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Showing posts from March, 2014

Foreign workers come third in federal accord to help LNG industry, Clark says

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[All the risk re: labour is being shifted to the Canadian tax payer, where it does not belong. In addition, if we cannot possibly find enough locals - and it is perfectly unclear that this is true - we should bring in immigrants, not temporary workers. *RON*]
By Shawn McCarthy, Ottawa — The Globe and Mail, Monday, Mar. 31 2014

The federal and B.C. governments have reached an accord on skills training and immigration that Premier Christy Clark says will help spur development of LNG plants in the province by keeping a lid on labour costs.

Premier Clark travelled to the national capital on Monday with a delegation of business and First Nations leaders, as well as a quarter of her cabinet, to highlight the potential that the production and export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has for her province and for the country as a whole. In a reception for Conservative MPs and other federal officials, she said the nascent LNG industry could rival Alberta’s oi…

The hellish monotony of 25 years of IPCC climate change warnings

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[The latest blockbuster United Nations report on the impacts of climate change makes dire reading, just as the first one did almost a quarter of a century ago. *RON*]

Graham Readfern, The Guardian, March 31, 2014
Entire island nations "rendered uninhabitable", millions of people to be displaced by floods and rising seas, uncertainties over global food supplies and severe impacts on human health across the world.

The news from the United Nations on the likely impacts of climate change is dire, especially for the poorest people on the planet.

There will likely be more floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves, says the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, natural ecosystems come under extreme stress with "significant" knock-on effects for societies.

"Changes in the availability of food, fuel, medicine, construction materials and income are possi…

Petition signed by thousands of British Columbians demands repeal of new parks bill

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[Environment minister says people should be assured that new laws, which open doors to pipelines in parks, don't open doors to pipelines in parks. *RON*]

By Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun, March 30, 2014

Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition asking the provincial government to repeal a bill changing how B.C. parks are managed, which they say could open the door to pipeline expansion in protected areas.

Concerned British Columbians took to Facebook over the weekend to spread an online petition by the progressive political advocacy site Sum of Us, demanding the provincial government repeal Bill 4 — also called the Park Amendment Act — which passed into law last week.

As of Sunday evening the petition had more than 118,000 signatures.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society had more than 8,000 signatures on its own digital petition to repeal the law and has received more than 4,000 letters to the government, according to spo…

EXCERPT: The Longer I'm Prime Minister

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[A good read - I just borrowed this book from the library. *RON*]

Paul Wells, Political Editor, Maclean's, 03/31/2014

The Huffington Post Canada is delighted to once again be partnering with the Writers' Trust of Canada Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. In the weeks leading up to the April 2 announcement of this year's prize winner, we are publishing excerpts from each of the five finalists. The authors have personally chosen the portions they'd like to share, and each excerpt begins with a brief explanation of why that particular passage was chosen.

A note from author Paul Wells:
This excerpt comes from the chapter on the 2008 election. Harper made a great show of being forced into that election by un-cooperative opposition parties, but in fact the whole thing was meticulously planned with a TV ad shoot at Harrington Lake and a series of strategic leaks by his spokesman Kory Teneycke. Here we see several Harper charact…

Harper government introduces C-31 'budget implementation' bill

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[Snowed under - Canadian democratic politics Harper-style. *RON*]
By Brent Patterson, rabble.ca, March 31, 2014

Last week on Friday, the Harper government tabled C-31, yet another one of its so-called 'budget implementation' omnibus bills. This one alters almost 40 different pieces of legislation. The 359-page piece of legislation can be read here or here.

Canada Is a Lousy Oil Negotiator

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[We collected less than one-fifth the tax and royalty benefits Norway did in 2012. Ouch. *RON*]

By Mitchell Anderson, March 31, 2014, TheTyee.ca

In 2012, the Canadian taxpayer realized a benefit of about $9 per "barrel of oil equivalent" -- less than one-fifth what Norway collected in the same year.
There is an old adage in business that you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. And there are few businesses bigger than Big Oil. The top 50 petroleum companies collectively have annual revenues over $5.6 trillion.

Subsurface mineral rights worldwide typically remain the property of sovereign nations, and oil companies only access that bounty through negotiated leases. You can imagine these negotiations are high stakes affairs. With potentially trillions of dollars on the table, both sides have a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

Ukraine parliament passes austerity bill required by IMF

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[That was fast. *RON*]
Russia Television, March 28, 2014


The Ukrainian parliament has adopted an anti-crisis bill proposed by the IMF to secure an international financial aid package. Ordinary Ukrainians will have to tighten their belts to help the coup-installed government keep the collapsing economy afloat.

It took two readings of the bill for 246 MPs out of 321 registered to approve the austerity measures outlined in the legislation dubbed “On prevention of financial catastrophe and creation of prerequisites for economic growth.”

Ahead of the vote, Ukrainian self-imposed Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told the Parliament that it had “no other choice but to accept the IMF offer,” as country fiscal gap in 2014 is projected to reach $26 billion. Ukraine's Finance Ministry says it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default.

“The country is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy,” Yatsenyuk said. “This package of laws is …

Bankers Win Both Ways: Now They Can Take Both Taxpayer and Depositor Money

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[Being bailed out by taxpayers might not be enough - better give bank account holders a haircut as well. *RON*]
 By Ellen Brown(about the author), OpEdNews, 3/30/2014

"As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power."
- Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011)

On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and "bail-ins" - the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to …

You'll Never Look At The 'Wealthiest 1%' The Same Way

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[According to this analysis, it's all about the top 0.01% *RON*]
JOE WEISENTHAL, Business Insider, Mar. 29, 2014

In recent years, as income and wealth inequality have grown as matters of concern, the term "1%" has become a popular way to connote the rise of a super-elite that has separated itself economically from the rest of society.

We've all seen the charts showing, in various ways, how much the 1% have seen their wealth grow, while everyone else's has stagnated.

But talking about the 1% actually misses the real story.

New research from economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (.pdf), via HouseOfDebt, shows that really it's only the 0.1% who've seen their share of the wealth surge.

Here's what happens if you decompose the % of total wealth held by the top 1% in the United States.

So basically, if you're a poor schmo whose wealth is in the top 1% but not above the top 0.5%, you haven't seen gains at all. …

Poilievre: No need to panic over election reform bill; won't commit to changes

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[Poilievre's cheerleading for the Fair Elections Act is the sound of one hand clapping. *RON*]

By Murray Brewster, CP, on Huffington Post, 30 March 2014

OTTAWA - The minister responsible for democratic reform says he's listening to the growing tide of outrage about the Harper government's controversial new electoral reform bill, but Pierre Poilievre would not commit to making changes.

Doing the circuit of political television shows on Sunday, the junior minister continued to defend the overhaul and once again denied that he misquoted the author of a report the Conservatives have used to justify extraordinary measures in the legislation.

Poilievre, appearing on both CTV's Question Period and Global Television's The West Block, said a House of Commons committee is only four days into hearings over Bill C-23, known as the Fair Elections Act, and it's too early to determine whether there will be any amendments.

Canada Gives Human Rights the Cold Shoulder: Disgraceful Response to UN Human Rights Review Contains No New Commitments

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[A piece from six months ago, but well worth reviewing now that Harper is grandstanding to the UN, demanding immediate action in support of Ukraine. *RON*]
Amnesty International, September 19, 2013

In presenting a deeply disappointing report today at the UN Human Rights Council, outlining Canada’s response to a review of the country’s human rights record carried out in April 2013, the Canadian government has squandered a valuable opportunity to move forward in addressing important national human rights concerns and to demonstrate human rights leadership on the world stage.

Canada was reviewed under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process on April 26 and 30. Other countries, including many of Canada’s closest allies, highlighted a wide range of concerns and made recommendations to Canada regarding steps to improve human rights protection in the country.

“Governments raised critical, concrete recommendations touching on numerous human rights shor…

Canada’s transformation under neoliberalism

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[Characterizes the neoliberal shift in Canada as involving three steps: shifting monetary policy, the growth of free trade, and reliance on resource extraction and export. *RON*]

Jim Stanford, Canadian Dimension, March 29th 2014

Even before that transformation began, Canada was hardly a model of inclusion, equality, and democracy. But in the latter years of the postwar expansion, Canada progressed both economically and socially. Living standards were improving quickly for most—fueled by rising real wages (which doubled in a generation) and a dramatic expansion of the social wage (including the introduction of national Medicare, unemployment insurance, and the Canada Pension Plan within six remarkable years, from 1965 through 1971). We were catching up to the US economically and surpassing it socially. And we carved a unique and somewhat independent role for the country in global economic, political, and military affairs. This confidence, hope, a…

PIKETTY’S INEQUALITY STORY IN SIX CHARTS

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[Piketty is getting big press now that his book has been translated into English. He's getting a lot of credit for being a key figure in bringing charts about The 1% into popular awareness. *RON*]
POSTED BY JOHN CASSIDY, New Yorker, MARCH 26, 2014

In this week’s magazine, I’ve got a lengthy piece about “Capital in the Twenty-first Century,” a new book about rising inequality by Thomas Piketty, a French economist, that is sparking a lot of comment and debate. (Brad DeLong has a useful summary of some early reviews.) I’ll go further into that discussion in future posts, but first I thought it might be useful to portray the gist of Piketty’s story in a series of charts.

The charts aren’t merely illustrative: they are an essential part of Piketty’s contribution. Fifteen or twenty years ago, debates about inequality tended to be cast in terms of clever but complicated statistics, such as the Gini coefficient and the Theil entropy index, which atte…

Labour, skills shortage in Canada? Budget watchdog says no

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[Parliamentary Budget Office’s Mostafa Askari says warnings from Prime Minister Stephen Harper not supported by PBO’s statistics. "The government has pointed to the so-called skills mismatch to justify measures like the foreign temporary workers program, stricter unemployment insurance eligibility rules and the Canada Jobs Grant, which has been unpopular with the provinces." *RON*]
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has warned of a jobs and skills shortage in Canada. But the Parliamentary Budget Office says statistics don't back up the idea.

By: Lisa Wright Business Reporter, Published on Tue Mar 25 2014

Canada’s budget watchdog says there is little evidence to back up Ottawa’s warnings of serious labour and skills shortages.

Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called the skills mismatch one of Canada’s most pressing economic problems, the new report by the Parliamentary Budget Office finds that’s just not the case.

In fact, the in…

The Harder You Work, the Richer They Get: Wages, Profits and Productivity

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[In Canada, “If median real earnings had grown at the same rate as labour productivity, the median Canadian full-time full-year worker would have earned $56,826 in 2005, considerably more than the actual $41,401 (2005 dollars).” Is this sustainable? As the author says, You Can't Sell It If Everyone's Broke! *RON*]
by Pete Dolack, counterpunch.org, Weekend Edition, March 28-30, 2014

It is not your imagination — you are working harder and earning less. Despite significant productivity gains during the past four decades, wages have remained flat.

This is a global phenomenon, not one specific to any country. It is not a matter of the viciousness of this or that capitalist, nor the policy of this or that government. Rather, widening inequality flows naturally from the ideological construct that now dominates economic thinking. Consider Henry Giroux’s succinct definition of neoliberalism:
“[I]t construes profit-making as the essence of democracy,…

More Proof Corporate Tax Cuts Have Done More Harm Than Good

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[Contrary to the foundational neoliberal view that corporate tax cuts will grow the economy, a new report demonstrates that "if we turned back the clock on corporate tax rates and returned to Nixon-era levels and closed loopholes, millions of American jobs would be created." *RON*]
Richard Eskow, commondreams.org via Campaign for America's Future Blog, Mar 28, 2014


The taxes paid by corporations today are near record lows as a percentage of the United States’ total tax bill, even as they are recording massive profits. Yet the unemployment rate is still high. However, if we turned back the clock on corporate tax rates and returned to Nixon-era levels and closed loopholes, millions of American jobs would be created, according to The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base, a new report released today.

Rob Ford Says He's 'Not A Criminal,' Wants To Be Judged On Record

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[Not a criminal? Since he has been convicted of DUI and marijuana possession, and has publicly admitted to possession and use of Class 1 Controlled Substances, presumably he is speaking 'metaphorically.' *RON*]

By The Canadian Press, 03/28/2014


TORONTO - The scandal-plagued mayor of Toronto says he's not a criminal and wants people to judge him on his record as he seeks re-election.

Rob Ford — who has admitted smoking crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor" while in office among other controversies — made the comments to CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Ford says he's saved the city "a billion dollars" and wants to continue to turn Toronto around.

When asked if his personal issues should be considered alongside his work at city hall, Ford says his troubles are "part of it" but "people are starting to become numb."

The mayor, who is also under investigation by police, repeated his now well-worn de…

It is now legal to drill oil and build pipelines in B.C.'s provincial parks

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[At the end of this article you can click through to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's petition to stop implementation of this Bill. I don't expect the Liberals to listen, but it would be good to let them know how many voters oppose their style of thinking, and just how tone-deaf they are to the concerns and priorities of voters and to democratic processes. *RON*]
By Carol Linnitt, rabble.ca, March 28, 2014

A little-known bill, the Park Amendment Act, that will drastically alter the management of B.C. Parks became law Monday, creating controversy among the province's most prominent environmental and conservation organizations. The passage of Bill 4 will make way for industrial incursions into provincial parklands including energy extraction, construction of pipelines and industry-led research.

The bill, quietly introduced in mid-February, has already met significant resistance in B.C. where the Minister of Environment receive…

Corporate Profits Hit A New Record High Last Year

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["On the whole, corporate profits have grown 20 times faster than workers’ incomes since 2008." *RON*]

By Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress, March 27, 2014

After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion.

As this chart from Quartz shows, profits have been on a roll for some time, more than fully recovering what was lost during the recession:

4 Shocking Examples of Police Militarization in America's Small Towns

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[Police departments are militarizing even far from urban centers. *RON*]

Aaron Cantú, AlterNet, March 26, 2014


For nearly half a century, the general trend within America’s police precincts has been toward greater militarization, a transformation initiated by the culture wars of the 1960s and facilitated by the war on drugs, fear of inner-city crime, and anxieties over the threat of terrorism.

Fear of drugs, crime and terrorism have been used to justify the expansion of SWAT programs and the acquisition of military grade weaponry and vehicles in America’s smaller towns. Citing previous work, investigative journalist Radley Balko writes that the number of SWAT teams in municipalities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 “increased by more than 300 percent between 1984 and 1995,” and that 75% of all of these towns had their own SWAT teams by the year 2000. Small precincts acquired wartime weaponry and a warrior culture was engendered among c…

Bank of America in $9.5bn settlement

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[Bank of America agrees to pay $9.5bn to settle charges it misled US mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the housing crisis in 2008. If your reaction is "Oh well, ho-hum" then big banks have succeeded in turning crime into business as usual. I also note that the BoA CEO is banned from working in a public company for three years -- this wouldn't stop him from becoming an Obama adviser! :-) *RON*]

BBC News, 27 March 2014

Bank of America agreed to pay $9.5bn (£5.7bn) to settle charges it misled US mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the housing crisis in 2008.

The bank will pay $6.3bn in cash and buy back $3.2bn in mortgage securities.

Harper Government Under Fire Over $482 Million In Outside Legal Fees

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[“They closed Veterans [Affairs]’ district offices and saved $5 million bucks, [but] over the past eight years, they’ve spent half a billion on outside lawyers. It’s pretty stark.” I wonder if any government in Canadian history has been: a) sued as often by its own people, and b) had its legislation defeated by the Supreme Court as often for being unconstitutional? *RON*]
Althia Raj, Huffington Post, 03/27/2014



OTTAWA – The Conservative government has spent $482 million on outside legal fees since it came to power in 2006. And more than $447,045 to defend the Prime Minister, his staff and ministers, according to documents tabled in the House of Commons.

“It’s just a shocking number,” Liberal MP Sean Casey told The Huffington Post Canada Wednesday.

“They closed Veterans [Affairs]’ district offices and saved $5 million bucks, [but] over the past eight years, they’ve spent half a billion on outside lawyers. It’s pretty stark.”

B.C. pitches separate land zones in reserve and value added for farmers

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[He's saying that he'll dictate changes to the mandate of the Commission to suit his political friends and allies, but "the land commission will remain a fully independent tribunal and decision-maker" on how to apply the now-changed mandate. *RON*]

CP in Huffington Post, 03/27/2014

VICTORIA - Major changes are being proposed for British Columbia's Agricultural Land Commission for the first time since land protection laws were put in place decades ago.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett announced the proposed changes today in the legislature that would allow farmers to add value to their land, including adding options such as food processing.

The proposed changes are part of the Liberal government's core review of government spending, which Bennett is leading.

Rick Mercer Inks Deal To Return To CBC For 3 More Seasons

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[Stephen Harper must be spitting up blood. *RON*]

CBC on Huffington Post, 03/26/2014


Political satirist and television host Rick Mercer announced Wednesday he has signed a three-year deal with the CBC, extending his show, "Rick Mercer Report," through the 2017 season.

Mercer made the announcement on CBC's "The National," saying the contract was made official secretly several weeks ago.

This is the first time Mercer's show, currently in its 11th season, has inked a deal for more than a single season.

"We've only ever gone from year to year. This is a big deal for us," Mercer said. "Signing a three-year agreement is a three-year deal to do my dream job."

The deal is set to begin at the start of the 2014 season, which will be the 12th season of "Rick Mercer Report."

The head of CBC's English-language services, Heather Conway, approached Mercer with the idea to sign him for three years, …

Natural Resources Minister dodges questions on personal assets in energy sector

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[Canada's Natural Resources Minister has at least a half-million dollars in a hedge fund that has heavy holdings in the resources that are impacted by the decisions he makes. But he says he's discussed this all with the Ethics Commissioner and everything is hunky-dory. This is the same Harper-selected Ethics Commissioner who decided that it was hunky-dory for the head of the intelligence services oversight committee to be an oil-industry lobbyist. *RON*]
Matthew Millar, Vancouver Observer, Mar 27th, 2014


Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford – who was sworn into the portfolio late last week – was defiant in answering questions over his personal investments in an energy sector hedge fund, according to conflict of interest disclosures.

Rickford has investments in Waratah One Trust Limited Partnerships – a privately managed investment fund administered by Waratah Advisors in Toronto. The Fund maintains approximately 22.5 per cent of its i…

Inuit Go Hungry More Than Any Other Indigenous Group

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["For the folks up north, I think they're going to say 'Yeah, I'm glad you recognize this. For the folks in the South, I hope they're shocked and I hope they're embarrassed." *RON*]

CBC, on Huffington Post, 03/27/2014


A new study released Thursday says people in Nunavut have the highest food insecurity rate for any indigenous population in a developed country at 68 per cent.

The report by the Council of Canadian Academies says 35 per cent of Inuit households in Nunavut do not have enough to eat. It also says 76 per cent of Inuit preschoolers skip meals, while 60 per cent have gone a day without eating.

None of this comes as a surprise to Northerners.

13 examples of the Harper government's anti-democratic abuses

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[Illustrations of Harper's ignoring the rule of law and parliamentary customs. *RON*]
By Phil Elder, rabble.ca, March 27, 2014

Recently, it has not been a good time for the Harper government and they have also shown a disturbing pattern of illegal and anti-democratic abuses.

Here is a baker's dozen of examples with two highly unsettling themes: (1) ignoring the rule of law and (2) flouting the traditional processes of parliamentary democracy.

1. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Harper government's legislation making retroactive changes to parole eligibility breaches the Charter of Rights and is thus unconstitutional.

2. The same court held that the government's appointment of Justice Nadon to the Supreme Court was void because he doesn't meet the Supreme Court Act's requirements for eligibility. Furthermore, amendments to change that Act's requirements, contained in an omnibus bill rammed through the Houses of P…

Canada should be doing more to fight income inequality

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[The poorest 20% of Canadians got 15% poorer from 1999 to 2012, while the richest 20% got 80% richer. Middle class wages rose by only $1 between 1993 and 2007. The chances of a middle-income family moving into the upper class is low. The tax system was progressive from 1976 to 1994 and now is actually slightly regressive. *RON*]

By Rick Goldman, Montreal Gazette, March 17, 2014

Are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer in Canada?

As Sarah Palin might put it: You betcha!

According to Statistics Canada’s recently released Survey of Financial Security, the total net worth of the poorest 20 per cent of families actually decreased by 15 per cent between 1999 and 2012. In fact, collectively, they now have a negative net worth (i.e. debts exceeding assets) of more than $10 million.

On the other hand, the richest 20 per cent of Canadian families saw their net worth grow by more than 80 per cent between 1999 and 2012. They captured about two-thi…

The Republican Street Fight Over Transparency in Government

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[Recommended by my friend Harry. *RON*]

Lawrence Lessig, The Daily Beast, 03.26.14

Several in the GOP want to stop a request for scientists to disclose financial conflicts in their research. What good reason could they possibly have?

A growing rift in the Republican Party about transparency has deepened within the Senate, with 16 Republicans now scolding a federal agency for the outrage of requesting that scientists submitting studies in a rule-making procedure identify any financial conflicts of interest. But to see just how crazy this scolding is, we need some background.

Canada's Telecoms Have Built Databases For Police Spying

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["The law as it stands allows telecoms to hand over voluntarily the personal information of subscribers without a warrant (and without notifying the subscriber) when there is a law enforcement investigation. But if the Harper government has its way, it will soon be even easier for telecoms to do so." *RON*]

The Huffington Post Canada, 03/26/2014


Canada’s telecoms appear to be building databases of subscriber information that law enforcement agencies can access without a warrant, according to documents released under access to information laws.

The news comes as Parliament once again gears up to debate the merits of giving police greater access to telecom subscriber data.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) accessed telecom subscriber data 18,849 times in a one-year period, from April 2012 to March 2013, according to documents provided to NDP MP Charmaine Borg.

Walmart Admits: 'Our Profits' Depend on 'Their Poverty'

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[Walmart publicly admits for the first time that its business model depends on welfare programs being available for its employees. At the same time, a new report shows that poverty rates increase in areas where Walmart opens stores. *RON*
By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams staff writer, March 26, 2014

Critics cite irony of annual report filing: 'This is a company that everywhere it goes it creates poverty'

In their annual report, filed with the Security and Exchange Commission last week, the retail giant lists factors that could potentially harm future profitability. Listed among items such as "economic conditions" and "consumer confidence," the company writes that changes in taxpayer-funded public assistance programs are also a major threat to their bottom line.

Local Government Elections Reform

See the government information page here.

[This has been announced in the news, but I haven't seen any analysis yet. I look a quick look at the legislation. It provides some transparency for campaign donations including advertising sponsorship (a good thing) but I don't see anything about limits on donations (not such a good thing). There is some level of enforcement through Elections BC and the BC Chief Electoral Officer (see Section 7 of Bill 20). I've emailed Elections BC to ask them what the comparable status of these issues is for Provincial elections. *RON*]

The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is working to implement the recommendations of the joint Provincial and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Local Government Elections Task Force. Local government elections rules apply to municipalities, regional districts, parks boards, the Islands Trust and boards of education.

The Local Government Elections Task Force process involved extensive stakeholder…

Health Canada pushed to force pesticide makers to release bee-death studies

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[Health Canada must be asking for these reports very forcefully (and they are not winking and smirking while they ask) - they've requested them for ten years now. *RON*]

By The Canadian Press on Huff Post, 03/26/2014

OTTAWA - Four major environmental groups are demanding that Ottawa force pesticide makers to provide scientific studies looking at whether their products are killing off bees.

Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency has been asking registered pesticide manufacturers for the studies since 2004.

But despite several notices, the studies haven't been produced, while the pesticides in question continue to be manufactured and sold.

Beekeepers, meanwhile, are growing ever more alarmed as their bees continue to die off.

Exclusive: Climate Change Philosopher A Target Of Abusive Hate Campaign

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[Here is Torcello's article so you can be one of the few who has actually read it. Our vehement political polarization is going to kill us. A perfect illustration of why the moderation of public discourse called for by Jonathan Haidt is crucial today. *RON*]

 Graham Readfearn, DeSmogBlog, March 25, 2014.


“DIE you maggot,” reads one of the hundreds of emails from climate science deniers that have dropped into philosopher Lawrence Torcello’s inbox in recent days.

“Fortunately, your kind will be marched to the wall with all the other leftist detritus,” says another.

Others accuse Torcello, an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of Philosophy in the west of New York State, of being a fascist, Stalinist and a Nazi.

The catalyst for the bilious outpouring was an article Torcello had written for The Conversation website arguing there was “good reason to consider” that “the funding of climate denial” was morally and …

WHO: Air pollution caused one in eight deaths

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[Filthy air kills more people than AIDS or diabetes40 percent of the 7 million people killed by air pollution globally in 2012 lived in the region dominated by China. *RON*]

By Arshiya Khullar, for CNN, Tue March 25, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
WHO describes air pollution as single largest environmental health riskAsian countries hardest hit by outdoor and indoor air pollutionMajority of 7 million deaths linked with pollution are heart disease, stroke, lung diseases (CNN) -- An estimated 7 million people died due to air pollution globally in 2012, with more than half of the deaths linked to indoor smoke from cook stoves, according to a report by the World Health Organization.

Air pollution is now the "single largest environmental health risk," the U.N. health agency stated in the report. The majority of the deaths associated with air pollution were heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

Groups decry 'meaningless' consultation in Canada-Colombia FTA human rights impact assessment process

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[Harper's Canada -- land of the blood-soaked Almighty Buck. One trade union leader was assassinated every two weeks in 2013 in Columbia. There continue to be "attacks and assassinations of Indigenous people in areas of Colombia earmarked for resource extraction, including regions where Canadian companies are present." Harper's Canada -- Meaningless Consultations 'R' Us. And he's so happy about it. *RON*]
By Stuart Trew, rabble.ca, March 26, 2014

Human rights, development, and labour groups "have serious misgivings about the Canadian government's commitment to carry out a meaningful assessment of the human rights impact of its controversial free trade agreement with Colombia," says a press release from Amnesty International Canada and the Americas Policy Group at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

This is the third time the Conservative government has attempted to produce an impact asses…

Global Water Demand To Increase By 55 Per Cent By 2050: UN Report

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[Maude Barlow's persistent warnings are becoming more of a reality by the day. Plainly, "the only way to achieve both water and energy security is to have a massive transition toward non-water intensive forms of energy and electricity production.'' *RON*]

By Edith M. Lederer, AP at Huffington Post, 03/25/2014


Increasing demands for fresh water and energy will strain resources in nearly all regions, especially in developing and emerging countries undergoing rapid economic growth, a U.N. report says.

Richard Connor, lead author of the report, told a news conference Tuesday that water and energy supplies are interdependent because water is required to produce nearly all types of energy.

He warned that growing competition for the resources could lead to legal disputes and social upheavals.

The House's NSA bill could allow more spying than ever. You call this reform?

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[Congress' serial fabricator has the audacity to call his new law the 'End Bulk Collection Act'. Obama's proposal isn't much better. *RON*]

 By Trevor Timmtheguardian.com, Tuesday 25 March 2014
The White House and the House Intelligence Committee leaked dueling proposals last night that are supposedly aimed at ending the mass collection of all Americans’ phone records. But the devil is in the details, and when it comes to the National Security Agency’s unique ability to twist and distort the English language, the devil tends to wrap his horns around every word.

The House proposal, to be unveiled this morning by Reps Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, is the more worrying of the two. Rogers has been the NSA’s most ardent defender in Congress and has a long history of distorting the truth and practicing in outright fabrication, whether in touting his committee’s alleged “oversight” or by way of his attempts to impugn the motiv…

Bill 4 Passes: B.C. Parks Now Officially Open…To Pipelines and Drilling

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[Passed quickly and quietly, without any public consultation, this bill will allow pipelines to run through public parks, and mining companies to root around for things to dig up, gas companies to set up fracking, you name it. *RON*]
 by Carol Linnitt, DeSmogBlog, March 25, 2014.

A little-known Bill, the Park Amendment Act, that will drastically alter the management of B.C. parks is set to become law today, creating controversy among the province’s most prominent environmental and conservation organizations. The passage of Bill 4 will make way for industrial incursions into provincial parklands including energy extraction, construction of pipelines and industry-led research.

The Bill, quietly introduced in mid-February, has already met significant resistance in B.C. where the Minister of Environment received “thousands of letters” of opposition, according to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Peter Wood. “There has been absolutely zero public…

Invasion of the Data Snatchers

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[What is life going to be like when your entire home is surveilling you? *RON*]

Big Data and the Internet of Things Means the Surveillance of Everything 
By Catherine Crump and Matthew Harwood, Tomgram, March 25, 2014

Estimates vary, but by 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online.

The implications are revolutionary. Your smart refrigerator will keep an inventory of food items, noting when they go bad. Your smart thermostat will learn your habits and adjust the temperature to your liking. Smart lights will illuminate dangerous parking garages, even as they keep an “eye” out for suspicious activity.

Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces…

10 Poverty Myths, Busted

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[No, single moms aren't the problem. And neither are absentee dads. *RON*]

 By Erika Eichelberger, Mother Jones, March/April 2014 Issue

1. Single moms are the problem. Only 9 percent of low-income, urban moms have been single throughout their child's first five years. Thirty-five percent were married to, or in a relationship with, the child's father for that entire time.

2. Absent dads are the problem. Sixty percent of low-income dads see at least one of their children daily. Another 16 percent see their children weekly.

3. Black dads are the problem. Among men who don't live with their children, black fathers are more likely than white or Hispanic dads to have a daily presence in their kids' lives.

4. Poor people are lazy. In 2004, there was at least one adult with a job in 60 percent of families on food stamps that had both kids and a nondisabled, working-age adult.

5. If you're not officially poor, you're doing okay. Th…

Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?

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[The Real News Network commemorates the 30th anniversary of the coal miners’ strike in the UK with a wide-ranging interview with George Irvin, research professor at the University of London. He takes an historical perspective to show how the rise of a low-wage, debt driven economy and the pressure to reduce the role of government have painted Anglo-Saxon capitalism in a corner. *RON*]


Delaware Chief Justice to Shareholders: Drop Dead

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[Good article. It is important for people to recognize that the commonly touted notion that the key obligation of corporations is to maximize shareholder value has only existed for a few decades and has little legal substance - CEOs and their flunky boards take extremely good care of themselves. Click through to some of the links in this article to learn more on this subject. *RON*]
Posted on March 25, 2014 by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism.

We’ve argued that the notion that companies are obligated to maximize shareholder value is a theory made up by economists and eagerly adopted by corporate executives, with little to no foundation in law. We received confirmation of our thesis in the form of a Columbia Law Review article by the chief justice in Delaware, Leo Strine, arguing that shareholder activism needs to be curbed.

As we will discuss, some of his recommendations are contrary to SEC rulemaking under Dodd Frank. This means we have a promine…

Budget watchdog says little evidence of labour shortages, skills mismatches

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[This is why Harper hates statistics and science (i.e., reality in general) - he much prefers to just make stuff up that fits his ideological preconceptions. *RON*]

Huffington Post via Canadian Press, 03/25/2014

OTTAWA - Canada's budget watchdog says there is little evidence of serious labour shortages or a skills mismatch problem in the country.

And the finding by the parliamentary budget office could once again put it on a collision course with the Harper Conservatives.

The government has made much of a skills mismatch to justify measures like the foreign temporary workers program, stricter unemployment insurance eligibility rules and the Canada Jobs Grant, unpopular with the provinces.

But the PBO says there is no evidence to suggest the current situation is any different from that prior to the 2008-09 recession, and that some level of skills mismatch in an economy is normal.

The report does find some pockets of market tightness, particularly in…

What’s the Primary Cause of Wealth Inequality? Financialization

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[Thomas Piketty was just interviewed on Moyers & Company about his book Capital in the 21st Century*RON*]
By Charles Hugh Smith, Global Research, March 24, 2014


Financialization results when leverage and information asymmetry replace innovation and productive investment as the source of wealth creation.

Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are leading lights in the exploration of rising wealth inequality. Both are academic economists who have devoted considerable time and effort to assembling data that deepens our understanding of the issues.

For example, Saez’s recent essay Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States, provides an in-depth look at the widening gulf between the top 1% and the bottom 90% from 2009 to 2012.

Here is a chart of the top 10% share of income, based on their research: (the note in red marking the beginning of financialization in 1982 is my own)

Canadian grizzly bears face expanded hunt

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[I suppose Liberal leader Christy Clark can use all those pelts to mop up the oil spills. *RON*]

Researchers protest that British Columbia's hunting quotas are not based on science.
Nicola Jones, Nature, 21 March 2014

Data on grizzly bears in British Columbia are not reliable enough to justify higher hunting quotas, researchers argue.

As the Canadian province of British Columbia prepares to open its annual grizzly-bear hunting season, conservation scientists are protesting the provincial government’s decision to expand the number of animals that can be killed.

British Columbia officials estimate that there are 15,000 grizzlies (Ursos arctos horribilis) in the province, making up roughly one-quarter of the North American population. Although some sub-populations are declining and the species is listed as of “special concern” by some environmental bodies, it is not listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, which would afford the bears governme…

French Wages Are Not The Problem

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[On misleading claims of overly-high labour costs in Europe. Germany's labour costs have actually deflated at times; other nations match well with inflation targets. *RON*]
Paul Krugman, Conscience of a Liberal, NY Times, March 24, 2014.

In yesterday’s Times, Steven Rattner grudgingly admits that expansionary monetary policy in Europe may be a good thing, but bemoans the lack of adjustment, and gives us this chart:


So France, like Italy though not quite to the same extent, has a problem of unsustainable growth in labor costs. Right?

No, no, no.

Research Shows Some Test Methods Miss 99 Percent of Radium in Fracking Waste

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[A current method, approved by the EPA and state regulators in the Marcellus Shale region, underestimates radium levels in fracking water by 95%. In addition, the oil industry has "been caught 95 times trying to illegally dump radioactive waste in North Dakota between last January and this February, according to an Associated Press review. The total fines actually issued when these people were caught: zero dollars. They were simply told to promise to dispose of it properly." *RON*]
 SHARON KELLY, March 24, 2014, DeSmogBlog

Every year, fracking generates hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater laced with corrosive salts, radioactive materials and many other chemicals. Because some of that wastewater winds up in rivers after it’s treated to remove dangerous contaminants, regulators across the U.S. have begun to develop testing regimens to gauge how badly fracking wastewater is polluted and how effective treatment plants are at removing …

These Charts Show What is Wrong With American Capitalism

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[Corporations have taken profits generated by low taxes and deregulation and used it to buy back their shares (artificially boosting stock values) and to give CEOs huge pay raises, rather than investing in jobs or growth. *RON*]
Posted on March 24, 2014 by Yves Smith on NakedCapitalism.com

For the last 30 years, neoliberals have fixated on a simple program: “Get government out of the way,” which meant reduce taxes and regulations. Business will invest more, which will produce a higher growth rate and greater prosperity for all. The belief was that unfettered capitalism could solve all ills.

Policymakers have dutifully followed this script. Corporations have gotten more and more tax breaks, with the result that the GAO found that their effective Federal tax rate in 2010 was 13% of worldwide income for companies with profits. Corporate income taxes represent a mere 11% of total Federal tax receipts, down from 30% in the mid-1950s. And we’ve also seen s…

25 years later, oil still stains Alaskan sound

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[Pollution persists, otters and whales still struggle, and no one knows what happened to the herring. "The damage persists in quite remarkable ways." I sent this one to Christy Clark. *RON*]
By: SEAN COCKERHAM , McClatchy News Service, StarTribune, March 22, 2014

Prince William Sound and its wildlife continue to feel the effects of 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

WASHINGTON – Andy Wills was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Cordova, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, ready to head out and harvest spring herring in Prince William Sound.

“My buddy had just handed me a cup of coffee in the morning,” Wills said. “And there’s the Exxon Valdez on TV, spilling oil.”

“We were like, ‘No!’ It was just the start of a nightmare,” Wills said.

The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exx…

Some facts about how NSA stories are reported

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[The Intercept is Greenwald's new venue at firstlook.org. *RON*]
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 23 Mar 2014

(updated below)

Several members of the august “US Journalists Against Transparency” club are outraged by revelations in yesterday’s New York Times (jointly published by der Spiegel) that the NSA has been hacking the products of the Chinese tech company Huawei as well as Huawei itself at exactly the same time (and in exactly the same way) as the US Government has been claiming the Chinese government hacks. Echoing the script of national security state officials, these journalists argue that these revelations are unjustified, even treasonous, because this is the type of spying the NSA should be doing, and disclosure serves no public interest while harming American national security, etc. etc.

True to form, however, these beacons of courage refuse to malign the parties that actually made the choice to publish these revelations – namely,…