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.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Toronto police corruption trial: Guilty verdicts on obstructing justice charges

Eight years after they were charged, five former members of an elite drug squad have been convicted of several charges in the city’s largest cop corruption trial.

After more than eight days of deliberations, an Ontario Superior Court jury found former detective John Schertzer and four members of the disbanded Team 3 of Central Field Command drug squad guilty of attempt to obstruct justice.

Const. Steven Correia, the only defendant still a police officer, was also convicted of perjury, as were Ned Maodus and Raymond Pollard.

Various defendants were acquitted of several other charges, including assault causing bodily harm, extortion and theft over $5,000.

Canadian political calculus: Zero-sum or win-win?

A recent article, "Would a united left really be able to topple Tories?" by pollmeister extraordinaire Éric Grenier of -- which draws, in turn, upon a recent poll by Angus-Reid Public Opinion -- provides fresh fodder for political thought. The Angus Reid poll found that, of decided Canadian voters, 50 per cent said they would vote for a joint NDP or Liberal candidate. This compares to 39 per cent who would vote Conservative and 11 per cent who would vote for a Green, BQ or other candidate. This is true across the country in every province and territory save Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. These results closely mirror the percentages of support the respective parties received in the 2011 federal election leading Grenier to conclude that, "if the parties decided to co-operate they would lose very few votes."

Australia Boat Tragedy: Ship Capsizes Off Australian Island, 1 Asylum Seeker Dead

CANBERRA, Australia — Four people are believed to have died and 130 others were rescued after a crowded boat carrying asylum seekers to Australia capsized and sank Wednesday, less than a week after more than 90 people drowned on a similar journey.

The incident, which occurred midway between Australia's Christmas Island and the main Indonesian island of Java, has renewed Australian government efforts to deter a growing stream of boat arrivals by legislating to deport them to other Southeast Asian or Pacific countries.

Did Justice Antonin Scalia go too far this time?

WASHINGTON — Justice Antonin Scalia has never been shy about saying what he thinks and never reluctant to criticize those he disagrees with.

For more than a quarter-century, the high court's term has nearly always ended with a rush of opinions in late June and a fiery dissent from Scalia.

His colleagues sit with tight expressions or distant gazes as Scalia sounds off, his tone one of anger and disgust.

Arizona's Immigrants Under 'Reasonable Suspicion'

When she heard today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the “reasonable suspicion” (a k a “papers, please”) provisions of Arizona’s SB-1070, immigrant rights activist Isabel Garcia saw the Arizonification of the nation. “We’ve been fighting local ‘reasonable suspicion’ laws here in Arizona for decades,” said Garcia, a Pima County public defender and co-chair of Coalición de Derechos Humanos, an organization dedicated to defending immigrants and documenting immigrant deaths in the desert. “Here in Tucson ‘reasonable suspicion’ has proven a very weak and vague legal standard that is responsible for lots of family separations, enormous suffering—and death. Now, SB-1070 is going to haunt those of you in the rest of the country.”

Congress Approaches a Deal to Keep Student Loan Interest Rates Low

Screwing over young voters is not a particularly wise idea, and much less so with only four months until a presidential election. (It should go without saying that it’s also terrible policy).

Accordingly, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are approaching a deal to keep federal subsidized student loans—in which the government pays students’ interest while they are still in school—from seeing a 100 percent interest rate increase on Sunday, from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

The crucial context here is that Republicans really don’t think the government should subsidize student loans at all, but have been brought along by political realities.

Race, Gender, and the Creative Class

When I first wrote Rise of the Creative Class, I looked at the creative class as one whole unit. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I wasn’t able to look inside this new class and how it might vary by race and gender. Over the ensuing decade, to the best of my knowledge, no one else did either. So when I got around to writing the revised edition of the book, Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, I decided to take a look. With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, we used the American Community Survey to look at the race and gender composition of the creative class. The findings, while not completely surprising, reflect the intersection of these three major fault-lines of American life.

In Iowa, Paying Your Debt to Society Isn't Quite Enough

Via Ed Kilgore, we learn today that voter suppression is alive and well in Iowa. On his first day in office after winning the 2010 election, Gov. Terry Branstad reinstituted a long and laborious process that prevents most released felons from voting:

    Henry Straight, who wants to serve on the town council in the tiny western Iowa community of Arthur, is among those whose paperwork wasn't complete. Straight can't vote or hold office because as a teenager in Wisconsin in the 1980s, he was convicted of stealing a pop machine and fleeing while on bond.

Canada Gas Prices Poised To Jump Overnight

A gas price watcher is warning that pump prices will rise significantly overnight, up to three cents a litre in parts of the country.

Dan McTeague's website Tomorrow's Gas Prices Today notes the rise would come ahead of the busy long weekend in both Canada and the U.S.

He predicts one of the biggest jumps in prices will come to Kamloops B.C., where he expects prices to rise three cents a litre.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canada Would Fall Into ‘Internet Trap' Under Asia Trade Deal, Critics Say

Canadians would see Internet freedoms curtailed under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated among a dozen Pacific Rim countries, groups critical of the deal say.

The Council of Canadians and OpenMedia have launched a campaign to stop Canada from joining the TPP, saying it would “criminalize some everyday uses of the Internet,” including mash-ups (combining different media works to create a new one) and small-scale downloading of music.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest defends use of attack ad in attempt to undermine PQ chief Pauline Marois

MONTREAL – Premier Jean Charest is defending his party’s use of negative advertising to discredit Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.

But Guy Séguin, the man who shot the video used in the campaign, wants the Quebec Liberal Party to withdraw the ads because he never gave his permission for the video to be used in such a manner.

The ad was taken down from YouTube Tuesday night.

In its place is a message informing potential viewers that the video has been removed “due to a copyright claim by (the copyright protection service) Police du Net /Guy Séguin.”

Suicide note coverup ‘unforgivable’, colonel tells military inquiry

OTTAWA — Military officers “dropped the ball” during their dealings with the parents of Afghan war veteran Stuart Langridge, a military inquiry into the soldier’s suicide was told Tuesday.

Col. Jamie Hammond, appointed Chief of Staff to the Commander of Western Land Forces four months after 28-year-old Langridge hanged himself, said the soldier’s mother and stepfather, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, had a right to be frustrated at their treatment. Hammond, now retired from the military, said he was “flabbergasted” to discover that Stuart’s suicide note, containing his last wishes, had been kept from the Fynes by the military’s National Investigation Service (NIS) for 14 months.

Securities regulators' fines called 'a farce'

Nearly two-thirds of penalties levied by provincial securities regulators across Canada in the past five years have not been paid, a CBC News investigation has found.

"Clearly we have a problem with collection of fines and [securities] regulation," said Ermanno Pascutto, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR Canada).

"I think it's important that people who break the rule actually be sanctioned," he said from his Toronto office.

Canadians told Tories priority on energy file should be protecting public: poll

OTTAWA — Public opinion research commissioned by the Conservative government — shortly before it reduced federal ecological oversight of natural resource projects — found Canadians believe Ottawa's primary role on the energy file is protecting people from "negative outcomes or undue environmental or public health impacts."

Yet the polling and focus groups on energy issues from Harris/Decima, conducted late last year for Natural Resources Canada and just publicly released by the federal government, also found Canadians clearly identify the economy as their most important issue and the resource sectors as having the greatest potential for job creation and economic growth.

In Harper's crosshairs, green group opens books on foreign donors

An environmental charity at the centre of controversy surrounding political activism and foreign donations is taking the rare step of releasing a detailed account of grant recipients and international donors in an effort to stem attacks by Conservative politicians.

The Harper government has labelled Tides Canada, a Vancouver-based charity, a foreign-financed radical organization that channels donations to advocacy groups that oppose the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to bring Alberta oil-sands bitumen to a port on the British Columbia coast.

Canada’s humiliating entry into TPP trade deal

The Harper government’s frantic efforts to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations came to fruition last week, with the announcement that Canada will be admitted to the talks.

The TPP is a nine-member, U.S.-led effort to create a “21st century” trade and investment agreement. The U.S. is seeking a tough, far-reaching agreement favouring U.S. commercial interests that China, Japan and other trading rivals will have little choice but to join. China, however, appears to view the TPP as little more than an American plot.

Military watchdog’s report on Afghan detainees to be released Wednesday

OTTAWA — A military watchdog releases its long-awaited report Wednesday on torture and Afghan detainees — a hugely controversial issue that once threatened to topple the then-minority Conservative government

The Military Police Complaints Commission is expected to rule whether Canadian military police knew, or could have been expected to know, that suspected Taliban prisoners faced torture after being turned over to Afghan authorities.

Government dismisses rumours Canada will pull out of Euro security group

Rumours are swirling around Ottawa's diplomatic and political community that Canada is planning to leave an international organization aimed at maintaining security in Europe. But the government says it isn't pulling out of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

One diplomat said that the United States, Britain, Germany, and Nordic countries had raised the issue with the Canadian government.

"We are aware that Canada's membership in the OSCE has been the subject of some discussion at the OSCE of late," wrote Rick Roth, a spokesperson for Foreign Minister John Baird, in an email to Embassy. But he went on to say that, "Canada is not withdrawing from the OSCE."

Can one old man with a typewriter really have Fox News North on the ropes?

Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant is spending so much time complaining about me on national television these days they ought to call his show The Source, with David Climenhaga.

If this keeps up it'll go to my head!

Apparently all on my own I pose an existential threat to the mighty Sun News Network, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's semi-official and ideologically perfect state broadcaster, because … what? … I think they ought to live up to certain minimal standards of decorum that they agreed upon to get their license seeing as we collectively own the airwaves from which they're profiting.

Stephen Harper doesn’t have to be a secret agent

That Stephen Harper recently sought counsel from Brian Mulroney and Jean Charest on a potentially shifting Quebec political landscape is a significant political story on a number of fronts.

Just as significant, however, is that the meetings were “secret,” becoming public knowledge only after they were revealed by an enterprising Canadian Press reporter.

Last month, it was a “secret” meeting between Harper and Dalton McGuinty where the Ontario premier pitched for federal help in developing the mineral-rich Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario, a deposit worth potentially billions of dollars of revenue for this province.

Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us

Over the past several decades, US industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Charts: The Supreme Court's Rightward Shift

hereIf the Supreme Court strikes down all or part of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, it will undoubtedly cement the Roberts court's reputation as the most conservative in years. That's not an entirely a matter of opinion. Thanks to an amazing trove of data collected by law professors Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn and the Supreme Court Database, the court's rightward trajectory can be confirmed.

By several measures, the court headed by Chief Justice John Roberts is the most conservative since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon named Warren Burger to replace the famously liberal Earl Warren. Not only is its most conservative member (Clarence Thomas) nearly as conservative as the Burger court's most conservative member (future Chief Justice William Rehnquist), its most liberal member (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is considerably less liberal than previous justices on the left side of the spectrum.

Ornge Investigation: Ruth Hawkins, Senior Bureaucrat, Accused Of Developing Amnesia About Red Flags

TORONTO - A senior health bureaucrat was accused Tuesday of developing "amnesia" about the numerous red flags that were raised over the years about the province's troubled air ambulance service.

Ornge is currently under a criminal probe for financial irregularities amid allegations of questionable business practices, high executive salaries and whether public money may have been used for private gain.

Harper government recognizes cutting scientists who monitor pollution

OTTAWA-After spending weeks disputing the job descriptions of federal scientists on a team of pollution research and monitoring specialists on the chopping block, Environment Canada is now recognizing that they “make contributions” to promoting compliance and enforcement of environmental regulations.

In a letter sent to the Union of Environment Workers, Deputy Minister Paul Boothe said that the government was sticking to its decision to dismantle the team in order to save money and transfer resources to a new environmental monitoring plan for the oilsands industry that is expected to cost about $50 million per year.

Nearly half of Canadians disapprove of federal Tories, dislike Stephen Harper: Poll

OTTAWA -- Nearly half of Canadians continue to object to the federal Tories and disapprove of their boss, according to national poll numbers released by an Ottawa-based research firm.

A large amount participants in a recent poll by Abacus Data - 49% - disapproved of the Harper government, while 34% approved.

The same proportion of Canadians surveyed this month - 49% - had an unfavourable view of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while 35% had a favourable impression.

Alberta Tory lashes out at expensive perks for government cabinet ministers

OTTAWA - A Conservative MP is sounding off against the expensive perks given to cabinet ministers.

And in a sharp, online rebuke of his caucus, Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber is airing a complaint other Tory MPs say they're also hearing about on the doorsteps this summer: that the government is wasting people's money.

Rathgeber reports he was in Grenfell, Sask., a town of around 1,000 people last month, and found that the champagne tastes of senior Tories were at the top of people's minds.

Federal government office space grows even as public service shrinks

The Conservatives talk constantly about ensuring taxpayers get value for money. But the reality is the politicians don’t control the spending process as tightly as they like to think they do. The bureaucracy is the real power in the land – and its interests are often best served by growing the size of government.

Take this example of bureaucratic empire-building: The federal government allocates funding for office accommodation according to a formula equivalent to 13% of total salary costs. As a result, any increase in salary costs also increases funding for office accommodation.

The End of the Evolution Debate

The physical evidence is so overwhelming that the theory of evolution can no longer be denied.

Ever since Darwin first floated the theory of evolution in the mid-19th century, creationists and scientists have argued – often bitterly – over the true origin of the species on Earth. In the next 15-30 years, that debate will cease. The evidence, at that point, will be irrefutable.

It used to be that a few fossils on a card table were enough evidence to convince scientists that humans had evolved. But today, there are hundreds of fossils spanning four million years in Africa. And the consistency of the story in terms of the anatomical evidence that shows change through time is such that to dispute it is simply silly.

On carbon pricing, the Tories aren’t just battling Mulcair

Recently I had the interesting experience of sitting across a board table from a formidable expert on energy and environmental policy as he confidently predicted that putting a price on carbon is an inevitable, indispensible tool in combating climate change.

This expert was neither NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who is vilified by the Conservative party in a new attack ad this week for espousing carbon pricing, nor David McLaughlin, head of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the federal advisory body the Tory government is summarily disbanding for having had the temerity to advocate carbon pricing.

Auditor general calls for more transparency in Parliament, but secretive Commons Board of Internal Economy continues to tighten it

PARLIAMENT HILL—The board of government and opposition MPs in charge of $446-million in House of Commons annual spending and rules over Parliamentary expense accounts and travel perks has further limited public transparency over its secret meetings and decisions.

The board, dominated by majority government MPs, including Speaker Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Apelle, Sask.), who heads the board, last week tabled the minutes for 13 of its closed-door meetings, going back to Nov. 21, 2011, at one time, the day before the House recessed for its three-month summer break on June 21.

Canada needs bigger trade deals, says economic group

OTTAWA—The Harper government gets an A for effort on expanding trade globally but a much lower grade on actual successes, according to a new report by a high-powered economic group.

The project organized by Carleton University in Ottawa says Canadians have for too long relied on a “culture of comfort” in easy dependence on trade with the United States.

But exports to the U.S., which accounted for 87 per cent of Canadian sales abroad in 2000, declined to 75 per cent in 2010, the group says. “Depending almost exclusively on domestic and U.S. markets for future prosperity is not sustainable,” states the report, “Winning in a Changing World.”

Bill McKibben of on Colorado Wildfires, Debby, Keystone XL and the Failure of Rio+20

With extreme weather fueling wildfires in Colorado and record rainfall in Florida, the Obama administration has moved closer to approving construction of the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline. We’re joined by environmentalist, educator and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign "Today is one of those days when you understand what the early parts of the global warming era are going to look like," McKibben says. "For the first time in history, we managed to get the fourth tropical storm of the year before July. ... These are the most destructive fires in Colorado history, and they come after the warmest weather ever recorded there. ... This is what it looks like as the planet begins — and I underline 'begins' — to warm. Nothing that happened [at the United Nations Rio+20 summit] will even begin to slow down that trajectory."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Citizens United, Part 2? Supreme Court Overturns Montana Law Banning Corporate Spending on Elections

The Supreme Court has struck down a century-old Montana law banning corporate campaign spending. Montana was sued when it invoked the ban to prevent corporate money from flooding state and local political races. A right-wing nonprofit argued the state’s ban violates the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts in federal elections. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed, blocking Montana’s law in a divided five-to-four ruling. The decision has drawn a rare bipartisan rebuke from Montana officials. We speak to John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People and the legal director of Voter Action. "For more than a century, Montana had [barred] corporate money in elections," Bonifaz says. "Now the United States Supreme Court has said to the state of Montana that the facts don’t matter. ... [We demand] a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court and to make clear that we the people, not we the corporations, rule in America."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Harper hurts science – again

The Harper government knows and cares as much about science as it knows and cares about telling the truth.

That’s what the recent decision to close Canada’s world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) tells anyone who is paying attention.

It also tells us that Environment Minister Peter Kent would have been a great witness at the Scopes Monkey Trial – for the prosecution. We shouldn’t bother jetting this guy to Earth Summits like Rio + 20 just to have him pick up the latest Fossil Award. Put the airfare into the Bev Oda VIP Transportation and Orange Juice Fund and ask the international organizers to mail in our Booby Prize.