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, August 10, 2012

Loaded dice in the climate change casino

In June of this year over 4,000 daily high temperature records were broken in the United States. There were 159 record high temperatures for the month, and 42 all-time temperature highs. July has been even worse, the hottest month ever recorded in the United States since comprehensive weather recording began in 1895. July 2012 was the 328th consecutive month that global temperature exceeded the 20th century average. In Canada record-setting temperatures were recorded in July in many parts of the country.

In August there have been snowfalls throughout every district of South Africa, an unheard of event. Johannesburg has only recorded snowfalls on 22 days in the last 103 years. The great drought of 2010 in Russia caused massive wildfires that destroyed 25 million acres of crops. In 2010 China recorded its second highest temperatures ever, and India recorded its hottest year on record.

Research Firm Blames Monsanto for Bee Deaths So…Monsanto Buys It

Monsanto, the genetically modified food giant, has recently purchased Beeologics, a leading bee research firm. Borrowing a move from the tobacco companies’ playbook, Monsanto appears to have decided that if you do not like the scientific reports coming out about you, then you should just buy the labs.

Beginning in 2007, Beeologics has researched two critical bee issues: colony collapse disorder and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. In late September of last year, Monsanto acquired Beeologics for an undisclosed amount. In making this purchase, Monsanto now has control of research that has previously pointed at its pesticides for contributing to – if not outright causing – a sharp decline in bee populations. Multiple studies in recent years have linked pesticides and high fructose corn syrup with colony collapse disorder.

Oregon criminalizes permaculture; claims state ownership over all rainwater

There's nothing more refreshing than standing in a cool, summertime rain shower. Or bathing in the warm sunlight on a crisp spring day. Or inhaling the cool autumn air, fresh with the scent of turning leaves and pine needles. These things -- rainwater, sunlight, air -- have long been assumed to be not only free, but un-claimable. You can't claim to own the sunlight that falls on my front yard, for example. A corporation can't claim intellectual property ownership over the air that you breathe and demand you pay a royalty for inhaling.

But these days, Jackson County, Oregon says it owns YOUR rainwater, and the county has sentenced a man to 30 days in jail and fined him over $1500, for the supposed "crime" of collecting rainwater on his own property.

Closing doors on Canada’s history

On June 19, 2012, Liberal MP David McGuinty rose in Question Period to ask which federal departments or agencies have closed or will be closing their libraries and what is the rationale for such closures. In posing these questions, the Member for Ottawa South spotlighted a development that has been quietly under way for months and that will seriously impede research – some of which should play a vital role in the formulation of evidence-based government policy – and undermine our understanding of Canada’s history.

To date, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Transport Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Public Service Commission, National capital Commission and Canadian International Development Agency libraries have been closed. Other libraries, such as those at Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada are scheduled for imminent closure. In still others, staffs are being drastically cut.

Stephen Harper’s project of destruction targets the programs and principles Canadians love

Few understand the sheer enormity of what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is up to, but his goal is there for anyone to see. He’s committed to the total destruction of Canada’s welfare state.

And after it’s dismantled, his government will plough and salt the political terrain upon which it stood so it will never sprout again.

But most people don’t seem to realize this is happening. Maybe it’s just too horrible for Canadians to accept. After all, those who were adults in the 1970s remember the promise and the hope that came with investing in the programs and policies that made Canada a better, fairer and more civilized country.

Tides' charitable status questioned

A pro-oilsands industry lobby group with links to the Harper government is urging the Canada Revenue Agency to consider whether Tides Canada, a Vancouver-based environmental and social justice organization, has violated Canada's charity law.

Ethical Oil, in a lengthy legal brief sent to the CRA Wednesday, has accused Tides of "laundering" money from contributors to groups engaged in "noncharitable" political activities.

The Toronto-based group said that this activity, and Tides' alleged political work, means the charity may have violated CRA rules governing Canada's $190-billion charities sector that involves an estimated 86,000 organizations.

Paul Smith, Tea Party Rally Attendee And Elected Official, Held Sign Depicting Obama's Head On A Spike

After carrying signs suggesting President Barack Obama's decapitation and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm's hanging at a Tea Party rally three years ago, Sterling Heights, Mich. Councilman Paul Smith has been asked by his colleagues to resign his post.

A video from a 2009 Tea Party rally in Troy shows Smith holding graphic signs condemning Obama, Granholm and Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi before his 2011 election to Council.

A People's Platform for the Democratic Party

Political conventions have two purposes: to nominate candidates and to shape agendas through party platforms. There will be no mystery this summer regarding the nomination of candidates. And the agendas of both parties are reasonably well defined. While the degeneration of the Republican brand will be confirmed in Tampa, the Democrats will evolve in Charlotte with the addition of a marriage equality plank to the party platform. The full embrace of LGBT rights by a major party comes as the culmination of a long struggle to bend the arc of history toward justice. In the same spirit, we propose six more planks for a People’s Platform—one grounded in current activism and animated by the belief that the party must define itself in a more boldly progressive direction.

Gun Control? Dream On.

Why am I even bothering to write about gun control? That was going to be my opening sentence when this column was to be focused on the Aurora, Colorado, movie-theater massacre: twelve people murdered and fifty-eight wounded, some very severely, by James Holmes, demented neuroscience graduate student. Then came the massacre at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin: six killed and three wounded by Wade Michael Page, 40-year-old white supremacist and leader of a racist hardcore band called End Apathy. And even after this horrific crime, which the FBI is calling “domestic terrorism,” my opening is the same: Why am I even bothering to write about gun control? End apathy? Fat chance. If even the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, one of Congress’s own, by Jared Loughner, another hyperarmed madman, didn’t move her pro-gun colleagues or their constituents, nothing will.

NOM Thinks This Black Preacher Will Convince You to Oppose Gay Marriage

In late July, Rev. William Owens, head of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, appeared at the National Press Club to denounce President Barack Obama's support for same-sex marriage, which he claimed enabled child molestation. "If you watch the men who have been caught having sex with little boys, you will note that all of them will say that I was molested as a child," he declared. "For the president to condone this type of thing…is irresponsible." Owens, who touts his role as a civil rights leader in Nashville, Tennessee during the late 1950s and early 1960s, also rejected the idea that gay rights count as civil rights. "I didn't march one inch, one foot, one yard, for a man to marry a man, and a woman to marry a woman."

Andrew McCarthy's Defense of McCarthyism

Leading Republicans, including House Majority Leader John Boehner and Sen. John McCain, have rejected Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) and several of her colleagues' claims that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

So with their support crumbling, the Shariah-panic caucus brought out one of their big guns to defend Bachmann's crusade. Andrew C. McCarthy, a National Review columnist and former federal terrorism prosecutor, headlined a Center for Security Policy event in Washington on Wednesday in which he accused the Obama administration of Islamist sympathies. "There is something terribly wrong if members of Congress were not asking questions about Islamist influence in our government," McCarthy told the largely sympathetic audience at the National Press Club. "Islamophobia is a term that was manufactured by the Muslim Brotherhood precisely for the purpose of browbeating people into silence about the activities and threat posed by Islamic supremacism."

Give Walt Wawra a break in his comments about 'Nose Hill gentlemen,' some Calgarians say

CALGARY — As critics continue to heap scorn on a Michigan police officer who publicly lamented his inability to carry a gun while on vacation in Calgary, others say the American is being treated unfairly.

In a letter to the Herald, Walt Wawra described a recent encounter with two “gentlemen” at Nose Hill Park while he and his wife were visiting the city.

He said the men asked “in a very aggressive tone” if he and his wife had been to the Calgary Stampede. Wawra brushed them off but said he wished Canadian laws allowed him to carry a gun for protection.

Alberta Tories step into the present

EDMONTON — Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party is rewriting its constitution for the first time in decades, and members will be asked to vote on significant changes at the party’s annual general meeting in the fall.

An interim report by the party’s constitutional review committee suggests the Tories could change rules about how the leadership vote is conducted, enshrine a statement of principles, and may create a president’s council.

Government considers allowing online voting

The B.C. government has taken one more small step toward allowing people to vote online, asking the province's chief electoral officer to review the practice for use in future provincial and municipal elections.

On Thursday, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Shirley Bond announced she'd asked chief electoral officer Keith Archer to convene a panel that will look into the use of Internet-based voting in other jurisdictions, and to determine any technological or logistical barriers that exist.

Minister backs green group scrutiny

OTTAWA - Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver no longer talks about "radicals" trying to "hijack" environmental hearings for the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, but he is backing tougher scrutiny for environmental charities.

"We want charitable organizations to comply with the law, and the law says that the vast bulk of their activities and money must be spent in charitable activities," Oliver said in Saskatoon, Sask. "Any charitable organization that complies with the law doesn't really represent a problem."

F-35 Milestone – Stealth Fighter Successfully Drops Bomb While in Flight

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 successfully released a weapon while airborne, the first time the stealth fighter has dropped a bomb while in flight.

The test, using an inert 1,000 lb. GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), was done Wednesday, Stephen O’Bryan, Lockheed’s Vice president for F-35 program integration, told Defence Watch.

First Nations want property rights, but on our own terms

First Nations are in a period of nation-building or rebuilding, taking back control of our lives after years of colonial rule and being governed as wards of the state by Canada under the Indian Act. Our nations are considering how they govern themselves (their core institutions of government) and what they govern (their jurisdictions). Central to this discussion is determining an appropriate system of land tenure that reflects a particular nation’s culture and traditions while also supporting the development of an economy. This necessarily includes a conversation about what types of legal interests in land can be created, who can hold them and how they are recorded. Every nation that has gone through the process of moving beyond the Indian Act has undertaken this work – work required to translate hard-fought-for aboriginal rights into practical and real change on the ground in each of our communities.

Mr. Harper and our religious selves

Reflecting on the relationship between Stephen Harper’s religious commitments and his position on climate change, Lawrence Martin sparked a debate online on iPolitics and in other media. In his July 31 column, Martin mused that Harper’s association with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church may have something to do with his government’s “muzzling of the science community, its low regard for statistics, [and] its hard line against environmentalists.”

It is an odd assertion that Harper’s attendance at a church that has no official policy against science, statistics, or environmentalism would have this effect. I’ve occasionally attended services at Christian and Missionary Alliance churches and rarely heard any mention of these topics to my recollection. And my (admittedly unscientific) impression is that church members would differ more on these issues in a way that has much more to do with geography than doctrine, Albertans more likely to share views with Mr. Harper than non-Albertans.

Political reporting suffering from effects of ‘churnalism’: Delacourt

OTTAWA—As the presidential election looms south of the border this fall, some Americans are casting their attention to the broken state of political journalism in their country.

A Daily Kos/SEIU poll released this week showed that a whopping 78 per cent of respondents had an unfavourable view of the political media in the U.S.

“Everyone agrees — the political media sucks,” Daily Kos pronounced.

RCMP emails reveal tension as force faces changes

Commissioner Bob Paulson's pledge to restore public confidence in the national police force — following a number of high-profile scandals — has created tension among some members, who feel he is lumping all officers into the same category, a recent email exchange obtained by CBC News reveals.

But the head of the organization says change is necessary and it requires "all hands on deck."

Firm hired by Tories to call voters denies allegations it misled some

The company hired by the federal Conservatives to reach out to voters before the last election says allegations it misled opposition party supporters are “categorically false.”

Andrew Langhorne, Responsive Marketing Group’s chief operating officer, filed an affidavit in federal court this week responding to the allegations.

Alberta's Expensesgate scandal: Just saying it's over doesn't mean it's over

Alberta's mainstream media finally got around yesterday to acknowledging the obvious, that Alberta Health Services may have left itself (and the rest of us who pay its bills) wide open to a costly lawsuit by tossing former CFO Allaudin Merali under the bus and then denying him severance without so much as a tip of the hat to due process.

In other words, to summarize the message from a law professor consulted by the Calgary Herald and an employment lawyer interviewed by the CBC, just saying the Expensesgate Scandal is over doesn't mean it's over.

Quoth the Herald: "Taxpayers could be left on the hook for legal costs on top of the original severance payout, warned University of Alberta faculty of law professor James Muir."

Tales from the political root cellar: Alberta's liberal War on Spuds and the Harper election strategy

Perhaps it's just as well that Dr. David Swann, former leader of the Alberta Liberals still toiling away as MLA for Calgary-Mountain View, isn't going to run for the New Democratic Party in the federal riding of Calgary Centre.

It was speculated in this space not so long ago that there had been some thought of that happening, especially after the Calgary physician and Abraham Lincoln look-alike showed up on a picket line bearing a case of Orange Crush for the strikers. But that suggestion was soon scotched.

Swann is a fine man -- intelligent, courageous and with his heart located in precisely the right place for a heart to be, which is to say, on his sleeve.

Vertical development: A dense idea

Last month Toronto’s deputy mayor, Doug Holyday, uttered what has become a cultural taboo in Canada’s largest city. Downtown Toronto, he said, is no place to raise a family.

Holyday, who lives down the street from his grandchildren in the suburban Toronto neighbourhood of Etobicoke, was against a city plan to force condo developers to reserve 10 per cent of their buildings for three-bedroom “family friendly” units.

Elections Canada's argument that Ontario justice's interpretation of Elections Act too rigourous 'frightening,' says CCLA

The prospect of allowing contested ballots to stand without records showing those who cast them were qualified to vote is a “scary” argument to hear from the federal agency in charge of the integrity of Canadian federal elections, says a national civil liberties advocacy group backing former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj in a Supreme Court of Canada battle over voting irregularities in his razor-thin loss to a Conservative last year.

The senior lawyer at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Thursday the association, which has long supported the lowest barriers possible for qualified voters who want to exercise their franchise, took the unexpected step of intervening in support of Mr. Wrzesnewskyj because going too far in the other direction—failing to validate voter qualifications—threatens the integrity of Canadian democracy.

Quebec Student Protest: Showdown Looms As Reinforcements Expected To Stream In From Ontario

MONTREAL - The more hardcore Quebec student activists say they will receive help from outside the province as they form picket lines to block the return to school.

They say that at schools where student assemblies vote to remain on strike, they plan to enforce those votes outside classrooms as they start to reopen next week.

Eva Plunkett, CSIS Former Inspector General, Says Axing Watchdog 'Huge Loss'

OTTAWA - The Conservative government's decision to abolish the CSIS inspector general's office is a "huge loss" to the important task of keeping an eye on Canada's spy service, says the woman who held the job for the last eight years.

Eva Plunkett retired last December and the Conservative government subsequently scrapped her watchdog role, saying it would save money and eliminate duplication.

She had a staff of eight and a budget of about $1 million.

Environmentalists and landowners say Alberta’s planned pipeline review too narrow

CALGARY - Environmentalists and landowners say they’re concerned the Alberta government’s pipeline review is too narrow and not independent enough.

In an open letter Wednesday to Premier Alison Redford, representatives of the Alberta Surface Right Group, the Council of Canadians and Greenpeace Canada said they are glad the province finally listened to the concerns about pipeline safety.

Conservatives continue to soften tone on Northern Gateway pipeline

OTTAWA—The federal government expressed concerns Thursday about the safety record of oil pipelines as the Harper Conservatives continued to soften their once gung-ho attitude toward building a pipeline through northern British Columbia.

“There have been some recent spills and as a government we’re not happy with that,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told CBC-TV.

He seemed to be referring to two recent oil spills from Enbridge pipelines. In one, a pipeline leaked about 1,200 barrels of crude oil into a rural Wisconsin field last month. In another, 840,000 gallons of oil spilled into a river in Michigan in an incident that led a U.S. official to liken Enbridge’s containment efforts to the “Keystone Kops.”

Affidavit rebuts voter suppression allegations against Conservatives

OTTAWA — The Conservatives have for the first time responded in detail to allegations that they engaged in fraudulent phone calls aimed at suppressing the votes of opposition voters during the last election.

Such charges are “categorically false,” says a detailed affidavit filed in federal court on Wednesday by Andrew Langhorne, chief operating officer of Responsive Marketing Group, the Conservative party’s main voter contact firm.

Toronto garbage outsourcing: Friction builds between GFL, Ford administration over delays

Three days after a private company began collecting garbage between Yonge St. and the Humber River, its chief executive clashed with Mayor Rob Ford’s administration and the city’s waste chief over how long it should be forgiven for missing pickup deadlines.

It will take four to six weeks for Green for Life Environmental Corp. to start meeting the 6 p.m. daily deadline in its seven-year contract, said CEO Patrick Dovigi.

Conservatives Ask Court Challengers For $250,000 Deposit

A lawyer for seven Conservative MPs whose 2011 election wins are being challenged in Federal Court wants to see a $250,000 deposit on costs in case the challengers lose.

Nine Canadians in seven ridings have mounted the court challenge, backed by the Council of Canadians, a regular foe of the Conservative government.

Oilsands lobby group accuses Tides Canada of ‘laundering’ money

OTTAWA – An oilsands industry lobby group with links to the Harper government is urging the Canada Revenue Agency to consider whether Tides Canada, a Vancouver environmental and social justice organization, has violated Canada’s charity laws.

Ethical Oil, in a lengthy legal brief sent Wednesday to the CRA, has accused Tides of “laundering” money from contributors to groups engaged in “non-charitable” political activities.

Provincial politics stand between PM and his trade plans

Provincial politics at opposite ends of the country threaten to upset Stephen Harper’s international-trade agenda.

This prime minister has been able to count on allies in provincial capitals when it comes to trade. He could open talks that touch directly on provincial jurisdiction and count on leaders like Jean Charest and former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell to stay onside, and stay quiet.

That peace might not last.

‘Pussy Riot’ trial punks Russia’s rulers

Punk’d. That’s how Russian President Vladimir Putin, a latter-day czar, must have felt when the feminist Pussy Riot band invaded Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow last winter to belt out a “punk prayer” crudely calling on the Virgin Mary to “put Putin away.”

Now, after a Stalin-like show trial that has just ground to a close, it is the punkers themselves who may be put away. Next week Judge Marina Syrova will decide their fate in a case that has exposed the hypersensitive Putin regime and its legal system to ridicule and has validated criticism that it tolerates no dissent.

Pussy Riot makes mockery of Putin

How much do tyrants fear mockery? Consider the case of Belarus, often called "the last dictatorship in the heart of Europe," where President Alexander Lukashenko has just fired his air force and border security chiefs because they did not stop a Swedish light plane from dropping teddy bears into the country.

The plane, chartered by a Swedish public relations firm called Studio Total, crossed into Belarusian air space from Lithuania on July 4 and dropped hundreds of teddy bears on little parachutes on the outskirts of the capital, Minsk. The teddies bore labels calling for freedom of speech and respect for human rights, which is only what Lukashenko's opponents within the country demand (before they are carted off to jail).

Push for foreign students doesn't seem necessary

Canada is after both brain power and big bucks in a renewed push to attract more foreign students to this country.

The objective is not especially altruistic - such as imparting knowledge so that the inter-national students can pursue good careers back in their home countries.

No, Canadian educational institutions, at a time of provincial cuts to funding, are keen to boost their budgets.

Despite PM’s vow, politics key to pipeline fate

It would be nice to believe that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was showing a new-found interest in science during his visit to British Columbia this week. But that would take a major leap of faith given his government’s approach so far to evidence-based decision making.

That approach has led it to ignore medical advice on Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection centre; to adopt a lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key model for sentencing, contrary to the advice of most criminologists; to muzzle scientists who work for the government and to shut down long-running projects, such as ozone monitoring, that produce the data governments in the future will need if they want to make scientifically sound decisions.

Businesses close to national parks shouldn't get a 'free ride,' says Kent

OTTAWA - Businesses located near national parks, historic sites and canals run by Parks Canada could be asked to pay fees to help offset upkeep and operating costs.

Environment Minister Peter Kent openly talked about the potential fees this week, while also suggesting that a plan to cut the operating hours of those sites — in some cases by half — could be reversed or scaled back.

Government wants advice on what it costs to provide EI, CPP

A federal department is looking for consultants to evaluate how much it spends to provide Employment Insurance, Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan services to Canadians.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, which runs Service Canada and manages the programs that get social services to Canadians, has posted a notice of procurement on a government contracting website seeking an evaluation of the programs' "cost-effectiveness."

Harper’s pipeline ‘about-face’ is anything but

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says Stephen Harper has done an “about-face” on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. She is overly optimistic.

The federal government is still pushing for a pipeline to carry crude oil from the Alberta oilsands to the British Columbia coast. It has still rigged the deck to make sure this pipeline will get regulatory approval. And it is still using its tax department to harass environmentalists critical of the scheme.

Feds wrestle with China's oilsands takeover

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper huddled with his top cabinet ministers for more than four hours on Parliament Hill Wednesday to talk about a state-owned Chinese company's proposed takeover of an Alberta oilpatch giant.

China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s $15.1-billion offer for Nexen Inc. of Calgary will require federal government approval.

Normally, bureaucrats at Industry Canada would size up the deal and make a formal recommendation to cabinet before Harper and his advisers discuss the deal.

Harper Tories hear what they want from researchers

I'd like to offer an apology to everyone who was innocently munching on their breakfast Wednesday morning when they happened to scan the front page of the Journal.

I'm sorry for the mess created when you spat your cornflakes across the table as you read with incredulity the headline, "Science will decide pipeline: PM."

It's not often you see a reference to the prime minister and science in the same sentence. The two seem mutually exclusive if not oxymoronic.

'Politically charged' pipelines get new public push

Energy pipeline companies may prefer to focus on quietly conducting their business underground. But in the aftermath of high-profile oil spills and in the middle of a contentious political debate over the desirability of Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project, the industry is trying to rise above the charges of its critics.

On Thursday, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association called reporters to a press conference in Ottawa to go public with its "Integrity First" initiative – something it says has been developing incrementally behind the scenes for about four years.

Riding Redistribution Watch: Conservative MP calls on colleagues to stay out of the process

As the seemingly inevitable pitched battles over the decennial redrawing of the electoral map begins to heat up, Brent Rathgerber has four words of advice for his parliamentary colleagues - stay out of it.  It's worth reading his entire post, but here's the gist of his argument:

    Ethically, I believe that MPs, who intend to run again, are in a complete conflict of interest when lobbying for or against a certain boundary configuration and therefore ought to recuse themselves from a conflict, real or perceived.  If I were to make a submission to the Boundary Commission, which if accepted, assisted in a narrow electoral victory, certainly allegations of gerrymander would follow thereafter.

Conservatives ask court challengers for $250K deposit

A lawyer for seven Conservative MPs whose 2011 election wins are being challenged in Federal Court wants to see a $250,000 deposit on costs in case the challengers lose.

Nine Canadians in seven ridings have mounted the court challenge, backed by the Council of Canadians, a regular foe of the Conservative government.