On a recent flight from Costa Rica to Toronto, I was required to show my passport 9 times and was searched 3 times, most of which was required because of a flight connection in the US. The ordeal brought on flashes of wartime movies where suspicious Gestapo officers checked travelers’ papers on night trains to Switzerland and I wondered, “Isn’t this what our forefathers fought and died to prevent?” We tolerate these distortions of democracy because we believe that they are the lesser of two evils: it is better to live with the loss of privacy and freedom than to live in fear of crime and terrorism.

Some surveillance may be necessary in order to protect citizens but new technologies have made possible the collection of personal data by governments, groups, companies and individuals with few, if any, restrictions. They can enter your home, steal from you and leave without your knowledge. They offer no compensation or benefit in return. The transaction, if you could call it that, is purely one sided and it is making some people very rich. Many of the names of these companies you will never know or recognize, but there are also companies that everybody knows such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google who are among the worst offenders.

We used to keep our valuables in vaults or banks but today there is a new “valuable” – it is you! Buying preferences, likes and dislikes are helping advertisers get directly to the people who are most likely to buy their products. It may seem like a small efficiency but the collection of personal information about individuals is already a 30+ billion dollar business and it is expanding quickly. “Real-time bidding” is the presentation of advertising based on your recent Internet uses. The highest bidder gets to advertise to you based on your profile which may inspire images of the slave trader auctions of the 1800s.

For example, not long ago, I bought a digital SLR and went to the manufacturer’s web site to register for the warranty. I was puzzled when shortly after that everywhere I went on the Internet there were ads for the camera I had just purchased. The information didn’t “leak” from the manufacturer, but from the “tracking cookies” that were placed on my computer that were sending information to unknown people about my Internet research on the camera.

Although this was an invasion of my privacy, this example may seem relatively harmless, but the potential for harm is huge. Could your life insurance be cancelled because you showed interest in a high-risk sport like hang gliding? Could your research into alternative cancer treatments become known to, and possibly influence a prospective or current employer? Emerging technologies will require home appliances to be connected to the Internet. “Smart Appliances” will have the potential to report every time you open your fridge or turn on your stove. They will be able to measure your carbon footprint and send you a bill. The potential for abuse is enormous!

Technologies have given us some new freedoms but they have also created new challenges that without regulation and controls could cause serious harm. The EU is leading the way with controls on the collection of personal information from the Internet. Canada is expected to follow their lead but the “devil is in the details”. The business of tracking Internet users is exceptionally lucrative making deterrents such as fines and prosecutions irrelevant. For information pirates, these are considered just a cost of doing business.

Facebook provides no content – its users do that. Facebook collects the information you provide and sells it to advertisers – that is their business. They have been fined and accused of collecting data even when the user has “opted out” of their collection. They have also been accused of retaining data even when the user has deleted it.

The government of France refused to use Microsoft products because in their words the software was design to make it easy for others to get into their data. Google has an equally dismal record, yet Obama selected Facebook and Google as his advisers on Internet privacy policy. This is like assigning the fox to protect the chicken coup. He is not serious about protecting citizens’ privacy.

Regulation of information collection is expected from the (Canadian) Privacy Commission, but I am prepared to bet that it will have little effect on curtailing the “money junkies” from collecting your personal information. There is just so much money to be “made”. The better way to stop information theft is to charge the companies who use the information. The Information Highway (as it once was called) is the equivalent of the 401 with lots of potential dangers – there may be laws but you have to be aware and protect yourself.

Some easy ways to protect your information include using multiple browsers rather than one, thus limiting access to parts of your profile. You can buy a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service for about $5/month. You can shut off cookies in your browser and turn them on only when visiting known and trusted sites; and you can write the Privacy Commissioner when you feel your freedoms have been violated. They only get involved in prosecutions when someone complains.

Personal profiling on the Internet is dangerous because we don’t know what information is being trapped or by whom. We also don’t know who will use it and for what purpose. It can be moved anywhere in the world in an instant and it may be kept forever. That concerns me and it should concern you, as well. The information belongs to you because it is part of who you are. It is being taken from you without your knowledge and permission in most cases, and although it is not a tangible, it is of significant value. We have laws about stealing your physical property. Your personal preferences, interests and desires, though intangible, are still your property and need to be protected with the same intention and determination as your money.

No Comments | Category: From 10,000 Feet

Winston Churchill is purported to have said: “Capitalism is not the best system, but it is the best so far.” The quote seemed out of character for someone who was openly critical of a system so given to greed and corruption. Fact is, he actually said this about democracy, not capitalism – the capitalists “borrowed” Churchill’s “political capital” to support their cause.

As I searched quotes about capitalism, I soon realized that there were significantly more quotes against capitalism than for it. They came from renowned politicians (including Churchill), economists, business leaders, gangsters (Al Capone) and even US founding father, Thomas Jefferson. Yet, we are told all the time in the media that there is no better system than capitalism. In fact, you may be branded a communist and or even a threat to a successful, progressive society simply by questioning the fairness of capitalism. In light of the melt-down of capitalism in 2008 and the world-wide repercussions which we are all still feeling today, it is appropriate, maybe even prophetic, that 2012 is the United Nation’s International Year of Cooperatives.

Cooperatives are an alternative to the idea that capital (money) is the most important ingredient in an enterprise and therefore deserves the majority of the rewards (profits). Alternatively, cooperatives are founded on the premise of people working together for their mutual benefit. They are unofficially defined as “an organization owned by its members who use its services”. Cooperatives first appeared in the UK in the mid 1800s. They differ from other organizations in that they benefit the members based on the amount they use the services of the organization rather than on the basis of their capital input. This frees the organization to serve members’ needs rather than focusing on returns for investors.

There are many examples of large scale cooperatives in Canada and around the world: ACE Hardware, Mutual of Omaha Insurance, State Farm Insurance, True Value, Piggly Wiggly (USA), Mountain Equipment Coop, Co-operators Insurance, Gay Lee Foods, Desjardins Group, United Farmers of Alberta, and Coop Atlantic. There are over 9000 cooperatives in Canada employing 155,000 people with more than 18 million members. In Waterloo Region, you can buy general insurance, life insurance, and banking and financial services from credit unions. Cooperatives provide energy services, food production, housing, and mutual purchasing, to name just a few. Almost any service can be acquired through a cooperative here in the Region. Cooperatives are an alternative that is based on the principle that there is a synergistic effect which benefits all the participants when they work together.

When the banking system collapsed in Argentina and owners deserted their businesses and their workers, they were taken over by cooperatives (groups of workers) and run very successfully – even to this day. After the economic storms subsided, the owners and managers tried unsuccessfully to regain control.

Families are the simplest form of a cooperative, and when any group works together, large or small, and the parties mutually benefit, it’s a cooperative. Cooperatives place value on all the components that make an enterprise successful, not just capital. Most corporations’ sole objective is to make as much money as possible, any way they can. Corporations have no conscience and rarely are they prosecuted for their crimes the way individuals are. Every day in the news, we see the consequences of unconscionable greed by multi-national corporations. Could cooperatives be an effective alternative to the unbridled self-interest that threatens to destroy the planet and our financial systems?

Capitalism’s greed is considered “tolerable” in part because we don’t believe there is another alternative. Its values and objectives are in direct conflict with the environment, the public, and governments whose mandate it is to serve the common good. Cooperatives offer an alternative and a model for people to accomplish almost anything. They are the way of the future and the past. They benefit the 100% rather than the 1% and they are capable of stimulating innovation, creativity, and efficiency without overly exploiting the planet or its workers.

No Comments | Category: From 10,000 Feet

One of the most pleasant tasks I perform for the Forerunner Film Festival is to review new films. I am not sure how I was introduced to the film “Crossing”, but it was a docu-drama which

chCooperatismallenged and stirred more emotion that any of the hundreds of films I had reviewed.

The setting is North Korea. The central character is a husband desperately seeking medicine for his very ill wife. We learn that the only solution to his problem is to pass illegally through the border into China to get the medicine. For many Christians in North Korean, life is very difficult – they face persecution, diminished human rights, and many are refused work. The only way to escape is to illegally enter China and then travel overland to South Korea with the help of an underground railroad. The desperate husband reckons that if he is going to risk years of jail to get the medicine, he may as well escape to freedom.

Few people understand this man’s life, but the film powerfully reveals the desperation, fear, and courage people face when they risk their lives and futures for freedom. The most moving footage shows a group of refugees attempting to force their way through a wall of North Korean police into the safety and freedom of the Japanese consulate. Some escape, others are captured – it is heart wrenching.

I promised myself after the film I would do something to raise awareness of these people who want only a chance to work and live with some dignity. My research into the subject revealed complications and, as usual, corruption in the handling and treatment of refugees coming from North Korea. It muddied the water somewhat for me.

This week Kim Jung II “Beloved Leader” died suddenly of a heart attack – his death offers North Koreans hope for the future. His 3rd son was named as successor, although for millions of Christian North Koreans, it is unknown how and if things will change. Those who have escaped the North took the opportunity to demonstrate in Seoul.

 

For many of us here in Canada, this story is just another blip on the daily news screen, with little background understanding or significance to us. It is difficult to keep up with all the issues that are going on in the world. There are so many problems that need our support and engagement, we may wonder how WE can do something to contribute to positive change?

In a recent interview for Wisdom-radio with Dale and Linda Bolton from Organics 4 Orphans, Dale described how this revolutionary organization was birthed. On seeing literally millions of orphans (victims of the AIDS epidemic) they committed themselves to do something. They somehow got over the fact that they were two people facing a 40 million person problem. They began with the premise that even if they could help only a few hundred children, it would be worth their effort. They, however, grew in understanding of the culture and the problems and discovered better solutions. It has been a journey of amazing revelation and innovation. The key was their commitment to do something. After that, all the rest came together.

As 2011 comes to a close with one of the great celebrations of family and caring, we should evaluate what we have done for others and how we can do our part to make a positive impact on our world. All around us we are challenged with needs. We may think we can’t do much to solve the world’s problems, but over and over again, people of modest means and expertise make enormous changes for good. Their key is commitment and endurance. 2012 will be filled with opportunities to become engaged in your community and to find a place to serve. You can’t do everything and you can’t do ‘nothing’. The world, our country, and our community need you and what you have to give no matter how small you believe your impact will be. Find an issue to affect for good. Find someone or something that needs what you have to give and 2012 will be the beginning of the best years of your life.

No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, From 10,000 Feet

Inventors always want to protect their ideas so that only they can capitalize on them; however, that may be misguided. In the history of recent technology, being the “first in” has proven to be of no advantage – possibly even a disadvantage.

At one time, there was a very good operating system called CPM that was crushed by a late arriver MS DOS. Commodore once had a future in personal computing until it went head-to-head with the PC (IBM Personal Computer). Atari had a superior computer for a long time but was eliminated in an “early round” by the fashionably late PC clone. Xerox produced the feature-rich, Venture Publisher, that was “marketed” out of the business by Adobe Page Maker for Macintosh – a far inferior product.

 

Almost none of the original players are around today to enjoy the fruit of their ground breaking labour. The forerunners who dream and challenge new horizons don’t always make the best managers. Steve Jobs may appear to be an exception – he stayed close to his function as “Head-Dreamer” of the company and it worked for him and Apple.

Being second or third into a big market has proven to have its advantages. Research In Motion conceived and birthed an idea which required a tremendous amount of creative and technological resources, only to have others build on and innovate the idea. It is much easier to refine a good idea than it is to make it a reality. RIM’s competitors have made a place for themselves “frilling up” a monumental technology with a user friendly interface (Iphone) and a fortune of supplementary applications which appeal to anyone and everyone’s personal interests. Some of these apps are “software froth” and some are well conceived and designed add-on functions to the main and original idea of mobile e-mail, internet and phone service.

RIM still has a unique market advantage in spite of the press that is determined to destroy them. Their networks are secure because they operate them. That one advantage for an intelligent and informed consumer is worth trading all the “frills” any marketing manager on steroids can come up with. It seems that RIM’s superior security has irritated more than one government. Saudi Arabia wanted a “backdoor” into the Blackberry system in order to spy on their people. Somehow, Blackberry was “responsible” for the riots in London in August. Their networks were secure and for that reason rioters used them to organize. The British didn’t like that and called in the Blackberry folks to give an account for themselves. The social unrest and religious persecution of Christians in countries such as Egypt have made RIM the secure and obvious choice of many. For that reason, RIM has gone from being heros to zeros, at least in the press. It would appear for being just too darn good. There are a lot of people who would like them to give up their secure networks so they can  “trap data” and spy on whomever they please. In some cases, that is good and in others it is bad, but who gets to decide which is which?

RIM has a lot of enemies, but the founders are used to fighting for what they believe. They were around long before Blackberry and learned their “tuffs” over years of struggling in order to arrive where they are today. They may have made some mistakes and become mesmerized by their tremendous success for a season, but the next battle is for the survival of the company. My money is on RIM. They have the leadership to make the adjustments that need to be made. They are “forerunners” who can lead the industry again. They have been there and know what it takes to create and pioneer. They just need to remember who they are! As with most forerunners, they don’t mind taking some heat for doing things their way.

I am optimistic about RIM’s future in spite of the media’s intentional attacks and pessimistic predictions. As a team, they are more than what the “barking dogs” (the press) say they are. They have proven their character and good will in the market place and to our community whenever there was a need. This battle is not primarily about stock prices, or shareholder value, or marketing, or PR. It is about control and who is going to get it.

The first line of defense in this battle is character….“character” that says: “I will not let ‘them’ destroy me or this company.” This attitude must start at the top and trickle down through the ranks and infect those not intimidated by a good fight with courage and determination. I’ve seen that from the senior RIM team in the midst of a volley of personal attacks. They stood firm when their leadership was challenged and when “analysts” wanted to break up the company. Their courage and strength tell me they are not finished fighting, and it gives me courage and the conviction that RIM will not only survive, but will flourish.

No Comments | Category: Financial Markets, From 10,000 Feet, Technology and Medicine

“The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall.” Cicero  – 55 BC

Recently a friend from San Diego sent me a similar quote about the state of Rome in the era of Cicero. A little research revealed that the original quote (as shown above) had been altered significantly to suit the political views of the plagiarist and his/her view of the solutions to the problems in America. In pointing out the flaws of the “system” and the failing lack of integrity on the part of many of our public officials, the author didn’t see the irony of using deception to get his point across.

The Internet has enabled a new level of everyday “slight of hand”. No one will ever know who altered the quote and the “good” is better than the “evil”, or so they believe. In some ways, big cities, big business, and politics, provide the same anonymity for people. In this state of “disconnect” from the people they serve, those who lead can only feign caring and sincerity.

With the election coming in a few days, politicians are touting campaign promises which will win votes for them. Most of those promises are not so subtle attempts to buy our votes with ‘our’ money. The promises and strategies of all the campaigns are extremely vague. It is political campaign strategy to NOT tell the public what they intend to do in the future because that would divide the voters for-and-against, which does not accomplish their end. That is why there is so much deception, avoidance, and outright lying in most of the campaigns. All of that in the name of “caring, visionary leadership”.

The classic quote from the movie “A Few Good Men” may be the politicians’ self-justification: “You can’t handle the truth!” In the film, the court-marshaled soldier eloquently defends his right to break the law for the greater good because he knows things that others don’t know. That theory may be acceptable in the military, but not in a true democracy. But the problem may not only be that we, the voter, can’t handle or know the truth, but that we just don’t care enough to listen to it. Ontarians, like the rest of the western world, are living at twice the pace of their fore-fathers. We don’t have time to think about things that we don’t have to think about. When we have a moment to consider things beyond our personal lives, we choose to take a much needed break rather than ponder the collective good.

As the ancient philosopher said, “The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled….”. 2066 years later, humanity is faced with the same problems, requiring the same solutions. The founders of democracy quickly realized that the freedom and the responsibility to make our leaders work for us reside with us. We get the government we deserve.

The advertisement falls on closed minds: “On October 6th vote!”. Citizen cynicism is a symptom of a process which neither includes them, informs them or provides accountability. Our election campaigns have the hard content of an hour with the “National Enquirer”. For that reason, “officialdom” has become arrogant – they rarely have to give an account for their actions.

If democracy is going to work for “us”, it is not enough just to participate in the process by voting. The very nature of our freedom is to be informed, to vote, and to then hold our “officialdom” to account for their responsibilities, promises, and actions. That is the only way democracy will work for the common good. On October 6th be an informed voter and an active participant in making our politicians work for us.

No Comments | Category: From 10,000 Feet

Recently, I enquired about posting a film screening notice at the Stanley Park Community Centre. The attendant aggressively questioned if the film was religious (I gave her no reason to believe it was). I almost had to “swear an oath” that there was no religious content in the film before she would post the flyer on the bulletin board. I was told that religious content of any kind was forbidden. Ironically, this person appeared to be of a group which enjoyed protection from injustice by our Charter of Rights.

One of the best things about Canada is that we honour a person’s culture and native language. We have two official languages and hundreds of unofficial languages. We have proven with our actions, laws, and financial support that we value and even celebrate traditions of every country and people group. This is to our credit and benefit. We also have created laws and rights which focus on preventing discrimination against sexual orientation, colour of skin, race, creed and culture – all in the name of protecting a person from injustice and abuse. We not only protect these rights, we actually bring them into the public square and celebrate them in a variety of ways. All levels of governments have funded gay pride parades, cultural events, and every imaginable form of celebration of Canadians’ ethnic origins.

Canadians have recognized that a significant part of a human being is connected to his/her past culture and background. Another equally important part of a person’s world-view, values, and objectives is formed in their perceptions of the origin of humanity and the planet. This perception is at the core of the person’s views about what it means to be human and to live a meaningful and “successful” life. In other words, these beliefs are every bit as important to a person as their sexual orientation, race, language, culture, or gender, yet they are being treated quite differently.

More than 90% of the world’s population believe in a superior being who has created humanity and the earth. Yet the few remaining people who have chosen to believe otherwise have pushed all of the people of faith into a corner and required them to be silent in public about one of the most important parts of who they are. People of faith are regularly mocked by arrogant atheists claiming the higher intellectual ground. Science has not, nor ever will be able to prove the origin of the species – it is impossible to do so – it still is only a theory. Therefore, belief in evolution is acquired by faith. We teach evolution as if were a fact when it has no more substance than a religion. The “some” have claimed, by the slight of intellectual hand, control over the “many” because no one is fighting for justice.

If we define freedom and equality for some of our rights in a certain way but exclude a person’s “origin orientation” (faith), it clearly constitutes an inequality. Our government doesn’t fund religious events; furthermore, because of a very vocal few who are hostile to faith, faith has been attacked with attempts to banish it completely from having any public expression. A person may bring their culture, race, sexual orientation, or gender etc., etc. freely into the public square but not their faith – and that is religious bigotry. Faith is the only protected right that is openly and publicly being treated with indignation by a small group of people who believe, in their misguided ignorance, that forbidding any expression of faith in our public intuitions is required by law.

I am always dismayed by those who ignorantly cite “separation of church and state” as justification for bigotry. First of all, that is part of the American Constitution and it does not exist in Canadian law. Furthermore, the founding fathers of the United States were not intending to restrict faith in any way, but rather to create equality for all faiths by prohibiting the institutionalizing of one denomination as the official religion of the nation. They were particularly sensitive to this issue since they were people of faith who had come to America to escape this inequality. It’s rather ironic that the profoundly ignorant justify religious bigotry using a law intended to prevent it.

I can expect that for writing this article in defence of all people of faith that I will be belittled, mocked, and marginalised. People of faith regularly endure attacks on the internet and in print that if directed at homosexuals, Jews, blacks, or East Indians, for example, it would create social outrage. Attack a person of faith, or faith in general, and there is silence. If we believe in equality it must be for everyone.

Is there religious freedom in Canada? An inquiry would reveal that there are vast inequalities for people of faith when compared with the other rights and freedoms protected by our Charter of Rights and that faith is ridiculed and marginalised in ways that others who also are protected by the Charter are not. That is the sad truth even though it is not what most Canadians believe or want for Canada.

 

No Comments | Category: From 10,000 Feet, Government, Religious Freedom

A few weeks ago in this column, I wrote about businesses who regularly take advantage of Canadians and who seem to get away with it because of their size. One of those companies I named was Bell Canada. Recently, the multi-media conglomerate was fined $10,000,000 (the maximum allowed by law) for deceptive advertising practises. Bell advertised a bundle of services for $69.90 but in 100 lines of fine print disclaimers and mandatory fees, they raised the minimum price to $80.27. This practice began in 2007 and has continued to the present. In spite of the Competition Bureau’s decision, Bell continues to assert that this practice is ethical.

Since Bell Media owns roughly half of the newspapers, local television and radio stations in this country, plus a number of specialty channels, some of which are news oriented, I was certain that most of the media would not be covering this story. But it is important news for those of us who have been “baited with a low price” and then “switched to a higher price”. Though $10,000,000 is a significant fine, in the “big picture”, it is not a deterrent. Over the course of 7 years, $10,000,000 is nothing more than a “cost of doing business” for a company that has made millions from this deceptive practice. If it takes 7 years to prosecute a company, what is the deterrent? Furthermore, it is only one issue among a myriad of complaints Canadians have had with Bell’s business practices that have yet to be scrutinized. Although the decision is welcome news, it does little for the millions of customers who were taken advantage of by Bell.

In the US, fleecing the consumer has reached new heights with a practice called “cramming”. Wireless phone companies such as Verizon and AT&T have been fined for unauthorized billing “discrepancies”. The practice of billing for services often never received is blatant “fraud”, yet little is being done to stop the practice. Verizon has issued statements denouncing the billing practice and the FCC has fined them $50,000,000 but cramming is still alive and well in the US and also in Canada.

In Canada, the scam is configured differently but the result is the same. Companies offer you a “special” deal but then bill you the regular price for the service. A simple mistake they say, but its frequency defies a reasonable person’s ability to believe in mistakes. Other forms of cramming are billing for items that were included in your contracted service and for services never ordered. One wireless provider has already been slammed for their high number of “billing mistakes”.

If you think the problems you are having with your provider are unique to you, then you may be encouraged and angered to learn that you are not alone. Your situation may be just another example of being “crammed”.

We live in a world of information overload where “perception becomes reality” and where those perceptions can be manipulated to create an illusion of being ethical. Some corporations believe they can have the rewards of being ethical and unethical at the same time, but invariably, people perceive the illusion is false.

Corporations seem faceless but they are run by people who ultimately are responsible for the actions of the company. We fail to do justice when we prosecute the company instead of the individual. These people commit crimes but never suffer any consequences – they, in fact, benefit from their crime through bonuses and promotions and their reputation is never soiled. No wonder the problem is spreading.

Crimes are not committed by “legal entities” but by people who have narcissistic perceptions of life. Distorted values lead them into the deception that “more is better”, that “survival is of the fittest”, and that “winning is the only thing”. People with these values destroy community, cooperation, and common purpose. They destroy what makes a company and country great. They believe that what they have, is more important than what they are, and that happiness comes from unbridled consumption. They are sociopaths in suits for whom materialism has become their master and they have lost a sense of community or goodwill toward others. Our country and our world are in a “values crisis”. Without intervention, we can only expect things to get worse. This problem and the news story may seem small and even insignificant, but they point to a need for government at all levels to address the growing need for the defence of consumers and prosecution of the individuals who defraud them.

No Comments | Category: Consumer Protection, From 10,000 Feet, Government

A few months ago, I rented a car in Costa Rica. To my surprise, the car rental company offered to provide me with a mobile phone for 30 days with unlimited calling anywhere in the country for just $10. I was shocked at how economical it was to provide the service. When I enquired about pricing, I discovered that costs were low and that prices were influenced more by what people could pay rather than what it cost to provide the service. I wondered why similar service in Canada was 8 times the cost?

Last fall, I contacted Bell Canada to turn off my phone for the 4 months I was planning on being away. They informed me there was a charge to NOT provide the service. The fee for cutting my phone off for 3 months was $40 or $50 for 6 months. I could disconnect completely but the fee for reconnecting was $110. Because of the way Bell structured its pricing, they forced me to pay $40 for no service plus $20 for service (the 4th month) I could not use, for a total of $60.00. My regular bill for that period would have been just $80. My point, as you may well see, is how can Bell realistically charge me $60 to not provide an $80 service? I paid it reluctantly because there was very little I could do about it and there was no other better choice. I was reminded of the 70s when a Bell representative threatened to cut off my service if I didn’t pay $5.00 a month for connecting an answering machine to “their” line. Then there was the time when I had completed my mobile phone contract only to be charged a $50 fee for transferring my account to Pay-As-You-Go. Bring up the topic of mobile phone carriers at any party and everyone has a story to tell.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I think all companies are bad, they are not. This week I had two amazing experiences with (big box) retailers who demonstrated excellent service and customer care which exceeded my expectations. But alas, not all companies operate fairly. There are plenty of companies that adopt policies that take advantage of the customer, especially if there is limited competition.

One of the great anchors we have as Canadians is our Charter of Rights. It protects us against injustice on a variety of human rights’ issues. We do, however, have limited rights and remedies when dealing with companies. Banks, mobile phone companies, cable, and satellite companies all have an internal complaint resolution system which you MUST go through before a government agency will even look at your complaint. It seems like these companies are being protected by the government and it is a violation of a person’s rights to be forced to resolve a complaint the way the company wants to resolve it. No one can slander or demean you for your age, orientation, cultural background, or religion; however, it seems to be quite Ok to cheat you as long as it can be done via “company policy”. Then if you have enough fortitude to fight back, you have to do it on their terms. No wonder nothing changes.

Canadians need a Consumer Bill of Rights which protects them from the subtle and overt economic bullying, intimidation, and coercion that seem to occur far too often. Read any company’s consumer (legal) agreement and discover how few rights you actually have. There are pages of conditions that protect the company and NOTHING which represents the rights of the consumer. The consumer is left with no rights or provisions for recourse because the company can do anything at any time. The agreements are so one-sided they are ridiculous and I haven`t even addressed the issues related to online transactions and the way some websites require you to pay before you get the conditions of sale. If the consumer ever needed representation and defending, it is now!  The federal government should act to establish basic rights that Canadians can expect from companies that do business in Canada.

We are a peaceful people not given to confrontation, but just because we don’t complain or often report unfair practices, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If we need a Charter of Rights in everyday living – and we do, then without a doubt, a Consumer Charter of Rights is needed by Canadians to protect them from unfair practices in the marketplace.

No Comments | Category: Consumer Protection, From 10,000 Feet, Government

June will be the first month of parliament for a government which is eager to get things done. Although I am pleased that we now have a functioning government, I am cautious about the Conservative’s position on Cap and Trade. Prior to the federal election, the Canadian Science Advisory Board advised the Conservative government to implement Cap and Trade as the solution to climate change. They also advised them to act quickly, even though there seemed to be little support for raising taxes and particularly, for this C&T scheme throughout 2nd and 3rd world countries. What I find “amazing” is that scientists from across the country and from every discipline and every background all agree on just one solution – a tax that would cost consumers billions just when we are getting back on our financial feet after the biggest financial scam in history; however, the hundreds of billions of dollars to be harvested from Cap and Trade for scientific research may have something to do with it.

Cap and Trade is not a new idea. It is based on a cap for emissions and the ability to trade any unused portion of that cap amount to someone who may be over the cap – hence the term Cap and Trade. The problems with the system are not in the overall concept but in its execution. The US version of the scheme is so flawed it begs the question, “You’ve got to be kidding?” There are so many loop holes and potential money making “backdoors”, any rational person would see the scheme for what it is – another huge scam! (For more information Google: cap and trade)

The questions we should ask in this situation are:  “How did such a flawed scheme get as far as it has, and who is promoting it?” As one famous investigator said, “Follow the money and you’ll find the answers.” We know who is promoting Cap and Trade – Al Gore. He showed up in Costa Rica early this year and used local flooding as proof of climate change and as a reason for implementing C&T. He revealed his true colours, however, when he said to the Costa Rican business community that they may discover that there is a lot of money to be made in climate change and that they should “put a price on carbon”.

Gore has already made millions from the proposed scheme through his Generation Investment Management company but he is not alone in his support for the C&T tax. Goldman Sachs has been a pillar of support for the plan. You may remember their role in the housing scandal and that their former CEO, Hank Paulson (then Secretary of the Treasury) was at the helm when the US financial system hit the mountain – many people think it was a deliberate act to get the bailout funds (see the film, “Inside Job”).

I believe the planet is in desperate need of  an ecological revolution and that we must change our way of living. I am not, however, about to empower or enrich a bunch of socio-psychopaths in a misguided attempt to do so. Nor am I going to be manipulated into supporting their self-enriching plans as a panacea for real change. We have seen through all of this that greed knows no bounds. This week it was revealed that a hedge fund has been purchasing land in Africa in an effort to make food production their next big “score”. The size of the land is larger than France. If that doesn’t scare you then you don’t understand that there actually are people in this world who are prepared to starve millions of people to make huge profits.

We have become immune to the greed and inhumanity all around us and in so doing have failed to discern the times. These are perilous times that require bold, determined and radical action. In the past, we have seen the resources of the planet squandered while others starved. Today however,  95% of the wealth is in the hands of 5% of the people. Centralized industrial mass food production has the potential for propagating epidemics and famines of mass proportion. Greed empowers a system that is unsustainable and prone to famine and epidemics. Self-indulgence ignores the lives of the weak and the poor. The discerning and wise person looks at the situation and prepares himself.

If you have been frightened by the “climate change story” you need to ask: “Where will that take ME?” If you have been scared by some of the stories that appear in the everyday news, you have to ask; “What does that mean for me?”.  All of these signs of the times, whether far away, or nearby, beg of us to answer the question “What am I going to do about it!”

No Comments | Category: From 10,000 Feet, Government, The Environment, World Issues

Thank God election campaigns only run for 30 days. I don’t think I could take any more.  I care about politics but elections are the political equivalent of being stopped at a red light – nothing is really happening – it’s all talk and most of that talk is unproductive, meaningless, and annoying.

If you watched the so called debate(s), you may ask yourself: was that a debate? A debate would imply that facts and arguments were used to persuade the listener that one policy is better than another.  That was surely not the case in the recent leaders’ debate. There was almost no policy discussion. Election after election we endure this childish bickering that only politicians and kids can descend to. This isn’t the first time someone has written about how infantile election campaigns have become.  But if they can’t even agree on how to fix the debate, how will they govern the country? Jack Layton said what millions of listeners were thinking that night. How can anything be accomplished in the adversarial climate which characterizes parliament today?

In the last 3 elections, “policy” was upstaged by fear mongering and character assassinations. The media has been no help. Most broadcasters have an “editorial slant” and by inflaming emotions, they circle the wagons around their readers and solidify their “brand”. They learned this from the Americans. It is good for profits but bad for the democratic process. The details of policy are rarely discussed, nor are the finer points of executing that policy – the devil is always in the details. The average Canadian has no idea what is really going on, especially when a part of the elective body’s job (they believe) is to spread disinformation.  Sadly, the political process has become degraded to the bickering of school kids and the brutality of WWF knockdowns.

These are perilous times and the economic crisis is far from over, in spite of what stock prices look like.  Goldman Sachs estimates that speculation is adding more than $27 to the price of a barrel of oil. Many people say that estimate is low. 100’s of billions of dollars are leaving Canada in order that a handful of people can “play” the market for insane profits. The World Bank says food inflation, which is also caused in part by speculation and the US Federal Reserve printing money (QE 1,2,), will cause starvation for millions of people. The world is crazy. Some economists are warning about hyperinflation and a possible collapse of the US dollar. How desperate must things get before politicians work together? What will it take to make MPs stop working for their parties and start working for us?

We need to change the system.  We know that adversarial environments are toxic to creativity, innovation, and change-making in general.  A company couldn’t survive in today’s competitive fast changing environment with such an ineffective form of government.  It’s not the people that are not working, it is the system.  A house divided against its self cannot stand.

Our system of government is hundreds of years old. 200 hundred years ago, everything moved so slowly even parliament could keep up. We can’t afford to be that inefficient today. We need a strong government who can act boldly and provide innovative leadership in the global community. That can’t happen when the people we elect are fighting with each other. It is neither effective nor fun to watch.

No Comments | Category: From 10,000 Feet, Government

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported that world food prices had risen 3.4% in January (the seventh monthly increase in a row) to the highest level since records began in 1990. Continued increases are expected. Food prices have proven to be the underlying motivation for civil unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan, and Yemen and more uprisings are expected in countries around the world. Indonesia and Thailand have been rationing staples for more than a year. Here in Canada, the increases have been slightly less but substantial enough for people to notice the difference when they go to the grocery store. What is the future of food, what is happening, and what can we do?

The general consensus outside the US is that the problem is caused by US monetary policy. Printing  $600B (QE 2) and the very loose lending policies of the Federal Reserve aimed at resuscitating the US economy have caused inflation and the destabilisation of world currencies. French President Sarkozy  and G20 head has pointed his finger at food speculators. Inside the US, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, and Noble Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, have redirected the attention from US policy to drought and reduced supply. They also claim that countries have the option of appreciating their currency to offset the policies of the US; however, that would also kill their exports.

From the ground-level, the problem seems like a complicated stand-off between the interests of the US government and the rest of the world. The flaws in globalization and the world currency system are not going to be resolved by you and me. It is obvious from 10,000 feet, however, that the solution for us is to de-couple ourselves from the world in strategic areas such as food and regain our sovereignty.  It is not likely the Canadian government is going to do that. There have been many forward thinking outsiders (forerunners) warning about the need for food sovereignty for years with little response. So what can you do?

The lifestyle of Canadians has become increasingly dependent on others to supply their basic needs. Urban living has made us dependent on food which has been grown far away. Being linked to and dependent on the rest of the world to feed us makes us vulnerable to soaring prices and disruption in supply caused by war, drought, transportation problems, and political and social upheavals, to name only a few. Globalization has given us a world of reasons why we should take care of ourselves, particularly in the production of food.

If you grow your own food, you remove the impact of subsidies, transportation costs, carbon emissions, trade barriers, speculators, shortages, wars, earthquakes –  effectively all the obstacles!

There are many highly developed techniques for growing your own food such as “square foot gardening” and “intensive gardening” which make the process simple and give incredible yields. Growing food is therapeutic and giving some of it away, as most home gardeners do because they have too much, is joy to the giver and receiver. Growing your own food also reduces pressures on existing supplies, thus leaving food for others who are hungry. By helping yourself, you help others – it is a win-win solution. Now is a good time to start planning a garden.

If, however, you can’t grow your own food, the next best solution is to buy it from local producers. There are many cooperatives and farm-gate growers in our township and we need to support them and encourage more food suppliers in our area to sell locally. We have some of the best land in the province and it could feed us and much of the country.  Small farms produce many times more food per acre than industrialized farms, making them quite profitable.

It is convenient to buy garlic from China but when you compare the quality and the price, Canadian garlic is still the better deal. Some things are a little more expensive when they are grown here, but there are other values to consider. When you buy imported food, the money leaves the community, but when you buy local, all of the money stays right here. Hidden subsidies create inequities between foreign and local pricing. Food production and food sovereignty should be part of our federal government’s policies and commitment to protect Canadian food growers. Our region should also develop plans and incentives to stimulate the growing of food locally.

By growing our own food and taking care of ourselves, we become positioned to take care of others. We also regain control of our lives and strengthen our community.  Buying and supplying our food locally is a powerful solution anyone can use to overcome soaring food prices.

How to Beat World-Wide Food Inflation

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported that world food prices had risen 3.4% in January (the seventh monthly increase in a row) to the highest level since records began in 1990. Continued increases are expected. Food prices have proven to be the underlying motivation for civil unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan, and Yemen and more uprisings are expected in countries around the world. Indonesia and Thailand have been rationing staples for more than a year. Here in Canada, the increases have been slightly less but substantial enough for people to notice the difference when they go to the grocery store. What is the future of food, what is happening, and what can we do?

The general consensus outside the US is that the problem is caused by US monetary policy. Printing  $600B (QE 2) and the very loose lending policies of the Federal Reserve aimed at resuscitating the US economy have caused inflation and the destabilisation of world currencies. French President Sarkozy  and G20 head has pointed his finger at food speculators. Inside the US, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, and Noble Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, have redirected the attention from US policy to drought and reduced supply. They also claim that countries have the option of appreciating their currency to offset the policies of the US; however, that would also kill their exports.

From the ground-level, the problem seems like a complicated stand-off between the interests of the US government and the rest of the world. The flaws in globalization and the world currency system are not going to be resolved by you and me. It is obvious from 10,000 feet, however, that the solution for us is to de-couple ourselves from the world in strategic areas such as food and regain our sovereignty.  It is not likely the Canadian government is going to do that. There have been many forward thinking outsiders (forerunners) warning about the need for food sovereignty for years with little response. So what can you do?

The lifestyle of Canadians has become increasingly dependent on others to supply their basic needs. Urban living has made us dependent on food which has been grown far away. Being linked to and dependent on the rest of the world to feed us makes us vulnerable to soaring prices and disruption in supply caused by war, drought, transportation problems, and political and social upheavals, to name only a few. Globalization has given us a world of reasons why we should take care of ourselves, particularly in the production of food.

If you grow your own food, you remove the impact of subsidies, transportation costs, carbon emissions, trade barriers, speculators, shortages, wars, earthquakes –  effectively all the obstacles!

There are many highly developed techniques for growing your own food such as “square foot gardening” and “intensive gardening” which make the process simple and give incredible yields. Growing food is therapeutic and giving some of it away, as most home gardeners do because they have too much, is joy to the giver and receiver. Growing your own food also reduces pressures on existing supplies, thus leaving food for others who are hungry. By helping yourself, you help others – it is a win-win solution. Now is a good time to start planning a garden.

If, however, you can’t grow your own food, the next best solution is to buy it from local producers. There are many cooperatives and farm-gate growers in our township and we need to support them and encourage more food suppliers in our area to sell locally. We have some of the best land in the province and it could feed us and much of the country.  Small farms produce many times more food per acre than industrialized farms, making them quite profitable.

It is convenient to buy garlic from China but when you compare the quality and the price, Canadian garlic is still the better deal. Some things are a little more expensive when they are grown here, but there are other values to consider. When you buy imported food, the money leaves the community, but when you buy local, all of the money stays right here. Hidden subsidies create inequities between foreign and local pricing. Food production and food sovereignty should be part of our federal government’s policies and commitment to protect Canadian food growers. Our region should also develop plans and incentives to stimulate the growing of food locally.

By growing our own food and taking care of ourselves, we become positioned to take care of others. We also regain control of our lives and strengthen our community.  Buying and supplying our food locally is a powerful solution anyone can use to overcome soaring food prices.

How to Beat World-Wide Food Inflation

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported that world food prices had risen 3.4% in January (the seventh monthly increase in a row) to the highest level since records began in 1990. Continued increases are expected. Food prices have proven to be the underlying motivation for civil unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan, and Yemen and more uprisings are expected in countries around the world. Indonesia and Thailand have been rationing staples for more than a year. Here in Canada, the increases have been slightly less but substantial enough for people to notice the difference when they go to the grocery store. What is the future of food, what is happening, and what can we do?

The general consensus outside the US is that the problem is caused by US monetary policy. Printing  $600B (QE 2) and the very loose lending policies of the Federal Reserve aimed at resuscitating the US economy have caused inflation and the destabilisation of world currencies. French President Sarkozy  and G20 head has pointed his finger at food speculators. Inside the US, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, and Noble Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, have redirected the attention from US policy to drought and reduced supply. They also claim that countries have the option of appreciating their currency to offset the policies of the US; however, that would also kill their exports.

From the ground-level, the problem seems like a complicated stand-off between the interests of the US government and the rest of the world. The flaws in globalization and the world currency system are not going to be resolved by you and me. It is obvious from 10,000 feet, however, that the solution for us is to de-couple ourselves from the world in strategic areas such as food and regain our sovereignty.  It is not likely the Canadian government is going to do that. There have been many forward thinking outsiders (forerunners) warning about the need for food sovereignty for years with little response. So what can you do?

The lifestyle of Canadians has become increasingly dependent on others to supply their basic needs. Urban living has made us dependent on food which has been grown far away. Being linked to and dependent on the rest of the world to feed us makes us vulnerable to soaring prices and disruption in supply caused by war, drought, transportation problems, and political and social upheavals, to name only a few. Globalization has given us a world of reasons why we should take care of ourselves, particularly in the production of food.

If you grow your own food, you remove the impact of subsidies, transportation costs, carbon emissions, trade barriers, speculators, shortages, wars, earthquakes –  effectively all the obstacles!

There are many highly developed techniques for growing your own food such as “square foot gardening” and “intensive gardening” which make the process simple and give incredible yields. Growing food is therapeutic and giving some of it away, as most home gardeners do because they have too much, is joy to the giver and receiver. Growing your own food also reduces pressures on existing supplies, thus leaving food for others who are hungry. By helping yourself, you help others – it is a win-win solution. Now is a good time to start planning a garden.

If, however, you can’t grow your own food, the next best solution is to buy it from local producers. There are many cooperatives and farm-gate growers in our township and we need to support them and encourage more food suppliers in our area to sell locally. We have some of the best land in the province and it could feed us and much of the country.  Small farms produce many times more food per acre than industrialized farms, making them quite profitable.

It is convenient to buy garlic from China but when you compare the quality and the price, Canadian garlic is still the better deal. Some things are a little more expensive when they are grown here, but there are other values to consider. When you buy imported food, the money leaves the community, but when you buy local, all of the money stays right here. Hidden subsidies create inequities between foreign and local pricing. Food production and food sovereignty should be part of our federal government’s policies and commitment to protect Canadian food growers. Our region should also develop plans and incentives to stimulate the growing of food locally.

By growing our own food and taking care of ourselves, we become positioned to take care of others. We also regain control of our lives and strengthen our community.  Buying and supplying our food locally is a powerful solution anyone can use to overcome soaring food prices.

No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, Commodities, Financial Markets, From 10,000 Feet, Government, Inflation

Humanity is caught between corporations and ineffective and corrupt government. Some corporations act more like the Mafia than companies. They will use any tactic including bribery, extortion, murder, overt lies, deception to achieve their greed driven objective. Governments and political leaders have been intimidated, threatened and bribed, to give these marauding pirates what they want. Corporations even have their own government which protects their interests above the government of the people. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization all force government of the people to comply to their demands or pay the consequences. The sad and ironic part in all this is that these corporations have funded their toxic and diabolic work with our money. Money we have earned has been invested in companies through the stock market and used to destroy our freedom, our health and the planet.

Here are a few things that should be done to make change in our country and the world

1. Corporate Crime and Corruption
– we need new laws to make directors and officers of companies criminally responsible for their actions
– we need enforcement agencies specifically for corporations
– we need to educate people in all positions of responsibility about the harm, consequences, and options they have if confronted with bribery, or intimidation.
– we need to increase the penalties for these type of crimes to reflect the damage done to the country and the people.
– we all need to understand that taking a bribe, or giving benefit for benefit is treason because it destroys the country.

2. Political, Bureaucratic, Judicial Accountability
The peace and prosperity we enjoy is directly connected to the ethical behavior of these institutions.
– we need new laws to make politicians, bureaucrats, and judges criminally responsible for their actions
– we need structural revisions to make these agencies easier to monitor and more accountable for their actions
– we need enforcement agencies (police agency) specifically to investigate claims of misuse of power in government
– we need to educate people in all positions of responsibility about the harm, consequences, and options they have if confronted with bribery, or intimidation.
– we need to increase the penalties for these type of crimes to reflect the damage done to the country and the people.
– we all need to understand that taking a bribe, or giving benefit for benefit is treason because it destroys the country.

3. We need to develop a strategy to regain political autonomy. That means restructuring debt, and choosing to mitigate the negative impact of trade agreements in particular NAFTA and the policies of WTO.

4. We need new laws that repeal the interpretation of law by a few judges to allow the patenting of life forms.

5. Corporations must be responsible for their actions in particular genetic pollution and contamination. They are liable and accountable and must compensate those who they cause harm to, rather than the other way around. This is a distortion of justice.

6. Genetically modified foods and other additives must be tested before and proven beyond doubt that they are safe before being introduced into the food system. The protocol of scientific procedure for approval can not be superseded by the political or bureaucratic branch of government. All manufactured products which enter food, air and water directly or indirectly which can not demonstrate via independent study that they are safe must be assessed. If and when they are approved, they must be labeled giving each person the right of choice when using the product.

7. We must protect the production of food in this country as a national security measure. Subsidized products from other countries must not be allowed to destroy the domestic food production industry. Government incentives to grow food locally and personally must be introduced to remove our dependence on the multi-national corporations control of food production

8. The policy of “intensification” which makes it near impossible for a family to own agricultural land and grow their own food only supports the agenda of multi-national corporations and their objective to control all food production. This policy must be changed to provide access to agriculture land to anyone.

No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, Financial Markets

I have been following the genetically modified crop debate since the early days of the controversy. I have talked to advocates on both sides of the issue and personally interviewed Arpad Pusztai, a world renowned expert on lectins and researcher from the Rowett Institute. His findings and personal comments on the BBC caused doubt about the harmlessness of GM foods. But this debate has a new life with the recent release of information by the BBC that genetically modified pigs are being developed here in Ontario.
As I read the article, I felt that the journalist had fully bought into “this is progress….and you can’t stop progress” point-of-view of many scientists. The premise behind that idea is that, “if it can be done, it should be done”.
Thirty years ago, coal-fired generating plants were lauded by scientists as the “cheap” solution to our energy needs. A whole host of perspectives were ignored in that debate. Warnings were dismissed and today we realize that just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. Apparently, it isn’t very difficult to get an “expert” to support just about any point-of-view if the right people want to promote it.
The BBC article makes two “value statements” for the “enviropig”, as they call it. The first is that these pigs don’t excrete phosphorous and are more environmentally friendly because they don’t cause overgrowth in our waterways. Phosphorous is a fertilizer. Nothing was said about where the phospherous goes and how it may affect the others systems in the pig – I am sure they don’t know. Even more interestingly, the writer did not mention the company who is responsible for this “amazing” pig (sic). Monsanto has built its “name” on such products as PCBs, Agent Orange (a cancer causing defoliant used by the US in the Viet Nam war), Aspartame (through Searle) and genetically modified corn, cotton, and other crops. No one company has more environmental failures than Monsanto.
The second value statement is that this enviropig “may” be helpful in feeding the increasing world population. Of course, that is based on people eating pork, which among the poor of this world, is not possible. In addition, growing crops to feed animals for meat is highly inefficient. Growing “people” food directly is a far more efficient and realistic way to feed the world. Furthermore, in 2nd and 1st world countries, increased cancer rates and heart disease are thought to be in part attributed to the high meat content in our diet. So the “we can save the world by feeding more people with GM pigs” wouldn’t go very far in an intelligent argument.
The even bigger question, also not mentioned in the BBC article, was: who owns this pig? Will Monsanto eventually own all pigs? If you look at Monsanto vs Schmeiser, Monsanto prosecuted the Schmeiser family for having GM Canola on their property without a license. Schmieser asserted he did not plant the crop but that his crop was contaminated by a neighbour’s GM Canola. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who supported Monsanto’s claim to ownership of the modified “life form” no matter where it is found or how it got there. Hence, the settlement with the Schmiesers for damages in 2004. However, the question remains: if Monsanto owns the pig that they only modified and did not create, will they act responsibly and provide it to the starving masses at a price they can afford – I rather doubt it!! Corporations are inhuman. They try to make as much money as possible, any way they can. In most cases, their morality is greed and because of that they are in direct conflict with the goals of governments and the rest of humanity.
Some would argue that what Monsanto is doing is not new. That every hybrid plant is genetically modified. However, there is a world of difference between the natural process of plants and animals evolving and scientists firing gene guns at the plant’s DNA and forcing unnatural change that would not happen any other way. If these plants weren’t significantly different, then on what do they base their patent and right to ownership?
These are only a few of the very serious implications attached to genetically modified life forms for which there has been only superficial public debate in Canada and the US. The implications of GM foods are huge on many “fronts”, not to mention the more complicated question: are they truly safe to eat? Since there are experts on both sides of that argument, it comes down to: which expert are you going to believe? The question then becomes: should people have the right to know they are eating GM food? Monsanto and Health Canada say, “NO”. In spite of the overwhelming polls in favour of right-of-choice, Health Canada has done nothing. Can we trust government agencies and scientists (experts) to make the decisions for us? History has proven otherwise. Each of us must be informed and act accordingly and have the freedom to choose. There is an election coming soon – maybe someone will listen to the voice of the people.

BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12113859
National Film Board of Canada – The World According To Monsanto
http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-world-according-to-monsanto/

No Comments | Category: Genetically Modified life forms, The Environment, The Future

In a few days we will be starting a new year and with it a time of reflection and hope for better health, better relationships, better finances, and more happiness. It is typical to want more of the things we believe will make us happy. The question is: “how do I get there?”
For the past several years, I have been becoming more and more aware of the importance of sleep. I have been discovering that sleep has many benefits I was unaware of. On a recent working holiday in Central America, I found within a few days of arrival that my day-cycle had changed significantly. I chose not to spend time watching TV and surfing the Internet in favour of going to sleep only hours after sundown (5:30 pm) and getting up at sunrise (6 am). As I got into this new rhythm, I became more aware of when I was feeling creative and productive and when I was not functioning at my best. Since I was attempting to produce some of my best work which required a great deal of creativity, I became more conscious of my mental state in order to optimize my performance.
Some of the Things I have Discovered About Sleep
The Ticos (natives of Costa Rica) have an interesting expression to describe their view of the importance of sleep in problem solving and decision making. When confronted with an important decision, they often say (translated from Spanish) “I will talk to my pillow about it”. In North America we say, “I will sleep on it”. In most cultures, there is an awareness of how sleep organizes our thoughts and brings clarity to a situation or problem. Those first few moments of consciousness between sleep and awareness are moments of creativity and clarity. I often “see” my day and what I should do or how I should solve a problem! I hate having to wake up and start moving immediately because it steals the richest and most precious few moments of my day.
More importantly to my quality of life is the impact sleep has had on my optimism, capability, and mood. When I sleep well, I feel well, and I am able to overcome the challenges of the day without them overcoming me. The quality of my sleep and the food I eat are the two most important factors in how I feel and what I accomplish in a day and at what level.
The hardest part of this journey of self-discovery has been overcoming the feelings that sleep is my enemy. Sleep  is not the “annoying break” between the things I love to do, or have to do. That has been a “biggy” for me that I am still working on.
I also have had to learn to power-down a few hours before I go to bed with activities that prepare me for quality sleep. I avoid the stimulation of TV and the Internet and choose to get “outside my day” with activities I enjoy like walking, listening to or playing music, or just relaxing with a hot drink and spending time with Margaret. I need to slow things down in order to sleep easily and well. I have also learned the importance of the “power nap”. Twenty minutes in the middle of the day refreshes and improves my productivity and mood.
This has been a multi-year journey of self-realization about sleep which has produced a happier, fuller life for me. I am, however, slightly embarrassed it has taken me this long to figure out something that seems so simple and obvious. However, the more I work on doing sleep well, the better I get at it, and the more positive are my results. Finding my natural rhythm and letting my body lead in the “dance of life” has helped me be happier, and do more and better work. Though it may sound trite, my plan for “more” in 2011 is to sleep better and more often.

No Comments | Category: The Future

There has been a lot of talk about growth in Wilmot Township recently with many references to the province’s  “Places to Grow” policy. The foundational principles of the document are to restrict growth in agricultural areas and to intensify growth in urban areas. There is abundant evidence that this policy is highly flawed and is neither sustainable nor will accommodate long term growth.
The National Film Board of Canada has been charged with telling “The Canadian Story” and they do a very good job of it. One of their most powerful documentary films is “Waterlife” (2009). It is the story of the Great Lakes. The film documents the flow of water from its head-water to the mouth of the St. Lawrence. It also exposes how this most important source of fresh water is being polluted to new levels by cities like Chicago, Detroit, and of course, Toronto.
Some cities do relatively little to treat their sewage and others do more, but all are far from leaving the water chemical free. Treatment plants were never designed to remove industrial chemicals and the huge amounts of therapeutic treatments which people are taking for medical reasons. For example, more and more fish are being found to be a-sexual (neither male nor female). Scientists speculate that estrogen in the urine of women taking birth control pills goes untreated into the lakes and is the cause of the problem. Heart and other medications pass through the body and end up in our water supply. There is no treatment process for medications and there are literally thousands of drugs and industrial chemicals being dumped in high concentration into our lakes.
When I drive though rural south western Ontario, most of what I see growing in the fields is corn. Very little of our land is being used for the production of vegetables. Most of the crops we grow are used for feed to produce meat. These crops are grown with chemical fertilizers and herbicides. The producers of these chemicals claim that they are far more efficient than organic farming and they are not a problem for our water supply; however, this is clearly untrue on several fronts. Organic farmers now claim that their yields are comparable and the costs for equivalent production are far less without the use of chemicals.
Are there answers to these difficult problems or are we doomed to self-destruction? For centuries people lived on a small patch of land, grew their own food, and ran their own sewage treatment plants (septic systems) and the water remained pure. Then we all moved to the city and became dependent on others to do for us what we had always done for ourselves and that is when the problems got out of control. Moving more people into less space only intensifies the problem. The “Places to Grow” policy grows cities which are unsustainable and prevents people from moving back to the land. We need un-intensive living and intensive farming (Google it) which are both sustainable. That takes vision and courageous leadership. It isn’t easy making monumental changes but we have no choice – we are racing down a dead end street. “Places to Grow” is a policy which has no future. It prevents people from taking control of their lives, providing for themselves, and building their future on the wisdom of the past.

No Comments | Category: Government, Housing Crisis

It was difficult choosing a topic for this month’s column because there has been so much going on in the news that I wanted to bring to your attention. But with the US dollar “dropping off the table”, I decided to do my year-end projections for 2011 a month earlier.

Since June, the US dollar has lost more than 9% which is good news if you are buying US cash to take a trip or make a purchase. But the reality is that what is happening to our currency and the economy is going to require us to change the way we think and do business with the Americans.

Much of the move in the US dollar has happened in the last month in response to an announced second round of stimulus, sometimes called QEII (Quantitative Easing 2). The first round didn’t work and the second round is unlikely to work either – so you might ask, “what are they doing?”

Bill Gross, President of PIMCO (World’s Largest Mutual Fund), gave us some insight into what is really happening when he commented recently on America’s economic woes.

“It is a globalized economy of our own doing for the past 20-30 years. We encouraged all of this, but it is coming back to haunt us. To the extent that Chinese labor, Vietnamese labor, Brazilian labor, Mexican labor, wherever it is coming from that labor is outcompeting us and holding down our economy. ……Other countries and citizens are willing to work for less and willing to work harder—and we forgot the magic formula somewhere along the way,” he said.

He went on to say, “One of the ways to get even, so to speak, or to get the balance, is to debase (devalue) your currency faster than anybody else can. It’s a shock because the dollar is the reserve currency. But to the extent that that is a necessary condition for rebalancing the global economy over time, then that is where we are headed.”

He also said later in this interview that he thought the US dollar could be devalued by as much as 20%.

Globalism is Dead
I have been speaking out against globalism for 30 years because it has killed our manufacturing (particularly in Ontario), and made a lot of multi-national corporations and their upper management unbelievably wealthy at the cost of millions of well paying jobs in Canada. In the US, it has wiped out the middle class almost completely. However, Mr. Gross, though accurate about globalism, demonstrated a total disregard for the value of our labour when he said, “we (America’s labour force) have forgotten the “magic formula”. He compares us with workers who are forced to work (through circumstances) for pennies an hour, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He has forgotten that we HAD built up enough wealth in the west so that we didn’t have to work day and night for a subsistence income before globalism. Now that wealth is in the hands of a few corporations. Instead of raising up those other countries to a more humane labour standard, they have devalued our labour to the lowest level possible and oppressed even the poorest of poor in order to make even greater, and greater profits. These are the people who are running the financial world who we so foolishly “invest our money with”. 95% of the world’s wealth is held by 5% of the people. There can be no recovery without the redistribution of wealth – it’s impossible. I wonder what he thinks his labour is worth???
Now that I have that out on the table, Gross did say a few other things that really matter to you and me. By devaluing the Greenback through the increase of the money supply (printing it), you do two things. You devalue the current debt of the US. (They have the equivalent debt of a person making $50k per year and owing $5M.); and more importantly, imports (from Canada) becoming more and more expensive in the US.The Canada/US exchange rate has gone from -20% to +2. Obama has assured the G20 that he would not start a currency war, but he really doesn’t have any other options. This effectively makes NAFTA pretty much worthless.

You and Me and 2011
That being said, what does that mean for you and me in 2011? The coming year will be an opportunity for Canadians to break free from US “dependency”. The US will begin to make more of their needs at home as it becomes more expensive to import products. Canada should look for ways to increase the labour component in our raw materials and there will be opportunities to develop and provide services to Canadians from the US as the value of their dollar decreases and ours increases.
The Waterloo Region will continue to invest heavily in technology as our major export. We are among the best managed and economically sound areas in Canada. We are well positioned to do better than most of the country because of our progressive, forward-thinking and creative people who will rise to the challenges of change. Innovation and creativity, on which this region was built, can turn the coming challenges into wealth building opportunities. 2011 will have its “bumps in the road” but in a world of change, I have great confidence in our creativity and innovative ability to lead and prosper.

Read the whole story here
http://www.cnbc.com/id/39957072
Get an education here….
See “Inside Job” the film
http://www.insidejob.com/

No Comments | Category: Financial Markets, Government, Inflation

Waterloo Region has a whole new team of enthusiastic politicians eager to make their mark on the political fabric of our communities. I have high expectations for the good that can come from even one persistent, skilled, visionary leader. I think of Ira Needles and Jerry Hagey, co-founders of the University of Waterloo, whose positive impact on our Region has been exponential. Both of these men were servants of the common good in a measure not often found today.

In contrast, in 2001 Gordon Campbell vowed he would not sell BC Rail and won a landslide victory only to break his promise to the people. Recently, two of his cabinet ministers’ aides were convicted of selling information and it is yet to be known why BC Rail paid the head of Campbell’s election campaign in 2001, a $300,000 “consulting fee” around the time of the sale.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney escaped jail because he broke no law but clearly broke the trust and expectations of the Canadian people as their Prime Minister. Before he left his post, he tried to sell Pearson Airport to a private firm,
with questionable value for Canadians.

Henry Paulson, the US Secretary of the Treasury and former CEO of Goldman Sachs, testified to the Senate Finance Committee that he did not know where the $850 Billion bailout funds went even though it was his charge to distribute the money. Not much later, Time Magazine named him as runner-up for “Man of The Year”.

Argentina used to be the richest country in South America. In the 60’s, they had a space program and international car manufacturing but they were brought to abject poverty by political corruption. The wealth of the nation was plundered by multi-national corporations and leaders who served themselves rather than their people.

Closer to home, Ted Rogers bought the $800 Million dollar Skydome (a good portion of which was public money) for a mere $25M without open bidding, due process, or any outrage from the media or the public. For me, it will always be the Skydome!!

Some pundits insist that corruption in government is inevitable, but I emphatically disagree. If you had an employee that took $5 from the till every day, would you dismiss it as “inevitable”. Would you expect to get a “pass” on driving through a red light even if you didn’t hit anyone – No. Should a shoplifter be told by a judge that “since this is a small crime, and we only deal with serious crime, we are going to ignore this whole thing.”  All of these approaches are ridiculous and are actually very destructive to society. Crime is inevitable but always unacceptable. The law applies equally to everyone – politicians, bureaucrats, multi-national corporation CEOs, and to you and me.

Things have changed in Canada since the days of Needles and Hagey. Corruption is being fueled by our media that mocks integrity, scoffs at honesty, and makes money and power something to be obtained at all cost. We are being assaulted from within. Corruption is a very real threat to everything we know as Canadian. That threat must be met with leadership and determination, and possibly some hardships in order to overcome the challenges of corruption and turn us from the course we are on.

Corruption is lawlessness, and law is the foundation of freedom and society. Corruption is not a harmless or acceptable crime – society, you and I, and our children are the victims. It cannot be tolerated without consequence. If you care about our community and our country, corruption should be your call to action.

I challenge men and women of integrity serving locally, provincially and nationally to work to protect Canadians and Canada from unscrupulous leaders. We need new laws that protect the trust we have given our leaders. In every election the issue of corruption should be part of the discussion. When we are lied to in an election campaign, there must be remedies to protect the will of the people – or we can’t call this democracy. We need courageous, truly diversely-owned media which operates freely. We need more funding for white collar crime investigation, and we need to applaud and honour those who stand up against corruption and who fight for truth and justice.

Corruption in Canada has reached a tipping point. We ignore it to our own demise. It does matter who we elect. We need courageous leaders with aggressive strategies to protect and rebuild the public trust and to restore greatness and prosperity to Canada.

No Comments | Category: Government

On the morning of September the 11th 2001, 3 men entered an express elevator in the World Trade Tower. Two of them were wearing Armani suits, the other jeans and a T shirt. One person was carrying a mop, the other two, custom handmade brief cases. When the lights went out and the elevator filled with smoke, the janitor began to figure out how they could escape their prison. He used the mop handle to pry open the elevator doors. From his knowledge of the building, he determined that the wall that they faced was actually the back of a washroom which was being renovated. He used the mop to beat a hole in the bare drywall on both sides of the studded wall large enough for the three of them to crawl through. In the dark and smoke-filled restroom, the janitor led his “colleagues” on their hands and knees (feeling their way) out of the washroom, down the hall to the emergency stairwell and out of the building to safety.

If anyone would have entered the elevator before the lights went out and were asked to pick the leader in the group, the janitor would have been the least likely candidate. However, in this crisis the janitor was optimally positioned to solve the problem. He had knowledge that the others didn’t have and he used it to problem solve. In any crisis, the person who understands the situation and who has a solution automatically becomes the leader. Effective leaders articulate and prioritize the problems within the context of all the issues and present strategies and practical road maps for arriving at the solution. They convey confidence that they can see where they are going and know how to get there. Their sincerity and passion make people trust and follow them. Leaders also see the talents and abilities in others and how best to use them to accomplish the goal. Leaders are visionaries, and visionaries are leaders.

In a few weeks, we will be electing a team of people who will serve and lead our community. We have much to be thankful for in Wilmot Township but we also have many challenges. Whom we choose for the positions of leadership will determine how the challenges we face are addressed. Key to our “success” as voters is choosing leaders who can identify the most important issues which will produce the most positive impact in our community. The leaders we select must also be able to articulate strategic plans for accomplishing their vision for the Township and have realistic plans for getting there. We so often get bogged down in other less productive dialogue when “interviewing” the candidates. Where will they take us, what they will accomplish, and how will they get us there…..these are the important questions!!

Who will be the best leaders for Wilmot? We will decide. But maybe you are not sure yet who to support. Consider attending one of the All Candidates’ meetings and ask questions about vision, direction, and strategic planning and gauge the confidence each candidate can convey in their leadership. We need visionary leaders for Wilmot Township – local government does matter to us.

No Comments | Category: Government

Predictions for our economic future by the Bank of Canada are for a “marked slowing” of the economy in the second half of 2010 because of the Spanish government’s insolvency. One may ask the question, “why should the problems of Spain affect us here in Canada?” – what is wrong with this picture??? It would seem that having and keeping your financial house in order has been highly over-rated (sic). Or maybe it should be stated slightly differently – being interconnected to a whole group of other nations has been a huge world-wide problem which no one cared to discuss when they were “selling” the idea of globalism.

As I write this column, I feel like an intellectual geek bringing up the issue of globalization. The media and governments have always presented it as an absolute sacrament of an economically prosperous future. There never was a real debate about its merits and potential problems – it was forced upon us. Anyone who opposed it was marginalized and dismissed as a “kook”. However, in the 20/20 vision of first hand experience, NAFTA or the EU have NOT been proven to increase the prosperity of Europeans or North Americans. It has, in fact, done just the opposite. It has made some people very rich, but for the average Canadian, it has been a “cancer”. It has made us victims of market manipulation and has destroyed our manufacturing sector (real wealth) and our economic sovereignty and self-determination.

True Democracy is rooted in the belief that each of us has the inalienable right to choose for ourselves our own course. That right has been taken away from each of us by globalism. We no longer control our economic future. That is determined by people we neither elected nor who have any thought of our welfare in mind.  The centralization of power has few benefits to anyone except those who have it. They are far from the people their decisions affect.

My expectations of what they cunningly called “free trade” have been completely fulfilled – “the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer”. The problem is we all have a short attention span and few pundits ever return to “the scene of the crime” for a second look. I suppose that is what makes some politicians say anything to “sell us”, knowing that later, when the truth becomes known, nothing is ever done about it- but that can change.

Could Wilmot Township drop out of NAFTA? Not likely; however, the concept of economic sovereignty on a local level is a dream worth “noodling”. It would be a “gutzie” move from an informed, united, and creative people that would lead change.

Ontario, Canada, and the world are in a season of monumental change. Those countries and people who lead and shape change are best positioned to prosper from it. The world is looking for leaders who understand the problems and who can facilitate the solutions. We here in Wilmot can lead the province and the country with creativity, vision, and courage in a number of areas. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you are right now, it only matters where you are going. Our dreaming is not a worthless endeavor, it can shape the future. Our dreams are valuable to us and to others. Our choice to pursue our dreams will be inspiration to those who know us and an example for our children. Dreamers – dream on!!

No Comments | Category: Financial Markets, From 10,000 Feet, Government, World Issues, World Politics

With the G20 having just ended, Canadians are thinking about what was accomplished in the “mega-meetings” and if they will help produce economic stability for a world which is standing on the edge of a financial abyss.

Within days of the meetings, renowned economist Paul Krugman predicted a “Third Depression” (NY Times – June 27/10) which will be characterized by prolonged periods of deflation and unemployment. There had been hope that there could be solutions to the plaguing economic problems which are facing the entire world. “A Third Depression”, in Krugman’s analysis, is another “correction” which will be deeper, longer and more painful than the one in the fall of 2008 – not the news we wanted to hear after investing so heavily in the G20.

Personal Income: 1.5 Billion a Year.
A recent Time Magazine article profiled a hedge fund manager whose earnings for 2009 were 1.5 Billion dollars which averages to about 6 million dollars a day. His job: he trades commodities for a “living” – if you could call $1.5B a year a living.

The questions I am asking is how much money do you have to make for your company for them to pay you a billion and half dollars a year and where does that all that money come from?

It isn’t all that complicated. A hedge fund is the “pretty” name for a speculator. Using government approved financial instruments, the trader can multiply his purchase ability by 100 times the amount of his on-hand cash – we are talking hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. The leverage is an important aspect of the “free market” sham. With enough leverage (money) your trades can influence the market. Of course a “good trader” is betting the price will go up. When you look at it,  it’s kind of like fishing in a barrel. It’s not really much of a gamble and it sure isn’t investing.

When oil hit $140/ barrel it had nothing to do with the cost of production or supply. An oil analyst interviewed on CBC claimed that oil at $60/barrel is very, very (lift an eyebrow) profitable for oil companies. When it hit $140 a barrel, it was the work of speculators.

Unregulated speculation of commodity prices like oil, grains, and real estate have inflated prices beyond what people can afford. The first collapse only partly deflated prices because the Federal Reserve (Baranke) and the US government and the banks insisted on pumping up the balloon with a trillion dollars of printed money. When prices exceed what people can pay, consumption goes down and unemployment goes up. So to fix the problem, they have to deflate commodity prices back to where (more) people can afford them. But they didn’t do that.

Speculators were allowed to pump up commodity prices again using our bail out money creating an illusion of recovery but leaving prices inflated, consumption low, and unemployment high.  Hence, they have called this blip in the market, “The Jobless Recovery”.

Governments and regulators never made any significant correction in the system which allowed the speculators to continue to manipulate commodity prices. Furthermore, they have increased taxes to compensate for falling revenues (Ontario) which is the equivalent of inflating prices. The result – more than 20% of Americans are sacrificed on the altar of “Free Market”. Of course, there is nothing free about a market that is being manipulated and there is nothing free about a nation that is being held hostage and plundered by its enemies.

The wealth of the nations is being siphoned off by speculators who manipulate prices of commodities to extort obscene profits from everybody on earth. Governments stand by as these pirates pillage and plunder, in many cases, generations of work and savings through a sophisticated “shell game”.  They even speculate on food, raising prices which literally starve people to death and no one does anything. (See Food Riots – Mogadishu, May 5 2008). Could there be anything more repulsive than billionaires gambling on food futures at the expense of peoples’ lives?

Krugman calls the problem “policy failure” – he’s being kind. It is “human failure” which caused the problem and it is the failure to “end the party” (through regulations) that will drive us into the Long Depression. The G20/G8 meetings were about as effective as painting the Titanic – there is a hole in the boat! We are all in that boat together. Unfortunately, there is not magic “bullet” that will fix the problems. The system is fatally flawed and it is only a matter of time until we see another “correction” to inflated prices, possibly as early as this fall. Stand by……..

No Comments | Category: Financial Markets, From 10,000 Feet

The birth of HST in Ontario has arrived. I doubt if anyone will be handing out cigars – on second thought, maybe Dalton McGuinty will. Compared to British Columbia, the first step in selling the HST to Ontarians has gone down like an Oceans 11 movie. The tax will probably have a longer life than any of us – sadly, taxes never die; and most of you will by now have received your “bribe cheque”, as many people are calling it. But I am wondering if a bribe today will quell the building anger over the next few months as people see the cost of living in Ontario go up yet again.

Brian Mulroney gave us GST. You may remember that he went from a majority government to holding his caucus meetings in a phone booth because of the hated tax. He never suspected that taxpayers were prepared to respond with such collective retaliation. He underestimated, or possibly misinterpreted just how strongly people felt about the issue even if they didn’t march in the street. It became a life lesson for every politician in Canada that we don’t always say everything we are thinking.

Although Wilmot Township’s taxpayers haven’t marched in the streets in a HST tax revolt (it just isn’t our style), I am convinced that the modest reaction to such a significant increase in taxes does not mean that we believe what we have been told about the tax. In fact, the most common response to questions about the tax is that people don’t believe the government about the personal impact of the HST. They are suspicious and cynical about the cost. They may have been reflecting on the Smart Meter Answer Book which Mr. McGuinty distributed across the province. We were told, as you may remember, that the new system was a way for us all to save money on our electric bill – NOT.  In reality, hydro prices for the same usage were increasing significantly. If you wanted to save money you would have to cook your meals and do your laundry between 9 pm and 7 am – a bit inconvenient for most of us to say the least. The “spin-doctors” where working overtime and what we were “sold” and what we got were very different.

With the G20 ending, some economists suggest that we have entered into a world-wide third depression which they are calling the Long Depression characterized by deflation and continued unemployment. Ontario’s manufacturing sector (our greatest strength) has been destroyed over the last 20 years by NAFTA and globalism in general. The challenges the province faces are of a grand scale and the remedies (if there are any) are multifaceted. Raising taxes seems like the easy way out again. But my conflict with Mr. McGuinty is that  we have been sold the HST with less than half truths; in particular, how higher taxes will increase employment and make all of Ontario more prosperous. If there was any truth to that, I would be the first to suggest doubling taxes. I understand the cynicism among taxpayers because what we are being sold and what we will get I think will be quite different.

Over the next few months the illusions about HST will fade and reality will become evident. If Mr. McGuinty has oversold his “product”  there will be a great deal of anger and possibly voter retaliation to a government which has “ zoomed” us yet again. Sadly, by then it will be too late for taxpayers. Rarely are bad taxes ever repealed even by the succeeding government. If nothing more, we will be reminded of the old adage: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

No Comments | Category: Commodities, Financial Markets, Government, Inflation, World Issues, World Politics

For decades we have been told that modern man would overcome his/her problems through technology. There is a certain comfort in believing that the man in the lab coat really has our best interest at heart, he knows what he is doing, and he has a solution to our problem that we don’t understand or need to think about. Some of us believed the mantra but some of us did not. The irony is that we have invested heavily in the “technology solution” only to find that it has caused as many problems or more than it has solved – particularly in the environment. There are others of us that prefer a simple solution to a big problem because simple solutions have fewer “moving parts” that can mess up the intended results.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to a website where two “good ole” southern boys were demonstrating a simple solution for cleaning up the Gulf oil spill. In the opening seconds of the video, one of the guys explains how he had been thinking about a solution to the problem when he was struck with the idea. The video goes on to demonstrate, within the limited scope of their laboratory, a seemingly simple answer for what a few thousand scientists have worked feverishly and unsuccessfully for months to find. I can’t comment on whether their solution will actually work or not, but the cynic in me screamed at the top its lungs – “It doesn’t matter!” Even if these “outsiders” had a cure for cancer, or world hunger, they are not going to get anywhere. The powerful companies that advise and influence government and the media are not about to let a simple inexpensive answer to the problem put them on the side-lines. I can speculate that these forerunner-problem-solvers are not going to even get a hearing. If they do, every “hired gun” scientist is going to swear on his mother’s honour that these guys don’t know what they are doing and that their misguided idea of a solution will only make things worse.

I do believe there are solutions available for almost every problem. Forerunners all over the world are laying awake at nights thinking about solutions to problems we have never even heard of. Forerunners have proven over and over again that they can overcome problems of monumental proportion. Some of them are insiders, but most of them are outsiders. Like the guys in the video, they don’t have a bank of hired “experts” and lobbyists to sell their ideas to the people that matter. If they aren’t insiders or experts or have a qua-zillion dollars they won’t even get serious consideration. Where an idea comes from is more important to most people than the idea itself and that is a dangerous place to be because that eliminates many of our best people and ideas.

Problems persist not because there aren’t solutions, but because viable solutions often are disenfranchised by vested interests. It is a mystery to me why lobbyists of any sort are permitted since they obviously exist to get governments to do something they wouldn’t normally do without the lobbyist’s “influence”. Since most lobbyists represent private interests, they are in conflict with the fundamental concept of democracy. It is the special and private interest groups who have high-jacked democracy and pushed simple solutions to the outer fringes. Insiders don’t let outsiders anywhere near their gravy-train, and as long as they have the King’s ear, simple solutions will never get anywhere. The guys in the video deserve a “listen” by Obama and BP. They may have a simple solution to a very big problem.

Here is the link to the website. Let us know what you think: Will it work or is it just a couple of guys dreaming in technicolor?

http://www.wimp.com/solutionoil/

No Comments | Category: Oil and Gas

– In the beginning: some scientists “think” the world is getting warmer
– An “official” panel is setup to promote the views of these scientists (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC)
– About 2500 scientists join their ranks
– The official platform of the IPCC becomes: we can identify the problem but science can’t solve it – we have to stop carbon emissions – we are sure of that!!
– When the “science” of global warming becomes known, 33,000 scientists and climate experts in the USA sign a petition denouncing the theory.
– No one really knows for sure if there is climate change, or if there is, what is causing it.
– A politician makes a film which makes Global Warming a household word
– There is a law suit over the “facts” and a judge calls the film “Political Propaganda” and requires it to be labeled as such in the UK
– No one says anything about the film’s misrepresentations – more scientists join the opposition
– The major media promotes the Global Warming campaign and marginalizes the opponents
– People start to believe there is a problem and activists get into the game of saving the planet.
– It becomes social leprosy to question the science of the IPCC’s climate change campaign for those in and out of science
– A war erupts between the “warmers” and the “skeptics” – the politicians have to step in.
– Politicians refuse to take testimony of global warming opponents in the US and UK – why confuse the issue?

– Politician turned filmmaker/activist starts carbon trading company to profit from a system that does not yet exist – what does he know that we don’t??
– Major stock exchanges set up trading facilities to handle Cap and Trade (carbon credit trading) businesses years before there is a carbon tax law.
– Politicians, businesses, and scientists are “sure” that only by introducing a Cap and Trade Carbon tax can they save the planet – They didn’t want to do it – they had to!

– Businesses who are given Carbon Credit Trading licenses (politician/filmmaker included) are now making boat loads of money – more than anyone could spend.
– The scientists who said there was no solution to Global Warming (but cutting carbon emissions)  – now have a solution – “we can save the planet just give us the money”
– Politicians, who supported the Global warming (scam) are now getting kickbacks from the carbon traders in the form of carbon credits which are better than money and totally unregulated. – who thought of this great idea!!!
– Governments are getting their piece of the action from the Carbon Tax, the rest goes to “offsetting” the emissions. – this is great for the economy
– The highest consuming nations (the US included) actually get rewarded for their unbridled consumption because every company who sells them products has to buy carbon credits from them. Don’t you just love it!!
– The US Government and their “friends” are getting rich in the carbon credit scam and consumption and credit income is up – thank God, we need the money!
– The IPCC now has unprecedented powers – no one dare challenge them – there is too much at stake.
– Scientists who don’t cooperate with the “IPCC” are branded as “environmental terrorist” – disgusting people, get off the planet!
– Scientists get all the money they want to “experiment” with cutting carbon emissions without cutting consumption – and they are getting rich too!
– They of course can’t solve the problem “overnight” – it’s too complex for that, but given enough time and money they will stop the sky from falling

– The average guy is getting hosed for another few thousand bucks a year  – but that’s not the worst of it.
– Carbon cops are looking up everybody’s butt in the name of saving the planet
– Democracy and freedom is redefined as “living green our way and liking it”.
– Orwell rolls in his grave.
– The rich are getting richer on the carbon trading scheme – they pay their carbon tax with glee.

– The planet is no better off – probably worse.
– The decimation of our forests and seas (a real cause of climate change, if there is change) are forgotten – didn’t we solve that problem?
– The US, and UK force nations who trade with them to get into the game and “save the planet” or be penalized.
– No one can buy or sell anything without Carbon Credits – everyone and everything has to be monitored!
– The IPCC and their “science” becomes the final authority on just about everything – uniting everyone under one great religion
– They put a mark on your forehead or your hand so they know who’s playing the game and who’s not.
– The US controls the Carbon Credit “Currency” and world-wide commerce- why shouldn’t they, it’s their “game”
– Round two of “pillaged the nations of the earth”.
– Nice thing about this “deal” is there is something in it for everyone – but the average guy.

No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, Global Warming - Climate Change, Government, The Future, World Issues, World Politics

Since its introduction Aspartame has had a reputation with the science community as being potentially cancer causing. In particular there has been an increase of incidences of brain tumors, and the chemical itself is considered a neuro toxin and has been connected to other neurological diseases.

For years the FDA defended Aspartame, and made it difficult for competitors to get access to the market. Then in mid December (2008) they approved Stevia which Coca Cola has developed as an alternative to Aspartame. Coke would be jointly liable for the damage Nutri-Sweet (Aspartame) has caused and needed an alternative to give discerning consumers confidence in their products.

Stevia was approved under the “Substantially Equivalency” provision of the Food and Drug Act. By claiming the product is found in nature it is exempt from scrutiny or study. I point out that lots of toxins and poisons occur in nature. What needs consideration is how these ingredients affect humans. I am not convinced Coke hasn’t jumped from the frying pan into the fire, and that Stevia is safe for human consumption. I also think a prudent person shouldn’t assume because the FDA says its OK, that it is! The only people who can prove Stevia is safe are the scientists. Politicians and bureaucrats are not very convincing to me!!! In matters of food safety, manufactured products should be judged dangerous until proven safe.

By the way Searle is a subsidiary of Monsanto, and the Aspartame approval is the work of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfelt of the Bush Administration (that in itself should say enough).

No Comments | Category: Uncategorized

This is one piece of news  that caught may attention because it said so much that hasn’t been said. Time Magazine names Obama “Man of The Year”. Considering that Obama will not be sworn in until 2009 it is hard to understand what it is that he has done to qualify for “Man of The Year” other than win an election.

In light of the facts I wondered if it was a propaganda “play” to give the poor American “sucker” hope in a dismal situation or they (Time) really believed he was the best choice, in spite of the fact he had done nothing, but “talk” a great leader.

When I read the The Runners Up for MOTY it gave me a better clue as to what was going on. Henry Paulson, Tresurery Secretary and the man most responsible for letting the crooks bankrupt the country was Time’s SECOND CHOICE. I couldn’t believe that they could actually be so blind and deceived as to think they could make black white. Paulson, should be indicted for treason, stupidity,and or corruption.

It says more about Time than anything else. They are pumping out the propaganda to calm the naive masses while they and their friends suck the last dime out of the people’s pockets. They won’t get far with it, though.

Somebody said, “you get the government you deserve”. The Americans are among the most materialistic people on the planet. They invented and refined consumerism and have exported this cancerous greed around the world. Now they have proven it is a dead end street and they will suffer for their folly. The problems they have started are only beginning. Their solutions are not solutions they only delay the impact. But it is coming….too bad they are going to take so many innocent by-standers with them.

No Comments | Category: Government, Mass Media, The Future, World Issues, World Politics

I haven’t been writing about the economic crisis because everything I had been predicting was being written in the front page news. I would like to comment on the price of oil. Is it low or is actually very close to the real “Free Market” price. The previous outrageous prices were the result of speculators manipulating the price via leveraged trading which allowed them to controll the market. When you leverage something you run the risk of the leverage turning against you which it did. It is the bankers, hedge fund traders and brokerage firms who have driven the price of commodities up and as they leave the market the price falls to the real value. I remind you that Bush blamed the Saudi’s for the price of oil, rather than the unregulated commodities market that Paulson and Greenspan were responsible to manage. They never throught the party would end and that they would be caught in their lies – but the truth has a way of coming to the surface. These guys are corrupt or very stupid. Personally, I think they are both.

No Comments | Category: Uncategorized

Russian Corruption Skims Billions
Corruption is described as a disease in Russian society

Corrupt Russian officials are creaming off about $120bn (£61bn) a year – the equivalent of a third of the national budget, a senior prosecutor has said.
The country’s new President, Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to tackle the problem – although correspondents say few expect things will change quickly. Reuters – Friday, 6 June 2008 18:12 UK

Comment
Corruption is prevalent in all levels of government and is seemingly not considered too serious a crime in North America. There is not much outrage when corruption is exposed. Corruption is more serious than the money that is lost from the public purse. When corruption becomes wide-spread the country becomes sick. The systems don’t work and there is a breakdown of society. Our reaction to corruption is a measure of the restraint and the level of integrity we demand. When there is corruption exposed we must (for the sake of the country) oppose it strongly, because it threatens the entire country. Rome wasn’t defeated, it collapsed from within. Corruption is a very real Trojan horse for America – let’s not repeat history, but learn from it.

Among the greatest threats to the US and Canada is not terrorism from the outside not terrorist from the inside but the threat of the breakdown of society through corruption.

Paul Weigel

No Comments | Category: Financial Markets, Government, Uncategorized, World Issues

The Story:
The OECD and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization agency published its report on food prices and world hunger prior to a World Summit on Food, June 3-5, in Rome.

Report Findings:
– no relief in the high food prices in the next ten years
– cost of food has doubled in the last 2 years

Causes:
1. Biofuel use of grains
2. Speculators
3. Inflation
4. Drought

Effects: millions of people are being effected drastically – mostly in under developed countries. For example: 60 percent of income is used for food in Bangladesh, 27 percent in China, and just 10 percent in the United States or Germany

Recommended Actions:
1. Urgent and immediate need for humanitarian aid,
2. promote genetically modified seeds,
3. more research on the benefits and problems of biofuels, because the US and Europe are planning large growth in biofuel production.

The world is a very complicated place, because we are all linked together through globalization. I have seen enough of the ill effects of world markets over the last 20 years to come conclusive down on the side of abolishing them. If you are thinking that these ideas are crazy I would challenge you to think outside the box for a moment. The question is why should we let large corporations determine how and what we will and won’t do. Globalization is their idea of giving themselves special priviledge. Goods and services move freely across borders but labor movement is heavily resticted. They move production to a country where they can exploit cheap labour then suite countrires tha try to put up trade barriers to the sale of their goods. They unemploy people and claim it is because they aren’t productive enough. They want the taxes and benefits playing field leveled which really means severe cuts to both. They have set up their own government agencies such as the WTO, and the Federal Reserve, and the World Bank. All of these agencies are being used to subject people and governments to the will of the corporate elite. Why any thinking person would support globalization is really a product of fear and manipulation.

You won’t even hear someone suggest in the mass media that we should reevaluate globalization and NAFA and how other trading groups have negatively affected the people they were promoted as serving. Such thinking would be considered a threat to the control of the multi-national corporations what are close to running the world. The media is the main enablers of their agenda to control and plunder the masses. The Marist expression that religion is the opiate of the people is completely wrong. The mass media is the opiate of the people. It is the single greatest factor in the control of the masses. It guarantees compliance and detracts the masses from demanding governments act in their interest.

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No Comments | Category: Commodities, Government, Inflation, Mass Media

The Story:
“It is highly probable that Russia’s continental shelf resources may enlarge by 1.2 million square kilometers outside the 200-mile economic zone in the Arctic Ocean. That area may contain 9-10 billion tons of energy resources,” said Natural Resources Ministry’s Institute of World Ocean Geology and Mineral Resources Director Prof. Valery Kamensky.

The Comment:
Everyone is jocking for position in the battle for control of the greatest field of resources to be harvested in this century. The arctic may contain 25% of the world energy resources. These are new resources, yet to be tapped. The oil companies and the Peak Oil promoters claim they haven’t found any new oil in 25 years. Oddly enough they don’t include the oil found off the coast of Brazil estimated to be as much as in Saudi Arabia (a lot), or the heavy oil of Canada (a very lot), or what they are expected to find in the Arctic (a ton).

It is odd that they don’t include ANY of the new finds and still base their peak theory only on existing reserves which by-the-way are project to last for another 100 years in some cases. Furthermore, when investigating the sources of the data that support the Peak Oil theory, I could only find oil company source data. There is NO independent data available. Apparently, only the oil companies know for sure how much oil they have available to them, and they don’t let others do independent research on their reserves.

I am not suggesting that the oil companies are lying to us, but I am saying that the mouse is clearly in charge of the cheese.

Here is a question that needs answering. Everyone knows how outrageously profitable the oil business is, yet they haven’t built a single refinery in 20+ years. They also don’t seem to concerned about finding more oil. So it would appear that they are not reinvesting in this very profitable business. Instead they are taking all the profits and doing something else with them. So why???

I laugh and cry when the daily news asserts that “prices climbed to record highs today on concerns about supplies or refining capabilities.” But the thing that makes me the most mad is the common attitude that if you question the peak oil theory you are either an idiot or an enemy of humanity. The corporate owned media is brainwashing the entire population into thinking that if you challenge their story, you must be minimized. The most diabolic thing is that the people who reject legitimate discussion on the topic are those who are promoted as rationale and progressive by the establishment.

The thought control is evident in a few other areas such as the theory of evolution verses intelligent design(see the film Expelled), and Global Warming. Where are the forerunners and boat rockers who don’t mind asking the tough questions.

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No Comments | Category: Uncategorized

The Story:

By Barbara Lewis
LONDON (Reuters)
Speaking about the increasing price of oil:

QUOTE: ……Investors have been drawn in by a weak U.S. currency, which has made dollar-denominated commodities relatively cheap for holders of other currencies.

Speaking to Reuters during a visit to Venezuela, OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri said the soft dollar was one of the factors that could keep pushing oil higher.

Tanker tracker Petrologistics said on Wednesday OPEC’s oil output in May had risen by 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) compared with April.

Extra OPEC crude has had little impact as the market has instead focused on short-term refinery problems, which are symptomatic of chronic underinvestment.

The Comments

It is clear from these reports that prices have NOT been established by supply and demand. Wealthy investors are using commodities as hedges against the devaluating US dollar. You can’t read that in the major media because they defend the system. They defend the system, because it is a system developed by and promoted by large corporations. In fact any questioning of the system is considered blasphemy, which is punished and that has quieted a lot of intelligent and knowledgeable people.

There has not been an increase in fuel consumption by 12% this year, nor has there been a 12% decrease in supply, so what justifies a 12% increase in the price? The Answer: nothing! The markets are not free, they are distorted significantly by speculators who know that the consumer has few if any alternatives. With the consumer up against the proverbial wall, speculators have driven the price up regardless of supply and demand ratios.

Oil supplies have increased and consumption is at its lowest in the year, yet prices have increased dramatically. Price increases are justified by paper thin excuses over fears of supply problems. Even when those fears never materialize, the prices continues to increase and the medias continues to defend the system and its abuses. They assert that the problem is OPEC, which keeps people from pointing their finger at the real problems and demanding the government does something about them.

Governments have not protected the consumer from the abuses of the system. They have failed not because they didn’t know what was happening. The housing crisis was a disaster waiting to happen and the government did nothing. It has effectively transfered the wealth of millions of citizens to the wealthy, turning the country into a labor camp.

If the markets were truly free, then they would reflect the actual price a consumer was willing to pay for a product. The fact that this week 84% of Americans had concerns about the economy and high energy prices, indicates that the market does not reflect the consumer’s willingness to pay the price the market is dictating. Furthermore, it is not just the US which is bidding for world oil. Countries with far weaker currencies should effectively lower prices if it was market driven. The markets are far from free. They are being manipulated by speculators who are holding the entire world hostage and extorting from them their life blood.

The idea that markets can operate freely is idealism in this present world. General Motors has more revenue than the majority of countries in the world. When there are corporations with the financial capacity to dominate markets there is no hope of truly free markets. The consumer becomes the victim of extortion. In the case of food, people go hungry, become weak and sick, and even die in third world countries, because of market speculators and the irrational defense of the myth of free markets. There is something wrong with a system that can destroy lives and kill people in the name of profit?

Paul Weigel

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No Comments | Category: Financial Markets, Uncategorized

The Stories:

April foreclosures rise 65 percent on year:

Wed May 14, 2008 3:28pm EDT (Reuters) “The total number of U.S. properties with foreclosure activity in April was the highest monthly total we’ve seen since we began issuing the report in January 2005,” James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

In March, home foreclosure filings had risen 5 percent from February.

The surge in foreclosures indicates an increasing number of homeowners are struggling to make mortgage payments amid the worst U.S. housing market downturn since the Great Depression.

Tame April price rise eases inflation worry

Wed May 14, 2008 3:28pm EDT
(Reuters) Washington, D.C. …………The 0.2 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index (for April) was less than the gain that Wall Street analysts polled by Reuters were expecting, a Labor Department report showed on Wednesday. ………….”One of the many risks the market sees is runaway inflation leading to a very quick re-rise in interest rates. This puts that off, at least in the near term,” said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Comment:

Run away inflation is a very realistic outcome of the policies of the Fed. The quote above indicated not if but when it happens. Inflation is like a tax that takes away a percentage of everything you have, including the value of your house, savings, retirement fund – everything. It also reduces your income by increasing prices. Inflation goes where no tax collector could.

The increase in the price fuel and food is inflation on a limited scale, but it affects everyone, except those who don’t use fuel and don’t buy food. As we have discussed the price increases in these areas are not related to the increase in deamand or the reduction in supply. It is the speculation of huge investors use the commodity as a hedge against inflation (they know you have to eat). The first reaction of most people would be to join the “hedgers” but that would be contributing to the problem because it would drive prices up even further. There aren’t a lot of choices, but reducing your consumption is about the best ethical and moral response. By reducing your fuel consumption you avoid purchasing the inflated priced fuel. By reconfiguring your lifestyle and food consumption you reduce demand and avoid paying inflated prices for food.

Consider growing some food this summer. Consider hyper-miling (check out our previous post for details). It really works! I didn’t think I could reduce my consumption that much just by changing my drive style, but you can. It amazing how much money you can save. Other alternative are: move to the outskirts of the community you live in where you can have a garden. The food is fresh, pure and rich in nutrition when you grow it yourself. If that is not possible form a food coop where a group of people have a farmer grow certain food for them. This is one of the best ways for urban dwellers to get good food. Grocery stores often import food even when local food is in season, in order to keep the supply chain open.

The less you consume the less it matters what the price of such and such is. Most people spend the better part of their working career paying for a house. But there is a better way! Building an alternative house not only is cool, environment friendly but a great way to live well and debt free. Some people have built a really awesome house for under $20,000 plus the land. These aren’t far out ideas. They are survive techniques if and when the economy continues wobble. Those who see the danger and take action early will do much better. If the system crumbles, you have done wise thing. If it doesn’t, you have done a smart thing.

Paul Weigel

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No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, Commodities, Financial Markets, Inflation, World Issues

The Story: Patients taking beta blockers, the cornerstone of treatment for heart disease since the 1970s, are a third more likely to die within a month of surgery and twice as likely to suffer a stroke, a study found.

Dr P.J. Devereaux, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who led the research, said the drugs had cost more lives than they had saved and their use in surgery patients was based on inadequate research. Guidelines established in 1996 by the American College of Cardiology recommend that beta blockers be used in all operations, except those on the heart. The advice was adopted worldwide but Dr Devereaux claimed that the guidelines were based on the findings of two small studies.

The Comment: Dr. Devereaux is exactly the kind of person we need in the medical profession and every profession and industry in society. People who are not intimidated by big companies throwing their weight and money around. They don’t give up when they feel the truth has been swept under the carpet in order to serve just some people’s interest. Devereaux is a prime example of a forerunner, and I think he should be honoured for his work on behalf of the people. What do you think?

Leave your comments by clicking on the title.

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More Story here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1952818/
Betablockers-‘have-caused-800,000-deaths’.html

No Comments | Category: Technology and Medicine

The Story:
Diebold Machines Miscount New Hampshire Primary
New Hampshire’s 2008 primary election used Diebold “Accu-Vote” machines to scan and count 80% of the votes. These are the same machines that were hacked by the famous Finnish hacker Harri Hursti in “Hacking Democracy”. The hand recount of New Hampshire’s paper ballots has already revealed unexplained machine miscounts (huge disparities) in Hillsborough County, NH:

Wilton district = 10.6% miscounted by machines
Nashua, Ward 5 = 4.9% miscounted by machines
New Ipswich = 7.5% miscounted by machines
Manchester, Ward 5 = 10.6% miscounted by machines

The New Hampshire statewide hand recount was begun by Democrat candidate Dennis Kucinich and Republican candidate Albert Howard amid “serious and credible reports, allegations and rumors about the integrity of Tuesday’s results”

Follow the story on Bev Harris’ BlackBoxVoting forums, and atBradBlog

The Comment:

Bruce Cockburn got it right in his song “And They Call it Democracy”.
This line says it all:

Kiss the hands, Shake hands with the fellas,
And they ‘re open for business like a cheap bordello
And They Call It Democracy
.

Bruce Cockburn – And They Call It Democracy

Probably the most important film made about democracy in the USA is ‘Hacking Democracy”. If you ever wondered how far people will go, this film will reveal a new benchmark in the human tension between good and evil. I think the evidence is more than sufficient to demand an indictment verdict. The question now is, who is responsible for this treason. For more information on the film “Hacking Democracy” see another Forerunner Project (films by and for Forerunners) web site at www.theforerunnerproject.com/films

New Developments

Election Workers Sentenced for Fraud (Fox 8, Cleveland) A grand jury indicted three Cuyahoga county elections workers, and earlier this year, a jury convicted two of them – Jacqueline Maiden and Kathy Dreamer. Watch the video

Elections Workers Get 18 Months For Rigging 2004 Recount (newsnet5.com & Associated Press) Two election workers in Ohio’s most populous county were sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison for rigging the 2004 presidential election recount so they could avoid a more thorough review of the votes. Details & video.

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No Comments | Category: Government

Greed behind food price rises: development bank head

Read the rest of the Reuters story here by clicking the link above.

“As you are all aware, the overall outcome would be less distortion in world markets and increased international trade, leading to more rapid and efficient adjustment by supply to changes in demand,” he said.

That is the insider language for greed distorting the market. When investors seculate on markets for gain they knowingly or unknowingly take food out of the mouth of the hungry. I am not blaming anyone here, but I think a child can see the injustice of this kind of system.

More countries are taking themselves off the system by banning exports. Ultimately, if this continues the WTO will have fewer and fewer countries participating in their global markets scheme.

Quote: Many countries have responded to the high prices by imposing taxes and other restrictions on exports — allowed under WTO rules — to try to ensure adequate supplies at home.

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No Comments | Category: Commodities, Inflation, World Issues

MOGADISHU, Somalia (Reuters) “I’m hungry and yet cannot even buy food,” Abdifatah Hussein, 25, told Reuters, clutching a bunch of Somali shillings. “I fear we might start eating one another. We will never stop protesting until traders accept the notes.”

The problem: there has been so much inflation, in this case caused by the illegal printing of money, that the local currency has nominal value and food has huge value. The local people only have local currency and they are now out of the running to buy the food on world markets. (is globalism really good?)

This quote says a lot about the state of desperation that exists in Somalia and many other countries as inflation and a failing currency are rejected by world market traders.

The fundamental problem with rising prices for commodities throughout the world is that investors and middlemen are trying to either make or preserve their money. If the food stocks were in the hands of the individuals who grew it, it would be a different situation, they would sell food, instead of hoarding it.

The situation is sad, but this is the result of globalized markets where there is always someone who has the money to pay more. The poor are out bid by the rich for the only thing that really matters – food. Globalization has turned food into a commodity and that commodity is traded for gain to the highest bidder.

In this climate, one would ask themselves what can I do? How should I respond to this crisis? What is moral? What is ethical? How can I impact this bidding war.

We live in a culture that considers unbridled consumption the pinnacle of success. It is our right to consume just because we are able. We wear our consumption like a badge of honour. However, here is another way to look at life and this crisis that is taking place throughout the world. Whenever we bid on energy or food we bid with a currency which has many times the power other countries and people do not have. They have no chance of competing with us. Their work is worth one/one-hundredths of ours just because of the country they were born in. When we out bid them for the food they need to live, we sentence them and their families to malnutrition, sickness, and a shortened life.

What Can You Do?

When we reduce our consumption levels we take the pressure off the demand side of the supply/demand equation thereby freeing up food for others. If we grow as much of our own food as possible we take our consumption off the world market. We are no longer bidding for the limited supply of food on the world market. By reducing our consumption in the area of energy and food we can literally save thousands of lives. By getting off the grid as it were, we are eliminating or minimizing our consumption of energy and food from world supplies. We are literally taking food out of the hand of the hungry. Our level of consumption is literally a life death matter for some people in countries less fortunate then the one you were lucky enough to be born in. Our culture is driven by the media the media is programmed by the proponents of consumption. Our consumption is indirectly but literally killing people in countries around the world. I think we should know that and do something about it. More on ways to reduce our consumption in upcoming posts.

P.S. I have been hypermiling (see the previous post) and it really works!!! I have reduced my consumption by at least 25%. Currently fuel is $1.20 a litre ($5.00 a gallon). I have also reduced miles driven by a least 25%. I didn’t think it possible to cut my consumption in half but it has been easier than I thought.

Paul Weigel

No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, Commodities, World Issues

Here are three telling quotes from a Reuters news story about the Fed contemplating a rate cut from 2.25 to 2.00.

April 30, 2008 (Reuters)
The U.S. housing market has shown no sign of hitting bottom and credit markets still appear strained. At the same time elevated prices for food and fuel are causing concerns among both consumers and Fed officials………

In addition to lowering rates to spur the economy, the central bank has rolled out a series of emergency steps to pump billions of dollars of liquidity into financial markets to beat back a credit crunch. Policy-makers will debate a new liquidity tool — paying interest on bank reserves — on Wednesday…………

Policy-makers also expect the combined effects of the central bank’s rate cuts — which act with a lag — and a $152 billion fiscal stimulus package will provide a boost to the economy in months to come.

All of these so called “solutions” are inflationary. By reducing the interest rate they reduce the value of the currency and hence increase the cost of fuel and other imported items. By printing a wack of money (152 Billion they don’t have) they are further devaluating the dollar. Will the Fed give us hyper inflation?? It is a real possibility. When hedge funds run for cover in oil and commodities they are hedging against inflation. What is your hedge against inflation? What should you do about inflation eating up your equity and savings? We are going to address that in coming posts.

By-the-way, who is getting that $152B? It better not be the financial institutions that got us in this mess – although it sounds like it. We will be watching to see where it goes. Furthermore, recently the Senate said they couldn’t bail out the Banks because the people wouldn’t hear of it (based on polls). Seems like all that has changed in the last week.

Paul Weigel

No Comments | Category: Government, Inflation

Could Hypermiling be a solution?
There isn’t much we can do about the price of fuel but there is something we can do about our consumption. A technique called hypermiling (hyper-miling) optimizes your vehicle and your driving habits to maximize your fuel consumption.

Some people have recorded as much as double the mileage using the technique. Some ways to hypermile include reducing drag, accelerating slowly, over-inflating tires, and following closely behind trucks that pull you along.

Fore more information about hypermiling check out http://hypermiling.com/

No Comments | Category: Better ways to live, Oil and Gas

The biggest story in the news today, as it has been for 5 months, is the price of oil. There has been a lot of disinformation about what is causing the rise in the price of crude. It has increased 25% in the past 4 months. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and G. W. Bush have been calling for OPEC to increase supply in a season when normal consumption is at its lowest (spring). The forecasted economic slow down is expected to further slow demand by 1.5%. As the price increases it becomes out of reach for many buyers with weaker economies and currencies, also reducing demand. OPEC continues to assert that there is adequate supply to meet demand. Saudi Arabia has even reduced supply slightly in response to the slowing demand. So why is the price of oil continuing to climb?

The daily assertions in the media about fears of disruptions in supply are misleading. The real cause of the price inflation is the weakening US dollar. Hedge funds used to take refuge in gold, silver, platinum and other metals because they offered protection against a devaluating dollar. But the large investors see oil as a better hedge against the devaluating dollar, because it is a world-wide consumable. Recently, market pundits have predicted $200. per barrel of oil, which would more than double the price in a year. That doesn’t reflect supply or demand for oil, but the lack of confidence in the US economy precipitated by the sub-prime banking scandal, massive debt and trade deficit, and a costly war.

Here is the crux of the problem. In the short term, oil provides protection from inflation (devaluation of the dollar), but in the long term the increase in the price of oil causes the cost of food and manufactured goods to increase. That is inflation. To protect against inflation investors continue to bid up the price of oil and thereby cause inflation. It becomes a destructive cycle which has the potential to bring a catastrophic world-wide economic collapse. So far there has been little leadership from governments in the west. Thailand and Indonesia have banned exports of rice in the anticipation of the coming problems. They have effectively taken themselves off the world markets. They will grow their own food and supply their own demand at prices their people can afford. Nationalism has been presented in the corporate agenda driven media as the counter-productive, small minded ideals of backward governments. However, it now will protect countries from the whims of the global investor and soften the blow of a potential world-wide financial catastrophe.

The US has been the detonator for this economic explosion but the problems in the world financial markets are equally as severe as in the US. There has been a tremendous increase in the accumulation of wealth. The imbalance this creates is like a 400 pound guy in a canoe with two 50 pound children. The markets have been destabilized by the relative size of the “players”. Greed, and fear have no conscience and the investors who “play” the markets have no moral, ethical or social responsibility. They play for today with little foresight into the implications their actions will have on tomorrow or on others.

Our relatively short experiment with globalization of world markets has put the future of the planet in the hands of people who have no intention of managing it. They neither want the job nor are capable of handling it. Their goals are incompatible with the task. Political leaders have failed to lead because their leadership has been compromised by duplicity. They know they should do something, but they are afraid to end the party. The party being, the amassing of the world’s wealth by a relative few.

The planet faces environmental, and economic problems of monumental magnitude. The resulting social upheaval could cause unimaginable human suffering and loss if there isn’t inspired leadership. The planet can not survive under the current system. It is destructive, oppressive and diabolic and if left uncontrolled will self destruct. The question is, will our leaders mitigate the suffering and loss by taking the necessary but difficult high road; or will they compromise and surrender to pressures and stand on the sidelines as the impact of their compromises ravishes the nations.

There is a new age coming, heralded and ushered in by a company of forerunners. The current pains are but the birth contractions of a new era. More on that in the coming posts.

Paul Weigel

No Comments | Category: Commodities, Financial Markets, Government, Oil and Gas

NEW YORK (AP) – Oil prices rose sharply Friday on news that a ship under contract to the U.S. Defense Department fired warning shots at two boats in the Persian Gulf. Retail gas prices as expected rose further into record territory, nearing $3.60 a gallon. Crude prices rose on initial reports that a U.S. ship had fired on two Iranian boats; the news raised concerns that a conflict between U.S. and Iranian forces could cut oil supplies from the region. A Navy spokeswoman said the origin of the boats was unclear.

The news was enough to send light, sweet crude for June delivery up to $119.55 before the contract retreated to settle up $2.46 at $118.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Every day the excuse to charge more for oil gets more ridiculous than the day before. How it can be justified that the world price of oil should be higher based on a minor incident in the Persian Gulf is a jump over the Grand Canyon. When there isn’t any reason to raise the price of crude, they raise it anyway and call it “Market Sentiment”. What is market sentiment? I have come to believe it is traders wanting to profit from raising the price of oil.

Recently, OPEC said they wouldn’t increase the production of oil because there was enough supply to meet demand. Since I haven’t seen any shortage in Canada or the USA or heard of any around world I have a tendency to believe them (OPEC). So why is oil going up daily? In the last 6 years it has tripled in price. Could it be sub-prime greed? And furthermore where does all that money go. The oil companies haven’t invested in any new oil refineries even though last year they made over 30% on the money they have invested. Are they creating shortages by reducing the capacity to refine the oil they do have? And isn’t 30% return on investment more than enough reason to invest in the business of refining oil?

The key to the oil company’s scheme is to look like they aren’t in control of the price. They claim it is the market that sets prices. What they mean by that is, there are a bunch of guys in a room bidding up the price it would appear for no rational reason. Of course they can’t help that – now can they?

Real market driven pricing isnt’ determined by a handful of people. It can only be measured when there is unbiased competition for demand. But prices aren’t set by demand, but by the perception of demand. It is a handful of traders who decide the price, based on their perceptions of demand. When the price of oil rises rarely is the justification anything to do with demand, or supply for that matter. When one group controls prices and supply they have an unfair advantage in the market place. What we have is not a free market, and there should be intervention world-wide to protect the consumer and our economy from being raped.

When prices where $40 a barrel the oil industry was profitable, at $80 is was outrageous. At $120 per barrel the profits are immoral, but they still want more. They will continue to gorge themselves on oil profits and recently predicted $200 per barrel of oil. Why? Don’t they have enough money? How much more money do they want/need?

No Comments | Category: Oil and Gas

The Senate is trying to figure out a way to avoid the collapse of the financial system. Lenders are leveraging for a bail out. But Americans are angry, as they well should be. They don’t want the perpetrators of the problem to “walk” while they take the “fall”.

“Excerpt from (LA Times, April 25, 2008)
Frank’s committee this week approved a Republican proposal to give lenders and loan servicers protection against such lawsuits. But powerful industry groups, such as the Mortgage Bankers Assn., have scorned the proposal.

“It makes me concerned [that] lenders and servicers really aren’t interested in sitting down and negotiating a resolution to these problems,” said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), chief author of the GOP proposal.

“Maybe they figure the government will get desperate enough at some point, it’ll throw money at the problem and they can come out with no write-down of these mortgages,” he mused.

“There is no sympathy for anything that smacks of bailout,” said Allen Sinai, chief economist of Decision Economics Inc., who recently testified in favor of the Frank bill. “The outrage has shown up very quickly, and means that at this point the government can only go so far.” (End Quote)

People are aware that the problems they now face were caused by uncontrolled and blinding greed in the financial markets. They want control of their lives back. They shouldn’t have to worry about deals being made on Wall Street that will take from them everything they have worked for most of their lives. They want their Government to act on THEIR behalf.

The lack of government intervention in these areas have stolen hundreds of thousands of average American’s lifetime of work and savings. If it was done with a gun there would be a war. Freedom, is worth defending but some freedom or lack of government control takes other people’s freedom away. The media (the agents of Corporations – proport freedom of the markets) There isn’t freedom of the market. If there was there wouldn’t be a collapse. We wouldn’t pay 3.50/gallon for gas. We wouldn’t pay $150,000 for a gallbladder operation. Prices are controlled not by the market but by a handful of people who profit from their control. There is no free market where the consumer can shop and compare prices in a competitive market. Oil is priced not by the consumer supply and demand but by a handful of people in New York who profit from its rising price. The system we have is not free market – it is tyranny wrapped in idealism.

The government has allowed speculators and financial institutions to gain at the expense of the people, effectively turning the entire country into a labor camp. Housing and oil isn’t the only areas where the balance of power has been allowed to shift far in favor of company’s shareholders and market profiteers. Powerful groups control medical services in American which can transfer the wealth of an entire family into its hands simple by having one medical need in your lifetime. How many family’s have been left with nothing. How free is that?

The system is flawed and no American is immune of being robbed of their saving and financial future as long as the system continues to give certain people more freedom at the expense of others. The people with the authority to intervene didn’t – even when they knew what the outcome would be. That is a breach of trust and crime against the people. The repercussions of the collapse of the housing market has effectively syphoned off billions of dollars from the economy which are now in the hands of the greedy. If the government bails these institutions out, then it will be using your money to further rob you of everything you have worked for. This crisis could have been avoided. But that would have taken someone to stand tall and strong against the corruption. Apparently there was no one. People knew what was going on and did nothing. That is a crime against you and me. The corruption has weakened America and could destroy it if it doesn’t get leaders that will not bow to the power brokers who are destroying our freedom and stealing our wealth.

No Comments | Category: Commodities, Government, Housing Crisis