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.]

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thousands in fees levied for anti-terror bill constitutionality memos

OTTAWA - The Conservative government says its sweeping anti-terrorism bill is constitutional, but verifying that assertion could cost an Ontario man almost $5,000.

Lawyer Jack Gemmell wants to see the federal government's legal opinions and memos spelling out why it believes the proposed legislation is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Gemmell says he was disappointed when the Justice Department asked for $4,772.80 in Access to Information fees just to get his written request to the next step.

The fee assessment is based on the more than 477 hours the department says it needs to locate the records in question.

Quebec City: Pressure building on climate and tar sands

On Saturday April 11, 25,000 people took to the streets in Quebec City for a legal protest, the Act on Climate March.
A number of conferences were held over the weekend, put on by student associations, unions and environmental NGOs.
On April 13 and 14, Canada's Premiers will be meeting in Quebec City to discuss their approaches to climate change moving forward.

Rand Paul’s Favorite Philosophers Think Poor People Are ‘Parasites’

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney famously told a room full of donors in May of 2012. These are the people, Romney claimed, who are “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Leona Aglukkaq Prods Provinces For Better Greenhouse Gas Numbers

OTTAWA - Having missed a March 31 deadline to submit greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to the United Nations, the Harper government is prodding the provinces to come up with better numbers.

But at least one province is accusing Ottawa of taking credit for climate change initiatives launched by other levels of government.

In letters sent to her provincial and territorial counterparts on Friday, and released publicly on Sunday, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq urged the provinces to send more information to bolster reduction targets that Ottawa has so far only estimated based on 2014 information.

Why A Balanced Budget Law Could Mean More Debt For Consumers

The Conservatives’ proposal to mandate balanced books “during normal economic times” for future governments could paint the economy into a corner, potentially allowing the government to reduce its debt at the price of encouraging consumers to increase theirs.

On the eve of plans to announce the first balanced budget in eight years — and after much finagling to make it so — Finance Minister Joe Oliver confirmed last week that the government will bring in balanced budget legislation.

Forget Duffy, Canadians need to wake up to Harper’s true incompetence

It’s enough to have Stephen Harper’s base choking on their Kool Aid.

The same prime minister who adamantly blocked Cuba’s participation in the Summit of the Americas in 2012 now shaking hands with President Raul Castro. What’s next, Harper in a Che Guevara T-shirt having a stogie with Fidel?

While Canada’s PM was abandoning any ideological high ground by sucking around for a meeting with Castro, the federal cabinet was congratulating itself for its “world-class” reaction to an oil spill in the waters off Vancouver’s legendary Stanley Park.

Balanced budget legislation: Another zombie policy returns from the dead

Ah, here we go again -- when seeking to assert credibility as sound fiscal managers, governments reach for the tired gimmick of "balanced budget legislation" (BBL). It's not about good economics. Nor about good public policy. Just crass politics. And now the federal government is once again dangling this useless policy ploy.
The CCPA-BC was critical of BBL when it was introduced by the provincial NDP in 2000, and again when it wasintroduced by the B.C. Liberals a few years later.

Poor response to toxic spill in Vancouver warns against bitumen

On Thursday April 9, residents in Vancouver -- occupied xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh and Səl̓ílwəta land -- woke to news of a toxic fuel spill in English Bay, remnants having made their way to a popular downtown beach.
According to Vancouver City Councilor Geoff Meggs, the federal government had reports of the spill between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, but didn't officially notify the City of Vancouver until 6 a.m. Thursday.
Meggs said there's still no certainty as to "exactly when the spill occurred," and that the city would prefer to be notified immediately.

Will Harper try to ratify Canada-EU trade deal by June?

During the last federal election campaign, Stephen Harper pledged to sign a "free trade" agreement with the European Union by 2012. At a campaign stop in Halifax on March 31, 2011 he stated, "My message today is that a re-elected Conservative government will move ahead full throttle to complete historic free trade agreements with the European Union and India."
Four years later, the Canada-India "free trade" talks are stalled and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has not been officially completed despite well-publicized "signing" ceremonies in October 2013 in Brussels and September 2014 in Ottawa.

Balanced budget legislation will be disastrous for Canada

Finance Minister Joe Oliver's latest musings about introducing balanced budget legislation represent the worst policy for Canada, and will doom us to European-style crises and rob future generations of prosperity.
While the details of the specific plan are not yet available, the very idea of forcing governments in good or bad times to have a balanced budget is one of the worst economic ideas this government has had in its nine years in office. To wit, such a policy has never worked in any of the places it was adopted. It never leads to growth, and in fact depresses economies.

Companies’ Pro-Equality Rhetoric Belied by Their Campaign Donations

Last week, corporate America appeared to take a rare stand on principle. After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, various companies expressed outrage and tried to position themselves as bold defenders of social justice.

There was just one little problem: Many of the same companies have been donating to the public officials who have long opposed the effort to outlaw such discrimination. That campaign cash has flowed to those politicians as they have very publicly led the fight against LGBT rights.

Fracking Increases Radon Gas Hazard, US Study Finds

Another major U.S. health study has found that the hydraulic fracking of unconventional rock formations can liberate and accelerate the release of radon, a highly carcinogenic gas.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that radon levels in U.S. homes in Pennsylvania have been on the rise ever since fracking of the Marcellus shale began in 2004.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that buildings in areas of the most active shale gas mining had significantly higher readings of radon compared to buildings located in areas of low well density and fracking activity.

China Is Said to Use Powerful New Weapon to Censor Internet

SAN FRANCISCO — Late last month, China began flooding American websites with a barrage of Internet traffic in an apparent effort to take out services that allow China’s Internet users to view websites otherwise blocked in the country.

Initial security reports suggested that China had crippled the services by exploiting its own Internet filter — known as the Great Firewall — to redirect overwhelming amounts of traffic to its targets. Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Toronto say China did not use the Great Firewall after all, but rather a powerful new weapon that they are calling the Great Cannon.

Pope Francis Uses 'Genocide' To Describe Armenian Killing, Turkey Reacts

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks "the first genocide of the 20th century" and urged the international community to recognize it as such, sparking a diplomatic rift with Turkey.

Turkey, which has long denied a genocide took place, immediately summoned the Vatican ambassador to complain and promised a fuller official response.

"The pope's statement which is far from historic and legal truths is unacceptable," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted. "Religious positions are not places where unfounded claims are made and hatred is stirred."


The overwhelmed TTC's transit expansion department is unable to oversee big infrastructure projects like the Spadina subway extension without delays and $150 million in cost overruns. That, the players at City Hall would have us believe, is why TTC CEO Andy Byford fired chief capital officer Sameh Ghaly and project manager Andy Bertolo in mid-March. 

15 Questions Hillary Clinton Should Answer Right Now

This Sunday, Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy for president of the United States. This should surprise exactly nobody. The “prolonged prologue” to her second presidential bid, The New York Times drolly noted, has reached its “suspenseless conclusion.”

By all accounts, Clinton’s rollout is expected to be a tightly choreographed sequence of events. First a series of promotional messages on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Then meet-and-greets with small crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Clinton will gradually grow her campaign staff, which is headquartered in Brooklyn and is expected to raise and spend upwards of $2 billion during the election.

Revenue Canada targets Steelworkers charity for political activities

A union-backed charity that wants Canadian mining companies held accountable for overseas misdeeds is among the latest to be targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency for political activities.

The Steelworkers Humanity Fund Inc. is still awaiting a verdict from the agency, nine months after an auditor showed up at the Toronto office and hauled away several binders of sensitive material.

Mulcair Promises Proportional Representation If NDP Wins Next Election

If the NDP forms Canada's next government, Thomas Mulcair says he'll put an end to majority governments elected by a minority of the population.

In an op-ed published in Common Ground magazine this week, Mulcair promises that if the NDP has its way the next election will be the last in Canada's history conducted with a first-past-the-post system.

Canada's Lack Of Hemispheric Envoy Signals Fading Influence In Americas: Experts

PANAMA CITY - Canada's lack of an ambassador to the international group that oversees this weekend's hemispheric summit in Panama is raising concerns about Ottawa's commitment to Latin America.

The government insists there's nothing unusual about the fact it hasn't replaced its most recent envoy to the Organization of American States, even though his four-year term ended in November.

Warren on softening Wall Street tone: 'Give me a break'

“Do you think that if I used a sweeter tone with the banks, that if I said very nicely, ‘We should have broken you into pieces,’ that everything would be fine?” she asked audience members at the Know Your Value Conference in Philadelphia.

“Do you think that if I smiled more at banking committee hearings, that Wall Street would put me on their Christmas card lists?” she continued. “Give me a break.”

Hedge-Fund Magnate Robert Mercer Emerges as a Generous Backer of Cruz

WASHINGTON — The two men share a passion for unbridled markets, concerns about the Internal Revenue Service and a skeptical view of climate change.

Now the two — Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge-fund magnate — share another bond that could link them through November 2016: Both want to see Mr. Cruz elected president.

Mr. Mercer, a reclusive Long Islander who started at I.B.M. and made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market, emerged this week as a key early bankroller of Mr. Cruz’s surprisingly fast campaign start. He is believed to be the main donor behind a network of four “super PACs” supporting Mr. Cruz that reported raising $31 million just a few weeks into his campaign.

Why This Major Venture Capital Firm Has No Female Partners

Even Marc Andreessen has trouble attracting women to his $4 billion venture capital firm.

The venture capital titan said he has tried to hire an unnamed woman general partner to Andreessen Horowitz five times. Each time, she turned him down.

“They get so many offers,” he said in a Q&A with Fortune’s Dan Primack. “Because there are so few and the need is so intense, they get so many offers, that they’re just drowning in opportunity.”

Mayor blames province and feds for slow response to English Bay spill

It took six hours for the Coast Guard to build a containment boom around a toxic spill at a deep-water anchorage off English Bay and 13 hours before City authorities were notified. Now the City of Vancouver has advised residents to stay away from globs of toxicity washing up on shore and 3 oiled ducks are in a rescue care unit -- with growing fears that all this foreshadows an approaching catastrophe.

Mayor Robertson said this morning that efforts to contain the spill failed.

Diaries reveal Duffy spoke with Krause as government launched federal attack on charities

She had tears in her eyes as she told the Senate National Finance Committee she had sold her house to support herself as she did research on environmental charities.

On June 8, 2012, writer and researcher Vivian Krause alleged a conspiracy between American financial interests and Canadian environmental groups. She said the collusion was meant to ensure Canadian energy resources would remain destined for American markets rather than exported to meet the growing demand in China.

Scapegoat Economics 2015

As economic crises, declines and dislocations increasingly hurt or threaten people around the globe, they provoke questions. How are we to understand the forces that produced the 2008 crisis, the crisis itself, with its quick bailouts and stimulus programs, and now the debts, austerity policies and deepening economic inequalities that do not go away? Economies this troubled force people to think and react. Some resign themselves to "hard times" as if they were natural events. Some pursue individual strategies trying to escape the troubles. Some mobilize to fight whoever they blame for it all. Many are drawn to scapegoating, usually encouraged by politicians and parties seeking electoral advantages.

Nordic countries extend military alliance in face of Russian aggression

The Nordic countries have pledged to step up military cooperation in the face of increased Russian aggression, which they described as the “biggest challenge to European security”.

The defence ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, plus Iceland’s foreign minister, signed a joint declaration published in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that said the bloc “must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents”.


Who’s keeping watch of the National Security Agency? In Congress, the answer in more and more cases is that the job is going to former lobbyists for NSA contractors and other intelligence community insiders.
A wave of recent appointments has placed intelligence industry insiders into key Congressional roles overseeing intelligence gathering. The influx of insiders is particularly alarming because lawmakers in Washington are set to take up a series of sensitive surveillance and intelligence issues this year, from reform of the Patriot Act to far-reaching “information sharing” legislation.

Stephen Harper: Conservative? Maybe not.

The partisan battle lines over federal economic policy keep shifting. For much of last year it looked like the defining clash would be over middle-class incomes. More recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new tax break for couples with kids has dominated his sparring with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau. On any given day, though, the hottest economic argument might seem to be about government spending levels, or trade policy, or programs meant to boost competitiveness. Maybe the best way to squeeze all these elements, and more, into a single frame is to consider a slogan the Conservatives are testing out in the run-up to the federal election set for this coming Oct. 19: “We’re better off with Harper.”

General Electric Hands Dodd-Frank Its Biggest Victory Yet

WASHINGTON --General Electric said Friday it will sell off most of its banking operations, an acknowledgment that the company needs to transform itself in the face of Wall Street reforms passed five years ago.

The move marks the most dramatic reshaping of the American financial system to occur as a direct result of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which required regulators to take a hard look at financial companies deemed too big to fail.

‘It’s Racist As Hell': Inside St. Louis County’s Predatory Night Courts

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI — In 2004, Sean Bailey recalls, he was driving through the streets of St. Louis County en route to a party, when he saw a familiar black-and-white car out of the corner of his eye. He reached for his phone to warn the friend he was following to slow down, but it was too late; the cop blared his siren and pulled up behind him. Bailey, who had a warrant stemming from a failure to appear in court for unpaid traffic tickets, felt a familiar pang of anxiety. He knew exactly what was going to happen next.

Former Republican Says No One Who Voted for the Iraq War Should Be President—Including Hillary Clinton

Lincoln Chafee just went there, as only Lincoln Chafee could.

The former Republican senator and independent governor of Rhode Island, who is very seriously exploring the prospect of challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said Iraq should be an issue.

Then Chafee got specific. He brought up the votes that he and Clinton cast in 2002, as members of the US Senate, on whether to authorize President Bush and Vice President Cheney to steer the United States toward war with Iraq.

Hillary Clinton Is Running for President. Here Are 11 Stories About Her That You Should Read Now.

Finally, after months of speculation, scandal, and shadow campaigning, Hillary Clinton is about to announce she is officially running for president. The Clinton camp leaked to press on Friday that she plans to tweet a video on Sunday announcing her intent to run; the Guardian reported that Clinton will be on a plane to Iowa to begin campaigning when the video goes public.

The GM bailout — and the fracture in Harper’s fiscal facade

In the 1990s, Prime Minister Jean Chretien balanced Canada’s books on the backs of the provinces. With the IMF breathing hot and heavy down the nation’s neck, Ottawa turned off the taps in 1995, cutting provincial transfers by 21 per cent over two years.

The budget soon returned to balance, the Liberals took the credit for slaying the deficit and taxpayers grumbled as provincial governments scaled back spending and/or ramped up taxes to cover the gap in their revenues.

Mike Duffy's diary chronicles discussion of P.E.I. residency

The Harper government was well aware of concerns about Mike Duffy's Senate eligibility and officials met several times to discuss it, according to a diary presented as evidence in the former broadcaster's trial.

Senators are supposed to "be resident" in the province from which they are appointed. Duffy has lived in Ottawa since the 1970s, but was appointed to represent Prince Edward Island.

Conservatives singing the blues in Quebec

MONTREAL—Quebec’s sovereigntists are struggling and Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau are battling for the progressive voters. That has opened a window, in the eyes of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, for les bleus, the true-blue Quebec Tories, to make a comeback.

The federal Tories have only five seats in Quebec, but their current levels of support could see them as much as triple their seat-count in the province, according to projections released by Bryan Breguet, a political polling analyst and blogger for the Journal de Montréal. That could mean the difference between maintaining power or being ousted after nine years in office.

Vancouver Toxic Fuel Spill Flags Questions about Shipping Regs

While a toxic spill fuel in Vancouver's English Bay on Wednesday evening raises questions about tanker traffic off B.C.'s coast, experts are also warning that some international shipping companies may be making our waters more unsafe by legally registering vessels in countries with worse safety records than Canada's.

The Coast Guard alerted local authorities to a long slick of leaked fuel in the waters off Stanley Park early Thursday morning, after spending the night trying to contain it.

Vancouver's Preview of a Spill from Hell

Vancouver just got a small whiff of what a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic could mean for a place aspiring to be the world's greenest city. On a calm afternoon in English Bay this week, a grain freighter at anchor apparently started leaking bunker fuel into the scenic waters off Stanley Park.

Local residents and their municipal government were not informed for 13 hours. The Coast Guard was ostensibly in charge of the cleanup, but its private sector partners at West Coast Marine Response Corporation took six hours to start skimming the oil and nine hours to put a boom around the leaking vessel.

Tax-free savings accounts rob tax revenue from the future

From the viewpoint of your private financial welfare, saving for the future with a Tax Free Savings Account is almost always a good idea. In fact, the more you invest in a TFSA, the better.

But as personal tax advisors discuss the advantages of a proposed Conservative Party plan to increase or even double the amount Canadians are allowed to set aside, there's another consideration that has hardly been mentioned.

Quebec Union Representing Radio-Canada To Campaign Against Tories

MONTREAL - Quebec's second-largest labour federation will target the federal Conservatives in parts of Quebec and Ontario in this fall's election.

Confederation of National Trade Unions president Jacques Letourneau said Friday one of its affiliates, which represents 6,000 prison guards, will campaign against the Tories in certain Quebec ridings and in Ontario, particularly in the Toronto area.

Vancouver Oil Spill Cleanup Will Be Done By Trained Workers

Despite being inundated with well-meaning offers of help, Vancouver officials say only trained crews in protective gear should be cleaning up the oil spill from a ship in English Bay.

An estimated 3,000 litres of bunker fuel leaked into the water from a brand-new cargo ship that apparently had a malfunction on Wednesday evening.

Oil residue has been washing up on local beaches, and some residents have been out with gloves, brushes, and buckets of soapy water to try and clean up.

Vancouver Oil Spill: Ship That Leaked Fuel Into English Bay Had Malfunction

VANCOUVER - The toxic spill that fouled Vancouver's English Bay has created some poison between federal, provincial and city politicians.

B.C.'s premier and Vancouver's mayor criticized the sluggish and inadequate response of the clean up operation by the coast guard on Friday.

Industry Minister James Moore reacted defensively, telling reporters that it was unhelpful to have politicians "piling on and spreading misinformation."

Arthur Porter, Canada's Ex-Spy Watchdog, To Harper: Come Visit Me In Jail

OTTAWA - When Stephen Harper arrives in Panama on Friday it will bring him within a short drive of a man he'd probably rather forget: alleged fraudster Arthur Porter.

For his part, Porter, who's been jailed in Panama City for nearly two years, still thinks about the man who made him a member of Canada's spy watchdog a few years ago.

He also has a message for Harper.