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.]

Friday, February 06, 2015

Canada's January Unemployment Rate Drops To 6.6% On Part-Time Job Gains

OTTAWA -- A surge in part-time work last month helped the Canadian economy add 35,400 net new jobs, a change that nudged the unemployment rate down to 6.6 per cent.

Statistics Canada's latest labour-market survey says the country lost 11,800 full-time positions in January, while it gained 47,200 part-time jobs.

The Harper government and evangelical capitalism

We think of right-wing evangelical religion as an influence in American politics, but, unrecognized by the public and mostly unreported, it is a powerful influence on the Conservative caucus. That would explain the destruction of environmental policies and those omnibus bills.
When it comes to religion, most 21st century Canadians are a tolerant lot, with a "live and let live" mentality. We tend to not particularly care about other Canadians' religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs, and we expect a similar tolerance in return.

Why are we afraid of naming and confronting capitalism?

"The ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements -- which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claim to transform -- constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of our struggle against imperialism, if not the greatest weakness of all."[1] - Amilcar Cabral
What is it about the term "capitalism" that inspires many of us to not call its name in vain and in the public square? Why is it that many of us will openly and forcefully critique "classism" but enthusiastically shy away from condemning capitalism in the same way? After all, we do publicly name and slam racism, homophobia or heterosexism, ageism, patriarchy or sexism and ableism. How effective will we be in organizing and rallying the oppressed against economic exploitation without naming the system that is brutalizing the majority?

The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps

Christina Brown pulled into the refugee camp after an eight-hour drive across the desert. It was late July of last year, and Brown was a 30-year-old immigration lawyer. She had spent a few years after college working on political campaigns, but her law degree was barely a year old, and she had only two clients in her private practice in Denver. When other lawyers told her that the federal government was opening a massive detention center for immigrants in southeastern New Mexico, where hundreds of women and children would be housed in metal trailers surrounded by barbed wire, Brown decided to volunteer legal services to the detainees. She wasn’t sure exactly what rights they might have, but she wanted to make sure they got them. She packed enough clothes to last a week, stopped by Target to pick up coloring books and toys and started driving south.

Jose Mujica Was Every Liberal's Dream President. He Was Too Good to Be True.

The man was old and rumpled, no tie over his blue-and-white striped shirt. His eyes squinted; his hair looked like it was slicked back with kitchen grease. He ascended the podium in the United Nations General Assembly hall clutching a sheaf of papers. Before him sat the diplomatic orthodoxy, sleek in Amal Alamuddin hairdos and Savile Row suits.

Ostensibly, José Mujica, as president of Uruguay, was a fellow member of the global elite. But if his attire didn’t make it clear that his allegiances lay elsewhere, what he was about to say would. Most U.N. speeches are pure boilerplate. The address Mujica was about to give on September 24, 2013 was something else entirely.

How US Companies Stash Billions Overseas—Tax-Free

Once again, the Obama administration has set its sights on American companies that stash untaxed revenue abroad. Its 2016 budget, unveiled earlier this week, proposes to stick a one-time "transition toll charge" of 14 percent on the more than $2 trillion in corporate earnings parked overseas, regardless of whether they're brought back stateside. The estimated $280 billion in tax revenue would be earmarked for upgrading highways and infrastructure.
The proposed one-time tax is aimed at just one of the various loopholes and maneuvers that domestic businesses use to offshore their profits, beyond the reach of Internal Revenue Service. The best known trick is so-called tax inversions: US companies can move their headquarters abroad, avoiding the taxman while keeping executives stateside, scoring government contracts, and taking full advantage of public benefits for employees. Walgreens, which makes a quarter of its money from Medicaid and Medicare, proposed moving to Switzerland last year, only to change plans following a public outcry.

Goodbye, John Baird … and good riddance

If you’re searching for reasons why politicians and many in the mainstream media are as popular as flies in the vichyssoise these days, look no further than John Baird’s surreal exit from public life this week.

For a while there watching the ever-depressing Power and Politics, I thought we were saying goodbye to Lester Pearson instead of the PM’s attack-trained junkyard dog. (A tip of the hat to Ian Capstick for his refusal to sink to the occasion.)

The embrace between Baird and NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar seemed to turn the toxic battleground of the Commons floor into a Teddy Bear’s picnic — ironic, given how often Baird led the Harper government’s spittle-flecked berserker charge.

One in five public servants claims harassment on the job

Almost 20 per cent of public servants say they were harassed on the job over the past two years and the main culprits were their bosses and co-workers, according to a newly released survey of Canada’s federal workforce.

The triennial public service employee survey, released by Treasury Board Thursday, is the first to distinguish between the kinds of harassment workers face on the job.

Previous surveys found nearly 30 per cent of all employees said they faced some type of harassment over the previous two years – a level that workplace experts felt was high and could be contributing to the government’s rising disability claims for depression and anxiety.

‘If Kevin Vickers were here, he would not let this happen’: May

PARLIAMENT HILL—A government plan to put the RCMP in command of a unified Commons and Senate security service came under heightened scrutiny on Thursday, with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May saying the national police force should stay out of internal Parliamentary affairs, and that the Parliamentary Protective Services should even replace the Mounties providing security and policing grounds around the Parliamentary Buildings.

Ms. May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) became the second MP to publicly state that former Commons Sgt.-at-Arms Kevin Vickers would have opposed the plan, and Ms. May also questioned the timing of the government’s recent appointment of Mr. Vickers to the post of Canada’s ambassador to Ireland in the midst of the plan to radically alter the command chain for the three security forces on Parliament Hill following a rifle-wielding gunman’s attack on Parliament on Oct. 22, 2014.

Canadian military wants to be ‘main player’ in global intelligence, document shows

OTTAWA—Canada’s military intelligence branch laid out a path to become a “main player” in the global intelligence community, according to an ambitious planning document obtained by the Star.

The discussion document set out a five-year plan to “maximize” the Canadian Armed Forces’ intelligence-gathering, with an eye to making military intelligence more “relevant” to the current national security conversation.

It placed the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) at the centre of a nexus that includes Canada’s law enforcement and spy agencies — the RCMP, CSIS, and CSE — as well as international security partners, special operations units, and the Chief of Defence Intelligence.

How Son of Former Cabinet Minister Won a Coveted UBC Residency

Cardiac surgeons on a selection committee at St. Paul's Hospital manipulated the hiring process for a training position so they could hire a student who was the son of their boss and of a provincial cabinet minister, documents show.

Officials from the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, which oversees the hiring process for the publicly funded residency positions, found the situation "disturbing" and "very challenging," and there were many pages of legal advice on the matter, according to the heavily censored documents obtained from UBC through a request under the province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The documents do not name the student, but The Tyee reported in 2013 that Kevin Lichtenstein received a residency position in cardiac surgery at St. Paul's Hospital through the University of British Columbia, where his father Sam Lichtenstein is the head of the division of cardiovascular surgery.

Each Year, Veterans Affairs Makes Me Prove I Lost My Legs

In regards to Rick Mercer's rant from the other day, I was contacted by Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole for a request for a telephone conversation about my file.

Here's my response:

Minister Erin O'Toole,

I have had many issues in my nine years as a wounded soldier and as a vet.

After returning in 2006, the Department of Defence (DoD) did amazing things and worked tiredly on the issue and where VAC (Veterans' Affairs) failed to deliver they stepped up. Upon my retirement "my file" of course went to VAC and to quote a great writer "and this is where my trouble began."


As the renowned Republican backroom operator Mark Hanna noted back in the late 19th century, "There are two things that matter in politics. One is money, and I can't remember the other."

Indeed, the fantastically wealthy Koch brothers proved in the recent U.S. congressional vote that organizing billionaires to buy elections is a lot easier than herding cats.

The Kochs raised $290 million from America's mega-rich to win control of Congress, and are now raising a further $889 million in a bid to buy the Oval Office.

Global News Disappeared a Koch Brothers Exposé

An investigative report into the billionaire Koch brothers' connections to Canada was pulled from Global's newsmagazine show 16x9 shortly before broadcast, and an article published on the same topic was scrubbed from, CANADALAND has learned.

Last Thursday at 11:06am, an article titled "The Koch Stake in Canada" ran on The piece, by veteran investigative reporter Bruce Livesey  summarized an upcoming investigative report titled "The Koch Connection," which, the article promised, was set to air two days later, on Saturday January 31 at 7pm. Global News promoted the item with a post on 16x9's Facebook page and a tweet from an official account, which was retweeted by Global's Washington correspondent Jackson Proskow.

3 Male Lawmakers Propose Eliminating Obamacare’s Maternity Coverage

In their quest to repeal and replace Obamacare, three Republican lawmakers have offered an alternative proposal to the health reform law that would roll back some of its major consumer protections, including maternity care for pregnant women.
Now that Republicans have control of Congress, and a Supreme Courtchallenge against Obamacare threatens to undermine the current structure of the law’s state-level marketplaces, GOP lawmakers are under more pressure to put forth their own health care proposals. Over the past several years, the party has not been able to unitearound a single Obamacare replacement, and outside observers have become increasingly skeptical that Republicans have any kind of viable alternative at all.

Police Reform Is Impossible in America

In recent weeks, the White House has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening "community policing" around the country. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has coalesced around the same theme, releasing a report days ago with recommendations for community policing measures to be adopted nationally. The suggestions for building better "relationships" and boosting "trust" are comprehensive but, for a national crisis brought on by the killing of unarmed black people, there's one thing conspicuously absent from the public policy solutions: the acknowledgement of racism.

The New Testament says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Well, in the absence of data to support excessive policing and police brutality in communities of color, it appears that America has just stepped out on faith.

The Supreme Court at Stake

In the first Affordable Care Act case three years ago, the Supreme Court had to decide whether Congress had the power, under the Commerce Clause or some other source of authority, to require individuals to buy health insurance. It was a question that went directly to the structure of American government and the allocation of power within the federal system.

The court very nearly got the answer wrong with an exceedingly narrow reading of Congress’s commerce power. As everyone remembers, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., himself a member of the anti-Commerce Clause five, saved the day by declaring that the penalty for not complying with the individual mandate was actually a tax, properly imposed under Congress’s tax power.

Canada 2nd Only To Greece In Household Debt Growth, Risks Crisis: Study

  • Canada one of seven countries at risk
  • Housing downturn could mean 'downward spiral' for economy
  • Condo boom may be driving up debt
Canada is a world leader in an area it may not want to be — household debt.
A new study from the McKinsey Global Institute finds Canada has seen the second-highest increase in household debt, relative to income, among developed countries since the Great Recession.

NEB expecting record participation in Energy East hearings

Starting this week, the National Energy Board is bracing for an avalanche of thousands of applications from people seeking to speak up about the controversial Energy East pipeline. The Energy East project proposes to push Alberta bitumen to Atlantic coasts.  
"I think there is an opportunity — given the size of the pipeline, and the high level of interest — that it could be a record number of participants,” said Katherine Murphy, an NEB spokesperson in Calgary.
The 30-day online application process opened up Tuesday.

Oil train trouble in Toronto: citizens demand answers

A Toronto neighbourhood group, alarmed by what appears to be a surge in oil trains rumbling past their urban backyards, is taking the unusual step of urging the Auditor General of Canada to intervene to help it get answers to safety concerns.

The group, called Safe Rail Communities, says it has been asking basic questions to CN, CP Rail and the federal government about the safety of transporting these explosive fuels, but found the responses lacking.

“We’re getting stonewalled,” said Helen Vassilakos, co-founder of Safe Rail Communities, who lives near the train tracks.