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, July 19, 2013

Koch-Funded Climate Contrarians Make Mischief on Capitol Hill

With Congress about to head out of town for its summer recess, a Washington-based think tank is ramping up a campaign to foil any attempts to institute a tax on carbon emissions, The Hill, a Washington political trade publication, reported this week.

"We're hoping to put the final nail in the coffin of the carbon tax," said Benjamin Cole, the communications director for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA). "The proposal should be dead on arrival by the time lawmakers come back from August recess."

Six-Week Abortion Ban Introduced In Texas

The same day Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a bill that may lead to the closure of most abortion clinics in the state, Republican state legislators introduced a bill that would ban abortions as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected.

ThinkProgress first reported that state Reps. Phil King (R), Dan Flynn (R), and Geanie Morrison (R) filed House Bill 59 on Thursday, which, if enacted, would be on par with the most severe abortion ban in the country. The bill would require women seeking abortion to first undergo an ultrasound, and if the fetal heartbeat can be detected -- which usually occurs around six weeks of pregnancy -- she would be banned from having the procedure.

David Axelrod: 'Hillary Clinton Probably Will Be The Candidate' In 2016

Democratic strategist and former White House adviser David Axelrod said Friday that Hillary Clinton, who he helped then-candidate Barack Obama beat in the 2008 Democratic primary, will likely end up being the party's presidential candidate in 2016.

"I think that Hillary Clinton probably will be the candidate," Axelrod said Friday on MSNBC.

North Carolina Republicans Push Harsh New Voter ID Law

As Congress held hearings this week on whether to resurrect the heart of the Voting Rights Act, the North Carolina Senate introduced a harsh new voter ID law that could be passed in a matter of days. (See my new piece on the state’s Moral Monday protest movement for how activists are resisting the GOP’s agenda.)

The Senate version of the bill, posted today, is significantly tougher than the House bill passed in April. North Carolina was one of fifteen states subject to Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional, so the state no longer needs to clear its voting changes with the federal government. North Carolina Republicans have acted accordingly, making a very bad law even worse.

An 'Affront to Democracy' Steers Detroit Toward Austerity

Recalling the partial meltdown of a nearby nuclear power plant a decade earlier, and a book that revealed the extent of the crisis, Gil Scott Heron sang in 1977, “We Almost Lost Detroit.”

The city survived, and remains home to 700,000 Americans and the symbolic center of the nation’s auto industry. But after decades of neglect by federal and state officials, and a meltdown of American manufacturing, Detroit is facing exceptionally hard economic times.

Temperatures Rising Over Military Sexual Assaults

In June, a panel of square-shouldered military chiefs sat before Congress to account for the epidemic of sexual assault. Top brass promised “zero tolerance,” and Congress began crafting reforms tied to the defense spending bill it will send to the White House this year.

Everyone says they are committed to reform—the Pentagon has been promising change for decades—but since the June hearing most lawmakers have backed away from one check that victims’ advocates argue is crucial and the military says is out of the question: authorizing military lawyers, rather than commanding officers, to decide which cases go to trial.

What Lisa Raitt should have said in Lac Megantic

Watching newly-minted Transport Minister Lisa Raitt’s press conference in Lac Megantic was painful. Not because of her poor French, which she self-deprecatingly apologized for, but because it looked as though she wished she could do more than say “My door is open” and “The people of the country are with you.”

Her pledge that “you can count on the federal government to be supportive and we will be here to help with reconstruction, in whatever way the province and the municipality wants us to be there,” rang particularly hollow when followed by the disclaimer that “The difficult part, of course, is understanding the pure quantum of what we’re looking at.”

Conservative enemies’ lists hardly normal political business

OTTAWA— “Creepy” was one of the words used this week to describe the existence of those enemy lists inserted into the briefing binders of new ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

Here’s something potentially creepier, however. What if the government kept its list of friends and enemies on a huge, computer database, with names, addresses and personal information about millions of Canadians? And what if you had no right at all to see how you were listed?

Egypt’s Ordinary Coup

Since the removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, on July 3rd, the Obama Administration has purposefully declined to state whether this event was “a coup d’état or decree in which the military plays a decisive role,” because an affirmative answer would legally require the suspension of aid. Given Egypt’s strategic importance, the United States government would like to have good relations with the new administration in Cairo, and has emphasized the role played by popular protest in Morsi’s overthrow and the legitimacy this putatively confers upon his successors. According to the Egyptian media, fourteen million Egyptians demonstrated against President Morsi, which, if this count is correct, would make these the largest protests in the country’s history, and possibly some of the largest demonstrations anywhere in the world. For some commentators, this is the only aspect of Morsi’s overthrow that matters, and, if they recognize the role of the military in the process, they argue that the event is unusual enough that it should be treated as sui generis.

Jimmy Carter Defends Edward Snowden, Says NSA Spying Has Compromised Nation's Democracy

Former President Jimmy Carter announced support for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden this week, saying that his uncovering of the agency's massive surveillance programs had proven "beneficial."

Speaking at a closed-door event in Atlanta covered by German newspaper Der Spiegel, Carter also criticized the NSA's domestic spying as damaging to the core of the nation's principles.

"America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time," Carter said, according to a translation by Inquisitr.

City of Demons

It only took one year and nine months to arrange, but next week I’ll finally have a chance to fight the criminal charges L.A. filed against me for reporting on the city’s violent paramilitary crackdown on OccupyLA.

For those late to the story, my legal troubles started late at night on November 30, 2011. I was outside City Hall in downtown L.A. trying to report on the LAPD’s eviction raid on the OccupyLA encampment, when I realized that I was penned in by a wall of cops and not allowed to leave the area. The City of Los Angeles had imposed a strict “media pool” policy: all reporters not officially sanctioned by the LAPD were not allowed to approach the OccupyLA camp during the raid, let alone report from within the camp itself. Only a handful of local news organizations were admitted to the media pool; the rest had to stay in a special media pen set up by cops a safe distance away from the action. It was for our own protection!

Alexei Navalny, Russian Opposition Leader, Released On Bail

KIROV, Russia — A Russian court Friday freed charismatic opposition leader Alexei Navalny from custody less than 24 hours after he was convicted of embezzlement, a surprise release he attributed to protests over a five-year prison sentence seen by supporters as a blatantly political attempt to silence a Kremlin foe.

In an unusual move, prosecutors requested that the Moscow mayoral candidate be let go pending appeal so he could participate in the race in the fall. The sudden about-face could reflect possible confusion in the Kremlin about how to handle the case of President Vladimir Putin's No. 1 enemy.

Actually, Stand Your Ground Played a Major Role in the Trayvon Martin Case

Since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, conservatives have argued that Stand Your Ground, Florida's expansive and controversial self-defense law, was irrelevant to the case. After all, Zimmerman waived his right to a pre-trial hearing that might have granted him immunity under the statute and his defense team chose not to raise it during the trial. Case closed, right?

EI benefits falling faster than unemployment

Statistics Canada reported this week that 12,290 fewer Canadians received Employment Insurance (EI) benefits in May compared to April. EI benefits are shrinking far faster than unemployment.

In percentage terms, the number of EI recipients declined as much in just the last month as unemployment declined over the past year. Between April and May, the number of unemployed Canadians decreased by only 1 per cent while the number of EI beneficiaries decreased by 2.4 per cent. Compared to May of last year, the number of unemployed workers was down by 2.4 per cent but the number of EI beneficiaries was down by 7.4 per cent.

We already know from the Labour Force Survey that unemployment rose in June. The downward trend in EI is troubling given that more workers will likely need benefits.

The federal government is cutting back EI too quickly given that unemployment is barely decreasing. As Armine Yalnizyan points out, EI coverage is now at its lowest level since World War II.

Original Article
Author:  Erin Weir

Transport Canada mum on rail safety rules

Transport Canada won’t say what the minimum requirements are for making sure a parked train won’t roll away and it won’t disclose the rules set by the rail companies for keeping unattended trains with potentially dangerous goods stationary.

The CBC asked Transport Canada to clarify the rules for tying down a train a few days after the Lac Megantic tragedy. More than two days later, the response ignored the specific request for minimum requirements and referred to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules.

Garment workers making less money than 10 years ago, report shows

The wages of garment workers toiling away in squalid conditions are not improving as retail brands increase their orders — they are getting worse.

More orders placed by big brands in nations such as Bangladesh and Cambodia do not necessarily translate into financial gains — or even a living wage — for workers there, said Ben Hensler, deputy director and general counsel of the Worker Rights Consortium.

Scarborough subway: Route makes immigrants, students and poor the losers

As with any transit decision, there are winners and losers. In Scarborough, where city council has decided to scrap plans for an LRT and endorse a subway, new immigrants and lower-income residents stand to bear the brunt of the decision.

Demographic data from the 2011 census shows how the seven-stop LRT plan would have run through lower-income neighbourhoods and serviced a greater number of newly arrived immigrants.

Time for Ottawa to embrace energy strategy, get serious about climate change

TORONTO—From July 24-26, premiers from across Canada will gather in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the annual Council of the Federation (COF) meeting. Though health care and transportation are expected to be at the top of the agenda, the Canadian energy strategy will also receive some attention.

The federal government isn’t part of the COF, and as such will not be party to the conversation. And the truth is, many of the provinces prefer it this way. Energy is in provincial jurisdiction and provinces don’t want the federal government meddling in their affairs.

Is Harperland our Nixonland?

Those callous comparisons are back again. Reports that the Conservative government compiled an enemies’ list for newly appointed cabinet ministers are triggering more talk that this government operates in a way reminiscent of the Richard Nixon Republicans.

I sometimes get questions about how Harperland stacks up to Nixonland. People cite the secrecy, the abuse of power, the bludgeoning of opponents, the attempts to subvert the democratic system and much more.

Tories remove Environment Minister from economic prosperity committee

The Conservative Government has taken “sustainable growth” out of the title of a key cabinet committee and removed the Environment Minister from its membership – instead focusing solely on “economic prosperity.”

This week’s cabinet shuffle also included changes to the membership and focus of the powerful cabinet committees. The most significant change was renaming what was once called the “Cabinet Committee on Economic Prosperity and Sustainable Growth,” which had included Environment Minister Peter Kent. Now, it’s simply the “Cabinet Committee on Economic Prosperity,” and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq isn’t among its members.

Striking foreign service workers ask government to join binding arbitration

OTTAWA - The union representing Canada's striking foreign service workers is asking Treasury Board President Tony Clement to settle the dispute through binding arbitration.

Tim Edwards, the president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, made the offer Thursday in a letter to Clement.

The letter, which sets a deadline for the offer of noon Tuesday, says the job action is having an impact on tourism, education, air transport and agriculture, and is also delaying the processing of visas and immigration applications.

Poilievre brings robocalls expertise to new job

Should the Conservative government make good on its promise to overhaul the elections law, the task will fall to new minister of state for democratic reform, Pierre Poilievre.

The government promised in March 2012 that it would introduce new legislation within six months, in response to the robocalls scandal and its allegations that automated calls directed voters to the wrong polling locations in the 2011 election.

Now, more than a year later, there is still no legislation.

Senior staffer who allegedly knew of Duffy payment leaves PMO

OTTAWA — One of the senior staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office alleged to have knowledge of a $90,000 secret payment to Sen. Mike Duffy has left the PMO.

Government phone listings no longer show Chris Woodcock as director of issues management inside the Prime Minister’s Office. The listings, edited in the last day, don’t show Woodcock anywhere in the federal government.

Low-Income Canadians Have Highest Effective Marginal Tax Rate: Study

Because of how taxes and government aid are structured, low-income Canadians lose the most money when they move up the earnings ladder, according to a new study from the C.D. Howe Institute.

The study from the conservative-leaning think tank found a typical family with two working parents and two children with an income of $40,000 would lose 68 cents for every additional dollar in income earned. (This number is known as the “marginal effective tax rate.”) That’s for a family in Ontario; in Quebec, that family would lose 79 cents for every dollar earned.

Fortress White America

Remember the days after the 2012 election when it looked like Republicans would finally be persuaded, if only by self-interest, to support immigration reform? Brit Hume of Fox News blamed Mitt Romney’s loss on his abysmal showing among Latinos and his “hard-line position on immigration.” Hume’s colleague Sean Hannity came out in favor of a pathway to citizenship. “Yes, amnesty,” implored Charles Krauthammer. “Use the word.”

Race, Law and the Zimmerman Verdict

Thousands have marched, hundreds of thousands have signed petitions, millions have expressed their frustration, grief and outrage at the acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, last year. From New York to Los Angeles, protesters flooded the streets on July 14, chants of “No justice, no peace!” ringing through the night.

“No justice” is what many see as the outcome of a trial that would not even have occurred had authorities not been shamed by a similar public outcry into charging Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin’s death struck a nerve for reasons that went far beyond its immediate circumstances, and the not-guilty verdict reaffirms the sense that the whole justice system—from police to prisons—not only fails to protect people of color, but classifies them as criminals by default, even when they are the victims of a violent crime.

Egypt Rebels

Two and a half years ago, the people of Egypt rose up against a despised dictatorship. The immediate goal was to get rid of the Mubarak regime, of course, but they were also fighting for something much more important: bread, freedom and social justice. On June 30, in a petition campaign organized by the Tamarod (Rebel) movement, millions of Egyptians—in even greater numbers than in January 2011—rose up once again. The cry on the streets, this time lodged against an arrogant and grossly incompetent Muslim Brotherhood government, was Irhal! (Leave!), but the deeper demands were the same as before.

Do We Spend More To Feed Americans Or Lock Them Up?

Budgets are about priorities and moral choices: What does a society value most? The growth of the country's food stamps rolls recently prompted Republicans in Congress to try to reduce spending on the program. But some of the same lawmakers who want to cut the food stamp program remain steadfast in their conviction that the country should not reduce spending on the country's prison system -- which costs about as much as making sure that the country's poorest people can eat.

Republicans like Rand Paul have led a bipartisan effort to reform the country's sentencing laws, partly in an attempt to cut down on government spending. Others, however, have led the charge in the opposite direction. Lamar Smith of Texas, for example, opposed a 2010 law that aimed to reduce the sentencing disparities between black and white drug offenders.

In 2010, the latest year for which data is available for corrections spending, taxpayers spent about 80 billion dollars on prisons, parole and probation -- about 12 billion more than they spent on food stamps that year and a billion more than they spent on food stamps in 2012.

Original Article
Author: --

Petition Calls For George Zimmerman's Concealed Carry License To Be Revoked

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling on Florida officials to revoke the concealed carry permit of George Zimmerman, the man recently acquitted in the 2012 killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

The petition, hosted at, suggests that Zimmerman's background makes him unfit to carry a concealed weapon.

    George Zimmerman is a dangerous, violent person. He has been accused of assaulting three people in addition to killing Trayvon Martin. He has even been arrested for assaulting a police officer! George Zimmerman should NOT be licensed to carry a weapon. One innocent person has already died at his hands. It is your job to not let another person be in danger!

Detroit Bankrupt: Kevyn Orr Asks Federal Judge To Place City Under Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Protection

DETROIT — Once the very symbol of American industrial might, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy Thursday, its finances ravaged and its neighborhoods hollowed out by a long, slow decline in population and auto manufacturing.

The filing, which had been feared for months, put the city on an uncertain course that could mean laying off municipal employees, selling off assets, raising fees and scaling back basic services such as trash collection and snow plowing, which have already been slashed.

George Osborne unveils 'most generous tax breaks in world' for fracking

George Osborne has infuriated environmentalists by announcing big tax breaks for the fracking industry in a bid to kickstart a shale gas revolution that could enhance Britain's energy security but also increase its carbon emissions.

The Treasury has set a 30% tax rate for onshore shale gas production. That compares with a top rate of 62% on new North Sea oil operations and up to 81% for older offshore fields.

White House stays silent on renewal of NSA data collection order

The Obama administration is refusing to say whether it will seek to renew a court order that permits the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records on millions of Verizon customers when it expires at the end of this week.

Officials declined to discuss what action they intend to take about the order at the center of the current surveillance scandal, which formally expires at 5pm Friday.

Killing in Cairo: the full story of the Republican Guards' club shootings

At 3.17am on Monday 8 July, Dr Yehia Moussa prepared to kneel outside the Republican Guards' club in east Cairo for dawn prayers. For a few more short hours, Moussa would remain the official spokesman for the Egyptian health ministry. But he was outside the club that day in a personal capacity. Along with about 2,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Moussa had camped outside the gated compound in protest at the removal of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, who they then believed was imprisoned inside.

McDonald's Budget Plan Leaves Out A Critical Line: Corporate Welfare

The helpful guide that McDonald's just published offering practical tips on how its workers can subsist on poverty wages is full of ingenious ideas: Get a second job! Don't squander money on trifles like heat and health care! Yet, it is missing one key suggestion: Apply for food stamps and other government assistance immediately so McDonald's can keep the corporate welfare flowing.

Detroit Bankrupt: Kevyn Orr Asks Federal Judge To Place City Under Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Protection

DETROIT — Once the very symbol of American industrial might, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy Thursday, its finances ravaged and its neighborhoods hollowed out by a long, slow decline in population and auto manufacturing.

The filing, which had been feared for months, put the city on an uncertain course that could mean laying off municipal employees, selling off assets, raising fees and scaling back basic services such as trash collection and snow plowing, which have already been slashed.

A Murder in Deep Summer

Although she was in the thick of her novel “Losing Battles,” Eudora Welty paused from that long work to write a short story. “I don’t write out of anger,” Welty later said, but rage was distracting her. “There was one story that anger certainly lit the fuse of.”

Welty’s fuse was lit early one morning in June, 1963, when the civil-rights activist Medgar Evers was shot and killed in Jackson, Mississippi, the town where she lived for nearly her entire life. “I wrote a story that same night about the murderer,” Welty described in her autobiography “One Writer’s Beginnings.”

Where Is the Voice Coming From?” was published in The New Yorker less than a month later. Welty drafted the story before Evers’s murderer, Byron De La Beckwith, had been identified or arrested. Two trials of De La Beckwith ended with hung juries, but he was finally convicted of first-degree murder thirty years later.

With Navalny’s Sentence, Putin Chooses the Hard Way

Alexey Navalny was registered as a candidate for the Moscow mayoral race on Wednesday; in a recent poll, he ranked second, with eight per cent of decided voters. On Thursday, he was found guilty of embezzlement, sentenced to five years, and handcuffed and taken into custody right in the courtroom. With that, the Putin government had chosen the hard way to eliminate a man who had evolved into a political challenge.

There is no doubt that the charges against Navalny—which he denies, saying that the evidence is fabricated—are politically motivated. Navalny is a highly popular blogger, an anti-corruption crusader. He dared to challenge the most powerful people in Russia, and now is paying for it. There’s nothing new about the Kremlin using its law enforcement and the judiciary machine to further political goals. Nor is there anything new about unlawful trials and hard verdicts. What is new is that, this time around, the political motive is impossible to disguise.

The Student Victims of Washington’s Deficit Obsession

When, a couple of weeks ago, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans (the loans that the federal government offers to college students) doubled, going from 3.4 per cent to 6.8 per cent, the expectation was that Congress would reach a quick deal to reverse—or at least reduce—the increase. After all, making college more affordable is one of the rare issues on which the differences between Democrats and Republicans seem bridgeable. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle promised an immediate fix, and last week it appeared that a deal was about to be reached. Then Washington’s obsession with deficits got in the way. And that same obsession explains why, even if Congress does finally agree to a deal, college students are guaranteed to be paying more for loans, come the fall.

$10.20 Per Hour Needed To Survive Even In America's Cheapest County

Nowhere in America does a dollar go farther than in Hanson County, South Dakota. But even there, a worker still needs to earn nearly $3 more than the minimum wage to get by.

Dawn Holmberg, a 43-year-old single mom living just west of Hanson County, knows all too well how to make a dollar stretch as far as it can. She works as a cashier earning $10.50 an hour. That's more than the minimum wage, but nearly $7 less than what it takes for a worker with one kid to afford basic expenses in the region, according to an analysis produced for The Huffington Post by Wider Opportunities for Women, a non-profit advocacy organization aimed at boosting low-income women and families.

U.S. reviewing 27 death penalty convictions for FBI forensic testimony errors

An unprecedented federal review of old criminal cases has uncovered as many as 27 death penalty convictions in which FBI forensic experts may have mistakenly linked defendants to crimes with exaggerated scientific testimony, U.S. officials said.

The review led to an 11th-hour stay of execution in Mississippi in May.

It is not known how many of the cases involve errors, how many led to wrongful convictions or how many mistakes may now jeopardize valid convictions. Those questions will be explored as the review continues.

Aaron Osmond, Utah State Senator, Calls For End To Mandatory Education

A Republican state senator in Utah is calling for the end of mandatory education in the state.

State Sen. Aaron Osmond (R-South Jordan) wrote on the state Senate blog Friday that mandatory education in the state has forced teachers and schools to take on parenting responsibilities. Prior to the mandate taking effect in 1890, he wrote, education was "an opportunity" and parents were more engaged. He also wrote that teachers were more respected. The Deseret News first reported Osmond's blog post on Tuesday.

The Drone That Killed My Grandson

SANA, Yemen — I LEARNED that my 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman — a United States citizen — had been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he died.

The missile killed him, his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians on Oct. 14, 2011, while the boys were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen.

Samantha Power's Testimony Confirms Foreign Policy Orthodoxy

During a confirmation hearing today that was largely a test of her willingness to submit to foreign policy dogma, Samantha Power repeatedly asserted her commitment to “stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it” against the “disproportionate” criticism she said it receives at the United Nations.

“I commit to you wholeheartedly to go on offense as well as playing defense on the legitimation of Israel and we’ll make every effort to secure greater integration of Israeli public servants in the UN system,” said Power, President Obama’s nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations, implying that she would support Israel’s bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Power said she would oppose Palestinian bids for recognition as a state before the completion of a two-state peace process.

Riding Associations Remain Virtual Financial Black Holes

OTTAWA - Riding associations for federal political parties are sitting on nearly $30-million of taxpayer-subsidized cash, with little obligation to account publicly for how the money is spent.

Annual financial reports filed recently with Elections Canada indicate that Conservative electoral district associations are by far the wealthiest, with combined surpluses of $18.3 million in 2012.

Tony Clement’s $3 suitcase

This week, Treasury Board President Tony Clement promised that he wouldn’t fold “like a $3 suitcase” in the federal government’s ongoing dispute with striking diplomats at Canadian missions around the world. The last time you could buy luggage for that price was probably well before Mr. Clement was born. Still, he got the sentiment across.

Since April, the 1,350 members of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) have been disrupting operations, including student and tourist VISA applications and ministerial travel. The impact has been significant, with the National Post reporting that visa issuance fell 25% in June, and by 65% in high-demand capitals such as Beijing and Delhi.

Enemies of the state: The (almost) Complete List

Like many of you, I was shocked to hear that a member of the Prime Minister’s Office had sent an email asking staff in other ministers’ offices to compile lists of “enemy stakeholders.”

This did not sound like the discreet, professional Prime Minister’s Office with which I think we are all familiar. Just the risk of such an email coming to light made it impossible to believe any member of the current PMO was involved. On top of which: enemies lists? Not on this prime minister’s watch. I distinctly remember the prime minister on election night promising “to govern for all Canadians.” Say what you will about Stephen Harper, but he’s a man of his word.

Jason Kenney to maintain hold on ethnic file despite move to jobs portfolio

OTTAWA —  If you thought the Minister for Curry in a Hurry was going to give up his ethnic outreach role — think again.

Jason Kenney, Canada‘s new Minister of Employment and Social Development, will hang on to the multiculturalism file, Postmedia News has learned.

Little accountability for millions spent by federal party riding associations

OTTAWA - Riding associations for federal political parties are sitting on nearly $30-million of taxpayer-subsidized cash, with little obligation to account publicly for how the money is spent.

Annual financial reports filed recently with Elections Canada indicate that Conservative electoral district associations are by far the wealthiest, with combined surpluses of $18.3 million in 2012.

As of last week, the richest of all was the Conservative association in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Calgary Southwest riding, which had amassed a war chest of more than $330,000 — the largest of any riding association, Conservative or otherwise, in the country's 308 constituencies.

Steven Fletcher blindsided by dump from Harper cabinet

Steven Fletcher didn't see it coming.

Up until Monday morning he was the minister of state for transport in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet and then suddenly, he was out. In an interview Wednesday, Fletcher said he was caught by surprise when he was dumped during Harper's major shuffle that saw eight new MPs appointed and a long list of portfolios change hands.

Rob Ford's Nelson Mandela Day and other historical ironies

It came as something of a surprise to hear that Mayor Rob Ford had declared July 18, 2013 'Nelson Mandela Day' in Toronto. But then again perhaps our dear mayor is in fact a fan of South Africa's elder statesman. Few people aren't these days, and to question him or is legacy is the closest thing one can get to secular blasphemy. It is a remarkable irony of history that many of those who, at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle, denounced him as a communist and a terrorist will soon remember him with heartfelt speeches.

Canadian conservatives and the history of Canadian pro-apartheid activism

PM could set Poilievre ‘loose’ on reforming Senate, but opposition critics say he’s ‘worst choice’ as Canada’s new democratic reform minister

With Conservative attack-dog Pierre Poilievre now leading the government’s democratic reform agenda, opposition MPs say they are concerned about the fate of elections reforms needed to prevent another round of robocalls in the 2015 election.

“Canadians should be concerned that an MP who has openly criticized and attacked Elections Canada is now in charge of the elections reform bill,” said Liberal MP and democratic reform critic Stéphane Dion (Saint Laurent-Cartier, Que.).

Documents show city of Toronto knew it was on the hook for $200M provincial loan repayment

The City of Toronto’s claim a $200-million provincial loan never had to be repaid is dead wrong, according to documents obtained by the Star.

Last month, the Ontario government said the long-standing loan would be forgiven to blunt the impact of phasing out a different compensation fund.

But Mayor Rob Ford and city manager Joe Pennachetti complained that wouldn’t save any money because the loan payments stopped years ago and Toronto never expected to pay it off.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sentenced to 5 years in prison

KIROV, RUSSIA—Alexei Navalny, one of the Russian opposition's leading figures, was convicted of embezzlement Thursday and sentenced to five years in prison.

Navalny and his supporters claimed the case was politically driven to try to shut down the vehement Kremlin critic and intimidate his supporters.

Navalny was found guilty of heading a group that embezzled 16 million rubles' ($500,000) worth of timber from state-owned company Kirovles in 2009 while he worked as an unpaid adviser to the provincial governor in Kirov, about 760 kilometres east of Moscow.