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, May 17, 2013

Bob Rennie: Vancouver Real Estate Market Will Split

Vancouver's real estate will split into two markets over the next 15 years, and both of them will be financed by baby boomers, a prominent developer said Thursday.

Condo king Bob Rennie told an Urban Development Institute audience that the city's markets will be divided between aging baby boomers and first-time homebuyers, with the latter's purchases financed by the former, The Vancouver Sun reported.

Nigel Wright was only doing his job, which is why he now has to go

By all accounts Nigel Wright is exceptionally capable, unfailingly conscientious and thoroughly proper. Mutual acquaintances insist he is someone you would always want on your side. Whose intelligence is obvious. And whose integrity you would never have cause to question.

The same cannot be so easily said of Mike Duffy, the good Senator from Payday Loans.

Ex-BMO analyst agrees to $1.2 million fine for insider trading

A former investment banking analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns will pay nearly $1.2 million to the province’s stock market watchdog to settle allegations of illegal insider trading.

Michael Zhao, 28, also faces permanent bans on stock trading and working in the investment industry, according to the terms of the settlement deal.

“I believe the range and magnitude of the sanctions ordered today speak for themselves,” OSC commissioner Edward Kerwin said as he approved the deal and then reprimanded Zhao during a brief hearing on Friday.

Transforming capitalism won’t happen without leadership

“Capitalism is the Crisis” (Occupy Wall Street Sign).

The industrial age is finally coming to an end, and with it the old model of capitalism is ending as well.

The continuing global economic mess, growing inequalities and environmental destruction, to name a few crises, are causing many to ask: Is global capitalism fixable as a system, and if so, what is to be done?

Dangerous game of ‘diaspora politics’ is here to stay

The Conservatives' foreign policy is too often based not on principle, but on pandering to diaspora communities in order to win votes. columnist Natalie Brender recently argued that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka this November is because of that country’s deteriorating human rights and governance record. Harper’s purpose, she claims, is “to convey principled condemnation of what’s happening to human rights and democracy in Sri Lanka” in a challenge to our claim that this is more obviously pandering to the Tamil diaspora in order to win votes.

It Shouldn’t Be Left Up to Corporations to Decide on Safety Plan in Bangladesh

This week has been a waiting game for consumers, as we’ve followed news of fashion brands that source from Bangladesh to see how they respond to the late-April collapse of the Rana Plaza factory where, to date, more than 1,100 garment workers have perished. Clothing companies and labor groups have been busy etching out a rigorous fire and safety agreement, which establishes independent inspections of the country’s factories, is legally binding, and requires that improvements in building safety be partially funded by fashion brands.

Congress Is Ready to Fight Over Deep Food Stamp Cuts

Late Wednesday night, the House Agriculture Committee passed a comprehensive, $940 billion farm bill. This was a first step towards making a real, five-year bill law—something the last Congress failed to do, and something that, by all accounts, this Congress deems an absolute necessity.

But one central issue could derail the farm legislation once again: food stamp cuts. Republicans are demanding even deeper cuts than what they proposed last year, and Thursday morning on Capitol Hill, several House Democrats made it clear they are willing to let the farm bill die if it contains those steep cuts.

Dubious Dealings of Tea Party Groups Could Have Drawn IRS Scrutiny

Virtually everyone in Washington agrees on at least one thing about the IRS scandal: The tax agency's trolling for tea party groups and giving extra scrutiny to their applications for nonprofit status was an egregious violation. Exactly how and why that conduct took place remains under investigation. But as conservatives in particular decry the IRS failure, it's also worth considering the dubious fiscal history of some tea party groups, including their pursuit of non-profit status. While the IRS had absolutely no business profiling any groups based on political criteria, it is not blaming the victim to observe that scrutiny was warranted in specific cases—and they include some major tea party outfits and their leaders, documents show.

Benghazi: What Did the CIA Know, and When Did It Know It?

GOP scandal-chasers have been obsessed with the Obama administration's talking points about the attack on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, and the White House on Wednesday tried to put the pseudo-scandal to rest by releasing a batch of interagency emails related to the talking points.

These emails thoroughly undercut the conservative charge that the White House massaged the talking points to whitewash the attack and protect President Obama's reelection prospects. One email from a CIA official noted that the White House "cleared quickly" the talking points drafted by the CIA but the State Department had concerns. Poof—there goes the conspiracy theory that Obama's aides excised references to terrorism and an Al Qaeda-linked group for campaign-related reasons. But questions about the Benghazi episode remain, particularly this one: Has the CIA avoided scrutiny for its central role in this affair?

Canada's Oil And Gas Sector Jobs Not Attracting Youth: Report

Canada’s oil and gas industry is in trouble.

Not financially, of course. A 2013 survey by Hays Oil and Gas, a recruitment and consulting firm, ranked Canada fifth in highest salaries for the sector — a cool average of $123,000.

The sector’s problem is people. More specifically, a lack of people.

Northern Gateway Pipeline Crew Evicted By Gitga'at Nation

HARTLEY BAY, B.C. - Members of the Gitga'at Nation say they have evicted a Northern Gateway Pipelines crew from their territory on the north coast of British Columbia as it tried to conduct oil spill response surveys.

The small First Nation of Hartley Bay says the crew showed up to carry out work on the project that has not been approved, and that the Gitga'at continue to oppose.

Sun News: Mike Duffy Didn't Pressure CRTC On Our Behalf

Sun News is denying a report that scandal-plagued Senator Mike Duffy inappropriately pressured the CRTC into approving its bid to be a mandatory part of cable and satellite TV.

“Senator Duffy does not, nor has he ever, been employed as a lobbyist for Sun News/Sun Media. Nor have we asked Senator Duffy act as an agent on our behalf,” network vice-president Kory Teneycke said in a statement published by Sun Media national bureau chief David Akin.

Is Duffy from P.E.I. or PMO?

Since being appointed a senator for Prince Edward Island by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mike Duffy has gained a reputation for rousing and sometimes ribald public speaking, often at Conservative party fundraising events.

It’s time he spoke to the Canadian public about something serious — the mess of his Senate expense claims and the even bigger mess created by the way he paid back $90,000 he received for claiming his P.E.I. cottage as his primary residence.

Canadian Senate problems go far beyond Mike Duffy

Everyone is piling on Mike Duffy. The senator from Prince Edward Island is under furious attack for improperly claiming taxpayer-funded expenses, and rightly so.

The latest charge, first reported by The Canadian Press, is that Duffy claimed expenses for being on Senate business in 2011 when, in fact, he was campaigning for the re-election of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

The senator, the PM and the rot at the top

That is not Mike Duffy on the rotisserie, basting in his own juices. It is the prime minister of Canada.

Stephen Harper created Mike Duffy and, in the end, this crisis will be about one thing: What will Dear Leader do?

Flabby, self-indulgent and heart-attack prone, the Harper government has landed itself in a water-cooler crisis. Those are the political scandals that get people talking around the water-coolers at work.

Tirades won't stop global warming: Harper

NEW YORK -- Global warming will only be brought under control by deep international collaboration and intense investment in technology -- not yelling on street corners, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Harper was in New York all day Thursday, addressing an influential group of American academics at the Council on Foreign Relations and meeting separately with a tight-knit group of business leaders.

Harper government withheld documents in indigenous human-rights case

The Harper government withheld tens of thousands of documents that it was obligated to disclose as part of a human-rights case in which it is accused of discriminating against indigenous children. Now, it is using its failure to hand over the files to try to get the proceedings put on hold.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2007 saying it is wrong for the federal government to pay 22 per cent less for child welfare on reserves than the provinces pay for non-aboriginal welfare services.

CBC journalist Charles Rusnell: Slaying Alberta's Tory dragon, one scandal at a time …

You'd think it would be easy to run a petroleum-soaked, cash-rich jurisdiction like Alberta, but a day seldom seems to pass out here on the western edge of the Great Plains without our governing Progressive Conservative Party suffering another pratfall or embarrassment.

But how many Albertans know that so many of these scandals bedevilling our permanent governing party have been uncovered by the same guy -- a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. investigative reporter named Charles Rusnell?

Historical reformers: Why and how democratic institutions change

Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West 
by Dennis Pilon (University of Toronto Press Publishing, 2013; $37.95)

The following is an excerpt from the new book Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West, which examines why voting systems have or have not changed in western industrialized countries over the past century.

For historians, sociologists, political theorists and many others, democracy is recognized as a fundamentally contested concept. Political scientists, by contrast, tend to treat democracy as fixed and unproblematic, equating it with regular elections, multiparty competition and the existence of commercial media.

Senator Duffy and the little matter of accountability

Clearly a calculation took place inside the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday and it was this: At what point does a political asset become a government liability?

In the case of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, it is now clear what the answer was. Duffy resigned from the party's caucus Thursday night to sit as an independent, done in by new revelations from CBC News and other media outlets that he was charging Conservative candidates for expenses in the 2011 campaign, on days when he also claimed to be conducting Senate business.

Fracking may jeopardize Gros Morne UNESCO status

Gros Morne National Park's status as a world heritage site may be in jeopardy due to plans for controversial oil exploration on Newfoundland's west coast, CBC News has learned.

Black Spruce Exploration wants to use hydraulic fracturing — the so-called fracking process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth — to find oil and gas in Sally's Cove and other areas, which lie just a few kilometres from the boundaries of the park.

Barack Obama's war on the press

Suddenly, Barack Obama is terribly concerned with freedom of the press.

The president is now championing a federal "shield law" to protect journalists from overzealous prosecutors and police.

The irony and hypocrisy of this is simply breathtaking. That it's happening in America, of all places, is just sad.

Released From Prison, Climate Activist Tim DeChristopher on Civil Disobedience & Building Movements

We turn now to climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher, who was released last month after 21 months in federal custody. DeChristopher was convicted of interfering with a public auction in 2008 when he disrupted the Bush administration’s last-minute move to auction off oil and gas exploitation rights in Utah by posing as a bidder. He is the subject of the new documentary, “Bidder 70.” “We need to be building power as a social movement. One of the weaknesses for the climate movement,” DeChristopher explains is that “we still have this huge divide between the political side of the movement that focuses on Washington and the grassroots side of the movement that’s been building real power.”

Author: --

Toronto home sales slump 10 per cent in mid-May, but prices continue to climb

House sales were down almost 10 per cent in the first half of May, but prices climbed by one of their highest levels in months — a 5.4 per cent gain driven largely by sales of detached homes.

But even condos more than held their own. While sales were down 13 per cent across the GTA, and the inventory of units for sale remains above historic norms, prices were up 1.1 per cent overall across the GTA — 2.1 per cent in the city.

Peter Worthington and the politics of horizontalism

I’ll miss Peter Worthington, Canada’s archetypal right-wing journalist, who died this week at 86. I say that without irony or subtext. I’ll just miss him. When we did public events together we were always positioned as left vs. right. But I couldn’t conceal my delight at seeing him. CBC’s Michael Enright, who hosted one panel, said: “Would you two stop acting like long-lost brothers?”

We’d written against each other before we met. I was specially irked by his impulse to meddle, through his connections at agencies like the RCMP security service. In retrospect, though, I’m not sure that’s much different from what leftish writers like myself would call activism: putting your beliefs into practise. Worthington saw himself as an active Cold Warrior in that conflict’s heyday.

How to improve an unjust court system

No one plans to go to family court. But life takes unexpected twists. A couple’s marriage hits a rough spot. Tensions build, destabilizing the children and driving away friends. At some point, divorce becomes the only viable option.

Suddenly, what was personal becomes legal. The estranged partners have to sever their relationship, divide their assets and determine who gets custody of the children.

Ford says no to Toronto Casino

Toronto will not be getting a downtown casino.

Mayor Rob Ford held a press conference Thursday afternoon to declare that he has dropped his push to bring a gaming resort to the city core.

Ford has been a vocal booster of the controversial proposal, arguing in recent months that the development would create "10,000 good paying jobs" and that the province would give the city upwards of $100 million a year for hosting a gambling complex at Exhibition Place or the site of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Obama vs. the Press

When I was a teen-ager and studying journalism in an after-school program, I had an instructor named Bill Farr. Bill was an L.A. Times reporter who had gone to jail for forty-six days in the early seventies for refusing to reveal his sources in a story about the Manson trial. He was a cheerful, easygoing guy, and even when he’d occasionally refer to himself as a jailbird, it was hard for me to imagine him going through something so extreme. Bill was also modest, in the way of certain old-school reporters. He hadn’t, he’s said, done anything that any decent reporter wouldn’t do. He hoped we wouldn’t have to, but he said he knew we’d be willing to do the same, because unless sources could trust us to keep them confidential, they wouldn’t tell us important things that the public had a right to know.

"Astoundingly Disturbing": Obama Administration Claims Power to Wage Endless War Across the Globe

A Pentagon official predicted Thursday the war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates could last up to 20 more years. The comment came during a Senate hearing revisiting the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, enacted by Congress days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. At the hearing, Pentagon officials claimed the AUMF gives the president power to wage endless war anywhere in the world, including in Syria, Yemen and the Congo. "This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here," said Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine. "You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today." We play excerpts of Thursday’s Senate hearing and our recent interview with Jeremy Scahill, author of the new bestseller, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield."

Author: -

Foreclosure Crisis Cost U.S. $192.6 Billion In Lost Wealth Last Year, Study Finds

The housing market may be recovering, but the country is still suffering.

Americans lost $192.6 billion in wealth, or an average of $1,700 per household, last year due to foreclosures, according to a report released Thursday by the Alliance for a Just Society, a coalition of progressive grassroots organizations across the country. The report also found that the U.S. could lose $221 billion if officials don't come to the aid of millions of borrowers who owe more on their homes than they're actually worth.

Obama War Powers Under 2001 Law 'Astoundingly Disturbing,' Senators Say

WASHINGTON -- The war authorization that Congress passed after 9/11 will be needed for at least 10 to 20 more years, and can be used to put the United States military on the ground anywhere, from Syria to the Congo to Boston, military officials argued Thursday.

The revelations came during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and surprised even experts in America's use of force stemming from the terrorist attacks in 2001.

Brazeau wants Senate expenses issue aired in public

Senator Patrick Brazeau is repeating his demand that a Senate committee that ordered him to repay thousands of dollars in living and travel expenses explain its decision at a public hearing.

Last week, the Senate ordered Brazeau to repay $48,000 in expenses because it found he had wrongly declared his primary residence to be in Maniwaki, Que., about 135 kilometres from Ottawa.

Harper faces protest in New York City over Canada's dismal climate policies and Keystone XL

Stephen Harper visited New York City to give a speech pushing for the United States to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. The climate action group organized a protest outside Harper's event, issuing the following statement.

The Big Apple proved to be an unfriendly landing spot today for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose sales job for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was interrupted by scores of climate activists who want President Obama to reject the pipeline and for Harper to re-commit Canada to confronting climate change.

LCBO and union strike last-minute deal, avert strike

A strike of almost 7,000 Liquor Control Board of Ontario employees has been averted as both sides reached a tentative deal Thursday night, a few hours shy of a midnight deadline.

“We have a new tentative agreement with our 6,700 unionized employees,” said LCBO spokeswoman Heather MacGregor at a press conference. “The ratification process will now be under way. The LCBO board has to approve, as does the government, but we’re happy that a strike has been averted.”

Police watchdog criticised for errors in investigation into death in custody

The police watchdog made a series of errors in an investigation that cleared officers over the death of a man in custody, an independent report has found.

Sean Rigg, 40, died after being restrained and arrested in 2008 in south London. An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled that officers had acted reasonably and proportionately.

MP on Google tax avoidance scheme: 'I think that you do evil'

Google and Amazon came under fierce attack from MPs and tax campaigners after fresh whistleblower allegations put further strain on claims by the internet giants that their multibillion-pound UK-facing businesses should not be taxed by Revenue & Customs.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, told Google's northern Europe boss, Matt Brittin, that his company's behaviour on tax was "devious, calculated and, in my view, unethical".

Mike Duffy tried to influence CRTC decision on Sun Media: source

Sen. Mike Duffy attempted to influence the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s upcoming decision involving the right-leaning Sun News Network, a source has told CTV News.

A well-placed source told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that Duffy approached a Conservative insider with connections to the CRTC three weeks ago to discuss Sun Media, which is asking the federal regulator to grant its news channel “mandatory carriage,” or guaranteed placement on basic cable and satellite packages.

Don't Get Sucked Into Obama Scandal–mania

Benghazi, the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, the Department of Justice secretly seizing AP phone records: It’s a “trifecta” of scandals, Chuck Todd said. A “perfect storm,” Ron Fournier of National Journal wrote. “Obama’s Watergate?” Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show asked. And indeed Republicans, the mainstream media and all too many liberals have been getting emotionally swept up in the belief that no matter the merit of any one of these “scandals” (some more deserving of scare quotes than others), together they prove the Obama administration to be fatally scandal-prone, if not Nixonian, and predict flat-out second-term doom.

Should President Obama Fire Eric Holder?

Michael Tomasky wants Eric Holder's head on a platter:

    Did I, as a liberal columnist who called immediately on President Obama to seek Eric Holder’s resignation over the Associated Press scandal, provide aid and comfort to the enemy? First of all, I don’t care—what happened struck me as a serious abuse of power....And second, no, I don’t think I provided them aid and comfort anyway. In fact I think recent history shows beyond a doubt that foot-dragging and avoidance are the true aid-and-comforters; they always, always, always make these things worse.

More hard times in Harperland

This one — the latest imbroglio in the Mike Duffy saga — is hard to figure. There is much that goes on in Harperland that is difficult to fathom. There are scandals of greater potential heft — the robocalls’ story being one of them, should the allegations be proved.

But the case of a senator’s duplicity in the handling of his living expenses now reaches deeply into the prime minister’s office. As such, it could prove more punitive than imagined.

Sailor with cancer charged for being AWOL over sick day

A sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy says she’s fighting two battles right now — one against breast cancer and another against the navy — over a disputed sick day last year.

“I can't put into words how it feels,” said Able Seaman Carol Anne Deyoung. “I feel somehow betrayed."

Deyoung said she felt a growing lump in her breast last June and called in sick.

Grade 5 kids urge Harper to drop mean attack ads against Justin Trudeau

OTTAWA - Some Grade 5 students have some advice for Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Stop being mean to Justin Trudeau.

Seven students from an Ottawa-area Catholic school have written to Harper asking that he pull Conservative attack ads, which began running within hours of Trudeau claiming the Liberal leadership last month.

The letter-writing campaign comes as a new poll suggests the attack ads may have backfired.

Duffy's public salary, benefits don't paint picture of man down on his luck

OTTAWA - The Conservatives say Nigel Wright's controversial gift of $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy was an act of compassion by the prime minister's chief of staff, intended to help a man under financial pressure and down on his luck.

But was he? And if so, why?

Duffy isn't speaking to reporters these days, so details aren't forthcoming. But his history as a prominent TV journalist, senator and public speaker paints a picture of a man who collected a six-figure salary for decades.

Finance Department plans to spend $10-million on ‘Economic Action Plan’ budget ads this year

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Finance Department alone plans to spend $10-million on its own over the next 12 months on the federal government’s “Economic Action Plan” budget advertisements, which will bring total costs for the controversial ad campaign to a minimum of $104.8-million over four years.

A spokesman for the Finance Department confirmed to The Hill Times this week that a brief reference to $6-million for advertising in the department’s spending documents for the 2013-14 fiscal year is on top of $3.2-million finance officials recently revealed that was spent by the department over the past 12 months.

Harper 'skeptical' of inquiry into missing aboriginal women

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he remains skeptical that a national inquiry would give answers to concerns about missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

Harper made the comment Thursday in New York City, where he was promoting Canada-U.S. trade and the Keystone XL pipeline to business leaders.