Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dion to meet Harper Monday

Maybe Dion is having a panic attack. Perhaps he wants to promise Harper a "sitting on of hands" that will keep the Conservative government in power, a continuation of Liberal past practice. It is hard to see why Dion would change his mind and find time for Harper. Most likely it will change nothing. When Harper decides to do something he usually does it rather than make a lot of noise and do nothing. I guess Dion wants to show that he is willing to co-operate with the Conservatives but that the Conservatives are still bound and determined to have an election. Whoopee! Thanks for the great information Dion that sure will give people confidence in the Liberals. This is from the Star.

Dion to meet Harper Monday - News - Dion to meet Harper Monday

Liberal leader Stephane Dion meets supporters in Toronto's Fairmont Royal York Hotel Aug. 26, 2008.
August 31, 2008 Bruce Campion-SmithOttawa Bureau ChiefOTTAWA - In a surprise turn-around, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has agreed to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Dion, who earlier claimed he was too busy to meet with Harper for another week, will now sit down with Harper tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Harper had sought meetings with the three opposition leaders, ostensibly seeking consensus on issues that could be tackled by the minority Parliament in the fall session.
NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe emerged from their meetings last week, saying that Harper is keen to force a fall election.
But Dion was the hold-out, claiming he was too busy to meet with Harper until Sept. 9, the day after three federal by-elections.
After three weeks of trying to arranage a meeting with Dion, a frustrated Harper and his officials made clear that they might not wait until Dion's meeting before sparking an election.
It remains unclear whether tomorrow's meeting can avert an election.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ottawa wanted U.S. to accept more lenient inspection regime.

This is from the Globe and Mail.

The U.S. is usually the country that is considered anti-regulation but in this case Canada is the country asking for looser regulations. Maple Leaf had to meet the U.S. regulations to export to the U.S. There have been no reports of any outbreaks in the U.S. from the Canadian meat. Surely, this shows that the extra precautions demanded by the US are warranted. I am sure that Harper will be anxious to put more regulations on the Access to Information Act.

Ottawa wanted U.S. to accept more lenient meat inspection regime
From Friday's Globe and Mail
August 29, 2008 at 4:37 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The Canadian government strongly opposed tougher U.S. rules to prevent listeria and lobbied the United States to accept Canada's more lenient standards, internal documents reveal.
Briefing notes prepared by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for an April 7, 2006, meeting with the board of directors of the Canadian Meat Council outline how both industry and the Canadian government were frustrated with the increased precautions the United States was demanding.
Specifically, Canada opposed daily inspection visits and the testing of finished products for Listeria monocytogenes.
Further, the documents show the CFIA agreed to the meat packing and processing industry's request to end a 20-year-old practice of having inspectors issue reports and rankings on facilities. The Canadian Meat Council complained the reports were ending up in the hands of reporters through the Access to Information Act, leading to bad coverage.

More deaths in Ontario are being attributed to the ongoing cross-Canada outbreak of a dangerous bacterial infection linked to tainted meat
Jim Laws, the executive director of the council, which represents Canada's meat packers and processors, said yesterday that he believes he attended the meeting.
He said Canada dropped the inspection reports and rankings as part of a host of changes brought in on March 31.
"It was an archaic way of rating plants that was not logical," he said. "Part of the concern was that this information, it was available to the public ... it was indeed causing our members some grief."
Mr. Laws said the industry has always lobbied for Canada to adopt the U.S. standards to avoid having two sets of rules.
The government documents indicate Canada's meat producers were frustrated that they must add more stringent safeguards to their production lines when producing meat for export to the U.S. market.
"Industry would prefer a single set of standards for both the Canadian and American market," states the document prepared by Dr. Richard Arsenault of the CFIA, anticipating what meat council board members would tell CFIA at the meeting. "[The CMC] will also express their frustration about the recent [United States Department of Agriculture] imposition of product testing for Listeria monocytogenes and of daily visits in U.S.-eligible meat processing plants."
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who is responsible for the CFIA, hinted this week that Canada might move toward U.S. practices of preventing listeria, such as the pasteurization of packaged meat. But the documents reveal the CFIA lobbied the United States to adopt Canada's rules.
"The CFIA is working at bilateral levels to convince the USDA that its system is equivalent to theirs in order to minimize the need for extra import rules," the document says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not backed down from its requirement that all producers of ready-to-eat meat must pasteurize or boil products in the package to kill Listeria monocytogenes, add chemicals to prevent the bacteria, or allow more rigorous plant inspections. It was unclear yesterday which option Maple Leaf took to comply with U.S. standards.
However, it does not appear those higher U.S. standards were enough to prevent the current outbreak.
Canadian plants approved to ship to the U.S., which include the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto that was the source of the outbreak, must meet the USDA standards. The CFIA said yesterday that products from that plant are the same regardless of whether they are for Canadian or U.S. consumers.
Paul Mayers, associate vice-president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, acknowledged there is a different standard for Canadian meat plants that aren't approved to ship to the United States.
"There are some additional requirements that may come into play in relation to export certification of products," he said, but insisted all meat in Canada is safe. "We focus on a single level of hygiene and safety for all consumers of products produced in Canada."
The briefing notes were obtained by researcher Ken Rubin through the Access to Information Act and outline Canada's objections to the U.S. rules, which were imposed in response to a deadly listeria outbreak in 1998.
"The CFIA does not agree with this [USDA] approach, and disagrees with a number of specific USDA requirements (e.g., daily visits, finished product testing for Listeria monocytogenes), [but] it has implemented the required changes to maintain Canada's access to the important U.S. market. The CFIA will only be successful in convincing the USDA to return to previous arrangements if Canadian operators can demonstrate that they are operating in full compliance with all USDA rules," it states.
In addition, the document indicates the industry successfully lobbied to end inspection reports and rankings of its facilities.
"The [Canadian Meat Council] has sought changes to the existing system because ratings and reports are used by the media through the Access to Information Act ... and there is a misperception that products coming from a 'B' or 'marginally acceptable' facility are less safe." ***

Harper, Layton to hold talks amid election speculation.

The media continue the pretence that an election call is still speculation. The Conservatives are already running election ads to avoid the limits on expenditures during the campaign period. Why Layton bothers to meet with Harper is beyond me. As Duceppe said yesterday, Harper had already made up his mind to call an election. The meetings are just a thinly disguised fig leaf to make it look as if Harper had tried to work something out and avoid an election. He will not wait to meet with Dion since he wants to make the call before the scheduled by-elections.

Harper, Layton to hold talks amid election speculation
Last Updated: Saturday, August 30, 2008 8:57 AM ET
CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is meeting another opposition leader Saturday as the Conservative government continues to send signals that Canadians may be heading to the polls this fall.
The prime minister will meet with NDP Leader Jack Layton at Harper's official residence in Ottawa, a day after meeting there with Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
After talks with Harper on Friday, Duceppe said the Conservative minority could continue to work with various opposition parties to pass legislation, as it has over the last two years, but that Harper "absolutely" wants to call a snap election.
"Instead of making efforts to try finding solutions in the best interest of the population, he wants an election in the best interest of his party," Duceppe said.
Later in the day, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said it's probable Harper will seek to dissolve Parliament next week, sending the country to the ballot box on Oct. 14.
Harper, who earlier this month said Parliament is becoming increasingly dysfunction, said he wants to meet with all three opposition leaders to see whether they will support his government in the fall session.
The Liberals' Stephane Dion declined to hold talks at 24 Sussex Dr. around the same time as the two other opposition leaders, but said he'll be willing to meet Harper after the Sept. 8 byelections and before Parliament's scheduled resumption on Sept. 15

Friday, August 29, 2008

How we head to the polls, fixed dates or not.

We have precedent for the attorney general turning down a call for a general election. Governor General Jean should note that Harper has passed a law for a fixed election date. The only reason he is calling an election is because he wants to. Maybe the opposition can form a government then if Harper resigned. Of course this is a pipe dream. The governor general will go along with Harper just as the Liberals went along with the Conservatives on Afghanistan!
I notice that the Conservatives are already running election ads before the election is called. This is a sure sign that speculation is out of place and now replaced by certainty. Just as certain as that the Conservatives are trying to get around election spending limits by advertising before the election is called.

How we head to the polls, fixed dates or not
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 2:36 PM CT CBC News
Calling a federal election in this country is generally straightforward, if a bit more complicated this time around by minority government and the politics of fixed election dates.
A former British colony, Canada follows the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.
That gives a sitting prime minister, who already has the confidence of the House of Commons, the de-facto right to call an election when he or she chooses to.
Granted, Canadian election law and the British North America Act of 1867 state that Parliament is dissolved by the Governor General but that is only supposed to happen when the prime minister so advises.
Convention dictates that such advice is binding, not simply a polite suggestion.
A prime minister goes to Rideau Hall, has a discreet chat with the Queen's representative, then emerges to tell the country that it's off to the polls in up to six weeks time.
In typically British fashion, the process is largely left to precedent and convention, not spelled out explicitly in law.
No wriggle room on dissolution
That makes it no less mandatory, says political scientist Curtis Johnson Cole of the University of Toronto. The Governor General doesn't have a lot of wriggle room when given advice by a sitting prime minister.
From the Canada Elections Act, Section 5
56.1 (1) Nothing in this section affects the powers of the Governor General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the Governor General’s discretion.
Election dates
(2) Subject to subsection (1), each general election must be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election, with the first general election after this section comes into force being held on Monday, October 19, 2009.
S.C. 2007, c. 10, s. 1.
"Theoretically, yes, a Governor General has discretionary powers in this situation, but in practice [is] bound by law and convention to dissolve the House when asked to," Cole says.
This time around, there is a complication.
In May 2007, a bill to amend the Canada's Elections Act became law and suddenly this country joined the list of nations that have fixed dates to go to the polls.
In this case, the next federal vote was supposed to come in October 2009, with future votes on the third Monday of October at four-year intervals.
That was a central part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plans to reform Canadian democracy, as he explained in a speech touting the proposal in May, 2005.
"Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar simply for partisan political advantage," the prime minister said, but he added a proviso.
"Unless we're defeated or prevented from governing," he said, "we want to keep moving forward to make this minority Parliament work over the next three years."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seen with and Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean in Quebec City in July, won't be breaking his own law if he decides to call an early election, according to one expert. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)Thus Harper's oft-repeated refrain that Parliament isn't working and the opposition is preventing governance.
He's making that argument to Canadians, who will make up their minds as they see fit. But one Canadian who will be listening to the prime minister's reasoning in somewhat different circumstances is Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean.
Some are asking whether she might see her role as somewhat more interventionist than usual, given the fixed election dates law.
King-Byng affair
Commentators have delved into history to find an example of a Queen's representative turning down a Canadian prime minister's request to dissolve the House of Commons.
In 1926, William Lyon Mackenzie King's minority Liberal government was wracked with scandal. A powerful Conservative opposition had moved a motion of censure against King, who then went to Governor General Lord Byng to request a dissolution.
It didn't happen.
Byng refused, not once but twice, and King had no option but to resign. Byng swore in Conservative Leader Arthur Meighen as prime minister.
A combined Liberal and Progressive Party opposition denied the Tories a vote of confidence, forcing an election, which King eventually won with a majority.
William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was prime minister six times between 1921 and 1948, asked Gov. Gen. Lord Byng for a dissolution of Parliament in his second term in office but was refused. (CBC)The episode forced a redefinition of Britain's role in Canadian affairs that emphasized the prerogative of prime ministers to call elections.
The opposition's turn?
So where does it leave the current occupant of Rideau Hall, assuming she'll have some prime ministerial advice to consider in the near future?
Might Jean, for example, tell Harper to sit tight while she consults with Stéphane Dion to see whether the Liberal leader is interested in trying to form a government? Or Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe or Jack Layton, leader of the NDP?
No way, according to constitutional scholar Ned Franks of Queen's University, who says consultation between the Governor General and other political leaders can only happen very early in the life of a minority Parliament as a way of examining all options for political stability.
"We're way past that in Ottawa now, way past it," he says.
Franks also believes Harper isn't breaking his own law by calling an early election.
"What he's doing is breaking a commitment he made to the House of Commons. This isn't the first time this government, or any other government for that matter, has done something like that," Franks says.
History and precedent look set to prevail, sending us to the polls whenever Harper chooses.With files from the Canadian Press

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Harper: Dion pushing Liberals left.

Hmm..The Liberals support the Conservatives on extending the Afghan mission. The left, at least the NDP, supports a withdrawal. The Liberals time after time refuse to defeat Conservative legislation. That must mean the Conservative legislation is leftist. No it doesn't mean that, what it means is that Harper is continually spouting nonsense. The left whether in the NDP or the Bloc voted against the Conservatives constantly. Harper not parliament is dysfunctional and we should get rid of him.

Thursday » August 28 » 2008

Dion pushing Liberals left: Harper

Andrew Mayeda
Canwest News Service
Thursday, August 28, 2008
'What's interesting about Mr. Dion is he's certainly the Liberal leader that has taken his party farthest to the left, at least since Mr. Trudeau, if not farther than Mr. Trudeau,' Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters here.
INUVIK, N.W.T. - In his strongest hint yet that Canada is headed for a fall election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that Canadians will have a choice "in the not-too-distant future" between himself or Stephane Dion, who has taken his party "farthest to the left" of any Liberal leader since Pierre Trudeau.
"What's interesting about Mr. Dion is he's certainly the Liberal leader that has taken his party farthest to the left, at least since Mr. Trudeau, if not farther than Mr. Trudeau," Harper told reporters here on the last day of a tour of the Canadian Arctic.
"The fact that Mr. Dion opposes any expenditure management in any area of the government, I think indicates to us why we increasingly have little common ground in Parliament with Mr. Dion and where he is taking the Liberal Party, but more importantly indicates a direction for the country that I don't think Canadians are prepared to accept," the prime minister added.
"We anticipate that Canadians will have a choice in the not-too-distant future on exactly how they want to see this country be governed, through a period where there are economic difficulties across the board."
Arguing that Parliament has become "dysfunctional," Harper has threatened to call a snap election before a set of byelections scheduled for Sept. 8.
The prime minister has been trying to arrange meetings with the four opposition leaders to gauge their resistance to the government's agenda once Parliament returns Sept. 15.
Harper is scheduled to meet Dion on Sept. 9, but the prime minister hinted again Thursday that the meeting might not happen before the country is plunged into an election campaign.
"If I don't hear from Mr. Dion within the next week, I hope that Mr. Dion will prepare himself," the prime minister said in French.
Speaking in Montreal earlier in the day, Dion said his party is "fully ready" for a fall election, and suggested the party will build an election platform on championing arts and culture funding.
But Harper tried to frame Dion as a big spender who represents a dangerous choice for Canadians at a time of economic slowdown. The Conservatives have attacked the Liberals' proposed carbon-tax plan, deriding it as a "tax on everything."
"This is not a time to go back to Trudeau-style economic policies. It is not a time to impose new taxes on the Canadian economy, on the northern economy, on everybody's economy. And it is not a time to launch big, unfunded spending initiatives," said the prime minister.
Critics note the Harper government has brought the country perilously close to a budget deficit through a series of big tax cuts. But Harper sought to deflect some of that criticism Thursday, arguing that Canada is not yet in a "real recession."
"The term that's been thrown around is that we're close to a technical recession, but I think it is only a technical recession," said Harper. "When I say people talk about a technical recession, even if that's true, I don't think it's a real recession."
The prime minister continued: "Somebody said a recession is, you know, when people start losing their jobs and when your neighbour starts losing his job, and there are job losses, but overall, employment's pretty stable."
Statistics Canada is set to release its latest numbers on GDP growth on Friday.
Meanwhile, Harper suggested the Conservatives will continue to use the controversial "in-and-out" financing scheme that has landed the party in hot water with Elections Canada.
"Our position has been that Elections Canada has changed some of its interpretations since the election campaign - that's our problem, that's why we're in a court dispute," the prime minister said.
"But obviously we will not only abide by the letter of the law, but we will work with Elections Canada to reach a common understanding of the interpretation of the law, and that's what we will follow."
Elections Canada has alleged that the Conservatives violated Canada's election laws by claiming national advertising as local candidates' expenses, but the Conservatives have challenged the ruling in Federal Court.
© Canwest News Service 2008


Tony Clement Embracing Big Oil and Big Brother

Nero fiddled while Rome burned but Clement meets with Big Oil and enjoys being "at the center of the political universe" while the tainted meat issue continues to spread. Whats a few poisoned Canadians compared to dining with those at the centre of the political universe? The Conservatives could care less about Canada until it is reconstructed along the lines of our neighbour to the South. Listen to our Great Helmsman Harper:

"Your country [the USA], and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world."-Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.
"A culture of defeat..."- Stephen Harper, negatively describing Canada's Atlantic provinces! May 2001."Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours, a massive brain drain of young professionals to your country, and double the unemployment rate of the United States."- Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.
(quotes courtesy of Buckdog's blog)
Canada's interest for the Conservatives is the U.S. interest. We are to be elevated to the position of chief secure energy supplier for the U.S. even though we might be able to get better deals elsewhere. NAFTA ensures that we supply the U.S. Of course Obama in a bit of populist crapola talks about re-opening NAFTA. That is a non-starter and the Conservatives needn't worry about that even though it would be a good idea from Canada's viewpoint. We could demand a better deal or deal elsewhere. It is not as if there are surpluses of oil and natural gas for the forseeable future!
The Canadian media are joining in the bread and circuses of U.S. Conventions and the election campaign. A waste of air time and a diversion from more important issues. Both Obama and McCain are representatives of the status quo. Anyone ever notice that coverage of anyone such as Nader or the Libertarian candidate for president is nil. Everything is framed within the Tweedle-Dee , Tweedle Dum straightjacket. What one can be sure of is that there will be no basic change that even remotely challenges the rule of capital. This is from the National Post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Clement defends being away during food crisis
Minister representing Canada's interests at Democratic convention
Mike Blanchfield , Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, August 26, 2008
DENVER -- Dismissing criticism of being AWOL during Canada's food recall crisis, Health Minister Tony Clement said Tuesday his trip to the Democratic National Convention was part of a robust new effort to inject Canadian interests into U.S. politics.
"We believe and the prime minister believes that we have to be more aggressive in representing Canadian values and interests in the American political scene," Mr. Clement told Canwest News Service from the convention on Tuesday.
Mr. Clement arrived Monday at what he called "the centre of the political universe for the next week" with Transport Minister Lawrence Canon and Government House Leader Peter Van Loan.
At least two more cabinet colleagues, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Immigration Minister Diane Finley, are bound for next week's Republican National Convention in Minnesota.
"Having three cabinet ministers here, having cabinet ministers at the Republican national convention, shows a new style, that we're going to take it to the Americans and not sit back and wait for history to happen," Mr. Clement said. "We want to be part of that history."
As chair of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet committee on the environment and energy security, Mr. Clement said it was crucial that he engage his Democratic party counterparts on battling climate change and the search for safe, secure oil and gas supplies -- the latter which has emerged as a key theme in the U.S. race for the White House.
And Mr. Clement said the time to engage the next president is before he is elected.
Mr. Clement's arrival in Denver on Monday drew fire from the Liberals.
"While Mr. Clement is enjoying himself at cocktail receptions at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, people back home are dying," said Liberal Health critic Carolyn Bennett.
Mr. Clement fired back, saying that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was the lead minister on the massive food recall that followed the listeriosis outbreak.
"He is doing a great job and he continues to lead on that. I did a press conference in Ottawa Sunday night. I return tomorrow, as scheduled, to participate in a cabinet meeting. So I'm doing my job," Mr. Clement said.
"This blackberry is on 24/7. I've already had discussions with my officials this morning. I can do that as easily in Denver as last week when I was in Saskatchewan."
Mr. Clement dined Monday night with Gordon Giffen, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Bill Clinton administration, and was to meet with former president Jimmy Carter later Tuesday.
But his key meeting was to come before his departure Wednesday, when he chairs a closed-door discussion on energy security with American oil and gas company executives in Denver.
"We're one of the greatest energy producers in the world, as the prime minister said we're an energy superpower. We should be here," Mr. Clement said.
Mr. Clement played down two key concerns to Canada about an Obama presidency: That he might want to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement ushering in a new era of protectionism; and that his administration views the Alberta oil sands as a dirty energy source.
Mr. Obama lost the crucial Ohio primary after a Canadian official leaked information on his stance on NAFTA, suggesting that his public declarations on renegotiating the pact were only public posturing for votes.
"Presidential candidates utter millions upon millions of words during this campaign that never ends," said Mr. Clement.
"When it comes to the trade file, we have some common interests. There's no question that keeping the border open as possible helps Canada, it helps the United States. That's going to be our message to the incoming president."
In June, Obama's energy adviser Jason Grumet said it was an "open question" whether Canada's oil sands were part of the world's "dirty, dwindling and dangerously expensive" oil supply from which the United States needed to break its addiction.
"We've got to get our message out better about the value of the oil sands. For the first time in history it's the Stephen Harper government that is putting mandatory caps with a trading system for emissions from the oil sands," said Mr. Clement.
"We've got something that we can market to the Americans, saying hey, we're doing our job with the oil sands and other emissions, and we want to work with you to curb emission too."
Ottawa Citizen
Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Bankrupting the bankrupt Liberals

This is an interesting and well written article by a well known Conservative strategist. Flanagan makes some excellent points. Note that Flanagan assumes that lack of funds will be a millstone around the Liberals' neck. Other things being equal this is probably true but there are times when voters become so disgusted with a ruling party that a Mickey Mouse poor as a church mouse could win. The Liberals have done nothing to merit voter support but yet they remain close to the Conservatives at the polls. It is a race to determine who is the least disgusting.
There are no doubt many reasons for the Conservatives to call an election now but Flanagan puts a new spin on the election call and his reasoning is not without some merit. However Harper also probably wants to avoid possible poor results in byelections, further digging up of dirt by committees, and worsening economic times. Dion will have his opportunity to show that he has been underestimated by his opponents. If Dion does very well and is able to form his own minority or majority government I wonder if Harper will fade from the scene.

The Grits won't die - they'll just fade away
And if they're not careful, they could end up in a financial pit
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
August 28, 2008 at 9:11 AM EDT
Carthago delenda est.
- Cato the Elder
Although the looming fall election seems mired in technicalities about election dates, the stakes are very high for the party leaders, especially for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. He has to do much better than Paul Martin did in the last election. He has to lead his Liberals to victory, or at least to such an improvement that the Conservative minority government is destabilized.
Anything less, and Liberal supporters, who have long been accustomed to winning, will be clamouring for his scalp.
But the party's precarious financial state makes the stakes even higher for the Liberal Party as an institution than for Mr. Dion as a leader.
Here's what we know about Liberal finances:
Their fundraising stinks. They raise only about $5-million a year, barely ahead of the New Democrats and less than a third of what the Conservatives can muster. They are surviving on their government subsidy - currently about $9-million a year, based on the 4.5 million votes they received in 2006.
They have borrowed $2-million from the banks to cover operating expenses. The national party's credit rating was so poor that wealthy constituency associations had to guarantee the loan.
Candidates from the last leadership race still owe about $2-million from their campaigns. Elections Canada has given them another 18 months to pay off those loans, but that is diverting fundraising efforts from the party to the candidates.
The Liberals can borrow the money they need to run a fully funded, $19-million national campaign - but loans have to be paid back. Their 50-per-cent rebate from Elections Canada will provide $9-million, but how will the rest of the loan be repaid? Here's where things get really dangerous for the Liberals.
Suppose Dion-o-mania fails to materialize and the Liberals get fewer votes than they did in 2006. Then their subsidy, already down to 86 per cent of what it was when the new system started in 2004, will fall even further. Yet, much of this declining subsidy will be dedicated to repaying their bank loans because Liberal fundraising will also fall; people don't like to give money to losers. And the banks can't agree to write off the loans or substantially soften their terms because that would constitute an illegal corporate donation.
Moreover, Mr. Dion - never very popular in his party - will be facing calls to resign. But that means a new leadership race, even before the debts from the previous one have been repaid, as the big boys - Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae - square off for an expensive final slugfest.
The Liberal Party will undoubtedly survive the coming election, but it may emerge financially crippled, with the banks laying claim to much of its (now smaller) public subsidy, and fundraisers working to pay off debts from leadership races past and present.
The first order of business for any new Liberal leader will be to restore the party to financial health. Over four years, John Tory succeeded in doing that for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, but provincial law allowed him to draw on corporate and high-end individual donations. Under federal law, however, the Liberals are confined to grassroots fundraising, which they have not yet learned how to do.
Against this backdrop, the Conservatives would appear to have a viable long-term strategy: force the Liberals to exhaust their limited resources in repeated battles.
Do you remember your ancient history? From a Conservative point of view, this is a rerun of the Punic Wars, with the Conservatives starring as the rising Roman republic and the Liberals cast as the evil empire of Carthage. In the first Punic War, the Romans took Sicily from Carthage; in the second, they took the rest of the Carthaginian possessions in Europe; and in the third, they defeated Carthage totally, razed the city to the ground and sowed salt in the fields so nothing would ever grow there again.
In the first Canadian Punic War, the Conservatives brought the Liberals down to a minority government; in the second, they pushed the Liberals out of government altogether, although they not did get their own majority. What will happen in the impending third Canadian Punic War?
Destruction of the Liberals is not at hand; there will be further sequels to this movie. But if the Liberals are not careful, they, like the federal Progressive Conservatives of sainted memory, could be pushed into a financial pit they can never climb out of.

US Double Standards Kosovo versus Abkazia and South Ossetia

This is from Information Clearing HOuse.

I was not aware that the U.S. has ever occupied the moral high ground. However, this article does point out the obvious double standards of the U.S. in the contrast between its treatment of Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkazia and its own recognition of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. Russia warned the west then of the consequences for separatist movements in Georgia. No one paid the least attention.
Personally I think that the situation in Kosovo had gone too far to re-integrate Kosovo but into Serbia but it also seems that the same is true of Abkazia and South Ossetia. In any event Russia will simply ignore the objections of the west just as the west ignored Russia's objections about Kosovo. Canada delayed recognition for a time and then gave in perhaps to U.S. pressure. Russia however may not be able to get even allies to support the independence of Abkazia and South Ossetia since many of those allies in the SCO group such as China also have separatist problems just as Georgia does. See this article in the Globe and Mail.

Double Standards on Russia-KosovoRussia, Georgia, and the Kosovo ConnectionBy J. Victor Marshall"By selectively turning principles into propagandist slogans for scoring points, the United States no longer occupies the political high ground. Washington’s lectures sound like hectoring, not sincere admonitions that could sway international public opinion and restrain Russian actions."27/08/08 "MMN" -- - In Russia even more than in America, “Kosovo” rhymes with “I told you so.”Many Americans don’t realize that the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which broke away in 1999 after US-led NATO forces bombed Serbia for 78 days, helped set the stage for the recent conflict between Russia and neighboring Georgia.But Russian leaders, who like most leaders care intensely about what happens at their borders (Georgia) and to their longtime allies (Serbia), warned earlier this year that support for Kosovo’s independence would set a precedent that could trigger separatist conflicts in places like Georgia.It was a warning that Washington and several of its European allies foolishly, even recklessly, failed to heed.In negotiations over the final status of Kosovo, which had been under United Nations jurisdiction since 1999, Serbia promised the province autonomy but not independence.While many observers questioned Kosovo’s readiness for independence, given corruption in its civil administration and the murderous campaign of ethnic cleansing waged by Albanian nationalists against Serbs in their midst, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence on February 17.Although Kosovo’s move arguably violated UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which recognized Serbia’s ultimate sovereignty, many NATO countries including the United States sided with Kosovo.“The Kosovars are now independent,” declared President Bush.Humiliated by NATO’s military intervention in 1999, Russia now chafed at the political intervention of NATO countries in favor of Kosovo’s secession, which Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned as “immoral and illegal.”Russian leaders warned that unilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence would open a “Pandora’s box” by appearing to support similar claims by other separatist movements in some 200 regions of the world.The Russian Foreign Ministry declared, “Those who are considering supporting separatism should understand what dangerous consequences their actions threaten to have for world order, international stability and the authority of the U.N. Security Council's decisions that took decades to build.”Outside of NATO, many countries sided with Russia’s statement of principles.Surprisingly, one of the most outspoken was Russia’s hostile southern neighbor, Georgia. And the reason wasn’t hard for experts to fathom.As Richard Weitz at the Hudson Institute noted at the time, Russia could seize upon Kosovo as a precedent for fomenting separatist movements in the former Soviet republics, including South Ossetia’s drive for independence from Georgia in the Caucasus.Jonathan Eyal, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, warned similarly, “if the Kosovo precedent is used, the Russians can also recognise ethnic Russian enclaves in places such as Georgia or Moldova. What's good for Kosovo is good for other places as well.”Their unheeded warnings have just come to pass, at the expense of thousands of dead and wounded.Just as NATO justified its intervention in 1999 as a humanitarian defense of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians against Serbian atrocities, so Russia said it came to the defense of South Ossetia, which suffered terrible atrocities at Georgian hands in the early 1990s, after Georgian troops shelled its capital earlier this month.In addition to Kosovo, Russia can justify its intervention on behalf of South Ossetia by pointing to any number of other precedents set by the United States: the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemption, its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, its silence in the face of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and many more.What difference do all these precedents and broken principles make?By selectively turning principles into propagandist slogans for scoring points, the United States no longer occupies the political high ground. Washington’s lectures sound like hectoring, not sincere admonitions that could sway international public opinion and restrain Russian actions.In short, by squandering its moral authority, the United States has unilaterally disarmed itself of “soft power” that was once one of our greatest weapons. And Kosovo was one of the fields upon which the United States laid down its moral arms.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

RCMP 'disruption'' led to Canadians torture, book charges.

This is from
This sounds like an interesting book. The strategy was hardly just disruption however. There was obviously an attempt at gathering intelligence by having Almalki, Arar, et al imprisoned and tortured in Syria. Obvious too I should think is co-operation with the U.S. even though CSIS seems to have covered this up for the most part and the Arar investigation did not show CSIS and RCMP co-operation with the U.S. except that they sent plenty of unscreened evidence without any caveats. That evidence is probably what got Arar classified as an Al Qaeda agent and shipped to Syria. It seems that Canadian authorities did not know that this was to happen but one wonders about the CSIS and RCMP. Canadian intelligence authorities did inform the Americans that Arar would not be charged if sent to Canada. Wink wink nod nod. So you better send him to Syria for processing! After all that is what we did with others in the group.

RCMP 'disruption' led to Canadians' torture, book charges
Unable to secure prosecutions, Mounties, CSIS worked to have men sent to Syria: author

Andrew Duffy
Canwest News Service
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
OTTAWA - A new book suggests Abdullah Almalki's imprisonment in Syria was the end product of a "disruption strategy" employed by the RCMP after prosecutors refused to launch a criminal case against the Ottawa engineer.
Almalki spent 22 months in Syria's prison system where, he alleges, he was tortured based on faulty intelligence supplied by Canada. At the time of his detention in May, 2002, Almalki was the focus of an RCMP national security probe that would also ensnare another Ottawa engineer, Maher Arar.
In her new book, Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror, Ottawa author Kerry Pither says it was no accident the men suffered such similar ordeals.
It was, she argues, part of an orchestrated - and possibly illegal - campaign by Canadian security agencies to neutralize men they wrongly believed to be terrorist threats.
"The public for the most part, while they know and recognize Maher Arar's name, they don't know that there was something far more systematic going on," Pither said in a recent interview.
"I believe that you can't really understand what happened to Maher Arar without understanding what happened to the other men."
Four Canadian Muslims - Arar, Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin - were detained and tortured in the same Damascus military prison in the three years that followed the 9-11 terror attacks. All were under investigation by the RCMP or CSIS at the time for alleged terrorist connections.
"You can't argue this was a series of coincidences or mistakes when you look at all of them together," charged Pither, an Ottawa human rights activist, who worked as a communications strategist for Arar and the other men who form the subject of her book.
"When you look at all of them together, it demands accountability; it demands a review of who knew what, when. It can't be explained away as just the Americans, as just coincidence, as just the Syrians, as just mistakes . . . It must be systematic."
Pither notes, in the book, the RCMP consulted with the Ontario Crown Attorney in the fall of 2001 to determine if charges could be laid against several terror suspects - believed to include El-Maati and Almalki - based on evidence gathered by the CSIS.
The Crown, however, said the evidence was too tainted and insufficient for criminal charges to be laid.
According to testimony offered by Jack Hooper, then CSIS deputy director of operations, and contained in a footnote in the Arar Report, "this resulted in the focus of the investigation moving from prosecution to more of a disruption exercise, whereby the police would assist CSIS in dismantling a group of alleged terrorists."
In her book, Pither points to a May, 26, 2006 Senate committee hearing as further evidence that the four men were victims of a systematic disruption strategy.
At that hearing, Hooper told legislators that the spy agency uses "other techniques" when it proves impossible to prosecute terror suspects in a court of law.
Then RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli told the same committee that, "particularly since 9-11, we have had to accept going to a disruptive mode, because prevention is the most important thing."
Pither believes that, taken together, the four cases demonstrate the full meaning of disruption.
Almalki and El-Maati, she said, were harassed by national security agents in Canada, who followed them constantly and in plain sight. The intrusive surveillance, Almalki says in the book, "squeezed" him out of Canada.
Pither believes Almalki and the others were detained in Syria as part of the same disruption campaign.
"I believe so: everything we know points to that," Pither said. "Everything we know points to these cases being an example of circumventing the normal legal processes, the rule of law.
"The fact that they're held in the same detention centre as so many other war on terror suspects from other countries seems to me to point to Canada's role in a global diffuse and disrupt strategy. We now know the extent to which the U.S. and CIA were doing this. Does this point to the same strategy happening in Canada? Yes, these cases certainly do."
A federal inquiry has already established that the RCMP passed questions through Canadian diplomats to Almalki's Syrian interrogators.
Pither's book argues Canadian security officials were particularly keen to show results in their post 9-11 terror investigations because of the mistakes they had made in the Ahmed Ressam case.
An Algerian refugee who lived in Montreal, Ressam was arrested by U.S. border guards while crossing into Washington State on Dec. 14, 1999 with high explosives in the trunk of his car. He later admitted he was part of a plot to blow up the Los Angeles Airport.
CSIS had lost track of Ressam after he returned to Canada from an al-Qaida training camp on a false passport.
In her book, Pither calls Ressam "the poster boy for CSIS incompetence and lax passport controls."
The book hits the shelves Tuesday as a federal inquiry prepares its final report on the role Canadian officials played in the detention and mistreatment of Almalki, El-Maati and Nureddin.
Judge Frank Iacobucci has conducted the "internal inquiry" almost entirely behind closed doors.
Pither says she's concerned by the secrecy that surrounds the inquiry and hopes her book will add important context to the forthcoming report. "The inquiry is about the action of Canadian officials: it's not about how this unfolded for the men themselves and I think that's an important perspective for Canadians to understand."
Iacobucci is to deliver his report by Oct. 20.
The Canadian government has already apologized to Arar and awarded him $10 million in compensation; the other men have launched civil suits against Canadian officials seeking similar redress.
© Ottawa Citizen 2008

Critics blast Clement's absence.

This is from the Globe and Mail.
I find it a bit odd that there should be three Conservative ministers at the Denver Democratic Convention. Unlike George Bush, Harper cannot even find time to go to the opening of the Beijing Olympics. I guess if you are going to be a junior partner in U.S. imperialism you have to get your priorities straight. What's a few dead Canadians as a result of meat contamination. Its not as if they were troops serving in Afghanistan! They are just collateral damage to a system that hasn't enough meat inspectors and a government that apparently was planning to turn the whole inspection process over to the industry itself.

Critics blast Clement's absence
August 26, 2008
OTTAWA -- Canada's Health Minister Tony Clement is in Denver this week to take in Barack Obama's coronation at the Democratic National Convention, leaving his officials in Ottawa to manage one of the largest food recalls in Canadian history.
Mr. Clement made his first public comments Sunday on the growing outbreak of listeriosis, but by yesterday Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was back as the lead point man for the Conservative government.
Further, Mr. Clement's office told The Globe and Mail yesterday that the Health Minister was not notified about the listeriosis outbreak until Aug. 19 - three days after Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials recommended to Health Canada officials that a recall take place.
It was on Aug. 19 that Mr. Clement's political staff sent him an e-mail notifying him that his department had been dealing with a listeriosis outbreak and that he should be briefed.
The e-mail was sent the day before Maple Leaf foods recalled more than 20 meat products and shut down its Toronto plant. The day after the recall, Mr. Clement discussed the outbreak face to face with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa.
While Mr. Ritz, who is responsible for the CFIA, came to Ottawa immediately from his Saskatchewan riding to manage the growing crisis, Mr. Clement carried on with his regular schedule, including stops in Saskatchewan and his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding in Ontario.
"I continue to be available all hours of the day and night," said Mr. Clement in a phone call from Denver, where he is one of three Conservative ministers at the event, along with government House Leader Peter Van Loan and Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon. "This is a very important convention where there is a chance that the next president of the United States will be nominated."
But the opposition said the Health Minister should be visible and on the scene.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has already pointed out that Mr. Clement was in the Ontario government that was partly blamed for the tainted-water deaths in Walkerton, Ont. Mr. Dion accused the federal Tories of wanting to take the same deregulation approach to food.
"His absence is yet another example of a Harper minister missing in action at the height of a national medical crisis," Mr. Dion's spokesman, Mark Dunn, said in an e-mail.
NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis said Mr. Clement should have given the convention a pass.
"To not be on the file and to not be visible and ever-present throughout this whole crisis is dereliction of duty," she said. "I just find this totally reprehensible and unacceptable. It's an abysmal lack of leadership."
Mr. Clement said he has made sure his staff notified him about the outbreak at the proper time. While his office said Mr. Clement and Mr. Ritz have joint responsibility for managing the outbreak, the Prime Minister's director of communications, Kory Teneycke, said Mr. Ritz has the lead and Mr. Clement should not be criticized for being in Denver.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Early election call won't break any promises: Harper

Of course being in a minority cannot prevent the opposition from forcing an election before the fixed date next year but Harper can prevent himself from doing so! His saying that he is not breaking any promise is a crock. Harper probably wants to call an election because he thinks that things are going to get worse in the economy and with scandals and who knows what else. Rather than let the Liberals determine the timing he will do it himself. Or maybe Harper has the impossible to resist syndrome a disease the inflicts prime ministers and premiers and paralyzes the will making it impossible to resist calling an election. This is from the CBC.
From this article it would seem that Harper may very well call an election before the coming byelections. Dion may be right that Harper worries he might not do well in those byelections.
Anyway Harper's calling the meeting with the leaders of other parties is surely a farce. I am surprised that any leaders actually agree to meet with him. A phone call would do. Anyway he already knows the Liberals will co-operate as long as they do not like the polls.

Early election call won't break any promises: Harper
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 2:00 PM ET CBC News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he won't be breaking his promise to Canadians if he calls an election this fall, one year ahead of the fixed election date set by his own government.
He said the goal of the fixed election date — the next one being Oct. 19, 2009 — is to provide Canadians with some sense of certainty.
But, Harper argued, in the context of a minority government like the current one, certainty is never possible because opposition parties are always threatening to vote against the ruling party on confidence motions and topple the government.
"We are clear," Harper told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa. "You can only have certainty about a fixed election date in the context of a majority government.
"Look, if any of the opposition parties wanted to provide some, any degree of certainty that we'll be here to October 2009, then we'll have an election in October 2009."
He said the opposition parties have not shown their support — the NDP and Bloc have indicated they want an election called, while Harper said the Liberals have proposed their own $15.4-billion carbon-tax plan in June, suggesting they want the government to move in a different direction from the current path the Conservatives are on.
The prime minister said he is continuing to consider whether an election needs to be called, a decision he has said he expects to make in the next few weeks. Senior Conservatives have suggested Harper could pull the plug on his minority government as early as Sept. 2.
"The country must have a government that can function during a time of economic uncertainty," Harper said.
Can't wait for meeting with Dion
He said he is not willing to wait for Sept. 9, the day Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has suggested he could meet with Harper to discuss the issue of whether Parliament can continue as is. The meeting would occur a day after three federal byelections in Quebec and Ontario; a fourth byelection is slated to take place in Ontario on Sept. 22.
"We don't need to wait three weeks for a meeting to occur," Harper said.
"As I have already said, this shows a fundamental difference between the government and the opposition parties, and particularly Mr. Dion, who has proposed an economic agenda [the carbon-tax plan] which is completely the opposition of the government's program."
The CBC's Keith Boag, covering Harper's news conference in Ottawa, said Tuesday's comments marked the first time Harper has been direct in answering questions about the possibility he will call an election.
Harper didn't say an election would depend on what Dion decides, or on any other conditions, as he has in past news conferences.
"The prime minister is not trying to be coy about it in any way at all anymore," Boag said. "He more or less accepted that an election is going to happen."
"When the prime minister himself is talking that way, you can pretty much take it to the bank that he's made up his mind that he'll have to call an election very, very soon."

Layton Letter to Robert Ouellet

Actually Layton and Ouellet are in agreement about enlarging the scope of the system. Layton does not mention using other countries as models but there certainly are European models that could be emulated. However Ouellet picks the UK where a parallel private system has if anything created even more problems for the public system. Layton neglects to mention that one of the problems in the Canadian system is that the percentage of costs paid by the federal government has been declining causing considerable pressure on poorer provinces. Created 2008-08-20 16:24
Jack Layton's letter to the new President of the CMA Robert Ouellet
Robert Ouellet, MDPresident, Canadian Medical Association1867 Alta Vista DriveOttawa, ON K1G 5W8
Dear Dr. Ouellet,
I would like to congratulate you on your recent election as president of the Canadian Medical Association.
As a strong advocate of our universally accessible public health care system, I am, however, disturbed at your reported comments concerning the need to completely “transform” health care in Canada to accommodate increased for-profit services.
Long wait-times, the shortage of medical professionals, and rising health costs, are problems that will not be solved by creating a parallel private healthcare system.
There are many challenges facing the healthcare system, but if I can borrow words from your latest speech to the CMA, “we can do it.” We need to start by addressing the shortage of physicians and nurses. By increasing opportunities for training and educating health professionals we can reduce wait times and improve access for all Canadians. We also need to make use of the increased benefits of technology, and introduce a comprehensive drug management plan. We need to share and build on best practices from across the country and help spur reform through innovation. These are just a few of the changes that will offer significant improvement to our public health care system, will continue quality care for ordinary Canadians and will preserve our universal not-for-profit health care system.
Public healthcare is still the best way to take care of the majority people for the least amount of money. Opening up the healthcare system to the corporate health care industry will only increase costs and decrease access. We hope that organizations like the CMA will work with us and groups like Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Health Coalition to improve our healthcare system.
The federal NDP team is determined to help implement health care solutions and deliver to Canadians the high quality and innovative health care services they deserve.
I look forward to working with you over the coming year in advancing these and other innovations within the public system.
Sincerely,Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada
© 2008 New Democratic Party, all rights reserved. Authorized by the registered agent for Canada's NDP.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dion on the minority government..

This is from the CBC.

Harper has blamed opposition parties in recent days for paralyzing Parliament. But Dion said the minority government is working just fine.
"One thing is sure," said Dion. "The Parliament is working. The Parliament is not dysfunctional."

Dion is right. The parliament is not dysfunctional. It is the Liberal party that is dysfunctional. It is totally incapable of preventing Harper from getting his policies approved by parliament. However, Harper does not like those nasty committees and worries about what might be uncovered. He also worries about the worsening economic situation and no doubt thinks, perhaps rightly, that the Liberals will not do all that well under the leadership of Dion. Better an election now than being defeated later at a worse time. Duceppe did not have very kind words for Harper:

"Those ideological right wingers who are leaving behind economic devastation, and blood and destruction around the world. We here are confronted with the same gang," he said in French."Those ideological right wingers who are leaving behind economic devastation, and blood and destruction around the world. We here are confronted with the same gang," he said in French.

I hope Duceppe remembers those words if his party is called upon to vote against the government.

James Laxer: The Russian American struggle over Georgia

James Laxer has a good article on the Russian-American struggle on his blog. Laxer shows the connection between the conflict and the petro-imperialism of the U.S. As Laxer mentioned there are further aspects particularly the U.S. push to have Georgia and the Ukraine as well join NATO and thus ring Russia round with states allied to the west and protected by NATO. It is actually surprising that Russia has not made stronger moves before this to contain this development. Mostly it has engaged in rhetoric complaining about the moves. The Missile Defence system is another thorn in the Russian bear's side as well.
Changes in Russia are also part of what is causing this renewed conflict. In the morality tale that is peddled in the west the U.S. is spreading democracy and Russia is becoming more authoritarian. The spread of the authoritarian disease is so severe that Russia may soon be reconstituted as the Evil Empire minus socialism. However instead of socialism we have a new capitalist regime that is using nationalisation to regain economic power and rebuild Russia into a world power again. This is what really bothers the West. Some of the richest former oligarchs who made a bundle from the collapse and selling off of the Soviet Union are now in exile or in jail and their assets taken over by the state. Of course the oligarchs are still there but only those that go along with Putin's new economic policy that consists of renationalisation and getting better deals with foreign capital. Energy has been re-nationalised.
This is from ">spiked-on-line. Of course Chile's development was undertaken with the help of Pinochet!

There has been evidence of diminishing democracy since 1993 (including the use of tanks against parliament) but it has only recently received any critical attention. The West, silent during the wars in Chechnya, suddenly found its voice when the private oil consortium Yukos was taken over in 2003. According to a report that received little press coverage, Yukos had planned a merger with Sibneft and was arranging, in collaboration with Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco, for a massive investment of US capital in the Siberian oilfields on the eve of the Iraq war.
The Yukos takeover was the first step towards renationalisation of energy, to the detriment of certain closely connected Russian and foreign interests. Putin rejected the Chilean-style course recommended by his economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, who resigned in 2005, protesting that Russia had changed and was no longer a free country (8).

The economic conflict with the U.S. and the rest of the west certainly involves the aspect that Laxer describes so well. Here is another snippet from mondediplo. This shows the significance of the re-nationalisation as a bid to increase Russian power and block the further takeover of key assets by foreign firms.

There was a major turning-point at the beginning of Putin’s second term in 2003, when he handed control of the crucial hydrocarbons sector to selected state undertakings. The sector had partly recovered from the oligarchs, who had acquired their holdings at knockdown prices during the privatisations of the Yeltsin era (5). Putin’s move to protect strategic assets does not preclude opening them to foreign capital; but, given the offensive mounted by the public energy monopolies Gazprom and Transneft, it isintended to block a US policy, instituted in 1991, aimed at diminishing Russian power. This policy was the purpose of Nato enlargement and the establishment of alternative energy supply routes to replace the Russian networks. Another of Putin’s aims is to recreate a common Euro-Asian economic area, possibly including a European-Russian partnership..........................

This is the developing much wider conflict developing under the morality tale peddled by the mainstream press. Laxer's piece follows:

The Russian-American Struggle Over Georgia
The outbreak of fighting in recent days between Russian and Georgian forces for control of the Georgian province of South Ossetia takes place against the backdrop of the geo-strategic struggle for control of the petroleum resources of Central Asia. Deeply involved are the Russians and the Americans.The Caspian Sea region is home to major petroleum reserves. Kazakhstan has proven reserves of 30 billion barrels of oil and Azerbaijan has reserves of 7 billion barrels. Georgia is crucially placed for the shipment of oil to world markets.For the Russian government, petroleum is a tool that can be used to launch the country as a renewed great power, allowing it to acquire considerable authority in the regions that made up the former Soviet Union. While Washington favors the rapid development of Russian petroleum because it provides an alternative for the West to Middle Eastern supplies, the Bush administration has been wary of policies that can reconstitute Russia as an economic and therefore military threat. While George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin made a great show of their personal friendship in the early days of the Bush presidency, this was soon followed by much frostier relations. At the heart of the tensions was petroleum.The battle over oil from the Caspian Sea region has involved selling arms to governments and to political movements intent on overthrowing governments. It involved major petroleum companies that were determined to cash in on the potential bonanza. And it involved battles over the pipeline routes that would be used to ship the oil to market. While the Russians wanted the petroleum from Azerbaijan to flow into their pipeline system and to markets from there, the US was opposed to the Russian route for this Caspian region oil. The preferred US route was to build a pipeline through Georgia and Turkey, the latter a staunch American ally and a member of NATO. The pipeline would carry the petroleum to a Turkish Mediterranean port and from there, by tanker, to markets.During the late 1990s, the Americans poured money into the region and feted the leaders of the Caspian Sea states at White House dinners. To make the pipeline economically viable----its price tag was $3.1 billion---the petroleum companies told Washington that government money would be needed. The US, UK, Japan and Turkey agreed to subsidize the project. In 1999, President Bill Clinton journeyed to Istanbul to initial the deal for the construction of the pipeline.The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, now completed, is one of the largest post-Soviet engineering projects. In May 2005, it began the delivery of oil along its 1,776-kilometer (1,104-mile) length from the Baku fields to the Mediterranean. The pipeline, operated by BP, included the participation of British, French, American, Italian, Japanese and Norwegian companies, as well as the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. It delivered 800,000 barrels of oil daily earlier this year, but has been temporarily shut down in recent weeks as a result of an explosion. The pipeline's capacity is expected to be expanded to about 1.5 million barrels a day in the near future. The pipeline is an economic, but also a political, venture. With Washington calling the shots in the background, a route that is secure from a Western point of view has been selected in preference to alternative and shorter routes through Russia or Iran.Raising the stakes still higher in this contest over pipeline routes was the question of how the petroleum of Kazakhstan would flow to markets. Washington proposed that Kazakhstan (located on the eastern side of the Caspian Sea) and the major petroleum companies should jointly construct a pipeline beneath the Caspian to link up with the BTC pipeline to Turkey. Some oil from Kazakh sources is now reaching markets via Russian pipelines, but the proposal to hook Kazakhstan up with the BTC route remains a live option.The US power play in the region was stepped up by the administration of President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the terror attacks on New York and Washington. Ostensibly to aid in its invasion of Afghanistan, Washington sent US forces to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. But when the Taliban government in Afghanistan was driven from power -- much to the annoyance of Moscow -- the US decided to keep forces in these countries indefinitely. In addition, the United States provided military instructors to Georgia. These moves helped tighten the American grip on the oil-rich Caspian Sea region.As the struggle continues, petroleum makes it a high stakes affair. The U.S. has gone so far as to propose that Georgia be admitted to membership in NATO, a development which Moscow staunchly opposes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Doctoring Medicare

The parallel system cuts waiting times for the rich or at least those willing to pay extra and that is the significant factor. Those who could pay don't need to wait. However, we already have that scheme for those rich enough. They can simply go to the U.S. or elsewhere and pay for their treatment. As the article notes the UK parallel system has cut waiting times but not in the public system. The advantage of the parallel system is extra pay for doctors as well.
You can expect Harper to support the CMA leaders push for more private medical care.
Maybe Dion is planning a green shift for medical care.

Doctoring medicare - Opinion - Doctoring medicare
August 22, 2008
For the second year in a row, the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association has used his inaugural speech to the physicians' annual convention to bash our public health-care system, vowing to fight for a parallel private one.
Dr. Robert Ouellet, who runs a string of private medical imaging clinics in Montreal, carried on the message preached last year by former president Dr. Brian Day, who owns the country's largest private clinic in Vancouver. But Ouellet was even more relentless in his attack, calling for our health-care system to be "transformed" with a "healthy balance" of public and private health care. Doctors "should not be leaving it up to governments and insurance companies alone to decide where we stand on this issue."
But governments are elected by Canadians and the vast majority of them continue to support our public health-care system.
Ouellet pointed to England, which did away with health-care waiting lists in five years after bringing in a parallel private health-care system. But a group of senior British doctors wrote to Day last year urging him and his colleagues not to go down a similar road to privatization, noting that health spending there has more than doubled since 1997. At the same time, waiting lists in the public system have gone up.
Ouellet maintains medicare is broken and can't be fixed. But in an exhaustive 18-month examination of the Canadian health-care system in 2002, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow concluded that existing problems can be fixed at reasonable cost.
Last week, the Ontario Association of Nurses wrote to federal Health Minister Tony Clement urging him to use his speech to the physicians' convention to defend medicare against such attacks. Instead, he ignored the subject entirely.
There was a time when a federal health minister could be counted on to stand up for medicare. Now, with Clement and Prime Minister Stephen Harper heading into an expected fall election, will they remain oblivious to the health of medicare?
The CMA president's ill-conceived crusade calls out for a strong response from our political leaders.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Harper weighing snap election call.

Sometimes Dion's rhetoric rises to the level of common sense! He is probably right that Harper is worried about more dirt being uncovered in committee about the Conservatives and he is also worried about a worsening economy's effect upon his electoral chances. Having a meeting with the opposition seems a bit of joke. Harper: Dost thou Stefan Dion promise that thy shall have thy members sit on their hands and not impede our progress so help thee God? And if Dion does not take the pledge Harper will pull the plug. Of course Dion may not take the pledge but may wink and nod and let Harper know he will do it anyway.

Harper weighing snap election call
PM could seek writ before House resumes Sept. 15, official says
With a report from The Canadian Press
August 23, 2008
OTTAWA -- The Governor-General could be asked to dissolve Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in the first two weeks of September if high-pressure meetings with opposition leaders do not produce a deal for a fall agenda, a PMO official says.
Mr. Harper's team gave its clearest signal yet that the Conservative government will pull the plug before the Commons resumes sitting on Sept. 15, claiming Parliament is not functioning.
The Prime Minister has already said he will not be bound by the 2009 fixed election date he set, but a senior Tory made it clear that Mr. Harper is not talking about issuing an ultimatum that could lead the opposition to defeat it in the Commons, but rather dissolving Parliament before it sits.
The Prime Minister wants to meet with each of the three opposition leaders before Sept. 15 to seek "common ground" and then make a quick decision on whether it is worth resuming the session.
"If there isn't common ground, then he has a decision to make about whether or not to visit the Governor-General," the PMO official said.
The official said there is little reason to be hopeful of a deal, and noted that public threats of confidence motions from Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe indicate the Commons faces the constant possibility of an election this fall, anyway.
"If Parliament comes back, there will be a confidence motion at the first available opportunity, according to the Bloc," he said. "We'll have one last good-faith attempt in terms of a private meeting between the Prime Minister and opposition leaders."
The PM has not ruled out calling an election before three by-elections in Quebec and Ontario scheduled for Sept. 8.
That means Mr. Harper could trigger the election in the first two weeks of September, as early as Sept. 2, setting a vote for either Oct. 13 or 20.
It's unclear when Mr. Harper will be able to meet with all three opposition leaders, however. Spokesmen for Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton said no time has been set for their meetings, but it probably won't be possible until next Friday, or later.
No meeting has been set with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, either. Mr. Harper will spend three days next week in the Far North, while Mr. Dion will be in Winnipeg the following week for his party's caucus meeting from Sept. 2 to 4.
For Mr. Harper, whose party has been on near-permanent election footing since it won power in January, 2006, a quick start would be beneficial. His party, flush with cash, has done extensive advertising and has a war room open.
Mr. Dion's Liberals have appeared less unified and enthusiastic, and it's unclear whether a leader still uncomfortable in English can communicate his key policy, the Green Shift plan to raise carbon-fuel taxes and cut income taxes. Plus, polls suggest that Bloc support is soft, opening possible gains for Tories outside Montreal.
Some Conservative government ministers are already showing signs of high election alert: Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn let slip that he has cancelled his English-immersion courses for next week, and will meet with some fellow ministers today.
Mr. Dion said he always accepts an invitation from the Prime Minister, and will meet him before the Commons resumes sitting. But he told reporters in Cambridge, Ont., that he thinks Mr. Harper "is trying to save face, trying to find an excuse to once again break his word, this time on the fixed-election-date law."
Mr. Harper's government passed a bill that set fixed election dates every four years, with the first in October, 2009, and until recently said it was committed to waiting.
Mr. Dion, who has said the Prime Minister is trying to avoid hearings on the Conservatives' "in-and-out" election-finance scheme, also argued that Mr. Harper wants to campaign before an economic downturn takes its toll.
The Finance Department yesterday downgraded its own forecast for annual growth this year to a sluggish 1.1 per cent from 1.7 per cent.
"The official excuse that Parliament is not functioning is phony," Mr. Dion said. "What is true is that the Prime Minister does not want people to realize he has ethical problems in his government and to what extent he has badly prepared us as a country for the economic slowdown we face."
Mr. Layton said yesterday that the Prime Minister has a duty to meet Parliament.
"If he pulls the plug on the Parliament without even having the members of the House come back to their seats and show what they can do, then he's showing contempt for the democratic institutions and for the fact that Canadians did not elect him to a majority government, only to a minority," he said.
Already, Mr. Dion has fired at Mr. Harper on a topic the Liberals used in ads in the dying days of the last campaign: abortion.
At a town-hall style event in Oakville, Ont., on Thursday night, Mr. Dion responded to a question about a Tory MP's bill that would provide extra penalties to someone convicted of killing a pregnant woman by saying he opposed it - and that Mr. Harper should make clear his views on abortion.
Some have argued that the bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Ken Epp, would give a fetus legal rights that could affect abortion rights, although Mr. Epp has argued that his bill explicitly excludes that.
PMO officials repeated Mr. Harper's position that the government will not initiate abortion legislation, and noted the Conservatives have not done so in government. If a backbencher introduced such legislation, there would be a free vote, they said.
"This is the sort of thing that they usually trot out at election time," the official said.

Will Harper Call Federal Election in September?

This is from CityNews.
I am a bit surprised that Harper would call an election when the polls do not show him winning a majority. Another minority government will hardly be much more amenable to helping out the Conservatives than this one. In fact Harper is surely wrong in saying that the opposition has been all that much of a barrier to Harper getting legislation through parliament. The Liberals have invariably supported the government. Harper seems to brook no opposition even in committees. He is beginning to look like a control freak. Voters should take note of this facet of his character before voting for him. Hold your nose and vote NDP!

P.M. Will Call Federal Election In September: Source
Friday August 22, 2008 Staff
It's not necessarily the word you want to hear on the first day after you get back to work and school on the morning after Labour Day: election.
A highly placed source within the Conservative Party says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is tantalizingly close to pulling the trigger on his own government and sending you to the polls in October.
The unnamed confidant claims the Tory boss could make the decision as early as September 2nd, one day after the holiday weekend and the time most people consider it's back to business as usual.
Ironically, it may be anything but what's usual in Ottawa. Parliament won't return until September 15th and there's a chance Harper won't even wait for the gathering of the enemy.
"There was some buzz Friday that Sept. 5 might be shaping up as the preferred date," the official told the Canadian Press. "The chances (of an election) have never been so good."
There's also the possibility Harper could wait until the House of Commons is back in session, but either way it may not be long before the vote - and the endless campaign that accompanies it - will be in motion.
What will determine if Harper decides to play a winner-take-all game of chicken with Liberal leader Stephane Dion? The P.M. apparently plans to meet with the opposition parties to see if there's any chance the government will be able to carry out its agenda.
If the NDP, Bloc and the Liberals hint they plan to stand in his way and create what Harper has previously referred to as a 'dysfunctional Parliament,' he may decide to immediately dismantle his minority government and try for a fresh mandate from the voters.
"We're not saying yes, we're not saying no," the source hedges.
If it happens, it's a risky move. Harper has conceded that whoever wins will still have to contend with a minority, and we could simply be going through this again and again until that changes, Few of these precarious holds on power last as long as the current one has and that's only because Dion may not feel voters have accepted him.
His Green Shift plan, which involves taxes for those who aren't environmentally friendly, has generated controversy and Harper may see that as the Liberal Achilles' Heel. Recent polls have put the parties in a virtual dead heat in vote rich Ontario, a province both need to win if either hopes for a majority.
To no one's surprise, the opposition isn't impressed by the threat.
"If he pulls the plug on the Parliament without even having the members of the House come back to their seats and show what they can do, then he's showing contempt for the democratic institutions and for the fact that Canadians did not elect him to a majority government, only to a minority," comments NDP Leader Jack Layton.
If it's called, the election would follow within 30-45 days. It always falls on a Tuesday. The next scheduled federal vote, according to the fixed date law, isn't due until October 2009.
But the early date may also have another bonus that won't be in place if Harper waits. It will keep the election from clashing with the U.S. campaign, which many Canadians say interests them far more than the one here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Alexandre Trudeau: Leave Afghanistan now!

This is from the Gazette.
Trudeau seems to think that we are in Afghanistan to teach Afghans different values. We may be attempting to force some different values on them as he notes but our mission surely is to help the U.S. in their Project for a New American Century (PNAC) that got into high gear after 9/11. It is not just Canadian lives that will be lost but also those of other NATO nations and particularly the U.S. which has the lions share of troops. Most of all will be a huge loss in Afghan lives, the lives of those we are there to make safe!

Friday » August 22 » 2008

Leave Afghanistan now, Alexandre Trudeau says
'We have no reason to tell them how to live'

The Gazette
Friday, August 22, 2008
Canada's "aggressive" war in Afghanistan is all about "teaching lessons with weapons" and will leave nothing behind "except the blood we've lost there," the journalist son of the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau said yesterday.
"Our aggressive military activities in Afghanistan are foolish and wrong," said Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau, 34.
"The Pashtun (people) have extremely different values than ours, values we may not agree with in any case, but it's not our business to try and teach them lessons with weapons," Trudeau told The Gazette.
"Because, in fact, they'll be the ones teaching us lessons.
"We're going to have to leave the place or there'll be nothing left of us or of whatever we've done, except the blood we've lost there after we leave. So it's better we leave now."
Trudeau was speaking from Beijing, where he has been filing cultural reports on China as part of the CBC's Olympic broadcast team.
He made his comments at the end of an interview to promote his latest documentary film, Refuge, about war-ravaged Darfur. The interview was done two hours before news of the death of three more Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan was announced.
Trudeau knows the Canadian military firsthand, but not through combat. In the mid-1990s he trained as a reserve officer at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick and joined the Royal Canadian Hussars, one of Canada's oldest army reserve regiments, in Montreal as a second lieutenant.
Shortly after, he embarked on a career as a globe-trotting journalist and filmmaker.
Asked yesterday whether he now wants to make his next film in Afghanistan - an idea he floated last year on The Hour, CBC TV's late-night talk show hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos - Trudeau replied no.
"I don't think I'd go to Afghanistan," he said.
"I don't want to go and sit in the (Canadian Forces) camp in Kandahar and film the Tim Hortons.
"What I want to do is leave it to younger filmmakers to show who the Pashtun are, people we falsely call Taliban, in most cases, and why we really have no reason to tell them how to live their lives, why Afghanistan should be left to its own devices."
Trudeau said he had approached several TV networks to make a film about the country. Each one turned him down, probably because in 2006 "I made a film about Canadian politics, Secure Freedom, about Canadian security certificates," that was highly critical of the Harper government's anti-terrorism measures.
"Networks have shied away from allowing me to go to Afghanistan when I had the chance, and now I don't think I'd want to go - it's too dangerous," Trudeau said.
Before the birth of his son, Pierre Emmanuel, in December 2006, Trudeau travelled to places like Liberia, Iraq and the West Bank to make a series of subjective, point-of-view documentaries about the human cost of war and conflict.
He went to Sudan and Chad last year to live, travelling with rebels fighting the Sudanese government.
As a young father, his days of perilous travels are now firmly behind him, Trudeau said.
He intends to return to Montreal "in a couple of weeks" with the nearly completed manuscript of his "labour of love," a book about China that he has been researching and writing for several years and which is to be published next spring.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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Petro-Canada gas shortage at up to 90 stations

This is from the CBC.
Refining seems to be becoming more and more centralised in a few huge refineries. This leaves the system quite vulnerable to supply problems when production is disrupted at one of the refineries. There used to be many more smaller refineries, a system not particularly disrupted when a few refineries might have been shut down for repairs. In terms of a possible terrorist attack too this situation is far from ideal. To cause real havoc only a few refineries need to be attacked. Given the increased costs of transportation one wonders how much is really saved by closing some plants when this will increase the distances fuel needs to be transported.

Petro-Canada gas shortage affecting up to 90 stations in B.C., Alberta
Last Updated: Thursday, August 21, 2008 5:33 AM ET
CBC News
A problem at Petro-Canada's refinery near Edmonton has led to gas shortages or pumps running dry at as many as 90 Petro-Canada and independent stations in B.C. and Alberta, CBC News has learned.
The Calgary-based company is still scrambling to fix a catalytic cracking unit necessary to refine fuel at the facility that broke earlier this month, said Petro-Canada spokeswoman Kelli Stevens.
Stevens said about 120 people are working on the problem to get it repaired at any given time, but the company's best hope is that the refinery is up and running in a week.
Calgary gas bar owner John Balanazario said he and other station owners have been forced to offer higher grade fuels at lower grade prices and absorb the losses out of their own pockets.
"It's bad for business, but good for the customers," he said.
Customer Bell Ainsworth said she can't understand why there is no regular gas left at the pump in the oil-rich province.
"We produce it here," she told CBC News. "Why are we running out?"
The company will face off Thursday in a conference call with angry independent gas station owners demanding compensation to make up for their growing losses.
But Petro-Canada could take a long-term hit if shortages drag on, said Mike Percy, dean of the University of Alberta School of Business.
"People may switch," Percy told CBC News. "Whether they switch in the long term, it depends on the convenience of the particular Petro-Canada station."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

George Monbiot on the U.S. missile defence system.

According to Monbiot it seems that the missile defence system will not defend anyone except the profits of the military industrial complex! Note that even if the system is meant to defence against rogues states which seems very far fetched as part of the deal the U.S. agreed to install also short range missiles that are meant to defend Poland against the U.S. Even the spin doctors of USA Incorporated can hardly say those missiles are not directed against Russia. This is from the Guardian via InformationClearinghouse.

The US missile defence system is the magic pudding that will never run outPoland is just the latest fall guy for an American foreign policy dictated by military industrial lobbyists in WashingtonBy George Monbiot19/08/08 "The Guardian" -- - It's a novel way to take your own life. Just as Russia demonstrates what happens to former minions that annoy it, Poland agrees to host a US missile defence base. The Russians, as Poland expected, respond to this proposal by offering to turn the country into a parking lot. This proves that the missile defence system is necessary after all: it will stop the missiles Russia will now aim at Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK in response to, er, their involvement in the missile defence system.The American government insists that the interceptors, which will be stationed on the Baltic coast, have nothing to do with Russia: their purpose is to defend Europe and the US against the intercontinental ballistic missiles Iran and North Korea don't possess. This is why they are being placed in Poland, which, as every geography student in Texas knows, shares a border with both rogue states.They permit us to look forward to a glowing future, in which missile defence, according to the Pentagon, will "protect our homeland ... and our friends and allies from ballistic missile attack"; as long as the Russians wait until it's working before they nuke us. The good news is that, at the present rate of progress, reliable missile defence is only 50 years away. The bad news is that it has been 50 years away for the past six decades.The system has been in development since 1946, and so far it has achieved a grand total of nothing. You wouldn't know it if you read the press releases published by the Pentagon's missile defence agency: the word "success" features more often than any other noun. It is true that the programme has managed to hit two out of the five missiles fired over the past five years during tests of its main component, the ground-based midcourse missile defence (GMD) system. But, sadly, these tests bear no relation to anything resembling a real nuclear strike.All the trials run so far - successful or otherwise - have been rigged. The target, its type, trajectory and destination, are known before the test begins. Only one enemy missile is used, as the system doesn't have a hope in hell of knocking down two or more. If decoy missiles are deployed, they bear no resemblance to the target and they are identified as decoys in advance. In order to try to enhance the appearance of success, recent flight tests have become even less realistic: the agency has now stopped using decoys altogether when testing its GMD system.This points to one of the intractable weaknesses of missile defence: it is hard to see how the interceptors could ever outwit enemy attempts to confuse them. As Philip Coyle - formerly a senior official at the Pentagon with responsibility for missile defence - points out, there are endless means by which another state could fool the system. For every real missile it launched, it could dispatch a host of dummies with the same radar and infra-red signatures. Even balloons or bits of metal foil would render anything resembling the current system inoperable. You can reduce a missile's susceptibility to laser penetration by 90% by painting it white. This sophisticated avoidance technology, available from your local hardware shop, makes another multibillion component of the programme obsolete. Or you could simply forget about ballistic missiles and attack using cruise missiles, against which the system is useless.Missile defence is so expensive and the measures required to evade it so cheap that if the US government were serious about making the system work it would bankrupt the country, just as the arms race helped to bring the Soviet Union down. By spending a couple of billion dollars on decoy technologies, Russia would commit the US to trillions of dollars of countermeasures. The cost ratios are such that even Iran could outspend the US.The US has spent between $120bn and $150bn on the programme since Ronald Reagan relaunched it in 1983. Under George Bush, the costs have accelerated. The Pentagon has requested $62bn for the next five-year tranche, which means that the total cost between 2003 and 2013 will be $110bn. Yet there are no clear criteria for success. As a recent paper in the journal Defense and Security Analysis shows, the Pentagon invented a new funding system in order to allow the missile defence programme to evade the government's usual accounting standards. It's called spiral development, which is quite appropriate, because it ensures that the costs spiral out of control.Spiral development means, in the words of a Pentagon directive, that "the end-state requirements are not known at programme initiation". Instead, the system is allowed to develop in whatever way officials think fit. The result is that no one has the faintest idea what the programme is supposed to achieve, or whether it has achieved it. There are no fixed dates, no fixed costs for any component of the programme, no penalties for slippage or failure, no standards of any kind against which the system can be judged. And this monstrous scheme is still incapable of achieving what a few hundred dollars' worth of diplomacy could do in an afternoon.So why commit endless billions to a programme that is bound to fail? I'll give you a clue: the answer is in the question. It persists because it doesn't work.US politics, because of the failure by both Republicans and Democrats to deal with the problems of campaign finance, is rotten from head to toe. But under Bush, the corruption has acquired Nigerian qualities. Federal government is a vast corporate welfare programme, rewarding the industries that give millions of dollars in political donations with contracts worth billions. Missile defence is the biggest pork barrel of all, the magic pudding that won't run out, however much you eat. The funds channelled to defence, aerospace and other manufacturing and service companies will never run dry because the system will never work.To keep the pudding flowing, the administration must exaggerate the threats from nations that have no means of nuking it - and ignore the likely responses of those that do. Russia is not without its own corrupting influences. You could see the grim delight of the Russian generals and defence officials last week, who have found in this new deployment an excuse to enhance their power and demand bigger budgets. Poor old Poland, like the Czech Republic and the UK, gets strongarmed into becoming America's groundbait.If we seek to understand American foreign policy in terms of a rational engagement with international problems, or even as an effective means of projecting power, we are looking in the wrong place. The government's interests have always been provincial. It seeks to appease lobbyists, shift public opinion at crucial stages of the political cycle, accommodate crazy Christian fantasies and pander to television companies run by eccentric billionaires. The US does not really have a foreign policy. It has a series of domestic policies which it projects beyond its borders. That they threaten the world with 57 varieties of destruction is of no concern to the current administration. The only question of interest is who gets paid and what the political kickbacks will be.