Showing posts from December 4, 2014

Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin

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[All noisy on the Western affront. An excellent and eminently sensible article, which virtually guarantees it an extremely limited readership. *RON*]

By John J. Mearsheimer, Foreign Policy, September/October 2014 Issie
According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to mo…

German private sector grows at slowest pace in 17 months in November: PMI

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[I love how the austerity program is just goosing things along in the German economy. *RON*]
By Alexandra Hudson, Reuters, 3 December 2014
(Reuters) - Germany's private sector grew at the slowest pace in 17 months in November as new business and output prices fell, a survey showed on Wednesday, pointing to a meager expansion in Europe's largest economy in the fourth quarter.

Markit's final composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which tracks activity in the manufacturing and services sectors that account for more than two-thirds of the economy, fell to 51.7 in November from 53.9 in October.

That was still above the 50 line dividing growth from contraction but down from an initial reading of 52.1 for November, far below levels seen earlier in the year.

The PMI index tracking services alone fell to 52.1, a 16-month low, from 54.4 in October, although the index tracking future business expectations among service providers rose.


ISIS: What the US Doesn’t Understand

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[Among several important points made: ISIS can be viewed as primarily fighting a civil/religious war for supremacy against all other forms of Islam other than its own. *RON*]
Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books, 2 December 2014

Over the last few days, as the United States has stepped up its bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria, it has been hard to escape another reality: the US is still looking for a coherent strategy against the Islamic State. Along with its relentless drive across the deserts of Syria and Iraq, and its continued massacre of civilians and members of endangered minorities, ISIS can now also claim its first victim in Washington with the sacking of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. His departure—prompted in part by divisions with the White House over Syria policy—highlights the deep problems of an air offensive against ISIS that has alienated Arab states and other allies in NATO, even as it has failed to bring tangible results.


Is it time to panic in the oil sands?

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[Somewhat dry and technical, but interesting. If the current pricing trends continue, at least one of the proposed oil sands pipeline projects would no longer be needed. And this by the Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta! *RON*]

Andrew Leach, Macleans, 29 November 2014

Since early June, the price of Western Canadian Select, the benchmark price for heavy crude in western Canada, has dropped from $94 per barrel to barely over $55 per barrel on Friday. The decline in Canadian heavy crude prices has largely mirrored the decline in U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate, which has dropped from US$107 in mid-June to just over US$66 Friday, and global benchmark Brent crude, which has declined from $115 per barrel to barely over $70 per barrel Friday. I wrote in early November that the effects of the global slide in crude prices had been partially mitigated for oil sands producers by three factors: decreasing condensate pric…

An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward

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[Remember when politicians used to talk like this, back when they maintained the pretense that their job was to work to improve the public good? *RON*]
by Senator Bernie Sanders, Daily Kos, 2 December 2014

The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.
The long-term deterioration of the middle class, accelerated by the Wall Street crash of 2008, has not been pretty. Today, we have more wealth and income inequality th…

Issue Of Muzzled Canadian Scientists Headed To Bargaining Table: Public Sector Union

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["Information is the lifeblood of a democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions, and incompetent or corrupt governance can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy." Stephen Harper, Montreal Gazette, 2005 *RON*]
By The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 3 December 2014

OTTAWA - The union representing government scientists, engineers and professionals says its next contract demands will include an integrity policy to free up muzzled researchers and promote evidence-based policy making.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents 55,000 federal employees, says a scientific-integrity policy is needed to ensure innovation and to protect public health, safety and the environment.

The union, known by its acronym PIPSC, says it will seek enforceable standards for international collaboration among scientists,…

Government Lawyer Wants Canadian Soldiers' Class-Action Lawsuit Tossed Out

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[When Harper muscled the Governor General out of the way so that he could be the one photographed receiving the last flag flown in Afghanistan, he'd already ordered government lawyers to oppose the claim by Afghanistan veterans that the government had a social contract to care for wounded soldiers returning home from war. See also Veterans Affairs shed staff despite increased mental-health risks*RON*]
By Tamsyn Burgmann, Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 3 December 2014

VANCOUVER - Major Mark Campbell was lying in a hospital bed, just starting to comprehend losing both his legs above the knees in a Taliban ambush, when he found out the federal government had stripped his lifetime military pension.

"I expected to just move off into the twilight and retire, but unfortunately it's just like the clichè out of a Hollywood movie," said the Edmonton man, describing the conclusion to 33-years of service after a final tour in Afghanis…

Petronas Delaying Proposed B.C. LNG Terminal Amid Oil Slump

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[But everything's still peachy for the "opportunity of a generation" that will wipe out our entire Provincial debt, says Premier Clark, thanking her audience of dancing elves and fairies for their continuing support. "Not my fault," adds her brave and loyal henchman, Rich Coleman. *RON*]
By Lauren Krugel, Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 3 December 2014

CALGARY - Malaysian energy giant Petronas said Wednesday it's delaying its proposed liquefied natural gas terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., even though it's pleased with recent moves the provincial government has made to make the nascent LNG industry more competitive.

Petronas acknowledged the B.C. government has "brought resolution to key policy matters," such as establishing a tax regime for LNG firms, detailing offsets for greenhouse gas emissions and gaining support from First Nations.

But even still, the company said the conditions aren't right…

Finance Minister Oliver solicits NDP, Grit ideas for ‘low-cost’ spending plan

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[The Sit-Com which is Canadian politics; "Anyone with great ideas for how I can look really great for no money before the next election form a line to the far right." *RON*]

Bill Curry, Globe and Mail, 3 December 2014

Finance Minister Joe Oliver is asking opposition leaders to propose ideas for the 2015 budget, but only if they are “low-cost” or have no cost at all.

As he prepares his first budget as federal Finance Minister, Mr. Oliver is repeating the practice of writing to opposition leaders to request suggestions. However, a string of recent government announcements – including tax cuts for families and small businesses – combined with falling oil prices, mean there is virtually no surplus left to spend in the coming fiscal year.

As a result, Mr. Oliver is framing the 2015 budget in the same terms as his predecessor Jim Flaherty framed previous budgets during years of spending restraint.

“I will not entertain ‘laundry lists’ of new spen…