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.]

Monday, October 29, 2012

Las Vegas Sands' Money Laundering Probe May End In Settlement

NEW YORK -- Federal officials and Las Vegas Sands Corp. are having talks aimed at settling a probe into whether the casino operator failed to report millions of dollars of potentially laundered money transferred to its casinos by two gamblers, according to a published report.

Representatives for the Justice Department and the company held settlement talks as recently as last Thursday, but have yet to reach an agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing unidentified people familiar with the case.

Oklahoma 'Personhood' Ballot Amendment Appeal Rejected By Supreme Court

Oct 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an attempt by anti-abortion activists to place what they call a "personhood amendment" on the Oklahoma ballot to define an embryo as a human being from the moment of conception.

The anti-abortion group Personhood Oklahoma had appealed to the Supreme Court, challenging the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision in April to strike down the ballot initiative.

Tax Expert Calvin Johnson 'Skeptical' Of Mitt Romney's Taxes

A respected tax attorney and deficit hawk wrote a letter to the editor of Tax Notes on Monday saying that, "There is good reason to be skeptical" of Mitt Romney's claim to have paid all the taxes he legally owes.

The letter, by University of Texas Law School Professor Calvin Johnson, focuses on two trusts Romney has set up: one for his children, which is worth over $100 million, and an $87 million retirement trust. These trusts have grown at an enormous rate -- Johnson notes that they have been more than 10 times as profitable as Warren Buffett's investments over the same time frame. Johnson writes that Romney may have played fast and loose with the law by undervaluing Bain Capital assets that were contributed to the trusts. By undervaluing the assets, Romney could avoid paying gift taxes.

US Navy Unveils Missile-Equipped Unmanned Sea Drone

The US military has unveiled a new fleet of unmanned drones - and this time they're floating, not flying.

Drones have been used by militaries around the world for years, both for reconnaissance and in combat.

On the water drones have been used to search for mines and enemy positions. But weaponised sea drones have yet to make their appearance (either below the waves or above them).

Economic Forecast Canada: PBO Says Slower Growth To Sap $22 Billion Annually From Economy

OTTAWA - Canada's budget watchdog says slower growth will sap about $22 billion annually from the country's economy.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says in a new report that he anticipates economic growth will brake to an annual rate of 1.6 per cent in the second half of this year, after slowing to 1.8 per cent in the first half.

The big picture of Harper's assault on the Constitution

Despite the clever website research of the media and the NDP, the fact that permits under the Navigable Waters Protection Act used to trigger federal environmental assessment, does not, in itself, prove the NWPA has been an environmental measure. There were other triggers that do not go to environmental laws -- triggers such as federal land being involved or federal money (both now disappeared with most of CEAA).

The issue is far more fundamental than erasing the word "environment" from the NWPA website. Like the Fisheries Act in C-38, dismantling the Navigable Waters Protection Act takes a hatchet to federal constitutional powers that have been foundational in environmental law for generations. And in both cases, the Conservative talking points are the same. "This act was never about the environment, it was about fisheries -- not fish; it was about navigation -- not waters."

Netanyahu’s Dark Choice

It’s not often that spy masters and security chiefs represent the democratic impulse and the conscience of a nation adrift. But in Israel, where the hard right holds power and the left has all but collapsed, that is, to some extent, the case.

A couple of months ago, I reported a piece in Israel describing how many present and former military and intelligence chiefs were, in defiance of political custom, speaking out publicly against the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was doing all he could to press for a unilateral attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities. The most outspoken of those security chiefs was former Mossad director Meir Dagan, who said a unilateral attack would do little to derail the Iranian program; instead, he said, it would unite the Iranian leadership and, quite possibly, ignite a regional war. (Dagan was clearly ailing when I met with him in Tel Aviv. His health was worse than he let on; Dagan just got a liver transplant in, of all places, Belarus.) Since then, Dagan and his allies seem to have won a victory, at least for the moment. Despite a clownish performance in September at the United Nations, at which he brandished his famous Wile E. Coyote cartoon of a nuclear bomb, Netanyahu backed off his bellicose talk. For now, anyway.

Medicaid on the Ballot

There’s a lot we don’t know about what Mitt Romney would do if he won. He refuses to say which tax loopholes he would close to make up for $5 trillion in tax cuts; his economic “plan” is an empty shell.

 But one thing is clear: If he wins, Medicaid — which now covers more than 50 million Americans, and which President Obama would expand further as part of his health reform — will face savage cuts. Estimates suggest that a Romney victory would deny health insurance to about 45 million people who would have coverage if he lost, with two-thirds of that difference due to the assault on Medicaid.

TransCanada, Phoenix Energy Form 50-50 Partnership To Build Alberta Pipelines

CALGARY - TransCanada Corp. has entered a partnership with a Chinese-owned company to build a new $3-billion oilsands pipeline in Northern Alberta, pushing further into a business that has traditionally been dominated by rival pipeline giant Enbridge Inc.

TransCanada (TSX:TRP) and Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd., a unit of state-owned China National Petroleum Corp., would each own half of the Grand Rapids project, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels of crude per day along with 330,000 barrels per day of diluent, which helps thick oilsands bitumen to flow through pipelines.

When it comes to Israel, there are boycotts and there are boycotts

With the arteries of the official Middle East peace process almost terminally hardened, it is easy to understand why some people want to take action into their own hands.

A favoured tactic these days is the boycott.

But when it comes to Israel, there are boycotts and then there are boycotts. Settlement products are one thing; to my mind, Israeli academics quite another.

Kenney's economic immigration changes praised, scorned

As Immigration Minister Jason Kenney prepares to table a new immigration levels plan for 2013 this week, he has much to lay claim to in Canada's restructured immigration system.

Kenney's most commonly proclaimed achievement has been to move the country toward more efficiently accepting migrants who can best contribute to the Canadian economy. That shift will be visible yet again in this year's target levels across all categories of economic immigrants.

Health Canada brushes off reports of serious side effects

A Bolton teen hanged himself from a tree four days after he started taking Cipralex, an antidepressant. His mother went online and filed a side-effect report to Health Canada.

A pediatrician, troubled by the spate of side effects he was seeing in kids taking a generic version of an ADHD medication, faxed 25 reports to Health Canada over two months.

After a 49-year-old York Region man killed himself while taking smoking-cessation drug Champix, his sister called in a side-effect report to Health Canada.

All three say their reports were ignored.

Canada's Prime Minister Wields Monstrous Power

This is directed at all teachers and all politicians. Our kids are not being told the truth when you teach about our system of government.

This is directed to all students and to all citizens. You, I'm afraid, have been, to put it charitably, taught a lot of horse buns about how we govern ourselves.

I once asked a teacher why the truth about our system is not taught and she replied, "We don't want to make them cynical." Just a tad ironic considering that what is not taught them is why they become cynical when they get old enough to vote.

Hurricane Sandy: Climate Change Activists Offer Stark Reminder Before Storm Hits

NEW YORK -- A group of climate change activists braved the calm before the storm on Sunday afternoon to rally in New York City's Times Square.

Leading environmental activist organization organized the event, "Connect the Dots between Extreme Weather and Climate Change," in less than 48 hours, according to Phil Aroneanu, the group's co-founder and U.S. campaign director.

Romney Proposes Gutting or Privatizing FEMA, Leaving Disaster Relief to States

When Republicans gather in Tampa next week for their national convention, they may have some unwelcome company. No, not Ron Paul's army of supporter—Tropical Storm Isaac, which is currently winding its way through the Caribbean, is expected to pick up hurricane status and slam into South and Central Florida—directly into Tampa, according to at least one model. What that means for the convention is unclear, but since a direct hit would likely flood most of the city, organizers, city and state officials, and relevant federal agencies are planning accordingly. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has downplayed the threat to the city, but is reportedly preparing to mobilize to assist in the disaster response in South Florida, should that become necessary.

Who Fracked Mitt Romney?

It's late June in North Dakota, and Galen Grote and I are bouncing over his cattle ranch in a Chevy pickup with the radio tuned to "Hair Nation." Grote's vast fields of wheatgrass bring to mind Axl Rose getting a blow-dry—a wind-tossed mane of turf stretching across the fertile remnants of ancient glaciers and river deltas. The earthbound wealth here in the Missouri Plateau convinced Grote's great-grandfather to homestead this land a century ago—long before anyone knew of the liquid riches beneath it.

After passing sloughs full of coots and mallards, we arrive at the dusty pad where an Oklahoma-based oil company called Continental Resources has hit pay dirt. A gleaming new jack pump siphons up crude and flares off fireballs of gas. All over this part of the state, Continental's rigs have corkscrewed through nearly two miles of limestone, gravel, and sandstone to tap the Bakken and Three Forks reservoirs, oil-rich bands of shale that formed millions of years ago from what was once an inland sea. This Sri Lanka-sized mineral vein straddling Montana, North Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan is now the heart of America's new oil boom, the largest domestic find since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay more than 40 years ago. Continental's founder and CEO, Harold Hamm, the dominant player in the Bakken rush, estimates that there is as much oil here as has been discovered in the rest of the United States put together.

Bill C-42 fails to provide real accountability over the RCMP

Most of us at some point in our lives have wondered aloud, “Is everyone crazy or is it just me?” The actions of the current Harper government have increasingly made this the “must ask question” of the day?

Following my appointment as Chair of the Commission of Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) in 2005 I spent the following four years awaiting first recommendations and then government action to create a modern civilian review regime for the activities of the RCMP.

The rule of three strikes Harper, McGuinty

In 2003 then-Ontario premier Ernie Eves made the politically disastrous decision to unveil his government’s annual budget, not in the provincial legislature, but in an auto-parts plant in Brampton.

On the day of the so-called Magna budget, the choice of venue seemed pointless and weird – just another odd decision by an eccentric leader. But it soon morphed into more than that: a symbol of everything that had gone wrong with democracy in Ontario during the Mike Harris era, which Eves had inherited. In October of that year the Eves Conservatives suffered a landslide loss to one Dalton McGuinty, who promised civility, decency and a breath of fresh air.

Harper undoing Bennet's 'conservative' legacy

In a bizarre twist of history, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is dismantling institutions initiated some 80 years ago by another Conservative prime minister, Richard Bedford Bennett. The institutions are the CBC and the Canadian Wheat Board, highly regarded in their long lives and well-respected on the world stage.

The matter revolves around an issue pertinent to our times -- the role of government in our society. Harper believes in the marketplace and that the less government in the affairs of our country the better it will be for our economy.

Supreme Court decision ensures litigious future for Canada’s elections

Last week, Borys Wrzesnewskyj got the legal equivalent of a penalty shot in overtime, a trip to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The former Liberal MP hit the post and went on to lose the legal game 4-3. Wrzesnewskyj had wanted the court to sustain an earlier judicial ruling that had declared the 2011 election victory of Conservative Ted Opitz in Etobicoke Centre null and void.

Ted Opitz hit the inside of the post, the puck skittered across the goal line, and the red light flashed. Game over. But the Supreme Court, in a divided and historic ruling, may have missed the net.

The poor record of self-regulation by Canadian mining companies in the Congo

While he was attending the recent summit of La Francophonie in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Stephen Harper also met with human rights activists. Here's what he told them:

"We're concerned about many things in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including ... violations of human rights… unfairness in some of the electoral process, but also we're particularly concerned about the worsening situation in the eastern part of country. Canada will be supporting additional initiatives to combat the barbarous acts of sexual violence against women that are occurring all too frequently."

PCO, Treasury Board won’t say if they advised departments not to cooperate with PBO

The Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board Secretariat won’t say if they advised deputy ministers not to cooperate with Canada’s Parliamentary budget officer who is in a high-profile fight to get information for Parliament on the departments’ plans to achieve $5.2-billion in spending cuts.

“What we can say is that the Treasury Board Secretariat provides ongoing guidance to departments and agencies to assist them in fulfilling their reporting obligations to Parliament and Canadians in a comprehensive, consistent, and coordinated manner,” said Treasury Board Secretariat spokesperson Theresa Knowles.

Opposition MPs call for audit on XL Foods Inc.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has restored XL Foods Inc.’s licence to resume operations after an E. coli breakout at the slaughterhouse resulted in Canada’s largest beef recall in history, but opposition MPs continue to call for an audit at the plant, and say there is still no real oversight on food safety procedures.

“We were always hopeful that plant would open again and those workers could go back to work, cattle ranchers across this country could start to see their product moving again. Clearly what needs to happen to reassure Canadians is indeed that CFIA has done everything in its power to ensure that all of the things that are requested are indeed carried through on, and they bulk up their inspection forces,” said NDP MP Malcolm Allen (Welland, Ont.), his party’s agriculture critic, in an interview with The Hill Times.

Bill McKibben on Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change: "If There Was Ever a Wake-up Call, This Is It"

Much of the East Coast is shut down today as residents prepare for Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that could impact up to 50 million people from the Carolinas to Boston. The storm has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean, where it battered Haiti and Cuba. "This thing is stitched together from elements natural and unnatural, and it seems poised to cause real havoc," says Bill McKibben, founder of New York and other cities have shut down schools and transit systems. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated. Millions could lose power over the next day. Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland. The megastorm comes at a time when President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have refused to make climate change an issue on the campaign trail. For the first time since 1984, climate change was never addressed during a presidential debate. "It’s really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, ... in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we’re now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude," McKibben says. "If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it." We’re also joined by climate scientist Greg Jones from Southern Oregon University.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Senators concerned posting assets, corporate ties online will lead to flurry of accusations of conflict of interest

Liberal and Conservative Senators say they are worried there will be an increase in accusations of conflict of interest against them now that their annual asset and income statements will be online for all of Canada to see.

“What comes to mind here is that it will clearly be much easier for a person to make an allegation against a Senator when the information is completely accessible,” said Liberal Quebec Senator Serge Joyal in the Senate Oct. 4.

Hill reporters complain about PM’s lack of access on trips

Hill reporters say one of the only chances they have to pose questions to Prime Minister Stephen Harper are on foreign trips that they must pay for and see this new normal as “problematic,” especially since these access opportunities don’t balance out with limited availabilities in Ottawa.

“In effect, you are paying for access to the Prime Minister,” said Canadian Press reporter Stephanie Levitz, who has been on the Hill since June 2010. “When media outlets—I think often in the narrative of limited resources—are having to balance, ‘Okay, do we have to go on this trip, what’s the news value of this trip?’ and the news value of this trip becomes, as many of these trips have, ‘Well, we’ll get to ask the Prime Minister [a question],’ I think it raises a lot of questions about the implications of that decision. Are we paying for access to the prime minister? Now, the money doesn’t go into his pockets, but that makes me uncomfortable.”

Feds need to ‘show their work’ on net benefit test, say experts

The federal government is expected to announce new standards for foreign investment by state-owned enterprises, but it’s unlikely that the secrecy around foreign takeover reviews will be lifted, say sources familiar with trade and foreign investment negotiations.

Glen Hodgson, the Conference Board of Canada’s chief economist, said it’s time for the federal government to clarify the standards for foreign takeovers of Canadian companies by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like Petronas and the Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

A divided U.S. Congress risks driving North American economies off ‘fiscal cliff,’ say experts

No matter who wins the U.S. presidential election next week, Canadians should be concerned about whether the U.S. government can get its fiscal house in order or risk going over “the fiscal cliff” and bringing Canada with it.

“That, to us, is probably the most important issue, because a poor American economy impacts Canada immediately, given that more than 70 per cent of our trade is with them,” said Michael Kergin, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2000 until 2005.

Palestinians vow to press forward with UN recognition despite Israeli and US objections

The Palestinian president is moving forward with his plan to seek upgraded observer status at the United Nations next month, despite American and Israeli threats of financial or diplomatic retaliation, officials said Sunday.

The decision sets the stage for a new showdown between Israel and the Palestinians at the world body, following last year’s attempt by the Palestinians to seek status as a full member state. Although that initiative failed to pass the U.N. Security Council, it caused months of diplomatic tensions with Israel.

“We will go to the U.N. regardless of any threats,” said Tawfik Tirawi, a senior member of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. “I expect the Israelis to take punitive measures against us, if we win this status, but this is our choice and we will not retract it.”

Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holiday seeks review of watchdog jobs

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday will officially ask if it’s possible to combine the jobs of Toronto’s civic watchdogs, but says he is trying to save taxpayers’ money, not dump ombudsman Fiona Crean.

Holyday said he will ask city staff at this week’s council meeting for a review of legislative requirements for the ombudsman, integrity commissioner and lobbyist registrar positions, and what other cities do.

His request is triggered by a city manager item on the agenda noting that Crean’s term expires in Nov. 2013 and the city needs to signal its intentions to her — not by the Fords’ fight with Crean, Holyday said.

‘Playing hooky from City Hall?’ Ford says he was just kidding

Mayor Rob Ford said he would be “playing hooky from City Hall” to watch high school football games on the day of a city council meeting, then said he was joking.

Ford’s comments came about a month after a private September meeting at his mother’s house at which council allies “raised concerns” about his “unforced errors,” including those related to football, according to Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Ford was criticized widely in September for missing most of an executive committee meeting to coach his Etobicoke high school team, the Don Bosco Eagles, in a pre-season scrimmage event.