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Archive for April 6th, 2010

Paul Volcker: VAT, Carbon taxes may be necessary

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

As should be clear when comparing former Treasury Secretary Paul Volcker’s continuing campaign for a VAT (see this rather more substantial article from Sept 2009 also) with recent events in Canada, there is an ongoing, long term international project for the implementation of ‘Value Added Tax’. It doesn’t matter whether you call it HST or VAT, it’s the same thing, and the point is economic integration of Western Nation-states under one system. The point of the VAT/HST, you see, is not to reduce deficits – that’s a red herring – and the reporting on the issue is deceptive for it misrepresents the actual intention, which may be understood by means of longitudinal research. It takes some work, but by observing the effect of similar movements undertaken in separate jurisdictions over time, the fog of economic warfare resolves into a clear outline, then a topology, and finally an image of the systematic corporativist takeover and merger with government. This Wikipedia entry on Corporatism reveals how deeply enmeshed in our culture the ideology has become. The rot runs deep, and in prior decades a case might have been made that this was an unconscious or systemic cultural drift. But no more. The economy of the West is being brought low precisely so that it can be bought out by the banks that have seized control of our economies. You need only look to the the CVs of your state finance ministers and G20 leaders to see their affiliation with major central banks, elitist policy forums, and Wall Street institutions like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. (For more, see the complete short essay, ‘Tax Me: Power, History and Collectivism’s Makeover’ in the StatismWatch forum.)

Flashback: Nova Scotia budget hikes HST rate | Thousands protest Quebec budget | HST legislation introduced in B.C. | Facing years of deficits, Ontario freezes wages | Former premier Bill Vander Zalm rallies against the HST in BC | Ontario tax collectors get $45K severance, keep jobs in HST federalization deal | Athens erupts as Greek austerity plan passes | HST ad campaign debuts in Ontario | Ont. deficit could linger for years: McGuinty | HST bill passes, 13% tax starts July 1 | Poll: HST equals Hated Sales Tax | Anti-HST protest at Ontario legislature spills onto Toronto streets | Tories, Liberals, Bloc approve HST for Ontario and B.C.

April 6, 2010

(Reuters) – The United States should consider raising taxes to help bring deficits under control and may need to consider a European-style value-added tax, White House adviser Paul Volcker said on Tuesday.

Volcker, answering a question from the audience at a New York Historical Society event, said the value-added tax “was not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past and also said a carbon or other energy-related tax may become necessary.

Though he acknowledged that both were still unpopular ideas, he said getting entitlement costs and the U.S. budget deficit under control may require such moves. “If at the end of the day we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes,” he said.


Taliban support strong in Kandahar: poll

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Flashback: US special forces ‘tried to cover-up’ botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan | Afghan tension mounts as NATO offensive looms | WikiLeaks releases video of alleged U.S. helicopter attack on Reuters reporters | NATO prepares for major Kandahar offensive, refugee camps | British soldiers ‘tortured and murdered 20 Iraqis, then covered it up with firefight claim’ | Blackwater Guards facing Charges in Case of 17 Dead Iraqi Citizens | Afghan poll not as clear as it seems

The Associated Press
April 6, 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is pictured speaking at the Independent Election Commission in Kabul on April 1, has in recent days threatened to join the Taliban if foreigners continue to meddle in Afghanistan’s affairs. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

Public support for the Taliban hit an all-time high in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province last spring just as the United States was preparing to deploy the first wave of military reinforcements, polling data compiled by the Canadian military suggests.

The data, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, provide a look at the disenchantment of ordinary Afghans, and perhaps illustrate the method behind the madness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent anti-West rants.

The survey, conducted as part of the military’s spring 2009 campaign assessment, illustrates just how much resistance there was even a year ago to the growing U.S. troop buildup in Kandahar.

“International economic assistance is heavily preferred over military assistance,” the report said of Afghan public opinion.

A startling 25 per cent of those asked said they had a favourable view of the Taliban, including six per cent with a “very favourable” opinion.

The poll was conducted in most major provincial districts, but the military did not release details about the sample size or methodology. The army has been conducting regular surveys of the Afghan population since 2007.

A human rights group said the sentiments captured in the poll are still present today and cast doubt on whether Karzai will get unanimous public support in Kandahar for NATO’s forthcoming offensive.

On Sunday, the president said the sweep would not proceed if locals didn’t want it.


Mercury still plagues Ont. First Nation: report

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Mercury poisoning has been known of since at least the 1920s. And yet these paper mills blithely continued dumping it in the river upstream of the Grassy Narrows and Islington Bands. Were they aware of the grave injustice they were causing? And why do we continue to use this known neurotoxin in certain vaccines – including flu vaccines – many of them given to children in the most crucial stages of brain development?

Flashback: Washington Post: Swine Flu Vaccine Will Contain Mercury | Vaccine Court: Autism Debate Continues | Vaccines ‘not to blame for autism’, U.S. court rules | Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury | FDA Reluctantly Admits Mercury Fillings Have Neurotoxic Effects on Children | Families will make case for vaccine link to autism | Bush To Veto Ban On Mercury In Vaccines

CBC News
April 6, 2010

Grassy Narrows banned fishing in contaminated Wabigoon River 40 years ago

The health impacts of mercury poisoning in a northern Ontario First Nations community are worse now than when fishing in waters contaminated by the substance was first banned there 40 years ago, according to a report released in Toronto Tuesday.

It was exactly four decades ago, on April 6, 1970, that fishing was banned on the Wabigoon River because of mercury contamination caused by a paper mill upstream in Dryden, Ont. – owned by Reed Incorporated and subsequently Great Lakes Forest Products Limited.

The mercury poisoned fish in the Wabigoon and English river systems and continues to harm the health of more than 100 people living on the Grassy Narrows First Nation, Japanese mercury expert Dr. Masazumi Harada concluded in his report.

Harada also examined the effects of mercury contamination in another community that uses the same river system – the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations (formerly known as Islington and Whitedog).

When Harada first visited the reserves in 1975, he found people with mercury levels over three times the Health Canada limit.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and a persistent pollutant.


Canadian dollar finds a solid resting place at parity

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Related: Loonie passes 99 cents US | High dollar to slow recovery, central bank says | Canada’s rate hikes will be tied to the Fed | Russia to add loonie to reserves: report | The time has come for North American monetary union | Loonie continues race toward parity with U.S. dollar | Ottawa plans U.S. dollar bond | Central bank of Canada stands ready to inflate currency in response to strong loonie | Soaring loonie adds to anxiety over economy | How realistic is a North American currency? | Loonie leaps, then reverses course | Consider a continental currency: Jarislowsky | Globalization makes national currencies obsolete | Vicente Fox Admits Plan For Single NAFTA Currency | Fraser Institute: The Case for the Amero

Jeremy Torobin, Tavia Grant
April 6, 2010

Canada’s comparatively safe fiscal state and surging commodity prices are sparking demand for the loonie that sets the stage for continued strength

Canada’s new-found status as the darling of international investors has finally pushed the dollar back to parity with its U.S. counterpart, where it’s expected to hover for months or even years.

Observers point to Canada’s economy, financial system and fiscal footing as standing out among the Group of Seven, attracting investors to Canadian assets such as stocks, bonds and the currency.

The strong dollar, which closed Tuesday just shy of the $1-for-$1 level at 99.88 U.S. cents after trading earlier a shade above parity, adds pressure on retailers to cut prices to match U.S. levels, makes travel to the United States, Europe and other favourite destinations more affordable for Canadians, and even helps Canada’s National Hockey League teams compete with U.S.-based rivals. At the same time, it causes headaches for Canada’s export-heavy manufacturing industry, in particular companies without hedging strategies.

Regardless, investors see little reason to expect the loonie will drop more than a cent or two any time soon, and some analysts say the currency could keep rising through much of 2011.


GM dealers sue law firm for conflict – Cassels also had government contract during restructuring

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Flashback: Auto industry rebound limited: experts | GM to add second Oshawa shift early | GM kills Opel sale to Magna | Magna wins battle for Opel | Ontario to subsidize electric cars as auto-sector boost | Nationalized General Motors emerges from bankruptcy after 40 days | Nationalized General Motors gets go ahead from US judge | Harper ‘not counting on’ recouping billions loaned to GM | ‘New GM’ to emerge from bankruptcy | Germany OKs Magna bid to acquire GM’s Opel | Auto bailout costs soar, contribute to $50B deficit | US could own 69% of GM as bankruptcy looms | Autoworkers accept GM deal in 86% vote | GM, CAW reach new labour deal | GM Canada plans to cut 40% of its dealer network | Oshawa truck plant closes | GM deal likely involves bigger sacrifices: McGuinty | GM execs dump stock, shares plummet | GM bankruptcy likely, CAW says | Fiat aims to be global powerhouse by acquiring Chrysler, Opel | Chrysler Canada assembly plants shut down | Banker at heart of credit crisis leads plan to buoy auto sales | Ontario mulls equity stake in GM | US government may take controlling share of General Motors | GM chief says company is preparing in case it files for bankruptcy | Whitehouse fires General Motors CEO | GM pensions: Who’s responsible? | GM wants twice as much taxpayer’s money | Auto bailout gives Federal, Provincial governments incremental nationalization powers | Canadian auto bailout could reach more than $4-billion | U.S. to spend $17.4-billion to ‘rescue’, nationalize auto industry | State to bail out, control US auto industry

Jeff Gray, The Globe and Mail
April 6, 2010

Cassels in crosshairs for representing GM dealers while at same time advising federal government on bailout

For many car dealers across the country, it was a tense Victoria Day weekend last year. In the midst of high-stakes government bailout talks, General Motors of Canada Ltd. told hundreds of its dealerships they had to agree to shut down or the company could face bankruptcy.

Many agreed. But now, some of those dealers have filed a $750-million class-action lawsuit, alleging GM used “shock and awe” tactics to pressure them into signing away their rights in “wind-down agreements,” giving them as little as two business days to make up their minds.

That’s not why many lawyers are keeping a close eye on this case, however. The reason the legal profession is keenly interested is simple: The lawsuit doesn’t target only GM. It is also aimed at venerable Bay Street law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, and accuses its lawyers of having a conflict-of-interest in the case.


Nova Scotia budget hikes HST rate

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia are now on the austerity bandwagon, wherein your tax dollar, instead of providing services, goes to pay down the deficits racked up by governments in the past year. In the meantime, the debt held by these provinces continues to increase, and the same central banks responsible for triggering the derivatives crisis in the first place clean up on interest payments. We are the milch-cows on which this corrupt neo-feudal system preys, and it’s only getting hungrier.

Flashback: Thousands protest Quebec budget | HST legislation introduced in B.C. | Facing years of deficits, Ontario freezes wages | Former premier Bill Vander Zalm rallies against the HST in BC | Ontario tax collectors get $45K severance, keep jobs in HST federalization deal | Athens erupts as Greek austerity plan passes | HST ad campaign debuts in Ontario | Ont. deficit could linger for years: McGuinty | HST bill passes, 13% tax starts July 1 | Poll: HST equals Hated Sales Tax | Anti-HST protest at Ontario legislature spills onto Toronto streets | Tories, Liberals, Bloc approve HST for Ontario and B.C.

CBC News
April 6, 2010

Government unveils 4-year deficit-reduction plan

Nova Scotia’s NDP government has kicked off a four-year deficit-busting plan by increasing the harmonized sales tax – making it the highest combined provincial and federal tax rate in the country.

Finance Minister Graham Steele unveiled his $9-billion deficit budget on Tuesday, calling it a “smart, strategic and steady” plan necessary to tackle a painful financial outlook.

The NDP expects to end 2009-10 with a deficit of $488 million. This coming year, it expects to finish $222 million in the red.

“We wish the legacy of unsustainable spending we have inherited didn’t exist, but it does,” said Steele. “It is our responsibility to deal with it – to clean up the mess – so that Nova Scotia’s future is not compromised. Doing nothing is not an option.”

The plan pivots around a hike in the HST, to 15 per cent from 13 per cent.

Despite warnings from businesses, the NDP is raising the provincial portion by two percentage points as of July 1. The government expects this will mean $214.8 million in much-needed revenue this year.


Barack Obama to limit use of US nuclear weapons

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Well, that’s good to know. Did the US ever plan on nuking small state actors foolish enough to lob a few slings and arrows its way? It seems unlikely as the global outrage would have been magnitudes of intensity higher than the sort of present languid disapproval of the expanding war in Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan we’ve seen. However, this all begins to look a little more like an attempt to preemptively claim the moral high ground on both sides when one recalls the fact that Iran affirmed a desire for nuclear disarmament a month and a half ago – the same day that Russia announced continued sales of defensive conventional SA missiles to Iran in support of the Iranian domestic nuclear program. Anyways, it remains to be seen what will come of this, there are a lot of pieces in play. At least it has the appearance of a virtuous circle – a disarmament race would be a welcome change from the usual. So let’s practice a little prescriptive optimism today (in defiance of all rational expectation.)

Update (same day): Ah. The CBC is now reporting that US Defence Secretary (and former CIA head) Robert Gates has announced that “the policy, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, would not apply to North Korea, Iran or other countries that refuse to co-operate with the international community on nonproliferation standards.” So it’s just more of the sort of political maneuvering we saw in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Related: Russia claims breakthrough in historic nuclear reduction agreement with US | Israeli preparations for war with Iran troubling | Russia to push ahead on Iran missile deal | US media omission: Iran calls for global nuclear disarmament | Obama threatens actions against Iran over nuclear program | UN sanctions urged over Iran’s uranium plans | Western powers voice scepticism over Iran uranium offer | U.S. deploys land and sea-based missile shield in the Gulf to deter attack from Iran | UK: Tony Blair attempts to shift focus to Iran as ‘global threat’ at Iraq war inquiry | IAEA members question Iran nuclear intel authenticity | US military could strike Iran, but at what cost? | Another War in the Works | Iran to allow nuclear site inspection | Iran plays into Obama’s hands with disclosure of nuclear facility | UN approves nuclear ‘disarmament’ resolution | Obama scales back missile defence shield in Europe | Israel ‘will attack Iran this year’ if West does not cripple Tehran with sanctions | Brookings Publication mentions possibility of ‘Horrific Provocation’ to Trigger Iran Invasion | Blast at Iranian mosque raises tensions in run-up to presidential election | Netanyahu: We may be forced to attack Iran | Proposed Missile Shield seen as Provocation by Russia | Neo-cons still preparing for Iran attack | Russia threatens to ’strike’ Poland in wake of U.S. missile plan | Cheney Considered False Flag Operation to Justify War with Iran | US scales up covert destabilization efforts in Iran, continues funding ‘al-Qaeda’ | Israelis ‘rehearse Iran attack’ | Israeli official says attack on Iran ‘unavoidable’ | Bush ‘plans Iran air strike by August’ | U.S. Navy starts exercises in Gulf waters | U.S. National Intelligence Estimate: Iran stopped nuclear weapons work in 2003 | Cheney Orders Media To Sell Attack On Iran | U.S. sending third aircraft carrier to the Middle East | US aircraft carriers in Persian Gulf | Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh: US Indirectly Funding Al-Qaeda Linked Sunni Groups in Move to Counter Iran | How the USA Gave North Korea The Bomb | Former CIA Officer — US Plans Nuclear Attack On Iran

Mark Tran, The Guardian
April 6, 2010

Revamped strategy to rule out use of atomic weapons in response to attacks from non-nuclear states

The US will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that comply with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, even if it is attacked with biological or chemical weapons, Barack Obama is expected to announce today.

However, the US president is expected to stop short of declaring that the US would never be the first to launch a nuclear attack, as many arms control advocates had recommended.

Obama will describe the purpose of weapons as “primarily” or “fundamentally” to deter or respond to a nuclear attack. But even as he limits the conditions for a nuclear strike, the president will make an exception for states such as Iran and North Korea, which have violated or renounced the NPT.

In an interview with the New York Times, before today’s unveiling of the new US nuclear strategy, Obama described his policy as part of a broader effort to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

Obama can expect an onslaught from conservatives who believe that such an approach undermines US national security. At the other end of the spectrum, liberals will be disappointed that he stops short of renouncing the first-strike option altogether.

“We are going to want to make sure that we can continue to move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons,” Obama told the New York Times, “while making sure that our conventional weapons capability is an effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances”.


Military Police begin Afghan detainee torture investigative hearings, reporters barred

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Flashback: Tories table thousands more censored Afghan files | MacKay knew of Afghan detainee concerns: diplomat | Tories flood Ottawa with blacked-out documents in response to Afghan torture scandal | Opposition threatens contempt motion over Afghan torture documents | NDP tables torture-prevention bill | Ottawa anticipated Afghan torture allegations: memo | CSIS secretly interrogated Afghan prisoners | Canada wanted Afghan prisoners tortured: lawyer | Harper grilled over prorogation, Afghan detainee torture documents | MP threatens motion on Afghan documents | PM Harper downplays detainee torture scandal, prorogation | Claims troops mistreated prisoners unfounded: military police | Peter MacKay, Red Cross discussed detainees in 2006 | Canada’s troops investigated for Afghan abuse | Colvin disputes witnesses’ detainee testimony | Tories sabotage Afghan committee meeting | Canada ‘defended’ torturer | Ottawa won’t release Afghan torture documents | Top general’s Afghan detainee reversal hikes pressure for public inquiry | Richard Colvin’s Afghan torture memos reveal government concealed prisoner access issues | Torture claims unreliable, officials say, despite having found evidence of torture | MPs vote public inquiry into Afghan detainees, Tories ignore majority motion | Torture claims weren’t probed, official testified | Harper government changes tune on Afghan prisoner issue | Colvin’s testimony true: former Afghan MP | David Mulroney testifies war confused issue of torture | Hillier says he saw no credible reports of torture | Afghan torture emails reached MacKay’s office | Opposition wants documentation prior to government torture rebuttal, PM cries foul | Canadian officials discussed torture in 2006 | Canada shamed on Afghan prisoner torture | Canada ignored torture warnings: Diplomat | Military lawyer stonewalls on Afghan torture claims | Ottawa was warned Afghan detainees might be tortured | Military commission suspends torture hearings, gags witness | Torture probe delayed; Tories deny gagging witness | Federal court limits Afghan detainee torture probe | Watchdog rejects government bid to delay Afghan detainee inquiry | Ottawa moves to block Afghanistan detainee torture hearings again | Bid to Block Afghan Detainee Inquiry Slammed | What Ottawa doesn’t want you to know: Government was told detainees faced ‘extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial’

Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail
April 6, 2010

Journalists have been excluded from the first two days of a probe into whether Canada handed over prisoners to torture after the federal government said it had security concerns about reporters being present at the hearings.

The Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating why Canada continued transferring suspects rounded up by its soldiers to torture-prone Afghan jails even after Ottawa received complaints of abuse.

The military watchdog’s hearing was sparked by a complaint from two human-rights groups, Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. The Geneva Conventions, to which Canada is a signatory, say it’s a war crime to transfer prisoners to a country knowing they’d likely face torture.

The first signs of trouble appeared in June of 2007, only one month after the Harper government agreed, under pressure, to start monitoring detainees that soldiers had transferred to the Afghans.


Canadian researchers reveal another botnet in China, call for state cybersecurity

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The Guardian reports that the Munk Centre paper states “the hackers may not have political motives and that it is possible another government is running a ‘false flag’ spying operation.” and that “It concludes that the network is probably run by individuals with ties to the Chinese criminal underworld, but that some of the information gathered may end up in the hands of some part of the Chinese state.” In other words it’s a little early to leap to conclusions – the perpetrators in this case could be anywhere in the world, though some Chinese mafia is likely to blame. Botnets and hacking have been around for years, as has the overblown media furore surrounding them – recall the prosecution of Kevin Mitnick, during which a judge was convinced by prosecutors that Mitnick could “start a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone.” It’s ludicrous. If there are any recent developments, it is only in terms of organization and scale. But this is not some new or surprising approach by any means, and ordinary users may still protect themselves against malware by the ordinary means – not executing code sent to you in email by unknown persons, using a firewall, not clicking through to dodgy websites, not running IE, etc. And yet the calls for state cybersecurity laws are being stoked to fever pitch again. Why? Because there’s money in it. But just because some proportion of people in a neighbourhood leave their doors unlocked doesn’t equate to an argument for turning it into an armed camp.

Update (2010/4/6): Citizen Lab’s Nart Villeneuve has stated that I don’t think that there’s any direct connection between the attackers and the [Chinese] government, at least at this time” and further that “we have had very healthy co-operation with the Chinese CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team), who are actively working to understand what we’ve uncovered. It’s been a very encouraging development for us.” Far be it from StatismWatch to boost the PRC, but neither is it justified to let the nascent witch hunt pass unremarked, especially with all the potential blowback to our online experience here in Canada.

Flashback: U.S. cybersecurity bill introduced in Senate | Cyberattacks push CSIS to reach out to business | United States weighs massive expansion of Internet monitoring | Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet | Google, NSA may team up to probe cyberattacks | UN agency calls for global cyberwarfare treaty, ‘driver’s license’ for Web users | Death Of The Internet: Censorship Bills In UK, Australia, U.S. Aim To Block “Undesirable” Websites | Australia introduces web filters | Obama Wants Computer Privacy Ruling Overturned | UK Internet surveillance plan to go ahead | Security boss calls for end to net anonymity | Case for Internet spying not closed | Planned Internet, wireless surveillance laws worry watchdogs | UK ISPs condemn Internet surveillance plans | UK to found new ‘cyber-security’ units attached to national eavesdropping centre | ISPs must help police snoop on internet under new bill | UK plans to integrate ‘cybersecurity’ centre with US, Canada | Cybersecurity Is Framework For Total Government Regulation & Control Of Our Lives | Obama Set to Create A Cybersecurity Czar With Broad Mandate | EU wants ‘Internet G12′ to govern cyberspace | UK Home Secretary has secret plan to surveil, ‘Master the Internet’ | Munk Centre researchers discover botnet, call for international cyberspace ‘legal regime’ | NSA Dominance of Cybersecurity Would Lead to ‘Grave Peril’, Ex-Cyber Chief Tells Congress | Do We Need a New Internet? | Defense Contractors See $$$ in Cyber Security | RCMP to helm a Canadian “cyber-security strategy” | Sweden approves wiretapping law | Law Professor tells tech conference: plans to shut down Internet already on deck

Grant Robertson, The Globe and Mail
April 6, 2010

Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast “Shadow Network” of online espionage based in China that used seemingly harmless means such as e-mail and Twitter to extract highly sensitive data from computers around the world.

Stolen documents recovered in a year-long investigation show the hackers have breached the servers of dozens of countries and organizations, taking everything from top-secret files on missile systems in India to confidential visa applications, including those of Canadians travelling abroad.

The findings, which are part of a report that will be made public today in Toronto, will expose one of the biggest online spy rings ever cracked. Written by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies, the Ottawa-based security firm SecDev Group and a U.S. cyber sleuthing organization known as the Shadowserver Foundation, the report is expected to be controversial.

The researchers have found a global network of “botnets,” computers controlled remotely and made to report to servers in China. Along with those servers, the investigators located where the hackers stashed their stolen files, allowing a glimpse into what the spy ring is looking for.

“Essentially we went behind the backs of the attackers and picked their pockets,” said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, which investigated the spy ring.