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, October 23, 2012

Injured ex-soldiers often unfairly denied benefits: auditor general

OTTAWA - Injured soldiers heading for civilian life face a bumpy, confusing road where they don't always get their entitled services and benefits, the country's auditor general said Tuesday.

Michael Ferguson's milestone report tarnishes the Harper government's oft-repeated claims of supporting the troops, but the veterans minister quickly promised a new plan to improve transition services for those leaving the military.

Ferguson looked at how National Defence and Veterans Affairs handled the transition to civilian life for more than 8,000 members released on medical grounds between 2006 and 2011.

Auditor General sheds light on PBO struggle

Those following the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s ongoing struggle to obtain detailed budgetary information from federal departments might want to look at Tuesday’s auditor general’s report.

At the heart of the PBO’s current tussle with federal departments regarding the release of budgetary details is a question of how up-to-speed parliamentarians are on what the government is spending or cutting. The Main Estimates that parliamentary committees have approved oversaw this spring weren’t related to the changes laid out in the 2012 spring budget, and neither were the reports on plans and priorities the government put out in May. So, essentially, MPs are currently in the dark on the specific details of how the government’s planned cuts are going to be executed by each department and what that means.

The 'rumble in Ottawa': Main robocall fight is yet to come

The Ottawa Citizen calls it a "key victory" for the Tories in the so-called robocall case.

A woman who had a signed an affidavit saying she had received automated calls before the last election giving her wrong information about polling stations erred in identifying her riding.

The woman, Leeanne Bielli, thought she lived in Don Valley East, but actually lived in neighbouring Don Valley West.

This is part of the potentially groundbreaking court case that involves seven ridings where would-be voters report they received misleading calls that interfered with their right to vote in 2011.

Toronto’s World Expo 2025 bid dead after Prime Minister Stephen Harper government says no

Toronto’s hopes of hosting a world’s fair in 2025 appear dead after the federal Conservative government cancelled its $25,000 per year membership in the body that governs such expos.

In an Oct. 16 letter to Mayor Rob Ford, federal Heritage Minister James Moore said the Prime Minister Stephen Harper government is committed to “reviewing all spending across government with the aim of reducing the deficit and returning to balanced budgets.

Larry Summers: Mitt Romney's Budget Plan Is 'Alchemy'

Larry Summers, a former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama who helped craft the government's response to the economic crisis, says that Mitt Romney's budget plan doesn't square with reality.

Romney said at the third presidential debate on Monday that his budget plan would bring "a balanced budget within eight to 10 years."

But Summers, a Harvard economist, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that Romney's budget math doesn't add up. "This is alchemy," he said.

Conservative government approves billions in spending without knowing consequences: Auditor-General

OTTAWA — The Conservative government has been approving billions of dollars of budget measures with large impacts on its fiscal position without Cabinet always knowing the long-term financial consequences of the decisions, the federal Auditor-General says.

In his fall 2012 report released Tuesday, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson concluded the Department of Finance Canada often does not take into account the impact of tens of billions of dollars of spending and tax measures on the government’s long-term fiscal sustainability.

Most MPs keeping Jubilee nominee lists secret

Amid news that Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott had allotted two of his Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals to anti-abortion activists with lengthy legal histories — including one who is currently in jail — I asked all the other MPs for their lists of nominees.

In an unusual step, when the Conservative government created the medal in 2011, it designated more than 200 non-governmental “partner organizations” as nominators. Canadian senators and Members of Parliament like Vellacott were also given 30 medals to award to anyone they see fit. They are supposed to submit their nomination lists to the Governor General’s Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall for vetting, then are sent the medals to hand out themselves.

Suicide attempts, self-harm rising in Canada's prisons

Cases of serious self-injury by federal inmates across Canada has nearly tripled in the last five years — a "dramatic" rise as prison conditions become more chaotic and overcrowded, according Canada's Correctional Investigator.

Howard Sapers said there were 912 incidents of self-injury in the 2011-2012 fiscal year involving 300 offenders — including cases of cutting, head-banging, self-strangulation, burning and ingesting harmful objects. Women offenders accounted for one-third of the recorded incidents.

Federal prison population in Canada growing

OTTAWA—Canada’s federal prison population is growing, largely because more visible minorities, Aboriginal people and women are entering jails than ever before, a report said Tuesday.

In his annual report, Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers said changing demographics account for part of the increase.

“Beyond rising inmate counts and costs, Canadians should be interested in who is ending up behind bars. Questions about whom we incarcerate, for how long and why are important public policy issues,” said Sapers.

Finally Liberated From Facts, Mitt Romney the Pure Bull Artist Takes Flight

You know those Balsa wood airplanes – not the glider-types but the deluxe models, powered by rubber bands, with little propellers on the nose? I thought of those planes watching Mitt Romney debate Barack Obama the other night.

Romney's journey toward the presidency has been a marvel to behold. Dating back to his first political steps – his race against Ted Kennedy, followed by his assault on the Massachusetts governorship – Romney has been constantly twisting and contorting himself, exchanging position for position, trading pro-choice for anti-choice, flirting with pro-gay rhetoric before shifting swiftly the other way, pioneering state health care reform before bashing virtually the same plan designed on a national scale, claiming the center on everything from guns to global warming before careening right as a presidential candidate.

George McGovern Dead at 90

George McGovern, the longtime anti-war congressman from South Dakota who notoriously suffered a devastating loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential campaign, died early Sunday morning at the age of 90. McGovern had suffered a head injury from a fall last December and was hospitalized this spring after several fainting spells. With his focus on peace and world hunger, McGovern was one of the leading liberal voices of his era – and the repercussions of his unsuccessful campaign for the White House were felt for decades to come.

Although he had been a Senator and Representative in his home state and had worked for John F. Kennedy's administration, McGovern was largely unknown by the time of the Democratic primaries in early 1972, Described by the New York Times as "a baldish former minister and rural radical," McGovern was a modest, low-key and reflective man, the antithesis of the savvy politician. "Above everything else," he said at one early campaign stop, "the citizens of this land are concerned about a restoration of credibility in the political life of their country."

Binders full of women and the matriarchy myth

One of the least scary things about Mitt Romney is that, when he was trying to figure out who to appoint to his cabinet in Massachusetts, he ordered up “binders full of women.”

So the rumpus over his remark in last week’s U.S. presidential debate seems odd. After all, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes noted, what Romney did amounted to affirmative action (even if he had to be goaded to do it by a women’s coalition).

Still, the fact that a leading businessman and politician couldn’t think of a single qualified woman inevitably raises questions: did he know any working women, and if so, did he consider them all deficient? Romney inadvertently gave us a glimpse into the chummy men’s club that runs the world and helped us see why so few women ever penetrate it.

What it’s like being a teen girl

The violations started small. I was 12, fairly tall with brand new boobs. My mother wouldn’t let me buy “real bras” for a long time. It didn’t occur to me that was weird until boys in my class started advising me to “stop wearing sports bras” because I was looking a little “saggy.”

It was a boy who told me I had to start shaving my legs if I wanted anyone to ever like me. I said that wasn’t true. He laughed in my face and called me a dyke.

That night after shaving, my mother asked me why I was so vain.

Why aren’t we debating the Canada-China investment pact?

In one week’s time, unless something strange happens, a far-reaching Canada-China investment agreement will take effect. It’s one of the most important commercial agreements Canada has signed since NAFTA. But whereas NAFTA could be terminated on six months’ notice, this deal locks in the signatories for a minimum of 15 years.

It’s tantamount, you might say, to a commercial bill of rights for China in this country – an economic meshing on our part with the authoritarian Asian giant, giving it potentially considerable weight in the pace and scale of our resource development.

TransCanada Restarts Keystone Pipeline From Alberta To U.S. Midwest

CALGARY - TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) says oil is once again flowing through its Keystone oil pipeline following a shutdown last week over safety concerns, but it won't operate at full capacity until late November.

Company spokesman Grady Semmens said Monday the pipeline was safely restarted earlier in the day, but it will flow with reduced pressure for the next 24 hours while the company completes testing.

On the Anniversary of Attawapiskat, One Film Tells the Real Story

This week will mark the first anniversary since Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency over the abysmal housing situation on the James Bay coast. Footage of the living conditions in this isolated community shocked Canadians and resulted in a media firestorm.

The crisis became a cultural Pandora's box that unleashed numerous issues and misconceptions regarding our relationship with Canada's First Peoples. Now on the eve of this dark anniversary, Canada's "Katrina" moment has made it to the big screen. And who better equipped to tell the real story of the 2011-housing crisis than iconic filmmaker Alanis Obamsawin?

Toronto Mayor Ford pushed city staff to beautify land near family business

When Toronto Mayor Rob Ford met with city staff at his family’s business on a Friday afternoon in late July, he came with a list of requests that went beyond patching potholes – to cutting grass, rebuilding culverts and removing nearby construction equipment – to beautify the area within three weeks for Deco Labels and Tags’ 50th anniversary party.

At first, city staff responded that the timeline was too short to get all the work done, documents obtained by The Globe and Mail under a freedom of information request show.

Canadians' well-being takes a hit: Romanow

A former premier says Canada's economy may be recovering from the global recession but our quality of life isn't doing nearly as well.

"We are in a post-recession period, so-called," Roy Romanow said Monday afternoon. "The recession hit Canadians hard but the recovery is a lot slower than hard numbers such as the GDP would indicate."

Romanow, the premier of Saskatchewan from 1991 to 2001, is the advisory board co-chairman to the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Its second report on the state of our country's health, education and safety, among other factors, will be released this morning.

Tories likely to dismiss report showing quality of life trailing economic growth

The richer Canada grows, the better our living standards will be. Right?

Well, not exactly. A new index measuring our quality of life offers up troubling news.

. While Canada's GDP - the value of all goods and services produced - grew by 28.9 per cent between 1994 and 2010, Canadians' living standards went up only by 5.7 per cent.

Indeed two particular quality-of-life categories - the environment and pursuit of leisure and culture activities - actually experienced deterioration.

DND bills soldier with PTSD for 2 sick days

The Defence Department has sent a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder a bill for $427.97 for two extra days of sick leave he took in 2006, along with a threat of taking him to court if he doesn't pay by Nov. 15.

The letter for retired master corporal Kevin Clark arrived Monday at his father's home near Oromocto, N.B. Clark had been there for two weeks taking care of his mother, who is in hospital.

Tories OK with changes to financial reporting

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is willing to revamp its financial reporting to provide the same kind of information to Parliament that it’s fighting to keep from budget watchdog Kevin Page.

In a June report, the Commons government operations committee tabled an all-party report on ways to improve reporting to Parliament about of billions of dollars in annual spending. Chief among its recommendations was Page’s long-standing proposal to have departments report by program activities and strategic outcomes.

Nexen Sale Said to Turn on China Backing Canada Deals

Canada plans to ask China to allow several transactions in exchange for approval of state-owned Cnooc Ltd. (883)’s $15.1 billion bid for Nexen Inc. (NXY), said a person with knowledge of the matter.

This list of deals by Canadian companies in China underscores that reciprocity will be part of foreign investment policies Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government will release soon, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions aren’t public. Another person with knowledge of the matter said Canada is seeking concessions from China before agreeing to the Nexen deal.

According to the Conservatives, your government is awesome

The federal government is spending tens of millions on commercials that make the Tories look good

The soundtrack is bouncy, the skylines broken by majestic mountains or busy construction cranes. The message is relentlessly upbeat. “Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” says the voice-over, “is creating jobs, growth and prosperity.” It’s another one of those federal commercials that have been unavoidable for anybody with a TV set since Stephen Harper’s government launched its multi-billion-dollar stimulus program into the teeth of the 2009 recession. The recession ended, but the ads remain. The finance department is planning to spend $16 million on the latest phase of the campaign, which began in mid-September and is slated to run through to the end of next March.

Shock, foreboding in China over rejection of Progress, Petronas deal

Barely a month goes by without one trade delegation or another from Canada arriving in Beijing, courting Chinese buyers for everything from energy and minerals to Canadian beef and ice wine.

So the news late Friday – already the weekend in Beijing – that Canada had shot down the acquisition of Progress Energy by Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas had a particularly foreboding feel, three weeks ahead of a review deadline in the $15.1-billion bid by China’s CNOOC for Calgary-based oil sands producer Nexen Inc.

Robo-call lawsuit should be thrown out because voter doesn't live there, Tories argue

One of the lawsuits seeking to overturn Conservative election victories in seven federal ridings, because of alleged misleading robo-calls, was launched by a woman who was ineligible to vote in the constituency where she’s contesting the outcome.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party has brought the matter to light in new federal court documents and is asking a Federal Court judge to dismiss the challenge of election results in the Toronto riding of Don Valley East.

‘Biased’ immigration officials kept Libyan torture victim from returning to Canada

Canadian immigration officials showed a troubling level of bias when they prevented the return to Canada of a torture victim and his family on humanitarian grounds, the Federal Court has ruled.

In a ruling released Monday, Justice Mary Gleason slammed Canadian visa officials in the Rome embassy for their “lack of objectivity.” She ordered that a different visa office review the case within 90 days and awarded the claimant, former Mississauga resident Adel Benhmuda, $5,000 in court costs.

Gardiner Expressway: Mayor Rob Ford miffed about secret report, but won’t tear it down

Mayor Rob Ford is concerned that city staff failed to tell his office that an outside engineering firm had discovered serious safety concerns with the Gardiner Expressway, but he maintains the highway is safe and should not be torn down.

“I believe it’s safe … I’m not tearing down the Gardiner,” Ford told reporters at a Monday morning news conference.

The Choice

The morning was cold and the sky was bright. Aretha Franklin wore a large and interesting hat. Yo-Yo Ma urged his frozen fingers to play the cello, and the Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, a civil-rights comrade of Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s, read a benediction that began with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the segregation-era lamentation of American realities and celebration of American ideals. On that day in Washington—Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009—the blustery chill penetrated every coat, yet the discomfort was no impediment to joy. The police estimated that more than a million and a half people had crowded onto the Mall, making this the largest public gathering in the history of the capital. Very few could see the speakers. It didn’t matter. People had come to be with other people, to mark an unusual thing: a historical event that was elective, not befallen.

New Generation Of Veterans Skeptical Of Presidential Politics And Political Parties

WASHINGTON -- Veterans and military families are no longer the dependable core of support for Republicans that they were for generations.

Seared by a decade of war and service in a military force that is more ethnically and racially diverse -- and includes openly gay troops -- more than two million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are powering a shift in electoral politics.

They are relatively small in numbers: less than one percent of qualified young Americans opt for military service. But they tend to be vocal and active, and more picky about throwing their support to one party.

A Real Foreign Policy Debate Should Talk Trade and Human Rights

If tonight’s third and final debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney follows pattern, it will not be the foreign policy debate that has been advertised. Rather, it will be a narrowly defined discussion of national security, with lots of the usual cheapshots, unsubstantiated charges and style-over-substance positioning.

The absence of Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, both of whom have met the reasonable threshold of gaining enough state ballot lines to be elected president, will reduce the likelihood of a serious discussion on fundamental issues.

Romney Won't Say Exactly What He'd Do With the State Department, But We Can Guess

Just about the only time Mitt Romney mentions the State Department is when he's using the deaths of US diplomats in Benghazi to bash President Barack Obama. But when it comes to what he'd actually do on the civilian side of the foreign policy ledger, Romney's agenda is as incomprehensible as his budget math.

"I don't know Romney's position on foreign assistance, I don't know it on AIDS or global health, I don't know it on economic support funds or security assistance funding," says Gordon Adams, who used to handle the national security budget for the Clinton administration and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a foreign policy think tank. "This is just sort of a blank space, details to be determined."

The Commons: Explaining is losing

The Scene. Of the Petronas decision, Thomas Mulcair stood and suggested Christian Paradis had behaved like a “thief in the night.”

This was most certainly unfair. For one thing, most thieves, even in this age of social media, do not advertise their actions with late night news releases.

Mr. Mulcair wondered if Mr. Paradis might explain himself, but Mr. Paradis’ first attempt in this regard did not satisfy the NDP leader.

Foreign Affairs broke rules on Afghan, Pakistan embassy contracts

OTTAWA - The Foreign Affairs Department broke government rules by handing two sole-sourced security contracts, worth $15 million, to a British government agency for Canada's Afghanistan and Pakistan missions, The Canadian Press has learned.

Treasury Board cited Foreign Affairs in an Aug. 12, 2011, letter for not following government contracting guidelines when it tendered the "non-competitive, emergency contract(s) to the Foreign Commonwealth Office Services (FCO Services)."

The government seems to want to keep MPs, even its own members, in the dark on the budget

The Harper government proclaimed itself Lean and Fit at an Ottawa fitness club of the same name 18 months ago. Stockwell Day, the then Treasury Board president, released the government’s 2011-12 spending plans — the Main Estimates — that suggested the Conservatives would spend $10-billion less than in the previous year.

Later that day, reporters cornered Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, about 20% cuts to climate change programs the Estimates suggested the government was planning to make.

Tory MP awards Jubilee medal to incarcerated anti-abortion activist

OTTAWA — An anti-abortion activist who is currently in jail in Toronto has received one of the Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee medals intended to mark “significant achievements” by Canadians.

Mary Wagner, 38, who has been repeatedly charged with mischief and violating court orders at abortion clinics, was nominated for the medal by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott.

Another Jubilee medal went to Linda Gibbons, a Toronto grandmother who has been charged numerous times for breaching the court-ordered “bubble zones” around clinics. Vellacott likened the two women to U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Navigable waters: The Conservatives sneer in the House while ignoring First Nations

Last Friday in the House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird answered a question from the NDP's Nathan Cullen by saying: "The member talked about the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This was contained on page 282 of [last March's] budget."

Well, let's have a look at page 282 of that document, as Peggy Nash, the NDP's finance critic, invited the Government to do on Monday.

The subject on page 282 is, indeed, the "Transport Portfolio."

Pray for peace in Winnipeg new police chief urges

Winnipeg, Canada’s violent crime capital, could use some divine help, acting Police Chief Devon Clunis says.

Clunis, who is still chaplain for the Winnipeg Police Service, told recently he truly believes prayers will be a “significant piece” of his efforts to reduce crime and put Winnipeg back on the right track.

“I’m a little tired of us . . . being ‘[the] murder capital of Canada,’” said the Jamaican-born Clunis, 48, who is Winnipeg’s first black police chief. He was appointed the city’s new chief earlier this month but has yet to be sworn in.

Gas for 99 cents a litre? It could happen by year end

Fuelling your car in the GTA has gotten a lot cheaper over the last few days while motorists in other parts of the province and across Canada aren’t getting such sweet gas deals.

At this rate experts predict we could see fuel prices as low as 99 cents a litre in the Toronto area by year’s end.

On Monday a litre of gas averaged about $1.19 per litre, with the cheapest price at Costco in Ajax at $1.13, while gas was going for nearly $1.30 a litre in Windsor, Ont., which was about the same price in Regina, Sask.

The Secret of Our Non-Success

The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great — it will still take years to restore full employment — and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?

 The answer — backed by overwhelming evidence — is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month.

Thousands gather in Victoria at legislature to protest pipelines

VICTORIA — About 3,500 demonstrators took to the lawn of the B.C. legislature Monday to vehemently oppose two major oil pipelines proposed for the province.

“What are you willing to do to stop them? Are you willing to lay down in front of the bulldozers?” yelled Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations.

“Yes,” called back the crowd.

Progress CEO optimistic Petronas deal will go forward

CALGARY – Michael Culbert, CEO of Progress Energy Resources Corp., said Monday he has a “positive outlook” on his company’s takeover by Malaysia’s state-owned company, Petronas.

In an interview with the Financial Post, Mr. Culbert said representatives from both companies are on their way to Ottawa to meet with Industry Canada officials and are motivated to iron out any outstanding issues.

Lobby Watch: MPs reveal cost details of Goldcorp-funded Guatemala trip

So, remember that Goldcorp-funded fact-finding mission last summer that whisked five parliamentarians -- Conservatives MPs Dave Van Kesteren and Dean Allison, who also chairs the foreign affairs committee,  Liberal Senator Mac Harb and MP Massimo Pacetti and New Democrat turned Independent Bruce Hyer -- off to Guatemala to tour the company's local mining operations?

Well, with three of the four MPs on the manifest (confidential to M. Pacetti: tick, tick, tick) having dutifully filed the required disclosure statements within the 60 day limit, we can now put a price tag on the three-day jaunt.

National Defence says head of air force misspoke on F-35 options

OTTAWA - A statement from National Defence says the head of the air force misspoke when saying the Harper government had yet to direct the air force to look at aircraft other than the contentious F-35 stealth fighter.

The newly appointed commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force said in an interview last week with The Canadian Press that he's assigned a staff officer to work with a public works agency overseeing the CF-18 replacement program, but a thorough examination of other possible aircraft would require a more detailed study by military planners.

And the order has not yet been given.

'We're winning': Thousands gather at 'Defend Our Coast' action in Victoria

Is the blue water drop the new red square?

The pin-on political statement, taking after the red square that became with ubiquitous during Quebec's Maple Spring, has been spotted throughout a celebratory day underway in Victoria B.C.

Thousands have gathered today in the B.C. capital, on the legislature lawn, to say a resounding 'No' to Enbridge and all tar sands pipelines -- this protest will be followed up by distributed actions in over 60 cities and towns all across B.C. on Wednesday, October 24.