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.]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newt Gingrich Remarks Outrage Palestinians

DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said he supports a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that includes two separate states, but he did not step back Saturday from his assertion that Palestinians are an "invented" people, an incendiary comment that infuriated one side in the Mideast peace process.

The burden to show a willingness to reach a peace accord with the Israelis lies squarely with the Palestinians, he said.

"When the president keeps talking about a peace process while Hamas keeps firing missiles into Israel, if we had a country next to us firing missiles, how eager would we be to sit down and negotiate?" Gingrich told a veterans forum in Des Moines, before participating in a nationally televised debate with six other GOP candidates vying for the presidential nomination.

Palestinian officials reacted furiously on Saturday to Gingrich's assertion, accusing the Republican presidential hopeful of incitement and staging a "cheap stunt" to court the Jewish vote.

The remarks struck at the heart of Palestinian sensitivities about the righteousness of their struggle for an independent state and put him at odds not only with the international community but with all but an extremist fringe in Israel. Mainstream Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, support the idea of an independent Palestine alongside Israel as part of a final peace agreement.

Russia Protests: Thousands Rally Against Vote Fraud, Putin

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of people held the largest anti-government protests that post-Soviet Russia has ever seen on Saturday to criticize electoral fraud and demand an end to Vladimir Putin's rule. Police showed surprising restraint and state-controlled TV gave the nationwide demonstrations unexpected airtime, but there is no indication the opposition is strong enough to push for real change from the prime minister or his ruling party.

Nonetheless, the prime minister seems to be in a weaker position than he was a week ago, before Russians voted in parliamentary elections. His United Party lost a substantial share of its seats, although it retains a majority.

The independent Russian election-observer group Golos said Saturday that "it achieved the majority mandate by falsification," international observers reported widespread irregularities, and the outpouring of Russians publicly denouncing him throughout the country undermines Putin's carefully nurtured image of a strong and beloved leader.

Putin "has stopped being the national leader – in the eyes of his team, the ruling political class and society," analyst Alexei Malachenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center wrote on his blog.

Putin, who was the president of Russia in 2000-2008 before stepping aside because of term limits, will seek a new term in the Kremlin in the March presidential elections. The protests have tarnished his campaign, but there is not yet any obvious strong challenger.

‘History on trial’ in Manitoba Métis land case

OTTAWA—If justice delayed is, indeed, justice denied, the Supreme Court of Canada is about to preside over one of the greatest denials of justice in Canadian history.

With the plight of the people of Attawapiskat dominating the Canadian agenda and sparking fresh introspection of our treatment of aboriginals, another indigenous people is quietly ready for its date with destiny.

For the Métis of Manitoba, the wheels of justice have taken three decades to get to this point.

But they are trying to undo what they believe is a wrong perpetrated 141 years ago.

No court has yet seen history through their eyes.

The country’s highest court will hear arguments on a Métis land deal from 1870, an unfinished piece of Confederation that hinges on a promise John A. Macdonald made to Louis Riel.

The Métis case will be made by Thomas Berger, whose long career has included court victories for Canadian aboriginals, including the 1973 decision that led to the formal recognition of aboriginal title in this country, leading to land claim settlements covering half the Canadian land mass.

Canada’s need for the Tories’ snooping law is not proven

Early next year the government will introduce legislation featuring new information disclosure requirements for Internet providers, the installation of mandated surveillance technologies, and creation of new police powers. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the chief proponent of the new law, , has defended the plans, stating that opponents are putting “the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Toews’ stance in the face of widespread criticism from the privacy community and opposition parties is likely to be accompanied by a series of shaky justifications for the legislation.

For example, the bill will mandate the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight — that is, without a warrant. Under current privacy laws, providers may voluntarily disclose customer information but are not required to do so. Toews has argued that the mandated information is akin to “phone book data” that is typically publicly available without restriction.

Yet the legislation extends far beyond phone book information by requiring the disclosure of eleven different items including customer name, address, phone number, email address, Internet protocol address, and a series of device identification numbers. Many Canadian courts have recognized the privacy interests associated with this data.

Occupy Boston: Police Evict Protesters; 46 Arrested

BOSTON -- Police officers swept through Dewey Square early Saturday, tearing down tents at the Occupy Boston encampment and arresting dozens of protesters, bringing a peaceful end to the 10-week demonstration.

Officers began moving into the encampment at about 5 a.m. to "ensure compliance with the trespassing law," police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said. The city had set a deadline for midnight Thursday for the protesters to abandon the site but police took no action until early Saturday, making Boston the latest city where officials moved to oust protesters demonstrating against what they call corporate greed and economic injustice.

As police moved in, about two dozen demonstrators linked arms and sat down in nonviolent protest and officers soon began arresting them, according to the Boston Globe.

The protesters were "very accommodating" to the officers, Driscoll said. Forty-six people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said. No injuries were reported.

The entire operation lasted less than an hour. Crews then entered the area to begin cleaning it.

Pot & politics

Eighteen-year-old Adam Greenblatt was lying in bed one morning when his mother burst into his room and demanded to know if he had any drugs.

Greenblatt, who had been busted for possession while smoking up with some friends outside his high school in suburban Toronto, thought his mom was hassling him about pot again.

But this time was different. Adam's father wanted to give marijuana a try, his mother said. Get out your dope, she told him.

Michael Greenblatt, a dentist, had suffered from multiple sclerosis since his late 30s. The neurological condition left him with a twisted arm and unable to practise dentistry.

After 20 years of taking toxic pharmaceuticals that were less and less effective at controlling his spasms and nausea, he was desperate for relief.

"I was in so much pain I had to try something else," he recalls.

He had never tried pot, even in high school or university in the 1960s, and didn't want to start by smoking. Adam sautéed some cannabis in butter for him and smeared it on a sandwich.

Ruling not just a slap on Ritz

In 2006, Stephen Harper said that even if his Conservatives won a majority government, he would not have "absolute power" because the senators, civil servants and judges appointed by the Liberals would hold him in check.

Now that he has his majority, it looks like not even the courts are going to deter Harper from pushing ahead with Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which will eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on western wheat and barley sales next August.

Despite the federal court ruling Wednesday that said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz broke the law by failing to consult with the CWB's board of directors and conduct a vote among wheat and barley producers before making changes to the CWB's single desk, Harper promised Bill C-18 would be passed by the Senate next week.

"Nothing in the ruling contradicts the government's fundamental right to change the law,'' Harper told the House of Commons. Well, at least he's half right.

Justice Douglas Campbell's ruling does not question the validity of Bill C-18 or the government's right to pass legislation. The ruling does say, however, that the government is subject to the laws of the land, specifically Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which requires a producer plebiscite if changes are made to the board's monopoly powers.

Opposition raises concerns over citizenship crackdown

Canada ought to spend as much time processing legitimate claims for citizenship as it does cracking down on alleged fraudsters, the opposition argued Friday, amid news the government had moved to strip as many as 6,500 people of their citizenship or permanent resident status.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Friday in Montreal that the government was acting on evidence that about 2,100 people had obtained citizenship through fraudulent means, while another 4,400 permanent residents were flagged for failing to meet strict residency requirements.

"We will apply the full strength of Canadian law. Where evidence permits, we will seek the revocation of permanent resident status or citizenship and, in some cases, the deportation of anyone perpetrating such fraud," Kenney said. "Our message is clear: if you want to become a Canadian citizen you have to play by our rules. You have to respect our country and you have to be honest. Canadian citizenship is not for sale."

The majority of people caught up in the sweep are said to be living outside the country and Kenney argued many employed crooked immigration consultants - some of whom already have been arrested - to create false residency alibis, paying as much as $25,000 for the service.

Questions about MacKay’s helicopter ride make it on the order paper

Our librarian-extraordinaire Kirsten Smith spotted this on the order paper this morning. Seems the opposition parties are refusing to let Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s use of a Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter in July 2010 die.

For the record, the government is supposed to answer these questions within 45 days. That means nothing should be expected until well into the first few months of the new year. If the government prorogues Parliament to introduce a new Throne Speech, as some have predicted, these questions would have to be reintroduced.

For clarity, the LAV III upgrade announcement in London, Ont., is what MacKay was leaving the private fishing lodge near Gander to attend. It was on July 9. The government says MacKay was forced to leave on very short notice to attend the announcement. Departmental emails show the request for a helicopter pick-up coming in on July 6.  With that in mind…

Harper to farmers — plan as if wheat board is toast

OTTAWA — The federal government told western grain farmers Friday to continue planning as if a bill opening up wheat and barley sales in Western Canada will become law.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made the statements Friday as the government officially filed its appeal of a court ruling from earlier in the week that threw a legal wrench into his legislation to end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.

"While others try to deny western farmers control over their own crop, our Government remains focused on creating more economic opportunities for Western Canadian farmers by passing the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act," Ritz said in a news release.

Justice Douglas Campbell ruled in Winnipeg on Wednesday that by introducing Bill C-18 without holding a vote among producers or consulting the Canadian Wheat Board's directors, Ritz violated the existing Canadian Wheat Board Act.

The act explicitly states the minister cannot introduce a bill in Parliament which excludes any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley from the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on the sale and marketing of those grains without consulting with the board and unless producers have voted in favour of doing so.

Build taps and toilets... not prisons!

The Council of Canadians was invited on Tuesday to speak at an event in Ottawa about the housing crisis in Attawapiskat organized by Kairos and Centretown United.

While I spoke about the water crisis as a water campaigner, I recognize that Attawapiskat is a much larger issue in which the lack of access to water and sanitation only highlight the depth of the injustice faced by the community for decades. There is nothing natural about poverty. The housing crisis in Attawapiskat is a not an accident or an isolated incident. Attawapiskat is a natural outcome of Canada's violent colonial past and racist present.

The ideology aggressively pursued by the Harper government is not neutral when it comes to race and gender. Harper is very deliberately building a world in which powerful white guys get richer and Indigenous children are more likely to go without access to water.

The Occupy movement is a testament to a generation that rejects the myth of trickle-down economics and the (North) American dream that promises upward mobility for those who work or dream hard enough. It is hard to believe that anyone would buy into the idea that the Irvings of New Brunswick or Paul Desmarais of Quebec going from filthy rich to filthy richer will somehow trickle down to those living without heat and water in Attawapiskat.

What Now on the Crime Bill?

There is yet an opportunity to mitigate the most harmful aspects of the crime bill and to turn the tide against the junk politics that inform it.

C-10, the omnibus crime bill, passed third reading in the House of Commons and is now headed to the Senate for what is supposed to be sober second thought. The vote was a depressing anticlimax for the many Canadians who were fighting to stop or amend this legislation. And the implacable inevitability of its passage in the Senate must surely lead many to ask, "why bother, what’s the point?"

This question takes on added poignancy as we read more and more articles describing the relatively unconstrained power of the current majority government to do as it pleases, impervious to opposition voices or contrary evidence. I was watching Jamie Watt, a Conservative political strategist, on CBC explaining that Canadians were turning the page on the crime issue (and, for that matter, the Kyoto accord) and so, the message goes, it’s time to get over it.

Well, maybe not. Thankfully many are not willing to “get over it." How heartening, for example, to hear announce that they were simply regrouping for the next stage of their campaign for better justice policy. So, here are some reasons not to turn the page, instead to continue the fight.

‘Enough is enough’: Tens of thousands rally in Moscow to protest election results

MOSCOW—For high school principal Vasily Vogin, it is sickeningly familiar.

First there was the flurry of video clips this week showing widespread corruption during vote counting for Russia’s Dec. 4 parliamentary election.

Then there was the fallout: the arrest of influential and critical bloggers; the groups of fifth-grade children shepherded into political rallies supporting the ruling party; and finally, the news high school students were ordered to attend classes so they could not attend a weekend rally calling attention to the voting debacle.

“Disgusting,” the 56-year-old Vogin said, snarling. “What’s next? Are we going to have May Day parades again like we had during the Soviet Union? That’s the way we’re going.”

Vogin was among tens of thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets in what was the largest political protest in the Russian capital since the fall of communism in 1991.

Young and old alike, many wearing white ribbons as a symbol of their frustrations over growing corruption in their country, packed a square near the Kremlin in Moscow’s downtown Saturday afternoon. For hours, the throngs waved Russian’s white, red and blue national flag, chanted slogans such as “We are for free elections” and hoisted banners with messages like “The government tricked us.”

Canada Libya Mission Party Rings Up $850,000 In Parliament Hill Celebration

OTTAWA - It cost Canadian taxpayers $850,000 for a Parliament Hill celebration on the return of forces who served as part of the Libya campaign.

Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, confirmed the figure late Friday.

The special recognition ceremony, complete with an air force fly past of fighter jets and a C-17 transport, was to honour troops from the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector.

It took place on Nov. 24 and included honours for the Canadian commander of the NATO mission, Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard.

Canada's participation in the military mission, which aided in the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, officially ended on Oct. 28 after over six months of operations.

It included 1,500 sorties by combat and support aircraft.

Critics were quick to point out that the government had not lavished a similar ceremony on troops returning from the combat mission in Afghanistan, but MacKay pointed out that Canada's participation in the training mission until 2014 meant that those celebrations would be delayed.

Yet, it was billed as a celebration for Canadian Forces members and their families.

"This recognition ceremony was a valuable opportunity to connect Canadians to our military heroes and nationally showcase the men and women who helped ensure that a brutal regime could no longer threaten and inflict violence against its own citizens," said Paxton.

Source: Huff 

Speaker to rule on Tory 'dirty tricks' against Montreal Liberal MP

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives likely will learn next week if they breached the parliamentary privileges of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler by spreading erroneous reports in his Montreal riding about his resignation.

The ruling by House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer comes in the wake of growing complaints that the Tories have engaged in a "dirty tricks" campaign to destabilize Cotler, possibly to force a byelection and pave the way for a Conservative candidate who nearly won the coveted Mount Royal riding in the recent general election.

The Tories hired a polling company with links to senior Conservative MPs to conduct a survey in Cotler's riding — asking people in a phone blitz last month who they would vote for in the next election.

The Liberals say Mount Royal constituents who received the calls, and who asked for an explanation, were flatly told that Cotler had either quit or that his resignation was imminent — a tactic that he says has caused public confusion and has made it difficult for him to perform his duties.

The veteran MP, a former justice minister, was elected in May to a four-year term that doesn't end until the next general election in October 2015. He says he's not going anywhere, and that no MP should be subjected to such "false and misleading" polling tactics that interfere with his work.

Canada blames China for being 'obstructionist' on climate treaty

With negotiations extended by an extra day and huge differences still remaining, Canada is blaming China for being “obstructionist” on a climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The global negotiations in Durban descended into a fierce war of words on Friday as countries battled over the text of a potential agreement on how to limit greenhouse gases. At one point on Friday, the talks seemed on the verge of collapse. Some delegates sharply criticized Canada, while Canada in turn blamed China for the obstacles in the negotiations.

Late on Friday night, a new text emerged in a fresh bid for compromise, but the new text was so vague that it lacked any specific targets for implementing a new treaty.

Political leaders and environment ministers from about 190 countries will convene in Durban on Saturday morning to try to hammer out a final agreement. The talks were scheduled to end on Friday, but the slow pace of the complex negotiations forced the leaders to extend the talks by an additional day.

Earlier on Friday, when the first draft was released by the South African hosts of the negotiations, there were near-unanimous attacks on the text by almost all major countries. The text called for agreement by 2015 on a new treaty that would take effect in all countries “after 2020.”

Why Canadians are right to worry about border deal

Americans are puzzled by the reluctance of so many Canadians to have personal information shared with Washington. They should not be. Our fears are rational. The United States makes us nervous.

This is not because we think Americans terrible people. We don’t. Americans are our friends. In many cases, they are our relatives.

But since 9/11, their government has played fast and loose with the rights of its own citizens. Is it any wonder that we worry about Washington doing the same or worse to us?

The issue has resurfaced with this week’s border agreement between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama. The agreement requires Canada to adopt more U.S.-style security measures — and share more information on Canadians with the U.S.

In exchange, Obama has agreed to ask the U.S. Congress for money to speed up truck and business traffic across the border.

Criticisms of the border pact are usually described in terms of privacy. But privacy is a remarkably anodyne term for what is at stake.

Russia braces for widespread anti-Putin protests

MOSCOW—Russia’s opposition will test Vladimir Putin’s grip on power Saturday in protests across the nation’s sprawling expanse that promise to be the largest demonstration of public outrage since the dying days of the Soviet Union.

Widespread reports of fraud in last Sunday’s national parliamentary election have galvanized an opposition long marginalized by repressive policies and by state-run news media that virtually ignored them.

Protests, some attracting thousands, rolled on for three consecutive nights in Moscow and St. Petersburg after the election showed unexpectedly fierce anger against the government and Prime Minister Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

United Russia suffered losses of more than 20 per cent of seats it previously held in the State Duma, and critics and local election observers say even that result was inflated by fraud.

Smouldering resentment caught fire, largely through social media, and the country on Saturday expects to see a massive protest rally in Moscow and demonstrations in some 70 other cities.

“This will be a watershed step in the development our democracy. We expect it to become the biggest political protest in 20 years,” Ilya Ponomarev of the Left Front opposition group said Friday.

Leaked U.S. cable lays out North American ‘integration’ strategy

OTTAWA — The integration of North America’s economies would best be achieved through an “incremental” approach, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

The cable, released through the WikiLeaks website and apparently written Jan. 28, 2005, discusses some of the obstacles surrounding the merger of the economies of Canada, the United States and Mexico in a fashion similar to the European Union.

“An incremental and pragmatic package of tasks for a new North American Initiative (NAI) will likely gain the most support among Canadian policymakers,” the document said. “The economic payoff of the prospective North American initiative … is available, but its size and timing are unpredictable, so it should not be oversold.”

Many different areas of a possible integration are discussed throughout the cable, but the focus is on improving the economic welfare of the continent. It suggests one of the main benefits to Canada would be easier access across the U.S. border, calling it a “top motive” for this country.

Ending Canada's 'benign dictatorship'

Here's a little test: what would the Conservatives do if they found a clip of Michael Ignatieff calling Canada a "benign dictatorship?"

Right: they'd put it in an attack ad.

Another test: what would the Liberals do if they caught Stephen Harper saying that?

Right: nothing. At least, that's what they've done with it so far.

So, let's consider that obscure but intriguing article, written in 1997 by two brainy conservatives, Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper. Yes, it calls Canada "a benign dictatorship."

Oh, and it's a passionate defence of coalition governments.

That's right: the whole article is a detailed, persuasive and deeply-researched plea for governments to be forced to compromise with opposition coalitions. That's the only way, said Harper and Flanagan, to curb the tendency to a "one-party state" induced by Canada's "winner take all" system.

Hillary Clinton Pushed For Wider Plan B Access During Time In Senate

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration shocked reproductive rights groups this week when it struck down a recommendation by government scientists to make Plan B emergency contraception available to women of all ages without a prescription. Although President Obama said the decision was made solely by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, he presented a united front Thursday and told reporters he agreed with her decision.

But within the highest ranks of the Obama administration is one of Plan B's greatest advocates: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has not publicly commented on Sebelius' decision.

Before joining Obama's team, Clinton used her perch as the junior senator from New York to push for women to have wider access to the morning-after pill.

Clinton, along with Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), were "champions for science driving FDA-decision making," said Susan Wood, an associate professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. In 2005, Wood resigned as a top official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when the Bush administration delayed a decision on Plan B access, accusing officials of undue political interference.

"They were very careful never to try to direct the FDA what to do, but they knew that FDA, if it were making its decision based on science and medicine, would be the best decision for women and women's health," Wood said about Clinton, Murray and Mikulski. "They were tireless, and they were there for us."

Scott Huber, Homeless Man, Ordered By Judge To Get A Job

Earlier this year, a homeless man who had been living on the streets for nearly a decade was told he could no longer sleep, camp or store any personal property on the streets of Naperville, Ill.

Scott Huber, 61, blames the Chicago suburb for the loss of his home and business, and created a "protest site" downtown where he lived for eight years. When the village issued an injunction banning him from camping downtown, Huber moved "just feet away from the legally defined northern border of the downtown area," the Chicago Sun-Times reports. That area happened to be in front of neuropsychologist Katherine Borchardt's office.

Huber was accused of “extreme and outrageous conduct” toward Borchardt when she asked him to leave the area, and he was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass. As punishment for those misdemeanors, a DuPage County judge has ordered Huber to stay away from the psychologist -- and to get a job.

“I feel like you need some assistance, some direction,” Judge Karen Wilson told Huber, according to the Sun-Times. “I feel like you have certain skills to assist yourself that you are not tapping into.

Saving Our Democracy

The Constitution of this country has served us well, but when the Supreme Court says that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger. That is why I have introduced a resolution in the Senate calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I did not do this lightly. In fact, I had never done it before. The U.S. constitution is an extraordinary document. In my view, it should not be amended often. In light of the Supreme Court's infamous 5-to-4 decision in the Citizens United case, however, I saw no alternative.

I strongly disagree with the ruling. In my view, a corporation is not a person. A corporation does not have First Amendment rights to spend as much money as it wants, without disclosure, on a political campaign.
Corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and spend millions and millions of dollars on a campaign in order to buy elections.

The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of the power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country already never had it so good. History will record that the Citizens United decision is one of the worst in the history of our country.

Conservatives push for deeper cuts to keep budget on track

The Conservative government is talking up the possibility of much deeper cuts than originally planned as they push federal departments to cut billions in annual spending.

Ottawa’s relatively healthy finances have earned plaudits for Canada internationally, but preserving that reputation will be an increasing challenge.

Fear that Europe’s credit troubles will spread remains a concern and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney warned this week that risks to Canada’s financial system have “increased markedly” since June.

The 2011 federal budget launched a process in which all federal departments would work toward a goal of reducing Ottawa’s $83-billion direct program spending budget by at least five per cent.

As the deadline for that work approaches, Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber told The Globe and Mail that he and other members of the Conservative caucus are urging cabinet ministers to cut more aggressively.

“Everything should be on the table,” he said, listing federal funding for the CBC and the Royal Alberta Museum as areas where savings can be found.

National chief supports civil disobedience over Attawapiskat

While tensions continue to grow between the federal government and the First Nations community of Attawapiskat, National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo says civil disobedience is one form of action that could be used to draw attention to the current crisis.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, National Chief Shawn Atleo tells host Evan Solomon that "remote-control decisions, unilaterally imposed decisions," like imposing a third-party manager on the community of Attawapiskat, are not the answer.

A number of chiefs have told Atleo "we need to use every tool that is available to us."

Atleo acknowledges that civil disobedience "certainly has been one of the tools" he has used in the past, specifically when trying to bring attention to the plight of his own community on the west coast of British Columbia.

"Attawapiskat is not the only one" under a third-party manager, said Atleo.

"Again this is about decisions made by remote control, by individuals who have no deep-vested interest in these communities — they're operating from cities elsewhere or Ottawa, for that matter."

Part of the challenge in this crisis is getting past the blame game, and according to Atleo there's only one of two ways to do that: "it's hard or harder."

"Are we going to work separately and have it harder, or are we going to get on with the hard work of working to reconcile our respective jurisdictions," said Atleo.

Source: CBC 

Republicans Unveil Payroll Tax Cut Proposal Set Up To Fail

WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders on Friday rolled out their plan for advancing the two most pressing issues before Congress -- extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance -- but their bill is so loaded with "poison pills" that it seems little more than a politically driven exercise destined for failure.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hailed the proposal, which is on tap for a House vote next week, as "a win for the American people and worthy of the President's signature." The bill would extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance before both expire this year, and would pay for all of it through spending cuts versus the Democrat-preferred surtax on millionaires.

But Republicans attached a grab bag of items to the bill that ensure it won't win Democratic support, and instead sets up a scenario where Democrats are inclined to vote against a payroll tax cut, an issue they have been trying to champion.

Among other items, Republicans added language to the bill relating to the Keystone XL energy pipeline, a move that President Barack Obama has already said is a deal-breaker. Specifically, the bill would give the administration 60 days to resume work on the oil pipeline or require Obama to give a reason as to why the project is not in the national interest.

Obama stopped short of a veto threat when asked earlier this week about the possibility of Republicans linking the issues.

"Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject, so everybody should be on notice," Obama said Wednesday. "I don't expect to have to veto it because I expect they're going to have enough sense over on Capitol Hill to do the people's business, and not try to load it up with a bunch of politics."

America’s war on blogs

Hip hop, being a genre born of copyright infringement, has always had a less tortured relationship with intellectual property than the rest of the music industry. Piracy and commerce coexist peacefully. The release of free street tapes and deliberately leaked singles are common teasers for an upcoming album. These “grey market” tactics have been absorbed by the rap hype machine to the point where they’re just another part of the product supply chain. It’s not some hippyish “free culture” thing either, but an effective form of marketing. In the lucrative world of hip hop, piracy is all about the Benjamins.

Try telling that to the Department of Homeland Security. “Their Immigration and Customs Enforcement wing started seizing” dozens of domains a year ago, wiping entire websites from the Internet based on ongoing (and unproven) copyright violation investigations (I wish I could explain to you what copyright has to do with Homeland Security, but I cannot).

Confident rookie MP one of a new breed of Tory women

Such a contrast this week in the House of Commons. With Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, away at the UN climate conference in South Africa, it was up to Michelle Rempel, his parliamentary secretary, to defend the government’s sometimes questionable environmental record.

And Mr. Kent, a former anchorman and journalist, could take a few lessons in communications from her.

In a Commons full of ministers robotically reading answers from their iPads because they’re afraid to go off script – that includes Mr. Kent – Ms. Rempel simply tossed away her talking points and confidently took on her opposition opponents.

She is among a new breed of Tory women. Like Lisa Raitt, the uber-confident Labour Minister, with whom she pals around, and Candice Hoeppner, the Manitoba Tory MP who killed the long-gun registry, Ms. Rempel stands out.

Only 31 years old, the blonde and petite rookie Calgary Centre-North MP, doesn’t hide behind anything – not even behind those prominent dimples of hers.

Throughout her political career, a pattern has emerged: Other women have pushed her to be better and more involved.

Israeli women facing backlash on rights

JERUSALEM — The subject of a women’s place in public dominated Israel’s headlines this week after a series of incidents highlighted what some say is the growing repression of Israeli women.

The Israeli army, in which women have served since the establishment of the state, has been the focal point of the concern, as it came to light that religiously observant male recruits have walked out of ceremonies in which female singers have performed, claiming it offended their understanding of modesty.

There is a universal draft of 18-year-old men and women in Israel, though a strongly guarded practice allows religious men studying in seminaries an exemption. The current clash is between the army’s tradition of gender equality and new, religious recruits who are asserting their values.

In addition, an incident involving Chany Ma’ayan, a professor of pediatric medicine at Hadassah University Hospital, made headlines when it was revealed that last September she was awarded a prize by the Ministry of Health but, following the directives of Deputy Minister of Health Ya’akov Litzman, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and unlike the male winners of the same prize, was not invited to the stage to receive the award.

Attawapiskat refuses to pay for third-party manager

OTTAWA—The chief of a Northern Ontario reserve grappling with a housing shortage that has some families living in unheated shacks says her band council will not pay for a third-party manager to oversee its spending.

“My community will not consider third-party managers nor pay for them out of our already depressed band support funding budget,” Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence wrote, mostly in capital letters, in a response to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan on Friday.

The Cree community declared a state of emergency at the end of October as winter approached with some families living in unheated tents and other makeshift housing without plumbing.

The Conservative government initially responded by appointing a third-party manager — who was kicked out after he showed up in the community unannounced earlier this week. The manager was tasked with taking control of band-council spending and ordering an independent audit of its books that would cost Attawapiskat roughly $1,300 per day.

The government also gave nearly half a million dollars to renovate five homes and on Friday announced that it had bought 15 trailer homes for $1.2 million to be delivered to the James Bay community when the winter roads open next month.

In the meantime, it offered to either evacuate vulnerable families or retrofit the healing lodge or hockey arena to provide temporary shelter for those living in tents and shacks.

Rob Ford Shoots for the Moon and Snubs The Star

I shocked myself last week when I read Torstar chair John Honderich’s article about it, and realized I’d completely forgotten. This has been going on ever since Ford became mayor, the result of a July 13, 2010 article by Rob Cribb and Kris Rushowy about Ford’s high school football coaching career. He says the story got it all wrong, and threatened to pursue it legally, but never followed through.

The Star says the story got it right.

But let’s say for a moment they got it wrong. Let’s say they said something that was not true that damaged the mayor’s reputation. Then he would have two reasonable options. He could take it on the chins, realizing he’s a public figure and that a refutation of the story by the mayor would have roughly the same reach as the story itself had, and leave it at that. Or, he could take up his legal rights and sue for libel, because we have laws that protect people, including public figures, from having reputation-damaging lies spread about them in print.

He chose a third, unreasonable course, the municipal version of taking your football and leaving the field. The Star made him feel bad, and so he won’t play with them anymore. It’s childish, but it’s also an odd sort of vigilantism. There are laws to deal with these disputes, and he chose to ignore them. As a lawmaker himself, this is odd behaviour, and calls into further question exactly what it is he thinks he’s doing in City Hall, on top of so many other statements, actions and decisions that imply he thinks it’s his job to ensure municipal government stands aside wherever possible, rather than leading or even helping.

A Plague of Prisons

Mass incarceration could soon be upon us if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, decide to plough ahead with their new crime bill

Canada’s on the cusp of a new epidemic -and it’s probably not the type of epidemic you were thinking of. According to Ernest Drucker, public health expert and professor of epidemiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the plague of mass incarceration could soon be upon us if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, decide to plough ahead with their new crime bill.

Similar to a viral or bacterial epidemic, mass incarceration will prove to be detrimental to society once it spreads; first, prisoner numbers begin to soar and then there’s an increase in the portion of the population suffering from mental illnesses, poor health and  chronic unemployment and homelessness.

Drucker uses the United States as case in point in his book A Plague of Prisons. In 1973, New York passed the Rockefeller laws which required judges to impose sentences of 15 years to life imprisonment for anyone convicted of selling two ounces or possessing four ounces of narcotic drugs. Drucker claims that over the next 25 years, New York’s prison population increased fivefold and of course a whole myriad of problems, like the ones mentioned above, began to unfold.

Nearly four decades later New York has come to realise the error of its ways and has reformed its laws to grant judges greater freedom in sentencing, including the option of sending addicted offenders to treatment, instead of prison. Canada, on the other hand, seems to have taken a step back in time as Stephen Harper has embarked on a new hardline approach to criminals with his new robust crime bill.