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.]

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Enormous, Secretive Effort To Purge Thousands Of Minorities From 27 States’ Voter Rolls

In a story that has grown all too common as an election draws near, election officials across the country are engaged in an ambitious effort to purge voters from state voter rolls. Moreover, voters from racial minority groups are especially likely to be targeted by this purge. As Al Jazeera America reports, after examining the purge lists from 3 of the 27 states participating in the purge, the purge lists “are heavily weighted with names such as Jackson, Garcia, Patel and Kim — ones common among minorities, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic.”

Let's Slow Down Before We Erode Our Civil Liberties With New Laws

History tells us the worst laws are hastily made in the heat of crisis. It is far too easy to create greater police powers, while our civil liberties are eroded in the process. Speed can be a dangerous thing in this regard. It would be premature to enact laws when not all the facts are known.

Words cannot describe the horror felt by all Canadians of the murder of two soldiers and a shooting inside our parliament buildings. Canadians are united in rejecting the hate, violence and the senselessness of these acts. We mourn for the families of those who fell. We applaud the first responders who came to the aid of the fallen and protected parliamentarians and others, without which surely a more devastating result would have occurred. But, let's not be hasty in responding to these events with impulsive laws.

Temporary Foreign Workers: LNG Job Offer Denied By Premier Christy Clark

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is hitting back at the NDP's claims she plans to bring in temporary foreign workers to build LNG plants instead of focusing on jobs for British Columbians.

Christy Clark was quoted in a Times of India story, saying, "India needs a million skilled workers every year.  We can help.  If we can help train 3,000 and 300 of them help us build an LNG industry, it's good for you and it's good for us."

UN: Foreign Fighters Joining Terror Groups On 'Unprecedented Scale'

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A new United Nations report says the world faces a challenge of foreign fighters in terror groups on an "unprecedented scale," with about 15,000 in Syria and Iraq alone.

The report by a panel of experts monitoring al-Qaida and the Taliban, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, has been submitted to the U.N. Security Council.

Harper’s income-splitting program isn’t great policy, or good politics

Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a massive change to the way we assess and collect income tax in this country.  In 2011, the Conservative Party platform promised “the Family Tax Cut” that would give “spouses the choice to share up to $50,000 of their household income, for federal tax-purposes,” when the books were balanced, at a cost (they projected) of $625 million in this fiscal year and $2.5 billion in the next.  The platform argued income-splitting would “ensure that the federal income tax system respects and supports the choices that families make.”  Fun-fact: the only other federal party to promise income-splitting in 2011 was the Green Party.

Glenn Greenwald on what Canada should not do now

Glenn Greenwald wears several hats. A lawyer by training, he rose to worldwide prominence as the journalist who helped publish top-secret documents obtained by ex-National Security Intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. These documents revealed the extent of the American and British government’s global surveillance program. He is also a provocateur, penning a column suggesting the murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, killed in a hit and run by Martin Couture-Rouleau, was the product of Muslim rage against Canada’s foreign policy. The column took on new resonance, and garnered further outrage, after the shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill less than 48 hours after Vincent’s death.

In Depth: How Big Business Buys State Courts

Last Halloween, tobacco giant Reynolds American quietly cut a $30,000 check for Justice For All NC, a nonprofit that funneled more than $1.6 million in outside funding into North Carolina's 2012 Supreme Court elections, to help incumbent conservative Justice Paul Newby keep his seat on the bench.

The Winston-Salem-based company's $30,000 donation was pocket change compared with the wave of outside spending that would flood the primary elections for the state's high court months later, but it was a start.

Ginsburg Was Right: Texas' Extreme Voter ID Law Is Stopping People From Voting

WASHINGTON -- A Texas voter ID law considered to be one of the most restrictive in the country is doing exactly what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned it would do: stopping Americans from voting.

A disabled woman in Travis County was turned away from voting because she couldn’t afford to pay her parking tickets. An IHOP dishwasher from Mercedes can’t afford the cost of getting a new birth certificate, which he would need to obtain the special photo ID card required for voting. A student at a historically black college in Marshall, who registered some of her fellow students to vote, won't be able to cast a ballot herself because her driver's license isn't from Texas and the state wouldn't accept her student identification card.

Tunisia Is Where The Arab Spring Worked -- And Why

Florian Guckelsberger and Lars Mensel of The European sat down with Rafik Abdessalem -- the former foreign minister of Tunisia and a leading member of the Ennahda Party, the moderate Islamist party that came in second in the weekend's parliamentary elections. Presidential elections will be held Nov. 23.

The European: Mr. Secretary, do you feel that the term “Arab Spring” is still the right way to describe what took place in the MENA region during the last four years?
Abdessalem: I think it is the right term. This is a wave of political change in the whole region and what happened in Tunisia affected the whole region. Now we have a wave of counterrevolutions. And they again affect the entire region. But I think there is no escape from political change.

The Fruits Of A $60 Billion U.S. Expenditure In Afghanistan Are Now Secret

A month before U.S. Marines and British military forces began their current withdrawal from Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan abruptly classified its assessment of the fighting abilities of the Afghan army and police forces, which the U.S. has spent an estimated $61.5 billion to build up.

Portions of these assessments have been released to the public the past nine years. But on Oct. 3, ISAF’s Joint Command told independent federal auditors of the reconstruction effort that the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction by email that the latest ratings now are classified in their entirety.

Sweden Recognizes Palestinian State

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm.

The move by Sweden's new left-leaning government reflects growing international impatience with Israel's nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. It also comes during increased tensions between Arabs and Jews over Israel's plans to build 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem.

Mario Vargas Llosa: The Monsters Of Pure Pragmatism

MADRID — A few days ago, Mario Vargas Llosa recalled that after winning the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature he had predicted that by the age of 80 he'd just be reading and resting. Now at 78, he says there are no retirement plans in sight.
You may agree with him or not — you may consider him a conservative or a liberal — but few are indifferent to Vargas Llosa. Over the decades, he has changed his political affinities in keeping with a constant principle, of submitting his wishes to his conscience and convictions. That led him away from his early Marxist sympathies to his present and possibly final ideology, the defense of personal and political liberties.

Former PBO Kevin Page: ‘Ottawa is Putinesque’

Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a speech in Halifax on Thursday, comparing him to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.

Page, asked to speak about accountability in Ottawa, said he thinks Canada has changed so much in recent years, it needs a long, drawn-out American-style election to air all the important questions.

“I think what we’ve got in Ottawa right now is Putinesque. It’s control from the top down,” Page said at an annual fundraiser for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The role of sanctuary as opposition to political power

What is this -- the Middle Ages? A Toronto church has given sanctuary to a Hungarian Roma family who came here as refugees. They were rejected on a virtual technicality and the Harper government wants them deported. They've lived at the church for two years. Before that they spent a year with Catholic monks. It's not a cathedral, and Quasimodo didn't swoop out of the bell tower to scoop them up. It's on a leafy street. They don't want it named in case the feds decide to rush it or hatemeisters target it.

When I drove up the other day, Timea Daróczi was smoking outside. It's the closest she gets to taking a walk. Her husband Jozsef Pusuma and six-year-old daughter Lulu have taken over the minister's study. The congregation, who prayed a lot before diving in, raised enough to put in a bathroom. Their fridge is in the men's choir room. The barber and dentist come when needed. It's all good, everyone says. I think good is the operative term.

States Are Prioritizing Prisons Over Education, Budgets Show

budgetshereIf state budget trends reflect the country's policy priorities, then the U.S. currently values prisoners over children, a new report suggests.

A report released this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the growth of state spending on prisons in recent years has far outpaced the growth of spending on education. After adjusting for inflation, state general fund spending on prison-related expenses increased over 140 percent between 1986 and 2013. During the same period, state spending on K-12 education increased only 69 percent, while higher education saw an increase of less than six percent.
State spending on corrections has exploded in recent years, as incarceration rates have more than tripled in a majority of states in the past few decades. The report says that the likelihood that an offender will be incarcerated has gone up across the board for all major crimes. At the same time, increases in education spending have not kept pace. In fact, since 2008, spending on education has actually declined in a majority of states in the wake of the Great Recession.

Follow the Money: Big Banks, DOJ Find Benefits in Settlement Deals

The Justice Department might have talked a good game about punishing major banks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs for their involvement in the recession that set the the U.S. economy reeling six years ago.

But as Lynnley Browning explains in Newsweek, there is more to the story behind the big-figure settlements that the DOJ required those banks to pay:
Because settlements can be deducted from tax liabilities, for nearly every dollar a bank or lender has pledged to pay in cash or pony up in other ways—such as through buying back soured mortgage-backed securities, extending cheaper loans or forgiving failed loans held by struggling homeowners—up to 35 cents will find its way back into bank coffers, a reflection of the 35 percent federal corporate tax rate.
Deep in the legalese weeds of the settlement documents lies buried treasure. Big banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase will receive deductions against the corporate tax that will amount to between half and nearly three-quarters of their multibillion-dollar settlements, at least. Meanwhile, midsized banks and nonbank lenders generally get to deduct the whole shebang.
[…] Federal tax rules allow companies to deduct from their tax returns as an ordinary cost of doing business any settlement payments that are construed, explicitly or not, as restitution or compensation. Payments flagged as penalties or fines, typically outlined in criminal cases, are generally not deductible, as opposed to the civil settlements with banks.

'Difficult' Oil Faces Difficult Future, Predict New Reports

Two new reports on tight oil, or "difficult" oil extracted by fracking and horizontal drilling, and bitumen mining in North America strip away the marketing hype on extreme hydrocarbons and conclude that their futures may be volatile and shorter than advertised.

"Drilling Deeper," a massive, 300-page report by energy analyst and B.C. resident David Hughes, finds the boom in tight oil and shale gas plays in the United States will not last long, nor deliver energy independence to that country.

A Travel Ban Is No Barrier to Ebola—and Borders on Racism

Irrational fears grip our nation while real dangers go unaddressed. Some Republican politicians have called for a U.S. flight ban in an attempt to protect Americans from the Ebola virus, seemingly oblivious to the fact that no American airline currently travels to the Ebola-stricken countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

That makes for a simple (-minded) sound bite with both the benefit of seeming like common sense and the disadvantage of making the epidemic worse. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is leading the charge and made his case in a commentary in the Texas Tribune earlier this month. The headline of Cruz’s article screams, “Ban flights from ebola-stricken nations.” After several references to “flight bans,” the senator finally explains what he actually means, and it’s not nearly as sexy. Cruz states we should ban “... non-U.S. citizens ... fly[ing] commercial airliners out of West Africa, connect[ing] in Europe and arriv[ing] in the United States.” Not such a catchy slogan. What he really means is a visa ban to prevent travel from the region.

Why A Company Is Buying Up Huge Tracts Of Alabama’s Land And Punching It Full Of Holes

WOLF SPRINGS, ALABAMA — Over the last few years, a little-known company named MS Industries has bought up as much as 2,500 acres of land in Alabama and drilled holes in it.
In total, they have drilled hundreds of exploratory bore holes in the northwestern portion of the state — according to some residents, the number is as high as 2,700 but the company’s CEO, Steve Smith, said they’ve done over 1,500 holes of drilling.

The Conservatives Propose Family Policy for a Bygone Age

The Harper government’s tax package released Thursday is a throwback to the family policies of a bygone era. It turns its back on the pressing need for affordable, high quality child care; introduces a new tax measure which will mainly benefit traditional families with a stay at home spouse; and brings back the old family allowance in a modified form.

The government’s token response to calls for a national child care program is to modestly increase the Child Care Expense Deduction – representing a tiny fraction ($395 million) of the government’s package exceeding $26 billion. This will hardly make child care any more affordable, and will do nothing to create badly needed new spaces. The deduction has to be claimed by the lowest earning spouse and the increase of $1,000 per child will translate into just $150 per year for those in the bottom tax bracket.

The promise Stephen Harper made to voters in 2011 – and broke in 2014

The 2011 Conservative Party of Canada election platform (picture with link above) made a very specific promise to voters who were parents with children under the age of 18. Here is how the Family Tax Cut, as it was called in 2011, was presented to voters:
…couples with the same number of children and the same total income are not treated equally. A two-income couple, in which one spouse earns more than the other, pays more federal income tax than a two-income couple in which the two spouses earn equal amounts. And a single-income couple pays even more.
We will soon be in a position to take an historic step forward to achieve greater fairness for families. We will establish the Family Tax Cut   : income sharing for couples with dependent children under 18 years of age. This will give spouses the choice to share up to $50,000 of their household income, for federal income-tax purposes. This important new measure will be implemented when the federal budget is balanced within our next full term in office.

The results will be significant tax relief for approximately 1.8 million Canadian families – each of them saving, on average, $1,300 per year. Most of all, it will ensure that the federal income tax system respects and supports the choices that families make. It will increase fairness for single-income couples. And it will ease the burden on double-income families, by allowing them to keep more of what they earn and to benefit more from having a second income.

So much for those Ukraine sanctions – Russia to receive French warships after all

Russia has announced it received an invitation to take delivery of the first of two Mistral-class amphibious ships.

RIA news agency reported that the invitation from France called on Russia to take delivery of the first ship on Nov. 14.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told RIA that the second vessel would be put in the water the same day.

Conservative MP suggests broadening perimeter checkpoints on Parliament Hill

A Conservative MP says it may be necessary for visitors to Parliament Hill to go through a security checkpoint even before they walk on to the grounds in front of the Centre Block.

Currently, the screening of visitors on the Hill doesn’t happen until they pass through an airport-style metal detector in a basement checkpoint of the Centre Block, directly beneath the Peace Tower.

Under construction plans now underway, an underground “Visitor Welcome Centre” will be built as part of the current renovations of the West Block.

It will house a new security screening centre for visitors and include tunnels that connect the buildings on the Hill. However, it’s not expected to be completed until 2017.

Income splitting won’t help parents who really need a tax break

The Harper government’s parental income splitting plan is designed in such a way that guarantees it will only make a difference to the richest Canadians. By design, it cannot help those who need assistance with child care the most.

Single parents cannot get any help from income splitting at all – it takes two adult taxpayers to take advantage of income splitting. Most single parents are women, and women’s average earnings are much lower than men’s. Furthermore, women are often caught in the constant bind of low earnings and not having enough income to pay for affordable child care so they can spend more time in paid work.

Harper's Tax Cuts Will Help Families With Kids Under 18, Cost $27 Billion

OTTAWA -- There will be big cheques coming for 4 million Canadian families with children under 18 on July 1, 2015. The federal government will provide six months' worth of increases to the Universal Child Care Benefit all at once, part of a pre-election wave of tax cuts aimed at families with small kids.

The Harper government is also pressing ahead with income splitting for families with kids under 18 -- a multibillion-dollar Conservative election promise from 2011 that critics have said would benefit too few Canadians.

Barclays sets aside £500m towards forex-rigging fines

Barclays has given an indication of the scale of potential fines looming across the banking industry by setting aside £500m to cover the cost of ongoing investigations into the rigging of currency markets.

The provision is larger than the £290m the bank was fined for manipulating Libor in 2012 and has been revealed as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) attempts to agree a settlement with six major banks over their activities in the £3.5tn-a-day foreign exchange markets.

Inside the Koch Brothers' Toxic Empire

The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.

Obama Administration Backs Down On For-Profit College Regulations

The Obama administration has released a final version of regulations targeting for-profit colleges that is significantly weaker than the initial rules proposed earlier this year, caving to complaints and legal threats from industry lobbyists. The regulations could still shut down 1,400 programs at for-profit colleges, which collectively enroll about 840,000 students.

The administration has made reining in the for-profit college industry a key component of its education agenda. For-profit college companies, like Apollo, which owns the University of Phoenix, and DeVry Education Group, receive billions of dollars of taxpayer money each year in the form of federal financial aid, drawing as much as 90% of their revenue from the federal government. Many of the biggest for-profits are mired in lawsuits from organizations like the Justice Department, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and dozens of state attorneys general, which allege a raft of violations, from misleading enrollment claims to predatory lending schemes.

Why Are We Still Waiting for Answers on Drones?

Mamana Bibi was a 67-year-old Pakistani grandmother and midwife, killed by a U.S. drone strike on October 24, 2012. One year ago, the family of Mamana Bibi came to Washington,, D.C., to share their sad story with Members of Congress.

Mitch McConnell’s Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company

Before the Ping May, a rusty cargo vessel, could disembark from the port of Santa Marta en route to the Netherlands in late August, Colombian inspectors boarded the boat and made a discovery. Hidden in the ship’s chain locker, amidst its load of coal bound for Europe, were approximately 40 kilograms, or about ninety pounds, of cocaine. A Colombian Coast Guard official told The Nation that there is an ongoing investigation.

The seizure of the narcotics shipment in the Caribbean port occurred far away from Kentucky, the state in which Senator Mitch McConnell is now facing a career-defining election. But the Republican Senate minority leader has the closest of ties to the owner of the Ping May, the vessel containing the illicit materials: the Foremost Maritime Corporation, a firm founded and owned by McConnell’s in-laws, the Chao family.

460,000 Sexual Assaults In Canada Every Year: YWCA Canada

460,000. It's an alarming number that encompasses several statistics about the reality of sexual assault in Canada.
Following the sexual abuse allegations against former CBC employee Jian Ghomeshi, which now has eight women who allege assault or harassment from the former "Q" host, women's service organization YWCA Canada released this infographic on Tuesday, focusing on the legal aspect of violence against women.

Why didn’t Ottawa gunman Zehaf-Bibeau get treatment 3 years ago?

Almost three years ago, the angry loner, pious Muslim and crack addict who would shoot up Canada’s War Memorial and storm its Parliament stood in court and begged for help.

As far as we know, he got none.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was so desperate for help he asked to be jailed so he could get clean: There was no other way he’d get off crack cocaine, he told a B.C. courtroom in early 2012.

“I’m a crack addict and at the same time I’m a religious person,” Zehaf-Bibeau said during the hearing.

Kinder Morgan crews blocked by citizens on Burnaby Mountain

Kinder Morgan crews were met by a group of citizens that blocked the company from conducting its oil pipeline survey work on Burnaby Mountain Wednesday morning.  One teenager even pinned himself under a company jeep.

The drama began around 10am at a staging area where dozens of citizens have been gathered for days.  Suddenly, the word went out: Kinder Morgan crews were advancing into the woods.

Beyond Petroleum

When the call came in that the University of Glasgow had voted to divest its £128 million endowment from fossil fuel companies, I happened to be in a room filled with climate activists in Oxford. They immediately broke into cheers. There were lots of hugs and a few tears. This was big – the first university in Europe to make such a move.
The next day there were more celebrations in climate circles: Lego announced it would not be renewing a relationship with Shell Oil, a longtime co-branding deal that saw toddlers filling up their plastic vehicles at toy Shell petrol stations. “Shell is polluting our kids’ imaginations,” a Greenpeace video that went viral declared, attracting more than 6 million views. 

There Are Twice as Many Billionaires Now Than Before the Financial Crisis

Just a few days ago, UNICEF reported that child poverty has increased in over 20 developed countries since the global recession. Now, a new Oxfam report on inequality reveals that not only has the number of billionaires in the world doubled since 2009, but their combined wealth has grown by over 120 percent. Meanwhile, as RT News highlights in its post on the subject, “one million women have died in childbirth due to lack of basic health care, and 57 million children do not receive any form of education.”

Senator Botches Key Obamacare Stat By 900 Percent

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) appeared on NewsMax TV on Wednesday morning to complain about the “coercive” and “very destructive” consequences of the Affordable Care Act on Wisconsin residents.
Responding to a question about premium increases under the law, Johnson related his own experiences with voters. “I’m driving around Wisconsin, I’m talking to business owners and I’m talking to health care providers and insurance agents as well and they’re seeing that same kind of range [of premium increases for 2015], anywhere from 16 to 60 percent,” he explained. “Kind of with an average of around 30 percent here just anecdotally in Wisconsin.”

Stephen Harper’s income-splitting plan would shortchange Ontarians

It’s not merely unfair, but unaffordable. And unfathomably un-federal.

Not to split hairs, but income-splitting is perhaps the most indefensible and insidious campaign gimmick ever conjured up by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It’s not just a bad tax break. It’d be a bad break for Ontarians in particular, who would pay the highest price for a discriminatory Tory ploy that could make the rich richer and the poor poorer while impoverishing the province.

For Stephen Harper, fear works

Stephen Harper insisted last week that we will not be intimidated by terrorism. He then did everything he could to ensure that we will be intimidated by terrorism.

I’ve always been confused by the assertion that we won’t be “intimidated” by terrorism. Has anyone ever suggested that we should be — that because a man ran into the Parliament buildings brandishing a rifle, we should abandon parliamentary democracy? Obviously not.

TransCanada files application for Energy East

CALGARY - After dozens of open houses and thousands of conversations across six provinces, TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) has filed its regulatory application for its massive cross-Canada Energy East pipeline.

But the hard part for TransCanada (TSX:TRP) was just beginning Thursday as copies of the document — each fills 68 binders in 11 boxes — arrived at the National Energy Board's headquarters in Calgary.

Tax cheats walked off with $220 million last year

Tax cheats bilked the federal government of almost $220 million in the last fiscal year, and the Canada Revenue Agency has so far recovered only $2.2 million – or about one per cent of it.

The CRA expects to recover a further $9.2 million of the $219.7 million it is owed from the 553 tax-cheat cases it has on the books, and admits it won’t recover $15.9 million.

In government spending documents released Wednesday, the agency makes no statement about the fate of the remaining amount of bilked money, about $195 million.

Billions in federal cash go unspent as Tories mull tax cuts

The federal government held on to more than $7 billion in approved spending last fiscal year at the same time as some departments and agencies struggled with a lack of funds – bringing total “lapsed” spending to more than $18 billion over the last two years.

The Conservative government continues to sit on billions of dollars in planned spending as it looks to balance the budget in 2015 and contemplates a series of tax breaks for Canadians, including expected income-splitting for families and a possible enhancement of the universal child-care benefit.

The numbers are contained in the Public Accounts, released Wednesday.

'Born and raised' Texans forced to prove identities under new voter ID law

Eric Kennie is a Texan. He is as Texan as the yucca plants growing outside his house. So Texan that he has never, in his 45 years, travelled outside the state. In fact, he has never even left his native city of Austin. “No sir, not one day. I was born and raised here, only place I know is Austin.”

You might think that more than qualifies Kennie as a citizen of the Lone Star state, entitling him to its most basic rights such as the ability to vote. Not so, according to the state of Texas and its Republican political leadership. On 4 November, when America goes to the polls in the midterm elections, for the first time in his adult life Eric Kennie will not be allowed to participate.

Governor Refuses To Say Why He Signed A Rape Gag Rule Into Law

On Saturday, during a meeting with the Plain Dealer editorial board, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) repeatedly refused to answer questions about why he signed into law a budget that included a provision prohibiting state-funded rape crisis counselors from referring women to abortion services.
The measure, described by critics as “a gag rule,” also strips funding from Planned Parenthood, “blocks public hospitals from arranging transfer agreements with abortion clinics and requires abortion providers to provide ultra sounds on women seeking abortions,” Reuters reported. Clinics that do refer patients to abortion doctors will have their public funding suspended.

Joni Ernst Is the Tea Party's Endgame

EARLY LAST THURSDAY MORNING, Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for Senate in Iowa, swung by the Des Moines Rotary Club to speak at the group's monthly lunch meeting. Mostly white and mostly male, the club counts much of the state's political elite among its members. The day Ernst visited, I spotted the current Republican secretary of state, the GOP's nominee to succeed him, a Republican state senator and former congressional nominee, and a former state GOP chair in the crowd. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who is about to win his sixth term in office, wasn't there, but his son Eric was sworn into the club before Ernst spoke.

These Maps of California's Water Shortage Are Terrifying

Just how bad is California's water shortage? Really, really bad, according to these new maps, which represent groundwater withdrawals in California during the first three years of the state's ongoing and epochal drought:
Images by J.T. Reager, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, from "The Global Groundwater Crisis," Nature Climate Change, November 2014, by James S. Famiglietti

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Women, Minorities Earn Far Less In Private Sector Than Public: CCPA

OTTAWA - A new report says it pays to work in the public sector — especially if you're a minority.

The study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that overall, full-time wages in public sector jobs are 2.3 per cent higher than those in the private sector.

But it also found that government workers who are female, Aboriginal, or belong to a visible minority group do much better from a relative wage standpoint than their counterparts at private companies.

John Major, Retired Supreme Court Justice, Warns Over 'Knee-Jerk' Reaction To Ottawa Attack

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is rushing to introduce legislation that expands law enforcement powers in ways that it may not need, retired Supreme Court justice John Major suggested Wednesday.

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction because, I think, the government feels like they need to do something,” the judge who led the inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing told reporters. “They get constituents, undoubtedly, and people like the press saying ‘What are you going to do about this,’ so the impetus is to act quickly and, sometimes, not so wisely.”

'Party of One': An Indictment of Stephen Harper -- Seeking a documented record of eight years of deliberate misrule? This is your book.

  • Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada's Radical Makeover
  • Michael Harris
  • Viking (2014)

If the news cycle is 24 hours, the public's attention span is that of a gerbil on crystal meth. Today's outrage is next week's shrug and next month's blank stare.

Conservative politicians not only understand this phenomenon, they revel in it. They've even turned it into a talking point. Asked by reporters about the current scandal, they don't even bother to defend themselves. They just smirk and say, "Most Canadians don't care."

Are Canada's Corporate Giants Re-engineering US Politics?

Canadian corporations helped raise significant amounts of money for political parties in the United States and spent big bucks on lobbying efforts, according to a paper released Wednesday.

The report, from the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), details involvement of Canadian corporations in Political Action Committees (PACs) and lobbying in the U.S. this year. The group is an advocate for ethical investment.

Author Kevin Thomas hopes the report draws attention to how Canadian corporate donations affect politics here and outside the country, and a lack of transparency for investors.

Greetings, from the Balmy Tarsands

The mercury hits an all-time high in Fort McMurray, Alberta earlier this month. At 22.6 degrees Celsius, it feels more like the middle than the tail end of baseball season, and the radio waves are a-gush with expressions of glee at the clemency of the holiday weekend weather.

If anyone pauses to reflect on the cause of what Environment Canada reports as "well above normal temperatures" in Alberta at the time, I don't hear it, and I certainly don't see it. Fort McMurray goes about its business, leading the country in EBIs (emissions batted in), seemingly oblivious to its outsized contribution to Canada's -- and the world's -- unfolding climate crisis.

Distinction between terrorist or murderer label is important

OTTAWA—On the day the nation mourned Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton — my hometown, a rock of dignity and duty, where the collar is proudly worn blue and no one messes with our national symbols — it’s understandable that we wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to characterize his killer.

It somehow felt disrespectful to analyze the shooter’s actions as we watched five-year-old Marcus Cirillo trail his father’s casket down York Boulevard.

More Surveillance Punishes Canadians, Not Terrorists

The potential destruction of terrorism is infinitesimally smaller than the damage done to our rights by a disproportionate attempt to prevent it.

Please. Please remember this. It's even more important now, when that fact is so easily forgotten in the wake of the attack on our Parliament and the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

We cannot allow the extreme actions of a few to strip us of the freedoms those soldiers worked so hard to protect. But the Canadian government continues to roll back our rights in the name of "security."