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.]

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Harper's keynote address: Out of touch and an hour late

Prime Minister Harper's keynote speech to the Conservative policy convention illustrated once again how out–of-touch the Conservatives are with the majority of the country, not to mention the 21st Century.

Let's start with the introductions. Health Minister Rona Ambrose made fun of Justin Trudeau, joking, "Trudeau's plan to make marijuana legal is not an economic plan."  First of all, Justin Trudeau didn't suggest that. Indeed, Harper chided him for discussing pot before putting forward an economic plan.  And second,  the devastated state of Michigan reports legalized medical marijuana pumped $2.8 billion back into the state’s distressed economy in the first year.

Then John Baird delivered one of the most puzzling sentences I've ever heard from a Minister: "Those values that make us distinctly Canadian should be reflected in our government, not the other way around." If I parse that sentence correctly, I'm still left wondering why the Conservatives have had to employ such draconian and deceptive tactics in order to make over the Canadian federal government to reflect Conservative values.

What happened to Canada? Harper has made us into a right-wing petro state

Whenever I travel abroad these days, I'm button-holed by anxious foreigners asking the same question: What happened to the civil, generous and globally engaged Canada?

My answer is blunt: An old mining republic with the reputation of a Dr. Jekyll has now banked its economic future on dirty oil. In the process, gentle Canada has become a bullying Mr. Hyde.

Over the last two years the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the son of an Imperial Oil accountant, has forcefully assaulted the nation’s democratic traditions, attacked environmental organizations and clashed with Canada's one million Aboriginals. The country’s security forces even reclassified Greenpeace, a civil organization first started by Canadians and funded by three million ordinary people, as a "multi-issue extremist" threat.

EU Trade Deal Documents: Canada Gave Away More Than It Needed To

OTTAWA - A European Union analysis of the just-completed trade agreement with Canada suggests the EU gained more than it expected — and might have settled for less had Ottawa pushed harder.

The internal document, obtained by The Canadian Press, indicates EU exporters expect to make great inroads in the Canada market. Negotiators hope the gains can be used to their advantage in other trade negotiations, including talks with the United States that have just begun.

The Europeans cite bidding on government contracts, as well as shipments of cheese, wine and spirits, as negotiating victories. The Europeans are also touting their success in persuading Canada to adopt the use of geographical indicators to market their goods.

Harper Doesn't Apologize For Senate Scandal In Party Convention Speech

CALGARY — Stephen Harper’s troops are lining up firmly behind him.

The Prime Minister may not have provided any answers or shown any remorse about a Senate scandal that has his party sinking in the polls, but his caucus and delegates at the biennial Conservative convention say he didn't need to.

Harper delivered a rallying speech Friday at the BMO Convention Centre in Calgary. In it, he mocked his opposition, praised the government’s economic record and said senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau had to go.

China Censoring Dalai Lama To Prevent Tibetans From Listening To His 'Propaganda'

BEIJING, Nov 2 (Reuters) - China aims to stamp out the voice of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in his restive and remote homeland by ensuring that his "propaganda" is not received by anyone on the internet, television or other means, a top official said.

China has tried, with varying degrees of success, to prevent Tibetans listening to or watching programmes broadcast from outside the country, or accessing any information about the Dalai Lama and the exiled government on the internet.

Toronto mayor Rob Ford refuses to resign over 'crack cocaine' video

The embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford reiterated on Saturday that he will not resign despite mounting pressure for him to step aside after police said they had obtained a copy of a video that appears to show the mayor puffing on a crack pipe.

Ford smiled outside his office and said: "No. As I told you before I'm not resigning."

British Accuse David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's Partner, Of 'Terrorism'

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - British authorities claimed the domestic partner of reporter Glenn Greenwald was involved in "terrorism" when he tried to carry documents from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden through a London airport in August, according to police and intelligence documents.

Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was detained and questioned for nine hours by British authorities at Heathrow on Aug. 18, when he landed there from Berlin to change planes for a flight to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Canadian Wage Gap: Largest Difference Ever Between West, Maritimes

There’s a different kind of income inequality growing in Canada, and where you rank on the ladder depends on where you live.

On one side are Alberta, Saskatchewan and, yes, Newfoundland, where resource extraction industries are fuelling wage gains. On the other side is the rest of the country, which is seeing its wages fall further behind the oil-producing regions.

Hourly wages in Alberta are now $6 higher per hour, on average, than wages in Atlantic Canada, an all-time record difference, BMO economist Robert Kavcic reports.

Harper's Credibility In Expense Scandal On Par With Senators'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader who promised to usher in a new era of accountability when his government came to power in 2006, is seeing his credibility erode following months of controversy surrounding a Senate expense scandal, a new poll suggests.

Harper promised during a speech to his party in Calgary on Friday that the Conservatives will "do the right thing" and suspend senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin without pay, but new poll numbers suggest his credibility is on par with that of the senators who are under investigation by the RCMP.

Food Stamp Cut Reverberates Across Country

WASHINGTON -- National media and federal policymakers haven't paid much attention, but a $5 billion reduction to the food stamp program that took effect Friday has already been reverberating across the country.

Food bank directors have been telling local newspapers and TV stations they're worried the shrinking benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will result in rising need at a time of decreased donations.

People from all walks of life are uniting to challenge Harper's agenda

I believe Canadians desire a just, compassionate and democratic Canada. With both Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments and strong citizen participation, over the decades Canada has developed such a society. I believe we live in exciting and opportune times.

Canada is well endowed and strategically placed to live out a hopeful vision for the common good. We are blessed with resources, people, a co-operative spirit, vibrant business and labour communities and imagination infused with compassion. Believing in policies and programmes to enhance the common good, we developed a global reputation for being peaceful and progressive. Until this moment in time.

Delegates show wisdom lacking in the PMO

Ah, the contrast. While the high-powered help in the PMO (the so-called “boys in short pants”) can’t get their stories straight on the Senate scandal, the Conservative party grassroots showed incredible wisdom.

On Friday, two potentially divisive, if not downright destructive, resolutions on how party leaders are chosen were defeated rapidly and decisively by a hefty majority of the 1,000 voting delegates at the party’s national convention.

Resolutions C-132 and C-133 — dubbed the “Peter MacKay Meltdown resolutions” by one Tory MP who asked to not be named — were apparently shot down by a margin of about three-to-one.

Harper shoots himself in the foot

The lead-up to the Conservative convention was supposed to be a walk in the park for Stephen Harper.

You know, the speech from the throne, and the Canada-Europe free trade agreement. A big agenda for the second half of a majority mandate, and a major achievement — the biggest trade deal in the quarter-century since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, certain to be a template for a larger North American-European agreement.

4 hot topics with Conservative Party members

While many Canadians can't get enough of the Senate scandal, Conservative Party delegates meeting this weekend in Calgary say they are talking about other issues. Here are four things on their minds.

1. The economy

It was the first policy point Prime Minister Stephen Harper mentioned in his speech Friday night, and it's a point the Conservative Party members say is getting overlooked amid the Senate controversy.

Wallin Committed Fraud, Breach Of Trust, RCMP Allege

OTTAWA - Sen. Pamela Wallin committed fraud and breach of trust by filing fraudulent expense claims, RCMP investigators allege in court documents released Friday — the latest twist in the roller-coaster Senate expense scandal.

The allegations are spelled out by investigators in documents authorizing a production order — a binding court document aimed at compelling the Senate and its auditors to hand over material related to the police investigation.

Conservative Convention 2013: Harper Says 2015 Election Won't Be 'Canadian Idol'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants Conservatives — and other Canadians — to keep in mind that the next federal election isn't some reality TV competition.

Harper delivered a lengthy speech to delegates at the Conservative convention on Friday where he touted Tory accomplishments, including a historic European Union trade agreement.

And, of course, he found time to throw some digs at his top rivals.

"Could Justin Trudeau run the economy?" he asked.

Tory delegates in Calgary, unsurprisingly, responded with a resounding "no."

Food Stamp Cuts: A Bipartisan Scandal

Starting Friday, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will see a $5 billion reduction in funding. This means families of four who rely on food stamps will receive $36 less each month, starting now—a serious blow to struggling families, but also the economy, since every federal dollar spent on food stamps generates $1.74 in economic activity.

This is just a prelude to deeper food stamp cuts likely to come, as Congress debates a five-year farm bill. So it is important to get the political dynamics of Friday’s cut correct. There is a troubling trend among some left-leaning writers to blame the big bad GOP. See for example Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post: “Oh SNAP, veterans get dissed by the GOP.” But that’s not the entire story.

China Reveals Fleet Of Nuclear Submarines In Apparent Show Of Force

For the first time in more than 40 years, China has given the rest of the world a view of its mysterious fleet of nuclear submarines.

Earlier in the week, various Chinese state media outlets ran an article touting the "exceptional" safety record of the subs, noting the "tremendous achievement" of developing such technology that many of the world's superpowers have long established.

"We are China's first nuclear submarine force, and the 42 years since our establishment have witnessed our success in avoiding nuclear accidents," Rear Admiral Gao Feng, commander of one of the People's Liberation Army navy's submarine bases, announced to reporters. State-run China Daily reports that Gao particularly noted the importance of the fleet's supposedly spotless safety record when compared to that of the United States and Russia.

NSA surveillance may cause breakup of internet, warn experts

The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics.

They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth.

Wall St. Watchdog Too Broke To Do Any Watching (Thanks To Austerity)

Austerity isn't just hurting the U.S. economy: It's also starving Wall Street's watchdogs.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has decided not to press charges against two traders in the "London Whale" case partly because it is so strapped for cash, its former chief enforcement officer, David Meister, told the Wall Street Journal. The CFTC is also slowing down investigations and laying off staff as a result of its funding crunch.

How States Taken Over by the GOP in 2010 Have Been Quietly Screwing Over the American Worker

Last year, Tennessee school teachers lost their collective bargaining rights. So did municipal workers in Oklahoma. And farm workers and childcare providers in Maine. Research assistants in Michigan, too.

These attacks on labor were not isolated instances of ideological union-busting, according to a report released today by the Economic Policy Institute. The study traces the rise of a broad and coordinated campaign, fueled by corporate cash and conservative state legislators, to strip workers in both public and private sectors of their rights.

The Battle of the NSA Surveillance Bills

On Thursday, the Senate intelligence committee took a step forward toward officially authorizing some of the National Security Agency's more controversial surveillance practices, which have recently come to light thanks to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The panel passed out of committee a bill allowing broad phone surveillance to continue under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Backed by the committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the FISA Improvements Act leaves untouched the NSA's internet surveillance dragnet, PRISM, and does little to improve oversight of the government's surveillance powers. Feinstein's bill will face off against legislation introduced earlier this week by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would significantly curb the government's ability to sweep up the private information of Americans.

Carmon Creek Oilsands Project: Shell Moving Ahead With Thermal Operation

CALGARY - Royal Dutch Shell says it's moving ahead with its Carmon Creek oilsands project in northern Alberta.

The steam-driven project in the Peace River region is expected to produce 80,000 barrels of oil per day.

Shell says it will need some 1,000 workers during peak construction periods.

Harper and Ford: Two scandals, same problem

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must be loving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford right now. In a minute-long press conference (if you can call it that) Ford ripped the spotlight away from another big, balding Tory troublemaker, Senator Mike Duffy, and trained it squarely on his own shiny pate.

While the Conservatives moved on a combined motion to suspend Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau in Ottawa, all eyes were on Toronto City Hall and the Ford Family Gong Show.