Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Detroit Bankruptcy Bankrupts Democracy

Detroit elected a new mayor November 5 and he will take office in less than a month. But the future of this great American city and its citizens isn’t being defined by decisions made by voters on Election Day. It is being defined in federal bankruptcy court—and by an “emergency manager” who has no democratic legitimacy.

With a ruling Tuesday by US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, Detroit officially becomes the largest US city ever to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Despite a determination that negotiations with creditors outside of bankruptcy court had not satisfied good-faith requirements, the judge cleared the way for the emergency manager and his law firm to advance a “plan of adjustment” that could include deep cuts in pension guarantees for retired city employees and a “fire sale” of city assets that could might result in public utilities and the Detroit Institute of Arts collection being bartered off to private bidders.

Other Conservative senators likely to quit following Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau suspensions

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is likely to lose more Conservative senators in the wake of the decision to suspend three members of the upper chamber without pay, insiders predicted Tuesday after Conservative Senator David Braley abruptly quit.

Sources say a number of Conservative senators are unhappy with the way they were ordered to oust Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.

Conservative Senator David Braley resigns, no reasons given

OTTAWA - Ontario's David Braley has resigned from the Senate, three years before he would have been required to do so.

A written statement from his office says the Hamilton businessman and philanthropist resigned effective Nov. 30.

No reason was given for his departure and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator, the 72-year-old said he wants to spend more time with his family while he's still healthy.

Keystone XL's Southern Leg To Be Operational On Jan. 3: TransCanada

The Obama administration has yet to approve the main leg of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline, but that won’t stop TransCanada from opening the southern leg of the pipeline next month.

The company filed papers with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday stating it plans to start the pipeline on Jan. 3, Reuters reports. It will move oil from a terminal in Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast at Port Arthur, Tex.

DonorsTrust—the Right's Dark-Money ATM—Pumps Out Record $96 Million

DonorsTrust is the conservative movement's little-known but hugely influential cash machine, a conduit for millions of dollars in anonymous donations to anti-union legal shops, climate change deniers, pro-life advocates, libertarian think tanks, media watchdog groups, and a panoply of other right-leaning causes. Wealthy conservatives use DonorsTrust as a surefire way to invest their money, fingerprint-free, with the assurance it will end up in the right hands. According to new tax filings obtained by Mother Jones, DonorsTrust is growing increasingly popular among the bankrollers of the conservative movement.

What the Pope Got Right About Capitalism

Forget, for the moment, that he is the pope, and that Holy Father Francis’ apostolic exhortation last week was addressed “to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful.” Even if, like me, you don’t fall into one of those categories and also take issue with the Catholic Church’s teachings on a number of contested social issues, it is difficult to deny the inherent wisdom and clarity of the pontiff’s critique of the modern capitalist economy. No one else has put it as powerfully and succinctly.

The US and Canada Are Failing Asylum Seekers

We may think of Canada as our kinder, more generous neighbor, but a new study by the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic indicates that the country’s has adapted a decidedly un-Canadian approach to refugees. The authors of the study write that Canada is “systematically closing its borders to asylum seekers and avoiding its refugee protection obligations under domestic and international law.” Canada’s policies are driving migrants and refugees to the United States, where they may encounter a detention system that “falls far below international law requirements.” According to UN standards, asylum seekers should not be detained at all, but the authors write that the United States repeatedly holds refugee applicants in custody for months, and even years, at a time.

Nigeria Oil Spill Coats River As Hundreds Of Yearly Leaks Continue To Devastate Ecosystem

YENAGOA, Nigeria, Dec 2 (Reuters) - A large oil spill near Nigeria's Brass facility, run by ENI, has spread through the sea and swamps of the oil producing Niger Delta region, local residents and the company said on Monday.

ENI said it was not yet possible to determine the cause of the spill.

New GOP Plan Would Save Military From Sequestration By Cutting Social Security

WASHINGTON -- A pair of House Republicans have a new bill that would spare the military from sequestration by cutting the Social Security benefits of many Americans who already experience painful federal budget cuts.

Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) are introducing the Provide for the Common Defense Act on Tuesday. The legislation would cancel out the next two years of sequestration cuts for the Pentagon by putting a heavier burden on senior citizens and federal workers.

Detroit Bankruptcy Ruling By Judge Steven Rhodes Gives City Chapter 9 Protection

DETROIT -- The largest city in American history to file for bankruptcy protection is officially bankrupt.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled Tuesday that Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, allowing city officials to negotiate in court with bondholders, pension funds, unions and other stakeholders. Many say that bankruptcy is the only way the city can attempt to settle its debts, which have been estimated as high as $18 billion.

John Boehner On 113th Congress Being Least Productive Ever: 'We've Done Our Work'

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday dismissed the idea that this Congress is the least productive in history and said the House has done its job this year.

"The House has continued to listen to the American people and to focus on their concerns," Boehner told reporters. "Whether it's the economy, whether it's jobs, whether it's protecting the American people from Obamacare -- we've done our work."

Boehner said if anyone's to blame for congressional inaction, it's the Senate. He cited the fact that the House has passed more than half of the annual appropriations bills and the Senate hasn't passed any of them.

Nice region of darkness you have here: Stephen Harper visits the Middle East

A couple of weeks ago I had a long chat with an Israeli official. It was one of those off-the-record deals, so I can’t identify him. But I can say that he is senior, politically powerful, and decidedly on the right of Israel’s political spectrum.

The official took an unwaveringly hard line on Iran. He was much more positive about Israel’s relations with some of its Arab neighbours who make up what he described as “the moderate Sunni camp.”

Who is Michael Chong? And what does he want to do with our Parliament?

Ahead of tomorrow’s release of “An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (reforms)”—recently dubbed “The Reform Act”—a brief guide to what could be a minor revolution in our parliamentary governance.

Who is Michael Chong?

Mr. Chong is the Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills.

Don’t I remember him from somewhere?

Probably. For awhile after the Conservatives formed government in 2006, Mr. Chong was the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, but he quit cabinet in November 2006 because he could not support the Prime Minister’s motion that the Québécois formed a nation within a united Canada. He has been a backbencher ever since. In May 2010, he proposed a series of reforms to Question Period, which generated a great deal of discussion, but which have so far failed to be implemented.

Faith Schools Select Fewer Poor Pupils Than Secular Ones, Study Finds

Religious schools that select pupils on the basis of faith make up almost 50% of the "worst offenders" when it comes to admitting poor pupils, research has suggested.

Just 16% of all schools in the UK admit their pupils on the basis of their religious background.

But in a list of secondary schools which have the lowest numbers of pupils on free school meals, 46% were faith-based.

Boris Johnson Fails IQ Test Live On Air

Less than a week after Boris Johnson appeared to dismiss people with a low IQ, the inevitable has happened.

The mayor was faced with an impromptu intelligence test live on LBC on Tuesday morning - and flunked it.

"No-one said IQ is the only measure of ability", he spluttered after getting two questions wrong and refusing to answer a third.

Republicans’ self-hatred swells: The GOP vs. its own base

Does any modern political party besides the GOP hold a huge segment of its base in contempt? I’ve written a lot about how Republicans have failed to make inroads with Latinos, young voters or women since their 2012 defeat, but what’s really interesting is the way they continue to deride many of their older, white, working-class voters, too.

When Mitt Romney insulted “the 47 percent” of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, he failed to notice that the vast majority of them are white, most of them white seniors, the most reliably Republican voters in the country. A large portion of the people Paul Ryan describes as “takers” – vs. productive “makers” – are likewise older whites. And although Ryan and his party want to turn Medicare into a voucher program – run by exchanges, much like the Affordable Care Act – they tried to hide that fact during the 2012 race because it was hugely unpopular with their base.

You're Secretly Subsidizing A Fast Food CEO's Million-Dollar Salary

Fast-food giants save money by paying their typical workers very little, but they also save money by paying their CEOs millions, thanks to a quirk of the tax code. In both cases, American taxpayers cover the cost.

McDonald’s saved $14 million in taxes over the past two years using a loophole that lets companies deduct the costs of performance-based executive pay, according to a report released Monday by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. McDonald’s isn’t alone: Over the past two years, the six largest fast-food companies have used the loophole to save an estimated $64 million in taxes, the report found.

BPA Sales Are Booming

Bisphenol A, a chemical used in can linings and plastic bottles, is pretty nasty stuff. The Food and Drug Administration recently banished it from baby bottles (at the behest of the chemical industry itself, after baby bottle producers had already phased it out under consumer pressure). BPA, as it's known, is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, meaning that it likely causes hormonal damage at extremely low levels. The packaging industry uses it to make plastics more flexible and to delay spoilage in canned foods.

US judge receives 28-year jail term for his role in kids-for-cash kickbacks

An American judge known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom manner was jailed for 28 years for conspiring with private prisons to hand young offenders maximum sentences in return for kickbacks amounting to millions of dollars.

Mark Ciavarella Jnr was ordered to pay $1.2m (£770,000) in restitution after he was found to be a “figurehead” in the conspiracy that saw thousands of children unjustly punished in the name of profit in the case that became known as “kids for cash”.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by the former Luzerne County judge between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella Jnr, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year but his lawyers had asked for a “reasonable” sentence, claiming that he had already been punished enough.

Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella Jnr and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2m in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centres and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities’ co-owner. Ciavarella Jnr filled the beds of the private prisons with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted minor crimes.

Original Article
Author: Sam Masters 

Conservative government spend billions annually on outside services

OTTAWA—As the federal Conservatives cut the ranks of the public service, spending on extra professional services for departments and agencies has been steadily increasing to more than $10 billion a year, a Star analysis reveals.

Federal departments and agencies spent more than $10 billion annually for the past four years on professional services — work like management consulting, IT assistance, and engineering, purchased from external contractors or from other government entities. That’s up from the $7.8 billion spent in 2006 — a 27.8 per cent increase under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure.

Tall trade tales in Harper's new Global Markets Action Plan

The Harper government has replaced Canadian foreign policy with export promotion, and made global trade the latest plank in its permanent election campaign. Last week it released the Global Markets Action Plan, featuring a public relations effort similar to its long-standing Economic Action Plan.

Putting small- and medium-sized business up on the export platform is a main objective of economic policy according to the Conservatives. The paper talks of export zones with private equity finance, innovative technology, being tied into world centres, and breaking into priority emerging markets.

Accordingly, Canadian embassies will now become a branch of Canadian industry, dedicated to promoting the profits of Canadian companies. The plan lists 22 sectors where Canadian firms are said to be world-beaters, ready to take on international competition.

Hell freezes over in Alberta: Right-wing Wildrose Party sides with unions, sort of

With blizzard conditions prevailing throughout most of Alberta today, it was still a surprise when the right-wing Wildrose Party issued a news release supporting the province's largest union and promising if it is elected it will undo much of the damage done by the Redford Government's unconstitutional Bills 45 and 46.

Talk about the proverbial strange political bedfellows!

There was considerable discussion in some of Alberta's more cynical quarters late yesterday about whether Hell actually had frozen over, or if it was merely the perfect (snow) storm that led to this unusual alliance. Of course, the most deeply cynical ventured the opinion it was all a snow job.

American Schools vs. the World: Expensive, Unequal, Bad at Math

The U.S. education system is mediocre compared to the rest of the world, according to an international ranking of OECD countries.

More than half a million 15-year-olds around the world took the Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012. The test, which is administered every three years and focuses largely on math, but includes minor sections in science and reading, is often used as a snapshot of the global state of education. The results, published today, show the U.S. trailing behind educational powerhouses like Korea and Finland.

Homeless feeding bans: Well-meaning policy or war on the poor?

You can’t just feed the homeless outdoors in Philadelphia anymore; you now need a permit.

In Dallas, you can give away food only with official permission first.

Laws tightening regulations on aid to the homeless are popping up across the country, according to a recent USA Today report: “Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and more than 50 other cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.”

So the question being asked by many critics is: Are American officials trying to help the poor -- or legislate them out of sight?

Lost and found PMO emails yet another Wright-Duffy plot twist

It's said the Mounties always get their man. Well, investigators looking into the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy affair finally got their missives.

RCMP investigators were undoubtedly pleased to get their hands on the PMO emails they'd been told no longer existed, even though it's far too early to know what's actually in the messages of the prime minister's former lawyer, Benjamin Perrin, or what impact his words will have on the on-going investigation.

An open letter from Carl Bernstein to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger

Dear Alan,

There is plenty of time – and there are abundant venues – to debate relevant questions about Mr Snowden's historical role, his legal fate, the morality of his actions, and the meaning of the information he has chosen to disclose.

But your appearance before the Commons today strikes me as something quite different in purpose and dangerously pernicious: an attempt by the highest UK authorities to shift the issue from government policies and excessive government secrecy in the United States and Great Britain to the conduct of the press – which has been quite admirable and responsible in the case of the Guardian, particularly, and the way it has handled information initially provided by Mr Snowden.

Canada Devolves into an E-Government Dinosaur

Ten years ago, Canada held the distinction of being the top ranked country in the world for the breadth and sophistication of its electronic government services. Citing the Canadian government's integrated, strategic approach, annual assessments by Accenture found that more important services were offered online in Canada than anywhere else.

Fast forward a decade and Canada's e-government rankings have steadily declined, a victim of astonishing neglect by the current Conservative government. Last week, the auditor general issued a scathing report on the state of e-government in Canada, noting the lost opportunities for reduced expenses and greater efficiencies as well as the complete absence of strategic vision.

If you're poor, don't come to law school

"I'm sorry, Eric, but there is nothing we can do for you." Sharp pain and anger grew in my chest as I stared across the large wooden desk. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.

"Are you going to be OK? Let me know if I can do anything." The words of the Associate Dean were meaningless, a social performance dictated by institutional etiquette.

"You mean I have to drop out of law school in my third year?" Absurd. A comedy. I wanted to laugh and cry.

Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom

Black Friday began on Thanksgiving Thursday this year, and continued into Shopaholic Saturday and Sunday. With discounts of up to forty per cent, there were the usual mob scenes at Walmart and Target, the usual brawls over TVs and towels, the usual shoppers with phone cameras immediately uploading footage of the mayhem to YouTube, the usual millions of views within three or four days. It’s becoming an American holiday tradition, a retailers’ Hunger Games.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Although a hundred and forty-one million people bought things in stores or online, exceeding the 2012 figure by one per cent, they spent $1.7 billion less than they did last year. Why didn’t the new, extended Black Friday weekend achieve the desired results in consumer dollars? According to the Times, “Walmart and Target both trimmed their yearly forecasts recently, citing economic factors like slow wage growth, unemployment and sliding consumer confidence.” In other words, as Steven Greenhouse reported in a bleak post-Thanksgiving article, too many Americans now work low-paying jobs—for example, stocking inventory and ringing up merchandise in big-box stores like Walmart and Target—to have enough purchasing power to boost sales. Americans are too poor to stimulate economic growth.

Tim Berners-Lee: Spies' cracking of encryption undermines the web

Tim Berners-Lee is known as the gentle genius with the mild touch, a man who is strikingly modest despite having created one of the epochal inventions of the modern age, the world wide web. But get him on the subject of what the National Security Agency and its British equivalent, GCHQ, have been doing to crack encryption used by hundreds of millions of people to protect their personal data online, and his face hardens, his eyes squint and he fumes.

"I think that's appalling, deliberately to break software," he says in an entirely uncharacteristic outburst of ire. Of all the reasons he is concerned about Edward Snowden's disclosures relating to UK and US spying on the web – and there are many, as we shall see – it is the cracking of encryption revealed by the Guardian in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica that seems to rile him most.

Minimum wage 'being poorly policed'

Only two employers in four years have been prosecuted for paying below the national minimum wage despite more than 300,000 people in the UK earning less, a report reveals.

HMRC has investigated 10,777 firms since 2009 for allegedly breaking the law on low pay, collecting £15.8m in arrears payments and imposing £2.1m in fines. However, only a couple of firms have been prosecuted, and despite ministers' repeated pledges, only one has ever been named and shamed.

Loading Koch Industries Website Too Many Times In 1 Minute Just Cost This Truck Driver $183,000

WASHINGTON -- A Wisconsin man who, for one minute, took part in an Anonymous-sponsored effort to overwhelm the website of Koch Industries has been sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay the company $183,000.

Eric J. Rosol, a 38-year-old truck driver from Black Creek, Wis., was sentenced on Monday in federal court in Wichita, Kan., where Koch Industries is headquartered. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of accessing a protected computer, admitting that he used a software called Low Orbit Ion Cannon Code to participate in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on for approximately one minute back in 2011. As a result of the attack, the website was down for about 15 minutes.

Paul LePage Pushing To Loosen Maine's Child Labor Laws In 2014

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) will continue his push to loosen the state's child labor laws in the new year, arguing that 12-year-old children should not be restricted from working and learning life skills.

Currently, children in Maine younger than 16 who want to work must be enrolled in school, be passing a majority of their courses and obtain a work permit before starting a job. School-age children get those permits from a local school superintendent, and from there, the paperwork is sent to the Department of Labor.

Kalief Browder, NYC Teen Jailed For Years With No Conviction, Says Rikers Guards 'Starved' Him

In March of 2012, Kalief Browder says he ripped the sheets off his bed inside a jail cell at Rikers Island, and fashioned a noose from the ceiling. According to Browder, just as he was about to hang himself, New York City Correction officers stormed into the cell and grabbed him, tackled him to the bed, and punched him repeatedly.

Browder, who joined HuffPost Live for an interview Monday, says he was punished for the suicide attempt, one of five or six such attempts during his three-year stay at the notoriously violent New York City jail. Correction officers "starved" him, he says, withholding up to four meals at a time while he languished in solitary confinement.

And all for a crime for which he was never convicted.

Swiss Activists: Let’s Cap CEO Pay

Not all that many generations ago, the idea of an income floor for working Americans—a minimum wage—seemed impractically utopian. Today we have mandated state and national minimum wages, and the vast majority of Americans want these minimums kept at meaningful levels, as voters made clear most recently in New Jersey.

But what about the notion of a “maximum wage,” a ceiling on the income any one individual can grab from the marketplace? Could a wage maximum ever become as central to our sense of social decency as a wage minimum?

B.C. Privacy Act: Public Interest Disclosure Requires Amendment, Says Commissioner

VICTORIA - Public bodies in British Columbia, including the provincial government, don't do enough to warn people about potential health, safety and environmental dangers, said the provincial privacy commissioner.

In a report released Monday, Elizabeth Denham recommends the B.C. Liberal government amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to ensure people have more information about potential dangers before they occur.

Denham said information about issues such as the state of crumbling infrastructure, the location of marijuana grow operations and how long it takes for an ambulance to arrive should be available to the public.

Cyberbullying Bill Meant To Fight Terrorism, Child Porn: Dechert

Ever since the Tories introduced their anti-cyberbullying bill last month, critics have been asking why it deals with numerous issues not directly related to cyberbullying, such as a clause that protects telecoms from liability if they hand over your private information to police without a warrant.

Another such question is what a clause making it illegal to steal your neighbour’s Wi-Fi signal is doing in the proposed law, known as Bill C-13.

Former Harper adviser blasts Keystone XL support

A former Harper government appointee used a keynote speech at a Washington event on Monday to trample Canadian authorities' message on oil pipelines while describing the country as an environmental "rogue state."

Mark Jaccard was one of the first people nominated by the Conservatives to the environmental file, when he was named in 2006 to the federal government's now-defunct National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

The long arm of US law: what next for Edward Snowden?

After an eventful six months, Edward Snowden will be hoping for a quieter time ahead – but not as quiet as life in a maximum-security American jail. In Russia since fleeing Hong Kong in June, the NSA computer specialist-turned-whistleblower is living under fairly restrictive conditions. But at least he still has access to the internet – crucial to him – although the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, made it a condition of granting Snowden temporary asylum that he do nothing to embarrass the US further.

Snowden has said he no longer has the documents he leaked, having passed all of them to the journalists he met in Hong Kong in June.

Water bills: Thames proposes above-inflation rises for next seven years

Thames Water wants to put up customer bills by 11% above inflation by 2020 to help pay for the £4.2bn London supersewer.

On a day when energy firms announced that bills would rise by less than expected, the UK's largest water company proposed price rises of £8 a year plus inflation for five years from 2015.

If the water regulator Ofwat approves the plans, the average bill for Thames's 14 million customers will rise to £398 before inflation in 2020, compared with £358 today.

DOJ Won't Penalize Banks In Swaps Investigation: WSJ

Dec 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is not planning any penalties on a civil probe relating to allegations that large banks tried preventing competition in the credit default swaps market, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department pored over trading data, messages, emails and documents about credit default swaps (CDS) as part of the probe for the past four years, which is drawing to a close, the people told the paper.

Corporate 'Dark Money' To Get Free Pass After SEC Drops Disclosure Proposal

WASHINGTON -- The Securities and Exchange Commission unceremoniously dropped a proposal to require corporations to disclose contributions to political and nonprofit groups to their shareholders from its list of regulatory priorities for 2014.

The change comes nearly one year after outgoing SEC chair Mary Schapiro placed the proposal, submitted to the commission by consumer advocates and campaign finance reform proponents, on its priority list for 2013.

The commission had largely ignored the proposal since Mary Jo White became chairman in April, despite its having garnered a record 600,000-plus public comments. In May, White told the House Financial Services Committee, "No one is working on a proposed rule."

Edward Snowden revelations prompt UN investigation into surveillance

The UN's senior counter-terrorism official is to launch an investigation into the surveillance powers of American and British intelligence agencies following Edward Snowden's revelations that they are using secret programmes to store and analyse billions of emails, phone calls and text messages.

The UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC said his inquiry would also seek to establish whether the British parliament had been misled about the capabilities of Britain's eavesdropping headquarters, GCHQ, and whether the current system of oversight and scrutiny was strong enough to meet United Nations standards.

Death of a diplomat, birth of a salesman

This past week, the Harper government announced that our diplomats are going to become salesmen.

Of course, they didn’t say it that way. Trade Minister Ed Fast used yet another tortured hockey metaphor to describe the latest enthusiasm over at the Pearson Building: “economic diplomacy.” But make no mistake, that is what it comes down to. Canadian diplomats will now be focused on economic matters — or, to be non-elitist about it, flogging stuff. Did you miss the public debate on that one? No, because there wasn’t one.

Global warming at work: how climate change affects the economy and labour

It is a sticky wicket and Hassan Yussuff knows it.

The secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress is talking about the labour force and its role in the environment, and Alberta’s oilsands crop up — the much-disparaged oilsands that also provide employment to tens of thousands of people.

It’s a conundrum.

“These things are never easy,” says Yussuff. “But conflict is also unnecessary. We have been consistent in saying that we need to slow down the pace of development there … because of its incredible impact on the environment locally and nationally.”

Is there a future for Idle No More?

We are at a crossroads. People are writing off the "Red Winter" from a year ago....

At around this time last year, the hashtag #idlenomore was just starting to make its rounds on Twitter. I made some of the first iconic images for Idle No More. Then the phrase hit Facebook, blogs, news sources and the rest is history. Next thing you know, there are friendly Round Dances in malls and streets around the world.

As silly as the term "Idle No More" sounded (should I turn off my truck?), it struck a chord with people. There was a feeling that with ecological and political stresses mounting that perhaps we, as a human family had been far too idle.