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.]

Thursday, May 30, 2013

'Things are great,' Mayor Rob Ford says as 2 more staffers leave

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stressed that “everything is fine” as two more staffers left his office and the Ontario premier said she’s prepared to “take action” to deal with the crisis at city hall.

Brian Johnston, who served as policy advisor and council relations officer in Ford's office, was escorted out of city hall Thursday, telling CTV Toronto he left "on his own accord."

United Church Israel Boycott: Ahava, Keter Plastic, SodaStream Targeted In Campaign Against Settlements

Canada’s largest Protestant church has identified three Israeli companies it may target for a boycott over the firms’ operations in Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The United Church of Canada has identified cosmetics company Ahava and home and garden goods manufacturer Keter Plastic as companies doing business in “illegal Israeli settlements,” along with SodaStream, a company that makes home carbonation equipment for soft drinks.

Duffy Sought Cabinet Perks For 'Expanded' Party Role, Email Says

Six months after he was appointed to the Senate, Mike Duffy was in consultations with Conservatives about an expanded role in the party and expectations of increased compensation, including his own suggestion he be named a minister without portfolio to get a car and staff, according to an email exchange obtained by CBC News.

Canadian House Prices Set To Fall 5 Per Cent, Survey Predicts

The U.S. housing market is bouncing back strongly after years of stagnation, but the problems in Canada’s housing market have only just begun, according to a survey of housing market forecasters.

Of 21 forecasters polled by Reuters, about half raised concerns that house prices in Canada are at risk of a “sharp fall,” the news service reported.

Though the forecasters offered varying predictions on where the market is headed, the survey’s median result calls for a 5-per-cent drop in house prices in the coming years.

Did Obama Already Break the New 'Rules' on Drones?

A new US drone strike has killed at least four in Pakistan near the Afghan border, with the alleged (now deceased) target a top Taliban leader, just days after President Obama announced new, seemingly restraining, “rules.”

Did this strike break them already? Critics had already warned there was little change behind the rhetoric, while others (most notably, an instant New York Times editorial) hailed it as a sea change.

Striking Fast-Food And Walmart Workers As Stimulus

Workers striking at fast-food restaurants and Walmart stores around the country are seeking more than better wages and working conditions for themselves. Their mission could yield benefits that would flow to virtually everyone in the American economy, which, despite modest improvements, still suffers from a critical shortage of decent paychecks.

We ought to be cheering on these striking workers, because they are pressing to secure what would amount to a dose of private-sector economic stimulus at a time when the government has proven wholly incapable of delivering a meaningful jolt. If these workers earn more money, they will spend it and spur economic growth.

The robocalls scandal: Where do the fingers point?

With the Duffy scandal sucking up so much media oxygen lately, the robocalls scandal risks not getting the attention it deserves. It deserves a lot.

We’re talking about an attempt to undermine the electoral process. That’s more serious than the Senate scandal. That’s about as serious as scandals get.

The Federal Court ruled last week that electoral fraud occurred in the last election but the judge provided no evidence as to who was the culprit. He pointed to a concerted campaign by a person or persons who had access to the Conservative Party’s database.

Ethics investigations of Mike Duffy likely to be put on back-burner as Senate sends spending case to RCMP

OTTAWA — Two separate parliamentary investigations into the $90,000 payment Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff made to Sen. Mike Duffy are likely to be suspended now that the upper chamber has officially called in the RCMP.

That means it could take months, if not longer, before Canadians receive answers about the financial deal Duffy made with Nigel Wright to cover the repayment of Duffy’s questionable expense claims.

Doug Ford: Ontario Progressive Conservatives distance themselves from embattled councillor

Progressive Conservative House Leader Jim Wilson is distancing the party from Doug Ford, who has been heralded as a potential high profile candidate.

“He is not our candidate,” Wilson told a news conference he called Thursday to condemn the New Democrats for propping up a “corrupt” minority Liberal government by supporting the Grits’ budget.

John Kiriakou, CIA Leaker, Pens Letter From Federal Prison

John Kiriakou, the first CIA officer to be sentenced to prison for leaking classified information, recently penned a letter shared with Firedoglake on his life in prison.

Kiriakou arrived in prison on Feb. 28, 2013, for a 30-month sentence. He emailed the name of a covert CIA officer to a freelance reporter in August 2008, although he maintains he thought the officer was retired. Kiriakou also spoke out against waterboarding and torture in a 2007 ABC News interview and went on to write a book.

Abdul-Baki Todashev, Father Of Ibragim Todashev, Claims His Son Was Executed By FBI

MAKHACHKALA, Russia — The remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has recovered enough to walk and assured his parents in a phone conversation that he and his slain brother were innocent, their mother told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the father of a Chechen immigrant killed in Florida while being interrogated by the FBI about his ties to the slain brother maintained that the U.S. agents killed his son "execution-style."

Corporate Influence at the Center for American Progress?

My piece here last Tuesday about secret donors to the Center for American Progress and other think tanks generated a lot of interest and debate. I also heard from many readers who passed along stories and documents, including a 2012 list of members of CAP’s “Business Alliance” corporate donor program [PDF]. Note on the second page of the document that donors are helpfully arranged by industry—“As listed by the Fortune 500,” the document says.

As I stated in the piece, CAP will not comment about its donors, and spokesperson Andrea Purse had refused to confirm or deny the names of Business Alliance members on three previous lists I had obtained, all from 2011. The lists were maintained by Chris Belisle, who CAP described as a “junior staffer” in its letter of reply to The Nation.

Unifor: CAW, CEP Merger Creates Largest Private-Sector Union In Canada

Unifor, the new name for the super-union created by the merger of two of Canada’s largest unions, will help stem the decline in union membership and solidify the relevance of unions in an increasingly hostile labour environment, the head of the Canadian Auto Workers said Thursday.

The Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unveiled the name and logo for the union created by their merger, which will be made official on Labour Day weekend. It will be the country's largest private-sector union.

As Lawmakers Target Food Stamp Funding, New Report Finds 1 in 6 in U.S. are Going Hungry

As Republicans move to cut billions of dollars in funding for food stamps, a new report finds one in six Americans live in a household that cannot afford adequate food. In "Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the United States," the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University’s School of Law reports that of these 50 million people going hungry, nearly 17 million are children. Food insecurity has skyrocketed since the economic downturn, with an additional 14 million people classified as food insecure in 2011 than in 2007. The report comes as Congress is renegotiating the Farm Bill and proposing serious cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Millions of Americans currently rely on the program to feed themselves and their families. The report’s co-author, Smita Narula of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law, joins us to discuss her findings and why she is calling on the U.S. government to ensure that all Americans have access to sufficient, nutritious food.

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Conservative troubles rooted in an affection for expediency

Tuesday had a whiff of revolution about it. A question period that actually produced real questions! The Senate internal economy committee, meeting in public! For the first time in who knows how long, there was a sense that somewhere, someone in Ottawa might be held to account for their actions.

Don’t get too excited. We are a long way from true accountability. Question period can be a useful instrument, particularly as it seems to be one of the few means of getting anyone to go on the record nowadays. But its ability to get at the truth remains distinctly limited, even when led by as skilled an interrogator as Tom Mulcair.

Stephen Harper making things worse for himself with silence over Mike Duffy

Trust Pat Martin to be plugged into the public opinion matrix. The maverick NDP MP rose in the House of Commons before Question Period and compared greedy senators to Johnny Cash’s Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog.

As The Man in Black once sang: “He’s shaggy and he eats like a hog/Always killing my chickens/ That dirty old egg-sucking dog”.

His solution was to get his rifle and send him to the “great chicken-house in the sky”.

Why Mike Duffy and the Senate are the least of our concerns

I’m starting to half-believe the theory that the Senate expense scandal was cooked up to cover other problems for the Conservative Party of Canada. The broad main effect of the Senate fracas so far has been to exasperate the hell out of everybody. Mike Duffy’s bad behaviour presents the public with the frustrating conundrum that only the Senate can make rules for or punish errant senators, and that the major features of the Constitution (including that one) are probably immune from formal amendment for the next hundred years or so. Stephen Harper’s statutory end-run proposals for permitting Senate elections and tightening term limits are currently awaiting scrutiny by the Supreme Court; if the court rejects his measures, he can argue that they represented at least a fillip of attainable accountability, which they do, and that it is not his fault they were bounced.

Harper can’t seem to close the big deals

Stephen Harper has campaigned on free trade, but so far he’s been better at opening big talks than closing big deals. Now crunch time is coming.

In a few weeks, Mr. Harper faces yet another self-imposed deadline to strike a trade deal with the European Union. He’s missed target dates so many times before – all while promising a deal and touting its importance – that he’s painted himself into a corner.

Duffy hosted CBC show in PEI while claiming expenses in Ottawa, files show

On a day he claimed expenses for working as a senator in Ottawa, Mike Duffy was co-host of a CBC political panel covering the Prince Edward Island provincial election.

An analysis of the PEI senator’s living expenses by the Senate revealed Tuesday night that Mr. Duffy claimed the Ottawa expenses on a day external auditors had earlier found that he was in PEI. Mr. Duffy had returned to the province the weekend before the election and remained there until Oct. 3, 2011 – the day Islanders gave the provincial Liberals another majority government. He was in studio that night, a CBC spokesman confirmed.

Fantino's office involved in posting partisan diatribes to government website

OTTAWA - International Development Minister Julian Fantino's office has said it had nothing to do with the posting of two partisan letters to a government website — but new documents appear to contradict that.

On Jan. 12, a series of opinion pieces penned by Fantino appeared on the Canadian International Development Agency website. Two of them included political content, with the titles "Dear NDP: CIDA does not need your economic advice," and "Liberals make promises, Conservatives get results."

Probe into AECL contracts hushed up

Former employees at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited say they witnessed potential wrongdoing in procurement practices at the federal Crown corporation, with some senior managers receiving personal gifts from suppliers, favouritism toward certain suppliers and leaks of information to suppliers about their competitors' bids.

CBC News has also learned that an extensive, months-long investigation into procurement at the nuclear agency by auditing firm Deloitte has been kept quiet for nearly five years.

Did Public Television Commit Self-Censorship to Appease Billionaire Funder David Koch?

Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal say plans for their new documentary to air on public television have been quashed after billionaire Republican David Koch complained about the PBS broadcast of another film critical of him, "Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream," by acclaimed filmmaker Alex Gibney. Lessin and Deal were in talks to broadcast their film, "Citizen Koch," on PBS until their agreement with the Independent Television Service fell through. The New Yorker reports the dropping of "Citizen Koch" may have been influenced by Koch’s response to Gibney’s film, which aired on PBS stations, including WNET in New York late last year. "Citizen Koch" tells the story of the landmark Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations. It focuses on the role of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity in backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has pushed to slash union rights while at the same time supporting tax breaks for large corporations. The controversy over Koch’s influence on PBS comes as rallies were held in 12 cities Wednesday to protest the possible sale of the Tribune newspaper chain, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, to Koch Industries, run by David Koch and his brother Charles.

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Rob Ford video scandal: Mayor Ford said he knew where video was, sources say

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told senior aides not to worry about a video appearing to show him smoking crack cocaine because he knew where it was, sources told the Star.

Ford then blurted out the address of two 17th-floor units — 1701 and 1703 — at a Dixon Rd. apartment complex, to the shock of staffers at a city hall meeting almost two weeks ago, the sources said.

Why Iran's Hackers Might Be Scarier Than China's

May was a grim month for American cybersecurity. First, the Obama administration accused China of hacking government computers, potentially to exploit weaknesses in the US military. Then, US officials announced that hackers, believed to be sponsored by the Iranian government, had successfully broken into computer networks that run US energy companies, giving Iran the means to sabotage power plants. This week, the Washington Post reported that Chinese cyberspies had hacked more than two dozen big-name US weapons programs, including the F-35 fighter jet, an army program for downing ballistic missiles, and the Navy's Littoral Combat ship. Not all cyberthreats are equal, but one question remains: Who poses the greater danger—Chinese or Iranian hackers?

Comey in line to become FBI director, officials say

President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.

Comey, 52, was at the center of some of the most bruising debates over counterterrorism during the Bush administration and established a reputation as a fierce defender of the law and the integrity of the Justice Department regardless of the political pressures of the moment.

Meet America's First Climate Refugees

Sabrina Warner keeps having the same nightmare: a huge wave rearing up out of the water and crashing over her home, forcing her to swim for her life with her toddler son.

"I dream about the water coming in," she said. The landscape in winter on the Bering Sea coast seems peaceful, the tidal wave of Warner's nightmare trapped by snow and several feet of ice. But the calm is deceptive. Spring breakup will soon restore the Ninglick River to its full violent force.

Union Membership Decline Boosts Corporate Profit At Workers' Expense, Study Says

Corporate profit has been soaring for years at workers' expense and a decline in union membership is to blame -- not a rise in technology, a new study found.

The jump in corporate profit over the past few decades can be explained largely by a decline in union membership over the same period, according to a study by Tali Kristal, a sociologist at the University of Haifa in Israel. The boost in companies’ bottom line comes at workers’ expense, Kristal wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.

Dartmouth Students In Clery Act Complaint Charged With Violating Code Of Conduct

Dartmouth College students pressing a federal complaint claiming the school underreported sexual assaults said Dartmouth is retaliating by charging them with violating the student code of conduct for an April protest.

At least 10 students involved in the April 19 demonstration were notified this week that they face adjudications for a possible violation of the Dartmouth standards of conduct for failing to follow college officials' instructions, according to letters from Nathan Miller, director of the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office. Seven students who received letters were either public complainants or were involved in preparing and processing a federal Clery Act complaint filed against Dartmouth last week, alleging the school failed to prosecute and report sexual violence on campus, said Dartmouth senior Lea Roth.

New York Times, AP Won't Attend Off-The-Record Eric Holder Meeting

NEW YORK -- The New York Times and Associated Press said Wednesday that they will not attend a meeting this week between Attorney General Eric Holder and the Washington bureau chiefs of several media outlets to discuss guidelines for journalists in leak investigations.

Times executive editor Jill Abramson cited the Justice Department's request that the discussion be kept off the record as a reason for not attending.

Ibragim Todashev Unarmed When FBI Agent Shot And Killed Him: Report

The man killed by an FBI agent during questioning about his relationship with one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was unarmed when the agent shot him, law enforcement officials told the Washington Post.

Ibragim Todashev, 27, was interrogated for hours on May 22 in Orlando, Fla., regarding his connection with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died during a shootout with police days after the bombing.

CBO: Tax Breaks Cost $12 Trillion Over Decade, Benefit Most Wealthy

WASHINGTON, May 29 (Reuters) - The top ten U.S. tax deductions, credits and exclusions will keep $12 trillion out of federal government coffers over the next decade, and several of them mainly benefit the wealthiest Americans, a new study from the Congressional Budget Office shows.

The top 20 percent of income earners will reap more than half of the $900 billion in benefits from these tax breaks that will accrue in 2013, the non-partisan CBO said on Wednesday.

Yuval Levin Dissembles Madly

Yuval Levin, editor of the conservative journal National Affairs, frequent contributor to both National Review and the Weekly Standard, winner of the $250,000 Bradley Prize for excellence in the field of conservative punditry, and unofficial adviser to Paul Ryan, is probably the preeminent conservative intellectual of the Obama era. He has helped to formulate and justify the Republican strategy on domestic policy.

Smithfield-Shuanghui Merger Faces Opposition From Food Safety Advocates

One of China’s largest food conglomerates on Wednesday announced a $4.7 billion purchase of Smithfield Foods, the biggest pork producer in the United States, prompting food-safety advocates to warn of potential dangers to American consumers' health.

The proposed deal -- the largest Chinese takeover of an American firm in history -- would put Smithfield in the hands of Shuanghui International, a company based in the central Chinese province of Henan.

James Comey As Next FBI Director? Obama To Pick Former George W. Bush Official: Sources

Former Justice Department official James Comey is expected to be nominated as President Barack Obama's next FBI Director, NPR and the New York Times reported Wednesday.

NPR cited two sources saying that Comey, who served as Deputy Attorney General under former President George W. Bush, is in line to be Obama's choice. The Times added one source, noting that Comey will be chosen over top White House top counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.

IRS Targets Medical Marijuana Businesses In Government's Ongoing War On Pot

The tea party has company. For the past several years, the Internal Revenue Service has been systematically targeting medical marijuana establishments, relying on an obscure statute that gives the taxing agency unintended power. The IRS has been functioning as an arm of justice, employing the U.S. tax code as a weapon in the federal government's ongoing war against legal cannabis.

The Christie Implosion: Why Rutgers Is Trapped in Scandal and Crisis

We can all agree that it would have been a very bad idea for Penn State to hire a former child pornographer to coach its football team following the ouster of Joe Paterno amidst the Sandusky juvenile abuse horror show. This is Scandal Management 101, otherwise known as the law of opposites. If your last leader was an amoral cad who resigned in disgrace and also happened to be bald, you hire someone with integrity, ethics and, by all means, hair. The next coach of the New York Jets after Rex Ryan will probably make Tony Dungy look like John Belushi.

It Wasn't Michele Bachmann's Ideas, It Was Her Money Power

Remember when Michele Bachmann announced after the 2010 election that she wanted to chair the House Republican Conference? And Republicans lined up to block her run?

Remember when Michele Bachmann stepped on House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s response to the 2011 State of the Union address? And she diluted the GOP message?

Is the US About to Become One Big Factory Farm for China?

The small number of companies that dominate global meat production is about to get smaller. The Chinese corporation Shuanghui International, already the majority shareholder of China's largest meat producer, has just bought US giant Smthfield, the globe's largest hog producer and pork packer, in a $4.7 billion cash deal. (It still has to get past Smithfield's shareholders and the US Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment, which reviews takeovers of US companies.)

Now, I hope this merger of titans doesn't provoke a xenophobic reaction. Shuanghui has strong ties to China's central government, but it also counts Goldman Sachs among its major shareholders. And the US meat industry is already quite globalized. Back in 2009, a Brazilian giant called JBS had already barreled into the US market, and now holds huge positions in beef, pork, and chicken processing here. And true, as China has ramped up its food production—and rapidly reshaped hog production on the industrial US model—it has produced more than it share of food safety scandals, including recent ones involving hogs.

Legalizing Prostitution Challenge By Women's Coalition

VANCOUVER - A coalition of groups preparing to intervene in a Supreme Court of Canada hearing into the future of this country's prostitution laws is advocating for a "third way" that would ensure sex workers aren't turned into criminals while ensuring johns and pimps can still be prosecuted for buying and selling women and girls.

Government can’t shrug off Porter appointment

Journalists are maggots.

That’s besieged Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s rather predictable view of the fourth estate. (He has since apologized.) I’m not wounded by his uncharitable remark. Maggots are, by their nature, adept at burrowing into dark, dank spaces to satiate their appetites. And, in a way, I have spent much of my working life digging into often murky places too. But rather than mining for food, I’ve dug for information.

New EI tribunal promises good pay for Conservatives, bad wages for the rest of us

Undeterred by the Senate scandal, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is quietly forging ahead with its war against good wages.

The target — again — is the Employment Insurance system, a program designed to tide workers over during spells of joblessness.

To those without work, EI is a lifeline that they’ve financed through payroll taxes. To the Conservative government, however, it is an impediment to the smooth functioning of the economy — a program that, by giving jobless workers a brief respite, keeps wages higher than they otherwise would be.

The economics of the Senate

Reductionist Keynesianism is what most people retain from any economics they took in high school or university, so if I say “the economics of the Senate,” you probably think of the $91 million we spend on the institution annually and how good or bad a job is performed by honourable senators, if that term may still be used, in getting this money “back into the economy.” The news suggests they are particularly generous to the transportation and entertainment industries, who will miss them when they’re gone.

The Doctor of Panama: A strange tale of Harperite politics and national security

It's almost bizarre, and almost certainly driven by political expediency, that no one seems to have so much as commented on the serious security implications posed by Arthur Porter's troubles with the law.

Dr. Porter, as is by now well known, is the former head of what's constantly referred to in journalistic shorthand as "Canada's spy agency watchdog," the federal Security Intelligence Review Committee.

But despite the fact that earlier this week he was arrested in Panama on Canadian fraud charges, no one seems to be paying much attention how or why Porter got to be the chairman of SIRC, or what that means for national security in the context of his current troubles.

The Book to Thwart Energy Spin Doctors

  • The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude
  • Andrew Nikiforuk Greystone Books (2012)
The name Andrew Nikiforuk is, of course, well known on these pages. His book, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, is a seminal work on the issue of the tar sands, or as the industry and governments would prefer, oil sands. I would go so far as to say that one cannot begin to discuss this issue intelligently (there's a novel idea!) without having read that book.

His latest, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, would I thought by reading the dust jacket be just another of those dumbed-down screeds so popular when complicated issues are discussed.

Harper in Peru: What Media Failed to Report

PM committed Canadian tax dollars to aid conflict-ridden mining opposed by locals.

CUSCO, PERU -- Canada's press corps was so focused on the Duffy corruption scandal during Stephen Harper's recent trip to South America that no one bothered to challenge our fearless leader's new "foreign aid" program to help Canadian mining companies get richer in countries where mining has led to major human rights violations.

Christy Clark Discloses Zero Assets

The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, declared absolutely no assets on the statement of disclosure she filed one month before the election.

While it might be surprising that someone who made more than $177,000 last year would have no investments, more odd is that it's a departure from eight months earlier when she did report being a shareholder in corporations.

All candidates for election are required to file a statement of disclosure under the Financial Disclosure Act. Part of it requires them to "list the name of each corporation in which you hold one or more shares, including shares held by a trustee on your behalf."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bodyguard, Mountie Bruno Saccomani, faces probe for workplace harassment

OTTAWA—It is supposed to be one of the country’s top police units — a crack RCMP team that protects the prime minister and his family around the clock, around the world.

However, the prime minister’s personal security detail is a fractured unit, where allegations of harassment and career sabotage are now slung back and forth and internal suspicions are corroding crucial trust.

Heads of Canada’s big banks among the best-paid bank CEOs in North America, Bloomberg Markets says

The chief executive officers of Canada’s big banks are among the 20 best-paid bank CEOs in North America, according to Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Three of the Canadian CEOs also rank among the most overpaid relative to the bank’s assets, performance of its shares, and the bank’s return on equity, according to the article to be published in the July 2013 issue.

An obsessively partisan Stephen Harper slips into his Richard Nixon mode

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s affinity for political hardball is well-known.

Politics is a tough profession and Harper, like many successful practitioners of the art, has few qualms about getting down and dirty.

But increasingly, there is an outrageous element to Conservative partisanship — a craziness that borders on pathology.

President Obama Really, Really Wants To Maybe Fix Some Bridges, If That's OK With Everybody

One of the fun new games we are playing in America during our morning commutes is, "Will I Make It Across This Bridge Before It Collapses?" Today, I won this game, and made sure to have a jug of Gatorade dumped over my head in celebration. But from time to time, this game is lost, because our infrastructure is crumbling. That naturally leads one to wonder if President Barack Obama has noticed this, or if he's said anything at all about how crazy it is that we don't do more to rebuild collapsing bridges.

Firefighters Clash With Riot Police In Spain During Austerity Protest

In an odd turn of events, firefighters were the ones starting the fires at the latest austerity protest in Spain.

Spanish firefighters clashed with riot police in Barcelona Wednesday as they protested against spending cuts in Catalonia, the economically powerful northeastern region of the country.

Hundreds of public employees, sporting yellow helmets and red jackets, gathered in front of Catalonia's parliament building. Some ignited flares, threw smoke bombs and burned makeshift coffins labeled "public services."

Walmart Protest Movement Grows As Workers Strike Again

As Walmart workers this week resume strikes at stores around the nation, organizers are saying that more employees than ever have joined the ranks of the activists, with some experts going so far as to say that the movement has achieved critical mass.

According to OUR Walmart, the union-backed group behind the strikes, the number of workers who have joined the effort has increased by one-fourth in the last year. And while the nascent labor movement inside the world's largest retailer has yet to deliver better pay for workers, John Logan, a professor of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, thinks the strikes are a testament to the campaign's durability.

Jeb Bush Talks Education At Mackinac, Pushes Michigan's Questionable Charter School Sector

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. -- Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better," a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Protecting the command structure instead of the victims

’Tis the season for scandals — real and manufactured — in Washington. But if our elected officials are searching for a real scandal, maybe they should start with the officer leading the Air Force’s anti-sexual assault initiative who was charged with sexual battery this month. Or the sergeant in Texas who allegedly forced a subordinate into prostitution. Or the 26,000 sexual assaults that happened in our military last year alone.

Lloyd Blankfein Is Completely And Totally Overpaid, Analysis Finds

Lloyd Blankfein is North America's best-paid bank CEO -- and also one of its most overpaid, according to a new report.

The bearded Goldman Sachs chieftain made $26 million last year, a 73 percent pay raise from a year earlier, putting him atop the list of CEOs of the 20 biggest North American banks, according to a report that will be in the July issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine.