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.]

Friday, March 16, 2012

Robocalls strike at the heart of democracy

So what's the big deal about these robocalls and why is it a scandal?

If you watch, listen to, or read any kind of news you know that during the last federal election many voters are complaining to Elections Canada that they were contacted by telephone by someone claiming to be from the national body's office.

The calls consisted of an automated message telling voters that polling places had changed within their ridings and directed them to erroneous locations.

A number of these voters nevertheless found their way to their correct polling stations to cast their ballots.

But perhaps some did not. There's a lot of finger pointing going on in Ottawa over who is responsible for the calls. At this point, nobody knows for sure.

We think it's unlikely that these calls succeeded in changing the election outcome, particularly the overall party seat count results.

And the election seems like a long time ago now.

Pierre Poutine called voters in ridings across Ontario — not just Guelph

The robocall made by the shadowy Pierre Poutine, misdirecting voters to the wrong polling stations on election day last year, was sent to people across Ontario, not just the riding of Guelph, according to phone records obtained by the National Post.

The call that claimed to come from Elections Canada was sent out to 5,053 recipients in the 519 area code that covers Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor and Sarnia.

But it was also received by 35 people in downtown Toronto, 74 in the 905 suburban belt surrounding the GTA, 14 in the 613 area code that includes Kingston and Ottawa, 22 in the 705 code area that includes Barrie, Sudbury and North Bay and one person in Thunder Bay.

The revelation that the Guelph robocall went out across Ontario may explain why there have been complaints in ridings such as Ottawa Vanier and Trinity Spadina — two ridings the Tories had no hope of winning.

I'm with Brian Topp: The NDP can win as social democrats

Brian Topp

It was the socially conscious- and environmentally-sound venture capital re-investment fund that really sealed the deal for me. I had already been on the Brian Topp bandwagon for a while, but this clinched it.

Any politician that has the guts to come out against pipelines, against tankers, and against carbon addiction gets a solid grade in my book. More importantly, I'm impressed by any politician who would be vocal in their support for sustainable re-investment, environmental reparations, and moving towards a national energy strategy that focuses on value-added jobs. These were things I was demanding that someone talk about months ago.

I'm a nerd, no doubt, and appreciate the high-level policy that speaks to much of the highly-technical aspects of society that need to be addressed immediately. But Brian also appeals to my activist roots. From coming out vocally against the occupation of Palestinian land, to supporting an increased role for riding associations and labour unions in the party, Brian's party is one of diffused authority and power-sharing.

Police shoot explosives at student protesters' heads in Montreal

I'm just back as a medic from the large student strike and anti-police brutality demonstration in Montreal where the cops were shooting exploding tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades into crowds of people -- really irresponsible, criminal and injurious.

We know that protesters in the West Bank and Gaza have been killed and seriously injured after being hit by tear gas canisters and so-called crowd control projectiles -- so this alarm is not just about the chemical effects, but also the kinetic trauma cause by the shooting projectile or explosion.

I treated a student (on Alymer and Milton) who had a police tear gas canister explode when it hit his forehead. Fortunately, he was wearing goggles because he could have been blinded. His hair was singed from the explosion, and he had a superficial skin burn besides the cut and bruise on his forehead. His goggles were covered in chemical powder. I assume the canisters explode on impact (his head in this case) because besides the physical signs, he said it exploded when it hit him.

Ironically, he was telling high-school kids not to throw rocks because this was a peaceful demonstration, just before he got injured. The riot police chased a group of people up the street and shot two tear gas explosives into the crowd. These were not flash-bangs because the tear gas was stinging our eyes and I see the cloud.

When Opinion Trumps Scientific Reason

Or the ideological basis for federal cuts to environmental spending.

The closure of Canada’s Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab (PEARL) has shocked many Canadians. Located at 80°N in the High Arctic on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, PEARL is the northernmost civilian research laboratory in the world. It is internationally recognized for ozone and climate research, and helped discover the first-ever Arctic ozone hole in 2011. PEARL is a Canadian success story that one U.S. government scientist deemed a “national treasure.” Now, many are left wondering why the Canadian government decided to bury that treasure.

Like most university-based environmental-research programs, PEARL depends upon federal grants to operate. However, in recent years, funding opportunities for projects like PEARL have been narrowed or eliminated. Government support for PEARL’s main sponsor, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was cut off. Funding that was promised for climate and atmospheric science in the 2011 Federal Budget has been held up for nearly a year. The impact of this funding gap is far from benign. It has forced some of Canada’s best researchers to leave the country to find work. These experts were cultivated in Canada over many years and at great cost. It will take a generation to replace them.

Scientists find missing particle in Tony Clement speech

Politicians in Ottawa say dumb things all the time and we barely notice. But every once in a while an elected official says something so dumb that it makes you think, “Whoa, hang on a minute—that’s pretty dumb. In fact, that may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Which brings us to a recent speech by Tony Clement.

When not tweeting about his squash game, Tony is an actual minister in the federal government. He spoke this past weekend about government spending to a conference of conservative-minded Canadians. His words are below in bold.

What we have to do is to ingrain [the] idea of efficient and constrained use of tax dollars on a day-to-day basis, at every level of the bureaucracy.

That’s a solid brainwave, Tony. You should totally do that as soon as your party forms a government. In other news, your party formed a government 2,200 days ago. What have you guys been waiting for—mood lighting?

Thomas Mulcair is Mr. Angry

With two weeks to go in the NDP leadership race, Thomas Mulcair has emerged as the widely acknowledged front-runner. Renowned for his short fuse—during a recent debate in Vancouver, one rival told Mulcair he had “the warrior part down”—the Montreal MP has divided opinions among New Democrats like no other candidate in the leadership battle. To his supporters, his combative approach is just what’s needed to take on the Harper Tories, while his critics worry about his temperament, and whether he’ll steer the party away from the principles established by Jack Layton.

To illustrate the kind of thing some might be worried about, and which others are drawn to, perhaps it’s best to go back to 2002. It was a good year for Mulcair, then the deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec. With his indignant stare and a knuckles-first style honed during his years as a lawyer, Mulcair’s constant haranguing of the government helped bring down PQ minister Gilles Baril for alleged influence peddling. Then less than a week after Baril resigned, a La Presse story alleged that Yves Duhaime, a lawyer and former Péquiste minister, had leveraged his friendship with Premier Bernard Landry to land a $180,000 lobbying contract. Duhaime denied everything during an appearance on a popular television show, but on the same show Mulcair accused him of influence peddling and brandished excerpts of the Criminal Code to support his case. Later, after the taping, Duhaime confronted Mulcair and accused him of defamation, to which, according to a Quebec Superior Court judgement, Mulcair responded: “I’m looking forward to seeing you in prison,” before using an extremely vulgar French term to describe him.

WTO action on China’s rare-earth quotas makes the right point

The confusingly named substances known as “rare earths” – blame, ultimately, the Sicilian Greek philosopher Empedocles and his theory of the four elements – are a good subject for a World Trade Organization lawsuit. On Tuesday, the United States, the European Union and Japan commenced an action about a Chinese export restriction, though the prices of rare earths are currently falling. China ought to be held to its obligations to comply with the international trading system, and the rare-earths action is the proper way to make that point.

The market has been working to counteract China’s rare-earths export quota. China had obtained its dominant position mostly by low prices, not by any monopoly of rare-earth deposits. In due course, the high prices of Chinese rare-earths exports have lowered demand for them, and encouraged non-Chinese firms to look for, produce and sell more of these commodities themselves – a process in which Canadian companies – Avalon Rare Metals Inc., Great Western Minerals Group Ltd., Neo Material Technologies Inc., Quest Rare Minerals Ltd., among others – are taking an active part.

But China’s rare-earths quota is a direct contradiction of a WTO rule that, as Lawrence Herman of Cassels Brock LLP points out, goes back to the postwar General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of 1947; if a member-state imposes an export restriction, it must also limit its domestic supply – in China, in this case – so as not to discriminate. In fact, China is keeping its internal rare-earth prices low and its supply correspondingly high – a manifest preference for its own national market.

Since China joined the WTO in 2001, its government has not shown itself to be an arrant scoff-law. The proceeding by the U.S., the EU and Japan, still at a very early stage, may well achieve its salutary purpose.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: editorial

America’s public morality crisis

Republicans have morality upside down. Santorum, Gingrich and even Romney are barnstorming across the land condemning gay marriage, abortion, out-of-wedlock births, access to contraception and the wall separating church and state.

But America’s problem isn’t a breakdown in private morality. It’s a breakdown in public morality. What Americans do in their bedrooms is their own business. What corporate executives and Wall Street financiers do in boardrooms and executive suites affects all of us.

There is moral rot in America but it’s not found in the private behavior of ordinary people. It’s located in the public behavior of people who control our economy and are turning our democracy into a financial slush pump. It’s found in Wall Street fraud, exorbitant pay of top executives, financial conflicts of interest, insider trading and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations.”

Political scientist James Q. Wilson, who died last week, noted that a broken window left unattended signals that no one cares if windows are broken. It becomes an ongoing invitation to throw more stones at more windows, ultimately undermining moral standards of the entire community

California Pipeline Safety Assessment Reveals Immediate Hazards, Regulators Allegedly Ignored Warnings For Years

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Public Utilities Commission's Risk Assessment Unit released a report on gas pipeline safety in California on Wednesday. And the results are alarming.

The CPUC uncovered 17 potential hazards that immediately impact public safety. The most urgent issue: the presence of gas pipelines made from a 1970s brand of plastic pipe called Aldyl-A that's susceptible to cracking when under pressure -- the same plastic used in the pipes that caused two Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline explosions in 2011.

But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the CPUC, which regulates utility companies throughout the state, has allegedly known about the hazardous pipes since the National Transportation Safety Board issued a warning in 1998, and has never done anything about it. And allegedly, PG&E has known about the defect since 1982.

Push On Violence Against Women Act Shows Democrats 'Scheming,' Republicans Say

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats began their push to renew the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, as the Republican leader accused them of perpetuating a scheme to make the GOP look bad.

"I mean, if you're looking for the reason Congress has a 9 percent approval rating, this is it," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), arguing that the attempt to renew the law, which expired in 2011, is part of a broader attempt by Democrats to rig legislation so that the GOP can't back it.

"A day after we read a headline in the Congressional Quarterly about Democrats moving to slow a jobs bill that got 390 votes, we see a story today about how the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate is 'scheming' to spend the rest of the year hitting the other side," McConnell said in a floor speech.

"At a moment of economic crisis, the No. 3 Democrat in Senate, the Democrat in charge of strategy over there, is sitting up at night trying to figure out a way to create an issue where there isn't one -- not to help solve our nation's problems, but to help Democrats get reelected," said McConnell, referring to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Natural Born Drillers

To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.

Thus Mitt Romney claims that gasoline prices are high not because of saber-rattling over Iran, but because President Obama won’t allow unrestricted drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal tells readers that America as a whole could have a jobs boom, just like North Dakota, if only the environmentalists would get out of the way.

The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we’re already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.

Canada should lobby for bombing of Syria

Is it time to do a Kosovo in Syria? Yes.

In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to end state violence against its own civilians in Kosovo. That “first humanitarian war” was waged without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council but with what was deemed a moral mandate. There had been worldwide outrage at the genocidal policies of Slobodan Milosevic, and that sentiment formalized in General Assembly resolutions.

Syria is analogous to Kosovo with near-universal outrage, yet no Security Council permission to intervene. But there’s the General Assembly condemnation of the Bashar Assad regime, with dissenting votes coming only from Russia, China and some of the world’s most brutal regimes — Iran, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Cuba.

Post-Kosovo, the UN formulated the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P): A state could not invoke sovereignty to commit mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing — and if it did, the international community had a responsibility to intervene. There would be no repeat of Rwanda.

Anti-police brutality rally in Montreal results in 200 arrests

A symphony of smashing, spray-painting and projectile-tossing reverberated in downtown Montreal during the city's notoriously raucous annual anti-police brutality march.

Protesters lobbed objects at officers, vandalized some stores and smashed two police vehicles Thursday. Authorities responded by firing off chemical irritants in a bid to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 people.

"Are we happy with the result? No, because we would like to have a peaceful protest. But, this is the 16th year this is happening and, unfortunately, this is the same result. We [had] problems; people have been apprehended," said Montreal police Sgt. Ian Lafrenière.

Police say more than 200 people were arrested, and 10 officers were injured, on Thursday night. In 2011, 258 people were arrested or detained during the march.

There was a surreal backdrop to some of the unruly scenes Thursday.

Bo Xilai, a fallen star in an opaque land

It was just last month when Chinese Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai of the municipality of Chongqing, a mega-city with a population the size of Canada’s, was greeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper with pandas. Mere days ago, he was in the spotlight at the annual National People’s Congress, promoting and defending his policies. Yet, in a simple announcement by the central government, Mr. Bo was removed Thursday from all his posts in Chongqing, sending observers and pundits scrambling.

Mr. Bo’s stardom was drawn into question a few weeks ago, when the party secretary’s deputy and Chongqing’s much-praised anti-crime boss made a mysterious 24-hour visit to the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu. Already a member of the party’s powerful 25-member Politburo, Mr. Bo had been widely expected to enter the core leadership of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee this fall, when a younger group will take over from the 10-year presidency of Hu Jintao and premiership of Wen Jiabao.

‘Do the math’ on native schools, Ottawa told

The upcoming budget must deliver on the Conservatives’ promises to put funding for reserve schools on a par with other provincial schools, former prime minister Paul Martin and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo say.

Mr. Martin and Mr. Atleo separately urged the federal government to increase investments in First Nations education on Thursday. While the March 29 budget is expected to be austere, the AFN wants a $500-million commitment from Ottawa.

Their remarks follow a lamentable assessment by a federally-appointed education panel in its final report last month. Since 1996, federal increases in funding to reserve schools have been capped at two per cent, while the money Ottawa sends for provincially funded education has been increasing by six per cent annually.

“There is no excuse to wait beyond the next budget,” Mr. Martin said. “The government’s own panel on first nations education has reported and they made this their number one issue.”

Canada Post union asks new arbitrator to step aside over Tory ties

The union representing postal workers is asking the arbitrator named to settle a contract with Canada Post to step aside because he has ties to the Conservative party and previously represented the company.

In a bulletin to members Thursday, Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, writes that the union learned this week that Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had appointed Guy Dufort as arbitrator, effective March 19, replacing Coulter Osborne who quit in November.

Osborne stepped down after the union went to court over Raitt’s choice, saying he was not bilingual.

As part of the back-to-work legislation brought in last June, the arbitrator is to preside over final offer arbitration, where both sides present their final positions and the arbitrator selects one without blending aspects from the two sides.

Last November, the Labour Department asked the union to submit names of additional arbitrators, and the union included Dufort, who was on a list of Quebec arbitrators. That list is approved by employers and central labour bodies, said Lemelin, adding no further research was done.

How We Cured “The Culture of Poverty,” Not Poverty Itself

It's been exactly 50 years since Americans, or at least the non-poor among them, "discovered" poverty, thanks to Michael Harrington's engaging book The Other America. If this discovery now seems a little overstated, like Columbus's "discovery" of America, it was because the poor, according to Harrington, were so "hidden" and "invisible" that it took a crusading left-wing journalist to ferret them out.

Harrington's book jolted a nation that then prided itself on its classlessness and even fretted about the spirit-sapping effects of "too much affluence." He estimated that one quarter of the population lived in poverty—inner-city blacks, Appalachian whites, farm workers, and elderly Americans among them. We could no longer boast, as President Nixon had done in his "kitchen debate" with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow just three years earlier, about the splendors of American capitalism.

At the same time that it delivered its gut punch, The Other America also offered a view of poverty that seemed designed to comfort the already comfortable. The poor were different from the rest of us, it argued, radically different, and not just in the sense that they were deprived, disadvantaged, poorly housed, or poorly fed. They felt different, too, thought differently, and pursued lifestyles characterized by shortsightedness and intemperance. As Harrington wrote, "There is… a language of the poor, a psychology of the poor, a worldview of the poor. To be impoverished is to be an internal alien, to grow up in a culture that is radically different from the one that dominates the society."

Flashback to Fall: Occupy Revisits Zuccotti Park After New Arrests

If you were to travel past New York's Zuccotti Park on Thursday evening, it would have looked a bit like it did last fall, as Occupy Wall Street protesters rallied there after six of them reportedly got arrested while protesting Bank of America. Completing the late 2011 motif, "hipster cop" Rick Lee apparently made the scene as well. A Ustream broadcasting the action at Zuccotti showed protesters clustered on the Zuccotti Park stairs while Flickr pictures show police massing around a small crowd in the middle of the park. Organizer Austin Guest said about 200 people showed up (Gothamist put the number closer to 50) and six were arrested in total, one while crossing the street in front of the Bank of America branch in lower Manhattan where they had their protest and five while sitting on the living room furniture the occupiers set up at the branch. On Twitter, frequent Occupy tweeter @DiceyTroop said police had also impounded two of their vehicles.

The protest against Bank of America, which activists say is "a morally and financially dead 'zombie bank' poised to shock the entire global economy into crisis," is the campaign Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi has been active in. His big feature on the bank's problems came out on Wednesday; in it, he called B of A "a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we'll all be paying for until the end of time." The bank just passed a Federal Reserve stress test, but Taibbi made the case that it hasn't cleaned up its act since the federal bailout four years ago.

'Non-Humans' Account for 51% of All Internet Traffic

By one study's measure, slightly more than half of all the Internet's traffic comes from computers not being used by fleshy humans that might actually purchase products.

That's according to study released today by Incapsula, an Internet security firm, begging the question: What exactly does Internet traffic from a "non-human" look like? Incapsula is here to explain: "hackers, spambots, scrapers and spies of sorts collecting proprietary business information and customer data from unsuspecting websites." "Hackers" (5 percent) refers to hacking software that visits site to swipe credit-card information or crash sites (think of the ubiquitous DDoS attacks). "Scrapers" (another 5 percent) refer to bots that copy content from other sites and post it on their own, to get search-engine traffic. Altogether, the robotic ne'er-do-wells cited above constitutes 31 percent of all web traffic. The other 20 percent is the search engines themselves, the Googles and Bings of the Interwebbed world, whose servers work 'round-the-clock to index the Internet for our browsing pleasure.

And sorry to scare you up there, advertisers. "The company says that typically, only 49 percent of a web site’s visitors are actual humans and that the non-human traffic is mostly invisible because it is not shown by analytics software," reports ZDNet. Traffic numbers apparently are only slightly inflated by non-human hits. The comment sections, however, may be more affected: 2 percent of all Internet traffic is from comment spammers. Which is actually sort of gratifying for anyone who's had to deal with angry commenters: dismissing them as just cranky robots isn't the worst coping strategy.

Original Article
Source: the atlantic wire
Author: Dino Grandoni

State Dept. Seeks Firing of Peter Van Buren, Whistleblower Who Exposed Wasteful Iraq Projects

The U.S. State Department has taken steps to fire Peter Van Buren, a longtime employee who publicly criticized the Pentagon’s so-called "reconstruction efforts" in Iraq. In 2009 and 2010, he headed two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in rural Iraq. After returning from Iraq, he wrote a book, "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People." Van Buren has also exposed State Department waste and mismanagement on his blog, For at least six months, he has been under investigation for possible wrongdoings. After his 23-year career with the State Department, he now faces being fired after filing a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

At Last, Some Decency on Wall Street

By the time you read this, the PR hacks of Goldman Sachs will be vigorously pressing their efforts to destroy the reputation of whistle-blower Greg Smith, a former Goldman executive director whose exposé in Wednesday’s New York Times Op-Ed page was so devastating that the 143-year-old firm might actually, finally, be held accountable.

Smith, a wunderkind who spent the twelve years after he graduated from Stanford University rising through the ranks at Goldman, has revealed the firm’s culture to be so fundamentally venal that were financial industry shenanigans not generally exempt from effective legal regulation, Goldman’s executives could have been rounded up Wednesday morning on organized-crime charges.

The law that exempted what would have been illegal trading in the murky derivatives that the Smith article denounced was the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, enthusiastically signed by Bill Clinton in the waning months of his administration. The legislation shielded from any regulatory law the very activities that led to the financial meltdown from which Americans are still reeling.

Back in the Clinton era, it fell to the president’s last press secretary, Jake Siewert, to justify the freeing of Wall Street investment houses to do their worst, and in one of those delicious ironies Siewert was appointed as a managing director and the global head of corporate communications for Goldman Sachs the day before the devastating Smith exposé broke.

Occupy Is Dead! Long Live Occupy!

The Occupy Wall Street movement, revered for refocusing the world’s attention on rising economic and political inequality, died peacefully in its sleep after a long winter hibernation. Born September 17, 2011, Occupy grew steadily and spread like wildfire from city to city and country to country before reaching its peak—inhabiting ninety-five cities in eighty-two countries and 600 communities in the United States. Initiated by Canadian magazine Adbusters, Occupy Wall Street was famous for its “human microphone,” its dedication to democratic process and its persevering slogan, “We are the 99 percent.” Whether by fear, anger, worship or respect, there’s not a leader in the NGO or political world who has not been moved or changed by Occupy. Occupy Wall Street is survived by many offspring, including Occupy Our Homes, Occupy the SEC, Occupy Colleges and The 99% Spring.

When asked to write about what the future holds for Occupy Wall Street, I found myself pondering what a future looks like without it. Or at least without the Occupy enshrined in our minds: the one defined by a tactical commitment to seizing and holding public space, an adherence to universal direct democracy and a resolve to clear all decisions through the General Assembly. At first, the exercise felt illicit, as though I might lose my progressive credentials for even giving the thought voice in my head. But as I allowed myself to go there, the act of sedition felt important and empowering. The whispered anxiety I hear about whether Occupy will re-emerge this spring with sufficient force seems misplaced. What’s paramount is to ask: If Occupy died tomorrow, would it have left behind a fundamentally transformed landscape with new players, new methods and new values? The answer to that is an exciting and liberating yes.

Scott Olsen's Lawyer Claims Police Struck Iraq War Vet Intentionally During Occupy Protest

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- An Iraq War veteran whose skull was fractured during an Occupy Oakland protest last fall was hit by a beanbag round fired by a police officer, not a tear gas canister, his lawyer said.

Scott Olsen was struck by a beanbag fired from less than 30 feet away during the clash, Olsen's attorney Mark Martel, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday.

Oakland police confirmed the beanbag shot in an e-mail sent by investigator looking into the department's handling of the protests, said Martel, who is preparing to file a claim against the department. Police haven't said previously what hit Olsen, and didn't immediately return e-mail messages from The Associated Press on Thursday.

"The fact that it was a beanbag shot, which was not what we thought, puts it in a completely different light," Martel said. "If he was hit by a tear gas canister, that would just be stupid or negligent.

Catholic Bishops: Birth Control Is 'Ubiquitous And Inexpensive'

WASHINGTON -- As part of their intensely focused effort to repeal the Obama administration's new contraception coverage policy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a manifesto of sorts on Wednesday, in which they assert that birth control is "ubiquitous and inexpensive."

"We wish to clarify what this debate is -- and is not -- about," the bishops said in the statement. "This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church's hand and with the Church's funds."

What the debate is about, according to the statement, is the "unjust and illegal" mandate that "would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception -- including abortifacient drugs."

The bishops' statement is somewhat misleading. The new federal rule does not cover any drug that causes an abortion. It does cover emergency contraception, which prevents pregnancy.

Afghan Massacre Sheds Light on Culture of Mania and Aggression in U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

We speak with journalist Neil Shea, who has reported on Afghanistan and Iraq since 2006 for Stars and Stripes and other publications. Shea discusses his experiences witnessing disturbing behavior during his travels with U.S. troops in Afghanistan and offers insight into understanding the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians. "When we cycle our soldiers and marines through these wars that don’t really have a clear purpose over years and years...we expect light-switch control over their aggression," Shea says. "We expect to be able to turn them into killers and then turn them back into winners of hearts and minds. And when you do that to a man or a woman over many years, that light-switch control begins to fray."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Eric-Yvan Lemay, Le Journal De Montreal, Has Home Raided, Documents, Clothes Seized

MONTREAL - Quebec provincial police carried out a raid on the home of Montreal reporter on Thursday after he wrote an expose on the lax protection given to hospital records.

Le Journal de Montreal reporter Eric-Yvan Lemay, who has not been charged, was with his pregnant wife and two young children when police banged on the door at 6:45 a.m. to serve a search warrant.

The newspaper's managing editor, George Kalogerakis, says police demanded Lemay's fingerprints, some clothes and his computer.

Kalogerakis says the seized material was sealed until Le Journal contests the warrant in court.

Kalogerakis said Lemay had recently done a series of articles on how easy it was to get medical information in about 10 hospitals, including one in St-Hyacinthe where he found a stack of medical records in a corridor.

He says one of the hospitals reportedly filed a criminal complaint against Lemay.

Christy Clark's new media strategy raises eyebrows

A tense exchange between journalists and the B.C. premier's new director of communications has observers wondering if Christy Clark is modelling her media strategy after Stephen Harper.

This is Sara MacIntyre's first week in Victoria after moving west from Ottawa, where she served as the prime minister's press secretary until last month. During a photo opportunity Wednesday, she had a heated confrontation with reporters, refusing to allow any questions for Clark and explaining that "she took questions yesterday."

Public relations specialist Alan Edwards of Peak Communicators says it marks an obvious change in approach for the radio host-turned-premier.

"The premier has said that government is open and accessible. This is proving it's not," he told CTV News.
Video of the exchange has been shared extensively online, and Edwards says he's been passing it on as a learning tool

Misleading robocalls went to voters ID'd as non-Tories

An investigation by CBC News has turned up voters all over Canada who say the reason they got robocalls sending them to fictitious polling stations was that they'd revealed they would not vote Conservative.

Although the Conservative Party has denied any involvement in the calls, these new details suggest that the misleading calls relied on data gathered by, and carefully guarded by, the Conservative Party.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand announced Thursday that he now has "over 700 Canadians from across the country" who allege "specific circumstances" of fraudulent or improper calls. CBC News examined 31 ridings where such calls have been reported and found a pattern: those receiving those calls also had previous calls from the Conservative Party to find out which way they would vote.

Tim McCoy of the riding of Ottawa-Vanier was one of those who complained to Elections Canada. He received a bogus recorded message pretending to be from Elections Canada — but he also had two previous calls from the Conservatives.

Agrium, Richardson plot Viterra deal

Two of the country’s biggest agriculture companies are working with Switzerland’s Glencore International PLC on a takeover bid for Viterra Inc. (VT-T16.06-0.03-0.19%), a plan that would further build the businesses of Calgary’s Agrium Inc. (AGU-T85.262.703.27%)and Winnipeg’s Richardson family.

The three companies are looking at a deal for Viterra, an agribusiness conglomerate that is the largest handler of grain in Canada and Australia, and could carve it up.

Richardson International Ltd. would like to add some of Viterra’s Canadian grain assets, such as elevators and port facilities, to its existing business.

Agrium, meanwhile, is interested in Viterra’s almost 260 farm supply stores dotted across Canada, said a source familiar with the situation. Agrium operates about 75 stores in Western Canada but it is keen to develop a larger network. Purchasing Viterra’s assets would cement its leadership position.

Private golf clubs cost Toronto taxpayers millions

It’s a $37 million dispute that every year costs taxpayers millions more, but the standoff between city hall and nine subsidized private golf clubs has barely moved since council ordered action a year and a half ago.

Thanks to a decades-old agreement intended to preserve urban green space, a handful of exclusive country clubs — whose members have paid as much as six figures to enroll — are permitted to defer annual property tax payments.

As of this year, it’s cost the city more than $37 million in potential tax revenue.

Former councillor Adrian Heaps was the most recent city politician to bring the item to council. In August 2010, council voted 19-11 to negotiate a new arrangement with the club owners, which would either see the deal scrapped or at least provide more public access.

“I haven’t heard anything from the city in more than a year,” said Herb Pirk, general manager of Oakdale Golf and Country Club. Oakdale is one of the few clubs that has partially opened its doors to the community.

Liberal MP Bennett’s campaign filed complaint to Elections Canada alleging voter suppression in St. Paul's in last election, still hasn't heard back

PARLIAMENT HILL—A long-time campaign manager for one of the Liberal Party’s most prominent MPs has questioned the legitimacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority government win in last year’s election following three weeks of controversy over new complaints of fraudulent telephone calls and harassment of voters in last year’s campaign—capped Thursday with a surprise announcement from Elections Canada it has opened 700 new cases of voter complaints since the controversy began.

Lynne Steele, who has managed several election campaigns for Toronto Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s, Ont.), told The Hill Times on Thursday, coincidentally only two hours prior to the unprecedented announcement from Elections Canada, that complaints of fraudulent and harassing calls from Liberal voters in her riding—as well as outright voter intimidation on the way to the ballot boxes—began coming in even before the polls closed last May 2.

“Kettling” tactic denounced by Toronto police backed by European court

The European court of human rights ruled Thursday that a contentious crowd control tactic called “kettling” is the most effective method for containing protesters.

The controversial technique, in which riot police box in protesters from all angles, leaving no room for escape, was denounced by Toronto police following the June 2010 G20 summit.

Police here have said they will never again use the tactic after infamously “kettling” about 300 protesters and bystanders, near Queen St. and Spadina Ave., in early-evening pouring rain on June 27, 2010.

The act, captured in a dramatic live television broadcast, led to hundreds of arrests. Most detainees were released without charge later that day.

Police Chief Bill Blair condemned “kettling” in his 2011 review of G20 policing.

“Premature displays of real or implied force can lead to negative crowd reactions that may escalate a situation,” Blair wrote.

Montreal anti-police protest: More than 100 arrested during march

MONTREAL—A symphony of smashing, spray-painting and projectile-tossing played out Thursday in downtown Montreal during the city’s notoriously raucous annual anti-police march.

Protesters lobbed objects at officers, vandalized some stores and smashed two police vehicles. Authorities responded by firing off chemical irritants in a bid to disperse a crowd of about 1,000 people.

There were more than 100 arrests — although that number had potential to grow, given there were more than 200 detained last year.

There was a surreal backdrop to some of the unruly scenes.

On the one hand, anarchists and anti-authority types tossed objects like garbage cans at police cars, and police responded by pumping chemical irritants into the air. In the background, regular crowds went about their ordinary business like evening shopping and eating out.

The march did disrupt some economic activity, however. Security at some Sainte-Catherine Street boutiques locked their customers inside to protect them.

Is Mulcair Canada’s Tony Blair?

Thomas Mulcair should eat his Wheaties and strap on his body armour. Correct? The Harper Conservatives are already training their cannons on the New Democrat frontrunner, some say, because he is the one they most fear. Mulcair’s combativeness, experience and brains make him a formidable foe. Moreover, he’s the New Democrat best placed to pull a ‘Tony Blair,’ and shift the party further to the center, where it might conceivably contend for power.

But there’s another line of thinking, which suggests a Mulcair victory would suit Prime Minister Stephen Harper just fine. It gets back to Harper’s lifelong dream of destroying the Liberal party. Mulcair, it is believed by those who’ve seen him work in Quebec, has the capacity to wipe out or absorb the Liberals. A Liberal-Democratic Party would necessarily position itself left of where the Liberals stood in their small-c-conservative period in the late 1990s. And that would at last leave the economic centre unobstructed, which is precisely what Harper wants.

Consider first the emerging endgame in the NDP leadership contest. The “anybody but Mulcair” candidate was to have been Brian Topp. Party insiders say that a series of halting debate performances have made that a non-starter. “In terms of being able to capture and continue to grow his [Topp’s] vote, I don’t see it… ” said one. “The Brian Topp campaign has no momentum right now. If anything he’s in reverse.”