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, September 04, 2012

Madeleine Albright: 'I Can't Understand Why Any Woman Would Want To Vote For Mitt Romney'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There's been no shortage of musing over Mitt Romney's failure to win over female voters. The gender gap is pronounced, and with the efforts of the president's political team, growing wider. Romney has been criticized for his failure to speak out in support of equal pay for equal work, he's been tied to some of his party's more hardline positions on abortion, and has been caricatured as a relic of a bygone era in which women put career ambitions aside.

But for all the talk of Romney's trouble among women voters, no Democrat has put it in the terms that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did in an interview with The Huffington Post on Monday.

Smiles and Barbs for Clinton in China

BEIJING — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here on Tuesday night to a barrage of unusually harsh coverage in China’s official news media over what they called American meddling in territorial disputes in the region — and then a strikingly warm welcome from the country’s foreign minister.

 The contrasting receptions — both official, though in different ways — underscored a complicated and often fraught relationship that both countries nevertheless appear intent to maintain despite serious differences over foreign policy, trade and human rights.

Republican Convention Ratings Plummet From 2008

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When it comes to following political conventions, Twitter may soon trump television.

TV viewership for last week's Republican National Convention dropped sharply from 2008, suggesting interest in this presidential race falls short of some past contests. But the convention was a hit online and on social networks, the latest evidence of the political conversation's gradual migration from traditional media to the Web.

Paul Ryan: I Wasn't Blaming Obama For GM Plant Closure

Vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) backpedaled Monday from a claim in his Republican National Convention speech that President Barack Obama was responsible for the closure of a General Motors plant that in fact closed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

"What they are trying to suggest is that I said Barack Obama was responsible for the plant shutdown in Janesville. That is not what I was saying, read the speech," he told NBC's "Today." "What I was saying is the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After the plant was shut down he said he would lead efforts to restore the plant. It’s still idle."

DNC Offers Obama an Opportunity to Show Who the Real Reformer Is

Charlotte—The most overused and least understood word at the Republican National Convention in Tampa was “reform.”

Historically, a reformer was someone who demanded that action be taken to address the inequity, corruption and neglect of the common good that rendered a potentially commendable system dysfunctional.

Paul Ryan Is a Tax Hawk, Not a Deficit Hawk

Are Republicans—and in particular, Paul Ryan—dedicated deficit hawks? Let's make this simple. Here's a timeline:
2001-08: Republicans, including Ryan, repeatedly vote to increase the deficit during the George Bush administration. This includes votes in favor of two huge tax cuts, two huge wars, and a big Medicare expansion, none of which are paid for.
January 20, 2009: Barack Obama is inaugurated.
October 2009: After nine months of focusing on stimulus and job creation, Obama begins his famous "pivot" toward long-term deficit reduction.

ALEC's Own US Senator?

Before his 14-year stint as governor, before President George W. Bush tapped him to run the Department of Health and Human Services, and before his cushy gig as a wining-and-dining Washington lobbyist, Republican Tommy Thompson began carving out a reputation as powerful state legislator in Wisconsin. He rose quickly through the ranks of the Wisconsin GOP, and went on to become the longest-serving governor in state history. On his way to the top, Thompson found help in an influential policy organization then little known to the public: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Mackenzie River Basin: 'Amazon Of The North' Under Threat From Jurisdictional Jumble

Scientists call it the Amazon of the North and they fear the Mackenzie River Basin, an extensive watershed three times the size of France, is under threat.

But it's not the massive hydroelectric project that the British Columbia government wants to build or the Alberta oil sands that pose the greatest risk to the river system that flows from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Yukon and Nunavut into the Northwest Territories to the Arctic Ocean.

New Westminster Nazi Memorabilia: Store Criticized For Carrying Third Reich Gear

A store in New Westminster is selling swastika flags alongside Israeli paratrooper bags.

Westley Military Surplus, owned by Pauly Benton, sells Nazi collectables, the Royal City Record reports. The paper caught wind of the items when an Israeli customer walked into the store and found it "crazy" that Nazi T-shirts were available.

Canada Spanking Law An Excuse For Poor Parenting: Doctors

OTTAWA - The Canadian Medical Association Journal says it's time to do away with the Criminal Code's so-called spanking law.

A strongly worded editorial in the journal Tuesday calls for the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which gives parents and teachers a legal defence when they physically discipline children.

Privatized Search and Rescue A Non-Starter For the Canadian Forces

Last summer I reported that the Harper government was open to considering the privatization of the military’s search-and-rescue capabilities. That could have involved a variety of proposals, including having a private firm provide aircrew and aircraft on a contract basis.

But that option is now dead and buried, say industry representatives.

The government originally had informed firms last years that alternate service delivery options would be considered for the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) project. “The Government of Canada will consider all options to ensure the best possible SAR service to Canadians and best value for taxpayers,” the government added in a statement July 2011. In addition, the Defence Department confirmed at the time that it would consult with industry on the option of alternate service delivery – industry representatives say they looked at that option as meaning that all aspects of search-and-rescue (not just maintenance) could be up for being contracted out.

Have Conservatives won heart of the East? PM thinks so

The prime minister flew in last week on his seasonal migration and barbecue route across Canada. It was the sleepiest part of the summer and not a perfect time for politics. But politics is Stephen Harper’s job and he’s a workaholic.

The putative justification for the visit was a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a wetlands research station on the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border. That’s right, a research station, which seems odd. The mere thought of the PM going pro-science would cause some Tories to spill their War of 1812 commemorative teacups.

Quebec Election 2012: David Bertschi walks where Prime Minister Stephen Harper fears to tread

BEAUPRÉ, QUE—Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stayed silent, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair hasn’t said a word and even media-loving Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau has shied away from the cameras over the course of the Quebec election.

But David Bertschi has decided to walk where other federal politicians fear to tread.

Who, you ask?

That would be David Bertschi, the prospective candidate for the leadership of the federal Liberal party.

PSAC vows to fly anti-Harper banner again

Canada's largest public sector union is accusing the RCMP of trampling on free speech in grounding a plane carrying an anti-Harper banner over Ottawa, and warned the plane and the banner will fly again.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada had contracted a pilot to fly a 2,000-square-foot banner written in French, which reads "Stephen Harper nous dé" (translated as "Stephen Harper hates" in English).

With attack on Ontario teachers, McGuinty and Hudak put all workers' rights at risk

The much publicized attacks on teachers and educational support workers by the McGuinty government for the last eight months have proved to be an excellent distraction from the many political issues that have dogged the provincial government since its re-election in October 2011. These attacks have culminated in the creation of a piece of legislation, inaccurately entitled "Putting Students First Act," or Bill 115.

Bill 115 has nothing to do with students, and everything to do with making the education workers of Ontario pay for a recession that they did not cause.  It is about making education workers pay for the cuts to corporate taxes that have not stimulated the economy.  And now, it has clearly become apparent that it is about taking away the constitutionally protected right to free collective bargaining.

Liberals to set fall strategy, talk Grit leadership at Montebello caucus retreat

PARLIAMENT HILL—Liberal MPs and Senators, who began three days of meetings on Tuesday in Montebello, Que., are set to be briefed by party president Mike Crawley on a range of key parameters for the party’s looming leadership contest—including a campaign expense ceiling estimated to be $500,000 and a final date for the leadership vote in the first week of April.

Mr. Crawley, reporting on recommendations from an ad hoc committee of MPs and party brass, will report to the Liberal caucus on the ground rules for the campaign, including the spending limit and entry fee for the contest, also likely to be a low threshold in light of financial troubles that plagued several candidates following the party’s long leadership contest of 2006, the last time the Liberal rank-and-file had the opportunity to elect a leader.

Ottawa highlights weight of natural resources in economy

Canada’s natural resource sector is responsible for 20 per cent the country’s economic activity, much higher than previously estimated, the federal government announced Tuesday.

In 2010, the government said natural resources accounted for just 11.5 per cent of GDP.

Abbott, McNeil, and Les make mass exodus from Liberals

Three members of the governing BC Liberals have announced their decisions not to run for political office in the May 2013 election. Surprising no one who has been paying attention to the political rumour mills lately, Education Minister George Abbott, Child and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil, and Parliamentary Secretary John Les posted statements on their respective websites saying they will not be running for office in the May 2013 election.

Both Abbott and Les said their decision came that after decades of working for the public--33 years for Abbott and 29 for Les--and a conclusion that it was time to move on to different projects. McNeil, like former Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, who yesterday announced his own resignation from politics come May, cited a desire to spend more time with her family: "Especially my thirteen wonderful grandchildren, who I know have lost out on quality time with their grandmother these past four years," reads a statement on her website. Notably, family was the same reason Premier Christy Clark retired from politics in 2004, only to return to run for the leadership of the party six years later.

'Power of Youth' Unleashed

Is today's youth generation apathetic and self-indulgent?

That myth was busted Thursday night at a packed, standing-room-only book launch for a new anthology about the "power of youth" and how to build movements for change.

Young activists from across the country spoke about their passion for climate justice, indigenous solidarity and strengthening a sense of community in a society being ripped apart by inequality and oppression.

Northern Gateway hearings resume with economic focus

The economics of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will be the focus of the next phase of hearings when they resume in Edmonton today.

"The Edmonton hearings are really going to focus on the financial matters related to this proposed project," said Kristen Higgins with the National Energy Board. "It's also going to look at the general need for the project."

German far-right leader vows to take party mainstream

VIERECK, GERMANY—At a rally of Germany’s biggest far-right party, skinheads raise fists to nationalist chants and wear T-shirts that skirt the limits of German law: “Enforce National Socialism” reads one; another proclaims the wearer to be “100 per cent un-kosher.” Some cover illegal neo-Nazi tattoos with masking tape because police are on the prowl.

But the party’s leader insists he is taking his National Democratic Party mainstream.

Free speech grounded: RCMP pulls plane down due to banner criticizing Stephen Harper

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pulled a plane hired by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) back down to Rockcliffe Airport due to its political message on Saturday, September 1.

The PSAC had hired a plane (image attached) to fly over Ottawa and Gatineau with a trailing banner which read, in French, "StephenHarperNousDé", (Stephen Harper Hates Us). Over the previous two weeks the plane had been making the rounds over Montréal and other communities in Québec as part of the PSAC's "We Are All Affected" campaign.

Saskatchewan's minimum wage now lowest in Canada

Saskatchewan now has the lowest minimum wage in Canada, at $9.50 per hour.

On September 1, Alberta increased its minimum wage to $9.75 per hour, up from $9.25.

This has prompted opposition members to criticize Saskatchewan’s minimum wage as being too low.

Tory memo warns of NDP’s ‘risky’ carbon tax

OTTAWA — Most Canadians might be soaking up the last days of summer this Labour Day weekend, but the Conservative party has its sights firmly set on the fall session of Parliament.

The Conservative party issued a memo to its national caucus Sunday that attacked a ‘risky’ and dangerous’ carbon tax that the Tories say is the hidden centrepiece of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s economic plan.

Travellers faced rude officers, incorrect accusations by border employees

HALIFAX - A complaints system run by the Canada Border Services Agency is documenting cases of travellers enduring rude behaviour and lengthy interrogations, as well as one case where someone was falsely identified as a person "with criminal ties."

According to quarterly reports obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, there were 1,105 complaints — about six per day — about the services provided by the agency's employees from Jan. 7 until the end of June last year.

Politicians causing voter apathy

Canada’s democratic system would be improved if the state had the power to coerce citizens into the voting booth.

Or least that seems to be the take of those who want to impose “mandatory voting,” a scheme whereby citizens would be forced by law to cast ballots on election day, whether they wanted to or not.

Canada always was a warrior nation

Is Canada a peacekeeping nation? Or is it a warrior nation? These questions are the subject of two Spring 2012 books by Noah Richler (What We Talk About When We Talk About War) and Ian McKay and Jamie Swift (Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety). They are notable for the vigour of their arguments and, not least, because both take aim at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and at David Bercuson and Jack Granatstein. Yes, David and me. Ordinarily, I would not respond to attacks of this sort (David can make his own decisions!), but the issue is important and I’ve decided it’s worth a reply.

‘Partisan anger’ getting in way of ‘rational’ discussion on political financing,’ says Funke

The backdrop of “partisan anger” in Canada’s political system has made it near impossible for political parties to have “calm, rational discussions” about the laws and practices governing electoral politics, says Alice Funke, author of, adding the NDP’s recent decision not to contest an Elections Canada decision around sponsorship at a party convention was a “communications decision” as a result of this reality.

“In a world where we didn’t have the sort of massively partisan anger machine backdrop on Twitter all the time, back and forth, you would normally be able to have a legal review of a decision … but the practical reality is that you will not be able to have a calm, rational discussion about that with all the sort of partisan back and forth that goes on nowadays,” said Ms. Funke.

Tories will pay political price if another omnibus budget bill introduced this fall, say opposition parties

The government will table a second budget implementation bill this fall containing provisions to reform the tax code, public service pensions and First Nations education, but opposition parties say if it’s in an omnibus form, the Conservatives will pay a political price and there will be another controversial marathon voting session.

“They used up a lot of capital for what they did, and if they want to keep spending that capital, that’s their choice,” said NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.). “C-38 became a big preoccupation for us because so much was being done to the public in it. … There have been omnibus bills before and there have been budget implementation acts before, but to continue down this path is really threatening to a lot more principles than just sound management. It’s democracy that’s at stake here.”

Liberals’ supporter category will be ‘crucial’ to leadership campaign

With Liberal insiders now expecting Justin Trudeau to throw his hat into the Grit leadership race set to officially begin in November, a senior Liberal says the ground-breaking recruitment of party supporters eligible to cast ballots along with full party members will be “crucial” to the outcome.

“Unquestionably it will be a significant part of the leadership race, because what we’re talking about is the voters, the people who will have a right to elect the next leader,” Matthew Certosimo, the party’s national membership secretary in charge of implementing the supporter system, told The Hill Times. “I think it would be safe to say that all of the candidates will have an interest in recruiting people to the supporter category to hopefully vote for them in the contest.”

Federal approach to environment undermining energy industry, say experts

The federal government has streamlined environmental assessments and rejected carbon pricing for the sake of economic growth, but this approach to climate change will do long-term harm to the energy sector’s reputation, say industry leaders.

“I think that a lot of people in industry would say that we do need to some how come down with a price signal on carbon,” former Syncrude CEO Eric Newell told The Hill Times last week. “By avoiding it, I don’t think the federal government’s policy will allow for the range of options that we need to be successful.”

CNOOC-Nexen deal, trade issues top Tory priorities at caucus meeting

The “high stakes” CNOOC-Nexen deal will be one of the Conservative Party’s top priorities when the caucus meets for a half-day session on Sept. 17 on the Hill, says a political insider.

“This is the largest acquisition ever in Canada by an offshore state-owned enterprise, and this kind of thing always generates some degree of debate and or unease,” Earnscliffe Strategy Group principal Yaroslav Baran told The Hill Times in an email. “You can bet there will be discussion about this—all the different angles, from populist sentiment to reciprocity to the market signals that the final decision will send.”

More stars, style for Democrats at national convention

Democrats are distinct.

They will not officially begin their convention until Tuesday. But with thousands of delegates, politicians and celebrities already in Charlotte, N.C. for the big event – and the countless pre-bash parties – it is already easy notice big differences between this convention and last week’s Republican gathering in Tampa. Here are a few of them.

The weakening state of Canadian labour unions

Although four million Canadians are members of unions, organized labour is nonetheless facing shrinking coverage across Canada’s work force.

Unions are coping with growing pressure from employers and governments to accept wage freezes and reduced benefits, while they are also being asked to become active partners in boosting company productivity and improving work processes.

Labour Day pressures burden unions but workers are marching on

Unions are staggering, rather than swaggering, this Labour Day. They’ve been pummeled by governments, squeezed by employers, and are going through tough times. But some are also reinventing themselves, to carry on the fight.

Traditional collective bargaining has been brushed aside not only at the federal level but also in Ontario where Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, with Tory support, is struggling to tame the deficit by forcing teachers to take a two-year wage freeze, three unpaid days off, and benefit cuts.

Labour Day 2012: Get ready to rumble

The Labour Day picnics and parades might be the calm before the storm for the labour movement this fall. On top of terrible job losses in manufacturing and resource industries, governments in Canada are sharpening their swords, preparing to do battle with the country's trade unions.

It's not just unions that should be worried. The lagging economy is failing all Canadians, whether in unions or not. Historically, the trade union movement has played a pivotal role in turning things around and raising living standards for everyone. But the political and bargaining strengths of unions are at one of the lowest points in decades, and opponents are preparing to take advantage of this weakened state.

Labour Day: The struggle continues for democracy in the workplace

In recent months Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall have begun a new wave of attacks against unions. They've put forward various proposals that make it a great deal more difficult for workers to bargain collectively.

Notwithstanding Wall and Hudak's ideologically tinged view that unions are too strong, in actual fact the deck is heavily stacked against those who want to assert their right to bargain collectively.

Labour Day reminder: Harper's EI changes hit immigrants hardest

For more than 130 years, workers have celebrated Labour Day in Canada to recognize the hard fought struggles that women and men have undertaken for better working and living conditions.

As we celebrate our past accomplishments, the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) reminds us all that the struggle for dignity and respect in the workplace is an ongoing process. Recent changes to our Employment Insurance will have a tremendous impact on all workers: and we all need to resist these changes.

Happy Labour Day! Push-polls prove it … Canadians hate unions … really, really they do!

Some of my younger readers may not realize this, but when I was a kid growing up in British Columbia in the 1950s, there was a holiday at the end of the summer called "Labour Day" on which Canadians celebrated the vast contribution of working people to the past, present and future of our great country.

Unions, groups of working people who pooled their modest individual strength to bargain collectively and ensure that a fair share of the great wealth they created ended up in the hands of ordinary families, would sometimes gather for picnics on this holiday, which was tinged with true patriotism, and sing songs.

Thousands take to Toronto streets in annual Labour Day parade

It may look like your typical parade — marchers marching, flags flying and pipers piping — but Toronto’s annual Labour Day parade is a unique blend of celebration and protest.

“These people have come out to show pride in their movement and the contributions it has made,” said John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, which helped organize the event.