Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Stock Market Terms

New Stock Market Terms
(I Still have a Sense of Humor)

CEO -- Chief Embezzlement Officer.

CFO -- Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

BROKER -- What my broker has made me.

STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just down-graded your stock.

STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks.

CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

YAHOO -- What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

WINDOWS -- What you jump out of when you're the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR -- Past year investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.

PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Five Years Ago
Sunday, 28 December 2008

When it comes to property crime, Britain seems an increasingly grim place to me - not so much because of the high levels of burglary, cellphone muggings, etc, but because of the woeful passivity the state demands of the citizenry in the face of outrageous provocations. Many Britons - including Ann Widung, cited below - misunderstand American enthusiasm for the Second Amendment. The point of gun ownership isn't that you're itching for a showdown with every ne'er-do-well in the county; it's to lessen the odds of such a showdown ever occurring. Like they say, an armed society is a polite society, if only in comparison to Ms Widung's "culture of peace and solidarity":

"Mark Steyn may prefer American hillbilly culture to that of the Swedish nanny state," wrote Ann Widung of Eastbourne on our Letters page last September. She was dissenting from my observations on the remarkable passivity of bystanders at the murder of Anna Lindh. "You may criticise the Swedish police," continued Ms Widung, "for being inefficient in solving murders, but I prefer to live in a culture of peace and solidarity to one of fear and gung-ho mentality. Better a nanny-state baby than Mark Steyn's 'citizen'."

Well, it's true I subscribe to a gung-ho mentality, but I don't live in a culture of fear. In fact, British friends visiting me in this corner of northern New England from their crime-ridden leafy shires always remark on my blithe unconcern about "home security". I don't have laser alarms, or window locks, or, indeed, a front-door key. Like most of my neighbours, I leave my home unlocked and, when I park the car, I leave the key in the ignition because then you always know where to find it.

I'm able to do this because - and this is where the gung-ho bit comes in - I live in a state with very high rates of gun ownership. In other words, if you're some teen punk and you want to steal my $70 television set, they're likely to be picking bits of your skull out of my wainscoting. But the beauty of this system is that I'm highly unlikely ever to have to blow your head off. The fact that most homeowners are believed to be armed reduces crime, in my neighbourhood, to statistically insignificant levels. Hence, my languid approach to home security.

Now I understand Ms Widung prefers her "culture of peace and solidarity". I think this means that, when confronted by a ne'er-do-well, she'd hold hands and sing What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love. I wouldn't personally recommend this, because, if he wasn't in a murderous rage beforehand, he almost certainly will be by about halfway through the middle-eight. But each to her own. Still, Ms Widung must surely be dismayed by the number of her fellow nanny-staters who voted in Today's poll for a "listeners' law" that would permit property owners "to use any means to defend their homes against intruders".

A "listeners' law" is, of course, a pathetic gimmick. Judging from the reaction of Stephen Pound, MP, the modish proponents of "direct democracy" believe in letting the people's voice be heard only so long as it agrees with what their betters have already decided. So, having agreed to introduce the listeners' choice as a Bill in Parliament, Mr Pound was a bit shocked to find the winning proposal wasn't one of the nanny-state suggestions (a ban on smoking, compulsory organ donation, mandatory voting) or the snobby joke ones (a ban on Christmas decorations before December), but the right to defend your home.

One can easily foresee New Labour, having run out of anything else to regulate, introducing the smoking/organs stuff halfway through a third term, and even the Christmas decorations ban is well within the ambition of the more zealous council planning enforcers.

So, reasonably enough, Today listeners voted for the only proposal they knew for certain the governing elite will never go for. Why, the People's Champion himself, Stephen Pound, dismissed it as a "ludicrous, brutal, unworkable blood-stained piece of legislation. I can't remember who it was who said, 'The people have spoken, the bastards'."

That would be Dick Tuck, a long-ago California state senate candidate, in an unusually pithy concession speech. It's an amusing remark as applied to the electorate's rejection of oneself. It's not quite so funny when applied, by Mr Pound, to people impertinent enough to bring up a topic that you and the rest of the governing class have decided is beyond debate. As used by Mr Tuck, it reflects a rough'n'tumble vernacular politics; as used by Mr Pound, it comes out closer to "Let 'em eat cake".

None the less, the professional opinion-formers came down on the side of Mr Pound. The Independent's Joan Smith recalled that, when she spied a burglar on her porch, she had no desire to "blow him away". Nor do I, if I'm honest.

But I do want to have the right to make the judgment call. You can call 999, get the answering machine rerouting you to the 24-Hour Action Hotline three counties away, leave a message, and wait for the Community Liaison Officer to get back next week if he's returned from his emotional trauma leave by then.

But that's the point: you're there, the police aren't. And, even in jurisdictions whose constabularies aren't quite so monumentally useless as Britain's, a citizen in his own home should have the right to make his own assessment of the danger without being second-guessed by fellows who aren't on the scene.

And, once you give the citizen that right, he hardly ever has to exercise it. Take Miss Smith's situation: she's at home, but the burglar still comes a-knocking. Thanks to burglar alarms, British criminals have figured out that it's easier to wait till you come home, ring the door bell, and punch you in the kisser.

In my part of the world, that's virtually unknown. In America as a whole, 12.7 per cent of burglaries are of "occupied homes"; in Britain, it's 59 per cent. Installing a laser system may make your property more secure, but it makes you less so. As for Ann Widung's "culture of fear", it's not American therapists but English ones who've made a lucrative speciality out of treating children traumatised by such burglaries.

As I wrote in September, to expect the state to protect you is to be a bystander in your own fate. It's interesting that, during the recent security scares, the terrorists seem to have been targeting BA and Air France. They seem to reckon they've a better chance of pulling something on a non-US airline. I hope that's not true, and that when the next shoebomber bends down to light his sock, he'll find himself sitting next to some gung-ho Brit rather than the "peace and solidarity" type.

You can have a nanny state if you prefer. But not for long.

from The Daily Telegraph, January 6th 2004

Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S.

* DECEMBER 29, 2008

As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S.
In Moscow, Igor Panarin's Forecasts Are All the Rage; America 'Disintegrates' in 2010


MOSCOW -- For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument -- that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. -- very seriously. Now he's found an eager audience: Russian state media.

In recent weeks, he's been interviewed as much as twice a day about his predictions. "It's a record," says Prof. Panarin. "But I think the attention is going to grow even stronger."

Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

But it's his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. Mr. Panarin's views also fit neatly with the Kremlin's narrative that Russia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after the weakness of the 1990s, when many feared that the country would go economically and politically bankrupt and break into separate territories.

A polite and cheerful man with a buzz cut, Mr. Panarin insists he does not dislike Americans. But he warns that the outlook for them is dire.

"There's a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says. "One could rejoice in that process," he adds, poker-faced. "But if we're talking reasonably, it's not the best scenario -- for Russia." Though Russia would become more powerful on the global stage, he says, its economy would suffer because it currently depends heavily on the dollar and on trade with the U.S.

Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces -- with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

In addition to increasing coverage in state media, which are tightly controlled by the Kremlin, Mr. Panarin's ideas are now being widely discussed among local experts. He presented his theory at a recent roundtable discussion at the Foreign Ministry. The country's top international relations school has hosted him as a keynote speaker. During an appearance on the state TV channel Rossiya, the station cut between his comments and TV footage of lines at soup kitchens and crowds of homeless people in the U.S. The professor has also been featured on the Kremlin's English-language propaganda channel, Russia Today.

Mr. Panarin's apocalyptic vision "reflects a very pronounced degree of anti-Americanism in Russia today," says Vladimir Pozner, a prominent TV journalist in Russia. "It's much stronger than it was in the Soviet Union."

Mr. Pozner and other Russian commentators and experts on the U.S. dismiss Mr. Panarin's predictions. "Crazy ideas are not usually discussed by serious people," says Sergei Rogov, director of the government-run Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, who thinks Mr. Panarin's theories don't hold water.

Mr. Panarin's résumé includes many years in the Soviet KGB, an experience shared by other top Russian officials. His office, in downtown Moscow, shows his national pride, with pennants on the wall bearing the emblem of the FSB, the KGB's successor agency. It is also full of statuettes of eagles; a double-headed eagle was the symbol of czarist Russia.

The professor says he began his career in the KGB in 1976. In post-Soviet Russia, he got a doctorate in political science, studied U.S. economics, and worked for FAPSI, then the Russian equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency. He says he did strategy forecasts for then-President Boris Yeltsin, adding that the details are "classified."

In September 1998, he attended a conference in Linz, Austria, devoted to information warfare, the use of data to get an edge over a rival. It was there, in front of 400 fellow delegates, that he first presented his theory about the collapse of the U.S. in 2010.

"When I pushed the button on my computer and the map of the United States disintegrated, hundreds of people cried out in surprise," he remembers. He says most in the audience were skeptical. "They didn't believe me."

At the end of the presentation, he says many delegates asked him to autograph copies of the map showing a dismembered U.S.

He based the forecast on classified data supplied to him by FAPSI analysts, he says. He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.

"It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time." A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. "It's not there for no reason," he says with a sly grin.

Interest in his forecast revived this fall when he published an article in Izvestia, one of Russia's biggest national dailies. In it, he reiterated his theory, called U.S. foreign debt "a pyramid scheme," and predicted China and Russia would usurp Washington's role as a global financial regulator.

Americans hope President-elect Barack Obama "can work miracles," he wrote. "But when spring comes, it will be clear that there are no miracles."

The article prompted a question about the White House's reaction to Prof. Panarin's forecast at a December news conference. "I'll have to decline to comment," spokeswoman Dana Perino said amid much laughter.

For Prof. Panarin, Ms. Perino's response was significant. "The way the answer was phrased was an indication that my views are being listened to very carefully," he says.

The professor says he's convinced that people are taking his theory more seriously. People like him have forecast similar cataclysms before, he says, and been right. He cites French political scientist Emmanuel Todd. Mr. Todd is famous for having rightly forecast the demise of the Soviet Union -- 15 years beforehand. "When he forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1976, people laughed at him," says Prof. Panarin.

Monday, December 29, 2008

T.O. haunted by the Gardens

It's been 10 years since the Leafs deserted their namesake building, but the memories linger


Last Updated: 28th December 2008, 4:33am

In the shadows of the great city the once revered temple of hockey lingers like a discarded love that will not vanish into time.

It's facade bears the cracks and crevices that come with age. Its vitality has been sapped in the name of progress. Its glory days, like the blush of youth, are faded into misty memories.

It is 10 years since the Maple Leafs deserted Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Cashbox at Carlton St. sits empty, the ghosts of Barilko and Ballard, Bailey and Broda left to frolic in perpetuity with the background sounds of a city night and a midnight moon as their only spectator.

"What knocks me out even now when you walk around in there is the immensity of the building. It's wonderful and you can feel the old ghosts from the old Maple Leaf teams -- you know, the ones that used to win -- particularly now that it's empty," says David Crombie, a former Toronto mayor, instrumental in attempts to preserve at least part of the building as a heritage site.

"It's a hall of great memories."

And, a source of great controversy.

Numerous proposals have been suggested for the building in the past decade. Everything from turning it into a homeless shelter, to a velodrome to renovating it into a new home for the Hockey Hall of Fame. The latter would seem most logical except that it is already nicely located at Front and Yonge Sts. The closest it has come to a reincarnation was as a retail and entertainment outlet. Currently it is owned by the giant Weston Foods chain which recently scuttled plans to turn it into a Loblaw outlet that would've included a museum located in the old Doug Laurie sports store at Church and Carlton.

"That (a museum) is ready to go and those plans are retrievable at any moment," says Crombie. "But that was prefaced on a store going in there ... things have changed at Weston's, at Loblaw and in the world and they've been reassessing their intentions. I don't know if they've come to any conclusions."

Company executives did not return telephone or e-mail inquiries. But a public relations spokesperson for Weston said "the building is being well maintained, prior to any development commencing."

But they didn't say what century that "development" might commence.

There had been indications that the Gardens' structure might be a roadblock because the concrete seating area can't be removed since that is what holds up the walls. Then there is the sputtering economy which has made many corporations hold off on expansion. But the spokesperson indicated Weston hasn't entirely scrapped the idea of a food store.

"Loblaw intends to create a food store (format to be determined) but likely as a conventional ... store. At this time Loblaw is focused on improving the performance of its existing stores and therefore limiting new store development. When the time is right Loblaw will commence development."

And, so it remains -- the last of the Original Six NHL buildings -- standing alone like an aged aunt at a funeral. Desolate. The arena's facade still guards the domed, yellow-brick walled building that became as familiar to generations of Canadians as their own living rooms. It's as if the bus carrying Gordie or The Rocket from out of town could pull up any moment for another Saturday night extravaganza. One of the shrines of hockey, along with The Forum in Montreal, Detroit's Olympia and Chicago Stadium, it was home to the Maple Leafs from 1931-1999.

Built by Leafs managing director Conn Smythe in a nine-month period during 1931 at a cost of $1.5 million, it would become home to 11 Stanley Cup championship teams from 1932 to 1967.

"Just the construction was an incredible feat," says Crombie. "You can't get through an environmental assessment in nine months today. It was also quite progressive because there's no bad seat in the Gardens."

Where fans in contemporary stadiums in Chicago or Boston had to peer around pillars and concrete pylons, the Gardens "was the first stadium built without pillars," says Crombie. "It was a wonderful work of art."

It actually was more than a hockey arena. It's walls reverberated with the screams of girls swooning at the sight of John, Paul, George and Ringo, the beat of Elvis Presley doing Jailhouse Rock and it was home to Canada's 4-1 win in Game 2 of the 1972 Summit Series against the USSR.

"Most people think first of Maple Leaf Gardens because of the hockey. But then you remember it was actually a cultural cathedral," explains Crombie, hired by Weston to oversee inclusion of a museum in any plan to reincarnate the building. "Wrestling was there, boxing, six-day bicycle rides. They played Aida there; that's where Elvis left the building and they had the war bonds victory rally there in World War II, political conventions. For six or seven decades if something was important it happened at the Gardens."

It would not be until much later that we all learned of the seedier side of what lurked within those walls -- a tale of sex abuse, pedophilia and eventually suicide. That has some believing there's nothing wrong with the Gardens that can't be fixed with a couple hundred pounds of strategically placed dynamite.

Some within the community see garbage around the building and the street people who use its alcoves as a handy latrine. They speak of a building that looks almost as if it were vacated by some holocaust -- dishes and glasses left behind in a kitchen and record books collecting dust on office shelves, even the occasional dead rodent.

But others look at the same pile of bricks and they see a historical edifice, they see a part of their childhood slowly disintegrating, they see a love being lost.

"We walked in through the main doors and it's been all cleaned up; the floors, the walls. The original pictures aren't on the walls of the main floor but they've got old hockey photos. Actually it's a bit amazing in that they've turned the downstairs back into the old downstairs," says Scott Morrison, the former sports editor of the Toronto Sun, veteran sports writer, and now a regular contributor to Hockey Night In Canada.

"I don't know what the rest of the floors look like ... but while the boards are gone, you get a feeling that you could start playing again there tomorrow."

Along with the glass and arena boards, the seats in the lower part of the arena are gone, sold off to collectors. But with the lights dim and the floor painted the same colour as the seats were, it doesn't take much to imagine them still there. Harold Ballard's bunker remains, sitting silent in stark contrast to the bombast of its former occupant.

The place still stirs the imagination of what once was -- the press box where legends such as George Gross, Jim Proudfoot and Ol' Hunt once presided looks much the same as it always did. It's as though public relations man Stan Obodiac might yet appear once more to drop statistic sheets on press room tables holding the pre-game sandwich spread for writers, scouts and hangers-on.

Morrison returned to the Gardens recently to film a piece with Wendel Clark which was shown on CBC the night the Leafs raised his sweater into the rafters at the Leafs' new home in the Air Canada Centre.

"Actually, right from parking in the old Wood St. lot it was a little surreal, like going back in time. I mean, for 20 years I spent almost every day there. Walking in I still got a sort of tingle ... I remember the smell of the place, the hot dogs, the popcorn," says Morrison, "when you're walking on the floor you get a sense of how close the fans, especially in the blues, were to the ice surface."

The shell of the time clock still hangs over what used to be the playground of Mahovlich, Dick The Bruiser, Eddie (The Entertainer) Shack, the Toronto Tornados, and on more than one occasion when he escaped the grasp of a handler, Ballard's dog, Puck.

It all ended Feb. 13, 1999 when the Leafs played their last game at the Gardens, a 6-2 loss to Chicago. The final goal in MLG history was scored by Bob Probert. The building sat derelict for some time but since it was bought by Loblaw there have been some signs of renewed life. "Over the past several years, the building has been used for special events such as the One X One charity event or rented out for short periods," said a company spokesperson.

It has been used by film production companies to shoot movies, including the Russell Crowe film Cinderella Man. Some of the plumbing and other infrastructure has been modernized, allowing for some select public events. The Gardens was last open to the public on Oct. 4, 2008 as part of Toronto's Nuit Blanche contemporary art celebration.

This, and recent backtracking from turning it into a grocery store, has given hope to community activists such as John Sewell. The former Toronto mayor was a driving force behind Friends of Maple Leaf Gardens, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Gardens. It folded and shut down its website when city council approved plans for the Loblaws retail outlet.

"I'm happier about the Gardens now then I've been for a number of years because it looks like it will not be turned into a Loblaws. That holds out the opportunity that we can figure out a way to find some people who want to get hold of it and use it for ice purposes," says Sewell. "There are a number of people who'd like to use it. Women's hockey, the local community, Ryerson University. That would leave some room in the building to do other useful things."

But refitting the Gardens for any of those types of projects would take considerable money. Ryerson, which is interested in building an athletic and housing complex, has indicated it doesn't see the building as a financially viable alternative. The City of Toronto is already and always crying poor. So, no sugar daddy there.

"My hope is someone will come along. I wish the city would take a lead. It seems it doesn't have any interest at all, which," says Sewell, "is a real pity."

And, so it remains. An icon. A dinosaur. Loved. Yet forgotten. It sits in silence; the sports world's biggest tombstone.



The Olympia - Detroit


Capacity 16,700

Fate: Vacated & shuttered. Demolished 1987

Notable: Also known as the Old Red Barn. The U.S. National Guard's Olympia Armory stands on the site.

Chicago Stadium


Capacity 17,317

Fate: Demolished 1995

Notable: The centre of the Chicago Bulls' floor was moved into the trophy room of Michael Jordan's house.

Boston Garden


Capacity 14,448

Fate: Demolished 1997

Notable: The Naden mechanical overhead scoreboard is now hanging in the Boston Garden themed foodcourt of the Arsenal Mall in Watertown, Mass.

Madison Square

Garden III


Capacity 18,200

Fate: Shuttered, demolished over a number of years and turned into a parking lot. World Wide Plaza built on the site in 1989.

Notable: Originally named for a small park near its original Madison Ave. location. Today it is not located by a park or Madison Ave.

Montreal Forum


Capacity 17,959

Fate: Renovated into a downtown entertainment centre with shopping and theatres.

Notable: Parts of exterior preserved with marker reading "Forever Remembered."

Maple Leaf Gardens


Capacity 15,837

Fate: Undetermined.

Notable: When the Gardens opened Nov. 12, 1931 the best seats in the house could be had for $2.75 apiece.

Miller's T.O. is now 'Tax-onto'

City Hall slapped us with new taxes for land transfers, vehicle registration, garbage, water ...


Last Updated: 28th December 2008, 5:04am

There's no doubt that 2008 was a taxing year for Toronto residents.

Mayor David Miller's socialist regime introduced so many new taxes, fees, fines and levies (not to be confused with Levy) that I'm considering giving the city a new name.

Henceforth I think King David's fiefdom should be named (The Socialist Republik of) Tax-onto.

It's hard to remember exactly how many ways Miller and his minions sought to put their paws in Torontonians' pockets to prop up their city-building agenda (best known for building costly green pet projects and fattening the pay packets of their union buddies.)

Still, I predicted that the socialists would take their new taxing and policing powers very seriously from the moment the City of Toronto Act came into being in 2007 and the Millerites have proved me right.

Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation can't think of a single government in the past 15 years that comes anywhere near ours with respect to the increases in fees, levies and taxes -- all driven by Miller's "out of control spending."

Right-of-centre councillors Mike Del Grande and Doug Holyday agree.

In his 25 years in politics, Holyday says 2008 has been "the worst ever" for the number of taxes and fees put in place in one year.

"They've spared nobody," he said. "They've charged the rich, they've charged the poor, the weak, the young, the old, they've even charged dogs and cats."

No doubt the most controversial -- I dare say much loathed as well -- new levies to kick in this past year were the land transfer (LTT) and personal vehicle taxes (PVT), which duplicate those already charged by the province.

Those two new taxes were on top of the 3.75% property tax hike handed to city residents, nearly double the rate of inflation promised many times by the mayor.

The impact of the LTT, which is supposed to add $155 million to the city's coffers this year, has been sure and swift. A recent study by the Toronto-based C.D. Howe Institute found that since the tax was introduced on Feb. 1, average sales of single-family homes have dropped 16% compared to the same averages in 2006 and 2007.

As was confirmed two weeks ago when council approved the 2009 capital budget, only $21 million of the $55 million the city expects to collect from the PVT in 2009 will go to repair Toronto's decaying roads. So much for city building.

There's no doubt the new garbage tax -- which took effect Nov. 1 and ranges from $33 to $190 per year on top of the $209 we already pay for the privilege of having our garbage collected -- has been equally unpopular.

In fact, when the tax first came into play nearly two months ago, some 75,000 households still didn't have their gray garbage bins. Many won't until at least February.

Add to this a water hike of 9%, fee increases averaging 8% for city recreation classes and permits and increased fees to remove a tree from one's own property (provided that the city's tree police agree to allow the tree to be cut down).

Rest assured the socialists have taken their newfound policing powers very seriously.

You might say they've been downright dogged with $240 fines now regularly imposed on those shameless cat and dog owners caught without licenses or dogs discovered walking off-leash where not permitted in city parks.

Gaudet believes that the taxes, fees and fines have been nothing more than a cash grab.

"The only (city) building I see happening is tax walls around the city's borders," he said.

Del Grande says he's heard from plenty of people who are "hard-pressed" to pay their taxes next year and "can't wait" to get rid of Miller.


Holyday says his constituents are "very unhappy" because they think their services have been reduced.

He points to the 60 calls and e-mails he got last week from citizens who were missed by the snowplows after the most recent series of storms.

"They (my constituents) really think they're paying more and getting less," he said, noting there's "no shortage" of innovative ideas from the Millerites on how to spend the money on their "clean, green agenda."

Gaudet feels that Miller and his minions don't get it in the slightest.

"They live in a privileged bubble," he said. "There's an economic storm swirling around City Hall and everyone in there is just thinking everything is fine."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mayor defends money sent to fund AIDS relief in Africa as 'good on us'

Taxpayers foot bill for Botswana fund

Last Updated: 18th December 2008, 3:52am

While Mayor David Miller's regime was busily dreaming up new ways to tax Torontonians in April, 2007, a Global Aids Prevention fund was quietly approved by council to fund AIDS projects overseas.

A total of $200,000 from that city-sponsored fund has so far gone to create a youth centre for the South East District Youth Empowerment League (SEDYEL) in Ramotswa, Botswana and to initiate preventative AIDS measures for young women both in Botswana and Nairobi, Kenya.

This special $100,000-a-year fund is over and above the more than $1.5-million in grants given to 47 projects this year to undertake HIV/AIDS prevention education programs in Toronto.

The money was handed over the past two years to Schools Without Borders -- a Toronto-based community agency. A report to the board of health in May, 2007 notes that this agency is "well-positioned to help support and implement a range of initiatives pertaining to youth engagement in Botswana, Kenya and Toronto."

Councillor Kyle Rae, chairman of the AIDS Prevention Community Investment Program, could not be reached for comment. A staff member in his office told my Sun colleague Bryn Weese that the councillor is away on city business.

"He's not in Canada," said the woman staffer, refusing to say exactly where he is.

The city's Botswana project co-ordinator, Barbara Emanuel -- a senior policy adviser in public health -- said the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has funded an HIV/AIDS "capacity building" partnership between Toronto and the South East District of Botswana since 2002. That funding is separate from the $200,000 provided by Toronto.

Emanuel said the new city-funded Global AIDS initiative -- in place for the past two years -- was a commitment made by the mayor and Rae when Toronto hosted the International AIDS conference in August, 2006.

Some of the money -- $40,000 -- went to create the youth centre in Botswana, some went to further support the FCM/Toronto partnership and some was spent to bring youth (training) leaders from Africa to Toronto, Emanuel said.

Julian Caspari, managing director of Schools Without Borders, said the money was used primarily to open the Ramotswa centre -- the new home for SEDYL -- and to operate Safe Spaces programs for young females in Botswana and Kenya. These programs provide sexual health training and teach the young women to be "facilitators" and "role models" in their own communities, he said.

Caspari also confirmed that the centre just opened officially in mid-October, an event he attended.

Emanuel confirmed she was there as well -- as part of the wrap-up mission for the FCM partnership -- along with Liz Janzen, director of healthy communities for public health and Councillor Rae.

She said FCM paid entirely for the $14,000 mission, some $3,000 or $4,000 of which went to the official opening.

"There was no city money at all," she said.

Not entirely.

When I checked with the city's director of council services, Winnie Li, she said Rae claimed some "minor" expenses for the Botswana trip but wouldn't say what they were, noting the details will be posted online with the year-end expenses report sometime at the end of February.

Asked why taxpayers should be footing the bill for AIDS initiatives in Africa -- when many are struggling to pay their vehicle ownership, land transfer and garbage taxes -- the mayor got quite heated in his response yesterday.

He challenged me to note in my column that Toronto's property taxes are lower than the rest of the 905 municipalities.

So I am -- but with the proviso that none of those municipalities have any of Miller's other creative taxes or the highest commercial taxes in the GTA.

On the Global AIDS initiative itself, Miller said Toronto should be taking this kind of leadership, being a city of the world.

"I certainly support the fund. At the AIDS conference I committed to expanding our efforts to working internationally on AIDS," he said, insisting I was incorrect to suggest the city funding for Global AIDS Initiatives only began in 2007. (I was not.)

He added that people in this city would say they are proud to be supporting this kind of initiative -- the "right kind of project."

"People would say 'Good on you, Toronto,' " he said. "I think Torontonians would be delighted."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We need crime control --not gun control

George Jonas, National Post Published: Saturday, December 13, 2008

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month claimed some 500 casualties, dead and injured. Among the many questions raised by the outrage, there was a purely practical one: Why was the attack so successful? How could so few terrorists claim so many victims?

One obvious answer is firepower. Guns were illegal in the hands of both the terrorists and the victims. The victims obeyed the laws, the terrorists didn't. The police had guns, of course, but instead of protecting people, they stayed away until the massacre was practically over. Gun laws -- surprise, surprise! -- weren't strong enough to defend victims, only strong enough to keep victims from defending themselves.

India's gun control, one of the strictest in the world, goes back to the 19th century when Britain introduced it to forestall a repetition of the Indian Mutiny. "The guns used in last week's Bombay massacre were all 'prohibited weapons' under Indian law," wrote Richard Munday in the Times Online, "just as they are in Britain." The terrorists were successful because they didn't obey the gun control law rooted in the Raj, while their victims did.

India isn't alone. Many countries, including Canada, have gone out of their way to make criminals as invincible and victims as vulnerable as possible. This isn't the aim, of course, only the result.

"Guns don't kill, people do." The gun lobby's old slogan is true enough, but it's also true that guns make people more efficient killers. That's why gun control would be such a splendid idea if someone could find a way to make criminals and lunatics obey it. Since only law-abiding citizens obey it, it's not such a hot idea. It's more like trying to control stray dogs by neutering veterinarians.

The police carry guns for a reason: They're great tools for law enforcement. No doubt, guns make criminals more efficient, but they make crime fighters more efficient, too. Letting firearms become the monopoly of lawbreakers, far from enhancing public safety, is detrimental to it. What you want is more armed people, not fewer, on the side of the law. It would be hard to imagine a Mumbai-type atrocity in Dodge City -- or in Edwardian Europe, for that matter, where gentlemen routinely carried handguns for protection.

Some regard carrying guns uncivilized. I'd hesitate to call an era of legal guns in the hands of Edwardian gentlemen less civilized--or less safe -- than our own era of illegal guns in the hands of drug dealers and terrorists. The civilized place was turn-of-the century London, where citizens carried guns and the police didn't. In any event, a constitutional guarantee to one's "security of person" shouldn't depend on how fast a 911 operator can pick up the phone.

Society needs crime control, not gun control. Munday writes that "violent crime in America has plummeted" in the past two decades after the majority of states enacted "right to carry" legislation and issued permits to carry concealed weapons to citizens of good repute. I think there were many reasons for the decline, but "right to carry" certainly wasn't detrimental to it.

There are Second Amendment absolutists in America, and libertarians elsewhere, who regard a person's birthright to own/carry a firearm beyond the state's power to regulate. I'm not one of them. I think it's reasonable for communities to set thresholds of age, proficiency, legal status, etc., for the possession of lethal weapons, just as they set standards for the operation of motor vehicles, airplanes and ham radios. But it seems to me that, within common sense perimeters, you'd want to enhance, not diminish, the defensive capacity of the good guys, and increase rather than decrease the number of auxiliary crime-fighters who are available to be deputized when the bad guys start climbing over the fence.

Munday quotes no less an advocate of non-violence than Mahatma Gandhi on the imperial decree of the Indian Arms Act of 1878 that laid the foundation for the defencelessness of the victims of the Mumbai massacre 130 years later. "Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India," said the Mahatma, "history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Trilateral Plan to Corner World Gold Market?

By Patrick Wood, Editor
December 9, 2008

[Editor's note: members of the Trilateral Commission and companies with Commission representation appear in bold type.]

Since 1973, this writer has made inquiry as to the location and ownership of the vast stores of monetary gold (400 oz., .999 pure bars) in the world. There has not been a formal audit on Fort Knox, for instance, since the Eisenhower administration. Official statistics on gold holdings are often contradictory. Getting plain answers from any Central Bank in the world, including the Fed, is virtually impossible.

This paper points out a pattern of manipulation that has been clearly observed by many people. However, patterns do not exist in a vacuum, but rather they are evidence of the existence of a stable and consistent methodology. Clearly, more study needs to be done in identifying the finer parts of the methodology and its designers, but this is a good start!

When Richard Nixon canceled the Bretton Woods system in 1971, exchangeability of paper dollars for gold was terminated. In 1970 alone, available gold vs. dollars outstanding had shrunk from 55 to 22 percent, thus exerting pressure for investors to switch to gold to avoid further dilution of dollar assets.

Although the economic and financial experts swore that gold was an outmoded, ineffective and useless financial asset, cooler heads knew better. In recent years, these same experts have reversed field and are now proclaiming that gold is still, and always has been, a consistent monetary asset. Why the flip-flop?

The economic chaos in the world today is a direct result of policies set in motion to foster a New International Economic Order (NIEO). The NIEO was the explicit creation of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1973, and their early papers and task force reports clearly asserted their NIEO plans.

Members of the Trilateral Commission were instrumental in creating the European Union as well. The EU is the prototype of global governance that will soon exert its influence to reshuffle world relationships.

Since 1973, Trilateralists have dominated the Executive Branch of the U.S. government with politicians like Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Dick Cheney. This has led to domination of the world trade mechanisms like the World Bank and negotiation of free trade agreements.

Six out of eight presidents of the World Bank have been members of the Commission. Eight out of ten of the U.S. Trade Representatives (USTR) have been Commissioners.

Indeed, the Trilateral Commission has had undue influence and control over the development of globalization, and it was self-interested at best.

With today's total meltdown in economic and global financial markets, one must ask, "Are these people just plain stupid?"

The answer has to be "No", considering their great success at consistently dominating political and economic processes over a span of thirty-five years.

So what else is going on?

There is mounting evidence that there has been a larger plan underway to corner the global supply of gold, thus laying the groundwork for a global currency exclusively controlled by Trilaterals and their friends. By extension, economic and political mechanisms would be controlled to the same extent.

From a Trilateral perspective, the Bretton Woods system had two flaws:

* Gold was rapidly being decentralized into non-Trilateral hands
* It limited the arbitrary creation of paper money to finance projects launched by Trilateral-related global companies. (Read Trilaterals Over Washington (Sutton & Wood) for detailed documentation on this process)

The breakup of Bretton Woods and the resulting opportunities may have been the principal rationale for the creation of the Trilateral Commission in the first place.

Since 1973, there has been an overarching plan to quietly centralize gold into private hands, using incrementally created wealth made possible by rapidly inflating paper currencies.

This theory must be explored and tested, because if true, it represents not just the hijacking of America (already thoroughly demonstrated elsewhere in this writer's papers), but the hijacking of an entire planet!

In 1976, Antony Sutton wrote,

"The assault on gold today is an integral part of a planned move into a new economic order under the dominance of a single country. It was Nazi Germany in the 1940's; it is the United States in the 1970's. In brief, the war on gold that we observe today, and discuss below, is dollar imperialism, designed to maintain the U.S. dollar as the only world currency without competitors. The purpose is the formation of a world totalitarian state under Wall Street dominance." (The War on Gold, Antony C. Sutton, 1976, p. 63)

Sutton's view was limited because he had not yet discovered the Trilateral framework just created three years earlier in 1973. We can see now that the totalitarian state is still clearly in view, but the self-proposed rulers of this new arrangement will be members of the Trilateral Commission, and their monetary "enforcer" will be gold.
2008 Gold Hegemony

Bill Murphy is the chairman of the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA), which has asserted for almost 10 years that a concentrated gold cartel has been manipulating the price of gold. Murphy and GATA are highly regarded around the world on their work to expose this cartel.

On September 10, 2008, Murphy made an opening statement at the 2008 Las Vegas Hard Assets Investment Conference, reprinted in full below. Murphy's perspective and argument does not include the Trilateral Commission, but the players in his narrative are largely members or former members of the Commission.

This leads this writer to connect some dots between 1973-1976 and 1998-2008.

In Murphy's comments, note that the famous bullion banks of 2008 include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, all of which have at least one director or senior official sitting on the Trilateral Commission. In addition, the players Murphy names are members of the Commission.

As Sutton did in 1976, to imply a "war on gold" necessitates an eventual victory, a victor and a loser. It is already painfully obvious that the citizens of America are the losers: The middle class is being wiped out and we all hold a debased paper currency that is headed toward destruction.

The question is, who will the winner be? And what is the victor's intent over the conquered?
Bill Murphy's Opening Statements

The Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee’s basic assertion for the past 9 ½ years is that there is a Gold Cartel out there suppressing the price of gold. It consists of the US Government, including the Fed and Treasury, various other central banks, and bullion banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase.

The motives of “the cabal” are to give support to the dollar, keep US interest rates lower than they should be, and to tone down the widely watched US barometer of US financial market health, that being the gold price. After all, whenever the price of gold soars, it congers up talk of too much inflation, a sinking dollar, or a crisis of some sort … all negative for Wall Street and the incumbent administration.

Therefore, “Shoot the Messenger” is The Gold Cartel’s key mission.

The suppression of the price of gold was the essence of Robert Rubin’s Strong Dollar Policy. What else did the US do to effect that policy? Talk? Jawbone?

It seems to have all started with Robert Rubin…

Before he was CEO of Goldman Sachs and then US Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin worked in London for Goldman Sachs. One of his duties was to oversee their gold trading operations. We know this because the CEO of Kirkland Lake Gold, Brian Hinchcliffe, a staunch GATA supporter, worked in London back then for Goldman Sachs and reported directly to Robert Rubin.

This was many years ago and interest rates in the US were very high, say from 6 to 12%. Rubin had Goldman Sachs borrow gold from the central banks to fund their basic operations. They could do so at about a 1 % interest rate. This was like FREE money, as long as the price of gold did not rise to any sustained degree for any length of time.

Soon other major financial institutions realized what GS was doing and copied them. Rubin continued these operations as the Goldman Sachs CEO and then took it to a new level as US Secretary Treasurer. That is how the gold price suppression became the lynchpin of his widely acclaimed “Strong Dollar Policy.” GATA’s Reg Howe caught on to this notion in a paper titled, “Gibson’s Paradox and The Gold Standard,” co-authored by Lawrence Summers in 1988. Summers, a professor at Harvard at the time, succeeded Rubin as US Treasury Secretary. The bottom line of Summer’s analysis is that “gold prices in a free market should move inversely to real interest rates.” Control gold and it will help to control interest rates.

Bullion banks such as Goldman and Morgan became The Gold Cartel’s hit men, trading the gold market from the short side and bombing the market in coordinated anti-trust fashion at the beck and call of our government, making a great deal of money in the process … as you have all witnessed the past couple of months.

In a brilliant piece a few weeks ago Ted Butler reported 3 U.S. banks held a short position of 7,787 contracts (778,700 ounces) of gold in July, and, astonishingly the same 3 U.S. banks held a short position of 86,398 contracts (8,639,800 ounces) in August, an eleven-fold increase. Gold then declined more than $150 per ounce once Secretary Paulson (note: Paulson is ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs) gave the order, just as he did in May 2006 when a similar order was given, according to a US Senator from the state of Washington. Both times, various bullion banks made vast amounts of money quickly as the US government facilitated their short positions by feeding considerable clandestine central bank gold into the physical market.

It was the concerted, concentrated action of certain BULLION BANKS, which tipped off GATA what was going on nearly a decade ago now.

It was this clandestine feeding of central bank gold into the marketplace which clued GATA into the gold price suppression scheme. Three GATA consultants, Reg Howe, Frank Veneroso and James Turk, using independent, sophisticated methodologies, came to the same conclusion years ago … that the central banks have far less gold than the 30,000 tonnes of gold they say they have. The GATA camp research shows they have less than half that amount in their vaults, the difference being the amount that has been fed into the physical market to suppress the price. Since demand for physical gold exceeds mine and scrap supply by well over than 1,000 tonnes per year, this central bank gold is vital to prevent the price from exploding.

GATA is not alone in recognizing the central banks are not accounting for their gold properly. GATA revealed an IMF paper which corroborates GATA’s claims that much of the central bank gold has been double counted and that the central banks are not properly accounting for the gold no longer in their possession.



“14. Regarding the statistical treatment of gold swaps, its treatment should be consistent with that of other reverse transactions, as presented in paragraph 7 above. Thus, swapped gold should be excluded from both reserve assets and IIP (demonetization). This is a logical consequence, and overstating of reserve assets can be avoided. On the other hand, this results in a decrease in the financial assets of the monetary authorities.”

Gold swaps and gold leasing are at the heart of the gold price suppression scheme. For example, the US cannot sell its 8,133.5 tonnes of gold without an Act of Congress, but they could lease or swap it. In 2006 the President of the Bundesbank made an astonishing statement for a central banker: “We have been asked to negotiate with other central banks’ about potential swap deals involving gold.”

Is this stuff hush hush? I guess so. in January 1995, the Federal Reserve’s general counsel, J. Virgil Mattingly, told the Federal Open Market Committee, according to the committee’s minutes, that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund had undertaken “gold swaps.” When the GATA camp had Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning inquire Alan Greenspan what that was all about, Mattingly came back and said the Fed testimony was GARBLED … Right…

Recently GATA filed Freedom of Information Act requests to the Fed and Treasury about US gold swaps. The Fed redacted 300 pages of information and refused to send another 400 pages. Now, think about it … if the US gold is, and has been, just sitting in our vaults, without a true independent audit since the Eisenhower Administration, what is their to withhold?

As for GATA’s request to the Treasury about any Exchange Stabilization Fund activity into the gold market, they answered in the negative by referring to the Exchange STABILITY Fund. Can they be that lame?

Is the gold price manipulated? You don’t need to read through GATA’s countless evidence to appreciate what is going on. It is on the public record…

beginning with Alan Greenspan’s testimony before Congress in 1998:

“Central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities should the price rise” … which is just what they have done!

The Reserve Bank of Australia confessed to the gold price suppression scheme in its annual report for 2003. “Foreign currency reserve assets and gold,” the RBA’s report said, “are held primarily to support intervention in the foreign exchange market.

Maybe the most brazen admission of the Western central bank scheme to suppress the gold price was made by the head of the monetary and economic department of the Bank for International Settlements, William S. White, in a speech to a BIS conference in Basel, Switzerland, in June 2005. There are five main purposes of central bank cooperation, White announced, and one of them is “the provision of international credits and joint efforts to influence asset prices (especially gold and foreign exchange) in circumstances where this might be thought useful.”

Barrick Gold, then the largest gold-mining company in the world, confessed to the gold price suppression scheme in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on February 28, 2003. On that date Barrick filed a motion to dismiss Blanchard & Co.’s anti-trust lawsuit against Barrick and its bullion banker, JP Morgan Chase, for rigging the gold market.

Barrick’s motion said that in borrowing gold from central banks and selling it, the company had become the agent of the central banks in the gold market, and, as the agent of the central banks, Barrick should share their sovereign immunity and be exempt from suit.

Is the gold price manipulated today? Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker wrote the following in his memoirs:

“Joint intervention in gold sales to prevent a steep rise in the price of gold (in the 1970s), however, was not undertaken. That was a mistake.” …

Robert Rubin and gang took heed … as are more and more in the mainstream financial world. Just last week, the highly regarded Don Coxe of the Bank of Montreal stated the following in an audio presentation last about recent market action to the bank’s clients:

“The Most Massive Intervention Of Government Into The Capital Markets, Or The Financial Markets, Since President Roosevelt Closed The Banks Back In 1933,”

It’s wake up time, finally.

Recently, there has been talk about the Working Group on Financial Markets (more commonly known as The Plunge Protection Team), which consists of the President, Treasury Secretary, and heads of the CFTC and SEC. Think about it … why are bureaucrats included in meetings about the markets except to look the other way regarding government intervention?

To give you an idea just how pervasive and insidious our markets have become, I bring your attention to the Counterparty Risk Management Group. Ever hear of it?

It consists of major players in the investment banking/hedge fund community in New York, including Goldman Sachs. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Deutsche Bank (all defendants in GATA’s Reg Howe’s suit against The Gold Cartel in 2001). There are a number of other participants such as the famed hedge fund of Paul Tudor Jones.

On July 27, 2005, E. Gerald Corrigan, former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and now a Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, wrote:

The Report of the Counterparty Risk Management
Policy Group II

Addressing it to:

Mr. Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Goldman, Sachs & Co.

(all roads always lead back to Goldman Sachs)

He stated; “since we know that financial disturbances and even financial shocks will occur in the future, and we know that no approaches to risk management or official supervision are fail-safe, we also know that we must preserve and strengthen the institutional arrangements whereby, at the point of crisis, industry groups and industry leaders, as well as supervisors, are prepared to work together in order to serve the larger and shared goal of financial stability.”

This Orwellian shared goal of financial stability, which began with the serious rigging of the gold price under Robert Rubin, has led us to the financial market mess we have today. It is wrong and must be stopped!

Is the cat out of the bag?

In the 2007 May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, Benn Steil presented his paper, The End of National Currency. Steil is Director of International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. In his report, Steil stated,

"So what about gold? A revived gold standard is out of the question. In the nineteenth century, governments spent less than ten percent of national income in a given year. Today, they routinely spend half or more, and so they would never subordinate spending to the stringent requirements of sustaining a commodity-based monetary system. But private gold banks already exist, allowing account holders to make international payments in the form of shares in actual gold bars. Although clearly a niche business at present, gold banking has grown dramatically in recent years, in tandem with the dollar's decline. A new gold-based international monetary system surely sounds far-fetched. But so, in 1900, did a monetary system without gold. Modern technology makes a revival of gold money, through private gold banks, possible even without government support."

This is hardly far-fetched. Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in 1972 that "the nation-state as a fundamental unit of man's organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state."
Cracks in the dam
Noted Romanian economist, Professor Antal Fekete, released a critical report on December 5, 2008, entitled "Red Alert: Gold Backwardation."

For the first time in history, gold futures sold below spot price and creates a potential crisis in gold delivery at the end of December. Fekete states,

"According to the December 3rd Comex delivery report, there are 11,759 notices to take delivery. This represents 1.1759 million ounces of gold, while the Comex-approved warehouses hold 2.9 million ounces. Thus 40% of the total amount will have to be delivered by December 31st. Since not all the gold in the warehouses is available for delivery, Comex supply of gold falls far short of the demand at present rates. Futures markets in gold are breaking down. Paper gold is progressively being discredited..."

"Gold going to permanent backwardation means that gold is no longer for sale at any price, whether it is quoted in dollars, yens, euros, or Swiss francs. The situation is exactly the same as it has been for years: gold is not for sale at any price quoted in Zimbabwe currency, however high the quote is. To put it differently, all offers to sell gold are being withdrawn, whether it concerns newly mined gold, scrap gold, bullion gold or coined gold. I dubbed this event that has cast its long shadow forward for many a year, the last contango in Washington ― contango being the name for the condition opposite to backwardation (namely, that of a positive basis), and Washington being the city where the Paper-mill of the Potomac, the Federal Reserve Board, is located. This is a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the jig in Washington is up. The music has stopped on the players of ‘musical chairs’. Those who have no gold in hand are out of luck. They won’t get it now through the regular channels. If they want it, they will have to go to the black market."


If Fekete is correct, and he has seldom been wrong, then the trap is snapping shut on who will own the gold in 2009. Free-market supplies of gold are drying up, but the price is being kept low as global institutions sop up whatever crumbs are left.

Several very serious implications can be drawn:

* The massive amounts of gold leased to bullion banks will ultimately be seized by these same banks as collateral against worthless paper loans made to the Central Banks.
* Central Banks (including the Federal Reserve) could well be left to disintegrate in order to give way to a single global central bank controlled and fueled by the bullion banks who have Monopoly control over the world's gold.
* These superbanks are all closely tied to the goals and membership of the Trilateral Commission, whose members have methodically carried out a monetary policy designed to bring about this eventuality.
* For all practical intent, individuals will be frozen out of the gold market at any price.

Indeed, a global totalitarian state may be closer than we think; as the globalist's golden rule states, "He who has the gold, makes the rules."

Hello, and thanks for this extremely incisive and clarifying article. There appears to be evidence of the figural role of gold in the attacks on 911, re the destruction of an FBI office on the 23rd floor of the WTC (north, I think) that contained records of the Bureau's investigation into gold laundering. Then, of course, there were the many millions of dollars in gold that were "removed" from the basement while all the chaos was going on above ground.

Something called the Heider report has been getting low-key circulation on the Internet. I wondered whether you have seen it, and if not, what your thoughts might be about the WTC connection. The Heider report, if it's still on the net, can be googled. If it's at all accurate--and certainly major portions of it are--it implicates a number of players who have not gotten much exposure in either MSM or Internet articles.

In any case, thanks for the article. I couldn't agree with you more.

Marcy Pollan
Silver Spring, MD

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cheap stocks

Joel Bowman, reporting from Dubai in the Persian Gulf...

In a global economic warzone where deflation reigns supreme, it is a rare instance when the investor can find something for nothing. Instead, he is more likely to watch the something he bought on Monday turn into a nothing by Friday.

Just to be clear, your editors have never expected something for nothing. We are not Wall Street bankers. We are not American automakers. All we ask for is a little something for something. These days, even something for anything would be nice.

But the trend is against us. The rate at which somethings around the world are quickly dissolving into nothings is astonishing. So far in 2008, the slowing world economy has erased over $32 trillion dollars in stock market capitalization. That's almost three times America's GDP, and certainly more something-to-nothing action that many men can bare.

But there is an upside.

The mass wealth vaporization of 2008 has left many companies trading for well below what we might call fair value.

"Stocks have fallen so far that 2,267 companies around the globe offered profits to investors for free as of the open of trading today," explained Bloomberg earlier this week. "That's eight times as many as at the end of the last bear market, when the shares rose 115 percent over the next year.

"Companies in the MSCI World Index traded for an average $1.17 per dollar of net assets, the lowest since at least 1995, and 39 percent sold at a discount to shareholder equity as of the open."

Stocks are cheap, in other words. Could they get cheaper? Yes, they could. But when so many stocks are trading at next to nothing, many value investors are starting to feel like it is time to do something. In the column below, our own value expert, Chris Mayer, offers up four beaten down stocks for your learned consideration.

Shooting Stocks in a Barrel, Part II
By Chris Mayer

The panic in this market is incredible. It's leading to some absurd valuations. Particularly among the smaller-cap stocks. These stocks have really been hit hard because they have less liquidity than large cap stocks.

When waves of selling sweep through the stock market, they might rock a large cap stock from stem to stern. But the same waves will capsize a small cap stock. So the conditions in the financial markets are very scary right now for any investor who's holding small-cap resource stocks. But unless we slip into some global depression, these stocks will come back - and come back with a vengeance.

I, for one, can't wait until earnings season, when we'll get fresh numbers and updates on the companies I've been recommending to the subscribers of my investment service, Mayer's Special Situations. I'm betting that the earnings power of many of these companies has not changed all that much in the last 90 days – at least not as much as their tumbling stock prices would have you believe.

So I'd like to highlight some stocks that look like particularly deep values right now.

NGAS Resources (NGAS:nasdaq ). Recent price: $1.47. I like the long-term outlook for natural gas. As T. Boone Pickens, the 80-year-old billionaire investor, says, "Natural gas is the fuel of the future." It is clean-burning, and we have a lot of it in America. The estimates for U.S. shale plays are up around 840 trillion cubic feet of gas - the equivalent of more than 140 billion barrels of oil – or more than half the stated reserves of Saudi Arabia. Energy independence? Seems to me you have to look at natural gas.

NGAS has plenty of acreage. It also owns 636 miles of pipelines. It owns the critical infrastructure to bring its gas to market. The proved reserves alone - some 102 billion cubic feet of gas - ought to fetch $10 per share for a potential purchaser. The pipelines, at only 10 times pretax earnings, come in at about $65 million – or $2.50 per share. So infrastructure assets - which are becoming increasingly expensive to build – easily cover your entire investment in NGAS, since the shares trade for about $1.48 as I write. And I haven't even put any value on the undeveloped acreage. The net asset value (NAV) per share on NGAS is somewhere north of $12 per share.

NGAS has some debt, which we have to watch. It has $95 million in debt, but it is not due until 2010 and 2011. If natural gas prices stay low for a long stretch of time, this debt could cause some problems. The value of the assets in NGAS, though, offers a lot of protection.

OM Group (OMG:nyse ). Recent price: $18.63. This is another one that baffles. OM Group had a great quarter ending June 30, and the shares surged 18% the day it announced earnings and nearly got to $40 in the ensuing rally. We got our shares for $30. Today, they are about $19. Amazing.

OM Group makes all kinds of chemicals, powders and materials, mostly from three metals: cobalt, nickel and copper. You can find the original recommendation in letter No. 25. That thesis is still intact, and I won't rehash the whole thing here. Except I will point out that the company now trades for 3.5 times earnings. Predicting where these earnings will go from here is almost impossible. But I'm comfortable with the cobalt story and the metal's growing use in batteries and aerospace. And at these prices, you can be wrong on earnings and still come out looking good.

Cobalt prices have tumbled to $13 per pound, compared to about $35 one year ago. As a result, earnings estimates are all over the map – ranging from $1.90 a share on the low side to $5.00 on the high side. For perspective, OMG earned $5.00 in 2007, when the cobalt price averaged $29 a pound. So maybe 2009 is a bad year. But the cobalt price will rebound eventually, and when it does, OMG will rebound as well. I should also point out that OMG has no net debt and plenty of excess cash, yet trades for less than half of stated book value.

The market is factoring in a very gloomy outlook for OMG, even though the most recent quarter gave us nothing but positive news (remember that 18% single-day gain). The market seems to have forgotten that and thrown out OM Group's shares with all other commodity names.

Canadian Superior Energy (SNG:amex ). Recent Price: $1.01 I was in Manhattan recently for the Value Investing Congress. The West Coast Asset Management team was there. They made a presentation on a few ideas they like. Someone asked them about Canadian Superior, which was their favorite idea about six months ago. They still like it and said that since their presentation, Canadian "has done nothing but knock the cover off the ball."

I agree. Since we've owned it, Canadian has delivered good news on the exploration front and overall good results. These bits of news have, at times, sent the shares up as much as 20% in a single day. But those gains soon melted under the barrage of broader bad economic news and the market's overwhelming sell-off.

As long as natural gas prices remain in the can, it seems as if market sentiment won't turn much on the natural gas names. The market has just stomped on all of them and pushed share prices to really cheap levels. I think Canadian is a steal and gives you legitimate 10 times potential from its current price of only $1.00 per share. We picked up shares in June, and you can find the full write-up in letter No. 24.

Altius Minerals (ALS:tsx ). Recent price: C$4.10. Altius owns a portfolio of royalties and prospects in Newfoundland and Labrador. This stock has tumbled to the sort of valuation extreme that I have rarely seen during my carreer. In fact, it is so statistically cheap that it is the kind of stock I have only read about in the dusty financial history books on the Great Depression. It's something Ben Graham might've stumbled on in 1934.

The stock sells for less than its net cash!

The stock market currently values Altius at C$127 million. But as recently as June 30, the company had $187 million in cash. And that's not its only asset. Nor is the company losing money. It's actually adding to that cash pile. No surprise that insiders are buying. Plus, the company announced it would buy back 10% of the stock. So at the current price, in theory, you can buy the company for $127 million, drain the company treasury to get your purchase price back and still have $46 million left in cash, plus all the assets for free.

Altius, like all the stocks I have I highlighted here, look really, really cheap, with big upside.

I believe that's really all we can do as investors. We can't say what other people will pay for the stock or when they might pay more than they do today. We can only find these anomalies and wait for the market to correct the gaps, as it does over time.

I know that for the last couple of months, the stock market has been a very treacherous place for investment capital. On the other hand, cheap is cheap. And some of the stocks I've mentioned above are "Depression-style" cheap. I am not trading in and out of the market, trying to pick tops and bottoms. I believe such an effort is futile. Instead, I look for deep values and collect good bets.

Over time, we'll get paid. But in crazy markets like this, we have to realize it might take a little while. We'll have to be patient and build low-cost positions in these stocks. These are the times when you plant the seeds of monster future returns.

All bear market cycles turn eventually - as even this one will.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Think tank: If each of us carried a gun . . . . . . we could help to combat terrorism

From The Sunday Times
December 7, 2008

Richard Munday

The firearms massacres that have periodically caused shock and horror around the world have been dwarfed by the Mumbai shootings, in which a handful of gunmen left some 500 people killed or wounded.

For anybody who still believed in it, the Mumbai shootings exposed the myth of “gun control”. India had some of the strictest firearms laws in the world, going back to the Indian Arms Act of 1878, by which Britain had sought to prevent a recurrence of the Indian Mutiny.

The guns used in last week’s Bombay massacre were all “prohibited weapons” under Indian law, just as they are in Britain. In this country we have seen the irrelevance of such bans (handgun crime, for instance, doubled here within five years of the prohibition of legal pistol ownership), but the largely drug-related nature of most extreme violence here has left most of us with a sheltered awareness of the threat. We have not yet faced a determined and broad-based attack.

The Mumbai massacre also exposed the myth that arming the police force guarantees security. Sebastian D’Souza, a picture editor on the Mumbai Mirror who took some of the dramatic pictures of the assault on the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, was angered to find India’s armed police taking cover and apparently failing to engage the gunmen.

In Britain we might recall the prolonged failure of armed police to contain the Hungerford killer, whose rampage lasted more than four hours, and who in the end shot himself. In Dunblane, too, it was the killer who ended his own life: even at best, police response is almost always belated when gunmen are on the loose. One might think, too, of the McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, California, in 1984, where the Swat team waited for their leader (who was held up in a traffic jam) while 21 unarmed diners were murdered.

Rhetoric about standing firm against terrorists aside, in Britain we have no more legal deterrent to prevent an armed assault than did the people of Mumbai, and individually we would be just as helpless as victims. The Mumbai massacre could happen in London tomorrow; but probably it could not have happened to Londoners 100 years ago.

In January 1909 two such anarchists, lately come from an attempt to blow up the president of France, tried to commit a robbery in north London, armed with automatic pistols. Edwardian Londoners, however, shot back – and the anarchists were pursued through the streets by a spontaneous hue-and-cry. The police, who could not find the key to their own gun cupboard, borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by, while other citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns preferred to use their weapons themselves to bring the assailants down.

Today we are probably more shocked at the idea of so many ordinary Londoners carrying guns in the street than we are at the idea of an armed robbery. But the world of Conan Doyle’s Dr Watson, pocketing his revolver before he walked the London streets, was real. The arming of the populace guaranteed rather than disturbed the peace.

That armed England existed within living memory; but it is now so alien to our expectations that it has become a foreign country. Our image of an armed society is conditioned instead by America: or by what we imagine we know about America. It is a skewed image, because (despite the Second Amendment) until recently in much of the US it has been illegal to bear arms outside the home or workplace; and therefore only people willing to defy the law have carried weapons.

In the past two decades the enactment of “right to carry” legislation in the majority of states, and the issue of permits for the carrying of concealed firearms to citizens of good repute, has brought a radical change. Opponents of the right to bear arms predicted that right to carry would cause blood to flow in the streets, but the reverse has been true: violent crime in America has plummeted.

There are exceptions: Virginia Tech, the site of the 2007 massacre of 32 people, was one local “gun-free zone” that forbade the bearing of arms even to those with a licence to carry.

In Britain we are not yet ready to recall the final liberty of the subject listed by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England as underpinning all others: “The right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence.” We would still not be ready to do so were the Mumbai massacre to happen in London tomorrow.

“Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India,” Mahatma Gandhi said, “history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” The Mumbai massacre is a bitter postscript to Gandhi’s comment. D’Souza now laments his own helplessness in the face of the killers: “I only wish I had had a gun rather than a camera.”

Monday, December 8, 2008


By Bill Bonner

The Financial Times tells us that sales of government debt will reach $2 trillion next year - led by the United States and Britain, each borrowing about 10% of GDP. For France, the borrowing will reach 8.6% of GDP. Yet, this week, the brightest star in the investment firmament burned brighter still: U.S. Treasury bond prices rose to levels never before seen. The 10-year T-Note, for example, yielded all of 2.67% (yields fall as prices rise).

It was as if the laws of nature had been suspended. The cost of the world's bailout efforts are said to be beyond $10 trillion already. Yet, the more bonds governments sell to finance the rescue, the more the demand for them grows.

Remarkably, the further in debt government goes, the more people want to lend it money. Maybe, if the feds get away with this, gravity will be the next to go.

Central bankers, as everyone now knows, are rascals and scalawags. Gideon Gono is no exception. But there is something heroically imbecilic about the man. While most economists hedge and weasel, Mr. Gono goes boldly, recklessly forward - where no central banker has dared to go, at least not since the worst days of the Weimar Republic. Mr. Gono stands tall...a colossus of Olympus of bunglement.

It is easy to criticize the chief of Zimbabwe's national bank. In fact, it is hard not to criticize him. Keynes warned that "there is a lot of ruin" in a nation. Mr. Gono's contribution to economics is to show how much ruin there is. That...and proving that the laws of supply and demand still apply to money.

The latest news tells us what he hath wrought and it sounds like Hell: the trash piles up in Harare and the water system no longer works. Vendors are selling bottles of water for $25 US. Cholera has broken out...and Anthrax too. Shops are empty. People are hungry. Nothing works. This week, even the forces of law and order are on the rampage, breaking windows...looting what little remains in the shops. The soldiers and police haven't been paid, at least, not with real money.

Between August 2007 and June 2008, the Zimbabwean money supply increased 20 million times. Naturally, this led to the kind of spectacular increases in consumer prices that modern economists had only seen on newsreels. Consumer price inflation was clocked at 2 million percent six months ago. Now, it is said to have sped up to 230 million percent.

Of course, Mr. Gono rolled out all the usual inflation fighting measures - all that is, except for the one that works. Prices have been controlled. Mr. Gono personally went around, found shop owners who have illegally raised prices, and had them arrested. Bank withdrawals have been limited to 500,000 Zimbabwe dollars per day. If you wanted to buy 2 kg of sugar, for example, you'd have to stand in line for four days at an automated teller. But at present rates, you could stand in line at the automatic tellers every day for eternity and never get enough money to buy a drink of water.

Last weekend was Gideon Gono's 49th birthday. We salute him. He may be a moron; but at least he's a useful one. Better than another bad theory, he has provided a bad example. In an age when central bankers all over the world are trying to avoid a decline in the cost of living, Mr. Gono has proven that there are worse things.

But despite Gono himself, Gonoism seems to be gaining admirers in the rest of the world; because the alternatives don't seem to work. Keynesianism, for example. The Keynesians say that when people stop squandering their money, the feds have to step in and squander it for them.

Right now, practically every government in the world is promising huge new spending programs. Deficits be damned! In the heat of the emergency, Europe waives aside the Maastricht limits and America prepares its first trillion-dollar deficit in 2009. By 2010, America's deficit could easily reach $2 trillion.

But will "Keynes on steroids," as one journalist put it, work? There's no evidence of it in the record. America tried it in the '30s. Japan tried it in the '90s. In neither case were the results favorable.

Milton Friedman saw the problem with Keynesianism - it led to rising prices...and then stagflation. He pointed to the lever marked "monetary policy."

Give that a pull, he said; just make sure the economy has enough money, everything else will take care of itself. Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both pulled on the monetary policy lever. And in the recession of 2001-2002, Alan Greenspan yanked it so hard the handle practically broke off. Milton Friedman was still alive at the time and actually approved of Greenspan's handiwork, saying that he had 'spared the economy a worse recession,' or words to that effect.

But now we face an even worse recession. And central bankers are running out of ammunition to fight it. The U.S. Fed's key rate is only 100 basis points from zero. His resources are "obviously limited," said Bernanke, in a speech in Austin, Texas. But then, while the Fed can't push interest rates below zero, "the second arrow in the Federal Reserve's quiver - the provision of liquidity - remains effective," he said. One option is for the Fed to buy "longer-term Treasury or agency securities on the open market in substantial quantities," Bernanke said.

Gonoism, in other words.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Meal Ticket

“In my own case, the Depression brought a strange result,” writes Eddie Cantor in 1931. “Before the crash, I had a million dollars, a house, three cars and four daughters. Now all I’ve got left is five daughters.”

Eddie Cantor (1892-1964) was a comedian, singer, songwriter and actor. “Banjo Eyes,” as he was sometimes called, was also the author of two little books on the Great Depression. “People used to rob banks,” he writes in Yoo-Hoo Prosperity. “Now we’re lucky when it isn’t vice versa.” Cantor jokes about many troubles in the Great Depression, but one recurring theme is the relative lack of food.

A millionaire is “one who eats three square meals a day.” Things were so bad that “the pigeons are now feeding the people.” They were funny lines…sort of. For many of the people living during those times, Cantor’s jokes were not so far from the truth.

We have it comparatively easy in this, the crisis of 2008. We may have to make do with fewer Swatch watches and Coach handbags. We may have to pass on the latest iPod and make do with last year’s winter coat. These hardships are not important, except for people selling those goods. But the credit crisis is also affecting the world’s ability to produce one thing important to everyone: food.

It’s harder for farmers to get credit for next season’s crop, especially farmers overseas. They need fertilizer, seed, fuel and more. And most farmers need to borrow money to obtain these essential items. No credit; no crops.

Therefore, the global credit squeeze might reduce plantings of key grains, even as world inventories of these grains hover near historic lows. In Russia, for example, cash-starved banks have cut off funding for the industry. The head of the Russian Grain Union says, “Many farmers probably won’t be able to borrow money for the spring sowing.” This is important because Russia is no lightweight in the grain division. It produces 9% of the world’s wheat, for instance. No surprise that the United Nations considers Russia a critical component of the global food supply.

Ironically, Russia just had its best harvest ever. And still, global grain inventories remain low. Bloomberg reports that global inventories of corn, wheat and soybeans are the second lowest they’ve ever been since 1974.

A number of countries already fear what might happen next year. The Washington Post Foreign Service in Shanghai reports that China adopted a number of measures to protect itself from the worsening food crisis: “Among the most extreme measures [China] took was to impose new export taxes to keep critical supplies such as grains and fertilizers from leaving the country.”

These taxes are extremely high, on the order of 150%-185%. China worries that richer countries may outbid its own farmers for supplies and weaken China’s own food supply. One Chinese fertilizer company, which produces 150,000 tons per year, already said that the new taxes mean exporting is no longer profitable. China was the biggest exporter of certain types of fertilizer. No longer. That’s a lot of supply off the market.

Fertilizers are absolutely critical in maintaining (and improving) crop yields. Without them, we’d produce far less per acre. As a result, in parts of Africa where people depend on Chinese fertilizers, the food supply problem is now more acute. China’s export taxes and bans follow those of other grain producers, including the Ukraine, India, Pakistan and Argentina.

Amazingly, despite these various maneuvers around the world to prevent grain exports, the prices for wheat, corn and soybeans are all half of their mid-summer highs. It seems the market believes a global recession will dampen demand. Maybe so, or maybe the market doesn’t know anything. The severe commodity selloff during the last few weeks might be saying a lot more about the desperation of hedge fund managers to raise cash than about the prospect that grain demand will fall — in which case, we could see another surge in prices next year.

Demand for grains is still very strong. In China, each wage-earner devotes about 40 cents of every dollar earned to buying food. In India, that number is a staggering 70 cents out of every dollar earned. In other words, the food budget in these countries is hardly a discretionary item. It will remain constant, or even rise, no matter what the global economy does.

Meanwhile, the people in these countries who have a couple of extra rupees to toss around are upping their consumption of meats, which increases the per capita demand for grains. As PotashCorp chief William Doyle recently pointed out: “The average daily protein intake in China has increased by 40% over a 20-year period, with the greatest percentage of that increase coming from meat consumption.” You can see it in the size of the people themselves: The average six-year-old Chinese boy is 12 pounds heavier and two inches taller than 30 years ago. These people aren’t going back to the ways thing were. This is a long-term story, and these trends should continue.

Yet even if demand growth for grains slows, it’s not likely that those low global grain inventories will improve. Even if grain demand fell to 2% per year, we’d still need record production to keep grain inventories from falling further.

For all these reasons, I think the future is still bright for agriculture and all that it entails. I think the fertilizer companies look cheap again. In my monthly newsletter, Capital & Crisis, my subscribers owned Agrium (AGU: NYSE) for nearly three years, and it more than tripled our money. The stock is now a good one-third below what we bought it for initially.

PotashCorp (POT: NYSE) and Mosaic (MOS: NYSE) are other names I’m looking at hard right now — both have been crushed in this troubled market.

Beyond that, irrigation companies have come way down, even after posting outstanding results. Lindsay (LNN: NYSE) and Valmont (VMI: NYSE) are two irrigation equipment makers, for example, both coming off great quarterly results.

In 1931, Eddie Cantor wrote that the biggest thing in years was bread. “Why, they’re giving it away free! Whenever four men get together at a street corner, it used to be a merger,” he writes. “Now it’s a bread line!” It’s funny now. Next year, it might not be, at least to some.

Chris Mayer

Monday, December 1, 2008

Urban growth cannot pay for itself


Last Updated: 30th November 2008, 3:33am

Gary Carr isn't afraid to scrap. That probably owes something to his days on the ice, playing goal for the Boston Bruins' farm team and later the Quebec Nordiques' minor league squad.

Hockey players have to be willing to throw their weight around. In sports, it's called body checking. In politics, it's called negotiation.

Last week, Carr body checked the province, the feds, and developers in Halton, where he serves as regional chair. Carr presided over a unanimous vote by regional councillors that there would be no water and sewer hook ups for new housing units if developers and the provincial and federal governments don't come to the table with money to cover added costs arising from this population growth.

"There has been this idea of growth paying for itself," said Carr when we spoke by phone last week. "But the capital and operating side of growth isn't paying for itself."

The region has costed out a more accurate price of growth -- about $38,500 per housing unit, for water, sewers and roads. They've asked developers to pony up or forget running water in the new homes.

If growth proceeds without that cash, either services are cut or property taxes go up to cover the shortfall.

"I'm not prepared to do either," said Carr. "Now the ball is in their court. If they can't meet the [funding] requirements, we won't add new homes in Halton."


The region encompasses Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville, the latter two facing the most growth. Those towns are expecting to absorb another 40,000 homes, with an average of three people per home. That's an influx of 120,000 people on services that are already stretched thin, says Carr.

That's why senior levels of government also need to come to the table with cash. The region hasn't asked for a specific amount, but has said whenever the government has money to spend, the region has a list of projects ready to go. Those include roads, water and waste water projects.

But the real priority, says Carr, is hospitals.

Oakville's hospital is approved but delayed. Burlington's Joseph Brant is facing a deficit. And Milton's hospital is overburdened.

"If we add the new housing units, we're going to have a hospital built for 30,000 people trying to accommodate 120,000," Carr said.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize there are going to be even more problems."

He doesn't view the region's water-for-cash stance as picking a fight. Rather, he sees win-win opportunities: Communities get the services they need; government spending provides a "fiscal stimulus" for a faltering economy -- the new global buzzword.

Governments around the world are realizing monetary policy alone -- interest rate cuts, for example -- isn't jump-starting the economy. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Lima last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged his government -- along with governments around the world -- may need to run deficits to spend our way out of the crisis.

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama wants a $700-billion stimulus package ready to go for his signature when he takes office in January.

"If you're going to do a stimulus package, it has to be done at the federal and provincial levels, not on the backs of the taxpayers in Halton," argues Carr.

That's because those levels of government collect the most tax -- the feds 50% of all tax revenue, the province 42%, and municipalities just 8%.

Asking municipalities to pay for growth-related costs through the property tax base risks taxing people out of their homes -- particularly seniors on fixed incomes, says Carr. And there are a lot of them in Halton.

"We're saying to the province and the federal government: If you can't afford growth, why do you think we can?"

It's a reasonable question, and Carr's a reasonable guy. In fact, if you sat next to him over dinner, as I have, he'd be the last guy you'd peg as the "enforcer."

It's a role he plays gently, with a smile and a decent argument; you don't know you've been body checked till you peel yourself off the boards.

As a Halton resident, all I can say is I'm glad he's on my team.

Miller's latest nickelhead idea

5 cents plastic bag charge not cost effective at all


Last Updated: 30th November 2008, 3:33am

King David Miller, a.k.a. our mayor, was pleased as punch last week when he rode in on his white steed to save the day with his new best friends in the city's grocery industry.

Never mind that he delivered his so-called compromise with the industry to reduce the number of plastic bags used by Toronto citizens in a cold, stinky transfer station -- with scavenging seagulls and a mountain of waste serving as the backdrop. (Oh the possibilities of that scenario!)

It didn't seem to matter one bit either that only a small group representing the largest grocery chains -- Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro -- were there and had signed on to the deal.

All hail the Climate Change King. When he and his minions bring forward their patchwork of proposals -- at council tomorrow -- aimed at reducing the number of coffee cups, plastic shopping bags and take-out containers in the city's waste stream, these large grocery stores will cash in (to the tune of as much as $44 million per year).

Instead of forcing retailers to rebate consumers 10 cents for each refillable bag they provide, Miller said he'll be moving an amendment that will impose a 5 cents fee on consumers for every plastic bag purchased. All retailers will have to play ball, whether they wish to do so or not.

"This is a major step forward in our efforts to reduce the amount of waste," Miller pronounced.


I didn't know whether his statement or the mountain sitting behind us was, to put it mildly, more full of trash.

If there was ever an attempt to punish both retailers and consumers (like me who already use refillable bags and containers) for so little gain, this patchwork of in-store packaging initiatives is it.

If one reads the report to council very carefully, it is quite clear this plan will only increase the city's diversion rate by a scant 1% -- if that.

As solid waste general manager Geoff Rathbone confirmed, the goal is to find 10,000 tonnes (or 1%) of in-store packaging to divert. The proposed initiatives around the three products in the plan -- coffee cups, plastic bags and Styrofoam food containers -- represent about 6,000-7,000 tonnes (or less than 1% of the city's 70% diversion target).

"It's a lot of noise isn't it?" noted Diane Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada.

When asked why not just recycle the plastic bags -- since they will be accepted into our brontosaurus bins starting Dec. 8 -- Miller claimed "source reduction" is a key component of the city's 70% waste diversion goal.

"It is more environmentally sound and cost effective to reduce the amount of waste produced than it is recycle or dispose of it," he said.

Cost effective? Now that's a joke. When has cost ever stopped the Climate Change King from pursuing his "mandate"? A recession doesn't exist at Socialist Silly Hall.

And what price will taxpayers end up paying -- beside the 5 cents for plastic bags -- if these inane initiatives are approved this week?

The move to ban paper coffee cups (with plastic lids) and the plan to force chains to provide a 20 cents discount to those with their own refillable mugs has been sent back to the drawing board until next April. It's anybody's guess what will come of that.

It's also quite clear many Toronto retailers are not on board with the mayor's so-called compromise on plastic bags.

Gary Sands, v-p of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (representing such outlets as Longo's, Highland Farms and Pusateri's) said they're "absolutely not in support of it."

He said over the long-term the large grocery chains could live to regret the compromise since it leaves the door wide open for the Mayor to hike the 5-cent charge.

"On principle we will absolutely not accept council setting prices in stores," he said. "It's not only wrong but illegal."

Brisebois, whose association represents thousands of independent merchants and chains in Toronto, said her members have concerns that if this is imposed on Toronto retailers, it will put them at a "competitive disadvantage" with similar shops in the GTA. "We don't live in a bubble," she said.

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong fears the proposal has not been well thought out and could land the city in court.

"This is another policy train wreck waiting to happen," he said. "We're on very shaky ground legally and it's the absolute wrong time (economically) to interfere in the retail industry."