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.]

Monday, December 05, 2011

MacKay flew on search-and-rescue mission only 12 months before controversial airlift

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has defended a controversial airlift from a 2010 fishing vacation as a rare chance to see search-and-rescue crews practise their training – a story already seriously undermined by military e-mail records.

The Globe and Mail has also learned that the minister was no stranger to search-and-rescue (SAR) demonstrations along the very same portion of Newfoundland’s Gander River – having flown on a Cormorant there only 12 months earlier.

In 2009, he was a guest on what the military calls a “familiarization” flight, accompanying a search-and-rescue helicopter while it conducted landing and takeoff training in the vicinity of the fishing camp.

Earlier this fall, when news of the 2010 flight came out, the Defence Minister’s office said the 30-minute trip from the camp to the Gander airport was an infrequent opportunity to watch the rescuers in action.

“After cancelling previous efforts to demonstrate their search-and-rescue capabilities to Minister MacKay over the course of three years, the opportunity for a simulated search and rescue exercise finally presented itself in July of 2010,” Mr. MacKay’s office said in September.

But far from being starved of opportunities to watch SAR crews in action, the Defence Minister had actually spent an hour on a search-and-rescue helicopter in the same region only one year previous.

Border deal coming with $1 billion price tag

Canada will gain enhanced powers to track unemployment insurance recipients who skip the country and landed immigrants who don't spend enough time here to meet residency requirements under the new perimeter security deal with the United States.

The increased muscle will come with a $1-billion price tag, says a former Canadian diplomat who has spoken to negotiators of the Beyond the Border deal that is to be announced on Wednesday when Prime Minister Stephen Harper travels to the White House.

A new entry-exit system for people crossing the 49th parallel by land will be a key feature of the deal, and will represent a landmark change for Canada, Colin Robertson, an ex-diplomat who has served in Washington, said in an interview Sunday.

The federal government doesn't keep track of who actually leaves Canada. But the U.S. has been pressing Ottawa for years to start collecting that data as an added security measure.

The issue is contentious because some critics argue it poses a threat to Canadian sovereignty.

Tory backbenchers, opposition MPs say they don’t properly scrutinize $252-billion in annual spending

Parliament passes appropriations bills worth billions of dollars without giving them enough scrutiny, say government backbenchers and opposition MPs.

“I consider this one of the greatest weaknesses in Parliament. The estimates are tremendously important and deserve a phenomenal amount of scrutiny. This does not happen,” said Conservative MP Daryl Kramp (Prince Edward-Hastings, Ont.).

This round of supplementary estimates lists $6.6-billion in spending across 68 government departments. Since being tabled Nov. 3, the estimates have been examined in 21 House committee meetings as of Dec. 5, but MPs say it’s a cursory glance. The government spent $270-billion in 2010-2011.

“It seems to be treated as a housekeeping issue rather than a serious financial responsibility,” said Mr. Kramp, who is vice-chair of the Public Accounts Committee, and has also sat on the Government Operations and Estimates  Committee.

NDP MP Mike Sullivan (York South-Weston, Ont.) sits on the House Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Committee. The Transport ministry is looking for more than $150-million in the supplementary estimates.

Wealth gap widens to 30-year high

The gap between earnings by the rich and the poor is widening in almost all OECD countries — including Canada, where the top 10 per cent of Canadians earns 10 times more than the bottom 10 per cent.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says the average income of the top 10 per cent of Canadians in 2008 was $103,500 — 10 times higher than those by the bottom 10 per cent, who had an average income of $10,260. In the early 1990s, that ratio was at 8-1.

The group also found that the richest one per cent of Canadians saw their share of total income increase from 8.1 per cent in 1980 to 13.3 per cent in 2007.

Furthermore, the share owned by the richest 0.1 per cent of Canadians more than doubled, from two per cent to 5.3 per cent.

The OECD fingered tax policies for much of the changes. Canada's top marginal tax rate dropped from 43 per cent in 1981 to 29 per cent in 2010, the OECD noted in the report.

China's climate concession won't move Canada on Kyoto

China's concession to start cutting its greenhouse gas emissions won't change Canada's decision not to sign on to a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday.

Canadian officials have repeatedly said any new agreement must include all major emitters. Countries with emerging economies, such as China, India and South Africa, argued commitments to cut emissions would limit their economic growth and were a challenge developed countries didn't face as they grew to become powerhouses.

Kent, speaking at the UN's climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, said he wants more details on China's willingness to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

"We haven't seen any detail yet. We look forward to China bringing its proposal to the conference," Kent said. "But with regards to Canada not taking on a second Kyoto commitment period, that would not change our position."

Canada's chief negotiator says China's willingness to cut its greenhouse gas emissions is "interesting."

China’s climate compromise won’t woo Canada back into Kyoto: Kent

OTTAWA—Canada won’t be shifted off its anti-Kyoto stance even with a new concession that could see the world’s largest emitter, China, pledge to cut its greenhouse gases.

The Conservative government’s long-standing goal in global climate negotiations has been to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a signed deal that binds all countries with large greenhouse gas outputs to lower their emissions.

China took a huge step toward that eventual deal, on the condition that developed countries take on new commitments after 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol.

In response, Canada scoffed.

“That would not change our position,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said.

Countries are fixated this year on getting emissions pledges for a second Kyoto period because the agreement expires at the end of 2012 and a long-term successor agreement is still years away. If Kyoto lapses, so too do its rules, which govern global greenhouse gases, including requirements that force countries to maintain and publish annual registries of emissions.

Vietnam Weapons Of War: Over 42,000 Killed By Leftover Mines, Bombs

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam's prime minister says more than 42,000 people have been killed by bombs, mines and ordnance left from the Vietnam War, and more continue to die 36 years after the war ended.

Nguyen Tan Dung told a mine action donors' conference Monday that more than 62,000 others have been wounded by accidental explosions of weapons from the war.

U.S. Ambassador David Shear told the conference that the United States has provided $62 million to help Vietnam deal with "this painful legacy."

The U.S. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund says more than 350,000 tons of land mines and explosives remain scattered across the country.

Source: Huff 

Kyoto Protocol: Canada Will Withdraw From Climate Pact Says Peter Kent

OTTAWA - Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto protocol, despite a tempting climate-change offer from China, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday.

Kent said Canada will not sign on for a second Kyoto phase, even if doing so meant top polluter China would agree to targets to cut its own greenhouse gases.

China has long refused to adopt binding treaty commitments to lower its greenhouse-gas emissions. But this weekend, China's top negotiator signalled that Beijing would consider a target if the European Union and developed nations — including Canada — first agreed to extend their Kyoto commitments.

China's olive branch did not sway Kent. When asked if the offer might get Canada to reconsider signing on for a second phase of Kyoto after it expires next year, the minister simply said, "No."

He said Canada's "fixation" is on sealing a deal made two years ago at a United Nations climate-change conference in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

"Canada has made clear this year that Canada will not make a commitment to a second Kyoto period," Kent said.

Canada’s wage gap at record high: OECD

The gap between Canada’s rich and poor is growing amid shifts in the job market and tax cuts for the wealthy, according to a study that shows income inequality at a record high among industrialized nations.

A sweeping OECD analysis to be released Monday shows the income gap in Canada is well above the 34-country average, though still not as extreme as in the United States.

Income inequality is a hot topic these days, as mirrored by the Occupy movement’s concerns over the growing gap between the rich and the rest. Protesters aren’t the only ones preoccupied with the disparity; prominent figures from Warren Buffett to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz have also fretted over the growing gap, exacerbated by the recession and weak recovery.

“Income inequality increased during both recessionary and boom periods, and it has increased despite employment growth,” said Stefano Scarpetto, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s deputy director of employment, labour and social affairs, during a presentation of the report.

Are Chinese golf plans in Iceland a water hazard for Canada?

Over at National Defence Headquarters, there’s considerable interest in some real estate that a Chinese tycoon tried to buy in Iceland. Senior figures in Canada’s military believe this is why Canada needs more ice breakers, ships and submarines.

Huang Nubo is a billionaire property developer who recently offered to purchase a vast tract of land in northeastern Iceland equal to 0.3 per cent of that country’s land mass.

Mr. Huang said he wanted to build a hotel and golf course. The Icelandic government turned down his offer last week, saying its laws don’t permit foreigners to own that much land. Some officials in Reykjavik also suspect Mr. Huang wanted the land for more than a golf course. Canadian military planners agree.

While most of us wonder whether the Arctic ice will melt sufficiently to make the Northwest Passage commercially navigable, one senior military official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on this matter, dismissed the passage as “a twisty, rural backwoods road” compared to the real northern passage that a warming planet will eventually open up: over the Pole.

And some people believe that China thinks the same thing. That country is ravenous for oil and gas, and the Far North has plenty. Its economy depends on importing natural resources and exporting finished goods. Navigable Arctic sea lanes would make both much cheaper.

The Nastiness of Newt

It figured that a Republican presidential primary race defined by nothing so much as a taste for cruel and unusual politics would eventually see Newt Gingrich emerge as the cruelest and most unusual contender. Sure, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain might strive for the lowest common denominator. But Gingrich would outdo them in that department, despite heroic feats of insanity, stupidity and sex scandals by the other three. And so he has, emerging as the default choice of a new breed of Republican so extreme it would scare the bejeezus out of Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan.

In the same week that saw the former Speaker of the House become the most serious challenger to Mitt Romney, the Republican very few Republicans seem to like, Gingrich showed his true colors. As part of the ongoing GOP rant against organized labor, he stepped up with a proposal to fire school janitors and replace them with child laborers. Blaming “the core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization” for “crippling” children, Gingrich told a Harvard audience, “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child laws, which are truly stupid.” Gingrich did not misspeak. He was serious in suggesting that “most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school.”

Hard Times at Occupy Boston

John Ford signed up for a revolution, but he’s running a clinic.

In the early days of Occupy Boston, Ford, a 30-year-old bookstore owner from the white, blue-collar town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Alex Ingram, a 22-year-old African-American from Georgia who served in the Air Force as a linguist, would stay up late into the night in Occupy Boston’s library. Enveloped by Rousseau and Chomsky, they’d ponder big ideas about how to change the system. But tonight they’re grappling with a different set of issues: How do we deal with Henry, who’s drunk and pissed off again and recently threatened another Occupier with a hammer? What do we say to the furious young woman who’s on a manhunt for the guy who promised her forty bucks for sex and then ran off? And what the hell are we going to do about Phil?

Eviction, of course, is on everyone’s mind. Meetings are held every day to plot emergency evacuation plans. Occupy Boston’s lawyer was able to secure a restraining order that has helped prevent Mayor Thomas Menino from staging a Bloomberg-style raid. On December 1, a Suffolk Superior Court judge upheld that injunction, but it remains full of loopholes. If the camp is found to be in violation of fire and health codes, the city will have legal authority to clear camp. Fire inspectors frequent the site, documenting scores of violations with digital cameras, and Occupiers know this evidence won’t help them in court.

Heat From the Arts on Mayor Mike Bloomberg

It was Glass war, not class war, at Lincoln Center Thursday night, and Glass won, composer Philip Glass. It should come as no surprise that the maestro of mesmeric repetition has a knack for the “human mic.”

Occupy Museums, a group of roughly two hundred OWS-inspired protesters showed up outside the last performance of Glass’s Satyagraha Thursday. Satyagraha the opera tells the story of M.K. Gandhi’s early struggle against colonialism and segregation in South Africa. “Satyagraha” the word means “truth force.” Said the protesters to the opera-goers: “Mic Check. Mic Check: Let’s tell the truth… let’s tell the truth. Join US!”

It’s a pretty elite OWS spin-off for sure, but there was a precise policy target. In their call to action, organizers pointed up the irony of Satyagraha being performed at Lincoln Center, where in recent weeks people have been arrested and forcibly removed when they attempted to protest colonization of the arts by .001 percenter David Koch. (One of the theaters now bears his name.)

Koch’s money is not “generous philanthropy” they said, it’s a means of control. I’ve called it “philanthro-feudalism.” Out of one side of his wallet, the billionaire Koch fuels anti-tax thuggery (the worst of the Tea Party)—and then he and his brother drop cash on the influential elite to keep them at the trough. Typically, it works because with tax revenues slashed, the arts, like hospitals and schools, are desperate.

Heads in the Sand

Sen. John Barrasso is no stranger to science. The Wyoming Republican is an orthopedic surgeon who earned his medical degree from Georgetown University. His rigorous intellect won him Washingtonian magazine’s designation last year as the “brainiest senator,” based on an anonymous survey of Capitol Hill staffers.

Which is why Barrasso’s reaction when a reporter recently asked his views on climate change was so telling. On his way to the weekly Senate GOP luncheon in the Capitol building, Barrasso paused in an empty hallway to chat. When a reporter said, “Senator, can I ask you a question about climate change?” he fell silent and his eyes narrowed. “I’m busy,” he snapped, before turning sharply and striding away.

Two days later, the reporter tried again. Approached in the Capitol, Barrasso smiled and appeared poised to answer questions, inviting the reporter into an elevator with him. As the door slid shut, the reporter asked, “Do you believe that climate change is causing the Earth to warm?” A long silence ensued. The senator eventually let out a slow laugh and said, “This isn’t the time to have that conversation.” As soon as the elevator opened, he clapped his phone to his ear and walked briskly toward the Capitol subway.

Leading GOP Candidates Don't Want to Return Power to the States

Suppose you are a sincere conservative advocate of "states' rights."  What conclusion would you draw from Saturday night's Presidential Forum on Fox News Channel's Huckabee show? 

As I once pointed out elsewhere, American attitudes toward the division of power between state and federal government track a famous line from Thomas  Jefferson's' First Inaugural Address: "We are all republicans," he said, holding out an olive branch to the other party, "we are all federalists."

But as he himself demonstrated in office, when it comes to limits on federal power, we are all hypocrites.  The basic view of "states' rights" is that they extend to any policy that the speaker thinks will go his or her way at the state level.  Policies become law at the federal level become, ipso facto, "national problems." Certainly this mode of thinking seems to have affected some of the Republican presidential candidates.

The only two who seem to have given serious thought to the division of authority between the states and the federal government are Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Gov. Rick Perry, also of Texas.  As for the rest, some show interest in federalism as a slogan, and a surprising number show no interest in it at all.

Occupy Calendar: Check Out #OWS' Jam-Packed Schedule

Occupiers are going to need a spring break, judging from the packed winter itinerary of national protests being planned under the Occupy Wall Street banner. The movement's "Beyond the Park" faction may think it's time to stop erecting tent cities in public spaces, but if these plans all pan out, the Capitol Lawn could be booked through May Day. Check out this calender of events for what some are calling Occupy's "Valley Forge moment."

Michigan's Radical Assault on Public Education

The list of initiatives reads like a grand plan to dismantle public education as we know it: Slash education spending. Outsource public teachers. Curb collective-bargaining rights. Kneecap teachers' unions. Open the floodgates to charter and "cyber" schools.

Welcome to education reform in the state of Michigan, where a Republican-dominated Legislature and a GOP governor are pushing one of the broadest anti-union, pro-privatization agendas in the country. Michigan is grappling with budget shortfalls like other states including Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey—all places where GOP leaders (and occasionally Democrats) are exploiting the economic downturn to launch an ideological assault on teachers' unions and public school systems. Although some of Michigan's legislative attempts to overhaul public education have met resistance, state lawmakers have made an unprecedented push toward for-profit schools, dubious online curricula, and budget cuts and anti-union measures that would make the public teaching profession ever more insecure.

Michigan GOPers have gotten help from outside organizations, including Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst group (made famous by the documentary Waiting for Superman) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market-centric think tank. So extreme is their agenda that one recent bill even tried to justify bullying in schools on ideological and religious grounds, drawing outrage and national media attention.

Income Inequality And Cities: Calgary's Two Faces Show Pitfalls Of Unbridled Growth

CALGARY and TORONTO -- Sipping coffee in a spacious Calgary bungalow, Sandra Horley is a long way from home. The single mother of two lives in Forest Lawn, an east side neighbourhood considered among the city’s most challenged. Car-less and often without bus fare, the 43-year-old, who depends on social assistance, gets around mainly by foot.

But for the purposes of our discussion, Horley has agreed to meet at the tidy suburban cul-de-sac on the other side of town, where her kids’ elementary school principal, Jean Johnson, lives. The area’s manicured lawns are a world apart from her hardscrabble community, and yet, when it comes to gauging Calgary’s economic disparity, Horley says the distance between here and Forest Lawn is not the one that matters most.

“In Calgary, I see it like this,” she explains, opening her arms like an alligator’s jaw. “You have your wealthy,” she says, glancing up at her top hand, “and then you have your middle class and your poor, and they’re down here. Because of the oil industry in this province and in this city, there is a big discrepancy here.”

Executive pay kept secret at airlift service

The hefty salaries of top executives at Ontario's air ambulance service — including its boss — are being kept secret from the public.

Although the provincial air ambulance program receives $150 million in tax funding a year, at least five of its top executives are shielded from the “sunshine list” the province publishes annually to help make government accountable.

Dr. Chris Mazza, the president and chief executive officer of ORNGE, and at least four top executives including Rick Potter, chief operating officer aviation, do not disclose their salaries. Mazza used to disclose his until 2007, then stopped. That year, Mazza earned $298,000.

It's not known what Mazza and his executives earn now but other salaries, those that are disclosed, have grown in leaps and bounds. One salary was bumped up $100,000 in just one year. The highest disclosed salary last year was $282,000.

A Star investigation has found that some of the top salaries are shielded because the government-funded, non-profit air ambulance agency has created a series of for-profit consulting companies.

One for-profit company, ORNGE PEEL, pays the executives as consultants, and ORNGE officials say this excludes them from having to disclose to the public how much they earn. Other for-profit companies created by ORNGE include ORNGE Global Air and ORNGE Global Real Estate.

Occupy DC Arrests: Structure In McPherson Square Prompts Police Action

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Park Police arrested more than 30 people on Sunday after a wooden structure was erected in McPherson Square, the downtown park that has been home to an Occupy Wall Street-inspired encampment since Oct 1.

According to The Washington Post, police gave protesters a one-hour deadline to dismantle the structure and started making arrests shortly before noon. A nine-hour standoff started after protesters refused to stand down.

Police scaled the structure around 6:40 p.m. in an attempt to detain the protesters on the roof. By 7 p.m., at least two of those protesters had voluntarily jumped into an inflatable bag after discussions with police.

Two others, including local artist Adrian Parsons, were removed by police in a cherry picker around 7:40 p.m. The lone protester, who at one point urinated as police attempted to detain him, was finally brought down from the roof around 8:30 p.m.

Police began demolishing the "People's Pavilion" about 45 minutes later.

There were at least 31 arrests by mid-evening, the Post's Tim Craig reported.

Fending Off Nature's Enemies

Criticism of U.S. money going to Canadian non-profits is an attempt to silence those critical of our dirty fossil-fuel industry.

Who is influencing Canada’s resource priorities? In a puzzling appeal to anti-American sentiment, some industry supporters claim that U.S. foundations are threatening Canadian policy by donating money to environmental groups here. These arguments have appeared in publications such as the Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald, and on Sun TV.

Greenpeace has released research that points in a different direction, one that seems more logical. The Greenpeace report, “Who’s Holding Us Back?”, shows that multinational and U.S. corporations in the oil, mining, and chemical sectors, among others, have been spending money and using industry trade associations, think tanks, lobbying, and revolving doors between government and industry to block action on climate change and influence resource policy in Canada and elsewhere.

Opponents of environmental initiatives point to recent protests against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to B.C.’s north coast. They say this opposition is part of a conspiracy by U.S. funders to ensure that oil keeps flowing to the U.S. and not to Asia. That the same people also oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would take bitumen from the tar sands to the U.S., doesn’t faze those who promote this twisted logic.

Income tax files can replace gun sale records, says Tory MP Hoeppner

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government remained under bitter criticism for its sweeping plan to disable the federal long-gun registry as annual commemorative ceremonies approached for the 14 female students killed by a rampaging gunman at a Montreal engineering school 22 years ago this Tuesday, Dec. 6.

After two weeks of criticism from vocal members of gun-control organizations, including students and graduates of L’Ecole Polytechnique, site of the massacre, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner (Portage-Lisgar, Man.) incited more fury, and astonishment, when she said last week the end of mandatory records for gun sales could be supplanted with income-tax records of gun dealers.

As fine print in the government’s legislation to end the registry and destroy its entire computerized record system became clear during final hearings at the Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee, opponents welcomed Ms. Hoeppner’s acknowledgement of an end to reliable firearms transfer and ownership records, but expressed amazement she could propose income tax records as a replacement.

Ms. Hoeppner, the Parliamentary Secretary to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.) assigned to steer Bill C-19 swiftly through the committee, made the comment while debating NDP MP Jack Harris (St. John’s East, Nfld.) and Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis, Que.) on CBC’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon.

“There is nothing in Bill C-19 that will change the requirements for individuals to have a licence to own any kind of firearm, nor the fact that it remains a criminal offence, punishable by jail, imprisonment, to transfer a firearm to anyone without a licence,” said Ms. Hoeppner, despite arguments from gun-control advocates that Bill C-19 amendments to the 1995 Firearms Act may make it nearly impossible to investigate and prosecute illegal gun sales and ownership.

Attawapiskat doc filmmaker says Duncan must have known earlier, she asked him for an interview last year

The First Nations community of Attawapiskat, which is in a state of emergency after the Red Cross arrived to deliver emergency aid and some residents were living in unheated tents, and overcrowded and substandard  housing, is “not any worse” than it was almost two years ago, says documentary filmmaker Angela O’Leary who visited the northern Ontario community near James Bay twice in 2010 and who says it’s nearly impossible for Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs minister not to have known about the crisis happening there until recently.

“He said they had no clue what was going on. I know myself and I know other journalists as well have approached INAC [Indian and Northern Affairs Canada] for interviews about the situation and this doesn’t date four weeks back, this dates, one, two, five years back,” said Ms. O’Leary, who documented Attawapiskat’s plight in her film released last year, Canada: Apartheid Nation.

“Just in the short period since I’ve been producing the documentary, if I’ve known what’s going on in this short time span, surely, INAC in its history must’ve realized, or must have documentation, that there was a problem. For him to pass it off, pass off the blame on [NDP MP] Charlie [Angus] because Charlie didn’t tell him that all this was happening, is nothing short of a joke.”

Canada slammed at Durban climate talks

The coming week in Durban, S.A., will be a crucial test of whether world leaders can reach agreement on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which expires next year.

The South Africans hosting the conference do not want the negotiations to fail on its watch, but Canada is making that job hard.

A statement made during question period in Ottawa on Friday seems to illustrate the conflict in Durban.

"Canada is working towards a single new international climate change regime that will include commitments by all major emitters," Environment Minister Peter Kent said in question period on in Ottawa on Friday.

Many environmental groups, developing nations and the European Union, which want to forge a new commitment similar to the Kyoto Protocol arrangement, where wealthy developed nations bear the largest burden of the emissions cuts while attempting to bring developing nations along with financial supports.

Mounties spied on native protest groups

The federal government created a vast surveillance network in early 2007 to monitor protests by First Nations, including those that would attract national attention or target “critical infrastructure” like highways, railways and pipelines, according to RCMP documents.

Formed after the Conservatives came to power, the RCMP unit’s mandate was to collect and distribute intelligence about situations involving First Nations that have “escalated to civil disobedience and unrest in the form of protest actions.”

The documents, obtained through access to information requests, include an RCMP slideshow presentation from the spring of 2009, which says the intelligence unit reported weekly to approximately 450 recipients in law enforcement, government, and unnamed “industry partners” in the energy and private sector.

A RCMP spokesperson told the Toronto Star the unit was never considered “permanent” and that last year it was “dismantled’’ at least at headquarters. But the Mounties can’t say if the work is continuing in the field.

“Since the dismantling of the Aboriginal (joint intelligence group) JIG, the work done by the JIG is no longer performed at RCMP HQ Criminal Intelligence (CI). However, we cannot confirm that RCMP divisions are not performing Aboriginal JIG activities under another name of program.”

Send in the Clueless

There are two crucial things you need to understand about the current state of American politics. First, given the still dire economic situation, 2012 should be a year of Republican triumph. Second, the G.O.P. may nonetheless snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — because Herman Cain was not an accident.       

Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year — and who, even as they declare their hatred of government, will balk at any hint of cuts to Social Security and Medicare (death panels!).

And you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security.

So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless.

Mitt Romney embodies the first option. He’s not a stupid man; he knows perfectly well, to take a not incidental example, that the Obama health reform is identical in all important respects to the reform he himself introduced in Massachusetts — but that doesn’t stop him from denouncing the Obama plan as a vast government takeover that is nothing like what he did. He presumably knows how to read a budget, which means that he must know that defense spending has continued to rise under the current administration, but this doesn’t stop him from pledging to reverse Mr. Obama’s “massive defense cuts.”

City Cracking Down on Performers in Washington Square Park

Colin Huggins was there with his baby grand, the one he wheels into Washington Square Park for his al fresco concerts. So were Tic and Tac, a street-performing duo, who held court in the fountain — dry for the winter. And Joe Mangrum was pouring his elaborate sand paintings on the ground near the Washington Arch.       

In other words, it was a typical Sunday afternoon in the Greenwich Village park, where generations of visitors have mingled with musicians, artists, activists, poets and buskers.

Yet this fall, that urban harmony has grown dissonant as the city’s parks department has slapped summonses on the four men and other performers who put out hats or buckets, for vending in an unauthorized location — specifically, within 50 feet of a monument.

The department’s rule, one of many put in place a year ago, was intended to control commerce in the busiest parks. Under the city’s definition, vending covers not only those peddling photographs and ankle bracelets, but also performers who solicit donations.

The rule attracted little notice at first. But the enforcement in Washington Square Park in the past two months has generated summonses ranging from $250 to $1,000. And it has started a debate about the rights of parkgoers seeking refuge from the bustle of the streets versus those looking for entertainment.
At a news conference in the park on Sunday organized by NYC Park Advocates, the artists waved fistfuls of pink summonses while their advocates, including civil rights lawyers, called on the city to stop what they called harassment of the performers.

City Cracking Down on Performers in Washington Square Park

Colin Huggins was there with his baby grand, the one he wheels into Washington Square Park for his al fresco concerts. So were Tic and Tac, a street-performing duo, who held court in the fountain — dry for the winter. And Joe Mangrum was pouring his elaborate sand paintings on the ground near the Washington Arch.       

In other words, it was a typical Sunday afternoon in the Greenwich Village park, where generations of visitors have mingled with musicians, artists, activists, poets and buskers.

Yet this fall, that urban harmony has grown dissonant as the city’s parks department has slapped summonses on the four men and other performers who put out hats or buckets, for vending in an unauthorized location — specifically, within 50 feet of a monument.

The department’s rule, one of many put in place a year ago, was intended to control commerce in the busiest parks. Under the city’s definition, vending covers not only those peddling photographs and ankle bracelets, but also performers who solicit donations.

The rule attracted little notice at first. But the enforcement in Washington Square Park in the past two months has generated summonses ranging from $250 to $1,000. And it has started a debate about the rights of parkgoers seeking refuge from the bustle of the streets versus those looking for entertainment.
At a news conference in the park on Sunday organized by NYC Park Advocates, the artists waved fistfuls of pink summonses while their advocates, including civil rights lawyers, called on the city to stop what they called harassment of the performers.