Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dalton McGuinty: Progressive Conservatives Have Turned Into The Tea Party

MARKHAM, Ont. - Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty says Ontario's Progressive Conservatives have been taken over by the far right-wing ideas of the American Tea Party.

McGuinty says PC Leader Tim Hudak's attack on the Liberal promise of a $10,000 tax credit for employers who give immigrants their first job gives voters a peek into the new thinking of the Tory party.

He says Hudak actually sponsored a similar private members' bill to help immigrants, but now claims the Liberal plan amounts to affirmative action that will discriminate against other job seekers.

Speaking at a school in Markham, McGuinty said Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives now practise the politics of anger, envy, resentment and division.

McGuinty doesn't think Ontarians will be comfortable with a hard swing to the political right, but dismissed suggestions we could be in for a nasty election.

Hudak promises a tax credit for employers who sponsor language training for immigrants, but says that helps those who are already employed.

Last week, former Conservative premier Ernie Eves said the PC Party had become "the Tea Party version of Ontario politics." Tory MPP Randy Hillier then posted a link on his Facebook page to a post by blogger Jeff Goodall that referred to Eves "a pinko re-tread."

Source: Huffington 

Canada Anti-Terrorism Laws: Harper Conservatives Will Reintroduce Controversial Measures

The Conservative government will reintroduce controversial anti-terrorism measures that were allowed to expire amid privacy concerns and Charter rights complaints, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed to the CBC Tuesday.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Harper told CBC’s Peter Mansbridge that Canada needs better tools to combat the ongoing threat of major acts of terrorism and Islamist violence.

Among other controversial measures expected to be made law again are preventative arrests and the ability to force individuals to testify at “investigative hearings” if officials suspect they have knowledge of terrorist activity.

“That is our plan (to reintroduce the measures). We think those measures are necessary. We think they've been useful. And as you know, they're applied rarely, but there are times where they're needed,” said Harper in an interview to be broadcast in its entirety Thursday.

Government worried multicultural ‘mosaic’ harmed terror fight: WikiLeaks

OTTAWA — Canadian multiculturalism policies have greatly shaped anti-terrorism and anti-radicalization efforts, but government officials believed it may be hurting them as well, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks.

The June 2008 cable from a U.S. official to other departments in that country said Canadian officials believed the government may have gone too far in encouraging diversity — the Canadian “mosaic” — rather than integration — the American “melting pot.”

“Government representatives have commented that they felt people around the world understood what it meant to be ‘American,’ but that Canada lacked a similar sense of identity, making it more difficult to create a feeling of one unified society in Canada — and hence creating greater susceptibility to radicalization,” reads the cable, signed by the deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Canada, Terry Breese.

New Democrats challenge Campbell’s appointment to Order of British Columbia

B.C.’s New Democratic Party is challenging the appointment of former premier Gordon Campbell to the Order of British Columbia, saying the honour has been tainted by his investiture.

“The body is not cold, as they say,” NDP house leader John Horgan told reporters Tuesday, releasing a letter to the Speaker of the House demanding a clarification of the appointment.

Mr. Horgan said the committee that selects recipients erred by adding Mr. Campbell to the list of prominent British Columbians who have received the Order for their extraordinary contributions to the province. Previous recipients include rocker Brian Adams, artist Robert Bateman, environmentalist Vicky Husband and former Canucks captain Trevor Linden.

Although a number of former politicians have received the order, those still holding public office are ineligible for appointment, according to the law that governs the process.

Rogers Communications looking to start a bank

Rogers Communications wants to be your bank, as well as your phone, cable and Internet supplier.

The company says it has applied to the federal government for a banking license.

But Rogers won’t be jostling on for space on prime street corners with the Big Five banks, the company says.

Instead, it will be “primarily focused on credit, payment and charge card services,” said Carly Suppa of Rogers in an email.

“We have no plans to become a full-service deposit-taking financial institution.”

The company hasn’t set a target date for plunging into the financial services sector. In fact, it hasn’t made a final decision.

The Tyranny of Zombie Economics in America

The story of where we are is a story of the destructive ideas that guided us here. Bad ideas about how capitalism works--ideas that fail to describe how economies actually function--have combined with conservative politics to promote policies that stifle growth, redistribute what growth there is upward, skew our fiscal outlook, and handcuff our policy process.

We are like travelers who have followed a road map to a destination that promised bliss but instead delivered stagnation and joblessness to many and political dysfunction to all. The economic geography behind that roadmap is a misreading of the original mapmakers--the founders of free markets--which eventually morphed into the deeply damaging belief that markets never fail and always self-correct; and therefore, government actions can only distort otherwise self-correcting markets.

Adam Smith and J.S. Mill never held this view. Of course it's true that Smith's brilliant insight was that unfettered price signals coordinate individuals' actions in markets in ways that deliver optimal outcomes. But he and later thinkers never let that distract them from the fact that, left to their own devices, markets would underinvest in public goods, pollute the environment, and generate unacceptably high levels of inequality and poverty. While there are contemporary macroeconomists that still teach their students that market bubbles are impossible, these early thinkers were intimately familiar with credit bubbles and did not for a second believe financial markets could self-regulate. (John Cassidy's book, When Markets Fail, is essential reading on these points.)

Video of U.N. Peacekeepers’ Sexual Assault of Haitian Prompts Calls to Focus on Post-Quake Rebuilding

The commander of the Uruguayan Navy’s United Nations mission in Haiti has been dismissed after the circulation of a video that allegedly shows Uruguayan peacekeepers sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian man. Haitian President Michel Martelly condemned the alleged abuse yesterday and said the victim had been subjected to "collective rape." The attack occurred in July, but graphic cell phone video of the alleged attack only surfaced in recent days. This latest episode follows others by U.N. forces. In December 2007, 100 Sri Lankan soldiers were deported from Haiti following charges of sexual abuse of under-age girls. In 2005, U.N. troops went on the rampage in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest areas in Port-au-Prince, killing as many as 23 people, including children. Yesterday, there were demonstrations in Port Salut, the seaside town in Haiti where the incident is alleged to have occurred. We go to Port Salut to speak with journalist Ansel Herz, who broke the story. "Some people want MINUSTAH, the entire force in the country—it’s now about 12,000 soldiers—to simply leave," says Herz. "Others are asking that they transform their mission from one of military so-called 'peacekeeping' into development—building roads, building schools, helping create the infrastructure that Haiti needs to get back up on its feet after the earthquake."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the horrendous atrocities of September 11, 2001, which, it is commonly held, changed the world. On May 1st, the presumed mastermind of the crime, Osama bin Laden, was assassinated in Pakistan by a team of elite US commandos, Navy SEALs, after he was captured, unarmed and undefended, in Operation Geronimo.

A number of analysts have observed that although bin Laden was finally killed, he won some major successes in his war against the U.S. "He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them," Eric Margolis writes. "'Bleeding the U.S.,' in his words." The United States, first under George W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap... Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction... may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States” -- particularly when the debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democrat establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.

That Washington was bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s fervent wishes was evident at once. As discussed in my book 9-11, written shortly after those attacks occurred, anyone with knowledge of the region could recognize “that a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates, and would lead the U.S. and its allies into a ‘diabolical trap,’ as the French foreign minister put it.”

Stephen Harper's Royal History Lesson

The Harper government's decision to (re)rename Canada's air force and navy with the "royal" appellation could kick-start an essential history lesson that Canadians should learn to understand the nature of their national identity. Pierre Poilievre, an Ottawa MP who wrote a part of Harper's Tory platform expressing a wish for a "renewed patriotism founded in our traditions," believes the "royal" moniker will enact a "restoration" and "renewal of our historic memory." He may be right, but only if one takes that "historic memory" to its reductio ad absurdum and studies in depth Canada`s colonial history.

First, the British royal navy, fueled by Prime Minister William Pitt's desire for British commercial superiority forged the conquest of France's North American colonies in 1760. France's final defeat seeded the condition of modern Quebec, widely viewed across Anglophone Canada (if viewed with anything more than indifference) as a culture of victims living on federal handouts. In my opinion, Harper's decision to (re)rebrand our national identity in British monarchical terms is in part an intentional snub against Quebec. The British army's defeat of New France 251 years ago set Quebec on the road to its reputedly insignificant role in Canada's national identity, a project Harper has pursued as an apparent act of revenge since Quebec lambasted him in 2008 for cutting $45 million in arts funding, part of which was deemed essential in Quebec for the preservation of its language and culture. Harper's strategy against Quebec echoes the position taken in an article from 1790 in the Anglophone paper Quebec Mercury, the author exulting his Anglo readers to help "unfrenchify" the province by "raising mounds against the progress of French power."

Second, the Tories have given Canadians the chance to remind themselves of who we are as a former colony of the British empire. We need only recall the royal treatment of First Nations peoples since the British took over the land Aboriginals had considered home for centuries before us. To get a sense of the possible extinction of Canada's Indians, a "soft genocide" being executed not with a bang but a whimper, consider, for example, the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857. It was designed by the British colonial government of the time who saw themselves as intellectually, culturally and technologically superior to their indigenous subjects, thus choosing to "enfranchise" them into British North American society by stripping them of their cultural beliefs and traditions: their identity.

Innocent Traveller Stuck On Airline Watch List

A Saskatoon man is fed up with being stopped every time he tries to fly within Canada — mistakenly flagged as a security threat — because he has a similar name to someone on a no-fly list.

"I feel I am either a second- or third-class citizen," said Ahmad Ali, a Canadian citizen. "They are humiliating me…and not catching the right guy."

Ali is a programmer and analyst with the University of Saskatchewan who said he’s been delayed a dozen times boarding flights since 2008. He said the RCMP told him there is a similar name to his on a watch list.

"Your name is in there…and you don’t even know what these lists are," said Ali.

The RCMP gave him written clearance to show he has no criminal record, which he said no one with the airlines is interested in seeing. Transport Canada confirmed he is not on its official no-fly list, known as "Passenger Protect."

Worker power in an age of uneven austerity

Any time commentators speak of a new 'age,' powerful assumptions quickly become entrenched in our thinking. An 'age of austerity' now encompasses many western economies as governments launch fierce campaigns against workers to lower public sector wages. At the same time, capital has taken a 'wait and see' attitude resulting in an unprecedented hoarding of surplus and thereby limiting investment and real job creation. As unions are put on the defensive by austerity measures, calls for broader working-class organizations from diverse groups on the left have become commonplace. Difficult questions remain around how to build such formations and what role organized labour can play, if any, in their development.

In recent times, labour unions have been a disappointment for the working-class. Whether one explains stagnant growth of organized labour in Canada and other countries as a function of neoliberal attacks by capital and the state or an internal crisis of leadership, the fact remains that most unions have lost power in a rapidly changing economy. The recent lockout/strike by postal workers ended with back to work legislation with defined wage settlements. The state's nonsensical justification was the 'fragility of the economic recovery' (even though Canada Post had one of its most profitable years). The state's harsh action against CUPW (Canadian Union of Postal Workers) members is more likely the stage for future austerity in the public sector.

Carving up Libya

Tension mounts in Libya, as rebel forces prepare to attack remaining government held areas of Libya, including Bani Walid, Sabha and the city of Sirte part of the tribal homeland of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Two weeks ago, the Libyan capital Tripoli fell, and Gaddafi fled. His whereabouts are unknown. Observers ask what role NATO will play in attempts to bring the war to an end. More NATO bomb in support of the rebel forces? Will NATO ground operations be approved?

Fighting continues on the ground. A Gaddafi son has announced that in Sirte 20,000 fighters loyal to his fathers regime stand ready to continue the battle, and have no intention of giving up (another son has announced he is personally ready to surrender if it will stop the bloodshed).

The Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) the political arm of the resistance to Gaddafi admits that some 50,000 Libyans, civilians and combatants have perished since the outbreak of the civil war six months ago. Many of the lives lost are due to NATO air strikes.

En Route To the Sixth Great Extinction

History is clear: Nature can't bounce back from a crisis until the root of the problem is gone.

Biologists recently found a strange monkey in the Amazon. They didn’t know this unusual creature with its bright red beard and tail even existed. Researchers also found what they believe to be a massive river running 6,000 km underneath the Amazon River. The underground Hamza River is 200 to 400 km wide, though, whereas the Amazon ranges from one to 100 km wide.

These are just two examples of how much we have yet to learn about our planet. As for the plants and animals that share our home, a recent study – “How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?” – suggests that, of the estimated 8.7 million species on Earth, 86 per cent on land and 91 per cent in the oceans have not been described by scientists. And describing just means identifying and naming. It doesn’t mean we know anything about their population numbers, their geographic distribution, what they eat, how they reproduce, or their relationship with other species.

Tory MP Alexander optimistic peace possible in Afghanistan

After spending six years in Afghanistan as Canada's ambassador to the war-torn country, Conservative MP Chris Alexander says he's still optimistic about future peace in the region.

"Afghanistan made me optimistic. People there have never given up hope," said Mr. Alexander, a rookie MP first elected on May 2, defeating Liberal incumbent Mark Holland in Ajax-Pickering, Ont.

"If you look at the lives of ordinary Afghans, who are trying to get their kids through school, find jobs themselves, or rebuild their houses or develop their agriculture, there has been a huge amount of improvement over the last 10 years by almost any measure."

He noted that the Afghan economy has boomed, roads are being built, medical clinics and schools are being constructed and there's more being done to improve Afghans lives than Canadians know. It's the premise of his new book, The Long Way Back: Afghanistan's Quest for Peace, published by Harper Collins and to be released Sept. 10.

Conservatives to talk economy, trade, crime at national caucus meeting this week

The economy will be the word on everyone's lips when the National Conservative Caucus meets this week in Ottawa for its annual pre-session pulse-taking, but trade, crime and at least one touchstone conservative issue will also be on the table, say insiders.

"Conservative MPs and Senators will meet to discuss ways to create jobs and economic growth, make our streets and communities safer and support Canadian families," said caucus chair Guy Lauzon (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Ont.) in a statement to media.

Caucus meetings are taking place Sept. 7 and 8 on Parliament Hill.

Canada's economy added only 7,100 jobs in July, after doing well from April to June, and in May real GDP dropped by 0.3 per cent, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Odds of a second credit crash rising

In Crosstown Traffic, Jimi Hendrix sang: "can't you see my signals turn from green to red / And with you I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead." In global financial markets, the signals have changed from green to red.

But rather than a simple traffic jam, a full scale credit crash may be ahead.

Our Vanished Civil Liberties

Caricatures created by politics never fit comfortably into the Oval Office. Eisenhower was less deferential to the military than he seemed likely to be, Kennedy was not at all beholden to the pope, George W. Bush was smarter than portrayed and Barack Obama has not led a charge from the left—least of all on behalf of the civil liberties that have eroded since September 11, 2001.

In pursuit of both terrorists and common criminals, Obama has perpetuated so many of the Bush administration’s policies that even Republicans might take heart. Granted, he triggered an outcry on the right when he attempted to close the Guantánamo prison and try the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court, and he repudiated the Bush/Cheney torture policies by ordering interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual. His moderately liberal judicial nominees, including two for the Supreme Court, have not won him points with the Federalist Society, which grooms young conservatives for the bench.

Otherwise, though, there has been little in his civil liberties record to bother nonlibertarian Republicans. Data collection on individuals has flourished without judicial oversight. People under no suspicion are still monitored clandestinely with Bush-era legal tools. State secrecy is invoked to thwart lawsuits by victims of government abuse. Leakers and whistleblowers are aggressively prosecuted, and federal agencies vigorously resist inquiries made under the Freedom of Information Act. Last spring the hard line against defendants’ rights reached into certain criminal matters that have nothing to do with national security.

"Better This World," Behind the Camera

Like the protagonists of their riveting new documentary, California filmmakers Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega attended high school together. But it was years later, after striking out on their own and working in various cities and having kids, that they moved home to Berkeley and bumped into one another by chance. "We realized that we both had pursued documentary film and decided to go have a drink, and we had strong creative chemistry and decided to do a project together," Duane de la Vega says. The project was Better This World, a fast-paced, emotional film that has garnered rave reviews on the festival circuit and is scheduled to air September 6 on the PBS program POV (and will then be available on the POV website through October 6).

Better This World looks at the cases of Bradley Crowder and David McKay, a pair of fledgling activists who were seized by federal agents at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and charged with making Molotov cocktails, although they never attempted to use them. Their prosecutions hinged on cooperation from Brandon Darby—a well-known activist and cofounder of the radical collective Common Ground—who shocked his colleagues by becoming an undercover snitch for the FBI.

In telling the stories of these three primary characters, the film explores the disturbingly fuzzy line between observing an alleged terrorist plot and encouraging one. It also probes the extent to which the FBI now operates within that gray area and exposes how the system is stacked against defendants who risk trial rather than copping a plea. What ultimately makes the film so powerful is its access and the depth of its character development, which leaves even partially sympathetic viewers with a vivid feeling of: There, but for the grace of God, go I. I caught up with Galloway and Duane de la Vega on the eve of the film's theatrical debut in New York City. Check out the trailer below, then read the interview.

Full Article
Source: Mother Jones 

The Koch Brothers' Million-Dollar Donor Club

Twice a year, the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch host secretive retreats for an exclusive list of corporate America's rich and powerful to strategize and raise money for their right-wing political agenda. Mother Jones has obtained exclusive audio recordings that shed some light on the brothers' latest retreat, held at a resort near Vail, Colorado, in late June.

In a speech that is part of these recordings, Charles Koch thanks donors who gave more than $1 million to the cause. We checked the audio against a list of participants at the Kochs' 2010 seminar in Aspen that was obtained by and did additional research on these individuals. Below are the names Koch read that appeared on the previous guest list.

Inside the Koch Brothers' Secret Seminar

"We have Saddam Hussein," declared billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, apparently referring to President Barack Obama as he welcomed hundreds of wealthy guests to the latest of the secret fundraising and strategy seminars he and his brother host twice a year. The 2012 elections, he warned, will be "the mother of all wars."

Charles Koch would probably not publicly compare the president of the United States to a murderous dictator. (As a general rule, he and his brother don't do much politicking or speechifying in public at all.) But Mother Jones has obtained exclusive audio recordings from the Koch seminar, a private event that took place in June at a resort near Vail, Colorado.

These unprecedented recordings provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the Koch brothers and their comrades talk when they gather. They include a pair of keynote speeches and remarks by brothers Charles and David Koch, who spell out their political aims and name some of the "great partners" who have contributed millions of dollars to their causes. (The audio was provided by a source who approached the author after the event was over and was not seeking compensation.)

California Gay History: 'Stop SB48' Referendum Faces Uphill Battle

SAN FRANCISCO — At churches, shopping centers, schools, and local tea party meetings in California, fired-up volunteers have started gathering signatures for a ballot referendum that would repeal the nation's first law requiring public schools to include prominent gay people and gay rights' milestones in school lessons.

Organizers of the Stop SB48 campaign_ Senate Bill 48 was the law approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July – are telling would-be voters the new mandate would inappropriately expose young children to sex, infringe on parental rights and silence religion-based criticisms of homosexuality. Those are talking points successfully used by proponents of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California.

But so far, Mormon and Catholic church leaders and conservative groups who spearheaded the Proposition 8 campaign have not joined the effort to qualify the gay history referendum for the June 2012 ballot, leaving less-experienced Christian conservatives to lead the charge without the organizational prowess and funding to hire paid signature gatherers.

China Oil Spill: ConocoPhillips Struggling With Bohai Bay Cleanup

SHANGHAI -- The oil spills from offshore wells operated by ConocoPhillips in China's Bohai Bay are posing political and technical challenges for the oil company far messier than the crude and drilling mud seeping from the seabed.

The company said Monday that it had complied with a government order to suspend all drilling, water injection and production at the affected Penglai 19-3 oil field, one of China's biggest.

Operations are currently stopped at 180 producing wells and 51 injecting wells, for a total of 231 wells, said a statement by Houston, Texas-based ConocoPhillips, which operates the field in a venture with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp.

CNOOC, which owns 51 percent of the venture, said the suspension of production in Penglai 19-3 would reduce output by 40,000 barrels a day, in addition to the 22,000 barrels a day lost with the shutdown of the two wells where the spills occurred.

Obama's Labor Day Speech

WASHINGTON -- Less than a week ahead of a critical address before a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned defense of the labor movement and the benefits of union organizing to a fired up audience of Detroit workers.

The tone of the Labor Day speech indicates advisers inside the White House pushing for a jobs agenda to trump talk of debt and deficits have momentum going into Thursday's speech. That address, a White House spokesman told reporters, will only make glancing reference to the long-term nation's debt, and will instead lay out an ambitious plan to get millions of people back to work.

Obama's speech before the workers in Detroit did not include the words debt or deficit, nor did it include admonitions that people ought to "eat their peas."

Instead, the president stood up for the besieged labor, quoting Harry Truman from a Labor Day speech 63 years earlier, which said, "the gains of labor were not accomplished at the expense of the rest of the nation. Labor’s gains contributed to the nation’s general prosperity."

Labour Day warning: If you want your union and your rights in the workplace, you'd better be prepared to fight to keep them

This Labour Day in Canada, unions and the fundamental right of working people to be represented by them face an existential threat. Elected union leaders seem for the most part not to be prepared for this reality.

As in southern Europe and the United States, the people who have in the past decade brought us bank failures, recession and declining economies are massing their not inconsiderable forces to further weaken the union movement in Canada.

If you think blatant and vicious attacks on the rights of working people and the social programs that support them are just a phenomenon that happens south of the Medicine Line, you've been smoking the peels of U.S.-grown bananas!

The ultimate goal of these people is to destroy the union movement and the ability of working people to bargain collectively, hence to act in their collective interest.

Promises, not only condolences for Jack

Literally seconds after the news of Jack's death hit the stands, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and all sort of social media channels are filled with tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- messages of condolence. There had not been such an outpouring of sympathy and grief since Pierre Trudeau's passing.

It was "getting surreal," lamented Mike Strobbel of the Toronto Sun and others like him, who couldn't stomach why Canadians paid so much respect to a figure frequently reviled by the media as a socialist menace poised to destroy Canada. One Facebook page dedicated to Jack's passing (R.I.P Jack Layton 1950-2011) gained 185,000 followers, while Jack Layton's page itself broke the 190,000 mark.

Canadians from coast to coast have not stopped at sending condolences to Jack's family. They have been making promises to continue his legacy as they envision it, a legacy of courage, hope and optimism. Within a week of Layton's death, $130,000 had been donated by the public to the Ed Broadbent Institute, as requested by the late NDP's family, in his memory. His life and passing has been transformed into an inspiration to continue the struggle for a better world. Social media pages have been littered with not only condolences but also pledges to struggle for a better world.

On Labour Day, think about unions as an equalizing force

By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.

-Martin Luther King speaking in 1961

On Labour Day 2011, unions in North America are facing historic challenges. Governments and corporations are increasingly disputing the right of unions to exist and to represent working people. This is true not just in the United States. Here in Canada the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Catherine Swift, told the London Free Press:

What would be ideal is getting rid of public-sector unions entirely.

Not that long ago such a view would have been considered extremist. Now it is common in both much of the business community and the mainstream media.

So Labour Day is a good time to review both what unions have given us and what has been lost in much of the world as governments reduce the rights of working people to democratically choose to act collectively.

Sovereignty slowly shuffling off this mortal coil

“After the Arab Spring, there will be a Quebec Autumn!” What Pierre Curzi, a sovereigntist MNA, was trying to say was that, just as several Arab countries have risen up against despotism, so this autumn would see a surge of fervour for sovereignty in Quebec.

Unfortunately, Mr. Curzi chose a very bad metaphor – since autumn, far from being the season of renewal, is the season of death, the time when leaves fall off the trees and nature prepares for the long slumbering silence of winter.

Unwittingly, however, he had it right. Indeed, it seems the sovereigntist movement is slowly and painfully reaching the end of its 50-year life. The first major sign was the rout of the Bloc Québécois in the last federal election.

But the situation has now worsened for the sovereigntists, since the Parti Québécois – the only force that could actually achieve sovereignty – is imploding under vicious internal dissent and violent attacks from a dozen radical splinter groups accusing the PQ leadership of being too moderate.

Doug Ford’s tourist-friendly plan for Port Lands faces big challenges

Councillor Doug Ford’s new development scheme for the Port Lands risks a significantly revised environmental assessment, throwing into doubt the promised six-year timeline for his project while potentially adding millions of dollars in additional costs, according to several lawyers familiar with the regulations.

Mr. Ford also faces the possibility of an investigation by the city’s lobbyist registrar over private meetings with representatives for the Westfield Group, an Australian shopping-mall developer. The Globe and Mail has learned that Paul Magder, a resident of the former city of York, is filing a complaint today, alleging that the company didn’t disclose its lobbying activities.

Mr. Ford’s tourist-friendly vision for the Port Lands, to be formally unveiled Tuesday at city hall, involves a mega-mall, hotels, a giant Ferris wheel and a monorail. It diverges sharply from Waterfront Toronto’s current plan, which calls for the naturalization of the mouth of the Don around a newly created delta surrounded by medium-density neighbourhoods, instead of forcing the river to turn west into the Keating Channel.

Top secret institute comes out of the shadows to recruit top talent

It boasts some of the top math minds in the country, it’s looking to recruit more, and you still won’t find its name listed among any universities.

The Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing is like a school for spies – a government-backed “classified research institute” that exists to entice academics who can help the government create and crack codes in the service of national security.

The federal government has actually employed a small stable of arms-length academic cryptographers for several years now, but this summer it opted to redouble and rebrand the effort. In doing so, Ottawa has stepped up its quiet drive to lure some of the smartest PhD-calibre mathematicians away from ivory towers and into applied government work.

750,000 Somalis are at risk of starving within the next few months

As the last bit of life drained from his frail body, Ahmed Nur was still tethered to an intravenous tube. His father brushed his fingers over the boy’s eyes to close the motionless eyelids. He gently pulled a sheet over his son’s face and removed the tube from his thin arm.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry,” the neighbours said to his mother, Khadijo Mumin. “God gave him to you, and God is taking him back.”

But she wailed with grief, even as they hugged her. “I’m losing all my children now,” she said through her tears.

Of her five children, two have perished since Sunday, and two more are lying sick and weak in the same Mogadishu hospital room where eight-year-old Ahmed slowly faded away on Monday.

Sarah Palin Rails Against Obama, Issues Warning To Tea Party In New Hampshire Speech

(AP/The Huffington Post) MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sarah Palin says the Tea Party needs to play a larger role in the 2012 presidential race.

Speaking to Tea Party activists Monday afternoon, the former Alaska governor said she wants conservatives to put aside internal squabbles and unite against President Obama.

Palin's visit -- her second to the Granite State in three months -- stoked supporters' hopes she will enter the presidential race. But she says she still hasn't made up her mind.

"They talk about the spending problem and yet Obama keeps spending more," the former governor said during a speech in the key primary state, Amherst Patch reports. "Enough is enough!"
She said cynics will keep mocking the Tea Party, but they can't let that get in their way. "History is on the side of bold and courageous reform, and this movement is reform," Palin said.
"Now is the time to grow this movement," she added. "We need to understand that there are more independent Americans who want to be heard."

Tony Blair Is Godfather To Rupert Murdoch's Daughter

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the godfather of one of Rupert Murdoch's daughters, according to an interview with Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng in Vogue UK.

Blair, along with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, was present when Murdoch's daughters, Grace and Chloe, were baptized on the banks of the Jordan river in 2010. The Vogue article says that he is Grace's godfather. She was born while he was still in office. The piece also describes him as "one of Murdoch's closest friends."

The admission is one of the clearest signs yet of the deeply close ties that Blair's Labour party cultivated with Murdoch after decades of poisonous relations. Top members in the party were convinced that Murdoch held the key to their electoral success, especially after 1992, when The Sun famously proclaimed that it had played a crucial role in Labour's shock loss to John Major. As Blair turned the party rightward, he also began a campaign to woo Murdoch. In the most infamous incident, he even flew to Australia in 1995 to attend a News Corp. conference. Blair's plan paid off when the Murdoch press endorsed Labour in 1997.

N.L. Police Kicked, Insulted Woman During Arrest: Witness

A man in Corner Brook says he witnessed a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer assault a woman during an arrest Saturday night.

Frank Ledrew said he was on Broadway, one of the key streets in downtown Corner Brook, when he saw the woman break down emotionally.

He said the woman, 45, who is from Ontario, had just received a phone call informing her that her son had been murdered there.

Ledrew said the woman lay on the ground, kicking her legs in the air and screaming, and was hysterical as two RNC officers arrived on the scene.

"They moved in on her quickly," Ledrew told CBC News.

"I heard one officer claim, 'You kicked me. I'm arresting you for assaulting a police officer.' And then with one great big boot, gave her a kick and called her a slut."