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.]

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Rick Perry's Texas Miracle—for Corporations

Over the past several years Gov. Rick Perry has crisscrossed his home state, bragging about the Texas Enterprise Fund, his economic program that has given millions of taxpayer dollars to corporations such as Caterpillar Inc., Texas Instruments, and Home Depot. The TEF program is supposed to draw businesses to the state and create jobs. It has been a centerpiece of the so-called Texas economic miracle Perry now touts on the presidential campaign trail.

But there is a problem behind his happy Texas tale: The program appears not to have worked nearly as well as Perry claims. The governor has repeatedly overstated how many jobs it has created, according to several Texas-based advocacy and research groups. Moreover, Perry's office has stonewalled attempts to get clearer information about the program's lackluster results.

In January 2010, Perry's office claimed that TEF had created 54,600 jobs since it began in 2003. But company-reported data shows that, by the end of 2009, fewer than 23,000 jobs could be attributed to TEF. And two-thirds of TEF-backed companies failed to meet their job targets. The program handed out nearly $440 million during that period.

Jon Kyl Threatens To Quit Super Committee Over Defense Cuts

WASHINGTON -- The No. 2 Republican in the Senate says he would quit the special deficit-reduction supercommittee if there is an effort to cut more from defense.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl made the remarks Thursday at a defense forum shortly after the first supercommittee meeting. Kyl said he is "off of the committee if we are going to talk about further defense cuts."

The debt-limit bill that Congress approved last month calls for $350 billion in military reductions over 10 years.

At the supercommittee meeting, Kyl had commented on a "sense of optimism" that the panel could succeed in cutting $1.5 trillion from the deficit.

The forum was sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Source: Huffington  

Quebec Senator Jacques Demers Blasts Stephen Harper's New Spokesman Angelo Persichilli

OTTAWA - A Conservative senator from Quebec says he is shocked by comments the prime minister's new communications director made last year about francophones.

Former NHL coach Jacques Demers says Angelo Persichilli should have thought twice before going after Quebec.

Persichilli was hired recently by the Prime Minister's Office to serve as Stephen Harper's senior communications adviser.

The former journalist wrote a column for the Toronto Star last year that addressed the "overrepresentation" of francophones in federal institutions.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa today, Demers said francophone Quebecers face difficulty defending their language.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is backing Persichilli's hiring, saying he wasn't brought in for his personal views.

Source: Huffington 

Is the CRTC Set to Approve a Cash Grab?

As the CRTC considers approving a new tax on streaming sites, Canadians must demand to know where their money is actually going.

On May 25, 2011, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) published a Broadcasting and Telecom Notice of Consultation, launching a fact-finding mission on today’s Over-the-Top (OTT) programming services and their potential impact on the Canadian entertainment industry. This exercise could result in the modification of the CRTC’s previous New Media exemption orders, which continue to promote a “hands-off” approach to regulating new media technologies.

On the surface, the CRTC’s proposed exercise sounds reasonable. Internet video-streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime have become so popular in the United States since the CRTC’s exemption orders were originally published two years ago that it has become necessary to evaluate the potential impact these new services could have on the Canadian entertainment industry, and on Canadian culture. Already, Netflix has gained over a million Canadian subscribers since last year’s launch of its online video-streaming service.

Waterfront whirl

The backdoor deal-making only makes the Fords’ port lands scheming more dubious

Staring at nothing but rocks and trees for two weeks can mess with a man’s bearings.

But after stepping into committee room 1 on Tuesday, September 6, to watch the proceedings on l’affaire du jour at City Hall, i.e., Doug Ford’s recent musings about Ferris wheels, shopping malls and monorails on the waterfront, I realized I should have stayed in the forest and let the bugs eat me while I had the chance.

To recap: the Fords have big plans for port lands, of the backdoor kind. They want to take 170 hectares the city owns there and turn it over to the Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC) – or their development friends, depending on your perspective.

Only problem is the city has an agreement with the feds and province to develop the site through Waterfront Toronto, which has been working on its own plans for some six years now and was scheduled to release its business plan at NOW press time Wednesday.

Ford’s fake fiscal crisis

Sorry, the books are cooked — here’s the financial ­recipe for keeping our services and building a fair, liveable city

You wouldn’t know it by listening to the mayor’s office, but Toronto is not a municipal version of Greece, with all its fiscal malfunctions.

Everything we’re seeing in the current budget uproar is the result of a reckless ideological tax-cutting agenda – and the numbers bear this out.

Let’s start with the stated budget hole of $775 million. Even that figure is iffy. The fact is, we know that a multi-hundred-million-dollar structural year-end surplus is built into the budget left over from David Miller’s cost containment, the well-performing property market and prudent financial management by unelected city managers.

This money, about $300 million, is not included in the $775 million and obviously dramatically shrinks the budget hole.

It’s true that Toronto has some fiscal challenges, but they’re not due to excessive spending, which has increased by 3 to 4 per cent over the last decade, less than that of the provincial and federal budgets over the same period. It’s also in line with population growth of 2 to 3 per cent, which drives the need for more services.

Add to this the ever-present inflation factor, which will always be with us, and the fact that the operations budget has increased by only 2 to 5 per cent over the last 10 years is impressive.

The city has always had budget challenges, but this new financial crisis is clearly intentionally generated. One of Mayor Rob Ford’s first acts was to heedlessly cut taxes and drain the coffers. He accomplished this by cancelling the vehicle registration tax, worth $60 million a year. Then he refused a reasonable and usual 3 to 4 per cent property tax (the range in the later Lastman and Miller years) in 2010 that would have cost the average homeowner only $80 to $90 a year.

Mayor Lastman came to realize tax freezes were not sustainable and raised taxes 5 per cent in 2001. It’s clear that his freezes still cost the city about $150 million every year.

By refusing an inflationary tax increase, the mayor essentially deprived Toronto of up $140 million in 2010, and because the modest increase stays in the base, it would have provided approximately another $140 million the next year and every year to come.

The truth is, finding new “efficiencies” is difficult. Politicians of all stripes have been promising and demanding efficiencies for years, so most of the obvious ones have already been implemented.

The big problem is that cities rely on a property tax base that grows, due to new construction, at a meagre 0.5 per cent on average without a tax increase, whereas the federal and provincial governments’ revenues grow annually by an average 4 to 6 per cent.

That’s because other levels of government take in more income and sales tax every time someone gets a wage increase, even a small one, and spends it in the economy.

Rising property values can mean  higher taxes in cities, but under our provincially mandated system, most of that increase is simply redistributed (in a tax decrease) by the provincial Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to property owners who have not seen their property value rise as quickly.

The city does not get more revenue without a specific tax increase.

As well, Toronto is limited in its ability to implement other kinds of taxes by the province’s City Of Toronto Act. In New York City, there is a 1 per cent income tax on everyone who works in the city, and in many European countries it’s common to have cities collect income taxes.

Most American cities have access to a sales tax and use it to raise money for capital investments. Imagine T.O. adding 1 per cent to the GST. One per cent generates about $5 billion nationally, meaning that since we account for about 10 per cent of national spending, the city could score itself a nice $500 million.

While the above possibilities are interesting, current laws prevent them from being considered. So let’s look at what is feasible.

First, we know a 3 to 4 per cent property tax increase will bring in up to $140 million. The Vehicle Registration Tax was good policy and could be re-implemented, garnering $60 million. While no one likes TTC increases, most people who take transit would prefer a modest fare increase to service cuts. (We know this from the My TTC poll done at the time of the last fare increase.)

That’s another $25 million – and the same could be done across the board for other user fees, for another $25 million in revenue.

That’s $250 million toward the goal.

The land transfer tax could also be modestly increased and bring in an additional $40 to $50 million. It only affects about 1,500 to 2,000 people a year because of exceptions, and applies only to people who buy homes worth more than $400,000.

Further, the city can find some “efficiencies” and will inevitably take in new revenues – this is what the $300  mil year-end structural surplus I spoke of earlier is made of.

Assume cutting $43 million in efficiencies, the amount found in 2010. Setting a limit on requests for budget increases for police and other programs would subtract another $100 million from the $775. Yes, it would prevent those departments from improving service, but at least there would not be cuts.

Finally, based on the last 10 years’ experience, we can count on about $100 million of one-time revenues and assessment growth.

This leaves about $200 million from the mayor’s likely inflated $775 million. Given that the foolish property tax freeze cost around $140 million, which accounts for more than half the difference, the only solution would be a one-time special levy to get our finances back in order. Small, predictable yearly increases would follow.  This represents a sustainable budget path – not the crisis projected by the mayor.

What all this means is that if we face major cuts, they will have been made by politicians ideologically committed to shrinking government – and not because there aren’t other pragmatic options.

Source: NOW 

Ford-backed Woodbine Live! megaproject stalled

While Councillor Doug Ford touts a mall for the Port Lands, no shovels have broken ground on a giant entertainment-shopping complex in his own ward, apparently because it’s having trouble attracting retailers.

The Woodbine Live! project at Woodbine Racetrack was trumpeted by Mayor Rob Ford on the campaign trail last year as proof he can get the private sector behind a megaproject.

“I know how to deal with CEOs of huge corporations — that’s how I landed the largest development in Toronto’s history,” Ford, then councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North, told a newspaper last fall. “Woodbine Live! — I did that.”

Baltimore-based The Cordish Companies, partnering on the project with the race track’s operator, told the Star in June 2010 that construction would start that fall, with the help of generous tax breaks from the city.

Ford loyalist not convinced Toronto streets are for pedestrians

Until the last civic election, Denzil Minnan-Wong was just another councillor on the wrong end of every argument. More dozy than dangerous, he could be safely ignored — and was.

Now, Minnan-Wong, Mayor Rob Ford’s public works committee chair, is finally in a position to inflict damage on the city. That came clear again Wednesday when the man from Don Valley East announced he wants to take another look at the scrambles installed at three Toronto intersections several years ago.

The three-cycle stops have slowed “traffic,” which means cars, and should, says Minnan-Wong, be examined. No, he's not coming right out and saying the scrambles should be eliminated, but you can rest assured he's not initiating the process because he's so enamored of allowing pedestrians some limited rights to Toronto's streets.

DiManno: ‘Eyes of the world were on NATO,’ Canadian general says

NAPLES, ITALY—Just as we’d always suspected, if more wryly than with alarm: the rat was in the cellar.

Moammar Gadhafi did indeed bivouac in the basement of the posh Rixos Hotel — compulsory Tripoli lodgings for foreign journalists through months of the stalled Libyan revolution — confident that NATO planes would not bomb that location.

“Absolutely,’’ confirms Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian in command of Operation Unified Protector, formal name of the interventionist NATO mission mandated by the United Nations Security Council.

“He was there,’’ Bouchard told the Star during an interview this week at Joint Force Command headquarters here. “It’s not a secret anymore. He could drive in a golf cart through the tunnels that stretched all the way from (his compound) Bab al-Aziziya, under the zoo next door and into the hotel. That’s how he would appear out of nowhere, disappear, and pop up somewhere else.’’

Keystone XL Pipeline: Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Other Nobel Winners Ask Obama To Nix Oil Sands Project

Nine winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, have written a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him not to approve a pipeline that would ship oilsands crude from Alberta to Texas.

"We urge you to say 'no' to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions," said the letter, which was released Wednesday.

Obama himself won the Peace Prize in 2009 and former vice-president Al Gore shared the award in 2007.

The letter sprang from the U.S.-based environmental organization Natural Resources Defense Council contacting an Ottawa-based group that represents the seven living female winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Keystone XL Pipeline Protests: Are Canadians Growing Apathetic About The Oil Sands?

The recent protests in Washington over plans to funnel crude from the Alberta oil sands to Texas put the spotlight on the growing opposition to the project south of the border. But as activists hoisted placards, chanted slogans and got arrested (police carted off more than 1,200 protesters during the two-week-long “sit in”), the demonstrations also illuminated something else: a conspicuous lack of outrage over the oil sands in Canada.

Though local environmental groups insist that grassroots opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline -- and the oil sands more broadly -- burns just as strongly in Canada, the relatively muted reaction to the project thus far raises questions about what’s behind the apparent disparity, namely: Are Canadians as concerned as their U.S. counterparts?

In some respects, the comparatively subdued response on this side of the border can be explained by the nature of the current controversy. Despite the fact that Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. is behind the Keystone pipeline, Washington has the power to stop the project, which will run primarily through the U.S.

In Euro Zone, Banking Fear Feeds on Itself

Remember the collapse of Lehman Brothers? Europeans certainly do.       

As Europe struggles to contain its government debt crisis, the greatest fear is that one of the Continent’s major banks may fail, setting off a financial panic like the one sparked by Lehman’s bankruptcy in September 2008.

European policy makers, determined to avoid such a catastrophe, are prepared to use hundreds of billions of euros of bailout money to prevent any major bank from failing.

But questions continue to mount about the ability of Europe’s banks to ride out the crisis, as some are having a harder time securing loans needed for daily operations.

American financial institutions, seeking to inoculate themselves from the growing risks, are increasingly wary of making new short-term loans in some cases and are pulling back from doing business with their European counterparts — moves that could exacerbate the funding problems of European banks.

U.S. Businesses Post Most Job Openings In Three Years In July

WASHINGTON — Companies in July advertised the most jobs in three years, and layoffs declined – a bit of hope for a weak economy. Still, many employers are in no rush to fill openings.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that employers increased their postings to 3.23 million from 3.17 million in June. That is the largest number of openings since August 2008. Typically, it takes anywhere from one to three months to fill an opening.

More openings don't guarantee more jobs. The government said last week that employers failed to add any net jobs in August, the worst month for hiring since September 2010. The unemployment rate stayed for the second straight month at 9.1 percent.

The worsening jobs outlook has put pressure on President Barack Obama. He is expected on Thursday to introduce a $300 billion jobs package before a joint session of Congress. The plan will likely include extensions of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits, tax incentives for businesses that hire and money for public works projects.

Middle-Class Americans Often Fall Down Economic Ladder: Study

The promise of the American dream has given many hope that they themselves could one day rise up the economic ladder. But according to a study released Tuesday, those already in financially-stable circumstances should fear falling down a few rungs too.

The study, by the Pew Charitable Trusts, found that nearly a third of Americans who were part of the middle class as teenagers in the 1970s have fallen out of it as adults. Though Pew examined only a certain demographic swath of participants, its findings suggest the relative ease with which people in the U.S. can end up in low-income, low-opportunity lifestyles -- even if they started out with a number of advantages.

Though the American middle class has been repeatedly invoked as a key factor in any economic turnaround, numerous reports have suggested that the middle class enjoys less existential security than it did a generation ago, thanks to stagnating incomes and the decline of the industrial sector.

Troy Davis' Execution Date Set By Georgia Authorities

Years of public appeals, pleas of innocence and international support have yet to prevent what may be Troy Davis' fate: Prison officials in Georgia have set the date of execution for Davis, one of the highest-profile inmates on the state's death row.

It is the fourth time in as many years that officials have set such a date. This time the date is September 21.

Davis, convicted of the 1989 killing of an off-duty Savannah police officer, has steadfastly maintained his innocence. In the decades since his conviction, his case has become somewhat of a cause célèbre, with former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and even Pope Benedict XVI, among others, having urged the courts to grant Davis a new trial. Family members have poured their hearts and souls into Davis' case. Advocacy groups rallied. Letter-writing campaigns were launched.

Paul Ryan Event Draws Protesters, Police Arrest Three At Luncheon

A Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) luncheon on Tuesday was disrupted by demonstrators, including several who were arrested while protesting the Wisconsin congressman.

Both pro- and anti-Paul Ryan demonstrators gathered outside the Greenfield, Wis. banquet hall Ryan was visiting for a luncheon with the Whitnall Park Rotary Club, according to Patch reporters Denise Konkol and David Cotey.

Ryan attempted to make light of the situation at the start of the event, saying "apparently you Rotarians don't like free lunches either. ... Welcome to a 'new normal' in Wisconsin."

Several protestors who paid to attend the lunch attempted to drown out Ryan by standing and shouting questions during his remarks. One woman asked, "When are you going to create jobs, Congressman?" while another man criticized Ryan for avoiding the topic of unemployment, saying "We're three minutes in and we haven't heard the word 'jobs' yet."

According to Patch, about a dozen protesters were escorted out of the building, and another dozen left the speech willingly. Three were arrested and given municipal citations.

Police told Patch they warned protesters in advance that they could face arrest if they disrupted Ryan's speech.

Source: Huffington 

Super Congress Democrats Want Panel To Focus On Jobs

WASHINGTON - Democrats on the Super Congress will insist that the body's mandate be expanded to include job creation measures, setting up the first major ideological battle a day before the panel is set to meet for the first time.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said on Wednesday that Democrats on the panel are in agreement that the national debt can't be decreased without growing the economy. "It's part of the recovery. Growth will raise revenue," Baucus said after a lunch meeting with Democrats. He declined to specify the size of a stimulus package he'd want included. "It's gotta be one that makes sense," he said, distancing himself, apparently, from the camp that advocates a senseless plan.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the author of a bill to create an infrastructure bank that would spur construction lending, also said that the panel should focus on job growth. "I don't think you can reduce the deficit of the country in the scope that we need to without growth," he said. "We have to have that discussion."

EXCERPT: "A People's History Of The Great Recession" By Arthur Delaney

What follows is an excerpt from "A People's History of the Great Recession," a compilation of HuffPost Politics reporter Arthur Delaney's stories on those hit hardest by the economic crisis. This collection of Arthur's impassioned reporting, putting flesh and blood on the statistics, also marks the debut of HuffPost's entry into e-book publishing , which will allow us to delve deeply into interesting and timely topics. Look for our next title coming later this month. For more on "A People’s History of the Great Recession," check out Arianna’s latest blog post here.

INTRODUCTION: How the Rules Have Changed

On July 17, 2009, Terry Harris of Jonesville, S.C., lost her job as an executive assistant at a promotional products company. The company, she said, went belly up.

"My boss actually cried when I was let go," Harris told me during an interview in May 2011. "I have an excellent letter of recommendation from him."

In other words, Harris said, "It was purely an economic thing." She lost her job through no fault of her own.

What she hadn't figured out was why she was still unemployed and why her husband had been bounced from one wretched low-paying job to another. Why, she asked, if they both finished high school, got some post-secondary education, had solid work histories and held off on having kids, was it such a struggle to pay for things like getting the car fixed and visiting the dentist?

As Rick Perry Takes Center Stage At GOP Debate, Questions About Electability Grow Louder

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- When Rick Perry takes the stage Wednesday night for his first debate as a presidential candidate, many Republicans will be wondering, "Who is this guy, really?"

Perry has shot to the head of the Republican primary field in national polls. But conversations with Republican lawmakers and voters this week have shown that many are not convinced the Texas governor has what it takes to be the party's nominee, or beat President Obama in the general election.

"I have my doubts that Perry can beat Obama in a head-to-head," said one influential Republican donor and activist in the Northeast, who said Perry has yet to come in for his "media proctology exam."

In South Carolina earlier this week, influential Republicans were also unimpressed by Perry's lead in the national polls.

"It's not going to stay," said Glenn McCall, a national committee member from South Carolina. "It's too early."

Security trumps trade at the U.S. border

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, then-foreign minister John Manley was relaxing on an Air Canada flight from Germany when a pair of flight attendants asked him to come up to the cockpit. The pilots wanted to know what to tell the passengers about the extraordinary events on the ground. They gave Manley headphones for listening to radio updates. Airports in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa were closing. “It was chaos,” he recalled. “No one knew if it was four planes or a dozen.”

Canada’s then-ambassador to the United States, David Kergin, had just arrived at his office near the Capitol to see black smoke rising from the Pentagon building across the Potomac River. “We very quickly concluded maybe we were best to stay in the embassy because it was secure,” he recalls. As rumours abounded of bombs in the U.S. capital, the ambassador had a call from prime minister Jean Chrétien. “You know, the world will never be the same again,” Chrétien told him. It wasn’t—and neither was Canada’s relationship with the U.S.

Ottawa’s relations with Washington had generally focused on trade disputes such as softwood lumber and agriculture. Since then, the focus of time, energy, and spending has been the border. No longer is the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office the most important for Ottawa. Now the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), created in the aftermath of the attacks, eclipses all else. The job of DHS is not to ensure trade and prosperity, but help to prevent another attack. And Canadians have felt the difference.

A Fateful Day: 9/11 Also Marks Important Anniversaries in India, Guatemala, Haiti and Attica, NY

On the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we look back at several national and international events linked to that day. This year on September 11, India will mark the 105th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi launching the modern nonviolent resistance movement. We play part of a 2003 interview with Gandhi’s grandson, Arun. On September 11, 1990, renowned Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack was assassinated in Guatemala City. She had been stalked for two weeks prior to her death by a U.S.-backed military death squad in retaliation for her work to expose and document the destruction of rural indigenous communities by U.S.-backed state forces and allied paramilitary groups. We play part of a 2003 interview with Myrna’s sister Helen Mack, who has fought tirelessly to bring justice to people killed by high ranking Guatemalan officials in the armed forces. On September 11, 1993, in the midst of the U.S.-backed coup in Haiti, Antoine Azenery was dragged out of a church by coup forces and murdered in broad daylight. He had been commemorating a massacre of parishioners at the Saint John Boscoe church that had occurred five years earlier on September 11, 1988. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide narrowly escaped death in that attack, and later became president of Haiti. We play an excerpt from a 2004 Democracy Now! interview with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide about the attack. We also play a portion of the film, "Ghosts of Attica," about Frank "Big Black" Smith, a prisoner who played a prominent role in the Sept. 9, 1971 Attica prison rebellion and who was tortured by the troops who crushed the uprising days later.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Epitaph For Another 9/11: Renown Writer Ariel Dorfman on 1973 U.S.-backed Coup in Chile

"That September 11, that lethal Tuesday morning, I awoke with dread to the sound of planes flying above my house. When, an hour later, I saw smoke billowing from the center of the city, I knew that life had changed for me, for my country, forever." Those are the words of our guest, Chilean-American author Ariel Dorfman, writing not about the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 10 years ago this week, but another September 11th. On September 11, 1973 a U.S.-backed coup in Chile led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. Allende died in the palace on that day. Ariel Dorfman, served as a cultural advisor to Salvador Allende from 1970 to 1973. After the coup, he went into exile and today he is recognized as one of Latin America’s greatest writers. “Chile reacted to the terror that was inflicted upon us with nonviolent resistance. For instance, we did not go and bomb Washington because Washington ordered and helped to create the coup in Chile. On the contrary, we created a peaceful revolution against Pinochet,” Dorfman notes. “If you contrast that to what Bush did as a result of this very small band of terrorists, the results have been absolutely terrible. If this was a test, and I think these are tests of national values and national will, the U.S. has failed that test terribly.”
Source: Democracy Now! 

Texas Faces Massive Wildfires, Record Drought as Gov. Rick Perry Denies Existence of Global Warming

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was back on the campaign trail at last night’s Republican presidential debate, where he questioned the science behind human-caused global warming. On Wednesday, Perry announced he was returning home to focus on a historic wildfire season in which some 3.6 million acres have burned—an area larger than the size of Connecticut. Perry has used the crisis to complain the federal government is not acting fast enough to assist firefighters, but critics have been quick to note the governor has slashed the budget for the Texas Forest Service, the first line of fire defense for most of the state. The wildfires come amidst a record drought. The state has seen its driest consecutive months since record keeping began in 1895, and the impact on the state’s agricultural industry has been devastating. We speak with Forrest Wilder, reporter with The Texas Observer. His latest article on this is "Texas’ Permanent Drought: Our Water Deficit Didn’t Start with this Drought. And It Won’t End with this Drought."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Security spending after 9/11 tops $92B

An additional $92 billion has been spent on national security in Canada in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a report released Wednesday.

The study by the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute tracked the budgets for what it calls the "new national security establishment," that it says was built in response to the terrorist attacks a decade ago and includes the departments of National Defence, Foreign Affairs, Public Safety, Justice, the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Canada Border Services Agency.

The study found that since 2000-01, Canada has dedicated $92 billion more to national security spending than it would have if budgets had remained in line with spending levels before the attacks in 2001, $69 billion when adjusted for inflation.

Harper says 'Islamicism' biggest threat to Canada

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the biggest security threat to Canada a decade after 9/11 is Islamic terrorism.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge that will air in its entirety on The National Thursday night, Harper says Canada is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda attacked the U.S., but that "the major threat is still Islamicism."

"There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats," Harper said.

Harper cautioned that terrorist threats can "come out of the blue" from a different source, such as the recent Norway attacks, where a lone gunman who hated Muslims killed 77 people.

Harper’s ‘Islamicism’ remark draws heavy opposition fire

Stephen Harper is using the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for political gain, the opposition says.

To the NDP, the Prime Minister is sowing division on the eve of the 10th anniversary. And to the Liberals, Mr. Harper is trying to look tough by musing about changing the anti-terrorism laws.

“The 10th anniversary of 9/11 should be a time for reflection on how we can build a more inclusive society to end extremism,” NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar told The Globe Wednesday morning. “Let’s all guard against knee-jerk demonizing and overheated rhetoric.”

The Prime Minister told CBC’s Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday night that in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the major threat to Canada “is still Islamicism.”

“Unfortunately, Stephen Harper continues to use divisive language for political purposes,” Mr. Dewar charged.

Activists rally to put the kibosh on the Keystone pipeline

The phone call to organizers was a bittersweet confirmation that the story was being carried around the continent. It came from activist Tim DeChristopher -- new folk hero and symbol of the increasing risks taken by the climate justice movement, after being jailed for peacefully disrupting a land sell-off to the oil industry under the Bush administration.

Across from DeChristopher's cell in a penitentiary in the small town of Pahrump, Nevada, where he has started serving a two-year sentence, a small television was flickering images of the protests in front of the White House in Washington, DC in late August.

What he saw was what millions of Americans saw: a parade of people getting arrested in an attempt to build pressure to block the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline that could carry more than one million barrels of Alberta oil daily to refineries in Texas.

Turning Industrial Refuse to Clean Energy

By converting the by-products of steel production into ethanol, LanzaTech's new technology could revolutionize our global energy future.

The world is currently facing three critical energy needs. We need to: 1) supply sufficient and secure sources of energy to enable the global energy pool to double over the next 40 to 50 years; 2) introduce a greater-than-30-per-cent share of non-carbon emitting fuels into that pool to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels; and 3) ensure that, through this growth, we achieve energy democratization, enabling everyone access to clean, affordable energy without negatively impacting food, land, or water resources.

To achieve the latter goal, it is critical that we diversify our primary energy sources. During the next 20 years, global energy demand is expected to grow by more than 40 per cent. The International Energy Agency projects that, during the same time period, fossil fuels will still supply more than 75 per cent of energy. This immense challenge is also an important opportunity.

City moves to take over port lands

Toronto’s executive committee moved to seize control of redevelopment plans for the Port Lands, as Mayor Rob Ford lauded an “amazing” new blueprint for 400 hectares of underused waterfront real estate.

The flashy “high-level vision” unveiled by consultants hired by the Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC) includes some of the ideas promoted last week by the Mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, such as a monorail connecting union station to the shore, a Ferris wheel, a sports complex in a decommissioned power plant and a shopping mall. The possible blueprint also calls for a new marina south of the Keating Channel, a roundabout on Cherry Street, an observation deck on the top of the smoke stack at the Hearn generating station and dozens of high-rises on what are now derelict industrial lands.

Officials called it a launching point for the city to dream differently about its waterfront, which is currently in the hands of an agency called Waterfront Toronto. It plans to phase-in redevelopment over 25 years. That’s far too slow for Mayor Ford, who vowed to turn the Port Lands into a destination for tourists and families in 10 years.

Charles Lewis: Did the 9/11 attacks irrevocably shatter American civil liberties?

In the moments just after the United States suffered its greatest trauma in 60 years, George W. Bush uttered some of the most profound words of his presidency. They were meant to rally and unite Americans and remind the world that U.S. values were unshakable.

“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America,” he said. “These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Now 10 years on, a growing group of civil libertarians says that the “foundation of America” is on its way to irreparable damage.

Ford vows Port Lands remake within a decade

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is vowing to make his vast makeover of the Port Lands a reality within a decade, saying the city can’t wait a quarter of a century to see redevelopment of the eastern harbour.

Lavish conceptual drawings commissioned by a city agency and endorsed by the mayor were made public Tuesday and include the much-anticipated Ferris wheel and mega-mall, as well as a few surprises. What the presentation did not include was a price tag for the remake or a plan for how it will be financed – those details were promised in a report in the next six months.

“We now have a plan. It is absolutely phenomenal,” Mayor Ford told reporters. “We are going to revitalize the Port Lands like you have never seen before.”

The elaborate drawings are the latest move in a bid by the Ford administration to kick-start development on the vast area at the mouth of the Don River, former industrial land that is under the control of Waterfront Toronto, a partnership among three levels of government.

Mayor’s making a hash of the job, say the Twitterati

As far as Twitter is concerned, Rob Ford is the worst.

Of the roughly 43,000 times Toronto’s mayor was mentioned on various social media sites since he took office last December, fewer than 3,000 posts had a positive tone. The remainder split evenly between negative and neutral.

According to research by locally based Social Media Group, Ford’s popularity among plugged-in Torontonians hit new lows this summer — 61 per cent negative — around the time the Fords picked a fight with beloved author (and Canadian Twitter royalty) Margaret Atwood.

In fact, the mayor’s online approval had been steadily sinking the last four months, as service cuts, the Pride snub and the war on graffiti dominated headlines.

We can pay for Port Lands plan, Waterfront Toronto says

In a challenge to Mayor Rob Ford, Waterfront Toronto’s board chair says the agency will have no problem coming up with the money for flood protection in the Port Lands.

Ford cited Waterfront Toronto’s supposed inability to fund the $634 million flood protection project as a main reason council should dismiss its plans for a Port Lands neighbourhood and put the city-owned Toronto Port Lands Company in charge of area development.

If Waterfront Toronto can provide a convincing funding plan, Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, will have a harder time selling their preferred Port Lands vision to council.

Board chair Mark Wilson said Tuesday Waterfront Toronto does not have the $634 million in hand, but would fund the project the same way similar ones are funded “all over the world”: borrowing against the hundreds of millions of dollars in increased land values and new tax revenue it will likely generate.

House set for showdown over Harper's vow to bring back terror laws

Stephen Harper’s plan to bring back controversial anti-terrorism legislation signals an acrimonious fall in the House of Commons, the opposition is charging.

The NDP says it will not support the Prime Minister’s vow to push through two controversial clauses giving police increased powers to deal with potential terrorists or acts of terrorism.

“We think we have sufficient tools in the tool kit right now so we won’t be supporting further powers to the police to intervene beyond the powers they have now,” Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said. “Let’s take a look at their agenda. It doesn’t seem to be in line with what most Canadians are concerned about …”

Instead of being worried about pensions, jobs, health care and the environment as most Canadians are, the Tories are concerned about “guns, prisons and further powers to police,” Mr. Dewar said.

“It seems like they are out of touch with everyday people ...,” he added.

This city’s councillors cannot be trusted

When city councillors gather to debate and count votes, if you listen long enough you may just catch the meaning behind the rhetoric.

It took a while Tuesday when Toronto’s executive committee met to debate the future of the Port Lands, a key segment of the lakefront now under revitalization.

Mayor Rob Ford started out by claiming he can’t wait 25 years for waterfront revitalization; he wants it now — “now” being in 10 years — and the way to speed up things is to take the land from Waterfront Toronto and give it to the Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC).

Waterfront Toronto was created by the city, the province and the federal government a decade ago to plan, organize and deliver waterfront revitalization from Mimico in Etobicoke to Port Union Rd. in Scarborough.

Two years ago, the city told its own agency, TPLC, to cede control of 170 hectares of city-owned portlands west of Leslie St. to Waterfront Toronto. TPLC was to limit its activity to soil remediation and managing the leasing of the lands. Waterfront Toronto was to take the lead.