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.]

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stephen Harper’s northern tour cost taxpayers $786,000

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s six-day trip to Canada’s North in August cost taxpayers over $786,000.
Documents tabled in Parliament this week show that RCMP security for Harper’s annual trip came in at $252,921 alone, including overtime, accommodations and meals.
The Privy Council Office — the department that supports the prime minister — estimated its share of the cost at $165,392. That appears to include everything from expenses for the Prime Minister’s Office staff, including the prime minister’s official photographer and communications staff, to a claim for a $69.13 dinner at “Yummy Shawarma” in Iqaluit.

Police car that killed boy was reportedly tailing ex-Quebec Liberal party director

MONTREAL—The decision earlier this week to not to lay criminal charges against a police officer involved in a crash that killed a 5-year-old boy in February attracted even more controversy Friday when it was revealed the officer was tailing the former head of the Quebec Liberal party at the time of the accident.
The officer, a member of the Quebec provincial police, was travelling 122 km/h in a 50 km/h zone when his unmarked cruiser struck a vehicle driven by a man taking his two children to school.

Kinder Morgan Begins Survey Work On Burnaby Mountain As Protests Continue

BURNABY, B.C. - First Nations vowed to stand in unity with protesters as police kept up arrests Friday in a Metro Vancouver conservation area where crews resumed survey work for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Shortly after activists announced they would do whatever it takes to stymie the project, a group began marching up Burnaby Mountain in the pouring rain.

More arrests quickly followed.

Canadian Inflation Spikes As Natural Gas, Meat Prices Soar

OTTAWA - The country's annual inflation rate climbed higher than economists' expectations last month, accelerating to 2.4 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The October increase follows a 2.0 per cent rise in September.

The federal agency says the consumer price index climbed as prices rose in all of the categories it tracks in the 12 months leading up to October, with both food and shelter costs adding 2.8 per cent to lead the way.

Rob Nicholson, Canada's Defence Minister, Says Nothing To Fear From Common Defence With U.S.

HALIFAX - A more integrated common defence strategy with the United States isn't a threat to Canada's sovereignty, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Friday.

Nicholson said Canada has willingly entered into several bilateral arrangements, such as NATO, Norad and free trade, and Canadians understand that external and internal security threats make increased co-operation necessary.

House G.O.P. Files Lawsuit in Battling Health Law

WASHINGTON — House Republicans filed a long-threatened lawsuit Friday against the Obama administration over unilateral actions on the health care law that they say are abuses of the president’s executive authority.

The lawsuit — filed against the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Treasury — focuses on two crucial aspects of the way the administration has put the Affordable Care Act into effect.

The Outpost That Doesn’t Exist in the Country You Can’t Locate

Admit it. You don’t know where Chad is. You know it’s in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you’d probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here’s a tip. In the future, choose that vast, arid swath of land just below Libya.

Who does know where Chad is?  That answer is simpler: the U.S.  military.  Recent contracting documents indicate that it’s building something there.  Not a huge facility, not a mini-American town, but a small camp.

Court Rules Michigan Not Responsible for Quality Public Education

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in early November that the state has no legal obligation to provide quality public education to students in a struggling school district.

Ex-Workers Sue Vancouver Mining Company Over Alleged Human Rights Abuses

VANCOUVER - A Vancouver-based mining company says allegations of human rights violations at the Bisha open pit mine in northeastern Africa are unfounded and it will defend itself from a civil suit filed this week in B.C. Supreme Court.

Nevsun Resources Ltd. says it will "vigorously" defend itself from the civil suit filed Thursday by a lawyer representing three former employees.

Express Entry Immigration System Starts Jan. 1, Leaving Employers Uncertain

The federal government is preparing to launch a new immigration system that gives skilled workers "express entry" into Canada starting Jan. 1, but first it's consulting business people involved — including some with reservations about it.

Under the new online express entry system, skilled immigrants will be matched with vacant jobs in at least 50 job occupations based on "scores that reflect their human capital and ability to succeed in the Canadian economy."

Dean Del Mastro's Sentencing Postponed To January, But Big Questions Remain

LINDSAY, Ont. - A sentencing hearing for former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has been postponed until Jan. 27, but questions remain about the next steps in the disgraced politician's legal battles.

Del Mastro — once parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper — resigned from his House of Commons seat two weeks ago after he was convicted of violating the Canada Elections Act during the 2008 election.

Canada's 'Ultra-High Net Worth' Population Getting Larger And Richer Faster Than U.S.'s

Canada is seeing its population of super-rich grow faster than the U.S., and Canada’s super-rich are getting faster than their American counterparts as well, at least this year.

That's according to the second annual Ultra World Wealth Report from UBS and Wealth-X, which says the number of “ultra high net worth” (UHNW) individuals in Canada swelled to 5,305 in 2014, up 6.5 per cent from the year before.

Canada losing friends over climate change

Stephen Harper is running out of places to hide on the environment.
The prime minister tucked himself behind the United States for seven years, promising to move in lockstep with Canada’s powerful neighbour and biggest trading partner on climate change. But President Barack Obama has leapt out in front him, determined to use his second term to leave a positive legacy on climate change.
He sheltered in China’s dirty shadow, claiming it was unfair to ask Canada to cut its fossil fuel emissions while the world’s economic powerhouse was spewing greenhouses gases into the atmosphere with abandon. But President Xi Jinping stripped him of that excuse last week, pledging to halt the growth of his country’s emissions by 2030.

Federal withdrawal results in loss of social housing

Manitoba is losing subsidized rental housing units -- a delayed result of the federal government's withdrawal from funding social housing in the 1990s. As operating agreements between the federal government and housing providers expire, the subsidies expire with them. As a result, nonprofit housing organizations and housing cooperatives are having to make tough decisions. Many subsidized units have already been lost; many more are likely to be lost in the next two decades.
In the 1960s -1980s, thousands of units of social housing were built in Manitoba, the number of new builds dropped off in the 1990s. The federal government entered into long-term social housing operating agreements with provincial governments, nonprofit housing providers and cooperatives. These operating agreements have provided subsidies that reduced tenants' rents and laid out terms for how the housing would be managed, including details about reserve funds, subsidies and eligibility requirements for the subsidized units. In most cases these agreements were set for the term of the mortgage, usually 35-50 years.

Slayings Turn Spotlight on Peru’s Forest Policies

LONDON—Preserving forests is a vital step in preventing climate change, but people who defend them against illegal logging and land grabs are being murdered in increasing numbers.

And one of the worst recent examples is in Peru, the country hosting the United Nations climate change conference that opens in the capital, Lima, on December 1.

Four indigenous leaders from the Ashéninka people from the Peruvian Amazon—including Edwin Chota, a prominent anti-logging campaigner—were killed attempting to defend their lands in the Ucayali region in September.

Ft. Lauderdale Arrests Homeless Man At Meeting To Honor National Homeless Week

After arresting a 90-year-old veteran for handing out food to the homeless earlier this month, Ft. Lauderdale arrested Ray Cox, a homeless man, at a city commission meeting this week after he spoke out against the city’s crackdown on homeless people.

As Mayor Jack Seiler gaveled in the meeting on Tuesday, Cox, sitting in the audience, stood up and protested the recent crackdown on homeless people in Ft. Lauderdale. Cox was not given an opportunity to air his grievances, but instead was escorted out by police at Seiler’s behest. “As a homeless protester, sir, just step outside rather than trying to make a scene,” the mayor instructed. Watch video of the incident here.

Elena Poniatowska: 'As a Mexican, I Am Ashamed'

The mood in Mexico is so depressing that even Elena Poniatowska, the novelist-journalist who chronicled the 1968 massacre of students in Tlatelolco, feels a chill when she talks about the murder of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, who were foundburned to death in a municipal trash dump.

Push for fossil fuel divestment gains momentum

Environmentalists worldwide are pushing investors to stop putting their money into fossil fuel investments, and it looks like that push for divestment is gaining momentum. 
A case in point: the first Fossil Free Canada convergence. November 7 to 9, over 120 students from 15 universities across Canada came together in Montreal for the convergence, where they planned future collaborations and learned new skills to apply in their divestment campaigns.  

First the Harper government attacked refugee health; now, it's welfare

The Harper government has big problems with refugees.
We have reported on that baffling but unavoidable fact in this space frequently over the past three-plus years.
It started when former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney launched a rhetorical campaign against what he called "bogus" refugees from friendly, safe Western democracies such as Hungary.
When pushed, Kenney might begrudgingly admit that the people he was talking about -- the Roma of Europe -- do face great difficulties.

29 Coal Miners Died in a 2010 Explosion. Congress Still Hasn't Fixed the Problem.

Last week, a federal grand jury indicted former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for allegedly conspiring to violate mine safety standards in the run-up to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 workers at the Upper Big Branch Mine. The four-count indictment describes a culture of negligence under Blankenship's watch, in which essential safety measures were ignored as the company sought to squeeze every last cent out of the ground. Blankenship, who left Massey in 2010, pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Meet the Fortune 500 Companies Funding the Political Resegregation of America

Over the past four to five years, the United States has been resegregated—politically. In states where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans and presidential races can be nail-biters, skillful Republican operatives have mounted racially-minded gerrymandering efforts—the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts—that have led to congressional delegations stacked with GOP members and yielded Republican majorities in the state legislatures.

Conservatives’ silence on Sona sentencing adds to aura of disreputable politics

How many lone outlaws can pop up on how many grassy knolls before a series of supposedly isolated incidents coagulate into one large, collectively worn blob of disreputability?

This is the question that emerges, again, in the wake of Michael Sona’s sentencing to nine months in prison and a subsequent year’s probation for his role in the robocalls affair, which saw thousands of voters in Guelph, Ont., fraudulently misinformed in an attempt to skew the 2011 election. Sona, now 26, becomes the first person ever to go to jail for such an offence in Canada.

Health Ministry Firings Review Under Fire

Opposition New Democrats hammered the government during Question Period on Thursday, saying a government review underway into the controversial 2012 Health Ministry firings is designed to avoid getting at the truth.

"If we're going to get to the bottom of this, surely we have to find out who did what and why they did it," said John Horgan, the leader of the NDP, in the legislature. "Isn't it true that this review is designed to protect the premier and her deputy minister, not to protect the public interest?"

The government-ordered review, announced Oct. 3, is to look at what led to the sudden firings of at least seven ministry employees in September 2012. The firings led to five wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuits, a union grievance on behalf of three fired employees, a freeze on some research contracts, and a suicide.

Foreign Affairs Lets $125M In Aid To Poor Countries Lapse

OTTAWA - Almost 14 per cent of the money that Canada's newly amalgamated Foreign Affairs Department planned to spend alleviating poverty in poor countries in the last year has been returned, unspent, to the Finance Department.

Foreign Affairs managed to spend just shy of $792 million on aid to low-income countries in 2013-14, but had $917 million available, leaving more than $125 million in lapsed funding.

Obama Moves To Protect Millions From Deportation

WASHINGTON -- In the boldest move on immigration policy of his presidency, President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday evening to dramatically increase deportation relief for an estimated 4.4 million undocumented immigrants. The executive action will protect parents, as well as those who came to the U.S. as children and others with long-standing ties to the country, from being forced out of their homes.

Obama defended the move in a primetime address, saying "the real amnesty [is] leaving this broken system the way it is."

Torture Report Fight Erupts In Chaos

WASHINGTON -- Before White House chief of staff Denis McDonough came to brief Senate Democrats on Thursday afternoon, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had a little pep talk with his flock. Every Tuesday, during the weekly caucus lunches, he said, you all gripe and moan about the White House. But then when the White House comes by, there's never a peep.

The talk may not have been necessary. The White House's briefing to Democrats on immigration Thursday erupted instead into a confrontation over the Senate's classified torture report, Senate sources told The Huffington Post.

B.C. Group Blames Traffic Jams On Too Many Immigrants

A small group of protesters are blaming Vancouver-area traffic jams on immigration.

About half a dozen men stood on the Blundell overpass in Richmond on Wednesday morning and held up a bright yellow banner above Highway 99 that read "Fight Gridlock: Cut Immigration."

Passport fees a cash cow for government

OTTAWA - A hike in passport fees has turned out to be a cash cow for the federal government, but Canadians won't be getting any cash back as a result.

Recently released figures show Canadians paid $462.5 million in passport fees last year, but it cost the government only $256.5 million to produce the necessary documents.

The way Passport Canada's funds are managed allows it to simply bank the rest, Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson Nancy Caron said in an email.

CMHC probing Canadian house 'premium' to U.S. prices

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says Canadian housing prices have been higher than U.S. prices in real terms since 2006, an indication that the market here may be overvalued.

It made that assessment in its annual review of the Canadian housing market released Thursday, comparing house prices in Canada and the U.S. controlling for differences in exchange rates and the cost of living.

New trade deals with China, India cement Australia’s status as key Indo-Pacific power player

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is on the kind of diplomatic tear that Canada can only dream of.

Brisbane got lots of global attention by hosting the G20 leaders summit last weekend because so many participants queued up behind Canada’s Stephen Harper to disparage Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Kremlin’s malignant actions in Ukraine.

Less than 24 hours later in Canberra, the Australian capital, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, signed China’s biggest trade deal ever. Abbott followed that triumph by announcing a strategic security alliance with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, perhaps rashly, promised that a trade deal with New Delhi could be expected by the end of next year.

Americans Don't Want Government to Guarantee Healthcare, Again

Economist Jonathan Gruber set off a new debate over healthcare this week with his, let’s say, indelicate comments about Obamacare’s passage relying on the “stupidity of the American voter.” Gruber, who helped craft the law, said certain provisions of the law had to be written for optics rather than logic—so, for example, instead of simply writing checks to the poor or sick, it regulates insurance companies to make them charge higher rates to healthier people so that they can offer lower rates to sicker people.

New Documents Show Thousands of Unreported Wiretaps by Canadian Cops

Very few law enforcement and government agencies in Canada openly detail the number of times they are legally authorized to eavesdrop on the communications of Canadians, making the true extent of electronic surveillance in Canada incredibly hard to gauge.

But according to documents obtained exclusively by Motherboard, we now know this: at least 6,000 wiretaps and intercepts were authorized per year across all levels of government in Canada as of 2011. The slide deck, obtained via an Access to Information and Privacy Act request, also shows that approximately 12,000 requests for call detail records (CDRs)—a log of numbers dialled—were authorized per year.

Cyberbullying bill raises alarm for privacy commissioner

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien warned senators today that the increased police powers proposed in the government's cyberbullying and internet surveillance bill need to be matched with ways of tracking their use.

Therrien also warned against the lower standard of proof provided for in the bill, C-13, and said he disagrees with the government's assertion that the information intended to be sought isn't sensitive.

Incoming Nevada Speaker Said Democrats Have ‘Master-Slave’ Relationship With ‘Simple Minded Darkies’

Nevada Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R), who the assembly’s Republican caucus selected as their choice to be its next speaker earlier this month, has a long history of racist, sexist and homophobic statements chronicled in a long list published by the Reno News Review. Among other things, as part of a broader statement of support for school vouchers, Hansen claimed that “[t]he relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies.” Indeed, according to the News Review, Hansen keeps a Confederate battle flag on his wall, which he says that he flies “proudly in honor and in memory of a great cause and my brave ancestors who fought for that cause.” He also “tends to use the term ‘Negro’ and often does not capitalize it.”

Critic slams Canada's "shameful" citizenship policy

Citizenship advocate Don Chapman criticized Canada's Citizenship and Immigration as "shameful" yesterday for its rejections of citizenship applications from legitimate Canadians despite repeatedly promising to correct the law.

"It's shameful," Chapman said. "We did everything Citizenship and Immigration asked of us, paid their ($400) fees, and now they talk about deporting Donovan McGlaughlin."

Journalists Aren’t The Only People Uber Is Bullying

Calls to boycott Uber are growing this week after a senior executive suggested the company hire opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists who are critical of the ride-share service.

Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice president of business who made the comments, and CEO Travis Kalanick have apologized for Monday’s remarks. The company also launched an internal investigation on a New York executive for improperly using Uber’s tracking technology on a Buzzfeed journalist. Still, the fallout from targeting journalists has only gotten more attention.