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.]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lawyer asks why police union funded her assaulter’s defence

A Toronto criminal defence lawyer assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, a police officer, is demanding an explanation from the police union’s head about why it funded his defence, even though it involved off-duty domestic charges.

“I am directly calling into question the integrity of your organization,” Kathryn Wells writes to Toronto Police Union president Mike McCormack in her March 13 email.

Scapegoat for a movement? Ron Plain struggles to fight charges for Idle No More action

Of all the myriad and varied actions, blockades and events which have taken place since the Idle No More movement came together late last year, only one has resulted in charges being laid. This is the story of the only person in the country facing legal consequences for his role in Idle No More, and his efforts to raise enough money to pay for his defence.

On December 21st of last year members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located near Sarnia, Ontario, began a peaceful blockade of CN tracks as an expression of solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike and the broader Idle No More movement.

On the morning of the 22nd they were served with an injunction ordering them to dismantle the blockade by CN police. Later that day Ron Plain, a member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, arrived home from a trip and became the spokesperson for the blockade.

Pipelines have already carried share of hot air

Aside from oil and gas, pipelines seem to be useful conduits for transporting another commodity we seem to have a surplus of - hot air.

No sooner had Premier Brad Wall returned from his trip to Washington, D.C., last week, where he spoke to politicians and business leaders about the importance of approving the Keystone XL pipeline, he was blasting federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair for failing to defend Canada's interests in the U.S., namely promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.

B.C. Prisoners' Rights Group Protests Non-Christian Chaplain Layoffs

A prisoners' rights group in B.C. is suing the federal government for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of non-Christian inmates by cancelling the contracts of 18 non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons.

Two Buddhists, two Wiccans, two Muslims, a Sikh and a Jewish believer say Corrections Canada is denying them reasonable access to religion and spirituality.

Penashue's Former Agent 'Unintentionally' Accepted Corporate Donation

The "inexperienced volunteer" former Conservative minister Peter Penashue blamed for "ineligible donations" made to his 2011 federal election campaign says he "unintentionally" accepted at least one corporate donation, which is illegal under Canadian law.

In an exclusive interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Reg Bowers, the former campaign manager and official agent to Penashue during the last federal election campaign told host Evan Solomon he accepted a cheque from Pennecon Ltd., a construction company based in St. John's, because "they were trying to get a donation into us before the deadline."

'London Whale' Traders Allegedly Bullied JPMorgan Colleagues As Large Losses Became Apparent

As top executives inside a JP Morgan trading unit confronted massive losses on derivatives, they were so desperate to limit the damage that they did more than mislead regulators and manipulate their books: They pressured colleagues in other units of the bank to absorb some of the losses, according to the Senate probe of the episode released late Thursday.

Voices from Solitary: A Sentence Worse Than Death

“You deserve an eternity in hell,” Onondaga County Supreme Court judge Kevin Mulroy told me from his bench as I stood before him for sentencing on July 10, 1987. Apparently he had the idea that God was not the only one justified to make such judgment calls.

Judge Mulroy wanted to “pump six buck’s worth of electricity into [my] body,” he also said, though I suggest that it wouldn’t have taken six cent’s worth to get me good and dead. He must have wanted to reduce me and The Chair to a pile of ashes. My “friend” Governor Mario Cuomo wouldn’t allow him to do that, though, the judge went on, bemoaning New York State’s lack of a death statute due to the then-Governor’s repeated vetoes of death penalty bills that had been approved by the state legislature. Governor Cuomo’s publicly expressed dudgeon over being called a friend of mine by Judge Mulroy was understandable, given the crimes that I had just been convicted of committing. I didn’t care much for him either, truth be told. He built too many new prisons in my opinion, and cut academic and vocational programs in the prisons already standing.

Steve King CPAC Speech: Congressman Speaks At Annual Conservative Conference

In a brief speech to the CPAC faithful, Saturday morning, Iowa Rep. Steve King was heavy on religion, asserting that while many of the "pillars of American exceptionalism" involve secular ideas and legal notions -- including free markets -- there was still a "lot more to this country than buy, sell, trade, make, gain."

King discussed his steadfast anti-abortion stance -- casting himself as standing against not just liberal Democrats, but also the "rebranding" effort taking place in the GOP and "political expedience." Where former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once famously called for a "social truce" -- in which conservatives table social issues to discuss fiscal matters -- King reminded the crowd that he's been winning elections while never quieting on social issues. "Some want to rebrand the GOP," King said, "but they will never rebrand conservatives."

King also has no great love for the comprehensive immigration reform plan working its way through Congress -- calling it a "deconstruction" of the rule of law.

Original Article
Author:  Jason Linkins 

How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich

The nation is still recovering from a crushing recession that sent unemployment hovering above nine percent for two straight years. The president, mindful of soaring deficits, is pushing bold action to shore up the nation's balance sheet. Cloaking himself in the language of class warfare, he calls on a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. "We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share," he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, "sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that's crazy."

Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. "Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver," he demands, "or less?"

The GOP's Real Agenda

After watching voters punish the GOP in the 2012 elections, Republican elites have been talking a brave game about reforms that would make the party less repulsive to Latinos, women and gay-friendly millennials. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the GOP's hip-hop-quoting young standard-bearer, is pressing conservatives to back an amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Dozens of party stalwarts, headlined by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, renounced their opposition to gay marriage in a Supreme Court brief. GOP bigwigs have even launched New Republican – a group modeled after Bill Clinton's centrist Democratic Leadership Council – which seeks to rebrand the party as "colorblind," "not anti-government" and dedicated to "ending corporate welfare."

Scott Walker CPAC Speech: Governor Speaks At Annual Conservative Conference

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the stage Saturday at CPAC, praising the assemblage for its support during the fraught Wisconsin recall fight, which Walker won, allowing him to stay in power. His speech was themed around the idea that the states are the laboratories of policy -- "Real reform does not happen in Washington, it happens in the statehouses throughout this country," he said -- and that he, in particular, was leading the way to end "government dependency."

If future GOP presidential runs depend on silver-tongues articulation of dorm-room "makers vs. takers" arguments, then Walker's future is pretty bright.

No Exit? Greece's Ongoing Crisis

When the New Year kicked off in Athens, a pall of smoke hung over the city. Steep hikes in fuel prices had pushed people to burn wood to stay warm, and even discarded Christmas trees were being fed into the fires. At the same time, a series of small explosions targeted the offices of the two major parties, New Democracy and Pasok, as well as the residences of several prominent journalists. Most shocking of all was a series of brutal beheadings across the capital that quickly became fodder for headlines, with the victims including a former central banker, a Dutch credit ratings executive and the CEO of a small debt collection agency. Well, not quite—the beheadings are described in Lixiprothesma daneia (Expiring Loans), the first novel in a new crisis trilogy by the leading Greek crime writer, Petros Markaris, whose detective hero, Inspector Costas Haritos, is as shrewd a reader of the mood in Athens as anyone. Greece is now sunk in its sixth straight year of recession, and with social and political disintegration reaching extremes not seen since World War II, it is no longer easy to separate fact from fiction.

A Truly Progressive Budget Vision

Paul Ryan’s recently released budget will not become law—at least not any time soon. The Democratic Senate would never pass it, President Obama would never sign it. Ryan surely knows this, and his proposal is a fantasy budget: more an ideological argument than genuine attempt at legislating.

That hasn’t stopped widespread media coverage of Ryan’s proposal, and that’s fine: he’s a leading thinker of the conservative movement, with real power. But corresponding attention should also be paid to the opposite ideological vision sketched out by the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the “Back to Work” budget proposal, released on Wednesday.

Iraq War's Missing Prisoners: Families Search For 16,000 Unaccounted Who May Be Held In Secret Prisons

Qawthar Shihab Ahmed fervently hopes her brother, who she said was seized in Baghdad in 2007 by men in police uniforms, is being held in a secret prison -- probably the only hope that he is still alive.

Her brother Arkan is just one of thousands of Iraqis still missing from the past 10 years of conflict. Some were hauled off as relatives watched, while others disappeared in unknown circumstances.

Montreal Anti-Police Brutality Protest Declared Illegal

MONTREAL - Police wasted little time Friday cracking down on an annual protest that has a history of getting rowdy, deploying charging squads of helmeted officers, cops on horseback and pepper spray to corral demonstrators.

Montreal police, who have been dealing with regular protests since student unrest last year, usually let peaceful marches proceed even if they have been declared illegal under municipal bylaws.

Federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled’ under new code of conduct that stresses ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government

Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.

Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”

The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,” also spells out how offenders can be reported.

Kevin Page blames ‘weak’ public service for not serving Parliament, Canadians

OTTAWA — Days before he leaves the job, Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is striking out at a secretive public service for starving Parliament of the information it needs to hold the government to account.

Page is pulling no punches in the final days of his mandate, veering into punditry that infuriates the government and his detractors. He wants public servants to serve Parliament and not just the government; he wants Parliament to regain “power of the purse” and he wants Canadians to fight to save his office, which he fears is doomed.

Harper government mum on why Vancouver immigration raid was filmed by TV crew

OTTAWA — The federal government is hoping to “educate” Canadians about the efforts of its border guard agents by taking part in a B.C.-based reality TV program, the Canada Border Services Agency said Friday.

The CBSA was responding to critics who say the show, which films agents arresting drug smugglers and “phoney immigrants,” is a taxpayer-funded attempt to promote the Conservatives’ law-and-order agenda.

Harper government’s muzzling of scientists a mark of shame for Canada

“In my view, scientists should stick to science.”

This was a Conservative MP’s response to my testimony at a 2012 parliamentary committee after I’d chaired a Royal Society of Canada expert panel on how climate change, fisheries, and aquaculture affect Canadian ocean biodiversity. Among other things, our report concluded that constructive and respectful debate on salmon aquaculture is hindered by a lack of full disclosure of diseases on fish farms, a concern echoed by Justice Bruce Cohen in his October 2012 report on Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Memo aims to reassure PM on cost of navy ships

OTTAWA -- A leaked memo shows officials at National Defence scrambled behind the scenes last month to reassure the Harper government they knew how much it would cost to replace the navy's supply ships.

In a report released last month, parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said not enough money had been set aside for the $2.6-billion joint support ship program. Page suggested it would cost more than $4.1 billion to replace the existing vessels -- HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver. Both ships are more than 40 years old and the stop-and-start process to acquire new ships has been going on for a decade.

Taking ideology out of politics

I miss hearing from those clowns in Italy: not the ones at the papal conclave, the ones in the election a few weeks ago. They were serious clowns.

Especially Beppe Grillo, the comic who heads the party that got the most votes. He wants a referendum to take Italy out of the euro because it's like a shovel with which you keep digging the hole you're in deeper. It may have sounded good in theory but in practice it's been used by bondholders in the north to torture populations in the south. Lots of people think that but he says it.

How to Save One of BC's Last, Great Co-op Ski Hills

Getting up the long logging road that leads to Mount Cain requires tire chains. I should know: I have spent hours digging myself out of the high snow banks that flank the road that takes skiers and snowboarders up every Saturday and down every Sunday.

The snow banks are Campbell Wilson's fault. Wilson, a Cain local, and a few dedicated volunteers run a giant, insectine machine along the 14-kilometres of road to keep it passable during even the powder-iest of powder days.

Canada drops out of top 10 most developed countries list

Canada has slipped out of the top 10 countries listed in the annual United Nation's human development index — a far cry from the 1990s when it held the first place for most of the decade.

The 2013 report, which reviews a country's performance in health, education and income, places Canada in 11th place versus 10th last year.

Windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth, Australian study finds

Sickness being attributed to wind turbines is more likely to have been caused by people getting alarmed at the health warnings circulated by activists, an Australian study has found.

Complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-windfarm groups, said the report's author, Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University. His report concludes that illnesses being blamed on windfarms are more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves.

More than 250 arrested in Montreal anti-police brutality protest

The 17th annual protest against police brutality wrapped up in Montreal with more than 250 people arrested and taken away on city buses and in police vehicles.

According to Montreal police, the majority of people were arrested under municipal bylaw P-6, which makes it illegal to cover one's face while taking part in a protest and for failing to provide authorities with an itinerary.

In a tweet, authorities also said some people were arrested for breach of peace.

On 'gray rape,' Girls, and sex in a rape culture

About five years ago, I was out and about with some dude-friends. We went to a bunch of bars, danced, drank, etc. I was single and also, therefore, mingling. Flirting, they call it. Eventually when there was no more bar-hopping to be had, we went back to a friend’s house and laughed and talked and made jokes and took stupid photos. One of the men I’d been flirting with, let’s call him Brad*, gave me a ride home. We got to my house, made out, and I said something along the lines of “Alrighty then, see you later!” He said “No, I’m coming in.” I said “No, you’re not.” This charming back and forth went on for a little while until, eventually, he did come in.

Tories might miss Page one day

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page departs his post next week. The Conservative government is, no doubt, relieved. In the five years since his appointment, Page has consistently demonstrated the necessity of his office and, in doing so, highlighted just how far Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has fallen from its promise of transparency and accountability.

In the 2006 election, the Conservatives took advantage of the Liberals’ embarrassment over the Quebec sponsorship scandal to proclaim they’d do government differently. Critical of Chrétien-era accounting — all those underestimates on budget surpluses — they promised to bring in legislation ensuring greater accountability and transparency on how the federal government expends the nation’s treasure.

MP Bruinooge says Bill 18 could infringe on religious freedoms

Winnipeg Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge said today he believes the NDP’s Bill 18 could infringe the religious freedoms of other faiths besides some Christian groups.

But Manitoba’s education minister Nancy Allan says she is unwilling to make exceptions to the government’s anti-bullying bill to accommodate faith-based groups.

Bruinooge also said the anti-bullying bill should provide exceptions for religious schools from the parts of the bill they feel violates their religious freedom.

Fisheries Department dismantling summer cabins of scientists at water research facility

OTTAWA – With about two weeks remaining prior to a scheduled shutdown or transfer to new management of a world-renowned federal water research facility, the federal government has started to dismantle the summer cabins used by scientists doing field work at the Experimental Lakes Area.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Friday it was doing “minor work” on some cabins in preparation for their removal because they were nearing the end of their life-cycle.

Different fates for Kevin Page and Graham Fraser on Parliament Hill

MONTREAL—In their respective roles as official languages commissioner and parliamentary budget officer, Graham Fraser and Kevin Page have heaped their share of unwelcome criticism on Stephen Harper’s prickly government over the past few years.

But while Page has gotten so deep under the skin of the Conservatives that they publicly treat him like an insufferable itch, Fraser has just been offered a three-year extension to his mandate.

Rob Ford: Supreme Court Asked To Look At Ouster Action

TORONTO - The man who almost managed to have Toronto Mayor Rob Ford turfed from office is hoping the country's top court will hear the case.

Paul Magder is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a ruling that allowed Ford to stay in the mayor's chair.

In his application, Magder says the case raises novel questions about the powers of municipalities to govern themselves and to hold public officials to account.

Last fall, an Ontario court ordered Ford removed from office for violating conflict laws by taking part in a vote in which he had a financial interest.

Ford, however, argued on appeal to Divisional Court that the ruling was in error — and the court sided with him on what was essentially a technicality.

It could be many months before the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case.

Original Article
Author: CP

Countries With Most, Least Vacation Time: Canada Near Bottom In Global Survey

Canada may have fallen out of the top 10 on the UN’s list of the world’s most developed countries, but here’s a ranking where the country never even stood a chance of cracking the top 10.

In fact, Canada sits squarely in the bottom five when it comes to mandated vacation time, according to a survey from human resources consultancy Mercer.

France, Canada Sign Deal On 'Cultivated Microalgae' Research

OTTAWA - The Harper government used a visit by the French prime minister Thursday to burnish its tarnished reputation in Europe on energy and the environment.

France and Canada signed a joint declaration on, among other things, a research co-operation initiative to explore how cultivated microalgae can help in the removal of certain greenhouse gases from industrial emissions.

Jamie Dimon Email Directly Ties JPMorgan CEO To $6.2 Billion Fiasco

Jamie Dimon’s email response was direct and to the point. “I approve,” he wrote to an oversight body within his enormous bank, JPMorgan Chase, thereby giving his blessing to an increase in the amount of risk the institution could shoulder. He also approved a change in the way a key trading unit was assessing threats of trouble in its then-burgeoning portfolio.

CPAC Panel On Race: 'Young, White Southern Males' Hurt By Racial Outreach

A panel discussion on race at the Conservative Political Action Conference turned into a debate over slavery and segregation when an attendee from North Carolina said that "young, white, Southern males" are being disenfranchised by Republicans.

Scott Terry, 30, rose from his seat to question the discussion leader, K. Carl Smith, from the Frederick Douglass Republicans, over the role of race in the Republican Party. Terry said that the growth of diversity in the party and outreach to black conservatives has been "at the expense of young, white, Southern males like myself."

North Dakota Senate Passes Two Unprecedented Abortion Bans

The North Dakota State Senate passed two anti-abortion bills on Friday that would be the first laws of their kind in the United States and would ban most abortions in the state. One bill would prevent women from having abortions as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, and the other bans abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome.

House Bill 1456, the heartbeat ban, passed the North Dakota House of Representatives earlier this year and now heads to Gov. Jack Dalrymple's (R) desk to be signed. The law would subject doctors to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison if they perform an abortion after the fetal heartbeat can be detected, surpassing Arkansas' new 12-week abortion ban to become the strictest abortion law in the country. The Republican-controlled Senate voted to pass it on Friday without any discussion.