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 05, 2014

Income splitting not a wise investment for Canadians

For generations, Canada has been built by hard-working people who want to make sure their kids have a better life than they did. And every day, middle class Canadians continue to do that. However, times are tough for millions of Canadians who are simply trying to make ends meet, let alone save for their child’s education or their own retirement. Jobs are scarce because of our weak economy. People worry if our health care system can survive funding cuts. This is why a federal surplus should be invested wisely.

Wynne blasts Oliver over infrastructure funds

TORONTO - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is firing back at federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver, accusing him of playing the "blame game" on infrastructure funding.

Oliver accused the Ontario government on Monday of causing delays in Ottawa's plan to spend nearly $11 billion on infrastructure by not providing a list of projects the province wants to see funded.

But during a speech today to a conference on public-private partnerships, Wynne said Oliver's "rhetorical enthusiasm does not build bridges or ease congestion."

TransCanada raises price tag for Keystone XL by half to US$8 billion

CALGARY - The price tag for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has risen by about half to US$8 billion, TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) said Tuesday as the U.S. regulatory process drags into its seventh year.

TransCanada had previously pegged the cost of Keystone XL at US$5.4 billion, but has long signalled that the longer it's forced to wait for a permit, the more expensive the pipeline would become. As of Sept. 30, TransCanada had sunk $2.4 billion into the project.

Burnaby Mountain: Latest wall of opposition against tar sands

An injunction and a $5.6-million civil suit in damages is what corporate energy giant Kinder Morgan is seeking against blockaders at a court hearing this week.
Since August of this year, a determined group of Burnaby residents have been stopping Kinder Morgan work crews at a designated conservation area within Burnaby Mountain. SFU professor and defendant Stephen Collis explains, "Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change, issues relating to Aboriginal title, and the erosion of our democratic rights."

JPMorgan Under Criminal Investigation Over Foreign Exchange Business

NEW YORK (AP) — The Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into JPMorgan Chase's foreign exchange business.

The announcement by the nation's largest bank follows a similar disclosure Thursday by Citigroup. Banks in the U.S. and abroad are facing allegations that they manipulated foreign-exchange rates. Besides the Justice Department, JPMorgan says civil enforcement authorities and foreign regulators are also investigating its foreign exchange business.

The New York bank said late Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had boosted the amount of money set aside for legal expenses. It now has $5.9 billion in reserve, up from the $4.6 billion it reported in August.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has paid billions in penalties since the financial crises related to mortgages and huge investor losses.

Shares edged lower before the opening bell Tuesday.

Original Article
Author: AP

Top soldier links airstrikes to Vincent’s death

OTTAWA - The cloak of secrecy the government has thrown over Canada's first bombing runs in Iraq is set to lift at a briefing Tuesday, but the commander of the air force appears to be injecting a new element into their objective: revenge.

A photograph was posted to Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin's Twitter account Saturday from the funeral of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, killed in October by a known jihadist.

Why Taxation Must Go Global

BERLIN -- We are witnessing profound changes in the way that the world economy works. As a result of the growing pace and intensity of globalization and digitization, more and more economic processes have an international dimension. As a consequence, an increasing number of businesses are adapting their structures to domestic and foreign legal systems and taxation laws.

Thanks to technical advances in the digital economy, companies can serve markets without having to be physically present in them. At the same time, sources of income have become more mobile: There is an increasing focus on intangible assets and mobile investment income that can easily be "optimized" from a tax point of view and transferred abroad.

The Real Danger to Israel's Security Is Netanyahu

As prime minister, Netanyahu has consistently invoked his solemn duty to protect Israel's national security. Ironically, he has become the single most reckless individual who is imperiling the very security of the state. One need not look far and wide to discern Netanyahu's disingenuousness and misguided policies that have only undermined Israel's future security.

He uses his political skills to deceive and mislead in order to "protect himself from political defeat" while disregarding what is best for the future of the state. He surrounds himself with cronies blinded by their skewed ideological zeal with no morals or scruples to support his sinister political agenda.

Food Banks Canada Sides With NDP On Child Care Debate

OTTAWA - Canadian food banks are wading into the hot political debate over how best the federal government can help families with kids: give them tax breaks, as the Conservatives are doing, or invest in regulated child care, as the NDP proposes.

In its annual HungerCount report, Food Banks Canada comes down squarely on the side of the NDP.

It says the use of food banks remains 25 per cent higher than it was before the devastating global recession in 2008 and that 37 per cent of those helped are children.

Michael Chong: 'We Have A Moral Obligation To Conserve Our Environment'

Conservative MP Michael Chong is calling on the federal government to take action in the wake of a startling new report on climate change.

Chong, a prominent member of an all-party, non-partisan "climate caucus," rose in the House Monday to respond to the fifth assessment report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report concludes that, if left unchecked, climate change "will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."

Ottawa Shooting: Steven Blaney Cites 'Explosive Cocktail' Of Ideology, Mental Illness

OTTAWA - The federal public safety minister suggests an "explosive cocktail" of mental health problems, drug addiction and extremist ideology prompted the recent killing of a soldier in Ottawa.

Steven Blaney told a security conference Tuesday that Canada must be vigilant about the threat posed by people who become radicalized "for whatever reason."

Blaney's remarks introduced a thread of subtlety into the federal characterization of the deadly shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

Bank Of Canada's Stephen Poloz: Long-Term Jobless Youth Should Work For Free

Labour lawyers and economists are criticizing Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz over comments he made suggesting that youth work for free in order to avoid the “scarring” of long-term joblessness.

Poloz cited the problem of graduates living in their parents' basements, unable to find work.

Scotiabank Job Cuts: 1,500 Global Positions, Two-Thirds In Canada, On Chopping Block

TORONTO - Widespread cost reductions at Scotiabank, which include plans to cut 1,500 jobs, could be a sign of changes to come in Canada's banking industry, several analysts suggest.

After sailing through years of global economic turbulence relatively unscathed, Scotiabank said Tuesday it will close 120 branches at its international banking arm as it takes a $341-million hit after taxes to its fourth-quarter earnings.

Thousands Rally Against LGBT Rights In Houston

Sunday evening, some of the most prominent organizations that work against LGBT equality joined together in Houston, Texas to rally in defense of “religious freedom.” The event, called “I Stand Sunday,” was hosted by Grace Community Church, whose pastor, Steve Riggle, was one of the five pastors originally subpoenaed for his role in challenging the LGBT-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).

Privatization: New ways of profiting at public expense

In the 1980s governments began selling off public assets to private corporations. Government debt and deficits were the excuse. Citizen-owned wealth, held in trust by governments was transferred to profit-seeking companies. Public inheritance was turned into a one-time payment applied to the provincial or federal debt.
This practice was called privatization. It should have been called theft, since it amounted to stealing from the public what belonged to it.
The only way the practice of "selling the house to pay the mortgage" made any sense was if you were the one buying the house.

The Most Cynical Political Ploy of 2014

The American Future Fund is an enthusiastically conservative organization that each election season fills the airwaves with ads hailing right-wing causes and socially conservative Republican candidates, while ripping Democratic officials and contenders.

But, this fall, the dark-money group is also jumping into battleground states with social-media campaigns hailing third-party candidates, legalization of marijuana and “our progressive values.”

Who Else Is in the Koch Brothers Billionaire Donor Club?

The Koch brothers have emerged as the left’s favorite bogeymen, tied to numerous advocacy groups attempting to influence elections at the state and federal levels, but the brothers’ lasting impact won’t be the political campaigns they’ve financed but the institutions and networks they’ve constructed on the political right. While the Koch name gets all the headlines, in this effort the brothers are not, in fact, alone.

Hiding the shadow of their bigger-name brothers is a group of fellow travelers, tied to one another by their large donations aimed at pushing forward a business-friendly agenda, including rolling back labor and environmental regulations. But the many of the members of this network share something else with the Kansas-based billionaire brothers: they have pursued business ventures that target low-income communities as customers and employees, essentially profiting off poverty.

More Disturbing Questions about Warrantless Data Disclosures

In a year in which privacy issues have captured near weekly headlines, one concern stands out: warrantless access to internet and telecom subscriber information.

From revelations that telecom companies receive over a million requests from government agencies for customer data each year, to the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark decision affirming that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in subscriber information, longstanding law enforcement and telecom company practices have been placed under the microscope for the first time.

Tax Breaks for BC Frackers Reach over $1 Billion

The government of British Columbia has extended more than $1 billion in the form of tax credits to largely foreign-owned oil and gas companies fracking vast expanses of northern B.C. over the last five years.

According to the B.C. auditor general's 2014 summary financial statements report, the province delivered $587 million in incentives to the fracking industry alone last year and $412 million in 2013. The payments were all deducted from royalties.

Food Bank Canada report: 'Alarming' number of Canadians seek help

Food bank use in Canada increased slightly this year in comparison to 2013, and it remains significantly higher than it was before the economic recession, according to a report released Tuesday by Food Bank Canada.

In the month of March 2014, more than 840,000 people received food bank assistance, one per cent higher than the same snapshot period last year. More than a third of them were children, and nearly half of households helped were families with children.

Big Setback for the Obama Administration’s Syria Policy as Moderate Stronghold Falls to al-Qaeda

In a big setback for the Obama administration’s Syria policy,  the al-Qaeda affiliate Succor Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) took the town of Deir Sunbul and its environs this weekend away from the Syria Revolutionaries Front, a relatively secular-minded group viewed as “moderates” by the United States.  Deir Sunbul lies in the Jabal al-Zawiya region of the northwestern province of Idlib.  The pan-Arab London daily al-Quds al-Arabi (Arab Jerusalem) says that the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus is rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of the rebels fighting one another to exhaustion.
Not only did Syria Revolutionaries Front leader Jamal Marouf have to flee his hometown, but some of his fighters actually turned on him and joined the Succor Front.

A Former Federal Scientist Sends An Open Letter to the Minister of Health

Last week, Dr. Thierry Vrain, a former scientist with the federal government in Canada, reached out after watching an interview I did with Dr. Ray Seidler, a former senior scientist at the EPA. 

Dr. Vrain was the designated spokesperson to assure the public of the safety of GMO crops.  He is an unlikely and powerful crusader to be speaking out about the dangers of these crops.

Jim Crow Returns: Interstate "Crosscheck" Program Could Strip Millions of the Right to Vote

On the eve of the midterm elections, we air a report by investigative journalist Greg Palast on how new voter ID laws risk disenfranchising millions, especially black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters. Twenty-seven states are now participating in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. Backers say it is needed to prevent voter fraud, but critics say it is being used to stop Democratic-leaning voters from going to the polls. Tens of thousands of names have already been removed, and millions more are threatened. Based on a six-month investigation, Palast’s report originally aired on Al Jazeera America. A Puffin Foundation fellow, Palast is the author of the New York Times best-seller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."

Author: --

Canadian dollar sinks below 88 cents as Saudis cut oil to $77 a barrel

The Canadian dollar today sank to its lowest level in five years as Saudi Arabia moved to slash its price for the type of oil used in much of North America to its lowest level since September 2010.

Late Monday, Saudi Arabia said it would start selling its oil in the U.S. market for the cheapest price it has offered in more than four years.

The loonie was down 0.41 of a cent to 87.63 US at the close of trading.

Steve Jobs Monument In St. Petersburg Taken Down After Apple CEO Comes Out

Following a Russian politician’s tirade warning that Apple CEO Tim Cook being gay would mean “Ebola, AIDS, gonorrhea” coming to Russia, a statue of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has disappeared from the city of St. Petersburg.

According to Russian news reports, the monument, in the shape of an iPhone the height of a person, had been installed in 2013 on the campus of the St. Petersburg State University of Information Technologies. It had been placed there by a private business group calling itself the Western European Financial Union.

Free Syrian Army Commander: Canada Should Be Training ISIL Resistance

KUWAIT CITY - A senior member of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime says Canada's time, effort and money would be better spent training ground forces to retake territory from the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, rather than on a bombing campaign.

Brig.-Gen. Hussam Alawak, who heads up intelligence for the Free Officers Movement — one arm of the Free Syrian Army — also warned in an interview with The Canadian Press that new anti-aircraft weapons threatening coalition jets come from looted stockpiles in Libya and more potent weapons may be on the way.

The Tories Should Not Hide History From Canadians

Eighteen months after the original publication in French, The Battle of London has just been published in English, with new revelations of improprieties by the Supreme Court at the time of constitutional patriation. When it was first released last year in French, the book stirred up a great many questions and doubts about what happened at this crucial juncture in history. Yet, more than 30 years after the fact, our government has shown no willingness to disclose the numerous documents in its possession on the matter, despite repeated demands, including a unanimous motion voted by the Quebec National Assembly. Indeed, much of the story of patriation is only known to us thanks to British documents, without which my book would not have been possible.

The irony is that the Conservatives have recently conducted consultations on what they call "Canada's Action Plan on Open Government" -- part of "the federal government's efforts to foster greater openness and accountability." Unfortunately, it is difficult to reconcile this with their refusal to amend our antiquated Access to Information Act. This legislation (ironically enacted in 1982) needs to be modified if historians are to do their job properly.

Harper admits air strikes alone won’t stop Islamic State

Prime Minsiter Stephen Harper has acknowledged that air strikes may not be enough to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

“I think everybody has recognized that not all of the objectives in terms of defeating ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) can be accomplished just through an aerial campaign,” said Harper Tuesday. “But nevertheless, an aerial campaign can have considerable effect and I think all the evidence suggests it is having considerable effect.”

Is the Conservative tax plan principled or just vote-buying?

The Conservative government announced its latest tax policy volley last Thursday in Vaughan, Ont. Over the next five years, the value of the newly promised tax cuts is estimated at $26.8 billion, so this package puts a large dent into any future surpluses. Below, I first outline the details of the tax package, then talk about how much we should rely on the typical “who gets what” analysis. Finally, I go through the three elements of the package and see how well each stands up against tax principles.

The first element of the package adds $60 per month to the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) for each child aged 0 to 17, which takes the taxable UCCB to a total of $160 monthly for children aged 0 to five and $60 for those aged six to 17. The UCCB expansion was twinned with repeal of the non-refundable Child Tax Credit, which had an annual value of $338 per child—but only paid out to those who owed income taxes. The second major element is an update of the Child Care Expenses Deduction by $1,000—the first time the deduction’s value has moved since 1998. The final new element in the package is an attempt to meet the 2011 election campaign promise to allow income-splitting between parents of children. The Family Tax Cut announced on Thursday fell short of that 2011 promise by limiting the dollar value of the provision to $2,000. There was also a fourth element to Thursday’s tax package, but it was just a re-announcement of an expansion to the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, which I analyzed a few weeks ago.

Even Without Voter ID Laws, Minority Voters Face More Hurdles to Casting Ballots

Over the past decade, Republican legislators have pushed a number of measures critics say are blatant attempts to suppress minority voting, including voter ID requirements, shortened early voting periods, and limits on same-day voter registration. But minority voters are often disenfranchised in another, more subtle way: polling places without enough voting machines or poll workers.

Did Mitch McConnell Fail to Disclose His Trip to the Koch Donor Conference?

Mitch McConnell traveled to a secret meeting of donors connected to the Koch brothers network—and it now appears he didn’t disclose the expenses for that trip.

Documents obtained by The Nation, The Undercurrent and the Center for Media and Democracy from the Orange County Sheriffs Department reveal that Mitch McConnell was scheduled to arrive for the confab at the St. Regis Resort in Dana Point, California, on Saturday, June 14. Audio from the conference, which we reported in August, confirms that he gave a speech there the following day.

A number is never just a number: Minimum wage mythology

Number of decades that the average of provincial minimum wages in Canada has remained unchanged in real terms. (Source)
The average of all provincial minimum wage rates in Canada in 2013 -- about the same value as the 1975 average of minimum wage rates ($10.13 expressed in 2013 dollars). (Source)
Hourly minimum wage gain for Canada's lowest-paid workers over the past four decades: a single red penny. You know, that currency we thought so useless it's no longer issued? (Source)

Surveillance of social movement groups increases under Harper government

The Council of Canadians is concerned by the increasing pattern of surveillance under the Harper government of social movement groups, including our own organization.
In June, we denounced the Harper government's order to federal departments to monitor all political demonstrations across the country. The Government Operations Centre is "compiling a list of all known demonstrations" that has included protests against fracking, a healing dance, a prayer ceremony and a fundraiser. More on this at Government Operations Centre to monitor all protests.

Sexual assault law in Canada: What women need to know

Canadian women making decisions on whether to report sexual assault should know that while Canada's law defining sexual assault is itself positive, the processes that govern reporting, prosecuting, defending and adjudicating this crime pose serious hazards for women.
What follows is an overview of significant changes to Canada's sexual assault law and the way it is implemented, from 1982 to the present:
1982: Parliament broadens definition of rape and criminalizes wife rape
In 1982, the federal government reformed the crime of rape, which previously applied only where a man had non-consensual intercourse with a woman not his wife. The 1982 reforms broadened the crime by including all forms of unwanted sexual contact, not just intercourse, and criminalized wife rape for the first time.

Fresh off Title Victory, Tsilhqot'in Unveil Tribal Park

Far from Victoria or Ottawa, on a remote and wildly beautiful lake in central B.C., a remarkable event took place recently that might have historic importance in the future of Canada. The Tsilhqot'in National Government announced the creation of the Dasiqox Tribal Park, covering an area larger than half of Prince Edward Island. It follows a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in June recognizing Tsilhqot'in aboriginal title to their traditional territories.

While many details need to be resolved around what activities would be allowed within the park, it is clear the Tsilhqot'in now intend to drive decision-making in their traditional territory.

Space, the Final Playland for the Rich

The crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on a test flight last Friday reminded me of the deaths of three astronauts at Cape Canaveral in 1967, three Russian cosmonauts in 1971, and the explosion of the Challenger shuttle in 1986 -- a tragic price to pay for humanity's love of exploration.

But this tragedy was not in the service of a nation, much less humanity. It was a matter of occupational health and safety in a for-profit business backed by a tycoon. And there had been various warnings of extreme risk, waved off by Virgin Galactic.

Four Prime Questions about Harper's Response to Ottawa Shooting

Two weeks after the senseless murder of a soldier on Parliament Hill (and another earlier in Montreal) there are several things we know and many we don't. Obvious questions have been asked and inconvenient ones have been left aside.

We know -- and indeed could predict one second after the shooting -- that Stephen Harper would use it as an excuse to expand the security and surveillance state he has been constructing.

We know that the shooting was not a terrorist act, but a criminal one, regardless of what the RCMP and CSIS, eager to enhance their political role and resources, are saying. (Within an hour of the shooting an over-eager CSIS official was declaring hopefully, "this will change everything.")

Canada's forces face daunting mission against ISIS in Iraq

A small Canadian town forms in the middle of the Kuwait desert. Shovels dig into the yellow sand, prefab huts go up one by one. Six hundred soldiers have moved in, next to the scorching airstrip, their 10 airplanes parked nearby: Six CF-18 Hornet jet fighters (plus one spare), two Aurora reconnaissance planes and a Polaris aerial refueller.

Despite the violence against Canadian soldiers at home, two killed by individuals apparently sympathizing with Mideast jihadists—or maybe because of those attacks—Canadians here say they are more determined than ever.

U.S. gene patents: Patient care stymied in Canada, hospital claims

An Ottawa hospital is challenging the legality of gene patents that hamper the ability of doctors to freely screen for potentially deadly genetic diseases without fear of being sued for patent violations.

On Monday, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) started a legal process in Federal Court that could decide if human genes can be patented in Canada.

"The core position really is that no one should be able to patent human DNA," said Alex Munter, president and CEO of the Ottawa-based CHEO. "It would be like patenting water or air."

Angela Merkel warns David Cameron over freedom of movement

David Cameron has been warned by German chancellor Angela Merkel that she would rather see the UK leave the European Union than change freedom of movement rules, according to reports.

Downing Street on Sunday did not deny that the conversation had taken place, after German newspaper Der Spiegel said Merkel had rejected Cameron’s demands for a cap on unskilled migrants. Sources told the newspaper that the chancellor said demands for any changes to freedom of movement rules represented a “point of no return” and that this would be it for the UK’s membership.

Harper’s gutter politics is for the bird(watchers)

Thank God Stephen Harper has got those agitating birdwatchers under control!

Next to librarians working on Parliament Hill, they could be most subversive group in the land, battle-ready what with their knowledge of the outdoors and all that binocular experience.

This week, Dean Beeby of the CBC reported that the Harper government’s revenue collectors have put a small group of nature lovers on notice that the CRA is watching them.

The revenuers have apparently found evidence of partisan “political activity” on the bird-watchers’ website. If it continues, the CRA warns, these nature agitators could be facing further action, including a “future audit.”

Here come the thought police

Yesterday in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared his intention to fast-track legislation expanding CSIS and police powers of “surveillance, detention and arrest.”

Nobody should be surprised to see this government seize the moment created by Wednesday’s tragic events in Ottawa to advance its surveillance and law-and-order agenda. That’s what they do.

After all, most of the Harper government’s criminal justice policy is reactive — seizing upon sensational incidents to provide a veneer of necessity and legitimacy. Recall that this is the government which — under the guise of combating bullying — pushed to recklessly expand state powers over the search and seizure of personal Internet data, despite the criticisms of experts, crime victims and our country’s highest court.

Canada not the big winner in European trade deal

Not all the news these days is bad. Last month, Prime Minister Harper and European Union officials were in Ottawa to celebrate a much ballyhooed “free trade” deal between Canada and the EU, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). No, that’s not the good news, nor was the $300,000 we, the people, spent to fly the EU mucky-mucks back home to Brussels on a Canadian government airbus.

Normally these VIPs fly commercial business class for about $9,000 each. Of course 300 grand is non-organic chicken feed to our government, though it might’ve come in handy in Ebola-stricken west Africa or the teeming refugee camps of the Middle East.

TD LMI Shows Canada's Job Situation Worse Than Thought Over Past 2 Years

Canada's unemployment rate fell to a six-year low of 6.8 per cent in the most recent StatsCan report, but if you're a regular observer of jobs data, you know better than to take that number at face value.

Policymakers are growing frustrated with the seeming unreliability of StatsCan’s monthly unemployment reports. Those wild month-to-month swings from job losses to job gains are making it hard for analysts to understand what’s going on, and matters are made worse when — like last summer — StatsCan has to withdraw its job numbers and issue a new set, due to an error.

Omnibus budget bill restricts refugee access to social assistance

OTTAWA – Buried in the Harper government’s latest massive, omnibus budget bill is legislation that could restrict the ability of refugee claimants to access social assistance.

The move follows the government’s decision to limit refugee claimants’ access to universal, public health care.

That measure was struck down by Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish, who said it constitutes “cruel and unusual” treatment, puts lives at risk and “outrages Canadian standards of decency.”