Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Environment Advisory Panel's Closure 'Dumb', Harper Told

A former Conservative MP and member of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider his "dumb" decision to kill the independent advisory panel.

"Stephen Harper puts other priorities, I think, ahead of the environment and I think that's a mistake. Obviously, I wouldn't be here if I didn't really strongly believe that the Round Table was doing an excellent job," said Bob Mills, a former Alberta Conservative MP, at a press conference in Ottawa Thursday.

The shutting down of the NRTEE, along a multitude of other changes to environmental laws, is included in the omnibus budget implementation bill currently before Parliament.

New York Times Scoops Spur Calls For Investigation, White House Responds

NEW YORK -- The Obama administration disputed claims Wednesday from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others that it had revealed national security secrets to reporters for its own political gain.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about McCain's call Tuesday for an investigation into leaks of classified information, following two front-page New York Times articles last week describing President Barack Obama's terrorist "kill list" and the U.S. government's use of cyberweapons against Iran.

Carney said the the White House was "not going to comment on any of the specific information contained in the articles referenced by Senator McCain," but did address questions about whether the administration had sanctioned the leaks for its own benefit.

President Of Estonia Slams Paul Krugman: 'Smug, Overbearing & Patronizing'

The president of Estonia chewed out Paul Krugman on Wednesday, using Twitter to call the Nobel Prize-winning economist "smug, overbearing & patronizing," in response to a short post on Estonia's economic recovery.

Krugman's 67-word entry, entitled "Estonian Rhapsody," questioned the merits of using Estonia as a "poster child for austerity defenders." He included a chart that, in his words, showed "significant but still incomplete recovery" after a deep economic slump.

SunTrust To Raise Minimum Balance, Overdraft Fees On Everyday Checking Accounts

Starting this summer, some of SunTrust's least wealthy customers will have to pay higher fees on everything from ATM withdrawals to checking accounts, the bank confirmed on Wednesday.

The changes in fees affect primarily Everyday Checking, Student Checking and Solid Choice account holders. The first two accounts are targeted at customers who maintain lower balances.

The changes, scheduled to begin Aug. 24, will raise the minimum daily balance a customer is required to keep in an Everyday Checking account, from $500 to $1,500, to avoid a $7 monthly service fee. Holders of those accounts will also pay more in overdraft fees: they'll fork out $36 per overdraft across the board, instead of $25 for the first one and $36 for subsequent items. Everyday Checking account holders will also lose the perk of being allowed one overdraft a year without a fine.

Florida's Stand Your Ground Defense More Likely To Succeed If Victim Is Black: Study

A newspaper report has found that the Stand Your Ground self-defense statute in Florida is more likely to succeed when the victim is black.

The Tampa Bay Times looked at 200 cases and found that in instances in which the victim was black, the person who invoked the defense went free 73 percent of the time. If the victim was white, the person walked free 59 percent of the time. The report also found that more than two thirds of all the people who invoked the law were acquitted, and that the defense is being invoked in more and more cases.

Windsor police probe video of officer punching, kicking man

A cop caught on surveillance video beating a man in an apartment building stairwell was suspended Wednesday by Windsor police.

Const. Kent Rice, a 12-year veteran of the force, was charged with assault and suspended with pay Wednesday afternoon, acting police chief Al Frederick told a hastily called news conference late in the day.

In the morning, a director of the Windsor Residence, a non-profit housing corporation run by a volunteer board with city funding, delivered a copy of the video to the police department's professional standards branch. The branch investigates alleged police misconduct.

Charter Anniversary: Tories Nixed Elaborate Birthday Party For Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms

OTTAWA - Bureaucrats planned an elaborate party to celebrate the birthday of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but the Conservative government refused to RSVP, newly released documents suggest.

Instead, the idea of a ceremony to commemorate the charter's 30th anniversary in April was overruled by Heritage Minister James Moore in favour of a terse press release.

The plan, obtained by The Canadian Press under Access to Information, was drafted in February, less than two months before the milestone.

Fisheries science could die on the vine due to federal cuts: academia

Scientific projects such as the development of disease-resistant salmon in New Brunswick and an examination of how climate change is affecting Ontario lakes could die on the vine because of cuts to the federal Fisheries Department, university researchers say.

The department is bracing for a $79.3-million decrease in funding over the next three years as part of Ottawa’s cost-cutting measures. Officials have said research will still be done, though it will be refocused on what it says are areas that directly support conservation and fisheries management.

Federal scientists losing their positions say they aren’t permitted to publicly discuss the cuts, but their colleagues in academia say valuable knowledge could be lost, posing threats to the country’s environment and its competitiveness.

Cash not king when it comes to aboriginals, pipelines

Native groups dispute Enbridge's claim that 60 per cent of first nations along route support project

Money can't buy you love - that's a message several B.C. aboriginal groups sent on Wednesday to proponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

It came a day after Enbridge proudly announced it had secured support from a majority - almost 60 per cent - of aboriginal communities along the 1,177-kilometre pipeline route linking Bruderheim, Alta. with Kitimat.

Yaffe: Harper gives monarchy more than its due

As Canada’s prime minister, it is Stephen Harper’s prerogative to jet across the pond with wife Laureen and their two children to partake in Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee festivities.

However, Harper’s five-day jaunt to London this week, albeit with a side trip Wednesday to Paris to meet France’s new leader François Hollande, has greatly exaggerated the importance of the monarchy to Canadians.

For the PM to quit the country for five days at a time of fierce debate over the government’s omnibus budget bill is at least a little questionable.

MPs vote to drop some hate-speech sections of Human Rights Act

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives voted late Wednesday to repeal controversial sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act banning hate speech on the Internet, backing a bill they say promotes freedom of expression and would have the courts play a larger role in handling hate-crime cases.

In a free vote of 153 to 136, the Tory caucus supported a private member's bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth that would scrap Section 13 of the human rights code, which deals with complaints regarding "the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet."

Storseth argues the current human rights code fails to protect freedom of speech, which is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and believes Canadians are better off if the government repeals sections 13 and 54 — the latter section dealing with associated penalties.

MP Del Mastro not told of Elections Canada investigation

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro says no one from Elections Canada has contacted him about his 2008 campaign spending, despite a report that the agency is investigating it.

The Ottawa Citizen and the National Post are reporting that Del Mastro, who has been the face of the Conservative Party amid a controversy over misleading election phone calls known as robocalls, is being investigated for going $17,000 over his spending limit in his 2008 campaign to win the seat in Peterborough, Ont.

The report says Elections Canada has filed a production order seeking emails, invoices and other documents from Holinshed Research Group relating to election day work for Del Mastro.

Bureaucrats proposed birthday party for charter, but Tories refused to RSVP

OTTAWA - Bureaucrats planned an elaborate party to celebrate the birthday of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but the Conservative government refused to RSVP, newly released documents suggest.

Instead, the idea of a ceremony to commemorate the charter's 30th anniversary in April was overruled by Heritage Minister James Moore in favour of a terse press release.

The plan, obtained by The Canadian Press under Access to Information, was drafted in February, less than two months before the milestone.

The Proclamation of the Constitution Act was signed on a rainy Saturday in 1982, giving Canada full control over its foundational laws and bringing the charter into force.

The abuses pile up: the PM hunkers down

At some point, the opposition message might get through. To wit: We live in a democratic system, Prime Minister. Would you care to treat it like one?

Not yet though. As evidence of abuses pile up, Stephen Harper hunkers down.

The current cause of high dudgeon is the government’s Trojan Horse omnibus budget bill, the 425-page extravaganza with 753 clauses. You’ve heard of a three-ring circus. This is more like 300, with provisions far afield of the budget, such as the elimination of the oversight body for our intelligence agency, CSIS.

From Dresden to Abu Ghraib: Western leaders get away with murder

Citing the U.S., U.K. and Israel as prime examples of democratic states infringing human rights, Democracy's Blameless Leaders delves into the evasion of accountability and responsibility for human rights violations by placing leaders of liberal democracy at the helm of this insightful treatise.

Neil James Mitchell expounds upon the contradictions spouted by leaders of democratic states, where discourse regarding atrocities is manipulated in an attempt to appease public sentiment. In the shift from opportune acknowledgement to blatant conventional rhetoric, leaders detach themselves from their citizens, in a bid to expose and exacerbate popular sentiment with regard to national security. In doing so, leaders are in a position to stifle public outcry, relegating principles to a web of opportunism.

McGuinty a 'no show' at Grassy Narrows fish fry

On a sunny afternoon, the south lawn at Queen’s Park was transformed into an open-air restaurant. A long, narrow table with 11 place settings was covered with a white tablecloth.

Invited guests included Premier McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, several Liberal cabinet ministers and Sarah Campbell, NDP Critic for Natural Resources and Aboriginal Affairs.

Grassy Narrows mothers had urged the Premier and his colleagues to join them and their families at noon for a traditional fish fry of their local fish cooked on an open wood fire.

The head waiter wore a white shirt with a black tie, black pants and a white apron around his waist.

Tory MP Opitz wants Supreme Court to hear his appeal in October

PARLIAMENT HILL—Toronto Conservative MP Ted Opitz, whose razor-thin election win last year was overturned by a judge because of voting irregularities, has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to schedule a hearing on his appeal of the election decision in October.

A lawyer representing Mr. Opitz (Etobicoke-Centre, Ont.) filed an application with the Supreme Court on Wednesday for an order scheduling oral arguments in the appeal to be heard on the first available date in the court’s fall session, which would be Oct. 6.

But—even though the application proposed to shorten the normal time for filing legal arguments—the Liberal candidate who lost the election by only 26 votes, former Etobicoke Centre MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, accused Mr. Opitz of delaying the case for “cynical political” reasons.

China’s triumph of pragmatism, revisited

It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice. Cross the river by feeling for stones. Followers of China’s economic development are familiar with these aphorisms, both attributed to Deng Xiaoping, who set the country on the path of steady and rapid economic growth after Mao Zedong’s turbulent era. Those ideas were timely three decades ago. Now they too often serve as excuses for bad habits and delayed reform.

Deng first articulated his revolutionary pragmatism during debates in the 1960s debates over whether peasants could rent land from the state. Deng’s idea was to focus on the goal – unleashing productivity – and to take China’s unique history into account. He suggested experiments such as stock markets could be ended if they didn’t work.

China cuts lending rate in bid for stable growth

China is moving ever more aggressively to shore up its economy amid signs of flagging growth, providing a boost to the troubled global recovery.

The People’s Bank of China cut its benchmark lending rate for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, by one-quarter of a percentage point, signalling its determination to promote stable economic growth. Thursday’s move also suggests policy makers expect more dismal data later this week with the release of reports on inflation, industrial production and bank lending for last month.

Thursday’s rate cut sent a wave of relief through global markets that have been fixated on data from Beijing, given the importance of the Chinese economy to the world recovery.

Budget filibuster could sideswipe other bills on Tory agenda

Ottawa is bracing for a frantic fortnight, with the Harper government determined to pass four major bills through the House of Commons before the summer recess, and with the opposition parties equally determined to stop one of those bills.

There is a risk that the filibuster against C-38 – the omnibus bill that would enact the budget, change environment assessment and Employment Insurance rules, and do much else besides – could sideswipe other legislation.

But although Government House Leader Peter Van Loan isn’t tipping his hand, the odds favour passage of all the legislation by the time the House rises on June 22.

Studies unclear whether EI helps or hinders worker relocation

Ottawa has vigorously investigated whether Employment Insurance policies could drive Canadians to relocate even though Conservative ministers say EI changes aren't designed to force the jobless to pack their bags.

Three recent government studies strike at the fundamental tension behind the Tories' call for Canada's unemployed to help fill the nation's labour shortages and new restrictions on claiming EI benefits.

Both supporters and critics of the government's policies insist Ottawa is trying to urge people leave regions of high unemployment. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has praised the EI changes as an incentive for Canadians to get off “pogey” and “move to where the jobs are.” Opposition critics like Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner accuse Ottawa of trying to “depopulate rural Canada.”

VIA Rail cuts on the horizon, union warns

The federal government is inflicting death by 1,000 cuts on Canada’s national passenger railway, say workers and rail watchers, who are bracing for an announcement of VIA service reductions.

Cuts have been widely rumoured since the federal government chopped $20 million annually from VIA’s operating budget earlier this year.

Officially, VIA says it has no news of service cuts. But a press release out of its May 29 annual meeting referred to the fine-tuning of “service, schedules and fares to serve markets more efficiently.”

Union Station flooding caused by contractor that removed sewer, City of Toronto says

Construction work coupled with heavy rainfall caused Friday’s Union Station flood and the ensuing commuter chaos, says the City of Toronto.

Last Friday’s deluge marked the second time in three months the same contractor played a role in flooding the station and paralyzing the busy Yonge-University subway line.

The city is in the midst of reconstructing a large sewer as part of a massive Union Station revitalization.

Stephen Harper Recession Plan Could Be Short On ammo, Say Analysts

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper says Canadians can rest assured the government has a Plan B in place should another recession strike.

But analysts warn a second slump now or in the near future may not look anything like the 2008-09 financial crisis that wound up setting Canada's economy back 3.3 per cent, shuttering plants and idling 430,000 workers.

It may be worse, they say. And if it is, neither Ottawa, the provinces, nor the Bank of Canada have as many bullets to fire at the problem as four years ago.

TD Bank economist Craig Alexander noted that another global recession stemming from a financial system breakdown in Europe is still not the most likely outcome, although it is not to be dismissed.

Unions In Canada: ITUC Report Sees ‘Coordinated Attack' On Labour Groups

The world’s largest confederation of labour groups has criticized the Conservative government in a new report, saying Ottawa’s repeated use of back-to-work legislation is the primary reason Canada has become a more hostile place for trade unions in 2011.

In its Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, released on Wednesday, the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) named Canada as one of the democratic countries where governments “attacked trade union rights” last year.

“Government tampering with worker rights is becoming a norm with anti-union practices on the rise,” the ITUC observes.

For Spain, it’s a question of when, not if, it will need a bailout

The epicentre of the euro zone debt crisis is shifting as officials look at injecting as much as €80-billion ($103-billion) into Spain’s faltering banks.

The exact form, size and timing of the bailout remains unclear as Spain insists publicly that it doesn’t need help.

But as depositors continue to flee the country’s banks, it’s become a question of when, not if, Spain will need a bailout.

“Right now, either Spanish banks get a whole load of help so they can function normally, or they will slowly die,” Société Générale SA currency analyst Lauren Rosborough said.

Auto makers tell union wage hikes won’t happen

The Detroit Three auto makers have fired an early salvo at their unionized Canadian work force, warning that they are determined to hold the line on wages and other fixed costs in contract negotiations that begin next month.

Each of the companies sent a letter to the Canadian Auto Workers asking the union to forego a small wage increase, known as cost of living adjustment (COLA), that went into effect this month. The auto makers want the workers to agree instead to lump-sum payments, and are warning that such automatic wage increases would further damage the competitive positions of their Canadian plants.

Stuck in place: Canada’s mobility problem

This summer, employers from Alberta will head south for a road show, where they will hit American cities with high jobless rates and unemployed skilled tradespeople to lure new recruits.

Edmonton and northern Alberta need more than a thousand engineers, and several thousand more tradespeople – carpenters, welders, pipe fitters. Not in the coming years – in the next few months.

A growing number of employers in the Prairies are looking abroad – to the U.S., to Ireland, South Africa and Eastern Europe – to fill gaps in their work force. In Edmonton, they’re setting their sights further afield partly because it’s hard to convince Canadians in other provinces to move. Many find it too expensive to move, too costly to live in the west, and too difficult to leave behind family.

Five Broken Cameras: Home Videos Evolve into Stirring Film on Palestinian Resistance to Israeli Wall

The award-winning new documentary, "Five Broken Cameras," tells the story of a Palestinian farmer who got a video camera to record his son’s childhood, but ended up documenting the growth of the resistance movement to the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. The film shows the nonviolent tactics used by residents of Bil’in as they join with international and Israeli activists to protest the wall’s construction and confront Israeli soldiers. We speak with the film’s directors, Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Canada must do more to stop torture

Canada is failing to live up to its international obligations to stop torture. Last week, the UN Committee against Torture released its concluding observations from a review of Canada’s record on preventing, punishing and remedying torture and ill-treatment. It’s a review that comes around periodically, the last one in 2005, by virtue of the fact that Canada signed on to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 25 years ago.

The committee lays out a solid framework of recommendations for action by the federal government. Key now is for the government to promptly implement those recommendations. Doing so will uphold the rights of individuals who have experienced torture or ill-treatment through the action, inaction or complicity of Canadian officials. It will also position Canada as a forceful leader in the campaign to eradicate torture worldwide.

Average Canadian Household Debt Hits $112,329: BMO

TORONTO - A new bank study suggests the average Canadian household is more than $100,000 in debt and that Canadians have ramped up borrowing in the past five years.

The first annual BMO survey on household debt found that average household debt among Canadians surveyed stands at $112,329, including mortgage, credit card, line of credit and loan debt.

But the bank says so-called good debt like mortgages outweighs less favourable forms of borrowing.

While 25 per cent of those surveyed say they are debt free, 41 per cent say that they have taken on more debt in the past five years as a result of increased spending.

And 54 per cent of respondents said they expect to be debt free in the next five years.

The survey also found that 70 per cent of Canadians believe they can afford to pay down debt by paying more than the minimum, but one-third appear to be stretched with paying only the minimum amounts.

The report, conducted by Leger Marketing to measure the amount of debt Canadian households are carrying and how it's managed, surveyed 1,507 Canadians in an online poll at the beginning of April.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

DND withholding F-35 costing info from PBO, says Liberal MP

The Department of National Defence is not complying with the law and is refusing to hand over costing information on the F-35 to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Liberal MP John McKay charged Wednesday.

Two weeks after the auditor general’s office released its April report on the F-35 procurement, McKay followed up on a letter he’d sent in January, requesting an updated cost analysis of the fighter jet acquisition. Writing in April, McKay wanted to know how the AG’s report “may additionally affect the cost estimates for the planes.”

In late April, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page wrote to deputy minister Robert Fonberg at DND, asking for information and documents “that provide a full life cycle cost of the F-35 aircraft.” Additionally, Page encouraged DND “to assume in its analysis” some of the figures coming out of the U.S. – particularly those the U.S. Government Accountability Office was using to establish the average unit procurement cost of the planes.

The Commons: We are an island that Louis XIV is protecting from debt zombies

The Scene. Apparently something of a fussy TV critic, Thomas Mulcair seemed not to appreciate the Stephen Harper’s demeanour during last night’s showing of “The Prime Minister & The Queen (And The Continent That Is Like A Plane That Is Running Out Of Runway).”

“Mr. Speaker, last night in London” Mr. Mulcair reported, seeming to sound out the city’s name in a certain la-de-da tone, “the Prime Minister mused about catastrophic events about to hit the Canadian economy. He laughed about Canadians having to face the most volatile stock market since the Great Depression.”

There were groans from the government benches.

Canada wants this French election hushed up

On Saturday, Canada saw its quietest election ever. It was the don’t ask, don’t tell election.

Thousands of French citizens in Canada voted to choose a member of France’s National Assembly representing North America, in the first round of legislative elections.

But Canada, alone among the world’s nations, objected to the election in the first place and said it shouldn’t be held on Canadian soil. Having someone represent Canada in another country’s parliament infringes on our sovereignty, Ottawa has decided. They don’t want rough foreign politics in our genteel streets.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda silent on why expense claims changed

OTTAWA—A Conservative cabinet minister has yet to explain why some of her travel and hospitality expenses were altered after they were published on a federal government website.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda came under fire in April after The Canadian Press reported she had upgraded from one five-star hotel to a more expensive one, hired a chauffeur to drive her around in a luxury car and bought a glass of orange juice for $16 while attending a conference on international immunization in London last year.

Oda reimbursed taxpayers some of the money after the story broke — 10 months after she incurred the expenses — but never provided an explanation for her lavish spending.