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.]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sergeant Bales’s Shame and Ours

It’s hard not to be haunted by the story of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Everyone in Norwood, Ohio, where he grew up, seemed to like him: outgoing, a joiner, a middle linebacker who played above his size, thoughtful toward others. He enlisted in the Army after the September 11th attacks, out of patriotism and righteous anger.

Three deployments over six years in Iraq, including one during the “surge” with intense fighting. A wound that cost him part of his foot, then a head injury in a vehicle accident. Frustration at being unable to find and kill the enemy. Over the years, as the deployments pile up and the mission gets lost, he starts to sound jaded, coarsened. Ten years in, he misses out on being promoted to sergeant first class, and he doesn’t land the recruiting job he wanted, or the coveted posting to Germany or Italy. Instead, he’s sent back to the wars—this time to a remote combat outpost in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, where he sees a buddy lose a leg to a land mine.

Back home, his wife loses her job when Washington Mutual goes under, and there are mortgage problems on their house in Washington state. You couldn’t write a more succinct history of what went wrong in the decade after September 11th.

The Crime Omnibus Bill: What is to be done?

On March 12, despite months of protest across the country, the federal government’s Omnibus Crime Bill (euphemistically known as the “the safe streets and communities act”), cleared its final Parliamentary hurdle when the Harper Conservatives voted 154–129 in the House of Commons to pass the legislation. Now the bill goes to the Governor General for royal assent. This was despite:

• The opposition of over 30,000 Canadians who signed the petition calling on both Members of Parliament and Senators to reject the legislation;

• The opposition of many groups such as the John Howard Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Canadian Civil, Pivot Legal Society, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Educators for Sensible Drug Policy, the Canadian AIDS Society, the Canadian Federation of Students, Reclaim our Democratic Canada, the British Columbia Humanist Association, the National Union of Public and General Employees, the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, the Canadian Barristers Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, and the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec – all of whom spoke out against the legislation;

• The opposition of the New Democratic, Liberal, Green, and Bloc Québécois parties;

• The government moving time allocation on three separate occasions to rush the passage of the legislation.
The passage of the Bill C-10 is a triumph of ideology, obstinacy, and stupidity over reason – and a sad day for Canada and Canadian democracy. So, in the words of Nikolai Chernashevsky’s 1863 novel, still equally germane 150 years after its publication, “What is to Be Done?”

Unemployed To Lose Benefits In Several States

WASHINGTON -- People receiving long-term unemployment insurance will get fewer weeks of benefits as a federal program is phased out early next month in several states.

The federal Extended Benefits program, which in states with high-unemployment rates grants claimants out of work for a long period of time a final 13 to 20 weeks of benefits, will be phased out on April 7 in Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to an analysis by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group.

State labor departments were notified of the changes by the U.S. Labor Department in a complex March 5 memo. States, in turn, are trying to explain what's going on to those who will no longer receive checks through the Extended Benefits program.

In February, Congress reauthorized Extended Benefits for the rest of the year but did not allow states to keep the program if their unemployment rates had not risen compared with a corresponding period period three years ago. Because unemployment rates have slowly declined since 2009, the program will be completely phased out over the course of this year.

House GOP Budget: Paul Ryan Plan Adds Food Stamps, Welfare Cuts To Medicare-Slashing Plan

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, unveiled his latest plan to slash spending Tuesday, returning to his controversial proposal to cut Medicare in part by privatizing the system that provides health care to the elderly.

His budget plan -- which Congress will not enact, but which offers an election-year blueprint for the GOP to tout as evidence of fiscal responsibility -- would set just two income tax rates of 10 percent and 25 percent and a corporate rate of 25 percent, while eliminating many deductions and loopholes. Ryan promised the tax reforms would be "revenue neutral."

But the flash point is likely to be the Wisconsin lawmaker's proposal to begin offering retirees the option of switching to a privatized Medicare system in which beneficiaries receive "premium support" from the government permitting them to buy insurance on the open market. Democrats hammered that proposal last year as ending Medicare as we know it. Ryan cast it as saving the program and controlling costs through competition.

'Mr president, I want an answer'

The Afghan president had no answers.

An emotional Hamid Karzai, flanked by his senior officials, listened patiently on Friday, as families of the 16 victims recounted the US soldier's pre-dawn shooting spree in southern Kandahar province.

The distraught elders, in heartfelt speeches, spoke of personal loss, hopelessness and demanded justice. Almost all of them insisted that, contrary to US military statements, more than one soldier was involved in the massacre.

After the meeting, Karzai echoed the elders' concern, seeming convinced by the stories he had heard.

"In his family, in four rooms people were killed - children and women were killed - and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do," the president told reporters.

Below is a translated and transcribed excerpt of some of the conversation during the meeting.

Liberals Started the Culture War, and We Should Be Proud of Continuing It

Ed Kilgore writes a post today mocking right-wing fear of betrayal by an insufficiently dedicated conservative, a brand of paranoia that got its start with Eisenhower's appointments of Earl Warren and William Brennan to the Supreme Court:

    These disasters (from a conservative point of view) were hardly isolated. Richard Nixon appointed Roe v. Wade author Harry Blackmun; Gerald Ford's brief presidency produced long-time Supreme Court liberal John Paul Stevens, and Poppy Bush put the ultimate Stealth Liberal, David Souter, on the High Court, an act for which the later nomination of Clarence Thomas was a very loud apology. Worse yet, St. Ronald Reagan was responsible for Sandra Day O'Connor, and depending on where Anthony Kennedy lands on a series of big upcoming cases, his appointment, too, could wind up earning a conservative Day of Infamy.

    You'd have to say everything about Mitt Romney makes him suspect as the kind of Republican president who might make an insufficiently right-wing Court appointment. And this is precisely why I'd bet the farm (if I had one) that by the time November rolls around the Federalist Society wing of the conservative movement will have extracted so many private and public blood oaths from Romney on the subject that should he even think about a less-than-orthodox nominee, Satan would appear in the West Wing and snatch Mitt right down to hell.

Republicans Are Blocking the Violence Against Women Act

There are three reasons some Republicans are trying to block the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: Gays, immigrants, and Native Americans.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized twice since then, increased federal penalties for domestic violence and provided funding for groups and services that aid victims of domestic abuse. The bill hit the bipartisan sweet spot of being both tough on crime and oriented toward women's rights. Usually it's reauthorized without much fanfare. This time around, however, several Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), are putting up a fight. Despite the fact that the bill has several Republican sponsors, all eight GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee voted against the bill when the committee considered it last month.

"While this is a bipartisan effort in this Congress, it's certainly a tougher slog than most of us expected," says Lisalyn Jacobs, vice president for government relations at the women's rights advocacy group Legal Momentum.

Obama's Plan to Win Reelection

It was the spring of 2011, and Barack Obama was preparing for a Big Speech about the deficit. He wanted to counter the draconian budget plan released by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that slashed government programs and ended the Medicare guarantee. In a brainstorming session with top aides, he said he'd been thinking about his recent trip to Chile.

"I'm going to other parts of the world and they're showing me tremendous investments in infrastructure and innovations in education," Obama told them. "They're willing to spend money on that. The Republican budget reflects a fundamental pessimism. It says that to get the deficit in line, we can't afford to be as visionary as these countries, and we can't be optimistic because they're not willing to let an extra penny come from high-income people." Smaller nations were aiming bigger.

Obama had a lot of pent-up passion. He'd just come through weeks of brutal budget negotiations that had resulted in $38.5 billion in cuts. Now, with a government shutdown averted, Obama felt the time had come to get tough. He wanted to draw lines and call out the Republicans.

Thailand's PTT Exploration And Production Wants Alberta Energy

BANGKOK - Add one more Asian suitor to Western Canada's resource-rich energy sector: Thailand wants to buy a major natural gas asset there.

The head of Thailand's energy giant, PTT Exploration and Production, confirmed the plan in an interview with The Canadian Press days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to begin a three-country Asian tour in Thailand this week.

Harper has trumpeted Canada as an energy superpower and he has identified increased trade with Asia an economic priority.

Thailand appears determined to compete with China, Japan and South Korea for Canadian oil and natural gas assets. Those resources are coveted by Asian countries to feed their ever growing, energy-hungry economies.

Christy Clark: B.C. Premier Poised To Be Swept From Office By Adrian Dix's NDP, According To New Polls

After bringing down a budget that was supposed to prove Premier Christy Clark’s conservative credentials, the B.C. Liberal leader still trails her NDP rivals by a wide margin.

Two polls taken in the wake of the February budget indicate that the B.C. New Democrats under leader Adrian Dix have the support of well over 40 per cent of British Columbians. The opposition party scored 42 per cent in a Forum poll taken immediately after the budget and 45 per cent in a Justason Market Intelligence survey taken over two weeks starting Feb. 24.

Where Clark’s Liberals stand is more difficult to determine. Forum , which has tended to return lower Liberal results than other firms, has the party at only 24 per cent, down two points from their poll taken at the end of January and only two points ahead of the B.C. Conservatives. Justason MI, on the other hand, has the Liberals at a more respectable 31 per cent, more than double the Conservative result.

It ain’t feasible being green

Dalton McGuinty has committed Ontario to a faith-based energy policy.

He believes passionately in the theory of man-made global warming, a theory that has been cast into disrepute through not only the misconduct of its high priests but by scientific observation itself: There has been no measurable global warming since 1998, according to satellite weather data.

But McGuinty’s belief is deep. And he intends to build massive three-armed crucifixes across rural Ontario. The famous statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio de Janeiro is only 130 feet tall. McGuinty’s eco-idols will be three times that height, but will serve the same imposing purpose.

Do not confuse McGuinty’s belief system with a true faith. It is a superstition, the tenets of which are capable of being scientifically disproven. It is a perverse faith, in that it reveres the “environment” ahead of people who live in it. It is a most ascetic superstition, in that it demands we live less happily and less freely and with less prosperity — the opposite of, say, the Protestant work ethic that helped build Ontario.

Make rioters do social, military service

From the vantage point of middle age, little is more depressing than the prospect of becoming an angry, wizened old coot, slouched on his front porch, tossing little sticks at passing teenagers.

Which is why I am a little reluctant to wade into the London, Ont., riots debate, if indeed it can be called that. What's to debate? Getting mad at these designer-panted, Xbox-playing, skateboard-riding tween-agers (a teenager being a young hobbit in his 20s, not fully mature, in Tolkien's eyes) is too easy. Fish in a barrel.

On the other hand, these little fish did trash a London city street, attack police and firefighters with bricks, boards and bottles, and burn a CTV News van, at a cost estimated at $100,000. The 1,000-strong mob could easily have killed someone. That it didn't is a testament to either brilliant police work or, more likely, luck.

Just as in the aftermath of the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots, it's reasonable to ask why. No doubt the soft-hearted will proffer the usual answers - alienation, disenfranchisement, lousy employment prospects and the like. "Poor dears, we've failed them so." And I think, actually, that we have failed them.

But not in the way that some may think. We've failed them by giving them too much and asking too little in return.

Immigration reform will prevent unemployment 'cycle,' Kenney vows

TORONTO — By targeting younger and more language-proficient immigrants, a "transformational" package of immigration reforms promises to end the "vicious circle of unemployment" for newcomers, says Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"For too long the story of immigration to Canada has been summed up by the frustration of the highly trained professional who arrived with the expectation of being able to work at his or her skill level," he said, addressing the Canadian Club of Toronto on Monday.

"We're going to stop this practice of inviting highly trained people to come to Canada if they don't have jobs or they're not likely to succeed in the labour market."

In advance of the March 29 federal budget, Kenney was in Toronto to announce immigration reforms aimed at boosting economic growth. "We'll be reforming our immigration programs to do more in ensuring that our historic openness to newcomers works to fuel prosperity in Canada," said Kenney.

Dirty tricks just part of politics

The robocalls scandal already seems to be last week’s outrage, which is too bad.

Only a few days ago the opposition parties were demanding a Canada-wide investigation into claims the Conservative party conspired to subvert democracy. And then, silence.

It’s my guess we won’t hear much more about the suspicious phone calls or the unsupported claims about cheating during the last election. Rioting students are the new outrage of the moment.

Robocalls probably won’t be heard of again until Elections Canada issues a report about the 700 complaints it received regarding the 2011 election. It turns out that is a normal number of complaints for a federal election; the NDP claim that there were 31,000 complaints was not true.

Elections Canada’s findings will be reported months or even years from now. I predict the news will be buried and forgotten, filed next to the in-and-out scandal, last fall’s Mount Royal Tory polling fuss, and a few other geeky footnotes to history.

That’s a shame because the opposition parties and the media were right about Canada needing a good, thorough investigation of the dirty tricks employed during federal elections.

A budget season of red ink — and high stakes

The main act of the 2012 federal-provincial budget season is about to get under way and it could be one for the books.

Quebec will open it on Tuesday with what could be the last budget of the Jean Charest era.

That will be followed a week later by what is expected to be the most austere Liberal budget in modern Ontario history.

On March 29 Stephen Harper’s Conservatives will bring the exercise to a close with the first majority Conservative budget in two decades.

What the three budgets have in common is that they have been drafted with an eye to the red ink that has washed over government finances over the economic crisis.

They have also all been heralded as watershed events for their political authors.

But this is where the similarities end.

What Broadbent said

Given the reaction in political circles in the last few days, one might think Ed Broadbent had said something truly controversial, even offensive. But the former leader of the NDP merely expressed his opinions about two of the leadership candidates in the current race.

Broadbent had already endorsed Brian Topp, but found it necessary, about a week before the convention, to express his concerns about the personality and ideology of Thomas Mulcair, who seems to have momentum.

A Canadian Press story called Broadbent's comments a "grenade lobbed into the NDP leadership race." Postmedia columnist Michael Den Tandt wrote that it "shows appalling judgment. It dramatically increases the odds that, should Mulcair lose, the NDP will lose Quebec." Chantal Hébert wrote in the Toronto Star that "Broadbent has poisoned the well for whoever wins the leadership this week - including his own favourite Brian Topp."

Canada Budget Said to Have Measures to Speed Energy Approvals

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty plans to include new measures to expedite environmental approvals for energy projects in next week’s budget, as part of efforts to build new pipelines that will help the country tap into growing Asian demand for oil, a person familiar with the document said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has vowed to speed the regulatory review process for projects such as pipelines, as the country seeks to build oil-exporting capacity after President Barack Obama in January denied TransCanada Corp. (TRP) a permit for its Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. New rules to quicken approvals will be part of the March 29 budget, the person said on condition they not be identified because the fiscal plan hasn’t been made public.

Harper has said diversifying Canada’s energy exports is a “national priority” as it will reduce reliance on the U.S. and help Canadian producers generate higher prices by easing a glut of oil in storage facilities around Cushing, Oklahoma. Canada sits on the world’s third-largest pool of oil reserves and Harper last month led a delegation of more than 40 business executives and five ministers to deepen energy links with China.

F-35 bid process was ‘hijacked’ by DND, former official says

We know that the new Auditor-General, Michael Ferguson, is going to turn his attention to the purchase of the troubled F-35 fighter aircraft in his first report early next month. We suspect he is going to be unhappy that the military insisted on buying the fighter plane Holt Renfrew would sell, when it could have bought one cut-price from The Bay.

We don’t know precisely the nature of his criticism — and his office isn’t saying. But a conversation with the man who inked the initial deal on the F-35 project, as a senior official with the Department of National Defence, offers some clues about the nature of the Hadron Collider of censure that is likely coming down on the heads of the senior soldiers, bureaucrats and Conservative politicians involved in the saga.

Alan Williams is a retired assistant deputy minister, responsible for procurement at DND in the early years of the F-35 project, and recently he shared his thoughts on the shortcomings of the tendering process with the Office of the Auditor-General.“The whole process was twisted to suit the needs of the military, with the acknowledgment and support of ministers. It was totally unacceptable,” he said.

Knowledge: The Best Return on Investment

On the perils of the trickle-down economics philosophy now driving Canada's scientific-funding model.

A recent editorial in Nature condemns the Canadian government’s media protocols for severely limiting what federal scientists can freely communicate to the general public. The criticisms are well-founded. To put it mildly, the current federal government has a “poor record on openness.”

But the problem for science in Canada extends far beyond the introduction of overt limits on “public access to publicly funded scientific expertise.” More worrisome is the now-dominant philosophy of trickle-down economics that drives science funding in this country.

Trickle-down economics for science presumes that commercialized science benefits society by improving the economy. This philosophy now shapes Canadian science in a number of troublesome ways. Research is not about knowledge production, but about the “knowledge economy” and the “delivery of tangible and measurable results” to create a “prosperous and resilient” economy. Our scientists are not so much engaged in developing a research agenda as in contributing to the “research enterprise.” In this context, it is easy to denigrate basic science, sometimes described as “blue sky” science, because it does not aim to create new products, new services, or new jobs.

The real air rage is airfares

It’s been five years since U.S. low-cost airline JetBlue Airways applied for, and received, a licence to fly to Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. And yet there has yet to be a single JetBlue flight venturing north of the border. Why? “It’s hard to stimulate travel with low fares while operating in a high-cost environment,” says airline spokesperson Allison Steinberg.

JetBlue isn’t the only airline that says flying in Canada is too expensive. Over the years, a host of foreign airlines, from Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Israel’s El Al to Virgin America and Frontier Airlines, have either shelved expansion plans or stopped flying to Canada altogether because of a panoply of aviation taxes and fees in this country, which have contributed to airfares that are, on average, up to $120 more expensive than in the United States, according to some estimates. When coupled with a soaring loonie, the result is an increasingly uncompetitive industry. “There has been a significant increase in airfares,” says Fred Lazar, an associate professor of economics at York University. “Now fuel prices have driven that somewhat, but so too have operating costs at airports.” For instance, last year it cost US$20,885 to land an Airbus A330 at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, among the world’s most expensive airports, according to data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). By contrast, it cost just US$12,367 to land the same plane at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and US$13,114 at Frankfurt International Airport.

Canada’s place in the world? There’s very little we agree on

America’s best days are behind it; the future belongs to China and India. On that Canadians can agree, but not much else. An assessment of Canadians’ world view finds a country riven by fault lines of politics, ideology, education and age. We can’t agree whether our foreign and environmental policies leave us embarrassed or proud, or whether the country is headed for salvation or perdition. We’ve put fears of terrorism behind us, but we can’t agree which threat takes its place. “On issues of international relations, foreign policy and our place in the world, we really have two different Canadas here now,” says Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, which surveyed 2001 Canadians between March 6 and 11. “We don’t seem to have the same level of unanimity or consensus that would have existed a decade ago, when Canadians were relatively common-minded, thinking, ‘Okay, we’re good guys, everyone likes us out there.’ ”

The poll, Rethinking Canada’s Place in the World, was financed by the Donner Foundation. The full results will be released March 20 at the Walter Gordon symposium on public policy, organized by graduate students at Massey College and the School of Public Policy and Government at the University of Toronto. The symposium’s theme is multilateralism and global governance, and in these areas the poll discovered a profound loss of faith. Just 14 per cent had confidence in the International Monetary Fund, and only one in four were confident in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Austerity budgets in Ottawa, Ontario raise risk of labour unrest

A coast-to-coast spring of labour unrest is poised to escalate next week as Ontario and Ottawa deliver budgets that aim to save billions by shedding thousands of government jobs.

Many Canadians are already feeling the effects of public-sector labour disputes involving Halifax bus drivers, Toronto librarians and B.C. teachers. Next week’s budgets from Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill are expected to heighten the tension that ensues when governments cut back.

Public servants were largely shielded from the recession as governments boosted spending and ran up debt to prop up the faltering economy starting in late 2008. While Ontario has enjoyed relative labour peace until now, there is little love between federal unions and the Conservative government.

Ottawa is clearly expecting that many Canadians will have little sympathy when cuts are made to the federal public service, which is viewed by some as coddled and overcompensated.

NDP holds fast to Layton’s old seat in Toronto-Danforth by-election

It wasn’t even close. The New Democrats won a federal by-election in the riding of Toronto-Danforth by a landslide Monday night, easily holding on to the seat left vacant by the death of former party leader Jack Layton.

With all the polls reporting, NDP candidate Craig Scott had close to 60 per cent of the vote in the left-leaning constituency just east of the city's downtown. Liberal candidate Grant Gordon finished a distant second at 28.5 per cent, and conceded the race. Voter turnout was 43.4 per cent.

Mr. Scott, who garnered more than 19,200 votes to Mr. Gordon’s roughly 9,200, congratulated the other candidates when it became clear he was going to win but said the riding had spoken.

“My friends, it looks like the Orange Crush is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere,” he said during the NDP victory party at The Opera House music venue.

The riding, he said, sent a “message to Ottawa that will be heard across the country” that the party will take on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Glencore strikes deal for Viterra

Glencore International PLC has made a friendly cash bid for Viterra Inc. (VT-T15.92-0.05-0.31%) for $16.25 per share.

The Swiss conglomerate is making the offer in conjunction with Canada’s Agrium (AGU-T88.202.462.87%) and Richardson International.

“Viterra employees created a world-class agribusiness, of which I am very proud. This has been recognized by Glencore and its partners, and this transaction creates value and opportunities for employees, our communities, farmers and customers in all the markets we serve,” Viterra chief executive officer Mayo Schmidt said in a statement.

Glencore, already in a merger deal with Xstrata, isn’t swallowing Viterra whole. It announced plans to sell the bulk of Viterra’s retail business to Agrium for $1.8-billion, and an almost one-quarter stake in its grain-handling assets to Richardson for some $800-million.

“The acquisition of Viterra reflects our strong belief in the importance and future potential of the Canadian and Australian grain markets,” said Chris Mahoney, Glencore’s director of agricultural products.

Mayor Rob Ford should hike taxes for subway, Chong says

Mayor Rob Ford should consider a property tax hike along with other possible ways of funding his multi-billion dollar subway vision, says his transit adviser, Gordon Chong.

Chong said Ford shouldn’t reject any funding source at this stage. On Wednesday, city council is to debate whether it favors high-cost subways over much cheaper road-based light rail on Sheppard Ave. E. in Scarborough.

The main obstacle is funding, Chong said.

“It always boils down to money,” he told reporters at city hall. “I think it’s time he (Ford) opened his mind to all the possibilities for building what everybody says they want on Sheppard and everybody would love to have.”

“The argument has always been we can’t afford it. Well, let’s figure out a way to afford it because not only is it what people want, it’s what I think the entire GTA needs.”

Toronto library strike: Job security the big issue again

The library workers’ decision to walk off the job surprised even the left-leaning councillor who leads the library board’s labour relations committee.

“I really thought they would stay at the table,” said Councillor Sarah Doucette, an opponent of Mayor Rob Ford. She called the strike, which forced all 98 branches to shut down, “the last thing” she had expected during weekend negotiations.

The talks collapsed Sunday over the issue of job security. Fortified by a library-loving public, union president Maureen O’Reilly is gambling that a strike will pressure the city into protecting a greater number of workers from potential future job cuts.

Under the collective agreement that expired on Dec. 31, no permanent library worker could be laid off in the event of outsourcing or technological changes. The city’s outdoor workers enjoyed similarly ironclad protection.

Mystery shrouds identity of worker at robocalls firm

A key employee of the company that was used to send out the misdirecting robocalls in Guelph on election day appears not to exist under the name he uses online.

RackNine, the Edmonton company that suspect "Pierre Poutine" used to send voters to the wrong polling locations, is operated by Edmonton businessman Matt Meier. Rick McKnight is identified variously as head of marketing and web developer.

But Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen were unable to find anyone who knows McKnight, even though he has a healthy online identity, including 551 Facebook friends, many of them prominent.

Meier and his lawyer declined Monday to clear up the case of the mysterious McKnight.

Until recently, McKnight was listed as web developer on the LinkedIn business website.

His entry says he studied computer science at Stanford University, and that he was born on Jan. 1, although it doesn't list the year.

Postmedia was unable to confirm that he attended Stanford.

Walking While Black: Florida Police Resist Calls to Arrest Shooter of Unarmed Teen, Trayvon Martin

The Justice Department and the FBI have announced they will conduct a criminal probe of the killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the ensuing police investigation that allowed his killer to walk free. Martin, an African-American student at Michael Krop Senior High School, was visiting his father in a gated community in the town of Sanford, Florida, on February 26 when he walked out to a nearby convenience store to buy candy and iced tea. On his way back, Martin was spotted by the shooter, George Zimmerman, who had been patrolling the neighborhood. Zimmerman has told police he was attacked by Martin from behind. But in the tape of Zimmerman’s own 911 call to the police, Zimmerman tells the dispatcher he is the one following Martin. The Miami Herald reports Zimmerman had taken it upon himself to patrol the neighborhood and had called police 46 times since January 2011 to report suspicious activity or other incidents. We play excerpts of the 911 calls and speak with Jasmine Rand, an attorney who heads the civil rights division at Parks & Crump Law Firm, which is representing Trayvon Martin’s family. "I think we have all of the evidence in the world to arrest him. And I think what the state attorney is trying to do is to try the case and the investigation, and that’s not the state attorney’s job," Rand says.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Liberals vow to ‘fight fire with fire’ over Tory ad attacking Bob Rae

The federal Liberals are vowing to “fight fire with fire” in response to a new Conservative ad attacking interim Liberal leader Bob Rae that will hit television screens this week.

The ad, posted to YouTube on Monday, criticizes Rae’s record when he was premier of Ontario from 1990 to 1995 — a period marked by high deficits and one of the worst recessionary periods in the province’s history.

“If he couldn’t run a province, why does he think can run Canada?” says the announcer in the ad, which also claims that Rae turned Ontario into the “welfare capital of Canada.” The ad begins by stamping the word “failure” in red across Rae’s face.

On Monday, Rae defended his record as leader of the provincial NDP and as premier, compared with the Conservatives.

“I started subways; they destroyed them. I build social housing; they destroy it. I build people up; they tear them down,” Rae said. “Plus the Blue Jays won the World Series twice when I was premier.”

Can Elections Canada get to the bottom of election fraud allegations?

Lately, a lot of allegations have been made that there were election irregularities and some outright crimes committed in the 2011 election. What we do not know is who was responsible.

But we may be dealing with a serial offender, or offenders. When one thinks about the election skulduggery of the last six years, it is clear that Canada does a poor job of getting to the bottom of some serious crimes.

Here’s a short list of the ones that still bother me. They remain unsolved.
  1. RCMP interference in the 2006 election. (Remember Zaccardelli issuing a press release about looking into NDP charges that the Liberals had leaked details about the income trust taxation issue? There was nothing to it, but it arguably changed the outcome of the election.) Issuing a press release in an election campaign was a violation of RCMP normal practice. Naming a Finance Minister in the release was unheard of. The Public Complaints Commission for the RCMP, under its director Paul Kennedy, tried to question former RCMP Commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli. Zaccardelli refused to be questioned and Kennedy lacked subpoena powers. No one knows if there was any political involvement, inducement or pay-off involved. Zaccardelli is now a senior Interpol officer in Lyon, France.