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, March 08, 2013

So much for Canada’s truly conservative era

Conservatives will gather Friday morning within the echo chamber of their own certitudes.

They will assemble in Ottawa at the call of the Manning Centre to celebrate their good fortune, assert the validity of their ideologies and listen to Ron Paul.

Any conference that would offer Mr. Paul as a keynote speaker can’t be serious, at least not as a forum for intellectual debate, unless Canadian conservatives are politically suicidal.

Preston Manning's talk fest hits Ottawa

Ron Paul is a Texan who has made three marginal runs for the American presidency and who is also considered by many to be a godfather of the Tea Party movement that has driven the Republican Party to the far right. The Huffington Post reports that Paul’s campaign in the Republican primaries in 2012 foundered “when newsletters published under his name back in the 1980s and '90s were found to contain anti-gay and racially-charged statements.” Paul says that he did not write those comments even though he acknowledges they appeared in his literature. Paul is a headline speaker at the March 7-9 conference of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in Ottawa. Paul has already held forth in a series of Canadian interviews in which he says he opposes public health care and all gun registries but wants to see the Keystone XL Pipeline built as soon as possible to deliver Alberta oil to Texas refineries.

International Women's Day: What's the way forward?

As an aging feminist I am often asked to speak about the progress we have made as feminists and how much is left to do. It gets depressing sometimes because of the persistance of violence against women and economic inequality. I am despairing of the deep gendered divide in children's toys and the heavy load placed upon young women expected to be beautiful, thin, successful, a great mom and too often chief cook and bottle washer at home. Not to mention daily viewing the old Reform party anti-feminists running the country.

Bad news expected for Flaherty at meeting with private sector economists

hereOTTAWA - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to receive a dose of bad news today when he meets with private sector economists.

They are expected to update the minister with their latest forecasts for the economy ahead of the upcoming federal budget.

Last week, Statistics Canada reported the economy was pretty much stalled at the end of last year as it recorded another disappointing quarter of growth in the last three months of 2012.
However, Flaherty has already ruled out any new stimulus, which he has referred to as "risky spending schemes."

He has said the government will need to work harder to find the savings to meet its goals in its economic action plan.

Flaherty has suggested the government could close some tax loopholes and may also look at program spending, including trimming programs that are no longer a high priority.

Original Article
Author: The Canadian Press 

Departments ignore House of Commons committee's request for documents

OTTAWA - Several departments are ignoring a House of Commons committee's demand to turn over action plans after being scrutinized by the auditor general, a failure one MP calls contempt of Parliament.

The public accounts committee passed a motion in 2011 that all departments who have their performance audited must table their plans within six months of an auditor general's report.

The requirement applies whether or not the department is invited to appear before the committee.

But 18 months after the auditor general's fall 2011 report, only two out of 13 departments and agencies targeted with recommendations have responded to the committee. More recent reports have similarly poor response rates.

Why don’t people trust politicians? Why would they?

“In this new environment, truth has become the oxygen and artifice is the kryptonite of public life.” — Alan Gregg, 2011 Gordon Osbaldeston Lecture.

If truth ever comes to politics, it will sell like cold beer in hell.

No need to ask if the NDP has lost its way. No need to ask if the Liberals have lost their way.

New Violence Against Women Act Includes Historic Protections for Native American and LGBT Survivors

President Obama has signed into law historic new protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with the expanded reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Initially passed in 1994, the bill lapsed in 2011 after Republicans blocked it over the new protections. The measure was approved after House Republicans finally allowed a vote last week. It includes a landmark addition that empower Native American tribal authorities to prosecute non-Native Americans for abuses committed on tribal lands. For the first time ever, it will also specifically include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender survivors. We’re joined by two guests who attended Thursday’s reauthorization ceremony at the White House: Juana Majel Dixon, first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, and Mara Keisling, a transgender rights activist and founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

The rise of Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin

OTTAWA—Pamela Wallin, already a household name due to her long and distinguished career as a broadcast journalist, has become a prominent figure in the Senate and the Conservative party since joining the red chamber.

She has travelled the country to speak at fundraisers for the Conservative party and charitable causes, chairs what has long been the most high-profile committee in the Senate, moderated a question-and-answer period with Sarah Palin when she visited Calgary and has been pictured spending time with Laureen Harper.

Canada Cellphone Contracts: Horror Stories Ring Through Consumers' Troubles With Service Providers

VANCOUVER - When a Canadian tried to cancel his cellphone contract after his legs were crushed in a freak accident and he lost steady income, he was told "You would have needed to die" to be let off the hook.

When the mother of a grown man with Asperger's Disorder tried to cut the cord on a three-year contract her son had activated, they were forced to pay $3,600, even though he was on disability income and not capable of understanding what he'd signed up for.

Alberta Budget 2013 Borrows Billions, Puts Province Deep In The Red

EDMONTON — The Alberta government — squeezed by falling oil revenues and a growing population — has delivered a budget that holds the line on day-to-day spending but borrows billions to build roads, hospitals and schools.

There are no new or increased taxes.

The result is $6.3 billion in red ink.

The Group Behind CPAC Has a White-Nationalist Problem

On Tuesday, the Hill published a story noting that the organizers of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the preeminent national confab for politicians and activists of the right, are responding to the last November's election by using the event to "showcase the movement's 'diversity.'" Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Sarah Palin will be headlining, but 20 percent of the panelists this year will be African American, according to CPAC bean counters. And the CPACers proudly point to the prominent role of Latinos and women on various panels. Yet the CPAC organizers have neglected one important task as they attempt to appeal to minorities: staying away from white nationalists.

Supreme Court: Uphold the Voting Rights Act!

On Sunday, March 3, Representative John Lewis locked arms with Luci Baines Johnson and Vice President Joe Biden and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge here. Forty-eight years earlier, on “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis was badly beaten by Alabama state troopers at the foot of the bridge while attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Eight days later, Luci’s father introduced the Voting Rights Act before a joint session of Congress. “When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965,” Lewis said, “he helped free and liberate all of us.”

Mission Unaccomplished

I was there. And “there” was nowhere. And nowhere was the place to be if you wanted to see the signs of end times for the American Empire up close. It was the place to be if you wanted to see the madness -- and oh yes, it was madness -- not filtered through a complacent and sleepy media that made Washington’s war policy seem, if not sensible, at least sane and serious enough. I stood at Ground Zero of what was intended to be the new centerpiece for a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the invasion of Iraq turned out to be a joke. Not for the Iraqis, of course, and not for American soldiers, and not the ha-ha sort of joke either. And here’s the saddest truth of all: on March 20th as we mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion from hell, we still don’t get it. In case you want to jump to the punch line, though, it’s this: by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time.

Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You

Data companies are scooping up enormous amounts of information about almost every American. They sell information about whether you're pregnant or divorced or trying to lose weight, about how rich you are and what kinds of cars you have.

Regulators and some in Congress have been taking a closer look at these so-called data brokers — and are beginning to push the companies to give consumers more information and control over what happens to their data.

The campaign to save medicare is in full swing. Next up: April Lobby Week!

The Council of Canadians and our medicare allies are organizing a national lobby the week of April 8 to ask members of Parliament to support the 2014 Health Accord.

So far the Harper government has ignored the call of premiers to talk about the state of health care in Canada. Instead, Min. Flaherty dictated to the premiers that the Canada Health Transfer will be cut by $36 billion after the next election (Budget 2016/2017).

Literacy 'Mismanaged' Under Three Ministries: SFU Prof

During a review of their finances last year, Douglas College discovered they had 40 per cent more adult basic education (ABE) students than the Ministry of Adult Education funds them for. At the same time they were in dire need of cutting costs in light of the provincial government's 2012 decision to offer English Language Learning programs tuition-free at the post-secondary level.

College administration made the difficult decision to cut their ABE programming by 10.5 per cent. That means starting this September 100 level literacy or English Upgrading classes are no longer offered.

Facing the Threat of the Trans-Pacific Treaty

A 16th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is underway in Singapore this week. Canada and Mexico join the nine other TPP countries for the second time since the U.S. government invited its NAFTA partners to join late last year.

The TPP is a super-sized trade deal-expanding on so called "next generation" trade and investment deals that NAFTA countries have pursued in the wake of the stalemate at the World Trade Organization. This pluri-lateral agreement poses serious new threats to North American communities -- threats that a tri-national movement of trade justice activists is preparing to fight in the lead-up to a possible July TPP negotiating round in Canada.

The Conservatives Party

"I caution Conservatives, don't ever call yourself the natural governing party of Canada," says Preston Manning. We're speaking over the din of a thousand excited delegates, packed into a ballroom in Ottawa for the opening-night mixer. "This is a conference of self-examination," says Manning. "Every party has strengths, every party has weaknesses."

Lately, one could argue, it's the strengths that have been more in evidence. Certainly the crowd feels buoyant.

Tax Evasion Canada: Harper Government Accused Of Stonewalling 'Tax Gap' Estimate

The federal opposition is accusing Revenue Minister Gail Shea of working to block efforts to find out just how much money Canada’s government loses to tax evasion.

Critics charge that although Shea insists it is “almost impossible to calculate” what the federal government loses to illegal tax dodging measures, there is in fact a method to calculate the “tax gap” and it is being used by the U.S., the U.K. and other countries.

Government cancels public viewing of designs for War of 1812 monument

OTTAWA — The Department of Canadian Heritage abruptly cancelled a planned public unveiling of six competing designs for a prominent new monument to the War of 1812 on Parliament Hill.

Models produced by the six finalists were to have been exhibited Thursday as part of a “public vernissage,” according to a December 2012 news release from the National Capital Commission, which is partnering with Canadian Heritage on the high-profile project.

Hugo Chávez Funeral: Derided by US Media, Venezuelan Leader Uplifted Poor From Caracas to the Bronx

Millions are gathering in Caracas to mourn the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on the day of his funeral. More than 30 world leaders are expected to attend today’s ceremony as Venezuelans brave long lines to see Chávez lying in state. We go to Caracas to speak with Carol Delgado, Venezuelan Consul General in New York, who has returned home for the funeral. Delgado responds to the torrent of U.S. corporate media criticism that has followed Chávez to the grave, arguing that Chávez has been attacked in spite of — and perhaps because of — his social programs benefiting Venezuela’s poor majority, and a global reach that extended to impoverished neighborhoods of the United States.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Can Hugo Chavez's high-stakes revolution survive his death?

Venezuela has begun seven days of mourning following the death of President Hugo Chavez, who loomed so large in his country's politics and recent history. While Chavez's life is being remembered, many are also pondering the country’s future.

During the 14 years Chavez was president, both Venezuela and Latin America saw significant change politically and economically. But Venezuela has seemed to be in a state of uncertainty since shortly after last year's presidential election. After winning it handily, Chavez announced his cancer had returned.

The Iraq invasion 10 years on, was it worth it?

We will never, ever agree on Iraq. Not even those of us who spent time there in the 10 years since the U.S.-led invasion, and smelled its decline up close.

Each of us wanders with our own frightful version of Iraq's war in our minds, a unique view of its success or failure, distorted by time and muddied by our unreliable memories.

We can ask ourselves: Was that invasion 10 years ago this month worth it? But the answer isn't obvious.

Ottawa announces $288-million deal to kick-start design of Arctic patrol ships

HALIFAX - Ottawa's plan to bolster the navy's fleet nudged toward the drawing board Thursday after it signed a contract to design the next generation of Arctic offshore patrol ships.

The deal with Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax is worth an estimated $288 million and divides the design work into seven phases including engineering and project management before the vessels can be built.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said the work will assess capability, affordability and risk of constructing the ships, which is expected to begin in 2015.

Canadian training mission in Kabul estimated at $522 million: MacKay

OTTAWA - Figures put before Parliament show Canada's training of fledgling Afghan army and police units is expected to cost more than $500 million, an estimate which comes as behind-the-scenes negotiations to end NATO's overall mission appear deadlocked.

The figure was laid before the House of Commons defence committee this week as it considered a request by the Department of National Defence for a budget top-up.

Alberta runs in red; borrows billions to build roads, schools, hospitals

EDMONTON - The Alberta government — squeezed by falling oil revenues and a growing population — has delivered a budget that holds the line on day-to-day spending but borrows billions to build roads, hospitals and schools.

There are no new or increased taxes.

The result is $6.3 billion in red ink.

Oil execs, Canadian leaders fret over what U.S. will want in exchange for pipeline approval

WASHINGTON – There are growing concerns among Canadian leaders and oil and gas executives that the U.S. administration will demand concessions from Canada including possible changes to its environmental policies in return for approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told journalists at a breakfast meeting Thursday that the power of the U.S. environmental lobby could force U.S. President Barack Obama to try to impose regulations on Canada.

Tie bid for federal government contract resolved by tossing a coin

OTTAWA — Faced with two identical bids for a government contract last fall, officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada opted to toss a coin to determine the winner — a rare method of last resort that is mentioned briefly in a government manual.

And while it seemed like a simple way to ensure fairness, documents obtained by Postmedia News suggest the decision over which company would get a one-year contract, worth $171,534, to provide information technology and telecommunications consulting services, was anything but straightforward.

The Commons: Think of the F-35 as a Senate with wings

Perhaps the F-35 is best understood as a Senate with wings. Or perhaps the Senate is the F-35 that we mistakenly assigned to guard our democracy.

Either way, they are both now easy jokes.

“Mr. Speaker, yet another report from the United States is raising disturbing questions about the F-35,” Thomas Mulcair reported at the outset this afternoon. “Serious problems have been identified with the aircraft’s radar, helmet and cockpit design. Pilots report that the plane is actually incapable of flying through clouds.”

A third Conservative senator refunds expenses but Senate says no rules broken

OTTAWA - Another Conservative senator is refunding expenses following an examination of residency claims.

The Senate's internal economy committee issued a terse notice Thursday saying Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu has repaid an undisclosed amount of funds he "stated were mistakenly claimed."

Boisvenu is the third Conservative senator to have reportedly paid back improper expense claims in recent weeks, following the lead of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

All 10 provinces plan to intervene in feds’ Senate reforms questions to Supreme Court

PARLIAMENT HILL—All 10 provincial governments have served notice at the Supreme Court of Canada they intend to intervene in the federal government’s reference asking for the court’s opinion on whether Parliament has the constitutional power to unilaterally limit Senate terms, hold elections to fill vacancies or even abolish the Senate entirely.

With Nunavut also filing a notice of intervention in the historic case and Yukon and the Northwest Territories likely to intervene as well, the Liberal opposition says the developments show Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary-Southwest, Alta.) wasted six years of potential progress by ignoring the provinces as his government tabled a series of fruitless Senate-reform bills in Parliament and eventually stacked the Senate with Conservative supporters, his own former aides, and Conservative fundraisers while all but the last bill stalled and died between prorogations and elections.

Why Stephen Harper May Step Down This Summer

Jean Chrétien may have been at the nadir of his popularity and effectiveness when he left public life. But he knew to get out while he was still undefeated, after three consecutive majority government victories, and with Paul Martin on the verge of taking over his party.

Dalton McGuinty also knew when to leave --- after three consecutive election wins (the first Ontario Liberal premier to do that in 128 years), and before losing the confidence of the minority parliament.

The list continues: William Davis, Peter Lougheed, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Mike Harris, Ralph Klein, Frank McKenna, John Robarts, Leslie Frost, Gordon Campbell --- all first ministers who left their jobs on their terms, rather than running the risk of having the voters show them the door (although in some cases such as Davis, Lougheed, and Robarts, the possibility of that happening was next to nil).

Think child care is no longer a women's issue?

On this International Women's Day, think again...

Here are ten indications that Canada's lack of action on universal child care continues to have a profound impact on women in all regions of Canada -- across the life span, across diverse groups and across the economic spectrum:

1. If "child care is the ramp that provides equal access to the workforce for mothers"*, Canadian women are on a slippery slope. Although the majority of women with children are in the paid labour force in Canada (about 75 per cent of mothers of three year olds), access to child care is limited and more-or-less static. There are child care spaces to cover less than 20 per cent of 0-12 year olds and for families with infants, toddlers, children with disabilities, in rural and Aboriginal communities, it is even less available.

New investment agreements show Canadian commitment to Africa mining vision a hollow promise

The Canadian government’s big announcement for this year’s Prospectors and Developers Association conference (PDAC) wasn’t the automatic renewal of tax credits for “flow-through” shares -- a $100 million dollar a year subsidy for exploration companies -- or even a creative new way of diverting international development aid money to support Canadian mining projects in the developing world. No, it was a pair of investment agreements, one with Cameroon and one with Zambia.

According to Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian mining investments in Cameroon are relatively small, some $35 million in 2011 -- basically a few gold, iron, and uranium exploration projects -- while those in Zambia were worth over $6 billion, some 20 percent of all Canadian mining assets in Africa. A large portion of that belongs to First Quantum Minerals, who jumped to attention to announce it was “proud to support” the Zambia agreement.

New Jersey Cop Appears To Punch Woman In The Face Outside Club

Police are investigating a YouTube video where a woman outside an Elizabeth, N.J. club appears to grab a police officer, who then punches her in the face.

In the cellphone recording, a fight outside Envy Night Club escalates from yelling and cursing to a physical scuffle. The video ends after an officer emerges from the crowd and appears to hit one woman directly in the head.

Few details have surfaced, but Elizabeth police are looking into the incident, NBC New York reported.

At one point, a bystander chants"WORLD STAR," referring to a website that compiles videos of fights caught on tape. The 20-second clip is already up on the site.

An employee at Envy told The Huffington Post that the night club is aware of the situation, but could not offer any further comment.

A public information officer with the Elizabeth Police internal affairs department could not be reached.

Original Article
Author: Megan Griffo

Daily Voice Chairman Promises Good News On Friday, Lays Off Employees The Following Monday

We can probably all agree that "layoffs" and "good news" are two phrases that don't usually go together.

Apparently, executives at one company feel differently.

The Daily Voice, a hyper-local news site, announced the resignation of its CEO Zohar Yardeni Friday. Shortly after the resignation became public, company officials sent an email to the staff to reassure them that good news was around the corner, according to Gawker.

Jim Himes, Former Goldman Sachs Executive, Introduces Bill To Deregulate Derivatives

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a former Wall Street executive, is joining Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) to introduce legislation that would deregulate derivatives, undercutting one of the most meaningful elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

Derivatives -- which Warren Buffett has referred to as “financial weapons of mass destruction” -- are viewed as a key trigger of the 2008 economic crisis.

John Brennan Confirmation Battle Stirs Drone Strike Controversy

WASHINGTON -- The battle over the confirmation of John Brennan to be the next CIA director entered a final phase Wednesday as a cadre of senators, led by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, shifted the spotlight to a shadowy piece of the nominee's legacy: the Obama administration's use of drone strikes.

"To be bombed in your sleep? There's nothing American about that," said Paul, who began filibustering Brennan's nomination on Wednesday and finished in the early hours of Thursday morning. "There's nothing constitutional about that." Civilian casualties are central to the debate over the use of drones, because public support hinges on the false belief that the weapons kill with surgical precision. If the public were aware of the human toll of the policy, opposition would be widespread, according to a series of HuffPost/YouGov surveys.