Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Afghan commanders show new defiance in dealings with Americans

KABUL —Afghan commanders have refused more than a dozen times within the past two months to act on U.S. intelligence regarding high-level insurgents, arguing that night-time operations to target the men would result in civilian casualties, Afghan officials say.

The defiance highlights the shift underway in Afghanistan as Afghan commanders make use of their newfound power to veto operations proposed by their NATO counterparts.

For much of the past decade, NATO commanders have dictated most aspects of the allied war strategy, with Afghan military officers playing a far more marginal role. But with the signing of an agreement last month, Afghans have now inherited responsibility for so-called night raids — a crucial feature of the war effort.

Seller Offers Gun Range Targets Meant to Resemble Trayvon Martin

A Florida entrepreneur said he had sold out of gun range targets depicting a faceless, hood-clad figure holding an iced tea and a bag of Skittles meant to look like Trayvon Martin.

"The response is overwhelming," the seller told Orlando's WKMG news team over e-mail. "I sold out in two days." The station did not identify the seller, and said it found the ad on a popular firearms auctioning website.

A cached version of the webpage belonging to a seller named "hillerarmco" from Virginia Beach, Va., shows the paper targets being sold in packs of 10 for $8.

The description of the product reads:

    Everyone knows the story of Zimmerman and Martin. Obviously we support Zimmerman and believe he is innocent and that he shot a thug. Each target is printed on thick, high quality poster paper with a matte finish! The dimensions are 12"x18" ( The same as Darkotic Zombie Targets) This is a Ten Pack of Targets.

Scott Walker Describes 'Divide And Conquer' Strategy Against Public Unions In New Documentary

MADISON, Wis. — Newly-released documentary film footage shows embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shortly after his election describing a "divide and conquer" strategy for taking on unions by first going after public employees' collective bargaining rights.

Walker's opponents insist the remarks undermine the Republican governor's long-held claim that the polarizing law he and the GOP-led Legislature pushed through stripping most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights was meant solely as a budget-balancing measure. They also say the comments signal Walker ultimately means to go after private sector unions by making Wisconsin a right-to-work state, which would allow workers to not pay dues even if they are covered by a union contract.

A Congressional Push to End All Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Over the next ten years, the oil, gas and coal industries are slated to receive $113 billion in taxpayer subsidies—that’s six times the rate at which clean energy initiatives are subsidized. Americans will fund everything from development research for the industry to loan guarantees. There are all kinds of absurd tax breaks—for example, since 1951 the coal industry has been allowed to treat income from coal mines as capital gains, which is now taxed at a 15 percent maximum, instead of as regular income like most other businesses in the country.

Democrats have often presented bills to end a various portions of these subsidies, but a new bicameral bill—introduced by Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Keith Ellison in the House—would wipe out every last subsidy and tax break the industry receives.

Scott Walker Promised $500K Donor He Would 'Divide and Conquer' Unions

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has long denied that he has a secret strategy to destroy public-sector unions as part of a long-term plan to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state where unions are dramatically weakened.

But, with the recall election that could replace Walker barely three weeks away, a remarkable videotape of the governor describing just such as a strategy has surfaced. In it, Walker is seen promising a billionaire campaign donor that the attack on collective-bargaining rights for public-sector unions—which sparked demonstrations and the movement that has forced the recall election—was only “the first step” in a grand plan.

The billionaire would eventually give Walker more than $500,000—the largest donation in Wisconsin history—to help him advance his agenda. That donation made her the largest single donor to the governor's effort to beat the June 5 recall vote.

This Week in Poverty: Republicans Define 'Lower-Priority Spending'

When Republican Congressman Paul Ryan released his budget, he charged six House committees with finding $309 billion in spending cuts over ten years in order to avert $55 billion in military cuts scheduled for January 2013 under a bipartisan agreement. He wrote that these cuts would be found in “lower-priority spending.”

On Thursday, House Republicans approved the cuts along a party-line vote, revealing exactly what they consider to be “lower-priority spending.”

These cuts should be viewed in the context of sparing a defense budget that conservative columnist George Will observes is “about 43 percent of the world’s total military spending” and “more than the combined defense spending of the next 17 nations, many of which are US allies.” Even with the $55 billion in cuts that would start in January, the defense budget would still be $472 billion (not including war costs)—three times more than China spends.

Throwaway People: Will Teens Sent to Die in Prison Get a Second Chance?

On August 29, 1976, around 1:40 am, a fire erupted at 1138 Spruce Street in Chester, Pennsylvania. The building, in a row of two-family homes just south of the Delaware Expressway, burned for two hours, killing two boys: 13-year-old Brian Harvey and his 6-year-old brother, Derrick.

Neighbors spotted two local girls at the scene: 16-year-old Frances Newsome and 14-year-old Trina Garnett. But according to early reports in the Delaware County Daily Times, “the immediate focus” was Trina, a “mysterious girl” with a “grudge” against Sylvia Harvey, the boys’ mother. Investigators theorized that she had broken a kitchen window and climbed through, lighting matches throughout the first floor of the house and then escaping before it went up in flames. On September 3, Trina was arrested and charged with homicide, arson, conspiracy and burglary. She was held without bail; police told reporters she would be tried as an adult.

California Committing Educational Suicide

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a grim report on Thursday with a pretty simple message: We're eating our seed corn. Over the past two decades, the number of California high school students completing the state's most rigorous curriculum—known as the "a-g requirements"—has risen by a third, and the number of high school grads admitted to the state's CSU and flagship UC systems has risen by a similar amount. That should be good news in a world that increasingly depends on educated workers. But there's a problem: It hasn't translated into more students going to college.

According to the PPIC report, state support for higher education over the past two decades has plummeted by a third and tuition charges have skyrocketed to make up the difference. When I attended CSU-Long Beach in the late '70s, it cost me a little over $100 per semester in tuition and fees. Adjusted for inflation that's about $300 in today's dollars. But that's not what today's students pay. They pay about $3,000 per semester. UC students pay about $6,000 per semester. The cost of a state university education has skyrocketed 10 times in California.

Canada's Working Moms Still Earning Less, Doing More Than Dads

Can't think of what to get mom for Mother's Day? How about a fairer wage and a break from household chores and child-care responsibilities?

As children and husbands around the country take the mothers in their households out for celebratory brunches and dinners this Sunday, they'd do well to remember some of the obstacles the women they're celebrating still face.

In recent years the focus has been on statistics showing women outperforming men in school, graduating in greater numbers than men from university and increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners in their families. So it is easy to forget that women in Canada still earn on average 25 per cent less than men do and do the bulk of housework and child care, according to the most recent figures from Statistics Canada.

Thomas Mulcair's 'Dutch Disease' Strategy May Be Paying Off For The NDP

When Thomas Mulcair became leader of the NDP, he promised a structured opposition that could take on the Conservative government. His strategy appears to be working.

Poll after poll has put the New Democrats neck-and-neck or ahead of the Conservatives, as yesterday’s Harris-Decima poll indicated. That survey pegged NDP support at 34 per cent, four points up on the Conservatives.

While some of this can be attributed to the honeymoon period that normally comes after a party selects a new leader, there might be more to the NDP’s good fortune.

Undoubtedly, Mulcair is benefitting from a series of bad headlines for the Conservatives. While any one of these stories might not have been enough to seriously dent the Tories’ support, the cumulative effect appears to have been quite damaging.

Harper to blame for the economy: Ghiz

The public service on Prince Edward Island is going through turbulent times and a lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

That was the message P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz delivered to about 100 delegates and guests attending the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) annual convention Thursday morning at the Rodd Royalty Inn in Charlottetown.

The public sector is experiencing federal and provincial job cuts while facing uncertainty over pension funds and the harmonized sales tax (HST) coming in April 2013.

Ghiz told the crowd the difference between him and Harper is the P.E.I. premier is hoping to be in a position in the coming years to reinstate those lost provincial jobs.

Federal Budget 2012: CARP members supporting NDP, not Tories

OTTAWA—CARP, the national seniors group, says for the first time in four years its members are expressing more support for the federal New Democrats than Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

An internal poll of 2,600 CARP members found support for the NDP has risen to 39 per cent, substantially above 31 per cent support for the Conservatives. The Liberals trailed at 25 per cent, CARP said.

The shift in CARP members’ political support is a major change, said Susan Eng, vice-presidency for advocacy.

“In our internal polls, the NDP always languished way behind as a distant third,” Eng said in an interview. “That stands to reason. We’ve got a very conservative-leaning crowd.”

Quebec and students: it’s actually worse than you think

Here’s an understatement for you: the negotiations between the various student associations and the Quebec government aren’t going well.

As we approach the three-month mark of the student strike/boycott/study-stoppage/what-have-you, relations between both sides could hardly be worse. An agreement in principle between the Charest government and the FEUQ, FECQ and CLASSE was roundly rejected by the students themselves, and we’ve already seen the fallout: the daily marches have for the most part resumed, much like the caustic rhetoric from both side as each accuses the other of bad faith. Yesterday, the entire Metro system was shut down after a coordinated smoke bomb attack.

Perversely, there’s a normalcy to all this Gong Show-iness, as though demonstrations, riots, street closures and metro shutdowns are part and parcel of  the coming very long, very hot summer in la bête noire province. Just like periodic language tiffs. Just like rampant corruption in the construction industry. Just like eye-bleedingly horrendous Éric Lapointe videos. (I warned you.) Ayoye.

The global conspiracy to make Canada’s energy debate sound ridiculous

Surely the only reasonable reaction to allegations that some Canadian environmental groups receive cash and instructions from beyond our borders is “Gee, I sure hope so. Otherwise they’d be doing it wrong.”

If you’ve looked at a photo of the Earth lately, you’ll notice what I did in 1970: somebody forgot to draw in national borders. Clouds and currents don’t have passports; nor should anybody expect a movement dedicated, as environmentalists see it, to protecting the whole planet to colour within national lines. I’m not sure how to make this clearer, since it should be pretty obvious, but it’s why Jacques Cousteau had a boat instead of a Paris Métro pass.

Similarly, I would have thought it’d be obvious that commodities are often traded among different countries. I don’t know a lot of mom-and-pop oil companies that pump the crude at one end of town and sell it to consumers at the other. And finally, it’s less shocking that broad political movements consult across international boundaries than it would be if they didn’t. (Here’s a wonderful piece of reporting on three French students of the 2008 Obama campaign who helped get François Hollande elected in France. Americans have sought to influence Canadian elections, and vice versa, forever.)

Libya mission's final costs reach $347M

hereDefence Minister Peter MacKay is defending the government's accounting of the costs of Canada's military mission in Libya, following the release of new figures by the Department of National Defence that lay out the final cost of the deployment.

The department puts the incremental costs of the mission — costs the military says would not have been incurred if Canadian Forces had not been deployed — at just under $100 million.

And the total cost of the operation — a figure that includes everything from jet fuel to pilot salaries, including the salaries of military personnel — comes in at $347 million.

Last October, MacKay told CBC Radio's The House the Libyan mission had cost taxpayers less than $50 million.

"As of Oct. 13, the figures that I've received have us well below that, somewhere under $50 million," MacKay said.

Canada Unemployment April 2012: 'Hidden Unemployed' Phenomenon Means Real Jobless Rate Much Higher

According to new labour force data released on Friday, Canada’s unemployment rate edged up slightly to 7.3 per cent in April. Though the economy added 58,000 jobs, more people were looking for work, pushing the jobless rate up by 0.1 per cent over the previous month.

But when it comes to taking stock of unemployment, the headline number is only part of the story. In addition to the 1.3 million people that are now counted among Canada’s unemployed, by any estimate there are tens of thousands more who aren’t identified as jobless, despite the fact that, for all other intents and purposes, that is precisely what they are.

Often referred to as the “hidden unemployed,” these individuals don’t satisfy Statistics Canada’s definition of unemployment because they are waiting for a job to start, are underemployed or have simply given up looking for work.

But that has little bearing on their daily struggles, or how they see themselves.

Barack Obama has tilted the scales toward compassion and equity, by endorsing same-sex marriage

U.S. President Barack Obama has just shown rare courage by endorsing same-sex marriage, and in an election year at that. While the earth barely moved in Canada — where same-sex marriage became lawful on Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin’s watch in 2005 over Stephen Harper’s objections — Obama’s bold stand has convulsed the U.S. political scene and tipped the debate in favour of human rights.

This is a huge moment for the American civil rights movement, the first time a sitting president has come out for gay and lesbian marriage. Obama will also be remembered as the commander-in-chief who saw to it that gays can serve openly in the military.

The cynics and the purists cavil, of course.

Cynics say that Obama is opportunistically appealing to the plurality of voters who now endorse gay marriage, in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election. Clearly, he hopes to energize his Democratic base and to appeal to independents and younger voters who tend to support it. Tellingly, Obama says denying same-sex marriage rights “doesn’t make sense” to his daughters. But he runs the risk of further alienating Christian evangelicals and some African-Americans and Hispanics. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate, opposes not only gay marriage but also civil unions with similar rights.

Others point out that Obama favours letting the states decide individually whether to allow gay marriage, at a time when most prohibit it. They argue that Obama should go further, and place the federal government’s weight behind any future legal challenge to the state bans, on the grounds that they violate the constitutional right to equal protection under the law. It may yet come to that.

But these quibbles miss the big picture.

There is an epic struggle going on in America and across much of the wider world to affirm the full humanity of gays and lesbians, amid fierce opposition. In the U.S., it has been described as the great battle for civil rights in this era. It is far from won. It matters greatly that a president whose campaign slogan was Hope has weighed in, decisively, on the side of compassion, inclusion and equal rights for all.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Editorial

You can talk about efficiency, but you can't hide the axe

The Canadian government has just closed the visa section at its embassy in Iran’s capital, Tehran. Visas for Iranians – and there are many Iranians with relatives in Canada and others who want to emigrate – will be processed at the Canadian embassy in Turkey’s capital, Ankara.

Ankara is one country and 2,500 kilometres removed from Tehran. And yet according to a Harper government spokesperson, the processing of visas for Iranians in Turkey rather than Tehran will make things work “more effectively and efficiently.”

Of course, this statement is patently absurd. But these days in post-budget Ottawa, all manner of absurd things are being said without much public comment.

It’s as if the media is so beaten down by mantras that are not true, and the public so distant from what goes on in Ottawa, that a government can say almost anything without anybody caring.

Budget bill undermines oversight of CSIS

The Conservative government proposes to strengthen civilian oversight of CSIS by eliminating the Office of the Inspector General. This “good news“ was buried in the recent Budget Implementation Act. The savings are of some $1 million per year of “taxpayers” money from the Public Safety Portfolio’s $7 billion budget.

A spokesperson for the Public Safety Minister advised that oversight will be strengthened as the review function will be consolidated into the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and employees of the Department will also be provided greater responsibility for providing independent advice to the Minister. Having spent some twenty years in the national security area I was somewhat surprised by this announcement. In terms of credibility the assessment of the consequences flowing from this proposal ranks with the utterance by the Black Knight of Monty Python fame who, having had both his arms cut off by King Arthur, says that it is “but a flesh wound”.

Canadians should consider some basic facts as they assess the merits of this proposal. After all, CSIS is a domestic intelligence agency whose primary focus is the activity of people in Canada. The communications that it covertly intercepts and the searches that it covertly undertakes occur here, in your towns and cities, not in some far off land.

Ontario vows to keep collecting data on gun buyers despite federal objections

Ontario says it won’t create a provincial gun registry, but it will require stores to keep records of who buys guns, despite federal objections.

Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur has written her federal counterpart, Vic Toews, to say Ontario will “comply fully” with the requirements of Bill C-19, which scrapped the federal gun registry.

But Ms. Meilleur says Ontario retailers will still be required to log names and address of anyone purchasing a gun as part of the permit process.

She says the Ontario Provincial Police chief firearms officer interprets section 58 of the Firearms Act as giving him the power to impose that requirement.

Liberals must prepare for a more conservative Canada

One oft-repeated phrase these days is that Stephen Harper is changing Canada. While that may be true to a certain degree, what I believe is more reflective of reality is the following: the fact that Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party is in government reflects the fact that Canada has changed.

Indeed, one can safely say that Canada is more conservative — or classically liberal, if you will — today than it was ten years ago. Canadians increasingly view government as being an enabler more so than a doer. Although there may be many reasons for this, there are four that stand out. Two of these reasons explain why Canada has become more conservative during recent years while two project increased conservatism for Canada over the years to come.

The first reason has to do with Canada’s immigrant communities. As these communities experience successive decades in Canada, their economic independence grows. Less reliance on the government often translates into more conservative views on fiscal issues. Consequently, we have seen Canada’s Chinese, Italian, South Asian, Eastern European and Jewish communities all move slowly but surely toward the Conservative Party in recent years.

Harper government on wrong side of environment issue

While the Harper team has worked hard to keep hot-potato items such as gay marriage and abortion off its agenda, it now has a new policy nemesis: the environment.

As Conservatives move to implement their jobs-and-growth plan, they've predict-ably attracted significant blow-back from environmentalists.

And activism by green-minded groups protesting giant resource-related projects such as Alberta's oilsands and the Northern Gateway pipe-line in turn has prompted the government to introduce legislation and regulations in a bid to restrict the activists' effectiveness.

The yin-yang interplay catapulted the environment into the forefront in Ottawa this week, as opposition parties lined up to condemn a 420-page omnibus budget bill, brimming - inappropriately, they contend - with environmental provisions.

No funding, no liftoff for Radarsat program, CEO says

A Vancouver space and satellite technology developer is blastingthe federal government for foot-dragging on plans for new satellites that are supposed to defend Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.’s (MDA-T44.480.441.00%) criticism of the Conservative government comes four years after Ottawa surprised investors by blocking the company from selling its space technology division to Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems Inc., saying the unit was of strategic interest to Canada.

Now, the company says scientists and engineers are leaving the company because the Harper government has failed to live up to commitments to adequately fund space robotics and to meet deadlines in its key Radarsat Constellation project, which aims to launch at least three new satellites starting around 2016. The goal is to dramatically improve surveillance of Canadian territory and its border regions, including defending the country’s sovereignty in the thinly populated North.

Study of real estate rich crown corporations sparks speculation

Questions are swirling about the government’s plans for the crown corporations that administer some of Canada’s prime real estate after a former Conservative cabinet minister revealed the government has initiated a study into them by an external consultant.

Testifying before a parliamentary committee, Gerry Weiner, chairman of the board of the Old Port of Montreal Corporation, said the consultant is looking at the Old Port, Downsview Park and Canada Lands Corporation. Between them, they oversee hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property across Canada including a large stretch of Montreal’s waterfront and the CN Tower.

“I don’t know,” Weiner responded when asked by Liberal MP Denis Coderre whether the government is about to change the way the Old Port is run. “All I know is that a contract was given to a consultant to do an analysis of four corporations like Canada Lands Company and Downsview.”

Conservative Government Won’t Give the Canadian Forces Permission to Talk About Their Involvement in RIMPAC 2012 But Here Are the Details

It’s even difficult for the Canadian Forces to get permission these days from the Conservative government to talk about what they consider “good news” stories. It’s almost a total clampdown on information.

Take for instance, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. It’s held every two years by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT).

The U.S. Navy announced two days ago that Canadian officers would be playing key roles in the exercise. But the Canadian Forces is silent on the subject since it still hasn’t got approval from Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s office and the Privy Council Office to send out a press release.

But why wait for that release? Here are the details as gathered so far by Defence Watch courtesy of the U.S. Navy:

This year’s RIMPAC exercise is scheduled from June 27 to August 7. Twenty-two nations, 42 surface ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate.

From the Annals of Diplomacy: Stephen Harper fires a Cannon at the Parisians

If you didn't think Prime Minister Stephen Harper really despised social democrats, then consider for a moment this factoid from yesterday's news columns:

Only two days after Socialist François Hollande was elected president of France, Harper named Lawrence Cannon Canada's ambassador to Paris. Indeed, it's possible that Cannon will be on the job in the City of Light by the time Hollande takes power on May 15.

Canadians will remember Cannon as the prime minister's sometime Quebec lieutenant and the man who hilariously lectured the now-departed government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for letting his thugs beat protesters in the streets of Cairo six months after law-ignoring Canadian police beat protesters in the streets of Toronto.

The difference, presumably, was that Cannon reckoned the Canadian protesters deserved it.

Climate change and the corporate scramble for the Arctic

This is the second of a two-part feature examining the impact of climate change on the Arctic. Part I examined the uses of the colonial imagination of the Arctic. 

Many of the winter months of 2012 were among the warmest on record. The warming of our winters is an unsettling trend.

For example, in the Arctic Report Card, researchers concluded that in 2008, "Autumn temperatures in the Arctic are at record levels, the Arctic Ocean is getting warmer and less salty as sea ice melts and reindeer herds appear to be declining." In 2010, the same group of scientists concluded that a return to previous Arctic conditions was unlikely.

And as our planet continues to warm up, we should be growing more terrified - for our planet and yes, selfishly, ourselves.

RCMP probing whistleblower's harassment claims

The RCMP says it is investigating claims in a lawsuit launched Wednesday in which Cpl. Catherine Galliford alleges sexual assault and sexual harassment within the force, but investigators have not yet been able to substantiate any of her claims.

Galliford, currently on sick leave, filed a detailed claim, saying she was suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder due to years of sexual harassment and a number of physical assaults by other RCMP supervisors and colleagues.

Galliford first revealed her allegations to CBC News in November, prompting several more current and former female officers to come forward with similar complaints.

If proven true, some of the incidents Galliford alleges would breach the force's code of conduct, while others would be criminal offences.

Dangerous nationalism on the South China Sea

So here we are again. It seems like it’s once a year in Beijing that police and media assemble outside a foreign embassy, waiting for the patriotic crowds to gather and decry the nation that dares question China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over (insert name of disputed territory here).

On Friday, it was the embassy of the Philippines that drew the swarms of police and media. The disputed chunk of rock this time is what most of the world calls the Scarborough Shoal – the Chinese and Filipino governments each have their own name for it – a tiny and uninhabited outcrop more than 800 kilometres southeast of Hong Kong and 220 kilometres off the coast of the main Philippines island of Luzon in the resource-rich South China Sea.

In past years, the angry crowds have gathered in Beijing outside the Japanese embassy to shout about another disputed bunch of rocks, the islands that Japan calls Senkaku and China names Diaoyutai. A few years before that, it was the French embassy targeted, over its alleged support for Tibetan independence. Someday it will be the Vietnamese embassy over the Spratly Islands, in another part of the South China Sea.

Pentagon course taught Islam is the enemy, suggested Hiroshima-type solution for Mecca: Report

WASHINGTON—A course for U.S. military officers has been teaching that America’s enemy is Islam in general, not just terrorists, and suggesting that the country might ultimately have to obliterate the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina without regard for civilian deaths, following World War II precedents of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima or the allied firebombing of Dresden.

The Pentagon suspended the course in late April when a student objected to the material. The FBI also changed some agent training last year after discovering that it, too, was critical of Islam.

The teaching in the military course was counter to repeated assertions by U.S. officials over the past decade that the U.S. is at war against Islamic extremists, not the religion itself.

Easy Useless Economics

A few days ago, I read an authoritative-sounding paper in The American Economic Review, one of the leading journals in the field, arguing at length that the nation’s high unemployment rate had deep structural roots and wasn’t amenable to any quick solution. The author’s diagnosis was that the U.S. economy just wasn’t flexible enough to cope with rapid technological change. The paper was especially critical of programs like unemployment insurance, which it argued actually hurt workers because they reduced the incentive to adjust.

O.K., there’s something I didn’t tell you: The paper in question was published in June 1939. Just a few months later, World War II broke out, and the United States — though not yet at war itself — began a large military buildup, finally providing fiscal stimulus on a scale commensurate with the depth of the slump. And, in the two years after that article about the impossibility of rapid job creation was published, U.S. nonfarm employment rose 20 percent — the equivalent of creating 26 million jobs today.

Former Partner Describes Soldier's Spiral Into Suicide

For almost five hours, 28-year-old Rebecca Starr told an often emotional tale of Cpl. Stuart Langridge's downward spiral into addiction, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and finally suicide.

Starr, the former common law partner of Langridge, was appearing Thursday before the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is hearing complaints filed by Langridge's parents into how the military handled their son's death.

Starr testified about what kind of person Langridge was in 2005 when she met him: "Stuart loved to have fun, he was a happy guy, he had tons of friends."

They moved in with each other within months, and eventually made a formal declaration to the military that they were common-law partners.

But, Starr related, Langridge began to profoundly change, especially after his biological father died.

Internet billing records point to single culprit in robocalls investigation

OTTAWA — A comparison of Rogers billing records shows that “Pierre Poutine” did not use a computer in the headquarters of a Guelph Conservative candidate to launch the election-day robocalls, casting doubt on the theory that the culprit could have been any of a number of campaign workers operating out of the office.

Data provided to Elections Canada investigators has linked a Rogers account to the Internet Protocol (IP) address used by the robocalls suspect to log onto RackNine, the Edmonton-based voice broadcaster that transmitted more than 7,000 misleading calls telling voters their polling station had moved.

Under court order in March, Rogers turned over details of customer information for three Rogers accounts to Elections Canada.

Conservatives stifling information flow on military spending: sources

OTTAWA — Under fire for bungling multibillion-dollar equipment programs, the Conservative government is clamping down on the information Canadians receive about military spending, declaring previously public documents as now secret and quietly awarding a $105-million contract for 13 new armoured vehicles, then claiming the deal was for transmission parts.

In early April the government awarded a $105-million contract to a German firm, FFG, to build 13 Leopard armoured engineering vehicles for the Canadian Forces. The only information put out by government was a brief and inaccurate notice stating that the company had been awarded a contract to provide "vehicular power transmission components." The notice also claimed the deal was only for one item.

But defence industry sources say the government is misleading the public; the deal is actually for 13 specialized armoured vehicles, and not transmission parts.

Stop the Drug War: Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia Condemns U.S. Role in Widening Drug Violence

We end the week with part two of our interview with renowned Mexican poet Javier Sicilia. Last year Sicilia’s 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was murdered by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his son’s memory, Sicilia created the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to urge an end to the drug war. Sicilia is now in the United States to launch a month-long peace caravan this August after leading a similar caravan across Mexico last year. "We are outraged because the war has done nothing for us — it has not solved the problem," Sicilia says. "We need to create awareness and consciousness so American people know that behind every drug consumer and behind every use of guns, we pay with dead people." Click here to watch part 1 of this interview

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

True cost of Libya mission was seven times gov't. estimate: documents

OTTAWA - Amid allegations the Conservative government intentionally lowballed the price of the F-35 stealth fighter project, newly released National Defence documents indicate the full cost of last year's Libya mission was nearly $350 million - seven times what Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Canadians it cost.

The revelation is likely to raise further accusations of a systemic effort to hide the true cost of Canadian military operations and equipment purchases, and lead to fresh demands for accountability.

Last October, with Moammar Gadhafi dead and NATO wrapping up its seven-month air-and-sea campaign in Libya, MacKay said the mission had cost taxpayers $50 million - or about $10 million less than the Defence Department had predicted.

Head in the sand, tar in every orifice: Climate change policy in Canada

May 5, 2012 was Climate Impacts Day, a global initiative to "connect the dots" between the extreme weather events that are becoming a regular occurrence in many parts of the world, and climate change. Sponsored by, the global organization founded by environmentalist Bill McKibben, it made connections between concerned citizens across the globe.

What are the insights that need to be shared? At the outset, it is very important to distinguish between weather and climate. Weather is what happens to us on a daily basis; climate is the trend-line of how weather is changing. A single category four hurricane, a sweeping weather system of tornadoes, a severe ice-storm, a season of droughts, a summer of record hot weather, a sudden emission of methane in the arctic, and a record diminution of arctic sea ice are all weather events. They do not -- by themselves -- constitute climate change.

Mind Change

It is not unusual, these days, for children to spend five hours a day looking at computer screens or mobile phones. That’s five hours a day that they’re not exploring their neighborhoods, feeling the wind in their hair, or giving someone a hug. Yet it seems we are sleepwalking into this new cyberculture without even questioning its impact on our brains.

The human brain is exquisitely talented at adapting to its environment. Its plasticity has allowed humans to occupy more ecological niches than any other species on the planet. But this adaptability also means that as our environments change in unprecedented ways, so, too, do our brains.

In our eagerness to embrace technology, we have created environments that are almost certainly impacting our brains, and, more pressingly, the brains of a younger generation that has never known anything else.

Anonymous 101

Is anything on the Internet more misunderstood than Anonymous?

Call them a “group” or “hackers,” or “cyber-activists,” or “cyber-terrorists,” and you’ll be mostly wrong and totally reductive. They’ve been more accurately described as a “culture,” an “idea,” or a “phenomenon,” but those all seem kind of flaky and much too flattering. Anonymous defies description and classification by design, tying those of us who aim to understand them into knots. Good for them!

For real insight into Anonymous, I turn to Gabriella Coleman, a McGill professor who approaches them as the subject of  anthropological study. Writing this week for Al Jazeera, Coleman aims to clear up some sloppy thinking about Anonymous, while putting forward a reasoned defence of their value. Her piece is combatively titled “Everything you know about Anonymous is wrong.”

Coleman respectfully rejects gloomy think-tanker Evgeny Morozov‘s argument that all Anonymous provides is cheap spectacle and an excuse for governments to ramp up online censorship and surveillance. Authorities would be doing this anyhow, and spectacle needn’t be cheap. Anonymous’ mastery of memes, jokes, melodrama and digital theatrics are perhaps its strongest weapons. They’re why we can’t stop talking about them.

But to what end? While Anonymous’ raids and operations have targeted many an individual and institution, it  has no consistent ideology or goal, save perhaps anonymity itself. These days, that’s enough. Here’s Coleman:

    “In an era when most of our personal data is archived online – in a time when states and corporations collect, market, and monetise our plans and preferences – there is indeed something hopeful, one might even say necessary, in Anonymous’ effacement of the self, in the cloaking of their identities, in striking at legislation seen to threaten privacy, and seeking to expose the depth and extent of privatised government contractors that have rapidly emerged as a security apparatus parallel to that of the national government.”

The damage caused by Anonymous is overhyped, both by the media and by Anonymous itself, which has a tendency to borrow corny dialogue from comic book villains. But the value of Anonymous is commonly overlooked.

It has become a built-in control against those who would curtail the wonderful chaos of the digital commons.

Original Article
Source: maclean's
Author:  Jesse Brown

The Commons: Thomas Mulcair does his Stephen Harper impression

The Scene. Furrowing his brow and shaking his head, Thomas Mulcair performed what is apparently his impression of Stephen Harper circa 1994.

“I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles,” Mr. Mulcair read aloud in a slightly different voice than the one he usually uses.

As a piece of performance art this perhaps left something to be desired—a silly wig might’ve aided the illusion—but as a general reminder that Stephen Harper used to oppose legislation of the sort Stephen Harper now employs, this at least seemed to accomplish Mr. Mulcair’s goal.

“What happened to those principles?” Mr. Mulcair wondered, switching to his own baritone to level the question.

Sexual Violence and Natural Resource Pillaging Top Hardships Facing Alaskan Natives

Hundreds of indigenous leaders and activists from all across the world are gathering in New York City this week for the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. We speak with Dalee Sambo-Dorough, an Inuit from Alaska who teaches political science at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and serves as vice chair of the Permanent Forum. Sambo-Dorough discusses the range of hardships faced by indigenous peoples in Alaska today, from environmental devastation and threatened land ownership in the Arctic, to rampant sexual violence. "In various political and economic agendas, indigenous peoples in the United States are at the bottom of the bottom — they always have been," Sambo-Dorough says. "The issues facing Alaskan Native communities, indigenous communities across the United States never appear on the radar screen as a priority issue."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

UN Probe: U.S. Should Return Stolen Sacred Land, Including Mt. Rushmore, to Native Americans

James Anaya, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has conducted the United Nations’ first-ever investigation into the plight of Native Americans living in the United States. Anaya’s recommendations include advising the U.S. to return some land to Native American tribes, including South Dakota’s Black Hills, home to the famous Mt. Rushmore monument. Anaya says such a move would be a step toward addressing systemic discrimination against Native Americans that continues to this day. James Anaya, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has conducted the United Nations’ first-ever investigation into the plight of Native Americans living in the United States. Anaya’s recommendations include advising the U.S. to return some land to Native American tribes, including South Dakota’s Black Hills, home to the famous Mt. Rushmore monument. Anaya says such a move would be a step toward addressing systemic discrimination against Native Americans that continues to this day. "The indigenous peoples of this country...suffer from poverty, poor health conditions, lack of attainment of formal education [and] social ills at rates that far exceed those of other segments of the American population," Anaya says. "These conditions are related to a history of wrongs that they’ve suffered."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

The U.S. v. Joe Arpaio: Justice Department Sues Arizona Sheriff for Racial Profiling of Latinos

The Justice Department has sued Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies in Maricopa County for racially profiling Latino residents in the Phoenix area. The DOJ contends that Arpaio and his deputies aggressively targeted Latinos, regardless of their immigration status, and retaliated against anyone who got in their way. We go to Phoenix to speak with Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona. "We believe, finally, we’re going to have an airing of what’s taken place," Parraz says. "We applaud the federal government and the Department of Justice for coming in and holding Sheriff Arpaio accountable, because local law enforcement officials here ... are unwilling to do that work."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Auditor-General’s office to cut 60 jobs, reduce number of audits

The Auditor-General’s office is cutting 10 per cent of its staff – or 60 jobs – and other parts of government are scrapping a wide range of reports to Parliament, according to the latest details on spending cuts provided by officials.

While MPs engage in procedural warfare over how to study the government’s omnibus budget bill, senators on six separate committees are already quizzing dozens of government officials as to what the legislation is trying to accomplish.

Senior Finance Canada officials outlined how the Auditor-General will be cutting back. For instance, the office will no longer audit how the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency report their performance.

Officials also listed several annual reports all departments will stop tabling, covering a wide range of areas such as public-service management and the use of alternative fuels by government vehicle fleets.

Why is The Globe going to ask online readers to pay? Our editor-in-chief explains

On Thursday afternoon we announced The Globe will introduce an online subscription across our full website this fall. You may have questions about this. Here is what we can share so far.

We’re adopting a metered approach, which means our readers will be able to access a certain number of articles across our website each month before they’re asked to pay. Similar leading news organizations, such as The New York Times and The Financial Times, already do this. We will let you know how many articles will be free at a later date, but most readers will not run into the limit on the meter.

In addition, we announced last fall that we will offer an enhanced suite of exclusive business and investing journalism, tools and data as a separate product this year. We’re still on track to do this.

Tories overrule officials to fund project of Baird’s ‘dear friend’

The Conservative government overruled federal bureaucrats and gave $1-million to a social hall project submitted by an Ottawa rabbi with close ties to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

After speaking to Mr. Baird, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley personally approved the project even though her officials determined it did not meet the criteria for a federal program aimed at making facilities wheelchair accessible.

The funding request for the expansion of a Jewish community centre known as a Chabad was submitted by Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn of the Canadian Federation of Chabad Lubavitch, who serves as the Canadian face of the international Hasidic outreach movement.

Ministers can make such decisions because they are ultimately responsible for spending in their department.

PMO letter on Helena Guergis is released

OTTAWA—The letter that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office fired off to the federal ethics commissioner that triggered Helena Guergis’ political woes was a straightforward referral of allegations that “she promised to advance private business interests,” the Star has learned.

Signed by Harper’s then-chief of staff Guy Giorno, the three-paragraph letter makes no mention of reports about partying with cocaine users or busty hookers, or any other outlandish behaviour.

Nor does it mention that at the heart of the potential conflict-of-interest allegation was Guergis’ spouse Rahim Jaffer, a former Conservative MP.

Moreover, the letter, dated April 9, 2010, makes no explicit request of ethics allegation commissioner Mary Dawson, but outlines allegations “made by Mr. Derrick Snowdy” — a private investigator.

“In particular, Mr. Snowdy alleges that Ms. Guergis attended meetings at which she promised to advance private business interests. Mr. Snowdy makes additional allegations about the MP’s conduct, allegations that may or may not be relevant to her responsibilities under the Conflict of Interest Act and/or the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.”

Private member’s bills cut corners on lawmaking, say critics

OTTAWA—The federal Conservative government is shifting the way lawmaking is done. Private member’s bills — which get less legislative analysis or parliamentary debate than government bills — are the new black.

Since Sunday, four private member’s bills that make changes to criminal and corrections law have been publicly backed by the government as good additions to its tough-on-crime agenda.

Here’s what the latest batch would do: create a new criminal offence for recruiting young people into gangs, levy $5,000 fines or jail terms up to 10 years for wearing a mask or face paint at a riot (five years if it’s an “unlawful assembly”), give federal prison officials more authority to dismiss inmate grievances by deeming them “vexatious” or “frivolous,” and set up a forced debt recovery scheme for inmates who win money from lawsuits against the Crown to require payment of outstanding child support, restitution orders or victim surcharges.

Head in the sand, tar in every orifice: Climate change policy in Canada

May 5, 2012 was Climate Impacts Day, a global initiative to "connect the dots" between the extreme weather events that are becoming a regular occurrence in many parts of the world, and climate change. Sponsored by, the global organization founded by environmentalist Bill McKibben, it made connections between concerned citizens across the globe.

What are the insights that need to be shared? At the outset, it is very important to distinguish between weather and climate. Weather is what happens to us on a daily basis; climate is the trend-line of how weather is changing. A single category four hurricane, a sweeping weather system of tornadoes, a severe ice-storm, a season of droughts, a summer of record hot weather, a sudden emission of methane in the arctic, and a record diminution of arctic sea ice are all weather events. They do not - by themselves - constitute climate change.