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 06, 2012

Water pollution law meant to assist oilsands: Liberal MP

OTTAWA — New laws offering the government more tools to "authorize" water pollution appear to be designed to remove obstacles for expansion of Canada's oilpatch, says a Liberal MP from Montreal who spearheaded a parliamentary investigation into the environmental footprint of the oilsands.

"I just found it curious that they're trying to hide their motive," said Francis Scarpaleggia, the Liberal water critic. "This is all being done for the oilsands. It's not being done for the pulp and paper industry. They have their house in order."

How Ottawa fumbled the fisheries file

Stephen Harper prides himself on being an astute political manager. However, the recent amendments to the Fisheries Act, contained in Bill C-38, the 2012 Budget Implementation Act, are the work of a political amateur. They will not help him get new pipelines built and they do not help his re-election prospects, since they have mobilized significant opposition, including from within the Conservative Party, and the manner of their passage lacks all legitimacy. Why has this seasoned veteran acted like such a rookie on the fisheries file?

Repealing hate speech laws is a dangerous mistake

On June 6, Canadians lost a valuable tool in the fight against discrimination and hate. Through a backdoor private member's bill, the Conservative government repealed Section 13 of the federal Human Rights Act, which gave the Canadian Human Rights Commission the power to hear complaints about public hate speech over the telephone or on the Internet. Although the repeal bill is not yet law, it is now in the hands of the Conservative-dominated Senate where it is fully expected to become law.

Baird blames Russia for UN ‘losing its relevance’ in Syrian crisis

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird openly pegged Russia as the culprit allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to continue a bloody crackdown on opponents, and warned the United Nations is becoming irrelevant in the crisis.

The unusually blunt blame from Canada’s foreign minister came as Mr. Baird attended a meeting of more than 100 countries in the so-called Friends of Syria group in Paris, which called for a ratcheting up of sanctions on the Assad regime.

Tory ministers splash cash across Canada

While Americans were enjoying their Fourth of July holiday, Stephen Harper’s ministers were busy doing what they, and most politicians, like more than anything: making spending announcements.

No matter that this government is cutting $5-billion from government spending. No matter that programs are being cut or reduced throughout government. No matter that out of one side of their mouths Harper ministers proclaim the virtues of frugality, because from the other come announcements, followed by more announcements, of more spending.

On Wednesday, from Pasadena, Nfld., to Abram Village, PEI, from Waterloo, Ont., to Winnipeg, ministers dive-bombed communities dropping money on them or, as the government prefers to call these events, “making announcements.”

Psychopathy and the CEO: Top executives have four times the incidence of psychopathy as the rest of us

Your child could grow up to be a psychopath and that may not be a bad thing.

He or she just might wind up a CEO.

The hallowed halls of business have more than a fair share of successful psychopaths, many of them CEOs and top executives, research shows.

Ford Says He's Hardest-Working Person At City Hall

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has responded to a councillor's criticism that he's a "part-time" mayor by saying he "works harder than any person" at city hall.

Coun. Adam Vaughan, one of Ford's most frequent critics and a rumoured 2014 mayoral candidate, attracted attention this week for several sharp jabs at the mayor and his commitment to the job.

Vaughan says Ford seems preoccupied with what he calls "sideshows" like his recent confrontation with a TTC driver or his public campaign to lose weight.

Former Harper adviser finds troubling loophole in Ottawa lobbyist registry

OTTAWA — The Conservative party platform for the 2006 national election called for more political accountability from our elected officials.

Right there, on page 8, under the heading “Toughen the Lobbyists Registration Act,” was a promise to “require ministers and senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists.”

The Tories won that election, but alas, the registry never was toughened up — at least not in the ways that would have placed the responsibility for reporting lobbying activity squarely on the shoulders of those being lobbied. And neither the 2008 nor 2011 platforms dwelled much on accountability as far as lobby registries are concerned.

Harper likes his ministers weak

On Wednesday, a minor and largely irrelevant minister was replaced by a minor and largely irrelevant minister, and with that the cabinet shuffle was complete. Thus, a prime minister who dominates the political landscape more than any before him, a prime minister with unprecedented control of Parliament and the machinery of government, a prime minister whose mastery of his party and caucus is absolute, confirmed once again that he likes things just the way they are.

The man who once denounced the excessive power of Louis XVI is now Napoleon I, Emperor of the Canadians. And the Emperor intends to remain the Emperor.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

On June 19, 2012, at a G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would be joining ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. U.S. President Obama invited Canada and Mexico to join the talks on terms that have not been made public but which are reported to give the new entrants second-rate status, with less room to make changes to the agreement as it moves forward.

The TPP, an Asia-Pacific economic integration pact, now has 11 members: the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam. Japan has also expressed interest in joining the talks, which would reportedly eclipse the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in size and scope.

Enbridge executive’s company awarded first crime Bill C-10 $38.5-million prison project

Opponents of the Conservative government’s crime Bill C-10 were justified to argue that private companies would profiteer from the new jail system the legislation proposed for Canada. On Tuesday, the Canadian Press reported that a Toronto-based construction company, Bird Construction Inc., has been awarded the contract to build the $38.5-million North East Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Nova Scotia. The 200-bed facility is due to open in 2014.

Turns out there’s a connection between the company and Enbridge Inc.: a man named J. Richard Bird, who also has a strong connection with the federal government. The 62-year old Harvard Business School and University of Toronto graduate served as a member of the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Committee on Financing from 2009 to early 2010.

Pentagon keeps ties to contractor that's under investigation

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has retained its top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan for $60 million over the next year even as the company remains under criminal investigation by the military's inspector general and its co-owner has been suspended from receiving military contracts.

The military has maintained its ties to Leonie because the company has satisfactorily completed its tasks in Afghanistan, and military leaders there have requested that their services be retained, said Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman. The contract will be open for competition in one year, if military leaders decide they need more information operations programs. "Leonie continues to work in support of this task order, and will continue to provide professional services support as required," Leonie spokesman Gar Smith said.

Whites-Only Christian Conference Held In Alabama By Pastor William J. Collier's Church of God's Chosen

Pastor William J. Collier and his Church of God's Chosen are holding a Christian conference and all are invited -- as long as they are white.

Flyers for the conference with the title: "Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited" first appeared on Monday in the town of Winfield in western Alabama, outraging many local residents.

According to, the mayor of Winfield is adamant that the event is not representative of the community in any way.

Heat Wave: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis And Chicago Near Record High Temperatures

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The temperatures in Casimir Brandon's basement bedroom grew so stifling that the exhausted Madison man began riding city buses in the morning, from one end of the line to the other, so he could grab a few hours of air-conditioned sleep.

Brandon is among those searching for any kind of relief as oppressive heat slams the middle of the country with record temperatures that aren't going away after the sun goes down. So when the city of Madison transformed a vacant convention center into a 24-hour cooling center, Brandon jumped at the chance to sleep in comfort.

The Mother of All Vote-Suppression Tactics?

If the GOP prevails in the Sunshine State on November 6, it won't be because of hanging chads—though there have been plenty of issues with Florida's paperless digital machines. Instead, it might owe something to Gov. Rick Scott's now infamous voter and the restrictive new voting laws Florida passed last year. Or the fact that about a million voting-age Floridians will be sitting on their hands this Election Day—permanently stricken from the voting rolls because they were once convicted of a felony.

Among the GOP's myriad strategies to suppress the vote of people considered more likely to vote Democrat—many of them detailed by Kevin Drum and others in —felony disenfranchisement laws may be the biggest bonanza of all for Republican candidates. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than another other nation. Some 2.3 million Americans are now in prison or jail, with millions more on parole or probation—together, according to a 2009 study, they account for , most of whom would otherwise be eligible to vote.

Quebec Student Protests: University, College Access To Broaden In Province

MONTREAL - The Quebec government has quietly adopted several controversial measures it says will broaden access to higher education in the province.

Student groups, however, contend the measures will have the opposite effect and actually increase student debt loads.

China Oil Sands Investment: Confusing Rules Scaring Away Big Money, Report Says

OTTAWA - Canada is missing out on billions of investments from cash-rich China because of Ottawa's confusing foreign takeover rules, says a report from the Conference Board.

The Ottawa-based think-tank makes clear it is a supporter of foreign investments — including from China — saying simply that economies that have access to global capital do better in terms of growth and job creation.

Canada Military Equipment In Afghanistan Stranded Amid Logistical Chaos

Logistical chaos on the ground at Pakistan's largest seaport along with truckers' demands for more money mean hundreds of tonnes of Canadian military equipment remain stranded in Afghanistan despite the opening of the border to NATO traffic after a seven-month closure.

The first truck carrying NATO supplies finally crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan Thursday but 446 sea containers of Canadian Forces material stored in Kabul and Kandahar won't be moving any time soon, according to the contracted freight company.

Harper’s disdain for new blood after unsteady year baffling

So that’s it, then: The government is on track. Europe is tanking, China slowing, the U.S. struggling. Therefore, no time to waste shuffling the cabinet, beyond plugging the hole created by Bev Oda’s unlamented departure. The Harper team is hell-bent on doing its important economic work! Everyone — especially the yammering media and the “armchair strategists” who had expected more substantive change — should get a life.

Well, OK. But allow me to raise a timid, dissenting hand, and pose a few timid, dissenting questions.

Stephen Harper’s cabinet freeze not set in stone

Conservative cabinet ministers and senior staffers were caught as off-guard as everyone else when Stephen Harper announced the mini-shuffle that saw Julian Fantino replace Bev Oda as minister for Canada’s foreign aid agency.

One staffer refused to believe the news until he read the official press release. It’s not the first time the Prime Minister has bushwhacked his own team – think the Quebec nation motion and the Davos announcement on old age security reform.

Why Peter MacKay seemingly flies above the flak

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Peter MacKay's political obituary appeared all but written following revelations a military helicopter was used to pick him up from a fishing trip, he misstated the cost of the Libya mission and his department bungled the $25 billion F-35 project.

Then came word from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday that there will be no major ministerial shuffle before Parliament resumes in September — meaning MacKay will be staying put at National Defence for the foreseeable future.

Elections Canada following proper procedure in asking to speak to Del Mastro under legal caution

OTTAWA — Despite Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s claim that Elections Canada won’t meet to discuss allegations about his 2008 election finances, investigators are following procedure by insisting on interviewing him only under a legal “caution.”

Del Mastro complained this week that that he has no avenue to respond to Elections Canada’s allegations that he exceeded his campaign spending limit and attempted to conceal the paper trail.

“I’m dealing with allegations for which there is no process to clear my name,” he said at a press conference in Peterborough on Wednesday, again repeating that he hasn’t heard from the agency.