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.]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flying Blind: Inside the Federal Reserve's Damning 2006 Transcript

There is something utterly engrossing about witnessing the spectacle of blithe ignorance in the face of impending doom.

So it is utterly engrossing, not to mention frightening, to read the January 2006 transcript of the Federal Reserve's eerily calm meeting at the dawn of the housing market's slow-motion meltdown. Consider some of the inauspicious details. Days after a sharp GDP decline, the Fed broadly considered the warning sign a statistical aberration. They characterized the housing crisis as a limited risk. Members praised Greenspan's tenure not only as unblemished, but also as a launching pad for years of steady growth. It's a grim scene, and it reminded me of another spookily casual transcript -- from the cockpit of doomed Air France flight 447.

On June 1, 2009, a plane carrying 228 people plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, in what became one of the greatest mysteries in modern aviation. How did a "technologically state-of-the art airliner" vanish into the water? As Popular Mechanics explained, it began with a storm and ended with simple human error.

Air France 447 had flown head first into a large system of thunderstorms. The captain left the cockpit to take a brief nap (he would return before the end), leaving the plane in the hands of thoroughly trained pilots. The time was 2:02 AM. Fifteen minutes later, everyone on board would be dead in the ocean.

Very soon, ice accumulation began to interfere with the speed sensors. An inauspicious aroma seeped into the cockpit. The pilots reacted with a bizarre combination of hasty actions and lazy thinking. When the plane had stalled, the pilots ignored the loud stall alarms. Their reaction -- to pull back on the stick -- was the exact opposite of what they were supposed to do in the situation. They assumed the plane's computer would prevent them from making a catastrophic mistake. But they failed to see that the computer had switched into an alternative mode that made it easier for them to stall the aircraft 30,000 feet above the ocean.
As the pilots pushed the plane's nose higher and higher in the sky, the plane did stall -- and fall. But none of pilots ever used the word "stall" in the transcript, including the captain, who returned in time to stop the crash, but failed. Nobody even diagnosed the problem until precisely 2:13 AM and 42 seconds in the black box log. It was too late. Forty-eight seconds later, AF447 and all 228 passengers hit the ocean.

And so, a highly advanced cockpit stocked with highly trained professions failed to avoid an utterly avoidable tragedy because of a mix of confusing conditions, overconfidence, and human error. I hope that, by laying out their circumstances so broadly, you'll understand where I see the parallels with the 2006 Fed meeting.

Harper Should Lobby for Free Trade with China

Canada Post has just issued its annual Lunar New Year stamp series, featuring a wide-eyed dragon that looks more surprised than menacing.

Coming after a year that saw a devastating earthquake in Japan, political upheaval in the Middle East, economic crisis in Europe, and the emergence of the "Occupy" movement, it is not hard to see why the dragon might be reluctant to take its turn in the lunar calendar.

As if the world did not have enough uncertainty to deal with, 2011 ended with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, ushering a period of leadership transition in a perennially insecure regime that is armed to the teeth.

The United States is also going through a leadership transition -- in terms of its place in an increasingly multipolar world -- as well as domestically, as the presidential race dominates American politics and policy for the next 11 months. Recent statements by the Obama administration -- on the foreign policy "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region and on a defence strategy that is increasingly focused on China -- open a new chapter in the contest for influence in Asia.

China will also see leadership renewal in 2012, and while the contest is less public and more predictable, Chinese leadership hopefuls are susceptible to political posturing and populist actions, as are their counterparts in the United States. The risk of trade conflict has risen in the last year, and will likely continue to mount in an environment of sluggish world growth.

S&P Cuts France's Debt Rating To AA, Finance Ministry Says

PARIS — France was stripped Friday of its top-notch credit rating and rumors swirled in financial markets that its debt-burdened neighbors would be next, complicating Europe's efforts to solve its financial crisis.

Finance Minister Francois Baroin told a French TV station that France had been downgraded by one notch by credit rating agency Standard & Poor's. That would mean a rating of AA+, the same as the United States since it was downgraded last summer.

Rumors coursed through the markets that Austria and Italy could be downgraded next, perhaps as early as the end of the day's stock trading in New York. S&P had warned 15 European nations in December that they were at risk for a downgrade.

Baroin said France had received a change to its rating "like most of the eurozone," referring to the 17 European nations that use the euro currency, but there was no confirmation from S&P that any other nation had been downgraded Friday.

France is the second-largest contributor behind Germany to Europe's financial rescue fund. The fund still has a rating of AAA, which means that it can borrow on the bond market at low rates.

Canada Manufacturing Jobs Disappearing At Twice The Pace Of U.S.: Report

Canada lost industrial plants at twice the pace of the United States last year, a new report says.

Industrial Info Resources, a business intelligence group, reported on Friday that Canada saw 79 industrial plant closings in 2011, costing nearly 14,000 jobs, while the U.S. saw 430 plant closings and 63,000 jobs lost.

Given the relative sizes of the U.S. and Canadian economies, this indicates that the pace of industrial plant closings, as well as job losses, is about twice as high in Canada as in the U.S.

Ontario led the decline in industrial plants, shedding 33 of them for a total of 7,853 jobs lost, the report stated. Quebec shed 23 plants, costing nearly 3,000 jobs. Western Canada and Atlantic Canada lost fewer than 2,000 industrial plant jobs each.

The Author of SOPA Is a Copyright Violator

US Congressman and poor-toupee-color-chooser Lamar Smith is the guy who authored the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA, as I'm sure you know, is the shady bill that will introduce way harsher penalties for companies and individuals caught violating copyright laws online (including making the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime which you could actually go to jail for). If the bill passes, it will destroy the internet and, ultimately, turn the world into Mad Max (for more info, go here).

I decided to check that everything on Lamar's official campaign website was copyright-cleared and on the level. Lamar is using several stock images on his site, two of which I tracked back to the same photographic agency. I contacted the agency to make sure he was paying to use them, but was told that it's very difficult for them to actually check to see if someone has permission to use their images. (Great news, copyright violators!) However, seeing as they're both from the same agency and are unwatermarked, it seems fairly likely that he is the only person on the entire internet who is actually paying to use a stock image (and he'd be an idiot not to).

Mega-Quarry: Between a rock and a hard place

As the plot of potato land slated for a 2,316-acre limestone pit in Melancthon, north of Shelburne, settles into a deep freeze and a historic enviro assessment cranks up, anti-quarry campaigners are catching  their breath.

The movement against the Highland Companies project, with its rallies and miles-long marches organized by a coalition of farmers, urban foodies and enviros, was one of the great activist surprises of 2011.

But many who participated in those protests may not have realized that a quieter process was already unfolding: the creation of an enviro certification agreement with aggregate firms that would make their earth-gouging projects palatable to the most hardcore of greens.

It’s a tall order, made taller by the fact that the biggest, baddest player of them all – Highland, with its megaquarry dreams – isn’t participating in the discussions. But it’s also complicated by an ongoing tactical split among ecos working on the labelling effort over how to get buy-in from the more than 3,700 licensed quarries in the province.

The idea of developing standards for a sustainable seal of approval isn’t exactly new. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies wood and paper products, the Canada Green Building Council green buildings. So if green groups can set terms with loggers and developers, why not with pit and quarry operators?

Rob Ford’s high stakes union gamble

For a split second at the Thursday, January 5, meeting of council’s Employee and Labour Relations Committee, it seemed councillors couldn’t believe what they were reading on the agendas in front of them.

The committee had gathered to discuss strategy – how best to put the boots to city unions in ongoing contract talks. The contracts of four city unions expired December 31, including CUPE Local 416, which represents 6,000 outside workers, CUPE Local 79, which represents 23,000 inside workers, and the library workers’ union.

But it was the good news on the labour front that was throwing them off, creating a PR problem given all that Ford’s allies have been saying to cast the unions as no-good greedy pigs getting fat at the public trough.

Seems those same unions are saving us money, a cool $800K to be exact, thanks to the fact that workplace grievances are down 13 per cent and workplace injury claims down by a whopping 15 per cent. Holy crap.

The interests of Enbridge are not the same as the interests of Canada

On January 9, 2012, Canadian Minister of Natural Resource Joe Oliver suggested that Canada is faced with "an historic choice ... regarding our energy policies." He clearly indicated his government's commitment to "expand our trade with the fast-growing Asian economies." He, however, suggested this vital "national economic interest" was under threat by "environmentalists and other radical groups." Oliver argued that these radicals "hijack our regulatory system" by "stacking public hearings with bodies," thus causing project delays. Further, Oliver claimed that these radicals "use funding from foreign special-interest groups to undermine Canada's national economic interest."

These comments were contentious, made on the eve of the beginning of review hearings by the federally-appointed Joint Review Panel into a proposed pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Alberta to a Kitimat terminal for overseas export. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, as the pipeline is known, is proposed to transport 525,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen daily to port.

On January 11, the second day of the review panel, these comments from the Conservative government remained a central contention for local interveners. Cheryl Brown, a member of the local environmental group Douglas Channel Watch, spoke of her "dismay that the federal government has in recent days taken to ... intimidation and bullying."

Brown expressed her disgust that government leaders "are calling well-intentioned people 'radical ideologists.'" She denounced the government's insinuation that local citizens speaking to their concerns constituted "an interference in the process." Many other local residents, as well as the Haisla speakers the previous day, echoed Brown's concerns.

It is dismaying that the government is prioritizing its own rendering of the national interest over public concerns. Certainly public reviews need to consider the concerns of local communities that would be most impacted by development. However, this is not simply a competition between local people and the national interest. Nor is it an issue of national interests against international concerns.

The Liberals and the muddled middle - Whatever they do, they’ll still be wedged between the Tories and NDP

If any prominent Liberal might be expected to think of the party as a family affair, it would have to be Montreal MP Justin Trudeau. Heading into the federal party’s convention in Ottawa this week, though, the son of the iconic former prime minister, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, says Liberals must use this opportunity to start projecting a new, decidedly non-familial party image. “The sense is that the party has too long looked at itself as a family, or a club, or a very strict hierarchy,” Trudeau told Maclean’s. “We need to make a shift to being much more of a movement. It’s hard to join a family.”

Talk of wrenching the Liberal mindset from cliquish to welcoming, its processes from top-down to bottom-up, might sound like mere hopeful rhetoric from a party laid low in the election last May 2. But the 1,500 or so hard-core Liberals expected to attend the Jan. 13-15 biennial convention will be debating concrete ideas for changing the rules about who gets to shape their party’s direction. The key proposal would give designated supporters—Canadians who would have to sign on to Liberal principles, but not be required to buy memberships—the right to vote in the party’s leadership race, and maybe at nomination meetings for candidates at the riding level.

It remains to be seen if the paid-up Liberal members who make the effort to travel to Ottawa for the convention agree to empower far less committed supporters. The idea is being championed by the party’s national board. After last spring’s drubbing at the polls, hardly a Liberal official or MP left standing denies that the Conservatives and New Democrats do a better job of keeping their bases energized and engaged. Instead of calling for their party to just copy Tory and NDP approaches, however, senior Grits are arguing they must chart a different course from their more ideologically motivated adversaries.

Harper’s slow boat to China sets sail

The question before us is how Stephen Harper, of all people, came to give up on the United States and embrace Red China. It’s been a long time coming. Let’s have a look.

Here’s the Prime Minister more than four years ago, complaining to our John Geddes in a pre-Christmas 2007 interview about the deterioration in Canada’s relations with the United States:

“We continue to see what we call the thickening of the border. The building up of more regulations, new agricultural fees. And to be blunt with you, this has happened despite a good working relationship between my government and the American administration. I’m not optimistic this trend will be reversed. In fact, I’m certain this trend will not be reversed in the lifetime of the current American administration.”

That was when George W. Bush was still president. Could things get better under the next guy? “I’m far from sure.”

What then? “I’ll just tell you the cabinet has had some serious discussion about what we’ve got to do longer term to really restore the special Canadian and American relationship . . . And if we can’t restore it we’re going to have to think through carefully whether that requires some long-term rethinking over our other strategies. We keep resting on the assumption that we can defer or delay more border thickening. But that’s a strictly defensive strategy. If we can’t reverse that trend we have to come to terms with the fact that that may be a reality and how we’re going to come to deal with it as a country.”

A year later, Barack Obama was elected as Bush’s successor. The crucial time for relationship-building is before the inauguration, when cabinet secretaries and White House grandees are freshly appointed. But in Ottawa the coalition crisis and its aftermath ate December and January of 2008-09. Obama’s trip to Ottawa in February was barely more than a photo op. “We’re not going to have a lot to propose,” a Harper spokesman told me before that trip. “He’s the new guy, not us.”

Toronto union president offers to flat-line wages for thousands of outside workers

The Toronto public-sector union on the precipice of work stoppage has played an unexpected gambit in its negotiations with the city.

Mark Ferguson, President of CUPE Local 416, is offering to flat-line wages for his over 6,000 outside workers for the next three years, a move that contradicts the city’s claims that Mr. Ferguson has refused all its demands.

Savings from the proposal would total $8.5-million each year of the three-year contract.

The proposal would essentially carry over the current contract, which expired on Dec. 31.

For its part, city negotiators have not been focusing on wages. Their goal during this round of negotiations is to stamp out job-security provisions that virtually guarantee that all workers displaced by contracting out will retain a job somewhere within the municipality.

On Thursday, the city pushed Toronto closer to an all-out work stoppage by asking the provincial Minister of Labour to declare an official stalemate in negotiations with Local 416, also called a declaration of “no-board.”

The province is expected to come back with a no-board report as soon as Tuesday, starting a 17-day countdown until the city can declare a lockout or the union can go on strike.

The status of negotiations with CUPE Local 416, the city’s second-largest union, will have an inevitable effect on negotiations with Local 79, the largest city union with over 17,000 members.

Original Article
Source: Globe 

Justice Minister declares all same-sex marriages legal and valid

All same sex marriages performed in Canada are legal and the law will be changed to ensure that divorce is readily available to non-residents who were married in the country, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says.

Speaking at a Toronto luncheon Friday, Mr. Nicholson blamed the Liberal government that preceded his for not filling a “legislative gap” that has left thousands of same-sex couples in an agonizing position of being unable to divorce should they feel a need to.

The situation has been “completely unfair to those affected.” Mr. Nicholson said. “I want to make it clear that in our government's view, these marriages are valid.”

The announcement appears to clear up a continuing source of controversy that erupted Thursday when the Globe and Mail reported a divorce case in Toronto where the Justice Department took the position that a same-sex marriage involving non-residents is not legal unless their home country recognizes it as such.

That stand quickly sparked confusion at home and abroad from activists and couples who married in Canada.

Political opponents and gay activists feared the move signalled a reopening of the issue that would potentially cast the legality of same-sex marriage in doubt. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted Thursday afternoon that he would not do so.

“We're not going to reopen that particular issue,” Mr. Harper told reporters at a shipbuilding event in North Vancouver.

Original Article
Source: Globe 

Canada sells the oilsands to China. Then complains about ‘foreign interference’

If there were a global competition for the most brazen and preposterously transparent attempt by a ruling political party to change a necessary subject of national debate with alarmist distractions and hubbub, the Conservative escapade engineered in Ottawa these past few days really deserves some kind of grand prize.

First it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself, carrying on about some sort of conspiracy involving jet-setting American radical billionaire eco-saboteurs who are intent upon blocking Canada’s vital bitumen semi-fluids by ambuscading the Enbridge pipeline hearings that began this week in the Haisla village of Kitimat on British Columbia’s north coast.

Then Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver got in on the act. “These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. … They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.” A problem: when he went dredging around for evidence, Oliver came up with a two-month delay in approving some skating pond in Banff National Park. Then he tried backtracking. He’d suddenly found himself keeping company with conspiracy theorists who like making dirty insinuations about Ducks Unlimited. You had to feel sorry for the guy.

But if we’re seriously supposed to be going all villagers-with-torches about foreign outfits with weird ideologies undermining Canada’s national economic interests, let’s review what’s really going on, shall we?

The $5.5-billion Enbridge pipeline project is all about sending Alberta bitumen in huge oil tankers to China. Beijing’s own state enterprises are among the project’s major backers, and Beijing has been buying up Alberta’s oilpatch at such a dizzying pace lately it’s hard to keep up. In the spring of 2010, China’s state-owned Sinopec Corp. took a $4.65-billion piece of Syncrude. Then the China Investment Corporation, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party, took possession of a $1.25-billon share of Penn West Petroleum. Last summer, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation gobbled up Opti Canada for $2.34 billion. And so on.

Then, last month, Sinopec spent $2.2-billion to take over Daylight Energy Ltd., and last week, Petro-China, with the final push of $1.9 billion, became the owner and manager of the MacKay River oilsands project. This is what Ottawa doesn’t want you noticing.

Until now, Beijing’s strategy has been to fly under the radar by taking only pieces of oilsands ventures and to murmur occasionally about bringing in Chinese workers or pulling up stakes altogether should they hear too much backchat. Now, everything’s changed. Sinopec’s Daylight deal was a first: it was a complete takeover of a Canadian oilsands company by a Chinese state corporation. The MacKay River deal was a first, too, but in a bigger way: when the McKay project is up and running in 2014 it will be a full Chinese show, with a boss that answers directly to Beijing. The thing is, nobody in Ottawa wants to have a serious conversation about any of this.

EI feud boils over with 2,500 workers calling for minister’s head

Workers who help Canadians obtain employment insurance benefits are demanding that Human Resources Minister Diane Finley apologize and resign for implying they have caused the backlogs that are forcing some jobless people to wait months for their first cheque.

The Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU) said Thursday that about 2,500 of its members have filed grievances against Ms. Finley over a letter she wrote in November to the Charlottetown Guardian.

In that letter, Ms. Finley said it is most interesting that “in the month that we announced we will be overhauling and improving EI processing to better serve Canadians – before any changes were introduced – productivity and performance went from being on par with last year's performance at this time to the worst in five years.”

The workers broadly interpreted that as a suggestion by the minister that they deliberately created delays.

Ms. Finley did not respond to requests for comment from The Globe.

Steve McCuaig, the CEIU’s national executive vice-president, said the grievances were filed at the suggestion of the union’s national executive because “people were so mad and they were pointing the finger at us saying what are you going to do about this.”

Why Is Congress Redlining Our Schools?

Redlining was the once-common practice in which banks would draw a red line on a map—often along a natural barrier like a highway or river—to designate neighborhoods where they would not invest. Stigmatized and denied access to loans and other resources, redlined communities, populated by African-Americans and other people of color, often became places that lacked businesses, jobs, grocery stores and other services, and thus could not retain a thriving middle class. Redlining produced and reinforced a vicious cycle of decline for which residents themselves were typically blamed.

Today a new form of redlining is emerging. If passed, the long-awaited Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would build a bigger highway between low-performing schools serving high-need students—the so-called “bottom 5 percent”—and all other schools. Tragically, the proposed plan would weaken schools in the most vulnerable communities and further entrench the problems—concentrated poverty, segregation and lack of human and fiscal resources—that underlie their failure.

Although the current draft of the law scales back some of the worst overreaches of No Child Left Behind, the sanctions for failing to make “adequate yearly progress” that have threatened all schools under NCLB are now focused solely on the 5 percent of schools designated as lowest-performing by the states. As we have learned in warm-up exercises offered by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, these schools will nearly always be the ones serving the poorest students and the greatest numbers of new immigrants. In many states they will represent a growing number of apartheid schools populated almost entirely by low-income African-American and Latino students in our increasingly race- and class-segregated system.

In the new vision for ESEA, these schools, once identified, will be subjected to school “turnaround” models that require the schools to be closed, turned into charters, reconstituted (by firing nearly half the staff) or “transformed,” according to a complicated set of requirements that include everything from instructional reforms to test-based teacher evaluation. The proposed array of punitive sanctions, coupled with unproven reforms, will increasingly destabilize schools and neighborhoods, making them even less desirable places to work and live and stimulating the flight of teachers and families who have options.

The GOP's Blatant Racism

In the British original of The Office the main protagonist, David Brent (US reincarnation: Michael Scott), wistfully recalls a tender moment during his favorite war film, The Dam Busters, involving the hero pilot, Wing Commander Guy Gibson. “Before he goes into battle, he’s playin’ with his dog,” says Brent.

“Nigger,” says his sidekick, Gareth (Dwight in the States), recalling with glee the name of the dog.

Brent flinches, eager to mitigate the slur. “Yeah!… it was the ’40s,” he says, “before racism was bad.”

The problem with the illusion of a postracial society is that at almost any moment the systemic nature of racism, its legacy, methods and impulses, might have to be rediscovered and restated as though for the first time. If the problem has gone away, those who point it out or claim to experience it are, by definition, living in the past. Those who witness it in action must be imagining things. Those who practice it are either misunderstood or maligned.

So it has been these past few weeks with Republicans on the stump, campaigning as though in a time “before racism was bad,” when Rick Perry’s family had a hunting lodge known as Niggerhead and white people could just run their mouth without consequences. In Sioux City, Iowa, Rick Santorum was asked a question about foreign influence on the economy. As he meandered incoherently through his answer, he came out with this gem:

U.S. Sends Top Iranian Leader a Warning on Strait Threat

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is relying on a secret channel of communication to warn Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that closing the Strait of Hormuz is a “red line” that would provoke an American response, according to United States government officials.       

The officials declined to describe the unusual contact between the two governments, and whether there had been an Iranian reply. Senior Obama administration officials have said publicly that Iran would cross a “red line” if it made good on recent threats to close the strait, a strategically crucial waterway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, where 16 million barrels of oil — about a fifth of the world’s daily oil trade — flow through every day.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this past weekend that the United States would “take action and reopen the strait,” which could be accomplished only by military means, including minesweepers, warship escorts and potentially airstrikes. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told troops in Texas on Thursday that the United States would not tolerate Iran’s closing of the strait.

The secret communications channel was chosen to underscore privately to Iran the depth of American concern about rising tensions over the strait, where American naval officials say their biggest fear is that an overzealous Revolutionary Guards naval captain could do something provocative on his own, setting off a larger crisis.

Why Republicans Deny Science: The Quest for a Scientific Explanation

Last week, we went through a familiar ritual: Hand-wringing and alarm over Republican politicians denying scientific reality. This time around, the main focus was Rick Santorum, the anti-evolutionist and climate change denier who is one of the worst of the worst in this area (and who promptly obliged by making a new and fresh anti-science statement).

But hey, it's always something.

We've been repeating this pattern at least since the early George W. Bush years. A Republican makes a dubious scientific claim, a Republican officeholder or appointee suppresses a scientific report, a scientist in a Republican administration gets muzzled...the names change, but the story does not. I chronicled it all in a book that is now seven years old--The Republican War on Science--and I wasn't the first.

Nor will I be the last. The very fact that Jon Huntsman (who just nabbed third place in New Hampshire) has been able to successfully frame himself as the "pro-science" Republican candidate itself speaks to the misalignment of his competitors with reality.

Some of the conservative denial of science may well be cynical in nature. But there's no doubt from polls that large numbers of conservatives really believe this stuff--that global warming isn't real, nor is evolution. And indeed, the denial of reality extends well beyond science and into other fields like economics and history.

MIT Climate Scientist's Wife Threatened In A "Frenzy of Hate"

Prominent MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel has been receiving an unprecedented "frenzy of hate" after a video featuring an interview with him was published last week by Climate Desk.
Emails contained "veiled threats against my wife," and other "tangible threats," Emanuel, a highly regarded atmospheric scientist and director of MIT's Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate program, said in an interview. "They were vile, these emails. They were the kind of emails nobody would like to receive."

"What was a little bit new about it was dragging family members into it and feeling that my family might be under threat, so naturally I didn't feel very good about that at all," Emanuel said. "I thought it was low to drag somebody's spouse into arguments like this."

Climate Desk has seen a sample of the emails and can confirm they are laced with menacing language, expletives, and personal threats of violence.

Emanuel began receiving emails "almost immediately" after the video was posted on January 5, and the volume peaked at four or five emails a day. The threats have now petered off.

Threats are nothing new in the world of climate science. But Emanuel was surprised by the viciousness of the emails. "I think most of my colleagues and I have received a fair bit of email here and there that you might classify as hate mail, but nothing like what I've got in the last few days."

CPAC Co-Sponsor: Nelson Mandela a "Bloodthirsty Terrorist"

Last February, activists pitched a fit when it was announced that, for the second consecutive year, the gay Republican group GOProud would be a co-sponsor of Washington's biggest right-wing confab, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The Heritage Foundation and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) both skipped the event in protest. That came a year after Ryan Sorba, chairman of California Young Americans for Freedom, delivered an epic rant against GOProud at CPAC's main stage. In July, the American Conservative Union, which puts on the conference every year, bowed to complaints, and in July informed GOProud the group would not be invited back in 2012 (the only other group to receive a disinvite was the John Birch Scoiety).

CPAC isn't so discerning about the rest of its co-sponsors, though. As Right Wing Watch notes, one of the sponsors at February's conference will be Youth For Western Civilization, a group dedicated to, as the name suggests, preventing the "extinction" of Western Civilization at the hands of multi-culturalism. Per its mission statement, the group boasts that, "in spite of the continual assault and hatred it endures from the radical left, we wish to revive the West, rather than see our civilization be sent to the graveyard of history."

Go Ahead, Make Mark Meckler's Day

As a leader of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler has settled into a role as the public face of this movement of irate conservatives. But in New York last month, he accidentally became the poster boy for another group of feisty activists, thanks to his arrest on felony gun charges.

En route to California in December, Meckler attempted to check in a handgun and several cartridges of ammo at New York's La Guardia airport. He was arrested on the spot and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The tea party leader had a California permit to carry a concealed weapon, but it isn't valid in New York. Meckler, who was back in court this week, faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

When he was released from jail, Meckler actually ran away from reporters, sprinting across Queens' notorious "Boulevard of Death" rather than use the opportunity to, say, decry New York's strict gun laws. But that hasn't kept gun groups and other conservative activists from using his case to continue lobbying to weaken the state laws like those Meckler violated in New York.

Former Canadian PM Attacks Plans For Across-The-Board Cuts In Wake Of U.K. Report

The Conservative government is wrongheaded if it thinks general broad-based cuts will fix Canada’s economic woes, former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin says.

“I do not believe that cuts across the board of any percentage make any sense at all,” Martin said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “All that demonstrates is that you don’t have priorities.”

The Harper government is currently engaged in a deficit reduction plan that would see government departments and agencies slashed by 5 to 10 per cent.

Martin, who orchestrated deep cuts to government spending as finance minister in the 1990s, was trumpeting his record after a British think tank urged the U.K. government to follow Canada’s example by cutting deeper to achieve higher growth and a lower national debt.

In a report published Friday, the Centre For Policy Studies says Canada’s “successful program of spending cuts” — slashing 9.7 per cent of government spending in two years — helped Canada’s economy take off.

Authors Brian Lee Crowley and Tim Knox suggest lessons learned from Canada’s experience: the need for bold leadership, no ring-fencing of departments and cutting specific programs rather than spending levels across the board.

“A 5 per cent across-the-board cut will not have a lasting impact,” they warned.

Pipeline project a gateway to disaster

Since we're using strong language, let's call the Conservative government's eagerness to ship tarsands oil to China through the Northern Gateway Pipeline what it is: humiliating, irresponsible and short-sighted.

That may sound "radical," perhaps; unpatriotic to some. But our government, in our name, is ready to accelerate climate change, imperil pristine British Columbia wilderness, risk a catastrophic oil spill on the Pacific coast - and for what? The almighty dollar. Specifically, for highly uncertain, and certainly exaggerated, economic gains.

Even taken at face value, the advertised spinoffs from this project are modest compared to the enormous profits (mostly) international oil companies will recoup. Enbridge, the Canadian company proposing the 1,117-kilometre pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat on the B.C. coast, says some 3,000 jobs will be created during the peak construction period.

But these are jobs of short duration; a pipeline, by its nature, is mostly inert once built. The company promises 62,000 person hours overall, and 1,150 long-term jobs, including 104 for those operating the pipeline and another 113 at the port at Kitimat, where giant oil tankers will load. Critics claim these numbers are inflated. Even if they aren't, they amount to crumbs next to the overall investment and potential environmental costs.

Governments and First Nations bands will notionally benefit, too; the company's website says B.C. will collect $1.2 billion in tax revenues - over 30 years, however, which doesn't sound as impressive. Alberta gets half a billion over the same period. And the company claims $270 billion will be added to Canada's GDP overall.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray: Occupy DC Should Be Evicted

WASHINGTON -- District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has turned up the pressure on the federal government to remove the Occupy DC encampment from McPherson Square.

In a letter to the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over McPherson Square, the mayor cited rat infestations and other public health concerns to justify the eviction.

As The Washington Post reported Thursday evening, Gray's letter was accompanied by a memorandum from the city's health director, Mohammed Akhter, who has previously expressed his concerns with sanitation and public health issues inside the McPherson Square camp.

The group first gathered at the park on Oct. 1.

Akhter has compared the Occupy DC camp to refugee camps he's seen in Africa in the Middle East. Protesters have said his concerns are overstated and they are managing the problems in the park.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement Thursday night reacting to Gray's letter:
"Mayor Gray's description of the conditions at the McPherson Square Occupy DC encampment is a blunt assessment of the situation created by the National Park Service's decision to ignore laws designed to protect the public," said Chairman Issa. "The public health and safety situation is in itself disturbing and the refusal to provide documents about the Park Service's decision making leaves a lingering perception that long-standing prohibitions against encampments have been ignored to avoid a politically embarrassing situation for the Administration."

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Cover-Up Hinted In Navy Letter

The U.S. Navy is asking government investigators to suppress information concerning the toxic water scandal at the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune, according to a letter obtained Thursday by The Huffington Post.

The letter, signed by Maj. Gen. J.A. Kessler of the Marine Corps and dated Jan. 5, 2012, asks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry to withhold from a forthcoming report details about the whereabouts of water lines, wells, treatment plants and storage tanks on the North Carolina military base -- in the name of national security.

"The Marine Corps understands the need to share information with the scientific community," writes Kessler, the Marines' assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics. "Prudence requires, however, that information sharing be within the rubric of responsible force protection."

Government watchdogs and environmental advocates said they interpret the letter as further evidence of a Navy effort to evade culpability for what many call the worst and largest drinking water contamination in U.S. history.

Congress assigned the disease registry to trace when, where and at what levels Camp Lejeune's drinking water was tainted with toxic industrial chemicals from the late-1950s to the 1980s. The research is a prerequisite for a series of health studies exploring links between chemical exposures and what appears to be increased levels of disease among former Camp Lejeune residents, including male breast cancer and childhood leukemia.

It takes more than a verdict to win equality

Where and when is equality realized? What steps are required to make it concrete? Those are the bigger questions I draw from Thursday’s wild ride over the federal government’s position on foreign gay and lesbian couples who wed in Canada.

It began with a story in The Globe and Mail about a new position advanced by the federal government. It arose in a case concerning a challenge to the rule requiring 12 months of residency before divorce proceedings can be launched in a Canadian province.

Lawyers and scholars have known for years that the residency requirement would cause headaches for foreign couples. Thousands of them have flocked to Canada to marry since the first legal weddings at Toronto City Hall in 2003.

What nobody expected was that the federal government would deploy rules from a highly complex body of law called conflict of laws in order to undercut the equal-marriage provisions of which many Canadians, gay or straight, are rightly proud.

There’s no need for divorce, the government’s lawyer suggested – there isn’t any marriage to begin with if the parties couldn’t have married in their home country.

A firestorm of outrage greeted the story and, by afternoon, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson felt the need to respond, insisting that the government has no intention of reopening the marriage debate. He promised to investigate options to clarify the law so marriages done in Canada can be undone in Canada.

On Eve of MLK Day, Michelle Alexander & Randall Robinson on the Mass Incarceration of Black America

On this eve of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday we host a wide-ranging discussion with TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson and author Michelle Alexander about the mass incarceration of African-Americans that has rolled back many achievements of the civil rights movement. Today there are more African-Americans under correctional control — whether in prison or jail, on probation or on parole — than there were enslaved in 1850. And more African-American men are disenfranchised now because of felon disenfranchisement laws than in 1870. Alexander, whose book “New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” is newly released in paperback, argues that, “[n]othing less than a major social movement has any hope of ending mass incarceration in America or inspiring a re-commitment to [Martin Luther] King’s dream. ... My view is that this has got to be a human rights movement: it’s got to be a movement for education, not incarceration; for jobs, not jails. A movement that acknowledges the basic humanity and dignity of all people—no matter who you are or what you have done."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Redford questions credibility of Northern Gateway hearings

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is questioning the credibility of federal hearings that have attracted more than 4,000 people requesting comment on Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which has sparked a debate about balancing the economy against the environment and aboriginal rights.

The Alberta government will not be making a formal pitch during the National Energy Board’s regulatory review, which started this week in northern British Columbia, but the province has made no secret of its support for the pipeline that would help bring oil-sands crude to markets in Asia and the United States.

Ms. Redford told reporters on Thursday that she supports the independent regulatory process, as she did when a similar review took place in the United States regarding the divisive Keystone XL pipeline project, but she has concerns about the transparency.

“I believe that a regulatory process is important in order to ensure there’s a fulsome discussion going on about the issues that need to be adjudicated. I’m not sure that this process that has been put in place is going to allow for that,” she said.

Conservatives suggest divorce law could be revised to help same-sex couples

OTTAWA—The federal Conservative government suggested Thursday it will revisit the federal divorce law to see how to more easily dissolve the same-sex marriages of couples who married here but cannot get a divorce abroad.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson tried to defuse a growing controversy with a potentially wide-ranging gambit.

It was unclear if the government would also ease residency requirements for divorce for all couples, or would just move to address the need of couples who can’t end their Canadian same-sex marriages abroad.

The move came after revelations that a senior counsel for the federal justice department had opposed a same-sex divorce by arguing firstly that same-sex marriages performed in Canada aren’t “legally valid” unless also recognized by a couple’s home country or state.

Lawyer Sean Gaudet argued secondly that the couple — who married in Toronto in December 2005 and separated two years ago — didn’t meet Canada’s one-year residency requirement (that all couples face) for a divorce. One lives in Florida, the other in the U.K.

ORNGE air ambulance is paying $50,000 a month for a Hamilton hangar that sits empty and unused.

It’s the latest blunder at the provincial service tasked with transporting patients, saving lives and spending health care dollars wisely.

“Yes, there has been a significant delay in getting (hangar renovation) done,” ORNGE chief operating officer Tom Lepine said in an interview Thursday.

The massive, 31,000-square foot hangar at the Hamilton International Airport is owned by Cargojet. ORNGE has decided to move its Toronto air ambulance base to Hamilton and leased the hangar in December 2010, according to ORNGE spokesman Gannon Loftus. At roughly $50,000 a month, the publicly funded ORNGE has wasted an estimated $600,000 for space that until the last few weeks has sat idle.

“There was a delay in getting the structural steel” needed to outfit the hangar to ORNGE’s specifications, Lepine said. The plan is to have two helicopters and an airplane use the hangar. Crew quarters have to be built and Lepine said his goal is to open for business in April.

ORNGE receives $150 million a year from Ontario taxpayers to provide airborne medical transport from numerous bases across the province. For many years it has located a key base at the Toronto Island, with close proximity to the top hospitals in Ontario. Lepine said studies have shown him that a combination of lack of access to emergency services (a land ambulance picking up a patient has to use the ferry) and weather conditions on the island made it a poor choice for a base. Numerous paramedics interviewed by the Star say that is wrong, but last year ORNGE decided to move to Hamilton.

Ford executive team blunts budget cuts

Rob Ford’s executive team has removed some of the sting from his proposed 2012 budget, stripping out controversial cuts that would have shredded arts grants, eliminated an emergency fund for the city’s poor, stopped sidewalk snow-clearing and slashed the library budget.

With a flurry of motions that so overwhelmed the clerk Mr. Ford had to call a half-hour recess, councillors tabled 11 motions that kept the mayor’s core budget in place while addressing public concerns about the fiscal blueprint.

The motions blunted the cuts while adhering to a strict spending allowance from the mayor’s office of roughly $6-million, the amount remaining from a surge in property-tax assessments city staff reported last week.

They also stay within the 2.5-per-cent increase for residential taxes, with Mr. Ford proclaiming he does not want to spend “a nickel more.”

The mayor, who supported all the measures as a single package, praised the efforts of his executive.

“I am very proud of my executive and I am very, very, very confident this is getting through council,” he said.

Author of Controversial Piracy Bill Now Says ‘More Study’ Needed

The senator who introduced hotly debated legislation intended to shut down pirate websites said Thursday he is backing away from one of the most controversial parts of the bill, amid criticism from Web companies, human rights groups and Internet engineers.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said he would recommend that “more study” be given to a provision in the bill that would give the U.S. attorney general new authority to seek court orders compelling Internet service providers to block the sites’ domain names or Web addresses. A vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate is scheduled for this month.

The bill, known as the PROTECT IP Act, is co-sponsored by more than 40 senators, a sign of broad support. It is backed by major Hollywood studios and other copyright holders that say the legislation is needed to combat foreign websites that sell access to pirated movies and counterfeit goods. (Among the studios advocating the legislation is Twentieth Century Fox Film, which like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.)

But since the bill’s introduction last year, human rights groups and major Internet companies such as Facebook and Google have raised concerns about the First Amendment implications of shutting down entire websites, as well as potential technical problems that could arise from such blocking. A similar debate is taking place around the House version of the legislation, called the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Cyber-Crimes Pose 'Existential' Threat, FBI Warns

Despite the increased frequency and severity of online crime and espionage in 2011, many American corporations and consumers are still not taking the threat seriously, the FBI's top cyber official said Thursday.

The risk posed by criminal hackers is "existential, meaning it could eliminate whole companies," said Shawn Henry, the FBI's executive assistant director. If hackers were able to tamper with critical infrastructure such as the power grid, "it could actually cause death," Henry said in remarks at the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York.

To highlight the growing threat, Henry cited several recent FBI investigations, such as one involving a smaller company that went out of business after hackers stole $5 million from accounts, another concerning a larger firm that "virtually overnight" lost a decade of research and development worth $1 billion, and still another regarding hackers who encrypted millions of records of a health services company and demanded money for the password.

"We've seen the number and sophistication of the attacks by these cyber actors increase dramatically," Henry said.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen, primarily through the financial services sector, just in the last couple years," he said. An organized crime ring in Eastern Europe, for example, earned about $750,000 per week from cyber theft, he added.

For a Richer Retirement, Lower Business Taxes

Once again, tongues are wagging about defined benefit pension plans, particularly the impact of the upcoming budget on public sector retirement packages. An aging workforce and longer life expectancy have made it more expensive to provide them. What to do? Some recommend scaling back the entitlement while others advocate increasing the employer contribution.

Yet an obvious part of the solution is the one that everyone forgets: lower business taxes. Virtually every defined benefit plan in the country owns shares in the country's largest and most profitable enterprises. If these businesses make good after-tax money, they can pay better dividends to the pension funds that own their shares.

Take the Canada Post Pension Plan (CPC Pension). During the recent debate over the Canada Post strike, members of the New Democratic Party simultaneously demanded that the existing pension fund for mail workers be preserved and that corporate taxes should rise to pay for more government spending.

These concurrent demands are painfully ironic. The top five holdings in the CPC Pension are Toronto Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor, and Canadian Natural Resources. Banks and oil companies -- the twin villains in every left-wing storyline -- pay dividends to the pension fund of these unionized workers. These dividends come from after-tax profit. If the business tax rate rises, the after-tax profit remaining for the pension funds drops.

At the time of the strike, the Canada Post Fund had $202 million invested in Toronto Dominion Bank. When TD profits, it can reinvest the money in growth or pay dividends to the shareholders (either way, the pension fund gets a better return on its investment).

However, TD can only pay out these benefits on after-tax earnings. If taxes go up, dividends and capital gains necessarily go down and shareholders (including the postal workers) lose out. It is really that simple.

Enbridge affiliates have had 175 leaks, spills over 10 years in U.S.

OTTAWA — Subsidiaries of the company that wants to build the Gateway pipeline through northern B.C. have reported more than 170 pipeline leaks and spills in the United States since 2002, accident reporting data show.

Records filed with the U.S. government show companies owned by Calgary-based Enbridge Energy experienced 159 reportable accidents and incidents involving liquid pipelines and another 16 in their natural gas lines.

The reports detail minor incidents, with only a few gallons lost, and major accidents, including the 2007 leak from an Enbridge pipeline in Clearbrook, Minnesota, that killed two workers and led to $2.4 million U.S. in fines against the company.


Stephen Harper won’t impose a social agenda on Canada, but he will export it

It’s a big week for the tinfoil hat crowd in this town.

Stephen Harper’s hidden social agenda appeared to be finally, fully, in bloom, with reversals on same-sex marriage laws and Conservative backbenchers freely and publicly flexing their anti-abortion muscles.

But it turns out that while the legions of Harper opponents were waiting for the hard-right social agenda to be firmly planted in Ottawa, the Conservatives are actually exporting those policies.

While federal lawyers argue that couples from outside Canada who thought they had legally tied the knot here were actually never married in the eyes of this government, the Prime Minister says the same-sex marriage debate is closed at home.

“We have no intention . . . of opening or reopening this issue,’’ Harper said.

Last autumn, federal lawyers intervened in a case in the United Kingdom, arguing that a Canadian same-sex couple who were joined in a civil union there was not recognized as married under Canadian law.

Are some marriages more equal than others?

Today’s news that government lawyers are arguing same-sex marriages performed in Canada are not valid if the couple resides in a jurisdiction that doesn’t recognize them has caused considerable controversy. It’s a case that pits established equality rights against the intricacies of Canadian family law and principles of international comity (i.e. recognizing other countries’ laws).

The legal issues involved are complex. While there is no residency requirement to get married in Canada, there is one for divorce (to get a divorce you must have lived in Canada for a year). For that reason the ability of non-resident, same-sex partners who get married in Canada to later obtain a divorce has been up in the air.

The difference here is that government lawyers do not simply want to deny a divorce because the couple does not meet the residency requirement. Instead, they argued that because Florida and the United Kingdom (the jurisdictions the couple comes from) do not recognize same-sex marriage, their marriage in Canada was never valid in the first place.

This argument is based on a well-established rule in Canadian family law. Marriages performed in Canada that involve non-residents tend to be governed by the rules of their home jurisdictions.

Same-sex divorce options explored by Harper government

The Harper government is considering how to make divorce possible for same-sex couples who had to come to Canada to get married.

Thousands of gays and lesbians who could not marry in the country where they live have travelled to Canada seeking a legal marriage. But Canada's divorce laws don't allow people who haven't lived in Canada for at least a year to end their marriage.

In a statement to CBC News, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he would be "looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada."

Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted his government doesn't want to reopen the debate over same-sex marriage, despite newly-revealed legal arguments from a federal lawyer that a same-sex marriage performed in Canada is not valid if it isn't recognized as legal in the place where the couple lives.

"When we first came to office we had a vote on this issue. We have no intention of further reopening or opening this issue," Harper said at a shipbuilding announcement in Halifax, adding that he did not know the details of the government's submission in this case.

‘Radical ideological agenda’ easy to spot from downtown Toronto

From the depths of his pipeline-free riding in the heart of Toronto, National Resources Minister Joe Oliver has lashed out at “environmental and other radical groups” for “[threatening] to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”

Gosh, I haven’t heard environmental activists smeared like that since Glen Clark labelled Greenpeace campaigners against old-growth logging “enemies of British Columbia.” Guess who won that round?

This time, the activists’ great sin is to oppose the proposed Gateway pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands – across B.C. and the territory of scores of native groups battling the project – to Kitimat, where tankers the size of 3.5 football fields will load up with crude and head for Asia through the province’s narrow, pristine, coastal waterways.

Who could be opposed to that but radicals? Never mind that B.C. will bear most of the ecological risk, without much permanent economic benefit.

Mr. Oliver’s diatribe also included outrage that funds from non-Canadians are being used in the fight against a project fuelled by the interests of foreign-based oil companies, including authoritarian China’s huge, state-owned energy company, Sinopec.

Ethical oil, indeed.

And who’s behind this ideologically driven, outside cash, Mr. Oliver was asked. “Billionaire socialists from the United States – people like George Soros,” he replied.

Sounds like someone itching to get into those wacky Republican debates and show up Mitt Romney for the socialist he really is.

Original Article
Source: Globe