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, December 11, 2014

Information commissioner pleads poverty, Tory MPs say raise fees

Conservative MPs are proposing that the government raise user fees for access to information requests, charging businesses and journalists more money to help mitigate a series of budget cuts that have damaged the already-ailing system.

The comments from several government MPs at a House of Commons committee Thursday came in response to pleas of poverty from Suzanne Legault, the information commissioner of Canada.

Congressional Hawks Gear Up to Kill Talks, Bomb Iran

Yesterday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the status of US efforts to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran put on display a surprising disconnect between some of the Senate’s most hawkish members and a stacked panel of “experts,” all of whom were probably expected to agree with Senate hawks.

The hearing went to plan early on, with the panelists—David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security; Gary Samore, president of the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran pressure group; and Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute—expressing concerns about extending negotiations through March and backing increased sanctions should negotiators fail to reach an agreement by the new deadline.

We Don’t Just Need Nicer Cops. We Need Fewer Cops.

Protests against the recent police killings of unarmed black men and boys—Eric Garner and Akai Gurley in New York, Michael Brown in Ferguson, John Crawford and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Ohio—have put the policing of communities of color on the top of the local and national agenda. Signs are even emerging of a new level of social movement activity around racial justice and the criminal justice system that may outlast the current wave of anger and heartbreak.

What stands before us, therefore, is the hard work of both building political power and articulating what that change might look like. So far politicians, police and even many community leaders have trotted out many of the well-worn proposals that have failed to deliver in the past and offer little hope for the future.

Toronto House Prices Jump Again; How Long Can This Last?

The experts keep saying a real estate juggernaut like Toronto’s can’t go on forever, but if numbers from Toronto’s real estate board are to be believed, this beast just won’t die.

House prices in Toronto have jumped 8.4 per cent on average since the start of the year, the Toronto Real Estate Board says in its latest report. Sales for the year so far are up 6.6 per cent compared to 2013.

A Reminder Of How Heart-Wrenching Eric Garner's Last Words Were

They were heard in a video that went viral, plastered across the front page of newspapers and echoed through the chants of hundreds of protesters who mourned his death.

They were Eric Garner's last words -- the words the 43-year-old Staten Island man muttered while he was placed in a chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, which eventually led to Garner's untimely death: "I can't breathe."

Denver Police Beat Unarmed Man, Topple His Pregnant Girlfriend and Delete the Evidence

Officers with the Denver Police Department deleted bystander footage that showed them beating an unarmed man named David Flores and knocking his pregnant girlfriend, Mayra Lazos Guerrero, to the ground. Fortunately, the segment was sent to a remote digital storage network known as a cloud, and the horrific event is preserved for all to see.

Why Hagel’s Departure Is a Victory For War Hawks

It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was nothing to be sniffed at. There had been a changing of the guard in wartime Washington. Barack Obama’s third secretary of defense had gone down for the count. In the phrase of the moment, he had “resigned under pressure.” Sayonara, Chuck!

EU's Shelved Plans To Label Oilsands Dirty Are Back In Play

The Harper government and oilsands producers hailed the European Commission's decision in October that would have meant Canadian oil would not be penalized for being more emissions-intensive than conventional oil.

But now the EU’s seemingly abandoned plan to label oilsands product as dirty oil has come back to life — or, at the very least, it has failed to die the death that Canada's oil industry and the Harper government had hoped for.

Seeing Ferguson Clearly: 12 Double Standards That Expose White Supremacy

The word “Ferguson” has become synonymous with racism and police brutality in the U.S. today, in the same way that the name “Rodney King” did in 1992. And yet there remains a persistent and reactionary response from some white Americans who vehemently view themselves as the victims and black Americans as “violent thugs” who deserve the treatment they receive from police and the criminal justice system. The doublethink of domination and victimhood is central to the pathology of white supremacy in the U.S. It is used to dupe and confuse us into believing that there is nuance in brutality and justice in murder.

But what we really need is to see things in black and white. Literally.

I Told a Grand Jury I Saw a Cop Shoot and Kill an Unarmed Man. It Didn't Indict.

Many years ago, during the 1980s, I witnessed a killing: a New York City cop shooting an unarmed homeless man near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was later called as a grand jury witness in the case. The grand jury did not indict the officer.

It was a summer evening. I was heading to play softball in Central Park. At the corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, I got off my bicycle to walk toward the Great Lawn. The west side of Fifth was crowded with New Yorkers enjoying the beautiful night. People were streaming in and out of the park. Sidewalk vendors were doing brisk business. The vibe was good. And in the midst of the hubbub, I spotted a fellow wearing dirty and tattered clothing. His hair was filthy, his face worn. It was hard to determine his age. He reminded me of Aqualung. (See this Jethro Tull album cover.) He was carrying a large and heavy rock with both of his hands, pushing his way through the throng, and muttering unintelligible words. I wondered, what's his story? But I didn't give it much more thought.

Bill C-22 Would Rewrite The Rules For Oil Spill Cleanups

Concern is growing around Bill C-22, which would change the rules around oil spill cleanups. The technology for cleaning up oil spills, such as using chemical dispersants, is not widely understood, and its impact on Arctic waters has yet to be fully debated.

Bill C-22 was introduced by the Federal Minister of Natural Resources earlier this year.

It would pre-approve emergency plans for oil and gas companies to deal with oil spills, such as the speedy use of dispersants, or chemicals used to break oil into smaller particles in the event of an oil spill at sea.


Yes, Tory needs to cover the bases - and his own ass. Not least among those bases are former Ford loyalists who might still be inclined to sidle up to their old boss and make life difficult for the new one. The former mayor will no doubt be sucking up a lot of oxygen in the press as he battles cancer while, more importantly, eyeing re-election in 2018. That in part explains why so many Fordists were reappointed to Tory's executive, and staunch Ford allies like Frances Nunziata were handed plums despite undistinguished tenures under Ford. Tory could have opted to bring more lefties into the fold, but the transition team charged with ensuring a smooth entry into his new role judged that too dangerous. In the process he's made a major tactical blunder by isolating a huge voting block - many of the same folks who voted for council's progressives voted for him. More importantly, he's failed to deliver on his campaign promise to conduct business differently. As a consequence, we're already seeing signs that Tory's honeymoon may end up being the shortest in mayoral history. 

President Vladimir Putin Defends Russia's Aggressive Foreign Policy

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia will defend its geopolitical interests, President Vladimir Putin warned Thursday as he promised economic reforms to pull his country back from the brink of recession. But Putin's patriotic bluster and vague promises did little to assuage real fears that Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices and a collapsing ruble are crippling Russia's economy.

In his annual state-of-the-nation address at the Grand Kremlin Palace, Putin announced measures to spur the country's flagging economy, which is set to enter recession in 2015 for the first time in six years.

From Daniel Pantaleo To Darren Wilson, Police Are Almost Never Indicted

A police officer who choked an unarmed man to death on a public sidewalk will not face trial. This is the second recent high-profile case in which a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer who had killed an unarmed black civilian -- first Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and now Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York.

Harper government's changes to Live-in Caregiver Program harm workers

On November 22, 2014,caregivers and their allies gathered in front of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's offices in downtown Toronto to protest the provision of caps to the numbers of caregiver entries to Canada and new language and licensing requirements for caregivers.
Brandishing placards stating "Conservatives' New Laws Hurt Caregivers" and "Stop Stealing Permanent Residency from Caregivers," those present were unanimous in their belief that the new changes hurt caregivers and that caregivers deserved landed status upon arrival.
During the rally, Caregiver Action Centre's Johnna Anipuesto argued that "caregivers should not back down in the fight for permanent residency." Long-time caregiver activist Coco Diaz concurred, adding that she has been fighting for landed status upon arrival for caregivers for 30 years. She drew attention to how improvements to Canada's migrant domestic worker programs, which include getting the opportunity to apply for permanent residency in 1981, occurred only because domestic workers fought for this right. 

What Voters Don’t Know (Yet) About Jeb Bush

Whenever the deep thinkers of the Republican establishment glance at their bulging clown car of presidential hopefuls—with out-there Dr. Ben Carson, exorcist Bobby Jindal, loudmouth Chris Christie and bankruptcy expert Donald Trump jammed against Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, to name a few—they inevitably start chattering about “Jeb Bush.”

Never mind that his father was a one-term wonder of no great distinction or that his brother is already a serious contender, in the eyes of historians, for worst president of the past 100 years. And never mind that on the issues most controversial among party activists—immigration and Common Core educational standards—he is an accursed “moderate.”

How Did A Police Officer Kill A Man On Tape And Get Away With It?

The case of New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo wasn’t supposed to be like Ferguson. There was a video showing how a simple stop for selling untaxed cigarettes turned into a chokehold — a move prohibited by the NYPD. The medical examiner ruled the incident a homicide. Eric Garner repeatedly shouted “I can’t breathe” just before he died.

The US Government Deported 438,000 People in 2013. 83 Percent Never Got a Hearing.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with stories of relieved immigrants: Undocumented parents of American citizens, children who arrived in the United States years ago, and other immigrants without papers can step out of the shadows now that Obama has issued an executive action granting relief to 5 million undocumented residents. (Read more details on the president's plan here.)

CPP Disability Benefits Denied To 60% Of Applicants, Among Highest Rejection Rates In World

OTTAWA - One terminally ill Canadian denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits has been "diagnosed with brain cancer and is currently undergoing chemo and radiation treatments," according to the government's woefully backlogged social security tribunal.

Another of the tribunal's so-called crisis files, obtained under the Access to Information Act, describes an applicant as having been "diagnosed with liver cancer and received a liver transplant."

Victoria's New Heli-Hangar: A Building to Die for?

Recent visitors to Victoria International Airport will have noticed a massive silver-and-blue hangar on the west side of the airfield. At 215,280 square feet, the new building's floor area is larger than three soccer fields.

Built to house the Royal Canadian Air Force's much-anticipated Cyclone maritime helicopters, the hangar has cost taxpayers a cool $104 million. That's a lot of money for a facility to house and service just nine aircraft.

The Nightmare of Ann Craft: Fracked, then Poisoned

Ann Craft is a self-described strong willed and caring Irish woman who has been selling real estate in Central Alberta for 19 years.

But now she is getting rather upset.

"I'm more than pissed off. I'm appalled."

Appalled, she says, by the two-year fracking horror story she has lived through. And the consistent failure, she charges, of Alberta's regulatory bodies including Alberta Environment, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Energy Regulator to do their respective jobs.

"It's mind-boggling."

For two years now Craft has been involved in a fight with the Alberta government over the structural damage to her property along with the appearance of strange substances on her land and dug-out along with changes to her well water due to oil and gas activity.

Lawyer Says Need For First Nations Financial Transparency Act Is 'Complete Lie'

The federal government’s new financial transparency law for First Nations is a redundant piece of legislation based on a “complete lie,” according to a lawyer specializing in aboriginal law.

“Every First Nation has to file an audited financial statement with Indian Affairs every year to account for federal funds and it’s 100 per cent accessible by band members either through the band or Indian Affairs," said Ryerson University associate professor Pam Palmater on Power & Politics on Tuesday.

‘This Is Not a Protest—It Is an Uprising’

Shortly before 2 in the afternoon on Sunday, more than a dozen people walked onto an interstate near the Capitol in Washington and formed a human chain. Eight lanes of traffic came to halt. During rush hour the next morning, protesters closed down the Fourteenth Street bridge. And then the Twelfth Street tunnel. “Shut it down for Mike Brown,” they chanted.

In the week since a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in August, demonstrations have occurred in more than 150 cities across the United States. In Missouri, protesters are marching 127 miles from Ferguson to Jefferson City, the state capital. Shopping malls and public-transit stations and major roadways have been shut down in several cities. On Monday at 12:01 pm—the time Brown was shot—workers and students across the country walked out of their offices and schools.

The System That Failed Eric Garner and Michael Brown Cannot Be Reformed

That a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing 43-year-old Eric Garner the same week that President Obama proposed spending $75 million in federal money to outfit 50,000 police officers across the country with body cameras would seem to be hack Hollywood writing with neatly applied plot points. Garner’s death was caught on video—video that the police were aware was being taken—and it still was not enough to indict anyone, least of all the man responsible for choking Garner to death, for any type of wrongdoing. It’s as if this decision was handed to us at this time in order to get us to say, “Now what?”

Harper's Family Tax Cut Credit Does Not Deliver True Income-Splitting

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the federal campaign trail in 2011 pledged to allow spouses and common-law partners with children to split their incomes on their tax returns once the budget deficit was eliminated.

This would mean that when one partner is in a higher marginal tax bracket, that person would be able to split some income with the other person. When the money moves to the other return it is taxed at a lower rate and they save tax dollars.

Government Lawyer Wants Canadian Soldiers' Class-Action Lawsuit Tossed Out

VANCOUVER - Major Mark Campbell was lying in a hospital bed, just starting to comprehend losing both his legs above the knees in a Taliban ambush, when he found out the federal government had stripped his lifetime military pension.

"I expected to just move off into the twilight and retire, but unfortunately it's just like the clichè out of a Hollywood movie," said the Edmonton man, describing the conclusion to 33-years of service after a final tour in Afghanistan.

Government underspent on war graves

OTTAWA - Veterans Affairs spent millions less than it budgeted for maintaining war graves last year in cemeteries like those in Italy visited recently by Julian Fantino, a report reveals.

The departmental performance review of the memorial and cemetery maintenance program shows just 2,500 of 7,000 grave markers were properly maintained last year.

Fantino, the Veterans Affairs minister, is under fire for attending Second World War commemorations in Italy last week while controversy raged in Ottawa about his department's treatment of veterans seeking mental health benefits.