Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Barak: make peace with Palestinians or face apartheid

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, last night delivered an unusually blunt ­warning to his country that a failure to make peace with the Palestinians would leave either a state with no Jewish ­majority or an "apartheid" regime.

His stark language and the South African analogy might have been unthinkable for a senior Israeli figure only a few years ago and is a rare admission of the gravity of the deadlocked peace process.

There have been no formal negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in more than a year, but Barak was speaking at a rare joint event with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, as part of an annual national security conference in the Israeli city of Herzliya. The pair shook hands and both were warmly applauded.

Barak, a former general and Israel's most decorated soldier, sought to appeal to Israelis on both right and left by saying a peace agreement with the Palestinians was the only way to secure Israel's future as a "Zionist, Jewish, democratic state".

"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic," Barak said. "If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

He described Israel and the Palestinian territories as the historic "land of Israel" to which Israelis had a right.

Stefan Stern: Our public gaze is beginning to shame the shameless

Cameron calls for bank bonus truce" ran the Financial Times headline on Saturday. To some this truce will look more like a white flag. It is a curious moment to relax the pressure on financiers just when some appear to be acknowledging that things have got out of hand. First among equals, in this regard, is the Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive, Stephen Hester.
For a Master of the Universe, Mr Hester adopted a pretty hushed tone when he appeared on the Today programme last week. Anyone who chanced upon the interview might have assumed that the person speaking was confessing to a moral aberration, or to a hitherto undetected crime.

This CEO does not seem to believe, as Barclays' Bob Diamond clearly does, that the time for remorse is over. Nor did the RBS boss claim, as Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein once jokingly did, that he was "doing God's work". Mr Hester turned up in the headmaster's study to take his punishment uncomplainingly. But this was not the only display of contrition. The CEO of the mining business Rio Tinto and the entire top team at Network Rail also agreed last week to forgo their large bonuses.

Something is definitely up – or, in terms of remuneration, down. Maybe it is only a temporary phenomenon. But it looks as though the concept of shame could be making a comeback into public life. As top salaries rose ever higher in the past few years it was not obvious that a strong sense of shame existed in company boardrooms. I once asked the former TUC general secretary, John Monks, about these kinds of excessive rewards, and whether anything could be done about them. "How do you shame people who are shameless?", was his reply.

A reprieve, nothing more

RIOTING in Athens, a crucial late-night vote on austerity in the Greek parliament and just enough accomplished to unlock the latest round of bail-out money from Greece’s official creditors when euro-zone finance ministers meet again in Brussels on Wednesday. The euro-crisis script has not changed much over the past year.

If things run to form, the risk of imminent, disorderly default will be deferred this week. Most private-sector creditors will agree to swallow a big loss on their holdings of Greek bonds; and Greece will legislate to ensure that hold-out creditors are forced to accept the same terms. Official creditors will nod through a €130 billion ($172 billion) bail-out, enabling Greece to meet a big bond payment due in March.

Greece’s agonies are by no means over, however. Although the country’s debt burden will be cut as a result of the private-sector losses, the relentless rhythm of regular troika assessments and poisonous rows over disbursements will continue. The weekend’s events do nothing to instil confidence that Greece will suddenly start fulfilling its promises. Forty-three deputies were expelled from their parties for voting against the caretaker government of Lucas Papademos. A requirement that the leaders of the main parties have to follow through with cuts regardless of the results of coming elections will be tested to destruction when campaigning actually begins.

So the rest of the euro zone will probably keep confronting the same old question: whether they are prepared to keep handing over cash to Greece. The evidence of recent days is that the patience of euro-zone leaders is running out. They took a tougher line in last week’s negotiations than many had expected. The focus on Germany’s willingness to pay up risks distracting attention from other creditor states, like Finland and the Netherlands, which are equally fed up with handing out money and have fewer hang-ups than Germany about playing the part of good Europeans. And if Italy and Spain are able to make decent progress in dealing with their own public finances, the rest of the euro zone will feel more confident about limiting the fallout from a decision to turn off the Greek tap. Greece has delayed a messy default, but it will happen eventually.

Original Article
Source: economist 
Author: ap 

In Sacramento, Budget Cuts Leave Homeless Without Bathrooms, Water Overnight

Faced with a $200 million deficit accumulated over the past five years, Sacramento, Calif., like many other struggling municipalities, is severely cutting back.

In the span of less than a year, California's capital has cut public workers, closed public facilities, and now is contemplating a plan to liquidate public assets to hold on to its NBA team.

But the city's mayor is coming under fire for one money-saving cutback that a United Nations human rights observer says is a likely violation of international human rights treaties. Earlier this month, the U.N. took the rare step of issuing a public letter to Sacramento's mayor declaring conditions for the city's homeless unacceptable.

The problem: In an effort to save money last year, city officials declined to fix about 50 broken water fountains and installed automatic locks on some park restroom doors. The locks activate at 10 p.m., leaving many of the nearly 1,000 homeless people who can't find space in the city's shelters with no reliable overnight access to water or restrooms.

How The Pentagon’s Top Killers Became (Unaccountable) Spies

This is what people think of when they imagine the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC — the secretive, über-elite military unit that killed Osama bin Laden. The leader of a JSOC unit in Iraq, known as K-Bar, gets shot in the chest by insurgents. K-Bar waves away his medic until he finishes killing his assailants. His reward? Leading JSOC’s operations in Afghanistan.

Ludicrous acts of superhuman bravado are part of JSOC’s myth and mystique. That mystique is hard to penetrate: JSOC is so secretive that it instructs its members not to write down important information, lest it be vulnerable to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. But a new book reveals that killing might not even be the most important thing JSOC does.

Marc Ambinder, a former reporter for The Atlantic and National Journal, goes deep inside JSOC to reveal that it has become perhaps the government’s most effective intelligence agency. Unassuming office buildings around the Washington area and beyond have become unlabeled spy centers that process untold volumes of information extracted from JSOC’s hunting missions, with such a rapid analytic turnaround time that the “shooters” of the unit can quickly begin planning their next kills. In fact, Ambinder reports in The Command, his just-published eBook, the integration of tactical spying within JSOC is so thorough that it’s hard to distinguish “shooters” from analysts.

Yet JSOC operates with practically no accountability. In Iraq, it ran a torture chamber at a place called Camp Nama — until its leader, Stanley McChrystal and his intelligence chief, Michael Flynn, cleaned it up. (There’s a debate in military circles about whether McChrystal or his friend and successor, Adm. William McRaven deserve credit for JSOC’s resurgence; but Ambinder’s reporting suggests Flynn is the real father of the modern JSOC.) The unit is supposed to answer to the chain of command, but it advised President Obama not to ask which Navy SEAL actually killed Osama bin Laden — and then wouldn’t tell Obama’s chief of staff, who ignored the advice. Even while the CIA works intimately with JSOC, it whispers to reporters, self-interestedly, that the unit is out of control.

Conference Board Economists: U.S. Economy Transitioning To A New Normal

"The economy that we had before the recession is gone," said Kenneth Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board. "It's not coming back."

The U.S. economy is transitioning to a new normal in which businesses invest less and consumers spend less than before the recession, Goldstein told The Huffington Post in an interview last week. As a result, he said, economic growth and job growth will be slower than before.

He said that businesses, consumers and the government would need to spend at least $1 trillion more than they are likely to spend in order for the economy to return to its pre-recession growth rate. But he added that no one is willing to spend the money necessary to jumpstart the economy, since the government is cutting spending, consumers are saving more, and businesses expect a lower return on their investments.

"Where's the money?" Goldstein asked.

The Conference Board, which counts half of all Fortune 500 companies among its members, provides economic and business advice and research to its member companies.

Afghanistan Base 'Aryan' Raises Objections From Soldiers Over Name

WASHINGTON -- Following last week's embarrassing controversy involving Marines displaying a flag with what appeared to be a Nazi insignia, American and Afghan soldiers have alleged that an Army base near Kandahar was named Combat Outpost "Aryan," a term evocative of Nazi rhetoric.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Monday morning, lawyers representing the Military Religious Freedom Foundation demanded that Panetta immediately rename the base and launch an investigation into its naming. "The horrendous religious and ethnic connotations are beyond dispute, as is the horribly wrongful nature of either the base name or the use of the SS insignia," wrote Randal Mathis of the Dallas law firm Mathis, Donheiser and Jeter.

The name of the outpost was included in a news bulletin from June 2011 on the website of the Army's 170th Infantry Brigade. A subordinate unit of the brigade, which is based in Germany and was deployed to southern Afghanistan at the time, published a photo of American soldiers meeting with their Afghan counterparts at "Combat Outpost Aryan" on June 5.

The Department of Defense pushed back on the report, telling The Huffington Post that it has no record of the alleged base name. "We have not been able to identify any ISAF facilities in Kandahar named 'Aryan,' but there is an Afghan National Army Combat Outpost in southwest Ghazni province called 'Arian,'" said Commander William Speaks.

India, Georgia Bombings Target Israeli Diplomats

NEW DELHI — Israel blamed Iran on Monday for bomb attacks on its diplomats' cars in India and Georgia, heightening concerns that the Jewish state was moving closer to striking its archenemy.

Iran denied responsibility for the attacks that appeared to mirror the recent killings of Iranian nuclear scientists that Tehran blamed on Israel.

The blast in New Delhi set a car ablaze and injured four people, including an Israeli Embassy driver and a diplomat's wife; the device in Georgia was discovered and safely defused.

"Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror exporter in the world," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud Party.

The violence added further tension to one of the globe's most contentious standoffs. Iran has been accused of developing a nuclear weapons program that Israel says threatens the existence of the Jewish state. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Comments by Israeli officials in recent weeks have raised fears Israel might be preparing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. While Israel says it hopes that international sanctions can curb Iran's nuclear program, leaders pointedly note that "all options are on the table" and have warned that as Iran moves closer to weapons capability, time is running out for action. Fearing an Israeli attack could set off a conflict across the region and send oil prices skyrocketing, U.S. and other Western countries have been pressing Israel to give sanctions more time.

Mystery Disease In Central America Kills Thousands

CHICHIGALPA, Nicaragua -- Jesus Ignacio Flores started working when he was 16, laboring long hours on construction sites and in the fields of his country's biggest sugar plantation.

Three years ago his kidneys started to fail and flooded his body with toxins. He became too weak to work, wracked by cramps, headaches and vomiting.

On Jan. 19 he died on the porch of his house. He was 51. His withered body was dressed by his weeping wife, embraced a final time, then carried in the bed of a pickup truck to a grave on the edge of Chichigalpa, a town in Nicaragua's sugar-growing heartland, where studies have found more than one in four men showing symptoms of chronic kidney disease.

A mysterious epidemic is devastating the Pacific coast of Central America, killing more than 24,000 people in El Salvador and Nicaragua since 2000 and striking thousands of others with chronic kidney disease at rates unseen virtually anywhere else. Scientists say they have received reports of the phenomenon as far north as southern Mexico and as far south as Panama.

Last year it reached the point where El Salvador's health minister, Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez, appealed for international help, saying the epidemic was undermining health systems.

Wilfredo Ordonez, who has harvested corn, sesame and rice for more than 30 years in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador, was hit by the chronic disease when he was 38. Ten years later, he depends on dialysis treatments he administers to himself four times a day.

"This is a disease that comes with no warning, and when they find it, it's too late," Ordonez said as he lay on a hammock on his porch.

Omnibus Crime Bill Could Free More Accused Criminals

The federal government's proposed omnibus crime bill could free more accused criminals than it incarcerates, according to the Canadian Bar Association and some lawyers.

In Canada, the Askov ruling happens when a judge determines whether an accused's right "to be tried within a reasonable time" has been infringed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It means any case that drags out for an unreasonably long time can be dismissed.

That rule, which comes from a Supreme Court decision in October 1990, now has many lawyers worried the proposed crime bill, which is currently the subject of Senate hearings, will clog the court system.

Bill C-10 makes changes to several existing laws. It creates some new offences, introduces mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes, eliminates pardons and house arrest for some criminals and proposes a number of other changes, including reforms of youth justice laws.

There is concern surrounding mandatory minimums, especially, as the bar association said they make people fight their charges harder.

Exercise caution in dealings with China - PM playing hardball with U.S. comes with very real risks

The bottom line on Canada's shiny new "strategic partnership" with totalitarian China? Stephen Harper is playing hardball with the Americans in a way that neither Jean Chrétien nor Paul Martin would ever have dared. Because of the U.S. electoral cycle it's a game he thinks he can win. But caution is warranted. Let's consider, first of all, the nature of the country into whose bed we appear to be so eagerly leaping. I will quote directly from the U.S. State Department's exceedingly thorough 2010 human rights report on China:

"As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government. Principal human rights problems during the year included: extrajudicial killings, including executions without due process; enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, including prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as 'black jails'; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law; a lack of due process in judicial proceedings, political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; restrictions on freedoms to assemble, practice religion and travel; failure to protect refugees and asylum-seekers; pressure on other countries to forcibly return citizens to China; intense scrutiny of, and restrictions on, non-governmental organizations; discrimination against women, minorities and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth limitation policy, which in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization; trafficking in persons; prohibitions on independent unions and a lack of protection for workers' right to strike; and the use of forced labour, including prison labour. Corruption remains endemic."

Pentagon’s $525 Billion Budget Takes Most From Lockheed F-35

The Pentagon’s proposed $525 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 would seek the most savings on weapons by reducing purchases of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the military’s costliest program.

The Defense Department would cut $1.6 billion from the F-35 program by eliminating 13 planned aircraft, part of $18 billion in weapons cuts proposed in the budget that President Barack Obama sent to Congress today for the year beginning Oct. 1.

The proposed spending plan of $525.4 billion is $45 billion less than projected a year ago and the first installment in an 8.5 percent reduction by 2021. With $88.5 billion in war spending added in, the Pentagon total would come to $613.9 billion, down $31.8 billion from the amount enacted by Congress for this year.

Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized Obama’s budget proposal.

Obama’s priorities will reduce “resources for our struggling armed forces and redirect them to exploding domestic bureaucracies,” McKeon said in a statement. “This budget reflects a true reduction, in real terms, of military spending while we have troops in combat.”

The budget request marks the third consecutive year of slower growth in military spending since former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress in January 2009 that “the spigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing.”

Canada’s unofficial (and unelected) opposition

Former high-ranking civil servants are outspoken critics of the Harper government

For a particular set of policy wonks—generally identifiable by the telltale pallor and redness around the eyes that come from too many hours scouring spreadsheets—the recent news that Philip Cross is leaving Statistics Canada was big. The 36-year stalwart of the federal number-crunching agency, most recently its chief economist, has long been a prized source of analysis on questions from the depth of recessions to the problems of productivity. But Cross’s exit, prompted in part by his frustration with the Conservative government’s controversial 2010 decision to cancel the long version of the Canadian census, fits a pattern that has political implications beyond arcane economic debates. He is only the latest in a string of top former public servants to join what amounts to an extra-parliamentary unofficial opposition.

In policy disputes over deficit financing or defence procurement, the government’s stance on the Middle East, or its response to an aging population, the most cogent criticism increasingly comes from independent-minded lapsed bureaucrats. Unlike university professors or think-tank researchers, former mandarins bring insider intelligence on how federal policy is really made. The civil servant colleagues they leave behind keep them up to speed on new developments. All of that can make their critiques more intriguing to the media and, for beleaguered politicians, harder to dismiss. In past eras, retirement often cut them off from timely information sources and avenues for disseminating their views. No longer. “We now have the Internet and blogging and tweeting,” says Scott Clark, a former deputy minister of finance. “All that stuff allows people to do it so easily.”

New city fees shock baseball players

New fees to use Toronto’s playing fields could see parents paying $100 extra for a child playing baseball this season, league officials say.

Etobicoke’s Royal York Baseball League said they’ve been told it’ll cost the 900-player organization just over $97,000 in playing field permit fees this year.

In previous years, there has been no charge. The new hourly rates are $12, $8 and $6 based on the quality of the sports field.

At Royal York, the league charges each player $130 a season for uniforms, equipment and other expenses. Adding field rental could push the tab far in excess of $200.

“I don’t know what to do,” said league president Alan Waffle. “I’m at a loss because it’s such a huge change to be absorbed all in one year.”

“It’s a lot of money to play baseball,” said Robert Lowe, whose three children play for Bloordale Baseball, another league affected by the fee that has 270 players aged 5 to 15.

Binyamin Netanyahu accuses Iran over bombs targeting Israeli diplomats

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of being behind twin attacks on Israeli targets in India and Georgia on Monday in a move likely to further escalate tensions between the two countries and increase international pressure on the Iranian regime.

The attacks, in which four people were injured, followed a warning from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, earlier this month that the Islamic Republic would retaliate against international sanctions and would back "any nation or group" that sought to "confront and fight" Israel.

In Delhi, witnesses said they saw assailants on motorcycles attaching a device to a car when it stopped at a traffic light. In the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, an Israeli embassy driver discovered a device planted on the undercarriage of his car. The modus operandi in both incidents mirrored the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran last month, which Iran claimed was carried out by agents for Israeli intelligence.

The Iranian regime also blamed Israel for a string of earlier assassinations and covert operations. Many in the international community have voiced alarm at the prospect of a low-intensity war between the two states conducted by intelligence operatives and their proxies.

Will Occupy Embrace Nonviolence?

This piece is adapted from “In Chicago, Throwing Down the Gauntlet,” which originally appeared in the online edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal ( on January 25.

This past fall, Occupy transformed the political landscape by seizing a moment, wedding righteous anger to high spirits—by existing and enduring in public places. The occupations cleared spaces for public life, for mutual education and controversy. From them came all kinds of direct actions that carried symbolic weight. From them also came the marches of tens of thousands where the inner movement of the encampments was joined by the outer movement of the membership organizations—the unions, progressive groups and so on. That was when the movement broke through to the larger public—by looking like the 99 percent.

Then, in house occupations and anti-foreclosure actions, the movement began to deliver palpable results—putting real families in real homes, preventing evictions. And despite ample provocation by paramilitarized police, the movement occupied the moral high ground by staying almost wholly nonviolent. Now, ready or not, here comes the election cycle of 2012, putting pressure on the movement to keep up a vital tension between self-maintenance and growth, between challenging the whole plutocratic political economy and upping the odds of reforms that can arrest and reverse it.

And, right on cue, here come the city governments of Chicago, Tampa and Charlotte, readying noxious rules and massive armament to corral the likely thousands of demonstrators who will gather, in the Occupy spirit—though not necessarily with any official imprimatur—to greet the G-8 and NATO in May, the Republicans in August and the Democrats in September, respectively.

Are We on the Brink of War With Iran?

Only twelve minutes into his presidency, Barack Obama reached out to the Muslim world and Iran, offering America’s hand of friendship if Iran would in turn unclench its fist. Yet three years later, we are closer to war than we were in the last years of the Bush administration, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta telling the Washington Post there is a “strong likelihood” of an Israeli strike this spring. How did we get here?

Conventional wisdom in Washington is that Obama’s diplomacy with Iran failed. It did not. As I argue in my new book A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, it was prematurely abandoned. Obama’s intention was genuine, but his vision for diplomacy was soon undermined, for four reasons: pressure from Israel and its powerful allies in Congress, and to a lesser extent from Saudi Arabia and France, to adopt a confrontational policy; the June 2009 election mayhem in Iran and the subsequent repression and human rights abuses, which hardened the regime in Tehran and narrowed Obama’s space for diplomacy; Obama’s early adoption of a contradictory “dual track” policy, combining diplomacy with escalating pressure on Tehran; and Obama’s unwillingness to create more domestic political space for diplomacy by challenging a status quo in Washington that is set on enmity.

The Netanyahu government and its Washington allies compromised Obama’s vision in four ways. First, they insisted that diplomacy be given an unrealistically tight deadline of twelve weeks. Second, although Obama was potentially willing to accept enrichment of uranium on Iranian soil under strict inspections, Israel demanded complete dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program, an unachievable objective that rendered diplomacy dead on arrival. Third, the Israelis and their hardline US allies pushed for sanctions before diplomacy was even tried. Obama pushed back at first, but after the Iranian election scandal, the pro-sanctions camp got the upper hand.

A total disregard for the human

The death penalty "in some cases"? Yes to torture "under certain conditions"? The invitation to suicide prisoners criminals? This type of speech reflects a "decline" of society and "a total disregard for the human" as the philosopher Thomas De Koninck. It is rather for prevention, rehabilitation and human dignity that we must appeal to these delicate territory.

Recent statements shocks senior conservative politicians never fail to raise fundamental ethical issues, the eminent professor of philosophy at Laval University Thomas De Koninck is a duty and a pleasure to recall. "Every human being has equal dignity and entitled to our respect simply because he is human," he says in an interview with Le Devoir.

In his landmark book On Human Dignity, published in 1995, reissued in 2002, it gives an absolute value to the concept of dignity, like Kant before him. "The progress of a culture must go in the direction of respect, recognition of this dignity."

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper endorse the death penalty and torture "in some cases", when Conservative Senator Pierre-Yves Boisvenu let criminals in prisons and choosing the means to commit suicide, so they hire the company in opposite direction of progress. The word "primitive" and "backward" will return in his words, during the interview.

"This is a call to violence, said the son of the philosopher Charles De Koninck. A return to the law of retaliation, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. And violence is never a solution. "The remarks of Senator Boisvenu, which refer to the" worst "of violence, that against itself, testify to a" total disregard for the human, "he said. Yet Canada does not have a culture of violence as the U.S., he notes. A way that it is better to continue to follow.

Why America Keeps Getting More Conservative

Even with the president’s approval rating showing signs of life and the Republicans busily bashing themselves over the head — “one is a practicing polygamist and he’s not even the Mormon,” retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently quipped about her party’s two frontrunners — America continues to track right, according to polling data released by the Gallup Organization last week.

Americans at this political moment are significantly more likely to identify as conservative than as liberal: conservatives outnumber liberals by nearly two to one. Forty percent identify as conservative, 36 percent as moderate, and 21 percent liberal.

"The Loving Story": How an Interracial Couple Changed a Nation

The most striking thing about Mildred and Richard Loving is that they never wanted to be known. They didn't want to change history or face down racism. They just wanted to come home to Virginia to be near their families. The Lovings weren't radicals. They were just two people in love—one of them a taciturn white guy described by one of their lawyers as a "redneck," the other a sweet, soft-spoken young woman of black and American Indian ancestry.

When the The Loving Story makes its national debut on HBO on Valentine's Day, it will be the first time many Americans have met this couple. They are the namesake of the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case that struck down the anti-miscegenation laws still on the books in 16 states some 13 years after school segregation was deemed unconstitutional. These laws constituted one of the last formal vestiges of the Jim Crow era, and this film shows for the first time what it took to bring them down.

Even as they changed America, the Lovings were never a household name. After getting married in Washington, DC, in June 1958, they simply returned to their home in Central Point, Virginia. Mildred was unaware, she said, of her state's "Racial Integrity Act," a 1924 law forbidding interracial marriage—although she later added that she thought her husband knew about it but didn't figure they'd be persecuted.

It's the Wealth Gap, Stupid

When Mitt Romney bowed to political pressure and released his 2010 tax return, it showed, to no one's great surprise, that the Romneys are rich. Really, really rich. They reported income of more than $21 million, itemized deductions of over $4.5 million, and a total tax bill of just over $3 million. They made charitable contributions of almost $3 million, although more than half of that went to their church.

But what really stood out in the tax return—beyond the presidential candidate's 13.9 percent tax rate—is not that Mitt makes a lot of money, it's that he has a lot of money. Romney's finances are illustrative of the growing gulf between haves and have-nots. It's not about income equality; it's about the widening wealth gap.

In recent years, the fortunes of the Romneys and others in their cohort have continued to grow, notably diverging from the majority of Americans still struggling to deal with a slow economic recovery. The Occupy Wall Street protesters stole the media spotlight this past fall by creatively highlighting these discrepancies. President Obama has taken notice and, as reflected in his State of the Union address, is teeing up inequality as a major campaign theme for the fall. But it is not enough to highlight the gap between incomes of the top 1 percent and the bottom 99. What's more alarming—and consequential over the long haul—is the growing concentration of wealth.

Greek Protests Continue As Lawmakers Pass Severe Austerity Measures

ATHENS, Greece — Greek lawmakers on Monday approved harsh new austerity measures demanded by bailout creditors to save the debt-crippled nation from bankruptcy, after riots in Athens and other cities left stores looted and burned and more than 120 people hurt.

The historic vote paves the way for Greece's European partners and the International Monetary Fund to release $170 billion (euro130 billion) in new rescue loans, without which Greece would default on its mountain of debt next month and likely leave the eurozone – a scenario that would further roil global markets.

Lawmakers voted 199-74 in favor of the cutbacks, despite strong dissent among the two main coalition members.

In response, the Socialists and conservatives expelled 22 and 21 lawmakers, respectively, reducing their majority in the 300-seat parliament from 236 to 193.

Violence was also reported in six other cities, the worst in central Volos where the town hall and a tax office were damaged by fire, police said.

Sunday's clashes erupted after more than 100,000 protesters marched to the parliament to rally against the drastic cuts, which will ax one in five civil service jobs and slash the minimum wage by more than a fifth.

Media Ownership Poll: Canadians Overwhelmingly Oppose Foreign Control

Two-thirds of Canadians believe that foreign ownership of broadcast and cable companies would lead to less Canadian-made cultural content, a poll commissioned by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting suggests.

In an online survey of 2,022 adult Canadians, 77 per cent said they believed that Canadian media was “too important for culture and national security” to be foreign owned. Only 23 per cent said they believed Canadian media owners should be able to sell to foreigners to be competitive.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they believed if foreign companies gained permission and acquired control of Canadian broadcasting and cable companies, Canadian content on radio and TV would decrease. Eighteen per cent said they thought it would remain the same, five per cent suggested Canadian content would increase and 12 per cent said they didn’t know.

The poll comes as Ottawa debates relaxing foreign ownership rules in the telecom sector in order to increase investment and spur competition.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting asked the same questions in previous polls in 2007 and 2010, and the sense that foreign ownership would result in less Canadian content has only grown.

“There is a continuity here,” Friends spokesman Ian Morrison told The Huffington Post Canada. “Canadians fear what will happen when there is foreign control over their communication system.”

“They think that communications is pretty important for the future of the country and it’s too important to allow it to fall into foreign hands. That seems to be the standby position of a good majority of Canadians,” he said.

Time to Zip John Baird's Loose Lips

It is hard to credit the latest statements and actions by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. On both Iran and Israel Baird seems to almost deliberately seek to humiliate both himself and the country he is supposed to represent on the international stage. Taking an ultra-orthodox rabbi (whose organization opposes any Palestinian state) with him on an official visit to Israel is not just bizarre but dangerous. And suggesting, essentially, that Iran has a first-strike policy against Israel (with non-existent nuclear weapons) while comparing its leader to Hitler, puts Baird firmly in the company of drunks in a bar room exchange of tough talk.

For Stephen Harper to let this crude and ignorant buffoon loose as our principal face to the world may only be understandable if we assume that everything Harper does is for a domestic audience. He simply doesn't care what the world thinks. There has always been a kind of visceral disdain for things foreign amongst the population which makes up Harper's core vote. Perhaps willful ignorance and a penchant for bar room tough talk is exactly what qualifies Baird for his job.

It is hardly new that Harper's ministers and Harper himself operate with little reference to the professional civil service that most governments rely on for policy advice. He doesn't trust bureaucrats or their traditional role of guiding government policy. For Harper the civil service is at best an impediment to his agenda, at worst a political enemy -- the equivalent of another political party. He has now effectively gagged every public employee who might otherwise brief the media -- and citizens -- on even on the mundane day-to-day operations of government.

It’s time for a reality check on Harper’s tough talk about Iran

Readers old enough to remember the Looney Tunes cartoon series may recall episodes based on Chester and Spike.

Chester was a bouncing terrier puppy eager to prove his mettle to Spike, the big, tough bulldog.

In recent weeks, tough-talking Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been chirping like Chester to encourage Spike (a.k.a. the United States) into a full-out scrap with both Syria and Iran.

No doubt Harper’s ego has been inflated over the accolades and honours bestowed upon Canada for the nominal leadership role we played in the NATO dog pack’s ravaging of a hapless Libya.

As the international community, led by the U.S. State Department, pushes ever closer to a military intervention in Syria, Harper has publicly expressed his disappointment at China’s and Russia’s refusals to sanction a UN mandate against the Assad regime.

In other words, Harper is spoiling for a fight. Going one step further in the case of Iran, Harper has embarked on a one-man fear-mongering campaign to paint the Persian Peril as an imminent threat to world safety.

The problem with pensions is politics

Colin Carrie was standing mere feet from Jim Flaherty when the Finance Minister peeled back the latest layer of the government’s plans for Old Age Security, on Friday.

“This is not for tomorrow morning,” said Flaherty. “This is for 2020, 2025.”

Unfortunately for Carrie, the Member of Parliament for Oshawa, 2025 may come too soon; that’s the year he turns 65. Thank goodness for MP pensions.

But other not-quite-seniors may not be so lucky. We don’t know yet, and neither, it seems, does Colin Carrie. The Conservatives seem keen to slacken the social safety net, but the specifics are only just beginning to seep out.

It has been a slow striptease, beset by partisan squabbling — “debate” would be too generous a description — and the rancour of our politics is to blame. Ottawa has become too small for big issues; every decision is bedevilled by its details. In this age of spin, our leaders are too timid to tempt the third rail. And so they delay, dither, and deny. Eventually, the public will pay the price for their procrastination.

Of course, the Conservatives are largely responsible for the sorry state of our democratic debate. For nearly a decade, Harper and his team have taken their opponents out of context at every turn. They’ve pounced wherever plausible. They’ve played to win, and win they have.

Now, however, the shoe is on the other foot. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in late January, the Prime Minister may or may not have suggested that his government may or may not do something — somehow, sometime — to reduce spending on public pensions. The opposition parties swiftly let slip the guns of war.

The new free-trade debate - Could a China deal be the next NAFTA?

Former Liberal leader John Turner predicted in the 1988 federal election debate that the free-trade deal then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had negotiated with the U.S. would "reduce us, I'm sure, to a colony of the United States."

Mulroney went on to win that election and implement the trade agreement, despite Turner's warning that "when the economic levers go, the political independence is sure to follow."

Despite strong feelings on trade with Canada's longtime neighbour and ally more than two decades ago, Turner declined to comment, when reached by phone, on the prospect of free trade with China - something that was raised last week as Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with officials in China.

"I read the agreements, so I knew something about it," Turner said of free trade with the U.S. "I'm not too familiar on what's happening here," he said of discussions with China.

Agreements were announced last week that would increase the trade of oil, uranium and other goods between Canada and China.

As well, there were indications China is interested in a more universal trade pact with Canada, though Trade Minister Ed Fast had this to say on that prospect: "Let's not get ahead of ourselves here."

Accountability and spending cuts: Will Gomery cause trouble for Clement?

Almost seven years after the Gomery Commission released its first report on the sponsorship scandal, its impact on how government thinks about accountability can still be felt across the system. In reaction to Justice Gomery’s findings, a host of new rules, processes and regulations have been introduced in an attempt to increase the transparency of government activity and improve accountability.

These changes raise the legitimate question of whether the increase in the number of rules to follow and forms to fill out has yielded a comparable increase in accountability. Did the return to a compliance and punitive view of accountability actually improve the system’s performance? Most often using the new lobbying regime as an example, many analysts have concluded that, in fact, government learned the wrong lessons from the sponsorship scandal. While increasing the bureaucratic burden on those who play by the rules, the new regime does little to shine light on the actions of those who have already decided not to follow them.

Such criticisms of recent changes are well documented. But as the federal government embarks on a system-wide attempt to reduce government spending, the unintended consequences of the Gomery inquiry are about to be felt in an entirely new way. To better illustrate, let us go back to the state of debate and knowledge on public sector accountability immediately prior to the Auditor General’s report that blew the sponsorship scandal wide open.

During the mid-to-late 1990s, governments across Canada began experimenting with shared services and citizen-centred government. Motivated by a desire to cut costs and reorganize government services around the needs of users, departments began breaking down the silos between them and set out to work on common policy problems in more collaborative ways. Over time, citizens were able to access a wider array of services through a single point of contact, and governments reorganized their back-office operations to eliminate waste and duplication.

‘Unbelievable, unreliable, and incredible.’Why did Jim Flaherty attack the PBO?

These are the words used by the minister of finance in a short scrum with reporters to describe Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO).

This was in response to a report released by the PBO that concluded that, with the new proposed funding formula for the Canada Health Transfer, unilaterally imposed on the provinces by Mr. Flaherty last December, the federal fiscal structure, with the current projected increases in elderly benefits, are in fact “sustainable” over the longer term. In other words, whatever the reasons for wanting to increase the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 for OAS/GIS, lack of sustainability or affordability was not one of them.

Why did the Minister of Finance react like a schoolyard bully by attacking the PBO? After all, surely the government must have its own research examining the long-term fiscal consequences of an ageing population?

The federal government has known for some time the challenges that would result from an ageing population. They affect government revenues as the tax base shrinks and the old-age dependency ratio increases. They affect government spending through increased outlays for public pensions, health, and care for the aged.

In the March 2007 Budget, the Minister of Finance committed to “publish a comprehensive fiscal sustainability and intergenerational report with the 2007 Economic and Fiscal Update”.[1]  He stated that such a report “will provide a broad analysis of current and future demographic changes and the implications of these changes for Canada’s long-run economic and fiscal outlook”.

Is Canada OK with torture? Vic Toews sure is

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is apparently a big hockey fan, even said to be writing a book about it. So it seems appropriate, surely for the first time ever in Canadian journalism, to employ a hockey image in describing current politics.

If the federal cabinet is a hockey team, Vic Toews is the guy who can’t skate or handle the puck, but stays on the team because the guys all like him. He always backs the team, whether it be right or wrong. Guys like Toews make the other players look smart.

On the ice, skill-challenged players often make up for their lack of dexterity by playing the bully boy. That’s the perfect job for Toews, the minister of public safety who says it’s OK to torture. So he’s the enforcer. Or goon, depending on your point of view.

Under Toews, orders went out in 2010 to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to accept information about potential attacks on Canadians or Canadian property even if CSIS wasn’t sure how the information was obtained. This would only apply to "exceptional circumstances," although there’s nothing public that specifies what that means.

Federal Court rebukes Toews, again

For the third time in six weeks, the Federal Court of Canada has slapped down Public Safety Minister Vic Toews for rejecting the transfer of a Canadian citizen imprisoned in the U.S. for a drug crime.

In a Jan. 19 decision, Justice Robert Barnes overturned Toews' refusal to approve Richard Goulet's 2008 application to serve the rest of his sentence in Canada. Toews must now reassess Goulet's application within 45 days.

Goulet, of Ayer's Cliff in Quebec's Eastern Townships, is serving a sentence of seven years and three months in the U.S. for conspiring to import and distribute a large quantity of marijuana. He was arrested 2006.

It took Toews more than two years to rule on Goulet's transfer application, and when he finally did in December 2010, he rejected it, despite a report by Correctional Services Canada that concluded he posed no threat to the security of Canada.

The Correctional Services report also noted that Goulet suffers from a severe case of bipolar disorder that requires a specific regimen of medicine and testing.

"It has been reported by the family and his attorney that Mr. Goulet has suffered significant weight loss and appears ill and over-medicated," the report continued. "The failure to monitor Mr. Goulet's condition can potentially have lethal consequences."

In his decision, Barnes pointed out that the law requires Toews to give reasons for his decision. He said it was "impossible to tell" what factors caused Toews to deny Goulet's application.

Under Liberal governments, transfers were routinely approved. But the Conservative government has rejected most cases, particularly those involving people convicted of drug offences.

The Federal Court has been overturning a large number of those refusals. But that could soon change. The government's crime bill, which should soon get royal assent, broadens the grounds under which the minister can deny transfer requests.

Original Article
Source: ottawa citizen 
Author: Don Butler 

Black Power on TV: How "Soul Train" Host Don Cornelius (1936-2012) Reshaped Independent Black Media

Whitney Houston is just the latest cultural icon to pass away during this year’s Black History Month. On February 1, "Soul Train" host Don Cornelius was found dead at his home in Los Angeles, in what appeared to be a suicide. Cornelius brought black music and culture into America’s living rooms through his dance show, "Soul Train," one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history, and played a critical role in spreading the music of black America to the world. "Don Cornelius was very clear: this was going to be his vision. It was going to celebrate the diversity of blackness. It was going to celebrate the vitality of blackness. And it was going to be available to folks in the mainstream," says Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal, who also reflects on the recent deaths of Whitney Houston and the Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, Etta James.

Source: Democracy Now! 
Author: -- 

This time, the CBC cuts will be noticeable

When music critics and public broadcasting analysts gather in a cavernous TV studio in downtown Toronto Monday, they can expect a splashy presentation about a digital music streaming service with no less than 40 channels. But the celebratory tone over the launch of CBC Music might be a bit forced: The public broadcaster is widely predicted to take a 10 per cut to its $1.1-billion grant when the federal budget comes down in late February or early March and moving radio music services online is a way to both save money and generate ad revenue. If Music Canada! is a bouncing new baby, old Radio 2, the CBC’s English-language music channel, looks decidedly sick.

As part of a government-wide belt-tightening process, the CBC was asked last fall to present Ottawa with two possible budget scenarios, cutting five or 10 cent over three years. The broadcaster cannot discuss the contents of those scenarios, but in a recent meeting with The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix made it clear that he considers 10 per cent the most likely possibility.

“You’ll notice it,” Lacroix said.

Feds have already cut half a billion dollars and more than 2,000 PS jobs in 2011-2012

The government has already cut more than a half a billion dollars and more than 2,000 jobs from the public service this year alone, according to what will likely be the only detailed and publicly-available account of where the cuts to the public service fell in 2011-2012.

Liberal MP John McCallum (Markham-Unionville, Ont.) asked the government in November for a detailed account of where each ministry was cut, how much was cut, and how many jobs were lost in 2011-2012 as the effect of years of strategic reviews.

The results were tabled Jan. 30. Twenty-two departments responded, and the results ranged from no cuts at all, in the case of Aboriginal Affairs, Canadian Heritage and the Finance Department, to as much as $172.7-million in cuts and more than 720 jobs at Human Resources Skills Development Canada.

Also among the financially hardest-hit departments in 2011-2012 are Fisheries and Oceans, which found $56.7-million in savings, and Health Canada, which cut $52.3-million.

The departments that cut the most jobs include Foreign Affairs, which as already eliminated the equivalent of 344 full-time jobs and is looking for another 56 to cut. Environment Canada didn’t provide any job figures in their response but it did acknowledge last year that 300 positions would be cut.

One department, National Defence, said it was still making decisions on where to cut and did not provide any information.

In total, the government saved $509.7-million and cut the equivalent of 2,192.1 full-time jobs from its ranks.

Upcoming Women's Memorial March: A time for remembering, grieving and seeking answers

Violence against Indigenous women implicates all people who make their home in today's "Canada." According to the Native Women's Association of Canada's (NWAC) 2010 report, there are over 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women in "Canada." Of these deaths, nearly half of the murder cases remain unsolved. NWAC's report also indicates that Indigenous women are five times more likely to be murdered than other women in Canada. Rates of violence against Indigenous women are highest in British Columbia, with 28 per cent of the cases of missing and murdered women occurring here. Along Highway 16 in Northern British Columbia, a 500-mile section between Prince George and Prince Rupert has been dubbed the "Highway of Tears" due to the series of unsolved deaths and disappearances involving Indigenous women that have taken place along the route. It is unknown how many women have been killed or have suspiciously disappeared on the Highway of Tears, but some estimate the number could be as high as 43. Almost all the victims on the Highway of Tears are Indigenous women. More than half of the women were under the age of 25 when they went missing. A formal RCMP and police response to the murders on the Highway of Tears was not instigated until a young white woman went missing. This highlights how systemic racism creates a context of impunity towards violence against Indigenous women.

Drummond Commission: Taking Ontario out of commission

If you are looking for evidence of class collusion you've come to the right place. Last spring, Premier Dalton McGuinty put a banker in charge of examining Ontario's public services and asked him to recommend ways to decrease government spending. While the official report has yet to be released, drafts reveal that it proposes deep funding cuts to social programs, an overhaul of health care and education, and the sale of public services.

Don Drummond, a former executive and chief economist at TD Bank (a major investor in Public-Private Partnership schemes in Ontario) is heading what has become known as the Drummond Commission. The recently retired financier has been instructed to only consider strategies for cutting costs, not methods of raising revenue. Drummond must have been delighted by the challenge, as he has already authored a number of reports calling for the privatization of social services, and currently opines such views on the boards of various pro-privatization organizations.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government has failed to open up the process to public input, failed to establish legislative committees on the topic, and failed to ensure the inclusion of pre-budget hearings.

Harper's reckless foreign policy in the Middle East

It is hard to credit the latest statements and actions by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. On both Iran and Israel, Baird seems to almost deliberately seek to humiliate both himself and the country he is supposed to represent on the international stage. Taking an ultra-orthodox rabbi (whose organization opposes any Palestinian state) with him on an official visit to Israel is not just bizarre but dangerous. And suggesting, essentially, that Iran has a first-strike policy against Israel (with non-existent nuclear weapons) while comparing its leader to Hitler, puts Baird firmly in the company of drunks in a barroom exchange of tough talk.

For Stephen Harper to let this crude and ignorant political storm trooper loose as our principal face to the world may only be understandable if we assume that everything Harper does is for a domestic audience. He simply doesn't care what the world thinks. There has always been a kind of visceral disdain for things foreign amongst the population which makes up Harper's core vote. Perhaps wilful ignorance and a penchant for barroom tough talk is exactly what qualifies Baird for his job.

It is hardly new that Harper's ministers and Harper himself operate with little reference to the professional civil service that most governments rely on for policy advice. He doesn't trust bureaucrats or their traditional role of guiding government policy. For Harper, the civil service is at best an impediment to his agenda, at worst a political enemy -- the equivalent of another political party. He has now effectively gagged every public employee who might otherwise brief the media -- and citizens -- on even the mundane day-to-day operations of government.

An in-depth look at the fight to save social housing in Toronto

Under Rob Ford's administration, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation is being sold for parts, starting with more than 700 stand-alone houses scattered throughout the city core. If they are sold, thousands of people will lose their homes and Toronto's poverty problem will get worse. Now there is a talk of a "compromise" deal on this sale of social housing. But why is this plan being considered at all? Nick Day investigates.

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) voted in October to sell more than 700 of its most valuable housing units. The TCHC is the second largest provider of social housing in North America. The company owns 58,000 rental-housing units across the GTA and strives to "contribute to a city where quality affordable housing is available in vibrant neighbourhoods, where residents are proud of the place they live, and where people feel connected to each other and their community."

Black Parliamentarians call on political and community leaders to bring greater diversity to federal politics

Canada’s black Parliamentarians say a greater effort is needed at both the grassroots level and within the corridors of political power to bring greater diversity to Parliament.

February is Black History Month in Canada, and while the department of Citizenship and Immigration encourages the Canadian public to “honour the legacy of black Canadians, past and present,” African-Canadians remain underrepresented in Canada’s Parliament. There are currently three Senators and two Members of Parliament, but the African-Canadian population numbers 900,000. It would take six more MPs to accurately reflect Canada’s black population in the House of Commons.

“If we’re going to have two-elected Chambers the real issue is how to find a way for more African-Canadians to get into political parties and win nominations so that they can run for a seat,” said Conservative Senator Don Oliver, who told The Hill Times that political parties have the power to welcome and support not only blacks, but visible minorities in general. “That kind of outreach has been lacking,” Sen. Oliver said.

Appointed to the Senate by Brian Mulroney in 1990, Sen. Oliver represents Nova Scotia, where his ancestry extends back four generations. Sen. Oliver has devoted his career to promoting diversity in the public and private sectors. He raised more than half a million dollars to fund a Conference Board of Canada study on diversity in 2004, and has contributed to a number of scholarships for black university students. In 2008, Sen. Oliver’s motion to have the Senate officially recognize Black History Month passed unanimously.

Severe Conservative Syndrome

Mitt Romney has a gift for words — self-destructive words. On Friday he did it again, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was a “severely conservative governor.”       

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic pointed out, Mr. Romney “described conservatism as if it were a disease.” Indeed. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, provided a list of words that most commonly follow the adverb “severely”; the top five, in frequency of use, are disabled, depressed, ill, limited and injured.

That’s clearly not what Mr. Romney meant to convey. Yet if you look at the race for the G.O.P. presidential nomination, you have to wonder whether it was a Freudian slip. For something has clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism.

Start with Rick Santorum, who, according to Public Policy Polling, is the clear current favorite among usual Republican primary voters, running 15 points ahead of Mr. Romney. Anyone with an Internet connection is aware that Mr. Santorum is best known for 2003 remarks about homosexuality, incest and bestiality. But his strangeness runs deeper than that.

Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces

WASHINGTON — As the United States turns increasingly to Special Operations forces to confront developing threats scattered around the world, the nation’s top Special Operations officer, a member of the Navy Seals who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, is seeking new authority to move his forces faster and outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels.       

The officer, Adm. William H. McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, is pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy. The plan would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.

It would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

While President Obama and his Pentagon’s leadership have increasingly made Special Operations forces their military tool of choice, similar plans in the past have foundered because of opposition from regional commanders and the State Department. The military’s regional combatant commanders have feared a decrease of their authority, and some ambassadors in crisis zones have voiced concerns that commandos may carry out missions that are perceived to tread on a host country’s sovereignty, like the rift in ties with Pakistan after the Bin Laden raid.

Omnibus crime bill could free more accused criminals

The federal government's proposed omnibus crime bill could free more accused criminals than it incarcerates, according to the Canadian Bar Association and some lawyers.

n Canada, the Askov ruling happens when a judge determines whether an accused's right "to be tried within a reasonable time" has been infringed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It means any case that drags out for an unreasonably long time can be dismissed.

That rule, which comes from a Supreme Court decision in October 1990, now has many lawyers worried the proposed crime bill, which is currently the subject of Senate hearings, will clog the court system.

Bill C-10 makes changes to several existing laws. It creates some new offences, introduces mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes, eliminates pardons and house arrest for some criminals and proposes a number of other changes, including reforms of youth justice laws.

There is concern surrounding mandatory minimums, especially, as the bar association said they make people fight their charges harder.

"If you're already going to be faced with the worst-case scenario anyway — and for a lot of clients, going to jail is the worst-case scenario — then there's a serious disincentive to resolve the case early," said Eric Gottardi, a Vancouver-based lawyer who is also vice-chairman of the bar association's criminal justice section.

F-35 deal source of panic for Tories: NDP

OTTAWA - The official Opposition says the government is "pushing the panic button" regarding its controversial F-35 fighter jet program.

NDP MP David Christopherson believes Washington's plan to slow production on the fighter jet is prompting its partners to rethink plans, which is concerning for Canada.

Associate defence minister Julian Fantino has said the government is committed to the F-35 program, but he asked defence department officials to evaluate how the Pentagon's decision impacts Canada.

"Minister Fantino is interested in hearing an update on the program's progress and challenges," his spokesman, Chris McCluskey, said Sunday. "We are always in discussions with our allies and partners in the multinational Joint Strike Fighter program."

The NDP has long criticized the government¹s fighter jet plan. They say the fighter is far too expensive, and an open and transparent procurement process is needed in order to replace current F-18s.

Reports suggest Canada has tentatively scheduled a meeting with F-35 partners at its embassy in Washington, but can't confirm if there is a meeting in the works.

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's primary supplier, and U.S. officials are prepping for a meeting mid-March in Australia, where Canada, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Australia and Turkey will outline their procurement plans.

Delays and shrinking orders could drive up costs for each country, according to defence experts.

Original Article
Source: lfpress 
Author: Kristy Kirkup 

Hard Choices Ahead on Health Spending

Thoughtful and principled policy reforms will require substantial changes for doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical spending.

With the release of economist Don Drummond’s recommendations for government reform around the corner, it’s clear that Ontario’s public sector is headed for belt-tightening times. While reasonable people disagree about how much we should prioritize deficit elimination, Premier Dalton McGuinty is sending clear signals that the government intends to make fiscal restraint its main concern. In a speech on Jan. 24, McGuinty emphasized that a key element of reform will be an “exciting plan for health care transformation.” Given that Ontario currently spends nearly 45 cents of every dollar on health care and Ontarians have no appetite for brutal cuts or privatization, creative and evidence-based health-care policy seems more crucial than ever.

Governments the world over are struggling to control health-care budgets. No jurisdiction has cracked the health-care nut yet. But health-care spending is not a black box: One can begin by understanding where the money is spent (and where it might be saved) in Ontario. While the three biggest budget items are doctors, hospitals, and drugs, controlling spending growth in each of these areas without sacrificing quality or equity is a tall order.

ORNGE loaned ex-CEO Chris Mazza $1.2M

ORNGE gave $1.2 million in loans (one for a house), plus a big cash advance, to founder Dr. Chris Mazza over the past 18 months.

It now wants the money back. In a letter delivered last week to the Etobicoke home that Mazza recently built and now has listed for sale, ORNGE has demanded immediate repayment.

The two loans and an advance against a bonus are on top of Mazza’s annual $1.4 million salary.

Forensic investigators for the province are paying particular attention to the payments, a source said. All ORNGE documents related to the payments have been turned over to the 43-person investigative team.

ORNGE is Ontario’s air ambulance service. It receives $150 million each year to conduct emergency airlifts and to move patients between hospitals.

An ongoing investigation by the Toronto Star began in December with stories that first described ORNGE secrecy (most executive salaries were shielded from the public). Then the Star revealed Mazza was paid $1.4 million a year (for the year ended March 31, 2011). Information recently obtained by the Star shows that more ORNGE dollars were going Mazza’s way.