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.]

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Net Neutrality Is Under Attack... Again

This week, the free and open Internet millions of Americans have come to depend on is under attack.

In a procedural move, Senate Republicans are trying to overturn the rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put in place late last year to help protect net neutrality -- the simple idea that all content and applications on the Internet should be treated the same, regardless of who owns the content or the website. The House already pushed through this dangerous legislation, which would effectively turn control of the Internet over to a handful of very powerful corporations.

I sincerely hope the Senate doesn't follow suit, and I'm doing everything I can to make sure this terrible legislation never reaches the President's desk.

While millions of Americans have become familiar with the concept of net neutrality, it's important that we're all on the same page. Net neutrality isn't a government takeover of the Internet, as many of my Republican colleagues have alleged. It isn't even a change from what we have now. Net neutrality has been in place since the very beginning of the Internet.

This isn't a radical concept -- it's what each and every one of us experiences every time we use the Internet. Right now, an e-mail from a friend arrives in your inbox just as quickly and reliably as an advertisement from Consumers can go online and make a reservation at a small fishing lodge in Ely, Minnesota just as quickly as they can at the Hilton.

But many Republicans want to change that so that the large corporations they represent can increase their profit margins at the expense of small businesses and consumers.

Stop the Big Bank Payday Predators

While Occupy Wall Street has brought needed attention to inequality and downward social mobility—long ignored by the mainstream media and the political establishment—there are also groups that have been in the trenches for years, struggling day in and day out, doing the tough organizing that is needed if OWS’s vision is to be achieved.

One such group is National People’s Action (NPA), a network of community organizations in cities, towns and rural communities across the country working to advance a national economic and racial justice agenda. NPA—along with unions and community and faith-based groups, and coalitions like The New Bottom Line—has long played a leading role in the fight to hold banks accountable, stop foreclosures, promote housing rights and protect immigrant and workers’ rights, among other vital campaigns.

Now NPA and its allies are shining a light on the connection between the Big Banks and the predatory payday loan companies, and running a sustained campaign to get the banks to withdraw their financing of those companies. Earlier this year, NPA and the Public Accountability Initiative released a report entitled The Predators’ Creditors that details how the Big Banks finance these payday loan sharks whose shops are nearly two and one-half times more likely to locate in African-American and Latino communities, even when other factors like income are considered.

Our Expensive, Expanding Nuclear Weapons Complex

Why is America beefing up its nuclear capacity even as it tells the world it plans to forsake its arsenal?       

On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama took the stage before 20,000 people in Prague's Hradcany Square to offer an ambitious global vision. "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he told the open-air audience in the former Eastern Bloc capital. "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same."

The timing of his bold promise seemed perfect. Russia was ready to whittle down its destructive power; a year later, Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev would sign a treaty limiting both countries to 1,500 active warheads—though still enough to annihilate millions of people, a 50 percent reduction to each nation's atomic arsenal. Back home, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were scrutinizing the federal budget for unnecessary spending, and nuclear weapons no longer appeared to be off limits.

Mississippi Rejects Bill to Grant Pre-Embryonic "Personhood," Outlaw Fertility Aid, Birth Control

Voters in Mississippi have overwhelmingly defeated an amendment to establish that a fertilized human egg is a person, despite support for the measure from the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor. If passed, it would have made Mississippi the first state to grant constitutional rights to embryo from the moment of conception. We speak with Diane Derzis, owner of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. She notes supporters had hoped to use the Mississippi measure to mount a legal attack on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the right to abortion. "If you make a fertilized egg a person, not only have you banned abortion immediately, you have banned most forms of birth control, as they work by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. That’s very clear. There’s no two ways about that," Derzis says. Efforts are underway in at least six states, and at the federal level, to adopt similar laws.

Source: Democracy Now! 

More B.C. Mounties Complain Of Harassment

More members of the RCMP in British Columbia have come forward with serious allegations of harassment after CBC News revealed a well-known Mountie spokeswoman's claims she suffered from years of sexual harassment.

On Monday, CBC News revealed Cpl. Catherine Galliford has filed an internal RCMP complaint alleging repeated sexual harassment from some of her supervisors.

Krista Carle contacted CBC News after hearing Galliford's story, breaking her own long silence.

"I know for a fact there are at least six women that I know [who] have left the force or are still in that have suffered harassment," Carle said. "I'm sure there are others who are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisals."

Carle, who graduated from the RCMP's training academy with Galliford in 1991, says she was harassed and sexually assaulted. She is now off the job and says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Occupy London Ontario: Police Swoop Down On Victoria Park In Canada's First Occupy Eviction

Tents that had been erected in a London, Ont., park as part of the city’s Occupy protest were removed by police and bylaw officers early Wednesday.

Mayor Joe Fontana had issued a 6 p.m. Tuesday deadline for protesters to remove the tents, but the tents remained in Victoria Park long past the deadline.

Police and city bylaw officers entered the park at about 1 a.m. to dismantle tents and other structures. The process took about an hour.


Fontana also said Tuesday that protesters could continue to demonstrate in the park, but nobody would be allowed on the grounds between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. He said if they didn't leave, they would be evicted.

However, the 10 p.m. deadline passed without incident and by early Wednesday, Insp. Kelly O'Callaghan said there were still "about 40 occupiers in the park." He did not indicate if police would try to remove them.

Earlier Tuesday, about 1,000 people were in the park to hear a speech by Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan.

In Vancouver, the city's police chief warned Occupy protesters to disperse after saying black-masked people pushed around firefighters, kicked and punched police and sent two officers to hospital with bite wounds.

Chief Jim Chu said the melee unfolded at the encampment in a downtown square around midnight Monday.

Source: Huff 

‘Increasing the adjustment for risk’

In March, the Harper government announced that it would return the federal books to balance in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Seventeen days later, the Conservatives changed their minds and promised instead to return to balance in 2014-2015. Seven months to the day after that, the Harper government has decided it can’t fulfill April’s promise and is going back to March’s projection (at the earliest).

Depending on how you count these things, this is either the third or fifth return-to-balance projection the government has offered in the last three years (first 2013-2014, then 2014-2015, then 2015-2016, then back to 2014-2015 and now back to 2015-2016).

Including Mr. Harper’s vow in 2008 that a government led by him would “never” go into deficit, this is the second time in three years that the Conservatives have made a balanced-budget promise during an election campaign only to abandon it after being reelected.

Source: Maclean's 

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to Occupy protesters: 'Time to move on'

Mayor Rob Ford says it is time for Occupy Toronto protesters to leave their makeshift camp in the city's downtown.

Mr. Ford did not provide details of how he plans to end the weeks-long protest at St James Park, saying he is waiting to meet with the police chief to formulate a plan. Still, he left no doubt of what he feels the final outcome should be.

"They have had a peaceful protest. I think it is time that we ask them to move," he told reporters after a tour with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty of the dig site for the city's new crosstown light rail line.

Mr. McGuinty said he is leaving it up to local governments to decide how to handle the protests, calling it a "city issue. "

"I will let the City of Toronto make those local calls, he said.

Occupy Toronto ready to legally resist eviction if necessary

Police crackdowns, court injunctions and warnings: around the world, the Occupy movement is being pushed and it is being shoved.

In London, England, a court battle will begin in coming weeks as lawyers for St. Paul’s Cathedral and the city work to evict about 500 protesters from the church grounds.

Closer to home, Quebec City’s mayor has asked protesters to pack up. Vancouver is seeking a court injunction. In Victoria, activists are moving to an area closer to City Hall in a compromise to make way for an outdoor skating rink.

In Toronto, the protesters, about 500 of them, are well entrenched at St. James Park at Jarvis and King Sts., co-owned by The Cathedral Church of St. James and the city. Quietly, they have dug in their heels and tents in preparation for the long haul.

Will there be one?

Critics blast Flaherty over economic update

OTTAWA—Finance Minister Jim Flaherty acknowledged the economy is performing worse than predicted but did little in Tuesday’s mini-budget to stimulate economic prospects for Canadians.

The deteriorating global situation threatens to knock the legs out from under the Conservatives’ economic strategy, which calls for the federal government to shift into an era of tough spending restraint after a two-year, $48 billion spending spree to offset the recession.

“We have to be realistic about what’s going on in the world,” Flaherty told reporters after releasing the annual economic update. “We are living in a highly uncertain world.”

In a major shift, Flaherty admitted the Conservatives won’t live up to their signature election campaign promise to whittle away Ottawa’s record budget deficits by fiscal 2014-15. Largely because of reduced tax revenues from slower-than-predicted economic growth, the Harper government will be unable to wipe out the budget deficit until fiscal 2015-16, Flaherty said.

Michele Bachmann Would Add Ronald Reagan, James Garfield, Calvin Coolidge To Mount Rushmore

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she would add former presidents Ronald Reagan, James Garfield and Calvin Coolidge to Mount Rushmore Tuesday in an ABC News/Yahoo! interview Tuesday.

When asked who she would add to the South Dakota monument, she proposed Reagan. She then mentioned James Garfield, who was president for just over seven months before being assassinated. She reportedly said she chose him because he is the only person to become president from the House of Representatives. (Bachmann could be the second if she is elected president.) She then said Calvin Coolidge would be a good candidate for the monument, since he "got the country's budget back on track."

Between 1927 and 1941, sculptors carved George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

When asked who would play her in a movie and what her theme song was, Bachmann answered Patricia Heaton and "Taking Care Of Business."

Bachmann remains far behind her rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed her polling at four percent nationally, down from 16 percent in July. She attacked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who led the Post/ABC News poll, in a speech Monday.

Source: Huff 

Mitt Romney: Federal Workers Are Making More Money Than I Am

Mitt Romney isn't getting his facts straight.

Speaking to workers at a steel fabrication plant on Monday, Romney, clad in his class-crossing plaid and jean uniform, proceeded to bash pay for government employees, proclaiming that they "are making a lot more money than we are." As Crooks and Liars points out and you can see for yourself in the video below, Romney proceeds to say that he would slash the scale of the federal government and cut the number of federal employees if he became president, a proposal that he's laid out in his broader fiscal plan.

For a man worth over $250 million, that's a bold association to make.

"The taxpayers shouldn't have to have money taken out of their pay checks to pay people in government who are our servants who are making a lot more money than we are," Romney continues.

It's not clear exactly where the former Massachusetts governor is getting his numbers from. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report just last week that showed on average that federal employees make about 26.3 percent less than private sector employees.

Source: Huff  

Flaherty retools as global economic picture darkens

OTTAWA—The federal government is scaling back a planned hike to employment insurance premiums and will extend a work-sharing program as global economic woes slow plans to balance the federal budget.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to announce both measures in a major speech Tuesday to unveil the fall economic and fiscal update, the Star has learned.

The finance minister may also confirm that Ottawa will miss its target to balance the federal budget by 2014-15 due to slower-than-expected economic growth.

The government is hoping the two actions unveiled in the update will help protect Canadian jobs against economic uncertainty, although critics want Ottawa to scrap the increase in EI premiums altogether.

Fresh delays in F-35 program will test aging CF-18 fleet: expert

OTTAWA — The Conservative government says a new, anticipated two-year delay in rolling out the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not impact Canada.

But analysts say the delay will increase the stealth fighters' already-controversial price tag while pushing the country's aging CF-18s to the extreme limit of their life spans.

On Nov. 2, U.S. Maj.-Gen. Jay Lindell told members of the congressional subcommittee on tactical air and land forces on that the U.S. Air Force had expected the F-35 to be ready for initial deployment in 2016.

However, restructuring in the $66-billion program, which is already five years behind schedule, may push things back to 2018, he said.

"The program continues to experience challenges as it transitions from development to production, despite the significant accomplishments," Lindell said.

Why the Koch Brothers and ALEC Don't Want You to Vote

Today residents of Mississippi will decide whether voters must produce a government-issued ID in order to cast a ballot and voters in Maine will choose whether to keep or overturn a new law banning election day voter registration, which had previously been on the books since 1973.

These votes occur amidst the backdrop of an unprecedented, Republican-led war on voting. Since the 2010 election, at least a dozen states controlled by Republicans have approved new obstacles to voting—mandating government-issued IDs, curtailing early voting, restricting voter registration, disenfranchising ex-felons. Five million voters could be negatively impacted by the new laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which found that “these new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities”—in other words, those most likely to vote for Democrats.

A key component of the GOP’s campaign has been orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which receives substantial funding from the Koch brothers. ALEC drafted mock photo ID legislation after the 2008 election and in five states that passed ID laws in the past year—Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin—the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC.

The GOP War on Voting

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. "What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century," says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP's effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

Ohio's Union-Busting Bill Is on the Ropes

It is D-Day for Gov. John Kasich's anti-union law. Ohioans go to the polls today in one of the most anticipated off-year elections to decide Issue 2, a referendum on whether to repeal Kasich's law that curtails collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers. Voters will also approve or reject Issue 3, a misguided constitutional amendment intended to exempt Ohioans from a federal health insurance mandate. Unions, businesses, trade groups, and out-of-state political outfits have spent more than $30 million to sway the vote on both measures. Polls show Issue 2 losing by double digits and Issue 3 passing by a modest margin.

Beyond those parochial controversies, a question looms: How will these fights impact the 2012 election? President Obama scored a crucial victory in Ohio in 2008, edging out Republican John McCain by 4 percentage points. But with Ohio's economy stuck in the doldrums, one of Obama's biggest challenges next year is clinching another win in a swing state where now only 44 percent approve of his performance. That number sinks to 34 percent among coveted independent voters. Would a defeat of the anti-union law known as SB 5 buoy Obama in Ohio? Would a win for Kasich and his allies undercut a key component of Obama's base—the unions—and in effect defund the Democratic Party?

Occupy Can Save Capitalism

It is time conservatives and libertarians recognize the legitimacy of opposing corporate concentration.

While many still search for specific policy prescriptions within the Occupy movement's call for social justice, a common thread across the diverse movement is an unmistakeable message of skepticism concerning unfettered capitalism. Walk through the protestors' camps and you will likely see indictments of the "corporatocracy" that has grown from our allegedly corrupt capitalist system. It is this stance, along with the aesthetics of the demonstration, that tends to illicit the greatest amount of ire from conservatives. Despite declarations by the demonstrators of representing the 99 per cent, a deep political divide has emerged. Those dismissive of the movement as "anti-capitalist" should look carefully at Occupy's concerns, as the movement might end up saving capitalism from its destructive excesses.

Tory senator remains critical of unilingual AG appointment

OTTAWA — A Conservative senator from Montreal is standing by his criticism of his own government's decision to appoint a unilingual anglophone as auditor general, warning it sets a dangerous precedent that threatens bilingualism in the country.

In an interview Monday with Postmedia News, Leo Housakos, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2008, acknowledged he took some heat from his Tory colleagues for going public with his concerns last week. But Housakos said he firmly believes that important symbols of bilingualism in the country should neither be neglected nor belittled.

"There are certain positions in the federal government that are so symbolic to what Canada is all about and I just believe they have to be filled by people who are functionally bilingual," Housakos said.

The comments come a few days after Harper's government confirmed the nomination of Michael Ferguson for a 10-year term as auditor general, the watchdog of spending in federal departments and agencies.

Dump The Unneeded Crime Laws, Stephen Harper

Well of course Ontario and Quebec don’t want to pay for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s anti-crime legislation. That’s because it doesn’t make sense.

Some estimates have the new laws costing as much as $2.5 billion over five years. Who wants to pay that when crime rates, largely due to aging demographics, are declining markedly? Who wants to pay for unnecessary legislation when government deficits are at high levels and health care is consuming huge amounts of money, again largely due to aging demographics?

Harper’s legislation is a triumph of ideology over practicality. The PM says Canadians voted for these measures. Well they also voted for smart government too and let’s not forget they also voted for the Ontario and Quebec governments who disagree with you but will have to pay the bills for your unneeded new laws. Sounds like the downloading on municipalities that we saw during the Harris years in Ontario.

The Ontario and Quebec governments don’t want to pay for the Safe Streets and Communities legislation because our streets have never been safer and our communities more secure.

If the Harper government wants to retain its majority, it must create legislation that is smart and appeals to the Canadian centre. This mess doesn’t do it and will cost our provinces dearly. Focus on the real problems in communities, not on ideology and rhetoric.
Source: Ottawa Citizen 

B.C. Mountie alleges years of sexual harassment

CBC News has learned that one of B.C.'s highest profile Mounties says she's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of sexual harassment.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford was the face of the B.C. RCMP for years. During her tenure as the RCMP's spokesperson, Galliford announced the arrest of Robert William Pickton and revealed charges had been laid in the Air India bombing.

But in an internal RCMP complaint, Galliford makes serious allegations about misconduct inside the RCMP. She shared the complaint with CBC News and spoke with reporter Natalie Clancy about her claims.

"Everything that came out of his [a supervisor's] mouth was sexual," Galliford said. "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now."

Opinion: Real Stephen Harper has emerged in absence of a real opposition

Six months after winning a majority government, the real Stephen Harper has emerged, with a broad smile and a big swagger.

Harper at last is able to push through the raft of legislation that had piled up on his to-do list during five years of minority rule, bills thwarted by a once able-bodied opposition.

Among measures now in the government’s legislative hopper are bills to nix the long-gun registry; kill the Wheat Board’s monopoly on selling Western grain; address crime; redistribute Commons seats to give growing provinces more MPs; and eliminate taxpayer subsidies as well as union and corporate loans for political parties.

Minority governments can toil for years without getting the bills they sponsor passed, as the Harper Conservatives know from bitter experience.

Now, a hobbled opposition has changed everything. Not since the time of Jean Chretien’s Liberal majorities through the 1990s has a PM had such unmitigated clout.

The Koch-Cain Connection: IRS Urged to Probe Ties Between Cain Campaign and Billionaire Koch Brothers

The campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain took another hit on Monday when a fourth woman emerged to accuse him of sexual harassment in the 1990s. But the allegations of sexual harassment are not the only controversies surrounding Cain. Also on Monday, the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether one of his top aides has used tens of thousands of dollars from a tax-exempt nonprofit organization to fund Cain’s political activities. Citing leaked financial records, the Center says Cain’s campaign manager, Mark Block, used at least $40,000 from his group, Prosperity USA, to pay for Cain’s private jets, air travel and computers when he was exploring a presidential bid. Block founded Prosperity USA just last year. The leaked records cited in the complaint also suggest extensive financial ties between Block’s Prosperity USA, the Cain campaign, and the right-wing advocacy group founded by billionaire David Koch, Americans for Prosperity. Block stepped down from heading the Wisconsin arm of Americans for Prosperity to run Cain’s campaign. We speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, about its request that the IRS investigate the group’s tax-exempt status, and other ways Block may have been funneling money to political campaigns.

Source: Democracy Now! 

CBC in contempt of Parliament if it doesn't produce documents Access Committee requests: Del Mastro

OTTAWA—The CBC will be in contempt of Parliament if it fails to comply with a Commons committee request to provide the committee with corporate information under dispute in a court battle the national broadcaster is having with the Federal Information Commissioner, says the top Conservative MP on the panel.

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ont.) told The Hill Times the CBC has no choice but to hand over the documents to an in camera meeting of the Commons Access to Information and Ethics Committee, even though the Federal Court of Appeal is at the moment deciding whether the broadcaster must release them to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault.

In an explosive series of hearings by the Conservative-dominated committee, Mr. Del Mastro, Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.), has led the charge in Conservative efforts to pin the CBC down over its protracted battle with Ms. Legault, who has challenged the CBC over documents it refuses to disclose on grounds it wants to protect creative and journalistic secrets.

Canada’s spy watchdog’s questionable $200,000 deal

The head of Canada’s spy review board wired $200,000 in personal funds to a notorious international lobbyist in a questionable aid-for-infrastructure deal in Africa, the National Post has learned.

Arthur Porter, the federally appointed chairman of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), described in three interviews how he directed cash from a foreign bank account to Ari Ben-Menashe, a jet-setting, Montreal-based businessman who often acts as a middleman in negotiations between the Russian Federation and developing countries.

“This is a file that I’ve tried to put in the very back recesses of my mind,” Dr. Porter told the National Post, in response to his dealings with Mr. Ben-Menashe. “Maybe it was a hoax,” he added. “It was a little too skatey…. It was not traditional business as I understand it. It was a peculiar deal.”

And precarious business for a man in, as he says, “sensitive positions.” Dr. Porter was appointed to SIRC’s five-member committee by Canada’s Privy Council Office in 2008, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister’s Office. He was made its chairman last year. An oncologist and hospital administrator by profession, he is one of only two physicians ever to be appointed to SIRC’s committee, which historically has been dominated by former politicians.

City, unions preparing for Toronto labour shutdown of up to six months

Barely two weeks into contract negotiations, city hall and its two largest public-sector unions are girding for a prolonged shutdown of municipal services

Sources with knowledge of the preparations have confirmed that the city planning and solid waste departments have met to plan for a January lockout of up to six months while the parks department is training managers to run Zambonis to avoid a prolonged closing of municipal arenas.

The city exchanged a list of demands with CUPE 416 on Oct. 19, launching the negotiation process that union head Mark Ferguson believes will lead to an all-out lockout of unionized city workers.

The city’s 21-page proposal leaves no aspect of the current collective agreement untouched, according to Mr. Ferguson. He revealed that the city’s demands include terminating CUPE’s employment security provisions – disparagingly known as the jobs-for-life clause – as well as amending or deleting facets of the current contract dealing with worker redeployment, layoff and recall rules, job-posting policies and seniority rights.

Ottawa to slash EI premium hike

The Harper government is scaling back plans to raise Employment Insurance premiums on Jan. 1, 2012, responding to public concern that Ottawa needs to change course in the face of rising unemployment.

Under a plan announced last fall by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, payroll premiums for E.I. were set to rise by 10 cents per $100 of insurable earnings for employees and 14 cents for employers.

Instead, Mr. Flaherty will announce today in Calgary that the increase will be lowered to five cents for employees and seven cents for employers. That is the same level of increase that the government approved last year that took effect Jan. 1, 2011.

‘G20 geek’s’ rights infringed, lawyers say

A Toronto computer consultant says police on the lookout for G20 security threats illegally tricked him into talking and used deceptive information to search his home, exposing his private life in a “brutal and abrupt manner.”

Police misled a judge when they filed affidavits seeking search warrants for his house and family cottages, Byron Sonne says in arguments filed Monday on the first day of his closely watched trial.

“His fundamental right to be free of state interference was disregarded at the moment of his first contact with the police,” his lawyers state.

Sonne, 38, is challenging most of the evidence against him as gathered in violation of his rights to consult a lawyer and as breaching protections against unreasonable searches and arbitrary detention.

An Internet security expert, he was dubbed the G20 geek and spent nearly 11 months in pre-trial custody — longer than any other G20 accused — before being released on bail last May.

Ford’s subway to crawl stop by stop

The Sheppard subway plan will envision expansion out to Scarborough Town Centre but start by focusing on financing construction of a first stop, says the man tasked by Mayor Rob Ford to find billions in private investment.

Gordon Chong told the Star in an interview he will release his hotly anticipated report next month, “certainly before Christmas,” and expects construction underway well before the next civic election in October 2014.

“Our project and plan is to go to Scarborough Town Centre, but we do it in phases, opening each new station as we’re ready,” Chong said. “The most important thing is that we get started in this council’s term.

“As long as progress can be shown, I think the mayor kept his promise.”