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.]

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stephen Harper’s Illusions

I think –and I do not intend to offend anyone- that this is how the Prime Minister of Canada is called.  I deduced it from a statement published on “Holy Wednesday” by a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of that country. The   United Nations Organization membership is made up by almost 200 States –allegedly independent States.  They continuously change or are forced into change.  Many of their representatives are honorable persons, friends of Cuba; but it is impossible to remember the specifics about each and every one of them.

During the second half of the twentieth century, I had the privilege of living through years of intensive erudition and I realized that Canadians, located in the northernmost region of this hemisphere, were always respectful towards our country.  They invested in areas of their interest and traded with Cuba, but they did not interfere in the internal affairs of our State.

The revolutionary process that began on January 1st, 1959, did not introduce any measure that affected their interests, which were taken into account by the Revolution in maintaining normal and constructive relations with the authorities of that country where a significant effort was being made in the interest of its own development. Thus, they were not accomplices of the economic blockade, the war and the mercenary invasion that the United States launched against Cuba.

New emissions report isn't 'good news' despite Kent's assurances

The federal government released this year's greenhouse gas inventory report on April 11.

Environment Minister Peter Kent insists this is a good news story, that Canada's 692 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 being down from 731 in 2005 demonstrates Canada is on track to de-coupling emissions growth from economic growth.

As quoted in the Toronto Star, "While our continued economic recovery remains our government's top priority, today's news demonstrates that our work to balance the need for a cleaner and healthier environment while protecting jobs and growth is working..."

Right. Thankfully some media coverage of the release is looking past this rosy take on the report.

Further on, the Star article recognizes, "Environment Canada says even if all the government's actions are taken into account, and all the provinces' actions are factored in, Canada will only get a quarter of the way to meeting its 2020 goal [emission reduction target]."

Canada's emission reduction target is 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. This amounts to a 2.5 increase above 1990 levels (what most countries use as a baseline comparison) by 2020. The last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (2007) called for Global North countries to take on 25-40 per cent cuts below 1990 levels by 2020, while more recent evidence suggests the higher end of these cuts and beyond is needed.

Conservative government fights to keep budget cuts in the ‘back office’

The list of fires licking at the feet of the governing Conservatives so far in 2012 was not supposed to include cuts to the public sector.

These were, as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty assured us, merely a slice into the fat of “back-office operations” in a flabby bureaucracy.

“They don’t relate to service delivery by government,’’ he said on budget eve.

But during a week when MPs were absent from the capital, union leaders capably and aggressively stepped into the void and Stephen Harper’s government may have yet another communications battle on its hands.

Day-by-day, we were warned of border gaps caused by the cuts, gaps to be exploited by those bringing drugs, weapons and child pornography across the border.

Terrorists, hardened criminals and sexual predators will find it easier to enter, we were told.

The Conservatives even laid off 19 dogs employed at Canadian Border Services Agency.

Food safety alarms were sounded. Watch out for a return of e coli and listeria — just in time for barbecue season, union leaders warned ominously.

Mulcair says Tory cuts put public safety at risk

The Harper government's cuts to public service jobs are putting Canadians at risk, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair warned Sunday as he vowed to defend the protections people need.

Mulcair launched a scathing attack against Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a speech to Ontario New Democrats meeting in Hamilton, lashing out at the Conservatives for cutting food inspectors after people died from tainted meats, saying it's a clear sign they have the wrong priorities.

"We had people die in Canada a couple years ago. We had a minister who made jokes about it who is still the minister, and now they're cutting back on food inspections," said Mulcair.

"They're cutting back on aeronautical safety. What could be more important for the public?"

Mulcair said it's easy for government to pick on civil servants, but they should remember those workers provide services that people need.

He also tore a strip off the Conservatives for reducing health transfers to the provinces and for saying they wouldn't touch pensions when they made changes to Old Age Security in the budget.

"They're not only dishonest, but they play Canadians for fools," said Mulcair.

Funding cuts could unshackle Canadian civil society

The 2012 federal budget has put Canada’s social justice groups on notice: the era of government-supported good deeds is over.

Over the short term, many state-funded groups will shrink or disappear, while those that survive will lose their autonomy. If you care about critical thinking and social justice, this is bad news.

Over the long term, however, the Conservatives may have done Canada a favour. Deprived of federal funding, independently-minded activists will have to learn new ways of ethically raising money from individuals, communities, and businesses.

By multiplying their revenue sources, social justice groups will reduce their vulnerability to single-source arm-twisting. By going private, they will no longer have to worry about offending government ministers.

This new, American-style approach to promoting social justice could be a good thing. Canadian activists have long relied on federal money, and this has rendered them acutely vulnerable to official pressure.

NASA Climate Change Letter Belongs To Long Tradition Of Fake Expertise

WASHINGTON -- When former NASA administrators, astronauts and engineers released a letter earlier this week attacking the science of climate change, its veneer of legitimacy kicked off a media blitz. Yet none of the letter's 49 signatories are climate scientists, and with more than 18,000 people currently working for NASA, to say nothing of the tens of thousands more who are retired, the letter seems more than anything like an empty publicity stunt, and one for which there's considerable precedent.

"When you have an area of the science where there is a consensus like in climate change, where the problem is real and the scientific implications are on a collision course with vested interests like the fossil fuel industry, you often see this," said Michael Mann, a well-known climate scientist and Penn State professor.

NASA has been clear that it firmly accepts the reality of the science behind climate change, including the work of renowned climate scientist James Hansen, so complaints from a few dozen retired NASA administrators and a handful of astronauts and engineers calling on NASA to stop saying that anthropogenic carbon dioxide causes climate change can hardly be taken seriously.

A full 98 percent of all working climate scientists affirm anthropogenic climate change, according to a paper published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found the evidence that the world is warming to be "unequivocal."

Scott Walker Tells NRA Members He's 'A Target' In Recall Election

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told National Rifle Association members Friday he's "a target" and asked for their help in his upcoming recall election.

"I have become a target," Walker told the crowd at the NRA convention in downtown St. Louis.

"The advocates of big government view me as a threat. They want to take me out," Walker said. "Our opponents are targeting me because I stand in their way of getting their hands on money and power."

Walker echoed the speech he delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, telling NRA members a loss in the recall election would do lasting damage to Republicans.

"If I fail in June, it sets us back at least a decade, if not a generation," Walker said.

Walker was one of several Republican figures appealing to the pro-gun rights group's members on the first day of the NRA's annual convention. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney used the gathering as a chance to attack Obama, and NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre hit the media for depicting the NRA as "extremists, whackos and just about every other nasty, mean name in the book."

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: ---

Egypt Election: Egypt Disqualifies Top Islamists, Mubarak VP From Vote

CAIRO, April 14 (Reuters) - The body overseeing Egypt's presidential election disqualified 10 candidates from the race on Saturday, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater, former spy chief Omar Suleiman and ultra orthodox Salafi sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail.

Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, told Reuters the disqualified candidates had 48 hours to appeal against its decision. He declined to give details on the reasons for their disqualification.

The disqualification of some of the leading candidates would redraw the electoral map with just weeks to go before the May vote that decides who will replace Hosni Mubarak as head of the Arab world's most populous country.

A council of military generals has been governing Egypt since Mubarak was swept from power a year ago in a popular uprising against his rule.

Abu Ismail's candidacy has been in doubt since the election commission said it had received notification from U.S. authorities that his late mother had an American passport, a status that would disqualify him from the race.

Timothy Geithner Calls Mitt Romney Claims 'Misleading,' 'Ridiculous'

WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner threw water on one of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's claims about the economy and women, saying Sunday that it is "ridiculous" to imply the president is to blame for high unemployment among women.

"It's misleading and ridiculous. It's just a political moment," Geithner told CBS's Bob Scheiffer on "Face the Nation," adding that the quality of debate over economic policy is "really terrible."

Geithner was referring to a statistic cited by Romney this week on women who lost jobs during President Barack Obama's time in office. Romney said that 92.3 percent of the jobs lost during that period were held by women, which he said was "the real war on women."

The statement was promptly debunked by experts who pointed out that more men have lost jobs since the beginning of the recession, and that statistics can be easy to manipulate.

Dick Cheney: Obama Has Been 'Unmitigated Disaster To The Country'

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney walked onstage without any assistance and spoke for an hour and 15 minutes without seeming to tire in his first public engagement since he underwent a heart transplant three weeks ago.

He sat in a plush chair throughout the long chat with daughter Liz Cheney and looked decidedly healthier than recent appearances where he has been gaunt and used a cane.

Cheney even threw in a couple of political plugs amid much reminiscing at the Wyoming Republican Party state convention in Cheyenne on Saturday.

He said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is going to do a "whale of a job." He said it's never been more important than now to defeat a sitting president and the Republican Party should unite behind Romney.

"He has been an unmitigated disaster to the country," Cheney said of President Barack Obama.

The Wyoming Republican Party chose 14 delegates Saturday to this summer's Republican National Convention and all of them are committed to support Romney. The state will send a total of 29 delegates to the RNC.

Mitt Romney: Mothers Should Be Required To Work Outside Home Or Lose Benefits

WASHINGTON -- Poor women who stay at home to raise their children should be given federal assistance for child care so that they can enter the job market and "have the dignity of work," Mitt Romney said in January, undercutting the sense of extreme umbrage he showed when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen quipped last week that Ann Romney had not "worked a day in her life."

The remark, made to a Manchester, N.H., audience, was unearthed by MSNBC's "Up w/Chris Hayes," and aired during the 8 a.m. hour of his show Sunday.

Ann Romney and her husband's campaign fired back hard at Rosen following her remark. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," Romney said on Twitter.

On Sunday, Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg told The Huffington Post in an email, "Moving welfare recipients into work was one of the basic principles of the bipartisan welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed into law. The sad fact is that under President Obama the poverty rate among women rose to 14.5 percent in 2011, the highest rate in 17 years. The Obama administration's economic policies have been devastating to women and families."

Mitt Romney, however, judging by his January remark, views stay-at-home moms who are supported by federal assistance much differently than those backed by hundreds of millions in private equity income. Poor women, he said, shouldn't be given a choice, but instead should be required to work outside the home to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. "[E]ven if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work," Romney said of moms on TANF.

This Week in Poverty: Will Pennsylvania Rip Another Hole in the Safety Net?

If you’ve never heard of state-funded General Assistance (GA) programs, you’re hardly alone. A “safety net of last resort” for very poor people—often childless adults—who don’t qualify for other forms of public assistance, there aren’t too many of them still in existence. Not too long ago most states offered them, but in recent decades they have been eliminated or severely restricted. Now, only thirty states maintain GA programs, and the benefit level for most falls below one-quarter of the poverty line, or less than $2,750 per year.

In a recent report for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Liz Schott and Clare Cho call this trend “especially troubling” since “a growing number of jobless and elderly” are exhausting their unemployment benefits and continue to be unable to find work.

“Poor, childless adults are becoming even more vulnerable to severe hardship than in the past and are doing so in greater numbers,” write the authors.

One state that still maintains a GA program is Pennsylvania where 68,000 people—or just about one in every 200 residents—receive about $205 per month (five counties offer a little more, twenty-eight counties a little less). But when Republican Governor Tom Corbett released his budget in February he proposed eliminating the program entirely as of July 1. A final budget must be passed and signed by that date, and with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, legal aid lawyer Michael Froehlich of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia says, “It’s not looking good.”

Only Little People Pay Taxes

"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes," billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley famously (and allegedly) sniffed. She wasn't entirely correct: The superrich do still pay taxes. The wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers pay 32 percent of all income tax collected by the federal government.
But the superrich don't pay as much as they used to—and thanks to a combination of tax cuts and preferential tax policies, their tax obligations can be less demanding than the so-called little people's. In fact, the very wealthiest Americans' tax burden has been steadily dropping for years, even as they've enjoyed astounding income growth not seen by the vast majority of Americans.

Man Tasered By Edmonton Police Dies

A man who was shocked by a Taser stun gun while in custody this week at Edmonton police headquarters has died.

Jeff Oatway, 34, had been in a coma on life support after he was taken to hospital on Wednesday.

Doctors declared him dead on Friday, said his father, Cliff.

The head of the Edmonton Police Association, Sgt. Tony Simioni, said Oatway "snapped" and became violent when officers were trying to get him ready for a bail hearing around 4 p.m. MT on Wednesday.

About a dozen officers were called to the scene as TV monitors were torn from the walls, computers were destroyed and desks overturned, Simioni said.

The Taser was used on Oatway after two officers were injured, Simioni said Thursday. He then suffered what police described as a "medical episode."

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has taken the lead in the investigation. ASIRT looks into incidents or complaints involving serious injury or death that may have resulted from the actions of a police officer.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: cbc

Canada Corporate Tax Rate: Data Suggests Flaherty Wrong That Cutting Taxes Raises Revenue

OTTAWA - As the Conservatives sell their latest budgetary plan at home and abroad, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is touting the benefits of five consecutive years of corporate tax cuts on the government's bottom line.

Flaherty told reporters in New York and Edmonton this week that government revenues from corporations continue to rise even as Ottawa cuts taxes.

"What we're seeing, despite the fact that we've reduced business taxes, is we're seeing our corporate tax revenue continue to rise. And this is further proof, if anyone needed it, that reduction of taxation creates more economic activity, more investment, more jobs," Flaherty said in Edmonton on Thursday.

But the numbers to date don't bear out Flaherty's assertion.

Ottawa collected $40.6 billion in taxes from firms during the 2007-08 fiscal year, a record high. It was also the year the Harper government began a schedule of tax cuts that saw the federal rate fall from about 22.1 per cent to the current 15 per cent.

With the onset of the recession and cut to the tax rate, revenues have yet to recover, even in non-inflation adjusted dollars. The three years following 2007-08 saw corporate tax revenues fall to $29.5 billion, $30.4 billion and $29.9 billion.

Alberta Election 2012: Energy, Oil Little Talked About Issue In Campaign, To Observers' Dismay

CALGARY - University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach prepared a bingo game ahead of the provincial election leaders' debate, in which viewers could mark a box every time the politicians uttered energy-related phrases like "cap and trade" and "access to markets."

But any energy policy watchers who tuned in with their bingo dabbers ready were out of luck. Only a couple of the terms passed the leaders' lips during the event — "oilsands" and "world class," by Leach's initial tally, and the latter was in reference to health care, not environmental monitoring.

Leach said he was surprised, not only by his makeshift game's lack of success, but more generally by how little the provincial candidates have delved into energy policy throughout the campaign so far.

"Why aren't we answering the billion-dollar questions?" he asked, adding a lot of the attention thus far has instead been based on hundred-million dollar tax credit announcements.

Those are important, he said. But in a province whose economy is so driven by non-renewable resources "it seems like that's where the lion's share of the campaign should be."

Jack Mintz, at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, was similarly dismayed, tweeting on debate night: "Alberta debate and no one asked about energy strategy and the oilsands."

Voters poised to send a message

After months of waiting, residents of the two vacated ridings of Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam will head to the polls Thursday in a historic double byelection that could dramatically shift the tide for the B.C. Liberals.

Under normal circumstances, the biggest obstacle facing Premier Christy Clark's party in these historically Liberal strongholds would be the losing record B.C. governments have in byelection races.

But a resurgent B.C. Conservative outfit, led by John Cummins, has added extra spice to the mix.

Polls have shown the threat of a centre-right vote split is real, a point underscored by the recent defection of long-serving Liberal MLA John van Dongen to the Conservatives.

But will all of this translate into real votes on election night?

The NDP also has a good shot in both ridings. Star candidate Joe Trasolini is the favourite in Port Moody-Coquitlam. And the centre-right split could see Chilliwack-Hope go NDP.

Despite breaking a 30-year government curse with her own byelection win last year, Clark is not holding her breath for a Liberal three-peat. A double loss would put considerable pressure on her already fragile leadership and could see more MLAs decide to cross the floor.

Is it the beginning of the end for the Liberals? Will the Conservatives gain steam? Will the NDP come out the big winners?

Heading into election night, only one thing is for certain: B.C.'s political landscape will be a lot different on April 20.

Original Article
Source: the province
Author: Cassidy Olivier

Active federal participation in health care remains essential

I don’t know about you, but in my house we don’t each buy our own toothpaste. It’s not a good use of money to have multiple small tubes scattered around the sink — not to mention the wasted time if each family member makes a separate trip to the drugstore. We agree on a brand, buy one big tube, and save our money and time. Ditto with planning meals: one person buys the groceries. We may each be responsible for feeding ourselves, but we all have access to whatever is in the fridge.

I share this just in case the prime minister and premiers do things differently at their houses and might find the approach instructive. Because it’s clear that when it comes to health-care policy, they’re wasting the family budget buying multiples of everything, and everyone is cooking a different dinner. To make matters worse, the person who’s supposed to be the head of the family has left an allowance on the table and gone on vacation. Indefinitely.

Whose job is it to co-ordinate health-care reform in Canada? Canadians expect our federal government to play that role. We want to know that wherever we live, we will have access to an equivalent basket of services. We want to know that our governments are buying in bulk whenever possible, maximizing savings. And we want assurances that some basic standards are being met from coast to coast to coast. Health care may be a provincial responsibility, but we know there’s a need for a family to co-ordinate its efforts.

At 30, the Charter of Rights has reshaped our society, for the better

Think of it as a shield against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted 30 years ago this week, protects us all. Time and again, Canadians have invoked it to challenge overbearing government power, to expand freedoms including that of free speech and of the press, to right wrongs and to remedy inequality. It is one of our great treasures.

Indeed Canadians put it on a par with such icons as Confederation itself, and universal health care. And for good reason. We look to the Charter for guidance on the political, legal, social and ethical issues that define our lives.

It’s a shame, then, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have no great regard for the Charter, seeing it as a Liberal political legacy that “limits democracy” by empowering unelected judges to review the decisions of Parliament, legislatures and bureaucrats. There will be no official celebratory bash in Ottawa on Tuesday, despite the Tories’ attention to other, less relevant aspects of our history.

The Charter was adopted on former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s watch when the Constitution was repatriated from the United Kingdom on April 17, 1982. Queen Elizabeth II attended a ceremony on Parliament Hill to sign the documents that transformed us from being a parliamentary democracy to a constitutional one.

F-35 will quickly be outdated

There’s something I’m not buying about the F-35 “stealth” joint-strike fighter. Besides the government’s dishonest bloviating and the opposition’s peacenik whimpering, I mean. I just can’t understand a plane meant to dominate aerial combat for five decades in a world of blinding technological change.

I do understand the need for air power. And for “interoperability” with our American ally, the free world’s only remaining military hope even under Barack Obama. But I don’t believe the F-35, after inevitable teething problems and cost increases, will dominate the skies for two generations. The world just isn’t like that, and neither is this plane.

OK, we’re currently flying CF-18s we bought in 1980 over destroyers we bought in 1972. And today’s CF-18 is not the plane that began entering service in 1982; rather, the same reliable airframe has seen constant “avionics” and weapons upgrades. But the F-35 won’t work that way for two main reasons.

First, the big boast of the F-35 is its “stealth” invisibility to radar. And if all your eggs are in that basket and they knock a hole in it you have no eggs.

Smith defends conduct policy

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith defended on Saturday the policy requiring a $1,000 "good conduct" bond from every person who has attempted to run as a candidate for her party.

Winners of the party nomination races, now running as Wildrose candidates, have had the $1,000 bond returned. However, those who tried but lost in the party's nomination contests won't get their deposit back until after election day on April 23.

The party still keeps the $1,000 bond from the failed office-seekers "so they that they don't go and sabotage the person who was the successful candidate," Smith said in Calgary.

"So the allegations being made that our successful candidates are somehow muzzled is silly. But yes, we're not going to return those good conduct bonds to the failed nominees until after the election."

She added: "I mean, you can continue, I suppose, hoping that one of them is going to have a bozo eruption, and I suppose maybe that's what you're upset about."

Sometimes nomination races get quite heated, Smith said, and the party wanted to make sure former contenders had an incentive to stand behind the winners.

Earlier this week, Smith said the party wanted to avoid failed candidates criticizing the winning candidate in the press, or trying to run for the nomination for another party. A party guidebook details 14 categories for why someone might forfeit their good conduct bond.

Oilsands, green issues missing in action in campaign

Alberta's oilsands and their environmental legacy - perhaps the single issue that most defines the province's economy and relationship with the world - has been largely absent from political debate since the provincial election was called, observers say.

Over the last three weeks, the race for control of the legislature, seen by many as a battle between Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives and Danielle Smith's Wildrose, has been occupied by public-versus-private health care questions, talk of how to balance budgets and spend surplus energy revenues, and discussion of "conscience rights" and MLA accountability.

That mash-up of debates has pushed the cleanup of oilsands tailings ponds or greenhouse gas emissions off the agenda, apart from campaign promises made by NDP Leader Brian Mason and Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, both of whom are polling low among decided voters.

Chris Severson-Baker, managing director of the Albertabased environmental thinktank Pembina Institute, notes the future of the province depends not just on the oilsands themselves, but the world's perception of the oilsands.

Food safety agency cuts risky: union

Canadian food safety may be compromised as the federal government plans to "download" inspection oversight to at least three provinces, says the head of the public service's agriculture union.

Dozens of federal meat inspectors received "surplus notices" this week, meaning they would be moving to other positions, said Bob Kingston, president of the agriculture union within the Public Service Alliance of Canada, on CBC's The House radio program.

"We're talking about 40 meat inspectors whose positions do delivery of some provincial meat delivery programs in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the idea is to let the provinces resume or assume the responsibility of inspecting provincially registered plants," he said Saturday.

"From what we've seen, the provinces have no intention of delivering the service at the same level the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did and that's been our concern from the get-go," Kingston said.

The agriculture union is estimating a "quadrupling" of provinces' food-inspection budgets "just to be able to deliver that program," he added. "Without oversight, you're going to have many problems."

Another major concern, Kingston said, is that with less money and fewer inspectors, food-processing plants and slaughterhouses may be left to monitor themselves.

He said British Columbia has published a report referring to a "no inspection option," which may mean a plant would get an annual visit from the province's health ministry by "somebody who's not used to looking at these facilities."

Peter MacKay could have role in Hollywood

FROM: Accounting, Paramount Pictures

TO: Canadian Department of National Defence

Greetings from Hollywood, where - to quote Janeane Garofalo - people dress like hippies and act like the mafia.

I read with interest about your recent issues regarding the purchase of very expensive F-35 fighter jets.

It seems the cost has risen, from $9 billion to $16, to $25 billion, before a single plane has been built! And without opening the procurement process to competitors, or actually including the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Well, played DND. If you're waiting for us to say something caustic about your financial oversight, well - keep waiting!

We're Hollywood. No one knows better than us that the last thing you want to be is transparent about big ticket buys.

Canada’s cherished Charter could not have happened without “kitchen accord”

Canadians revel in the right and the luxury of constantly complaining about politics and politicians. Yet we also know how fortunate we are to live in a land where all citizens are equal — far more so than almost any other people on earth.

We owe this, in large measure, to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the 30th anniversary of which falls on Tuesday. It was on April 17, 1982, that the Queen signed a new Constitution, of which the Charter is an integral part.

Its chief architect was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the steely Liberal prime minister who willed it on the nation, especially reluctant premiers, at a memorable First Ministers’ conference in Ottawa in the fall of 1981.

The outcome hung in the balance until the end. Trudeau wanted the Charter. The premiers worried over loss of provincial power. The logjam was broken in a dramatic few hours by four people — Jean Chrétien, federal minister of justice; Bill Davis, Conservative premier of Ontario; Roy McMurtry, Ontario attorney general; and Roy Romanow, the NDP attorney general of Saskatchewan.

I spoke to them about their recollection of those four memorable days that changed Canada forever.

Taliban launch co-ordinated attacks across Afghan capital, three other eastern cities

KABUL—The Taliban launched a series of co-ordinated attacks across the Afghan capital and at least three eastern provinces on Sunday, targeting NATO bases, parliament and foreign embassies in a complex assault that shows the insurgents can still penetrate Afghan security and hit Western and government targets in the heart of Kabul.

Suicide bombers and insurgents wielding heavy weapons and rocket-propelled grenades executed the near-simultaneous attacks in what the Taliban called an opening salvo ahead of the spring fighting season, when warmer weather typically brings increased attacks.

The attacks, the most widespread in the Afghan capital since September, came as the U.S.-led international force is speeding up the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghans in preparation for an end to NATO's combat mission in 2014. The scale and scope of the violence underscored the challenge that Afghan security forces have in protecting even the country's centres of power.

The Taliban claimed that Afghan and foreign troops suffered heavy casualties, but reports from Afghan authorities showed the assaults were noisy, but not deadly.