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.]

Friday, June 29, 2012

Harper minister ducks questions on plan to “authorize” water pollution

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minister in charge of protecting Canada’s fisheries does not appear to have an explanation for suggesting that the country needs new rules to “authorize” more water pollution.

Several days after Postmedia News reported he had made this argument in support of new environmental legislation, that was expected to be adopted on Friday, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield has not offered to explain his own remarks.

China blocks Bloomberg website after report on wealth of next president’s family

BEIJING, CHINA — China blocked access to Bloomberg’s website on the mainland after the business and financial news agency published a report Friday detailing the multimillion-dollar assets of relatives of the man set to become the country’s next president.

The report says that the extended family of Vice-President Xi Jinping holds interests that include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million, an 18 per cent indirect stake in a rare-earths company with $1.73 billion in assets and a $20 million holding in a tech company. The report cites public documents Bloomberg reporters compiled.

Mayor Rob Ford didn’t stop for open streetcar door, TTC union says

A confrontation between Rob Ford and a TTC driver occurred Wednesday because the mayor drove his vehicle past the open doors of a streetcar, the head of the transit workers’ union said Friday.

“My understanding is that Mayor Ford bypassed an open door and the operator then got off the streetcar – left his seat anyways – to advise the motorist, not knowing it was Mayor Ford, of the seriousness of the violation, as well was the concern for our passengers,” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear told the Star.

Public servants defend right to wear ‘Stephen Harper hates me’ buttons

OTTAWA—They believe the prime minister hates their guts and they are fighting for the right to say something about it.

Blue buttons emblazoned with the words “Stephen Harper hates me” have landed some employees at the Canada Revenue Agency in hot water for wearing them to work.

The buttons were created by some grassroots members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — the largest of the unions representing federal employees — from the Atlantic region earlier this year as a way for workers to express their displeasure with looming cuts to public jobs and services.

Canada's Hard Turn Right

A new petro state has emerged in global affairs and its extreme political behavior has unsettled both Americans and Europeans alike.

For starters, the year-old regime has muzzled government scientists who are now accompanied by Soviet-like “minders” at public events.

It has branded environmentalists as “foreign radicals.”

Government whistleblower watchdog fails to deliver after five years

OTTAWA - Following the release of the fifth annual report by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, civil society groups are calling the federal Conservatives' 5-year-old whistleblower regime a failure and calling for major reforms to ensure protection of Canadian whistleblowers.

"After five years of bureaucratic charades, taxpayers have essentially nothing to show for more than 30 million dollars spent on the Integrity Commissioner's office and the associated Tribunal," said David Hutton, executive director of FAIR, the whistleblower charity. "Not a single wrongdoer has been sanctioned and not a single whistleblower has been protected. It is time for a root and branch reform of this law."

With Alberta's budget all but balanced, where's Ted Morton now that we don't need him?

Can it be less than two years since Ted Morton, then Alberta's steely-eyed finance minister and hard-right fiscal hawk, was poised to become premier himself?

Readers with long memories will recall how Morton had in January 2011 just stuck the knife into then-premier Ed Stelmach. Morton wanted a painfully instant balanced budget that Stelmach was too smart or too humane to accept. When he didn't get his way, he quit -- precipitating the crisis that led to Stelmach's resignation.

Oh how the winds of change were blowing then! Morton was The Man, the cock of the walk, the tight-fisted front-runner in the then-nascent Progressive Conservative leadership race. He was the self-described leftists' nightmare, an American-born “right-winger with a PhD” -- his thesis dissertation in "political economy" assailing the U.S. Supreme Court for its "confused understanding of the relationship between sexual equality and the family." He was the guy who as soon as he was in the top job would reunite the PCs and the Wildrose Party into a neo-Con monolith that would turn the screws on Alberta till the pips squeaked!

Canada's Mean Test: Myths behind neo-con madness

It's difficult to overstate the significance of the Quebec student strike (the longest in North American history) and resultant public backlash against the provincial government's Orwellian response.

Not that you'd know it. According to mainstream (predominantly) English media, Montreal is being held hostage by a handful of scruffy, possibly naked, hooky-playing slack-tivists who got distracted on the way to a door-crasher sale at the Apple store and decided to stop traffic while demanding their constitutional right to free lattes. Or something.

The negative stereotyping of those who resist (or are an inconvenience to) the current neo-conservative model doesn't begin and end with students, of course -- public servants are also a favourite target, what with their middle-class wages and secure-ish retirement. And let's not forget sick days!

It’s hard to be an energy superpower

The first thing we should all be honest enough to admit about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plans to transform Canada into an “energy superpower” is that Plan A, which is really all about Alberta bitumen, is perhaps just a bit more reckless and sinister than we might have imagined.

It’s true that Ottawa has been “getting the fundamentals right,” if you can forgive the cliché. If you can forget that he has to stand on the shoulders of his Liberal predecessors to do so, our Conservative prime minister can crow that the World Economic Forum has given Canada a blue ribbon for bank regulation. In any case, Prime Minister Harper can rightly boast that Canada’s tax rate on new business investment is the lowest of the G7 countries, as is Canada’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product.

Federal cutbacks threat to future generation

The word from the federal government is austerity, but in reality it is a case of creating a crisis and solving it by cutting public programs and services. It is an excellent opportunity for the libertarian Harper government to ditch previous public initiatives and scale back the size of government.

Stephen Harper's Conservative government is delivering budget changes by stealth. Little by little the funding is being cut - a program here, a program there. On the eve of Aboriginal Day the government silently cut the funding for the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth program.

Charities should be even more involved in politics

The Harper government is absolutely right that we have a problem with charities getting involved in politics: They don’t do it nearly enough.

“Many charities have acquired a wealth of knowledge about how government policies affect people’s lives. Charities are well-placed to study, assess, and comment on those government policies. ... It is therefore essential that charities continue to offer their direct knowledge of social issues to public policy debates.”

That’s the government talking. More specifically, that’s the government’s principle policy statement on the involvement of charities in political activities. It came into effect in 2003. It’s still in force.

Who will speak up for Canada?

Think back to 1995, when Canada was in the throes of a national unity crisis. The “Yes” side in the Quebec referendum was fast gaining momentum on the eve of the vote. Brian Tobin and Sheila Copps decided to organize a Montreal “love-in” to show Quebeckers that Canadians cared deeply about Quebec and its place in the Canadian family.

Air Canada, Canadian Pacific and Via Rail offered deep discounts, in some cases up to 90 per cent of the cost, for Canadians to make their way to Montreal. Every available bus in Ontario was conscripted and 75 packed buses left New Brunswick to make their way to Montreal.

Public servants send PM, Tory MPs ‘affected’ notices

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s public servants are turning the tables on their political masters and sending affected letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Conservative MPs warning them their jobs could be on the line when they go to the polls because of $5.2 billion in spending cuts.

The letters are part of the gimmickry of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s latest national “We Are All affected” campaign against the spending cuts that will wipe out 19,200 jobs. They are a play on the nearly 24,000 affected letters the government has sent to public servants warning them the work they do could be affected by the cuts and they could lose their jobs.

Canada GDP: April Saw 0.3 Per Cent Rise Mostly On Mining And Oil, StatsCan Says

OTTAWA - Canada's economy had a second month of growth in April, building momentum with a 0.3 per cent increase in gross domestic product compared with March, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

Canada's economy took a step backwards in February — when output was affected by a number of production shutdowns — but resumed growth in March, when the GDP advanced by 0.1 per cent.

Mitt Romney, Surprised By Health Care Decision, Pivots To Tax Attack

WASHINGTON -– A few weeks ago, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney said the approaching Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care law would be "the most over-reported story of the election."

While that statement during a background conversation may have been a bit of egregious spin designed to keep expectations in check, the premise -– that the election will be about the economy and jobs -– was sound.

On Oil Sands, Ottawa's Not Hearing What Alberta's Saying

On Sept. 11, 2009, Stephen Harper's then-environment minister Jim Prentice called on his counterpart in Alberta, Rob Renner, and then-premier Ed Stelmach.

Prentice intended to pitch the province on the federal government's plan to control Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

It wasn't going to be an easy sell. Ottawa planned to place clear limits on Canada's carbon emissions. Companies unable to meet those limits would need to buy credits from companies that exceeded their requirements. This would almost certainly impact the bottom-line of Alberta's bitumen and coal sectors, two of Canada's largest sources of industrial carbon emissions.

Michael Savage Links Justice John Roberts' Epilepsy Medication To Obamacare Ruling

Conservative firebrand Michael Savage is not known to mince words--one of his favorite adjectives is "Islamofascist," and in 2009 he was banned from entering the United Kingdom on grounds of extremism.

But on Thursday, the popular radio talk show host's outspokenness veered into particularly strange territory when he suggested that Chief Justice John Roberts' epilepsy medication was responsible for his decision to uphold President Obama's health care law.

"Let's talk about Roberts," Savage said. "I'm going to tell you something that you're not gonna hear anywhere else, that you must pay attention to. It's well known that Roberts, unfortunately for him, has suffered from epileptic seizures. Therefore he has been on medication. Therefore neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness and other cognitive problems. And if you look at Roberts' writings you can see the cognitive disassociation (sic) in what he is saying..."

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Benjamin Hart 

Homeless Students Top 1 Million, U.S. Says, Leaving Advocates 'Horrified'

Back in November of 2005, Diane Nilan had what she now concedes may have struck some people as a “crazy notion.” She’d been working as advocate for homeless families in Illinois, getting frustrated by the glacial pace of political and bureaucratic change, when she decided to sell her town house, buy a Gulfstream motor home, and set out on the road to talk to homeless families living around the country. She drove to Pensacola, Fla., and then to Lafayette, La., and then to a tiny town in Texas, where she met a little boy who had been abandoned by his mother. She spoke with homeless children and their families at campsites and motels and shelters, and filmed them in an attempt to share what she learned.

Vancouver housing 'task force' plan not strong enough to dent developer-backed affordability crisis

The City of Vancouver's developer task force released another interim report this week -- a follow-up to the previous very preliminary interim report (see The Mainlander's analysis here).

Although the latest proposal and its ideas remain in draft form, the document contains a couple of substantial policy proposals, including a municipal Housing Authority and a Land Bank. These are two very good ideas, but the question remains: will the proposals actually be implemented? If so, will it be at a scale capable of meeting the demand for real affordable housing? Will it be done in a way that benefits residents and communities instead of private developers?

Three days before the shameful cuts to health care for refugees

On June 30, one day before Canada Day, cuts to health care for refugees will be made by the federal government. These cuts will include access to vision care, dental care, prescription drugs and mobility devices for all refugees. For many refugees it will also include restrictions on primary and basic health care that all Canadians receive. This includes medical assistance during emergencies like heart attacks and even during childbirth. Those children being birthed of course will be Canadian citizens, but they are still not entitled to receiving assistance during their delivery. What does this say about Canada and our values? And what is our government saying on our behalf to all newcomers?

Refugees come to Canada fleeing famine, torture and violence. They are looking for a safe haven. They may enter this country physically, mentally and emotionally harmed. But regardless of the injuries, they will be denied basic primary care. Only when a refugee threatens the safety of public health will many of them receive any medical attention. Doctors have been incredibly effective at getting their message against these cuts to the media and the public. We applaud their courage and passion to assist Canada's most vulnerable. Their newest protest against these cuts is available for viewing online.

How much Canada does the world need?

Maybe you recall a certain tourism slogan from the 1990s. “The world needs more Canada,” declared television spots and newspaper ads from 1995, pitching the U.S., Japan and Europe on the idea of Canada as a land of tranquility, safety and whales coming up for air in slow motion. We were the place to go for global spiritual renewal.

It seems the planet has finally caught up to this idea, at least as far as safety and tranquility goes. Now the relevant question seems to be: how much Canada does the world really need? After all, there’s only so much to go around.

Visitors get $49-million welcome centre but fewer chances to tour Parliament

The federal government is planning to spend almost $50-million to create a new underground welcome centre for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Parliament Hill each year.

But it’s simultaneously cutting the budget for guided tours, ensuring some 20,000 fewer visitors will actually get a peek inside the majestic buildings housing the seat of Canada’s national government.

Ottawa to halt new immigration applications

Ottawa will stop accepting new immigration applications to the federal skilled worker and investor programs starting Monday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.

Kenney said the skilled worker program will be reopened in January, when “important changes” will be made. However, the investor program will be halted indefinitely so the government can “make progress on processing its existing inventory.”

The news has caught prospective applicants and their lawyers off guard as they were not given advance notice to submit applications that are almost ready.

Province urges Ottawa not to cut refugee health care

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has added her support behind the national campaign against Ottawa’s planned cuts to health services for refugees.

In a letter to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Matthews urged Ottawa to reverse its decision to significantly reduce health coverage for refugee claimants.

“By abdicating your responsibility toward some of the most vulnerable in our society, you have effectively downloaded federal costs onto the provincial health-care system,” Matthews wrote in a letter, dated Wednesday.

Web advocates want veil on trade talks lifted

A coalition of Internet advocates launched a campaign Wednesday against Canada's participation in closed-door trade talks that could force Canada to impose draconian restrictions on Internet users.

The coalition, which includes Vancouver's, is calling on the Canadian government to lift the veil of secrecy around negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and to defend Canada's sovereignty over Internet laws in this country.

"You could end up getting fined just for clicking on the wrong link," said Steve Anderson, founder of, which has been joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the U.S. digital rights group Public Knowledge, the Council of Canadians, the global consumer advocacy group, the software company Tucows, the Chilean public interest group ONG Derechos Digitales and the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Public Citizen.

Ottawa seeks new operator for freshwater research station

The Fisheries department is talking to universities, scientists and provincial officials in an effort to find someone willing to take over a freshwater research station that’s been operating in Northwestern Ontario for 50 years but no longer fits with government priorities.

Dave Gillis, the director general of ecosystem science in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, held a series of conference calls this week with university administrators and researchers, government scientists and provincial representatives to explore options for saving the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).

Movement builds in Montana to oppose corporate election spending

"I never bought a man who wasn't for sale," William A. Clark reportedly said. He was one of Montana's "Copper Kings," a man who used his vast wealth to manipulate the state government and literally buy votes to make himself a U.S. senator. That was more than 100 years ago, and the blatant corruption of Clark and the other Copper Kings created a furor that led to the passage, by citizen initiative, of Montana's Corrupt Practices Act in 1912. The century of transparent campaign-finance restrictions that followed, preventing corporate money from influencing elections, came to an end this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court summarily reversed the Montana law. Five justices of the U.S Supreme Court reiterated: Their controversial Citizens United ruling remains the law of the land. Clark's corruption contributed to the passage of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Now, close to 100 years later, it may take a popular movement to amend the Constitution again, this time to overturn Citizens United and confirm, finally and legally, that corporations are not people.

Vancouver 'Casseroles' arrests rise to 12 as police brutality alleged last night

Police arrested seven more protesters last night at a Vancouver "Casseroles" demonstration in support of Quebec students -- only days after five arrests at a similar rally on Friday -- sending one person to hospital and allegations of police brutality.

The escalation in protest detentions coincides with the Vancouver Police Department's admission it recently sent Staff Sgt. Ken Athans -- in the crowd control unit -- to study tactics from Montreal police. Several of the arrested said they were thrown to the ground by police, one slammed into a stone garbage bin, another kneed repeatedly in the back while face-down on the ground. Another woman was taken to St. Paul's Hospital for treatment of an injured wrist and ribs.

Trans rights bill supporters being targeted

On Wednesday June 6, Parliament voted to send private member's Bill C-279: An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression) to committee for review as part of its trek toward passage. I had expressed concerns at that time about some possible changes that were being considered, but it remains to be seen in committee stage if that will happen. I do know that if Parliamentary support for the bill drops, those changes will become more likely, while better awareness could help to avert them.

Fifteen Conservative Members of Parliament joined with opposition MPs to help the bill get to this stage. LifeSiteNews, BC Parents and Teachers for Life, Campaign Life Coalition and several other large right-wing groups and media websites have called upon their legions to write to these MPs and excoriate them for supporting basic human rights protections for transsexual and transgender Canadians.

Holt Renfrew Union Drive Comes Up Short At Toronto Vote

Workers at a Toronto-area Holt Renfrew store have come up short in their bid to unionize.

Following a tense organizing drive, a majority of employees at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre location voted on Thursday against joining the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada (UFCW).

According to the UFCW, the "no" vote came after an "aggressive campaign to deny workers the right to come together and have a say in their compensation and working conditions."

Canada U.S. Border Deal Allows U.S. To Share Canadian Border Info

OTTAWA - The United States will be allowed to share information about Canadians with other countries under a sweeping border deal.

The U.S. won't have to explicitly tell Canada about its plan to pass along the personal details in many cases, suggests a newly released binational privacy charter.

Information-sharing about security cases has sometimes been a sore point between the two countries since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Even more ethical than you thought

As Thomas Mulcair can attest, it is rather easier to speak about the oil sands than it is to actually get up here and see what is going on. Fort McMurray, Alta. is remote, and while my first visit was rather longer than Mr. Mulcair’s, it was still only a full day.

Three years ago, upon the occasion of the merger of oil sands pioneer Suncor with Petro-Canada, this column examined some of the ethical questions posed by oil sands development. The argument then was just emerging about “ethical oil,” namely that Alberta oil is morally and strategically superior because it does not support odious regimes, from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia to Russia. The argument has only become stronger since then, propelled by Ezra Levant’s eponymous book, and adopted in the rhetoric of the federal government.

Paul Krugman Asks Economists To Sign 'Manifesto For Economic Sense'

Paul Krugman is upset by the way governments have handled the economic crisis and he wants other economists to be upset too and then sign something just to prove how upset they are.

Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, is asking anyone who agrees with his views to sign "A Manifesto for Economic Sense," according to his blog. He has partnered with British economist Richard Layard in developing the declaration for what they call an "evidence-based analysis of problems."

Matt Davis, Former GOP Spokesman, Suggests 'Armed Rebellion' After Supreme Court Ruling

Conservatives were united in their disappointment over the Supreme Court's upholding of President Barack Obama's health care law on Thursday. But one former GOP spokesman took things a bit further than the near-uniform vows to repeal the legislation.

Matt Davis, a Michigan attorney who was once the state Republican Party's spokesman, sent out an email that asked whether armed rebellion would be justified in the wake of the court's decision. According to Michigan Capital Confidential, a local news service that originally reported the missive, Davis sent it "moments after the Supreme Court ruling to numerous new media outlets and limited government activists."

John Roberts Outrages Conservatives In Health Care Ruling

In his majority 5-4 opinion on Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the constitutionality of the signature domestic policy achievement of President Barack Obama's administration, the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, he and his court earned the ire of conservatives.

"This was an activist court that you saw today," Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told reporters. "Anytime the Supreme Court renders something constitutional that is clearly unconstitutional, that undermines the credibility of the Supreme Court. I do believe the court's credibility was undermined severely today," she said, later adding that Congress could now force you to buy Ikea furniture.

Health Care Dissent: Here's What The Conservative Wing Wanted To Happen

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney, reacting to the Supreme Court's health care ruling Thursday, said, "I agree with the dissent."

The dissent tosses out the entire health care law, dismissing the case for it as "feeble" and a "vast judicial overreach." It argues that "against a mountain of evidence," its backers offer only the "flimsiest of indications to the contrary."

Ruling Could Allow Republicans to Deny Medicaid to Millions of Poor Americans

The Affordable Care Act didn’t survive entirely as passed—somewhat lost amidst the intense focus on the individual mandate was a ruling that part of the law’s Medicaid expansion was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s modification of the law probably won’t have a fundamental, long-term impact, but does make it easier for rogue Republican governors to exempt their states from participating in the expansion—and could cost millions of low-income, uninsured Americans a chance at government health care.

First, a brief refresher on what the ACA did to Medicaid: as you may know, the program is run jointly by the states and the federal government to provide health care to (very) low-income Americans. States set up their Medicaid system according to federal regulations and get most of the money from the feds, while funding some of the program themselves. Healthcare reform aimed to expand coverage, in part, by expanding Medicaid to cover people up to 133 percent above the poverty line (as compared to 63 percent now)—that is, at or below income of $30,700 for a family of four. This expansion would extend coverage to 16 million additional people by 2019.

Pratt & Whitney Canada sent military copter tech to China

WASHINGTON— Pratt & Whitney Canada and its parent company, United Technologies, have been fined more than $75 million (U.S.) for selling China software that was used to develop and produce China’s first modern military attack helicopter.

As part of the settlement, Pratt & Whitney Canada agreed to plead guilty to two federal criminal charges—violating a U.S. export control law and making false statements. The charges were in connection with the export to China of U.S.-origin military software used in Pratt & Whitney Canada engines, which was used to test and develop China’s new Z-10 helicopter.

Tories, NDP battling for small business, survey suggests

The NDP is seen as the party most sensitive the needs of the unemployed but is also not far behind the Conservatives when it comes to small business, according to a Nanos survey for CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

The national online survey was conducted in the wake of the government's controversial omnibus budget implementation bill, which included changes to Employment Insurance to set new criteria for suitable employment for people making EI claims. The changes mean people who make more frequent or longer-running claims will have to consider increasingly lower-paying jobs or have their EI payments cut off.

Del Mastro donors offer to speak to Election Canada if given immunity

OTTAWA — Donors who say they were reimbursed for contributions they made to Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign have offered to speak to Elections Canada if given immunity from prosecution.

A lawyer representing some of the donors wrote to the elections watchdog to say they will provide details of a scheme that allegedly used payments from a Mississauga electrical company owned by Del Mastro’s cousin to reimburse donors.

Feds’ move to close world-renowned freshwater environmental research centre strikes a nerve: Forum Research poll

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government’s closure of a world-renowned freshwater environmental research centre deep in the northern forests of Ontario has struck a nerve with Canadians from coast to coast, a Forum Research poll has found.

The survey for The Hill Times on Wednesday this week suggested that 50 per cent of Canadians disapprove of the decision, part of sweeping spending cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and opposition MPs say the poll results suggest shutting down the centre has galvanized public opinion in conjunction with wider changes and limits to environmental protection contained in the government’s omnibus budget implementation legislation, Bill C-38.