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, April 16, 2013

STANDING STILL: Running water remains a dream for most on Six Nations

Bertha Skye leads a normal life in a normal home at Six Nations.

It’s a quaint bungalow, relatively new, with all the modern conveniences.

All except for one: the water is undrinkable.

It has been for years.

And Skye doesn’t expect that will change anytime soon.

“They keep talking about running water, that one day we’ll get water. But it won’t be in my lifetime,” the 81-year-old says.

The Thatcherist

By the dismal end of the nineteen-seventies, a series of oil shocks had sent the economies of most of the world’s developed democracies into a tailspin. Their publics were not pleased. In country after country, voters voted out the ins and voted in the outs. Ideology didn’t seem to matter. In France, Spain, Sweden, and Greece, governing parties of the right and the center right were shown the door. In West Germany (as it still was), the Netherlands, Portugal, and, of course, the United States, it was incumbents of the left and the center left who got the hook.

An early beneficiary of this political turbulence was Margaret Thatcher, the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, who swept to power in the general election of May 3, 1979, following the so-called Winter of Discontent. Her rise was as improbable as it was inexorable. In a party of reflexive male chauvinists, she was a woman. In a party traditionally dominated by landed aristocrats, rich industrialists, and upper-class twits of every stripe, she was a product of the striving middle class. Her predecessor as party leader and Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath, had been indelibly dubbed “the Grocer” by the satirical magazine Private Eye. Though cruelly aimed at Heath’s status anxieties, the Eye’s gibe was rooted in his stint negotiating food prices in Brussels. Margaret Thatcher, however, was the actual daughter of an actual grocer, and proud of it. Finally, in a party riddled with “wets” who had accommodated themselves to Labour’s postwar welfare state, she was a doctrinaire free-market fundamentalist, a radical believer in the individualism of the successful, a despiser of “society” (“there is no such thing”) and social solidarity—a visionary, even a kind of revolutionary, and in temperament anything but conservative.

South Florida Deportations Flout Immigration Policy, Focus On Minor Offenders: Report

MIAMI, April 15 (Reuters) - Federal immigration officials in South Florida are failing to abide by an Obama administration directive to focus deportation efforts on dangerous criminals, according to a report Monday by a Miami-based immigration advocacy group and researchers from a Florida university.

A majority of undocumented immigrants detained for deportation in Miami-Dade County under a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiative known as the Secure Communities program were not serious criminals, the report by Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) and researchers at Florida International University said.

Pop, Charts: On Paul Krugman

Pop culture, née mass culture, once possessed a dual meaning: the shared experience of mass-produced cultural commodities, and persisting folk traditions. These senses pitted mass culture as a populist bulwark against both high culture's gleaming exclusions and the alienations of industrial development.

This chain of meaning swiftly contradicts itself: one can scarcely celebrate mass production while denouncing the assembly line. Riven by such inconsistencies, pop culture has forfeited its birthrights, structuring antagonisms long since collapsed. Today every artwork belongs to the market, while the market appears as a kind of mass spectacle. In the sharpest formulation on offer, culture has become economic and the economic has itself become cultural.

Conservative attacks on Justin Trudeau backfire on Harper

Say one thing for Stephen Harper’s Conservative party: they’re nothing if not predictable. Every pundit in the land said they’d smack Justin Trudeau upside the head with one of their patented attack ads as soon as he took over as Liberal leader. And there it was on Monday – a sneering dismissal of Trudeau as “in way over his head.”

In this case, though, the Conservatives took a big swing and ended up connecting with their own nose. The oh-so-clever ads designed to mock Trudeau as a callow youth don’t say much about the newly minted Liberal leader. But they do speak volumes about a governing party stuck in its own negative, manipulative rut.

Don’t assume Tories’ Trudeau ads will backfire

It looks like the Conservative party seriously miscalculated when they decided to target newly minted Liberal leader Justin Trudeau with Internet attack ads. Or at least that’s the opinion of many informed political observers.

Indeed, just minutes after the Conservatives went public with their ads, an army of pundits and journalists decried the assault. Some called the ads a “cheap shot,” others predicted it will “backfire.”

Two more Tory MPs join backbench revolt against stifling party discipline

OTTAWA - A two-week parliamentary break seems to have done nothing to quell a rebellion by Conservative backbenchers against what they describe as stifling party discipline imposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Two more Tories — Ontario MPs Michael Chong and Pierre Lemieux — joined the chorus of complaints Monday as Parliament resumed business after the Easter break.

Canada goes rogue against the environment

I am frequently asked how I maintain a positive attitude when confronted by Stephen Harper's destructive agenda -- dismembering our environmental laws and policies. Honestly, I can respond that most days I am encouraged by the ability of one MP to make a difference. That was not the case last week as, sitting late in the House for votes, news came over my Blackberry that the Cabinet had decided to withdraw from the United Nations Convention to Combat Drought and Desertification (UNCCD). It had the effect of a swift kick in the gut. I had to fight back tears for a day or so … just like when I read Bill C-38. I felt devastated.

Closure of fisheries’ libraries called a ‘disaster’ for science

The libraries are home to the 50 illustrated volumes from Britain’s Challenger expedition that sailed the seas in the late 1800s exploring the mysteries of the deep.

The shelves heave with reports detailing the DDT pollution that wiped out young salmon in New Brunswick’s “rivers of death” in the 1950s. And they contain vivid reminders of native fisheries, Canada’s once vast cod stocks and the U.S. submarines that prowled the quiet fjords along the B.C. coast in the 1940s — history that is being packed into boxes as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans “consolidates” its world-class library collection.

Stephen Harper Speaks in Fork Tongue: Elijah Harper's Thoughts on the Apology

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered the residential school apology in the Canadian parliament on June 11, 2008 he stated the reason for doing so was that the lack of one was a barrier to the healing and wellness of survivors.  I, though, thought his rhetoric was nothing but a pile of nonsense in that it was void of any real practical value.

Experimental Lakes Founder David Schindler Says Oliver and Redford Make Canadians "Look Like a Bunch of Absolute Idiots"

Once upon a time, in the beautiful land of Alberta there were magical machines that could turn sand into oil, that drew the toxins from the land and left the air and water clean and clear. It sounds like a fairy tale, but this is more or less what politicians like Premier Alison Redford and Environment Minister Joe Oliver are selling on their trips to Washington, according to scientist David Schindler.

The founder and former director of the recently endangered Ontario Experimental Lakes Area was the keynote speaker at Carleton University’s Community Engagement Celebration on Friday. In a speech focusing on the environmental “propaganda war” Canada is facing, he said that believing in clean tar sands development is akin to believing in “magic fairies.”

The Commons: Of taxes, toplessness and Justin Trudeau

On the matter of RBC, Thomas Mulcair leaned forward and loudly conveyed his indignation. The Prime Minister stood and accused the New Democrats of hypocrisy, reporting that NDP MPs had previously advocated for temporary foreign worker permits. Mr. Mulcair returned to his feet and sketched a thorough denunciation of the government’s attitude toward the working class. And Mr. Harper stood and ventured that it was the NDP who needed to explain.

Not that much of anyone was here to see any of this.

Trudeau strikes back against Tory attack ads

OTTAWA – In his debut as Liberal leader Monday – and hours after becoming a target of his first Tory attack ad – Justin Trudeau borrowed his attackers’ lines.

“Will he [Prime Minister Stephen Harper] show good judgment, admit it is a tax and repeal this tax on middle-class Canadians?” Trudeau asked in Question Period.

Parliament losing power to keep tabs on government: Tory MP

OTTAWA — A former member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet has warned that Canadian parliamentary democracy is being jeopardized by the “command and control” system that is removing the right of MPs to speak in the House of Commons.

The warning came Monday from Conservative MP Michael Chong, who was Harper’s intergovernmental affairs minister in 2006.

Canada’s diverted public service poses a threat to our future

The Stephen Harper government’s obsession with stifling certain perspectives is distracting public servants from their essential work. 

In Toronto last week, the Public Policy Forum held a dinner in honour of five former clerks of the Privy Council (a title that’s Ottawa-speak for the head of Canada’s public service). Two of the most eloquent speeches delivered that night came from honorees Mel Cappe and Alex Himelfarb, both now professors at Toronto universities. Pointing out the huge range of ways that public servants advance the well-being of Canada and its citizens, and the dedicated professionalism they bring to this task, the former clerks called for the value of the public service to be better recognized by media, cabinet ministers and the public.

Toronto casino: Mayor Rob Ford says he won’t stop pushing for resort

Casino giants and their labour allies urged Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee to roll the dice on a multi-billion-dollar downtown casino-resort. Dozens of residents urged the executive to shut the door on the Las Vegas companies one of them called “predators.”

Ford himself didn’t wait for any of the speeches to the committee at City Hall on Monday. He declared before the meeting that he won’t stop pushing for a downtown gambling facility — right to the 2014 election, if city council refuses to heed him now.

Cancelled Mississauga power plant cost $275 million: Ontario auditor general

Ontarians are paying twice for a single power plant, Auditor General Jim McCarter says in a scathing report that found it cost $275 million to scrap a generating station in Mississauga and move it to Sarnia.

That’s $85 million, or 45 per cent, more than the $190 million former premier Dalton McGuinty claimed, prompting opposition parties to charge the government “lied” and providing fresh ammunition for a potential spring election.

Some Toronto condo sales face CRA scrutiny

Some sellers of new Toronto condos are seeing years of price gains in a booming market taxed away. Canada Revenue Agency auditors have added penalties to taxes for those who claimed their condo as a home, but soon changed their minds and sold.

The CRA has yet to disclose how many sellers have been affected. But Toronto tax lawyer and text author David Sherman and other tax experts, accuse auditors of unfairly ignoring some legitimate explanations for sales. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wants the CRA to collect more than $500 million extra from suspected tax cheats this year.

Did cocaine use by bankers cause the global financial crisis?

"Wall Street got drunk" was George W Bush's typically incisive take on the main cause of the emerging financial crisis in July 2008. Two years later the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, explained in his Mansion House speech that "the role of a central bank in monetary policy is to take the punch bowl away just as the party gets going" (something that he admitted had not occurred). But perhaps the wrong intoxicant was being blamed. The controversial former drug tsar David Nutt told the Sunday Times this weekend that cocaine-using bankers with their "culture of excitement and drive and more and more and more ... got us into this terrible mess".

Gun owners must start paying

OTTAWA -- The Conservative government is ending a seven-year waiver on gun-licence renewal fees next month in an effort to collect about $18 million annually from firearms owners.

New changes to the firearms regulations were quietly posted in the Canada Gazette on the weekend that restore the $60 licence fee for non-restricted weapons.

The Conservatives brought in a two-year waiver on the fees in May 2006 and had extended it every year until now.

Thomas Mulcair slams Harper’s lack of respect for Parliament

Forget the economy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s downfall – his Achilles’ heel – is his failure to respect Parliamentary institutions, says NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

“It’s his Achilles’ heel, because when you don’t respect institutions, you show that you don’t respect the public,” Mulcair said during an interview on the Global News program The West Block with Tom Clark.

John Guide, BP Manager, Testifies At Gulf Oil Spill Trial

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A BP team leader who supervised managers on the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 testified Monday that he was frustrated by last-minute changes to the drilling project, but didn't have any safety concerns before the deadly blast.

Summer Ice Melt In Antarctica Is At The Highest Point In 1,000 Years, Researchers Say

CANBERRA (Reuters) - The summer ice melt in parts of Antarctica is at its highest level in 1,000 years, Australian and British researchers reported on Monday, adding new evidence of the impact of global warming on sensitive Antarctic glaciers and ice shelves.

Researchers from the Australian National University and the British Antarctic Survey found data taken from an ice core also shows the summer ice melt has been 10 times more intense over the past 50 years compared with 600 years ago.

Citigroup Reports 30 Percent Jump In Profits

BOSTON -- Citigroup reported a first-quarter profit of $3.8 billion, a 30 percent surge from last year as the bank’s securities and trading operation boosted the company in beating Wall Street’s expectations.

Citi, the third-largest US bank by assets, said it recorded higher revenues, lower losses on soured loans and a wider spread between what it costs to borrow and what it earns off loans and investments, helping the company achieve its highest quarterly profit in three years.

George W. Bush: I'm 'Comfortable' With My Legacy On Iraq War

Former President George W. Bush reflected on his tenure in the White House during an interview with the Dallas Morning News published Sunday, saying that he was comfortable with his decision-making regarding the Iraq War.

"I'm confident the decisions were made the right way," Bush explained. "It's easy to forget what life was like when the decision was made."

The Indian Act, legislative silence and ongoing sex discrimination in Canada

Legislative change must be more than about a government using it as an opportunity to create, and mask, new forms of sex discrimination through legislative silence. This is exactly what Canada has done.

Canada has treaty responsibilities that it has to live up to. We all know this by now. Yet since 1985, and through an amendment to The Indian Act, Canada has been specifically targeting Indigenous children in its goal to eliminate these treaty responsibilities. In 1985, The Indian Act was amended to conform to section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which prevents discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability. Regardless of the implementation of the Charter, for several reasons the legislative change was failed remedial legislation in that it did not eliminate all of the sex discrimination. In many situations the change shifted the discrimination onto the grandchildren of Indian women.