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.]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Line in the Sand project dissects Northern Gateway pipeline

You could say Tomas Borsa and his buddies have drawn a "line in the sand" between anger and activism. Spurred by what they saw as the lack of deeper public and community input into the environmental risks of a twin pipeline that would run 1,177 kilometres between Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. the gang got their game on.

The combination of the two pipelines in the Northern Gateway Pipeline project would carry an average of 743,000 barrels of crude oil a day. At issue is Enbridge's pipeline safety record. Between 1999 and 2010, the company reported a total of 804 spills in Canada and the United States. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan ruptured and went unresolved for 18 hours, pouring more than 3 million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River. According to Line in the Sand, "the incident is officially the single largest inland oil spill ever recorded."

Cutting Canada Post: It's about more than mail

I admit it -- I probably don't use the post office as often as I could. But there's no doubt I appreciate that it's there when we all need it, regardless of our socioeconomic situation or location. I also appreciate the fact that it provides good, steady, well-paid employment with benefits to so many men and women across the country.

The recently announced changes to Canada Post impact us all -- and some more than others. But we should all be concerned about what it means for our national commitment to universality, and how it will further contribute to the slow erosion of our democratic institutions and sense of social cohesion. Especially when the justification for the radical restructuring of Canada Post relies on such weak arguments.

Worker pay is frightful, but profits are delightful

The holiday rush is upon us -- hours of operations have been expanded and seasonal workers have been hired. Retailers are doing their best to accommodate shopper’s schedules, but does this convenience come at a cost?

Leading the charge in customer convenience is Wal-Mart. Some Canadian stores will stay open 24 hours a day from December 20 until they close on Christmas Eve.

Tory delay on CPP reform will hurt workers

With the next federal election just 22 months away, the federal Conservatives are seeking lifelines, rather than anchors, to shore their foundering political base.

That is why federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty spent much of Monday pouring cold water on provincial demands that a plan to “reform” the Canada Pension Plan, likely to lead to increased payroll taxes for workers and employers, be developed over the next fiscal year.

Flaherty, at Meech Lake meetings with his provincial counterparts, once again turned aside mounting provincial pressure to advance a CPP reform agenda. The federal Liberals have accused the Conservatives of advocating an anti-CPP position. The federal minister insists, however, that the country’s economy is still too fragile to increase payroll taxes through increased CPP payments, potentially hampering job growth and taking more after-tax payments from workers’ pockets.

Stephen Harper’s merry band of 19th century liberals

James Moore, the federal industry minister, may have said more than he meant to when questioning why his government should feed hungry, poor children.

Certainly, he apologized fulsomely once he realized that his comments — made last week to a Vancouver radio reporter — were putting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in a bad light.

But the British Columbia MP deserves to have his original remarks taken seriously. Among other things, they provide some insight into the government’s curious decision to squelch any talk of reforming the Canada Pension Plan.

Why Jim Flaherty is turning his back on CPP reform

Wes Sheridan is still surprised. No, make that perplexed. You can hear it in the PEI finance minister's voice on the day after the federal government's abrupt decision to shelve all the work that's been done on CPP reform.

"We had full consensus from 10 provinces and three territories to continue work on enhancing the Canadian Pension Plan, and the feds just shut it down,'' Sheridan said Tuesday. ''That's never happened in the past.''

Freeze on departmental budgets adds to pressure on unions

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is freezing departments’ operational budgets for another two years, further ratcheting up the pressure on upcoming labour negotiations where wage increases will risk more job cuts.

The freeze, which kicks in next year, will affect all departments and separate agencies and is expected to generate $1.7 billion in savings over two years, said Heather Domereckyj, a spokesperson for Treasury Board President Tony Clement. The government signalled the freeze in the throne speech and the Finance department’s documents show the hold on operating budgets will save an ongoing $1.1 billion a year.

Harper government shouldn’t pick a fight with unions: Segal

Picking a fight with Canada’s labour unions would be a big mistake for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, says Conservative Senator Hugh Segal.

In an interview with iPolitics, Segal said attracting the support of unionized Canadians has long proved to be part of the winning strategy for successful Conservative governments.

“My very strong bias is that Tory governments are formed because they get a lot of votes from union households….These are people who should be the natural constituency of a Conservative Party that believes in economic growth and solid management,” Segal said.

Peter MacKay acting as ‘bully’ on victim fine surcharges, judge says

OTTAWA — An Ontario Court judge said Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s suggestion that poor criminals could sell their belongings to pay the government’s mandatory victim fine surcharge is disappointing, and suggested the minister spend some time in a courtroom.

“You have to understand these people have nothing. That’s the tragedy,” said Waterloo region Ontario Court Justice Colin Westman, one of many judges in Ontario who have found ways to minimize the mandatory penalty by doling out small fines that reduce the victim surcharge to as little as 30 cents.

TransCanada CEO Sees Mexico Oil Pipeline Opportunities If Market Opens

CALGARY - The CEO of TransCanada Corp. sees opportunities to build new oil pipelines in Mexico, which is poised to end its government's monopoly on energy development and open its oilfields up to foreign players.

To the extent that Mexico, already a crude exporter, is able to ramp up its flagging production as a result of the changes, it will likely be eager to send more of its crude to lucrative Asian markets — much as has been the case in Canada in recent years, Russ Girling said.

"That's where companies like us can come in with our capital and our expertise and build the infrastructure necessary to get it to a place where they can export from," he said in an interview.

Getting Job Grant right key to future federal-provincial relations, says Jason Kenney

OTTAWA — Much is at stake for the federal government as it tries to strike a deal with the provinces on its signature Canada Job Grant, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said in a year-end interview.

Getting that right, he suggested, is key to future discussions on other federal priorities of largely provincial jurisdiction — like post-secondary education.

Mayor Bloomberg On Homeless Girl Featured In The New York Times: ‘That’s Just The Way God Works’

Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY) went on the defensive when asked whether he was moved by the New York Times’ powerful series on a homeless family struggling to survive in New York City. Bloomberg defended his homelessness policies and claimed that 11-year-old Dasani, the star of the piece, ended up in dire straits due to bad luck.

“This kid was dealt a bad hand. I don’t know quite why. That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not,” he told Politicker, calling her plight “a sad situation.”

Ivan Okhlobystin, Russian Actor, Says He Would Burn Gays Alive In Ovens

A Russian actor recently spewed inflammatory comments about gays in Russia, saying he wants to burn them all alive in ovens.

Ivan Okhlobystin is a priest and actor who stars in Russia's version of "Scrubs" and voiced a character in 2012's "Snow Queen." On Sunday, he made homophobic statements during a "spiritual talk" in Siberia's Novosibirsk, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"I would have them all stuffed alive inside an oven. This is Sodom and Gomorrah, as a believer, I can not remain indifferent to this, it is a living danger to my children!" he said, according to a Huffington Post translation of a local news report from NGS.Novosti.

With The Lights On, 99 Senators Voted Against Wall Street. The Lights Went Off And They All Fled

WASHINGTON -- The nation’s biggest banks have quietly dodged a measure expressing Congress’s desire to eliminate the unfair advantages they may enjoy because they're perceived as “too big to fail.”

The provision, aimed at institutions with more than $500 billion in assets, was sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), and passed the Senate in March by a 99-0 vote in a show of lawmakers’ reluctance to be tagged as big-bank sympathizers. At the time, some three years after lawmakers and the Obama administration passed the Dodd-Frank financial reforms into law, Washington was gripped by a debate over whether the largest U.S. financial institutions remain so important to the financial system that policymakers would never allow them to fail.

Elizabeth Warren Introduces Legislation To Prohibit Job Applicant Credit Checks

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would prevent employers from discriminating against job applicants who have poor credit.

The legislation, co-authored with six Democratic senators, prohibits credit checks in the hiring process.

In an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, Warren explained that outlawing credit score disclosure would allow potential employees to compete on their ability to do a job, not on their economic standing.

"People ought to be able to get out there and compete for a job based on whether or not they can do the job, not based on whether or not they can pay their bills or whether or not they've had a problem in the past: a divorce, a job loss, a death in the family, the kinds of things that cause people to have financial problems," Warren said.

Warren, a defender of the middle class, argued that mandatory credit score disclosure is one way "the game is rigged" in favor of the financially stable.

"This is a problem that hits hardworking families who are struggling to get back on their feet," Warren said. "It's not one that hits the rich and I think that's just wrong. It's how we fight for people who have been hit by one economic blow or another and are out there trying to compete in the job market and just want a level playing field."

Original Article
Author: Ashley Alman

In Praise of Independent Judges, from Learned Hand to Richard J. Leon

In the American way of government, it often takes an independent-minded judge to tell truth to power. That’s the way the system works. The executive branch is almost always dominated by the exigencies of the day; the legislature—on matters of national security, especially—is often supine. Thanks to the Founding Fathers, federal judges are empowered with the job security and the leeway to think for themselves. And on occasion, thank the Lord, some of them exercise these freedoms.

Immigration bill could lead to racism and homelessness, say MPs and peers

The government's immigration bill designed to create a "hostile environment" for illegal migrants will lead to homelessness, human rights breaches and racism, MPs and peers have warned.

Parliament's joint committee on human rights says that in particular the legislation's proposed requirement that private landlords check tenants' immigration status will give rise to homelessness and discrimination.

Ukraine PM hails 'historic' deal with Russia

Mykola Azarov, the Ukrainian prime minister, hailed a "historic" economic agreement between his country and Russia and said that Kiev has avoided "bankruptcy and social collapse" thanks to the deal.

Azarov defined the deal, which involves Moscow to buy $15bn of Ukrainian bonds and slash natural gas prices by about one-third, as the only option for the country at a time of economic crisis.

The settlement, reached at talks in Moscow between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on Tuesday, came amid anti-government protests going on for over three weeks in reaction to Kiev’s decision to slash a free trade deal with the European Union.

Egypt's Morsi charged with 'terrorist acts'

Egypt's deposed President Mohamed Morsi will stand trial on charges of "conspiring with foreign groups" to commit "terrorist acts."

Morsi, toppled by the military in July and already on trial for alleged involvement in the killings of opposition protesters, was also accused on Wednesday of divulging "secrets of defence to foreign countries" and "funding terrorism for militant training to fulfil the goals of the International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood", according to a prosecutor document seen by Al Jazeera sources.

Britain's MI6 linked to Libya torture scandal

False intelligence extracted by torture in Tripoli's notorious Abu Salim prison has been linked to arrests of Libyan dissidents in the United Kingdom, an investigation by Al Jazeera's People and Power has revealed.

In this exclusive report, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the anti-Gaddafi resistance group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), explains that he and fellow leader Sami al-Saadi were subjected to torture by his Libyan interrogators, which forced them to give up the names of innocent residents in the UK.

NSA's goal is elimination of individual privacy worldwide - Greenwald to EU

The NSA’s ultimate goal is to destroy individual privacy worldwide, working with its UK sidekick GCHQ, journalist Glenn Greenwald warned an EU inquiry, adding that they were far ahead of their rivals in their “ability to destroy privacy.”

Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist renowned for publishing Edward Snowden’s leaks, criticized EU governments’ muted response to the revelations about the NSA’s mass espionage. Most governments reacted with “apathy and indifference” to reports that ordinary citizens were being spied upon, Greenwald said, pointing out that EU politicians only took action when they discovered that they themselves were being targeted.

Rand Paul’s Plan to Save the Cities

If Americans are divided today—and they are—the most obvious and pronounced divisions are between those who live in cities and those who don’t. If you split America into two countries, one rural and one urban, you would have two very different nations—in philosophy, in governance, in economics, in liberty.

One of those Americas is functioning today. The other is a basket case—on life support, bankrupt, riddled with crime, hopelessness and poverty. Few politicians of either party have addressed this division or proposed specific policies to address it. It is undeniable that most cities are under the control of Democrats, while most rural areas are under the control of Republicans.

The Long, Expensive History of Defense Rip-Offs

It didn't start with the F-35 or even the $640 toilet seat. Military overruns and rip-offs have a long (and expensive) history, starting in the earliest days of the republic:
1778 General George Washington decries the suppliers overcharging his army: "It is enough to make one curse their own Species, for possessing so little virtue & patriotism."
George Washington Wikipedia

Is This Plane the Biggest Pentagon Rip-Off of All Time?

The passage of the Ryan-Murray budget plan in the House sends a strong signal that the Pentagon's budget is basically untouchable. Under the deal, the military's base budget (which doesn't include supplemental funding for overseas operations and combat) will be restored to around $520 billion next year—more than it got in 2006 and 2007, when the United States was fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Erika Eichelberger reports, the deal could spell the end of efforts to make the Pentagon budget more efficient, particularly in the realm of procurement and contracting. Exhibit A is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy, high-tech fighter jets that are supposed to do everything from landing on aircraft carriers and taking off vertically to dogfighting and dropping bombs. Faced with sequestration cuts, the Air Force had considered delaying its purchases of the fighters, which are years behind schedule, hugely over budget, and plagued with problems. If the House budget plan becomes law and sequestration is eased for two years, those plans also may be shelved.

Should Account-holders Pay for High-Flying Bankers' Mistakes?

When the next big financial crisis hits the world economy and Canadian banks are in distress -- as they were during the 2008 financial crisis -- the bank-using public will have plenty to worry about.

As we saw earlier in this series, it's hard to trust banks to protect our savings and investments when so many have behaved unethically, gambled extravagantly on exotic financial instruments and engaged in fraudulent activities.

Clark's Pipeline Lip Service to First Nations

At first blush, the B.C. government's fourth condition on First Nations' Aboriginal and treaty rights appears as if it might be meaningful. Under scrutiny, we find it's more about political posturing and siding with Big Oil than protecting First Nations' interests.

Instead of proactively addressing the condition after it was announced, Premier Christy Clark waited a year, and then set up an Alberta/B.C. deputy minister's working group. In October, the committee's terms of reference were released in advance of Clark meeting with Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

Opinion Please Advise! All Harper Wants for Christmas Is Good PR

Dear Dr. Steve,

Christmas is supposed to be a season of peace. So why is it that every Christmas it seems the world is divided into heroes and villains? Those of us who champion personal responsibility are reviled by every pissant Cindy Lou Who as the greedy Bob Cratchits of organized labour whine for a half-day off. At least we've taken steps to ensure that Canada Post will no longer deliver the stacks of "Season's Greetings" cards sent out by holiday Christ-haters, but still I'm tired of being painted as Scroogey McGrinch every December. What can I do to get on Santa's good PR list?

Yours in Christmas fellowship,
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

What BC's Public Sector Unions Got for 'Labour Peace'

These are strange days, indeed, for public sector unions. Big developments, not always happy ones, are everywhere. Yet the dearth of labour reporters and the collective yawns from editors and the public alike have combined to shine relatively little light on groundbreaking events that would have dominated front pages not so long ago when unions were considered important.

These days, it's all business, all the time. Employees struggling collectively to improve their lot in life, or even just to hang on to what they have, is so last century. Cue the top 10, top 50, top 100 lists of corporations and their powerful executives. Cue the latest real estate blip. Cue record bank profits. Now that's news!

The crux of the Beyoncé debate: What is feminism?

I'm writing this post, not necessarily to change your mind about whatever positions you hold about feminism, but to act in solidarity with other feminists -- especially feminists of colour -- who find it problematic that so many feminist sites are hailing Beyoncé as a feminist queen. Several articles and blog posts have been published with the intention of silencing the "haters" who do not like Beyoncé. I suppose that being an actual feminist and understanding how feminism has become a commercialized product means that you're a "hater?"

Poverty costs Canada billions of dollars every year

Here’s something Industry Minister James Moore should know, after making his remark that the federal government is not in the business of feeding Canada’s poor children. Every year, Campaign 2000, a non-partisan public education movement to build awareness around poverty issues in Canada, releases a report on the state of our country’s children. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture.

This year’s report shows that child poverty in Canada continues at a high and unacceptable level, with income inequality continuing to grow. Most provinces and all three territories have recognized this as a crisis, and have put in place poverty reduction plans.  Unfortunately, the federal government has yet to come to the table—or create a poverty reduction plan of its own—despite numerous recommendations from its own reports to do just that.

U.S. Is Making A Lot Less Off Drilling On Public Lands Than It Should Be

WASHINGTON –- The federal government isn't doing enough to ensure it collects a "fair return" for the oil and gas that companies produce from public lands, in part due to policies on revenues for onshore drilling that are nearly a century old, according to a critical report on the Department of the Interior released Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office, the federal government's internal watchdog, dinged the Interior Department for a continued lack of clear, updated procedures on the collection of royalties on oil and gas that come from public lands. Tuesday's report comes after previous GAO research found that the U.S. government has one of the lowest return rates for federal leases, and that Interior had not updated its assessment of the policy in 25 years.

Reddit's Science Forum Banned Climate Deniers. Why Don't All Newspapers Do the Same?

In addition to my career as a PhD chemist, I am one of a select few who enjoy the privilege of moderating content on's science forum. The science forum is a small part of reddit, but it nonetheless enjoys over 4 million subscribers. By comparison, that's roughly twice the circulation of The New York Times.

The forum, known as /r/science, provides a digital space for discussions about recent, peer-reviewed scientific publications. This puts us (along with /r/AskScience) on the front line of the science-public interface. On our little page, scientists and nonscientists can connect through discussions on everything from subatomic particles to interstellar astrophysics.

Black ops

Now that Conrad Black has entered the fray, the Rob Ford scandal has gone all cock-eyed.

The guy fighting the elites, that would be Rob, has an elitist going to bat for him in the pages of the National Post which, with Black’s offering Saturday seems to have taken up the mantle vacated by the Sun as defender of all things Ford. Wow. If you thought Conrad’s VisionTV one-on-one with Ford was a mess…

Conny really dumped on the Star and its “values,” used a lot of big words to show how highbrow he is. I think I read a verbal assault in there somewhere of Rosie DiManno who, according to Black, can’t get over his wife Babs’ “timeless appearance.” There was a reference in there to a “malignant orifice.” But I guess one good fart-catching joke deserves another.

Nikki Haley May Have Violated Occupy Protesters' Free Speech Rights, Court Finds

A group of Occupy protesters suing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) over their ejection from the State House grounds have a "viable" claim that she violated their First Amendment rights, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

Nineteen Occupy Columbia protesters were camped out on November 16, 2011 when Haley had them arrested on two hours notice. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found Monday that their arrest may have been unconstitutional, because they were arrested without a formal rule change banning sleeping, and so their lawsuit can continue.

John Bolton: Edward Snowden 'Ought To Swing From A Tall Oak Tree'

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton spoke out against former government contractor Edward Snowden for leaking classified details on the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance practices, suggesting Snowden should "swing from a tall oak tree" as punishment.

Speaking on Fox News on Monday, Bolton, who served under former President George W. Bush, characterized Snowden's actions as treason, and urged against any public talk of amnesty.

Income Inequality Is Hurting The Economy, 3 Dozen Economists Say

WASHINGTON (AP) — The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn't bad just for individuals.

It's hurting the U.S. economy.

So says a majority of more than three dozen economists surveyed last week by The Associated Press. Their concerns tap into a debate that's intensified as middle-class pay has stagnated while wealthier households have thrived.

A key source of the economists' concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising.

Mitch McConnell Predicts Debt Ceiling Won't Be Raised Without A Hostage

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the nation's debt limit won't be raised unless Republicans can extract concessions from Democrats and President Barack Obama.

The borrowing limit, which was suspended until Feb. 7, 2014, as part of the deal to end the government shutdown in the fall, stands at about $17.2 trillion. The Treasury Department estimates that without a hike, it can keep paying the nation's bills only until sometime in March.

Elizabeth Warren’s New Bill Aims to Stop Employers Discriminating Against the Poor

Citing “basic fairness” as motivation for introducing a bill that would prevent employers from using credit reports as criteria when hiring a new employee, Warren, along with six other senators, is once again fighting battles for the disadvantaged. According to the Massachusetts Democrat, employment should be based on merit, not whether potential workers “have enough money to pay all their bills.” Employers often use credit scores to weed out poorer applicants despite the fact that studies show these numbers have nothing to do with productivity or dedication, but the Equal Employment for All Act introduced Tuesday would prohibit this form of discrimination from taking place.

Colorado Cities Routinely Jail Individuals Because They Can’t Pay Fines, ACLU Finds

Jared Thornburg was ticketed for driving a defective vehicle in Westminster, Colorado. He didn’t pay the $165 fee he owed, because he couldn’t afford it. So the local court sent him to jail instead. Linda Roberts couldn’t pay the $371 in fines and fees for shoplifting $20 worth of food while she was out of work and homeless. When she didn’t pay, the fees ballooned to $746. While her initial punishment was a fine that she had explained at the time she couldn’t afford, her punishment for failure to pay was jail time.

Several Colorado cities are routinely sending individuals to jail for failure to pay fines and fees, according to an American Civil Liberties review. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that jailing someone because they cannot afford to pay a fine is unconstitutional. But these cities make these determinations for hundreds of individuals without any determination of ability to pay, according to the ACLU.

What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters The Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About

While coal, oil, and gas are an integral part of everyday life around the world, 2013 brought a stark reminder of the inherent risk that comes with a fossil-fuel dependent world, with numerous pipeline spills, explosions, derailments, landslides, and the death of 20 coal miners in the U.S. alone.

Despite all this, our addiction to fossil fuels will be a tough habit to break. The federal Energy Information Administration in July projected that fossil fuel use will soar across the world in the come decades. Coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — is projected to increase by 2.3 percent in coming years. And in December, the EIA said that global demand for oil would be even higher than it had projected, for both this year and next.

Dismantling the Myth of Bill Bratton’s LAPD

The return of William Bratton as New York’s top cop raises questions about how far reform of stop-and-frisk laws will go. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has extolled the incoming chief for implementing “constitutional” stop-and-frisk policies during his Los Angeles tenure.

Stop right there and frisk Bratton’s Los Angeles record. It’s not what you might think.

The LAPD’s current inspector general, Alex Bustamante, is combing incomplete data from the LA Bratton era, 2002–09, but certain facts are clear. Violent crime declined in LA during those seven years. Bratton achieved his stated goal of “freeing” the LAPD from a federally imposed consent decree. Public opinion toward the LAPD rose to favorable levels in the African-American and Latino communities. But the numbers on “stops” (LA terminology for stop-and-frisk) point towards racial profiling and a possible ticking time bomb.

The New Nullification Movement

On June 25, the Supreme Court invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the worst history of racial discrimination in voting no longer had to clear their voting changes with the federal government. That decision has set off a new wave of disenfranchisement, primarily in the South, with eight states previously covered by the VRA passing or implementing new voting restrictions over the past four months.

A week before the Shelby County v. Holder ruling, the Supreme Court decided another voting rights case, Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which garnered few headlines but is also having major ramifications. In a 7–2 opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who famously called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” the Court found that Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship law for voter registration violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). With a few important caveats—for example, that states have the power to set voter “qualifications” for elections—the ruling seemed like an unlikely voting rights victory from a Court known as markedly hostile to the cause.

Obama Is Trying to Fix Inequality by Hiring the Same Hacks Who Caused It

How can President Obama be so right and so wrong in the same moment? On the one hand, he warns us that sharply rising income inequality “is the defining challenge of our time” and pledges to reverse “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility. …” But then he once again turns to the same hacks in the Democratic Party who helped create this problem to fix it.

His tough speech on income inequality earlier this month was delivered at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta. As chief of staff to Bill Clinton, Podesta helped lead the charge to deregulate Wall Street, which resulted in the banking bubble that wiped out the savings of tens of millions of Americans.

A Glitter-Covered Banner Got These Protesters Arrested for Staging a Bioterror Hoax

It's not uncommon for environmental protesters to face arrest, but here's an apparent first: On Friday, Oklahoma City police charged a pair of environmental activists with staging a "terrorism hoax" after they unfurled a pair of banners covered in glitter—a substance local cops considered evidence of a faux biochemical assault.

Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson, members of the environmental group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, were part of a group of about a dozen activists demonstrating at Devon Tower, the headquarters of fossil fuel giant Devon Energy. They activists were protesting the company's use of fracking, its role in mining of Canada's tar sands, and its ties to TransCanada, the energy company planning to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. As other activists blocked the building's revolving door, Warner and Stephenson hung two banners—one a cranberry-colored sheet emblazoned with The Hunger Games "mockingjay" symbol and the words "The odds are never in our favor" in gold letters—from the second floor of the Devon Tower's atrium.

U.S. Oil Production To Grow Faster Than Thought, Threatening Oilsands

Domestic U.S. oil production is expected to grow much faster than was thought just a few months ago, according to a new report from the U.S. federal government, placing an even larger question mark on the future of Canada’s oilsands.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s preliminary outlook for 2014 predicts U.S. oil imports next year will be one million barrels per day less than previously forecast.

Canada Budget 2014: First Nations Ask For More Education Funding

OTTAWA - Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has written to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty asking for more funding for First Nations education in the next federal budget.

South Portland, Maine, Passes Oilsands Moratorium

The city council in South Portland, Maine, has placed a moratorium on shipments of Canadian oilsands product, a move that was met with “cheers and a standing ovation,” according to local news sources.

While the city of South Portland — population 25,000 — is hardly a major player in the oil industry, the move is a sign that oilsands producers’ hopes for a “plan B” replacement for the Keystone XL pipeline could run into political problems of their own.

Rally at Lindsay jail calls for end to indefinite immigration detention

Bus loads of friends, families and supporters of immigration detainees endured the cold and gathered at Lindsay’s maximum-security jail from several cities across Ontario on December 14, with one demand: "End Indefinite Immigration Detention." Inside the prison, over 100 immigration detainees are on a hunger-fast protesting their incarceration in a maximum-security prison, and calling for their release.

"Jailing migrants for no crime but that of being born elsewhere is unjust, and indefensible!" says End Immigration Detention Network member Tings Chak, at the rally in Christie Pits Park before nearly 200 people boarded buses to Lindsay jail. "Jailing people indefinitely, with no end in sight is utterly inhumane."

Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra to face MPs

Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra will field questions on proposed Canada Post service cuts when he appears at an emergency session of the House of Commons transport committee Wednesday afternoon, his office confirmed late Tuesday.

Witnesses from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Conference Board of Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are also tentatively scheduled to appear at the hastily convened pre-holiday session.

Patrick Cockburn: U.S. Turns Blind Eye as Saudis Fund Jihadists in Syrian Conflict

To discuss the role of foreign powers fueling the ongoing conflict in Syria, we are joined by Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent. "It is clearly a proxy war. This might have started off as a popular uprising in Syria, but by now it has four or five different conflicts wrapped into one," Cockburn explains. "You have an opposition, but an opposition that is fragmented and really proxies for foreign powers, notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey plays a role." He recently wrote the article, "Mass Murder in the Middle East Is Funded by Our Friends the Saudis: Everyone Knows Where al-Qaida Gets Its Money, But While the Violence is Sectarian, the West Does Nothing." Reporters Without Borders has just revealed at least 10 journalists and 35 citizen-journalists have been killed in Syria in 2013. In addition, another 49 journalists were abducted in Syria — more than the rest of the world combined. Reporters Without Borders blamed the spike in killings and kidnappings on jihadi groups.

Author: --

St. Anne's Residential School survivor says Ottawa 'hiding evidence'

St. Anne's Residential School survivors were in Ontario Superior Court today in a bid to get the federal government to release documents the former students say would help corroborate their claims of abuse.

The documents they want are from a five-year Ontario Provincial Police investigation in the 1990s, as well as files from the subsequent trials that resulted in several convictions against school staff and supervisors.

A judge hearing the case issued an interim sealing order and partial publication ban on the names of victims in the case.

Flaherty Betrayed Ontario On Health Transfers, Liberal Minister Says

TORONTO - The federal Conservatives have betrayed Canada's most populous province by breaking their promise over health-care funding, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews charged Tuesday.

The Harper Tories promised all provinces a six per cent increase in health transfers, but they're only giving Ontario 3.4 per cent in 2014-15, she said.

An NSA Coworker Remembers The Real Edward Snowden: 'A Genius Among Geniuses'

Perhaps Edward Snowden’s hoodie should have raised suspicions.

The black sweatshirt sold by the civil libertarian Electronic Frontier Foundation featured a parody of the National Security Agency’s logo, with the traditional key in an eagle’s claws replaced by a collection of AT&T cables, and eavesdropping headphones covering the menacing bird’s ears. Snowden wore it regularly to stay warm in the air-conditioned underground NSA Hawaii Kunia facility known as “the tunnel.”

His coworkers assumed it was meant ironically. And a geek as gifted as Snowden could get away with a few irregularities.

Months after Snowden leaked tens of thousands of the NSA’s most highly classified documents to the media, the former intelligence contractor has stayed out of the limelight, rarely granting interviews or sharing personal details. A 60 Minutes episode Sunday night, meanwhile, aired NSA’s officials descriptions of Snowden as a malicious hacker who cheated on an NSA entrance exam and whose work computers had to be destroyed after his departure for fear he had infected them with malware.

Profitable PotashCorp underpays province

For communities relying on the resource sector, there can be few mornings more devastating than the one earlier this month when workers at the Lanigan potash mine arrived at work, only to be told they were now unemployed and to go right back home. They had been laid off.

What a hard drive home that was for many back on the highway, heading out across central Saskatchewan, back to one of the many rural communities that rely on potash for their livelihood. They had plenty of time to let the news sink in ... only to have to repeat it to their families when they got home.

Slamming the NSA

The National Security Agency (NSA) and its high-tech spying cohorts have been slammed by a federal judge and, if a report in Politico is to be believed, the presidential commission set up earlier this year by President Obama, after the barrage of leaks from Edward Snowden, is going to be a “doozy” that rocks the NSA.

But it remains to be seen if Obama will carry out all, or any, of his own commission’s recommendations. The commission delivered its still-secret report to the White House last Friday.