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.]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

George Stinney, Exonerated 70 Years After Wrongful Murder Conviction As 14-Year-Old

After seven decades, a black 14-year-old boy has been cleared of murder.

In 1944, George Stinney was convicted of murdering two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina. He was executed via the electric chair after his white lawyer called no witnesses and performed no cross-examinations.

For Low-Wage Americans, The Holiday Season Is A Time To Work

For many American workers, this is the time of year for tying up loose ends and taking it easy. For Simon Ting, this is the time of year for working harder than ever.

Ting, 24, works at a Macy’s in San Francisco, and he’s paid largely on commission. That means the more he sells, the more money he makes -- and the holiday season is a great time for selling. Ting tries to be at Macy’s for as many of the store’s extended hours as he can during the holiday rush. He knows sales will be hard to come by after New Year’s. In past holiday seasons, when he staffed other retailers’ stores, Ting worked so much he slept on the stockroom floor between shifts.

New Jersey Paid Fees To Mary Pat Christie's Firm After State Investment Was Terminated

When the New Jersey pension system terminated a $150 million investment in a fund called Angelo, Gordon & Co. in 2011, that did not close the books on the deal. In the three years since state officials ordered the withdrawal of that state money, New Jersey taxpayers have forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to the firm. As those fees kept flowing, Angelo Gordon made a prominent hire: Mary Pat Christie, wife of Gov. Chris Christie, who joined the company in 2012 as a managing director and now earns $475,000 annually, according to the governor's most recent tax return.

The disclosure that New Jersey taxpayers have been paying substantial fees to a firm that employs the governor's spouse -- years after state officials said the investment was terminated -- emerged in documents released by the Christie administration to International Business Times through a public records request.

Proposed Bill Would Require Women To Ask Men's Permission To Have An Abortion

A bill proposed by a Republican state lawmaker in Missouri would require a woman seeking an abortion to obtain notarized consent from the baby's father, even if he is physically abusive toward her.

The bill's sponsor, State Rep. Rick Brattin, told Mother Jones that while the bill has exceptions for rape victims and to protect the life of the mother, women in domestic violence situations are not exempt from having to ask the father's permission. "What does that have to do with the child's life?" Brattin said. "Just because it was an abusive relationship, does that mean the child should die?"

New York State Bans Fracking

When natural gas companies first pressed into New York in 2008, state environmental regulators barely understood the process of “hydraulic fracturing.” Today, six and a half years after ProPublica first raised concerns that the drilling could threaten both the state’s water supply and its residents’ health, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned the process across the state.

The ban makes New York, which holds large natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale, the largest and most significant region to bow out of the nation’s energy boom because of concerns that its benefits may be outweighed by the risk.

Harper supports divisive and aggressive attacks on unions

There is one, and only one, good thing about the attack on the right of workers to unionize known as Bill C-525. It only applies to a minority of workers in Canada, those who are federally regulated.
The vast majority of Canadian workers fall under provincial labour rules.
Bill C-525, a private member's bill proposed by Conservative Blaine Calkins, just passed its final vote in the Senate, despite legal issues with its wording that worry some members of the Upper House.
This bill is yet another example of the Harper government using the private member route to push through highly contested and blatantly ideological legislation.

European Parliament Wants Palestinian State

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The European Parliament has stopped short of pushing for outright recognition of a Palestinian state, urging renewed peace talks instead.

Legislators voted 498-88 Wednesday in favor of a compromise resolution supporting "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood" — but as part of a two-state solution with Israel. The resolution supports two states on the basis of 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

After years of deadlock in Mideast peace efforts, a growing number of European leaders and lawmakers want to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state. Supporters hope that would force negotiations to resume.

Israel's government argues recognition would discourage the Palestinians from negotiations and make peace harder to achieve.

The issue is divisive and prompted shouting and emotional arguing in Wednesday's debate in the European Parliament.

Original Article
Author: AP

America's Addiction to Torture

The United States is addicted to torture. Not only does this savage addiction run through its history like an overheated electric current, but it has become intensified as part of a broader national psychosis of fear, war and violence. A post 9/11 obsession with security and revenge has buttressed a militarized culture in which violence becomes a first principle, an essential need, whether in the guise of a national sport, mode of entertainment or celebrated ideal.

Foreign and domestic violence now mediate everyday relations and the United States' connection to the larger world. As such, terror, fear, war and torture, become normalized, and the work of dehumanization takes its toll on the US public as more and more people not only become numb to the horror of torture but begin to live in a state of moral stupor, a coma that relegates morality to the dustbin of history. How else to explain recent polls indicating that 58 percent of the US public believe that torture under certain circumstances can be justified, and that 59 percent think that the CIA's brutal torture methods produced crucial information that helped prevent future attacks?

The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings

Human experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.

At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”

Obama's Very Sly Cuban Move

For years, President Barack Obama faced a tough problem: what to do about Alan Gross, the US subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba? And this dilemma encapsulated the larger puzzle of how to change US-Cuba relations, which have been frozen in a Cold War narrative.

The Cubans arrested Gross in 2009 and threw him in jail for distributing internet communications equipment under a program funded by the US Agency for International Development. The Cubans claimed he was a spy helping dissidents set up a secret communications system; the Obama administration insisted he was no such thing and was merely promoting free expression within Cuba's Jewish community. After Gross, who was in poor health, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Cubans offered the Americans a deal: They would free Gross if the United States released the Cuban Five, five Cubans arrested for spying in 1998 in Florida and later convicted and given long prison sentences. (One of the five was paroled in 2011; another comes up for parole in February.)

Shell's Arctic Challenger to burn oil spills, as solution to the pollution

A vessel that is part of Shell Oil’s $5-billion drilling plans to tap the colossal oil and gas reserves in the Arctic sailed into the Port of Vancouver earlier this month, the Vancouver Observer has learned.  The arrival comes amid questions about the ship’s oil-spill-clean up tactics, as well as scientific predictions that 2014 may have been the hottest global temperature year on record.

The Arctic Challenger went into Seaspan's dry dock in Vancouver two weeks ago for systems work. The vessel represents the multinational energy corporation's hopes for demonstrating its technical know-how for cleaning up underwater Arctic oil spills.

Terri Schiavo’s Husband Speaks Out On Jeb Bush’s Presidential Bid

In his announcement Tuesday that he would explore a 2016 presidential bid, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) promised to focus on “ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.” But he made no mention of his most controversial act during his two terms in office: his attempts to take custody of Terri Schiavo and overrule her husband Michael’s decision to remove her feeding tube, fifteen years after cardiac arrest had left her in a vegetative state.

Russians Rush To Stores As Country Fears Bank Run

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian consumers flocked to the stores Wednesday, frantically buying a range of big-ticket items to pre-empt the price rises kicked off by the staggering fall in the value of the ruble in recent days.

As the Russian authorities announced a series of measures to ease the pressure on the ruble, which slid 15 percent in the previous two days and raised fears of a bank run, many Russians were buying cars and home appliances — in some cases in record numbers — before prices for these imported goods shoot higher.

NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored

Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state’s top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found “practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst” at some charter schools.

Pete Grannis, New York State’s First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

Socks are not enough: Social justice lies upstream from charity

There is a parable called Upstream Downstream that has guided me in my work as a street nurse. It's about visiting health care workers in a developing country. Standing by a riverbed they suddenly see bodies floating down the river. Frantically, they start pulling the bodies out and begin resuscitation. When they look up they see a continual flow of bodies down the river. They call for help and keep pulling the bodies onto the riverbank and apply CPR. Finally, one of them asks: "Who or what is upstream pushing the bodies into the river?"
This time of year people are always asking me what they can do to help the homeless. Where can they help to serve a Christmas dinner in a shelter? What organization can they collect socks for? Is it okay to hand out sandwiches or bags with toiletries to homeless people who are lying on the sidewalk downtown?

Senate Votes To Extend Tax Breaks Through December

WASHINGTON (AP) — Banks, retailers, commuters and teachers will keep their temporary tax breaks for another year after Congress gave final approval Tuesday to a massive tax package affecting millions of businesses and individuals.

The last-minute bill would extend the expired tax breaks through the end of the year, enabling taxpayers to claim them on their 2014 tax returns. Beyond this year, their fate will once again be uncertain.

Tony Clement Argues Lapsed Funds Mean Good Management

OTTAWA - Billions in federal funding left unspent each year is a sign of good financial management, says the minister who controls the government's purse strings.

There's no reason departments need to spend every dollar they're allocated, Treasury Board Tony Clement said in an year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

"When money is passed by Treasury Board, it is up to a certain amount; there is a public policy goal that has to be attained," he said.

Amnesty International: Tories' Resources-Over-Human-Rights Approach Mistaken

OTTAWA - Amnesty International's Canada branch has issued a wide-ranging attack on the Harper government for making economic development a higher priority than human rights — especially in resource development.

Alex Neve, Amnesty's director general, said the organization wants human rights issues to be on the agenda for the expected federal election in 2015.

Caribou Continue To Be At Risk In Canada, Report Says

Resource development is outpacing provincial efforts to protect the habitat of the threatened woodland caribou.

That's the warning found in a report from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society being released today.

In an embargoed copy obtained by CBC, the CPAWS report shows there's been a lot of resource development since 2012, when the federal government ordered the provinces to come up with a plan to conserve caribou habitat by 2017.

The report points to increased natural gas development in British Columbia, new oil and gas leases in Alberta and a new mine in a Manitoba provincial park.

China’s New Silk Road

November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying eighty-two containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9.

Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train. At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40 percent farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France and, finally, Spain.

Russia's Ruble Slides To Historic Lows

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin faces a major new challenge after a catastrophic fall in the value of the ruble, which hit a new low Tuesday despite the Central Bank's desperate efforts to halt the selling.

On the streets of Moscow, panicky consumers rushed out to buy home appliances before they became even more expensive.

Putin's popularity has been based on oil-driven economic growth that has helped increase incomes during his 15-year rule. The ruble's collapse, driven by a combination of slumping oil prices and Western sanctions, is denting that pillar of his power.

Jeb Bush Just Took a Big Step Toward Running for President. Here Are 23 Reasons He Should Reconsider.

On December 16, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced (via Facebook) that he plans to "actively explore the possibility of running" for president in 2016. It's the first step toward formally entering the race.

But there are plenty of reasons why Bush should think long and hard before subjecting himself (and his family) to the ruthless scrutiny of a presidential campaign. His history is an opposition researcher's dream—clouded by embarrassing family episodes, allegations of philandering, offensive comments to black voters, and dubious business dealings.

In the Struggle Against Police Violence, the Youth Shall Lead

More than 50,000 people marched on the streets of New York City this past Saturday, December 13, to protest the two recent grand jury decisions—in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City—not to indict the police officers responsible for the deaths of 18-year-old Michael Brown and 43-year-old Eric Garner, both unarmed black men. The New York march was conceived and organized by Synead Nichols and Umaara Iynaas Elliott, two young performers, with support later coming from Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and Justice League NYC. Similar demonstrations took place in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities across the country. Among the signs and chants that decorated the day, the words “Black Lives Matter” were perhaps the most popular. The simple but powerful slogan was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, and has moved from a Twitter hashtag to “movement project,” to borrow Garza’s phrase, that has “connected people across the country working to end the various forms of injustice impacting our people” and “created space for the celebration and humanization of Black lives.”

All that is a bit different from what unfolded in the nation’s capital that same day.

Prentice Government takes Alberta from boom to bust in one weekend, breaking all records

Guess what, we're broke again out here in The Richest Place on Earth! 
Yesterday, citing the spectacular recent drop in oil prices, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice pulled his Grim Reaper's hood over his head, took up his scythe and headed out to, in the words of his government's press release, "take action to control spending."
Target No. 1 of his newly formed seven-minister "Budget 2015 committee," according to the press release: "Public sector compensation."

Falling oil price puts Ottawa’s surplus at risk

Finance Minister Joe Oliver is acknowledging the dramatic drop in oil prices will take a further bite out of government revenues, making Ottawa’s previously declared surplus less certain.

The government already shaved billions off of its revenue forecasts when it released a fiscal update on Nov. 12, when the price of North American crude was around $81 (U.S.). That price closed Monday below $56.

India’s Love Affair with the Privatization of Everything

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated a new hospital and medical research center in Mumbai, one of numerous state-of-the-art private facilities providing world-class medical care to Indians who can afford it. This one, run by one of India’s largest corporate conglomerates, Reliance Industries Limited, will keep some free and some subsidized beds for the “underprivileged,” whose well-being is rhetorically invoked during such privateering initiatives, even as India’s public services themselves are famously underfunded and increasingly vitiated. During his speech, Mr. Modi, who comes from a majoritarian Hindu nationalist milieu known as the “Sangh Parivar” that identifies “real India” with resurgent Hinduism, asserted that ancient Hindus had demonstrated “great strengths in space science” and that there was evidence for the existence of both genetics and plastic surgery in India, the latter evidenced by the Hindu god, Ganesha, who has an elephant’s head on a human body. The gathering, attended by a dazzling array of Bollywood stars, was hosted by Nita Ambani, the wife of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, who owns vast swathes of the Indian media. Any politician who hopes to run this large nation must have Mr. Ambani—whose estranged brother Anil runs the other half of the multibillion-dollar petrochemical empire left by their father—onside. In her speech, Ms. Ambani paid due homage to worthy ideals such as the non-negotiability of good healthcare for all and praised Mr. Modi for his apparent devotion to this principle. The event was described admiringly by India journalists, but few reported the astonishing claims made for ancient Indians, never mind taking them on critically.

Time for 'Adult Discussion' on Canada's Oil Future, Says Tyee's Nikiforuk on CBC

The Harper government will seek a second majority in an election sometime next year, and has signalled it will run on its economic priorities -- none higher than subsidizing and promoting the oilsands.

On Sunday evening CBC viewers were treated to a fascinating preview of the election conversation Canada needs to have, as Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk, drawing on Tyee reporting, played a key role.

Death Toll In Eastern Ukraine Up To 4,707: UN

GENEVA (AP) — Fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed at least at least 4,707 people since the conflict began in mid-April and more than a quarter of the recorded deaths have come since a much-ignored cease-fire, U.N. rights investigators said Monday.

A new report from the U.N. team in Ukraine says at least 1,357 of the fatalities have been recorded since the cease-fire began in early September, but the team noted that some of those deaths may have occurred before then.

Can the Keystone XL Pipeline Really Make Any Money?

Supporters of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline may have to face the reality that the project cannot generate the revenue it needs to be profitable. Extracting oil from tar sands was always going to be extremely costly, but due to the fact that gas prices are down and they do not look to rise anytime soon, some economists do not understand the viability of the pipeline. The controversial project has been front and center in the Republicans’ critique of the Obama administration. Republicans, with the help of key Democrats, have been campaigning for the past six years throughout the country on the notion that the pipeline would bring economic prosperity and job growth. The facts and figures in these two areas have been widely debated, and a new report from the Los Angeles Times details some of the concerns:
Plunging prices have put oil firms around the world under stress, placing smaller operations in danger of bankruptcy. Canadian firms were already under pressure from the boom in production by the U.S. shale-oil industry; the Saudi move squeezed them further.
The market shift has put TransCanada in the position of a real estate developer vying to build a skyscraper during the depths of the mortgage crisis. And while the Keystone investors are big enough to endure years of losses on the pipeline, that was never their plan.
Even at the Manhattan Institute, a free market-oriented think tank with little patience for the arguments made by pipeline opponents, questions are emerging about whether Keystone still deserves star billing in the energy debate.
“I’m for cheap, abundant, reliable energy. Period,” said Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the conservative group. “This is not ideological. This is about what the economics say.… The project is clearly very challenged right now.”
“The symbolism has outstripped the reality,” Bryce said. “Both sides have decided we are going to fight over this, regardless of the big picture now emerging with oil prices.”
Republicans have stayed firm in their support of the pipeline and have vowed to push for approval once they take control of Congress in January.

Original Article
Author: Donald Kaufman

Three Members of Congress Just Reignited the Cold War While No One Was Looking

Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a far-reaching Russia sanctions bill, a hydra-headed incubator of poisonous conflict. The second provocative anti-Russian legislation in a week, it further polarizes our relations with Russia, helping to cement a Russia-China alliance against Western hegemony, and undermines long-term America’s financial and physical security by handing the national treasury over to war profiteers.

Here’s how the House’s touted “unanimity” was achieved: Under a parliamentary motion termed “unanimous consent,” legislative rules can be suspended and any bill can be called up. If any member of Congress objects, the motion is blocked and the bill dies.

Safe Streets Act: Michael Bryant Wants Ontario To Scrap Panhandling Law

TORONTO - Former attorney general Michael Bryant is calling on the Ontario government to repeal the "rotten law" that targets panhandlers and so-called squeegee kids.

Bryant is among a coalition of individuals and organizations urging his former Liberal government colleagues to take the now 15-year-old Safe Streets Act off the books.

During his four years as Ontario's attorney general, Bryant says he "failed" by not repealing the act when he had the chance.

Documents Show Navy's Electromagnetic Warfare Training Would Harm Humans and Wildlife

If the US Navy gets its way, it will begin flying Growler supersonic warplanes over Olympic National Forest and wilderness areas of the Western Olympic Peninsula next September in order to conduct electromagnetic warfare training exercises.

As Truthout previously reported, this would entail flying 36 jets down to 1,200 feet above ground in some areas, in 2,900 training exercises lasting up to 16 hours per day, 260 days per year, with the war-gaming going on indefinitely into the future. The Navy's plans also include having 15 mobile units on the ground with towers emitting electromagnetic radiation signals for the planes to locate as part of their exercises.

Cheney on Torture: Lying or Ignorant?

On Sunday, days after the release of the Senate torture report, former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press to defend the Bush-Cheney administration's use of harsh interrogation practices and to deny that these methods were torture. It was a typical no-retreat/no-surrender performance by Cheney. Asked by host Chuck Todd to define torture, Cheney repeatedly said torture was what happened on 9/11: "What the Al Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans." That is, he defined torture as an act of mass violence that targets civilians.

Hundreds in downtown Toronto protest systemic, state-sanctioned violence

For the second time in less than three weeks, hundreds of people marched through downtown Toronto to protest the systemic abuse experienced by Canada's Black community.
About 300 people gathered at Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday Dec. 13 for the action, which was organized by Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) in response to state-sanctioned violence and racism, including that of the Toronto Police Service and other local police forces. The group also organized a Nov. 25 protest outside Toronto's U.S. consulate following the grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who killed Michael Brown.

Burnaby's legal battle against Kinder Morgan rejected by federal court

In a see-saw contest between the City of Burnaby and a $100-billion-Texas-based pipeline corporation, the municipality learned Friday its legal attack against Kinder Morgan will likely be heard in provincial court, not a federal one.

That’s because a federal appeal judge rejected the city’s application to hear its argument.

“It’s a procedural hurdle, but sooner or later a court has to deal with this issue,” said the City of Burnaby’s lawyer, Gregory McDade, Q.C. on Friday.

Texas Cop Shoots His Neighbor’s Dog, Gets Away With It Under Law Authorizing Vigilantism

Kenneth Wayne Flynn, a former deputy chief in the Fort Worth, Texas police departmentwill not be tried for hunting down and fatally shooting a German shepherd dog that escaped from a nearby home’s yard. Although the former officer was initially charged with animal cruelty/torture, a grand jury decided not to indict him on Wednesday. Flynn was a senior leader in the police department at the time of the shooting, although he decided to retire after he was initially charged.

Harper government's oily handprint on EU climate measure delays

This Wednesday the European Union (EU) Parliament will again vote on the proposed EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), a modest climate measure to reduce emissions from transport fuel by six per cent by 2020.
This is the latest in what has become a long, drawn-out, multi-year saga for what should be a straightforward decision.
And it's entirely Canada's fault.
OK, perhaps that's a slight overstatement.

Across Canada, worker compensation systems are in crisis

Across the country, worker compensation systems are failing injured workers, say injured workers and their advocates.
Ontario's compensation system has received a lot of attention in recent weeks, after an Ontario Federation of Labour study revealed that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is rebating millions of dollars to companies that have been found guilty of safety violations that resulted in workplace fatalities.
According to the OFL, more than 50 per cent of the offending employers received millions of dollars in rebates in the same year they committed their offences. In many of these cases, the rebates received by the companies exceeded the fines they were levied as a result of their conviction.

ISIS -- the New Israel

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is our Frankenstein. The United States after a decade of war in Iraq pieced together its body parts. We jolted it into life. We bathed it in blood and trauma. And we gave it its intelligence. Its dark and vicious heart of vengeance and war is our heart. It kills as we kill. It tortures as we torture. It carries out conquest as we carry out conquest. It is building a state driven by hatred for American occupation, a product of the death, horror and destruction we visited on the Middle East. ISIS now controls an area the size of Texas. It is erasing the borders established by French and British colonial powers through the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. There is little we can do to stop it.

There are lies, damn lies, statistics and Harper

Sky is her name. She walks around the streets of Calgary wearing a jacket emblazoned with the message “Heave Steve”.

As her brother wrote to me, he is amazed at the effect on others of his sisters sartorial statement: total silence.

But what does this silence betoken – disgust or quiet approbation? The base and Mr. Harper may be in for a big surprise.

In Steve We Trust is getting to be a shaky proposition, even for the neo-con hardcore who once believed he walked on tailings ponds. As someone observed of Steve’s latest concert to his fawning party faithful, “They could always pipe this performance into the cells at Guantanamo. I’m betting these guys would turn in their own family to avoid listening to this.”

Feds leave $321-million unspent for green programs, overspend on oil and gas research, ads

The federal government failed to spend a total of $321-million Parliament approved for “environmentally responsible” programs last year—nearly one-third of the money that was available for that purpose—while spending more than the $438-million that had been set aside to fund programs that primarily supported the oil and gas sector through scientific research, market development and government advertising.

Details of a spending report Natural Resources Canada submitted to Parliament through Treasury Board show the department did not spend, or “lapsed” in government accounting terms, a total of $298.6-million on programs for renewable energy development, alternative transportation fuels, energy efficiency and technology innovation.

What to Do with the Drunken Sailor? Ban the Beer

One of the perks of serving in the Royal Canadian Navy is over: no more subsidized cold ones while at sea. The ban was ordered on Dec. 12 after an internal review of incidents that took place last July in Southern California. The ban does not apply when vessels are docked or there is a special occasion.

The HMCS Whitehorse was withdrawn from an international maritime training exercise last summer because of three incidents of drunkenness and sexual assault in San Diego.* A summary of the internal review does not include any details of the incidents themselves.

Our Tarnished Maple Leaf

Remember when everyone seemed to love Canada? Travellers who displayed a maple leaf emblem on their shirts or backpacks could count on a friendly welcome in most countries in the world.

Now, not so much.

We are perceived as ugly Canadians for reasons that include environmental foot dragging at home and complicity in death and destruction overseas.

Stare, for example, into the mirror submitted in October to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A scathing document accuses Canada of failing to hold the many mining firms with head offices here accountable for the deaths and human rights abuses associated with their mines in Latin America.

Expert Engineers Deem Trans Mountain Too Dangerous

Is it safe?

That is the critical question regarding the proposed seven-fold increase in tanker traffic through Vancouver's harbour if the National Energy Board approves Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project.

A group of B.C.-based engineers finds the current plans decidedly unsafe and just told the NEB so in no uncertain terms.

Nunavut's Food Crisis Prompts Intense Scrutiny

IQALUIT, Nunavut - The line-up for Iqaluit's soup kitchen stretches out the door, down a flight of wooden steps and onto the icy street. Dozens of people wait patiently in -40 C cold, braced against the gusting shards of wind.

Inside, Cathy Sawer stirs an industrial-sized pot brimming with chicken soup, enough for 200 servings. The 65-year-old and her fellow volunteers have been in the kitchen since 8 a.m., preparing a lunch that will be the only meal of the day for many of those waiting outside.

Dick Cheney Would Torture Again

Dick Cheney gave an unflinching defense of he CIA's post-9/11 torture program on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, dismissing criticisms of the program's forced rectal feedings, waterboarding and a death.

"It worked. It absolutely did work," said Cheney, a driving force behind the George W. Bush administration's use of harsh tactics in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Elizabeth Warren Blasts Citigroup From the Senate Floor

Elizabeth Warren delivered a “Cross of Gold” speech for the twenty-first century as the Senate wrangled over the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill that keeps the government open in return for putting taxpayers on the hook for the next bailout of the nation’s biggest and most irresponsible banks.

President Obama and Congress Just Gave Your Savings Account to JPMorgan

With the passage of the 2015 federal budget bill, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon got lawmakers to repeal a key part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and allow banks to use the savings accounts of ordinary Americans to gamble in the stock market on behalf of hedge funds, corporations and the rich.

A former senior Treasury official in the Obama administration told The Washington Post that the law restores the ability of banks to use the same practices that helped bring down the global economy in 2008. “This was the epicenter of the crisis,” the official said. “This is what brought AIG down, what brought Lehman Brothers down.”

Teen’s Death, Ruled Suicide By Local Officials, Now Being Investigated By FBI As Possible Lynching

In August, a black 17-year-old boy named Lennon Lacy was found dead, hanging by two belts from a swing set in an open field in his North Carolina town. Police, in what Lacy’s family felt was too quick of an investigation, ruled his death a suicide.
But uproar by the NAACP over a potentially botched investigation and the underlying racial implications of the manner in which Lacy died kept the story in the news. On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigations announced that it will examine the evidence in the case again to determine whether or not it may have been a lynching. The NAACP isalso launching its own investigation.

Without Libby Davies, what course will the NDP chart?

The New Democratic Party's political boat is listing today with the announcement by Vancouver East MP Libby Davies that she will not seek re-election in 2015. Her departure from the caucus will not only put in play one of the most secure NDP seats in the country, but more importantly will leave a gaping hole on the portside of the party. 
There will be speculation about political reasons for her decision, coming after other strong women progressives in the NDP caucus, Jean Crowder and Chris Charlton, announced their retirements as well. But Davies is not stepping down because of politics. She is easily the most highly respected and influential politician on the left of Canadian politics and was certain to play a large role in the next Parliament, regardless of where the NDP is sitting.

The Speech That Could Make Elizabeth Warren the Next President of the United States

Early Friday evening Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the Senate floor and gave a plain-spoken, barn-burning speech that could make history and put her into serious contention to be the next President of the United States.
There are only a handful of political speeches that have such historic impact. Barack Obama's keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention comes readily to mind. It's what catapulted an obscure Illinois state Senator into the national limelight and put him on the path to becoming President.

Inside The Koch-Backed History Lessons North Carolina Wants To Teach High School Students

Public high school students in North Carolina will be taught from a lesson plans and worksheets prepared by a organization closely tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, if the state’s Department of Public Instruction gets its way. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, the Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute received a “$100,000, sole-source contract with [North Carolina] to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take.”