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.]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

U.S. resumes drone strikes in Pakistan

(AP)  WASHINGTON - The U.S. on Tuesday fired off its first drone strike into Pakistan since the errant Nov. 25 airstrikes by U.S. forces that killed two dozen Pakistani troops at two posts along the mountainous border.

A U.S. official says the strike, likely from a CIA drone, occurred Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. officials say there had been no promise by the U.S. government that such drone operations would be avoided, but the lull was part of a broad effort to tamp down tensions with Pakistan.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the drone operations are classified.

Relations with Pakistan plummeted after the late-November airstrikes, prompting Islamabad to shut down key supply routes into Afghanistan and force the U.S. to vacate Shamsi Air Base in southwestern Baluchistan province. The U.S. used the base to service drones that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the tribal region.

An investigation into the late-November airstrikes concluded that a persistent lack of trust between the U.S. and Pakistan, and a series of communications and coordination errors on both sides, led to the attacks

Original Article
Source: CBS 

Lemire's Right to Free Speech Vs. Ours

The question of Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act (CHRA) dealing with hate speech has come to a head over the case of Marc Lemire, who was the last president of the neo-Nazi white supremacist group, Heritage Front, and is now a webmaster of a controversial site created in the name of free speech. Lemire is currently challenging the constitutionality of Section 13 after he was vindicated on an earlier Section 13 complaint regarding his website. Undoubtedly, Lemire wants to free cyberspace from restrictions posed by Section 13 to allow him to post freely any and all information.

Clearly there are problems with the operation of Section 13 that deals with intolerable expressions and protects against specific forms of hate speech. In its own words, Section 13 empowers the Canadian Human Rights Commission "to deal with complaints regarding the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet."
13. (1) Section 13 of CHRA states, "It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination." Interpretation
(2) "For greater certainty, subsection (1) applies in respect of a matter that is communicated by means of a computer or a group of interconnected or related computers, including the Internet, or any similar means of communication, but does not apply in respect of a matter that is communicated in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a broadcasting undertaking".

Beware of Becoming Burma's Useful Idiots

When I made my first trip to Burma in 1989, the blood on the streets from a harsh crackdown on student protesters had hardly dried. The climate of fear was so acute that I'd meet with terrified young activists in secret, and evaded government agents pretty much at every turn.

I'd slipped in as a journalist masquerading as a children's book writer. At that time, journalists were banned from the country and the climate of fear and repression was palpable.

Now, as the country appears to be entering a new phase in its relationship with the West, a parade of foreign secretaries -- led by Hillary Clinton and the UK's William Hague -- are assessing whether the Burmese generals have genuine intentions towards long-awaited reform, including allowing the persecuted opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to stand as a bona fide candidate in elections.

The West's sudden rapprochement with Burma (also known as Myanmar) wouldn't be happening without a nod from Suu Kyi, who for many months has been signalling that she welcomed reforms that allows her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to stand for re-elections.

Suu Kyi reminded Clinton -- and no doubt Hague -- that hundreds of political prisoners still remain behind bars. Of the estimated 180,000 inmates in Burmese jails and labour camps, as many as 1,700 are political prisoners.

History shows us that the Burmese generals can be astonishingly brutal and vengeful, not to mention unpredictable and manipulative. Just ask Suu Kyi, who, despite winning a landslide election victory in 1990, was denied official recognition. The Nobel Peace Prize winner's party was never allowed to take power.

Troy Mayor Said 'Disturbing Things' in Meeting, Gay-Straight Alliance Leader Says

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels again met with members of the Troy High School Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Monday afternoon in an effort to reach an understanding after Daniels' anti-gay Facebook slur garnered statewide and nationwide attention last month.

The meeting, however, left several members of the GSA and their supporters disappointed.

“There were a lot of disturbing things that were said in that meeting," said GSA member and Troy High School senior Skye Curtis.

According to Curtis and others who attended the meeting – including GSA member Zach Kilgore and lesbian couple Amy and Tina Weber – Daniels, while discussing mental health and suicide among members of the LGBT community, at one point suggested putting together a panel of psychologists to show that homosexuality is dangerous to your mental health.

"She definitely meant it in quite a negative connotation," Curtis said.

RNC Fights For Corporate Right To Give Money To Candidates And Party Committees

WASHINGTON -- In the latest GOP effort to accord corporations the same rights as people, the Republican National Committee wants to strike down the century-old ban against direct corporate contributions to candidates and party committees.

The ban, part of a 1907 anti-corruption law that helped curb the influence of corporate robber barons, is one of the last bulwarks of campaign finance law left after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision two years ago.

Despite the explosion of so-called independent super PACs, which can collect unlimited contributions, corporations remain banned from making contributions directly to candidates or party committees.

The RNC outlined its position in an amicus brief filed on Tuesday with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals -- ironically in support of two Virginia Democrats who were charged with reimbursing donors to Hillary Clinton.

The RNC has a lot at stake here institutionally, as well as philosophically. Part of its argument to the court was that the current state of affairs isn't fair to party committees like itself.

The brief complains that the corporate ban "artificially disadvantages political party and candidate committees by forcing them to rely on aggregating small-dollar donations from individuals while allowing other political actors, such as independent-expenditure-only political action committees, to receive unlimited corporate donations."

Northern Gateway Pipeline: Haisla First Nation Members Warn Against Alberta To Pacific Project

KITIMAAT VILLAGE, British Columbia, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Aboriginal chiefs opposed to a C$5.5 billion ($5.4 billion) oil sands pipeline backed Canada's government vowed on Tuesday to stop the project, warning that it could devastate fishing and traditional life on the rugged Pacific Coast.

As hearings into Enbridge Inc's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline opened with drumming and native singing, seven leaders of the Haisla First Nation told the regulatory panel their greatest fear was the potential impact of oil spills on their community of 1,500.

At stake, they said, are the salmon, halibut and crab fishing and fur trapping that have sustained the Haisla for generations.

"It worries me to think that all of these will be lost and destroyed when there is a spill - mark my words - when there is a spill. Experience shows it will happen," Hereditary Chief Sam Robinson, 78, told the panel hearing Enbridge's application.

The oil industry and Ottawa are pushing hard for the project, especially after Washington delayed the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline to Texas, as they seek new markets for the Alberta oil sands, the world's third-largest oil deposit.

Flaherty promises 'prudent' budget

Canada's finance minister doesn't believe the term austerity fits for his government's upcoming budget.

Instead, Jim Flaherty says prudence would be more descriptive of a budget that could see some departments chop spending by more than 10 per cent.

Flaherty is in Vancouver for pre-budget roundtable discussions with business and academic leaders.

All government departments were asked to come up with two plans of cutting five and 10 per cent, and Flaherty told reporters before the meeting that some departments could even face deeper cuts, while others would suffer less.

While 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed, Flaherty says now is not the time for "dangerous and risky" new spending schemes that will increase deficits and raise taxes.

The minister says the priority of the budget is to focus on jobs and economic growth while keeping in mind a balanced budget along with the economic uncertainty beyond our borders.

Original Article
Source: CBC 

‘We want to have a voice,’ Haisla chief pleads at Gateway hearings

The public relations battle surrounding the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline kicked up once again Tuesday, but the people at centre stage at the start of environmental hearings delivered a more quiet plea and warning.

“I know all the history, laws, ins and outs of the native culture,” said Rod Bolton, a hereditary Haisla chief who spoke at the opening of the hearings in Kitimat, B.C.

“Please, hear me. We will not be walked over again like was done in the reserve system. We want to have a voice.”

Days before the hearings began, environmentalists issued polls suggesting Canadians are opposed to tanker traffic along B.C. coastlines while an open letter from the federal Natural Resources Minister referred to some of them as “radicals” backed by big U.S. money and naive celebrities.

But the strong words from both sides were a stark contrast from the gentle opening delivered by hereditary Chief Sammy Robinson after Haisla dancers and drummers paraded into the aboriginal community’s meeting hall.

“Walk softly on our road,” he said. “We are very happy to have you in our territory. Good luck.”

The long, fjord-like channel that leads into Kitimat is the proposed site for the oil tanker port because of its deep, protected waters.

Analysis: Guantanamo marks a decade of detention

Ten years ago 20 shackled captives disembarked from a C-141 just arrived from Afghanistan, shuffled blindly along a short tarmac and entered “the least worst place.”

That’s what then U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the prison that had been hastily constructed at the century-old U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It was never meant to be permanent. Even its creator, president George W. Bush said in August 2007: “It should be a goal of the nation to shut down Guantanamo.”

Protests organized by human rights groups have been held throughout the U.S., Britain, Canada and elsewhere this week. More are planned for Wednesday’s anniversary, including one outside the U.S. consulate in Toronto.

The message: “Close Guantanamo now.”

But that won’t happen. Not anytime soon.

On New Year’s Eve, President Barack Obama signed a fiscal law known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which forbids the U.S. administration from using money to build a new prison or to bring detainees to the U.S., even to face trial. In other words, it makes it impossible to shut Gitmo this year.

The Republicans’ Lost Privacy

Since Ronald Reagan, Republican Presidents (and Presidential nominees) have been committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion-rights landmark from 1973. But as the debates last weekend in New Hampshire suggested, the G.O.P. appears to have taken a more extreme step in terms of rolling back the Constitutional right to privacy.

Since the first time Mitt Romney ran for President, four years ago, he’s been on record reversing his previous support for abortion rights. However, when pressed by George Stephanopoulos in the debate Saturday night, Romney went beyond mere opposition to Roe. He said he thought Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case that first made explicit the right to privacy, was also wrong. “I don’t believe they decided that correctly,” Romney said. In this, the front-runner was eagerly seconded by Rick Santorum, who said the Justices “created through a penumbra of rights a new right to privacy that was not in the Constitution.”

In Griswold, the Court ruled that a Connecticut law banning the sale of contraceptives, even to married couples, was unconstitutional. In the most famous passage from that opinion (which Santorum alluded to) Justice William O. Douglas said, “Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy.” Later, Douglas said, “We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system.”

Pope Benedict XVI: Gay Marriage A Threat To 'Future Of Humanity'

VATICAN CITY, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Monday that gay marriage was one of several threats to the traditional family that undermined "the future of humanity itself".

The pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican in which he touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today.

He told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper "settings" and that "pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman."

"This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself," he said.

The Vatican and Catholic officials around the world have protested against moves to legalise gay marriage in Europe and other developed parts of the world.

One leading opponent of gay marriage in the United States is New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whom the pope will elevate to cardinal next month.

The Commons: Lise St. Denis’ day

“This decision,” she explained at the outset, “has been made serenely.”

And so Lise St. Denis, dressed here in black and white, elected as a New Democrat some eight months ago, slipped from one party to the other. To her left sat Denis Coderre, beaming. To her right, Bob Rae listened intently. Both men had helped her with her chair when she arrived at the table. When she finished, the interim Liberal leader patted her on the back. She and they seemed reasonably happy with this little moment.

However serene the undertaking, however justifiable this business of euphemistically crossing the proverbial floor, it was not so easily explained.

Maybe it was something to do with Quebec. “This change in my political life is above all the continuity of my thought process on Canada’s future,” she said, reading from her prepared statement, “and the place that must be taken in our institutions by Quebecois and francophones from all over the country.”

Maybe it was something to do with the “difficulties linked to the globalisation of national economies.” “The decision that I have made is motivated by the challenges that people in my riding will face,” she explained.

A quiz for Joe Oliver: How many died building CPR?

Of railroads and pipelines In his rant yesterday against environmentalists and radicals, Canada's natural resources minister contrasted the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway with the approval process of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. So I poked around and dug up some facts for his perusal.

But, first, a recap. A day before the hearings into the Northern Gateway pipeline, Joe Oliver released an open letter complaining that the regulatory process is broken and that "environmental and other radical groups" are slowing things down when it comes to forestry, mining and energy and energy projects.

Mr. Oliver was quite forceful, warning that such groups "threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.

As I wrote yesterday, if he's only looking for sanity in the regulatory system, I agree completely. Having said that, he didn't specify who he was talking about, and thus tarred everyone with the same brush. And there are legitimate concerns about various and sundry projects that should not be dismissed, or lumped in with Mr. Oliver's radicals.

Doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight amid climate, nuclear threats

The end of the world is not nigh. But it’s closer.

The venerable Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock ahead to five minutes to midnight — signalling that we’re one minute nearer to global extinction.

That’s a reversal from January 2010, when the University of Chicago-based clock was reset from five to six minutes to midnight, because of an agreement between the U.S. and China on carbon emission reduction, and a warming relationship between new Russian and American leaders Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama that boosted hope for progress on cutting stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

“Two years ago it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face,” said Allison Macfarlane, a nuclear expert and chair of the Bulletin’s science and security board. “In many cases that trend has been reversed.”

The clock was first set 60 years ago to focus on the danger of nuclear weapons. Since 2007, it has also monitored the perils posed by global warming.

The reasons for this year’s setback were alarming but not surprising.

“Faced with the clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leaders are failing to change (from) business as usual,” said scientist Lawrence Krauss, a co-chair of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors.

Depth of cuts will depend on degree of service, Flaherty warns

Some federal departments could face cuts of more than 10 per cent in the upcoming federal budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.

He also says his government is taking a close look at the cost of public-sector pensions as part of its overall review of government spending.

The Conservative government is in the final stages of a year-long process that aims to find at least $4-billion a year in permanent savings from the roughly $80-billion a year that Ottawa spends on direct programs.

The government has asked all departments to submit plans of 5 and 10 per cent cuts, from which the Conservative government will choose from to find overall savings.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters after an event in Vancouver, Mr. Flaherty was asked how the government will decide which departments to cut and by how much.

“This is hard work. And of course, there can be numbers between 5 and 10 per cent and some departments can do more than 10 per cent,” he replied.

Lise St-Denis, NDP MP Joins Liberals

A newly elected NDP MP Lise St-Denis joined the Liberal caucus Tuesday, in a surprise move that the NDP said showed blatant disregard for democracy.

The backbench MP, a retired school teacher, told reporters she could not imagine spending three more years in the Commons listening to her party propose ideas she disagreed with.

She pointed to policy differences on the NDP’s refusal to extend the military mission in Libya, its desire to abolish the Senate and its opposition to private and public partnerships on infrastructure projects such as Montreal's Champlain bridge as areas of disagreement.

"I am in the Liberal party because its direction on social policy, on job creation, on external affairs and on the environment appears to me as being able to generate hope for all people living in communities in my riding," she said at a news conference.

Police Chief White is now officially in the Tory fold

Last Wednesday evening, Chief Vern White more than held his own in a televised panel discussion, as he often does, on Rogers TV's current affairs show, Talk Ottawa.

The subject was whether Ottawa should have a supervised injection site along the lines of Vancouver's Insite, the source of much public policy angst, as well as a Supreme Court challenge that last fall resulted in a unanimous decision allowing the controversial injection clinic to remain open, a blow to the federal Conservatives who wanted the program shut down.

On the television show - for which, I mention in the interests of full disclosure, I was the substitute host that night - the Ottawa police chief argued against establishing a supervised injection site. His views were hardly a surprise. White hasn't minced words about his position on supervised injection sites over the past seven years.

But even as he was making the case as the chief of Ottawa Police Services, White already knew that he was in line for a Senate appointment, which would be publicly announced two days later. Looking back, one may well question whether at that moment White was speaking as a public official or as a Conservative senator. In fact, one could take the argument further, that White's surprise appointment to the Senate, home to many a political crony, could retroactively colour his past viewpoints with a political hue undesirable in an independent public figure like a police chief.

Federal health role is about more than money

Jim Flaherty’s surprise health announcement last month was clear, principled and financially generous: 6 per cent through 2016-17, and then to 2024 increases at nominal GDP growth, but never below 3 per cent, even if economic growth lags. This provides known long-term funding and is more than provinces could have reasonably expected from the 2014 first ministers’ meeting.

The principle behind the federal generosity is clear. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking Ottawa out of the health-care debate and ending the national discussion of health and health-care system issues that began with the original federal funding in the 1966 Medical Care Act and continued up to the 2004 wait times accord.

Japan Buys 42 F35s While Canada, 26 Times its Geographic Size, Plans to Buy 65. Does that Make Sense?

Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino has heralded Japan’s decision to purchase the F-35 as not only good for Canada but further evidence the Conservative government made the right decision in purchasing 65 Joint Strike Fighters.

Japan announced in December that is will buy 42 of the aircraft.

“All reasonable people agree that our brave men and women need aircraft to protect our sovereignty,” Fantino said in a statement, echoing the talking points he repeatedly delivers in the Commons. “We remain fully committed to delivering our Canadian Forces the best aircraft with the best benefits for Canadian workers at the best price for Canadian taxpayers.”

But the Japanese purchase raises a number of issues that opposition MPs might plan to question Fantino on when the House of Commons returns.

99 stupid things the government spent your money on (IV)

We’ve previously brought you items 1-18, subsidies and infrastructure and 19-34, food and job creation, followed by 35-55, the environment, animals, and money for nothing. Here is a sample of questionable spending on culture and tourism. Check us out tomorrow to see more stupid things your government did with your money .

Canada’s finances may be the envy of the world, but the bar is awfully low these days. Whether it’s Ottawa, the provinces or municipalities, governments across the country face horrendous deficits. We must tighten our belts, say the politicians. Austerity and cutbacks are the order of the day.

Only, you wouldn’t know it looking at this list. What follows is but a slice of the silly, wasteful, craven and often outright stupid ways governments at all levels spent taxpayers’ money over the last year. To find our 99 items, Maclean’s scoured press releases and auditor generals’ reports, contacted watchdog groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and waded through news reports, looking for examples where the money was either spent or announced in 2011. We also included a handful of egregious instances of waste that only came to light in the past 12 months, even if the actual cash was doled out in previous years.

Not everyone will agree with all these items being on the list. Some will justify handouts to companies and sports teams as necessary to “promote economic activity,” or they’ll say a camping program for new immigrants was a nice thing to do. Sure, it would be great if we could afford everything, but at a time when government spending is under the knife, when services and jobs are being cut, it’s clear many of those with their hands on the public purse have yet to come to terms with Canada’s new fiscal reality.

Northern Gateway pipeline hearings open

Public hearings that may determine the fate of a controversial proposal to build the Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast from Alberta's oilsands have started in the First Nations community of Kitamaat Village, B.C.

Tension dominated Tuesday morning's ceremony launching the hearings into Enbridge's plan to pipe oil to the port in Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded on tankers and shipped to markets in Asia, from the Edmonton area.

Haida aboriginal leader Art Sterritt, representing 10 coastal First Nations opposed to the pipeline, said aboriginal communities must live with the threat of an oil spill. "We've got an Alberta prime minister trying to bully British Columbians," he said.

Outside the meeting hall, Matthew Mask, a local plumber dressed in a Super Mario costume, said plumbers need oil jobs. "Me and my brother, if we don't have a pipeline, how are we supposed to get work around here? It's not fair."

Why Now? What's Next? Naomi Klein and Yotam Marom in Conversation About Occupy Wall Street

Naomi Klein is a journalist, activist and author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo. She writes a syndicated column for The Nation and The Guardian. Yotam Marom is a political organizer, educator, and writer based in New York. He has been active in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and is a member of the Organization for a Free Society. This conversation was recorded in New York City.

Naomi Klein: One of the things that’s most mysterious about this moment is “Why now?” People have been fighting austerity measures and calling out abuses by the banks for a couple of years, with basically the same analysis: “We won’t pay for your crisis.” But it just didn’t seem to take off, at least in the US. There were marches and there were political projects and there were protests like Bloombergville, but they were largely ignored. There really was not anything on a mass scale, nothing that really struck a nerve. And now suddenly, this group of people in a park set off something extraordinary. So how do you account for that, having been involved in Occupy Wall Street since the beginning, but also in earlier anti-austerity actions?

Yotam Marom: Okay, so the first answer is, I have no idea, no one does. But I can offer some guesses. I think there are a few things you have to pay attention to when you see moments like these. One is conditions—unemployment, debt, foreclosure, the many other issues people are facing. Conditions are real, they’re bad, and you can’t fake them. Another sort of base for this kind of thing is the organizing people do to prepare for moments like these. We like to fantasize about these uprisings and big political moments—and we like to imagine that they erupt out of nowhere and that that’s all it takes—but those things come on the back of an enormous amount of organizing that happens every day, all over the world, in communities that are really marginalized and facing the worst attacks.

So those are the two kind of prerequisites for a moment like this to take place. And then you have to ask, What’s the third element that makes it all come together, what’s the trigger, the magic dust? Well, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know what it feels like. It feels like something has been opened up, a kind of space nobody knew existed, and so all sorts of things that were impossible before are possible now. Something just got kind of unclogged. All sorts of people just started to see their struggles in this, started being able to identify with it, started feeling like winning is possible, there is an alternative, it doesn’t have to be this way. I think that’s the special thing here.

It's Scott Walker's Party: How Anti-Union Zealotry Defines the GOP Race

Manchester, NH—When I asked Newt Gingrich if he planned to campaign for Scott Walker in the recall election the labor-bashing governor of Wisconsin will almost certainly face, Newt answered, “Sure!”

“Scott Walker’s fight in Wisconsin has made him a national leader on issues [that are] important to Republicans,” said the former Speaker of the House. “Of course I would campaign for him.”

The Republicans who would be president disagree on some issues. But they are pretty much united in their affection for the nation’s most embattled governor.

After Walker attacked public-employee unions last February, Mitt Romney announced that he was donating $5,000 to support the Wisconsinite. And Rick Santorum hails Walker’s “tremendous courage.”

What is it about Walker—who is so unpopular that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites are petitioning for his recall and removal—that makes him so appealing to the leading figures in the national Republican Party?

That’s simple. Scott Walker is an anti-union zealot. And anti-union zealotry has become a core premise of the twenty-first-century Republican Party.

Attacks by Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich on public-employee unions may have gotten the most publicity. But other governors, most notably Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, are striving to undermine the collective bargaining rights of private-sector workers.

The 20 Biggest Donors of the 2012 Election (So Far)

The 2008 presidential election was the most expensive on record, with candidates, parties, and outside groups dropping $5.3 billion. This year's contest promises to break that record, due in part to the new rules of political fundraising: Donors can pour unlimited cash into outside-spending groups that can freely boost or attack the candidates of their choice. Which means that wealthy donors who have maxed out on their gifts to candidates or just want a lot more bang for their political buck can write massive checks to any of the new super-PACs that are popping up as proxies for politicians and parties.

Throughout the year, we'll be keeping tabs on these superdonors (many of them couples who double up or spread out their gifts). As primary season heats up, here's a list of the current top 20 political givers based on donation data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Northern Gateway Pipeline: Hearings Begin With Anger At Oliver's 'Radical Groups' Quip

KITIMAAT VILLAGE, B.C. - Environmental hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline got off to a much-anticipated start Tuesday, the tension immediately whipped up by comments from the federal natural resources minister the day before.

Haisla dancers and drummers paraded into the aboriginal community's meeting hall before Haida aboriginal leader Art Sterritt announced his irritation with minister Joe Oliver's suggestion Monday that radical environmentalists funded by big U.S. money were trying to disrupt the project.

Sterritt, who represents 10 coastal First Nations opposed to the project, said it is aboriginal people who must live with the threat of an oil spill if the project goes ahead and that the federal government is trying to colour the hearings.

"We've got an Alberta prime minister trying to bully British Columbians," he said.

Outside of the meeting hall, a lone man stood in support of the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Matthew Mask, a local plumber dressed in a Super Mario costume, said plumbers need oil jobs.

He mocked the pipeline protesters, saying that while he was prepared to stand outside the hall in the cold early-morning hours, protesters were sleeping in their warm beds.

Lots of work for Canada's new Office of Religious Freedom

The Harper government is about to create a new Office of Religious Freedom, designed to champion religious freedom around the world. For those who have questioned, especially in a time of deep austerity, the need for such an office, activities within and among the world's three great monotheistic religions during the recent Holy Days -- in order of birth Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- provide a ready answer. There is much work for Canada to do.

In the United States, for example, large numbers of conservative Catholics and evangelicals joined forces in a search for an appropriate Republican candidate to take on Barack Obama, an alien Muslim from Kenya. God-fearing Republicans of all denominations cheered for capital punishment (the more the merrier), applauded the possibility that a man without health insurance might die and booed a gay soldier serving his nation in Iraq.

Across the Middle East and throughout immigrant communities in Western Europe, many Sunni and Shiite Muslims united in embracing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated anti-Semitic document that invented a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world and for generations was treated as gospel by many Christians regardless of denomination.

In Israel, Jews across the vast spectrum of Judaism, from the most secular to the ultra-orthodox, came together in a determination never to recognize the just rights of the Palestinian people.

Cost of inequitable tax loopholes increases

Finance Canada published its annual Tax Expenditure Report for 2011 and it shows that the cost of some of the most inequitable tax preferences and loopholes continues to rise.

For instance the stock option deduction, which allows CEOs and executives to pay tax at half the rate of ordinary working income, is estimated to cost the federal government $725 million last year.

I'd written about the major problems with this tax preference a number of times before. Not only is it highly inequitable, but it also fuels speculative behaviour and short-term behaviour.

Now even Roger Martin, dean of U of T's Rotman School of Management, says they should be eliminated, while well-known McGill business prof Henry Mintzberg wrote in the Wall Street Journal that they " represent the most prominent form of legal corruption that has been undermining our large corporations and bringing down the global economy."

Charity or Supporting Terror?

The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, part of the Conservative's omnibus crime bill, has worrisome implications for certain charitable organizations.

There has been surprisingly little commentary on the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (the Act), part of the Harper government’s omnibus crime bill – surprising because the Act has the potential to deter Canadians from giving charitably in support of worthy endeavours in any part of the world under the control of groups the government deems “terrorist.”

In a recent article in The Lawyers Weekly, David Quayat, Brendan Green, and Hilary Young state that, while the Act is long on symbolism, it will, “at best, be ineffective (and potentially unconstitutional), and, at worst, give emotionally vulnerable victims of terrorism false hope of achieving ‘justice’ through Canada’s tort system.”
 While such arguments may be correct, if ultimately tested in the courts, they ignore the “fear factor” inherent in the Act.

Joe Oliver vs. the radicals, or among them

The Natural Resources Department was always where you worked if you thought environmentalists were a bunch of kooks. In the late 1990s, when the world was young and Kyoto was fresh and new, Natural Resources used to leak like a firehose right into the notebook of a colleague of mine at the National Post. Herb Dhaliwal, then the minister in charge, made a great show of driving an SUV the size of a hockey rink.

But the leaks were always anonymous and Herb’s SUV was a bit of an inside joke. Times change, and now we have Joe Oliver, who’s written (well, whose signature appears under) an open letter as significant in the annals of Conservative government as the ones Stéphane Dion used to write for Jean Chrétien.

There’s nothing subtle about it.

There are two main points to Oliver’s letter. First, the diversifying-energy-export notion the Prime Minister was so big on in his year-end interviews.
Canada is on the edge of an historic choice: to diversify our energy markets away from our traditional trading partner in the United States or to continue with the status quo.
Virtually all our energy exports go to the US. As a country, we must seek new markets for our products and services and the booming Asia-Pacific economies have shown great interest in our oil, gas, metals and minerals. For our government, the choice is clear: we need to diversify our markets in order to create jobs and economic growth for Canadians across this country. We must expand our trade with the fast growing Asian economies.
Remember that battle in the early years of this government over whether China should be embraced or shunned? Roughly, the fight between David Emerson and Jason Kenney? Over. Done. Kenney, who is not used to losing in today’s Ottawa, lost big.

Flaherty’s tax credits cost Ottawa billions

The myriad tax credits introduced by Jim Flaherty before the recession are now placing an added strain on Ottawa’s bottom line as the Finance Minister prepares to wrestle a $31-billion deficit.

In his first few federal budgets, Mr. Flaherty created a wide range of tax breaks aimed at specific elements of the population. Groups on the receiving end of new deductions included construction workers, public transit riders, seniors and parents of sporty kids.

The credits featured prominently in government advertising, allowing the Conservatives to target their message toward various segments of the population.

A Finance Canada report released Monday provides an update as to how much these and other credits – which the government officially calls “tax expenditures” – now cost the federal government in terms of lost revenue.

Some of the changes that received little attention at the time are having a growing impact on federal revenues, the report shows.

For instance, two Conservative top-ups to the Age Credit have increased the annual cost of the deduction by 25 per cent, from $1.8-billion in 2006 to $2.26-billion in 2011. The tax credit for seniors used to apply to incomes of $57,377 or less. Now it can be claimed by seniors with incomes of up to $76,541.

Mark Carney steps into the world of ego-driven politics

Mark Carney’s debut at the Financial Stability Board meetings was supposed to be dull and predictable.

The Tuesday event was to be about reforming the FSB, the banking-regulation advisor for the Group of 20 countries, to give it some sort of legal status, and carry on with its mission of regulating the “shadow banking” system. A bore for anyone not involved, in other words, and maybe for some who are.

Thanks to Philipp Hildebrand, this afternoon’s FSB press conference in Basel will take on a more colourful tone. Mr. Hildebrand was the president of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) until yesterday, when a trading scandal involving his wife triggered his resignation. He is also gone from the FSB, where he was vice-chairman, making him the No. 2 to Mr. Carney, the Bank of Canada governor who became the FSB’s chairman in November.

What is not known is whether Mr. Carney will appoint a new No. 2 in a hurry, or whether he even has the ability to do so, given the FSB’s strange status. The FSB has no legal status or proper budget. It is thinly staffed and is managed as a secretariat within the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Technically, the FSB’s members -- the G20 members, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund , the BIS and many others -- have the right to appoint the chairman and vice-chairman.

Ontario universities, hospitals ‘in shock’ after $66-million funding cut

Research projects at universities and hospitals on everything from advanced health technologies to digital media have ground to a halt after the Ontario government pulled the plug on $66-million in funding and loan programs – and there could be more to come.

The government withdrew the research funding to free up money for other programs that it says have a better track record of creating jobs. A senior government official hinted that other grant programs could also be on the chopping block as every ministry faces pressure to find savings.

“It really came down to priorities,” Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, said in an interview on Monday. “It’s a question of putting hard-earned tax dollars into areas that are going to get surer and better returns.”

The province’s fiscal challenges are forcing the government to reallocate scarce resources to those areas where it can get a bigger bang for its buck. A government-commissioned review of the province’s public services is proposing an overhaul of the way it spends money to help erase its multibillion-dollar deficit.

The funding cuts caught universities and hospitals off guard when they learned of them in a series of letters and phone calls.

TransCanada steps up Keystone XL campaign with promise of 20,000 jobs

CALGARY—TransCanada Corp. (TSX: TRP) has stepped up its publicity campaign for the politically charged Keystone XL pipeline, releasing a detailed breakdown of where the $7-billion project would create 20,000 jobs in the United States, if approved.

The project requires presidential approval but Keystone is a major challenge for the Obama administration in an election year because of opposition from environmental groups.

TransCanada has argued for months that the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast is vital to the United States because it will provide energy security and much-needed jobs.

The Calgary-based company says Keystone XL would create 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 manufacturing jobs.

TransCanada says it has contracts with over 50 suppliers across the country, some of them in important political battlegrounds for this year’s elections.

It says there are manufacturing locations for its equipment in Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, Arkansas, Kansas, California and Pennsylvania.

Original Article
Source: Star 

For the Harper government, the Gateway must be open

The Harper government has launched an all-out campaign against opponents of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline as it seeks to blunt a global campaign by environmentalists to halt booming oil sands development.

With regulatory hearings set to begin in Kitimat, B.C., Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver singled out a Canadian charity, Tides Canada Inc., for channelling U.S. donor money to pipeline opponents, while the Prime Minister’s Office took aim at the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Oliver deliver a blunt message – that the independent panel reviewing the Gateway pipeline should not allow foreign-backed opponents to hijack the hearings and kill the project through tactical delays.

“There are groups that are financing foreign intervention in the regulatory process,” Mr. Oliver said. He said the groups are following a clear tactic of attempting to drag out the hearings in the hope that the $6.6-billion project will collapse.

Environmentalists hit back over pipeline hearings

OTTAWA—Environmentalists accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government of taking the side of big oil over ordinary citizens after the Conservatives said foreign-funded “radicals” were distorting a pipeline approval process.

“It’s definitely very troubling that the government would poison this process,” Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said.

He was referring to the government’s complaints about the role of green activists in public hearings that start Tuesday on a proposed pipeline to carry tarsands-derived crude oil from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia for export on supertankers.

More than 4,000 people have signed up to speak on the proposed $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline at hearings being held by a three-person federal review panel.

The Harper government stepped up its messaging about the pipeline hearings Monday. In an open letter to Canadians, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said foreign-financed radicals opposed to any energy development have hijacked the regulatory approval process by overloading the witness lists. Oliver said the regulatory system “is broken.”

Pedro Moreno, Sag Harbor [Homeless in the Hamptons]

Bryan Downey watches the weather forecast closely in the winter because he knows that if he doesn't offer his acquaintance Pedro Moreno a heated place to sleep when frigid nights are in store, Moreno will never ask.

Moreno, 52, has been homeless in Sag Harbor for about five years, often sleeping in sheds, garages and, in the summer, outside on the beach.

For the third winter now, Downey, a contractor and musician, has offered Moreno a bed in his recording studio. "He doesn't take handouts," Downey said. Moreno insists on compensating him with yard work and other tasks.

Moreno is a house painter by trade and does drywall and spackling, but has worked many jobs including landscaping, moving furniture and restaurant work — "Whatever pays the bills," he said when interviewed by Patch Thursday. He asked not to be photographed.

Born in Cuba, Moreno came to Miami when he was 1 year old. Then, in 1980, after a three-day trip to the Hamptons, he decided to take a job offer and stay. "I was single, so I said, 'Why not?'" he said.

Federal Tax Breaks On Business Meals, Entertainment Estimated At $180 M In 2011

OTTAWA - There may be no free lunch, but a government-subsidized meal or NHL hockey ticket is another matter.

The Finance Department estimates that individuals cost the federal treasury $180 million by writing off meals and entertainment in 2011.

That's up from $125 million in 2006 when the current Conservative government took office.

Canadians can generally write off half of entertainment and meal expenses they incur while earning business or property income, and may deduct 100 per cent of the cost in some instances, such as staff parties.

The annual list of "tax expenditures and evaluations" cites the cost in lost revenue of every tax break, write-off and deduction offered by Ottawa.

The 18-page summary includes everything from the education tax credit — which has been falling or flat lining over the last six years — to the rising cost of tax-free savings accounts, which are estimated to have cost Ottawa $220 million in lost revenue in 2011.

Tax credits for partisan donors to federal political parties are estimated to have cost the treasury $32 million last year, more than the $27-million cost of the per-vote party subsidy that is being phased out by the Harper government.

Original Article
Source: Huff 

Guantánamo Exclusive: Former Chief Prosecutor, Ex-Prisoner Call on Obama to Close Prison

On the 10th anniversary of when the United States began detaining terror suspects at its Guantánamo Bay military base in Cuba, we speak with a former prisoner and the ex-chief U.S. prosecutor, who both call for the Obama administration to close the base. "People are locked up in isolation camps... People lost their hands, lost their eyes, lost their limbs," says Omar Deghayes, who was arrested in Pakistan as a terror suspect and held in U.S. custody from May 2002 until December 2007, most of that time at Guantánamo. "Some people were subjected to sleep deprivation. They weren’t allowed to sleep... And they had to live under those conditions for six years ... without being convicted of any crime, which is the most unacceptable thing." Asked if prisoners were tortured at Guantánamo, Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at the military prison, answers, "I don’t think there’s any doubt." Davis resigned his position in 2007 in protest of what he called political interference in the military commissions of Guantánamo prisoners. "In many of the cases, we had evidence independent of that [torture] that was sufficient to establish guilt. But to use torture to gain intelligence and then also to turn around and use that as evidence in an American court is just not consistent with American principles," Davis says.


Separate oil and state

Forget being responsible to the desires of Canadians and democratic process (remember Bill C-311?). On the energy and climate change file, the Harper government is more responsible to the desires of industry and tar sands advocates, working together to promote a false image of the tar sands and lash out at critics.

Here are, but three examples (this blog could go on and on and on, like the blog that never ends…)

Funding from 'foreign special interest groups'

This recent news is so full of contradictions, it makes my head spin.

Does the finger-pointing at environmental groups by Prime Minister Harper and Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver sound familiar? It should., an NGO dedicated to promoting the tar sands that doesn't accept money from foundations or governments, but does accept money from individuals and businesses, launched a campaign on this topic in the New Year. So the story goes, organizations campaigning against the Enbridge pipeline are receiving money from U.S.-based foundations and this is allowing these foundations to unduly influence Canadian policy.

Mere days later, Harper himself responded in force, sharing this concern and how it will "overload the public consultation" associated with the Enbridge pipeline hearings, which is "not good for the Canadian economy…" (on a side note, I think Harper saying the pipeline is in the national interest when the whole purpose of the NEB hearings is to establish whether the Enbridge pipeline is in the national interest, reveals just how far he is willing to disregard democratic processes). Just today, Oliver announced in an open letter that the Harper government plans on bringing forward new rules to shorten environmental reviews of pipelines and other major projects.

Huh. So let me get this straight. The Harper government responds to's concerns (if only we could get such quick responses!) by promising to change environmental reviews, an important process for public inclusion. And it's a-okay to receive funding from corporations active in the tar sands by a NGO dedicated to defending the tar sands, but NGOs accepting money from U.S. foundations that are active in opposing the Enbridge pipeline constitutes undue influence. And no mentions from mainstream media, or the Harper government about the influence of foreign interests invested in the tar sands -- one of the last playgrounds for Big Oil as many states move towards state-owned energy development -- on Canadian policy. In fact, we actually don't know how much industry spends on lobbying in Canada, but we do know it is happening. Proponents of the controversial Keystone XL lobbied federal government officials 56 times between May and November 2011. Oh, and let's not forget that began as a blog created by Alykhan Velshi to promote Ezra Levant's ideas and that Velshi now works for the Prime Minister's Office. So where is the conflict of interest?

CAPP gives a hand to Harper on polishing tar sands image

There is no need to tease this example out, it's pretty straight forward. As reported by Mike De Souza in Postmedia last August, emails and internal documents released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed a cozy level of collaboration between our federal government and the energy industry. The documents indicate that a federal tar sands advocacy strategy was original proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) during a March 2010 meeting that included senior Alberta and federal government officials and CEOs from oil and gas companies.

As reported, "The records revealed a flurry of emails sent to the highest levels of government, including the office of Industry Minister Christian Paradis, at the time in charge of Natural Resources, from bureaucrats seeking approval to answer the questions raised by Postmedia News and to publicly explain that the meeting was organized by the industry association.

The department did not answer subsequent requests from Postmedia News in the following weeks, which coincided with the federal election campaign. But the emails suggest its bureaucrats requested advice from several senior government officials, including the deputy minister, as well as at least one bureaucrat working for the Privy Council Office, considered to be the administrative arm of the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper."

Opposition to EU FQD

The Harper and Alberta government's fierce lobbying against the EU FQD (Fuel Quality Directive), a policy aimed at reducing emissions from transport fuels, is yet another example. This lobbying includes numerous closed-door meetings in Europe, open letters and being the only non-EU-member state to participate in the FQD consultation. The policy would assign a value for bitumen, or tar sands, that recognize it is a high carbon fuel.

This is one of several examples of how Canada's foreign policy has become increasingly focused on protecting interests in the tar sands and ensuring future market access. This is an interest that is shared by industry. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has also been actively lobbying against the EU FQD. In addition to media work, I recently learned that CAPP has been actively lobbying EU embassies in Ottawa on this topic (more to come on this soon).

Original Article

Every day is election day in Canada

The permanent campaign, an unfortunate mainstay of American politics, is now in full swing here, too

After a seven-year stretch of nearly constant electioneering—including votes in 2004, 2006, 2008 and this past spring—the next federal election is now four years away. But the campaign has already begun. Or perhaps the last campaign merely continues.

Consider one of the otherwise inconsequential portions of the parliamentary day—the time allotted for “statements by members.” These 15 minutes immediately before question period are generally reserved for the recognition of favourite causes, honoured constituents and notable world events, but in recent years this time has also allowed for free political advertising. Faced with a Liberal opposition, the Conservatives took regular pleasure in using those 15 minutes to mock Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. After barely two weeks of relative quiet this spring, the Harper government duly turned on the NDP—backbencher David Wilks stood up on June 15, nine sitting days into the new Parliament, to decry the dangerous policies of the “radical hard left NDPers.” Five days later, Conservative Blake Richards ventured that the NDP was “not fit to govern.” “With its high tax plan, the NDP is not fit to govern or to lead Canada through the fragile global economic recovery,” Richards informed the House. That particular phrase—and its cousin “unfit to govern”—have since been committed to Hansard, during members’ statements, question period and otherwise, a total of 37 times.

Toronto budget committee votes to chop library, but save two pools in Ford allies’ wards

Toronto’s budget committee has voted to cut an extra $7 million from the budget of the library system, a decision that will mean reducing some combination of branch hours, reading programs and book purchases if it’s approved by council next week.

Defying Mayor Rob Ford’s demand for a 10 per cent cut, the library board voted in the fall to approve a cut of only 5.9 per cent, or $10 million. But council has the final say, and the conservative-dominated budget committee voted Monday to force the board to meet Ford’s target.

The committee also voted to save two of seven threatened school pools. Both are located in communities represented by Ford allies — a fact the conservatives said was coincidental and left-leaning Ford critics said was not.

The committee’s library proposal would leave it to the board to decide where to find the extra $7 million. Chief librarian Jane Pyper says the only realistic options are cutting branch hours and the collections budget, or eliminating services such as literacy programs and the Bookmobile.

Diamond Jubilee: Conservatives Balked At Cost Of Celebrations For Queen's 60th Year On The Throne

OTTAWA - When it comes to celebrating the Queen's 60th year on the throne, the governing Conservatives don't want to spend a king's ransom.

New documents show Heritage Minister James Moore's office balked at the initial quote for Diamond Jubilee festivities.

"In January 2011, your office reviewed the cost estimate for the Diamond Jubilee framework and asked that it be reduced from $8.8 million to $7.5 million," says a briefing note to Moore.

The Canadian Press obtained the document under the Access to Information Act.

Celebrations are set to kick off across Canada next month to commemorate the day Queen Elizabeth II became sovereign on the death of her father, King George VI.

Last month, the heritage minister announced scaled-back spending of $7.5 million on Diamond Jubilee celebrations. That includes $2 million for events in the Queen's honour, and $3.7 million for 60,000 special medals for civic-minded Canadians.

"By supporting this most historic and significant anniversary, our government is delivering on its commitment to reinforce our heritage through active celebration of our institutions that define who we are as Canadians," Moore said in a statement.

U.S. Internal Revenue Service Revives Offshore Tax Dodger Forgiveness Program

Jan 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Monday said it was reopening an offshore voluntary disclosure program for U.S. taxpayers who have evaded taxes by hiding money in secret bank accounts.

Two previous IRS programs, which ran in 2009 and 2011, brought in more than $4.4 billion in taxes from tens of thousands of tax evaders, said the tax collection agency.

"This new program makes good sense for taxpayers still hiding assets overseas and for the nation's tax system," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in a statement. (Reporting By Lynnley Browning. Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Steve Orlofsky)
Source: Huff 

Occupy New Hampshire Counters the Republican Narrative

Manchester, NH—New Hampshire is a small state, so its primary does not allocate many delegates to the Republican National Convention. The reason New Hampshire’s primary is so important is the momentum it creates for the winning candidate. And the reason it creates momentum is because the national media obsessively cover it in great detail. So, in some sense, the media coverage is itself the primary.

Ground zero for the media in New Hampshire right now is the Radisson hotel in downtown Manchester. Television news networks and major news organizations have set up makeshift studios and filing rooms—akin to the media pavilion outside a national party’s convention—in the Radisson’s lower levels and on its front lawn.

Directly across the street from the Radisson is a park, which has been turned into an encampment, with a circle of tents and an information shack, and a rotating cast of protesters on the sidewalk in front. This is the heart of Occupy New Hampshire, a protest movement inspired by its more famous progenitor on Wall Street.

Wisely situated for maximum media visibility—the protesters wave signs for passing cars and get a supportive honk every minute—the movement is organized much like the media entourage. At any given moment the vast majority of Occupy activists are not in the park but out at campaign events, peacefully but forcefully making their voices heard. According to organizers, there are roughly 600 people taking part in Occupy activities in New Hampshire right now. The core group is from within the state, but many have come in from all over New England.

Hawks Hysterical Over Pentagon Cuts

To no one’s surprise, the military-industrial complex and its allies are pushing back against the Obama administration’s plans to trim some fat at the Pentagon.

The big boys—namely, the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council—co-wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warning that even Panetta’s modest efforts to slow defense spending could lead to catastrophe. Panetta’s proposed $480 billion reduction might fatally undermine the defense industrial base, the letter warned, and it added that they expect further cuts in years to come.

Noting that the Congressional supercommittee’s failure to reach an accord might trigger another $600 billion in defense cuts, the three industry heavyweights said, “Even if the trillion-dollar ‘doomsday’ scenario is avoided, respondents were operating under the assumption that, based on past history, more cuts would be added on top of the $480 billion over the next decade.”

Hawks, including many cited in a Washington Times survey of reaction to the strategic review, are especially alarmed by the administration’s decision to reverse the current strategy that calls on the Defense Department to be capable of fighting two wars at once. In addition, President Obama and Panetta want to shrink the Army and the Marines, cut back on counterinsurgency capabilities and fall back on air and naval deployments, high-tech gizmos and intelligence, while shifting America’s priority from the Middle East to Asia and the Pacific.

Elizabeth Warren Stands Outside Fenway, in the Cold, Shaking Hands

A little more than two years ago to the day, while locked in a tight race with Republican Scott Brown for the vacant Massachusetts Senate seat, Martha Coakley, the state attorney general, offered up the quote that no number of foreclosure fraud lawsuits will be able to wipe from her obituary. Asked about her hands-off campaign style, she pushed back: "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?"

That's Elizabeth Warren shaking hands in the cold, at Fenway Park, during a college hockey doubleheader. (Here she is standing outside Fenway, for you sticklers.)

As for Warren's campaign, the most recent survey of the race, from the Boston Herald, gave her a seven-point lead over the incumbent. And Brown appears to be feeling the heat. Last Monday, after Obama announced he'd appointed former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to chair the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—crafted by Warren—Brown broke with his party to endorse the move: "I support President Obama's appointment today of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB. I believe he is the right person to lead the agency and help protect consumers from fraud and scams."

Original Article
Source: Mother Jones