Monday, November 29, 2010

"Insurgency intelligence!"

You should be very worried Wall Street!

Exclusive: U.S. Bank Is WikiLeaks' Next Target
November 29, 2010

In a rare interview, Assange tells Forbes that the release of Pentagon and State Department documents are just the beginning. His next target: big business.

Early next year, Julian Assange says, a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out. Tens of thousands of its internal documents will be exposed on with no polite requests for executives’ response or other forewarnings. The data dump will lay bare the finance firm’s secrets on the Web for every customer, every competitor, every regulator to examine and pass judgment on.

When? Which bank? What documents? Cagey as always, Assange won’t say, so his claim is impossible to verify. But he has always followed through on his threats. Sitting for a rare interview in a London garden flat on a rainy November day, he compares what he is ready to unleash to the damning e-mails that poured out of the Enron trial: a comprehensive vivisection of corporate bad behavior. “You could call it the ecosystem of corruption,” he says, refusing to characterize the coming release in more detail. “But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest.”

This is Assange: a moral ideologue, a champion of openness, a control freak. He pauses to think—a process that occasionally puts our conversation on hold for awkwardly long interludes. The slim 39-year-old Wiki­Leaks founder wears a navy suit over his 6-foot-2 frame, and his once shaggy white hair, recently dyed brown, has been cropped to a sandy patchwork of blonde and tan. He says he colors it when he’s “being tracked.”

“These big-package releases. There should be a cute name for them,” he says, then pauses again.

“Megaleaks?” I suggest, trying to move things along.

“Yes, that’s good—megaleaks.” His voice is a hoarse, Aussie-tinged baritone. As a teenage hacker in Melbourne its pitch helped him impersonate IT staff to trick companies’ employees into revealing their passwords over the phone, and today it’s deeper still after a recent bout of flu. “These megaleaks ..... they’re an important phenomenon. And they’re only going to increase.”

He’ll see to that. By the time you’re reading this another giant dump of classified U.S. documents may well be public. Assange refused to discuss the leak at the time FORBES went to press, but he claims it is part of a series that will have the greatest impact of any WikiLeaks release yet. Assange calls the shots: choosing the media outlets that splash his exposés, holding them to a strict embargo, running the leaks simultaneously on his site. Past megaleaks from his information insurgency over the last year have included 76,000 secret Afghan war documents and another trove of 392,000 files from the Iraq war. Those data explosions, the largest classified military security breaches in history, have roused antiwar activists and enraged the Pentagon.

Admire Assange or revile him, he is the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency. Having exposed military misconduct on a grand scale, he is now gunning for corporate America. Does Assange have unpublished, damaging documents on pharmaceutical companies? Yes, he says. Finance? Yes, many more than the single bank scandal we’ve been discussing. Energy? Plenty, on everything from BP to an Albanian oil firm that he says attempted to sabotage its competitors’ wells. Like informational IEDs, these damaging revelations can be detonated at will.
An Interview With WikiLeaks' Julian Assange
Interviewing Julien Assange, London, November 11, 2010 (Photo: Jillian Edelstein for Forbes)
In a rare, two-hour interview conducted in London on November 11, Assange said that he’s still sitting on a trove of secret documents, about half of which relate to the private sector. And WikiLeaks’ next target will be a major American bank. “It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” he said, adding: “For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails.”

Here is an edited transcript of that discussion:

Forbes: To start, is it true you’re sitting on trove of unpublished documents?

Julian Assange: Sure. That’s usually the case. As we’ve gotten more successful, there’s a gap between the speed of our publishing pipeline and the speed of our receiving submissions pipeline. Our pipeline of leaks has been increasing exponentially as our profile rises, and our ability to publish is increasing linearly.
You mean as your personal profile rises?

Yeah, the rising profile of the organization and my rising profile also. And there’s a network effect for anything to do with trust. Once something starts going around and being considered trustworthy in a particular arena, and you meet someone and they say “I heard this is trustworthy,” then all of a sudden it reconfirms your suspicion that the thing is trustworthy.

So that’s why brand is so important, just as it is with anything you have to trust.

And this gap between your publishing resources and your submissions is why the site’s submission function has been down since October?

We have too much.

Before you turned off submissions, how many leaks were you getting a day?

As I said, it was increasing exponentially. When we get lots of press, we can get a spike of hundreds or thousands. The quality is sometimes not as high. If the front page of the Pirate Bay links to us, as they have done on occasion, we can get a lot of submissions, but the quality is not as high.

How much of this trove of documents that you’re sitting on is related to the private sector?

About fifty percent.

You’ve been focused on the U.S. military mostly in the last year. Does that mean you have private sector-focused leaks in the works?

Yes. If you think about it, we have a publishing pipeline that’s increasing linearly, and an exponential number of leaks, so we’re in a position where we have to prioritize our resources so that the biggest impact stuff gets released first.

So do you have very high impact corporate stuff to release then?

Yes, but maybe not as high impact…I mean, it could take down a bank or two.

That sounds like high impact.

But not as big an impact as the history of a whole war. But it depends on how you measure these things.
When will WikiLeaks return to its older model of more frequent leaks of smaller amounts of material?

If you look at the average number of documents we’re releasing, we’re vastly exceeding what we did last year. These are huge datasets. So it’s actually very efficient for us to do that.

If you look at the number of packages, the number of packages has decreased. But if you look at the average number of documents, that’s tremendously increased.

So will you return to the model of higher number of targets and sources?

Yes. Though I do actually think…[pauses] These big package releases. There should be a cute name for them.


Megaleaks. That’s good. These megaleaks…They’re an important phenomenon, and they’re only going to increase. When there’s a tremendous dataset, covering a whole period of history or affecting a whole group of people, that’s worth specializing on and doing a unique production for each one, which is what we’ve done.

We’re totally source dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, why don’t you release more leaks form the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us.

These megaleaks, as you call them that, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.

No, not at the same scale for the military.

Will we?

Yes. We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.

Is it a U.S. bank?

Yes, it’s a U.S. bank.

One that still exists?

Yes, a big U.S. bank.

The biggest U.S. bank?

No comment.

When will it happen?

Early next year. I won’t say more.

What do you want to be the result of this release?

[Pauses] I’m not sure.

It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.

Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation. For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.

This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war.

You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.

How many dollars were at stake in this?

We’re still investigating. All I can say is it’s clear there were unethical practices, but it’s too early to suggest there’s criminality. We have to be careful about applying criminal labels to people until we’re very sure.

Can you tell me anything about what kind of unethical behavior we’re talking about?


You once said to one of my colleagues that WikiLeaks has material on BP. What have you got?

We’ve got lots now, but we haven’t determined how much is original. There’s been a lot of press on the BP issue, and lawyers, and people are pulling out a lot of stuff. So I suspect the material we have on BP may not be that original. We’ll have to see whether our stuff is especially unique.

The Russian press has reported that you plan to target Russian companies and politicians. I’ve heard from other WikiLeaks sources that this was blown out of proportion.

It was blown out of proportion when the FSB reportedly said not to worry, that they could take us down. But yes, we have material on many business and governments, including in Russia. It’s not right to say there’s going to be a particular focus on Russia.

Let’s just walk through other industries. What about pharmaceutical companies?

Yes. To be clear, we have so much unprocessed stuff, I’m not even sure about all of it. These are just things I’ve briefly looked at or that one of our people have told me about.

How much stuff do you have? How many gigs or terabytes?

I’m not sure. I haven’t had time to calculate.

Continuing then: The tech industry?

We have some material on spying by a major government on the tech industry. Industrial espionage.

U.S.? China?

The U.S. is one of the victims.

What about the energy industry?


Aside from BP?


On environmental issues?

A whole range of issues.

Can you give me some examples?

One example: It began with something we released last year, quite an interesting case that wasn’t really picked up by anyone. There’s a Texas Canadian oil company whose name escapes me. And they had these wells in Albania that had been blowing. Quite serious. We got this report from a consultant engineer into what was happening, saying vans were turning up in the middle of the night doing something to them. They were being sabotaged. The Albanian government was involved with another company; There were two rival producers and one was government-owned and the other was privately owned.

So when we got this report; It didn’t have a header. It didn’t say the name of the firm, or even who the wells belonged to.

So it wasn’t picked up because it was missing key data.

At the time, yeah. So I said, what the hell do we do with this thing? It’s impossible to verify if we don’t even know who it came from. It could have been one company trying to frame the other one. So we did something very unusual, and published it and said “We’ve got this thing, looks like it could have been written by a rival company aiming to defame the other, but we can’t verify it. We want more information.” Whether it’s a fake document or real one, something was going on. Either one company is trying to frame the other, which is interesting, or it’s true, which is also very interesting.

That’s where the matter sat until we got a letter of inquiry from an engineering consulting company asking how to get rid of it. We demanded that they first prove that they were the owner.

It sounds like when Apple confirmed that the lost iPhone 4 was real, by demanding that Gizmodo return it.

Yes, like Apple and the iPhone. They sent us a screen capture with the missing header and other information.

What were they thinking?

I don’t know.

So the full publication is coming up?


Do you have more on finance?

We have a lot of finance related things. Of the commercial sectors we’ve covered, finance is the most significant.

Before the banks went bust in Dubai, we put out a number of leaks showing they were unhealthy. They threatened to send us to prison in Dubai, which is a little serious, if we went there.

Just to review, what would you say are the biggest five private sector leaks in WikiLeaks’ history?

It depends on the importance of the material vs. the impact. Kaupthing was one of the most important, because of the chain of effects it set off, the scrutiny in Iceland and the rest of Scandinvia. The Bank Julius Baer case was also important.

The Kaupthing leak was a very good leak. The loanbook described in very frank terms the credit worthiness of all these big companies and billionaires and borrowers, not just internal to the bank, but a broad spectrum all over the world, an assessment of a whole bunch of businesses around the world. It was quite an interesting leak. It didn’t just expose Kaupthing, it exposed many companies.

The bank Julius Baer exposed high net worth individuals hiding assets in the Cayman Islands, and we went on to do a series that exposed bank Julius Baer’s own internal tax structure. It’s interesting that Swiss banks also hide their assets from the Swiss by using offshore bank structuring. We had some quite good stuff in there.

It set off a chain of regulatory investigations, possibly resulting in some changes. It triggered a lot of interesting scrutiny.

Regulation: Is that what you’re after?

I’m not a big fan of regulation: anyone who likes freedom of the press can’t be. But there are some abuses that should be regulated, and this is one.

With regard to these corporate leaks, I should say: There’s an overlap between corporate and government leaks. When we released the Kroll report on three to four billion smuggled out by the former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi and his cronies, where did the money go? There’s no megacorruption–as they call it in Africa, it’s a bit sensational but you’re talking about billions–without support from Western banks and companies.

That money went into London properties, Swiss banks, property in New York, companies that had been set up to move this money.

We had another interesting one from the pharmaceutical industry: It was quite self-referential. The lobbyists had been getting leaks from the WHO. They were getting their own internal intelligence report affecting investment regulation. We were leaked a copy. It was a meta-leak. That was quite influential, though it was a relatively small leak–it was published in Nature and other pharma journals.

In love with a hologram that doesn't need rehab are we?

Good Day Readers:

Sometimes we forget just how good radio can be especially the CBC. The following is from Q hosted weekday mornings at 10:00 by Jian Ghomeshi.

It's on immediately after The Current another excellent program featuring Anna Marie Tremonti - excellent interviewer!
Sincerely/Clare L. Pieuk
Is 3D hologram Hatsune Miku the future of pop?

Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku is a 16-year-old singer ... a stylish, blue-haired pop princess who's topped the charts there, sold out stadium concerts, and garnered tens of thousands of Facebook fans. Hatsune is also a 3D hologram: a singing virtual avatar created by a Japanese technology firm, using Yamaha's Vocaloid voice synthesizer. Unlike the Britneys and Gagas of the world, she can perform simultaneous concerts, meet all her fans' demands, and never needs to go to rehab.

Take a look at her video. Do you agree with technology writer and Q guest Aaron Saenz, that the vocaloid phenomenon could well be the future of pop?

"Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!"

LIBYA: More laughs, not many surprises in Wikileaks releases on Moammar Kadafi
November 29, 2010
Lybian leader Moammar Kadafi during an African Union summit in Uganda in July (Credit: Benedicte Desrus/Reuters)

Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi sees no reason to submit a passport photo along with his U.S. visa application. After all, one of Kadafi's aides explained to an American diplomat, the colonel's picture is all over Tripoli.

"... Any one of hundreds of billboards could be photographed and shrunken to fit the application's criteria," the aide said, according to one of a series of diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website.

In the end, Kadafi was persuaded to have his picture taken, but the exchange is one of numerous illuminating anecdotes to surface from the latest WikiLeaks filing, which includes highly sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables.

As world leaders scramble to deal with the aftermath of the WikiLeaks release, Kadafi stands out not only for the entertainment value of his dossier but his ability to weather scandal. After all, the same eccentric leader who insists on pitching an enormous bedouin tent in foreign capitals, keeps a cadre of female bodyguards and recently passed out copies of the Koran to an audience of paid Italian models is not going to be embarrassed by the disclosure that his favorite Ukrainian "nurse" accompanies him everywhere.

Although the leaked diplomatic cable listing Kadafi's odd habits was assigned the highest level of secrecy, many of the details were unsurprising or even benign for one of the world's most notoriously unconventional leaders.

According to the document, Kadafi's reputation for being "mercurial and eccentric" is well earned, as revealed in the logistical details of his schedule and travel:

He is afraid of flying over water for long periods of time and insists on staying on the first floor of any accommodation. He is also dependent on a close circle of trusted aides, but appears to rely less on his famous female bodyguards, taking just one with him on a trip to the United Nations headquarters in New York. His favorite among four Ukrainian nurses in his employ, a "voluptuous blond" woman named Galyna Kolotnytska, is always by his side and may be involved romantically with Kadafi.

Kadafi's interests, based on a large celebration of his rule held in the capital, include horse racing and flamenco dancing.

The report's conclusions were perhaps surprising, given the strained nature of U.S-Libyan relations. The diplomat writing the cable stressed that engagement is necessary to "overcome the misperceptions that inevitably accumulated during Kadafi's decades of isolation."

Meris Lutz in Beirut

Can you afford your MP's pension?

Normally urbane, law-abiding, self-effacing Canadians rioting in the streets against federal government pensions?

Pension Riots Brewing in Canada?
$208 billion MORE needed to pay for public sector pension plans
Are you saving $14,180 a year for your pension? That is how much you would have needed to save – every year for the last 35 years – to pay yourself a pension equal to that of a federal public servant retiring today. That’s a lot of money and precisely why taxpayers are on the hook for an unfunded federal pension liability of $208 billion, according to a recent C.D. Howe Institute report.

To save taxpayers from this giant and growing future bill, the government needs to make changes to these pension plans.

The reason taxpayers owe so much for these bureaucrat, military and RCMP pensions is that they are very, very generous. Only MPs have more generous pensions.

Most employees in the federal public sector enjoy defined-benefit pension plans. They may retire and be paid a guaranteed pension of 70 per cent of the average of their highest five consecutive years of paid service. These pensions are fully indexed annually to cover cost of living adjustments (COLA). These days they get 2.9 per cent a year COLA, which is almost three times the rate of inflation.

In 2009-10 the number of federal employees reportedly earning over $100,000 was 42,050, having almost tripled in five years. Earning $100,000 puts one in the top 2 per cent of income earners in Canada.

Imagine an employee who started working for the federal government at age 25 whose average salary for pension calculations is $100,000. This employee is entitled to retire at age 60 with a full pension starting at $70,000 per year, indexed for life. At age 81 she would be paid $135,099. With an average life expectancy of 81, this recipient will be given 24 years of benefits totaling $2,379,887.

Anyone else retiring on their own savings would require $1,014,200 in the bank at retirement (CPP excepted), earning a 5 per cent annual return, just to yield an annual payment of $70,000 – with no indexed growth! In order to save up that amount an individual would have to save $11,194 per year, every year for 35 years. If one was lucky enough to have an employer willing to match contributions then a person would still need to find $5,597 – per year every year. Not easy to do, especially in the early days of your career!

In order to have enough to pay oneself an indexed pension like a retired public servant starting at $70,000 and growing to $135,099 after 24 years, you would have to have saved $1,280,732. This means an individual would have to save $14,180 a year – every year for 35 years – and earn 5 per cent every year in compounded interest, hoping the markets never crash. If your employer pays half then you still must save $7,090 every year from age 22 to 57!

In 2010, there are 261,159 federal retirees and survivors receiving retirement payments. This is projected to grow to 296,180 in 2015 – a 13.4 per cent increase – when fewer taxpayers will be around to pay for more retirees. That’s expensive.

To reform the plan the government needs to consider a mixture of a variety of measures: require that contributors pay higher contribution rates, reduce benefits, delay retirement and reduce indexation. In making these changes the government will likely need to grandfather some employees already close to retirement.

Next they absolutely must convert the plan for non-grandfathered and all future employees to a defined-contribution plan. A defined-contribution plan is like most private sector plans where an employee’s contributions are matched by the employer (taxpayer) dollar-for-dollar and invested in the market. If the markets crash or pension administrators mis-judge returns, life expectancy or retirement rates, taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the shortfall.

Importantly, the government needs to limit salary increases. For every 1 per cent general increase in public sector pay, the government books a future pension liability of $5.4 billion.

The number of federal employees also needs to be reduced.

Politicians have avoided making this tough decision and taking decisive action over fear of bureaucrat backlash. In doing so, they risk taxpayer backlash as these bills increasing come due. The choice for government is between fiscal prudence by reform or employee pandering and further reckless spending.

It should be a very easy choice.

By: Kevin Gaudet
Posted: November 22, 2010

Green Goblin = 1 Spidey = 0

Spider-Man’ Takes Off, With Some Bumps
November 28, 2010
Crowds waited to enter the Foxwoods Theater to see the first performance of Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” (Sara Krulwich/New York Times)
All $65 million of the new Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” took flight on Sunday night at its first preview performance, but not without bumps. The show stopped five times, mostly to fix technical problems, and Act I ended prematurely, with Spider-Man stuck dangling 10 feet above audience members, while Act II was marred by a nasty catcall during one of the midperformance pauses.
Chris McAvey, 24, a “fan of Spider-Man since the age of 5,” waited to get into the first preview performance of the musical. (Sara Krulwich/New York Times)
Rarely is the very first public run-through of a new musical perfect, and indeed, the creators of this “Spider-Man” — the most expensive and technically ambitious production ever on Broadway — used news media interviews recently to lower expectations that work on the musical was anywhere near done. But after a two-week delay in performances already this month, which sucked up about $4 million, the producers decided that on Sunday night the show would go on.

Costing more than twice as much as the previous record-holder for a big-budget show, “Shrek the Musical,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” took a bit of time revealing some of the reasons for its high expense. After beginning at 6:54 p.m. — 24 minutes late, mostly because of 1,900 people taking their seats — the show unfolded for 30 minutes with few of the special effects that have been the talk of Broadway this fall.

At 7:23 p.m., an aerial scene began in Peter Parker’s bedroom to the delight of some audience members — yet it was halted two minutes later with the first of four pauses in Act I, apparently to free the lead actor, Reeve Carney (who plays Peter Parker and is one of those playing Spider-Man), from an aerial harness.

Most of the night’s major flying sequences — which make up a relative fraction of the show — went off without a hitch, with children and some adults squealing in delight. And there were no signs of injuries, which had been a point of concern after two performers were hurt during an aerial sequence this fall.

The fourth and final pause at the end of Act I was the worst glitch of the night by far. Spider-Man had just flown and landed onstage with the musical’s heroine, Mary Jane Watson (played by Jennifer Damiano), in his arms. He was then supposed to zoom off toward the balcony seating area, a few hundred feet away. Instead, a harness and cables lifted Spider-Man several yards up and over the audience, then stopped. A production stage manager, C. Randall White, called for a halt to the show over the sound system, apparently in hopes of fixing and re-doing the stunt.

Crew members, standing on the stage, spent 45 seconds trying to grab Spider-Man by the foot, as the audience laughed and oohed. When they finally caught him, Mr. White announced intermission, and the house lights came on.

The intermission began at 8:19 p.m.; it was still under way 34 minutes later when some in the audience began to clap in unison, as they passed their two-hour mark inside the theater. Mr. White, the production stage manager, then said over the microphone, “I know, guys, I know, I beg your patience,” and the clapping stopped.

Act II began shortly after 9 p.m. and unfolded fairly smoothly until about 50 minutes later, when Mr. White called for a pause. After a few minutes, as some audience members were stretching, a woman in the audience suddenly shouted, “I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I feel like a guinea pig today — I feel like it’s a dress rehearsal.” She was met with a chorus of boos. The performance resumed a moment later; the show ended at 10:09 p.m.

The musical has attracted outsized public and media attention by Broadway standards, in large part because of the money and talent involved: U2’s Bono and the Edge signed on to create the show nine years ago, and have written a full-length score, their first for Broadway, and helped recruit as the director Julie Taymor, a Tony Award winner for one of the last musical spectaculars to open on Broadway, “The Lion King.”

The arrival of the first preview — it had originally been scheduled for January, then February, then Nov. 14 — brought out Spidey fans of all ages. Chris McAvey, a 24-year-old “fan of Spider-Man since the age of 5,” wore an old Spider-Man t-shirt that he picked up at a comic-book convention years ago. Asked about his expectations for the night, he noted that he had purchased tickets for one of the previews originally scheduled in February.

“Let me put it this way,” he said, “For the time I’ve had to wait to see this, it better be good!”
After the show, several audience members said in interviews that they would hold off on recommending the show to friends until improvements were made. Sherry Lawrence, a writer for a U2 fan Web site, said that even though she liked some of the songs, she planned to tell readers to wait for the creators to do more work during previews.
Eight-year-old Logan Eayres with his grandmother Ruth Cardace was the first child in the long line. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
Chris Canales, 4, wore a “Spider-Man” T-shirt, sweatshirt and hat. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
But Marc Tumminelli, 30, who runs a Manhattan acting school for children, said he was concerned that the musical’s problems were too fundamental to be corrected quickly. “The story-telling is really unclear and I found it hard to understand exactly what was going on and why certain things were happening,” Mr. Tumminelli said.

More delighted was the 6-year-old boy sitting a row ahead. “Parts of it were really exciting,” said the boy, Jack Soldano, whose parents brought him. “I’ve never seen people flying before.”

Moments before the start of the performance, the lead producer of “Spider-Man,” Michael Cohl, took the stage to prepare the audience for what they were about to see.

“I’m hellishly excited, and I can’t believe we’re actually here and it’s actually going to happen,” said Mr. Cohl, a prominent rock concert promoter who was recruited by Bono in 2009 to take over the show after the previous producers could not raise all of the money for it. Mr. Cohl said he hoped that the night would prove to be “one of the great Broadway and show experiences of your life,” but also warned that the performance might need to stop at points.

Mr. Cohl has approved discounts for some of the tickets sold for preview performances. Many other audience members were still paying $140 or more on Sunday night.

The complexity of “Spider-Man” – particularly its net-free flying sequences over the heads of audience members – has also stoked curiosity, as well as concern, after two actors were injured (one whose wrists were broken) performing aerial stunts this fall. And the show’s growing costs – it will likely cost more than $65 million in the end – has drawn attention given the lavish expense at a time of economic recession, and the difficulty and delays associated with raising money to mount the show.

When Sunday’s performance did stop, the audience was warmly charitable for the most part. At one point in Act I, Mr. White asked for a round of applause for the actress Natalie Mendoza (who played the villainess Arachne) as she hung in mid-air during a six-minute pause. Later in the act, the actor Patrick Page (as the Green Goblin) improvised a bit by repeating some of the lyrics from his song “I’ll Take Manhattan.”

“Spider-Man” is scheduled to open on January 11, 2011.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks again!

The bedbug barrister!

Maryland lawyer bites back with bedbug lawsuits
By J. Freedom duLac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daniel Whitney has staked his claim on the title of Maryland's bedbug barrister: Since September 1, the Towson attorney has filed eight lawsuits on behalf of bedbug victims across the state seeking a total of more than $7 million in damages.

The claims, ranging from $100,000 to $3.55 million, are mostly against apartment building owners and managers who the victims say were negligent in dealing with infestations.

The lawsuits have made Whitney the object of scorn, with some people suggesting that he's, well . . . something of a human parasite himself.

"I'm very aware of the derogatory comments people make about me being a bloodsucker seeking large sums of money," Whitney said. "It's nonsense. These people need help."

Whitney is far from done. He says he's on the verge of filing five more bedbug lawsuits and has another 21 open files that could result in complaints.

"Potential clients keep contacting me, almost daily," said the lawyer, whose firm, Whitney & Bogris, would collect between 33 percent and 40 percent of any settlement or judgment in the cases. "I'm going to have to take my number off our Web site."

Over a three-decade career, Whitney has mostly defended corporate clients in product liability, malpractice and toxic tort cases.

"I never thought I'd become known as the bedbug attorney," he said.

Bedbug complaints constitute a relatively nascent legal niche, surfacing only a few years ago after the bloodsucking insects came back from the brink.

The common bedbug, cimex lectularius, which generally feasts on the blood of sleeping humans, was nearly eradicated in the United States in the 1950s through liberal application of potent pesticides such as the since-banned DDT. But the apple-seed-sized insects, which survived in other parts of the world, have made an unexpected and unwelcome return here since the late 1990s.

They're showing up everywhere: In college dorms, government buildings, Google's offices - even luxury hotels such as the Waldorf-Astoria, which has been sued by guests who say they got chewed up at the New York landmark.

As the snarky legal blog, Above the Law, put it recently: "There's Only One Way to Deal With Bedbugs: Release the Sharks."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When smart does stupid!

The meaning of wrong
Professor Marc Hauser is now on leave, and his courses at Harvard have been cancelled. (Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)
Joseph Brean, National Post · Saturday, November 27, 2010

A recent blockbuster scandal at Harvard University, in which a top researcher in animal cognition was found to have committed scientific misconduct, did far-reaching damage in Massachusetts and beyond.

It sullied the reputation of Marc Hauser, once a rock star scientist, now on leave with his courses cancelled, research retracted, and his bustling laboratory on America's most elite campus all but shuttered.

The whole mess -- ongoing for three years but publicly revealed by the Boston Globe in August and now under investigation by the National Science Foundation -- even seemed to cast a shadow of doubt on the entire field of evolutionary psychology, a newish discipline that seeks to explain human behaviour though the history of our genes, and occasionally succeeds.

One of the scandal's lesser-known casualties, though, is a ground-breaking online experiment that marks a key moment in a major historical trend -- the slow reconciliation of psychology and philosophy.

Professor Hauser's Moral Sense Test, linked from his Harvard webpage, tests people's intuitions about right and wrong by asking them to suggest punishments for people behaving immorally.

It is aimed at one of his main interests, the evolution of human morality, and it reflects a newly scientific view of right and wrong, in which data are replacing pure, abstract philosophizing.

Right and wrong are not revealed in abstract reflection, according to this theory. They are not based in universal principles, or utilitarian benefit, or religious doctrine, like just about every other moral theory ever conceived. Rather, true insight into human morality comes from asking people what they think, and pointing out how their moral judgments can be reliably and repeatedly skewed in the laboratory.

As it turns out, what they think is quite peculiar.

New research out of the University of Toronto Scarborough nicely illustrates this idea. It shows that people are more likely to behave immorally if to do so does not involve a deliberate action, such as cheating on a test if the answers are readily available.

The difference, the researchers suggest, is intention. To do wrong, you must mean to, regardless of what actually happens. This is why a doctor can morally withhold lifesaving treatment from a dying patient, but he cannot do so in order to save someone else with their organs, even though the outcome is the same.

What Professor Hauser was doing, by putting similar scenarios to his online participants, is a variation on the Trolley Problem, which is not so much a problem as a thought experiment -- an imaginary scenario in a rich philosophical tradition of zombie doppelgangers, swampmen created in bolts of lightning, brains in vats, twin earths and deceptive demons, all invented to argue some point or other.

The Trolley Problem was more or less invented by Philippa Foot, a British philosopher who died last month, and whose illustrious career at Oxford was overshadowed in her memorials by this funny little brainteaser that is not complicated, but very deep.

A powerful authority in the postwar upheaval in moral philosophy, Foot distilled her thinking about the principle of double effect (that is, a single action can have simultaneous good and bad outcomes) to the problem of the "trolley," in which a runaway train is heading for five people working on the track, and you can save them by diverting the train onto a spur where a single man is working, killing him but saving the five.

Should you divert it? Most people say yes, because you do not intend to kill the man. He is just collateral damage to the greater good of saving the five, and his death is morally neutral.

But what if the same train is approaching, and you are standing on a bridge over the tracks with a fat man. If you push him off onto the tracks, his weight will stop the train and he will be killed, but the five workers will be saved. Do you push him? Most people say no. Deliberate killing, even with the same utilitarian costs and benefits, is a step too far.

That is the classical formulation of the Trolley Problem, but there are many variations, including more complicated ones involving rotating Lazy Susans and looping tracks. At root, it is about intention, and the assignation of blame in a messy world.

Casually known as Trolleyology, this field of experimental philosophy (or X-Phi, as the uber-nerdy shorthand has it) has been around for a while but is enjoying a resurgence partly because of its use in American soldier training, where "double effect" is staggeringly relevant, and measured in real civilian lives.

Trolleyology is the tool offered to prepare them for the battlefield. It allows them to understand the real-world difference between NATO killing civilians by accident, and al-Qaeda killing them on purpose.

By teasing out the differences between scenarios that seem morally identical, Trolleyology reveals the quirks of cognition that can skew our judgment this way or that. As such, it is pure psychology.

But is also purports to reveal something like a universal moral instinct, with its own peculiar logic, and this begins to tread on philosophy.

It makes morality seem rule-based and consistent, like language, and it offers the alluring opportunity to test philosophical ideas by scientific standards, with repeatable data.

As the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, Professor Hauser's even more illustrious colleague at Harvard, once put it, "Far from debunking morality, then, the science of the moral sense can advance it, by allowing us to see through the illusions that evolution and culture have saddled us with and to focus on goals we can share and defend."

For modern psychology, which is more comfortable in the objective pose of medicine than in the ethereal mists of philosophy, this experimentalism is standard operating procedure.

But for moral philosophers, it is new and foreign. Using data to resolve philosophical disputes is especially weird, and should not make sense.

Philosophers generally do not care about data, and they do not care what you think, or if they do it is only to show why you are wrong. In many cases, what you think is irrelevant to the question of what is right or true. The rules of morality are traditionally deduced from first principles, not discovered in the survey answers of a few people on the Internet.

But if what is right or true is, by its very nature, dependent on what people say in surveys, then philosophy has had its nose buried in the books for far too long.

If morality is as Professor Hauser and others envision it -- a natural system with biological origins and an evolutionary history -- then philosophy, the love of wisdom, starts to blur with psychology, the science of mind.

The roots of morality is not a new question. Plato and Socrates pondered the eternal Good. Nietszche's masterwork is On The Genealogy of Morals. But something happened in the middle of the middle of the twentieth century that set in motion a trend that is still evident today.

Not only had the Second World War made these questions of morality seem desperately important, but also, in universities, psychology had split from philosophy to become a field of its own.

Questions of the mind were divided into the practical and the abstract, but the cut was not entirely clean. With Trolleyology and X-Phi, it is starting to heal.

Universal moral rules are problematic from the get-go. Rule-based behaviour can be misleading, as best illustrated in the best-known of modern philosophical thought experiments, John Searle's Chinese Room, in which a man who does not speak Chinese sits in a locked room as Chinese writing is passed to him under the door. He uses a rule book to compose replies, which he slips back out, appearing to conduct a conversation and showing that intelligent behaviour does not require true understanding.

Trolleyology is vulnerable to the same criticism as the Chinese Room, best formulated by the cognitive scientist and arch-humanist Daniel Dennett, who derisively called it an "intuition pump," meaning it sets you up to draw a certain kind of conclusion and ignore other possibilities, which is a pretty good description of the Moral Sense Test.

The MST remains active, to a degree, in Prof. Hauser's absence. Fiery Cushman, a psychologist in Harvard's Moral Cognition Laboratory who is not affiliated with Prof. Hauser but once studied under him, continues to monitor much of the traffic through the webpage, and is using it for various experiments. He said it is still an active research tool and has been used in a dozen research papers.

There is "something of a rapprochement" going on between philosophy and psychology, he said, as they increasingly share investigatory techniques like the MST.

"What's certainly happening, especially in moral philosophy, is there's a renewed excitement about making moral theories responsive to what we know about human minds and behaviour," he said. "But at the end of the day, psychologists and philosophers are still after answers to different questions."

As ever, those questions boil down to what is right, what is wrong, and what to do about it.

For his part, Professor Hauser has decided, like so many big-name scientists, to write a book for a general audience. It is to be called Evilicious: Why We Evolved A Taste For Being Bad. One imagines he has plenty to say.

Watch your language!

Friday, November 26, 2010

WSJ's top 10 hi-tech gadgets for 2010!

Jaw-dropping numbers!

Good Day Readers:

Last month the Conservative Member of Parliament for Saskatoon - Rosetown - Biggar, Kelly Block, introduced a private members bill (Bill C-575) which, if passed, would make the salaries of Chiefs and Band Councils on Canadian Reservations internet accessible thereby streamlining the process. Reference Bill seeks First Nations financial reporting - CBC News (below).

Since then the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has taken up the cause on its website with a detailed analysis of Chief and Band Council salaries on reservations (New jaw-dropping reserve pay numbers), problem is, for this private members bill to pass in parliament it will require the support of Opposition Leaders Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Gilles Ducippe hence their peition

And, yes, the CTF is right the numbers are truly jaw-dropping.

Sincerely/Clare L. Pieuk


New jaw-dropping reserve pay numbers By Colin Craig/November 22, 2010

  • Approximately 50 reserve politicians paid more than prime minister in 2008-09
  • Approxoximately 160 reserve politicians paid more than their respective premiers in 2008-09
  • Over 600 received an income that is equivalent to over $100,000 off reserve
  • One Atlantic Canada reserve politician paid $978,468 tax free in 2008-09 (equivalent to about $1.8 million off reserve)
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) released new jaw-dropping chief and council pay data today that reinforces the CTF’s call for greater transparency of reserve politicians’ pay levels and the need for reform.

Previous data obtained by the CTF was based on partial information from the federal government. Data obtained and released today by the CTF is based on much more complete federal data.

Reserve Politicians' Pay Highlights

British Columbia

Average Reserve Population = 639
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 1
Politicians with pay greater than Premier = 3
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxable equivalent) = 63
Average Reserve Population = 2,217
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 32
Politicians with pay greater than Premier = 52
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxable qeuivalent) = 187
Average Reserve Population = 1,659
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 2
Politicians with pay greater than Premier =43
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxable qeuivalent) = 120
Average Reserve Population = 1,279
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 5
Politicians with pay greater than Premier = 20
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxable equivalent) = 110
Average Reserve Population = 1,374
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 1
Politicians with pay greater than premier = 8
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxible equivalent) = 57
Average Reserve Population = 1,741
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 0
Politicians with pay greater than Premier = 3
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxable equivalent) = 28
Average Reserve Population = 897
Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 9
Politicians with pay greater than Premier = 31
Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 taxable equivalent) = 69
Average Total Reserve Population = 1,142*
Total Politicians with pay greater than Prime Minister = 50
Total Politicians with pay greater than Premier 160
Total Politicians with pay greater than $100,000 (taxable equivalent) = 634

* Population of average reserve in Canada

* CORRECTION: On November 24, the CTF was informed by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs that they had a "formatting issue" and released incorrect totals for chiefs' pay in both Alberta and British Columbia. Based on revisions to their data, the CTF has estimated new figures for those two provinces. Please be advised that numbers in the unnamed column in those two provincial tables should be reduced from printed totals.

“The numbers confirm what we’ve been saying all along,” said CTF Prairie Director Colin Craig. “Many reserve politicians are paying themselves exorbitant salaries while keeping their band members and taxpayers in the dark. This is exactly why we’ve been calling for transparency and reform.”

Shockingly, one band councillor at a 304 resident reserve in Atlantic Canada was paid $978,468 tax free in 2008-09 (equivalent to about $1.8 million off reserve).

“Posting band politicians’ salary information online would not only remove the cloud of suspicion around band politicians that aren’t taking advantage of the situation, it would help band members hold their politicians accountable,” added Craig. “Frustrated taxpayers and band members need to contact Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Layton’s to tell them to support bill C-575 as it would require such disclosure.”

The CTF has recently confirmed with the federal government that if MP Kelly Block’s private members bill C-575 passes, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs would place pay amounts that reserve politicians receive with federal dollars on the internet. However, as that would not disclose pay received from band-owned enterprises (eg. casinos, gas stations), the CTF is calling for an amendment to the bill to require all pay data be placed online.

Note: although the federal data released today does not include names, media outlets and taxpayers could try to investigate the anonymous salary amounts by using the reserve population figures listed in each row. Those figures could be cross referenced with the reserve population figures on the federal government’s reserve profile’s web page (click here) to determine which communities they could belong to.

Bill seeks First Nations financial reporting
Saturday, October 2, 2010CBC News

A Saskatchewan MP is proposing a federal law that would require the release of salaries and expenses of all First Nations chiefs and council members.

Conservative Kelly Block, who represents Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, tabled the private member's bill on Friday.

"The purpose of this bill is … to ensure that public funds that are flowing to First Nations elected officials are publicly disclosed," Block told CBC News from her constituency Saturday.

There is an existing process for First Nations band members to request financial information from their leaders, Block said. If those requests are not met, the federal minister responsible may release the information.

Block said her bill would simplify the process and make disclosure automatic instead of going through "a bit of an onerous process."

She added that many First Nations already provide regular reports of their finances. Some are proactive and release material as soon as possible. Others release information on request.

"But there are those that don't," Block said. "What this bill will do is ensure that … an individual wouldn't even have to ask for it. It would be disclosed in an annual report to the community."

Block said she did not conduct formal consultations prior to introducing the bill, but believes many First Nations leaders would support the move.

"I have made an effort to build relationships with First Nations chiefs and council members," she said. "But I did not specifically consult with them on this bill."

Block's bill, C-575, must go through a number of parliamentary stages before it becomes law. It is relatively rare for private member's bills to be successfully enacted.
Credit Suisse seeks to block tax evasion probe
Sunday, November 21, 2010
By Joseph Loiero
CBC News
Credit Suisse Bank has filed a legal proceeding in a Toronto court hoping to block the Canada Revenue Agency from examining 500 boxes of banking records as part of a probe into offshore tax evasion, a CBC News/Globe and Mail investigation has learned.

The Swiss Bank filed the application with the Federal Court of Canada last Wednesday. The bank's lawyers argued the court should overturn a previous decision by Justice Richard Mosley that had granted the agency permission to go through the documents.

Statement from Duncan King, spokesman for Credit Suisse
“Credit Suisse adheres to the highest ethical standards and has strict compliance guidelines. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has made an extremely broad request for decades-old banking records of a business that was sold in 1998. The CRA request is based solely on the purported activities of one individual in 1993, acting at the direction of a third party. Canadian law requires certain conditions to be met before CRA can issue such a request and we do not believe that those legal conditions have been satisfied. Furthermore, we are very concerned about the personal and financial privacy interests of our clients.”
The bank argues the permission granted the Canadian tax department is "inordinately broad," and the Canada Revenue Agency should only be allowed access to specific cases for which it has strong evidence.

The documents at the heart of the controversy belonged to a Canadian subsidiary of Credit Suisse, which closed operations in 1998. Still, the Canada Revenue Agency has argued those documents could provide crucial evidence about a complicated offshore tax evasion scheme involving at least two Canadian banks.

In an affidavit filed in court, Canada Revenue investigator Russ Lyon referred to the case of "Taxpayer X," who admitted to using Credit Suisse to evade Canadian taxes, by setting up offshore accounts.

The government has until November 27 to oppose the application by Credit Suisse.

Canada isn't the only country where Credit Suisse has come under scrutiny from tax officials. In July of this year, more than 100 police officers, prosecutors and auditors raided Credit Suisse offices in 13 cities across Germany looking for evidence of possible tax evasion.

And in 2007, Brazilian police raided several banks across the country for allegedly facilitating tax evasion, including Credit Suisse. Eight months later, Credit Suisse official Christian Peter Weiss was arrested in his Rio de Janeiro hotel room for allegedly operating an illegal money transfer scheme.

CBC News and the Globe and Mail recently reported that Andrew Saxton, now Conservative MP from North Vancouver, approved the transfer of $199,975 into a Swiss bank account in 1994 on behalf of a Canadian RBC Dominion Securities client in Victoria.

There is no evidence that he knew the account was set up to ultimately evade taxes.

Saxton was the head of private banking for the Vancouver branch of Credit Suisse Canada from 1992 until 1994, when he left for a series of HSBC banking posts across Asia. He is now the parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board after having been elected to Parliament in 2008.

Gordon Gekkos meets Preet Bharara!

Prosecutor making mark with Wall Street crackdown
Associated Press
November 25, 2010
NEW YORK — Preet Bharara was a newly appointed U.S. attorney when he added his own twist to a signature Hollywood line to put Wall Street on notice.

"Sometimes," he said in touting a massive securities case, "greed is not good."

A year later, Bharara hasn't let up in his pursuit of real-life Gordon Gekkos.

Making broad use of wiretaps — routine in mob and drug cases, but groundbreaking in white-collar probes — the Manhattan prosecutor has widened an investigation of hedge funds and other financial institutions suspected of insider trading. The latest arrest came Wednesday, the same day a judge rejected a defense challenge to the wiretap tactic.

Amid the crackdown, the 42-year-old Bharara has displayed a trademark tenacity tempered by a humility — a combination that's won admirers inside and outside the nation's largest U.S. attorney's office.

"I think he really does appreciate the power of the office and he's not going to waste it," said Eric Snyder, who has worked at a Washington law firm since leaving the New York office in June. "There's outrage out there. He represents the people and he's going to react to what people are outraged by."

Born in Ferozepur, India, Bharara immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1970 as an infant. He spent his childhood in Monmouth County, New Jersey and came away a fan of local hero Bruce Springsteen.

He graduated from Harvard in 1990 and Columbia Law School in 1993, and worked in private practice until 2000, when he became an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Five years later, he became U.S. Senator Charles Schumer's chief counsel, helping to lead the investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys under President George W. Bush.

Bill Burck, a former federal prosecutor himself in Manhattan who worked as Bush's deputy White House counsel while Bharara was investigating the firings of prosecutors, said Bharara "comes across as extremely professional and apolitical. He's viewed by Republicans as a very fair-minded guy who is not motivated by partisanship."

Burck said Bharara's likability stems partly from his sharp wit.

"He's one of the funniest people you'll ever meet. He disarms people with his humor and is very self-deprecating. That combination is extremely effective," he said.

Publicly, Bharara goes out of way to credit his 200 assistant prosecutors for a string of recent successes. Behind the scene, he's shown them his sense of humor by putting together a self-deprecating video montage of news broadcasters' tortured pronunciations of his name. (It's bah-RAHR'-ah.)

A review of his speeches and his remarks at his swearing-in reception in the Manhattan federal courthouse also revealed a deep devotion to family. During the swearing in, he choked up as he told about his father's sacrifices, which included living in a small Indian village home that lacked basic plumbing and coming to America with only a few dollars in his pocket.

"He will never be more proud of me than I am of him," he said as his family, including his father, watched.

Seconds later, he vowed to honor the obligations of his new job, including to resign, if necessary, over principle; to resist even overwhelming public pressure to do the wrong thing; to banish politics from deliberation and decision-making; to admit mistakes, even if they are embarassing; to view defendants and victims alike with dignity and self-worth and to value fairness over cleverness and justice over victory.

He also warned the prosecutors he leads that they might get to know his three children on Halloween.

"They will be coming to ask you for candy," he said. "Lots of candy."

In the year since, he's led the continuing probe of the collapse of Bernard Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme and the prosecution of the Times Square bomber and the first trial of a Guantanamo detainee, along with numerous white-collar cases.

With great fanfare — including the nod to the "Wall Street" movie franchise starring Michael Douglas as Gekko, a no-holds-barred financier — Bharara announced in October 2009 the prosecution of what he called the largest hedge fund insider trading scheme in history.

Since then, 14 of the 23 people arrested in the probe have pleaded guilty, with many of them cooperating. The investigation has led in many ways to the new insider trading probe, an outgrowth Bharara had forecasted that day when he said, "Today, tomorrow, next week, the week after, privileged Wall Street insiders who are considering breaking the law will have to ask themselves one important question: Is law enforcement listening?"

Deputy U.S. Attorney Boyd Johnson said he admires his boss and close friend for the personal touch he brings to the job.

"He spends a lot of time walking the halls late at night, on the weekends, speaking to the prosecutors about their cases and their lives," Johnson said.

Yet, he added: "He doesn't have a very high opinion of himself. He's a confident guy but self-deprecating. He jokes around with the assistants a lot, which I think they enjoy and appreciate."

Burck said he is confident the attention Bharara is getting will not affect his aspirations.

"If he was offered attorney general, I think he'd keep his job," Burck said. "He's not a guy about titles or prestige. This is not a stepping stone for him. This is what he wants to be."

—Copyright 2010 Associated Press

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Can you see North Korea yet from your backyard?

Stand with our North Korean allies’: Sarah Palin Her appearance on The Glenn Bleck Program came amid a busy schedule for Ms. Palin, now promoting a new book ripping President Barack Obama on health care reform and foreign policy (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Agence France-Presse November 25, 2010
WASHINGTON — U.S. conservative favorite Sarah Palin is choosing sides in the latest conflict pitting the two Koreas against one another, but a verbal slip-up saw her make an unexpected pick.

“Obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies,” she said Wednesday on the radio show of fellow conservative icon Glenn Beck.

The host immediately corrected her and Ms. Palin repeated: “Yeah. And we’re also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes.”
Although it was clear Ms. Palin had an unfortunate slip of the tongue, it is the type of error the former Republican vice-presidential candidate must scrupulously avoid to dispel doubts about her credibility in a potential run for the White House in 2012.

Ms. Palin, who left midway through her first term in office as governor of Alaska, was battered by the “lamestream media” for her awkward speech and apparent lack of knowledge on key foreign and national matters when she was John McCain’s running mate for his failed 2008 presidential bid.

Her appearance on The Glenn Bleck Program came amid a busy schedule for Ms. Palin, now promoting a new book ripping President Barack Obama on health care reform and foreign policy.

A TLC television reality show featuring her family fishing, kayaking, bear-watching and relaxing in their tiny hometown of Wasilla recently launched and she made a show of support for her daughter Bristol, who finished third in the finals of hit ABC show “Dancing with the Stars.”

The remainder of Ms. Palin’s remarks on Tuesday’s deadly artillery attack that marked the worst violence between North and South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War stuck to traditional U.S. policy talking points.

The United States should “remind North Korea, well, we’re not going to reward bad behavior and we’re not going to walk away and we do need to press China to do more to increase pressure on that arena,” she said.

“This is stemming from, I think, a greater problem when we’re all sitting around asking ‘Oh no, what are we gonna do,’ and we’re not having a lot of faith that the White House is gonna come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what it is that North Korea’s gonna do,” Ms. Palin added.

“So this speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policies.”

Ms. Palin’s prominence grew as the ultra-conservative Tea Party gained momentum this year and her reputation as a political kingmaker has solidified, with several candidates she endorsed romping to victory in the November 2 elections.

But the polarizing populist is no favorite of the Republican establishment, which regards her as a bad nationwide match-up against Mr. Obama in 2012 and has looked on with dismay as she has becomes an increasingly powerful player.

Agence France-Presse

Dancing his way to jail?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Canadian voters! Who among you were lucky enough to touch Mr. Ignatieff's junk today?

“People touch my private parts all day long,” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters when asked about the U.S. situation and Mr. Strahl’s announcement.

Mr. Ignatieff noted that his job requires that he practically live in airports, and he accepts the security measures.

“That’s what we have to do to keep us safe. ... I have long ceased worrying about these issues,” he said. “We have to keep this country safe and the people I feel strongly in support of are the hard-working security scanners. It’s not a great job. It’s tough. You’re wearing rubber gloves all day long.”

Like the rent David Chartrand's salary is too damn high!

__________________________________________________On tiny reserve, big pay defended
Hundreds of reserve politicians made six-figure salaries last year, including 82 who were paid more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper's income of roughly $300,000.

Richard Foot, Postmedia News · Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This tiny native reserve of 300 people in rural Nova Scotia is governed by three of the highest-paid politicians in Canada, including one band councillor who made almost $1-million in tax-free income last year, according to federal government records.

Glooscap First Nation Chief Shirley Clarke reacted angrily on Tuesday to what she described as "inaccurate, negative publicity" surrounding aboriginal salaries, which came to light this week and turned the spotlight on her quiet community.

Yet, Ms. Clarke refused to explain what was inaccurate, or discuss what she and her two band councillors — her sister Lorraine Whitman and their cousin Michael Halliday — are paid.

On Monday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released federal documents showing the salaries, honoraria and travel per diems paid to all First Nations chiefs and councillors across the country in 2008/09.

Hundreds of reserve politicians made six-figure salaries last year, including 82 who were paid more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper's income of roughly $300,000.

The highest salary — $978,468 — went to an unnamed band councillor at a small Mi'kmaq reserve in Atlantic Canada.

Although the records do not include the names of individuals or reserves, other details make it possible to identify which reserve is home to the million-dollar councillor.

The federal records say the councillor represents a band of 304 members.

The Nova Scotia government also lists Glooscap's population as 304.

The records say the same reserve received $912,563 in funding from the Indian Affairs Department last year, exactly the amount separately listed in Glooscap's audited 2009 financial statement.

No other reserve in Atlantic Canada matches the 2009 population of Glooscap and its federal funding amount from that year.

The federal records say Ms. Clarke and three councillors were each paid more than $209,000 in salary, honoraria and travel expenses last year.

The councillor who made $978,000 received more than $700,000 of that for what Ottawa calls "other remuneration" — income typically paid for work related to band-owned enterprises, such as gas stations and casinos, or band-awarded contracts, such as road-paving and snow ploughing.

On Tuesday Ms. Clarke, Ms. Whitman and Mr. Halliday invited journalists to the Glooscap band office to hear a statement from the chief.

"The document provides an inaccurate perception that we are unjustly overpaid for the limited work we do on behalf of our community," she said.

"Unlike non-Mi'kmaq politicians, we do not receive vehicle allowances, pensions, benefits, insurance or dry cleaning reimbursements.

"It is unfortunate that once again, the public is too easily entertained by inaccurate, negative publicity once again, focusing on the Mi'kmaq."

Ms. Clarke and her councillors declined to answer questions from reporters. Each was asked if they were paid $978,000 last year. Each refused to comment.

On the reserve, band members who did not want to be named said they were shocked to learn through the media that their chief and councillors were paid such sums for running a small community.

Glooscap's official membership stands at 300, but only 87 members actually live in the community — a store and gas bar, a video lottery parlour and the band office and health centre, surrounded by modest but tidy homes on the outskirts of Hantsport.

One Mi'kmaq woman said many Glooscap residents are unemployed and collect $110 per week in welfare payments. She said the Glooscap reserve, like dozens of others across Canada, is run by a small group of powerful families.

Coming Attraction: The continuing adventures of "Weaselly and The Bully!"

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post, "Post your Canadian taxpayer salary on the internet David Chartrand!"

They (David Chartrand and his personal defamation lawyer Murray Trachtenberg) want to know who's who on your site but just try to find out how much they make and how much was spent during the last MMF election then its their mouths' shut tight. Isn't that like two faced? O forked tongue or something?
Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for writing. Your points are well taken. It's impossible to find out how much was spent on the last MMF election or any other for that matter - we know we've tried. The Federation's bylaws in this regard are woefully inadequate.

The following was received from Murray Trachtenberg:

"I acknowledge receipt of your email transmitted on September 2, 2007 requesting copies of expense claims and evidence of payments for each claim, for the period March 27, 2003 to October 20, 2004.

The documentation you have requested in irrelevant to the matters raised in the pleadings. They will not be provided."

Then there was this taken from an Affidavit sworn July 27, 2009 by former Manitoba Metis Federation Executive Director Oliver Boulette notarized by Murray Trachtenberg:

"I noted in Exhibit 'G' Mr. Pieuk is seeking expense documents for the period March 27, 2003 to October 20, 2004. I am not certain at present if all of these documents still exist. If they do, they will be in storage and a considerable amount of staff time will have to be spent to locate and retrieve them." (page 7 paragraph 21)"

Organizational transparency and accountability for Canadian taxpayer dollars? Hardly.

Clare L. Pieuk