Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why Are Gov. Brown and Sacramento Democrats Trying So Hard to Raise Taxes on the 99%?

My old friend Howard Dean shocked the political establishment when he opened his speech with these words at the California Democratic State Convention in 2003:

"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the president's unilateral intervention in Iraq?"

In so doing, he called out a Democratic establishment that was steaming towards a reckless war in Iraq while ignoring reality, facts and common sense.

I must channel Howard in asking the same question about another situation taking place, funny enough, in California. What I want to know is why are Gov. Jerry Brown and the Sacramento Democratic establishment trying so hard to raise taxes on the 99%? It's bad policy and worse politics.

Don’t tell us it’s not a class war

The entire world seems to be one huge advertisement for The Shock Doctrine. Naomi Klein showed in her revelatory book how the corporate-political-military-media complex exploits crises to further impose their harsh right-wing agenda – even when they themselves created the crisis. In a sane world, the economic meltdown and deep recession of the past four years would have led at minimum to stringent regulation of financiers and speculators plus programs to assist their victims. But in this world, you have to be nuts to believe in a sane world.

In reality, everything that’s happened in the past several years has gone to further empower and enrich the 1 per cent (or maybe the 5 per cent) at the expense of the rest of us. Look anywhere you want. What else does the universal demand for austerity programs mean? What else does the sudden concerted attack on public sector workers mean? What else does the intransigent line taken by multinational corporations against their unions mean? What else does the demand for “right-to-work” laws mean? What else does the widespread attack on seniors’ pensions mean?

MacKay sticks to his guns – and his initial price tag – on F-35 jets

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is affirming Canada's plan to buy a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter-jets.

He made the pledge before an audience of hundreds, including many defence industry executives, at a major military conference in Ottawa.

Mr. MacKay also said the Harper government won't pay a penny more than budgeted for the fleet of 65 stealth fighter jets.

“We have been clear that we will operate within that budget,” he said in a speech to the Conference of Defence Associations annual meeting. “And we will give our air men and women the best available aircraft, which I believe is the fifth-generation, F-35 Lightning II.”

The comment elicited a smattering of applause.

Controversy surrounds the F-35 procurement as the plane's manufacturer, the U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin, and the Pentagon move to restructure the program for a third time.

The Harper government insists it will pay $75-million (U.S.) for each aircraft, but critics say the true cost could be more than double that.

Canadians Reject Components of Bill C-30, Deem it Too Intrusive

Half of respondents believe the House of Commons should not pass the proposed legislation.

Canadians have not reacted well to the proposed Bill C-30, and many are voicing disagreement with several components of the legislation, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 1,011 Canadian adults, 45 per cent of respondents have followed stories related to Bill C-30 “very closely” or “moderately closely.” Respondents aged 17-to-34 (47%) and those over the age of 55 (also 47%) are more likely to have been paying attention to the debate on this proposed legislation.

Respondents to this survey were provided with seven elements of Bill C-30 and asked whether they agreed or disagreed with each one. Only three components get the thumbs-up from a majority of Canadians: allowing police to get warrants to obtain information transmitted over the Internet and data related to its transmission, including locations of individuals and transactions (68%), changing the definition of hate propaganda to include communication targeting sex, age and gender (63%) and allowing courts to compel other parties to preserve electronic evidence (57%).

Canadians are almost evenly divided on providing for an internal audit of warrantless requests that will go to a government minister and oversight review body (Agree 40%, Disagree 43%).

Michael Sona Fired: Conservative Staffer With Ties To Guelph Riding Let Go

Michael Sona, a young Conservative parliamentary staffer who worked on the federal election campaign in Guelph, Ontario, has been let go, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.

The move comes days after a Tory robocall scandal erupted and the NDP warned a kid would be called to take the fall.

Sona, 23, was the communications director for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke during last year’s federal election campaign. Sona was working as Conservative MP Eve Adams' assistant when he was fired, two sources confirmed.

A third source, however, suggested Sona’s firing had nothing to do with Adams and that the staffer had resigned on his own accord Thursday night.

Guelph was one of the ridings where misleading pre-recorded election day calls purported to be from Elections Canada were made to identified Liberal supporters telling them the location of their polling station had been changed.

Sona made headlines during the campaign for trying to stop a special ballot vote at the University of Guelph after complaining to Elections Canada that it was illegal.

Peter MacKay flies from questions over use of Cormorant

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Peter MacKay practically ran from a military conference Friday morning as he dodged questions about emails that suggest military personnel were enlisted to help turn the tables on the opposition following revelations MacKay used a search-and-rescue helicopter during a fishing trip in 2010.

The emails show that on Sept. 22, one day after a TV report that MacKay had used a Cormorant helicopter to be taken from a private fishing lodge near Gander, N.L., military officials began searching for instances of opposition members using military aircraft.

The officials were particularly interested in a flight Liberal MP Scott Simms took in the same area in January 2011.

"Found it," Maj. Byron Johnson wrote in a message shortly after noon to five other senior military officers, including an officer serving as the Defence Department's liaison with MacKay's office. "Fax is on its way."

"Thanks Byron," replied Maj. Jay Nelles, before thanking staff for responding on such short notice and describing the request as "a taste of life in Ottawa!!"

Stockton bankruptcy first step likely

STOCKTON - The City Council on Tuesday is expected to take its first step toward filing for bankruptcy in a dramatic move to remedy Stockton's crippling finances.

If bankruptcy ultimately happens, Stockton would be the nation's largest city to fall into Chapter 9 protection.

While city administrators remained silent on any plans, it became an open secret Wednesday. The Downtown Stockton Alliance board of directors in a public meeting discussed the city's bankruptcy timetable.

Also Wednesday, the San Joaquin and Calaveras counties Central Labor Council distributed an email, alerting its members that Stockton plans to begin the process at next week's council meeting. The email also invites its members to a meeting Monday to map their strategy for opposing bankruptcy. They won't be alone.

Councilman Dale Fritchen said he's ready to mount an outright opposition because, he said, bankruptcy would cost the city millions in legal fees, drive down property values and discourage new businesses.

Bill C-30: Big Brother Hidden in Section 14

Over the past few days, I've posted on some of the implications of Bill C-30, including the mandatory disclosure of subscriber information, the "voluntary" warrantless disclosure of e-mails and web surfing habits, and the stunning lack of detail on a wide range of issues including costs and surveillance capabilities.

While the bill includes some detail on surveillance capability requirements, perhaps the most dangerous provision is Section 14, which gives the government a stunning array of powers:

    to order an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or telecom provider to install surveillance capabilities "in a manner and within a time" specified by the government to order an ISP or telecom provider to install additional equipment to allow for more simultaneous interceptions than is otherwise specified in the law (the government sets a maximum and then can simply ignore its own guidelines)

    to order an ISP or telecom provider to comply with additional confidentiality requirements not otherwise specified in the law

    to order an ISP or telecom provider to meet additional operational requirements not otherwise specified in the law

When Is Canada's 2012 Federal Budget?

When is Canada's 2012 federal budget?

That's the big question in Ottawa as February draws to a close without a firm date.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said he still hopes to present the budget in March and Ottawa insiders have their eye on March 27, according to The Globe And Mail's John Ibbitson.

That means the budget would come just days after the NDP choose their new leader at their Toronto convention on March 24. Besides keeping the Ottawa press corps on its feet, a March 27 budget would quickly shift focus away from the New Democrats and back to the Conservatives' agenda.

That doesn't seem to be why the Tories are holding off though. Ibbitson speculates that Flaherty may wait until April to present the government's spending plans, largely due to the economic uncertainty in Europe.

Back in January Flaherty was already warning that troubles in the Eurozone could delay the budget.

Canada Mining Corruption: Survey Finds Canadian Provinces Seen As Riskier Than Parts Of Africa

Corruption in Canada’s mining industry is worse than in some African and Latin American countries, says a new survey from the Fraser Institute.

Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories all ranked in the survey as more corrupt than Chile and Botswana. The remaining provinces and territories ranked better than any developing country, but were still seen as more corrupt than many U.S. and Australian jurisdictions.

The study notes that Chile and Botswana have the fastest-growing resource sectors on their respective continents, suggesting a link between economic growth and lack of corruption.

The Northwest Territories ranked as the most corrupt in Canada, with fully 16 per cent of respondents saying corruption would keep them from investing in the area.

Sweden, Norway and Finland, as well as the U.S. states of Minnesota and Missouri, were ranked as the least corrupt in the survey that looked at 93 countries and sub-national areas and surveyed 802 mining companies worldwide.

Stephen Harper’s ‘Nixonian culture’ to blame for illegal robocall scandal: Rae

OTTAWA — Opposition parties are stepping up pressure on Stephen Harper today over misleading phone calls made during the last election campaign directing voters to the wrong polling locations.

Dismissing Conservative suggestions that a ‘rogue operator’ could be behind the ‘robocalls,’ interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the real blame for any election trickery rests with the political culture the Prime Minister has created in the Tories.

Mr. Rae’s remarks came in response to a Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen report that found a continuing Elections Canada investigation has traced the calls to a call centre with Conservative connections.

Mr. Harper was yesterday forced to deny he had any knowledge of the calls and said anyone found responsible would face the full force of the law: “In this case, our party has no knowledge of these calls,” he told reporters in Iqaluit. “It’s not part of our campaign,” he said.

Earlier Thursday, Jenni Byrne, the party’s campaign manager, issued a statement denying any connection. “The Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and would never tolerate such activity,” she said.

Recession was a he-cessesion – but with public sector jobs on the line, watch out for a she-cession

When governments cut, women bleed.

In the last recession, in 2008 and 2009, it was men who disproportionately lost their jobs as the private sector downsized.

Manufacturing jobs, particularly in Ontario, disappeared.

Men took the brunt of the hit, a phenomenon dubbed the “he-cession.”

Now, with both the federal and Ontario governments looking to reign in their spending, there’s talk of a looming “she-cession” as services, like education and health care, and administrative support jobs come under fire.

“What happens in every recession is the first wave is a “he-cession.” The first thing that gets hit is the stuff we trade and buy, which are predominantly male jobs,” said ArmineYalnizyan, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“Any prolonged recession hits women, because we reduce discretionary spending on services,” she added. “The third wave is if governments decide on austerity, and public sector cuts, and the public sector is a female dominated sector.”

Is Christie to Reverse Course?

Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to reverse course, offer himself for the GOP Presidential nomination? Some heavy-money Republicans want him to and are not bashful about saying so, at least in private. It's a sure-fire signal that many party leaders feel their nominating process has become a circus.

Now the odds against Christie jumping into the race are as long as the line to get on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon, but the fact that anyone is seriously talking about it now is all about one emotion: desperation. Their reasoning: Romney has proved to be a weaker candidate and more vulnerable than expected, Santorum they consider to be un-electable, and Gingrich -- whom they neither like nor trust -- is seen as barely breathing as a candidate. Christie considered getting in at the start, but demurred and has since officially supported Romney. He has not said or done anything indicating that he has reconsidered or is willing to do so. But with Romney wilting, Santorum surging, Gingrich fading and Ron Paul considered to be far too maverick, the refrain of "let's get Christie" is being heard increasingly in private in Republican corridors of power.

Christie's appeal, from the beginning and now, is that he appeals to both traditional, mainstream Republicans and Tea Partyers alike -- someone who could unite the party, which neither Romney, Santorum nor Gingrich is currently believed capable of doing. He is also a blunt, "tell-it-like-it-is" and sometimes eloquent firebrand of "conservative" speaker. He comes across as authentic. An intelligent, crafty street-fighter of a candidate who also plays well in boardrooms, and is a campaign money-raising machine.

The Catholicization of the American Right

In the past two decades, the American religious Right has become increasingly Catholic. I mean that both literally and metaphorically. Literally, Catholic writers have emerged as intellectual leaders of the religious right in universities, the punditocracy, the press, and the courts, promoting an agenda that at its most theoretical involves a reclamation of the natural law tradition of Thomas Aquinas and at its most practical involves appeals to the kind of common-sense, "everybody knows," or "it just is" arguments that have characterized opposition to same-sex marriage. There is nothing new about Catholic conservative intellectuals -- think John Neuhaus, William F. Buckley, Jr. What is new is the prominence that these Catholic thinkers and leaders have come to have within the domains of American politics that are dominated by evangelical Protestants. Catholic intellectuals have become to the American Right what Jewish intellectuals once were to the American Left. In the academy, on the Court, Catholic intellectuals provide the theoretical discourse that shapes conservative arguments across a whole range of issues. Often these arguments have identifiable Thomistic or Jesuitical sources, but most of the time they enter the mainstream of political dialogue as simply "conservative."

Meanwhile, in the realm of actual politics, Catholic politicians have emerged as leading figures in the religious conservative movement. Again, there is nothing new about Catholic political leaders nor Catholic politicians, although from Al Smith through John Kennedy they were more often Democrats than Republicans (Pat Buchanan is an exception). What is new is the ability of self-identified Catholic politicians to attract broad support from the among the evangelical Protestant religious right.

Romney’s Economic Closet

According to Michael Kinsley, a gaffe is when a politician accidently tells the truth. That’s certainly what happened to Mitt Romney on Tuesday, when in a rare moment of candor — and, in his case, such moments are really, really rare — he gave away the game.

Speaking in Michigan, Mr. Romney was asked about deficit reduction, and he absent-mindedly said something completely reasonable: “If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy.” A-ha. So he believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal.

The right’s ideology police were, predictably, aghast; the Club for Growth quickly denounced the statement as showing that Mr. Romney is “not a limited-government conservative.” On the contrary, insisted the club, “If we balanced the budget tomorrow on spending cuts alone, it would be fantastic for the economy.” And a Romney spokesman tried to walk back the remark, claiming, “The governor’s point was that simply slashing the budget, with no affirmative pro-growth policies, is insufficient to get the economy turned around.”

But that’s not what the candidate said, and it’s very unlikely that it’s what he meant. Almost surely, he is, in fact, a closet Keynesian.

How Factory Farms Are Killing Seals

The meat industry defends its reliance on routine antibiotic use by flatly denying the practice poses any public health problem. The view is summed up by this 2010 National Pork Producers Council newsletter: "[T]here are no definitive studies linking the use of antibiotics in animal feed to changes in resistance in humans." The claim, I guess, is that the drug-resistant bacteria that evolve on antibiotic-laden feedlots stay on those feedlots and don't migrate out.

That contention is looking increasingly flimsy. My colleague Julia Whitty recently pointed to a new study showing that a particular antibiotic-resistant pathogen "likely originated as a harmless bacterium living in humans, which acquired antibiotic resistance only after it migrated into livestock." In its new, harmful form, Julia reported, the bacterial strain "now causes skin infections and sepsis, mostly in farm workers."

Santorum Cashes In on the Very Tax Credit He Claims to Hate

Rick Santorum regularly knocks the stimulus bill that the Democratic Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, back in early 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "cost American jobs," he told CNN last July. But that didn't stop Santorum from claiming a tax credit for home efficiency funded through the stimulus plan that year.

According to his 2009 tax form, which was released last week, Santorum claimed a $3,151 expenditure on new exterior windows and skylights, one of the "qualified energy efficiency improvements" for homes that was granted a tax credit through the stimulus bill. The stimulus bill revived a tax credit that had expired at the end of 2007 and increased the amount of money homeowners could claim. This allowed the Santorum family to knock $945 off their taxes.

The purpose of the tax credit was to help homeowners save money by using less energy, while at the some time generating fewer emissions. But the efficient choices can often cost more upfront—hence the desire to create a tax credit to incentivize that kind of expensive upgrade. The measure was also intended to benefit the manufacturing and construction industries by creating more opportunities for them to make and install the windows and other efficient products.

Lucy Lawless—a.k.a. Xena the Warrior Princess—Occupies a Shell Oil Drilling Ship

Lucy Lawless is illegally seated atop a 174-foot derrick rising from a drilling ship off New Zealand's western shore, and she really, really doesn't want to talk about Xena: Warrior Princess. The ship is called the Noble Discoverer, but Lawless has rechristened it the Ignoble Destroyer. It used to be called the Frontier Discoverer, and before that the Discoverer 511, and sometime before that, the Jessica. It's a nearly 50-year-old ship, built for offshore drilling, and its owner, the Noble Corporation, has leased the ship to Royal Dutch Shell. This weekend, the Noble Discoverer is scheduled to head out on a 6,000 mile journey to the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska's northwest coast, to break open the ice and suck out some of the 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil estimated to await in the Arctic's outer continental shelf. That's why Lawless left her house very early Thursday morning, her three kids still asleep, drove to Port Taranaki in Wellington, walked straight up the Noble Discoverer's gangplank along with five other climbing experts and Greenpeace volunteers, and scaled its massive derrick.*

NYPD Defends Tactics Over Mosque Spying; Records Reveal New Details On Muslim Surveillance

NEW YORK -- The New York Police Department targeted Muslim mosques with tactics normally reserved for criminal organizations, according to newly obtained police documents that showed police collecting the license plates of worshippers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras and cataloging sermons through a network of informants.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, have come to light as the NYPD fends off criticism of its monitoring of Muslim student groups and its cataloging of mosques and Muslim businesses in nearby Newark, N.J.

The NYPD's spokesman, Paul Browne, forcefully defended the legality of those efforts Thursday, telling reporters that its officers may go wherever the public goes and collect intelligence, even outside city limits.

The new documents, prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, show how the NYPD's roster of paid informants monitored conversations and sermons inside mosques. The records offer the first glimpse of what those informants, known informally as "mosque crawlers," gleaned from inside the houses of worship.

How environmentalists are losing the war

If we fully develop Alberta's oilsands and burn the oil they produce, we will raise the temperature measurably all over the planet. That's the conclusion of an analysis by University of Victoria scientists Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart and published in the journal Nature.

Rather a big deal, one would think. But that's not what we read in the media this week.

The banner headline on the front page of the Globe and Mail: "Science rides to aid of oilsands."

Weaver and Swart found that burning all the economically accessible oil in the oilsands would raise the average global temperature by .02 C to .05 C, the Globe noted. "By comparison, burning all of the world's enormous coal resources would raise temperatures 15 degrees, while consuming the new global bounty of shale gas would produce a lift of just under three degrees. (Using up economically accessible reserves of natural gas and coal will raise temperatures .16 and .9 per degrees, respectively.)"

Seen that way, the oilsands look totally insignificant. And that was the way the story was portrayed throughout the media: Everybody relax. The oilsands are no big deal. Science says so.

Jason Kenney: smart, competent and hard to trust

Either Immigration Minister Jason Kenney misled the public two years ago or he’s misleading us now.

Whichever it is, he has a credibility problem and we have a trust problem.

In 2010, he introduced the Balanced Refugee Reform Act after extensive consultations with refugee groups, human rights activists and immigration lawyers, and fruitful negotiations with the opposition parties. The legislation streamlined the refugee system without sacrificing Canada’s tradition of fairness. It was widely praised by his colleagues and critics.

Kenney hailed the New Democrats and Bloc Québécois for proposing affordable safeguards for rejected refugee claimants. “We found very reasonable compromises,” he said, calling it a “win-win” example of parliamentary collaboration.

Last week, he tabled a new version of the bill, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. The safeguards were gone. The balance had disappeared.

Last of new homes arrive on reserve

Trucks bearing the last of 22 long-awaited new homes rolled into the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario on Thursday morning, according to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

"They're very small, very narrow," Attawapiskat resident Martha Sutherland said of the new homes. "But, they'll be great for a small family, maybe with one or two kids."

The federal government said the homes will be ready for families to move into once the community completes the necessary foundation work and installation of the modular homes on lots, electrical, sewer and water hookups are completed and inspections are performed.

The First Nation is responsible for hooking up power and water lines and performing the inspections, according to Susan Bertrand, a spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs.

When asked how the First Nation would pay to make the homes inhabitable, she said the government appointed third-party manager - who is currently in charge of the band's finances - is ready to issue payment for invoices when received.

Tories on shaky ground with bullying tough-love tactics

Only Nixon could go to China. And only Paul Martin could slay the deficit in the 1990s and emerge a political superstar, albeit temporarily, as a result.

Therein lies the tricky political calculus faced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and the rest of the Conservative cabinet, as they lay the table for Budget 2012, now expected to be brought down in late March or early April. The delay - federal budgets are typically presented in late February or early March - has been attributed to the sheer complexity of determining how deep the cuts will be, and where they will fall.

Here's another theory: Having been mule-kicked by a public backlash over Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's disastrous handling of Bill C-30, the so-called online snooping bill, and now embroiled in a burgeoning scandal over fraudulent phone calls made during the last federal election, the government needs daylight between this and any future controversy - including blowback over budget measures expected to be more miserly than anything we've seen since the Conservatives took power in 2006.

Only Nixon, an avowed redbaiter and sworn enemy of Communists everywhere, could get away politically with shaking hands with Chairman Mao, which he did on a visit to China in 1972. And only Martin, a Liberal social reformer who waxed effusive about all the wonderful things government could achieve, could gut federal departments and slash transfer payments to the provinces, as the former finance minister did in his deficit-slaying budget of 1995.

Canada claims win in EU oilsands vote

The Conservative government and Canadian energy sector are girding for several more months of intense lobbying after European Union officials Thursday blocked a draft fuel law that would label the oilsands a dirtier form of crude.

The Canadian government is trumpeting the outcome - which saw more EU officials reject the fuel directive than support it - as a temporary victory in its ongoing efforts to persuade European Union countries not to slap a higher carbonemissions rating on oilsands crude compared to conventional oil.

It also means Canada's threats of launching a trade war with the European Union and taking the proposal to the World Trade Organization are on hold for now.

But the result has environmental groups digging in their heels in the "dirty oil" fight and even more determined to prevent bitumen-derived fuels from being used in Europe.

With many of Canada's allies abstaining from the vote, European Union countries supporting the proposed Fuel Quality Directive failed to win enough support at a Thursday committee meeting of technical experts to have it pass.

Canadian arms used by Saudis to crush protest

Ontario-made armoured vehicles helped put down unrest in Bahrain

Canadian arms companies were given free rein last year as the federal government tripled the amount of military weapons and ammunition licensed for export to foreign countries to more than $12 billion.

The largest benefactor at $4 billion was Saudi Arabia, which is believed to have used Canadian-made armoured vehicles to help put down antigovernment protests in neighbouring Bahrain during the early days of the Arab Spring.

The government figures, tabled in the House of Commons a few weeks ago, do not say exactly what Canadian made arms the government approved for export or how much was actually delivered.

But the total in government-approved arms export licences for Saudi Arabia was more than 100 times the $35 million approved in 2010.

The Middle Eastern kingdom also has quietly purchased hundreds of LAV-3s from General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ont., over the years and was expected to receive more than 700 last year.

The ‘freedom’ show on the Rideau

Conservatism has contradictory impulses. The pursuit of freedom and the pursuit of order run at cross-purposes.

Moderates push neither button too strongly. But in both Canada and the United States, the conservative parties are now controlled by virulent wings that are prepared go to aggressive lengths to achieve their ambitions. The danger is that in the name of freedom, they bring forth the contrary.

In this country, the Conservative government has a nationalist bent, evident in its elevation of military values, populist anti-intellectualism, moral certitude on foreign policy, law-and-order fixation and message-control mania. This kind of nationalism requires state-driven conformity, not liberty.

And so, while Conservatives are supposed to cherish government that is off the backs of the people, what we have is something closer to the opposite. The government is also oversized in spending, another conservative no-no.

The Conservatives’ in-your-face proclivities from the minority years have been well documented. But a majority has brought no let-up. On the freedom front, the government likes to boast of encouraging provincial autonomy and of shutting down the gun registry, the long-form census, the Wheat Board. But, by way of contrast, it’s instructive to look at what has transpired in our land of liberty recently. It might make you wonder about the kind of Canada that’s emerging.

Kyoto Protocol: Peter Kent Says Government Will Soon Table Bill To Scrap Law Forcing Canada To Meet Greenhouse Gas Targets

TORONTO — Canada’s Environment Minister will table legislation this spring to scrap a law that forces the country to meet its climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Minister Peter Kent told The Huffington Post Canada’s editorial board on Thursday that the federal government will table a new bill before the House of Commons rises for its summer break.

“We announced legally within the protocol that we would be withdrawing this year and we’ll repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act in the next few months, which was a product of a minority government,” Kent said.

Calling the private member’s bill, which passed with opposition support in 2007, “mischief legislation,” Kent said the Conservatives complied with the law despite believing it was unfair and ineffective and that the government would “continue to respect (it) until it is repealed.”

“Laws are made and laws are unmade, it’s like the gun registry,” he explained.

As the privacy fight turned ugly, democracy made a comeback

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has long been seen as the bluntest tool wielded by the Harper government in its misguided law-and-order campaign. Last week, we found out just how blunt, and misguided.

Bill C-30, also known as the “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act,” provoked a storm of political and public debate across the country due to a provision that allows police to gain access to any Internet subscriber’s IP address (among other identifiers) in order to track their online activity. This would be permitted without a warrant in “extraordinary circumstances.”

While a certain amount of electronic surveillance is justified in the interests of peace, order and good government, the possibility that such information could be made available without a warrant should be of concern to every Canadian with Web access. Approval from a judge is required before Canadian authorities can obtain someone’s personal financial information; why should electronic details be treated differently?

Unfortunately, the federal government’s instincts on law and order have become exaggerated and doctrinaire. Toews’s initial reaction was to meet legitimate concerns with baseless accusations. His now-infamous rejoinder was that critics had a choice to “either stand with us, or with the child predators.” This is in keeping with Toews’s over-the-top approach to crime that dates back to his days as attorney general in Manitoba. As justice minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first cabinet, Toews once mused about putting 10-year-olds in jail.

Canada to host stealth fighter talks in Washington with international partners

OTTAWA - Canada has convened two days of international meetings in Washington next week to discuss problems around the controversial F-35 stealth fighter jet program.

The meeting comes as Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Gen. Walt Natynczyk, chief of the defence staff, both affirmed Canada's plan to buy a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets at a high-profile military event Friday.

Controversy has surrounded the F-35 procurement as the plane’s manufacturer, the U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin, and the Pentagon move to restructure the program for a third time.

Canada is part of a joint effort to buy the planes along with Britain, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Turkey and Australia.

Canada has been trying to set up a meeting of partner countries in advance of a scheduled meeting with Lockheed Martin set for later in March.

A well-placed Defence Department source confirmed Friday that two days of talks are set for next Thursday and Friday in Washington. The talks are expected to take place at the Canadian Embassy.

Ending food, other exemptions from sales tax to bring in $39 billion: economists

OTTAWA - Two of Canada's leading economists want Ottawa to reopen one of the hottest issues of the last two decades by expanding the GST to include food.

The two economists — Michael Smart of the University of Toronto and Jack Mintz, head of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary — say the way Canadian governments collect sales taxes is among the most inefficient in the advanced world.

By eliminating the set-asides such as medicines, books, financial services and especially food, governments could reap an additional $39 billion in revenue annually — about 60 per cent higher than current levels.

That cash bonanza could be used to cut income taxes, fund social services, or both, or even to cut almost in half the 12-to 15 per cent Canadians pay in harmonized sales taxes in most provinces,

"In reality, Canada's VAT (value-added tax) is riddled with exemptions, rebates and reduced ratings that seriously damage its effectiveness," Smart writes in an update of a paper he delivered to a conference in Calgary last fall.

Dividing lines: The case of Mohamed Mahjoub

Twelve years ago, Mohamed Mahjoub became a victim of one of the most egregious legal measures that can be taken against a person in Canada, a security certificate. Since then, though he was never even charged with a crime, he faced seven years of detention followed by release with draconian conditions. Though his conditions of release were recently loosened somewhat, troubling questions remain about the entire security apparatus in which Mahjoub and others are ensnared.

It was a mild summer afternoon in Toronto. Sunlight danced upon rustling tree leaves, and the streets were full of downtown office workers celebrating the perfect weather with chilled beverages and pleasant conversations. Mohamed Mahjoub's lawyers and I walked along Queen Street, as usual indecisive about where to have lunch. It had become a pleasant routine for us, to walk out of the Federal Court building after the rigorous morning proceedings, and to choose from the array of Indian, Japanese and Mediterranean restaurants that flanked the streets.

Mohamed also joined us in the walk that day, participating in laughter and lighthearted conversations. But soon enough, he disengaged from the group. As the rest of us stood by the entrance of our choice of restaurant, ready to enter, I watched him hurriedly walk ahead, eventually disappearing into the downtown crowd. I knew where he was headed -- there were only five restaurants (two of which were mere coffee shops) where he was permitted to have lunch without supervision. For him, there was no luxury to choose a favourite. For the first time, I witnessed the manifestation of one of the many conditions that accompanied his release from detention.

Another road for Europe: An appeal

Europe is in crisis because it has been hijacked by neo-liberalism and finance. In the last 20 years -- with a persistent democratic deficit -- the meaning of the European Union has increasingly been reduced to a narrow view of a single market and single currency, leading to liberalizations and speculative bubbles, loss of rights and the explosion of inequalities.

This is not the Europe that was imagined decades ago as a space of economic and political integration free from war. This is not the Europe that was built through economic and social progress, the extension of democracy and welfare rights.

This European project is now in danger. Facing the financial crisis, European authorities and governments have acted irresponsibly; they saved private banks but refused to contain the difficulties of indebted countries using the tools of the Monetary Union; they imposed on all countries austerity policies and cuts in public budgets that will now be enshrined in European Treaties. The results are that the financial crisis has extended to more countries, the euro is in danger, and a new great depression and the risk of disintegration of Europe are looming.

RCMP officer docked pay for sex with boss

An RCMP code of conduct hearing is recommending a female officer be reprimanded, docked 7 days pay, and continue counselling, after concluding she had consensual sex with her supervisor.

Const. Susan Gastaldo claimed she was forced into the on-going affair with her boss — which included having sex in a police car — but the tribunal found it was consensual sex.

It ruled a dismissal might have been warranted, but her underlying anxiety was a mitigating factor and deemed Gastaldo "suitable for medical discharge".

Her superior officer, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson, has already been reprimanded and docked 10 days' pay by the same panel after admitting to the affair and using a Blackberry to exchange suggestive emails.

But Gastaldo fought against the accusation and claimed she was coerced and sexually assaulted on more than one occasion.

The panel didn't believe her and suggested her punishment should be harsher than Pearson's because she denied the claim.

Don’t expect budget shock: Austerity is already upon us

The federal government has done little to dissuade people from the belief that this year’s federal budget will follow the path set out in last year’s budget. On the expenditure side (Table 5.9), the plan for 2012-13 was to allow transfer payments to persons and to other levels of government to increase by about $5-billion and to reduce direct program spending by $2.6-billion. After taking into account one-time expenditures such as GST compensation payments, total spending was to fall by about $1-billion in 2012-13. Other numbers have been floated, such as the possibility that direct program spending may be cut by as much as $4-billion.

What would 2012-13 look like if the government brought down a budget in which total spending was held constant, in which transfer payments grew modestly, and in which direct program spending was cut by $4-billion or so?

A proper response to this question requires a certain amount of econometric modeling, but I think we can get a rough-and-ready answer by asking ourselves what would have happened if this recipe had been applied last year. This is a much easier question to answer, because that’s exactly what has been happening.

Does anything-you-can-get-away-with mentality foster Tory cheaters?

It could take many months to get to the bottom of the case of alleged voter suppression during the last election. The larger question, though, is whether the Conservatives’ hard-ball tactics are encouraging some people to cheat.

If they are, then the Tories bear a measure of responsibility, even if they weren’t complicit in any unethical or illegal acts.

Postmedia reported Thursday that someone used a robo-calling service to confuse voters in the Ontario riding of Guelph on election day. The calls, claiming to be from Elections Canada, gave false information about changed polling locations.

There is nothing wrong with using robo-calls during an election campaign. They are just another, if particularly annoying, form of telemarketing.

But it is unethical to use them to mislead voters – say, by claiming to be from one party when in fact another party is behind the call – and definitely illegal to impersonate an Elections Canada official.

Elections Canada is investigating, but the opposition parties are convinced they know who’s to blame.

Carney defends ‘flexible’ inflation target

The Bank of Canada’s loose approach to meeting its 2-per-cent inflation target is helping it adapt to changing circumstances and may allow it to use interest-rate moves to counter credit imbalances that threaten the economy, Governor Mark Carney said.

But he also suggested the bar is still high for using monetary policy to deter households from gorging on debt.

In a speech Friday morning in New York, Mr. Carney vigorously defended the central bank’s “flexible” inflation-targeting regime, which has seen him keep interest rates at 1 per cent since September, 2010, the longest pause in several decades, even as gains in consumer prices have exceeded 2 per cent for much of that time.

The speech, to a conference on monetary policy, was the latest of many appearances in recent months in which Mr. Carney has said his mandate includes leeway to take longer than usual to return inflation to the target pace, if that’s what it takes to protect against economic or financial shocks.

Narrowing deficit leaves Flaherty wiggle room ahead of budget

The size of the federal deficit is shrinking faster than Jim Flaherty expected just a few months ago, setting the stage for the Finance Minister to announce a bit of good news in an upcoming budget that will be dominated by controversial spending cuts.

In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, Ottawa ran a deficit of $17.7-billion. That works out to an average monthly deficit of about $2-billion, meaning if the trend continues, the total deficit for 2011-12 should come in around $24-billion.

That’s lower than the $31-billion deficit Mr. Flaherty projected in his November fiscal update, a figure that included a $3-billion “adjustment for risk” that now appears unnecessary.

The improving bottom line means Ottawa could “squeeze out a surplus” in 2014-15, according to TD Bank economist Sonya Gulati. That is the year the Conservatives promised to balance the books during the 2011 election campaign, however Mr. Flaherty pushed back that target by a year in November based on worse-than-expected economic conditions. The original target now seems to be back in play.

Food tax: Adding GST to food will benefit the poor, economists say

Two Canadian economists are urging Ottawa to take a politically risky stand of adding the GST on currently exempt items including food.

They say the tax would help the poor while the current exemption adds to the income disparity by benefiting the well off.

But the idea of putting the sales tax on food angers advocates who say it would unfairly hurt low-income Canadians, further divide Canadians and make as much sense as “taxing air.”

Michael Smart of the University of Toronto and Jack Mintz, head of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, said tax reform, if done properly, would actually help all Canadians, boost government coffers and spur economic activity.

Though exempting food was designed to preserve equity, Mintz and Smart argue rich households benefit instead because they spend a smaller budget share on food, but a larger absolute amount on it than the poor.

“You don’t just put a tax on food. You have to have offsetting,” Mintz said in an interview.

ORNGE fallout now includes Brazilian law firm

More accusations of unqualified staff running the province’s air ambulance service and a questionable $14,000 payout to a Brazilian law firm by a now-bankrupt ORNGE spin-off company are the latest allegations in the helicopter scandal.

New Democrat MPP France Gélinas demanded an explanation from Health Minister Deb Matthews as to why ORNGE Global Holdings LP owes $14,000 to a Brazilian law firm.

“I want to know if the minister is aware of the Brazilian businesses going on and does she think that throwing taxpayers’ money around Brazil is a good use of public health-care dollars?” Gélinas said Thursday in the Legislature.

ORNGE spokesperson Jennifer Tracey was unable to provide any details on the $14,000 payment as it “may or may not fall within the parameters of the Ontario Provincial Police investigation.

The OPP were called in last week to probe a $6.7 million payment from ORNGE involving an Italian helicopter firm and $1.2 million in no-interest loans and a $250,000 cash advance given to former ORNGE boss Dr. Chris Mazza.

Toronto library workers say labour talks stalled

The union representing workers at the Toronto Public Library says negotiations for a new contract have stalled.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4948 requested Ontario’s labour minister issue a no-board report which sets the clock ticking towards a strike/lockout deadline.

The report is expected next Wednesday or Thursday. Under Ontario labour law, 17 days after the report comes out, the union would be in a legal strike position and the employer in a position to lock out workers.

The workers made the move to crank up the pressure for progress in the talks, union president Maureen O’Reilly told reporters at city hall.

“Our message is to get focused,” O’Reilly said. “Let’s get this job done. Let’s get a negotiated collective agreement.”

The 98-branch library system has 2,300 staff. Their contract expired Dec. 31.

O’Reilly said talks haven’t addressed issues unique to the library, including the fact that half the workers are part-timers who are finding it difficult to get enough hours to make ends meet.

Abstinence-Only Sex Education Bill In Utah Prohibits Teaching Contraception

A bill requiring sex education classes to teach an abstinence-only curriculum moved closer to becoming a law in Utah Wednesday.

The state House passed HB 363 in a 45-28 vote following extensive debate. The bill -- which now goes on to the state Senate -- would lift the current requirement that all public schools must teach sex ed in grades 8 through 12. If the bill passes, districts would decide whether to offer sex ed classes that teach an abstinence-only curriculum, or not offer the course at all. Republican state Rep. Bill Wright sponsored the proposal.

"We've been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest," Wright said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. "Why don't we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?"

The version of the bill that passed through the state House Wednesday would prohibit any instruction in contraception, though teachers would be allowed to answer student questions about safe sex.

That provision is a departure from current law, which prohibits the advocacy of contraception and sexual activity outside of marriage. It also tightens the already-conservative regulations that sex ed curricula emphasize abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage and "personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity."

Drummond's Dodge on Healthcare

Amid the hubbub following the release of the Drummond Report, I can't help but think of one of the biggest financial scams of the past century: Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which wiped out hundreds of formerly well-heeled investors. The lesson from Bernie? If something is too good to be true then it probably is.

Which is exactly what Don Drummond is telling us. For years we've been paying taxes to prop up a mismanaged healthcare system in the expectation that it will be there when we need it. Now, Drummond is telling us the Ponzi scheme is coming to an end. To keep the system going requires major changes: Drummond supplies 362 recommendations spanning 532 pages, 105 recommendations on the healthcare system alone.

Reading them over, it's clear Don has done his homework. Rarely has a government-commissioned report featured prose so concise, or so readable. Rarely has a report provided such an honest assessment. "We cannot count on the magic bullets of faster economic growth or rapid productivity gains to finance our health care needs and wants," he notes. And: "The public debate in Canada has been poisoned in recent decades by a widespread failure to comprehend the issues ... by politicians (and media outlets) who have been too willing to pander to fear-mongering."

The fiscal tyranny of health care über alles

Changes to provincial budgets often happen so slowly over time that citizens often don’t realize what’s happened.

There are exceptions, as when premier Gordon Campbell’s B.C. government introduced a carbon tax in 2008. In 2011-12, that $30-a-tonne tax will bring in $960-million. True to the government’s word, all of it is being recycled into lower taxes elsewhere.

Generally, however, headlines reflect noticeable changes, whereas more important longer-term trends are obscured. So it was this week with the latest B.C. budget.

Premier Christy Clark’s decision to raise the corporate tax rate by one point in two years made news. The change will yield about $200-million a year.

Meanwhile, over the next three years, the province’s health-care budget will grow by $1.5-billion. The increase presumes a herculean effort to keep health care growing at only 3 per cent a year, something no province has managed.

Sixty per cent of B.C.’s new spending over the next three years ($1.5-billion of $2.5-billion) will be for health care. As such, this budget is a template for what’s happening across Canada: health-care über alles.

Supreme Court to Decide Whether U.S. Corporations Can Be Sued for Abuses They Support Overseas

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on whether U.S.-based corporations can be sued in U.S. courts for human rights abuses committed overseas. The case involves nine Nigerian activists, including Ken Saro Wiwa, executed for protesting Royal Dutch Shell. We’re joined by Marco Simons, legal director of Earth Rights International, which filed a "friend of the court" legal brief in this case and has been a pioneer in using the Alien Tort Statute to sue corporations for human rights abuses in Burma, Nigeria, Colombia and other nations. Some legal analysts are comparing the case to the landmark campaign finance ruling in Citizens United which found that corporations have broad rights under the First Amendment and can directly fund political campaigns. "This case is really about whether a corporation that participates in serious human rights abuses, such as crimes against humanity or genocide or state sponsored torture, can profit from those abuses and shield those profits from the victims when the victims come to take them to court," Marco says

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Canada urged to battle income disparity

Many economists have identified innovation and productivity as Canada’s greatest economic challenges.

But a new study by the Action Canada Task Force argues that the country will never prosper if it doesn’t also confront rising income inequality and persistently high rates of poverty.

“Canadians need to think about inequality and poverty as obstacles to – rather than consequences of – economic growth,” said the authors of the study, slated to be released Friday.

Productivity rose substantially in Canada from 1980 to 2005, while median real wages barely budged, pointed out the authors, who include University of Cambridge Gates Scholar Michael Marin, Boston Consulting Group consultant Eric Tribe and Paul Yeung, senior manager of regulatory and government affairs at Royal Bank of Canada.

“The majority of Canadians did not see the benefits of the innovation agenda,” according to the study, ‘Prospering Together: Addressing Inequality and Poverty to Succeed in the Knowledge-Based Economy.’

The authors also point to a growing rift in Canada between the knowledge haves and have-nots. And they argue that it’s becoming much harder for workers to climb the “human capital” ladder.

“Canada is experiencing the effects of a massive, global economic transformation, one that provides enormous opportunity for those who have the right mix of human capital, and adverse consequences for those who don’t,” the study said.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: barrie mckenna 

Occupy the SEC: Former Wall Street Workers Defend Volcker Rule Against Banks’ Anti-Regulatory Push

The latest offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy the SEC, has submitted a 325-page comment to the Securities and Exchange Commission that calls on regulators to resist the financial industry’s lobbying efforts to water down the Volcker Rule, a section in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that aims to prevent large banks from making certain kinds of risky, speculative investments. The group is made up of former Wall Street professionals who once worked at many of the largest financial firms in the industry. We’re joined by Alexis Goldstein, who worked as a computer programmer for seven years at Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. She left Wall Street in 2010 and joined the Occupy Wall Street movement soon after the encampment began. "Banks shouldn’t behave like a hedge fund," Goldstein says. "Hedge funds are there to make money and take risky bets, and their clients tend to be these really wealthy clients. And the Volcker Rule sort of says, 'Well, wait a minute. These big banks that enjoy all this government support shouldn't be in that business."

Source: Democracy Now!

Democracy's technology feeds China's repression

Are we outsourcing repression to China? That is the fear driving stepped-up scrutiny of labour conditions at Foxconn, the consumer electronics maker that assembles products for a number of Western technology companies, most prominently Apple.

An independent assessor working with the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit group that Apple has hired to audit conditions at the plants, said the California-based company is facing its “Nike moment,” a reference to the 1990s, when the sporting goods maker was accused of using Asian sweatshops to manufacture its iconic sneakers.

The conditions at Foxconn are indeed grim: 12-hour shifts doing boring, repetitive work; dorms that pack seven workers into each room; commands issued by a disembodied fembot. Foxconn first came to international attention in the spring of 2010, when 18 workers killed themselves, or tried to.

But a recent ABC Nightline report showed an implicit justification – 3,000 workers lined up at Foxconn’s gates before dawn in hope of a job. Work at Foxconn may be hard and boring, but for many Chinese, it is better than the alternative.

Ousted Ornge chief is creditor in Ornge bankruptcy

The ousted CEO of Ontario's troubled air ambulance service is listed as a creditor in the bankruptcy of one of Ornge's for-profit ventures.

Bankruptcy documents list Chris Mazza, who was paid $1.4-million a year as CEO, as being owed $1.

That means that the balance due, if any, is undetermined or unknown.

Mr. Mazza was terminated as CEO of Ornge, which is currently under a criminal probe for “financial irregularities.”

The lawyer listed as representing Mr. Mazza in the bankruptcy case was not immediately available for comment.

The documents show that Mr. Mazza received $700,000 in loans from Ornge Global GP Inc., which have yet to be repaid.

They list the company's debts at $6.5-million and its assets at $782,000.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: The Canadian Press

Ottawa sends a tough fiscal message to the provinces

Ottawa is launching a two-track fiscal offensive against the provinces: challenging them to focus on spending cuts and corporate tax breaks while warning it won’t back down on its majority-backed agenda in order to ease the provinces’ financial burdens.

The message was delivered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper Thursday in Iqaluit, where he took the opportunity to shed light on how federal-provincial relations will work now that he has a majority.

When asked whether he should heed warnings the economy can’t absorb chopping at the federal level while provinces like Ontario begin a period of deep austerity, Mr. Harper said provincial affairs were not his concern.

“We ran on a clear mandate to create jobs and growth, and to do that by making investments while at the same time making sure that our deficit falls and we return to balance. That's the program on which we ran,” he said.

“That approach has been widely supported by analysts both inside the country and around the world, so I think that’s the appropriate course. Obviously, other … governments will have to make their own decisions in their own context.”

Fraser Papers retirees' pensions slashed up to 40%

He worked for Fraser Papers for 37 years before retiring in 2006 with a good pension. But four years later, the company cut his benefits by 35.4 per cent costing him $1,000 a month.

"And I will lose that until I die," he says.

On a blustery February morning in the heart of Canada's financial district outside the Brookfield Asset Management building in downtown Toronto, Clyde Winchester says he doesn't know how millions of dollars in the pension fund simply disappeared.

But rest assured, Canada's lax bankruptcy laws were certainly a contributing factor.

In 2009, Brookfield Asset Management, the principal shareholder of Fraser Papers, put the paper mill under bankruptcy protection. Then the Edmundston, New Brunswick mill became the Twin Rivers Paper Company, still owned by Brookfield.

Losing $1,000 a month means the 61-year-old can't buy a new car, doesn't travel as much as he used to or eat out as often.

Tories to send Bill C-30 to House Public Safety Committee

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government will send its controversial internet surveillance bill to a Commons committee that includes one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most trusted troubleshooting MPs soon after Parliament reconvenes and MPs return Monday from this week’s recess.

The  Hill Times learned on Thursday that Bill C-30, which would give police sweeping interception powers over internet messages and web data and has caused one of the biggest Parliamentary crises for the Conservatives since they won a majority government last May, will be sent “directly” to the Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee, prior to a second reading.

Fraser Malcolm, communications director to the Government House Leader, told The Hill Timesthe bill would be sent to the Public Safety Committee, while Michael Patton, communications director to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.), said the bill would go to committee “directly,” prior to normal second reading debate followed by a vote-in-principle on the bill.

The move opens the door to possible amendments before a second reading vote, but the NDP, citing the government’s earlier attacks against the opposition parties over their criticism of the legislation, said it is not optimistic the government will make any major changes.

Military did damage control in wake of Peter MacKay’s helicopter flight

OTTAWA—Military personnel were asked to dig up dirt on an opposition MP in the wake of revelations Defence Minister Peter MacKay was picked up in a search-and-rescue helicopter from a 2010 fishing trip, defence department records show.

It first emerged in a television report on Sept. 21, 2011, that MacKay’s office ordered a Cormorant helicopter to pick him up from a private lodge on the Gander River in Newfoundland at an estimated cost of $16,000. His destination was the Gander airport, where a Challenger jet was waiting to take him to a government announcement in London, Ont.

The morning of Sept. 22, Royal Canadian Air Force staff — including an officer posted in MacKay’s office — were digging through flight logs to find instances where opposition party MPs took rides aboard military aircraft, according to emails obtained by the Toronto Star.

The search fixated on Liberal MP Scott Simms (Bonavista–Gander–Grand Falls–Windsor), whose riding includes the 9 Wing Gander air force base and who was critical of MacKay in the initial CTV report.

By noon that day, the air force officials had found what appeared to be information that might take the edge off Simms’ criticisms.

Philadelphia Convention Plans Lead To Rift In Occupy Movement

In early November, Nathan Kleinman, an Occupy protester in Philadelphia, received an email from someone named Michael Pollok who said he was part of a group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy movement. Pollok said the group planned to hold a convention in Philadelphia during the week of July 4, when 876 delegates from congressional districts around the country would draft "a petition for a redress of grievances" to be presented to Congress.

Kleinman didn't like the idea, and he didn't think it would go over well with other people at Occupy Philly either. He had a few specific concerns, chief among them the fact that the event involved a representative model of government, as opposed to the consensus model that has characterized the Occupy movement from the beginning.

"I explained all that and had a back-and-forth with him. He got increasingly testy and his responses were increasingly dismissive, and so eventually I gave up on him and figured he'd go away," said Kleinman. "But that's not what happened clearly."

This week, the Associated Press and other media outlets reported on Pollok's plans for the convention, unleashing a bitter debate among occupiers over the question of who has the right to represent the movement. (The Huffington Post posted the AP story.)

Peter Kent, Environment Minister, Facing Caribou Lawsuit -- Again

EDMONTON - Environmentalists are taking Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to court — again — over his alleged failure to protect woodland caribou in Alberta's oilsands region.

It's the second time Federal Court has been asked for an injunction to force Kent to issue an emergency protection order.

Last fall, a judge declined to force Kent's hand, ordering him instead to reconsider his refusal to make the order and supply his reasons.

Last month, Kent stuck to his guns, saying that caribou aren't in immediate danger of extinction on a national level.

While there are about 32,000 woodland caribou across the country, Alberta's herds are struggling and many scientists don't expect them to survive in the face of intense energy development.

The legal action has been filed on behalf of two environmental groups and four First Nations.

Original Article
Source: Huff

Senator Santorum’s Planet

If Rick Santorum is so staunch a Catholic, why does he often sound such a Protestant, not to say puritanical, note? His remarks about how President Obama’s world view is just “some phony theology” have received a lot of attention but too little examination. It turned out that Santorum was talking, in general terms, about “radical environmentalists,” and using environmentalism as a synecdoche for everything he abominates in secular progressive politics. “This idea that man is here to serve the earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the earth” is, he maintained on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “a phony ideal. I don’t believe that’s what we’re here to do. That man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the earth, to be a steward of the earth. But we’re not here to serve the earth. The earth is not the objective. Man is the objective, and I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.” That kind of ideology, he complained, “elevates the earth above man.”