A Different Point of View....: Will Harper protect Canadian secrets at "the Donald Trump” of law firms?

Former Conservative Prime Minister  Stephen Harper apparently isn’t satisfied with having destroyed a lot of wonderful and important things in Canada. Now he has signed on with Dentons, the world’s largest elite law firm, to spread his dark viewpoints around the globe.

Dentons proudly announced Monday that Harper – who does not have a legal degree – and his new consulting company will work from its Calgary office.

For Harper, the appointment is his reward from the corporate set for many years of stalwart service. He will now be able to stuff his pockets with greenbacks and 76-cent Canadian dollars.

The recently resigned Calgary MP will no doubt stick a Canadian flag on his suitcase as he peddles his anti-social ideology. Hopefully, this will be Harper’s final insult to our national pride.

Dentons is like an octopus. It has more than 7,200 lawyers in over 50 countries, and seems to be constantly expanding.

In easily translatable jargon, Dentons  said Harper has teamed up with the firm to provide clients with “advice on market access, managing global geopolitical and economic risk, and maximize value in global markets” – i.e. postulating himself based on the credibility he gained during none years as PM.

The Donald Trump of the legal set

“Dentons is the Donald Trump of the legal vertical,” writes legal expert and columnist Mark A. Cohen. “The firm is brash, bigger-than-life, and something entirely different. It receives a disproportionate amount of press because it is always doing something that drops jaws.”

The firm surprised the legal/business world by forming a partnership with a huge Chinese firm closely tied to the Communist Party. They employ more than 6,000 lawyers that are working on hundreds of projects, both inside the country and internationally.

Dentons isn’t fussy about which companies it represents in litigation. It works for Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, Citigroup, Duke Energy, Bank of America, Barclay’s Bank, Wells Fargo, and others.

It’s no surprise that Harper will pick up fat pay cheques from Dentons. The firm likes buying former politicians.  Former Liberal PM Jean Chretien and former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer are also on the Dentons payroll, as is former Harper Cabinet Minister James Moore. Last year, Dentons snapped up controversial former U.S. politicians Newt Gingrich.

Harper’s cold personality could damage his one-on-one work for Dentons. The former PM  once famously said: “I can’t even get my friends to like me.”

Outrageous move by Harper

It is outrageous that a former Prime Minister is able to join a massive, influential international corporation such as Dentons when his seat in Parliament has barely cooled.

Dentons is deeply involved in all kinds of wheeling and dealing at the highest levels around the world. Part of its success is based on collecting inside information on corporations and governments.
There are few legal constraints for Harper in his new job. Canada’s Lobbying Act  prevents Harper from being directly involved in lobbying the Canadian government for five years.

In addition, the Conflict of Interest Act says that “no former public office holder shall give advice to his or her client, business associate or employer using information that was obtained in his or her capacity as a public office holder and is not available to the public.”

Having been Prime Minister for more than nine years, Harper is aware of what is supposed to be confidential information concerning corporations in Canada and what are supposed to be secret arrangements among foreign governments.

Harper will claim he will not reveal privileged information, but there is no way of knowing whether he will break his word. Just imagine – if he was hosted by the King of Saudi Arabia and seeking approval for some energy-related project – would he not be tempted to spill the beans about what he knows about the fossil fuel industry worldwide?

Former PM a valuable asset

Harper will be a medium-sized fish at Dentons, but he can help the firm in countries where he has good relations with government leaders, and on some issues.

Given Harper’s record of spending little money on fighting climate change, he could work with government clients on how to avoid spending millions on carbon reductions and he probably could help corporate clients avoid carbon penalties.

Instead of marketing his skills through Dentons, it would have been more appropriate for Harper to get involved in academia. He would have been welcomed at the University of Calgary, where a group of professors and some students established the influential right-wing “Calgary school.

And Harper doesn’t need the money. Currently 57, he is receiving $127,000 in annual pension payments. When he turns 60, the amount will increase to $134,000 per year. The Canadian Tax Federation says that Harper’s MP pension pay would add up to roughly $5.5 million up to age 90 (factoring in for inflationary increases to the payments).

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A Different Point of View....: As Mansbridge Exits: Does the CBC have the courage to build a TRULY GREAT news program?

The latest water cooler chat among many Canadians this week is speculation about who will replace Peter Mansbridge as host of The National, CBC-TV’s flagship news program. He announced earlier this week that, after 30 years as host of  the program.

The long-time anchor seemed to be trying to give his departure considerable significance by announcing 10 months ahead of time that he is leaving. Also boosting his own importance, his departure also coincides with the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday.

One wonders if Mansbridge expects an honorary star-studded tour hosting The National from CBC stations across the country, much like the retiring New York Yankees’ star shortstop Derek Jeter was honoured in every ball park during his last year.

Now CBC executives say they are going to usher in “the next phase” of The National. 

Jennifer McGuire, the General Manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News, told The Globe and Mail she sees Mansbridge’s departure as “an opportunity to reimage the program.” She said the CBC will look at increasing the digital delivery of The National.

Finding a new host for The National should not be the CBC’s main goal.

CBC should address the fact that neither The National nor any other CBC news program is trusted very much by the public. The content of CBC News programs is just like programming at mainstream media, and the public doesn’t like either.

A Statistics Canada General Social Survey of national opinions for 2013 and 2014 revealed that only 40 per cent of Canadians had confidence in media.

Canadians don’t like mainstream news because they believe it lacks balance and that it reports lies.

The public is much smarter and more skeptical when digesting the news today than it was back in the 1960s when CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite was believed to be only second to God when it came to telling the truth.

One of the reasons people mistrust programs such as The National is because we have access to excellent upstart news sources on the Internet. Many sites are run by talented journalists who have fled the mainstream.

Mainstream editors cut stories

People know mainstream media filter out stories that don’t suit the owners idea of what should be news. For instance, corporate-owned media – and even CBC News – tend to paint a negative picture of organized labour, protest groups, and some environmental organizations.

On the other hand, by the nature of its reporting, CBC News tends to endorse our current form of aggressive capitalism as being good for everyone. It seldom covers the negative aspects of giant international free trade deals for the public.

Worst of all, CBC News coverage of many international political stories is disgraceful. In May I did an analysis of the Canadian coverage of a trip by U.S. President Barrick Obama to Vietnam. Many stories were so pro-U.S. they could have been written by the White House.

The reason for Obama’s trip reported by the CBC was that it was a goodwill visit. However, from what I could determine, no CBC News program reported he was there to discuss selling weapons  to the Vietnamese that would be pointed at China.

The National needs a revolution

If the CBC wants to rebuild public support, it has to revolutionize how it approaches the news. The main goal should be to help people understand the news by reporting, as we say, “both sides of the story.”

Content, not style and not personalities, should be the focus of a re-built National. For a start, many of those 1:10 minute long stories could be left to CTV, while the National should focus more on the big, important events.

The current, one person studio set up should be thrown out the window. A new, more flexible set could be changed from night to night to facilitate the coverage of stories of different importance.

For major stories, the evening news would be co-ordinated by the person who has the most expertise concerning the topic; perhaps the person who has researched the story all day. Other people who know about the story, perhaps including someone from one of the current affairs programs, would also be on the set.

Editors would need to have the insight and skills to write complete, balanced stories. For instance, if Obama makes claims about what is happening in Syria, the story requires a response from either the Syrian government or the Russians. Both the Russian and Chinese media should be monitored for possible stories.

Very important: The National should break away from the myth that journalism can be presented objectively. The lie of objectivity was created by newspapers many years ago when rich owners needed to find a way to stop journalists from writing scurrilous articles that got their papers into trouble.

Producing such a program would require a highly skilled staff and occasional access to experienced journalists/producers from other programs and even bringing in non-staff guests.

Perhaps half of The National’s journalists have the skills required to contribute to a high calibre program. Others would have to be trained. To understand the kind of in depth journalism required, compare the reporting on The National with the journalism on BBC News.

It would take courage for CBC executives to create such a program. Any changes along these lines would bring howls from right-wing Members of Parliament. But that’s okay. They’re always howling at something.

CTV has led The National in audience ratings for years, and they still might lead after these changes. What’s important is that a new, more in depth National would better serve the public.

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A Different Point of View....: Olympic groups wasting $-millions while athletes struggled to get to Rio

Dozens of athletes from Canada and thousands from developing countries have had a difficult time raising the money needed to train and take part in the Olympics Games in Brazil.

In Canada, more than two dozen world-class athletes were so hard up for support that they resorted to launching crowdfunding campaigns to supplement the money they receive from government and perhaps corporate sponsors.

On the tiny Pacific Island country of Nauru, judo participant Judoka Uera  had to hold barbecues and knock on doors to get the funds he needed Getting to Rio fulfilled Uera’s lifelong dream.

However, hundreds of other athletes who had the same dream and could have qualified for Rio were unable to attend because of a lack of support.

Given the financial difficulties faced by athletes, you would think the Canadian Olympic Committee  (COC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would provide every dime possible to sports bodies to provide funding.

Not so.

In fact, both the COC and the IOC are guilty of greedily spending millions of dollars on themselves while struggling athletes scrambled for a few bucks to get to Rio.

COC spends $10-million-plus on office

The Canadian Olympics Committee’s main task is supposed to be fostering Canadian participation in the Olympics. So it’s a bit of a shock that it is spending $10-million on a new office – Olympic House  – in Montreal. Included in the grandiose facility is a $2.9-million board room, called the “Lausanne Room” – a tribute to the international masters which have their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

An artist’s rendering of the stylized LED-light Olympic flame that will ‘burn’ outside the Canadian Olympic Committee offices at Olympic House in Montreal. 

In addition, hundreds-of-thousands of dollars are being spent on a spectacular outside lighting system for the office. To top it off, the Committee spent more than $1-million on a launch party for its new headquarters.

According to an audit, the project is facing a cost overrun, likely more than $1-million. The COC has not so far been able to collect $1.5-million it has counted on to help pay for Olympic House.

In fairness, the $10-million to be raised was specifically for the one-time project. But a more modest but adequate facility could have been built for much less.

The COC could have focused more on getting funds to athletes.

In the COC’s most recent but sketchy financial report filed with the Canada Revenue Agency for 2014, figures show that it passed on $5.218-million to the various sports bodies – less than one-half the amount spent on the office.

Incidentally, the COC refused to say how many of its 19 Board members and staff are attending the Games in Rio.

The COC is also having difficulty recovering from a horrendous sexual harassment situation.

Recently resigned President Marcel Aubut made unwanted sexual advances toward many staff members over a period of five years. Senior staff members who knew about the situation were fired.

Problems linger and it’s too soon to tell whether the COC will be able to adequately do its job of supporting athletes and the Olympics.

IOC looks after its own

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) clearly spends much more money on itself than is reasonable. Its priority is supposed to be distributing as much of its estimated $1.375-billion US to sports groups around the world.

The IOC is a volunteer organization but, as The Washington Post reported in July, it has created ways of greasing the palms of its executives and members.

IOC President Thomas Bach, a former German fencer, is called a “volunteer.” However, he receives an annual “allowance” of US$251,000 plus other perks. The IOC pays for his suite at a luxurious hotel in Lausanne that is listed at more than US$1,000 per night.

When on IOC business, members are allowed to fly first class, stay in luxury hotels, and get large per diems: US$450 per day for regular IOC members, and US$900 per day for IOC executive members.

Former Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut, who as forced to resign because of sexual harassment complaints, is about to embrace Canadian Paralympic Committee CEO Karen O’Neill. 

Representing Canada on the IOC, and therefore entitled to the expenses, are Richard Pound, former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency; former hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser; and new COC President Tricia Smith.

Hundreds of so-called IOC volunteers at the Olympics are handsomely rewarded.

Bob Balk, a former U.S. Paralympic canoe athlete volunteered at the 2012 Games in London. Every morning a crowd of IOC members and volunteers gathered in a hotel room to get their daily stipend, he told The Washington Post.

“They had a US$100-bill-counting machine, and people were standing in line to get their stacks of hundred-dollar-bills,” Balk said. “It was crazy.”

IOC answers to no one

The IOC is able to get away with such extravagances because it answers to no one except itself.

Every year the IOC claims that 90 per cent of its income is sent to sports organizations around the world. But because it is a non-profit based in tax-haven Switzerland, it is not required to disclose how it spends its money.

A lot of money goes to non-profit sports organizations in many countries where they too are not required to account for their spending.

Just like the IOC, international sports bodies concerning track and field, swimming and gymnastics are located in Switzerland or Monaco, another tax haven.

Obviously, a culture of absurd entitlement exists throughout much of the Olympic movement, and the question arises: How many millions of dollars are not being used in the right way to support the Olympics?

Because so much financial information is hidden, it is difficult to tell how much money might be poorly allocated in Canada, and whether there is corruption and theft on an international level.

Clearly, as both organizations need to maintain the confidence of donors and the public, they should voluntarily undergo independent audits.

When such scandals erupt, the athletes know that, even though they are the stars adored by millions, they are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to money.

At the top are the big international advertisers who fund the Olympics because they want access to those millions of eyeballs. Next come the wheeling and dealing middle men Olympic officials who get their piece of the pie. Last are the athletes.

The athletes would be wise to organize and demand full disclosure from all Olympic bodies.

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A Different Point of View....: Will World Social Forum become leader the Left needs?

The annual gathering of the World Social Forum  (WSF) – the left’s response to the elitist annual Davos World Economic Forum  – is in session  in Montreal until Sunday, August 14.

More than 1,000 self-managed sessions  have activists discussing and creating progressive alternatives to traditional political, economic and social policies that they will take back to their own countries.

While as many as 100,000 people have attended sessions some years in some developing countries, perhaps 10,000 are taking part in Montreal.

Participants from the South found it too expensive to travel to Montreal. In addition, hundreds of activists from some countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Iran, Nigeria, Haiti and Nepal, were being refused visas.

WSF Meeting – Senegal

Montreal was selected this year because it has been the site of strong social and political activism over the last few years.

Meanwhile, the federal government seems to want to censor free expression at the WSF. It has distanced itself from the gathering following complaints that its programming included anti-Semitic content. According to news reports, the WSF was told last week to remove the Canadian government logo from its list of partners after two Liberal MPs expressed disgust over what they called a “blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon” on the event’s website.

The Forum is an exciting event writes John L. Hammond of City University of New York: “The scene bursts with energy as people who work on particular causes at home—feminism, the environment, indigenous rights, economic justice, human rights, AIDS treatment and prevention and many more—compare notes and strategies.

Networking, discussing key issues, and building alliances are the main activities at Forum sessions. The Forum can best be described as a “process”, an incubator facilitating new visions and ideas.
The activism bred at the WSF has supported change and revolution in several countries.

It can take credit, in part, for the collapse of the World Trade Organization’s Doha round  in 2003, the defeat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and exposing the harsh austerity programs of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Little impact in English-speaking Canada

Thousands of Canadian social activists have taken part in numerous WSF gatherings over the years. While this exposure has helped radicalized students in Quebec, it appears to have accomplished little in Eastern Canada. Even during the brutal years of the Harper administration, only a handful of unions and fringe radical groups advocated strong action.

The NDP and leading social movement groups, say the Council of Canadians, should have seen the need to explore alternatives to Canada’s corporate-dominated political system. But the NDP doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of neo-liberalism, the damaging centrepiece of right-wing politics.
While the Council of Canadians, the country’s largest social action group, has won praise for challenging voting irregularities in court, its “activism” is usually limited to holding protests and sending petitions to government.

In Canada, as in much of the rest of the world, the left has lost a tremendous amount of ground since the WSF was created 15 years ago. We now live in a world where the 1 per cent has huge powers, corporations dominate our lives, neo-liberal policies rein in the public, and where progressive governments have fallen in several countries.

In view of these challenges, it is time for the WSF to seriously evaluate itself and its place in the world.

The movement has lost some of its radical edge over the years. Organizers have given in to some extent to the influences of government and the corporate world – initially the group’s main enemies.

WSF not independent enough

Eric Toussaint, a Belgian political scientist and one of the ideologists of the WSF, has been concerned for some time that the movement is not independent enough.

“It worries me to arrive in Porto Alegre and see that the seminar “Ten years later” is sponsored by Petrobras, Caixa, Banco do Brasil, Itaipu Binacional, with several governments in attendance,” he said on the 10th anniversary of the WSF.

“I would much rather have seen a Forum with less financial means but more militant in nature”, he said.

The sources of funding for the Montreal event may be an issue for some participants. Organizers claim the gathering will cost $2.4-million. This includes $710,000 from various levels of government and another $287,500 from unidentified “solidarity and sponsorship supporters.”

Some of the more activist participants complain about the increase in attendance in recent years by Non-governmental organizations, which tend to be comfortable operating within the capitalist environment. Meanwhile, participation by indigenous groups, which are usually more radical, has decreased.

Where is the WSF going?

Perhaps discussions held in Montreal will lead to a reinvigorated and forward looking WSF.
Since its beginning, the WSF has held that it does not intend to be a body representing world civil society, and therefor does not directly take part in political struggles. 

However, after 15 years of facilitating discussions there are concerns that the Forum could flounder if it does not move in new directions.

Pierre Beaudet, founder of Quebec NGO Alternatives, says there is “a recognized necessity for [WSF affiliated] movements to seize with both hands some major issues . . . . At this moment, the Forum could open up the self-organized convergences and go further than just producing a mixture of ideas which has characterized it thus far.

Adds Beaudet: “The difficulty, of course, is to identify the points of convergences, which is certainly not easy to do, considering the incredible diversity (which also comes with an incredible richness) of the participants from social movements.”

With its access to tens-of-thousands of activists, the Forum is the only progressive assembly in the world with the potential to facilitate co-ordinated action on a global scale on crucial issues, such as global warming, neo-liberalism, and life inequalities.

If the massive body is to begin changing direction in Montreal, it likely will have to overcome two obstacles.

The WSF’s complicated non-hierarchical system – perhaps reminiscent of the ungovernable mechanisms that laid low Occupy Wall Street – seems to prevent the Forum from moving forward.

The other potential obstacle concerns leadership. Some of the men who have been at the forefront of the WSF movement for all of its 15 years are still there. Much has changed since then. Will new leadership emerge to work with the old guard to allow the WSF to retain the best of its past and also move in a new direction?

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A Different Point of View....: Baton Rouge police fumble mass shooting; procedures, racial attitudes must change.

Baton Rouge police respond to shooting of fellow officers.

On Sunday July 17, his birthday, a black man, former highly-regarded U.S. Marine Gavin Long, shot and killed three Baton Rouge police officers and injured three others.

The murders, following the killing of five officers in Dallas, also by a black man, increased racial tensions and hatred in the United States beyond the crisis level of the 1960s, when black people were attacked and beaten across the South during their fight for civil rights.

Gavin Long’s attack on Baton Rouge police was calculated and brutal. Nevertheless, an analysis of Long’s actions, and the response of the Baton Rouge police, reveal the failure and poor procedures of the policing system that almost certainly exist in many American communities.

Had police acted differently and if policing techniques were more sophisticated in Baton Rouge, fewer police might have been killed – or the deadly confrontation might not have occurred at all.

The militarization of local police forces across the U.S. made Gavin Long, and no doubt many like him, fear and mistrust police. Many police departments now behave more like a military force, sometimes abusing people rather than acting like a community service with the goal of protecting all citizens.

Long lived in Kansas City. On July 5, he heard that a black man, Alton Sterling, had been killed in Baton Rouge for no good reason.

Later, police attested more than 100 people protesting the shooting of Sterling for allegedly blocking a highway. About 50 demonstrators were crammed into one cell.

While Long was planning his assassination trip to Baton Rouge, others had the same idea.

On July 11, police arrested three teenagers accused of stealing several handguns as part of what police called a ‘substantial, credible threat’ to harm police officers in the Baton Rouge area.

On July 12, Long rented a car in Kansas City and drove to Baton Rouge.

Gavin Long was a well-trained marksman and military expert. He was more than well equipped with an IWI Tavor SAR 5.56 calibre rifle, a Stag Arms M4 variant 5.56 caliber rifle, a pistol, and enough bullets to wreak havoc.

Police moved in too quickly

But how much did police know about what they were walking into?

Someone reported to police they had seen a suspicious man with a weapon.  It’s unclear if police were aware of additional vital information: The person was wearing a mask and black shorts.

But just knowing there was a man on the street with a weapon — and in view of the fact they had killed Alton Sterling just days before — should have warned them to proceeded with great caution. But they did not.

After an officer yelled “Man down!” over his phone system, perhaps as many as eight or nine officers raced in a disorganized manner to the scene of the shooting.

Police couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from. For several hours – just like in Dallas – they thought there were three shooters. Total chaos ensued.

Meanwhile, Long shot five more officers. By the time he was caught, he apparently had thrown away his weapons. Two policemen pinned him to the ground, and then shot him six times. The officers were placed on temporary leave.

There appears to be no discussion as to whether the two officers will be charged with murder or anything else.

Earlier, when the call came in about a man with a gun, it’s easy to understand they wanted to help a fellow officer. But, viewed in hindsight, it was foolish for a swarm of police to rush into an open area when they have no idea what they were up against.

Police clearly bungled the situation. If they had behaved differently, lives likely could have been saved.

If they were following “proper procedures”, changes are needed. At a minimum, officers need to use common sense and stay as hidden as possible until they know what’s happening around them.

Police used a robot to determine if there were explosives at the scene. Perhaps a robot could have helped identify the location of the shooter, and perhaps could have even been ordered remotely to fire on the shooter.

When the U.S. military uses sophisticated equipment such as drones to avoid casualties, why are local police departments still operating as though it’s the 1950s?

Identifying dangerous people

Baton Rouge police and other police across the U.S. don’t do nearly enough to identify potential mass murderers ahead of time.

The U.S. spends more than $16-billion a year on counter-terrorism, mainly monitoring and investigating the Muslim community.  But of the 26 major attacks since 9/11 defined as terror, Muslims carried out only seven.

The FBI has stepped up efforts to identify terrorists (i.e. radical Muslims) using social media,   but apparently there are few co-ordinated efforts to search out radicals and malcontents.

One way to spot dangerous people is obviously easy: Monitor Facebook and YouTube. Some mass murderers like to publicize their plans before they go into action.

On July 10 – one week before shooting the six officers in Baton Rouge police – Long posted videos on YouTube advocating revolution and telling people to attack their oppressors.  He used the pseudonym Cosmo Setepenra.

Hinting at what was to come, Long posted he would rather die fighting instead of coming back alive.

Micha Johnson, who shot and killed five policemen in Dallas earlier this month, discussed his plans ahead of time on social media.

If security forces had been adequately monitoring social media they might have known that both Long and Johnson were serious threats.

The crisis of police racism

Police departments across the U.S. need to be radically changed. Brutally racist officers, often working in teams, thrive in too many departments. American police killed 1,134 black people in 2015, the highest number ever.

Earlier, police pin down man protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling.  

Meanwhile, the public perception that a lot of police are shot to death is not true, says Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of Southern Carolina and former policeman.

Stoughton says, looking at the 10 years from 2006 to 2015 the annual average number of police deaths was 49.6, which he notes is “down significantly from the high.”

A massive effort is required to weed out as many racists as possible and rehabilitate those capable of changing. In addition, before people are recruited to forces, they need to be tested to make sure they do not have racist tendencies. These tasks must be taken on by local governing councils, and if they refuse to do the job – just like many jurisdictions in the 1960s – the federal government needs to step in.

Erika Hayasaki of the University of California wrote about research into what could be done to reduce racism on police forces. She says that many more women should be hired by police, and that police should regularly take part in community dialogue.

Incidentally, I scanned U.S. mainstream media to find out if any paper or TV network has concerns about whether police did their job adequately in Baton Rouge and Dallas. Not a word. When such horrendous events occur, mass media totally sympathize with the police. This too needs to change.

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A Different Point of View....: We must win back democracy, even if it takes Hedges’ revolution

While the banks, elites, and the super-rich have been scrambling to try to hold onto their billions following the UK’s shocking vote to exit from the European Union, the anger expressed by the leave side was another emotional cry to end the control that corporations and the elite have over everyday people in many Western countries.

The day after the vote, panic and fear struck at the hearts of money gamblers as their bets turned sour and markets lurched downward. The wealthiest people lost $120-billion.

On the other side of the equation, people in most part of the UK except Scotland and Northern Ireland expressed their anger over their inability to have more control over their lives. They blame the EU for the disastrous performance of the economy since the 2007-08 financial collapse. They also fear the idea of “ever closer union”, moving toward a United States of Europe, which would lessen their control over their lives.

Meanwhile, the same anger is present in several Western countries. People have seen economic policies that favour corporations and the rich that destroy their jobs, businesses and communities. Citizens began to lose control of their governments in the early 1980s when Thatcher in the UK and the Reagan in the US – without consulting the public – adopted a series of neo-liberal policies.

Multi-nationals, elites and banks firmly control Western governments through neo-liberalism, financial integration, and globalization. In 2011, a research group at a Swiss institute studied a database of 37-million companies, and identified a “super-entity” of 147 tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in a huge network.

Angry over EU membership, neo-liberalism

In the UK, millions of people feel they have suffered because of both their EU membership and neo-liberal policies.

Many well-paying jobs have disappeared due to neo-liberal policies. UK corporations have shipped their production to poor countries to maximize profits. When Thatcher came to office in 1979, manufacturing accounted for almost 30 per cent of Britain’s national income and employed 6.8 million people; by 2010, it accounted for 11 per cent and employed 2.5 million.

Then there’s the massive disparity between the rich and poor. Between 2012 and 2014 the richest 10 per cent in Britain held assets – a mix of property, cash and pension funds – worth just under £5Trillion. The poorest 10 per cent owned just £5.7 million.

The biggest issue for the leave side was the massive influx of migrants from the rest of Europe and refugees from Syria and other countries. While mainstream media has focused on the racist element, the deeper issue for people is that they have no control over EU-regulated migration and illegal immigration. The government says the UK experienced net migration of 330,000 people in 2015, but the Express newspaper says the figure does not take into account 1.1-million illegal immigrants.

Some of Britain’s elite finally get it. Considering the vote, veteran Conservative Ken Clark observed that citizens increasingly feel the institutions of government are making their lives worse, not better.

“There’s a strange, angry and uncertain mood out there…”, said Clark, “(an) anti-establishment, anti-political class feeling. The discontented older generation of every social background and class are angry about what’s happened in their lives.”

If the UK were a more equitable society, it likely would still be in the EU today.

Democracy no longer functions

Elsewhere, in several European countries, tens-of-millions of everyday people realize they are powerlessness when it comes to influencing major decisions that affect their lives because of neo-liberal policies. Democracy, whereby governments look out for the interests of people first, no longer functions in many European countries, Canada and the United States.

Working people in several European countries, including Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland have suffered greatly at the hands of a vicious neo-liberal policy component – austerity.

The most severe austerity abuse has been heaped upon the people of Greece. When the government was unable to pay its debts, the big money guys at the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank – instead of acting like humans – put the neo-liberal screws to the Greek people. They were forced to reduce spending on everything, including health, social services, education, etc. Wages and pensions were slashed.

A bitter irony is the fact that, having caused trillions of dollars of hardship to ordinary people in many countries – including Canada – the International Monetary Fund has admitted that austerity does not lead to economic revival.  However, it does enrich banks and corporations.

We should not forget that Canadians revolted against the neo-liberal and austerity policies of Stephen Harper. At one point Canadians were so desperate to get rid of Harper that they were prepared to vote for the New Democrats, traditionally a left-wing party.

Canadians have no say in trade deals

Canada is locked into the neo-liberal way of doing things. Most controversial are the two possible trade agreements the government wants to sign, CETA (The Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), and  the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The deals have been negotiated in secret and favour corporations and trade over the interests of government veto power, labour, and the environment.

Because Canadian corporations and the wealthy are so powerful they get away with hiding their money in tax havens, making it more difficult for the government to provide services. Instead of creating its’ own bank that could issue interest-free loans to itself, the government will continue to be financed with loans from for-profit banks.

In the US, traditional politics is in a state of crisis. People are revolting against the Democratic and Republican parties over many of the same issues that anger Brits: trade-induced job loss, stagnant wages, and a vanished sense of prosperity.

Of course the election of Donald Trump as President would be a serious setback for democratic government. But he is advocating changes that appeal to some of those folks who are discontent: ripping up existing trade deals, slapping high tariffs on imported goods, and punishing companies that move production overseas.

If Hilary Clinton wins the election, ordinary people will continue to suffer while she gives a free rein to corporations and spends $596-billion a year on various wars.

Change could come in US

But, because of its revolutionary history and chaotic nature, perhaps the US is the country where we might see a change in the form of government.

Perhaps after the November election, the dedicated forces behind Democrat Bernie Sanders, many of whom support a more progressive social democracy, will split off and form a third party. However, this has failed in the US in the past.

Radical US journalist Chris Hedges believes that, because the corporations and elite are so strongly entrenched, significant change is going to come through some form of revolution.

“There are all sorts of neutral indicators that show that’ says Hedges. “Low voter turnout, the fact that [the US] Congress has an approval rating of seven per cent, that polls continually reflect a kind of pessimism about where we are going, that many of the major systems that have been set in place — especially in terms of internal security — have no popularity at all.

“All of these are indicators that something is seriously wrong, that the government is no longer responding to the most basic concerns, needs, and rights of the citizenry . . . . But what’s going to take its’ place, that has not been articulated. Yes, we are in a revolutionary moment; but maybe it’s a better way to describe it as a revolutionary process.”

Control of society by a self-appointed superior class using neo-liberal policies is incompatible with any true form of democracy. As we have seen in history, people will always rebel against tyranny. Will there be radical change in the US? As the cliché goes: Time will tell.

– 30 –
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A Different Point of View....: Mainstream media sucked in, report whatever politicians, GM say.

Note: In journalism school students are taught to report
not what people say but what they do!

All the big newspapers and TV networks breathlessly reported word-for-word what they were told at a recent joint political-General Motors newser:

The Globe and Mail: 
“For decades, the splashy, job-creating announcements in the auto sector in Canada have been about manufacturing jobs.

“General Motors of Canada Ltd. went in a different direction Friday, announcing the hiring of 700 to 750 new engineers who will work on the automobile of the future – vehicles that are battery-powered, connected to the wired world much more closely than they are now and will eventually drive themselves.”

CTV News reported what Prime Minister Trudeau said, just as though the comment came from an official news release: “We know that to create good jobs … we have to be on the cutting edge,” Trudeau said. “This investment by GM in jobs that will support their operations all around the world shows we’re succeeding in that regard.”

How exciting! How futuristic!

But wait a minute. Here’s a bit of interesting background:

GM does not have to hire Canadian engineers for the 700 jobs. In fact, they are going to go to Silicon Valley to recruit them.

And there’s more:

If the reporters had bothered to scan through their archives, they would have discovered that the auto industry in Canada is doing very little compared to what it was like a few years ago, when many thousands of people were employed with excellent wages.

Since the Canada-US Autopact was ruled to be illegal several years ago and the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented, manufacturing jobs – which is what Canada really needs – have disappeared by the tens-of-thousands.

Five Canadian assembly plants have closed since the turn of the century. Only one has opened.

Meanwhile, Unifor, the union that represents the workers, is afraid that at least three of the eight unionized auto plants in Ontario could close in coming years unless they are able during contract negotiations this summer to persuade the Detroit Three to commit to more  products at those factories.

They are worried about the future of General Motors’ assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario; Ford’s engine plants in Windsor and Fiat Chrysler’s Automobiles plant in Brampton, Ontario. Together, those plants employ 7,200 workers or about one-third of union members employed by the Detroit Three in Canada.

The failure of The Globe, CTV and others to provide background for the earlier story is typical of what is so wrong with Big Media these days. This story wasn’t incomplete because of media cutbacks. It’s just lazy, puffery journalism.

What got me off on this rant were two excellent letters to the editor published in The Toronto Star. When we have to go to the letters page to get the interesting facts about the news, it’s no wonder people do not trust mainstream media.

Reader’s Letters | The Toronto Star
Re: GM to create 750 high-tech jobs, June 11


Has General Motors of Canada forgotten that only seven years ago the governments of Canada, Ontario and the U.S. saved it from oblivion when decades of prodigiously arrogant mismanagement inevitably resulted in their bankruptcy?

Are folks aware that even as the fate of Oshawa Assembly is in the balance, GM is investing billions of dollars in ramping up Mexican production?

Do people know that post-bankruptcy GM has already displayed astonishing hubris by becoming the first of the Detroit three automakers to import cars made in China for Canadian and U.S. consumption in the form of the new Buick Envision?

While I am displeased that companies like Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai/Kia and VW account for a massive chunk of Canadian auto sales without making a single car here they nonetheless never came begging for our tax dollars.

From the other side, one can understand the natural temptation of paying manufacturing wages in pesos rather than loonies, which has been the predictable and predicted consequence of the rise of NAFTA and the demise of the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact, but GM really is a special case.

Finally, if GM’s Oshawa plant is to continue pumping out cars and providing middle class jobs you can brace yourself for a big dollop of corporate welfare factoring into the equation.

Without meaningful trade borders and true national sovereignty transnational bastions of “free enterprise” like GM really have our political leaders over a barrel as competing jurisdictions outbid one another with massive taxpayer subsidies designed to lure investment or simply retain the remnants of our industrial core.

~ Mike Vorobej, Ottawa


Before Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne get too excited about the 700 jobs coming to Oshawa and area, let’s review what has happened over the last decade at GM.

First of all, we lent GM just over $12 billion after the 2008 crash and Stephen Harper sold it for a $3.5 billion loss to Canadian taxpayers.

Secondly, we have lost 20,000 manufacturing jobs at GM in Oshawa since 2003. Why were no job guarantees written into the deal when we gave GM billions of dollars?

Third, and most insulting, GM announced at the press conference it would go to Silicon Valley to recruit the workers for the Oshawa GM jobs.

So, in conclusion, we have lost $3.5 billion to GM, lost about 20,000 good high-paying manufacturing jobs at GM in Oshawa and now they have announced they will go to another country to recruit workers for those jobs.

Why exactly are Mr. Trudeau and Ms Wynne celebrating?

~ Gary Brigden, Toronto

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