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 07, 2015

Mr. Oliver makes an appearance

It’s been like some strange political pastiche of Hinterlands Who’s Who: The Canadian finance minister … a shy, reclusive creature who nests in the oilsands and tends to hibernate whenever the price of oil drops below $70.

Joe Oliver is expected to come out of his cloister Thursday morning with a promised “announcement” at the Canada Goose garment factory in Toronto. Will he finally name a date for releasing the budget? Will he announce a tax holiday for makers of high-end parkas? At this point your guess is as good as ours; a budget date announcement seems likely, but nothing in this government’s pre-election fiscal strategy has gone according to plan so far.

Canada passed on U.S.-Mexico climate announcement: sources

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada declined a U.S. invitation last week to jointly announce climate policy cooperation with Mexico, with Ottawa saying it has not yet finalized its own domestic strategy, sources from both countries familiar with the discussions said on Thursday.

On March 24, three days before the United States and Mexico announced they would partner on a high-level bilateral clean energy and climate policy task force, U.S. officials approached Canadian counterparts asking them to join the effort, three sources said.

One source said that while Canadian officials said they were supportive of North American harmonization of climate policy they were not yet prepared to join the continental partners.

Nigeria’s Democratic Revolution

In a move that is likely to surprise a lot of people in the West, Nigeria has elected for the presidency a man who truncated a democratic government three decades ago.

Former General Muhammadu Buhari won on Tuesday a keenly contested election, by a very slim margin, to become the first man in my country’s fifty-five years as a postcolonial state to unseat an incumbent government via the ballot box. This is a change.

Pierre Poilievre Won't Help Cancer Victim In Fight For CPP Disability

OTTAWA - Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre will not intervene to ensure a terminally ill Alberta man denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits finally gets his payments.

Peter McClure, 62, is suffering from lung and rectal cancer and has outlived his doctor's prognosis.

McClure says he was told by Service Canada 18 months ago that his condition wasn't severe or prolonged enough to qualify for CPP disability, and was advised to apply for CPP retirement benefits instead, which pay significantly less.

Senator Says Critics Of Indiana Should Get ‘Perspective,’ Be Thankful State Doesn’t Execute Gays

Appearing yesterday on CNN, Senator Tom Cotton (R) urged critics of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law to get “perspective,” suggesting the treatment of LGBT people in Indiana compared favorably to countries where gay people are executed.
“I think it’s important we have a sense of perspective,” Cotton said. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”

The Indiana HIV Crisis Didn’t Have to Happen

What happens when you shut down health centers that provide HIV testing and ban programs that encourage drug users not to share needles during a spike in opioid use? In rural Indiana, the result was a surge in HIV infections. More than 80 people have tested positive for HIV in Scott County since mid-December, with most cases linked to intravenous use of Opana, a prescription painkiller.

The warning signs were there: Four years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised of the rapid spread of Hepatitis C—which often accompanies HIV—among young drug users in Indiana, many of whom shared needles and other injection equipment. Indiana has the lowest per capita spending on public health of any state, while Scott County “has high rates of poverty and despair,” wrote Shane Avery, a local family physician. “Add to this a high rate of uninsured, low rates of completing a high school education, and insufficient access to public health services such as testing for sexually transmitted infections and mental services,” and you get conditions ripe for an addiction-fueled epidemic. The only clinic to offer HIV testing in the county, run by Planned Parenthood, closed in 2013, after state legislators pushed through a series of ideologically driven funding cuts.

Diane Ablonczy Uses Air Quotes While Discussing 'Rule Of Law,' Bill C-51

Diane Ablonczy has an interesting way of talking about the "rule of law" and "fundamental justice."

The Conservative MP was taking part in a review of Bill C-51, her party's controversial anti-terror legislation, in a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Tuesday.

She addressed an amendment to the bill, proposed by the Green party, that took inspiration from recommendations by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).

CIBC's McCaughey And Nesbitt Keep Getting Paid After Retirement, To The Tune Of $25 Million

What’s better than retiring?

Retiring, and still collecting your paycheque.

That’s the arrangement that former CIBC chief executive Gerry McCaughey and former chief operating officer Richard Nesbitt have with their employer, and between the two of them, they will collect $25.2 million in post-retirement pay.

McCaughey left his job on Sept. 15, 2014, but will continue to be paid as the bank’s CEO until April 30, 2016. In that time, he will have earned $16.7 million.

It's Almost Impossible To Find Data On Oil And Gas Spills In Most States

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council has analyzed the data on spills and other violations at oil and gas wells across the country. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the report is how little data the group was able to turn up.

Based on NRDC's evaluation of dozens of state databases, only three states -- West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado -- have easily accessible, publicly available data on spills and other violations. That's three states out of 36 that have active oil and gas development.

Harper government doubles down on weapons manufacturing contracts

Despite a reputation for cool-headed diplomacy during perennial conflicts, the Harper government is doubling down on its weapons-manufacturing capabilities— and quickly expanding its comparatively tiny defence sector into what the tight Cabinet around the prime minister sees as a key driver of Canada's economic future.

In 2008, the Conservatives announced the Canada First Defence Strategy, or CFDS, a $490 billion military budget that should ideally last Canada until 2028. Ottawa put aside 42 per cent of that figure, some $206 billion, as an investment directly into Canada's defence and security industry. Improvements to military infrastructure, equipment, and "readiness" were offered up as tenders for the lowest commercial bidder who would promise the biggest economic impact.

New Harvard Research Debunks the NRA's Favorite Talking Points

Anyone familiar with the gun debate has heard the talking points of the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates: "Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer." Or: "If only more ordinary citizens were armed, they could stop mass shootings." As we've shown in our reporting, these arguments don't stand up to scrutiny. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, commented on another long-running assertion from the gun lobby: "There is no evidence that having more guns reduces crime," he told the New York Times.

Here's What Could Be Fixed by the Taxes on Apple's Offshored Profits

American companies have around $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits stashed overseas, according to a new report by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies. About half of that amount is held by 26 large companies like Apple, General Electric, and Microsoft. If these companies paid federal taxes on their offshored profits from 2014—and got refunds for taxes they've already paid to other countries—they would owe an estimated $364 billion.

Education Ministry Launches GERM Warfare on BC Schools

After a stressful, strike-filled fall, one can imagine that new legislation intended to "strengthen accountability" in the British Columbian public school system has not exactly been received with clouds of rose petals and hallelujah choirs of grateful teachers.

Expect that only when the whole philosophy of education behind it is expelled from the schools for good.

BC Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker got a heads-up about Bill 11, the Education Amendment Act, from the Ministry of Education only the night before it was tabled on March 26. School trustees are still trying to decode it.

Will Changes to C-51 Give Spy Agency Power to Detain?

Bill C-51, the Harper government's proposed anti-terrorism law, was considered in clause-by-clause detail at the House of Commons Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. With a great deal of advance fanfare, the government trumpeted that it would introduce amendments, supposedly showing that it had listened to critics. There were four government amendments, all accepted; all opposition amendments were rejected.

Do the government amendments change anything? Two of the changes eliminated loose phrases that were probably always throwaway lines. Another removes "lawful" from "advocacy, protest and dissent." This is an improvement, but is unlikely to mean a great deal in practice.

Roma refugees victims of systemic discrimination in Canada, new report finds

Hungarian Roma who came to Canada claiming refugee status encountered unfair treatment by lawyers, politicians and government officials, according to a new study prepared by a team of legal researchers in Toronto.

The report, entitled No Refuge: Hungarian Romani Refugee Claimants in Canada, is being released later today by a group refugee law experts from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. The group examined more than 11,000 refugee claimants in Canada between 2008 and 2012 and found that only 8.6 per cent of those claims were successful while more than half were abandoned or withdrawn.

ISIL Mission: Jason Kenney Says War In Iraq, Syria To Cost $528 Million This Year

OTTAWA - Canada's war in Iraq and Syria is expected to cost more than half a billion dollars by this time next year, Defence Minister Jason Kenney revealed Wednesday, one day after federal budget reports stamped the estimate as secret.

Of the total, $406 million is expected to be spent in the new budget year that began Wednesday, on top of the projected $122.5 million that was set aside in the fiscal year that just ended.

Those are the incremental costs — the amount of money the Department of National Defence spends over and above the routine expense of maintaining an army.

A Higher Minimum Wage Could Pump $5.9 Billion Into LA’s Economy

The City of Quartz is a city of contrasts, with some of the world’s richest and poorest neighborhoods existing side by side, divided along borders of race and privilege. But what would happen to its dramatically unequal economic landscape if the city created the highest wage floor in the country?

Progressive economists have mapped out a scenario of a $15.25 hourly minimum wage in Los Angeles, phased in by 2019. The idea is not as radical as it may seem: some City Council members are actively pushing this proposal, perhaps buoyed by the momentum of the Fight for 15 protests exploding nationwide, and the effort builds off the Mayor’s minimum-wage proposal of $13.25 an hour. It would also parallel an ongoing measure—now facing stiff opposition from business leaders—to lift the minimum hourly wages of local hotel workers to $15.37.

Ireland’s Abortion Law Reveals a Complete Contempt for Women

Last week in Dublin I was part of an event, “Too Loud a Silence: Abortion and Censorship in Irish Media,” organized by an Irish activist group, the Abortion Rights Campaign, at the Teachers’ Club in Parnell Square. The room was packed with women, young and not-so-young, which is something you don’t always see at an American pro-choice event. I read from my no-longer-quite-so-new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, and a splendid panel—social policy researcher Goretti Horgan, journalist Carol Hunt and activist Angela Coraccio—dissected the sorry state of reproductive rights in Ireland now, where abortion is banned except, theoretically, when the woman would die or commit suicide (we have the horrific death of Savita Halappanavar in 2013 to thank for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which provides that extremely narrow exemption). Penalty for taking an abortion pill like those bought on the Internet by women all over the world? Up to fourteen years in prison.

Donald Clarkson, Kamloops Grandpa, Jailed For Growing Pot To Supplement Pension

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A British Columbia grandfather who started a marijuana grow-op to augment his small pension has been sentenced to six months in jail.

Donald Clarkson, who is 76, pleaded guilty to production of marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking after police raided a building on his property two years ago.

Gideon Levy: What will happen to Palestine?

Sometimes it is best to get the cards on the table and know where the other party stands, racist warts and all, argues Gideon Levy.
On a cross-Canada speaking tour, courtesy of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, the Israeli columnist forHa'aretz told one Hamilton audience that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed his true colours in the run-up to the March 17 Israeli election.
Netanyahu both publicly rejected a Palestinian state and thus a two-state solution, and warned Israeli voters that minority Arab citizens in the Jewish state were streaming to the polls "in droves."


John Baird shocked the country this February when he abruptly announced that he was leaving his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of parliament. Last week, a regulatory filing of Barrick Gold revealed that the mining giant had hired Baird to its international advisory board, headed by former prime minister Brian Mulroney, for an undisclosed amount of money.

In hindsight, it is easy to see how Baird's position as Minister of Foreign Affairs could have benefitted both Barrick and Barrick founder Peter Munk's pet project, the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

The high-flying life of Pamela Wallin

In October 2001, mere weeks after undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer, Pamela Wallin had returned to her busy-bee self-out on a national book tour promoting Speaking of Success: Collected Wisdom, Insights and Reflections, culled from interviews she’d conducted with everyone from Margaret Atwood to Henry Kissinger. Success had few better ambassadors at that time than the self-styled small-town gal made good from Wadena, Sask. Wallin had worked her way up from CBC Radio in Regina to the Toronto Star to co-host CTV’s Canada AM, then ran its Ottawa political bureau. In the 1990s, she headed to CBC-TV, where she was the first woman to co-anchor the nightly national news. In a country that confers more celebrity on people who read the news than those who make it, Wallin was a superstar, unable to walk down the street without being stopped and fawned over. She also didn’t shy away from being the news herself, most famously in 1988 when she asked then Liberal leader John Turner if he had a drinking problem. Her public image dovetailed with perceived Canuck values: hard-working, decent, down-to-earth, middlebrow, popular, nice. In 1994, her proud hometown renamed its main drag in her honour.

South Africa's Corruption Watchdog Probes Bombardier Rail Deal

South Africa's public corruption watchdog is investigating whether questionable fees were paid to win a $3-billion train contract awarded to a consortium involving Canadian transportation giant Bombardier, CBC News has learned.

The probe is looking at previous reports that millions of dollars in success fees were paid as part of the contract, as well as new revelations, uncovered by CBC News, that a secret deal was brokered by Bombardier to pay $5 million to a South African middleman, Peter-Paul Ngwenya, who describes himself as an "influential individual in political circles."

Tories’ behaviour during anti-terror bill hearings borderline anti-democratic

Even in the darkest days of the Second World War, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons with the latest news, good or bad, and never shrank from a vote of censure.

“I am,” he used to say, “a servant of the House of Commons.”

The great Tory leader would probably be appalled by Canada’s Conservatives, who appear to believe the acronym MP stands for Masters of Parliament, given the way they treat its institutions like whipped dogs.

Lawson admits allies using smart bombs in Syria, despite Kenney claims

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson has done an abrupt about-face and is admitting that advanced precision-guided munitions were indeed used in Syria by Canada’s allies, despite claims to the contrary made by Defence Minister Jason Kenney.

In justifying Canada’s entry into the war, Kenney recently claimed that Canada and the U.S. were the only members of the Syrian coalition who had smart bombs.

But an article last week in the Citizen noted that the minister was wrong, as both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, part of the current five country U.S.-led coalition bombing targets in Syria, have smart weapons and have already used them against Islamic extremists.

John Baird’s appointment to Barrick job raises questions

OTTAWA—John Baird’s appointment to a high-level job at a global mining giant that lobbied him when he was foreign affairs minister is raising questions about the rules governing employment for former public office holders.

Baird, who announced last month that he was stepping down from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet and leaving politics, has been hired as an international adviser by Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp.

Arkansas Legislature Copies Indiana, Passes Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

WASHINGTON -- Arkansas passed a religious freedom bill on Tuesday that is similar to an Indiana law that has faced national backlash for legalizing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The bill cleared the Arkansas Legislature and now heads to the governor's desk, where it is expected to be signed. Like the Indiana law, the Arkansas legislation allows a person who feels his or her exercise of religion has been “substantially burdened” to cite that argument as a claim or defense in a private lawsuit. The legislation also grants corporations the right to religious freedom. This language is not in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and critics say it could be used to override existing anti-discrimination protections.

Powerful Video Of Canada's Homeless Reading 'Mean Tweets' Will Hit You Where It Hurts

We're all used to having some comic relief when we watch one of Jimmy Kimmel's "Mean Tweets" segments, but when you talk about a serious issue like homelessness in Canada, there's nothing to laugh about.

In a new video campaign by Raising The Roof called Humans For Humans, an initiative that supports long-term solutions for homelessness, we see homeless men and women read mean tweets from various Twitter users online. Although the Kimmel version is directly related to the people reading the tweets, these tweets are about homelessness and homeless people as a whole.

Cost of Iraq and NATO reassurance missions ‘classified’ in coming budget: DND

Parliament may have approved a year-long extension to the country’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria, but the Harper government is once again refusing to say how much it will cost taxpayers.

Nor will it reveal the estimated pricetag for upcoming involvement in NATO’s reassurance operations in eastern Europe.

Late Tuesday, the federal Treasury Board tabled its reports on plans and priorities for the coming fiscal year, which is a rough guidebook to upcoming departmental spending.

The costs of Operation Impact and Operation Reassurance are classified, according to National Defence.

Dave Perry of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute says he’s astonished.

Original Article
Author:  Will LeRoy