Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Did the Conservatives steal the election?

Why I'm endorsing Peggy Nash

Jonah Schein, NDP MPP for Davenport:

Peggy Nash stands out above the rest as the best choice to lead our party and lead this team forward into government in 2015. Peggy exemplifies the best qualities in leadership. She listens, she consults, she takes decisive action, and she takes people along with her when she sets a direction. As Jack Layton did, and as my own leader Andrea Horwath does, Peggy inspires the best and the brightest to join her team. Not only has she garnered impressive endorsements, Peggy has built a team of young, talented, energetic and professional organizers in every region of the country including some of the best activists in Davenport.

Above all, our next leader needs to help us as a party and as a collection of progressive social movements – whether environmentalists, unionists, peace activists or students – to work together, in solidarity to chart a new course for our country. I know that Peggy Nash will motivate New Democrats to work harder than ever to organize to win. The stakes are too high to allow us to be divided.

I don’t need to tell you that Peggy Nash is a fighter for cities; that she has been a fierce advocate for funding for green infrastructure and a national transit strategy or that she’s fought on our side to stop the dirty diesel train through our communities in Toronto. You know that Peggy has worked for years to build our party from the grassroots up. Not only has Peggy helped turn all of Parkdale High Park orange, she has knocked on doors for candidates at all levels in Davenport and in ridings across the country.

Peggy has delivered real results for Canadians, whether in her time as Industry and Finance Critics, as party president, or at the bargaining table. Peggy will rebuild our economy so that it works in the interests of hard working Canadians – the 99% - not just the 1%.

I know that Peggy Nash will put families first when she is Prime Minister and she will put poverty and national childcare at the top of the agenda. I know that Peggy is a fighter, a builder, and a leader, and I am proud to offer her my endorsement.

Continue reading here.

New evidence in robocall scandal

Were there not only dirty tricks, but illegal actions taken to manipulate the votes in the federal election? There's new evidence and new accusations about this issue.

Obama waives military detention of Americans

The Huffington Post:

Washington - The White House released rules Tuesday evening waiving the most controversial piece of the new military detention law, and exempting U.S. citizens, as well as other broad categories of suspected terrorists.

The new rules -- which deal with Section 1022 of the law -- are aimed at soothing many of their gravest concerns, an administration official said. Those concerns are led by the possibility that a law that grants the president authority to jail Americans without trial in Guantanamo Bay based on secret evidence could easily be abused.

"It is important to recognize that the scope of the new law is limited," says a fact sheet released by the White House, focusing on that worry. "Section 1022 does not apply to U.S. citizens, and the President has decided to waive its application to lawful permanent residents arrested in the United States."

It also addresses a concern of the White House and advocates of civil law enforcement, insisting that even if a suspect is transfered to the military, the person can be shifted back if the administration believes it is important for national security.

Advocates for liberties will likely find the new rules for implementing reassuring, at least while President Obama is in office. But one of their big complaints with his signing of the law is that his policies only last so long as he is in office, and they will likely step up attempts to repeal it.

Continue reading here.

Millions of workers strike across India

Millions of workers across India are protesting against rising prices and demanding better wages from their government. The 24-hour strike has ground transport and commerce to a halt in many parts of the country. Prerna Suri reports from New Delhi.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Syrian troops accused of targeting children

Syrian government forces have been blamed by residents for attacking and killing thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, during the crackdown on the country's 11-month uprising. Two fathers in central Damascus, which has seen a protest movement smaller than other cities like Homs, Hama and Idlib due to a heavier presence of security forces, have told Al Jazeera how their sons were either murdered or shot by troops. One of them blames a soldier for his son's death in this exclusive report.

More Conservative connections in robocall scandal

Matt Meier is president and CEO of Racknine Inc., of Edmonton.

The Ottawa Citizen:

Ottawa — The fraudulent robocall that misdirected voters in Guelph came from a Virgin Mobile disposable cellphone registered to one Pierre Poutine, on Separatist Street, in Joliette, Que, court documents obtained by Postmedia News, the Ottawa Citizen and the Edmonton Journal show.

The obviously fabricated name appears to have been a ruse to evade detection in the event the number was ever investigated.

An Information to Obtain a Production Order was filed at the Edmonton courthouse in November to allow Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews to have access to records belonging to RackNine, the Conservative voice broadcasting firm that was used by whoever made the fraudulent calls into Guelph, Ont., causing chaos at a polling station.

The “Pierre Poutine” phone was activated April 30, two days before the election, and called only two numbers other than its own voice mail. Both corresponded to RackNine.

There is a restaurant in Guelph named Pierre’s Poutine.

The documents show that several other numbers associated with Conservative candidate Marty Burke’s campaign called RackNine during the campaign. The contact person was given as Andrew Prescott, Burke’s deputy campaign manager.

Prescott, who swears he had no role in the fraudulent calls, reportedly called RackNine on election day to send out a mass call warning Conservative supporters to disregard bogus calls.

The records show that 31 calls to RackNine were made from phones associated with the campaign between March 26 and May 5.

Matthews used phone records to trace all phone numbers from Eastern Canada to RackNine during the election period. He found 40 calls from area code 613 — the Ottawa area — which he found traced back to voice recordings for Rebecca Rogers and Chris Ruge or Ruger of the Conservative Party.

Matthews also found three calls to RackNine from a number for the constituency office of Conservative MP and associate defence minister Julian Fantino, 27 calls from Peace River MP Chris Warkentin. There were also nine calls two days before the election from the Conservative Party association in Okanagan-Coquihalla, the British Columbia riding of Conservative MP Dan Albas.

Continue reading here.

Syria's referendum: Real change or games?

Syrian has announced overwhelming approval for its new constitution, after a referendum. But the nationwide vote was not well received by all. Inside Story asks: Is this referendum on a new constitution for Syria a real change or is it a sham?

General Electric tax rate: 2.3 percent

The Huffington Post:

A new analysis of the mega-corporation's tax filings shows that 2.3 percent of GE's pre-tax profits have gone to the federal government since 2002. That bears repeating: GE has paid an average tax rate of just 2.3 percent over the past decade, according to an analysis by the non-profit advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice.

If you'll think back to your high school math classes, you'll recall that 2.3 percent is less than 35 percent. That means GE is paying well below the top marginal corporate tax rate of 35 percent -- the same tax rate that business leaders, politicians and conservative commentators have repeatedly deplored as high enough to impede economic growth.

The analysis adds ups GE's profit in the years since 2002, which come to more than $81 billion, and sets it against the company's tax history over the same period.

Continue reading here.

Wikileaks exposes private intelligence firm Stratfor

Democracy Now!:

The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun publishing what it says are 5.5 million emails obtained from the servers of Stratfor, a private U.S.-based intelligence-gathering firm known to some as a "shadow CIA" for corporations and government agencies. The emails were reportedly obtained by the hackers group, Anonymous. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the files implicate some of the world’s largest firms in corporate espionage. Firms with ties to Stratfor include Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, and sectors of the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Coke asked Stratfor to keep tabs on the protest plans of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories based on the material. They will come out in the next coming days and weeks," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesperson who has been a key member of the project to release the Stratfor emails. "What we were doing yesterday was introducing the project, the nature of Stratfor and how they operate and their ties."

Deadly Protests over U.S. Koran Burning

Democracy Now!:

The U.S.-led NATO occupation in Afghanistan is facing a storm of violence and outrage over the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. troops at the Bagram Air Base last week. Retaliatory attacks and public protests have swept Afghanistan, leaving more than 40 Afghans dead. On Sunday, six U.S. soldiers were injured in northern Afghanistan when a demonstrator threw a grenade at a U.S. base. Two senior U.S. Army officers were shot dead on Friday inside the Afghan Interior Ministry. In private, U.S. officials are expressing worry about the situation in Afghanistan. We go to Kabul to speak with John Wendle, a reporter for TIME and photographer for Polaris Images. "I think we’re going to continue to see attacks," Wendle says. "[This] makes it difficult for the United States to pull out and achieve the one goal that it’s kind of set for itself, which is training the Afghan security forces so they can stand on their own two feet and provide security in this country."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Conservative scripts misdirected voters in election

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — Callers on behalf of the federal Conservative Party were instructed in the days before last year’s election to read scripts telling voters that Elections Canada had changed their voting locations, say telephone operators who worked for a Thunder Bay-based call centre.

These weren’t “robo-calls,” as automated pre-recorded voice messages as commonly known. They were live real-time calls made into ridings across Canada, the callers say.

In a new twist on new growing allegations of political “dirty tricks,” three former employees of RMG — Responsive Marketing Group Inc.’s call centre in Thunder Bay — told the Star about the scripts.

However, one employee was so concerned that something was amiss she says she reported it to her supervisor at the RMG site, to the RCMP office in Thunder Bay and to a toll-free Elections Canada number at the time.

Annette Desgagné, 46, said it became clear to her — after so many people complained that the “new” voting locations made no sense or were “way the hell across town” — that the live operators were, in fact, misdirecting voters.

“We’re sending people to the wrong place,” Desgagné recalled telling her supervisor.

Continue reading here.

Fight gets closer to heart of Syrian government

The effect of Syria's uprising is becoming more and more evident in the capital, Damascus. Hundreds of plainclothes police roam the city's neighbourhoods, ready to disperse and arrest gathering crowds. Power outages are common and queues for petrol go on for miles. The fight is getting closer to the heart of the Syrian government. People who live in Damascus have been telling Al Jazeera of the daily battle they face just to stay alive.

Where are the women?

Democracy Now!:

In a dramatic scene on Capitol Hill, several Democrats walked out of a congressional hearing on the Obama administration’s rule that would require health insurance plans, including those provided by Catholic-affiliated hospitals and universities, to offer free contraceptives for health-related issues and birth control. The lawmakers took action after the committee chair blocked testimony from a female witness who supports the mandate. We’re joined by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who walked out of the hearing, and the witness who was barred from testifying, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Georgetown is a Catholic university whose health plan does not cover contraception.


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The investigation is getting closer to Scott Walker and as Walter Cronkite once said in 1972 about Watergate, "events have been rushing toward one seemingly inevitable conclusion."

Scott Walker must go

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Robocall scandal: live calls in 14 election ridings

A Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen investigation based on interviews with dozens of campaign workers has identified 14 ridings — mostly closely fought electoral districts in southern Ontario — where electors reported receiving fake live calls.

The National Post:

An analysis of reports of mysterious harassing phone calls during the May 2011 election points to the existence of a systematic voter suppression campaign targeting Liberal voters in tightly contested ridings.

Unlike the pre-recorded “robocalls” now under investigation by Elections Canada, these calls came from live callers, likely working from a call centre.

A Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen investigation based on interviews with dozens of campaign workers has identified 14 ridings — mostly closely fought electoral districts in southern Ontario — where electors reported receiving fake live calls.

Many received calls in the middle of the night from callers claiming they represented the local Liberal candidate.

Jewish voters in two ridings complained of receiving repeated phone calls at meal time on the Saturday Sabbath. In another riding where the Liberal candidate was of Pakistani heritage, some said the callers mimicked a South Asian accent.

People who received the calls report that the callers would phone repeatedly, irritating the recipients, and then speak to them rudely.

Volunteers on local Liberal campaigns, often amateurs, were confused when they received complaints from supporters, and the party did not counter the tactics or record instances in a systematic way.

Whoever was organizing the calls appears to have been working from lists of Liberal supporters, which could have been compiled through voter-identification calls that all the parties use.

The Conservatives are particularly adept at tracking voters in every riding using a centralized database called CIMS (Constituent Information Management System), with the name and numbers of identified Conservative supporters and opponents alike. Local campaigns are given access to CIMS.

Continue reading here.

Syrian activists mobilise in Assad's power base

As the Syrian uprising nears its one year anniversary, the calls for change are getting ever closer to the government's power base in Damascus. In this exclusive reports, activists discuss how they are risking it all to work to mobilise the pro-democracy movement in the capital.

Don’t tell us it’s not a class war

Police in riot gear descend on an anti-austerity protest outside the Greek parliament in Athens on Feb. 19, 2012.

Gerald Caplan, Opinion, The Globe and Mail:

The entire world seems to be one huge advertisement for The Shock Doctrine. Naomi Klein showed in her revelatory book how the corporate-political-military-media complex exploits crises to further impose their harsh right-wing agenda – even when they themselves created the crisis. In a sane world, the economic meltdown and deep recession of the past four years would have led at minimum to stringent regulation of financiers and speculators plus programs to assist their victims. But in this world, you have to be nuts to believe in a sane world.

In reality, everything that’s happened in the past several years has gone to further empower and enrich the 1 per cent (or maybe the 5 per cent) at the expense of the rest of us. Look anywhere you want. What else does the universal demand for austerity programs mean? What else does the sudden concerted attack on public sector workers mean? What else does the intransigent line taken by multinational corporations against their unions mean? What else does the demand for “right-to-work” laws mean? What else does the widespread attack on seniors’ pensions mean?

Look at poor Greece. Ms. Klein could have invented it as a pure case study for her thesis. Big economic problems, it’s true. So how do you fix them? As a Greek journalist wrote matter-of-factly in The New York Times, the latest bailout program imposed by the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank “almost guarantees recession.” And this will be on top of the punishment that had already been inflicted on the 99 per cent, including deep cuts to private-sector wages, layoffs in the civil service and significant reductions in health and social security.

At least 21 per cent of Greeks are unemployed. Yet the thumbscrews are to be tightened once again: more austerity, more spending cuts, eliminating another 20 per cent of all government jobs and slashing the minimum wage by another 22 per cent. All this, in a country in its fifth year of recession.

Spain is not far behind, collapsing under the same burden of salvation. The economy’s contracting, unemployment has soared; 350,000 newly out of work, giving a jobless rate of 22.8 per cent, including almost half of all young Spaniards. These are staggering figures. In Britain too, David Cameron’s punishing economic strategy had led to a shrinking economy.

How exactly ordinary Greeks and Spaniards and Brits will endure, get by, pay for their rent or groceries or transportation, or offer their kids a hopeful life – this has become the greatest question of the early 21st century.

Continue reading here.

Red Cross negotiates Homs evacuations

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it's negotiating with the Syrian government to evacuate injured from the city of Homs and provide urgent medical aid. The local partner of the organisation, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, says it evacuated 27 people on Friday. But some activists say they don't trust the aid group. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports.

Conservative involvement in robocall scandal

Matt Meier, bottom left, is president and CEO of Racknine Inc. Illegal 'robocalls' that gave misinformation to voters about their polling stations have been traced to the company, which has links to the Tories, by Elections Canada. Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae claimed Stephen Harper must share some of the responsibility for the scandal.

Andrew Coyne, Opinion, The National Post:

Here is a list of some of the things we do not know about the Robocon scandal (for those just joining us, the use of live or automated “robocalls” to harass or deceive — con — voters in certain ridings during the last election). We do not know whether the calls were made by members of the Conservative party. We do not know whether any Conservative authorized them, or even knew about them. We do not know whether anyone was prevented from voting, or had their vote changed, as a result, nor do we know whether the results of any riding were affected.

But my God, what we know is disturbing enough. There were not a few calls: there were thousands. They did not occur in one or two ridings: there were at least 18 of them, scattered across the country. In all but one the race was viewed as being between a Conservative and a Liberal, and in every one the calls were made to Liberal supporters. (The NDP now claims to have found nine ridings in which its own supporters received similar calls. These remain to be verified.) In some cases voters were given false information on where to vote by someone pretending to represent Elections Canada. In others, they were annoyed or insulted by calls purporting to come from the Liberal party.

There isn’t any doubt that this was election fraud; whoever did it, if caught, is almost certainly facing jail time. In the particular case of the riding of Guelph, Ont., as reported by Postmedia’s Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, Elections Canada investigators have traced the calls to an Edmonton-based “voice-broadcast” company, RackNine, that has done work for a number of Conservative politicians, including Stephen Harper — though the calls were apparently made through it rather than by it. Elections Canada believes it knows the identity of the caller. One agency email obtained by Postmedia refers to “Conservative campaign office communications with electors.” Another warns: “This one is far more serious. They have actually disrupted the voting process.”

So, no, we do not know for a fact that the calls came from anyone acting on the authority of the Conservative party. But, well, let’s say it fits a pattern — if not of outright lawbreaking then certainly of close-to-the-wind tactics and ends-justify-the-means ethics. The “in and out” affair may not have been the scandal many, including Elections Canada, thought it was, but it hardly spoke of a robust commitment to honesty and fair play. The deceptive calls to voters in Irwin Cotler’s riding of Mount Royal are a still closer precedent. It is not implausible that somebody connected with the party would have taken their cues as to what was considered appropriate behaviour, and run with it.

But who? It beggars belief that local campaign workers in 18 different ridings could have separately hit upon the same scam, or carried it out without the knowledge of anyone outside the riding. The notion that the whole thing could be put down to one over-zealous young campaign worker, as some are putting about, is even less credible. Whoever did this would not only have to have the capacity to organize and fund a national robocalling operation. They would also have to have the lists of names and phone numbers to call. Such information would be closely held with respect to the party’s own supporters. But how many people in the party would have access to lists of Liberal supporters? And how did they get them?

Continue reading here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It’s up to McGuinty to save Toronto from Ford

It’s up to Premier Dalton McGuinty to take control of the transit file to save Toronto from itself. The ball’s in his court.

Christopher Hume, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

As Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has made humiliatingly clear, cities — this one, anyway — are not just dysfunctional, but incompetent.

The ritual firing of TTC chief general manager Gary Webster this week was a case in point: The five Ford minions who did His Worship’s dirty work at the commission didn’t know the first thing about what they were doing. In the end, they couldn’t even appoint Webster’s 2IC, Australian Andy Byford, acting chief general manager because his work permit doesn’t allow it.

That’s why it’s up to Premier Dalton McGuinty to take control of the transit file to save Toronto from itself. The ball’s in his court.

Cheaper and more efficient, surface light rail transit is the way to go, the experts tell us. Subways are nice, but cost three times as much. Ontario, let alone Toronto, is economically strung out, lurching from crisis to crisis, its credit rating hanging by a thread.

Given that the province is covering the $8.4 billion price tag of Toronto’s transit expansion, it will want to ensure we get the biggest bang for its buck. In Ford’s scheme, the Eglinton LRT would run underground from end to end, adding $2 billion to the cost, money that could be better spent elsewhere on Sheppard or Finch.

Ford’s rigid insistence that all new transit go below grade makes so little sense, it provoked an unprecedented council revolt led by his chosen TTC chair, Karen Stintz. She persuaded council to bury Ford’s plan in favour of hers, which would run partly above and below the street.

Ford’s response, nasty, brutish and petulant, was to brand council “irrelevant” and fire Webster “without cause.”

Continue reading here.

Indiana workers fighting back

David Itkin, Candidate for Delegate - the 99% Declaration, joins Thom Hartmann. Workers in Indiana are fighting back against the state's new Right to Work for less law. How does their battle translate to the newest offshoot of the Occupy movement? Plus - Just how much support do the 99% have within the Occupy Movement?

Canadian aboriginals sue over chemical pollution

One indigenous community has launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government and the petrochemical company SunCor for failing to prevent pollution that has has taken a severe toll on their environment and health. The community of Ammjiwnang, located in the centre of Canada's largest concentration of chemical industries around the Great Lakes, says that it has also seen rising asthma and cancer rates most likely linked to air pollution, which the World Health Organisation says is higher in the area than anywhere else in the country. The Ammjiwnang also say the pollution has caused genetic distortions in wildlife populations in the area. Daniel Lak reports from the port town of Sarnia.

Ex-Wall Streeters defend Volcker Rule

Democracy Now!:

The latest offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy the SEC, has submitted a 325-page comment to the Securities and Exchange Commission that calls on regulators to resist the financial industry’s lobbying efforts to water down the Volcker Rule, a section in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that aims to prevent large banks from making certain kinds of risky, speculative investments. The group is made up of former Wall Street professionals who once worked at many of the largest financial firms in the industry. We’re joined by Alexis Goldstein, who worked as a computer programmer for seven years at Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. She left Wall Street in 2010 and joined the Occupy Wall Street movement soon after the encampment began. "Banks shouldn’t behave like a hedge fund," Goldstein says. "Hedge funds are there to make money and take risky bets, and their clients tend to be these really wealthy clients. And the Volcker Rule sort of says, 'Well, wait a minute. These big banks that enjoy all this government support shouldn't be in that business."

Rob Ford rebuked by province over transit

The Toronto Star:

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford must accept his limited powers and work with city council on the $8.4 billion TTC expansion plan, warns Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli.

While Chiarelli insisted Friday he was “not going to comment on the mayor’s performance” over Toronto’s transit-funding debacle, he delivered a stern lecture to Ford.

While Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet previously endorsed Ford’s proposal for an extension of the Sheppard subway and a longer tunnel on the east end of the Eglinton LRT, that scheme was defeated 25-18 by city council two week ago.

Instead, councillors essentially revived the 2009 Transit City plan of former mayor David Miller, which would expand street-level light-rail route on Finch Ave. W., and on Eglinton east of Laird Dr. But the Eglinton line would still be underground from about Jane St. to Laird.

The memorandum of agreement between the province, Metrolinx and the City of Toronto says any transit plans are subject to approval by the governing bodies of each party. In Toronto’s case, this would be city council.

Stung by that defeat, Ford this week used his allies on the Toronto Transit Commission to fire TTC chief general manager Gary Webster, an LRT booster, without cause. That could cost taxpayers $560,000 in severance.

A long-time former Ottawa mayor, Chiarelli reminded Ford that Ontario does not have a strong-mayor system seen in major U.S. cities.

“In Ontario, council is supreme. Council makes the decisions and the mayor’s role is to demonstrate leadership, demonstrate consensus-building, be able to move with public,” the minister said.

“The best mayors are ones that can be facilitative in nature, because they do not have the power. No mayor in Ottawa or Kitchener or the city of Toronto can do things on their own. They need endorsement from council,” he said.

“That’s the reality. That’s the difficulty and challenge of being a mayor in Ontario — that you’ve got to build consensus, you’ve got to be able to get the votes at council. That’s your job — to lead by building consensus and moving forward. That’s the type of system we have.”

Continue reading here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conservative voter suppression scandal

Vancouver Observer:

With their narrow 10-seat majority in Parliament, the Conservative Party is facing its most significant scandal since the 2011 election, after Elections Canada began an investigation into thousands of illegal 'robo-calls' traced to a Conservative-tied firm in Alberta. You could call it 'Robo-Gate'.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) alleged in a press conference today that it might have won the 2011 election had "dirty tricks" not been used to prevent NDP, Liberal and Bloc Quebecois voters from exercising their democratic rights. At a press conference in Ottawa today, Winnipeg NDP Member of Parliament Pat Martin called it “the largest electoral fraud in Canadian history.”

The scandal emerged after the Ottawa Citizen revealed that Elections Canada had traced automatic, pre-recorded phone calls – dubbed 'robo-calls' – to a firm used extensively by the Conservatives during the 2011 election, Edmonton-based RackNine Inc. The calls, made to at least 18 key swing ridings across the country, sent opposition voters to false voting stations and impersonated Liberal campaigners with offensive calls.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections reported to Parliament he has opened an investigation into “crank calls designed to discourage voting, discourage voting for a particular party, or incorrectly advise electors of changed polling locations.”

One example of a robo-call pretended to be from Elections Canada, as quoted in the Ottawa Citizen:

From 450-760-7746. Received May 2 at 10:12 a.m.

This is an automated message from Elections Canada. Due to a projected increase in voter turnout, your poll location has been changed. You new voting location is at the Old Quebec Street Mall at 55 Wyndham Street North. Once again, your new poll location is the Old Quebec Street Mall at 55 Wyndham Street North. If you have any questions, please call our hotline at 1-800-434-4456. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Continue reading here.

Oil prices skyrocket...the speculators are back

Richard Eskow, Campaign for America's, Future joins Thom Hartmann. Demand for oil is at a 15 year low - but oil prices are still sky high. If demand isn't driving the price - then what is?

Inside Story: Wall Street in the White House?

US public anger toward bankers is high since the 2008 financial crisis but the industry is still playing a big role in the presidential race. Is it always Wall Street that wins? Guests: Ford O'Connell, Bob Biersack, Richard Wolff.

Minimum wage could be lowered in Arizona, Florida

The Huffington Post:

Washington - Republican lawmakers in Arizona are pushing legislation that would lower the legal minimum wage for younger part-time workers and tipped workers such as restaurant servers, just as Florida lawmakers are considering dropping their state's tipped rate as well.

In both cases, proponents of the measures are arguing that the wage floor for such employees is too onerous on businesses.

The Arizona proposal, HCR 2056, would amend state law so that an employer could pay a teenage worker $3 less than the current minimum wage per hour if the worker is employed either part-time or on a temporary basis. The Arizona minimum wage is currently $7.65 -- forty cents more than the federal rate -- meaning that many teenagers could end up being paid $4.65 per hour if voters approve the proposal in a ballot initiative later this year.

An amendment to the legislation would also cut the minimum wage that employers must pay tipped employees by more than $2 per hour. The minimum wage for servers and other tipped workers in Arizona is currently $4.65. If a worker's tips don't add up to the normal minimum wage of $7.65, the employer must cover the difference -- a stipulation that would not change with the legislation.

Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, argues that the measure would simply let employers save money at workers' expense.

"We believe that many people in the legislature, from both sides of the aisle, once they understand what it's about will not be supportive of this," says Templin. "It really is a pretty despicable idea."

Continue reading here.

Harper on two-tier health care: "good idea"

On CBC's Sunday Report in 1997, Stephen Harper says that a parallel private health care system would be a good idea. (Check out Harper's sincere grin.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nash encouraged by polls, NDP membership soars

Kamloops Daily News:

A week before New Democrats start voting, candidate Peggy Nash remains confident she can beat six others to become the new leader of the official Opposition.

“There were two polls released last week that show me in No. 2 position, and that’s likely to grow with a little support,” Nash said on a visit to Kamloops on Tuesday.

Both of those polls were internal, produced by the camps of fellow candidates Thomas Mulcair and Paul Dewar.

Mulcair’s poll showed Nash trailing him in first place by 14 percentage points. Nash was the favoured second choice at 25 per cent. Dewar’s poll also suggested Mulcair is leading, but indicated Nash might give him a run for his money. Given a second choice, Nash is slightly behind Dewar in first place.

Naturally the poll results are widely disputed. Either way, pundits say Nash, a seasoned labour negotiator before she entered politics in 2006, is not to be underestimated.

“We need to build in Quebec and we need to break through in the rest of Canada,” she said on the steps of City Hall. “I’ve been gaining tremendous support in the province of Quebec, but what we need to do is also work with Ontario and we need to build in the West. I don’t think only one group is important in selecting a leader.”

Since the outcome is unlikely to be decided on the first ballot, it’s conceivable Nash could come up the middle and win, gaining momentum from a ballot rivalry between Mulcair and Topp.

Continue reading here.

Foreign journalists killed in Homs shelling

Two foreign journalists have been killed in Homs, activists say, as shelling of a district of the Syrian city continued amid warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis. Omar Shakir, an activist in the city, told Al Jazeera that the deaths of Marie Colvin, a US reporter working for the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik occurred as a building used by activists as a media centre was shelled on Wednesday. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports.

Drummond-style restraint: Ontario’s Greek tragedy

Spain has been the scene of dozens of protests, like this one Monday in Valencia against education budget cuts and government austerity measures.

Thomas Walkom, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

For Ontario, the real lesson from Greece is not the danger of debt. It is the danger of overreacting to that debt.

This is not how the debate is usually framed. The standard argument, articulated most recently by Liberal government adviser Don Drummond (and repeated Tuesday by Premier Dalton McGuinty), is that debt and deficit will career out of control unless public spending is dramatically curbed.

The crises in Spain, Portugal and Greece occurred because government spending cuts designed to remedy debt problems sent those countries spinning into economic decline.

Throughout much of Europe, measures aimed at reducing debt have created a self-reinforcing spiral of doom.

Government workers are laid off to save money, which leads to higher unemployment. Higher unemployment reduces tax revenues, thereby widening fiscal deficits. Governments are forced to borrow more to cover these shortfalls, thus increasing debt.

If we assume, as Drummond seems to, that the U.S. economy will never fully recover and that the price of oil (and therefore the loonie) will stay perpetually high, then Ontario’s economy will remain precarious.

In this scenario, “unprecedented” spending cuts of the kind Drummond recommends would be the worst possible action.

It would be far better for Queen’s Park to undertake a less ambitious debt reduction scheme, even if doing so caused the government to miss its 2018 target date for balancing the budget.

Spain’s austerity regime has led to a youth unemployment rate of 50 per cent. Greece’s has led to rioting in the streets. Ontario doesn’t need either.

Continue reading here.

5 million people - wiped off the voter rolls

The Democratic Governor of Minnesota - Mark Dayton - vetoed a voter ID law last year - but the millionaires and billionaires are trying to get it passed as a ballot measure now in November. If successful - Minnesota will join eight other states who've passed or strengthened voter ID laws in just the last year - from Kansas - to Mississippi - to Rhode Island - to Wisconsin - to Alabama - to South Carolina - to Tennessee - to Texas. According to the Brennan Center for Justice - more than 5 million eligible voters will be disenfranchised this election thanks to these new laws. And those are mostly minorities, the poor, the elderly, and college students - mostly people who'd vote for Democrats and support stronger middle class policies. 5 million people - wiped off the voter rolls. This is an all-out assault on our democracy - and it's all happening under the radar of the mainstream media.

Conservative cuts could tip Canada into recession

The Ottawa Citizen:

Ottawa — The Conservative government could tip Canada into a recession if it reduces federal spending by up to $8 billion, says an analysis by the union representing government economists and social scientists.

Claude Poirier, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said that if the Conservatives press ahead with spending reductions of $8 billion by 2014-15, Canada’s gross domestic product will fall by more than $10 billion and draw an embattled economy into a recession.

The results of the spending and operational spending review that will be announced in the upcoming budget have been kept under wraps under the guise of cabinet secrecy. With few details about the cuts, unions and other organizations have been struggling to estimate the job losses and their ripple effect on the Canadian economy.

CAPE launched its study months ago to get a handle on the economic impact of the government’s spending cuts. It was conducted by economists using data from Statistics Canada, as well as data generated by an economic model used by federal departments and agencies.

The union estimated the reductions could eliminate 116,000 jobs across the country, but it didn’t provide a breakdown of job losses in private and public sectors. It earlier estimated 110,000 jobs could disappear — including 50,000 in the public service — if the government opted for spending reductions of up to $8 billion rather than the $4 billion it was originally targeting. It will be releasing its findings on potential job losses later this month.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dream no little dream: The case for Peggy Nash

Riccardo Filippone,

They said it was just a dream for a woman to rise to the highest executive levels of a national union. Peggy did it. They said it was just a dream for a woman to handle major auto sector negotiations in North America. Peggy did it.

They said it was just a dream for same-sex couples to share employment benefits and for workers to have employer-provided childcare. Peggy bargained those.

They said it was just a dream to turn a Liberal stronghold in Toronto's west end orange at all three levels of government, then reclaim the federal seat from Gerard Kennedy. Peggy did it.

They said it was just a dream for the fourth party's Industry Critic to take on the American military industrial complex and force the government to block the first foreign takeover in Canada's history. In 2008, Peggy did that, too.

They told Jack to stop dreaming about Quebec because we couldn't win there. Look at us now.

People who weave these stories have obviously learned nothing from history. Never underestimate the grassroots of a progressive movement. Never underestimate the wisdom and courage of a united NDP. And never, ever underestimate the tenacity of a woman who has spent a lifetime fighting, building, and leading for change.

Continue reading here.

Uprising from Madison to Wall Street

John Nichols, The Nation Magazine join Thom Hartmann. It's been one year since the uprising in Wisconsin began. Where has the labor movement come since then - and where do we go from here?

Why German labour is respected, US labour isn't

Klaus Barthel, Member of Social Democratic Party and of Parliament of Germany & George Kohl, Communications Workers of America join Thom Hartmann. Workers at T-Mobile USA are threatened and intimidated if they bring up talk of forming a union. How can this be the case when their parent company has union members on its board of directors? Stay tuned...

Red Cross urges ceasefire in Syria

Syrian government forces are said to be bombarding the city of Homs, ignoring calls from the International Committee of Red Cross for a two-hour daily truce to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians trapped by the unremitting violence. Activists say at least 12 people - including 2 children have been killed by artillery fire. Local opposition groups say they have not been consulted, fearing a ceasefire will only give government troops time to organise more attacks. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports.

The Red Cross is negotiating with the Syrian authorities and opposition fighters a ceasefire in the country so it can deliver vital aid. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has requested a daily two-hour truce to deliver medical supplies to Syrians who need help. Meanwhile, the situation in Damascus is escalating. Activists say security forces have opened fire overnight on demonstrators, injuring at least four people. Al Jazeera's Khadija Magardie reports.

Palestinian to be freed after 66-day hunger strike

Democracy Now!:

Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 66 days. He is being held in Israel without charge or trial. Under the deal, Adnan will be released on April 17. Doctors previously said Adnan was at immediate risk of death. We speak to three guests about his case: his sister, Maali Mousa; Bill Van Esveld, researcher at Human Rights Watch; and Danny Morrison, a friend of the late Irish republican activist Bobby Sands, who died on his 66th day of a hunger strike in 1981. "[Adnan] told us that, 'I am going on this hunger strike until I have an honorable deal or getting out from this jail,'" said Mousa about her recent visit to see her brother. "But in the same time, his spirits were very high." Van Esveld accused Israel of violating international law by holding a Palestinian from the West Bank inside Israel. "It’s a violation of Israel’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to detain people from the occupied West Bank in prisons, or hospitals, in this case, that are inside Israel," he said.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Efforts under way to restore Babylon's glory

The whims of a dictator, war, and salt water erosion have all contributed to the deterioration of one of the wonders of the ancient world in Iraq.

Babylon, built 2,600 years ago, suffered under the weight of Saddam Hussein's 1980s emulation of King Nebuchadnezzar, building his own palace on top of Babylon's north palace. The weight of modern stones, concrete, and erosion caused by new salt water canals near the ancient palace have caused great damage to the site.

The structural and environmental impact of Saddam's palace coupled with poor attempts at restoration twice kept Babylon from being recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.

During the US occupation, the ancient city was home to US and Polish troops whose trucks and helicopters further damaged the one-time centre of astronomy, science, and culture.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reports from Baghdad on efforts to restore this wonder of the ancient world.

Germany: twice as many cars, worker pay than US

A BMW assembly plant in Leipzig, Germany.


In 2010, Germany produced more than 5.5 million automobiles; the U.S produced 2.7 million. At the same time, the average auto worker in Germany made $67.14 per hour in salary in benefits; the average one in the U.S. made $33.77 per hour. Yet Germany’s big three car companies—BMW, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), and Volkswagen—are very profitable.

How can that be? The question is explored in a new article from Remapping Debate, a public policy e-journal. Its author, Kevin C. Brown, writes that “the salient difference is that, in Germany, the automakers operate within an environment that precludes a race to the bottom; in the U.S., they operate within an environment that encourages such a race.”

There are “two overlapping sets of institutions” in Germany that guarantee high wages and good working conditions for autoworkers. The first is IG Metall, the country’s equivalent of the United Automobile Workers. Virtually all Germany’s car workers are members, and though they have the right to strike, they “hardly use it, because there is an elaborate system of conflict resolution that regularly is used to come to some sort of compromise that is acceptable to all parties,” according to Horst Mund, an IG Metall executive. The second institution is the German constitution, which allows for “works councils” in every factory, where management and employees work together on matters like shop floor conditions and work life. Mund says this guarantees cooperation, “where you don’t always wear your management pin or your union pin.”

Mund points out that this goes

against all mainstream wisdom of the neo-liberals. We have strong unions, we have strong social security systems, we have high wages. So, if I believed what the neo-liberals are arguing, we would have to be bankrupt, but apparently this is not the case. Despite high wages . . . despite our possibility to influence companies, the economy is working well in Germany.

Continue reading here.

A mean town just got a whole lot meaner

Tim Harper, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

Toews bears some of the responsibility for this toxic pall that hangs over the capital. He is a bombastic, partisan attack dog who moonlights as a minister of the Crown.

He, and too many of his cabinet colleagues, show no hesitation in questioning the patriotism of their critics in the Commons.

They accuse them of not supporting the troops if they question the F-35 purchase, accuse them of being an enemy of law-abiding Canadians if they question the gutting of the long gun registry data.

But Toews slithered under his own bar last week with his rejoinder to a Liberal critic, telling him if he didn’t back the government’s bill he would be backing child pornographers.

Even in the minister’s comic book world of white hats versus black hats, that comment was one of the most foolish ever uttered in this or any Parliamentary session in memory.

Continue reading here.

Icelandic anger brings debt forgiveness

A cyclist passes an Icelandic national flag hanging in a popular shopping street in Reykjavik, Iceland.


Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.

“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” said Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.

Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn.

Once it became clear back in October 2008 that the island’s banks were beyond saving, the government stepped in, ring-fenced the domestic accounts, and left international creditors in the lurch. The central bank imposed capital controls to halt the ensuing sell-off of the krona and new state-controlled banks were created from the remnants of the lenders that failed.

Continue reading here.

Sh*t Rick Santorum says: "I'm a bigot"

Visit or to see more of the crazy sh*t that Rick Santorum says.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stop corporate tax giveaways! Take action now!

Canadian Labour Congress:

Successive federal governments promised that companies would create jobs if corporate taxes were reduced. From 2000 to 2011 the corporate tax rate was slashed from 28% to 16.5%. As of January 1, 2012 it fell another 1.5% to 15%. What's been the value to Canadians?

A major CLC study "What did Corporate Tax Cuts Deliver?" shows that big businesses aren't creating jobs, investing in equipment, machinery or developing the skills of their workers. What corporations are doing is hoarding cash, paying out increased dividends to shareholders, and beefing up CEO paycheques.

Big businesses are now sitting on $500 billion in cash assets. But Canadians are paying the price. To fund the corporate tax giveaways, the federal government is borrowing money and cutting back on the public services Canadians need - like food inspection, or staff to deal with Employment Insurance claims from workers who have lost their jobs.

Let Finance Minister Jim Flaherty know he's got his priorities for the next budget all wrong. Instead of cutting the public services Canadians need, make big businesses give us back our money. Instead of job-destroying cuts, reverse the corporate tax giveaways.

Send this letter to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Sign the petition and continue reading here.

Inside Story: US 2012 - Attacking the unions

Mitt Romney goes on the offensive as the Republican nomination race returns to the US industrial heartland. But is this a vote-winner and what role will unions play in the election? Jason Johnson, JP Friere and Chris Townsend discuss.

Bill C-10: Harper Government Omnibus Crime Bill

To contact the Canadian Senate, go to:

Senate phone toll-free (Canada): 1-866-599-4999
Senate phone (Local Ottawa): 1-613-992-4793

75th anniversary of victorious UAW strike at GM

Striking autoworkers read in General Motors' Fisher Body Plant No. 1 in Flint during the winter strike of 1937. The fledgling United Auto Workers won its first national contract with GM in what became known as the Flint sit-down strike.

The Detroit News:

Strike veterans recall effort that sparked labor movement

Flint — In February 1937, Geraldine Blankinship was a vivacious 17-year-old in a red beret and cape, dodging police and company thugs to get food to her father and thousands of other striking auto workers occupying General Motors Co.'s Fisher No. 1 body plant and other nearby factories.

Today, the United Auto Workers will mark the 75th anniversary of the victory they won over GM — a victory that forced the company to sign the first national contract with the union and sparked the growth of the U.S. labor movement. It is a victory that Blankinship and other veterans of what became known as the Flint Sit-Down Strike say is as important in 2012 as it was in 1937.

Instead of picking up picket signs, they were going to sit down and refuse to move. It was a move aimed at keeping GM from bringing in strikebreakers or moving the equipment to another factory.
Farmers were excused so they could go home and tend their animals, but Wiecorek and the rest stayed in the factory. When the company cut off the heat, they fired up the big oven in the paint shop and huddled around it. Their wives and daughters formed the Women's Emergency Brigade to smuggle food to the strikers and carry picket signs outside.

Continue reading here.

Occupy Toronto & Steelworker flash mob

The United Steelworkers (USW) and Occupy Toronto join forces to highlight the Bank of Montreal's role in prolonging one of the longest strikes in Toronto history.

USW Fighting Back Against Infinity Rubber:

Occupy Toronto:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Counting the Cost - Is Capitalism bankrupt?

With a world-wide financial crisis, towering government debt and the public outrage of the 99 per cent it is suggested that the free market is not free enough. Is capitalism in fact bankrupt?

Toews surprised by content of surveillance bill

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.


Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he is surprised to learn that a section of the government's online surveillance bill provides for "exceptional circumstances" under which "any police officer" can request customer information from a telecommunications service provider.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Toews said his understanding of the bill is that police can only request information from the ISPs where they are conducting "a specific criminal investigation."

But Section 17 of the 'Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act' outlines "exceptional circumstances" under which "any police officer" can ask an ISP to turn over personal client information.

"I'd certainly like to see an explanation of that," Toews told host Evan Solomon after a week of public backlash against Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information without a warrant.

"This is the first time that I'm hearing this somehow extends ordinary police emergency powers [to telecommunications]. In my opinion, it doesn't. And it shouldn't."

Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's Privacy Commissioner, has taken issue not only with the remarks made by Toews last Monday but with the name of the bill itself, characterising it as "disingenuous."

In an interview airing Saturday on The House, Cavoukian told Solomon "it's unfortunate because it shows how weak the government's case is."

"My guess is the reason they are doing this is because they don't have a strong case and in order to engage the public and their support, they have to make it about the protection of our children.

"It's nonsense."

According to Cavoukian, the proposed bill would create "a mandatory surveillance regime."

Continue reading here.

McGuinty using Drummond: historic service cuts


Toronto - Average Ontarians will pay the price for Don Drummond's radical austerity agenda if the McGuinty government implements his recommendations in next month's budget, says Fred Hahn, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.

"It is hard to believe the McGuinty government takes the vast majority of these recommendations seriously," said Hahn. "If they do, they are clearly deviating from their campaign platform, and are going to make average Ontarians pay for a banker's ideas with drastic cuts to public services and a host of new user fees."

The Drummond Report seems to exist to create fear and prepare the public for deeper cuts than Ontario saw under the Mike Harris government.

"It exists to provide cover for a McGuinty austerity agenda that will do nothing to create jobs or grow Ontario's economy," says Hahn.

Yesterday's release of the Report by the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services, headed by former TD Bank economist Don Drummond, sent shockwaves across the province. Built on an intentionally pessimistic economic outlook, it contains more than 360 recommendations for radical cuts and privatization of public services.

Drummond told CUPE Ontario in December that McGuinty's mandate for the commission precluded any examination of sensible and widely supported ideas for revenue generation, such as rolling back corporate and bank tax breaks. Despite that restriction, yesterday's report does recommend hiking hydro rates, water rates and even user fees for school buses.

"If Drummond couldn't consider ideas like taxing corporations and banks, why does his report include taking more money from the pockets of average Ontarians through more user fees?" asked Hahn. "It seems like the whole report is an ironic call by one of Canada's top bankers to make everyone but the rich pay."

Continue reading here.

No time for austerity, NDP tells Flaherty

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — The Conservatives have signalled that the 2012 budget, expected in the last week of March, will mark an abrupt switch by Ottawa from extensive economic pump-priming to an era of pronounced belt-tightening and cutbacks.

But the NDP, which held a pre-budget consultation with Flaherty on Thursday, says the Conservatives are making a mistake to withdraw stimulus from the economy when growth is stalled and 1.4 million Canadians are without work.

“I’m certainly hoping the government is going to think twice about bringing in a type of austerity budget that will compound the economic problems that we’re going through, lead to further job loss and make it even more difficult for Canadian families,” NDP finance critic Peter Julian said after meeting with Flaherty.

“For families that are dealing with record levels of debt to go through a government-provoked worsening of the economic situation would not be a smart or responsible move.”

The Harper government has announced plans to cap federal government health-care cash transfers to the provinces after 2016, scale back Old Age Security for future retirees and bring about the largest cuts in federal government spending in recent times — probably between $4 billion and $8 billion a year.

Instead, Julian and NDP trade critic Robert Chisholm offered Flaherty a “practical and affordable” job-creation proposal based on support for small businesses and tax breaks for companies that hire more workers.

The NDP would also like to see a reversal of corporate income tax cuts, a reduction in spending on the Prime Minister’s Office and a rejection of the controversial F-35 fighter jet contract, with the purchase of new military planes put out to contract again.

Continue reading here.

Ron Paul's worst newsletters

Incredibly inflammatory excerpts from old newsletters published with Ron Paul's name were recently put together by The New Republic. The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The real victims of the Drummond report’s cuts

Thomas Walkom, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

That the rich will fare best under Drummond is true by definition.

The well-to-do depend less on government programs than the poor and middle class. That is a fact. Drummond’s call for government to roll back the Ontario Child Benefit will hurt poor families who receive the subsidy. It will not affect the rich who do not.

Nor are the wealthy being asked to chip in through higher progressive taxes. Drummond did advocate that some taxes, including those on property and gasoline, be hiked. He even wants a special tax (he calls it a user fee) levied on rural parents who bus their children to school.

But these kinds of regressive taxes hit the poor and middle class proportionally harder than the rich. A surtax on high-income earners could correct that bias. But Premier Dalton McGuinty specifically told Drummond to stay away from such remedies.

In his former life as a bank economist, Drummond routinely calculated the effect of government spending on employment. Yet in this report there is nothing, even though he acknowledges he is proposing cuts on an “unprecedented” scale.

In fact, he appears to assume that the government’s decision to withdraw billions of dollars from the economy will have no effect on gross domestic product and jobs.

Yet if we maintain, as Drummond once did, that government spending does matter, a different picture emerges. Rough calculations, based on his figures and finance department estimates, suggest that the Drummond plan will end up throwing roughly 250,000 additional Ontarians out of work by 2018. Even without another global crisis, that translates into an unemployment rate of about 11 per cent.

Continue reading here.

Inside Story - hooked on Central American drugs

Central American governments have long battled drug gangs and related violence. Is decriminalising drugs a viable solution when the US demand for drugs is the reason the trade is thriving? Guests: John Walsh, Jose Cardenas, Samuel Gonzalez.

Obama's War on Pot

Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone:

Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration's high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi­agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst."

The federal crackdown imperils the medical care of the estimated 730,000 patients nationwide – many of them seriously ill or dying – who rely on state-sanctioned marijuana recommended by their doctors. In addition, drug experts warn, the White House's war on law-abiding providers of medical marijuana will only drum up business for real criminals. "The administration is going after legal dispensaries and state and local authorities in ways that are going to push this stuff back underground again," says Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a former Republican senator who has urged the DEA to legalize medical marijuana, pulls no punches in describing the state of affairs produced by Obama's efforts to circumvent state law: "Utter chaos."

Continue reading here.

Online surveillance bill opens door for Big Brother

Terry Milewski, Analysis, CBC:

Conservative MPs don't usually grumble about Conservative legislation — especially when one of their front-line cabinet ministers has declared that Canadians must "either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

That remarkable statement by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews may have much to do with the anger at his bill — but it hardly accounts for all of it. When his critics described the comment variously as "stupid," "insulting" and "disgusting," Toews at first denied having said it — which, of course, led everyone to replay the tape of him saying it.

But his bill would, in fact, dramatically change the law to allow the government much, much more access to our online lives and identities.

To date, much of the commentary has focused on one aspect of this change: the fact that information identifying internet users must be disclosed to the government, upon demand and without a warrant, by internet service providers, or ISPs. Those facts include your name, address, phone number, email address and IP address — the latter being the unique code identifying your computer so that a webpage you click on is sent to you, not someone else.

In that sense, the bill would definitely change the law on government access, which currently provides for voluntary, not mandatory, disclosure of your identity by ISPs. And, let it be said, the information can be crucial to the police. If an investigator sees a crime on the internet — be it fraud, hate or child pornography — he may be able to get the IP address of the source computer. But that does not reveal whose computer it is. Connecting the number to a name makes all the difference and, under the new law, the officer would be spared the bother of going to a judge and getting a warrant to find that name.

Among other things, the bill requires ISPs to install surveillance technology and software to enable monitoring of phone and internet traffic. Section 34 is there to make sure ISPs comply. So what, exactly, does it say?

Essentially, it says that government agents may enter an ISP when they wish, without a warrant, and demand to see absolutely everything — including all data anywhere on the network — and to copy it all. If that seems hard to believe, let's walk through it.

Continue reading here.

The 'Vajihad' War on Women

Legislation has been introduced to the House of Representatives in Iowa that would completely outlaw abortion and mandate up to life in prison for those who purposefully terminate a pregnancy. This includes cases of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother. In Oklahoma, lawmakers are one step closer to passing the Personhood Act, which gives rights to an individual embryo at the moment of conception, effectively outlawing even birth control. Darrel Issa hosted, a hearing about religious freedom versus health insurance having to cover contraception. But the hearing didn't include any women on the panel, not even a single person who disagreed with the Catholic Church. Feministe's Jill Filipovic discusses.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Scotland to vote on independence in two years

British prime minister urges Scotland, due to vote on an independence referendum in two years time, to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

GM records profit, union workers due $7,000

The Associated Press:

General Motors earned its largest profit ever in 2011, two years after it nearly collapsed into financial ruin.

The 103-year-old company (GM) made $7.6 billion in 2011, up 62% from 2010.

Full-year revenue rose 11% to $105 billion.

North America led the way with a $7.2 billion pretax profit. But problems surfaced that could hurt future earnings. GM lost $700 million before taxes in Europe and lost $100 million in South America.

GM'S fourth-quarter profit was flat with 2010. GM earned $500 million, or 28 cents per share. Revenue rose 3% to $38 billion. Before one-time items, GM earned 40 cents per share

Analysts expected earnings of 42 cents on revenue of $37.9 billion.

GM also said Thursday that its 47,500 blue-collar workers in the U.S. will get $7,000 profit-sharing checks in March. The checks are based on North American performance and are a record for the company.

General Motors said Wednesday that it plans to freeze its U.S. pension plan for longtime white-collar workers and give all salaried employees annual bonuses but not pay raises in an effort to hold down expenses.

Continue reading here.

Glimpse into campaign against climate science

The New York Times:

Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools, the latest indication that climate change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars.

The documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called the Heartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” one document said.

While the documents offer a rare glimpse of the internal thinking motivating the campaign against climate science, defenders of science education were preparing for battle even before the leak. Efforts to undermine climate-science instruction are beginning to spread across the country, they said, and they fear a long fight similar to that over the teaching of evolution in public schools.

But oil interests were nonetheless represented. The documents say that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation contributed $25,000 last year and was expected to contribute $200,000 this year. Mr. Koch is one of two brothers who have been prominent supporters of libertarian causes as well as other charitable endeavors. They control Koch Industries, one of the country’s largest private companies and a major oil refiner.

The documents suggest that Heartland has spent several million dollars in the past five years in its efforts to undermine climate science, much of that coming from a person referred to repeatedly in the documents as “the Anonymous Donor.” A guessing game erupted Wednesday about who that might be

Continue reading here.