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, November 06, 2013

Don't Treat Wounded Vets Like the Enemy

"The motivation here is money, saving money on the backs and blood of veterans that served Canada." -- Veterans' lawyer Don Sorochan on inadequate disability benefits.

As Canadians prepare to honour the service and sacrifice of our armed forces, why is the federal Conservative government treating wounded veterans like the enemy?

With Remembrance Day approaching, some of our most severely injured soldiers face hardship and poverty because of changes made to their disability benefits.

How US Domestic Workers Won Their Rights

Domestic workers in the United States had some breakthrough wins this fall. These workers had been excluded from protections such as a guaranteed minimum wage, paid breaks and overtime pay. But on Sept. 17, the Obama administration announced new rules extending the Fair Labour Standards Act to include the 800,000 to two-million home-health workers -- those who help seniors and others with self-care tasks like taking medications, bathing and shopping -- under the federal government's wage and hour protections.

Harper still has not answered the toughest question on the Senate affair

One piece of the constantly unfolding Senate/PMO scandal has the communications whizzes in the PMO coaching Senator Mike Duffy in a lie about the now notorious $90,000 payment.

Duffy was to say he borrowed the money from a bank. It actually came from the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. (Or, so we are told. Canadians have not, in fact, seen the cheque.)

Giving politicians "media lines" is what communications people are paid to do, and they do it just about every day.

Christy Clark and Alison Redford choose short-term politics over future generations

Just this morning, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Allison Redford have announced that they have penned a deal to ram a pipeline from Northern Alberta's oil sands fields to the West Coast. And according to news reports, there is "tentative" support for other pipelines.

In Canada we are at a major cross-roads, with some big government leaders pushing pipelines that will lock the country permanently into the "petro-state" column, while at the same time scientists, environmental experts and economists saying that we are lighting a "carbon bomb" for the long term.

Conspiracy against Rob Ford and Stephen Harper exposed

Yes, Rob Ford did smoke crack cocaine. So what? He says he’ll stay on as Toronto’s mayor. It’s Bill Blair, the police chief investigating Ford who should resign.

Ditto in Ottawa. It’s not Stephen Harper’s fault that he appointed to the Senate three people he now calls grifters. It’s not his fault that his most trusted aide wrote one of those senators, Mike Duffy, a cheque for $90,000 in exchange for unspecified services.

Nor is it the prime minister’s fault that the party he heads paid $13,000 to cover the legal fees Duffy incurred in hammering out the $90,000 deal.

People Who Live Downwind Of Alberta’s Oil And Tar Sands Operations Are Getting Blood Cancer

A new study has found that levels of air pollution downwind of the largest tar sands, oil and gas producing region in Canada rival levels found in the world’s most polluted cities. And that pollution isn’t just dirtying the air — it also could be tied increased incidence of blood cancers in men that live in the area.

The study, published last week by researchers from University of California Irvine and the University of Michigan, found levels of carcinogenic air pollutants 1,3-butadiene and benzene spiked in the Fort Saskatchewan area, which is downwind of the oil and tar sands-rich “Industrial Heartland” of Alberta. Airborne levels of 1,3-butadiene were 322 times greater downwind of the Industrial Heartland — which houses more than 40 major chemical, petrochemical and oil and gas facilities — than upwind, while downwind levels of benzene were 51 times greater. Levels of some volatile organic compounds — which, depending on the compound, have been linked to liver, kidney and central nervous system damage as well as cancer — were 6,000 times higher than normal. The area saw concentrations of some chemicals that were higher than levels in Mexico City during the 1990s, when it was the most polluted city on the planet.

Hung out to dry: the long fall of Helena Guergis

It’s game on again between Beauty and the Beast — the star-crossed Helena Guergis and a prime minister grown so ruthless he is beginning to frighten even his own people.

The Conservative Party of Canada is coming after Guergis in the wake of a court case she lost alleging a conspiracy to have her fired, leaving her owing $38,000 in costs. True, the money is owed. But the legal boa constrictor is being applied with remarkable vigor.

Guergis’s offer of $30 a month has been rejected by the CPC. Unless she comes up with a satisfactory payment plan, the CPC will pay for a financial inquisition into the affairs of two Conservative politicians who were once the glamour couple of the capital — Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer.

‘This is not a police state,’ Ombudsman says

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau says the suggestion by the province’s ombudsman that the police service is resisting an investigation into whether new use-of-force guidelines are needed is “unfounded” and “not factually based.”

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin told the Citizen’s editorial board on Tuesday that civilian governing bodies need to act to curb police power.

He said he’s facing resistance from some police services — including Ottawa’s — to his investigation, which began after this summer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim by Toronto police.

Marin said the provincial ministry of community safety and correctional services has been loathe to rein in the police, and police services boards “have not been asserting themselves as much as they should.”

Alberta-B.C. Pipeline Agreement Divides Key Stakeholders

Reaction from stakeholders across Canada has been swift following the joint announcement by Alberta Premier Alison Redford and B.C. Premier Christy Clark that their provinces had reached an agreement on how to move forward with pipeline proposals.

Critics of the move to transport Alberta oil and gas by pipeline to terminals on B.C.’s coast largely panned Tuesday's agreement, saying Clark has changed her position on pipelines several times.

No Touching Rule At Coghlan Elementary Angers Mom

Kindergarten students at Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Aldergrove will have to learn how to play no-touch tag after administrators instituted a rule against any physical contact.

Julie Chen was packing her daughter's lunch on Monday when she read a letter from the school warning that any contact among students, be it tag, "Star Wars games," or even holding hands would result in kids being sent to the office, The Province reported.

"When I saw no hands-on would be allowed, I just got mad, I got so upset," Chen told the newspaper. "What is happening in our society when our kids aren't even allowed to be kids anymore?"

Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Suspended Senators, May Not Be Off Public Payroll

OTTAWA - Moments after the Senate voted to suspend Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, Stephen Harper's office issued a statement expressing its satisfaction that the trio are no longer on the public payroll.

Not so fast, prime minister.

At least one of the trio, Duffy, may still be eligible for a disability allowance should he resign for medical reasons.

Rob Ford Is The Ugly Truth About The Suburbs

Rob Ford isn't a mistake.

We like to think Canada is a tolerant nation, but the mayor's pride and prejudice is an accurate reflection of much of the city he leads.

Ford, the crack user, has been touched by the worst angels of our nature, but he's not alone.

4 Foods That Could Disappear If New Food Safety Rules Pass

When President Obama signed into law an overhaul of the nation's food-safety regime in early 2011, it was clear that the system needed a kick in the pants. Recent salmonella outbreaks involving a dizzying array  of peanut products and a half billion eggs had revealed a dysfunctional, porous regulatory environment for the nation's increasingly concentrated food system.

The law, known the Food Safety Modernization Act, was a pretty modest piece of work when it came to reining in massive operations that can sicken thousands nationwide with a single day's output. No surprise, since Big Food's main lobbying group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, notes on its web site that "GMA worked closely with legislators to craft the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and will work closely with the FDA to develop rules and guidance to implement the provisions of this new law. " (Food and Water Watch summarizes FSMA here; Elanor Starmer lists some of its limitations here.)

Voter ID Laws in Action: "Looks Like I Don't Get to Vote Today"

When voters across America hit the polls yesterday, many eyes were on Texas, which has faced recent criticism that its new voter ID law could make it harder for women to vote. But plenty of other states have passed restrictive voter ID laws recently. Legislators claim the laws clamp down on voter fraud—there were only 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation between 2000 and 2010—by requiring voters to present various forms of identification. Poor, elderly, and minority voters, along with women, are hit particularly hard by these strict voting requirements, and voters of all stripes were feeling the effects as they tried to vote yesterday.

The Killing of Hakimullah Mehsud

It’s easy to dismiss the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, via drone attack as simply more of the same, but in fact it’s a complicated story.

There’s a great deal of spy-vs.-spy in this event, since it emerged last week that (1) Pakistan was seeking to make a deal with the Pakistani Taliban aimed at winding down the conflict, and (2) Afghanistan was trying to make a secret pact with the Pakistani Taliban designed to give Pakistan a taste of its own medicine, since Kabul blames Islamabad for supporting, arming and sustaining the Afghan Taliban against it.

Hillary Clinton Bans Press From San Francisco Events, Making Habit Of Blocking Media

Press looking to cover Hillary Clinton’s two appearances in San Francisco this week are out of luck -- the potential 2016 presidential nominee has barred the media from officially covering the events, a move that is unlikely to fly in the country’s most liberal major city and social media hub.

The Huffington Post received the following reply to requests for coverage of both her speech at the National Association of Realtors conference this week and from her Clinton Foundation “Millennial Network” fundraiser event this weekend.

    Thank you for reaching out to the Clinton Foundation and for your interest in covering the Millennial Network fundraiser at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom this Saturday. Unfortunately, it is a closed press event.

Our Democracy’s Unnecessary Stupidities

Going to cast a vote Tuesday, less than three weeks after the government shutdown and the near-default, put me in a sour mood. Usually, I exercise the franchise in a state of embarrassing, heart-swelling affection for the imperfect republic, my under-informed fellow-citizens, confused poll workers, even the dubious names on the ballot. But yesterday, with the gross malpractice of elected officials in Washington still fresh in mind, I walked to the local polling place thinking about some of the stupidities of our democracy, grouping them into two categories: necessary and unnecessary.

Rising homelessness in Paris: does it have the most rough sleepers of the big European capitals?

At 9pm, as the street lights glinted off the river Seine beyond Notre Dame cathedral, by the Pont Marie bridge, Yan, 37, was neatly laying out his cardboard boxes for the night in front of a chic sofa-bed shop. A dozen people were already climbing into sleeping bags nearby, an elderly woman was sorting clothes, a man in his 60s was wrapped in a duvet reading a book as the last well-heeled commuters hurried past from the metro. Yan, a Polish butcher, trained in charcuterie, just wanted a job in his trade. "But you can't work with food while you're sleeping rough, it just wouldn't feel hygienic …" he muttered. He had been sleeping rough in Paris for three years, occasionally doing agricultural work outside the city. With the weather not yet plunging to freezing, he felt OK inside two sleeping bags on a bed of cardboard on the concrete. "When it gets colder, we'll go down into underground car parks to sleep. Not the metro, because, with the constant noise and activity, you can't get to sleep before 1am, then you're up again at five. Here, I'll shut my eyes at 10 or 11pm, I'll be gone by seven."

Greek protesters rally against IMF and EU inspection

Only hours before, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, had resolutely declared that Greece was not at war with the international bodies keeping the debt-stricken country afloat. But on Tuesday, inspectors representing those organisations may have been forgiven for thinking otherwise.

In scenes not witnessed since the beginning of Greece's economic crisis, auditors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund came face-to-face with the full force of anti-austerity anger as protesters in Athens jeered, heckled and stopped them from leaving the finance ministry.