Showing posts from March 15, 2014

Environment Canada braces for cuts to climate programs

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["Spending on the department’s climate change and clear air program is projected to decrease from $234.2 million this year to $54.8 million in 2016-1 ." In the first place, both of those dollar amounts are pathetic. And secondly, this is happening simply because we have climate change denial coming out the wazoo in Victoria, Calgary, and Ottawa. *RON*]
By Alex Boutilier, The Star, Mar 12 2014
OTTAWA—Canada’s efforts to combat climate change could be scaled down as Environment Canada braces for more budgetary belt-tightening over the next three years.

A recently released report on Environment Canada’s plans and priorities reveals the department plans to reduce spending from $1.01 billion in 2014-2015 to $698.8 million in 2016-2017.

While the report noted current fiscal year’s spending is somewhat inflated due to a one-time payout, the department is still projected to spend about $162 million less in 2016 than it plans to in 2015.


Conservatives Losing Ground, Grim Polling Numbers Show

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[It's just a poll, and only one poll, but there are some juicy tid-bits buried in here. *RON*]

CBC, 03/01/2014

Conservative support is down across much of Canada and the party ranks behind the Liberals and NDP on their perceived ability to handle many issues, a new poll unveiled Friday suggests.

The poll, conducted by Carleton University's André Turcotte, was presented at an annual conference put on by the Manning Centre in Ottawa. Turcotte does a poll every year on the state of conservatism in Canada.

Turcotte said Friday the polling numbers for the Conservatives are heading in "the wrong direction," with the number of those polled who identify as Conservative down dramatically since 2012 in British Columbia — to 20 per cent from 33 per cent — and Ontario — to 25 per cent from 35 per cent.

The numbers are better elsewhere, rising to 48 from 40 per cent in the prairies and to 16 up from 12 per cent in Quebec.

Turcotte surveyed 1,0…

The CIA’s Poisonous Tree

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[Slightly duplicative of earlier postings, but it's a well-done piece. *RON*]
David Cole, New York Review of Books, March 15, 2014
The old Washington adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime may not apply when it comes to the revelations this week that the Central Intelligence Agency interfered with a Senate torture investigation. It’s not that the cover-up isn’t serious. It is extremely serious—as Senator Dianne Feinstein said, the CIA may have violated the separation of powers, the Fourth Amendment, and a prohibition on spying inside the United States. It’s just that in this case, the underlying crimes are still worse: the dispute arises because the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein chairs, has written an as-yet-secret 6,300 page report on the CIA’s use of torture and disappearance—among the gravest crimes the world recognizes—against al-Qaeda suspects in the “war on terror.”

Urban infrastructure investment is path to Canada’s economic future

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[And, although Suzuki doesn't mention it, this is also one of the most important (and, in Canada, neglected) ways of bringing Canada out of its extended economic slouch in a way that will build local economies and tend to emphasize the creation of working class jobs. *RON*]

by Dr. David Suzuki, Common Sense Canadian, March 15, 2014

Canada’s federal government recently announced $14 billion in new funding to help municipalities repair and replace aging infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, sewer lines, energy production and distribution systems, and subways and other public transit. About $1 billion is dedicated to smaller communities, but most of the funding will target urban areas, which makes sense.

Despite being a vast land of mountains, forests and ice, Canada is an urban nation. Over 80 per cent of us live in large centres like Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, as well as rapidly growing communities like Regina, Surrey and Markham.

Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science

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["American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise." Any rich person should (largely) be able to do whatever he or she wants with his or her money, and charity is only to be encouraged. But, as a key source of research funding, when public funds are shrinking, isn't there still a fundamental difference between being a scientist and being a contractor, not matter how purportedly loose the hold on the reins? Is this still science, i.e., the pure pursuit of knowledge, or of knowledge in the public interest? What is the new "calculus of influence and priorities" that Broad alludes to? *RON*]
By WILLIAM J. BROAD, The New York Times, March 15, 2014

Funding the Future

As government financing of basic science research has plunged, private donors have filled the void, raising questions about the future of research for the public good.

Last April, President Obama assembled some o…

Paul Krugman won’t save us: We need a new conversation about inequality

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[Democrats are scared of class. But issues like inequality are why liberals exist, and talk can't be left to academic elites. *RON*]

THOMAS FRANK, Salon, February 23, 2014

When President Obama declared in December that gross inequality is the “defining challenge of our time,” he was right, and resoundingly so. As is his habit, however, he quickly backed away from the idea at the urging of pollsters and various Democratic grandees.

I can understand the Democrats’ fears about venturing into this territory. It feels like a throwback to an incomprehensible time — to a form of liberalism that few of them understand anymore. Unfortunately, they really have no choice. Watching first the way the bankers steered us into disaster in 2008 and then the way they harvested the fruits of our labored recovery — these spectacles have forced the nation to rediscover social class, and as we dig deeper into the subject we are appalled to learn what has been going …

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?

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[Could the Koch brothers be taken to court for funding misinformation about climate change? *RON*]

 By Lawrence Torcello, Asst Prof of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, The Conversation, 13 March 2014
DISCLOSURE STATEMENT Lawrence Torcello does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation is funded by the following universities: Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, City, Durham, Glasgow Caledonian, Goldsmiths, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, The Open University, Queen's University Belfast, Salford, Sheffield, Surrey, UCL and Warwick.

It also receives funding from: Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not…

Russian companies withdraw billions from west, say Moscow bankers

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[I should think that this is a case of "Good riddance to bad money" in many cases. *RON*]

By Patrick Jenkins and Daniel Schäfer in London and Courtney Weaver and Jack Farchy in Moscow, Financial Times, March 14, 2014

Russian companies are pulling billions out of western banks, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze, according to bankers in Moscow.

Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US. VTB has also cancelled a planned US investor summit next month, according to bankers.

The flight comes as last-ditch diplomatic talks between Russia’s foreign minister and the US secretary of state to resolve the tensions in Ukraine ended without an agreement.

Viktor Yanukovich has been ousted but Russia is flexing its military muscle, fearing a threat t…

Columbia Tosses Out Star Faculty Researchers for Failing to Pay 80% of Their Own Way

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[Neoclassical higher education in spades. *RON*]
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, March 14, 2014

Reader Timotheus sent this note:
Here is the fallout at Columbia resulting the Obama hatchet taken to NIH research funding. These two eminent professors with decades of serious work have been dumped unceremoniously by Columbia because they could no longer bring in the grant millions for the university business to extract rent from. This is Ivy-league neoliberalism at its worst thanks to the spineless Democrats/Obama White House allowing government science funding to get pummeled while Bush’s tax cuts are preserved. Inside Higher Education, in Columbia criticized for not renewing long-term professors for failure to pay for salaries with grants, describes the scandal in more detail. I’m not certain how common this is at other schools, but Columbia has faculty members that are listed as full professors but are not tenured. I know of one personally at one …

Why Is No One Talking About Quebec's Massive Debt?

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[On the one hand, it is notable that the Province that has, by far, the largest Federal subsidy still manages to have the largest Provincial debt. On the other hand, they also have, by far, the best social safety net in the country and the one that most resembles the "old Canada." Also, although their debt represents 49% of GDP, there is no respectable economist (beyond the confines of the Fraser Institute, that is) who would ever say that a debt-to-GDP ratio of less than 95% is problematic for economic growth, as has been re-iterated by the IMF in recent weeks. *RON*]

Sean Speer, Ass. Dir., Fraser Institute’s Centre for Fiscal Studies, Huff Post, March 14

It's now several days into the Quebec election campaign and some key issues are starting to emerge. There's been the usual focus on high-profile candidates, speculation about a future referendum, and an ongoing debate about how to accommodate the traditions and cultures of tho…

From Minimum Wage to Minimum Program

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[A good list of policy items that Stephen Harper would die before implementing. *RON*]


It’s time to fight for a shift from a minimum wage to a minimum program.

It is no surprise in this age of deteriorating working conditions and poverty wages, of precarious work and growing recourse to temporary foreign labour, of spiraling inequality and obscene executive compensation, that organized labour and social movements would see fit to press for an increase in the minimum wage.