Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Settlers succeeding in hostile takeover of Israel

Do you really want to live in a country where the heads of the settlement enterprise allocate its lands, plan its nature sites, rule on its laws and are increasingly controlling its lifestyles?

Phase I was long since declared an unqualified success: The settlers gained control of the occupied territories, using their power and their construction projects to thwart any just arrangement. But anyone who thought they would settle for controlling the West Bank should take a look at Phase II of the plan, which is at its height and already a success story.

Now, after the hostile takeover of the West Bank, comes the takeover of the state. Now that their lust for land has been slightly slaked they have turned their attention to much broader areas than their own considerable domain. From now on, Yesha is truly here. From now on, it's not enough for them to head the local government councils in the territories - now they're aiming for seats of power within Israel, so that they can shape its image. After taking the West Bank region of Gush Etzion, now they want the Tel Aviv region of Gush Dan.

They are using the tried-and-true method: acre by acre, outpost by (governmental ) outpost, office by (governmental ) office. A marginal minority, around 100,000 ideological settlers in all, is trying to gain control of a country with a population of seven million. Those turning a blind eye to what is happening now should not be surprised to wake up one day to a different country, just as we woke up one day to a different West Bank.          

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Limits of Schadenforde

For all the lunacy of the past few days, the week’s most lingering image of Rob Ford had nothing to do with Marg Delahunty.

The moment came about earlier in the week. It’s already been obscured by the feeding frenzy around the mayor’s 911 calls, but on Tuesday, Toronto’s city council passed a ban shark fins, which are often brutally harvested from live fish.

It was an odd debate, which went on for hours in a chamber packed full of interested onlookers. Council, which is more used to considering budgets and rights-of-way, was suddenly considering motions – projected on a storey-high screen—like “Amend the Licensing and Standards Committee Recommendation 1 by inserting the word “illegal” before the word “shark”…” One young man, bearded and wide-eyed, came in a shark outfit. All the reporters asked him for a quote.

Richard Muller, Global Warming Skeptic, Now Agrees Climate Change Is Real

WASHINGTON — A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.

The study of the world's surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of "Climategate," a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists.

Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

He said he went even further back, studying readings from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. His ultimate finding of a warming world, to be presented at a conference Monday, is no different from what mainstream climate scientists have been saying for decades.

U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq

MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.       

The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.

After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative.

In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.

Occupy Denver Clash: Police Use Force On Denver Protesters

DENVER — The simmering tension near the Colorado Capitol escalated dramatically Saturday with more than a dozen arrests, reports of skirmishes between police and protesters and authorities firing rounds of pellets filled with pepper spray at supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Officers in riot gear moved into a park late in the day where protesters were attempting to establish an encampment, hauling off demonstrators just hours after a standoff at the Capitol steps degenerated into a fight that ended in a cloud of Mace and pepper spray.

Denver police spokesman Matt Murray said 15 people were arrested in the evening confrontation, where authorities were moving to prevent protesters from setting up tents in the park, which are illegal. Officals say the demonstrators had been warned several times that the tents would not be allowed and those who attempted to stop police from dismantling the camp gear were arrested. Protesters have been staying in the park for weeks, but tents have repeatedly been removed.

Murray said that most of the protesters were peaceful but there was "just a die-hard group that didn't want to cooperate."

Science for sale: A new kind of donor is transforming medical research

The operating rooms at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children run like an airport. Patients roll in as patients roll out – up to 60 elective surgeries a day, 11,000 a year. They flow through 18 rooms where surgeons remove tumours, save limbs, vision and babies the size of their palms.

In 2005, the hospital's chief of surgery, James Wright, had to close four of them. He was tortured. “What if a school bus crashed off the Gardiner? What then? What would happen to the emergency cases?”

Closing the four rooms cut the hospital's capacity to operate by 25 per cent. But Dr. Wright felt that he had no choice. They were ancient ruins by modern medical standards, built in the 1950s for cart-and-trolley tools, not lasers and robotics. Even the air within them was a hazard, their antique ventilation increasing airborne exposure to infection and dangerous gases.

Second thoughts about the F-35

When the most senior U.S. military officer admits that the largest defence procurement program in history has affordability issues, then you can bet that the situation is dire. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has even put forth the likelihood that at least one variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be cancelled, and total numbers reduced.

Even if the F-35 eventually meets reasonable cost projections, it must still be vetted as an operational combat aircraft. It was not only meant to be an affordable fifth-generation fighter-bomber for the U.S. and her allies, but also to have lower maintenance costs than aircraft now in service. These claims may also turn out to be inaccurate, with the F-35 a potential hanger-queen like the F-22 Raptor.

Besides the F-35’s development and cost troubles, we are left with the question of whether 65 of these particular planes will meet Canada’s defence and alliance commitments. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, which has been built exclusively for the U.S. military, the F-35 was conceived as a less capable aircraft in terms of sheer performance but better than the planes of potential adversaries, especially in terms of stealth and first-strike capability — and development costs would be shared with trusted allies.

Soldier's death raises questions about 'minimal' risk mission

PERTH, Australia — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says "significant risks" remain for Canadians serving as military trainers in Afghanistan.

He made his comments Sunday after the death of a Canadian military trainer — the first since the training mission began earlier this year — who lost his life after his convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber.

Nearly a year ago, when Harper committed Canadian troops to a three-year training mission in Kabul, he predicted it would pose "minimal risks for Canada".

But speaking to reporters Sunday at the end of a Commonwealth summit, Harper had a different message.

"I've always been clear there are still risks involved in this mission," he said.

"Any mission in Afghanistan involves significant risks."

Tech-Savvy Occupy Protesters Use Cellphone Video, Social Networking To Publicize Police Abuse

George Orwell once wrote that if you want a vision of the future, "imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever." Governments have suppressed citizen dissent for as long as there have been governments and citizens to dissent against them. But over the last decade, it has become increasingly likely that someone will be there to document Orwell's predicted face-stamping with a cellphone and then post it to YouTube for the world to see. It's getting increasingly difficult for governments to get away with suppressing dissent.

At the Occupy Wall Street protests and their progeny across the country, protesters are using personal technology to document, broadcast and advertise police abuse like never before. Incidents of alleged police brutality are posted almost instantaneously. And nearly as fast come the ensuing campaigns to take the videos viral. Smartphones, laptops and tablet computers have in fact become so common at protests in the U.S. and elsewhere in recent years, it's easy to lose sight of how revolutionary it all really is. But it is revolutionary: For the first time in human history, hundreds of millions of citizens around the world carry with them the ability to not only record footage of government abuse, but to distribute it globally in real time -- in most cases, faster than governments, soldiers or cops can censor it.

Drug Sentencing Reforms Halt Decades Of Prison Population Growth

NEW YORK -- In 1986, as the crack cocaine epidemic ravaged America's inner cities, a Democratic Congress passed legislation dictating harsh mandatory sentences for possession of even small amounts of the drug, blamed for a nationwide wave of violence by dealers and addicts.

The law created a staggering sentencing disparity for offenses involving crack versus powdered cocaine, filling prisons with low-level offenders and fueling a racially-charged debate over the fairness and efficacy of federal drug policy for nearly 25 years.

Under its provisions, possession of just five grams of crack cocaine -- most often sold in poor black communities -- triggered an automatic five-year prison term. It required 100 times that amount of powdered cocaine, the choice of affluent whites, to earn the same mandatory sentence.

On Tuesday, this disparity will ease dramatically as permanent new federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine take effect. The guidelines, approved by large bipartisan Congressional majorities in 2010, affect not only new defendants, but will retroactively apply to the sentences of an estimated 12,000 federal inmates, more than 1,000 of whom will be eligible for immediate release next week.

Where Do The Tories Stand Six Months In?

Here we are, just six quick months after Stephen Harper's Conservative party snatched its first majority government on May 2. Six months might not seem like a whole lot of time in which we can judge a government that gets four years to carry out its mandate, but owing to their emboldened majority, the Tories have accomplished a fair amount – more than many Canadians would have surely liked them to. Harper and his party campaigned on five key priorities – job creation, tax relief for families, ending the deficit by 2014-15, making Canada's streets safer, and investing in the North and the Canadian Forces – all the while promising that only their party would “focus on the economy” once elected. Bearing that in mind, it's worth finding out just how well they've lived up to their promises.

On that first item, job creation, well, the numbers don't lie. Unemployment is at a stubborn 7.1 per cent, which is still more than a point higher than it was before the 2008 recession, but about one per cent lower than it was a year ago. During the campaign, the Tories stuck to the line that lower taxes and increased trade with new partners would help reduce unemployment. But trade talks with the European Union have stalled and the security perimeter deal with the U.S. could even be shelved. Neither of those two entities are likely to open up to Canada any further while they deal with systemic debt crises that have by and large escaped Canada. Case in point: Canada, for the first time, won't be getting an exemption from the Buy America clause of Barack Obama's new jobs bill, meaning fewer business opportunities south of the border for Canadian companies.

Trash clash

Council can get its act together to save sharks and elephants, but city workers aren’t so lucky

On the eve of the anniversary of his first year in office, it’s all come full circle for Rob Ford.

The mayor spent Monday (October 24) basking in the glow of another major victory: council’s decision to privatize garbage collection from Yonge to the Humber River. Another election promise delivered, another great day for the taxpayers of Toronto. Where have we heard that one before?

So moved by the moment was the mayor that he took the photo opportunity to mention he’d be seeking a second term in office, in case anybody had any doubts that he’s in this for the long haul. “I’ve already started campaigning,” he said. Well, at least now we know how the mayor’s been spending his ample time away from City Hall.

If not for a little episode earlier that morning, by which I mean Ford’s calling the cops on the comedy TV crew of CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, it might have been accurate to say all was well in Rob Ford’s world.

RCMP 'herded' native kids to residential schools

Former aboriginal students who say the RCMP herded them off to residential schools are expressing a sense of validation following the release of a report into the Mounties' role in the notorious school system.

However, not all the survivors believe the report will help with their healing.

The RCMP released the report Saturday at a Halifax session of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is looking into how 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families over more than a century.

The 463-page report found that the RCMP had a major involvement in bringing students from First Nation communities to the residential schools.

Various data sources were collected over a 30-month period between April 2007 and September 2009 to answer questions about the RCMP's relationship with schools, students, federal agencies and departments.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Many Cities Leaving Protesters Alone

NEW YORK (AP) -- While more U.S. cities are resorting to force to break up the Wall Street protests, many others - Philadelphia, New York, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., among them - are content to let the demonstrations go on for now.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, said Friday that the several hundred protesters sleeping in Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters of the movement that began in mid-September, can stay as long as they obey the law.

"I can't talk about other cities," he said. "Our responsibilities are protect your rights and your safety. And I think we're trying to do that. We're trying to act responsibly and safely."

Still, the city made life a lot harder for the demonstrators: Fire authorities seized a dozen cans of gasoline and six generators that powered lights, cooking equipment and computers, saying they were safety hazards.

Race and Occupy Wall Street

The incident is well-known now. When civil rights hero Representative John Lewis asked to address Occupy Atlanta, the activists’ consensus process produced a decision not to let him speak. For many, the denial was a damning answer to a question that had arisen since the earliest, overwhelmingly white occupiers first took over Zuccotti Park: Is Occupy Wall Street diverse enough?

“Diverse enough for what?” is the query that leaps to mind. Diversity alone will not ensure that OWS advances an economic change agenda that is racially equitable.

The notion of taking over Wall Street clearly resonates with communities of color. Malik Rhassan and Ife Johari Uhuru, black activists from Queens, New York, and Detroit, respectively, started Occupy the Hood to encourage and make space for people of color to join the movement. On October 19, a different group, Occupy Harlem, put out “a call to Blacks, Latinos, and immigrants to occupy their communities against predatory investors, displacement, privatization and state repression.”

Such interventions have been necessary. The original OWS organizers didn’t consciously reach out to communities of color at the beginning; as a result, many people of color felt alienated. But local movements seem able to self-correct—and some newer occupations have been racially conscious from the start.

Why Occupy Wall Street Has Left Washington Behind

Public discussion of the Wall Street protests has focused on the movement’s indictment of the economic elite, but Occupy Wall Street marks an equally profound critique of the country’s political system. As the weeks tick by, the protests at Zuccotti Park and across the nation are driving home this profound realization: this is a fight that can’t be won by voting. The crisis that most fundamentally shapes our lives cannot be solved through the legislative process. This is not because the agenda is unpopular—54 percent of Americans support OWS, with only 23 percent opposed—but because the system is corrupted beyond repair. This slowly dawning realization is both invigorating—an invitation to engage in the kind of bold, blue-sky strategic thinking that leftists have not entertained for decades—and disturbing, a harbinger of just how nasty the future may get.

What makes OWS different from the mass marches against the Iraq War or at the 2004 GOP convention is not just that it’s an ongoing occupation rather than a one-day affair. It’s that this protest is not, at its core, voicing an appeal to lawmakers.

The OWS turn away from the political system began with the choice of location—Wall Street rather than the National Mall. It is driven home, above all, by the refusal to encapsulate the protest in policy demands aimed at Congress. I don’t know whether the absence of specific policy proposals is intentional or accidental. But I do know that it’s part of what lends such power to the occupation and renders its targets so palpably uncomfortable.

The Costs of Wall Street Greed

Bank of America had impeccable timing when it decided recently to charge a $5 monthly fee for the privilege of using its debit cards. The notorious bailout baron, having just announced 30,000 job cuts, decided to stick it not to the platinums, not to the golds, but to the debit card masses.

Occupy Wall Streeters could not have asked for a more perfect target. They’ve melted the bank’s debit cards, organized “mass account closures” and rallied outside numerous branches around the world.

So thanks, Bank of America, for making one of the costs of Wall Street greed so crystal clear.

But wouldn’t it be illuminating if we got a monthly bill tallying up all the ways the financial industry makes the 99 percent pay for the pleasures of the 1 percent?

I’m not even talking about the incalculable costs of the 2008 meltdown, the bailouts and the ongoing crisis. I’m talking about the less conspicuous ways the financial industry picks our pockets. Here are just a few examples:

The Incredible Shrinking Supercommittee

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a prominent--and not normally excessively optimistic--budget expert.  This person offered me two reasons to hope that the Supercommittee in charge of finding budget cuts would choose to go big rather than go home.
1.  They would be extraordinarily foolish to pass up this opportunity; the Supercommittee has a great deal of power to do things that are normally very difficult to accomplish.
2.  There had been no leaks; if the talks really weren't going anywhere, both sides would have been leaking like sieves.

Jacques Duchesneau, Quebec Anti-Collusion Crusader, Gets The Chop

MONTREAL - The man who authored an explosive report on corruption and collusion in Quebec's construction industry, paving the way for a public inquiry, has been dumped by his boss.

Jacques Duchesneau was relieved of his duties after a meeting Friday with Robert Lafreniere, the head of the province's permanent anti-corruption unit.

The outspoken former Montreal police chief dubbed "Mr. Clean" had been at loggerheads with Lafreniere ever since he went public with his criticism of the anti-corruption unit's leadership.

The rift had been evident for weeks, with Duchesneau stating he felt the unit was operating too much like a police force and should ideally be headed by a retired judge.

Michael Ferguson Auditor General Nomination: Senator James Cowan Asks Clerk Of The Privy Council To Answer Questions On Nominee's Lack Of French

He may be a very nice man and a competent auditor general, but opposition parties in Ottawa feel it's really too bad the Conservatives' pick for the country’s next AG, Michael Ferguson, didn't meet the job's most basic requirement: bilingualism.

How did this happen?

That's what the Liberal leader in the Senate James Cowan wants to find out.

How was it that Ferguson, the Prime Minister's choice to replace outgoing Auditor General Sheila Fraser, was even considered for a job whose ad clearly stated: "proficiency in both languages is essential"?

After devoting every single question during the Senate's question periods Wednesday and Thursday to asking that very question, Cowan wrote to Senator Marjory LeBreton, the Government Leader in the upper chamber, Thursday asking that the Clerk of the Privy Council — the top public servant leading the job search — testify as to the process that allowed Ferguson's name to move forward for consideration.

BC Aboriginals: Human Rights Claims Against Canada In Washington, D.C.

VICTORIA - Southern Vancouver Island aboriginals donned traditional vests and headdresses at an international hearing in Washington, D.C. Friday as they accused Canada of long-standing human rights abuses.

History was at the forefront of the appearance of the Duncan, B.C., area's Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group before the Organization of American States, which counts 35 independent states in the Americas, including Canada, as its members.

The Hul'qumi'num human rights dispute with Canada dates back to 1884 when the federal government gave more than 200,000 hectares of what they considered their land to industrialist James Dunsmuir to build the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway through Vancouver Island.

The claim isn't new, ancestors of the group once took their land concerns to Buckingham Palace, where in 1906 British newspapers reported on the extraordinary meeting between the aboriginals and King Edward.

Jack Abramoff, In New Book, Decries Endemic Corruption In Washington

WASHINGTON -- Former superlobbyist and ex-con Jack Abramoff describes himself in his forthcoming book as a creature of a corrupted system.

"I wasn't the only villain in Washington," he writes in the book set for release on Nov. 1. Abramoff cops to the de facto bribery of public officials -- but writes that such conduct is "the way the system works."

The book, "Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist," was published by WND Books -- a division of the "birther" website The Huffington Post received an advance copy.

Abramoff describes how he "lavished contributions, meals, event tickets, travel, golf and jobs on innumerable federal public officials with the expectation or understanding that they would take official actions on my behalf or on behalf of my clients."

Sizing Up A World Of 7 Billion People

Take a deep breath

We all need air, but how much of it do 7 billion people consume?

People breathe at different rates, depending on their age, sex, fitness level and what they're doing at the time. In broad strokes, though, the average person breathes about8 litres of air every minute while at rest, or about 11,520 litres a day.

So the world's population inhales at least 80,640,000,000,000 (80.6 trillion) litresof air a day, and converts more than 3,850,000,000,000 (3.85 trillion) litresof oxygen to carbon dioxide.

A University of California study determined that the average person breathes about 52 litres a minute when running, so if the entire world went jogging together for an hour we'd breathe about 21,840,000,000,000 (21.8 trillion) litres of air.

One hectare of average forest creates about enough oxygen to support 19 people, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Using that as the benchmark, the world's population needs at least 368,421,052 hectares of forested land to provide us with the air we need – an area roughly 650 times the size of PEI and 5 times the size of Manitoba.

Beaver, be gone

Yesterday, the Canadian Senate took a page from HGTV as Conservative Sen. Nicole Eaton puckishly launched a national “emblem makeover” campaign to replace the industrious, homely beaver with the “majestic and splendid” polar bear as “Canada’s symbol for the 21st century.”

At first glance, the scheme appeared a masterstroke, given concerns over the polar bear’s looming extinction. What better way of squarely facing the ravages of global warming? Sen. Eaton’s gesture even appeared a bold jab at the government that appointed her—one whose record addressing climate-change is an international joke.

But no. The senator’s pitch made no mention of the mammal’s extinction or endangerment. “The polar bear is the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore and Canada’s most majestic and splendid mammal, holding reign over the Arctic for thousands of years,” she said, nicely echoing the Harper government mandate on northern sovereignty. She even offered a shout-out to the government: “Canada is a world leader in its exemplary system of polar bear management. Our approach features co-management involving aboriginal groups and government, and a strict system of quotas and tags.”

NDP calls for release of Champlain Bridge reports

MONTREAL - The New Democratic Party is denouncing Ottawa’s decision to keep a lid on Champlain Bridge safety reports.

“It’s a question of public services,” said the NDP MP for Brossard-La Prairie Hoang Mai in an interview. “The government should not be playing games and hiding the truth from the people.”

Mai was reacting to a ruling by the government’s access to information and privacy office. The party submitted a request Aug. 9 for a copy of records submitted to ministers concerning the safety of the crumbling Champlain Bridge since July 1, 2010.

The office turned down the party’s request, invoking cabinet secrecy.

But Mai, who conceded they have no idea whether the safety reports are good or bad, said they should be public regardless.

Hands off our beaver, Senator

A Conservative senator wants to toss aside our long-standing national emblem, the beaver, and replace it with the polar bear. The era of the “dentally defective rat” is over, argues Senator Nicole Eaton. Onwards and upwards, it’s time for Canada to honour the “world’s largest terrestrial carnivore.”

Would Americans stop pushing us around on border and trade issues if we had a huge predator for a national animal instead of an unassuming, industrious one? Polar bears can be pretty ruthless. They’re even known, on occasion, to eat their young. And not just the dads but the moms, too, as Toronto zookeepers discovered recently. That’s a hawkish new image for Canada indeed.

Polar bears are strong and majestic looking, so it’s easy to see their appeal over squat and toothy rodents. But looks, dear senator, aren’t everything. And what’s really curious (besides how this could possibly be a matter for the Senate to worry about) is why, as a Conservative, Eaton doesn’t see more to love in the beaver. They really are on the right side of so many issues.

Harperization of Canada in full swing with majority, critics say

"Harper, Give Us Back Our Canada."

The message scrawled on the flight attendant's placard — and waved defiantly during a recent union protest on Parliament Hill over the Conservative government's no-strike stance in an Air Canada labour dispute — stated succinctly what certain segments of the country's population are muttering darkly about these days.

Six months after the landmark election of a Conservative majority on May 2, which finally gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper a firm and unfettered grasp on the levers of power in Ottawa, critics claim the Harperization of Canada is in full swing.

Over at Heritage, they note, history's on parade like never before. War of 1812 soldiers armed with muskets and bicentennial bayonets (to be followed soon by waves of First World War fighters a century after 1914) are widely seen to be chasing the blue-helmeted, Pearsonian peacekeeper from Canadians' collective imagination.

Union members join Occupy Toronto protesters in march

Hundreds of union members joined Occupy Toronto protesters to march through the streets on Thursday afternoon, snarling traffic in the city’s financial district for nearly an hour.

The group stopped at the intersection of King and Bay Streets, where some people lay across streetcar tracks and a small group entered a nearby TD Bank and sat on the floor. They were eventually escorted out of the building by police.

Born out of anti-Wall Street protests in New York, the Occupy movement has shown surprising staying power in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities, where burgeoning tent cities have sprung up in public parks, some complete with lending libraries and makeshift cafeterias.

But as the movement nears the end of its second week in Toronto, politicians are beginning to fret over how long those camped out in St. James Park will remain as winter sets in.

Ford outsources business cards to his family’s firm

Mayor Rob Ford has outsourced the printing of business cards for himself and his staff to his family’s printing company, billing taxpayers up to four times as much per card as councillors who have them printed by the city.

Expense records released Friday include an Aug. 29 invoice from Deco Label & Tags for $1,579.15, including HST, for 20,600 cards for Ford and his staff.

The cost is 7 cents each for the first 15,000 cards and 6.205 cents for the next 5,600. The city processed payment Sept. 23.

Ford is known both for being a fierce critic of free spending and for handing out his card almost robotically when in public. The ones used by him and his staff include gold lettering on “Toronto” and the city logo, and slightly raised letters and numbers. There’s a map of the city on the back.

The city’s standard card, with flat blue letters on a white background, costs 3.644 cents when ordered from the city printer. Councillors can pay more from their office budgets for fancy features. A card with a photo costs a nickel.

Talking points for a young angry Occupy Toronto

The Occupy Toronto demonstrators don’t have a coherent point? How risible. Our economic system is so skewed that they have too many to articulate easily. Here’s a baker’s dozen to start:

1. You can’t get a degree without sinking into debt, or being told that your degree is worthless because it won’t get you hired, even though you know in your heart that a degree in anything, particularly history, will make you better able to understand, cope with, and vote against the life the 99-percenters are stuck with.

Friday, October 28, 2011

CIA, Other Spy Agencies Spent $54.6 Billion In Secret For 2011

WASHINGTON -- Congress appropriated a whopping $54.6 billion for classified intelligence operations in 2011, an increase over the previous two years.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper -- whose office was created after the 9/11 attacks to oversee the government's 16 intelligence agencies -- made the disclosure in a dry news release Friday. The top line number represents the aggregate amount of money lawmakers doled out for the National Intelligence Program's black budget last year.

"Any and all subsidiary information concerning the NIP budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programs, will not be disclosed," Clapper said, adding, "such disclosures could harm national security."

Congress appropriated $53.1 billion in 2010 to secret intelligence operations. That was a steep increase from 2009, when the intelligence community got $49.8 billion.

The Obama administration has requested $55 billion for civilian intelligence in the 2012 budget.

But that doesn't encompass all the spying carried out by the federal government. The Pentagon also spends billions on intelligence.

In fiscal year 2010 -- the first year the government released spending numbers -- civilian and military intelligence cost a record $80.1 billion.

Source: Huff 

Herman Cain: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Should 'Go Home And Get A Job And A Life'

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain shot down the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street protesters Thursday, telling them to "go home and get a job and a life" while speaking to a crowd in Arkansas.

The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza made the comments in response to more than a dozen Occupy protesters who were gathered outside the event, according to the Tolbert Report. "Nobody knows what their cause is," Cain said before telling the activists to go home.

Cain also had harsh words for the left in general during the campaign stop, saying "the American dream has been hijacked" by liberals, "but we can take it back."

Can Newt Be the First Openly Mean President?

We are officially in the midst of a Newt Gingrich boom.

You didn't notice? ABC News, pointing out that the former House speaker has leaped to third place in the GOP 2012 contest with 10 percent support in a recent poll, reports, "For Newt Gingrich, the tides seem to have turned." The Washington Post's political über-junkie Chris Cillizza writes, "Don't call it a comeback! Actually, do. Sort of." He notes that a series of decent debate performances have vaulted Gingrich, whose campaign has been marred by profound disorganization and embarrassing revelations about Tiffany's expense accounts, into the tier between top-tier and second-tier, behind Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. So with the Newt rehab underway, it may be an opportune time to ask, is Gingrich too mean to be president?

Gingrich is by far the nastiest of the pack. Last spring, Tim Murphy and I posted a compendium of the highlights—or lowlights—of his three-decades-long career of rhetorical bomb-throwing. From the moment he was first elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich has made mudslinging a specialty. He has routinely compared opponents to Nazis or to Nazi appeasers. (It can be confusing.) He has counseled fellow Republicans to accuse Democrats of treason. Last year, he derided President Obama for being "fundamentally out of touch with how the world works" and asked, "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

NYPD Sergeants Union Blasts Protesters In Oakland For Violence

NEW YORK -- A union representing 5,000 New York City Police Department sergeants blasted Occupy Wall Street protesters on Thursday and threatened to sue them should they injure police.

"New York's police officers are working around the clock as the already overburdened economy in New York is being drained by 'occupiers' who intentionally and maliciously instigate needless and violent confrontations with the police," said Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. Although sergeants are higher in rank than patrol officers, they do not wear the white shirts of some of the more senior officers.

Protesters have at times played confrontational cat-and-mouse games with the police, but incidents of serious violence directed against the NYPD by protesters in New York have been extremely rare.

What We Didn't Know About The War In Afghanistan

It sometimes feels as if our distant war in Afghanistan never really happened, so rarely is it analyzed or discussed any more.

Perhaps we all feel it's over and done with. But wars never let you get away that easily. One can only hide for so long from history before its inconvenient facts seek you out and demand answers.

Such is the case with "Lessons learned? What Canada should learn from Afghanistan," a 54-page study for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a powerful examination of our stunningly incoherent approach to that war.

The writers are two of our most respected military historians, professor emeritus Jack Granatstein and David Bercuson, of the University of Calgary, who also happen to be two well-known supporters of the war.

Ottawa looks at rewriting rules on charitable giving

Ottawa is conducting a sweeping overhaul of the way it finances charities and non-profit organizations, pledging a new era of accountability in which businesses and citizens shoulder more of the cost of giving.

The government’s lead minister for the changes said financing will come with more strings attached in an effort to ensure that organizations deliver promised social gains.

While the first steps will be small, the government’s ultimate goal is a shift in public expectations as to the role of government in assisting social causes.

The plan is inspired by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society experiment, in which social responsibilities that traditionally fell to the state are put in the hands of the citizenry and private sector.

What Brazil knows that we don’t

This week we are wondering whether the government of Canada thinks it’s more important to talk or to act.

Every now and then, Stephen Harper’s government phones up some experts and asks them to lead a panel and come up with smart advice. Then it ignores the advice. In 2008 it asked a businessman named Red Wilson for advice on making Canada more competitive. Wilson offered 65 recommendations. Most were never implemented. This fall there are new reports, from businessman Tom Jenkins on corporate R&D, and from career soldier Andrew Leslie on the structure of the military. We’ll see whether they do better.

Meanwhile, every week brings a new panel. In October, Ed Fast, the trade minister, was in China announcing a panel to come up with advice on “an international education strategy.”

The “goal” of such a strategy, the news release’s headline said, would be “Stronger Ties with World’s Best and Brightest in Priority Markets.” And how important would the strategy be? Glad you asked. It would be “critical to Canada’s continued economic growth and prosperity,” Fast said. It’s a good panel, as these panels always are. Its chairman is Amit Chakma, who has been making waves as the president of my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario. It’s supposed to report early in the new year.

At which point the horse will already have well and truly left the barn.

Feds want to destroy long-gun registry records to appease ‘tinfoil hat’ elements of gun-owning community, says Champ

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is set to destroy massive records on owners of rifles and shotguns to appease “tin-foil hat” elements of the gun-owning community, says a prominent human rights lawyer.

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, who represented a Parliament Hill journalist in a long court battle getting access to government records, said the government, which plans to destroy the records after a bill terminating the long-gun registry clears Parliament, told The Hill Times on Thursday the government is likely trying to “pander” to rifle and shotgun owners who fear a successive government may try to use the data base, containing records on seven million firearms, to seize the guns.

Mr. Champ said the claim by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.) that the aim is to prevent another government from reinstating the registry is not believable, since by then, with 2015 the earliest possible time a different government could be elected, the information would be out of date and unreliable.

Any new registry would have to be started essentially from the ground up.

Michael Den Tandt: F-35 project is ‘slowly unravelling’

OTTAWA — The Conservative government’s controversial F-35 jet fighter project, plagued by delays, cost overruns and now economic turmoil in Europe, is at growing risk of being sharply curtailed or shelved — the defence minister’s protestations notwithstanding.

“It just seems like it’s slowly unravelling,” said an industry insider who specializes in aircraft procurement. “It’s a mess.”

Peter MacKay has doggedly championed the Royal Canadian Air Force plan to purchase 65 “fifth-generation” Lockheed Martin Lightning stealth fighters to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s. Last week MacKay sought, with only limited success, to deflect reports that the first batch of planes built by Lockheed will be incapable of communicating in Canada’s far North.

This minister has a knack for projecting blithe confidence. But in this instance he is increasingly offside with other members of the cabinet and with the Prime Minister’s Office, sources familiar with the situation say.

Kevin Libin: What the West wants next

Spend enough time driving around Alberta and you might still spot, on the very occasional older model vehicle, the yellow, Reform-era bumper sticker: “No Kyoto, no wheat board, no gun registry.” Those were radical enough ideas back in the mid-’90s that angry Westerners felt it important to brandish them rebelliously on their pickups and minivans.

They might as well scrape them off now: Canada’s obligations under the Kyoto accord have been tossed aside; the Conservatives’ bill to deregulate the wheat board is en route to a third reading in the House; and the government tabled a bill to kill the gun registry Wednesday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Ottawa with a checklist of Western grievances he had committed to relieving. At the time it seemed like a long one. Turns out it wasn’t: After little more than five years in power, what early priorities he hasn’t scuttled — such as the Reform party’s one-time tendencies toward social conservative policy and populist democratic reforms — he’s nearly finished. He’s adding Western seats (as well as Ontario) in the House of Commons, and has almost reached the limit on Senate reform — setting term limits, encouraging provincial elections — at least till someone next has the nerve to reopen the Constitution.

Canada may buy nuclear submarines

Harper government considers mothballing 4 British-made diesel subs

CBC News has learned the Harper government is considering buying nuclear submarines to replace its problem-plagued fleet of diesel-powered subs, all of which are currently awash in red ink and out of service for major repairs.
The four second-hand subs Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government bought from the British navy in 1998 for $750 million were portrayed at the time as the military bargain of the century.
Instead, they have spent almost all of their time in naval repair yards, submerging Canadian taxpayers in an ocean of bills now totalling more than $1 billion and counting.
One of the subs, HMCS Chicoutimi, has been in active service of the Royal Canadian Navy exactly two days in the 13 years since it was purchased from the Brits.
The Chicoutimi caught fire on its maiden voyage from the U.K. to Canada, killing one sailor and injuring a number of others.

Is Tory penchant for capping Commons debate efficient – or arrogant?

For the fifth time since they took office as a majority government in May, the Conservatives have limited debate on a key piece of legislation.

This week it was the dismantling of the gun registry. Before that it was the bill to end of the wheat board’s monopoly, the omnibus crime bill and two budget bills.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined to push these items – some of which have been on his agenda for a very long time – through Parliament with as little opposition input as possible.

But the tactic has New Democrats crying foul.

“This will be the fifth time in 38 days of sitting that time allocation has been imposed,” Opposition House Leader Joe Comartin said Thursday when it became apparent that debate on the gun registry legislation would also be cut short.

"Blood on the Tracks": Brian Willson’s Memoir of Transformation from Vietnam Vet to Radical Pacifist

Today we spend the hour with a man who put his life on the line twice: once when he served in the Vietnam War and again when he came back. On September 1, 1987, Brian Willson took part in a nonviolent political action outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California. He sat down on the train tracks along with two other veterans to try to stop a U.S. government munitions train sending weapons to Central America during the time of the Contra wars. The train didn’t stop. Willson suffered 19 broken bones, a fractured skull and lost both of his legs. "Before, I had spent many months in Nicaragua in the war zones, and I had been to El Salvador talking to guerrillas and talking to human rights workers, understanding the incredible extent of murders that were going on and maimings and displacements, because of fear of being murdered," Willson said. He decided, "I have to at least escalate my own nonviolent occupation, if you will, of the tracks." In retrospect, Willson added, "I regret that I lost my legs, but I don’t regret that I was there. I did what I said I was going to do... Following orders, I discovered, is not what I’m about." Today, he is traveling the country visiting solidarity protests with Occupy Wall Street, where some of his fellow protesters are also veterans. He’s also been talking about his new memoir, "Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson." On the West Coast, he completed much of the tour on his handcycle.

Source: Democracy Now! 

E. B. White on the Bonus Army

Both Frank Rich, in New York magazine, and Brent Cox, at the Awl, this week use the Bonus Army—an encampment, in 1932, of thousands of veterans of the First World War and their supporters in Washington—as a way of offering historical perspective on the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Bonus Army was big news in those waning days of the Hoover Administration and, in the summer of 1932, E. B. White devoted three Comment columns to the protest and the economic woes it highlighted. While deeply sympathetic to the plight of the jobless in the Great Depression (see this Comment from earlier in the year), White was largely dismissive of the Bonus Army.

The protests had begun with a simple demand: the early payment of a “bonus” due to veterans in 1945, to help them through the Depression. But that message was mixed with more general calls for jobs and even revolution. In the first of his columns, published in the issue of June 25, 1932, White, like many of Occupy Wall Street’s critics, took the protesters to task for their lack of focus:
In a democracy, there are a thousand, ten thousand groups…. Each has its own particular sorrow and its grievance; there exists no common tyranny against which to rebel, not even the tyranny of hard times. If you mixed bonus marchers with Kentucky miners, they would probably spend the rest of their lives arguing about what to rebel against.

Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers

There's the top 1% of wealthy Americans (bankers, oil tycoons, hedge fund managers) and there's the top 0.01% of wealthy Americans: the military contractor CEOs.

If you've been following the War Costs campaign, you already know that these corporations are bad bosses, bad job creators and bad stewards of taxpayer dollars. What you may not know is that the huge amount of money these companies' CEOs make off of war and your tax dollars places them squarely at the top of the gang of corrupt superrich choking our democracy. These CEOs want you to believe the massive war budget is about security -- it's not. The lobbying they're doing to keep the war budget intact at the expense of the social safety net is purely about their greed.

In many areas, including yearly CEO salary and in dollars spent corrupting Congress, these companies are far greater offenders than even the big banks like JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America.

Hispanic Kids Being Bullied In Alabama Immigration Law's Wake

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It was just another schoolyard basketball game until a group of Hispanic seventh-graders defeated a group of boys from Alabama.

The reaction was immediate, according to the Mexican mother of one of the winners, and rooted in the state's new law on illegal immigration.

"They told them, `You shouldn't be winning. You should go back to Mexico,'" said the woman, who spoke through a translator last week and didn't want her name used. She and her son are in the country illegally.

Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama's tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law, which has been widely covered in the news, discussed in some classrooms and debated around dinner tables.

Justice Department officials are monitoring for bullying incidents linked to the law.

"We're hearing a number of reports about increases in bullying that we're studying," the head of the agency's civil rights division, Thomas Perez, said during a stop in Birmingham.

New Social Justice Index Places U.S. Near Bottom

WASHINGTON -- A central concern for those in the Occupy movement -- that the economic system in the U.S. is rigged in favor of the well-off -- has been corroborated by a major new survey of developed nations.

When it comes to social justice -- defined here as the ability each individual has to participate in the market society, regardless of their social status -- the United States ranks near the bottom of 31 developed countries, the Thursday report from Bertelsmann Foundation found.

It's one thing if you live in a market economy where everyone has the same shot at success. It's quite another if fortune favors the fortunate. And the new survey found that when it comes to "equal opportunities for self-realization," the U.S. ranks 27 out of 31 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states, well behind not just Northern European countries like Norway and Denmark, but even countries like Hungary, Poland, Italy and France. The only countries whose citizens fare even worse are Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Herman Cain's Distrust Of Minimum Wage Goes Back To Restaurant Days

WASHINGTON -- Questioning America's minimum wage has somehow become a rite of passage in the Republican presidential primary.

Michele Bachmann has said she wouldn’t rule out lowering it. Ron Paul has predictably said it should be eliminated entirely. And Rick Perry, in his book "Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington", has rued the role the commerce clause played in "creating national minimum-wage laws" and "establishing national labor laws."

But when it comes to battling our $7.25-an-hour wage floor, these contenders have neither the vision nor the resume of current frontrunner Herman Cain.

In his plan for economic "Opportunity Zones," Cain offers a slate of proposals aimed at revitalizing depressed pockets of the country, including zero capital gains and payroll taxes within qualifying areas. Although it doesn’t say so explicitly, the Cain campaign's primer on opportunity zones also suggests the possibility of rolling back minimum-wage laws in impoverished areas.

"Minimum wage laws prevent many unskilled and inexperienced workers (i.e. teens) from getting their first job and prices them out of the market," the plan says, listing a number of potential "solutions" to urban poverty.

Scott Walker Developing Plan To Allow Guns In Wisconsin State Capitol

The administration of Republican Gov. Scott Walker is developing a plan to allow guns in most parts of the Wisconsin State Capitol, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Under the plan, the state Supreme Court hearing room would not allow guns.

Walker signed a bill allowing the public to carry concealed weapons, provided they pass a four-hour training course and a background check. That law takes effect Nov. 1.

During the protests over a bill curtailing most collective bargaining rules last February, the administration installed metal detectors at the Capitol but removed them in June.

Florida recently allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry weapons into more parts of the Capitol.

Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, Minnesota, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Virginia all allow guns in state Capitols with varying restrictions ranging from nothing to only allowing guns with permission from state police.

Source: Huff 

Attack On Gay Student By Bully At Union-Scioto High School In Chillicothe, Ohio, Caught On Video

A shocking video of a gay student being beaten at Union-Scioto High School in Chillicothe, Ohio, has surfaced reports Channel 6 WSYX news.

In the clip, which was filmed on a cell phone and then posted to Facebook, the attacker, who has not been named, can be seen waiting for the gay student, who wishes to remain anonymous, in a classroom.

Once the student arrives, the bully begins severely beating "the holy living crap out of him," says his mother.

Even though the boy tried to get away and asked "Why are you doing this?" the attack continued.

WSYX reports the student received a possible concussion and a chipped tooth.

The student also says that the perpetrator wrote "Check out the definition of a faggot" on his Facebook page two days earlier.

Long-Gun Registry: Quebec Says It Will Fight Harper Government On Destroying Data

QUEBEC - The Harper government's plan to not only kill the long-gun registry but subsequently bury its data has run into resistance in Quebec, which wants to bring the controversial program back from the dead.

The provincial government says it intends to keep using the gun registry on its territory and will fiercely oppose plans to destroy the data.

Speaking at a news conference in Quebec City, Public Security Minister Robert Dutil refused Wednesday to rule out legal action among his options.

A spokesman later explained that the province's Plan A is to maintain a repectful dialogue with Ottawa and negotiate a mechanism to save the records. If that fails, Plan B options will be weighed.

Quebec had already announced months ago it wanted to keep using some kind of long-gun registry if the Harper government killed the federal version, as expected.

But this week Ottawa made it clear that, in addition to destroying the registry, it would also eliminate the data compiled over the past decade.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Libya: U.N. Authorization For Military Action Canceled

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to lift the no-fly zone over Libya on Oct. 31 and end military action to protect civilians, acting swiftly following the death of Moammar Gadhafi and the interim government's declaration of the country's liberation.

The council authorized the actions on March 17 in response to an Arab League request to try to halt Moammar Gadhafi's military, which was advancing against rebels and their civilian supporters. The NATO bombing campaign that followed was critical in helping the rebels oust Gadhafi from power in August.

"This marks a really important milestone in the transition in Libya," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said. "It marks the way from the military phase towards the formation of an inclusive government, the full participation of all sectors of society, and for the Libyan people to choose their own future."

In Berlin, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance on Friday would confirm its earlier, preliminary decision to end operations Oct. 31.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Reiterates Warning Over 'Lawful Access' Law

OTTAWA - The federal privacy watchdog says government plans to make electronic surveillance easier for police and spies must include stronger public protections.

In a letter to the public safety minister, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart warns against simply resurrecting a trio of previous federal bills to expand surveillance powers.

Stoddart tells Vic Toews these pieces of legislation, which were never passed, endangered privacy.

"In brief, these bills went far beyond simply maintaining investigative capacity or modernizing search powers," says the letter, her latest expression of concern about the proposed measures.

"Rather, they added significant new capabilities for investigators to track, and search and seize digital information about individuals."

Occupy Canada Protests Have Backing Of Plurality, But Most Doubt It Will Do Any Good: Poll

Twice as many Canadians back the Occupy protests as oppose them, but few believe the protests will do any good, according to a poll released this week.

Yet the poll found widespread support for the ideas behind the Occupy movement -- including among self-identified Conservative voters.

The survey, carried out by Abacus Data for the Corporate Community and Social Responsibility Conference, found 41 per cent of Canadians have a very favourable or somewhat favourable view of the protests, while 22 per cent of Canadians have a somewhat or very unfavourable view.

That leaves more than a third of Canadians in the undecided column, but when asked about the specific issues Occupy protesters have been championing, respondents of all ages and political leanings tended to agree with the protesters.

* 81% agree that corporations and the rich have too much influence over public policy and politics in Canada.
* 81% agree that the gap between the rich and poor has grown too large in Canada
* 64% agree that Canadian financial institutions have been reckless and greedy.
* 51% agree that most Canadian corporations are unethical.
Source: Huff 

Criminals didn’t register guns, but registered guns figured in crime

Among the arguments against the long-gun registry, I think the most compelling, at least superficially, was the indignant assertion that gun owners are, by and large, law-abiding citizens who present no danger to society. I know that’s true. Why impose a registration requirement on them?

I’m inclined to respond with smart-alecky questions about similar impositions. Why audit taxpayers when most dutifully pay up? Why ask drivers to blow at those RIDE checks when most are sober? But I fear that many of those who hated the gun registry would miss my rhetorical point and heartily agree that random roadside breathalizers and routine CRA audits should be done away with next.

So let’s stick to the registry for a moment. Since criminals didn’t register, was the system useless? In 2009, Statistics Canada reported that in the previous five years police recovered 253 guns used in murders and, in fact, about a third were registered. Some had been stolen, some used by their owners, some were owned by the victim. In any case, registration records figured in the police investigations and trials.

Occupy first. Demands come later

What to do after the occupations of Wall Street and beyond – the protests that started far away, reached the centre and are now, reinforced, rolling back around the world? One of the great dangers the protesters face is that they will fall in love with themselves. In a San Francisco echo of the Wall Street occupation this week, a man addressed the crowd with an invitation to participate as if it was a happening in the hippy style of the 60s: "They are asking us what is our programme. We have no programme. We are here to have a good time."

Carnivals come cheap – the true test of their worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. The protesters should fall in love with hard and patient work – they are the beginning, not the end. Their basic message is: the taboo is broken; we do not live in the best possible world; we are allowed, obliged even, to think about alternatives.

In a kind of Hegelian triad, the western left has come full circle: after abandoning the so-called "class struggle essentialism" for the plurality of anti-racist, feminist, and other struggles, capitalism is now clearly re-emerging as the name of the problem. So the first lesson to be taken is: do not blame people and their attitudes. The problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt. The solution is not "Main Street, not Wall Street", but to change the system where Main Street cannot function without Wall Street.

Drug War Profiteers: Book Exposes How Wachovia Bank Laundered Millions For Mexican Cartels

As protests continue against Wall Street and the nation’s biggest banks, we speak to British journalist Ed Vulliamy, author of “Amexica: War Along the Borderline.” Vulliamy exposes how one bank, Wachovia, made millions in the Mexican drug war. At the time, Wachovia was the nation’s fourth-largest bank — it has since been taken over by Wells Fargo. “You can’t drive around Mexico with hundreds of billions of dollars in cash in a truck. It has to be banked,” Vulliamy said. “What I found was that it is coming into the United States, into the banking system.”

Source: Democracy Now! 

Iraq War Vet Hospitalized with Fractured Skull After Being Shot by Police at Occupy Oakland Protest

Thousands of people reclaimed the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall Wednesday after police dispersed them twice on Tuesday — first in a pre-dawn raid on the camp and 12 hours later at night when protesters attempted to retake the park — using beanbag projectiles and tear gas. Many protesters expressed outrage over of the injury of Oakland protester Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran whose skull was fractured by a projectile fired by police Tuesday night. He is hospitalized in critical condition and is reportedly under sedation by doctors monitoring his injury. We speak to Jesse Palmer, an Occupy Oakland protester who helped move Olsen to safety, and to Aaron Hinde, a close friend of Scott Olsen and a fellow member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. One of Olsen’s other friends, Adele Carpenter, told Reuters, "The irony is not lost on anyone here that this is someone who survived two tours in Iraq and is now seriously injured by the Oakland police force." Aaron Hinde talked about why Olsen joined the Occupy Oakland movement: "He was a very motivated and dedicated individual. And he believed in the Occupy movement, because it’s very obvious what’s happening in this country, especially as veterans. We’ve had our eyes opened by serving and going to war overseas."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Hill Dispatches: Cooler outside, hotter inside as the spectre of another premature prorogation hangs over the House

The political atmosphere in Ottawa is getting hotter as the weather gets cooler.

- The Tories propose the first unilingual auditor general in more than two decades (prompting Bob Rae's incredulous cry, "Was there no competent bilingual person?").

- The Canadian Wheat Board is going to court to stave off its own destruction.

- There is dark talk of time limits on the debate on Bill C-19, the kill-the-long-gun-registry bill.

- And now we're hearing rumours of an early prorogation, once the government cleans up all the "leftover" stuff from the last Parliament.

The Commons: Bonfire of the registry

The Scene. At its essence, this debate over the long-gun registry was always a debate about paperwork. And so it is only right and fitting that it should end now with a fight over what should be done with that paper.

For the record, Article 29 of Bill C-19, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, states that “the Commissioner of Firearms shall ensure the destruction as soon as feasible of all records in the Canadian Firearms Registry related to the registration of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms and all copies of those records under the Commissioner’s control.” And variously this much is viewed as a waste of both information and money.

“Why,” Nycole Turmel asked this afternoon, “destroy two billion dollars of accumulated information, while the provinces and the police want to keep it?”

Jason Kenney, whose turn it was to stand in for the Prime Minister this afternoon, stood and did his best John Baird impression, reading aloud a few quotes from NDP MPs who have stated their opposition with the registry. When he’d finished, Jack Harris stood to restate the question on behalf of the official opposition.