Friday, March 30, 2012

Trailing edge from the Ledge

A reader commenting in the preceding article about corporate journalism left this statement:
"A means must be found to reign in the illegality and criminal activity in BC's provincial government."
I believe that exposing unvarnished truth is the single most important thing. The co-opted mainstream media must be forced to change or be made irrelevant.

Share carefully written blogs with others and, whether you agree or disagree, participate in civil online conversations. The corporate media folks pretend they have a monopoly on determining news and they claim ability to direct the agenda. The public disagrees because, while traditional media properties lose audience members, readership of blogs like Northern Insight, Alex Tsakumis' Rebel with a Clause, Ian Reid's The Real Story, Harv Oberfeld's Keeping It Real, RossK's The Gazetteer, Laila Yuile's This Is How I See It and others steadily gain readers.

For the month of March, readership at this blog is more than three times what it was in March 2011, ten times the readership of the same month in 2010. I know that readers are becoming ever more engaged by new media and more dismissive of the traditional sources of news and commentary.

The corporate media pretends that online journalists don't exist or should not exist. I enjoy their reaction because the numbers of readers here tell a different story. AGT also reports that visits to his site have reached record levels, attracting people from all political persuasions who share a demand for ethical behaviour by politicians and civil servants.

The following material was first published here October 30, 2009. Attitudes of the participants haven't changed, their disrespect for audience members is as strong as ever. However, their own credibility has continued to wane.

* * * * * *
May I suggest a new name for Bill Good's CKNW Friday morning,

Cutting Edge from the Ledge
better titled
Dull Edge from the Ledge

Today, the boys got to say what they really think about the blog world:

Keith:
"Vaughn called them nut cases in the past . . ."
Vaughn:
"Nincompoops ranting in their underpants is the term for people blogging, for me."
Keith:
"I don't believe these Weirdos on the internet."
Thanks guys. You remain our inspirations with that neverending quest to find and report the real stories. By the way, are you willing to disclose your secondary income sources and investment portfolios? No involvement with industries reliant on government permissions, no doubt.

PS. Vaughan, for you today, I put on pair of slacks. Gives me a sense of power.

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Mostly fools

When asked the population of England, Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle gave as his answer,
"Thirty millions, mostly fools."
If asked about British Columbia's population, Time Colonist writer Les Leyne would say,
"4.6 millions, mostly fools."
That would explain a pair of columns by Leyne that could establish a new low for lazy reporting — not an easy feat after 11 years mindless subservience to BC Liberal propaganda. Leyne merely expounds government issued talking points and makes no effort to consider validity of the message. His flaw is so fundamental that it can only be deliberate.
Legislative press gallery reporters ought to bring a neutral point of view to their work, reporting all sides of any story with fairness, disinterest and healthy skepticism toward vested interests. Factual and balanced commentary would be the result. Like too many of his colleagues, Leyne aims to please the Liberal government and the vested interests that continue to support Premier Photo-Op.

In Are van Dongen’s BC Rail questions real?, Ian Reid provides proof that Leyne's journalistic ethics had gone absent when he wrote defensive puff pieces for the troubled Liberal leader:
"Yesterday Premier Clark emerged from her bunker to add to Bond’s lies. According to Times Colonist columnist Les Leyne “Clark on Tuesday said she’s cooperated with every investigation and 40,000 pages of documentation have been released and ‘not a single one suggested I have done anything wrong.’”

"That’s a straight out lie. The government hasn’t publicly released 40,000 pages of anything."
Readers might want Les Leyne to explain why he repeats outright lies voiced by Premier Photo-Op, particularly when the facts are so easily determined. Mark Hume and Justine Hunter, writing at The Globe and Mail, present Auditor-General takes government to court over BC Rail case, an example of factual and balanced reporting that is as good as Leyne's recent work is bad.

Les Leyne has been covering the Legislature since 1985. Like a number of his fellow press gallery members, he's been too long on this political beat where BC Liberals and friends have routinely worked to co-opt reporters. They've been successful, using schmoozy relationships, special access to people and background information and arrangement of supplemental earning opportunities for journalists and or their family members.

Les Leyne's son works as a "public affairs/government relations research analyst." A free Northern Insight subscription to any reader who can identify which party employs Andrew Leyne.


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Send message to protect environmental reviews

Today’s budget announcements make it clear that long-standing legal protections for the environment, including environmental reviews of major industrial projects like mines and oil pipelines will soon be rolled back or eliminated.

For decades, Canadians have depended on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems through a safety net of environmental laws. Today’s budget would cut up this environmental safety net to serve the interests of a few big companies.

Tens of thousands of Canadians are urging the federal government to protect the safety and security of our families and of nature through strong environmental laws. Join with us by signing the petition below and forwarding this email widely.

www.envirolawsmatter.ca
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The .01% wages war on the rest of us

From Robert Borosage, Campaign for America's Future, March 29, 2012
"In 2010, as the economy began its slow recovery from the Great Recession, a new study shows the richest 1 percent of Americans captured a staggering 93 percent of all income growth, while the incomes of most Americans stagnated.

"...The stock market—leading source of wealth for the few—rebounded. Housing—the leading source of wealth for middle income Americans—continued to decline. Median CEO pay soared a stunning 27 percent. When the 2011 figures come out, the disparities will be even greater. America is recovering the old economy's extreme inequalities.

"...Inside our companies, CEO pay has soared, while worker pay has stagnated at best. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, CEOs are now making 325 times what the average worker makes. CEO pay has soared as companies have dramatically increased stock options as part of compensation packages. Worker pay has stagnated as companies have waged a relentless and successful war on unions. Even mid-level executives have not shared in the fabulous rewards offered the top.

"...In 1970, CEOs of S&P 500 firms earned an average of $850,000, with less than 1 percent coming from stock-based compensation. By 2000, CEOs averaged $14 million in compensation in comparable dollars, with 50 percent coming from stock options. The pay packages are justified as "pay for performance," but like we've seen with the AIG bonuses paid out after the failing company was nationalized, or Wall Street bankers adjusting to lower profits by increasing the percentage they take in bonuses, the pay is too often divorced from the performance. The fired CEO of HP, Leo Apotheker is a poster child. He got the boot after 11 months of abject failure, but walked away with $13 million in severance pay, plus the $10 million he pocketed as a signing bonus.

"With stock options, CEOs have multimillion-dollar personal incentives to focus on the market's short-term expectations rather than the long-term health of the company. Worse, they also have multimillion-dollar incentives to cook the books, plunder their own companies to meet short-term expectations, purge workers, move jobs to low-wage centers abroad and more. With CEOs increasingly serving relatively short tenures, they clean up, get out and leave the ruins to their successors. The infamous Wall Street acronym—IBG-UBG—"I'll be gone; you'll be gone"—is rife in corporate suites as well.

"Not surprisingly, one result has been crime and scandal. The accounting scams of 2001-2002—Enron, WorldCom, Tyco International, Global Crossing, Adelphia and more—were among the biggest business scandals in decades. Then a few years later the news about pervasive backdating of stock options exploded. Executives were routinely backdating their options to hit the lowest stock price in previous months. This enriched executives while defrauding shareholders, abetting tax fraud and committing corporate accounting fraud.

"On worker pay, the trends are equally stark. Productivity is up, profits are up, but workers are not sharing in the rewards. One major factor has been that we've allowed multinationals to control our trade policy, fecklessly running up unprecedented deficits with mercantilist nations like China, while facilitating the export of jobs abroad. Another major factor has been the unrelenting war on unions.

"When unions represented 30 percent of the private workforce in the years after World War II, they helped workers capture a fair share of the profits and productivity they were creating. Union jobs set a standard that nonunion employers had to compete with. And the union movement helped lift the minimum wages and fair labor standards for all.

"Now unions are barely 7 percent of the private workforce. Companies routinely trample labor laws and use the threat of moving abroad to force pay and benefit cutbacks. The result has been a declining middle class..."
"The Institute for America’s Future is a center of nonpartisan research and education devoted to shaping a compelling progressive agenda and message. We strive to open up the space for new thinking and bold reforms on such kitchen-table concerns as the availability of good jobs, affordable health care, accessible higher education, retirement security, improved public infrastructure, living wages, healthy workplaces, safe food, fair trade and clean energy."

Additional reading: Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging

The Rich Get Even Richer, Steven Rattner, New York Times
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Premier Photo-Op's annus horribilis

While aging corporate media types like Bill Good and Les Leyne rally to protect the BC Liberals, Bob Mackin, a reporter with no family member seeking government employment, recaps Premier Photo-Op's monstrous month of March. Considering the first quarter, 2012 is destined to be Clark's own annus horribilis.

Forget the trial balloon suggesting she might depart for Ottawa to use her leftover supply of leadership voting PINs. Federal Grits don't need her to find the way to oblivion; Paul Martin's old operatives already provided the route. This woman is better suited for work as a Rocky Mountaineer tree pruner.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stop hangin' those picket signs on our trees!

Rocky Mountaineer sorry for illegally cut trees in Vancouver, Bob Mackin, Vancouver Courier, March 15, 2012
"The upscale tourist railway that sells rides through what it calls unspoiled scenery is pledging to compensate the City of Vancouver after trees outside its False Creek Flats station were illegally cut.

"Rocky Mountaineer spokesman Ian Robertson denied the chopped limbs had any connection with the ongoing lockout of the company’s on-board attendants, who are part of the Teamsters union. The seven trees on Cottrell Street outside the Rocky Mountaineer Station were frequently used by the Local 31 members to hang their picket signs...

"The city’s Protection of Trees Bylaw carries fines of $500 to $10,000 per offence for unlawful damage or removal of a tree. Locked out workers noticed the trees had been denuded when they arrived at the Station for their March 5 protest rally..."
Here's how this particular tree looked in a Google street view image taken April 2010. It had grown a fair bit in two years:


Cottrell Street outside Rocky Mountaineer's shop looked like this in April 2010:



Photos by Bob Mackin, Google street view (2) and Lindz Marsh
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We can do better... we must do better

Driving me to blog about public issues is passion for my grandchildren to inherit a better world. Unfortunately, the more I learn about the roads we travel, the more pessimistic I become about the future.

Since I'm in the seventh decade, its not my future that concerns, its the nation that will result if we don't keep the natural world whole and if we continue toward ever more extravagant inequality of economic resources. The inevitable destination will be ruination and turmoil for next generations.

This morning, I'm on Salt Spring Island for a lecture by America’s leading environmentalist and educator/author Bill McKibben. Read Voice of Reason, Man of Action in the UTNE Reader.

Looking at the morning inbox, I came across this piece. The ending in particular seems worth repeating.

We Screwed Up - A Letter of Apology to My Granddaughter
By Chip Ward, TomDispatch.com
"...I know a better world is possible. We create that better world by reaching out to one another, listening, learning, and speaking from our hearts, face to face, neighbor to neighbor, one community after another, openly, inclusively, bravely. Democracy is not a gift to be practiced only when permitted. We empower ourselves. Our salvation is found in each other, together.

"Across America this morning and all around the world, our better angels call to us, imploring us to rise up and be as resilient as our beloved, beautiful children and grandchildren, whose future we make today. We can do better. I promise."
I'll be writing more about Bill McKibben's talk at the Gulf Islands Secondary School to about 800 students and community members. It was an impressive event, involving young and old of this activist community. Of course, these are the people that elected Green Party leader Ellizabeth May to Parliament and she sent a message to today's meeting mentioning the all-party climate change caucus meeting that engages her this week in Ottawa.

Gwen and I are staying at Blackberry Glen Bed & Breakfast and this is our third visit with hosts Jason and John. If you visit Salt Spring Island, I recommend this wonderful place. A measure of its quality is demonstrated by traveller reviews at Tripadvisor.com. Forty-eight reviews are posted; every single one scores this a 5-star experience. I took this photo in the coffee room adjacent to our suite. Guys my age will experience a powerful beat of nostalgia just looking at the titles.


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Gary Mason tweets van Dongen

Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason has never been a docile follower of the Liberal-friendly press gallery clique. He demonstrates independence this week in his column and especially in his twitter account:

From March 26:
  • Imagine CC will say JVD's decision not unexpected and stems from his unhappiness about not being in cab. Which is only partially true
  • Will be interesting to see how nasty it gets in wake of JVD move. What kind of stuff will Libs leak to suggest it's a good thing?
  • JVD's contempt for the premier was palpable. Given that, he should have left before now - for all concerned.
  • JVD isn't the only 1 in Lib caucus to hold those views. Question is: will the others who share that outlook bolt too? Takes guts
  • Am told there was a dustup in Lib caucus today when CC's c.o.s. Ken Boesenkool said plan was to try and discredit JVD for quiting.
  • Sounds like cab min Blair Lekstrom among Lib MLAs uncomfortable w strategy to attack van Dongen and told Boesenkool so.
  • Rich Coleman's statment that JVD had "personal issues" considered low by some Lib MLAs. Should have wished the guy well, mvd on

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Behind the ostensible government

Before Gordon Campbell, the BC Liberal Party had been roused from the near dead and invigorated by Gordon Wilson, then a youthful populist leader. However, business interests chose Wilson's party as the vehicle best suited to replace the discredited Social Credit coalition. Led by Patrick Kinsella and Gordon Gibson, the power brokers wanted an ideologue pleasing to financial backers as leader. The first choice was wealthy developer Jack Poole. He passed on the opportunity to serve on opposition benches so the former Vancouver Mayor was called from the on-deck circle.

When the fixers were ready to move Gordon Campbell into place, a media campaign was orchestrated against the existing BC Liberal leader. Wilson was involved with colleague and future wife Judy Tyabji, a relationship begun while both were married to others. Indeed, pious media accounts of the Wilson and Tyabji marriage breakups helped Gary Farrell-Collins advance a caucus revolt. leading to Wilson's ouster by Campbell in 1993. Since then, romantic alliances of Liberal politicians have been off limits to the once virtuous BC media.

Kinsella's group was well financed and vigorously supported by media, particularly the Hollinger newspapers of David Radler and Conrad Black. By the end of the decade, the Asper family's Canwest had taken control of the major BC newspapers along with TV news powerhouse BCTV and its Victoria sister station. Canwest enthusiastically joined the campaign for a business-friendly government. So did its eventual successors.

Most expected Gordon Campbell's Liberals to form government in 1996 but Campbell, with an unpopular promise to sell BC Rail, faltered in the campaign. Premier Glen Clark was reelected but faced a corporate media determined to end the New Democratic administration. Liberal Party managers designated Martyn Brown from the old Reform Party to stick-handle Campbell's political affairs.

The media soon found their issues. NDP internal squabbling helped as pragmatists and ideologues scrambled for dominance but fast ferries and gambling issues gained the most traction in public. By the end of the NDP mandate in 2001, the party had earned appropriate ignominy. The Campbell led Liberals cruised to easy victory with a smart platform promising the most open and accountable government in history. Having learned from the mistake of 1996, this time, they also promised not to sell BC Rail.

What we found out later was that the Liberal platform and its progressive promises were completely disingenuous.

Gordon Campbell is gone. Christy Clark will soon be gone. What has not changed though is the guiding hand that is never subjected to a ballot. America's Progressive Party created a platform in 1912 that demonstrates how little has changed in one hundred years. It included this statement:
"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
Needless to say, the unholy alliance continues undissolved. As was the case almost 20 years ago, British Columbia's unseen leaders again need a vehicle suited to replace a discredited coalition. Christy Clark's tenure as Premier will soon be over because Premier Photo-Op is seen by the public for what she is: an intellectual lightweight narcissist who is ridiculed and not respected.

Even though her selection as Liberal leader is clouded by allegations of voting fraud and her performance as Premier is marked by incompetence and steadily declining voter approval, Clark has remained Premier for a year. The single most important factor protecting her is the gentle treatment accorded Liberals by the corporate media. There was hint of this in a comment left at the site of online journalist Alex G. Tsakkumis:
"Alex, I know firsthand of one NW reporter who is sitting on an awfully incriminating recording related to the BC Rail trial"
AGT also knows of the recording. Among corporate journalists, the referenced item is not a secret but pressure has been applied to keep it off the public record so that Liberals are not embarrassed. That situation reinforces the accuracy of words written four years ago by blogger Phil Rockstroh at the Smirking Chimp"
"...It should be increasingly clear to see that the corporate media's job has never been to be unbiased chroniclers of the events and circumstances of a free republic. Rather, they are active agents serving to protect and promulgate the pernicious myths of free market capitalism. And they are a highly partisan lot. Moreover, they have been highly successful in their mission. Hence, our lives, both inner and outer, have been conquered and colonized by the corporate empire, and a resultant forced occupation dominates our days determining the trajectory of our brief lives upon this earth.

Yet, we, against all evidence, believe we are free actors in a spontaneous, unfolding democratic drama. When, in reality, we have been cast as dehumanized supernumeraries in a lethal farce that renders all concerned both oppressor and oppressed. This is the central paradox that binds us..."
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Monday, March 26, 2012

A little late but the right thing to do

British Columbia Hansard, March 26, 2012
J. van Dongen: I rise and ask for the attention of the House to make a personal statement.

Mr. Speaker: Proceed.

J. van Dongen: "...I had hoped that there would have been renewal in my party and in government, but in the last 12 months I feel that has not happened. Indeed, every week constituents question government actions and issues that I am not able to defend.

"What I believe people expect from political leadership are core values that include integrity and a genuine commitment to public service. Integrity includes honesty, ethics and personal character. Integrity is non-negotiable. It is foundational for a strong organization, and most importantly, integrity includes full accountability.

"To this day, there are still serious unanswered questions regarding the writing off of $6 million in legal fees in the B.C. Rail case, contrary to government policy — questions I have been asking for a year and a half, and questions the Auditor General is seeking answers to through the courts.
"Most recently, the unexplainable cancellation of a $35 million naming rights agreement with TELUS is, in my view, another example of failed leadership. There have been other lapses in proper accountability, and I expect more to come.

"When more and more decisions are being made for the wrong reasons, then you have an organization that is heading for failure.

"Today I rise because I can no longer carry on with my duties as a member of government. I have decided to resign as a member of the B.C. Liberal government caucus, and I'm cancelling my membership with the B.C. Liberal Party..."
Liberal-friendly mainstream media have been calling BC Rail an old story, unworthy of examination. John van Dongen, former Liberal MLA, disagrees.

MLA John van Dongen quits and says premier may have been involved in BC Rail deal, CBC News, March 26, 2012
"...But at a news conference later, with B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins at his side, van Dongen attacked Clark directly about the BC Rail deal and said he has hired a lawyer at his own expense to investigate her.

“There’s question about her involvement in the deal and I think those questions require more work. That’s one of the things that I need to do," Van Dongen said.

"But if you read carefully extended media interview transcripts during the leadership race, you will see inconsistencies that give rise to questions. And it will work with [a] Vancouver lawyer to pursue answers to those questions.”

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No comment needed


The Rich Get Even Richer, Steve Rattner, New York Times, March 25, 2012

Steven Rattner is a contributing writer for Op-Ed and a longtime Wall Street executive.
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Harper's anti-science shame

Don't miss Andrew Nikiforuk's latest contribution at The Tyee: Understanding Harper's Evangelical Mission
"...While government and industry PR folk spin fabrications about Canada's environmental record, Scott Vaughan, Federal Environment Commissioner in the office of the Auditor General, reports that there are only 12 water quality stations for Canada's 3,000 First Nations communities and just one federal water monitoring station operating downstream from the oil sands. Until last year it was calibrated only to detect pulp mill pollution.

"The data-antagonistic Harper government has so muzzled federal scientists that an editorial in the prestigious Nature magazine demanded that it was "time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free."

"And now Tory senators are threatening to revoke the charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the government's environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels..."
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Ethically challenged plutocrat

SNC-Lavalin CEO resigns after review, Paul Waldie, The Globe and Mail Report on Business, March 26, 2012
"SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has announced the departure of chief executive officer Pierre Duhaime amid allegations he allowed a series of unauthorized payments totalling $56-million (U.S.) ...the company cannot properly account for $56-million in payments, some of which went to “agents” working on various projects."
It must be remembered that one of Premier Christy Clark's key facilitators is Gwyn Morgan who has been Chair of SNC-Lavalin since May 2007 and a Director of the company since 2005. Under Morgan's leadership, SNC-Lavalin, by its own admission, has been ethically challenged.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Morgan is comfortably associated with the ethically challenged BC Liberal Party or with the hypocritical Fraser Institute that argues for massive cuts to government spending but has funded itself with taxpayer subsidies. The Fraser Institute Foundation has receipted millions of dollars as "charitable donations." This has been dependent on permissive enforcement by the Harper Government because under CRA guidelines, political purposes are not acceptable charitable activities and the Fraser Institute is distinctly political in everything it does.



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Obama now leader of the not-free world

Chris Hedges writes:
"The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until what is termed “the end of the hostilities.” Even the name itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian concept that endless war has to be waged within “the homeland” against internal enemies as well as foreign enemies."
Read this and other Chris Hedges columns at Truthdig.
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Something is rotten in the state of PavCo

The government's fiscal year ends in a few days so here's a suggestion for more accurate financial reports in BC. Add a separate line item for "Fraud, Theft & Abuse." That way, taxpayers could know the real costs of legitimate programs and the 30% of voters still supporting Christy Clark's team would better know what the subterfuge of her friends is costing.

Fraud prevention experts know that dupery usually starts small but, if not conscientiously resisted, it can grow to 5% of budgets and more. For undisciplined, dishonest Liberals spending $40-billion annually on programs, that would top $2-billion a year. However, we don't realize the magnitude of these losses because they’re scattered all over the financial statements.

Take PavCo for example. In the last few years, they've spent billions building — some would say overbuilding — convention and stadium facilities. It would be helpful if we could separate the actual building costs from the costs of political favours, shams and scams. Maybe the facilities could operate without needing huge continuing subsidies.

Online journalist Ian Reid is a guy with enough political savvy to know all the tricks and he's caught PavCo in what seems to be overt deception. Responding to FOI demands, PavCo failed to disclose meetings with Ken Dobell, a rainmaker working both public and private sides of the street. Reid, through separate FOI requests, determined that Dobell was billing city taxpayers for meetings with PavCo while the crown agency was claiming no interaction. It was during this time period that T. Richard Turner, the city and PavCo were working to accommodate Paragon's plans for a major casino as part of the BC Place reconstruction.

In a series of articles at The Real Story, Reid has shown that PavCo was giving advantage to this well-connected private company, advantages provided before anyone else had any opportunity to compete.

RossK, The Gazetteer, also provides a good read: The Casino-Industrial-Complexities....One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Winners win, losers lose

The Age of Double Standards, Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, March 19, 2012
"...Petty felons and 200,000 small-time drug users do prison time, while corporate criminals whose frauds cost the rest of the economy trillions of dollars are permitted to settle civil suits for small fines, with shareholders bearing the expenses. Ordinary families pay tax at a higher rate than billionaires. When fracking contaminates a property and makes a home uninhabitable, the homeowner rather than the natural-gas company suffers the loss. The mother of all double standards is taxpayer aid and Federal Reserve advances—running into the trillions of dollars—that went to the banks that caused the collapse, while the bankers avoided prosecution, and the rest of the society got to eat austerity.

"Linking all of these disparities between citizens and corporations is the political power of a new American plutocracy. Until our politics connects these dots and citizens start resisting, the financial elite will rule...

"The airline industry is only the extreme case. [No fewer than 189 airlines have declared bankruptcy since 1990.] In the past two decades, the roster of companies that declared bankruptcy includes Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Adelphia, General Motors, Chrysler, Delphi, Kmart, and LTV Steel, not to mention several major financial houses.

"Private-equity companies routinely use Chapter 11 after they bleed dry the operating companies they acquire, load them up with debt, extract capital, and then declare that debts unfortunately exceed assets. Once out of bankruptcy, the company can be sold for more profit. Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s firm, pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars as special dividends from such companies as KB Toys, Dade Behring, Ampad, GS Technologies, and Stage Stores, all of which subsequently filed for bankruptcy. In industries such as steel, airlines, and autos, where good union contracts were once common, one of the biggest appeals of a Chapter 11 reorganization is that contractual pension and retiree health obligations can be swept aside.

"In Chapter 11, even the executives who drove a company into the ground get a second chance. Post-bankruptcy, American Airlines’ president, Tom Horton, was promoted to CEO. And why not? Declaring bankruptcy will save American a small fortune. American, while in bankruptcy, has nonetheless found the money to pay a firm $525,000 a month to advise it on labor cuts. The firm is Bain Capital.

"...So while corporations continue to get a fresh start under Chapter 11, the aftermath of the financial crisis continues to sandbag millions of homeowners and the economy as a whole. This double standard is not just a question of fairness. The selective relief for corporations and banks, but not for the 99 percent, is killing the recovery. None of this will change until the citizenry builds a politics that demands a single standard."
Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books. This piece draws on the themes of a book that Robert Kuttner is completing for Knopf, titled Debtors Prison.

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Premier Photo Op is a compulsive liar

Alex Tsakumis has reported that Clark and her backers orchestrated a virtual coup d'état, seizing control of the BC Liberal Party, sabotaging the leadership contest with phantom voters. AGT also revealed her lies about the relationship with a would-be political assassin and Tsakumis reports this week that she was "a person of interest" — known to be leaking confidential information to unscrupulous friends — in the RCMP's investigation of the corrupt BC Rail sale, until police management shut down examination of senior BC Liberals.

Premier Photo-Op long ago went beyond stretching the truth and exaggerating. She grew accustomed to wilful and conscious lying and now relies on a continuous stream of falsehoods to promote herself and the government she leads. The corporate media assists by ignoring fabrications, even when they are readily apparent. Today, another example:

Premier Christy Clark calls for an audit of TransLink over Evergreen Line, Mike Raptis, The Province, March 22, 2012
"Premier Christy Clark is calling for an audit to TransLink to make up the funding gap needed to build the Evergreen Line.

"Clark, in Port Moody to support Liberal candidate Dennis Marsden in his bid for the upcoming April byelection, said Thursday that TransLink — a billion-dollar organization — will need to tighten its belt if it wants the long-awaited SkyTrain line built.

“There’s still a funding gap for the Evergreen Line — $30 million — and we’re going to find that through an audit to TransLink,” Clark said to a partisan round of applause. “TransLink is a billion-dollar organization. We’re not going to find it through a vehicle levy, or other sources,” she said. “There are savings to be found...”
First elected to public office more than 15 years ago, Clark knows full well that public organizations such as TransLink are required by statute to hire qualified independent auditors and that provincial law requires publication each year of the auditor's report and audited financial statements.

Translink's auditor is KPMG, one of the largest professional services networks. With almost 150,000 staff, this is one of the world's Big Four auditors.

Seeking a political advantage, Premier Photo Op blithely ignores fact and British Columbia's corporate media obediently reports her deceptive remarks without the easily determined truth. If Province reporter Mike Raptis needs help to locate the existing audit reports, I provide THIS LINK.



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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lewis Black & Co. - funny stuff !

The BBC News Quiz gets a US makeover with an all-American panel.

With the US election this year, turmoil in the Middle East, financial insecurity all around - not to mention a recent visit from the British Prime Minister - a team of US comedians dissect the headlines as the News Quiz format crosses the Atlantic.

The Daily Show's Lewis Black hosts. The panel are: top comic commentator (and TIME magazine's top Twitterer) Andy Borowitz; comic headliner and actor Todd Barry; ex-journalist-turned top stand-up Kathleen Madigan; and topical comedian Ted Alexandro.
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White racism alive and well in USA

Overt racism that disgusted so many of us in the fifties and sixties is not tolerated in most circles today. An exception though involves the American world of right wing wacko politics. The John Locke Foundation, like the Canadian based Fraser Institute, calls itself a free-market think tank. It is largely financed by family wealth of Art Pope, a long time participant in Republican, libertarian and conservative causes.

Tara Servatius, a blogger for The John Locke Foundation, this week illustrated a story about President Obama with a photoshopped image of the president in chains and high heels with a bucket of fried chicken.

North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber protested the portrayal of Obama:
"We at the NC NAACP have learned of the disgusting picture of our President on the John Locke Foundation blog and website. What we have seen so far has both racist and homophobic overtones, both of which are contrary to the fundamentals of our democracy. It’s outrageous and it shows the kind of racialized, mean-spirited and divisive political attitudes that still exist in the South.

"On Thursday we will demand to know who authorized and developed such a racist and bigoted portrayal to be placed on the site of an organization that seeks to have so much influence into the shaping of public policy in NC. Whoever did it is completely over the line. It is reckless and dangerous. And should not only be an affront to the black community, the civil rights community, the LBGT community, but every North Carolinian."

Memories from my youth.
Rick Santorum, favoured candidate of the Christian right, demonstrated his willingness to pander to the causes of hatred and bigotry after a radical evangelical preacher opening a campaign rally with calls for all non-Christians to “get out” of America. According to Britain's The Telegraph:
Republican contender Mr Santorum was shown clapping approvingly in the background as the rightwing pastor delivered the ranting fire and brimstone address. He later received a personal blessing from the preacher who called on God's will to be done in the upcoming election.

The comments raise some embarrassing questions for the ultraconservative Catholic candidate, who has previously said J F Kennedy’s notion of separating the Church and state made him want to “throw up”.

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Toothless media accommodates political fraud

In 2006, Rafe Mair wrote News Media, Defanged for The Tyee. It included the headline:
"Politicians, not too long ago, feared the press."
Of course misreants particularly feared Rafe Mair during his post-politician days. Rafe had been a successful lawyer and a capable cabinet minister in Bill Bennett's coalition and service on both sides of the firing line gives Mair an unusual perspective. He remembered his government time:
"Let's go back 30 years. Every morning we ran a gauntlet of reporters and broadcasters who analyzed everything we did and reported it or commented, usually adversely, on it. The day started with the late Marjorie Nichols and Allan Garr and Dave Todd whose articles invariably dealt with government policy with which they disagreed, the airwaves had Gary Bannerman, Pat Burns and Ed Murphy as resident attack dogs and Jack Webster did a morning talk show on BCTV. Allan Fotheringham weighed in from time to time and Jack Wasserman...

"I hated the media in those days. I thought they were unfair, which they often were; ill informed, which they often were; and just plain nasty, as they always were. But somewhere along the way I had an epiphany. I was reading a horrid article by Marjorie Nichols and the light went on: this was the same Marjorie Nichols who was always on NDP premier Dave Barrett's tail. This was the same Marjorie Nichols I used to enjoy so much when I was campaigning to get a Socred nomination in Kamloops. What's happened to Marjorie? I asked. And I realized that nothing had happened to Marjorie; the change was in the government.
Now, what we get, with surprisingly few exceptions, is journalism that serves and promotes corporate or personal interests. Of course, we don't expect the monopolist Shaw family of Corus or the vulture capitalists behind Postmedia newspapers to promote a just society so we're not surprised they give prominent voice to their own right wing social and financial agendas.

We also shouldn't expect reporters like the infamous trio (AGT calls their Friday morning work ‘Cutting the Cheese from the Ledge’) to report negatively on industries and business groups that pay them inducements through appearance fees and "training and consulting" compensation. I doubt that Marjorie Nichols took fees from any group who was keen to gain positive treatment in her commentaries. LIke Marjorie, ethical journalism is but a memory in British Columbia.

Just last week, Vaughn Palmer was writing this in the Vancouver Sun:
"Why is Christy doing well in overall polls? I think she is picking up some of the softer NDP supporters."
A harmless recall of a partisan's opinion? Or, a message to badly informed readers to continue trusting the moribund Liberal Party?

Robert Lewis, Allan Fotheringham, Marjorie Nichols, Jack Webster, 1986

Read Rafe Mair regularly at The Common Sense Canadian. Support their important work if you can.


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Read The Real Story, then get mad, stay mad

Stay mad until every BC Liberal politician is sent home in disgrace.

If any situation demonstrates conclusively that BC Liberals continue to hide the truth, this is it. If there was no fraud, why are they hiding everything?

Read Ian Reid's Open government my ass

From that comes Ian's description of the received result of his long, long FOI quest for documents related to the Basi/Virk BC Rail trial. You remember, the judicial travesty that was ended by a multi-million dollar payout of public funds and papered over with non-disclosure agreements dictated by the real criminals — and I'm not talking about Basi or Virk.
"...That’s right, one thousand seven hundred and fifty one blank, empty, white pages..."
Alex Tsakumis adds more to the evidence pile that the corporate media refuses to disclose. It's old news, you know. Unlike stories about the Glen Clark government from the nineties.
EXCLUSIVE: During RCMP Surveillance of Dave Basi, Deputy Premier Christy Clark Was in the Cross-Hairs of the RCMP’s Special ‘O’–TWICE! How Does This Square With the Crown’s Dissent and Premier Christy Clark’s Denials?

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Get mad, then get involved

From John Macfarlane's Editor's Note at The Walrus Magazine:
THE SOLILOQUY Paddy Chayefsky wrote for the character Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network still resonates today:
"...I want you to get mad!… I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!"
...We seem to have forgotten that the freedom afforded by democracy comes at a price: the best and brightest have a responsibility to lead; the electorate has a responsibility to at least try to understand the issues; and the press has a responsibility to make the issues understandable.

Would anyone argue that the men and women running Canada today are our best and brightest? And unless we are willing to step into the public arena ourselves, do we have the right to complain? How many of us think we have discharged our responsibility as citizens simply by casting a ballot? How many Canadians could name their member of Parliament, much less articulate an informed argument about, say, Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan?

As for the press, how can the public possibly understand the issues of the day if its primary sources of information are, in troubling numbers, dumbing down?

Getting mad isn’t the answer — for them or for us. The answer is getting involved.

Read the entire article HERE.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I grew up informed and amused by Vancouver's great editorial cartoonists Len Norris and Roy Peterson. At home, there is an original Norris on the wall, purchased at a 1981 elementary school fundraiser that benefited from the artist's generosity during another time of restraint in public education.

Browsing through works at The Simon Fraser University Library Editorial Cartoons Collection is a favourite pastime. This irreplaceable library contains over 9300 original drawings published in Canadian newspapers between 1952 and the present. Beyond Norris and Peterson, you will find other great Canadian artists, including Bierman, Harrop, Krieger, Murphy, Olson, Raeside and others.

To prove the title of this blog post, I offer one of Len Norris' cartoons from March 1954:

"... lately there's been some criticism of frills in schools, and I understand Grade II keeps a goldfish and a pair of rabbits ..." 

Political cartoons can be timeless. Ethan Georges Rabidoux in The power of political cartoons, published in the Toronto Star, provides evidence of their potential clout.
“Stop them damn pictures! I don’t care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures.”
William Magear Tweed understood the power of a cartoonist’s pen. Tweed was a wealthy New York politician during the 1870s and a character in the 2002 movie Gangs of New York. He was also the target of vociferous attacks by Bavarian-born cartoonist Thomas Nast when he made this statement.

Tweed and his acolytes at Tammany Hall stole between 40 million and 200 million tax dollars in their day (between $1.5 billion and $8 billion today when adjusted for inflation). The New York Times ran a story detailing their graft. The public never caught on until Nast’s political cartoons brought the information to the commoners in a language they understood. Tweed was convicted of larceny and spent the rest of his days in prison. It could not have been done without Nast’s work. The powerful were brought to their knees when their corruption was exposed through cartoons.
Thomas Nast, Who Stole the People's Money? Cartoon showing
William TweedPeter SweeneyRichard Connolly and Oakley
Hall that appeared in 
Harper's Weekly (19th August, 1871)
 

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Canadians: too polite, too passive?

One more example of price gouging that faces Canadians every day.

Live in Point Roberts WA, pay Amazon $76.39.

Live two kilometres north in Tsawwassen BC, pay Amazon $149.99 for the same product.

96% higher in Canada.



You might also read Might makes right, describing illusory efforts of the Harper Government to address unfair retail pricing.

And, more about the fabulous price reductions that were to be realized by gifting BC businesses $2 billion a year. HST savings elusive for consumers

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OHWTO

Phil Hochstein and his Independent Contractors and Businesses Association have had a symbiotic relationship with British Columbia's governing party for more than a decade. ICBA provides financing and political support; in return, BC Liberals shape procurement policies, taxation, legislation and regulations to advantage these loyal supporters. The same goes for chambers of commerce who get millions in grants from Victoria each year and provide loyal political support in return. One hand washes the other.

With the Liberals in dire straits, sagging toward status as third choice of BC voters, Hochstein is adding his desperate contribution, in the form of attack advertising hoping to discredit this province's likely next Premier, Adrian Dix. Were I a member of the ICBA, I'd be a little upset about the organization spending money on an unlikely to succeed effort to save a thoroughly corrupt government.

Hochstein appeared with fellow traveller Bill Good this morning to reinforce a message from a couple of decades back. Dix has readily admitted to making a mistake, accepted responsibility and apologized. Compare that to the history of Liberal politicians and their mistakes, frauds and screw-ups.

Crawford Kilian and The Tyee last April provided "The Framing of Adrian Dix," a fine summary of honest and dishonest media responses following selection of the current NDP leader. This is a small part,
When, just after Dix became NDP leader, a Province headline dubbed him a "dour Stalinist", the Globe and Mail's Rod Mickleburgh countered with a level-headed perspective, noting "unless I've missed some dusty, archival memo… Mr. Dix does not endorse executing his opponents, collectivizing agriculture in the Peace River, or sending Jenny Kwan to the Gulag. He is actually a supporter of democracy, businesses making a profit and Stompin' Tom Connors's The Hockey Song."
By the way, an amusing situation on Bill Good's program today, shortly before 10 AM. Based on call screening, Good was expecting a caller who agreed with Hochstein. When the opposite was true, Good was pissed. It really is unfair when you're trying to shape the apparent listener reaction and callers don't cooperate.
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Did BC taxpayers finance American TV ?

American cable TV producers moved taping of three of 18 episodes of Bravo's Top Chef: Texas to British Columbia. That may seem unlikely because of the high costs of transporting and housing contestants, judges and an entire U.S. production crew to achieve a 4,000 km location shift.

However, you can be certain that BC taxpayers paid for the move although, based on history, we are unlikely to learn the financial details anytime soon, if at all.

Top Chef, a champion of arranging "product placement" payments, works hard to keep these details quiet. Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred detailed the situation in Texas in his article Top Chef producers sue Texas to prevent release of details:
"Magical Elves, the creators and producers of Top Chef, have sued the Texas attorney general to prevent the release of information in documents from the Governor Rick Perry’s office related to the $400,000 Texas paid for product placement in the new season.

"Today, The Dallas Observer reports on the progress of its requests for documents detailing what the money will be used for, and describes what happened:
“…the governor’s office asked the Attorney General’s Office to first decide whether the records should be released. (Certain proprietary information is exempted from the state’s public record laws.) Despite pleas from Magical Elves, on September 21 the Attorney General’s Office ruled that, yes, whatever the governor’s office dug up belongs to the people. Perry’s office ‘may not withhold any of the submitted information.’
[Now,]…Magical Elves has sued the attorney general, hoping to stop the governor’s office from turning over some amount of information regarding its arrangement with Perry’s office.”
"The lawsuit, filed Monday, says that, as part of its brand integration with Texas, “Magical Elves provided confiential and propreitary information regardng Top Chef, as well as creative concepts and production ideas for Top Chef: Texas,” and the documents they want to protect include “proposals, correspondence, and related documents.” The governor’s office did release a few documents, which mostly consist of requests from journalists about the money; there are more details in the Observer’s story.

"The lawsuit also says that producers want “to protect confidential, proprietary information.” Well, then, use your own money and not the public’s, or at least don’t ask the government to sponsor your show..."
Without knowing what BC taxpayers paid to bring Top Chef to Vancouver and Whistler, we cannot evaluate whether or not we got value for money. We also don't know if Emad Yacoub and condo-king Nat Bosa paid separately to have two Glowbal restaurants featured and described as being "two of Vancouver’s hottest restaurants." Perhaps that exaggeration was a benefit for generous contributions to the BC Liberal Party.

No doubt, the BC people writing cheques to Top Chef hoped for great PR for local destinations but I'm not sure they achieved the hoped for result. This is taken from one of the foodie blogs that pays attention to this particular cooking show:
"Crazy BRAVO, I guess, was tired of hot-weather Texas and decided to see if the Top Chefs (Paul, Bev, Sarah, and Lindsay) could survive in the frozen tundra of British Columbia. They might as well have been in Siberia... "
Ouch!

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Smile

Henning Wehn, German Comedy Ambassador to the United Kingdom, on Britain's social classes:
"Life in Britain is all about knowing your place. The lower class has a lot in common with the upper class in that they're mostly unemployable, make virtually no tax contribution and don't need to consider if they can afford another child. And, they also boast of living in grandly named estates that are falling apart around their ears. They're both hated by the middle class who never actually see any upper or lower class people...

"As far as I can tell as an outsider, the lower and upper classes rule the country between them. The upper class spends most of its time saying, "Oy, where's my martini?" The lower class spends most of its time saying, "Oy, where's me benefits?" And the middle class spends most of its time saying, "I'm sorting both those things out for you now. Sorry about the wait."
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Open, accountable government, BC Liberal style

B.C. Lottery Corp. seeks reversal of document order, CBC News, March 15, 2011
"The Financial Transactions Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), the federal money laundering watchdog, hit BCLC in 2010 with a $700,000 fine for failing to adequately report suspected money laundering. The lottery corporation is appealing the fine.

The penalty followed a 2008 CBC News investigation that revealed how it was possible to launder huge amounts of cash at casinos.

"...The latest legal challenge by BCLC is just the latest in a series of attempts by the corporation to overturn the commissioner’s orders, according to Darrell Evans, of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA).

"It's a shocking record of non-compliance, not only with [freedom of information] requests, but with the orders of the commission to release information," Evans said. "This is the public's way of finding out what's really going on behind the scenes of public bodies."

"There have been six orders by the information and privacy commissioner's office directing the B.C. Lottery Corporation to release records and out of the six orders BCLC has appealed five.

"They're basically using litigation here to delay the process,” said Vince Gogolek, Evans' colleague at FIPA'
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Deep down, she is shockingly shallow

Game Change, an HBO movie about the 2008 McCain / Palin campaign is more about éminence grise Steve Schmidt than the Senator or his running mate. A central element is the wretched selection of Sarah Palin as candidate for an office that is a heartbeat away from the presidency. McCain and his advisers chose Palin with too little critical review, taken, as they were, by possible star power and the hope she would be their game changer, the key to exercising power in the future.

A leadership choice made in British Columbia a year ago had parallels to Palin's elevation. Last week, Huffington Post published Game Change: Sarah Palin and the Confessions of Steve Schmidt, written by Geoffrey Dunn. One of Schmidt's comments was particularly notable. It asked how political parties can,
"select its leaders when celebrity packs more electoral cachet than experience or political courage."
Backstage managers of the BC LIberal Party also made a choice with too little critical review, taken, as they were, by star power and the hope Ms. Photo Op would be their game changer, the key to continued exercise of power. Capability and qualification mattered little to the people skulking off stage. They merely assumed the candidate would care for the voters, they would care for the business of government.

One difference though is Geoffrey Dunn's conclusion that naïve conservative idealism fostered Steve Schmidt's involvement in the McCain / Palin ticket. No British Columbia pundit will every accuse Patrick Kinsella or Gwyn Morgan of being naive or idealistic.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Might makes right

Far right commentators tell us that government should remove itself from every possible sector of the country's economy. For example, the Fraser Institute, an organization that cares for interests of Canada's most privileged, wants immediate action. Their plan — published in Postmedia newspapers — demands a federal spending cut of $10-billion, for a start. That would involve elimination of entire departments and programs.

Of course, we can infer the sorts of programs and ministries they have in mind for abolition. These would be certainties:
  • Environment Ministry;
  • Office of Consumer Affairs;
  • Competition Bureau;
  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre;
  • Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission;
  • Superintendent of Financial Institutions
  • Most of Industry Canada
  • All of the cultural and educational elements of government.
No doubt, they would dissolve any federal program that might interfere with dominating and self-interested behaviour of big business because deregulation and less government are the solutions for every economic issue. People with different views believe that effective regulation is needed to supervise the imperfectly competitive markets that are typical of this country.

The retail price gap that continues to exist across the Canada-U.S. border is being examined by a Senate committee dominated by the Conservative Party and, in the six months since they began addressing the subject, they've determined precisely nothing. No surprise there because in 2009, Harper's government made sweeping amendments to Canada’s Competition Act, which included repeal of the criminal prohibition against “price maintenance.” Resale price maintenance may prevent or discourage retailers from offering lower prices to consumers.

Online retailer Amazon, for example, offers many of the same products in the USA as they do in Canada. However, Canadian distributors pressure Amazon to maintain higher Canadian prices. That results in situations like this one:

By the way, I saw the same device at Canadian Tire today, priced at $99.95. Canadian consumers usually pay significantly more than Americans for exactly the same products. There are many explanations offered but most of them make little sense.

A friend is planning a kitchen renovation. He priced Armstrong vinyl flooring in North Vancouver and in Bellingham and the difference was more than 40%. For one small project, shopping in the USA leaves almost $900 in his pocket and he expects more savings for purchases of plumbing, lighting and appliances.

It will get worse. Harper's Conservatives this week made a move that demonstrates they are on the side of business and unfettered exploitation of Canada and Canadians. Read Rafe Mair, Harper's Underhanded Gutting of Fisheries Act Designed to Help Enbridge and Co.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How much have Wall Street and banks changed?

Not much, according to Greg Smith, a London based Goldman Sachs' executive director who is leaving with a loud message to the public. He contributed an Op-Ed to the New York Times, Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs:
"TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

"...How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

"... I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

"It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” ...

"These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: [emphasis added] You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen..."
I've tried to apply this last point to so many issues. Trend lines are vital. If you don't change the direction of travel, you WILL end up where you are headed.

So, if ethical behaviour of investment institutions — and business, in general — has been dwindling in recent times, it will get worse, unless changes are made. If public education declines for lack of resources, disaster awaits. If we export our natural resources, particularly non-renewables, and cede manufacturing to Asians, poverty is inevitable for large segments of Canada's population.

Obviously, the middle classes have been squeezed relentlessly in the past decade. The trend line is established. We know where we are headed. Is it really where we want to go?
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BC Jobs Plan working, in China

In the last year, the Pacific Northwest (BC, WA, OR) exported well more than $1 billion worth of raw softwood logs to China. Shipments for 2011 were more than in the preceding five years combined. Increased demand for logs might be great for the logging industry, but it results in closures and layoffs at sawmills and other wood processing facilities.

A few corporations do well harvesting logs in British Columbia but, without subsequent processing, many service and supply businesses that serve the industry are starving. We are not merely shipping logs to China; we are exporting jobs that ensured our own prosperity.

BC government policy once allowed only for export of logs surplus to local needs. They still make the claim but, from the time Gordon Campbell's Liberals took power in 2001, raw log exports soared. Political and economic pressures prevent BC mills from interfering with overseas shipments. One of the province's largest sawmill operators told a public meeting that he was pressured to NOT bid on logs slated for export even though his mills were critically short of fibre.

BC sends trade missions to China to sell more unprocessed logs while people in small communities all over the province witness the closure of sawmills and other wood manufacturers.

When the last BC mill closes, will we be able to afford finished lumber to build our homes? Actually, the plutocracy has an answer for that: "Home ownership is an unrealistic dream of today's young people."



ADDENDUM:

BC Liberal Radio, during its early afternoon time-out for decent broadcasting, had a segment on this issue March 14. Of course, it was Simi Sara looking at the issue, without being an apologist for Premier Photo-Op and her colleagues. It's a good interview, worth a listen at their audio vault.

1:05 – 1:15
RAW LOG EXPORTS COULD HURT BC’S ECONOMY
NDP leader Adrian Dix wants an explanation as to why raw logs from BC are being shipped overseas and processed instead of getting BC producers to process the wood. The biggest issue is the amount of jobs that BC residents are losing out on by shipping the logs overseas. And the reason the logs are being shipped there is because labour is cheaper in places like China than it is here. The United Steel Workers Union and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives agrees saying that the province needs to stop closing sawmills and other wood-processing plants. Why should the logs stay in BC? Are there any solutions to this hugely controversial issue?
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


A work by Vancouver-based writer and political cartoonist Geoff Olson. His work has appeared in The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, Adbusters, The National Post, This Magazine, The Vancouver Courier, Common Ground magazine and other publications.


H/T: Susan H.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Public land with full access now privatized

Liberals have been bulldozing barriers and slashing red tape for more than a decade. Who can forget:
  • "Red Tape Reduction Task Force" of 2001 to recommend priorities for the elimination of regulations in BC.
  • Rich Coleman's 2002 announcement that red tape had been slashed by 41 per cent.
  • Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's announcement in 2004 that he and Campbell had been working together to cut red tape.
  • Energy Minister Richard Neufeld's 2007 announcement that Liberals had slashed red tape for entrepreneurs in BC.
  • The Fraser Institute's 2007 congratulations for the BC government introducing "numerous progressive policies" to cut red tape "to make BC more competitive."
  • Small Business Minister Rick Thorpe's introduction of "BizPaL" a tool to cut red tape to make this Canada's most business-friendly jurisdiction.
  • The Vancouver Sun's 2008 celebration that Gordon Campbell had been "elected premier to rid us of government red tape."
  • The BC Government's declaration in January 2011 of ‘Red Tape Awareness Week’ to celebrate that "the Province has reduced regulatory requirements by more than 42 per cent."
The mantra about cutting red tape will be repeated forever and it seems relatively harmless. No one wants unnecessary barriers placed by government before any activity, except initiatives that might harm persons or property.

If someone wants to build a chemical factory upstream of my house, I sure as hell want a great number of meaningful routines confronting them before they proceed. Christy Clark's mentor Gwyn Morgan and the oil billionaires want no barriers or red tape preventing them from putting oil and gas pipelines between Kitimat and the Alberta tar sands. Most British Columbians would disagree.

Those who want no red tape and no barriers to development of any sort are people who rank financial gain as more important than a healthy environment. While the Vancouver Sun's editorial board consistently advocates an unregulated economy, occasionally other views slip through. Today, Larry Pynn, with assistance from Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee, provides a special to the Sun. From Run-of-river power projects kill fish:
"The Mamquam River pours cold and fresh off the Coast Mountains, forming pools and canyons and chutes of white water on its way to the Squamish River and Howe Sound.

"It was a natural place for federal fisheries biologists to assemble on an August 2010 weekend for swift-water safety training. Like the river itself, however, their exercise took an expected turn.

"Rather than watch the Mamquam flow predictably to the sea, the biologists were dismayed to witness the water levels fluctuate wildly — and with dire consequences.

"Young steelhead were dying, stranded without water.

"The culprit? The Capital Power run-of-river hydro plant, located just upstream.

"The independent power industry bills itself as green, sustainable and environmentally responsible.

"But more than 3,000 pages of documents obtained separately by The Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee through freedom of information requests show water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects are killing fish — and the problem is not isolated..."


Another case involving "Ruin of the River" power generation, mostly for the benefit of investors outside BC, is covered by Rafe Mair in Tell DFO to Save Kokish River Steelhead from Proposed Private Power Project.
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