Friday, February 26, 2016

The Doc the Koch Brothers Don't Want You to See

One year ago, Global News pulled "The Koch Connection" by acclaimed Canadian TV producer and investigative journalist Bruce Livesey just days before it went to air. 

Promo material about the Koch brothers' influence in Canada, including an interview with an Alberta cattle rancher an Alberta Fort McKay First Nations negotiator in talks with Koch Oil Sands Operating, was also scrubbed off their site. 

Livesey told his story on Canadaland and was subsequently fired - along with, if memory serves, some members of his production crew.

Now The Real News Network is teaming up with Livesey to get his doc finished and to market. The film exposes how :
"the Kochs’ are waging relentless campaigns to deny climate change and using their wealth to get conservatives elected to office to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and further their corporate interests."
Founded by filmmaker Paul Jay - producer at Fifth Estate and Frontline, creator of the brilliant CBC debate program CounterSpin with host Avi Lewis, and founding chair of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival -  The Real News Network airs alternative in-depth Canadian content, sans the usual corporate spin. 

Kudos to them for picking up the Canadian slack, and if you want to see this doc made, show it some support here. 

For more from Bruce Livesey, see his work as lead investigative reporter at the National Observer.
*correction in 2nd sentence*

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shopping for human rights

 Passed yesterday in the House

"That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad."

Liberals and Conservatives - Yes - 229 votes
NDP and Bloc - No - 51 votes

You can see how each MP voted at the link at top or watch them vote here : "Opposition Motion : Israel"

137 Liberals out of 184 voted in favour, 44 Liberals skipped the vote, and only 3 voted against it : Larry Bagnell, Nick Whalen, and Rene Arsenault.

92 Cons voted in favour while 7 skipped the vote.

Elizabeth May last week : "I will not be supporting it, but I want to make it very clear that the Green Party and I personally do not support the BDS movement." She also skipped the vote.

What's this crap about "demonization and delegitimization of Israel"?
Does everyone get that BDS is basically about shopping?
We're talking about making shopping choices to apply pressure to support Palestinian human rights here. 

And now we're being condemned by our government for what we think about making those choices?   Unbelievable.

Update : Scott Vrooman : Parliamentary debate on Israel boycott misses the point

Real News Network : Brace Batchoun of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East :


Patrick Martin, Globe & Mail : Parliament votes to reject Israel boycott campaign

Antonia Zerbisias, Al Jazeera : Canada jumps on the anti-BDS bandwagon

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cons struggle to find their opposition feet

"They're stealing all our best shit," wailed CPC MP Remplestiltskin from her parliamentary selfie twitter account, rattling off all the HarperGov ideas embraced by the Liberals since they formed a majority government in October :

Saudi arms deal - check
TPP signed - check
Return of the F35 bid - check
Keystone XL pipeline - check
Energy east pipeline - check
Voted for C-51 - check
Canadian Wheat Board stays ditched - check
Investor-state dispute mechanism ISDS - check and check
CIRDI mining company catspaw reconfirmed - check
Covered for CSIS in torture cases - check
Voted against all measures for Palestine at the UN - check

"And you just know they're going to vote in favour of our motion condemning BDS in the House next week," she fumed, although she allowed this has in fact always been Justin Trudeau's position. 

"The Conservative Party worked very hard for ten years to remake the Canadian brand and it's like the Liberals stole all our best ideas and stuck their own name on them."

A Liberal source who spoke on background thinks his CPC colleague is over-reacting.
"There's lots of other Con ideas left the official opposition can raise in the House," he said. 
"New wars, for instance. While Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada could soon join a military coalition to return to Libya, we haven't said we're going to actually bomb any new countries so there's that."

"Look on the bright side," he continued. "Remember 18 months ago when that delegation of Liberal and Conservative MPs and senators went to Jerusalem and sang O Canada at the Canada-Israel Solidarity Rally during Day 23 of Operation Protective Edge

Remember how rewarding it felt to be Conservatives and Liberals working together in support of Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians?"

"Sunny ways are here to stay," he quipped. "Better get used to it."

 Rempelstiltskin™ : the Salamander

Greenwald/Fishman @The Intercept : Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cindy Blackstock

Who knows about love and fairness? Children do.

Racial discrimination against children must no longer be tolerated in Canada.

First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada filed their complaint in 2007. 

Tyee : Scared and Spied On Under Harper, Why Child Advocate Didn't Give Up

Also, while we're at it ... Cindy Blackstock for Governor General of Canada.

Monday, February 08, 2016

ISDS : Investor-State Dispute Scam

A German documentary on the investor rights in trade agreements - ISDS - now with English subtitles : "Corporations Complain - We Pay".

Canada and Canadian ISDS losses - described as the "gold rush in the ISDS industry" - figure prominently in the film :
"Canada is the only western country that has ever accepted ISDS with the United States. We're actually one of the most sued countries, always by US companies, because we signed one treaty that allowed ISDS with the United States.
And ultimately it only exists because at some point everyone expects the public will have to pay." 
In 1989 not a single lawsuit was filed; by the end of 2014 there were over 600:
"It's a new way to access public money."
The film traces the story of the two Nova Scotia lobster fishermen who fought for five years and successfully turned back US corp Bilcon's bid to build a basalt quarry on environmental grounds, only to have the ISDS tribune rule against them. Bilcon sued for US $300M over future financial loss on a quarry they hadn't even started building. As lobsterman Kemp Stanton remarks :
"If you can make US$300 million and not have to build the quarry, it'd be stupid to build it."    
And because ISDS litigation costs US$4-8 million, New York lawyer Selvyn Siedel brokers deals between "those who want to sue and those who want to invest in such litigation - litigation funders". A whole new industry model with returns of $20M of taxpayer money on an initial $5M investment. US litigation financiers have seen their own profits rise 900% by fuelling more corporations to launch more cases against sovereign governments over domestic policies :
"The litigation funders are the ones greasing the wheels of this system" 
as they did against the easy pickings of Spain and Greece during their financial insolvencies, using shell companies in Luxembourg, phantom mailbox companies with no employees, to sue their own governments for lost profits. 

In Germany, the government of Hamburg gave in to a German corp suing them for $1B through a New York company rather than face the loaded odds of an ISDS tribunal. Liberal Marc Lalonde was president of that ISDS tribunal, working alongside US Republican Larry Craig.

Sylvan Seidel in New York sees a new business opportunity in these lawsuits - bundle them as investment stocks :
"Banks, hedge funds and insurance companies are investing in this growing market. It's like a casino and the party for litigation funders is not over yet. As this grows, more corporations launch cases against governments."

CETA, TPP, TTIP - they're all trojan horse casinos designed to enable the arbitration industry to change laws in sovereign states while bleeding the public purse. 

Good doc.  h/t Murray Dobbin who circulated the link to it last night.

The Osgood Hall law prof featured in the doc wrote a Tyee column last month on the TPP :
Gus Van Harten : Seven Ways TPP Favours Mega-rich Foreign Investors, Not Canadians

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The TPP - a casino where the house always wins

The best part of International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signing the U.S. corporate rights agreement TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership - in Aukland NZ yesterday was that it was done here in this gambling casino, and a casino is where the house always wins.

In her 2012 book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, Freeland explains :
"Trying to slant the rules of the game in your favour isn't an aberration, it is what all businesses seek to do. The difference isn't between having virtuous and villainous business people, it is about whether your society has the right rules and policing able to enforce them."
Of course this 'enforcement' would first entail our government not ditching those 'right rules' or 'policing' just because transnational corporations and their revolving-door crony capitalists within government find them inconvenient.

Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail, October 5 2015 :
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to remove trade barriers, widely expand free trade for Canada, and increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it.... The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process ..."
Then in mid-January Freeland told us :
“The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it’s important to understand that it’s a decision of yes or no..." 
All countries have two years to ratify it, but the treaty comes into force if the United States, Japan and four other countries give their approval.  
“It’s important for us to understand that we don’t have a veto.”
Yesterday she said : "There is a big difference between signing and ratifying", promising negotiations and parliamentary committees and round tables etc, all of which are very nice but none of which are legally binding on the Liberal caucus
Now that we've signed off on it however, we are all supposed to pin our hopes on those.

Flashback to the Liberal Convention of 2014 two years ago... 
Guest speaker and TPP advocate, former US Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers is interviewed on stage by Freeland, who introduces him as "a dear friend, teacher, and probably the smartest person I know". Summers, she explains, is there to give the Libs "some great ideas about how to transform Canada and in so doing transform the world." 

Now most of us probably remember Larry Summers as the US bank deregulator - a prominent architect alongside Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin in reversing the 1933 US Glass-Steagall Act, that Depression-era legislation which prevented US banks from turning into the high-risk hedge-fund casinos making wild bets against their own depositors' money they became in the late 2000's. Or we remember him as the $5M hedge fund advisor who made millions in speaking fees from the hedge funds he later helped regulate while advocating tax cuts and no ceiling on CEO pay for stimulus recipients. Or as a Bilderberg Group Steering Committee member.


What I wish is that rather than continue to parrot all that "all middle-class liberals together" shmooze that Summers was selling the Libs two years ago, including airily blowing off the casino bank crisis he helped precipitate, better the Liberals should instead try out what Summers, still a strident TPP advocate, is saying now : 

"First, the era of agreements that achieve freer trade in the classic sense is essentially over. The world’s remaining tariff and quota barriers are small and, where present, less reflections of the triumph of protectionist interests and more a result of deep cultural values. 
What we call trade agreements are in fact agreements on the protection of investments and the achievement of regulatory harmonization...
Concerns that trade agreements may be a means to circumvent traditional procedures for taking up issues ranging from immigration to financial regulation must be taken seriously.
Being pressed down everywhere are middle classes who lack the wherewithal to take advantage of new global markets and do not want to compete with low-cost foreign labor. Our challenge now is less to increase globalization than to make the globalization we have work for our citizens."

Try to keep up with your own hero's rhetoric here, Libs. 

Economix Comix : The TransPacific Partnership and "Free Trade"

Robert Reich takes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2 minutes 26 seconds

Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz heaps scorn on TPP and TTIP

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