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, August 02, 2012

Attawapiskat was not financially mismanaged

On August 1, the Federal Court released its judicial review of the appointment of a Third Party Manager in Attawapiskat.

For those not familiar with the different kinds of cases that come before the various courts in Canada, a judicial review is precisely that -- a court is asked to review the legality of an action or decision made by legislative and executive branches.  In essence, anyone should be able to ask, "Was the government right to do this?" and receive an answer from the courts.  In this case, the court's answer was, "No."

How the issue was framed in public and what the court had to say

Let’s stop catering to Big Oil

Big Oil must love Canada. Our Prime Minister has become an unapologetic hustler for multinational oil companies (as if the most profitable corporations in history really needed the help). Now the two westernmost premiers are going all High Noon to maximize their cut from oil-sands pipelines.

This year’s premiers’ summit turned into such a bitumen babblefest that it was shockingly refreshing to hear Quebec’s Jean Charest make the obvious point that “you cannot disassociate the issues of energy with issues that touch climate change.”

Charest calls Quebec election; Marois starts campaign with attacks

Jean Charest has confirmed Quebeckers will vote in a provincial election for Sept. 4 — the day after Labour Day.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Charest had gone to the province’s lieutenant-governor to dissolve the National Assembly and launch his fifth election campaign as the head of the Quebec Liberals.

At 11:23 a.m. on Wednesday, Mr. Charest emerged from a cabinet meeting, holding hands with his wife, Michèle Dionne.

It Just Gets Worse: NTSB's Final Flaying of Enbridge

A deficient safety culture. Inadequate training. Insufficient pipeline checks for defects. And an ineffective spill response.

Those are just a few of the damning findings contained in the final report of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Enbridge's massive 2010 bitumen spill in Michigan.

The 149-page document, whose July 25 release falls on the heels of a scathing summary report, not only sheds more light on the daily operations of pipeline giant, but explains why poorly regulated pipeline operations have come under heavy scrutiny across the continent.

Harper Conquers Canada, One Robocall at a Time

The widening "robocall scandal" is deeply disturbing -- as is its media coverage.

The language we use to describe a situation, the words that a journalist uses in their coverage of an issue, literally frame the issue and how we think about it.

This isn't a story about "dirty tricks," it's about election fraud. This isn't "stupid," it's illegal. This isn't "folly," it was a deliberate, systematic, strategic, targeted campaign to steal the election. This isn't "voter suppression," it's stealing democracy.

Voter ID on Trial: Philadelphia Election Worker Fears "Chaos"

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- I wrote a little earlier today about how hard it's been for the state to defend its new voter ID law. There was a new example of that in the final set of witness testimonies, which brought a leader of the League of Women Voters and a Philadelphia city commissioner into the room to talk about how impossible it would be to educate all eligable voters on the new rules.

The LWV witnesses haven't added too much to the petitioners' case, and the only tough question to them from the state was about their political activism. But the city commissioner, Jorge Santana, poured forth with details about the state's "soft roll-out" of voter ID. The April 22 primary (for president and lower constitutional offices) was supposed to be a hassle-free test. Voters who showed up to vote, but lacked ID, were let into the polls but given fliers warning them of what they'd need for the fall.

Mitt Romney Better Move to Right, Says Emboldened Tea Party

The stunning Texas victory of Ted Cruz, a young Tea Party-backed Republican over an establishment candidate vying for a Senate seat, has already so emboldened the insurgent conservative movement that activists are warning Mitt Romney he had better get on board.

"These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates]" are going to force Romney to the right," said Andrea Shell, a spokeswoman for Tea Party group Freedom Works. "That is our entire mission."

Jill Stein Arrested: Green Party Nominee Faces Charges After Bank Protest

PHILADELPHIA -- Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate have been arrested at a sit-in at a Philadelphia bank over housing foreclosures.

The arrests came after about 50 party supporters staged a protest Wednesday against Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage lender.

U.S. Drought 2012: Half Of Nation's Counties Now Considered Disaster Areas

ST. LOUIS -- Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's addition of the 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S. counties – 1,584 in 32 states – have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that's considered the worst in decades.

It’s Time for Obama to Fire DeMarco—Will He?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won’t reduce the principal of underwater homeowners—FHFA head Edward DeMarco made that official yesterday. Despite the fact that FHFA analysts concluded this week that forgiving certain mortgage debts could save public money, DeMarco said yesterday he would not allow it because of the “costs and risks”—he is particularly concerned that people might strategically default to qualify for help.

This is a nonsense argument—as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pointed out in a letter [pdf] to DeMarco yesterday, strategic default is an incredibly risky strategy:

A borrower who defaults cannot be certain that he and she will obtain a HAMP modification, much less…principal reduction. Therefore, a borrower would take a substantial risk be deliberately defaulting: they would have to choose to damage their credit for years to come and perjure themselves on the chance that they would be found eligible for the program.

Why Did Romney Double Down on Anti-Palestinian Comments?

Mitt Romney has mastered the art of an impressive maneuver worthy of an Olympic gymnast: the double reversal. Within two days he has changed positions twice on why Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live in abject poverty.

After initially walking back his comments attributing Israel’s prosperity and its neighbors’ lack thereof to their respective cultures, Romney has decided to double down, posting an item on National Review’s website defending his statement.

It all started on Sunday, when Romney said the following at a fundraiser in Jerusalem:

House GOPer Compares Free Birth Control Day to 9/11

According to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), today is a day akin to 9/11 and the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. No, really. "I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom," Kelly said at a press conference. "That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."

Kelly was ranting for the same reason I'm rejoicing—because today is "Free Birth Control Day" in the United States. Today is the day the new mandate requiring health insurers to provide contraception with no co-pay officially goes into effect. And I use the word "free" loosely, since it's not actually free—it's paid for through our premiums, just like other medical services. But once the rule is fully implemented, your out-of-pocket costs for contraception should fall to zero.

The Texas GOP Just Nominated a Gay-Hating Conspiracy Theorist for US Senate

On Tuesday, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz walloped the state's lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, to ice the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. In a place where Democrats haven't won a statewide election since the 1990s, that all but guarantees Cruz will join the world's most deliberative body next January. The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan calls it "a victory for the tea party and national conservatives who lined up behind Cruz even when a surprise win appeared unlikely." This is mostly true, but there's something else that's worth noting about the GOP's fresh young face: For someone with a reputation as an "intellectual force," he holds some pretty out-there views.

Wheat Pardons: Harper Gives Amnesty To Farmers Convicted Under Old Law

KINDERSLEY, Sask. -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper has granted pardons to farmers who were convicted in the 1990s for taking their grain across the border to sell in the U.S.

The farmers were trying to get around a law at the time that said they had to sell their wheat and barley through the Canadian Wheat Board or get export permits from the agency.

New federal legislation effective Wednesday strips the wheat board of its monopoly so that western farmers can sell their grain to whomever they choose.

CSIS Boss Grilled About Spying In Security Certificate Case

Lawyers for one of only three men in Canada subject to a restrictive federal security certificate grilled a spymaster on Wednesday about how CSIS kept tabs on their client.

Mohamed Mahjoub, a refugee from Egypt, has been imprisoned or under house arrest since 2000 based on secret information and without ever facing any charges, because the federal government deems him a threat to national security.

Stephen Harper’s Tories to steer clear of Quebec election

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government — wary of a backlash in a province where it is already unpopular — will keep a safe distance from the Quebec election, even though the campaign could produce a Parti Quebecois government committed to the break-up of Canada.

The Conservatives will not intervene in the race, nor promote the merits of federalism in an effort to get Liberal premier Jean Charest re-elected. Simply put, they say, it’s up to Quebecers to decide who wins on Sept. 4.

Thomas Mulcair’s opposition NDP — with most of its federal caucus elected from Quebec — will also stay away from high-profile participation.

Jason Kenney faces legal uprising over Conrad Black visa

More than 80 lawyers have signed an open letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney challenging his insistence he played no role in granting Conrad Black a permit to live in this country even before the U.K. citizen had finished his jail time in Florida.

The lawyers, all immigration specialists, say they believe Mr. Kenney must have had some part in the controversial decision to grant a temporary resident permit to Mr. Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in pursuit of a British peerage and had served time in a Florida jail for fraud and obstruction of justice.

'Undermining our voices': Indigenous communities oppose resource extraction industry

Today is the Continental Day of Action Against Canadian Mega Resource Extraction. There are actions happening across the country and also throughout the hemisphere, from El Salvador to Colombia, including a vigil outside mining giant Goldcorp's headquarters today (4:30pm, 666 Burrard St., Vancouver).

Like many Indigenous peoples worldwide, the Wet'suwet'en Nation in northern B.C. has resisted mining on their territories, as well as the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. On Vancouver Co-op Radio's W2 Morning Radio Project this morning, I spoke with three B.C. Indigenous land defenders about the impacts of mining and resource extraction on their territories.

Military subversion: Adventurism, seduction, and transformation on the front lines

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953

Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk is hot to trot, ready and eager for new military missions. He's telling his troops to keep their "kit packed up" ready for new military adventures: "We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they're telling me is 'Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?' You also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where's it going to be?"

Ritz should not wait 45 days, must offer Ontario farmers unequivocal sign of support now, ‘don’t bail on your farms,’ says Grit MP Valeriote

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the federal government is “absolutely” ready to respond to the worst drought to hit Eastern Ontario in 47 years, but as farmers deal with crisp fields and stunted crops, the government will take up to 45 days to decide whether to hand out additional aid.

“Certainly, we’ll work as quickly as we can to move forward with AgriRecovery, should it be required,” Mr. Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) told reporters during a press and teleconference on July 31.

The disturbing side of Mitt’s excellent adventures abroad

The excellent adventures of Mitt Romney make for hilarious reading.

In London, the Republican contender for the U.S. presidency manages to inadvertently insult British Prime Minister David Cameron, a key ally and ideological soulmate.

From there it’s on to Jerusalem where what should have been a standard I-love-Israel speech ends up throwing an unintentional spanner into the delicate Middle East peace process.

Lord’s Prayer under legal attack in Grey County

When asked if he is a secularist or an atheist, Peter Ferguson says he is “just a human.”

The architect recently filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a bid to get his local Grey County council to stop praying and turning council into what he calls a “Christian zone.”

“This has nothing to do with my personal beliefs, other than we must be good to one another,” he said.

Mitt Romney Tax Plan Helps The Rich The Most: Analysis

WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney's proposal to slash individual income taxes by 20 percent across-the-board would primarily boost the income of the wealthiest taxpayers, according to a nonpartisan analysis released on Wednesday.

The report by the centrist Tax Policy Center found that Romney's tax cuts would boost after-tax income by an average of 4.1 percent for those earning more than $1 million a year, while reducing by an average of 1.2 percent the after-tax income of individuals earning less than $200,000.

Canada Job Market Set To Dive, Conference Board Report Predicts

OTTAWA -- The Conference Board says its research suggests Canada's labour market has run out of gas, and could even register a loss of jobs for the month of July.

The Ottawa-based think-tank's help-wanted index fell 4.5 points to 120.5 in June, a reading suggesting only modest job gains in the near term.

It predicts July's employment report from Statistics Canada, which will be released next Friday, will show a loss of 5,500 jobs, marking the first setback since February.

Pipeline war with Alberta escalates as B.C. adds Trans Mountain expansion to 'fair share’ list

CALGARY — A new pipeline battle between the Alberta and B.C. governments could soon be raging over the expansion of an old oil line that runs to the West Coast.

While public attention is focused on Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake stresses his government also expects a planned expansion of the existing Trans Mountain line to meet five conditions for heavy oil transport in the province.

'Bogus refugees' sap health care: Kenney

Mexican, Hungarian, Colombian and American refugee claimants used Canadian health care services more than any other asylum claimants, according to figures which the government argues supports its claim that so-called "bogus refugees" are abusing the system.

Between Jan. 17 and Dec. 31, 2011, 8,819 Mexicans used nearly $7 million worth of health care services under the Interim Federal Health Program. The cost for 6,749 Hungarians was more than $4.4 million, the cost for 4,583 Colombians was more than $2.6 million. Meanwhile, 3,790 Americans received more than $1.4 million worth of free health care. Jamaican claim-ants round out the top five with 809 health care users receiving more than $808,000 worth of health services.

Equalization tensions could ‘destroy unity’ in Canada: Ex-Bank of Canada chief David Dodge

OTTAWA — Tensions over wealth-sharing between rich and poor provinces could ultimately “destroy” national unity, former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge argues in an essay published Tuesday by a prominent national think-tank.

Dodge was the co-author of one of two essays published by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy underlining concerns about growing wealth disparity as Ottawa and the provinces head into negotiations to renew the current equalization formula agreement, which expires in 2014.

Attawapiskat handed victory by Federal Court

The Federal Court said today in a judicial review that it was "unreasonable" for the federal government to appoint a third-party manager in Attawapiskat last fall as the Ontario community was dealing with a housing crisis.

Attawapiskat First Nation had applied to the court for a judicial review of the decision by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan to have a third-party manager take control of the community's finances.

Struggle for message control set to begin

The opening and closing arguments of every election are about the framing of the ballot question. Each party has a different one and struggles for control of the message with the media. And nowadays, not just mainstream media, but social media. Campaign 2.0.

Welcome to Quebec’s first Twitter election. François Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec, already has a very active Twitter feed, sometimes to the point where it seems he has nothing else to do. The other day, when Jean Charest announced three former MNAs from Action démocratique du Québec were running for the Liberals, Legault posted bitter and twisted comments to Twitter.

Gateway pipeline standoff fails to give B.C. Liberals a boost with voters

Premier Christy Clark’s high-profile campaign to seek a better B.C. deal from the controversial Northern Gateway project does not appear to have lifted support for her embattled BC Liberals ahead of the next provincial election, a new poll suggests.

Half of voters would support the NDP were a provincial election held now, according to the Forum Research Inc. survey of more than 1,000 B.C. residents provided exclusively to The Globe and Mail.

Federal advertising report two years overdue with no release date in sight

OTTAWA - An annual report meant to update Canadians on how the government spends taxpayer dollars on advertising is now two years overdue, with no timeline in sight for when it might be published.

The Public Works Department is supposed to prepare a report each year on how the government manages its advertising, including the major campaigns undertaken and the amount of money spent on ads.

Harper pardons farmers arrested under old wheat board law

The Conservative government is pardoning a group of farmers who were arrested for trying to sell their wheat under the old law governing the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly as they mark the first day on which prairie producers can sell outside the board.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement this afternoon at a farm outside Kindersely, Sask.

"Never, never again" will western farmers alone be punished for trying to sell the wheat they grew on their land, Harper said to a round of applause.

PMO says Harper will not attend first ministers meeting

A spokesman in the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday that Stephen Harper wouldn't attend a first ministers meeting on the economy, derailing plans by the premiers to bring him back to the table.

The provincial leaders joined together last week in calling on Harper to meet with them in Halifax in November to talk about the state of the world economy and its effects on Canadians.

Secrecy problems across government institutions

While there are clearly problems with secrecy concerning attendance and other parts of the operations of the Senate, many recent scandals have shown clearly that it is not the only federal government institution with secrecy problems.

The federal Conservatives promised in their 2006 election platform to require every federal government institution to keep records of every action and decision, and to disclose the records except if someone's personal health or safety would be hurt, or their personal privacy violated.

The Conservatives broke those promises, and also failed to include any promises to strengthen the federal Access to Information Act in their international Open Government Partnership Action Plan for the next three years.

The Act has so many loopholes and flaws that it should be called "The Guide to Keeping Secrets Act". Thankfully, the federal Information Commissioner has initiated a review of the law that will hopefully lead all federal political parties to finally, after 30 years, change it into an actual open government law.

Given that government secrecy is a recipe for waste, corruption and abuse of the public, every day that goes by with this flawed law in place is another day of bad federal government (and the access laws for provincial, territorial and municipal governments across Canada have similar loopholes and flaws).

Original Article
Author: Democracy Watch