Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Homophobes Gay? Study Ties Anti-Gay Outlook To Homosexuality, Authoritarian Parenting

Homophobics should consider a little self-reflection, suggests a new study finding those individuals who are most hostile toward gays and hold strong anti-gay views may themselves have same-sex desires, albeit undercover ones.

The prejudice of homophobia may also stem from authoritarian parents, particularly those with homophobic views as well, the researchers added.

"This study shows that if you are feeling that kind of visceral reaction to an out-group, ask yourself, 'Why?'" co-author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a statement. "Those intense emotions should serve as a call to self-reflection."

The research, published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reveals the nuances of prejudices like homophobia, which can ultimately have dire consequences. [The 10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]

"Sometimes people are threatened by gays and lesbians because they are fearing their own impulses, in a sense they 'doth protest too much,'" Ryan told LiveScience. "In addition, it appears that sometimes those who would oppress others have been oppressed themselves, and we can have some compassion for them too, they may be unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves."

Ryan cautioned, however, that this link is only one source of anti-gay sentiments.

North Korea Prison Camps: 150,000 Languish In Secret Gulags, Human Rights Group Says

WASHINGTON — The U.S. human rights envoy for North Korea said Tuesday conditions in the communist country's "brutal" prison camps are worse than in the Soviet Union's gulag during the Cold War.

Robert King made his comments at a conference examining the North's network of prison labor camps and penitentiaries. A new report estimates the camps hold more than 150,000 inmates, despite North Korea's denial it holds political prisoners.

King said the U.S. has made it clear to Pyongyang that it needs not only to address international concerns over its weapons' programs but to improve its human rights record if it wants to participate fully within the international community.

The international spotlight is currently on the North over its plans to launch a long-range rocket as early as Thursday, as it marks the centennial of the nation's founder – a step that Washington says will derail a recent U.S.-North Korean agreement to provide food aid in return for nuclear concessions. According to South Korean intelligence, the North is also preparing its third nuclear weapons test.

"Clearly the nuclear issue is a critical issue that needs to be dealt with in North Korea. It's an issue that threatens North Korea's neighbors, Japan (and) South Korea," King said. "At the same time, we have also to deal with human rights."

Concealing F-35 costs: A scandal at last

Even its mainstream media supporters at Postmedia News, and CTVglobemedia are now angry with the Harper Conservatives for concealing the true costs of the F-35 fighter jet.

The Harper government denounced the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) for claiming in March 2011 that F-35 fighter jet costs were about $10 billion more than announced by the Conservatives. Media are swarming now because the Auditor General revealed last week that increased costs -- similar to what the PBO reported -- were known within the government, which chose not to share the information with parliament, or the public.

Catching the government with its pants down is certainly news. Note that it was the Auditor General, the PBO and the opposition parties that drew the media's attention to what had been known in Canada, and major news in the U.S. Cost over-runs, and mismanagement of the F-35 file were well covered in mainstream U.S. reporting on military issues.

The important questions remain unanswered. Why does Canada need to pay $29 billion or more for first-strike jet aircraft? Who do we intend to attack with our 65 F-35 fighters? Why would these target countries be considered a threat to Canada? A report by the Rideau Institute in 2010 questioned why Canada needed to acquire the F-35 received press attention at the time, but the issues it raised are still without a coherent response.

What a Wildrose victory may mean for Saskatchewan

If recent polling is to be believed, Alberta's ultra-conservative Wildrose Party looks poised to capture an electoral majority in the upcoming provincial election only a few years after its creation. While we could just chalk this up to Alberta's peculiar penchant for right-wing populism within it's unique political culture and shrug our shoulders, we would make a grave mistake if we were to believe that Alberta's choice in the next election only affects Albertans. For Saskatchewan, a Wildrose victory has the very real potential to significantly accelerate the implementation of neo-liberal economic policy and a de-regulatory regime that has been the hallmark of the Brad Wall government.

By way of understanding the potential impact of a Wildrose victory for Saskatchewan, let's take a look at the actual policies that Wildrose would hope to implement should they emerge victorious in the upcoming election.

Under the leadership of Fraser Institute and Calgary School alum Danielle Smith, the Wildrose Party has adopted a strict market-fundamentalist view on economic policies and an almost libertarian zeal for the protection of property rights. What this means in practice is that Wildrose economic policies read like a conservative utopia:

On the Environment:

"Encourage understanding and support [of Alberta's energy industry] while resisting efforts by other governments and authorities to hinder the growth of the industry through regulation."

"Establish a one-window policy for fast regulatory approvals."

Does one-third add up to more than two-thirds in Wildrose democratic arithmetic?

Let me get this straight: If two thirds of the electorate in a given constituency elect an MLA, the Wildrose Party proposes that one third of that electorate should be able to have her recalled?

I must have missed something in the Wildrose Party's latest policy proposal. Although, as they say, "God is in the details." That’s especially true here in Alberta, one supposes.

Unfortunately, the details aren't really in the policy document, charmingly entitled, "The Wildrose Pledge to Albertans."

Just a thought, though, before the future Wildrose government we’ve all been persuaded by the pollsters is a certainty introduces its proposed Accountability Act to the Legislature. They may want to submit it to a judge along with the referendum questions on abortion, "conscience rights" and water fluoridation for a quick constitutionality check.

As I recall, our Canadian Constitution says something about there being a requirement for our constitutional arrangement to be "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom."

A politician facing possible removal from office on the strength of the signatures of a minority of constituents -- or even merely having to deal with the nuisance of fending off a politically motivated recall vote -- might make an argument this one doesn't quite meet the Constitution’s similar-in-principle test.

New film tells about the Roma or 'gypsies' Canada wants to keep out

Screen shot from the film Never Come Back. Photo: Malcolm Hamilton
They call them "gypsies," "gitanes," "tziganes," "ciganes," "nomadi" -- and sometimes such nasty epithets as thieves, pickpockets, vagrants and "inadaptables" (a favourite term in the Czech Republic).
They are the Roma, Europe's perennially unwelcome minority.

They are shunned just about everywhere on the continent, whether in Hungary or Spain, the Balkans or Iberia, the Mediterranean or Scandinavia.

Historians and anthropologists say they migrated from Rajasthan, in India, more than a thousand years ago.

In India, the Roma had been itinerant musicians, performers, merchants -- and sometimes slaves -- and they carried on some of those traditional occupations in their new lands.

Years ago, many in the West believed the Roma had come from the Middle East -- specifically from Egypt -- hence the term "gypsies."

Health Canada should not have closed National Aboriginal Health Organization

By almost every indicator, Canada’s aboriginals are facing a public health crisis. They have abnormally high rates of diabetes, infant mortality, teen pregnancy and tuberculosis at a time when they are also the fastest-growing segment of the population. The suicide rate in Nunavut is 12 times higher the national one. And research in the area of aboriginal health is still in its infancy.

That is why closing down the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) is a serious misstep. Its paltry $5-million-a-year budget is a small saving for Health Canada. If the government has a better idea about how to more effectively, and economically, address the critical health disparities that First Nations, Inuit and Métis people face, it should certainly make these ideas public.

In the meantime, however, NAHO has played a crucial role in advancing research on aboriginal health, collecting and analyzing data, and leading community initiatives, such as programs to help people quit smoking, prevent suicide and avoid teen pregnancy. It has produced 12 issues of the Journal of Aboriginal Health, and had already put out requests for research papers for this fall’s edition, to be devoted to “Inuit health and wellness in its broadest sense.”

Aboriginals face unique challenges that seriously impact their health, including a traumatic history of family separation and residential schooling; inadequate housing; difficulty accessing clean water and food; high rates of alcoholism and unemployment; poverty; and exposure to environmental contaminants.

One would imagine that the federal Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, herself an Inuk and Nunavut’s MP, would be perfectly positioned to recognize the severity of these problems. Instead, in a cruel irony, she has been unwilling to protect the only research organization of its kind dedicated to improving health outcomes for Aboriginals. The closure of NAHO will reverse a decade of progress, and leave a gaping hole for those who are most in need.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: editorial

Terrorism monitor closely watched Occupy protests

Canada’s terrorism assessment centre kept close watch on Occupy protests throughout the country last year, monitoring potential economic disruption and support from hacker group Anonymous.

Critics say it’s disturbing that the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC), which is tasked with monitoring domestic and international terrorist threats, kept tabs on peaceful protests.

Three ITAC reports about Canadian Occupy protests were obtained by The Globe and Mail through an access to information request. The reports were distributed by the centre, which is housed within Canada’s spy agency, to the intelligence community, police and “critical infrastructure stakeholders” in the private sector.

The first report was penned eight days before demonstrations began on Oct. 15. It gave an overview of the planned demonstrations meant to replicate Occupy Wall Street, a protest against corporate greed.

Although the initial report contained widely known information, lawyer and executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association David Eby said it is the report’s existence that’s worrisome. “When you treat dissent as a terrorist threat, it acts functionally as a disincentive for citizens to engage in the political process,” he said.

Air Canada threatens to fire pilots’ union chief over remarks on safety

Paul Strachan, the president of the Air Canada Pilots Association, has been reprimanded by the airline for making allegedly “reckless” remarks about plane safety.

“Your comments concerning the safety of Air Canada’s operations and aircraft are unacceptable and cannot be permitted to stand,” Captain Rick Allen, the airline’s senior director of flight operations, said in a letter to Captain Strachan about his “irresponsible” comments made during a March 20 interview on the Lang & O’Leary Exchange program on CBC TV.

The country’s largest airline warned that unless the ACPA president retracts his comments, he will face disciplinary action or even dismissal as an airline employee.

“You are very well aware of the primordial role that the safety of our operations plays in the reputation and brand image that Air Canada works so hard to establish and maintain,” Capt. Allen said in the two-page letter obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Capt. Strachan had mentioned insolvent Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. during the television interview.

Responding to a question about safety from co-host Kevin O’Leary, Capt. Strachan referred to Aveos, an aircraft maintenance firm that shut down last month and whose largest customer was Air Canada (AC.B-T0.890.022.30%).

Training Terrorists in Nevada: Seymour Hersh on U.S. Aid to Iranian Group Tied to Scientist Killings

Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. The MEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997, and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the 1970s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. Hersh’s new report for The New Yorker blog, "Our Men in Iran?," comes as nuclear talks are set to resume this week between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Rape Statistics: Over 17 Percent Of High School-Age Girls In Indiana Experience Sexual Assault

According to recent national research conducted by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 10.5 percent of all high school-age girls have been sexually assaulted. And in the state of Indiana, those numbers are considerable higher than nearly anywhere else in the country. 17.3 percent of girls in grades nine through 12 in the state have reported experiencing rape or sexual assault.

Julie Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, told the Bloomington Herald-Times that she was "shocked" by the numbers.

But these statistics may not even reflect the true scope of the issue. CBS Chicago noted that because 50 percent of sexual assaults against women are unreported, it's difficult to estimate the actual number of instances.

Indiana University Center for Evaluation & Education Policy Director Jonath Plucker told the Post-Tribune that he was not surprised that Indiana did not rank highly, but that it did come as a surprise to be among the worst states in the country in terms of sexual assault. He said:

    “... That we arguably have the worst data in the country -- that hit me like a punch in the stomach. There are other more socially conservative states, more provincial states, certainly poorer states. But the data we have available to us just didn’t allow us to figure out why our figures are so bad.”

Wells Fargo Slapped With $3.1 Million Fine For 'Reprehensible' Handling Of One Mortgage

A federal judge who has fiercely criticized how big banks service home loans is fed up with Wells Fargo.

In a scathing opinion issued last week, Elizabeth Magner, a federal bankruptcy judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana, characterized as "highly reprehensible" Wells Fargo's behavior over more than five years of litigation with a single homeowner and ordered the bank to pay the New Orleans man a whopping $3.1 million in punitive damages, one of the biggest fines ever for mortgage servicing misconduct.

"Wells Fargo has taken advantage of borrowers who rely on it to accurately apply payments and calculate the amounts owed," Magner writes. "But perhaps more disturbing is Wells Fargo's refusal to voluntarily correct its errors. It prefers to rely on the ignorance of borrowers or their inability to fund a challenge to its demands, rather than voluntarily relinquish gains obtained through improper accounting methods."

The opinion reflects Magner's disgust with tactics that Wells Fargo used to fight the case -- and perhaps frustration with an appeals court ruling in a separate, but similar case, that overturned her order that would have forced Wells Fargo to audit and provide a full accounting for more than 400 home loans in her jurisdiction.

Harper government's stealth fighter review doesn't go far enough: expert

OTTAWA - The Canadian government is not going far enough in its review and oversight of the F-35 and it should examine what the stealth fighter can and cannot do, says an expert who's tracked the controversial program.

Winslow Wheeler, of the Washington-based Centre for Defence Information, says the debate following last week's auditor general report needs to move beyond the eye-popping cost, muddied procurement process and what cabinet ministers knew — or didn't know.

"It needs serious and objective people to look at it and to come up with fact-filled findings that translate into conclusions and recommendations, rather than vague, fuzzy-worded auditor reports and high-octane politician statements," Wheeler said in an interview Monday.

"Your opposition parties seem to be acting like typically weak politicians, crying foul and demanding resignations knowing that not much is going to happen. I'm not sure where all of this is going other than adding to the volume level of Canadian politics."

In its response to auditor general Michael Ferguson's inaugural report, the Harper government last week committed to specifically reviewing the acquisition and sustainment costs of the F-35.

Wildrose Party’s idea of “conscience rights” is discriminatory

Alberta’s Wildrose Party says it would implement a law to protect the “conscience rights” of health professionals, apparently to include marriage commissioners, who would not have to solemnize marriages involving gay or lesbian couples.

It is unclear in what ways health professionals are being denied freedom of conscience at the moment. Are doctors being required to perform abortions against their will? If so, no public complaint has been made that we are aware of. Would doctors have the right to swear off treating patients of the opposite sex? Would family physicians be entitled to refuse to prescribe birth control pills, or could they insist, when faced with a teenage girl, on counselling abstinence only?

Party Leader Danielle Smith has explicitly mentioned “conscience rights” for marriage commissioners, who perform civil ceremonies. Each commissioner would in effect be handed a licence to discriminate. Gay and lesbian marriage is the law of the land – but gays would have to go to the back of the bus and wait for someone willing to serve as driver, if Wildrose has its way. And nothing would prevent a marriage commissioner with a sincere religious belief from refusing to marry an interracial or interfaith couple.

Baird lobbied hard against Palestinian bid for statehood

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird personally took to the phones last year to try to swing countries to oppose Palestinian efforts to be recognized as a state by the United Nations, according to newly released documents that for the first time reveal in detail how intensely Canada worked behind the scenes to block the statehood resolution.

Though it was clear that Canada opposed the resolution – and Mr. Baird met with foreign counterparts when the issue came to a head at UN headquarters in New York last September – the documents contain details of a high-level lobbying campaign in the preceding months.

It was a controversial issue that his counterparts in some other countries worked to dodge. But with Israel and the United States working feverishly to prevent recognition of a Palestinian state, Canada’s Foreign Minister personally intervened to support that effort.

Mr. Baird called at least eight fellow foreign ministers from countries including Chile, South Korea and Australia, taking on an issue that threatened to spark a confrontation at the UN.

And although the Palestinian resolution was eventually put on hold last year – it’s still on the backburner at the UN Security Council – it could be revived within months. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told an Israeli delegation this past weekend that he will renew the bid within months if Israel does not embrace new peace talks, according to reports.

Does the government’s defence of the F-35 purchase fly?

Peter MacKay’s latest defence of Ottawa’s F-35 fighter-jet plans is raising new questions over whether Ottawa is truly changing its ways after last week’s damning Auditor-General’s report.

The House of Commons is on a two-week break after a heated few days triggered by Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s finding that Ottawa knew the full cost was closer to $25-billion, even as the department reported costs of $9-billion and then $14.7-billion.

The opposition insists heads should roll, but Mr. MacKay, the Defence Minister, and Chief of the Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk are seeking to minimize the fallout with assurances that the Department of National Defence was acting in good faith.

With the clock ticking for Canada to make a decision on how to replace its current fleet of CF-18 fighters, debate is narrowing to a few key points. The Globe and Mail asked three independent defence experts – former DND assistant deputy minister Alan Williams, the University of Ottawa’s Philippe Lagassé, and military procurement historian Randall Wakelam of the Royal Military College – for their reaction to the latest government lines.

‘In-and-out’ investigation cost taxpayers more than $2.3M in legal costs

OTTAWA — As Elections Canada continues to run up costs probing the voter suppression scandal, newly released documents show that taxpayers spent more than $2.3 million on an investigation and five-year legal battle with the Conservative Party over the “in-and-out” affair.

Between May 2007 and last fall when the Conservative Party pleaded guilty to Elections Act charges, Elections Canada and the director of public prosecutions spent far more for lawyers, forensic accountants and investigators than the $52,000 the party paid in fines for violating its spending limits in the 2006 campaign.

The new figures, released under the Access to Information Act, come as the electoral watchdog undertakes an even broader series of investigations into complaints from voters about phone calls received during last year’s federal election in about 200 ridings across the country.

Throughout the in-and-out case, the Conservatives maintained they had done nothing wrong in conducting a series of wire transfers to shuffle $1.3 million in advertising costs incurred by the party through campaign accounts of 67 local candidates.

Anti-oilpatch activist Wiebo Ludwig dies at 70

Controversial Alberta anti-oilpatch activist and convicted bomber Wiebo Ludwig has died, his son Josh has confirmed to CBC News.

Ludwig, 70, told CBC News last October that he had cancer of the esophagus and was not interested in undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

"Generally, they just extend your life a bit on all of those," he said. "And if that's all they're doing, I would just as soon sign off earlier."

Josh Ludwig released a statement Monday night saying his father had "entered eternal rest at home and surrounded by those he loved dearly."

Ludwig has long been a controversial figure in the Alberta oilpatch.

No one has ever been charged in the 1999 fatal shooting of teenager Karman Willis on his Trickle Creek farm near the Alberta-B.C. border.

In 2000, Ludwig was found guilty on five charges related to bombings and vandalism of oil and gas wells in northwestern Alberta. He served two-thirds of a 28-month prison sentence before he was released in 2001.

In January 2010, hundreds of RCMP officers searched his 325-hectare farm in Hythe, Alta., looking for evidence related to six Encana gas pipeline bombings in B.C. between October 2008 and July 2009.

Ludwig was arrested and released after spending one night in jail. He was never charged.

In an interview last October with CBC News in Edmonton ahead of a screening of a documentary film about his life, Ludwig said he hoped he lived long enough to write a book about his fight.

"And probably publish it posthumously so they don't put me in jail," he said.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: cbc news

Ottawa killed Katimavik – and missed boat on youth jobs strategy

Canada's youth are still waiting.

The 2012 federal budget not only missed the opportunity to create a youth employment strategy, it actually eliminated Katimavik, a program that could have been re-orientated, redefined and expanded to meet our labour market needs.

For every pessimist pointing out that the unemployment rate has yet to return to the 6 per cent prevailing before the onset of the recession, there are others quick to say that jobs go unfilled, that employers can’t find willing workers, and implicitly that there is something wrong with the unemployed – they are in the wrong place, with the wrong skills, or have unrealistic expectations.

In fact, it is a normal state of affairs for some job vacancies to go unfilled.

The labour market creates thousands upon thousands of jobs every month as new firms are born and existing firms expand; it also destroys thousands upon thousands as others die and contract. Statistics Canada recently reported that the economy created 80,000 jobs, but we should understand that to be the difference between a much larger number of gains and losses.

When things are in flux it is no surprise that at any point in time some vacancies are unfilled. Jobs are created and destroyed in an instant, but it takes time to find them, move between them, and adjust to the associated changes.

Poll challenges view that Canadians oppose higher taxes

OTTAWA—A new poll challenges conventional political wisdom by showing a majority of Canadians — including most Conservative voters and wealthy individuals — would support higher taxes to fight income inequality.

Higher taxes are supposedly political dynamite but the poll — the first major survey for the newly founded left-leaning Broadbent Institute — suggests the toxicity of taxation has been exaggerated and is the product of a concerted “ideological” campaign, says Ed Broadbent, the institute’s namesake.

A telephone survey of 2,000 Canadians by Environics Research asked about attitudes toward growing income inequality and the role of government and individuals in addressing it.

After canvassing whether respondents see inequality as a real problem, and whether the rich should pay more, it asked directly if people would “personally be very, somewhat, not very or not at all willing to pay slightly higher taxes if that’s what it would take to protect our social programs like health care, pensions and access to post-secondary education.”

In all, 64 per cent said they would be willing to pay “slightly higher taxes,” although what exactly “slightly” higher meant was not specified. Of the 64 per cent, 41 per cent were “somewhat” open and 23 per cent were “very” willing to pay more.

Trayvon Martin shooter creates fundraising website

ORLANDO, FLA.—From hiding, George Zimmerman has created a website to raise money for his legal defence and living expenses while he awaits a special prosecutor’s decision whether to charge him in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

One of Zimmerman’s lawyers, Craig Sonner, confirmed on Monday the site was legitimately Zimmerman’s.

“He is operating this on his own,” Sonner told Reuters.

The website, called, offers one of the first public comments from Zimmerman since the neighbourhood watch volunteer shot Martin on Feb. 26 in what he said was self-defence.

He went into hiding shortly after the shooting, which generated nationwide controversy after police declined to arrest him. A special prosecutor is weighing whether to seek criminal charges after announcing Monday that she would not take the case before a grand jury.

“On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage,” Zimmerman says on the home page. “I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life.”

Plaintiffs hope Vancouver jail strip-search lawsuit will apply to thousands of others

A bid by two people to have their claim of being wrongly strip-searched at the Vancouver jail certified as a class action lawsuit opened in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.

If successful, the case would apply to thousands of others who have been strip-searched over the years.

Christopher Jacob and Elise Thorburn, who were strip-searched at the jail in 2003, say the jail wrongly strip-searched thousands of people between 2001 and 2006.

Outside court, their lawyer, Jason Gratl, noted that in Dec. 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada prohibited strip-searches as a routine police practice.

The court found the searches were inherently demeaning and degrading and that there must be reasonable and probable grounds that the search is needed to discover weapons or prevent the loss of evidence related to a valid arrest.

Gratl said the jail, operated jointly by the city and the B.C. government, didn’t listen to the Supreme Court and carried on strip-searching everyone arrested and brought to the jail until Dec. 2006.

Blank Check for the Military Will Send America the Way of the Soviet Union

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, many strategists suggested that the Cold War arms race had bankrupted its economy and caused its downfall. More than 20 years later, it appears that some in Washington are driving the U.S. toward a similar fate.

Most recently, House Republicans (led by Rep. Paul Ryan) introduced a budget that both lavishly funds the Pentagon and slashes domestic programs. Mr. Ryan has even questioned whether generals were being honest in their assessment of the president's budget, suggesting, "We don't think the generals are giving us their true advice." House Republicans seem to be ignoring the advice of our military leaders and are seeking to fund the Pentagon beyond what it requires or has requested.

For example, the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) is now slated to cost the American taxpayer $1.5 trillion, with about a trillion attributable to its expensive maintenance costs. This is a perfect example of wasteful programs: the F-35 is becoming too expensive to bother flying in the first place. Instead of delaying contracts, it's time for elected officials to pull the plug.

Meanwhile, the foundations of a strong economy -- public education, infrastructure development, commitments to research and development and a secure safety net that protects our most vulnerable citizens from poverty -- go starved for funding. This is the trade-off of the Ryan Republican budget proposal.

Detroit Financial Advisory Board Finds Model In New York City, Washington D.C.

With Detroit in apparent free fall, city officials voted this week to install a nine-member financial control board with the authority to approve the city’s budget, dramatically reduce spending and likely force concessions from city worker unions.

Detroit will get a $137 million emergency-loan package to cover bills due in May, when the city had been projected to run out of money. State officials will appoint most of the board’s members and Detroit will remain subject to outside financial controls until certain fiscal standards are met.

“This, to me, is gangster politics,” said the Rev. David Bullock, who was raised in Detroit, lives in the city and serves as pastor of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in neighboring Highland Park, Mich. “They say the agreement left the mayor and the city council in place. But if they do anything the board doesn’t like, they can eventually implement reform. Who do you think is in control of Detroit?”

But advocates -– including five members of Detroit’s nine-member city council –- say a financial control board was the best in a series of bad options. A financial control board can force the kind of unpopular cuts and changes that elected officials have been unwilling or unable to make in Detroit, they argue, just as similar boards did in two other cities that teetered on the brink of financial collapse: New York and Washington, D.C.

Major U.S. Corporations Squeezing Even More Money Out Of Employees

Major corporations are making certain they get their money's worth out of each individual employee.

S&P 500 companies made an average $420,000 in revenue per employee last year, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Yet even though that's a full ninth more than in 2007, companies remain hesitant to hire new workers.

With roughly four unemployed workers for every job opening, many Americans have felt the pressure to worker harder and prove their worth. Those millions of unemployed people have additionally given some employers less of a reason to raise worker wages, as economists told HuffPost earlier this year.

Indeed, inflation-adjusted wages fell about 2 percent in 2011. And that downward trend has yet to end, with personal income falling again in February, once adjusted for inflation. For many, wages are stuck, or effectively falling when inflation is taken into account. The percentage of workers reporting no wage change is at its highest level in 30 years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

There we have the conundrum that the country faces: corporate profits hitting record highs, while millions of Americans remain out of work or unable to boost their living standards.

But could the squeeze be nearing its limit? It's possible. Productivity rose just 0.4 percent last year, after spiking 4.0 percent in 2010 and 2.3 percent in 2009, according to the Labor Department. That's partially why corporate profits grew at a dramatically slower pace last year.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Bonnie Kavoussi 

Paul Krugman Rips 'Centrist' Commentators In New York Times Column

NEW YORK -- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman didn't name names in Monday's column calling out "centrist" defenders of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, but signs point to two fellow Times writers: David Brooks and James Stewart.

In "The Gullible Center," Krugman knocked those commentators whose "self-image, and to a large extent their professional selling point, depends on posing as high-minded types standing between the partisan extremes, bringing together reasonable people from both parties -- even if these reasonable people don't actually exist."

So does the moderate conservative Brooks see himself as the "centrist" in question?

"I really can't comment on a colleague's column," Brooks told The Huffington Post. "Tough enough to keep up with my own."

Well, if Brooks hasn't been keeping up, here's a brief rundown.

On Friday, Brooks slammed President Obama for his harsh critique of Ryan's budget days earlier, arguing that the president had taken the low road and distorted Ryan's proposal. Stewart suggested in a Saturday column that Obama's criticism was part of the "overheated partisan rhetoric" on the left surrounding Ryan's budget plan.

Short-term costing for F-35s a 'distortion': ex-DND official

OTTAWA — The Conservative government's explanation for lowballing the F-35 price tag by $10 billion weeks before the last election may be questionable, say experts, but its actions were consistent with normal practices.

What indicates an intentional effort to mislead Canadians, some of them argue, is that the government and military repeatedly have laid out the cost of maintaining and sustaining the stealth fighters for 20 years instead of the aircraft's full 36-year life expectancy — despite those longer-term numbers being available.

The Conservative government admitted Thursday that it knew weeks before the last year's federal election that the full cost of obtaining, maintaining and operating 65 F-35s would be more than $25 billion, rather than the $14.7 billion put forward by National Defence.

It insisted it was merely reporting the cost of purchasing and maintaining the stealth fighters, and did not include pilot salaries, training costs, jet fuel and other expenses because they would be incurred no matter which aircraft was bought.

While the government has said it will include all such costs going forward, Alan Williams, a former Defence Department official who spent years overseeing military purchases, said excluding such additional expenses is not unusual.

F-35 fighter purchase shaky from the start

The F-35 fighter jet affair is a scandal that should, by rights, bring down the Harper government. Not only is it huge — in terms of taxpayer dollars, 100 times the size of sponsorship scandal that destroyed the former Liberal government — it is laced through with lies, deceit and ministerial incompetence.

Seduced by the sales pitch of the shiny toy’s American manufacturer, the defence department misled its political masters about the true cost of the 65 F-35s. Even after it knew better, the Harper cabinet used that lowball number — $16 billion — to mislead Parliament and the public.

When Kevin Page, the independent parliamentary budget officer, reported a year ago that the true cost would be at least $29.3 billion, the Conservatives vilified him. They put their figure-fiddlers back to work and came up with new number — $14.7 billion.

Desperate to get the new fighters, the military pulled the wool over the eyes of the cabinet. Desperate to win their majority in last May’s election, the Conservatives could not afford to admit they had been conned. So they hid the truth.

I take a certain grim satisfaction from seeing the F-35 scandal unravelled, thanks to last week’s report by the new auditor general, Michael Ferguson, who has done what his predecessor, Sheila Fraser, did so superbly on the sponsorship file — bared the facts and let the chips fall where they might.