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.]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Senator Art Eggleton tries a new tack in his fight against poverty

Senator Art Eggleton has learned a painful lesson over the past two years. Canadians don’t respond to speeches about poverty.

The former Toronto mayor, former cabinet minister and longtime Liberal MP hit the road following the release of A Call to Action on Poverty, a massive report by the Senate subcommittee on cities, which he chaired. It was loaded with facts, figures and heart-rending stories. It made affordable recommendations. It was written with conviction and urgency.

The 362-page tome attracted no attention in Ottawa.

Canada $100 Bills: Image Of Asian-Looking Woman Banned By Bank Of Canada

OTTAWA - The Bank of Canada purged the image of an Asian-looking woman from its new $100 banknotes after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.

The original image intended for the reverse of the plastic polymer banknotes, which began circulating last November, showed an Asian-looking woman scientist peering into a microscope.

Ontario government unveils proposed legislation to force teacher agreements

OTTAWA — Education Minister Laurel Broten raised the stakes in her battle with Ontario teachers Thursday by unveiling legislation that would freeze wages and ban any strike or lockout for the next two years.

The province has given school boards and teachers until the end of August to sign local agreements based on one reached with English Catholic teachers last month, but so far only one — the Toronto District Catholic School Board — has been successful.

Defeated Tory cabinet minister Berger gets plum civil service job

A defeated Tory cabinet minister is going back on the Alberta government payroll in an appointment the Wildrose Opposition says raises big concerns over Progressive Conservative cronyism and the politicization of the civil service.

Evan Berger, who was agriculture minister before losing his Livingstone-Macleod riding in the spring provincial election, was offered a contract Thursday as senior policy adviser to deputy minister of agriculture John Knapp.

United Church of Canada elects first openly gay moderator

OTTAWA — In a historic vote, the United Church of Canada has elected its first openly gay moderator.

After six ballots and nearly eight hours of voting at the church’s 41st general council in Ottawa Thursday, Rev. Gary Paterson emerged from a record field of 15 candidates to win the top job at Canada’s largest Protestant church. He is thought to be the first openly gay person to head any mainstream Christian denomination.

The 350 voting commissioners at the general council greeted the announcement with cheers and a prolonged standing ovation, and quickly voted to make Paterson’s election unanimous.

Royal ruckus as more branches of military up for redesignation

The decision to rebrand the Canadian Forces touched off a Royal ruckus of sorts last year as National Defence went about extending the name change to the military’s smaller branches, documents suggest.

Restoring the “Royal” prefix to the navy and air force has since become a huge point of pride for the Harper government, which billed the move as one that would help today’s soldiers, sailors and aircrew connect with their storied history.

First Nations leaders worry ownership bill could target their resources

OTTAWA — Aboriginal leaders say they’re worried that expected legislation from the Harper government allowing native bands and their members to own and sell reserve lands is an attempt by Ottawa and corporations to cash in on First Nations natural resources.

The federal Conservative government announced in the March budget its “intent to explore” with interested First Nations the option of proceeding with legislation that would allow more than 600 First Nations communities to voluntarily introduce private property ownership on reserve lands.

Stop feeling sorry for farmers

Everyone feels sorry for farmers when they are hit with a disaster like this summer’s drought. Politicians are called on to do even more to supplement government’s generous support programs, and no one much questions it.

Maybe large expenditures of public money could be justified if they were only triggered by rare events, but Canada’s farming sector is in a permanent state of need. The federal government has given farmers $1.4 billion over the last five years in Ontario alone. Nationally, it has spent $10 billion on farm support programs over the same period of time.

Refugee mental health at risk with cuts, experts warn

The federal government's recent changes to the refugee health program are putting refugees at greater risk of suicide and mental health issues, frontline workers warn.

The new categories of coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program will further stigmatize people with mental health problems and that confusion over the cuts is creating added stress for a population that already has unique mental health challenges, they say.

Corrections Canada to push ahead with electronic anklets for parolees

Correctional Service Canada plans to roll out electronic anklets to monitor parolees – even though its own pilot project found the devices did not work as hoped.

The idea is to ensure that offenders follow the conditions of their release. A tiny proportion of parolees breach those conditions or reoffend, although the number has been getting smaller for four years.

Age of blackmail over: Canadians no longer prepared to pay any price for Quebec’s allegiance

A week ago, Ababus Data conducted a poll on behalf of Sun News Network in which 1,800 Canadians outside Quebec were asked whether they would vote to keep Quebec in Canada, or expel it, if a referendum on the subject were held today.

Much of the coverage of the results has focused on the fact that just 52% of respondents would vote to keep Quebec part of Canada; 26% would punt la belle province and 22% were unsure how they would vote. But to me, the key statistic was that a full 88% of those polled felt “all the provinces should be treated equally, even if it upsets Quebec and risks separation.”

Early test confronts spy watchdog Chuck Strahl’s credibility

Chuck Strahl, the newly minted chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) — the review agency over Canada’s spy service CSIS — appeared on CBC television earlier this week doing a barely plausible impersonation of someone who knows what he is talking about.

In an interview with host Evan Solomon, the genial but haltingly ill-informed Strahl essentially confirmed that he intends to be a loyal government man rather than become the fearlessly independent watchdog over CSIS that this nation requires.

Country sharply divided over Harper

OTTAWA - Summertime has helped Canadian voters feel a tad less pessimistic about the country and ever-so-slightly more satisfied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, according to a new poll provided exclusively to QMI Agency.

Still, the poll from Abacus Data shows that Harper remains a polarizing figure with more Canadians disapproving of the job he's doing than those who approve.

Conservatives keeping Canadians in the dark on CETA negotiations

As negotiations continue, the Conservative government has been eager to extol the benefits of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and conspicuously silent as to its proceedings.

A recent C.D. Howe report raised serious doubts as to the benefits this government claims Canadian producers will have under CETA. Without any real details on what compromises Canada is making at the bargaining table, any purported payoffs can only be treated as specious.

Warrior Nation, Canada's New Brand

In 2007 J.L. Granatstein, the doyen of the new warrior historians, brought out a new book, Whose War Is It? How Canada Can Survive in the Post 9/11 World. Another title for the book might be Warrior Nation for Dummies. The retired academic had become so popular with dial-a-quote journalists that the CBC's Peter Mansbridge even called him "Canada's national historian."

For Granatstein, to be a Canadian is to understand that the Canadian past was basically about war. The present? The country confronts grave, even existential, threats. Granatstein does not present these ideas as being open to debate. They are absolute certainties. "The simple fact is...." And the simple fact is, in the Warrior Nation, that only fools, knaves and romantics can miss the dire necessity of massive military investment in a looming war for Western civilization. To think otherwise is to confess to ignorance and to countenance error. To argue with this thinking is to indulge in public mischief. Even people whom one might have thought to be conversant with foreign and defence policy, Liberals such as former cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy or Bill Graham (the latter being as much as anyone responsible for Canada's blunder into Kandahar) are ignorant. They are self-deluded proponents of a false view of history, propounders of "moralizing" views that are just "naive foolishness" and "nonsense," often anti-American purveyors of "a poison afflicting the Canadian body politic." One can but imagine new warrior reactions to Linda McQuaig's analysis of Canada's aggressive military posturing. In her book published around the same time that Granatstein came out with Whose War Is It?, the radical journalist offered a suggestive title -- Holding the Bully's Coat: Canada and the U.S. Empire.

Romney's VP Pick Shows Who Owns Republicans Now

It's official: The Republican Party is now officially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers' political enterprise. How else to explain Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., as his running mate. Yes, that Paul Ryan -- chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the infamous Ryan roadmap budget plan, which promises to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system, and yank health care from millions of children whose parents happen to be poor. And that's just the beginning. In addition to a raft of cuts, the Ryan plan would end the Earned Income Tax Credit, which millions of parents count on.

Billions at Stake if Canada Caves on Drug Patent Demands

The negotiations over a Canada-European Union trade agreement may be approaching the final stretch as both sides say they plan to wrap up the CETA talks by the end of the year. The parties have apparently reached agreement on roughly 75 per cent of the text, but the last quarter will require significant political compromise.

Canadian negotiators recently advised that there remains a sharp divide over issues such as investment rules, financial services, and taxation. Given the ongoing European financial crisis, these issues are particularly sensitive and will raise questions about how much risk the government is willing to assume in order to strike a deal.

Bain Capital Crushed Pilots' Effort To Create Union At Key Airlines The Huffington Post | By

The successful launch of Bain Capital, a private equity firm founded by current GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his associates in 1984, was propelled in part by a move to squash the formation of a union at one of the first companies in which it invested, according to the Financial Times.

The episode began in 1984, long before Bain became a multi-billion dollar firm. Romney and his business partners were working to buy Key Airlines, a small and somewhat troubled charter carrier that had a number of valuable assets, and turn it into a profitable investment. According to a report by the Financial Times (paywall), Romney and his colleagues orchestrated a $5 million leveraged buyout of the airline. The Times reports that Key rebounded slightly under Bain's management, but began to struggle again in 1985, a year that brought particular turmoil to the company when its pilots attempted to form a union.

San Bernardino Eminent Domain Proposal Arousing Concern From Mortgage Industry

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Representatives from the mortgage finance industry flocked to this sun-baked county east of Los Angeles on Thursday to warn of dire consequences should local officials go forward with a proposal to use eminent domain to condemn underwater mortgages.

"We believe using eminent domain would reduce access to credit for borrowers and would, at a minimum, result in lengthy and costly litigation," said Timothy Cameron, a managing director of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Army Suicides Doubled Last Month From June's Total

WASHINGTON -- Suicides among active-duty soldiers in July more than doubled from June, accelerating a trend throughout the military this year that has prompted Pentagon leaders to redouble efforts to solve a puzzling problem.

The Army, which is the only branch of the military that issues monthly press statements on suicides, said 26 active-duty soldiers killed themselves in July, compared with 12 in June. The July total was the highest for any month since the Army began reporting suicides by month in 2009, according to Lt. Col. Lisa Garcia, an Army spokeswoman.

Why Did Ecuador Grant Asylum to Julian Assange?

On the morning of August 16, in the face of rumors that British authorities were considering storming the Ecuadorean embassy in London to arrest Julian Assange, Ecuador's Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that his country will grant the WikiLeaks founder diplomatic asylum. He declared that his government endorsed the “fears” expressed by Assange that he could face political persecution if sent to Sweden, and that such asylum would protect him from the possibility of being extradited to the United States.

Ecuador expressed its hope that the United Kingdom would respect its decision and allow Assange—now a political refugee—the right to leave for Ecuador. Assange has been at the embassy since June 19.

Paul Ryan Proposes a Return to George W. Bush's Foreign Policy

On Wednesday I wrote about how Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), does not adhere to his supposed limited government principles when it comes to civil liberties and social issues. But there is another major policy area in which Ryan is a doctrinaire Republican rather than a libertarian: foreign policy and national security. Ryan is a full supporter of interventionist, imperialist foreign policies and the national security state’s encroachments on individual liberty.

Ryan subscribes to extreme, cruel-hearted economic theories, but he is no Ron Paul Republican. Neoconservatives are rejoicing over his selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Neocon weathervane William Kristol of The Weekly Standard wrote that Ryan’s selection reminded him of John F. Kennedy’s famous inspirational inaugural address. His colleagues at The Weekly Standard have lavished slobbering coverage on Ryan, calling him “the ideal running mate,” and fawning over his “electric campaign appearences [sic].” They’ve even praised his ability to catch a baseball and earnestly reported that the current president of his former college fraternity says they are “good guys, fun guys.”

The Geopolitics of Asylum

The British made a “huge mistake” in threatening to extract Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy after the Latin American country granted political asylum to the WikiLeaks foundaer yesterday, says international human rights lawyer Michael Ratner. “They overstepped, looked like bullies, and made it into a big-power versus small-power conflict,” said Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview with The Nation today. Ratner is a consultant to Assange’s legal team and recently spent a week in Ecuador for discussions of the case.

The US Government Can Track Your Location at Any Time Without a Warrant

Is law enforcement tracking your cell phone's GPS more like intercepting a phone call or tailing someone on the street? A federal court decision says it's more like following you—which means the authorities don't need to get a warrant to find out where you are at any given time.

The case involves a marijuana courier, Melvin Skinner, whose disposable cell phone was being tracked by the Drug Enforcement Agency as he moved his cargo from Arizona to Tennessee. The DEA got a court order (not a warrant) compelling Skinner's cell phone company to share his GPS information—the release of which led to Skinner's capture and arrest.

Aboriginal Joke: Gordon Moore, Royal Canadian Legion Head, 'Appalled' By 'Indian' Joke In Newsletter

The national leader of the Royal Canadian Legion has apologized for the actions of its branch in Cranbrook, B.C., for a joke it published about murdering two "Indians."

Gordon Moore said in a statement the organization is "appalled that an anti-aboriginal 'joke' was published in a newsletter."

“I am aware of the remarks made in the 'joke' towards our aboriginals and do not deem this as acceptable behaviour for any branch of The Royal Canadian Legion," he said.

Vancouver Police Officer Filmed Kicking Arrested Man

Vancouver police have launched an investigation after one of their officers was caught on CBC video kicking a restrained and handcuffed suspect in the chest.

Ryan James Felton, a 39-year-old from Surrey, was arrested by police after being accused of taking $150 in cash and $250 in merchandise from a sex shop. He then ran around a residential neighbourhood in his underwear in what police have called "an apparent bad reaction to drugs".

Bringing business-world smarts to political backrooms

It probably wasn’t fair, the word that got thrown around this past spring when Dalton McGuinty named his new chief of staff. Not to the generally well-regarded veteran aide he was replacing; not to other candidates for the job; not to everyone else in the Ontario Premier’s office.

But to call David Livingston an “adult” was to neatly sum up why he was brought on board. And it indirectly explained similar hires made not long ago by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

Canadian Government Does Not See A Military Threat in the Arctic, Says DND

In June I wrote an article, based on DND documents, about how the Canadian Forces and DND view Russia’s interest in the Arctic.

The Conservative government has pointed to the military activities of Russia and other nations in the Arctic as a reason for a buildup of the Canadian Forces’ presence in the North. Government officials have maintained that the F-35 stealth fighter the military wants to purchase is required so the Royal Canadian Air Force can intercept Russian military planes that may fly near Canada’s northern borders.

Federal cuts threaten public safety, warn unions for prison, border guards

OTTAWA - Union leaders representing more than 33,000 workers say Conservative budget cuts are threatening public safety, and lament that the federal security minister won't attend a coming forum to hear their concerns.

The unions, whose members work in Canadian prisons, at the borders and in the federal justice system, contend Public Safety Minister Vic Toews did not consult them before imposing the millions of dollars in cuts — part of a government-wide deficit-trimming exercise.

U.S. grain and seed ports will kill a few more Canadian jobs -- with a little help from Stephen Harper

Back in 2009, when the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board was still just a twinkle in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's eye, work started on a $200-million US grain-handling terminal in the port of Longview, Wash., just south of the Canadian border.

The companies behind the project -- which, significantly, will be capable of loading about 200 grain ships a year -- are Bunge Ltd. (the giant "Bermudian" agricultural and food products corporation with its real headquarters in White Plains, N.Y.), Japan's Itochu Corp. and South Korea's STX Pan Ocean Co.

Frau Merkel’s revenge?

OTTAWA – Canada’s prime minister and Germany’s chancellor say they’re not playing tit-for-tat when it comes to finding solutions to right a wobbly global economy.

Both Stephen Harper and Angela Merkel say a free trade deal with the European Union isn’t dependent on Canada cutting a cheque to support a bailout for the International Monetary Fund.

Assange faces hard road out of U.K.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears to have a new home in Ecuador, but it remains to be seen how he'll get there.

The dramatic decision by the Latin American nation to grant Assange political asylum is a symbolic boost for the embattled ex-hacker, but legal experts say it does little to help him avoid extradition to Sweden — and does much to drag Britain and Ecuador into an international faceoff.

"We're at something of an impasse," said lawyer Rebecca Niblock shortly after news of the asylum broke. "It's not a question of law anymore. It's a question of politics and diplomacy."

Stephen Harper matches bland with bland and gets a global boost

OTTAWA—She is the stern, colourless Iron Frau, the uncrowned Queen of Europe and a mainstay on anyone’s shortlist of most powerful politicians in the world.

He is the Vanilla Prime Minister, the man who looks suspiciously at microphones as if one might somehow leap up and knock him off his carefully calibrated message track.

When Angela Merkel and Stephen Harper stride to the podium, the room turns a whiter shade of bland.

Now it’s cops playing race card

If one person shoots off a gun, that’s an individual problem, but if a whole lot of people in similar circumstances do the same thing, that’s called social breakdown and requires a fine-tuned response. But how fine-tuned is mass police targeting?

That’s a question for Chief Bill Blair.

Last month the province renewed its commitment to the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit made up of officer teams deployed to identified areas, but you’ll notice that not many community agencies are cheering. It seems that the people actually trying to extricate young men from gang culture in troubled ’hoods find TAVIS a drag on their efforts.

Bill Blair witch hunting

Maybe it will all work out for Bill Blair after all.

Here we are, a little more than three weeks from the end of that mass buildup of police in priority neighbourhoods announced after the Danzig Street shooting shocker, and no innocent people have been added to the body count ledger for the summer of 2012. Even the Caribbean Carnival went off without a hitch.

But just when it looked like the stars were aligning in Blair’s favour, another bomb got tossed his way by his arch nemesis at City Hall (evil villain Mayor Rob Ford). There’ll be another police hiring freeze in 2013. Or at least that’s the goal.

Israeli minister warns of 30-day war with Iran

Matan Vilnai, who is stepping down as home front defence minister to become ambassador to China, said the country was “ready as never before”.

“The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” he told the Maariv newspaper.

“It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.”

Julian Assange Will Not Be Allowed To Escape Britain, William Hague Says

William Hague has insisted the British government would not allow Julian Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom.

Hague said it was a "matter of regret" that the Ecuadorian government decided to grant the Wikileaks founder political asylum but warned that it "does not change the fundamentals" of the case.

Speaking at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he also warned that the case could go on for some "considerable" time.

Angela Merkel In Canada: Stephen Harper, Merkel Aren't Playing Tit-For-Tat On Free Trade Deal, IMF Bailout

OTTAWA - Angela Merkel gave Stephen Harper what he wanted — strong public support for a Canada-European Union trade deal — but not before she gently but firmly noted "problems" with high carbon emissions from Alberta's oilsands.

Merkel's pointed observations about the need to reduce Canadian carbon emissions did not overshadow what was a genuinely warm 24-hour visit, spread over two days, in which a pair of like-minded politicians found much common ground.

Daniel Ellsberg: I Congratulate Ecuador for Standing Up to British Empire to Protect Julian Assange

Daniel Ellsberg, the most famous whistleblower in the United States, praises Ecuador for granting political asylum to Julian Assange to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crime accusations. "I congratulate Ecuador, of course, for standing up to the British Empire here, for insisting that they are not a British colony, and acting as a sovereign state ought to act," said Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy, saying Britain is "under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden." Ellsberg adds, "[Assange] has every reason to be wary that the real intent here is to whisk him away to America, where it really hasn’t been made as clear what might be waiting for him."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Lawyer: Raid on Embassy to Arrest Assange Would Be "Unprecedented" Breach of Diplomatic Immunity

Britain is refusing to give Julian Assange of WikiLeaks safe passage out of the country even though Ecuador has granted him political asylum. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy. Britain has also threatened to raid the embassy in order to arrest Assange. "Under British law we can give them a week’s notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection," said a British foreign spokesperson. In response, Ecuador has asked the Organization of American States to hold a meeting Aug. 23 to discuss the diplomatic crisis. "The latest announcements by the British government are alarming," said Jennifer Robinson, legal adviser for Julian Assange.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

An Obscenity: The $2 Billion Presidential Race

Now that Mitt Romney has named Congressman Paul Ryan to his ticket the presidential race enters its final stages. Many can't wait for it to end. I hear from both my Democratic and Republican friends that they think spending over $2 billion on the presidential campaign is obscene.

I understand the costs of running a campaign and that some of the money goes back into the economy. But it appears that TV stations and consultants make most of it. There are thousands of workers with low-paying part-time jobs and no benefits working for each campaign while the makers of posters, bumper stickers, and American flag manufacturers are getting rich. There is the endless supply of tchotchkes (key rings, coffee mugs etc.) many made in China, that each campaign sells.

Stephen Harper's Religion: John McKay, Liberal MP, Defends PM From Charges His Faith Influences Policy

Liberal MP John McKay has come out swinging against those who have suggested Prime Minister Stephen Harper's religion influences his policy choices.

McKay, a Christian who voted against same sex marriage, takes issue with Lawrence Martin's widely-read column in the Globe and Mail in which the columnist muses about whether Harper's evangelical faith might be shaping his government's policies on climate change and the environment.

South African Miners Shot Dead In Violent Battle With Police Over Strike

At least 30 people have been killed in clashes between police and striking miners in South Africa, in what has been described as the worst violence since the apartheid.

Police opened fire on the 3,000 strikers, who were armed with machetes and sticks outside British-owned mine Lonmin, on Thursday.

Prior to that at least ten had been killed in the violence, with two police officers hacked to death, reported the Independent.

South Africa police open fire at striking mine workers

South African police opened fire Thursday on a crowd of striking miners that charged a line of officers trying to disperse them, killing some and wounding others in one of the worst shootings by authorities since the end of the apartheid era.

Police declined to offer casualty figures after the shooting at the Lonmin PLC mine near Marikana, a dusty town about 70 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. However, the main South African news agency, SAPA, has reported that 18 people have been killed. Police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi acknowledged late Thursday some of the miners there had died as more police and soldiers surrounded the hostels and shacks near Lonmin's shuttered platinum mine.