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, September 12, 2015

The week that Stephen Harper lost the benefit of the doubt

One gets recorded on camera peeing in someone’s coffee cup. Another jumps out of the bushes in camo to tackle a woman caught vandalizing his campaign signs in the dead of night. And now, a board member of a Conservative riding association has been dismissed for race-baiting posts on her Facebook account.

No wonder Jenni Byrne is folding like a $3 dollar suitcase. Reform-style loons have broken out of their shallow graves and are once more shambling across the landscape.

Claims Of Faulty Intel On ISIS Bring Back Bad Memories Of Iraq

WASHINGTON -- News that senior U.S. intelligence officials may have doctored analysis on the Islamic State weighs heavily on Washington. It suggests that President Barack Obama's intelligence apparatus didn't learn from the costly failures of the Bush era.

The Daily Beast reported late Wednesday that more than 50 intelligence professionals have formally complained that their analysis of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and of Syria's al Qaeda branch, al Nusra, was altered by U.S. Central Command higher-ups in order to make the U.S. military campaign to defeat those groups look more successful than it actually was.

Oil giants derail California bill to reduce gasoline use by 50%

An ambitious environmental bill in California that attempted to legislate up to a 50% reduction in gasoline use by 2030 had been derailed by the oil industry in the final week of the legislative session.

Senate president pro tempore Kevin de Leon announced on Wednesday that he would amend the bill, SB350, to drop the petroleum provisions. It will be changed in the assembly’s natural resources committee as soon as Thursday to deal only with increasing the state’s renewable electricity supply and boosting energy efficiency in buildings through retrofits and upgrades.

Why was Bruce Carson able to lobby for oil and gas right under the PMO's nose?

The only time I met Bruce Carson — who was once an acting chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) — he asked me to take down a blog I had written.
The 2011 post focused on how Carson had shifted from handling the energy file in the PMO to acting as the political quarterback for a joint government-oil industry push to get pipelines built.

Ottawa Faces $5-Billion Shortfall Next Year, National Bank Says

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was on the campaign trail Thursday touting what his government is calling a return to balanced budgets, but a new forecast from National Bank Financial could put a damper on that talking point.

The federal government faces a possible $4-billion to $5-billion budget shortfall in the 2016-2017 budget year, National Bank economists predicted in a client note Thursday, because recent forecasts for economic growth have been too rosy.

Donald Trump's Fans Only Hear What They Want to Hear

In a sea of signs protesting President Obama's nuclear deal on Wednesday, there was one that literally towered above the rest: It loomed 12 feet over the crowd, with TRUMP in huge letters blazoned across a red background. The biggest. The best. An instant media sensation.

California Police Ransacked Public Apartments Without Warrants Under ‘Neighborhood Blitz’ Program

In an invasive, war-like operation known as the Neighborhood Blitz, police officers in Stockton, California illegally searched the apartments of poor minorities and physically disabled people, according to a class action lawsuit filed Wednesday. Under the guise of standard housing inspections, armed officers routinely burst into homes with little to no warning, ransacked the premises without warrants, demanded personal information from tenants that had nothing to do with their homes, and threatened renters with arrests and homelessness.

Taxpayers Have Spent A 'Staggering' Amount Of Money On NFL Stadiums

When the NFL season kicks off Thursday night in New England, football fans will file into a stadium built with $72 million in taxpayer money. Compared to fans in other NFL cities, residents of Foxboro, Massachusetts, can thank their team for giving them a bargain.

Taxpayers have spent nearly $3 billion on the 16 stadiums that will host NFL games during the season's opening weekend, according to figures in a new analysis from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a Washington, D.C-based conservative nonprofit group.

Stephen Harper’s ‘enemies list’ a reason to worry

At the risk of being added to the Harper government’s recently discovered “enemies list,” let’s consider why the existence of such a document should give us all pause.

As Susan Delacourt and Bruce Campion Smith reported this week , the Prime Minister’s Office is providing newly shuffled Conservative ministers with a rather unusual transition document. The binders reportedly include not only standard details such as “What to expect soon” and “Who to appoint,” but also “Who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders” and “What to avoid: pet bureaucratic projects.” And originally, but later rescinded, staff were asked to enumerate “bureaucrats that can’t take no (or yes) for an answer.” In short, the PMO instructed ministerial aides to compile a list of enemies.

You will be shocked(!) to see who is on Stephen Harper’s full ‘enemy’ list

Like many of you, I was shocked to hear that a member of the Prime Minister’s Office had sent an email asking staff in other ministers’ offices to compile lists of “enemy stakeholders.”

This did not sound like the discreet, professional Prime Minister’s Office with which I think we are all familiar. Just the risk of such an email coming to light made it impossible to believe any member of the current PMO was involved. On top of which: enemies lists? Not on this prime minister’s watch. I distinctly remember the prime minister on election night promising “to govern for all Canadians.” Say what you will about Stephen Harper, but he’s a man of his word.

Alberta On Track To Have Worst Air Quality In Canada: Minister

EDMONTON — The province says the Red Deer region in central Alberta has failed to maintain a federal standard for air quality.

Results from Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards show the area has exceeded the acceptable amount of particulate matter and ozone exposure.

California Democrats Wanted to Save the World. They Just Caved to Big Oil

It appears I was a bit too bullish on the prospects for historic new climate legislation in California. Yesterday, Democrats in the state legislature caved to pressure from the powerful oil industry and dropped a critical piece of the bill.

SB 350, which had passed the state Senate but faced an uphill climb through the Assembly, was intended to enshrine in law a series of ambitious climate targets unveiled earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown (D). One of the most important was a proposal to slash the state's gasoline consumption in half by 2030. Here's a bit of background from my story last week:

1 In 7 U.S. Households Struggled To Afford Food Last Year: Report

One in seven U.S. households struggled to afford food last year, according to a new report. Yet, many families in need didn’t take advantage of safety net programs that could help alleviate the issue.

The number of food insecure households has remained “essentially unchanged” since 2012, holding steady at 17.4 million households, a USDA report found. But advocates are concerned about the fact that safety net programs are being underutilized.

Golden Dawn Is Running In Greece's Elections Again. Here's Why That's Scary

ATHENS -- Golden Dawn, Greece's extremist far-right party, appeared on the political scene almost 30 years ago, but has thrived during the past crisis years.

Here's what you need to know about it:

The School-to-Prison Pipeline Is Institutional Racism

What is the school-to-prison pipeline?

The school-to-prison pipeline is a no-nonsense trend in American education, where children are directed straight from the classroom and into the bureaucratic clutches of the criminal justice system.

The phenomenon manifests itself in disciplinary practices and zero-tolerance policies that criminalize unruly behavior and minor infractions such as truancy, graffiti or violating a school dress code. Not only that, it involves the presence of security guards, and police on campus, breaking up trivial playground fights with a billy-club and a taser.

New Report Offers Most Plausible Explanation Yet For Attack On 43 Mexican Students

The recent report on the 43 students who were abducted last year in Iguala, Mexico, released by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on Sunday, confirmed what most people following the case already knew: No one should take the Mexican authorities’ investigation into the case seriously. The panel of experts concluded that the government’s explanation is hopelessly marred and has no basis in forensic science -- further discrediting an investigation already plagued by false public statements and the torture of key witnesses.

Hillary Clinton Promises A More Muscular Foreign Policy As President

WASHINGTON -- In the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election, Hillary Clinton’s vote to authorize the Iraq War six years before haunted her on the campaign trail. It put her in stark contrast with then-Senator Barack Obama, who touted his foresight in opposing the ill-fated war. But if Clinton was scarred by the perception that her foreign policy agenda is too hawkish for the Democratic Party, she showed no signs of it Wednesday morning in a speech detailing her plan to counter Iran after the implementation of the nuclear deal.

@Kady – No, possible future prime minister Tom Mulcair, you can't just pretend the Senate isn't there

“How do you get things through the Senate?”

The question – posed by CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge to New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair as part of a series of one-on-one interviews with the four major party leaders –  seemed like a straightforward one, at least on the surface.

Even so, it was clearly unlikely to elicit a similarly simple answer, given the NDP’s decades-long campaign to roll up the red carpet coupled with its current perch at the top of public opinion polls.

Beware of how Harper interprets the rules of the game

If current polls are accurate, an election held today would give the Conservatives at best the second highest number of seats, and maybe even a third place finish.
That would mean we wouldn't have to worry about Stephen Harper's false and self-serving characterization of Canada's Westminster system of government.
On Monday, Harper told CBC's Peter Mansbridge that the purpose of elections in Canada is not to choose a parliament but to "elect a government."

Fact-checking Harper's 'savings' plan for post-secondary education

The claim: The Conservatives will helplow- and middle-incomefamilies save for their children's post-secondary education by doubling the amount that they can receive from the federal government through RESPs.

Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) are saving schemes that encourage young families to start saving for their children's education from birth. Money set aside through RESPs is eligible for a grant.

KPMG offshore 'sham' deceived tax authorities, CRA alleges

A wealthy Victoria, B.C., family paid virtually no tax over a span of eight years – and even obtained federal and provincial tax credits – while being involved in an offshore tax "sham" developed by one of the country's most respected accounting firms, the Canada Revenue Agency alleges.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) believes there may be many more like them.

Lawsuit calls for end to claw-back of child support

Ottawa father Anupam Kakkar says he is happy to pay child support for his two children, ages 12 and 10.

But because the children’s mother lives on social assistance, none of Kakkar’s $645 monthly payments go to the kids.

That is because under provincial legislation, child support payments to single parents on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are clawed back by the government to compensate taxpayers.

 Europe’s Refugee Crisis Was Made in America

All over Europe and the Mediterranean world, barriers are being breached: the natural and man-made barriers used by nation-states to shut out unwanted travelers; the barriers of fear and grief that keep people from fleeing war or poverty until they have no choice; the barriers of indifference that enable
 the rest of us to get on with our lives as if those men, women, and children were no concern of ours. More than 380,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year in search of safety, two-thirds of them landing in Greece; at least 2,850 have drowned or are missing at sea. Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, and others walk for days in the heat, sleep rough on docks or station platforms or by the side of the road, are tear-gassed and beaten at borders and crammed into trains like cattle as they try to make their way north.

Security Threat No Reason To Block Syrian Refugees, Says Former Minister

Security concerns are not a good enough reason to prevent the Canadian government from bringing thousands of Syrian refugees into the country, argues former immigration minister Ron Atkey.

Atkey, who served under Prime Minister Joe Clark in 1979 and 1980, says the Progressive Conservative government then managed to help 60,000 refugees from Indochina come to Canada after the end of the Vietnam War.

Ontario First Nations Chiefs Raise Funds To Pay For Inquiry Into Murdered, Missing Women

TORONTO — First Nations Chiefs in Ontario launched a fundraising campaign Wednesday to help pay for their own public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Ontario regional Chief Isadore Day said the chiefs don't want to wait any longer for the federal government to agree to a public inquiry, and noted the online campaign will help focus on the need for a national probe.

Syrian Seeking Refugee Status In Canada Says He's In Limbo 3 Years After Arriving

TORONTO — Hussein Rahim had already lost his cousin and uncle — one shot dead, the other missing — when he was arrested by military forces during a protest in his native Syria.

His family paid thousands of dollars for his release, but fear of being detained again as the unrest turned to armed conflict prompted him to seek asylum in Canada, he said in a recent interview.

"I left the country because God knows what was going to happen if I stayed there," he said.

Police Chief Accused Of Comparing Black People To Monkeys

A police chief in Oregon thinks black people are animals.

That's what two of former Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover's own officers claim in a complaint filed in July. Hoover -- who resigned last week after a month on administrative leave -- is accused of acting like a monkey to imitate a black suspect and saying, "That's what they deserve."

In the complaint first obtained by KOIN, Officer D. Alex Stone said he joined two other officers to discuss a suspect's comments with Hoover. Stone said the black suspect threatened to file discrimination lawsuits against the department.

Rate Of U.S. 'Food Insecurity' Stubbornly High

WASHINGTON -- Fourteen percent of U.S. households lacked access to enough good food at some point last year, according to the latest annual food insecurity estimate from the federal government.

The change from last year's 14.3 percent is too small to count as statistically significant, but the decline from 14.9 percent in 2011 is good news, say researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Still, despite an improving economy, the rate is much higher than the 11.1 percent seen in 2007, before the onset of the Great Recession.

Calls To Close Down Rikers Island Are Getting Louder

NEW YORK -- Tear down Rikers Island.

That idea -- to close one of the country's largest jail complexes -- has in recent months inspired op-eds, protest signs and a hashtag. On Wednesday, the idea got the endorsement of a New York City lawmaker.

“Ultimately, what we should really be talking about is abolishing Rikers Island completely," City Council member Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) told reporters outside City Hall in lower Manhattan.

Sheldon Adelson Is Ready to Buy the Presidency

In a few weeks, when the nuclear deal Barack Obama negotiated with Iran comes before Congress, it’s all but certain that not a single Republican will vote in support of it. With the possible exception of Maine’s Susan Collins, who has yet to reveal her position, each of the 246 Republicans in the House and 53 Republicans in the Senate has indicated his or her opposition to the deal. Not that a mere vote could possibly express the intensity of even that unanimous opposition — or the fervid support for Israel that lies behind it. “It is a fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States and of our closest allies, first and foremost Israel,” Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has said. Cruz’s 16 Republican-primary opponents have denounced the deal in similar terms. One of them, Mike Huckabee, has gone so far as to argue that Obama “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

Jeb Bush Wants To Double Down On His Brother's Tax Cuts For The Rich

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush outlined a tax plan on Wednesday that broadly resembles the tax platform presented in 2000 by his brother George W. Bush. The main difference: Jeb would give even bigger tax breaks to the the ultra-wealthy.

The current income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans is 39.6 percent, where it stood when Jeb's brother ran for president in 2000. At the time, George W. pushed to cut the top rate to 33 percent. Jeb would slash it to 28 percent --  almost one-third less than the current rate.

Canada’s failure to act on refugee crisis begins with Stephen Harper

Canada’s response to the refugee crisis has been terribly disappointing. While other major Western countries, one after another, have been promising to do more, Ottawa has been muttering into its lapels. A country that is justifiably proud of its record of compassion is looking very much the laggard – hesitant, reluctant, defensive.

It has fallen to Canadian mayors to say the right thing. If Stephen Harper hopes to serve again as prime minister, he would do well to listen to them. Canada’s mayors are putting him to shame.

Target CEO's Golden Handshake Pretty Much Matches The One For All 17,600 Canadian Employees

An interesting talking point has seized the interwebs today: The amount of money Target has set aside to pay its Canadian staff is slightly less than the money it paid out to one former employee: Its CEO.

Gregg Steinhafel took a total of $61 million U.S. from Target when he left the company last spring, according to Fortune's calculations. Meanwhile, the fund Target set up to pay employees as it winds down operations over the next four months is set at $56 million U.S. (That’s $70 million Canadian, at current exchange rates.)

55% Chance Of Made-In-China World Recession, And Rich Countries Are Out Of Ammo: Citigroup

The U.S.’s fourth-largest bank is betting the world is headed for a recession.

In a note published Tuesday, the chief economist at Citigroup, Willem Buiter, said the global economy faces a 55 per cent chance of falling into recession, thanks to the downturn in China.

What’s worse, Buiter believes that developed countries can do little to stop it, because they’ve already used up their ammunition fighting the last economic slowdown.

Gender Wage Gap Is Costing World Countless Billions, UN Says

MANILA, Philippines — A U.N. agency is mounting a worldwide campaign for equal pay for women, who get 24 per cent less than men on global average and around 30 per cent less for those in Asia.

Recent estimates by the International Labor Organization shows gender inequality in employment across Asia alone is costing $45 billion a year, with 45 per cent of working-age women outside the labour force compared to 19 per cent for men, the leader of the U.N. Women agency, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, told a forum at the Asian Development Bank headquarters.

Warren Buffett: Poverty In The U.S. 'Makes No Sense'

Warren Buffett doesn't think any Americans should be poor anymore.

In an economy that produces over $54,000 in gross domestic product per capita, the billionaire says, regulators must rein in the fast-widening gap between the poor and the super-rich.

"You expect unequal results in a market economy, very unequal," the Berkshire Hathaway founder said in a video published Tuesday by Reuters TV. "But you really shouldn't have an economy with over $50,000 in GDP per person and have lots of people living in poverty who are willing to work. I mean, that makes no sense."

The War on Women Is Over—and Women Lost

WHEN SHE WAS 20 YEARS OLD, Renee Chelian began every Friday with a predawn drive to an airplane hangar outside Detroit. There she met an abortion doctor, and a pilot who flew them to Buffalo, New York.

How Harper Sows Fear of Muslims in Pursuit of Votes

The past year has been a very active one for the anti-Islam industry in Canada. Leading the charge is none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper who -- in gearing up to the elections in October 2015 -- has been stoking Islamophobia by pandering to public unease about Muslims. In addition to going after Muslimcharities organizations (allegedly defaming NCCM, for instance) and even religious symbols, his jihad against "radical Islam" and search for terrorists under every Muslim bed has profoundly altered the Canadian legal landscape.

Almost Half Of Canadians Living Hand To Mouth; Retirement Plans Delayed

MONTREAL — A new survey suggests many Canadians are pessimistic about their financial futures and expect to work longer than originally planned before retiring.

According to the survey, released by the Canadian Payroll Association, three-quarters of working Canadians polled reporting having put aside less than 25 per cent of the money they expect to need in retirement.

28 Republican Men Threaten Government Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON -- A group of 28 House Republican lawmakers, all men, are pledging to do everything in their power to defund Planned Parenthood this fall, even it means shutting down the federal government in protest.

In a letter circulated this summer by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), the congressmen pledged to vote against any bill that funds the federal government if it includes money for Planned Parenthood. Congress must fund the government by Sept. 30 to avoid a shutdown.

Mexico’s Military May Have Fired At Missing Students: Report

The Mexican army monitored the movements of 43 students who later went missing for hours before the students were first attacked, and was present when many of them were abducted, according to an investigative report published Sunday in the Mexican magazine Proceso.

The report contradicts claims by the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which has repeatedly said the military was not in the streets of Iguala the night the students were abducted there and that federal officials knew nothing about the attacks as they occurred. The report, by journalists Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, also unearthed evidence that soldiers from the 27th battalion of the Mexican army may have fired at the students during the attacks.

No, Mr. Harper — you can’t fix a refugee crisis by blowing things up

Stephen Harper is right when he says the current refugee crisis won’t be resolved without addressing its root causes. But he is so terribly wrong when he says those root causes can be dealt with by dropping bombs on the crazed and cruel extremists who call themselves the ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria.

The United States and its allies, including Canada, have dropped 22,863 bombs on ISIS-held territory in the region in the past year. How’s that working out? ISIS appears to be as strong as ever. And there are more refugees than ever.

'Refugees Welcome' rallies shine light on Canada's exclusionary immigration policies

"You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land," says Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.
Amidst Syria's current refugee crisis, Shire's words ring truer than ever.
The world mourned as it learned of the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who was discovered lifeless on a Turkish shoreline. Anger stirred further as the deaths of his five-year-old brother Galib and their mother Rehana became public as well. The Kurdi family was attempting to escape the destruction of the Syrian civil war. Only their father Abdullah survived.

The dimensions of the 2011 voter suppression fraud gravely underreported

In the first essay in this series, I implied that the failure of Maclean's political editor Paul Wells to mention the 2011 electoral fraud in his book on Stephen Harper qualified him for inclusion among "Harper's Helpers." Wells has himself confirmed the point.
When he suggested on Twitter (the same day) that journalists "might just want to ask other questions" rather than digging into government scandals, singer-songwriter Raffi Cavoukianreplied: "It's the Harper #elxn42 [2015 election] run that ought to be in question -- a lawless, rogue [prime minister] running again -- that's the issue." Raffi added that the Harper Conservatives were "convicted of wrongdoing in each of last [three] elections. That's a huge issue." Wells responded, Tweeting, "The Governor General, Elections Canada and the Constitution disagree with you, you flatulent crank."

One Month in, Major Parties Still Quiet on Health Care

According to Michael Decter, a former Ontario deputy minister of health and financial advisor who chairs the board of Patients Canada, there are two "real embarrassments" in Canadian health care.

The first is that half a million people in Atlantic Canada have no drug coverage whatsoever. "That's pretty glaring," he said, noting that in that region stories of communities helping neighbours raise money to buy expensive drug treatments are common.

An Open Letter to Kim Davis

Dear Kim,

In light of all of the attention being focused on you and your family at the moment, there are three things I would like to say to you.

The first is that I am impressed by your ability to stand by your own beliefs and convictions. I absolutely do believe you when you say that this matter is not about holding ill will against anyone but that it is about God and God's Word. And I can identify with the reassurance you have felt and received when you joined your church four years ago. That kind of forgiveness is no small thing and I'm glad that you have found such peace.

Jeb Bush Proposing Broad Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is proposing broad tax cuts for individuals and corporations as part of a plan to trigger stronger U.S. economic growth if he is elected in November 2016.

Bush laid out key elements of his tax overhaul framework in an opinion article posted on Tuesday for the Wall Street Journal, a day before he gives a speech outlining his plan in North Carolina.

With his tax plan, Bush showed how he was attempting to court Republican voters with serious policy ideas at a time when attention has been focused on brash New York billionaire Donald Trump.

5 Myths About Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis You Shouldn’t Fall For

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis remains in jail this week as she continues to refuse to issue marriage licences to Kentucky couples in violation of a federal court order because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.

Her story has attracted national media attention, and most of the Republican presidential candidates have chimed in too. In fact, Mike Huckabee will be in Kentucky today today to join other conservative groups in an #ImWithKim rally for “religious liberty.”

Jeb Bush Makes a Big Play for Overseas Money

After faring poorly in recent polls amid a crowded GOP presidential field, Jeb Bush has begun aggressively courting former US diplomats, who he hopes will make public endorsements for him and encourage wealthy American expats to donate to his campaign. As part of this effort, the Bush team scheduled a private meeting in New York City on Tuesday with ex-ambassadors and former State Department political appointees. "Are you willing to participate in international finance efforts and advocate for Jeb 2016 through your network abroad?" asked a questionnaire distributed by the campaign to former diplomats. It also asked recipients if they would be willing to pen op-eds or serve as campaign surrogates.

@Kady – No, the party that wins the most seats does not automatically get to form government.

No, not even if Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau — two of the party leaders currently competing for the privilege of doing so — claim otherwise.

In fact, under current constitutional conventions, as the leader of the incumbent government, Stephen Harper would be given the first opportunity to test the confidence of the House after the dust had settled from October 19th — even if the Conservatives came in third.