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.]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gingrich Campaign Says It's Confident It Can Win Long Primary Against 'Timid' Romney

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- In the first few hours after Newt Gingrich's 12-point rout Saturday over Mitt Romney as the finality of the thrashing washed over the former House speaker and those in and around his campaign, a growing optimism hardened into confidence.

"I think he wins Florida," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who endorsed Gingrich and stood on the stage with him Saturday night.

Franks articulated how Gingrich is capturing momentum among Republicans, in part, because many feel there is a "subconscious equivocation" about core conservative issues in the heart and soul of Mitt Romney.

"And it's really not fair to put that mantle upon him, of some metaphysical feeling that we wonder if he's going to be there in the clinch," Franks said. "But I'm afraid that that's kind of a ubiquitous feeling among conservatives."

Kevin Kellems, one of Gingrich's top advisers, said that "Gov. Romney’s campaign is now showing real signs of being off-balance and nervous. There must be a reason for it."

When asked for specific signs of anxiety in the Romney campaign, Kellems responded by email, "among others, Gov. Romney's inability to answer basic questions about his taxes without bouncing around the podium like an overcaffeinated high-schooler being put on the spot by his parents."

It's time the federal government "smashes the status quo" and allows aboriginals to become full partners in Canada, Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo says.

At least that's one of his objectives going into the upcoming First Nations summit in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Speaking on CTV's Question Period Sunday, Atleo said First Nations are looking for real change from the government in terms of education, adherence to treaty rights and economic development.

But more importantly, First Nations need to be cut loose from the "remote control" that Ottawa has used in native affairs in the past so they can become "full partners" in Canada.

"Those are very fundamental, really important pieces that First Nations have been working on for a long time," he said.

While he's not expecting a full-day of budget talks, Atleo wants to see positive movement from Ottawa in these areas.

Stalled on the road to economic recovery

In the newspaper business, it’s called coincidental placement – the juxtaposition of two unrelated items in a way that tells a powerful story of its own.

Take last Wednesday’s Globe and Mail. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney are all over the Report on Business section, fretting that a mortgage price war is duping Canadians into buying homes they can’t afford.

Turn the page, and there’s a survey of 2,300 corporate executives in Canada and 21 other countries. Their big complaint: a lack of capital to grow and innovate.

Cash is pouring into housing, while businesses are starved for capital. Financial markets seem to be turned upside down, creating dangerously skewed incentives that threaten to knock the economy off stride.

In a perfect world, consumers spend prudently, avoid excess debt and save for retirement.

We similarly want companies to take risks, generate wealth and then share the spoils with their employees and shareholders.

Assassinate Obama if he won’t attack Iran for Israel, Jewish monthly suggests

Musing openly about murdering President Barack Obama is certain to stir some attention.

So is publicly suggesting it’s a job for Mossad – Israel’s no-nonsense spy agency with its long record of assassinating enemies of the Jewish state.

Yet that’s just what the editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, did in a column laying out the three options Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has when faced with Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to wage war on Iran.

Option three, wrote Mr. Adler, is for the Israeli leader to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice-president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”

With a usual readership of only a few thousand, the Atlanta Jewish Times rarely reaches beyond the Georgia’s genteel suburbs. But Mr. Adler now has readers worldwide.

Boehner: 'We May' Try To Attach Keystone Pipeline Plan To Payroll Tax Cut, Again

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- House Speaker John Boehner hinted on Sunday that he will attempt, once more, to tie the fate of a long-term extension of the payroll tax cut to approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

One week after the president -- citing State Department concerns -- put the kibosh on plans to build a pipeline through the United States for the purposes of carrying crude oil, Boehner told "Fox News Sunday" he would attempt to resuscitate the proposal.

"The Keystone pipeline is the prime example of a shovel-ready project that has been through every approval process here in Washington," he told "Fox News Sunday." "Every option is on the table. We are going to do everything we can to try to make sure that this Keystone pipeline is, in fact, approved."

Asked by host Chris Wallace whether he would try to "link" the pipeline to extending the payroll tax holiday for an additional 10 months after it expires at the end of February, Boehner replied,"We may. But as I said, all options are on the table."

This is, more or less, the same tactic that Republicans deployed when the payroll tax cut extension was being debated at the close of last year. Obama then said that expediting the review process for the pipeline would mean that the State Department reviewers would recommend killing it. And, sure enough, that's what happened.

It's hard to imagine that anything changes if Boehner tries again to link the pipeline proposal to the payroll tax cut. If anything, the political fallout that the GOP suffered in late December might give the president comfort in knowing he can win this fight.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Sam Stein 

Father Judaism and mother democracy

Benny Katzover has done well to clarify, in today's newspaper, remarks that have been attributed to him about giving up democracy. But the clarification improves only the abrasive style that had previously been attributed to him and does nothing to reduce the danger in his statements.

To summarize his argument: Application of the democratic worldview will compromise the ability to preserve - not to mention advance - the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. Therefore, democracy must be given up in favor of Judaism (or as Katzover puts it, "to prefer something 'Jewish' to something 'democratic,' as long as there is no 'moral' clash between the two" ).

To bring the meaning of his remarks into sharper focus, let us present a few practical questions. Does this mean that Katzover and others like him will support laws that mandate limiting the number of children an Arab woman may have, so as to prevent damage to the demographic balance? And perhaps, at the next stage, Katzover and his cohorts will support killing the babies of Arabs whose families have exceeded the limit (like the biblical Pharaoh, who feared the tilting of the "demographic balance" toward the Jews )? Let us hope not, but such a hypothetical suggestion is exactly what it means to "prefer something 'Jewish' to something 'democratic'," in cases where the two clash.

With all the criticism of Katzover's view, it should be recognized that his remarks are a mirror image of remarks made before him by some of the leaders of the extreme left. They, too, assumed the existence of an essential and built-in contradiction, and a need to make a "clear" decision - between a Jewish and a democratic state. They wanted a decision, and Katzover and others like him supply it - not in the direction that these leftist wanted, but precisely according to their basic assumption.

The Truth About SOPA: How the Corporate Lobby's Argument Doesn't Add Up

Across the internet today, you'll see some of your favorite websites "blacked out" in protest of something called SOPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act. However, don't be fooled by its seemingly straightforward title: SOPA is one of the greatest challenges to a free and open web that we've ever faced. Ultimately, it's a right step, but in the wrong direction. SOPA's original intention was to protect intellectual property created by American artists, yet the result is something much different: an unfair restriction on many American websites, like YouTube and Reddit, that we've come to love.

The media and entertainment industry are lobbying Congress hard to pass this bill, and this past Sunday on MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes, I had the great opportunity to have a discussion with one their biggest advocates, NBC Universal's General Counsel, Richard Cotton. Mr. Cotton and the corporate supporters of SOPA are using two major points to convince Congress to vote in favor of SOPA:
1. SOPA saves jobs.
2. SOPA will not affect American websites.
Mr. Cotton repeated these points again and again on the show, yet I rebutted with the facts:
1. The non-partisan Government Accounting Office, in a 32-page report, reveals that the claim that any number of jobs lost in industries such as entertainment/media due to online piracy "cannot be substantiated." In fact, those industries such as entertainment/media that rely on copyright are growing 1% above the rest of the economy. Meanwhile, the entertainment/media industry receives a heft of its profits from overseas, where piracy is much more rampant than in the U.S.
2. SOPA will not only affect American websites, but could result in many of them being shut down. Let's be real why - the most widely used sites around the world are American: Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc., and SOPA places all of the liability of pirated content on the owner of the website. So, American companies would be forced to use their own resources to actively police for linked pirated content on their foreign pages (e.g. - resources that smaller companies, like Reddit, don't have, possibly resulting in their closure. SOPA might be directed at foreign sites like The Pirate Bay, but will have devastating, yet unintended, consequences on our sites at home.
Instead of punishing American tech companies, which create jobs and are the source of much of our innovation, let's go directly after the pirated content overseas. A good alternative to SOPA is the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN), introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa. OPEN places the enforcement responsibility on the International Trade Commission, (ITC) instead of our websites or Justice Department. The ITC, after an investigation, will follow the money trail that funds foreign piracy sites, and eliminate their payment options, effectively shutting them down.

Make no doubt, piracy is an issue that needs to be addressed, and the work of our artists need to be protected, but SOPA is not the answer. Instead of taking a sledgehammer to our internet, we should use a scalpel to specifically remove these rogue, foreign sources of piracy, while avoiding placing a burden on our American web companies.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Joe Sestak 

Cultural Populism Catapults Gingrich to South Carolina Victory

In a reversal of what was widely projected by polls just a week ago, Newt Gingrich won a solid victory over Mitt Romney -- 40 percent to 28 percent -- in South Carolina’s Republican primary on Saturday.

How did he do it? In short, cultural populism. Gingrich won among voters in every income bracket below $200,000. Romney won the metropolitan counties surrounding Charleston and Columbia, while Gingrich carried the rest of the state. The class discrepancy was notable from Gingrich’s and Romney’s rallies. The former crowds included a few buzzcuts, camouflage and non-ironic moustaches. The latter’s were dominated by khaki pants and polo shirts.

Gingrich pursued this strategy along several different tracks:

Cultural reverse-snobbery. On Friday night Gingrich held his final campaign rally just outside Charleston on the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that now serves as a military museum. Amid the retro warplanes Gingrich was introduced by Bud McFarlane, a former Naval officer who served in President Reagan’s National Security Council, and Major General James Livingston, a retired Congressional Medal of Honor winner. “Tomorrow we start taking our country back,” said Livingston, in a classic conservative formulation that lets the listener fill in which groups of foreign invaders they will take it back from.

Gays "Make God Want to Vomit": Meet Santorum's Honorary Florida Chairman

While the network news shows spend this Sunday marveling over Newtmentum in South Carolina, Rick Santorum will quietly make his first stop in Florida, site of the next primary on January 31. He'll be dropping in to see the honorary chairman of his state campaign—a Bush-connected Islamophobic pastor who says gays "make God want to vomit."

Santorum, the other conservative darling in the Republican presidential race, plans to speak from the pulpit at the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach on Sunday morning. It might seem a strange stop for a white Catholic Republican from the Northeast: While the ocean-facing side of Pompano is affluent and conservative, WWC literally sits on the wrong side of the tracks in the Collier City neighborhood—a poor, tight-knit African American district that swung strongly for Barack Obama in 2008. But WWC is different: It's run by the Rev. O'Neal Dozier, a firebrand social conservative who's tried to turn this depressed community red, and has been rewarded handsomely by Republican politicians for his efforts.

Dozier opened his church in 1985 and immediately began preaching a different kind of gospel. "We teach and preach on the cultural issues," he says in a recent video. "We also teach and preach on the war on terror. We teach and preach on the dangers of Islam and Islamic fascism here." He says he was heavily influenced by the work of the Rev. D. James Kennedy, a founding father of the Christian right who started the annual Reclaiming America for Christ political conference at his church complex just down the street in Fort Lauderdale.

Super Rich In Canada Make 189 Times The Average Wage

OTTAWA - The richest of the rich have gained more ground in Canada, and are now making 189 times the average Canadian wage, according to a new report.

The 100 highest paid chief executives whose companies are listed on the S&P/TSX composite index made an average of $8.38 million in 2010, according to figures pulled from circulars by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think-tank.

That's 189 times higher than the $44,366 an average Canadian made working full time in 2010, the report says.

And it's a 27 per cent raise from the $6.6 million average compensation for the top 100 CEOs in 2009, the report says.

Regular Canadians, on the other hand, have seen their wages stagnate over the past few years. In 2010, after adjusting for inflation, average wages actually fell.

Canada Income Inequality: Toronto's Cabbagetown A Prime Example Of Shrinking Middle Class

In 2003, $350,000 bought Toronto resident Steven de Blois and his wife a house in the city’s colourful Cabbagetown neighbourhood. Eight years and two children later, the couple was looking to buy again. They settled on purchasing another home in the same neighbourhood -- this time for just under $1 million.

“We didn’t really see ourselves moving out. I saw myself in that [first] house forever,” 36-year-old de Blois says. “But there was an opportunity and we jumped on it.”

With the world economy in a state of flux, de Blois admits it perhaps wasn’t the most advisable option.
“I don’t enjoy taking on more debt,” he says. “You never know what tomorrow holds, but today my money is on Cabbagetown.”

For de Blois, a product manager for online and mobile channels married to a real estate agent, those million-dollar figures may not be too daunting when it comes to buying a stately Victorian home. But the numbers reflect a new reality in Toronto, as well as elsewhere throughout the Western world: The disappearance of the middle class.

Cabbagetown, once an eclectic mix of rich, poor and everything in between, is losing its middle class, and an ever-larger proportion of its population hails from either the top of the income ladder, or the bottom. It’s a phenomenon that is repeating across the city of Toronto -- and around the Western world, the seemingly inevitable result of a growing income gap.

Tories fiddling with same-sex couples - Government systematically trying to chip away at gays, lesbians

Recent statements by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson about the validity of same sex marriage left thousands of same-sex couples who have come to Canada to get married and celebrate their love wondering if they were, in fact, married at all.

And if some same-sex marriages are not valid, are equal marriage rights for Canadian same-sex couples safe and secure?

Those who came to Canada to get married were told by the government of Canada that their love was equal and their relationships would be recognized as legal.

These are people who followed the rules, paid their fees, spent their tourist dollars here in Canada, and suddenly had the rug pulled from under them.

But this was no accident, despite the Harper government claiming it had no idea this was going on.

This was not the first time the government has been caught attempting to restrict equal marriage rights through the back door by intervening in court cases.

Bilingualism has a fresh face

Canada's changing linguistic makeup should pro-vide an impetus to revisit bilingualism as currently defined by Ottawa. A new study by Quebec professor Francois Vaillancourt and three of his Quebec colleagues that was recently published by the Fraser Institute, implicitly raises questions about present approaches to bilingualism.

(For the record, the authors take no position on whether official bilingualism is a good idea or bad policy).

On the hard numbers, the authors note bilingualism costs $2.4 billion a year, with $868 million of that spent by the provinces and the rest spent by Ottawa.

Here's what the Vail-lancourt study does not measure: For example, dual labelling requirements that increase the price of Canadian goods and services. That is likely impossible to quantify - one can't find every expenditure on bilingualism by every private company and add it up - but that's a real economic cost insofar as a company must comply with federal requirements, even where such compliance is silly.

For example, why must a wine importer ensure both English and French alike are pasted on a bottle of Malbec from Argentina? Does anyone seriously think Quebecois wouldn't recognize a Malbec without required French labelling? Or that any of us couldn't understand the contents if the only label was in Spanish?

Similarly, why should a small Quebec business be forced to spend money on bilingual labels for some product it might only export to francophone communities in Manitoba and New Brunswick? If a company figured it needed bilingual labels to gain customers (or avoid losing them), they'd do it voluntarily; that regulation has always been superfluous.

While some provinces have comparatively larger shares of official linguistic minorities (French or English), only New Brunswick has a sizable minority unable to communicate in the dominant provincial language. There, unilingual French speakers are 10 per cent of the population.

In Quebec, unilingual speakers unable to speak the majority language (French) constitute just 2.4 per cent of the population. Everywhere else, unilingual minorities are tiny, just fractions of one per cent.

Beyond the English in Quebec and francophones everywhere else, it's useful to consider other "linguistic minorities" to begin an honest discussion about the future of bilingualism in Canada. British Columbia is a good place to start. Its numbers illustrate a significant trend: how other minority languages are swamping French as the top minority language.

British Columbia has the smallest percentage of people who list French as their mother tongue, at just 1.3 per cent. In B.C. (and here I depart from the study and into 2006 Statistics Canada census data), Chinese dialects account for 8.4 per cent of the population. Punjabi comes next (3.9 per cent) and German (2.1 per cent). Minority languages in B.C. that look to overtake French soon, due to immigration patterns, appear to be Tagalog and Spanish. In all, non-official languages already make up almost 27 per cent of B.C.'s population.
In Alberta, languages listed as one's mother tongue include Chinese dialects (three per cent), Ger-man (2.6 per cent) and then French (1.9 per cent).

In Ontario, just 25,000 people speak French at home in metropolitan Toronto, while almost 1.4 million people speak a non-official language (and 3.5 million speak English).

Overall, in Canada's most populous province, French as a mother tongue (at 4.1 per cent of the population) is still second after English. However, only 6,000 people separate that second-place position from those who identified a Chinese dialect (four per cent) as their mother tongue.

French is in relative decline even in Quebec, albeit marginally. In 2006, 79 per cent of Quebecers identified French as their first language, compared to 82.5 per cent in 1951.

Here's the broad over-view: People who speak more than one language have opportunities to inter-act with others in a manner unilingual speakers do not; they also have greater career opportunities. Bilingualism is thus desirable for personal reasons, though that doesn't necessitate laws, regulations or even constitutional action. Of course, all of those have been at play in Canada and constitutional mandates in particular are almost impossible mechanisms with which to fiddle.

Bilingualism in Canada's political context has always been interpreted to be English and French. What's obvious is that apart from Quebec, Canada's new bilingual makeup is about English, plus some language other than French.

The growth of non-official languages raises two observations.

First, the simple demo-graphic fact of Canada's linguistic makeup is shifting in a way that makes official bilingualism policies - and at least some of the money routinely spent - dated.

Second, unless one aims for a career in the civil ser-vice (federally and in some provinces) or in federal politics, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Spanish might be more helpful to a child's future career.

Original Article
Source: calgary herald 
Author: Mark Milke 

Where's the loyalty? Mon Dieu, is Mulcair's citizenship really a conflict of interest?

The fuss over Thomas Mulcair’s dual citizenship (Canada and France) as he campaigns for the leadership of the federal NDP is one of those issues that is more emotional than substantial.

The question begs as to whether the leader of a federal political party should “appear” to be in a conflict of interest over citizenship.

Our beloved prime minister likes to remind people that he is Canadian and only Canadian and no other country has claim on his allegiance.

The National Post feels this remark is something of a cheap shot, considering that its polls show Mulcair’s appeal is close to double that of his closest rival, Peggy Nash (36% to 20%).

To most Canadians, it’s a given that a party leader should be 100% for Canada and not share loyalty with another country.

That’s something of a double-standard, since we unquestionably accept those who have, say, double citizenship with the U.S.

Rich U.S. groups that funded environmentalists also gave to Canadian government

OTTAWA - Rich American foundations are not only footing the bill for opposition to Canada's oilsands.

Tax returns show the Canadian government has also been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in largesse from some of the wealthiest private organizations in the United States.

And some of that money came from the same U.S. groups that helped fund Canadian environmentalists.

The grants to the federal government come to light as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the pro-oilsands website take Canadian environmental groups to task for accepting money from big American foundations to finance their campaigns against the oilsands.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver accused "environmental and other radical groups" of trying to use money from "foreign special-interest groups" to hijack hearings on a pipeline that would bring Alberta oilsands bitumen to a port on the British Columbia coast.

Newt gives Harper a nod in victory speech

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- This southern state and the Republican nomination race may be far removed from Canada, but that didn't stop Palmetto State primary winner Newt Gingrich from giving a shout out to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his victory speech.

While blasting President Barack Obama for rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline and the thousands of jobs it has been estimated it would create, Gingrich warned Canada will send its oil to China instead.

And he praised Harper, too.

"What Prime Minister Harper -- who, by the way, is conservative and pro-American -- what he has said is he's gonna cut a deal with the Chinese and they'll build a pipeline straight across the Rockies to Vancouver," Gingrich said Saturday night. "We'll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity.

"Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country."

The Northern Gateway Pipeline would actually run from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat, B.C., which is several hundred kilometres north of Vancouver. And, even if the regulatory process went as well as its proponent Enbridge hopes, it would be at least 2017 before any oil would flow to the west coast and Asian markets.

The first separatist Prime Minister of Canada?

Years ago I facetiously wrote that Gilles Duceppe should extend his Bloc Quebecois Party to include the separatist forces of the other Provinces. Each one has many reasons to secede from the federation. Then if he won a national election he would become the first Separatist Prime Minister of Canada.

But did he listen? You try to help a guy….

Now it seems that the NDP wants to do just that. Their Sherbrooke declaration makes them our first national separatist party.

They have declared that if they are the government of Canada they will not use the clarity act (a valid law of the land) to insure that a referendum on a trick question, such as the last two run by the Parti Quebecois, can’t be used as an excuse for unilateral secession. They also promise to respect the idea that fifty per cent plus one vote is enough to take Quebec out of Canada. And they will extend Bill 101 to include federal workers in Quebec so that Canadian citizens here cannot use both of Canada’s official language when dealing with the government of Canada.

Pensions: an MP's just desserts or the taxpayers' burden?

OTTAWA -- Just weeks before Canadians find out where the Conservatives plan to slash billions of dollars in spending, some analysts are pointing to the "gold plated" MP pensions as a good place to start.

"You go into the public service to serve the public," said Ian Lee, an economist and financial commentator from the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa. "If you want to just make a lot of money, my answer is always the same: just go into the private sector."

Lee noted it would be difficult to find a private-sector employee who becomes eligible for a pension at 55-years-old.

In order to qualify for a pension, an MP has to be in office at least six years plus one day, and contribute seven per cent of their salary for each of those years.

So if an MP earns the most basic salary and works for six years, they would earn $28,260 when after hitting their 55th birthday .

Atleo -- bureaucrat summit: How bad does it have to get?

There is no question that every government since pre and post-confederation has had a hand in the theft of our Indigenous lands and resources, the control of our citizens and the division of our Nations. Governments now make very public apologies, but still maintain our communities in poverty. There was a small sign of change with the Kelowna Accord, but the Conservatives blew that out of the water once they came to power. There would be no investment in food, water, education or housing for First Nations -- not on an assimilationist, radical Conservative watch.

However, there is always the pesky media and public to worry about, so after Prime Minister Stephen Harper tore up the Kelowna Accord, he had to save face publicly by making one of his infamous empty promises. Harper promised that instead of $10 billion dollars to address the crisis of poverty in our First Nations, we'd get a First Nation-Crown Summit. I was very skeptical about this "deal" for two reasons: (1) it was unilaterally imposed and (2) it didn't seem like a fair deal to me.

This meeting was promised by Harper and his Conservative government three times, always failing to come to fruition. During this time, and in Harper's own backyard, we saw the people of Kashechewan First Nation evacuated from their community because they were all sick from the contaminated water due to the chronic underfunding of infrastructure on reserve. We also read the disturbing findings of the Coroner's Death Report about the epidemic of child suicide at Pikangikum First Nation. If that wasn't bad enough, Attawapiskat First Nation called a state of emergency for the third time because people had no homes and were living in sheds.

Alberta Liberal Conservative appoints conservative Liberals to battle progressive conservatives, true conservatives

Yesterday, Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman emailed out a press release announcing big changes to his staff.

Key among these were the additions of Jeff Melland, a former spokesthingy for the British Columbia Liberal caucus, and Ryan Pineo, a former legislative assistant with the same West Coast Liberals.

Melland will be moving to Edmonton and taking up his duties on Feb. 1, said Sherman's release. Pineo, by the sound of the statement, has already started work as Sherman's executive assistant. Sherman, according to his news release, is "very excited about my new team." (Emphasis added; explanation to follow.)

Makes sense, you say? Liberals helping Liberals, right?

Nothing is that simple. Given the permutations and transmogrifications among the various parties of the right in Western Canada -- not to mention their occasional name changes, both formal and informal -- it's very hard to keep track of what's going on without a program and a GPS unit.

This is where it starts to get complicated. I'll try to explain.

First of all, we need to remember that Sherman is a former Progressive Conservative, who was fired by former Conservative premier Ed Stelmach for criticizing his former conservative party when he was still a member of it. Last September, Sherman was elected as the leader of the Alberta Liberals, who were still Liberals in the normal Canadian sense of that word, when the party threw its leadership vote wide open to non-Liberals as well as members of the party.

Friends with Benefits - Unearthing the connections between the Harper government,, and Sun Media

Just over a week before the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings began, and its allies launched a pre-emptive PR offensive on environmental and First Nations groups who oppose the pipeline. Their new website,, and ad campaign are an attempt to invalidate opposition to the pipeline by pointing to the small amount of American funding going to some environmental groups, and claiming that pipeline opponents are actually the “puppets” of “foreign interests.”
Sun News was first to promote the campaign, and by the end of the week, numerous papers across Canada were repeating the story. After mentioning last November that "significant American interests" would line up against the pipeline, Stephen Harper eagerly picked up where he left off, touting’s cause, decrying the foreign influence attempting to “overload” the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Review. By Monday, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver had penned a letter to Canadians denouncing the foreign interests trying to “hijack” the review process “to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” The same ominous tone and divisive talking points were parroted over and over by, Harper, Oliver, and the credulous media, driving an entire week of news coverage.

The campaign was timed to hit national news just as many Canadians were tuning in to this issue for the first time, and this frame (“foreign interests” vs. a “Canadian decision”) could have a lasting impact on how people view one of the most important debates in a generation.

So how did a small industry front group with secretive funding sources manage to have so much impact on the national conversation? Well, it looks like the Harper government,, and Sun Media have co-ordinated with one another to create an echo chamber that turns industry talking points into national news. We’ll show how one digital-communications company intimately connects, the Harper government, and Sun Media.

Pipelines, Provinces, and Oil Politics

Poised to seek their revenge on one Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Albertans – and Harper – are unlikely to back down.

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline will probably be approved and built. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will do what Pierre Trudeau did – tell the provinces concerned that the project is a federal issue because it is inter-provincial and international, and that it’s a national development and security issue. Trudeau created the National Energy Program in the 1980s and told Alberta that it had provincial jurisdiction over the oil itself, but that he had the federal jurisdiction over moving it out of Alberta. If the province wanted to sell its oil, it had to make a deal on oil prices within Canada – or it could go sit on its oil. Trudeau avoided travelling to Alberta for quite a while after that, at least partly for security reasons. Many Alberta bumper stickers said, “Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark,” and they meant it.

I lived in Manitoba at the time, and I sympathized. All of the West hated Central Canada. Western anger was further stoked when Trudeau gave an aircraft-maintenance contract to a Quebec company even though BAE in Winnipeg had the best technical proposal and price. Trudeau said it was better for the contract to be given to a company close to the existing infrastructure, which westerners correctly interpreted as meaning that they would never be allowed to develop technological infrastructure.

Alberta had tried for years to get federal funding to develop its oil, but Ontario and Quebec always quashed its attempts because oil from the Middle East was cheap. So Alberta developed its oil with money from private investments. Then OPEC and the oil crisis hit in the 1970s and Albertans were told that their oil was “Canadian oil.” From Albertans’ point of view, the term “bastards” was too mild. In the next federal election, Trudeau’s Liberals were virtually wiped out in the West.

Now the tides have turned: Alberta has prosperity, a larger population, more seats in Parliament, even more oil with the tar sands, and an Albertan Conservative prime minister with a majority government. With this chance for revenge, do you think Albertans will let Harper back down on the Northern Gateway Pipeline or anything to do with tar-sands development? No way. For years, the West felt that Quebec and Ontario relegated it – through their words, attitudes, voting, and funding decisions – to the position of colonies that supplied the East with raw materials. Now Alberta is saying: “Guess what? We are Canada.” As for Eastern Canadian Liberal and NDP concerns about the environment, I can hear the Albertans chuckling. They’re probably remembering that Trudeau made “FU!” famous, and now they can say it back.

Harper is currently in the process of shutting out American conservationist funding and “streamlining” the environmental-review process. He will negotiate with the Aboriginal Peoples and succeed in pushing the pipeline through. Harper has drawn a line in the sand, and clearly and publicly made his stand – he won’t back down now. He’s an Albertan at heart, and it’s his tar-sands oil in more ways than one.

Original Article
Source: the Mark 
Author: Roger Green 

Ontario to face sweeping cost cutting

It’s as if Premier Dalton McGuinty gave economist Don Drummond the province of Ontario tied up in a nice big bow.

In a career brimming with plum positions, Drummond calls this one his “dream job.” McGuinty put him in charge of a commission on the public service with the power to affect all our lives in Ontario with a series of recommendations to find ways to raise money, as well as pinpointing the inevitable cuts.

It recommends that Ontarians play slots at “alternative sites” to racetracks so they won’t have to hike out of town to play. Wine, beer and liquor prices would go up and stores would have “anti-zapper” software installed in cash registers to stop the practice of hiding sales from tax collectors by deleting selected sales.

More than 400 recommendations include consolidation of some ministries, overhaul of others and a major reorganization of medical services and how patients interact with health care providers, right down to the protocol for patients with congestive heart failure and the restoration of hospital privileges for physicians who have let them lapse.

Justice Scalia On Unlimited Political Ads: Turn Off The TV

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don't like all the political advertisements unleashed by the court's decision two years ago that ended limits on corporate contributions in political campaigns – change the channel or turn off the TV.

Scalia was asked about the decision during a presentation before the South Carolina Bar on Saturday, exactly two years after the court handed down the 5-4 decision in the case that led to the rise of Super PACs. They are outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don't directly coordinate with the candidate.

"I don't care who is doing the speech – the more the merrier," Scalia said. "People are not stupid. If they don't like it, they'll shut it off."

Scalia was joined on stage by Justice Stephen Breyer, who voted on the losing side in the decision which has become known as "Citizens United," for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws. Breyer didn't directly criticize the ruling, instead pointing out how it is critical in the American system that people respect the decisions the judiciary makes.

By nature, when a decision isn't unanimous, "somebody is making a mistake," Breyer said.

Breyer also briefly summarized both sides of the argument concentrating on his own.

"There are real problems when people want to spend lots of money on a candidate ... they'll drown out the people who don't have a lot of money," Breyer said.

Denum Ellarby Refused Communion Because He Has Down Syndrome, Parents Say

Clare Ellarby says her child wasn't allowed to take his first Holy Communion because he has Down Syndrome.

In a letter from the Diocese of Leeds, Ellarby was told that her seven-year-old Denum Ellarby lacks the "concentration" necessary to prepare for Communion, according to the BBC. The Diocese also said children can "only proceed to the sacrament of First Communion when they take part in the Church's life and understand the Church's faith".

"It's just disgusting," Ellarby told the BBC. "I feel really let down by the Catholic faith."

A spokesperson for the diocese told the Catholic Herald "Denum's family has not participated in the regular life of the Church or in the preparation preceding First Communion. We hope that this will change as Denum grows and we are working with him and his family to help him achieve this."

The Christian Post reports that Clare and Denum's father Darren have started a petition in support of their son.

"They need to have more compassion," Clare Ellarby told the Post. "What they are doing is so cruel."

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: - 

Electro-Motive Lockout: Protesters Decry 'Corporate Greed' In London's Largest-Ever Demonstration

LONDON, Ont. -- Thousands of people descended on Victoria Park in downtown London on Saturday to rally in support of 420 locked out Electro-Motive Diesel workers in what organizers say is the largest demonstration in the city's history.

Dubbed a “day of action against corporate greed,” the rally for the CAW workers included union members, politicians, residents and dozens of busloads of demonstrators from as far away as Sudbury and Ottawa.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 15,000; police put the total at closer to 5,000.

Illinois-based heavy machinery manufacturing giant Caterpillar, which owns Electro-Motive through its subsidiary Progress Rail, was the target of much of the anger expressed by those who took to the stage.

Speaking directly to Caterpillar, CAW plant chairman Bob Scott elicited cheers of support as he told the crowd that the company “pissed off the wrong [union] membership.”

“You wanted a fight, you got a fight,” he said. “This isn’t about 450 people, this is about a community, a province and a goddamn country. This is going to be a fight that you’re never going to forget.”

Shell To Spend $1B On N.S.'s Offshore Oil And Gas

Shell Canada will spend almost $1 billion exploring Nova Scotia's offshore oil and gas deposits over the next six years.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board said Friday that Shell won its call for bids and has secured the exploration rights.

The company will spend $970 million for the work on four parcels of deep-water land off the province's southwestern shore. That is the highest bid ever in Atlantic Canada.

"Shell demonstrated that it has extensive worldwide experience in deepwater drilling, including involvement in three previous deepwater exploratory wells drilled offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland," the board said.

Shell now has the right to drill off the Scotia Shelf in water ranging in depth from 1,400 to 3,700 metres, according to Stuart Pinks, CEO of the petroleum board.

"It tells me there is some significant confidence in the potential of the offshore of Nova Scotia," he said.

The bid needs federal and provincial approval. Premier Darrell Dexter has already backed the move. He said the return of one of the world's top five oil and gas companies will create jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.