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, July 19, 2012

It’s a problem of culture not guns

With Monday night’s brazen shootout in east Scarborough, we can expect the chorus at City Hall to waste more time debating stricter gun penalties. This is an obvious way to go, but it won’t mean anything to the majority of young guns who don’t weigh the consequences when they decide to start packing.

Council needs to attack the general culture and ideology that infect teens in areas where violence and intimidation are idolized instead of condemned.

I grew up and frequented Scarborough’s Tuxedo Court, Mornelle Court and Galloway, among others, and unfortunately have subscribed to this culture, too. I remember walking my high school hallways or streets like Morningside, Ellesmere, Lawrence, Eglinton and Kennedy and being ready for confrontation with young thugs hoping to impress their peers. Sometimes they wanted money, other times just to make an example of you. It’s like high school bullying only the stakes are higher.

Chief Blair: Spare us the tough on crime rhetoric

Those among the media looking for reasons for Monday’s shooting spree at a Scarborough block party found none at a presser presided over by police Chief Bill Blair at headquarters on Tuesday, July 17.

Was there a gang connection? Is this part of a larger trend? Has gang warfare broken out on Toronto’s streets?

“There’ll be ample time to reflect on the context of this event,” the chief said. “But right now we are dealing with a very specific crime of horrendous violence. And I think it is ab solutely incumbent [on us to] focus our attention on resolving that and bringing those people to justice.”

Mitt Romney Adviser: 'Real Americans' Don't Care About Candidate's Afghanistan Policy

A senior adviser to Mitt Romney declined to provide more specific details on the presumptive GOP nominee's plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, saying it was a distraction from what "real Americans want to talk about."

The Romney campaign has said the former Massachusetts governor "supports the 2014 timetable as a realistic timetable and a residual force post-2014" in Afghanistan, but he would not have announced the withdrawal timeline publicly, as President Barack Obama did. But as Josh Rogin at The Cable notes, "details remain sketchy" on what Romney would do beyond the timeline.

Senator Lautenberg Takes On The Koch Brothers

WASHINGTON -- On Thursday, Koch Industries escalated what began as a quick jab by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) into a heated back-and-forth. The company lashed out at Lautenberg, who spoke on the Senate floor earlier this week about legislation he had cosponsored to increase transparency in campaign finance.

On Monday, Lautenberg had tough -- but mostly overlooked -- words for Charles and David Koch: With a visual display behind him declaring "The Koch Brothers: Subverting the Democratic Process," the Garden State senator demanded the conservative billionaires "have the courage" to make their political activities known to the American public.

Half Of American Households Hold 1 Percent Of Wealth

WASHINGTON -- The share of the nation's wealth held by the less affluent half of American households dropped precipitously after the financial crisis, to 1.1 percent, according to new calculations by Congress's nonpartisan research service.

By contrast, the share of total net worth held by the weathiest 1 percent of American households continued rising, hitting 34.5 percent in 2010. The top 10 percent's share was 74.5 percent.

Harper can't be shielded from facing defamation suit: Guergis's lawyer

OTTAWA - A lawyer for former cabinet minister Helena Guergis is fighting for her case to stay alive in court.

Stephen Victor struck back at defence counsel who said her defamation and conspiracy suit against the prime minister and other Conservative figures is flimsy and should be thrown out.

Guergis was turfed from cabinet and the Tory caucus in 2010 after allegations were made against her of possible criminal and unethical activity.

Defendants have told an Ontario Superior Court that the case should be dismissed because of the constitutional protections afforded the prime minister, cabinet and Parliament.

But Victor says the case has nothing to do with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's right to hire or fire who he wants.

He says the crux of the matter is what Harper did before he dismissed her, and that was allegedly defame her in a public statement and in a letter to the RCMP and the ethics watchdog.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press
Author: CP

Atleo toughens stand with Ottawa on resource development

Newly re-elected Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo says Ottawa has fallen “far short” on consulting first nations on resource development and the advocacy organization will now focus its efforts on engaging directly with businesses.

Citing examples such as the Conservative government’s changes to environmental assessments in an attempt to speed up resource developments, Mr. Atleo said first nations are not being treated as equal partners, and the consultations were not made to “the minimum acceptable requirement.”

Air Canada names Derek Vanstone, Stephen Harper’s deputy chief of staff, as VP of government affairs

Air Canada has gone right to the Prime Minister’s office to find a senior executive to lead the airline’s government relations strategy.

Derek Vanstone is currently Harper’s deputy chief of staff and was previously chief of staff to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty from 2007 to 2010.

He will become the airline’s vice-president, corporate strategy, industry and government affairs, beginning Sept.10.

Mayor Rob Ford wants Ottawa to use immigration laws against convicted gang members

Mayor Rob Ford says he will ask the prime minister to look at using “immigration laws” to banish people convicted of gun crimes from Toronto.

Ford first made the unusual banishment proposal in a CP24 interview on Wednesday afternoon. In that interview, he did not make it clear whether he was seeking legislative reform or merely asking convicts to voluntarily leave town.

Booby traps -- Problems for a much-vaunted modernisation

ONE of the main ways Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, has sought to distinguish himself from his Liberal predecessors is by building a modern army ready to fight, rather than merely for peacekeeping. In the 2011 election campaign he promised to fulfil a C$15 billion ($15 billion) contract for 65 F-35 fighter aircraft despite a tough economy. In October he announced Canada’s biggest-ever arms order, for naval and coastguard ships costing C$35 billion. The structure of the procurement was widely praised for avoiding political interference.

Grit MPs Dion, Cotler plan to challenge ‘arbitrary’ riding boundary changes, Tory MP Gourde ‘surprised’ his riding split in two

Liberal MP Stéphane Dion has joined fellow Liberal MP Irwin Cotler in chastising proposed change’s to Quebec's federal ridings by the province’s federal electoral boundaries commission, and plans to challenge the proposed changes to his riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville.

On Monday Quebec’s federal electoral boundaries commission released the proposed changes that would add three new seats to the province, change the boundaries and rename 53 of the province’s 75 existing ridings. The proposed redistribution would have a significant impact on Montreal ridings, where two new seats would be added in the city’s northern rim, with an additional seat added to the city’s southern rim.

Harper government feared UN wouldn’t send refugees to Canada if it maintained health coverage changes

The Harper government feared the United Nations refugee agency would have tried to divert affected refugees from settling in Canada if it pressed ahead with changes to refugee health-care coverage, a document released today shows.

The revelation comes as criticism of the government's approach to refugee health care has ballooned. Doctors wearing white lab coats have protested on Parliament Hill, while others have occupied a Toronto Conservative MP’s constituency office, and some have disrupted ministers' press conference.

New report fights Harper's CETA deception

In April 2012, the Harper government launched a propaganda campaign in response to growing criticism of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The campaign material, housed on a new DFAIT webpage, attempts to respond to several claims about CETA which the government believes to be myths. Unfortunately, in answering these claims, the Harper government introduces even more misleading and even false information about the impacts that "next generation" trade agreements like CETA will have in a number of social and public policy areas.

Rick Perry Says Eric Holder 'Poll Tax' Comments Aimed To 'Incite Racial Tension,' Asks For Obama Apology

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks last week calling his state's voter ID laws "poll taxes" were an attempt to incite racial tension and called on President Barack Obama to repudiate them.

"In labeling the Texas voter ID law as a 'poll tax,' Eric Holder purposefully used language designed to inflame passions and incite racial tension," Perry wrote in a statement. "It was not only inappropriate, but simply incorrect on its face."

Mitt Romney: Cayman Islands Accounts Used By Foreign Investors To 'Not Be Subject To' U.S. Taxes

WASHINGTON -- Some tax experts are alarmed by Mitt Romney's apparent admission that Bain Capital set up offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands to help wealthy investors avoid paying U.S. taxes.

During an interview with the National Review's Robert Costa, Romney said that offshore sub-companies in the Cayman Islands help foreign investors avoid paying taxes on investments in the United States. Bain Capital currently has 138 such sub-companies headquartered in the Cayman Islands.

Jet-Owning Peregrine CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr.: 'I Don't Live A Lavish Lifestyle'

CHICAGO/CEDAR FALLS, Iowa, July 18 (Reuters) - Peregrine Financial Group Chief Executive Russell Wasendorf Sr., who last week confessed to bilking futures customers of more than $100 million, owned a jet plane and an extensive wine collection but he did not, he said in his confession, live large.

"I don't live a lavish lifestyle," Wasendorf wrote in a signed note detailing the 20-year fraud. "Although I am sure that some people will think that I do."

A complete copy of the confession was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

Bank Contractors Break Into Occupied Homes, Terrify Residents, Lawsuits Say

It usually happens when homeowners are at work or out of town.

In Clawson, Mich., Nancy Cox returned home to find her possessions in the front yard, smashed with a sledgehammer, and a chalk drawing of a clown face on her garage with the tagline, "another job well done."

For Kenneth and Margaret Karpa in Pittsburgh, china and photos of their daughter were damaged. Missing belongings included a coin collection and the family cat.

Federal minister says scathing U.S. report won't change mind on Northern Gateway

VANCOUVER - A scathing report out of the United States that criticized just about every aspect of Enbridge Inc.'s response to a pipeline spill in Michigan won't change the Canadian government's support for the company's proposed Northern Gateway project, the federal environment minister said.

A report by U.S. investigators released last week concluded Enbridge (TSX:ENB) bungled its response when millions of litres of oil began to pour in and around the Kalamazoo River in July 2010, comparing the company's handling of the spill to the "Keystone Kops."

There are no easy solutions to gun crime

If tough talk made the streets safe, then Shyanne Charles, 14, and Joshua Yasay, 23, would still be alive.

But tough talk and empty swagger may make politicians look and feel good, but it didn't save any lives in Toronto Monday night and it never will.

But, predictably, when something went wrong Monday at a cognac party in a tough Scarborough housing project, and hoodlums sprayed the partiers with bullets, 23 people were wounded, the politicians started with their empty, foolish talk.

Native people on cusp of change, AFN chief Atleo says

Shawn Atleo, the newly re-elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called on all Canadians to unite with his people in making a new future for native people, saying they "are on the cusp of major transformative change."

"It is about time we pull back the veil on misunderstanding and we engage all Canadians to walk with us and give effect to the notion... we are all treaty people," said Atleo at his Toronto news conference Thursday.

Ottawa can’t ignore recommendations in spending-oversight report

A much-needed report from an all-party House of Commons committee contains modest and eminently doable recommendations that would vastly improve MPs’ ability to hold government spending to account. Given its roots in the Reform movement, the Conservative government should act on the recommendations and fulfill its promise of returning the power of the purse to Parliament.

Matt Taibbi: Libor Rate-Fixing Scandal "Biggest Insider Trading You Could Ever Imagine"

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi joins us to discuss the pattern of systemic corruption by 16 banks accused of rigging a key global interest rate used in contracts worth trillions of dollars. The London Interbank Offered Rate, known as Libor, is the average interest rate at which banks can borrow from each other. Some analysts say it defines the cost of money. Barclays was recently fined $453 million for rigging Libor, and a number of other banks are under investigation. "Ordinary people actually suffered when Libor was manipulated downward, mainly because local governments tended to lose money," Taibbi says. "Even the tiniest manipulation downward, when you’re talking about a thing of this scale, would result in tens of trillions of dollars of losses. ... The banks weren’t doing this just to make themselves look healthier, they were also doing this just to make money. They were trading against this information in what essentially was the biggest kind of insider trading you could possibly imagine." Taibbi is author of the book "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Ethics Commissioner ignores evidence in Clement situation

As has happened almost every time she has issued a ruling, federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has again ignored evidence and rules in her ruling that cabinet minister Tony Clement did nothing wrong when he endorsed a company in his riding in a promotional video and in two letters.

The Ethics Commissioner ruled in March that cabinet minister Christian Paradis was guilty of giving "preferential treatment" in violation of section 7 of the Conflict of Interest Act, setting the standard that it is illegal for ministers "to use their positions as ministers to provide greater assistance to their constituents than to other Canadians in relation to their own department or larger portfolio."

Gary Doer Sees Energy Independence As Key For Canada And U.S.

SASKATOON - Canada's ambassador to the United States says energy independence between the two countries is key.

The two countries must work together to avoid reliance on the Middle East and "petro dictators," Gary Doer told delegates to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region's annual meeting on Wednesday.

Doer said part of the solution is to buy as much renewable energy from each other as possible.

"We have to have energy efficiency," he said. "We have to continue to develop renewables. Wind in Montana should be purchased in Canada. Hydro from British Columbia should be purchased in the United States."

He also said Canada can provide more oil to the U.S.

Doer suggested energy security would dramatically improve the U.S and Canadian economies.

The Pacific Northwest group includes state and provincial officials, business leaders and academics.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

U.S. Drought Means Wilting Crops, Higher Food Prices; Officials Pray For Rain

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, July 18 (Reuters) - Oppressive heat and a worsening drought in the U.S. Midwest pushed grain prices near or past records on Wednesday as crops wilted, cities baked and concerns grew about food and fuel price inflation in the world's top food exporter.

Soybean prices at the Chicago Board of Trade set a record high and corn closed near a record as millions of acres of crops seared in triple-digit heat in the Corn Belt. Corn fields have been plowed up in many locations for lack of rain. Now soybeans, which develop later than corn, are in the bull's eye.

Vic Toews Campaign Event Mimicking Funding Announcement Raises Questions About Rules

OTTAWA - A campaign event in Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' riding last year had all the trappings of a funding announcement, raising eyebrows among bureaucrats who thought such activities were on hold until votes were cast.

The long-standing practice in Canada has traditionally been for the incumbent government to put off any announcements until after the campaign is over, so as not to exercise undue advantage over the opposition parties.

Vancouver theatre groups take on Harper

Will the prime minister sue a group of Vancouver actors on Sunday?

Practically every theatre company in the city has joined together to mount a staged reading of a satirical play - Proud - that Toronto's Tarragon Theatre chose not to present after a board member raised concerns Stephen Harper might have a case for defamation against anyone who staged it.

The Arts Club Theatre, Play-wrights Theatre Centre, Ruby Slippers, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Compassionate Bone, Leaky Heaven Circus, Pi Theatre, Neworld Theatre, Touchstone Theatre and Felix Culpa are presenting the controversial new comedy at PL 1422, 1422 William Street.

It's semi-official: The Enbridge Northern Gateway project is kaput!

If you thought NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair was mistaken -- or, worse, just being "divisive" -- when he said about a week ago that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was finished, think again.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may still officially love the project and dream of fast-tracking it, but you can take it as given that its demise is pretty well official now that Alberta Opposition Leader Danielle Smith has all but admitted the unpopular proposal by Enbridge Inc. is never going to fly with voters over the border in British Columbia.

This verdict by Smith, who is leader of the Wildrose Party and effectively the MLA for Calgary-Oilpatch-Executive-Suite, is a strong signal the energy industry has written off the Calgary-based corporation's plan as a sure loser and will soon move on to new versions of exactly the same thing. This is what is known in the business world as "rebranding."

Ottawa eyes plan to loosen DND’s grip on military procurement

The Harper government, eager to fix Canada’s chronically dysfunctional system for buying military equipment, is considering changes that would strip the Department of National Defence of significant responsibility in steering major purchases.

Stephen Harper and staff in the Prime Minister’s Office are determined to reform the way Canada buys military equipment after a string of troubled purchases, from F-35 fighter jets to supply ships to combat vehicles, have left the impression the Conservatives are failing to effectively manage this spending.

Mark Carney ‘deeply troubled’ over Libor, says Financial Stability Board can help

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney says the facts that have emerged out of the Libor scandal are “deeply troubling.”

“It’s not just the structure of the index, which U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has rightly described as flawed, but it’s the active, conscious, repeated manipulation of that index,” Carney told a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday.

Goodbye welfare cheque, hello debit card

Toronto is moving to replace the paper welfare cheque with a debit card — a benefit for both social assistance recipients and the city.

Some 22,000 recipients — about one in four — can’t opt for direct bank deposit because they don’t have bank accounts. Instead, they rely on expensive cheque-cashing services.

The city estimates a single client receiving $599 a month could save at least $250 a year by eliminating cheque-cashing fees.

The dirty little secret of ORNGE oversight

Putting a human face on the ORNGE scandal is bracing. It brings clarity to the confusion — and delusion — that drove Ontario’s air ambulance service into the ground.

After months of subpoenas, medical delays and doctors’ notes, former ORNGE CEO Chris Mazza walked into a legislative committee Wednesday to plead his case in the court of public opinion. The one-time golden boy and trauma surgeon was a pale shadow of his former strapping self — now gaunt, greying, balding, bespectacled, humbled.

Shawn Atleo elected head of the Assembly of First Nations

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo will serve a second term as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations after winning one of the most closely watched elections in the organization’s history.

Atleo maintained a healthy lead ahead of his seven challengers in all three rounds of voting, coming just three votes shy of the 60 per cent majority required in the second round. He won by 67 per cent in the third round of voting — a far cry from the marathon eight ballots it took to elect him in 2009.

Stephen Harper’s lawyers attack Helena Guergis’ defamation suit

OTTAWA—A lawyer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a withering assessment Wednesday of a defamation case brought by former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, calling parts of her claim “gibberish” and “a fiction.”

Guergis has filed a $1.3-million lawsuit against Harper, the Conservative party and several figures inside the Tory government alleging defamation, conspiracy, “misfeasance in public office,” infliction of mental suffering and negligence.

MacKay says French backed British in War of 1812, Twitter erupts

Pity poor Peter MacKay.

MacKay, the federal defence minister, is getting lambasted on Twitter for a gaffe he made at the French embassy in Ottawa last week, reported in the Ottawa Citizen.

"Suffice it to say in the 200th commemoration of the War of 1812," MacKay said, "had the French not been here fighting side by side, we might be standing here next to each other in a new light."

Federal minister says scathing U.S. report won't change mind on Northern Gateway

VANCOUVER - A scathing report out of the United States that criticized just about every aspect of Enbridge Inc.'s response to a pipeline spill in Michigan won't change the Canadian government's support for the company's proposed Northern Gateway project, the federal environment minister said.

A report by U.S. investigators released last week concluded Enbridge (TSX:ENB) bungled its response when millions of litres of oil began to pour in and around the Kalamazoo River in July 2010, comparing the company's handling of the spill to the "Keystone Kops."

The report has provided fuel for critics of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway project, which would carry crude oil along 1,170 kilometres of pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia's coast. Even B.C.'s premier has demanded answers.

Oh Ezra Levant, pride of the west, where did it all go wrong?

What twist on the road led you from feisty Reform Party contrarian, magazine publisher, political candidate, author and cognoscenti darling to this? This being the constant squealing, near Smurf-like, in high righteous indignation on Sun News, about Communists and a cabal of journalists who allegedly undermine Canada from their base in – get this – “an Ottawa steakhouse.”

Television is the twist in the road. Television is to blame.

How little leaks can become big oil spills

When pipelines rupture, it usually takes hours before the flow of oil is shut off.

Why? Obviously, an instant response to a pipeline leak would minimize the environmental impact and be less expensive to clean up. But could it be that pipeline transportation technology, as modern and high-tech as it is, simply can’t respond quickly enough?

It’s not just about Khadr

It’s not about Omar Khadr. That’s the key thing to remember about the latest twist in the seemingly endless saga of Omar Khadr. It’s not about Omar Khadr.

On Friday, Khadr’s lawyers filed yet another application with yet another federal court. They want the government to take action.

As part of Khadr’s plea bargain, he was sentenced to a further eight years in prison, with Khadr to be returned to Canada after one year to serve the remainder of his sentence. The Canadian government was involved in these discussions. It agreed to the deal. The government “will implement the agreement between Mr. Khadr and the U.S. government,” then-foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon told the House of Commons in 2010.

Fantino criticizes Toronto Star reporting on Afghanistan

New international co-operation minister Julian Fantino is coming out swinging.

In an interview with Embassy focused on Canada's recent announcement of $227 million for development in Afghanistan from 2014 to 2017, he took issue with a series of recent reports by Toronto Star writer Paul Watson on Canada's legacy in Afghanistan, calling it "childish" and "immature."

Mr. Watson's reports "raise questions about the long-term sustainability of high-profile 'signature' Canadian aid projects into which Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has sunk $70 million or more," according to a Star editorial July 16.

Levant's ethical oil case takes hits from all sides

TV host Ezra Levant raised some eyebrows by calling oil from Canada's oilsands "the fair trade coffee of the world's oil industry."

Levant, who has become a spokesperson for the so-called "ethical oil" movement and has made a career bolstering the Alberta oilsands, was a keynote speaker Tuesday at Pacific Northwest Economic Region's (PNWER) annual summit in Saskatoon.

Austerity, racism and structural violence: Putting the Scarborough shooting in context

Politicians from all levels of government have reacted with statements about Monday night's horrific shooting in Scarborough, Ontario. Federal government Ministers Julian Fantino and Rob Nicholson took the occasion to promote the Conservatives' crime bill and other "tough on crime" legislation. While the Harper government promotes their own agenda in the wake of this tragedy, we are sharing this reflection that situates the shooting in its wider context of austerity, racism and structural violence.