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.]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Teresa Sullivan University Of Virginia Ouster Led By Political Donors Lacking Academic Experience

WASHINGTON -- The leadership coup at the University of Virginia was conducted by a governing board with profound financial means and limited professional educational experience.

The members of the school's Board of Visitors were appointed by two governors from different political parties and have donated more than $2.1 million to partisan political causes in recent years. Board members' lack of academic expertise, and their messy ouster of UVA President Teresa Sullivan over the objections of students and faculty, underscore a trend in the leadership of public higher education institutions toward wealthy, politically connected executives.

This Is What a Businessman in the White House Looks Like

To look at Mitt Romney—the boxy power suits, the body toned by jogging—he is the financial industry personified. To listen to him, whether casually offering a $10,000 bet or flatly declaring, “corporations are people,” is to hear the unrestrained id of Wall Street. Remarkably, in the middle of a sluggish economy brought about by the irresponsibility of bankers gambling with other people’s money, Romney thinks this is his greatest asset.

Romney likes to contrast his own résumé with President Obama’s by saying, “To create jobs, it helps to have had one.” He means that a job is not really a job unless it is in the for-profit sector. Likewise, Romney asserts, “I’m a guy who has lived in the world of business. [If] you don’t balance your budget in business you go out of business. So I’ve lived balancing budgets.”

Peter Van Loan Says Budget Bill Helping Canada Avert Economic Calamity As Session Wraps

OTTAWA - The Conservative government wrapped up a bruising spring sitting of Parliament by channelling Larry the Cable Guy and his bulldozer, blue-collar ethic: "Git 'er done."

"We got the job done," Peter Van Loan, the Conservative House leader, repeated no less than 12 times in a seven-minute address Thursday as he sang the praises of a "productive and orderly" session.

Moody's Downgrades RBC, Among Several Major Banks

Ratings agency Moody's Investor Service Thursday downgraded the credit ratings of Canada's biggest bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, and 14 other banks with global operations.

Moody's cut RBC's long-term deposit rating by two notches to Aa3, saying it faces a high probability of needing government support because of the exposure of its global investment banking operations to a possible financial crisis.

Commons committee investigation into F-35 fiasco hangs on by a thread

OTTAWA - The Harper government's attempt to shut down a House of Commons committee investigation into the handling the F-35 stealth-fighter deal has failed, thanks to a filibuster by the Opposition.

As the Commons adjourned for the summer, New Democrats managed to hold up the writing of a final report into the auditor general's criticism of the multibillion-dollar program.

It has been put off until the fall when opposition members will try once again to have more witnesses called before the public accounts committee.

The Commons: Mulcair and Harper wish each other a lovely summer

The Scene. “Mr. Speaker, this spring we saw the Conservatives abandon the very principles they claim they came to Ottawa to defend,” Thomas Mulcair declared this afternoon. “Ramming through their Trojan Horse budget bill.”

“Wrong!” called Conservative MP Jeff Watson.

“Gutting their own Federal Accountability Act,” Mr. Mulcair continued.

“Wrong!” chirped Watson.

“Treating their backbench MPs like a rubber stamp,” Mr. Mulcair went on.

“Double wrong!” Watson cried.

New documents call into question Del Mastro’s claim he was unaware of Elections Canada investigation

OTTAWA — Newly released court documents cast doubt on Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s repeated assertion that he was not aware he is being investigated by Elections Canada.

An affidavit filed by Elections Canada investigator Thomas Ritchie says that he was told in December that Del Mastro had promised a Conservative volunteer in Peterborough that the MP would personally “handle the matter.”

'Green' money goes to pipeline, forestry and federal offices

OTTAWA -- The Conservative government promised Canadians they would spend $1 billion on "green" projects -- it's right there, in black and white, in the 2009 budget.

But the government has failed to deliver on its word.

Instead, more than one-quarter of that green money has helped fund the construction of a gas pipeline in Quebec, been invested in the forestry industry and, according to the government's most recent accounting books, to support Infrastructure Canada's offices, among other programs.

'Political vendetta' against Native Friendship Centre of Montreal

The Native Friendship Centre of Montreal (NFCM) is battling a "political vendetta," according to Brett Pineau, the Centre's executive director.

In his three years at the helm of the NFCM, Pineau has guided the 37 year-old centre back from near financial ruin to one of the most popular and valuable destinations for the Aboriginal population of Montreal.

Four months ago, his hard work was almost undone after the NFCM's suspension from the provincial association of Friendship Centres, the Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec (RCAAQ). The suspension resulted in a loss of roughly $171,000 funding from the federal government's Friendship Centre program, administered by the RCAAQ.

Feds to limit debate on massive omnibus budget bill in Senate

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government has served notice it will limit debate on its controversial omnibus Budget Implementation Bill in the Senate, following a 24-hour opposition House of Commons filibuster after the government cut short debate on the sweeping legislation last week.

Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, deputy leader of the government in the Senate, served notice debate at the first stage of the bill’s passage through the Senate will be limited to six hours, beginning Thursday, June 21.

New Elections Canada commissioner named in surprise move

With the complex and politically charged robocalls investigation still under way, Commissioner of Canada Elections William Corbett has retired and been replaced with a former justice department bureaucrat.

Since last year's election, Corbett has been overseeing the probe of fraudulent pre-recorded calls and misleading live calls reported by voters in 200 ridings across the country. It is believed to be the largest investigation the commissioner's office has ever conducted.

But in a surprise announcement Thursday, Elections Canada said Corbett has retired and been replaced by Yves Cote, the former associate deputy minister of justice.

Election-law enforcer resigns amid robo-calls investigation

William Corbett, chief enforcer of Canada’s election laws, has resigned in the midst of a major investigation into misleading robocalls during the last federal vote.

Elections Canada spokesman John Enright says it was Mr. Corbett’s decision to retire after five years as commissioner of elections.

He will be replaced by Yves Côté, a long-time bureaucrat who most recently served as associate deputy minister of justice.

The Harper government, which has been critical of the commissioner’s pursuit of alleged electoral wrongdoing by the Conservatives, had no role in Mr. Corbett’s departure or in choosing his successor.

Mr. Enright says Mr. Côté was appointed on merit by chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand, following a competitive process.

The commissioner is responsible for ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the Canada Elections Act.

Original Article
Source: the globe and mail
Author: CP

Leave Old Growth Alone Says Union

A major forest sector union is coming out against proposals from the British Columbia government that could see protected areas opened to logging.

"It's just short term gain for probably long term pain," said Arnold Bercov, the forest resource officer for the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, which represents some 2,000 workers in the sector in the province. "As I tell the guys, [if we] cut them all down tomorrow we're screwed and we don't cut any down."

The B.C. Legislature has a committee touring Interior communities this week asking the public where timber supply should come from as cut levels are reduced in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

Canada's Oil Insiders Want a Carbon Tax

Few oil patch executives have as much experience on the front-lines of Alberta's bitumen industry as Neil Camarta. Retired now from oil and gas development, he has held senior positions at Shell Canada, Syncrude, PetroCanada and Suncor. 

Camarta personally oversaw construction of Shell's $6-billion Muskeg River Mine, a project challenged by persistent labour shortages and a series of explosions not long after it opened. The project's timeline also coincided with a surge in oil prices from $12 to $100 per barrel, which set off an economic boom harder and faster than anything northern Alberta had ever seen.

Jamie Dimon Finally Takes Heat on the Hill

As the House Financial Services Committee hearing into recent failures at JPMorgan waned, bank CEO Jamie Dimon finally said what had already been obvious to everyone—he didn’t want to be there. “These are complex things that should be done the right way, in my opinion in closed rooms,” Dimon said. “I don’t think you make a lot of progress in an open hearing like this.” In the closed room, Dimon said, everyone would be “talking about what works, what doesn’t work, and collaborating with the business that has to conduct it.”

Darrell Issa Shows Contemptible Disregard for the Constitution

The system of checks and balances works best when the separate branches of government are inherently and proudly adversarial toward one another. But that can’t happen when partisanship defines when and how accountability moments play out.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa -- the headline-hungry California Republican who on Wednesday engineered a committee vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt -- forgot that essential rule.

Fast and Furious Inanity Reaches New Heights

I'm pretty sure I've never blogged anything about the Fast and Furious program, which has long struck me as a fairly ridiculous invented controversy that Republicans care about only because (a) it involves guns, and (b) it involves the Obama administration. Darrell Issa, one of the GOP's star attack dogs, more or less admitted the fever swamp origins of tea party outrage over Fast and Furious when he told Sean Hannity that Obama was using the program to "somehow take away or limit people's Second Amendment rights."

By the Numbers: The Growing For-Profit Detention Industry

The growth of the private detention industry has long been a subject of scrutiny. A recent eight-part series in the New Orleans Times-Picayune chronicled how more than half of Louisiana's 40,000 inmates are housed in prisons run by sheriffs or private companies as part of a broader financial incentive scheme. The detention business goes beyond just criminal prisoners.

As a Huffington Post investigation pointed out last month, nearly half of all immigrant detainees are now held in privately run detention facilities. Just this week, the New York Times delved into lax oversight at industrial-sized but privately run halfway houses in New Jersey.

3 Companies, 1 PO Box, and a $1 Million Super-PAC Gift

Pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future released its June monthly filing on Wednesday. The final tally: $4.96 million, including notable contributions from Texas fracking billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones ($100,000), multilevel marketing mogul Frank Vandersloot ($100,000), and conservative publisher Richard Scaife ($67,500).

But the largest chunk of donations came from what, at first glance, look like three separate companies: CRC Information Systems, Inc.; Fairbanks Properties, LLC; and Waterbury Properties, LLC. Although the latter two companies don't even have websites, they all ponied up nearly identical sums—$333,333, give or take a dollar—and listed the same address: PO Box 2608, Dayton, Ohio 45401.

Under Bill C-38, We're Off the Environmental Hook!

A recent pipeline leak sent 475,000 litres of oil into Alberta's Red Deer River. It could have been worse; nothing was being pumped at the time. The company, Plains Midstream, claims the light sour crude may smell bad but poses no risk to humans!

It happened as crews were cleaning a larger spill from last year at another of the company's pipelines. That one dumped 4.5 million litres of oil into the surrounding forest and wetlands. The recent Red Deer River spill was also the site of a leak in 2008. Industry figures show that more than 3.4 million litres of fossil fuels have been accidentally released from pipelines every year in Alberta since 2006. One litre of spilled oil can contaminate a million litres of groundwater.

Students unimpressed after Pauline Marois drops red square symbol of protests

MONTREAL - A decision by Pauline Marois to quit wearing the red square symbol of the student protest movement was met with a shrug at the nightly anti-tuition increase demonstration in Montreal Wednesday night.

Some marchers who sported the small felt square on their clothes felt that the Parti Quebecois leader had embraced the symbol out of political expediency and was shelving it for the same reasons.

"It doesn't surprise me that Pauline Marois decided to stop wearing the red square because it wasn't real support for the students," said Francis Piche, a junior college student. "The only reason she was opposing the tuition fee increase was because the Liberals were doing it but a Pequiste government wanted to do it too.

Enbridge pipeline spill adds to worry of First Nations group

EDMONTON - A faulty gasket is to blame for the 230,000 litres of oil discovered Monday spilling from Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline, says a spokesman for the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

About 1,445 barrels of heavy crude oil leaked out of the pump station where the gasket was located. The 541-kilometre pipeline stretches from the Fort McMurray oilsands to Hardisty and has a capacity of 345,000 barrels per day.

Enbridge spokesman Graham White said it is not possible to offer an estimate of the area affected by the spill because “some areas are more affected than others.”

Stakeholders cry foul as feds cut funding for emergency preparedness

OTTAWA — Complaints from provinces, municipalities and fire departments across the country are mounting, as are concerns for public safety, after the federal government ended a 30-year funding program designed to help cover the costs of emergency preparedness.

Among the cuts in the omnibus budget bill, the government quietly cancelled the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) established in 1980 and ceased operations at the Canadian Emergency Management College which has offered training to emergency responders since 1954.

Stephen Harper’s Pacific trade coup is a murky one

After a stumbling start, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has finally managed to wangle an invitation for Canada to talks to create a powerful new Asia-Pacific free trade zone. Fuzzy as the details are, it’s an initiative worth exploring.

Canada needs to diversify trade, given the struggling American economy and Europe’s debt crisis, and the boom in East Asia and Latin America. We also need to protect the trade deals we have.

Pacific free traders eye Canada’s dairy, poultry markets

The United States, Australia and New Zealand are demanding unfettered access to Canada’s highly protected dairy and poultry markets a day after inviting Ottawa to join them in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.

Their demands to tear down agricultural trade barriers mean Canada’s supply management system will be in the cross hairs in the TPP talks.

“For Australia, it’s about market access. We have farmers who are very keen – as does New Zealand – to have access, to have the removal of barriers and tariffs,” Louise Hand, Australia’s High Commissioner to Canada, said in an interview on Wednesday. “I guess Australia, like the others, needed to be assured that that was where Canada was coming from.”

A few words from Kevin Page

I emailed the Parliamentary Budget Office this evening to ask if there was any response to Tony Clement’s comments during Question Period. Kevin Page hadn’t seen QP in its entirety and so couldn’t comment on this afternoon’s remarks, but he did pass along some general thoughts in the course of an email exchange.

    I find the statement of PBO “over stepping” our legislative mandate confusing and requiring further explanation.

    The prime issue for us, at this juncture, is transparency. It was the reason we presented a legal opinion on PBO access to information. Parliamentarians are put in an untenable position of voting on supply of authorities without department plans to achieve the strategic and operating review savings. Freezing direct program spending for five years as outlined in Budget 2012 will be a significant fiscal and management challenge. It starts with a plan. Without a plan there is no accountability. There was no “plan” for SOR in this year’s departmental reports on plans and priorities (by design). This is not “normal”. Quarterly reports and Public Accounts do not provide the plan to hold the government to account.

    If this is normal then normal is getting worse (to paraphrase Bruce Cockburn)

    The “power of the purse” rests with MPs. Before they approve authorities (voted appropriations) for departments they should see the plans (for savings) before decisions are implemented – not after so they can hold the executive and accountability officers (DMs) accountable.

    On the “overstepping the mandate” issue, I must tell you as the Parliamentary Budget Officer what keeps me up at night is the fear of “understepping”. PBO has been given a large legislative mandate (independent analysis on the economy, nation’s finances, costing, estimates) relative to a planned budget. When the Clerk of the Privy Council informs me that departments will not provide basic planning information for reasons we believe are not consistent with provisions in the Act of Parliament, my fear of understepping goes up on behalf of all Parliamentarians (including Conservative MPs who must return to their ridings with out departmental plans for SOR) and Canadians…

    As noted, my fear has always been under-stepping resulting from a mandate and need [that] exceeds capacity.

    If exceeding mandate really means (in code) having a larger than anticipated impact, or operating in a very transparent business model, then – as I have said before – I will not apologize for doing my job. The PBO operating model is fully consistent with OECD principles for independent fiscal institutions.

    On PBO performance, all the thanks goes to an incredible team assembled of like minded people with experience and desire to deliver on the large and challenging mandate for a better Parliament and deserving Canadians. Working with this group of experts has been the most enriching and rewarding period of my 31 years of public service. With this team, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has led from the proverbial caboose.

Original Article
Source: maclean's
Author: Aaron Wherry

Spate of oil spills pushes Alberta to look harder at pipeline safety

As crews work to mop up more than a million litres of oil that has spilled in Alberta in a month, Premier Alison Redford is steering the province toward a safety review of its 377,000 kilometres of pipeline.

Ms. Redford has charged her ministers of energy and environment to investigate whether a larger provincial response to the spills is merited. The leaks have come at an alarming pace in recent months, while the government is attempting to persuade its neighbours across Canada and the United States to accept pipelines carrying Alberta crude.

Trans-Pacific Partnership decoded: Canada lobbied to be part of trade talks. Now what?

Canada’s acceptance into the Trans-Pacific Partnership took months of carefully orchestrated behind-the-scenes lobbying by Ottawa.

The lucrative pact would give Canada an entry point to a combined market of 658 million people that’s worth a staggering $20.5 trillion annually.

But now that Canada’s involvement is secure, questions remain. Will it herald the beginning of lucrative economic ties with key Asian markets? Or does it mean the beginning of the end of this country’s decades-old milk supply management system?

Endangered caribou, birds and frogs among animals threatened by Enbridge pipeline: documents

OTTAWA — Endangered populations of woodland caribou, along with rare types of birds and frogs, are among a list of at least 15 species that face threats from the potential construction of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, reveals newly released government records.

Internal correspondence between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada warned the project could affect the populations, listed under schedule one of Canada's Species at Risk Act.

Ottawa kills the emissions messenger

About a year ago, Environment Minister Peter Kent asked a government agency for help.

In a letter to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), Mr. Kent said it was in a “unique position” to offer advice on sustainable development. The government had asked the NRTEE in the past to “conduct research and provide advice on key and emerging issues.” Now, Mr. Kent was asking the NRTEE, with its “unique position,” to conduct a comprehensive review of provincial climate-change plans.

A year after the request and the nice comments about the NRTEE’s past work, however, the Harper government killed the agency in the 2012 budget.

Wait a minute … shouldn’t all the PM’s guards be ready to take a bullet?

Postmedia News is reporting that there are internal problems in the Protective Detail, a unit of RCMP officers that fulfills the same basic function as the U.S. president’s Secret Service guards. The officer commanding the unit, it is alleged, is an unpleasant guy to work for, and was sent for training in management and leadership. That’s bureaucratic-speak for “how not to be a jerk.” The coverage has even suggested that there might have been security implications: Officers assigned to the Protective Detail were apparently so tense around their commander that their job performance, and thus the safety of the prime minister and his family, may have been compromised. Canada is a safe country, but the prime minister still needs competent, adequate protection. That’s not negotiable.

Feud with budget officer a conflict between Conservatives and their own ideals

Once, when the world was young, the Conservatives had an idea.

The Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien were notorious for playing games at budget time, understating revenues and overstating expenses, shuffling spending forward and backward between years, hiding funds in off-budget reserves and otherwise making it difficult to know just how much the government of Canada was spending at any given time, or on what.

Del Mastro claims to be unaware of reimbursement scheme allegations

OTTAWA — Dean Del Mastro, the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, said Wednesday he was unaware of a media report alleging a reimbursement scheme for donations made to his 2008 election campaign.

Asked about the story on the way in to his party’s weekly caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Del Mastro told reporters, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Defence executives received $2M in bonuses last year while cutting staff

OTTAWA — Executives at the Defence Department were awarded almost $2 million in extra pay and bonuses last year as they laid plans to cut public service jobs and tried to manage equipment procurement projects that faced delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns.

The money was for the executives to meet either established goals or to “encourage excellent performance,” according to an email sent by the Defence Department Wednesday to the Citizen.

Canada's digital future at risk as Ottawa joins Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Canada has become the latest country to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive international trade agreement that will include rules for copyright, trademarks and patents that are far more restrictive than those currently required in Canada by existing treaties or regulations. But as Canada prepares to join the talks, digital rights advocates are expressing concerns that the TPP would extend Internet restrictions across the globe.

The TPP’s intellectual property measures would give large media conglomerates new powers to lock users out of their own content and services, provide new liabilities that might force ISPs to police online activity, and give giant media companies even greater powers to shut down websites and remove content at will.

Public Works denies outside experts won’t get access to original U.S. F-35 stealth fighter cost information provided to National Defence

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Public Works Department provided the strategic communications branch in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet department with at least one copy of emails to a journalist this week as it was attempting to deny an outside review of F-35 stealth fighter jet costs will not have access to key information provided by the F-35 project’s head office in the U.S.

The Public Works communications office accidentally included The Hill Times as one of the recipients of an email it sent to officials in the Privy Council Office to show the powerful PCO branch a copy of an email Public Works had prepared in response to a Hill Times report posted Monday about the government’s plan to review F-35 costs, following Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s scathing report on the stealth warplane project last April.

Alberta oil spills highlight aging pipelines, lax regulations, say environmental groups

Environmental groups are pointing to three major oil spills in Alberta in the last six weeks as proof that the government needs stricter regulations and oversights over the province’s aging pipeline infrastructure.

The latest spill occurred earlier this week in northeastern Alberta near the town of Elk Point, where Enbridge confirmed a spill of about 230,000 litres through its pumping station on the Athabasca pipeline.

The biggest incident was earlier this month near Red Deer and Sundre in central Alberta, where 475,000 litres of oil from Plains Midstream Canada leaked, some of it spilling into the Red Deer River.

Toronto schools pay high prices for small jobs

Here’s what taxpayers were charged for work done at Toronto public schools:

Installing a $17 pencil sharpener: $143 to put in four screws.

The installation of a sign on a school’s front lawn: $19,000

An electrical outlet on the wall in a school library: $3,000

A “breakfast club” kitchen: $250,000

At Rio+20, Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic '92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation's Survival

In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known as "the girl who silenced the world for six minutes" after she addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session. We air Cullis-Suzuki’s historic address and speak to her from the Rio+20 summit, which she comes back to now as a veteran international environmental campaigner and mother of two. "Twenty years, later the world is still talking about a speech — a six-minute speech — that a 12-year-old gave to world leaders," Cullis-Suzuki says. "Why? It is because the world is hungry to hear the truth and it is nowhere articulated as well as from the mouths of those with everything at stake, which is youth."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---