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, November 11, 2011

Occupy Nova Scotia: Halifax Mayor Orders Eviction From Victoria Park

HALIFAX - The mayor of Halifax says people camping out in a public park as part of the Occupy Nova Scotia protest have to take down their tents and move out.

Peter Kelly said notices were handed out to the dozens of campers in the downtown Victoria Park on Friday, informing them that they're in violation of a municipal bylaw.

The bylaw states that no one can camp in a municipal park without written permission from the city.
Also, people are not supposed to be in the park between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Police were seen taking down tarps, pulling up tents and packing personal belongings into green garbage bags as campers stood by.

"Council and the public have respected the right to peaceful protest and free assembly, but the time has come for the encampment to end," Kelly said.

"Our parks are for all of the public, not an unregulated campground for some."

An old soldier who’s not fading away

Canada has to stop cheating its veterans, Pat Stogran says

The former ombudsman for Veterans Affairs Canada earned himself a reputation as a champion for those who served overseas, the crusty advocate for wounded troops trying to navigate the system upon their return home.

Last November, retired colonel Pat Stogran joined the line of government-appointed watchdogs silenced for being too outspoken, yet, he continues to lobby on behalf of veterans, though in an informal role.

Stogran, who landed in Afghanistan in 2002 as the first commander of Canadian troops in that country, was a faithful soldier, loyal to military brass and his government. He says he now regrets that unswerving faith because he made promises to soldiers — Canada would take care of them if they were wounded, take care of their families if they were killed — that may have not been kept.

Leading up to the first Remembrance Day since Canada ended its combat role in Afghanistan, Stogran spoke to The Chronicle Herald about that mission and why he believes Ottawa continues to disappoint the veterans who came home from that war.

Goar: New priorities are changing immigration

Driven by economic pressure and political ideology, Jason Kenney is transforming Canada’s immigration system. But he is doing it so gradually and in such carefully crafted installments that most people are unaware of the magnitude of his ambition.

The immigration minister’s latest announcement is a good example. Last week he imposed a two-year moratorium on applications to bring parents and grandparents into the country. During the freeze, he will consult the provinces and the public about how to change the family reunification system permanently.

“If we leave the program open for applications during that period of consultations and redesign, we know what will happen,” Kenney said. “We will get absolutely flooded, as immigration lawyers and consultants anticipate changes. We’ll never be able to deal with the backlog.”

He softened the blow by offering a “super visa” to visiting relatives that would allow them to stay up to two years at a time, provided they are covered by private medical insurance.

There were grumbles from new Canadians who had hoped to sponsor their parents or grandparents. At the same time, there were plaudits from the business community, which wants younger, more productive immigrants. The imbalance protected Kenney from any serious backlash.

Cuts to blue box program urged over environmentalists' objections

Toronto’s blue box program is the latest initiative to face money-saving cuts, with a plan to limit curbside collection to what residents can cram into their recycling bin.

The move is part of next year’s proposed solid waste budget and is expected to save the city about $500,000. The measure would end the long-standing practice that allows city residents to place any overflow from their recycling bins beside their blue box in clear bags. It is expected to eliminate three positions – workers required to staff “chaser trucks” that collect the recycling overflow.

The proposed change, which will go before the city’s executive committee later this month, got the approval of the budget committee on Thursday, after members listened to the objections voiced by environmentalists.

The same committee also voted to slash the number of community environment days held each year to 11 from 44 for a cost savings of $122,000.

Conservatives fined for breaking elections laws, but Tories claim outcome a ‘big victory’

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Conservative party and its financial arm pleaded guilty Thursday to a total of four charges of exceeding the party’s campaign expenses for the 2006 federal election and failing to report the proper amount, but in a plea bargain that saw related charges dropped against four top Conservatives who masterminded or approved the so-called “in and out” advertising scheme at the centre of the case, both the Conservatives and their opponents claimed victory.

Charges of willfully exceeding the party’s expense limit, by what Elections Canada and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada claimed was a total $1.2-million, were dropped against Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein, head of the PC Canada Fund, Senator Doug Finley, the director of the election campaign, Mike Donison, party director at the time, and Susan Kehoe, the party’s chief financial officer during the election campaign.

In negotiations that took place prior to a suddenly-announced court appearance Thursday, the party and its financial arm, both charged last February with willfully exceeding the expense limit and willfully failing to report the full amount, pleaded guilty to less serious negligence charges of exceeding the limit and failing to report the full amount. Their lawyer insisted there was no intent to break the law.

Tories plead guilty in campaign financing case

OTTAWA—Canada’s governing Conservative party has admitted to illegal campaign advertising tactics in the 2006 campaign that brought Stephen Harper to power.

The Conservative Party of Canada and its fundraising arm, the Conservative Fund of Canada, were fined $52,000 after pleading guilty to exceeding national advertising spending limits and improperly reporting the expenses incurred through a sophisticated “in-and-out” scheme.

Under it, Harper’s party shifted national advertising money, through wire transfers into and immediately out of local riding campaign accounts, in order to claim national ad spending as local. In the words of national campaign director Doug Finley, it would “run a major slam dunk” over competitors in the final weeks of the campaign.

Liberal Leader Bob Rae called it “an accounting scam” that arguably helped to “buy them the election.” NDP interim Leader Nycole Turmel demanded Harper apologize to Canadians and “explain himself.”

Riverside County, California To Charge Prisoners $142 Per Day Of Their Stay

In one southern California county, prisoners will soon have to pay for the privilege of staying in jail.

Riverside County, California will start charging prisoners $142.42 per day of their prison stay, CNNMoney reports. The county's board of supervisors approved the measure on Tuesday as a way to save an estimated $3 to $5 million per year. Not every prisoner will be forced to pay up, however. The county will review each prisoner's case individually to determine if they can afford the fee.

The fee comes as the California correctional system continues to struggle with budget woes. Last month, in an effort to save money, the state transferred responsibility for lower-level drug offenders, thieves and other convicts to counties. The "prison realignment" is one of many measures the state has taken in recent years to close its budget gap. The California Supreme Court is considering this week whether the state broke the law when it used re-development funds to close a shortfall a few years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Occupy U.C. Berkeley Protesters Face Violent Confrontation With Campus Police

U.C. Berkeley students trying to set up an Occupy encampment faced a violent altercation with campus police, who arrested several protesters and tore down tents along the campus' Sproul Plaza Wednesday afternoon.

The police, wearing riot gear, clashed with students again Wednesday evening as they attempted to reestablish their camp.


The Berkeley students were gathering as part of a statewide 'Occupy' effort to unite against the cost of California's higher education system. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a letter to members of the campus Monday warning against engaging in such demonstrations. Birgeneau wrote:
Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities -- go to class, study, carry out their research, etc. -- will not be tolerated.
Indeed, as soon as the students had erected their first tents Wednesday, campus police descended on Sproul Plaza wielding batons and bean bag guns. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, students joined arms and chanted "Hold the line!" before the officers managed to break through and destroy their tents.

The footage shows police using their batons to beat protesters who resisted. "Stop beating students!" the demonstrators shout in retaliation. "Put the guns down!"

Doctoral student Shane Boyle, who was struck during the confrontation, told the Chronicle that "It really, really hurt - I got the wind knocked out of me."

After the officers disbanded, the students quickly pitched their tents again and vowed to stay in the plaza all night. Take a look at footage from the incident below.


Source: Huff 

Stanching the Flow of Corporate Dollars into Campaigns

In the first two quarters of 2011, President Obama  raised $155 million dollars , an amount that is substantially more than what all the Republican candidates raised combined. And yet, thanks to the Roberts Supreme Court we don’t (and probably won’t ever) know who among the candidates has the most money behind their candidacy and where exactly that money comes from. This is just one of the many consequences of the Citizens United decision, a dramatic assault on American democracy that overturned more than a century of campaign finance precedent.

It’s been nearly two years since Chief Justice John Roberts and his band of right-wing brothers held that corporations had the same right as individuals to contribute directly to political campaigns and to participate in direct advocacy on their behalf. It was in that same case that the court decided such contributions should have no limits and need not be disclosed. Not only did the court turn the spigot on full blast; it hid its source almost entirely from view. Though the court upheld the concept of disclosure, the ruling allowed 501(c)(4) organizations to raise and spend unlimited corporate money–and those organizations, by law, need not disclose.

Flight Policy Change Called A Risky Manoeuvre

A new safety approach aimed at getting airlines to police themselves could endanger passengers, particularly those flying with smaller airlines, aviation experts warn.

In 2005, Transport Canada began changing over to a system that critics say essentially leaves airlines to regulate themselves, instead of primarily relying on federal inspectors to oversee airplane safety as they had before.

The federal department says the new approach, called safety management systems (SMS), makes flying safer, but critics disagree.

"If we don't have proper oversight, in effect, people are going to do bad things," said Dave Winter, a former federal aviation inspector who quit over frustration with the new system.

As an inspector, Winter used to board planes to monitor flying skills, check log books, speak with a range of people including engineers and pilots, and even conduct undercover surveillance to check for unsafe practices.

Maher: Paying top civil servants to learn French is stupid in any language

In December, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency hired Kevin MacAdam to be the director general of regional operations for Prince Edward Island.

MacAdam is a former provincial cabinet minister who ran and lost for the federal Tories in 2000, then went to work for Peter MacKay as a political operative; the kind of savvy, tight-lipped character who makes things happen in the backrooms.

His appointment to a $130,000-a-year public service position looks bad, in part because a bunch of other guys close to MacKay got similar jobs.

It looks like MacKay was able to exert influence to get his buddies sweet civil service jobs, which is not the way things should work. The Public Service Commission is investigating.

Occupy Toronto eviction may face legal obstacle

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants Occupy Toronto protesters to leave a downtown park, but questions over ownership of the property may limit the city's authority to carry out an eviction.

Any move to oust the protesters in Toronto could be complicated because only half of the park belongs to the city. The other half is the property of Saint James Cathedral. On Wednesday some protesters began moving their tents closer to the church.

“I think everyone can appreciate it’s been a peaceful process, but I think it’s time we ask them to move on,” Ford said Wednesday, a day when police in London, Ont., took down a similar protesters' camp at a downtown park in that city.

In Vancouver and Victoria, civic officials are seeking court approval to remove Occupy protesters from parks in those cities.

Ford has said he would prefer the Toronto occupiers to leave on their own but said he’s received numerous calls from people who want to see the camp packed up.

Ottawa rejects need for safety legislation in wake of cyclist's death

The federal government has no plans to bring in legislation that advocates say would have prevented a Toronto mother and cyclist from being dragged to her death under a truck Monday. Not enough evidence it would work, Transport Canada says.

“Unfortunately, side guards are not a guarantee of safety,” spokeswoman Mélanie Emma Quesnel said Wednesday. “Transport Canada has not found research data indicating that side guards would be effective in Canada. Studies completed don’t provide sufficient evidence to move forward with a regulation.”

Opposition politicians and road-safety advocates beg to differ.

For more than a decade, they’ve called for rules requiring big trucks to have guards installed to prevent cyclists, pedestrians or even motorists from being dragged under in the event of a collision. A 1998 coroner’s report into Toronto-area cycling deaths recommended they be considered as a lifesaving option. In much of Europe, they’ve been mandatory for years.

Toronto city manager confirms layoffs are coming

A showdown is shaping up between the city and its workers, with Toronto’s top bureaucrat confirming that layoffs are on the way and the city charging that its largest union is bargaining in bad faith.

It’s no secret that Toronto’s cost-cutting mayor believes the city has too many workers. Rob Ford repeatedly has singled out Toronto’s 53,000 employees as the prime ingredient in the gravy he pledged to stop flowing while on the campaign trail. And the fight with employees is escalating before the existing labour contract expires at the end of the year.

The first step in reducing the city’s head count – a voluntary exit offer expected to cut 700 jobs – has come up short, removing just 230 employees from the payroll and setting the stage for more job cuts.

U.S. delay could spell end for Keystone XL

Keystone XL has been dealt a potentially fatal blow after the U.S. State Department told TransCanada Corp. (TRP-T39.85-0.73-1.80%)to come up with a new route for the contentious pipeline.

The State Department, which is overseeing the permitting process, said it wants TransCanada to avoid the Sand Hills, a fragile environmental area in Nebraska. Doing that will require working through a supplemental environmental impact statement, a process that could take until early 2013 to complete.

TransCanada said it remains confident the pipeline will be approved, suggesting work it has already done could “help expedite the review process” of establishing a new route through Nebraska. But the delay threatens to extinguish a project that has been years in the making, providing shippers an opening to abandon the pipeline.

U.S. refiners, in particular, will “look at this and they will immediately turn to say, we will go elsewhere,” warned Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute. “It sends a chilling effect to the entire industry. And what it says is you can’t rely on the legal processes to make a timely decision.”

Youth homeless shelter facing eviction

Toronto’s real estate arm has been told to find a way to relocate the Eva’s Phoenix shelter for homeless youth from a downtown site the city wants to redevelop.

The city stands to make “a ton of money” through a joint venture with an adjacent developer that could lead to construction of five condominium towers near King St. and Strachan Ave., said Councillor David Shiner.

At one time the route of the now-defunct Front St. extension to the Gardiner Expressway, the site is considered “one of Toronto’s newest young, hip and happening communities,” Shiner said.

The veteran member of Eva’s board of directors said the city needs to help the shelter, which has accommodation for 50 youth, plus a print shop and training centre, on a site it is renting from the city.

But the city’s real estate agency, Build Toronto, has been dragging its feet since the spring, he said.

City wants Occupy Toronto out as soon as next week

Days are numbered for the hundreds of Occupy Toronto protesters.

City manager Joe Pennachetti said Thursday morning that the city will move in as early as next week.

“Starting next week, we will have more discussions with those people at the site. And we will be moving forward with appropriate steps relative to that site. That will occur starting next week. I’ll just leave it at that for now. We’ll probably have more announcements for you early next week,” he said.

“We’ll have a statement issued early next week, I’ll leave it at that.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Rob Ford indicated his patience was running thin with the protesters in St. James Park.

Rabin's murderers are still free and happy

Yigal Amir is in jail but his senior partners to the murder of the prime minister are still free and happy. Amir himself testified about those partners already on the night of the assassination when he said in his investigation: "Without the rabbinical ruling or the 'din rodef' [the right to pursue and kill someone who has supposedly sinned] that applied to [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin, issued by a number of rabbis that I know about, I would have had difficulty murdering. A murder of that kind must have backing. If I did not have backing ... I would not have acted."

The criminal code stipulates that someone who urges another to perform a criminal act "by persuasion, encouragement or demand" bears the same criminal responsibility as that of the criminal he pressured. That is to say, the rabbis who issued the "din rodef" about the prime minister, and in that way gave backing to Amir, are assassins just like him, and they were supposed to spend the rest of their lives in prison like him. However they have remained free and obviously are also happy. From their point of view, the murder of the prime minister was a perfect crime that paid - it achieved its aim and they did not have to pay any price for it.