Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Canadian economy: Caution ahead

Canada’s economy has given off mixed signals in the first three months of the year, prompting economists to raise a flag of caution for the coming months.

For instance, despite strong auto sales and a blockbuster labour market report from Statistics Canada on Thursday, wholesale trade has dipped, and housing starts were flat across Canada in February.

There are also worries about consumer spending and sky-high household debt levels – reiterated by Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.

Other reasons for caution include the still-simmering sovereign debt crisis in Europe and continuing worries over the U.S. recovery, the latter brought into focus on Friday by a disappointing jobs report.

It will take months before Statistics Canada releases its official report on the country’s gross domestic product for the first quarter.

But so far, the signs suggest the Canadian economy is at a crossroads, said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at the Bank of Montreal.

Man Denied Canadian Citizenship Over Oath Mix-Up

A government official wrongly denied an immigrant his Canadian citizenship because he wrongly believed the man was mouthing the oath of citizenship rather than repeating it out loud, Citizenship and Immigration Canada says.

The mix-up took place at a March 29 ceremony, CIC said in a letter to the CBC's Evan Dyer.

"A citizenship officer at the ceremony determined that the candidate was not articulating the words of the Oath of Citizenship," said CIC spokeswoman Mary Jago.

"Subsequently, it was found that the officer made a mistake in the determination that the oath was not taken. The office has been attempting to contact the candidate to rectify the situation."

The man, whom CBC has not identified, was pulled out of line in front of his family while awaiting his citizenship certificate and was told he would not receive it.

Strict supervision of oath

CIC said the officer made a mistake and the man was not trying to avoid or alter the oath. They are looking for the man but have yet to find him.

The mistake comes after stricter supervision began around swearing loyalty to Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors.

Since December 2011, CIC has been watching to make sure all new Canadians recite the oath verbatim, which includes asking women to remove their veils.

Polls show a majority of Canadians would like to see the oath changed so new Canadians swear loyalty to Canada rather than Queen Elizabeth. Statistics show only five per cent want the oath to remain the same.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: cbc

Don't Tell Me to Calm Down Over Trayvon's Death

"Brute fact is though, Mr. Jones, about 150 black men are killed every week and 94 per cent by other black men."

These words were spoken by George F. Will, a Washington Post columnist and political commentator, on the April 1 episode of ABC's This Week, hosted by George Stephanopoulos. It was during the show's weekly political roundtable discussion. His statement was in reference to the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old black boy shot by the so-called neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman because he feared for his life. The other guests at the roundtable included Ann Coulter, Matt Bai, Terry Moran, and Van Jones, to whom Mr. Will's comments were directed.

Variations of these comments have been spewed out by so-called far right media members and bloggers since this incident hit the news. To me, they seemed far beneath Mr. Will. He's a man with whom I don't always agree, but I consider him a person who puts thought into what he says before he says it. For that reason, I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn't want to think he believes the same as Fox News' Gregg Jarrett when he questioned why black leaders focus on something that is statistically rare, largely ignoring that which is quite common in America, which is black on black crime.

Attawapiskat To Keep Court Date With Federal Government Even After Plan To Withdraw Third-Party Manager

ATTAWAPISKAT, Ont. - The Attawapiskat First Nation says it won't drop legal action against the federal government over the appointment of a third-party manager to handle the band's finances.

That's despite the fact the government announced on Thursday that Jacques Marion is being withdrawn by April 19.

The government indicated Thursday it's satisfied with progress in the management of the reserve.

The band issued a news release Friday saying it welcomes the news, but still intends to proceed with legal action launched last year to try to block Marion's appointment.

The band's news release says it wants the courts to "refute" Prime Minister Stephen Harper's suggestion that the band mismanaged federal funds in the face of a housing crisis.

The community of 2,000 declared a state of emergency last October after a severe housing shortage forced more than two dozen families to live in temporary shelters, some without insulation or plumbing.

The band also wants the federal court to declare that Marion's appointment was unlawful _ a hearing is set for April 24.

NDP in dead heat with Conservatives

It has been a Liberal-Conservative tug-of-war in federal politics since Confederation, but a new poll confirms a shift to a new political split: Conservative-New Democratic Party.

The NDP is now tied with its ideological rival, the Conservative Party, for voter support across Canada even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his troops won a majority government in last year's federal election, the survey conducted for The Gazette and Le Devoir by Léger Marketing reveals.

If an election were held today, the NDP would nab 26 per cent of the vote, compared with 25 per cent for the Conservative Party, the poll of 1,506 Canadian adults shows. That puts the two parties in a statistical tie, the polling firm says.

"It's a very polarized choice," Sébastien Dallaire, research director in public affairs for Léger Marketing, said, adding it's the first time the firm has polled the Conservatives and NDP in a dead heat. The tie confirms a trend in other recent polls by other firms, he added.

"It's not choosing between two different shades of grey, but you definitely have two different colours in front of you." The NDP comes out with 33 per cent of voter intention and the Conservatives with 32 per cent when the percentage of undecided, unwilling to vote and unwilling to answer are distributed among all the parties, the poll finds.

This is Mulcair’s moment

Those vastly premature and gluttonously unnecessary TV ads the always aggressive Tories have run against Bob Rae were wrong in so many different ways that they deserve some kind of inverted prize. They are petty and mean, and they hit out against a dubious target. It is not the Liberals and their temporary king, Mr. Rae, who threaten Mr. Harper and his increasingly sloppy team. It’s the NDP, with their new and encouragingly battle-ready leader, Thomas Mulcair.

The anti-Rae TV barrage did nothing but remind voters that the Harper Conservatives are always on the edge of being angry about something, hardly ever cheerful and never at ease, even now when they have a majority.

The Harperites should be enjoying political nirvana at present. They are kings of the Hill and have decimated their life-long enemies, the Liberals. You’d never guess, looking at the grim faces and drooping heads of the Cabinet this week as they hopelessly tried to unsnarl the F-35 mess.

Mr. Rae, however, has no confusion. He knows that Canadian politics is different now. And he knows it’s the NDP, and particularly its leader, that are the new and challenging factor. The holiday that the NDP race gave the Liberals is over. The Liberals and their (it is to be presumed) interim leader will have to struggle for every morsel of publicity and airtime they can get.

Cutting youth volunteer program a short-sighted move

Picture this: A national volunteer program - kind of a Canadian Peace Corps - that benefits young Canadians, communities and, arguably, the country as a whole. You could call it the Governor General's Youth Corps, say, or even the Royal Canadian Volunteer Corps. It's hard to imagine a federal politician who wouldn't eat up the idea.

Just don't call it Katimavik. The $15-million-a-year youth volunteer program, which was axed in last week's federal budget, was the right program, at the right time, with the wrong political lineage, at least for the Conservative government. Created under Pierre Trudeau in 1977. Reinstated after being cut under the Mulroney government when its founder Liberal Senator Jacques Hébert went on a 21day hunger strike to save it. Even Justin Trudeau has had a hand in Katimavik, as a board member.

It must have been one Trudeau too many for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. That is the only plausible explanation for why, at a time when youth unemployment in Canada is at 14 per cent, a program that does so much good at so relatively little cost and is, coincidentally, so apparently aligned with Conservative values of volunteerism and youth engagement, had to go.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty offered a succinct explanation in the budget, saying Katimavik concentrated funding "on a very small number of participants at an excessive per-person cost." (Katimavik sends 1,100 Canadians between 17 and 21 to various parts of Canada each year to volunteer with community organizations.) The government, said Flaherty, will continue to invest in "affordable, effective programming that engages youth -"

Thomas Mulcair tells business community NDP cares about developing economy

OTTAWA—Thomas Mulcair wants the business community to know that New Democrats care about developing the economy, so long as it is done in a way that does not place the burden on future generations.

“Governing is about choices. Politics is about priorities,” the newly elected NDP leader said in a speech before the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on Thursday before telling the room that they might be surprised his take on the federal budget would be largely economic.

“You see, the NDP is resolutely in favour of development, as long as it’s sustainable development. The NDP is resolutely in favour of trade, as long as it’s fair trade,” Mulcair said in the lunchtime speech delivered in a ballroom at the Chateau Laurier.

“And the NDP is going to do everything it can to create a Canada that is more prosperous, as long as it is more prosperous for everybody.”

Building on a message that he championed throughout his successful leadership campaign, Mulcair later told reporters that he wants the NDP to attract voters from other parties and will do so by convincing the general public they can be good fiscal managers.

F-35 affair reveals lack of fiscal competence, accountability, transparency

The auditor general’s damning report over the F-35 fighter-jet program is not – as some cynical observers are suggesting – another “inside Ottawa” story. It goes to the heart of what is fundamentally wrong with the Harper government and the way it has been operating since coming to office.

There are various troubling elements coming out of this story. Let’s go over them briefly one by one.

The first is fiscal competence. The fact that this prime minister and his government think it’s a good idea to pour $25B of taxpayers’ money into war planes in the current context of austerity – even if it would be paid out over several years – shows how disconnected they are from Canadians.

What is at play here is not some obscure governmental program nobody knows about. Next to the recently announced national shipbuilding strategy, it represents the biggest procurement ever contemplated by the Government of Canada. And what will these particular planes do that others can’t?

As we look at this, we should also remind ourselves of the enormous costs this government has committed us to with their recent omnibus crime bill – which will come with a huge price tag for the provinces – with actually no evidence it will have any effect on crime reduction. So much for financial probity.

NBC Fires Producer of Misleading Zimmerman Tape

NBC News has fired a producer who was involved in the production of a misleading segment about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

The person was fired on Thursday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the disciplinary action who declined to be identified discussing internal company matters. They also declined to name the fired producer. A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to comment.

The action came in the wake of an internal investigation by NBC News into the production of the segment, which strung together audio clips in such a way that made George Zimmerman’s shooting of Mr. Martin sound racially motivated. Ever since the Feb. 26 shooting, there has been a continuing debate about whether race was a factor in the incident.

The segment in question was shown on the “Today” show on March 27. It included audio of Mr. Zimmerman saying, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

But Mr. Zimmerman’s comments had been taken grossly out of context by NBC. On the phone with a 911 dispatcher, he actually said of Mr. Martin, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” Then the dispatcher asked, “O.K., and this guy — is he white, black or Hispanic?” Only then did Mr. Zimmerman say, “He looks black.”

New Bush-Era Torture Memo Released, Raises Questions About What Has Changed And What Hasn't

WASHINGTON -- A six-year-old memo from within the George W. Bush administration that came to light this week acknowledges that White House-approved interrogation techniques amounted to "war crimes." The memo's release has called attention to what has changed since President Barack Obama took office, but it also raises questions about what hasn't.

The Bush White House tried to destroy every copy of the memo, written by then-State Department counselor Philip Zelikow. Zelikow examined tactics like waterboarding -- which simulates drowning -- and concluded that there was no way they were legal, domestically or internationally.

“We are unaware of any precedent in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or any subsequent conflict for authorized, systematic interrogation practices similar to those in question here," Zelikow wrote. The memo has been obtained by George Washington University's National Security Archive and Wired's Spencer Ackerman.

On his second full day in office, President Barack Obama formally disavowed torture, banning the types of techniques Zelikow had objected to so strongly in his memo.

Mark Carney, Bank Of Canada Governor, Would Act If Debt Got Out Of Control

OTTAWA - Mark Carney has a dilemma: He views record high household debt the number one domestic risk to the economy, but believes he would hurt the recovery if he raised interest rates to slow borrowing.

But the Bank of Canada governor said in an interview with The Canadian Press that he would be prepared to intervene if things got out of hand.

"In exceptional circumstances, if there are issues that threaten financial stability, such as household debt ... the bank could use monetary policy for that purpose," he said. "That factors into our decision-making without question."

By Carney's telling, the situation is not that far from reaching the point of exceptional circumstances. He is encouraged by the recent slowdown in the housing market. Household debt as a proportion of disposable income was close to 151 per cent at the end of last year. The Bank of Canada's own analysis expects the ratio to approach the 160-per-cent level reached in the United States just prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

"We have never been as indebted as we are today as individuals," he said. "We've done analysis which shows that about 10 per cent of Canadians are vulnerable if interest rates returned to more normal levels, which will happen."

National Review Writer Pens Racist Screed: ‘Avoid Concentrations Of Blacks,’ ‘Stay Out Of’ Their Neighborhoods

herePopular conservative columnist and National Review writer John Derbyshire topped all of his previous racist screeds (and sexist rants) today by posting a long breakdown of all of the important lessons he has taught his children about race — and he’s outdone his own racism with this one.

Derbyshire wrote the column in the third person, as a list of lessons to his kids about race. The lessons are his response to “the talk” that black parents have with their children — conversations they are forced to have because of real, persistent racism. After spending a few minutes bemoaning that he can’t say a racist slur (“What you must call ‘the ‘N’ word’ is used freely among blacks but is taboo to nonblacks”) and opining on the hostility he believes all black people feel toward white people like himself (though he says he isn’t white before calling himself white several times), he cuts to the heart of his lessons for his children:
(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.
(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.
(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.
(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.
(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”
While they are not included in the quote above, Derbyshire peppers the post with links to news stories of crimes, a few random videos, and his own columns. The only “fact” included in the entire piece (and just a small image, at that) is from the offensive book The Bell Curve. Every other hateful, racist claim is based on a one-off story or his own foregone conclusions.

Original Article
Source: think progress
Author: Annie-Rose Strasser

All's not lost, Ontario. The future is green, not black

Ontario, we’re told, is Canada’s new rust belt. The high dollar is pummelling the province’s exports. Big manufacturers are fleeing. The Liberal government is slashing spending to maintain the province’s credit rating. And to top it off, it’s wasting money promoting green energy. There’s just one problem with this pop wisdom: It’s largely nonsense.

Ontario certainly faces huge challenges. Its main trading partner – the United States – is only now emerging from the economic doldrums that followed the 2008-09 financial crisis. And since that crisis, the world economy has been struggling with depressed consumer demand, wary investors and aggressive deleveraging by households, businesses and governments.

Ontario wasn’t ready for this new reality. From the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, a weak loonie made Ontario’s products artificially competitive outside Canada, so companies deferred investment in new factories and technologies. Then the dollar soared, partly because of Canada’s relative fiscal probity and partly because the world wanted Western Canada’s resources. Ontario’s manufacturers were caught in a low-productivity trap.

Add in an aging population with rising health costs, the flight of talent and capital to the West, and a decline in the skills of immigrants, and who wouldn’t be gloomy about Ontario’s prospects.

ORNGE allowed free rein by health ministry

Ontario had the power to rein in ORNGE, according to a 2008 internal government document prepared by the ministry of finance.

But top officials at the ministry of health disagreed and allowed problems identified early in ORNGE’s life to fester, leading to the current scandal involving the air ambulance service.

The Star has obtained hundreds of government emails and documents from the 2008-2011 time period. In them, senior bureaucrats at both the health and finance ministries grapple with the growing ambitions of founder Dr. Chris Mazza.

The finance ministry, the documents show, told the health ministry that it had a “golden share” in ORNGE as the only funder, and also that under the Ambulance Act it had the “ability to direct” ORNGE to do almost anything it wanted to do.

Health ministry officials never acted on that, the documents show, and health minister Deb Matthews has said repeatedly she was told she lacked power to control the wayward agency. One health ministry document states categorically in 2008: “We believe that the province of Ontario does not control ORNGE.”

Trayvon Martin Case: Armed Neo-Nazis Patrolling Sanford

Since the Trayvon Martin story has received national attention, Sanford, Fla. has gone from a virtually unknown city to the center of the spotlight. Now, a group of neo-Nazis are patrolling the area, saying they are "prepared" for violence in case a race riot ensues, the Miami New Times reports.

The Detroit-based group said they are not advocating violence, but instead are responding to white residents' fear of a race riot.

"Whenever there is one of these racially charged events, Al Sharpton goes wherever blacks need him," Commander Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement told the news outlet. "We do similar things. We are a white civil rights organization."

Schoep said that measures by groups like the New Black Panther Party, who offered a $10,000 bounty for the "capture" of George Zimmerman, are a sign of the "possibility of further racial violence."

"We don't wish for things like that," he said. "But there have been race riots in Detroit and L.A., so we know those types of things happen."

Schoep said the group's purpose is to show solidarity with the local white community, not to take sides in the case.

"That's for the courts to decide."

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Danielle Cadet 

Quebec Tories say Stephen Harper creating 'winning conditions' for referendum

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's policies on crime, the environment and democratic reform are creating "winning conditions" for Quebecers to elect a Parti Québècois government that will plunge the country into a new referendum campaign and national unity crisis, say several prominent federal Conservatives in Quebec.

The warnings are widely shared among the province's federalists as they gear up for a provincial election anticipated in the coming months.

"All the policies that Harper adopts or has done since the election seem to offend Quebecers and the media jump all over it," said Peter White, an outspoken veteran Conservative who recently headed a party riding association in Quebec's Eastern Townships. "Every time (PQ leader) Pauline Marois attacks Harper, she goes up in the polls and that's why she's doing so well because Harper is giving her all these targets to attack and she can just say: 'What are we Quebecers doing in this weird country of Harper's?'"

Some of those targets include recent policies and decisions including the nomination of unilingual anglophones to key positions such as the auditor general's office, dismantling the long-gun registry, the decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, proposed criminal justice legislation, as well as Senate reform and plans to weaken Quebec's representation in the House of Commons.

RCMP pay hikes stun B.C. politicians

Several municipalities in British Columbia are raising the alarm over what they say are completely unexpected pay raises the federal government has mandated for the RCMP, but in a statement issued Friday, the federal government said they knew it was coming.

Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender said Thursday that he only learned this week that the RCMP were given permission to seek raises in last week's federal budget.

The news has come as a shock to provincial and municipal officials, who just signed a new 20-year contract with the national police force.

The agreement, which is essentially identical to contracts reached in five other provinces and three territories, comes a year after B.C. threatened to pull out of negotiations altogether and set up its own force.

The officials say the deal, signed only two weeks ago, was supposed to end a history of costly surprises.

But Fassbender said there was no mention of pay raises during the negotiations.

Canadians indifferent to federal budget: Survey

OTTAWA — More people oppose the recent federal budget than support it, but most are just plain indifferent to the government’s plan that includes annual spending reductions of $5.2 billion and cutting 19,200 public-sector jobs, according to the results of a poll released Friday.

A survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid for Postmedia News and Global Television, found 55 per cent of respondents neither liking nor disliking the budget, 24 per cent saying it was bad and 18 per cent saying it was good. Three per cent said they didn’t know.

Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Reid’s public affairs division, said the survey shows the public’s perception of the budget is relatively “benign.” That’s despite the fact that, in advance of the budget, a poll found 49 per cent expected a “bad-news budget.”

“Pre-budget polling showed that it could potentially be explosive, (but) it looks like the government kind of got through on this one,” he said.

Among the other highlights of the budget unveiled late last month — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first with a majority government — are plans to gradually raise the eligibility age for Old Age Security to 67 from 65; to balance the budget in four years; and to phase out the penny.

Bishops say Northern Gateway pipeline hearings must be fair

Anglican bishops in B.C. and the Yukon are calling on the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings to demonstrate integrity, fairness and freedom from political pressure.

Six bishops signed the statement issued on Good Friday.

They say comments by federal officials have raised concerns that the National Energy Board hearings may be subject to improper time constraints and industry influence.

"There have been some statements by federal officials that I think have raised some concerns about whether the decision has already been made," said Bishop Michael Ingham.

"Our position is not at this point for or against the pipeline but for the integrity of the process."

Specifically, they refer to an announcement by the federal government to speed up approvals for major resource projects, like the pipeline.

The bishops say the board's final report must command wide public support if it wants to remain credible.

A review panel has been hearing testimony from communities across B.C. and in many of those communities, the pipeline proposal has run into opposition.

Many have called for the pipeline to be rejected, saying oil spills could destroy the environment and traditional native territories.

The proposed pipeline would carry oil from the Edmonton area to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be shipped overseas

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: Canadian Press

F-35 jet still popular with aerospace industry

The F-35 jet has been the whipping boy for auditors and politicians all week, but it remains the darling of Canada’s aerospace industry.

Industry veterans are shrugging off the vitriol of “scandal” and “fiasco” by remaining focused on the $12 billion they say the troubled program can bring to Canada.

“It’s a state of the art platform,” says Maryse Harvey, an official at Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC). “Hence the delays and the challenges that they’re encountering — it’s pure innovation.”

While the government decides what do to and who to blame for its deeply flawed military procurement process, it’s business as usual for Canadian aerospace firms who see the political brouhaha as an uncomfortable but routine stage in the production of a new aircraft.

Arguably no program in recent history has promised so many lucrative contracts as has the F-35 Lightning II.

Today, more than 70 Canadian companies are working on parts, an arrangement potentially worth billions of dollars over the course of a production run expected to reach some 3,100 planes, according to Canada’s industry association.