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.]

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Canada's Court system: A hostile place for Indigenous people

I am appreciative of the public interest that people have in my section 15 Charter court case, where I am challenging the continued sex discrimination and the denial of Indian status registration due to an unknown paternal grandfather.

When a father's signature is lacking on a child’s birth registration form, and the mother is registered under section 6(2) of the Indian Act, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s (formerly Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) “paternity trap” denies the child status registration.  Disturbingly this practice of denial also occurs in situations where the child is the result of sexual violence such as rape.

As a result, these children, me included, are also denied their treaty rights such as education and health care.

Guantánamo 'not in the best interests of the American people', says Obama

Barack Obama vowed to take action to close the controversial prison camp at Guantánamo Bay on Tuesday, declaring that he did not want any of its hunger-striking inmates to die of starvation.

At a press conference in Washington, Obama said it was not sustainable to keep Guantánamo open, warning its continued existence was a "recruitment tool" for extremists. The president promised to take the issue back to Congress, which blocked his earlier attempts to fulfill a 2008 campaign promise to close the camp.

A Hundred Hungry Men at Guantánamo

Is Guantánamo falling? The Navy sent reinforcements to the prison there on Monday—forty medics, added to the cohort guarding a hundred and sixty-six prisoners, watching them in their cells, and, increasingly, pulling them into rooms where they are strapped to chairs and have rubber tubes stuck into their noses and snaked down to their stomachs, then pumping in a can’s worth of a liquid nutritional supplement. That is what our sailors are assigned to do now. Two weeks ago, according to press reports, guards in riot gear were sent into what had been a cell block for compliant prisoners—a raid on our own jail—to transfer more than sixty of them into single-cell lockdown. It took five hours. The guards ended up firing what the military called “less-than-lethal rounds”—rubber bullets and pellets—while the prisoners threw “improvised weapons” at them. But mostly the prisoners have been starving themselves.

$70 Million Per Seat? NASA Pays Russia Huge Sum To Send Astronauts To ISS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is paying $424 million more to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space, and the agency's leader is blaming Congress for the extra expense.

NASA announced its latest contract with the Russian Space Agency on Tuesday. The $424 million represents flights to and from the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, as well as training, for six astronauts in 2016 and the first half of 2017.

GOP Census Bill Would Eliminate America's Economic Indicators

WASHINGTON -- A group of Republicans are cooking up legislation that could give President Barack Obama an unintentional assist with disagreeable unemployment numbers -- by eliminating the key economic statistic altogether.

The bill, introduced last week by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), would bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting nearly all surveys except for a decennial population count. Such a step that would end the government's ability to provide reliable estimates of the employment rate. Indeed, the government would not be able to produce any of the major economic indices that move markets every month, said multiple statistics experts, who were aghast at the proposal.

Cruz 2016 - The freshman senator is considering a run for president

Freshman senator Ted Cruz is considering a presidential run, according to his friends and confidants.

Cruz won’t talk about it publicly, and even privately he’s cagey about revealing too much of his thought process or intentions. But his interest is undeniable.

“If you don’t think this is real, then you’re not paying attention,” says a Republican insider. “Cruz already has grassroots on his side, and in this climate, that’s all he may need.”

What the NRA's Millions Do—and Don't—Buy

In the days leading up to last month's crucial votes on the most significant gun control legislation to come before the Senate in nearly two decades, polls showed that about 90 percent of Americans supported background checks for all gun purchases. But when the clerk called the roll, the centerpiece amendment—requiring background checks for firearm sales at gun shows, through classified ads and on the internet—got just 54 yeas, six votes short of the 60 vote supermajority required.

Just four months after Adam Lanza killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and President Obama promised tougher gun laws, the vote proved to be the latest in a long-running string of victories for gun rights activists, the firearms industry, and particularly the National Rifle Association, the nation's preeminent gun lobby.

IRS To Seek Info On U.S. Accounts At Caribbean Bank

April 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday that a federal court had authorized the Internal Revenue Service to seek information on U.S. taxpayers who may have accounts at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB).

In a move resembling a recent IRS inquiry into Americans with Swiss bank accounts, the Justice Department said a court order would let the IRS serve a 'John Doe' summons seeking records of FCIB's U.S. correspondent account at Wells Fargo & Co . A correspondent account is a bank deposit account maintained by one bank for another bank.

Science Cuts In Canada: PEARL, ELA Among Many On Tories' Hit List

Thumbtacked to a corkboard in professor Tom Duck’s Halifax office are laminated photos of a bright red building with small square windows.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside. Surrounded by snow and ice at least nine months of the year, the building houses the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL). Located on Ellesmere Island near Eureka, Nunavut, it’s one of the most remote weather stations in the world and has been the focus of Duck’s scientific research for years. The findings that come out of the facility offer insight into how climate change is affecting Canada and the planet.

Ottawa wisely hits the brake on foreign temporary workers

At a time when 1.4 million Canadians are out of work, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have finally been shamed into slamming the brakes on an out-of-control program that threatened their claim to be competent stewards of the economy. There were some 338,000 foreign workers in this country by the end of last year, a number that has tripled in the past decade.

Granted, some regions of Canada, including Alberta, are experiencing skills and labour shortages. But a rising chorus of critics accused the Conservatives of selling out Canadian workers by letting employers import cheap temporary labour, pushing down wages and working conditions in a race to the bottom. Even Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney felt moved to caution against an “over-reliance” on such workers at a time when unemployment is above the 7-per-cent mark, saying there’s a risk of holding down wage gains and impeding corporate efficiency.

Commons committee wants Ambrose to come explain how relocation contract process has been fixed

OTTAWA – Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose plans to call a new tender in 2014 for the controversial $2.5-billion relocation contract that has mired the department in legal disputes over unfair and rigged bidding processes for more than a decade, officials confirmed Tuesday.

Michelle d’Auray, deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services, told the Commons’ government operations committee Tuesday that the department plans to launch a competition for a new contract in 2014, which is when the existing contract with Brookfield Global Relocation Services expires.

Jason Kenney tinkers with foreign worker scheme, low-wage goal remains

A building collapses in Bangladesh, killing at least 386. A cabinet minister backpedals ever so slightly in Ottawa.

The events are separated by thousands of kilometres. What they have in common is twofold: a worldwide effort to drive down wages and a growing resistance to that effort

The collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza clothing factory exposes a bitter truth about the globalized world. Inexpensive fashions, like those made in Bangladesh at the Rana Plaza and sold in Canada under Loblaw’s Joe Fresh label, come at a cost.

The best terror defence is intelligence

Since 9/11, terror and planes have been etched in the mind.

The scenes were so ghastly in their horror, the destruction so massive, the deadly daring of the attacks so unexpected that the application of terrorism to air travel produced an immense, expensive and, in some respects, overwrought response.

In defence of sociology

Why do conservatives have such a peculiar hatred for sociologists?

This is a question that many people have been asking themselves in the wake of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s accusation that Justin Trudeau was seeking to “commit sociology” by inquiring into the “root causes” of terrorist violence.

A statesmanlike response to bullying

While parents in every corner of our country are trying their best to talk to their kids about bullying at school or on the playground, all a person has to do is look at what's happening in the wake of Justin Trudeau's election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

He had hardly given his acceptance speech and left the stage before attack ads by the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) found their way into cyberspace and the airwaves.

Politics of contempt, fear, detestation will rule the day

The recent “debate” between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and new federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on the issue of how best to respond to the Boston bombings offers intriguing insights into their characters. We can see the leadership style of each.

Just a reminder: Only two hours after the attack in Boston, Trudeau taped a television interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge. At that time, Trudeau was asked how he would respond to the event if he was prime minister.

Harper tightening the reins on CBC, Via Rail and Canada Post

The federal government is taking a harder line on collective bargaining, giving itself sweeping new powers to steer independent Crown corporations on their negotiations with employees over wages and benefits.

The main targets are the CBC, Canada Post and Via Rail.

Mental health: The next frontier for workers' rights

Today is International Workers' Day!

One hundred and twenty-seven years ago, workers in Chicago demonstrating for the eight hour day were attacked, a bomb was thrown and several strikers and police officers were killed. Falsely accused of throwing the bomb, a handful of activists were imprisoned and hanged. In response, international calls were made to mobilize on May 1st in support of workers' rights.

Henry Giroux and critical pedagogy

Professor Henry Giroux, one of North America's most famous theorists, will be speaking at a conference on "Rethinking Pedagogy" at George Brown College on Thursday, May 16. The conference is being organized by the College's Community Worker Program. The latter is dedicated to training students to become community organizers, group facilitators, popular educators, program managers and advocates. As well, the department includes an invaluable international study option in Cuba or Jamaica. The program has been in operation since 1975 and any progressive who has worked with a variety of community agencies in Toronto will know more than one person who has graduated from this remarkable course of study. The program's student population provides the educator with the most diverse classroom in the world, not only in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class but also in terms of age, ability and learning style. Full disclosure: I learned how to teach by being a full-time professor for Community Worker for three years in the late 1990s. The two-year program's course of study is implicitly informed by what Giroux would call a critical pedagogy.

It was the government that blinked: Defiant Alberta jail guards have every right to declare victory

Even without last night's deal with the Alberta government, Alberta's defiant jail guards would have been entitled to declare a victory in their illegal five-day wildcat strike.

And that was before the illegally striking guards reached the agreement to end their walkout largely on their terms.

The agreement came last night after negotiations between the government and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees -- politely termed discussions to allow the government to save a little face -- that Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk had scornfully vowed would never happen unless the guards unconditionally surrendered first.

Cause for celebration this May Day: Marginalized workers find new ways to get organized

The recent mass walkouts by fast food and retail workers in New York City and Chicago made international headlines and ignited a lively discussion about the alternative organizing forms being adopted by America's growing ranks of non-unionized, poverty-wage workers.

The rising share of jobs that are temporary, part-time and poorly paid is a trend shared by nearly every industrialized nation. Here in Canada, half of the new jobs created since 2008 have been temporary jobs. (And about a third, we've learned recently, were filled by indentured migrant labourers through the temporary foreign worker program.)

Bike station at Toronto City Hall shelved after $650,000 already spent

The city spent $650,000 on a bike station under Nathan Phillips Square before the project was quietly shelved by staff in 2011, a decision some councillors say should have come back to council for approval.

“That seems very strange,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher. “The scope of work for the Nathan Phillips Square revitalization is part of a pretty public restoration. That should have been reported out.”

Tory response to foreign workers issue angers business but plays to anxious middle class

When you walk into a Tim Hortons in downtown Toronto — or anywhere in Ontario — there is no chance that your double-double is being poured by a temporary foreign worker.

But if you’re at a drive-through in northern Alberta, there is a nine-in-10 chance your Timbits are being packaged by a temporary foreign worker, likely from the Philippines.

Attawapiskat, Kashechewan Emergency Declared Due Flooding

A partial evacuation is now planned for the Kashechewan First Nation, as flood problems worsen for communities on the James Bay Coast in northern Ontario.

Both the Attawapiskat and Kashechewan First Nations have declared a state of emergency after sewer backups flooded basements.

Labrador Byelection Poll Suggests Peter Penashue Will Be Easily Defeated

Stephen Harper seems poised to lose a Tory seat in a byelection for the first time, as another poll shows former cabinet minister and Conservative MP Peter Penashue trailing in his bid for re-election in Labrador.

The survey, conducted by Forum Research and released by Sun News, interviewed 427 Labradorians on April 24 via interactive voice response. It found Yvonne Jones, the Liberal candidate, with 60 per cent support. Penashue was far behind with 29 per cent, while the NDP’s Harry Borlase brought up the rear with 10 per cent.

Irregularities widespread in Canadian elections, report finds

OTTAWA — More than 165,000 people seem to have voted improperly in the last election, a new Elections Canada report has found, and the system for voting needs to be overhauled, although there isn’t enough time to do that before the next election.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand commissioned the report after irregularities in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre led to a court challenge that went to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Search plane purchase delay sparks government bickering

The military's failure to purchase new search and rescue planes has led to an apparent disagreement between two federal Conservative cabinet ministers.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson, in his spring report released Tuesday, said the military's persistent failure to buy new search planes was a significant risk that affected the sustainability of Canada's rescue program.

The secretive world of printing money

Consider this: As America agonizes and argues over the pain of government cuts totalling about $85 billion next year, the U.S. Federal Reserve is printing that much every month.

Its current balance sheet — the amount of money it has created, the bulk of it in the past five years — stands at $3.2 trillion, about twice Canada's entire annual economic output.

An Open Letter to International Garment Brands Sourcing from Cambodia

May 1, 2013‐ On this International Labor Day, we, the undersigned civil society groups call upon all international garment brands sourcing from Cambodia to publicly denounce two recent baseless judicial decisions related to the garment sector. The first is the recent imprisonment of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. The two men were scapegoated and wrongly convicted in the 2004 murder of labor leader Chea Vichea. The second is the government’s failure to appropriately prosecute Chhouk Bandith, a well- connected former town governor who shot and severely injured three female garment factory workers. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were imprisoned for Chea Vichea’s murder in 2004, convicted in 2005 after spending a year and a half in pre‐trial detention, and courageously released by the Supreme Court in December 2008. The high court ordered further investigation into the killing amid extensive evidence of their innocence. But on December 27, 2012, Appeals Court Judges Chhoun Sunleng, Seng Sivutha and Khoun Leang Meng shocked observers by reinstating the previously vacated, grossly unfair verdict.

Toronto casino: Ford yanks item from agenda, delaying vote

Facing the likely death of his downtown casino dream, Mayor Rob Ford has yanked the item from next week’s council meeting in hopes he can muster more support later in May.

Councillor Michael Thompson said Tuesday the mayor’s office has told him and other Ford allies that the mayor is exercising a rarely used power to move the item from the May 7-8 council agenda.

More Conservative MPs say No to taxpayer-paid attacks against Trudeau

OTTAWA - A growing number of Conservative MPs say they won't mail their constituents the party's latest attack on Justin Trudeau, saying the negative, taxpayer-funded pamphlet is just not their style.

Tories received a sample of the flyer about the Liberal leader last week, designed by the party's parliamentary research group. It matches recent television spots about Trudeau that say he lacks the experience and judgment to govern.

Toronto police officer given conditional discharge for domestic assault

A veteran Toronto police officer found guilty of assaulting his then-girlfriend, a prominent defence lawyer, and damaging her condo will be given a conditional discharge after 18 months of probation, a judge ruled Tuesday morning.

Const. Jason Peacock, 40, will also have to pay $4,300 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service.

Saskatchewan Budget Books Misleading, Incomplete: Auditor

REGINA - Saskatchewan's auditor says the government is presenting an incomplete and misleading picture of its finances, but the finance minister says he disagrees.

Saskatchewan reports its finances on a general revenue fund basis and a summary basis.

Canada Election 2011: Errors Were Rampant, Elections Canada Report Finds

OTTAWA - The integrity of Canada's electoral process is at "serious risk" due to rampant procedural errors made by polling officials, a report commissioned by Elections Canada says.

The report blames overly complex rules and poorly trained polling officers for "serious errors" in 54 per cent of the paperwork filled out during the 2011 federal election for electors who needed to prove their eligibility to vote.

CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Ballooned 1,000 Percent Since 1950: Report

We’ve made progress on a lot of things since the 1950s and so have CEOs -- in their quest for more money that is.

The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1,000 percent since 1950, according to data from Bloomberg. Today Fortune 500 CEOs make 204 times regular workers on average, Bloomberg found. The ratio is up from 120-to-1 in 2000, 42-to-1 in 1980 and 20-to-1 in 1950.

Anne Frank's Diary Too 'Pornographic' For 7th-Grade Students, Claims Michigan Parent

Since being published in the Netherlands in 1947, "The Diary of Anne Frank" has become a staple in American classrooms. But that may be changing for students at Northville school district in Michigan, where a parent claims a version of the book is "pornographic" and too explicit for some middle school students.

Jeb Hensarling, House Finance Chair, Goes On Ski Vacation With Wall Street

In January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, ascended to the powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee. Six weeks later, campaign finance filings and interviews show, Hensarling was joined by representatives of the banking industry for a ski vacation fundraiser at a posh Park City, Utah, resort.

Jobseekers made to carry out bogus psychometric tests

Jobseekers are being made to complete bogus psychometric tests by the Department for Work and Pensions – and told that in some cases they risk losing their benefits if they do not complete the meaningless online questionnaire.

The test called My Strengths, devised by Downing Street's behavioural insights or "nudge" unit, has been exposed by bloggers as a sham with results having no relation to the answers given.

Two Economies: Private Sector, Good; Public Sector, Bad

The news that house prices have risen by almost ten per cent during the past twelve months, the fastest rate of increase in almost seven years, confirms a trend seen in other recent reports on the economy: the private sector—excluding the unemployed—is doing pretty well. But retrenchments in the public sector, which accounts for roughly a fifth of G.D.P., are holding back the recovery, and, indeed, jeopardizing its future.

400 PPM Atmospheric CO2 Levels Soon To Be Surpassed, Scientists Report

Scientists monitoring global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations report that, for the first time in human history, CO2 levels could soon rise above 400 parts per million for a sustained period of time in much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Hourly readings have surpassed 400 ppm in the past week, but daily averages remain just below 400, reported The Guardian. Daily readings are expected to surpass 400 ppm in early May. They will reach their annual peak by mid-month.

How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank

The mood was triumphant on the morning of July 21, 2010, when Barack Obama, not quite two years into his presidency, strode to a podium inside the Ronald Reagan Building, a few blocks from the White House. As he prepared to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—the sweeping legislative package designed to prevent another spectacular financial collapse—into law, the president first acknowledged the miracle of having a bill to sign at all. “Passing this…was no easy task,” he told the crowd of hundreds. “We had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change.”

Residential schools: Addressing a lasting legacy

This past week in Montréal was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada's Québec National Event, the fifth of seven such gatherings across the country.

From April 24-27, an estimated 12,000 visitors stopped in to the historic Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and some 8000 tuned in online, to engage in the process of learning about this history, what exactly the residential school experience meant for survivors and for the country as a whole, and how we can move forward.

"The important thing that I do want people to understand is that this is not an Aboriginal problem, this is not just for Aboriginal people to address. The issue of the impact of residential schools upon this nation is an issue that the nation as a whole needs to address, and then as a country, as a future nation of this world, we will be in a better situation when Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have full mutual respect for each other, and that's what reconciliation is all about," says Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC.

Budget bill gives Harper Cabinet new powers over CBC

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government’s latest budget bill would give Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Cabinet the power to dictate collective bargaining and terms for other salaries and working conditions at the CBC and three other cultural or scientific Crown corporations.

The new authority, which appears to contradict a longstanding arm’s-length relationship between the independent CBC and any government in power, is contained in a final section of the 111-page budget bill Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Oshawa-Whitby, Ont.) tabled in the Commons on Monday.