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.]

Friday, April 10, 2015

France's Front National Founder Le Pen Rebuffs Daughter's Call To Quit

PARIS, April 10 (Reuters) - French National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen rejected on Friday a call from his daughter, the party's leader, to leave politics over comments he made that she fears will hurt her push to widen the right-wing party's appeal.

Marine Le Pen said on Thursday she would seek disciplinary action against her father after the 86-year-old was quoted this week calling France's Spanish-born Prime Minister Manuel Valls "the immigrant."

Why Stephen Harper should be in court — under oath

The prime minister of Canada likes to hold everyone to account but himself. It’s a dictator thing.

Stephen Harper says he won’t be called to testify at Senator Mike Duffy’s criminal trial. Usually lawyers get to decide that, not prospective witnesses. Still, he’s probably right.

Harper also says the reason he won’t be called is that he doesn’t know anything about the alleged criminal matters now before the court. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Website calling for corporate tax increases deemed unfit by Alberta election laws

Alberta's election laws are muzzling a labour-sponsored web campaign calling for higher provincial corporate taxes, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour.
After Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that slack would be created in the provincial budget through cuts to public sector wages, a coalition of public-sector unions launched the Better Way Alberta campaign in early March, 2015.
The $500,000 campaign is aimed at saving public services from deep cuts, and encouraging the provincial government to address its budget woes by fixing what the unions call the province's broken revenue system.

'There is no way to save this bill': Pamela Palmater skewers Bill C-51

Mr. Romeo Saganash (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Welcome and thank you to both of our witnesses this morning.

 I want to start with Ms. Palmater. I've been in this business for more than 30 years as well. I've been called many names, too. All of our protests and challenges posed by aboriginal peoples in this country are always related to the economy of this country: resource development is, of course, an important aspect to all of that. 

1,000 Wealthy Chinese Entrepreneurs To Get Their Own Montreal Enclave

A Beijing-based holding company is moving forward with a plan to build a $1-billion commercial and residential centre in Montreal’s southern suburbs with the aim of attracting 1,000 Chinese entrepreneurs to the area.

A source close to the project told Huffington Post Quebec an official announcement will be made in the coming weeks in the presence of Canada’s ambassador to China.

The project from Min Ying Holdings will take shape in Longueuil, on Montreal’s south shore and near a sizeable Chinese community in nearby Brossard.

Ed Broadbent Says Canada Became More Unequal Under Stephen Harper

Canada has become a more unequal society under Stephen Harper, says Ed Broadbent, former head of the federal New Democratic Party and now chair of the Broadbent Institute, a progressive think-tank.

By failing to invest in universal child care and concentrating on the petroleum sector to the exclusion of other areas of the economy, Harper has moved Canada away from the path set by many western European democracies, Broadbent said.

Harper defied the BNA Act by naming Duffy and Wallin to the Senate

Finally, this writer can feel a little less like a voice in the wilderness when it comes to the constitutionality of Prime Minister Harper’s appointments of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to the Senate.
Both lived in Ontario at the time of their appointments, but the Prime Minister named them, nonetheless, to represent Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.
It was a brazen act of defiance of the clear language of the British North America (BNA) Act.

Fracking Town's Laid-off Workers: 'They Don't Tell You It's All a Lie'

WILLISTON, N.D. -- From the looks of it, America's boomtown is still booming. Big rigs, cement mixers and oil tankers still clog streets built for lighter loads. The air still smells like diesel fuel and looks like a dust bowl -- all that traffic -- and natural gas flares, wasted byproducts of the oil wells, still glare out at the night sky like bonfires.

Not to mention that Walmart, still the main game in town, can't seem to get a handle on its very long lines and half­ empty shelves.

Canada Spent $735,000 Searching for Foreign Workers Overseas

The Harper government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars plus staff hours since 2010 recruiting workers from France, Belgium and Tunisia, and a recruitment agency said that money would have been better spent in Canada.

Documents obtained through access to information and provided to The Tyee by Red Seal Recruiting Solutions in Victoria show federal staff resources and more than $735,000 were spent on transportation, venues and security for employers and prospective employees attending job fairs overseas.

The money was spent through the Destination Canada program, which aims to bring French and bilingual workers to Canada to fill skills shortages, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Life above the Alberta tar sands – why we're taking the government to court

In my home, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, treaty six territory in Alberta, Canada, I am part of a community of 900 Woodland Cree people who have walked the land for thousands of years.

Under the land we call home sits the Alberta tar sands, the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen oil in the world – an area larger than England. Most of our land has now been leased out to the oil industry without the Canadian and provincial government following due process in their duty to consult the local people.

Mike Duffy trial: Stephen Harper praised Duffy in signed photo

As the lawyer for Mike Duffy turned his focus to the Senate rules governing partisan activities, he entered into evidence a photograph of his client and Stephen Harper with a signed note by the prime minister praising the now suspended senator.

The photo, dated June 11, 2009, was signed "To Duff. A great journalist and a great senator. Thanks for being one of my best, hardest working appointments ever." The message was signed "Stephen Harper."

Barrick exec with Tory ties appointed to IDRC board

The government has appointed a mining industry executive who is a former Conservative minister’s staffer to the board of a Crown corporation that works on international development research.

International Development Minister Christian Paradis recommended the appointment of Barrick Gold Corp. vice president of government affairs Alanna Heath to the board of governors of the International Development Research Centre.

Ms. Heath worked as a policy adviser to Jim Flaherty from 2007 to 2009 when he was finance minister. She joined Barrick as director of government relations in early 2010, according to a Bloomberg report.

The crisis in higher education runs deeper than you think

Six months ago, almost no one outside academia knew what an adjunct was. Now, after National Adjunct Walkout Day, and strikes at two of Ontario's largest universities, we know that poorly paid and precarious workers called adjuncts (also known as sessionals) are responsible for more than half of the teaching done at universities and colleges throughout North America. On average, adjuncts are paid just $2,500 for teaching a university-level course in the U.S. and $7,500 in Canada. Their contracts expire at the end of every semester, and they have no benefits or sick days. 

Everything The Police Said About Walter Scott’s Death Before A Video Showed What Really Happened

On Tuesday, South Carolina police officer Michael Thomas Slager wascharged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Walter Scott. Charges against South Carolina police officers for shooting someone are extremely rare. But what was particularly remarkable in this case was, for at least two days, Slager was apparently unaware that video of the entire incident existed.
This provides a unique opportunity to observe how one police officer sought to avoid accountability for his actions.

Canadian Foreign Aid Spending Among Lowest Of OECD Countries

OTTAWA - Canada ranked in the lower half of the pack in a world survey of foreign aid spending released Wednesday.

The annual ranking by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Canada's aid spending dropped to 0.24 per cent of GDP in 2014, down from 0.27 per cent the previous year.

That's well below the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of GDP, a goal that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged all OECD countries to meet when he shared a podium with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year in Toronto.

Contempt of Parliament is now the Default State of Canadian Democracy

Contempt of Parliament is now the Default State of Canadian Democracy

As Parliament  and Canadians ready themselves for the unrolling of one of the juiciest Conservative scandals in Canada’s colourful history – the Mike Duffy, Pamela Walin, Patrick Brazeau Senate Expenses Affair – one of the country’s leading political scientists says the sitting prime minister is going out of his way to show his contempt of parliament.

“He’s very smart, he’s very shrewd,” University of Toronto professor of government Nelson Wiseman says.

'Balanced budget' bill a political move, says former PBO Kevin Page

Former budget watchdog Kevin Page says a Conservative move to force future governments to keep balanced budgets is a "political" move that isn't necessary.

"Do we need the legislation? We didn't need the legislation from the mid-1990s to 2007-2008, when we had 11 years of surpluses," Page told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon Wednesday evening.

"I think the government feels somehow it needs to constrain itself."

Duffy's diaries shed light on life of a Conservative party insider

Cabinet minister Peter MacKay believed a former aide to the prime minister had leaked an embarrassing story about MacKay’s use of a search-and-rescue helicopter for personal reasons, according to Mike Duffy’s personal diary.

And senators weren’t very happy about how the incident was handled, Duffy’s personal documents also indicate.

The story is just part of the evidence tabled in the suspended senator’s fraud trial that is shedding fascinating light on Duffy’s daily life, his dealings with the Prime Minister’s Office and Conservative MPs, and – from his earliest days in the Senate – his problems with expense claims.

Stephen Harper, warmonger

No one should have been surprised when Stephen Harper announced that the Canadian combat mission against ISIL will be renewed, or perhaps even expanded, next week. After all, the Prime Minister is a warmonger.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m just observing a fact. Harper is pro-war. He thinks that war is something worth doing. He thinks that war has numerous redeeming qualities.

Various commentators have pointed this out. After all, how many political leaders go out of their way to celebrate the beginning, rather than the end, of the First World War? Or who thinks that the War of 1812 is more worthy of commemoration than the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The Harper government is constantly sending out weird press releases, celebrating the anniversary of some battle or skirmish that no one has ever heard of.

How Big Money Is Buying Off Criticism of Big Money

Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of thecongregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy.

He said he didn’t want to antagonize certain wealthycongregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.

I had a similar exchange last year with the president of a small college who had invited me to give a lecture that his board of trustees would be attending. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t criticize Wall Street,” he said, explaining that several of the trustees were investment bankers.

How America Became an Oligarchy

According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.

“Making the world safe for democracy” was President Woodrow Wilson’s rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?

Tom Cotton Suggests War With Iran Would Be A Breeze

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a strong opponent of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program, suggested on Tuesday that armed conflict with Tehran could be easily contained to “several days of air and naval bombing” and would not require the deployment of American ground troops. The comments eerily echoed the false predictions of Bush administration officials on the eve of the Iraq invasion.
Appearing on the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show, Cotton slammed Obama for suggesting that military confrontation was the only alternative to diplomacy in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Canadian Taxpayers Lost Billions On Tories' Badly-Timed GM Share Sale: Analysts

Market analysts and union leaders say the Harper government may have gotten a bad deal in selling off its remaining shares in General Motors, and one estimate projects a $3.5-billion loss for taxpayers.

The Harper government announced earlier this week it had sold its remaining 73.4 million GM shares in an unregistered trade to Goldman Sachs, essentially ending its investment in the company that began in 2009, when the federal and Ontario governments joined the U.S. in bailing out the struggling automaker.

Day One of Mike Duffy trial is bad news for Harper

On the first day of the Mike Duffy trial, both the prosecution and the defence made arguments that were damaging to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his inner circle.
Crown Prosecutor Mark Holmes said, "Sen. Duffy was probably ineligible to sit in the Senate as a representative of Prince Edward Island."
Holmes added that this trial will not decide that thorny constitutional question. 

Air Strikes Won't Make Middle East Safe

"France has no friends, only interests," Charles de Gaulle once said, and what is true of France is true of all countries. All countries including Canada must be worriedly trying to identify their true interests in the war now extending from Nigeria to Libya to Iraq to Yemen and Kenya.

The 2010 public suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable seller, triggered the Arab Spring and then anarchy -- not a clash of civilizations but a clash within one civilization struggling to redefine itself.

Families of missing and murdered indigenous women give police a failing grade

Police departments across Canada get a failing grade for their efforts at solving cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, according to CBC interviews with more than 110 family members.

CBC News has embarked on an exhaustive search for families who have lost a relative either to an unsolved killing or whose loved one still remains missing.

Abortion Bans Are Putting Women Behind Bars

When a medical procedure is restricted to the point that it carries criminal penalties, some vulnerable people invariably end up behind bars.
Proponents of further restrictions on abortion typically argue these laws are intended to protect women and children, not to penalize women who may choose to end a pregnancy. The goal is not to jail women themselves, abortion opponents say, because the women who have abortions are victims rather than criminals. So pro-life activists who want to overturn Roe v. Wade typically don’t specify what punishment patients should face for having an abortion in a society where it’s illegal (although some have joked that it would be appropriate to put them to death).

Abortion Opponents Are Quietly Going After One Of The Top Medical Schools In The Country

One of the most well-respected OB-GYN programs in the country could be forced to stop teaching its students how to perform abortions, if the North Carolina legislature ends up approving a piece of legislation that was introduced this month.
Tucked deep in HB 465, an anti-abortion bill that would restrict the procedure in several different ways, is an obscure provision that stipulates that “no department at the medical school at East Carolina University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shall permit an employee to perform or supervise the performance of an abortion as part of the employee’s official duties.”

Over 100,000 Have Fled Yemen Amid Intensified Fighting: UNICEF

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — As tons of desperately needed medical supplies await clearance to be flown into Yemen, aid workers warned Tuesday of an unfolding humanitarian crisis, saying at least 560 people, including dozens of children, have been killed, mostly in a Saudi-led air campaign and battles between Shiite rebels and forces loyal to the embattled president.

More than 1,700 people have been wounded and another 100,000 have fled their homes as fighting intensified over the past three weeks, the World Health Organization said.

Mike Duffy Trial: Crown Contradicts Harper's View About Senator's Eligibility

OTTAWA - A Crown attorney prosecuting Sen. Mike Duffy's fraud and bribery trial has contradicted Prime Minister Stephen Harper's position on who is eligible to sit in the Senate for a particular province.

Mark Holmes laid out the broad strokes of the Crown's case against Duffy in an Ottawa courtroom.

One of sets of charges involves living expenses, and alleges Duffy defrauded the government by claiming his primary residence was in Prince Edward Island while he actually lived in Ontario.

Doubling TFSA Limit Mostly Helps The Wealthy, Threatens Government Finances: Critics

The Tories’ plan to double the contribution limit on tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) hasn’t even been officially announced yet, but critics have already said it’s a giveaway to wealthier Canadians and a threat to the financial stability of the federal government.

According to reports at iPolitics and the Toronto Star, Finance Minister Joe Oliver on Tuesday circulated a letter to the Conservative caucus extolling the virtues of raising the TFSA limit to $11,000 from the current $5,500. The move was widely seen as a sign that the policy announcement is imminent.

Jon Stewart passionately speaks for me & all Jews called 'anti-Semitic' for critiquing Israel

"Go f-ck yourself," Jon Stewart said in a moment of perceptible anger.

This wasn't the usual, lighthearted barb during a satirical segment, nor a playful expression of ire diluted by audience laughter. It was sincere and seemingly raw, uttered during an interview with Jon Dekel and directed toward those Jews who have called him anti-Semitic, self-hating, or a kapo for critiquing Israel on The Daily Show.

The verbal barb didn't come out of left field during Dekel's interview, conducted in advance of the release of Stewart's movie, Rosewater. It came near the end of a series of focused questions posed to Stewart on the topic of attacks he's withstood from the American Jewish community. Attacks he's suffered for treating Israel honestly on his show, for having the temerity to highlight its misdeeds.

What we can learn, even now, from the Mike Duffy trial

There are two lessons we can learn from the trial of Senator Mike Duffy even before it gets very far.
First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has happily used the Senate not for its constitutional purpose but rather to provide taxpayer-funded, partisan star power to his Conservative Party. 
And second, behind the shield of a compliant parliamentary majority, Harper's taxpayer-funded Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has become as much a partisan agency of the Conservative Party as an office of the government of Canada.

Canadian taxpayers lose $3.5-billion on 2009 bailout of auto firms

Canadian taxpayers will fall about $3.5-billion short of breaking even on the money the federal and Ontario governments invested in the bailouts of Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co. in 2009.

The federal government’s sale of the remaining 73.389 million common shares it held in GM will close the book on the investment and the auto maker’s period of being derided as “Government Motors.”

It’s not just Duffy – the Harper era is on trial

In the court of public opinion, Senator Mike Duffy may have already been found guilty. That verdict could well be shown wrong. Rules governing Senate housing expenses are vague, and Mr. Duffy has a crackerjack lawyer in Don Bayne.

Of course, it’s not the fate of Mr. Duffy that has created enormous interest in this trial. It’s the fate of the government. It is the morality, the integrity of the Conservative Party hierarchy, that is on trial.

Officer Charged With Murder After Shocking Video Documents Shooting of Unarmed Black Man

A white South Carolina police officer has been charged with murder after video surfaced showing him shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man. The New York Times published the video Tuesday; it appears to show Officer Michael T. Slager of the North Charleston, South Carolina, police department, scuffling with Walter L. Scott after a traffic stop. Scott is seen turning to run away; Slager then appears to fire eight shots, and Scott falls to the ground.

It’s Not Too Late: Save Democracy By Amending the Constitution

Walt Whitman got it right, ten years before the founding of The Nation, when he advised Americans to “re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul….” This goes double for the left, which cannot afford to neglect the crumbling infrastructure of our democracy, or to treat as sacrosanct a creaking constitution that thwarts rather than extends the will of the people.

Nothing locks in inequality and dysfunction like a constitution so imprecise that it allows right-wing judicial activists to make buying elections easy and voting in them hard. But don’t just blame “constitutional conservatives” for turning our founding document into an outline for oligarchy. Fret about liberal constitutionalists who imagine we’re just one thrilling presidential appointment away from making our democratic vistas real. Like Democrats dreaming of another FDR, liberals waiting for another Earl Warren miss the point. Our democratic destiny is not something to wait for—it’s something we have to make happen. Dissident Americans have been bending the arc of history by rewriting the US Constitution since amendments were added with quill pens. Today’s dissenters should be about the business of doing so once more.

Canadian government ‘only impediment’ to Fahmy getting passport in Cairo:lawyer

The lawyer for a Canadian journalist facing long-decried terror charges in Egypt is accusing the federal government of being the only impediment to a new passport being issued for the man.

Mohamed Fahmy — who spent more than a year in a Cairo prison and has been working to get a passport ever since his release on bail in February — claims the lack of official documentation has placed him in a precarious situation.

He has trouble proving his identity at police checkpoints, is unable to carry out basic banking and can't get married to the fiancee who has stood by him through his ordeal. He also has no official identification document to provide to officials at his next court appearance later this month.

Harper rejects stimulus to help economy, stays the course for balanced budget

Stephen Harper is making it clear there’s pretty much nothing that will keep him from balancing the federal budget this fiscal year.

The prime minister has slammed the door on the possibility the government would open the vault for a stimulus program to help the economy — which has been weakened by lower oil prices.

Speaking in North Vancouver, Harper says it makes absolutely no long-term economic sense to launch a major stimulus program that would drive the country back into deficit when the economy is still growing, albeit at a slower rate.

Original Article
Author:  Will LeRoy

Canadian majority opposes Syrian airstrikes: poll

A majority of Canadians oppose Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to expand Canadian air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq to include targets in Syria, a Forum Research poll has found.

The survey, conducted only a week after the Conservative majority endorsed the expansion of bombing in a House of Commons vote on March 24, also found that public support for the Iraq mission has plunged since Canadian air strikes first began last November.

"U.S. Militarism Brings Chaos": As Obama Plans a War on ISIS, a Call for a Middle East-Led Response

President Obama has launched an effort to rally Congress and the public behind a sustained offensive against the militant group, Islamic State. Obama is set to meet with Congress on Tuesday followed by a national address Wednesday. The United States says it will lead the offensive against the Islamic State with a so-called "core coalition" of 10 countries. The White House says the fight could last beyond the end of President Obama’s term in early 2017. Meanwhile on Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo and announced they would cooperate with efforts to combat militants who have overrun parts of Iraq and Syria. Their resolution did not explicitly support the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State, but suggested it would back the effort.

We are joined by Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based newspaper, The Daily Star. "Combining American militarism with Arab dictatorships is probably the stupidest recipe that anybody could possibly come up with to try to fight jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and others," Khouri says. "It was that combination of Arab autocracy and American militarism that actually nurtured and let these movements expand."

Author: --

Netanyahu Slips and Reveals the Real Reason He Opposes the Iran Deal

US television news isn’t very good and it has clearly gotten worse over the past 20 years.  In the aftermath of the Kerry-Zarif initial framework deal on nuclear energy in Iran, it seems obvious that an interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would be newsworthy.  But to my knowledge none of the networks or major cable news shows had him on.

Or you could have talked to the British, French, German, Russian or Chinese foreign ministers, all of whom were principals and all of whom would have had interesting insights.

Kinder Morgan would profit from oil spills. Really.

Kinder Morgan subsidiary Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMP) owns 50.9 per cent of the corporation that would respond to a marine oil spill in British Columbia, according to TMP's response to an information request.
The Western Canadian Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) has four other shareholders: Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Chevron and Suncor.
A spill would certainly mean business and revenue for the WCMRC.
"It is an interesting indicator of how Kinder Morgan feels about the likelihood of a spill if they're hedging so that they profit off [an oil spill] as well," said Eugene Kung, a lawyer at West Coast Environmental law (WCEL). In TMP's original expansion application it stated, "Spill response and clean-up creates business and employment."

Anti-Terror Bill Review a Bad Show of Legislative Theatre

The House of Commons committee charged with studying Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation, wrapped up last week. Given the government's effort to fast track the bill with limited dissent, the committee unsurprisingly rejected more than 100 amendments from the opposition parties.

The government passed three minor amendments of its own, but with proposals to ensure that judges consider the rule of law and fundamental justice criticized as establishing a barrier to keeping Canadians safe, and creating a community outreach and counter-radicalization coordinator in the Department of Public Safety described by Conservative MPs as an attempt to build another bureaucracy, the government left little doubt that it regards criticism of the bill as a threat to the fight against terrorism.

Rich Spared as Alberta Deficit Balloons

Premier Jim Prentice finally brought down his much-anticipated budget to address the disastrous state of Canada's alleged richest province. And while groups like the Fraser Institute bleated about a grotesque tax grab, the fact is, their friends in the business community emerged completely unscathed. Resource royalties and corporate tax rates remain unchanged, and among the lowest in North America in spite of a $5 billion deficit -- the largest in provincial history. It's the humans who live in Alberta who have to pick up the slack for years of utter fiscal failure.

Albertans were hit with some $1.5 billion in new taxes including increases on gas, alcohol and cigarettes. There is a new health care levy for anyone earning more than $50,000 and increased fees for vehicles, land transfers and government records. Once additional increases take effect, total new taxes will top $2.7 billion.

Kansas To Impose Unprecedented Restriction On Welfare Recipients

The Kansas legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) desk that limits welfare recipients to withdrawing just $25 a day from their benefits and enacts a range of other restrictions.
If Brownback signs the law, recipients of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program would only be able to withdraw $25 a day with their benefits cards from ATMs, which act like debt cards. No other states or the federal government currently limit withdrawals.

Military Action Against Iran Still Possible, Says Israeli Official

JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior Israeli government minister on Monday warned that taking military action against Iran's nuclear program is still an option — despite last week's framework deal between world powers and the Islamic Republic.

The comments by Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister for strategic affairs, reflected the alarm in Israel over last week's deal, which offers Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for scaling back its suspect nuclear program. Israeli leaders believe the framework leaves too much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact and could still allow it to develop the means to produce a nuclear weapon.

Why Are Liberal Democracies So Bad at Creating Economic Equality?

Next to climate change, inequality is the burning issue of our time. In this regard, the evidence presented by Thomas Piketty, the United Nations and other sources is quite conclusive: the current rates of global inequality are unprecedented.

In his celebrated book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Piketty marshals a massive amount of data to show that rising inequality has been the norm since capitalist growth took off in the eighteenth century. Now, he says, things are likely to become even worse.

Keeping it simple: Canada solves the Middle East morass

The key insight of Harper Conservatism is that everything is simple.

Taxes are bad. Carbon taxes are really, really bad. Iran is bad. Russia is bad. Exports are good. Oil is good. Pipelines are good, too. The military is good. Israel is good. Terrorists are bad. Islamic State are terrorists and are crazy bad. International law is bad when it gets in the way of doing what we want militarily; international law is good when it helps us sell our exports.

Canada is good; at least the Harper government is good.

And so we are off to war in Syria.