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 12, 2011

An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.

We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.

We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.

Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

Canada withdrawing from Kyoto

OTTAWA—Canada is pulling out of the world’s only binding climate treaty.

Environment Minister Peter Kent says Canada is withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol.

Canada signed Kyoto in the late 1990s, but neither the current Conservative government nor their Liberal predecessors met targets.

Kent’s announcement comes a day after marathon climate talks wrapped up in the South African port city of Durban.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries agreed on a deal that sets the world on a path to sign a new climate treaty by 2015 to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of next year.

The new deal would kick in after 2020, which environmentalists and some scientists say is too long to wait for binding action on climate change.

“It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward,” Kent said outside the House of Commons.

Source: Star 

Budget Officer And Flaherty Differ By $10B

There's a $10-billion difference between the government's estimates and those of Parliament's budget watchdog when it comes to Canada's structural budget balance, the budget officer, Kevin Page, reported Monday.

Since 2006, Finance Canada's estimates have been, on average, $10 billion higher than the Parliamentary Budget Officer's estimates. Structural budgets are defined as the budgetary balance that would be observed if the economy were operating at its full potential. Structural budgets can be important for policy planning.

Page's report says that between 1975 and 2005, estimates are closely aligned and within about $1 billion of each other. They begin diverging in 2006 and he says the discrepancy largely comes from differences in estimates of how well the economy is performing relative to its potential.

Finance Canada's estimate of the structural budget balance last year is $17 billion higher than the PBO's estimate, Page reported.

Colorado Education Underfunded By 'Unconscionable' Billions, Judge Rules

Supporters of an education lawsuit against the state of Colorado celebrated this weekend after a district judge ruled that the state severely underfunds public schools and provides inadequate resources to its disabled, poor and minority students.

In a 183-page ruling in favor of the plaintiffs Friday, Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport concluded that Colorado's education funding is "irrational and inadequate" and violates the state constitution's pledge to provide a "thorough and uniform" education system. (Read the full report)

"There is not one school district that is sufficiently funded," Rappaport writes in the report. "This is an obvious hallmark of an irrational system."

Rappaport's ruling concludes a five-week trial in one of the most provocative education lawsuits in Colorado's history. Lobato v. State of Colorado was filed in 2005, arguing that the state's education system is unconstitutional, by failing to comply with a clause in the state constution that calls for a "thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state."

Immigrant Detention Centers In Illinois Cited In New Report For Human Rights Violations

A report released Monday by two Chicago-based human rights groups calls for the Obama administration to close three immigrant detention facilities they accuse of having the most egregious violations, two of which are in Illinois.

Titled "Not Too Late For Reform," the report was authored jointly by Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) and examines Midwestern county jails holding immigrants.

At a time when the administration is planning to open more large-scale detention facilities nationwide, the report spotlights three county jails currently housing immigrants they classify as the worst in the Midwest: Jefferson County Jail in Mt. Vernon, Ill., Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin, Ill. and Boone County Jail in Burlington, Ky. In the report, the agencies call for these and other detention centers with frequent observed violations to be shut down.

The NIJC and MCHR are also asking for changes in immigration policy prioritizing alternatives to detention, particularly for "low-risk" individuals without criminal histories.

Ex-Blackwater firm gets a name change, again

The private security contractor known as Blackwater renamed itself Xe Services nearly three years ago. Now, the firm is rebranding itself again.

On Monday, Xe announced that it was changing its name to Academi, part of a years-long effort by the company to shed a troubled legacy that critics said made the firm a symbol for mercenaries and impunity in Iraq and elsewhere.

In an interview, the company’s president and chief executive, Ted Wright, said the announcement was about more than a simple name change.

“We want to reflect the changes we made in the company,” he said, noting that the firm has new ownership, new leadership and a “refocused strategy on training and security services.”

The company also has unveiled a new Web site and logo. The tag on the Web site reads: “Elite Training. Trusted Protection.”

The federal government has dropped its case against United States Steel Corp. (X-N25.85-1.63-5.93%) over the company’s broken promises to Ottawa to maintain jobs after its 2007 takeover of Hamilton-based Stelco.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis announced the move in the House of Commons Monday, saying that the company had agreed to “significant new and enhanced undertakings” in return for the government’s move, after what the minister described as “extensive negotiations.”

Under the deal, Mr. Paradis said, U.S. Steel pledges to keep producing steel in Canada, operate its Lake Erie and Hamilton plants until 2015 and invest at least $50-million in its Canadian facilities by December, 2015, over and above its original pledge of $200-million by October, 2012.

The company also pledged to give $3-million to “community and educational programs” in Hamilton and Nanticoke, with $1-million due by February, 2012.

“U.S. Steel’s new commitments, many of which run to 2015, will provide benefits that in all likelihood would not have been obtained through the court process,” Mr. Paradis said.

A lawyer for U.S. Steel declined to comment.


Surgery Wait Times Longest In 18 Years

Wait times to receive medical treatment in Canada are the highest they’ve been in 18 years, according to a new report.

The median wait time is 19 weeks between the referral from a general practitioner and the start of elective treatment, finds the report, released by the Fraser Institute Monday.

“At 104 per cent longer than it was in 1993, this is the longest total wait time recorded since the Fraser Institute began measuring wait times in Canada,” reads the report.

Wait times for a referral to a specialist rose to 9.5 weeks in 2011 from 8.9 weeks in 2010. And the wait time between a visit to a specialist and actual medical treatment increased to 9.5 weeks from 9.3 weeks, according to the report.

Even among the provinces with the shortest wait times there have been declines. Though Ontario has the shortest total wait time for surgery among the provinces, with an average wait of 14.3 weeks between a visit to a GP and the receipt of treatment, that’s up from 14 weeks in 2010.

The Fracturing of Occupy Wall Street

The evening is rainy and quite warm, which is disconcerting since it is almost December. A hundred or so people gather on the east side of what we may safely call Zuccotti Park, for their General Assembly.

Nothing about the park feels like Liberty Plaza anymore. Every inch of the perimeter, for instance, is lined with metal barricades, just inside which stand private security guards, husky and rude, dressed in all black, apart from their yellow vests. A massive Christmas tree has been set up in the park and barricaded off. Besides the few protesters, that’s who’s here. The guards and their barricades.

There’s no kitchen, no library, no medical tent, no media center. There is no drum circle, no sign-painting station, no welcome table on Broadway, no altar around the meditation tree in the northwest corner. There are only about a hundred people, deliberating democratic minutiae, trying to get through a too-big agenda, packed with yesterday’s unattended business.

This would be hard enough to do without the people who keep loudly interrupting the meeting. But every meeting I’ve recently attended—and from what I gather, every recent meeting I have not—has been brought to a grinding halt, the basic ability to debate and consent to proposals crippled by a determined few who will not to let things proceed until their issues are addressed. This is the reason for the backed-up business. The people shouting about their needs over the debate.

The Civil Archipelago - How far can the resistance to Vladimir Putin go?

On the night of November 20th, two weeks before elections for the State Duma, Vladimir Putin set aside the cares of the Kremlin and went to the Olympic SportComplex for an ultimate-fighting match—a “no rules” heavyweight bout between a Cyclopean Russian named Feodor (the Last Emperor) Yemelianenko and a self-described anarchist from Olympia, Washington, named Jeff (the Snowman) Monson. The bout was broadcast nationally on Rossiya-2, one of the main state television channels. Putin, wearing a blue suit and no tie, was at ringside. He has always been eager to project the macho posture of a muzhik, a real man. He has had himself photographed riding horses bare-chested, tracking tigers, shooting a whale with a crossbow, piloting a firefighting jet, swimming a Siberian river, steering a Formula One race car, befriending Jean-Claude Van Damme, and riding with a motorcycle gang. Once, on national television, he tried to bend a frying pan with his bare hands. He did not quite succeed, but the effort was appreciated. And now ultimate fighting: the beery crowd of twenty thousand—some prosperous, some less so—were his own, Putin’s people.

Yemelianenko and Monson were of a rough equivalence: heads shaved, two enormous sacks of rocks, though the Russian was distinguished by his unstained skin; Monson had tattoos from ankle to neck, including two in crowd-friendly Cyrillic—svoboda and solidarnost’. The gesture got him nowhere. Almost from the start, the Russian dominated the fight. Yemelianenko, with a deft and powerful kick, snapped a bone in Monson’s leg, causing the American to limp pitifully. But, even as Yemelianenko took command, steadily reducing Monson to a swollen, bloody pulp—a source of pleasure to the crowd—it was hard to tell if Putin was enjoying himself. The camera flashed to him now and then. He barely betrayed a smile. His face, now smoothed with Botox and filler (it is said), is more enigmatic than ever. What was more, he had larger concerns. He knew that, no matter how hard his operatives tried to get out the vote in the provinces and massage the results, the Kremlin party, United Russia, was going to lose ground.


The branch of fiction known variously as alternate history, alternative history, or, to its geekier fans, alt-hist can be awesome fun. Its defining gimmick—set the wayback machine, tweak something in the historical past, and fantasize about how things might have played out—has proved irresistible to legions of writers, including some good ones. Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” (1962) and Robert Harris’s “Fatherland” (1992) posit an Axis triumph in the Second World War; Kingsley Amis’s “The Alteration” (1976) takes the conceit that Martin Luther became Pope and runs with it; and Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” (2004) has Charles Lindbergh, the famous pilot and anti-Semite, defeating Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

A dizzying descent down the literary ladder eventually brings us face to face with the current front-runner for the Republican nomination for President. Among the many books that carry the Newt Gingrich brand (scholars differ as to the exact number, but it appears to be in the mid twenties), no fewer than six, co-authored with a prolific potboiler producer named William R. Forstchen, are contributions to the alt-hist genre. They make up a pair of loose trilogies, one set in the Civil War (the rebels win more battles than they did in real life, but still lose), the other in the Second World War (same deal with Germany and Japan). Unlike their betters, these books forgo playful speculation about how the present might be different. They’re heavy on gory battle scenes and windy pontification. Reviewing one of them, a Washington Post critic wrote, “It is torture from first to last, downright embarrassing in its clumsy prose and lurching plot.”

Show cards on structural deficit, watchdog tells Tories

When Canada’s economy eventually rebounds, will that alone be enough to bring back the days of federal surpluses and balanced budgets?

Or have the Conservatives boosted spending and cut taxes so much that there simply will not be enough revenue left to balance the books, even in good times?

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says Ottawa knows the answer – but isn’t saying.

The independent spending watchdog released a new report Monday on one of his favourite topics: the structural deficit. It is a concept that attempts to show whether government finances would be in balance if it weren’t for short term cyclical factors like the current, protracted global economic slowdown.

The statistic is commonly used by other governments. Prime Minister David Camerion is promising to erase Britain’s structural deficit by 2015 while the latest European Union plans included discussion of a structural deficit cap. But in Ottawa, structural deficit forecasts prepared by the government are nowhere to be found.

Climate summit was a pathetic exercise in deceit

It was an “emperor-has-no-clothes” moment. The 17-year-old youth delegate rose before the assembled participants at the Durban climate conference and looked them straight in the eye.

“I speak for more than half the world’s population,” declared Anjali Appadurai of Maine’s College of the Atlantic. “We are the silent majority. You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not at the table. What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money?”

“You have been negotiating all of my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.”

Ms. Appadurai nailed it. There’s really only one label for the pathetic exercise we’ve just witnessed in South Africa: deceit. The whole climate-change negotiation process and the larger political discourse surrounding this horrible problem is a drawn-out and elaborate exercise in lying – to each other, to ourselves, and especially to our children. And the lies are starting to corrupt our civilization from inside out.

The latest in world-needs-more-Canada news (Nordic dep’t)

I learn from a sister publication that a handful of economists in Iceland is recommending that the volcanic statelet adopt the Canadian dollar. News from Iceland is always of special interest in Canada, where the Icelandic diaspora has given us legitimate world-historical notables like William Stephenson and, er, the other William Stephenson. The inherent vulnerability of Iceland’s own currency, the króna, has had Icelanders looking at the euro as a refuge, but that option has been yanked off the table for the time being, and may be permanently unavailable within weeks.

One of Canada’s contributions to humanity, as it happens, is the theory of optimum currency areas. The loonie-ization advocates argue that the Canadian dollar is a good choice because Iceland is dependent upon commodity exports and thus has a business cycle more or less in sync with Canada’s. Iceland is also part of the EFTA, with which Canada has a rudimentary free-trade agreement. But that agreement doesn’t cover services and credentials. Mundell’s test for optimality would require free movement of labour between the countries, a common language, and, ideally, some fiscal-transfer mechanism to smooth out the differential effects of the single exchange rate. There is a strong presumption that a currency area should actually be a contiguous area, or very nearly one.

Collecting rainwater now illegal in many states as Big Government claims ownership over our water

Many of the freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S. are quickly eroding as the nation transforms from the land of the free into the land of the enslaved, but what I'm about to share with you takes the assault on our freedoms to a whole new level. You may not be aware of this, but many Western states, including Utah, Washington and Colorado, have long outlawed individuals from collecting rainwater on their own properties because, according to officials, that rain belongs to someone else.

As bizarre as it sounds, laws restricting property owners from "diverting" water that falls on their own homes and land have been on the books for quite some time in many Western states. Only recently, as droughts and renewed interest in water conservation methods have become more common, have individuals and business owners started butting heads with law enforcement over the practice of collecting rainwater for personal use.

Check out this YouTube video of a news report out of Salt Lake City, Utah, about the issue. It's illegal in Utah to divert rainwater without a valid water right, and Mark Miller of Mark Miller Toyota, found this out the hard way.

After constructing a large rainwater collection system at his new dealership to use for washing new cars, Miller found out that the project was actually an "unlawful diversion of rainwater." Even though it makes logical conservation sense to collect rainwater for this type of use since rain is scarce in Utah, it's still considered a violation of water rights which apparently belong exclusively to Utah's various government bodies.

The University is Ours!

he university belongs to us, those who teach, learn, research, council, clean, and create community. Together we can and do make the university work.

But today this university is in crisis. The neoliberal restructuring of post-secondary education seeks to further embed market logic and corporate-style management into the academy, killing consultation, autonomy and collective decision-making. The salaries of university presidents and the ranks of administrators swell, but the people the university is supposed to serve — students — are offered assembly-line education as class sizes grow, faculty is over-worked, and teaching positions become increasingly precarious. International students and scholars seeking post-secondary or graduate education are treated as cash cows rather than as people who might contribute to both research and society. Debt-burdened students are seen as captive markets by administrators, while faculty is encouraged to leverage public funds for private research on behalf of corporate sponsors.

The attack on what remains of public education has been total. Over the last year we have witnessed the closure of humanities programmes, further tuition hikes, the replacement of financial support with loans, union lockouts, and the accelerated development of private, for-profit universities. Yet at the same time we have seen growing waves of struggle against these incursions, as students, staff and faculty in Europe, Latin America, and across the Middle East organize, occupy and resist the transformation.

How the rich are investing in real estate right now

I was catching up on a backlog of reading last weekend when I came across an interesting, if worrisome, article in The Economist. In it, the British newsmagazine suggested the Canadian real estate market is overvalued by 25 per cent or more, and is now "frothier" than the U.S. market was at its peak in 2008.

A provocative suggestion, one sure to make millions of Canadian homeowners a little concerned. For better or worse, real estate remains a significant asset for most Canadian families. If our real estate market is in bubble territory, the financial implications would be serious.

Now, by no means am I an expert real estate investor. I've owned each of the principal residences I've lived in over the past 25 years, and they've all done reasonably well for me. But real estate is not the focus of my portfolio, and beyond the old adage about “location, location, location,” I have little in the way of secret wisdom or guru-like tips to pass on to real estate investors.

The wealthy people I know, however, are quite another story. Many of the smartest, wealthiest people I have ever met have made millions in real estate. These people are shrewd investors. Real estate is something they talk about often, and when they do, I listen.

Based on these conversations, I would say high net worth (HNW) investors seem to be pulling back from the Canadian real estate market. Not exiting altogether, mind you. But instead of allocating new money by buying Canadian residential property, they’ve decided to invest in real estate in a different way.

Liberals want Governor-General to block Tory wheat-board legislation

The Liberals are urging Governor-General David Johnston to refuse granting royal assent to the Harper government’s bill to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

The third party’s last-ditch attempt to preserve the agency’s monopoly came Monday in an open letter delivered to Rideau Hall. It cites a Federal Court ruling last week that found the Conservatives broke the law by not putting their legislation to a plebiscite among farmers.

“The government has indicated that it will appeal this decision,” Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae writes in the letter. “Despite this ongoing dispute about the legality of its actions, the Government is proceeding with the consideration of Bill C-18 in the Senate.”

“The government will almost certainly seek Royal Assent for this legislation in the coming days. As Leader of the Liberal Party, I would ask most respectfully that full consideration be given to awaiting final disposition of this matter by the courts before the legislation receives Royal Assent,” he writes.

A Federal Court judge ruled last week that the while the majority Conservative government has the right to pass legislation it “must still follow rules established in law set by previous Parliaments,” according to The Globe’s Paul Waldie.

New Canada Niqab Rules Ban Muslim Face Coverings During Citizenship Ceremonies

Ottawa has announced new rules that will prohibit Muslim women from participating in citizenship ceremonies while wearing traditional face coverings such as the niqab or burqa.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the announcement Monday in Montreal.

"Starting today, any individual will have to show his or her face when taking the oath of citizenship. Recently I received complaints from members of the Parliament, citizenship judges and even participants in citizenship ceremonies to the effect that it is difficult to ensure that the individuals whose faces are covered are really taking the oath," Kenney said.

"But this is not a simple or technical measure, far from it, this is really a matter of pure principle which is at the very heart of our identity and our values with respect to openness and equality," Kenney said. "The oath of citizenship is basically a public gesture, a public declaration that shows that you are joining the Canadian family and this has to be done freely and openly, not secretly. Isolating and separating a group of Canadians or allowing that group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is completely counter to Canada's commitment to openness and social cohesion."

Occupy Wall Street Ports Blockade: Protesters Eye West Coast Sites

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters / December 11) - Anti-Wall Street protesters, hoping to briefly cripple a key supply chain of American commerce and re-energize their movement, plan to attempt to block major West Coast ports Monday.

By marching on U.S. ports from California to Alaska, organizers look to call attention to economic inequalities in the country and a financial system they complain is unfairly tilted toward the wealthy.

The planned action comes after the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York in September has seen its tent camps in most big West Coast cities dismantled in police raids, leaving the movement looking for new avenues to voice its discontent.

But a plan to shutter multiple ports simultaneously could prove difficult because some of the facilities are in massive complexes with multiple entrances that would be tough to fully block, even if large numbers of demonstrators turn out.

Activists aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement did briefly succeed in shuttering Oakland's port, the fifth busiest in the country, for hours on Nov. 2 after police kept their distance.

Oakland, long an Occupy hot spot, may again be center stage Monday in a day of protest seen as a test of the movement's momentum, along with the combined ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Organizers are also targeting Portland, Anchorage, Seattle, Tacoma and Houston.

Saudi Arabia: Woman Convicted Of 'Sorcery' Executed

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi authorities have executed a woman convicted of practicing magic and sorcery.

The Saudi Interior Ministry says in a statement the execution took place Monday, but gave no details on the woman's crime.

The London-based al-Hayat daily, however, quoted Abdullah al-Mohsen, chief of the religious police who arrested the woman, as saying she had tricked people into thinking she could treat illnesses, charging them $800 per session.

The paper said a female investigator followed up, and the woman was arrested in April, 2009, and later convicted in a Saudi court.

It did not give the woman's name, but said she was in her 60s.

The execution brings the total to 76 this year in Saudi Arabia, according to an Associated Press count. At least three have been women.

Source: Huff 

Mikhail Prokhorov Challenges Vladimir Putin In Russian Election

MOSCOW — After a week of surprising challenges to his authority, Vladimir Putin faces a new one from one of Russia's richest and most glamorous figures – the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets says he will run against Putin in March's presidential election.

Mikhail Prokhorov's announcement Monday came just hours after another Russian economic star, Putin's former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, said he was ready to work to form a new party.

The declarations underline the extent of the discontent with the man who has dominated Russian politics for a dozen years, coming on the heels of Saturday's unprecedented nationwide protests. Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets to denounce alleged election fraud favoring Putin's United Russia in Dec. 4 parliamentary elections.

The fraud and the party's comparatively poor showing in the elections – losing about 20 percent of its seats, though it retained a narrow majority – galvanized long-marginalized opposition forces to conduct a startling series of demonstrations, including an enormous rally in Moscow of at least 30,000.

At a news conference announcing his candidacy, Prokhorov refrained from criticizing Prime Minister Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev, but said "society is waking up."

When Netanyahu wants to be like Putin

The immediate, unequivocal support voiced by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for Russia's parliamentary election, which he characterized as free, fair and democratic, is puzzling. Russia and Vladimir Putin are pro-Iran, pro-Syria, pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah, and by Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Israeli lights, they are terrible for Israel. So why is he so eager to embrace them?

Perhaps it's an expression of his great identification with, and envy for, Putin's position. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his own quiet support for Lieberman's remarks, demonstrates that he shares the desire to be in the same position as Putin.

The method is familiar: Lieberman speaks or acts, and Netanyahu tacitly acquiesces. It's the same modus operandi the prime minister is using with MKs Zeev Elkin, Ofir Akunis, Yariv Levin and Faina Kirshenbaum and, of course, with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. They initiate laws and measures to erode democracy, and Netanyahu says nothing. Occasionally he delays deliberations on a particular bill or announces that the cabinet will not approve another - making him look like the knight come to the rescue of the rule of law, the man with his finger in the dam, the very defender of democracy.

Jewish religious law threatening Israeli women

Many of those who protest against silencing the singing of secular women act out of hypocrisy. Israel sends most first-graders whom the state identifies as Jews to religious schools. Whether they are part of the public school system or run by the ultra-Orthodox, these schools receive state subsidies yet are responsible for unconstitutional sex segregation.

We are not merely talking about silencing the singing of women. The whole truth is made clear in the two creation stories that appear in Genesis. In the first, male and female are created. In the second, man is created alone and woman is later created from his rib.

There is a canonical Orthodox explanation for this contradiction: Man and woman were created together, but the man wanted to rule over the woman. She did not want to rule, only to be independent. So he abused her until God gave her wings and she flew away. That was Lilith. The first Eve and the first feminist, she is the female Satan.

God understood his mistake. The second Eve, the woman of our world, was born of the rib of a man, so that she could be an organ among his organs. That is why our sages, including Maimonides, Nahmanides and other rabbinical leaders, called her "a tail" - because women should know that they exist for men's "tashmish," meaning both "use" and "sex." This is what most Israeli children learn, in schools funded by the state, and it shapes their world.

In Israel, the life of a Palestinian is cheap

The pictures from Friday's events in Nabi Saleh are hard to swallow: An Israel Defense Forces soldier opens the back door of an armored military jeep and, from a distance of just a few meters, fires a tear-gas canister directly at a young man who is throwing stones. After the canister is fired, the jeep continues on its way without stopping.

A photographer on the scene relates that the young man "fell to the ground, remained conscious for a few seconds, and then began bleeding profusely from the region of his eye." He was subsequently evacuated for treatment at Beilinson Hospital, where he was sedated and placed on a respirator. On Saturday, he died from his wounds.           

The incident took place during the weekly demonstration held by residents of Nabi Saleh against the expropriation of their land in favor of the nearby settlement of Halamish and the settlers' takeover of a spring that served the Palestinian residents. The young man who was killed has a name - Mustafa Tamimi, 28, a resident of the village and regular participant in the demonstrations that have been taking place there every Friday for the past two years.

Algonquins in West Quebec prepare to launch biggest land claim in Canada’s history

A group of Algonquins in West Quebec is preparing to launch what could be the largest land claim in Canada’s history — for a swath of territory covering 650,000 square kilometres across Eastern Ontario and West Quebec.

Stretching from Sault Ste. Marie and Cochrane in Northern Ontario through much of Eastern Ontario, including Ottawa, the territory cuts across West Quebec to Montreal, and all the way to the confluence of the Saint-Maurice and St. Lawrence rivers at Trois-Rivières. About two-thirds of the land is in Quebec.

Gilbert Whiteduck, chief of the Algonquins of Maniwaki known as the Kitigan Zibi, says the process will begin soon with the presentation of the territorial map to Quebec Premier Jean Charest to underline the claim. Whiteduck says the map and accompanying documents were presented to the federal aboriginal affairs minister earlier this year, and the group is now seeking a meeting with Charest to do the same.

“We are getting ready to present the territorial map to Premier Charest as soon as he is able to give us a time, to lay out what it is we are expecting from Quebec, specifically,” Whiteduck said.

Canada Income Inequality And The Decline Of Unions: Have We Passed A Point Of No Return?

ST. THOMAS, Ont. — If there is any doubt that the erosion of unions could be contributing to the decline of the middle class — and, by extension, Canada's growing rich-poor divide — consider Shane MacPherson's career prospects.

When MacPherson stepped onto the line at the Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., in the mid-'90s, he counted himself among the lucky ones. After decades of deterioration, good factory jobs had grown scarce, and, as the son of a Ford worker, MacPherson took comfort in knowing he would be able to provide his family with the same financial security his parents had given him.

"It was like, 'You're here. You're not switching jobs. This is it,' says MacPherson, whose sense of security grew even more when his wife got a job at Ford. "We weren't going to worry about the things that some people worry about."

Of course, all that changed in 2009, when the beleaguered Detroit firm announced it was closing the plant in St. Thomas, vaporizing 1,000 jobs and pulling the rug out from under MacPherson's vision for the future.

Ontario minister attacks Ford’s Port Lands strategy

As Waterfront Toronto embarks on public consultations as part of Mayor Rob Ford’s bid to accelerate Port Lands redevelopment, a senior Ontario cabinet minister has attacked the change in direction, warning that the city risks repeating previous lakeside debacles in its bid to generate cash from land sales.

“This is bad planning and jumping the gun,” said Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray, whose riding abuts the Port Lands. As the former mayor of Winnipeg, he is still engaged in urban issues, as well as being Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities. “We want to sell the land after we put transit and parks and schools in there. If you get the sequencing wrong, you’ll end up selling the land for cheap.”

Mr. Murray’s broadside comes at a time when Waterfront Toronto is beginning to scope out options for developing the 700-hectare area south of the Keating Channel, known as the “Lower Donlands.”

The Waterfront rethink is the result of a council compromise hammered out in September after widespread public outrage over Councillor Doug Ford’s bid to promote a hastily conceived development scheme involving mega-malls, a Ferris wheel and a monorail.

Climate deal marks ‘lowest common denominator’

In the early hours of Sunday morning, as an Indian negotiator made an emotional speech against a European climate proposal, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent glanced around the vast room in the Durban convention centre and noticed the smug expressions of China’s negotiators.

Throughout the marathon late-night talks here, China and India had fought to avoid any legal limits on their fast-rising carbon emissions. And under the agreement announced at 5 a.m. on Sunday, they seem to have won – for the next decade at least.

The deal keeps alive the Kyoto Protocol for another five years, but with Europe as the only significant source of emission cuts. It requires the world to negotiate a new legal protocol by 2015 to replace Kyoto, but those rules would not take effect until after 2020. And while this historic new protocol would for the first time apply to developing countries such as China and India, they would continue to have fewer obligations than developed nations. That’s something Canada still wants to see changed, Mr. Kent said.

While politicians from virtually all of the world’s 194 countries claimed victory after the Durban deal, the reality is that the Durban agreement is riddled with loopholes, delays and uncertainties. Its vagueness allowed all nations to accept the deal, but it postponed the key negotiations for years down the road.

Tories call House session ‘very productive,’ opposition parties say feds ‘abusing their majority’

The House of Commons wraps up its fifth straight sitting week before it adjourns for the Christmas break and while the majority governing Conservatives call the fall session “very productive,” the opposition characterized it as a government “abusing their majority.”

Since September, three bills were passed and by the end of this calendar year, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe, Ont.) said he expects at least three more to be given royal assent: bills C-13, the Second Budget Implementation Bill; C-18, the Ending Wheat Board Monopoly Bill; and C-20, the Increasing Seats in the House of Commons Bill. Bills C-13 and C-18 are currently in the Senate, and Bill C-20 is at report stage in the House of Commons. Mr. Van Loan told The Hill Times last week in an interview that he expects it to pass in the House by this Tuesday so that the Senate can deal with it before it rises for the winter break.

“When you go through those priority bills, you’ll see actually that none of them have become law yet. We’re still working on them and we’re making very, very good progress and we’re on track to have the important priorities in place by the end of this calendar year,” Mr. Van Loan said. “I think it’s [been] very, very productive, but I think what that underlines is that there’s a gap between the rhetoric of the opposition on how quickly we’re moving and the reality of how slow they actually make the process and it does take a long time to get these bills into law even when we’re doing everything we can to make them critical priorities.”

Landmines can be next ethical export for Harper government

Arguably, the single worst thing the Harper government has done during its feckless term in office is to walk away from Canada's global responsibility to address climate change.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Liberal predecessors weren't fundamentally better. The Liberals signed the Kyoto treaty with no intention of implementing it.

But Mr. Harper's team is worse, because not only are we continuing to fail to meet our responsibilities, and not only has the government of Canada become a huckster for some of the most carbon-intensive products on sale in the global marketplace, but Mr. Harper and his ministers want us to think this is a principled thing to do -- something to celebrate.

The case, wittily concocted by a Sun News television comedian, is that our government's determination to produce ever more carbon and to profit from it is "ethical," because Canada is a good country. Not like bad countries, like Iran or Saudi Arabia. We're a nice democracy. So any product we produce is "ethical."

This being so, perhaps when he returns from disgracing our country in Durban, the Environment Minister can be given a new mandate. In addition to being a global salesman for carbon, Peter Kent can take on a new ethical sales job: Let's get into ethical landmines.

In an age without mediators, many feel left out of the political process

What do some poor, uneducated, rural, aboriginal or immigrant Canadians have in common with members of Parliament? All are outsiders.

So concludes a new study of why Canadians don’t vote. There are lessons in it for everyone who wonders how you sustain a democracy in an age of declining civic engagement.

Samara, a new organization dedicated to increasing active citizenship, conducted a series of focus groups over the summer and fall in which they asked people who considered themselves outside the political process why they felt that way. The respondents were, for the most part, less affluent, less educated, more rural or more likely to be aboriginal or immigrant, and they self-identified as non-voters. They said that whenever they tried to find a daycare space, to get into a job training program, to get a speed bump installed on a dangerously busy street – to engage, in other words, with government – they gave up in frustration.

So they washed their hands of the whole thing, including voting.

Rob Ford’s a wreck, Doug Ford's a spectacle

Year One AF (After Ford) and Toronto is a different city. The new cast at City Hall has its place in the public consciousness and with a few exceptions, all actors are performing pretty much as expected.

Mayor Rod Ford’s monosyllabic governance, his subtract-and-conquer style, now seems ordinary, as do the passive-aggressive ministrations of his budget chief, Mike Del Grande. Peter Milczyn’s weasel tactics barely raise an eyebrow these days; neither does Giogio Mamolitti’s political street-walking. Denzil Minnan-Wong continues to be more petulant than provocative and Frances Nunziata still snarls when told.

The exception, of course, is Doug Ford, Rob’s big brother and rookie Ward 2 Councillor. Dauntless Doug has come out from the shadow of his younger sibling to steal the show at City Hall. The spotlight loves him. Unexpectedly but spectacularly, he has established himself as one of those characters every city loves to have around, someone who speaks and acts with utter unselfconsciousness.

Doug is equal parts Harold Ballard and Homer Simpson, with a little Beverly Hillbillies thrown in for added appeal. Beneath that worldly exterior and ample girth lurks a true innocent, a naïf, a guileless fool. He’s one of those rare individuals who lack any awareness of their own lack of awareness.

The most memorable example was his revelation that he’d never heard of Margaret Atwood. In this plugged-in age, that sort of ignorance is hard to find, even on City Council.

Ontario breaks Temagami pledge

Ontario is planning to kill its promise to protect an ecological gem — an old-growth forest near Temagami.

The Ministry of Natural Resources wants to change the “forest reserve” designation for 340 hectares around Wolf Lake to “general use,” which puts a greater focus on mining instead of forests and recreation.

The only company drilling in the region is Alberta's Flag Resources, which has been delisted or forced to stop trading on stock exchanges across the country. It is currently not trading anywhere.

Located some 50 kilometres northeast of Sudbury, Wolf Lake lies in the area commonly called Temagami. It is beloved by hikers and canoeists for its soaring stands of 300-year-old red pines and deep blue lakes.

Ontario's Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller said he's “greatly disappointed” by the ministry's plan to backtrack on a long-held agreement to protect Wolf Lake, which would have eventually turned it into parkland.

Depression and Democracy

It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression. True, it’s not a full replay of the Great Depression, but that’s cold comfort. Unemployment in both America and Europe remains disastrously high. Leaders and institutions are increasingly discredited. And democratic values are under siege.       

On that last point, I am not being alarmist. On the political as on the economic front it’s important not to fall into the “not as bad as” trap. High unemployment isn’t O.K. just because it hasn’t hit 1933 levels; ominous political trends shouldn’t be dismissed just because there’s no Hitler in sight.

Let’s talk, in particular, about what’s happening in Europe — not because all is well with America, but because the gravity of European political developments isn’t widely understood.

First of all, the crisis of the euro is killing the European dream. The shared currency, which was supposed to bind nations together, has instead created an atmosphere of bitter acrimony.

Specifically, demands for ever-harsher austerity, with no offsetting effort to foster growth, have done double damage. They have failed as economic policy, worsening unemployment without restoring confidence; a Europe-wide recession now looks likely even if the immediate threat of financial crisis is contained. And they have created immense anger, with many Europeans furious at what is perceived, fairly or unfairly (or actually a bit of both), as a heavy-handed exercise of German power.

Democratic Sen. McCaskill finds House defense bill riddled with earmarks

WASHINGTON — House Republicans banned earmarks, a top symbol of congressional profligacy, after they won control of the chamber last fall in a wave of voter anger over excessive government spending.

But more than half of the amendments to this year's House Department of Defense authorization bill were earmarks, according to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a leading congressional critic of the practice.

In a report to be released this week, McCaskill said that the House Armed Services Committee's chairman, Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., set up a system that enabled members to "circumvent the earmark ban" by offering pre-approved amendments that outlined the projects and the funds they hoped to secure for their districts.           

While the committee said the projects described in the amendments were competitive, unlike earmarks, the sponsors were often lawmakers who had requested similar earmarks in the past. Moreover, some of them touted the projects in the amendments as boons for their districts or states as soon as the House of Representatives passed the bill.

In addition, the report said, "These amendments were subsequently adopted in large groups with little or no debate" or public disclosure.

Occupy Our Homes Gains Support Near A Foreclosed House In Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Until three days ago, Teresa Bolton didn't consider herself part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Bolton is 55 and lives in East New York, Brooklyn, an hour's train ride from the skyscrapers of Manhattan's financial district, where the movement was born. But when occupiers appeared on her block this week, as part of a new national campaign to help homeless families move into vacant houses and resist foreclosure-related evictions, she opened her door.

"Occupy Wall Street came to me. I didn't go seek it out," she said, standing on her porch, wearing a navy turban and a pink sweatshirt, large silver hoops dangling from her ears. "I always wanted to be involved in something positive that was beneficial to everyone."

The street was relatively quiet on Friday afternoon. The exception: a few neighbors milling about on the sidewalk and a steady stream of white 20-somethings filing in and out of a house down the street. The neighborhood is home to mostly poor African Americans and Caribbean immigrants; Occupy Wall Street protesters are overwhelmingly white. On Friday, those activists were the only white people spotted in the neighborhood, besides the police officers stationed nearby. The house had a large banner stretched across it that read, "BANKS STEAL HOMES," and a sign perched on the roof declaring, "FORECLOSE ON BANKS NOT PEOPLE, OCCUPY WALL ST."

Ending Money-Dominated Politics: The $99 Pledge

Economist Jeffrey Sachs calls on those running for office to end their reliance on mega-donors, answer to the 99 per cent.

Heading into the 2012 U.S. elections, President Obama and many Democrats are striking a decidedly populist tone. Much the same as their Republican party competitors however, the Democrats are beholden to the corporate lobbies that unduly dominate campaign financing today in America. In the following video, Jeffrey Sachs explains how corporate financing has come to corrode the political process in America and offers a strategy to progressive candidates to spur real reform and give power and representation back to the people.

Source: the Mark 

Attawapiskat chief blasts minister in open letter

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence maintains she has not agreed to third-party management, despite a line in a statement issued by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan on Sunday, pointing to the contrary.

In an open letter issued Sunday evening, Spence blasted Duncan for insisting she accepted a third-party manager.

"Frame it however you see fit, but not as third-party management," Spence wrote.

Earlier in the day, Duncan's office issued a statement saying: "I am pleased that Chief Spence has acknowledged the necessity of working with our government, the third-party management team, and Emergency Management Ontario to get help to the residents of Attawapiskat."

But speaking from Attawapiskat, Spence told CBC News that Duncan's office called her Sunday morning to give her an update, which included the government's purchase of seven additional modular units for the community.

During that call, Spence said she "made it clear: I'm not going to allow third-party management in my office."

Saugeen Shores Nuclear Waste Site: Permanent Dump Idea Sparks Unease In Southern Ontario Community

TORONTO - A community on the shores of Lake Huron has cracked open the door to southern Ontario's becoming the permanent storage site for Canada's spent, but still dangerously radioactive, nuclear fuel.

Until now, only nine communities in remote areas of northern Saskatchewan and northern Ontario were in the running to host the $24-billion project for a mammoth underground facility.

Now, to the consternation of some, one of southern Ontario's premier tourist destinations is on the radar, although how it got there is already the subject of dispute.

The municipality of Saugeen Shores, which includes the picturesque lakeside towns of Port Elgin and Southampton about three hours west of Toronto, is showing interest in becoming home to the waste site.

Neighbouring Brockton is also looking to get on board as part of an initiative to involve the entire county, which is already home to the Bruce nuclear power plant in nearby Kincardine.

Last Battle Of Red River Rebellion: Supreme Court Hears Manitoba Metis Case

OTTAWA - More than 140 years after the guns were put away, the last battle in the rebellion that brought Manitoba into Confederation is about to be fought.

Lawyers are to argue in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the federal government never lived up to the 1870 deal that settled the Red River Rebellion, fought by Metis struggling to hold on to their land in the face of growing white settlement.

"It's important for us to get right with our history," said Tom Berger, the legendary aboriginal rights lawyer who will represent the Manitoba Metis Federation in its last legal attempt to right what it calls the betrayal of a generation of Metis children, who lost their land and birthright.

"We have to remember our history and we have to remember that the Metis didn't go away. They're still here."

A Metis win would probably lead to high-stakes land-claim negotiations — and fulfil a prophesy made by Metis leader Louis Riel more than a century ago.

Sovereignty over the vast prairies west of Ontario was still uncertain in the immediate years after Confederation as the federal government negotiated with the Hudson's Bay Co. for control over half a continent.

Occupy Vancouver Protesters Reunite

Occupy Vancouver protesters met in the city's Downtown Eastside on Saturday to talk about the future of the movement.

The protest camp disbanded last month, five weeks after the movement began, after failing to establish a new encampment following two evictions.

As about 100 demonstrators reunited on Saturday, the discussion included whether they should bring back the encampment.

"I hope to see and take the temperature of the crowd and find out what people are thinking about that," said Hugh Stinson, who has been involved in the Occupy movement since the beginning.

"There are different strains of thought on that. We have had some offers of land, we have had some land that we have just considered taking. There are questions around what is the best strategy? What are the best tactics? Is an encampment necessary?"