Saturday, October 06, 2012
Watch full multipart The Venezuelan Elections
“Tear down the walls!” “No calculations!” - John Baird speaks at the UN
by Jim Miles
Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird, in lieu of Prime Minister Harper, read a prepared text to a mainly empty UN General Assembly hall during the recent gathering of world leaders. His speech was roughly divided in half, the first part criticizing the UN, the second half performing for its U.S./Israel overlords by criticizing Syria and Iran and actions related to them.
The latter, Iran and Syria, I have dealt with before, and are simply reflections of Israeli/U.S. rhetoric on the two nations. There are many double standards in those arguments, many that can reflect back on the U.S. and Israel, as well as their allied Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the GCC states among others) that are supporting the U.S. and Israel in their verbal and physical threats against the two countries. What is new in this speech is the criticism of the UN as navel gazing and not being successful in its actions.
Don’t do as we do, do as we say….
Baird started speaking in French asking for a moment of silence for the diplomats who have lost their lives in service over that past year. Without waiting a moment, he then turned to English - a language he reads more proficiently than French - to call out the UN.
He tried a nautical analogy at first. By seeing Canada as a Maritime nation, with seas on three sides, he described how a sailor set sail with the north star as a clear guiding light. This metaphor then becomes how Canada sets “fixed principles and chart[s] a course for immutable goals.” Those principles - well-being, prosperity, dignity, and security - he indicated are found in the UN Charter. Except that prosperity and security are not found in the Charter but well being and dignity are, along with equal rights for women, justice and respect for international law, and fundamental faith in human rights. Obviously true security comes from the others, not as is commonly conflated today from an ever increasingly militarized state (more below).
Baird then presents the case that we “Measure results by measuring results” not by “best efforts…good intentions…or calculating inputs.” A statement of meaningless obviousness, except that at home in Canada, everything comes down to the almighty dollar, the Conservative government’s favourite way of measuring results by “calculating inputs.” Our economy is measured by “calculating inputs,” our health services and education are all “calculated inputs.” The question then is obvious, how can something be “measured” without a “calculated input?”
Allow me a moment to return to the “maritime nation” analogy and some calculated inputs. Input one: the Atlantic coast in September received its highest level of rainfall for the month ever. Input two: the Arctic coast witnessed the lowest ever recorded loss of summer ice, at the fastest rate ever. Input three: the Pacific coast, at least the southern part near Vancouver/Victoria, received the least rain ever for the August-September period.
Three record inputs in one season. Perhaps that is why the Canadian government does not like “calculated inputs” because they speak the truth to their dismal environmental record. The current government’s agenda works against the environment, against global warming, against the indigenous cultures as exemplified by the tar sands developments in Alberta. The giga-tonnes of carbon that the tar sands are spewing into the atmosphere, the tonnes of chemical pollutants that accompany them or work their way through the water system, the huge amount of fracking required - and its demands on water and other poisonous chemicals - are all “inputs” this government does not want to be “calculated.” The government only wants to “measure results” - the billions of dollars of corporate profits from which they extract very little in royalties.
Another case of unwanted inputs, those nasty calculations that get in the way of conservative success, is the dollar amounts concerning the Conservative’s attempt to buy the U.S. F-35 fighter jet.
in April 2012, Canada’s Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, blasted the government’s cost estimates and the way the Department of National Defence chose the F-35 without a competition.
“The department did not provide parliament with full cost information, or fully inform decision makers about the risks of this program,” Ferguson said during a news conference to announce his report.
In June 2012, the Government Accountability Office, the U.S Government agency that investigates how taxpayer dollars are spent, reported:
The cost of building just one F-35 had doubled from $81 million to $161 million.
Full production would be delayed by years.
Testing was behind schedule.
That’s a lot of “calculated inputs” that the current Conservative government wishes they could ignore and simply “measure results,” that is to buy the damned plane regardless of costs.
I’ll say it again…and again…and again…(but won’t do it)
The speech continued with a rambling section on how the UN kept looking at itself and not acting enough on the world stage. In repetitious tautological reiterations of the same idea, Baird says the UN “must spend less time looking at itself, and more time focussed on the problems that demand its attention.” Moments later, the UN should not participate in “inward looking exercises.” The UN should measure its achievements “not how [it] arranges its affairs.” It spends “too much time on itself.”
Then comes the big line, the line that actually rings true for Canada’s increasing loss of democracy:
The preoccupation with procedure and process must yield to substance and results.
Yes, Baird for once reveals the truth about Canadian democracy as run by the Conservatives! Forget procedure and due process, we’re going to do what we want to do regardless. Which is why the Conservatives twice cancelled parliament (once to avoid a non-confidence vote, and the second time to avoid questions on Canada’s complicity with torture in Afghanistan) and once was found in contempt of Parliament, the latter partly as a result of the F-35 debacle as noted above - obviously “calculated inputs” can be harmful for democratic health.
This is a government that manipulated the voting process (in Canada called the “robocalling scandal”), and that fired many of its scientists and requires the others - and all other assistants - to vet questions received and answers given through a media coordinator for the government, those scientific “calculated inputs” being a bit too much for the government to comprehend, as noted above with climate change. This is the government that recently wrapped up numerous changes in many laws into one large omnibus bill pretending to be the budget, and then limited debate on all the issues created.
At least in this instance, there are no double standards, Baird is simply asking the UN to do as Canada’s Conservatives have done recently and avoid those nasty “procedures and processes” that are involved with democracy.
Somewhat confused about his own religion, Baird invoked the Creator, saying “Those of us who recognize a Creator….” continuing on saying that we should “use the Creator’s gifts for the well being of all.” Well, what a wonderful little homily for the assembly.
So why the Creator…as if God won’t do? Is it because you were trying to hide the Conservatives attempts to demonize the Islamic people of the world, as PM Harper has said that “Islamicism is the greatest threat to Canada”? Is it because you support the Jewish God but do not want to adversely affect your relationship with the Christian God? Or vice versa?
Or are you trying to play up to our local indigenous groups who have always used the terminology of a Creator? There are of course several indigenous groups on the proposed route for the noxious tar sands to be shipped from Alberta through their territory, territory long revered as made by the Creator and held sacred by the indigenous people as the basis of their life and culture. The government certainly does not want “calculated inputs” on this line of thinking as the costs in dollar terms extrapolated from environmental and cultural damages would simply put stop to the project.
And the walls came a tumbling’ down
After a bit more rambling about openness and engagement, and inventing trade (really, it was invented?), Baird spoke again in metaphor, this time about walls:
You cannot develop understanding by building walls between cultures.
You cannot achieve prosperity by erecting walls between economies and you cannot advance a people by putting walls between them and the state.
Great metaphor and it raises some serious issues.
Domestically, it raises issues about the Conservative’s increased spending on prisons for its law and order agenda. It raises issues for the walls that are raised at international meetings when civil protestors are kept outside of a city centre and then “kettled” and arrested for being in a “riot”. It raises issues about the indigenous people and the current and historical confinement to their reservations and their lack of democracy subservient to the outdated and colonial Indian Act of 1876. And if the metaphor is extended, the government itself has created walls of silence around its agenda (the economy, the climate, the military), and around its employees in the civil service. So much for “advancing” Canadians.
Internationally, walls are even a larger issue.
Israel (okay, I said I wouldn’t but here goes…)
Canada has become the western world’s most vocal supporter of the Israeli government. This is based on historical support for Zionism that goes back to our British imperial roots, and for the current Millennial Christian goals of an Israel that occupies all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The latter has been subsumed under the U.S./Israeli rhetoric and agenda for the war on terror and the ever increasing fear-mongering about security. (more below).
But where is the wall here? Ahh, it extends around the decreasing cantons/bantustans of the Israeli occupied West Bank, seriously eroding the water resources and agricultural land that could make the base for a truncated but independent Palestine. Of course, all these Palestinians are terrorists, and the Creator would not want us to deal with them, nor are we to make “calculated inputs” into the number of dunnams of land have been confiscated, expropriated, and built on by the Israeli settlers, nor on the number of deaths and extrajudicial killings and numbers of prisoners and children tortured in the Israeli jails in the occupied territories. Results are all that count - the dominance of Israel regardless of the humanitarian and international laws put forth under the aegis of the UN.
Then there is the second wall, the barrier of razor wire, concrete and steel that surrounds the Gaza strip, and is extended non-metaphorically around the Mediterranean coast by the Israeli navy. With 1.5 million people behind this wall, without decent power and water, with minimal civic structure as all are controlled by Israel, the chances for “developing understanding” and “achieving prosperity” are pretty slim. PM Harper’s description of the well known “calculated input” of the huge number of deaths under the Cast Lead attack is that it was a “proportional response” - yes, results, ignore those inputs.
While these walls are real, they essentially remain invisible to the greater western public. Guarded from discussion by the corporate controlled media, the Israeli wall that creates the cantons in the West Bank, and the strict controlled boundary that walls in the Gaza strip appears to not even have entered the speech writer’s mind…or he simply concluded that no one would be able to see the huge contradiction in the metaphor he or she created.
I will however leave Iran out of the arguments. Baird’s reflection of the Canadian government’s views are so wildly inflammatory and error prone and have been covered well elsewhere.
Security and prosperity (but no longer freedom and democracy)
For a while most arguments made for global consumption conflated free markets with democracy and freedom. Economic statistics from around the world, if properly made into “calculated inputs” clearly show that this is not true. Now, the current rhetoric is about “security” being conflated with prosperity.
This simply raises the spectre of a militarized corporate state that allows for certain personal freedoms, including perhaps my ability to rant at the Canadian government without a visit from CSIS as an expression of Canada being an open society with open markets and open-mindedness, none of which are fully true.
Baird’s essential argument, or at least that of his speechwriter, is that security is not in conflict with openness:
[There is] no fundamental conflict between national security and the open society….Both seek to protect the same values, the same rights and the same freedoms.
Is that why perhaps we have “free trade” agreements written behind closed doors by corporate lawyers and CEOs in collusion with their government cronies? Is that why we had so much “openness” about the F-35s? Is that why we have security agreements with Israel (“an attack on Israel is an attack on Canada” - not in my books!)? And is that why there is a security perimeter around North America - with of course that wall between Mexico (and the rest of Latin America) and the U.S. and many walls between the people and the government such that corporations have more rights - by way of their power politically and financially - than the citizens do? Is that why the government shut down parliament twice, and was in contempt of it later?
My security does not require that I live in an increasingly militarized state. Part of our economic success - along with the tar sands - is Canada’s role in military spending. The creation of the F-35 has its Canadian corporate counterparts, with government assistance - building parts of the F-35 systems. Canada is one of the world’s leading arms exporters to countries around the world. Our valorous military is not needed to bomb Yugoslavia or Libya (or Syria or Iran) in order for me to feel secure, in fact, it makes me less secure, as does its sycophantic ranting behind the U.S. and Israel.
Back at the UN
The UN may be flawed, and yes it does need alterations and improvements, but certainly not as would be indicated by John Baird and Canada‘s Conservative government. Canada’s reputation has deservedly taken a turn for the worse at the UN, and Harper, who would rather speak to an admiring crowd at the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith (Jewish - Christian) council, has avoided the UN the past two years.
So world be warned. It is a good thing that Canada is not nearly as powerful or influential as its new bully attitude would want it to be as it is operating with “immutable goals” that are unaccountable to “calculated inputs” (which in my language means “facts or information”) and is not interested in the “processes and procedures” of democracy, human rights, and international law.
Friday, October 05, 2012
Birds in North America Find Support in Their Migration Route
by Gustavo Carrasquel - ANCA 24The Mississippi River is a long river located in North America that runs through the central part of the United States. It has a length of 3,770 km2, and only one of its affluents, the Missouri, is the longest in the region.
Born in the southwest of the state of Montana (Canadian border), at the confluence of three rivers, (Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin), which have their sources in the Rocky Mountains and flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Organization “Mississippi River Delta Restoration” is organizing a tour to support the migration of fall 2012. In the months of October and November, will be taking place events along the Mississippi River to set out the importance of the role played by the Delta of the River and maintain healthy migratory routes of more than 400 species of birds.
The Mississippi migratory route is one of the largest in North America, millions of birds that come from Alaska and Canada, usually migrate south in the fall and north in the spring.
Birds apparently used this route because there are no mountains blocking their path, making the trip easier and more direct. Moreover, this route also provides easy access to food and water.
Around 40 percent of all migrating aquatic birds and shorebirds in North America, use the Mississippi migratory route, which represents the largest number of bird species found in the region.
The Mississippi River Delta is very compatible with more than 400 species of birds, providing favorable breeding habitats. Its biodiversity is composed of natural areas where they nest about 100 million birds each year including approximately 5 million ducks and geese.
Unfortunately after decades of abuse and mismanagement, the Delta is disappearing rapidly and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.
A study conducted by scientists at the University of California in which we compared the most polluted coastal ecosystems and endangered dirty earth proved to be the mouth of the Mississippi River the largest coastal habitat with pollution problems.
According to the study “the waste of nutrients coming down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico are responsible for the high level of pollution. These nutrients have created a permanent dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico to the produce an excessive population of algae that feed on them and trapping most of the oxygen taking it away from other marine organisms that need to survive. “
The collapse of the Delta has the potential to disrupt this migration path, reducing not only the number of birds, but also along the entire migratory route many species can disappear.
The MRDR Organization develops campaigns to improve conditions in connecting the Mississippi River and its wetlands, concerned about the disappearance or contamination of these important ecosystems.
The MRDR will encourage tourism events in the upcoming months to raise awareness of this problem and attract activists to engage in the fight to restore the the Mississippi River Delta.
For more information on this campaign visit:
Of Bombs and Comics
by URI AVNERYMy first reaction to Binyamin Netanyahu’s exhibition of comics at the UN General Assembly was shame.
Shame that the supreme elected representative of my country would stoop to such a primitive rhetorical device, bordering on the childish.
(One Israeli commentator suggested putting him on a rug with a lot of paper and Indian ink, and letting him play to his heart’s content.)
He was speaking to a half-empty chamber (Israeli TV was careful not to show the entire hall during the speech), and the audience consisted of second-grade diplomats, but these were still educated people. Even Netanyahu must have realized that they would despise this display.
But Netanyahu was not talking to them at all. He was talking to the Jewish audience at home and in the US.
This audience was proud of him. He succeeded in touching their deepest emotions.
To understand this, one must recall the historical memories. Jews were a small, powerless community everywhere. They were completely dependent on the Gentile ruler.
Whenever their situation was in danger, the Jews chose the most prominent person among them to plead their cause before the emperor, king or prince. When this “pleader” (Shtadlan in Hebrew) was successful and the danger was averted, he won the gratitude of the whole community. In some cases, he would be remembered for generations, like the mythical Mordecai in the Book of Esther.
Netanyahu fulfilled this function. He went to the very center of Gentile power, today’s equivalent of the Persian Emperor, and pleaded the case of the Jews threatened with annihilation by the current heir of Haman the Evil (same Book of Esther).
And what an idea of genius to exhibit the drawing of the Bomb! It was reproduced on the front pages of hundreds of newspapers and on TV news programs around the world, including the New York Times!
For Netanyahu this was “the Speech of his Life”. To be precise, as one TV commentator dryly pointed out, it was the 8th Speech of his Life at the General Assembly.
His popularity soared to new heights. Moses himself, the supreme pleader at the court of Pharaoh, could not have done better.
But the crux of the matter was hidden somewhere between the torrents of words.
The “inevitable” attack on Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent the Second Holocaust was postponed to next spring or summer. After blustering for months that the deadly attack was imminent, any minute now, no minute to spare, it disappeared into the mist of the future.
Why? What happened?
Well, one reason was the polls indicating that Barack Obama would be reelected. Netanyahu had doggedly staked all his cards on Mitt Romney, his ideological clone. But Netanyahu is also a True Believer in polls. It seems that Netanyahu’s advisors convinced him to hedge his bet. The evil Obama might win, in spite of the Sheldon Adelson millions. Especially now, after George Soros has staked his millions on the incumbent.
Netanyahu had the brilliant idea of attacking Iran just before the US elections, hoping that the hands of all American politicians would be tied. Who would dare to restrain Israel at such a time? Who would refuse help to Israel when the Iranians counter-attacked?
But like so many of Netanyahu’s brilliant ideas, this one, too, flopped. Obama has told Netanyahu in no uncertain terms: No attack on Iran before the elections. Or else…
The next President of the United States of America – whoever that may be – will tell Netanyahu the same after the elections.
As I have said before (excuse me for quoting myself again), a military attack on Iran is out of the question. The price is intolerably high. The geographic, economic and military facts all conspire to prevent it. The Strait of Hormuz would be shut, the world economy would collapse, a long and devastating war would ensue.
Even if Mitt Romney were in power, surrounded by a crowd of neocons, it would not change these facts one bit.
Obama’s case is very much strengthened by the economic news coming out of Iran. The international sanctions have had amazing results. The skeptics – led by Netanyahu – are in disarray.
Contrary to the anti-islamic caricature, Iran is a normal country, with a normal middle-class and citizens with a high political awareness. They know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a fool and if he had really wanted to produce a nuclear bomb, would he have made all these idiotic speeches about Israel and/or the Holocaust? Shouldn’t he have kept his mouth shut and worked hard at it? But since he is about to go away anyhow, no need to make a revolution just now.
The practical upshot: Sorry, no war.
The whole affair brings up again the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy. Does Israel control US policy? Does the tail wag the dog?
To a very large extent, that is undoubtedly the case. Enough to follow the present election campaign and perceive how both candidates treat the Israeli government obsequiously, competing to outdo the other with words of flattery and support.
Jewish votes play an important role in swing states, and Jewish money plays a huge role in financing both candidates. (O tempora, o mores! Once there was a Jewish joke: A Polish nobleman threatens his neighboring nobleman: “If you hit my Jew, I shall hit your Jew!” Now one Jewish billionaire threatens another Jewish billionaire: If you give a million to your Goy, I shall give a million to my Goy!”)
The Obama administration’s Middle East policy staff is manned by Zionist Jews, down to the US ambassador in Tel Aviv, who speaks better Hebrew than Avigdor Lieberman. Dennis Ross, the grave digger of Middle East peace, seems to be everywhere. Romney’s neocons, too, are mostly Jews.
Jews have a huge influence – up to a point. This point is extremely significant.
There was a minor illustration: Jonathan Pollard, the American-Jewish spy, was sent to prison for life. Many people (including myself) consider this penalty unduly harsh. Yet no American Jew dared to protest, AIPAC kept quiet and no American president was swayed by Israeli calls for clemency. The US security establishment said No, and No it was.
The war on Iran is a million times more important. It concerns vital American interests. The American military opposes it (as does the Israeli military). Everybody in Washington DC knows that this is no side issue. It touches the very basis of American power in the world.
And lo and behold, the US says NO to Israel. The President says coolly that in matters of vital security interests, no foreign country can order the US Commander in Chief to draw red lines and commit himself to a war. Especially not with the help of a comic-book drawing.
Israelis are astounded. What? We, the country of God’s chosen people, are foreigners? Just like other foreigners?
This is a very important lesson. When things really come to a head, the dog is still the dog and the tail is still the tail.
So what about Netanyahu’s Iran commitment?
Recently I was asked by a foreign journalist if Netanyahu could survive the elimination of the “military option” against Iran, after talking for months about nothing else. What about the Iranian Hitler? What about the coming Holocaust?
I told him not to worry. Netanyahu can easily get out of it by claiming that the whole thing was really a ruse to get the world to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.
But was it?
People of influence in Israel are divided.
The first camp worries that our Prime Minister is really off his rocker. That he is obsessed with Iran, perhaps clinically unbalanced, that Iran has become an idée fixe.
The other camp believes that the whole thing was, right from the beginning, a hoax to divert attention from the one issue that really matters: Peace with Palestine.
In this he has been hugely successful. For months now, Palestine has been missing from the agenda of Israel and the entire world. Palestine? Peace? What Palestine, What peace? And while the world stares at Iran like a hypnotized rabbit at a snake, settlements are enlarged and the occupation deepened, and we are sailing proudly towards disaster.
And that is not at all a comic book story.
URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
Harper's China Syndrome: PM in a Pickle Over Nexen Buyout, Trade Deal
by Damien Gillis - TheCanadian.orgFollowing an eventful couple of weeks for the Canada-China energy trade file, Stephen Harper finds himself in quite a pickle. The Prime Minster is stuck between his resolute commitment to opening up a carbon corridor to Asian markets and the increasingly politically untenable position of supporting wholesale Chinese state ownership of strategic Canadian resources.
In addition to Harper's mounting challenges over the proposed $15 Billion buyout of Canadian oil and gas firm Nexen by Chinese state-owned CNOOC, several prominent Canadian voices - including Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Council of Canadians founder and world-renowned trade expert Maude Barlow - have piped up about a controversial trade deal quietly signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month, which they say would give unprecedented rights to Chinese corporations over Canadian resources.
As the tide of opposition to the Nexen deal continues to rise, Harper was forced to acknowledge this week, “This particular transaction raises a range of difficult policy questions, difficult and forward-looking issues.”
That's putting it mildly.
The Nexen deal is problematic for the Conservatives for three main reasons:
Public opinion is squarely against it, with some 70% of Canadians opposing it and four in ten viewing China as a threat, according to National Post columnist John Ivison (who nevertheless urges Harper to approve the deal as it's in Canada's best long-term interests)
The Official Opposition has finally come out against the deal this week and appears poised to make political hay with its position.
Most importantly, by far, powerful American political forces are lining up against the deal - charging that allowing these resources to flow to China constitutes a national security threat (our own CSIS concurs).
On that last point, Congressman Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee of Natural Resources, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in July, imploring his office to block the deal (someone needs to inform the congressman that this deal doesn't technically fall under Geithner's jurisdiction, but it's nevertheless a noteworthy and influential objection). Wrote Markey, “Giving valuable American resources away to wealthy multinational corporations is wasteful but giving valuable American resources away to a foreign government is far worse.”
Apparently even the Americans - whose resources these are not - recognize the danger in handing them over to the Chinese!
Meanwhile, with the NDP continuing to nip at the Conservatives' heels, Harper might do well to ignore the advice of John Ivison and consider the short and long-term implications of accepting such an unpopular deal. Heck, even some of Harper's own MPs oppose it!
NDP Energy and Natural Resources Critic Peter Julian laid out his party's opposition to the deal at a press conference Thursday, as reported by the Globe and Mail:
New Democrats “cannot support the rubber-stamping of the CNOOC takeover of Nexen,” Mr. Julian said. “We cannot see the net benefit when we look at a variety of concerns and criteria that have been raised by the Canadian public.” Those concerns, he said, included the environmental and human-rights record of CNOOC, the potential for job losses and the risk of decision-making gravitating away from Nexen’s Calgary head office, plus risks to national security.
It is this "net benefit" test, under the Investment Canada Act, that is at the core of the decision Harper faces - which is expected by October 12, but can and may well be delayed by another month. The NDP has expressed doubt that the Harper Government will conduct this "net benefit" test in a transparent enough manner to reassure Canadians.
According to the party's industry critic Helene LeBlanc, “By studying this transaction behind closed doors and not specifying what criteria they used to determine what represents a net benefit for the country, the Conservatives have given us no choice. When in doubt, it’s best to back off.”
Conservative Industry Minister Christian Paradis called the NDP's position “reckless and irresponsible” in a news release.
Meanwhile, Harper's quiet trade deal with China has drawn heated rebuke the past several weeks, as the two issues inevitably dovetail into each other.
A statement from the Council of Canadians last week noted:
A bilateral investment treaty between Canada and China, which was signed earlier this month and made public by the Harper government yesterday, will put unacceptable constraints on Canadian energy and environmental policy...The organization is once again calling on MPs to reject the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and to stop signing what are essentially corporate rights pacts inside standalone treaties and Canada’s broader free trade agreements.
The organization's National Chairperson, Maude Barlow, drew together FIPA and the Nexen deal, stating, “Canadians need to know that as Harper considers selling off Canadian energy firms to foreign investors in China and elsewhere, he’s also signing investment pacts that let these firms sue the federal government when delays or environmental protection measures interfere with profits.”
Council of Canadians' Trade Campaigner Stewart Trew suggested these deals do little to promote investment, as is their stated mandate. "They are very useful, on the other hand, for extorting governments when things don’t go their way. That could be delays or cancellations to energy and mining projects, environmental policies that eat into profits, even financial rules designed to create stability or avoid crises can be challenged."
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May shared many of these concerns with the House of Commons this week, calling for an emergency debate on FIPA, suggesting it bears “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy.”
In a statement on her website this week, May said, “I pointed out in my notice to the Speaker that this is perhaps the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA, and the fact that it can be negotiated and ratified behind closed doors is very corrosive to our democracy.”
“I also realize that an emergency debate is far from sufficient under the circumstances, but it might be the only opportunity Parliamentarians have to review and discuss FIPA before we are bound to it for the next 15 years, especially if neither the NDP nor the Liberals focus on it during their Opposition Days.”
Whether FIPA receives its due attention politically - let alone gets cancelled - remains to seen, but the more it becomes connected to the clearly unpopular Nexen deal in the coming weeks, the more scrutiny it will face.
The exploding national debate around theses issues puts Harper in a tough spot. On the one hand, the Prime Minister has been very clear about his policy vision for the country - and expanding energy trade to Asia has been the centre plank in this platform, underscored by a visit to China earlier this year, during which energy issues were the main topic of discussion. He has made public and private commitments to Asian trading partners and to the Canadian oil patch.
Moreover, with US leaders promising to become far more self-sufficient in oil and gas resources over the next decade by massively boosting domestic production, there is increasing pressure on Canada to develop new export markets for its fossil fuels.
And yet, as prospects for the proposed Enbridge pipeline continue to wane and opposition mounts to Nexen and this new trade deal, the Prime Minster is gambling his political future on an increasingly unpopular strategy - whether he believes it's in the country's best interests or not. Add to that the concerns raised by CSIS last month about threats to Canada's national security from such deals and you have a recipe for real political problems if the PM continues down this path.
As University of Ottawa Law Professor Penny Collenette put it in the Globe and Mail's story yesterday, with the NDP jumping on the issue, “Now it is burst wide open onto the political scene,” and becoming “a kitchen table national debate.” That's the last thing Stephen Harper's energy plan needs right now.
Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon.
Black Financial and Fraud Report Bill Black
by TRNNObama susceptible to attack by Romney because he failed to deal with systemic risk to financial system - even though Romney would be worse
Watch full multipart The Black Financial and Fraud Report
William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri � Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement. Black developed the concept of "control fraud" � frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Forecasts of Abundance Collide with Planetary Realities
Last winter, fossil-fuel enthusiasts began trumpeting the dawn of a new “golden age of oil” that would kick-start the American economy, generate millions of new jobs, and free this country from its dependence on imported petroleum. Ed Morse, head commodities analyst at Citibank, was typical. In the Wall Street Journal he crowed, “The United States has become the fastest-growing oil and gas producer in the world, and is likely to remain so for the rest of this decade and into the 2020s.”
Once this surge in U.S. energy production was linked to a predicted boom in energy from Canada’s tar sands reserves, the results seemed obvious and uncontestable. “North America,” he announced, “is becoming the new Middle East.” Many other analysts have elaborated similarly on this rosy scenario, which now provides the foundation for Mitt Romney’s plan to achieve “energy independence” by 2020.
By employing impressive new technologies -- notably deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or hydro-fracking) -- energy companies were said to be on the verge of unlocking vast new stores of oil in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and shale formations across the United States. “A ‘Great Revival’ in U.S. oil production is taking shape -- a major break from the near 40-year trend of falling output,” James Burkhard of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January 2012.
Increased output was also predicted elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, especially Canada and Brazil. “The outline of a new world oil map is emerging, and it is centered not on the Middle East but on the Western Hemisphere,” Daniel Yergin, chairman of CERA, wrote in the Washington Post. “The new energy axis runs from Alberta, Canada, down through North Dakota and South Texas... to huge offshore oil deposits found near Brazil.”
It turns out, however, that the future may prove far more recalcitrant than these prophets of an American energy cornucopia imagine. To reach their ambitious targets, energy firms will have to overcome severe geological and environmental barriers -- and recent developments suggest that they are going to have a tough time doing so.
Consider this: while many analysts and pundits joined in the premature celebration of the new “golden age,” few emphasized that it would rest almost entirely on the exploitation of “unconventional” petroleum resources -- shale oil, oil shale, Arctic oil, deep offshore oil, and tar sands (bitumen). As for conventional oil (petroleum substances that emerge from the ground in liquid form and can be extracted using familiar, standardized technology), no one doubts that it will continue its historic decline in North America.
The “unconventional” oil that is to liberate the U.S. and its neighbors from the unreliable producers of the Middle East involves substances too hard or viscous to be extracted using standard technology or embedded in forbidding locations that require highly specialized equipment for extraction. Think of it as “tough oil.”
Shale oil, for instance, is oil trapped in shale rock. It can only be liberated through the application of concentrated force in a process known as hydraulic fracturing that requires millions of gallons of chemically laced water per “frack,” plus the subsequent disposal of vast quantities of toxic wastewater once the fracking has been completed. Oil shale, or kerogen, is a primitive form of petroleum that must be melted to be useful, a process that itself consumes vast amounts of energy. Tar sands (or “oil sands,” as the industry prefers to call them) must be gouged from the earth using open-pit mining technology or pumped up after first being melted in place by underground steam jets, then treated with various chemicals. Only then can the material be transported to refineries via, for example, the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Similarly, deepwater and Arctic drilling requires the deployment of specialized multimillion-dollar rigs along with enormously costly backup safety systems under the most dangerous of conditions.
All these processes have at least one thing in common: each pushes the envelope of what is technically possible in extracting oil (or natural gas) from geologically and geographically forbidding environments. They are all, that is, versions of “extreme energy.” To produce them, energy companies will have to drill in extreme temperatures or extreme weather, or use extreme pressures, or operate under extreme danger -- or some combination of all of these. In each, accidents, mishaps, and setbacks are guaranteed to be more frequent and their consequences more serious than in conventional drilling operations. The apocalyptic poster child for these processes already played out in 2010 with BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and this summer we saw intimations of how it will happen again as a range of major unconventional drilling initiatives -- all promising that “golden age” -- ran into serious trouble.
Perhaps the most notable example of this was Shell Oil’s costly failure to commence test drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. After investing $4.5 billion and years of preparation, Shell was poised to drill five test wells this summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska’s northern and northwestern coasts. However, on September 17th, a series of accidents and mishaps forced the company to announce that it would suspend operations until next summer -- the only time when those waters are largely free of pack ice and so it is safer to drill.
Shell’s problems began early and picked up pace as the summer wore on. On September 10th, its Noble Discoverer drill ship was forced to abandon operations at the Burger Prospect, about 70 miles offshore in the Chukchi Sea, when floating sea ice threatened the safety of the ship. A more serious setback occurred later in the month when a containment dome designed to cover any leak that developed at an undersea well malfunctioned during tests in Puget Sound in Washington State. As Clifford Krauss noted in the New York Times, “Shell’s inability to control its containment equipment in calm waters under predictable test conditions suggested that the company would not be able to effectively stop a sudden leak in treacherous Arctic waters, where powerful ice floes and gusty winds would complicate any spill response.”
Shell’s effort was also impeded by persistent opposition from environmentalists and native groups. They have repeatedly brought suit to block its operations on the grounds that Arctic drilling will threaten the survival of marine life essential to native livelihoods and culture. Only after promising to take immensely costly protective measures and winning the support of the Obama administration -- fearful of appearing to block “job creation” or “energy independence” during a presidential campaign -- did the company obtain the necessary permits to proceed. But some lawsuits remain in play and, with this latest delay, Shell’s opponents will have added time and ammunition.
Officials from Shell insist that the company will overcome all these hurdles and be ready to drill next summer. But many observers view its experience as a deterrent to future drilling in the Arctic. “As long as Shell has not been able to show that they can get the permits and start to drill, we’re a bit skeptical about moving forward,” said Tim Dodson of Norway’s Statoil. That company also owns licenses for drilling in the Chukchi Sea, but has now decided to postpone operations until 2015 at the earliest.
Another unexpected impediment to the arrival of energy’s next “golden age” in North America emerged even more unexpectedly from this summer’s record-breaking drought, which still has 80% of U.S. agricultural land in its grip. The energy angle on all this was, however, a surprise.
Any increase in U.S. hydrocarbon output will require greater extraction of oil and gas from shale rock, which can only be accomplished via hydro-fracking. More fracking, in turn, means more water consumption. With the planet warming thanks to climate change, such intensive droughts are expected to intensify in many regions, which means rising agricultural demand for less water, including potentially in prime fracking locations like the Bakken formation of North Dakota, the Eagle Ford area of West Texas, and the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania.
The drought’s impact on hydro-fracking became strikingly evident when, in June and July, wells and streams started drying up in many drought-stricken areas and drillers suddenly found themselves competing with hard-pressed food-producers for whatever water was available. “The amount of water needed for drilling is a double whammy,” Chris Faulkner, the president and chief executive officer of Breitling Oil & Gas, told Oil & Gas Journal in July. “We’re getting pushback from farmers, and my fear is that it’s going to get worse.” In July, in fact, the situation became so dire in Pennsylvania that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission suspended permits for water withdrawals from the Susquehanna River and its tributaries, forcing some drillers to suspend operations.
If this year’s “endless summer” of unrelenting drought were just a fluke, and we could expect abundant water in the future, the golden age scenario might still be viable. But most climate scientists suggest that severe drought is likely to become the “new normal” in many parts of the United States, putting the fracking boom very much into question. “Bakken and Eagle Ford are our big keys to energy independence,” Faulkner noted. “Without water, drilling shale gas and oil wells is not possible. A continuing drought could cause our domestic production to decline and derail our road to energy independence in a hurry.”
And then there are those Canadian tar sands. Turning them into “oil” also requires vast amounts of water, and climate-change-related shortages of that vital commodity are also likely in Alberta, Canada, their heartland. In addition, tar sands production releases far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil production, which has sparked its own fiercely determined opposition in Canada, the United States, and Europe.
In the U.S., opposition to tar sands has until now largely focused on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion, 2,000-mile conduit that would carry diluted tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, thousands of miles away. Parts of the Keystone system are already in place. If completed, the pipeline is designed to carry 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined liquid across the United States.
Keystone XL opponents charge that the project will contribute to the acceleration of climate change. It also exposes crucial underground water supplies in the Midwest to severe risk of contamination by the highly corrosive tar-sands fluid (and pipeline leaks are commonplace). Citing the closeness of its proposed route to the critical Ogallala Aquifer, President Obama denied permission for its construction last January. (Because it will cross an international boundary, the president gets to make the call.) He is, however, expected to grant post-election approval to a new, less aquifer-threatening route; Mitt Romney has vowed to give it his approval on his first day in office.
Even if Keystone XL were in place, the golden age of Canada’s tar sands won’t be in sight -- not without yet more pipelines as the bitumen producers face mounting opposition to their extreme operations. As a result of fierce resistance to Keystone XL, led in large part by TomDispatch contributor Bill McKibben, -- the public has become far more aware of the perils of tar sands production. Resistance to it, for example, could stymie plans to deliver tar sands oil to Portland, Maine (for transshipment by ship to refineries elsewhere), via an existing pipeline that runs from Montreal through Vermont and New Hampshire to the Maine coast. Environmentalists in New England are already gearing up to oppose the plan.
If the U.S. proves too tough a nut to crack, Alberta has a backup plan: construction of the Northern Gateway, a proposed pipeline through British Columbia for the export of tar sands oil to Asia. However, it, too, is running into trouble. Environmentalists and native communities in that province are implacably opposed and have threatened civil disobedience to prevent its construction (with major protests already set for October 22nd outside the Parliament Building in Victoria).
Sending tar sands oil across the Atlantic is likely to have its own set of problems. The European Union is considering adopting rules that would label it a dirtier form of energy, subjecting it to various penalties when imported into the European Union. All of this is, in turn, has forced Albertan authorities to consider tough new environmental regulations that would make it more difficult and costly to extract bitumen, potentially dampening the enthusiasm of investors and so diminishing the future output of tar sands.
In a sense, while the dreams of the boosters of these new forms of energy may thrill journalists and pundits, their reality could be expressed this way: extreme energy = extreme methods = extreme disasters = extreme opposition.
There are already many indications that the new “golden age” of North American oil is unlikely to materialize as publicized, including an unusually rapid decline in oil output at existing shale oil drilling operations in Montana. (Although Montana is not a major producer, the decline there is significant because it is occurring in part of the Bakken field, widely considered a major source of new oil.) As for the rest of the Western Hemisphere, there is little room for optimism there either when it comes to the “promise” of extreme energy. Typically, for instance, a Brazilian court has ordered Chevron to cease production at its multibillion-dollar Frade field in the Campos basin of Brazil’s deep and dangerous Atlantic waters because of repeated oil leaks. Doubts have meanwhile arisen over the ability of Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, to develop the immensely challenging Atlantic “pre-salt” fields on its own.
While output from unconventional oil operations in the U.S. and Canada is likely to show some growth in the years ahead, there is no “golden age” on the horizon, only various kinds of potentially disastrous scenarios. Those like Mitt Romney who claim that the United States can achieve energy “independence” by 2020 or any other near-term date are only fooling themselves, and perhaps some elements of the American public. They may indeed employ such claims to gain support for the rollback of what environmental protections exist against the exploitation of extreme energy, but the United States will remain dependent on Middle Eastern and African oil for the foreseeable future.
Of course, were such a publicized golden age to come about, we would be burning vast quantities of the dirtiest energy on the planet with truly disastrous consequences. The truth is this: there is just one possible golden age for U.S. (or any other kind of) energy and it would be based on a major push to produce breakthroughs in climate-friendly renewables, especially wind, solar, geothermal, wave, and tidal power.
Otherwise the only “golden” sight around is likely to be the sun on an ever hotter, ever dirtier, ever more extreme planet.
Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A movie based on one of his earlier books, Blood and Oil, can be ordered at http://www.bloodandoilmovie.com. Klare’s other books and articles are described at his website. You can follow Klare’s work on Facebook.
Copyright 2012 Michael T. Klare
Quebec student leaders speak in Victoria Thursday
The main public events take place:
Thursday, Oct. 4, 7:00pm University of Victoria.
Room A120, Social Sciences and Math Building.
Friday, Oct. 5, 7:00pm W2 Media Cafe,
111 W. Hastings, Vancouver.
The most high profile spokesperson to emerge from Quebec's student movement arrives in British Columbia today.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former spokesperson for the student union CLASSE will be a featured speaker at events in Victoria and Vancouver over the next two days.
"When people stand together for what they believe in, there is no limit to what they can accomplish," said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
"We hope that the historic victory of the Quebec student movement will inspire people across Canada to resist neo-liberal governments and fight for a society which puts people first."
The following speakers are available for interviews Thursday and Friday:
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, former spokesperson for CLASSE
Cloé Zawadzki-Turcotte, a former member of CLASSE's executive and a key organizer behind the strike
Ethan Cox, Quebec-based journalist and a former student organizer
"The longest student strike in Canadian history ended with the resignation of two education ministers, the defeat of a sitting Premier and his government, and the repeal of both the tuition hikes and Law 12, which many have argued violated basic civil liberties," said Ethan Cox.
"This tour is about telling the story of what happened in Quebec this year, and inspiring people across the country to stand up to austerity."
BC is the final stop on a week of public forums known as the 'Maple Tour,' a reference to Quebec's 'Maple Spring' protest movement.
-- 30 --
*For immediate release*
October 3, 2012
The Debate: What They Didn't Talk About
by TRNNThe Debate: What They Didn't Talk About Bruce Dixon, Managing Editor of Black Agenda Report, on first Presidential debate.
Watch full multipart First Presidential Debate 2012
Bruce Dixon is the managing editor of the Black Agenda Report. He’s had an extensive career as a union activist in a string of factories, plants and workplaces. He’s also the co-chair of the Georgia Green Party.
What the hell happened?
by Greg Palast for The Mudflats.net
What the hell happened? Did Barack have a fight with Michelle? Was it nicotine withdrawal? Do really rich guys just scare you, Mr. Obama?
Dear Mr. President: As a journalist I don’t take partisan sides, but I do take America’s side. And as Commander-in-Chief, you simply cannot fall asleep in the saddle.
I mean Commander-in-Chief in the Class War. The war of the billionaires against the rest of us.
You were asked, “What is the role of government?”
You seemed stumped. Lost.
Well, here’s three, Mr. President:
- Issue Social Security checks. Checks for cash money. Not some bullshit voucher.
- Save General Motors and Motor City.
- Kill Osama.
When Mr. PBS Bumblebrain asked you the difference between your views and Gov. Romney’s on Social Security, you said, “You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.”
Really, Mr. President, REALLY?
Romney says that if you’re 38 or 54, it doesn’t matter that you’ve paid into Medicare and Social Security all your life, you don’t get the insurance you paid for. You get some stinking voucher, some coupon that says, “Here’s a hundred bucks kid, go buy a gold watch.”
Who exactly is going to take a voucher to provide health insurance to a 72-year-old with asthma, in a walker and prostate problems?
Governor Romney said, with that smirky, smarmy grin, “I’d assume I’d rather have a private [health] plan.” Gee, Mr. Romney, could you give me the number of your insurance company and tell them to take my “voucher”?
Mr. President, you gabbled on about the Cleveland Medical Clinic and its “best practices.” Who the hell cares, Mr. President? There are people bleeding out here, LITERALLY BLEEDING, who now can get health coverage because of ObamaCare. For all its failings, it saves lives, saves homes from foreclosure caused by insane medical bills – only recently, the number one cause of foreclosures in America.
Can’t you even defend the one thing that’s worth a damn and has your name on it?
Romney’s wife has MS. That’s sad. But what’s tragic is that there are millions in America with MS who couldn’t get insurance because they have this prior condition—and are not married to an investment banker demi-billionaire.
I don’t care that you couldn’t seem to defend yourself tonight, Mr. President. That’s a Democratic Party headache. What I resent, what gets me furious and angry, is that you didn’t defend ME. Me and my family.
When Romney says he defends small business, let me tell you, I have a small business. I don’t need a tax break – hell, like most small businesses, we don’t make money. We need health insurance. We need government loans.
When Romney says government never does anything cheaper than the private sector, Mr. President, don’t you know that it was government mortgage agencies that funded America’s middle class homeownership? That’s what government did – and licked Hitler to boot.
When mortgages were privatized, we were thrown at the mercy of the Banksters.
(And why the hell did you, Mr. Obama, bring up that right-wing canard that banks just gave out mortgages to people who couldn't afford them – blaming sub-prime predatory mortgage crimes on the victims. Sounds like you agree that 47% of Americans are leeches.)
Maybe it’s true that you, Mr. President, are actually just a hollow man, a creation of PR consultants and rich donors, a Ken-doll of repeating lines about “Hope,” “change” and “this country thrives when the middle class thrives.”
The truth is, you were ready to raise the retirement age for Social Security and cut back-room deals with drug companies. Maybe in the end, progressive policies are just a marketing niche you’ve found to cover aimless ambition and a yearning to compromise.
If someone drilled a hole in you, could we blow in and play you like a flute? Or is there some substance, some hard core of principal that couldn’t break out tonight because it was imprisoned by advisors who told you to play it safe, play it in a coma?
Mr. President, if you can’t explain why you are the Commander-in-Chief in this class war against the billionaire bandits attempting to seize our government, then get off the horse and let someone in the saddle who can ride.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Energy New Front in Economic Warfare
by Daniel J. Graeber - Oilprice.com
Opposition leaders in Canada suggested a string of cyber security threats to domestic companies might be the work of Chinese hackers. Twice last week, the Canadian government confirmed two separate companies -– both in the energy sector -- were the target of cyber-attacks. In the United States, meanwhile, the Obama administration said national security interests trumped energy concerns and blocked a Chinese company from constructing wind turbines near a Navy installation in Oregon. While the Chinese military isn't the overt threat like the Soviet Union was, Beijing's rise as an economic power has seemingly sparked a war of economies.
The Canadian government last week confirmed that two energy companies were the target of a cyber-attack believed to have originated from China. Though Beijing denied it was responsible for the attacks, opposition leaders in Canada said there was cause for concern given the pending Chinese takeover of Canadian energy company Nexen.
"Cyber security is something we have to pay attention to and that ... includes how deals are set up and trade deals are set up and acquisitions are made," said legislator Paul Dewar, the foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition New Democratic Party.
Nexen in August backed a $15-billion takeover bid by China National Offshore Oil Corp. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has lobbied for Chinese investments in his country's vast oil and gas riches. Those ambitions could be derailed, however, given political divisions in Canada and Dewar's comments may further exacerbate tensions following a Chinese leader's statement that Beijing can't do business in Canada if deals like Nexen become politicized.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government last week blocked Ralls Corp from moving forward with plans to install wind turbines near or within restricted air space at a naval weapons training facility in the western state of Oregon. President George H.W. Bush was the last U.S. president to declare such action when, in 1990, he blocked a Chinese aerospace technology company from buying out a manufacturing company in the United States. Ralls has four wind farm projects in various stages of development and said it would take the matter before the courts. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama's "all-of-the-above" domestic energy policy, the administration said the move to build wind installations so close to a military site was a threat to national security interests.
Beijing on Monday celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. An opinion piece in China's official Xinhua News Agency last week said the country is "confidently grasping opportunities" given the pace of economic growth since 1949. As economies expand, they must do so beyond their borders as domestic markets become saturated. With the Cold War over, it's unlikely the geopolitical fears that dominated the international arena in the 1940s would redevelop in the early 21st century. But as low-grade conflict becomes the norm, so too may a different kind of global warfare.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Samuel Cox last week accusing Beijing of trying to crack into the Pentagon's computer network.
"Their level of effort against the Department of Defense is constant," he said.
Killing the Environment, Culling the Wildlife: Canada Intent on Oil/Gas "Development" and Wolf Culls
On Clark's Embarrassing Antics in Alberta and Renewed Calls for Wolf Culls
by Rafe Mair - The Canadian.orgToday is a twofer - two for the price of one.
First, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Premier Christy Clark. She is a very nice person, personable and able to speak. What she is not capable of doing is speaking sensibly or making decisions that make sense.
It seems obvious to me that she is getting wretched advice and nowhere is this more evident than on the pipeline issue.
Let me illustrate.
The Premier, some months ago, laid down some rules that would govern her government’s environmental response to pipelines and added that to a demand for money from Premier Alison Redford of Alberta. The conditions were silly motherhood stuff and didn’t contain the one most British Columbians want - public hearings that would let people say whether or not they want these pipelines in the first place. This is, I daresay, a foreign concept to the Liberal government but the public know they are not able to express their opinions on the wisdom of the projects in the first place.
In fact, Premier Clark has avoided that issue like the plague.
She missed the very important Western Premier’s Conference on the lame excuse she needed to be in the House because the pipelines and tanker issues were on the agenda and she would have to make known her position.
Then she missed all the deadlines to get BC status as an intervenor as have Alberta, municipalities and First Nations. Consequently, a short time ago she was rebuffed for trying to intervene.
Reviews like the Enbridge Joint Panel Review - and the Cohen Commission as an example - realize that some entities have a greater issue to deal with than Joe Citizen and grant them the status to call witnesses, cross-examine government and industry witnesses and that sort thing. This could not possibly be a mistake, but a deliberate decision. i don’t have much use for environmental hearings but at least British Columbians could hear what the evidence is. This was an egregious error obviously designed to let Ms. Clark act like the three monkeys.
Now she has horned her way into Premier Redford’s office to press BC’s case. Here is the part that tells you the abysmal ignorance from which Ms. Clark operates.
She is quoted thusly: "There is no amount of money that can make up for an unacceptable risk when it comes to our oceans, our coast and our land."
Noble sentiments to be sure, but since Premier Redford supports the pipelines and tanker traffic and is content to have the federal government cram them past BC opposition - and bearing in mind that Premier Redford has made it clear that Alberta won’t give BC a nickel - the only purpose for Ms. Clark to crash Ms. Redford’s office is to make it appear to folks at home that she’s doing something.
She is making a fool of all of us, painting us as supplicants to Premier Redford’s throne and the gold that is there.
This must be borne in mind: the oil revenues from the tar sands belong to Alberta under the constitution. If she were to take some of than money and give it to BC, not only would she be a damned fool - Alberta voters would eat her alive.
Premier Clark’s bleating about “risks to BC” is bullshit as she and the rest of us know. Even Enbridge admits that the chances of a spill are overwhelming. Clark is playing us for fools. it is egregious, disingenuous nonsense rivaled only by Bill Clinton’s assertion that, “I did not have sex with that woman.”
Still Afraid of the Big, Bad WolfOn another note, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Back in 1979, the Ministry of Environment was poisoning wolves in northern BC because, allegedly, they were killing cattle. There wasn’t a particle of evidence that this was happening, certainly not on a large scale. Within days of becoming minister I put a stop to the program, hired a man - an elderly fishing buddy of mine whom I trusted implicitly - to go through the area getting evidence, if there was any, of packs of wolves destroying cattle. Sandy was one if these guys who could find out things without anyone realizing he was asking questions.
He reported back to me that he could find no evidence of a major problem .
He told me of the case of a wolf pack driving a herd of cattle onto a frozen lake which caved in from the weight and the wolves devoured them. Interesting that wolves could kill cattle in the water and feast upon them without drowning themselves.
The interesting part is that three different ranchers in three different areas told the same story!
Despite all their bleating, ranchers couldn’t offer any evidence whatsoever.
The ranchers were claiming their losses were due to wolves to cover up their own bad husbandry.
It’s interesting to ask what the hell were all those cattle doing out on the range in temperatures that would freeze a lake?
A Socred back bencher, Cyril Shelford, and his seemingly unlimited number of brothers organized a huge rally and dared me to show my face.
I did - not through bravery but because Premier Bill Bennett would likely have fired me if I didn’t appear.
It was a very ugly meeting and I admit I was scared. When I was finally permitted to speak I said, “this is the first time in history where a man has been run into town on a rail.”
The humour of the remark escaped the 500 incensed ranchers.
The moratorium I imposed remains. Now the ranchers have popped up with claims that seem, after 33 years, to suddenly re-appeared. Once again, the ranchers, by their own admission, are utterly unable to supply one scintilla of evidence.
The Minister of Environment should politely give the ranchers the international words for “go away”.
Rafe Mair was a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. Since 1981 he has been a radio talk show host, and is recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists.
Syria, The Story Thus Far
by William Blum
"Today, many Americans are asking — indeed I ask myself," Hillary Clinton said, "how can this happen? How can this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated, and at times, how confounding the world can be." 1
The Secretary of State was referring to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya September 11 that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. US intelligence agencies have now stated that the attackers had ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.2
Yes, the world can indeed be complicated and confounding. But we have learned a few things. The United States began blasting Libya with missiles with the full knowledge that they were fighting on the same side as the al-Qaeda types. Benghazi was and is the headquarters for Muslim fundamentalists of various stripes in North Africa. However, it's incorrect to claim that the United States (aka NATO) saved the city from destruction. The story of the "imminent" invasion of Benghazi by Moammar Gaddafi's forces last year was only propaganda to justify Western intervention. And now the United States is intervening — at present without actual gunfire, as far as is known — against the government of Syria, with the full knowledge that they're again on the same side as the al-Qaeda types. A rash of suicide bombings against Syrian government targets is sufficient by itself to dispel any doubts about that. And once again, the United States is participating in the overthrow of a secular Mideast government.
At the same time, the Muslim fundamentalists in Syria, as in Libya, can have no illusions that America loves them. A half century of US assaults on Mideast countries, the establishment of American military bases in the holy land of Saudi Arabia, and US support for dictatorships and for Israel's genocide against the Palestinians have relieved them of such fanciful thoughts. So why is the United States looking to forcefully intervene once again? A tale told many times — world domination, oil, Israel, ideology, etc. Assad of Syria, like Gaddafi of Libya, has shown little promise as a reliable client state so vital to the American Empire.
It's only the barrier set up by Russia and China on the UN Security Council that keeps NATO (aka the United States) from unleashing thousands of airborne missiles to "liberate" Syria as they did Libya. Russian and Chinese leaders claim that they were misled about Libya by the United States, that all they had agreed to was enforcing a "no-fly zone", not seven months of almost daily missile attacks against the land and people of Libya. Although it's very fortunate that the two powers refuse to give the US another green light, it's difficult to believe that they were actually deceived last spring in regard to Libya. NATO doesn't do peacekeeping or humanitarian interventions; it does war; bloody, awful war; and regime change. And they would undoubtedly be itching to show off their specialty in Syria — perhaps even without Security Council blessing — except that NATO and the US always prefer to attack people who are exceptionally defenseless, and Syria has ballistic missile capabilities and chemical weapons.
It's likely that the American elections also serve to keep Obama from expanding the US role in Syria. He may have concluded that there are more votes in the Democratic Party base for peace this time than for waging war against his eighth (sic) country.
The propaganda bias in the Western media has been extreme. Day after day, month after month, we've been told of Syrian government attacks, using horrible means, almost invariably with the victims described as unarmed civilians; without any proof, often without any logic, that it was actually the government behind a particular attack, with the story's source turning out to be an anti-government organization; rarely informing us of similar behavior on the part of the rebel forces. In May, the BBC included pictures of mass graves in Iraq in their coverage of an alleged Syrian government massacre in Houla, Syria. The station later apologized for the pictures saying that they had been submitted to the BBC by a rebel group. 3 On June 7, Germany's leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing opponents of Assad, reported that the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and that the bulk of the victims were members of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad.
According to a report of Stratfor, the private and conservative American intelligence firm with high-level connections, many of whose emails were obtained by Wikileaks: "most of the [Syrian] opposition's more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue." They claimed "that regime forces besieged Homs and imposed a 72-hour deadline for Syrian defectors to surrender themselves and their weapons or face a potential massacre." That news made international headlines. Stratfor's investigation, however, found "no signs of a massacre", and warned that "opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya." Stratfor then stated that any suggestions of massacres were unlikely because the Syrian "regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid just such a scenario ... that could lead to an intervention based on humanitarian grounds."4
Democracy Now — long a standard of progressive radio-TV news — has been almost as bad as CNN and al Jazeera (the latter owned by Qatar, an active military participant in both Libya and Syria). The heavy bias of Democracy Now in this area goes back to the very beginning of the Arab Spring. The program made some unfortunate choices in its mideast news correspondents, seemingly only because they spoke Arabic and/or had contacts in the region. Where have you gone Amy Goodman? RT (Russia Today) has stood almost alone amongst English-language television news sources in offering an alternative to the official Western line.
Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research, notes that "Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria are but a sequence of stops on a global roadmap of permanent war that also swings through Iran. Russia and China are the terminal targets." When the Syrian government is overthrown — and in all likelihood the Western forces will not relent until that happens — the al Qaeda types will be dominant in the Syrian version of Benghazi. The American ambassador would be well advised to not visit.
Can you believe that I almost feel sorry for the American military?
In Afghanistan, the US military has tried training sessions, embedded cultural advisers, recommended reading lists, and even a video game designed to school American troops in local custom. But 11 years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness, officials say, contributing to a string of attacks by Afghan police and soldiers against their military partners. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. While some insider attacks have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators, military officials say the majority stem from personal disputes and misunderstandings.
So the Afghan army is trying something new, most likely with American input: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it's likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge. The pamphlet they've produced includes the following advice:
"Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you."
"When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind. They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you've done. Once again, they don't mean to offend you."
"When someone feels comfortable in your presence, they may even put their feet on their own desk while speaking with you. They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don't know or have forgotten the Afghan custom." (Pointing the soles of one's shoes at someone is considered a grievous insult in Afghanistan.)
The guide also warns Afghan soldiers that Western troops might wink at them or inquire about their female relatives or expose their private parts while showering — all inappropriate actions by Afghan standards.5
Hmmm. I wonder if the manual advises telling Afghan soldiers that urinating on dead Afghan bodies, cutting off fingers, and burning the Koran are all nothing more than good ol' Yankee customs, meaning no offense of course.
And does it point out that no Afghan should be insulted by being tortured in an American military prison since the same is done at home to American prisoners.
Most importantly, the Afghan people must be made to understand that bombing them, invading them, and occupying them for 11 years are all for their own good. It's called "freedom and democracy".
I almost feel sorry for the American military in Afghanistan. As I've written about the US soldiers in Iraq, they're "can-do" Americans, accustomed to getting their way, habituated to thinking of themselves as the best, expecting the world to share that sentiment, and they're frustrated as hell, unable to figure out "why they hate us", why we can't win them over, why we can't at least wipe them out. Don't they want freedom and democracy? ... They're can-do Americans, using good ol' American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing media experts, psychologists, even anthropologists ... and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you're selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you're ruining your customers' lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They're can-do Americans, used to playing by the rules — theirs; and they're frustrated as hell.
In case you're distressed about the possibility of a Romney-Ryan government, here's some good news:
There are many people in the United States who are reluctant to be active against US foreign policy, or even seriously criticize it, because a Democrat is in the White House, a man promising lots of hope and change. Some of them, however, might become part of the anti-war movement if a Republican were in the White House, even though pursuing the same foreign policy. And we can be sure the policy would be the same for there's no difference between the two parties when it comes to foreign policy. There's simply no difference, period, though each party changes its rhetoric a bit depending on whether it's in the White House or on the outside looking in.
Similarly, the movement for a national single-payer health insurance program has been set back because of President Obama. His health program is like prescribing an aspirin for cancer, but the few baby steps the program takes toward bringing the United States into the 21st century amongst developed nations is enough to keep many American health-care activists content for the time being, especially with Obama facing a tough election. They are satisfied with so little. With a Republican in the White House, however, there might be a resurgence of a more militant health-care activism.
Moreover, if the Republicans had been in power the past three years and done EXACTLY what Obama has done in the sphere of civil liberties and human rights, many Obamaites would have no problem calling the United States by its right name: a police state. I mean that literally. Not the worst police state in the history of the world. Not even the worst police state in the world today. But, nonetheless, a police state. Just read the news each day, carefully.
Sam Smith, editor of the Progressive Review, has written: "Barack Obama is the most conservative Democratic president we've ever had. In an earlier time, there would have been a name for him: Republican."
Oh but there's Social Security and Medicare, you say. Can Romney be trusted to not make serious cuts to these vital programs? His choice of running mate, Paul Ryan, is practically a poster child for such cuts.
Well, can Obama be trusted to not make such cuts? Consider this recent comment in the New York Times: "[Obama] particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security." 6
As somebody once said, the United States doesn't need a third party. It needs a second party.
The only important cause that might significantly benefit from a Democratic administration is appointments to the Supreme Court, if there is in fact an opening. But does this fully override the benefits of Obama being out of office as outlined above?
Dear Reader: I truthfully do not want to be so cynical. Despite the quips, it's not really fun. But how else can one react to the Republicans and Democrats given their behavior at their recent conventions? If they can so obviously ignore the wishes of their own delegates, what can the average American citizen expect? Have a look at these remarkable scenes caught on video or read this account of the voice votes at the recent conventions.
How many voters does it take to change a light bulb?
None. Because voters can't change anything.
So what to do?
As I've said before: In as much as I can't see violent revolution succeeding in the United States (something deep inside tells me that we couldn't quite match the government's firepower, not to mention its viciousness), I can offer no solution to stopping the imperial beast other than this: Educate yourself and as many others as you can, raising their political and ideological consciousness, providing them with the factual ammunition and arguments needed to sway others, increasing the number of those in the opposition until it raises the political price for those in power, until it reaches a critical mass, at which point ... I can't predict the form the explosion will take or what might be the trigger ... But you have to have faith. And courage.
Some further thoughts on American elections and democracy:
Richard Reeves: "The American political system is essentially a contract between the Republican and Democratic parties, enforced by federal and state two-party laws, all designed to guarantee the survival of both no matter how many people despise or ignore them."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832): "In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable."
Alexander Cockburn: "There was a time once when 'lesser of two evils' actually meant something momentous, like the choice between starving to death on a lifeboat, or eating the first mate."
U.N. Human Development Report, 1993: "Elections are a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, condition for democracy. Political participation is not just a casting of votes. It is a way of life."
Gore Vidal: "How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It's the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It's been 200 years at it. It's superb."
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: "The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject."
Michael Parenti: "As demonstrated in Russia and numerous other countries, when faced with a choice between democracy without capitalism or capitalism without democracy, Western elites unhesitatingly embrace the latter."
USA Today, September 12, 2012
Washington Post, September 28, 2012
BBC News, May 29, 2012
Huffington Post, December 19, 2011
Washington Post, September 28, 2012
New York Times, "Obama Is an Avid Reader, and Critic, of the News", Amy Chozick, August 8, 2012
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org