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.]

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mega-donors: Quit picking on us

All they wanted was to get involved.

But to hear some of the biggest donors of 2012 tell it, their six- and seven-figure contributions have instead bought them nothing but grief.

Their personal lives are fodder for news stories. President Barack Obama and his allies have singled out conservative mega-donors as greedy tax cheats, or worse. And a conservative website has launched a counteroffensive targeting big-money liberals.

This is definitely not what they had in mind. In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the front page.

And now some are pushing back hard against the attention, asking: Why us?

NDP says it's ‘criminal’ feds want to shut down F-35 House probe; NDP MP Christopherson calls Grit MP Byrne a ‘dishonourable crybaby’ for leaking story to The Hill Times

PARLIAMENT HILL—A closed-door hearing over Conservative attempts to shut down a Commons inquiry into the F-35 stealth fighter jet project erupted with acrimony Thursday as the NDP chair of the session denounced the only Liberal taking part as a “dishonourable crybaby” for revealing what went on in an earlier in-camera meeting.

The opposition parties kept the hearings going into the federal government’s controversial plans to spend $25-billion on 65 F-35 fighter fighters, but NDP MP David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) lashed out at Liberal MP Gerry Byrne (Humber-Baie Verte-Ste. Barbe, Nfld.) for publicly revealing last week to The Hill Times that there was a government motion proposing that the House Public Accounts Committee begin preparing a report to the Commons, after only seven hours of committee witness testimony and evidence.

When governments pull the plug, the people build a new Internet

Less than a year and a half ago, the world received a lesson in how vulnerable the contemporary Internet is to top-down control. Faced with ongoing protests organized in large part through social media, the government of Egypt simply turned off the country’s Internet.

As we all know, the move backfired. It let the rest of the world see how authoritarian the Mubarak regime was and caused countless free speech groups–including Anonymous–to rally behind the protesters in Tahrir Square. To this day, the chart showing the country’s Internet traffic all but disappear remains one of the most iconic images of the Arab Spring.

Ireland polls point to ‘yes’ in Europe’s only austerity treaty vote

DUBLIN- Ireland began casting ballots in the only popular vote on Europe’s new fiscal treaty on Thursday, with opinion polls pointing to a “yes” vote that could ease concerns about its funding prospects and save Europe a headache it can do without.

The referendum, Ireland’s third on Europe in four years, puts it back in the spotlight after it avoided much of the recent heat from the euro-zone’s debt crisis by dutifully implementing its 85 billion euro ($106 billion) EU/IMF bailout.

While the German-led plan for stricter budget rules needs the approval of only 12 of the 17 euro-zone countries to be ratified, an Irish rejection would undermine one of Europe’s key initiatives just as problems mount in Spain and Greece.

Naked Truths

In the non-fairy-tale world we actually live in, nobody pays much attention if some random urchin on a street corner starts shouting that a feared and lofty potentate isn’t wearing any clothes. But if the shouters are a pair of prestigious guardians of public rectitude and upholders of the ancient traditions of civic morality, then word that the emperor in question is not just buck naked but scrofulous and syphilitic just might begin to trickle down to the lower orders.

Such a duo of über-respectables are Thomas E. Mann, a luminary of the ever so slightly left-of-center Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein, an ornament of the somewhat more firmly right-of-center American Enterprise Institute, both of whom used to communicate in tones of calm, non-inflammatory reassurance. Such a street corner is the Washington Post, and such a potentate is—well, here’s the headline over Mann and Ornstein’s double-length op-ed, which landed on Georgetown stoops a few Sundays ago: LET’S JUST SAY IT: THE REPUBLICANS ARE THE PROBLEM.

Climate Change: Carbon Dioxide Levels In World's Air Reach 'Troubling Milestone'

WASHINGTON — The world's air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant.

Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. The number isn't quite a surprise, because it's been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395.

So far, only the Arctic has reached that 400 level, but the rest of the world will follow soon.

BP Oil Spill Emails Reveal High-Level Discord Over Flow Estimates

A BP engineering executive warned senior BP management early on in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that internal models did not support estimates of the size of the undersea leak being provided to government officials and the public, according to company emails.

On May 15, 2010, Mike Mason, a vice president in BP's exploration and production technology division, wrote to Andy Inglis, chief executive of global exploration and production, warning him that the company's "data and knowledge" did not support the 5,000 barrel per day figure touted by executives as their best estimate of the size of the leak.

"We should be very cautious standing behind a 5,000 [barrel per day] figure as our modeling shows that this well could be making anything up to 100,000 [barrels per day]," Mason wrote in one of the emails, obtained by The Huffington Post.

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional By Federal Appeals Court

BOSTON — A battle over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman appears headed for the Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled Thursday that denying benefits to married gay couples is unconstitutional.

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples.

The court didn't rule on the law's more politically combustible provision – that states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's legal. It also wasn't asked to address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

Bev Oda's Staff Silent On Travel Expense Changes

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda's office is refusing to say whether she has paid taxpayers back for any inappropriate travel costs in addition to the lavish hotel and chauffeured car she expensed for a trip to London last summer.

Oda's office also won't say why travel expenses for trips to Haiti, Korea and East Africa over the last year have been amended on her department's proactive disclosure website.

Oda, who is the MP for the Ontario riding of Durham, is in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency.

A few things to bang pots about

Wouldn’t it be great if Canadians started banging pots and pans over the fact that hardly a month passes in Canada without a First Nation declaring a state of emergency?

Wouldn’t it be something if we all got out and made some noise about the slaughter of children in Syria? Or the imprisonment of rape victims in Afghanistan for “moral crimes”? What about the gulag in North Korea, or censorship in China?

Doesn’t anyone want to make a joyful national noise to support Aung San Suu Kyi?

Maybe Montrealers want to save their moral outrage for human-rights violations closer to home. Fine. I get that many Montrealers don’t like Bill 78. I don’t much like Bill 78 either, or the Montreal bylaw banning masks during protests. But of all the many and real threats to civil liberties we as a people should be fighting, a law requiring protesters to give notice of large demonstrations is way down the list. I don’t remember huge crowds banging frying pans together for Montreal resident Abousfian Abdelrazik, to support his right to live his life free of the restrictions of a terrorism blacklist — restrictions that were totally unjustified and made his life almost impossible, even after he returned to Canada.

Chisholm questions site of DFO office consolidation

FREDERICTON — The Opposition is questioning why the federal Fisheries and Oceans Department plans to close six financial support offices across the country and consolidate their work in Fredericton, the riding of Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.

NDP fisheries critic Robert Chisholm said he wants to know why the federal government is moving the jobs at a time when the department has already been thrown into “an incredible upheaval” with budget cuts.

“Bringing it together in an area like Fredericton makes me curious, and I’m going to be interested to hear how the minister is going to be able to explain it,” Chisholm said in an interview Wednesday.

“At least Keith Ashfield, MP, is not going to suffer because he’s going to be creating jobs in his community.”

Brad Wall, defender of the West

When Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall took on Thomas Mulcair – on Twitter, no less – over the federal NDP Leader’s controversial “Dutch disease” comments, he couldn’t have imagined the national debate his move would touch off.

Three weeks after the fact, the matter is still fuelling political discussion in Canada. While the resultant furor wasn’t specifically on the agenda at the Western Premiers’ Conference in Edmonton this week, it certainly provided a compelling backdrop for the gathering.

Perhaps more than anything, the affair seemed to confer on Mr. Wall a role with which he seems entirely comfortable: protector of the West. Given that he is the senior statesman among a group of Western premiers who have very little experience in their positions, he was the likeliest candidate for the part in any event.

Citizens United Attacks From Justice Stevens Continue

WASHINGTON -- A day after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, retired Justice John Paul Stevens on Wednesday night backed President Barack Obama's suggestion during his 2010 State of the Union address that the Citizens United decision could lead to "foreign entities" bankrolling American elections.

He urged the U.S. Supreme Court to explicitly explain why the president's words were "not true," as Justice Samuel Alito famously mouthed on camera, breaking the justices' usual stoic appearance during the president's annual speech.

Stevens has been a trenchant critic of Citizens United since the court decided the case in January 2010. On the day the opinion was announced, he spent 20 minutes reading from the bench a summary of his 90-page dissent. Stumbling over some words that day convinced Stevens, now 92, to retire, but he continued to condemn the ruling in speeches, writings and even on the Colbert Report.

Christine Lagarde, IMF Chief, Who Scolded Greece For Tax Evasion, Pays No Taxes

IMF chief Christine Lagarde wants the people of Greece to pay their taxes. The problem? She doesn't really pay taxes herself.

Last Friday, The Guardian ran an interview with Lagarde, in which she suggested that she wasn't exactly full of sympathy for the people of Greece, despite the painful austerity measures currently in place there.

"As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time," Lagarde told The Guardian. "All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax."

It may have been a poor choice of words. On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that Lagarde herself pays no taxes on her yearly $467,940 salary, or the $83,760 allowance that comes on top of it.

Alberta reverses stance on publicizing illegal donations to political parties

EDMONTON - In a stunning reversal Wednesday, the provincial government said there is no reason why Alberta’s elections boss can’t release details about illegal contributions to political parties.

Deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk told the legislature that the Election Finances and Contributions Act doesn’t prevent Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim from making details about the donations public.

“If he chooses to do so, he is welcome to do it,” Lukaszuk said.

“He is independent. He does not need permission from this government.”

Containing the global authoritarian threat

The cycling through with NATO forces in Afghanistan of 20 rotations involving over 15,000 Canadian men and women in uniform has had a profoundly positive effect on the morale and preparedness of our regular and reserve forces who served seamlessly together in that dangerous, but essential, deployment.

But that CFDS bridge is well behind us. It is now time for a re-calibrated and integrated global and national security strategy that takes into account critical factors on the ground, on and under the sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace both at home and abroad.

What keeps our society moving forward as a caring and economically viable society is what I have called in the past the infrastructure of civility. This infrastructure is a mix of laws and borders and resilient institutions like our Armed Forces, the Reserves, and organizations like police forces and private charitable organizations like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army to name but two.

Canada’s winter EI blues: Ottawa’s proposal strikes a chord but misses the beat

Ottawa’s proposal to modify employment insurance benefits has hit a nerve. The most ticked-off Canadians are the seasonal workers dependent on EI in the winter months. But their initial fears may be overblown: the proposed reforms should not greatly affect the most dependent seasonal workers in Canada’s eastern provinces, and instead will encourage only modest changes in regions with booming job growth.

It’s true that reliance on EI can breed dependence — EI rules can create incentives for people and industries to use it to supplement seasonal work. Despite the sensible reasons behind the proposed reforms, which come across as mean-spirited and administratively cumbersome, breaking the dependency cycle requires targeting the root causes of repeat EI use.

The Commons: Stephen Harper, environmentalist

“I was telling Laureen before I left the house today,” the Prime Minister quipped, “that these are people who when they say they prefer organic food you know they mean it.”

The assembled attendees of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ first National Fish and Wildlife Conservative Congress (featuring a live falcon on display in the hallway) duly chuckled.

On the same day the leader of the opposition was flying to Alberta to make peace (or at least try to avoid total war) with the oil sands, the Prime Minister had crossed the Rideau Canal to a downtown Ottawa hotel to style himself an environmentalist. Or, rather, a conservationist.

“If you were at the federation’s 2009 conference, you may recall that I said conservatives were natural conservationists,” he reminded.

The Queen: three steps for Canada to replace the monarchy

God save the Queen!

That famous cheer will ring out across England this weekend as the country stages massive Diamond Jubilee celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne.

In Canada, many of us will watch the televised festivities as a gesture of affection — even loyalty in some cases — for the woman who has served with distinction as the Queen of Canada.

For most of her reign, the Queen has been a symbol of stability, dedication and continuity.

But with her reign nearing an end, the time is right for Canadians to start the process of cutting our formal ties to the British monarchy, an outmoded institution that dates back to the days when Canada was a British colony.

Mulcair’s politically deft oilsands critique is right (sort of)

There are three noteworthy elements to New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair’s critique of the oilsands. The first is that he’s right — more or less. The second is that the Western premiers know he’s right.

The third is that, for the NDP, criticizing the Alberta tar sands is good politics.

Mulcair has been savaged by Stephen Harper’s ruling Conservatives — and the premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia — for suggesting there is a downside to the oilsands.

In fact, Mulcair’s argument is neither new nor odd. He says the high loonie, by making Canadian exports pricier in foreign markets, has hurt Ontario manufacturers. And he says the dollar is high, in large part, because Canada’s booming oil economy has boosted worldwide demand for this country’s currency.

Mulcair needs to seize chance

Whether it was intended or not, the meeting of western Canadian leaders in Edmonton provided federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair a huge opportunity to turn around his Dutch disease.

Until now Mr. Mulcair has stuck to his twisted argument that the oilsands are hurting Canada, either by inflating the currency or destroying the environment. But outside the party's Wednesday caucus meeting he seemed to soften his tone.

Insisting that he never took issue with provincial policies on developing the resource, the NDP leader also refused to take the bait and repeat his accusation that the heated development of oilsands has imposed on Canada a case of Dutch disease that's killing the nation's manufacturing sector.

Redford knocked for missing Mulcair visit 43

EDMONTON -- On a mission to shore up Alberta's position on the domestic and international scene, Premier Alison Redford took heat Wednesday for her decision to waive a meeting with national NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, flying instead to an exclusive economic think-tank.

Deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk was set to meet with the oilsands' noisiest opponent during Thursday's visit as Redford heads to the Bilderberg Conference -- an invite-only annual meeting of movers and shakers in international economics.

No media coverage is allowed of the elite event in Chantilly, Va., which Redford and a staffer will attend on the taxpayers' dime at a cost of $19,000.

Alberta takes offence to Mulcair ahead of his visit

Foes, allies and cautious tour-guides await Thomas Mulcair on his Alberta visit – just after the release of a report supporting the views that landed the NDP leader in hot water.

Mr. Mulcair has long been an outspoken critic of the oil sands, but triggered a war of words with three Western premiers this month by saying Canada’s energy sector has driven up the dollar, overheated the economy and hurt the manufacturing sector.

Academics are split on the issue, but the premiers – none of them New Democrats – nonetheless fired back at Mr. Mulcair, whose trip was announced shortly after.

Nanaimo soldier unhappy with 'hypocritical' politician

A Nanaimo soldier who was struck in the head with an axe while fighting terrorism in Afghanistan said the Canadian government loses credibility by calling environmentalists "eco-terrorists."

Trevor Greene penned a letter to the editor published in a mainstream Toronto newspaper calling Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his use of the terrorist label to reduce criticism of the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Greene was struck in the Afghanistan village of Shinkay March 4, 2006 after he took off his helmet as a sign of respect.

Musqueam in Vancouver defend sacred burial site against condos

"Protecting the sacred burial sites of our ancestors is the most fundamental responsibility that we have to those who have gone before us," explains Grand Chief Stewart Phillip from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

c̓əsnaʔəm, also known as the Marpole Midden, was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1933. It contains the remains of a Coast Salish winter village as well as artefacts and undisturbed intact burials.

Part of the Midden has been the centre of a growing controversy after condo developers began work on a site in the 1300 block of South West Marine Drive where the intact remains have been found, including those of two infants and another body.

After a protest by the Musqueam Indian Band in March, work at the site was temporarily stopped. But then, in April, it resumed again.

Oil sands fuel think-tank debate over Dutch disease

Is the boom a boon or a bane?

Spurred in part by New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair’s political rhetoric, Canadians are debating the benefits of the oil sands boom, and whether its impact is a blessing or curse for the rest of the country.

Dueling reports issued Wednesday looked at the same data and came to dramatically different conclusions about whether Canada is now suffering from a version of the dreaded Dutch disease.

In a largely negative assessment, the Calgary-based environmental group Pembina Institute warns of “oil sands fever, a strain that is creating clean winners and loser in the Canadian economy and could pose significant risk to Canada’s competitiveness in the emerging clean energy economy.”

Who Will Benefit from Haiti’s Gold Rush? Haitian Government Embraces U.S., Canadian Mining Firms

After years of rumors that mining companies were exploring in Haiti, Canadian and U.S. corporations now confirm they have permits to mine gold in more than 1,000 square miles in northern Haiti. Haiti’s new prime minister says the estimated $20 billion worth of minerals in Haiti’s hills could help liberate it from dependency on foreign aid and rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake. But many worry the mines will be a boom for foreign investors and a bust for local communities. We speak to Jane Regan, lead author of "Gold Rush in Haiti: Who Will Get Rich?" The report by Haiti Grassroots Watch was published Wednesday in The Guardian and Haïti Liberté. "You’ve got a perfect storm brewing whereby you’re looking at giant pit mines in the north, in a country that’s already environmentally devastated, and giant pit mines being run by Canadian and American companies," Regan says. "Most of the money that’s made and most of the gold that’s dug up will go straight north."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Canada not doomed to demographic crisis

In four years, Canada will undergo a demographic revolution – a change also known as the “crossover”: the day when there are more seniors than children. The impact on the country’s economic growth, productivity, innovation, pensions, not to mention health care, will be monumental.

This transformation has been under way for several decades, as women became more educated and then chose to delay or avoid child-bearing. The trend then replicates itself and becomes harder to reverse: with fewer children today, there will be fewer women of childbearing age in 20 years.

Research shows, however, that effective policies can counter falling birth rates. If the government and private sector embrace strategies that improve work-family balance and gender equality, they can remove artificial barriers to having and raising children.

Only radical thinking will solve environmental problems

Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of the non-profit Architecture for Humanity, had just finished presenting at a design conference in Vancouver. Design, specifically architecture, can be a powerful tool when tackling some of the world’s most daunting problems, he had argued. “It was a very inspirational presentation,” remembers architect Darryl Condon, who was in attendance that day in April, 2010.

Then, during the question-and-answer session, a conference-goer rose. “That’s all fine,” Mr. Condon remembers him saying, “but I’m from India and with our emerging middle class, we expect as many as 500-million new automobiles in the system in the next 30 years.”

An awkward silence fell over the room.

Bipartisan-Backed Bill Would Give Emigrant Savings Bank A $300 Million Boost

On Thursday, the House Financial Services Committee will vote on a one-sentence, bipartisan-backed bill that will save a major political player $300 million.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), will effectively allow Emigrant Savings Bank of New York to evade a portion of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that affects banks with over $15 billion in assets. If passed, the measure would prevent the bank from losing approximately $300 million. American Banker reports:

    Emigrant currently has $10.5 billion of assets, but on Dec. 31, 2009 it had more than $15 billion. As a result, it's subject to the Collins Amendment, a section of Dodd-Frank which prevents banks above the $15 billion asset threshold from counting trust preferred securities as part of their Tier 1 capital. The House bill would push back the capital provision's enactment date to March 31, 2010, by which point Emigrant had fallen below the $15 billion mark.

James Gorman, Morgan Stanley CEO, Defends Bank's Handling Of Facebook IPO

The chief of the bank that some say had a hand in botching Facebook's IPO isn't apologizing for anything.

James Gorman, chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, the bank that was the lead underwriter for Facebook's IPO, said in a meeting on Tuesday that Morgan Stanley worked "100 percent within the rules," the Wall Street Journal reports.

He said that though it was "disappointing" that Facebook's stock price has plunged since the IPO, "speculation of nefarious activity" during the preparation for the IPO was false, according to the WSJ. He said he was not "aware of any dissent" about Facebook's steep IPO price among the banks that underwrote Facebook's IPO.

Manuge helped disabled veterans — now it’s Ottawa’s turn

Every now and then, the little guy comes out on top.

On Tuesday, in a replay of the biblical David-versus-Goliath legend, Dennis Manuge of Musquodoboit Harbour emerged as the winner after nearly nine years of opposing a federal government clawback of his Defence Department disability benefits.

After five years of being told no in his efforts to end the clawback, Manuge joined a group of disabled veterans in filing a class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

Earlier this year, the Federal Court brought down a decision in favour of Manuge and 4,500 other disabled veterans. And on Tuesday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney announced they will not appeal.

3 Years After George Tiller’s Murder, Reproductive Rights Face New Legislative Attacks, Hate Crimes

Three years ago today, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was shot dead while attending church in Wichita, Kansas. Reproductive healthcare providers remain the target of violence amid a wave of new legislation curtailing access to safe abortions. Last week, two clinics in Georgia and a women’s organization in New Orleans were set ablaze. Today, the House of Representatives votes on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act to ban abortions based on the sex of a fetus. Bills are also in the works to ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. We speak with Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation and abortion provider Dr. Willie Parker. "It’s in [Dr. Tiller’s] spirit that I seek to maintain that level of commitment to women in their care," Parker says. Addressing the latest wave of attacks against reproductive healthcare, Saporta comments: "There’s an unprecedented number of bills being enacted in the states to limit women’s access to abortion care. And it’s part of an overall agenda that’s very well articulated by those who oppose abortion: if they can’t make abortion illegal again in this country, they intend to make it inaccessible for women."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Mulcair, Oliver spar over NDP leader's Alberta trip

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says oilsands tailing ponds are being cleaned up to the point "you'll be able to drink from them" and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's only interest is in seeing the oilsands shut down.

Oliver made the comments as Mulcair prepared to tour Alberta's oilsands and meet with the region's political leaders.

Mulcair, who has criticized the government's handling of the oilsands' impact on the economy, said he wants to create a discussion about sustainable development with his trip to Alberta.

"We're hoping to be able to continue working on issues of sustainable development. We have a view that the way [Canada is] doing things right now doesn't internalize the cost — we're not applying the basic rule of polluter pay," Mulcair told reporters on Parliament Hill Wednesday.

Dutch Disease denial: Inflation, politics and tar

Alberta premiere Alison Redford said NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was "divisive and ill-informed." Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said Mulcair was "risking Canadian economic advantage for the sake of politics."

Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said, " I think his (Mulcair's) logic is off and doesn't make sense." Former federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion said, "Mr. Mulcair's comments are factually wrong and politically ill-advised. We don't need another divisive leader -- we already have Stephen Harper."

Media pundits jumped into the fray accusing Mulcair of playing a diabolical game, launching a political jeremiad to write-off the West and establish a beachhead in Ontario with which he could put together a winning formula for the next election. What was his sin? Mulcair suggested that Canada suffers from Dutch disease.

What is this disease whereof they speak?

Never mind the Dutch, we need a cure for Greek disease

Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair alleges that Canada is suffering from the so-called Dutch disease – a divisive and misleading diagnosis that is readily disproven and hopefully will be rejected by Canadians east and west.

According to Mr. Mulcair, the strong demand for petroleum produced from oil sands is largely responsible for the high dollar and the decline in manufacturing jobs, especially in Central Canada.

The facts, however, (as pointed out in a recent study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy) are this:

    Exchange-rate movements are being driven by high demand for all commodities, not just oil, including strong demand for the output of the mining sectors of Ontario and Quebec.
    Fifty-five out of 80 factory sectors in Canada are either unaffected by or even benefit from the high dollar, with no appreciable damage being done by a strong dollar to the food, auto, aerospace or heavy-industry sectors.
    The decline in manufacturing jobs in Canada is primarily a result of low multi-factor productivity and intense international competition, particularly from Asia.

Spill sends 22,000 barrels of oil mix into Alberta muskeg

A huge spill has released 22,000 barrels of oil and water into muskeg in the far northwest of Alberta.

The spill ranks among the largest in North America in recent years, a period that has seen a series of high-profile accidents that have undermined the energy industry’s safety record. The Enbridge Inc. pipeline rupture that leaked oil near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, for example, spilled an estimated 19,500 barrels.

The most recent spill was discovered May 19 emanating from pipe belonging to Pace Oil & Gas Ltd. (PCE-T3.25-0.24-6.88%), a small energy company that produces about 15,000 barrels a day, roughly half of that oil.

Re-education of David Wilks a lesson on the decline of parliament

Nobody gets killed for his beliefs in our democracy; nobody is jailed or beaten for speaking his mind. Nevertheless, there are moments when the curtain is pulled back, and we see the interplay of power and subordination in its rawest form — the humiliations, the lies, and most humiliating of all the obligatory lie, the forced confession, in which some poor schmuck is dragged in front of the cameras and required to state that day is night, even when, especially when, the whole world knows that day is not night, and knows that he knows day is not night but has been forced to say it anyway just to rub his nose in it, or rather to rub our noses in it, to assert the primacy of power, not just over poor schmucks, but over truth itself — and it all looks just a little bit Darkness At Noon .

Red and orange ridings feel Tories’ EI blues

MONTREAL—Superimpose Canada’s election map over the country’s employment-challenged areas and what you find is a federal government that is tightening the benefits of seasonal workers from the safe distance of suburban ramparts.

With only a few exceptions, the areas hardest hit by the proposed Conservative changes to the treatment of frequent employment insurance users sit squarely in opposition territory.

That is particularly, but not exclusively, true of Atlantic Canada — a region where the Conservatives hold only two of 11 seats in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, and where less affluent ridings of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick tend to be in NDP or Liberal hands.

Northern Ontario (minus Thunder Bay and Sudbury) is Ontario’s EI hot spot. As it happens, the region is dominated by the NDP.

The Real War 1939-1945

On its fiftieth anniversary, how should we think of the Second World War? What is its contemporary meaning? One possible meaning, reflected in every line of what follows, is obscured by that oddly minimizing term "conventional war." With our fears focused on nuclear destruction, we tend to be less mindful of just what conventional war between modern industrial powers is like. This article describes such war, in a stark, unromantic manner

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE SECOND WORLD War that moved the troops to constant verbal subversion and contempt? What was it that made the Americans, especially, so fertile with insult and cynicism, calling women Marines BAMS (broad-assed Marines) and devising SNAFU, with its offspring TARFU ("Things are really fucked up"), FUBAR ("Fucked up beyond all recognition"), and the perhaps less satisfying FUBB ("Fucked up beyond belief")? It was not just the danger and fear, the boredom and uncertainty and loneliness and deprivation. It was the conviction that optimistic publicity and euphemism had rendered their experience so falsely that it would never be readily communicable. They knew that in its representation to the laity, what was happening to them was systematically sanitized and Norman Rockwellized, not to mention Disneyfied. They knew that despite the advertising and publicity, where it counted their arms and equipment were worse than the Germans'. They knew that their automatic rifles (First World War vintage) were slower and clumsier, and they knew that the Germans had a much better light machine gun. They knew, despite official assertions to the contrary, that the Germans had real smokeless powder for their small arms and that they did not. They knew that their own tanks, both American and British, were ridiculously underarmed and underarmored, so that they would inevitably be destroyed in an open encounter with an equal number of German panzers. They knew that the anti-tank mines supplied to them became unstable in subfreezing weather, and that truckloads of them blew up in the winter of 1944-1945. And they knew that the single greatest weapon of the war, the atomic bomb excepted, was the German 88-mm flat-trajectory gun, which brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers. The Allies had nothing as good, despite the fact that one of them had designated itself the world's greatest industrial power. The troops' disillusion and their ironic response, in song and satire and sullen contempt, came from knowing that the home front then could (and very likely historiography later would) be aware of none of these things.

Rainbow Lake Oil Spill 2012: 22,000 Barrels Spill In Northwestern Part Of Alberta

An oil spill that went undetected for days has released 22,000 barrels of oil into northeastern Alberta’s muskeg, news sources report.

The spill, an emulsion composed of oil and water, came from a waste disposal line owned by Pace Oil and Gas, and was evidently only discovered when an aircraft from another oil company made a routine flyover in the area on May 19, the Calgary Herald reports.

The spill is “among the largest in North America in recent years,” reports the Globe and Mail.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Refugees will die if health care cuts go ahead Ontario nurses say

Ontario nurses are urging the Harper government to scrap its plans to reduce health care coverage for refugee claimants or face the fact people will die.

Ottawa announced in April it will strip thousands of refugees of health-care coverage starting in July unless their conditions pose a threat to public health.

“Ontario’s nurses, like health-care professionals from across the country, are gravely concerned that these dangerous changes will threaten the lives and well-being of people who have already experienced trauma and hardship before they arrived in Canada,” Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, said in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair invades enemy territory

Tom Mulcair brazenly parachutes into enemy territory Wednesday.

The NDP leader is backed only by a tiny band of subversives, his energy critic, Peter Julian, his environment critic and deputy leader, Megan Leslie, and his lone Alberta MP, Linda Duncan.

As he journeys to Fort McMurray, he drags with him accusations he is “lecturing” Alberta on the oilsands, is seeking to divide the country and is carving up the nation in some Ottawa bunker, pitting region versus region, rubbing his hands in glee as he counts central Canadian seats on his way to forming the next government.

He is on the agenda of the western premiers’ meeting in Edmonton and is the subject of a politically motivated government motion condemning him in the British Columbia legislature.

Enough already with the wedge politics.

Ottawa considers high-altitude drones for Arctic surveillance

OTTAWA - The Harper government is considering a proposal to buy at least three high-altitude, unmanned aerial vehicles in what could be an attempt to salvage its Arctic sovereignty ambitions.

The pitch was made by U.S. defence contractor Northrop Grumman and involves modifying its existing Global Hawk drone, which can operate at 20,000 metres, to meet the rigours of flying in the Far North.

Many of the Conservative government's plans to establish a presence in the rapidly thawing region, including the construction of military icebreakers and the establishment of a deepwater port, are behind schedule.

Peter Kent giving public “incorrect” info, says NDP

OTTAWA — Changes to environmental reviews of industrial projects in recent years are already “preventing process duplication,” says an internal government presentation obtained by Postmedia News.

The Harper government has publicly argued reforms are necessary to Canada’s environmental protection laws because of too much duplication in reviews at the federal and provincial levels that cause delays, but the internal document, prepared by the Canadian Environmental Assessment (CEA) Agency last fall, for a joint presentation that was to be delivered by Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to Conservative MPs, suggested duplication was no longer a significant problem.

“Amendments made in 2010 have made the CEA Agency responsible for most comprehensive studies; this change is yielding positive results as all agency-led comprehensive studies have started in alignment with provincial reviews, preventing process duplication,” said the presentation, dated Sept. 6, 2011 and released by Environment Canada through access to information legislation.

Israel mulls ‘unilateral action' in West Bank

Defence Minister Ehud Barak abruptly proposed on Wednesday that Israel consider “unilateral action” if long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians don't resume and produce a deal — suggesting Israel may be thinking of withdrawing from part of the West Bank, as it did from the Gaza Strip seven years ago.

Echoing sentiments voiced Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Barak warned that time was running out to reach an accord.

“Israel cannot afford to tread water,” he said in a speech before a security conference. If a deal “proves to be impossible, we have to consider a provisional arrangement or even unilateral action.”

Push is on to get Premier Dalton McGuinty to testify at ORNGE hearing

Premier Dalton McGuinty would be forced to testify before an all-party committee of MPPs investigating ORNGE if a Progressive Conservative motion passes.

Tory MPP Frank Klees said Wednesday he would make the unusual move to compel McGuinty to face a grilling at a legislative committee.

During question period, a grim-faced McGuinty ducked repeated questions about whether he would appear.

Klees is a member of the public accounts committee investigating the air ambulance agency’s questionable business contracts, high salaries and odd real estate deals. ORNGE receives $150 million in public funds each year to operate.

“I am going to be drafting a motion and I’ll present it to the clerk today,” Klees told reporters. “The people of Ontario deserve to hear from their premier. This has now reached the doorstep of the premier’s office.”

Child's 'Ain't No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven' Church Performance Goes Viral

Disturbing footage of what appears to be a young child's choral performance is going viral in the blogosphere.

The congregation in the church, which has been identified as the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church in Greensburg, Ind., gives a standing ovation after the child sings, "I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong...ain't no homos gonna make it to heaven."

A number of high profile lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bloggers and allies have re-posted the video, including Towleroad and Joe. My. God. All have noted that the child was undoubtedly coached by adults for his performance.

"Interview with a Vampire" author Anne Rice also posted the video to her Facebook page, noting, "In this country, Christians can teach toddlers to hate and to persecute, and we, through the automatic tax exemption for churches, foot the bill."

Of course, the video is merely the latest in what has become an onslaught of anti-gay, right-wing declarations.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: ---

Murfreesboro Mosque Construction Will Be Stopped, Rules Chancellor Robert Corlew

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Construction of a Tennessee mosque that has been strongly opposed by critics of Islam likely will be stopped after a judge ruled Tuesday that local officials didn't give the public adequate notice before the meeting where it was approved.

The mosque was one of several Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York's ground zero.

Chancellor Robert Corlew found that the Rutherford County Planning Commission didn't do enough to inform the public of the May 2010 meeting when it approved the site plan for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

GOP groups plan record $1 billion blitz

Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations.

That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections - twice what they had been expected to commit.

Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago. And the $1 billion total surpasses the $750 million that Barack Obama, one of the most prolific fundraisers ever, collected for his 2008 campaign.

Income Inequality Keeps Poorer Americans Away from the Polls

It’s no secret that money and politics enjoy a nasty love affair in this country. And as Ari Berman has written here, the problem has gotten even worse this cycle after the ill-fated Citizens United decision unleashed the power of Super PACs. As he reports, campaigns are increasingly reliant on that money, yet “Super PACs on both sides of the aisle are financed by the 1 percent of the 1 percent.” That means the rich have an even more outsized impact on the outcome of the election.

At the same time, it’s been hard to miss the GOP’s relentless campaign to roll back voting rights in the name of eliminating the (mostly imaginary) threat of fraud. Many of those tactics will severely impact low-income voters and likely suppress their turnout in November, handing even more power over to the 1 percent.

Under Obama, Men Killed by Drones Are Presumed to Be Terrorists

After interviewing dozens of current and former White House advisers, the New York Times breaks a lot of news in its story on President Obama's secret kill list, perhaps none of it more jaw-dropping than new details describing how the U.S. now calculates the number of innocents killed by our drones. What innovative method did our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president implement?

"It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent," the newspaper reports. "Counter-terrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good."

For those tracing Obama's career arc, we've gone from his insistence, as a U.S. senator, that it would be unjust to try accused terrorists in a military tribunal with an attorney, to his judgment, as president, that if one member of Al Qaeda is someplace, every guy in vague physical proximity automatically meets the convenient "innocent until 'probably up to no good'" standard.

No Disclosure, Please, We're Contractors

Earlier this month, the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act (KPOFCA), which would prohibit the government from forcing federal contractors to disclose campaign spending and lobbying expenditures as a condition for keeping their contracts. In response, 14 watchdog groups are urging senators to block the bill, condemning it as a "pay-to-play" political maneuver that would make it easier for corporations to peddle influence in the shadows.

The bill is the latest chapter in a debate over transparency for the companies that rake in more than $536 billion in federal contracts annually. In April 2011, the Obama administration drafted an executive order (PDF) that would have required corporations bidding on federal contracts to disclose any political spending greater than $5,000, including money given to dark-money groups such as the Chamber of Commerce that do not disclose their donors. Following staunch opposition from Republicans and the Chamber, President Obama hasn't acted on the order.

Can BPA Make You Fat?

The food industry likes to portray obesity as a matter of personal responsibility: People who eat too much gain weight, and it's their own fault.

That view willfully neglects the role that industry marketing, particularly to children, plays on shaping people's food habits. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that exposure to certain industrial chemicals in food, often at very low levels, changes the way people metabolize calories and can lead to weight gain. While no one would say that these chemicals, known as obesogens, are the sole cause of rising rates of obesity in the United States, they may well be contributing significantly to it.

How do You Like it Now, Boomers? You're to Blame for the Quebec Protests

Canada's baby boomer-run media has been pretending that Quebec's student protests are only about tuition, when that's merely symbolic of the boot the older generation is placing upon the necks of their kids. This misinformation campaign reached its culmination with Maclean's magazine's angrily incorrect cover "Quebec's New Ruling Class: How a group of entitled students went to war and shut down a province. Over $325."

The dollar amount is meant to dismiss the student protestors out of hand -- the actual issue is debt and the austerity measures that fuel it, the 75 percent tuition hike is simply the straw that broke this particular camel's back.

But the keyword here is "entitled." Kinda sounds like something the WWII generation would have sneered at the 60s-era boomers, however this is about more than simply growing up and becoming "The Man."

Paul Boyd Police Shooting Death: Colleague Hopes New Video Will Bring Answers

VANCOUVER - A colleague and friend of a man gunned down by police in a tony Vancouver shopping district five years ago says he hopes a new video will finally lead to some answers and some accountability.

"I still, after five years, do not understand this. And I don't understand why there hasn't been some sort of justice brought upon this," said Danny Antonucci, an animator who worked side-by-side with Paul Boyd until the day Boyd was killed.

"That video is absolutely heart-breaking. It's heart-breaking. To see Paul crawling on his hands and knees and to have some ignorant person shoot a gun into his head, I mean, it's just insane.

Income Inequality Study Shatters Some Stereotypes Of The One Per Cent

In the months since the Occupy movement first popularized the rallying cry of the "99 per cent," top income earners have often been characterized as a men’s club of greedy bankers and out-of-touch millionaires, who bask in their riches as the lowly masses toil for pennies.

A new study on income inequality in Canada challenges some of those stereotypes, and leaves others intact. While members of the one per cent are overwhelmingly male, they are almost as likely to be doctors as bankers. And though they have indeed been taking a greater slice of the income pie, the majority are hardly layabouts, putting in more hours on the job than the average worker.

Authored by a group of University of British Columbia economists and slated for publication in the June issue of the journal Canadian Public Policy, the paper paints a diverse picture of the one per cent -- a segment of the population you may not know as well as you think.

How does a $774-million deficit become a $90-million surplus?

How did a $774-million hole in the city’s operating budget become a $90-million surplus?

Toronto is expected to finish the year with $90-million to spare. Just a year ago, Mayor Rob Ford’s administration was issuing dire warnings about the need to cut costs in order to plug a $774-million funding shortfall in the city’s 2012 budget.

Councillor Doug Ford says the extra money shows his brother the mayor’s austerity efforts worked.

“Through efficiencies we found savings, through labour contracts and throughout the whole system,” he said. “Anyone when we first got elected who said where’s the gravy? We’ve proved in 18 months where the gravy is and there’s barrels of gravy still down here.”

Ottawa’s environmental-review overhaul hits tough hurdles

The federal government’s insistence that cabinet should have final say over resource projects such as Enbridge Inc.’s (ENB-T40.88-0.02-0.05%) Northern Gateway pipeline is stirring opposition that could undermine its effort to streamline environmental approvals.

First nations groups in British Columbia are poised to launch legal challenges if the government intervenes in the ongoing National Energy Board review of the Gateway project through legislation now before the House of Commons.

And critics say the Conservative government is politicizing the entire review process by giving cabinet the power to overturn any future NEB ruling that blocks a resource development on environmental grounds.

The lingering gloom of recession

Politically, the recession has upset some systems and paralyzed others, hollowed out the political centre and encouraged street demonstrations in some countries to protest against elites, established ways and existing institutions.

How recession played out politically varied from country to country, and it was by no means the only factor in upsetting the political order. In some cases, as in southern Europe and to a lesser extent in Canada, it contributed to new political dynamics. In others, such as the United States, it accentuated trends already evident.

Economically, the recession enfeebled the state, creating new deficits and debt, and imposed burdens of joblessness, defaulted mortgages and widespread uncertainty on millions of people. Politically, the recession forced a debate about the role of the state, with many governments and financial markets demanding that it shrink, but those who depend on its protection or help demanding that it remain intact or get bigger.

Feds to unveil $10M in anti-terror projects

The government will unveil details today of the first six counter-terrorism research projects to be funded as part of a $10-million commitment made nearly a year ago to mark the 26th anniversary of the Air India bombing, Postmedia News has learned.

Last June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled a memorial to the 329 mostly Canadian victims of the doomed flight in Montreal and launched the Kanishka Project, a five-year, multimillion-dollar investment in new research to prevent terrorism.

Postmedia News has learned that the winning projects follow an initial call for proposals.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will announce the first round of funding today.

A second call for research proposals recently closed and a third call for proposals is set to close at the end of October.

Original Article
Source: windsor star
Author: Postmedia News