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.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Health Council cut will splinter system, erode care, critics charge

Canada’s health care system is on the fast track to becoming 14 splintered systems as the Harper government is clearly signaling that it is vacating the field with its decision to axe the Health Council of Canada, health policy experts and political critics charge.

“Scandalous,” “short-sighted,” and “frightening” were among the responses to yesterday’s iPolitics disclosure that the council’s funding will be discontinued with next year’s expiry of the intergovernmental health accords.

Anti-Oil Pipeline Art Show Permit Pulled From Calgary City Hall

An anti-oil pipeline art exhibit has had its permit revoked and will soon be shipping off from Calgary's city hall.

The show, titled Art for an Oil-Free Coast, caused a stir this week, as some politicians in Canada's oil and gas capital called it too "political."

Bank Of Canada Downgrades Economic Outlook, Keeps Rates Steady

OTTAWA - The Bank of Canada sharply downgraded its expectations Wednesday on economic growth for the first half of this year, but held the line on offering more stimulus because it says it still believes better times are just around the corner.

As anticipated, the central bank kept the trendsetting policy rate at one per cent while chopping its growth forecast for 2013 by half a point to 1.5 per cent.

AFL-CIO's Non-Union Worker Group Headed Into Workplaces in Fifty States

The country’s largest non-union workers’ group will soon announce plans to establish chapters in every state, achieve financial self-sufficiency and extend its organizing—so far focused on politics and policy—directly into the workplace.

“This organization has done really what nobody else thought could be done,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told The Nation, “and that’s recruit more than three million people without a union to be part of the labor movement.”

Student Debt May Hurt Economy As Record Levels Dampen Other Loans

BOSTON -- The overhang of student debt on young workers may inhibit consumption and future borrowing, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York warn, potentially imperiling the economic recovery for years to come.

In a new study, New York Fed researchers said Wednesday that younger workers with student debt are less likely than their unburdened peers to have home mortgages or auto loans -- the first time that has been observed in at least 10 years and a worrying development for policymakers who have traditionally associated student debt with college education and higher incomes.

Federal Gun Registry Is The New Death Panels

WASHINGTON -- In the days leading up to Wednesday's Senate vote on gun legislation amendments, the talking point that has taken off most amongst conservatives as a reason to oppose the background check compromise is that it would lead to a national database of gun owners.

This myth has spread despite the fact that the deal worked out by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) explicitly bars a federal registry. On Wednesday, supporters aggressively worked to hit back.

Antonin Scalia: Voting Rights Act Is An 'Embedded' Form Of 'Racial Preferment'

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Monday that the Voting Rights Act is an "embedded" form of "racial preferment," according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

He later criticized United States Supreme Court precedents that expanded the number of minority groups, positing that "child abusers" could be a minority, but do not deserve special protection.

Margaret Thatcher Funeral: Five Other Things Which Should Bring A Tear To Osborne's Eye

The big story of the day is that George Osborne has working tear ducts. The chancellor of the exchequer was caught on camera, at Margaret Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday morning, crying. He was clearly moved by the service at St Paul's and a great fan of the Iron Lady's.

Here are five other things that might make our lachrymose chancellor want to shed a few more tears.

‘EU’s policy of fighting offshore banking has a touch of double-standard’

There is certain hypocrisy in the European Union’s policy of fighting offshore banking, Russia's former Minister of Finance and Deputy PM Aleksey Kudrin told RT.

The interview also touched on the issue of the economic crisis with Kudrin fearing it may still escalate and Europe will be at the center of it.

Gitmo hunger strike on rise, 15 prisoners force-fed

Days after violent clashes between guards and prisoners, the US military says a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay is on the rise as the number of those fasting has increased from 45 to 52. Some 15 prisoners are being force-fed.

Gitmo spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand said the number of prisoners classified as hunger strikers has increased in just one day.

At the same time, lawyers for Guantanamo inmates say the strike is more widespread than the military acknowledges and the majority of all 166 prisoners are fasting.

Meanwhile, senior military officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention center defended a raid on Saturday that resulted in a violent clash with detainees. Two US soldiers received head wounds and five prisoners suffered assorted injuries.

Lawyers for the inmates claim they are barred from speaking with their clients.

The atmosphere is tense as a weeks-long hunger strike by detainees protesting their indefinite detention continues.

Soldiers equipped with riot gear swept into a recreation area and were met with resistance from several dozen prisoners, the commander of the detention center told journalists visiting Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo).

"The appropriate amount of force was used for the situation," Navy Rear Adm. John W. Smith, commander of the detention center, told the small group of reporters.

Guards carried out a raid on Camp 6 because the prisoners had repeatedly blocked 147 of the 160 security cameras, making it impossible to monitor the detainees during the hunger strike, the AP article said.

Smith said the guards were concerned a prisoner might try to commit suicide. Officials said there were two attempted suicides since the first broke out around February 6.

Shortly before the raid, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had conducted a visit to Gitmo, after which it confirmed that force-feeding is occurring at the facility, a practice that the ICRC and groups like Physicians for Human Rights condemn.

The Pentagon has countered the argument, saying it wouldn't be humane to let an inmate die from starvation. Detainees who are force-fed are strapped down to a gurney while a tube is forced up their nose and into the esophagus.

A New York Times op-ed written by a Guantanamo prisoner on Monday described the process as extremely painful.

"There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach," Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel wrote.

"I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone." News of the prison clash surfaced as the US military is conducting closed door tribunals, which have been marred from the start by controversy.

Lawyers for the detainees have criticized the use of listening devices planted in the cells designed to eavesdrop on private conversations between the prisoners and their military legal counsel. The court itself has complained of testimony from the defendants being cut off in mid-sentence by unknown sources.

The list of obstructions to achieving some semblance of justice, never an easy thing in a military tribunal to begin with, threatens to turn the tribunals into a kangaroo court.

"Defense emails have ended up being provided to the prosecution, material has disappeared off the defense server, and sometimes reappeared, in different formats, or with different names," Rick Kammen, a lawyer for Abd Al Rahim Al Nashiri, who is accused of plotting the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, said, as quoted by the public interest website, ProPublica.

The legal defenders said they were unsure whether the emails were intentionally grabbed or collected erroneously due to “technical or procedural errors.” Meanwhile, a Guantanamo Bay lawyer who represents 11 detainees was denied an emergency call to communicate with one of his clients on Tuesday, an email obtained by Rolling Stone reveals.

Defense attorney Carlos Warner requested an emergency call with his client, Fayiz Muhammad Ahmed al Kandari, on Monday morning and received notice that his request had been denied Tuesday afternoon. The Pentagon's refusal to grant Warner's call comes just days after US forces raided the communal prison unit at Gitmo.

"The military is closing ranks and restricting access to clients," Warner said in an email to reporters.

"They don't want the public to know what happened during its raid." Warner was told he could re-apply and give the normal 15 days notice – a procedure he said he understood was "routinely not followed," though this was his first request to place an emergency call.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the allegations.

Following the clash, military authorities decided to terminate communal housing, which permitted detainees to eat and associate together, and place the prisoners into solitary cells.

Although journalists are forbidden to speak with the prisoners, one of the detainees had managed to display a crudely scrawled message in broken English that read:

"Stop torturing us. Stop desecrating our religion." Commander Smith said the prisoners may later be permitted to return to the communal detention areas if they complied with prison rules.

Meanwhile, the hunger strike continues, with 45 prisoners refusing meals and 13 being force fed, officials said.

Original Article
Author: --

The Government Didn't Shut Down Cell Service in Boston. But With SOP 303, It Could Have

Shortly after the horrific explosions that interrupted the Boston Marathon Monday, the Associated Press reported that the government had shut down cellphone service in the area. That wasn't true—but it's not impossible.

"No one in Washington or in any statehouse or bunker anywhere can press a button and shut down phone service," explains Harold Feld, vice president at Public Knowledge, an advocacy group focused on communications and technology policy. But although there's no physical kill switch, there is Standard Operating Procedure 303, a secret agreement between telecommunications giants and the government that outlines "a shutdown and restoration process for use by commercial and private wireless networks during national crises," according to a government report on the subject. The government can shut down cellphone service—but it didn't do so in Boston on Monday.

Parliamentary discussion of income inequality opens with clash of opinions

OTTAWA — Income inequality was alternately described Tuesday as “a dangerous and socially harmful thing” and an overblown fear as parliamentarians began their study of the issue.

“Excessive inequality is socially corrosive,” said Finn Poschmann, vice-president of the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto.

“It makes us unhappy, it undermines institutions, it makes it difficult to govern.”

RBC doesn’t owe us an apology; the Harper government does

Even if Gord Nixon, the president and CEO of RBC has thought it necessary to apologize to all of Canada, it is hard to find fault with his company’s recent efforts to replace Canadian employees with temporary foreign workers at a lesser rate of pay.

Businesses are profit-seeking institutions. When the federal government passes legislation that allows them to pay temporary foreign workers 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage, they will attempt to capitalize by pushing the limits of the law as far as they can.

When venom replaced values in the Conservative camp

Andrew Coyne’s column in the National Post this past weekend put it brilliantly: Stephen Harper has led the transition of Canadian politics away from principle and toward populism. In his lust for power, Harper discarded many of his values. And through his latest wave of attack ads, he has — as strategist Stephen Carter puts it — moved politics away from ideology and toward mythology.

What’s most shocking about all this is that Harper was involved in the Reform party in its early days, serving as its policy chair and as an MP under Preston Manning’s leadership. If any party on the national scene could claim to be known as the party of principle, it was Reform. One could agree or disagree with those principles, but one could not deny that the party had them.

Justin Trudeau takes a gamble on staying positive

On his first full day as the new leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau sat down with the CBC’s chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge to talk about the ambitions he holds for himself and the country.

Already the target of the Harper government regarding his judgment and experience, Trudeau acknowledges that negative attack ads work.

Justin Trudeau’s celebrity status harder to attack

The reason it is difficult for the Conservatives to find any traction in mocking Justin Trudeau’s pretend striptease isn’t necessarily because the Liberal leader was raising money for charity.

The Conservative problem is that Trudeau did a pretend striptease at a fundraiser in the first place.

What does Joe Oliver know about climate science? Not much

Imagine you have this avuncular Uncle Joe. He doesn't read much about climate science, but he looks at the websites that tell you the whole thing is overblown and there's really no risk. It would become annoying. It would cast a shadow on the predictable dinner conversation at family gatherings at which you grit your teeth and to try to bring him up to speed on the science.

But when those same attitudes and willful blindness form the basis of federal government policy as expressed by our federal Minister of Natural Resources, it is a sign of negligent disregard for the public interest. It is unacceptable.

The Black Swan: Part 1

If a turkey had philosophical ability, it might argue that life just gets better and better. The steadily fattening fowl would have evidence for this point of view because each day would bring with it more and more delicious fare. Every night it would go to bed feeling sated and eager for the next morning when the pleasures of the previous day would be repeated or even heightened. The reflective bird could confirm its optimism via the inductive method: empirical study would demonstrate an increase in nourishment, from which would follow the logical generalization that life was a process of ever-expanding fulfillment. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the turkey would suddenly lose faith in its theory of knowledge because it would realize that all previous factual information was useless to predict the future. To quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb, "It will incur a revision of belief."

Sequester Cuts Might End Long-Term Unemployment Benefits In 11 States

WASHINGTON -- States are having such a hard time implementing congressional cuts to long-term unemployment insurance that some workforce agencies might just cancel the benefits altogether.

The federal budget cuts known as sequestration require states to trim federal benefits known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation by roughly 10 percent. But what would seem like a simple administrative procedure is apparently a huge burden for some antiquated state unemployment systems.

U.S. Tortured Detainees And Top Officials Are Responsible: Report

WASHINGTON -- A two-year independent investigation by the Constitution Project released Tuesday said that U.S. forces engaged in torture and senior officials bear responsibility for it.

The nonpartisan, 577-page report concluded that the events of the "war on terror" following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were "unprecedented" in American history. While the authors concede that some U.S. forces have committed brutal acts, they wrote that there has been no evidence that a U.S. president and top officials discussed the legality and effectiveness of "inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in custody."

North Dakota 'Fetal Pain' Measure Signed By Jack Dalrymple

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law a measure that outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point a fetus can feel pain.

The law signed Tuesday is the latest among a raft of measures passed in North Dakota this session that are meant to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

Union-finances bill faces mounting opposition in Senate

OTTAWA — Four months after it was passed by the House of Commons, a bill that would require labour unions to disclose detailed financial information, including how much is spent on political activities, has run into opposition in the Senate.

Bill C-377 is at second reading in the Senate and has already received a negative welcome from a Tory senator. On Tuesday, the Liberal leader in the Senate went a step further, saying the bill, with its “stunning shortcomings and its horrendous drafting,” should be defeated by the upper chamber.

Blame Ralph Klein for Redford government's regional planning crisis

The foundations of the regional planning crisis that prompted a frustrated Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths to threaten Edmonton-area municipalities with forced amalgamation were laid by the destructive policies announced by premier Ralph Klein's sidekick Steve West back in 1993.

On Oct. 7 of that year, West, the Vermilion veterinarian and MLA who acted in a variety of portfolios as Klein's minister of dismantling public services, marched to the front of a meeting of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and proclaimed that the government would be pulling the plug on the province's internationally respected system of regional planning.

Citizen Scientists: Future looks bright for DIY tech

When John Powell was 17 years old, he and four friends got together and did something daring: they bid on a NASA contract.

"We were bidding against Lockheed (Martin) and Boeing and General Dynamics and all the big guys, and there were initially 600 bidders and it got down to three," Powell said.

"That's when NASA discovered that we were all 17 and in high school."

Toronto casino: Mayor Rob Ford’s executive backs casino but No votes

Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee has officially opened the door to a massive casino resort near the downtown waterfront — if almost 50 conditions are met.

But the emergence of new council opponents to the controversial, polarizing proposal — including members of Ford’s executive — makes it very likely full council will slam that door firmly shut when it meets May 7-8.

Banks aren’t the only villains outsourcing jobs

The war against good jobs extends well beyond the banks.

Banks have been at the centre of controversy since complaints surfaced this month about the Royal Bank of Canada’s decision to outsource 45 well-paid, high-tech jobs to India.

But as readers have reminded me, banks aren’t the only ones involved in a contracting-out process that has been going on for years.

Death of Margaret Thatcher reopens the debate over her legacy

The death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 8 has renewed an intense political debate in Britain and internationally over her legacy. For her ruling class sycophants, Thatcher was a heroine, “one of the greatest” prime ministers Britain ever had. While she is falsely credited with lifting Britain out of a lasting economic slump during the 1970s, she did succeed in imposing a drastic and lasting shift in the balance of social and economic wealth between rich and poor, very much to the detriment of the latter. She was prime minister from 1979 to 1990.

Attack-ad retaliation coming

That didn't take long.

Within hours of Justin Trudeau's victory as new Liberal leader, Tory attack ads were released. They featured prominently a video of Trudeau performing a mock striptease at a fundraising event. His semi-provocative performance earned $1,800 for the charity and provided the Tories with a few minutes of character-assassination gold.

Health Canada considers mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions

OTTAWA—The Conservative government could require doctors to report negative side effects that Canadians experience from prescription drugs as part of efforts to increase the oversight mediations after they hit the market.

“We’re looking at whether or not we need to make some regulatory or legislative changes to mandate or compel information to come in,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, a senior medical adviser and assistant deputy minister at Health Canada, told the Star in an interview Tuesday.

Mike Rogers: CISPA Cybersecurity Bill Opponents Are Teens In Their Basements

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Tuesday that most opponents to his controversial cybersecurity bill are teenagers in their basements as the Obama administration threatened to veto the measure for its potential to violate civil liberties.

The bipartisan Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, aims to defend U.S. industries and corporate networks from cyber attacks by foreign governments, terrorist groups and other criminals. CISPA backers in the House of Representatives laid out their rationale during a hearing Tuesday afternoon when Rogers, the chief sponsor, invoked his 14-year-old nephew to describe the bill's opponents.

Guantanamo Prison Raid Defended By U.S. Officials

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Military officials said Tuesday they used appropriate force during a prison raid Saturday that hurt two guards and five inmates, which they said was aimed at stopping detainees from blocking cell cameras.

The officials defended the raid, a minutes-long sweep during an ongoing hunger strike, as necessary to restore cameras that guards use to make sure prisoners aren't harming themselves. Authorities forced prisoners from communal areas into single cells during the raid.

IMF puts pressure on George Osborne with criticism of cuts

George Osborne is under mounting pressure to moderate his austerity strategy after the International Monetary Fund went public with fears that the pace of budget cuts is too severe for Britain's ailing economy.

The fund said it would be holding talks with the chancellor about his tax and spending plans in the wake of gloomy forecasts that subjected the UK to the biggest growth downgrade of any developed country for 2013 and 2014.

Shenzhen stock exchange building: inside China's 'miniskirt'

Just 35 years ago, Shenzhen in southern China was a small fishing village. Then everything changed: in 1979, it was designated the unlikely site of the nation's first Special Economic Zone. After years of quiet subsistence, the village was turned into a deregulated playground for experiments in western capitalism.

Fuelled by more than £20bn of foreign investment, the city has swollen to house a population of 15 million. The skyline is a forest of skyscrapers; below them nestle private golf clubs and shopping centres devoted to luxury brands. "A new high-rise every day and a new boulevard every three" became Shenzhen's motto in the 1990s. Rice fields gave way to roads, lined with ever more fantastical buildings. It is now the biggest, most densely populated and fastest-growing city in the Pearl River Delta, the world's largest manufacturing megalopolis, home to 50 million people.

Gun Control Package Nears the Tipping Point

So here’s the state of play on the gun control package, which has been subject to intense internal debate in Washington as most of the nation focuses its attention on the horrible bomb attack in Boston: A decent bill still exists, but is being weakened almost literally by the hour.

Right now, the point of contention is on background checks. The original legislation passed out by the Senate Judiciary Committee required near-universal background checks on all weapons transfers, with only very narrow exemptions for immediate family members and short-term transfers at gun ranges and the like. Critically, it also required that dealers keep a record of all those transactions, to help ensure the checks were being conducted and to help track guns used in crimes.

10 Reasons the Background Check Bill Means Victory for the NRA

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have been forced this week to consider further retooling their bill for expanded gun background checks, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on Tuesday still lacks the 60 votes it needs to overcome a filibuster. The National Rifle Association and senators opposed to the bill continue to argue that it would unfairly burden lawful gun owners while doing nothing to prevent future tragedies like the one in Newtown.

Cooking The Books Report: Keystone XL Pipeline Not Worth The Environmental Impact

The Keystone XL pipeline will result in emissions equal to that of 51 coal-fired power plants, states a new report by environmental group Oil Change International.

"The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a project that will carry and emit at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year," according to the report titled Cooking the Books: How The State Department Analysis Ignores the True Climate Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Health Council's demise 'just made sense,' spokesman says

Health Canada is winding down the funding for the Health Council of Canada, the independent body responsible for monitoring the results of the federal-provincial health accord struck in 2004.

But with the $41 billion deal set to expire in 2014, a spokesman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says wrapping up the council's work "just made sense."

Top elections officer has not seen preview of new elections law

OTTAWA – The federal government will introduce a comprehensive “election reform act” on Thursday without having shown the legislation to the chief electoral officer.

Tim Uppal, the minister of state for democratic reform, announced in Question Period that the long overdue piece of legislation would be tabled this week to “improve the integrity, accountability and administration of Canada’s election system.”

After Obama Shuns Probe, Bipartisan Panel Finds "Indisputable" Evidence U.S. Tortured Under Bush

An independent bipartisan task force has concluded that it is "indisputable" the United States engaged in torture and the George W. Bush administration bore responsibility. The 11-member Task Force on Detainee Treatment was convened by The Constitution Project after President Obama chose not to support a national commission to investigate the counterterrorism programs. It was co-chaired by Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas, NRA consultant and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. The report concludes that never before in U.S. history had there been "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody." While the report focused largely on the Bush administration after 9/11, it also criticizes a lack of transparency under Obama. We speak with Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch.

Source: Democracy Now
Author: -

Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike: 'The Situation Is An Emergency'

On the heels of a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay's New York Times op-ed, "Gitmo Is Killing Me," HuffPost Live hosted a discussion Tuesday about conditions at the Guantanamo Bay prison, where detainees have taken to hunger strikes to call attention to the fact that they've been detained for years without being charged for any crimes.

"The situation is an emergency," Pardiss Kebriaei, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told HuffPost Live host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.

Influential Reinhart-Rogoff Pro-Austerity Research Riddled With Errors: Study

Influential research by U.S. economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, touted by policymakers pushing government austerity in the United States and Europe, is riddled with errors, a bombshell new academic study claims.

The findings may not have much impact on the debate over government debt, and it probably won't cause those who have spent the past several decades panicking over government debt to stop their panicking. But it seriously erodes the intellectual underpinnings of the pro-austerity argument -- and makes the damage done by austerity in Europe and the U.S. in recent years all the more poignant.

Peter Hansen, New Hampshire Lawmaker, Calls Women 'Vaginas' In Email To Colleagues

A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker referred to women as "vaginas" in an email to colleagues on the official legislative electronic mailing list earlier this month, drawing outrage from his own party.

State Rep. Peter Hansen (R) made the comment, first reported by New Hampshire political blogger Susan the Bruce, in an April 1 email debate with colleagues about a "stand your ground" gun bill. Hansen's colleague, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R) had delivered a lengthy floor speech about the benefits of retreating instead of using deadly force, to which Hansen replied in an email:

    What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina's of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.

Ford's Exec Committee Pushes Casino Debate To Council

Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee has approved a motion that will move the debate over whether Toronto should host a casino in the downtown core, or Exhibition Place, to city council.

The vote passed nine to four in favour of the motion which supported city manager Joe Pennachetti's report last week that made 43 recommendations council should consider if it were to go ahead with a gaming facility.

Pennachetti and city staff appeared before the 13-member committee earlier today to answer questions about his report.

Obama's dangerously contradictory stance on whistleblowing

In a film out this week, War on Whistleblowers, the New York Times' David Carr says:

    "The Obama administration came to power promising the most transparent administration in history … and began prosecuting [whistleblowers] every which way."

The transparency administration's legacy is being erased by an out-of-control national security bureaucracy. As this important documentary exposes, so far the tactic has been prosecuting or harassing national security whistleblowers. And there's danger the full-scale crackdown could expand to canceling the independent job rights of nearly all government workers in the name of national security. Ironically, the threats are from an administration that championed historic whistleblower protection laws.

Going through the motions

At a certain point, even the gimmicks become predictable. When a man slips into character as the Godfather to deliver a speech broadly comparing the gambling industry to organized crime, yes, it's a highlight. But it's not a surprise.

At meetings like today's Executive Committee session on casinos — a marathon toil, ostensibly held to give the public an opportunity to directly address their elected representatives on the subject — we slip into our respective roles far too easily.

The People We’re Leaving Behind

There was something dismally familiar about an article in Monday’s New York Times about Afghan interpreters and the difficulties some of them have in getting visas to the United States, the country that employs them in jobs that mortally threaten their lives. For anyone who lived through the Iraqi version of this drama in the later years of that war, everything is the same. Ambitious, courageous young people attach their aspirations to the American project in their country, grow close to the soldiers and officials they work for, gradually lose touch with their countrymen, and come under repeated threats and assaults from insurgents, for whom they represent one of the biggest possible targets. Every month, a few of their Afghan colleagues are gunned down or beheaded.

'We Are Not a Failing School!'

I've been watching a lot of adolescents cry these days. First it was twelve-year-old Jasmine Murphy, on a media bus tour led by the Chicago Teachers Union to demonstrate the devastation likely to follow from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to close fifty-four schools. She was relating how she felt when the elementary school she loved and in which she had thrived was shuttered in 2011. Then, this week, all over town, Chicago Public School bureaucrats have sat before hearings to hear public comment on each individual school set to close this coming September. In my neighborhood, Hyde Park, I joined seventy-five or so community members who sat—and, angrily, stood—in an auditorium at Kenwood Academy High School, six blocks directly east of Barack Obama's family home, to address the closing of a middle school next door known as Canter Leadership Academy. The whole thing pretty much went down like this. Picture a tough-looking black teenage boy. His name is Shane Ellis. Shane takes the microphone for his allotted two minutes. He begins listing all the schools he's attended in Chicago. He says, "Of all these schools, Canter is the only one that showed it actually cared." He relates a story about the principal telling him that given all the things he's been through in his life and with his family it's a testament to his depth of character that he can carry on at school all.

Canadian Economy: IMF Says Don't Overdo It On Austerity

OTTAWA - With global finance ministers gathering in Washington this week, the International Monetary Fund is advising Canadian policy-makers against pulling too hard on the reins of austerity while the economy remains weak and vulnerable to shocks.

The IMF said Tuesday that Canada's economy will likely slow to about 1.5 per cent this year, down 0.3 points from its earlier expectation and also from 2012 growth, before picking up to 2.4 per cent in 2014.

Margaret Thatcher—the mother of Canadian Conservatives

What will be on Stephen Harper’s mind as he flies to London for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral? What will the champion of feints and defts, a man who edits his speeches to take out the memorable bits, be thinking as he approaches the valediction of an Iron Lady?

The Canadian conservative movement has more than a few household gods, as befits a large and diverse group. The summer before he became prime minister, Stephen Harper told me the most exciting item on his vacation agenda was a meeting with Australian prime minister John Howard. When Kory Teneycke was Harper’s communications director he had a 1984 Ronald Reagan “Morning in America” campaign poster decorating his office. Jason Kenney actually helped chase Preston Manning out of politics, but you should see the look of affection on his face when he watches the Reform party founder speak today.

Conservatives attacked over silence on Penashue project

Opposition MPs say the Conservative government's silence over a controversial boast from Peter Penashue speaks volumes about the former minister's credibility.

New Democrat Jack Harris was one of several MPs to focus Monday on Penashue's claim last week that he deliberately held up an unspecified project in Newfoundland in order to help his own constituents in Labrador.

The Iron Lady: More nightmare than politics

Both as a movie buff and a veteran leftie, I've been waiting to see The Iron Lady so I could write about it. I even re-read Thatcher's memoirs The Downing Street Years to refresh my memory.

Having now seen the movie, I have to admit that I'm perplexed as to what to say and advise, other than that you should definitely see it and make up your own mind.

Margaret Thatcher's destructive economic legacy

Admirers and detractors of Margaret Thatcher can agree that she will be remembered as one of the key political architects of our times. Along with her soulmate, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, she broke decisively with the post-war Keynesian welfare state and ushered in the still-enduring age of neo-liberalism.

Lady Thatcher and her key advisers, such as Keith Joseph, were intellectually grounded in the work of the most prominent foe of John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, and his American disciple, Milton Friedman. Her government explicitly set out to reverse the post-war growth in the economic and social role of democratic government, and to thereby restore business profitability and "confidence."

Justin and the hyphenated Liberals

On Sunday the Liberal Party of Canada elected an untried and untested Montreal MP as leader. But there is more to the story than the Conservative Party line: " ... in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn't have the judgment or experience to be prime minister."

Unlike other new leaders, Justin Trudeau needs no introduction to Canadians. From the day of his birth (Christmas Day, 1971) he has been a celebrity. The 24 Sussex Drive official residence he wants Stephen Harper to pack up and leave is where he spent the first 12 years of his life.

Count on it: Alberta's doctors got more than the press release indicates

It will take a while to sort out what really happened in yesterday's deal between the Redford Government and Alberta's doctors, but you can count on it there's more there than meets the eye.

Premier Alison Redford, Health Minister Fred Horne and Alberta Medical Association President Dr. Michael Giuffre were all smiles at a news conference in Calgary yesterday afternoon where they announced the seven-year agreement that will run from April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2018. The deal will give the physicians three years with no pay increase, followed by two years with 2.5-per-cent increases, then two years of cost of living adjustments.

No CETA 'til the summer?

When will the Canada-European Union trade deal be signed? It was the first question at all three stops of my short trade tour to Atlantic Canada last week, which hit St. John's, Halifax and Saint John (more on that below). The answer -- "Who knows? But soon I think" -- isn't very satisfying, but with all the conflicting information out there, it's the best we've got!

NAFTA challenge to fracking ban reason to avoid investor-state dispute settlement: Australian trade minister

The recent NAFTA investor lawsuit against Quebec's moratorium on shale gas development (fracking) is cited by Australia's trade minister as a reason to avoid including these excessive investor rights in trade deals. (Funny, we say the same thing in a recent fact sheet on how Free Trade is Fracking with our Future.)

On April 2, Australian Financial Review reported that Australia's Liberal-National coalition "would consider removing a major obstacle to Australia finalizing trade deals with South Korea and Japan." That obstacle is "the inclusion in trade deals of so-called investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which would allow foreign companies to claim compensation for policy or legal decisions that hurt their investments."