Category Archives: Corporate Welfare

China Seeks “Total Access” To Canadian Market to Import Its Workers To Canada

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China May Import Its Workers To Canada As It Seeks “Total Access” To Canadian Market

Zero Hedge: April 2, 2017

China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, told the Globe and Mail that Beijing is seeking full access to Canada’s economy ahead of free trade talks, a move that could result in Chinese state-owned companies bringing their own employees to work on projects in Canada. Charles Burton, an associate political science professor at Brock University, said bringing their own workers abroad is “normal practice” for Chinese companies. “It’s not as if [the Chinese] would be asking something of Canada that they don’t expect from other countries,” he said.

Earlier this year, Canadian and Chinese officials held exploratory talks on a free trade deal and another meeting is set to take place this month,  Lu told the Globe, just as the US prepares to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico.

Lu said that his government wants to avoid discussions of human rights issues, fearing it could become a “bargaining chip” in negotiations. Additionally, anticipating what has become an increasingly regular response by sovereign governments to China’s money-laundering disguised as M&A ambitions, the ambassador said China’s government would interpreted any attempt by Ottawa to block takeovers of Canadian companies on national security grounds as protectionism.

“Investment is investment. We should not take too much political considerations into the investment,” he said. “Just like the negotiations of the (Canada-U.S.) FTA, we should not let political factors into this process. Otherwise, it would be very difficult.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, told the CBC that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “is very clear that we want to pursue stronger ties with China. We think that in the medium term this will lead to more Canadian jobs.”
While China has recently pushed to adopt the mantle of the “world’s biggest defender of free trade” following Trump’s threats to impose protectionist measures, and has been among the most vocal countries in response to Trump’s proposed trade practices, critics say the country is itself a bastion of protectionism. They note China allows almost no foreign investment in banking and telecommunications. Many argue the country has not lived up to the commitments it made to open up its economy when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

China’s interest in Canada lies primarily in energy, and in the possibility of exploiting Canada’s oilsands. The country will push for a reversal of Harper government-era policies that restricted the ability of Chinese state-owned businesses to invest in Canadian energy.

As Daniel Tencer writes, the vast majority of China’s largest corporations are state-run enterprises whose executives are often hand-picked by government. They also note that China’s notion of “full access” to an economy could be very broad. As the foreign policy blog OpenCanada notes, China’s 2015 free trade deal with Australia includes a provision that allows Chinese companies to bring their own employees into the country to work on projects, so long as those projects are worth more than AUD$150 million.

(full article at zero hedge)

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Trump is Obama’s Legacy. Will this Break up the Democratic Party?

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Michael Hudson
Naked Capitalism : March 26, 2017

Nobody yet can tell whether Donald Trump is an agent of change with a specific policy in mind, or merely a catalyst heralding an as yet undetermined turning point. His first month in the White House saw him melting into the Republican mélange of corporate lobbyists. Having promised to create jobs, his “America First” policy looks more like “Wall Street First.” His cabinet of billionaires promoting corporate tax cuts, deregulation and dismantling Dodd-Frank bank reform repeats the Junk Economics promise that giving more tax breaks to the richest One Percent may lead them to use their windfall to invest in creating more jobs. What they usually do, of course, is simply buy more property and assets already in place.

One of the first reactions to Trump’s election victory was for stocks of the most crooked financial institutions to soar, hoping for a deregulatory scythe taken to the public sector. Navient, the Department of Education’s knee-breaker on student loan collections accused by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of massive fraud and overcharging, rose from $13 to $18 now that it seemed likely that the incoming Republicans would disable the CFPB and shine a green light for financial fraud.

Foreclosure king Stephen Mnuchin of IndyMac/OneWest (and formerly of Goldman Sachs for 17 years; later a George Soros partner) is now Treasury Secretary – and Trump is pledged to abolish the CFPB, on the specious logic that letting fraudsters manage pension savings and other investments will give consumers and savers “broader choice,” e.g., for the financial equivalent of junk food. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hopes to privatize public education into for-profit (and de-unionized) charter schools, breaking the teachers’ unions. This may position Trump to become the Transformational President that neoliberals have been waiting for.

But not the neocons. His election rhetoric promised to reverse traditional U.S. interventionist policy abroad. Making an anti-war left run around the Democrats, he promised to stop backing ISIS/Al Nusra (President Obama’s “moderate” terrorists supplied with the arms and money that Hillary looted from Libya), and to reverse the Obama-Clinton administration’s New Cold War with Russia. But the neocon coterie at the CIA and State Department are undercutting his proposed rapprochement with Russia by forcing out General Flynn for starters. It seems doubtful that Trump will clean them out.

Trump has called NATO obsolete, but insists that its members up their spending to the stipulated 2% of GDP — producing a windfall worth tens of billions of dollars for U.S. arms exporters. That is to be the price Europe must pay if it wants to endorse Germany’s and the Baltics’ confrontation with Russia.

Trump is sufficiently intuitive to proclaim the euro a disaster, and he recommends that Greece leave it. He supports the rising nationalist parties in Britain, France, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands, all of which urge withdrawal from the eurozone – and reconciliation with Russia instead of sanctions. In place of the ill-fated TPP and TTIP, Trump advocates country-by-country trade deals favoring the United States. Toward this end, his designated ambassador to the European Union, Ted Malloch, urges the EU’s breakup. The EU is refusing to accept him as ambassador.

Will Trump’s Victory Break Up the Democratic Party?

At the time this volume is going to press, there is no way of knowing how successful these international reversals will be. What is more clear is what Trump’s political impact will have at home. His victory – or more accurately, Hillary’s resounding loss and the way she lost – has encouraged enormous pressure for a realignment of both parties. Regardless of what President Trump may achieve vis-à-vis Europe, his actions as celebrity chaos agent may break up U.S. politics across the political spectrum.

The Democratic Party has lost its ability to pose as the party of labor and the middle class. Firmly controlled by Wall Street and California billionaires, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) strategy of identity politics encourages any identity except that of wage earners. The candidates backed by the Donor Class have been Blue Dogs pledged to promote Wall Street and neocons urging a New Cold War with Russia.

They preferred to lose with Hillary than to win behind Bernie Sanders. So Trump’s electoral victory is their legacy as well as Obama’s. Instead of Trump’s victory dispelling that strategy, the Democrats are doubling down. It is as if identity politics is all they have.

Trying to ride on Barack Obama’s coattails didn’t work. Promising “hope and change,” he won by posing as a transformational president, leading the Democrats to control of the White House, Senate and Congress in 2008. Swept into office by a national reaction against the George Bush’s Oil War in Iraq and the junk-mortgage crisis that left the economy debt-ridden, they had free rein to pass whatever new laws they chose – even a Public Option in health care if they had wanted, or make Wall Street banks absorb the losses from their bad and often fraudulent loans.

But it turned out that Obama’s role was to prevent the changes that voters hoped to see, and indeed that the economy needed to recover: financial reform, debt writedowns to bring junk mortgages in line with fair market prices, and throwing crooked bankers in jail. Obama rescued the banks, not the economy, and turned over the Justice Department and regulatory agencies to his Wall Street campaign contributors. He did not even pull back from war in the Near East, but extended it to Libya and Syria, blundering into the Ukrainian coup as well.

Having dashed the hopes of his followers, Obama then praised his chosen successor Hillary Clinton as his “Third Term.” Enjoying this kiss of death, Hillary promised to keep up Obama’s policies.

The straw that pushed voters over the edge was when she asked voters, “Aren’t you better off today than you were eight years ago?” Who were they going to believe: their eyes, or Hillary? National income statistics showed that only the top 5 percent of the population were better off. All the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during Obama’s tenure went to them – the Donor Class that had gained control of the Democratic Party leadership. Real incomes have fallen for the remaining 95 percent, whose household budgets have been further eroded by soaring charges for health insurance. (The Democratic leadership in Congress fought tooth and nail to block Dennis Kucinich from introducing his Single Payer proposal.)

No wonder most of the geographic United States voted for change – except for where the top 5 percent, is concentrated: in New York (Wall Street) and California (Silicon Valley and the military-industrial complex). Making fun of the Obama Administration’s slogan of “hope and change,” Trump characterized Hillary’s policy of continuing the economy’s shrinkage for the 95% as “no hope and no change.”

Identity Politics as Anti-Labor Politics

A new term was introduced to the English language: Identity Politics. Its aim is for voters to think of themselves as separatist minorities – women, LGBTQ, Blacks and Hispanics. The Democrats thought they could beat Trump by organizing Women for Wall Street (and a New Cold War), LGBTQ for Wall Street (and a New Cold War), and Blacks and Hispanics for Wall Street (and a New Cold War). Each identity cohort was headed by a billionaire or hedge fund donor.

The identity that is conspicuously excluded is the working class. Identity politics strips away thinking of one’s interest in terms of having to work for a living. It excludes voter protests against having their monthly paycheck stripped to pay more for health insurance, housing and mortgage charges or education, or better working conditions or consumer protection – not to speak of protecting debtors.

Identity politics used to be about three major categories: workers and unionization, anti-war protests and civil rights marches against racist Jim Crow laws. These were the three objectives of the many nationwide demonstrations. That ended when these movements got co-opted into the Democratic Party. Their reappearance in Bernie Sanders’ campaign in fact threatens to tear the Democratic coalition apart. As soon as the primaries were over (duly stacked against Sanders), his followers were made to feel unwelcome. Hillary sought Republican support by denouncing Sanders as being as radical as Putin’s Republican leadership.

In contrast to Sanders’ attempt to convince diverse groups that they had a common denominator in needing jobs with decent pay – and, to achieve that, in opposing Wall Street’s replacing the government as central planner – the Democrats depict every identity constituency as being victimized by every other, setting themselves at each other’s heels. Clinton strategist John Podesta, for instance, encouraged Blacks to accuse Sanders supporters of distracting attention from racism. Pushing a common economic interest between whites, Blacks, Hispanics and LGBTQ always has been the neoliberals’ nightmare. No wonder they tried so hard to stop Bernie Sanders, and are maneuvering to keep his supporters from gaining influence in their party.

When Trump was inaugurated on Friday, January 20, there was no pro-jobs or anti-war demonstration. That presumably would have attracted pro-Trump supporters in an ecumenical show of force. Instead, the Women’s March on Saturday led even the pro-Democrat New York Times to write a front-page article reporting that white women were complaining that they did not feel welcome in the demonstration. The message to anti-war advocates, students and Bernie supporters was that their economic cause was a distraction.

The march was typically Democratic in that its ideology did not threaten the Donor Class. As Yves Smith wrote on Naked Capitalism: “the track record of non-issue-oriented marches, no matter how large scale, is poor, and the status of this march as officially sanctioned (blanket media coverage when other marches of hundreds of thousands of people have been minimized, police not tricked out in their usual riot gear) also indicates that the officialdom does not see it as a threat to the status quo.”

Hillary’s loss was not blamed on her neoliberal support for TPP or her pro-war neocon stance, but on the revelations of the e-mails by her operative Podesta discussing his dirty tricks against Bernie Sanders (claimed to be given to Wikileaks by Russian hackers, not a domestic DNC leaker as Wikileaks claimed) and the FBI investigation of her e-mail abuses at the State Department. Backing her supporters’ attempt to brazen it out, the Democratic Party has doubled down on its identity politics, despite the fact that an estimated 52 percent of white women voted for Trump. After all, women do work for wages. And that also is what Blacks and Hispanics want – in addition to banking that serves their needs, not those of Wall Street, and health care that serves their needs, not those of the health-insurance and pharmaceuticals monopolies.

Bernie did not choose to run on a third-party ticket. Evidently he feared being accused of throwing the election to Trump. The question is now whether he can remake the Democratic Party as a democratic socialist party, or create a new party if the Donor Class retains its neoliberal control. It seems that he will not make a break until he concludes that a Socialist Party can leave the Democrats as far back in the dust as the Republicans left the Whigs after 1854. He may have underestimated his chance in 2016.

Trump’s Effect on U.S. Political Party Realignment

During Trump’s rise to the 2016 Republican nomination it seemed that he was more likely to break up the Republican Party. Its leading candidates and gurus warned that his populist victory in the primaries would tear the party apart. The polls in May and June showed him defeating Hillary Clinton easily (but losing to Bernie Sanders). But Republican leaders worried that he would not support what they believed in: namely, whatever corporate lobbyists put in their hands to enact and privatize.

The May/June polls showed Trump and Clinton were the country’s two most unpopular presidential candidates. But whereas the Democrats maneuvered Bernie out of the way, the Republican Clown Car was unable to do the same to Trump. In the end they chose to win behind him, expecting to control him. As for the DNC, its Wall Street donors preferred to lose with Hillary than to win with Bernie. They wanted to keep control of their party and continue the bargain they had made with the Republicans: The latter would move further and further to the right, leaving room for Democratic neoliberals and neocons to follow them closely, yet still pose as the “lesser evil.” That “centrism” is the essence of the Clintons’ “triangulation” strategy. It actually has been going on for a half-century. “As Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere quipped in the 1960s, when he was accused by the US of running a one-party state, ‘The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them’.”

By 2017, voters had caught on to this two-step game. But Hillary’s team paid pollsters over $1 billion to tell her (“Mirror, mirror on the wall …”) that she was the most popular of all. It was hubris to imagine that she could convince the 95 Percent of the people who were worse off under Obama to love her as much as her East-West Coast donors did. It was politically unrealistic – and a reflection of her cynicism – to imagine that raising enough money to buy television ads would convince working-class Republicans to vote for her, succumbing to a Stockholm Syndrome by thinking of themselves as part of the 5 Percent who had benefited from Obama’s pro-Wall Street policies.

Hillary’s election strategy was to make a right-wing run around Trump. While characterizing the working class as white racist “deplorables,” allegedly intolerant of LBGTQ or assertive women, she resurrected the ghost of Joe McCarthy and accused Trump of being “Putin’s poodle” for proposing peace with Russia. Among the most liberal Democrats, Paul Krugman still leads a biweekly charge at The New York Times that President Trump is following Moscow’s orders. Saturday Night Live, Bill Maher and MSNBC produce weekly skits that Trump and General Flynn are Russian puppets. A large proportion of Democrats have bought into the fairy tale that Trump didn’t really win the election, but that Russian hackers manipulated the voting machines. No wonder George Orwell’s 1984 soared to the top of America’s best-seller lists in February 2017 as Donald Trump was taking his oath of office.

This propaganda paid off on February 13, when neocon public relations succeeded in forcing the resignation of General Flynn, whom Trump had appointed to clean out the neocons at the NSA and CIA. His foreign policy initiative based on rapprochement with Russia and hopes to create a common front against ISIS/Al Nusra seemed to be collapsing.

Tabula Rasa Celebrity Politics

U.S. presidential elections no longer are much about policy. Like Obama before him, Trump campaigned as a rasa tabla, a vehicle for everyone to project their hopes and fancies. What has all but disappeared is the past century’s idea of politics as a struggle between labor and capital, democracy vs. oligarchy.

Who would have expected even half a century ago that American politics would become so post-modern that the idea of class conflict has all but disappeared. Classical economic discourse has been drowned out by their junk economics.

There is a covert economic program, to be sure, and it is bipartisan. It is to make elections about just which celebrities will introduce neoliberal economic policies with the most convincing patter talk. That is the essence of rasa tabla politics.

Can the Democrats Lose Again in 2020?

Trump’s November victory showed that voters found him to be the Lesser Evil, but all that voters really could express was “throw out the bums” and get a new set of lobbyists for the FIRE sector and corporate monopolists. Both candidates represented Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. No wonder voter turnout has continued to plunge.

Although the Democrats’ Lesser Evil argument lost to the Republicans in 2016, the neoliberals in control of the DNC found the absence of a progressive economic program to less threatening to their interests than the critique of Wall Street and neocon interventionism coming from the Sanders camp. So the Democrat will continue to pose as the Lesser Evil party not really in terms of policy, but simply ad hominum. They will merely repeat Hillary’s campaign stance: They are not Trump. Their parades and street demonstrations since his inauguration have not come out for any economic policy.

On Friday, February 10, the party’s Democratic Policy group held a retreat for its members in Baltimore. Third Way “centrists” (Republicans running as Democrats) dominated, with Hillary operatives in charge. The conclusion was that no party policy was needed at all. “President Trump is a better recruitment tool for us than a central campaign issue,’ said Washington Rep. Denny Heck, who is leading recruitment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).”

But what does their party leadership have to offer women, Blacks and Hispanics in the way of employment, more affordable health care, housing or education and better pay? Where are the New Deal pro-labor, pro-regulatory roots of bygone days? The party leadership is unwilling to admit that Trump’s message about protecting jobs and opposing the TPP played a role in his election. Hillary was suspected of supporting it as “the gold standard” of trade deals, and Obama had made the Trans-Pacific Partnership the centerpiece of his presidency – the free-trade TPP and TTIP that would have taken economic regulatory policy out of the hands of government and given it to corporations.

Instead of accepting even Sanders’ centrist-left stance, the Democrats’ strategy was to tar Trump as pro-Russian, insist that his aides had committed impeachable offenses, and mount one parade after another. “Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio told reporters she was wary of focusing solely on an “economic message” aimed at voters whom Trump won over in 2016, because, in her view, Trump did not win on an economic message. “What Donald Trump did was address them at a very different level — an emotional level, a racial level, a fear level,” she said. “If all we talk about is the economic message, we’re not going to win.”[4] This stance led Sanders supporters to walk out of a meeting organized by the “centrist” Third Way think tank on Wednesday, February 8.

By now this is an old story. Fifty years ago, socialists such as Michael Harrington asked why union members and progressives still imagined that they had to work through the Democratic Party. It has taken the rest of the country half a century to see that Democrats are not the party of the working class, unions, middle class, farmers or debtors. They are the party of Wall Street privatizers, bank deregulators, neocons and the military-industrial complex. Obama showed his hand – and that of his party – in his passionate attempt to ram through the corporatist TPP treaty that would have enabled corporations to sue governments for any costs imposed by public consumer protection, environmental protection or other protection of the population against financialized corporate monopolies.

Against this backdrop, Trump’s promises and indeed his worldview seem quixotic. The picture of America’s future he has painted seems unattainable within the foreseeable future. It is too late to bring manufacturing back to the United States, because corporations already have shifted their supply nodes abroad, and too much U.S. infrastructure has been dismantled.

There can’t be a high-speed railroad, because it would take more than four years to get the right-of-way and create a route without crossing gates or sharp curves. In any case, the role of railroads and other transportation has been to increase real estate prices along the routes. But in this case, real estate would be torn down – and having a high-speed rail does not increase land values.

The stock market has soared to new heights, anticipating lower taxes on corporate profits and a deregulation of consumer, labor and environmental protection. Trump may end up as America’s Boris Yeltsin, protecting U.S. oligarchs (not that Hillary would have been different, merely cloaked in a more colorful identity rainbow). The U.S. economy is in for Shock Therapy. Voters should look to Greece to get a taste of the future in this scenario.

Without a coherent response to neoliberalism, Trump’s billionaire cabinet may do to the United States what neoliberals in the Clinton administration did to Russia after 1991: tear out all the checks and balances, and turn public wealth over to insiders and oligarchs. So Trump’s his best chance to be transformative is simply to be America’s Yeltsin for his party’s oligarchic backers, putting the class war back in business.

(read the full article at Naked Capitalism

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Banks Are Evil

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Adam Taggart
Peak Prosperity : March 17, 2017

I don’t talk to my classmates from business school anymore, many of whom went to work in the financial industry.

Why?

Because, through the lens we use here at PeakProsperity.com to look at the world, I’ve increasingly come to see the financial industry — with the big banks at its core — as the root cause of injustice in today’s society. I can no longer separate any personal affections I might have for my fellow alumni from the evil that their companies perpetrate.

And I’m choosing that word deliberately: Evil.

In my opinion, it’s long past time we be brutally honest about the banks. Their influence and reach has metastasized to the point where we now live under a captive system. From our retirement accounts, to our homes, to the laws we live under — the banks control it all. And they run the system for their benefit, not ours.

While the banks spent much of the past century consolidating their power, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 emboldened them to accelerate their efforts. Since then, the key trends in the financial industry have been to dismantle regulation and defang those responsible for enforcing it, to manipulate market prices (an ambition tremendously helped by the rise of high-frequency trading algorithms), and to push downside risk onto “muppets” and taxpayers.

Oh, and of course, this hasn’t hurt either: having the ability to print up trillions in thin-air money and then get first-at-the-trough access to it. Don’t forget, the Federal Reserve is made up of and run by — drum roll, please — the banks.

How much ‘thin air’ money are we talking about? The Fed and the rest of the world’s central banking cartel has printed over $12 Trillion since the Great Recession. Between the ECB and the DOJ, nearly $200 Billion of additional liquidity has been — and continues to be — injected into world markets each month(!) since the beginning of 2016.

With their first-in-line access to this money tsunami, as well as their stranglehold on the financial system that it all runs through, the banks are like a parasite feasting from a gusher on the mother-lode artery.

It should come as little surprise that, with all this advantage they’ve amassed, the banks have enriched themselves and their cronies spectacularly. They have made themselves too big to fail, and too big to jail. Remember that their reckless greed caused the 2008 financial crisis, and yet, in 2009, not only did bankers avoid criminal prosecutions, not only did the banks receive hundreds of billions in government bailouts, but they paid themselves record bonuses?

And the bonanza continues unabated today. By being able to borrow capital for essentially free today from the Fed, the banks simply lever that money up and buy Treasurys. Voila! Risk-free profits. That giveaway has been going on for years.

Couple that with the banks’ ability to push market prices around using their wide arsenal of unfair tactics — frontrunning, HFT spoofing and quote stuffing, stop-running, insider knowledge, collusion, etc — the list is long. James Howard Kunstler is dead on: we don’t have a free market anymore. Instead, we have rackets, run by racketeers. The rest of us are simply suckers to be fleeced.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton recently agreed:

Income inequality is not killing capitalism in the United States, but rent-seekers like the banking and the health-care sectors just might, said Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton on Monday.

If an entrepreneur invents something on the order of another Facebook, Deaton said he has no problem with that person becoming wealthy.

“What is not OK is for rent-seekers to get rich,” Deaton said in a luncheon speech to the National Association for Business Economics.

Rent seekers lobby and persuade governments to give them special favors.

Bankers during the financial crisis, and much of the health-care system, are two prime examples, Deaton said.

Rent-seeking not only does not generate new product, it actually slows down economic growth, Deaton said.

“All that talent is devoted to stealing things, instead of making things,” he said.

As further proof, let’s look at this data recently obtained by Zero Hedge. In the past 4 years, JP Morgan’s in-house trading group has had exactly 2 days of losses.

That’s not trading. Trading involves uncertainty and risk. This situation has none. It’s an extraction process — siphoning value from the market day after day with ironclad dependability.

And it’s not just a few dollars here and there. In 2016, JP Morgan’s daily average trading revenues were $80 million. Per day! That’s nearly $20 billion for the year.

So if not “trading”, what should we call it when a bank can extract tens of billions of dollars a year from the markets, with no downside risk? “Sanctioned theft” sounds about right.

Because for every trade there is a buyer and a seller. If JP Morgan is the winner every day, who is losing? Turns out, it’s the big pools of “dumb money” that don’t have the cheat codes for the system the way the banks do. These are the pension funds, the index funds, the retirement accounts — the aggregated money of all the ‘little people’ out there. Little people who don’t have visibility into how they’re being constantly fleeced; nor do they have agency to do anything about it even if they did.

So yeah, “theft” feels like a pretty accurate term.

And it’s reached the point where the banks don’t even care about hiding it anymore. If you had a nice inside racket going on, wouldn’t you at least pretend to hide your advantage, to avoid drawing attention? Not the banks. They’re either too proud or too obtuse to conceal it. Look at our string of perfect trading days! Look at our record bonuses!

These boasts fall on the ears of everyday American’s as the modern version of Let them eat cake!

And just like the out-of-touch French monarchs, the banks have positioned themselves as the enemy of the public. For as I claimed at the beginning of this article, a tremendous amount of the injustice in this country can be laid at the feet of the banks directly, or indirectly via the Federal Reserve.

Are you a senior who can’t afford to retire because you can’t live off your fixed-income savings? Thank the Fed’s 0% interest rates for that.

Are you a millennial who can’t afford to buy a home? Again, thank the Fed’s policy of suppressing interest rates and thereby blowing another housing bubble.

Are you struggling to get out of poverty? Are you finding it hard to remain in the middle class? Whatever your income, are you having to work harder and harder to just stay in the same place? See here how the Fed’s money printing, and the banks’ first-position access to it, has created the most concentrated imbalance of wealth in our country’s history.

Are you frustrated with how our lawmakers seem to serve corporations instead of the people? Listen to this mind-blowing podcast of how gobs of lobbyist money, much of it provided by Wall Street, dictates how our politicians legislate.

Whether it’s social equity, the security of your job or retirement, your day-to-day existence, or the fairness of the laws we live under — our fate is currently in the hands of the banks. And, of course, should their behavior trigger another meltdown of the global economy — something we warn about often here at PeakProsperity.com — we’ll have them to thank for that, too.

Yes, the banks are going to keep writing the rules in their favor; and yes, there’s little agency any of us has individually to do much about it. But as a society, we need to start addressing the dire situation we’re in honestly and openly. By whatever path, we have granted the banks far too much control over our lives, and they are taking gross advantage of that. Exactly like a parasite, the banking system is siphoning off our wealth and limiting our freedoms and future prospects — all for the benefit of an elite few.

That’s wrong. It’s immoral. And it’s Evil.

It’s far beyond time to call a spade and spade. The path to change always begins with an accurate assessment of the problem. We need to start using accurate language — like “evil” — when discussing the harm we’re being subjected to. We need to make it clear to our elected officials and to our communities that we understand what the banks are doing and that we find it unacceptable.

We need to make the criticism specific and personal. To JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon. To Fed Chair Janet Yellen. We need to turn up the heat on the perpetrating decision-makers, so that the borg-like structure of the banking system no longer serves as a deflective shield to scrutiny and criticism. These people need to feel the disapproving stares when speaking to the public. They need to hear the disdainful boos, and see their faces on the protest signs and nightly media reports.

And if you yourself work in the financial system, I’ll be blunt. You’re part of the problem. Just like my former classmates, I’m sure you’re a very nice person in many ways — but you’re complicit in the banks’ rapaciousness.

I know it’s not pleasant to hear, or admit. I worked for an investment bank for a few years early on my career. I was part of the problem, too.

But we have a choice, both as individuals and as a society, to align our actions with our values. It’s not always easy. And likely not as profitable if you indeed end up leaving the financial industry (as I can tell you from personal experience). But it’s the only way we’ll ultimately gain back control of our destiny.

(read the full article atpeak prosperity)

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Rand is the man

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AlternativeFreePress.com

It seems one of the only sane people in Washington DC is Senator Rand Paul. In the past few days, Rand has…

1. Blocked a treaty allowing Montenegro to join NATO.

Here is how he defends his position:

“Currently, the United States has troops in dozens of countries and is actively fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen (with the occasional drone strike in Pakistan). In addition, the United States is pledged to defend 28 countries in NATO. It is unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt.” … “there has to be the thought whether or not it’s in our national interest to pledge to get involved with a war if Montenegro has an altercation with anyone.”…”There’s also another argument, is that when you ask the people of Montenegro, only about 40 percent or slightly less are actually in favor of this. They are close to Russia, they’re close to being sort of, like Ukraine, in the transition from Europe to Asia. Perhaps it would be good to be like Switzerland and be more neutral and trade with both.”

2. Introduced ‘Stop Arming Terrorists Act’ To The Senate.

“One of the unintended consequences of nation-building and open-ended intervention is American funds and weapons benefiting those who hate us. This legislation will strengthen our foreign policy, enhance our national security, and safeguard our resources.”

3. Come out swinging against Trumpcare.

The current Ryan Plan — “Obamacare Lite” — is not about patients. It isn’t about better health care. It isn’t about lowering costs.

It is, plain and simple, about getting more money to the insurance companies and running more of your life from Washington.

I am a career physician. I spent years training and learning to be a doctor. I did it for patients. I don’t give a flip about guaranteeing the profits of insurance companies. And as a Senator, I shouldn’t, either.

But in Washington, somehow, the whole debate seems to be about getting people insurance instead of getting people health care.

Insurance doesn’t equate to health care. Just ask all the Obamacare recipients with $6,000 deductibles.

I’m sick of the insurance companies putting me on hold and telling me to talk to their representative in a foreign country. Screw that.

I’m sick of the government telling me I have to buy their crappy product, and I’m sick of watching us go into more and more debt to do it.

We need a new way, and Obamacare Lite isn’t it.

I want the consumer (aka patient) to be king. I want to empower the patient to get the health care they want at the price they want.

I want to let every American be able to join a co-op to buy their health care. When that happens, the buying power returns to the patients.

Instead of patients having to kiss the boots of insurance company executives, my plan would have insurance executives come on bended knee to the patient.

Sources:
Rand Paul Responds to John McCain: Senator From Arizona Is “Unhinged” and “Past His Prime”

Rand Paul Introduces ‘Stop Arming Terrorists Act’ To The Senate

Let’s ‘Smash’ Paul Ryan’s Obamacare Lite ‘to Smithereens’

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Donald Trump Works For Wall Street, Not Russia

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Michael Krieger
Liberty Blitzkrieg : March 16, 2017

The evidence is overwhelming and indisputable at this point. Donald Trump is a phony, who has given his administration over to Wall Street crooks even more enthusiastically than his predecessors, and his predecessors were very enthusiastic.

I’ve written about this many times, and I warned throughout the campaign that my biggest fear was Trump is far too cozy with the finance industry, fake populist statements aside. His latest hire for the number two position at the Treasury Department once again proves the point.

As David Dayen reports in his excellent article at The Intercept, Donald Trump Isn’t Even Pretending to Oppose Goldman Sachs Anymore:

The continuity of Wall Street’s dominant role in American politics — regardless of what party sits in power or how reviled the financial industry finds itself across the country — was perhaps never more evident than when Jake Siewert, now a Goldman Sachs spokesperson, on Tuesday praised the selection of Jim Donovan, a Goldman Sachs managing director, for the No. 2 position in the Treasury Department under Steve Mnuchin, himself a former Goldman Sachs partner.

America will never recover until this is dealt with, and Trump has made it perfectly clear he will not deal with it.

“Jim is smart, extraordinarily versatile, and as hard-working as they come,” Siewert gushed. “He’ll be an invaluable addition to the economic team.”

The punch line? Siewert was counselor at the Treasury Department to Timothy Geithner, as well as a White House press secretary under Bill Clinton.

The ubiquity of Goldman Sachs veterans across numerous presidencies throughout history, both Republican and Democratic, has been well documented. But Donald Trump sold himself as something different, an economic nationalist determined to rankle Wall Street. He even ran campaign ads savaging bankers like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for their role in a “global power structure.”

That populist smokescreen is long gone now.

Mnuchin and Donovan are just two of five Goldman expats in high-level positions on Trump’s team. Steve Bannon spent a limited time at Goldman Sachs, but White House assistant Dina Powell, who headed the bank’s philanthropic efforts, and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Goldman’s former president, had higher-ranking positions for a longer period. Jay Clayton, Trump’s nominee for the Securities and Exchange Commission, was a partner for Goldman’s main law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus reportedly blocked Donovan from Treasury initially, amid fears of an image problem with too many “Goldman guys.” But Donovan got the post anyway.

You know it’s bad when Reince thinks there are too many Goldman baby squids around.

Even in areas where populist sentiment was seen as pre-eminent, Trump has reportedly succumbed to the Wall Street advance. A dramatic piece in the Financial Times described a “civil war” within the White House over trade, pitting Trump’s hard-liners like Bannon and trade policy adviser Peter Navarro against the likes of Cohn. It stated that Navarro was being sidelined, with Cohn taking a larger role in the negotiations over NAFTA, and with foreign leaders working through the National Economic Council rather than Navarro in trade talks. AFL-CIO official Thea Lee said in the story, “It appears the Wall Street wing … is winning this battle.”

At the NEC, Cohn hired Andrew Quinn, a chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to coordinate international trade and development. A stewing Breitbart News called Quinn “the enemy within.”

Drain the swamp baby.

Banks have celebrated since Trump’s election, composing the lion’s share of the “Trump bump” in stock prices. Goldman Sachs shares have risen from $181.92 on Election Day to around $250 today, an increase that accounts for as much as one-fifth of the total rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over that period.

It’s now completely obvious that the Trump administration has been hijacked by Wall Street, so where’s the resistance? When it comes to the self-proclaimed leaders of this “resistance,” the corporate media and the Democratic Party, the resistance is nowhere to be found. They’re simply too busy focusing on invented Russia conspiracy theories to deal with the provable conspiracy right in front of their faces. I find that quite curious.

It doesn’t take much critical thinking to immediately discover why. Russia fear-mongering is the perfect way to superficially oppose Trump, without actually opposing him. Corporate media and Democrats don’t dare focus on Trump’s Wall Street embrace because Wall Street owns their asses too. That’s the dirty little secret here.

While that’s bad enough, the only reason Trump is actually able to get away with such an obvious betrayal and lack of swamp drainage, is because his supporters allow him to. His power resides in his base, and if his base shrugs as he sticks a knife in their backs, then he’ll continue to stick the knife in.

(read the full article at liberty blitzkrieg)

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Monsanto Colluded With EPA, Was Unable To Prove Roundup Does Not Cause Cancer, Unsealed Court Docs Reveal

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Zero Hedge : March 14, 2017

If we had a dime for every kooky, left-wing theory we’ve heard alleging some vast corporate conspiracy to exploit the treasures of the earth, destroy the environment and poison people with unknown carcinogens all while buying off politicians to cover their tracks, we would be rich. The problem, of course, is that sometimes the kooky conspiracy theories prove to be completely accurate.

Lets take the case of the $60 billion ag-chemicals powerhouse, Monsanto, and their controversial herbicide, Roundup as an example. For those who aren’t familiar, Roundup Ready is Monsanto’s blockbuster weedkiller, credited with transforming U.S. agriculture, with a majority of farm production now using genetically modified seeds resistant to the chemical.

For years the company has assured farmers that their weed killing product was absolutely safe to use. As proof, Monsanto touted the approval of the chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

That said, newly unsealed court documents released earlier today seemingly reveal a startling effort on the part of both Monsanto and the EPA to work in concert to kill and/or discredit independent, albeit inconvenient, cancer research conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)….more on this later.

But, before we get into the competing studies, here is a brief look at the ‘extensive’ work that Monsanto and the EPA did prior to originally declaring Roundup safe for use (hint: not much). As the excerpt below reveals, the EPA effectively declared Roundup safe for use without even conducting tests on the actual formulation, but instead relying on industry research on just one of the product’s active ingredients.

“EPA’s minimal standards do not require human health data submissions related to the formulated product – here, Roundup. Instead, EPA regulations require only studies and data that relate to the active ingredient, which in the case of Roundup is glyphosate. As a result, the body of scientific literature EPA has reviewed is not only primarily provided by the industry, but it also only considers one part of the chemical ingredients that make up Roundup.”

Meanwhile, if that’s not enough for you, Donna Farmer, Monsanto’s lead toxicologist, even admitted in her deposition that she “cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer” because “[w]e [Monsanto] have not done the carcinogenicity studies with Roundup.”

And just in case you’re the super skeptical type, here is Farmer’s actual email, from back in 2009, which seems pretty clear:

“you cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer..we have not done carcinogenicity studies with “Roundup”.

And while the revelations above are quite damning by themselves, this is where things get really interesting.

In early 2015, once it became clear that the World Health Organization’s IARC was working on their own independent study of Roundup, Monsanto immediately launched their own efforts to preemptively discredit any results that might be deemed ‘inconvenient’.

That said, Monsanto, the $60 billion behemoth, couldn’t possibly afford the $250,000 bill that would come with conducting a legitimate scientific study led by accredited scientists.  Instead, they decided to “ghost-write” key sections of their report themselves and plotted to then have the independent scientists just “sign their names so to speak.”

“A less expensive/more palatable approach might be to involve experts only for the areas of contention, epidemiology and possibly MOA (depending on what comes out of the IARC meeting), and we ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections…but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak.”

Finally, when all else fails, you call in those “special favors” in Washington D.C. that you’ve paid handsomely for over the years.

And that’s where Jess Rowland, the EPA’s Deputy Division Director for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Agency’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee, comes in to assure you that he’s fully exploiting his role as the “chair of the CARC” to kill any potentially damaging research…”if I can kill this I should get a medal.”

(read the full article at Zero Hedge)

RELATED:
Whistleblower Says USDA Protecting Pesticide Makers

Scientist defends WHO report linking herbicide to cancer

Monsanto GMO Soy Is Scarier Than You Think

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Elections BC investigates illegal Liberal party donations

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Tess van Straatenon
CHEK News : March 6, 2017

Elections B.C. investigates explosive allegations that lobbyists have been illegally funneling money to the B.C. Liberals

Pricey fundraisers bring in big bucks for the B.C. Liberals but two months before the provincial election, the party’s fundraising practices are being probed by Elections B.C.

“I’m very concerned,” says chief electoral officer Keith Archer. “That’s why we’re launching the investigation.”

At issue, whether lobbyists are illegally funneling money to the party on behalf of corporate and special interests.

An investigative report by the Globe and Mail found tens of thousands of dollars — in multiple donations — by lobbyists who said they were buying tickets to Liberal events for clients and then getting reimbursed, which is against the law.

“The election act is really clear that political donations cannot be made indirectly,” explains Archer.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is also now calling on the RCMP to investigate

“I was sickened when I first read about what was going on,” says the Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA. “This is egregious. We have very few rules in B.C. on election financing but at least one of them says you can’t donate on behalf of others.”

The law’s been in place for more than 20 years and watchdog group Integrity B.C. says more than $1 million in donations could be in violation in just the last decade.

(read the full article CHEK)

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Trump proves he is a tool for Wall Street after all

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Extreme Vetting, But Not for Banks

Matt Taibbi
February 3, 2017: Rolling Stone

Donald Trump, the man who positioned himself as the common man’s shield against Wall Street, signed a series of orders today calling for reviews or rollbacks of financial regulations. He did so after meeting with some friendly helpers.

Here’s how CNBC described the crowd of Wall Street CEOs Trump received, before he ordered a review of both the Dodd-Frank Act and the fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their clients’ interests:

“Trump also will meet at the White House with leading CEOs, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.”

Leading the way for this assortment of populist heroes will be former Goldman honcho Gary Cohn, now Trump’s chief economic advisor.

Dimon, Schwarzman, Fink and Cohn collectively represent a rogues’ gallery of the creeps most responsible for the 2008 crash. It would be hard to put together a group of people less sympathetic to the non-wealthy.

Trump’s approach to Wall Street is in sharp contrast to his tough-talking stances on terrorism. He talks a big game when slamming the door on penniless refugees, but curls up like a beach weakling around guys who have more money than he does.

The two primary disasters in American history this century (if we’re not counting Trump’s election) have been 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, which cost 8.7 million people their jobs and may have destroyed as much as 45 percent of the world’s wealth.

The response to 9/11 we know: major military actions all over the world, plus a radical reshaping of our legal structure, with voters embracing warrantless surveillance, a suspension of habeas corpus, even torture.

But the crisis response? Basically, we gave trillions of dollars to bail out the very actors who caused the mess. Now, with Trump’s election, we’ve triumphantly put those same actors back in charge of non-policing themselves.

In between, we passed a few weak-sauce rules designed to scale back some of the worst excesses. Those rules presumably will be tossed aside now.

Trump’s “extreme vetting” plan for immigrants and refugees is based upon a safety argument – i.e., that the smallest chance of a disaster justifies the most extreme measures. Infamously this week, administration spokesdunce Kellyanne Conway resorted to citing a disaster that never even happened – the “Bowling Green Massacre” – as a justification for the crazy visa policy.

This makes Trump’s embrace of the Mortgage Crash Dream Team as his advisory panel for how to make Wall Street run more smoothly all the more preposterous.

The crisis was caused by the financial equivalent of open borders. Virtually no one was monitoring risk levels or credit worthiness at the world’s biggest companies.

The watchdogs who are supposed to be making sure the morons on Wall Street don’t blow up the planet all failed: the compliance people within private companies, the so-called self-regulating organizations like the NYSE, and finally the government agencies like the OCC and the OTS.

These companies are now so enormous that they can’t keep track of their own positions. Also, in sharp contrast to the propaganda about what brainy people they all are, many of them lack even the most basic understanding of the potential consequences of deals they might be making.

The leadership of AIG, for instance, basically had no clue how its derivatives portfolio worked, despite the fact that they had $79 billion worth of exposure. Similarly, then-CEO Chuck Prince of Citigroup told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that a $40 billion mortgage position “would not in any way have excited my attention.” Both companies ended up needing massive bailouts.

Not only can they not keep track of their own books, they already blow off regulators whenever they get the chance. Take JPMorgan Chase’s “London Whale” episode, in which some $6.2 billion in losses in one portfolio accumulated practically overnight. In that case, Dimon simply refused to give the federal regulators routine, required reports as to what was going on with his bank’s positions, probably because he himself had no idea how big the hole was at the time.

“Mr. Dimon said it was his decision whether to send the reports to the OCC,” a regulator later told the Senate.

This is the same Jamie Dimon about whom Trump said today, “There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie Dimon, so thank you, Jamie.”

The enduring lesson of the financial crisis is that in markets as complex as this one, the most extreme danger is in opacity. The big problem is that these egomaniacal Wall Street titans want markets as opaque as possible.

This is why they want to get rid of the fiduciary rule, because they don’t think it’s anyone’s business if they choose to bet against their clients (as Cohn’s Goldman famously did), or overcharge them, or otherwise screw them.

They don’t want to have to submit to even the most basic capital requirements, or be classified a systemically important company, or have to keep their depository businesses separate from their gambling businesses, or have to have a plan for dissolution if they melt down, or really deal with any intrusions at all.

(read the full article at Rolling Stone)

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Newt Gingrich Admits – Donald Trump No Longer Wants to ‘Drain the Swamp’

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Michael Krieger
liberty blitzkrieg : December 21, 2016

Not that he ever wanted to, but here’s Newt Gingrich admitting what many of us already knew regarding Donald Trump’s fake populism.

Politico reports:

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington of corruption, but now that he’s preparing to move into the White House, Newt Gingrich said the Manhattan real estate mogul is looking to distance himself from that message.

“I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” the former House Speaker and close Trump adviser said of the “drain the swamp” message in an NPR interview published Wednesday morning. 

Trump’s Cabinet and other high-level appointments seem to have deviated somewhat from his “drain the swamp” message. After attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton regularly throughout the campaign for being too close to Wall Street banks, Trump has put three former Goldman Sachs executives in prominent White House positions, including Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and Gary Cohn as the director of the National Economic Council.

As I highlighted in the recent post, The Election Never Ended:

As Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge fund manager and top adviser to Trump, as well as a former Goldman Sachs banker himself, put it Thursday: “I think the cabal against the bankers is over.” 

Indeed, as we all know, U.S. government economic policy has been essentially handed over to Goldman Sachs during this transition period. Must be a reward for its most recent settlement for rigging yet another market.

Reuters reports:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc will pay a $120 million penalty to resolve civil charges that it attempted to manipulate a global benchmark for interest rate products known on Wall Street as “ISDAFIX,” U.S. derivatives regulators said Wednesday.

The case against Goldman Sachs, brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was the latest in a series of broad investigations into manipulation by big banks of a variety of global benchmark rates.

To date, the CFTC has imposed penalties of over $5.2 billion stemming from these probes, which include Libor and Euribor, foreign exchange benchmarks, and the U.S. Dollar International Swaps and Derivatives Association Fix, or USD ISDAFIX.

A number of banks have also resolved parallel criminal charges related to the manipulation of various global benchmarks.

Goldman Sachs, which was also accused by the CFTC of making false reports on the benchmark rate, will settle the case without admitting or denying the charges.

Penalties don’t change the behavior of white collar criminals. Jail sentences would, but we don’t see any of that when it comes to bank execs.

(full article at liberty blitzkrieg)

UPDATE: Trump is still using the phrase, denies that he was ever going to stop… but the swamp has certainly not been drained.

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Canadian National Railway: The Great Railroad Construction Robbery

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Roddy Boyd
Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation : December 12, 2016

For much of the past two decades Canadian National Railway Co. has been credited with revolutionizing the North American railroad industry.

The company’s former chief executive E. Hunter Harrison’s theory of “precision railroading” — a data-driven focus on charging customers a premium for superior on-time performance — made him an industry icon and his shareholders very happy.

But in railroading, as in life, how you get there matters.

Acting on a tip, the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation began investigating Canadian National in the fall of 2014. Here’s what our reporting uncovered:

  • For over 15 years Canadian National earned hundreds of millions of dollars in profit by marking up rail construction costs up more than 900 percent to a public-sector client.
  • Canadian National regularly engaged in questionable business practices like charging internal capital maintenance and expansion projects to the same taxpayer-funded client and billing millions of dollars for work that was never done.
  • A just-released auditor general investigation suggested a series of reforms designed to reduce these profits.
  • For years, train yard personnel, under intense pressure from management, have intentionally misreported on-time performance, helping the company boost revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars.

—————

On the evening of Dec. 6, 2004, two longtime Canadian National railroad employees, track construction supervisor Scott Holmes and his boss, railroad construction chief engineer Daryl Barnett, were in an elevator at the Deerhurst Resort a few hours by car north of Toronto and on their way to their unit’s Christmas party when Barnett got a call from Manny Loureiro, his supervisor and then head of engineering for the eastern region.

Taking the call on speakerphone, Loureiro told Barnett that he was in a bind because the fiscal year was drawing to a close and his division’s budget was $12 million over what his then boss, Keith Creel, the eastern region director, had set.     Missing his budget bogey would be a major blot on his performance review; it would also eliminate his eligibility for a six-figure year-end bonus. (Editor’s note: All dollar values expressed are Canadian dollars.)

To avoid this, Loureiro told Barnett to transfer $12 million to his unit’s account from a $28 million advance payment that a customer had recently made to purchase signal equipment.

Barnett tried to object but was overruled.

After the weekend when they were back at the office, Barnett told Holmes that Loureiro had requested a transfer of $2 million in addition to the $12 million.

A week later during a conference call that included most of Canadian National’s senior management, CEO Hunter Harrison singled out Loureiro for commendation, singing his praises for having obtained such a large payment from a key customer so late in the year.

Barnett and Holmes concluded that Loureiro must have met the requirements for the maximum bonus.

The customer was GO Transit, Metro Toronto’s commuter rail system, which merged five years later with Metrolinx, Ontario’s taxpayer-funded public transportation agency. The required signal equipment was installed but the $14 million was not returned to Metrolinx’s construction project’s account, according to a former unit executive.

(Loureiro has retired from Canadian National and did not return a message left at his residence. Barnett, who left Canadian National in 2008, is now Metrolinx’s director of railway corridor infrastructure. He did not return an email and a phone call requesting comment.)

On Nov. 30 of this year when the office of Ontario’s auditor general publicly released its 2016 annual report, a 38-page chapter detailed Metrolinx’s billing and rail-construction project-management practices over the previous five years. The auditor general’s staff concluded that both of Canada’s major railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, profited from Metrolinx’s lack of internal financial controls by marking up construction charges well above industry norms.

A reader doesn’t have to parse the report too closely, however, to see that the auditor general took a keen interest in Canadian National’s work for Metrolinx. Put bluntly, the auditor general laid out a case that Canadian National saw Metrolinx coming a mile away and sought to harvest every last taxpayer dollar.

The auditor general’s investigation concluded that Canadian National had billed Metrolinx for new rail products but installed recycled ones from other tracks, that Canadian National’s labor prices were 130 percent above the industry average and that Metrolinx had been charged for projects that had nothing to do with commuter rail lines.

The money involved is real enough: The report stated that Metrolinx paid Canadian National and Canadian Pacific $725 million over the past five years and Canadian National’s projects were singled out as examples of bad news for Ontario’s taxpayers. On one project Metrolinx was charged an astounding $95 million for nine miles of track constructed on the Lakeshore West line.

Christine Pedias, a spokeswoman for the auditor general’s office, declined to specify how much each railroad was paid. It’s fair to assume, though, that the majority of Metrolinx’s construction payments went to Canadian National since most of Toronto’s commuter trains run on railroad tracks it owns or sold to Metrolinx.

Anne Marie Aikins, a Metrolinx spokeswoman, provided via email a statement from the agency’s president, Bruce McCuaig, “The Auditor’s report focuses on a small sample out of the many hundreds of projects Metrolinx is currently working on or has completed between 2011 and 2016.” Additionally, Metrolinx is “proud of its record” and taking steps to address the issues raised.

For its part, Canadian National spokesman Patrick Waldron reiterated the statement it made to news organizations on Nov. 30 about the auditor general’s report, “CN is dedicated to transparency, fairness and accountability in all its contracts and projects with Metrolinx and Go Transit. Projects we have partnered on utilize rigorous construction management processes covering project specifications and budgets to deliver quality work with strict oversight.”

The auditor general also made a series of reform recommendations for Metrolinx that, if implemented, would save Ontario taxpayers money and thus hit Canadian National squarely in the wallet. These included carefully assessing labor and equipment estimates for “reasonableness” using industry standards as a benchmark prior to a contract’s approval, regularly auditing a project underway and assigning an inspector to monitor progress at construction sites.

————-

Long before the Ontario auditor general’s office began its investigation, Canadian National was using Metrolinx as an automated teller machine, albeit one with no deposits required. Over 15 years executive teams have come and gone at Canadian National but the one constant has been the river of profit that its Toronto construction unit has been able to reliably wring from Metrolinx.

Determining how much Canadian National billed Metrolinx over the past two decades is difficult but considering since 2010 four separate land sales, Lakeshore West construction and ongoing maintenance contracts, it’s at least $1.1 billion, the majority of which likely went to operating income. In other words, Metrolinx’s long-running failure to properly scrutinize Canadian National emboldened it to charge prices so high that many of the construction and maintenance contracts amounted to almost pure profit.

The most audacious episode occurred from 2004 to 2008 when Canadian National’s construction managers developed a billing scheme that reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and benefits through wildly inflating the cost of construction, according to documents obtained by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation and attached to ongoing litigation.

The project involved a track expansion project that Canadian National performed for Metrolinx’s Lakeshore West line, on a route that stretched about 40 miles from Hamilton, Ontario, to Toronto’s Union Station. The work was completed in 2012.

Windfall profits and bonus payouts weren’t the half of it. In numerous instances Canadian National billed Metrolinx for work that Canadian National did for its own capital maintenance and expansion projects, saving itself many millions of dollars in expenses.

From 2004 to 2008, Canadian National did track construction work for Metrolinx on a 4.5-mile stretch between the Burlington and Hamilton stations, referred to by Canadian National as Lakeshore West/West. On a separate stretch of the same track in late 2009, crews began adding track to the 9.1-mile stretch from the Port Credit station to Kerr Street, or the Lakeshore West/East line. (The Ontario auditor general’s annual report discussed an unnamed 9-mile track extension that cost $95 million to construct “on the Lakeshore West corridor” but did not identify the project’s location or its date of completion.)

The Lakeshore West/West project’s cost is unclear.

According to an email, Metrolinx had originally approved a construction price tag of $45 million, but in short order the project’s chief engineer, Daryl Barnett, in a bid to reduce costs, noted that the price tag had quickly ballooned past $70 million. Metrolinx’s spokeswoman Aikins did not answer repeated questions on the matter but the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation obtained an April 2015 internal audit Metrolinx conducted at the auditor general’s request that put the final tab for Canadian National’s 2004 to 2008 work on that stretch at “over $200 million.”

What cost “over $200 million?” Three Canadian National railway construction unit staffers (including current and former employees) said the only project underway on Lakeshore West at that time was the Lakeshore West/West and that commuter trains were fully operational on that stretch by the spring of 2006.

(The audit document itself is highly unusual: Metrolinx’s internal auditors asked Canadian National to reauthorize their expired “audit rights” in order to properly document the project’s cost in terms of the labor and material provided. But the railroad refused, forcing the auditors to analyze the billing using only Metrolinx’s documents. The report concluded that the Lakeshore West project had no payment irregularities.)

Interviews with former Canadian National construction employees suggest that much of the Lakeshore West cost run-up can be attributed to Canadian National’s billing Metrolinx for an extensive series of upgrades around Canadian National’s Aldershot train yard. This was work of little apparent benefit to a commuter rail service like Metrolinx. From 2006 to 2007, Canadian National added a mile of mainline quality track enabling newly assembled freight trains to be switched onto another track when exiting the yard so they could rapidly increase speed.

How did they do this? The crew built switches or “turnouts,” which are mechanical installations that guide a train from one track onto another.

Improving access to and from the Aldershot yard solved twin logistical headaches for Canadian National that were its greatest challenges in the Toronto region. Previously trains exiting the Aldershot yard traveled 15 miles per hour and had to switch onto the main tracks at that speed, thus slowing the trains behind them. Now they can reach 25 mph. After improvements at Bayview Junction, Canadian National trains can reach 40 mph when traversing through those switches, sharply lessening the frequency of backlog-inducing stalls during a trip up Dundas Mountain.

Those improvements, according to former construction unit executives, appear to have been charged to Metrolinx.

The picture, below, taken from the Snake Road overpass in Burlington, Ontario, shows a few of the switches that were in the area around Canadian National’s Snake Road facility when a reporter visited the bridge in October. About nine were apparent. This is sharply more than a mere commuter train could ever plausibly need but helpful to long freight trains arriving from Toronto (such as those of Canadian National). Documents suggest that costs mounted rapidly for Metrolinx at least partly because of Canadian National’s order for at least 25 switches: The cost to install them was about $1 million apiece.

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Canadian National’s documents indicate that building track is a remarkably profitable business and that doing so for Metrolinx has generated the type of margins usually enjoyed by  the developers of a breakthrough medicine.

According to a March 2006 Canadian National internal pricing spreadsheet obtained by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation, Canadian National could build a mile of track for a little over $1.12 million: This included a “track labor surcharge” of 138.4 percent and a 69.1 percent “track material surcharge.” (These surcharges, according to the Ontario auditor general’s report, were sharply above industry norms.)

But by charging Metrolinx $10 million to construct a mile of track, Canadian National was able to reap a profit of almost 900 percent.

(Not every customer was charged this way, however. In 2008 Canadian National built track for the federally owned Via Rail for $3 million a mile — without any bridges or switches — in Kingston, 150 miles away from Toronto.)

Nonetheless, Metrolinx had clear oversight provisions to safeguard taxpayers that were built into its Lakeshore West contracts with Canadian National, including a requirement for audit committees, frequent inspections and even aerial photographs, according to copies of the contracts obtained by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. The problem is that all these measures stayed on paper and none appear to have been followed, according to interviews with former employees.

To profit from Metrolinx work, Canadian National used accounting practices that would ordinarily never have publicly surfaced. Unfortunately for Canadian National, though, former construction manager Scott Holmes, who has been fighting his termination from his construction supervisor job since 2009, has claimed that he was let go, in part, because he observed — and complained about — improper billing practices.

In late October of this year Holmes’ legal team submitted a pair of exhibit-heavy filings in response to a sworn affidavit from Gary Poplyansky, a former Canadian National finance official. (Holmes declined to expand on his filings, given the ongoing litigation.)

One of the more profitable accounting gambits that Holmes has claimed to have observed is best described as “over budgeting.” Having agreed in advance to pay annual maintenance and service charges, Metrolinx paid for scheduled work that Canadian National charged it but never performed. A November 2005 email from Canadian National’s Edmonton, Alberta-based capital-projects finance officer, Joe Vanderhelm, to James Lam, then finance chief for the railroad construction group, asked if a total of $3.66 million in capital improvement and labor costs already budgeted for would be incurred by the end of the year. They were not, according to a former construction unit official.

Metrolinx officials apparently did not suspect anything was amiss and the $3.66 million was paid. At Canadian National these funds became a “betterment,” a catchphrase for revenue in excess of the managers’ year-end objectives and often the basis for a performance bonus.

Time after time, with a few keystrokes, Canadian National’s railway construction managers made almost any financial concern vanish by assigning the costs to Metrolinx and its seemingly endless pool of construction cash.

(read the full article at Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation

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Report Confirms Canada’s Housing Market Money Laundering Fraud

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AlternativeFreePress.com

Mainstream media has finally gotten to the truth: Vancouver’s real estate market is rife with money laundering. Back in February we compiled Vancouver’s Housing Market Money Laundering Fraud. In March, How Vancouver Is Being Sold To The Chinese: The Illegal Dark Side Behind The Real Estate Bubble…In September Globe & Mail Investigation confirms rampant fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion in Canada’s housing market did a great job highlighting some of the issues, and now mainstream media has, finally, put all the pieces together…

More than half of B.C.’s most expensive homes owned by secret shell companies spurring money laundering fears

By Sam Cooper
December 9, 2016: Vancouver Sun

Almost half of Vancouver’s 100 most expensive homes are bought using shell companies or other financial tools that obscure who the identity of the true owners, a report from anti-corruption group Transparency International says.

The report, which focuses on money laundering and tax evasion vulnerabilities in Canadian real estate through a study of Vancouver luxury homes, slams Canada for failing to close home-ownership loopholes related to shell companies, trusts and nominees.

The report also concludes the prevalence of non-transparent ownership in B.C. luxury real estate makes it impossible to measure how much offshore cash is invested in B.C. homes, even though B.C. is attempting to collect data on foreign ownership.

“An influx of overseas capital is one of several causes of rising property prices, (in Vancouver and Toronto) but the extent and impact of foreign investment remains unknown since very little data is collected on property owners,” the report says. “Individuals can use shell companies, trusts and nominees to hide their beneficial interest in Canadian real estate.”

(read the full article at calgary herald)

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Official Washington’s ‘Info-Wars’

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William Blum
strategic-culture: December 2, 2016

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning U.S. charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the U.N. from delivering aid to the trapped population.

When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GC: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GC: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.…

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line…

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the U.K., broadcasting in the U.S. and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas… and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (U.S.) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one?

In 1968, six years into the Vietnam War, the Boston Globe (Feb. 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading U.S. papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out.” Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the U.S. mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent.”

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to U.S. foreign policy?

New Cold War Propaganda

On Nov. 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phony stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders.”

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

–An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
–“the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
–“more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
–“stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
–“The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
–“Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
–“They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
–“Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
–“Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
–“a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics.

“They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message.

What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War, the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

Source: strategic-culture

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Fukushima ‘clean-up costs double’, government admits public to pay

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BBC: November 28, 2016

Japan announced what is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of the private electricity utility.

Japan’s government estimates the cost of cleaning up radioactive contamination and compensating victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has more than doubled, reports say.

The latest estimate from the trade ministry put the expected cost at some 20 trillion yen ($180bn, £142bn).

The original estimate was for $50bn, which was increased to $100bn three years later.

The nuclear meltdown at Fukushima was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.

The powerful quake and waves that followed left more than 18,000 people dead, tens of thousands more displaced and well over a million buildings destroyed or damaged.

Almost 4,000 roads, 78 bridges and 29 railways were also affected.

The majority of the money will go towards compensation, with decontamination taking the next biggest slice.

Storing the contaminated soil and decommissioning are the two next greatest costs.

The compensation pot has been increased by about 50% and decontamination estimates have been almost doubled.

The BBC’s Japan correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says it is still unclear who is going to pay for the clean up.

Japan’s government has long promised that Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the plant, will eventually pay the money back.

But on Monday it admitted that electricity consumers would be forced to pay a portion of the clean up costs through higher electricity bills.

Critics say this is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of a private electricity utility.

The fault that caused the earthquake and tsunami is still causing trouble.

(read the full article at BBC)

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Proof that western mainstream media are the fake news

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Alexander Higgins: November 18, 2016

BBC News Caught Staging FAKE News Chemical Attack In Syria

What follows is shocking evidence that crisis actors, green screens, CGI, and paid propagandists are being used to fake worldwide events in order to scare people into giving up liberties and sending us into war.

From video proof showing “dead soldiers” killed by “chemical weapons” walking around after they thought the videos stopped recording, to digitally altering sounds to add in “explosions” that never happened, this segment demonstrates some of the most damming evidence against the media ever shown on television.

BBC News Caught Staging FAKE News Chemical Attack In Syria

(read the full article at alexanderhiggins.com)

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Belgium’s Walloons Are Right; All Canadians & Europeans Should Also Reject CETA

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AlternativeFreePress.com

3.5-million French-speaking Walloons of Belgium are standing up for all the people of Europe & Canada. The Wallonia region has an effective veto over CETA because Belgium’s constitution gives them that power….and we should all be thanking them for using it.

The Huffington Post reports the apparent 5 reasons that the Walloons are blocking CETA, and they are pretty fucking good reasons:

1. Too much corporate power

While the Walloons are worried their agriculture sector will suffer under the deal, they are increasingly concerned about the investor-state dispute settlement system as well. The region’s socialist government has adopted many of the concerns of the civil society groups that oppose the free trade deal: they say it gives multinational corporations too much power to sue governments if they make regulations that affect their ability to turn a profit.

2. Trade tribunals

The Walloons want changes to the ISDS provisions of the treaty, specifically the tribunals that would settle disputes. They want them to be more transparent to eliminate the possibility of bias or conflict of interests by the people appointed to adjudicate disputes.

3. Loophole for U.S. corporations

The Walloons want to see loopholes closed that they say would allow U.S. multinationals with offices in Canada to use the treaty to sue governments in Europe, says Osgoode Hall law professor Gus Van Harten.

4. National courts vs. tribunals

Van Harten also says the Walloons want stronger language in the treaty that would preserve the jurisdiction of domestic courts in individual countries to hear disputes, instead of turning them over to the new tribunal system envisioned by the treaty.

5. We don’t know what we’re getting

In a parliamentary debate last week, Wallonian President Paul Magnette used an interesting metaphor to describe what he says is the opaque nature of the tribunals. He said it was like buying “a cat in a bag.”

As we have mentioned previously, investor-state dispute settlement provisions provide corporations with the ability to loot the public purse when they make poor business decisions and hinders governments ability to protect citizens and the environment. We should all be very grateful to the Walloons and let the world know that if the rest of us had the choice, we would VETO CETA as well.

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Canada’s internal free-trade deal is a gift to corporations, paid for with your tax dollars

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AlternativeFreePress.com

They are calling it an “internal free-trade deal” between provinces, supposedly it’s purpose is to apparently remove protectionist barriers which inhibit competition….. of course they could just actually remove protectionist barriers which inhibit competition, but instead they are creating more regulations. Governments rarely repeal laws, instead they write new ones. Repealing laws would mean the government ceding power, while creating new laws provides them with more power.

This new Agreement on Internal Trade will likely have some positive results, but at what cost? It’s clear that the biggest change will be “a strengthened dispute settlement mechanism with increased monetary penalties”… meaning corporations will have increased ability to sue provincial governments for things like an environmental assessment that concludes a project is likely to cause significant and adverse environmental effects.

Investor-state dispute settlement provisions provide corporations with the ability to loot the public purse when they make poor business decisions and hinders governments ability to protect citizens and the environment.

Sources:
1. Provinces negotiating final details of free-trade deal Globe & Mail

2. The Trouble With the TPP, Day 42: The Risks of Investor-State Dispute Settlement michaelgeist.ca

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“It’s A Trojan Horse” – Thousands Of Germans Protest TTIP Trade Deal One Day Before Obama Visit

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Zero Hedge: April 23, 2016

Whether it is due to Trump’s increasingly vocal anti-free trade rhetoric or due to the ongoing deterioration in the global economy, there has been a big change in the public’s perception toward the transatlatnic deal known as TTIP in the recent months, with support for the agreement which was drafted by big corporations behind closed doors tumbling.

As Reuters reported last week, support for the transatlantic trade deal known as TTIP has fallen sharply in Germany and the United States, a survey showed on Thursday, days before Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama meet to try to breathe new life into the pact.

The survey, conducted by YouGov for the Bertelsmann Foundation, showed that only 17 percent of Germans believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a good thing, down from 55 percent two years ago. In the United States, only 18 percent support the deal compared to 53 percent in 2014. Nearly half of U.S. respondents said they did not know enough about the agreement to voice an opinion.

To be sure, as Michael Krieger wrote on Thursday, “the writing was already on the wall a year ago, which is why politicians were scrambling to pass TPP fast track as quickly as possible, which, of course, they did. So the good news is the public is clearly waking up. What’s a bit depressing is that it’s taken so many decades. Yes, decades.”

But while Americans seemingly have more important things to be concerned about, in Germany the activists are once again making themselves heard. Recall that it was just last October when a stunning quarter million Germans packed the street of Berlin to protest Obama’s “Free Trade” deal.

Fast forward to today when one day before Obama visits Angela Merke in Germany to pitch the trade agreement, thousands of German protesters have once again come out on the streets of Hannover to say ‘No’ to the controversial TTIP US-EU trade deal. Many in Germany fear it will reduce consumer protection and undermine workers’ protection.

While the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe is set to create the world’s largest free trade zone, many Europeans worry that the agreement would elevate corporate interest above national interest. TTIP opponents say that cheaper goods and services would only hurt the EU and help the US.

“People say the deal is going to compromise the European Union sovereignty, and would create much more secrecy, with one of the biggest concerns being that the agreement is wrapped in a big veil of secrecy that people are not happy with,” RT’s Anastasia Churkina reported from Hannover.

According to BBC, German police estimate that about 30,000 people are taking part in the peaceful protest rally in Hannover. Many are carrying placards with slogans that read: “Stop TTIP!”

The demonstrators have also been voicing their anger over the secrecy surrounding the ongoing TTIP negotiations.

“The
TTIP between the American continent and Europe is very dangerous for
the democracy, for our nature and for the rights of the workers,”
protester Florian Rohrich told the BBC.

“The rights in America for
workers are much lower. It’s like the Trojan horse. They can’t change
our whole system. But they will – because TTIP is written by the groups,
by the companies, not by the politicians,” he added.

The negotiations were launched three years ago, and the next round is due to open on Monday in New York.

(read the full article at zero hedge)

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A Great Awakening – Public Support for Fake “Free Trade” Deals Plunges in the U.S. and Europe

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Mike Krieger
Liberty Blitzkrieg: April 21, 2016

The plethora of “free trade” deals (TPP, TTIP and TISA) being promoted by the global robber barons in power are nothing more than fascist corporate handouts (links at the end). Calling them “free trade” deals is purely for PR, and primarily serves as a means for marketing these scams to the ignorant masses.

Fortunately, I have some good news to share. The public is not as ignorant as it used to be. There’s a massive awakening happening, and it’s sweeping these United States as well as Europe.

As Reuters reports in the article, Survey Shows Plunging Public Support for TTIP in U.S. and Germany:

Support for the transatlantic trade deal known as TTIP has fallen sharply in Germany and the United States, a survey showed on Thursday, days before Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama meet to try to breathe new life into the pact.

The survey, conducted by YouGov for the Bertelsmann Foundation, showed that only 17 percent of Germans believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a good thing, down from 55 percent two years ago.

In the United States, only 18 percent support the deal compared to 53 percent in 2014. Nearly half of U.S. respondents said they did not know enough about the agreement to voice an opinion.

Those are absolutely incredible numbers, and can only really be explained by low information voters becoming educated. It reminds me of something I pointed out in last year’s post, As the Senate Prepares to Vote on “Fast Track,” Here’s a Quick Primer on the Dangers of the TPP:

Mr. McConnell could repeat the exercise with a different package, but the delay would add to the risk that the legislation stalls until after Memorial Day recess. That could weigh on the bill’s overall chances, since opponents are generating grassroots opposition across the country.

That just says it all doesn’t it? They need to pass it before the public has a chance to learn about it and oppose it. Typical Washington D.C. bullshit.

The writing was already on the wall a year ago, which is why politicians were scrambling to pass TPP fast track as quickly as possible, which, of course, they did.

So the good news is the public is clearly waking up. What’s a bit depressing is that it’s taken so many decades. Yes, decades.

As I was just entering my teenage years back in 1992, a quirky, billionaire named Ross Perot launched what remains the most successful third-party presidential bid of my lifetime. His core issue was opposition to the one-sided “trade” deal known as NAFTA, which he said would ruin the country.

Watch the video below. He predicted everything that was to come in the decades ahead.

(read the full article at Liberty Blitzkrieg

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Canada plans $1.5 Billion of corporate welfare for fighter jet training

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Help wanted: Top guns for dogfights with Canada’s CF-18 fighter pilots

David Pugliese
Ottawa Citizen: March 11, 2016

Canada’s top guns are in need of some top guns to fight against.

And they’ll get such adversaries by the end of the year.

The Canadian government plans to award by December a contract, estimated to be worth as much as $1.5 billion, to a fleet of fighter jets to go toe-to-toe with the military’s CF-18s.

A private company will be selected to act as the training partner for Canada’s fighter pilots, as well as provide other aircraft to act as the enemy for the Canadian army and navy.

The project, known as the Contracted Airborne Training Services or CATS, will run over an initial 10-year period, followed by the option to continue for another five years.

The Canadian-based Discovery Air Defence has been providing such services for the Canadian military since 2005. It has also expanded its operations internationally and was recently hired to do the same thing for Germany’s armed forces.

But the Canadian government wants to open the competition up potentially to other firms. Pierre-Alain Bujold, a spokesman for Public Services and Procurement Canada, said the bids for CATS went in Feb. 16. “The evaluation, which includes aircraft inspection, is expected to take up to five months,” he explained. “The contract is expected to be awarded by the end of 2016.”

Two firms have publicly acknowledged they have submitted bids: Discovery Air Defence of Montreal, and CAE, also from Quebec, which has allied itself with Draken, a U.S. firm.

Garry Venman, vice-president of business development and government relations at Discovery Air Defence, said the company pioneered the concept in Canada of such airborne services and is now considered an industry leader throughout the world.

“We’ve flown more than 55,000 hours in support of the Canadian and German militaries,” he said. “We’ve got the experience of doing it for the last 11 years.”

Discovery Air Defence traces its lineage to 2001, when it was founded by three former CF-18 pilots.

The firm has what is considered the world’s largest fleet of operational fighter jets in private hands. The company is now looking to acquire U.S.-built F-16 fighters for more advanced training.

“We’re poised for significant growth,” Venman said. “We’re doing all the things the Canadian government says it wants Canadian companies to do — creating jobs and conducting business internationally.”

(read the full article at The Province)

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