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 15, 2011

Albany Club reception on Hill example of 'disturbing' informal lobbying that's growing under Harper's government: Angus

PARLIAMENT HILL—An exclusive reception Conservative Cabinet ministers and MPs are hosting on behalf of a high-end private club connected to the Conservative Party in Toronto is an example of “disturbing” informal lobbying that has grown under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, says NDP MP Charlie Angus.

Mr. Angus (Timmins James Bay, Ont.) and Democracy Watch founding director Duff Conacher told The Hill Times on Tuesday the reception to be held Dec. 1, featuring invitations sent to all Conservative MPs and Senators through Parliament’s internal email service, contradicts accountability promises Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) made when he first won power an a clean-up-government platform in 2006.

“I think the problem is we’re seeing a whole new kind of lobbying going under the radar, where people know people, people happen to be there,” Mr. Angus told The Hill Times.

“They’re not technically lobbying, but when you have ministers drumming up support for a private [club], that private club has key lobbyists on the board, if we didn’t ask questions, would those lobbyists have all shown up in the course of meeting all these new prospective members who are Conservative Cabinet ministers and MPs? Most probably, because it makes sense,” he said.

Majority Of New Yorkers Say Occupy Wall Street Has A Right To Stay In The Park: Poll

When New York mayor Michael Bloomberg had Zuccotti Park cleared of protesters Monday night, he did so against the wishes of most New Yorkers.

A poll released Tuesday from the Siena College Research Institute found that while many New York State voters believe the Occupy Wall Street movement lacks a clear message, a majority of them also think the protesters should be allowed to stay in public parks around the clock.

The survey, conducted only days before police officers evacuated Zuccotti Park on Mayor Bloomberg's orders early Tuesday morning, is the latest in a series of public opinion polls finding broad tolerance for Occupy Wall Street protesters who began camping out in lower Manhattan two months ago to demonstrate against income inequality, corporate influence in government and other topics.

Racial Pattern Found In Harris County, Texas Death Penalty Sentencing: Report

The connection between race and capital punishment has been a hot topic this year, and it's likely to remain one after a new study found a shocking pattern in the way one Texas county sentences people to die.

Of the last 13 men that have been sentenced to death in Harris County, 12 of them are black, according to an analysis of prison and prosecution records by the Houston Chronicle. The discovery has prompted some local lawyers to ask for an investigation and calls for more debate around the administration of capital punishment.

"The more the defendant looks like you the harder it is to kill him — human nature being what it is," said Robert Murrow, one of the county's capital defense attorneys. "It's something we have to be thinking about. It's an issue we never should get too far out of the front of our consciousness."

The role of race in death penalty sentencing became a major issue in the county when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Duane Buck, after reviewing the testimony of a psychologist who said during the trial that black people were more likely to commit violence. Buck's appeal of his pending execution was rejected last week. Although the inmate's supporters pleaded with Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos, she told The Chronicle she has not yet made a decision.

Paramilitary Policing From Seattle to Occupy Wall Street

They came from all over, tens of thousands of demonstrators from around the world, protesting the economic and moral pitfalls of globalization. Our mission as members of the Seattle Police Department? To safeguard people and property—in that order. Things went well the first day. We were praised for our friendliness and restraint—though some politicians were apoplectic at our refusal to make mass arrests for the actions of a few.

Then came day two. Early in the morning, large contingents of demonstrators began to converge at a key downtown intersection. They sat down and refused to budge. Their numbers grew. A labor march would soon add additional thousands to the mix.

“We have to clear the intersection,” said the field commander. “We have to clear the intersection,” the operations commander agreed, from his bunker in the Public Safety Building. Standing alone on the edge of the crowd, I, the chief of police, said to myself, “We have to clear the intersection.”


Because of all the what-ifs. What if a fire breaks out in the Sheraton across the street? What if a woman goes into labor on the seventeenth floor of the hotel? What if a heart patient goes into cardiac arrest in the high-rise on the corner? What if there’s a stabbing, a shooting, a serious-injury traffic accident? How would an aid car, fire engine or police cruiser get through that sea of people? The cop in me supported the decision to clear the intersection. But the chief in me should have vetoed it. And he certainly should have forbidden the indiscriminate use of tear gas to accomplish it, no matter how many warnings we barked through the bullhorn.

Union challenges Clement to sharpen budget axe in public

The Conservative government should not be making deficit-reducing cuts to departmental budgets behind closed doors, Canada’s largest public-sector union says.

“What we’re saying is be open now,” Public Service Alliance of Canada president John Gordon said, “and they haven’t been so far.”

The government has hired consulting firm Deloitte Inc. at a cost of $19.8-million until March 31 – about $90,000 a day – to advise cabinet ministers and senior officials on how to erase the deficit.

At the same time, managers have been offered cash incentives to make deep dents in the amount their departments spend. And departments have been told to come up with a slate of cuts worth 5 per cent and 10 per cent of their budgets – so the government can choose between the two options.

Mr. Gordon said he does not know how many departments have complied with that order to date. But all of the cost-savings proposals are being deliberated, in private, by a committee of cabinet ministers with the help of Deloitte, he said.

Washington could scrap its F-35 jet purchase

The U.S. government is threatening to cancel its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program unless Congress approves a credible deficit reduction plan, a move that would risk derailing Canada’s plans to purchase 65 of the next-generation stealth jets.

U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta includes the F-35 program in a detailed list of items that could be on the chopping block should a so-called “super committee” fail to deliver on a plan to find $1.2-trillion-in savings over the next 10 years.

The bi-partisan committee – officially called the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSCDR) – must reach a deal by next Wednesday. Should they fail, across the board cuts to government spending, described as “sequestration,” would kick in almost immediately.

In letters to Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Mr. Panetta outlines what these cuts could look like.

“If the JSCDR fails to meet its targets and sequestration is triggered, [Department of Defence] would face huge cuts in its budgets,” Mr. Panetta writes in a letter dated Nov. 14.

Gun registry’s demise could fuel firearms trafficking, memo warns

Scrapping the requirement to register rifles and shotguns could fuel illegal firearms trafficking across the Canadian border, an internal federal memo warns.

It says the move would weaken import controls by eliminating a requirement for border officials to verify firearms coming into the country.

“Such a loophole could facilitate unregistered prohibited and restricted firearm trafficking into and through Canada,” says the declassified memo, originally marked secret.

The memo was released under the Access to Information Act to the National Firearms Association and posted along with hundreds of other pages on the organization's website.

It was prepared by Mark Potter, a senior Public Safety Department official, for an assistant deputy minister as Parliament was debating a private member's bill to kill the registry. That bill was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons last year.

Police bust NY 'Occupy' protest in nighttime sweep

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of police officers in riot gear raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City in the pre-dawn darkness Tuesday, evicted hundreds of demonstrators and demolished the tent city that was the epicenter of a movement protesting what participants call corporate greed and economic inequality.

The police action began around 1 a.m. and lasted several hours as officers with batons and plastic shields pushed the protesters from their base at Zuccotti Park. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said around 200 people were arrested, including dozens who tried to resist the eviction by linking arms in a tight circle at the center of the park. A member of the City Council was among those arrested during the sweep.

Tents, sleeping bags and equipment were carted away, and by 4:30 a.m., the park was empty. It wasn't clear what would happen next to the demonstration, though the new enforcement of rules banning tents, sleeping bags or tarps would effectively end an encampment that started in mid-September.

"At the end of the day, if this movement is only tied to Liberty Plaza, we are going to lose. We're going to lose," said Sandra Nurse, one of the organizers, referring to the park by the nickname the demonstrators have given it. "Right now the most important thing is coming together as a body and just reaffirm why we're here in the first place."

Clement, Raitt may be contravening Conflict of Interest Act by hosting Albany Club on Hill, say opposition MPs

PARLIAMENT HILL—Treasury Board President Tony Clement and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt may be contravening the Conflict of Interest Act and a conduct code for MPs because of their role in a private Parliament Hill reception for an exclusive Conservative-connected Toronto club that includes four federal lobbyists on its board of directors, a federal lobbying watchdog and opposition MPs say.

Ms. Raitt (Halton, Ont.), two prominent Conservative Senators and two high-profile Conservative MPs are hosting the Dec. 1 reception in the Centre Block for directors of the high-end Albany Club, founded by members of the Conservative Party in 1882, who want to promote the club and drum up memberships among Tory Senators and MPs by featuring Mr. Clement (Parry Sound-Musoka, Ont.) as the “special guest” for the elite gathering.

But Duff Conacher, founding director of Democracy Watch, and Liberal and NDP MPs told The Hill Times Monday that the presence of registered federal lobbyists on the Albany Club’s board, including two who are registered to lobby cabinet’s Treasury Board or its public-service Secretariat, and several who are registered to lobby the Conservative MPs and Senators who will be entertained at the reception, puts Mr. Clement and the MPs and Senators who organized the gathering in a position that could conflict with provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act and conduct rules for MPs.

Is Harper putting dairy and poultry protection on the table in trade talks?

Stephen Harper may want to join the most important free-trade talks of the decade, but to do so he must be prepared to open up Canada’s sheltered and politically powerful dairy and poultry sectors to more foreign competition.

Canada has previously been reluctant to pay this price of admission for the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, led by the United States. But as signs grow that this broad multicountry deal could eclipse NAFTA in importance, Ottawa feels compelled to sign on.

Trade experts say there may be a middle path for Canada.

The protectionist tariffs shielding dairy and poultry products from foreign rivals, for instance, are so high – from 150 per cent to nearly 300 per cent – that Ottawa could afford to trim them sufficiently to abide by a deal without destroying these protected sectors. Or it could offer limited duty-free access.

V for Vendetta: Political resonance

When V for Vendetta was announced as the subject of this month's Reading group, a reader called Sunburst called it "The finest, most intelligent and most relevant British novel of the last 25 years".

All of that is, of course, debatable (right down to timescale: in fact, some of the book is more than 25 years old). Yet there's truth in what he says. It is a good book, it is smart, and there's no doubt that it remains relevant – as TheOldRedDog pointed out:
"The thing I'd be most interested to see in the comments from the group is the reaction to the fact that when Alan Moore wrote V for Vendetta, he was working to the logical extension of the then-Thatcherite world and creating an all too prosaic and realistic portrayal of 'what could be'. Now that we have another Tory administration in power and the financial crisis has shown us that the powers that be back then never really went away, are the resonances simply déja-vu, or something else?"

Mayor Ford warns Toronto Occupy protesters will be booted ‘soon’

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says Occupy Toronto will be asked to pack up their tents “soon,” refusing to say when the city plans to act, but offering to listen to protesters’ concerns if they come to City Hall.

The Mayor made it clear last week that he believes it's time for the protesters camped out at St. James Park to move on, saying they have had enough time to get their message out. Pressed for details Monday on how the city plans to remove tents from the downtown park, the mayor indicated that he is hoping to end the protest without a confrontation.

“We are going to be asking them to leave the park and take it from there,” he told reporters. ”It is going to happen soon. I can’t give an exact date. It is going to happen soon.” Later he went on to say, “It has been a peaceful protest. I’m sure they will leave peacefully.”

Mr. Ford said he has no intention of visiting the site, saying to do so would be condoning what he described as “illegal behaviour. ” But he did say protesters are free to come to City Hall. “I do my job here. If anyone wants to come here, I don’t mind meeting anyone”

The Mayor’s plans to evict the protestors also has led to a cyber threat against the city’s computer system. A hacker group called Anonymous issued an ultimatum on YouTube over the weekend saying it would remove Toronto from the Internet if Mr. Ford went through with his plans.

Responding to that threat Monday, Mr. Ford said the city is taking the possible cyber attack seriously, adding that staff believe they have put appropriate safeguards in place.

Councillor Norm Kelly, chair of the city’s parks and environment committee said the weekend ultimatum did not help the cause of the protesters. “This isn’t welcome and I’m not sure they’ve helped the cause,” he said. “That threat has darkened the mood.”

Mr. Kelly said there are many options on the table for clearing out the park and the one chosen by the city will depend in part on the response of protesters.

Source: Globe&Mail  

The Harper government's new best friends: Mao's heirs

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty somewhat undiplomatically tore a strip off the United States last week after the Obama administration decided to put the Keystone pipeline into the deep freeze. And then he made a direct geo-political threat aimed at America, his party's political model. The Keystone pipeline delay, Mr. Flaherty said, “may mean we may have to move quickly to ensure we can sell our oil to Asia through British Columbia.”

In other words, if you won't buy our raw bitumen, we'll sell it to China.

It is a little odd, this business of a Canadian neo-con minister, at the heart of the Harper government, threatening the United States with a closer economic relationship with Communist China. There's going to be a little splainin’ to do at the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. But it does give us the flavour of “oil disease” – of how the vast revenues associated with this resource can pervert even the geopolitical principles of conservative ideologues. There are people in that industry (and their poodles in government) who will do anything to infinitely expand their sales and their profits. Including, apparently, threatening Uncle Sam with a tighter embrace of Mao's heirs.

There is an alternative approach available, one that turns on four words: pacing; value-added; price; and transition.

BofA, Others Quietly Boosting Fees In Wake Of Debit Fee Debacle

Most banks may have backed away from the debit fee idea, but they're still nickle and diming customers in other ways.

Banks such as Bank of America, U.S. Bancorp and TD bank are quietly quietly upping various fees on mobile deposits, lost debit cards and other services, The New York Times reports. The banks' focus on fees is an effort to recoup an estimated $12 billion a year that disappeared as result of financial reform legislation curbing overdraft charges and swipe fees, according to the NYT.

Consumers and lawmakers were in an uproar after Bank of America announced plans to charge customers $5 to use their debit cards for purchases starting in 2012. But bank fees are far from new. Banks charge a median 49 fees per checking account that range in cost from $1.50 to $175, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust, cited by Reuters. Customers are often charged extra for a variety of services including getting a printed bank statement, receiving a wire transfer or making too few transactions in a given month.

National Socialist Underground: Far-Right Terror Group Shocks Germany

BERLIN — Germany's domestic intelligence agency was put on the defensive Monday, amid questions of how a neo-Nazi group that it had been aware of in 1998 could have slipped from its radar and carried out a series of bank robberies and at least 10 murders.

The activities of far-right extremists in Germany have produced a thick chapter in the annual report of the nation's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution since the 1960s.

Yet despite all the details on membership, crimes committed, structure and even fashion sense of such groups, the authorities were scrambling for information on the Zwickau-based trio calling itself the Nationalist Socialist Underground. Federal prosecutors are now calling it a domestic terror organization suspected of murdering eight Turks and one Greek from 2000 to 2006 and fatally shooting a policewoman in 2007.

In a statement issued Monday, the office insisted that it had no information regarding the whereabouts of the three members – two of whom are now dead in apparent suicides – since last tracking them in 1998.

Natalie Hegedus, Mom, Kicked Out Of Courtroom For Breastfeeding

Apparently, feeding your child is something to be ashamed of -- at least according to one district court judge. Michigan resident and mother of a 5-month-old baby, Natalie Hegedus, was reportedly "called out" for breastfeeding in front of an entire courtroom, leaving her humiliated and in tears.

Writing on the community forum, BabyCenter, after the incident, Hegedus said she only brought her son to court in the first place because he had an ear infection. As they were waiting to be called, he got hungry -- and so naturally, she decided to feed him. Hegedus says her breasts were fully covered and she was sitting at the back of the courtroom.

When the court bailiff noticed what she was doing, WoodTV reports that he wrote a note to the judge about it. Hegedus was called up, and the judge asked her whether she believed it was appropriate to be breastfeeding in court. She shared her response with WoodTV:
I said, "Considering the fact that my son is hungry, and he's sick, and the fact that it's not illegal, I don't find it inappropriate ... And the judge said something to the effect of 'It's my court, it's my decision and I do find it inappropriate.'"
Although Hegedus' post on BabyCenter received an outpouring of supportive comments from fellow parents (there are currently over 70 responses to her initial post) and breastfeeding in public is legal, when WoodTV reached out to the Chief Judge of the district court in question, he seemed to feel that any national response to the incident was unwarranted. In an official statement, he said:
I'm not defending this judge, I just don't think it is a story. This is abuse of the information age. A one to two sentence exchange has now turned into a national story.
However, this is far from the first time that a woman has been castigated for breastfeeding in public. It's not even the first time for it to happen in court -- in August 2010, a woman in Crawford County, AR was told to leave the courtroom while breastfeeding.

Source: Huff 

John McCain 'Very Disappointed' By GOP Candidates' Endorsement Of Waterboarding

The Republican presidential candidates, save former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), announced during Saturday night's GOP debate that they would reinstitute waterboarding if elected president, arguing that it is an "enhanced interrogation technique" and therefore doesn't violate the Geneva Convention's ban against acts of torture.

On Sunday evening, President Barack Obama chastised the candidates for that stance, noting the damage waterboarding has done for America's reputation and its standing in the world.

"It's contrary to America's traditions," he said. "It's contrary to our ideals. That's not who we are. That's not how we operate. We don't need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice."

Arundhati Roy: Occupy Wall Street is "So Important Because It is in the Heart of Empire"

Renowned Indian writer and global justice activist Arundhati Roy is preparing to address Occupy Wall Street on Wednesday. She recently joined us in the studio to talk about the Occupy movement. "What they are doing becomes so important because it is in the heart of empire, or what used to be empire," Roy said. "And to criticize and to protest against the model that the rest of the world is aspiring to is a very important and a very serious business. makes me very, very hopeful that after a long time you’re seeing some nascent political, real political anger here." She also discussed her new book, "Walking with the Comrades," a chronicle of her time in the forests of India alongside rebel guerrillas who are resisting a brutal military campaign by the Indian government.

Source: Democracy Now! 

The Newt Surge: Every Dog Has Its Day—Even the Dead Ones

Three months ago, Newt Gingrich looked like roadkill. Most of his campaign staff had quit, his money had run out, and his poll ratings were in the low single digits. When the conservative National Review polled its readers on whether he deserved a second look, the vast majority said no.

Now the Mouth of the South is back: climbing in the polls, raising money at a much faster rate than he had previously, and, strangest of all to behold, attracting praise from mainstream pundits. “My debate grades: Gingrich A-; Perry B+; Romney B+; Huntsman B; Bachmann B-; Santorum C+; Paul C; Cain C-,” Mark Halperin, of Time magazine, tweeted on Saturday night following the CBS/National Journal debate on foreign policy. Even before the debate, in which he joined Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann in endorsing military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Gingrich was on something of a roll. Two national polls released on Friday, one from CBS the other from McClatchy, both placed him in second place. (In the CBS poll (pdf), Herman Cain was leading; in the McClatchy survey (pdf), Mitt Romney was ahead.) Gingrich’s numbers are also rising in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida, where three of the first four primaries will be held. At the National Review and other places where right-thinkers gather, Gingrich is now taken seriously again: “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s leading polls in a week or two,” Rich Lowry, the longtime editor of the magazine, wrote a few days ago.

The trouble with video games isn't the violence. It's that most of the characters are dicks

A curious thing happened to me the other day while I was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which, if you're not familiar with such things, is a video game in which you participate in a bloody big war. It's a very popular franchise; devoted fans camp out on pavements for a launch copy, which makes it the royal wedding of violent video games.

Anyway, I'd got about a quarter of the way into it and was "doing" a level based in Sierra Leone that required a bit of stealth and sneaking around. You spend most of the game accompanied by various computer-controlled characters, and I was walking behind one of these, a crotchety moustachioed soldier who's supposed to be my friend, when he suddenly goes "shhhh" because he's heard a guard coming.

So we both stop in our tracks, and moustache man snatches the guard, pins him against the wall, and stabs him right through the throat with a hunting knife, killing him instantly. Then the body hits the floor, moustache man says "OK, come on", and we continue sneaking into the compound. Or rather, we were supposed to. But I stopped after a few steps and walked back to where he'd killed the guard. I just stared at the blood on the wall. And I thought, "I don't want to be friends with the man who did that."

Congress: Trading stock on inside information?

The next national election is now less than a year away and congressmen and senators are expending much of their time and their energy raising the millions of dollars in campaign funds they'll need just to hold onto a job that pays $174,000 a year.

Few of them are doing it for the salary and all of them will say they are doing it to serve the public. But there are other benefits: Power, prestige, and the opportunity to become a Washington insider with access to information and connections that no one else has, in an environment of privilege where rules that govern the rest of the country, don't always apply to them.

Most former congressmen and senators manage to leave Washington - if they ever leave Washington - with more money in their pockets than they had when they arrived, and as you are about to see, the biggest challenge is often avoiding temptation.

Medicare Fraud: Problems Persist With Contractors Paid Millions To Ferret Out Bogus Bills

MIAMI — Contractors paid tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to detect fraudulent Medicare claims are using inaccurate and inconsistent data that makes it extremely difficult to catch bogus bills submitted by crooks, according to an inspector general's report released Monday.

Medicare's contractor system has morphed into a complicated labyrinth, with one set of contractors paying claims and another combing through those claims in an effort to stop an estimated $60 billion a year in fraud. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general's report – obtained by The Associated Press before its official release – found repeated problems among the fraud contractors over a decade and systemic failures by federal health officials to adequately supervise them.

Health officials are supposed to look at key criteria to find out whether contractors are effectively doing their job – for instance, how many investigations the contractors initiate. But investigators found that health officials sometimes ignored whether contractors were opening any investigations at all.

The contractors are supposed to detect fraud by checking for spikes in basic data, such as what type of service was given, how much of it was given and how much it cost. But contractors were reporting their progress in different ways, and some of the information they turned over to federal health officials about their performance was inaccurate.

Obama On Chinese Economy: 'Enough's Enough' Of 'Gaming' The International System

President Barack Obama served notice on Sunday that the United States was fed up with China's trade and currency practices as he turned up the heat on America's biggest economic rival.

"Enough's enough," Obama said bluntly at a closing news conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit where he scored a significant breakthrough in his push to create a pan-Pacific free trade zone and promote green technologies.

Using some of his toughest language yet against China, Obama, a day after face-to-face talks with President Hu Jintao, demanded that China stop "gaming" the international system and create a level playing field for U.S. and other foreign businesses.

"We're going to continue to be firm that China operate by the same rules as everyone else," Obama told reporters after hosting the 21-nation APEC summit in his native Honolulu. "We don't want them taking advantage of the United States."

China shot back that it refused to abide by international economic rules that it had no part in writing.

How Greece Exposed Europe's Potemkin Democracy

In June 1964, in a conversation with the Greek ambassador to Washington, President Lyndon Johnson gave free rein to his views on Greek sovereignty. “Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution…. We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, Parliament and Constitution, he, his Parliament and his Constitution may not last very long.”

Johnson had a notorious potty mouth. The leaders of the European Union are less blunt (being translated into twenty-three languages is an incentive to mind your language). But their frosty response to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, after he called for a national referendum to approve their austerity package, left little doubt about what they think of Greece’s right to self-determination. Responses ranged from the condescending to the baffled. “Totally irresponsible,” said French legislator Christian Estrosi. “I truly fail to understand what Greece intends to have a referendum about. Are there any real options?” asked Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Johnson made good on his promise. Within three years Greece found itself under a brutal US-backed military junta from which it did not emerge until 1974. This time around, the EU pledged banishment and penury if Greece strayed from the script. The Greek political class fell back into line. Papandreou resigned so that technocrats could take over. At the time of this writing the issues were when and how Greece will implode, and the scale and pace at which Italy will follow. Europe the continent is in trouble; Europe the project faces an existential threat.

Inside Occupy Wall Street Raid: Eyewitnesses Describe Arrests, Beatings As Police Dismantle Camp

The Democracy Now! team rushed down to Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night to report on the police crackdown on Occupy Wall Street. We were there until the early hours of the morning, witnessing the arrests in the streets in Lower Manhattan and the dismantling of the encampment — and the hauling away protesters’ belongings. “They can’t pull one over our eyes. They can’t put nothing in our eyes that’s going to blind [us to] what’s going on here. And the same goes for all the people who are out there," a protester told Democracy Now! after the police twice pepper-sprayed him in the face.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Four Signs Herman Cain Isn't Really Running for President

Herman Cain is running a pretty strong presidential campaign, depending on whom you ask. The press covers him intensely: In early November, Cain was the “dominant” newsmaker in a whopping 72 percent of all campaign news stories, (according to a Pew report). Cain’s rivals now see him as a threat, attacking him regularly. And Republican voters are following these cues, at least in theory, telling pollsters that they support him. But what about Herman Cain?

A review of his recent activities, commonly referred to as a presidential campaign, suggest four big reasons why he is not really running for president at all.

Scenes from the GOP's "Commander in Chief" Debate

Did you miss the Republican foreign policy debate tonight? So did I, sort of. I spent about a third of the time watching the Stanford-Oregon game, about a third of the time following my Twitter stream—which was far more entertaining than the actual debate—and about a third of the time actually listening to the debate itself. So my insights are limited.

A couple of random notes. Virtually the entire debate was focused on national security: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle East. Pakistan was mentioned constantly, and virtually every candidate took the opportunity to demonstrate that they knew the phrase "Haqqani network." However, not a single one of them mentioned the word "India," without which any discussion of Pakistan's motivations is completely worthless. Maybe next time.

Moderators Scott Pelley and Major Garrett did a weak job in general and a terrible job on Europe. Which is to say that in a 90-minute debate taking place while Europe is practically melting down as we speak, they didn't mention Europe once until the last two minutes. They managed to ask Jon Huntsman one question about Europe and Rick Perry half of a question. Nice work, guys.

25 Giant Corporations That Paid Their CEOs More Than They Paid Uncle Sam

It might make sense for a small business to pay its top brass more than it doles out to Uncle Sam in taxes, but what if that company has tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in profits? Well, this is America folks. What follows is a list of 25 mega corporations that paid one guy—their CEO—more money than what they spent on their entire federal tax bills last year. The same companies averaged $1.9 billion each in profits—money that was earned, in many cases, by cutting thousands of American jobs.

Source: Institute for Policy Studies

Source: Mother Jones 

Your Prius' Deepest, Darkest Secret

So you're considering buying a hybrid car. Or maybe you already have. Good for you! You're saving a bundle on gas and reducing your environmental footprint at the same time. But fuel isn't the only natural resource that your car requires. Its motor also contains a small amount of neodymium, one of 17 elements listed at the very bottom of the periodic table. Known as the rare earths, these minerals are key to all kinds of green technology: Neodymium magnets turn wind turbines. Cerium helps reduce tailpipe emissions. Yttrium can form phosphors that make light in LED displays and compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Hybrid and electric cars often contain as many as eight different rare earths.

And the stuff is good for more than just renewable energy technology. Walk down the aisles of your local Best Buy and you'll be hard-pressed to find something that doesn't contain at least one of the rare earths, from smartphones to laptop batteries to flat-screen TVs. They're also crucial for defense technology—radar and sonar systems, tank engines, and the navigation systems in smart bombs.

Given all this, it's not surprising that the rare-earths industry is booming. Demand for the elements has skyrocketed in the past few years, and a recent report predicted it to grow by 50 percent by 2017.

It's Recall Time for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

In late September, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin met with staffers from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in a bright conference room with a view of the state Capitol in Madison. He sensed disappointment in the room. That summer, the party had forced recall elections for six Republican state senators but unseated just two of them—one short of retaking control of the majority. Maslin's reason for visiting was to discuss his new poll for a different recall effort, one targeting the most controversial man in Wisconsin: Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Ninety percent of those from both parties polled said they'd vote in a Walker recall election, with 77 percent of those saying they'd "definitely" vote. The energy is there, Maslin told the staffers. And so, more crucially, was the anger: 51 percent said they'd vote for Walker's opponent, while just 42 percent said they'd vote for Walker. The governor could be beaten, Maslin suggested.

Maslin tried to rouse the staffers with a historical analogy. He asked who had heard of Dieppe; the response was crickets. Dieppe, Maslin explained, was a French port controlled by the Germans during World War II. In August 1942, Allied forces launched an amphibious assault and aerial raid on Dieppe, only to be routed with heavy casualties. But the Dieppe disaster, Maslin went on, was a prelude to a larger victory. Lessons learned there helped the Allies succeed on D-Day two years later and go on to win the war.

Usage-based billing once again tops CRTC docket

MONTREAL – How much independent Internet providers  – known for their unlimited plans — will pay to use the networks of big telecom companies will be in the spotlight again with a CRTC decision on Tuesday.

The federal regulator will issue a new ruling on how much large network providers such as Bell (TSX:BCE) can charge for the use of their networks after a consumer backlash and concern from federal government last winter.

“Consumers have latched onto this,” said Tom Copeland, president of Internet service provider in Cobourg, Ont.

“Consumers have woken up and said, ‘You know what? We get it,’” Copeland said.

Consumers took to social media sites Facebook and Twitter to rally against what’s called usage-based billing, fearing if their independent Internet service providers faced this kind of billing it would mean the end of these providers offering unlimited plans and would increase prices. The CRTC took note and back to the drawing board.

MPs criticize Tories for hosting exclusive Albany Club on Hill, featuring TB president Clement as ‘special guest’

Opposition MPs claim two Cabinet ministers and top government MPs and Senators are abusing their privileged status by hosting a private reception on Parliament Hill for the exclusive Conservative-connected Albany Club of Toronto to drum up new members and promote itself.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.), presiding over plans to cut $4-billion from public service spending over the next year, is billed as the “special guest” for the cozy gathering on Dec. 1 in the historic Senate Banking and Committee room on the main marbled floor of the Centre Block, an ornate chamber off limits to Joe Public tourists led through the building by blue-suited guides.

Emails were sent to all Conservative MPs and Senators last week inviting them to “learn about the Albany Club and its benefits.”

The invitation was signed by Labour Minister Lisa Raitt (Halton, Ont.), Senator Consiglio Di Nino, Senator Hugh Segal and Conservative MPs Chris Alexander (Ajax-Pickering, Ont.) and Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.) who were inviting the caucus on behalf of the club’s board of directors.

The Occupy camps may close, but the movement appears far from finished

OTTAWA — Michelle Couturier is a capitalist’s dream: MBA, bilingual, trained in urban planning and architectural technology, with job stints at SNC-Lavalin, the federal government and the Bank of Canada.

At 29, she’s also an Occupy supporter, donating tarps and canned food to the movement’s Confederation Park camp and attending the Montreal camp.

On Oct. 20, days after the Canadian sites sprang up, her position as a project manager for large capital projects at the central bank was eliminated.

The same day, a major study reported Canada’s ever-widening class disparities, with the top 20 per cent of the population receiving the lion’s share of rising income and wealth between 1994 and 2008.

“The messages of the movement — the extremes of capitalism — resonate in me,” says Couturier.

Klaszus: Prison plan worthy of criticism

"Everybody agrees that today prisons only increase hate and frustrations."

Who wrote this? NDP justice critic Jack Harris? No. A left-leaning newspaper columnist? No. A dreadlocked Occupy protester? No.

This is Canadian humanitarian Jean Vanier writing in 1974. He had just attended a conference on prisons in Canada, and left feeling discouraged by talk of new jails.

"Prisons are not therapeutic," wrote Vanier to his friends. "They are overpopulated, there is not enough work, there is much fear and a real danger of outbursts on the part of the guards."

Vanier, whose life work is informed by his Catholic faith, has emphasized the need for a corrections system that rehabilitates and heals. His letters reveal a frustration with societal attitudes toward prisoners. "If I had been born in other circumstances," he wrote in one letter, "perhaps I might be behind bars today, full of frustration and anger."

Public service $100K club nearly doubles

While ordinary Canadians were feeling the effects of the recession, the number of federal public servants earning more than $100,000 a year nearly doubled, newly released documents show.

There were 22,674 employees receiving more than five figures in the year prior to the economic crisis that began in September 2008. That number had reached 42,050 by 2010.

The rise in the number of high earners within the federal government comes as the Conservatives attempt to implement an ambitious cost-cutting agenda they say will reduce by $4 billion the amount of money the federal government spends yearly. Some government employees have already been told they will lose their jobs, while more cuts are expected in the years to come.

The documents showing these figures were obtained by the Citizen under the Access to Information Act.

The year 2010 was an anomaly for government employee earnings, wrote Anabel Lindblad, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Board, in an email.

The number of employees earning more than $100,000 was far higher in 2010 because the government made a number of retroactive payments to unionized workers for collective bargaining.

Opponents of Northern Gateway pipeline brace for a fight

After the delay of the Canada-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline, opponents of the Northern Gateway project running from Alberta to British Columbia are preparing for a tougher battle, even as Enbridge Inc. maintains it has no plans to change tactics.

With Ottawa becoming more anxious to ship Alberta’s oil to Asia, it will intensify the fight for anti-Gateway activists, even though they view the Keystone decision by the United States as a victory.

“I would expect [Keystone] would increase the resolve for the oil companies to try to come west, as opposed to south. It will also increase the resolve of the federal government,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, one of the leading groups in the fight against Gateway.

“It’s just going to mean we’re going to have to double our efforts as well. That is what we are gearing up to do.”

Tories accuse opposition of hindering agenda as MPs return to House

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan is accusing the opposition parties of hypocrisy as the House returns after a week-long break. Not exactly a great beginning to the five-week stretch MPs face before the Christmas holiday.

Mr. Van Loan notes that at the same time as the NDP and Liberals accuse him of shutting down debate with time allocation and closure motions, they are trying to stop any of his bills going forward.

“It’s certainly ironic when the opposition tries to suggest we are limiting debate when they are the ones that don’t want the debate to go past second reading,” Mr. Van Loan told The Globe in an interview.

“I believe every single one of the cases where we brought in time allocation, the opposition parties have brought in motions – they are called reasoned amendments, which is not a very good description because they are quite unreasonable – that feel the bill shouldn’t go past second reading,” he said. “So as far as the opposition parties are concerned, the debate is already over. They want to shut down the debate.”

Mr. Van Loan’s office supplied a list of several keys bills on which the NDP or Liberals have brought in “reasoned amendments.”

1. Human smuggling bill. It has had six days of debate so far and the Liberals moved a reasoned amendment in their “first speech,” according to the Conservatives.

2. Omnibus crime legislation. There has been four days of debate and seven committee meetings. Again, the Liberals moved a motion to halt the process.

3. Copyright reform. The Liberals moved a motion to stop debate, the Conservatives say.

4. Dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. After three days of debate at second reading, the Liberals have tried to move amendments to prevent further reading of the bill.

5. Scrapping the long-gun registry. It’s had three days of debate and the NDP moved to stop it going forward.

6. The Fair Representation Act. The legislation, which expands the Commons by 30 seats, has had two days of debate. The NDP also moved a “reasoned amendment” on this bill.

Despite Mr. Van Loan’s accusations that the opposition doesn’t want to debate the Tory agenda, the opposition knows it can’t win because of the Conservative majority. They are outnumbered.

Besides, Mr. Van Loan argues that three or four hours of debate is sufficient for bills. “During an election leaders debate on all the issues ... that might go two hours. I hear very few people say it wasn’t long enough – and that’s to decide the whole election.”

Chow proposes bike-safety legislation

NDP MP Olivia Chow knows all about the dangers of cycling. As an avid urban cyclist – both Ottawa and Toronto – she’s learned to ride “VERY defensively,” she said in an email Monday morning.

Thirty years ago, she says she was “doored,” knocked off her bike when a driver in a parked car suddenly opened their door as she passed by. But she has not had an accident for a long time.

Conscious of the dangers still, she is introducing a private member’s bill to improve road safety, including side guards on “all heavy road trucks.” The proposed legislation is aimed at preventing a cyclist from “being trapped in the space between a truck’s wheels,” according to an NDP release.

She is introducing her bill Monday in memory of cyclist Jenna Morrison, a Toronto mother who was killed after being hit by a truck.

“Canada has more cyclists but government policies have not caught up with the safety of cyclists,” Ms. Chow told The Globe. “With increasing commuting time in big urban centres, every one is in a rush. Commuters are frustrated, restless and distracted. A little mistake can be fatal.”

In addition, Ms. Chow’s Ottawa residence is on Queen Street, not far from where a young public servant, Danielle Nacu, was killed the day after Thanksgiving while riding to work. She was “doored” and then fell into traffic. A white “ghost bike” that pays tribute to fallen cyclists sits near the front of Ms. Chow’s apartment.

Source: Globe&Mail 

Lockheed Martin, Maker Of F-35 Stealth Fighter, Interested In Building Canadian Search Planes

OTTAWA - Lockheed Martin, builder of the controversial F-35 stealth fighter, is lining up to make a bid on the Harper government's planned purchase of fixed-wing search-and-rescue planes — an idea that's apparently being warmly received in deficit-minded Ottawa.

The giant U.S. manufacturer, the world's largest defence contractor, is preparing a bid to build more Hercules transports for the air force, say several defence and industry sources.

A spokesman confirmed the interest, but was coy on the details.

"We look forward to seeing the detailed statement of requirements and look forward to offering a cost-effective, affordable solution," Peter Simmons, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, told The Canadian Press.