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, November 02, 2012

Romney Adviser Backed Outlawing Homosexuality and Abortion in Africa

In the conservative political world, Jay Sekulow is hailed as an avowed crusader for religious liberty and the super-attorney behind the American Center for Law and Justice, a group Time magazine called a "powerful counterweight to the liberal American Civil Liberties Union." Unlike many conservatives, Sekulow, a Fox News legal analyst, has long backed Mitt Romney, whom he calls his friend. Sekulow advised Romney's 2008 presidential campaign, and has reprised that role during the 2012 election. He and his group have also joined forces with anti-gay crusaders in Africa to criminalize homosexuality.

Canada Housing Slump: Flaherty's New Mortgage Rules A Scapegoat For A Much Bigger Problem

This summer, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took a regulatory hammer to Canada’s housing markets, causing condo sales to plummet in Toronto, and sinking Vancouver house prices by jaw-dropping margins.

Or so the finance and real estate industries would have you believe.

To hear Canada’s banks, industry groups and even the Conference Board tell it, the slowdown that descended on many Canadian housing markets over the summer is the fault of the strict new mortgage rules Flaherty put into place this past June.

Cost of ending Kandahar war and bringing home army equipment: $651 million

OTTAWA - The cost of ending Canada's war in Kandahar, bringing home all the military's equipment and reconditioning it is expected to top $651 million, according to figures and projections compiled by National Defence.

The Harper government has yet to deliver a final tally for the mission close-out costs, but a complete set of numbers could come with the release of a National Defence report to Parliament within weeks.

Tories must explain growing pricetag for Parliament Hill renovations, NDP says

OTTAWA - Construction companies have been awarded more than $600 million for work on the West Block building on Parliament Hill, but the federal department in charge says the estimated price tag for the whole renovation job has now reached almost $1.2 billion.

Cost estimates for work on the 156-year-old West Block have increased sharply in the past two years, rising above the $1-billion mark in fiscal year 2010-2011 and hitting $1.17 billion in 2011-2012, according to federal spending documents released this week. In fiscal year 2009-10, the estimate was $769 million.

When can Peter Penashue speak for himself?

The federal intergovernmental affairs minister sits in the front row of the government's benches in the Commons, not far from the Speaker.

And that's what the Conservatives' Peter Penashue does. He sits, even as questions mount about overspending in his 2011 election campaign.

New Democrat Charlie Angus demanded to know how the minister ''blew past the legal spending limits'' in 2011 by failing to disclose $18,000 in flights to communities in the sprawling Labrador riding.

Liberal leader Bob Rae accused the first-time MP, the first Innu elected from Labrador, of ''buying the seat,'' and he has demanded an investigation by Elections Canada.

Beyond job training: Cultivating an expanded role for universities

Whew. The Maclean's issue ranking Canadian universities, just out, still bases its ratings on what goes on in them, rather than their success in supplying grads with jobs. Everywhere else in the debate over higher ed with which we've been inundated (whoops, bad phrase this week, call it a ceaseless din), the focus has been on the failure of universities to assure jobs for grads. That's because their "education is poorly matched with the national economy" and the jobs now available, say professors Ken Coates and Bill Morrison in a recent book and Walrus article. Grads may still have a better shot at jobs than non-grads, they concede, but the "rate of return" on their educational investment as baristas or parking valets doesn't justify the costs incurred. U.K. economist Guy Standing predicts an "educational bubble" where those people will find themselves underwater with the student loans they owe versus payback ability. For this, we're supposed to blame universities and demand that they change, or shrink their size and scope.

Honouring truth for Vancouver's Missing and Murdered Women

On a chilly October day, people listened somberly and some wept quietly as the words were read out loud, a microphone amplifying them across Vancouver's Library Plaza:

    "The record … reveals that violence against sex workers was widespread."

    "The Vancouver Police Department discriminated against survival sex workers by failing to deploy adequate resources to address the risks they knew were faced by sex workers."

    "Stereotyping, overt expressions of bigotry and discriminatory attitudes against sex workers, drug users, and Aboriginal women undermined the investigations of missing women."

    "The Vancouver Police Department and RCMP actively suppressed public recognition that serial killers were killing sex workers working in the Downtown Eastside."

Mitt Romney's Italy Comments Spark Anger

After riling Londoners over the summer with his critiques of the 2012 Olympics, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney managed to offend a different part of Europe with remarks he made at an event Thursday.

Italians reacted ferociously after local news agencies reported that Romney used the country as a negative example for what America's economy could become if it continues on its current trajectory.

Celina High School Students Told To Remove Pro-Gay Rainbow T-Shirts, ACLU Calls Move Unconstitutional

A group of Celina High School students are at the center of a contentious debate on free speech after nearly two dozen students were told to remove their shirts that support gay rights.

It all started last week when two girls celebrated the school's "Twin Day" by wearing shirts reading "Lesbian 1" and "Lesbian 2." School officials quickly told the teens to take the shirts off, according to U.S. News & World Report.

New York’s Next Extremist Shock

New York can be as compelling in a hurricane as it is on a starry Saturday night. Some of the thrill of living in the city arises from its combination of majesty and vulnerability. Coming to terms with apocalyptic scenes is easier here than in other cities because the scenes have already been imagined, scripted and filmed by Hollywood’s dystopian directors. We step outside this week as if onto a familiar movie set.

New Yorkers like to tell themselves stories about their extraordinary resilience. There is truth in these stories, as we’ve seen in the past few days—the rescues and coöperation in devastated communities, the absence of looting, the well-rehearsed emergency-response protocols by many institutions of government. Yet there is a collective sense of denial, too, about how poorly prepared the city is for events of this scale.

Political Mailers Using Social Pressure To Mobilize Voters Stir Controversy

WASHINGTON -- Customized mass-mail campaigns from groups on the left and the right are using peer pressure to get out the vote by comparing recipients' voting records with those of their neighbors.

A first wave of mailers from a conservative group has spawned complaints about invasion of privacy and intimidation.

NDP calls feds’ $645,000 outside audit of F-35 fighter jets acquisition ‘a ploy’

PARLIAMENT HILL—New information that Treasury Board President Tony Clement has provided to the House of Commons shows a $645,000 outside audit of the controversial F-35 fighter jets acquisition was a ploy to delay public release of new cost forecasts for the stealth jets that the government had nearly seven months ago, says NDP MP Matthew Kellway.

In a written response to questions in the Commons from Mr. Kellway (Beaches-East York, Ont.), Mr. Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) informed the House on Wednesday that the independent F-35 cost audit by the accounting firm KPMG will be based on figures which Department of National Defence officials had as early as last March, based on an annual military acquisition report to Congress on the estimated current and future costs of the F-35 fighter jets, which the U.S. and seven other countries are also purchasing.

Ford administration’s secret list of candidates for city boards and agencies revealed

The secret list of civilians the Ford administration supposedly wanted to sit on city boards and agencies — a list opposition councillors charge is proof of at best, inappropriate interference and at worst, flagrant cronyism — has been obtained by the Star.

But the details of this hotly disputed document seem to raise more questions than answers.

Nine of the 26 people on the list appear to have ties to Conservative politics. Of those, half donated to Mayor Ford’s election campaign but some also donated to the campaign of Rocco Rossi, a conservative candidate who dropped out before the election.

Ford misses council meeting for football, team driven in private TTC bus

Mayor Rob Ford missed more than two hours of Thursday’s council meeting to coach a high school football playoff game — after which his players were driven back to school in a private TTC bus.

The police were called to the Father Henry Carr field, police spokesperson Const. Tony Vella said, after a late-game altercation between the Carr coach and the referees. With Ford’s Don Bosco Eagles holding a commanding lead, the game was declared over with time still on the clock.

Bill C-377: Transparently Anti-Union

This month, a private members bill C-377, "An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act" (requirements for labour organizations), is scheduled for third reading in Parliament, one of the last steps before becoming law. The bill, introduced by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, singles out unions and their trusts (including pension and benefits plans) to file public, keyword-searchable statements on all transactions over $5,000, including salaries of all employees and pension and disability payouts matched with identifying information. Additionally, unions would have to disclose itemized lists of services and supplies purchased from private firms along with prices paid.

Alberta's Auditor General Report: Merwan Saher Says Alison Redford Should Discuss Climate Change Targets; Bridges Not Maintained

EDMONTON - Alberta's bridges are not falling down, but the province needs to do a better job inspecting them, the province's auditor general reported Thursday.

Merwan Saher said his recommendation to the Transportation Department is simple: "You have a well-designed (inspection) system. Use it."

Saher, in his latest report, said his team found that Alberta's 4,400 bridges are not in imminent danger of collapse but work needs to be done to make sure they stay that way.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois Found Guilty Of Contempt Of Court

QUEBEC - One of the most prominent figures in the Quebec student revolt that gained international attention and contributed to the defeat of Jean Charest's government has been convicted of contempt of court.

Justice Jacques Denis wrote in his ruling that Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the charismatic spokesman for the hardline CLASSE group, had advocated anarchy.

Records May Suggest Corporate Donation To Tory MP Penashue

Records obtained by CBC News appear to indicate the campaign of federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue deposited a single cheque from a company in the riding, but wrote separate receipts to the board members for the donation.

Corporate donations are illegal in Canada. It's also illegal to contribute indirectly, by going through another person to make a donation.

Pension reforms fall short of goal, says C.D. Howe report

A new report from a leading Canadian think-tank says legislation to reform public pensions is still too generous to federal employees and MPs, and too risky for taxpayers.

The C.D. Howe Institute report says the government is underestimating the plans' liabilities by about 40 per cent, or $100 billion, so taxpayers are on the hook for more than advertised.

The report says the changes are an improvement on the current system, but need to go further before an equitable distribution of benefits and risks is achieved.

Under the new law, public servants, members of Parliament and Senators will contribute roughly half of the reported cost service of the plans.

To reach a true 50-50 split between employee and taxpayer obligations, the pension plans would need to be radically altered, the think-tank says, or participant contributions would need to rise further.

The bill received Senate approval on Wednesday and requires only royal assent to become law.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: cbc

The Commons: Fear of a red planet

The Scene. And so the fate of the nation seems to be found in the fine print of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Partnership Agreement. In there is either our bountiful prosperity or certain doom.

“Mr. Speaker, under the Prime Minister’s new Canada-China investment agreement, the Chinese state would have the right to buy up new oil leases and expand operations in Canada,” Thomas Mulcair announced this afternoon, leaning in then for emphasis, “as if it were a Canadian company. Any effort to limit ownership by China could be challenged, under the law.”

Government to hire thousands of students amid PS downsizing

OTTAWA — The federal government expects to hire thousands of students as departments continue to digest billions of dollars in spending and job cuts.

The campaign, which is the biggest recruitment drive managed by the Public Service Commission, kicks off this week as hiring in the public service slumps and the workforce shrinks to its smallest size in nearly a decade.

Resource capitulation: FIPPA, fibs, and Canadian sellouts

It's now Halloween in Canada all year round. At every unexpected turn another grim apparition appears. The scream from one shock has barely faded when another ghastly spectre rises from the neo-conservative crypt of horrors to stalk the land, a headless, brainless zombie intent on political terrorism.

The faults of FIPPA

Today's abomination is called the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). This investment agreement, which many commentators feel is at least as important as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1993) in terms of its impact on Canadian trade, locks the country into a 31-year long pas de deux with a system that Andrew Nikiforuk calls "gangster capitalism." FIPPA has suddenly leapt like a full-fledged baroque horror out of the Machiavellian political backrooms onto the front stage of Canadian politics.

Oilsands crippled by soaring costs, memo says

A confidential government memorandum obtained by CBC News warns that soaring costs of developing the Alberta oilsands could put the brakes on the massive project, stalling one of the main engines of the Canadian economy.

The booming oilsands industry supports tens of thousands of Canadian jobs, and pumps billions of dollars a year into the national economy.

U.S. election: Big money, shocking ads in final days of campaign

WASHINGTON—Mysterious anti-Obama text messages popping up suddenly on American cellphones. New Spanish-language ads airing in Miami, tying Barack Obama to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.

And in Pennsylvania, a local Fox affiliate running arguably the most shocking ad yet, from the outer reaches of Islamophobia — one that mashes images of bloodied corpses, decapitations and chants of “Allahu akbar” to the tag line, “A vote for Obama helps Muslims murder Christians and Jews.”

Congressional Research Service Report On Tax Cuts For Wealthy Suppressed By GOP

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Senate Republicans applied pressure to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) in September, successfully persuading it to withdraw a report finding that lowering marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans had no effect on economic growth or job creation.

Rob Ford’s integrity attack

It’s amazing how easy it is to forget why some arrangements at city are as they are.

There was Mayor Rob Ford last week, seven years after Justice Denise Bellamy’s report on MFP’s shady deal with the city, calling for the elimination of exactly the three watchdog officers the Ontario superior court judge urged the city to establish.

Couching his plan in money-saving terms, the mayor urged the elimination of the integrity commissioner, ombudsman and lobbyist registrar and their replacement by a lawyer on retainer.

Five sure signs that Rob Ford hasn’t learned a thing about being mayor after two years in office

1. Lies still pass for the truth in the mayor’s own private Idaho, aka the space between his ears.

It was classic Ford on John Oakley’s radio show last Thursday, October 25, where he’d been invited to chew the fat – can I say that? – on the second anniversary of his mayoralty. The discussion turned, after Oakley lobbed a few softballs, to new evidence proving that Ford interfered in the appointments process to a number of high-profile city boards and commissions.

Councillors vow further action over secret list from mayor’s office

Rob Ford’s office stacked the boards of important city agencies with political allies and contributors to his election campaign.

That’s the allegation that several council members made at City Hall Wednesday, where a secret list of the mayor’s office preferred appointees was distributed for the first time.

“If this doesn’t smack of cronyism, what the hell does?” Councillor Adam Vaughan said in a speech to council.