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.]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Corporate Canada is Dangerously Under-leveraged

It is now generally well recognized that Canadian household debt has reached unsustainable levels.  Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, has cited household debt as the most pressing domestic economic issue.

Canadian households now have a ratio of over 150% household debt to disposable income, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, in 1990, the ratio was only 90% for households. It wasn’t until the 2000s that Canadian personal debt really ballooned, coinciding with the explosion in housing prices. Most of the debt that Canadians carry is mortgage debt, which is closely tied to the real estate market. A portion of the strong economic growth that Canada experienced during the 2000s can be attributed to consumer spending—Canadians took on more and more debt to fuel growth.

FreedomWorks, Koch Brothers Clash Over Cato Institute Takeover Bid

WASHINGTON -- A split is opening up between two forces that helped to launch the Tea Party in 2009. FreedomWorks, a free market/limited government advocacy group, released a statement Thursday criticizing the move by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch to sue for majority control of the libertarian Cato Institute.

"As representatives of FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization that fights for constitutionally-limited government and individual freedom, we have grave concerns regarding the potential damage to the cause of liberty that will result from the dispute that has erupted between the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute and various parties at Koch Industries," says the statement from FreedomWorks' top three officials -- Chairman Dick Armey, the former congressman from Texas; Co-Chairman C. Boyden Gray and President Matt Kibbe.

FreedomWorks worked hand-in-glove with the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity to help rally the Tea Party movement in 2009. The two groups teamed up to sponsor the Tea Party Tax Day Protest that followed a televised rant against government support for homeowners facing foreclosure by CNBC's Rick Santelli.

Thursday's statement calls the Kochs' move a "hostile takeover" of Cato, echoing words used by Cato President Ed Crane, who has vocally opposed.

Foster Friess: I Hope Obama's 'Teleprompters Are Bulletproof'

Wealthy GOP super PAC donor Foster Friess, fresh off announcing a conversion from Rick Santorum's corner to Mitt Romney's, drew a little unwanted attention Wednesday when he used gun imagery to weigh in on the shifting state of the 2012 race.

"There are a lot of things that haven't been hammered at because Rick and Mitt have been going at each other," Friess said during an interview on Fox Business News. "Now that they have trained their barrels on President Obama, I hope his teleprompters are bulletproof."

He quickly went on to admit that he "probably shouldn't have said that."

It's not the first time Friess has created controversy during a media appearance.

In February, then a top surrogate for Santorum, Friess spoke with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell about what he described as the triviality of the contraception debate.

"This contraceptive thing, my gosh it's such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly," he said.

He later apologized for the failed "joke."

As a Santorum supporter, Friess donated around $1.6 million to the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund, a super PAC that spent about $7.5 million in support of the candidate.

MI6 Phone Hack: 'No Government Can Stop Us' Says TeamPoison Leader TriCk

The leader of the hacking group TeamPoison ('TeaMp0isoN') is a pretty old hand when it comes to carving up government security systems.

He is, he says, 17 years old.

Known as Trick (or, more correctly, 'TriCk'), his group has hacked the United Nations, Nato, Facebook, the English Defence League, a personal email account linked to a former staff member of Tony Blair and other major organisations and governments.

They say they are behind the alleged 'phonebomb' attack in which MI6's anti-terrorism hotline was reportedly blocked for more than 24 hours, and several of their internal phone discussions were recorded and leaked to YouTube.

The attack has been described as a potentially "catastrophic" break-in by some security experts.

But Trick, who refused to reveal his real name, laughs off the idea it was difficult.

"It wasn't a hard hack at all," he said in an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post UK.

Canada Income Inequality: Montreal's Poor Fall Further Behind As Industrial Jobs Disappear

Montreal has seen its middle class neighbourhoods shrink as industrial jobs disappear, but economic segregation is worsening at a slower pace than in Vancouver and Toronto, a new study shows.

Released exclusively to The Huffington Post Canada, the forthcoming paper draws on more than three decades of census data to show for the first time how shifting income patterns have reshaped Montreal’s neighbourhoods.

Labour market shifts, urban sprawl and gentrification have deepened the gap between rich and poor across the country, sometimes dramatically so. But Canada’s second largest city has not been divided along income lines to the same extent as other major urban centres.

Indeed, Montreal remains a relative success story, even as the rise of a francophone economic upper middle class fuels urban sprawl, while the transition to the knowledge economy has left a large population of former industrial workers behind.

“The polarization that we see spatially is not nearly as extreme” as in other major cities, said author Damaris Rose, a professor at the Centre Urbanisation Culture, Société at Université INRS. “We’re fortunate to have a strong socio-economic mix, and also to have a strong ethnic mix — neighbourhoods that are really a mixture of non-immigrants and immigrants.”

But, she added, “we can’t be complacent about it.”

Death by a thousand cuts: Teachers, airline workers and Canada's public pensions

Government attacks against worker rights and the social wage are threatening hard-earned gains and advances for workers in Canada on many fronts and in many incremental ways. In this two-part series, we will look some of these struggles and what is at stake, with Part 1 focusing on the teachers' union in British Columbia, airline workers and the public pension. Part 2 takes a look at what must be done if we are to protect individual, public and social rights in Canada.

B.C. teachers defend education

Currently, the 41,000 members of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) are locked in a bitter collective bargaining dispute with the provincial Liberal government. On the table is a two-year salary freeze that the government is seeking to impose and the right to bargain, class sizes and other aspects of teachers' work in the classroom.

The first action took place at the beginning of the school year, last September, when teachers refused to participate in voluntary activities and co-operate with administrators, including filling out report cards. When the government announced it would impose a draconian law to strip away the right to strike and send disputed issues to a skewed mediation process, teacher resistance escalated into a three-day strike March 5 to 7.

No F-35 Scandal? Yes, Minister

Peter MacKay lied to Canadians about the cost of F-35s and should resign. Period.

I’ve always thought that studying law is a good preparation for our elected representatives. Having myself emerged from this indoctrination, it seemed to me that honing one’s ability to identify a central issue, evaluate evidence, and understand how our parliamentary democracy works is fundamental to governing.

But then along comes someone like Peter MacKay – lawyer and Conservative cabinet minister extraordinaire – who shows a complete disrespect for parliamentary democracy. Notably, MacKay refuses to resign for his department’s, and his own, failings in this F-35 scandal.

In his magisterial book, Democratic Government in Canada, R. MacGregor Dawson explained that a minister’s role is not to work the department, but to see that it is worked. Because a minister answers to Parliament for all the department’s doings, he or she has the right to intervene at any level and remove public servants for wrongdoing. However, “answering to Parliament” also means accepting responsibility for your own missteps and, if those missteps are serious, resigning.

Toronto condo boom: how heritage is at risk as old Toronto is transformed by the new

The prime King St. E. area where the Albany Club has stood proudly for decades has undergone many changes since it was built back in the 1840s.

But none compare to what’s about to hit the historic block — a 47-storey condo tower.

The private club, as well as a handful of other landlords of Nos. 71 to 95 King St. E., have proposed redeveloping the ragtag block of buildings into 355 condos with a four-storey podium and underground parking.

What’s not clear is what, exactly, that will mean for the collection of Georgian-style buildings designed by the once-prominent 19-century Toronto architect John Howard.

It’s a story playing out quietly in many other parts of the downtown as Toronto’s condo boom continues at a frantic pace and developers scour the streets for the dwindling number of sites within walking distance of transit and office towers.

Increasingly, that means the old is having to make way for the new. And some — including the Albany Club block — risk undergoing demolition or drastic redevelopment because they have yet to be designated as historic properties in need of protection.

Mitt Romney's Women Surrogates Voted Against Pay Equity Enforcement, Blasted Feminism

WASHINGTON -- In recent days, Mitt Romney's campaign has been trying to squash the perception that he's bad with the ladies.

It's been bringing out everyone from Ann Romney -- who insists that her husband really isn't "stiff" when you "unzip him" -- to other prominent Republican women. All are trying to make the case that the former Massachusetts governor will look out for women's rights if elected president.

But the records of some of these surrogates seem to undermine the campaign's message.

The campaign stumbled for a moment during a Wednesday call with reporters, when a Romney aide was unable to answer whether the former governor supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Obama signed the measure into law in 2009 and considers it one of the keynote achievements of his presidency. The law provides women with more legal channels to pursue receiving equal pay for equal work. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul later clarified that Romney "supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law."

But two of his surrogates did vote against the legislation in Congress. On Wednesday, the campaign sent out statements from Republican Reps. Mary Bono Mack of California and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, blaming women's jobs losses on Obama's policies. But both women voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act as well as the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act.

Malaria Drug For Canadian Troops Called Dangerous

An anti-malarial drug that has been withdrawn from routine use by the U.S. military because of concerns about potentially dangerous side-effects continues to be prescribed to Canadian troops serving in malaria-prone regions.

The drug, called mefloquine or Lariam, has been associated with psychiatric and physical side-effects that prompted the U.S. military to withdraw it from general use in 2009, but the Canadian Forces continue to prescribe it to soldiers.

Side-effects can range from anxiety, vivid nightmares and depression, to hallucinations and psychotic episodes, and the drug has also been blamed for suicides and long-term health problems.

Retired corporal Donald Hookey of Conception Bay South, N.L., has been home for six years from Afghanistan, but he remains haunted by his experience there.

"I don't think that I can honestly say that I've felt normal since I've been back."

Until recently, Hookey blamed his rage and nightmares on post-traumatic stress disorder, but now he wonders if the anti-malarial drug mefloquine given to him by the army continues to exert long-lasting effects.

"It really freaks me out … what I've been reading on the side-effects for the drugs."

Outrage over "Stand Your Ground" Laws After Trayvon Martin Killing Sparks Corporate Exodus from ALEC

Amidst a movement to overturn "Stand Your Ground" gun laws after the Trayvon Martin shooting, we look at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group that worked with the National Rifle Association to pass the measures across the country. On Wednesday, the fast-food giant Wendy’s became the sixth corporation to publicly cut ties with the secretive right-wing group for backing the laws. Over the past week McDonald’s, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Intuit have all announced that they have decided to not renew their membership with ALEC. We speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which runs "ALEC Exposed," a website that published more than 800 "model" bills and resolutions secretly voted on by corporations and politicians. "We’ve seen ALEC, which is really a corporate bill mill, push legislation on all sorts of issues to make it harder for Americans to get justice, to make it harder for Americans to vote, to make it harder for Americans to have their day in court if they or their loved one is killed or injured by a corporation or corporate greed — by a bad drug or product," Graves says. She notes many of the draft bills outline the privatization of Social Security, schools and prisons.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Defeated Liberal Alleges Fraudulent Voting In Toronto Riding

A three-time Liberal MP for the Toronto-area riding of Etobicoke Centre, who lost his seat in the last federal election by 26 votes, alleges that some voters voted twice and others did not provide proper ID at polling stations.

"A dark cloud has been cast over the fairness of the election result," alleges Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who will be in court April 23 to ask a judge to declare the May 2011 election invalid.

Conservative Ted Opitz won the election.

In documents filed in court, Wrzesnewskyj's lawyers claim 181 ballots are in dispute and should be thrown out. Aside from some voters voting twice, the former MP's legal team says some voters did not properly prove their identity or were not vouched for properly when they showed up at the polling station with no identification.

Under a court order, Wrzesnewskyj's lawyers were able to examine the ballots at 10 polling divisions, as well as poll books and electors' lists at Elections Canada's office in Ottawa.

The test to declare the election invalid, and trigger a byelection (after any appeals are exhausted), would be a finding that more than 26 ballots, the losing margin, should not have been counted.

Wildrose leader tells candidate forum she's pro-choice and supports gay rights

CALGARY - Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith moved Tuesday to snuff out a controversy surrounding her beliefs on social issues by affirming she is pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

"When our members elected me they knew they were electing a candidate that was pro-choice and pro-gay marriage," Smith said Tuesday at an all-candidates forum in her Highwood riding in Okotoks.

"The only way we're going to be able to become a mainstream, big-tent conservative party capable of forming government is to focus on the issues that matter to Albertans. If I am elected premier, a Wildrose government will not be legislating in areas of morality."

Smith has faced criticism in recent days for failing to completely rule out a citizen's-initiated referendum on funding abortion if her party is elected April 23.

However, she has stressed that she won't legislate on it, and she doubts that such a referendum would be allowed to proceed because a successful vote to de-list abortion would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Smith has also been criticized for her party's position on letting the courts decide conflicts around so-called conscience rights.

Food-safety workers among hardest-hit by Harper budget cuts

Veterinarians and other inspectors responsible for food recalls and ensuring the safety of Canadian meat are among the hundreds of federal public servants who will be told this week their jobs are at risk.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture Canada will be among the hardest-hit departments as Ottawa rolls out where it will cut 19,200 jobs across the country.

Union leaders say the sheer volume of affected staff working in food safety directly contradicts the Conservative government’s claims that budget cuts will largely be limited to “back office” efficiencies.

According to the CFIA’s own website, its team of veterinarians form “the first line of defence against the spread of many diseases among animals, and between animals and humans.” The agency says its work includes inspecting and certifying animals and meat products for domestic and international markets, as well as food recalls and emergency response.

Food safety is a sensitive issue for the Conservative government. The biggest food recall in Canadian history took place under its watch in 2008. An independent review of the listeriosis outbreak found 22 deaths and 35 serious illnesses were connected to contaminated Maple Leaf Foods deli meats.

Women in politics face a glass cliff

In British Columbia, the premier is a woman. In Alberta, the premier is a woman. Both women inherited successful political dynasties. And both are likely to lead their parties to defeat.

Call it the “Kim Campbell Phenomenon.” Successful political parties that make women leaders have an unfortunate tendency to lose.

And it’s not only a political thing. In 2003, The Times of London examined British corporate boards and discovered that in the previous year the number of women on corporate boards had risen considerably — and shares of corporations that had added women to their boards had fared worse than those which had remained all-male bastions.

“So much for smashing the glass ceiling and using their unique skills to enhance the performance of Britain’s biggest companies,” wrote one pundit in response to the Times’ exposé. “The triumphant march of women into the country’s boardrooms has instead wreaked havoc on companies’ performance.”

Clearly, women should not lead. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Sadly — for the Archie Bunkers among us — that conclusion is wrong.

Ottawa didn’t influence ‘improvement’ in greenhouse gases, figures show

Environment Minister Peter Kent is taking credit for Canada’s latest low greenhouse gas-emission figures, despite the fact Ottawa’s policies could not have influenced them.

Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2010 increased by only 0.25 per cent over 2009, Kent announced at a Toronto-based conservation charity Wednesday afternoon.

That brings the nation’s total GHG emissions to 692 megatonnes of “carbon dioxide equivalent” in 2010. Environment Canada prepared the figures as part of Canada’s National Inventory Report. Canada is required to monitor the global warming-causing gases as a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“This new information provides hard evidence of the solid steps we have taken forward,” said Kent, according to a statement posted on Environment Canada’s website.

But in 2010, Ottawa still hadn’t taken any steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions anywhere in Canada, meaning the minute growth in emissions was due to something else. One possible cause could be the after-effects of the Great Recession, which sent emissions tumbling around the world.

In Canada, national emissions in all sectors peaked in 2007 at 751 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. (The unit “megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent” is used so that the dozens of other global warming-causing gas can be grouped under one measurement.)

A Shameful Condition

In an act of ignorant political opportunism, a Conservative MP drew a disturbing comparison between the long-gun registry and slavery.

Last April, I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial beside the tiny plaque dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech of August 28, 1963. The plaque, signifying so much but measuring perhaps 8x10 inches, was dwarfed by the monument to the former U.S. president and author of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, but has since been complemented by the full-scale stone and granite memorial on the National Mall. This is only fitting, since King’s stirring call for the end of race prejudice endures as strongly as any formal doctrine dedicated to the end of slavery, and remains one of humankind’s greatest testimonies to peace and justice in the face of violence and despair.

Related: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Opens in D.C.

That is why Conservative MP John Williamson’s appropriation of King’s words the day after the 44th anniversary of King’s assassination is especially disturbing. Williamson, in his euphoria over the demise of the long-gun registry, cried out in Parliament, “Free at last, free at last! God Almighty Canadians are finally free at last” of this legislation that curtails individual freedom. I, for one, am ashamed to live in a society in which no one in government, the media, or the general public seems to have denounced such a despicable twisting of what it means to be free, and of what King stood for through his words and actions.

Have we so obliterated the past and its lessons as to ignore ignorant political opportunism and insult against not just an individual, but an entire race of people and their struggle for equality? Have we become so immune to politicians and others’ daily distortions of character and speech that we cannot respond to their complete deformations of ideas and their contexts?

Related: Where Bigotry Runs Deep

Williamson clearly chose to cite King’s words because of the anniversary of his death, and to draw some kind of strange parallel between his constituents’ right to bear arms and the gunning down of one of the most important civil-rights activists in western history. The comparison between the long-gun registry and slavery is odious in the extreme. The defiling of King and the message he tried to deliver to America is reprehensible. And the deafening silence from the CBC, The Globe and Mail, and anyone else who had the opportunity to speak out and did not is wholly without excuse.

Original Article
Source: the mark news
Author: J.A. Wainwright

Aboriginal affairs: a way forward — or back?

We’ll be doing another one of those CPAC “In Conversation With Maclean’s” events Wednesday night in Winnipeg. The subject this time is “First Nations in Canada: Is There a Way Forward?” Colleague John Geddes and I will join a formidable panel of experts. Here’s Manny Jules from the First Nations Tax Commission. Shawn Atleo will join us. Charlene Lafreniere is a city councillor in Thompson, the city with the largest aboriginal population share in Canada. Here’s a bit about what they’re up to in Thompson.

One thing I’ll be asking our guests is whether they discern any momentum in federal efforts to address the huge problems facing Canada’s aboriginal populations. The story from the Harper government this year is a decidedly mixed bag. As I noted in an optimistic column last December, annual growth in federal transfers to First Nations governments for basic services has been capped at 2% since the mid-90s. Last month’s budget didn’t touch that cap. It provides less for aboriginal education than the department will be made to cut in its internal spending, and less for housing than the government provided in the 2009 budget. Legislative changes to improve governance and financial transparency will go ahead. They may make a greater difference than any funding decision. How can we tell? The feds are diligently making it harder. The budget quietly cut off funding for the First Nations Statistical Institute and the National Aboriginal Health Organization. Soon it will be easier to claim progress without fear of contradiction. We’ll discuss whether that’s really progress.

Of course, this file is so complex that things are rarely what they seem. Will Shawn Atleo decry the shuttering of the National Aboriginal Health Organization? Maybe not: the AFN has never supported NAHO because the latter takes (sorry, took) a “pan-aboriginal” perspective. We’ll try to untangle such considerations in Winnipeg. Watch us on TV or online, or come on out if you’re in town.

Original Article
Source: maclean's
Author: Paul Wells

F-35 nose dive

What does canada’s nonsensical and tragic mission in Afghanistan have to do with the feds’ F-35 procurement scandal? More than the current uproar over the auditor general’s report would suggest, actually.

The document, issued last week, is a trek through the government’s detailed obfuscation, fudged numbers and contempt for oversight and process, all showing how jets with a near-$24 billion price tag were made to appear to cost $10 billion less.

But when you get beyond the conniving and scorn for Parliament, you start to smell the desperation. The Department of National Defence went to the wall to join its Yankee counterparts in a high-tech shopping spree justified in the name of quick and easy wars and more coalition-of-the-willing-type romps.

That fevered momentum was disguised by high-minded trumpeting of all the Canadian jobs that would come via contracts for the 65 fighter planes, as the report shows. You have to admire the auditor’s restraint as he pointedly notes the complete absence of any employment guarantees in the deal (no local sourcing rules were applied) and the fact that Canadian firms would have to bid against other nation partners.

Pax Americana alliance at heart of Harper government’s F-35 posture

The Prime Minister’s Office probably did not set off streamers when it learned a letter from Laurie Hawn, the former parliamentary secretary to the Defence Minister, on the F-35 fighter jets had been made public.

The government media strategy thus far has been to accept the Auditor-General’s finding that the Department of National Defence did not exercise due diligence in the procurement process to replace the CF-18 jets and suggest those problems have now been rectified by handing the entire file to a new F-35 secretariat inside the Department of Public Works.

That’s not how Mr. Hawn sees things — and in his letter to a concerned citizen he made clear he believes there is nothing to apologize for. “There has never been any wrongdoing or bad faith on the part of National Defence or other people involved with the program,” he said.

He accused Michael Ferguson, the Auditor-General, of getting some figures are “just factually wrong.”

“He says that, in 2008, National Defence estimated acquisition at $9-billion and sustainment [operating costs] at $16-billion. That is not correct — it was $9-billion plus $7-billion for a total of $16-billion, again over 20 years. If he can’t get some basic facts right, it makes you wonder about other things.”

The F-35 scandal — when governments lie, how do we respond?

The Conservative government continues to maintain that it didn't know it was supposed to tell the public the full costs of the F-35 purchase: that the $10 billion it left out of the total was not a lie or even a mistake, but simply reflected its honest belief about how these things should be accounted, or at any rate always have been.

While various ministers, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay, have said they accept the auditor general's directive that all costs should be included, they have also derided it as at best a wholly "new way of doing business," and a strange one at that. The same homely analogy to buying a car has been raised, repeatedly, as if to suggest how ridiculous it would be to add up all the costs of a car over its expected life beforehand.

The government, and the minister of defence in particular, have maintained this position, notwithstanding long-established Treasury Board policy requiring, in line with the auditor general, that the cost of assets be stated in "life cycle" terms, that is including "all relevant costs over the useful life of the acquisition." It has done so, what is more, in defiance of its own internal accounting, as documented both by the auditor general and in news reports from 2010, in which the missing $10 billion is included. That is to say, the government kept two sets of books on the project, one for private purposes showing the cost as $25 billion, the other for public purposes putting it at $15 billion, yet still maintains it had no intent to deceive: that it was just a difference of opinion, a dispute about accounting.

Charging George Zimmerman

“I will confirm that Mr. Zimmerman is indeed in custody,” Angela Corey, the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case, said at a press conference on Wednesday night. She said that she had started the process of charging George Zimmerman with second-degree murder, and that before stepping up to the microphone she had spoken to “those sweet parents”—Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin—and told them what she was doing to get “justice for Trayvon.” The first time she met them, she said, they had prayed together, but she told them she couldn’t promise anything. This evening, she helped to deliver them some compensation for their tenacity and love in pursuing the case, if not—and this would have been impossible—for the loss of their son.

“Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” or in the media, Corey said. And yet one has to wonder if Florida would have managed this without those factors. That advocacy worked is not a bad thing. Being a country of laws also means being a country where someone can stand in the middle of a public square, or post a petition, and ask one’s fellow citizens if the facts make sense—if it really looks like there has been justice under the law. In this case, it did not. The police in Sanford, Florida, hadn’t even managed to investigate the death of an unarmed seventeen year old, or to go and find his parents that night when they sent his body to the morgue as John Doe. Zimmerman told them that he acted in self-defense, and that Martin, walking in the rain, looked like someone who was where he shouldn’t be. Zimmerman walked away after the shooting, on February 26th, and kept walking for more than forty days and forty nights after that. Now, finally, he’s back.

Whistler council stands up to northern pipeline project

Speaking up for tourism, Whistler council is taking its politics to a whole new level — unanimously opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline.

It took the surprisingly strong stance at Tuesday's meeting, prompted by a letter from a handful of concerned community members.

And though this is about moving oil hundreds of miles from its borders, Whistler council was speaking out as a voice for tourism in the province.

"I think this says to the federal government, the provincial government, the world, that an environmental disaster on our coast would significantly damage us," said Councillor Jack Crompton, who read aloud the motion at the meeting. "This is about tourism and this is about Whistler's ability to be sustainable for the long-term."

Council also made clear that it is expressing its solidarity for northern communities — Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers, and the regional district of Skeena-Queen Charlotte — that are also against the Enbridge project.

The pipeline project, with strong support from the federal government, is designed to carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude bitumen from Alberta to tankers off the B.C. coast.

Hollowing-out of Radio Canada International saddens, angers supporters

MONTREAL — Lost amid the furor on the auditor general's report last week on the F-35 fighter planes and Canada raising the retirement age to 67, was news of impending hollowing-out of Radio Canada International — the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s international service, to many a lifeline to Canadian culture and politics from as far away as Hanoi or Rio de Janeiro.

While the CBC, like other Crown corporations and government departments, has to cut 10 per cent of its overall budget as a result of federal cutbacks, RCI, which is administered by the CBC but has long been its poor cousin, was told more than 80 per cent of its budget would be slashed, or $10 million of $12.3 million.

As of June 25 there will no longer be any Russian- or Portuguese-language sections, there will be no more RCI newsroom, no more RCI programs, in fact no more shortwave or satellite broadcasting at all, other than to direct listeners to the Internet, the CBC decided last week. RCI will retain a "web presence" in five languages — but what kind of presence remains to be seen.

The news was a severe blow to the staff at RCI, at least two-thirds of whom, or about 40 people, can expect to receive pink slips April 25. But the death knell also struck listeners around the globe who regularly tune in to RCI to hear news of Canada — or news from a Canadian perspective.

This Internet provider pledges to put your privacy first. Always.

Nicholas Merrill is planning to revolutionize online privacy with a concept as simple as it is ingenious: a telecommunications provider designed from its inception to shield its customers from surveillance.

Merrill, 39, who previously ran a New York-based Internet provider, told CNET that he's raising funds to launch a national "non-profit telecommunications provider dedicated to privacy, using ubiquitous encryption" that will sell mobile phone service and, for as little as $20 a month, Internet connectivity.

The ISP would not merely employ every technological means at its disposal, including encryption and limited logging, to protect its customers. It would also -- and in practice this is likely more important -- challenge government surveillance demands of dubious legality or constitutionality.

A decade of revelations has underlined the intimate relationship between many telecommunications companies and Washington officialdom. Leading providers including AT&T and Verizon handed billions of customer telephone records to the National Security Agency; only Qwest refused to participate. Verizon turned over customer data to the FBI without court orders. An AT&T whistleblower accused the company of illegally opening its network to the NSA, a practice that the U.S. Congress retroactively made legal in 2008.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday tells voters not to elect more activists, unionists or cyclists

A frustrated Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday begged Torontonians not to elect any more activists, unionists or cyclists to city council as his once-dominant faction lost yet another vote.

Holyday made the comment Wednesday shortly before council voted 29-12 to defy Mayor Rob Ford and seize oversight of any future contracting-out of city cleaning jobs.

Ford, who campaigned on cutting the city workforce, wanted control to remain with an internal committee. Outsourcing cleaning of a communications centre and daycares could save $10 million over five years.

But council decided it needs to ensure the work isn’t contracted out to unscrupulous private contractors, infuriating Ford’s right-wing allies.

“The right never had control of city hall,” the normally genial Holyday snapped in response to a reporter’s question, alleging the mayor is being thwarted by opponents vetted and approved by “the NDP.”

“The people here were duly elected,” Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) said. “My advice to the taxpayer would be: ‘Don’t send us any more activists, don’t send us any more unionists, don’t send us any more cyclists. Send us some people down here with good common sense who just want to manage the city’s affairs.

“That’s what’s needed.”

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: David Rider

Council defies Ford on contracting-out cleaners

Urging her colleagues to protect city cleaners targeted for outsourcing, Councillor Ana Bailão choked back tears Wednesday, recalling life as a new immigrant scrubbing Toronto offices with her mother.

“My mom had to have two jobs. At age 15, I was cleaning offices downtown for two years,” Bailão told council Wednesday, her voice breaking. “I know this industry, and these are new immigrants coming to this country . . . These are the most vulnerable people in this city.”

Council agreed, voting 29-12 to defy Mayor Rob Ford and seize oversight of any future contracting-out of city cleaning jobs from an internal committee of senior city staff. That overturns the long-standing practice of council voting on contracts only if they’re worth $20 million or more.

Ford’s latest loss, following rebukes on the 2012 budget and transit expansion, was one vote shy of the 30 his foes need regularly to completely seize the council agenda.

It also puts a big obstacle in the Ford administration’s plan to save millions by outsourcing the jobs of most or all of the city’s roughly 1,000 cleaners.

Economist Blasts Rosy Reports on Canadian Oil Economics

A flurry of positive economic reports extolling the benefits of rapid bitumen development and the Northern Gateway pipeline base their conclusions on poor data that "are misleading and misrepresentative of economic reality," says independent economist Robyn Allan.

The reports "present an illusion of economic well-being" created from rapid oil sands growth by omitting key trends such as oil price shocks and by using inappropriate economic models, adds Allan, a retired financial economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

The 56 year-old economist describes the reports "as quantitative billy clubs to beat back public inquiry," designed to discourage real debate about costs and benefits.

"No corporate executive or corporate board would make a decision to expand a project based on the sort of flimsy and one-sided information presented in these studies," adds Allan, once rated by the National Post as one of Canada's top 200 CEOs.

"Why are politicians passing off reports as a business case for a pipeline when no one in business would rely on data based on only one scenario and with no sensitivity analysis over a 30-year time period?" asks Allan.

Peter Kent: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Stable Despite Canada's Economic Growth

OTTAWA - The Conservative government is pointing to a new greenhouse-gas report as a sign that the economy's rebound from recession did not come at the expense of the environment.

New figures released Wednesday show greenhouse gases remained stable in 2010 even as the economy grew. Emissions rose by just two megatonnes, or 0.25 per cent, to 692 megatonnes, while the economy grew by 3.2 per cent.

Emissions fell in 2008 and 2009 during the global recession and were expected to rise as the economy recovered.

"Through a responsible and practical approach to managing both the environment and the economy we will continue on this path," Environment Minister Peter Kent said in Toronto.

"This is not a blip, this is a continuing trend."

Canada has signed on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and must report each year on its greenhouse gases.

Last year's report caused a stir because it left out data showing a rise in greenhouse-gas emissions from the oilsands. The previous year's inventory included a breakdown of oilsands emissions.

Could oilpatch drilling be triggering earthquakes?

CALGARY — Provincial regulators and petroleum producers in Western Canada are waiting on the results of several studies looking into possible links between industry activity and an increase in minor earthquakes.

While Alberta has increased the number of earthquake monitoring devices across the province to better understand seismic activity over the past decade, British Columbia will be releasing a study this summer on possible links between seismic activity and drilling.

More immediately, a new study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey points to an "unprecedented" spike in mini-earthquake activity around areas of intense oil and gas production.

The activity is related to injection of wastewater into deep wells and not hydraulic fracturing activities, said co-author William Ellsworth.

"What we found is that there are earthquakes in association with locations where wastewater is being disposed of underground," Ellsworth said in an interview with CNBC. "This is not news; we've known about this for decades that under certain conditions it's possible to trigger earthquakes by pumping fluids underground."

Canada could face lawsuits if it legislates away immigration backlog

"This is the most significant change in immigration policy in more than a decade."

Changes are designed to shift the skilled migrant category "from one that provides for the passive acceptance of residence applications to one that promotes the active recruitment of the skilled migrants."

No one wants to see "skilled migrants driving taxis, cleaning offices and cooking hamburgers."

Sound familiar?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper first spoke of "significant reform of our immigration system" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January.

On March 7, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney gave a major policy speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa outlining expected "transformational change" to match migrants with "large and growing labour shortages" across Canada.

Mr. Kenney said it's necessary to move "from a slow, rigid, and passive immigration system to a fast, flexible, and responsive immigration system."

But those familiar words written above weren't Mr. Kenney's. They were that of Lianne Dalziel, while she was New Zealand's immigration minister in 2003.

Religious freedom has 'trickle down effect' on rights: Tory MP

Societies that protect religious freedom are more likely to protect other fundamental freedoms, says a high-ranking Conservative MP.

"I believe that religious freedom has a trickle down effect on other freedoms," Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Dechert told members of a parliamentary forum on April 2.

"At any given point in time, one could take a snapshot of a given country's status on religious freedom and make reasonable assumptions of that country's overall human rights record."

Mr. Dechert, speaking at the Second Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom and Governance in the downtown Government Conference Centre in Ottawa, also announced that Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to appoint an 'ambassador' to head his new Office of Religious Freedom.

Once appointed, this individual "will set up the office immediately and begin to speak out at every international forum," Mr. Dechert said.

Mr. Dechert also indicated that part of the new office's mandate will be to vet Canadian aid in terms of the rights records of countries.

"Emergency aid and medical attention would not be linked in any way to the human rights record of any government, but other forms of developmental aid are certainly subject to review," he said.

The end of eco-terrorist Wiebo Ludwig

His was a life shrouded in mystery - partly due to the nature of his fringe religious practices, partially because of the extrajudicial nature of the political activism he engaged in, and partially because that was just who he was. Wiebo Ludwig was an oddball, and a violent one at that. Now that he is dead, from esophageal cancer at the age of 70, residents of the northern Alberta community in which he resided can breathe easier.

Ordained as a minister in the United States, Ludwig established a sprawling compound 450 kilometres northwest of Edmonton in 1985, after splitting with a congregation he led in Goderich, Ont., largely due to his misogynistic views. Having moved to Alberta with the Boonstra family, the group was able to practise its non-mainstream faith free from the influences of the outside world. The two families regularly intermarry, and have become largely self-sufficient - farming their food and home-schooling their children.

But in 1990, the outside world began closing in, as oil companies started exploring the vast natural gas reserves near Ludwig's Trickle Creek compound in Hythe, Alta. In the mid-1990s, Ludwig - whose angry posture was shaped by a mish-mash of conventional environmentalism and his idiosyncratic religious doctrine - began complaining that sour gas leaks in the Peace River region were causing environmental degradation to his property, resulting in the death of some of his livestock and two miscarriages by his daughter.

Coping in an increasingly competitive global economy

Two decades from now, Canadians will be living in a very different world. On the international scene, the advance of climate change coupled with a rising China and an irredentist Russia will leave Canada’s Arctic region — where possibly one quarter of the world’s oil reserves are located — vulnerable. As the Northwest Passage continues to thaw, China’s eyes remain firmly set on this major choke point in the international shipping system while Russia will need to maximize its natural resource advantage if it wishes to win over the regimes and peoples of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

The rise of a more multi-polar, unpredictable world will coincide with the advent of a demographic crisis in Canada in which the share of Canada’s population over the age of 65 will increase to 25 per cent from 12 per cent over the next two decades. To give an idea of the size of the potential chronic fiscal shortfall associated with this demographic shift, the C.D. Howe Institute’s president, Bill Robson, estimates that in order to support our pension and health care systems (and other related costs) — without implementing significant reforms to the programs in question — the Canadian government would have to find a way to double the revenue it receives from income tax.

Given these geo-political and demographic projections, without any change in strategy Canada may well be on its way to becoming the economic basket case it once was. Stephen Harper’s lackluster performance on the world stage with respect to the climate change file, his refusal to provide a vision for reforming health care due to his rigid interpretation of the constitution, and his inability to articulate a coherent rationale for what could be the second-largest procurement project in Canada’s history — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — don’t make the picture any rosier. The major initiatives for dealing with the crisis ahead must be embarked upon in this decade, before the crisis actually hits.

NDP ahead of all parties in Quebec with Mulcair as leader

PARLIAMENT HILL—The NDP’s selection of Thomas Mulcair as its new leader has vaulted the party significantly ahead of all three other federal parties in Quebec, a new Forum Research poll indicates.

Forty-one per cent of Quebec electors are ready to vote NDP or lean toward the party with Mr. Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) at the helm, the survey conducted on Tuesday found. The federal Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) was ahead only of the Green Party with support from 14 per cent of Quebec voters, the Toronto-based research firm found.

The Liberal Party, currently led by interim leader Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.), was favoured by 16 per cent of Quebec voters who would either vote for the party or were leaning toward it. The Bloc Québécois, reduced to a rump of only six seats in the federal election last year, garnered support from 22 per cent of the province’s decided and leaning voters.

Significantly, the poll found more support for the NDP among francophone voters than non-francophones, with 42 per cent of decided or leaning Quebec francophone voters favouring the party compared to 39 per cent of non-francophone voters.

Top polar bear scientists warn population isn't as 'abundant' as reported

EDMONTON — Two of Canada's top polar bear scientists have warned that recent attempts to justify an increase in the hunting of the storied animal in western Hudson Bay could lead to trade sanctions against Canada.

University of Alberta scientists Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher say the population is neither as "abundant" nor as "healthy" as a Nunavut Inuit organization claimed last week when it used the preliminary results of a recent survey to justify an increase in the annual harvest.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says preliminary results from the Nunavut government survey contradict previous reports by Stirling, Derocher and other scientists who have been tracking polar bears in this region for the past 40 years. They say it also vindicates Inuit hunters who insist there are more bears than ever.

Suggesting that the research was "faulty," as Nunavut Tunngavik stated in a news release, is both "untrue and inflammatory," says Stirling.

"The Nunavut aerial survey estimated the population to be between 717 and 1,430. This aerial survey-based estimate is not significantly different from the 2004 estimate of 934 bears we did, which was based on more reliable mark-recapture studies in Manitoba."

Newt Gingrich Campaign Vendors Wonder If They'll Ever Get Paid

WASHINGTON -- For a long time, Larry Scheffler maintained a hard policy at his Nevada printing company: no credit for politicians. But when a friend called on behalf of GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich In January, saying the candidate needed signs for the upcoming Nevada caucus, Scheffler made an exception.

"They said they were going to pay right away," Scheffler, 61, said in an interview.

Scheffler's company, Las Vegas Color Graphics, produced a trove of campaign materials for Gingrich: 5,000 rally signs, 5,000 bumper stickers, 5,000 lapel stickers, 5,000 cards targeting Hispanic voters, and nearly 100 yard signs. The tab came to $7,439.62.

But more than two months after the caucus, Scheffler is still waiting for the check. "We got burned," he said.

Andrew Thomas, Phoenix Prosecutor, Disbarred For 'Defiled' Public Trust

A former top Arizona prosecutor and anti-illegal immigration crusader used his office to destroy political enemies, filed malicious and unfounded criminal charges and committed perjury and other crimes, a state legal ethics panel ruled on Tuesday in Phoenix.

The three-member panel voted unanimously to disbar Andrew Thomas, the former Maricopa County attorney, and his former top deputy, Lisa Aubuchon. Thomas was elected in 2004 and resigned in 2010 during his second term to pursue an unsuccessful run for Arizona attorney general.

"This is the story of the public trust dishonored, desecrated and defiled," the ethics panel said.

As chief prosecutor for Arizona's most populous county, which covers much of the Phoenix area, Thomas, a Republican, gained national prominence after joining forces with Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County's controversial sheriff, in aggressively pursuing, detaining and prosecuting undocumented immigrants.

A series of failed public corruption prosecutions, also closely plotted with Arpaio, proved Thomas's downfall. After the cases collapsed, a far-reaching independent investigation authorized by the Arizona Supreme Court revealed stunning ethical lapses, according to the scathing 247-page report by the review panel.

Subprime Credit Comeback: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Ozzie Guillen wishes he'd known that people in Miami are not exactly giant fans of Fidel Castro. Here are the seven and a half things you need to know today:

Thing One: Risk Is Back: There was once a time in America when the economy was built on fluff, on consumers taking on way too much debt to pay for stuff they couldn't afford, like houses and cars. Those days sadly ended with the financial crisis. But now, thanks to the good folks in the banking industry, they're on the way back.

Banks are starting to push credit on risky borrowers again, including people who've already been burned by taking on too much credit in the very recent past, The New York Times reports: "Consumer advocates and lawyers worry that the financial institutions are again preying on the most vulnerable and least financially sophisticated borrowers, who are often willing to take out credit at any cost."

Details, details. Banks gotta eat, too, you know. And anyway, credit bubbles create jobs. Until they destroy them. But again, details. Speaking of disasters: The massive, recently bailed-out insurer American International Group is also starting to tiptoe back into its own risky business, the Wall Street Journal reports: "AIG until recently had been dismantling what was once a $24 billion real-estate portfolio packed with trophy properties around the world to help pay back U.S. government loans and keep the company afloat. ...But now AIG is beginning to make plans for fresh investments across the U.S. that will begin later this year."

More Quebec Student Protests As Clock Runs Down On Academic Year

The head of Quebec's Federation of CEGEPs said Tuesday that the window to save the academic year is closing fast at junior colleges, where tens of thousands continue to boycott classes in the protest against looming university tuition fee hikes.

"If I have to speak with you in two weeks, it will be too late," said Jean Beauchesne. "It will be cancelled for the semester."

Beauchesne said CEGEPs have never lost an entire semester in their history.

Students discouraged after Concordia 'town hall'

Universities are also under pressure to find a way to salvage the academic year.

At Concordia University, where exams begin this week, university president Frederick Lowy staged a town hall meeting with striking students, who demanded to know why the administration has backed the government's decision to increase tuition fees by $1,625 over the next five years.

"Overwhelmingly, we heard voices of students who have desperate amounts of debt, who are concerned about the future of education, who are not certain where the university's priorities lie," said Lex Gill, the president of Concordia's student union.

Harper’s cynical assault on democracy

Back in 1985, barely five months after Brian Mulroney became prime minister, his defence minister Bob Coates resigned after leaving top secret NATO documents in a German strip club.

Over the next three years, Mulroney either fired or accepted the resignations — some after stiff prompting — of seven other Conservative cabinet ministers.

Mulroney’s actions were swift and decisive, aimed in each case at convincing Canadians he was eager to cut out the rot in his government.

In sharp contrast, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stubbornly refused to take any action in a series of emerging scandals that are fast branding his government as incompetent, arrogant, hypocritical and uncaring.

He has steadfastly defended cabinet ministers, such as Tony Clement, Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Christian Paradis and Lisa Raitt, over incidents involving G8 slush funds, doctored documents, private use of government helicopters, ethics breaches — and possibly lying to Parliament and the Canadian public.

F-35 could blow the roof off the Harper government's military spending plans

OTTAWA - Some would describe it as the battle of the bean-counters.

But the long-standing disagreement between National Defence and the auditor general over whether the salaries of soldiers and other operational expenses should be included in the cost estimate for F-35 fighter jets and other purchases threatens to blow the roof off the Harper government's carefully orchestrated military spending plans.

The Conservative wish-list of defence purchases, including the controversial F-35 stealth fighter, was expected to cost taxpayers $115 billion over the next 16 years, according to internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws.

That substantial figure could rocket into the stratosphere, propelled by Defence Minister Peter MacKay's grudging acceptance of both Auditor General Michael Ferguson and opposition demands to account for ordinary expenses, which the military incurs regardless of what equipment is purchased.

Both the opposition parties argued Wednesday that such transparency is essential.

Liberal House leader Marc Garneau said Canadians expect to know the full-cost of whatever the government buys and that the argument about operational expenses versus capital acquisitions is a red herring.

Auditor-General’s F-35 accounting complaints are déjà vu for Peter MacKay

The Conservative government continues to maintain that it didn’t know it was supposed to tell the public the full costs of the F-35 purchase: that the $10-billion it left out of the total was not a lie or even a mistake, but simply reflected its honest belief about how these things should be accounted, or at any rate always have been.

While various ministers, including the Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, have said they accept the Auditor-General’s directive that all costs should be included, they have also derided it as at best a wholly “new way of doing business,” and a strange one at that. The same homely analogy to buying a car has been raised, repeatedly, as if to suggest how ridiculous it would be to add up all the costs of a car over its expected life beforehand.

The government, and the Minister of Defence in particular, has maintained this position, notwithstanding long-established Treasury Board policy requiring, in line with the Auditor-General, that the cost of assets be stated in “life cycle” terms, that is including “all relevant costs over the useful life of the acquisition.” It has done so, what is more, in defiance of its own internal accounting, as documented both by the Auditor-General and in news reports from 2010, in which the missing $10-billion is included. That is to say, the government kept two sets of books on the project, one for private purposes showing the cost as $25-billion, the other for public purposes putting it at $15-billion, yet still maintains it had no intent to deceive: that it was just a difference of opinion, a dispute about accounting.

The F-35: A Weapon That Costs More Than Australia

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an impressive aircraft: a fifth generation multirole fighter plane with stealth technology. It's also a symbol of everything that's wrong with defense spending in America.

In a rational world, U.S. military expenditure would focus on the likely threats that the United States faces today and in the future. And at a time of mounting national debt, the Tea Party would be knocking down the Pentagon's door to cut waste.

But the only tea party in sight is the one overseen by the Mad Hatter, as we head down the rabbit hole into the military industrial wonderland.

The F-35 is designed to be the core tactical fighter aircraft for the U.S. military, with three versions for the Air Force, Navy, and the Marine Corps. Each plane clocks in at around $90 million.

So, how many F-35s do we need?



Washington intends to buy 2,443, at a price tag of $382 billion.

Add in the $650 billion that the Government Accountability Office estimates is needed to operate and maintain the aircraft, and the total cost reaches a staggering $1 trillion.

In other words, we're spending more on this plane than Australia's entire GDP ($924 billion).