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.]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How Much Is One Killer Airplane Worth?

Two years ago the federal government announced its intent to purchase 65 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft for the Canadian military. The Department of National Defense justified the $9-billion expense as part of the Conservative government's plan to renew military infrastructure, and "defend against the threats of the 21st century at home."

In 2011 Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page took another look at the purchase, and put the lifetime cost of the planes at over $29 billion -- about $450 million per plane, including the upgrades and maintenance required over a 30-year period. That's in 2009 numbers, though, meaning the total in 2012 dollars is $475 million.

Bins left overflowing nearly a week as Toronto’s private trash collectors work to clear backlog

The city vowed Friday that Green For Life, its private trash collector, would pick up the waste from 99.5% of residents by end-of-day Friday, and the rest on Saturday.

But on Monday afternoon, green bins and recycling bins remained full to overflowing in at least one area of the city — along an alleyway serving more than a dozen homes between Indian Grove and Indian Road Crescent in Toronto’s High Park neighbourhood, including the home of a National Post reporter.

U.S. Auto Bailout Will Cost Billions More Than Previously Thought: Treasury

WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department has said the auto industry bailout will cost taxpayers $3.4 billion more than previously thought.

Treasury now estimates the 2009 bailout will eventually cost the government $25.1 billion, according to a report sent to Congress on Friday.

GOP pros fret over Paul Ryan

You’ve heard them on television and read them on POLITICO — cheerful, defiant statements from Republican political professionals about Mitt Romney’s bold masterstroke in tapping Paul Ryan as his running mate, and turning the 2012 presidential race into a serious, far-reaching debate about budgets and the nation’s future.

Don’t buy it.

Paul Ryan's 'Path To Prosperity' Hurts Americans In These 10 Ways

Paul Ryan's budget proposals have earned him recognition from his fellow party members in Congress, and the presumed Republican vice presidential nominee's plans could have far-reaching effects on the American people if signed into law.

In Ryan's 2010 "Roadmap for America's Future" and the more recent "Path to Prosperity" in 2012, the Wisconsin congressman has laid out his vision for the role of the U.S. government and the future of federal entitlement programs.

Romney-Ryan Economic Plans Would Increase Unemployment, Deepen Recession

Much has been written in recent days about Paul Ryan’s plans to privatize Medicare, dismantle Social Security, massively cut taxes for the wealthy and drastically redistribute income from the bottom to the top.

Yet perhaps the most disturbing feature of Ryan’s budget is that, in the midst of a prolonged recession, it would cost the US economy millions of jobs. Ryan’s 2011 budget plan proposes what the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calls “the most severe and wrenching budget cuts in US history—two-thirds of which would come from programs for people of low or moderate incomes” (Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps and low-income housing). According to the Economic Policy Institute, “the shock to aggregate demand from near-term spending cuts would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013 and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014, or 4.1 million jobs through 2014.”

Paul Ryan’s Budget Deals a Body Blow to Women’s Bottom Line

You’d have to live under a rock to miss the news on Saturday morning that Mitt Romney has picked Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate. The announcement immediately kicked up a flurry of speculation: what does Ryan bring to the ticket that Romney wants? One thing he does not bring: women’s votes. Mitt Romney has been dogged by a problem with female voters, lagging in their support far behind President Obama, particularly among single women. But where Romney has been vague and flip-floppish on many issues, Ryan has long been very clear about his staunch support for policies that will hurt women economically.

The Real Ryan Record: 2 Minor Bills, Lots of High-Profile Talk, Gridlock

A lot of the coverage of Republican vice presidential pick Paul Ryan talks about how handsome he is. How thoughtful. How serious and substantive and what a genuinely nice guy.

After looking at his record, I'm going to have to agree with Jonathan Chait, who writes that Ryan's "public persona is a giant scam" that marks him as a "skillful pol" -- and also someone who ought not to be underestimated. But there's a big difference between manners and character, between ideologically rigid political posturing and a substantive commitment to the difficult work of creating positive change within a pluralistic and diverse democratic society. If people can no longer tell the one from the other it's because we now live in an age, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has so memorably noted, where "where counter-intuitive bullshitting is valorized, where the pose of argument is more important than the actual pursuit of truth, where clever answers take precedence over profound questions."

A Climate Change Fix Conservatives Can Love

So let me get this straight. We just found out that July was the hottest month on record.

This past week, James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and father of climate change science, wrote of the peer-reviewed research he just completed: "For the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change."

Scientist Accuses Obama's Interior Department of Misconduct

A scientist hired to oversee scientific integrity at the Department of Interior says he was canned earlier this year for flagging concerns about one of the agency's studies. Dr. Paul Houser, a hydrologist, has accused the DOI of "scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal," a complaint currently under investigation within the agency.

The Bureau of Reclamation, a division of DOI, hired Houser in April 2011 to serve as a scientific integrity officer and science advisor. This position is a relatively new one at DOI, put in place in February 2011 in response to President Obama's 2009 executive order requiring an administration-wide policy that would guarantee that all agency decisions are based on "the soundest science."

Chalk a Sidewalk, Go to Jail

"I draws what I like and I like what I drew!" sings Bert, the affable sidewalk artist in Disney's Mary Poppins. He doesn't know how easy he's got it. If Bert lived in one of a dozen American cities, his colorful chalk drawings of boats and circus animals could very well land him in jail.

Take the recent example of Susan Mortensen, 29-year-old mom in Richmond, Virginia. In March, Mortensen was arrested for allowing her four-year-old daughter to draw on rocks at a local park with sidewalk chalk. This month a judge sentenced her to 50 hours of community service helping to strip and repaint 200 boundary posts on a bridge. Mortensen told a local TV station that her daughter is now "very nervous around cops" and "very scared of chalk."

Quebec Student Protest: One Arrest Made At Monday's CEGEP Vote

One person was arrested by Montreal police Monday morning during a student protest to underline the forced return to class.

The sound of people banging on pots and pans made its return to the streets of Montreal on Monday night as hundreds of students mobilized to continue the student strike.

Montreal police deemed the rally illegal from the very beginning at Place Emilie Gamelin at 8:30 p.m.

Jamie Dimon: 'It's A Free. Fucking. Country.'

Jamie Dimon wants you to remember what made this country great.

The JPMorgan Chase CEO insisted in a New York magazine interview, published on Monday, that people should not blame big banks for the financial crisis.

When asked him about his consistent defense of Wall Street and criticism of financial rules, Dimon pushed back, saying he considered himself more "an outspoken defender of the truth." "This is not the Soviet Union," he continued. "This is the United States of America. That's what I remember. Guess what.... It's a free. Fucking. Country."

MacKay Says Military Squadron Wasn't On A Fishing Trip

Federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay is defending search and rescue officials who’ve come under fire after a photograph of military squadron members fishing in remote Labrador lake was made public.

"They weren't on a fishing trip," said Mackay, speaking at a Conservative Party Atlantic caucus meeting in Happy Valley–Goose Bay, Labrador, on Monday.

Millions of dollars for creating health superboard went to executive pensions and severance

EDMONTON - More than $21 million in provincial funding earmarked to help the regional health authorities dissolve into the Alberta Health Services superboard went into covering the outstanding deficit in controversial bonus retirement plans for health executives while another $22.5 million went into executive severance pay, the Herald has learned.

The $43.5 million for executives ate up more than half of an $80 million grant the Progressive Conservative government made to the health regions in 2009 to cover transition and restructuring expenses when the nine regions and three boards — Alberta Cancer Board, Alberta Mental Health Board, and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission — were folded into Alberta Health Services.

Doctors challenge Aglukkaq on federal role in health care

YELLOWKNIFE — The organization representing Canada’s doctors released a poll Monday indicating Canadians believe health care should be the Harper government’s highest priority, shortly after a speech in which a federal minister said health care is “best left” to the provinces and territories.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told 258 delegates to the Canadian Medical Association’s annual general council meeting that she would not “dictate” to the provinces how they should deliver health care or set priorities.

Politicians should not be ruled out for judicial appointments: Justice Minister

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, asked about the propriety of appointing fellow cabinet minister Vic Toews to the bench, said Monday that government ministers should not be ruled out for such appointments. Mr. Nicholson was at a question-and-answer session of the annual meeting of the Canadian Bar Association when the issue was raised.

Mr. Nicholson was pressed on why the government did not discount stories that arose earlier this summer that Mr. Toews, a Manitoba MP and Public Safety Minister, was going to be appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal on the basis it would be inappropriate to appoint a minister directly to the bench..

Justice minister defends federal legal-aid funding

VANCOUVER — Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson dodged a call Monday from the Canadian Bar Association demanding a review of federal legal-aid funding to ensure money for defence is keeping up with the pace of federal justice reforms.

Members of the association’s national council maintain federal tough-on-crime legislation will mean more trials and more jail time for more accused in an already strained justice system. The council passed a resolution over the weekend urging Ottawa for the review.

Merkel’s visit gives Harper chance to hash out EU deal

With the clock ticking down on Stephen Harper’s self-imposed deadline to strike a wide-ranging free-trade deal with the European Union, this week’s visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is shaping up as a key chance for the two leaders to work out the final problems.

Over dinner Wednesday at the Prime Minister’s Harrington Lake cottage, followed by a morning meeting and lunch in Parliament’s Centre Block, Canada will be looking for Germany to use its considerable influence within the EU to bring these talks to a close.

Enbridge CEO says environmental groups have taken control of pipeline debate

EDMONTON - Environmental groups opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline have seized control of the public debate, Enbridge Inc. CEO Patrick Daniel told a radio audience Monday.

“Everything that we say sounds defensive and self-interested, and on the other side, everything they say ... is really taken as gospel — and it isn’t,” Daniel said on the Rutherford Show.

“I think we’re facing a very strong, almost revolutionary movement to try to get off oil worldwide, and it creates a lot of passion and drive in those revolutionaries that are trying to change the environment in which we work.

PM unlikely to ram pipeline through

Christy Clark and Adrian Dix both are talking tough on the subject of dashing the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, notably, without saying how they'd do it.

This, when the how of the matter surely is every bit as relevant as the what.

After all, Clark and Dix are contemplating putting in peril something the federal government has designated as a vital strategic imperative for Canada.

Does religious belief have a place in democratic politics?

Should journalists be discussing whether the prime minister believes in a soul, or a divinely designed human nature, or that some sacred text is the revealed word of God?

When Lawrence Martin first rekindled this debate a couple of weeks ago, I had no intention of weighing in. As it progresses, however, the discussion around the separation of church and state seems to be getting muddier, rather than clearer.

Paul Rowe’s recent piece in iPolitics is a case in point. It is nicely written, oozes common sense and is seductively persuasive. It is also dangerously wrong in a way that I think demands a reply.

Public Works seeks outside audit of Parliamentary precinct contracts

The federal government wants a private-sector company to do a financial audit of three large construction management contracts that involve massive renovation projects in the Parliamentary precinct.

In a terse request for proposals posted Monday on the electronic tendering site MERX, Public Works and Government Services Canada invited bids from pre-qualified suppliers for the audit. Bidders have until Aug. 29 to submit proposals.

Quebec, Canada divide deepens

OTTAWA - With the separatist Parti Quebecois leading the polls ahead of next month's Quebec election, a new survey says one in four in the rest of Canada are fed up and ready to kick Quebec out of Confederation.

In fact, just a bare majority of English-speaking Canadians outside Quebec would vote to keep Quebec in Canada in the event of another referendum crisis, Abacus Data says in a new poll provided exclusively to QMI Agency.

Ethical Oil charity complaint sparks Alberta corporate complaint

As is well known, the "Ethical Oil Institute," the Edmonton-based organization founded by Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant to support petroleum extraction companies in Alberta, has complained to the Canada Revenue Agency demanding the charitable status of Tides Canada "be reviewed for violating Canada’s charities law."

Last week, Ethical Oil accused the Vancouver-based environmental and social issues charity of "'laundering' money from contributors to groups engaged in 'non-charitable' political activities," as the complaint was summarized by the Edmonton Journal.

Europe has a German problem

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Canada this week as champion of an austerity policy stance that is failing Europe. Without a change in policy direction, a prolonged period of European economic stagnation is likely to continue. German-sponsored austerity policies shut the door to economic recovery in the Eurozone, but since they have the full support of her party as well as business figures and key opinion-makers, the Chancellor is unlikely to support a new approach.

The Chancellor is caught in the most restrictive of positions for a political leader. If she wanted to change direction, her supporters would become her opponents.

Ryan Sponsored Abortion Bill That Would Make Romney's Kids Criminals

Now that Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Ryan's long history as a culture warrior is getting a fresh look. Women's groups have already honed in on his extreme anti-abortion record, which consistently has earned him a 100 percent voting approval rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

What isn't so well known about Ryan's record, though, is that one piece of legislation he supported is so extreme that it would have turned Romney's children into criminals.

The Paul Ryan pick and what it tells us about Romney

Rarely have I seen the choice of a vice presidential candidate rally the base of both political parties as much as Paul Ryan’s has. The Republican base, including social conservatives and Tea Partiers, is clearly ecstatic. The Wall Street Journal, with Rupert Murdoch leading the chorus, got the choice it wanted. Movement conservatives like Bill Kristol and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who were never warm to Mitt Romney, will become more vocal in their support of the GOP ticket, and possibly more strident.

War of 1812 ads during Olympic television coverage cost $1.64-million

PARLIAMENT HILL—Taxpayers paid $1.64-million for a series of militaristic advertisements Canadian Heritage placed on CTV during its Olympic Games coverage to promote the War of 1812’s 200th anniversary, The Hill Times has learned.

Opposition MPs, who last week criticized the decision by the federal government to place ads promoting a war anniversary during Olympics coverage, further berated the public relations decision when they were informed of the price tag on Monday.

CAW, automakers open contract talks

The Canadian Auto Workers opened contract talks with the big three Detroit automakers Tuesday in what is expected to be the most difficult negotiations in years.

The companies want to cut labour costs they say are the highest in the world.

The union, which agreed to concessions when the automakers were struggling, wants a share of the payoff now that the firms are making healthy profits for the first time in a decade.

How Paul Ryan transformed a Seinfeldian election

Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate seems to have produced a rare bipartisan moment of glee for Republicans and Democrats as both seem overjoyed by the decision.

The reasons, of course, are different. The Republicans have become re-energized by the pick of the fiscal hawk Wisconsin congressman while the Democrats believe Ryan, the author of two controversial budgets calling on changes to entitlement programs, will be a giant political liability.

In oil sands, a native millionaire sees ‘economic force’ for first nations

Dave Tuccaro is driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where he will plan the book tour he will mount after Christmas when his biography is released.

That biography, written by Peter C. Newman, will tell the story of the aboriginal businessman – quite possibly Canada’s wealthiest.

Mr. Tuccaro will contemplate what to do with the $102-million he will take in when he finalizes a deal to sell his business, knowing that he still holds an additional $25-million in real estate.

Boycott of Israeli settlements would shatter United Church’s credibility

On Tuesday, the United Church of Canada (UCC) will vote on the Report of the Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy, which includes a church-wide boycott of goods from Israeli settlements. That report, sadly, has failed to grasp what’s really at stake in this decision. A boycott of Israel launched in any form would put the United Church outside the genuine peace movement and the Canadian consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As hurtful as this would be to the Jewish community, it pales in comparison to the long-term damage it would cause to the reputation of one of Canada’s foremost voices in civil society: the United Church itself.

SNC choice ignites Quebec language debate

The board of Quebec corporate titan SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. interviewed – and passed over – at least two francophone contenders for the company’s top job before deciding to hire American Robert Card as its chief executive officer, The Globe and Mail has learned.

The naming of Mr. Card, who does not speak French, to lead one of Quebec’s most successful companies has became an issue in the provincial election campaign. PQ leader Pauline Marois, pushing to toughen Quebec’s controversial French language laws, seized on the appointment Monday, saying during a campaign stop in Montreal: “I am asking SNC-Lavalin that it make sure that he follow courses in French so that he could at least become bilingual.”

Stephen Harper defends aid money through unregistered Syrian charity

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government earmarked $2 million in aid to Syria through an as-yet-unregistered Canadian charity because the group is tied to a global organization channelling medical supplies into Syria.

“I’m told that they have the appropriate connections by which to deliver aid on the ground,” Harper told reporters in Toronto.