Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sheldon Adelson: Wild card

LAS VEGAS — Luxury buses pulled up to the front entrance of the private hangar here where Sheldon Adelson keeps his corporate jets, dropping off Republican donors to hear Jeb Bush speak.

But Adelson arrived late — and in more extravagant style, pulling right into the massive structure in his Maybach limousine with dark tinted windows trailed by a second Maybach carrying glaring bodyguards.

Mounties in Robert Dziekanski case allege witness tampering, intimidation

An RCMP constable and a former Mountie charged with perjury for their testimony at the Braidwood inquiry have lodged complaints with B.C.'s civilian police watchdog.

The complaints by Const. Gerry Rundel and retired corporal Monty Robinson mark the first time any of the officers involved in Robert Dziekanski's death in 2007 have attempted to defend themselves outside of the grindingly slow prosecutions against them.

Canada Is a Lousy Oil Negotiator

There is an old adage in business that you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. And there are few businesses bigger than Big Oil. The top 50 petroleum companies collectively have annual revenues over $5.6 trillion.

Subsurface mineral rights worldwide typically remain the property of sovereign nations, and oil companies only access that bounty through negotiated leases. You can imagine these negotiations are high stakes affairs. With potentially trillions of dollars on the table, both sides have a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

Daphne Bramham: Sense of entitlement runs rampant among political and community leaders

There’s a surprising lack of character in evidence these days among our free-spending, entitled-seeming political and community leaders.

Even though many are better paid than ever, it still doesn’t seem to be enough.

Here’s my theory: The people working for the public good are rankled that guys like the wolves on Wall Street are making so much more money and, for what?

Stephen Harper: a smart tactician or just graceless narcissist?

Someone described Stephen Harper as a Sphinx without a riddle.

Sphinx or not, as he moves government in Canada towards something that is plainly tyrannical, there is no mystery about his increasingly dictatorial nature.

“You have to appreciate Orwell to get a feel for Harper,” former Liberal interim leader Bob Rae told me. “His government doesn’t like alternate sources of information. It likes to be the sole source of information.”

Bad news, Stephen. Democracy is always a choir, never a soloist.

If This Terrifying Report Doesn't Wake You Up to the Realities of What We're Doing to This Planet, What Will?

The impacts of climate change are likely to be "severe, pervasive, and irreversible," the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan, as the world's leading climate experts released a new survey of how our planet is likely to change in the near future, and what we can do about it.

Blue Is The New Green: How Oceans Could Power The Future

In February, a natural gas power plant along the Central California coast closed after operating for more than 50 years, thus ending an era that saw the surrounding community of Morro Bay grow up around it. In an unlikely partnership, the shuttering may also help usher in a new era of energy generation — this one reliant on power from the waves that undulate through the bay before crashing up against the nearby shoreline.

Conservative Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its second of four planned reports examining the state of climate science. This one summarizes what the scientific literature says about “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” (big PDF here). As with every recent IPCC report, it is super-cautious to a fault and yet still incredibly alarming.

Fighting the Militarized State

The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.

“The administration’s unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens,” Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. “It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.”

North Korea, South Korea Trade Fire Near Disputed Sea Border

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea fired artillery shells into each other's waters Monday, a flare-up of animosity between the rivals that forced residents of five front-line South Korean islands to evacuate to shelters, South Korean officials said.

The South Korean artillery fire came after shells from a North Korean live-fire drill fell south of the Koreas' disputed western sea boundary, an official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, said the official, who provided no other details and spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

One Percenter Convicted Of Raping Infant Child Dodges Jail Because He 'Will Not Fare Well'

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he "will not fare well" in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Climate change 'already affecting food supply' – UN

Climate change has already cut into the global food supply and is fuelling wars and natural disasters, but governments are unprepared to protect those most at risk, according to a report from the UN's climate science panel.

The report is the first update in seven years from the UN's international panel of experts, which is charged with producing the definitive account of climate change.

‘An interesting leap of logic,’ author of report touted by Conservatives says

What started as a slow burn of opposition to the Conservatives’ proposed election reforms has burst into a five-alarm fire for the Harper government.  Since Bill C-23 was introduced in February, the official Opposition has staged a filibuster and experts, including current and past chief electoral officers, have ripped it apart.

The man sent out to sell the bill, Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre, has often cited a report former British Columbia chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld authored, touting it as proof some controversial proposals in the bill are necessary to preserve the integrity of Canada’s elections.

DND ditched years of research new plane plan

OTTAWA - National Defence was forced to throw over six years' worth of research and planning for its desperately-needed search and rescue plane out the window when the Harper government elected to take a different procurement approach.

A briefing note prepared for the former associate defence minister, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, spells out in detail how the project, which has been grinding its way through the defence bureaucracy since 2004, was being further sidelined.

Two public sector unions working to defeat Harper government

Two of Canada’s biggest public sector labor unions say they have already begun working towards getting rid of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in the next election.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) have both begun campaigns to inform Canadians about the impact the government’s actions are having, union leaders told those attending the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit.

Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said it is important to start now to replace Harper’s Conservative Party.

Dear Ryan: The Fair Elections Act is an insult to our intelligence!

Ryan Leef
Member of Parliament for Yukon
Dear Ryan,
In a letter to the Yukon News, March 19, you said, "the Fair Elections Act will ensure citizens are in charge of democracy."
While Bill C-23 imposes punishments to those who are caught committing electoral crime, you are incorrect to state that it will empower the Commissioner of Canada Elections (CCE).  The CCE may no longer compel witnesses to testify.   The CCE will be answerable to the Attorney General, which unlike Elections Canada is not an arms length institution.  The Act enforces secrecy about investigations undertaken by both the CCE and the Director of Public Prosecution.   These cases will be exempt from Access to Information requirements. 

Brazil police, military raid Rio slums ahead of World Cup

More than 1,400 police officers and Brazilian marines rolled into a massive complex of slums near Rio de Janeiro's international airport before dawn Sunday in the latest security push ahead of this year's World Cup.

Not a shot was fired as the Mare complex of 15 slums became the latest impoverished area to see security forces move in to take control and try to push out heavily armed drug gangs that have ruled Rio's shantytowns for decades.

Truth and Reconciliation: nearly 4 years of hearings wrap

The commission delving into the sordid legacy of Canada's Indian residential schools was wrapping up nearly four years of public hearings Sunday, where thousands of victims recounted stories of cruelty and abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care.

The heart-breaking accounts — almost all videotaped — will now form part of a lasting record of one of the darkest chapters in the country's history.

For many, being able to tell their stories was at once cathartic and a validation.


In this week’s magazine, I’ve got a lengthy piece about “Capital in the Twenty-first Century,” a new book about rising inequality by Thomas Piketty, a French economist, that is sparking a lot of comment and debate. (Brad DeLong has a useful summary of some early reviews.) I’ll go further into that discussion in future posts, but first I thought it might be useful to portray the gist of Piketty’s story in a series of charts.
The charts aren’t merely illustrative: they are an essential part of Piketty’s contribution. Fifteen or twenty years ago, debates about inequality tended to be cast in terms of clever but complicated statistics, such as the Gini coefficient and the Theil entropy index, which attempted to reduce the entire income distribution to a single number. One thing that Piketty and his colleagues Emmanuel Saez and Anthony Atkinson have done is to popularize the use of simple charts that are easier to understand. In particular, they present pictures showing the shares of over-all income and wealth taken by various groups over time, including the top decile of the income distribution and the top percentile (respectively, the top ten per cent and those we call “the one per cent”).

Do You Have The Right ID To Cast A Ballot In A Federal Election?

Much of the debate over the government's proposed changes to Canadian election laws has focused on its plan to eliminate vouching, a process that lets those without proper identification have someone else in the same polling division swear to their name and address.

A less-discussed change proposed in Bill C-23 would also roll back a pilot program that allowed 400,000 people to use their voter information card as proof of address in the 2011 election.

New leftist collective aims to make a splash in Vancouver municipal elections

A new collective comprised of a broad group of activists from diverse organizations in Vancouver, B.C. has been meeting over the past few months to bring radical politics back to the municipal arena. Calling themselves the Left Front, the collective intends to "connect social movements in order to affect policy and generate dialogue that reflects the realities of the renter-majority, marginalized communities and the working class living in one of the most unaffordable cities in the world."

Canadian Cities Where An Average Income Will No Longer Buy You A House

Average-income families can no longer afford a detached house in more than a quarter of Canada’ largest cities, according to an analysis carried out by The Huffington Post Canada.

And while Toronto and Vancouver are famous for their high house prices, HuffPost’s survey shows those cities’ traditionally affordable suburbs are now out of reach for middle-income earners as well. In these cities, average earners have basically no choice but to buy a condo, or stay out of the housing market.

Bankers Win Both Ways: Now They Can Take Both Taxpayer and Depositor Money

As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power.
– Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011
On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and “bail-ins”—the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to lock taxpayer and depositor liability into place before the dire state of Eurozone banks is exposed.

Dear President Obama: Freedom and Democracy Must Come First in Egypt

Dear President Obama:
As you embark this week on your visit to Saudi Arabia we write to you out of deep concern with regard to the policy of the United States and its allies in the region.
Despite your assurances to the Muslim world in 2009 in Ankara and Cairo that your administration would support the promotion and spread of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, your administration's record in the last year shows that such pronouncements were not backed by concrete policies and actions. No less than the future of the Middle East and the credibility of the United States are at stake.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It is now legal to drill oil and build pipelines in B.C.'s provincial parks

A little-known bill, the Park Amendment Act, that will drastically alter the management of B.C. parks became law Monday, creating controversy among the province's most prominent environmental and conservation organizations. The passage of Bill 4 will make way for industrial incursions into provincial parklands including energy extraction, construction of pipelines and industry-led research.

The bill, quietly introduced in mid-February, has already met significant resistance in B.C. where the Minister of Environment received "thousands of letters" of opposition, according to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Peter Wood. "There has been absolutely zero public consultation, and the pace at which this was pushed through suggests this was never a consideration," he said in a press release.

A normal government wouldn’t ram through this elections bill

In normal times, under a normal government, the Fair Elections Act would have been withdrawn by now, or at least be in serious trouble. The past few weeks have seen the bill denounced as a threat to democracy by the chief electoral officer, the former chief electoral officer, several provincial elections officials, academic experts domestic and foreign, and newspaper editorials across the country.

Thursday they were joined by Harry Neufeld, the former chief electoral officer of British Columbia and the author of an inquiry into irregularities in the 2011 election. Neufeld’s report has been much quoted by the minister responsible, Pierre Poilievre, in particular to support his contention that the bill’s ban on “vouching” — allowing one voter to affirm another’s eligibility to vote in a riding, in cases where the usual documentation is lacking — was needed to prevent voter fraud.

Federal budget bill targets right to strike, public service union charges

OTTAWA — Canada’s largest federal public sector union says changes included in the government’s new sweeping budget bill would erode workers’ right to strike by effectively ripping up agreements over what is considered an essential service.

The changes in the budget implementation bill go to the heart of a court challenge filed this week by the Public Service Alliance of Canada over the government’s move to block strikes by federal workers deemed to be offering “essential” services. The union says in its court challenge that major reforms to the Public Service Labour Relations Act that were introduced in last fall’s budget legislation (Bill C-4) violate federal workers’ freedom to strike and freedom of association as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Conservative Budget Bill Full Of Unrelated Measures, Say Critics

OTTAWA - The latest Conservative omnibus bill weighs in at 359 pages and alters everything from the food and rail safety regimes to the Judges Act, the National Defence Act and the handling of temporary foreign workers.

In all, almost 40 different pieces of legislation are being altered by the single bill tabled Friday.

The government says it is designed to enact measures in last month's federal budget, and has christened the effort the "Harper Government Creating Jobs & Growth While Returning to Balanced Budgets With Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1."

GOP Steps Up Attack on Early Voting in Key Swing States

On Election Night 2012, referring to the long lines in states like Florida and Ohio, Barack Obama declared, “We have to fix that.”

The waits in Florida and Ohio were no accident, but rather the direct consequence of GOP efforts to curtail the number of days and hours that people had to vote. On January 22, 2014, the president’s bipartisan election commission released a comprehensive report detailing how voting could be smoother, faster and more convenient. It urged states to reduce long lines by adopting “measures to improve access to the polls through expansion of the period for voting before the traditional Election Day.”

Why ‘Harris v. Quinn’ Has Labor Very, Very Nervous

Sometime soon, certainly by the late-June conclusion of its present term, the Supreme Court will tell us its decision in Harris v. Quinn, arguably the most important labor law case the Court has considered in decades. Harris has already generated a great deal of attention and worry in labor circles, and nearly as much enthusiasm and celebration in pro-business ones—reflected in the extraordinary number of friend-of-the-court briefs filed by advocates on both sides. The case threatens the existence of the “agency shop,” a bedrock institution in American labor relations—one relied on in the most successful recent union organizing, and that is decisive to the health of public sector unions. Here’s what Harris is about.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline Starts in Preschool

The school-to-prison pipeline, to my mind, is the most insidious arm of this country's prison-industrial complex. Under the guise of protecting our children, we push many of them out of school and into prisons, limit their opportunities, fail to and/or undereducate them, all while feeding our addiction to mass incarceration and retribution that is not justice at all. That the students who find themselves funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline are predominantly black is further proof that the United States system of racist oppression chugs along through the rhetoric of colorblindness.

Koch-Funded Network Jumps To Defend Billionaire Brothers Against Democratic Attacks

WASHINGTON -- A nonprofit group funded by Charles and David Koch to promote the reduction of national debt and government spending has been pressed into service as a defender of the billionaire brothers, who have come under attack by Democrats for plowing millions into conservative causes.

Public Notice, a Koch-connected, Washington-based nonprofit organized as a limited liability corporation with 501(c)(4) tax status, sent opposition research on Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates, and the candidates the group supports to reporters on Friday. The research said Senate Majority PAC's attack on the Koch brothers as out-of-state billionaires was hypocritical, since Senate Majority PAC is funded by billionaires from California and New York.

Robert Kaplan: The End Of A Stable Pacific

Robert Kaplan is the author of “Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific”

Kaplan spoke with The WorldPost editor Nathan Gardels on March 25, 2014.

Russia Threatened Countries Ahead Of UN Vote On Ukraine, Diplomats Say

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 (Reuters) - Russia threatened several Eastern European and Central Asian states with retaliation if they voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution this week declaring invalid Crimea's referendum on seceding from Ukraine, U.N. diplomats said.

The disclosures about Russian threats came after Moscow accused Western countries of using "shameless pressure, up to the point of political blackmail and economic threats," in an attempt to coerce the United Nations' 193 member states to join it in supporting the non-binding resolution on the Ukraine crisis.

A Debate on Torture: Legal Architect of CIA Secret Prisons, Rendition vs. Human Rights Attorney

As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence feuds with the CIA over the declassification of its 6,000-page report on the agency’s secret detention and interrogation programs, we host a debate between former CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo and human rights attorney Scott Horton. This comes as the United Nations Human Rights Committee has criticized the Obama administration for closing its investigations into the CIA’s actions after Sept. 11. A U.N. report issued Thursday stated, "The Committee notes with concern that all reported investigations into enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that had been committed in the context of the CIA secret rendition, interrogation and detention programmes were closed in 2012 leading only to a meager number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives." Rizzo served as acting general counsel during much of the George W. Bush administration and was a key legal architect of the U.S. interrogation and detention program after the Sept. 11 attacks. He recently published a book titled "Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA." Attorney Scott Horton is contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and author of the forthcoming book, "Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy."

Source: democracynow
Author: --

Rwanda Genocide Anniversary: 20 Years Later, Flame Stirs Memories

NYARUBUYE, Rwanda (AP) — Rows of human skulls sit in glass cases near the red brick Catholic church here. Some are cracked in half; holes are punched in others. Hundreds of arm and leg bones lie nearby. To the left is a table of tools: rusty shovels, hoes, pipes, and a machete — the weapons of genocide.

Down the hill 10 miles (15 kilometers), thousands of Rwandans gathered under spittles of rain to watch the arrival of a small flame, symbolic fire traveling the country as Rwanda prepares to mark 20 years since ethnic Hutu extremists killed neighbors, friends and family during a three-month rampage of violence aimed at ethnic Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.

Harper wants to make it harder for you to vote in 2015

Yesterday, MPs began debate on electoral bill C-23 tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons. The sweeping 247-page “Fair Elections Act” is a calculated overhaul of Canada’s voting laws and would, among other things, increase donation limits to political parties, exempt some fundraising from campaign spending, and establish a robocall registry. Canada’s chief electoral officer Marc Maynard was not consulted on the bill that would restructure his office, and his request that elections officials be able to compel testimony during investigation is absent from the new bill.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tories Defend Half A Billion Dollars In Outside Legal Costs

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is defending spending nearly half a billion dollars on outside legal fees over the past eight years by arguing that its own lawyers are now litigating less.

The Huffington Post Canada reported Thursday that federal departments spent $481.9 million on outside legal assistance since the Tories came to power in 2006 — despite employing 2,500 Department of Justice lawyers.

What’s Really Behind the Koch Attacks on Democrats

For the next eight months, America will be awash in campaign ads funded by Americans for Prosperity, the political action committee backed by Charles and David Koch. With a combined net worth of $80 billion, the Koch brothers have already funneled more than $30 million into congressional races. As of February, AFP had spent more money on ads attacking North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan than Democratic groups had spent on all Senate races in the country combined.

U.S. Tries To Stop India's Solar Policy While Pushing Fight Against Climate Change

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration talks a lot about the need to develop renewable energy around the world to curb climate change. But right now, it's trying to kill India's effort to boost its domestic solar industry.

The U.S. wants India to back off a policy that would require local sourcing for solar energy technology, and has sought World Trade Organization enforcement action. Representatives from the two nations reportedly met last week to try to settle the trade battle over India's rapidly developing solar industry, but reached no resolution.

IPCC report: climate change felt 'on all continents and across the oceans'

Climate change has already left its mark "on all continents and across the oceans", damaging food crops, spreading disease, and melting glaciers, according to the leaked text of a blockbuster UN climate science report due out on Monday.

Government officials and scientists are gathered in Yokohama this week to wrangle over every line of a summary of the report before the final wording is released on Monday – the first update in seven years.

How Vladimir Putin's actions in Crimea changed the world

Nuclear bombshell

Vladimir Putin's policies in the Soviet Union's former "near abroad" have gone hand in hand with an increasingly tough nuclear stance. The thaw of the US-Russian "reset" that led to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) in 2010 has passed and the disarmament process is largely frozen.
The reductions in both countries' strategic arsenals to the 1,550 deployed strategic warheads agreed four years ago do appear to be going ahead. But Putin has made clear that he has little interest in a more ambitious follow-on treaty that would have addressed the issue of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

Amend election reform bill or kill it, Harry Neufeld says

Harry Neufeld, the author of the report often cited by government officials to support its proposed changes to Canadian election laws, says the government has to amend its election reform bill or kill it.

The elections expert also fears half a million people could be disenfranchised based on changes included in the Conservative government's Bill C-23, he told reporters following his appearance before the procedure and House affairs committee Thursday.

Danielle D'Entremont, Queen's University Student, Attacked After Threats Over Support Of Feminism

KINGSTON, Ont. - A Queen's University student says she was attacked by a stranger after receiving threatening emails over her support for feminist activities on campus.

Danielle d'Entremont posted a picture of her swollen face on Facebook saying she walked out of her house in Kingston, Ont., late on Wednesday night and "got attacked by a stranger."

She says she was punched in the face multiple times and lost half a tooth.

Boeing Got $7,250 In Tax Breaks For Every $1 It Spent Lobbying

lobbying graphic
That's the benefit Boeing Corp. will reap from a ramped-up lobbying push in Washington state that ended with a massive $8.7 billion tax subsidy, according to ananalysis of lobbying data released Thursday. The tax break came as part of a deal to keep production of a new jet, the 777X, in the Seattle area.

Bernie Sanders: Citizens United Is Creating An 'Oligarchic Form Of Society'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke out against the rise of the wealthy in United States politics from the Senate floor Thursday, saying the rise of the billionaire class leads to a discussion of "whether or not this nation is going to become an oligarchic form of society."

"We have a nation in which the economics and politics are controlled by a handful of billionaire families, [where] it doesn't matter what party is in power because the real power rests with a billionaire class," he said. "Unless we act boldly to reverse that trend, we're seeing this country moving in exactly that direction."

The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, Sanders argued, "allows the super wealthy to spend as much as they want on elections," meaning that the "billionaire party is now in fact the major political force in this country ... led by people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson."

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post  | by  Natasha Bach

World's Biggest Coal Company, World's Biggest PR Firm Pair Up To Promote Coal For Poor People

WASHINGTON -– Peabody Energy Corp., the world's largest private-sector coal company, launched a public relations and advertising campaign last month extolling the virtues of coal energy for poor people.

A Peabody press release announcing the campaign, called Advanced Energy for Life, argues that lack of access to energy is "the world's number one human and environmental crisis."

To enter the campaign website, readers encounter a drop-in screen that asks them to agree or disagree with the statement, "Access to low-cost energy improves our lives." The site notes that there are 3.5 billion people in the world "without adequate energy" -- 1.2 billion of them children. A video titled "Energy Poverty" features babies and small children, with text that implores, "We can solve this crisis." It adds: "Affordable energy leads to better health."

BC Loosens Restrictions on Swaths of Protected Farmland

The British Columbia government is dividing the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones and loosening restrictions on how 90 per cent of that land can be used.

While the ministers responsible and various stakeholders said the changes will give farmers in some areas more flexibility to generate income, critics say the government is messing with a system that for 40 years has successfully protected land used to produce food.

Follow the Money, Part 1 -- The Weston Family

You've seen him in television ads hyping President's Choice dessert ideas, naming fake supermarkets after enthusiastic customers, sitting down with moms around the kitchen table and talking to President's Choice farmers on their hormone-free farms.
He's Galen Weston Jr., executive chairman of Loblaw Companies Ltd. And while he, or his media handlers, hone the image of Galen among the common folk -- top shirt button always undone -- the reality is that he's next in line to head Canada's second-wealthiest family, with a 2014 net worth of $10.4 billion, a 26-percent increase over 2013.

Harper Government Under Fire Over $482 Million In Outside Legal Fees

OTTAWA – The Conservative government has spent $482 million on outside legal fees since it came to power in 2006. And more than $447,045 to defend the Prime Minister, his staff and ministers, according to documents tabled in the House of Commons.

“It’s just a shocking number,” Liberal MP Sean Casey told The Huffington Post Canada Wednesday.

“They closed Veterans [Affairs]’ district offices and saved $5 million bucks, [but] over the past eight years, they’ve spent half a billion on outside lawyers. It’s pretty stark.”

A Massive Chemical Plant Is Poised to Wipe This Louisiana Town off the Map

In 1790, a freed slave named Jim Moss found a place to settle down on a bend in the Houston River in the bayous of southwest Louisiana. Although never formally incorporated, the village of Mossville became one of the first settlements of free blacks in the South, predating the formal establishment of Calcasieu Parish by 50 years. But over the last half century, Mossville was surrounded. More than a dozen industrial plants now encircle the community of 500 residents, making it quite possibly the most polluted corner of the most polluted region in one of the most polluted states in the country. Now, a proposal to build the largest chemical plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere would all but wipe Mossville off the map.

The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State

We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The same pattern can be seen even in America -- especially in American politics.

Before the rise of the nation-state, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the world was mostly tribal. Tribes were united by language, religion, blood, and belief. They feared other tribes and often warred against them. Kings and emperors imposed temporary truces, at most.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

25 Percent Of People In Mississippi Can't Afford Food

Twenty-five percent of Mississippi residents struggled to afford food last year -- more so than any other state -- a new Gallup report found.

For the sixth straight year, Mississippians were the most likely to have problems putting food on the table, according to the report. Those who revealed that they’ve been struggling said that there was at least one point in the past year when they didn’t have enough funds to buy the nourishment they or their families needed.