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.]

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Bill C-51: CSIS oversight body lacks resources, former member Bob Rae says

As the government's anti-terrorism bill is set to enhance the powers of the national spy agency, a former member of the independent body that watches over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is concerned it is not equipped to provide sufficient oversight.

Bob Rae — the former premier of Ontario and one-time interim leader of the Liberal Party — was for five years a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which keeps tabs on CSIS.

After Mount Polley: 'This is Indigenous Law'

Thursday marked six months since the Imperial Metals-owned Mount Polley mine became the site of the most devastating tailings storage facility disaster in Canadian history, when nearly 25 million cubic metres of toxic mine effluent waste and chemicals spilled.

The spill damaged both Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, which reside within the traditional territorial boundaries of the Secwepemc Nation.

An official report on why the spill happened from the Mount Polley mine itself was set for release at the end of January, but the B.C. government altered the regulations. Now a report from Mount Polley isn't due until 2017.

Five Public Opinion Headaches For Alberta Oil Execs

Alberta Oil magazine just published its national survey onenergy literacy, the culmination of 1,396 online interviews of a representative sample of Canadians conducted by Leger.

The results are particularly interesting coming fromAlberta Oil, a magazine destined for the desks of the energy sector's senior executives and decision-makers.

Petrobras's Billion-Dollar Scandal: Behind The Chaos In Brazil's Biggest Company

The chief executive of Brazil's biggest company, Petrobras, as well as five members of the state-run oil giant's board of directors were forced to resign this week amid a major corruption scandal that has rocked the country for months.

Chief Executive Maria das Graça Foster's resignation follows revelations that the company lost up to $33 billion in 2014 due to corruption and financial inefficiency. The financial disaster forced Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to dismiss Graça Foster despite their close friendship. On Friday, Petrobras' board of directors named Aldemir Bendine, currently head of Banco do Brasil, as the company's new chief executive.

Wall Street Pays Bankers to Work in Government and It Doesn't Want Anyone to Know

Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. In letters delivered to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last month, Citi, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seek exemption from a shareholder proposal, filed by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, which would force them to identify all executives eligible for these financial rewards, and the specific dollar amounts at stake. Critics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street.

“As shareholders of these banks, we want to know how much money we have promised to give away to senior executives if they take government jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “It’s a simple question, but the banks don’t want to answer it. What are they trying to hide?”

The Moral Hazard of Big Data

If you are a person in America, then there are equations trying to learn more about you. Some of these equations work for private companies and some of them work for the government, but they all generate correlations based on your behavior. Google “Ways to keep New Years resolution” and buy a sweatband on Amazon, and your Facebook ads all turn to gym memberships. Search Wikihow for “Join al-Nusra Front” and buy a hunting knife at Target, alarms go off at the NSA. Interacting with the world now involves an implicit agreement to be watched, and not just by surveillance cameras, global positioning satellites, and browser cookies, but increasingly by algorithms designed to predict and manage our future conduct.

Jason Kenney Vows To Clear Social Security Tribunal Backlog By This Summer

OTTAWA - Jason Kenney is vowing that by this summer, he'll eliminate the massive caseload backlog that's left thousands of ailing or injured Canadians waiting years for appeals after being denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.

In a letter obtained by The Canadian Press, the employment and social development minister describes a "two-part action plan" to wipe out the backlog at Ottawa's beleaguered social security tribunal in just a few months.

14-Year-Old Palestinian Girl Imprisoned By Israel For Throwing Rocks

The imprisonment of the 14-year-old Palestinian girl by Israeli authorities has stoked anger over the arrests of Palestinian children. Malak al-Khatib was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $1,500 for stone-throwing and possession of a knife.   
“My heart broke when I saw her in court, cuffed and shackled,” the girl’s mother told AFP.

Scott Walker Deletes The Values Of Truth And Service From University Mission

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has come under fire this week not only for proposing a controversial and unprecedented $300 million cutto the University of Wisconsin, but because his new budget deleted the values of truth and service from the University’s 100-plus-year-old mission and replaced them with the idea that the purpose of public higher education is “to meet the state’s workforce needs.”
Governor Walker’s edits erased language from the school’s founding principles — known as the “Wisconsin Idea” — that declares: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” The Governor also struck out the University’s goal of “public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition” and “serve and stimulate society.”

If Anyone "Distrusts" The Military It's Harper

We were disturbed and disappointed to read Stephen Harper's recent comments erroneously claiming that Justin Trudeau has a "deep distrust" of the Canadian military. In my experience, actions speak louder than words, and while Mr. Harper has always been quick to stand with our soldiers for photo ops, he has failed to have their backs when it counts.

The fact is that Mr. Harper's government has made significant promises on new equipment for our troops, but has consistently failed to deliver. In addition to axing nearly $5 billion from the Department of National Defence's budget since 2012, they have, since 2006, left nearly $6 billion in DND's capital budget unspent -- money that was allocated for new equipment like search and rescue aircraft, helicopters, trucks, ships, UAVs, the list goes on and on. Documents recently tabled in Parliament have revealed that, save for a few exceptions, this government has achieved almost none of the procurement goals contained in their 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy.


The spin After 20-plus years in politics, 10 of those on Parliament Hill, it was time for a change.
The reality The PM's office was clearly caught off guard by Baird’s resignation. Harper reportedly heard through media reports of his foreign minister’s impending departure. It was only after news began to leak out Monday night that Baird reportedly sought a meeting with the PM to make his departure official, leaving the PM with no time for a smooth transition of power in a key portfolio on which the PM has staked his political reputation. And so the PM now finds himself in a war in Iraq with an interim foreign affairs minister at the helm. The whiff of possible scandal lingers. And conspiracies abound about Baird's legendary lifestyle. Was there a falling out with the PM? Or is Baird simply abandoning a sinking ship? There’s some truth to Baird’s claim that he wanted to go out on top. Politically, there isn’t much higher for him to go in Ottawa, even if the HarperCons managed the improbable: another election win.

UK-US surveillance regime was unlawful 'for seven years'

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

UK-US surveillance regime was unlawful ‘for seven years’

Original Article

UK-US surveillance regime was unlawful ‘for seven years’

Original Article

War Memorial Separates Dead By Race And Divides Southern City

GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) — Along Main Street in a small South Carolina city, there is war memorial honoring fallen World War I and II soldiers, dividing them into two categories: "white" and "colored."

Welborn Adams, Greenwood's white Democratic-leaning mayor, believes the bronze plaques are relics of the South's scarred past and should be changed in the spirit of equality, replaced like the "colored" water fountains or back entrances to the movie theater that blacks were once forced to use.

Odds Of A Recession In Canada At 30%: Capital Economics

At least one economist is ready not only to use the “R-word” but has also put a number on the risk of a recession happening.
The odds of the economy falling into a recession within a year are now as high as 30 per cent, David Madani of Capital Economics wrote in a note Friday morning.

Oversight lacking, but we’re backing anti-terror bill

Last October, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, Canada witnessed horrific events that will not soon be forgotten, nor should they be.

They were cowardly acts: unarmed men were murdered in cold blood at close range.

These attacks on both our military and our most cherished democratic symbols were designed to frighten us. They were meant to embed within our minds an image of terror. They were meant to make us think differently about our surroundings and fellow citizens.

Plan for RCMP to run Parliament Hill security sparks NDP counter-proposal

New Democrats have made a counter-proposal to the government's push to put RCMP in charge of policing Parliament Hill, one that would enshrine "the ultimate authority" of the House and Senate speakers to control access and security within the parliamentary precinct.

The proposed amendment, introduced by NDP Whip Nycole Turmel Friday morning, calls on the two speakers to "prepare and execute, without delay," a plan to integrate the work of all agencies that provide operational security on and around Parliament Hill.

The NDP's amendment would also ensure that whatever security setup emerges from that process would not only respect the rights, immunities and powers of both the upper and lower chambers, but remain under the authority of Parliament itself, through the two speakers.

PMO leash on MPs might be tighter than ever

In a dark, crowded bar in Ottawa this week, several dozen Conservatives committed a small act of defiance against the prime minister.

Just a couple of months after Stephen Harper warned his caucus away from Hy’s — a warning prompted by last fall’s sexual harassment controversy on the Hill — the popular drinking establishment near the Hill was filled with Conservatives on Tuesday night.

To be clear, the MPs, ministers and staffers weren’t there to stage a show of defiance. They were bidding an impromptu farewell to their colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who had surprised them all by quitting his job that day.

Fracking-induced earthquake puts B.C. gas bonanza on shaky ground

The small town of Fox Creek in northern Alberta may have broken the world’s ‘fracking earthquake’ record with the 4.4-magnitude shaker that hit last month.
The most probable cause, according to Alberta’s energy regulator, was nearby gas fracking operations. The recent quake  was on many people's mind as they listened to a presentation in Ottawa on the shale gas "bonanza" happening across North America today. 

Kwantlen Nation stunned to learn of Kinder Morgan drilling

Members of Kwantlen First Nation in Langley were surprised to discover that Kinder Morgan had just wrapped up one week of Burnaby-Mountain-style borehole drilling on their traditional territory.

The southwest B.C. aboriginal community, an hour's drive from Vancouver, held a press conference to raise alarm about the drilling activity that appeared to come without notice.

BC Liberals sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at swanky fundraiser

The Clark government’s BC Liberal party was sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at a upscale, private members fundraiser event on Thursday night the Vancouver Observer has confirmed.

“We’d like to thank our sponsor tonight, Woodfibre LNG,” the master of ceremony said, within earshot of inside the front stately entrance of the Capilano Golf and Country Club.

The exclusive event in West Vancouver was billed as an opportunity for attendees to meet Finance Minister Michael De Jong, and to fundraise for local West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy.

The next provincial election is not until 2017.