My latest at Da Tech Guy Blog, Warren Buffett and his American dollars for Canadian doughnuts, on the newest tax exile, is up.
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Faustam fortuna adiuvat
American and Latin American Politics, Society, and Culture.
My latest at Da Tech Guy Blog, Warren Buffett and his American dollars for Canadian doughnuts, on the newest tax exile, is up.
Please read it and contribute to Da Tip Jar!
Capitol Hill Cubans have the story,
The report entitled, “Canada on Guard: Assessing the Immigration Security Threat of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba,” highlights the following key points:
- Iran is collaborating with Venezuela and Cuba to exploit the seams in the Canadian immigration system.
- From 2009 to 2011, Latin America was the largest prior embarkation region for improperly documented Iranians migrating to Canada to seek refugee status.
- Venezuelan authorities provided at least 173 passports, visas and other documentation to Islamist extremists seeking to slip unnoticed into North America.
- Soft power solidarity networks in Canada serve as a “Trojan Horse” for Iran and ALBA to establish cover for spies, saboteurs and other nefarious actors.
As regards the passports, visas and other documentation to Islamist extremists, it’s important to remember that Venezuela’s immigration system has been under Cuban control since 2004.
Victoria L. Henderson, Joseph M. Humire, and Fernando D. Menéndez wrote the report, which you can read in full at InterAmerican Secuity Watch.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s frustration with U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline may make this installment of the North America summit, known as the “Three Amigos,” the frostiest since the annual meetings began almost a decade ago.
At the one-day meeting tomorrow in Toluca, Mexico, with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Harper, Obama is bringing an agenda focused on trade, education, border security and stopping drug trafficking. Yet 20 years after the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, the U.S. and Canada are at loggerheads over a $5.4 billion collaboration that would carry oil south from the thick sands of Alberta to American refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana.
Hey, Canada has the oil, and will sell it.
Rather than re-debate NAFTA, Obama is expected to press Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to speak with one voice as they negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade bloc that includes 12 countries around the Pacific Rim.
Comment from prior post:
In the 1980′s Reagan had Saudi Arabia increase oil production to drop the price and hurt the USSR’s cash cow. Why can’t we allow Keystone XL to be completed to kill Venezuela’s cash cow? Canadian heavy blend and Venezuelan crudes are all the same type of crude oil which are used by several very major Gulf Coast refineries. Other crude oils cannot economically replace them.
The Pacific Alliance met in Colombia last week, for the seventh time since its creation in June of 2012; This is good news for the world, not just for the region.
there are two major “requirements” for a nation to join the Alliance. First, the government of the aspiring member state must adhere to the charter of the Alliance, which stresses respect for democracy.
In addition, the second requirement to joining the Alliance is that a new member must have free trade agreements with the other Alliance members before becoming full members. Hence, Costa Rica will only join the Alliance after President Chinchilla signs a free trade agreement with the Colombian government (San José [Costa Rica] already has FTAs with other Alliance members).
Member countries Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico were joined by Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Japan, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama,
These countries and investors from outside of Latin America are attracted by the positive business climate among Alliance members—they occupy four of the top-five spots in the World Bank’s Doing Business in Latin America ranking—and encouraged by the fact that the bloc is serious. It is focused on trade, investment and immigration rather than politics and ideology.
The goal of the alliance is to create a free-trade corridor of all countries in the Americas with a Pacific coast. The hope is that dropping barriers on labor, finance and trade will help the Alliance become a hub for commerce with Asia.
The reason Japan, Canada, Spain and Australia attended as observers is that members of the Pacific Alliance are all part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; they are serious about growth and prosperity. Bloggings by Boz lists what they are getting done:
- The four current members dropped tariffs on 90% of the goods traded among them (something that was mostly done due to bilateral free trade agreements) and committed to completing the final 10% within the next few years.
- The countries have dropped visa requirements with each other.
- The four countries will likely create a joint visa system – Visa Alianza del Pacífico – that will allow tourists to visit all four countries on just one visa.
- Peru dropped business visa requirements for the other three members.
- The four current members agreed to open joint embassies in Africa and Asia.
- The countries will conduct a coordinated trade mission in Africa and tourism promotion globally.
- The creation of a fund to support small and medium sized businesses.
- A fiscal transparency agreement to prevent businesses from avoiding taxes.
- Agreement on educational exchanges, including 400 annual scholarships.
- Agreement to consolidate a scientific network on adapting to climate change challenges.
- Mexico signed an agreement with Chile to export meat.
- Mexico moved forward on integration into the Integrated Latin American stock Market (MILA).
- Costa Rica signed a free trade agreement with Colombia.
- Guatemala and Peru will have a free trade agreement within the next few months.
- Guatemala dropped its tourist visa requirements for Colombia.
This initiative is a significant step forward to synchronize members’ trade commitments and is aimed at enhancing trade with the bloc’s most dynamic partners in East Asia.
The Pacific Alliance numbers speak for themselves. These four economies are the most dynamic in the region, representing more than 40 percent of Latin America’s economy with a market of more than 210 million people—more than one-third of the region’s population. Since 2010, these four economies have grown at a higher rate than their neighbors and have also invested at a greater rate—25 percent of their combined gross domestic product (compared to just 20 percent elsewhere).
The Pacific Alliance is already having an effect on regional politics. Daniel Duquenal posts,
Brazil in recent years had a campaign to gain a permanent seat in the security council of the United Nations. All the efforts have been lost, I dare say with the recent fiascoes. How can a country aspire to such a rank when it is unable to protect democracy in its area of influence, and furthermore generates deep divisions as it may happen soon between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance? Clearly Itamaraty hopes of world leadership are seriously compromised as its actors are revealed to be mere grocery shop managers, more worried about Venezuela paying its bills to them than the long term perspective. Or mere amoral operatives if you prefer. Let’s say it: Brazil is not ready for the major leagues, Colombia is.
Democracy, free trade, investment and immigration: keys to the well being of the region, and the world.
One police source said there were several scenarios being looked at during the year the suspects were tracked, including the train plot.
One of the plots uncovered by the RCMP and other agencies was a planned bombing of a passenger train on the bridge that connects Canada and the United States at Niagara Falls, a police source says.
Ed Morrissey has more.
Chris Edwards, writing on We Can Cut Government: Canada Did, brings up a very important point,
THE FEDERALISM ADVANTAGE
One of Canada’s strengths is that it is a decentralized federation. The provinces compete with each other over fiscal and economic matters, and they have wide latitude to pursue different policies. Federalism has allowed for healthy policy diversity in Canada, and it has promoted government restraint.
Government spending has become much more centralized in the United States than it has in Canada. In the United States, 71 percent of total government spending is federal and 29 percent is state-local. In Canada it’s the reverse — 38 percent is federal and 62 percent is provincial-local.
The federalism difference between the countries is striking with regards to K-12 education. While federal control over U.S. schools has increased in recent decades, Canada has no federal department of education. School funding is left to the provinces, which seems to work: Canadian school kids routinely score higher on international comparison tests than do U.S. kids.
The countries also differ with regards to the amount of top-down control exerted on subnational governments through federal aid programs. The United States has a complex array of more than 1,000 aid-to-state programs for such things as highways and education. Each of these aid programs comes with a pile of regulations that micromanage state and local affairs.
By contrast, Canada mainly has just three large aid programs for provincial governments, and they are structured as fixed block grants. It is true, however, that one of these grants helps to fund the universal health care system, which is a big exception to the country’s generally decentralized policy approach. Nonetheless, having just a few large block grants is superior to the U.S. system of a vast number of grants, each with separate rules and regulations.
A final federalism advantage in Canada is that provincial and local taxes are not deductible on federal individual tax returns. That structure promotes vigorous tax competition between the provinces. In the United States, state and local income and property taxes are deductible on federal income tax returns, which has the effect of blunting competition by essentially subsidizing hightax states and cities.
Go read the whole article.
Obama’s neglect of our nearest neighbors and biggest trade partners has created deteriorating relations, a sign of a president who’s out of touch with reality. Problems are emerging that aren’t being reported.
Fortunately, the Canadian and Mexican press told the real story.
Energy has become a searing rift between the U.S. and Canada and threatens to leave the U.S. without its top energy supplier.
The Winnipeg Free Press reported that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Obama the U.S. will have to pay market prices for its Canadian oil after Obama’s de facto veto of the Keystone XL pipeline. Canada is preparing to sell its oil to China.
Until now, NAFTA had shielded the U.S. from having to pay global prices for Canadian oil. That’s about to change.
Canada has also all but gone public about something trade watchers have known for a long time: that the U.S. has blocked Canada’s entry to the eight-way free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an alliance of the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, and Singapore. Both Canada and Mexico want to join and would benefit immensely.
With the media’s “layers of fact-checkers,”
U.S. media dutifully reported Obama’s false claim that Canada, our top trading partner, is too protectionist
But the Canadians know the truth,
Canada’s take was far more blunt: “Our strong sense is that most of the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would like to see Canada join,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in essence revealing that it’s the Obama administration alone that is blocking Canada, and suggesting that payback on energy was coming.
Things were even worse, if you read the Mexican press accounts of the meeting.
Excelsior of Mexico City reported that President Felipe Calderon bitterly brought up Operation Fast and Furious, a U.S. government operation that permitted Mexican drug cartels to smuggle thousands of weapons into drug-war-torn Mexico. This blunder has wrought mayhem on Mexico and cost thousands of lives.
The mainstream U.S. press has kept those questions out of the official press conferences, while Obama has feigned ignorance to the Mexicans and hasn’t even apologized.
In short, the summit was a diplomatic disaster for the U.S. and its relations with its neighbors north and south.
It should have been the easiest, most no-brainer diplomatic task Obama faces.
Go read the whole thing, while at the same time keep in mind that Obama diverted the press conference into the issue of Obamacare and the SCOTUS.
And he got his Constitution facts wrong.
“Smart diplomacy”, folks, “smart diplomacy”…
In case you missed it, yesterday a summit took place between the three largest economies of North America: Canada, Mexico, and the USA. You would think this would be news as of itself, since it involves membership on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade zone.
Instead, Obama diverted the press conference into the issue of Obamacare and the SCOTUS, by cautioning the justices, to whom he referred to as “an unelected group of people,”
“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,”
It is outrageous enough that the president’s protest was inaccurate. What in the world is he talking about when he asserts the law was passed by “a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress”? The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act barely squeaked through the Congress. In the Senate it escaped a filibuster by but a hair. The vote was so tight in the house — 219 to 212 — that the leadership went through byzantine maneuvers to get the measure to the president’s desk. No Republicans voted for it when it came up in the House, and the drive to repeal the measure began the day after Mr. Obama signed the measure.
It is the aspersions the President cast on the Supreme Court, though, that take the cake. We speak of the libel about the court being an “unelected group of people” who might “somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.” This libel was dealt with more than two centuries ago in the newspaper column known as 78 Federalist and written by Alexander Hamilton. It is the essay in which Hamilton, a big proponent of federal power, famously described the Court as “the weakest of the three departments of power.” It argued that the people could never be endangered by the court — so long as the judiciary “remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the Executive.”
It was precisely the separation of the courts from the other two branches, Hamilton argued, that gives the court its legitimacy.
With his statement, President Obama Goes on Record Opposing Marbury v. Madison.
it isn’t the job of the Supreme Court to do the job of Congress. Instead, its job is to determine whether or not what Congress has done is compliant with the limits the Constitution places on it. That’s it. There is nothing which requires the Supreme Court to “fix” laws that Congress has passed.
Obama’s assault on “an unelected group of people” stopped me cold. Because, as the former constitutional law professor certainly understands, it is the essence of our governmental system to vest in the court the ultimate power to decide the meaning of the constitution. Even if, as the president said, it means overturning “a duly constituted and passed law.”
So the joint press conference with Felipe Calderón and Stephen Harper accomplished…what?
1. Obama’s going after the Supreme Court as his bête noire, knowing they cannot respond.
2. It showed that the President needs a remedial course in judicial review.
3. It demonstrated to Mexico and Canada that they are mere side ornaments when it comes to Obama’s priorities: Critical issues that involve the three countries count for nothing.
Canadian officials have said that they have been willing to put everything up for negotiation—including, some officials say, dairy products and other issues such as a U.S. push for Canada to increase intellectual-property protections.
TPP joins a list of recent points of tension in the world’s largest trade relationship. Canadians were angered by “Buy America” provisions in last year’s U.S. stimulus plan, new surcharges imposed on Canadians traveling to the U.S. and regulatory delays in approval for the Keystone pipeline, a massive project to move crude from the oil sands of Alberta to U.S. refineries.
As a side note,
When you read the full transcript, note the condescending tone towards Calderón (“Felipe, Stephen and I are proud to welcome you here today”).
Don’t miss Judidical activism for me, but not for thee
This is an email from Kermit Hoffpauir, which I’m sharing with my readers,
The Real Importance of Keystone XL
After constantly reading all of the media coverage regarding the Keystone XL and its importance, there are some very key facts missing. This pipeline has geopolitical importance and not because it would be carrying just any grade of crude oil, but a heavy crude oil with an API gravity of 20, or less. Here I would like to address the fact that Canadian Syncrude is a replacement feedstock for refineries producing an important commodity, Venezuela’s crude problems and the cost of converting “regular” refineries into heavy crude process ones.
I had originally written an email describing this and sent to a friend who posted it as an article, on his website here http://tinyurl.com/7l94ko7
For those unaware of crude oil and types of refineries and where sources of crude oil are from for them and certain products, I have already proposed that Venezuela is the sole major beneficiary of the blocking of the Keystone XL. Meanwhile the chattering class is hollering Warren Buffett’s railroad, there is much more to this than that.
First, Keystone XL was to bring HEAVY crude to the Gulf Coast (TX & LA) where 12 refineries use heavy crude as a feedstock. Primarily this is Venezuelan crude, which is a good bit less expensive and great for producing petroleum coke. Canadian Syncrude is also a heavy crude, though not as heavy as Venezuelan, and would be a stable supply. We have imported around 1.2 Million Barrels per Day of this crude in recent years. Additionally, Hovensa (Hess Oil/PDVSA 50/50 venture) imports a substantial percentage for its refinery in St. Croix, the largest refinery on U.S. soil rated at 500,000 barrel per day crude charge capacity.
Hovensa is shutting down!
That would mean that Venezuela LOSES over 1 Million Barrels per Day of oil exports. There are very few refineries in the world to utilize its crude as a major feedstock. It could be used as blending with light crude but not much else. All the talk about Warren Buffett is a sideshow, and should have nothing to do with the real reason behind Keystone XL.
Petroleum coke technology is a result of squeezing the very bottom of the barrel, into producing more gasoline. In the late 1970′s a market was developed for fuel grade petroleum coke, and by the early 1980′s the one time nuisance by product, petroleum coke suddenly became profitable. Almost overnight, Venezuelan crude became desirable for several refineries, located mainly in Texas and Louisiana, which had the ability to cost effectively refine it. Billions of dollars were poured into these and other regional refineries in upgrades, and export facilities. By the early 1980′s Lake Charles, LA became the center of the petroleum coke exports for the world, with both the Citgo and Conoco refineries going full bore into producing and exporting, through the newly build state of the art outdoor storage facility connected to the Port of Lake Charles Bulk Terminal No. 1. By 1982 ships loading from 10,000 to 40,000 tons of this cargo were headed to many part of the world, but in particular to Livorno, Italy for use as a fuel to replace coal in lime kilns for cement manufacturing. A small West German steel company’s (Otto Wolff) trading division played a key role in this and surpassed the two former leaders, Great Lakes Carbon and International Minerals & Chemicals, in contracts with petcoke producers to supply the new European fuel market. Heavy crudes are great for producing petroleum coke, not light crudes such as those coming from the new shale oil production or Alaskan North Slope. The only type of crude equivalent, here in the U.S., is around Bakersfield, CA.
While Houston is NOT a key petroleum coke market (contrary to Newt Gingrich’s claim that it would consume Canadian Syncrude) Lyondell’s refinery there has been a leader in petcoke production and use by building a cogeneration unit with the metalurgy required for the higher btu value, over coal, to use some of its petcoke production.
All of this was BEFORE Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA took part ownership position in several refineries in the U.S.
Today, the U.S. is the world giant in petcoke production with over 53,000,000 tons per year being produced annually. It exports close to 50% of that capacity (8 times the exports of Venezuela). China has in fact increased its petcoke production capacity to 50% that of the U.S. and imports more from elsewhere.
Since Hugo Chavez came into power, Venezuela’s crude oil production has declined by 35%. In late 2002 and well into 2003, a large number of management and professional employees of PDVSA went on strike to protest Chavez’s power and policy. This sent Gulf Coast refiners scrambling for a replacement heavy crude, the declining PEMEX grade of Mayan Crude filled the gap for the several months it was needed. There is no major source of such a heavy crude outside of Canadian Syncrude.
The capital investment required to refine Canadian Syncrude is nothing to sneeze at. ConocoPhillips spent $4 Billon on its Wood River, IL refinery in new process units and upgrades. Marathon spent $2 Billion on its Detroit refinery for the same reason. ConocoPhillips was lucky that it only had to spend a few hundred million dollars at its Borger, TX refinery and converted a 200,000 bpd pipeline from Cushing to Borger to enable it to handle heavy crude. Hovensa had spent $8 BILLION in the late 1990′s to enable it to take more Venezuelan crude. It had successively converted 2 crude units in previous years, into visbreakers, and lowered its overall crude capacity for the the world’s largest at 650,000 bbls per day to approximately 500,000 bpd to capitalize on the lower prices of heavier crudes.
One more thing. Canadian crude sells for $68 per bbls at terminal of origin in Hardesty. Venezuelan sells for the same as Brent but with a $5 –10 discount at port of origin loaded aboard ship which makes it above $110 per bbl.
Here is a little more about fuel grade petroleum coke http://www.cembureau.eu/
The NY Times has a graph on
Money Laundering at Lebanese Bank
The chart below shows the intricate money-laundering system the Lebanese Canadian Bank used to divert money to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, according to United States officials.
At the same time, the investigation that led the United States to the bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank, provides new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah’s money. While law enforcement agencies around the world have long believed that Hezbollah is a passive beneficiary of contributions from loyalists abroad involved in drug trafficking and a grab bag of other criminal enterprises, intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade.
The revelations about Hezbollah and the Lebanese Canadian Bank reflect the changing political and military dynamics of Lebanon and the Middle East. American intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished, the analysts say, as Iran’s economy buckles under international sanctions over its nuclear program and Syria’s government battles rising popular unrest.
Yet, if anything, Hezbollah’s financial needs have grown alongside its increasing legitimacy here, as it seeks to rebuild after its 2006 war with Israel and expand its portfolio of political and social service activities. The result, analysts believe, has been a deeper reliance on criminal enterprises — especially the South American cocaine trade — and on a mechanism to move its ill-gotten cash around the world.
Venezuela plays a part, too,
According to Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, one path into the country was aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border. Several American officials confirmed that, emphasizing that such an operation would be impossible without Hezbollah’s involvement.
It doesn’t end there.
Go read the whole thing.