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, March 19, 2012

Sears Covers CEO Lou D'Ambrosio's $803,856 Commuting Bill

NEW YORK — Sears Holdings Corp. paid its chief executive $9.9 million last year, including incentives the ailing department store operator offered to lure the former technology executive, according to an Associated Press analysis of a regulatory filing.

Lou D'Ambrosio, who became Sears' CEO in February 2011, received a signing bonus of $150,000 plus a base salary of $930,769 and $8 million in stock awards, according to a filing the company made Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

D'Ambrosio got another $852,037 in perks, including $803,856 for charter and commercial airfare and ground transportation to commute from greater Philadelphia, where he lives, to Hoffman Estates, Ill., where Sears is based. And he received $29,985 for temporary housing in Hoffman Estates. Sears paid part of the income taxes due on those benefits.

Sears operates stores and websites under the Sears, Roebuck and Kmart brands, as well as the Lands' End catalog and online retailer. D'Ambrosio is a former CEO of communications company Avaya Inc., and he held several positions at IBM Corp. in 16 years with the company.

Aveos Layoffs: Employees Block Entrance To Air Canada Building In Montreal

MONTREAL - Some 200 workers laid off by a company that maintains Air Canada planes are blocking access to one of the airline's buildings in Montreal.

The disgruntled workers are among more than 2,000 employees laid off over the weekend by Aveos Fleet Performance.

The protesters are not allowing Air Canada staff to enter a building near Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Police officers are on the scene, but are not forcing the Aveos employees to leave.

A few kilometres away, another group of laid-off workers is blocking an Aveos building.

Aveos announced Sunday it is shuttering three plants in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Of the 2,400 workers who have been laid off, three-quarters are in Montreal.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Canadian Press

Equalization Payments In Canada Need To Be De-Politicized, Analysts Urge

OTTAWA - The inner workings of one of the country's biggest government programs need to be de-politicized and handed over to an arm's-length group of neutral technocrats, a new study suggests.

The politics of the $15-billion-a-year equalization program have become destructive over the last 10 years, say political scientists Daniel Beland and Andre Lecours.

As provincial and federal governments prepare for a new agreement on distributing equalization payments, they should be thinking about ways to cool the political heat the subject generates, the two argue in an essay for the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation.

"Reducing toxic political dramas like the ones witnessed over the past decade is most certainly a good thing for the country and its unity," they wrote.

The current equalization formula expires in 2014. Federal and provincial governments need to know soon how transfers will work after that, in order to budget accordingly.

Human Rights Watch Attacks Mandatory One-Year Detention Of Illegal Immigrants In Tory Anti-Smuggling Bill

OTTAWA — The mandatory one-year detention of illegal immigrants proposed under the Tories' new anti-smuggling bill violates basic human rights and breaches Canada’s international legal obligations, says Human Rights Watch.

The international rights advocacy group headquartered in New York is urging Canadian MPs to vote against the bill, which it claims punishes victims as young as 16 who lean on human smugglers to escape persecution, rather than the criminals themselves.

“Canada should go after people who profit from human smuggling, not people fleeing persecution," Bill Frelick, Human Rights Watch’s refugee program director, wrotes in a blog for The Huffington Post Monday.

Bill C-31 would violate international human rights laws by allowing for a year of mandatory detention without review for certain groups of people, including 16 and 17 year olds, Frelick argued.

“Subjecting 16- and 17-year-old children to mandatory, unreviewable detention backtracks on Canada’s commitments to children,” he said.

Why Liberal, NDP candidates want riding that Jack built

One of the most left-leaning ridings in Canada goes to the polls Monday in a by-election that is expected to come down to a battle of Liberal versus New Democrat.

The race in Toronto-Danforth was made necessary by the death last August of Jack Layton whose successor as NDP Leader will be elected by party members later this week. That contest has centred, in large part, on whether the New Democrats should move further into the ground occupied by Liberals or stick to their traditionally socialist roots.

Mr. Layton trounced his opponents in the riding last spring, taking more than 60 per cent of the popular vote. But the count was much tighter when he first won the riding in 2004, defeating incumbent Liberal Dennis Mills.

Although there are now 11 people vying for the seat, Craig Scott of the NDP and Grant Gordon of the Liberals are the two presumed front-runners. Conservative candidate Andrew Keyes did not return calls for this article.

As the lines between the two parties blur on the national level, The Globe asked Mr. Scott and Mr. Gordon on Sunday to explain how they are different to each other, and how the legacy of Mr. Layton has affected their campaigns.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: gloria galloway 

Herky-jerky budget talk raises doubts about Tory discipline

The weeks that lead up a budget are prime time for governments to telegraph intentions, soften up targets, make people expect bad things and deliver better.

The minute a budget it tabled, most of what voters hear are complaints about shortcomings. That’s just life in a democracy, not some dastardly conspiracy.

To offset this phenomenon, the Harper government (certainly not the first to do so) has in the past spent millions to tout its initiatives, and it is gilding its lilies again this spring. For a government pushing a culture shift in spending, this may come off as more than a bit audacious once the budget is tabled. If there was risk of a backlash in the past, the risk is higher now.

Watching Ottawa use paid advertising to promote the last few budgets might have been easier for Canadians to accept, given the unusual circumstances. One point of these budgets was to reassure people the sky was not falling, in order to help ensure that it wouldn’t fall. You could make a case that in the midst of unprecedented anxiety, the ad campaigns were designed to help shore up faltering confidence, and in so doing help make stimulus spending more efficient. (I’m not saying it's a strong case, just that a case could be made then – and today maybe not so much.)

Government announces funding for War of 1812 bicentennial

The Canadian government has announced close to $5 million in funding for 24 projects commemorating this year's bicentennial of the War of 1812, including almost $1 million to help create a series of interactive exhibits at Vancouver's Canada Place to "bring the heroes and stories of the War of 1812 to life" more than 3,000 kilometres west of the conflict's most famous battlegrounds in southern Ontario.

The geographic breadth of the funded projects is in keeping with the government's framing of the war as a seminal event in the evolution of Canadian nationhood, one that citizens from coast to coast to coast should better understand and reflect upon during the upcoming three years of anniversary commemorations running until late 2014.

"Canada would not exist had the American invasion not been repelled during the War of 1812, and for that reason, the War is a defining chapter in our country's history," Heritage Minister James Moore said in a statement detailing the latest round of War of 1812 funding from the federal government. "We invite all Canadians to learn more about this important part of our past and to take part in many of the activities and events that will pay tribute to our heroes."

First Nations the real target of government's war on environment

I may be a little more preoccupied with the government campaign to marginalize environmental groups (more than most) so apologies to those who feel I've been harping on this too much.

Speaking of harping … it's Harp Seal hunt season and there is no ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for to the seals to give birth (yet the government has given hunters a quota to kill 400,000 pups). Climate change is putting the seals and seal hunters out of business. A sensible government, one might think, would be putting the fossil fuel industry out of business in response. Instead, of course, it is trying to put people like me out of business.

Or is it?

Are environmental organizations the real target of the Harper government? Is curtailing the power of the environmental movement what all this talk of "radicals" and meddling "foreign interests" is about? It might be if we had any real power and were more than just a nuisance.

Only way to beat Tories is join NDP-Grit forces, says pollster

Veteran pollster and keen political observer Frank Graves has some sobering insight for the thousands of New Democrats set to elect their new leader this week: short of a “good old nuclear scandal” neither the NDP nor the Liberals are likely to displace the governing Conservatives in 2015 unless they somehow, in whatever way, join forces.

“The more I look at the political landscape and why it’s so dramatically different today than it was five years ago, the more I’m convinced that neither the NDP nor the Liberals are going to be able to safely, or within any margin of confidence, replace this government as long as they remain competitive separate parties,” Mr. Graves told The Hill Times last week when he was asked to ponder for printed history what’s at stake as several thousands of New Democrats, and thousands more online, prepare to cast ballots in what could be the most important decision they have collectively made since selecting Jack Layton to lead them out of the wilderness in 2003.

“That’s my view, barring that old favourite political disruptor, a good old nuclear scandal, and if this robocon thing does escalate into that, there’s a smoking gun or a deep throat, then who knows, that actually could change the stakes,” Mr. Graves said.

Hurray for Health Reform

It’s said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If the same principle applies to legislation, the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law two years ago, but for the most part has yet to take effect — sits in a place of high honor.

Now, the act — known to its foes as Obamacare, and to the cognoscenti as ObamaRomneycare — isn’t easy to love, since it’s very much a compromise, dictated by the perceived political need to change existing coverage and challenge entrenched interests as little as possible. But the perfect is the enemy of the good; for all its imperfections, this reform would do an enormous amount of good. And one indicator of just how good it is comes from the apparent inability of its opponents to make an honest case against it.

To understand the lies, you first have to understand the truth. How would ObamaRomneycare change American health care?

For most people the answer is, not at all. In particular, those receiving good health benefits from employers would keep them. The act is aimed, instead, at Americans who fall through the cracks, either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual, “non-group” insurance market.

Foxconn: No Legal Action After Mike Daisey Story Retracted From 'This American Life'

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Foxconn Technology Group, the top maker of Apple Inc's iPhones and iPads, is not off the hook after a U.S. radio show retracted a program critical of working conditions at one of its Chinese factories.

The Hong-Kong based China Labor Bulletin said Foxconn still employed harsh working conditions, while a fund manager with shares in Foxconn's parent said investors were watching how the company treats workers.

"The retraction has somewhat cleared Foxconn's name, but not all the way. The press and stock investors will continue to watch how Foxconn treats its workers going forward," said Simon Liu, fund manager and deputy investment officer at Polaris Financial Group's fund unit in Taipei. The unit owns share's in Foxconn's parent company, Hon Hai Precision.

"Obviously, Apple is starting to take serious step asking Foxconn to properly treats its China workers," Liu said.

The radio program "This American Life" last week retracted the episode, saying it had contained "numerous fabrications".

Stockton's Poor Mired In Violence After Police Cuts, Recession

STOCKTON, Calif. –- Last year, Pablo Cano put to rest 12 murder victims, the most he's handled in four decades as an undertaker in this troubled city. Many of the dead were still in their teens.

No homicides have come his way so far this year, but in late February he buried a 16-year-old shot in the head, this time in an apparent accident. The job, he says, wears on him.

"I'm so tired of burying these young kids who barely have a chance to start their lives," says Cano, 70.

Some people grimly joke that the wave of Stockton murders -- which hit an all-time high of 58 in 2011 -- must be good for Cano's bottom line. That's hardly the case. Often the families of victims can scrape together only a few hundred dollars even after turning to friends and neighbors for help. He sometimes offers steep discounts so he doesn’t have to turn them away.

"In the last year, I've had to help a lot more people. They just don't have the money," he says. "They have tamale sales. I've had some pay for the balance with two car washes."

The Power of Recalls in Wisconsin

With Wisconsin recall elections looming against four Republican state senators—as well as Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch—the state’s politics was thrown for another loop Friday when a targeted senator up and quit.

State Senator Pam Galloway, a Tea Party favorite and one of Walker’s steadiest backers in the legislature, announced her immediate resignation from the legislature and her decision not to contest the recall election.

The move had dramatic repercussions:

1. Republicans have lost the complete control of state government that allowed the governor to advance an austerity agenda that was defined by attacks on unions and deep cuts in public education and public services funding—along with the harshest voter ID law in the nation, a rigidly partisan redistricting of legislative districts and what critics complain has been a battering of the state’s open-government tradition.

2. State Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, (brother of Assembly Speaker Jeff) a Walker ally who is targeted for recall, has lost his position as the dominant player in the legislature. He now must enter into a power-sharing agreement with minority leader Mark Miller, a progressive Democrats who led a historic walkout by his caucus during last year’s struggle over Walker’s labor law changes. Committee assignments will be redone to reflect what is now a 16-16 split in the Senate.

Watch: Police Get Violent As OWS Retakes Zuccotti Park

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters marked the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street by attempting to retake Zuccotti Park. By the end of the night, 73 had been arrested and the park forcefully cleared. In scenes that recalled the early days of the movement last fall, citizen journalists captured the New York City Police Department roughing up dozens of apparently peaceful activists. One of them, Craig Judelman, posted a bloody photo of himself on Facebook with the caption, "just got punched in the face like 5 times by NYPD." Journalists J.A. Myerson and Ryan Devereaux have good summaries of other alleged brutality, including officers throwing punches, "rubbing" a boot on someone's head, dragging a woman by the hair, and breaking a guy's thumb. Many other incidents were caught on tape.

Here are some of the most disturbing:

Source: mother jones
Author: Josh Harkinson

Flashback: Santorum Compares Voting For Him To Tiananmen Square's "Tank Man"

On the presidential campaign trail, Rick Santorum has never shied away from calling out the bluster of his fellow Republicans, chief among them Newt "Moon Base" Gingrich. "Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich," Santorum deadpanned at a January presidential debate. Casting Newt as a loose-lipped gaffe machine, Santorum said, "I don't want a nominee that I have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and worrying about what he's going to say next."

Yet Santorum himself is no stranger to overblown campaign talk. In a previously unreported radio interview from April 1994, then-Rep. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) argued that supporting his underdog US Senate campaign and voting for him in the election was "every bit as important" as the bold Chinese protester who, in June 1989, blocked a column of military tanks near Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the site of student protests against China's Communist ruling elite.

Muslim Group Leader to NYPD: Thanks For Spying On Us

In early March, members of a Muslim group gathered for a press conference at Manhattan's One Police Plaza to send a clear message to the New York City Police Department about its controversial surveillance program targeting Muslim Americans.

That message was: Thanks for spying on us.

"We are not here to criticize the NYPD," declared Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), who was joined by House Homeland Security chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), "but rather to thank them for doing the work that we as Muslims should be doing, which is monitoring extremism, following extremism, and helping counter the ideologies that create radicalization in our communities."

Jasser later said in an interview that he wanted to provide an alternative voice to the criticism of the NYPD coming from Muslim and civil liberties groups. "We just wanted the media reports to finally show balance, that there's diversity, that some Muslims don't have a problem with this." Several news reports described attendance at the event as light.

Mulcair Keeps Cool In Face Of Mounting Attacks

Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, the perceived front-runner in the race to replace the late Jack Layton as leader of the NDP, says he'll continue to "take the high road" in his campaign, despite mounting criticism from rivals.

"You've never heard me say why somebody should not vote for one of the other candidates," Mulcair told CBC News Network in an interview from Montreal's St. Patrick's Day parade.

"All along we've said why people might want to consider voting for us."

Mulcair's plan to modernize the party has come under heavy criticism not only from party rivals, but most recently from former NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

Broadbent, who is supporting veteran strategist Brian Topp in his bid for the leadership of the NDP, came out swinging against Mulcair last Thursday.

Housing In Canada: Calls Build On Finance Minister Flaherty To Keep Market, Debt In Check

OTTAWA - Pressure is building on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to intervene for a fourth time on mortgages to keep Canada's housing market and household debt in check.

When he met with economists in early March, Flaherty heard conflicting advice about whether it was time to clamp down Canadians' appetite for housing and new debt.

Since then, the Bank of Canada has reasserted in its interest rate statement that household debt is the "biggest domestic risk" and, late last week, TD Bank's chief economist Craig Alexander called on the minister to wait no longer.

Alexander has suggested three options and asks the minister to choose one, including reducing the maximum amortization on mortgages to 25 years from 30 or hiking the minimum down payment to seven per cent from five.

As a third option, he suggests a means test for those seeking loans by ensuring they can afford to make payments as if mortgage interest charges rise to 5.5 per cent, about twice as high as many current rates.

Foreign Brides Face Tighter Rules In Canada

If a foreign spouse's marriage in Canada does not last two years, he or she could be deported, according to a proposed new federal rule.

The Conservatives believe a two-year probationary period for foreign spouses would prevent men and women from getting away with immigration fraud by marrying Canadians just to get into the country.

A Canadian spokesman for Volga Girl, a North American mail-order bride company, cheered the new regulations, saying he knows some people have used the system to side-step the Canadian immigration process.

Volga Girl, which promotes web-based international marriages, hopes the new rules will "legitimize" the industry.

"Let the visa go ahead to come to Canada and then, yeah, a two-year probationary period is fine," said Mark Scrivener, whose company describes itself as the "most reliable and effective way to find your Russian wife."

"That would be very workable for me."

Aveos Fleet Performance Inc: Air Canada Maintenance Provider Shuts Down Plants

WINNIPEG - Aveos Fleet Performance Inc., a company that provides aircraft maintenance to Air Canada, has shut down its plants in three cities, telling more than 2,400 workers they're being laid off and should not return to work, a union leader said Sunday.

Tony Didoshak with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said Aveos employees were given the notice simultaneously at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The union, which also represents Air Canada's mechanics, baggage handlers and ramp personnel, had feared for Aveo's future after Air Canada moved to subcontract some of its work offshore.

"It is my understanding that Aveos has ceased operations," said Didoshak, who is the union's general chairman in Winnipeg.

Didoshak said union officials haven't been able to reach anyone with Aveos to confirm the layoffs. Attempts by The Canadian Press to reach the company were also unsuccessful.

Toulouse Shooting: Gunman Kills Four At Jewish School In France

A gunman on a motorbike opened fire outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, and shot dead three children and a rabbi.

At least three other children were critically injured, including a 17-year-old boy.

The city was said to be on "lockdown" as police hunted the killer, who has also been linked to two recent attacks on soldiers in the region.

It was reported that the same .45 calibre gun was used in the attack as in the two other deadly shootings.

A service to remember the victims was held at a local synagogue and there will be a silent march in Paris later this evening.

The incident occurred at around 8am local time as children waited at a drop-off point near to the Lyceé Ozar Hatorah, which has around 200 students. It is part of a network of more than a dozen institutions which teach more than 4,000 students across France.

Recognize sacrifice of soldiers, yes, but spare the extravagance

Last week, it was revealed the Defence Department spent about $850,000 to stage the elaborate Victory over Libya extravaganza on Parliament Hill last Nov. 24.

This very un-Canadian display of pride in our martial prowess included marching bands, aircraft flypasts and special recognition for Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian military mastermind who led the NATO air armada against the Libyan army.

At the time, some critics questioned the scale of the demonstration by saying the Canadian Forces put more aircraft in the skies over Ottawa than they ever put over Libya. The more pragmatic cynics wondered how much the military exhibition cost Canadian taxpayers.

Now that the final bill has been tallied, Defence Minister Peter MacKay tells us that it was money well spent. The pilots flying in ceremonial formation low over the Peace Tower would have otherwise been engaged in training flights at bases across Canada. Of course, such training would involve professionally challenging flying — such as engaging ground targets — or practising evasive manoeuvres rather than flying in a straight line.

Ina May Gaskin on Rising U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate, Midwifery and Home Births

As the controversy over women’s access to contraception continues, we look at women’s access to safe, affordable and comfortable birthing options. Pioneering midwife Ina May Gaskin is the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. Last year, she won a Right Livelihood Award "for her whole-life’s work teaching and advocating safe, woman-centered childbirth methods that best promote the physical and mental health of mother and child." She is the author of "Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth" and, most recently, "Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta." "Insurance has incredible power now, power that it didn’t have 70 years ago. It’s the reason that doctors aren’t learning to do breech deliveries anymore. It’s one of the huge reasons that we have very few midwives in this country," Gaskin says. "Midwives are at the bottom of the pile, basically, on getting coverage." Gaskin is also the founder of the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, which seeks to draw public attention to the high maternal mortality rate in the United States.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ----

Air Canada seeks ruling on flurry of pilot sick calls

A surge in sick calls from Air Canada pilots, along with morning fog and a fire at the country’s largest airport, led to snarled travel schedules on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

The inconvenience to thousands of travellers highlights Air Canada’s difficulties establishing peace with its employees as it appeals to Ottawa for assistance once again, this time to address what the carrier claims is an illegal job action by pilots.

Fog and a temporarily closed runway at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport amplified the effects of the pilot shortage during the closing weekend of the hectic March break vacation period. And the carrier is now asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board to declare that the Air Canada Pilots Association authorized strike activity and encouraged members to flout back-to-work legislation, which received royal assent last Thursday.

The union could face fines of up to $100,000 a day if the labour board sides with the airline.

Thomas Mulcair’s opponents have helped him

OTTAWA—For months during the NDP leadership marathon, it had to have become clear to his challengers that there was a need to tear down Thomas Mulcair.

For almost as long, it had to have been equally clear that those challengers had to somehow forge alliances and let the rank-and-file know there was a tent for those uneasy with the style and substance of the man known in some party circles as Tom the Bomb.

If Mulcair wins the leadership in Toronto this weekend, it will be as much a testament to his campaign as to the strategic ineptitude of Brian Topp, Peggy Nash, Nathan Cullen and Paul Dewar.

The Topp backers who tried to discredit the front-runner in recent weeks have gone about their task in the most ham-handed of ways.

They have issued vague whispers to journalists, offered stories impossible to substantiate and road maps leading down blind alleys.

The capper was the cranky intervention of a clearly frustrated party icon, Ed Broadbent.

An anti-Mulcair website was so antiseptic as to be completely ineffective.

Broadbent's attack on Mulcair shows appalling judgment

Jack Layton, among other talents, played a not-bad 12-string guitar and had a pleasant baritone. One of his favourite tunes, a comedic lament, was something he called 'the NDP Blues.' Canadians love the New Democrats between elections, Layton would croon, with mock sorrow. But on voting day they flee to Liberal red or Conservative blue, leaving the orange high and dry.

NDP patriarch Ed Broadbent, apparently, would like for his beloved New Democrats to keep warbling that song in perpetuity. How else to explain Broadbent's extraordinary and uncharacteristically nasty 11th-hour intervention in the NDP leadership race? Brian Topp, Broadbent's favourite, has promised to hew to the NDP's history as a tax-and-spend, niche party of the left. Thomas Mulcair wants to renew and refurbish, with a view to forming government. This, and little else, will be at issue this weekend at the party's leadership convention in Toronto.

Robo-complaints aren’t real complaints

As you probably know, Canada’s left is revolting.

At the urging of two left-wing groups, Avaaz and Lead Now, thousands of people who claim to be incensed, furious and/or outraged about robocalls have now robo-complained to Elections Canada with form letter e-mails.

Times have changed. In the old days if you were convinced democracy had been denied and an election had been stolen, you would write your own e-mails.

The other just awful thing is Elections Canada is stuck in the website and e-mail era. They really should have a Facebook page where you can just click “Like” on the statement, “The Conservatives stole the election.”

Then if they get more than, say, one million “Likes,” a new people’s government would be formed and we would all be MPs and we would use Facebook to vote on every issue, and we would all be equal.

Now, where were we?

Oh yes, robo-complainers.

Robocalls get bad rap, but done lawfully, legitimate campaign tool, say MPs

Elections Canada is conducting an unprecedented investigation into robocalls after it received 31,000 “contacts” and 700 complaints about conduct in the last federal election, but MPs say, done lawfully, robocalling is a legitimate and increasingly necessary campaign tool to win modern campaign elections.

“I think it’s just impossible today to run an effective campaign of any consequence. If you’re serious about winning, you need that as another tool, just like you used to need to put up political signs,” said NDP House Leader Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.), who used robocalls, or automated telephone calls, in his own campaign during the last election. Mr. Comartin, who won the riding with 49.9 per cent of the vote, said he used them to alert supporters that former leader Jack Layton would be in the area, or to remind people to go out to vote.

“Part of the problem is just being able to contact people because in terms of getting people at home and being able to talk to them so the automatic call is one where you at least know you’re making some contact and so, it’s just about mandatory if you’re going to win a campaign these days. It’s hard to imagine you’re going to be able to do it without having some part of your campaign using automatic calls.”

Tories deepen strategy to target new ethnic voters, ‘bread and butter’ Canadians, high-earning Greens

New ethnic communities, so-called “bread and butter” Canadians, and high-earning Green Party voters are the next groups that could prove future fertile ground for the majority-governing Conservative Party, say strategists.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.), who is his party’s key player on courting the ethnic vote, told an audience at the Manning Networking Conference on March 9, which attracted hundreds of influential Tories in the nation’s capital, that the success of the Conservative strategy to attract new voters from ethnic communities rests on identifying available groups who share the Conservatives’ values.

“Our strategy has been based on a very central, and I think honest, premise: that people should align their votes with their values,” said Mr. Kenney, who has been dubbed the minister for “curry in a hurry” due to his reputation for jam-packing his time with cultural community events.

“People who, frankly, always should have been supporting us, but for some peculiar reason were not,” he explained.

I support Thomas Mulcair

In choosing its leader, the first thing a party like the NDP looks for -- a party of conviction and principle, not seeking power only for the kick and the spoils -- is someone who will make them feel proud of their ideals and will fight relentlessly for those ideals, win, lose or draw.

The second is to recognize the self-evident: there are no perfect political leaders. So you don’t look for the perfect candidate, you look for the best of those available. You hope, and pray, that you pick the least flawed among them, since you know all are flawed and risky in some ways great or small. And it’s always a gamble, since you never know how their strengths and weaknesses will play out, as the cases of Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff surely demonstrate.

This gamble is of course even greater now that Conservative parties thoughtfully identify their opponents’ alleged deficiencies for them, as I’m sure the prime minister’s goon squad is just ready and waiting to do for the new NDP leader, whoever it is.

Finally, the choice this time is unusually complicated for the NDP since it’s also seeking a quality the party really never had to take seriously before. New Democrats want someone who can win. When the NDP was formed in 1961 from the ruins of the CCF, there was a tacit assumption that what its first leader, Tommy Douglas, had succeeded in doing in Saskatchewan for so many years -- winning -- he would soon repeat again for Canada.

The Printed Word and the New Literary Elite

As our cultural products are digitized, the book-as-artifact takes on new cultural meaning.

If you’ve been reading of late, you will surely have read that books are going out of style, and fast. Headlines proclaiming the ruination of literature and accompanying doom of civilization have graced the pages of nearly every heavyweight paper in some form or another. In 2007, The New Yorker’s Caleb Crain lit the literary flame with his Bradburian headline, “Twilight of the Books: What will life be like if people stop reading?” Following this, as is so often the case, was a retort from The Guardian’s Steven Johnson, telling Crain and The New Yorker to get a grip – the medium was the message here, and the message was that people are still reading (perhaps even more than before), just not in print. And for a trend that’s already been observed in a myriad of other cultural arenas – the shift from vinyl to mp3, analog to digital, etc. – it seemed a logical evolution.

The digitization of a cultural product feels inevitable, even destined to happen, leaving some to wonder how this hitherto entrenched progression of technology has possibly surprised anyone.

It’s March main estimates madness as House poised to pass billions of dollars in spending

It was March madness at committees last week as more than a dozen ministers and their officials appeared at Parliamentary committees to explain their department’s funding requests in the main estimates, but one seasoned Parliamentary expert says Canada doesn’t know what good spending scrutiny looks like.

“If the estimates scrutiny is done well by a committee, a committee can learn an enormous amount about what government does. If it’s not done well, as all too often happens, the committee doesn’t learn anything and the government doesn’t say anything,” Parliamentary expert Ned Franks told Civil Circles.

He said that the process of having committees review the estimates has been flawed since it was introduced in the 1960s.

“We don’t know in Canada,” what a fully functional scrutiny process looks like, he stated.

Endorsements influential, but still comes down to one-member-one-vote, in the end

Endorsements from high-profile people have “significant influence” in the NDP, especially when it comes to the leadership race, says a former federal leadership candidate, but others say despite the number of top support, it all comes down to one-member, one-vote in the end.

“I think it’s hard to win in any party if you don’t have reasonably solid endorsements from at least a significant segment of the party,” NDP House Leader Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.) told The Hill Times last week. “I think they’re very important. Obviously it depends on the extent of the influence the person has who’s doing the endorsement, but getting Ed Broadbent or one of the provincial premiers, people of that stature, getting the endorsements of your colleagues, MPs in your caucus, or MLAs in the provinces, all of those carry the recommendation that is going to be followed by at least some people who support that individual.”

Mr. Comartin ran in the 2003 leadership campaign which elected Jack Layton on the first ballot. Heavy-hitters such as former leader Ed Broadbent and former Ontario leader Stephen Lewis backed Layton, who had previously twice run unsuccessfully in federal elections and who had been a Toronto city councillor before taking the NDP’s helm. Layton died from cancer on Aug. 22, 2011, and there are currently seven candidates vying to take over from him.

Don’t get stuck in fights of yesterday, says Cullen

Since the outset of the NDP leadership race, the majority of political observers have placed Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C. MP Nathan Cullen, 39, on the contest’s metaphorical backbench. But through the months of campaigning, Mr. Cullen’s profile has increased and he has carved out a niche for himself as a progressive and new-age politician, with a focus on the environment.

The party’s new preferential ballot voting system has led to speculation that Mr. Cullen will be one of two possible king-makers in the race. Indeed, Mr. Cullen has whittled out a healthy dose of support in B.C. The media are calling him the “dark horse” of the race. But while Mr. Cullen has largely won the support of his home province the question of the hour is—how much of the rest of NDP Canada has he won over?

The Hill Times conducted a Q&A with Mr. Cullen.

Police Arrest 73 in Occupy Wall Street Crackdown as Protesters Mark Six Months Since Uprising Began

Michael Moore led hundreds of people from the Left Forum conference to Zuccotti Park on Saturday where hundreds had gathered to reoccupy the park to mark six months since the launch of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began last September and launched protests around the world that gave voice to "the 99 percent." That night, New York City police officers cleared the park, making at least 73 arrests. Many people reported excessive use of force by officers; several cases were caught on camera. In one widely reported incident, a young woman suffered a seizure after she was pulled from the crowd and arrested. Witnesses say police initially ignored Cecily McMillan as she flopped about on the sidewalk with her hands zip-tied behind her back, but she was eventually taken away in an ambulance. For more, we talk to Guardian reporter Ryan Devereaux, who has been following the Occupy movement closely.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Dewar wants to ‘turn people onto politics’

Since Paul Dewar, 49, announced his bid for the leadership of the NDP, the Ottawa Centre MP says he’s “criss-crossed the country more times than I can count.” By his numbers, he’s been to 120 different communities, been on more than 65 planes and attends an average of three to four events a day.

Mr. Dewar, who describes himself as a “grassroots” MP, said that if chosen to lead the New Democrats his priorities would be building a 21st century economy in Canada, strengthening Canada’s social safety net, including Old Age Security and the health transfers to the provinces, and correcting Canada’s historical mistreatment of First Nations.

The NDP’s challenge in the next election will be to win 70 more seats from their current total of 101 seats in the House and form government, said Mr. Dewar. He intends to do this by reaching out to the West, the Prairies, rural Canada and Quebec, and expanding the party’s infrastructure outside of Ottawa.

The NDP made some important gains with the last election, both in terms of Quebec support and in terms of the party’s standing in the House. Pundits have criticized a lack of division between the leadership candidates. What sets you apart and makes you the right person to lead the federal NDP?

Goldman Sachs helped trigger the meltdown but missed out on the post-crisis cultural makeover

Disaffected employees quit every day, and life goes on. Not this time.

On Wednesday, Greg Smith quit his post as an executive director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), one of the world’s largest investment banks. That day, the New York Times published Smith’s op-ed explaining he could no longer work at a GS that chronically preys on its own clients – or “ripping their eyeballs out,” as GS veterans call it.

On Thursday, GS shares lost $2.2 billion in value. A seismic event, that (they regained it later in the day).

The talk of the global financial community this week is that Smith’s allegations are on the mark. And that four years after GS helped cause the Wall Street meltdown and the Great Recession that followed, now rippling across Europe, GS has not changed its ways.

If GS, Ground Zero of the worst capitalist failure in eight decades, cannot or will not reform itself, there’s not much hope for the financial system. And more reason to believe experts who say it will keep crashing every decade or so.

Union for Toronto’s inside workers calls strike vote for Tuesday

The union representing Toronto’s 23,000 inside workers announced Sunday afternoon they have scheduled a strike vote for Tuesday.

“We did not come by the decision to seek a strike mandate lightly,” said CUPE Local 79 president Tom Maguire in a news release.

“Our goal is to negotiate fair collective agreements without a strike. It’s now clear the city can’t say the same without something to focus their attention.”

The announcement came the same day the union for the city’s 2,300 library workers walked off the job after failing to negotiate a new contract.

Maguire noted the city has not moved on major concessions that would affect part-time and front-line city workers.

Toronto’s inside workers include daycare workers, clerks, court services staff, planners, social service workers and cleaners.

Talks fail as Toronto library workers go on strike

Book borrowers across the city will be greeted by picket lines and locked doors Monday morning as Toronto's public library workers go on strike.

City officials promised to have a contingency plan in place in case of a work stoppage. That contingency plan involves shutting all 98 city library branches for the duration of the strike, as well as cancelling planned meetings and events.

A marathon round of negotiations that began Saturday and continued through the night, finally ended in failure late Sunday afternoon with an announcement by Maureen O’Reilly, president of the library workers union Local 4948.

“Our goal was to protect workers,” she said of the talks. “Despite our best efforts negotiations have stalled.”

A day earlier O’Reilly had not been optimistic of reaching an agreement. However, late Saturday night, both parties decided to extend their 12:01 a.m. deadline. Just after midnight, CUPE union spokesman Cim Nunn said the union would keep talking as long as they felt progress was being made.

David Cameron unveils plan to sell off the roads

David Cameron will clear the way for a multibillion-pound semi-privatisation of trunk roads and motorways as he announces plans to allow sovereign wealth funds from countries such as China to lease roads in England.

Just 48 hours before the budget, the prime minister will give a speech calling for radical action to improve Britain's infrastructure, which is falling behind those of key competitors in Europe.

In his most eye-catching proposal, Cameron will announce that the Treasury and Department for Transport are to carry out a feasibility study looking at using private-sector funds to improve and maintain trunk roads and motorways.

The prime minister's plan, modelled on the funding of the mains water and sewage network, would see sovereign wealth funds and pension funds given the right to lease roads over a long period. They would be set a series of targets to, for example, reduce congestion and carry out improvements. George Osborne recently travelled to China to persuade the world's largest fiscal-surplus country to invest in Britain's infrastructure.

Osborne: Budget is for 'working people' (but 50p tax is set to go)

Wednesday's Budget will be aimed at "working people", George Osborne claimed yesterday, despite the expected scrapping of the 50p rate for top earners.

The Chancellor is expected to announce moves this week to lift hundreds of thousands more people out of income tax and to target wealthy property-tax dodgers.

The package will be finalised at a meeting today of the coalition "quad" – Mr Osborne and David Cameron for the Conservatives and Nick Clegg and Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander for the Liberal Democrats.

Following the extraordinarily public negotiations over Wednesday's Budget, the outline of its contents was becoming clearer last night.

Former minister decries tinkering with Fisheries Act

OTTAWA — A former Progressive Conservative fisheries minister urged the Harper government Friday to reject private sector appeals, which are particularly loud in Western Canada, to water down the federal Fisheries Act.

Tom Siddon, who introduced the policy in 1986 under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney, said there's "no justifiable excuse" for removing provisions ensuring the protection of fisheries habitat.

The government, according to information leaked to retired federal fisheries biologist Otto Langer earlier this week, plans to drop any references to habitat.

The proposed new wording would prohibit activity that would cause an "adverse effect" on "fish of economic, cultural or ecological value."

The government is responding to complaints from groups such as the Mining Association of Canada, which says $140 billion in potential mining projects are being stalled due to "nonsensical" decisions involving the Fisheries Act.

But Siddon, fisheries minister from 1985 to 1990, urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to resist the pressure.

A Vision of Reviving Tribal Ways in a Remote Corner of California

KLAMATH, Calif. — From a forested bluff, Willard Carlson Jr. stands watch over Blue Creek where its indigo eddies meet the gray-green riffles of the Klamath River. The creek is sacred to Yurok Indians like himself: it flows into high country, a pilgrimage point and a source of curative power for tribal healers. The Yurok consider it their “golden stairway” and weave its stepped pattern into their basketry.

This is a California few outsiders know, where remote villages still await electricity, and the river is a liquid neighborhood. For the state’s largest tribe, with about 5,000 members, well-publicized battles over fishing rights and hydroelectric dams are perhaps less pressing day to day than the question “What part of the river are you from?”

Five years ago, Mr. Carlson was rebounding from alcohol and drug abuse when he felt the need to return here, to his family’s ancestral ground. One night, cooking salmon and eel over an alder fire, he vowed to do something that had not been tried here for at least 150 years: to build a traditional Yurok village from scratch, a ceremonial place that will “bring people home to reconnect with the old ways,” he said.