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, May 08, 2012

Mail Order Bride Company President Lobbying To Weaken Protections For Abused Immigrants

A top official at an anti-domestic violence advocacy group that has been encouraging the House GOP to roll back protections for immigrant victims in the Violence Against Women Act (or VAWA) is the founder of a controversial international matchmaking company, domestic violence workers warned lawmakers on Monday night.

The advocacy group, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, or SAVE, has been lobbying the House of Representatives to include a "reform to curb VAWA immigration fraud" in its version of the bill. The GOP version of the bill does that by removing confidentiality protections for immigrant victims of abuse and forcing them to tell their alleged abusive husbands that they're applying for protected immigrant status. It also removes an avenue through whih immigrant victims can achieve permanent citizenship.

An official of SAVE has a major financial interest in reducing immigrant protections: Its treasurer, Natasha Spivack, started international "marriage service" Encounters International in 1993 with the aim of arranging marriages between U.S. men and Russian women. "The Woman Of Your Dreams Just May have a Russian Accent," states the company's website.

Critics question air force's evaluation, demand more proof F-35 is best choice

OTTAWA - Internal documents show the air force kicked the tires of two F-35 alternatives, but critics question how hard defence officials looked — and want the military to provide more justification for its choice of the stealth fighter.

Boeing's Super Hornet and Eurofighter's Typhoon were stacked up against the controversial and not fully tested F-35s, according to a February 2011 slide deck presentation to the chief of air staff.

The Harper government decided in July 2010 to buy the stealth fighter, but has yet to sign a contract.

In the beginning, there were five competitors to the F-35, which was whittled down to two before the final decision was made, documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information show.

The Commons: Are Peter Kent’s answers being laundered?

The Scene. To be fair to the environment minister, neither of the options presented to him by the NDP’s Megan Leslie were particularly worth choosing.

“Did the minister decide to hide the cost,” Ms. Leslie asked, “or is it that his government is simply incompetent and does not know how much it will cost?”

There was no right answer here. But then Peter Kent attempted to have it both ways anyway.

“Mr. Speaker, I agree with the commissioner that costing, as it becomes available, should be shared with both him and Parliament,” Mr. Kent conceded. “As for costing in advance of consultations with industry, for example, as we are with the oil and gas industry now, that would be premature and speculative.”

Enbridge sees more first nations’ support for Gateway pipeline

Enbridge Inc. (ENB-T39.70-0.23-0.58%) expects more than half of the first nations along its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to sign up for ownership by the end of May.

The company has offered a 10-per-cent stake in the controversial $5.5-billion project to first nations and Métis groups that claim territory within 80 kilometres of its route. Some 50 groups are affected. Of those, more than 20 had signed up by an early deadline in December.

Enbridge now expects a good deal more to sign by a final May 31 deadline, Janet Holder, the Enbridge executive vice-president in charge of Gateway, said in an interview Monday. The increase in numbers “will be significant,” Ms. Holder said.

“It will definitely be a majority.”

As Tories rewrite rules, watchdog details cost of lax environmental regulation

The federal government is on the hook for billions of dollars to fix problems caused by lax environmental regulation in the past, according to a new audit.

Ottawa is looking at $7.7-billion in cleanup costs for contaminated sites, but has only set aside a fraction of the necessary funding, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan found.

As the government reforms the environmental assessment process, it's worth remembering the high price of slipshod oversight from previous decades, Mr. Vaughan said at a news conference Tuesday.

Most of the contaminated sites date back to between 1940 and 1970, well before environmental regulations cracked down on resource extraction and development, the watchdog said.

Mayor Rob Ford won’t attend gay outreach event

Mayor Rob Ford won’t attend a gay outreach event outside City Hall later this month, but still hasn’t ruled out attending Pride Week events this summer.

The May 17 rainbow flag-raising event at Nathan Phillips Square commemorates International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The low-key, half-hour ceremony is not a part of Pride Week festivities, none of which Ford attended last year.

Event organizers Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays first sent the mayor an invitation in March. PFLAG’s Toronto chapter said Tuesdaythat the mayor responded in late April, saying he couldn’t fit the event into his schedule but if that changes, he would let them know.

“Certainly, the mayor will be made most welcome should his schedule change,” president Irene Miller said. “We would be happy to have him stand with us and other councillors as that flag is raised.”

Councillor Gord Perks will read the city proclamation, which is signed by the mayor, in Ford’s stead. Perks has read the proclamation at the event the last two years. The ceremony will feature Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke as a speaker.

Former OPP head Julian Fantino defends firing Mohawk police chief

Julian Fantino says he had no alternative but to terminate the employment of a Mohawk police chief for comments that there was “deep-seated” racism within the OPP, RCMP and Sûreté du Québec.

“He left me with no choice,” the former OPP commissioner testified Tuesday at an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearing.

At issue are comments made by Larry Hay, who lost his job as chief of the Tyendinaga reserve police force in Eastern Ontario for comments he made in 2007 to a student newspaper, in which he said there was deep racism in the three police forces.

Fantino called the comments “totally strange” and “bizarre” and said they threatened to ignite already volatile relations between police and First Nations communities.

“It’s like throwing a grenade into the whole affair and forcing all of us to live amongst the ashes,” Fantino said under questioning from government lawyer Christopher Diana.

Wake Forest Reacts To Controversial Amendment One

In recent weeks, college students across the state of North Carolina have vocalized their opinions regarding the controversial piece of legislation known as Amendment One. Wake Forest has been following this trend as many student organizations and individuals have spoken out both for and against the amendment.

If passed, Amendment One would define marriage in the state constitution between one man and one woman and would prohibit any other types of domestic unions, according to Ballot Pedia's website.

As an April 29 New York Times staff editorial argued, "Much will depend on turnout, especially by voters on college campuses, who will need to vote in larger-than-usual numbers to defeat this declaration of officially sanctioned discrimination."

The New York Times is one of many groups urging young voters to vote against Amendment One.

President Obama Sees First Budget Surplus Of Presidency

(AP/The Huffington Post) The Obama administration saw its first monthly budget surplus in April, with the federal government recording $58 billion, according to figures released by the Congressional Budget Office.

MarketWatch reports:

    The surplus -- the first of Barack Obama’s presidency -- was the result of both increased tax collection and lower government spending.

Prior to April, the federal government's last surplus dates back to September 2008.

Pressuring Congress, President Barack Obama is laying out an election year "to do" list Tuesday that urges lawmakers to take another look at economic proposals to promote job creation and help families refinance their mortgages.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Attacks Business Critics, Promotes Private Sector Role In Job Creation

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon took the opportunity at Monday evening's Fortune 500 dinner to hail American business and trash its critics.

Speaking at the New York Stock Exchange event, Dimon bemoaned what he called the "constant attack on business" and suggested that the economy should have added twice as many jobs in the past two years.

"American business has added 4 million jobs in the last 24 months," Dimon said. "That's not government jobs, and I don’t think government policy had anything to do with it. It should have been 8 million."

Over a dinner of ahi tuna and seared fillet of beef, Fortune magazine marked the release of its latest Fortune 500 list. Dimon spoke on a panel joined by Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines, and Alex Gorsky, the new CEO of Johnson & Johnson.

Kelly Thomas Beating Video: Fullerton Homeless Man's Beating Revealed At Pre-Trial Hearing

Never-before-seen surveillance footage of the beating of Kelly Thomas, a Fullerton, Calif. homeless man with schizophrenia, was revealed Monday during a hearing to determine if the police officers involved in the altercation that led to his death will face trial.

The 33-minute video starts with Thomas being approached by Fullerton Police Department Officer Manuel Ramos, who engages him in conversation. By minute 15, Ramos has already donned latex gloves.

"You see my fists?" Ramos asks Thomas. "They're getting ready to fuck you up."

"Start punching, dude!" responds Thomas, who was sitting on the ground. When Thomas stands up to walk away, a second police officer hits him repeatedly with a baton. The first few minutes of the altercation are off-screen, but the audio shows Thomas verbally giving up.

RNC Official: Romney Still Deciding Immigration Position

A Latino-vote outreach program on Tuesday plans to stress to voters that the president has failed on immigration reform and deported a record number of people, said the Republican National Committee's top Hispanic outreach coordinator.

But so far, it doesn't have a message on what Republicans would do on the issue themselves, and specifically the plans of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. In fact, coordinator Bettina Inclan told reporters, Romney didn't have his immigration policy mapped out and the RNC would not yet be able to talk about it to Latino voters.

The RNC quickly tried to take back the statement, telling reporters who tweeted it that Inclan's words were misunderstood -- or that she was misquoted. Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the RNC, said message coordination between the RNC and the Romney campaign is still in its early stages because challenger Rick Santorum only dropped out of the race two weeks ago.

Baird says Iran could build nuclear bomb within months

Iran could build a nuclear bomb within months if it decides to weaponize its atomic enrichment program, according to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, Baird said he doesn't believe Iran has made that decision yet — but warned the country could move "very quickly" once it does.

"When they're enriching uranium to 20 per cent, when they've got the volume of materials.… When you're putting all the ingredients in front of you, it obviously wouldn't take long to make the decision to do it," he said.

"They're certainly moving to be able to be in that position, then they could certainly dash to the end which could be done in as few as nine or as many as 18 months."

The Unnecessary Pain Of “Affected Letters” On Public Servants

I am a fiscal conservative, but not when it comes at the price of ruining an economy.

Nobel Prize-winning journalist Paul Krugman has been saying for months that the U.S. and European nations are not stimulating their economies enough and in fact are either on the cusp or already practising fiscal austerity.

That’s not what you do when your economy is weak and that’s what Baltic Dry Index figures show for world trade as my recent blog post illustrates. So now rather than stimulating the economy enough (as in the U.S. example) or practising austerity (as in the European examples), world governments are pulling back on spending in the face of a weak economy.

Now that phenomenon has moved to Canada as the Citizen‘s Mohammed Adam shows in his weekend story on “affected letters” 19,200 Ottawa and other Canadian public servants are receiving.

New T-shirt: Tolerance is a two-way street

There is a wonderful life lesson being taught at a South Shore school and it goes like this: Tolerance has to work both ways.

The two sides in the Christian T-shirt conflict might want to take a step back and draw a breath. Jesus, who is supposedly at the centre of the controversy, surely would have suggested as much.

William Swinimer, a Grade 12 student at Forest Heights Community School, was suspended for five days last week. While the T-shirt he was wearing has been identified as the major infraction in the dispute, it sounds as though there is a lot more to this story, which has drawn international media coverage.

The slogan, “Life is Wasted Without Jesus,” seems fairly innocuous to me. In most cases, such a T-shirt might prompt little more than a shrug. School boards have rules against offensive messages on clothing, but Swinimer’s T-shirt would surely fall into the low range of potential violations.

But Swinimer told The Chronicle Herald last week that his conflict at school goes much deeper than that.

$7.7B in contaminated sites a legacy of weak oversight

Federally owned contaminated sites will cost the government billions of dollars to clean up, according to the 2012 report of Canada's environment commissioner.

Scott Vaughan says the government has made significant progress, closing the file on 9,000 out of 22,000 sites across the country, but the remaining sites present some major headaches.

"The government has reported its combined environmental liabilities at $7.7 billion," writes Vaughan. "Many of these sites are buried and out of the public eye, but they will impose human health risks and environmental and financial burdens for generations to come."

Many of Canada's toxic sites were created before environmental assessments were enshrined in law. Vaughan drew a parallel between these contaminated areas and the government's proposed changes to the Environmental Assessment Act, calling it a cautionary tale.

"We cannot go back and repeat the errors of the past. I don't think Canadians can afford it and I don't think they would actually accept it," Vaughan told reporters.

Coroner's jury says Junior Manon's death was accidental

A coroner’s jury has found that a Toronto man who died after a police traffic stop near York University two years ago, died of restraint asphyxia.

The jury has also ruled that the death of 18-year-old Junior Manon was accidental.

Manon was pulled over by police just after 6:30 p.m. on May 5, 2010, on Steeles Avenue West, just east of Founders Road.

When one of the officers present attempted to arrest Manon for breaching his bail conditions, the Toronto man ran.

The two officers pursued Manon on foot and brought him down on the ground.

One witness told the inquest that the officers beat Manon with a police radio, while another witness said she saw police slapping him in the face. Toronto police Const. Michael Adams told SIU investigators that he and his police partner delivered and received punches from Manon.

Credit card fees are unfair, tribunal hears

The fees that Canadian merchants are charged to process credit card transactions are among the highest in the world, a federal Competition Bureau tribunal heard Tuesday.

Kent Thomson, the lead counsel for Canada's competition watchdog, told the tribunal in Ottawa on Tuesday that the system of fees charged when retailers allow consumers to pay with credit cards goes against competition rules and add up to $5 billion in fees for the credit card industry annually.

Thomson described Canada's credit card system as a "perverse" place where shoppers who pay with cash or debit subsidize purchases made with credit cards because merchants pay high fees for accepting credit cards and those costs are passed on to all consumers.

Thomson's arguments opened the case by bureau staff against Visa and MasterCard are engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.

Ontario Premier hints at pumping more cash into surging auto sector

Premier Dalton McGuinty is hinting that his cash-strapped government is prepared to invest more money in the auto sector to help it respond to a strong sales recovery.

“They are in a sense our leading goal scorer,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters on Tuesday. “They put the puck in the net over and over again on behalf of the Ontario economy. We need to find ways to ensure that they remain healthy.”

Mr. McGuinty made the comments immediately following his remarks to a business audience at the Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit, where he talked about the breakdown in wage talks between the province and its doctors.

With the province facing a deficit of $14.8-billion this year, Mr. McGuinty said his government has no choice but to call on doctors and all other public sector workers who bargain collectively to freeze their wages for two years.

JPMorgan Chase Whistleblower: 'Essentially Suicide' To Stand Up To Bank

When Linda Almonte alerted her boss at JPMorgan Chase about potential fraud in a major deal she was helping to close, she expected him to applaud her great catch.

Instead, he fired her.

"We went down fast," said Almonte, 41, about her family. She had been making $100,000 a year as a division vice president at Chase, enough to support her stay-at-home husband, their four kids, ages 12 to 22, and rent a three-bedroom house in San Antonio, Texas.

Her move at Chase amounted to "essentially suicide," Almonte told The Huffington Post. No bank in town would hire her after word spread that she had stood up to the banking giant, she said. After more than a year of fruitless job hunting, Almonte and her family left town, landing at a hotel near Disney World, paying $300 a week for a two-bedroom with a kitchenette.

Scott Vaughan, Environment Watchdog, Says There's No Federal Plan To Cut Greenhouse Gas

OTTAWA - The federal government still has no solid plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and it’s almost certainly too late for it to recover in time to reach its 2020 goals, says a new environmental audit.

"Although the federal government has begun to lower greenhouse gas emissions, right now the reductions are not happening fast enough to meet the 2020 target," Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan said in a report tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Federal officials have a few new regulatory packages in the works, Vaughan said. But only one in eight targeted sectors has been given new rules so far. Plus, the regulations take years to develop, and even longer to implement.

"Given that an additional 178 million tonnes in reductions are needed to meet the 2020 target, it is unlikely that enough time is left to develop and establish regulations that together will contribute sufficient GHG reductions to meet the 2020 target."

NDP Wave's Next Destination May Be B.C., Polls Suggest

The NDP wave has already swept across Quebec, and B.C. may be the next province to succumb to the Orange Crush.

The New Democrats have a long history in B.C., having formed the government on several occasions. But the federal NDP has not won B.C. since 1988, when the party took 37 per cent of the vote under Ed Broadbent. Though their lead over the Progressive Conservatives was only two points, it was enough to give the party 19 of the 32 seats in the province.

The NDP also won the popular vote in B.C. in 1962, 1965 and 1972. But the party's drought in the province now stands at 24 years. Will it end in 2015?

It certainly could. The federal New Democrats have led in 10 of the last 13 polls in the province, and in six of the eight polls that have been conducted since Thomas Mulcair became leader on March 24.

We've been duped, strike leaders claim

MONTREAL – Far from being closer to a resolution, the tuition crisis veered toward disaster on Monday as students began largely rejecting an offer that was supposed to settle the three-month student strike.

Voting results weren’t helped by student leaders’ accusations that government officials had doctored their verbal agreement before putting together the final draft to present to students.

And anger mounted on the part of students, who said they were starting to feel they had been duped by the government and university officials.

“The document doesn’t represent what we had been talking about in those 22 hours,” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ). “The government said they were trying to create a win-win situation; now they’re saying students are the losers.

“That’s not a way to solve a crisis.”

Military’s failure to turn over soldier’s suicide note left family ‘devastated'

Sheila Fynes says she was “devastated” when she learned more than a year after her son’s 2008 death that he had left a suicide note the military neglected to tell her about.

During her second and final day of testimony to the Military Police Complaints Commission, Fynes says the thought of her son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge, making last requests of which his family was unaware, angers her still.

“I had this image of my son going through a shopping list of those who were important to him,’ said Fynes, her voice breaking with emotion. “I thought what a horrible lonely place he must have in when he wrote that note. The image of him writing that note breaks my heart ... and nobody thought to give it to us”.

Fynes and her husband Shaun have filed a series of complaints against the military’s National Investigation Service (NIS) claiming that three investigations into their son’s death were compromised, biased and concerned only with protecting the military’s reputation.

Why the West is Ignoring Africa 2.0

Affordable technology is helping people all over Africa propel an economic revolution. Investment is pouring in from India, China, and other emerging markets. But the West, in my eyes, is ignoring one of the 21st century’s most important stories.

There are reasons the West has historically overlooked African innovation. Racism plays a big part, owing to the West’s past of colonialism and slavery on the continent. Much of the West’s acquisition of wealth was a direct result of the colonial era, which, for all intents and purposes, is not something that has been relayed to western populations accurately. Too many people in the West are under the assumption that it is their aid or assistance that sustains Africa, without understanding the underlying structures that have been put in place, and are held in place, by institutions that serve the West.

This culture of misinformation is propagated by politicians, businesses, and media agencies that paint Africans as helpless, dim recipients of western aid. That mindset carries over into the business world, leaving the impression that African companies are incapable of operating on par with their Asian or western counterparts. To anyone who has lived in Africa, this is simply nonsense.

The Taliban’s revenge - A new generation of militants is rising in Afghanistan, turning its sights on former allies

There is nothing suggesting violence in the Taliban fighter quietly sipping tea in a corner of the room. In any case, the police headquarters for Afghanistan’s Sarobi district sit next to the safe house we’re in. He knows the building well. Not long ago, he was a member of the security forces, charged with protecting Afghans from the Taliban fighters he now calls his “brothers.”

Jawad speaks animatedly, between cautious sips from his teacup. “When the foreigners first came here, I thought, why not work with them?” says the 28-year-old, a native of Uzbin, northeast of Kabul, the Afghan capital. “I never felt animosity for foreigners,” he adds. That, however, was then.

Jawad joined the Afghan security services a decade ago, as a teenager newly returned from Pakistan’s dilapidated refugee camps, where he’d spent much of his life. It was an exciting time. Finally, his family would reclaim their land. There was the promise of a new future, of prosperity guaranteed by the money the outside world brought with it.

Soldier defies order and speaks up over military health services

A Canadian soldier based in Shilo, Man., says he will keep speaking out about what he sees as a lack of medical and mental health services in the military, despite an order from a superior to be quiet.

Cpl. Steve Stoesz said his fight to get proper health services for injured soldiers is worse than the battle he endured in Afghanistan.

Stoesz had been ordered by a Canadian Forces superior not to do media interviews, but he said he is devastated by the lack of support.

"They broke me in the fight after, in the dealing with my own country," he told CBC News on Monday.

"The country that I fought for now has broken me."

Stoesz returned to Canada in 2008 after surviving three bomb attacks in Afghanistan and suffering speech and balance problems.

Liberty lost in stampede to pass Tories’ omnibus budget bill

Joe Oliver has been watching too much Glengarry Glen Ross, the award-winning American film about four real estate salesmen who are taught ABC — always be closing.

The Conservative omnibus budget implementation bill is “urgent,” the Natural Resources Minister said Monday. There are great opportunities to export Canadian resources, “but the world will not stand by and wait while Canada endlessly debates its resource potential and squanders its legacy,” he said.

The government claims it has stuffed non-budgetary items ranging from environmental regulations to EI reforms into its budget bill in order to speed the legislation through parliament and get Canadian resources to market.

Scott Walker Recall: Wisconsin Dems Choose Standard-Bearer Today

Democrats in Wisconsin are headed to the polls to pick a challenger to face Gov. Scott Walker in his recall election on June 5. The two leading candidates, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, offer voters a clear-cut choice: Do you pick the candidate who captures the progressive spirit and populist outrage that triggered Walker's recall? Or the one with the best showing in the polls?

If the recall election were held today, survey after survey shows, Barrett would stand the best chance of defeating Walker in a head-to-head fight. A former five-term US congressman who lost to Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial race, Barrett held a razor-thin 1 percentage point lead over Walker in last week's Marquette University Law School poll, and a slew of others put him well within striking distance.

ALEC Gets a Break From State Lobbying Laws

On April 20, Common Cause submitted a whistleblower complaint to the IRS, claiming that the American Legislative Exchange Council is "a corporate lobbying group masquerading as a charity." The move was the latest salvo in progressive groups' campaign to limit the influence of ALEC, a secretive nonprofit that brings together Republican state legislators and corporations to write and promote pro-business legislation.

It could take several years for the IRS to decide whether ALEC is indeed a lobbying group required to register and disclose how much it spends on influencing legislation. But in three states—South Carolina, Indiana, and Colorado—ALEC has quietly, and by name, been specifically exempted from rules for lobbyists.

The laws in those states allow ALEC to spend millions annually hosting corporate lobbyists and legislators at three yearly conferences, send "issue alerts" to legislators recommending votes on pending legislation, and draft boilerplate press releases for legislators to use when pushing ALEC model bills—all without registering as a lobbyist or reporting these expenditures. Legislators can receive scholarships from ALEC's corporate donors to attend conference events, or they can legally go on the taxpayer dime.

F-35 Complaint: Speaker Andrew Sheer Rejects Bob Rae's Question Of Privilege

OTTAWA - The Speaker of the House of Commons has rejected a complaint that government ministers misled Parliament on the costs of the F-35 fighter-jet program.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae had argued a month ago that ministers didn't give accurate information to MPs about the true price tag for the jets.

The auditor general said in a report last month that Parliament didn't get the full picture on the costs of the jets, which are closer to $25 billion rather than the $16 billion the Tories publicized.

Michael Ferguson said members of cabinet would have known about those higher costs.

The parliamentary budget officer has also said he believes the government kept two sets of books on the cost of the fighter jets.

Air Canada Executive Pay Soared While Company Battled Employee Benefits, Shrinking Bottom Line

MONTREAL -- The compensation package for Air Canada's CEO fell 12 per cent last year, while the payouts of the airline's four other top executives soared even though continued losses drove its share price down more than 70 per cent.

Calin Rovinescu earned $4 million in 2011, down from $4.55 million a year earlier, but higher than the $2.6 million during his first nine months on the job in 2009, according to a proxy circular.

Chief financial officer Michael Rousseau, chief operating officer Duncan Dee, chief commercial officer Benjamin Smith and senior vice-president of operations David Legge each saw their compensation increase by between 18 per cent to nearly 47 per cent.

Base salaries remained mostly steady but each executive saw large gains in share and options-based awards while non-equity incentives fell.

Quebec Student Protest: Police Reacting Too Violently To Protests, Critics Say

MONTREAL - Some people are lashing out at Quebec police in the wake of violent confrontations in which several protesters were injured, including one young man who lost an eye.

There are allegations police overreacted last week to small groups of stone-tossing protesters by declaring a demonstration illegal, firing rubber bullets at people's heads, and using chemical irritants and mass detentions.

Related accusations had been levelled by some of the participants involved in Montreal protests over recent weeks but they spiked after a particularly violent skirmish with provincial police in small-town Victoriaville last Friday.

Images that emerged from the event showed a small mob beating up on a police officer with punches, kicks and stick-swinging. But many protesters, along with their supporters, are saying the violence cut both ways.

France’s vote against austerity is like a vote to outlaw bad weather

The people of France, Greece and several other European locales, it is reliably reported, have just voted against “austerity.” This is cheering news. In future, I hope they will vote against rain, cold sores and bad sex.

If only it were so easy. Alas, the inability of so many European governments to pay for what they wish to buy out of the taxes their citizens wish to pay remains a reality, whatever anyone might have voted. That shortfall cannot be abolished. It must either be closed, through some combination of spending cuts and tax increases, or governments must borrow the difference.

Citizens can compel their governments, by their votes, not to do anything about their debts. But they cannot compel financial markets to keep lending to them. And markets will be less willing to make new loans if governments, by their behaviour, call into question whether previous loans will be repaid. Austerity, then, is not a policy, but a condition.

Some ‘deal’ for Quebec taxpayers

What a way to run a democracy! As this is written, we ordinary taxpaying Quebecers are waiting to see whether the province’s various student associations will approve the “deal” struck over the weekend with the provincial education minister and allow their non-“striking” classmates to go back to school and the rest of us to get on with our lives without daily obstruction of Montreal’s streets, subway, bridges and public buildings by protesters, marchers and, on occasion, thugs.

“Deal” is in quotation marks for several reasons: because the student associations are not official bargaining agents for the students; because it’s unseemly for democratically elected governments to make formal agreements with interest groups on important matters of public policy; and, finally, because the student negotiators are very standoffish regarding the deal they’ve made. They don’t actually endorse it, though they have agreed to put it to their memberships.

Quebec students send a message against austerity

No wonder those Quebec student protestors have been spooking the English Canadian establishment. If they get their way, the same ideas could catch on here, leaving the best-laid plans for austerity in tatters.

What seems to particularly gall some English Canadian commentators is the fact that the Quebec students — who reached a tentative deal with the province on the weekend after a three-month strike — have been protesting tuition hikes that would still leave them with the lowest tuition in the country. Why can’t these spoiled brats be grateful, and go back to watching video games and keeping up with the Kardashians like normal, well-adjusted North American youth?

It’s that old problem about Quebec. Somehow people there manage to shake a bit loose from the rigid corporate-imposed mindset that has gripped North America in recent decades, convincing us that we as a society must cut back on things — like university education and old age pensions — that were somehow affordable in days when our society was a lot less rich.

The Quebec students, more attuned to the outside world, have figured out that this self-denial has more to do with dogma than with some new reality allegedly necessitated by the global economy.

Key US ally Australia slashes military spending

CANBERRA, May 8, 2012 (AFP) - - Key US ally Australia slashed Aus$5.5 billion (US$5.57 billion) from its defence budget Tuesday as part of sweeping cuts, deferring or scrapping jet and weapons deliveries and sacking 1,000 staff.

Defence saw the largest cuts of any sector in the 2012-13 budget, with $5.5 billion in savings scheduled over the next four years, but the government promised the reductions would have "no adverse impact on operations" overseas.

Australia has some 1,500 troops serving in Afghanistan as well as peacekeeping deployments in East Timor and the Solomon Islands, and it is set to host a new United States military base in the Asia-Pacific.

Some 2,500 US Marines are to be stationed in northern Australia by 2016-17 under a deal inked with US President Barack Obama last year which will see a major expansion of military ties between the two nations.

Justice Cheated: Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth on Failures of Guantánamo Military Tribunals

The military tribunal established to prosecute the five leading suspects in the September 11th attacks opened this weekend at Guantánamo Bay. During a nine-hour hearing on Saturday, the five prisoners refused to enter pleas on murder and terrorism charges, or to talk or listen to the judge, in what one of their lawyers explained was a “peaceful resistance to an unjust system.” Defense attorneys say the trial for the five leading suspects in the September 11th attacks is rigged to lead to their execution. Critics say the Obama administration has set a dangerous precedent by proceeding through a military tribunal. After initially attempting to move the case to a civilian courtroom in New York, the White House caved to vocal opposition and agreed to resume the military commissions begun under President George W. Bush at Guantánamo. At least one defense attorney argues it will be impossible to present testimony against his client that is not corrupted by treatment he says amounted to torture. “Waterboarding is mock execution by way of drowning. That is a classic act of torture. Bush has admitted ordering that. There is no escaping the fact that he should be a criminal suspect, as should the other people in the room, people like Tenet, Rumsfeld, Cheney,” says Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who attended the military trial at Guantánamo this weekend. “I think President Obama has simply decided that he is not willing to invest the political capital that would be required for those kinds of difficult trials.”

Source: Democracy Now!
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"We Need to Make a Ruckus": Robert Reich Hails Occupy for Exposing Concentration of Wealth and Power

In his new book, "Beyond Outrage," former Labor Secretary Robert Reich opens with a dedication to the Occupy Wall Street movement. He writes: "To the Occupiers, and all others committed to taking back our economy and our democracy." We speak to Reich about the success of Occupy in reshaping the national dialogue on the economy and why strong grassroots movements are needed to push elected leaders in Washington to enact a progressive agenda. Reich also discusses why austerity is not the answer to the economic crisis at home or in Europe.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Former Labor Sec. Robert Reich on Clinton’s Errors of Crippling Welfare to Repealing Glass-Steagall

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich critiques President Obama’s handling of the economic crisis and the Clinton administration’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a key deregulatory move that ended the separation of commercial and investment banking and is widely seen as having helped lead to the financial collapse. The Clinton administration also presided over a drastic transformation of U.S. welfare laws, throwing millions off of welfare rolls. "I went outside of the White House, walked back to my office along Constitution Avenue, expecting I would see signs. ... There are a lot of people who were concerned about that issue. But there was nobody on the streets. It was deafening. The silence was deafening," Reich says of the day Clinton signed the change into law. He notes this is when he realized, "if people who are concerned about the increasing concentration of wealth and power in this country are not mobilized, are not visible, then nothing progressive is going to happen." Reich is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written 13 books, including "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future." His latest, an e-book, is just out: "Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix Them."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Harper government losing its sheen

The Harper government has done an excellent job since 2006 of hanging on to power and staying well ahead of political competitors, until now.

Lately the Conservatives are finding themselves in an unheard-of situation, statistically tied with the New Democrats. A late-April Nanos Research poll had a resurgent NDP at 32.4 per cent support to the Conservatives' 34.7 per cent, with a 3.2-per-cent mar-gin of error. Liberals were well back, at 23.3 per cent.

The NDP's numbers doubtlessly reflect a honeymoon period for new leader Tom Mulcair, who has impressed inside the Commons and out.

However, that may not fully explain the Conservative dip, which is accompanied by some negative numbers for Stephen Harper's leadership.

Nanos found that since February, the PM's rankings on trust, competence and vision have all dropped.

Conservative attack on Mulcair falls flat – are they losing their mojo?

The long waiting game is over. Finally, the ruthless attack machine of the Conservative Party has roared to life and taken aim at Tom Mulcair. A little later than expected, to be sure, but with the deepest warchest in Canadian politics and a mean streak the size of Lake Superior, surely worth the wait.

Except it’s not. It’s just a website. And a really bad one at that.

The Conservative’s new attack site is not really even about Mulcair. It goes after members of his shadow cabinet. Like Nathan Cullen, who from what I read has committed the cardinal sin of not supporting the Conservatives’ reckless environmental deregulation.

Or Peggy Nash, who doesn’t condone the Conservatives’ blind corporate giveaways.

The horror.

I don’t mean to poke the dragon in the eye but c’mon guys. You used to be really good at this stuff. Where has the mojo gone?

Tread carefully, Tories: Governments can live to regret omnibus bills

The Conservatives are determined to push through an omnibus bill that would not only enact Jim Flaherty’s landmark budget but also bring sweeping changes to environmental regulations, unemployment insurance and much else. They should take care.

Bringing down the legislative hammer can force the opposition to take desperate measures, leading to unforeseen consequences. Just ask Tony Clement.

Bill C-38, in more than 420 pages, cuts government spending and raises the retirement age for some federal pensions, along with everything else in the March 29 budget.

It also changes environmental regulations, in many cases weakening federal oversight, and puts in place new rules that could force people on Employment Insurance to take jobs or lose benefits.

How long will Stephen Harper stay?

By the time of the next election, should this government’s term run four years, Stephen Harper will have been prime minister for almost a decade.

He’s still relatively young, he relishes the exercise of power and there is much he still wishes to do in transforming Canada into a conservative society. The likelihood is that he will run again and try to extend his stewardship of the country to 14 years.

That’s what the smart money tells us. It almost makes me wonder why I’m writing this – but a number of other possibilities do need to be considered.

One possibility is that in a couple of years’ time, our suzerain will decide he’s had enough, call a leadership convention and leave with his reputation intact, a major political success story in the conservative pantheon.

Another is that he will prefer to stay, but circumstances will force his hand; the public grows weary of him before the next campaign date, perhaps, and he senses it.

In appreciation of the Quebec student strike

Like sap rising in spring, the printemps érable showcases the talents and humour of Quebec students. Here are some examples:

Red-clad students board subway cars during the morning rush hour on the orange line of the metro. One per car, they stand silently looking straight ahead. When the car stops they get out, position themselves at equal intervals along the platform so that when the metro pulls out of the station passengers see a blur of red.

Red, the colour of radical movements, has been taken over by the students, who wear red knitted or crocheted squares, or squares of red felt, attached with a safety pin. Or just a plain old square of red duct tape.

Music students perform a professional calibre "Sacre du printemps" by Igor Stravinsky to cheer the protesters, a piece that sent the Paris establishment into paroxysms of rage when it was first played in the spring of 1913.

Made on Haida Gwaii: Dana Bellis brings new energy from the North

"One of the best things about me is being from Haida Gwaii," says Dana Bellis, 27, who recently returned from the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in Vancouver. Jaad Gudangaa 'laas, also known as Dana Bellis, attended George M. Dawson High School in Masset, learning determination and hard work from an early age.

"I always felt I had the support of the teachers and the community, but I also had to do it myself," she explains. The islands have given Dana incredible gifts. "The islands foster an independent, creative and confident determination," she explains, and she pays tribute to the Haida community and the island people.

Immersed in the field of consulting in policy development and community-engagement, Dana has been fortunate to work with Indigenous health and government organizations, energy companies and the aboriginally-owned and operated Indigenuity Consulting Group.

DND, procurement officials had no intention of conducting required competitive bidding process to find CF-18 replacement: Williams

PARLIAMENT HILL—Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose would have signed off on a 160-word letter from the National Defence Department that is at the centre of a finding by Auditor General Michael Ferguson that PWGSC failed to demonstrate due diligence as it agreed to short-circuit regular procurement rules before the Harper government hastily announced in 2010 it had decided to spend at least $14.7-billion on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, says a former National Defence official who has become a leading critic of the acquisition.

Alan Williams, a retired assistant deputy minister in charge of procurement at National Defence who oversaw Canada’s involvement with the U.S. Department of Defence in research and development of the F-35 project prior to 2005, disclosed on Monday a document he describes as the “smoking gun” that proves National Defence and its civilian procurement officials had no intention of conducting the required competitive bidding process to find a CF-18 replacement.

Women mechanics face Mad Men moments at work

“I’ve had colleagues say they want to have sex with me,” says Jennifer Ferrari, buffing the rust off a Toyota Camry brake pad. “There’s the constant having to say no. It makes you cautious.”

I’ve asked Ferrari for her most Mad Men moment — the eye-popping sexism that feminism stomped out of most industries in the 1970s and 80s. Though not the automotive service industry.

She gives me three.

“Two guys decided they didn’t want me to be their team leader. They stole my tools and moved my tools around and took parts I was working on,” says Ferrari, 42. “That’s how sexism works. They don’t like you to have power over them.”

ORNGE boss Chris Mazza got pay hike after telling board he had a job offer

ORNGE’s board hiked president Chris Mazza’s annual payout to $2.6 million in salary, bonus and interest-free loans after he told them a private firm was trying to “poach” him.

“To keep (Mazza) we had to pay him more,” said a source close to ORNGE’s former board of directors.

Back in 2007, Mazza’s annual salary was $298,000. That was the last year his salary was made public on the provincial sunshine list. The next year, ORNGE began creating for-profit companies and took the position that executive salaries would become secret.

Sometime in 2009, Mazza, a former emergency room doctor, told board chairman Rainer Beltzner and others that his skill and expertise had caught the attention of another company. Mazza did not identify the company and the board did not ask for proof. The Star has not been able to confirm that a company and job offer existed.

After securing unity cabinet with Kadima, Netanyahu is now king of Israeli politics

Twice in the last ten days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left the political system gaping with its jaw dropped. The first was ten days ago, when it became apparent that Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman jointly, and secretly, advanced a move to dissolve the Knesset and move up general elections. The second time was at 1:30 A.M. on Tuesday morning, when nothing less than an atomic bomb was dropped witj the dramatic agreement that has inserted Kadima into the government and called off an early vote.

While we were sleeping, under all our noses, politicians and journalists alike, a wondrous political friendship has been forming over the last week between two bitter rivals: the prime minister and Likud chief Netanyahu, and opposition leader and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz. The former, out of great power. The latter, from severe weakness. All the rest was smoke and mirrors: Mofaz's incessant and severe attacks against Netanyahu; Netanyahu's election speech at the Likud conference; Mofaz's consultations with party members on cancelling the primaries; and, above all, the parliamentary move in the Knesset to dissolve the Knesset, which turned out to be redundant from beginning to end. One big joke.