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 02, 2013

It Can Happen Here: The Bank Confiscation Scheme for US and UK Depositors

Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone “troika” officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds.

New Zealand has a similar directive, discussed in my last article here, indicating that this isn’t just an emergency measure for troubled Eurozone countries. New Zealand’s Voxy reported on March 19th:

    The National Government [is] pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts . . . .

    Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out.

Obama 'Limiting Press Access In Ways That Past Administrations Wouldn't Have Dared': AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — A photo of the Obamas hugging that was released on Election Day 2012 has become the world's most popular tweet on Twitter. A dressed-up version of Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, packed with charts and graphs, is huge on YouTube. A playful picture of the president cavorting with a 3-year-old in a Spiderman costume is a favorite online.

It's all courtesy of the Obama image machine, serving up a stream of words, images and videos that invariably cast the president as commanding, compassionate and on the ball. In this world, Obama's family is always photogenic, first dog Bo is always well-behaved and the vegetables in the South Lawn kitchen garden always seem succulent.

Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide

WASHINGTON -- It's now an article of faith that dire sequestration warnings were overblown.

New studies downsize potential job losses because of the federal budget cuts. Agencies have figured ways to ensure that the more alarming effects (no food inspectors!) are avoided. Government organizations are coming up with methods to delay severe disruptions. Congress isn't debating a replacement. The media have lost interest or have reduced it to a political argument. The economy was supposed to be brought to its knees by the $85 billion in cuts. Instead, we trudge along in a new normal.

Inside the NRA's Koch-Funded Dark-Money Campaign

"This election is going to be won on the ground," Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's top lobbyist, told me early last year as the gun lobby prepared to launch its all-out campaign to defeat Barack Obama. Historically, pro-gun voters have favored Republicans by a margin of 2- or 3-to-1, but that only matters if they vote. And, Cox stressed, millions of gun owners were not registered yet.

The NRA's get-out-the-vote effort, its most ambitious ever, would target gun owners from all angles. Its field workers would register them at gun shows and gun shops in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. The NRA spent millions on TV spots; one seven-figure ad buy last October attacked the president for "chipping away" at Second Amendment rights, urging Americans to "defend freedom." Chuck Norris, a spokesman for the NRA's Trigger the Vote campaign, warned apathetic gun owners, "I'll come looking for the people who sat this election out."

India Taxes: Rich Disappear This Time Of Year

NEW DELHI - In a country long defined by its poverty, it's easy now to find India's rich.

They're at New Delhi's Emporio mall, where herds of chauffeur-driven Jaguars and Audis disgorge shoppers heading to the Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin stores. They're shopping for Lamborghinis in Mumbai. They're putting elevators in their homes and showing off collections of jewel-encrusted watches in Indian luxury magazines. They're buying real estate in comfortable but unpretentious neighbourhoods — neighbourhoods thought of as simply upper-middle-class just a couple years ago — where apartments now regularly sell for millions of dollars.

Fraser Institute’s tax-exempt status makes mockery of its recent report

I laughed out loud when I read Barbara Yaffe’s column this past Wednesday about the Fraser Institute’s report on the risk posed to civil democratic societies by the growing numbers of tax-exempt workers.

Not laughing at the column. It was a timely, succinct and well-sketched discussion of the think tank’s study, Tax Payers and Tax Takers.

Canada, the world’s new contrarian

In itself, there is nothing terribly damning — or even noteworthy — about a sovereign country withdrawing from a modest international convention that it calls ineffective.

Here, though, the country is Canada and the instrument is the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Canada is not just any nation; it is big, rich, cosmopolitan and a charter member of the UN.

It may be true, as Stephen Harper explains, that the convention spends just 18 per cent of is budget on programming. It may be that it is too “bureaucratic” and wastes “taxpayers’ money.”

Distrust of Harper government grows over First Nations funding rules

First Nations are pushing back at the Harper government over strings they say have been unfairly attached to their federal funding.

Chiefs contend Ottawa crafted the 2013-2014 funding agreement without consultation and that a specific clause forces them to abide by existing and future legislation – without the right, they say, to mount legal challenges. The document, which is about 50 pages long and lays out funding conditions such as reporting and transparency requirements, includes changes to on-reserve income assistance and specifies that relevant future legislation prevails over existing terms.

Kyoto’s revenge: How the Tories blew it on the environment

This weekend’s pipeline breach in Mayflower, Arkansas calls for the two clichés editors routinely scrub from opinion columns: “Timing is everything” and “Pictures are worth a thousand words.”

Visuals of crude oil swamping an all-American suburb could not have come at a worse moment for advocates of the Keystone XL pipeline. With the Obama administration expected to decide the pipeline’s fate this summer, and politicians on both sides of the border revving up the rhetoric, the breach brought home the “not in my backyard” argument — literally.

Welcome to Canada: New guide for immigrants highlights the Queen, the military and acceptable marriages

The federal government will unveil today a new guide for immigrants just arriving in Canada that emphasizes the country’s relationship with the Queen of England, the role of the Canadian Forces and the marriage customs that newcomers should consider forbidden.

More than double the length of its predecessor, the 146-page Welcome to Canada booklet produced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada is chock full of colour photos and personal testimonies, unlike the previous incarnation introduced in 2007.

Merry band of Vancouver pranksters relaunch Sh*t Harper Did with focus on real activism

The group of young Vancouver comedians and activists behind the viral Sh*t Harper Did videos has relaunched its website Monday as part of a wider grassroots effort to turn Canada’s twentysomething hipsters into politically active citizens.

The site’s co-founder and executive director Sean Devlin says his collective is still using online humour to engage age groups whose apathy at the polls is well-documented. But the SHD group, which just finished up a 14-stop national campus comedy tour, is now focusing on conducting workshops to empower young Canadians to take direct political action or perform acts of civil disobedience to have their voices heard.

Do you know where your MP has been — and who picked up the tab?

Conservative backbenchers topped the list of globetrotting MPs who accepted expensive trips sponsored by foreign governments, interest groups or corporations last year.

Conservative Bernard Trottier, who unseated former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to become MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, racked up the highest tab for sponsored travel. He and his wife Susan Schutta accepted trips to Israel and Taiwan worth a total of $19,460.

According to reports filed with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, the trips were sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association — two of the groups that are the most active in using free travel to get the ear of MPs.

Defeat the right through open politics

Canada is run by a tyrannical prime minister. A majority of Canadians would be happy to see Stephen Harper go. A fair number are working to Stop Harper.

There is no consensus on how to be done with the PM however. If his personal popularity slides far enough down, Stephen Harper may leave of his own accord, or be shown the door by his party. It has happened before. Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney stepped down (before being pushed) knowing he was too unpopular to face the electorate again.

Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn goes global with political ambitions

Emboldened by its meteoric rise in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn party is spreading its tentacles abroad, amid fears it is acting on its pledge to "create cells in every corner of the world". The extremist group, which forged links with British neo-Nazis when it was founded in the 1980s, has begun opening offices in Germany, Australia, Canada and the US.

The international push follows successive polls that show Golden Dawn entrenching its position as Greece's third, and fastest growing, political force. First catapulted into parliament with 18 MPs last year, the ultra-nationalists captured 11.5% support in a recent survey conducted by polling company Public Issue.

Welfare reforms: we will make work pay, says George Osborne

The chancellor will launch a counter-offensive in the increasingly bitter war over welfare, accusing his critics of a cowardly defence of vested interests, and claiming the increase in the personal tax allowance introduced this month will make work pay.

With a week-long chorus of protest from Labour, charities and church groups constantly intensifying, George Osborne, in a relatively rare set-piece speech, will insist the changes are not simply a necessary evil to tackle the deficit, but a positive reform of a bloated welfare system.

Sex Education Programs For Teens Targeted By GOP Lawmakers

In addition to passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation so far this year, Republican lawmakers in North Dakota, Arkansas and Texas are now pushing bills that would defund comprehensive sex education programs for at-risk teenagers.

The North Dakota legislature is currently considering an amendment to an anti-abortion bill that would effectively block a $1.2 million federal grant for a sex education program for teens who are homeless or in foster programs.

Mike McLelland Dead: Suspicion In Texas DA Death Shifts To White Supremacists

KAUFMAN, Texas -- Suspicion in the slayings of a Texas district attorney and his wife shifted Monday to a violent white supremacist prison gang that was the focus of a December law enforcement bulletin warning that its members might try to attack police or prosecutors.

The weekend deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, who were found fatally shot in their home, were especially jarring because they happened just a couple of months after one of the county's assistant district attorneys, Mark Hasse, was killed near his courthouse office.

Judge Questions Fairness Of Citigroup's $590 Million Settlement

(Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge on Monday signaled he will not rubber-stamp Citigroup Inc's proposed $590 million settlement of a shareholder lawsuit accusing it of hiding tens of billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein asked lawyers for the bank and its shareholders to address several issues at an April 8 fairness hearing, including requested legal fees and expenses of roughly $100 million, and the absence of payments by former Citigroup executives.

Mayor Rob Ford makes vomiting sound in reaction to Metrolinx revenue proposals

Mayor Rob Ford reacted to Metrolinx’s list of potential ways to pay for a massive transit expansion by grabbing this throat and making a vomiting sound.

Ford laughed after making the noise and rejected outright the agency’s long-awaited report on how GTA residents can help fund a war on traffic congestion that is sapping the region’s prosperity.

“You can’t tax people, implement these new taxes to pay for transit,” Ford told reporters in the City Hall atrium after kicking off the “Clean Toronto Together” four-week city spring cleanup.

Nelson, Georgia Family Protection Ordinance Approved, Would Make Gun Ownership Mandatory For Some

NELSON, Ga. — The city council in a small north Georgia town voted Monday night to make gun ownership mandatory – unless you object.

Council members in Nelson, a city of about 1,300 residents that's located 50 miles north of Atlanta, voted unanimously to approve the Family Protection Ordinance. The measure requires every head of household to own a gun and ammunition to "provide for the emergency management of the city" and to "provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants."

Germany Doesn't Get Much Sun. How Did It Become a Leader in Solar Energy?

It's been a long, dark winter in Germany. In fact, there hasn't been this little sun since people started tracking such things back in the early 1950s. Easter is around the corner, and the streets of Berlin are still covered in ice and snow. But spring will come, and when the snow finally melts, it will reveal the glossy black sheen of photovoltaic solar panels glinting from the North Sea to the Bavarian Alps.

Solar panels line Germany's residential rooftops and top its low-slung barns. They sprout in orderly rows along train tracks and cover hills of coal mine tailings in what used to be East Germany. Old Soviet military bases, too polluted to use for anything else, have been turned into solar installations.

Robert Dutton, Former Rona CEO, Got $4.5 Million Severance Package

MONTREAL - Hardware and lumber retailer Rona Inc. says it paid former CEO Robert Dutton a severance package worth more than $4.5 million as part of nearly $6.9 million in total compensation last year.

In regulatory documents it filed ahead of its annual meeting in May, the Quebec-based company said Dutton's severance package included $1.8 million in cash representing two years of base salary and the vesting of more than 224,000 options granted since 2009.

Dutch Disease plus unbalanced equalization: A shot across Alberta's oily bow

Let's call it Dutch Disease Redux with complications of Confederation.

Since Alberta's petroleum economy has almost unquestionably hurt Ontario's manufacturing base, it is axiomatic that Ontarians will soon demand a revised deal from Confederation.

This is a reality Albertans need to think about. Some may scoff and mutter that Central Canada deserves whatever it gets -- "Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark," and all that. But the electoral reality is that Ontario probably has the votes to make a good start on fixing this problem if voters there start to perceive it has gotten out of hand.

Ottawa defends amount of transfer payments to Ontario

Ottawa says it has been more than generous to Ontario despite a University of Toronto think tank report that says the province is being shortchanged $11 billion in transfer payments.

Dan Miles, a spokesman for federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, said that the $20 billion the federal government transfers to Ontario is an all-time high.

“This represents a whopping nearly 80 per cent increase from under the old Liberal federal government, including almost $3.2 billion through Equalization, $12 billion through the Canada Health Transfer, and $4.7 billion through the Canada Social Transfer,” Miles said in a statement to the Star Monday.

Minister John Baird Embarrassed in Amman Jordan by questions related to Canadian domestic and international policy

After meeting with AbdullahII ibn Al-Hussein, King of Jordan, the Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird held a press conference.

A reporter from the Jordan Times asked Minister John Baird if Canada was governed by a coalition government.  Baird  explained that there was not a tradition of coalition governments in Canada, and that the Harper Conservatives, with  38% of the national vote, had elected the majority of seats in Parliament, and now have  a stable majority. The  reporter asked a supplemental question for clarification because he thought that he had  misunderstood Minister Baird. He asked: “How is it possible that you could have a majority government with only 38 % of the popular vote?” Baird was taken aback because he was not prepared for questions about Canada’s quirky Westminster electoral system; he had come to discuss Syria and increase trade with Jordan

Vancouverites walk for welfare justice

On Wednesday, March 27, residents across the city joined together to walk 14.5km across Vancouver for Welfare Justice. The walk was organized by the Raise the Rates coalition to highlight the need for a significant increase in welfare rates as well as a comprehensive anti-poverty plan in the lead-up to the provincial election this May. The walk commenced at Christy Clark’s office on West 4th Ave in Kitsilano and ended almost 8 hours later outside Adrian Dix’s office at the Joyce Street skytrain station.

Campus activism at Carleton under threat

Later this week, undergraduate students at Carleton University will vote to decide the future of OPIRG-Carleton, a social justice organizing centre that has been serving students and the broader Ottawa community for the past 33 years.

A referendum is being held April 3-4, and one of the questions asks whether to discontinue the undergraduate student levy that funds OPIRG ($6.84 per year for full-time undergrads). The collective total of this levy amounts to just over $127,000 per year, close to 85 percent of the overall OPIRG-Carleton annual budget. Without this funding, the future of the organization is in serious doubt.

Camp Nama: British personnel reveal horrors of secret US base in Baghdad

British soldiers and airmen who helped to operate a secretive US detention facility in Baghdad that was at the centre of some of the most serious human rights abuses to occur in Iraq after the invasion have, for the first time, spoken about abuses they witnessed there.

Personnel from two RAF squadrons and one Army Air Corps squadron were given guard and transport duties at the secret prison, the Guardian has established.

Bob Casey Backs Gay Marriage

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced his support for gay marriage Monday, at last joining the growing number of Democrats to embrace marriage equality over the last week.

"After much deliberation and after reviewing the legal, public policy and civil-rights questions presented, I support marriage equality for same-sex couples and believe that DOMA should be repealed," Casey said in an exclusive statement to the Philadelphia Gay News.

Why Was Paul Krugman So Wrong?

Paul Krugman, the popular columnist and Nobel economist, recently likened himself to heroic dissenters who stood up to the war whoops and opposed the invasion of Iraq. The go-to-war consensus among policy elites overwhelmed skeptics and tragedy ensued. Professor Krugman evidently sees himself playing a similar role on important economic controversies.

“What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority,” Krugman wrote in his New York Times column. “If you hear that ‘everyone’ supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether ‘everyone’ has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion.”

Why Won't Exxon Come Clean on the Arkansas Oil Spill Details?

An ExxonMobil pipeline broke on Friday evening, dumping thousands of gallons of tar sands oil in Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pegasus pipeline starts in Illinois and carries 95,000-barrels of oil per day from Alberta's tar sands to refineries in Texas.

At least 22 homes had to be evacuated after the spill, and local residents have posted some alarming photos and video of the mess in their streets and backyards. The group HAWK Center (Helping Arkansas Wild Kritters) is also posting photos of oiled birds that have been rescued and brought in.

Danger overhead: Transport Canada cuts are a red flag for small commercial aviation safety

OTTAWA — Thirty-nine seconds after takeoff, the co-pilot of a Beechcraft King Air reported a problem with the right engine to the control tower at the Quebec City airport and said the aircraft was returning to land.

“We’re unable to climb,” he reported on the early morning flight to Sept-Iles on the north shore of the St. Lawrence before the last communication on June 23, 2010.

Peter Kent’s department ducks questions about cuts following concerns over contaminant from Erin Brockovich case

OTTAWA-Two weeks after being asked how it would enforce environmental regulations in the wake of cuts to scientific oversight, the Harper government has offered a reporter some answers to its own questions in an email.

The government message came after some newly-released internal correspondence, exchanged between Environment Canada enforcement officers, raised concerns about the enforcement of existing and emerging regulations, including a cancer-linked contaminant at the heart of a court battle famously driven by American legal researcher Erin Brockovich.

Sexism at the border: A personal account

What do you do when you're detained by powerful officials, everything you say is presumed deceptive, arbitrary "evidence" is held against you, and you're treated like a moral deviant? And what if its 2013, you're a woman, and the "evidence" is that you possess condoms?

It happened three times in two weeks -- being detained by U.S. border officials on my way to or through the States.

Keystone XL: Will viral video of oil spill in Arkansas derail pipeline?

WASHINGTON—Pictures don’t lie. And as much as some would like to write off the oil-drenched images flying across Facebook and Twitter Monday as an April Fool’s joke gone rogue, they are real.

That actually is a river of Alberta crude gushing through an Arkansas suburb. And gushing onward to YouTube, virally, throughout Easter weekend.

Ontario’s health care system should serve need, not greed

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Our publicly-funded, not-for-profit health-care system is described as being in crisis and unsustainable. A privileged few will come forward with their scheme to magically save the system by selling services that have been developed and sustained by public money to affluent buyers. The purported goal is share Ontario’s knowledge, expertise, and skills in order to alleviate human suffering while tapping into pools of cash that will invigorate our deficit-weakened, poised-to-crash system. The marketing spin is that everyone wins – the folks from abroad are healed and Ontario’s faltering health-care system is given new life thanks to fresh financial transfusions. Not coincidentally, by transforming a public good into a commodity, the invisible hand of the market boosts those privileged few even higher up the ladder of financial reward and power.

Edmonton couple sues over realtor’s cottage profit

When a real estate agent buys your home and resells it for a large profit, you may wonder whether that’s fair and your interests have been sacrificed for the agent’s.

But as an Edmonton couple discovered when they sold their cottage and saw it flipped twice in four months, it’s not as simple as that.

Marlin and Connie Trynchy bought a lakefront cottage in Lac St. Anne county west of Edmonton in 2001 for $59,000. Five years later they decided to sell and approached real estate agent Tammy Gabriel. Connie Trynchy later testified in a lawsuit that Gabriel told them the home was worth just under $100,000.

Iain Duncan Smith Urged By Petition To Show He Can Actually Live On £53 A Week

A petition calling on Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week has been signed by over 66,000 people in less than day, after the Work and Pensions secretary said he could live on the amount some benefit claimants receive "if I had to".

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme on Monday morning, Duncan Smith made the claim after saying it was "only fair" if households had a spare room with "no legitimate reason" that they should pay for it, when other families were crammed into houses that were too small for them.

Feminism 'has failed working-class women'

Feminism has failed working-class women by focusing too much on gender equality in high-profile roles, according to new research.

While the average gap between the earnings of men and women has narrowed in the last 50 years, differences between professional and unskilled women are significantly higher than those between the same groups of men, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found.

Israel set to jail teenage conscientious objector for eighth time

It is a routine Nathan Blanc knows well. At 9am on Tuesday morning, the 19-year-old will report, as instructed in his draft papers, to a military base near Tel Aviv. There he will state his objection to serving in the Israeli army. Following his refusal to enlist, Blanc expects to be arrested and sentenced to between 10 and 20 days in jail. He will then be taken to Military Prison Number 6 to serve his time. And then, following his release, the cycle will begin over again.

The day Britain changes: welfare reforms and coalition cuts take effect

Monday 1 April

Bedroom tax introduced
The aim is to tackle overcrowding and encourage a more efficient use of social housing. Working age housing benefit and unemployment claimants deemed to have one spare bedroom in social housing will lose 14% of their housing benefit and those with two or more spare bedrooms will lose 25%. An estimated 1m households with extra bedrooms are paid housing benefit. Critics say it is an inefficient policy as in the north of England, families with a spare rooms outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands will be hit with the tax when there is no local need for them to move. Two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled.
Savings: £465m a year. As many as 660,000 people in social housing will lose an average of £728 a year.

Thousands Protest the UK Government's Brutal Austerity

Britain's government has introduced sweeping changes to the country's welfare, justice, health and tax systems, including a "bedroom tax" that will reduce housing subsidies that primarily benefit poor people. The levy ostensibly aims to "tackle overcrowding and encourage a more efficient use of social housing," resulting in an estimated million "social housing" households losing 14-25 percent of their housing benefits.

The Guardian:

    Critics say it is an inefficient policy as in the north of England, families with a spare rooms outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands will be hit with the tax when there is no local need for them to move. Two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled.

Equalization Payments: Ontario Still Paying More Than It Gets Despite 'Have-Not' Status, Study Finds

Live in Ontario? You may be getting ripped off by the federal government.

According to a new report from the Mowat Centre, Ontario contributes $11 billion more annually to the federal government than it gets back in services and spending, despite the fact it has become a “have-not” province.

Keystone XL Oil Spill Risk Troubles Nebraskans, Others Who Point To Previous Spills Like Mayflower

When Meghan Hammond imagines the Keystone XL pipeline, she can't help but think of the Kalamazoo River.

"The oil is still not cleaned up," said Hammond, referring to the fallout of a July 2010 Enbridge pipeline rupture that spewed more than 20,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude oil into the Michigan waterway. "That's a good example of what could happen to York, Nebraska."

Valcourt: rising from the ashes to replace MacKay?

In an earlier incarnation as a federal minister, back when 20th-century Tory Brian Mulroney was still the boss, Bernard Valcourt gave a speech that conjured up a homespun image of federal social programs.

“I am from New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada,” Valcourt told Toronto’s Empire Club in 1993. “When I speak of the social safety net, I think of it as a fishing net. And when you get caught in it, you never get out.”

Why Harper is cracking the whip — and why he has to

Shooting fish in a barrel.

That’s how easy it has been for the media to characterize the prime minister’s response to the mini-revolt among some Conservative backbenchers over their right to discuss the abortion issue when and however they wish in the House of Commons.

The editorialists have weighed in mightily. “Parliament is diminished,” thunders the Toronto Star, and National Post columnist Andrew Coyne’s head has exploded twice in one week over the outrage — possibly a new record. He described the prime minister’s actions as “contemptuous,” “mindless,” “frightened,” an “abuse of power,” “shameful,” and “autocratic.”

Kevin Page: Why being Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer ‘may have saved my life’

My name is Kevin Page. I was your parliamentary budget officer for the past five years. I am Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer. It was an extraordinary opportunity. It was a job nobody wanted, including me. It was the best five years of my public service career. It may have saved my life.

I am an extraordinarily average but fortunate person. I have been happily married for 31 years to a woman I love. I raised three great children. I live in a bungalow in the suburbs of Ottawa, where I have many true friends. I am a hockey and baseball coach. I ride my bike to work. I add and subtract for a living. You get the picture.

PM's tight grip, PMO's 'boys in short pants' frustrating some restless Tory backbenchers

In an extraordinary move, some Conservative backbenchers last week openly fought back against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tight grip over their one-minute MPs' statements in the Commons, but a former deputy chief of staff to the PM says restless backbenchers are also frustrated by the caucus control of "the boys in short pants" running the PMO.

"Certainly the level of control is higher even from when I was there," said Keith Beardsley in an interview with The Hill Times.

'The Gatekeepers' a must-see look at Israeli-Palestinian conflict

President Barack Obama's trip to the Middle East last week -- two days in Israel and four hours in the West Bank -- did exactly nothing to advance the prospects for a just settlement in that volatile region. He'd have done better going to the movies in Washington.

Way back in June 2009, when he presumably believed that his views mattered, Mr. Obama delivered an unqualified message to the Israeli government, then as now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking in Cairo, he boldly declared that "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

One Province, Two Guvnors … Wildrose and PCs eye reuniting the right

The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party under Premier Alison Redford and the Wildrose Party under Opposition Leader Danielle Smith plan to schedule an initial meeting on "reuniting the right" sometime this summer.

The parties are said to have agreed the time to reunite Alberta's right is now, before Alberta faces the prospect of an NDP takeover like those anticipated later this year in British Columbia and Ontario.

Remembering Peter Kormos: A rebel with a cause

"A working class hero is something to be." - a lyric by John Lennon

 “I don't change my values the way some people change their socks." - Peter Kormos

Peter Kormos, a Niagara regional councillor and former NDP MPP in Ontario, died suddenly on Friday at the age of sixty. Tributes and condolences have poured in from friends and former colleagues. In remembrance of Peter Kormos, we are pleased to share this in-depth profile, first published by Niagara at Large.

In the dimly lit banquet room of Club Social on Welland’s gritty east side, a raucous chant of "Peter, Peter, Peter" rolls up from the floor. It is the night of the October, 2003 provincial election and, to no one’s surprise, the numbers on a nearby tote board show Peter Kormos leading his nearest challenger by a margin of two to one.

Government directive to muzzle last words of NRTEE

Yesterday I received a bizarre letter sent to a list of undisclosed recipients - presumably people who had been members at some time, like me, of Canada's National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE).

When Stephen Harper's government announced the upcoming closure of the NRTEE, Minister John Baird defended this by saying that the advisory body should stop calling for a carbon tax. (In fact, it called for cap-and-trade, like the Harper government at one point, but never for a carbon tax - I have read every one of its reports in this area and contributed to a few.)  So the Harper government's desire to kill this 25 year old advisory body, originally created by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, is understandable - unconscionable, but understandable.

Muzzling of scientists subject of 'unique' probe by Canada's information watchdog

Canada’s information watchdog is launching an investigation into the “muzzling” of government scientists, a wide-reaching probe that will cover six different federal departments.

The University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre and the non-partisan Democracy Watch had asked Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to examine “systematic efforts by the government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media — and through them, the Canadian public — to timely access to government scientists.”

Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America from Monsanto to Wal-Mart

Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, joins us to discuss her new book, "Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America." Hauter tackles the corporations behind the meat, vegetables, grains and milk consumed by millions every day — including some of the most popular organic brands. "Foodopoly" details how a handful of large corporations control the nation’s food production in ways that limit how small-farms operate and how ordinary people make choices in grocery stores. And in the wake of the recently passed provision dubbed by critics as "the Monsanto Protection Act," Hauter also discusses the new report by Food & Water Watch, "Monsanto: A Corporate Profile."

Source: Democracy Now!
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