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.]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lip service from the throne speech: Can justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women ever be found?

At a time when Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples is treading on increasingly thin ice, many are questioning how long it will take before issues of importance to Indigenous populations register on the national agenda.

Last week’s throne speech and the Conservatives’ overwhelming apathy toward the crises faced by Indigenous peoples, including its demeaning references to Indigenous women, suggest that we shouldn’t hold our breath.

GOP Senate Candidate Addressed Conference Hosted by Neo-Confederate Group That Promotes Secessionism

Chris McDaniel is taking the "GOP Civil War" to a new level. Two months ago, the tea party-backed Mississippi Senate candidate addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the "war of southern independence." Other speakers at the event included a historian who believes Lincoln was a Marxist and Ryan Walters, a PhD candidate who worked on McDaniel's first political campaign and wrote recently that the "controversy" over President Barack Obama's birth certificate "hasn't really been solved."

Argentina Is Using More Pesticide Than Ever Before. And Now It Has Cancer Clusters

Argentina's agricultural transformation over the past 20 years—from prime producer of grass-finished beef to one of the globe's genetically modified crop-producing powerhouses—is often hailed as a triumph of high-tech ag. Starting in the 1970s and accelerating recently, high crop prices and various government policies inspired ranchers in the fertile Pampas and Chaco regions to plow up pasture—releasing large amounts to carbon in the process—to plant soybeans, mainly for export markets. In the mid-1990s, when Monsanto rolled out its soybean seeds engineered to resist herbicide, Argentina's new crop farmers were early adapters (see chart to the right).

Expert: JPMorgan's $13 Billion Fine Should Have Been 22 Times Bigger

JPMorgan Chase is probably going to have to pay a record $13 billion fine because it created and sold dicey financial products that helped cause the financial crisis that sparked an economic crash in 2008. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has groused that this an unfairly large sum. But some experts beg to differ, noting that if the world were fair, Dimon's bank would have to pay a lot more.

On Saturday, JPMorgan reached a tentative deal with the Department of Justice, which has investigated the megabank for having packaged poor quality mortgages into securities that it sold to investors. (Some of the securities were peddled by Washington Mutual and the investment bank Bear Stearns, two failing firms that JPMorgan absorbed in 2008.) The $13 billion penalty, which is not yet final, would cover about $9 billion in fines paid to the federal government and $4 billion in relief for struggling homeowners. It would be the largest penalty that a single company has ever paid in settling a case with the Justice Department.

A Response to Eric Alterman

I am eager to debate the issues raised in my new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (Nation Books), the result of over four years of on-the-ground research and reporting. Whatever one’s opinion of possible resolutions of the Israel-Palestine crisis, I have dedicated my work to presenting the facts as clearly and accurately as I could. Without understanding the realities, no true debate can take place. In writing my book I intended to loosen the blockade of suppression of thought and discussion on the subject of Israel-Palestine. For years, especially since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Jewish extremist, a contingent of self-appointed enforcers has attempted to suppress an honest, free and full debate. These enforcers, recently aided and abetted by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, have painted critics who do not toe the party line or journalists who report uncomfortable facts as anti-Semitic, self-hating Jews or cheerleaders for terror. Readers of The Nation should recognize this kind of smearing as a form of McCarthyism.

Amnesty, HRW Document Civilian Deaths in Drone Attacks

Two important new reports and a New York Times story written about a Pakistani town called Miram Shah have shed new light on civilian deaths from American drones in Pakistan and Yemen.

The first report, from Amnesty International, is called “Will I Be Next?” (The full report, seventy-four pages long, can be read here.) Investigators with Amnesty International spent nearly a year on the report, conducting sixty interviews with victims and survivors, eyewitnesses and others affected in North Waziristan and other parts of Pakistan. Though not comprehensive, the Amnesty International report is based on “detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes that occurred in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency between January 2012 and August 2013.”

What the Democrats Can Learn From Ted Cruz

In the same manner that Susan Sontag once acknowledged that the 9/11 terrorists were not, in fact, cowards, it is time to admit that Ted Cruz is not as craven as he seems. A fraud, a wacko bird, a fool, an amateur, Jim DeMint without the charm—yes, all the names his fellow Republicans are calling the senator from Texas bear the sting of truth. But you have to give the man this: he has the courage of his convictions and the nerve to use a diversity of tactics to advance them.

Cruz, who keeps a sign once favored by Ronald Reagan that says It Can Be Done in his office, is best understood not as a statesman seeking to build a legislative record but as a right-wing ideological activist working to change the terms of debate. “I’m convinced there is a new paradigm in politics—the rise of the grassroots,” he told National Review’s Robert Costa. “And on Obamacare, I’ve said from the start, that if typical Washington rules apply, we can’t win this fight…. The only way this fight will be won is if the American people rise up and hold our elected officials accountable.”

The NSA's Big Terrorism Claim Doesn't Hold Up

Two weeks after Edward Snowden's first revelations about sweeping government surveillance, President Obama shot back. "We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany," Obama said during a visit to Berlin in June. "So lives have been saved."

In the months since, intelligence officials, media outlets, and members of Congress from both parties all repeated versions of the claim that NSA surveillance has stopped more than 50 terrorist attacks. The figure has become a key talking point in the debate around the spying programs.

Ted Cruz Gets His Health Insurance Through Goldman Sachs, His Wife Confirms

The wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) confirmed in an interview with The New York Times what the tea party star's opponents have insinuated gleefully for weeks: The most vocal opponent of Obamacare enjoys a high-priced health plan through investment bank Goldman Sachs.

"Ted is on my health care plan," Heidi Nelson Cruz, who has worked in the firm's management division for eight years, told the paper in a story published Wednesday.

Every Yemen Drone Strike Creates 40 To 60 New Enemies, Former U.S. Official Says

NEW YORK -- A former State Department official in Yemen says every U.S. drone killing there of an al Qaeda operative creates 40 to 60 new enemies of America.

In an article for the Cairo Review posted Wednesday, Nabeel Khoury, the deputy chief of mission in Yemen from 2004 to 2007, writes, "Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians. Given Yemen’s tribal structure, the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] operative killed by drones."

Bank Of America Liable For Fraud In Countrywide Mortgage Case: Jury

NEW YORK, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp was found liable for fraud on Wednesday over defective mortgages sold by its Countrywide unit, a major win for the U.S. government in one of the few trials stemming from the financial crisis.

After a four-week trial, a federal jury in New York found the bank liable on one civil fraud charge. Countrywide originated shoddy home loans in a process called "Hustle" and sold them to government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government said.

China’s Plutocrats With Opinions

Wang Gongquan, who was charged in Beijing on Sunday with “assembling a crowd to disrupt order,” hardly fits the profile of a classic Chinese political activist. He doesn’t lead a threadbare life on the margins of an increasingly prosperous society. He doesn’t scrape by on a mixture of tiny grants, consulting fees, and the sale of obscure essays. On the contrary, Wang, who is fifty-two, is a plutocrat, one of China’s most famous venture capitalists. He made a fortune in real estate, technology, and other investments. People call him a billionaire, or maybe just a multimillionaire—in China, it can be difficult to know for sure. He has indulged in the decadent excesses of his moment, most memorably in 2011, when he announced that he was leaving his wife to journey abroad with his mistress—news that he broke on Weibo. “I am giving up everything and eloping with Wang Qin,” he wrote to his social-media followers, whose numbers eventually grew to more than a million. “I feel ashamed and so am leaving without saying goodbye. I kneel down and beg forgiveness!”

Hidden City

For baseball games, Yankee Stadium seats 50,287. If all the homeless people who now live in New York City used the stadium for a gathering, several thousand of them would have to stand. More people in the city lack homes than at any time since . . . It’s hard to say exactly. The Coalition for the Homeless, a leading advocate for homeless people in the city and the state, says that these numbers have not been seen in New York since the Great Depression. The Bloomberg administration replies that bringing the Depression into it is wildly unfair, because those times were much worse, and, besides, for complicated reasons, you’re comparing apples and oranges. The C.F.H. routinely disagrees with Mayor Bloomberg, and vice versa; of the many disputes the two sides have had, this is among the milder. In any case, it’s inescapably true that there are far more homeless people in the city today than there have been since “modern homelessness” (as experts refer to it) began, back in the nineteen-seventies.

Mike Duffy's lawyer says $90K cheque was a deal with PMO

Senator Mike Duffy's living expenses were "cleared from Day 1" by then Senate government leader Marjory LeBreton's office, and when they later became controversial, Duffy was pressured to take a deal from the Prime Minister's Office, his lawyer told a news conference Monday.

Lawyer Donald Bayne on Monday read from emails between Duffy and LeBreton's office as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright and others to support his claim that Duffy did not knowingly break Senate rules.

Canadian spy agency sued for allegedly violating charter

One of Canada's top spy agencies, Communications Security Establishment Canada, is violating privacy rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to a lawsuit filed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the OpenMedia organization.

Speaking on Tuesday morning in Vancouver, representatives for the two civil rights groups said the broad and unchecked surveillance of Canadians by the spy agency is unconstitutional.

Harper Is Seizing the Wrong Century

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper it's all about the seizing. Seizing the day, seizing the resources, seizing the protesters -- basically whatever it takes to extract any and all available hydrocarbons and sell to them to someone, somewhere.

But ultimately Harper is seizing the wrong path; he's choosing the path of a bubble economy based on oil, condemning Canadians to a long road back to yesterday's ideas and fuels.

Shale gas company loses bid for injunction to halt N.B. protests

A request by SWN Resources Canada to extend a court injunction that prevents anyone from impeding its staging area and and storage facility near, Rexton, N.B., has been denied by a judge.

Justice George Rideout ruled Monday afternoon that there were no grounds to extend the injunction, after hearing arguments in the Court of Queen's Bench on Friday.

Shale gas opponents, many from Elsipogtog First Nation, were drumming and singing in the courtroom and hallway before the ruling, and outside Moncton Law Courts.

Feds dragging feet on election fraud legislation, still no sign of bill

Canada’s federal election system is unhealthy and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand appears determined to fix it, but more than a-year-and-a-half after voting unanimously to create a law to address the robocalls scandal and prevent election fraud, the federal government has yet to table a bill and opposition MPs say they have “absolutely no confidence” one will be implemented in time for the next election campaign.

“We know that that the government is now well over a year overdue for getting legislation before the House. What can possibly excuse them for not having a bill now on the Order Paper and be ready to table it now, given that supposedly it was ready last May before some kind of caucus pushback caused the former minister to pull it back? Why can’t another five months be enough for them to be ready as soon as parliament returns which is now to table its bill? I have absolutely no confidence in this government and there’s nothing the minister has done to suggest he’s worthy of confidence either,” said NDP MP Craig Scott (Toronto-Danforth, Ont.), his party’s democratic reform critic.

“Never Retract, Never Explain”

October 18th marks Persons Day in celebration of Canada’s Famous Five— Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby—who asked the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927 to answer the question: does the word “person” in the British North American Act include female persons?

When given the wrong answer, the Famous Five took their case to London, England, the highest court of appeal. On October 18, 1929, women were deemed persons–thus paving the way for women to contribute fully to Canadian life.

Nothing to see here … move along

The language seemed damning enough. After investigating complaints from Canadians, the Office of the Information Commissioner concluded in its latest report that there has been a “clear deterioration in the access to information system and that indicates that institutions are having difficulty meeting even their basic obligations under the Access to Information Act.”

And what are those basic obligations? Things like “adhering to the legislative deadlines for responding to requests or following proper procedures for taking time extensions.”

Canada-EU trade agreement secures Stephen Harper’s legacy, tosses NDP a hot potato

The successful negotiation of an ambitious trade deal between Canada and the European Union will not guarantee the re-election of a Conservative federal government in two years or a lasting bump in the polls for the ruling party but it stands to provide Prime Minister Stephen Harper with something even more essential.

This tentative Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) — if it is finalized — will secure Harper’s place in the history books. It is an achievement that will outlast his tenure as prime minister and the day-to-day controversies that may well continue to take the shine out of his third mandate.

Gainford Train Derailment: CN Anxious To Quell Safety Concerns, Experts Say

TORONTO - CN Rail's (TSX:CNR) strong and swift response to the derailment of a fuel-laden train in Alberta shows how anxious the company is to quell safety concerns as more dangerous goods travel by rail, experts said Sunday.

The railway company dispatched its top brass, led by Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena, to handle the crisis after 13 cars carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas came off the tracks and caught fire early Saturday west of Edmonton.

Former Bush Official: We Went Into Iraq Because 'We Were Looking For Somebody's Ass To Kick': Report

New York Times reporter Peter Baker is out with a new book that reportedly reveals some eyebrow-raising details about the Iraq War.

A senior official from former President George W. Bush's administration is quoted in “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House” saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.

"The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy," the anonymous official said, according to Politico.

Politico also reports the book details the differences in Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The two reportedly "were on opposite sides of almost every major issue" when they left office in 2009.

According to David Frum's review of the book, Baker features stories not just of Bush and Cheney, but also of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; L. Paul Bremer, the Iraqi occupation administrator; and Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff.

Read more from Politico here, and read an excerpt of Baker's book from ABC News here.

Original Article
Author: Paige Lavender

Youth Unemployment: 15 Percent Of American Youth Out Of School And Work, Study Finds

WASHINGTON -- WASHINGTON (AP) — Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday.

That's almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.

Other studies have shown that idle young adults are missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life or use the knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.

Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War’

After the budget standoff ended in crushing defeat last week and the political damage reports began to pile up for Republicans, one longtime party leader after another stepped forward to chastise their less seasoned, Tea Party-inspired colleagues who drove the losing strategy.

“Let’s face it: it was not a good maneuver,” Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Senate Republican and supporter of the deal that ended the showdown, said on Thursday in an interview from his Capitol Hill office. “And that’s when you’ve got to have the adults running the thing.”

The Week In Review: Harper Conservatives vs. the Media = Lamest Feud Ever

Many feuds are entertaining. Whether we're talking bloody tales of yore featuring the Hatfields vs. the McCoys or contemporary Twitter nastiness between Nicki Minaj and Stephen Tyler, acrimony can be amazingly fun to watch. But these fights are only as interesting as the players are genuinely passionate, which is perhaps why the ongoing feud between the Harper Conservatives and the media has got to be one of the dullest prolonged quarrels ever.

Alberta Oilsands Hearings Exclude Aboriginal Groups, Province Won't Review Decision

EDMONTON - The Alberta government says it won't reconsider recent decisions to bar two aboriginal groups from voicing concerns about oilsands developments on or near their traditional territories.

That refusal comes despite urgings from a Queen's Bench judge to loosen restrictions on who has the right to appear before boards making decisions on how development in the province can proceed.

The government "doesn't see that it's necessary to review those cases," said Nikki Booth, spokeswoman for Alberta Environment.

Huge GMO News

It hasn't been a good week for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry.

Just three days ago, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn. Citing the risk of imminent harm to the environment, a Mexican judge ruled that, effective immediately, no genetically engineered corn can be planted in the country. This means that companies like Monsanto will no longer be allowed to plant or sell their corn within the country's borders.

Quebec Secession Law: PQ Minister Calls Harper Government's Intervention A 'Devious' Attack

QUEBEC - Prime Minister Stephen Harper came under attack Sunday from both separatist and federalist opponents for his decision to fight a Quebec law that outlines the province's right to secede unilaterally.

Alexandre Cloutier, the Parti Quebecois' minister of intergovernmental affairs, called the move a "direct" and "devious" attack against the Quebec nation.

NSA Hacked Mexican Presidents' Email For Years: Report

The National Security Agency hacked the email of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, according to a report from Der Spiegel.

The report, which stems from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, alleges that a division of the NSA "successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon's public email account." Der Speigel also reports that the spying, which began in May 2010, also targeted other top officials in the Mexican government.

We no longer trust newspapers and it's their fault

Does the public have the faintest clue about how journalism works? Or does it understand all too well, and finds it wanting? Who is responsible for articulating journalism's value to society, and ensuring that our media are operating ethically and in the public interest?

It's a question raised by the Ontario Press Council in its recent ruling endorsing the Toronto Star's controversial story of a video that apparently shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic remarks under the influence.

Export Development Canada: How billions are transferred to Enbridge and TransCanada without substantive disclosure

The Enbridge Line 9 hearings are in process this week in Toronto. In Ontario, the reversal of that pipeline, to transport fuel from Western Canada eastward rather than refined fuel from Eastern Canada westward, has sparked public concerns.

These centre upon the risks that arise from moving corrosive diluted bitumen -- as opposed to refined products -- through populated areas, as well as the proposed 25 per cent capacity increase of the pipeline from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day.

Tory MP presents anti-22 Minutes petitions

A Conservative MP says he was just representing his constituents when he tabled several petitions in the House of Commons denouncing the satirical CBC show This Hour has 22 Minutes.

A 22 Minutes skit that aired in February depicted a Canadian Catholic mass, where the bread and wine, symbolizing the body and blood of Christ, were replaced by Tim Hortons coffee and Timbits.

Comedian Shaun Majumder, playing a priest, handed out communion while saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, take ’er easy.”

Explosions, fire after train derails in Alberta

GAINFORD, Alta. - Firefighters battling a major blaze after a CN tanker train derailed west of Edmonton on Saturday decided to withdraw and wait for the flames to burn themselves out.

With no further explosions expected from the 13 cars carrying oil and liquefied petroleum gas, that's the safest thing to do, said Parkland County fire chief Jim Phelan.

"This fire needs to be extinguished by consuming the product," Phelan said. "We're going to let it burn itself out."

But Phalen told a news conference in the nearby community of Seba Beach later Saturday that it could be anywhere from 24 to 72 hours before evacuated residents could go home.

Conservatives throw down gauntlet with media

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative caucus members are back at work in Ottawa and spoiling, it seems, for a fight — and not just with their traditional House of Commons rivals.

These days, while Liberal and NDP members of Parliament are sporting their share of political shiners, so too are the journalists who cover them.

Sparring between the Prime Minister's Office and the Parliamentary Press Gallery is hardly new. But the gloves came off on Wednesday when a dispute over access to a government caucus meeting turned into a Conservative fundraising pitch.

Number Of Billionaires In Canada Jumps By One-Third: Credit Suisse

Canada is experiencing a boom in the number of billionaires, even as the country’s wealth gap with the U.S. widens, a new report from Credit Suisse suggests.

The number of Canadian billionaires jumped to 24 in 2010, from 18 in 2000-2001, marking a 33-per-cent increase, the bank reported.

Granted, those are small numbers compared to the 405 billionaires in the U.S. (up a whopping 50.5 per cent since 2001-2001), but it still indicates Canadians at the top end of the earnings scale are seeing significant wealth gains.

Rickford defends the indefensible, ends up awash in applesauce

Greg Rickford, the PM’s choice for Minister of State for Science and Technology, wrote a letter to iPolitics last week. It was in response to a column I published on this site on October 6 — Harper’s Greatest Hits: the Science of Fundraising.

It was not a fan letter.

Greg Rickford said he was greatly “concerned” about the column and that he “would like to set the record straight.” He had my full attention.

Who will pay for Harper’s shopper-friendly agenda?

The throne speech is out, and the middle class is in. The Conservatives are courting that demographic with all they’ve got: balanced budget legislation, job grants and free trade deals designed to create employment, “greater tax relief for Canadian families” once the budget is balanced, and a ‘Consumers First’ agenda of reduced roaming fees, pick-and-pay cable, and price parity between identical U.S. and Canadian goods.

This bread-and-butter throne speech is a departure from the government’s last such address, in 2011. It reads more like a budget, with numbers, bullets, and headings similar to those in the government’s 2013 Action Plan.

Rick Scarborough, Tea Party Leader, Suggests Class Action Lawsuit Against Homosexuality

Former Baptist pastor and Tea Party Unity founder Rick Scarborough spoke with conservative activist Peter LaBarbera on Thursday about potential anti-gay strategies, including a class action lawsuit against homosexuality.

“The whole issue of a class action lawsuit, you and I have talked about this a little bit,” Scarborough told LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, in a conversation at a Tea Party Unity gathering Thursday. People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, a progressive advocacy group that monitors and reports on conservative political organizations, posted a partial transcript and audio recording of the discussion.

7 Companies That Don't Support Gay Rights

You'd think in 2013, with DOMA having been found unconstitutional, people would step into the present and accept the future. That future being, of course, that, and you're going to want to sit down for this revelation: gay men and women are people, too! Seriously.

In the wake of Barilla's head honcho, Guido Barilla's homophobic and sexist remarks, a boycott followed, and we were once again forced to realize that some people just refuse to see everyone as equal.

Senate Conservatives Fund Shutdown Strategy Led To Record Fundraising

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Conservatives Fund posted record fundraising numbers in September as it backed the congressional campaign to defund Obamacare that ultimately forced a 16-day government shutdown.

In the month leading to the Oct. 1 shutdown, Senate Conservatives Fund raised more than $2.1 million, a record for the group in a non-election year and the second-highest monthly total it has ever reported. The majority of the fundraising, $1.9 million, came from small donors. The group posted similarly big fundraising numbers in August as the defund Obamacare campaign gathered steam.

Israel Cranks Up the PR Machine

In the post-Oslo era, as the strategy that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner circle refers to as “peace without peace” captured the Israeli consensus, human rights activists ratcheted up grassroots efforts to challenge the occupation of Palestine and Israel’s prevailing structure of ethno-religious discrimination. Popularly known as BDS, the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israeli institutions involved in occupation has generated shock waves in international pro-Israel circles and within the top levels of Israel’s military-intelligence apparatus. The government-linked Reut Institute has designated BDS as a key national security threat and produced a blueprint for sabotaging Palestine solidarity networks around the world.

New DHS Nominee Spent Years Justifying War on Terror’s Excesses

Back in 2012, just before he stepped down as general counsel for the Department of Defense, Jeh (“Jay”) Johnson delivered a speech at Oxford University titled: “The Conflict Against Al Qaeda and its Affiliates: How Will It End?” The very title carries an optimistic ring, since it often seems that the war on terror will never, ever end—as evidenced, perhaps, by the simultaneous raids last week into Libya and Somalia that captured a former Al Qaeda big wig and sought, without success, to take down an Al Shabab leader. The two actions, coming amid a steady stream of statements from top Obama administration officials that Al Qaeda has been decimated, followed an extraordinary sign earlier this year that Al Qaeda—or at least the threat of Al Qaeda as bogeyman—is still alive and kicking: that, you’ll remember, was the reported intercept of an e-mail from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s chieftain in Pakistan, to the head of Al Qaeda’s Yemen franchise, containing an unspecified threat against the United States that led to dozens of American embassies shutting down from North Africa to the Middle East and deep into South Asia. No attack was forthcoming.

Rexton Protest In N.B. Sparks Renewal Of Idle No More

FREDERICTON - The RCMP's commanding officer in New Brunswick defended the police response to a shale gas protest where officers seized firearms and improvised explosives, saying Friday that if the Mounties hadn't acted, lives could have been in danger.

"There came a point in time where we knew that this situation was no longer safe and that we had to do something before it turned into a situation where, regrettably, somebody could've been injured or even killed, and that's what triggered the decision," assistant commissioner Roger Brown told a news conference in Fredericton.

Peter MacKay: 'Most Heinous' Offenders Could Spend Entire Lives Behind Bars

OTTAWA - Criminals who are convicted of the worst crimes — such as multiple murders or sex assaults on children — could spend the rest of their lives behind bars, with no chance of parole, under planned federal legislation.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay elaborated Friday on the government's plan, promised in this week's throne speech, to lock some criminals up and throw away the key.

Harper's Balanced Budget Bill Hasn't Worked So Well In The U.S.

OTTAWA - The Conservative government is promising to introduce a new balanced-budget bill, something that's already the law of the land in several provinces, all but one U.S. state and a slate of European countries.

But is there any real point to balanced-budget laws?

In the U.S. and Canada, they've left many states and provinces badly strapped for cash during tough economic times, and they're often scrapped anyway in the event of sputtering growth, grinding recessions or natural disasters.

Omar Khadr To Remain In Federal Prison, Edmonton Judge Rules

EDMONTON - An Edmonton judge has denied former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr a transfer from a federal prison to a provincial jail.

Justice John Rooke dismissed an application from Khadr's lawyer that his 27-year-old client be moved out of the Edmonton Institution.

Canada-EU deal threatens Canada's water

Prime Minister Harper has just signed the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and Canadians who care about our freshwater heritage should be deeply concerned for three reasons.

First, the massive increase in beef and pork exports that have been negotiated will put a terrible strain on our water supplies. Beef producers can now export close to 70,000 tonnes of beef to Europe and an undisclosed but higher amount of pork. Meat production is highly water intensive. It takes over 15 million litres of water to produce one tonne of beef, for example. Already Alberta’s dwindling water supplies are over-taxed by a beef industry that is rapidly expanding and expected to double its water footprint by 2025, according to an assessment done before this deal was signed. Intensive hog operations in Manitoba are killing Lake Winnipeg, their waste creating nutrient overload that covers over half the lake in blue green algae. To protect our precious watersheds, what we need is more sustainable and local food production, not massive new trade deals that will strain our water sources beyond their capacity.

Feathers versus Guns: The throne speech and Canada's war with Mi'kmaw Nation

As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi'kmaw Nation -- again -- this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi'kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi'kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles -- not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.

The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi'kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: "In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins."

In response, the Mi'kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.

It is more than coincidental timing -- it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General's speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya's visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi'kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper's aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi'kmaw.

Original Article
Author: Pamela Palmater

Who Gets What in CETA Deal?

Though it's not entirely finished yet, and isn't likely to be brought into force for two years, the most contentious issues are settled.

After over four years of negotiations and plenty of missed deadlines, the Harper government announced the completion of a Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) in principle with the European Union on Friday.

In Brussels European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood before the cameras.

Alberta Landowners Dispute Energy Regulator over Polluted Well

Last June, Shawn and Ronalie Campbell got a three-paragraph letter from Alberta's energy regulator.

The letter told them their groundwater well was still contaminated with hydrocarbons.

The contamination did not differ in composition from previous tests last year: high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S, a neurotoxin) and higher levels of methane and ethane.

These test results, declared the regulator, "confirm our previous conclusion that there is no evidence of a link between energy development activities and the hydrocarbon and H2S gases present in your water well."

Pamela Wallin's lawyer threatens Senate legal action

Senator Pamela Wallin is preparing to fight a bid by her former party to have her suspended without pay — a gambit her lawyer calls an affront to Canadian democracy designed to help the Conservatives change the channel.

"It is backroom politics at its transparent worst and it's designed to create the impression of a clean slate for the Tory convention in Calgary next week," lawyer Terrence O'Sullivan said in an interview Friday.

Harper In Brussels To Sign Draft Of Canada-EU Free Trade Deal

BRUSSELS - After four years of opaque negotiations, the lid remains sealed on major parts of Canada's contentious free-trade deal with Europe.

"This is a big deal, this is the biggest deal Canada has ever made. Indeed, it is an historical achievement," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, announcing the deal Friday with European Commission president Jose Manual Barroso in Brussels.

But the text of the so-called CETA agreement remains a private document that still requires "drafting and fine tuning" and will need a "scrub" from lawyers to make sure it is "legally coherent," a Canadian official said in Brussels on condition he not be identified.

Elsipogtog First Nation Sees Violence As RCMP Moves To End Protest

REXTON, N.B. -- The RCMP say dozens of people were arrested after Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and police vehicles torched Thursday when they began enforcing an injunction to end an ongoing demonstration against shale gas exploration in eastern New Brunswick.

RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said at least five RCMP vehicles were destroyed after they were set ablaze and at least one shot was fired by someone other than a police officer at the site of the protest in Rexton.