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.]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ottawa Budget Cuts: Flaherty Defends Hiring Cost-Cutting Consultants At $90,000 A Day

OTTAWA - The Harper government defended paying almost $90,000 a day to a big consulting firm for advice on how to save money, saying it can't do the job properly by itself.

"The fact is that we feel we need to have outside advice," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday.

"It isn't good, quite frankly, for a government to just look at itself. There's a lot of expertise in Canada on the subject of public-sector productivity, for example, and we look forward to having the advice of, in this case, Deloitte's."

The Canadian Press earlier reported that Deloitte Inc. was hired on Aug. 15 on a $19.8-million contract to advise the federal cabinet and senior officials on finding enough savings to balance the books by 2014.

The contract, which runs until March 31, is to advise "senior and elected officials on public- and private-sector best practices in improving productivity and achieving operational efficiencies." There's an option for a one-year extension.

Opposition MPs dismissed the government's justifications.

"They are spending $90,000 a day for an outside consultant to plan cuts — and that is their explanation," New Democrat Jean Crowder said in the House of Commons. "Canadians will not buy it.

"A day's pay for this consultant is more than a year's pay for front-line Service Canada workers. While Conservatives throw money away on high-priced consultants, they are forcing Canadians to accept cuts to the programs and services that they rely on."

On July 11, Public Works invited a group of 20 "pre-qualified" firms to bid on the contract, rather than use a fully open tendering process. Documents describing the work required were supplied directly to the invited bidders, rather than posted on a tendering website for anyone to see.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the so-called "statement of work" under the Access to Information Act.

Deloitte will advise the government on the strategic and operating review, a year-long exercise announced in the March 22 budget that will eventually trim $4 billion from $80 billion in annual program spending.

Tony Clement, Treasury Board president, has asked 67 departments, agencies and Crown corporations to submit two scenarios by Oct. 3, one with cuts of five per cent, another with cuts of 10 per cent.

A nine-person committee headed by Clement will then vet the proposals over the following three months and report their recommendations to the finance minister in mid-January. Flaherty will then include the final plan in his next budget, with the actual cuts slated to begin April 1.

Clement has said that transfer payments to individuals and the provinces will not be touched.

To date, the government has provided only minimal information about the timelines and process.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis on Monday called the Deloitte contract "normal."

"There will be major decisions to be taken and we need an expert from the private sector to do it properly," he said.

Deloitte has already provided training sessions for officials, as well as management tools to help the committee review the spending-cut proposals.

The contract also calls for advice on consolidating the government's far-flung data centres, a centrepiece of the current belt-tightening exercise.

The government has already paid PriceWaterhouseCoopers a $2.5-million fee for advice on how to reduce 308 data centres to about 20.

Deloitte must also provide an information specialist to advise on "disposing of information," and "co-ordinating Access to Information and Privacy Act requirements." The expert will also be "responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records."

Other firms invited to bid on the $20-million contract included Ernst & Young, IBM Canada, Bell Canada and Accenture Inc.

Source: Huffington 

Keystone XL Pipeline Will Hollow Out Alberta's Refining Industry, Opponents Argue

"Americans will get the jobs, Canadians will get the pollution."

That's the talking point a union that represents workers in the Alberta oil sands is using to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the $7-billion project Transcanada Corp. is planning to build to transfer bitumen -- raw oil sands product -- from Alberta to refineries in Texas.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) has called a press conference for Thursday where they plan to lay out in detail why they oppose a massive expansion of their industry’s infrastructure.

"The pipeline will create environmental destruction, take potential upgrading and refining jobs away from Canadians, and put our country's energy security at risk," CEP President Dave Coles said in a statement.

Rick Perry Social Security Comments Criticized By Florida Republicans

Texas Governor Rick Perry is facing fire from Florida Republicans for proposing Social Security be transformed from a national program to one that's run on the state level.

Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) contended that Perry's plan would seriously hurt retirees.

"Would states like Florida have to choose between honoring our promises to seniors and paying for education and public safety?" he asked.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's campaign sent Mack's comments, and three other statements by Florida elected officials, in an email to supporters just days ahead of Florida's GOP straw poll.

"Social Security is a contract the American people have made with the federal government,” said Rep. Tom Rooney . “The federal government needs to honor this contract.”

Republicans have piled on Perry for his criticism of Social Security. Romney attacked Perry's characterization of the program as a "Ponzi scheme" during a recent debate, calling the label "unnecessary and frightening." The next day, Michele Bachmann told The Des Moines Register that "people, I think, rightly have a genuine concern about the governor’s commitment to Social Security benefits for current retirees."

Keystone XL: A pipeline that should not be built

We are living in a market economy, but that doesn't mean there aren't choices to be made.

We could be living in a smart market economy. One that invests in education and training, in innovation, in new ideas. That competes at the high end. That makes sure, in many ways, that it leaves no one behind. One that shares its benefits more equally – much more equally. There is much to say about that. We'll get to it.

And then there's the dumb market economy we're living in instead … increasingly, courtesy of the Harper government. Exhibit A: the Keystone XL pipeline.

If you haven't heard of this project, you should. It is, in many ways, the keystone to Stephen Harper's approach to the Canadian economy, and to what passes for environmental policy in this government.

The pipeline's purpose is to export essentially unprocessed bitumen, in the largest possible quantities, out of Canada and to the petrochemical complex in Texas. Where it will be processed into finished fuel, plastics and chemicals in a myriad of forms for sale around the world, including back into Canada.

Keystone pipeline approval ‘complete no-brainer,’ Harper says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says U.S. approval of a new oil sands pipeline should be a “no-brainer” given that country’s demand for energy and its unpalatable alternatives to Canadian oil.

In New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister was asked by an American reporter about the future of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport 700,000 barrels per day of oil sands bitumen from Alberta to the Gulf Coast refinery hub.

The State Department is now determining whether the pipeline would be in the U.S. national interest, and is widely expected to approve the project despite noisy opposition from activists and some American politicians who worry about its environmental impact.

“It's hard for me to imagine that the eventual decision would be not to build that,” Mr. Harper told Bloomberg Television. “The economic case is so overwhelming. The number of jobs that would be created on both sides of the border is simply enormous. The need for the energy in the United States is enormous.”

Mall giant met with Doug Ford in May

Plans to put a “megamall” in the Port Lands appear dead, but questions linger about how the proposal sprang to life in the first place.

Much of the public opposition to the attractions-based waterfront vision championed by Councillor Doug Ford was rooted in concerns about its origin, which has never been fully explained.

The city’s lobbyist registration records reveal that real estate consultant Tony Grossi, acting for Australian shopping centre giant Westfield Group, met May 12 with Doug Ford; Mayor Rob Ford’s chief of staff, Amir Remtulla; and Councillor Michael Thompson.

The topic is listed as “Preliminary discussions regarding Toronto Port Land’s and City’s vision for waterfront revitalization and Client’s view of its development potential.”

Grossi, a former chief operating officer of Cadillac Fairview, a Canadian mall owner with holdings that include the Eaton Centre, then met again with Doug Ford alone on July 12, the records suggest.

Mayor of the World: How Bloomberg Flexes New York's Diplomatic Muscle

By now everyone knows the acronym “BRICS,” which formally stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, but informally has come to refer to dozens of so-called emerging markets whose natural resources and trade surpluses are making them the center of geo-economic competition.

Far less appreciated, however, is how these powers’ rise is fueled by urban centers like Sao Paulo, Mumbai, and Shanghai, places that have become global centers in their own right, more connected to the world than ever before through commerce, technology, and transport. The total economy of Russia is scarcely more than what is concentrated in the government, banks and companies based in Moscow.

Worldwide, a new class of global cities is emerging combining mega-populations, massive markets, and international ambition.

As this new crop of global cities increasingly set their own agendas to maintain stability and prosperity, they might take a page from what is still the world’s undisputed capital of capitals: New York.

"Utah's Sarah Palin," Cherilyn Eagar, Has a Tax Problem

Since taxes are the ultimate issue for tea party activists—TEA is an acronym for "taxed enough already"—you can usually count on the movement faithful to be well versed in the minutiae of the subject, reciting their talking points like evangelicals quoting the Bible. But on Friday I met with an aspiring tea party congresswoman who didn't seem quite so familiar with the vagaries of the tax code.

Often referred to as the "Sarah Palin of Utah," Republican Cherilyn Eagar is challenging endangered Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson. Eagar, who was in DC on a fundraising tour, had requested a meeting with me after I had written a blog post about her race a few days earlier. So I took the opportunity to ask her if, as with many Republicans today, she was opposed to any form of revenue increases that might help balance the budget. In fact, she said, she was not. She favors increasing the sales tax, because it's "progressive," and based on consumption.

In reality, the sales tax is highly regressive, falling heavily on poor people who might not even have to pay income taxes, which are progressive. When I pointed this out, Eagar seemed confused. She didn't seem to realize that just because the total amount of sales tax might be higher on a yacht than on a bag of groceries, it's still regressive. So I explained to her how a 6 percent sales tax, like we have in DC, eats up a larger proportion of the income of someone making less money than someone making more money. In response, she said…nothing.

Rick Perry: God Commands Us to Support Israel

There were likely few Orthodox Jews around for Rick Perry to hug when he was growing up in West Texas, but on Tuesday in Manhattan, the governor managed his warm embraces with ease. Perry treated a coterie of Jewish community leaders from across the five boroughs to a closed-door chat before giving them the opportunity to stand behind him during a press conference at the W Hotel in Union Square. Men with robust beards and yarmulkes accompanied Perry at the podium, where he outlined a "pro-Israel" vision for American foreign policy and answered questions from reporters.

In the past, Perry's friends and advisers have argued that defending Israel is not just sound geopolitical strategy—it's also a religious imperative for Christian politicians. On Tuesday, the Texas governor and GOP presidential front-runner vigorously affirmed both views. When Mother Jones asked if he believes America's continued support for Israel is a theological priority, Perry answered: "As a Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective, it's pretty easy. Both as an American, and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel."

Perry's position mirrors that of Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, who exhorted attendees at Perry's massive evangelical prayer rally last month to defend the Holy Land as a matter of sacred duty. And Barack Obama, Perry argued, is not fulfilling this duty. In prepared remarks, Perry accused the administration of "isolating and undermining Israel," adopting a "policy of appeasement toward Palestinians," and casting its lot with "the Arab street, at the expense of our national security interests."

Inside Virginia's Abortion Crackdown

It's 10 a.m., about an hour after the Falls Church, Virginia, office of Planned Parenthood opens for the day. As I enter, a young couple is waiting for the nurse practitioner. There's a small television in the corner showing morning talk shows, with a large basket of condoms balanced atop. Brochures on STI testing, emergency contraception, breast self-exams, and HPV are about in abundance. It's not that much different from any other doctor's office you've ever visited, with dated copies of People and fluorescent lighting.

Last year, 3,900 patients visited the Falls Church office. Eight hundred and seventy-five of them were tested for HIV, 633 took a pregnancy test, and 743 had a pap smear. More than 600 women came in for the morning-after pill. The office dispensed 1,699 prescriptions for the birth control pill, and another 917 prescriptions for contraceptive rings. The vast majority of the women and men who come to the Falls Church clinic come for health screenings and family planning services, but another 900 visited for abortion services—a fact that has put the clinic's future in peril.

New regulations that require abortion providers to comply with building codes designed for hospitals could force this Planned Parenthood health center to shut its doors as soon as next year. Unveiled in August and approved by the Virginia Board of Health last week, the rules would likely be impossible to meet within the space that Planned Parenthood currently rents on the third floor of a nondescript, brown-brick office building about 10 miles from downtown Washington, DC.

Rick Perry's Dirty Deals With Big Coal

In April 2006, a few days before Earth Day, Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined executives of TXU, the state's largest utility and biggest carbon dioxide emitter, in cheering plans to open a staggering 11 new coal-fired power plants throughout Texas. With rolling blackouts still fresh on many Texans' minds, Perry hailed TXU's rapid expansion as a path to energy security, not to mention a way to create jobs and potentially lower energy costs.

Perry had earned his spot alongside the TXU brass. Months before the announcement, Perry signed a controversial executive order fast-tracking the permitting process for new coal-fired plants, shrinking a process that once took anywhere between one and four years down to a mere six months. And at the same time he was helping usher in new coal plants, Perry was raking in tens of thousands of dollars in donations from TXU. "Perry is very pro-coal, and will bend over backward to do whatever the coal industry asks of him," says Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office. "He's the longest ongoing natural disaster in Texas history."

'Say no to the tar sands' rally and sit-in in front of Parliament

Parliament Hill, Ottawa -- Next Monday, Sept. 26, hundreds of people from across Canada will come together on Parliament Hill for a large peaceful protest, featuring a public rally and non-violent civil disobedience sit-in, to send the Harper government a strong and clear message:

"All people in Canada deserve a clean energy future that promotes climate justice, where Treaty and Indigenous rights are respected and the health of our communities and the environment are prioritized."

Why now?

This summer, 11 veteran U.S. and Canadian scientists and environmentalists -- Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, Danny Glover, James Hansen, Wes Jackson, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, George Poitras, David Suzuki, and Gus Speth -- issued a continental call-out. The call was for people right across the U.S. to come to Washington, D.C. and join in two weeks of non-violent civil disobedience actions to try to stop the massive tar sands Keystone XL pipeline. The response was overwhelming, over 1,200 people were arrested at a peaceful daily sit-in outside of the White House.

Hill Dispatches: It's omnibus bill time (again) -- where's the evidence? Plus, C-4 debate gets personal

In March of 1982, the Progressive Conservative Opposition of the day forced the complete stoppage of Parliament for 15 days as a protest against a Liberal government omnibus energy bill. The Opposition did this by not answering the call of the bells announcing a vote on the bill -- which meant there was no quorum, and the bells rang constantly for more than two weeks, while the House sat vacant. The stalemate ended when the Trudeau government agreed to break up its bill and allow separate votes on each of its numerous provisions.

Joe Clark's Conservatives believed they had won a significant victory and that no future government would dare commit such a flagrant offense to democracy. They argued that members of Parliament should have the right to consider distinct legislative initiatives separately and support or oppose them on their merits. Bundling together a basketful of vaguely related new laws did not cut it, they said, and they forced the government of the day to back down.

The Harper Conservative government likes to claim a direct lineage to Canadian Conservative governments and Oppositions of the past. It just named a building in Ottawa after John Diefenbaker (Progressive Conservative Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963), as part of an effort to identify with the party's long history. But on Tuesday, that same Harper government introduced exactly the type of omnibus legislation that gave Joe Clark's Conservatives conniptions.

Globalization's Achilles' Heel

Many fingers have been pointed in the midst of the European financial crisis, but one culprit stands out above them all.

Visit the new CIC website at OpenCanada.Org. Canada's hub for international affairs.

Who is to blame for the financial crisis engulfing Europe – and possibly the world? The frivolous Greeks? The dithering politicians? The hubristic architects of Europe's single currency? All these actors have played a part, but the main culprits – as with the U.S.’s financial meltdown three years ago – are surely the banks.

Somehow, this story has morphed into a morality tale about the folly of the European Union and the bankruptcy of social democracy. This is blaming the victim for the crime. Yes, Greece borrowed beyond its means, as did the governments of Portugal, Italy, and others. Yes, its over-generous welfare state – and sieve-like tax system – was unsustainable. And yes, the single currency led Greece, like other euro-zone members, to believe it could borrow endlessly on the same market terms as Germany.

The Commons: Jim Flaherty against the world

“Mr. Speaker, more bad economic news,” lamented Nycole Turmel this afternoon. “The Conference Board of Canada dropped Canada’s rating on income equality. The middle class is falling further behind. Inequality has increased in the past 10 years. Surprise, surprise. It is the same 10 years of the big tax cuts for the big corporations. Is this not another example of the Conservatives’ economic inaction plan?”

She drew out this bit about it being an inaction plan, lest anyone miss the wordplay.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Flaherty responded, “our Conservative government is focused on what actually matters to Canadians, creating jobs and economic growth.”

For sure, Canadian families are likely not meeting around the dinner table each night to discuss inequality coefficients and peruse the latest line graphs. But surely those at the poorer end of the equation are at least vaguely aware of this issue.

Given a moment to think about it, Mr. Flaherty decided he might at least venture an answer to this concern. ”Mr. Speaker,” he said in response to a question from the NDP’s Peggy Nash, “the most important equality plan for Canadians is a job.”

Is Ottawa putting the right to strike at risk?

Memo to Canadian workers: if what you do is “significant” to the economy or the general public, your right to strike is at risk.

That, at least, is the message federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has delivered as she prepares to order a quick end to a possible strike by Air Canada flight attendants -- the second time she's threatened back-to-work legislation at the airline this year.

“From our perspective, the government gets engaged when we see that there's going to be a nationally significant effect either on the economy or on the general public,” Ms. Raitt told CBC-Television.

Her remarks pose the question what other workers can’t strike in Canada? Just airlines? All workers at federally regulated industries? And is this a permanent ban, or a temporary ban, while the economy remains fragile?

It’s worth pointing out here that, however inconvenient or economically destructive strikes are, Air Canada is a private company. It’s no longer a Crown corporation. Air Canada has fierce national and international competitors on most routes -- companies that have an economic interest in what Ottawa does.

Oil-sands workers press MPs to oppose ‘wrongheaded’ Keystone pipeline

The union that represents many of the workers in Alberta’s oil patch will be on Parliament Hill on Thursday to ask politicians to oppose a pipeline that will carry bitumen to the southern United States for processing.

“We’re going to get into a lot of detail with MPs,” Dave Cole, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, said of the Keystone XL project, which has also been the subject of protests in the United States where regulators are taking a hard look at it.

Mr. Cole and his colleagues will also be holding a news conference to tell Canadians why they want the pipeline stopped. Although the pipeline would be exporting bitumen extracted in Canada, it is a job killer, he said.

His workers, he said, do the job of upgrading the bitumen here in Canada before it becomes oil. But, if the pipeline goes through, that upgrading will be done in the United States.

Gasoline, food push annual inflation rate to 3.1 per cent in August

OTTAWA — Inflation in Canada rose above the Bank of Canada’s comfort level last month as higher prices for gasoline and food pushed the rate up four notches to 3.1 per cent, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

The surprisingly strong gain in the cost of consumer goods reverses a recent trend toward more moderate inflation, which had seen the rate fall from 3.7 during May to 2.7 in July.

On a month-to-month basis, prices rose 0.3 per cent from July to August.

Core or underlying inflation, which excludes volatile items such as energy and some foods, also saw a sizable increase to 1.9 from 1.6 per cent, pushing close to the central bank’s two-per-cent target.

In a speech Tuesday, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney said he was not concerned about inflation and would not raise interest rates to deal with the issue. The bank’s mandate is to keep consumer prices within a range of one and three per cent, and as close to two as possible.

With the global economy entering what the International Monetary Fund called a “new dangerous phase,” most analysts agree that inflation will moderate as demand diminishes.

But at the moment Canada is getting the worst of both scenarios, stubbornly high inflation and a slowing economy.

Gasoline and food, two items that constitute significant portions of household spending, continue to be big drivers of annual inflation. Gasoline was 22.8 per cent more expensive last month than in August 2010, food cost 4.4 per cent more, and food bought at grocery stores was five per cent higher.

James: Waterfront 101: clean, green, people place

Toronto’s waterfront makeover is the largest, most ambitious such project anywhere. It is supposed to take up to 30 years, use up almost $6 billion of public money and yield $30 billion of private development.

Here is a refresher course for city councillors and citizens who’ve considered Councillor Doug Ford’s megamall/Ferris wheel/monorail plan and find it beguiling:

On Nov. 3, 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Premier Mike Harris and Mayor Mel Lastman pledged $500 million each — seed money to remediate the contaminated soil, put in the infrastructure and complete the planning and zoning that would prepare the waterfront for revitalization.

It would take until 2003 for provincial legislation to officially establish Waterfront Toronto to oversee the project, stretching from the Humber River out to the Rouge in Scarborough. Most of the attention would be on the central waterfront area — from Exhibition Place to Ashbridges Bay — the stretch that is at or near number one on the list of most embarrassing public spaces in Toronto.

That year, city staff completed a secondary plan for the central waterfront. It sets out four governing principles: remove barriers, create spectacular public spaces and parks, promote a clean and green environment, establish dynamic and diverse communities.

Ford gives up goal of seizing Port Lands

Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother Doug have abandoned their dream of seizing the Port Lands from Waterfront Toronto and replacing neighbourhood-based development with glitzy attractions.

Faced with public uproar and a revolt among council allies, the Ford administration was forced to reach across political divisions and has reached what one councillor calls “a consensus, not a compromise,” for council to vote on as early as Wednesday.

Drafts of the agreement were still being worked on Tuesday evening after intense negotiations this week. It confirms Waterfront Toronto as the lead agency for development in the Port Lands, a source with knowledge of the discussions told the Star.

It also calls on the agency, started with $500 million each from the city, provincial and federal governments, to accelerate construction of condos, parks, offices and retail that were to happen over 25 years.

But Waterfront Toronto is to also consider development input from other agencies including Toronto Port Lands Co., the city agency the Fords wanted to seize control of the eastern waterfront.

Ex-chief statistician picks apart cancellation of long census

OTTAWA—The federal government cancelled the long-form census with little heed to the consequences of its decision, according to a new first-hand account of the drama that unfolded a year ago.

An essay by former chief statistician Munir Sheikh says the census decision has shaken Statistics Canada’s neutrality and independence, and put at risk the government’s own work in many areas.

  READ: Sheikh’s essay in full.

In the essay, Sheikh warns statisticians working at the federal agency to “guard against political intervention” until better solutions are found.

Sheikh also raises concerns over poor data on aboriginal populations, especially housing on reserves, and about the government making key decisions on pension reform without having reliable information on wealth in Canadian households.

But it’s the cancellation of the long-form census that compounds the weakness in other data, he writes.

Thailand's New Rice Policy Could Lead To International Food Price Crisis, Analysts Warn

A program sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is warning of a possible spike in international rice prices, a development that the program's analysts say could have grave implications for countries where access to food is already limited. The analysts are reluctant to make specific predictions about how high the price could rise, but they say they worry that the increase could be significant.

In Somalia, where the cost of food is already high, the effects of even a modest increase could considerably worsen the severe famine that has been ravaging the country for months. Analysts listed Somalia, Djibouti, Haiti and countries in West Africa and, to a lesser extent, Central America as places that stand to be seriously affected by such an increase. To varying degrees, all of these countries depend on imports of rice to make up for limited local harvests of grain.

The report was issued by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWS NET, a USAID-funded program that gathers information about food prices, the climate and other factors in food supply and analyzes the potential impact on what famine researchers refer to as "food-insecure" regions. Analysts for the program first became concerned about the possibility of a food crisis last summer, when the prices of maize and wheat started to go up.

Rick Perry: Obama's 'Arrogant' Policy On Israel Is Endangering The Region

NEW YORK -- Attempting to strengthen his foreign policy chops, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday, giving a speech that sharply criticized President Obama's policy on the issue.

The United Nations General Assembly is meeting in New York City this week, where Palestinians will be asking the world for statehood independent of Israel.

Speaking at the W Hotel in New York against a backdrop of U.S. and Israeli flags on Monday morning, Perry said the United States should stop funding the U.N. if it votes with the Palestinians.

"I think there are a number of things if the U.N. does in fact vote to allow statehood in direct conflict with the Oslo Accords," said Perry. "One of those is obviously having the United States send a clear message to the U.N. that we're not going to support you with our dollars anymore -- obviously shutting down that mission in Washington, D.C. I think the message needs to be swift, and it needs to be powerful."

Koch-Funded Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy Gives Congress Big Freebies

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A recently-formed judicial "academy" funded by industry groups and conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is offering members of Congress and their staff free meals and trips in order to "educate" the lawmakers on controversial pro-business reforms.

The group is the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy (CCJCA), launched earlier this year by the Law and Economics Center (LEC) at George Mason University's School of Law. Despite being part of the university, the right-leaning LEC depends entirely on specially-designated donations which come from a core group of about 50 corporations and foundations, including The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Merck, Exxon, Eli Lilly, Altria, Wal-Mart, and the conservative Bradley Foundation.

Unlike similar LEC programs for judges and attorneys, however, the CCJC academy is connected to Congress via the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus. The two groups share the same goals, but are separate entities. Formed in February of this year, the caucus is made up of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats committed to promoting "a civil justice system that ... advances job creation and economic growth." For co-chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), that means a justice system wiped clean of "excessive and frivolous litigation" and "inefficient rules." Goodlatte's caucus co-chair is retiring Democrat Dan Boren (Okla.), who is joined by Republican House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (Texas) as well as GOP Reps. Randy Forbes (Va.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) and Lee Terry (Neb.). On the Democratic side are Utah's Jim Matheson, Minnesota's Colin Peterson, Nick Rayhall of West Virginia and Loretta Sanchez of California.

Joe Walsh Among Congress's 'Most Corrupt' Members In New Report

U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) on Tuesday received the distinction of being named among Congress's thirteen "most corrupt" representatives by the group Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington (CREW).

The report says that the freshman Tea Party-affiliated Congressman's ethics issues "stem from his failure to pay child support and accurately disclose income and liabilities on his personal financial disclosure forms, and his campaign committee's inaccurate reporting of interest payment on his loans to his campaigns." These issues, according to the report, represent Walsh "act[ing] in a manner that does not reflect creditably on the House."

The seventh annual ranking, based on news reports, Federal Election Commission reports, court documents and financial disclosure forms, also included one senator -- David Vitter (R-La.) -- and five additional House members who received "dishonorable mentions." Altogether, the group includes seven Democrats and twelve Republicans.