Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Occupy DC Protesters Take Over K Street, Dozens Arrested

WASHINGTON -- At least 60 protesters were arrested on K Street NW, the historical lobbying hub of the nation's capital, as they blocked four key intersections, shutting down the street for much of the afternoon Wednesday.

Lasting more than an hour, a standoff between Occupy Wall Street protesters and D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department resulted in at least three dozen arrests near Franklin Square at 14th and K Streets NW. Police used horses for crowd control, and picked apart protesters who linked arms and went limp with their bodies.

Police on the scene did not have a complete count of how many were arrested along the K Street corridor on Wednesday, but the number was reported by National Lawyers' Guild observers and protesters to be near 60.

Most of those arrested were charged with blocking a highway, as Occupy protesters began setting up tents and quite literally occupying K Street, blocking all traffic on the heavily-traveled downtown thoroughfare that is also Route 29. Metrobus and D.C. Circulator bus services were impacted.

California Prison Riot: Guards Fire Shots, Many Injured

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Guards shot at least two prisoners Wednesday as they broke up a fight involving 50 inmates at a prison east of Sacramento, corrections officials said.

Inmates stabbed each other during the fight, and some employees suffered minor injuries as they intervened. The outbreak was in a maximum security area of the California State Prison, Sacramento.

The conditions of the two inmates hit by gunfire were not immediately known, but they were among 10 wounded inmates taken to outside hospitals, said correctional Sgt. Tony Quinn, a prison spokesman. The other inmates had stab wounds and blunt force trauma, he said. Their conditions also were not immediately known, Quinn said.

"There were guys being brought off the yard left and right" with injuries after the fight in a maximum-security exercise yard, Quinn said.

About 50 inmates were involved, and an unknown number of employees were injured, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Besides firing about seven bullets, guards used pepper spray and fired rubber projectiles to break up the fight. The employees were hurt responding to the incident and were not targets of the inmates' attacks, she said.

Most of the prison's 2,800 inmates were locked in their cells while the disturbance was investigated.

The prison, which is also known as New Folsom, is next to the much older Folsom State Prison, about 20 miles east of the state capital. It also was the scene of a riot in May that sent six inmates to outside hospitals, and two of those inmates were treated for serious injuries.

Guards broke up that earlier riot with pepper spray and warning shots, without shooting any inmates. No employees were injured in that disturbance at the prison, which opened in 1986.

Source: Huff 

Rupert Murdoch Lobbies Congress To Restrict Internet

WASHINGTON -- News Corp. honcho Rupert Murdoch threw his weight behind Congress' attempt to restrict the Internet, personally lobbying leaders on Capitol Hill Wednesday for two measures that purport to combat piracy.

Murdoch's media empire is among some 350 large corporations that have come out in favor of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, as well as the Protect IP Act in the Senate.

Both measures would require Internet operators to police activity online, and would mandate Internet giants like Google and AOL (the parent company of The Huffington Post and an opponent of the bills) and credit card companies to take down sites that have content deemed to be in violation of copyright rules.

The battle has pitted huge content generators like Disney and the motion picture industry against their online competitors, with each side reportedly spending some $90 million on lobbying efforts.

The straitjackets of caste and gender

The large majority of those who visit India may not see or recognize the grim realities that disable the lives of about 170 million people in the country’s Dalit community. For the women and girls of this community, trapped in two straitjackets of caste and gender, the constraints and barriers have few parallels.

Enquiries about caste at large generally elicit one of two answers: “Oh, it is ancient and hardly matters now; it is nurtured by politicians for winning elections,” or, “It is an ancient deeply entrenched system and will take time to change.”

Both answers are insufficient for the millions who have been bearing its burdens for generations and are struggling to change it, not least when we see what changes are possible in this country: independence 64 years ago, a constitution based on dignity, equality and equal opportunities for all, the transition from socialist to market economy, high economic growth, information technology, global recognition. The excuses are not justified, and one suspects that the privileged simply do not wish to change this system.

Mushahar girls are, by all means, at the bottom of the bottomless pit of caste intersected by gender and many other disabilities, and to surface is next to impossible. As a member of the Mushahar community, one’s habitation is segregated: No one else would live there, nor can you live among other communities. One’s habitation is almost completely excluded from state services (or provided at the poorest quality – there may be child-care centres and schools but few teachers come or teach). The caste system denies you land and other assets. The education system has pushed out almost all from meaningful education and skills – even opportunities for unskilled work are haunted by discrimination and indignity, and any aspiration or assertion is soon quenched through humiliation or violence. Women and girls are further marginalized through gender discrimination and violence, sexual violence and alcoholism from the larger society and even within the community itself.

Kirsten Powers: Newt Gingrich Is in Love With Himself

“I told somebody at one point [of my presidential campaign], ‘This is like watching Walton or Kroc develop Walmart and McDonald’s.’” So said Newt Gingrich, whose presidential campaign boasts roughly 40 staff members.

“I am going to be the nominee,” the modern-day Narcissus declared while gazing at his reflection in the polls.

“I am much like [Ronald] Reagan and Margaret Thatcher,” the man who was run out of Congress in disgrace and is despised by nearly every conservative who has ever worked with him recently mused to CNN.

“I don’t want my country to collapse. I don’t want my daughter and wife raped and killed,” Speaker Gingrich told a stunned Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter in 1994 in explaining why America, nay, the world, needed him. After all, he told her, “People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz.”

And they said Al Gore was an exaggerator.

The Rise and Fall of MF Global Chief Jon Corzine

On other mornings, the leather upholstered chair at Esquires barbershop could have been a throne, from which Jon Corzine would rise to stride supreme up the street where he had made his name and his fortune. But on this gray, drizzly dawn just before Thanksgiving, the once mighty 64-year-old emerged from the shop at 14 Wall Street looking sunken and defeated. He moved up the block with a skittish quickness, his blue blazer hanging almost scarecrow-loose on his shoulders, as he nervously raised and lowered a coffee cup to his face, seemingly not so much to take sips as to conceal his face—lest somebody recognize him and maybe ask the big question:

“Where’s the money?”

The money being up to $1.2 billion in customer funds that had vanished after the implosion of the investment firm he ran, MF Global. The immediate cause of the eighth-largest bankruptcy in American history was a $6.3 billion bet on European debt that Corzine had declared was a sure thing. He seems to have been blinded less by greed than by need, a need to elevate little-known MF Global into the league of Goldman Sachs, where this son of an Illinois tenant farmer had risen to become CEO, only to be deposed more than a decade ago.

The Robin Hood Tax

They call it the Robin Hood tax — a tiny levy on trades in the financial markets that would take money from the banks and give it to the world’s poor.       

And like the mythical hero of Sherwood Forest, it is beginning to capture the public’s imagination.

Driven by populist anger at bankers as well as government needs for more revenue, the idea of a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments has attracted an array of influential champions, including the leaders of France and Germany, the billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros, former Vice President Al Gore, the consumer activist Ralph Nader, Pope Benedict XVI and the archbishop of Canterbury.

“We all agree that a financial transaction tax would be the right signal to show that we have understood that financial markets have to contribute their share to the recovery of economies,” the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, told her Parliament recently.

On Sunday, Mario Monti, the new prime minister of Italy, announced plans to impose a tax on certain financial transactions as part of a far-reaching plan to fix his country’s budgetary problems, and he endorsed the idea of a Europewide transactions tax.

Beyond Denial: The Next Frontier in Climate Change

A few weeks ago an independent team of scientists funded by a prominent foundation announced to great twitter, "Global warming is real." The news itself wasn't surprising to anyone close to the problem; this is something the rest of the scientific community has known for two decades. But the source of the news was noteworthy: one lead scientist of the study was a self-proclaimed climate skeptic, and the study was funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, which, among other things, has funded efforts to derail climate-related state legislation.

This team duplicated earlier studies that showed the Earth has warmed by about 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) since the 1950s. The present decade is the warmest in over two centuries. Earlier allegations that climate scientists conspired to manufacture data were, and still are baseless. This new result confirms the point and "leaves little room for doubters," as The Economist neatly summarized.

This warming trend presents real and present risks to things that really matter: the security of food, water, and land. Most people are not gravely concerned that global temperature will be X degrees warmer in the coming decades. But rising temperature is a harbinger of associated risks to things we utterly depend upon as individuals and nations.

The F-35, a $400 Billion Boondoggle

InsideDefense confirmed Tuesday "that there are still 'outstanding risks associated with the Joint Strike Fighter flight training..." It interpreted that confirmation as "a sign of concurrence with the Pentagon's top weapons tester that the F-35 is not yet ready for unmonitored flight or formal training."

Monday, John McCain stood up on the floor of the Senate and said "it's wise to sort of temper production for a while here..." McCain was quoting an interview that AOL Defense had conducted with Vice Admiral David Venlet about the F-35. McCain then went on to say, "When the head of the most expensive, high-profile systems program in U.S. history effectively says, 'Hold it! We need to slow down much we are buying!' We should all pay close attention."

It isn't quite that simple. InsideDefense reports that on October 24th, Venlet "and Lt. Gen. Thomas Owen, the commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center, argued that the JSF program... should begin training at Eglin AFB [Air Force Base] as soon as an event-driven process results in a military flight release." Previously, on October 21st, "Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department's director of operational test and evaluation, wrote a memo to Frank Kendall, DOD's acting acquisition chief" detailing his concerns with "safety shortfalls" and recommended a delay "in the start of training for an estimated ten months."

Velent and Owen wanted it to begin sooner, but DOD's acting acquisition chief "requested a reply from Air Force Secretary, Michael Donley, that it was the service's responsibly to address the issues..." On November 22nd, Donley replied that the service "shares some concerns with Gilmore" InsideDefense, quoting from Donely's memo, said "The Air Force agreed with Dr. Gilmore that there were still outstanding risks with the Joint Strike Fighter training at Eglin AFB" He added "that a military flight release (MFR), which would permit flight operations to begin would not be issued... until these risks have been accepted or mitigated... We have made clear to all involved that there is no pressure to initiate training".

House Passes Bill To Grant Congress Veto Power Over White House Rules

WASHINGTON -- A bill that would give the controlling party of either chamber of Congress veto power over any major new regulation passed the House of Representatives Wednesday.

The measure, dubbed the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny -- or REINS -- Act, would require Congress to sign off on any new rule estimated to cost more than $100 million. It passed 241 to 184, with a handful of Democrats crossing the aisle.

The REINS Act is only the latest of a slew of bills aimed at peeling back regulations, which House Republicans have pushed for in the name of cutting red tape and freeing up businesses. The GOP sees the regulations as overbearing rulemaking by unelected bureaucrats.

"Who do the regulators answer to? No one," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) in debate on the House floor.

Beyond The Border: Harper, Obama Announce Deal To Bolster Security, Reduce Trade Barriers

OTTAWA — Canada’s privacy advocates are raising alarm bells that a new border pact with the U.S. could lead to public health risks and sharing of vast quantities of information on Canadian nationals with American authorities.

“This is a very scary document,” Micheal Vonn, of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association told The Huffington Post. “We’re appalled. It is essentially a whole sale adoption of U.S. policy and standards across the board.”

The extensive Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan was described by Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday as the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. co-operation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Among the proposed changes in the new border deal are more American law enforcement officials working on Canadian soil, harmonized U.S. standards for non-prescription drugs and beauty products, new names for cuts of meat and fewer missed connections due to the elimination of a second baggage screening for passengers flying through U.S. airports.

But the big win, according to Canadian and U.S. authorities, is a streamlining of cargo screening, new uniform standards across a range of high-trade sectors and less red tape for companies trying to get their goods and people across the world’s largest land border.

A leg up for Britain’s generation rent

There was a time, not long ago, when middle-class Britons could expect that, with the help of an education and a decent job, they would one day own their own home. Kathleen Taylor, a 37-year-old civil servant, bought her first London property back in 1997, a two-bedroom apartment that cost her just $180,000. Even then, as with many young, first-time buyers, her mother had to underwrite the mortgage and provide part of the down payment (a loan she later paid back). Since then, Taylor has moved house several times, enjoying the security of being on what the British call “the property ladder”—a metaphorical climbing structure long regarded as the path to financial security.

Turns out she was one of the lucky ones. Today, even with low interest rates and moribund house prices, many Britons Taylor’s age and younger have begun to give up hope of ever “getting on the ladder.” An example of how quickly things have changed: Taylor’s 33-year-old younger brother, a freelance sound designer, has, she says, “been completely priced out of the London market,” despite having cobbled together a decent deposit from savings and a recent inheritance. “And that’s assuming he could even get the mortgage.”

On the last point, Britain’s Tory-led government has introduced a program they hope will change things for Britain’s burgeoning “generation rent.” On Nov. 21, Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled a government-backed mortgage scheme that will allow first-time buyers to purchase homes with only five per cent down. (At present, banks insist on minimum deposits of 20 per cent from first-time buyers, which is no small demand. Though house prices have sunk back to 2006 levels, they are still overvalued by at least 25 per cent, according to The Economist.)

Germany’s brown army faction?

As details of a 10-year Neo-Nazi killing spree emerge, Germans are learning that racist ideology is more widespread than they thought

In 2004, following a bombing in the Mülheim district of Cologne, an area home to many ethnic Turks, Germany’s then-interior minister, Otto Schily, told Germans the attack was carried out by “not terrorists but the criminal underworld.”

There have been a lot of those sorts of assumptions going around Germany this past decade or two. People from ethnic minorities would turn up dead, shot in the head at close range, and it was assumed to be the work of organized criminals, probably foreigners. The press even had a snappy name for a murder spree of eight Turks and a Greek between 2000 and 2006: “the doner killings,” named after a Turkish meat kebab.

Police had few leads. In 2009, they said the victims may have been linked to international match fixing in soccer. A murder in Turkey was related, they said. Police sketches of suspected witnesses showed swarthy-looking men.

MacKay had places to go

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has apparently dropped his old story about participating in a search-and-rescue demonstration, and is now going strictly with the new one about how he needed a helicopter to get back to ministerial business that was, one presumes, quite pressing.

So exactly what was the work that MacKay needed to attend to so urgently that he whistled up a special military airlift to transport him from the Burnt Rattle lodge on Newfoundland and Labrador’s picturesque Gander River, where he was enjoying bit of fishing two summers ago?

The event that apparently justifies his SAR exit from R&R was the July 9, 2010 announcement in London, Ont., that General Dynamics Land Systems Canada was being awarded a $34.4-million contract to upgrade the army’s LAV III light armored vehicles.

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, was on hand—in fact, she gets pride of place with the coveted first quote in the official news release—and so was local Tory MP Ed Holder.

Could the whole event possibly have been pulled off without MacKay on hand? Frankly, it would have been unprecedented. For a federal photo-op of this sort my experience tells me that one politician per $10-million in taxpayer money being doled out is the absolute minimum. Any fewer than that would have shaken the foundations of our great democracy.

MacKay may sue over helicopter ride criticism

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is considering legal action against MPs who suggested he lied about a ride he took aboard a search-and-rescue helicopter.

Opposition members have called for MacKay to apologize and even to resign over his use of military resources to shuttle him to the airport in Gander, N.L. from a personal vacation at a remote fishing lodge.

Documents released last week showed some staff within National Defence predicted the trip could be perceived badly, with one suggesting the pick-up was only to be under the guise of a search-and-rescue exercise.

But two members of the Forces are saying publicly that MacKay's use of the copter was legitimate.

A military technician who hoisted MacKay into the helicopter as it hovered near the lodge says it was entirely positive that the minister was actively involved with the work of the search-and-rescue team.

MacKay's office says statements like that show the minister was telling the truth when he said he was taking advantage of an opportunity to participate in an exercise.
Source: CBC 

NDP asks Harper to send army to Attawapiskat

OTTAWA—Leaders in Attawapiskat want the federal government to send in the army to help deliver supplies to deal with the housing crisis, Interim New Democratic Leader Nycole Turmel said Wednesday.

“Moving supplies into this community to alleviate the housing crisis will require an extraordinary level of coordination. Given the extreme weather conditions and the fact that the winter road will not be ready for nearly two months, the community is seeking coordinated logistical help,” Turmel wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday.

“For this reason, they have asked me to convey that they are asking for military support to help in the response.”

Turmel told reporters she made the request on behalf of Theresa Spence, the chief of the community that declared a state of emergency due to a housing shortage that had some families living in garden sheds.

NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins–James Bay) said the military has the logistical capacity to get supplies up to the Northern Ontario reserve — where he said the cost of flights is almost prohibitive.

“We could end this crisis very quickly,” said Angus, who has been highlighting the plight of the community in his riding. “All we need is a nod from the Prime Minister.”

Ritz broke law by tabling bill to dismantle Wheat Board: judge

A federal court judge has ruled that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s tabling of a bill to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board without holding a plebiscite among affected farmers was illegal.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, Justice Douglas Campbell agreed with the wheat board, which had argued that Ritz breached the Canadian Wheat Board Act by pushing ahead with the legislation without consulting with the board’s directors or holding a vote among producers.

“We call on minister Ritz to comply with the spirit of this ruling and immediately cease actions that would strip away Prairie farmers’ single-desk marketing system without first allowing a vote by affected producers,” said board chair Allen Oberg, an Alberta wheat farmer, in a release issued shortly after the judge’s ruling.

“We argued strongly that farmers should have the final say over changes to their grain marketing agency. As farmers, we pay for the CWB, we run it and we should decide what happens to it. We are pleased the court has agreed that the Minister acted in violation of laws created in 1998 to empower farmers and give them a direct say in any changes contemplated to the CWB’s marketing mandate. In light of this ruling, the government should stop steamrolling over farmers’ democratic rights.”

The government indicated it is going to appeal the Federal Court ruling.

The Liberals pressured the government in the House of Commons on Wednesday to say whether it would proceed with legislation to end the monopoly while the decision against Ritz stands.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley would only say the government and western farmers are disappointed with the ruling.

Source: Toronto Star  

Durex hates women

Once again I was reminded that violence against women remains a joke to most South Africans, and that there is little understanding of the connection of social messages that sanction this violence (e.g. invite men to use their penises as a weapon) to the violence itself. Durex SA, you’ve really cocked it up here. Using one’s penis to ‘shut someone up’ sounds a lot like rape to me. If you’re not sure what the definition is, feel free to have a read of the Sexual Offences Act. Forced oral sex is rape.

I’m not going to spend this post spewing statistics about the high incidence of violence against women, because you can read them yourself on the SAPS webpage. It is important to understand that violence against a particular group does not arise out of nowhere, and the frequent perpetration of this violence by men is not a coincidence in SA where jokes like those with the hashtag #DurexJoke are popular. I want to talk about this social sanction of messages that promote violence.

Norms and myths sustain our social identities. They help us to understand the expected interactions between ourselves and others. Norms are themselves sustained by our actions. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. Norms that say men’s most important attribute is their penis, and that a woman better celebrate that by taking what she can get, are part of rape culture, which I argue is bad for everyone.

Drones: A deeply unsettling future

San Francisco, California - On Sunday, Iran claimed to have taken down a US drone in Iranian airspace - not by shooting it out the sky, but with its cyber warfare team.

Reports confirm that the US believes Iran is now in possession of "one of the more sensitive surveillance platforms in the CIA's fleet", but deny Iran's involvement. Of course, Iran’s claim of overtaking the drone with its cyber warfare team should be tempered with a serious dose of scepticism, as cyber security experts say the facts may not add up. But this is just the latest story in a series of incidents that raises worrying questions about security problems caused by drones. And given the coming proliferation of drone technology both domestically and abroad, this should be a concern to citizens all over the world.

Two years ago the Wall Street Journal reported Iran-funded militants in Iraq were able to hack into drones' live-video feeds with "$26 off-the-shelf software". In another unnerving incident, Wired reported in October that a fleet of the Air Force's drones was infected with a computer virus that captured all of drones' key strokes. Technicians continually deleted the virus to no avail. How did the drones get infected? The military is "not quite sure". Worse, the Air Force's cyber security team didn't even know about the virus until they read about it in Wired.

How Big Car Services Use Legislation to Drive Over Competition

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- In June 2010 the Nashville Metropolitan City Council passed legislation raising the city's minimum fee for limo and sedan rentals, bumping it from $25 to $45. Drivers were prohibited by law from charging less. Other new regulations forbid limo companies from using leased vehicles, require cars to be dispatched only from the place of business, compel companies to wait 15 minutes before picking up a client, and ban parking in front of hotels and bars to wait for customers. More laws that take effect in January 2012 would also require companies to replace all sedans and SUVs over seven-years-old, and all limos 10-years-old and older. Vehicles older than five years cannot enter into service.

Passed under the guise of consumer protection, the net effect is to give large, existing car companies (also known as livery services) a huge advantage over smaller companies, and to effectively prevent any new companies from entering the market. Prior to the new laws, Tennesseans could purchase transportation from downtown Nashville to the airport in a limo or sedan for the same price as an average taxi ride. Nashville residents and visitors will now pay almost double for the same service.

Nashville folks in need of an affordable ride, and drivers looking to earn an independent living in a sagging economy, join a long line of people caught on the wrong end of a nationwide effort by big car services to squeeze extra profit by regulating competitors out of business. It's a case of regulations actually costing jobs and driving up costs, just as Republicans charge they always do. But this time, the regulations are being pushed by the GOP's so-called "job creators," the new name given to big business.

It's Accountability Time for Banks and Wall Street

There’s a scene in the HBO adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book “Too Big to Fail” where Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s adviser suggests he call Warren Buffett to ask for help with Lehman Brothers. “As what?” responds Paulson. “Warren’s friend? His former banker? The treasury secretary? No!” In the movie, Paulson understands the difference, that there are bright lines that he should not cross. In real life, it turns out, these were not the kind of distinctions Paulson was particularly concerned about making.

Missing from that movie—and other first drafts of recent financial history—was a bombshell recently uncovered by Bloomberg’s Richard Teitelbaum: Paulson gave his hedge fund friends inside information about government plans to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, seven weeks before it happened. Common stock and some preferred stock would be wiped out in the process, he told them, meaning a bet against the giants was a bet that could make them millions. Those without connections to Paulson didn’t get a tip-off; worse, they got the opposite. On the same day that Paulson met with the hedge funds, he told the New York Times that markets would soon have reason for renewed confidence in both enterprises.

Such shameful conduct, which law professors told Bloomberg is not illegal, is becoming increasingly typical. We know, for example, that Paulson held a secret meeting with the Goldman Sachs board in a Moscow hotel in June 2008 that, again, didn’t match his public statements. These are just the meetings we know about.

Arrests and a Media Blackout in San Francisco Occupy Raid

Just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, San Francisco police stormed a downtown Occupy Wall Street encampment, using tactics that have begun to sound commonplace after New York police used them on occupiers in Zuccotti Park. The early morning raid came as a surprise and happened fast, the Associated Press reports, via the San Francisco Chronicle: "Officer Albie Esparza says more than 100 officers swept into the encampment at Justin Herman Plaza shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, gave campers a few minutes warning to pack up and leave, then swept in." They arrested 70 people in all, according to a later Chronicle staff report, including 30 who refused to leave Justin Herman Plaza and another 40 who blocked Market Street in protest. In the end, police cleared out the camp and were pressure-washing Justin Herman Plaza before dawn. But most of the reports come second hand, as the San Jose Mercury News noted another similarity to New York's operation: "Access for reporters and photographers to the camp itself has been blocked." The Mercury News reported later that "Police Chief Greg Suhr said the decision to move in this morning was made after a breakdown in talks over the camp moving to another location the city had chosen and after confrontations last week between police and protesters."

Source: the Atlantic Wire 

Fallen U.S. Drone Nearly Led to Covert Strike in Iran

New reports on the CIA drone lost in Iran last week reveal the scope of the stealth plane's mission and just how far the U.S. was willing to go to recover it. The Associated Press reports on Wednesday that despite U.S. military statements Monday suggesting the drone was lost while flying a mission in western Afghanistan, Iranian officials say the RQ-170 drone was detected about 140 miles from the border of Afghanistan, deep inside the country's air space. U.S. officials, speaking on background, confirmed the RQ-170 drone had been spying on Iran for years but did not indicate the extent to which it penetrated Iranian air space. They did say the U.S. air base in Shindad, Afghanistan, was designed to launch "surveillance missions and even special operations missions into Iran if deemed necessary."

In a sign of how badly the U.S. wanted the stealth drone back, The Wall Street Journal reports that it contemplated three different operations to recover the fallen drone. One plan involved sending commandos in Afghanistan assisted by U.S. agents in Iran to track down and recover the drone. "Another option would have had a team sneak in to blow up the remaining pieces of the drone," reports the Journal. "A third option would have been to destroy the wreckage with an airstrike."

Occupy Big Business: The Sharing Economy's Quiet Revolution

Big business is stumbling. Unemployment is still too damn high. And the middle class is increasingly just a memory. With all this bad news, where can we look for hope?
Kickstarter. Zipcar. Shareable. Etsy. Kiva. Prosper. Airbnb.

These and other "collective consumption" companies are part of the new economy arising out of necessity, as traditional businesses and government are increasingly unable to meet Americans' needs and provide basic supports.

This sharing economy is based on people coming together to create their own markets (Airbnb), their own products, (Etsy), and their own currency (TimeBanks). It relies on shared needs, trust, and the belief that the group is stronger than the individual.

This new shared market economy is being driven by a quiet revolution: the millions of Americans who no longer want to prop up our faltering economy with endless and thoughtless consumption.

Conservatives Are Gunning for Eric Holder

Tea party activists, gun-rights fanatics, and others on the right have recently stepped up their calls for President Obama to fire Attorney General Eric Holder over his handling of the Operation Fast and Furious gun scandal. They've persuaded 52 members of Congress, a couple of senators, and many GOP presidential candidates to call for his ouster. Mitt Romney joined the chorus over the weekend, telling reporters in New Hampshire, "Either Mr. Holder himself should resign or the president should ask for his resignation or remove him…It's unacceptable for him to continue in that position, given the fact that he has misled Congress and entirely botched the investigation of the Fast and Furious program."

Romney's comments came just a few days before Holder is expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, where Republicans are promising a full grilling over his handling of the botched anti-gun smuggling program.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) cooked up Operation Fast and Furious in an effort to capture high-level Mexican gun runners who were buying guns in the United States with the help of straw buyers. ATF officials watched as individuals connected to drug cartels illegally bought copious amounts of high-powered weapons in Arizona gun shops that were cooperating with the government. Then, using a technique dubbed "gun walking," they planned to track the guns up the food chain to ensnare the big-time crime bosses.

What Newt Gingrich Isn't Telling You About His Literacy Program

For a politician who once proposed relocating children from single-parent households to orphanages, it was not all that surprising when Newt Gingrich recently declared that, if elected president, he'd ease child labor laws to allow poor kids to work as janitors.

What's notable, however, is the newly minted GOP presidential front-runner's explanation. Gingrich argues that poor children lack role models who can instill in them the value of hard work—something that, say, a part-time job cleaning bathrooms could easily remedy. Making his case to an audience in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Gingrich touted the work of an educational nonprofit he founded in the early 1990s called Earning by Learning (EBL). The program offered cash—$2 per book—to students as an incentive to read over the summer. What he failed to mention is that his group also led to a formal ethics complaint amid concerns about not just who was funding Gingrich's program, but where that money was really going.

As Gingrich tells it, the program started that first summer in 1990 with 9 kids and ended with 30. "What happened was simple," he said. "The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who's in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, 'How come you have money?' He goes, 'Well, I read.' So kids are showing up to the program saying, 'I demand that you let me read!'"

Chisasibi And Wemindji, Native Communities, Without Power Amid Frigid Temperatures, Declare State Of Emergency

MONTREAL - Two native communities in northern Quebec declared states of emergency as they prepared to face another frigid night without electricity Tuesday.

The communities of Chisasibi and Wemindji, which both happen to be located near a major hydroelectric installation, have been without power since Monday.

Chief Abraham Rupert of Chisasibi says the Cree community of more than 4,000 has coped so far, without too many adverse effects.

"We're doing the best we can and we haven't had any reports of any major problems of people freezing or anything like that," he said in a phone interview Tuesday from the local fire hall.

"It's chilly, it's chilly, you can feel it when you step outside."

More than 1,200 Cree live in the community of Wemindji, which is located off the east coast of James Bay in the province's power-producing heartland.

FOR THE RECORD: Canada’s national statement at COP17

DURBAN, South Africa – December 7, 2011 – It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be here representing Canada.

The Canadian government — and reasonable Canadians generally — recognize that global issues like climate change require global solutions.

Here in Durban, I have seen commendable commitment to work together…

To collectively — and effectively—deal with climate change.

Representatives from countries big and small, rich and poor, have come together out of genuine concern and with common purpose.

And Canada is a willing partner.

We are here to work hard and to work constructively toward new solutions and new approaches to deal with our climate change challenges.

Our position has long been clear: we support a new international climate change agreement that includes commitments from all major emitters. That is the only way we are going to achieve real reductions and real results.

Canada is only major country to think climate stalemate is a good thing

It’s looking like the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN climate treaty in Durban will not produce the sorts of breakthrough in negotiations that many have hoped for. Countries have spent much of the past two years trying to work through the unravelling of the negotiations that occurred in Copenhagen two years ago, to see how they might find the basis for a deal. While there has been progress on some issues, we are still a long way from an overall deal.

For most, this is a major problem. If you think climate change is a serious issue that requires an urgent global response, the stagnation of negotiations is worrying indeed. However, Canada seems to be the one major country whose government, and large sections of its media and business, seems in fact to regard this stalemate as a good thing.

Of course it is by now well-known, or at least ought to be, that Canada’s action on climate change is the weakest of all the rich industrialised countries (perhaps except Russia) and weaker in fact than many developing countries, including countries like China. In Copenhagen, Canada was the only country to come out of the negotiations proposing weaker targets for itself than it had proposed before the conference. So the Canadian government’s reluctance to sign commitments in future agreements can be readily understood – we have done virtually nothing to stem the growth of our emissions since 1990, have more or less the highest growth rate amongst rich countries, and have perhaps the most to lose economically from action to reduce emissions.

What happened to Brigette DePape? She’s at COP17 … or was, anyways

Members of Canada’s COP 17 youth delegation, including “rogue page” Brigette DePape, have been kicked out of the climate change conference after protesting Canada’s national statement Wednesday.

When Environment Minister Peter Kent launched into his speech shortly after noon in Durban, the six youth delegates turned their backs on him, revealing matching shirts that read across the back, “Turn your back on Canada.”

The youth received an ovation from people watching the address, according to a release from the Canadian Youth Delegation. But the protesters were quickly escorted out of the convention centre, and had their accreditation to the conference revoked.

“Our so-called environment minister entered these talks by going on record that he would be defending the tar sands. I have yet to hear him say that he’s here to defend my future,” said James Hutt, one of the youth delegates, in a statement.

Protests won't stop Northern Gateway pipeline, minister says

OTTAWA — The oil industry's "nation-building" attempt to link Canada's vast oilsands resources to Asian markets can't be stopped by protesters using civil disobedience, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday.

He said he will respect the regulatory process that Enbridge Inc. must go through to get approval for its $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, but said the project, if approved by the National Energy Board, shouldn't be held hostage by aboriginal and environmental groups threatening to create a human "wall" to prevent construction.

"Look, this is a country that lives by the rule of law, and I would hope that that would be the standard going forward," Oliver said.

A coalition of aboriginal groups said last week it will create a human wall to prevent the pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast from going ahead, and environmental groups have hinted at civil disobedience.

Even Rafe Mair, a former B.C. Social Credit cabinet minister and ex-broadcaster, has promised he'll stand before an Enbridge bulldozer if that's what it takes to stop a project he views as environmentally dangerous.

For Kashechewan, read Attawapiskat

Almost 36 years ago, a hard-driving assistant city editor at this newspaper sent a young reporter north. Go to Attawapiskat on the shore of James Bay, he instructed. Find out why a government-sponsored, native-run program had gone so wrong.

The subsequent story described problems with a non-profit corporation the federal and provincial governments had heavily financed. The band-operated non-profit was supposed to haul freight over the frozen water and roads in winter, serving other communities along the shore. But the expensive hauling sled, purchased at a cost of $93,000, did not work properly and the non-profit corporation lost money.

Eight people were supposed to be employed in Attawapiskat, where the young reporter found, after talking to many aboriginals and non-aboriginals, a “dreary cycle of welfare, unemployment and alcohol.”

That trip flashed back into a columnist’s memory when reading about the recent housing crisis in Attawapiskat. It would appear nothing fundamental has changed there and in similar communities along the shores of James Bay. Nor does a realistic prospect exist that things will change, if we are honest with ourselves, as long as dependency on government, geographic isolation and few jobs define the area.

Many aboriginal reserves not viable

Attawapiskat's misery could yield some benefit if it triggers a wholesale rethink on the economic viability of remote aboriginal reserves.

But not much progress will be made if only governments and Canadian taxpayers shift their thinking; the aboriginal people themselves must become more pragmatic.

It is an old story that many of the 615 first nations communities, living in more than 3,000 reserves across the country, are experiencing dire living conditions.

Attawapiskat, a northern Ontario reserve that declared a state of emergency in October, has quickly become a symbol of the crisis, capturing the attention of the media, government and Assembly of First Nations.

But as of Tuesday, two northern Quebec reserves had called their own states of emergency.

And Indian and Northern Affairs reports Attawapiskat is just one of 12 reserves now under third-party financial management, among them one in B.C. - the Nee-Tahi-Buhn in Burns Lake.

"The situation is right across the country," Shawn Atleo, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says. "We have many Attiwapiskats. Another Attawapiskat can be found at Wasag-amack in northern Manitoba, for example, where a majority of aboriginals have no indoor plumbing, relying on outhouses and slop pails."

Score one for Harper’s climate-change wrecking crew

The Kyoto accord on climate change is flawed. Many of its signatories, including Canada, have not lived up to its goals. The United States has refused to ratify it. But it exists. This is its virtue.

It remains the only international pact on global warming that virtually all countries of the world have agreed on.

That is why it is so depressing to see Canada’s Conservative government doing its utmost at this week’s climate-change conference in Durban, South Africa, to deep-six Kyoto.

Environment Minister Peter Kent says that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is unfair — that it requires only developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while allowing emerging countries like China and India to pollute at will.

Kent is technically correct. But that’s because Kyoto was designed that way. The international deal, which was hammered out in the 1990s, deliberately put the onus for reducing carbon emissions on industrial countries like Canada. That’s because they were most responsible for the problem.

To a large extent, we still are. In per capita terms, Canada is the world’s 15th largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The U.S. is No. 12. (Tiny Qatar has the dubious honour of holding first place.)

Chiefs ask UN to weigh in on Attawapiskat

The Assembly of First Nations waded into the political firestorm over Attawapiskat on Tuesday, passing a unanimous resolution to ask the United Nations to monitor the federal government's response to a housing emergency on the reserve.

The chiefs asked the UN to appoint a "special rapporteur" to examine whether the Harper government is dealing with the crisis in a way that meets its obligations under Canadian and international treaties concerning First Nations people.

The declaration, which also calls on the federal and provincial governments to respond to communities in dire need, was added to the meeting's agenda at the last minute as the controversy over Attawapiskat grows.

The resolution asks Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan to cease imposing measures, such as the third-party manager it sent to Attawapiskat.

A spokesperson for Duncan said the government is committed to working with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and band council members on a solution to the housing crisis. However, chiefs were unanimous in their indignation over the government's response to the crisis on the reserve.

A hitchhiker’s guide to the global financial meltdown

Lost in the maze of the great Save Europe debt rescue?

You should be – the whole exercise is no more than an extension of the same snake oil economics that caused the meltdown in the first place. And where is it all going? To capitalism without capital and democracies without democracy.

Here is the hitchhiker’s guide to the universe of the global financial meltdown.

We now have the central banks of foreign countries on different continents offering to “help” the beleaguered Eurozone. Having failed to convince Germany to “pool” its wealth with the debt of its profligate southern cousins to avoid a giant Euro-pouff, the world is now willing to spread that debt globally by easing up the flow of US dollars to cash-strapped European banks.

This is because the European banks are not lending to each other. Instead, they are making huge deposits in the European Central Bank (ECB) – just like U.S. banks are making deposits at the Federal Reserve and getting interest. The only thing that these troubled European banks care about is the European Stability Fund (ESF), the backstop of last resort that’s supposed to bail out troubled banks and even countries. They should be happy. The Euro finance ministers have all but decided to raise the draw of the fund quite a bit, from 440 billion to over a trillion euros. Trouble is, no one has actually raised the money yet for the big Top Up. The solution is really another problem – a flood of more printed money.

Is Canada becoming more conservative? Don't believe it

Lots of Canadians think Canada is an increasingly conservative country. Look at the last three federal elections. Look at the polls. Isn't it obvious that political values are shifting?

"As the country has evolved, I wouldn't say that it has become radically conservative or anything like that, but I think its values have shifted a little bit more over time towards the right," pollster Bruce Anderson said on the CBC recently. Many people credit or blame Stephen Harper. But whether the Conservative dominance of federal politics is cause or consequence, or both, there's a widespread belief that Canadian values are more conservative than they were and they are becoming more conservative all the time.

But is that actually true? I asked Scott Matthews, a political scientist at Queen's University and director of the Canadian Opinion Research Archive. Like a good academic, he began by noting that there isn't as much data on the subject as he would like and so he couldn't be certain. "But having said that," he said, "my strong suspicion is these claims are nonsense."

Lies upon lies

It really is insult added to injury: not only did National Defence Minister Peter MacKay use a search and rescue helicopter as a personal taxi to escape from the onerous experience of having to take a two-hour trip from a salmon fishing camp (one and a half hours of it by boat, the kind of experience many tourists actually salivate over), but when caught out, he decided to dress the whole thing up as taking part in an already-planned training mission.

He’d probably still be taking that stand if not caught out by information contained in National Defence emails.

On the one hand, there’s the use of the helicopter (one interesting facet of the emails is that everyone involved understood that, if an emergency occurred, the minister would be left wherever he was, and the helicopter would head for the emergency).

On the other, there’s the bald-faced decision to mislead people about the travel.

But that’s not the only lie the federal Conservatives have been caught in lately.

Moral compass spins like chopper

A month and a half away from their sixth anniversary in power, and seven months into their third term, the Conservatives' penchant for playing hardball and dirty tricks against opponents -- and fast and loose with the truth -- could be catching up to them.

Last week, the Ottawa press gallery obtained a series of emails from the Department of National Defence flatly contradicting statements in Parliament by both Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The issue involved MacKay's commandeering of an Armed Forces Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter to pick him up in a basket at a remote Newfoundland fishing lodge and take him to the Gander airport at a cost of $130,000 to then board a military jet to a London, Ont., ribbon-cutting ceremony in July 2010.

"I was leaving personal time to go back to work early and before doing so, took part in a search-and-rescue exercise that we had been trying to arrange for some time," MacKay told Parliament.

"The minister was called back from vacation and used governmental aircraft only for government business and that is appropriate," chimed in Harper.

Opposing corporate influence on climate negotiations

DURBAN, South Africa -- High above the pavement, overlooking Durban's famous South Beach and the pounding surf of the Indian Ocean, and just blocks from the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where up to 20,000 people gathered, seven activists fought against the wind to unfurl a banner that read "Listen to the People, Not the Polluters." It was no simple task. Despite the morning sun and blue sky, the wind was ferocious, and the group hanging the banner wasn't exactly welcome. They were with Greenpeace, hanging off the roof of the Protea Hotel Edward.

Inside, executives gathered at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), an organization that touts itself as "a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment." Down at street level, as the police gathered and scores held signs and banners and sang in solidarity with the climbers, Kumi Naidoo lambasted the WBCSD, labelling it one of Greenpeace's "Dirty Dozen."

Naidoo is no stranger to action on the streets of Durban. While he is now the executive director of Greenpeace International, one of the largest and most visible global environmental organizations, in 1980, at the age of 15, he was one of millions of South Africans fighting against the racist apartheid regime. He was thrown out of high school and eventually had to go underground. He emerged in England, living in exile, and went on to become a Rhodes scholar. Naidoo has long struggled for human rights, against poverty and for action to combat climate change.

A colleague and I scrambled up to the roof to film as the seven banner-hanging activists were arrested. South African climber Michael Baillie, one of them, told me: "Our goal here today was to highlight how governments are being unduly influenced by a handful of corporations who are trying to adversely influence the climate negotiations that are happening here in Durban. They are holding the climate hostage."

Mind the OECD credibility gap

Further to Toby's post, the OECD report on inequality is well worth a careful read.

It bolsters, through careful empirical and cross-country analysis, two key arguments long advanced by the labour movement and progressive economists:

- Key trends in the labour market -- widening wage disparity between top earners and the rest, and the disproportionate growth of precarious jobs -- are the major driving force behind rising inequality of individual earnings which has in turn been a major force behind increased inequality of family incomes.

- The impact of growing earnings inequality on the distribution of family income has been compounded by major regressive changes to the redistributive role of the tax and transfer system.

"Globalization" is found to have played a lesser role -- though a link is drawn from greater competition and closer economic integration with developing countries to the erosion of pro-equality institutions (e.g. unions and collective bargaining) and policies (e.g. labour market regulation, and tax and transfer policies).

The report sees the "sociological" causes of inequality (the growth of single-parent families and the polarization between high and low income dual earner couples driven by "associative sorting" (or like marrying like) as relatively minor. This is important since it undermines an argument that the causes of rising inequality are largely beyond the reach of public policy.

It is ironic, though, that this OECD report (emanating from the employment and social policy side of the organization, DELSA) flags as the underlying causes of inequality precisely those policies which the economic side (ECO) advocated for so strenuously through at least the 1990s and much of the past decade as well.

OECD Country Reports dating back at least to the first OECD Jobs Study of the early 1990s are prepared by ECO and advocated "flexible" labour markets to generate jobs. The key argument was that employment growth required labour market de-regulation, and that we should not be too concerned if the jobs being created were insecure and poorly paid. Relatedly, reports advocated major cuts to unemployment insurance and welfare programs which were seen as needed to make wages flexible and to reduce taxes.

The OECD endorsed the draconian Liberal government cuts to social programs -- cuts to UI and cuts in transfers to the provinces to finance social assistance -- which are now seen as a key driving force of the surge in inequality in Canada which began in the mid-1990s. The OECD also raised no criticism of personal income tax changes which increased after tax income inequality, notably the cut from 75 per cent to 50 per cent of capital gains included in income tax.

Now they tell us that the Canadian tax/transfer system offsets only 40 per cent of any increase in market income inequality -- one of the lowest proportions in the OECD -- compared to 70 per cent in the mid-1990s when Canada's redistributive effort was at near Nordic levels!

The OECD Country Note for Canada put out with the inequality report is a keeper, and should be kept close to hand by the OECD Economics Department and by all of the NDP leadership hopefuls (and Bob Rae too!)

First and foremost, it calls for "more and better jobs that offer good career prospects and a real chance to escape poverty."

It pretty explicitly calls for higher income taxes for the very affluent:

"The growing share of income going to top earners means that this group now has a greater capacity to pay taxes. In this context governments may re-examine the redistributive role of taxation to ensure that wealthier individuals contribute their fair share of the tax burden."

It calls for "well conceived income support policies" for lower income families -- which signals some support for spending more on top of increased investments in training.

And it calls for "freely accessible and high-quality public services, such as education, health and family care." (The OECD have actually long been critical of the lack of a coherent child-care and early learning program in Canada.)


Poking holes in First Nations taxation mythology

I've been struggling with what to write next, given the unreal amount of attention my last post got. I felt some pressure to use the attention to get a message out... but what do I say, where do I start? How can I top a "big picture" article like one by Wayne Spear, which addresses so much of what I've been trying to say in my responses to comments?

Well I can't, and that isn't my goal anyway. This isn't a competition for Most Important All-Encompassing Message, and I don't suddenly have all the answers just because one blog post went viral. So I'm going to stick to the plan. I'm going to discuss specific topics and try to demystify them for you. These aren't going to be "definitive guides to" anything, but I hope to give you enough information that you can avoid letting these topics draw all your attention away from the big picture discussed by Spear and so many others.

Roll up your sleeves, nitôtêmitik! Today, we're tackling First Nations taxation!

Canada's Political Outsiders

A new report offers insight into what's fuelling the political disengagement of Canada's youth.

The most recent round of provincial elections has revealed new lows in political engagement. Ontario, in particular, had the lowest level of voter turnout since Confederation, dipping below the psychologically significant 50-per-cent mark. Notwithstanding some election-to-election variation, this watershed event should be viewed as part of a broader trend of decline that began in the 1980s. According to survey data, the decline in electoral participation is largely attributable to younger voters “dropping out,” while other demographic groups’ participation remains fairly consistent.

Youthful angst, rebelliousness, and other aspects of a life cycle’s early stages fail to account for this emerging trend. Instead, there is something different happening that is causing today’s youth, particularly less-educated youth, to participate in politics less than they did a generation ago.

An Active Government for a Fair Economy

To foster innovation, productivity, and a green economy, markets need to be pushed and challenged by our government.

In the lead-up to the NDP leadership convention scheduled for next March, The Mark has reached out to the various leadership candidates, asking them to offer their visions for their party and for the country. Last week, we featured an article from MP Paul Dewar, the week before an article from MP Nathan Cullen. This week, we welcome MP and former party president Peggy Nash.

We’re at an interesting and unusual moment in time, both here in Canada and around the globe. The understanding that profound inequality does exist within our economy has begun to take hold. With its populist slogan, “We are the 99%,” the Occupy movement has struck a chord with many of us.

I have entered the race to become the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, but this is also the start of the campaign to become the next prime minister of Canada.

Canada needs, and deserves, a prime minister who understands that the economy must work for the benefit of us all, and who sees job creation as an important step in building a fairer society.

The two million Canadians who are effectively unemployed, or whose jobs are eroding, becoming temporary, part-time, or precarious, know that Stephen Harper’s policies have failed. The millions of Canadians who are living paycheque to paycheque, or who go from contract to contract, know that something has to change. Stephen Harper’s strategy of blindly giving away tax breaks to profitable corporations has failed. There’s no evidence that it creates the jobs he promised. Instead, it has left the social programs that so many Canadians rely on vulnerable.

6 things to expect in new Canada-U.S. border deal

Canada and the U.S. are expected to announce a new agreement Wednesday to ease border congestion and better co-ordinate security between the two countries.

The agreement deals with three dozen or so elements of trade and security policy, but the finer points of how the measures will be implemented will be worked out over the next 12 to 18 months.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced the Beyond the Border talks last February, leading to a year of consultations and talks on trade and security. The two leaders, who last met in Hawaii last month as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit, are meeting in Washington Wednesday.

The leaders have scheduled a press conference for sometime between 2:45 and 3 p.m. ET Wednesday. and CBC News Network will carry the press conference live.

Last August, the government released its consultation report, including comments from groups in favour of better co-operation and those worried about how much information Canada is prepared to share with U.S. authorities.

Bashing in skulls has no place in public schools – no matter what Doug Ford says

As the brother and chief adviser to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Councillor Doug Ford carries considerable weight at City Hall. It is to be hoped his influence does not extend to the promulgation of the über-violent Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The councillor has thrown his support behind a strange partnership between the UFC and Toronto police that uses UFC fighters to discourage bullying, while at the same time getting the UFC brand in the faces of school-age children.

The Toronto Star has reported that Mr. Ford’s office has also circulated a brochure for UFC Community Works, an initiative that claims to engage “at-risk” youth by providing educational tutorials, equipment for mixed martial arts and even training sessions with UFC fighters.

Watching people bash in one another’s skulls may make for a great spectacle at the local tavern, but it has no place in our public schools.

Chiefs from across Canada stand with Attawapiskat

The chief of the Northern Ontario reserve who declared a state of emergency because her people are living in plywood shacks with no heating or running water has been given a strong endorsement from fellow first-nation leaders in her battle with the federal government.

Chiefs from across Canada, who are meeting in Ottawa this week, stood one after the other to condemn Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan for sending a third party into Attawapiskat to manage its finances after Chief Theresa Spence issued a cry for help.

Ms. Spence said she was “in shock” when the minister and his Conservative government opted to attack the accountability of Attawapiskat’s financial reporting at a time when her people are in desperate need of shelter.

“It’s very unprofessional and very rude of him to put us in third-party [management] while we are in crisis,” she told reporters. “As we speak today, the people in Attawapiskat – and it’s not just only Attawapiskat but other first nations – are living in tent frames and sheds.”

Does not voting make you an indifferent citizen — or an idealist?

OTTAWA—Canadians who don’t vote actually believe in democracy — they just don’t believe politics or politicians are very democratic, according to a new study of voter apathy in Canada.

“People’s disappointment with politics is driven by their sense of what democracy should be,” says the study, by the Samara research organization, which conducted in-depth interviews with “disengaged” Canadians to see what was keeping them away from the ballot box.

What’s more, many of the vote-averse Canadians have become that way through bitter experience with politics — not through lack of interest or knowledge, as is often assumed, Samara says.

“Declining political engagement is, at least in part, due to concrete experiences with politics,” says the report.

“Disengaged people felt that politics is a game that does not produce results for them . . . The overall point seems to be that there is very little reason to be engaged.”

Samara, a non-profit research organization that probes democracy and public policy in Canada, carried out the study of voter apathy through a series of eight focus groups between August and October this year. The study — an attempt to look for causes of deepening voter apathy in Canada — involved interviews with people who didn’t vote as well as with people who described themselves as active participants in politics and democracy. In the last few federal elections, about four out every 10 eligible voters didn’t bother to cast a ballot.

Occupy Canada: Calgary Court Orders Protesters To Leave

A Calgary judge has ordered an end to the Occupy Calgary protest.

According to the City of Calgary, Chief Justice Neil Wittmann approved the city's request Tuesday to order the protesters to tear down their camp at a downtown park.

Occupy protesters will have to vacate Olympic Plaza by Friday at 2 p.m. After that, protesters will be violating a court order.

The protestors had set up camp at that location on Oct. 15.

The city has been criticized for not forcibly removing them, but the police chief has praised the city for not turning this into a confrontation.

Officials did start removing tents last month and have tried to negotiate deals with the remaining protestors, with no success.

Finally last Friday, the city went to court looking for an injunction to prevent camping on Olympic Plaza.

The city said the bylaw banning camping in public spaces is being violated and other citizens would like to utilize the space. It also says a fire that started in a tent Nov. 16, injuring two people, raised safety issues.

The protesters have said in the past that even with an eviction order, they're not going anywhere.

Ben Christensen, a litigation advisor who represented the protesters, said last Friday that he had wanted an adjournment so he could submit more affidavits and better prepare for the case. He feels the city did not give them enough time to gather evidence.

The city will be holding a news conference to provide more details on where things go from here.

Source: Huff 

Obama-Harper Border Deal Raises Privacy Concerns In Canada

WASHINGTON -- Considering the political obsession within the 2012 Republican presidential field over border security, the announcement of a new initiative to strengthen transnational cooperation ought to be big news. And it likely would be, if the border in question was with Mexico.

But when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with President Obama Wednesday to announce the details of a long-awaited but -- at least in Washington -- little-heralded plan dubbed "Beyond the Border," few outside the Great White North may care. For many Canadians, though, the North American perimeter security agreement to harmonize information sharing in order to ease trade, reduce border bottlenecks, and strengthen law enforcement cooperation is just the latest reason to resent their bigger, more powerful neighbor to the south.

"Canadians are inherently reticent since the Patriot Act about having their government share data on your average citizen with the U.S. government," said Christian Leuprecht, a political scientist at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. Noting that Canada has arrested more people crossing illegally into its territory than the other way around, he said, "There are very different perceptions and priorities on either side of the border."

Laura Dawson, a scholar at the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said Canadians still chafe at the stricter, post-9/11 security introduced along the 5,525-mile border that more than 70 million international travelers and 35 million vehicles cross each year.

The Commons: A fish story, in verse

The Scene. “Is that all you’ve got?” moaned James Moore, as he is wont to do.

“Is that all you’ve got?” he cried again a second later, in case Alexandre Boulerice hadn’t heard him the first time.

The Heritage Minister did not clarify what precisely he found lacking in news that, as The Globe and Mail put it this morning, “the RCMP is probing allegations that members of the Quebec construction industry tried to use Conservative contacts all the way up to the Prime Minister’s Office in a bid to influence the choice of a new president of the Montreal Port Authority.” But if Mr. Moore didn’t think that much was worth a query or several, he was no doubt mollified as the range of the opposition’s concerns this day became clear: everything from ethical lapses to alleged failures by this government in regards to conditions on native reserves, firearms licensing, international climate talks, asbestos exports, employment insurance, food safety and poverty.

Foremost among concerns this afternoon was Peter MacKay’s fish story.

RCMP confirms records of make, model and serial numbers of guns sold no longer required when long-gun registry is dismantled

PARLIAMENT HILL—Firearms dealers and stores will no longer be required by law to maintain logs of the make, model and serial numbers of the rifles and shotguns they sell once a Conservative government bill dismantling the federal long-run registry takes effect, the RCMP says.

Confirmation of the state of gun sale records once Bill C-19, the Eliminating the Long-Gun Registry Bill, becomes law, from the office of the RCMP Commissioner of Firearms, through RCMP media relations, contradicts what prominent anti-registry spokesmen and the government were saying as late as this week. This means no reliable or legally required records for tracing long gun sales in case of homicides and other firearm violence related to shotguns and rifles will be available to police once the legislation becomes law.

“The former system through which firearm dealers and retailers recorded sales of firearms became redundant with the coming into force of the Firearms Act on Dec. 1, 1998, because businesses were required to register their firearms with the RCMP's Registrar of Firearms,” RCMP Sgt. Julie Gagnon told The Hill Times in an email Tuesday. “Record-keeping requirements for licensed firearm businesses under the Firearms Licences Regulations were subsequently eliminated.”

The emailed statement to The Hill Times arrived after a turbulent day on Parliament Hill and in Montreal and Quebec City, where hundreds of gun-control advocates gathered to protest the Conservative plan to terminate the federal registry and destroy all its records, as they also held commemorative ceremonies for 14 female engineering students who were shot to death by a rampaging gunman at Montreal’s L’Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.

Attawapiskat leader threatens civil disobedience

A regional chief who represents Attawapiskat says that a number of his counterparts in other First Nations are prepared to engage in civil disobedience over Ottawa's handling of a housing crisis in the northern Ontario community.

"There's people who are ready to stand up and be counted... to stand up and do civil disobedience so that we are heard," Stan Louttit told Evan Solomon on CBC-TV's Power & Politics.

"If the minister does not want to work with us, you may see that sooner than later," said Louttit, who presides over the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents Attawapiskat and six other First Nations.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has ordered an independent audit of Attawapiskat's finances and has appointed a third-party manager to oversee spending, after local leaders declared an emergency over substandard housing conditions.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence declared an emergency in October as winter approached, while some members of the community of about 1,800 huddled in unheated tents, condemned housing and portable trailers.

Spence has criticized Ottawa's handling of the crisis, saying residents need emergency assistance first and foremost, and accusing the federal government of trying to silence her community. Spence has also said the local band council is developing its own plan to deal with the crisis, though she has not provided details.

Toronto agency backed by Mayor Ford spent $55,000 on single-source contracts

A city agency spent more than $50,000 on two single-sourced architectural contracts in its ill-fated push to overhaul plans for 1,000 acres of dormant lakeshore property – a scheme championed by Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, City Hall’s most prominent crusaders against non-competitive purchasing.

Both plans came to naught, collapsing in the face of a critical backlash. But a few ideas contained within them – including the controversial Ferris wheel, monorail and megamall – could be resurrected as Waterfront Toronto kick-starts new development plans for the area.

The Toronto Port Lands Co., a city-owned corporation, paid $25,000 to U.K.-based CityArts and $30,510 to Toronto-based Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co. for their work, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail through an access to information request.

Under the agency’s guidelines, purchases of $25,000 or under don’t require board or city approval. Even so, Councillor Ford has fixated on the issue and frequently condemned the city’s sole-sourcing habits – on everything from streetcars to soft drinks in community centres to food contracts in seniors homes. Rob Ford ran for mayor on a promise to mandate competitive bids for “all city purchases and contracts,” according to his campaign literature.