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.]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Public will see F-35 cost estimates after independent analysis: Ambrose

OTTAWA - Just how much the Harper government trusts National Defence in the wake of the F-35 fiasco was drawn into question Tuesday.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay acknowledged he's not sure who will carry out an independent analysis of the stealth fighter program.

The frank confirmation came on the same day Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose suggested it could be months before the latest price estimate for the radar-evading jet is tabled for public consumption.

MP Kent: 'Riel House is not closing'

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Peter Kent said definitively today Riel House will not be closing.

Kent was on the defensive in Question Period under questioning from NDP MP Pat Martin and Liberal Denis Coderre.

"Riel House is not closing," Kent said. "Visitors will still be able to enjoy self-guided tours. The house will remain open."

Tories tried to limit RCMP's apology to Robert Pickton victims

The federal public safety minister's office tried to scale back an apology the RCMP delivered earlier this year to the families of serial killer Robert Pickton's victims, Postmedia News has learned.

A senior adviser to the RCMP commissioner later wrote that the government's proposed revisions — which ended up not being adopted — drained the apology of its "purpose" and "impact," according to internal emails obtained under access-to-information laws.

A Public Safety spokeswoman and top RCMP officials insisted this week that the email exchanges reflected a natural back-and-forth dialogue that occurs between government and its agencies. Experts were divided over whether the government had overreached or not.

Again restricting debate, Tories set stage for final budget votes

Now that it has reached its final stages of the House of Commons, the Conservatives have moved to shut down debate on their omnibus budget bill – legislation the opposition says has received too little scrutiny given its massive size and scope.

The motion of time allocation would allow a total of 18 more hours of discussion in the House. That means round-the-clock voting on hundreds of proposed opposition amendments would begin late Wednesday afternoon and the final vote on the bill would likely take place next Monday.

The Conservatives' arrogance will come back to bite them

Maybe they figure it's all gravy now, with the Liberals rudderless and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair dissing Alberta, when he's not selling Girl Guide cookies for Europe. Maybe they think their position as economic stewards is impregnable and will only grow stronger, as the global economy softens.

Whatever the reason, the Conservatives are making a classic late-term majority government mistake — three years too early. In their insistence on imposing the omnibus Bill C-38 on a very unhappy Parliament, including restive backbench members of their own caucus, the Tory leadership is fuelling a fire that, if left unchecked, can't help but eventually burn it. That the Prime Minister's Office appears not to perceive this threat, six months into a series of blunders and failures, is bizarre.

Del Mastro denies campaign spent $21K on Holinshed

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro is offering new information in his defence against allegations he spent too much money in his 2008 election campaign, arguing he didn't contract $21,000 in services from Holinshed Research Group.

Del Mastro has been under fire since a news report last week said Elections Canada is investigating him for exceeding federal campaign spending limits.

The MP has maintained he didn't go over his campaign spending limit. The punishment for breaking federal election spending laws is a maximum $5,000 fine or five-year prison sentence.

Passage of Bill C-31: A threat to refugees and 'a black eye' for Canada

On Monday evening in Ottawa, Bill C-31 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 159 to 132.

As a refugee advocate, I was saddened to find out that Bill C-31 had passed the final hurdle in the House of Commons. This most oppressive bill will tarnish the prestige and reputation of Canada at the international level.

The Minister of Immigration claims that the Bill is designed to combat human smuggling. However, the real Conservative agenda is to punish the most vulnerable people of the world. Once those traumatized refugees are thrown behind bars, their suffering will be enormous. The social and psychological dimensions of their suffering cannot be measured.

Bill C-31: Empowering Jason Kenney, endangering refugees

The Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, was jubilant on Monday when he came to the government microphone in the House of Commons' lobby to exult in the pending passage of his government's refugee reform bill, C-31.

The vote in the House happened later that evening, and the government prevailed.

Now, the Bill goes to the Senate. The Minister said he hopes it will all be wrapped and declared law by the end of June.

Re-running Reagan in Wisconsin

The re-election of Governor Walker June 5 in Wisconsin represents the worst defeat for American labour since former U.S. president Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union in 1981. Walker won re-election June 5, after being "re-called" from office by citizens angry about his anti-labour legislation.

On February 11, 2011, Walker introduced a bill that ended automatic dues collection, and restricted collective bargaining to wages which were capped at no more than the standard of living. Rights to negotiate work standards, pensions, health and other benefits were withdrawn by what was called the "budget repair bill."

The Commons: Young Stephen Harper meets Last Year’s Bob Rae

The Scene. Stephen Harper sat impassively as his former self was once again resurrected right in front of him.

“Mr. Speaker, referring to an earlier omnibus bill, the Prime Minister once said, and I quote, ‘I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles,’ ” Thomas Mulcair reported. “Yet the Prime Minister now asks his own MPs to blindly vote in favour of a budget without proper study. Where are the Prime Minister’s principles now? Where is the Prime Minister’s respect for the principles of his own members of Parliament?”

Conservatives impose 18 hours of debate on controversial omnibus budget bill

PARLIAMENT HILL—The majority governing Conservatives on Tuesday morning moved to cut short remaining debate on its 425-page sweeping omnibus budget bill, imposing a deadline of only 18 hours more of debate before the Tories pass the controversial legislation.

The move infuriated opposition MPs, who have vowed an all-night session of voting on 159 motions in a last-ditch attempt to at least change provisions they oppose. Some opposition MPs have already acknowledged the amendment marathon is a symbolic battle in the Conservative-dominated Commons.

U.S. election fundraising frenzy at full tilt

U.S. President Barack Obama could not find time to campaign for the Democratic candidate trying to unseat Wisconsin’s Republican governor in the state’s recent recall election because he has a “lot of responsibilities.”

And few of them occupy as much of his time these days as fundraising – including a celebrity-laden dinner this week at the Manhattan home of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Before that, Mr. Obama is set to attend no fewer than six fundraisers in Baltimore and Philadelphia on Tuesday that are expected to add (U.S.)$3.6-million to his campaign war chest. Two of the events are intimate affairs – 15 people will attend one in Baltimore, 25 will join the President in Philly – with a ticket price of $40,000 per person.

Top soldier’s shipbuilding warning: ‘We need to start cutting steel’

Canada’s top soldier says it is time to get the lead out on the $35-billion federal shipbuilding contract, just as defence analysts warn that belt-tightening in Ottawa could further delay delivery of the country’s next fleet of combat ships.

General Walter Natynczyk said the navy is his greatest concern when it comes to modernizing the military, and finalizing the shipbuilding deal would be vital in ensuring that Canada’s aging vessels are replaced.

“The National Shipbuilding Strategy is a huge leap in progress,” the Chief of Defence Staff told the Royal Canadian Legion convention in Halifax Tuesday. “But we need to start cutting steel.”

Pestilence, famine and climate change: Horseman of the Apocalypse

Icebergs melting, sea ice disappearing, glaciers retreating, icecaps destabilizing, starving polar bears, drowning seal pups, permafrost thawing, ozone vanishing, carbon dioxide levels rising, methane releases, sea levels rises, coastlines eroding ... these are all too familiar illustrations of the face of climate change in Canada. Once conjectural, we now see many of these changes taking place in Canada.

Now, a new study lead by Susan Solomon of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, provides evidence that we are rapidly approaching a climatic tipping point, beyond which certain changes may be largely irreversible for 1,000 years. Globally, carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) levels are currently at 385 parts per million (ppm) and are increasing at a rate of 2 ppm per year. This April a level of 400 ppm -- the highest ever recorded -- was measured by NOAA in Barrow, Alaska -- a dismal climatic milestone. Climate scientists, such as NASA's James Hansen, believe that 350 ppm is the highest safe level of carbon dioxide we can allow if our climate is to remain stable.

Guest Workers Claim Abusive Conditions In Louisiana Seafood Facility

A group of Mexican guest workers at a seafood processing plant in Louisiana have walked off the job and sent a complaint to the U.S. Labor Department, accusing their employer of forcing them to work up to 24-hour shifts hand-picking crawfish and denying them overtime pay.

In their letter, the eight workers at CJ's Seafood in Breaux Bridge, La., said they came to the U.S. earlier this year to work in the H-2B program, a guest worker visa system that lets American employers hire foreign nationals when they can't find enough locals for the job. The guest workers claim they had to work double and triple shifts without overtime pay, while the doors to the facility were sometimes locked to prevent them from leaving.

Public Swearing In Middleborough, Mass. Now Subject To Fine

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. — Residents in Middleborough voted Monday night to make the foul-mouthed pay fines for swearing in public.

At a town meeting, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.

Alberta Oil Spill Will Take Months To Clean Up

Officials say the cleanup from a pipeline rupture near Sundre in central Alberta will take months, possibly even to the end of the summer.

About half a million litres of light sour crude spilled into the Red Deer River with some of it washing into the Gleniffer reservoir, which provides thousands of Albertans with drinking water.

Neither Alberta Health Services nor the City of Red Deer have issued boil water advisories or drinking water advisories in Red Deer, Red Deer County or Mountain View County.

Searching for answers after Red Deer’s pipeline spill

For a pipeline that is nearly half a century old, a river crossing can pose all manner of hazards. Bacteria and corrosion can attack from inside. Floodwater, scouring away the river bottom and heaving against the exposed pipe, can damage the outside. Pipes installed using old methods can be particularly vulnerable.

Sometimes, the result is catastrophe.

Last week, the Rangeland pipeline, built in 1966 and run by Plains Midstream Canada, ruptured beneath the flooding Red Deer River. It leaked 160,000 to 480,000 litres of oil, coating the banks with crude when the waters receded and leaving a large stain on Gleniffer Lake, a reservoir that supplies drinking water to Red Deer, Alberta’s third-largest city.

Equal pay, but there’s no rush: court appeal by unions

As long as female employees can eventually achieve the same level of pay as men in comparable jobs, the fact that it takes them three times longer to get there does not create gender inequality, an Ontario court has ruled.

In its decision, the court found that the province’s Pay Equity Act requires only equality in ultimate outcomes for wage advancements, not in the time it took to achieve them. The judges, however, added that the act itself could be vulnerable to a Charter of Rights challenge if one were pressed — possibly presaging future tests of pay-equity laws across Canada.

Who will preserve the past for future generations?

Library and Archives Canada is the country’s national library and national archives, the location for the books, documents, photographs, and even art, that record the Canadian story from the earliest days to the present. And as the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Daniel Caron, says, “LAC is today expanding services to meet the evolving expectations of Canadians, offering enhanced, modern access to its materials ...” despite the budget cuts that almost every government organization in Ottawa is experiencing. If only this were so.

More debate needed on Tories' Bill C-38

The amendments to the federal Fisheries Act contained in the omnibus budget bill address a real problem. As a solution, however, Bill C-38 overshoots the mark.

Part of the problem is the bill itself. Bill C-38 is the budget implementation act. By tradition, it contains the legal amendments necessary to enact changes announced in the budget.

The Conservative government is using the budget act to bring in changes to more than 70 laws, most of which, including the amendments to the Fisheries Act, are only tenuously connected to any budgetary measure.

Omnibus bill sidelines MPs

Pundits, journalists, parliamentary experts and even former Progressive Conservative cabinet members have warned the federal government's massive budget implementation bill will change in unpredictable and dangerous ways how Canada works.

However, the omnibus bill makes a much larger gamble than that, for most of the changes to Canada's institutions presumably can be undone by future governments. The great gamble of this massive bill, which goes further to change the nature of Canada than any previous bills have done, is that it all but removes any vestiges of power Parliament still retained.

The opposition shares the blame for creating omnibus bill mess

The sight of oil oozing into an Alberta river from a leaky pipeline is a visual the Conservatives could have done without, as their omnibus budget bill reached Parliament for a final vote. They must be praying no one finds any oil-covered ducks.

The bill, among other things, makes it easier to gain approval to build pipelines under rivers, similar to the Plains Midstream Canada pipeline currently spilling oil into the Red Deer River.

Under the existing legislation, there is prohibition on “the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat,” which has been used by federal fisheries officers and biologists as a blanket excuse for banning development near water.

Order paper answer sheds light on government’s knowledge of F-35 cost

An answer the government provided to the opposition on the F-35 has raised fresh questions about what cost figures the defence minister would have known before announcing Canada was going to buy 65 of the fighter jets.

In a response to an order paper question put forth by the NDP’s Matt Kellway, the office of associate defence minister Julian Fantino replied that defence minister Peter MacKay would have seen costing information for the F-35 a month prior to the government’s July 2010 announcement that it planned to buy the fighters.

Child poverty: Canada's tell-tale heart

"The true measure of a nation's standing is how well it attends to its children -- their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born." UNICEF, 2007

On June 5, 2012, when NDP and Liberal MPPs in Ontario joined forces to pass Bill 13, ensuring the right of high school students to form gay-straight alliance anti-bullying clubs in all publicly funded high schools, they struck a serious and important victory for civil rights in the province. In doing so they not only stood up to Ontario's social conservatives and evangelicals, they stood up as well to the leaders of the Catholic church.

Criminalizing refugees: The case against Bill C-31

Introduced under another signature defensive title, the Conservatives' Bill C-31: "Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act", combines exclusionary refugee measures from Bill C-4 (“Protecting Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System”) and Bill C-11 (“Balanced Refugee Reform Act”). Both C-4 and -11 were previously proposed but rejected by opposition while the Conservatives were a minority in Parliament.

Now with their full majority power, the Harper government is bringing in even harsher measures through Bill C-31, which was announced in February. Should the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, succeed in his goal to push this bill through by June, refugee claimants will be further invalidated, criminalized and endangered. The burden of the bill’s impact will fall on women, queer- and trans-identifying individuals and their families, and those fleeing from "safe" countries that are Canada's trade partners.

Ottawa plans to delay F-35 cost disclosure

The Harper government is planning to delay the release of its latest estimates on the per-jet cost of its new fighter planes because it has decided the figures need to be independently verified first.

This means it could be October before Canadians receive new details on the price of the controversial stealth jets, which the auditor-general has predicted could cost $25-billion.

The Department of National Defence had been preparing to stage a media briefing in the next few weeks to detail what it believes each F-35 Lightning II jet would cost Canada.

Tens of thousands flock to anti-Putin protest as opposition figures face interrogation

MOSCOW—Tens of thousands of Russians flooded Moscow's tree-lined boulevards Tuesday in the first massive protest against President Vladimir Putin's rule since his inauguration in May — a rally that came even as police interrogated key opposition leaders.

Since embarking on his third presidential term, Putin has taken a stern stance toward the opposition, including signing a repressive new bill last week introducing heavy penalties for taking part in unauthorized rallies.

Harper's omnibus bill is a product of the democratic process

In the end, both sides got the job done.

Now that the Speaker has limited the opposition attempt at a filibuster, the Tories’ omnibus bill should clear Parliament this week or next. The Harper government’s agenda remains intact.

But the NDP, Liberals and Greens succeeded in raising the alarm. Anyone following Canadian politics must surely know the plethora of changes to a host of acts contained in the bill.

Bloomberg Cuts Threaten Thousands with Eviction as NYC Homeless Population Hits Record 43,000

The Coalition for the Homeless reports the number of people living in New York City homeless shelters has reached an all-time high of 43,000. Critics attribute the spike in homelessness to the Bloomberg administration’s alleged failure to help move homeless families into permanent affordable housing. Housing advocates say the problem was exacerbated by the city’s cancellation of the "Advantage" apartment rental subsidy, with as many as 8,000 former aid recipients now facing eviction. We get a report from Democracy Now!’s Chantal Berman, who interviewed several aid recipients who could soon lose their homes, and speak to Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless in New York City.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Fiscal discipline vital for economic growth, Stephen Harper says

MONTREAL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s going to next week’s G20 meeting — where Europe’s economic crisis will dominate — with a pointed message for world leaders that economic growth starts with fiscal discipline.

That message, to be delivered at the high-level meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, comes as European leaders struggle to stabilize their banking systems.

And it also comes amid signals that political commitments to austerity across Europe could be wavering in favour of government spending sprees to kickstart ailing economies.

Great Bear Forest to Be Massive Carbon Offset Project

In a young man's eyes the logging that laid waste to the coastal forest was akin to a military invasion.

Cameron Hill was barely a teenager when loggers descended onto Gitga'at First Nation territory in the early '80s, clear-cutting vast stands of old-growth cedar in the midst of what is now known internationally as the Great Bear rainforest.

"We still have huge blocks of our territory decimated from those clear cuts," says Hill, now 44, a band councillor and school teacher in the remote north coast village of Hartley Bay. "The land was raped while we watched, and we don't ever want to see that again."

Youth may vote if system changes

OTTAWA -- A generation ago, teenagers thought smoking was cool.

Sure, many knew it was likely bad for their health, but that wasn't enough to dissuade them from joining the popular kids for an illicit cigarette behind the school gym.

But those days are behind us now, after at least two decades of health warnings and government advisories drilling it into kids' heads that smoking isn't cool.

It can be deadly.

Somehow, we now have to motivate young Canadians to vote, the same way we motivated them not to smoke.

It's not necessarily the European economy running out of runway, it's neo-Cons like Stephen Harper

With the anticipated triumph of France's Socialists obviously weighing heavily on his mind, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has donned the robes of an Old Testament prophet and taken to making apocalyptic predictions about the fate of Europe.

Europe is running out of runway, the Prophet Harper warned us last week, conjuring up the picture of a flaming plane wreck at the edge of the airport. Or maybe the picture is of the crash of a flaming wheel within a wheel!

Whatever… Europe's in trouble all right, but because it's been enacting the neo-Con "solutions" Harper and his fellow market-fundamentalist ideologues propose, not because France is sensibly turning away from them.

Charest's Bill 78, Harper's Bill 38: It's the same fight

At the time of writing these lines, the very predictable and unilateral rupture of negotiations by the Charest government has just been announced. The faint glimmer of hope brought on by a few days of discussions has vanished. Student negotiators had accepted the government's financial frame. In the name of social peace, they had also considered financing university-funding increases in part by accepting a loss in personal fiscal advantages for students.

However, the government refuses any ending whereby the student associations will not submit completely. The compromise is judged insufficient and Michèle Courchesne must slam the door. Later, Jean Charest repeats that any "solution" to the crisis will need to maintain its initial problematic premise! Arrogance and contempt once more, and since day one. Clearly, the students will not give in.

Once proud Detroit on brink of bankruptcy

DETROIT—Once the powerhouse of American manufacturing, the city of Detroit is poised to fall off a financial cliff Friday, unless the state of Michigan coughs up $80 million urgently needed by the city to keep it running.

The financial crisis comes just weeks after Mayor Dave Bing shocked America by announcing plans to save Detroit money by cutting off street lighting to large swaths of the city.

Detroit — America’s 19th largest city with a population that has now shrunk to just 713,777 people — has been on life support since April, when the mayor and city council approved an agreement that essentially hands over control of Detroit’s finances to the state of Michigan.

Supreme Court Rejects Gitmo Appeals, Spelling Potential End to Prisoners’ Legal Fight for Release

The Supreme Court has refused to hear any new Guantánamo appeals even though half of the men being held were cleared for release five years ago. Critics of Monday’s decision say it leaves the fate of prisoners — many of them long cleared for release — in the hands of a conservative D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has constantly sided with military prosecutors and refused to order the release of any prisoner. The high court also refused to reinstate a lawsuit by former "enemy combatant" José Padilla against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. We’re joined by two guests: Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and investigative journalist Andy Worthington, who reports that of the 169 prisoners still held, over half — 87 in total — were cleared for release by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force. "In a lot of practical ways [the Supreme Court decision] marks the end of the Guantánamo litigation that began more than 10 years ago. ... Detainees have won about two-thirds of their challenges in the trial courts, but the D.C. Circuit ... has overturned every single one of those cases that’s been appealed to it. And in doing so, it’s created standards that make it virtually impossible to win a case."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Elizabeth May leads commendable effort to halt Tory omnibus juggernaut

It’s not often that a single MP can significantly affect important events on Parliament Hill, much less hold a majority government to account for its actions, but Green Party leader Elizabeth May aims to do just that this week, and should be commended for her effort.

Ms. May plans to spearhead a campaign intended to derail or delay the Conservative government’s effort to pass its Brobdingnagian budget bill. The bill has enraged and dismayed many Canadians, not only among the opposition parties but among many Canadians upset at the government’s blatant attempt to steamroll Parliament by stuffing dozens of important changes into one piece of legislation, which it hopes to force on the country via its majority status.

Gay Pride Month: Israel Defense Forces Facebook Photo Stirs Controversy

To celebrate Gay Pride month, the Israeli army posted a photo on its official Facebook page showing two soldiers strolling hand in hand through a sunny Tel Aviv street.

"It's Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally? Let's see how many shares you can get for this photo," the caption accompanying the photo read.