Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Glenn Gruenhagen, Minnesota Rep: Homosexuality Is An 'Unhealthy Sexual Addiction'

A Minnesota Republican lawmaker said Wednesday that homosexuality is an addiction, even as other lawmakers push a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in that state.

"It's an unhealthy sexual addiction," said state Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) at a press conference, according to the Star Tribune.

In The Name Of The Law: What The Police Commission Isn't Doing About Misconduct

On a Wednesday just before Christmas, Chief Louis Kealoha addressed the Honolulu Police Commission.

The police commission meets twice a month, its primary role to watch over the police department, keep track of the police chief and hear citizen complaints.

But on Dec. 5, the Honolulu chief didn’t update the commission in open session on conduct in his department, pending investigations or any disciplinary actions taken against officers.

Rajesh De, NSA General Counsel, Defends Warrantless Wiretapping Program

WASHINGTON -- One day after the Supreme Court blocked a lawsuit against warrantless wiretapping, the National Security Agency's top lawyer offered a rare public defense of the U.S. government's secret spying program. General Counsel Rajesh De's speech at the Georgetown University Law Center on Wednesday was short on specifics, but long on claims that the agency is protecting Americans' privacy.

Mido Macia Dragged By South African Police Behind Car Before He Was Found Dead

JOHANNESBURG — They bound his hands to the rear of a van, and then sped off, dragging the slender taxi driver along the pavement as a crowd of onlookers shouted in dismay. The man was later found dead.

A gut-wrenching video of the scene is all the more disturbing because the men who abused the Mozambican immigrant were uniformed South African police officers and the van was a marked police vehicle.

After 40 Years in Solitary, Angola 3 Prisoner Albert Woodfox Ordered Freed for 3rd Time in Louisiana

A federal judge has once again ordered the state of Louisiana to release Albert Woodfox, a former Black Panther who has spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox and Herman Wallace, another prisoner of the "Angola 3," were convicted of murdering a guard at Angola Prison. The Angola 3 and their supporters say they were framed for their political activism. On Tuesday, the same federal judge that ordered Woodfox’s release in 2008 again ruled Woodfox should be set free on the basis of racial discrimination in his retrial. It was the third time Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned, but prosecutors successfully reversed the two previous victories. The state is expected to appeal once again to keep Woodfox behind bars. We’re joined by two guests: Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3, who was freed in 2001 after three decades behind bars; and Mwalimu Johnson, a longtime member of the Angola 3 support team.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

You Wearing Your Hoodie Today?

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman one year ago today. It wasn’t the first time a young black man was killed despite being unarmed and posing no threat to his killer. At first, there was little public outcry, and it seemed as if Trayvon’s death would be swept under the rug. But within three weeks, #Trayvon was trending on Twitter, and less than a month after the shooting, the local police chief was forced to step down. It was far from the first and it certainly wasn’t the last time a young black man was killed under those circumstances. But those deaths don’t trend on social media, and police departments are running business as usual. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Trayvon and about the avoidable deaths of so many others. And that’s troubling.

Israel's Choice

Where the leaders of the State of Israel stand now, destabilized as they are by their recent failures, it becomes urgent for those who feel a lasting friendship for the inhabitants of the country to question its destiny. It should be obvious that pursuing a policy of military strength, rampant colonization and army occupation of territories conquered by warfare, and of brutal repression of Palestinian attempts to assume their identity, only blackens the image of a country that needs to find its fair place in the Middle East.

Stephane Hessel: There Is Always an Alternative to Injustice

It is a great honor to be here tonight with Stéphane Hessel, a voice of humanity and conscience in a time when such values are so dangerously imperiled. A distinguished French diplomat, leader of the resistance, survivor of Buchenwald and one of the drafters of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In February, The Nation was the first to publish in the United States his remarkable manifesto, “Indignez-vous!“—“time for outrage.” (In fact, we first published Stéphane in 2007—a dispatch he had written after visiting Gaza.)

How Private Prisons Game the Immigration System

Thirty years ago in January, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), now the biggest operator of private prisons in the world, opened its first prison, a federal immigrant detention center in Houston, Texas. Three Decades of Service to America, a page on the company’s website, features a video interview with the company’s founders looking back on that first contract. “We saw this big ol’ sign, ‘Olympic Motel,’ made an offer to lease the motel for four months,” recalls Don Hutto, who chuckles with fellow co-founder Tom Beasley, the former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, as they remember hastily converting the building and staffing it with family members. The night of Super Bowl Sunday, “we got our first day’s pay for eighty-seven undocumented aliens,” says Hutto, who even fingerprinted the inmates himself.

Top 4 Reasons the US Still Doesn't Have a Single Offshore Wind Turbine

Despite massive growth of the offshore wind industry in Europe, a blossoming array of land-based wind turbines stateside, and plenty of wind to spare, the United States has yet to sink even one turbine in the ocean. Not exactly the kind of leadership on renewables President Obama called for in his recent State of the Union address.

Light is just beginning to flicker at the end of the tunnel: On Tuesday, outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a gathering of offshore industry leaders he was optimistic the long-embattled Cape Wind project would break ground before year's end. And in early January industry advocates managed to convince Congress to extend a critical tax incentive for another year.

Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over

Pop champagne: Racism is over.

"There is an old disease, and that disease is cured," Bert Rein, the attorney leading the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act—the landmark law intended to ensure all Americans can vote—told to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. "That problem is solved."

Rein represents Shelby County, Alabama, one of the jurisdictions covered by a key section of the Voting Rights Act called Section 5. Under Section 5, parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for permission—or "preclearance," in legal terms—from the Justice Department before making any changes to their voting rules. But the South, where most of the covered jurisdictions are, has changed, Rein said, and the law, although once justified, is now unfair and unconstitutional. The five conservative justices on the Supreme Court seemed to agree. "The Marshall Plan was very good too," argued Justice Anthony Kennedy, "but times change."

Canadian Economy Running Out Of Sources Of Growth

Help wanted: The Canadian economy seeks a new driver of economic growth.

The position must be filled immediately to replace sectors – housing, consumer spending and government stimulus – that led the country out of recession but which are exhausted after three years of pumping out a recovery.

Albert Woodfox's inhumane imprisonment in Angola continues

Albert Woodfox has been in solitary confinement for 40 years, most of that time locked up in the notorious maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary known as "Angola." This week, after his lawyers spent six years arguing that racial bias tainted the grand-jury selection in Woodfox's prosecution, federal Judge James Brady, presiding in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, agreed. "Accordingly, Woodfox's habeas relief is GRANTED," ordered Brady, compelling the state of Louisiana to release Woodfox. This is the third time his conviction has been overturned. Nevertheless, Woodfox remains imprisoned. Those close to the case expect the state of Louisiana, under the direction of Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell, to appeal again, as the state has successfully done in the past, seeking to keep Woodfox in solitary confinement, in conditions that Amnesty International says "can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading."

Canada's banking regulations under attack in EU trade deal

According to a short news piece by Canadian Press, "Canada is struggling to maintain the traditional standards it imposes to protect financial services in Canada from foreign control and financial instability." CP obtained a February 1 version of the services chapter of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which was circulated to EU member states, showing that "Canada's vaunted banking system is on the negotiating table."

A separate article in the Wall Street Journal elaborates on the news, saying "Canadian negotiators are pushing for the financial sector to be broadly exempted from commitments in a trade pact they are hammering out with the European Union," and that this is "one of the key sticking points in the talks, according to people familiar with the matter." How to handle financial regulations is "among half a dozen outstanding issues that negotiators on both sides are grappling with in Brussels this week," says WSJ.

Looking back in perplexity: Where did Alberta's money go again?

There aren't many surprises in Alberta -- at least if you've been paying attention.

However, apparently paying attention is something you can't expect either the government or the media to do.

Consider the news in the Edmonton Journal earlier this week that "Experts have warned of 'Bitumen Bubble' for years."

Well, yeah…

Conservative Sen. Duffy found one-page Senator’s living expenses form unclear, had to file it annually

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Senate residency form that Conservative Senator Mike Duffy originally claimed was confusing and led to what he said was a “mistake” in claiming a Prince Edward Island summer cottage as his primary residence and allowing him to claim an estimated $30,000 since September 2010 as secondary residence expenses in Ottawa, must be filed every year, according to the detailed Senate rules about housing and travel expenses.

A copy of the rules that the Senate provided The Hill Timesalso calls for any Senator who claims secondary residence expenses in the National Capital Region must include “required documentation” while filing the annual residence declaration. But the rules are unclear whether the information must include documented evidence about the primary residence.

Fascism in the Church: Ex-Priest on "The Pope’s War," Clergy Abuse and Quelling Liberation Theology

As Pope Benedict XVI steps down today, we turn to a former Catholic priest who was silenced and expelled by the pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in the 1980s. Matthew Fox chronicles his story in the book "The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved." Pope Benedict’s tenure was marked by several scandals, most notably his handling of the widening sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, including allegations that he ignored at least one case of abuse while serving as a cardinal. Documents show that in 1985 he delayed efforts to defrock a priest convicted of molesting children. "I’ll take the pope at his word here when he says he’s tired. I would be tired, too, if I left as much devastation in my wake as he has," Fox says. "I think that the Catholic Church as we know it, the structure of the Vatican, is passé. We’re moving beyond it. And it’s become a viper’s nest. It’s really sick, what’s going on, obviously — the cover-up of the pedophile priests."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Boeing touts fighter jet to rival F-35 — at half the price

In a dogfight of defence contractors, the hunter can quickly become the hunted. It's happening now to the F-35.

The world's largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, is trying to convince wavering U.S. allies — including Canada — to stick with its high-tech, high-priced and unproven F-35 stealth fighter. But the F-35 is way behind schedule, way over budget and, now, it's grounded by a mysterious crack in a turbine fan.

Military supply ships $1.5B over budget, watchdog says

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has calculated the cost of replacing the military's two Protecteur-class supply ships and come up with a figure 60 per cent higher than what the Harper government had budgeted for the purchase.

In a report released Thursday, the total cost for the supply ship portion of the goverment's much-heralded shipbuilding strategy is calculated according to a cost risk range of between $2.7 billion and $6.3 billion.

Star investigation: Mt. Sinai’s top doctor quits amid ORNGE scandal

Mount Sinai’s top doctor has quit amid revelations his Toronto hospital paid ORNGE founder Chris Mazza $256,000 in public money — with no proof Mazza did some of the work for which he was paid.

“We regret this unfortunate situation,” Mount Sinai president Joseph Mapa said in a statement to the Star on Wednesday. He sent an internal note to hospital colleagues saying it was with a “heavy heart” he accepted Dr. Tom Stewart’s resignation as physician-in-chief and director of the medical/surgical intensive care unit.

Palestinians Dispute Israel’s Findings on a Prisoner’s Death

JERUSALEM — The Israeli Health Ministry said Sunday night that preliminary autopsy findings could not determine the cause of death of a 30-year-old Palestinian prisoner, which Israeli officials had at first attributed to a heart attack. But Palestinian officials said the lack of heart damage coupled with bruising on the man’s chest, back and neck suggested that he was tortured during interrogation.

 “The signs that appeared during the autopsy show clearly that he was subjected to severe torture that led immediately to his death,” Issa Qaraka, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, said at an evening news conference in Ramallah, after being briefed by a Palestinian pathologist who attended the autopsy of the prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, who died Saturday.

Citizen's Initiative exciting counter-force to water privatization in Europe

Hello from snowy Vienna. We have had a wonderful day. Over 300 people and a lot of media attended this important conference today. People in Europe have been fighting water privatizations for over a decade and have started a process of reversal, leading to the remunicipalization of many water services, including some major cities, such as Paris.

But in a classic example of what Naomi Klein calls the shock doctrine, the European Commission and the European Central Bank are using the financial crisis to promote an “austerity” program that includes privatization of water services in a number of countries. Already, water prices have been dramatically raised in some cities, leading to water service cut offs and even evictions.

Thomas Mulcair: EI Crackdown Just A Conservative Political Game

OTTAWA - The federal government has been setting annual targets — with dollar totals — for investigators looking into improper Employment Insurance payments since 1993, say officials with the Human Resources Department.

And door-knocking by Service Canada officials, currently taking place at the homes of 1,200 EI recipients across the country, has been done regularly in the past.

Opposition claims that the Conservative government is on a "witch hunt" against the unemployed have dominated the House of Commons this week.

‘Robocalls’ staffer to oppose Sun News Network’s application

Michael Sona, a former Conservative staffer linked to the Guelph robocall by Sun News Network, has applied to appear before the CRTC to oppose the network’s request for must-carry status.

Sona submitted his application on Tuesday, complaining that Sun TV personality Brian Lilley named him in connection with the Guelph robocall without giving him the opportunity to comment, a breach of proper journalistic practices.

Stephen Harper’s not-so-permanent majority

Canadian conservatives are giddy with the notion that Canada is moving in their direction. A new book by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson argues that our country’s population has undergone a seismic shift toward the political right, a situation that will make Stephen Harper and his heirs “perpetually dominating.” The Big Shift inoculates itself against critique by asserting that anyone who doesn’t recognize this new national order is part of an out-of-touch clique they call “The Laurentian Elites.”

At the risk of seeming to fall into this category, I’d say that it’s actually the book’s authors who are missing the larger trend.

Crown corporation weighing in on NDP housing bill surprises critics

OTTAWA - A Crown corporation's decision to publicly comment on an NDP-backed bill is raising questions about whether the Conservative government is using the public service for partisan aims — again.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. claims on its website that the New Democrats' proposal for a national housing strategy will cost "$5.5 billion per year in rental subsidies alone."

Opposition leader calls for end to EI cuts

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair announced Wednesday he is beginning a cross-Canada rallying effort to protest against employment insurance cuts and the government's plan to send inspectors to the homes of some EI recipients.

Ratcheting up the rhetoric at a press conference held in the foyer of the House of Commons, Mulcair called the civil servants tasked to make house calls the "Harper Macoutes."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Name Calling

In the summer of 1988, in the University Town neighborhood of Peshawar, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden founded Al Qaeda, which means “the Base,” in Arabic. As a calling card for terror or revolution, the name lacked pizzazz. Bases are safe places, not threatening ones. We can infer from the historical record that bin Laden’s comrades either couldn’t come up with a better idea or didn’t want to annoy him by questioning his brainstorm.

A decade later, Al Qaeda announced itself as a global menace by bombing two American Embassies in Africa. The group’s ambitions escalated until the apex of September 11th. That day’s mass murder assured Al Qaeda’s notoriety, but the Bush Administration raised its profile further by embarking on a Global War on Terror, in which Al Qaeda figured centrally. For a time, bin Laden’s brand thrived.

Racial Wealth Gap Tripled Since Reagan Era As Whites Increase Large Lead Over Blacks: Study

The wealth gap between blacks and whites has ballooned since the middle of the Reagan administration, nearly tripling between 1984 and 2009, according to a new Brandeis University study.

The study, released Wednesday, found that the median white household held a net worth of $265,000 by 2009, eight times more than the median black household's net worth of just $28,500. That division will continue to haunt black Americans for years to come, according to Tatjana Meschede, a co-author of the study.

Why Are Conservatives Trying to Destroy the Voting Rights Act?

In 2006, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for another twenty-five years. The legislation passed 390–33 in the House and 98–0 in the Senate. Every top Republican supported the bill. “The Voting Rights Act must continue to exist,” said House Judiciary chair James Sensenbrenner, a conservative Republican, “and exist in its current form.” Civil rights leaders flanked George W. Bush at the signing ceremony.

9 Surprising Facts About Junk Food

Riffing on his new book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Industry Hooked Us, ace New York Times investigative reporter Michael Moss is suddenly everywhere—he's out with a blockbuster article in the Times Magazine and just appeared on Fresh Air.

I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, but I've skimmed it, and it looks excellent. Here are nine quick takeaways:

1. The Cheeto is a modern miracle. Made of corn, fat, and something called "cheese seasoning" (which itself is made of 11 ingredients, including canola oil and artificial color "yellow 6"), this ever-popular snack, which now comes in no fewer than 17 different flavors, may be the food industry's creation par excellence. Here's Moss:

"It Seems Like Yesterday That Trayvon Was Here"

A few hundred demonstrators chanted "Hoodies up! Hoodies up!" in New York City's Union Square earlier tonight to mark the exact minute that Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was shot and killed by Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman one year ago. Zimmerman was ultimately charged with second-degree murder in the case, which sparked a national debate over racial profiling.

More Than Half of Mass Shooters Used Rapid-Fire Weapons

The political fortunes of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 have looked dim from the start. But as Congress considers the new legislation put forth by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one thing is clear: If it were to pass, the bill would outlaw highly lethal firearms that dozens of mass shooters in the United States have used to unleash carnage.

More than half of the killers we studied in our investigation of 62 mass shootings over the last three decades possessed weapons that would be banned by Feinstein's bill, including various semiautomatic rifles, guns with military features, and handguns using magazines with more than 10 rounds. The damage these weapons can cause has been on grim display since last summer, from Aurora to Milwaukee to Minneapolis to Newtown, where attacks carried out with them left a total of 118 people injured and dead.

Union halts home visits to EI recipients

The union that represents Service Canada integrity workers – or the so-called ‘pogey police’ – says they shouldn’t be going door-to-door to check up on employment insurance recipients.

Federal employees have been making unannounced visits at the homes of EI recipients as part of an audit as the program undergoes changes, but the house calls are making for some uncomfortable moments.

Harper’s hierarchy of human rights

So Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have launched an Office of Religious Freedom.

One question: why not just celebrate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? It’s right there at the top of the charter’s Fundamental Freedoms section: “freedom of consicence and religion.” Were the Conservatives unaware? Had they read it? Or are they elevating “freedom of conscience and religion” above other fundamental human rights and freedoms — creating a hierarchy of human rights?

Senator says budget watchdog could be ordered to drop legal challenge

Undaunted, it seems, by the virtually unprecedented level of sceptical public scrutiny currently aimed at the Red Chamber, perennially independent Senator Anne Cools is calling on her colleagues to issue an unprecedented rebuke against Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page by ordering him to cease and desist his ongoing legal action against the federal government.

Alberta education minister's bluff called by apoplectic schoolteachers! Now what?

OK, Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s bizarre attempt to bluff the province’s 35,000 unionized schoolteachers into signing a contract has failed. Now what?

One week ago, Johnson mailed the president of the Alberta Teachers Association and the Chair of the Alberta School Boards Association a rambling letter setting out the government's latest bargaining demands in what's turned out to be a rocky round of negotiations with the province's teachers.

One year later: Vigils across the U.S. mark anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death

On Tuesday there were protests in a number of U.S. cities, marking one year since the killing of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year-old African-American, in Sanford, Florida.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network, which originally criticized the quick release of George Zimmerman after Martin's death last year, issued a call to protest on the one year anniversary, stating: "Trayvon's parents heroically stood up and called for justice for Trayvon, and in response people poured into the streets all across the country. This is the only reason Zimmerman was re-arrested and charged for his crime."

Wave of indignation returns to Spain: Hundreds of thousands protest austerity

Europe's 2013 protest season finally kicked off this week. On Saturday, three days after the umpteenth general strike paralyzed Greece, a "citizens' wave" of indignation washed over Spain with hundreds of thousands of protesters swarming onto the streets of Madrid and over 80 cities in yet another major popular outcry against the ongoing financial coup d’étât. In Madrid, clashes broke out and at least 40 were arrested after police sought to disperse protesters who had once more encircled Parliament.

This Is Huge': Sweeping Forest Bill Gathers Foes

A British Columbia government bill that would radically shift the management of public forests is drawing criticism from environmental groups, the head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and opposition politicians.

The bill, however, is in the middle of a legislative log jam and may not pass before the province's politicians leave the legislature to hit the campaign trail.

United by Loss, Israeli & Palestinian Dads Call for a Joint Nonviolent Intifada Against Occupation

As protests grow in the West Bank over the death of a Palestinian inside an Israeli prison, we speak to a pair of Israeli and Palestinian fathers who’ve responded to personal tragedies with activism for peace. Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan united after the killings of their daughters — Aramin’s at the hands of an Israeli officer and Elhanan’s in a Palestinian suicide bombing. Once dedicated fighters for their respective causes, they have since renounced violence and become leading voices for peace. Their stories are told in the new documentary film, "Within the Eye of the Storm," produced by Nisan Katz and Shelley Hermon. With talk of a third intifada potentially breaking out in the occupied Palestinian territories, Aramin and Elhanan join us to discuss their shared journey and why they believe both Israelis and Palestinians should join a nonviolent uprising against the Israeli occupation.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Can We Live again in 1964's Energy World?

"Everything has to get worse. We are behaving so badly."

Vaclav Smil, you should know, talks very fast in staccato bursts and doesn't own a cell phone.

The University of Manitoba professor, perhaps one of Canada's most precise energy analysts, also doesn't want to be the servant of a communication machine.

‘Systemic racism’ toward natives in justice system, Frank Iacobucci finds

Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci says he is not an alarmist by nature, but the lack of First Nations civic rights in the justice system has disturbed him to his core.

After 50 years of practising law, Iacobucci says his work surrounding the residential school settlement and probing a lack of aboriginal representation on juries are two issues that have perhaps meant the most to him as a Canadian.

"Makers: Women Who Make America": New Film Chronicles Past 50 Years of Feminist Movement

We look at a major new documentary that tells the story of how women have shaped the United States over the last 50 years through political and personal empowerment. It’s called "Makers: Women Who Make America," and it premieres tonight in a three-hour special on PBS. Narrated by Meryl Streep, the film explores the women’s movement from the publication of Betty Friedan’s "The Feminine Mystique" published 50 years ago this month in 1963 to the Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. "Makers" shares the story of legendary figures such as Gloria Steinem and Oprah Winfrey, to lesser-known pioneers such as Kathrine Switzer. In 1967, Switzer became the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon. Her run made headlines when a top race official tried to forcibly remove her from the race. She finished the race.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Senate crisis: Prime Minister Stephen Harper backs off his defence of Senator Pamela Wallin

OTTAWA—Canada’s Senate is facing an unprecedented crisis of confidence as a spending controversy deepens, the prime minister mutes his defence of one big spender and details of a Quebec senator’s alleged brutal assault spill into view.

On Tuesday, the images of Senator Dennis Patterson fleeing from a television cameraman best captured the crisis now gripping the upper chamber as Senate leaders struggle to contain the controversy around spending and residency.

Surplus wind power could cost Ontario ratepayers up to $200 million: IESO

Coping with surplus wind power will cost Ontario electricity ratepayers up to $200 million a year if market rules don’t change, says the power system operator.

Moreover, it says, if it can’t control the flow of wind and solar power onto the Ontario grid, then “reliable and economic operation of the power system is, at best, highly compromised and likely not feasible.”

Conservatives in power, but out of step

It is asserted, by some of the learned and the great, that Canada has become a more conservative country. The Conservative Party has been in office since 2005 after all, with minority and majority governments.

The party possesses an irreducible base of 30 to 35 per cent of the electorate that, during an election campaign, can be pushed into the 35 to 39 per cent range. It has certainly tried to change the way Canadians see their country, its present and its history.

Is Stephen Harper set to move against the CRTC?

Last year, as revealed by The Canadian Press, Prime Minister Stephen Harper lunched in New York with Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, and Rupert Murdoch, who owns it. Kory Teneycke, Mr. Harper's former spokesman, was also present at the unannounced event.

Mr. Teneycke later became the point man for Quebecor's Pierre Karl Péladeau in his effort to create a right-wing television network modelled along the lines of Fox News. The new network is a high priority for Mr. Harper, for whom controlling the message has always been - witness his government vetting program - of paramount importance.

Harper dodges questions over bonuses for government workers who meet EI fraud targets

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dodged questions in the House of Commons Tuesday over whether the government is handing out bonuses to managers who catch Canadians committing employment insurance fraud.

The Harper government is under opposition fire amid a crackdown on EI claimants that includes sending government inspectors to people’s homes and establishing annual dollar quotas for EI investigators — two practices that only came to light after media investigations.

‘Kevin Page might well be the best friend the Canadian taxpayer has’

The parliamentary budget officers of the OECD are meeting in Ottawa this week. NDP MP Pat Martin, as chair of the government operations committee, gave a keynote address to the gathering last night. Here is the prepared text of that speech.


    Great to be here with you today.

    Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant, and Freedom of information is the oxygen democracy breathes. These are two of my favorite cliché’s and they find their way into a lot of my speeches so I might as well get them out of the way right off the top.

To Beat Austerity, Obama Must Campaign for Democracy

President Obama, who famously used his 2010 State of the Union address to rip activist Supreme Court Justices for removing longstanding barriers to corporate control of the political discourse, did not mention the Court’s wrongheaded Citizens United decision in his 2012 State of the Union address.

That was concerning.

Not just because the president’s support is needed to expand the campaign to amend the Constitution so that it is clear free speech rights are afforded citizens, not corporations. But because this is a moment when it is essential to explain how Wall Street is using its “money power” to thwart the will of the people when it comes to debt and deficit debates.

Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of "Fix the Debt" Campaign Exposed

With $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts, known as "the sequestration," set to take effect this Friday, a new investigation reveals how billionaire investors, such as Peter Peterson, have helped reshape the national debate on the economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson’s main platform has been the Campaign to Fix the Debt. While the campaign is portrayed as a citizen-led effort, critics say the campaign is a front for business groups. The campaign has direct ties to GE, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Peterson is the former chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers and co-founder of the private equity firm, The Blackstone Group. For more, we speak to John Nichols of The Nation and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Handcuffing 7-Year-Olds Won't Make Schools Safer

Outrage over the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre may or may not spur any meaningful gun control laws, but you can bet your Crayolas that it will lead to more 7-year-olds getting handcuffed and hauled away to local police precincts.

You read that right. Americans may disagree deeply about how easy it should be for a mentally ill convicted felon to purchase an AR-15, but when it comes to putting more law enforcement officers inside our schools, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and liberal Democrats like Senator Barbara Boxer are as one. And when police (or “school resource officers,” as these sheriff’s deputies are often known) spend time in a school, they often deal with disorder like proper cops—by slapping cuffs on the little perps and dragging them to the precinct.

Why Workers Should Be Wary About Corporate 'Wellness'

A growing number of US companies are now urging their employees to slim down, exercise more, reduce their cholesterol and blood pressure levels, or quit smoking—all socially desirable goals. But if these workers fail to cooperate with the new corporate “wellness” regime and adopt a healthier lifestyle (under the tutelage of their employer), the penalty, for many, will be higher out-of-pocket payments.

GM proposes to pay CEO $11.1 million in '13

Washington — General Motors Co. wants to pay its chief executive $11.1 million in total compensation this year — an increase of more than 20 percent over 2012— and offer raises to most of its highest paid executives, according to a document turned over to Congress.

The Detroit automaker, which received a $49.5 billion bailout in 2008 and 2009, must get approval for the pay packages for its top 25 executives from the Treasury Department, as a condition of its government bailout.

Alberta Health Queue Jumping: Inquiry Hears Doctor Told Clerk To Let Patients Jump Line

CALGARY - A high-ranking Calgary doctor at the centre of queue-jumping allegations conceded Monday he booked his patients outside the normal routine, but said he didn't realize that would move them to the front of the line.

Dr. Ron Bridges told Alberta's preferential access inquiry Monday that he was not clear on the rules for booking patients into the publicly funded Colon Cancer Screening Centre, which he founded in 2008.

National Defence hit hard as government to slash discretionary spending by $4.9 billion

OTTAWA — The federal government plans to slash $4.9 billion in discretionary spending in the next year — with the Department of National Defence bearing the brunt of cuts, while departments involved in the Conservatives’ law and order agenda are spared.

The plan was unveiled Monday as Treasury Board Tony Clement tabled the government’s main budgetary estimates for 2013-14 in the House of Commons.

Treasury Board and PBO in standoff over calculation of cuts to front line services

OTTAWA — Parliament’s budget watchdog Kevin Page has landed into another dispute with the Conservative government, this time over conflicting calculations of costs that have left Treasury Board wanting to vet his reports and some MPs questioning the reliability of the numbers they’re given to hold the government to account.

The latest uproar was triggered when the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report last month which concluded that spending cuts are hitting front line services for Canadians while overhead — or the “internal services” costs of the bureaucracy — rose over the past three years.