Saturday, December 17, 2011

Campaign Research Con cats are out of the bag

[Tuesday update below]

Campaign Research client and House Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled it "reprehensible" while Campaign Research client and Con House Leader Peter Van Loan defended it as "vital free speech", but Campaign Research cofounder Nick Kouvalis put it best when he described his firm's now infamous phone calls to Lib MP Irwin Cotler's constituents :  
“We’re in the business of getting Conservatives elected and ending Liberal careers. We’re good at it.”
Since 2003. For 39 Conservative candidates in the last federal election alone.

Kouvalis, who managed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's successful campaign, was also election day chair for Kitchener-Waterloo Con MP Peter Braid.

Other Campaign Research staff currently include the other co-founder Richard Ciano*** now president of the Ontario Con Party, and Aaron Lee-Wudrick, campaign manager for Con MP Peter Braid. 

In 2009, Ciano, Wudrick and Braid participated in a series of workshops hosted by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association and the Preston Manning's Manning Centre for Building Democracy, ** (see update below) where Ciano was Executive Director of Practical Politics til Feb 2010 . At one such training session in February 2009, Wudrick and  Ryan O'Connor, 9th VP of the Ontario Con Party, were taped instructing students to set up Con-friendly "shell organizations" and "front groups" :
"With the apparent support of representatives from both the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the Conservative Party of Canada, the OPCCA is attempting to covertly influence the political climate of Ontario's university campuses. 
Presenters and participants are caught on tape advocating for the creation of front groups for the Conservative Party to masquerade as non-partisan grassroots organizations, influencing the political discourse on campus, stacking student elections with Party members, and conspiring to defeat non-profit organizations because of political differences, all with the intention of hiding their affiliations to the Party in the process."
(37:10) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : I say we, because, even though [Ryan O'Connor] was the forced neutral [as Student President] and me as the Tory president, it was all orchestrated obviously behind closed doors, and it actually worked out well because it looked like different groups of stakeholders, like I'm the outsider coming in, and you guys were just the responsible student government and we had other members of council, a guy he appointed to council, he got speaking rights but he wasn't an elected member, but just as another voice at the table, it made it look like there were all kinds of different corners where in fact we were all on the same team. 
(42:14) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Campus Radicals for Action on Zimbabwe Yes, or something like that, they were a great shell group. Feel free to use Campus Coalition for Liberty, that's ours so we have a logo and everything. 
(50:05) Ryan O'Connor : When Aaron was doing the petition campaign, which "I knew nothing about;" I was printing them in my frickin office in student government, of course I knew about it, of course we were behind it, I couldn't take a public position on that issue because although I wasn't running for reelection, this was three months before the end of my mandate ... if we had made them an issue, no Tory would ever get elected to student government again.  
Ryan O'Connor : Sometimes you can't attach the party's name to something. You just can't. If it's a really controversial issue on campus or something that might show up in the newspaper, you want to be careful. You just have your shell organization and have the Campus Coalition for Liberty and two other Tory front groups which are front organizations, all of those groups might actually qualify for funding too. 
Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Don't think that the Party doesn't like that, because they do. They're things that will help the Party, but it looks like it's an organically-grown organization and it just stimulated from the grassroots spontaneously. They love that stuff. And they don't have to bear the burden of having any of it attached to their name."
You know, like pretending to be spontaneous grassroots fake twitterer Karen Philby or making anonymous calls to talk radio. (h/t Montreal Simon

Plus ça changeplus c'est la fucking même chose, eh?

Bonus : Out here in BC, Campaign Research was "the single largest beneficiary of the HST contracts, pulling down $167,000 of the $250,000 total budget for "conducting telephone town hall meetings" related to the implementation of the controversial tax change". 

They were hired on by BC rightwinger Suzanne Anton in her unsuccessful Vancouver mayoralty bid, and also set up a fake website mocking Christy Clark for signing up a cat as part of her party membership drive in their campaign work for her rival George Abbott :
In the source code, the author of the website was identified as Bo Chen, who works for Toronto-based Campaign Research
The Campaign Research Con cats are definitely out of the bag.
Tuesday Dec. 20 Update : Phone calls to presumed Liberal voters in Con MP Peter Braid's riding advising them of false polling station location changes in the days days before the May 2 federal election have been traced to a "Conservative Party of Canada voicemail".
“I used them for a very specific and limited purpose and that was phone calling to constituents and voter identification,” said Braid.  “Nick [Kouvalis] has a particular expertise in this and that’s why it was helpful to have him involved.”
Braid said he’d consider using Campaign Research again, citing its excellent record with live phone calls. He added “It doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with everything they do.”
Presumably another example of Jason Kenney's "vital free speech" argument.
Despite evidence of just how entwined the history between the Cons and Campaign Research has become, expect imminent use of distancing weasel words like "over-zealous" and "party volunteer" from the Cons any moment now.
h/t The Record.
Mar 6, 2012 8am Update : Correction at **
I've deleted "Manning Centre for Building Democracy" from the post. As noted by a commenter here, MCBD did not host the OPCCA strategy meeting held by Con MP Peter Braid, his campaign manager Aaron Wudrick, and his constituency assistant Eric Merkley, as apparently mistakenly reported in UofT Free Press.
Although both the OPCCA seesions and MCBD sessions shared some participants, like Richard Ciano - Campaign Research Inc CEO, Ontario CPC president, and Manning Centre Executive Director of Practical Politics - the Manning Centre for Democracy Networking Conference was held in Ottawa a week later.
*** Link Defunct. Richard Ciano's page appears to have been expunged from the Campaign research website.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's still class warfare

The European Monetary Union was born of countries pegging their exchange rate to Germany's so all countries would have the same inflation rate of 2 %. The EMU gave those countries a formal voice.
The plan was to have each European country’s wages rise in line with their own productivity plus 2%, ie living according to your means – not above it, not below it.

Just before the euro was implemented, Germany cut wages to bring down unemployment, deviating downward from the agreed-upon 2%, resulting in the beggaring of all its neighbours by making German products cheaper and wiping out its EMU partners' exports.

German economist Dr. Heiner Flassbeck: 
“The big battle that we have in this world is not between Germany and the other Europeans, is not between south and north, China and so on. The big battle is still, believe it or not, between labour and capital. This is still the big battle. I know it’s fashionable in the US to a priori dismiss such arguments by calling them class warfare arguments – Republicans like this very much to say “This is class warfare”. 
 I’ll tell you what happens in this world is class warfare. Look at the US. What happens in the US right now? For the first time in modern history since WW2, we are two years into a recovery and nominal wages are rising by absolutely zero - they’re not rising at all. For the first time we have not only a jobless recovery - that’s a normal thing – for the first time in the US we have a wageless recovery. Wageless recovery. And that is exactly what Germany did 15 years ago – wageless recovery – and I can tell you how this experiment is going to end because in the US there is no market that they can occupy, no partners that they can exploit, there is no currency union that they can use - the experiment will end in disaster. It will end in disaster because if you do not have a regime that allows the systematic participation of workers in the productivity increase – and this is what the people are talking about when they talk about the 99% but it is worse now than 10 years ago, worse than ever  -  then capitalism hits the wall because no economy can grow successfully if their people only have to rely on bubbles, that sooner or later burst, to consume, and if they cannot expect that they will participate in the success of all.”
Via The Real News Network

Iceland arrested the former CEO of one of its three failed banks, along with a broker and market director. Here in North America we arrest people for protesting the banks instead.

Bruce Campbell, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives : Rising Inequality, Declining Democracy
on how this works in Canada.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Another thrilling episode of Beyond the Border

In this week's episode, Steve lays a cunning trap for Barry. In exchange for agreeing to pass travel and "informal" info about Canadians on to Homeland Security, Steve gets Barry to promise to maybe match $1-billion in Canadian taxpayer dollars to fund some pilot projects sometime in the future that will principally benefit the 40% of Canada-US corporations that rely on a cross-border supply chain. Will Barry take the bait?

Well you can clearly see the advantage to Canada here. If US security dudes are openly operating in Canada, never again will the RCMP suffer the humiliation of delivering a Canadian citizen to the US border so he can be tried and jailed in the US for acts committed and not considered criminal in Canada.  So there's that.

And "informal information exchange", ie unsubstantiated spook-thinks about brown Canadians with funny names like Abdelrazik and Arar, has clearly worked out really well in previous informal information exchanges.

From the Canadian Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan:
Canada and the United States have a long history of working together to defend the freedoms and rights of our citizens and to deal with threats to our collective way of life. Cross-border cooperation and information sharing are crucial to these efforts.
See how that works?
None of that old "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" nonsense. It's all the same thing now - it's "collective". And if we have to pitch a few more hippies/troublemakers/brown peoples into the gaping maw of US security paranoia, well that's just a price we're willing to pay to keep those trucks rolling back and forth over the border.

Most of the TV and print media commentary in favour of this latest episode of Beyond the Border has come from Canada-US Project luminaries Derek Burney, Colin Robertson, and Fen Osler Hampson, whose Blueprint for Canada-US Engagement appears to be the blueprint for Steve and Barry's deal. They say it will be very good for Canada and is in no way a threat to our sovereignty, a defence which would be rather more reassuring had Hampson not made a pitch to the Foreign Affairs committee in 2009 in favour of dropping the national border altogether.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Parliamentary cakewalk

"I'll see your liar, liar, pants-on-fire," the Honorable Minister Peter MacKay told the House of Commons yesterday, "and raise you an easy peasy lemon squeezy."

"Neener, neener," added Steve.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Attawapiskat vs gazebos

Steve very unhappy about Attawapiskat housing crisis and "missing" dough :
"This government has spent some $90 million since coming to office just on Attawapiskat," he told the Commons on Tuesday. "That's over $50,000 for every man, woman and child in the community."
Yeah, Steve, it must be their own fault they're living in tents and sheds without electricity or running water or indoor plumbing. Better punish them for embarrassing you. And how's that school coming along after 10 years? Ah - next year, is it?

But according to Aaron Wherry's breakdown of the figures, the housing budget is only $500 per person per year, which would not even cover upkeep on the existing homes never mind building any new ones in a community where shipping the materials in costs more than the materials themselves.

A lot of racist crap in comments under these articles - in particular repeating rubbish like the G&M's More than 80 on-reserve politicians paid more than PM! - a lie already deftly demolished here

Instead try this excellent article from Patricia Pearson  and a really really must read from âpihtawikosisân.
Donations via the Red Cross here. Attawapiskat page from Another Voice here.

Sunday update : Âpihtawikosisan's entire blogpost reprinted word for word today in the National Post as :
Brett Hodnett: The real math behind Attawapiskat’s $90 million 
with tiny credit to her tacked on at the end.
NaPo commenters busy congratulating NaPo on their excellent journalism.
Hours later ... via Holly Stick :
The National Post has changed its headline and added a note:
"Note: This article was inadvertently credited to Brett Hodnett. Full Comment apologizes for any confusion, which was due to a misunderstanding on our part. As noted, the original article appeared on the site âpihtawikosisân."

then amended once more to include : "The original article, written by Chelsea Vowel,  appeared on the site âpihtawikosisân."
Dec 13 APTN
De Beers decision to dump sewage into Attawapiskat played role in current housing crisis
(h/t Holly Stick ... again!)
Dec 15 Funding by the numbers : Attawapiskat vs Toronto

Monday, November 28, 2011

Everybody loves a SIRCus

In response to media reports that CSIS had been complicit in the detention of Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik in Sudan, outgoing CSIS director Jim Judd requested that CSIS watchdog and review panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, "investigate and report on the performance of the Service’s [CSIS's] duties and functions with respect to the case of Abousofian Abdelrazik at the earliest opportunity". That was in March 2009.

Three months later Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn ruled that CSIS was indeed "complicit in the detention" of Abdelrazik in Sudan. Then in September of this year, newly released CSIS documents revealed the spy agency's attempts to delay Abdelrazik's return to Canada long enough for the CIA to spirit him off to Guantanamo, even as Foreign Affairs diplomats were arranging for his return, making this the biggest known Canadian  intelligence agency scandal since Maher Arar.

So how's that full investigation by SIRC requested by Judd coming along then? 

Dead in the water apparently.

Steve promoted Dr. Arthur Porter, the SIRC committee member charged with leading the Abdelrazik investigation, to chair of the committee in June last year, and then accepted his resignation this month following a NaPo story regarding Dr Porter's offshore cash payment to a former Israeli arms trafficker - now acting as a lobbyist for the Russian Federation - to sell infrastructure deals to Sierra Leone where Porter has mining interests and holds the title of "His Excellency, Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Republic of Sierra Leone".
"I wish to state for the record that I have fulfilled with diligence my mandate," 
wrote Dr. Porter in his letter of resignation to Steve.

... which got me to wondering just what was so gosh-darned important in SIRC's mandate last year that it bumped the Abdelrazik investigation requested by CSIS right off the list.

From the Security Intelligence Review Committee 2010-2011 Annual Report
Checks and Balances : Viewing Security Intelligence Through the Lens of Accountability

The Lens of Accountability interested itself in five SIRC-initiated reviews and three public complaints.
The Reviews :

~ a pitch for "retooloing" SIRC to allow for "independent review" of Canada's other intelligence agencies as well as CSIS

~ "SIRC also followed through on its commitment to pay close attention to CSIS’s expanding foreign investigative activities. Although overseas operations unfold in unique circumstances and present different challenges, CSIS should strive to ensure that the management of its operations abroad mirrors, to the extent practicable, the standards of administration and account­ability that are maintained domestically."

"Today the Service is also reaching out to non-traditional partners, such as the private sector."
"In SIRC’s opinion, an effective strategy would involve identifying those sectors with the greatest potential to be of investigative value to the Service. ... the Service strives to engage and support the private sector’s security needs in other ways. Efforts are also underway to increase the number of security clearances for individuals in the private sector."
~ "an appreciation of the way in which the internet supports CSIS’s activities"
although it notes :
" At issue was the volume of information pertaining to young people being retained by CSIS as part of its operational reporting."
~ A positive review of CSIS’s cooperation "with a “Five Eyes” partner" - which could be either the US, UK, Australia, or NZ.

Note to SIRC : If you have to use evasive terminology like "a Five Eyes partner" in your "positive review" rather than actually name the country you are feeling positive about, it's not really much of a public account, is it?

~ "a positive impression of RCMP–CSIS cooperation"
"The relationship between CSIS and the RCMP, in particular, has moved to the forefront following the passage of the Anti-terrorism Act (2001). As a result of this legislation, CSIS and the RCMP have had to work more closely together"
~ "Canada is experiencing levels of espionage compa­rable to the height of the Cold War."

~ Afghan detainees.
" In particular, SIRC’s review found no indication that in the period during which CSIS conducted detainee interviews, CSIS officers posted to Afghanistan had any first-hand knowledge of the alleged abuse, mistreatment or torture of detainees by Afghan authorities."
however :
"SIRC noted that CSIS did not comprehen­sively document its role in the interviews of Afghan detainees by keeping records that would confirm the numbers and details of all of the detainee interviews"

SIRC also handles citizen complaints against CSIS. This year three were investigated and written up, which included the following complaints :
CSIS failing to identify itself as CSIS, harrassment of family members, suggesting to interviewee that a lawyer was not necessary, delay in providing security assessment for a site access, and allegedly providing an "unjust, unfounded, and unethical" assessment to Citizenship and Immigration Canada regarding  a complainant's application for permanent  resident status.

Aside from providing some gentle advice, like that in its reports to Citizenship and Immigration Canada "the Service not include certain information unless it has been corroborated", SIRC did not find anything unduly alarming in its public report of the three out of 48 new and carried-over complaints.

I'm sure the four out of five health industry experts that comprise SIRC's review panel on CSIS did the best they could with their unwieldy $3-million Lens of Accountability. Unfortunately that lens is looking the other way in the case Abousfian Abdelrazik, the largest CSIS intelligence scandal since Maher Arar.

Update : SIRC reviewed CSIS re Abdelrazik for their 2012-2013 report, covering the period from March 2003 to December 2004. 
It found "no indication that CSIS had requested Sudanese authorities to arrest or detain Abousfian Abdelrazik" , but that "CSIS inappropriately and, in contravention of CSIS policy, disclosed personal and classified information." Further, "in mid-2004 in preparation for Mr. Abdelrazik’s possible release, SIRC found that CSIS assessments to its government partners contained exaggerated and inaccurately conveyed information" and that "CSIS excessively reported, and hence retained in its operational databases, a significant amount of information not related to the threat, originating from individuals who were not targets."

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Tony Gazebo Ministerial Backdrop

Kady blogs the small stink about ministerial backdrops used in committee to block media and public view while providing free advertising for MP's to promote their own particular hobbyhorse.

Above provided free of charge to Tony Gazebo in case he doesn't have one of his own yet ....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

G20 investigation: RCMP spies vs conspiracy group

The JIG is up
An RCMP 'joint intelligence group' - comprised of federal, provincial and municipal police - infiltrated activist groups prior to the G20 and Vancouver Olympics in what they call "one of the largest domestic intelligence operations in Canadian history".

Constable Bindo Showan of the Ontario Provincial Police, one of the two principal undercover Ontario spies, is a stunning example of their intelligence at work.
Earlier this fall, Showan told the court about how he attended a meeting prior to the Toronto summit. There, a protest-planning group that included several of the 17 main G20 defendants was discussing whether to lend their support to a First Nations rally.
Adam Lewis, one of the 17 accused conspirators in the G20 case, interjected, “Kill whitey!”   The group chuckled. Lewis, like all but one of his co-accused, is white.
When a Crown lawyer asked the officer what he thought Lewis meant, Showan said in complete seriousness, to "kill white people." 
Apparently we do not have the right not to be spied and reported on by morons or covert operatives pretending to be morons.

This 2009 RCMP 'joint intelligence group' statement defines their mission :
"The 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville ... will likely be subject to actions taken by criminal extremists motivated by a variety of radical ideologies. These ideologies may include variants of anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, nihilism, socialism and/or communism. These ideologies may also include notions of racial supremacy and white power ... 
"The important commonality is that these ideologies ... place these individuals and/or organizations at odds with the status quo and the current distribution of power in society. 
In addition to these generally held tenets, a variety of grievances exist: These grievances are based upon notions/expectations regarding the environment, animal rights, First nations' resource-based grievances, gender/racial equality, and distribution of wealth etc."
And it is apparently still in operation :
RCMP records suggest that the reconnaissance continues. Report logs indicate at least 29 incidents of police surveillance between the end of the G20 summit and April 2011 — more than nine months after world leaders departed Toronto.
The same document indicates that the RCMP-led intelligence team made a series of presentations to private-sector corporations, including one to "energy sector stakeholders" in November 2011.
Good to know.

After millions of dollars and 70,000 pages of Crown evidence, conspiracy charges have been dropped against the 17 activists held in jail or under house arrest for the last 18 months, but 6 of them will serve jail time for counselling mischief, with an additional charge of counselling to obstruct police leveraged against Alex Hundert and Mandy Hiscocks

Toronto Star : Behind the G20 plea deal 

A Message from the So-Called "G-20 Main Conspiracy Group" below. 
Their written statement regarding the charges can be read here

Monday, November 21, 2011

Canada on Iran: Hate the banks; love the banksters

Canada, the US and the UK announced sanctions against Iran today :
"in an effort to pressure Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program. The British announced the first measures, declaring they would cut off all financial ties with Iranian banks to stem the flow of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs."
Although Haaretz reported this wee additional morsel about slightly more selective US sanctions :
"One U.S. official told ABC that Iran’s Central Bank and oil and gas sector would not be targeted in this new round of sanctions out of fear that these measures would lead to increased oil prices, and damage to the U.S economy."
also borne out in the NYTimes

Meanwhile, back in Canada, Iranian banksters connected to Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been quietly salting it away and settling down in their million-dollar mansions in Toronto and Montreal (italics mine):
A recent example is the former head of Iran's Melli and Sepah Banks, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, who acquired Canadian citizenship under questionable circumstances and then fled this October to his multi-million-dollar Toronto mansion following a $2.6 billion embezzlement scandal in Iran. 
Khavari has ties to Ahmadinejad, currently engaged in a bitter power struggle against the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The banks he led are blacklisted by the UN Security Council and the U.S. government for supporting Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear and ballistic missile technology. The banks are also closely linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
More.  More.  More.  More

Well the important thing here is to beggar Iran for the benefit of Israel, nukes or no nukes, right?

"Remember," said former Chief of the Strategic Planning Division of the Israeli Defense Forces Shlomo Brom  in October 2004 referring to 25 years of almost constant "Iran nearly has the bomb!"alarums :
"the Iranians are always five to seven years from the bomb. Time passes but they’re always five to seven years from the bomb."
For an exhaustive list of fear-mongering about Iran's imminent nukes beginning in 1984, see Wide Asleep in America : The Phantom Menace (h/t Pogge)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Trying to stop OWS with pepper spray : FAIL

As appalling as the first few seconds of this video are - UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike casually walking along a line of seated students and pepper-spraying them point blank in the face - it's worth watching to the end to see how brilliantly the students handle it.

Human microphone :
"Mike check ...  mike check .... We are willing ... to give you a brief moment ... of peace ... so that you may take your weapons ... and our friends ... and go. ... Please do not return ... We are giving you a moment of peace ... We are giving you a moment of peace ... You can go ... and we will not follow you ... You can go you can go you can go you can go you can go you can go ....."
And after a brief show of waving their paintguns about and shaking up their pepper spray cans ... the police retreat. Score one for #Occupy.

Later, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza explained the pepper-spraying of the row of seated students was necessary because the police were afraid for their own personal safety :
"There was no way out of that circle," Spicuzza said. "They were cutting officers off from their support. It's a very volatile situation."
Sure it was :

Another angle showing the open expanse of lawn behind Lt. John Pike that so alarmed the "encircled" police    officers.

Up here in BC, that's known locally as the 'stapler defence'. 

Monday Update : Police Chief Spicuzza, Lt. Pike and one other pepperspraying police officer placed on administrative leave. 
Statements from the university chancellor and this from the president of the University of the California system : 
"The time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest."

More : Dr. Dawg .  Let Freedom Rain


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Steve makes an eminent domain funny

Actual Harper quote : "I remain optimistic that the project will eventually go ahead because it makes eminent sense."

I'm surprised that TransCanada's forays into eminent domain -  a corporations' state-sanctioned right to expropriate private property for the public good - and you're not fooling us with that jobs, jobs, jobs crap, btw - has not made more of a splash with the property rights crowd up here. It certainly was the key to opposition to the pipeline south of the border.

A Canadian company (sic) has been threatening to confiscate private land from South Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico, and is already suing many who have refused to allow the Keystone XL pipeline on their property even though the controversial project has yet to receive federal approval.
 While it is impossible to say how many cases are working their way through the legal system, in addition to the 56 Texas and South Dakota cases, TransCanada acknowledges it has sent “Dear Owner” letters to dozens of families in Nebraska.
Here is one such letter, sent back in April to Nebraska landowner Randy Thompson from the TransCanada office in Houston, Texas. 

A Nebraska lawmaker [State Sen. Bill Avery] is proposing criminal penalties for pipeline officials who pressure landowners with eminent domain before a pipeline gets the official green light.
Eminent domain refers to the power of governments to take private property for a public use with appropriate compensation. The power is granted to some private companies, such as utilities and railroads.
Current state law sets no limits on pipeline companies' use of eminent domain, said Norfolk attorney David Domina. That allowed TransCanada to send out two rounds of letters pressuring landowners to sign easements allowing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline across their land.
The letters said that if landowners did not sign within 30 days, the company would use eminent domain to get the right to cross their land.
On Monday, after being hit with a 2 year delay from the US State Dept, TransCanada announced it has reached an agreement with the Nebraska government to change the route of its proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline by 50 km in order to avoid the ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and the most vulnerable part of the Ogallala aquifer, taking one whole day to walk back from its previous claim that any change to the route would be an automatic deal-killer. 

Presumably the TransCanada Houston office has now recommenced cranking out eminent domain letters.

You don't hear much about the use of Canada's Expropriation Act. Last time I wrote about it was when the government of Saskatchewan expropriated a farmer's land last year for Loblaws.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Alykhan Velshi comes home to roost

Ever since Patrick Muttart left the PMO war room under a cloud back in April for sending a photo of an Iggy look-alike posing in full combat gear in Kuwait to SunNews during a Canadian election while working for a US PR firm, Steve has been struggling along without a proper planning director.

Beginning next month, fresh from his fabulously successful stint promoting the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline as the "no-brainer" ethical oil alternative to 'conflict oil', Ethical Oilster Alykhan Velshi will be in charge of planning new things for Steve. From an intern at the American Enterprise Institute to Steve's ear. Oy!

Will Mr. Velshi be continuing his crusade to save the US from importing oil from what he describes as the "blood-soaked, conflict oil-fueled foreign dictatorship"  of Saudi Arabia.?  

According to the StatsCan Energy Statistics Handbook, Second Quarter, 2011, page 53 and 54Canada imported 45,125.7 thousands of cubic meters of crude petroleum last year at a cost of $23,855- million, and 3,986.5 thousand cubic meters of it was from the " blood-soaked, conflict oil-fueled foreign dictatorship" of  Saudi Arabia, our fifth highest oil import country of origin after Algeria, the UK, Nigeria, and Norway.

More likely Mr Velshi's new job will involve selling us on the idea of shipping ethical oil across BC to China.  
Good luck with that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keystone XL vs owning the tarsands

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins calls it "catastrophic", FinMin Flaherty said "the delay may kill the project" so Canada will look into sending our oil to China via BC instead, and TransCanada Corp is "deeply disappointed". So goes the official reaction to the US State Dept decision to delay Keystone XL for further examination.

But the vast majority of comments from the public under these news stories boil down to this :
Why doesn't Canada do its own tarsands refining?
Why isn't Canada building its own refineries and keeping the jobs here rather than just shipping the raw material abroad?

The response from purported industry insiders under these comments runs as follows :
that no investors are willing to undertake building tarsands refineries because it would be very very expensive; not enough profit margin; that there would be considerable Canadian nimby, environmental, and FN opposition to building them leading to a protracted approval process of uncertain outcome; that Canada does not have the expertise to build them; that Canadian labour costs are too high.

I guess it's too obvious to include that multicorps and foreign companies operating in the tarsands likely want to optimize corporate control and profits by owning both ends of the supply line. 

 “We can route a pipeline through the Andes, over the Rocky Mountains, through the Everglades, through the Sand Hills”
 apparently we can't route one to eastern Canada.

Foreign ownership :

StatsCan : Total assets, operating revenues and operating profits under foreign control
Oil and gas extraction and support activities - 2009 
  • Assets - 35.9% under foreign control
  • Operating revenues - 51.1% under foreign control 
  • Operating profits : 41.3% under foreign control
"American-controlled enterprises continued to dominate the shares of assets, revenues and profits under foreign-control. These enterprises increased their share of both revenues and profits to 59.1% and 58.3% respectively." 
"In the oil and gas extraction industry, foreign-controlled enterprises increased their share of revenues to 51.1%. This occurred as revenues declined nearly twice as fast in 2009 for domestic enterprises as they did for foreign enterprises."
Looking through the producing members of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, I notice nearly 20% of them list their head offices outside Canada, mostly in Texas. 20% doesn't sound like much but many of them are the bigs, including Koch, ExxonMobil, Shell. 
Meanwhile China's investment in the tarsands is up to what - $13-billion now? 
Leo De Bever is head of Alberta’s $70-billion pool of public sector funds, including pension funds, endowments, and the $15-billion Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
"My simple point is that you lose ownership, you lose control. Those who control the resource always have the incentive to dig it up as soon as possible,” Mr. De Bever said. 
Mr. De Bever said it would make more sense for Canada to accelerate the development of technologies to produce the oil sands, improving environmental impacts and efficiency, rather than accelerate extraction.
“That is where that tradeoff of digging up now versus digging up later comes in,” he said. “If you know that in a few years you can make it drastically more efficient, it makes the resource more valuable.”
“If you want a strong Canadian economy, to some degree large Canadian institutions have got to take it upon themselves to be not just passive investors,” said Mr. De Bever. “Doing the right thing is not part of my mandate. Doing the profitable thing is. But if  I can do the right thing and the profitable thing, I would do so.”
Sounds like a "no-brainer", doesn't it, Steve?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Outsource This! Boeing and Lockheed Martin war bling 'full of fake Chinese parts'

Telegraph : Thousands of U.S. warplanes, ships and missiles contain fake electronic components from China, leaving them open to malfunction, according to a US Senate committee.
In total, the committee said it had found more than a million fake parts had made their way into warplanes such as the Boeing C-17 transport jet and the Lockheed Martin C-130J "Super Hercules".
... each of which Canada has recently signed on to buy more of : a $1.4-billion contract for 17 Lockheed Martin C-130J-30s, and a $869-million for four Boeing C-17s.

No worries though - the Senate Armed Services Committee 'discovered' exactly this same Chinese fake parts racket back in 2005, and again in 2008, and everyone on the committee had a cow both of those times as well but nothing came of it. 
"As electronics manufacturing migrated to China, the US has been less and less able to control the quality of its military hardware. Some of the fake chips are bought by the Pentagon on the open market .... These chips are often salvaged by Chinese scrap merchants from the dumps of electronic waste that have accumulated in the south of the country "
... where they are burned off old computer circuit boards, sanded down, repainted, and voilà - the new F-35 chop shop war bling!

" 'Ello, I wish register a complaint about this plane which I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique."
" Ah yes, the F-35. Remarkable plane, the F-35, beautiful fuselage. What's wrong with it?"
"Well if you scrape away the loose paint just here, you'll see that underneath it says "Hello Kitty".

It's your own fault, said 'a former Peoples' Liberation Army officer who has become a commentator in the Chinese media' : 
"The US has been dismantling its factories since the 1960s," he said. 

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