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, March 08, 2012

Occupy Dublin Raided: Police Clear Dame Street For St. Patrick's Day Festival

In anticipation of St. Patrick's Day, police cleared protestors from the Occupy Dublin site early Thursday morning.

The Guardian reports that only 15 people were at the camp outside Ireland's Central Bank when it was raided.

[Click here for the latest Occupy Wall Street updates.]

Authorities removed large tents, wooden shacks and a kitchen before hosing down the camp site, Ahram Online reports. Protesters told the site that police started pulling apart their tents while they were still sleeping. One arrest was made.

"We're not going to go away, we're in it for the long haul," Jim Mclean one of the 15 protesters told Ahram Online. "They (the government) are embarrassed because we're highlighting issues they're not dealing with."

On Wednesday, Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said it was a shame protesters refused to willingly leave the site ahead of the the St. Patrick's Day festival.

"I think it's disappointing that they're not going to move the camp for a few days," Varadkar told the BBC. "I understand they feel very strongly about their politics but I'm sure they don't want to damage the festival."

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: --

Youngtown, Arizona Would Sooner Die Than Levy Property Taxes

In Youngtown, Ariz., city officials are contemplating the legal equivalent of shutting down.

The city of about 6,500 people 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix is, for all practical purposes, a small-government, low-taxes, no-compromise kind of place. Youngtown sold its water authority to a private company nearly two decades ago. It's been nearly three years since city crews, instead of private contractors, mowed the lawn outside town hall. And trash pick-up has never been a city-run operation.

Youngtown was founded almost 50 years ago as the nation’s first all-senior citizen city, where part of the attraction was the absence of a property tax. A 1998 court order forced Youngtown to welcome younger residents. But as the city expanded its police force and other services to meet its changing needs, it never instituted a property tax, the single most important revenue ingredient in most municipal budgets.

Now, faced with a $183,000 deficit that will force the city to drain more than 10 percent of its rainy day fund, officials are considering everything from the historic to the nearly unthinkable, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

Kansas Abortion Bill Could Raise Taxes On Women Seeking Procedure

The sweeping anti-abortion bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature would levy a sales tax on women seeking abortions, including rape victims.

Buried in the 69-page bill being considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee are several provisions, in fact, that opponents say would increase taxes on those who seek abortions. The tax sections do not include exemptions for women who want an abortion after a sexual assault or to end a life-threatening pregnancy.

The committee is likely to continue discussing the bill Thursday afternoon.

Under the proposal, women who end up receiving abortions would not be able to deduct the cost of the abortion as a health care expense if they had not purchased special abortion insurance, said Sarah Gillooly of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Last year, Kansas enacted a law removing abortion coverage from health insurance plans in general. Women can purchase a special rider to cover the procedure in advance of a pregnancy.

Who Created Bill C-30? The Liberals Would Rather Forget (They Did)

You have no doubt heard or read about the opposition's attacks on minimum sentences and on Bill C- 30, which would adapt the investigative powers of police services to fight cybercrime. My purpose today is not to take a position for or against either of these proposals but instead to highlight two contradictions that are rather embarrassing for the Liberals.

The opposition's criticisms are long on vitriol and short on content. Liberal MPs have even posted an online petition against Bill C-30 titled "Don't let Stephen Harper creep your emails." Well, I won't comment on the outrageous misinformation contained in the petition's title or the biased statements in its introduction. Rather, I'm wondering who is behind Bill C-30? By reviewing the legislative records, I learned that it was the Liberal government of Paul Martin! Indeed, on November 15, 2005, the Liberal government's deputy prime minister, Anne McLellan, noted law professor and legal scholar, introduced Bill C-74. This bill had virtually the same form and content as Bill C-30. The title of Bill C-74 was itself highly revealing of its purpose: "An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to facilitate the lawful interception of information transmitted by means of those facilities and respecting the provision of telecommunications subscriber information."

Canada-U.S. Price Gap: Higher Canadian Dollar Hasn't Helped Consumers, Data Shows

Many economists have argued that a strong Canadian dollar is good for the country, because it makes imports less expensive and therefore lowers costs for consumers and businesses.

But with the Canadian dollar hovering around parity with the U.S. dollar in recent years, many border-hoppers have been complaining that prices are obviously higher in Canada than in the U.S., and the benefits of a strong dollar haven’t been passed on to consumers.

Now, the latest data from the OECD offers proof that this is a real phenomenon. According to the organization’s updated figures, the purchasing power parity of the Canadian dollar was exactly the same in 2011, when the Canadian dollar was around $1 U.S., as it was when the Canadian dollar was worth 62 cents U.S. a decade ago.

In 2002 when the dollar was weak, it cost $1.23 Canadian to buy what $1 U.S. bought south of the border. Today, it still costs $1.23 Canadian to buy what one U.S. dollar buys in America.

“In other words, the loonie’s ascent has delivered no apparent improvement in purchasing power,” writes Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers’ Canadian office who first flagged the OECD data.

Harper Could Make This a Happier Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, so expect a lot of feel-good words in the House of Commons.

As the father of a 13-year-old daughter, I want her to know that she stands on the shoulders of giants. The opportunities she has today were made possible by the courageous pioneering women that came before her. And while there is much to celebrate in the significant achievement of Canadian women, there is also a great deal of unfinished business.

Two weeks ago, years of Harper government inaction forced Mrs. Jackie Scott, now 66, to file an action in the Federal Court in Vancouver gain her citizenship. It was denied to her because she was born out-of-wedlock.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Jackie's mother was an English War bride who came to Canada with her young baby in 1948 to be with her husband, a WWII veteran, James Ellis, who was born in Canada and was wounded in Europe fighting for our country. Sent back to Canada to be treated and recover from his battle injuries, Jack was unable to marry his bride until after infant Jackie was born.

Tory ads take on Wildrose

Signalling a combative provincial election is just around the corner, the Alberta PC party is expected to launch radio ads today slamming the Wild rose for its stance on the province's new drunk driving law - warning voters, "Danielle Smith and the Wildrose: not worth the risk."

The ad, which will run only in Calgary, marks a major shift in strategy for the long-governing Tories, who've usually paid scant attention to opposition parties before or during election campaigns.

However, the Redford-led Conservatives have suffered recent political turmoil over their handling of a judicial inquiry into problems in the health-care system, as well as accusations MLAs have bullied municipal leaders and school boards.

Some recent polls also indicate that while the PC party still leads the Wildrose, Liberal and NDP opposition in popularity, the gap between the province's two right-of-centre parties has narrowed.

"Negative advertising is always in the tool kit, but you wouldn't bring (it) out if you were clearly and unassailably the front-runner," said pollster Ian Large, vice-president of Leger Marketing in Alberta.

Alberta's long political sitzkrieg gives way today to Tory blitzkrieg

Can it be only four years ago that Ed Stelmach was loudly bemoaning the incivility of those notoriously unsuccessful anti-Tory attack ads, the ones that whispered how the premier of the day had "No Plan, No Plan"?

Alert readers will recall how the province's commentariat was unanimous in the view Albertans just wouldn't stand for that sort of thing.

Well, never mind the "Albertans for Change" campaign of 2008. That was then and this is now.

Today, Alberta's election "phoney war" is over and dirty attack advertisements, the kind that caused such hysterical hyperventilation when they were paid for by a coalition of unions, have officially gone mainstream.

For the first time anyone can remember in the 41-year reign of Alberta's Natural Governing Party, the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Alison Redford has gone deeply negative with the release today of radio attack ads targeting the Wildrose Party of Danielle Smith.

Guatemala women defenders defy Canadian mines and plead for help

GUATEMALA -- The road to San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala is a descent into a valley along an asphalt road riddled with potholes that could easily swallow your tire. In the chilly pre-dawn of a February day, six of us -- a videographer, human rights activists, a photographer, an interpreter and a driver -- make our way in the dark. We share the road with large and old slatted trucks carrying cattle, rickety brightly-painted school buses packed with sleeping passengers, women in traje, their indigenous dress, walking to town carrying babies across their chests. It's cold and the stars outline the silhouette of the mountains that separate Guatemala from Mexico just an hour and a half to the west. On our right we start to see the first rays of the sun as we climb into the Sierra of the Cuchumatanes mountains, high above the clouds.

We're moving into a conflict-torn area where communities, like San Miguel Ixtahuacán and neighbouring Sipacapa, have been drastically changed by the arrival of mining companies like Montana Exploradora, a Guatemalan subsidiary of the Canadian-owned mining company Goldcorp, which began the exploitation of the Marlin Mine in 2004. We're not sure what to expect, but our role is clear: Record first-hand testimonies from women who say their lives have been changed dramatically by the mining in the area. We're here as part of a larger fact-finding mission sent to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala in January by the Nobel Women's Initiative (NWI). Based in Ottawa, the organization was founded by six female recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, and is led by Laureate Jody Williams, winner of the 1997 prize for her anti-land mine work. The organization sends delegations of prominent citizens -- lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, artists -- into high-conflict areas around the world to investigate the plight of women and human rights defenders, defensoras, including those who are targeted as women -- raped, assaulted, denied the power to protect their land, livelihood, health and families. We've heard some terrible stories during the past 10 days travelling through these countries.

No lessons learned from Japan's nuclear disaster in U.S. politics

Super Tuesday demonstrated the rancour rife in Republican ranks, as the four remaining major candidates slug it out to see how far to the right of President Barack Obama they can go. While attacking him daily for the high cost of gasoline, both sides are travelling down the same perilous road in their support of nuclear power. This is mind-boggling, on the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission warning that lessons from Fukushima have not been implemented in this country. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: They're going to force nuclear power on the public, despite the astronomically high risks, both financial and environmental.

One year ago, on March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, causing more than 15,000 deaths, with 3,000 more missing and thousands of injuries. Japan is still reeling from the devastation -- environmentally, economically, socially and politically. Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister at the time, said last July, "We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power." He resigned in August after shutting down production at several power plants. He said that another catastrophe could force the mass evacuation of Tokyo, and even threaten "Japan's very existence." Only two of the 54 Japanese power plants that were online at the time of the Fukushima disaster are currently producing power. Kan's successor, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, supports nuclear power, but faces growing public opposition to it.

Working Moms: Going Beyond the Single Story

On this International Women's Day, we can empower women by dispelling the myth that children and careers are not compatible.

A few years ago, Chimamanda Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, gave a TED Talk on “The Danger of a Single Story,” in which she warned that if we only hear one story about a person or country, we risk critical – and often permanent –misunderstandings.

On International Women’s Day, this danger is particularly relevant, since a “single story” dominates the western framework on the issue of women, careers, and families. 

In Canada, while 71 per cent of women with children under the age of six work, the cultural and media dialogue on the topic remains incredibly negative, focusing on the ways in which having children can impede a woman’s career success. Exceptions to this are either celebrity stories or stories of the uber corporate elite (like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg).

Labour Minister blocks Air Canada work stoppage

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has warded off threatened work stoppages at Air Canada (AC.B-T0.940.011.08%), blocking a strike by ground crew and a lockout of pilots planned for March break.

Ms. Raitt referred the Air Canada labour disputes to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, asking it to examine the issue under the “maintenance of activities” section of the Canada Labour Code.

Under the code, no work stoppages are permitted if activities pose “an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.” With the CIRB reviewing the matter, Ms. Raitt effectively made it illegal for the strike and lockout to start on Monday as planned.

She said she did not know how long it will take for the board to complete its work.

“Given our fragile economy – you know, we’ve said before that a work stoppage is unacceptable,” she said, adding that she has asked the CIRB “to take a look at the case, and the facts of the two cases, to determine whether a work stoppage at Air Canada is going to have an effect on the health and safety of Canadians at large.”

The big crime news is declining violence

In life, as in politics, people like to associate themselves with winning outcomes. Or as U.S. president John Kennedy memorably put it, "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."

So isn't it remarkable that no one in authority seems anxious to step up and embrace the truly historic decline in violent crime across Canada and the U.S. in recent years?

To criminologists such as Boston's James Alan Fox, the importance of this trend is glaringly obvious: "The homicide rate, perhaps the single most important marker of civilization's advance or retreat, is dropping through the floor," he says.

Yet this particular victory remains an orphan. You don't find many politicians trumpeting the long-term decline in crime when they're hoping to gain votes by appearing tough.

The police, too, seem to fear that talk of success will lead to their budgets being cut. The same often goes for social agencies. And good news is hardly the media's favourite dish.

Interest rate holds steady over high oil price concerns

OTTAWA—The Bank of Canada held its key borrowing rate unchanged at 1 per cent amid concerns that high oil prices could undercut the current uptick in global economic conditions.

Bank governor Mark Carney said Thursday there are signs that Europe and the United States are beginning to overcome the troubles that have held back the world recovery.

But these improvements and jitters over Middle East oil supplies that have seen gas prices in Canada climb past $1.25-per-litre could hinder the recovery.

“Commodity prices are higher than anticipated, supported by improved global economic conditions and a geo-political risk premium on oil,” Carney said in a statement accompanying the central bank’s rate-setting decision.

“If sustained, the latter could ultimately dampen the improvement in global economic momentum.”

Queen’s Park extending cap on tuition fee increases

Queen’s Park is extending for another year a five per cent cap on college and university tuition increases.

But Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray said there are no plans to standardize tuition fees on Ontario campuses.

“There isn’t a proposal. There’s been discussion of many ideas with the post-secondary sector. We have a long list of suggestions on making tuition more affordable. That one is not on our list,” Murray said Thursday.

“It’s not happening and it’s not on our shortlist,” he said.

His comments came after the Star learned a trial balloon was floated among university presidents that they would have to charge the same amount for undergraduate arts and science programs — $5,366.

“There’s been a long discussion in the sector — because I think we have something like 450 undergraduate arts and sciences tuitions, 680 undergraduate tuitions — about trying to simplify the system,” said Murray.

“But the idea of coming up with a common tuition is not something we’re proceeding with,” he said, adding the Liberals instead “want to build on the 30 per cent reduction” for most undergraduate students launched in January.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Louise Brown and Robert Benzie

Air Canada to lock out pilots on Monday

Air Canada has served formal notice that it intends to lock out its 3,000 pilots next Monday, which coincides with the strike deadline set by the airline’s 8,600 mechanics and baggage handlers.

The airline would essentially be grounded with no pilots or ground crews. All eyes now turn to Ottawa to see if Labour Minister Lisa Raitt will step in as she did with Air Canada’s flight attendants last fall, blocking a walkout.

Raitt is expected to speak to reporters in Ottawa this afternoon after question period.

Air Canada said it tabled “its final and best offer” to the pilots’ union on Wednesday and set a noon Thursday deadline for acceptance and it was rejected.

“We need to bring closure to the ongoing climate of labour uncertainty at Air Canada which is affecting our customers, destabilizing the Company and our operations, and damaging the Air Canada brand,” said Duncan Dee, executive vice president and chief operating Officer, in a news release.

He noted that talks have been protracted having gone on for 18 months, and the offer was very fair.

Toronto inside workers have strike deadline in 17 days

The clock is now ticking toward a strike deadline for Toronto’s 23,000 inside workers as early as March 25.

On Thursday, Ontario’s labour ministry issued a no-board report which means a strike or lockout can legally happen 17 days from now.

The city’s request for the no-board — signaling bargaining was at an impasse — was criticized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees on the basis that city negotiators were dragging their feet at the table.

Talks have been under way for about 12 weeks now. The inside workers, members of CUPE Local 79, have been without a contract since Dec. 31.

“The presence or absence of a no-board doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to have to bargain a deal,” said CUPE spokesperson Cim Nunn.

“It’s in everybody’s best interests to have a negotiated settlement. At the 79 bargaining table, there’s been a lot of people on the other side of the table with their arms crossed, saying ‘Okay you’ve got our offer.’ There’s not a lot of real bargaining happening.”

Apartheid Week demonizes Israel, Kenney says

For the past week, students on university campuses across Canada have been trying to raise awareness of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, calling for an end to discrimination and accusing it of adopting apartheid-like policies.

But the political backlash against Israeli Apartheid Week is growing, with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney linking organizers with anti-Semitism, and others questioning why the effort isn't instead focused on Iran and Syria.

This is the sixth year Israeli Apartheid Week has been held in Canada and in other countries around the world. The focus is generally on lectures, rallies and other efforts, with participants standing in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

The annual event has been marred by controversy from the beginning, with some, like Kenney, accusing the participants of unfairly targeting Israel or inciting anti-Israeli sentiments. On Wednesday, Kenney went further, issuing a statement in which he accused the organizers of using "the cover of academic freedom to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel.

Gender apartheid cannot be justified in the name of religion

Canada, and its NATO allies, must speak out against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s attempt to appease the Taliban by taking away the rights of women. Ottawa should reconsider its support of the Karzai government in light of his apparent willingness to ignore his country’s own laws.

Mr. Karzai has publicly supported an edict from the Ulema Council, composed of 150 Muslim clerics, that classifies men as fundamental and women as “secondary.” The council’s code bans women from travelling without a male guardian, prohibits women from mingling with men in offices, schools and markets, and allows men to beat their wives in certain circumstances. The clerics, who call the code “voluntary,” believe it is in line with a literalist interpretation of Islamic law.

But gender apartheid cannot be justified in the name of Islam. A state where men have one set of rights and women another is not only morally repugnant but contradicts the country’s own 2004 constitution, which re-established equality between men and women. If Afghan’s female parliamentarians cannot work with their male counterparts, then Parliament cannot function.

Toronto’s last-ditch attempt to soften Canada-EU free trade deal

Toronto city council’s decision this week to seek an exemption from any Canada-Europe free trade agreement didn’t get much attention.

That’s understandable. Councillors have a history of taking stands in areas over which they have no control, from nuclear disarmament to the Vietnam War.

But Tuesday’s decision was different in that the body being appealed to — the provincial government — does have considerable influence.

At issue is the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a pet project of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Like most modern trade agreements, this proposal is less about freeing trade and more about limiting the ability of governments to regulate global business.

But unlike Canada’s original free trade pacts with the United States, the Canada-European deal requires immediate buy-in from the provinces.

Spring of discontent for public sector workers?

Job action by B.C. teachers may be a harbinger of more generalized public sec-tor discontent as governments across Canada move to introduce deficit-busting budgets.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, representing more than 172,000 unionized federal employees, organized a National Day of Action last week to jog public concern about anticipated cuts in Ottawa's March 29 budget.

The union is also sponsoring a social media campaign that rejects a choice between reducing the deficit and services like search and rescue or food inspections.

The star of the video campaign is a human-sized grey squirrel who PSAC describes as "like Stephen Harper ... just a rat with good PR."

In one clip, the furry creature loiters by a river, kicking the bucket of a fisheries inspector. In another, the pest disrupts a meat inspector, planting non-inspected meat in a shopper's grocery cart.

Awhile back, in response to a spending freeze first announced by Conservatives in their 2010 budget, PSAC called for "powerful and effective opposition on the ground."

Brian Mulroney: I owe you an apology

I owe former prime minister Brian Mulroney an apology.

Several years ago, I wrote that Mulroney, more than any politician in modern history, is responsible for the current level of disdain and lack of interest that Canadians have for politicians and politics in general.

I based that claim on the fact that during his winning 1984 election Mulroney pledged to wipe out corruption and political patronage and bring new openness to government, but he ultimately failed voters badly.

Under his leadership, corruption, patronage, secrecy and government arrogance actually grew. The result was that, unlike any time before, Canadians in droves gave up on politicians of all parties, writing them off as simply “more of the same.”

I am apologizing because I now realize it’s Stephen Harper, not Mulroney, who has set the standard for how far — and how low — a government and a party will go to win.

Blackwater training Canadian soldiers

An American private security firm whose employees have been implicated in the killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan was paid nearly $2.4 million to train Canadian soldiers last year.

Documents tabled in the House of Commons show Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, was providing select troops specialized training in precision shooting and defensive driving at the company's North Carolina facilities.

Other soldiers were trained in bodyguard and close-quarter combat skills.

Not all of the training was done by the company's staff, the documents say. In many instances, the Canadian Forces supplied its own instructors or simply used the company's extensive training complex.

The military has had a relationship with the security firm for years; the documents say 605 Canadian soldiers have received training at the company's North Carolina complex since 2006, as well as an unspecified number of special forces commandos.

Government appears poised to prevent Air Canada strike

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday she was taking the threat of a strike at Air Canada over the March Break period "very seriously" after the airline's largest union served notice it was prepared to walk off the job as early as Monday if a new labour agreement is not reached.

The federal government was once again being urged not to intervene in Air Canada's labour negotiations by critics who contend it does little to mend the airline's frayed relations with employees.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents 8,600 ground crew and mechanics at the airline, rejected a new labour agreement with the airline two weeks ago, but returned to the bargaining table this week. The talks broke off late Tuesday after the airline balked at a list of demands from the union, an IAMAW official said.

As a result, the union served notice it was prepared to walk off the job as early as 12: 01 a.m. Monday if a new deal could not be reached by then.

Treasury Board request for $16M to create new litigation unit worries unions as budget cuts loom

OTTAWA — Treasury Board says it needs $16-million to set up a new litigation management unit to handle the growing number of constitutional challenges that unions and others have initiated against the federal government largely over collective bargaining rights.

But unions said the creation of new unit when massive cuts are looming in the federal budget sends a strong signal that the Conservative budget is going to take another shot at collective bargaining, forcing unions to launch another round of legal challenges.

“I think this hints at what’s to come in the budget,” said Ron Cochrane, co-chairman of the joint union and management National Joint Council.

“If this was an Easter egg hunt, they have left enough eggs around to tell you where they are going. They are going to do whatever they want, probably through an omnibus bill, and leave it to the unions to challenge it.”

Marco Mendicino, president of the Association of Justice Counsel, which represents federal lawyers, said the government is clearly “digging in its heels” to take on federal unions and restrict collective bargaining.

Integrity czar blasts bureaucrat’s bullying, spending habits

A middle manager with the federal department of Human Resources who, among other things, used taxpayer dollars to pay for personal massages and was reimbursed for travel that never took place is the first person found guilty of wrongdoing by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

In a case report Thursday, Commissioner Mario Dion said the unnamed manager had committed “gross mismanagement” and misused public funds.

The actions of the woman, who had been a regional manager of four offices of the HRSDC for more than nine years, were brought to the attention by staff in the department’s western division. “They expressed fear for their jobs if they came forward to complain to the department or participated in an investigation,” Mr. Dion says in his report.

“The discloser stated that many of the staff were frightened of the manager who they described as an autocrat and a bully who threatened reprisal against employees who questioned the manager. There was fear that in the small communities in which employees resided that retaliation might spread outside the office and affect their family members.”

A shipload of trouble

Normally the announcement of billions in federal cash flowing into a community would be cause for unbridled optimism. But in Nova Scotia, the $25-billion contract to build combat ships at the Halifax Shipyard has instead raised the spectre of an old immigration scandal and strained relations between the province and Ottawa. Nova Scotia hopes the shipbuilding windfall will help it lure new immigrants to revive its hobbled workforce, while Ottawa no longer seems to trust the province to run its own immigration system.

The dispute stems from the provincial nominee program, a federal program which is designed to let each province pick at least some of its own immigrants. Under this program during the mid-2000s, Nova Scotia required immigrants to fork over $100,000 to local businesses in exchange for management-level “mentorship” training that was supposed to lead to full-time work. Roughly 900 immigrants complied, but many ended up unemployed or working at car dealerships, fish stands and laundromats, with thousands in fees pocketed by local businesses and consultants. Not surprisingly, about two-thirds of those immigrants left the province in search of jobs elsewhere.

Oliver dismisses 'unsavoury' election fraud allegations

hereNatural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is calling allegations that Elections Canada rules were violated in his riding during the last election "unsavoury," and says he will co-operate with any investigation into the matter.

"We conducted a completely clean campaign in Eglinton-Lawrence. I was very pleased that we won by over 4,000 votes," Oliver told reporters at an event in St. John's on Thursday. "I have no idea what this is about."

Oliver said he first learned about the allegations Wednesday, when CBC News reported on evidence that unregistered voters got on the voters' list in Oliver's Toronto riding without providing an address, in violation of Elections Canada rules.

To date, Oliver says Elections Canada has not contacted him or his campaign officials about any alleged irregularities.

"There was a fair election conducted and I think this attempt to try to cast aspersions on it is rather unsavoury," Oliver said.

Oliver's opponent, Joe Volpe, was one of the Liberal veterans to lose his seat in last year’s election.

Volpe was also the first to claim there were misleading Conservative calls to his supporters, allegedly trying to drive down his vote count. Elections Canada dismissed the Volpe campaign's complaint in February.

Robocalls: Conservative support rock solid despite vote controversy

MONTREAL—If then-prime minister Paul Martin had not gone on a mad-as-hell national tour in the spring of 2004, would the sponsorship scandal that he ranted about from coast to coast to coast have loomed as large in the subsequent election?

Most independent analysts would readily answer that question in the negative. Martin’s public show of indignation was meant to dissociate him from a blooming scandal in the lead-up to his first campaign. Instead it did more to establish the sponsorship affair as a ballot-box issue than any amount of opposition rhetoric.

With allegations of vote suppression swirling around their party, no one should be surprised that Conservative strategists have gone in the opposite direction.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s expressions of dismay at the suggestion that persons apparently sympathetic to his party may have tampered with the electoral process have been, to put it mildly, excessively restrained.

Workers, and NLRB, Under Attack

Republicans have accomplished what Democrats and unions never could: they’ve made the National Labor Relations Board a household name. The NLRB, which in the Bush era churned out anti-union rulings in obscurity, now stars in stump speeches, Congressional hearings and TV ads. The day after the Iowa Caucus, Mitt Romney launched a South Carolina TV ad condemning the NLRB as “stacked with union stooges selected by the president.” He lost the state to Newt Gingrich, who promised South Carolinians that he would seek to unilaterally eliminate the agency.

On New Year’s Eve, labor was bracing for the NLRB, which interprets and enforces labor law, to be rendered comatose for 2012. An expiring appointment was set to leave the board one member short of a quorum, and thus unable to rule on any cases. Senate Republicans had promised to prevent any new appointments. But Obama acted to keep the agency’s lights on, making three new NLRB recess appointments in defiance of Republican claims that the Senate was in session.

Pot Legalization Foe Getting Rich off the Drug War

The lobbyist who helped kill California's Proposition 19, the 2010 ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana, has constructed an entire business model around keeping pot illegal. While fighting against the proposed law, lobbyist John Lovell accepted nearly $400,000 from a wide array of police unions, some of which he also represented in attempting to steer millions of federal dollars toward California's marijuana suppression programs.

The revelation, reported yesterday by the Republic Report's Lee Fang, illustrates how Proposition 19 threatened the paychecks of some of its biggest foes. Police departments stood to lose lucrative federal grants like a $550,000 payment in 2010 to police departments in three Northern California counties that covered 666 hours of police overtime spent eradicating marijuana. And Lovell would have presumably lost a job as a guy who helped land those kinds of grants. Here's a copy of a notice sent to a police department in Lassen County, California:
Police unions and their lobbyists weren't the only economic interests with a stake in Prop. 19. The alcohol industry and prison guards also contributed money to fight the measure. And on the other side, the passage of Prop. 19 would have given thousands of "hempreneurs" behind the state's $1.3 billion medical marijuana industry a stimulus stronger than a vaporized bowl of Hindu Kush. The likely side effects—a decline in budget-busting law-enforcement costs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state of California—don't seem all that bad compared to what we got stuck with: a war on drugs that makes people like John Lovell even richer.

Original Article
Source: mother jones
Author: Josh Harkinson

Number of U.S. Hate Groups Is Rising, Report Says

ATLANTA — Fed by antagonism toward President Obama, resentment toward changing racial demographics and the economic rift between rich and poor, the number of so-called hate groups and antigovernment organizations in the nation has continued to grow, according to a report released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The center, which has kept track of such groups for 30 years, recorded 1,018 hate groups operating last year.

The number of groups whose ideology is organized against specific racial, religious, sexual or other characteristics has risen steadily since 2000, when 602 were identified, the center said. Antigay groups, for example, have risen to 27 from 17 in 2010.

The report also described a “stunning” rise in the number of groups it identifies as part of the so-called patriot and militia movements, whose ideologies include deep distrust of the federal government.

In 2011, the center tracked 1,274 of those groups, up from 824 the year before.

Making the oil sands personal

Ontario versus Alberta? East versus West? Last week’s oil sands comments by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty harkened back to the national energy debate in the 1980s, when Calgary mayor Ralph Klein said: “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.”

Do Canadians in Alberta and Ontario differ dramatically on this issue? We polled 400 people in Edmonton and Toronto. We wanted to know how much one’s attitude toward the oil sands is influenced by regional proximity to the oil sands. The answer: Surprisingly little.

Both Edmontonians and Torontonians are concerned about the environmental impact of oil sands development. Yet, more than 80 per cent of both populations believe it’s possible to develop this resource in a way that balances economic development and environmental protection. Surprisingly, neither those in Toronto nor Edmonton view the oil sands from a regional lens: Both view it as important to all of Canada.

Our goal was to explore how personal interest influences attitudes. In other words, how strongly do our own perceived interests influence our opinions? The answer: a lot.

Loser of close vote weighs court action in face of robo-call controversy

The second-place finisher in one of the 2011 federal election’s closest races is weighing a court challenge of results in the face of multiple complaints that fraudulent phone calls misled voters.

Incumbent Liberal MP Anthony Rota in Nipissing-Timiskaming lost last May's election to Conservative Jay Aspin by 18 votes.

Elections Canada, which is probing a misleading robo-calls scheme in Guelph, Ont., is also interviewing voters in the Northeastern Ontario riding. Electors there say they heard from phony robo-calls directing them to the wrong polling station, as well as live callers impersonating the Liberal Party but apparently trying to alienate voters.

The Liberals say they’ve collected at least 30 complaints of such calls and Mr. Rota’s supporters are combing the riding for more allegations of election-day irregularities in a riding they lost by the slimmest of margins.

Kent overlooked calls for 'transparency' on climate science research: memos

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Peter Kent overlooked calls from his department in 2011 to show more "transparency" and he delayed the release of a scientific paper on Canada's climate change challenges — prepared several months before the May 2 federal election — until late July, newly released internal memorandums reveal.

The memos referred to an analysis of Canadian trends in greenhouse gas emissions that projected a sharp rise in emissions from the energy-intensive oilsands industry. The research was actually used by Kent for a speech in January that suggested Canada was one-quarter of the way toward reaching its target of reducing annual emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the country by 17 per cent below 2005 levels.

"Public release of this detailed paper (and associated tables) would permit the government to proactively frame Canada's current progress and challenges in managing greenhouse (GHG) emissions, while maintaining the commitment to transparency and informed public dialogue consistent with Environment Canada's status as a world class regulator," wrote the department's deputy minister, Paul Boothe, in a May 30, 2011, memo to Kent, released through access to information legislation.

Robocalls and the moral swamp of Canadian politics

The difference between a professional athlete and an amateur is not that the one gets paid and the other does not, or that one wants to win more than the other. It is that to the amateur athlete, it matters how he wins. Whereas for the professional winning really is the only thing.

Perhaps you were shocked to hear about the latest scandal to hit professional football: reports that the New Orleans Saints paid players a bounty for every opposing player they injured. Yet people who know a lot about these things say there is nothing new here: professional football players are always trying to hurt each other.

I don't actually believe that's true. There's a difference between "making 'em pay," causing a receiver to hesitate to reach for that pass, and actually crippling someone. But there's also no doubt that players are less concerned than they might be not to cross that line. They'll rush right up to it, and let fortune care for the rest.

Now suppose people are paying them to cross it. In a way, it's a break with established norms. But in a way it's only an extension. It's obviously against the rules. But the rules aren't really the issue, are they? It's the professional ethos, the willingness of players to do whatever it takes to win, that is really at work.

Tories' CIMS database 'phenomenal asset' but Conservative MP Kramp says his campaign identified voters locally too

PARLIAMENT HILL—A second Conservative MP has confirmed the Conservative Party provided his campaign with detailed voter identification lists for his electoral district, including telephone numbers, and information from Elections Canada voter lists, as voting day approached in the federal election last year.

But Conservative MP Daryl Kramp (Prince Edward-Hastings, Ont.), who described the party-supplied information from the central Conservative database in Ottawa as a “phenomenal asset,” said his campaign nonetheless supplemented the party’s computer-generated list with information gathered locally by his own riding association and campaign organizers.

The question of central Conservative Party control over voter identification information has become a new element in the controversy over allegedly fraudulent or misleading robocalls in the federal election last year, following statements from Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and other senior Conservative MPs and officials that the party was not involved.

China turns economic focus on itself

With export growth slowing and a trade surplus shrinking, China is looking inward to keep its economy humming.

China’s economic growth this year will be secured by its 1.3 billion citizens who still need to feed, clothe and house themselves, regardless of what happens in the rest of the world, says the country's Commerce Minister.

“Fundamentally, people still need to consume, to meet their daily consumption needs,” Chen Deming said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, the annual meeting of nearly 3,000 appointed delegates in China’s legislature. “We have very big space for adjustment. In the next few years, China will become the biggest importer in the world. By 2020, China will become the biggest domestic market in the world.

“China is very confident. With our population of 1.3 billion, they are our strongest and most accountable force backing us in our trade policies.”

Deceptive Conservatives have lost people's consent

“The first law of holes” is to stop digging when you’re in one. For the past two weeks the Tories have been furiously tunnelling toward the centre of the Earth, with dirt flying and denials of voter suppression echoing from the bottom—including Harper’s coal-mining ballad about a “smear campaign” against the Conservatives.

The stakes couldn’t be higher with the robo-calling controversy. If Canadian pundits position the evidence of voter suppression in the last federal election as just another political story to file before falling asleep—and the people don’t rise up to demand accountability—then the future of this country is in serious doubt. We’ll be Nigeria in all but name, and last thing we’ll have to worry about is blowback from Internet banking scams and penis extension ads.

Harper’s majority hinged on as little as 8,000 votes in the last election. And so far 31,000 Canadians have contacted Election Canada about calls, live and recorded, misdirecting them to nonexistent polling stations. We don’t know how many voters were sidetracked—the calls apparently targeted Liberal supporters—but whatever their effect, illegal activity accompanied the last federal election. Without a full public enquiry into the matter, at this stage the federal Conservatives cannot claim to govern with the people’s consent.

Air Canada strike looms, but will Ottawa clip union’s wings?

Ottawa is mulling over its options to prevent an Air Canada strike looming next week, when many Canadians will be travelling on March break.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt issued a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday urging both sides to return to negotiations.

“Our government is very concerned about the matter because, as pointed out, this is a high-peak travel time, especially for hard-working Canadian families during the March break,” she said. “We do encourage both parties to step back from the breach, to go back to the table and to, indeed, find their way around a work stoppage and restore confidence to the travelling public.”

She made the comments after Air Canada’s largest union served strike notice. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers will be in a position to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Monday. The 8,600-member IAMAW represents mechanics, baggage handlers, cargo agents, aircraft cleaners and electricians.

Mitt Romney's Hostile Takeover Bid Grinds On

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's five-year-long hostile takeover bid for the Republican Party -- and the presidency -- enters its next grinding phase Wednesday with a spin session for reporters in Boston designed to convince them that his nomination is inevitable.

It probably is.

And if it is, Romney's leveraged buyout strategy for the general election will be the same: a scorched-earth assault on an incumbent president the likes of which we haven't seen since television made charisma a prerequisite for winning the White House.

Romney's chances of prevailing against President Barack Obama, a fellow Harvard grad and a rarified creature of a different sort, are better than Democrats realize or are willing to acknowledge.

Religion is a matter of faith; politics is a game of comparison. No one understands this better than Romney, who is that most unusual of politicians: He does not care one whit if he is loved.

All he cares about is acquiring the asset he has targeted. In his earlier days, the objective was profit. Now it is power.

Obama's Dangerous 'Red Line' on Iran

Never did the Republican presidential field look more clueless than in the sharp contrast between President Obama’s nuanced Iran policy and the collection of GOP war advocates, especially now that the United States and Iran have formally agreed to resume negotiations. Mitt Romney’s bombast, even though his actual policy recommendations differ little from Obama’s, Rick Santorum’s war cries and Newt Gingrich’s foaming anti-Muslim rhetoric mark them as clearly unpresidential at best. At worst, they look like Benjamin Netanyahu’s Greek chorus.

But let’s not let Obama off the hook. Earlier this week, I wrote about Obama’s well-designed putdown of Netanyahu, and he followed that up by treating the Republicans as if they were misbehaving children who don’t understand that real people die in real wars. Today I want to write about what’s wrong with Obama’s policy on Iran.

Some antiwar types cheered when Obama refused to endorse Netanyahu’s so-called “red line” for war, namely, that Israel and/or the United States should strike Iran when it develops some nebulous and ill-defined capability to manufacture a weapon—and that’s fine. On that Obama is correct. But there are plenty of problems with Obama’s own “red line,” which he defined as concrete evidence that Iran is moving toward militarizing its nuclear capability, say, by rushing to refine its stockpile of enriched uranium to weapons grade, kicking out the IAEA inspectors and overtly or covertly going for a nuclear bomb.

Women Fight Back as Virginia, Georgia Curb Reproductive Rights: "When We’re Screwed, We Multiply"

hereOn International Women’s Day, we speak with Loretta Ross of the SisterSong Reproductive Justice Collective about the latest wave of legislative attacks on reproductive rights. Virginia has enacted a controversial law forcing women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound. Lawmakers in Georgia and New Hampshire, meanwhile, have advanced new curbs on abortion and contraception coverage. Georgia lawmakers are also considering a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks based on the highly contested notion that fetuses can feel pain at that stage. "In Georgia we got tossed back to the 19th century," Ross says. "Republican legislators really didn’t want to hear from women, they didn’t want to pay attention, and presumed that they could tell us what to do with our bodies again."

Video Article
Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Super Tuesday: Four Shades of Resentment

hereFour Republican candidates spoke last night, not one of whom would be mistaken for another in a dark alley. Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul are a grab bag of looks and styles and figures—a credible set of extras for a movie scene shot in an all-night diner—even if they are, basically, all white men of a certain age, three of whom advocate similar policies. Their ways of speaking are distinct; and yet, in a series of Super Tuesday quasi-victory speeches, they all provided variations on a single theme: resentment. If not for the distraction of counting the votes—the most contested state, Ohio, was not called until they’d all gone to bed—the night would have been most notable as a study in scorn.

Gingrich, when he spoke, was a soft package of sour narcissism, like a moldering lemon with a sunken white fuzzy spot where his head should be. When he came onstage, in Georgia, he had won that state—where he’s from, which he’d represented for years—and spoke as if everyone who’d ever doubted him ought to be ashamed. He turned an isolated win in a losing campaign into an occasion to recite an enemies list. “I hope the analysts in Washington and New York, who spent June and July explaining our campaign was dead, will watch this,” he said.

It was precisely because the national élite—especially in the Republican Party—had decided that a Gingrich Presidency was so frightening that they had to kill it early.

New Brunswick Hydro, Solar Energy Projects Mapped

FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government has unveiled a pair of maps that it says pinpoint the best locations in the province for renewable energy projects.

The so-called energy atlases were created with help from Yves Gagnon, who holds the K.C. Irving chair in sustainable development at the University of Moncton.

The government says the atlases indicate the potential for hydro and solar energy development.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard says the government wants to make it easy for the industry, developers and homeowners to get the information they need.

The province has committed to a goal of 40 per cent renewable energy generation by 2020.

The maps can be viewed on the department's website.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Canadian Press

Caribou Slaughter Outrages Manitoba First Nations

Northern Manitoba chiefs are demanding answers after 30 dead caribou were found at the side of a winter road with only the antlers missing.

"This is lot of waste here that should never happen. And I want investigation on exactly who did this," Chief Joe Antsanen of the Northlands Denesuline First Nation told reporters in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

He was joined by Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), an organization representing northern Manitoba First Nations.

Antsanen made the discovery while driving to Winnipeg on a winter ice road near the community of Lynn Lake, Man., last week. It looked like the animals had been killed and dragged there, he said.

"The only thing I can think of is this is done just for trophy — just for sports — and that's totally, totally unacceptable," Antsanen said.

Elections Canada: Conservatives Relent, Agree To New Audit Powers Suggested By NDP

OTTAWA - The Conservative government reversed course Wednesday and now says it will support an NDP motion to give Elections Canada increased audit powers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has battled the federal elections watchdog for much of his political career, told the House of Commons his government will support new legislation within six months — as proposed by the official Opposition.

"We are not opposed at all to that proposal," Harper, speaking French, responded to NDP interim Leader Nicole Turmel.

The prime minister's casual concession — a day after he'd repeatedly sidestepped the question — appeared to catch the opposition off-guard, as both New Democrat and Liberal MPs subsequent questions continued to rail about Conservative intransigence.

A spokesman in the Prime Minister's Office confirmed the government's about-face after the daily question period.

Redford under fire for $1.3M ad campaigns

The Redford government is under attack from opposition members over spending more than $1.3 million of taxpayers' money on advertising campaigns - including $425,000 promoting the 2012 budget - just weeks before an election call.

Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier charged Tuesday that many of the advertisements constitute blatant political electioneering that should be paid for by the Progressive Conservative party rather than taxpayers.

Boutilier drew attention to a new campaign to assure Albertans there are no new taxes coming this year.

"This government ad isn't about a new program or project," Boutilier told the legislature. "It's not a public service announcement. It's a purely political ad using Albertans' hard-earned tax dollars."

He said the campaign contains lines like: "No new taxes means you can keep spending money on things that matter to you."

But Redford contends the advertising is a legitimate use of taxpayers dollars.

The Commons: The yellow piece of paper

The Scene. Immediately after Question Period, Dean Del Mastro stood to complain that the phrase “exaggerated prevarications,” which had been directed at him by the NDP’s Charlie Angus, was unparliamentary.

Regardless of whether this was inbounds—Mr. Angus argued it was and offered to produce a dictionary definition to prove it—it was most certainly an attack, though perhaps not one that Mr. Del Mastro can claim to take personally. At least so long as he seems to be merely the conduit for what is written on a yellow piece of paper.

On the yellow piece of paper that sat atop Mr. Del Mastro’s desk this day seemed to be written something like the following.

“These outrageous and exaggerated allegations made by the member opposite demean millions of voters who cast legitimate votes in the last election. The opposition paid millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls … Before continuing these baseless smears, they should prove their own callers are not behind these reports.”

Social profiling in Victoria: What's wrong with this picture?

Two professionals meet at a street corner in downtown Victoria. They set their laptop cases down and begin to talk to each other. One of them leans against the wall of a building. Suddenly two police officers arrive and start yelling obscenities at them. They point out a no loitering sign in the window of a nearby restaurant and while one officer demands identification and issues trespassing tickets, the other confiscates their laptops as abandoned property and throws them in the trunk of a police cruiser.

Does that sound familiar? Of course not. This type of thing would never happen to people who look like consumers or property owners. If you read that paragraph again, replace "'professionals"' with "'homeless people."' It makes much more sense now.

Scenarios like this one are a common experience for people in Victoria's street community.

Social profiling in Victoria

Last fall over 100 members of Victoria's Street community were interviewed by the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) about their experiences with law enforcement. The study found that social profiling by the Victoria Police is resulting in disproportionate ticketing and frequent harassment of people who have experienced homelessness in the past two years.

MPs looking at democratizing Commons rules, behind closed doors

MPs are reviewing the Standing Orders, or House rules, to limit the government’s power to use time allocation on bills and debates and to hold in-camera Commons committee meetings, but Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says it’s “frustrating”  that the Procedure and House Affairs Committee is meeting behind closed doors to discuss changing House rules when one of the major items to be discussed is limiting private meetings.

“I don’t know why they’re in-camera on a discussion of transparency and accountability of processes of the procedures of the House of Commons. That of all discussions should be open,” Ms. May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) told The Hill Times last week.

“I’m not allowed to get into the committee. I was going to participate and I was sending one of my interns to track the committee, but of course we can’t get in. It’s frustrating. One of the things we debated on the debate on Standing Orders was having too many committee meetings in camera and then I can’t get in to pursue issues I care about around the Standing Orders because the meeting is in camera, it’s definitely frustrating.”

It’s a tale of two nations: political junkie land and regular Canadian land

OAKVILLE, ONT.—Canada is land of two nations. And no, I am not talking about English and French.

I am talking about two other nations; one I call “Political Junkie Land,” the other “Regular Canadian Land.”

And even though these two nations co-exist in the same country they actually have very little in common.

Political Junkie Land, for instance, is populated with party partisans, political hacks, journalists, talk-show hosts, and politicians.

It’s a land where politics is the national sport. In fact, Political Junkie Landers love to discuss and debate policy and political process; they are fascinated with the “politics of politics”; for fun, they read political opinion polls and watch public affairs programs. And they love to passionately debate each other over the minutest of political issues.

MPs contemplating moving future budgets to fall to encourage tough look at annual government spending

One possible fix for Parliament’s dysfunctional spending approval process may be to move the budget to the fall, say MPs, but experts say they are skeptical that it will improve the current superficial look Parliament gives to hundreds of billions in annual spending.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page told the House Government Operations Committee last week that moving the budget to the fall would be addressing only a symptom of the real problem.

The idea behind the move would be to have the spending in the budget reflected in the government main spending estimates, which come out every year by March 1. Right now, the budget and the main estimates are prepared at the same time, but separately, by the Finance Department and Treasury Board Secretariat. Any new initiatives in the March 29 budget will not come down the government spending estimates pipe until the next round of estimates in early summer. There are usually three rounds of supplementary, or additional, government spending estimates every year, tabled in May or June, November, and February.

This also makes spending changes hard for Parliamentarians to track.