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.]

Saturday, May 30, 2015


For almost a decade, Canada has been chasing one man's dream. 

Stephen Harper wanted the nation to become an energy superpower. Now we're living the fallout. 
"Our oil-sands-leveraged economy is at the epicentre of the bursting global carbon bubble," says Jeff Rubin in his new book, The Carbon Bubble: What Happens To Us When It Bursts.

Tsleil-Waututh First Nation rejects Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion

In an old legend from the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, a two-headed serpent brings hunger and disease to the Burrard Inlet, killing off the salmon. In order to survive, the people had to confront the serpent and slay it.

“We’re now facing another long dragon that needs to be slain,” Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative member Rueben George told a crowd of 100 gathered at Whey-ah-Wichen Park in North Vancouver on Tuesday.

“That’s the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

How Bernie Sanders Learned to Be a Real Politician

Sometime in the late 1970s, after he'd had a kid, divorced his college sweetheart, lost four elections for statewide offices, and been evicted from his home on Maple Street in Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders moved in with a friend named Richard Sugarman. Sanders, a restless political activist and armchair psychologist with a penchant for arguing his theories late into the night, found a sounding board in the young scholar, who taught philosophy at the nearby University of Vermont. At the time, Sanders was struggling to square his revolutionary zeal with his overwhelming rejection at the polls—and this was reflected in a regular ritual. Many mornings, Sanders would greet his roommate with a simple statement: "We're not crazy."

Ottawa aims to keep lid on details of Saudi arms deal

The Canadian government is refusing to make public the assessments it conducts to determine whether Ottawa’s $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is compatible with foreign policy or poses a risk to the civilian population in a country notorious for human-rights abuses.

The Department of Foreign Affairs argues it must keep deliberations secret regarding this deal – by far the largest export contract ever brokered by Ottawa – citing the need to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which makes the light armoured vehicles.

Does advertising plagiarism suggest Harper government's running on intellectual fumes?

If political ads were popular songs, the Manitoba NDP would probably be getting ready to sue the Harper Conservatives about now for copyright infringement.
They'd have a great case.
Thankfully for the Conservatives, TV ads aren't songs, and nor are they likely to be as long as royalties are measured in seats in the House of Commons or a provincial legislature instead of dollars and cents.

How Canada Can End Mass Surveillance

Just two short years ago, if you asked strangers on the street about mass surveillance, you'd likely encounter many blank stares.

Some would remember East Germany's Stasi spy agency, or reference China's extensive Internet censorship. But few would express fear that western democratic governments like the U.S., Britain, and Canada were engaged in the mass surveillance of law-abiding citizens.

That all changed in June 2013 when Edward Snowden, a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), blew the whistle on the spying activities of the NSA and its Five Eyes partners in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. Since then, we've seen a long stream of revelations about how Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is engaged in extensive spying on private online activities.

Ssssss… BC's Economy Is Leaking Jobs air slowly escaping out of a bicycle tire, British Columbia's economy is leaking jobs -- and workers are losing hope -- each day that Christy Clark sits in the premier's office.

Released on May 8, the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada should give pause to even the most devoted and enthusiastic BC Liberal supporter.

In a single month, from March to April, B.C. lost an incredible 28,700 jobs.

Native American Students In Utah Are Getting Pushed Out Of School At Alarming Rates

Native American students in Utah may be getting referred to law enforcement agencies before they even know how to read.

Fifty-five Native American students in kindergarten through sixth grade were referred to police officers during the 2011-2012 school year in Utah. By comparison, not a single white student in this age group received this action, even though the state educates significantly more white kids, according to a new report from the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law Public Policy Clinic.

China Plans Naval Expansion Amid South China Sea Tensions

BEIJING, May 26 (Reuters) - China outlined a strategy to boost its naval reach on Tuesday and announced plans for the construction of two lighthouses in disputed waters, developments likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions.

In a policy document issued by the State Council, the Communist-ruled country's cabinet, China vowed to increase its "open seas protection," switching from air defense to both offense and defense, and criticized neighbors who take "provocative actions" on its reefs and islands.

Governor General's Flight To Pay Respects To Saudi King Cost $175K

The January flight to send Gov. Gen. David Johnston to Saudi Arabia to offer Canada's condolences for the death of King Abdullah cost taxpayers $175,000, according to records obtained by CBC News.

Logs released by National Defence under the Access to Information Act show the Jan. 25-30 trip to Riyadh took more than 40 hours, including a side trip on the way home to Vancouver.

According to Julie Rocheleau, spokeswoman for the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, Johnston was accompanied by an aide, an official photographer, security person and two government program officers. Other personnel joined the group on some legs of the return journey.

Contract Workers Told To Stay Home During Harper's Visit To Factory

Dozens of contract workers were asked to stay home earlier this month to accommodate a press conference by the prime minister at an auto parts manufacturer in Windsor, Ont.

A worker brought the request to light in a letter published by the Windsor Star. Matt St. Amand wrote that contract workers with Valiant Machine & Tool Inc. were told to stay home until noon on May 14.

Why we need affordable housing, not bachelor pads and empty homes

At a pace that defies reason and defies the local economy, the dream of affordable home ownership and affordable rental housing is slipping away from too many of us.

The problems we face are connected because housing is a continuum and pressures at the top affect prices all along the spectrum.

For young workers like me, or even families with two good incomes, we work hard but our dreams of a modest home will never materialize in this city. Many have already left and the eyes of many who remain now wander elsewhere.

Jeb Bush’s Favorite Author Rejects Democracy, Says The Hyper-Rich Should Seize Power

At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document. “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”

What’s Wrong With Robert Kaplan’s Nostalgia for Empire

Journalist Robert D. Kaplan thinks that what is wrong with the Middle East is a lack of imperialism, and he urges that it be brought back. It is how, he says, most of the world has been ruled by “default.” This argument is so ahistorical and wrong-headed that it takes the breath away.

First of all, “imperialism” is an imprecise term. Kaplan is trying to sweep up different kinds of empire under one rubric. Until the early twentieth century, most people in the Middle East admittedly accepted the Ottoman Empire, which was Muslim-ruled and made minimal economic demands on them while offering minimal governance. But it was precisely at that point when the Ottomans began building railroads to deliver garrisons to the provinces and introducing modern, more intrusive bureaucracy that they began facing opposition from local elites like the Hashemite rulers of Mecca in the Hejaz. The rise of nationalism was also fatal to empire, whether Ottoman or any other sort.

New study points to a new normal: Job insecurity.

A new study released today confirms the broad ranging consequences of precarious labour in urban areas of southern Ontario.
In 2013, PEPSO, a research partnership between United Way Toronto and McMaster University conducted a major study on precarious labour in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas. Using data collected from a survey of over 4,000 workers and 28 in-depth interviews, The Precarity Penalty, released today, builds on those findings.

"The first study generated some questions that we wanted to look at in more detail," said Wayne Lewchuk, co-author of the report and Professor at McMaster University's School of Labour Studies and Department of Economics. He explained that revisiting the study three years later has allowed PEPSO researchers to take note of some changing trends within the labour force, and to address some of the issues that came up in their earlier study more thoroughly, such as discrimination, access to child care, and job training.

Rampant telecom surveillance conducted with little transparency, oversight

Canadian telecommunications providers have been handing over vast amounts of customer information to law enforcement and government departments and agencies with little transparency or oversight, a new report says.

"We conclude that serious failures in transparency and accountability indicate that corporations are failing to manage Canadians' personal information responsibly," says the report released by Citizen Lab today that examines how Canadian telecommunications data is monitored, collected and analyzed by groups such as police, intelligence and government agencies.

Latest Privacy Revelations Show It's Up to Canadians to Protect Themselves

Another week, another revelation originating from the seemingly unlimited trove of Edward Snowden documents. Last week, the CBC reported that Canada was among several countries whose surveillance agencies actively exploited security vulnerabilities in a popular mobile web browser used by hundreds of millions of people. Rather than alerting the company and the public that the software was leaking personal information, they viewed the security gaps as a surveillance opportunity.

In the days before Snowden, these reports would have sparked a huge uproar. More than half a billion people around the world use UC Browser, the mobile browser in question, suggesting that this represents a massive security leak. At stake was information related to users' identity, communication activities, and location data -- all accessible to telecom companies, network providers, and surveillance agencies.

Real estate woes: The secret lives of house-poor Canadians

They look like the family that has it all. Louise Edgerton, her partner, John Camus, and her 10-year-old daughter, Fianna, joke around while making brownies. They move around with ease in the gleaming white kitchen of the new dream home they designed themselves.

But for Edgerton, one financial setback could change everything. "I am discouraged, because I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's a little bit of a house of cards that could fall down at any time," she says.

Hydro One Bills Shocked Customers: Ombudsman

TORONTO - Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin issued a scathing report Monday on how poorly Hydro One reacted to billing problems created by a new computer system at the utility. His report included many examples of hydro customers getting shocked by huge electricity bills.

- A senior from Timmins noticed Hydro One stopped withdrawing automatic payments from his account in May 2013, and in September got a call from his bank saying the utility was trying to "grab" more than $10,000 from his account. The situation took 19 months to resolve, and the electricity bill was reduced to just $778.

Energy East Pipeline Would Threaten 60% Of Manitobans' Drinking Water: Report

WINNIPEG - A new report says a pipeline that would carry one million barrels of oil daily from Alberta to the East Coast would threaten the drinking water of more than 60 per cent of Manitoba residents.

The report by the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition said a rupture on the proposed Energy East pipeline would seep into any number of waterways which feed into Winnipeg's water supply.

Canada Helps Block UN Plan To Rid World Of Nukes, Citing Israel Defence

OTTAWA - Israel has expressed its gratitude to Canada for helping to block a major international plan towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Elsewhere, however, there was widespread international disappointment that Canada and Britain supported the United States in opposing the document at the United Nations review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The document called on the UN to hold a disarmament conference on the Middle East by 2016. Such a conference could have forced Israel to publicly acknowledge that it is a nuclear power, something the Jewish state has never done.

Charter Reportedly Near $55 Billion Deal To Acquire Time Warner Cable

May 25 (Reuters) - Time Warner Cable Inc is nearing an agreement to be acquired by smaller peer Charter Communications Inc for about $55 billion, combining the second and third largest U.S. cable operators, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

A deal would create a major rival to Comcast Corp, the biggest operator in the U.S. cable and broadband market, and marks a triumph for Charter, which was rejected by Time Warner Cable just last year.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Is Racking Up Legal Bills. He Wants You To Help Pay Them.

An anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff is asking the public to help with his legal fees while he waits for a decision on a contempt of court hearing about his department’s systemic racial profiling of suspected undocumented immigrants. In an email to supporters last week, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wrote that he doesn’t have the “personal wealth” to pay for a lawyer and felt “targeted” by pro-immigration reform advocacy groups that are suing him to stop his acts of racial bias against Latinos.

Russia's Plan To Keep Costs Down At 2018 World Cup: Use Prison Labour

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities are keen to use prison labor to drive down the costs of holding the 2018 World Cup.

The Russian prison service is backing a bid by Alexander Khinshtein, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, to allow prisoners to be taken from their camps to work at factories, with a focus on driving down the costs of building materials for World Cup projects.

Ontario Teachers Back-To-Work Legislation On Its Way

TORONTO - It will be several days before 70,000 Ontario high school students can return to class after the New Democrats delayed Monday the passage of new legislation that would force striking teachers back to work.

The Liberal government tabled back-to-work legislation after an arm of the Ontario Labour Relations Board advised the province that the school year was in jeopardy for students in three boards where teachers have been on strike for up to five weeks.

Hydro One Billing Errors Dealt With Through 'Outrageously Bad Customer Service': Ombudsman

TORONTO - Ontario's ombudsman says Hydro One "lost sight of its public interest purpose" and failed to consider the impact on its customers of a new information system that resulted in massive billing errors for about 100,000 households.

Andre Marin says his office was flooded with 10,700 complaints from Hydro One ratepayers about over-billing or estimated bills, and what he calls "outrageously bad customer service" as it scrambled to fix technical glitches with the new system.

Harper proving weak on governance, even weaker on courage

And so Canadian public life has come down to an empty chair.

JFK’s unoccupied rocking chair following his assassination meant the end of Camelot. When imprisoned human rights activist Liu Xiaobo was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, it was placed on an empty chair reserved for Liu. But what does Stephen Harper’s empty chair mean at the consortium-organized television debates for Election 2015, particularly when it’s empty by choice?

Empty is a word devoid of cheer. Empty is an adjective of despair. Empty means all options are closed.

Native women's voices silenced by federal government

The Quebec Native Women's Association (QNWA) has been informed that as of April 1, 2015 its federal funding will be cut. The QNWA has been in existence for over 40 years. For 35 years it has received funding from the federal government. Annual funding from the federal government covered administrative costs and amounted to $150,000 to $175,000.
    The QNWA received its funding through Heritage Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs, but once responsibility was transferred to Aboriginal Affairs the organization was told that it was no longer considered an Aboriginal-representative organization.

    Canada reneges on emissions targets as tar sands production takes its toll

    Canada has retreated on past promises to fight climate change, setting out lower targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions than any other industralised country so far ahead of a critical conference in Paris.

    The announcement was a setback to efforts to reach a deal in the French capital that would limit warming to 2C (3.6F), the threshold for dangerous climate change.

    Under the announcement, Canada committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

    Penashue’s official agent charged with violating Elections Act

    Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue’s official agent in the 2011 federal election campaign has been charged with violating Canada’s Elections Act in connection with ineligible contributions made to Penashue’s campaign.

    Reginald Bowers faces three charges – failing to return ineligible contributions, providing the Chief Electoral Officer with false or misleading information by failing to accurately identify ineligible campaign contributions and providing Elections Canada with false or misleading information by inaccurately reporting Penashue’s travel expenses.

    Gracious, respectful Omar Khadr confounds Harper government stereotype

    By simply seeming reasonable, Omar Khadr has confounded Stephen Harper.

    The former Guantanamo Bay inmate could have reacted bitterly Thursday when, after almost 13 years in detention, he was finally allowed out on bail.

    He could have echoed his lawyer, Dennis Edney, and called the prime minister an anti-Muslim bigot.

    The high price of speaking out in Ottawa

    Forthright government watchdogs have a way of disappearing in Ottawa.

    They are quietly replaced. Their mandates are terminated or not renewed. They are suddenly found to be unqualified.

    Howard Sapers, the outspoken correctional investigator of Canada, is the latest to join the involuntary exodus. He was a strong advocate for mistreated inmates. He highlighted the disproportionate number of aboriginal prisoners in the system. He asked why so many people with mental disorders were behind bars and why so many prisoners were released without adequate supervision. He warned that federal prisons were overcrowded and underfunded. “An ombudsman’s role is to comment on maladministration,” he said.

    What the hell was Harper doing in Iraq anyway?

    Who knew that a brief stay in a closet could have such lasting political consequences?

    I’m obliged to pose this question after Stephen Harper made a “surprise” visit (there was, of course, nothing surprising about it) to Iraq last weekend, with select members of the parliamentary press gallery in tow.

    Make no mistake: Harper’s quick side trip was made with one overarching aim in mind — to use a shooting war as a campaign prop to burnish his ‘tough guy’ image on the eve of what is certain to be a close election. Harper has a tendency to exploit the military to bolster his terrorist-fighting cred, but this was a new low even by the PM’s sorry standards — a hypocritical, cynical act of armed narcissism.

    A telling 24 hours in Stephen Harper’s world

    Thursday was a busy day for the Harper government. Consider just some of what went on:

    • There was the continuing fallout over the revelation that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office had posted two videos online, taken during Stephen Harper’s recent visit to Iraq, that showed the faces of Canadian special forces soldiers — in violation of security protocols. When brought to light, the PMO first insisted protocols had not been violated, then claimed the videos had been vetted by defence officials, then issued a slippery half-apology that was evasive and insincere even by their own standards. Thursday, the Toronto Star reported the PMO officials, who had promised to “review” the protocols, had been briefed on them, twice, before the trip.

    Hundreds protest government inaction on real estate

    “How can we be expected to compete for homes, condos and houses with the globe’s millionaires and billionaires?”Eveline Xia asked a crowd of several hundred gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday.  The crowd included community groups and advocates who called for government action to address unaffordable real estate in Vancouver.

    In March, Xia posted on Twitter the hashtag #Donthave1million to express her frustration about the crisis in affordable housing that has been creeping up the income brackets and affecting full-time professionals who can't afford to stay in Vancouver.