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, May 22, 2013

Tim Hudak looks to import anti-union politics from south of the border

Tim Hudak recently turned to prominent Republican lobbying firm Greener and Hook for direction. It's a fitting move as the Progressive Conservatives most significant policy proposal comes straight out of the U.S. Right's empower big business and attack your opponents playbook.

Hudak has made it clear that if he wins the next provincial election he plans to make it illegal for employers and employees to agree to have union dues automatically deducted from every workers' paycheck. A Progressive Conservative policy paper released last summer says, "No clauses in any provincial legislation, regulation or collective agreement should require a worker to become a member of a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment."

'I did not know,' Harper says about chief of staff's $90K payment to Duffy

LIMA, Peru - Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted Thursday that he did not know about — nor was asked to sign off on — the arrangement that saw his chief of staff cut a personal cheque for $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy.

Harper, currently on a trade mission in South America, took questions on the Senate expenses scandal for the first time since news emerged about the controversial cheque written by his former right-hand man.

Household Savings: 1/3 Of Canadians Have Nothing Left After Paying Bills

MONTREAL - Almost a third of Canadian households report never or almost never having any money left to save after paying their bills, according to a new study issued Wednesday.

Households that reported no wealth accumulation tended to be working, middle-aged people — although of varying income levels, says the study by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.

Stephen Harper Foreign-Aid-Through-Mining Plan Gets Test Drive In Peru

LIMA, Peru - The Senate expenses scandal is turning Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to South America into an awkward communications exercise.

Harper's officials have indicated that the prime minister will finally take questions early this afternoon on the Prime Minister's Office involvement in reimbursing Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 for improper housing expense claims

Canadian Housing Bubble 'Set To Burst,' The Economist Says

Canada’s housing market is “especially vulnerable” to a major correction, The Economist says in its latest roundup of global real estate.

The magazine’s dire prediction comes as Canada’s mortgage brokers’ association is warning that the recent slowdown in home sales will continue and lead to large-scale job losses -- though some parts of the country will continue to see growth in housing and related employment.

The GOP's Black Friends Need More Black Friends

The Republican Party knows it cannot continue to compete nationally if it remains the party of old white men. In order to not be the party of old white men, it cannot afford to look racist. It’s not so much interested in distancing itself from the racist elements within the party or abandoning racist policies, but it would like to not appear racist. To that end, it has come up with a solution wherein the few black and brown faces that dot the party are deployed to regurgitate the staid policy and rhetoric.

Fighting Facebook, a Campaign for a People’s Terms of Service

Facebook is on the defensive again. Members of the social networking site sued the company for co-opting their identities in online ads, and Facebook agreed to revise its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” and offer a $20 million settlement. The case has drawn less attention than the dorm disputes portrayed in The Social Network, but the impact is far wider. An underpublicized aspect of the dispute concerns the power of online contracts, and ultimately, whether users or corporations have more control over life online.

Apple's U.S. Tax Bill Over Three Years Was $8.4 Billion Lower Than The Company Told Investors: Senate Report

Apple's actual U.S. tax bill is far lower than the company tells investors, according to a Senate panel report.

The Cupertino, Calif. company under fire now for its tax strategy, paid $8.4 billion less in U.S. taxes over a three-year period than the company told investors, according to the report released earlier this week ahead of CEO Tim Cook's testimony before the Senate.

Bernanke Tells Congress Fighting Unemployment Is A Better Cure For Government Debt Than Austerity

Sure, Ben Bernanke is worried about the U.S. government's debt problem. He just thinks we're going about solving it the wrong way.

Unfortunately, the people who could do things the right way aren't paying any attention to him.

Stop And Frisk Led To 400,000 NYPD Encounters With Innocent Black And Latino New Yorkers In 2012

NEW YORK -- A new analysis of the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk practice found that it resulted 400,000 stops of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers, far more than of other racial groups, and those encounters frequently targeted young people of color.

The police also made more arrests for marijuana possession than any other crime in 2012, despite recent moves by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to minimize the number pot arrests on the street. Those findings from an analysis of NYPD stops released Wednesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the widespread use of the practice.

Trent Franks Uses Kermit Gosnell Case To Push 20-Week Abortion Bill

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Wednesday that there is a "good chance" House leadership will bring his nationwide 20-week abortion ban to the floor this year for a full vote in light of the Kermit Gosnell trial.

While Franks' bill, which only applied to the District of Columbia the previous times he introduced it, has never been brought to the floor for a vote, he said the Gosnell trial has caused leadership to take it more seriously this year. He argued people are slowly starting to change their minds on abortion after hearing the details of Gosnell's abortion practice, the same way people changed their minds about slavery and the Holocaust.

Obama Administration's Media Surveillance Unleashes Wave Of Condemnation

The Justice Department's investigation and surveillance of the Associated Press and Fox News have led to perhaps the most sustained wave of criticism for the Obama administration's media policies since the president took office.

On Wednesday, the New York Times became one of the more influential voices to say what many others have been saying: that the administration's methods are an attack on press freedom.

Why do Canadians keep rewarding Conservatives for their ethical breaches?

It is hard to have much sympathy for the predicament that Conservatives find themselves in today.

The party that claimed for years to be different from its Liberal predecessor in terms of its ethical fortitude has been exposed as just as vulnerable to the corruption that seems inevitable when politicians are handed too much power for too long.

It’s not just the Patrick Brazeaus, Mike Duffys, and Pamela Wallins who have erred. That most Conservative MPs seem to be satisfied that the three senators have been expelled from caucus, rather than from the Senate itself, is equally disturbing.

An inadequate response to the Senate scandal

Stephen Harper had the opportunity Tuesday to quell the controversy surrounding the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office. He didn’t take it. He made it worse. In a televised speech to the Conservative caucus, the Tory leader expressed his unhappiness at the conduct of some senators and staff in his office.

He reminded Tories they won office on the promise to make government more transparent and accountable. He admonished those who might be tempted to use public office for personal gain, suggesting they “leave the room.” Then he launched into a litany of all the good things his government has done for the country and how Conservatives need to refocus on jobs, trade, etc., etc. The caucus applauded as required, at least while the media lingered.

PM ultimately responsible for the conduct of his office

MONTREAL — Nigel Wright did the right and honourable thing in resigning as Stephen Harper’s chief of staff for writing a personal cheque for $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy so Duffy could reimburse the government for disallowed travel expenses.

It’s never a good thing when staff becomes the story, least of all the head of the Prime Minister’s Office. In jumping on this grenade, Wright was observing a code of honour in accepting responsibility for his own actions. He was also doing his job: protecting the king.

Senate expense scandal points to the essential Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has attempted to put the Senate scandal behind him. He has failed.

He has failed because the imbroglio in the upper chamber speaks to more than the dubious accounting methods said to be employed by Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, two high-profile Harper senators forced to resign from the Conservative caucus.

It also speaks to the essential Stephen Harper.

PM’s promises don’t blunt impact of Senate scandal

Mr. Accountability remained unaccountable on Tuesday, delivering an utterly inadequate response to the Senate scandal before conveniently hopping a jet bound for Peru.

The best Prime Minister Stephen Harper could come up with in his seven-minute speech about the expense uproar that has cost him a chief of staff and sidelined two Conservative senators was an admission that he’s not happy.

Harper needs to quit hiding behind his staff

Will Prime Minister Stephen Harper ever face a direct question about how his chief of staff became inexplicably involved in the raging Senate expense scandal?

Right now, loyal cabinet ministers are taking bullets for Harper in question period and senior staff are handling media interviews. And in one of the best scheduling conflicts ever, Harper was scheduled to leave Tuesday on a Latin American trade mission, making it more difficult and more unlikely he will be forced to answer any questions.

Stephen Harper and the ‘noble lie’

Everyone’s piling on Mike Duffy, but I’d like to congratulate him for a job well done. If not for his bookkeeping habits, we might never have known how vast the gap is between the government’s talking points and its real views on accountability.

Only two weeks ago, pundits were wondering if the government’s reputation for secrecy, control and bullying was enough to do it in. Back then, the discussion was about its “style” of governance. Interfering with a quasi-judicial process moves this to a new level. So what should we think now?

Stephen Harper tries to turn scandal into distraction

OTTAWA—Stephen Harper had 1,115 words for his caucus in his content-free, made-for-TV speech Tuesday morning, but one word stood out.

He called the Senate expense scandal a “distraction.”

It’s a choice of a word that should come back to haunt the prime minister and it neatly symbolizes a fundamental misunderstanding of the depth of an ethical slide which is, sadly, a hallmark of long-serving governments.

Despite Stephen Harper’s rhetoric, abolishing the Senate is practically impossible

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper told his caucus Tuesday that he “did not get into politics to defend the Senate,” and is keen for the Supreme Court of Canada “to rule on options for abolishing the Senate completely,” he elevated abolition from pipe dream to plausible option.

“We have heard from Canadians loud and clear. They want us to continue our efforts. They are asking us to accelerate those efforts. The Senate status quo is not acceptable,” Mr. Harper said.

Conservatives Crawl out of the Woodwork to Claim IRS Persecution

Wayne Allyn Root is no fan of President Barack Obama. He's a former Libertarian Party candidate for vice president and a "birther" who has questioned whether the president was really born in America. (Root studied at Columbia University when Obama was there and has questioned whether Obama really attended the school.) Root has been audited by the IRS—twice. And in recent days, within the right-wing media, he has become something of a poster child for the IRS scandal, suggesting that the IRS targeted him because of his political activity.

You Need Phosphorous to Live—and We're Running Out

Western Sahara, a sparsely populated slice of desert on Africa's northwestern coast, doesn't get much ink as a potential crisis point in the global food system. You've probably never heard of the long-standing independence movement in the Morocco-controlled territory—or that the area harbors vast stores of an element critical to contemporary agriculture.

Morocco, it is thought, holds up to 85 percent (PDF) of the globe's known phosphate rock reserve—and a lot of it lies in Western Sahara. Morocco's royal family thus controls what Jeremy Grantham, cofounder of the prominent Boston-based global investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., called the "most important quasi-monopoly in economic history."

How Far-Right Activists Like E.W. Jackson Took Over the Virginia GOP

After dropping the last two presidential elections and the last three US Senate races, Virginia Republicans had good reason for optimism heading into this fall's elections: Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chair who bragged about nearly missing his child's birth so he could party with a gossip columnist, is at the top of the Democratic ticket. Things should be looking up for the Virginia GOP. Instead, the party’s activists have resisted calls for moderation and swerved hard to the right quicker than you can say transvaginal ultrasound.

Is This Big Tea Party Group Really an Innocent Victim of the IRS?

Tea Party Patriots cofounder Jenny Beth Martin has been all over the airwaves since the IRS story broke, talking about how her group was among those whose applications for nonprofit status were unfairly targeted for extra scrutiny. She has called the IRS's actions a "disturbing, illegal, and outrageous abuse of government power." She told Fox News that Tea Party Patriots wants the agency repay it for expenses it incurred as a result of the "intrusive" questions it asked, including requests for "every single post on Facebook" and "every comment that any person who's a fan of ours on Facebook had ever made." On Friday, lawyers for her group sent a letter to the IRS alerting the agency to coming lawsuits over its "illegal" conduct.

Class Of 2013 Student Debt Reaches New Heights

In what is now an annual ritual, a new crop of college graduates has been crowned the most indebted class in American history.

Students in the class of 2013 graduated with an average debt load of $30,000, according to an analysis by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Adjusted for inflation, that's roughly double the average amount of debt students graduated with 20 years ago.

Trina McDonald, Military Rape Survivor, To Deliver 113,000 Petition Signatures To Congress

Navy veteran Trina McDonald, a survivor of rape during her service, is calling on Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice by moving the decision to prosecute military sexual assault out of the chain of command.

In a petition titled "Raped In The U.S. Navy: Protect Survivors Of Military Sexual Assault," McDonald states that rape should never be an "occupational hazard." The petition calls on the U.S. Senate to address the recent increase in military sexual assaults by making revisions to the military justice system. She will deliver more than 113,000 petition signatures to members of Congress on Wednesday.

E.W. Jackson: 'I Don't Have Anything To Rephrase Or To Apologize For'

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- The Virginia Republican Party took a post-convention victory lap on Tuesday in a parking lot outside gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli's headquarters. While the gatherers had come to propel the top of the ticket to a November victory, it was Cuccinelli's newly minted sidekick who stole the show.

DOJ Seized Fox News, White House Phone Records

WASHINGTON –- The Justice Department seized phone records for numbers associated with Fox News and the White House as part of a leak investigation, according to an October 2011 court filing.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza first reported Tuesday that U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen, Jr. seized records for more than 30 phone numbers in the case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a former State Department contractor accused of providing classified information to Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen for a June 2009 article about North Korea's nuclear program.

Payroll Tax Poll Finds Many Americans Feel Tax Hike Effects

A majority of working Americans are noticing smaller paychecks after the payroll tax cut expired this year, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll -- and a majority of those specifically cited the payroll tax as the culprit.

According to the new survey, 56 percent of Americans who said that they work for pay have noticed the taxes withheld from their paychecks increasing this year.

Harvey Golub, Ex-American Express CEO, Says 'Corporations Should Pay No Taxes'

As Apple CEO Tim Cook sits before Congress to defend his company's tax strategy, one business tycoon is asserting a controversial stance on the issue.

"Corporate tax rates ought to be zero," ex-American Express CEO Harvey Golub said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. "Corporations should pay no taxes whatever."

Golub, the current chairman of financial advisory firm Miller Buckfire, said he is sure Apple's tax policies are legal and that setting the corporate tax rate to zero would lead to economic activity that would be "incredible."

Prop C Wins: LA Voters Send Strong Message Against Supreme Court's Citizens United Ruling

In a blow against the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the second-largest city in the U.S. sent a strong, if symbolic, message against corporate personhood and unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns.

Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition C, a resolution that instructed local and state officials to promote the overturning of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. With 100 percent of precincts reporting by 3:16 a.m. Wednesday, Prop C had won 76.6 percent of the vote, according to the LA City Clerk's unofficial results.

Guantanamo Bay Prison: Pentagon Wants More Than $450 Million For Maintenance, Upgrades On Facility

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is asking Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo Bay prison that President Barack Obama wants to close.

New details on the administration's budget request emerged on Tuesday and underscored the contradiction of the president waging a political fight to shutter the facility while the military calculates the financial requirements to keep the installation operating.

House GOP Budget Cuts Plan Moves Forward

WASHINGTON -- Republicans controlling the House pressed ahead Tuesday with slashing cuts to domestic programs far deeper than the cuts departments like Education, Interior and State are facing under an already painful round of automatic austerity.

Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and the Pentagon would be spared under the plan approved by the House Appropriations Committee on a party-line vote, but legislation responsible for federal firefighting efforts and Indian health care would absorb a cut of 18 percent below legislation adopted in March.

Ibragim Todashev, Questioned In Connection With Marathon Bombings, Shot And Killed By FBI Agent: Reports

NBC News reports that an FBI agent shot and killed a man who had been interviewed over ties to April's Boston Marathon bombing.

The individual, identified by friends as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, reportedly knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older, deceased Boston suspect through the world of Mixed Martial Arts. He had been initially cooperative with the special agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers who were interviewing him, according to WESH-TV in Orlando. But at some point during the interview process, he allegedly attacked the agent, who then fired his weapon.

Stephen Harper accused of evasion in Senate expense scandal

OTTAWA — The Senate expense scandal that has enveloped the Conservative government grew worse Tuesday, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper underlined his own commitment to accountability but critics accused him of not telling the full story.

Harper left on a four-day trade mission to South America, just hours after he delivered a televised speech to Tory MPs and senators on Parliament Hill.

A breakdown in the boreal game-changer

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was billed as a game-changer when it was signed in 2010. After years of battling each other in the media and on logging roads throughout the country, 21 forestry companies and nine environmental groups vowed to try a different approach by working side by side to create a healthy, sustainable industry that everyone could be proud of.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it didn’t work.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper flees scandal: As damage control goes, this was a train wreck

OTTAWA — Should Alberta’s Wildrose party ever choose to launch a federal wing, Tuesday’s tragi-comedy on Parliament Hill will serve as a helpful point of germination. And should the Conservative party over the next two years devolve into a mess of internecine warfare and wrangling over succession, followed by a crushing defeat at the polls, this may be seen as a turning point.

Canada’s boreal forest as special as the Amazon, report contends

From caribou herds to landlocked seals, Canada’s boreal forest is rich in biodiversity treasures and just as worthy of global attention and protection as the Amazon, according to two leading conservation groups.

A report to be released Wednesday by the Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited lists 10 top biodiversity hot spots in Canada’s boreal forest, which encompass large swaths of the landscape.

Difficult Truths about 'Difficult Oil'

As the global economy switches to heavier, messier and costlier hydrocarbons, Robert Skinner is getting a bit worried about the future of his three grandchildren.

It's all about the story of "difficult oil," a term the highly respected energy expert and geologist first coined nearly a decade ago.

Now, Skinner, a 67-year energy veteran, has seen it all. He has not only worked extensively for industry and government (Energy Mines & Resources) but even for think tanks such as the prestigious Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Sen. Duffy’s 2011 election campaign tours to Tory ridings organized by Conservative Party HQ

PARLIAMENT HILL—Election campaign appearances by Senator Mike Duffy in 2011, now part of a controversy over his Senate expense claims during the same time period, were part of a tour of campaign stops by high-profile party members organized by the national Conservative Party campaign headquarters to boost local candidates, says a Nova Scotia Conservative MP who shared in paying Senator Duffy’s expenses.

Parking-meter Robin Hoods are being sued for harassment

A group of parking meter “bandits” who put money in expired meters is being sued by the city of Keene, New Hampshire, for “harassment” of its enforcement officers.

The city has filed a lawsuit against six citizens, part of a group dubbed Robin Hood of Keene, that patrols downtown armed with video cameras and pockets full of change (video below).

Pack the Senate with cheats, then call for reform, then take off for Peru? Good plan!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was apparently grinding away at his Conservative caucus yesterday morning about the need for Senate reform.

An interesting strategy, his!

First you pack the place with self-entitled cheats and porkchoppers like Mike "The Puffster" Duffy, then you argue that their misdeeds are proof the institution needs reform!

Obama and Morehouse: The Bell Tolls

When I entered Morehouse College, in the late summer of 2004, I was told, quite literally, that there was a bell that tolled for me. Along with several hundred other freshmen, I had just moved onto campus, and was told that I was in the right place at the right moment in history. A school that took on the mission of educating African American men in 1867, just two years after the Civil War, Morehouse has, understandably, made affirmation a part of its tradition. On campus, there is an actual bell, deep bronze and set high on a ten-foot perch, used sometimes in celebrations, like freshman orientation and graduation, to bring the metaphor to life with its rich and resonant sound.

Apple’s Tax Dodges: Where’s the Public Outrage?

Tax avoidance by multinational corporations is hardly a new development. In 1999, The Economist detailed how Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation had managed to pay just six per cent in taxes on the billions of dollars in profits it generated around the world. Back then, News Corp.’s use of tax-avoidance tricks, such as directing revenues through offshore subsidiaries located in tax havens and ruthlessly exploiting global differences in tax laws, made it something of an outlier.

Deja Vu on the Hill: Wall Street Lobbyists Roll Back Finance Reform, Again

It's becoming an annual tradition: Spring rolls around, and while nobody is looking, Wall Street quietly lays siege to Washington and reaches a hand out to yank the last remaining teeth out of the government's financial regulatory head.

In the last two weeks, we've seen two major developments here. There was a wave of deregulatory bills that snuck through the House with surprisingly bipartisan support, and a series of regulatory decisions by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that will seriously weaken the already-weak Dodd-Frank reform legislation, particularly with regard to derivatives trades.

Costs of Spying on the AP That the Establishment Ignores

Three former Justice Department officials have published a New York Times op-ed that takes the government's side in the controversy surrounding its snooping into Associated Press phone records. It adeptly lays out the establishment position. I hope to juxtapose a very different perspective.

Says the op-ed:

    FOLLOWING the disclosure that the Justice Department obtained the telephone records of Associated Press journalists, The A.P. and other news organizations have sharply criticized the action as investigative overreaching and unwarranted interference with the ability of journalists to report on government operations.

Of Course Apple Avoids Billions in Taxes—and It Should

There are a few ways to respond to the congressional report that Apple has discovered ingenious ways to avoid paying taxes on income earned overseas.

    There is the outraged response: "Apple's scheming to avoid paying taxes is unethical and unpatriotic."
    There is the proactive response: "The U.S. corporate tax system is broken, and we should fix it."
    And there is the indifferent response: "Wow, a multinational company is legally saving money. What color is the blue sky, again?"

NDP demands longer Question Period if Parliament’s hours extended

The NDP is pushing for longer daily Question Periods and the Liberals want a special debate on Senate expenses as the opposition and the government battle over how the final weeks of the Parliamentary session will play out.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan moved a motion Tuesday that would see MPs sit for extended hours – meaning as late as midnight each day. The move appears to support speculation in Ottawa that the government wants to quickly pass a few key bills and then shut down Parliament early as it faces a swirling controversy over ethics at the Prime Minister’s Office and the Senate.

I Dream of Hitler -- Stephen Harper, the CBC, and the art of jumping to conclusions

250 Front Street is about to get a makeover.  Soon, the delightful red accent colours decorating the exterior of the CBC building will be painted a fresh Tory Blue. Security guards will greet the public, manning metal detectors and X-ray machines while giggling at rendered images of our genitals.  David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things will be replaced by a multi-part documentary of indefinite length on the virtues of “ethical oil.”  Meanwhile, branch offices in Quebec will be closed for permanent renovations and the French language will never again be spoken on the airwaves, or even mentioned. The newsroom will be relocated to Ottawa, where party members will decide what is fit for reporting, and what is better left unsaid.  “Freedom of the Press” is about to be curtailed for reasons of “national security.”

Jamie Dimon Is Now A JPMorgan Cult Leader, And That Is Very Dangerous

JPMorgan Chase shareholders have signed a billion-year contract to join the Cult Of Jamie Dimon. For better or worse.

With their overwhelming vote on Tuesday to let Dimon keep both his chairman and CEO titles at the biggest U.S. bank, shareholders proved themselves vulnerable to incessant warnings from the bank, Dimon's fellow CEOs and board members, and the financial media that Dimon is indispensable, that no other human being on the planet could possibly lead JPMorgan.

Elizabeth Warren Asks New Treasury Secretary If He'll Be As Bad On Big Banks As The Old One

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, pressing him for concrete answers on whether the department would continue his predecessor's policy of rejecting steps to break up big banks.

Warren began by speaking about a string of scandals that emerged as a result of the continued existence of "too big to fail banks." Despite this evidence and the fact that many officials have admitted the dangers to the economic system posed by big banks, Warren noted that various members of President Barack Obama's administration have appeared unwilling to prescribe concrete measures to address them. She then pointed specifically to a quote from a Treasury official during former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's tenure that suggested the department had been instrumental in scuttling an earlier bipartisan amendment that would have enacted restrictions on "too big to fail."

Oklahoma Disaster Insurance Payments May Be Inadequate

As people in central Oklahoma emerge from the wreckage of the tornado that flattened entire neighborhoods, some will face another bitter realization: Residents of Moore and neighboring areas may lack insurance coverage to compensate them for the loss of all of their worldly possessions.

About 98 percent of homeowners carry insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Standard homeowner and business insurance policies cover wind damage from tornadoes and thunderstorms, but some individuals and companies choose to buy less insurance than they need to keep costs down. As a result, some Oklahoma homeowners and businesses will find that they lack enough insurance to fully rebuild, even though their policies may cover a portion of their losses.

James Hansen: Canadian Politicians Acting As Oil Industry's 'Salesmen'

Former NASA climatologist James Hansen lobbed another grenade in what has become something of a war of words against Canadian politicians who support the oilsands when he said they are “acting as salesmen for those people who will gain from the profits” from the fossil fuel industry.

Jansen Train Derails; Oil Spilled More Than 91,000 Litres

JANSEN, Sask. - A freight train jumped the tracks in southeastern Saskatchewan Tuesday and spilled more than 91,000 litres of oil.

The accident happened as the Canadian Pacific Rail (TSX:CP) eastbound train was rolling through an area near the village of Jansen, about 150 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.

The company said five cars derailed, but only one leaked its contents. A total of 575 barrels hit the ground, said spokesman Ed Greenberg.

The cover-up is the scandal — not the Senate

“The status quo is not acceptable and Canadians want the Senate to change … When distractions arise, as they inevitably will, we will deal with them firmly. The world we are in remains a deeply uncertain place. Canadians need us to protect them.” — Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressing the Conservative caucus Tuesday morning.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have got to be kidding.