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, December 07, 2012

Defense Contractors Seek Fiscal Cliff Relief, Budget-Busting Tax Breaks At Same Time

There's probably no group of companies more alarmed about going over the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect next month than defense contractors. The cliff is heavily geared toward inflicting pain on the industry, with $500 billion in cuts to government defense spending over the next decade, a process called for extraordinarily boring reasons "sequestration."

In recent weeks, defense industry representatives have issued increasingly dire warnings about the dangers posed by the cuts.

The Forgotten Millions

Let’s get one thing straight: America is not facing a fiscal crisis. It is, however, still very much experiencing a job crisis.

It’s easy to get confused about the fiscal thing, since everyone’s talking about the “fiscal cliff.” Indeed, one recent poll suggests that a large plurality of the public believes that the budget deficit will go up if we go off that cliff.

EU gives OK to CNOOC-Nexen deal, but big hurdle in Ottawa remains

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has given its OK to China National Offshore Oil Co.'s $15.1-billion bid for Calgary's Nexen Inc.

Both companies are active in oil and gas plays around the world.

Nexen (TSX:NXY), for example, has operations in the North Sea so the proposed deal required approval under the European Union's merger regulation.

Tories misled Canadians on F-35, opposition MPs charge

The government has consistently misled Canadians and is continuing to hide the true cost of the F-35 fighter jets being considered to replace the military's aging CF-18s, opposition MPs charged Friday.

"I don't see how the minister of defence [Peter MacKay] can possibly continue in his job," interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said.

"Big Oil's Oily Grasp": Polaris Institute Documents Harper Government Entanglement with Tar Sands Lobby

Oil industry lobbyists in Canada have taken the country by the reins. At least, that's the implication of the Polaris Institute's new report released today. The report, "Big Oil's Oily Grasp - The Making of Canada as a Petro-State and How Oil Money is Corrupting Canadian Politics," (pdf) documents 2,733 meetings held between the oil industry and federal government officials since 2008. That figure outstrips meetings with environmental organizations by a whopping 463 percent.

"Canada's increasing dependence on the export of bitumen to the United States has, in effect, served to redefine this nation in the form of a petro-state," the report opens. Lobbying activities in Ottawa may help explain why "the Canadian government has increasingly watered down or withdrawn its role and responsibilities to regulate the economic, environmental and social impacts of the tar sands industry."

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird warns Syria against using chemical weapons amid reports Western strike is in the works

OTTAWA — Canada joined the international community Thursday in warning of “serious consequences” if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons against rebel forces and civilians.

The warning came amid signs Russia may be backing off its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, and as a report emerged in France that some NATO members are preparing a military attack against Assad’s chemical-weapon stockpiles.

Will Big Oil Keep Its Subsidies in a Fiscal Cliff Deal?

Democrats and Republicans are duking it out in Washington over a deal to avert the slew of spending cuts and tax increases—the so-called "fiscal cliff" you've heard so much about—that will take start to effect on January 1. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have argued that "everything should be on the table" in negotiations toward a deal that trims the nation's debt and avoids the "cliff." Yet notably absent from the debate over what to cut and what to spare in a deal are the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, tax breaks, and other perks for the hugely profitable oil industry.

That silence begs the question: Will Big Oil's subsidies go untouched in the fight over a "fiscal cliff" deal?

Christine Cusanelli Travel Expenses: Alberta Tourism Minister Says She Must Do Better Job On Expenses

EDMONTON - Alberta's tourism minister admits she has not handled her personal expenses well, starting with billing taxpayers to fly her, her mother and daughter to the London Olympics.

"I take my job very seriously. I came here to do good work. I didn't come here to get a free meal. I didn't come here to be able to misuse taxpayer dollars," Christine Cusanelli said Thursday.

Documents show she was ordered in August to pay back $10,600 for improper personal expenses racked up since joining the legislature and cabinet following the April 23 election.

With regulators poised to propose black boxes in all new cars, privacy concerns go unaddressed

WASHINGTON - Many motorists don't know it, but it's likely that every time they get behind the wheel, there's a snitch along for the ride.

In the next few days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to propose long-delayed regulations requiring auto manufacturers to include event data recorders — better known as "black boxes" — in all new cars and light trucks. But the agency is behind the curve. Automakers have been quietly tucking the devices, which automatically record the actions of drivers and the responses of their vehicles in a continuous information loop, into most new cars for years.

Defence procurement problems run deeper than the F-35

It’s been a rough year for Canadian defence procurement.

This past spring, the Auditor General lambasted the defence department’s lack of due diligence in selecting the F-35 to replace the air force’s aging CF-18 fighters. A few months later, the acquisition of new army trucks was cancelled when it became clear that industry would be unable to meet the military’s specifications within budget.

Canada a 'laggard' on information law

After releasing a report showing some mixed reviews on delays in federal government response to requests for public records, Parliament's information watchdog, Suzanne Legault, said it's time to correct the flaws in Canada's access to information legislation.

Canada's Access to Information Act, first adopted in 1982, requires federal government departments, agencies and crown corporations to release public records to anyone who makes a request and pays a $5 fee.

Qatari Human Rights Official Defends Life Sentence For Poet Who Praised Arab Spring Uprisings

Three days after the United Nations climate change conference began here in Doha, a Qatari court sentenced a local poet to life in prison, a move that shocked many activists in the Gulf region and human rights observers. The sentencing of Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami came nearly two years after he wrote a poem titled, “Tunisian Jasmine," supporting the uprisings in the Arab world. “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites!” al-Ajami wrote. “The Arab governments and who rules them are without exception thieves, thieves!” We speak to his attorney and a member of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Public servants forced to scrimp for retirement, says pension expert

OTTAWA — Canada’s public servants may have reached the “tipping point” where they are forced to save so much of their salaries for pension benefits that they are scrimping while working to pay for a better standard of living when they retire, says a leading pension expert.

A study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy on federal pensions being released Friday calls for a major overhaul of the public service pension plan to resolve a growing list of long-term financial, demographic and human resource challenges facing the government.

Motion 408 and sex-selection abortion: Pretending to care about women

With several female MPs at his side, Conservative MP Mark Warawa held a press conference Wednesday on Parliament Hill to promote his Motion 408, which would "condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination." How ironic, considering that his Conservative government has been busy institutionalizing discrimination against women since 2006, while Warawa and the rest of the anti-choice movement wants to send women back to the days of unsafe criminal abortions or mandatory motherhood.

It's very odd to see Warawa's sudden concern over the abortion of only female fetuses, when we know he hates all abortions.

Perversions of justice in Canada's cases of inadmissibility

Ahmad Daud Maqsudi is an Afghan refugee who's been declared "inadmissible" to this country for involvement in an organization that has been supported by Canada and the CIA. Ironically, that same organization is nonetheless viewed as threatening by Ottawa because of its alleged role of "engaging in or instigating the subversion by force of any government."

For years, people like Mr. Maqsudi have had to rely on a faint-hope clause in immigration legislation that humanitarian factors would be taken into consideration in ultimately deciding whether the inadmissibility finding could be over-ruled when the individual circumstances of their cases are considered. While the ministers of immigration and public safety have the discretion to examine those unique features of each case, current interpretation of immigration legislation is so narrow that decisions are essentially based on the very limited and contentious grounds of "national interest" and "national security."

Film review: 'Last chance' looks at refugee claimants fleeing homophobia

From December 7 to December 9, you can watch Paul Émile d’Entremont’s documentary Last Chance for free at the website of the National Film Board of Canada.

Last Chance, an NFB film directed by Paul Emile d'Entremont, views the Canadian Immigration refugee process through the eyes of four LGBT refugee status claimants.

These refugees have come to Canada from Jamaica, Colombia, Lebanon, Nicaragua and Egypt seeking sanctuary in one of the few places on earth that accepts sexual orientation as basis for a refugee claim. But it appears that the recently opened door for such claims may soon be slamming shut.

Millions for Gardiner Expressway repairs never spent

Tens of millions of dollars budgeted for the Gardiner Expressway repairs over the last decade were never spent.

A document obtained by CBC News reveals that millions intended to be put towards fixing the Gardiner Expressway, the elevated highway that runs just north of the Toronto shoreline, never made its way to the road.

Bank of Canada warns of low-rate risk

OTTAWA—The Bank of Canada says low-interest policies that it and other central banks have put in place are adding another layer of risk to the already stressed global financial system.

The Canadian central bank says that the near record level interest rates that have been in place since the 2008-09 recession are taking their toll on insurance companies and pension funds.

Low rates, it adds, are even increasing the appetite of investors to take risks in search of higher returns.

It’s Official: Austerity Economics Doesn’t Work

With all the theatrics going on in Washington, you might well have missed the most important political and economic news of the week: an official confirmation from the United Kingdom that austerity policies don’t work.

In making his annual Autumn Statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was forced to admit that his government has failed to meet a series of targets it set for itself back in June of 2010, when it slashed the budgets of various government departments by up to thirty per cent. Back then, Osborne said that his austerity policies would cut his country’s budget deficit to zero within four years, enable Britain to begin relieving itself of its public debt, and generate healthy economic growth. None of these things have happened. Britain’s deficit remains stubbornly high, its people have been suffering through a double-dip recession, and many observers now expect the country to lose its “AAA” credit rating.

Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky turns eighty-four today, more than a half century after he exploded onto the scene of linguistics, in in the late nineteen-fifties, as a young professor at M.I.T. His career began perhaps most notably with a book review that helped launch an entire field of linguistics (known as generative grammar) and laid waste to another (the behaviorist view of B. F. Skinner that then dominated psychology). From that moment forward, linguistics truly has never been the same.

Obamacare Health Insurance Rules Saved Customers $1.5 Billion Last Year: Study

Health care reform rules aimed at pressuring health insurance companies to become more efficient saved consumers nearly $1.5 billion last year, according to a study released by the Commonwealth Fund on Wednesday.

The health care law enacted by President Barack Obama requires that health insurance companies selling plans to individual consumers spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on medical care. Health insurance companies selling plans to groups of at least 50 people, such as employers offering benefits to workers, must spend 85 percent of premiums on medical care. Companies that fail to meet these standards under the so-called medical loss ratio rule must refund the difference to their customers.

Coalition For Fiscal And National Security Boasts Deep Financial Ties To Military Complex

WASHINGTON -- The multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to fix the national debt opened a new front this week, when a group of retired foreign policy experts -- many with longstanding ties to private equity billionaire Peter G. Peterson -- launched an effort to influence the debate over defense spending and debt reduction.

The Coalition for Fiscal and National Security is chaired by retired Adm. Michael Mullen, and includes 14 other former high-ranking government officials. Four former secretaries of state -- Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, George Shultz, and James A. Baker -- are in the group, with three former defense secretaries and three former secretaries of the treasury.

Michigan GOP Passes 'Right To Work' Legislation

Following the Michigan House's lead, the state Senate passed a right-to-work measure on Thursday evening -- just hours after Gov. Rick Snyder and top GOP Republicans announced the bills.

Despite impassioned debate from Senate Democrats, the measure passed with a 22-16 vote. According to the Associated Press, four Republican state Senators joined all 12 of their Democratic counterparts in opposition to the right-to-work bill. It passed the Michigan House by a vote of 58-52 earlier in the evening. During the House vote, Democrats walked off the floor in protest after at least eight protesters were arrested, crowds were pepper-sprayed and the Capitol building locked down.

Street Fights Rock Cairo as Supporters and Foes of Morsi Clash over Constitution

Cairo, Egypt

Thousands of supporters and opponents of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi clashed in the streets around the presidential palace Wednesday, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and firing birdshot at each other in the largest outbreak of violence between rival political groups since the revolution began. Seven people were killed and more than 670 injured, according to the Health Ministry, as Cairo’s affluent Heliopolis district was transformed into a scene of chaos and bloodshed.

Obama to GOP: No More Debt Ceiling Blackmail

In the ongoing bout between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner—call it, the fiscal bluff—the main focus, as far as the media coverage goes, has been the Bush II-era tax cuts for the wealthy. (As Bloomberg reported, Obama "will make no deal on the country's fiscal future unless congressional leaders first accept tax-rate increases on top earners.") Obama has indeed insisted marginal tax rates for the rich go up to boost deficit-busting revenue, and he advocates a return to the levels of the booming Clinton years, with the tax cuts for the lower 98 percent extended. Boehner has countered with a vague offer to raise revenues but only by closing loopholes (which he will not identify) while lowering tax rates for the wealthy and nonwealthy. If the president stands fast on this position, as his aides assert he will, there will be no agreement unless Boehner yields. But there is another red line for Obama: the fiscal debt ceiling.

Saskatchewan Oilsands Rights Sold For the First Time Since 2007

REGINA - For the first time in more than five years, oilsands rights have been sold in a Crown land sale in Saskatchewan.

Ed Dancsok, assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Energy, says the two parcels of land are in the northwest, north of the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range.

The parcels were picked up by a land agent likely for an exploration company that is not named.

Dancsok says the company will have to be named when they want to start doing physical activity on the land.

He says before now, the first and only time oilsands rights were sold in Saskatchewan was in August 2007.

It's harder to get oil out of the oilsands in Saskatchewan than those in Alberta and so far, nothing is being produced out of the oilsands in Saskatchewan.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Should Peter Kent still be in the broadcasters’ hall of fame?

So here’s the latest from the office of Environment Minister Peter Kent — Mr. Kent being the former distinguished journalist who was a big believer in the people’s right to know.

David Tarasick, a researcher in Kent’s department, wanted to talk to scribes who were seeking comment from him about an important study he had co-authored on the giant ozone hole in the Arctic.

It’s the type of story that Kent once pursued avidly for the CBC. But Kent’s office, as revealed by emails recently obtained by Postmedia, brought out the big muzzle and clamped it on Tarasick’s jaw.

Fraudulent phone call complaints allowed in Federal Court case to overturn six election results

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Federal Court has allowed last-minute evidence containing complaints of fraudulent telephone calls in 56 electoral districts during the 2011 general election to be filed as possible evidence in a bid by voters in six ridings to have those results overturned.

The evidence, consisting of sworn court affidavits from two Elections Canada investigators who probed the complaints that surfaced following a nationwide controversy over alleged voter-suppression tactics last February, will be filed in Federal Court on Friday, Dec. 7, under an order issued Thursday by a case management judge.

Federal government cancels F-35 fighter purchase

OTTAWA — The F-35 jet fighter purchase, the most persistent thorn in the federal government’s side and the subject of a devastating auditor-general’s report last spring, is dead.

Faced with the imminent release of an audit by accountants KPMG that will push the total projected life-cycle costs of the aircraft above $30 billion, the operations committee of the federal Cabinet decided to scrap the controversial sole-source program and go back to the drawing board, a source familiar with the decision said.

John Boehner Fiscal Cliff Proposal Opposed By Powerful Conservative Groups

WASHINGTON -- Two of the most powerful and politically active conservative groups in Washington are not pleased with the fiscal cliff proposal put forward by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday.

Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks stated their disappointment and opposition to the proposal put forward by Boehner as a counter to President Barack Obama's offer because it contains $800 billion in new tax revenue and not enough spending reductions.

Matt Taibbi: Mark Carney Just 'Another Goldman Creature'

Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone finance writer who rose to fame with his description of Goldman Sachs as a “vampire squid,” set his sights on Mark Carney in a blog post Thursday.

Clearly, Taibbi is no fan of the current Bank of Canada governor and soon-to-be Bank of England governor.

Stephen Harper's Hidden Agenda: Canadians Still Think He Has One, Poll Finds

Stephen Harper has been Prime Minister for nearly seven years, but the majority of Canadians still believe he has a hidden agenda.

A new poll from Angus Reid has found 68 per cent of Canadians think Harper definitely or probably holds secret plans for Canada's future.

Conservatives need to pull the ejector seat on F-35

The Harper government has gone to the wall, and beyond, in defence of its beleaguered F-35 jet fighter program. It’s time for a backward shuffle, with alacrity. There will never be a better time than now, with both carrot and stick mitigating for a reboot.

Last spring, you will recall, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson meted out an epic spanking to the Conservatives on this file, when he confirmed that the top-line cost they cited in the 2011 election – $9-billion for 65 planes, or $15-billion including maintenance and other life-cycle costs – was $10-billion shy of true.

Canada border agency apologizes after officer threatens woman

In a rare move, the Canada Border Services Agency has apologized to a Toronto woman, who complained that a border guard threw her permanent resident card on the floor and threatened to cut it with scissors.

“I would like to offer you my sincere apology that the actions of one of our employees were so distressing to you,” wrote Jeff Walters, acting director of port-of-entry operations at Fort Erie, in a letter dated Nov. 23.

Hudak’s ‘new deal’ calls for government job cuts, fewer ministries and a two-year wage freeze

There will be “significant” public sector job cuts, one-third fewer ministries and a two-year wage freeze if the Progressive Conservatives form the next Ontario government, Tory Leader Tim Hudak says.

Hudak, who has been making policy announcements this week, laid out his political road map Thursday. It calls for smaller government, an end to compulsory union membership for mid-level civil servants and more privatized public services, including killing the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s booze monopoly.

Housing Market: Bank Of Canada Outlines Scenario For How Home Sales Slump Could Drag Down Economy

Don’t hit the panic button yet, but the Bank of Canada just outlined how a housing market slowdown could drag down the entire economy with it.

“Canadian households are vulnerable to two interrelated shocks: a significant decline in house prices and a sharp deterioration in labour market conditions,” the bank said in its latest financial system review. “The vulnerabilities will increase the longer imbalances persist (or grow) in the housing market and the more household indebtedness rises.”

Dollarama Q3 Earnings Soar As Retailer Expands Aggressively Across Canada

MONTREAL - Dollarama is continuing to increase the pace of new store openings as competition for good locations prompts the discount retailer to act quickly.

The Montreal-based chain expects to open 75 new stores next year, after accelerating its forecasted openings to between 75 and 85 stores this fiscal year.

Resolute Forest Products Logging On Lands Protected Under Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement: Greenpeace

Canada’s largest forestry company has violated a 2010 agreement and is logging on a critical caribou habitat, Greenpeace Canada is alleging.

In a report released Thursday, Greenpeace said Resolute Forest Products, formerly known as Abitibi-Bowater, is building roads and logging in areas of Quebec’s Montagnes Blanches region that the company had agreed to leave alone.

Resolute strongly denies it is logging in areas it agreed to leave alone.

Fracking Makes Livestock Sick, Says Recent Study Of Natural Gas Drilling On Animal And Human Health

Reduced milk production. Gastrointestinal, neurological and urological issues. Sudden death. These are just a few of the symptoms experienced by livestock living near natural gas fracking sites and catalogued in a recent paper studying the impact of natural gas drilling on human and animal health.

The peer-reviewed study, conducted by a veterinarian and a researcher from the Department of Molecular Medicine at Cornell University, was published in January in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, and inspired an investigative report published Nov. 28 in The Nation. (Download the full study here.)

Harper Was Told Nexen Would Give Cnooc Stake in Key Asset

Cnooc Ltd. (883)’s $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen Inc. (NXY) would give the Chinese company the largest stake of an oil field in the North Sea that “has increasingly influenced” global oil prices, according to a memo sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by Canada’s top government worker.

Nexen says it controls 43 percent of the Buzzard oil field in the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland. Buzzard, which began production in 2007, is the largest discovery off the U.K. in the past two decades, according to Nexen’s website.

Why did Flaherty miss that vote on C-45?

In amongst the dust-up in the House of Commons following the Speaker’s ruling Wednesday on whether or not the final concurrence vote on C-45 Tuesday night was valid, one question lingered: Why did the finance minister miss the vote in the first place?

After New Democrat House leader Nathan Cullen made the Opposition’s case that the vote ought to be perhaps re-cast, Government House leader Peter Van Loan offered some vague language regarding Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s absence for those few minutes the night before.

Your local MP is democracy’s enemy

In the late afternoon of most days, visitors to the House of Commons can watch as a bored-looking MP delivers a dull speech on an obscure issue to a handful of MPs forced by their party to attend to ensure a quorum in the chamber.

Most MPs in attendance fill their time reading reports, answering emails and scanning newspapers. None of them really listens to the speech, which has been carefully vetted by party rulers.