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.]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Montreal bridge reopens after riot police move in

Montreal's Jacques Cartier Bridge has reopened after police in riot gear moved in to disperse thousands of student protesters who had shut down the structure for about 20 minutes Thursday afternoon at the peak of rush hour.

Police used pepper spray to push back students after warning them to leave the bridge, a major artery heading to Montreal's South Shore.

Police later rounded up protesters in Berri Square, thought arrests could not be confirmed.

The students initially gathered in downtown Montreal for a march against the Quebec government's proposed hikes to tuition fees.

Student groups said the march would be peaceful as it made its way from Phillips Square to the expected destination near the intersection of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Denis streets.

Police, including officers on horseback, monitored the demonstration as it got underway just after 1 p.m.

Don't believe retirement doom and gloom

The ideal perspective on saving for retirement would come from someone who:

-Doesn’t sell investment products;

-Has seen decades’ worth of trends, fads and economic cycles;

-Combines common sense, plain language and sharp analysis that often challenges the conventional wisdom.

Actuary Malcolm Hamilton is exactly this person, but at age 61 he’s heading into retirement later this year. What have his 32 years of experience taught him about life after leaving the workforce? Find out in this edited transcript of a conversation we had on topics ranging from whether Canadians are saving enough to the federal government’s plans to change Old Age Security.

Q: There’s an assumption in almost everything written about retirement that people aren’t saving enough. How true is that?

A: It hasn’t been true historically. During my entire working lifetime, I don’t think there was ever a time where Canadians were thought to be saving enough. And yet, during my entire working lifetime, there never seems to have been a time where Canadians had trouble retiring. But past is no guarantee of the future.

Mayor Rob Ford opens door on parking tax to fund Sheppard subway

For the first time since launching his subway crusade more than a year ago, Mayor Rob Ford has signaled he is willing to use modest taxation to pay for construction.

Specifically, he has indicated he is open to implementing a parking levy, which KPMG consultants estimate could bring in more than $90 million annually.

Exactly what Ford has in mind isn’t clear, but members of his inner circle say what has been discussed is a per-space fee, which would be passed on to owners of large parking lots — malls and movie theatres, which typically offer free parking, as well as pay lots. For the latter, the added cost would probably be passed on to drivers. Ideally, the strategy would be implemented across the GTA, so there isn’t a situation where parking lots on the city limits struggle to compete.

“The best way to go is through development charges and TIFs (tax increment financing)” but parking levies are on the table, Ford told reporters Thursday morning. “You can’t have a closed mind. All the options are there,” he said, referencing Gordon Chong’s report on ways to finance a Sheppard subway extension.

Judy Biggert's Keystone Ties Questioned By Challenger As 11th District Race Heats Up

In light of ethics investigations that have followed the recent passage of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act in the House, former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is claiming Republican Rep. Judy Biggert (Ill.-13th) has a financial interest in the construction of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline and wants her to step away from all related legislation.

Foster, a Democrat who is challenging Biggert in Illinois' new 11th District, points to TransCanada stock, valued between $1,000 to $15,000, owned by the congresswoman's husband, according to Crain's Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz.

TransCanada released its quarterly report last week, which points to overall gains, and Reuters reports that the company has experienced increased profitability over the last 12 months. While reports cite many contributing factors for growth during that time period, congressional votes to move forward with the pipeline likely had influence.

Tanya Ditty, Georgia Teacher, Compares Homosexuality To Necrophilia, Voyeurism, Pedophilia

Tanya Ditty, a Georgia teacher and the state director of Concerned Women for American of Georgia, spoke against a Georgia bill this week that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees -- like public school teachers.

During a House subcommittee hearing on House Bill 630, Ditty compared homosexuality to necrophilia, voyeurism, and pedophilia Think Progress reports.

In her testimony, Ditty cited cross dressers potentially using restrooms for the opposite sex as possible place for exploitation:
"There are 23 sexual orientations that fit under this definition and if this bill became law, then what we would be protecting for public employees is not only heterosexuality, bisexuality, pedophilia, transsexuality, transvestitism, I'm not going to read them all. Voyeurism, exhibitionism, feetism, zoophilia, necrophilia, klismaphilia and the list goes on. I teach in the public school system and I wonder if this would impact the public school system. And we have parents who bring their kids to school every day and expect the school to protect them. And what's going to protect our children if someone that is a pedophiliac comes in and gets a teaching job, is a bus driver, is a custodian, and they can be people that just want to prey on people and they will be protected with this law."

John Sullivan, GOP Congressman, Says He'd Have To Kill Senators To Pass Paul Ryan Budget Plan

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) told a town hall audience on Wednesday that "maybe killing a couple of" senators would help Rep. Paul Ryan's budget pass.

"I supported the Paul Ryan budget and sent it over to the Senate," Sullivan said. "Now I live with some Senators, I yell at them all the time, I grabbed one of them the other day and shook him and I’d love to get them to vote for it -- boy I’d love that. You know but other than me going over there with a gun and holding it to their head and maybe killing a couple of them, I don’t think they’re going to listen unless they get beat."

Ryan's budget -- which Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich once called a "radical" step toward "right-wing social engineering" -- was met with mixed reviews.

When asked about the remarks by Talking Points Memo, Sullivan's spokesperson issued a public apology:
“The Congressman offers his sincere apologies to anyone he offended and for using a poor choice of words to make his point — which was that Senate Democrats are refusing to pass a budget or even vote on the 28 House passed jobs bills. Millions of Americans are hurting — the Congressman feels their pain, and does not want his comments to deflect attention away the serious issues our country faces today, and he certainly does not condone any form of violence as a means to fix what is broken in Washington."

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Ariel Edwards-Levy 

FDIC Lawsuits Yielded Big Penalties, But Bankers Haven't Paid Up

WASHINGTON, Feb 23 - Like many banks engulfed by the mortgage crisis, First National Bank of Nevada specialized in risky home loans that didn't require borrowers to prove their incomes. When the housing bubble burst, First National got crushed in 2008 under the weight of bad loans that it could no longer resell to investors.

Last year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued two former senior executives of the defunct bank for alleged negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, hoping to recover nearly $200 million in losses that it tied directly to those executives' decisions. The two men denied wrongdoing and settled for $40 million.

But they didn't pay a dime.

Instead, the federal agency - which is better known as a regulator that seizes control of failing banks and provides deposit insurance for consumers than for its prosecutorial endeavors - is still fighting in court to collect that money from Catlin Group Ltd., a Lloyd's insurance syndicate. Catlin provided an equivalent of malpractice insurance to First National's executives, but the insurer denied liability for the executives' alleged mistakes.

Omnibus Crime Bill: Tory Bill Would Make Canada More Dangerous, Victims' Advocate, Judges Say

OTTAWA - A group including a victims' advocate, two retired judges and a former Conservative MP say Canadians will be more fearful and less safe five years from now under criminal justice changes being made by the Harper government.

"I think fear is at the basis of much of the government's work here," said David Daubney, former chair of the House of Commons justice committee under the Mulroney Conservatives in the mid-1980s.

"What it's going to do, unfortunately, is make Canadians more fearful and less safe ... and it's all being done in the name of victims," he told a news conference Thursday.

Daubney spent the last two decades working for Justice Canada, most recently until his retirement last year as the federal co-ordinator of sentencing reform.

Steve Sullivan, the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime, joined Daubney on Parliament Hill in saying victims seldom feel they find justice in the courts, and that won't change with tough new sentences under Bill C-10.

Stephen Harper Iqaluit Visit: $27-Million For Adult Education In The North

IQALUIT, Nunavut - Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew to a frigid Iqaluit to deliver $27 million for adult education in the North, an attempt to help high-school dropouts qualify for jobs.

The money will be spread over five years, and shared by three colleges, one in each of the territories.

"By improving access to adult basic education, we are giving Northerners the tools they need to seek higher education and secure employment in sectors that contribute to Canada's economic growth," Harper said in a statement.

Part of the funding was announced in last June's budget, which put $9 million over two years to adult basic education. Thursday's announcement extends the funding time frame and increases the annual allotment slightly.

Harper has frequently stressed that education levels among aboriginal peoples need to improve if they are ever to find prosperity. But he is under intense pressure from native leaders to ante up serious money.

That pressure may have persuaded Harper to spend a day on a short news conference and a photo op on the ice at -26 C.

Transport Canada OK's Northern Gateway Supertankers

Transport Canada has "no regulatory concerns" with Enbridge's proposed marine operations for the Northern Gateway pipeline, clearing the way for supertankers to carry Canadian crude across the Pacific.

In a statement issued Thursday, Transport Canada said it has finished its review of the proposed tanker traffic that would sail through waters off B.C.'s North Coast, taking crude from the Alberta oilsands to overseas markets in China.

"While there will always be residual risk in any project, after reviewing the proponent's studies and taking into account the proponent's commitments, no regulatory concerns have been identified for the vessels, vessel operations, the proposed routes, navigability, other waterway users and the marine terminal operations associated with vessels supporting the Northern Gateway Project," said Transport Canada.

The $6.6-billion project would see an additional 250 oil tankers arriving at Kitimat each year, which means Transport Canada would have to step up its monitoring, the report said.

Northern Gateway has attracted fierce opposition from First Nations, environmental and other groups who fear an oil spill from the pipeline itself or from tankers sailing through narrow coastal channels could cause grave ecological harm.

Canada Budget 2012: Next Budget Won't Be Austerity Driven, Flaherty Says

TORONTO - Ottawa will take a moderate approach to government cost-cutting in the budget instead of following in Europe's austerity-driven footsteps, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday.

"I think Canadians should realize our context, this is not an austerity situation in Canada," Flaherty said when asked about his upcoming spending blueprint.

"We are not one of the countries, many of them in Europe, that have run up deficits for a long period of time, accumulated substantial debt and must really act dramatically — some of them in a draconian way in order to get their house in order again."

The federal government grew as part of the Conservatives' economic action plan during the global recession and "we will have to have some moderation of that," he added.

"As I say this is not austerity, this is not draconian, it will be moderate in its approach."

Flaherty's comments, which followed an unrelated announcement on cancer care, seemingly run counter to signals that he's preparing a painful, cost-slashing budget next month.

Though mum on date, Flaherty vows budget won’t be ‘draconian’

The 2012 federal budget will be moderate, not “draconian,” and will focus on making government programs sustainable for future generations, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.

When this budget will actually be released, however, remains a government secret. Mr. Flaherty says no decision has been made.

Speaking with reporters in Toronto Thursday, Mr. Flaherty picked up on a theme raised earlier in the week by Human Resources minister Diane Finley. The government seems to be broadening its argument for changing Old Age Security eligibility as part of a larger effort to ensure existing programs aren’t too expensive as the baby boom generation retires.

“We do want to look ahead and look down the road so that we can make sure that the important government programs we have are available down the road for younger Canadians, so that we have inter-generational equity, fairness between generations and that my generation,” he said.
With provincial governments also planning budgets that will involve spending cuts, economists and rating agencies have cautioned the federal Conservatives not to harm the economy by moving too aggressively on program restraint.

Mr. Flaherty maintains Ottawa’s plans are simply to slow the rate of growth in federal spending.

“This is not austerity. This is not draconian. It will be moderate in its approach,” he said of the next federal budget.

Mr. Flaherty insisted that Ottawa’s plan will be moderate, but urged the provinces to focus on spending cuts so that they will not have to raise taxes in the future.

“It’s very important that the provinces also move in the direction of getting their fiscal houses in order because the long term effects of accumulated deficits, large public debts, are not good,” he said. “Especially when interest rates go up and the cost of borrowing for a province or for the federal government is challenged. Now we have the best credit rating in the world, the government of Canada.”

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: Bill Curry

Tories in trouble over Toews, robocalls

Only Nixon could go to China. And only Paul Martin could slay Canada’s multi-billion-dollar deficit in the 1990s and emerge a political superstar, albeit temporarily, as a result.

Therein lies the tricky political calculus faced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and the rest of the Conservative cabinet, as they lay the table for Budget 2012, now expected to be brought down in late March or early April.  The delay – federal budgets are typically presented in late February or early March – has been attributed the sheer complexity of determining how deep the cuts will be, and where they will fall.

Here’s another theory: Having been mule-kicked by a public backlash over Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ disastrous handling of Bill C-30, the so-called online snooping bill, and now embroiled in a burgeoning scandal over fraudulent phone calls made during the last federal election, the government needs daylight between this and any future controversy – including blowback over budget measures that will be harsher than anything we’ve seen since the Conservatives took power in 2006.

Radio host puts Tony Clement’s feet to the fire on MP pensions

Conservative ministers are fanning out across the country this week, warning the long-term costs of Old Age Security must be curtailed in this year’s budget in order to be fair to young Canadians who will be paying the tax bill when most baby boomers are retired.

But one minister, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, was grilled Thursday as to how he could have the “moral authority” to cut pensions for average Canadians while MPs continue to enjoy far superior pensions funded by taxpayers.

Until now, federal ministers have been extremely coy as to whether they are planning to touch the MP pension scheme. There have been closed door meetings of Conservative MPs and Senators to discuss options, but no clear plans have emerged.

Meanwhile the cost of the MP pension plan has come under heightened scrutiny since the Conservatives started talking about changes to OAS and public sector pensions.

In an interview Thursday morning with host Bill Good on Vancouver’s CKNW radio, Mr. Clement acknowledged the government can’t act on some pensions without touching MP pensions.

The truth about Lester Pearson's peacekeeping

Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt
by Yves Engler
(Fernwood Publishing, 2012; $15.95)

In his new book, Yves Engler sets to demolish the near saintly status of Lester Bowles ("Mike") Pearson in the public sphere, Canadian foreign policy circles and even on the social democratic left. And in the process, he takes on the much repeated slogan that "the world needs more of Canada."

Much like Noam Chomsky who provides a forward to Lester Pearson's Peacekeeping, the author relies mostly on the excellent but largely unread scholarship plus the former PM's own statements in Parliament and in memos to successfully establish a case.

As a diplomat in Washington, senior foreign affairs bureaucrat, foreign affairs minister and a prime minister in Liberal governments from the 1940s to the 1960s, Pearson figured prominently in the shaping of Canadian foreign policy in the post World War II period.

Deceptive election day robocalls tied to Tory-linked firm

Robocalls that aimed to sow chaos in the swing riding of Guelph in last spring’s federal election have been traced back to an Edmonton firm with ties to the Conservative Party, according to a joint Postmedia/Ottawa Citizen investigation. (Really Edmonton? ‘Headquarters of the oil sands’ wasn’t enough for you? You had to add ‘robocall hub’ to your industries-outsiders-will-slag-you-for list?)

Elections Canada was blanketed with complaints from 18 ridings about the calls after election day. From the story:
In Guelph, a riding the Conservatives hoped to take from the Liberals, voters received recorded calls pretending to be from Elections Canada, telling them their polling stations had been moved. The calls led to a chaotic scene at one polling station, and likely led some voters to give up on voting.
Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen have found that Elections Canada traced the calls to Racknine Inc., a small Edmonton call centre that worked for the party’s national campaign and those of at least nine Conservative candidates, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s own campaign in Calgary Southwest. There is no evidence that Harper’s campaign or any of the other candidates were involved in the calls.
Racknine says it was unaware its servers were being used for the fake calls.
The RCMP are helping with the Elections Canada investigation, while the Conservatives say they are conducting their own internal probe. “Oh, you’re doing your own investigation, that’s cool then, don’t worry about it,” is what I’m sure opposition critics will say to the Tories when the matter is raised in the House.

Original Article
Source: Maclean's
Author: Richard Warnica 

Enbridge gets supertanker nod for Northern Gateway exports

Supertankers can safely carry huge volumes of oil sands crude through the winding waterways that connect Kitimat, B.C., to the open Pacific, a federal review has concluded, giving a boost to efforts to build a new pipeline to the West Coast.

The review by Transport Canada examined the marine passages that would allow the proposed Enbridge Inc. (ENB-T38.900.300.78%) Northern Gateway pipeline to export Alberta oil to buyers in China and California. That $6.6-billion project has become one of the country’s most important industrial initiatives, backed by major energy producers and opposed by a raft of first nations and environmental groups.

Much of the opposition stems from concern over spills in the waters off Kitimat, which is connected to the Pacific through a series of channels and sounds that will take between 10 and 16 hours for a supertanker to navigate. These concerns have been heightened by the memory of the Exxon Valdez disaster, which devastated a similar coastal environment, and by several recent accidents in the region, including the 2006 sinking of the Queen of the North ferry.

Lack of transparency on budget cuts ‘strains credibility,’ Liberals say

The Conservatives need to come clean on government-wide spending cuts and share the details immediately, Liberal Treasury Board critic John McCallum says.

Despite reassurances from Treasury Board President Tony Clement that he will investigate a gag order from his department that would keep the details of spending cuts secret months after the 2012 budget is released, Mr. McCallum said that is not enough.

The Toronto-area MP, who worked on similar restraint exercises in cabinet when the Liberals were in government, hopes the Conservatives will put the spending-cut details in the budget as his party did in 2005.

“If they don’t do it, it’s not because they can’t do it, but because they won’t do it,” Mr. McCallum said. “For this government, which rode into the office on the white horse of accountability, the least they can do is come clean with Canadians.”

Mr. McCallum questioned Mr. Clement’s assertions that the order did not come from him. (The Treasury Board President has positioned himself as a champion of open and transparent government.)

PM denies wrongdoing as NDP calls alleged election fraud ‘a disgrace’

The NDP is linking the Conservative Party to a “dirty tricks” campaign in the last federal election, in which robo-calls were used to send voters to the wrong polling stations.

Basing their attacks on a report Thursday in the Ottawa Citizen, the Official Opposition called on Elections Canada and the RCMP to conduct a full investigation and lay appropriate charges.

“These tactics are a disgrace and those responsible must be held to account,” Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel said in a statement. “The Conservatives were elected to clean up the Liberal-style scandals. Instead, they’ve made scandals of their very own.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has denied any wrongdoing by his party, even as the opposition accuses the Conservatives of using a junior staffer as a scapegoat for the controversy.

“Our party has no knowledge of these calls. It’s not part of our campaign,” Mr. Harper told reporters on Thursday. “Obviously, if there is anyone who has done anything wrong, we will expect that they will face the full consequences of the law.”

Major push needed to get oil to Pacific markets

Canada faces a half-decade of extraordinary effort if it is to send oil and gas to new Pacific markets, an imperative that will require drafting broad new environmental laws and reshaping federal relations with first nations, especially in British Columbia’s disputed territory.

Much of the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline, the $6.6-billion project that would export oil sands crude to Asia and California, has involved pipeline-builder Enbridge Inc., (ENB-T38.900.300.78%) and its ability to navigate the troubled environmental and first nations waters it is seeking to cross.

But in a speech before the Vancouver Board of Trade Thursday, Jim Prentice, the former Conservative cabinet minister, lays much of the responsibility at Ottawa’s feet.

“The federal government needs to take the lead. They need to consult. They need to negotiate,” he said. “Developing pipeline corridors to the Pacific requires much more than money. Leadership, patience and time need to be invested.”

Northern Gateway, and the broader thrust for Canada to use energy exports to profit from the “Asian century,” has become the single greatest economic imperative for Canada, Mr. Prentice said.

Gas prices could rev up to record highs by May. Here’s why

Prepare to pay more for gas than ever before.

By May, gas prices in the GTA could ratchet up by anywhere from 5 cents to 20 cents per litre.

Prices at the pump have already climbed by about 7 cents to 128.7 cents per litre in the last month. And while it is normal for gas prices to climb in the spring as motorists drive more and refineries close for maintenance, there are more factors at play this year.

How high can the prices get?

Jason Toews, co-founder of anticipates prices reaching a record-breaking 150 cents to 155 cents per litre by May. Last year gas prices reached a record high of 140.6 cents.

Petroleum analyst Robert McKnight says prices will reach between 143 cents to 147 cents a litre by April. That is a 12 to 15 per cent increase from the pump price you see today, he said.

Michael Ervin, vice-president of Calgary-based Kent Group, has a more conservative prediction of 4 cent to 7 cent per litre increase — in line with a normal seasonal increase.

Why can’t voters fire Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

During the 2010 election, Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi pledged that if elected he would ask the province to approve legislation to allow voters to recall — or fire — the mayor or a city councillor.

At the time, Rob Ford was the biggest supporter of Rossi’s idea.

“There are many priorities when it comes to bringing accountability to city hall and recall legislation is certainly one that I support,” Ford said enthusiastically.

Today, many voters are wishing they could recall Ford right now. Blogs and the Twitter world are filled with outraged voters demanding that the mayor, whose popularity has fallen dramatically since he took power, be sent packing before his term is up and before he can do more damage to the city.

Ford’s job, though, is safe until the next election in 2014. But until then, to whom is Ford accountable, especially when he fails to bring the very accountability and professionalism that he promised voters?

GOP Debate to Rape Victims: Drop Dead

I wrote Monday night about the emerging conservative war on women’s sexuality, and it looks like I was on to something. At Wednesday’s GOP debate in Arizona the Republican candidates for president competed to be the most vociferous in their opposition to reproductive health and freedom.

CNN’s John King read a viewer-submitted question about whether the candidates support birth control and why or why not. The audience immediately booed, because they hate when their candidates are forced to expose their extremism on social issues. In recent weeks all the Republican candidates have all volunteered their opposition to making contraception available, specifically with regard to the Obama administration’s requirement that employer provided health insurance cover it. But somehow asking about that is considered unfair. “You did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide,” complained Gingrich. when in the Illinois State Senate. You’ll be shocked to know that Obama never actually voted for infanticide but rather for protecting doctors who complete abortions when the fetus shows “signs of life” from unfair prosecutions.

But we already knew Gingrich was prone to cheap demagoguery; Gingrich makes a hypocritical attack on “elites,” the media or the “elite media,” in every debate. What we don’t get to see as often is just how inhumane the Republican candidates all are on women’s health.

Watch: Your Town Is Fracked

Pennsylvania's fracking front lines have just been redrawn.

At first glance, the sweeping new law signed this month may seem a good deal for local communities. Over the next 15 years, the state is projected to rake in between $190,000 to $355,000 per gas well; 60 percent of that will go back to counties and municipalities, with the rest going to a state-managed fund for infrastructure projects. Proponents in the Republican-controlled Legislature insist that the law levels the playing field for industry, while rewarding counties.

But fracking can be a messy and dangerous business, and locals complain that the law takes control away from citizens who have battled hard for local decision-making.

Watch the video and you'll see a tale of two Pennsylvanias: The first one, recognizable from Josh Fox's documentary Gasland, is Susquehanna County, bordering New York state. It is dotted with wells—the result of minimal local zoning laws. The second Pennsylvania is Dallas Township, where disputes, protests, and citizen engagement have kept most fracking development at bay. For now.

Original Article

Sen. Russ Feingold, New Obama Election Co-Chair: "The President is Wrong" to Accept Super PAC Money

One of the newly named co-chairs of President Obama’s re-election campaign is openly criticizing the President’s decision to accept super PAC funds, his record on civil liberties, and his handling of the war in Afghanistan. Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has described Obama’s decision on super PACs as "dancing the with the devil." At the time Feingold was named a campaign election co-chair on Wednesday, the lead headline on his organization’s website read: "The President is Wrong." "I think it’s a big mistake to go down the road of unlimited, undisclosed corporate contributions," Feingold says. "That’s not who Barack Obama is. That’s not what the Democratic Party should be. And I think it doesn’t help him get re-elected. And I think it delivers the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, to corporate power and corporate domination." Feingold served in the U.S. Senate for 18 years. During that time, he wrote the landmark campaign finance law, McCain-Feingold. He also opposed the war in Iraq and was the only senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act. After he lost his re-election bid in 2010, he founded the organization Progressives United. His new book is called "While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era."


Republicans Debate in Arizona as GOP Faces Backlash in State over Extremist, Anti-Immigrant Policies

With Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the audience, leading Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum praised Arizona’s crackdown on immigration during a debate on Wednesday night. Romney vowed to drop the Obama administration’s immigration lawsuits against the state of Arizona on the first day of his presidency. Santorum said police across the country should be given "the opportunity to do what they’re doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government." Santorum’s comment comes just months after a federal Department of Justice investigation found "a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos" in Arpaio’s office. Arizona journalist Terry Greene Sterling says "Republican overreach" could lead to an Obama victory in Arizona in November. "What’s happened in Arizona is that the Arizona legislature has been taken over by the extreme right wing of the Arizona Republican Party. And an agenda of extremist bills has been passed and been proposed," Greene Sterling says. "As a result, Democrats are saying, 'Hey, wait a minute. We think that we can win moderates and independents into our wing.'"

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Household Debt: Bank Of Canada Warns Home Equity Loans Pose Threat To Financial Security

OTTAWA - Canadians are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a housing correction, exposing them to a perfect storm of high debt and falling assets, the Bank of Canada warns.

In a book of four research papers released Thursday, the central bank suggests many Canadians have constructed their finances on a house of cards, with ever rising home values the key and vulnerable support.

The bank economists point out that home prices have risen sharply in the past dozen or so years along with debt, as households needed both bigger mortgages to buy homes and used equity from higher home values to finance other purchases.

"These facts are interrelated, since rising house prices can facilitate the accumulation of debt," the report notes. "Households therefore experience a significant shock if house prices were to reverse."

It adds that falling home prices could have a "relatively large impact on consumption" as equity disappears and the ability of householders to borrow is diminished.

Ottawa’s bogus refugee bill

Jason Kenney, the minister of Citizenship and Immigration, knows who the real refugees are. Or at least he knows which ones are “bogus”: refugee claimants from Mexico or Sri Lanka or Hungary are bogus. Bogus refugees include those who use smugglers to overcome the barriers to lawfully reaching countries like Canada which, by signing the refugee convention, have promised not to send back persons fleeing persecution.

Kenney’s system-abusing bogus refugees include those fleeing discrimination, oppression and hardship not quite horrific enough to satisfy the standards required by the jurisprudence defining and applying the refugee definition. Kenney does not mention that close to 40 per cent of the claimants were recognized as genuine refugees last year. Like falling crime statistics, that is an inconvenient truth for this government. Kenney manages to convert the fact that the system does not confer refugee protection on all who seek it into evidence of system failure.

A national security strategy for dangerous times

At a time when the world seems plunged into a period of extraordinary turmoil and profound shifts in big power ranks, Canada could benefit from developing a better "grip" on reality.

We need, that is, a grip on our fundamental national security interests.

And we need to do that by developing our own national security strategy (no, we really don't have one).

That's the strong conclusion of a major report out Thursday called The Strategic Outlook for Canada, prepared as a Vimy Paper for the Conference of Defence Associations think-tank in Ottawa.

The paper challenges Canada's tradition of generally leaving the long-term big strategic thinking to others, that is to U.S.-dominated alliances like NATO and to whatever other international coalition that seemed worth supporting in a crisis.

We've relied on "doing the right thing" when called on. Sometimes that has worked well; sometimes not.

Canadian Forces not welcome to use German airport as support base

OTTAWA — German politicians and members of the public have rejected the Defence Department’s plans to create a military logistics base near Cologne, telling the Canadians they’ll have to go elsewhere.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced with great fanfare last week the decision to locate the small base, known as a support hub, at Germany’s Cologne-Bonn Airport (or as it is called in German, Köln-Bonn). MacKay released the news during a visit to Ottawa by German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

But MacKay’s plan came as a complete surprise to the public and local politicians in Germany, who were never consulted, and who are against the move.

“The airport of a major city is not the right location for additional military air traffic,” Cologne Lord Mayor Juergen Roters said.

The Cologne-Bonn Airport is one of the busiest in Germany and locals are against having additional military aircraft operate from there because of the added noise pollution. The airport serves Bonn, Cologne and the surrounding area.

Stephen Harper’s Canada

Heidi Rathjen says she was inconsolable for three days when the Conservatives won a majority in May. Rathjen is a wonderful person, multilingual and graceful. She was at the Polytechnique on that fateful day when Marc Lepine murdered 12 of her fellow female students.

The trajectory of Rathjen’s life was completely altered by the Polytechnique massacre. Rathjen has become one of Canada’s most effective tribunes for gun control.

She and the families of the women who were murdered were stricken when Conservative MPs threw a celebration after their bill to abolish the gun registry passed second reading.

Suzanne Laplante-Edward’s daughter was shot down by Lepine. "I am outraged," she said in a statement. "I cannot believe that my taxes are being used to pay for a party where the Conservatives are dancing on my daughter’s grave."

Whether it’s an anti-abortion bill being snuck in through the back door or the out-of-control jet fighter contract or the prison building outrage, there is consternation across Canada about what is happening in Ottawa. And Justin Trudeau touched on it.

The first reaction to Trudeau’s comments was widespread editorial page derision and a feast for cartoonists.

EU blocks passage of Canada’s oil sands ranking

Amid heavy lobbying from Canada, a committee of the European Union Parliament blocked passage of a proposed fuel quality directive that would label Alberta oil sands as a more carbon-intensive source of oil than conventional crude.

In a vote Thursday, proponents of the directive failed to win a majority of votes in favour, but neither was there a majority to kill the proposal. As a result, the directive will be taken up by a committee of EU ministers in the coming months.

Key Canadian allies abstained on the vote, including Britain, France and the Netherlands – all home to multinational oil companies that have invested heavily in the oil sands.

The Harper government has been lobbying for two years to prevent the EU from targeting the oil sands due to its high emissions of greenhouse gases compared to conventional crude.

Under the fuel quality directive, EU refiners and marketers would be required to reduce the carbon-content of their overall fuel mix. The regulatory ascribed specific carbon-content levels to types of fuel, including bitumen from the oil sands.

EU at stalemate on Canada's oilsands ranking

European Union officials are at a stalemate after voting on whether to classify Canada's oilsands crude as more harmful to the environment than other fuels — a proposal that Canada would fight.

The ballot by experts from the EU's 27 member countries, which are weighted by population, failed to produce the required 255 votes needed to approve the classification.

As a result, the proposal will move up to the European Council, which will vote on it in late spring or early summer.

"This is not the end of it," the CBC's Margo McDiarmid reported. "Instead, what happens is that this policy … will get bumped up to the EU Council. If the council does vote for the measure to declare Canada's oilsands oil dirty, Canada will appeal to world trade bodies."

The EU's so-called fuel-quality directive — part of Europe's attempts to reduce CO2 emissions by encouraging the use of cleaner fuel — ranks fuels based on their overall carbon footprint. It calculates a fuel's entire life cycle of emissions, then assigns it a number.

Canada's new target: $6-trillion economy

OTTAWA . Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce the launch of free trade negotiations with Japan, as well as an easing of the ban on Canadian beef exports, when he heads to Asia for a security summit next month.

Mr. Harper is heading to Seoul, South Korea, at the end of March for the Nuclear Security Summit, but it is understood he will stop in Tokyo to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and announce the start of negotiations on an economic partnership agreement with Japan, which is already Canada's fourth-biggest trading partner.

The two men are also likely to announce that the ban on Canadian beef for animals older than 21 months will be eased to allow cattle aged 30 months and younger to enter Japan. The ban was initially imposed over fears about mad-cow disease.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office would not comment on the prospect of Mr. Harper visiting Tokyo but acknowledged that the government is targeting the Asia Pacific region as part of its Global Commerce Strategy.

Crime bill won't benefit victims, says former ombudsman

The federal government's massive crime bill won't help victims and could do the opposite, the former ombudsman for victims of crime warned Thursday.

Steve Sullivan, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the first victims' ombudsman, said Bill C-10 is being touted as legislation designed to benefit victims but there are concerns it could hurt them instead.

Sullivan said Crown attorneys are warning that increased caseloads due to the bill could mean more plea bargains and dropped charges.

"That's not an agenda that benefits victims of crimes who turn to the system for justice," he said at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"The bill is being sold as tough on sex offenders. Unfortunately, the government with this bill is going to spend 10 times more money on dealing with sex offenders than they are dealing with children, and building child advocacy centres," said Sullivan.

The Keystone XL pipeline project is not dead yet

Two Republican bills passed last week in the United States seem crafted to force movement on the issue of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline and, more subversively, to attack Barack Obama's second presidential bid.

The House of Representative bill (H.R. 3408) was passed on Thursday, February 16 by a vote of 237-187 and removed President Obama as the decision-maker responsible for deciding the fate of the pipeline. The senate has not voted on this new bill.

Republicans bring back the Keystone XL debate
It was only last month that President Obama denied a permit for the project after Congress set a February 21, 2012 deadline, claiming there was not enough time to concretely review the project. That deadline was part of the last-minute payroll tax cut deal in December 2011.

U.S. political observers and pundits alike claim Obama's decision was a reaction to being forced by the Republicans to make a decision on the pipeline and the issue of American jobs. At that time, Democrats and environmental activists erroneously declared the Keystone XL pipeline dead. The pipeline project isn't dead, just the latest build permit.

Zellers workers face job loss in Target takeover

Many Canadians know that U.S. retail giant, Target, is coming to Canada. What most people do not know is that thousands of Canadians will be losing their jobs as a result.

Target will be taking over more than 100 Zellers stores. Some of these locations are being re-assigned to other large retailers, but most will be converted to Target stores. Yet the people who currently work in these stores are being let go. There could be up to 15,000 job losses. It does not seem to matter how many years of loyal service workers have provided, how many customers have praised their work, or how many children they are supporting on their wages.

Of course Target will need to hire workers, although we do not know how many. But Zellers workers are simply being told that they are welcome to apply for posted jobs, and try their luck along with everyone else. That is, apply for the jobs they were already doing, and start at the bottom with no credit for their years of service. Zellers workers are not making high wages now. But if they do get re-hired, any wage increases or benefits they may have earned over time will be gone, plus they may only get part-time hours.

Iran, the U.S., and the Nuclear Threshold

A strategy based purely on coercion risks convincing Tehran that it has no choice but to weaponize.

The on-again, off-again talks between Iran and the United States are back on, after a few months of sabre-rattling, assignations, and computer viruses. The latest word from Washington is one of guarded optimism, but few observers are holding out much hope, the level of mistrust seems too high, and both sides seem determined to force the other to back down. Nevertheless, the West needs to remain committed to a negotiated solution in its standoff with Iran. The costs of a direct confrontation are too high, and, despite the way intelligence reports have been portrayed in the media, there still appears to be some room for compromise.

High productivity doesn’t guarantee prosperity

 We all know that Canada’s slow rate of productivity growth in the past decade or so has been uninspiring. On the face of it, this is a serious problem: everything else being equal, higher productivity leads to higher wages and incomes. But everything else isn’t always equal.

Real wages in Canada and in the United States have tracked each other pretty closely over the past 30 years, notwithstanding the widening productivity gap. And if you look at broader measures of income and purchasing power, Canada has been outperforming the U.S. for more than a decade.

 The consensus explanation for this divergence is of course the strong growth in commodity prices: strong resource prices have allowed us to enjoy higher incomes despite our poor productivity record. Where I think the consensus narrative goes wrong is when it goes on to speculate about what might happen if and when resource prices fall.

Instead of viewing high commodity prices as a temporary reprieve for low productivity growth, it is probably more accurate to view high resource prices as the cause of low productivity growth.

Electro-Motive workers approve severance deal

Workers at Caterpillar Inc.'s London, Ont. locomotive plant have voted 95 per cent in favour of a deal on severance pay and pensions, three weeks after the company shut the factory down.

The deal was finalized between Electro-Motive Canada and Canadian Auto Workers, representing almost 500 unionized workers, on Tuesday. In a vote Thursday, 400 members voted in favour of the deal, 22 said no and one ballot was spoiled, the CAW said.

The deal comes after two weeks of negotiations in which the union said it was aiming to get more than a minimal severance agreement. Labour laws stipulate workers with less than five years of experience aren't required to receive severance, while those with more than five years experience get one week's pay for each year served to a maximum of 26 weeks.

The current agreement calls for three weeks pay for each year served -- including those with less than five years experience.

Alleged Tory voter-suppression campaign ‘a disgrace,’ NDP says

The NDP is linking the Conservative Party to a “dirty tricks” campaign in the last federal election, in which robo-calls were used to send voters to the wrong polling stations.

Basing their attacks on a report Thursday in the Ottawa Citizen, the Official Opposition called on Elections Canada and the RCMP to conduct a full investigation and lay appropriate charges.

“These tactics are a disgrace and those responsible must be held to account,” Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel said in a statement. “The Conservatives were elected to clean up the Liberal-style scandals. Instead, they’ve made scandals of their very own.”

The Commissioner of Canada Elections, who enforces the Elections Act, has confirmed in a report to Parliament he is investigating complaints related to “crank calls designed to discourage voting, discourage voting for a particular party, or incorrectly advise electors of changed polling locations.”

The RCMP is known to provide help to the commissioner and has played a role in the probe, according to the Citizen. The RCMP has yet to confirm that it is playing a role in the investigation and a spokesman for Elections Canada refused to comment on the matter.

Charges against Toronto police officer upgraded to second-degree murder

A Toronto police officer facing a manslaughter charge has had it upgraded to second-degree murder, meaning prosecutors believe he intended to kill the man who was shot.

Constable David Cavanagh, a tactical officer, is the first member of the Toronto force to be charged with murder in the 22-year history of the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

SIU Director Ian Scott laid a charge of manslaughter against Constable Cavanagh two months after a shooting in September of 2010. On Thursday, the agency, which investigates fatalities and serious injuries involving police, announced the more serious charge.

“After consultation with the Crown Law Office-Criminal, Director Scott has now caused a charge of Second Degree Murder ... to be laid against the officer,” the agency said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the provincial Attorney-General’s office would not elaborate on the basis for the upgraded charges, noting that doing so could be interpreted as interfering with an ongoing case.

TTC chief Gary Webster’s firing puts a chill on staff, says Toronto ombudsman

City staff are scared of being punished for offering their best advice to Mayor Rob Ford and council, the city’s ombudsman said a day after Ford allies fired TTC chief general manager Gary Webster.

Fiona Crean’s comments Wednesday came as sources told the Star Ford is focusing on long-term subway expansion, knowing he can’t stop the Webster-endorsed, council-approved light rail plan this time.

Crean wouldn’t comment directly on the TTC board’s 5-4 vote Tuesday to fire Webster for his transit expansion advice, saying: “I do not have enough facts to make any comment. I just don’t know.”

But, in an interview, she called the timing “extraordinary” — only two weeks after she warned council that civil servants perceive there’s a risk to speaking their minds, and strongly recommended a new law to buffer them from politics.

“I would surmise that if you ask most senior public servants today, they’re even more worried, and the problem is, when you don’t know all the facts concerning an event, it makes it worse,” Crean said.

“It certainly heightens my worry about, on one hand, the treatment of public of servants and, on the other hand, them shutting down their best advice for fear there might be negative consequences.”

Peter MacKay says global security, economics require closer U.S.-Canada military co-operation

STANFORD, CALIF.—The defence minister says there’s a greater need for stronger partnership between Canada and the U.S. in uncertain economic and political times.

But at the same time, NATO’s global partnership is in need of reform to function effectively in a complex security situation, Peter MacKay said in a set of speeches at Stanford University in California on Wednesday.

Domestic security issues begin internationally and it’s best to act before they happen, MacKay said.

Yet, the events of the Arab Spring show that expecting the unexpected has become the norm in preparing for global events, he said.

“These wide-ranging security requirements are further compounded by new fiscal realities forcing governments to make difficult budget and capability choices as they undertake their future defence investments in an effort to prepare for an uncertain future security landscape,” he said, according to a prepared text of his remarks.

Strong partnerships are one way to move forward, MacKay said.

Ford’s toadies

The five councillors who conspired with the mayor to fire TTC chief general manager Gary Webster

Frank Di Giorgio

(Ward 12, York South-Weston) Best known for confounding his council colleagues with technocratic speeches, Di Giorgio talks like a centrist but votes like a right-winger. Shares a love of football, political and otherwise, with the mayor. Hasn’t had this much bad press since that crooked garbage deal in the bad old days of North York council that helped send Mario Gentile to jail. Di Giorgio tried to hire Gentile as a staffer after that, but thought better of it when the media got wind of it.

Denzil Minnan-Wong

(Ward 34, Don Valley East) One of the mayor’s staunchest supporters, his backing of the Webster offing has been uncharacteristically muted. The extent of Ford’s madness may finally be getting to Minnan-Wong, a tender sort who may not be able to stomach the bloodletting that’s sure to follow Webster’s demise. Minnan-Wong talked about council moving forward after its decision to shelve the mayor’s subway plans.

Cesar Palacio

(Ward 17, Davenport) A no-name before Ford came along, Palacio likes to point out his fluency in four languages, but save for his opposition to library cuts, all he can say is “yes” when it comes to following the Ford agenda. If Giorgio Mammoliti is The Thumb, then Palacio is The Sidekick, known for serving up lobs at council meetings during question period for the mayor to knock out of the chamber. Has run down the St. Clair West right-of-way project in his ward, used by Ford symps to argue against light rail, but finds his political options shrinking now that his riding has gone NDP orange both provincially and federally since Ford took office.

Vincent Crisanti

(Ward 1, Etobicoke North) Has tied his political fortunes to Ford’s, which may come as a surprise to constituents who thought they were voting for an independent voice on council. Voted with Fordists on subways instead of LRTs, even though the LRT plan approved by council earlier this month would mean improved transit service for his ward. Said barely two words in his first year on council, until a community centre in Etobicoke North was among those proposed for cuts. Looking to feather his own nest now that the circle around Ford has markedly thinned.

Norm Kelly

(Ward 40, Scarborough Agincourt) A former Liberal in Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government, Kelly, like most Libs from Scarberia, tilts noticeably to the right politically. Showed some leadership during Occupy Toronto’s time in St. James Park. But for a guy with a background in history, seems on track to repeat the political mistakes that have made him a bit player for most of his more than a decade on council.

Original Article
Source: NOW
Author: Enzo Di Matteo 

Time for council to take control of the transit file, or watch it blow up in their faces

A more stand-up civil servant than Gary Webster you’d be hard pressed to find.

So when the time came Tuesday afternoon, February 21, for the final chapter to be writ in the mayor’s plot to oust the now former TTC chief general manager, Webster did his best not to let on.

As flashbulbs popped and his supporters crowded City Hall’s Committee Room 2 to offer their best wishes, Webster replied to small talk, smiling occasionally.

Later, when the dirty deed was done and the board had confirmed his firing “without just cause” (how’s that for an Orwellian turn?), Webster emerged from TTC chair Karen Stintz’s office, where he’d been awaiting the board’s decision, to make a brief statement.

He said he was very proud of the work undertaken during his tenure at the TTC, before thanking his supporters, turning and walking into the history books to applause from the 50 or so people who’d come to witness Rob Ford’s latest power play.

The oilsands are a symptom of the bigger problem of our dependence on fossil fuels

Back in September the Keystone XL pipeline controversy was at its peak. Proponents of the pipeline were entrenched in their views that the suggested route was the only viable one. Opponents brought forward myriad concerns. Nebraskan ranchers pointed out the absurdity of building a new pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer — the water source of much of the U.S. agricultural belt. The National Congress of American Indians and Canadian First Nations brought forward compelling arguments that the pipeline jeopardized the potential health of their communities and resources. Others argued that it might be “game over” as far as global warming was concerned.

It was in the midst of this controversy that Neil Swart, a Ph.D. student in my lab, and I became engaged in a discussion as to the global warming potential of the oil in the Alberta tarsands. Our hunch was that it was big. We had heard the rhetoric and we wanted to undertake a quantitative assessment as to its veracity. On Sept. 28, we submitted the results of our analysis for publication and after five months working its way through the peer review paper, the final article appeared in Nature Climate Change on Sunday. We received no funding for this research. It was initiated exclusively out of curiosity.

Vic Toews' Predecessor Opposed Extra Power For Police

A former Conservative public safety minister says he was against giving the police more power when he was in charge of the department that's now pushing the government's lawful access legislation.

Stockwell Day, who was public safety minister from 2006 until 2008, says he thought anything police did should be accompanied by a warrant.

The current legislation, also known as online surveillance, would force internet and telecommunications service providers to hand over specific customer information to police upon request and without a warrant. It also removes any legal deterrent to them providing information police ask for, and allows inspectors designated by the minister to see any information held by the ISPs.

"People have been saying, did I say something different than other ministers have said? I did say that I don’t think police should be given any more powers, that anything they do should have to accompany a judicial warrant," Day said, referring to comments he made in 2007.

"I think what we need to do is reserve judgment on [bill C-30] … because the government’s made a very clear statement they’re open to revision on it."

Government's Charter Violations? Let Me Count the Ways

Last week, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that a mandatory minimum sentence imposed against a first time offender violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In a strongly-worded judgment, Justice Malloy described the punishment as, "fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent, and intolerable."

Yet this decision is but the latest in a growing list of instances where the judiciary has found the Harper government's law and policy to contravene the Charter while ignoring the rule of law, all this in the year we celebrate the Charter's 30th anniversary.

Last Monday's decision comes on the heels of the Federal Court's decision in Goulet v Canada, in which the Court similarly chided the Harper government for ignoring the law, acting as if it were above the law, while showing disrespect for the rule of law as a whole. In the Goulet decision, the Federal Court reproached the Conservative Government for a lack of transparency in refusing to transfer Canadians in U.S. prisons back to Canada.

Justice Robert Barnes' ruling found that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews failed to provide adequate reasons for rejecting transfer in the case of Richard Goulet, a 42-year-old Canadian jailed in the U.S. While Correctional Services Canada's evidence-based report concluded that Goulet was unlikely to re-offend and was therefore a suitable candidate for transfer back to Canada, the Minister decided against this without giving adequate reasons.

TTC light rail plans are full speed ahead, regardless of politics

The Ford administration knows it can’t stop council-approved LRT plans and instead has turned its focus to long-term subway expansion for Toronto, say those close to the mayor.

In the wake of TTC chief Gary Webster’s dramatic public firing Tuesday, many have questioned whether Ford would once again try to unilaterally scrap the light rail strategy, as he did his first day in office.

But according to members of Ford’s inner circle, the administration realizes there isn’t provincial support to ignore council’s recent decision to resurrect Transit City. So while Metrolinx pursues the light-rail vision, Ford will continue calling for subways and setting the framework for his 2014 re-election campaign. And if he somehow does manage to finagle his subway vision back on the table now, well, that’s just gravy.

Councillor Frank Di Giorgio, one of the five TTC commissioners who voted to remove Webster, said the plan going forward is to adopt a strategy that incorporates consistent subway expansion.

Science to the rescue

Before writing his dystopian masterpiece “1984”, George Orwell expressed this fear about official lying by political parties back in 1942: “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.”

Stephen Colbert fans would recognize a certain “truthiness” to Orwell’s observation. In fact, it’s a pretty good description of political discourse in Canada. We are knee-deep in wedge politics, poisonous polemics, indentured journalism and partisan attacks that aim to destroy rather than defeat rivals.

As for the role of dissent in Canada, we’re not quite at the “two-and-two is five” stage but we’re getting there. We’ve already reached the borders of a “with us or with the child-pornographers” kind of world, as George W. Toews recently confirmed. A lot of institutional players have fallen in line with such democracy-crushing Big Brotherisms, but one group is stubbornly standing its ground – Canadian scientists.

Even though there is no reason to expect Prime Minister Harper to extend free speech to the folks in government lab coats when he has yet to do that for journalists, MPs, or even members of his own caucus, a few brave souls in the scientific community are stepping up to the plate in the name of objective truth and its critical role in public-policy making.

Firm with Tory links traced to election day ‘robocalls’ that tried to discourage voters

Elections Canada has traced fraudulent phone calls made during the federal election to an Edmonton voice-broadcast company that worked for the Conservative Party across the country.

While the agency investigates, aided by the RCMP, the Conservatives are conducting an internal probe. A party lawyer is interviewing campaign workers to find who was behind the deceptive “robocalls.”

Elections Canada launched its investigation after it was inundated with complaints about election day calls in Guelph, Ont., one of 18 ridings across the country where voters were targeted by harassing or deceptive phone messages in an apparent effort to discourage Liberal supporters from voting.

In Guelph, a riding the Conservatives hoped to take from the Liberals, voters received recorded calls pretending to be from Elections Canada, telling them their polling stations had been moved. The calls led to a chaotic scene at one polling station, and likely led some voters to give up on voting.

Check the tag on that 'Indian' story

Have you heard the Cherokee Two Wolves/Dogs story? The one about two wolves inside you, representing good and evil, and the one that wins is the one you feed?

Well recently, a tumblr blogger, Pavor Nocturnus, did the world an enormous favour and dug into the real origins of this "Cherokee wisdom," providing some excellent sources:

"This story seems to have begun in 1978 when a early form of it was written by the Evangelical Christian Minister Billy Graham in his book, "The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life."
So wait... this is actually a Christian-style parable? Let's just quickly read an excerpt:

"AN ESKIMO FISHERMAN came to town every Saturday afternoon. He always brought his two dogs with him. One was white and the other was black."

Oh oh oh! I get it! Black is evil, and white is good! Traditional indigenous wisdom galore!

Um... wait a second. Do indigenous cultures also believe in black = evil, white = good? I mean, pre-Christianity? Anyone? No? I didn't think so.

Human rights lawyer warns feds’ internet surveillance bill could lead to massive internet sweep

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government’s controversial Bill C-30, which would give police and security agents new surveillance powers over the internet and compel web service providers to assist them, could also lead to a “massive internet sweep” on thousands of political and social activists, warns a leading human rights lawyer.

The scenario is likely if the proposed Bill C-30, which the government has emphasized as legislation to protect children from internet predators, passes through Parliament and its new powers are used in conjunction with a new government counter-terrorism strategy released less than a week before Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.) introduced the internet surveillance bill in the Commons, Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, a director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, told The Hill Times on Wednesday.

The impact Bill C-30, which has so far received first reading the Commons, could have on internet users as well as their internet service providers took backstage last week in a furor Mr. Toews sparked when he challenged Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac Saint Louis, Que.) to “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

Air Canada ground staff reject contract deal

Air Canada's baggage handlers, ground crews and maintenance workers on Wednesday rejected a tentative deal signed earlier this month with Canada's biggest airline, shortly after its dispatchers ratified a new contract.

Workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted nearly two thirds — 65.6 per cent — to reject an earlier deal that gave them wage, benefit and other increases.

That vote came a day after the carrier said its 74 flight dispatchers based near Toronto Pearson International Airport had backed the new contract that expires in 2016.

A spokesman for IAMAW — Air Canada's largest union with about 8,600 members — said the workers also gave the union 78 per cent support to call a strike if a new deal can't be reached.

"It doesn't necessarily mean we will go on strike," Bill Trbovich said in an interview late Wednesday.

"It means that they have the support of the membership if it comes to that."

Canada’s competitive edge in corporate taxes at risk

Canada’s reputation as a low-tax destination for business investment is poised to take a hit as key provinces balk at further cuts, just as plans heat up in Washington to slash much-higher U.S. corporate rates.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has steadily cajoled provincial governments to cut business taxes since 2007, with the goal of bringing the combined national corporate tax rate to 25 per cent. Now at just over 26 per cent, the minister’s target appears in reach – but the campaign is suddenly losing steam.

British Columbia announced in this week’s budget that it may raise its corporate tax rate from 10 per cent to 11 per cent in 2014. It also cancelled a planned drop in the small business tax rate. The move comes as Ontario, too, is expected to shelve plans for further corporate tax cuts.

Yet in the U.S. capital on Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled a proposal that would cut the top U.S. corporate tax rate to 28 per cent from 35 per cent, while offsetting lost revenue by closing tax loopholes.