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 28, 2014

The inherent racism of the temporary foreign worker program

Politicians are responding to demands to protect Canadian jobs from “foreign workers.” Public pressure has led the federal government to ban the restaurant industry from using the program, and opposition parties and labour unions are calling for the moratorium to be extended to the entire Temporary Foreign Worker program. The minister in charge, Jason Kenney, is expected to deliver key changes to the program any day.

The Mysterious Case of Bill Bennett's Notes

An NDP critic accused the core review minister Bill Bennett of lying about consultation on changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve, but a ministry official puts the matter down to miscommunication.

During debate of his ministry's budget last week, Bennett seemed to suggest the government had access to notes the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, Richard Bullock, made during a 2010 public consultation about the ALR.

"The consultation done by the chair of the commission ... resulted in apparently hundreds of pages of notes and ... those notes were gone through with a fine tooth comb," Bennett said on May 13, according to the Hansard transcription.

Energy East is a 4,400 km energy beast

Veteran activist Tzeporah Berman refers to Energy East as "Energy Beast" and for good reason.
"The Energy East pipeline poses unacceptable risk to Canadian communities," says Berman. "We don't need this dangerous pipeline unless we're making a decision to dramatically expand the tar sands. We need a conversation in Canada about whether or not we're going to expand the tar sands, how quickly and how we're going to address climate change." 

Net Neutrality Fans Aren't Going To Like This Chart

NEW YORK -- When news broke in February that streaming giant Netflix would pay Comcast for direct access to the cable company's broadband network, some experts said it marked the beginning of the end of net neutrality.

Yet a new report says that such deals are far more widespread than many realized at the time.

Ontario Election 2014: Hudak Won't Take Part In Northern Debate

TORONTO - Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak won't be joining his rivals to debate northern Ontario issues on May 26, even though he did show up for the head-to-head leaders' event in the last election.

The party says the debate organizers made the decision to pick a date that "only worked for some parties, not all."

The tersely worded statement says the party had hoped there would have been an equal opportunity for all parties to talk about their plans for the region.

Ottawa Is Spying On Us Without Warrants And It's Time To Get Mad

What if Edward Snowden was Canadian?

That's the question I kept asking myself as I read Glenn Greenwald's new book on the terrifying reach of the modern surveillance state.

In "No Place To Hide", the journalist who served as the conduit for the Snowden leaks tells the story of his world-changing 2013 meeting with the NSA whistleblower in Hong Kong. Greenwald was struck by how serene Snowden was about risking his liberty, and maybe even his life, to let the world know about the NSA's mission to eliminate global privacy.

China Signs 30-Year Gas Deal With Russia's Gazprom

SHANGHAI (AP) — China signed a landmark $400 billion deal Wednesday to buy natural gas from Russia, binding Moscow more closely to Beijing at a time when President Vladimir Putin's relations with the West have deteriorated to the lowest point ever.

China's president also called for an Asian security arrangement that would include Russia and Iran and exclude the United States.

The prime minister and the professor

Tom Flanagan has done it again.

For the second time, the libertarian University of Calgary political scientist has exposed the political theories and strategies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives just as he did in 2007 with his bestselling chronicle of the 2006 federal election titled, “Harper’s Team, Behind the Scenes in the Conservative rise to Power”.

The two erstwhile friends and ideological soulmates haven’t spoken since its publication seven years ago. Flanagan’s new book, “Winning Power: Canadian Campaigning in the 21st Century”, will likely prolong the chill indefinitely.

Unpaid Interns In Canada May Number As Many As 300,000: Report

OTTAWA - Preliminary findings from an upcoming study on internships in Canada show that the majority of interns are young women who make less than the provincial minimum wage — if they're paid at all.

The study, to be released soon by two researchers at the University of Victoria and the Canadian Intern Association, is aimed at determining the scope of unpaid internships in Canada amid a growing uproar about the practice both here and abroad.

Unarmed Palestinian Teens 'Shot Dead By Israeli Troops': UN Demands Investigation

Security footage apparently showing two unarmed Palestinian teenagers being shot dead by Israeli soldiers has emerged.
The film, shot from nearby office buildings, was taken during a lull in a stone-throwing clash on 15 May in the West Bank city of Beitunia.
Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest, while Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16, was shot in the back, the NGO Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP) reports.

Billion-Dollar Medical Project Helped Fund 'Putin's Palace'

MOSCOW, May 21 (Reuters) - In 2005, President Vladimir Putin personally ordered up a vast program to improve Russia's poor healthcare facilities. Five years later, authorities found that suppliers were charging some hospitals two or even three times too much for vital gear such as high-tech medical scanners.


The most expensive housing market in North America is not where you’d think. It’s not New York City or Orange County, California, but Vancouver, British Columbia. Now, Vancouver is a beautiful city—a thriving deep-water port, a popular site for TV and movie shoots. By all accounts, it is a wonderful place to live. But nothing about its economy explains why—in a city where the median income is only around seventy grand—single-family houses now sell for close to a million dollars apiece and ordinary condos go for five or six hundred thousand dollars. “If you look at per-capita incomes, we look like Reno or Nashville,” Andy Yan, an urban planner at the Vancouver-based firm Bing Thom Architects, told me. “But our housing prices easily compete with San Francisco’s.”

When price-to-income or price-to-rent ratios get out of whack, it’s often a sign of a housing bubble. But the story in Vancouver is more interesting. Almost by chance, the city has found itself at the heart of one of the biggest trends of the past two decades—the rise of a truly global market in real estate.


Twenty-four hours on, I still can’t quite get my head around the deal Credit Suisse made with the United States government, in which the bank pleaded guilty to helping wealthy Americans evade their taxes by parking money in undeclared Swiss bank accounts. Fortunately, Brady Dougan, the bank’s American chief executive, is way ahead of me.

Speaking in London on Tuesday, Dougan said that the guilty plea—the first by a big bank in over a decade—was having little or no impact on Credit Suisse’s business. “We have found no instances where clients cannot do business with us,” Dougan said. “Our discussions with clients have been very reassuring and we haven’t seen very many issues at all.”

The Job Market Discriminates Against Black College Grads

While it's tough out there for all recent college grads, a new study finds that African-Americans face a particularly difficult situation when it comes to finding a job after school.

Harper Report On Colombian Human Rights Abuses A 'Sham': NDP

OTTAWA - The NDP and civil society groups are accusing the Harper government of whitewashing human rights abuses in Colombia in the latest report to Parliament on the impact of Canada's free trade agreement with the South American country.

The government quietly tabled the report last week, a requirement under the 2011 Canada-Colombia free trade deal, but concluded — as with last year — that "it is not possible to establish a direct link between the (agreement) and the human rights situation in Colombia."

House of Commons sells off parliamentary silver

The House of Commons is quietly selling off the family silver – the parliamentary family’s silver, that is.
iPolitics has learned that silver cutlery, trays and serving pieces used for years in Parliament’s posh Parliamentary Dining Room, were put up for auction on GCSurplus — the government’s equivalent of EBay. It is the same website the government uses to offload surplus filing cabinets and old desks.

Millions spent flying PM, GG and ministers on VIP Challenger jets

Federal cabinet minister Joe Oliver and three officials spent approximately $52,000 to take a taxpayer-funded government VIP Challenger jet to Paris for less than two days, government flight manifests show.

Former finance minister Jim Flaherty and a handful of officials spent more than $65,000 taking a Challenger jet on two separate short business trips to Mexico City, another major city with plenty of flight options, the records show.

Thanks to the Roberts Court, Corporations Have More Constitutional Rights Than Actual People

The big media talk a lot about stalemate in Congress, but they are missing the real story. While representative democracy is dysfunctional, the Supreme Court has taken over with its own reactionary power grab. In case after case, the court’s right-wing majority is making its own law—expanding the power of corporations and the very wealthy, while making it harder for ordinary citizens to fight back.

Worst of all, the Roberts Court is trying to permanently inhibit the federal government’s ability to help people cope with the country’s vast social and economic disorders.

Tory MP given federal contracts months before, after failed 2008 election bid

The federal government awarded $1-million in contracts to a consultant in the months before and after she ran as a candidate for Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party.

A Vancouver-based consulting firm, Wai Young and Associates, received the contracts from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 2008 and 2009 to run a pair of conferences in Toronto. Ms. Young was a Conservative candidate in an election that fell between the awarding of the two contracts, losing a narrow race to a Liberal incumbent. She won the seat in 2011 and is now an MP.

China Suspends Cooperation In Joint Task Force Over Cyberspying Charges

BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday warned the United States was jeopardizing military ties by charging five Chinese officers with cyberspying and tried to turn the tables on Washington by calling it "the biggest attacker of China's cyberspace."

China announced it was suspending cooperation with the United States in a joint cybersecurity task force over Monday's indictments, which accused the officers of stealing trade secrets from major American companies.

Thailand's Army Declares Martial Law

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's army declared martial law before dawn Tuesday in a surprise announcement it said was aimed at keeping the country stable after six months of sometimes violent political unrest. The military, however, denied a coup d'etat was underway.

The move effectively places the army in charge of public security nationwide. It comes one day after the Southeast Asian country's caretaker prime minister refused to step down and follows six months of anti-government demonstrations that have failed to oust the government.

How Steve the Avenger gave Darth Vader a pass

When you routinely use language to fictionalize your actions, as Stephen Harper does, the false public record you create eventually catches up with you.

The government has told so many lies about the F-35 and its proposed purchase, it has had to punt the decision to buy these over-priced flying pianos beyond the next election.

If they tried to purchase the F-35 now, it would cost them the election. Every single thing former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said about this procurement fiasco in the 2011 election turned out to be true. There was no contract, contrary to the PM’s claim on the campaign trail; the government possessed but suppressed the actual cost of the F-35; and every claim about the stealth fighter’s capabilities was premature since it is still an aircraft in development — and way, way over-budget.

Stephen Harper’s siege mentality rooted in Alberta politics

Stephen Harper’s political style — combative, suspicious and isolated — has been compared to Richard Nixon’s way of doing politics or the U.S. Tea Party’s relentless anger about everything.
But if you have lived in Alberta for any length of time, there’s something about Harper’s style that is quite familiar and rooted much closer to home.

First Nations prepare for fight against Energy East pipeline

First Nations activists are turning their attention to TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East project, vowing to mount the same kind of public opposition that threatens the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States and Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway in British Columbia.

Some 70 First Nations leaders met in Winnipeg recently to plan a strategy they hope will block TransCanada’s ambitious plan to ship more than 1 million barrels a day of crude from Western Canada to refiners and export terminals in the East, despite widespread political support for the $12-billion project.

Tim Hudak's bizarre plan to create jobs by cutting public services

How do you feel about seeing your neighbour lose her job? Would you vote to have 100,000 of your neighbours lose their jobs? That is what Tim Hudak and his Conservatives are asking Ontario voters to do in the provincial election June 12.
Hudak pledges to eliminate 100,000 public service jobs if he forms the next government. Vote for his party (or stay home) and that is what you provoke.
Right off, that number looks stupid: not even 100,000 people work directly for the Ontario government.
Ontario delivers education, health and municipal services. So what Hudak wants Ontarians to do is vote for less health care, education, amateur sports, cultural activities, parks and recreational services for citizens within the province.

Why Those Reports About Canada's Healthy Economy Feel Like BS

There is a wide disconnect between the data about Canada’s economic strength and how Canadians actually feel about the economy, says a new consumer report.

The report from Toronto ad agency Bensimon Byrne found that, while Canada has recorded GDP growth every year since the end of the last recession, only 57 per cent of Canadians believe it’s growing. That’s 18 percentage points lower than before the last recession.

What Makes Ohio State the Most Unequal Public University in America?

“Congratulations, Class of 2014, you’re totally screwed”—that was the graduation message offered this season by Thomas Frank, Salon columnist and author of Pity the Billionaire. The average student-loan borrower graduating in 2014 is $33,000 in debt, according to the Wall Street Journal—the highest amount ever. And a new study of public universities shows that student debt is worst at schools with the highest-paid presidents.

The “most unequal” public university in America, according to the report, is Ohio State. Between 2010 and 2012 it paid its president, Gordon Gee, a total of almost $6 million, while raising tuition and fees so much that student debt grew 23 percent faster than the national average.

Turkey’s Deadly Mining Disaster Reveals Just How Little Was Done to Prevent It

After days of pulling bodies from the ruptured earth, the death toll of the Turkish mine disaster in Soma has plateaued at 301. With their masked faces frozen in agony, their crumpled photographs clutched in the fists of loved ones, the workers and their struggles have become far more visible in death than they were in life.

The names have been accounted for, but not the catastrophe that befell them. What was originally suspected to be an electrical fire was later described by experts as a massive industrial explosion precipitated by long-term negligence, not a mere technical malfunction.

Civil Rights Icon Comes Out Against Embattled Obama Nominee

WASHINGTON -- Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) announced Monday that he opposes President Barack Obama's controversial judicial nominee Michael Boggs, saying his socially conservative record on civil rights, gay rights and abortion rights "is in direct opposition to everything I have stood for during my career."

Yvette Cooper and David Lammy attack Nigel Farage over 'racist' comments

Nigel Farage's comments about Romanians have been branded racist by three prominent Labour figures – Yvette Cooper, Diane Abbott and David Lammy – after the Ukip leader said people might not want to live next door to immigrants from the eastern European country.

Farage declined the opportunity to apologise for his comments several times in an interview with the BBC. After a day of criticism from senior politicians of all parties, Farage was asked if Ukip were the Millwall FC of British politics. "Perhaps we are the Millwall... I think in Westminster we're loathed and feared," he replied.

NO TIME - How did we get so busy?

In the winter of 1928, John Maynard Keynes composed a short essay that took the long view. It was titled “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” and in it Keynes imagined what the world would look like a century hence. By 2028, he predicted, the “standard of life” in Europe and the United States would be so improved that no one would need to worry about making money. “Our grandchildren,” Keynes reckoned, would work about three hours a day, and even this reduced schedule would represent more labor than was actually necessary.

Keynes delivered an early version of “Economic Possibilities” as a lecture at a boys’ school in Hampshire. He was still at work revising and refining the essay when, in the fall of 1929, the stock market crashed. Some might have taken this as a bad sign; Keynes was undeterred. Though he quickly recognized the gravity of the situation—the crash, he wrote in early 1930, had produced a “slump which will take its place in history amongst the most acute ever experienced”—over the long run this would prove to be just a minor interruption in a much larger, more munificent trend. In the final version of “Economic Possibilities,” published in 1931, Keynes urged readers to look beyond this “temporary phase of maladjustment” and into the rosy beyond.

Ken Langone Actually Not That Sorry About Nazi Comparison

Billionaire Kenneth Langone is still defending his comparison of income inequality talking points to rhetoric in Nazi Germany, after apologizing two months ago for the comments.

In a Capital New York interview published Monday morning, the Home Depot co-founder and Republican megadonor said it was a fair analogy to illustrate how democratic elections can yield results he finds terrifying.

“I simply said just because we’re a democracy doesn’t mean you can’t have bad results,” he said. “That’s all! I stand on what I said.”

Here's The Painful Truth About What It Means To Be 'Working Poor' In America

In a nation that has long operated on the principle that an "American Dream" is available to anyone willing to try hard enough, the term "working poor" may seem to have a bright side. Sure, these individuals struggle financially, but they have jobs -- the first and most essential step toward lifting oneself out of poverty, right?

If only it were that simple.

North Carolina GOP Pushes Unprecedented Bill to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals

As hydraulic fracturing ramps up around the country, so do concerns about its health impacts. These concerns have led 20 states to require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process.

North Carolina isn't on that list of states yet—and it may be hurtling in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

Porter Airlines Bag Fee Likely To Be Matched, Air Experts Say

Fasten your seatbelts – for some, the cost of flying has just gone up.

Porter Airlines is now charging passengers a $25 fee for their first checked bag on domestic flights, the first Canadian airline to do so.

And it may not be the last. As long as consumers keep clamouring for cheap fares, airlines will find new ways to make money off our travel.

Parks Canada infrastructure worse than thought, report finds

OTTAWA—Parks Canada would have to almost triple its spending on infrastructure upkeep to bring its crumbling assets into good repair, according to an internal report obtained by the Star.
The report indicates the agency would have to spend $351 million a year to keep its assets in “an appropriate state of repair” over the course of their serviceable life. To address work that has been identified as required, but put off, Parks Canada would need to spend $191 million per year over a 15-year period.

Harper's assimilation agenda just collided with First Nations resistance -- and lost

This has been a difficult month for Prime Minister Stephen Harper in terms of Crown-First Nations relations. Harper seemed too busy picking fights with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin and defending another "dodgy" Senate appointment, to notice that Canada's already brittle relationship with First Nations was crumbling.