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Washington’s Blog | Liberal Politicians Launched the Idea of “Free Trade Agreements” In the 1960s to Strip Nations of Sovereignty and Hand Power Over to Global Corporations

Washington’s Blog |

Liberal Politicians Launched the Idea of “Free Trade Agreements” In the 1960s to Strip Nations of Sovereignty and Hand Power Over to Global Corporations

 

It’s Not Only Conservative Politicians Backing Giant Multinational Corporations Over National Sovereignty

Preface: Liberals might assume that it is Republicans who are cheerleaders for global corporations at the expense of government.  But, as shown below, liberal politicians have been just as bad … or worse.

Matt Stoller – who writes for Salon and has contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters – knows his way around Washington.

Stoller – a prominent liberal – has scoured the Congressional Record to unearth hidden historical facts.  For example, Stoller has previously shown that the U.S. government push for a “New World Order” is no wacky conspiracy theory, but extensively documented in the Congressional Record.

Now, Stoller uses the Congressional Record to show that “free trade” pacts were always aboutweakening nation-states to promote rule by multinationals:

Political officials (liberal ones, actually) engaged in an actual campaign to get rid of countries with their pesky parochial interests, and have the whole world managed by global corporations. Yup, this actually was explicit in the 1960s, as opposed to today’s passive aggressive arguments which amount to the same thing.

***

Liberal internationalists, including people like Chase CEO David Rockefeller and former Undersecretary of State and an architect of 1960s American trade policies George Ball, began pressing for reductions in non-tariff barriers, which they perceived as the next set of trade impediments to pull down. But the idea behind getting rid of these barriers wasn’t about free trade, it was about reorganizing the world so that corporations could manage resources for “the benefit of mankind”. It was a weird utopian vision that you can hear today in the current United States Trade Representative Michael Froman’s speeches. I’ve spoken with Froman about this history, and Froman himself does not seem to know much about it. But he is captive of these ideas, nonetheless, as is much of the elite class. They do not know the original ideology behind what is now just bureaucratic true believer-ism, they just know that free trade is good and right and true.

But back to the 1967 hearing. In the opening statement, before a legion of impressive Senators and Congressmen, Ball attacks the very notion of sovereignty. He goes after the idea that “business decisions” could be “frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations,” and lauds the multinational corporation as the most perfect structure devised for the benefit of mankind. He also foreshadows our modern world by suggesting that commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies should just be and will inevitably be handled by supranational organizations. [Background.]

Here’s just some of that statement. It really is worth reading, I’ve bolded the surprising parts.

“For the widespread development of the multinational corporation is one of our major accomplishments in the years since the war, though its meaning and importance have not been generally understood. For the first time in history man has at his command an instrument that enables him to employ resource flexibility to meet the needs of peopels all over the world. Today a corporate management in Detroit or New York or London or Dusseldorf may decide that it can best serve the market of country Z by combining the resources of country X with labor and plan facilities in country Y – and it may alter that decision 6 months from now if changes occur in costs or price or transport. It is the ability to look out over the world and freely survey all possible sources of production… that is enabling man to employ the world’s finite stock of resources with a new degree of efficiency for the benefit of all mandkind.

But to fulfill its full potential the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries – or, in other words, for restrictions imposed by individual national governments.

To achieve such a free trading environment we must do far more than merely reduce or eliminate tariffs. We must move in the direction of common fiscal concepts, a common monetary policy, and common ideas of commercial responsibility. Already the economically advanced nations have made some progress in all of these areas through such agencies as the OECD and the committees it has sponsored, the Group of Ten, and the IMF, but we still have a long way to go. In my view, we could steer a faster and more direct course… by agreeing that what we seek at the end of the voyage is the full realization of the benefits of a world economy.

Implied in this, of course, is a considerable erosion of the rigid concepts of national sovereignty, but that erosion is taking place every day as national economies grow increasingly interdependent, and I think it desirable that this process be consciously continued. What I am recommending is nothing so unreal and idealistic as a world government, since I have spent too many years in the guerrilla warfare of practical diplomacy to be bemused by utopian visions. But it seems beyond question that modern business – sustained and reinforced by modern technology – has outgrown the constrictive limits of the antiquated political structures in which most of the world is organized, and that itself is a political fact which cannot be ignored. For the explosion of business beyond national borders will tend to create needs and pressures that can help alter political structures to fit the requirements of modern man far more adequately than the present crazy quilt of small national states. And meanwhile, commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies – and even the domiciliary supervision of earth-straddling corporations – will have to be increasingly entrusted to supranational institutions….

We will never be able to put the world’s resources to use with full efficiency so long as business decisions are frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations, reflect no common philosophy, and are keyed to no common goal.” ***

These [“free trade”] agreements are not and never have been about trade. You simply cannot disentangle colonialism, the American effort to create the European Union, and American trade efforts. After their opening statements, Ball and Rockefeller go on on to talk about how European states need to be wedged into a common monetary union with our trade efforts and that Latin America needs to be managed into prosperity by the US and Africa by Europe. Through such efforts, they thought that the US could put together a global economy over the next thirty years. Thirty years later was 1997, which was exactly when NAFTA was being implemented and China was nearing its entry into the WTO. Impeccable predictions, gents.

***

I guess it turns out that the conspiracy theorists who believe in UN-controlled black helicopters aren’t as wrong as you might think about trade policy, and not just because United Technologies, which actually makes black helicopters, has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

***

These agreements are about getting rid of national sovereignty, and the people who first pressed for NAFTA were explicit about it. They really did want a global government for corporations.

***

Ball in particular expressed his idea of a government by the corporations, for the corporations, in order to benefit all mankind. Keep that in mind when you think you’re being paranoid.

The full hearing can be downloaded here, though it is a big file.

The bottom line is not that liberals – or conservatives – are evil.

It’s that neither the Democratic or Republican parties reflect the true values of the American people (and see this).

Indeed, a scripted psuedo-war between the parties is often used by the powers-that-be as a way to divide and conquer the American people, so that we are too distracted to stand up to reclaim our power from the idiots in both parties who are only governing for their own profit … and a small handful of their buddies. See thisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthis and this.

Why Banks Are Doomed: Technology and Risk

It’s not just that banks are no longer needed–they pose a needless and potentially catastrophic risk to the nation. To understand why, we need to understand the key characteristics of risk.

The entire banking sector is based on two illusions:

1. Thanks to modern portfolio management, bank debt is now riskless.

2. Technology only enhances banks’ tools to skim profits; it does not undermine the fundamental role of banks.

The global financial meltdown of 2008-09 definitively proved riskless bank debt is an illusion. If you want to understand why risk cannot eliminated, please read Benoit Mandelbrot’s book The (Mis)Behavior of Markets.

Technology does not just enable high-frequency trading; it enables capital and borrowers to bypass banks entirely. I addressed this yesterday in Banks Are Obsolete: The Entire Parasitic Sector Can Be Eliminated.

Unfortunately for banks, higher education, buggy whip manufacturers, etc., monopoly and propaganda are no match for technology. Just because a system worked in the past in a specific set of technological constraints does not mean it continues to be a practical solution when those technological constraints dissolve.

Continue reading →

Banks Are Obsolete: The Entire Parasitic Sector Can Be Eliminated

What else can we do with the $1.25 trillion we’ll save by eliminating these obsolete financial middleman parasites? A lot.

Technology has leapfrogged the banking sector, rendering it as obsolete as buggy whips. So why are we devoting 9% of our economy to an obsolete parasite?Financial sector profits now total a staggering 4.5% of GDP (gross domestic product), while the expenses generated by financial churning account for another 4.5% of the economy.

Continue reading →

Operation Nazification

Annie Jacobsen’s new book is called Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America.  It isn’t terribly secret anymore, of course, and it was never very intelligent.  Jacobsen has added some details, and the U.S. government is still hiding many more.  But the basic facts have been available; they’re just left out of most U.S. history books, movies, and television programs.

After World War II, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler’s closest collaborators, including men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes, men acquitted of war crimes, and men who never stood trial.  Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials.  Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution.  Some trial transcripts were classified in their entirety to avoid exposing the pasts of important U.S. scientists. Some of the Nazis brought over were frauds who had passed themselves off as scientists, some of whom subsequently learned their fields while working for the U.S. military.

The U.S. occupiers of Germany after World War II declared that all military research in Germany was to cease, as part of the process of denazification.  Yet that research went on and expanded in secret, under U.S. authority, both in Germany and in the United States, as part of a process that it’s possible to view as nazification.  Not only scientists were hired. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on — and torture — Soviets.

The U.S. military shifted in numerous ways when former Nazis were put into prominent positions. It was Nazi rocket scientists who proposed placing nuclear bombs on rockets and began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile.  It was Nazi engineers who had designed Hitler’s bunker beneath Berlin, who now designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains.  Known Nazi liars were employed by the U.S. military to draft classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace. Nazi scientists developed U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, bringing over their knowledge of tabun and sarin, not to mention thalidomide — and their eagerness for human experimentation, which the U.S. military and the newly created CIA readily engaged in on a major scale.  Every bizarre and gruesome notion of how a person might be assassinated or an army immobilized was of interest to their research. New weapons were developed, including VX and Agent Orange.  A new drive to visit and weaponize outerspace was created, and former Nazis were put in charge of a new agency called NASA.

Permanent war thinking, limitless war thinking, and creative war thinking in which science and technology overshadowed death and suffering, all went mainstream.  When a former Nazi spoke to a women’s luncheon at the Rochester Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1953, the event’s headline was “Buzz Bomb Mastermind to Address Jaycees Today.”  That doesn’t sound terribly odd to us, but might have shocked anyone living in the United States anytime prior to World War II.  Watch this Walt Disney television program featuring a former Nazi who worked slaves to death in a cave building rockets.  Before long, President Dwight Eisenhower would be lamenting that “the total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.” Eisenhower was not referring to Nazism but to the power of the military-industrial complex.  Yet, when asked whom he had in mind in remarking in the same speech that “public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite,” Eisenhower named two scientists, one of them the former Nazi in the Disney video linked above.

The decision to inject 1,600 of Hitler’s scientific-technological elite into the U.S. military was driven by fears of the USSR, both reasonable and the result of fraudulent fear mongering.  The decision evolved over time and was the product of many misguided minds. But the buck stopped with President Harry S Truman.  Henry Wallace, Truman’s predecessor as vice-president who we like to imagine would have guided the world in a better direction than Truman did as president, actually pushed Truman to hire the Nazis as a jobs program.  It would be good for American industry, said our progressive hero.  Truman’s subordinates debated, but Truman decided.  As bits of Operation Paperclip became known, the American Federation of Scientists, Albert Einstein, and others urged Truman to end it. Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe and his colleague Henri Sack asked Truman:

“Did the fact that the Germans might save the nation millions of dollars imply that permanent residence and citizenship could be bought? Could the United States count on [the German scientists] to work for peace when their indoctrinated hatred against the Russians might contribute to increase the divergence between the great powers? Had the war been fought to allow Nazi ideology to creep into our educational and scientific institutions by the back door? Do we want science at any price?”

In 1947 Operation Paperclip, still rather small, was in danger of being terminated. Instead, Truman transformed the U.S. military with the National Security Act, and created the best ally that Operation Paperclip could want: the CIA. Now the program took off, intentionally and willfully, with the full knowledge and understanding of the same U.S. President who had declared as a senator that if the Russians were winning the U.S. should help the Germans, and vice versa, to ensure that the most people possible died, the same president who viciously and pointlessly dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, the same president who brought us the war on Korea, the war without declaration, the secret wars, the permanent expanded empire of bases, the military secrecy in all matters, the imperial presidency, and the military-industrial complex.  The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service took up the study of German chemical weapons at the end of the war as a means to continue in existence.  George Merck both diagnosed biological weapons threats for the military and sold the military vaccines to handle them.  War was business and business was going to be good for a long time to come.

But how big a change did the United States go through after World War II, and how much of it can be credited to Operation Paperclip?  Isn’t a government that would give immunity to both Nazi and Japanese war criminals in order to learn their criminal ways already in a bad place?  As one of the defendants argued in trial at Nuremberg, the U.S. had already engaged in its own experiments on humans using almost identical justifications to those offered by the Nazis.  If that defendant had been aware, he could have pointed out that the U.S. was in that very moment engaged in such experiments in Guatemala.  The Nazis had learned some of their eugenics and other nasty inclinations from Americans.  Some of the Paperclip scientists had worked in the U.S. before the war, as many Americans had worked in Germany.  These were not isolated worlds.

Looking beyond the secondary, scandalous, and sadistic crimes of war, what about the crime of war itself?  We picture the United States as less guilty because it maneuvered the Japanese into the first attack, and because it did prosecute some of the war’s losers.  But an impartial trial would have prosecuted Americans too.  Bombs dropped on civilians killed and injured and destroyed more than any concentration camps — camps that in Germany had been modeled in part after U.S. camps for native Americans.  Is it possible that Nazi scientists blended into the U.S. military so well because an institution that had already done what it had done to the Philippines was not in all that much need of nazification?

Yet, somehow, we think of the firebombing of Japanese cities and the complete leveling of German cities as less offensive that the hiring of Nazi scientists.  But what is it that offends us about Nazi scientists?  I don’t think it should be that they engaged in mass-murder for the wrong side, an error balanced out in some minds but their later work for mass-murder by the right side.  And I don’t think it should be entirely that they engaged in sick human experimentation and forced labor.  I do think those actions should offend us.  But so should the construction of rockets that take thousands of lives.  And it should offend us whomever it’s done for.

It’s curious to imagine a civilized society somewhere on earth some years from now. Would an immigrant with a past in the U.S. military be able to find a job? Would a review be needed? Had they tortured prisoners? Had they drone-struck children? Had they leveled houses or shot up civilians in any number of countries? Had they used cluster bombs? Depleted uranium? White phosphorous? Had they ever worked in the U.S. prison system? Immigrant detention system? Death row? How thorough a review would be needed? Would there be some level of just-following-orders behavior that would be deemed acceptable? Would it matter, not just what the person had done, but how they thought about the world?

Obama Administration Preps ‘Weaponized’ IRS For Deployment Against Conservatives In 2014 : Personal Liberty™

Obama Administration Preps ‘Weaponized’ IRS For Deployment Against Conservatives In 2014 : Personal Liberty™.

Last week, reports began circulating that President Barack Obama was readying a new series of regulatory recommendations that, if approved, would essentially equip the Internal Revenue Service with sufficient power to choke conservative grass-roots organizations out of effectiveness in time for the 2014 midterm elections.

The new rules, of course, would apply equally to nonprofits of all ideological persuasions — in theory. But thanks to the specific areas of operation the Obama Administration seeks to empower the IRS to scrutinize, it’s clear they were tailor-made to hobble conservatives. On top of that, the Obama Administration has set a precedent for picking and choosing which fish it wants to shoot out of the partisan barrel.

There’s no better phrasing to explain that well-established fact than that delivered by Tea Party Patriots member Ernest Istook, whose column in The Washington Times last week condemned Obama even as it lamented how little is likely to change:

The power to tax is the power to destroy. Its new powers will let the IRS destroy certain groups, especially those connected to the Tea Party, by imposing a tax on their work and messages during campaign seasons.

[T]he Obama Administration is notorious for selective enforcement, meaning it could choose to give a pass to friendly groups while it puts conservatives out of business. They could use this in efforts to shut down groups like the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association, while ignoring People for the American Way, American Civil Liberties Union, USAction and the Democratic Leadership Council.

The new rules would institute a litany of new no-nos to cover both 501(c)(4) nonprofits and, if the Administration wishes to strictly enforce the rules, 501(c)(3)s as well.

But how do the new changes manage to target conservatives if, technically, they apply generally to nonprofits of every stripe? Because the proposal specifically exempts the left’s grass-roots bread and butter: labor unions and trade groups.

Here’s a sampling of what conservative groups — now a year removed from the same IRS scandal that was supposed to put a stop to further discrimination — will face in 2014 (H/T:Matt Barber for WND):

In an explosive [2013] scandal that continues to grow, the Obama IRS was caught — smoking gun in hand — intentionally targeting conservative and Christian organizations and individuals for harassment, intimidation and, ultimately, for political destruction.

…Not only has Obama faced zero accountability for these arguably impeachable offenses, he has since doubled down. With jaw-dropping gall, his administration has now moved to officially weaponize the IRS against conservatives once and for all.

…Specifically, here’s what the proposed regulations would do to conservative groups and their leaders:

  • Prohibit using words like “oppose,” “vote,” “support,” “defeat,” and “reject.”
  • Prohibit mentioning, on its website or on any communication (email, letter, etc.) that would reach 500 people or more, the name of a candidate for office, 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election.
  • Prohibit mentioning the name of a political party, 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election, if that party has a candidate running for office.
  • Prohibit voter registration drives or conducting a non-partisan “get-out-the-vote drive.”
  • Prohibit creating or distributing voter guides outlining how incumbents voted on particular bills.
  • Prohibit hosting candidates for office at any event, including debates and charitable fundraisers, 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before the general election, if the candidate is part of the event’s program.
  • Restrict employees of such organizations from volunteering for campaigns.
  • Prohibit distributing any materials prepared on behalf a candidate for office.
  • Restrict the ability of officers and leaders of such organizations to publicly speak about incumbents, legislation, and/or voting records.
  • Restrict the ability of officers and leaders of such organizations to make public statements regarding the nomination of judges.
  • Create a 90-day blackout period, on an election year, that restricts the speech of 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • Declare political activity as contrary to the promotion of social welfare.
  • Protect labor unions and trade associations by exempting them from the proposed regulations.

These regulations are timed to coincide with the onset of election season. And a new set of discriminatory rules isn’t the only enforcement tactic the IRS is ready to deploy. The New York Times reported Wednesday on Friends of Abe, a conservative group composed of mostly anonymous Hollywood types, that’s found itself in the agency’s crosshairs after applying for tax-exempt status under the existing guidelines:

Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the organization’s confidentiality strictures, and to avoid complicating discussions with the I.R.S.

…Friends of Abe — the name refers to Abraham Lincoln — has strongly discouraged the naming of its members. That policy even prohibits the use of cameras at group events, to avoid the unwilling identification of all but a few associates — the actors Gary Sinise, Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer, or the writer-producer Lionel Chetwynd, for instance — who have spoken openly about their conservative political views.

Tellingly, the IRS has been after the group for two years. Even in the wake of last year’s scandal (which a very friendly Department of Justice is supposedly investigating), the IRS remains emboldened in targeting conservatives under the very rules it has admitted it selectively applied.

Remember that bit earlier about the Obama Administration picking and choosing whether to target 501(c)(3)s based on the political benefits? That’s exactly what’s happening with Friends of Abe.

“[U]nlike most of [last year’s targeted] groups, which had sought I.R.S. approval for a mix of election campaigning and nonpartisan issue advocacy, Friends of Abe is seeking a far more restrictive tax status, known as 501(c)(3), that would let donors claim a tax deduction, but strictly prohibits any form of partisan activity,” The Times reported.

So the Tea Party’s concern isn’t merely academic.

You can file a public comment on the proposals until Feb. 27, and you can sign a petitionsponsored by Liberty Counsel Action (another targeted conservative group) imploring the Senate Committee on Finance: Taxation and IRS Oversight “to ensure all 501(c)(4) organizations formed to promote conservative values will be treated fairly by the IRS.”

Canada Job Grant ads cost $2.5M for non-existent program – Politics – CBC News

Canada Job Grant ads cost $2.5M for non-existent program – Politics – CBC News.

Jobs plan or ad campaign?

Jobs plan or ad campaign? 4:13

Canada Job Grant ad

Canada Job Grant ad 0:34

The federal government blanketed the internet with ads and bought pricey TV spots during playoff hockey as part a $2.5-million publicity blitz to promote a skills training program that doesn’t yet exist, CBC News has learned.

 

TV commercials for the Canada Job Grant often ran twice per game last May during the widely watched Hockey Night in Canada NHL playoff broadcasts on CBC. There were ads on radio, as well.

 

“The Canada Job Grant will result in one important thing – a new or better job,” said the reassuring voice-over in the TV ads.

 

The problem: The program was never launched and is still on hold. The job grants were announced in the 2013 federal budget, but it called for an agreement with the provinces, which have so far refused to buy in.

 

Employment and Social Development Canada spent between $2.5 million and $2.6 million on the ad campaign. That figure excludes radio ads funded by the Finance Department.

“Spending millions of dollars to advertise a program that doesn’t even exist is like flushing tax dollars down the toilet,” Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said.

 

$11-million publicity push

 

CBC News has also learned that that advertising cash came from an $11-million fund set aside last year for Employment and Social Development Canada to promote the government as a job creator.

Before the Canada Job Grant TV ad went to air, the government paidEnvironics Research Group almost $70,000 to conduct market research. Focus groups saw a near-final version of the commercial.

 

Environics concluded: “The main message was consistently seen as positive and one that inspired hope…. In light of seeing the new ad for the Canada Job Grant, most now believe the Government of Canada is on the right track regarding skills training and the job market in Canada.”

“Their own research suggests that people get a positive impression of the ads,” Queens University political science professor, Jonathan Rose said. “Whether that means they convey accurate information is another story.”

 

A government commissioned survey done post-campaign showed only two per cent of the 292 people polled who saw or heard the ad also caught the disclaimer that the program didn’t yet exist. It also found only 18 per cent of viewers understood tax dollars paid for the advertising.

 

Ads ruled misleading

 

After receiving numerous viewer complaints, Advertising Standards Canada, the advertising industry’s self-regulating body, ruled the TV commercial was misleading because the job grant program hadn’t been approved.

 

“The commercial omitted relevant information,” ASC concluded in a report. The report didn’t name the government because the ad campaign was already over.

Economic Action Plan adsThe federal government has spent millions on advertisements about its economic programs. (Government of Canada)

 

The proposed job grants would give workers $15,000 each for training, with the provinces kicking in one-third of the cost. But provinces have yet to sign on, complaining the proposed program claws back $300 million in federal funds now used to help disadvantaged workers.

 

“We do not believe, the way the program is designed, that it will work,” Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne said at a premiers meeting last July.

 

Quebec threatened to opt out. There’s no word yet on when an agreement might be reached.

Asked to comment on the ad campaign, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said, “The government of Canada’s top priorities are creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.”

 

Harper blasted Liberals over ads

 

In his first question as opposition leader, in 2002, Stephen Harper took the then Liberal government to task over their advertising spending and the emerging sponsorship scandal.

 

“Will the prime minister stop the waste and abuse right now and order a freeze of all discretionary government advertising?” he asked in the House of Commons on May 21, 2002.

 

During its peak, the Liberal government spent $111 million on advertising, in 2002-2003. Harper’s current Conservatives doled out $136.3 million in 2009-2010, their biggest advertising budget yet on record.

If you have more information about this story or any other tips, please email investigations@cbc.ca.

 

SIRC chair’s pipeline lobbying seen as symptom of larger problem – Politics – CBC News

SIRC chair’s pipeline lobbying seen as symptom of larger problem – Politics – CBC News.

Former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl was appointed last year to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees Canada's spy agency, CSIS. Word that Strahl has been hired as a lobbyist for pipeline company Enbridge has raised concerns among environmentalists and others.Former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl was appointed last year to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees Canada’s spy agency, CSIS. Word that Strahl has been hired as a lobbyist for pipeline company Enbridge has raised concerns among environmentalists and others. (Canadian Press)

A former head of the committee that oversees Canada’s spies has a warning for the current chair: It’s generally not a good idea for someone in their position to act as a lobbyist.

Paule Gauthier was commenting on questions surrounding former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, currently the head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Strahl has come under fire after it was revealed he is also a registered lobbyist for Enbridge, the company pushing to build the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to B.C.

SIRC’s job is to monitor the activities of CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which has been known to keep tabs on environmentalists and native groups opposed to pipelines. Forest Ethics, a group opposed to Northern Gateway, issued a statement this week calling on Strahl to step down as SIRC chair.

Gauthier, who served as chair of SIRC from 1996 to 2005, doesn’t see a conflict of interest in Strahl working as a lobbyist, but acknowledges it could create the perception of one.

“I think it would be much better to refrain from these activities,” she said in an interview from her law office in Quebec City.

Gauthier says if Strahl has followed the rules and is satisfied he’s not in conflict, there shouldn’t be a problem. But she can see how a SIRC chair doing lobbying work could raise eyebrows.

“It’s putting himself or herself in maybe a difficult situation that you cannot expect when you accept the mandate as a lobbyist,” she said.

Strahl has been quoted as saying he has checked with the federal ethics commissioner to make sure his work is above board. He told one interviewer if SIRC were asked to look at any files involving pipelines, he wouldn’t touch them.

Part-time job

The position of SIRC chair is a part-time job paid on a per diem basis — about $600 a day plus travel expenses. Another former chair says that’s part of the problem.

Ronald Atkey was appointed the first-ever SIRC chair when the committee was established in 1984. He now teaches at the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario.

Atkey has long argued the position of chair should be a full-time job with a full-time salary so anyone serving would not have to look for outside work.

“I think the two organizations that Canadians should worry the most about are CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) and CSIS,” he said by phone from London, Ont.

“They’re fine organizations with fine people doing important work. But they’re asked to go close to the line in complying with the law. I think, therefore, to give public comfort that these groups are monitored properly after the fact, I think a full-time watchdog may be in order.”

Wesley Wark sees merit in that idea. He’s a security expert and visiting professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. A part-time chair, he says, is “one of a number of problems that makes the Security Intelligence Review Committee less robust than it could be.”

“I think the position should be full-time and we should also define the job properly,” Wark said.

“You do want someone with considerable stature, considerable power, considerable experience. And somebody really to be a critic when criticism is needed.”

Office cut in 2012

Wark says there was more of that critical oversight when CSIS had its own inspector general.

The Conservative government abolished that office in 2012, arguing it would save money and end duplication by allowing SIRC to take over all monitoring of CSIS. The outgoing director of the inspector general’s office, Eve Plunkett, warned at the time the closure would be a “huge loss.”

Wark believes the government regarded the office and its often critical reviews of CSIS as “an annoyance.” As for Chuck Strahl, Wark says he’s less concerned about the former cabinet minister’s lobbying work than he is with SIRC’s overall ability to act as an effective watchdog.

“I just think, given the ways in which the intelligence world in Canada has been transformed and the problems that it presents and the skepticism that I think now surrounds the notion that anybody is really keeping a watch on intelligence agencies to make sure they don’t break the law or abuse their powers, I think something does need to be done,” he said.

“And that’s the real story. It’s not whether Mr. Strahl is a lobbyist. It’s what do we need to do to fix SIRC.”

George Osborne warns of more cuts and austerity in ‘year of hard truths’ | Politics | theguardian.com

George Osborne warns of more cuts and austerity in ‘year of hard truths’ | Politics | theguardian.com.

George Osborne is making a speech today saying more cuts worth £2bn are needed.

George Osborne warns of more cuts to the welfare budget. Photograph: Reuters

George Osborne has warned of another £25bn of cuts after the next election, targeting housing benefit for the better-off and under-25s.

In a grim message to start the new year, the chancellor said Britain was facing a year of hard truths in 2014 as there were more cuts to make and the economy still had big underlying problems. He said he expected the bulk of the savings to come from welfare, as it would be an “odd choice” to leave this “enormous budget” untouched.

Benefits for the young and people of working age would be considered before any cuts to pensioner benefits such as free bus passes and television licences, he said.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you were going to be looking for savings in welfare, pensioner benefits is not the place that I would first turn to. I would look at housing benefit for the under-25s, when there are many people listening to this programme who can’t afford to move out of their home but if you’re on benefits you can get housing benefit under the age of 25. There are people, for example, on incomes of £60,000 or £70,000 living in council homes – I’d look at that.”

Justifying his choice to target welfare again after around £83bn of previous cuts, the chancellor said: “I think we do have to look at the welfare budget because I think it would be an odd choice as a country to say, look we’ve got a high deficit and we’re going to deal with that by just cutting the schools budget or the science budget or something like that … and to leave untouched this enormous welfare budget. That ultimately is where you can find substantial savings.”

He said he did not know when people would start to feel the effects of recovery. “There’s a hard truth, which is this country is much poorer because of the economic collapse six or seven years ago, and families feel that. What is the answer? I can’t wave a magic wand and make the country richer. The way the country gets richer and families get richer is by being a competitive country that attracts jobs and investment.”

In a speech in the Midlands on Monday morning, Osborne said there was still a long way to go before recovery as he set out a five-point plan to help the economy. “We’ve got to make more cuts – £17bn this coming year, £20bn next year, and over £25bn further across the two years after. That’s more than £60bn in total.”

Osborne built on previous warnings about the need to intensify austerity, on top of billions of pounds of existing cuts, even though the economy appears to be turning a corner. In the speech, he said the job of fixing the economy was “not even half done”. “That’s why 2014 is the year of hard truths,” he said.

The chancellor’s negative outlook forms part of his argument that people should vote Conservative to let the party “finish the job”, rather than handing control back to Labour. However, Labour said more cuts were needed after 2015 because Osborne’s “failure on growth and living standards since 2010 has led to his failure to balance the books”.

“What we need is Labour’s plan to earn our way to higher living standards for all, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and get the deficit down in a fairer way,” said Chris Leslie, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

It comes after David Cameron on Sunday suggested that more cuts to housing benefit were on the way and refused to rule out reducing handouts for the elderly, which include free television licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowances.

With just 16 months to go before the next election, the prime minister gave his clearest hints yet about the Conservatives’ priorities for the 2015 manifesto, including more welfare cuts and higher state pensions every year for the rest of the decade. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Cameron promised the Conservatives would keep the so-called triple lock on pensions until at least 2020 if in power – which means increasing it annually by inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is highest.

He said this decision to protect the income of pensioners above other age groups at a time of austerity was “a choice based on values, based on my values”. He denied it was a move to woo the grey vote, even though eight in 10 over-60s vote, compared with just four in 10 in the 18-24 age group.

But Cameron did not rule out cuts to universal benefits for the elderly, stressing that his previous promise to keep these handouts only extended as far as the end of this parliament in 2015. He also criticised the level of housing benefit for being “frankly far too high”. “We’ve put a cap on housing benefit, but I still think there’s more we can do to reform our benefits system,” he added.

Cameron also signalled that he wants to cut taxes for the lowest paid before taxes for the rich. He did not rule out reducing the 45p top rate of tax further to 40p, saying such decisions had to be made on the basis of whether they would raise more revenue, but suggested it was not top of his priorities. His remarks are potentially a hint that the Tories could pledge to increase the level at which workers start paying income tax above £10,000 – even though 5 million of the lowest paid earn even less than that and would see no benefit.

“I want taxes that mean the rich pay not just a fair share, as it were, in taxes, but I actually want the rich to pay more in taxes,” he said. “So you ought to set tax rates that encourage people to earn, to set up businesses, to make money, and then to pay taxes. And actually what we’re finding with the 45p rate is I think it’s going to bring in a better percentage of money than the 50p rate is. So you should always look at how you set taxes in that way.

“But my priority if you like – the priority of this government and the Conservative party – the priority is to target tax reductions on the poorest people in our country … If I had money in the coffers I would target that money at the lowest paid.”

Labour said the prime minister’s words suggested he was still “paving the way for yet another cut to the top rate of tax, a further tax giveaway for millionaires and the top Tory donors who bankroll Cameron’s Conservative party”.

During the interview, Cameron also insisted a Conservative victory at the next election was achievable and that he would go all out for it even though the party is far behind Labour in the opinion polls and a new survey suggests a third of Tory voters have deserted the party since 2010.

“We’ve got 16 months to the next election. This year for me is a year about governing, it’s about delivering, it’s about putting in place the elements of that long-term plan. I’m content that the public will judge me and the government I run and the party I run in 2015,” he said.

The Fascist Origin and Essence of Privatization Washington’s Blog

The Fascist Origin and Essence of Privatization Washington’s Blog.

Preface by Washington’s Blog: We documented in 2009 that fascism and our current crony capitalist economy are indistinguishable.

We noted in 2011 that America’s public resources are being raped and pillaged … just like those of small debt-saddled countries like Greece.

The following short – but important – piece by Eric Zuesse shows that looting and privatization of public resources was a hallmark of fascist Germany and Italy … and America today.

Washington’s Blog is non-partisan.  We believe that the war between liberals and conservatives is a false divide-and-conquer dog-and-pony show created by the powers that be to keep the American people divided and distracted. See thisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthis and this.

We can argue it either way, because we are ideologically neutral: allowing the private sector to own and manage resources is good … or allowing the public sector to do so is healthy.

Here’s the key:  If these resources had always been in the private sector, that would be fine … that would be free market capitalism.

But if they were purchased on the people’s dime with our blood, tears, sweat and taxpayer funds – and then sold to the big boys for pennies on the dollar – that’s not capitalism … that’s looting.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Nazis, Italian fascists, and modern American “leaders” are doing.

-By Eric Zuesse

Conservatives support privatizing schools, prisons, hospitals, and other social services. The privatization-mania is also increasingly occurring in higher education, as conservatives in Congress push measures to raise the percentage of colleges that are owned by for-profit corporations, and to decrease the percentage that are either public or nonprofit.

The argument given for such privatization is that corporations are more efficient because they are “the free market” way of serving people’s needs. However, progressives argue to the contrary, that in these parts of the economy, where “profits” for the public are hard if not impossible to measure, government does a better and less-inefficient job than corporations do. And, now, even a conservative state’s governor seems to have switched to the latter conclusion.

On 3 January 2014, the AP reported an instance in which the Republican Governor of one of the three most-Republican states in the U.S., Idaho, is doing a 180-degree turn, and he announced that “the corrections department will take over operation of the largest privately-run prison in the state,” from Corrections Corporation of America. The AP’s Rebecca Boone, in Boise, reported, that, whereas “In 2008, he floated legislation to change state laws to allow private companies to build and operate prisons in Idaho,” he now is taking over operation of this CCA prison, because of “mismanagement and other problems at the facility.” Only a few months before, on September 16th, that same reporter had headlined “CCA in contempt for prison understaffing,” and she quoted the federal judge’s order, which said that, “For CCA staff to lie on so basic a point — whether an officer is actually at a post — leaves the Court with serious concerns about compliance in other respects, such as whether every violent incident is reported.” The judge found that CCA was lying because they wanted more of their income from the state to go toward boosting their bottom line for stockholders, and less of it to go toward feeding the prisoners and protecting them from each other. The judge’s order said, “If a prospective fine leads to $2.4 million in penalties, CCA has no one to blame but itself.” CCA had been caught by the judge in persistently lying to the state while shortchanging prisoners on the prison’s obligation to provide basic services to inmates. The tension between private profits versus public services was clear in this case. CCA had incentive to cheat inmates in order to raise profits, and now a federal judge was fining CCA for doing precisely that.

Similarly, countries such as France, Sweden, UK, and the OECD generally, where health care is entirely or largely provided by the government, have better health-care outcomes and far lower healthcare costs, on a per-person basis, than does the U.S., where the profit motive in medical care is far more encouraged.

However, many Americans prefer the privatization of government services, because they believe that such a movement toward “shrinking big government” is in the direction of greater freedom, and is the only ethical direction, a direction in favor of greater democracy, in accord with the U.S. Constitution. Though the U.S. Constitution is by no means a free-market document, and concerns political issues instead of economic ones, there is a strong belief, especially among conservatives, that it is primarily about economics. There is consequently a myth about privatization.

The Myth About Privatization: Privatization was introduced by two democracies, the USA and UK, in the 1980s, not by prior fascist regimes.

The Truth About Privatization: Privatization was, in fact, a big aim of the elite fascists, right from the very start of fascism.

Explanation of the Reality: Aristocrats control the private wealth. Privatization means that they get to control also what was previously public. Privatization moreover provides corrupt politicians (their politicians) an opportunity to pay off their contributors (themselves) by offering them an inside track on public-asset sales. So, it’s not surprising that privatization is the way of fascist countries.

Documentation of the Reality: In September 2009, the European University Institute issued their RSCAS_2009_46.pdf, titled “From Public to Private: Privatization in 1920’s Fascist Italy,” (subsequently retitled “The First Privatization: Selling SOEs” in the 2011 Cambridge Journal of Economics) by Germa Bel, who said in her summary: “Privatization was an important policy in Italy in 1922-1925. The Fascist government was alone in transferring State ownership and services to private firms in the 1920s; no other country in the world would engage in such a policy until Nazi Germany did so between 1934 and 1937.” Then, in the February 2010 Economic History Review, she headlined a study specifically about the German case, “Against the Mainstream: Nazi Privatization in 1930s Germany.” Here, she reported that, though “privatizations in [fascist] Chile [under Pinochet] and the UK, which began to be implemented in the 1970s and 1980s, are usually considered the first privatization policies in modern history, … none of the contemporary economic analyses of privatization takes into account an important, earlier case: the privatization policy implemented by the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany. … Although modern economic literature usually fails to notice it, the Nazi government in 1930s Germany implemented a large-scale privatization policy.” Furthermore, “Germany was alone in developing a policy of privatization in the mid-1930s,” since Italy had finished its privatizations by then.

The purposes of these privatizations, in both cases, were chiefly “receipts from selling” the assets to finance rearmament, and also “the desire to increase support from” the major aristocrats (such as, in Germany, the armaments-making firms of the Thyssens, the Krupps, and the Flicks), who received sweet deals on these assets.

Much later, of course, Russia under Boris Yeltsin also privatized, while that nation switched from being communist, to becoming fascist. (Yeltsin was no fascist himself; he wasn’t intelligent enough to be anything, ideologically. He was just confused, mistaken.) China later did the same thing, when it, too, switched from being communist to being fascist.

Connection to Privatization in the U.S: To continue with prisons as the case: Huffington Post, on 22 October 2013, headlined a major investigative news report “Private Prison Empire Rises Despite Startling Record of Juvenile Abuse,” and reporter Chris Kirkham found rampant political paybacks in the privatizations of juvenile prisons. As a typical example of the consequences: Florida’s “sweeping privatization of its juvenile incarceration system has produced some of the worst re-offending rates in the nation. More than 40 percent of youth offenders sent to one of Florida’s juvenile prisons wind up arrested and convicted of another crime within a year of their release, according to state data. In New York state, where historically no youth offenders have been held in private institutions, 25 percent are convicted again within that timeframe.” Those children in Florida are experiencing the brunt of fascism. But so are taxpayers.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

‘Liberal media’ a fundraising fiction

‘Liberal media’ a fundraising fiction.

Blaming someone for your troubles is often easier than facing the truth about yourself, and the federal Conservatives are apparently no exception.

The Citizen reported this week that the Conservative party sent fundraising solicitations to supporters saying the media have somehow teamed up with the opposition to undermine the Conservative agenda — and the Tories need to fight back.

“Here’s the bad news — the Liberal fundraising machine is in overdrive, and we need to keep up,” party president John Walsh said in an email to the faithful.

“We can’t let the Liberal attacks and the media stop us from reaching our goal.”

Using the media as the bogeyman to raise money apparently works, and Walsh’s email echoes one sent in November by Justice Minister Peter MacKay to rouse the party’s base against Justin Trudeau’s stand on legalizing marijuana.

“We need your financial support so we can fight back against Trudeau and his allies in the media — who are still making excuses for his mistakes,” MacKay pleaded.

These follow several attacks on the media by assorted Conservatives, including former Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton, who noted that Ottawa is “populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles tut-tutting about our government …”

The notion that the media are in cahoots with the Liberals to somehow thwart Conservatives may work as a fundraiser, but it is not borne out by the facts, considering that this same media overwhelmingly backed Stephen Harper and the Conservative party in every election since 2006. In the three successive elections that the Conservative party won — 2006, 2008 and 2011 — the major Canadian newspapers, with only one exception, endorsed the Conservative party.

The Calgary Herald, Harper’s hometown newspaper, no surprise, endorsed the Conservative party in all three elections, asking Canadians in 2011 to “return the Conservatives with a majority, because their record and their platform make them the best choice for the country by far.” The Vancouver Sun was similarly inclined, picking Harper in 2006 to “clean up Ottawa,” and tipping him in 2008 as the “choice for the rough road,” and giving him the thumbs up again in 2011. Other papers such as the Vancouver Province, Winnipeg Free Press and the Edmonton Journal also wrote editorials backing Harper. But these are western newspapers, and one would expect them to back the hometown boy. What about the central Canada newspapers?

Let’s start with the Citizen. In a 2006 editorial endorsing Harper, the paper noted that “the Conservative moment has arrived.” Two years later, the paper again endorsed Harper, saying that he offered “the steadiest hand and the clearest judgment.” In 2011, when many in the country were worried about giving Harper a majority, the Citizen had no qualms, arguing that Harper deserved that majority. In the three elections, the National Post, a stable mate of the Citizen, also endorsed Harper and the Conservatives, stating in a 2008 editorial that Harper was “the best choice for the country,” and declaring two years ago that he was “the clear choice in uncertain times.”

And the Globe and Mail? The paper endorsed Harper in 2006, and in the next election backed him again, saying he was “growing into the job,” and was the “best man for the job.” In 2011, the paper picked Harper once more, saying the Liberals had failed to show how the Conservative government had failed, and why they should be the alternative. It was the same with the Montreal Gazette, which called the Conservatives “our best bet,” in backing them in 2008, and then asked Canadians to give the party a “stable majority government” in the election that followed.

Of the major newspapers in the country, the only one to buck the trend and not back the Conservative party is the Toronto Star, which endorsed the Liberals in 2006, saying their program was “best for Canada,” and stayed the course in 2008. But in 2011, the paper shifted allegiance to the New Democrats, saying the Liberals had not made a “persuasive case” to be considered the alternative to the Conservative party.

The record shows that, far from ganging up against the Conservative government, it can be said that Canadian media are actually supportive of the party and its leader. How else would one explain their overwhelming endorsement of Harper and his party in three successive elections? Which brings us to the next question: If the Conservatives have enjoyed this kind of backing from the media, why have they turned on them?

One answer is that beating up on the media raises money. Another is that the party resents criticism, and the fact that journalists were instrumental in exposing much wrongdoing this year, makes them enemies. But here’s the thing: There is division of labour in a democracy. The government governs. Parliament makes laws. The courts ensure the laws and policies are fair and just. And the media stand on guard, keeping a watchful eye on the other branches so the people’s work is done, and hold politicians accountable as they should. That’s how a democracy works, and we all better get used to it.

Mohammed Adam is a member of the Citizen’s editorial board.

 

The Tories’ Naked Self-interest in Foreign Policy | Yves Engler

The Tories’ Naked Self-interest in Foreign Policy | Yves Engler.

Should the primary purpose of Canadian foreign policy be the promotion of corporate interests?

Canada’s business class certainly seems to think so. And with little political or ideological opposition to this naked self-interest, Harper’s Conservatives seem only too happy to put the full weight of government behind the promotion of private profits.

Recently, the Conservatives announced that “economic diplomacy” will be “the driving forcebehind the Government of Canada’s activities through its international diplomatic network.” According to their Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), “All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector to increase success in doing business abroad.”

The release of GMAP is confirmation of the Conservatives’ pro-corporate foreign policy. In recent years the Conservatives have spent tens of millions of dollars to lobby U.S, andEuropean officials on behalf of tar sands interests; expanded arms sales to Middle East monarchies and other leading human rights abusers; strengthened the ties between aid policy and a Canadian mining industry responsible for innumerable abuses.

While some commentators have suggested that GMAP is a “modern” response to China’s international policy, it actually represents a return to a time many consider the high point of unfettered capitalism.

Often in the late 1800s wealthy individuals not employed by Ottawa conducted Canadian diplomacy. The owner of the Toronto Globe, George Brown, for instance, negotiated a draft treaty with the U.S. in 1874, while Sandford Fleming, the surveyor of the Canadian Pacific Railway, represented Canada at the 1887 Colonial Conference in London.

From its inception the Canadian foreign service reflected a bias toward economic concerns. There were trade commissioners, for instance, long before ambassadors. By 1907 there were12 Canadian trade commissions staffed by “commercial agents” located in Sydney, Capetown, Mexico City, Yokohama and numerous European and U.S. cities.

Despite this historic precedent, in the 21st century it should be controversial for a government to openly state that economic considerations drive international policy. Yet criticism of GMAP has been fairly muted, which may reflect how many progressives feel overwhelmed by the Conservatives’ right-wing aggressiveness in every policy area.

Or perhaps there’s a more fundamental explanation. The mainstream political/media establishment basically agrees with the idea that corporate interests should dominate foreign policy.

In response to GMAP, Postmedia ran a debate between John Manley, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and a member of the advisory panel that helped draw up the Conservatives’ plan, and former foreign minister and leading proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, Lloyd Axworthy.

While Manley lauded the Conservatives’ move, Axworthy criticized it as “bad trade policy” and said: “The best way to enlarge your trade prospects and to develop a willingness for agreements and to improve economic exchange is to have a number of contacts to show other countries that you are a willing and co-operative player on matters of security, on matters of human rights, and on matters of development.”

Axworthy did not express principled criticism of the Conservatives’ move; he simply said that “trade prospects” — a euphemism for corporate interests — are best advanced through a multifaceted foreign policy. Widely lauded by the liberal intelligentsia, Axworthy reflects the critical end of the dominant discussion, which largely takes its cues from the corporate class. And Canada’s business class is more internationally focused than any other G8 country.

Heavily dependent on “free trade” Canadian companies are also major global investors. The world’s largest privately-owned security company, GardaWorld, has 45,000 employees operating across the globe while another Montréal-based company, SNC Lavalin, is active in100 countries. Corporate Canada’s most powerful sector is also a global force. The big five banks, which all rank among the top 65 in the world, now do a majority of their business outside of this country. Scotiabank, for example, operates in 50 countries.

The mining sector provides the best example of Canadian capital’s international prominence. Three quarters of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada or listed on Canadian stock exchanges. Present in almost every country, Canadian corporations operate thousands of mineral projects abroad.

With $711.6 billion in foreign direct investments last year, Canadian companies push for (and benefit from) Ottawa’s diplomatic aid and military support. As their international footprint has grown, they’ve put ever more pressure on the government to serve their interests. There is simply no countervailing force calling on the government to advance international climate negotiations, arms control measures or to place constraints on mining companies.

There’s also limited ideological opposition to neoliberalism. Few in Canada promote any alternative to capitalism. Until unions, social groups and activists put forward an alternative economic and social vision it’s hard to imagine that Canadian foreign policy will do much more than promote private corporate interests.

 

Canada’s Harper pledges to seek fourth term | Canada | Reuters

Canada’s Harper pledges to seek fourth term | Canada | Reuters.

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday brushed aside any suggestion he might step down in the next couple of years, saying he would seek a fourth term in the 2015 general election.

“It is interesting to read in the papers one day that I plan to retire, and the next day to read that I intend to trigger elections immediately,” he said in a television interview with the French-language TVA Nouvelles.

“The reality is there are elections on a fixed date in 2015. I intend to lead my party (into the next election), which is the only party which has serious policy on the number one priority of the population, which is the economy.”

Only four of Canada’s 22 prime ministers, including Pierre Trudeau, father of current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, have won more than three mandates.

The speculation of Harper’s possible departure has mounted at the end a difficult year for him and his Conservative government.

It has been marked by criminal allegations extending into his office over a Senate expense scandal, and the Conservatives are polling at their lowest level since taking power in 2006, well behind the newly resurgent Liberals under Trudeau.

Harper has denied any knowledge of what police say was corruption by his then-chief of staff, who provided money from his personal funds to a Conservative senator to help pay back expenses determined to be inappropriate. The former chief of staff denies any wrongdoing.

But the affair has tarnished the reputation of Harper, who came to power pledging accountability and avoiding even the appearance of evil after Liberal wrongdoing. The Senate expense scandal overshadowed his government’s biggest accomplishment of the year, a major trade deal with the European Union.

Asked if he would use the Christmas holidays to reflect on his political future, Harper said flatly, “No.”

“My intention for this period is to determine the next steps for the government… We have finished the most productive year of any since we took power. I hope 2014 will be like that,” he said.

“There are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of opportunities for Canada but also a lot of threats, a lot of challenges, and we must ensure a prosperous future for our children.”

Harper said the government was in the process of making fundamental economic changes, for example, launching Canada’s biggest infrastructure plan, and transforming immigration as well as research and development to better serve economic needs.

 

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian.

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding

Critics say Conservative anti-EU ideology being put ahead of needs of the poor after UK officials turn down subsidy
food banks

The economic downturn has seen use of food banks in Britain increase dramatically in recent months. Photograph: Mercury Press & Media Ltd

The government has been accused of putting “anti-European ideology” before the needs of the most deprived people in society after Britain rejected help from a European Union fund to help subsidise the costs offood banks.

David Cameron, who was heavily criticised recently after Michael Gove blamed the rise in food banks on financial mismanagement by families, faced pressure to embark on a U-turn to allow EU funds to be spent on feeding the poor.

The government came under fire after British officials in Brussels said that the UK did not want to use money from a new £2.5bn fund – European Aid to the Most Deprived – to be used to help with the costs of running food banks. The use of food banks has increased dramatically in recent months, prompting Sir John Major to warn that the poor face a stark choice between paying for heating or food.

But British officials rejected EU funding for food banks, which could have reached £22m for Britain, on the grounds that individual member states are best placed to take charge of such funding.

A document from the Department of Work and Pensions explaining Britain’s position, which has been leaked to the Guardian, says: “The UK government does not support the proposal for a regulation on the fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived. It believes that measures of this type are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes, and their regional and local authorities, who are best placed to identify and meet the needs of deprived people in their countries and communities. It therefore questions whether the commission’s proposal is justified in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.”

Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP who helped negotiate the new fund, accused the government of neglecting the needs of the poor. “It is very sad that our government is opposing this much-needed help for foodbanks on the basis that it is a national responsibility, when in reality it has no intention of providing the help itself. The only conclusion is that Conservative anti-European ideology is being put before the needs of the most destitute and deprived in our society.”

Howitt added that he hoped that a Westminster parliamentary debate on Wednesday would prompt a government U-turn. He said the debate “should be used to shame a government, which is taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, into a U-turn in time for Christmas”.

It is understood that in “trilogue” negotiations – between the European commission, the council of ministers and the European Parliament – British officials formed a blocking minority with three other EU member states to water down the fund which will run from 2014-2020. Under the original plans there would have been just one funding strand for the “distribution of material assistance” – sleeping bags and food. But Britain prompted the creation of a second funding strand known as “immaterial assistance” to cover counselling and budget maintenance but not food banks.

The position taken by UK officials means that Britain will draw down just €3.5m (£2.9m) from the fund compared with €443m for France which is around the same size as the UK. Britain is taking the same amount as Malta, the smallest EU member state with a population of 450,000.

The department for work and pensions said that Britain has not lost any money because the £22m would have come out of the UK’s EU structural fund pot. It said that ministers have not decided how to allocate the £2.9m earmarked for Britain from the fund, though this is expected to be spent on helping unemployed people find work.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation. Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

Chris Mould, the executive chairman of Britain’s largest network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, told the Guardian: “We would welcome an opportunity to have discussions with DWP about how we could use that €3.5m to good effect. If the EU made a decision in the European Parliament that this money should be used for the assistance of people in severe need – and it has got a food aid tag on it – then we hope they will talk to us.”

On the signs that the government would like to spend the money in helping people into work, rather than on food aid, Mould said: “It is the decision of government at all times what its priorities are for the money it has available. But it does need to spend money in several places not in one place. The Trussell Trust has provided through its network of food banks emergency assistance for over 500,000 people since 2013 who are in financial crisis, who are going hungry who have been referred by more than 23,000 different professionals holding vouchers.

“If people don’t get help when they are in financial crisis they lose their home, their families break down, they suffer anxiety and depression. All these things have a significant financial cost to the state. It is very important that the government looks beyond the narrow single issue argument of spending all the money into employment. Of course that is important but they are spending massive of money on that which is good. But this EU money is extra and originally intended to be for food assistance.”

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