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, September 21, 2012

The 1 Percent Court

Why a special issue of The Nation devoted to the Supreme Court? Because with partisan gridlock paralyzing the president and Congress, the Court has more than ever become “the decider”—the most powerful branch of government, and one at the center of a controversy whose outcome may shape the course of democracy for generations to come.

By a paradox both historical and constitutional, the political appointees on the Roberts Court will never have to answer for their decisions to voters like you and me. Nor to the president or Congress: once they are confirmed, the Supreme Court’s justices, like all federal judges, serve for life or “good Behaviour.”

Opposition lambastes Tories over fine print in EI changes

The Conservatives are coming under fire over the fine print of their employment insurance reforms now that seasonal workers are turning to the program for the first time since changes were made over the summer.

The government promised the changes would encourage more Canadians to take part-time jobs while on EI. But some workers are discovering the new EI rules leave them worse off.

Canada denied seat at East Asia Summit

Canada will not get a seat for years at the East Asia Summit, the Pacific’s new power forum, says the leader of the region’s key political bloc, but he insists Ottawa has other avenues to expand trade and ties.

The Harper government has asked to join the East Asia Summit, which includes major Asian nations as well as others such as Russia, the United States and Australia. While Canada’s application has not yet been made public, it is expected in coming days, a source told The Globe and Mail. But Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, says it will take years before the summit door opens again.

DND cracks down, tells staff to withhold even non-sensitive information

OTTAWA — A Citizen article about the Defence Department’s handling of tax dollars has prompted a crackdown on the type of information DND and the Canadian Forces releases to the public, according to newly released documents.

The April 11, 2011 article came in the middle of the federal election campaign. It caused embarrassment to the department and the Conservative government and prompted an unsuccessful hunt for the source of the documents, military officials privately acknowledge.

Tony Clement questioned on toll on public service from cuts, lawyer’s suicide

OTTAWA — The Conservative government was publicly confronted for the first time about the personal and emotional cost of job losses on public servants who have been turning to the federal employee assistance programs in large numbers since the cuts began.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement was questioned about the way the government was managing its cuts following revelations that a Justice Canada lawyer committed suicide after he and his wife received “affected letters” putting them on notice that their jobs were in jeopardy.

Foreign suitors circle oil patch as Ottawa weighs Nexen deal

A number of foreign companies are flocking to Canada’s oil patch in search of acquisitions and investments as Ottawa weighs the $15.1-billion takeover of energy company Nexen Inc. by China’s CNOOC Ltd.

While it is not unusual for companies to circle the oil patch, interviews with a dozen industry sources and deal makers over a month have revealed a picture of an industry set for a massive influx of foreign capital while the window to foreign investment remains open.

Too much rhetoric, not enough facts in the carbon tax debate

Maybe this summer’s record-setting droughts triggered something in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mind. Or maybe his communications team just didn’t want the hassle of creating a new line of attack when they could pull one ready-made out of their files. But for whatever reason, climate policy is back on the agenda in Ottawa with a vengeance: the opening of Parliament featured a line-up of Conservative MPs slamming NDP leader Thomas Mulcair for his alleged support for a carbon tax.

In a move that recalls their 2008 attacks on then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, Conservative MPs have taken every opportunity to accuse Mulcair and his party of supporting a new tax on the pollution that’s causing climate change, which the government labels as “job-killing” and, to quote the Prime Minister, a “dumb” idea.

Ottawa casts wary eye on Chinese telecom giant

While Canadians publicly debate allowing a state-owned Chinese firm to buy a piece of the oil sands, federal officials are privately concerned about security risks to Ottawa’s computer networks from China’s telecom equipment giant.

Huawei Technologies, which in just two decades has grown big enough to rival Sweden’s Ericsson as the No. 1 maker of telecommunications equipment in the world, is making inroads into Canada. It’s now supplying major wireless firms here, including Bell and Telus, as well as SaskTel and Wind Mobile.

Case of the Conservatives’ carbon amnesia

The Conservative Party’s attack machine, with its television ads, canned speeches and pre-written scripts, has always been constructed on exaggeration tinged with mendacity. To this, since Parliament resumed, can now be added flagrant hypocrisy, since the machine and its mouthpieces, Conservative MPs, are attacking with customary vehemence the very policy on which they once campaigned.

In 2008, the Conservative platform promised to “develop and implement a North American-wide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015.” Now, however, the Conservative attack machine denounces a cap-and-trade system, as conceptually proposed by the NDP, as a “carbon tax,” a job killer “that will increase the price on everything.”

Stephen Harper’s carbon tax smokescreen

The Conservatives could not possibly have made it more obvious that they were itching for a week’s worth of headlines about the NDP’s environmental policy. They could not be happier that the NDP has obliged them. Eventually the NDP will figure all of this out.

On Sept. 2, Ottawa newsrooms received copies of “a memo from Conservative campaign manager Jenni Byrne to the Conservative caucus.” I put that last bit in quotation marks because Byrne, like her predecessor Doug Finley, doesn’t ever “write to the caucus” unless she wants to see what she writes appear in the newspapers. Leaking a “secret memo” is cheaper than buying ad space and guarantees better play.

Quebec gas in peril as PQ signals ban

Quebec’s new Natural Resources Minister has signalled she will move to ban hydraulic fracturing even as she ordered a new inquiry into the practice, a position that puts development of the province’s rich resources of natural gas in doubt.

“I cannot see the day when the extraction of natural gas by the fracking method can be done in a safe way,” said Martine Ouellet, as she walked to her first cabinet meeting in Quebec City.

Kimberly Rivera and her family deported back to the United States

Kimberly Rivera didn’t want to leave Canada. Neither did her husband or children.

But the Iraq war resister and her family didn’t have a choice in the matter.

The Canadian government rejected her claim for refugee status and refused to grant a hearing for her application to stay in the country based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The parrot is not just resting

The parrot is dead. It’s lying on the floor of the House of Commons and it’s not moving. Because it’s dead.

Of course you remember the Monty Python skit where a man walks into a shop carrying a bird cage. “I wish to complain about this parrot wot I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique,” he says.

“That’s a Norwegian Blue,” the clerk responds. “What’s wrong with it?”

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead. That’s what’s wrong.”

“No, no, it’s resting.”

“Look, my lad, I know a dead parrot when I see one and I’m looking at one right now.”

“No, no, it’s not dead. It’s resting.”

Stephen Harper must be a colossal Monty Python fan because his government spent the past week re-enacting this skit, with NDP leader Tom Mulcair playing the part of the hapless customer and the prime minister and his caucus taking turns as the shifty-eyed clerk.

Prime minister betraying Canada by giving polluters a free pass

Now is the time to be true to our principles and the actions they demand.

Principled Canadians know that we must conserve earth’s essential life-support systems. Churches across Canada are raising ethical objections to the Northern Gateway pipeline, expressing their “religious duty to speak up” for moral Canadians who understand their responsibility to care for nature. Scientists are criticizing the Harper government’s inaction towards achieving Canada’s climate goals (and are rewarded by being laid off in droves.)

What Romney doesn’t understand about personal responsibility

The worst of Romney’s now-infamous comments about “the 47 percent” came in this couplet: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Put aside the tin-eared term “those people.” When he said this, Romney didn’t just write off half the country behind closed doors. He also confirmed the worst suspicions about who he is: an entitled rich guy with no understanding of how people who aren’t rich actually live.

Kent’s claims regarding Arctic PEARL ‘factually incorrect’

Environment Minister Peter Kent is well-known for admonishing opposition members of parliament for “doing their research in the media”. In a letter to the Victoria Times-Colonist this past week, Kent provided an excellent example of why one should be careful about what one reads. He made several false claims about Canada’s Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL). As one of five co-founders of PEARL, I will be pleased to correct the Minister’s misconceptions and set the record straight.

PEARL is Canada’s premiere High Arctic atmospheric observatory. It is co-located with the Eureka Weather Station on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian arctic archipelago. At 80°N latitude, PEARL is the world’s most northern civilian research facility. Measurements at the site provide important scientific data needed to meet the twin challenges of monitoring ozone depletion and climate change.

Downtown Sudbury Campaign Against Poor People is Hateful and Dishonest

I am livid. I should be working on other things right now, but someone on a social media site posted a link to a local CBC story, "Panhandling poster irks poverty worker", and I just have to respond. The article itself isn't the problem but rather its subject, a new poster campaign by downtown businesses and the police that is dishonest and hateful towards people living in poverty.

As Italy Sentences 23 CIA Agents in Rendition Case, Obama Refuses To Prosecute Anyone For Torture

Italy’s High Court has upheld the sentences of 23 CIA operatives convicted of kidnapping a Muslim cleric under the U.S. program of "extraordinary rendition." The cleric, Abu Omar, was seized from the streets of Milan in 2003 and taken to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being sent to Egypt, where he was tortured during a four-year imprisonment. The Americans were all convicted in absentia after the United States refused to hand them over. The ruling marks the final appeal in the first trial anywhere in the world involving the CIA’s practice of rendering terror suspects to countries that allow torture. But back in 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama unequivocally denounced torture and extraordinary rendition. Well, according to our guest, four years after Obama made those comments impunity for torture has now become a bipartisan policy of the U.S. government. For more, we speak with Alfred McCoy, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the new book, "Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation.”

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Voter suppression revealed: The stealth attack on Canadian democracy

Frank Graves of Ekos Research
The widespread accounts of electoral fraud and voter suppression in the 2011 federal election are now a major volume in Canadian electoral history (Have some Pierre Poutine, anyone?). The chapters of this tragic farce are being written by various authors, one of whom is the Council of Canadians (chaired nationally by Maude Barlow), which has given its support to a court case challenging the results in seven ridings (Winnipeg South Centre, Elmwood-Transcona, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Nipissing-Timiskaming, Don Valley East, Vancouver Island North, and Yukon) where there were extensive reports of electoral fraud and voter suppression, and in which individual voters filed applications to the Federal Court of Canada to have the election results overturned as a result of these irregularities, and new elections ordered.

Nexen Deal: CSIS Warns Foreign Takeover Could Pose National Security Threat From China

OTTAWA - The same day shareholders of a Calgary-based energy company agreed to a takeover bid by a state firm from China, Canada's spy agency is warning such purchases can pose a threat to national security.

In its latest annual report, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says the majority of foreign investment in Canada is carried out in an open and transparent manner.

Quebec Tuition Hike Cancelled By PQ At First Cabinet Meeting

QUEBEC - The tuition increase that triggered such social strife in Quebec was cancelled Thursday during an action-packed first full day in office for the Parti Quebecois government.

The new government repealed the fee hike, by decree, in its first cabinet meeting less than 24 hours after coming to power.

Student leaders cheered the news.

Kimberly Rivera, U.S. Soldier And War Resister, Deported And Arrested At U.S. Border

TORONTO - An American soldier who sought refuge in Canada after becoming disillusioned with the Iraq war has been arrested after turning herself over to the United States.

Kimberly Rivera complied with a deportation order and presented herself at the border at Gananoque, Ont., on Thursday.

Canadians sour on Chinese government takeover of Nexen: Poll

OTTAWA - If the federal government approves the takeover of Canadian energy giant Nexen by China's CNOOC, the latest poll suggests the feds will tap into a gusher of public opposition.

"The gut reaction of the public is just simply 'no'," said pollster David Coletto.

A Sun News-Abacus Data poll finds a whopping 69% of those asked say the feds should not approve Nexen's takeover by CNOOC, a company owned by the communist dictatorship in Beijing.

The Commons: Of algebra, the premiers and a new mom named Jennifer

The Scene. It was of something Peter Van Loan said in his third response yesterday that Thomas Mulcair asked his first question today.

“Does the Prime Minister agree,” the NDP leader asked, “that employment insurance is, to quote his House leader, ‘an incentive for people to be unemployed?’ ”

Mr. Harper stood and clarified the necessity of employment insurance and asserted his interest in seeing people find jobs. Then he attempted to deal with the details.

PMO to Tories: Shut up about flag

OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is sticking to the party line, refusing to criticize the separatist premier of Quebec for hiding the Canadian flag during swearing-in ceremonies this week.

“There’s a new government in Quebec,” he said in Whitby. “They’re just getting organized. Let’s let them do that and let’s see if we can focus together on what really matters to people in Quebec and the rest of the country, and that is about economic issues.”

Peter MacKay looks to rebound political career after F-35 ‘debacle’

When the Auditor-General’s report into the F-35 purchase came out last spring, Peter MacKay hadn’t set eyes on the file for a year, according to people close to him.

Yet voters need a scapegoat and so – with the enthusiastic help of some of the Defence Minister’s Conservative colleagues – the words “F-35” and “Peter MacKay” became synonymous.

The piling on became so egregious, speculation sprinted around Parliament Hill that Mr. MacKay was set to quit politics, and decamp to Bay Street with his new wife, Nazanin Afshin-Jam.

The environment, equality and the permanent election campaign

In his response to a question from Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair on Tuesday, the prime minister said that increasing the numbers of temporary foreign workers is part of his government's job creation strategy.

Ironically, that came on the same day as the independent Metcalf Foundation issued a report noting that Canada now brings in more temporary workers than economic class immigrants. The report warned of the grave consequences of creating a large class of "guest workers" with virtually no rights in Canada.