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, May 01, 2012

Tories reveal more about plan to link EI benefits to regional labour demands

OTTAWA — The Conservative government released more details Monday of its plans to spend $387 million over two years on changes to the employment insurance program that should better link benefits to regional labour market conditions.

But it will be a few more months before the Tories define what jobs are considered "suitable employment" for Canadians applying for EI benefits and looking for work.

Opposition parties are worried many Canadians could be excluded from receiving employment insurance coverage when it's needed most.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley also said Monday that the government will live up to its campaign promise and provide financial support for parents of gravely ill children, although details are still months away.

The EI changes come as the Harper government has been cutting jobs at Service Canada facilities that process EI claims, although Finley maintains the response times are improving.

The new pan-Canadian EI approach, unveiled in the March budget, will calculate weekly employment insurance benefits based on local labour market conditions in various regions across Canada.

Canadians feel ‘betrayed’ by Harper move to change Old Age Security payments, emails show

OTTAWA—“Betrayed.” “Cheated” “What about your own fat pensions.” And the kicker, “Hands off OLD AGE SECURITY.”

Canadians didn’t hold back when Prime Minister Stephen Harper first floated his proposal to overhaul old age security benefits earlier this year.

They unleashed a fury of angry emails to his Ottawa office, furious at the proposed changes and equally unhappy that the prime minister had chosen to pitch the idea to an exclusive forum in Davos, Switzerland, rather than telling Canadians first about his cost-cutting plans.

And there were plenty of questions about why the Conservatives had stayed silent about the contentious issue during last spring’s election.

“We would not have voted for the Conservative Party if we had known this was in the works,” wrote one person all in capital letters to drive home the point.

“Please do not mess with old age security pension,” said another echoing the sentiments of most readers.

French elections: Sarkozy courts far-right at alternative May Day rally

Nicolas Sarkozy has stepped up his appeal to France's far-right by lauding national identity, borders and French Christian heritage at a vast open-air rally in the shadow of the Eiffel tower.

But the French president was dealt a serious blow by Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, who told her supporters she would not vote for him.

Tens of thousands of Sarkozy's flag-waving supporters, many of them party activists bussed in from the provinces by his rightwing UMP party, turned out at Paris's Trocadero in front of an imposing backdrop of the Eiffel tower.

Sarkozy's alternative May day Labour rally, which he initially said was a defiant celebration of "real" work versus the traditional trade union marches, had caused a political slanging match in France.

A Communist newspaper and various commentators likened the president to Marshal Pétain, the leader of France's Nazi collaborationist Vichy regime in the 1940s, for trying to appropriate the "values of work" for the right. His party slammed the parallels as shameful and disgusting.

Sarkozy told the crowd: "We don't want Socialism!" He stressed the importance of loving France, the value of work, and promised a new French social model with fewer rules and red tape. He said France must defend "values, identity and the frontiers that protect us", adding: "Do you think China doesn't defend its identity?"

Osama bin Laden's death has had zero impact on America's security

Last week, Afghanistan; two coalition troops were injured and one killed by Afghan soldiers; the US reached an agreement with the Afghan government to maintain a presence in the country until 2024; and the US failed to break a diplomatic deadlock with Pakistan after the US refused to apologise for killing 25 Pakistani soldiers in November.

This week, the White House will celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Osama bin Laden as though it were the crowning achievement of its foreign policy. On Wednesday, Obama will hold a rare televised interview in the situation room to discuss the raid in Abbottabad. His campaign has released of a web video in which Bill Clinton says President Obama "took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result". The video then asks, "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?"

The man who entered the White House with the message of "hope" and "change" wants to hold on to it with a record of "shoot to kill".

Republicans are right to criticise the president for the crass manner in which he is "dancing around the end zone". Unfortunately, those criticisms ring hollow from a party whose leader played dress up on the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce the end of a war that is still not over, and whose presidential candidate claims Obama should stop travelling the globe "apologising for" America. Moreover, the problem is not that Obama is exploiting a moment of national unity for partisan gain – though he most certainly is – but that this extra-judicial execution of an unmourned man has proved the only event capable of uniting the country since 9/11.

Samuel 'Mouli' Cohen Sentenced To 22 Years In Prison For $30 Million Fraud

SAN FRANCISCO -- A former high-tech executive convicted of defrauding investors of at least $30 million was sentenced Monday to 22 years in prison after a judge denounced him for fleecing nearly 100 victims to finance an "obscene lifestyle" of private jets, gaudy jewelry and Swiss bank accounts.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said Samuel "Mouli" Cohen was "nearly sociopathic" for refusing to show remorse for actor Danny Glover and others who suffered after he told them a company Cohen launched called Ecast that made electronic jukeboxes for bars was about to be acquired by Microsoft Corp.

The fraud caused the collapse of the nonprofit charity Vanguard Public Foundation, which Glover and singer Harry Belafonte founded in 1972, prosecutors said.

"In more than 40 years of experience with the criminal justice system, I have never encountered a con man like Mr. Cohen," Breyer told the defendant, who stood impassively in tan, jailhouse garb as emotional victims watched from the courtroom gallery. "He is serial in his proclivity to commit cons. He is nearly sociopathic in his ability to relate to his victims."

Breyer scheduled a Thursday hearing to determine the amount of fines and restitution to order against Cohen. Federal prosecutors are seeking restitution of $29.7 million. forfeiture of $31.4 million and a $250,000 fine.

Has Team Romney forgotten that the Bush years were terrible?

It was, after all, only four short years ago. And it didn’t go so well. The Bush economy is one of the worst on record. Median wages dropped. Poverty worsened. Inequality increased. Surpluses turned into deficits. Monthly job growth was weaker than it had been in any expansion since 1954. Economic growth was sluggish. And that’s before you count the financial crisis that unfurled on his watch. Add the collapse to the equation, and Bush’s record goes from “not so good” to “I can’t bear to look.”

Was all that his fault? Of course not. No economy is entirely under the president’s control. He didn’t create the tech bubble or 9/11. His responsibility for the financial crisis is, at best, partial. But Bush’s economic policies -- including massive, deficit-financed tax cuts, and his reappointing of Alan Greenspan to lead the Federal Reserve -- mattered. And, rightly or wrongly, the American people blame him for the aftermath. He left office one of the most unpopular presidents in U.S. history. And the anger has stuck: A recent YouGov poll found that 56 percent blame Bush “a great deal” or “a lot” for economic problems. Only 41 percent said the same about President Obama.

Given all that, you’d think Republicans would be running from anything or anyone who even vaguely reminded Americans of our 43rd president. In fact, the GOP seems eager to get the old gang back together.

In New York, a 20-Year-Old Policy Suddenly Prompts a Lawsuit

In late March, three civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City police department, alleging that a little-known crime-fighting program violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

The program, called Operation Clean Halls, permits police to conduct vertical patrols inside and around private residences, seeking out trespassers and drug crime. The lawsuit, which was filed by the NYCLU, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Bronx Defenders, questions whether the police have overstepped their Fourth Amendment boundaries while implementing the program. The suit alleges that officers have used Clean Halls to make baseless stops and trespassing arrests in primarily black and Latino neighborhoods, cuffing residents in their own hallways as they stepped out to buy a bottle of ketchup, or while they waited outside a girlfriend or sister's building.

The suit is part of a larger public outcry against the NYPD, which is also under fire for its surveillance of American Muslims, its dealings with Occupy Wall Street protesters, and its increasingly frequent practice of stopping and frisking black and Latino men. But few have pointed to the thick information wall surrounding Operation Clean Halls, which has been in existence, in some form, since 1991.

"The NYPD and New York City in general under [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg operate on the premise that data is power," said Donna Lieberman, executive director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "They claim to develop public policy based on 'The facts, ma'am, and only the facts.' At the same time, they are as stingy as stingy can be about giving out the facts, which they and only they have."

Enbridge pipeline gets thumbs-down from B.C. NDP

B.C.’s New Democrats have formally registered opposition to Enbridge's controversial proposal to build a pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to the port of Kitimat in northern B.C., arguing the risks outweigh the benefits.

Official Opposition leader Adrian Dix and 35 MLAs signed the 11-page letter sent on Monday to the National Energy Board's joint review panel, which is tasked with assessing the Northern Gateway project.

"Under the Enbridge proposal, British Columbia would assume almost all the project's risk, yet would see only a fraction of the benefits," said Dix in a release. "By any measure, such a high-risk, low-return approach simply isn't in B.C.'s interests."

In January, a three-member panel began public hearings to assess the environmental effects of the $5.5-billion plan to transport crude through a 1,177-kilometre twin pipeline for collection by huge oil tankers that will ship it to Asia and the United States.

A host of groups have already voiced concerns over the massive undertaking, complete with a variety of protest rallies.

That includes a declaration signed by more than 60 B.C. First Nations and aboriginal organizations, and more opposition from at least B.C. three cities and a regional district. The Union of B.C. Municipalities has also passed a motion against the project.

Cut those shameless perks of international diplomacy

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda’s decision to live lavishly in London while attending a conference meant to help children in developing countries points to a larger problem in the international system. Her opulent lifestyle in the British capital is minimal compared with a diplomatic culture that has become more lucrative for aid disbursers to roam around the world rather than stay in their offices to do what they’re paid to do. Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with holding a conference on poor people in a five-star hotel in one of the most expensive cities in the world?

Extravagant spending during international conferences is nothing new. The most interesting historical example took place during the 1815 Congress of Vienna, when the Austrian Empire had to institute a 50-per-cent income tax to pay for the cost of providing entertainment to delegates. And amid the severe economic crisis in Europe immediately following the First World War, when the necessities of life were beyond the means of most French citizens, France provided each delegate at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference with gratuities that drove one American negotiator to tell his wife that he was living more luxuriously than ever before.

The scary new Canada is a myth

A year after Canada gave the Conservatives a majority government, we are still hearing how the country is becoming more and more conservative.

This kind of philosophical triumphalism didn’t start with the 2011 election. When Rob Ford became mayor of Toronto in 2010, for example, commentators crowed that the country’s largest city was turning right.

When the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario were leading the Liberals in the polls last year, those on the right gleefully predicted a conservative trifecta (municipal, provincial and federal) in the country’s industrial heartland.

Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals won a third consecutive term. Ford remains highly unpopular, even reviled.

Two weeks ago, we were told of a new conservative ascendancy in Alberta, reflecting, again, the conservative shift in Canada. Behold, the new Ottawa-Calgary axis on the oil sands and climate change.

But that didn’t happen either. Indeed, as much as there was a realignment of national politics on May 2, 2011 — principally, the decline of the Liberals and the rise of the New Democrats — you might say the same of provincial politics in Alberta. Alison Redford, the new premier, is a progressive who drew support from Liberals and New Democrats. She is closer in philosophy to Joe Clark, Red Tory, than she is to Stephen Harper, Reformer.

Visiting Library and Archives in Ottawa? Not without an appointment

Library and Archives Canada will no longer have staff on hand to answer the public’s questions without an appointment as it sheds 20 per cent of its workforce.

A spokesman for Library and Archives Canada confirmed to The Globe and Mail that the current workforce of 1,065 will be reduced to 850 people over the next three years, as a result of the 2012 federal budget cuts.

On Monday, 450 staff received notices that their positions could be “affected” by cuts. The numbers from the spokesman indicate that the end goal is to eliminate 215 positions, some of which could occur through attrition by not replacing staff who retire or leave for another job.

The Library and Archives building is just west of Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court on Wellington Street in Ottawa. It houses government records that pre-date Confederation, as well as an extensive collection of non-government items such as genealogical records, sports memorabilia, art and newspapers.

Its website outlines a plan already underway that will be phased in to save money with fewer staff.

As of last month, all reference services from the library’s researchers will be by appointment only.

The website says the goal of Library and Archives is “to shift its service model from a largely in-person approach to service to a largely unmediated (self-serve) approach focused on enhanced virtual access to content and services,” it states.

The library receives about 2,000 in-person visits per month, a statistic that is declining “slowly but steadily.” In contrast, the Library and Archives website receives close to half a million visits per month. The new approach will involve more videoconferencing to help Canadians use the archives online.

Original Article
Source: Globe

Tories’ version of accountability is full-on attack

Cabinet ministers never seem to resign anymore, no matter how hot the political ground beneath their feet.

Instead, the ubiquitous art of political distraction has emerged in place of the time-honoured parliamentary tradition of resigning to accept ministerial accountability.

Accountability has typically been demanded of cabinet ministers in cases of significant departmental incompetence or scandal, or significant ethical lapses.

But in these days in Ottawa, what do Canadians hear instead when a ministerial head on a platter is demanded? Voters are treated to the stony, determined defence of any wayward cabinet minister, typically by the more abrasive cabinet ministers who are willing to get their hands dirty in Parliament.

Hard on the heels of such uproars come some form of outrageous attempt to divert attention elsewhere.

This is how Adolf Hitler made it into the Canadian parliamentary news cycle last week.

It was a week when International Development Minister Bev Oda should have been tendering her resignation over her lavishly outrageous spending of taxpayers’ money in London, namely on a pricey stay at the Savoy hotel, including a $16 glass of orange juice and another flurry of limousine rides, all in the name of official business.

Peter MacKay as Justice Minister? Wait and See

The talk among many in the defence world in Ottawa is about the fate of Peter MacKay.

Will Prime Minister Stephen Harper drop him from his job as defence minister?

Various commentators have suggested MacKay will be moved in an expected Cabinet shuffle in June. The reason? They credit the increasing number of problems/embarrassments that have emerged under MacKay’s watch.

The minster is very popular with those who populate NDHQ but even some of those people blame him, rightly or wrongly, for bungling the F-35 file. Then there is his now famous flight on a Cormorant search and rescue helicopter, with his office ordering the military to send out a helicopter to pick the minister up at a private fishing lodge. That flight, and MacKay’s controversial claim that it was all a planned training mission, seems to be an incident that still resonates with the public.

Judge 'unreservedly rejects' clawbacks of disability benefits for veterans

HALIFAX - A Federal Court ruling that directs Ottawa to stop clawing back disability benefits from veterans restores a degree of dignity for former military personnel, the lead plaintiff in the case said Tuesday.

Dennis Manuge wiped a tear from his eye upon hearing the decision, which dismissed the federal government's position as harsh, particularly for Canada's most gravely injured veterans.

"Today's ruling provides hope for Canada's disabled veterans," said Manuge, who led a five-year-old class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

"We saw them in court and we won."

Lawyers representing Manuge and other veterans argued last November that the veterans' benefits were being unjustly clawed back because the payments were unfairly deemed as income.

The lawyers said that veterans' long-term disability benefits were being reduced by the amount of their disability pensions, with some of the most seriously injured not receiving any of their pension. In some cases, Ottawa's policy cost some veterans as much as $3,500 per month, they argued.

Lawyers for the federal government cited other cases that have found such benefits to be income, adding that the definition of income can include a broad array of monies that are coming into a veteran's household.

Radio-Canada union: Accountability to Parliament code 'offensive'

Radio-Canada journalists say they won't help the minister responsible for the state broadcaster be more accountable to Canadian taxpayers.

The union representing the French CBC's communications workers filed a grievance earlier this month, objecting to a new code of conduct that, among other things, asks employees to serve the public interest by "Loyally carrying out the lawful decisions of their leaders and supporting ministers in their accountability to Parliament and Canadians."

This new code of conduct came into force April 2 and replaced the old rules that dated from November 2006.

Union president Alex Levasseur said the requirement to support ministers in their accountability to Parliament is offensive and amounts to an oath of allegiance to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ministers. Radio-Canada employees should not be subject to political influence, and Levasseur does not think the $1.1 billion in public funding the state broadcaster receives annually creates a special obligation to be accountable to Canadians through Parliament. He added that Radio-Canada had always been at arms' length from the government and that the new code of conduct put that healthy distance in jeopardy.

Original Article
Author: Brigitte Pellerin

Federal government’s message management flies F-35 into the ground

Stealth fighter jets are supposed to be elusive. But nothing is more elusive these days than the truth about Canada’s relationship to the F-35 fighter jet.

The message Canadians are hearing is that Canada is committed to purchasing a large number of F-35s to replace its aging fleet of CF-18s, and that the Harper government has lied about the overall cost — which many pundits suggest is likely to be ridiculously high.

There are smidgens of truth here: the government has come forth with understated cost estimates that would be misleading even if it were possible to reliably predict costs. The italicized part of that sentence is even more important than the part about deceptive cost estimates.

Yes, it is lamentable that the government decided to lowball its estimate. But that was just the kind of crafty sleight-of-hand spinning that governments are used to getting away with.

In this case, the public was told that 65 aircraft would cost $16 billion. Unfortunately, internal estimates predicted it would be $25 billion when maintenance and operating costs were included. Dragged into the sunlight, Harper’s spin-masters were properly denounced as liars.

Canadians need the straight goods on F-35. First and foremost: Does it really handle like a ‘flying piano’?

The day the Auditor-General’s damning report on the F-35 fighter jets landed, the Harper government attempted to contain the damage by announcing the creation of a new “F-35 Secretariat” to oversee the process to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fleet.

The government committed itself to “continue evaluating options” on the CF-18 replacement, but the very name of the new office suggested, in reality, Canadians could have any jet they wanted, as long as it looked like the F-35.

But it is the F-35 Secretariat no longer.

Marc Garneau, the Liberal MP, asked in Question Period if the change of name to the “New Fighter Aircraft Secretariat” was indicative of a shift in policy. He didn’t get much of an answer but government sources confirmed the name has indeed been changed, to avoid giving the impression that the outcome is pre-determined. Asked if that meant a competition for a new jet is likely, the senior Conservative said: “We haven’t closed that door.”

On first blush, it looks very much as if the government is preparing to back away from the F-35. The whole saga has taken a political toll on the Tories, as the costs for the 30-year life-cycle of the jets appear to be close to double the $16-billion they have claimed.

Auditor ‘got it wrong’ on F-35 cost, DND officials tell MPs

National Defence still feels the F-35 is the only fighter jet that meets its needs for the future and rejects any sense it has offered misleading figures to the public on the cost of acquiring the aircraft.

Appearing in front of the House public accounts committee, DND officials rejected the estimated cost of $29-billion for the F-35 program that has been put forward by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, and argued that the Auditor-General was wrong when he said key financial figures were kept hidden from Canadians.

DND’s deputy minister, Robert Fonberg, said his department is sticking with its estimated cost of $15-billion for the acquisition and the sustainment over 20 years of the F-35 jets. He insisted that long-term operating costs for the jets, which are still eight years away from delivery, will be “firmed up over time,” but will be similar to those for the existing fleet of CF-18s.

He added that his department was not yet in a position to determine the exact cost of the program over its planned 36-year lifespan, saying that using 20-year scenarios is a well-entrenched position at DND and avoids making risky, long-term predictions.

“Life-cycle costing is not a simple issue,” Mr. Fonberg said.

Clouds’ Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters

LAMONT, Okla. — For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong.

Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.

Yet in recent years, the climate change skeptics have seized on one last argument that cannot be so readily dismissed. Their theory is that clouds will save us.

They acknowledge that the human release of greenhouse gases will cause the planet to warm. But they assert that clouds — which can either warm or cool the earth, depending on the type and location — will shift in such a way as to counter much of the expected temperature rise and preserve the equable climate on which civilization depends.

Their theory exploits the greatest remaining mystery in climate science, the difficulty that researchers have had in predicting how clouds will change. The scientific majority believes that clouds will most likely have a neutral effect or will even amplify the warming, perhaps strongly, but the lack of unambiguous proof has left room for dissent.

Suzuki and Tree-Huggers: Prepare for War

THE GAME is over. It's now all-out war.

This week, David Suzuki and his foundation came under attack by the ironically named Ethical Oil group, a new American anti-environmental video has been making the rounds online, and the $500,000 Koch brothers contribution to Canada's right-wing Fraser Institute made the news.

I don't know which of these I find most disturbing. Or maybe it's the combination of the three that we should find most disturbing. Because what we're seeing is the politicizing and distortion of science. And frankly, we will need a clear scientific perspective if we're to have any hope of keeping our complex human support system going on the planet.

David Suzuki is a scientist. Though he has become a communicator and an activist, nevertheless, it is science that informs him and motivates him. It's more than coincidental that Suzuki and his foundation have come under attack by the oil lobbyists just after the federal government accused the Canadian environmental movement taking money from and being under the influence of "foreign interests."

Back in February, Brian Jean, a Conservative member representing Fort McMurray and the tar sands region of Alberta announced that he planned to table a private member's bill aimed at outlawing foreign donations to Canadian environmentalist groups.

Conservative cuts put half of Statscan jobs at risk

Nearly half of the roughly 5,000 people working at Statistics Canada are being warned that their jobs are at risk, suggesting deep cuts are in store for one of the country’s most trusted sources of information.

The notices to staff that their employment could be affected by cuts are the second major blow to the organization in recent years, after the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary one. Canada’s chief statistician resigned in protest over the change.

Everyone from the Bank of Canada to academics, economists, marketers, urban planners and public policy researchers use Statistics Canada surveys.

The agency has a shortfall of nearly 10 per cent due to a mix of budget cuts and a plunge in revenue as other federal departments, such as Human Resources and Transport Canada for which it does surveys, face cuts themselves.

“There is no doubt that the cuts can’t be absorbed without reducing the amount of information Statistics Canada produces,” said Michael Veall, president of the Canadian Economics Association and an economics professor at McMaster University.

The Jet That Ate the Pentagon

The United States is making a gigantic investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, billed by its advocates as the next -- by their count the fifth -- generation of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat aircraft. Claimed to be near invisible to radar and able to dominate any future battlefield, the F-35 will replace most of the air-combat aircraft in the inventories of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and at least nine foreign allies, and it will be in those inventories for the next 55 years. It's no secret, however, that the program -- the most expensive in American history -- is a calamity.

This month, we learned that the Pentagon has increased the price tag for the F-35 by another $289 million -- just the latest in a long string of cost increases -- and that the program is expected to account for a whopping 38 percent of Pentagon procurement for defense programs, assuming its cost will grow no more. Its many problems are acknowledged by its listing in proposals for Pentagon spending reductions by leaders from across the political spectrum, including Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), President Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and budget gurus such as former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Alice Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget.

How bad is it? A review of the F-35's cost, schedule, and performance -- three essential measures of any Pentagon program -- shows the problems are fundamental and still growing.

Austerity has brought Europe to the brink again

Once again European efforts to contain crisis have fallen short. It was perhaps reasonable to hope that the European Central Bank’s commitment to provide nearly a trillion dollars in cheap three-year funding to banks would, if not resolve the crisis, contain it for a significant interval. Unfortunately, this has proved little more than a palliative.

Weak banks, especially in Spain, have bought more of the debt of their weak sovereigns, while foreigners have sold down their holdings. Markets, seeing banks holding the dubious debt of the sovereigns that stand behind them, grow ever nervous. Again, Europe and the global economy approach the brink.

The architects of current policy and their allies argue that there is insufficient determination to carry on with the existing strategy. Others argue that failure suggests the need for a change in course. The latter view seems to be taking hold among the European electorate.

This is appropriate. Much of what is being urged on and in Europe is likely to be not just ineffective but counterproductive to maintaining the monetary union, restoring normal financial conditions and government access to markets, and re-establishing economic growth.

Danger lurks in rupee's slide

India’s ballooning trade deficit means it has to run just to stand still. Without steady capital inflows, the currency will collapse. But without a steady currency, it is hard to attract foreign capital. The rupee’s 19-per-cent fall against the U.S. dollar over the past year is worrying.

During most of the last decade, the current account deficit has been funded without great difficulty. Foreign direct investment, portfolio investments and about $60-billion (U.S.) a year of remittances have usually exceeded the shortfall in trade. India has accumulated around $300-billion of foreign currency reserves, equivalent to 17 per cent of gross domestic product.

But the annual trade gap has widened from $104-billion to $185-billion. At 3.7 per cent of GDP, the current account deficit is the highest since 1980, when the International Monetary Fund starting collecting data. High energy prices are the main culprit for the recent deterioration – oil accounts for two-thirds of the country’s import bill. Of course, the blow would have been less painful if India had a stronger export sector.

The support of foreign investors is more necessary than ever, but New Delhi’s mismanagement has discouraged them. Foreigners bought an average of $3-billion a month of Indian debt and equities in the first three months of 2012, according to the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s website. So far in April, they have been net sellers of $403-million.

Police who lie: Attorney general orders probe of police deception

Ontario’s chief prosecutor will probe the issue of police officers who are found by judges to have lied in court.

Attorney General John Gerretsen made the announcement Monday following a Toronto Star investigation that found more than 100 cases of police deception in Ontario and across the country.

“The most important thing is that people tell the truth in court. The question really becomes: if a judge makes a serious comment (about an officer’s testimony) what should happen?” said Gerretsen.

James Cornish, chief prosecutor for Ontario, has been asked to look into the matter and report back by early summer. Cornish formerly headed the Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog.

“We should do whatever we can at our level of the administration of justice to make sure that people have faith and belief in the system. And if there are areas in which we can improve that, we should do so,” Gerretsen said.

The Star’s research looked at cases where a judge found a police officer lied, misled the court or fabricated evidence. In many cases, the judge tossed the evidence against a suspect. After officers lied in court, possessors of child pornography, a major ecstasy manufacturer operating out of a Scarborough house, drug dealers carrying loaded handguns, and others walked free.

You pay higher hydro bills, big business pays less

Big industries in Ontario shifted nearly a quarter of a billion dollars off their hydro bills in the first nine months of last year — onto the bills of households and small businesses.

And they may have collected tens of millions in additional payments by “double dipping” on overly generous conservation incentive programs.

That’s the conclusion of the province’s electricity market watchdog, the market surveillance panel.

While the panel ascribes no wrongdoing — big businesses are simply obeying the market rules — the panel says it’s not clear whether there’s any broad benefit in giving big users a break at the expense of small consumers.

What is clear, says the panel, is that households and small businesses are paying about 4 per cent more on the energy portion of their hydro bill.

Meanwhile the province’s biggest industrial power users are paying 1.3 cents a kilowatt hour less — a saving of about 17 per cent.

Energy Minister Chris Bentley said the current rules are intended to slash power use during peak periods, which benefits all consumers.

China bests Canada in tackling climate change, Strong says

China is outpacing Canada in determination to tackle climate change and rein in greenhouse gas emissions, says Maurice Strong, a long-time environmentalist and secretary-general of the first global Earth Summit 20 years ago.

Mr. Strong – who lives in both Toronto and Beijing – is in Ottawa this week for a conference on Canada’s role in the green economy as countries prepare to convene next month in Rio de Janeiro for a global summit known as Rio+20.

Once a leader in the global environmental movement, Canada is now seen as a serious laggard, with even emerging countries like China showing more commitment to costly adjustments to reduce emissions, the high-profile businessman and diplomat said in an interview on Monday.

China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, although on a per capita basis it remains well below levels in the developed world. But the country has set ambitious targets in its five-year economic plan to decouple emissions growth from economic development. And it has vowed to stabilize emissions by 2030.

“They realize that they have to reduce emissions and they’ve got policies that are every strict,” said Mr. Strong, who serves a government adviser in his role as an honorary professor at Beijing University.

Costs jump for Canadian Arctic satellite surveillance system: documents

OTTAWA — The cost of a new satellite system the federal government wants to build to conduct Arctic surveillance is expected to jump from $600 million to more than $1 billion, according to a document obtained by the Citizen.

The project, dubbed the Radarsat Constellation Mission, or RCM, is seen as key to the Conservative government’s plans to expand Canada’s presence in the Arctic. The first satellite in the system is scheduled to be launched in 2014 and once the full system is operating, the constellation would be capable of providing extensive surveillance of the North as well as of Canada’s coasts.

But a newly released Defence Department document shows the price tag for the satellites has now jumped from $600 million to $1 billion.

“The RCM project was originally estimated at $600M, and has been authorized $200M in expenditure through Preliminary Design Review,” points out a 2010 briefing note for DND’s deputy minister Robert Fonberg. “While revised cost estimates for RCM vary, on average they reflect a project cost of over $1B(illion).”

The document was obtained by the Citizen under the Access to Information law.

Bill C-38 shows us how far Parliament has fallen

You know, this is the sort of thing people used to make quite a bit of a fuss over.

Bill C-38, introduced in the House last week, calls itself, innocuously, “An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.” The bill does implement certain budget provisions, it is true: for example, the controversial changes to Old Age Security. But “and other measures” rather understates matters — to understate the matter.

The bill runs to more than 420 pages. It amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen, and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration (among other changes, it erases at a stroke the entire backlog of applications under the skilled worker program), to telecommunications (opening the door, slightly, to foreign ownership), to land codes on native reservations.

The environmental chapters are the most extraordinary. Along with the new Act, they give cabinet broader power to override decisions of the National Energy Board, shorten the list of protected species, and abolish the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act — among “other measures.” For much of this the first public notice was its inclusion in the bill.

Budget bill gives Cabinet veto in pipeline, oil sands projects, say critics

PARLIAMENT HILL—A provision of the Conservative government's 425-page budget bill contains contentious revisions of environmental law that will allow Cabinet the power to overrule the National Energy Board and give the green light to controversial projects such as the highly controversial Enbridge oil sands pipeline across northern British Columbia, say environmental associations and MPs.

The bill, which also implements new measures to monitor “political activities” of environmental groups who have opposed the pipeline, has sent a chill through the environmentalist charitable sector, with one of the largest environmental charities saying it could comment only on a background basis until elements of the legislation are clarified, The Hill Times has learned.

According to the bill, which is under severe criticism from the opposition parties because of the range of environmental and social issues it lumps in with tax and fiscal measures to be studied by only one House of Commons committee, will open up an “extreme opportunity for political interference” with the National Energy Board (NEB),” says a lawyer and director with West Coast Environmental Law, one of the leading opponents of the Enbridge “Northern Gateway” pipeline.

Quebec’s '50 cents a day' tuition hike claim not working on students

It has become Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s standard line, repeated over and over again in her bid to convince post-secondary students to end their protest and return to class.

“Fifty cents a day.”

It’s how much the Charest government says tuition-fee hikes will cost students for the next seven years.

“I can’t see students wanting to refuse to go back to class for 50 cents a day,” Ms. Beauchamp said over and over again in interviews on Monday. It’s the message the Charest government is using in the battle for Quebeckers’ support on the issue.

But the line isn’t changing the minds of striking students. There is no end in sight to the protests, with the provincial Liberals even forced to change the venue for their upcoming party meeting next weekend. Instead of Montreal, where massive student demonstrations have been taking place, the Liberals will now meet in Victoriaville.

Students responded by saying they will flock to Victoriaville to voice their opposition to the tuition-fee hikes.

Toronto police officer accused of covering up kidnapping

A Toronto police officer allegedly conducted a sham kidnapping investigation to protect those he suspected were involved, an Ontario Superior Court jury has heard.

Prosecutors opened their case Monday against Toronto police Const. Ioan-Florin (John) Floria, who has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including breach of trust, accessory after the fact to kidnapping, attempt to obstruct justice and money laundering.

Several of the charges stem from the actions or “inactions” of the veteran Toronto police officer in relation to two unrelated kidnappings, Crown attorney James Palangio told jurors.

The first alleged kidnapping happened Nov. 16, 2005. The victim, Simion Ternar, was working at a marijuana grow-op tending plants when he was kidnapped leaving a gym in Toronto’s east-end. He was tortured for 24 hours and released after a $200,000 ransom was paid.

Ternar contacted Floria, who was from the same hometown in Romania, Palangio said.

The Crown alleges Floria, who joined the Toronto Police Service in 1998, told Ternar not to report the crime nor seek medical attention because the police might be involved. He also misleadingly told Ternar he would conduct an investigation into the kidnapping, Palangio said.

Calls For Inquiry As Parts Of Country 'Needlessly' Run Short Of Water

A union representing water workers has called for an inquiry into the closure of more than 20 reservoirs in recent years in parts of the country most affected by the drought.

The GMB said 25 water storage facilities had closed in the South East, mostly since the industry was privatised in the late 1980s.

Rainfall is left to run into the sea rather than be collected while the region is hit by drought orders, said the union.

The GMB called on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee to launch an inquiry into water companies, the Environment Agency and the regulator Ofwat to establish why parts of the country were "needlessly" running short of water, the Press Association reported.

National officer Gary Smith said: "The mission of a water undertaking is to deliver the water needed for human purposes and for industry. That requires proper direction and management. Both have been sadly missing in Britain for the past 20 years.

"Storage and transfer are two of the main elements of water resource management, one to move water from times of plenty like last weekend to times of shortage, the other to convey water from places where it is plentiful to areas where it is in short supply. The third basic element is treatment to regulate water quality.

Occupy Wall Street May Day 'General Strike' Planned With Unions, Immigrant Groups

Occupy Wall Street activists are planning for a nationwide series of demonstrations billed as a "general strike" on Tuesday in what could be the biggest test of the movement's organizing muscle since the winter.

Touted as a "day without the 99 percent," and modeled in part on massive immigration reform protests in 2006, Occupy groups in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Chicago and more than 100 other cities will join forces with immigrant rights groups and labor unions. Organizers expect tens of thousands of supporters to swarm the streets in those cities on the anniversary of the traditional labor movement holiday.

"No work, no school ... don't bank, don't buy," posters for the day that have been circulating around New York say. But activists are mixed on whether they expect the day of action to result in large-scale walk-offs from work, and one of the most controversial actions, a proposal to block traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge, was called off over the weekend.

"Spring has come, and this is our reawakening," said Matt Presto, a 25-year-old graduate student who has been involved in the movement since before it occupied New York City's Zuccotti Park on September 17. "We're rejuvenated, and I think this will be a display of collective force and what we're capable of."

Scott Walker Raises $13 Million In Three Months For Recall Battle

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pulled in $13 million in the most recent three-month reporting period to fight off a Democratic attempt to recall him from office, an unprecedented sum of money for a gubernatorial race in the state.

Walker's campaign announced on Monday that it has raised a total of $25 million since Jan. 1, 2011. It now has nearly $4.8 million on hand for recall and general election funds.

“We continue to see strong grassroots support for Governor Walker, his bold reforms, and his plans for moving Wisconsin forward,” said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews. "Because of the overwhelming support for the Governor, we can continue to speak to voters about how Governor Walker plans to move Wisconsin forward while his Democrat opponents plan to take Wisconsin backwards to higher taxes, record job loss, and massive deficits."

Walker's campaign added that it received 125,926 donations during the most recent fundraising period, which lasted from mid-January to April 23, 2012. Of those contributions, 76.4 percent received, or 96,292, totaled $50 or less.

The Wisconsin recall race is a top priority for both Democrats and Republicans, and the money is flowing in at a historic rate. As a comparison, Walker raised just $11 million for his gubernatorial run during the entire 2010 election cycle.

Killing Democracy One Vote at a Time

Corporations, 1 percenters and Republicans want to take America back. And by that, they mean all the way to the 1780s when wealthy white men controlled the nation.

Because only they could vote.

In the intervening 230 or so years, America became increasingly democratic, eventually awarding the vote to white landless males; Quakers, Jews and Catholics; black men; women; Native Americans, and 18-year-olds.

The wealthy are nostalgic for the power they enjoyed when most states limited voting to landed gentry. Republicans are helping them return America to those plutocratic days by passing voter identification laws constraining suffrage by the 99 percent. Country club conservatives are converting voting from a universal right of citizenship to a privilege exclusive to select society members.

Voter identification laws require citizens to provide specific documents before exercising their franchise. Depending on the state, these include a photo driver's license, a passport or a permit to carry a concealed handgun. The Brennan Center for Justice and others have calculated that 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo identification. That's 21 million citizens.

Lockheed Martin strike to make F-35 even more expensive

When all is said and done, the cost of the United States' F-35 jet fighter program is expected to exceed the entire gross domestic product of Spain. But will it be worth the decades of research and $1.5 trillion price tag?

Even with the Pentagon expecting to take another seven years to complete a working fleet of the fighter jets, the status of the program has already spawned reviews that include words like “calamity” and “huge disappointment.” Now things come very soon be getting even costlier as the thousands of workers responsible for the aircraft have walked off the job.

Not only did the US Defense Department announce this week that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s fourth production run is now expected to cost the Pentagon more than half a billion dollars more than originally expected, but unionized workers at the Lockheed Martin factory that handle the production of the aircraft are now on strike for the second week in a row. Voicing concern over how management will not budge on issues pertaining to the health and pension benefits for workers, nearly 3,650 workers at the Fort Worth, Texas Lockheed plant walked off the job last week.

"No Work, No Shopping, Occupy Everywhere": May Day Special on OWS, Immigration, Labor Protests

As Occupy Wall Street plans nationwide protests marking International Workers Day, or May Day, we discuss the movement with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Chris Hedges; Amin Husain, editor of Tidal Magazine and a key facilitator of the Occupy movement; Marina Sitrin, author of "Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina" and a member of Occupy’s legal working group; and Teresa Gutierrez, of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights. We also get an update from protests on the streets of New York City from Ryan Devereaux, former Democracy Now! correspondent, now with The Guardian.

“People all over the country are talking about May Day as our day, whether you want to call it 'workers’ holiday' or 'immigrant rights' or 'the 99 percent,'’ says Martina Sitrin, who notes Occupy activists hope to use May Day as a way to also build solidarity with the student movement and non-unionized workers as well. "This year is an important year to revive the struggle for immigrants in the wake of a million of our people being deported," adds Teresa Guitierrez.

Tories spent first year in power surprising Canadians over pensions, health care and environment

OTTAWA — The morning after Prime Minister Stephen Harper won his long-sought majority victory on May 2, 2011, he told journalists there would be no "surprises" in the next four years. The Tories would only do what they promised to do.

A year later, that pledge appears to have been broken in some key areas. Future seniors' pensions are being cut. Health-care funding is being curtailed. Environmental controls for energy projects are being loosened.

And thousands of public servants are losing their jobs — which will presumably affect the quality of services given to Canadians — despite Harper's assessment in last year's campaign that the bulk of the "modest" savings could be handled through retirements and "consolidation" of computer systems.

As parliamentarians prepare to mark the one-year anniversary on Wednesday of the Tories' majority victory, there are starkly different views about what Harper has done so far with his mandate.

The Conservatives proudly point to a string of promises that have been kept: passage of the omnibus crime bill; the abolition of the long-gun registry; and the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board. As well, the government has reached a perimeter security border deal with the United States; and have put a continued emphasis on striking trade deals throughout the world.

The Commons: Incivility is in the eye of the beholder

The Scene. Thomas Mulcair had asked the government side to account for its recent adventures in military procurement and John Baird had stood and enthused about supporting the troops and now Charlie Angus was on his feet with a segue.

“Mr. Speaker, speaking of non-answers,” he said, “the Canadian Association of Journalists has just voted the Conservative government the most secretive in Canadian history.”

Journalists being among our society’s most respected and revered professionals, this condemnation on its own seemed certain to chasten the government, but Mr. Angus was not through.

“Look at the minister it put in charge of spinning the openness. The Muskoka minister ran a $50 million slush fund through his constituency office and then buried the documents and is refusing to tell Canadians what services are on the chopping block,” he reviewed. “The Prime Minister promised Canadians he would establish open and accountable government. Why did he break that promise?”

Tony Clement, the aforementioned minister, rose to respond, but Peter Van Loan, the Conservative House leader, stood too. With a cross look for Mr. Van Loan, Mr. Clement returned to his seat.

“Mr. Speaker, it was seven minutes ago that the House leader for the NDP stood up and talked about a new decorum,” Mr. Van Loan sighed. “He talked about putting an end to name calling, treating people with respect, calling them by their proper titles and proper names. It lasted seven minutes. The repeat offender is at it again.”