Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Monday, June 04, 2012

Israel’s race riots a problem of Biblical proportions

It’s a vexing question for any country – what to do when a flood of people seeking asylum lands inside your country by extra-legal means?

In Israel, a flood of seemingly Biblical proportions has led to ugly race riots by infuriated citizens and to legislation that threatens lengthy prison terms to anyone who assists "infiltrators." Early Monday morning, unknown attackers set fire in Jerusalem to an apartment housing Eritrean migrants. No one was killed, but spray painted on the wall was "get out of the neighbourhood."

Historically, many countries, Canada included, have gone to considerable lengths to prevent vehicles carrying refugees from landing in the first place. Last year, Italy and France pushed for military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as much to ward off flotillas of refugees as to protect the Libyan people from the violence of their dictator.

Harper’s success in next election hinges a great deal on tone

Just over a year into their majority mandate, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives face a strategic dilemma. The choice they make will have a lot to do with their prospects of winning a fourth straight election.

The priorities they set and the initiatives they put forward will matter a lot, of course, but no less important will be the tone they convey. It’s a simple, inescapable fact of Canada’s politics: The stronger a government, the more the public is on the lookout for signs of arrogance.

The best advice for a political leader, immediately on the heels of a big win, is to go on a charm offensive. To treat those partisans they vanquished with respect and the people who didn’t vote for them with particular attentiveness. There’s something so simple and self evident about this idea, it’s hard to understand why it isn’t a golden rule.

The Religion Factor in Canada's Environmental Politics

Canadian politics has traditionally avoided the religion factor. By common agreement, belief has been deemed a private matter, a facet of a candidate's qualifications for election that is not relevant to his or her ability to represent voters in parliament or to function as prime minister. The media has generally been respectful of this sensitivity and has averted coverage and commentary that touches on personal religious beliefs.

This may be changing.

Most environmentalists and scientists, together with a growing number of Canadians and others, are often bewildered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's aversion to address or even to mention the spectre of global climate change. This profoundly important environmental issue is prominent in many political discussion in many countries of the world, an integral part of their budgets, economic plans and energy policies. All but a fringe minority now accept the essential science explaining climate change and are taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not so in Canada.

Paul Krugman: Paul Ryan's Budget Plan Is 'A Fraud'

Paul Krugman took on Paul Ryan's budget plan on ABC's 'This Week'.

"The plan's a fraud," he said on Sunday. "The plan is a big bunch of tax cuts, some specified spending cuts, basically for poor people, and then a huge magic asterisk which is supposed to turn into a deficit reduction plan, but, in fact, if you look what's actually in it, it's a deficit-increasing plan."

He continued, "That there is really no plan there, neither from Ryan, nor from Governor Romney, is just the truth ... if that's being harsh and partisan, gosh, then I guess the truth is anti-bipartisanship."

Krugman was responding to Romney adviser's claim that the GOP presidential nominee believes the Ryan plan is "the right direction."

This is hardly the first time the New York Times columnist has criticized the GOP rep's budget plan. In April, he called the plan "the most fraudulent budget in American history."

Watch more of his "This Week" appearance above.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Alana Horowitz 

Louisiana Makes Bold Bid To Privatize Public Education

June 1 (Reuters) - Louisiana is embarking on the nation's boldest experiment in privatizing public education, with the state preparing to shift tens of millions in tax dollars out of the public schools to pay private industry, businesses owners and church pastors to educate children.

Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.

The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools. The money can go to industry trade groups, businesses, online schools and tutors, among others.

Bleeding Cash Conservatives Wasting Money To Punish Vulnerable Americans

Not so long ago, the term "bleeding heart liberal" had currency in American politics as a way to accuse someone of costly naïveté. Here was a label that could be slapped on anyone who advocated policies that aimed for fairness and decency, pursuing feel-good outcomes at the supposed expense of taxpayer interest, public safety and common sense.

These days we need a new term to describe a strain of politics that has become dominant in many areas of civic life, from the foreclosure crisis to long-term unemployment. We are living through what may be called the age of "bleeding cash conservatism," a time when powerful and mean-spirited authorities waste taxpayer money on their own version of feel-good policies that punish vulnerable people who have landed in trouble.

PPP's Final Wisconsin Poll Shows Scott Walker Edging Tom Barrett

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) holds a narrow lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in the run up to Tuesday's recall election, according to the final poll on the race conducted by Public Policy Polling, a firm affiliated with the Democratic Party.

PPP's automated, recorded-voice survey, conducted among 1,226 likely voters over the weekend, puts Walker at 50 percent support, 3 percentage points ahead of Barrett's 47 percent.

Fifteen surveys on the recall election have been released over the past month, and while most have produced close results, all but one have given Walker the advantage. Independent polls have generally given Walker a bigger lead than the handful of publicly released internal polls sponsored by the Barrett campaign or its Democratic allies.

In the past week, a Marquette University Law School poll gave Walker a seven-point lead, 52 percent to 45 percent, while an internal poll conducted for the Barrett campaign by the Democratic firm Garin-Hart-Yang showed Walker leading by just two points, 50 percent to 48 percent. The latest effort from PPP, which also polls for Democratic clients but did not have a campaign or party sponsor for this survey, is closer to the Barrett campaign poll.

With all polls included, including the internal surveys by the Democrats, the HuffPost Pollster chart of all available Wisconsin surveys gives Walker a lead of 2.8 points (50.3 percent to 47.5 percent). With the Democratic campaign polls excluded, however, Walker's lead grows to 3.9 points (50.6 percent to 46.7 percent).

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Mark Blumenthal 

This Republican Economy

What should be done about the economy? Republicans claim to have the answer: slash spending and cut taxes. What they hope voters won’t notice is that that’s precisely the policy we’ve been following the past couple of years. Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.

So the Republican electoral strategy is, in effect, a gigantic con game: it depends on convincing voters that the bad economy is the result of big-spending policies that President Obama hasn’t followed (in large part because the G.O.P. wouldn’t let him), and that our woes can be cured by pursuing more of the same policies that have already failed.

Merrill Losses Were Withheld Before Bank of America Deal

Days before Bank of America shareholders approved the bank’s $50 billion purchase of Merrill Lynch in December 2008, top bank executives were advised that losses at the investment firm would most likely hammer the combined companies’ earnings in the years to come. But shareholders were not told about the looming losses, which would prompt a second taxpayer bailout of $20 billion, leaving them instead to rely on rosier projections from the bank that the deal would make money relatively soon after it was completed.

What Bank of America’s top executives, including its chief executive then, Kenneth D. Lewis, knew about Merrill’s vast mortgage losses and when they knew it emerged in court documents filed Sunday evening in a shareholder lawsuit being heard in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The State of Climate Change Denial

It's been a tough few weeks for the forces of climate change denial.

First came the giant billboard with Unabomber Ted Kacynzki's face plastered across it: "I Still Believe in Global Warming. Do You?" Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, the nerve center of climate change denial, it was supposed to draw attention to the fact that "the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen." Instead it drew attention to the fact that these guys had overreached, and with predictable consequences.

A hard-hitting campaign from a new group called Forecast the Facts persuaded many of the corporations backing Heartland to withdraw $825,000 in funding; an entire wing of the institute, devoted to helping the insurance industry, calved off to form its own nonprofit. Normally friendly politicians like Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced that they would boycott the group's annual conference unless the billboard campaign was ended.

The Most Important Wisconsin Recall Candidate You've Never Heard Ofusa

On the evening of November 5, 2011, Lori Compas, a wedding photographer and mother of two, logged into Facebook and wrote something crazy. The kickoff of the statewide campaign to recall Gov. Scott Walker was days away. Wisconsinites were whipped into a frenzy. Discussions about what other Republicans to target for recall grew to Homerian lengths in online forums, comment sections, and Facebook threads. Compas decided to weigh in. "Is anyone planning to file papers to recall scott fitzgerald?" she wrote. "If not i'm gonna do it."

Later that month, she did. Then a few months after that, Compas launched her own campaign to defeat Fitzgerald in the recall battle she'd started.

F-35: Tories Redraw Canada First Defence Strategy Spending Plans Amid F-35 Fighter Jet Frustration

OTTAWA - The Harper government is redrafting its extensive, multi-billion shopping list of equipment for the Canadian military in an exercise many observers believe will set more sober expectations in a time of austerity.

The revision to the Canada First Defence Strategy is slated to be complete and ready for public consumption by fall, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press.

Although Defence Minister Peter MacKay describes the hallmark plan as a "living document," the reset comes at a time when the government has been hammered politically over the F-35 stealth fighter, an issue that tarnished the fiscally responsible image that the Conservatives try to project.

Dalton McGuinty backs off on privatizing more public services

Premier Dalton McGuinty’s minority Liberal government is backing off a money-saving plan to privatize more public services — and improve the “customer” experience — unless it puts it to a majority vote in the legislature, the Star has learned.

The move is seen as a sop to the New Democrats, who hold the balance of power at Queen’s Park, as the government struggles to eliminate a $15-billion deficit and avoid further credit downgrades.

“It’s a bit of a shift but one that strikes a balance,” a senior government source told the Star on Sunday.

B.C. RCMP hit with another harassment lawsuit Civilian clerk files claim

METRO VANCOUVER -- Another woman has filed a claim of harassment against the RCMP, but this time it’s a civilian clerk who worked for the Mounties.

Sherri Merritt claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court that she suffered harassment at the hands of her RCMP superiors while she was off work undergoing cancer treatment.

Merritt, 45, is also pregnant and is expecting her first baby in August.

Her lawyer, Tom Beasley, said that he represents about a dozen RCMP employees, some of whom have filed lawsuits against the force.

Labrador area to lose Coast Guard ship

CBC News has learned the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Harp is being decommissioned.

The vessel is stationed in St. Anthony, but it's not clear how much longer it will be there.

The Harp is used for search and rescue along the province's shores but works primarily along the Labrador coast, in areas such as the Strait of Belle Isle and east of St. Anthony.

Merv Wiseman – a retired search and rescue co-ordinator who led the failed fight to keep the St. John's marine rescue centre open – said the Harp's future is unclear.

"The ship for the purpose of St. Anthony and that area -- for Newfoundland -- in fact -- will be decommissioned. Whether or not the ship is going to be used in another region, I just simply don't know at this stage," he said.

The seven-member crew is represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Regional vice-president Wayne Fagan said it's not clear if the workers will be laid off once the vessel is taken of service, or if they'll be moved into other positions.

Fagan said he hopes to learn more Tuesday during an internal Coast Guard meeting.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: cbc

Former Australian PM critical of Canada’s position on cluster bombs

OTTAWA — In a rare public attack, a former Australian prime minister has lashed out at Canada for what he says is a lack of commitment to an international treaty to ban deadly cluster munitions.

Long-serving Australian PM Malcolm Fraser, in a statement released to the Citizen, accuses the Conservative government of departing from Canada’s traditional international leadership.

“Canada used to be in the forefront internationally in leading the world in good directions,” he said. “That tradition lasted over many decades after the last war.

“It is a pity the current Canadian Government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.”

Provinces join forces to keep EU free-trade deal from upping drug costs

The provincial premiers have undertaken a letter-writing campaign to demand compensation from the federal government for any increase in drug costs that might results from a free-trade agreement with Europe.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she and other premiers have each written to Ottawa urging federal negotiators not to agree to anything that would drive up the cost of pharmaceuticals.

Among the European Union's demands is an extension of brand-name patents for up to five years to compensate companies for time tied up in bureaucratic approvals.

Proposed time limit on reviews could fail to guarantee project approvals within two years

OTTAWA — The Harper government's proposed time limit on environmental reviews of industrial projects would fail to guarantee project approvals within two years if regulators are waiting for companies to submit information, says the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

"The government's proposed two-year timeline for reviews applies only to government time," wrote the commission's president Michael Binder — who also indicated that he supported the two-year time limit and believed the commission could manage it — in a weekend statement sent to Postmedia News.

By "government time," he was referring to time spent by a panel to review an industry project. But this would not include time spent waiting for a company to provide requested information.

Feds suggest U.S. EPA could replace Canadian pollution team

OTTAWA — The federal government has suggested it could replace a team of smokestack pollution specialists by turning to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appearing to contradict its own description of the scientists and their work on Environment Canada's website.

The apparent contradiction comes as hundreds of charities and organizations across Canada will stage what they are calling a "Black out, Speak out" event on Parliament Hill on Monday, denouncing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government for adopting policies they describe as anti-environment and anti-democratic.

The government has projected savings of about $718,000 by eliminating its internal research capabilities on industrial emissions measurements. It also estimated it would need to spend about $115,000 to obtain and analyze data from other external sources, such as the EPA.

Missteps in Quebec bring memories of China

Twenty-three years ago today the Chinese People’s Liberation Army massacred protesters at Tiananmen Square.

As a foreign correspondent, I stayed in the square until nearly 1 a.m. on June 4, then retreated to my balcony on the 14th floor of the Beijing Hotel.

That vantage point gave me a clear view of the north end of the square as the tanks rolled in. I was also within range — something I didn’t realize until a fellow journalist pointed out the bullet lodged in the concrete above our heads. Hours later, I witnessed the young man confronting the tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace.

Canadian government overhauling environmental rules to aid oil extraction

For years, Canada has been seen as an environmental leader on the world stage, pushing other nations to tackle acid rain, save the ozone layer and sign global treaties to protect biodiversity.

Those were the old days.

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is rewriting the nation’s environmental laws to speed the extraction and export of oil, minerals and other materials to a global market clamoring for Canada’s natural resources.

“The government is saying, politically, we want to hitch our wagon to an economic development strategy in which natural resource extraction plays a very large part,” said Brian Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a public policy think tank in Ottawa.

Federal Fisheries Act amendments could spell disaster

Fish species do not simply live in isolation from other fish species. That is why the amendments in the federal Fisheries Act in the 452-page budget implementation bill should themselves be amended

If these changes are enacted, fish useful in very specific ways to human beings will have a privileged status. In the bill, there recur phrases such as “the contribution of the relevant fish to the ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries” and “serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries, or to fish that support such a fishery.” When, for example, the fisheries minister considers a new regulation, he will be required to think about whether it will benefit those categories of fish.

Good job Flaherty got it right on EI

In talking about the modest proposed changes to Employment Insurance, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was insensitive and just totally mean to note “there are no bad jobs.”

Knowing it to be true is one thing, but to actually say it?

We should also remember that Jim Flaherty has an Ivy League education and has been very successful, so therefore whatever he says on the matter is wrong.

What he should have said is, there are no bad jobs but there are all kinds of people who think a job in the service industry or doing manual labour is beneath their dignity.
For instance, Peggy Nash, the NDP finance critic said, “If you are a computer software developer, will you be working at Tim Hortons?

“If you are an unemployed teacher or nurse, will you be working in the agricultural sector picking fruit?”

Peggy Nash should think twice about looking down her nose at people who work at Tim’s. It’s also obvious she has not met some of the computer software developers I know.

If she had, she would know that working at Tim’s could only help the development of some of those especially awkward developers.

Meanwhile, picking fruit might be the best education money can’t buy for a teacher charged with helping to form young minds.

Who better to know the value of staying in school?

In fact, you could argue the best possible professional development for many of us would be a week of picking apples.

I doubt the rumours are true that some doctors have a God complex, but if by a miracle a doctor did think especially highly of him or herself, then emptying bedpans might cure them of their delusion.

Working as a member of Parliament is an interesting and sometimes important job, but I can say without reservation there are days in the House of Commons when MPs would do more good for the country if they were working at Tim Hortons.

That would be true public service.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau called Flaherty’s comments insulting.

We certainly don’t want to insult Garneau or any other astronauts for that matter, especially with the sharp drop in demand for astronauts in the current job market.

That would be blaming the victim. But Mr. Garneau is missing the point.

Obviously some jobs are unpleasant, unfulfilling or boring, though we could say that about most jobs at some point.

The idea behind the EI changes is to encourage people to acquire skills so they no longer need to work in positions that don’t utilize all their abilities or keep them challenged.

The problem with EI is, in many instances, it encourages the status quo.

It’s an incentive for the chronically unemployed to stay in their comfort zone instead of pursuing training or new opportunities.

After all, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say picking fruit is a “bad job” and then criticize the government for trying to encourage people to move away from a lifetime of picking fruit for three months a year and collecting EI for the other nine.

Original Article
Source: lf press
Author: Monte Solberg

Illogical leaps of logic on the oil sands and economic growth

Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is clearly a man who chooses to enrage rather than engage. In advance of his visit to Alberta’s oil sands last week, he declared that “their model for development is Nigeria.” That he had never been to either Nigeria or to the oils ands was clearly no impediment to that astonishing pronouncement.

Nevertheless, his Alberta hosts did their best to show him the great strides industry has made in reducing the environmental impact of oil-extraction operations, as well as the restored mine sites where wood bison and other wildlife now roam.

Mr. Mulcair would have learned that the entire disturbed area of the oil sands is 100 square kilometres smaller than the footprint of the City of Toronto and comprises just one-10th of 1 per cent of the Alberta northern boreal forest. He would also have learned that the oil sands produce only 5 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Redford and Harper: Who is the messenger for whom?

When NDP Leader Tom Mulcair dismissed Alberta Premier Alison Redford as one of Stephen Harper’s “messengers,” he may have got it backwards.  Increasingly, it is Harper who is likely to be a messenger for Redford.

Her game is good. Remember Wayne Gretzky’s famous line about skating to where the puck is going to be, rather than where it was? Well, Redford is showing an impressive ability to speak to where the public is going to be, rather than where it was.

At the western premiers conference last week, she looked poised to redefine Canadians’ political discourse on three critical subjects: economic development, federalism and the policy process. Let’s take these in order.

Tories redraw defence spending plans amid frustration over procurement

OTTAWA - The Harper government is redrafting its extensive, multi-billion shopping list of equipment for the Canadian military in an exercise many observers believe will set more sober expectations in a time of austerity.

The revision to the Canada First Defence Strategy is slated to be complete and ready for public consumption by fall, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press.

Although Defence Minister Peter MacKay describes the hallmark plan as a "living document," the reset comes at a time when the government has been hammered politically over the F-35 stealth fighter, an issue that tarnished the fiscally responsible image that the Conservatives try to project.

Getting in on the Ground Floor

The press reports are negative: The Great Indian Growth Story (or GIGS, as some call it) has hit a bump in the road. India’s economy, which was growing by eight per cent annually before the global financial crisis, is now down to 6.5-per-cent growth amid rising inflation, loud corruption scandals, mixed messages on welcoming foreign investment, and very public hand-wringing over the capacity of the state to keep up with its part in the implicit bargain of growth – to include everyone. But here’s the rub: India is still growing, despite all of this, largely off the back of domestic consumption and ever-rising middle-class aspiration.

India has the youngest population of any major global economy, with 50 per cent of its citizens under the age of 25. In fact, India will see 231 million new workers enter its economy between now and 2030, compared with Brazil and China, which will see an additional 18 million and 10 million, respectively. The need to deploy and employ this labour surge is enough to keep governments awake at night.

Canada a country of city states on regulatory enforcement, says Livesey

The feds tout Canada’s banking system to the international community, the World Economic Forum says that Canada has one of the soundest banking systems in the world, and Forbes Magazine ranks Canada the best country in the world to do business. Canada has emerged from the 2008 financial crisis relatively unscathed, and the prevailing wisdom is that Canada’s economy is performing well thanks to our banks.

Investigative journalist Bruce Livesey says otherwise in his new book, Thieves of Bay Street: How Banks, Brokerages and the Wealthy Steal Billions from Canadians ($32, Random House).

He details how Canada’s capital markets operate as a Wild West for the trading of exotic financial products whose risks are hidden from investors by the brokers who peddle them.

Is Cabinet all that it’s cracked up to be?

TORONTO—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first ministry with a majority government was sworn-in a little more than one year ago on May 18, 2011.

The number of ministers, 39, is significant since it equals both Brian Mulroney’s and Paul Martin’s Cabinets as the largest in Canadian history. It will be of anecdotal interest if this Prime Minister, or perhaps the next one, names a Ministry that begins in size with the number four.

In addition to ministers, if you include Parliamentary secretaries (28) and House of Commons committee chairs (23), 90 Conservative MPs—or more than 50 per cent—have additional responsibilities which come with additional salaries.

PBO says Parliament’s request for details on feds’ spending cuts has ‘constitutional significance’

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is calling the government’s bluff in his office’s quest to get the details from the government of its billions of dollars in federal cuts, saying the request has “constitutional significance” for Parliament.

“By voting on the Budget Implementation Bill, Parliamentarians are exercising their constitutional role of authorizing the raising and spending of public finances. Without knowing the impact of the measures that are contained in that instrument, it is impossible for them to exercise this power constituent with their constitutional responsibilities. The information must be provided as part of the democratic process of Parliamentary governance,” said Mr. Page in an email interview with The Hill Times from Berlin, Germany, where he is attending the 17th International Conference of Social Security and Actuaries and Statisticians, held by the International Social Security Association.

Two other fighter jets DND evaluated remain a mystery

The identity of two fighter jets the Department of National Defence says it evaluated but overruled in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35 as the aircraft to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 Hornet fighter fleet remain a mystery.

But the aerospace firm that sold Canada the CF-18 fighters in 1980, and which has since awarded $5-billion worth of production and sustainment contracts in the country that were part of the deal, has informed The Hill Times National Defence did not even complete a high-level analysis of its fighter-jet contender for the same contract.

NDP’s silence on Quebec protests could cost supporters, says Cameron

The NDP’s silence on the student protests in Quebec could cause them to lose support in the province that swept them into official opposition, say some political observers.

“The NDP position traditionally has been to do the right thing and not worry that much about what the political fallout is, and in this case, they’re now close to power, government-in-waiting sort of thing, maybe they’ve become more cautious,” Duncan Cameron, a 50-year observer of federal politics and founder and contributor to, told The Hill Times. “There will be a lot of their supporters who will be disappointed they’re not out there.”

Federal political parties are largely ducking their heads on the now more than 100-day old protests which saw hundreds of thousands of students taking to the streets to protest the Quebec government’s tuition hike. The federal NDP hold 58 of the province’s 75 ridings.

Grits, Green to table 200 amendments on feds’ omnibus budget bill, expect 60 hours of House roll call votes

Calling the federal government’s massive omnibus Budget Implementation Bill  “an abuse of power,” the Liberals and Green Party have joined forces and plan to table more than 200  amendments when the bill is returned from the Finance Committee to the Commons Chamber floor at report stage, possibly as early as this week, setting off between 50 to 60 consecutive hours of roll call House voting in which MPs must stay in their seats around the clock or risk losing votes.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) will be moving the majority of those amendments relating to environmental provisions found in Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Bill. As she is the only Green MP in the House and her party is not recognized as an official party, Ms. May cannot sit on committees, but is allowed to introduce substantive amendments when bills return to the House at report stage.

Conservative MP stuck in ‘grey zone’ until Supreme Court rules

Rookie Conservative Ted Opitz’ status as an MP is stuck in a “grey zone” until the Supreme Court hears his appeal to overturn an Ontario Superior Court decision that recently deemed the 2011 election results in Etobicoke Centre, Ont., void, says the former Liberal MP who was defeated in the riding by 26 votes and who spent more than $200,000 of his own money to legally challenge the election results

“In terms of House of Commons and committee votes, it’s perturbing that someone would continue voting not knowing whether they’re the legitimate expression of the will of the people,” said Borys Wrzesnewskyj in an interview with The Hill Times.

Mr. Wrzesnewskyj said Mr. Opitz should do the “honourable” thing and step aside in the interim.

Website blackout in free speech fight against budget bill

Organizers of a one-day website blackout say the Harper government is using its majority to force through environmental changes it never campaigned on, silencing its critics while it does the bidding of the oil industry.

More than 500 websites went dark on Monday, as a coalition of environmental groups, corporations, church groups and other political commentators joined forces for an "unprecedented" protest of what they see as the government's effort to "silence" environmental voices using measures found in the omnibus budget implementation legislation.

Conservatives to revise $490B defence spending plan

The Harper government is redrafting its extensive, multi-billion shopping list of equipment for the Canadian military in an exercise many observers believe will set more sober expectations in a time of austerity.

The revision to the Canada First Defence Strategy is slated to be complete and ready for public consumption by fall, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press.

Although Defence Minister Peter MacKay describes the hallmark plan as a "living document," the reset comes at a time when the government has been hammered politically over the F-35 stealth fighter, an issue that tarnished the fiscally responsible image that the Conservatives try to project.

Quebec student protesters should look to Chile for a little perspective

The similarities between protesting students in Quebec and Chile are striking, but not nearly so much as the differences.

Some of the student leaders in Quebec and Chile are glamorous and eloquent, and some of them seek radical social change beyond the changes to university tuition fees they’re after. Also, in Quebec and Chile, protesters like to bang pots and pans. (Chileans thought of it earlier.) And the large demonstrations in both places have brought civic life to a halt.

But there’s good reason for the Chilean students to make noise. In Quebec, there isn’t.

Mulcair, Trudeau, another NEP: the threat to Canadian unity

In 1980, a newly elected prime minister from Quebec, Pierre Trudeau, decided to mobilize the resource wealth of Western Canada in order to subsidize Eastern Canada. The result was the national energy program (NEP 1), which fixed domestic prices for oil and gas below world levels, levied an export tax to boost federal revenues and confiscated producing assets to give to Petro-Canada.

In 2012, a would-be prime minister from Quebec, Thomas Mulcair, has resurrected the idea of diverting Western Canadian income, but with an environmental gloss. According to statements by Mr. Mulcair and other leading members of the New Democratic Party, there should be a carbon tax to raise federal revenue, environmental controls to limit or even terminate oil sands production, and requirements to refine hydrocarbons in Canada rather than in other countries, even if it's uneconomic. Call it NEP 2.

Canadian natural gas production takes steep dive

Chart 1: Survival of the fittest

Canada’s natural gas production is falling dramatically, domestic prices are so low that companies can’t cover their cash costs, and exploration is largely on hold.

Average daily output this year is likely to slide to the lowest level since 1993, says Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist at ARC Financial Corp. If you’re keeping score, that’s 23 per cent lower than in the peak year of 2002.

After a choppy 2011, gas production began a steep decline at the beginning of the year, Mr. Tertzakian writes in a research report. Every month, about 190 million cubic feet per day less of the fuel is being produced.

Canada must adjust to the Asian century

Over the coming decades, Asia will become the global centre of aspiration, innovation and technology. Canada’s long-term prosperity and security will increasingly depend on its ability to understand and seize economic opportunities in the region – particularly in the twin giants of China and India – as well as in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

What’s more, Asia’s influence is spreading globally. New, non-Western webs of power are emerging, exemplified by the growing Brazil-China relationship, meaning that Canada’s success in other regional markets will depend on how much we matter in Asia.

Norman Finkelstein on the Role of BDS & Why Obama Doesn’t Believe His Own Words on Israel-Palestine

Norman Finkelstein, author of the new book, "Knowing Too much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End," argues that President Obama’s hawkish support for Israel is belied by his liberal background as a law professor and community organizer. Responding to Obama’s speech this year before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Finkelstein says, "President Obama clearly doesn’t believe a word he’s saying [on Israel-Palestine]. And that’s probably the most troubling or the most disconcerting thing about listening to him. ... He says we have Israel’s back. Well, what he actually means is, rich American Jews have me, meaning Obama, in their pocket, and I have my hands in their pocket." Known as one of Israel’s most prominent critics, Finkelstein says the goal of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign and the broader movement for Middle East peace should be to mobilize public opinion on what most already support: a two-state solution rooted in international law. "Politics is not about personal opinions," Finkelsten says. "It’s about trying to reach a public and getting them to act on their own sense of right and wrong."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Norman Finkelstein: Waning Jewish American Support for Israel Boosts Chances for Middle East Peace

Well over a year into the Arab Spring, the author and scholar Norman Finkelstein argues that there is a new, albeit quieter, awakening happening here in the United States that could provide a major boost to the winds of change in the Middle East. In his new book, "Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End," Finkelstein contends that American Jewish support for the Israeli government is undergoing a major shift. After decades of staunch backing for Israel that began with the 1967 war through the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, to the repression of two Palestinian intifadas, Finkelstein says that a new generation of American Jews are no longer adopting reflexive support for the state that speaks in their name. With this shift in American Jewish opinion, Finkelstein sees a new opportunity for achieving a just Middle East peace.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Banned in China on Tiananmen anniversary: 6, 4, 89 and ‘today’

Memory in China is not your own. The official version is the only one allowed in public discussion of events like the Tiananmen Square massacre that occurred 23 years ago today.

Each year, the Communist Party’s censors go to remarkable lengths to prevent Chinese citizens from accessing, or spreading, their memories of what happened on June 4, 1989, when an unknown number of people were killed during a military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the centre of Beijing. Since Sunday night, even simple numbers like 6 (the month of June), 4 (the date) and 89 have been banned search terms on Chinese social-networking sites.

Tories plan to revamp defence spending

The Harper government is redrafting its extensive, multi-billion shopping list of equipment for the Canadian military in an exercise many observers believe will set more sober expectations in a time of austerity.

The revision to the Canada First Defence Strategy is slated to be complete and ready for public consumption by fall, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press.

Although Defence Minister Peter MacKay describes the hallmark plan as a “living document,” the reset comes at a time when the government has been hammered politically over the F-35 stealth fighter, an issue that tarnished the fiscally responsible image that the Conservatives try to project.

Mayor Rob Ford’s sandbox bully tactics helped smash his (bad) transit dream

Like Mayor Rob Ford, I do love a subway. Beyond that we diverge. We’re chalk and cheese, he and I, we’re gravel and clouds, we’re Kim Jong-un and Michael Haneke vs. a small game hen, we’re various other things that don’t match, if I am making myself clear.

I would willingly pay more taxes to enable a subway to every intersection in Toronto, would finance a network that carried us to empty farmer’s fields for picnics. But I’m like that. Lazy. I see subways as underground couches, would pay to build more of them in order not to have to stand up.

In fact, on last week’s wet windy Friday, distressed by everything, I rode the subway for an hour — the way you take crying babies for a drive at 4 a.m. — and found comfort in the vibrating silence, the etiquette, the feeling that I was seated and still getting somewhere.

Cuba-trained doctors making difference around the world

SANTA CLARA, CUBA—Every morning, on the edge of town, you can witness a spectacular migration. Hundreds of students in white lab coats pour from a squat university building on to the street, around the line of horse-drawn wagons, and into nearby hospitals.

You can play a game, watching from your perch beneath a flowering flamboyant tree: where do you think the guy with dreadlocks is from? What about the girl with a hijab? Some have telltale signs — an Argentinean or Angolan flag stitched over their medical uniforms.

They are international students at the world’s largest medical school, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina — ELAM.

Queen Elizabeth’s pomp masks a headache for Stephen Harper

OTTAWA—It appears that everyone loves a Jubilee celebration, but Stephen Harper can’t be faulted if he has other things on his mind as he toasts her majesty this week.

As he departed for London Sunday, he was dealing with U.S. jobs numbers released Friday that were still reverberating through the Langevin Block.

A mere 69,000 jobs were created south of the border in May, far fewer than any analyst had predicted, spurring President Barack Obama to concede “we’ve got a lot of work to do.’’

On the continent, a potential Spanish meltdown is overshadowing the Jubilee celebrations.

Canada overreacted to news the UN made Robert Mugabe its tourism ambassador

For a moment at least, it was a United Nations-basher’s dream come true. The UN had once again hugely discredited itself, this time by appointing Zimbabwe’s pariah President Robert Mugabe to be its tourism ambassador, of all things.

Welcome to Zimbabwe. By the way, the currency is worthless, there’s no food and there may not be enough gas to get you to Victoria Falls and back. Enjoy your stay.

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s UN-critical caucus, this was sweet vindication. Mugabe is a poster boy for corrupt, brutal misrule. He has run Zimbabwe into the ground, turning Africa’s breadbasket into a wasteland. Millions are jobless, hungry and ill. And he’s under a travel ban in the United States and Europe. How can the UN have been so perverse as to make him the face of global tourism? It seemed to make the Tories’ case that the UN has lost its way.

Liberals upset with Tories over weekend tactics in disputed riding

The Liberals are expected to complain in the House of Commons Monday that voters in the suburban Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre received calls accusing Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj of plotting to "overthrow" the vote there, and saying voters will have their votes "taken away" by a court decision.

Last month, Wrzesnewskyj, who lost the 2011 federal election to Conservative Ted Opitz by 26 votes, won a court order overturning the result in the riding because an Ontario Superior Court judge found at least 79 votes were suspect.

The calls, which started on Friday and continued through the weekend, started with the person saying they were calling for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appear to have been voter-identification calls, designed to create a list of supporters for a byelection.
Last week, Opitz's lawyers filed a notice to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, challenging the ruling. If the court rejects the appeal, Optiz will lose his seat in the House of Commons and Harper will have six months to announce a byelection in the riding.

A poll taken on the evening of the court decision found Wrzesnewskyj enjoyed a 10-point lead over Opitz.

Conservative Party spokesman Fred DeLorey confirmed Sunday the party is contacting voters.

"We are doing calls," he said. "Though we are hopeful with the Supreme Court reviewing the case, as a political party we still must do our part to prepare for all possible outcomes."

DeLorey would not confirm that voters were told that their votes were being "overthrown" or "taken away."

The Liberals are also contacting supporters in the riding. On Friday, Wrzesnewskyj sent an email to voters asking for them to donate.

"We need to be ready for the worst Conservatives have to offer in Etobicoke Centre: improper phone calls, attack ads, and other voter-suppression tactics imported from the United States," the email said, and promised his campaign office would be a "Democratic Action Centre on the front lines of making sure the people of Etobicoke Centre get a free and fair election."

The email contained a link, asking for a donation of $5.

The judge who ordered the election result thrown out wrote that there was no suggestion of wrongdoing or voter fraud in the result, but Wrzesnewskyj has complained Conservatives did break the rules on election day, and has called for Elections Canada to investigate.

Conservatives point to the judge's ruling as evidence there was no mischief, and complain the democratic will of the voters is being contested.

Wrzesnewskyj said Sunday the Conservatives are spreading "disinformation" about the legal ruling.

"The court is actually there to protect the rights and interests of the electorate," he said. "We don't know who the winner was. And that's why the court called for a byelection."

Wrzesnewskyj said he hopes MPs ask the Conservatives to explain what they're doing in the House.

In November, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler complained his privileges as an MP were breached when Conservative callers in his riding suggested to voters Cotler might resign and open up the seat for a byelection.

Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled the calls did not constitute a breach of his parliamentary privilege, but referred to them as "reprehensible."

After Cotler complained, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association initiated an investigation into the calls and the company that carried them out for the Conservatives, Campaign Research.

Original Article
Author:  Stephen Maher