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National Observer - How Enbridge Manipulated the National Energy Board

The Disaffected Lib - 3 hours 14 min ago
The power of alternative media.

Vancouver's own, National Observer, has unearthed evidence suggesting shocking collusion between an energy giant and the industry-friendly federal regulator, the National Energy Board.

Under scrutiny is a NEB audit report released last July.

Both the company and its watchdog delivered positive messages about the published audit, explaining it showed how much Enbridge was improving.

But two things were happening behind the scenes before the public ever got wind of the report. Enbridge initially responded to the draft report by denying there were major problems. Secondly, the final report is different from the draft version that was privately shared with Enbridge in February 2015. The NEB, which is also based in Calgary, changed the conclusions in response to 28 pages of recommendations from Enbridge.

...While both the NEB and Enbridge maintained there were no immediate threats to public safety, two engineering experts told National Observer that they disagreed.

These critics said that the public should be alarmed about how the final report was edited, because the changes show that the regulator doesn’t know how to prevent disastrous spills from happening or how to respond when a catastrophe strikes.

“They don't even understand their limitations and the NEB has no idea what the issues are,” said Don Deaver, a former Exxon pipeline engineer from Texas, who now works as a private consultant after a career that lasted decades.

...The draft version of another section of the audit, describing how Enbridge protects natural ecosystems, included references to two secret environmental reports. But Enbridge said it didn't want the public to know about those reports and managed to convince the NEB to keep them hidden.

“These reports are confidential, internal Enbridge documents,” the company wrote in its 28-page response to the draft audit report, attached to a letter signed by its president of liquid pipelines, Guy Jarvis, on March 6, 2015. “As such, Enbridge requests that the reference to them be removed from the report, or referred to in a more generic fashion.”

Deaver said these disappearing paragraphs show that the NEB was hiding some inconvenient truth about the pipeline industry: Enbridge is struggling to figure out how to stop leaks on aging pipelines, and officials still don't know the best way to completely clean up after a catastrophic spill, such as what happended in Marshall.

“They (the industry and the watchdog) are using the wrong methods to analyze the growth of these cracking areas that they find along the pipe,” said Deaver.

Deaver added that if the two secret environmental reports refer to the aftermath of spills, they would expose one of the “dirtiest, darkest secrets of the pipeline industry" regarding the challenges of cleaning up after a major leak.

“Whenever there’s a lawsuit on a spill or something like that, the agencies allow the companies to hold back the reports until there’s a settlement,” Deaver said. “It could be embarrassing to the regulatory people (to reveal what’s in these company reports) because it could show that they (regulators) failed to take action.”

The NEB refused a request - through federal access to information legislation - to release copies of the environmental reports that it reviewed in the audit, explaining that it had only reviewed them at Enbridge offices and left them behind, without making any copies.

This is the second time in recent months that the NEB has done something like this: In December, it declined to release an internal corporate investigation report into a damaged pipeline buried by TransCanada Corp - Canada’s second largest pipeline company - because the NEB said its staff left that report behind at the company office in the middle of a separate investigation into serious safety allegations that were raised by a whistleblower.

It's not clear why the NEB would leave documents behind since it has full powers of inquiry and full powers of a federal court to investigate pipeline safety matters. These powers allow the NEB, under Canadian law, to take any evidence it needs to complete its investigations.

But the regulator, governed by a board that currently has 13 members - 12 of whom were appointed by the Conservative government of former prime minister Stephen Harper - wasn’t willing to provide a detailed explanation about any of the unusual decisions made in its recent investigations.

...After reviewing what was changed in the audit report, Evan Vokes, a former pipeline engineer who worked for TransCanada, said he was skeptical about the claims made by both the industry and its regulator. He believes pipelines would be safer if the regulators did a better job enforcing the rules.

“I think they’re trying to hide a safety risk,” Vokes said in an interview. “They continue to promise better and better performance on corrosion-related failures and they never manage to stop corrosion-related failures.”

U.S. officials blamed Enbridge for having a “culture of deviance” that contributed to the Michigan spill, which traveled about 50 km downstream on the river that leads to Lake Michigan. But the company and its regulators said that they were taking steps after the 2010 spill to prevent future disasters. Industry and federal officials had made similar statements after the Saskatchewan spill of 2007.

Yet another example of the audacious hypocrisy of the Trudeau Liberals. They freely slammed the National Energy Board while they were in opposition. Since coming to power they find the industry-dominated regulator just fine.

Elizabeth May Points Out the Obvious

The Disaffected Lib - 3 hours 34 min ago

Despite his "sunny ways," Justin Trudeau keeps showing that he's less than meets the eye. Elizabeth May, writing in the Island Tides paper, explains:

Canada is very popular at the UN these days. I think winning a seat on the Security Council in the next vote is looking like a sure thing. Trudeau’s speech was interrupted by applause more often than any other speaker in the General Assembly. His willingness to embrace basic principles of climate justice resonated as he explained Canada was committed to assisting developing countries ‘since they should not be punished for a problem they did not create’. 

On the other hand, our target remains the one tabled last year by the previous government— 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Yet, there has been a weak environmental movement response to this sad reality. I get it. After 10 years of Harper, the movement is grateful to have a new Liberal government that is in favour of climate action. 
For months, mainstream media has been falsely reporting that Trudeau adopted that target in Paris. Internally, the bureaucracy is pressing the environment minister so hard that even the Harper target will be hard to reach
The worrying line in Trudeau’s speech was that Canada ‘will meet or exceed our target’. That sounds really good, but it is the first time the Prime Minister has associated himself at all with the Harper target. To keep our commitment to avoiding 1.5ºC we need to make our target reflect doing our fair share in the world. And that one isn’t it. It cannot be ‘meet or exceed’. To keep our promises in Paris, it can only be ‘exceed’—and by a lot. 
May goes on to note that we cannot hope to meet even Harper's targets if we permit the planned expansion of the Tar Sands production or launch a new effort to export LNG.

Why Now, Perhaps More Than Ever, We Need a National Vision

The Disaffected Lib - 5 hours 2 min ago

He came to us with a vision of what he called a "just society." We listened and we liked what we heard and we supported him as he enacted the laws focused on taking our Canada, leading us, to a new and better place. We saw, first hand, the power of vision.

Over the last decade we saw the legacy of that earlier vision as we were ruled - not led, not governed but ruled - by an authoritarian who utterly eschewed vision, perhaps knowing that whatever he might offer up as vision would be roundly rejected. His entire approach to governance - incrementalism - was the classic modus operandi of poachers and sneak thieves. We were ruled by a man who had no vision but boundless ambition to remake us and our country in his image. He attempted to do this and might have succeeded but for the legacy of that earlier vision manifested in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that restrained him and held his impulsive instincts at bay.

Pundits have observed that Stephen Harper left no lasting legacy and that's why. He was a visionless ruler, a technocrat who wielded the levers of power to no particular end, no goal beyond the exploitation of corrupted hydrocarbon energy.

There are still some who consider that earlier leader, Pierre Trudeau, autocratic and there may be an argument to be made. The important thing, however, is that Pierre Trudeau did not exercise his control to the advancement of neoliberalism. To the contrary, his governance was focused on the advancement of Canadian democracy, liberal democracy. He curbed the rights of the state against the individual and elevated the rights of the individual over the state. He enshrined rights and freedoms within constitutional instruments. What a fascinating man. What a time to be a Canadian, empowered. Heady stuff that.

Brian Mulroney put Canada on a somewhat different course. Like Reagan, he was well to the left of what passes for conservatism today. Still he ushered in the era of globalization, the economic engine of neoliberalism. It began with the FTA, the free trade pact with the US, that was quickly followed when NAFTA added Mexico to the deal.

Mulroney bought the theory that was in a matter of years disproved, discredited. He believed what he preached - that free trade would benefit the country and all Canadians. There would be more economic activity, more jobs, better pay. He failed to foresee that free market capitalism would turn predatory as corporatist forces, their restraints broken and their powers elevated almost to quasi-nation state levels, exploited their gifted freedom and powers. Industries were gutted, jobs were outsourced, wages stagnated or declined.

You might have thought our leaders would have cried, "Whoa, wait a second, this isn't working. We've got to scrap this and go back to square one." But they didn't. Instead they inked one free trade agreement after another, in each instance yielding just a little more state sovereignty to a corporatist rival that was largely unaccountable, amorphous.

Why did it keep going? Why is it with us today and growing rapidly? Because that's what a malignancy does. It keeps growing until the host dies. It's both predatory and parasitic. As it continues it gives back ever less and much of what is given is tainted. It began as a corporate, commercial interest that metastasized into neoliberalism, a political power. Neoliberalism is the muscle of corporatism. It doesn't seek to destroy the state but to wrest effective control of the state and it works through people like our last prime minister.

A detailed and extensive exploration of this phenomenon can be found in Galbraith's, The Predator State. At one point he examines the stampede of neoliberalism during the Bush/Cheney regime when every important regulatory body was taken over by industry shills. Industry, commerce, capital became self-regulating, almost sovereign, giving rise to a genuine predator state. As for Canada, take a look at the makeup of the industry-friendly National Energy Board. Is it any wonder that the public interest gets such short shrift?

Harper is gone, praise Odin, but his NEB appointments still rule the roost. Harper is gone but Justin Trudeau has retained Harper's board. That seems incomprehensible. Is it, really? What is that telling us?

After three decades under the yoke of neoliberalism, what is Justin Trudeau's vision of Canada? What does he seek to make it other than, perhaps, a bit more pleasant, a bit less in your face?

The fact is that I haven't heard any stirring vision come out of this Trudeau, nothing that even remotely resembles our experience during his father's tenure. That wouldn't be enough to declare him a neoliberal but he is. The sorry fact is that every party in Parliament, including Tom "balanced budgets" Mulcair's NDP, is neoliberal. Oh I realize Tom, at least Latter Day Tom, comes across as a bit more progressive than Justin but it's a distinction of very limited difference.

There is no vision on offer from any of Canada's mainstream political parties. Electoral reform is, at best, a tweak - not a vision. Those who claim otherwise need to lift their eyes, look out to the horizon. We haven't done that sort of thing for decades, far too long and our country is the worse for it.

How do we escape the clutches of neoliberalism? How are we to rehabilitate liberal democracy? Who has that so desperately overdue vision?

In case you're wondering, not me. There are, however, things I believe we must do and things I am convinced we must absolutely stop doing. In no particular order, here are a few.

Let's take a look at Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal" speech of 1910 in which he laid out the foundational principles of a progressive order. There is so much in there, truly timeless wisdom, that I urge you to read it in its entirety. It speaks to the essential paramountcy of labour over capital. It calls for government in service to the populace, not powerful narrow interests. It champions conservation of national resources, control of corporations and consumer protection of every variety. Read it, absorb it and you'll have a pretty good start.

Let's recognize, in every aspect of policy making and planning at every level of government, the unprecedented perils and uncertainties that confront every nation and will overwhelm a good many in the course of this century. We cannot know what our nation and our world will look like more than a decade, two at the outside, from now. Why then are we entertaining thirty year, "locked in" trade deals? Where do we think Canada will be over that term? What about the partner nations we will be relying on? What if they can't fulfill their obligations to us? What if we default on our obligations to them? Will force majeure become the lingua franca of free market capitalism? What then?

It is this very uncertainty, unpredictability that so strongly argues for the restoration of the paramountcy of the public interest in every aspect of our governance. That will hinge on the recovery of our national sovereignty. We cannot have fetters, especially not decadal shackles, on our sovereignty. That denies us the ability to freely respond to the needs of our people when difficulties arise. There are contingencies in which we may need to be able to jettison trade baggage as our partners may well do to us for the same compelling reasons.

What use is there for a vision unless it can be conveyed to the people it needs to reach? To achieve that level of communication you must have an informed public, not a public manipulated by spin and guile. Re-establishing those lines of communication begins with the restoration of a vibrant, robust and free press in Canada. That necessitates breaking up today's corporate media cartel. This corporate media, exemplified by the PostMedia chain, doesn't disseminate information. It peddles messaging, information so heavily sculpted by omission and interpretation for the purpose of manipulating the reader.

It doesn't make much difference which system of voting is in place if the corporate interest is able to confound the voter and steer that vote.  A voter who is misled, confused, angry and/or fearful defeats the whole notion of an informed electorate freely consenting to how they will be governed. A corporate media cartel is a powerful instrument of neoliberalism. Curious that none of our parties, not even the NDP, is calling for that cartel to be taken down.

We need to rebuild, re-empower our society. We have held on, at times by our fingernails, thanks to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but that's not nearly enough. Look at Canadian society today. Look at how divided we have become. We're corralled into camps that view each other with suspicion, fear, anger sometimes bordering on paranoia. There is no vision to unite us, to afford us the common ground we have found, despite our differences, in times past. We can live with our differences and still enjoy the benefits of social cohesion and common purpose.

This failure of social cohesion weakens all of us in every camp. It distracts us, it saps our resolve, it turns us into easy pickings for the forces of neoliberalism. It facilitates the transfer of economic and political clout into the hands of the elite which partly explains why every major party today is neoliberal.

Societal rehabilitation is called for and this can begin by tackling inequality in all of its forms - inequality of wealth, inequality of income, inequality of opportunity, inequality of access and influence - the list goes on. We cannot restore conditions as they were from the 50s through the 70s, at least not without surviving another major war, but there is much we can do to re-upholster our society, so that everybody gets a nice seat at the table.

We must commit to government's role in balancing the ever conflicting interests of labour versus capital. That is part and parcel of any viable progressive democracy. A thoughtful exploration of how to restore organized labour in Canada opens most if not every can of worms. It's messy, daunting but that is no excuse for continuing to ignore it.

One final idea that I would suggest is to revisit the issue of posterity, long ostracized from both policy making and planning. We must be willing to make sacrifices essential to the well being of future generations of Canadians.

Pierre Trudeau's vision looked to the future. It fully addressed posterity. We've already seen, first hand, what a wonderful thing the power of posterity can be when you most desperately need it.

Change, it seems, is never universally welcomed except in the wake of catastrophe. Neoliberalism has us on the path to catastrophe. It's inevitable. Our choice is to remain divided, confused, distracted and powerless and await our fate or to find that vision that all of us truly want and turn that vision into reality.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 8 hours 17 min ago
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Ben Schiller talks to Joseph Stiglitz about the link between technology and inequality - and particularly the lack of current incentives to work on improving standards of living rather than capturing windfalls. And Don Pittis suggests that we should focus on building up new ideas, rather than constantly caving to the demands of corporate behemoths.

- Chris Buckley points out how Ontario's labour laws are falling far short of meeting the needs of vulnerable workers.

- Meanwhile, Charlotte Helston responds to the spin that it's somehow easy for a homeless person to "just get a job". And Andrea Hill reports on the human cost of homelessness in La Ronge - with a community of 3,000 people seeing multiple deaths every year due to a lack of support services.

- Derek Leahy discusses Marc Jaccard's view that regulation, not pricing, is the most important element of an effective plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the oil industry is doing everything in its power to avoid a meaningful discussion of its role in overheating our planet - including threatening Canadian universities, and flooding the airwaves with advertising which far exceeds climate change coverage.

- Finally, Robert Shiller discusses the importance of public attitudes and stories in shaping economic outcomes. But it's worth noting that Shiller's point should lead us to seek to avoid veering off toward either irrational exuberance or excessive pessimism - not to try to operate in denial of the real weaknesses which have led to previous recessions.

Morally Weak, Intellectually Contemptuous

Politics and its Discontents - 10 hours 59 min ago
That's how I regard the justifications for continuing with the Saudi arms deal offered by Stephane Dion and his puppet master, Justin Trudeau. I see I am not alone in that assessment:
Re: Approval of Saudi arms deal was illegal, lawyer argues, April 22

According to the Prime Minister, the Saudi arms deal must go forward, notwithstanding profound universal concern about the Saudi government’s cavalier attitude toward human rights.

According to Justin Trudeau, “We will continue to respect contracts signed because people around the world need to know that when Canada signs a deal it is respected.” That statement is odd and troubling on many different levels.

Does Mr. Trudeau believe himself to be Canada’s CEO or its head of government? Are we employees of Mr. Trudeau or are we citizen of this country? Is Mr. Trudeau our boss or our servant? Does Canada, as a political entity, sign commercial deals, or is it rather commercial enterprises within Canada that sign deals, and it is the government’s job to regulate those deals? Most importantly, perhaps: Is Canada a large commercial enterprise or a nation that calls itself a democracy?

A likely explanation of Mr. Trudeau’s statement is that he has a habit of improvising rationales that are at odds with rationality, such as his perplexing statements to the effect that Canada will use fossil fuel production to combat fossil-fuel-induced climate change.

Stephane Dion has turned into a quick study in the art of sophistical rhetoric and improvised rationales. On the subject of the Saudi arms sales, he says he had “reviewed the issue with ‘the utmost rigour’ and will continue to do so over the life of the 14-year deal.” It seems I have been under a false impression that his government had been elected for a four-year term.

Earlier, he had cleverly stated that the sale was justified because the Saudi government has promised not to use the armoured vehicles to suppress domestic dissent. Even if we were to believe the Saudi claim, what about the serious concern about the Saudi ruling family’s hobby of invading neighbouring countries and massacring their civilian populations? Do we need that blood on our hands?

Al Eslami, North York

Jobs worth killing for? Online video April 24

Full marks to Scott Vrooman for, like many other Canadians, pointing out the rank hypocrisy of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government. Could there be a more blatant example of this than the Saudi Arms deal?

While our Prime Minister will happily show up at any photo op for a Pride Parade or similar event (as he should), he quite clearly has no problem selling arms to a regime that executes people for the crime of being gay. If he can’t see the hypocrisy of that, he’s a fool.

This government’s supposed fresh new approach (transparency and honesty and optimism) is looking more and more like a variation of the half truths and manipulated facts that contribute to many people’s default setting with politics and politicians: distrust and cynicism.

Paul Romanuk, Toronto

Recommend this Post

The Flying Edsel

Northern Reflections - 11 hours 18 min ago

Lately, Michael Harris has turned his sights on military equipment -- its sale and purchase. When it comes to those Saudi armored vehicles, he says, there's a skunk in the woodpile. And a familiar stench is beginning to arise -- again -- over the F-35. Over at the Ministry of Defense,  the word is that the purchase of the F-35 is still under consideration -- despite Justin Trudeau's promise that it was dead. Harris writes:

This is an issue in which Justin Trudeau either earns his wings as a new type of politician, or he ditches in the same sea of double-talk that swallowed up his predecessors. Either his government is running the show, or bureaucrats over at Industry Canada are – the ones who are still dazzled by the lure of industrial benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry if Canada only sticks with the F-35.
The Harper government pumped out plenty of fog about the F-35. And the United States Air Force continues to cloud the skies. But the news on the F-35 -- and how it performs -- keeps getting worse:

Despite all the public relations that tax dollars can buy, the Pentagon doesn’t even know if the $100-million planes are fit for combat. In the United States, the F-35 program was supposed to deliver 1,013 aircraft by fiscal 2016; it has delivered 179. Since the project began in 2003, the cost of the aircraft has doubled. According to the Government Budget Office in Washington, it costs $30,000 an hour to fly. The last F-35 is now scheduled to be delivered in 2040 — fifth generation jets produced at horse and buggy speeds.

 Five of six F-35s were recently unable to take off from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. After 15 years of “development” and billions of dollars of investment, the planes could not boot up their proprietary software to get airborne — a story first reported in Flight Global and picked up by the Daily Mail.

Consider the opinion of that well-known peacenik John McCain about the F-35 program. If anyone should have been an advocate for this futuristic weapon it should have been McCain. Instead, America’s most famous pilot-cum-POW and the Republican senator from Arizona, excoriated the F-35 last week at a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he could not “fathom” how the delivery schedule of the F-35 made any strategic sense. He added that the history of the F-35, “has been both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule and performance.”
Mr. Trudeau still needs to prove he's in charge -- not the oil barons, and not the military-industrial complex. Grounding the Flying Edsel would be a step in the right direction.


what i'm reading: every exquisite thing by matthew quick

we move to canada - 12 hours 15 min ago
I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance reading copy of Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick. Quick - a/k/a Q - is the author of The Silver Linings Playbook, which I have not read, but now will.

Every Exquisite Thing combines a few stock elements of youth fiction into something heartfelt, authentic, and compelling. I caught a little bit of Eleanor & Park and a little bit of The Fault in Our Stars poking through, but none of that stopped me from enjoying the book.

Nanette O'Hare is a high-achieving student athlete whose future is all laid out for her to follow. An iconoclastic teacher gives Nanette a copy of a cult novel - echoes of The Catcher in the Rye are obvious - and suddenly she views her privileged life in a new way. The teacher goes even farther, setting up Nanette with another young person to whom he's given the same book, this one a misfit poet with some dangerous tendencies.

Nanette needs to rebel, and she's fallen in love with a rebel. But what form that rebellion will take, and how far it will go, is something they both need to find.

Nanette sets out both to lose herself and find herself in some surprising ways. A few parts of Nanette's journey won't translate well into a review (plus I'm avoiding spoilers) but they work beautifully in context. The best part of Every Exquisite Thing is the bold character of Nanette herself, full of self-doubt and self-discovery, figuring out how to use the strength she knows is inside her.

Tony Clement and the Blinding of Canada

Montreal Simon - 12 hours 49 min ago

It's been five long years since the Cons gutted the census, and left us stumbling in the darkness, unable to determine who we really are, or what kind of country we're really living in.

But now the long-form census is back. 

And while I'm happy to see it back, it still bothers me to see that Tony Clement, the Con who presided over the blinding of this country, has still not been held properly accountable.
Read more »

One More Reason I'm Going to Miss Barack Obama

Montreal Simon - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 17:37

I realize that many progressives don't like Barack Obama, and like to claim he was worse than George Bush or Richard Nixon.

Like some progressives in this country like to claim that Justin Trudeau is worse than Stephen Harper.

But although he was not perfect, I have always admired the first black President. I believe that despite the foul racist attacks against him, he represented his people with dignity and class.

And boy was he funny.
Read more »


Creekside - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 14:22

Leap Manifesto a little vague for you? Here ya go...
"We have to roll back corporate capture of our governments if we want to try and fix problems that conflict directly with their industry bottom line.""There's nothing radical about anything we're talking about. If you are willing to get up in the morning and make your fortune by altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere ... then you're a radical and our job is to try and check that radicalism .""Disobedience is a new film about a new phase of the climate movement: courageous action that is being taken on the front lines of the climate crisis on every continent, led by regular people fed up with the power and pollution of the fossil fuel industry.

Disobedience tells the story of 4 communities preparing to participate in Break Free from Fossil Fuels actions in May 2016.

Screenings are being planned across the globe starting on April 30 to support ongoing organizing to defeat the fossil fuel industry."

So far in Canada, one screening has been planned.

Justin, Rachel and Brad - Completely Out of Touch with Canadians

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 14:13

Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley and Brad Wall are determined to continue Canada's sullied fossil fuel past but the Canadian people want a fossil free future for Canada.

An Ekos poll found the controversial Leap Manifesto has already gathered a lot of support. Among those familiar with it, as many support the call for Canada to slash carbon emissions and be completely free of fossil energy by 2050 as those opposed.

The only party whose members oppose Leap is, predictably, the Conservatives. Justin's own Liberals support leap by a two to one, 50 to 25 margin. The strongest support, the Green Party, comes in at 59% followed by the NDP at 54%.

You would think that, with numbers like these, Trudeau wouldn't be quite as spineless in caving in to the demand for ever more hazmat dilbit coursing through ever more hazmat pipelines. You might think... but.

"New Pipelines to Tidewater"

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 11:23

Prison culture has its own lexicon, words that have a prison-specific meaning. One of these is "bitch." In prison the word describes a person who is easily cowed and then exploited by a predator. The bitch usually winds up performing certain, oh let's call them, "favours" out of fear of what awaits if he refuses. Once you're a bitch there's no going back. Performing favours is the cost of getting by.

Why do I get this nagging feeling that the Trudeau government has got this "prison bitch" quality? They're all butch when it comes to talking tough but their talk isn't matched by their actions. It's as though somebody got to them, turned them.

Stephane Dion, res ipsa loquitor:

Sounds like a guy whose sharing a cell with Bubba.

Then there's Trudeau's environmental Jean D'Arc, Catherine McKenna who restored Canada's credibility on climate change at the Paris climate summit last December where she boldly helped lead the effort to reduce the "never exceed" warming limit from the old 2C down to just 1.5C. Oh, how we swelled with pride.

Flash forward a couple of months and McKenna is singing a different tune. Now it's "go slow." Apparently taking any meaningful action, according to McKenna, could imperil national unity. Sounds like somebody took McKenna aside for a quiet word. So, if you're wondering, here's McKenna's adjusted bottom line: "I'm not saying we destroy our planet." Cathy, it doesn't matter what you say. You people say all manner of things. You're all over the board depending on who last pulled your string. What matters is what you do and that's all that matters.

Then there's Trudeau's stalwart Transport Minister, Marc Garneau. You might recall that upon taking office, Garneau received a mandate letter from Junior directing that he implement a supertanker moratorium on northern British Columbia waters, killing the Northern Gateway hazmat pipeline before it could inflict irreparable harm on the province and its coastal ecology. There it was, deal done, done deal. A collective sigh of relief was heard along the coast.

Now, in what has become standard procedure for the Trudeau government, the tune has changed.

The project was thought to be dead -- finished off by a Liberal campaign promise to restore a long-standing moratorium on oil tanker traffic off B.C.'s north coast.

But recent comments by federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau have opponents gearing up to fight the controversial pipeline proposal again.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, Garneau was quoted Monday as saying that the government still hasn't "worked out" what a moratorium on tankers actually means. The article also quoted Garneau as saying it is "premature" to say the Northern Gateway is dead.

The government hasn't "worked out" what a moratorium means? Well, why don't you just go back and have a look at the moratorium that kept the north coast safe for years until Harper rescinded it? Sorry, Garneau, you're a bitch.

And if you need more proof of how quickly and thoroughly this has become a lickspittle government, check out Aaron Wherry's analysis piece at CBC's website, "Justin Trudeau's leadership measured by the pipeline question."

If you want to see prison bitchdom in action be sure to cursor down to the clip of National Resources minister Jim Carr.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 09:57
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Frank comments on the connection between recognizing the luck and social support which lead to one's own success, and being willing to fund a state which will ensure opportunities for everybody:
I've seen even brief discussions of the link between success and luck temper the outrage many wealthy people feel about taxes. At an intuitive level, it's not puzzling that successful citizens like Schwarzman might view mandatory taxation as unjustified confiscation of what's rightfully theirs. But extensive public investment was an essential precondition for the economic prosperity of those very same tax protesters, and we can't have public investment without taxes.

Sensible views about taxes or any other subject do not reliably triumph over less sensible ones in the short run. But we should all take comfort in the fact that the long-run historical narrative bends toward truth. One reason is that when evidence for a particular view becomes compelling, the number of people who embrace it tends to snowball. Beliefs are contagious.

Public opinion shifts one conversation at a time. In my own recent conversations with highly successful people, I've seen opinions change on the spot. Many who seem never to have considered the possibility that their success stemmed from factors other than their own talent and effort are often surprisingly willing to rethink. In many instances, even brief reflection stimulates them to recall specific examples of good breaks they've enjoyed along the way.

So I hope you'll talk with your friends about their experiences with luck. In the process, you may persuade them to support a more ambitious program of public investment. But even if not, you'll almost surely hear some interesting stories.- Meanwhile, Dean Beeby writes about RESP grants as just one example of how programs labelled as helping people in need actually benefit higher-income families. But on the bright side, Bryan Mullan reports that a small investment by the Canada Revenue Agency in investigating tax evasion produced three times the expected return in public revenue.

- Karthik Ramanna and Allan Dreschel discuss the corporate war against accountability. And Chris Sagers points out that antitrust law represents a readily-available - but seldom-used - option to address the growth of unrestrained corporate power.

- David Dayen rightly asks what social purpose hedge funds serve - and suggests that it's time both to redirect public assets which currently prop them up, and to stop giving them special regulatory treatment. 

- Finally, Andrew Jackson highlights the Parliamentary Budget Officer's attempts to wring information out of a Lib government whose first inclination was to be even more secretive than its predecessor - and finds that the information eventually produced shows stagnation or cuts in social investments. And CBC offers a reminder of the potential of open government.

From The Same Folks

Northern Reflections - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 04:10
We've been told that the "Sharing Economy" is the way of the future. But a new book by Tom Slee questions that proposition. Tom Walkom writes:

But as Tom Slee writes in his authoritative new book What’s Yours is Mine, the original idea, however laudable, has turned into something far darker.Or as he puts it: “The sharing economy is extending a harsh and deregulated free market into previously protected areas of our lives. The leading companies are now corporate juggernauts themselves.”
Slee holds a PhD in theoretical chemistry and works for a Waterloo software company. He knows something about innovation. But he believes that companies like Uber and Airbnb as innovations which do more harm than good:
Uber enthusiasts, he writes, attribute its success to technology. But the real reason Uber thrives is that it avoids paying many of the costs borne by regulated taxi services, including insurance and mechanical fitness tests.
More important, and again unlike regulated taxi firms, it is not required to provide services to everyone, such as those using wheelchairs.When Uber enters a city, Slee writes, it usually offers bonuses to its drivers and discounts to its customers.Over time, as it captures more of the market, these incentives are scaled back. In the end, Uber ends up raking in as much revenue as regulated taxi fleet owners, yet faces lower costs.
Airbnb also thrives because it doesn't have to play by the rules that govern other property owners:
Accommodation sharing, too, is not always what it purports to be. Airbnb claims to connect those needing hotel space with ordinary people willing to rent out an apartment or extra room.
The reality is that in some cities almost half of Airbnb’s hosts have multiple listings — that is, they are in the landlord business.
Yet unlike regular bed-and-breakfast operations, Airbnb landlords are not required to adhere to government health and safety rules.Nor, to the dismay of some neighbours, are they subject to zoning bylaws.
It's more of the same -- from the same folks who brought you Neo-liberalism.


james connolly, sid ryan, and marxism 2016

we move to canada - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 04:00

This is The Proclamation.

The Proclamation was read by Padraig (Patrick) Pearse outside the General Post Office in Dublin on April 24, 1916. This marked the beginning of the Easter Rising.

Rather less dramatically, a copy of the Proclamation has hung on my office wall since our trip to Ireland in 2001. It has lived large and present in my revolutionary heart since the early days of my fascination with Irish history.

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing the entire Proclamation read out loud by Toronto labour activist Mike Seaward. It was nothing short of thrilling to hear these stirring words ring out - words to live by. For the men who wrote them, they were words to die by.

The reading of the Proclamation kicked off the 2016 Marxism conference special event, commemorating 100 years since the Easter Rising, almost to the day. This was followed by Canadian labour leader and activist Sid Ryan, spinning out Irish history in sparkling prose and stunning detail, without a scrap of paper in front of him. Sid was followed by Carolyn Egan, a leader in the Canadian women's and labour movements, and my comrade in both the International Socialists and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Carolyn highlighted some of the more radical and revolutionary ideals of the ongoing battle for Irish independence, and connected those back to our current times.

The Easter Rising was many things. It was the first crack in the British Empire. It was the culmination of 600 years of oppression under British rule, and 600 years of armed insurrection against it. It was the wild utopian yearnings of poorly trained rebels, a death sentence for the men who signed it. It is a touchstone for every Irish nationalist, to this day.

The Easter Rising might have been an obscure moment in history, as so many rebellions are. The British government itself ensured the Rising's significance with one giant blunder: the execution of the leaders. With those murders, public opinion turned from irritation or indifference to wild anger and support.

At Marxism 2016, Sid Ryan and Carolyn Egan held a Marxist lens to this largely nationalist rebellion. It isn't difficult to do so, embodied by James Connolly, the great Irish thinker and socialist revolutionary.

James Connolly was an extraordinary leader. His counterpart in American history might be Frederick Douglass. Both rose from extreme poverty (in Douglass' case, slavery), had no formal education, and became extraordinary thinkers and orators. Both were radical, egalitarian, open-minded, and committed to justice. Both supported women's rights. Both understood that the struggle was bigger than their people, not Black against White or Irish against British, but the people against the ruling class. Both men rejected any solution that was in reality only a change of masters.

I won't try to recreate the talk here; I'm hoping it will be posted on the IS's YouTube channel. Unfortunately for me, this was the only talk I was able to attend at Marxism 2016. I also participated on a panel called "Union Organizing in a Time of Precarity," with two labour-activist friends.

There's a lot about James Connolly online, but this piece by Ella Whelan is powerful and poignant, and in my view the most accurate: James Connolly: We Only Want the Earth: What We Can Learn from the Easter Rising, by Ella Whelan. I noticed this beautiful emblem from the IWW bears that line from one of Connolly's poems. I love that my hero of Irish history organized with the revolutionary group that lives in my heart.

The Proclamation:

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:


Inside the Right Wing Conspiracy

Montreal Simon - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 23:18

The other day I told you that the ultra secretive right-wing Civitas Society was holding a conference in Ottawa this weekend.

And how I was sure that Stephen Harper would attend because it's the dank corner of the right-wing conspiracy where he feels most at home.

The place where he first revealed his sinister hidden agenda thirteen years ago.The place to where he returned after his election victory in 2006, to swagger around, and party like there was no tomorrow.

Well now Paul Wells has got hold of Civitas' secret weekend program.
Read more »

Only In Your Dreams

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 15:09

Old myths die hard. One of them is the wild delusion of Canada as an "energy superpower."

First problem. A superpower, by definition, calls the shots. When it comes to oil production we don't call the shots. When it comes to the highest cost/highest carbon of the ersatz petroleum products, bitumen, we absolutely don't call the shots.

Sure we've got vast reserves of bitumen. Doesn't make a goddamned bit of difference.

In the world of oil there are two types of nations. Camp A would be the Middle Eastern producers with their fields of conventional "sweet crude" oil that can be produced, in some cases, for $3 a barrel. Those are what you can fairly call energy superpowers. They call the shots. We're feeling that right now.

Then there's Camp B which includes us. We don't have massive reserves of oil of the Middle East quality. We go after the grotty stuff that has to be mined and boiled out of the ground. That's the costly stuff.

Our oil bounty depends, as we're seeing today to our distress, on the willingness of the real energy superpower to manipulate world oil prices high enough to cover our costs and leave us a small profit - around $50 a barrel, depending on how you cook the books. We can't compete unless Camp A makes the market price we need. Economics 101.

The Saudis game the markets, they always have. That was the whole reason that OPEC was founded. It was for a collective of oil producers to exercise monopoly control. The Americans learned that in the 70s with the Arab oil embargo.

We shun monopolies as uncompetitive affronts to free market capitalism but not in this case because we, particularly Alberta, saw a magic carpet ride to vast riches and general prosperity. We became the home of the "blue eyed sheikhs."

The problem with belonging to Camp B is the constant worry about margins. The Camp A types can tolerate much lower oil prices than we can bear. To them, a 30 dollar a barrel price still yields profits. Not so for the Camp B types.

As margins narrow for the Camp B crowd, we succumb to the temptation to cut corners in order to prop up an industry that turns unviable. Otherwise the energy producers might just close up shop and pursue opportunities elsewhere. What does this corner cutting look like? Ask yourself why those massive tailing ponds in Athabasca left to threaten one of the world's great freshwater resources, the Mackenzie River watershed. Why aren't they getting cleaned up?

Why are Alberta and Saskatchewan unwilling to refine bitumen on site? Why do they insist instead on marketing hazmat dilbit through hazmat pipelines incapable of safely conveying their toxic sludge?

A lot of this corner cutting really comes down to externalizing costs by shifting risks elsewhere. That risk is offloaded onto other provinces by putting their wilderness, their rivers and their coastal ecology at risk, essentially free of charge. These miscreants don't even pretend to have the technology much less the infrastructure to clean up a spill or the wherewithal to properly compensate those they might injure.

The arrogance of these pricks in Edmonton and Saskatoon and Ottawa is appalling and, yes, I'm referring to Rachel and Brad and Justin too. Whenever I see someone like Brad Wall utter the word "tidewater" all I can think of is backpfeifengesicht (a face badly in need of a fist).

What these leaders are doing is an act of reckless endangerment. They have no right to inflict that on us, none. We don't exist to help them maintain the pretence that bitumen is economically viable. We, however, have every right to defend ourselves and what is ours, against them and their predation.


Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 10:40
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Martin Lukacs highlights the Canadian public's broad support for the Leap Manifesto - and the opportunity available to any party willing to put its contents into practice. And Shawn Katz is hopeful that the NDP will seize the opening. But Bill Tieleman points out that the best intentions won't get anywhere if they're not translated into electoral and political progress.

- Lana Payne discusses what we should expect from a government in an economic downturn - with one of the key needs being some reason for hope to develop something more, rather than scolding about how we'll have to make do with less indefinitely.

- Scott Aquanno and Jordan Brennan point out the inherent tension in setting target inflation rates, while rightly reopening the question of whether we should put the interests of capital ahead of those of wage-earners. And Eric Morath notes that wage growth is the missing piece of a U.S. economic recovery.

- Meanwhile, David Dayen weighs in on the growing body of evidence that the arguments against a more reasonable minimum wage have no basis in reality.

- Finally, Rebecca Vallas and Melissa Boteach offer a broad outline of a policy agenda to reduce poverty and improve opportunities across the income spectrum.

rtod: we only want the earth

we move to canada - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 10:00
On the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, these Revolutionary Thoughts of the Day are brought to you by the great Irish socialist, James Connolly.
The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system; it must go. (1910)
This speech, from 1897, is recreated in the excellent Ken Loach film "The Wind that Shakes the Barley":
If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that freedom whose cause you had betrayed. Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin – is only national recreancy.
This recalls what I recently posted: yoko ono was right.
The worker is the slave of the capitalist society. The female worker is the slave of that slave. (1915)
And from Connolly's poem "Song of Freedom," 1907.
“Be moderate,” the trimmers cry,
Who dread the tyrants’ thunder.
“You ask too much and people fly
From you aghast in wonder.”
’Tis passing strange, for I declare
Such statements give me mirth,
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the Earth.

What's That in Erdogan's Hand? Oh Yeah, It's Europe's Balls.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 09:39

You gotta give him credit. Turkish strongman, Recep Erdogan, knows it doesn't matter how much he's reviled so long as he has his critics by the balls. In this case that would be Europe.

The Euros may look down their noses at the Ottoman thug but they know that they need Erdogan to staunch the tsunami of refugee/migrants desperate to escape the Middle East for the safety of, okay let's face it, western Europe. That's where the good jobs are, so they think.

And so the EU and Erdogan have reached a deal but it's one in which Turkey holds all the aces.

Erdogan is unpopular at home. Turkey stands on the brink of its own civil war. Recep needs goodies to hand out to his supporters and that comes in the form of visa-free travel to Europe.

Ankara's logic is simple: Given that Turkey is solving Europe's refugee problem, the country's 79 million people must be provided with visa-free travel to the EU, even if Ankara hasn't yet fulfilled all 72 of the conditions set out by Brussels. That's the price. Europe must turn a blind eye.

It's likely that it will do so. On Wednesday, the European Commission is expected to make a decision on whether to move forward with the visa liberalization process and there is much to suggest the EU executive will decide in favor. During a meeting on Wednesday of this week, members of the Commission agreed that if Turkey fulfilled as many of the 72 conditions as possible between now and then, that it will make a favorable recommendation. Sources with knowledge of the Commission proceedings said the number of outstanding conditions would have to be single digit in number. "The count will take place on Wednesday." So far, Turkey has met around 50 of the demands.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Merkel and other western leaders are in a double bind. The concessions to Erdogan may be their best, perhaps only hope of staunching the wave of migrants and refugees but the arrival, even if on "temporary" terms, of large numbers of Turks could play into the hands of extreme rightwing groups.
The question now is how far Europe is willing to go in its self-denial. It's likely the European Commission will provide an answer next week. "It's not possible for Turkey to fulfill the criteria 100 percent. We know that," says one German official with knowledge of the negotiations. The official says the situation will not ultimately be black or white -- it will be gray. "It's like when you tell your kids that you will take them on vacation if they great straight A's," says another EU diplomat. "Are you really going to cancel if they get a B?"

But what if there is also an F or two in there? One of the points of contention is a Turkish anti-terror law so broadly defined that it makes it possible for Erdogan to go after anyone he decides to label as a terrorist, even journalists who report critically about him. Inside the European Commission, some believe this law gives a "blank check" to Turkish security agencies to do as they please. Parts of Turkish law are also inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Erdogan's strategy is that of agreeing to many of the conditions. But he has done little in a few, decisive areas. It is a course of action he hopes will make it as difficult as possible for the Europeans to turn away from their visa pledge. When a 20-person EU delegation traveled to Ankara to negotiate the details of the visa deal, around 60 well-prepared Turkish specialists were waiting for the Europeans. They addressed issues like combatting corruption and altering laws against money laundering. For the last four days, there has even been a daily video conference between Commission representatives and Turkish government experts in order to clarify problems.

This is one case where "the devil you know" might not be the preferred default option.


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