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.]

Saturday, September 21, 2013

US Labour Springs to Life as Incomes Fall

As America's largest federation of unions, the AFL-CIO, ended its quadrennial convention in Los Angeles, something different seemed to be in the air. It wasn't just the lingering forceful rhetoric from the stage about reversing America's growing inequality and declining standard of living, or the pledges to welcome non-union workers into the federation and labour movement.

Instead, it was the realization that Americans are not just struggling with labour issues -- wages, benefits, advancement, healthcare, retirement -- but are paying closer attention to what labour is now saying and doing. That could be seen in the wide interest that people outside the convention took in Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's speech defending labour's agenda as America's agenda and attacking the Supreme Court as the most pro-corporate court ever.

Good things happen when Canadians speak out!

Good things happen when Canadians speak out! For months, tens of thousands of citizens from right across Canada have stood up to demand the government take action for authentic choice in our broken wireless market.

Last Monday, over 35 of Canada’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs joined our growing movement. The group, which includes some of the top names in Canadian business, have called on Industry Minister James Moore to take action to stop the Big Three telecom giants from blocking smaller, independent providers from reaching cell phone users. In a hard-hitting joint letter, the group explained why Minister Moore needs to take action:

    “Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for what is often horrible service.’s recent report, Time for an Upgrade, shows that Canadians face systematic mistreatment from cell phone companies. We should be working towards telecom solutions that make Canada more competitive globally and are free of roadblocks for new telecom services.”

Tories sitting on list of judges to fill Supreme Court vacancy

OTTAWA—The Conservative government has been sitting on a shortlist of three names for a new Supreme Court of Canada judge from Quebec since it was submitted in mid-August by a selection committee of parliamentarians.

The vacancy was first announced five months ago when Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin personally advised Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Morris Fish would hear no more cases after the spring session ended in June, with his retirement effective at the end of August.

Why won't the Harper government help BlackBerry?

All through BlackBerry's long, slow death spiral - for there can be little doubt now that that is what it is - the Harper government has been at pains to make clear it would not step in to save it. The industry minister's most recent intervention on the subject was limited to wishing it all the best while expressing the hope it can "make it on its own."

This is all to the good. Nothing can save BlackBerry now, and nothing should. The company had a great run in one of the world's most competitive industries, an industry it in no small part created. But it became a victim of its own success, too complacent, too slow to innovate, too little focused on the emerging consumer market while it tended to its corporate client base.

Cash-Strapped Canada Post Weighs Future Of Mail Delivery

Urban Canadians could be saying goodbye to door-to-door mail delivery.

Cutting that service is among the options being seriously considered by Canada Post as it grapples with plummeting volumes of letter mail and financial losses of $104 million in the last quarter.

Logging Bill Passes House With Democrats Joining GOP To Cut Rural Education Funding

WASHINGTON -- The partisan drama surrounding the House GOP's defund-Obamacare bill on Friday obscured the passage of another piece of legislation with modest bipartisan support. Shortly after the Obamacare vote, the House approved a logging bill that would effectively privatize broad swaths of national forest land, mandate the logging of national forests, and cut education funding for some rural schools.

Former Slavery Strongholds Harbor Majority Of Nation's Racists, Study Shows

150 years has done little to shift anti-black attitudes in the some parts of the country, new analysis of census data and opinion polls shows.

In what is believed to be the first report to quantitatively demonstrate the lasting effects of slavery on contemporary political attitudes in the American South, a team of political scientists from the University of Rochester examined party affiliations and views on race-related policies such as affirmative action of more than 39,000 southern whites.

Jason Greenslate, Food Stamp Surfer, Responds To The Haters

WASHINGTON -- Jason Greenslate is America's most famous food stamp recipient.

Fox News profiled the 28-year-old San Diego resident in two August segments about America's "food stamp binge." The stories showed Greenslate buying sushi and lobster with a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit card. Greenslate plays in a rock band and laughed at the idea of getting a normal job.

Harper Government On Collision Course With First Nations?

The federal government's push to get First Nations leaders on board with the building of oil pipelines in the West Coast is not having the desired effect, says a First Nations leader in B.C.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told host Evan Solomon the federal government was nowhere to be seen until earlier this month, when he received a flurry of requests from various ministerial departments asking to meet with him.

Forbes Calls Goldman CEO Holier Than Mother Teresa

I got a lot of letters from folks this week about an online column for Forbes written by a self-proclaimed Ayn Rand devotee named Harry Binswanger (if that's a nom de plume, it's not bad, although I might have gone for "Harry Kingbanger" or "Harry Wandwanker"). The piece had the entertainingly provocative title, "Give Back? Yes, It's Time for the 99% to Give Back to the 1%" and contained a number of innovatively slavish proposals to aid the beleaguered and misunderstood rich, including a not-kidding-at-all plan to exempt anyone who makes over a million dollars from income taxes.

Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%

It’s time to gore another collectivist sacred cow. This time it’s the popular idea that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.” And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.

Let’s begin by stripping away the collectivism. “The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person–a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

Germany's centre-left SPD scents return to coalition rule

Angela Merkel may be the only German politician with true global recognition, but Sunday's vote appears set to project into the limelight a less familiar political duo, whose views and temperaments would shake up Europe and wrongfoot David Cameron.

Once the votes from the election are counted on Sunday night, Merkel may well find herself relying on the centre-left SPD for a governing majority. And the unwritten rules of German coalitions mean that junior coalition partner bigwigs get heavyweight roles – either foreign minister or finance minister.

Jackie Speier Protests Food Stamp Cuts With Steak, Vodka, Caviar

The House of Representatives voted to slash nearly $40 billion in food stamp aid Thursday. Though members advocating for the aid program ultimately lost, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

In a five-minute plea against the cuts, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) used a steak, a bottle of vodka and a jar of caviar as props to highlight what she said was hypocritical spending in Congress.

Will Anyone Hold Jamie Dimon Responsible for the London Whale Scandal?

In a post earlier this year, I asked whether the “London Whale,” Bruno Iksil, a London-based derivatives trader for JPMorgan Chase, who racked up billions of dollars in losses early last year, would end up swallowing Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of the bank, which is America’s largest. Now we have our answer: no. Far from being devoured by the trading scandal, which has spawned a congressional investigation and seen two of Iksil’s former colleagues in London indicted on criminal charges of trying to disguise his losses, Dimon has emerged largely unscathed. Unlike Captain Ahab, he’s swimming away from the deadly cetacean with barely a bite mark.

Thinking Outside the Two-State Box

A National Intelligence Estimate prepared by the U.S. intelligence community said the following: “If Israel continues to occupy conquered territory for an extended period, say two to three years, it will find it increasingly difficult to relinquish control. Domestic pressures to establish paramilitary settlements in occupied areas would grow, and it would be harder to turn back to the Arabs land which contained such settlements.”

One might, as I’ve written before, think that that is a very grim prognosis and that by 2016 the two-state solution will surely be impossible. But that N.I.E. was written in 1968, only a year after Israel occupied the West Bank and when barely a couple thousand settlers lived beyond the Green Line. Now, some six hundred fifty thousand Israelis are there, with well over a hundred colonies, turning maps of the West Bank into Swiss cheese. It is farcical to talk about the impending death of the two-state solution—it’s been long dead and decomposing before our eyes, yet few have had the common decency to bury it.

JPMorgan Exposed Social Security Numbers On Mailing About Bank's Privacy Efforts, Lawsuit Claims

NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit accusing it of printing Social Security numbers on the outsides of form letters mailed to customers to tell them about the bank's efforts to protect their private information.

Filed on Thursday in federal court in Chicago, the lawsuit accused the largest bank in the United States of violating federal and state laws and subjecting its customers to increased risk of identity theft.

A JPMorgan spokeswoman declined comment.

Godfrey Bloom, British MEP, Calls Female Activists 'Sluts,' His Party Doesn't Get The 'Joke'

If you're addressing a roomful of female activists, you probably don't want to call them sluts.

But that's exactly what Godfrey Bloom, a British member of the European Parliament, did during a "women in politics" event this week. After two women at the conference said that they had never cleaned behind their fridges, Bloom responded, "This place is full of sluts."

Here Are All The Countries Where Children Are Sentenced To Die In Prison

united states mapThere are about 2,500 youth offenders serving life sentences without the possibility of parole in prisons worldwide. We've come up with a map showing all of the countries where they are incarcerated.

That's right: The United States is the only country in the world that condemns people to spend their lives behind bars for crimes they committed before they turned 18.

Patrick Kennedy Visits Mentally Ill Inmates Of Cook County Jail, Largest Illinois Mental Health Facility

CHICAGO -- Before he was an inmate, a middle-aged man in a tan correctional uniform heard voices and believed he was God.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the Rhode Island Democrat who retired from Congress in 2011, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart listened intently as the inmate, who declined to be named, talked about living with schizophrenia in the lockup. The man attends group therapy sessions and receives other treatment inside what is now the largest mental health care provider in Illinois -- the Cook County Jail.

Republicans: We Were Too Nice to the Hungry, But We’ve Fixed That

Republicans hate domestic spending, but their hatred is not completely indiscriminate. Some programs offend them more, and others less. The general pattern is that social programs offend Republicans to the degree that they benefit the poor, sick, or otherwise unfortunate. The struggle over the farm bill is not the biggest policy dispute in American politics, but it is the one that most clearly reveals the priorities and ideological identity of the contemporary GOP.

Janet Yellen’s Harvard Speech

A reporter from our humor department has tried to find a talk on men and economics given in 2005 by Janet Yellen at Harvard Business School. But since there’s no sign of a transcript (or such a speech), here’s how our correspondent imagines it might have gone.

I’d like to thank Harvard for inviting me here today to speak about the issues of diversity that confront the world’s élite financial institutions. Now, there are many fields in which men are significantly overrepresented, but it is especially troubling in the case of economics for one reason: men are so bad at it.

How the US War in Afghanistan Fueled the Taliban Insurgency

In wars, and especially in counterinsurgency wars such as the American war in Afghanistan, it’s often said that killing civilians creates insurgents. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who commanded US forces in the Afghan War, often referred to this as “insurgent math.” If it’s true, then the United States has created tens of thousands of insurgents since 2001, according to back-of-the-envelope calculations by the military itself and by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which studied the issue in 2010.

The GOP’s No Good, Very Bad Food Stamp Cuts

As expected, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday night that cuts nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If signed into law, the bill would push at least 4 million people off food stamps over the next ten years, including many poor and unemployed Americans.

In case you haven’t been following the extensive food stamp debate in Congress this year, here’s the basic rundown: Republicans proposed a farm bill in the spring with deep food stamp cuts: about $20 billion dollars over ten years. That wasn’t enough for hard-core conservatives, who helped kill the bill in June while demanding deeper cuts.

Anatomy of Outrage: On the Obamacare Resistance

The House of Representatives voted this morning for a short-term spending bill that would strip all funding for Obamacare, pushing the government down an uncertain path toward shutdown. Next, Republicans will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless the law is gutted.

These moves won’t have any real effect on Obamacare, and they come against the judgment of party leaders and public opinion. President Obama won’t sign either piece of legislation even if it passes the Senate. Far more threatening to healthcare reform is the aggressive, localized campaign to sabotage the law’s implementation.

These Global-Warming-Denying Creationists Want to Rewrite Science Textbooks

If social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education have their way, the science textbooks used in the state's public schools will be rewritten to promote an anti-abortion agenda, cast doubt on evolution, and sow skepticism about global warming.

Texas is in the midst of its decennial process of approving textbooks for use in the state's public schools, a historically contentious event. Since July, board-appointed panels of citizen reviewers have been poring over draft science textbooks and haggling with publishers over their contents. The process has been playing out behind closed doors. But last week, the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group, obtained the panels' official comments on high school biology textbooks, which show that reviewers have pushed to include creationist views, undermine climate science, and add disputed information on fetal development that's often cited by anti-abortion activists. These local efforts have wide-reaching implications. Because Texas has one of the largest public schools systems and some of the most rigid textbook requirements, publishers have traditionally tailored the classroom materials they sell nationwide to the Texas market.

MLS Phantom Listings Distorting House Prices: Consultant

A real estate consultant’s warning that housing market data in Canada is being artificially inflated has some economists and market observers wondering whether the recent upswing in house sales and prices might be partly an illusion.

Real estate consultant Ross Kay alleges that realtors in certain parts of the country — particularly in Greater Toronto and southern Ontario — are artificially inflating home sales by listing the same property twice, or sometimes even three times.

Captain Harper’s intended destination ought to soon become plainer

Before he became prime minister, Stephen Harper told his caucus not to expect big changes when he took over.

Government is like a big ship, Harper told his MPs.

“If you form government, you just want to change the direction a little bit, because the longer you’re on that changed direction, you’re obviously much further from where you’d be and people haven’t noticed that much.”

Tory spin on robocalls ruling at odds with judge's own words

Had anyone been listening along to the internal soundtrack accompanying my leisurely mid-evening perusal of CBC colleague Susana Mas' report on the recent court ruling on costs stemming from that concluded robocalls election challenge, they would have heard the record screech to a halt right about the time that I hit this quote from newly installed Conservative Party communications director Cory Hann:

    In an email to CBC News, Cory Hann, the director of communications for the party, said, "Conservative MPs won the case."

    "The judge looked at all costs submissions and awarded the Conservative MPs costs for defending their legal and legitimate election results."

Harper will shun UN podium again, despite planned visit to New York

OTTAWA – More than a dozen former Canadian ministers, senior diplomats and others are calling on the federal Conservatives to re-engage with, and help fix, the United Nations, even as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares to skip another opportunity to address the world body this month.

The prime minister’s office has confirmed Harper will be in New York next week, where world leaders will be gathering to speak during the opening of the UN’s 68th General Assembly.

Why 32 MPs were promoted to ‘parliamentary no man’s land’

OTTAWA — This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a list of 32 Conservative MPs who will become parliamentary secretaries, a post that carries a $16,000 wage hike for assisting members of the 38-member cabinet.

The position, almost 100 years old in Canada, was called a “parliamentary no man’s land,” in a 1981 research paper in the Canadian Parliamentary Review, and parliamentary secretaries were referred to as “executive backbenchers” or “political nobodies” in a 1999 research paper from the Institute on Governance.

Is this how the system works? Canadian government looks away as Pacific Rubiales faces accusations in Colombia

"The system works.  The overwhelming majority of Canadian mining companies are world leaders in responsible mining practices... The corporate social responsibility counsellor's review process is a common sense approach that enjoys broad support within the mining community."

The above quote is from a Conservative MP speaking in the House of Commons a year ago. The system the MP was referring to is the Conservative’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy, created in 2009. Four years earlier, the federal government’s own Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade had urged the government to 'establish clear legal norms in Canada to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations associated with the activities of Canadian mining companies.' The CSR Strategy was the Conservative government's response.

2-Bit Politicians In 8-Bit: Congress' Most Corrupt Lawmakers Treat Their Jobs Like A Game, So Let's Play

Politicians are not, by and large, a popular group of people. With the American public having chosen cockroaches over Congress in a recent popularity contest, our elected officials are only worsening the problem when they do bad and often illegal things.

Take the following politicians, named by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as the most corrupt in Congress, for example. Abusing taxpayer funds isn't a game, but this is what it might look like if it was. Scroll down for 8-bit presentations of corrupt politicians, and be sure to click over to CREW's full 2013 report for more.

Vote To Defund Obamacare Primes Showdown Over Shutdown

WASHINGTON -- Ignoring the wishes of the White House and the Senate, the House of Representatives passed a stopgap funding bill Friday that will shut down the government unless Democrats agree to defund President Barack Obama's marquee health care law.

While the House voted 230 to 189 to pass the measure that Democrats have called unacceptable, Republicans insisted their bill does nothing to shutter the federal government.

I'm Gen Y, and I'm Not a Special Snowflake. I'm Broke.

A bunch of you people on Facebook and Twitter keep sharing a HuffPo stick-figure thing about how Gen Y is unhappy because they're unrealistic delusional ingrates.

GYPSY=Generation Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies. A terrible acronym on several levels! Wait But Why/Huffington Post
You know, this thing.

This Is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even When Crime Rates Fall

We are living in boom times for the private prison industry. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades. And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA's pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.

Senate Abolition Requires Unanimous Consent Of Parliament, Provinces, Say Top Court's Lawyers

OTTAWA - The murky constitutional waters surrounding reform of Canada's disgraced Senate have been further muddied by two lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court to give impartial advice on the subject.

Daniel Jutras and John Hunter, appointed as "amici curiae" or friends of the court, agree that abolishing the upper chamber would require the unanimous approval of Parliament and all provinces.

And they agree that imposing term limits on senators would require the consent of at least seven provinces comprising 50 per cent of the population — the so-called 7/50 amending formula.

Pollster Calls BS on BC Libs' Private Election Polls

A veteran pollster is calling BS on BC Liberal claims that the party's internal polls predicted the May 14 provincial election result.

On the eve of the election, polls published in the media suggested a comfortable majority for the New Democratic Party. Instead, the Liberals won by more than four percentage points.

After the election, Liberal sources said their own polls had indicated they would win 48 seats. The party ended up winning 49 seats.

Steve Mossop, president of Insights West, says he doesn't believe the stories.

Tax the Rich, Save the Economy

It's one of the central issues of our time. It spawned both the Tea Party and the Occupy movements. It has the potential to deeply sabotage our economy. And, argues former U.S. secretary of labor Robert Reich, the problem is much worse than we think.

Reich, who stands a little less than five foot nothing but was named one of the 10 best United States cabinet ministers of the 20th century by Time magazine, says income inequality isn't just a threat to the economic future of North American society.

"This is Genocide in America": Mother of Slain Chicago Teenager Condemns Gun Violence Epidemic

In the wake of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard that left 12 people dead, dozens of gun control activists, many from the Newtown Action Alliance, convened on Capitol Hill Wednesday to try to revive a bill that would expand federal background checks of gun buyers. Speakers included Shundra Robinson, whose 18-year-old son Deno Wooldridge was shot dead on his grandmother’s front porch in Chicago nearly three years ago. "We’ve got to go home to empty rooms because our childrens’ lives were taken away by people who should not have had guns anyways," Robinson testified. "It’s beyond an epidemic. This is genocide in America." Robinson joins us from Chicago where she serves as an anti-violence activist and an evangelist with Radical End Time Ministries International.

Author: --

Ford wheeling and dealing over your tax money

If governments are looking for savings, why do they give so much of your money to successful private companies?

It's a question that crossed my mind yesterday as I read one particular sentence in Ford's boastful press release about the millions it was investing in a car factory just west of Toronto.

Why It's A Good Thing The SEC Is Doing Something About CEO Pay

CEO pay has gotten so out of whack in recent years that regulators are taking notice.

The Securities and Exchange Commission released a proposed rule Wednesday that would require companies to reveal the ratio between CEO and worker pay. Supporters of the proposal, which is part of the Dodd-Frank reform law, say it would help give shareholders a better sense of which companies are paying their CEOs too much. But business groups say the rule would be too much of a burden on companies, requiring them to collect expensive data that doesn't really matter much to investors anyway.

New FBI Director James Comey Expects Bureau's Post-9/11 Transformation To Continue

WASHINGTON -- James Comey has a "hard time imagining" the Federal Bureau of Investigation will shift any resources away from counterterrorism and toward other priorities in the coming decade, the new FBI director told reporters Thursday.

Responding to a question from The Huffington Post, Comey indicated he doesn't anticipate the FBI will dedicate more time or money to the top priorities the bureau once had, before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2011.

ACLU: Papers Show Domestic Spying Goes Too Far

SAN FRANCISCO — Two men of Middle Eastern descent were reported buying pallets of water at a grocery store. A police sergeant reported concern about a doctor "who is very unfriendly." And photographers of all races and nationalities have been reported taking snapshots of post offices, bridges, dams and other structures.

The American Civil Liberties Union and several other groups released 1,800 "suspicious activity reports" Thursday, saying they show the inner-workings of a domestic surveillance program that is sweeping up innocent Americans and forever placing their names in a counterterrorism database.

Woman Who Taught At College For Decades Dies Making Reportedly Less Than $25,000 A Year

An op-ed went viral Wednesday, in which the last days of Duquesne University adjunct instructor Margaret Mary Vojtko were described as emblematic of the plight of part-time contract faculty. But the college where she taught says that depiction is far from the truth.

Daniel Kovalik, senior associate general counsel for the United Steelworkers union, wrote in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column that he was likely the last person to speak to Vojtko prior to her death. Although Vojtko had taught at Duquesne for more than 20 years, Kovalik said that she only earned around $3,500 per three-credit course at the private Catholic university.

House Votes To Cut Food Stamps By $40 Billion

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives on Thursday approved sweeping reforms to the nation's food stamp program that would cut some $40 billion in nutrition aid over 10 years and deny benefits to millions starting in 2014.

By 217 to 210, the House said yes to the measure, with its Republican backers arguing it would help more people find jobs.

Canada Says No To UN Call For Review Of Violence On Aboriginal Women

OTTAWA - Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Russia used a United Nations body Thursday to criticize Canada's human-rights record, as the Canadian envoy rejected calls to develop a comprehensive national review to end violence against aboriginal women.

Canada was responding Thursday to the UN Human Rights Council, which is conducting its Universal Periodic Review of Canada's rights record, on a wide range of issues from poverty, immigration and the criminal justice system.

David Price, Rob Ford Aide, A Lightning Rod Of Controversy

He's the guy behind the guy.

But what do we really know about David Price, the mysterious senior aide to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

On Thursday, the Toronto Star published an exclusive story reporting that Metrolinx, the crown agency in charge of public transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is investigating several incidents at a Toronto GO station involving Ford's director of operations and logistics.

EI Benefits Harder To Get Than Ever: Economist

Canadians who lose their jobs are less likely to get EI benefits than at any other time on record, economist Erin Weir reports at the Progressive Economics blog.

Statistics Canada reported Thursday that the number of EI recipients fell by 2.1 per cent in July, to just under 504,000 recipients.

The Giant Big Oil Lawsuit That Bobby Jindal Wants to Make Disappear

In late July, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East, an independent board created by the state legislature in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to shore up the state's levee system, filed a lawsuit against the oil companies. All of them. The committee targeted nearly 100 petroleum producers with operations on the Gulf Coast—including titans such as BP America, Exxon-Mobil, and Chevron—for what it termed a "mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction."

But in a state where even the lawn in front of the governor’s mansion is sponsored by Dow, the flood board's lawsuit has faced a massive pushback. And no one has been more forceful in their opposition to lawsuit—and in the defense of the oil companies—than Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. He dismissed it almost immediately as nothing more than a "windfall for trial lawyers" and alleged that the legal action would interfere with the administration's own unfunded long-term plans. When the nominating committee that appoints flood board candidates met for the first time on Friday, it received a warning from Baton Rouge: The lawsuit would be a litmus test for the governor, and any nominee who supported it would be rejected.

America’s Afghan Victims

When an American soldier dies in Afghanistan, his death is not anonymous. The tragedy of that loss is mourned, and his life is remembered and celebrated. In many cases, the death is covered prominently in local and state media, often for several days. The Pentagon dutifully records the loss, medals are delivered, a ceremonial flag is presented to survivors, and the Defense Department pays the soldier’s family $100,000 in compensation, plus back pay, insurance, housing allowances and more.

Afghanistan’s Casualty Data Black Market

There are many challenges in getting hard numbers on casualties in Afghanistan. ISAF limits the release of useful information about the dead—be they insurgents, civilians or allies—necessitating reliance on other sources. Afghan government officials are the next obvious source, but obtaining statistics from that quarter isn’t easy either. Nor is it cheap, as I found in the course of my reporting.

In one instance, I contacted the media office for the governor of Helmand Province through one of its two official e-mail addresses (a Gmail account). I asked if the office maintained records of civilian casualties resulting from insurgent attacks and ISAF combat operations. I soon received a reply from someone who identified himself as Abdul Matine, but whose e-mail address suggested his name was Jan Mohammad Shirzad. Writing from a separate Gmail account, he told me he had just the statistics I requested and to write him at this second address to clarify matters. I did.

Antibiotic Resistance Declared A 'Serious Health Threat' By CDC As Use In Meat Industry Skyrockets

"Antimicrobial resistance is one of our most serious health threats."

So begins a comprehensive report released by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention this week, "Antibiotic Resistance Threats In The United States, 2013." The report highlights the growing pandemic of superbugs that have out-evolved even our best antibiotics.

Antibiotic use in the meat and poultry industry has skyrocketed over the past decade. Nearly 30 million pounds were sold for livestock use in the U.S. in 2011, almost four times the amount used by humans. That means 73 percent of all antibiotics sold in America go to meat production.