Showing posts from October, 2014

Kinder Morgan slaps Burnaby residents with multi-million-dollar lawsuit

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[“I feel outraged politically that this could happen in a democracy – that a foreign massive company can accuse you of trespassing on a park" - SFU professor Stephen Collis. *RON*]
Mychaylo Prystupa, Vancouver Observer, 31 October 2014

Texas-based Kinder Morgan has hit several Burnaby residents and two SFU professors, who have spoken out against the company’s pipeline test work on Burnaby Mountain, with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit according to the defendants' lawyer.

SFU professor Stephen Collis received the 1000-page stack of legal papers at his university office, just before he went out to teach his literature class late Thursday.

“Personally, you feel pretty freaked out – when they start saying $5.6 million in damages, and all this jazz.”

“I feel outraged politically that this could happen in a democracy – that a massive foreign company can accuse you of trespassing on a park. That they can use the courts and their money and influenc…

Tar Sands Resistance Blowing Huge Hole in Oil Industry's Bottom Line: Report

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["Business as usual for Big Oil—particularly in the tar sands—is over.... tar sands production revenues were down about $30.9 billion from 2010 through 2013." *RON*]

by Lauren McCauleyCommon Dreams, 29 October 2014
The growing tide of tar sands resistance—seen in blockades, tree sits, petitions, education efforts and calls to divest—is having a measurable negative impact on the bottom line of the tar sands industry, according to a new report, prompting researchers to declare that "business as usual for tar sands is over."

Published Wednesday by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and Oil Change International, the report, Material Risks: How Public Accountability Is Slowing Tar Sands Development, finds that tar sands production revenues were down about $30.9 billion from 2010 through 2013. And according to the report, more than half of that lost revenue, roughly $17 billion, can be attributed to the fier…

Sweden recognises state of Palestine

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[Sweden: still ahead of the curve. Israel recalls its ambassador following move Swedish foreign minister hopes "will show the way for others". See also: Israel recalls envoy to Sweden and note how this story is only being carried, thus far, in the Arabic press. *RON*]

Al Jazeera, 30 Oct 2014

Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, Stockholm's foreign minister has said, less than a month after the government announced its intention to make the unprecedented move.

The Palestinians cheered Thursday's move, while Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden for consultations.

Israel also summoned Sweden's ambassador to protest and express disappointment.

Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, told Al Jazeera that recognising Palestine, and the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, would put each party on a level playing field and help move peace talks forward.

"It is important to support thos…

No link between tough penalties and drug use - report

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[Right-wing governance by ideology. I sure hope Stephen Harper never sees this article; information about reality confuses him so, and make him all righteously indignant. The operant phrase for both Harper and Cameron is "does not believe in": "Prime Minister David Cameron said the research did not offer 'specific conclusions' and said he did not 'believe in' decriminalising drugs." *RON*]
BBC News, 30 October 2014

There is "no obvious" link between tough laws and levels of illegal drug use, a government report has found.

Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Norman Baker said the report, comparing the UK with other countries, should end "mindless rhetoric" on drugs policy.

He accused the Conservatives of "suppressing" the findings for months.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the research did not offer "specific conclusions" and said he did not "believe in" de…

Iraq: ISIS Executed Hundreds of Prison Inmates

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[The ISIS horrors continue: about 600 Shias killed in desert during the capture of Mosul. Iraqi prison guards prove to be as brave and noble as the Iraqi army. *RON*]

Human Rights Watch, 20 October 2014

Iraq: Forced Marriage, Conversion for Yezidis, 11 October 2014
For Iraq’s Sunnis, Sectarian Militias Pose an Extra Threat, 24 October 2014

(Erbil) – Gunmen from the Sunni extremist group Islamic State systematically executed some 600 male inmates from a prison outside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10, 2014, according to survivors’ accounts. The vast majority of those killed were Shia.

After seizing Badoush Prison near Mosul, the gunmen from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, separated the Sunni from the Shia inmates, then forced the Shia men to kneel along the edge of a nearby ravine and shot them with assault rifles and automatic weapons, 15 Shia prisoners who survived the massacre told Human Rights Watch. The gunmen a…

Canada's Privacy Commissioner Got No Useful Information About RCMP's Warrantless Data Collection

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["It was an oversight! We simply forgot to build any kind of accountability whatsoever into our systems!" *RON*]
By Sunny Freeman, Huffington Post, 30 October 2014

Canada’s privacy watchdog says it wasn’t able to determine whether the RCMP’s warrantless access requests for subscriber data from telecoms were legal because the police service isn’t keeping proper records.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner issued a report Thursday warning government bodies to keep proper records of requests for private information after a review of the RCMP’s actions under the Privacy Act.

“We were disappointed to find that limitations in the RCMP’s information management systems meant we were unable to assess [if appropriate] controls were in place,” said Commissioner Daniel Therrien.

“It was not possible to determine how often the RCMP collected subscriber data without a warrant. Nor could we assess whether such requests were justified.”

The investigation…

Why Is Zehaf-Bibeau a Terrorist But Not Justin Bourque?

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[Points well taken. See also Prevent Future Shootings by Focusing on Mental Illness, Not Tighter Security. *RON*]
Christopher Stuart Taylor, Professor of Black and Canadian History, Race, Gender, and Immigration, Huffington Post, 29 October 2014

Over the past week our sense of security as Canadians has been tested.

Not only has it been tested, but it has forever altered how we see ourselves as "peacekeeping" Canadians.

No longer can we see say that terrorism is something that happens "over‎ there": in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, the United Kingdom, the United States. We are now a part of that unfortunate list.

Barack Obama, David Cameron, and other world leaders came out and admonished the terrorism on Canadian soil. As of Wednesday October 22, 2014, they stood behind us in our fight against terrorism on home soil. The same way that we stood behind them on 9/11 and 7/7.

Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, came out uneq…

Climate Poll: 62% Of Canadians Say Climate More Important Than Energy Prices

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[In today's Canadian democracy a strong majority gets to decide precisely nothing. *RON*]
By Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post, 29 October 2014

A slim majority of Canadians are in favour of a carbon tax that would be charged on businesses, according to a new poll that suggests the Harper government is offside with most Canadians on climate policy.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents in the Nanos Research poll said the government should impose a tax on businesses based on carbon consumption, while only 11 per cent chose instead a carbon tax aimed at consumer goods such as gasoline and heating oil.

Twenty-nine per cent backed the Harper government’s position and said there should be no carbon tax of any kind.

On attitudes towards the environment, nearly two-thirds — 62 per cent — said the environment was more important than energy prices. Twenty-eight per cent said energy prices were more important.

Regionally, Quebecers were most likely to say the env…

Incentives to oil, gas sector hit $1.25 billion: B.C. auditor general

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[Somehow we can cobble together the money for wars, bank bail-outs, tax cuts for the rich and subsidies for giant oil companies but when it comes to feeding hungry children we are suddenly broke. *RON*]

Canadian Press / Vancouver Sun, 30 October 2014

VICTORIA — British Columbia's auditor general says doing business with the oil-and-gas industry has cost the province's coffers about $1.25 billion in royalties even before most of the product has been pulled from the ground.

The incentives to be paid to the industry were just some of the items highlighted Thursday by auditor general Carol Bellringer in her 2013-2014 summary of B.C.'s financial statements.

Bellringer also noted how much money the government made from selling its assets, how much it paid in interest on debt accumulated through public-private partnerships, and she even took issue with government accounting methods.

"The bottom line is certainly an important element of loo…

More Surveillance Punishes Canadians, Not Terrorists

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[Well said - "We cannot allow the extreme actions of a few to strip us of the freedoms those soldiers worked so hard to protect. But the Canadian government continues to roll back our rights in the name of security." *RON*
Tom Henheffer, Exec Dir, Cdn Journalists for Free Expression, Huffington Post, 29 October 2014

The potential destruction of terrorism is infinitesimally smaller than the damage done to our rights by a disproportionate attempt to prevent it.

Please. Please remember this. It's even more important now, when that fact is so easily forgotten in the wake of the attack on our Parliament and the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

We cannot allow the extreme actions of a few to strip us of the freedoms those soldiers worked so hard to protect. But the Canadian government continues to roll back our rights in the name of "security."

Need an example of a real imminent threat? Look …

Labour consumes most new tax dollars cities collect

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[Ideological fairy tales. Government services always mean people providing services to other people (typically salaries accounting for about 70% of costs, with most of the rest going for running offices). So, a strong majority of the costs are always people costs. Also, using the term labour costs makes people think you mean union costs. It would be interesting to see the split between union and management salary boosts. (Management always assumes they require big raises "in order to stay competitive" while making no such assumption about union staff.) And, where contracting out is concerned, one always assumes that paying someone else to do your work for you will automatically cost 20-25% more than doing it yourself. The contractor has diseconomies of scale for things like purchasing benefits and they factor the unpredictability of their cash flow into their (higher) prices. *RON*]
by Jeff Nagel - Surrey North Delta Leader, 29 October…

We'll Never Know How Much Kinder Morgan Spent In B.C. Municipal Race

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[The Dogwood Initiative was registered as a third-party advertiser for the Municipal Election, but not Kinder-Morgan! *RON*]

Emma Gilchrist, DeSmog Canada / Huffington Post, 29 October 2014

Kinder Morgan has launched an advertising campaign pushing the company's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that just so happens to coincide with B.C.'s municipal elections -- but Elections BC says the company doesn't need to register as a third-party advertiser.

That's a bit of a puzzler given that Elections BC rules clearly state that anyone who runs ads on an election issue must register as a third-party advertiser and disclose costs within 90 days of the Nov. 15 election.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion, which would triple the amount of oilsands bitumen flowing to the B.C. coast, is certainly an election issue, with Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson staking out positions against the project.

Enough With European Austerity, Bring on the Stimulus

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[From the Wall Street Journal no less. Germany isn’t such a success story. Its GDP growth is a paltry 2.2% over 2008-13. Time for Merkel to budge. As you can imagine, it is fun to read the comments, e.g., "Another rant form Dr. Dumb, the WSJ's appointed jester fool.  Just another piece of Keynesian drivel.  Blinder stopped being analytical a long time ago when he bought into an ideology based on big government control of economies. He is just another socialist masquerading as an intellectual professor of economics. The WSJ can certainly find a more credible writer of economics!" *RON*]
By Alan S. Blinder, Wall Street Journal, 29 October 2014

Usually I don’t gripe about other countries’ economic policies—at least not on this page. It’s their own business. Besides, there is normally more than enough bad policy right here at home. But I have to make an exception for current macroeconomic policy in the eurozone, for two main reasons. One…

Is ISIS really a state?

An interesting in-depth report on The Islamic State has just come out, published by The Soufan Group: click here to access the report.

“The self-styled Islamic State is an accident of history, emerging from multiple social, political, and economic tensions in the Middle East and beyond. It has challenged the territorial divisions imposed on the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by carving out for itself a large area of territory. But ultimately, its impact will flow as much from its challenge to established concepts of government, national sovereignty, and national identity.”

I found out about this report by watching the recent episode of Frontline, The Rise of ISIS, which is also very good and informative. It can be watched in its entirety by clicking here.


Harper expected to make announcement on income splitting today

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[The smell of electioneering is in the air. In case you've forgotten, this move, which Harper describes as bringing relief to families, will almost exclusively benefit the very rich and result in a net loss of taxes (i.e., government services). The benefits will be especially great in Alberta. *RON*]

By Jennifer Ditchburn,  The Canadian Press, 30 October 2014

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Joe Oliver will make a major announcement Thursday that is expected to include some of the fiscal measures for families promised in the last election campaign.

Multiple sources tell The Canadian Press the package will resemble the income-splitting commitment that was a centrepiece of the Conservatives’ platform in 2011, made contingent on a balanced budget.

One government insider said to expect the prime minister to roll out “a significant package that will bring relief to families and fulfil previous commitments.”


Majority of Canadians want fracking moratorium, says EKOS poll

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[Support for a moratorium is strong regardless of party affiliation, income group, region, age. *RON*]

Council of Canadians website, 8 October 2014
Today, the Council of Canadians released the results of an EKOS Research poll that found most people, regardless of political affiliation, support a fracking moratorium. Seventy percent support “a national moratorium on fracking until it is scientifically proven to be safe.”

“Regardless of age, region or education, people from coast to coast are calling for an end to fracking,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “Communities understand very well the impacts that fracking has on water sources, climate and public health. With the moratoriums in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, it’s clearly the way communities want governments to go.”

Significantly, this support for a moratorium cuts across party lines: nearly half of Conservative voters support a moratorium. The highest su…

Sotheby's Hopes to Exploit Income Inequality for Profit

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[Ah, me! What to DO with all that money? *RON*]

David Ebony, ArtNet News, 28 October 2014
Sotheby's hopes to profit from income inequality to boost its revenues and share value, so reports The Street's ValueWalk.

The article references the auction house's online profile, which highlights its position as a public company that redistributes to stockholders the surplus capital generated by the booming sales of fine art at auctions in recent years. The value of Sotheby's stock, however, has dipped in 2014, from a high of $53.5 to $37.6 per share, reflecting a decline of 30 percent. Despite, or perhaps due to, the recent slip in its stock price, the company, according to the report, is now a viable investment opportunity.

ValueWalk cites the persistent economic inequity in the country that has only gotten more extreme in recent years. The much-discussed hypothesis that fine art is the most attractive investment for the super-rich, combi…

Huge demo planned for France could be anti-austerity tipping point

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[We will see what the turn-out actually is in about two weeks. *RON*]

Ramin Mazaheri, Press TV, 27 October 2014

Economic austerity has not been forced on France yet. That helps explain why the demand for political change has not been as fierce in the country. But with austerity seemingly locked in until at least 2016, many in France are starting to plan bigger and bolder forms of social protest.

The opposition to austerity policies in France may be reaching a tipping point, as France’s unions and social associations are calling for a nationwide mobilization on November 15.

The 3A Collective, or Alternative to Austerity, believes that millions of people are dying for a chance to manifest their displeasure with the historically-unpopular President Francois Hollande.

But even though hundreds of associations, unions and prominent personalities have already committed to marching on November 15, France’s media seemed to wilfully ignore Collective 3A’…

Scientists Discover Huge ‘Bathtub Ring’ Of Oil On Sea Floor From BP Spill

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[I'm glad they at least had all that horrible mess cleaned up and they aren't fighting in court against those fines to compensate for the havoc they created - high sarcasm alert. *RON*]

By Emily Atkin, Think Progress, 28 October 2014
Scientists have discovered yet another unforeseen effect of BP’s historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: a 1,235-square-mile “bathub ring” of oil on the deep ocean’s floor.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on Monday showed that approximately 10 million gallons of oil settled and coagulated on the floor of the Gulf near the Deepwater Horizon rig, which spilled a total of 172 million gallons of oil into the ocean in April 2010. That oil left a footprint on the ocean floor about two times the size of the city of Houston, Texas, and approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island, the study said.

Study author David Valentine told the Associated Press that tests to deter…

Burnaby to appeal NEB decision granting Kinder Morgan access to city-owned land

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[I love what Mayor Corrigan's doing. It is dopey of me, but I just twigged to this fact. The municipal elections are just around the corner and this must be costing Burnaby taxpayers an arm and a leg. I wonder what the response is going to be? The polls suggest the voters on are Corrigan's side. I continue to hope for the best! *RON*]

By Vivian Luk, Canadian Press, The Vancouver Sun, 28 October 2014

METRO VANCOUVER - The City of Burnaby is refusing to back down from its fight with Kinder Morgan, saying it plans to appeal a National Energy Board decision granting the energy giant access to a municipal conservation area.

The city has tried in recent months to block the company from conducting survey work in the area on Burnaby Mountain -- Kinder Morgan's preferred route for the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

But the energy board ruled last week that Burnaby can't stop the company's activities because the geotechnical wo…

TransCanada’s $4b pipeline gets B.C. environmental assessment certificate

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[TransCanada Corporation says that the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office has issued an environmental assessment certificate for the $4-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project. Permit decisions from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission are expected in early 2015. *RON*]

By Daily Oil Bulletin, Business in Vancouver, 27 October 2014

TransCanada Corporation says that the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office has issued an environmental assessment certificate for the $4-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

As anticipated, the certificate was issued with a number of conditions resulting from the assessment by the EAO of environmental, social, economic, heritage and health components deemed pertinent to the project.

“Achievement of an environmental assessment certificate is a significant milestone for both Coastal GasLink and TransCanada,” Russ Girling, president and chief executive officer of TransCanada, said in a news release.…

5 Reasons To Quit Calling These Guys Terrorists

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[A good editorial. *RON*]
Sandy Garossino, Business Owner, Community Advocate, former Crown prosecutor, Huffington Post, 26 October 2014

This week Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo were murdered. Their Canadian-born killers (who won't be named here) appear to be recent converts to Islam. They don't (as far as we know) seem to know each other, or to be part of a co-ordinated offensive on military targets.

Cirillo's murderer was known as a crack cocaine addict on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, where he suffered mental health issues and had penny-ante run-ins with the law. His last offence, in 2011, involved attempting to rob McDonalds with a sharp stick, but the employee at the counter wouldn't give him any money.

Vincent's killer was born and raised in Quebec, yet underwent such a dramatic physical transformation during his conversion that neighbours who'd known him for a decade didn't recognize h…

Africa Must Better Target Tax To Tackle Income Inequality: IMF

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[Funny how the IMF is content recommending this for Africa but not Germany. *RON*]
by Lorys Charalambous,, 27 October 2014

Tax reforms could remedy rising income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) seminar.

The "Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa" seminar, held on the sidelines of the 2014 IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings, explored practical areas where taxation and public investment can contribute to more equal income growth.

Antoinette Sayeh, Director of the IMF's African Department, said Governments should look to raise enough revenue before addressing inequality: "In sub-Saharan Africa, the revenue-to-GDP ratio is still relatively low compared to other parts of the world. You cannot have the fiscal space to spend on things that will help reduce inequality if you do not have enough revenue," she said.

Additional revenue can be generated …

UK child poverty soaring due to Government’s austerity measures, Unicef says

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[United Nations says that more than one in four British children now live in poverty because of austerity policies, and that the number has been sharply rising. *RON*]
ADAM WITHNALL, The Independent, 28 October 2014
More than one in four children in the UK are now living in poverty – and the number is rising sharply because of the Government’s harsh austerity measures, a charity has said.

Unicef claimed the Coalition’s performance on child poverty was “disappointing” compared to 18 other wealthy countries that have actually cut down on the issue despite the recession.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has hit back at the organisation, saying it is “drawing distorted comparisons” in its study that ranked the UK just 25th out of 41 developed nations for allowing the effects of the international economic crisis to hurt vulnerable families.

Unicef’s global report found there was an “unprecedented increase” in rates of severe material depriv…

B.C. LNG Strategy Won’t Help Solve Global Climate Change: New Pembina Institute Report

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[The B.C. government has claimed that LNG exports offer the “greatest single step British Columbia can take to fight climate change” — here's why they are wrong. See also B.C. LNG Not The Climate Change Solution Gov't Promises: Report*RON*]

 Emma Gilchrist, DeSmog Blog Canada, 27 October 2014

The B.C. government’s claim that LNG exports offer the “greatest single step British Columbia can take to fight climate change” is inaccurate in the absence of stronger global climate policies according to a new report released today by thePembina Institute and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Natural gas does have a role to play in a world that avoids two degrees Celsius in global warming, but only if strong emissions reduction policies are put in place in the jurisdictions that produce and consume the gas, says the report, LNG and Climate Change: The Global Context authored by Matt Horne and Josha MacNab.

“Natural gas is often describ…

BC Halves Projected LNG Revenue

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["Debt Free BC" Finance minister says lower tax rate necessary because 'the market's changed.' I missed this story from a week ago in the enormous flood of no coverage whatsoever that it received. *RON*]

By Andrew MacLeod, 21 Oct 2014,

The British Columbia government has slashed in half the amount of revenue it expects to receive from a proposed liquefied natural gas industry since the February 2014 budget.

The BC Liberal government had previously promised LNG revenues would be used to create a prosperity fund that could be used to fund goals such as eliminating the provincial sales tax. Premier Christy Clark ran in the 2013 election with a "Debt Free B.C." slogan premised on building an LNG industry.

"The amounts of money are still significant," finance minister Michael de Jong told reporters in a briefing ahead of the bill's introduction in the legislature this afternoon. "If it tak…

Canada Needs to Watch Gov't in Wake of Attacks: Security Expert

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[Killings in Ottawa and Quebec could be used as an excuse to monitor peaceful Canadians. I can't say that I'm holding my breath in suspense to see which direction Harper recommends. See also Don't Overreact, Don't Degrade Our Democracy and Did Foreign Policy Play a Role in Ottawa Attack? *RON*]

By Jeremy J. Nuttall, 23 Oct 2014,

A security expert says Canadians should be on guard when it comes to their own government after Wednesday's attack in Ottawa, which left a soldier and a gunman dead, two days after another assault with a car killed a soldier in Quebec.

Wednesday's attack came on a day when proposed legislation giving Canadian authorities new powers to track terrorists was expected to be tabled in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not 20 minutes into his speech after Parliament reopened on Thursday morning before mentioning that organizations like the Canadian Security Intelligence …

Andrew Nikiforuk Breaks Down the Global Oil Price Slump

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[Worth checking out his opinions on the matter; no one else seems to be talking about this. What's causing it. What it means. Why it's political dynamite. *RON*]

By Andrew Nikiforuk, 24 Oct 2014,
The dramatic slump in global oil prices has, as usual, caught governments, industry and markets off guard. In fact, Brent oil prices, a global standard, have dropped by 25 per cent since last June.

Given the chaos in Iraq, Syria, Libya and the Ukraine -- Russia is a major oil exporter -- some analysts would have predicted rising prices.

But that's not what's happening for a constellation of reasons.

As a consequence, falling prices are telling us something about changing oil markets, the stagnating state of the global economy, and the poor quality of extreme hydrocarbons.

The price drop may also be signalling a new angst among global investors due to an enlivened climate change fight and the adoption of the Keystone Principle by co…

The Enemy Is Neglect of Mental Illness

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[The Ottawa shooter hardly fits the mould of sleeper cell terrorist. Not to mention attacking a dozen men armed with fully automatic assault weapons with an old lever-action Winchester rifle. *RON*]

By Mitchell Anderson,, 25 Oct 2014

Canada and the world were shocked this week by the brazen shooting of a Canadian soldier at our National War Memorial and an armed assault on our seat of government. These tragic events cry out for immediate and drastic action to ensure this never happens again. And based on what we know so far, the most effective intervention would be to invest in support for those dealing with mental illness, addiction and poverty.

The gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was not part of a well-resourced terrorist organization or Islamic sleeper cell. Immediately before the shooting, he was living in an Ottawa homeless shelter. He apparently had a long history of addiction and mental illness. In 2012 he asked a B.C. judge to send …

Need for austerity measures over

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[With stress tests in the great majority of European banks showing positive results, it is now safe to get more liquidity into economies. *RON*]
, 27 October 2014
The European Central Bank (ECB) has just released its finds from the latest round of so-called stress tests carried out on banks to ensure that there is sufficient backing in terms of liquidity and assets. The tests, based on their balance sheets at the end of 2013, were necessary to try and prevent a banking crisis as the one that had occurred five years ago at the height of the financial meltdown. Then, lax oversight, poor governance, poor asset quality and a reliance on over-priced real estate portfolios that suddenly crashed — along with a lack of actual liquidity — led to governments being forced to bail out banks and prop up the asset-based financial system. It caused shock waves globally, destroyed economies nationally and undermined the fledgling euro as a currency. And it is a …

The tar sands train that couldn’t

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[Oil sands developers have said that governments might as well approve pipelines, in part, because they will otherwise simply ship their product by train. This article shows that their argument is full of holes. "What is clear is that far from proving the feasibility of tar sands by rail as an alternative to pipelines, the company pioneering this activity has proven it to be a highly risky business. Canexus’s share price is down nearly 50 percent since the beginning of the year, it has cut dividends and replaced its CEO. It is also considering selling Bruderheim in order to revive its balance sheet and support its other core businesses." *RON*]
Lorne Stockman, Oil Change International, 21 October 2014, Update: October 23, 2014

News from Canexus today indicates that it is only getting worse for the Bruderheim terminal. A major customer has terminated its contract. Now only 40% of capacity is under contract. But not even that is being use…

The Unattainable Illusion of Meritocracy

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[I love his use of a quote from Camus used to describe the talented poor struggling to rise through the ranks - "We must imagine Sisyphus happy." Tax the bastards. *RON*]
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, October 26, 2014

I’m a big fan of Richard Bookstaber, the author of the important book A Demon of Our Own Design. And while I’m glad to see a rare new post from him, on how to deal with the matter of inequality (as in whether to deal with the problem ex ante, by creating more equal opportunities, or ex post, by trying to reduce disparities of outcomes), I found one of the core parts of his discussion, on merit and meritocracy, to be maddening. In fairness, this isn’t Bookstaber’s fault; he’s working within an established framework of thinking on this topic.

Repeat after me: in complex societies and organizations, merit is a complete illusion. We nevertheless pretend to achieve that for reasons of institutional legitimacy, and also, to the…

Conservative support slipping in Alberta: poll

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[By way of the Lethbridge Herald, no less. *RON*]

Dave Mabell, Lethbridge Herald, 25 October 2014

For Stephen Harper, there’s no place like home. Calgary – and most of Alberta – can be counted on to elect a Conservative MP every time.

But the Conservative party support continues to slip across the province, according to the latest survey from the Citizen Society Research Lab in Lethbridge. It’s fallen to 41.5 per cent of Alberta voters, down from 53 per cent just two years ago.

If there’s any good news for the governing Tories, it’s that neither of the main opposition parties seem to be gaining ground.

“People are tired of the Conservatives,” reports political scientist Faron Ellis. “But they just can’t stand voting Liberal or NDP.”

Despite his personal appeal, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals attracted just 16.7 per cent of the “if an election was held today” voting intentions. That’s up from 10.7 support for the Liberals two years ago – but down from…

Bill C-42, 'Common Sense' Gun Law, Shelved In Wake Of Ottawa Shootings

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[I was saying a few days ago that I don't suppose we'll be hearing much about the Long Gun Registry in the wake of the attack on Parliament. In Harper's Canada you need to remain vigilant; he will re-introduce this Bill once he thinks we've forgotten all about murdered Armed Forces personnel - we'll need to remind the public at that time of why the Bill was withdrawn the first time around. *RON*]
Althia Raj, Huffington Post, 25 October 2014

OTTAWA — The Conservative government appears to be quietly shelving its controversial “Common Sense” gun bill in light of Wednesday’s shooting.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan’s office was silent Friday about the future of Bill C-42. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s office refused to comment, directing inquiries to Van Loan. The Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act was scheduled to be debated for the first time on the day of the shootings, with three days set aside for discussion.…

U.S. income inequality is bad, but wealth inequality is a bigger problem

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["the overgrown wealth of an individual [may] be deemed dangerous to the State.... In economic terms, whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right." Thomas Jefferson *RON*]

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 24 October 2014
Emmanuel Saez, that assiduous tracker of economic inequality in the U.S., has been shifting his attention away from income inequality to a broader, thornier and more intractable issue: wealth inequality. As he observes in a paper published this week at the blog of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, wealth inequality is "exploding," constituting "a direct threat to the cherished American ideals of meritocracy and opportunity."
Saez, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, wrote his paper with Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics. A longer, more technical vers…