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.]

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Durbin: Debt Deal Will Be The Death Of Keynesian Economics

WASHINGTON -- The Republicans are killing Keynesian economics with their attempt to cut spending as the economy rebounds from a recession, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a floor speech on Sunday.

"I would say ... that symbolically, that agreement is moving us to the point where we are having the final interment of John Maynard Keynes," he said, referring to the British economist. "He normally died in 1946 but it appears we are going to put him to his final rest with this agreement."

Super Congress Getting Even More Super Powers In Debt Deal

WASHINGTON -- In order to shore up GOP support for a debt-ceiling deal, Senate Democrats are exploring ways of giving the proposed Super Congress even greater super powers, according to multiple news reports and congressional aides with knowledge of the plan. Under the new proposal, if the new legislative body composed of 12 members of both parties doesn't come up with a bill that cuts at least $1.8 trillion by Thanksgiving, entitlement programs will automatically be slashed.

Pat Buchanan: Norwegian Right-Wing Terrorist ‘Breivik May Be Right’

Today, in a World Net Daily op-ed, failed presidential candidate and conservative pundit Pat Buchanan offers an example of the ethnic bigotry and racial insensitivity that has come to define him.

Offering his take on the horrendous terrorist attacks in Norway, Buchanan joined the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post in arguing that the far-right extremist perpetrator Anders Breivik may have had a valid point. Arguing that Breivik was bringing attention to his cause, “a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims,” Buchanan declares that, on the “climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world…Breivik may be right“:

But, awful as this atrocity was, native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.
That threat comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists.
Europe faces today an authentic and historic crisis.
With her native-born populations aging, shrinking and dying, Europe’s nations have not discovered how to maintain their prosperity without immigrants. Yet the immigrants who have come – from the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia – have been slow to learn the language and have failed to attain the educational and occupational levels of Europeans. And the welfare states of Europe are breaking under the burden.[...]
As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.
The sad reality is that Buchanan helps mainstream anti-Muslim intolerance. A regular MSNBC contributor and frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Buchanan once invoked the Nazis’ attempt to march in Skokie, Illinois as an argument against the Islamic Center proposal in New York. He also used this platform to defend Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) “McCarthyesque hearings” on the threat of terrorism from American Muslims, saying American Muslims are “most susceptible or vulnerable to the recruitment” by terrorists who will “radicalize them and make them enemies of America.”

Of course, Muslims are just the most recent group of people on Buchanan’s enemies list, which already includes Latinos, African-Americans, and gay people. As Buchanan said, he “prefers the old bigotry.” And he’s bringing it back to the mainstream.

Source: Thing Progtress 

Fire Destroys We Are Wisconsin PAC Offices in La Crosse; Recall Efforts Subdued

Fire officials in La Crosse are continuing to investigate a Saturday blaze that destroyed the regional offices of We Are Wisconsin, a union political action committee (PAC) that has pumped millions of dollars into supporting Democratic candidates in the upcoming recall elections.

The La Crosse Tribune reports that the cause of the fire, which started at about 9:30 a.m., remains unknown. Firefighters thought they had the blaze under control in the afternoon, however, that wasn't the case and it continued into the evening, the newspaper reported.

We Are Wisconsin used the building at 432 Jay St. to oversee its efforts in the 32nd Senate District recall election, which will be held Aug. 9. Incumbent Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke is being challenged by Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling in that district.

A spokesman for the group told the La Crosse Tribune that the group's office was a total loss.

We Are Wisconsin is a political action committee made up by a coalition of unions that has spent more than $2 million supporting Democratic recall candidates around Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

In the 32nd District, the group has spent about $400,000 to get Shilling elected, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

The group is also active in the 8th Senate District recall race between incumbent Republican Alberta Darling and Democratic challenger Sandy Pasch. In that Milwaukee-area race, We Are Wisconsin has spent at least $570,000 on pro-Pasch ads.

Throughout the day Saturday, those active in the recall effort were taking to Twitter and calling the fire "suspicious" since it occurred just 10 days before the recall. However, fire officials haven't yet determined the cause of the blaze, according to local media reports.

Source: FoxPoint-BaysidePatch 

Reid Vote Delayed To Sunday As Hints Of Deal Emerge

WASHINGTON -- A final Senate vote on raising the nation's debt ceiling was put off 12 more hours as the two sides inched toward a long-sought agreement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced late Saturday evening that he would be delaying a previously scheduled 1 a.m. vote in an effort to give more breathing room for negotiations between his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and the Obama administration.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Biodiversity On Earth Plummets, Despite Growth in Protected Habitats

Despite rapid and substantial growth in the amount of land and sea designated as protected habitat over the last four decades, the diversity of species the world over is plummeting, a new study has found.

Over 100,000 so-called "protected areas" representing some 7 million square miles of land and nearly 1 million square miles of ocean have been established since the 1960's, noted the analysis, published Thursday in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

And yet, according to a widely cited index used to track planetary biodiversity, the wealth of terrestrial and marine species has seen steady decline over roughly the same period, suggesting that simply protecting swaths of land and sea -- a common conservation strategy worldwide -- is inadequate for preventing the steady disappearance of earth's creatures.

Somalia Famine: Aid Workers Report Fewer Refugees Making It To Food Supplies Safely

The number of refugees pouring out of famine-stricken Somalia has greatly reduced in recent days, aid workers in the region say -- and that may not be a good thing.

"We are seeing this, and we're really not sure why," says Giammichele De Maio, the head of the World Food Program's refugee program in Ethiopia.

He explained, "Unfortunately, it's one of those borders we cannot pass and so we don't have a complete picture there [in Somalia]. We know that some food assistance is reaching the people there, and it may well be that their hope of receiving assistance makes them decide to wait rather than walk the miles and miles it takes to cross the border."

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford And Brother Doug: Straight-Talking Right-Wingers Make Waves

TORONTO - Who are Rob and Doug Ford? The answer depends entirely on who you ask.

Some have hailed Toronto's new mayor and his city councillor brother as men of the people with their fingers on the pulses and their eyes on the welfare of Joe Q public.

Others decry them as intolerant autocrats who would sacrifice the city's cultural, educational and economic future on the altar of fiscal restraint.

Some facts are indisputable — the Ford brothers govern from the right, shoot from the hip, and cause a stir both at home and farther afield.

UN commemorates first anniversary of resolution on the human right to water and sanitation

Maude Barlow (National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians), Anil Naidoo (Blue Planet Organizer) and I were in New York City this week to participate in events commemorating the one year anniversary of the UN General Assembly (GA) resolution on the human right to water and sanitation.

On Wednesday morning, joined by colleagues from Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International and Michigan State University, we met with Catarina de Albuquerque, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. We discussed how to advance and make concrete the historic UN resolutions passed last year recognizing water and sanitation as a fundamental human right.

All-nighter didn’t shed any light on budget process

It’s great to know that hundreds of people are willing to stay up all night to fight for their vision of Toronto. But, sad to say, that’s about the only good news to come out of Thursday’s and Friday’s filibuster-by-committee down at City Hall.

Reports have a grand total of three of 169 deputants at Executive Committee speaking generally in favour of Rob Ford’s vision of Toronto. Deputants spoke for three-fifths of the time they’d normally have been allotted, and half the people who signed up to speak didn’t end up doing so at all because Mayor Rob Ford decided to run the meeting all night — all so everyone could get away for the long weekend on time.

Toronto wants its vote back

No. No. No. And still no. That’s all Mayor Rob Ford and his executive committee heard from the public for almost 23 hours Thursday, into Friday. Do not take the axe to city services that have made Toronto an enviable place to live.

How many ways can you say no? How about 169 — the number of deputants who overcame obstacles the mayor put in their way to speak out — in verse and rhyme and satire and a puppet show. Only one or two told the mayor to cut away to his heart’s content.

Why are so many people opposed to the mayor’s direction, months after electing him? Where are the supposed majority who want Ford to take the axe to the bloated bureaucracy and too-rich services? Where is Ford Nation? Ford’s Flock? Where’s the average citizen, not belonging to any of those partisan groups, who just wants a healthy, affordable city?

Ford’s council allies suggest these people are all too busy working to find time to give their views on city finances. The ones who showed up at city hall are unionists, the usual suspects with vested interests, organizations whose reps are being paid, by taxpayers, to show up and protest.

The argument doesn’t sell.

What the USDA Doesn't Want You to Know About Antibiotics and Factory Farms

Here is a document the USDA doesn't want you to see. It's what the agency calls a "technical review"—nothing more than a USDA-contracted researcher's simple, blunt summary of recent academic findings on the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections and their link with factory animal farms. The topic is a serious one. A single antibiotic-resistant pathogen, MRSA—just one of many now circulating among Americans—now claims more lives each year than AIDS.

Back in June, the USDA put the review up on its National Agricultural Library website. Soon after, a Dow Jones story quoted a USDA official who declared it to be based on "reputed, scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly journals." She added that the report should not be seen as a "representation of the official position of USDA." That's fair enough—the review was designed to sum up the state of science on antibiotic resistance and factory farms, not the USDA's position on the matter.

Toronto budget alternatives

With all the news around the City of Toronto's upcoming budget and looming upcoming cuts, here is an alternative for Torontonians to consider.

In a report released this week by the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance titled: Breaking Boundaries: Time to Think and Act Like a Region, the group recommends the opposite to vast service cuts which will harm Toronto's neighbourhoods. In fact, it recommends a proactive approach to revitalizing and supporting communities by investing money in Toronto neighbourhoods.

Regarding the issue of neighbourhood, the report reads: "The Greater Toronto region is celebrated for its many vibrant and unique neighbourhoods, but growing concentrations of poverty threaten the health and vitality of many -- in 2006, 46% of low-income families lived in higher poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto, up from 18% two decades earlier."

City waits for first service cut

Despite months of meetings and hundreds of consultations with citizens who have packed City Hall over the past few weeks to discuss potentially widespread cuts to city services, people are no closer today to knowing what services the Mayor or city leadership believes the city should stop delivering.

Beginning Thursday morning, the Executive Committee met for 22 hours, until 8 a.m. Friday, hearing from hundreds of citizens, but took no votes on cuts.

On Friday at 1 p.m. an exhausted-looking Joe Pennachetti, the city manager, told bleary-eyed reporters in the city council members lounge that he now will take everybody’s advice and put together a report to go to a special meeting of Mayor Rob Ford’s Executive Committee on Sept. 19, and then to a special meeting of city council later in September.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Star Polar Bear Scientist in the Dog House

Everything you've been told about polar bears and global warming is a lie. Or at least that's what climate skeptics have rushed to claim in response to the news that the government is investigating a scientist who wrote a significant paper five years ago about drowned bears in the warming Arctic. Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) in Alaska, has been placed on administrative leave as the agency's inspector general undertakes an investigation into unnamed "integrity issues." But an environmental watchdog group believes that the real reason for the investigation is pressure from oil and gas interests who see polar bears as pests that stand between them and the vast mineral reserves deep beneath the Arctic.

The details of the investigation are odd, to say the very least. On February 4, 2011, Monnett received a request for an interview from Eric May, a criminal investigator with the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior. May and another agent interviewed Monnett on February 23, 2011, in the Anchorage office of BOEMRE.

Norway’s Johan Galtung, Peace & Conflict Pioneer, on How to Stop Extremism that Fueled Shooting

Norwegian police have released the identities of another 24 people killed by alleged attacker Anders Behring Breivik as they ended their search for bodies around the island where 68 of the overall 76 victims of the twin Norway attacks were murdered. Breivik is due to be questioned by the police for the second time today. Details have emerged, meanwhile, on Breivik’s claim to have bought high-capacity ammunition clips used in the attack from the United States. As Norway mourns the tragedy, we speak with Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist who is considered the father of peace and conflict studies. Galtung’s granddaughter was on the island when Breivik attacked.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Rob and Doug Ford: Toronto's Brothers Grim

I'm concerned that what I'm about to say may turn me into a social pariah, but here goes nothing: the City of Toronto, with a $774 million structural deficit, may indeed have to close a library branch or two.

Why? Well to quote Colonel Mustard from the movie version of Clue: "This is war... casualties are inevitable. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs." Oddly enough the Toronto Public Library doesn't own a copy of the movie Clue in its collection -- surprising considering it does have over 32 million Books, CD's and DVD's in circulation as it handles over 18 million visits annually.

But before I raise the wrath of the 35,000 Torontonians who've signed the petition: Keep Toronto's Libraries Open and Public, I will also say that perhaps we do NOT need to close any of our beloved libraries.

Rob Ford Budget Cuts: Toronto Mayor Faces Familiar Problems

The battle lines were quickly drawn Thursday at Toronto City Hall, where hundreds of residents sat through hours of depositions for the chance to give Mayor Rob Ford a piece of their minds about possible cuts to municipal services.

In the main meeting room, the crowd hissed loudly at any mention of trimming funding for public libraries or selling the city zoo, and bristled at Ford’s promise to extend the session “right through the night.” It was as if to say: “Do your worst, and so will we.”

While Ford repeatedly characterized residents as “taxpayers,” reminding them that he sees trimming services as the lesser evil, it was apparent that the view shared by the majority of those in attendance could not have been more opposing.

Norway Massacre: Facebook, Social Media Spurring On Far-Right Membership

LONDON - When the English Defence League sprang to life two years ago, it had fewer than 50 members — a rough-and-tumble bunch of mostly white guys shouting from a street corner about what they viewed as uncontrolled Muslim immigration.

Now, the far-right group mentioned by confessed Norway gunman Anders Behring Breivik as an inspiration says its ranks have swollen to more than 10,000 people, a spectacular rise its leaders attribute to the immense global power of Facebook and other social networking sites.

"I knew that social networking sites were the way to go," EDL leader Stephen Lennon told The Associated Press. "But to say that we inspired this lunatic to do what he did is wrong. We've never once told our supporters its alright to go out and be violent."

World population to surpass 7 billion in 2011

Global population is expected to hit 7 billion later this year, up from 6 billion in 1999. Between now and 2050, an estimated 2.3 billion more people will be added—nearly as many as inhabited the planet as recently as 1950. New estimates from the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations also project that the population will reach 10.1 billion in 2100.

These sizable increases represent an unprecedented global demographic upheaval, according to David Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a review article published July 29, 2011 in Science.

Over the next forty years, nearly all (97%) of the 2.3 billion projected increase will be in the less developed regions, with nearly half (49%) in Africa. By contrast, the populations of more developed countries will remain flat, but will age, with fewer working-age adults to support retirees living on social pensions.

Follow the money

When a group of Conservative, Liberal and NDP MPs formed the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism in 2009, they decided to work outside of the normal structures of Parliament and raise their own money to hold a conference and conduct an inquiry. But transparency would be crucial, they said, pledging on their website to “voluntarily disclose all sources of funding” and remain independent of the Conservative government, advocacy groups and “Jewish community organizations.” By the time they released their report this month, however—warning that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada—that vow of full disclosure seemed to be forgotten, and the coalition appeared closely tied to the government.

Margaret Atwood's inspiring defence of Toronto’s libraries

Put aside the question of whether or not Toronto Councillor and mayoral confidant Doug Ford knows what Margaret Atwood looks like or has read her books. What is shocking is his suggestion that a great literary icon should “go run in the next election and get democratically elected” if she is concerned about funding for libraries.

Ms. Atwood has an unquestioned right to stand for libraries. Every citizen does. As she says, “This is about what sort of city the people of Toronto want to live in.”

Judge sets deadline for Ottawa to come up with caribou protection plan

A judge is telling the federal government to rethink its decision not to issue an emergency order protecting habitat for endangered caribou in Alberta's oilsands region.

However, Federal Court Justice Paul Crampton isn't telling Ottawa it has to issue such an order.

Mr. Crampton is giving Environment Minister Peter Kent until September to come up with an emergency plan to protect the caribou, which have been in steep decline for more than a decade.

Environmental and aboriginal groups had argued that the federal Species At Risk Act obliges Ottawa to issue an immediate order for habitat protection.

They point out that the federal government has missed the legal deadline for a caribou recovery plan by four years.

Recent studies suggest that 75 per cent of caribou range in the oilsands region has been disturbed by fire, industry or both.

Source: Globe&Mail  

Ford unswayed by 22 hours of talk, teen’s tears

At exactly 3 a.m., a sock puppet named Roy started speaking eloquently against cuts to community grants, and this was not normal, no, but it was far more normal this morning than it would’ve been at any other Toronto council meeting in recent memory.

Roy, a friend of former council candidate Desmond Cole, made his gravelly voiced case at an executive committee meeting that soon became the longest continuous council meeting in the history of the amalgamated city. The meeting was also unusually festive — partly on account of copious caffeine consumption and sleep-deprived giddiness, but largely on account of the progressive passions awakened by the program-cutting suggestions made by KPMG consultants as part of the city’s core service review.

KPMG’s ‘opportunities’ for saving

A brief summary of consultant KPMG’s suggestions for cost-cutting in the 2012 Toronto operating budget.

Public works

  Environment days: Scrap service that allows citizens to bring in household hazardous waste, exchange bins or pick up compost one day a year: $500,000

  Street events: Consider setting fees from all events high enough to recover all city costs such as cleanup: $700,000

  Fluoride: Eliminate fluoridation of water, which dentists say prevents cavities: $1.9 million

  Snow: Stop clearing snow piles left by the plow at the end of suburban driveways: $3.7 million.

  Toxic taxi: End household pickup of hazardous items such as paint cans. $185,859

  Garbage tags: Stop giving residents free tags allowing them to put out extra garbage up to four times a year: $593,000

  Commercial waste: Stop picking up garbage from retailers on commercial strips: $7 million

Economic development

  Reduce or eliminate Business Services: End programs such as support to film industry and 7,000 entrepreneurs: $3.1 million

  Reduce or eliminate Cultural Services: $17.3 million

  Reduce Trade and Sector Development activities: a portion of $3.9 million

  Reduce staff support to BIAs, or recover costs of support: a portion of $1.3 million

  Reduce or eliminate TESS Social Supports: $1.5 million

Community development

  Child care: Transfer or sell city-operated child-care centres: $16 million

  Child-care subsidies: Eliminate the 2,000 city-only subsidies: $24 million

  Emergency services: Consider integrating fire and ambulance: $81 million.

  Nursing homes: Sell or transfer nine of 10 city nursing homes: about $40 million (Star’s estimate)


  Attractions: Eliminate zoo and farm attractions: $1.3 million

  Planting: Eliminate urban agriculture activities: $490,000

  Environment: Reduce or eliminate Toronto Environment Office: $3.2 million

  Trees: Allow a lower rate of tree planting and maintenance of existing trees: Net budget for planting is $2 million

  Flowers: Scrap the greenhouse program, where the city grows 1.3 million annuals every year to plant in parks: estimated $700,000.


  Cats and dogs: Review the value of cat and dog licensing. Program brings in $660,000 a year.

  Rescue: Reduce response time for emergency animal rescue: $225,000.

  Shelters: Outsource animal care and enforcement: $1.7 million

  Licences: Consider eliminating licensing that doesn’t serve the public interest. Licensing fees net the city $5.9 million

  Recycling: Outsource waste diversion enforcement in apartment buildings: $258,000

  Delivery: Require people to deliver animals to shelter themselves: $640,000

Government Management

  311: Outsource some 311 call centre work to a private contractor: $540,000

  Tax payment: Offer online payment of property taxes: $355,000

  Caretaking: Outsource cleaning and security at city buildings: $1.6 million

  Fleet: Place police, fire and certain transit vehicles under central fleet management: $2.4 million

  Payroll: Outsource payroll administration: $1.8 million

Planning and growth

  Public art: Eliminate public art program such as statues and other artworks outside buildings: $95,000.

  Signs: Cut or end illegal-sign inspections and investigation of illegal-sign complaints: $855,000.

  Planning: Scale back site plan approval requirements on small developments: $970,000.


  Library: Close an unspecified number of branches: up to $13.4 million; reduce hours or days of service: up to $17.5 million.

  Toronto Zoo: Sell to private owners or divest to other levels of government to avoid taxpayer subsidy: $11.4 million.

  Exhibition Place: Sell or privatize. Talk to the province about merging Exhibition Place with Ontario Place. (Exhibition Place is budgeted to break even this year.)

  Public health: Scrap grants budget that supports 685 student nutrition programs for low income children; 42 AIDS prevention programs; 38 community drug prevention projects: $6.2 million.

  Toronto Atmospheric Fund: Wind up fund that provides grants for energy-saving projects. Or have the city look after investments that fund the grants: up to $23 million

  Theatres: Place Sony Centre, St. Lawrence Centre and Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts under a single board. Consider selling one of the theatres. Total subsidy in 2011: $3.3 million.

  Parking authority: Sell parking lots and garages. (Profit-making parking authority will earn about $56 million this year.)

  Police: Negotiate with the police union to approve one-officer patrols and restrain wages and benefits when contract comes up for renewal in 2015: up to $195 million.

  TTC: Roll back service improvements and end overnight bus service or raise fares: up to $29 million.

Source: Toronto Star 

World is watching the Fords

No, it hasn’t been the best week for the Ford brothers. Turns out, when you allegedly make a rude gesture to a family in a vehicle or insult a literary icon, the world notices.

In a week that saw the Fords’ antics noted at home, the national wires delivered the stories across the country. Calgarians read about it, too, in between mentions of their own city council approving a poet laureate and selecting a final location for a new $225 million library, with potential plans to add on a museum, gallery and theatre.

A hard right turn

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party is surging in the polls

The far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is riding a wave of renewed popularity, with support levels hovering around 26 per cent in recent months—rivalling Austria’s mainstream social democrat and centre-right parties for the first time in nearly a decade. That’s raised the possibility that Heinz-Christian Strache, the party’s controversial leader, will become Austria’s next chancellor. More likely, the FPÖ could join a coalition. The last time that happened, 14 EU members temporarily froze diplomatic relations with Austria because the FPÖ in government “legitimizes the extreme right in Europe.”

Under Strache, the FPÖ has reaffirmed its anti-immigration policies and its anti-EU stance. His FPÖ also employs populist rhetoric that blames the country’s problems on the detached elitism of Vienna’s political class. The 42-year-old former dental technician has been accused of xenophobia, and he allegedly has past ties to neo-Nazi groups. But he’s already trumpeting his desire to take the chancellery after the 2013 election. Maybe the prospect of a right-wing nationalist heading the government in “Red Vienna” isn’t as far-fetched as it used to be.

Source: Maclean 

Chris Selley: Stop calling the deportees war criminals

This week, family members of Abdul Khalil, one of 30 people on a sort of deportation most-wanted list, threatened to sue the Canadian government for defamation. It’s somewhat surprising it took this long. A July 21 press release asking for the public’s help in locating the 76-year-old Afghan, along with 29 other deportees-to-be who’ve fallen off the radar, is sub-headlined: “Government will not tolerate war criminals in our communities.” This is entirely commendable as a general statement, but rather problematic when precisely none of the 30 has been tried or convicted of war crimes.

Whatever the evidence against these 30 men — we have no access to it — it was used in the context of determining their admissibility to Canada. It was found sufficient to exclude them. Then they disappeared. The government isn’t just right to hunt them down, but obligated to do so. Danger aside, these people are fugitives. And there’s nothing at all wrong with prioritizing suspected war criminals over the other undesirables who’ve been ordered deported and who we can’t find.

A government spy agency that’s prohibited from monitoring Canadian citizens is now using “information about Canadians” to zero in on foreign threats.

The ambiguous statement, found in a new government report detailing the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada, could sanction a range of intelligence-gathering activities – including the controversial practice of mining “metadata” from digital communications.

Toronto at a crossroads: Will Ford's austerity agenda be derailed?

On June 20, 2011, Mayor Rob Ford and his allies on Toronto City Council Executive Committee turned down free money.

The Ontario government had offered $170,000 to cover the cost of hiring two public health nurses. One nurse would have worked with new immigrants on disease prevention. The other would have worked in low income neighbourhoods to promote health services. While the province had committed to ongoing funding for these two positions, Ford refused to hire the nurses.

This was not the first time that Ford had refused to vote in favour of proposals that would have improved services at no cost to the City. For example, in February, he was the lone dissenter in a 44-1 vote to accept provincial public health money dedicated to improving screening for HIV and syphilis. In March, Ford's Executive Committee refused a request from City Council to direct the City Manager to advocate for the restoration of the $5 million in funding to immigrant settlement services that was cut by the federal government. In July, the Mayor voted against distributing funding to community service providers, funding that had already been approved as part of his own 2011 City budget.

Don't cut anything, presenters tell Toronto mayor at marathon meeting

A marathon session of Toronto city council’s executive committee continued overnight Thursday and into Friday morning as councillors heard from hundreds of union members, arts groups, social agencies and others on the Rob Ford administration’s deliberations over cutting services to rein in a budget deficit.

By 6 a.m. ET, 300 of 344 deputants had spoken and the meeting had run for over 20 hours, the longest continuous meeting of either council or one of its committees since the modern megacity was created in 1998.

Hume: In Rob Ford’s Toronto, less will be more

Suddenly it seems the future has arrived in Toronto. And for the first time in our history, perhaps, it doesn’t look better than the past. Indeed, it looks a whole lot worse.

After decades of ignoring the warning signs, it feels as if the globe has finally warmed and the climate changed. The empire is in decline and the centre can no longer hold.

All that remains for us is to carve up the remains of the city, now revealed to be a luxury we can’t afford. Turns out that the whole idea of Toronto the Livable City, the City That Works, was more than we could afford. We just didn’t know it until Rob Ford came along.

Pity the children: Ford brings the naysayers to his doorstep

Perhaps he should have expected this. When Mayor Rob Ford said anyone could come on down to city hall to talk about budget cuts on Thursday, he must have known that he was issuing an open invitation to his fiercest critics.

More than 300 residents signed up to speak to the city’s powerful executive committee in a marathon session that took city councillors late into Thursday night. And, ouch, did the mayor get an earful.

As Mr. Ford sat impassively in his chairman’s seat, knocking back cans of Red Bull to stay alert, a parade of angry union bosses, troubled interest groups and alarmed residents lined up to describe their fears of what would happen if Mr. Ford and his cost-cutting Visigoths were let loose on Canada’s biggest city.

‘Do you have running water? I don’t and I live in Canada’

One year ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation. Two months later, the Human Rights Council adopted a second resolution affirming that drinking water and sanitation are human rights, and setting out the responsibilities all governments now carry to fulfill these rights.

Because the Human Rights Council resolution is an interpretation of two existing international treaties, it clarifies that the General Assembly resolution is legally binding in international law. Together, the two resolutions represent an extraordinary breakthrough in the international struggle for the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and a milestone in the fight for water justice.

For the past decade, Ottawa has consistently opposed recognizing the right to water and sanitation. The Harper government voted to abstain when the General Assembly vote took place, and then argued (incorrectly) that the resolution is not binding. Canada and Tonga are now the only countries in the world that have not recognized the right to water or the right to sanitation.

Scientist who warned of threat to polar bears is suspended

A U.S. wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into “integrity issues.” But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general’s office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Texas Planned Parenthood Clinic Attacked With Molotov Cocktail

A McKinney, Texas, Planned Parenthood clinic that does not provide abortions was attacked with a Molotov cocktail late Tuesday night, causing a small fire at the entrance of the building. The device, consisting of diesel fuel in a glass bottle with a lit rag fuse, did not cause any injuries, but a Planned Parenthood official said it did cause "serious damage" to the facility.

"It didn't penetrate the health center office and none of the staff or patients were there, which is great," Holly Morgan, director of media relations and communications for Planned Parenthood in Dallas, told Star Local News. "It scorched the outside of the door and I believe there was a little scorching to the retail locations on either side of it."

Police wrong to question man with crossbow near G20 fence, judge rules

Police breached the rights of a man arrested with a crossbow near the G20 security fence when they questioned him without a lawyer present, a judge has ruled.

“The law makes clear that an investigative detention of that kind gives rise to a right to counsel,” provincial court Justice David Fairgrieve said Wednesday as he excluded all the statements made by Gary McCullough to a police officer who questioned him at the scene.

McCullough, 54, was arrested in downtown Toronto on June 24, 2010, just two days before world leaders met here, after police found a loaded crossbow in his car’s roof carrier.

The judge also agreed with defence criticisms of Toronto police for continually denying McCullough’s rights to counsel while he was held at the Eastern Ave. detention centre for G20 detainees.

The Rise of the Austerity Hawk Democrats

“Our plan includes more cuts,” Chuck Schumer bragged at a news conference on Capitol Hill yesterday when comparing Harry Reid’s debt plan to John Boehner’s.

The fact that Senate Democrats are trying to out-cut the cut-obsessed Republicans pretty much sums up the current political debate in Washington. “Harry Reid’s plan wins the austerity sweepstakes,” Adam Serwer wrote yesterday. “It's the austerity party vs. the austerity party,” blogger Atrios tweeted.

President Obama has actively shifted the debt debate to the right, both substantively and rhetorically. Substantively by not insisting on a “clean bill” to raise the debt ceiling at the outset and actively pushing for drastic spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs as part of any deal. And rhetorically by mimicking right-wing arguments about the economy, such as the canard that reducing spending will create jobs (it won’t), or that the government’s budget is like a family’s budget (it isn’t), or that major spending cuts will return confidence to the market and spur the economy recovery we’ve all been waiting for (Paul Krugman calls it “the confidence fairy”).

The 'Right-Wing Nutters' Who Are Pushing the Country to the Brink

There’s a tense vote count in Washington today as House Speaker John Boehner tries to rally Republican members behind his debt ceiling plan. After one postponement and public disapproval by many prominent House Republicans, Boehner’s plan is teetering on the brink.

The conservative rebellion against Boehner’s plan is being driven by Tea Party activists and many of the freshman members they helped elect. For months, the House Republican leadership has been quietly tutoring these members on the intricacies of the federal budget and the need to raise the debt ceiling, using what Politico called a “stunningly simple” presentation of color-coded charts and graphs. This week, leadership even showed a clip from a Ben Affleck action movie to help persuade the members to act.

But so far, the aggressive pitch doesn’t seem to be working—at one point this week, Boehner was only eight votes from defeat. And if he cannot rally his party to support a dreadful plan with no chance of ultimate passage anyhow, what can he get them to vote for? In the words of British Business Secretary Vince Cable, “The biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress.”

Why We Need Free Public Libraries More Than Ever

As a former head of the state library agency in Massachusetts and a taxpayer myself, I read with interest the recent Atlantic editorial in which an elected official from Swampscott, Massachusetts proposed public library user fees as a reasonable and "modern" solution to some perceived imbalance.
Under this proposal, a 50 cent user fee would be added to each book circulated by the library. In addition to addressing the supposed tax inequity created by the current system of funding for the Swampscott Library, the proposal would generate an estimated $300,000 in additional funds for the library.
The fact is: This would be the costliest additional revenue ever generated.
Practically the only thing that looks certain about the contentious and seemingly endless negotiations to raise the national debt ceiling is that whatever deal is finally struck will fall far short of what might have been. Cynics will point out that the same could apply to nearly everything Washington does. But the occasion of the limit's approach, and the crisis mentality that has arisen over the size of the debt, provided a rare opportunity to reform the tax code, and possibly Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Tax reform should theoretically be the easiest to achieve. Contrary to popular myth, bipartisan agreement is not so hard to find in Washington, so long as the question is limited to what needs fixing and not how to fix it. Most Republicans and Democrats agree that the federal tax code is a mess: unwieldy, inefficient, and polluted with the accrual of years' worth of special-interest breaks. A substantial cottage industry exists to churn out reports and fill blue-ribbon commissions urging reforms (and then to lament that these reforms are never implemented). What they all share is the conclusion that closing loopholes and ending tax breaks would save enough money to reduce individual and corporate rates, thereby offering something for everyone: for Republicans lower taxes and for Democrats a broader, more equitable tax base to fund the government.

Home From War and Facing Eviction

After the Second World War, returning veterans were welcomed home to two of the most successful government initiatives ever—the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Affairs housing programs—which put millions of them into their own homes for the first time.

Today, later generations of veterans are being confronted by much different housing policies—ones that can toss them out of homes they've bought with their life savings.

John Aguiar is a veteran of the Gulf War, a former intelligence analyst for the Army who took part in Operation Desert Storm in 1990 when US forces brought Saddam Hussein to heel after he invaded Kuwait.

Memo to Tea Party: The US Government's Budget is Not Like a Family's

Tea party activists and members of Congress have a story they like to tell about the fight over raising the federal debt ceiling. It goes like this: If American families ran their households like the federal government, we'd all be bankrupt. It's a pretty common line. So when the Tea Party Express took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a hastily arranged (and sparsely attended) rally to urge Republicans to "hold the line" in the debt ceiling fight, it was no surprise that the family-government comparison was on everyone's lips.

"I really equate it to the family," Cindy Chafian, a mother of five who recently moved to Virginia, told me after speaking at the rally, which also drew tea party luminaries like Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.). Chafian, who founded a new organization called the Mommy Lobby, acknowledged that government spending cuts can be painful—just like when a family that has to cut expenses, or when she tells her kids they can't go to the movies because they can't afford it. But over the long run, Chafian said, things work out and get better.

Your Chicken Nuggets Are Killing Your Crab Cakes

Every year in the Chesapeake Bay, an algae bloom spreads out, sucking oxygen out of the water and destroying fish habitat. This year's "dead zone" stretches from Baltimore Harbor to south of the Potomac River, the Washington Post reports. It's on track to become the bay’s largest ever. Already, fully a third of the bay—once one of the globe's most productive fisheries—is incapable of supporting sea life.

Meanwhile, down the Gulf of Mexico, the same thing is happening on an even grander scale. According to Texas A&M University researchers, this year's Gulf dead zone blots out 3,300 square miles of our nation's most important fishery—"roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined," they calculate. Before the year's out, it could as much as triple in size, the researchers fear, which would make it the Gulf's largest hypoxic (oxygen-depleted) area ever.

Richard Wolff: Debt Showdown is "Political Theater" Burdening Society’s Most Vulnerable

Republicans have agreed to a vote today on a budget plan they say will cut the deficit $917 billion over 10 years. The move sets the stage for a showdown against unified Democratic opposition in the Senate and threats of a White House veto. To discuss the debt talks and economic austerity worldwide, we’re joined by Richard Wolff, Emeritus Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of several books, including "Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It." "This is political theater in which two parties are posturing for the election coming next year," says Wolff. "To put it in perspective, the number of times the government has raised the debt ceiling since 1940? Ninety, almost twice a year. This is a normal, automatic procedure. Every president, Republican and Democrat, has asked for it."

Source: Democracy Now! 

In his rage against Muslims, Norway's killer was no loner

It's comforting, perhaps, to dismiss Anders Behring Breivik as nothing more than a psychotic loner. That was the view of the Conservative London mayor, Boris Johnson, among others. The Norwegian mass killer's own lawyer has branded him "insane". It has the advantage of meaning no wider conclusions need to be drawn about the social context of the atrocity.

Had he been a Muslim, as much of the western media concluded he was immediately after the terrorist bloodbath, we can be sure there would have been no such judgments – even though some jihadist attacks have undoubtedly been carried out by individuals operating alone.

In fact, however deranged the bombing and shooting might seem, studies of those identified as terrorists have shown they rarely have mental illness or psychiatric abnormalities. Maybe Breivik will turn out to be an exception. But whether his claim that there are other members of a fascistic Christian terror network still at large turns out to be genuine or not, he has clearly fostered enthusiastic links with violent far-right groups abroad, and in Britain in particular.

Toronto at a crossroads: Will Ford's austerity agenda be derailed?

On June 20, 2011, Mayor Rob Ford and his allies on Toronto City Council Executive Committee turned down free money.

The Ontario government had offered $170,000 to cover the cost of hiring two public health nurses. One nurse would have worked with new immigrants on disease prevention. The other would have worked in low income neighbourhoods to promote health services. While the province had committed to ongoing funding for these two positions, Ford refused to hire the nurses.

Public libraries, gravy and Tim Hortons

It's difficult to know where to enter the conversation on the threat to public libraries (and the threat to everything else for that matter). There is no point that one can enter in a sane manner: to cut public libraries, perhaps in the end the most democratic of public institutions, is to say something about the end of the civil. Forgive me, that is a conceit. There is no ‘conversation' on the threat to public libraries. There is no interested interlocutor who will be persuaded by arguments as to the necessity not simply for the present libraries but for more support to libraries.

They will simply be cut, as will every social good the city, and citizenship, provide. Depositions will be made and impassioned voices will be heard and it will be said that these depositions were made and these voices heard because we are a democracy but in the end fiscal consideration warrant these cuts. In the end those voices will have no effect because the threat to cutting libraries, and every other social good the city provides, stems not from the fiscal but the ideological.

It's All About Transparency

Without proper laws governing public disclosure of data security hacks, Canadians remain at risk.

Another day, another hack. Apple, Sony, Citigroup, and Lockheed Martin are just some of the big-name companies afflicted by recent cyber-security breaches. Canada has not been spared. Beyond the attacks on the federal Treasury and Finance Departments, Sony, Husky Energy, and Honda have all had Canadian branches or units compromised in recent hacks. Even major Canadian law firms have been victimized.

Expectedly, privacy concerns are being raised about the massive amounts of personal and financial information that these, and other, companies hold, and about the data safeguards – or lack thereof – rendering that data vulnerable to theft and exploitation.

What’s going on with Toronto Libraries?

Nothing raises the ire of a neighbourhood like the threat of library cutbacks. Or so it seems, since the mere suggestion recently that library hours be scaled back or branches closed has spurred book lovers into action. The campaign to protect Toronto’s vast library system, “Project Rescue,” has gained momentum, benefiting from the high-profile support of author Margaret Atwood. The Post’s Natalie Alcoba takes a closer look at circulation, cutbacks and controversy.

Wealth Gap Between Minorities and White Americans Doubles After Housing Crisis, Recession

A new study of U.S. census data reveals that wealth gaps between whites and minorities in the United States have grown to their widest levels since the U.S. government began tracking them a quarter-century ago. White Americans now have on average 20 times the net worth of African Americans and 18 times that of Latinos. According to the Pew Research Center, the gaps were compounded during the housing bust and the subsequent recession, and essentially wiped out much of the economic progress made by people of color over the past 20 years. We discuss the center’s study with Roderick Harrison, sociologist and demographer, and former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau. “Any hopes or aspirations, particularly based solely on Obama’s election, that we had reached some kind of post-racial state were close to delusional,” says Harrison. “This report is pointing to just how much the socioeconomic inequalities have been exacerbated by the recession and poor economy.”

Source: Democracy Now! 

Ford ally, Stintz, won't support library closures

A key ally of Mayor Rob Ford is breaking ranks and saying his administration should take library closures off the table.

Councillor Karen Stintz, the TTC chair, also called on Ford to allay public concerns over consultant KPMG's host of suggested cuts by telling Torontonians where exactly his administration is "going."

Stintz wrote an open letter to her constituents espousing the value of the three branches in Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence.

"My kids have also benefited from the services of the libraries in the community. They each have library cards and love the library,” wrote Stintz, a former member of the Toronto Public Library board.

"I value the Toronto Public Library and can assure my constituents that these are not the type of cuts I support."

City Alliance urges investment in environment, immigrant services

At a time when leaders at city hall are talking about cutting social programs, arts funding and environmental initiatives to save money, a comprehensive report prepared by a coalition of Toronto region’s leading minds is calling for the opposite.

The GTA should develop a “regional strategy to reduce and divert commercial waste,” expand conservation programs and improve storm water and flood risk management, according to a report by the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, formerly the Toronto City Summit Alliance.

Among the other recommendations in the report, released this morning and entitled “Breaking Boundaries: Time to Think and Act Like a Region,” governments must: work better to attract and settle immigrants; do more to help those living in poverty find work; invest in community revitalization; and help entrepreneurs get the help they need.

Every $1 saved in arts funding will cost the city $17

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s cultural adviser Jeff Melanson says eliminating or reducing funding to the arts would be a big mistake, and plans to deliver that message to the city’s executive committee Thursday.

“It would be a misdirection to reduce those (grants),’’ Melanson, executive director of the National Ballet School, said in an interview Wednesday.

The city’s executive committee is set to pore over a lengthy KPMG report that presents “options’’ to the city to trim spending. The city faces a whopping shortfall in its 2012 budget of up to $774 million.

Arts and cultural groups in the city receive about $19 million from the city’s Community Partnership Investment Program (CPIP), according to the KPMG report. The report suggests the city would see a “high level’’ of savings eliminating or reducing CPIP.

Is the tide turning against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

In the first seven months of his four-year term, everything went Rob Ford’s way. His moves to trim minor expenses, cut an unpopular tax and expand the contracting-out of garbage pick-up sailed through with relative ease. Kept under tight control by his staff, he avoided the verbal bloopers and dubious behaviour that marked his 10-year run as a dissident city councillor.

In the past few weeks, though, things have been going sideways. The mayor’s inexplicable decision to boycott all of Pride Week gave off a whiff of intolerance and alienated many voters. His ham-handed conduct of the budget review at city hall is making even fiscally conservative residents wonder about his leadership.

Ex-Tory message maven tailors his spin to oil sands

Alykhan Velshi, a 27-year-old who established himself in Ottawa as a master of messaging and a crucial cog in the Conservative machine, has a new job – he’s out to polish the image of Canada’s oil sands in the minds of freedom-loving people everywhere.

“When petroleum reserves were deposited around the world, it is unfortunate that they were all given to the world’s bastards,” he said. “With the exception of Canada, most of them are with the world’s bastards. You need to recognize that when you are buying oil.”

Never known for subtlety, Mr. Velshi now runs, a blog set to relaunch on Thursday.

Angry House Dems: Obama Is Freezing Us Out of Debt Talks

In a fiery press conference on Friday, after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) abandoned debt ceiling negotiations with the White House, President Obama vented his frustration at top Republicans in Congress. "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times," he quipped. But if that's the case, then the most vocal defenders of America's middle and working classes, to borrow Obama's metaphor, weren't even invited to the wedding.

Largely missing from the closed-door negotiations and deal-trading in Washington's acrimonious debt ceiling battle are Congress' progressive stalwarts, the left-of-center lawmakers who fight for middle- and low-income individuals and families. That includes the House Progressive Caucus and a few dozen members of the Senate. The debt ceiling debate has left many of these lawmakers outraged at the White House for keeping them at arm's length and out of loop.

How Default Threatens National Security

Last August, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, shocked plenty of people when he declared that "the single biggest threat to national security is the debt." As zero hour approaches for the government to default on its debt, experts from both sides of the aisle are echoing Mullen's warning that fiscal matters pose a more immediate threat to national security than terrorism, rogue nations, or foreign wars.

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, argues Bruce Bartlett, an economist who worked in George H.W. Bush's White House, conservative members of the House are undermining the country's ability to defend itself. In a post in a post titled "The Constitution and National Security Trump the Debt Limit," he writes, "Republicans are playing not just with fire, but the financial equivalent of nuclear weapons." That's not an idle metaphor. Politicians and economists can debate the effects a debt default would have on credit and stock markets, but there's little doubt that any default would make a mess of military operations. Something similar already happened in 1995, when the federal government shut down during Bill Clinton's budget battle with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The Debt Showdown: The GOP's "Blank Check" Lie

What does the news media do when a critical national debate is tainted by a lie? Not a whole lot.

During the debt ceiling showdown, the Republicans have clearly calculated that an effective charge to hurl at President Barack Obama and the Democrats is that the president, by asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling (which used to be a routine maneuver for Capitol Hill), is requesting a "blank check" for government spending.

National Post editorial board: Baird shouldn’t refer to China as an ‘ally’

The selection of John Baird to be Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was a good one. Mr. Baird is a poised speaker, a trusted confidante of the Prime Minister and one of the Tories’ best Cabinet ministers. The Foreign Affairs post warrants nothing less, and is a better use of the very real talent of Mr. Baird, who spent much of the last few years serving as a Tory attack dog in a fractious minority parliament.

Unfortunately, his performance thus far shows room for improvement. Visiting China last week for a four-day visit, Mr. Baird made the odd misstep of referring to China as “an important ally.” This goes beyond the usual niceties that diplomats exchange. Mr. Baird ought to be more selective in whom he chooses to invest that title.

The annotated Rob Ford: notes on the mayor’s interview with CP24 (VIDEO)

The mayor was on CP24 this past Friday for a rare sit-down interview. Unfortunately, the journalist sitting down with Rob Ford was one-time mayoral candidate and aspiring softball pitcher Stephen LeDrew, who didn’t give the mayor much in the way of challenging questions.

Still, Ford’s statements on a variety of important issues are notable for the number of outright falsehoods and misperceptions they contain. Standing on the shoulders of giants like The Grid’s Edward Keenan, who ran a Fact Check column relating to this interview on Friday afternoon, I’ve put together an edited version of the mayor’s interview, pointing out the moments where he departed from the truth.

Source: Ford For Toronto 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik and the Crisis of Legitimacy

Anders Behring Breivik

What the Norwegian murderer and American "birthers" have in common.

In the past 48 hours, Anders Behring Breivik has been described as a racist, a white supremacist, and an anti-Islamic fanatic. News reports of his arrest are now accompanied by analyses of Europe's failure to absorb its immigrant population, by commentary on the rise of far-right political parties, by discussions of the threats posed to Muslims living in Europe. Having mistakenly assumed that the story of terror in Oslo belonged to the narrative of the war on terrorism, we are now placing it firmly within the equally familiar narrative of white racism and anti-Islamic fanaticism.

Aren't we missing the point once again? Breivik was not, in fact, a killer of immigrants or Muslims. He was a killer of Norwegians. The particular set of obsessions that led him to madness and then to mass murder were not merely racist. They also sprang from an insane conviction that his own government was illegitimate.

Rating Agencies Don't Deserve Government Blessing, Tavakoli Says

With federal lawmakers battling over a deal to give the U.S. government more borrowing authority, major credit rating agencies have lent a sense of urgency to the proceedings by threatening to issue a downgrade, which experts fear could throw financial markets into turmoil and impede the economic recovery.

But according to a confidential report obtained by The Huffington Post, one prominent analyst is saying markets should not be so reliant on the pronouncements of these companies, which have repeatedly proven themselves to be poor judges of credit quality. The rating agencies, which offered rosy assessments of financial products that later went bust, deserve to have their government seal of approval revoked, argues Janet Tavakoli, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Tavakoli Structured Finance.

Tea Party Warns GOP: A Vote for Boehner's Debt Plan Violates Our Pledge

WASHINGTON -- The Tea Party is causing more headaches for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over his debt proposal.

A coalition of several hundred Tea Party chapters declared Tuesday that a vote for Boehner's debt plan constitutes a violation of its pledge, which 51 Republican lawmakers have signed. The group, known as the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, notified its members of its position in a Tuesday memo entitled, "Clarification of the CCB Coalition Stance on the Speaker's Proposal."

"The greatest concern to the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition is the integrity of the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge that was signed by 39 House Members and 12 Senators, and whether voting for the proposed deal constitutes a Pledge violation," reads the memo."

Anders Breivik's Links To The English Defence League: What Do They Tell Us About Norway And Nationalism In Europe And Britain?

British police are investigating links between Anders Breivik and the English Defence League, a group the gunman described as a ‘blessing’ in an online forum.

But is the nationalist group no more than a blip on the fringes of society, or is it part of a larger movement threatening to destabilise multiculturalism in Europe?

Mohammed and his brother were in the wrong place at the wrong time. On a rainy Saturday afternoon in Chadwell Heath, East London, last month, the two came across an EDL march.

Ottawa silences scientist over West Coast salmon study

VANCOUVER — Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada's West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister's Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

Science, one of the world's top research journals, published Miller's findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified "over 7,400" journalists worldwide about Miller's "Suffering Salmon" study.