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, November 01, 2011

Non-profits worried new law will hurt smaller agencies

Canada’s non-profit sector is grappling with the implications of a new federal law that gives members the equivalent of shareholder rights – creating avenues for more accountability and engagement but also concern over legal expenses and unintended consequences.

As the Conservative government examines new ways of funding charities and non-profits, the sector is looking to comply with a major legislative change approved in 2009 called the Canada Not-For-Profit Corporations Act that recently came into force on Oct. 17.

Though the bill – described by the government as a long-needed replacement for the 1917 Canada Corporations Act that governed non-profits – passed through Parliament with little controversy, some are warning in could have a major impact and risks forcing the dissolution of many small non-profits.

The law requires all federally registered non-profits to file new governing bylaws and other legal documents to Industry Canada by Oct. 17, 2014. It also gives members of non-profits new rights that are akin to the rights of shareholders of private corporations, including the ability to force motions for a vote, demand certain documents or trigger legal proceedings.

TransCanada warns against review of Keystone XL route

TransCanada Corp. (TRP-T42.09-0.28-0.66%) has issued a stark warning over the lengthy delay that will be created if Nebraska succeeds in demanding a new route for its Keystone XL project.

State legislators begin a special session Tuesday afternoon to consider a rule that would enable them to move the controversial pipeline away from sensitive ecological areas.

TransCanada has marshalled legal opinions questioning the state’s ability to enact such a rule. And it has cast doubt on whether a such a bill will even garner enough political support to pass.

But on Tuesday morning, it also warned that forcing a new route could delay construction of the pipeline by more than three years – and, it suggested, the refineries whose contracts underpin the project may not stick around that long.

“If the route is arbitrarily moved to another location, we would suspect that we would have to restart” an environmental review process, TransCanada chief executive officer Russ Girling said in a corporate conference call.

Members Of Congress Grow Wealthier Despite Recession

Despite the economic recession and declining household wealth, the net wealth of members of Congress continues to rise, according to a Roll Call analysis of financial disclosure forms.

Members of the House and Senate have a collective net worth of $2.04 billion, up from $1.65 billion in 2008. The vast majority of the increase goes to the wealthiest members of Congress, who also account for most of Congress' net worth.

Members' net wealth may be much higher, however, since Roll Call only used the minimum valuation of assets in the range required by disclosure forms, and disclosure forms do not include non-income-producing assets, such as a personal residence.

Banks Extract Fees On Unemployment Benefits

Out of work and living on a $189-a-week unemployment check, Rob Linville needs to watch every penny. Lately, he has been watching too many pennies disappear into the coffers of the bank that administers his unemployment check via a prepaid debit card.

The state of Oregon, where Linville lives, deposits his weekly benefits on a U.S. Bank prepaid debit card. The bank allows him to make four withdrawals per month free of charge. After that, he must pay $1.50 for each visit to the ATM and $3 to see a teller. Managing his basic expenses, including rent, bus fare and groceries, typically requires more than four withdrawals, he says. Unexpected needs -- Linville recently bought a sport coat for $20 to prepare for a job interview -- entail more. He's afraid to withdraw his full benefits in one shot, knowing that the bank could sock him with a $17.50 overdraft fee if he exceeds his balance. So he pulls out small amounts of cash as he needs it, incurring about $15 in fees in the last two months he says.

The Shameless Republican Race to Cut Rich People's Taxes

Republican presidential candidates are falling over themselves promising to cut your taxes. Well, probably not your taxes. Somebody else's taxes. Somebody rich.

First there was Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, which would replace all of our current taxes with a 9 percent national sales tax, a 9 percent "business tax" and a 9 percent tax on income. Now Rick Perry says that his 20 percent "flat tax" is even better. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann says Perry stole her idea. But let's be clear: These are massive tax cuts for the rich, not for most of us.

The Cain 9-9-9 plan is breathtaking. The poorest Americans would see their effective tax rate increase from about 5 percent to 18 percent. The typical household would pay $4,000 more than today. But the top 0.1 percent would get an average tax cut of $1.4 million and would pay an effective tax rate of 18 percent--lower than any other income group. That a plan so insane could be proposed by a leading presidential candidate just shows how crazy our political system has become. Although Perry's flat tax preserves the tax code for most families, he offers a special tax cut for the rich. A retired couple making $700,000 would be $75,000 richer under his plan. (To see a very tall graphical representation of Perry and Cain's tax plans, see Derek Thompson's charts.)

What economic history can tell us about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement grows in sheer numbers and clout, the commonplace narrative – that it is just a bunch of complaining left-wing nutbars – is losing credibility. In the scramble to find meaning and significance, there may be important lessons to learn from the insights of the esteemed economic historian, Karl Polanyi, and his analysis of economic crisis and spontaneous social movements.

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Polanyi’s ideas have gained fresh relevance. It was Polanyi who declared that the self-regulating market is inherently self-destructive because it degrades the very conditions upon which it depends. The notion of a “free” market implies that everything must be treated as a commodity, existing exclusively for the purpose of being bought and sold. There are, however, key elements to the market that cannot abide by this definition: labour, land, and money. Polanyi called these “fictitious commodities” because, although they were treated as commodities, they performed other, essential functions in society that made them dangerous to degrade: with labour, it is human lives that are at the behest of the market; with land, it is nature or the environment; and, finally, there is money, which Polanyi reminds us is just a token of purchasing power. Anticipating the problems of financialization, Polanyi argued precociously that, “the market administration of purchasing power would … prove as disastrous to business as floods and drought in primitive society.”

The Commons: Let’s be frank

The Scene. The NDP’s David Christopherson stood and, sounding serious, informed the House that the official opposition’s joined all Canadians in mourning the loss of Master Corporal Byron Greff, who died this weekend after a suicide bomber struck the convoy in which he was travelling near Kabul. The House was quiet.

The Prime Minister was absent this day, but Mr. Christopherson proceeded to direct his question to him nonetheless. “Will the Prime Minister,” he asked, “update this House on his current view of the security situation our troops are now facing in Afghanistan?”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay duly stood and added his condolences. “It is a reminder,” Mr. MacKay then said, “of the unlimited liability assumed by members of the Canadian Forces and our allies in that mission.”

Indeed, the Defence Minister seemed to sense where Mr. Christopherson was going with this. “No one would suggest,” he said with his next breath, “that the risks will ever be zero in that country, given the current security climate.”

Conservative spin on destroying gun registry records 'very ideological,' similar to rhetoric coming from NRA in U.S.

'Listen, I’m a gun owner and the fact is that the underpinning of the entire message of the Conservatives is "Once we know where the guns are, they’re going to come and take your guns away," which is not at all part of the Canadian psyche or possibility,' says Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Conservative government’s plan to scrap the federal long-gun registry and destroy its records has won banner headlines at the National Rifle Association of America, inspiring opposition MPs to compare the Conservative policy in Canada to right-wing U.S. lobbying that has long fought tougher gun laws south of the border.

The NRA website as of Monday featured five news stories about the government’s long-gun initiative in Canada, including the Conservative plan to trash all the long-gun registry records that have been accumulated over the past 11 years and a possible battle with Quebec over preservation of the data so the province can establish its own version to keep track of rifles and shotguns.

The attention from the powerful U.S. gun lobby prompted Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) to argue that the government’s decision to not only scrap the registry, but also its records on gun owners, is a “very, very ideological exercise.”

Destroying gun registry records a ‘terrible precedent’: archivists

OTTAWA — The Conservative government’s decision to destroy records from the soon-to-be defunct long-gun registry sets “a terrible precedent” for the retention of historically important documents, says an organization representing Canadian archivists.

The Conservatives are continuing to stick by the provisions that would require the commissioner of firearms to destroy the database, as part of legislation that ends the registration of most rifles and shotguns.

The bill, C-19, specifically says that it overrides the Library and Archives Act, which requires written permission of the chief archivist before shredding records. The Association of Canadian Archivists said the government should reconsider the provisions that require destruction of the records and bypass existing rules on records retention.

“It sets a very dangerous precedent for future legislation,” said association president Loryl MacDonald. “It’s not exactly transparent at all if the government thinks it can do what is politically expedient and override.”

Jonathan Steele on Afghanistan: “The War is Unwinnable: It is a Stalemate. There is No Victory”

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, now entering its eleventh year, shows no sign of ending. On Saturday, 12 U.S. soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Kabul. It was deadliest single ground attack against NATO forces in the decade of war. To discuss Afghanistan, we speak with Jonathan Steele, a longtime correspondent for the The Guardian newspaper and author of the new book, "Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground.” “The [U.S. military strategy] doesn’t work because you create new resistance by being there. So resistance comes 'cause you're there. You’re not there because of the resistance. The occupying force itself creates the resistance,” Steele said. “And so the crucial thing now is to recognize that the war is unwinnable: It is a stalemate. There is no victory."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Tory gun bill delists sniper rifles, semi-automatics

OTTAWA—The powerful Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle used in the 1989 Montreal massacre and this summer’s Norway bloodbath.

Sniper rifles that can pierce light armour from a distance of up to 1.5 kilometres.

Or one that can drop a target two kilometres away.

They are all weapons that will soon be declassified under the Conservatives’ bill to kill the long-gun registry and freed from binding controls that now see them listed with the RCMP-run database.

They fall under the class of “non-restricted” weapons and they are about to become unregistered. Restricted or prohibited firearms such automatic assault rifles, sawed-off shotguns or handguns are not affected by the bill and would remain under current controls.

But under Bill C-19, the law would no longer require a licensed gun owner to hold a registration certificate for “non-restricted” weapons.

As NATO Ends Libyan Bombing Campaign, Is the U.S. Seeking Greater Military Control of Africa?

NATO ended its bombing campaign in Libya on Monday. Over the past seven months, NATO aircraft conducted more than 26,500 sorties, including 9,700 strike missions. NATO said it bombed 5,900 military targets inside the country. While NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the campaign as a success, many analysts say NATO’s intensive bombing campaign violated its U.N. mandate. "The role that NATO played in Libya has been a very, very problematic one, a very troubled one, and ultimately is going to have a very long-term, deleterious impact on Libya’s future," says Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. "The notion that the NATO bombings somehow was to do nothing but protect civilians is simply not the case." Bennis said the Libyan revolution began as part of the Arab Spring, but the NATO intervention turned it into a "Western assault on another North African, Middle Eastern, Arab country." She also expresses alarm over the rising U.S. military presence in Africa. "Despite efforts to claim that AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command] is really about healthcare and AIDS education and women’s rights, to be carried out by the U.S. military, we have a very serious reality that Africa now provides more oil to the United States than the entire Middle East."

Source: Democracy Now! 

U.S. Pulls All Funding for UNESCO After Sweeping Vote to Support Palestinian Membership

In an emotional—and largely symbolic—move, the United Nations cultural organization known as UNESCO overwhelmingly voted to grant membership to the Palestinians, despite opposition from the United States and Israel. Now the United States says it will cancel a $60 million payment due in November to the U.N. body. Membership dues paid by the U.S. account for about a fifth of UNESCO’s annual budget. The U.S. is also threatening to veto any Palestinian effort to be recognized by the U.N. Security Council as an independent state. "By going to UNESCO, this was a way both of gauging where the public opinion is among the various governments and, more importantly, symbolically for the world, showing that this is a moment of recognition that the 20-year-old U.S.-controlled so-called 'peace process' simply hasn’t worked," said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Parks Canada weighs whether to let pipeline run through historic burial site

Parks Canada is weighing whether to allow an energy company to expand natural gas operations at a national historic site and burial ground in western Alberta, where fur trading once thrived and explorers gathered to seek passage to the Pacific Ocean.

The Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is home to remnants of four fur-trading posts established between 1799 and 1875 by rival traders, the Hudson Bay Company and North West Company. How many bodies are buried in the area is not exactly known, but petroleum-related construction in 1969 led to the discovery of 14 people in a dozen graves – a finding that spurred stronger archaeological and cultural protection.

Now, four decades after the federal government purchased the 233-hectare piece of Canadian history, its parks agency is faced with the question of whether to grant oil and gas producer Devon Canada approval to build a 700-metre pipeline that would cut beneath the historic site and potentially disturb unmarked graves.

Want a better democracy? Build better primary schools

As a wave of nation-building sweeps across North Africa and the Middle East, those striving for democracies would do well to keep education high on their priorities -- especially for young children.

Better primary schooling leads to a more robust democracy, though the reverse isn’t true, according to a recent working paper from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Fabrice Murtin, an OECD economist in Paris, and Romain Wacziarg, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared 74 countries’ democracy scores from 1870 to 2000 with their educational attainment.

The economists found that, in high-income countries, about half of the average variation in democracy came from better primary schooling. Increased levels of secondary and post-secondary education, however, showed little effect on a country’s democracy.

‘Not happy’ with Palestinian decision, Ottawa mulls future with UN agency

Stephen Harper’s government is reconsidering how much support it gives UNESCO now that the United Nations agency has accepted the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he is not happy with the recent decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and is examining options.

Mr. Baird says he appreciates much of the work UNESCO undertakes, but is having second thoughts.
Washington has announced it will pull its $60-million (U.S.) in funding from UNESCO.

Ottawa contributes about $10-million (Canadian) a year to the agency.

“We are not happy with the decision UNESCO has made, and we have to look and see what we should do in response,” Mr. Baird said.

Herman Cain Addresses Sexual Harassment Settlement

In an interview airing on Fox News on Monday night, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says that a financial settlement was paid to one of two women who accused him of sexual harassment while he was serving as head of the National Restaurant Association over a decade ago.

However, in responding to the accusations in question earlier in the day, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said, "I have never sexually harassed anyone and those accusations are totally false ... It was concluded, after a thorough investigation, that it had no basis." He added, "I am unaware of any sort of settlement."

HuffPost's Jon Ward relays background on the controversy and on what Cain had to say on the matter at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.:
Cain entered the Press Club less than 24 hours after Politico reported that the former Godfather's Pizza CEO and head of the National Restaurant Association was accused of sexual harassment by two unnamed women at the association. The charges were not detailed but Politico reported that both women received payments as settlement. NBC News reported Monday that they had independently confirmed a settlement with one of the two women.
Cain was not asked how he could have been unaware of a settlement if he knew the results of an investigation into the charges. He said that once the charges were brought against him he recused himself from the investigation. And he added that he does not want the NRA to confirm or deny the settlements, or give any information at all about the incidents.

Occupy Harlem: 'Occupy Wall Street Is Not A White Thing'

The Occupy Wall Street movement went Uptown on Friday night, as more than 100 people filled the second-floor sanctuary at St. Philip's Church in Harlem for the first general meeting of Occupy Harlem.

Unlike their downtown comrades, those in attendance were mostly black and Latino, save for a handful of whites who sat and listened intently, a few lifting their fists to shouts of "Power to the People."

This was a group of veteran activists and young turks alike, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. And it was a moment decades in the making for veteran Harlem activists, like Nellie Hester Bailey, who have fought and protested and rallied for fair wages, tenants' rights and against police brutality here for years.

"Occupy Wall Street is not a quote-unquote white thing. It is a white thing that the 1 percent and the bankers are representing white oligarchy and white plutocrats for the most part," Bailey said. "But this is an organic movement from the bottom up. Now we have to take advantage, seize the time and the moment ... and it is time that we become part of this landscape so we can begin to highlight our issues."

"Deadly Monopolies": Medical Ethicist Harriet Washington on How Firms are Taking Over Life Itself

One of the major themes raised by the Occupy movement is the increasing power of large corporations over more and more aspects of our lives. We spend the hour looking into the issue of the corporate control of life itself. Our guest, Harriet Washington, is a medical ethicist and has just published a book that examines the extent to which what she calls the medical-industrial complex has come to control human life. In the past 30 years, more than 40,000 patents have been granted on genes alone—many more patents are pending. Washington argues that the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies patenting these genes are more concerned with profit than with the health or medical needs of patients. Her new book is called "Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself—And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Can we tax our way to equality?

With the Occupy protesters still camping out on city lawns across Canada, it’s worth investigating whether our tax and transfer system needs a tune-up if we’re going to tackle income inequality.

To be sure, we are a more unequal society than we were thirty years ago, even after one takes into account the redistributive effects of personal income taxes and things like the National Child Benefit and Employment Insurance programs. In 1989, the after-tax income of Canada’s richest 20 per cent was 7.2 times that of the poorest quintile of the population, according to the Conference Board of Canada. In 2009, the richest group made 9.1 times what the lowest income earners did.

NDP lobs fresh mismanagement allegations at Tony Clement

The New Democrats launched another allegation at battered Treasury Board head Tony Clement Monday, saying the party uncovered what it calls “new and troubling” evidence of misused funds.

According to the NDP, Industry Canada and the Treasury Board shifted around hundreds of millions of dollars under the title ‘Grants to the Institute for Theoretical Physics’ from 2009 to 2011.

“The entire statutory spending limit for the Institute was $50 million over five years — ten million dollars a year,” Treasury Board critic Alexandre Boulerice wrote in a letter to Clement. “But in the 09-10 reporting alone, this budget line exceeded $127 million, 1,270 per cent of its annual limit — almost three times the entire amount approved by Parliament.”

The NDP want Clement, who was espousing fiscal prudence at a speech in Toronto Monday morning, to explain the apparent error.

The Perimiter Institute for Theoretical Physics was started in 1999 by Research in Motion founder Mike Lazaridis, and currently boasts 80 full time researchers.

The 2007 budget set aside $50 million for the institute, stating it “has demonstrated outstanding scientific merit,” and praised it for becoming “a leader for Canadian research in the emerging field of quantum physics and a model for science education and outreach.”

Occupy camp hurting business, says BIA head

As Occupy Toronto protesters begin their third week of camping in a downtown park, the head of a neighbourhood business association said the gathering is starting to affect local merchants.

Part of the larger Occupy movement, the Toronto protesters have set up a camp with dozens of tents at St. James Park, located at the corner of King Street East and Church Streets.

The Occupy movement has no single objective, but addressing economic inequality and corporate greed are among its stated claims. Similar protests have been staged in other cities.

Occupy Toronto protesters began camping in the park on Oct. 15 and have since staged a handful of peaceful, loosely organized marches and demonstrations in the city.

John Boehner On Occupy Wall Street: 'I Understand People's Frustrations'

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he understood the "frustrations" behind the Occupy Wall Street movement Monday in a speech at the University of Louisville.

"I understand people's frustrations," he said, according to Politico. "The economy is not producing jobs like they want and there's lot of erosion of confidence in our government and frankly, under the First Amendment, people have the right to speak out ... but that doesn't mean they have the permission to violate the law." Protesters have occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan for about six weeks, inspiring other protests across the country.

About 40 people protested Boehner's golf game in Newport Beach, Calif., earlier this month. In response, his communications director said that the speaker appreciated the concerns of all Americans and wanted to find "common ground" where both parties could come together to create jobs.

Occupy Chattanooga members also recently protested Boehner's appearance at a fundraiser for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.).

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in early October that he was "increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street." He later acknowledged the "growing frustration" in the country, while not disavowing his earlier comments in an interview with Fox News.

President Barack Obama also recently said that he understands the "frustrations" behind the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Boehner added in his speech Monday that he hoped that the demonstrations would "continue to be peaceful."

Source: Huff 

Palestine Statehood Bid: U.S. Cuts Off UNESCO Funding After Palestine Vote

PARIS — Palestine became a full member of UNESCO on Monday in a highly divisive breakthrough that will cost the agency a fifth of its budget and that the U.S. and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.

Soon after the vote, the United States cut funding to the organization because of a U.S. law that bars funding an organization that has Palestine as a member before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.

That decision will have an immediate effect: The United States won't make a $60 million payment scheduled for November, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

UNESCO depends heavily on U.S. funding – Washington provides 22 percent of its budget or about $80 million a year – but has survived without it in the past: The United States pulled out of UNESCO under President Ronald Reagan, rejoining two decades later under President George W. Bush.

A Grass-Roots Newscast Gives a Voice to Struggles

Hours after Amy Goodman, the host of the grass-roots newscast “Democracy Now!,” was arrested in Minnesota in 2008 while trying to cover protesters at the Republican National Convention, she was sitting in a network news studio above the convention floor, when a producer said: “I don’t get it. Why wasn’t I arrested?”       

Ms. Goodman asked him, “Were you out on the streets?” No, he said, he had been in the studio the whole time. “I’m not being arrested here either,” she said she told him. “You’ve got to get out there.”

For Ms. Goodman, that exchange expresses both a shortcoming of the network newscasts that many Americans consume and a strength of “Democracy Now!,” the 15-year-old public radio and television program. The newscast distinguishes itself by documenting social movements, struggles for justice and the effects of American foreign policy, along with the rest of the day’s developments.

Operated as a nonprofit organization and distributed on a patchwork of stations, channels and Web sites, “Democracy Now!” is proudly independent, in that way appealing to hundreds of thousands of people who are skeptical of the news organizations that are owned by major media companies. The program “escapes the suffocating sameness that pervades broadcast news,” said John Knefel, a comedian and freelance writer who started listening about four years ago and now tries never to miss an episode.

Bombs, Bridges and Jobs

A few years back Representative Barney Frank coined an apt phrase for many of his colleagues: weaponized Keynesians, defined as those who believe “that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.”

Right now the weaponized Keynesians are out in full force — which makes this a good time to see what’s really going on in debates over economic policy.

What’s bringing out the military big spenders is the approaching deadline for the so-called supercommittee to agree on a plan for deficit reduction. If no agreement is reached, this failure is supposed to trigger cuts in the defense budget.

Faced with this prospect, Republicans — who normally insist that the government can’t create jobs, and who have argued that lower, not higher, federal spending is the key to recovery — have rushed to oppose any cuts in military spending. Why? Because, they say, such cuts would destroy jobs.

Thus Representative Buck McKeon, Republican of California, once attacked the Obama stimulus plan because “more spending is not what California or this country needs.” But two weeks ago, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McKeon — now the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — warned that the defense cuts that are scheduled to take place if the supercommittee fails to agree would eliminate jobs and raise the unemployment rate.

Oh, the hypocrisy! But what makes this particular form of hypocrisy so enduring?

Bruce Bartlett, Ex-Reagan Economist: Idea That Deregulation Leads To Jobs 'Just Made Up'

WASHINGTON -- Key proposals from the Republican presidential candidates might make for good campaign fodder. But independent analyses raise serious questions about those plans and their ability to cure the nation's ills in two vital areas, the economy and housing.

Consider proposed cuts in taxes and regulation, which nearly every GOP candidate is pushing in the name of creating jobs. The initiatives seem to ignore surveys in which employers cite far bigger impediments to increased hiring, chiefly slack consumer demand.

"Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no stimulative effect during the George W. Bush administration, and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today," writes Bruce Bartlett. He's an economist who worked for Republican congressmen and in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

As for the idea that cutting regulations will lead to significant job growth, Bartlett said in an interview, "It's just nonsense. It's just made up."

An Unwarranted Attack on CBC

The Canadian Jewish News is wrong to accuse the public broadcaster of journalistic malpractice.

Leading Canadian Jewish spokesmen seem to have declared an ill-conceived war against CBC. In an editorial on Oct. 12, The Canadian Jewish News (CJN) took vigorous exception to CBC’s airing of a radio programme on a “One-State Solution” – as did Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA; the successor organization of both the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Canada Israel Committee). Yet, anyone who actually listened to CBC’s “The Current” on Tuesday, Oct. 4 would be hard-pressed to understand why these spokesmen are accusing CBC of “journalistic malpractice.” Far from endorsing the one-state option, the programme’s interviewer and guests left listeners with no doubt that this view enjoyed the support of only a tiny minority on either side. Those who believe in some harmonious amalgam of Israelis and Palestinians into one democratic state, thereby eliminating Israel, are fortunately very few in number. Still, anyone who listened to the programme would have found the tone of the discussion tame and sober, admirably lacking the stridency and venom that have come to characterize too many public-affairs treatments of Israel-Palestine issues.

When I submitted a version of this piece as an op-ed to CJN, the editor who had harshly criticized CBC for offering only a single view of the subject (when, in fact, CBC had sensibly presented two critical views before the programme) refused to grant me the space necessary for an adequate reply to his views. The irony in CJN’s own lack of pluralism seems to escape him.

A few radio listeners may have found the attacks from CJN and Fogel appealing. But what is truly worrisome in this whole affair is the heavy-handed overreaction from official voices in the Jewish community. This is likely to arouse unhelpful and unhealthy controversy in Canada going far beyond the substance of the one-state/two-state debate.

Palestine becomes a full member of UN agency, despite U.S. objection

Palestine became a full member of the UN cultural and educational agency Monday, in a highly divisive move that the United States and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.

U.S. lawmakers had threatened to withhold roughly $80-million in annual funding to UNESCO if it approved Palestinian membership. The United States provides about 22 per cent of UNESCO's funding.

Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval in a hall with 173 UNESCO member delegations present.

“Long Live Palestine!” shouted one delegate, in French, at the unusually tense and dramatic meeting of UNESCO's General Conference.

It’s Finance Minister Flaherty versus Budget Officer Page

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, the man whose reports have been politically explosive to the federal government, is standing up for his office’s track record after members of the government recently criticized him and raised questions about his personal judgment and impartiality.

Mr. Page recently accepted an invitation to present his office’s latest report on fiscal sustainability at the Vancouver Island University on Oct. 11. He said he believed that the event was non-partisan, but at the last minute it was brought to his attention by a reporter with The Globe and Mail that it was organized by the university’s Young Liberals and the party’s local riding association as a party fundraiser. While working on the story, The Globe and Mail subsequently received an email from the event organizer, Mike McDowall, also vice-president of the federal Liberal association for Nanaimo-Alberni, to say that the plans had changed and that all proceeds would go to pay for costs and any other profits raised would go to the local Nanaimo food bank.

Destroying gun registry records could be harmful to Tories: Nanos

The Conservative government has to come clean on the real reasons behind its plan to destroy more than seven million records in the federal long-gun registry or risk the public image of “scorched earth” to appease hard-line gun owners who have been a staunch source of electoral and financial support through four elections, says pollster Nik Nanos.

The question of why Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) government is not satisfied with simply terminating the registry under a bill it is steamrolling through the Commons—and  why they would go so far as possibly having to even burn old computer tapes or CD-ROMs—has taken flight after prominent human rights expert Paul Champ speculated the government wants to satisfy the large element of long-gun owners who fear confiscation of their firearms once the Tories lose power.

Michel Drapeau, a former Canadian Forces colonel who is now a lawyer and expert on privacy laws and the Access to Information Act, told The Hill Times he was “shocked” the government intends to destroy records that are part of Canada’s history.

Clement, Baird to testify on G8 Legacy fund scandal this week

Treasury Board President Tony Clement and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will testify at the House Public Accounts Committee on Nov. 2 over accusations that Mr. Clement personally presided over the distribution of a $50-million G8 Legacy fund, moving requests for projects directly into his Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont., riding through his political office in Huntsville.

Mr. Baird's office and Mr. Clement's office confirmed their attendance.

News of a planned appearance is undoubtedly welcome, but Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Nfld.), vice-chair of the House Public Accounts Committee, said he and other opposition MPs are concerned that Mr. Baird (Ottawa-West-Nepean, Ont.) will answer for Mr. Clement in committee, as he has done in the House of Commons for months.

“I find it unusual that Minister Baird would be accompanying another minister of the Crown to answer questions on his portfolio. It’s just totally unusual and quite frankly, against the norms and conventions of Parliament about ministerial accountability,” Mr. Byrne said. “It would be unacceptable if it was Minister Clement who simply answered the government members’ questions while Minister Baird answered all the opposition members’ questions. I think that’s what will play out Wednesday.”

Occupy Montreal protesters fight for peaceful camp to avoid expulsion

MONTREAL — As a leaderless and barrier-free movement, Occupy Montreal is open to the city’s homeless, some of whom suffer from mental troubles.

This has challenged volunteers at the encampment, who must often contend with aggressive or anti-social behaviour from passing itinerants.

“Sometimes they can get out of control,” said Eric Bouthillette, an occupier who volunteers as a “mediator,” who intervenes when things get ugly. First, he tries diplomacy. If that doesn’t work, he calls the cops.

“We just don’t know how to deal with them. We don’t have the tools. There are no social workers here,” he said.

Harper retreats on Afghan mission risks

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has backed away from the risk assessment he offered last fall of the Canadian military's new mission in Afghanistan, in the wake of a soldier's death there on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters in Perth, Australia, after the conclusion of a summit of Commonwealth leaders, Harper said the Canadian Forces' current role training the Afghan National Army "involves significant risks."

"Any presence in Afghanistan, as I know from my own travel there, is fraught with risk," the prime minister said Sunday. "So there will remain risk to our defence personnel."

That assessment differs from what he said when the Conservative government announced last November that 950 troops would remain in Afghanistan to help with training and aid.

Spy watchdog seeks broader investigative powers

Canadian spies are obtaining a growing number of search warrants to intercept communications in Canada, according to a new report by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service received 55 search warrants from the Federal Court in 2010-11, up from 36 the previous year and 26 two years ago.

The increased interception of communications comes as CSIS spends more of its resources on the investigation of cyber threats in Canada, looking to identify the origins and motives of such attacks. However, SIRC cautioned CSIS that it does not have the legal authority to advise federal agencies on ways to protect themselves from attacks, stating that responsibility lies with Communications Security Establishment Canada.

Rick Perry: Social Security Should Offer Private Accounts

WASHINGTON -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been a harsh critic of Social Security on the campaign trail, but has largely avoided putting forward particular solutions. On "Fox News Sunday," he offered a glimpse of where he'd like the program to go, raising an idea that has been dead politically since President George W. Bush's failed attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005.

Perry, a top-tier Republican presidential candidate, said that current recipients shouldn't worry about his reform plans. "If you're on it or approaching it," Perry said, your Social Security benefits wouldn't change. But for others, he said, "give them a private account or whatever it is."

President Bush after his reelection proposed private Social Security accounts as the centerpiece of his reform effort. The plan, tremendously unpopular, never went anywhere in Congress and contributed to the 2006 Democratic takeover of the legislature. The stock market crash of 2008 made the notion that much less appealing, as 401(k)s shriveled up while Social Security checks kept coming.

Perry made Social Security an issue earlier in the campaign by dubbing it a "Ponzi scheme" and warning young people that it wouldn't be there for them. Social Security's actuaries say the old-age and disability insurance program can pay full benefits until at least 2037, at which point the income from payroll taxes would still be sufficient to pay nearly four-fifths of benefits through 2084.

"Social Security taxes are levied on covered earnings up to a maximum level set each year. In 2010, this maximum -- or what is referred to as the taxable earnings base -- is $106,800. The taxable earnings base serves as both a cap on contributions and a cap on benefits," according to a 2010 Congressional Research Service report. "If all earnings were subject to the payroll tax, but the base was retained for benefit calculations, the Social Security Trust Funds would remain solvent for the next 75 years."

Source: Huff 

Pat Buchanan: Occupy Wall Street Is 'Going To End Very, Very Badly'

Pat Buchanan issued a stern warning to Occupy Wall Street this weekend.

In a round-table discussion on 'The McLaughlin Group', host John McLaughlin asked panelists about the future of the movement.

“It’s going to end very, very badly with these folks in the winter and they’re not going to be getting publicity and they’re going to be acting up and acting badly like the worst of the demonstrators in the 60s," Buchanan said. "They’re going to start fighting with the cops.”

Occupy Wall Street took a violent turn this week as Oakland police unleashed tear gas on protesters and injured an Iraq war veteran.

On Saturday, scores were arrested in Denver after protesters clashed with local law enforcement. When cops began to spray Mace on the crowd, several protesters reportedly retaliated by kicking and pushing police.

Watch Buchanan on 'The McLaughlin Group', courtesy of the Daily Caller.

Source: Huff 

Rob Ford 911 Call: U.S. Pundit Keith Olbermann Dubs Toronto Mayor 'Worst Person In The World'

TORONTO - A firestorm over a 911 call peppered with expletives has earned Toronto's embattled mayor Rob Ford a dubious honour south of the border.

U.S. political commentator Keith Olbermann dubbed the controversial mayor the "worst person in the world" during his television show on Friday.

Ford lost his cool with 911 operators after a confrontation with a CBC comedy troupe in his driveway Monday morning.

The incident has since dogged the mayor, who admits "saying the F-word" but denies using any slurs against 911 dispatchers.

Toronto police chief Bill Blair has said the CBC "misrepresented" the calls, but many continue to push for the release of the 911 tapes.

Olbermann mocked the mayor for mistaking a "fake news reporter in a red ballroom gown" for an attacker and then taking out his frustration on police.

Olbermann awards the "worst person" title each night in a segment of his hour long program, "Countdown."

Source: Huff