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, March 12, 2015

Poor People Don't Need Better Social Norms. They Need Better Social Policies

In his Tuesday column, "The Cost of Relativism," The New York Times’ David Brooks cites a new book of research on "the growing chasm between those who live in college-educated America and those who live in high-school-educated America," and highlights several "horrific" profiles from the latter group. Brooks uses their stories—which feature drugs, violent crime, unintended pregnancies—to argue for the reintroduction of social norms, which "were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism." While "intense sympathy" for the disadvantaged is in order, he writes, “It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms.” Reintroducing norms to these poor souls "will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good?"

Analysis: What Bill C-22 Means For Oil Spill Cleanup in Canada

After BP's Deepwater Horizon well blowout in April 2010, responders dumped approximately 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to stop the oil slick from fouling fragile coastal environments. The use of such a massive quantity of dispersants, coupled with serious gaps in knowledge about the possible environment impacts of dispersant use, prompted a public outcry and led the United States Environmental Protection Agency to publicly rebuke the company and order them to use fewer (and less toxic) dispersants.

Harper: Niqabs 'Rooted In A Culture That Is Anti-Women'

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper doubled down Tuesday on his aversion to face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women, calling them the product of a culture that is "anti-women."

The prime minister ratcheted up the rhetoric against the niqab even as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused him and his ministers of stoking prejudice against Muslims.

Among other things, Trudeau pointed to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander calling the hijab — a head scarf worn by some Muslim women — a perversion of Canadian values, and New Brunswick MP John Williamson, a former Harper communications director, referring last weekend to "whities" and "brown people."

Six Things Protesters Need to Know about Bill C-51

At over 60 pages, Bill C-51 -- the Anti-Terrorism Act -- is a heavy read. The bill proposes a myriad of radical changes to Canadian law and to Canada's national security apparatus, many of which seriously jeopardize the rights and freedoms of Canadians while promising little improvement to public safety.

Canada's privacy commissioner, ex-CSIS officials, former prime ministers and international whistleblower Edward Snowden have all raised alarm about the bill's impacts on Canadians' freedom and privacy. Lawyers at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have gone over the bill paragraph by paragraph, and we've outlined the parts of this document that concern us most.

Info Commissioner Orders Transparency in BC Lions' Lair

Score that a touchdown for the public's right to know.

An adjudicator for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled March 9 that B.C. Pavilion Corporation must release a full copy of the B.C. Lions' contract to play at B.C. Place Stadium by April 21. The dispute stems from a Freedom of Information request filed three-and-a-half years ago.

Unless the Lions appeal to B.C. Supreme Court, the public will finally get to see whether the Canadian Football League franchise pays fair market rent to be an anchor tenant at the publicly owned stadium. B.C. Place was renovated for $514 million in 2011, but lost nearly $19.5 million in 2013-2014.

The white Confederates defending the south's honor in Selma

As thousands marched across Selma’s Edmund Pettus bridge this weekend, a small band of white people were less than a mile away, mourning the loss of the Confederacy and guarding a memorial to a white supremacist.

Live Oak cemetery is a burial site for Confederate soldiers in the civil war and contains the grave of Edmund Winston Pettus, the general – and member of the Ku Klux Klan – after whom the town’s bridge was named.

Obama Ratchets Up Conflict With Venezuela

Tensions between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments mounted this week following the news that President Obama had officially declared Venezuela a national security threat and had levied sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials.

This latest round of political maneuvers comes in response to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s March 1 diplomatic clampdown against American officials and tourists in his country. 

Republican Judge Deploys Extraordinary New Method Of Politicizing The Federal Judiciary

A federal judge opposed to President Obama’s immigration policy tossed a new roadblock in front of that policy on Monday evening, in an order that may be designed to prevent a higher court from staying his decision.
When Republican state officials opposed to the immigration policy learned that George W. Bush-appointed Judge Andrew Hanen would hear their lawsuit challenging much of that policy, it was obvious that they had hit the jackpot. Hanen has a history of handing down opinions calling for harsher treatment of immigrants in cases that have only a tangential relationship to the views Hanen expresses in those opinions. In one case, he called the federal government’s decision to permit an undocumented mother to be reunited with her child without facing criminal charges a “dangerous course of action.”

But Is Hillary Ready for Us?

The “Ready for Hilary” campaign has launched a not-very-subtle courtship of discontented Democrats, those leftish liberal activists who yearn for anybody but another Clinton. The not-yet candidate herself spoke to their concerns indirectly when she recently addressed the Silicon Valley Conference for Women. Clinton sketched out progressive goals for family-centered labor-market reforms. They were like love bombs for bleeding-heart liberals.

Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress, the shadow think tank that speaks for Clinton-Obama politics, issued a more substantive agenda in a 161-page report from its self-appointed “Commission on Inclusive Prosperity.” The co-chair was Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and senior adviser to Obama. He performed an intellectual conversion equivalent to a double somersault in gymnastics. The new ideas were actually old ideas that progressive advocates have championed for decades to no avail. They were ignored or rejected by Summers himself and the two Democratic presidents he served.

Palestinian Authority Wants Avigdor Lieberman Arrested For Endorsing Murder Of Arabs

WASHINGTON -- In the latest display of crumbling Israeli-Palestinian relations, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry called for Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's minister of foreign affairs, to be arrested following Lieberman's remarks about decapitating Israeli Arab citizens, who account for roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population.

The PA’s demand is a response to Lieberman's recent declaration that Israeli Arabs who are disloyal to Israel should be beheaded. Speaking at an elections rally on Sunday, Lieberman said: "Those who are against us, there's nothing to be done -- we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head... Otherwise we won't survive here."

Stephen Harper dismisses Trudeau’s charge of dividing country

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the wearing of a niqab or face-covering veil as “rooted in a culture that is anti-women” as he defended himself against Liberal charges the Conservatives practice divisive politics.

Harper was clearly stung by a speech Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau gave Monday in Toronto that condemned the Conservatives for rhetoric he said threatens to expose Muslims to the same bigoted fears that Jews faced in the 1930s and ’40s.

After Beating FBI Entrapment, Environmental Activist Eric McDavid Looks

Entrapment: The act of government agents or officials that induces a person to commit a crime he or she is not previously disposed to commit - West's Encyclopedia of American Law

After serving nine years in prison, Eric McDavid was freed on January 8, 2015,  when it was revealed - through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)-released court documents pored over by his supporters - that the government withheld documents from him that supported his defense claim that he was entrapped by the FBI.

Bill C-51: Steven Blaney Says Concerns About Liberties Are 'Ridiculous'

OTTAWA - Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is trying to assure Canadians that proposed anti-terrorism measures won't run roughshod over civil liberties.

In his testimony Tuesday at committee hearings examining the federal legislation, Blaney dismissed concerns the new provisions would allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to squelch or infiltrate environmental protests that fall outside the letter of the law.

The planned measures are needed to protect the public from extremists who hate Canadian values, Blaney said during a meeting of the House of Commons public safety committee.

Diane Finley Breached Conflict Rules, Federal Ethics Watchdog Rules

Public Works Minister Diane Finley acted improperly and violated the Conflict of Interest Act by funding a Markham, Ont., community centre in 2011 as minister of human resources and social development, the federal ethics commissioner said Tuesday.

Mary Dawson said Finley provided money under the Enabling Accessibility Fund to the Markham Centre for Skills and Independence, a proposal submitted on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Chabad Lubavitch by Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn.

ISIS, Harper and the true threat to Canada

"Belief in the inevitability of conflict can become one of it's main causes."
 -- Donald Rumsfeld
Defence minister Jason Kenney has been making the mainstream media rounds, dropping hints about Canada's potentially expanded role in the battle against ISIS. A move that could see Canadian troops in Syria and Libya, in addition to Iraq, for a mission that is not NATO, UN or humanitarian.
Kenney denies this expansion will mean a combat mission. Although there's been plenty of double-speak leaving the door open for just that.

Tony Abbott a 'disgrace', says Federal Opposition after comments that living in remote Indigenous communities was a 'lifestyle choice'

The Federal Opposition is demanding the Prime Minister apologise after he suggested it is a lifestyle choice to live in remote Indigenous communities.

Tony Abbott has backed the West Australian Government's plans to close nearly half of the state's 274 remote communities and said it was not unreasonable if the cost of providing services such as schools, outweighed the benefits.

"What we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have," he said.

Obama Slams Scott Walker For Signing 'Inexcusable' Anti-Union Law

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday night blasted as "inexcusable" Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) decision to sign a "right-to-work" bill into law.

"It’s no coincidence that the rise of the middle class in America coincided in large part with the rise of unions -– workers who organized together for higher wages, better working conditions, and the benefits and protections that most workers take for granted today," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "So it’s inexcusable that, over the past several years, just when middle-class families and workers need that kind of security the most, there’s been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government."

Three Shootings In Vallejo

Officer Sean Kenney had shot two people in less than five months, and even though they had both died, he was still patrolling Vallejo, California, on Oct. 24, 2012, when he responded to a call about a domestic disturbance.
The report came in after neighbors heard a commotion in Jeremiah Moore’s front yard at around 1 a.m. Marvin Clouse, who lived next door, went outside to see what was going on. Jaime Alvarado, who lived across the street, looked out his window.

How A Traveling Consultant Helps America Hide The Homeless

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Robert Marbut hadn't shaved, and he looked terrible. His bushy brown hair, normally parted neatly, stuck out at odd angles. His clothes stank of beer. Standing in line for lunch at the Halifax Urban Ministries building downtown last spring, Marbut looked much like the hundreds of homeless people who assemble there daily for a free hot meal.

"He just blended right in with the homeless in line," said Michael Pastore, 60, a local activist who works with the homeless. "He was disheveled and had his hair messed up and was wearing dirty clothes, but I recognized him."

The difference between Marbut and the others was that he was a welcome guest in the city. Daytona Beach has been trying to rid its streets of homeless people for years. Finding the problem insurmountable, however, the Daytona Beach City Commission decided last year to bring in an expert. They're paying Marbut six figures to investigate the city’s homelessness problem and devise a solution.

Tom Cotton Doesn't Give A Sh** About Iran Talks Protocol. But A Lot Of Others Do.

WASHINGTON -- An open letter from Senate Republicans to Iranian leadership, released Monday, ended up sparking scorn about its ultimate value and flak over the authors' adherence to protocol.

Drafted by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and co-signed by 46 Republican senators, the letter was a not-so-subtle threat to Iran that any international agreement reached with President Barack Obama on Iran's nuclear program would unravel under his successor.

Coming just weeks before a March 24 deadline for the current talks, it was met with a combination of outrage and ridicule. Former Bush administration legal adviser Jack Goldsmith poked a hole in the senators' interpretation of constitutional law. Others decried the letter's blatant effort to sabotage the ongoing talks between Iran, the U.S. and five other nations. Still others found the whole episode perplexing and overdramatized.

What Was Being Sold in Selma -- Honoring civil rights legends and hawking political agendas

"It’s not a true black celebration until somebody is selling Shea Butter,” read a tweet sent Sunday afternoon from Hiram College professor Jason Johnson, accompanied by a picture of a vendor’s stand and hashtagged with #Selma50, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights demonstrations.
He’s right. I can’t think of too many carnivals, parades, or outdoor concert events that attract a primarily black audience at which I couldn’t find a vendor selling oils, soaps, or similarly aromatic methods of helping us avoid ashy skin. But even as I watched from afar as thousands commemorated the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” protest, I could see that the man hawking shea butter in Selma had plenty of company, including President Obama and Republican Senator Tim Scott. 

Yet Another Oil Train Disaster

Another day, another oil train derailment. Early Saturday morning, a Canadian National Railway train carrying Alberta crude derailed outside the tiny town of Gogama in northern Ontario. Thirty-eight cars came off the tracks, and five of themsplashed into the Mattagami River system. The accident caused a massive fire and leaked oil into waterways used by locals—including a nearby indigenous community—for drinking and fishing. No one was injured, but according to CN Railway's Twitter feed, fire fighters were still suppressing fires earlier today. People in the area, including members of the Mattagami First Nation, have been complaining of respiratory issues from the smoke.

Marjory LeBreton In Hot Seat Over How Tories Depict Muslim Canadians

OTTAWA - The messages being sent by the federal government and the Conservative party that form it may be having a negative impact on the country's Muslim community, a senior Conservative senator acknowledged Monday.

While Sen. Marjory LeBreton said she feels the government is "getting a bad rap" on the issue thanks in part to the media, she told a luncheon crowd she regrets the fact some Muslims are saying they feel unwelcome in Canada.

In recent months, the prime minister has explicitly linked mosques to terrorism and the party has circulated fundraising pitches uses menacing images of Muslim men.

Liberals Are Supporting Bill C-51 So Tories Can't Make 'Political Hay,' Trudeau Says

VANCOUVER — Federal Liberals are supporting the Conservatives’ controversial anti-terrorism bill because they don’t want the government to make “political hay” of national security issues in an election year, party leader Justin Trudeau suggested last week.

Speaking at the University of British Columbia Wednesday, Trudeau encountered a student audience that was vocally critical of the Grits’ support for the sweeping legislation. The Liberal leader told the crowd he sympathizes with the many Canadians who have concerns about Bill C-51.

Lisa Raitt says Gogama train derailments raise questions about CN operations

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says she's made her concerns known to CN Rail after two derailments near the community of Gogama, Ont., where crews were still working Monday to put out fires and clear debris following the most recent derailment on Saturday.

CN Rail said Monday that it was working with Gogama and Mattagami First Nations officials, as well as provincial and federal investigatory and regulatory officials after the derailment of 38 cars on a 94-car train. The derailment site is about 110 kilometres southwest of Timmins.

Trudeau: Harper Government 'Deliberately' Stoking Fear Against Muslim Canadians

OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau is accusing the Harper government of deliberately stoking fear and prejudice against Muslim Canadians — employing the same kind of rhetoric that led to some of Canada's most shameful displays of racism in the past.

The Liberal leader drew a parallel Monday between the current government's rhetoric about Muslims and other "dark episodes" in Canada's history: the internment of Ukrainian, Japanese and Italian Canadians during the two world wars, the turning away boatloads of Jewish and Punjabi refugees and the imposition of residential schools for aboriginal children.

Justin Trudeau: Tories threaten liberty by fostering prejudice against Muslims

The Conservative government poses a real threat to liberty in Canada and is stoking fear and prejudice by opposing the right of female Canadian Muslims to wear a niqab, Justin Trudeau says.

And Canadians, he said, should "shudder" that the government is employing the same kind of rhetoric to raise fears against Muslims that was used to promote a “none is too many” restrictive immigration policy toward Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.

"These are troubling times. Across Canada, and especially in my home province, Canadians are being encouraged by their government to be fearful of one another," the Liberal leader said in a speech in downtown Toronto Monday night.

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Add Their Support To Senate Republican Letter On Iran

WASHINGTON -- Likely GOP presidential hopefuls are piggybacking onto a controversial letter sent to Iranian leaders this week by Senate Republicans.

Forty-seven GOP senators sparked intense criticism by suggesting in a missive to Tehran that any nuclear agreement with the Obama administration would not be constitutionally binding, because a future U.S. president or Congress could take steps to undo the deal.


The dream police they live inside of my head. Or maybe it's the Harper police.

I had a dream last night after Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's livestream to the nation on the subject of liberty. It was like a scene out of the Planet of the Apes, me surrounded by the Prime Minister's babbling gorillas taunting the Liberal leader with every word he spoke. I awoke in a cold sweat.

It was probably the Twitter backlash to Trudeau's speech that caused it. The predictable onslaught follows on social media among Conservatives every time anyone takes off the gloves with their beloved PM. There were a few moments like that last night, with the Grit leader saying the PM's anti-terror rhetoric is fomenting hatred against Muslims of the kind more familiar in history when brown shirts were laying waste in Europe, and Canada was battling its own demons of intolerance.

Steven Blaney Grilled For Invoking Holocaust To Defend Bill C-51

An NDP MP accused Canada’s public safety minister of using “inflated rhetoric” after he referred to the Holocaust during a hearing on the Conservative government’s proposed anti-terror legislation on Tuesday.

Public safety critic Randall Garrison grilled Steven Blaney on what he calls the minister’s “inflated rhetoric” and “offensive” remark on the first day of committee hearings into Bill C-51.

Blaney said the proposed bill would help the government target websites that distribute “extremist ideology” and promote “hatred and violence." To emphasize his point, he compared threats made by the Islamic State to those made by Nazi propagandists.

New questions emerge over personal emails Hillary Clinton 'chose not to keep'

Hillary Clinton failed to quell mounting criticism over her controversial private email account on Tuesday evening after her office suggested she had erased more than half of her emails before turning them over for release to the American public.

In a statement released after a press conference intended to end a week-long controversy, Clinton’s office said that she did not preserve 31,830 of the 62,320 emails she sent and received while serving as Barack Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Jason Kenney, DND, post ‘potentially reckless’ images of Operation IMPACT special forces

The Department of National Defence and its new minister, Jason Kenney, are facing harsh criticism after sharing photos of Canadian special forces members from the ramp ceremony in Kuwait today honouring Sgt. Andrew Doiron.

Sgt. Doiron was the Canadian soldier killed by friendly fire from Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq on Friday. The details of the incident — the first Canadian casualty in the Canadian mission assisting the anti-Islamic State coalition in Iraq, or what the Harper government calls “Operation IMPACT” — are still in dispute. As of Monday evening, four investigations into the incident had been announced.

Iran's Foreign Minister To U.S. Senators: 'The World Is Not The United States'

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday angrily dismissed an open letter sent by 47 U.S. senators to the Iranian government about Tehran's ongoing nuclear negotiations.

In the letter, the Republican lawmakers note they believe the Iranian negotiators "may not fully understand [the American] constitutional system" and claim that the next American president could "with the stroke of a pen" revoke any agreement with Iran that is not approved by Congress. The threat comes as representatives of Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are working to reach a deal about Tehran's nuclear program by the end of March.

CSIS Watchdog Wary About Future Funding, 'Diminishing' Oversight

OTTAWA - The executive director of the watchdog that keeps an eye on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is questioning whether the review body will have enough resources to do its job in the future.

Michael Doucet, executive director of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, says the watchdog will see a smaller slice of CSIS's activities in coming years.

Scott Walker Just Blatantly Pandered to Iowa's Corn Farmers

As the Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker has resisted the federal government's support of the biofuel industry. But last weekend, within the borders of corn-rich Iowa—the state upon which Walker appears most intensely focused for his all-but-announced presidential bid—he sang a different tune. Joining other potential candidates at the Iowa Ag Summit, Walker said he was "willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard," a federal policy that requires fuel used in the US to contain at least 10 percent "renewable fuel," usually ethanol and other biofuel.

Conservatives Have a Plan for Climate Change: Pretend It Doesn't Exist

Within a few decades, the seawaters around southern Florida are expected to rise by as much as two feet. Local officials anticipate billions or trillions of dollars of damage to infrastructure. By some estimates, Miami has more to lose from climate change than any other city in the world. But state leaders have a plan to deal with the problem: don’t talk about it.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting revealed Sunday that under Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has barred its employees from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in reports, emails, and other official communications. Although the DEP denies such a policy exists, former employees from various offices around the state said it was communicated verbally after Scott took office and installed a new director at the agency.

Arizona Governor Calls Plan To Kick 500,000 Low-Income People Off Of Medicaid ‘Responsible’

As states across the country are moving to expand Medicaid coverage to additional low-income people under the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers in Arizona want to take the opposite approach.
On Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) approved a measure that seeks to tighten the state requirements for Medicaid eligibility, ultimately limiting public health insurance to fewer residents. The legislation proposes requiring the program’s recipients to be employed in order to qualify for assistance and kicking them out of the program after they’ve been enrolled for five years.

Baffin Correctional Centre A Ticking Legal Time Bomb, According To Government Memo

OTTAWA - The Baffin Correctional Centre is a ticking legal time bomb that could go off at any moment, a senior bureaucrat warns in a newly disclosed memo that comes as the territory braces for a scathing report about Nunavut's most notorious jail.

The Canadian Press recently obtained a copy of a January memo written by Nunavut's deputy minister of justice to several of her colleagues and copied to her boss, Justice Minister Paul Okalik.

Domestic Military Expansion Spreads Through the US, Ignites Dissent

What if you lived in a country that allowed its Navy to fly the loudest aircraft in the world over your home day and night, generating sonic booms that rattled the windows of people living in a neighboring country, and test new weapons in areas that would knowingly harm, or possibly kill, humans and wildlife?

Welcome to the United States, which has a military with an increasing domestic expansion that may soon be coming to your town, city or national forest.

Bill C-51 Could Be Used To Target Activists: Amnesty International

OTTAWA - A prominent human-rights group says the Conservative government's anti-terrorism bill could be used to target environmental activists and aboriginal protesters.

In a brief made public Monday, Amnesty International Canada added its voice to those who say the bill would go beyond genuine security threats to ensnare those who mount demonstrations that fall outside the strict letter of the law.

The Conservatives brought in the bill — which would broaden the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's mandate — following the murders of two Canadian soldiers last October.

Why Aren’t Americans Feeling the U.S. Economy’s Improvements?

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That’s the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues — and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Abortion Bans Are Putting Women Behind Bars

When a medical procedure is restricted to the point that it carries criminal penalties, some vulnerable people invariably end up behind bars.
Proponents of further restrictions on abortion typically argue these laws are intended to protect women and children, not to penalize women who may choose to end a pregnancy. The goal is not to jail women themselves, abortion opponents say, because the women who have abortions are victims rather than criminals. So pro-life activists who want to overturn Roe v. Wade typically don’t specify what punishment patients should face for having an abortion in a society where it’s illegal (although some have joked that it would be appropriate to put them to death).

Meet the Politicians Trying to Bury America’s Past

The planet is aflame with the killing of messengers. We can barely keep score of the assaults on memory: from Mosul to Moscow to Dresden to Dhaka, the destruction proceeds apace—of ancient monuments, scientific archives and schools, of journalists as well as journalism itself. We, the witnesses, expend a great deal of breath and ink promising to “never forget.” Yet both globally and locally, in ways large and small, there is huge resistance to even the smallest reminders of injury: no one wants to talk about trauma or privilege as the invisible distributors of public costs and private benefits today. No one wants to bring it home.

People on Food Stamps Make Healthier Grocery Decisions Than Most of Us

The Dollar General in Austin's gritty northeast—the neighborhood where I grew up—is a squat, warehouselike structure about twice the size of a suburban convenience store. Amid the dull flicker of fluorescent lights and the grinding hum of a compressor struggling to power a long freezer case, I'm in search of affordable and nutritious food with Melissa Helber, social-services outreach supervisor of a local food bank. The pickings are slim: We wander past two-liter jugs of Dr Pepper at the incredible price of four for $5; value-size boxes of Chocolate Lucky Charms cereal, $3.50; a wall of bagged candy, $1 each. Helber says the prices are why many of her clients shop here: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is stingy (about $11 a day for a family of three around here), but it's relatively open on how recipients spend their benefits. It bans alcohol and "hot food"—say, a rotisserie chicken—but almost everything you could find in Dollar General's grocery section, from sodas to M&M's, is fair game.

Canadians must know end game before mission in Iraq is extended

Last week, just prior to the shocking friendly-fire incident that left Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron dead, and three fellow Canadian special forces soldiers wounded, newly minted Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson made a covert visit to Iraq. Nicholson’s junket came on the eve of Canada having to decide whether it will extend its six-month military commitment beyond the current April 7 deadline.

Immediately upon returning to the safer soil of neighbouring Jordan, Nicholson advised reporters via teleconference that Canadians should brace themselves for an extended mission.

Vancouver transit referendum could put plug in pipeline expansion

In the U.S., transit funding referendums have become a fact of life. But on March 16, the first ballots will be mailed out in the Metro Vancouver transit referendum, apparently the first ever in Canada.
This could either be the start of a downward spiral for transit in Canada or the spark for a sustainable transportation movement -- one that changes our communities for the better and greatly reduces our dependence on oil from the tar sands and fracking fields.

The Target diaries: Enter the liquidator

Canada is facing the biggest private-sector closure in recent history, and 17,600 Target workers will soon be out of a job. An employee of Target Canada is documenting the last days of work at the store during its liquidation.
The source of the high-pitched chinks becomes obvious as the woman and her bangles enter the break room. All eyes follow the older woman, shrouded in a black blouse and tight black jeans bejeweled with a shiny belt. We know her as "The Liquidator from Las Vegas."
She strides past us in her high heels leaving a waft of floral fragrance over the small cluster of Target workers. A few of the folks at the 'soon-to-be-sold' table raise their eyebrows at one another. Today, the Liquidator takes over the operations of the store. 

Circumstances of Canadian soldier's death in Iraq strongly suggest Harper government is lying

The circumstances surrounding the death of a Canadian special-forces soldier in Iraq are important because they strongly suggest the Harper Government has been lying to Canadians about what our troops are doing in that country.
Whether Canadian soldiers should be in Iraq is a policyquestion Canadians are entitled to argue about, but there is nothing improper about the Canadian Forces serving abroad -- even in dangerous and potentially lethal fights -- if the Canadian government has determined their presence is appropriate and in the country's interest.
Likewise, whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are making the right choices about the security and interests of Canada is a political question we are also entitled to argue about, but since his party has a majority in Parliament it is impossible to claim it does not have the right to make such decisions, at least if it brings them before the House of Commons.

When PM Pushed the Panic Button, Cheerleader's Mom Pushed Back

Remember all that nonsense from media types following the Parliament Hill shooting about how Canada had "lost its innocence"? Turns out they were right -- just premature.

Canada lost its innocence this week. What was a largely sane nation populated by reasonable, stoic people is slowly vanishing.

Word came out this week that a handful of Saskatchewan high schools cancelled plans to travel to West Edmonton Mall to take part in a cheerleading competition this weekend -- spooked by a threat against the mall in an Al-Shabaab terrorist propaganda video, and subsequently hyped and exploited for political effect by a federal government immune to shame.

The Establishment Has 'Ridiculed' our Democracy

I foresee a collision coming. Not between French Canada and the rest, not between East and West (although there is a role played by these stresses) but between the "establishment" and the general public. The "establishment" is difficult to define except everyone knows what it is. defines it as "the existing power structure in society; the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions; institutional authority." Let me give a couple of examples leading to the conclusion to which I have reached.

I almost spilled my muesli the other morning when I read that the prime minister's office had reacted to President Obama vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline, saying, "it has the support of the Canadian and American people... "