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.]

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mint chair should be removed in wake of offshore tax revelation: Mulcair

Jim Love should be removed as chairman of the Royal Canadian Mint in the wake of the revelation he helped set up an elaborate offshore scheme to help a wealthy family avoid millions of dollars in Canadian taxes, says NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

Moreover, Mulcair wants to know how long Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has known about Love’s involvement in the scheme and the lawsuit launched by the family of former Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen.

Foreign service must focus on commerce: Fast

OTTAWA - The Harper government says it wants Canadian diplomats in foreign countries to re-channel their energies and resources into advancing the country's commercial interests.

Trade Minister Ed Fast has laid out a new strategic direction for Canada's foreign service called "economic diplomacy," a plan that's designed to put commerce at the heart of foreign policy.

The objective is to improve Canada's lacklustre trade and investment performance in emerging markets, which the government and the Bank of Canada have identified as key to the country's future prosperity.

Cyberbullying Bill Won't Stop Online Taunts, Critics Say

Justice Minister Peter MacKay has called Bill C-13, the anti-cyberbullying legislation he introduced last week, a key tool in "ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation.”

Although child psychologists and youth activists support increased attention to this issue, they say C-13 is unlikely to stop cyberbullying.

They feel the bill follows a narrow definition of cyberbullying and doesn’t address the underlying misogyny and homophobia that inspires so much online teasing.

Canadian Construction Workers, Farmers See Serious Income Gains

Congratulations, farmers and construction workers of Canada — you guys are making money hand over fist.

Or so it would appear from a pair of new surveys from StatsCan, showing Canadian farmers’ profits jumping nearly a third in 2012, while construction workers took home the country’s largest pay hikes.

Farmers made a total profit of $7.3 billion in 2012, StatsCan said in a survey released Tuesday, a jump of 31.7 per cent over the previous year. That followed an even larger profit gain in 2011 — 51.6 per cent.

Turkey at $1.38 a Pound Sounds Great. Until You Think About What That Means

In Wisconsin, you can buy a Butterball turkey for $1.38 per pound, reports Nami Moon Farms, on its blog. That's about $16.50 for a 12-pound bird—a Thanksgiving main course for eight, plus "ample leftovers." The Nami Moon folks calculate that if they tried to compete with Butterball on price in the their pasture-based turkey system, they'd lose $36.44 per bird—representing a loss of $1,822 for the 50 birds they raise.

Now, a conventional economist would likely conclude from this information that Butterball represents the height of industrial efficiency, while Nami Moon is an anachronism. But the low price  doesn't just reflect efficiency. It also, as the veteran agriculture reporter Christopher Leonard showed in a Friday Washington Post op-ed, reveals power—specifically, the power to exploit farmers.

Block the US-Afghan Security Agreement!

Despite strong objections from President Hamid Karzai, the United States insists that Afghanistan must sign, as written, a Bilateral Security Agreement that sets the framework for another decade of US occupation of that war-torn nation. According to the terms of the proposed accord, the United States will be able to maintain up to nine military bases, along with 8,000–12,000 troops (and a smaller contingent of European and other forces), through 2024. Over Afghan opposition, the agreement states that US troops will not be subject to Afghan law for criminal acts—even war crimes. Among the sensible points raised at the eleventh hour by Karzai: that US forces be prohibited from conducting night raids of Afghan homes and that Washington start peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban.

Female Egyptian Protesters Say They Were Sexually Assaulted And Dumped In The Desert Last Night

CAIRO, Egypt -- On Tuesday night, Egyptian security forces arrested, beat and sexually assaulted about a dozen female protesters before leaving them in the desert outside of Cairo, the protesters said. The women, many of whom are high-profile activists, were part of a larger protest against military trials for civilians that was violently dispersed in accordance with a new anti-protest law.

Mona Seif, one of the protesters arrested, said in a video on social media that she and other demonstrators were left in a secluded part of the desert after being "dragged and beaten up," the Associated Press reports.

Redford Government set to impose wage freeze on public employees, blowing winning coalition to smithereens

The Redford Government is expected to introduce legislation later today to impose a three-year wage freeze on public employees like the civil servants and health care workers who saved Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative Party from all-but-certain destruction in the April 2012 Alberta election.

Rumours the move was impending have been circulating in Alberta government circles for weeks, but were deemed too silly by sensible observers to warrant serious consideration, even though the government is palpably desperate to find an excuse to post at least one annual budget surplus before the next election in 2016.

But surely, we putatively sensible observers concluded, it wouldn't help the government to balance its budget on the backs of the people who pulled Premier Redford's fat from the fire a year and a half ago!

Harper government's extensive spying on anti-oil sands groups revealed in FOIs

The federal government has been vigorously spying on anti-oil sands activists and organizations in B.C. and across Canada since last December, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show.

Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but deploying public safety resources as a de-facto "insurance policy" to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved, these documents indicate.

B.C. Child Poverty Rate Is Canada's Worst: Report

VICTORIA - British Columbia has the highest child poverty rate in Canada, with one in five kids considered statistically poor, says a report that calls for quick action to alleviate a worsening situation in the western province.

The report by the child and youth advocacy group First Call said B.C.'s child poverty rate is 18.6 per cent compared to the national rate of 13.3 per cent. Manitoba's rate, the second-highest in the country, stands at 17.3 per cent.

"B.C. stands out as having done the least among all provinces to bring down child and family poverty through government supports and programs," said Adrienne Montani, First Call’s provincial co-ordinator.

Pope Francis 'Evangelii Gaudium' Calls For Renewal Of Roman Catholic Church, Attacks 'Idolatry Of Money'

Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit 'Radicalizers'

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.

Auditor Slams Underfunding of First Nations Disaster Relief

The federal government is failing to prevent and mitigate emergencies like floods on First Nations reserves, the auditor general found, and has been stuck in a reactive cycle that often leaves communities in tatters before getting necessary aid.

The findings, released Tuesday as part of a larger audit, show that Aboriginal Affairs can't meet the needs of communities in emergency situations because of a lack of funding, a focus on recovery instead of prevention, incomplete and out-of-date programs and a confusion about the responsibilities of relevant partners.

Drew Turiano Calls For Another 'Operation Wetback'

Republicans working on Latino outreach might want to avoid this candidate.

Drew Turiano, a Tea Party-affiliated real estate investor joining the race for a Montana congressional seat, called for “another Operation Wetback” in comments published in the local press on Monday -- apparently unaware that current deportation levels exceed those of the 1950s.

Migration plan risks UK being seen as nasty country, says EU commissioner

Britain risks being seen as a nasty country after David Cameron launched a crackdown on EU migrants getting benefits, a senior Brussels official has said.

Laszlo Andor, the EU employment commissioner, said the prime minister's efforts to outlaw so-called benefit tourism were the product of hysteria, and an "unfortunate overreaction".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he also suggested Cameron was misleading the public about the potential scale of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania when current controls on migration from those countries are lifted on January 1.

Is Shinzo Abe's 'new nationalism' a throwback to Japanese imperialism?

The deepening confrontation between Japan and its giant neighbour, China, over a disputed island chain, which this week sucked in US military forces flying B-52 bombers, holds no terrors for Kenji Fujii, captain of the crack Japanese destroyer JS Murasame.

As a battleship-grey drizzle sweeps across Yokosuka harbour, home port to the Japan maritime self-defence force and the US Seventh Fleet, Fujii stands four-square on his helicopter deck, a totemic red Japanese sun-ray ensign flapping at the flagstaff behind him. His stance exudes quiet purposefulness.

Complaint filed against ex-PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin over Wright-Duffy deal

A University of Ottawa law professor has filed a complaint against the prime minister’s former lawyer, who allegedly helped broker a secret deal between Nigel Wright and Sen. Mike Duffy, CTV News has learned.

Amir Attaran filed a complaint against Benjamin Perrin, who used to work in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Duffy’s lawyer Janice Payne with the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario.

Fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum: Millions in spending, little peace or security

Even though federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay concedes "no concrete initiatives related to global peace and security" have resulted from his government's $12-million grant to a Washington-based organization to stage two-day conferences on global security every year for the past four years in Halifax, he isn't discouraged.

"We have all the ingredients in place for that to happen," he told Postmedia's Tobi Cohen on the eve of last weekend's fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum.

The Province Run By Proud Mom Premier Is Failing Single Moms

After eight years of progress in decreasing poverty for single mothers in British Columbia, in 2011 almost 30 per cent of the province's single moms saw their annual incomes drop to poverty levels.

The most recent income data available from Statistics Canada shows 50 per cent of B.C.'s single mom-led families are living in poverty.

"For a single parent family in B.C., the poverty line is around $29,000," said Lorraine Copas, executive director of Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC), at the release of the British Columbia 2013 Child Poverty Report Card in Vancouver today.

Jim Love, Canadian Mint chairman, helped run offshore 'tax-avoidance scheme' for clients

The chair of the Royal Canadian Mint, who also served as an adviser on international taxation to the federal Finance Department, helped engineer the transfer of millions of dollars of a prominent Canadian family through offshore tax havens in what others involved characterized as a "tax avoidance scheme," documents obtained by CBC News show.

Slightly more than $8 million was moved through offshore entities in Bermuda, Barbados and Antigua, later prompting allegations that the arrangement, if exposed, could lead to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in "taxes, interest and penalties." The documents show there were also concerns about secrecy and instructions to shred files.

U.S. Military Aircraft Fly Over East China Sea Without Informing China

WASHINGTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Two U.S. military aircraft have flown around disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing China, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, defying China's declaration that the region falls into a new airspace defense zone.

"We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus. We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies," spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said, using the Japanese name for the islands.

There was no Chinese response, Warren said.

'Dark Money' Nonprofit Political Spending Restricted In Proposed IRS Rules

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced on Tuesday new guidelines clarifying the definition of political activity for nonprofit organizations.

The new rules, which still face many procedural hurdles, would limit the political activities of nonprofit organizations and help prevent political actors from using these groups to provide anonymity to donors.

Since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, nonprofit organizations, particularly social welfare nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code and trade associations organized under section 501(c)(6), have radically increased their reported political spending. In 2012, these groups reported to the Federal Election Commission spending in excess of $300 million. That was up from $69 million in 2008 and nearly $6 million in 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Seniors In Poverty: Canada Sees Increasing Numbers As Public Pension Gap Blamed

OTTAWA - An international think-tank warns that poverty among Canadian seniors is on the rise and that current pension safety nets may be inadequate to address the problem.

The comprehensive study on global pensions by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that Canadians over 65 years of age are relatively well off when compared with most others in the 34-country group of advanced economies.

For example, the average poverty rate for the group in Canada was 7.2 per cent during the study period, among the 10 lowest in the OECD and better than the 12.8 per cent average.

Housing Bubble? Canada's Top Banking Regulator Refuses To Say

Canada’s housing market “bears very close watching” because of the risk it is becoming overheated, the country’s top banking regulator said Monday.

But Julie Dickson, head of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), refused to say whether she believes Canada is experiencing a housing bubble — because whatever she says could make things worse.

In a speech to a mortgage brokers’ association in Toronto, Dickson noted that both the OECD and the IMF have identified Canada’s residential real estate market as being overvalued.

How Gap and Wal-Mart are dodging worker safety in Bangladesh

The collapse of Rana Plaza, a garment manufacturing complex in Bangladesh, which killed 1,134 workers, sent shockwaves around the globe this past April. Just a few months earlier, the Tazreen factory fire had already killed 117 people in the country.

These latest episodes bring the death toll of Bangladeshi factory workers to over 1,800 since 2005. The appalling disparity between these substandard garment factories and the stores where the products are sold is nothing short of criminal.

Another iPhone Factory Accused Of Having Awful Work Conditions

BEIJING (Reuters) - Biel Crystal Manufactory Ltd, a Hong-Kong based company that makes screens for Apple Inc, is violating workers' rights at its Chinese factories, a Hong Kong rights group alleged in a report.

The Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) report said Biel Crystal, which makes iPhone screens, requires its employees to work 11-hour shifts, seven days a week, with only one day off each month.

JPMorgan's Soaring Stock Price To Completely Erase $13 Billion Fine

A record bank penalty is being erased in record time.

JPMorgan Chase shareholders are well on their way to recouping all of the $13 billion fine the bank agreed to pay just a week ago to settle charges of selling bad mortgage bonds ahead of the financial crisis, Wall Street Journal Money & Investing Editor Francesco Guerrera noted on Tuesday (subscription only).

Covert racism evident in prisons as proportion of ethnic, aboriginal inmates rises, says federal watchdog

OTTAWA — The increased numbers of Aboriginals and visible minorities in federal prisons is evidence of covert racism, discrimination and cultural bias in Canada’s justice system, says Canada’s prison watchdog.

In his annual report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, Canada’s correctional investigator, Howard Sapers, said the number of visible minority inmates is partly reflective of the overall demographic change in Canadian society, but also shows that disproportionate representation of minorities in comparison to their share of the general population is a persistent and growing problem.

Canada failing poor children, families years after vow to eradicate poverty: report

OTTAWA — More than two decades after MPs pledged to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000, Canada continues to fail its poorest citizens.

One in seven children — or 967,000 — lived in poverty in 2011, down slightly from 979,000 in 2010, while four in 10 aboriginal children live in poverty, according to a 2013 report card prepared by Campaign 2000.

The umbrella organization, which represents a coalition of 120 national groups committed to eradicating child poverty in Canada, based its report on the most recent data available from Statistics Canada.

More children and their families lived in poverty as of 2011 than they did in 1989, when the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.

Believing Stephen Harper’s version of events requires one to suspend disbelief

If only the czar knew. — Old Russian saying.

Many people say they have difficulty believing Stephen Harper did not know at least something about the various plots hatched out of his office to pay off Sen. Mike Duffy and cover up his bogus expense claims. Maybe he did not know all the details, these people say, but that he did not know anything? That’s hard to believe.

In fact, it is quite easy to believe. For starters, we have the prime minister’s word on it. And not only in private conversation, or in some casual slip of the lip, but solemnly, publicly and repeatedly.