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.]

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Feds Massively Changing Trademark Law with No Debate

It started innocuously enough with the House of Commons Committee on Industry, Science and Technology releasing its long-awaited report on intellectual property in Canada in March 2013. The report included a recommendation that Canada ratify several international patent and trademark treaties, which came as a surprise (particularly to opposition members of parliament) since no witness had raised the issue before the committee.

Within weeks, the government accepted the recommendation and one year later it moved to ratify the treaties with scant debate or discussion. Yet the ratification of five intellectual property treaties about which few Canadians have ever heard and that seem certain to increase fees for business was only the start.

Ottawa removing North Pacific humpback whales from list of ‘threatened’ species

OTTAWA — The Harper government is downgrading the protection of the North Pacific humpback whale despite objections from a clear majority of groups that were consulted.

Critics say the whales could face greater danger if two major oilsands pipeline projects get the go-ahead, since both would result in a sharp increase in movement of large vessels on the West Coast that occasionally collide with, and kill, whales like the humpback.

PM’s security squad racked up more than $23 million in cost overruns

The elite squad of RCMP officers that protect Prime Minister Stephen Harper has overspent its operating budget by more than $23 million since Harper became prime minister, iPolitics has learned.

While Harper publicly boasts of his government’s fiscal discipline and its cost cutting efforts, his government appears to have turned a blind eye to millions of dollars of cost overruns right under Harper’s own nose. Year after year, the Prime Minister Protection Detail, has exceeded its budget — one year by more than 57 per cent.

Frank Coleman, Next Newfoundland Premier, Pressured By Anti-Abortion Group

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The man poised to become the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is facing pressure from a pro-life group to follow the lead of Prince Edward Island in restricting abortion access in the province.

Frank Coleman's views on abortion sparked controversy after he said Friday that he attends a rally each year in Corner Brook, N.L., opposing abortion.

PMO paid more than $4.1 million to departing employees

OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office coughed up $4.1 million in severance and separation pay over the first seven years of Stephen Harper’s tenure for 196 departing PMO employees, according to government documents.
The high turnover rate in the PMO between 2006 and 2013 saw between roughly one-third and one-fifth of staff leave each year, often with both severance and discretionary separation payments.

Housing Market ‘Extremely Discouraging' For First-Time Buyers

Many experts believed that the real estate market was cooling. But as the spring buying season begins, it’s clear that’s not true.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the national average price for a home in March was $401,419, an increase of six per cent in year-over-year comparisons.

Republicans Say No to CDC Gun Violence Research

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was one of a few congressional Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws.

“Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table,” he said less than a week after the Newtown shootings. He told a local TV station that he wanted to see more research done to understand mass shootings. “Let’s let the data lead rather than our political opinions.”

Raising Taxes on Corporations That Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs

Until the 1980s, corporate CEOs were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical worker was paid. Since then, CEO pay has skyrocketed to 280 times the pay of a typical worker; in big companies, to 354 times.

Meanwhile, over the same thirty-year time span the median American worker has seen no pay increase at all, adjusted for inflation. Even though the pay of male workers continues to outpace that of females, the typical male worker between the ages of 25 and 44 peaked in 1973 and has been dropping ever since. Since 2000, wages of the median male worker across all age brackets has dropped 10 percent, after inflation.

James Clapper Bans Intelligence Community From 'Unauthorized' Media Contacts

Two months after promising a new era of transparency at the nation's intelligence agencies, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has slammed the door on media access with a sweeping new order last month that bans nearly all unauthorized contact with reporters.

The intelligence community directive Clapper issued on March 20 applies to all "contact with the media about intelligence-related information, including intelligence sources, methods, activities, and judgments," regardless of whether they are classified. Violations will be handled at a minimum as a security violation and may be referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, according to the memo.

Here Are A Few Of The Highest Paid Executives In Media

Ever wonder how much the top leaders at companies like CBS and Fox are actually making each year?

Hint: It's a lot.

KKK Forms Neighborhood Watch Group In Pennsylvania

In response to a string of recent break-ins, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has given a local Pennsylvania chapter the go-ahead to form a neighborhood watch group.

Student Loan Borrowers Struggle When Co-Signers Die Or Go Bankrupt

WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. consumer financial watchdog warned on Tuesday that some student loan borrowers could be thrown into default if relatives who co-signed their loans die or declare bankruptcy.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a new report published on its website that many private student lenders stipulate that the balance of a loan will come due if a parent, grandparent or other co-signer becomes unable to share responsibility for the loan.

Novartis Signs Multi-Billion Dollar Deals With GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis AG launched a major overhaul of its business Tuesday, unveiling a series of multibillion-dollar deals with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline PLC and the U.S.'s Eli Lilly & Co. that heralds more restructuring in the fast-changing industry.

Joseph Jimenez, the CEO of Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, said the deals with GSK and Eli Lilly reflect "a very dynamic health care environment" and would reduce overall sales at Novartis but boost its profit margins. He told reporters some 15,000 of its employees globally will be affected by the changes but that no one will be fired by Novartis— all employees whose units are being sold off will be transferred to the new owners.

U.S. Warns That Russia Has 'Days, Not Weeks' To Comply With Ukraine Accord

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia has "days, not weeks" to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

The Price of Sweat: America's Minimum Wage Debate Echoes in India

New Delhi -- If the Devil's greatest trick is pretending he doesn't exist, India's greatest political trick has been pretending it has a minimum wage when it really doesn't. And the consequences are quite Dante-esque. Two-thirds of Indians and their families -- some 750 million people -- live in a state of perpetual purgatory because they earn less than $2 per-person-per-day, the World Bank's definition of poverty. 

How The U.S. Made Its Putin Problem Worse

WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK, April 18 (Reuters) - In September 2001, as the U.S. reeled from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vladimir Putin supported Washington's imminent invasion of Afghanistan in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War.

He agreed that U.S. planes carrying humanitarian aid could fly through Russian air space. He said the U.S. military could use airbases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia. And he ordered his generals to brief their U.S. counterparts on their own ill-fated 1980s occupation of Afghanistan.

John Paul Stevens Pitches 6 Major Changes To The Constitution In New Book

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens began thinking about ways to prevent a repeat.

The result is Stevens' new book — his second since retiring from the court at age 90 — in which he calls for no fewer than six changes to the Constitution, of which two are directly related to guns. Others would abolish the death penalty, make it easier to limit spending on elections and rein in partisan drawing of electoral districts.

Harper on Russia: America's useful idiot?

Stephen Harper's acutely embarrassing behaviour regarding the crisis in Ukraine -- demonizing Vladimir Putin and upping the rhetoric -- must be welcomed in the U.S. which created the crisis in the first place and apparently believes it still has something to gain by isolating Russia. But it is not clear that Harper even realizes -- or cares -- what the larger game is.
And that game may include a Russia-driven shift in global currency allegiance that could devastate the economies of the U.S. and Canada.

Women's work and the systemic reasons behind the gender pay gap

My mother says that when she graduated from high school in 1972, she had two occupational choices: nurse or teacher. Nurse and teacher are still the most popular choices for women entering the workforce. Statistics Canada said that more than20 per cent of all female university graduates in 2011 were teachers or nurses, unchanged from 1991.
Ontario's Equal Pay Day got me thinking about women's work, and the systemic reasons behind the stubborn pay gap. Aside from outright discrimination, occupational segregation and unpaid care demands contribute significantly to women's lower wages.

Conservatives unhappy with Poilievre’s ‘bombastic’ style on elections overhaul bill

Conservative Party insiders say there’s dissatisfaction within the Conservative caucus over Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre’s handling of the elections reform Bill C-23 and recently-recommended changes by a Senate committee are an opportunity for the minister to change tack and adopt a more conciliatory approach.

Opposition MPs aren’t buying the unanimously-supported Senate recommendations released last week, though, and they’re continuing to call for the bill to be withdrawn.

Only the elite allowed to shop at government of Canada’s official gift store

OTTAWA - Canada's official gift shop is tucked into the fourth floor of a government building in nearby Gatineau, Que., but you won't see any tourists lining up at the cash register to buy coffee mugs adorned with Mounties.

This taxpayer-funded store carries only high-end souvenirs, reserved for the elite ranks of the federal government.

The so-called Gift Bank is routinely raided by cabinet ministers, heads of Crown corporations, even Supreme Court justices, whenever there's an opportunity to impress foreign dignitaries at home and abroad with a distinctively Canadian memento.

Feds pull troublesome questions from poll

OTTAWA - The Finance Department has ordered its pollsters to stop asking Canadians potentially embarrassing questions about Economic Action Plan advertising.

In 10 public-opinion surveys since 2009, Canadians were asked whether they took any action as a result of seeing ads placed with newspapers, TV, radio and the Internet on the benefits of the Economic Action Plan, the catch-all Conservative government brand.

Harper sees role as protector of the rich and powerful

Why do I know that Stephen Harper would hate these guys?

You have probably never heard of Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page but their message just might wake up dozing Canadians oblivious to the decline of our democracy.

They are professors from Princeton and Northwestern universities and they have just pronounced American democracy dead. Some have already called this the “Duh Report” because the ugly truth has been apparent for quite some time: The United States is now the land of the rich and the home of the knave; an oligarchy.

Four Years Later, BP Oil Spill Still Taking A Toll On Gulf Fisherman: 'We Haven't Started To Recover'

The BP oil spill, often called the worst man-made environmental disaster of our time, first began four years ago today. On April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, causing more than 200 million gallons of oil to spew into the Gulf of Mexico. 11 workers on the rig died, and the resulting cleanup has already cost BP more than $26 billion.

Walt Natynczyk Insists Canadian Space Agency Appointment Does Not Spell Militarization

MONTREAL - The head of the Canadian Space Agency, a former top general, insists his appointment as president last August does not signal the militarization of the federal department.

"I have to support the mandate that the Government of Canada has given the space agency and that is the peaceful use of space and it doesn't change whatsoever," Walt Natynczyk said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Putin, Petrorubles and Our PM's Bad Posture

Stephen Harper's embarrassing behaviour regarding the crisis in Ukraine -- demonizing Vladimir Putin and upping the rhetoric -- must be welcomed in the U.S. which created the crisis in the first place and apparently believes it still has something to gain by isolating Russia. But it is not clear that Harper even realizes -- or cares -- what the larger game is.

And that game may include a Russia-driven shift in global currency allegiance that could devastate the economies of the U.S. and Canada.

Boy Scouts Sever Ties With Seattle Church After Its Refusal To Remove Gay Scout Leader

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have revoked the charter of Seattle's Rainier Beach United Methodist Church after the parish made headlines for standing by an openly gay Scoutmaster earlier this month.

As NBC is reporting, BSA officials were planning to notify leaders and parents of children in Seattle Troop 98 and Pack 98 with news that the church is no longer authorized as a charter partner.

Kentucky Inmate Starved To Death

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A prison doctor has been fired and two other staffers are in the midst of being dismissed after an inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary starved himself to death, a case that has exposed lapses in medical treatment and in how hunger strikes are handled at the facility. Prison officials have asked prosecutors to investigate after The Associated Press began asking questions about the inmate's death.

GOP Lawmakers Fought To Keep These People Uninsured. Now They Have To Rely On Hope.

WASHINGTON -- Eight million Americans are insured through the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, President Barack Obama announced Thursday. Wendy TwarDokus wishes she were one of them.

The 60-year-old former traveling hospice nurse describes her health as generally "average," but she has a few complaints, including a prolapsed bladder. It sometimes protrudes outside her body when she picks up something heavy -- like the saddles she used to lift when she rode horses. She can't afford the surgery to treat it.