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, February 15, 2013

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan resigns over inappropriate letter

Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has resigned from cabinet for writing an inappropriate letter to the Tax Court of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Friday confirming the decision.

“I would like to thank Mr. Duncan for his many contributions as Minister and for his service to the people of Canada. Mr. Duncan will continue to serve as the member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North in the House of Commons,” Mr. Harper said.

The Prime Minister said Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore will serve as the acting Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development until a new minister is named.

Mr. Duncan released a statement explaining his decision.

“In June of 2011 I wrote a character reference letter to the Tax Court of Canada on behalf of an individual to whom my constituency staff was providing casework assistance on a Canada Revenue Agency matter,” he says in the statement.

“While the letter was written with honourable intentions, I realize that it was not appropriate for me, as a Minister of the Crown, to write to the Tax Court. I have therefore offered my resignation as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to the Prime Minister, which he has accepted,” he said.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and the consequences they have brought. It has been an honour to serve in the Cabinet and I thank the Prime Minister for placing his confidence in me on this most important file. I have every confidence that the Government will reach its goal of improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples across our country.”

Last month Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson ruled Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and two parliamentary secretaries – Eve Adams and Colin Carrie – all acted improperly in writing letters to the CRTC in support of constituents who were competing for a Toronto radio licence.

The Prime Minister did not announce any disciplinary action in those cases.

Original Article

Mammoliti denies taking dirty loans

Embattled councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has responded to media reports that he received $275,000 in loans from developers he helped out at City Hall.

On Thursday, CBC reported that the York West councillor took out two loans from real estate investors whose plans for lucrative billboards he helped push through Etobicoke York Community Council.

Rep. Rayne Brown, North Carolina State Republican, Introduces Bill Criminalizing Nipple Exposure

North Carolina state representatives have introduced a bill that would "clarify" state law to specifically prohibit the baring of women's breasts. Women worried about showing too much of their "private area" should use pasties, or perhaps duct tape.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 34, would make it a Class H felony to expose "external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast."

Financial Crisis Cost Tops $22 Trillion, GAO Says

The 2008 financial crisis cost the U.S. economy more than $22 trillion, a study by the Government Accountability Office published Thursday said. The financial reform law that aims to prevent another crisis, by contrast, will cost a fraction of that.

"The 2007-2009 financial crisis, like past financial crises, was associated with not only a steep decline in output but also the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s," the GAO wrote in the report. The agency said the financial crisis toll on economic output may be as much as $13 trillion -- an entire year's gross domestic product. The office said paper wealth lost by U.S. homeowners totalled $9.1 billion. Additionally, the GAO noted, economic losses associated with increased mortgage foreclosures and higher unemployment since 2008 need to be considered as additional costs.

Poseidon Concepts Cease Trade: Ten Of Millions In Revenue Vanishes

CALGARY - A cease trade order has been issued against Poseidon Concepts Corp. (TSX:PSN) after the oilfield services company said up to $106 million in revenue should not have been recorded as such in 2012.

The Calgary-based company says it will restate its financial results for the first, second and third quarters of last year.

Canadian Manufacturing Down 3.1% In December

OTTAWA - A seasonal pause by Ontario's auto industry, combined with weakness in a broad range of other sectors, pushed Canada's manufacturing sales in December to the biggest month-to-month decline in nearly four years.

Statistics Canada said Friday that sales fell in 16 of 21 industries, representing 82 per cent of the manufacturing sector.

Forget Drones. The Real Problem Is “War Without Boundaries”

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the debate over killing civilians and assassinating American citizens with armed drones.

Let’s hold off on wondering whether these drones create more enemies than they kill.

Instead, let’s focus on the context in which we’re using them, and why it’s problematic.

Stephen Harper’s pipeline problem

The dictionary defines “keystone” as “the central supporting element of a whole.” For Prime Minister Stephen Harper, nothing could ring more true: the Keystone XL pipeline represents the centrepiece of his resource-based economic and political strategy.

If the U.S. government gives the pipeline the green light, he’s off to the races. If it doesn’t, his plans will stall — and his party will suffer the consequences.

For Senate appointments Harper had many options; he chose patronage and partisanship

In 1971, Liberal Senator David Croll chaired a Senate Committee on Poverty that made waves we can still feel today.

Croll's passionate and powerful report -- it said famously that "the poor do not choose poverty" --moved the Trudeau government to triple the family allowances and bring in the Child Tax Credit.

Senator Croll had been the Mayor of Windsor, Ontario, and, for a number of years following World War Two, the only Liberal Member of Parliament from what was then "Tory Toronto."

Feds ask Supreme Court to fast-track Senate questions

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to fast-track its request for a decisive opinion on whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to limit Senate terms and establish a nominee election system for Senate appointments without provincial consent is constitutional.

Government lawyers representing Justice Minister Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, Ont.) in his capacity as attorney general of Canada have also disclosed in a court motion that the government is asking the Quebec Superior Court of Appeal, which is hearing a Quebec government request for a ruling on whether a federal government bill attempting to implement the Senate reforms is constitutional, to suspend the case and defer to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Opinion On Drones Depends On Who's Being Killed: Poll

According to the new national survey, Americans believe that only high-level suspects who may be involved in planning attacks should be targeted -- and not if there's a risk that innocent people may also be killed.

According to the new Huffpost/YouGov poll, 56 percent of Americans say that the drone program should be used to target and kill high-level terrorists, while only 13 percent say that anyone suspected of being associated with a terrorist group should be targeted. Another 13 percent said that nobody should be killed using the drones program. A majority of Americans across most demographic and partisan groups agreed that the program should be used for high-level targets.

DOJ To Brief Congress On Aaron Swartz Prosecution

WASHINGTON -- Justice Department officials will brief members of Congress on Friday afternoon on DOJ's handling of the case against Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who was facing years in prison when he took his own life, a congressional aide tells The Huffington Post.

Facebook Paid No Income Taxes In 2012: Report

While taxes rose for most Americans at the beginning of year, some big companies apparently paid no income taxes at all, according to a recent report.

Facebook paid no net corporate income taxes in the U.S. last year, according to a new report from Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-leaning research and advocacy group. Instead, Facebook will rake in $429 million in net tax refunds for the year, the report said, citing Facebook's recent annual financial report. The company earned $1.1 billion in U.S. corporate profits last year.

Sequestration Would Slash VAWA Programs By $20 Million: DOJ

If Congress does not take steps to avert the automatic spending cuts that will go into effect on March 1, domestic violence programs funded by the Violence Against Women Act would lose more than $20 million, according to a new estimate by the Department of Justice.

The Case for a Higher Minimum Wage

“If a meteor ever smashes the earth,” Molly Ball, of The Atlantic, tweeted on Wednesday, “there will still be 2 economists arguing whether minimum wage laws kill jobs.” More than two, I would say. For the past twenty years, studying the impact of minimum-wage increases has been a growth industry. One extensive review of the literature cited more than a hundred and sixty studies, and that was published in 2007. By now, we may well be approaching the two-hundred mark. And it’s still a contentious issue. Some economists say minimum-wage laws are harmful; others say they aren’t.

Elizabeth Warren's Aggressive Questioning Prompts Anger From Wall Street

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) meeting with bank regulators Thursday left bankers reeling, after the politician questioned why regulators had not prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis.

At one point, Warren asked why big banks' book value was lower, when most corporations trade above book value, saying there could be only two reasons for it.

"One would be because nobody believes that the banks' books are honest. Second, would be that nobody believes that the banks are really manageable. That is, if they are too complex either for their own institutions to manage them or for the regulators to manage them," she said.

NAACP: New Election Commission Needed to Address Voter Suppression, Attacks on Voting Rights

During his State of the Union Tuesday, President Obama announced the formation of a new bipartisan commission to fix the nation’s broken voting system. In the audience was 102-year-old Desiline Victor who waited for hours to cast her ballot in the last election. Victor lives in Florida, where an estimated 200,000 voters failed to vote after becoming frustrated by the long lines. We speak to NAACP President Benjamin Jealous about how long lines is just one of many forms of voter suppression that the commission needs to address.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Palestinians rally for hunger striker

Israeli soldiers have clashed with Palestinian protesters at a rally in support of a prisoner observing an hunger strike to protest his incarceration.

The Israeli military said about 200 Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers who responded with tear gas during Friday's rally outside Ofer prison in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Fox News Hosts Mock Desiline Victor, 102-Year-Old Woman Who Waited Three Hours To Vote

Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old woman, received a standing ovation during the State of the Union on Tuesday for her resolve to vote. Fox News hosts Brian Kilmeade, Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer, however, wondered what the "big deal" was.

Victor made two trips and waited three hours to vote in Miami in November. President Obama spoke about the need to protect voting rights during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, and pointed to Victor, who was there as a guest of Michelle Obama, as an example.

'America Doesn't Torture'—It Kills

If the president can order the killing of 
American citizens abroad should he decide they are involved with Al Qaeda, can he assassinate suspected Al Qaeda–connected US citizens in London or Berlin? What about a suspect’s teenage son, a junior in a Canadian boarding school? If he can drop hellfire missiles on a house in northwestern Pakistan because he believes a terrorist cell is meeting inside, could he blow up a motel in Florida where supposed terrorists are staying and chalk up any dead vacationers as “collateral damage”? Of course not. Pakistan is completely different. Anwar al-Awlaki may have been a US citizen, but he was in Yemen, which is different too. As for his 16-year-old son, killed in Yemen in a drone attack some weeks later along with several other people, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it well, if ungrammatically: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children.” Unlike in the United States, in Yemen kids choose their parents.

Pamela Wallin's Travel Bill Suggests Campaigning On Taxpayer's Dime: NDP

OTTAWA - Senator Pamela Wallin charged taxpayers nearly $26,000 in travel expenses during the last federal election period while appearing at a series of Conservative campaign events.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus is demanding to know whether Wallin — the latest senator to become embroiled in expense questions in the appointed upper chamber — used her Senate travel budget for partisan party business.

Why not make EI work for everyone?

It's not very often I openly accuse the federal government of breaking the law... but I've had a tough week, so what the heck.

Actually, it's a tough claim to make stick, since the government writes the law. So let me modify that statement to say the law and regulations that govern employment insurance are immoral and unfair and should be illegal, as they pertain to family businesses.

Prime Minister whips up fear of criminally insane killers

Across the nation, employers, workers, doctors, lawyers, academics, community activists, caregivers and brave individuals raised their voices this week in a collective effort to combat the stigma of mental illness.

There was one discordant note. Last Friday, Stephen Harper announced his latest tough-on-crime bill. It targeted people found “not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder.”

We’re living in a golden age of falsehood

Midway through his first majority government, Stephen Harper has become the Lance Armstrong of politics (minus the urine test).

A string of impressive victories — but did he play fair?

It’s a good question. His modus operandi doesn’t pass the Ronald Reagan credibility test: trust but verify. How can you verify someone who makes it up as he goes along, when the truth, as my colleague Lawrence Martin so aptly put it, is a moving target?

Edmonton's homeless shelters home to body lice, 'refugee-camp-like conditions'

Welcome to Alberta, the Richest Place on Earth, where body lice are showing up on residents of homeless shelters, an affliction normally associated with Third World refugee camps.

Earlier this week, University of Alberta infectious diseases specialist Dr. Stan Houston warned colleagues in an email of "a very powerful health indicator of the kind of poverty we are seeing (and creating) in this, one of the wealthiest political jurisdictions in the world."

Why the Senate won't let the auditor general in

As the stench of impropriety wafts through the Senate, former auditor general Sheila Fraser says the only way to air out the Red Chamber is to open its books to full public scrutiny.

As things stand, the Senate conducts its own largely secret internal audits, and has only let the auditor general through its doors twice in its long history — the last time was Fraser in 2011 for a report presented to Parliament last year.

Now, instead of calling in the current auditor general, Michael Ferguson, to review the controversial travel expenses and housing allowance claims of four senators, the upper chamber enlisted the private accounting firm Deloitte Touche to take this on.

Ottawa sorry for losing data on 500,000 Canadians

OTTAWA—We’re sorry — and we’re trying to make sure it never happens again.

That was the message Thursday from senior federal bureaucrats responsible for the loss of personal information belonging to more than half a million Canadians.

Employees at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada lost an external hard drive and USB key in November, resulting in the massive privacy breach.

From Dorner to Waco to MOVE Bombing, A Look at Growing Militarization of Domestic Policing

The fire that killed former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner on Tuesday has drawn comparisons to the deadly 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, and the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia. In Waco, federal agents denied for years they had used incendiary tear gas after a fire killed 76 people inside the compound. The MOVE bombing left six adults and five children dead. We speak to former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper and Radley Balko, author of the forthcoming book, “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.”

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Metrolinx may consider charging for GO parking

Metrolinx may finally be ready to consider charging GO Transit riders for access to its vast parking lots, which operate mostly on a first-come, first-served basis.

Station parking is one potential revenue stream that could be considered among other taxes and tolls the provincial agency is talking up to fund a massive regional transit expansion.

As recently as last June, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said the provincial agency had no plans to change its GO parking policy.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti arranged $200,000 loan through developer he helped

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti took a $200,000 loan from a company affiliated with a real estate developer he had given minor assistance in getting approval to erect lucrative billboards.

The 2007 loan was made by a company, Tradesea International, for which developer Mac Champsee serves as vice-president. In 2004 and 2006, Mammoliti had put forward routine community council motions in favour of Champsee’s applications for Highway 401 billboards on a Wilson Ave. property in Mammoliti’s York West ward.

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising "wedge issue" for hardcore conservatives.

Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail

The deal was announced quietly, just before the holidays, almost like the government was hoping people were too busy hanging stockings by the fireplace to notice. Flooring politicians, lawyers and investigators all over the world, the U.S. Justice Department granted a total walk to executives of the British-based bank HSBC for the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever. Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks' profit – but they didn't extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses.

Law Enforcement Alliance Of America, NRA Front-Group, Spends Millions To Elect Pro-Gun Judges

WASHINGTON -- The National Rifle Association has spent more than $2 million to fund a group that helps elect conservative pro-gun judges and state attorneys general, people likely to rule in court and try cases that will be favorable to the gun lobbying interests.

The group is called the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA), and details of the NRA's funding are laid out in a new report issued Thursday by the nonprofit Center for American Progress (CAP), a left-leaning think tank.

Elizabeth Warren Embarrasses Hapless Bank Regulators At First Hearing

WASHINGTON -- Bank regulators got a sense Thursday of how their lives will be slightly different now that Elizabeth Warren sits on a Senate committee overseeing their agencies.

At her first Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Warren questioned top regulators from the alphabet soup that is the nation's financial regulatory structure: the FDIC, SEC, OCC, CFPB, CFTC, Fed and Treasury.

8 countries to face tougher asylum rules

Canada is adding another eight countries to a list of safe places, making it harder for refugee claimants from those countries to get asylum.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he's adding Mexico, Israel, Australia and others to a list of "designated countries of origin," safe countries whose refugee claimants have a streamlined process to prove they have genuine need for asylum.

La Passe residents surprised to learn Senator Mac Harb is their neighbour

WHITEWATER REGION — The only sign of life at Senator Mac Harb’s big brick house in the Ottawa Valley is a tangled string of Christmas lights illuminating a trellis in the morning sun.

The snow-covered driveway and path to the front door of 52 Crosby Trail suggest no one has been on the property that overlooks Marion Island in the Ottawa River for several days.

NDP says Wallin's Senate travel bill suggests 2011 campaign work on public dime

OTTAWA - Senator Pamela Wallin charged taxpayers nearly $26,000 in travel expenses during the last federal election period while appearing at a series of Conservative campaign events.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus is demanding to know whether Wallin — the latest senator to become embroiled in expense questions in the appointed upper chamber — used her Senate travel budget for partisan party business.

Explosive new report alleges widespread RCMP abuse of Indigenous women and girls

A new report by Human Rights Watch alleging widespread abuse by the RCMP against Indigenous women and girls was the subject of fierce debate Wednesday in Parliament. The 89-page report "described abusive treatment by police officers, including excessive use of force, and physical and sexual assault."

"Those Who Take Us Away" details police failure to protect Indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia in and around Highway 16 (known as the "Highway of Tears"), documents allegations of RCMP violence and abuse against Indigenous women, and calls on the government to convene a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Notes from underground

After 12 years of detention and house arrest, without charges or trial, Mohammad Mahjoub takes his first subway ride as a free man.

As Mohammad Mahjoub exited the federal court building on Queen West on Feb. 1, he carried in a plastic bag the GPS tracking anklet he’d worn since April 12, 2007. That morning, a federal judge struck down severe house-arrest conditions against Mahjoub, and he was heading to the nearby Osgoode subway entrance for his first ride in 12 years. Government officials claimed the GPS wouldn’t work underground, so Mahjoub had been effectively banned from the subway. But now that he’d been given the freedom to cut the anklet off himself, he wanted to ride.

John Baird’s crude awakening

The business of Canadian diplomacy in Washington hasn’t been this slippery for the HarperCons since the Department of Foreign Affairs opened Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom in the U.S. capital late last year. That one raised a few eyebrows among political pundits and human rights groups, even in the God-fearing USA.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in the Beltway to tackle another hot button issue: pipelines. Specifically, TransCanada Corp’s controversial plan to build its Keystone XL pipe through Nebraska so crude from the Alberta tar sands can be shipped south to refineries on the Gulf Coast and, from there, seep into world markets.