. *RON*]

By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press, 02/25/2014


OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hinting that the key Conservative campaign plank from the 2011 federal election that earned him a majority may not be pitched overboard after all.

Income-splitting for couples with children under 18 was a multibillion-dollar pledge during the last election — a Conservative promise that would kick in as soon as the government balanced the federal budget.

But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty began publicly questioning the policy even before …

Canada's Richest Have Gotten Richer. The Poorest? Well...

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[British Columbia families are shown as having the highest average net worth. I wonder what happens if you adjust for the local cost of living? Also whether this is a mean net worth (highly skewed by income inequality) or a median net worth (far closer to being representative). *RON*]

The Huffington Post Canada | Posted: 02/25/2014


A new report on Canadian finances shows the rich have nearly doubled their net wealth over the span of 13 years while the poor have -- you guessed it -- gotten poorer.

Statistics Canada’s survey of financial security, conducted between September and November 2012, revealed the poorest 20 per cent of Canadians have seen their median net worth remain unchanged since 2005, and decline since 1999.

In 2012, the poorest one-fifth of Canadian families had a median net worth of just $1,100, the same as in 2005, and down 15.4 per cent from $1,300 in 1999.

Loyalty Act: Watchdogs Warn Tory Bill Could Hamper Their Work

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[A great way to intimidate and shut up the folks who are charged with being Parliamentary watchdogs. *RON*]

By The Canadian Press, Posted: 02/25/2014


OTTAWA - Parliament's key watchdog agencies say a Conservative bill aimed at exposing potential partisanship in their offices raises problems of basic fairness and could actually stop or hamper their own investigations.

Tory MP Mark Adler's private member's bill would allow any MP or senator to accuse an employee of an office such as the Auditor General's or Elections Canada of partisan conduct and demand an investigation.

It also proposes to force employees of those agencies to make a public declaration of their political activities going back a decade.

That's not sitting well with eight officers and agents of Parliament, who wrote to the Commons ethics committee to register their concerns. Three of appeared before MPs at a hearing Tuesday.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, Chief Electoral Off…

Big oil’s chokehold on Canadian democracy

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[How far will Harper go to neutralize opposition to tar sands? *RON*]

MURRAY DOBBIN | February 25th 2014

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini

With the announcement by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) of formal complaints against the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for illegally spying on environmental groups opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, should we ask the question: are we there yet?

Well, no.

But it is instructive to reflect once in a while on Mussolini’s musings about the true character of fascism. The word itself has become almost unusable given that for years it has been applied to the guy who cut you off in traffic or your neighbour who refuses to silence his dog. And, absent goose-stepping soldiers and brown-shirts breaking down your door in the middle of the night, people simply don’t think much about f…

The Private Prison Racket

Read the original article here.
[Companies that manage prisons on our behalf have abysmal records. So why do we keep giving them business? *RON*]
By MATT STROUD, February 24, 2014

In October, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new contract with Corrections Corporation of America, a Nashville-based private prison behemoth, to open a prison in the desert 100 miles north of Los Angeles, onlookers might’ve wondered if he’d been following the news.

The same could be asked of Wall Street in general. Over the last five years, CCA’s stock price has increased by more than 200 percent and earlier this month Jim Cramer’s investment website The Street praised the company’s “strengths” on Wall Street, enthusiastically rating its stock a “buy.”

As inmate populations have soared over the last 30 years, private prisons have emerged as an appealing solution to cash-starved states. Privately run prisons are cheaper and can be set up much faster than those run by the government. Nearly a tenth of …

Platinum-Level Citizenship

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[Walman argues that the American religious right is achieving success in some parts of the US in attaining a higher level of citizenship than others, one which allows them to pick and choose which laws apply to them. *RON*]

PAUL WALDMAN, FEBRUARY 24, 2014

Highly-religious Christians' battle to change the very nature of the First Amendment.

Ask a conservative Christian about the President of the United States, and you're likely to hear that Barack Obama has been waging a "war on religion" since pretty much the moment he took office in 2009. As laughable as the assertion may be, there's little doubt that many have come to believe it, spurred on of course by opportunistic politicians and right-wing talk show hosts whose stock in trade is the creation of fear and resentment. In response, those conservative Christians have mounted a little war of their own, fought in the courts and state legislatures. The enemies include not just the Obama…

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

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[Typically interesting, informative, creepy piece by Glenn Greenwald. *RON*]
By Glenn Greenwald, 24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on fourclassifiedGCHQdocuments presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

By publishing these stories one by one…

Justin Trudeau backs Kinder Morgan oil pipeline to Vancouver

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["Mr. Trudeau’s energy policy is getting harder and harder to distinguish from that of Stephen Harper." *RON*]
Posted February 24, 2014 by Common Sense Canadian in Canada

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sat down recently with Metro Calgary, discussing everything from legalizing marijuana to funding public transit – but it was his response to this question that was of particular interest to The Common Sense Canadian: “Can you clarify where you stand on pipelines: Northern Gateway, Keystone, and pipeline policy in general?”

As we’ve noted in these pages on numerous occasions, Mr. Trudeau’s energy policy is getting harder and harder to distinguish from that of Stephen Harper. Herewith, Mr. Trudeau’s response to Metro:

HSBC's message on bonus-capping: stuff you, Brussels

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[The HSBC CEO got a pay raise of $48,600 per week. HSBC actually lost money this year, not that this has any imaginable connection with the need for ever-higher bonuses for bankers, regulations be damned. *RON*]
The EU's new rule on pay was misguided – but the bank's determination to get round it is still shameless and arrogant
"Dear shareholder, this new EU law capping bonuses is silly so we've decided to exploit the enormous and very obvious loophole. Stuff Brussels: we're not paying ourselves less. Your co-operation in this matter is greatly appreciated."

That was not, of course, how HSBC presented its new remuneration policy and system of "fixed-pay allowances", which will ensure no senior executive is disadvantaged by meddlesome politicians in Brussels. Instead, there was the usual line about the need to remain "competitive" with banks not domiciled in the EU.

BC Gov't Brags Budget Keeps Taxes Low, but for Whom?

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[In terms of total tax burden, only rich single people come out ahead. This doesn't include those household costs that the government gets to decide for us, e.g., ICBC, Hydro. This is government for the 1%, by the 1%. *RON*]

Not many families at all, when MSP premiums and other fees are included.

By Andrew MacLeod, 18 Feb 2014, TheTyee.ca

British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong today presented what he characterized as a "boring balanced budget" while forecasting more spending in coming years and setting out a framework for taxing the promised liquefied natural gas industry.

He boasted of B.C. having the lowest income taxes in Canada, though budget documents show the total provincial tax burden goes up significantly when Medical Services Plan premiums and other fees are included.

Please Advise! Why Does Libs' Gas-Powered Budget Stink?

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Read the original article here.

[Originally I was just going to post the cartoon, which I enjoyed! But what the heck, here's the story that goes with it... See also Has LNG Become Political LSD in BC?*RON*]

Might be all those magic beans you're passing, Burgess tells BC money minister.

By Steve Burgess, 20 Feb 2014, TheTyee.ca

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

The government of B.C. has delivered its economic plan. I call it the "Triple B" -- a boring, balanced budget. I forecast a surplus of $184 million for 2014-2015 unless, you know, stuff happens.

But I write to you today, Dr. Steve, on a personal matter. Regarding our Super Bowl bet: I guess I look pretty foolish fo…

Canada's Real Problem with Intrusive Foreign Interests

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[Yet Harper frets in public about how foreign interests are hijacking the Northern Gateway process, and has initiated CRA investigations against environmental nonprofits - which Anderson points out would not be tolerated in the US itself. *RON*]

With key Harperites so tied to US conservative institutions, who's in control of our vast natural wealth?

By Mitchell Anderson, Today, TheTyee.ca

How much is Canada worth? About $33 trillion according to one recent reckoning, based only on our oil and timber resources. Those two commodities alone make Canada the fourth richest country on Earth, and number two on a per capita basis -- just behind Saudi Arabia. Divided between 35 million Canadians, every one of us is close to being a millionaire. Like the TV commercial says, you're richer than you think.

That $33 trillion does not include any of Canada's natural gas, wheat, fish, gold, potash or diamonds. Yet according to some bean counters, Alberta's …

The Mobility Myth

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See the original article here.
[The Commonweal, or, that which we have completely forgotten about: "...in any capitalist society most people are bound to be part of the middle and working classes; public policy should focus on raising their standard of living, instead of raising their chances of getting rich." *RON*]
BY JAMES SUROWIECKI, MARCH 3, 2014


Since at least the days of Horatio Alger, a cornerstone of American thinking has been the hope of social mobility—the idea that, as Lawrence Samuel put it in a history of the American dream, anyone can, “through dedication and with a can-do spirit, climb the ladder of success.” In recent years, though, plenty of Americans have come to believe that, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “upward mobility has stalled.” So it was a surprise recently when a team of economists from Harvard and Berkeley released a comprehensive study showing that mobility in the U.S. hasn’t fallen over the past twenty years at all.…

'Canadian Dream' a myth, says internal government report

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[This internal report does the unforgivable - it tells the unvarnished truth about the Canadian economy and growing disparities between the rich and the poor. The official response is predictable: "Talking point, talking point, bark-bark, talking point." *RON*]

BY DEAN BEEBY, THE CANADIAN PRESS FEBRUARY 23, 2014 11:39 AM

OTTAWA - Canada's middle-class is mortgaging its future to stay afloat, making the Canadian dream "a myth more than a reality."

That's the blunt assessment of an internal Conservative government report, an unvarnished account of the plight of middle-income families that's in contrast to the rosier economic picture in this month's budget.

The document was prepared last October by experts in Employment and Social Development Canada, the department that runs the employment insurance fund and other income-support programs. The Canadian Press obtained the report under the Access to Information Act.

"The wa…

Interest in Inequality in the US vs Canada, 2004 to Present

I've never tried to embed anything from Google as HMTL before, so this is only partly successful and a bit hard to read. Interest in "inequality" really took off during the post-Occupy years in the United States but is very nearly flat in Canada. Typical Canadian smugness? I have no idea why the interest in searching for "inequality" demonstrates a seasonal cycle in both cases; maybe this is something specific to web searching patterns.

Google Trends: Web searches in the United States for "inequality," 2004 to present:

Google Trends: Web searchs in Canada for "inequality," 2004 to present:

B.C. LNG Tax Too High, Say Companies

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See the original story here.

[Ha! Why, who would have predicted this!? :-) Now that the preliminary analyses have already indicated that, with these rates, we will never come close to buying all the ponies that Clark has already promised, the companies are howling that they will be beggared by them. Also see the next blog posting, Climate Currently Pays for Increased Human Wealth. *RON*]

By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press, 02/23/2014


VICTORIA - One of the first questions British Columbia's Finance Minister Mike de Jong was asked when he introduced the Liberal government's proposed Liquefied Natural Gas Income Tax as part of last week's budget, was how oil and gas companies would react to paying a tax that could top out at seven per cent.

"Of course, they want zero," he replied.

But de Jong pointed to a recent government-commissioned Ernst and Young survey that concluded B.C.'s all-in taxes — corporate, federal, provincial, municipal, carbon and the new LNG t…

Climate Currently Pays For Increased Human Wealth

See the original article here.
[Growth in Wealth = Growth in CO2. This is the real implication of the promise by the G20 today to add $2 trillion to the global economy over the next five years. *RON*]
Feb 23, 2014 By David BielloDownload MP3

A new study attempts to quantify CO2 emissions if economic growth continues. David Biello reports.

Despite the Great Recession, more people are better off around the world today than ever before. At the same time, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have never been higher in human history — thanks to fossil fuel burning, forest clearing and other activities that make people rich.

So what can be expected if the world increases the wellbeing of an ever increasing proportion of people? In short: even more CO2. That's the finding of a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Economists and policy analysts held out hope that global wealth could continue to rise without also raising CO2 emissions. But a look back at life expectancy at birth compar…

The Myth of German Austerity

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See the original article here.
[It took me a moment before I was able to identify poor old Greece on this chart! :-( *RON*]
Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal, February 23, 2014, 11:05 AM

Every once in a while I hear people trying to dismiss the overwhelming evidence for large economic damage from fiscal austerity by pointing to Germany: “You say that austerity hurts growth, but the Germans have done a lot of austerity and they’re booming.”

Public service announcement: Never, ever make claims about a country’s economic policies (or actually anything about economics) on the basis of what you think you’ve heard people say. Yes, you often hear people talking about austerity, and the Germans are big on praising and demanding austerity. But have they actually imposed a lot of it on themselves? Not so much. Again, my euro area austerity versus growth plot for 2009-13:


Germany did less austerity than almost anyone else in the euro area.

We Asked the Five Eyes About What They Were Up To. Here's What They Said.

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Read the original article here.

[As my friend Richard has said, everyone in intelligence services is so scared of the consequences for themselves if something was leaked on their watch that everything is laughably over-classified. Thus, as is the case here, the most basic information needed to understand the impact on the public interest is made inaccessible to the public. *RON*]

by Caroline Wilson Palow. Published on Sunday, February 23, 2014 by Privacy International


Would you like to read the current international agreements establishing the intelligence sharing arrangements that underpin the work of the NSA and GCHQ? The rules that govern massive, coordinated communications surveillance operations, hacking, and the exploitation of networks and devices in the name of national security and the public interest?

What about the guidelines that set the boundaries of what certain cooperating intelligence agencies can and cannot do to the citizens of their own countries, and to foreigners?

Wel…

Human Health and the GMO Industry: Puppets in High Places

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[The scientific endeavor is in a strange position today. The GMO debate is a classic illustration - scientists on both sides call each other liars and each side claims that the other is politically motivated. The standards that science should be held to for the purpose of decision making are being rancorously debated and, some feel, the purpose of science is being misunderstood. *RON*]
By Colin Todhunter, Global Research, February 23, 2014



Anne Glover recently declared that there is no evidence pertaining to the adverse impacts of GMOs. This is an extremely disturbing statement. It’s disturbing because it is not only patently wrong, but also because Anne Glover is chief scientific adviser of the European Commission.

How Doctors are Paid in BC

See the original article here.
[Very good piece on the flaws in the fee-for-service payment system currently used to pay doctors in BC. *RON*]
February 22nd, 2014 · Dr. Vanessa Brcic

[A version of this piece was posted on the Tyee]

Health care is the biggest, most expensive and most important thing that government does. Hospital care swallows up a large proportion of the health care budget, but primary care in the community takes care of most patient needs and keeps people out of hospital. Patients who are connected to a family physician over time suffer less and live longer. But there hasn’t been much of a conversation about primary care reform in this province, and it’s time to start one. The auditor general agrees, and so do the Divisions of Family Practice in BC, whose slick GP For Me campaign was launched this week.

In BC, doctors are paid well, but they are paid by an antiquated compensation model called Fee For Service (FFS), which basically reduces medical visits to a series of bil…

Age of Austerity

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Read the original article here.
Paul Krugman, Conscience of a Liberal

FEBRUARY 22, 2014, 4:53 PM

Zachary Goldfarb defends the argument that we’ve been living in an age of austerity against conservative denialists. He’s right, of course — but I think there are more graphic ways to make the point.

One simple measure is the ratio of government spending to potential GDP — the ratio to actual GDP is somewhat inflated by the fact that GDP itself is depressed. And I would argue that you should look at expenditure by all levels of government — state and local as well as federal — partly because state and local austerity measures have in part been a political choice, partly because not providing sufficient federal aid to avert harsh budget cuts is another political choice. (The numbers are similar but less striking if you look only at federal expenditures). What you get is this: