Monday, February 28, 2011

Cantor dismisses report that cuts would cost jobs

The Huffington Post:

Washington - Two weeks after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed a question about the possibility of the lower chamber's spending bill killing government jobs with the words "so be it," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) offered similar sentiments.

The Republican plan to cut $61 billion from current spending levels would take a heavy toll on employment, destroying 700,000 jobs by 2012, according to an independent economic analysis by Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics. The study, released on Monday, predicted that the GOP bill would slow economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year.

In his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters, Cantor acknowledged that the Republican stopgap budget bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, might increase unemployment. But he argued that the government should not be creating jobs if that means creating greater deficits.

Continue reading here.

Libya's growing resistance

Pro-reform protests in Vietnam

Scarborough 'surprised' media ignored union protest

100,000 protest for workers’ rights in Wisconsin

Democracy Now!:

More than 100,000 people rallied in Madison on Saturday against Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to remove the collective bargaining rights of most public sector workers. It was the largest demonstration Madison has seen since the Vietnam War. We broadcast some of the voices from the rally.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

US unveils new 'micro-drone'

Wisconsin protests draw more than 70,000

The Associated Press:

Madison, Wis. — Chanting pro-union slogans and carrying signs declaring "We are all Wisconsin," protesters turned out in cities nationwide to support thousands of public workers who've set up camp at the Wisconsin Capitol to fight Republican-backed legislation aimed at weakening unions.

Union supporters organized rallies from New York to Los Angeles in a show of solidarity Saturday as the demonstration in Madison entered its 12th straight day and attracted its largest crowd yet: more than 70,000 people. Hundreds banged on drums and screamed into bullhorns inside the Capitol as others braved frigid weather and snow during the massive rally that flooded into nearby streets.

Several thousand people gathered for a rally in Columbus, Ohio, where lawmakers are considering a similar bill. Indiana Democrats successfully blocked a Republican bill last week that would have prohibited union membership from being a condition of employment.

Large crowds of teachers, firefighters and public workers also gathered for rallies – holding American flags, wearing pro-union clothing and holding signs – in other capital cities including Topeka, Kan.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Olympia, Wash.

In Los Angeles, public sector workers and others held signs that read "We are all Wisconsin" during a rally. Some wore foam "cheeseheads," the familiar hats worn by Green Bay Packers fans.

Covered in layers of coats, scarves, hats and gloves, about 1,000 rally goers outside the Minnesota Capitol chanted "Workers' rights are human rights" and waved signs, some reading "United we bargain, divided we beg."

"The right to collectively bargain is an American right," Eliot Seide, a local union leader, told the crowd in St. Paul. "You can't have American democracy if you don't have a strong trade union movement."

Continue reading here.

CNN, Fox, MSNBC ignore 100,000 protesters


Over 100,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin were joined by thousands of other Americans around the country in protest of Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from the state’s unionized workers, but you would not have known any of this if you watched cable news on Saturday as the coverage of the protests ranged from disappointing (MSNBC) to scant (CNN) to non-existent (Fox News).

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale estimated that the crowd was over 100,000 people before the rally began at 3 PM. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, police estimated the crowd size at around 70,000 three hours before the rally began, “Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the number of protesters around the Capitol is on the scale of last Saturday’s peak crowd of an estimated 68,000 and could swell even more for a 3 p.m. rally.”

As the official state run television of the Republican Party, Fox News has been openly and loudly supporting Gov. Walker. It is no surprise that the right wing network would ignore the events in Madison and around the country today. A propaganda outlet never spends much time relaying information that is detrimental to their message.

CNN, which is supposed to be the moderate network in the cable news ideological spectrum, sort of thought they should cover the story, so they did a few minute and half live cut ins here and there. No wall to wall coverage of course, but they at least managed to pull themselves away from celebrating the Tea Party long enough to take a quick glance at Madison.

Now we come to MSNBC. Sigh, the so called liberal news network. MSNBC couldn’t be bothered to break away from their Lock Up and Dateline reruns documentary bloc to cover a landmark event that has reunified the left, and is likely to have an impact on the 2012 presidential election.

If there is one network that progressives/liberals thought understood this, it was MSNBC. However MSNBC has never really been overly interested in covering the news, much less live news events on a weekend. If I had a dollar for every time MSNBC has disappointed their viewership by being AWOL when news happens, I’d be a very wealthy man.

All three cable networks share something else in common besides their decision to ignore today’s rallies. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News along with most other forms of media have decided that liberal protests aren’t newsworthy. They believe that the ratings and the money are in the right, not the left. The three cable networks are corporate owned and only for the purpose of profit. They don’t care about journalism or their obligation to inform the public.

This is all about dollars, and the outdated notion that the most profitable way to run a cable news outlet is to be like Fox News, which is why CNN keeps hiring more and more right wingers and has hopped into bed with the Tea Party Express.

Continue reading here.

Wisconsin police: solidarity with union protesters

Wisconsin's police union announced solidarity with students, nurses, teachers and other workers and Wisconsin residents occupying the State Capitol in Madison, on February 24, 2011.

British Columbia's new Premier-designate

Congratulations to the new leader of the British Columbia Liberal Party and Premier-designate Christy Clark, who supports fair voting and proportional representation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The battle for Tripoli continues

Watchdog blasts Harper on costs of programs

The Winnipeg Free Press:

Ottawa - Canada's budget watchdog says the Harper government is still not forthcoming about the costs of its programs, and is low-balling the true cost of corporate tax cuts.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page acknowledges the government has come forward with new information, but says it is still not meeting its responsibility to Parliament.

His report Friday, responding to a House finance committee request for information on three controversial programs, says data tabled on the cost of justice legislation leaves out analysis, key assumptions, methodologies and even basic statistics.

On the F-35 fighter jet purchase, the government's response does confirm some cost drivers but not all, he says.

And on corporate tax cuts, Page says the problem is now not lack of information, but whether it can be trusted.

Continue reading here.

Pittsburgh's Rally for the Middle-Class

Hundreds packed the United Steeleworkers headquarters on February 24. 2011, to rally for the middle class and stand up against attacks on workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere.

Maryland Senate votes to approve gay marriage

The Associated Press:

Annapolis, Maryland — Same-sex couples in Maryland would have the same full marriage rights as heterosexuals under a bill that cleared the Senate Thursday. If the House of Delegates approves it and the governor signs it, Maryland would be the sixth U.S. state to approve gay marriage.

Senators amended the bill to include protections for religious groups and institutions to keep them from being forced to participate in gay weddings. The bill would grant the same title and rights to same-sex couples as married straight couples.

If the measure passes the House, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he would sign it into law

Continue reading here.

Scarborough: Glenn Beck is "out of control"

The Huffington Post:

On Friday's "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough said Glenn Beck has gone "out of control" and is "bad for the conservative movement."

Scarborough started by playing a clip of a particularly agitated and angry Beck. He was not happy with what he saw.

"I've been telling conservatives for about two years, this guy is bad for the movement," Scarborough said. "This guy is losing it before our eyes. He's bad for the conservative movement. He's bad for the Republican Party. He's bad for Fox News...even guys over at Fox News have to start thinking, this can't last. He's out of control."

Scarborough then read a blog post by conservative commentator Peter Wehner. "Glenn Beck has become the most disturbing personality on cable television," Wehner wrote. Scarborough clearly seemed to agree with that assessment.

"He throws bombs out all the time," he said. "It's the conspiracy theories that are the most dangerous because that gets people acting out."

Scarborough has previously said that Beck is delivering a "vile message" to the country.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why I support the people of Thompson

Michael Moore:

To people down here in the U.S., Thompson, Canada and its fight with the Brazilian mining giant Vale may seem very far away.

Here's what's happening in Thompson, and why it matters so much:

The mine in Thompson used to be run by Inco, a Canadian corporation that made peace with unions and shared the wealth. When Vale bought Inco in 2006, they signed a contract with the government setting out what they would do to benefit Canadians.

Immediately afterward, Vale violated the contract and went on the attack -- forcing miners in Sudbury, Ontario out on the longest strike in their history. And now in Thompson they're trying to shut down the smelting and refining operations that have made the city a major economic hub of the province. Meanwhile, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper -- think of George W. Bush with a Canadian accent -- is actually helping Vale do this to their fellow citizens, with a giant $1 billion government loan which Vale is using to move jobs out of Thompson. Moreover, the largest institutional investor in Vale is Blackrock, an investment firm which in turn is owned by several of America's bailed-out banks ... including Bank of America.

Continue reading here.

Gaddafi palace torched

First live pictures from Benghazi:

Two Conservative Senators charged

Andre Thouin, an official with Elections Canada, knocks on the door of Conservative Party of Canada headquarters in Ottawa on April 15, 2008, during an RCMP raid of the office.


Elections Canada has laid charges against the Conservative Party and four of its members, including two senators, over alleged violations of election spending rules.

As reported Thursday by CBC News, the charges were laid under the Canada Elections Act on Wednesday and relate to the so-called "in-and-out" campaign financing case from the 2006 federal election. The charges are regulatory, not criminal.

The charges, published on Elections Canada's website Friday, include allegations that Conservative election expense documents submitted to Elections Canada were "false or misleading."

Charged are:

• Senator Doug Finley, the party's campaign director in 2006 and 2008, and the husband of Human Resources Development Minister Diane Finley.
• Senator Irving Gerstein, a prominent businessman and fundraiser for the party.
• Michael Donison, a former national party director.
• Susan Kehoe, who has served as an interim party executive director

Continue reading here.

Wisconsin union busting: Obama, where are you?

Wisconsin Assembly rams through anti-union bill

The Associated Press:

Madison, Wisconsin — The Wisconsin Assembly early Friday passed a bill that would strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights – the first significant action on the new Republican governor's plan.

The vote put an end to three straight days of punishing debate, but the political standoff over the bill is far from over. The measure now goes to the Senate, where minority Democrats have been missing for a week, preventing a vote in that chamber.

No one knows when – or if – the Senate Democrats will return from their hideout in Illinois. Republicans who control the chamber sent state troopers out looking for them at their homes on Thursday, but they turned up nothing

Continue reading here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Republican Shakedown

Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor; Professor at Berkeley; Author, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future

The truth that Obama must tell the American people is that government spending has absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment, declining wages, falling home prices, and all the other travesties that continue to haunt most Americans.

Continue reading here.

Army deploys psy-ops on U.S. Senators

Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan on January 6, 2009.

Rolling Stone:

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."

Continue reading here.

Liberals want proof F-35 won’t be ‘flying credit card’

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa — Federal Liberals plan to open a second front in their document war with the Harper government.

The party’s defence critic, Dominic Leblanc, is demanding the release of a key air force report that lays out the justification for the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The statement of operational requirements was stamped classified by National Defence last year and the Conservative government has resisted calls by the opposition parties to make the document public.

LeBlanc served notice to the House of Commons defence committee that he’ll table a motion demanding the release of the statement — a measure he hopes the NDP and Bloc Québécois will support.

That sets the stage for another tug-of-war over document secrecy.

Last year, Liberal MP Scott Brison brought forward a motion at the Commons finance committee demanding the Conservative government reveal projections on what its tough-on-crime legislation and corporate tax cuts will cost.

He won enough support to bring the matter before the Speaker of the Commons, who will hear arguments next week on whether the government should be held in contempt.

Continue reading here.

Wisconsin Governor's prank caller speaks

What Gov. Walker won't tell you

Stanley Kutler, E. Gordon Fox Professor of U.S. Institutions, University of Wisconsin

What Governor Scott Walker isn't mentioning is that less than two weeks into his term as Wisconsin's governor, he pushed through $117 million in tax breaks for business allies of the GOP. There is your "budget crisis."

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tea Party wants armed counterprotests to unions

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, is holding rallies at state capitols around the country to demonstrate solidarity with public employee unions in Wisconsin. The union has scheduled an event at the Gold Dome in Atlanta at 4 pm today.

This has been posted on the far-right Free Republic site, under the headline:

“Atlanta Tea Party and Many Other Groups, Facing Off the SEIU Thugs Wednesday”

“Members of the various Tea Party, 9/12, and other freedom-oriented folks in the Atlanta area will be assembling in the vicinity of Georgia State Capitol this coming Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm. We’ll be providing balance to the ravings of the passengers aboard the SEIU Thugbus, which is scheduled to vomit forth its stooges at that same place and time.

If you are within three hours drive of ATL, come join us.

Dan and others from RTC will be there, with the usual accoutrements. As always, each participant is responsible for compliance with all applicable local laws.

Rally point will be the corner of Trinity and Washington Streets in front of the Trinity United Methodist Church. Guide on the Gadsden flags. Rendezvous time no later than 3:45 pm local.

There appears to be some regulations re armed protests on the Washington Street side of the Capitol, so attendees are requested to be flexible in your attire. We will attempt (but no promises) to get some additional clarity regarding the situation and post it here prior to the show.

Take a stand.

Join us in Atlanta on Wednesday.”

The advice that “attendees are requested to be flexible in your attire” is apparently a suggestion to keep firearms concealed. The original author goes on to claim that “the lefties are idiots who are very good at running their mouths… and also very good at keeping their distance from an armed American”.

A couple of posters advised against bringing firearms to the rally, but that point of view did not seem to carry the day, as the following posts suggest:

Dolphin deaths in Gulf Region rise

The Huffington Post:

Ten months ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind an "oil volcano" belching millions of gallons of poison into the waters of the Gulf region. The spill was stopped up in mid-September.

Baby dolphins, some barely three feet in length, are washing up along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines at 10 times the normal rate of stillborn and infant deaths, researchers are finding.

The Sun Herald has learned that 17 young dolphins, either aborted before they reached maturity or dead soon after birth, have been collected along the shorelines.

The director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies, Moby Solangi says that these findings are "significant, especially in light of the BP oil spill."

Continue reading here.

Obama: Defence of Marriage Act unconstitutional

The Associated Press:

Washington — In a major policy reversal, the Obama administration said Wednesday it will no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution's)Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against."

The Justice Department had defended the act in court until now.

"Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed" the Defense of Marriage Act, Holder said in a statement. He noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional and that Congress has repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Continue reading here.

Wisconsin governor embarrassed in crank call

Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who is currently leading the charge to strip state workers (nurses, teachers etc) of their right to collectively bargain, fell for a prank call from the current editor of The Buffalo Beast, Ian Murphy. Murphy posed as David Koch, of the infamous Koch brothers, a pair of billionaires who not only own the petroleum behemoth Koch Industries, but also provide financial support to the Tea Party and climate change denial movements. In fact, the Koch brothers have donated over $100 million to right-wing causes. Anyways, Governor Walker believed he was talking to one of his pay masters, and has completely embarrassed himself by admitting to a "union busting" agenda, to threaten workers with layoffs, to create divisions between public and private sector unions:

Ex-minister: Gadhafi ordered Lockerbie bombing

The Associated Press:

Stockholm — Libya's ex-justice minister on Wednesday was quoted as telling a Swedish newspaper that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988.

"I have proof that Gadhafi gave the order about Lockerbie," Mustafa Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying in an interview with Expressen, a Stockholm-based tabloid.

Abdel-Jalil, who stepped down as justice minister to protest the clampdown on anti-government demonstrations, didn't describe the proof.

Abdel-Jalil told Expressen that Gadhafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

"To hide it, he (Gadhafi) did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland," Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying.

Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. He is still alive

Expressen spokeswoman Alexandra Forslund said its reporter in Libya, Kassem Hamade, taped the interview, which was conducted in Arabic and translated to Swedish.

Gadhafi has been trying to bring his country out of isolation, announcing in 2003 that he was abandoning his program for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism.

Gadhafi also accepted Libya's responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. But he hasn't admitted personally giving the order for the attack.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Judge convicted in kids-in-jail-for-cash scheme

Democracy Now!:

A federal jury has found a former Pennsylvania judge guilty of participating in a so-called "kids for cash" scheme, in which he received money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit youth jails over the years. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr., was convicted Friday of accepting bribes and kickbacks for putting juveniles into detention centers operated by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western Pennsylvania Child Care. Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, are said to have received $2.6 million for their efforts. Ciavarella faces a maximum sentence of 157 years in prison, in addition to a class action lawsuit on behalf of the youths’ families. For more on this story, we are joined by Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center and to Sandy Fonzo, who believes her son’s suicide was related to his treatment by Ciavarella.

Matt Taibbi: "Why isn’t Wall Street in Jail?"

Democracy Now!:

"Nobody goes to jail,” writes Matt Taibbi in the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth." Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

Continue reading here.

Debating the Two-Party System

Arianna Huffington:

Why are the too big to fail banks still too big to fail? Why is there still so little emphasis on jobs at a time when 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed? Why did our system recently fail us in three spectacular ways: the financial meltdown, the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in West Virginia where 29 miners died, and the BP oil spill in the Gulf?

On issue after issue -- education, our crumbling infrastructure, the rising costs of health care, the deficit, the steady decline of the middle class, foreign policy (where the two parties marched arm in arm into invading a country that did not after all have WMD or pose a threat to our national security) -- our current two-party system has failed us.

And the two-party system has not just narrowed our choices, it's narrowed our thinking. It has deeply infected our political discourse, our media, and our politicians. To paraphrase Einstein, the problems we are facing today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.

Continue reading here.

Student makes case that wimpy Democrats can't

Wouldn't it be great if President Obama and more Democrats could sound like this high school student and stand up for the people they're supposed to represent, as opposed to giving into the Republican narrative and agenda of cutting social programs while giving tax breaks to the rich.

Libya's bloody crackdown on protesters

Democracy Now!:

The Libyan government faces international condemnation for a vicious assault on the growing uprising against the four-decade rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. On Monday, Libyan troops and pro-government mercenaries attacked a large demonstration in the capital of Tripoli. Armed forces hunted down protesters in the streets, while Libyan warplanes and helicopters fired on them from above. The violence comes amidst more signs that Gaddafi’s government is losing ground. On Monday, several Libyan officials broke with Gaddaffi, including the justice minister and the country’s delegation to the United Nations. For more, we are joined by Libyan American activist Abdulla Darrat. “It really shows what over the last 40 years has become a country dominated by the megalomania of this one human being, who cares more for his self and his power than he cares for anybody in Libya,” Darrat says.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The coming shutdowns and showdowns

Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor; Professor at Berkeley; Author, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future

America is the richest nation in the world, and we've never been richer. There's no reason for us to turn on our teachers, our unionized workers, our poor and needy, and our elderly. The notion that we can no longer afford it is claptrap.

Continue reading here.

Inside Story - Crushing Libya's revolt

The unrest in Libya started out as a series of protests inspired by popular revolts in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia but was met by a fierce security crackdown and the use of militias.

Soros on the Tea Party movement, Obama

Libya on the brink: genocide, human rights abuses

Looking for the gravy

The Toronto Star:

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon believed there was a Gravy Train.

As a fiscal conservative, she arrived at city hall fired up to end the wasteful spending that voters heard so much about during the election.

But after a little more than two months in office — two months of listening during in-camera meetings, reading staff reports and looking over confidential documents — this rookie councillor sees things a little differently.

“The gravy’s not flowing through city hall like originally expected,” McMahon said.

McMahon is the political newcomer who, with the backing of prominent Conservatives such as John Tory, ousted an entrenched left-wing incumbent. She is not a part of the mayor’s inner circle. She’s just one of a dozen new councillors who promised change and rode a wave of anger and mistrust in local government to victory. They’re now getting a dose of reality about the city’s financial situation.

That’s not to say there isn’t waste, she added. Hundreds of thousands in savings could be found by turning off lights on weekends and powering down computers at night.

But when the city is $774 million short, a hundred thousand here and a million there don’t go very far to fill that hole.

It’s a lesson that Rob Ford’s team is also learning.

Insiders — ranging from members of the budget and executive committees to city financial staff — say that bubbling pot of gravy still hasn’t been found.

Worse, with every cut, the mayor seems to add more pressure. Since taking office, Ford has added more than $100 million to the bottom line by killing the vehicle registration tax and promising a property tax freeze in 2011.

To balance his first $9.4 billion operating budget this year, the mayor relied on $230 million in revenue windfalls and then depleted the city’s surplus and reserve funds — a combined $370 million — to avoid major service cuts.

Ford only needed to find $57 million in efficiencies to make the numbers work. But next year, he will need to come up with $774 million to balance his books. And with all of the city’s emergency savings spent, the mayor has no safety net.

“I have no idea what they can do. All I know is they have taken a problem we were starting to manage and made it much, much worse,” said Councillor Gord Perks, a key player in former mayor David Miller’s administration. “Rob Ford sold Torontonians on a fantasy. He argued that money comes down to city hall and vanishes, and it’s simply not true.”

Continue reading here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Unrest, violence, and murder in Libya

Ed Schultz, firefighters, teachers blast Limbaugh

Layton standing up for ordinary Canadians

The Globe and Mail:

Layton draws strong line on budget, opening door to election

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton says Canadians still might be able to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change his plans for the March budget.

“Well [Mr. Harper's] got a choice to make," Mr. Layton said. "He can either come up with a good budget that responds to some of the real needs that Canadians are facing today, which we outlined, or he can decide not to do that, in which case, he’ll be deciding to move us into an election.”

The NDP leader took a shopping list into the Friday meeting that included:

• Removing the federal sales tax from home heating bills and restoring the EcoEnergy Retrofit program;

• Increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors;

• Expanding the Canada Pension Plan;

• Hiring more family doctors.

Continue reading here.

Scrapping tax cuts still key to budget support: Layton

NDP Leader Jack Layton says he still wants the government to cancel planned corporate tax cuts, as negotiations continue on the upcoming federal budget -- the details of which will determine whether Canadians head to the polls this spring.

After the meeting, Layton said he had reiterated his party's focus on four policies: to eliminate federal tax on home-heating fuel, boost the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, help solve the shortage of family doctors that has left millions of Canadians without a primary care physician, and expanding the Canada Pension Plan.

"(The government is) looking at spending billions all over the place. Whether it's on the corporate tax cuts or whether it's on jets that they want to buy, you name it. It's not as though this government is averse to spending money," Layton said.

"We're talking about a modest expenditure out of the total package, and it looks as though government revenues are going to be somewhat improved in the budget coming forward, and we think that Canadians who have suffered through this recession and need a little bit of help…we think it's their turn now."

Continue reading here.

Packers Woodson stands with Wisconsin's workers


Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them. Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.

It is an honor for me to play for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and be a part of the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities. I am also honored as a member of the NFL Players Association to stand together with working families of Wisconsin and organized labor in their fight against this attempt to hurt them by targeting unions. I hope those leading the attack will sit down with Wisconsin’s public workers and discuss the problems Wisconsin faces, so that together they can truly move Wisconsin forward.

The origin of Glenn Beck's schtick

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Algerian police break up crowd at pro-reform rally‎

“People are bleeding in the streets"

Democracy Now!:

During an overnight raid in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, heavily armed riot police surrounded thousands of demonstrators as they slept in a central square in the nation’s capital. Rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades were fired into the crowd without warning. At least four people were killed and hundreds injured. Some 60 people are reported missing. We hear from human right activist Nabeel Rajab outside a hospital in Manama where the wounded are being treated.

Inside Story - Bahrain on the brink

Events in Tunisia and Egypt have left Arab governments worried and Bahrain's royal family is no exception. Days of protests came to a violent head on Thursday when a police crackdown left several people dead and scores injured. Pro-democracy street agitation is not a stranger to Bahrain - there have been protests gping as far back as the early 1990s with opposition forces demanding that the monarchy make room for a more constitutional framework and a much more democratic polity. Can the monarchy survive this latest round of unrest and what does it all mean for the region? Inside Story discusses.

Warning: very disturbing imagery:

Bahrain's army deliberately kills peaceful protesters with live rounds

New Palin tell-all: "I hate this damn job"

The Huffington Post:

Juneau, Alaska — One of Sarah Palin's trusted advisers is planning a tell-all memoir, drawing upon thousands of personal e-mails during his time with the former Alaska governor to paint what his agent calls an expose of the inner workings of her operation.

Frank Bailey rose from a campaign volunteer to administration official and figure in the "Troopergate" scandal that fixated the public's attention during Palin's vice presidential bid in 2008. A preliminary draft of the unpublished book, tentatively called "Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years," was leaked to reporters, with excerpts making the rounds on the Internet.

Messages to a Palin aide and attorney weren't immediately returned Friday.

Ken Morris, a California-based writer who worked with Bailey on the manuscript, said in an e-mail that the material is preliminary, subject to copyright protections and not authorized for use.

The New York-based Carol Mann Agency, in an e-mail promoting the manuscript, said the "revelations and insights" that Bailey offers "are more necessary than ever, as the public will seek to learn as much as possible about the woman who seems to have her sights set on the national stage."

The agency referred calls to Morris, who said that he, Bailey and co-writer Jeanne Devon did "tons of research" for the book, which still has no publisher. Devon, an Alaska blogger, is a frequent critic of Palin.

Morris said he believes the manuscript paints an accurate portrait of Palin but declined to elaborate. "I think we should leave it at that," he said.

The manuscript, which Morris said is subject to change and "may not materially reflect the eventual product," states that Palin, before resigning partway through her first term, wrote to Bailey and another aide, "I hate this damn job."

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Libyan forces step up crackdown

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Put your money where your mouth is"

Bernie Sanders blasts Repubs, Dems, Obama

Ex-CIA analyst beaten, arrested for silent protest

Democracy Now!:

This week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a major address calling for Internet freedom around the world. As Clinton condemned the Egyptian and Iranian governments for arresting and beating protesters, former U.S. Army and CIA officer Ray McGovern was violently ejected from the audience and arrested after he stood up and turned his back in a silent protest of America’s foreign policy. Ray McGovern joins us from Washington, D.C.

The Republican strategy

Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor; Professor at Berkeley; Author, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future

The Republican strategy is to pit average working Americans against one another, distracting attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top.

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The people of Wisconsin vs. Scott Walker

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brazilian police arrested for murderering civilians

WikiLeaks reveals imminent Saudi oil peak

The Globe and Mail:

Confidential cables from the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia released recently by WikiLeaks confirm what others have long suspected: OPEC’s kingpin producer, Saudi Arabia, has little more to give.

The cables from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh cite a number of conversations between embassy personnel and Sadad Al Husseini, a geologist and former executive vice-president of exploration and production with Aramco, the Saudi oil monopoly. The former Aramco exploration head contends neither the kingdom’s reserve estimates nor future production targets can be believed. According to Mr. Husseini, Aramco’s estimates of its world-leading reserves are inflated by 40 per cent.

More important, Mr. Husseini acknowledged Saudi production is never likely to get to Aramco’s 12.5 million barrel per day target. Instead, the country is struggling to produce even 10 million barrels a day and it may soon encounter a production peak after which flow rates will inevitably decline. Yet the International Energy Agency is counting on Saudi Arabia to produce no less than 14.6 million barrels a day by 2035.

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Our national purpose is still taking shape

Matthew Bailey-Dick,

On a parallel track, Canada toyed with the identity of a peacekeeping nation. On multiple occasions since the 1950s, our soldiers acted as the leaders of UnitedNations peacekeeping missions. As Canadian diplomats promoted human rights, international law, and cultural exchange, “Canadian peacekeeping” went swiftly from mythology to reality.

By the 1990s, with only a few exceptions, our international reputation was defined by brokering and safeguarding peace within an increasingly complicated world order. Our golden era had arrived and so we stitched Canadian flags onto our backpacks with pride.

Things have changed in the last 10 years. Canada’s military deployment in Afghanistan immediately pulled us away from our peacekeeping vocation. Then, anyone who critiqued the Afghanistan war — or who refused to support the assertion that Canadian soldiers were risking their lives for our freedom — was labeled unpatriotic.

Today, although we cannot foresee any military victory in Afghanistan nor any significant threat to our borders, we are spending billions of dollars on state-of-the-art F35 fighter jets, while at the same time reducing expenditures on diplomatic and development efforts. Seemingly uninterested in nonviolent approaches to international conflict, we flirt heavily with a perilous combination of the “fearful mind” and the “military contracting mind.”

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“Democracy Uprising” in the U.S.A.?

Democracy Now!:

World-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses several domestic issues in the United States, including the protests in defense of public sector employees and unions in Wisconsin, how the U.S. deification of former President Ronald Reagan resembles North Korea, and the crackdown on political activists with anti-terror laws and FBI raids.

Harper using public servants, military to sell F-35

The Vancouver Sun:

Public servants are racking up overtime and generals have turned into salesmen for the Conservative party as part of the Harper government's effort to convince the public the stealth fighter it wants to purchase is a good deal, opposition MPs charge.

Figures obtained by the Liberals show public servants at National Defence headquarters charged taxpayers at least 600 hours of overtime to organize a news conference and seven events to promote the purchase of the F-35 aircraft to defence analysts, academics and some industry representatives.

At the same time, generals and other officers and public servants have criss-crossed the country promoting the sole-sourced deal.

Various numbers have been produced by government about the cost of the public-relations campaign from last year but travel claims and other expenses are still being tallied. Indications are that the figure, which includes cabinet ministers visiting aerospace firms to promote the F-35 purchase, is more than $200,000.

Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau said the use of senior Canadian Forces officers to sell the public on the plan to spend between $16 billion and $21 billion on the stealth fighters is unprecedented.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"A War on Women"

Democracy Now!:

Since taking control of the House last month, Republicans have introduced several major anti-abortion bills that women’s rights activists say could place severe limitations on access not only to abortion, but complete reproductive health and family planning services. We speak to Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which provides family planning, contraception and abortion services at more than 800 clinics and health centers across the U.S. serving more than three million patients a year. No federal dollars are used to fund its abortion services. "The most ridiculous part about it is that, for Congressman Pence and the others who are proposing these bills, Planned Parenthood does more to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion than any organization in America," Richards says. "This is not what the American people voted for."

Lies that launched a war

Wisconsin's governor declares war on workers

Madison (WKOW) - After three days of marches and protests around the state, union groups are preparing for the biggest counter-attack yet against Governor Walker's budget repair bill: a massive rally outside the capitol.

Walker's bill would require state workers to pay more into their retirement accounts and more for health insurance, but labor leaders are most upset about a provision that would strip them of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.

"We will no longer have any say in the workplace," said AFT-Wisconsin president Bryan Kennedy, who added that Walker's bill is the first step to dissolving unions altogether.

State workers would retain the ability to negotiate pay under Walker's proposal, but not benefits, vacation, leave, and procedures for workplace grievances, among others

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Readies National Guard Against Unions

The Associated Press:

Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond wherever is necessary in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state employees.

Walker said Friday that he hasn't called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems that could result in a disruption of state services, like staffing at prisons

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Feingold group to fight corporate influence in politics

The Huffington Post:

Washington - When some senators retire, they decide to take lucrative lobbying jobs. Others go straight to Wall Street. But Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid in November, is continuing on his principled -- and often lonely -- path by starting an organization to combat corporate influence in politics, an effort he hopes will spark "a new progressive movement" that will truly hold elected officials accountable.

Launching on Wednesday, Progressives United is an attempt to to build a grassroots effort aimed at mitigating the effects of, and eventually overturning, the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to corporate spending in the U.S. electoral system. In addition to online mobilization, the political action committee (PAC) will support progressive candidates at the local, state and national levels, as well as holding the media and elected officials accountable on the group's key priorities.

"In my view -- and the view of many people -- it's one of the most lawless decisions in the history of our country," said Feingold of Citizens United in an interview with The Huffington Post. "The idea of allowing corporations to have unlimited influence on our democracy is very dangerous, obviously. That's exactly what it does ... Things were like this 100 years ago in the United States, with the huge corporate and business power of the oil companies and others. But this time it's like the Gilded Age on steroids."

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Senator Sanders grills White House budget chief

Great work from Vermont's Independent Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders grilling White House budget chief (the Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget) Jacob Lew, on President Obama's and the Democratic Party's waffling on protecting Social Security, ending tax cuts for the rich, and essentially caving into Republicans on core issues.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hundreds of thousands protest in Iran

The Associated Press/The Huffington Post:

Tehran, Iran - Clashes between Iranian police and hundreds of thousands of protesters wracked central Tehran on Monday as security forces beat and fired tear gas at opposition supporters hoping to evoke Egypt's recent popular uprising.

The opposition called for a demonstration Monday in solidarity with Egypt's popular revolt that a few days earlier forced the president there to resign after nearly 30 years in office. The rally is the first major show of strength for Iran's cowed opposition in more than a year.

Police used tear gas against the protesters in central Tehran's Enghelab, or Revolution, square and in Imam Hossein square, as well as in other nearby main streets. Demonstrators responded by setting garbage bins on fire to protect themselves from the stinging white clouds.

Eyewitnesses said at least three protesters injured by bullets were taken to a hospital in central Tehran while dozens of others were hospitalized because of severe wounds as a result of being beaten.

"An Iranian dies but doesn't accept humiliation," demonstrators chanted. "Death to the dictator," they said, in a chant directed at hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Video contains violent imagery:

CIDA memo doctored on Oda's orders

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda on Monday admitted she was behind the mysterious “not” that was handwritten on a government document that ended funding for church-backed aid organization KAIROS and its international relief work.

Reversing her earlier testimony at a Commons committee — where she had claimed not to know who penned the extra word — Oda revealed she had, in fact, directed an unnamed official to add the word “not.” “The funding decision was mine. The ‘not' was inserted at my direction,” Oda said in a surprise statement in the Commons.

Oda's statement angered opposition MPs, who said the minister was caught in a clear contradiction in the case, which springs from a 2009 document from the Canadian International Development Agency.

MPs accused Oda of deliberately misleading them at her committee appearance in December, when she repeatedly claimed she had no idea who had changed the document to deny funding to KAIROS. “She seems to be changing her position,” Liberal MP John McKay said.

“We have a real problem,” Liberal MP Bob Rae added, noting how the document leaves the impression that two bureaucrats agreed with the decision to end the funding.

“It's a fabrication of their position,” Rae said. “The story isn't over because I don't think her answers are very compelling today.”

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Obama's budget: defence increases, social cuts

Democracy Now!:

President Obama has unveiled a budget plan seeking to trim the federal deficit by cutting or eliminating some 200 federal programs, many dedicated to social services and education, while increasing military spending and funding for the construction of nuclear power plants. Announcing his $3.7 trillion proposal, Obama touted his previously stated pledge to freeze funding for domestic programs outside of the military for five years. Obama’s plan includes two modest tax hikes for banks and oil companies. It also calls for ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in 2013 and returning the estate tax to its higher 2009 levels. For analysis of Obama’s proposed budget, we are joined by John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine.

Inside Story - Arab anger

As the dust settles on the streets of Egypt, the desire for change is spreading across the region. The people of the Arab world say they are angered by unemployment, rampant corruption and social injustice. Some governments are trying to buy their way out of trouble with promises of reform and wage rises, but will that be enough to keep angry people off the streets? Inside Story discusses with guests: Lamis Andoni, a veteran Palestinian journalist and political commentator who is a regular contributor to Al Jazeera English online; Anwar Eshki, the founder and director of Jeddah-based think tank the Middle East Center for Strategic Studies; and Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East centre.

Berlusconi indicted in prostitution probe

The Associated Press/CBC:

An Italian judge on Tuesday ordered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial on charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl, then tried to cover it up.

Berlusconi has stood trial on a number of business-related charges, but this is the first time the 74-year-old billionaire businessman is being tried for personal conduct.

Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing, accusing the prosecutors of seeking to oust him from power.

Judge Cristina Di Censo handed down the indictment with a terse statement. The trial is to begin April 6, and will be heard by a panel of three judges, all of them women.

The decision means Di Censo believes there is sufficient evidence to subject Berlusconi to an immediate trial, as has been requested by prosecutors. The sped-up procedure skips the preliminary hearing stage and is ordered in cases of overwhelming evidence.

Paying for sex with a prostitute is not a crime in Italy, but it is if the prostitute is under 18.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Tensions persist in Egypt

Shirley Sherrod sues Andrew Breitbart over video

The Huffington Post:

Shirley Sherrod has filed a lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart over a video released by the conservative personality that lead to her ouster as an official at the USDA.

Breitbart was served on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), according to the New York Times: "In the suit, which was filed in Washington on Friday, Ms. Sherrod says the video has damaged her reputation and prevented her from continuing her work."

The video first gained widespread public attention when it was posted on Breitbart's The two-minute, 38-second clip was widely received as an admission by Sherrod, who is African American, that she had discriminated against a white farmer. Under immediate pressure from the Obama administration, Sherrod resigned from her position as the USDA's director of rural development in Georgia.

When a full 43-minute copy of the video surfaced, additional context turned the story into one of reconciliation. Sherrod had actually saved the man's farm and started a lifelong friendship. The NAACP, which publicly condemned Sherrod's speech shortly after it was posted on, soon issued a retraction and said that they were "snookered."

The White House also begged for forgiveness and offered her a "unique opportunity." Sherrod declined the offer to return to the Agriculture Department.

A statement issued on his website says Breitbart "categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech and, to reiterate, looks forward to exercising his full and broad discovery rights." The statement also says that Larry O'Connor, the head of, was named in the suit.

Revealed: How energy firms spy on green activists

Protesters at Ratcliffe-on Soar power station, operated by E.ON, which says it has hired security firms to gather information on climate activists.

The Guardian:

Leaked documents show how three large British companies have been paying private security firm to monitor activists

Three large energy companies have been carrying out covert intelligence-gathering operations on environmental activists, the Guardian can reveal.

The energy giant E.ON, Britain's second-biggest coal producer Scottish Resources Group and Scottish Power, one of the UK's largest electricity-generators, have been paying for the services of a private security firm that has been secretly monitoring activists.

Leaked documents show how the security firm's owner, Rebecca Todd, tipped off company executives about environmentalists' plans after snooping on their emails. She is also shown instructing an agent to attend campaign meetings and coaching him on how to ingratiate himself with activists. The disclosures come as police chiefs, on the defensive over damaging revelations of undercover police officers in the protest movement, privately claim that there are more corporate spies in protest groups than undercover police officers.

Continue reading here.

Egyptians celebrate in Cairo after Mubarak resigns

Democracy Now!:

Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat was in the streets of Cairo as Egyptians erupted with joy after learning President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down following 18 days of street protests that began on January 25. In this video report, Kamat takes us to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where people are not only cleaning up the streets but are also maintaining their rights to public political expression and involvement in Egypt’s uncertain future.

Saving Social Security

Vermont's Independent Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, Op-Ed, The Los Angeles Times:

The highly successful program, under attack by Republicans and Wall Street, can easily be shored up for future retirees.

Social Security is the most successful social program in American history. It shouldn't be privatized; its benefits shouldn't be cut; and the retirement age shouldn't be raised.

Before Social Security was established 75 years ago, more than half of our elderly population lived in poverty. Because of Social Security, the poverty figure for seniors today is less than 10%. Social Security also provides dignified support for millions of widows, widowers, orphans and people with disabilities.

Since it was established, Social Security has paid every nickel it owed to every eligible American, in good times and bad. As corporations over the last 30 years destroyed the retirement dreams of millions of older workers by eliminating defined-benefit pension plans, Social Security was there paying full benefits. When Wall Street greed and recklessness caused working people to lose billions in retirement savings, Social Security was there paying full benefits.

Continue reading here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gazans hope for free border

Mexican media's fine balance

Egypt dissolves parliament, suspends constitution

Associated Press video:

Egypt's military leaders dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution Sunday, meeting two key demands of protesters who have been keeping up pressure for immediate steps to transition to democratic, civilian rule.

Arrest warrant issued for Pervez Musharraf

The Associated Press:

Islamabad — A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for ousted military leader Pervez Musharraf on Saturday over allegations he played a role in the 2007 assassination of an ex-prime minister and rival. It was a major setback for the onetime U.S. ally, who was plotting a political comeback from outside the country.

Musharraf, who has not been charged, described accusations that he had a hand in the attack on ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as a smear campaign by a government led by her aggrieved husband.

The stunning allegation that Musharraf – a self-declared opponent of Islamic militancy – was linked to extremists accused in the attack was likely to keep him out of Pakistan, at least in the short term.

His possible arrest abroad did not appear imminent, but Pakistan's information minister, Firdous Ashiq, Awan said the government will contact Interpol about seeking Musharraf's detention if the court requests it

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