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.]

Monday, July 27, 2015

Canadians give thumbs-down to grandiose memorials planned for Ottawa and Nova Scotia: poll

Two controversial memorials are getting the thumbs-down from Canadians, according to a new poll.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents to the survey by Postmedia and research firm Mainstreet Technologies said they disapproved of plans to erect a memorial to victims of communism in Ottawa, while 50 per cent objected to a huge statue planned for Nova Scotia.

Both projects are private initiatives.

Political risks uncertain in expected TPP supply management concessions

Negotiations to reach a final Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are entering the end stages and sources say the Canadian government will likely agree to supply management concessions in order to reach a deal, a potentially politically risky move right ahead of an election.

A former senior adviser to the Conservative government familiar with the trade agenda said the deal is down to “endgame issues,” the most challenging and politically sensitive ones.

Unions will challenge Bill C-377 first in the election, then in the courts

It took an unusual procedure to pass the anti-union bill, C-377. 
Conservative Senators voted against their own speaker in order to force a vote on the bill before the Senate began its summer recess. Early last week, as its last bit of business before the break, the Senate voted 35-22 to pass the bill, but unions say the fight is far from over.
In fact, the bill's passage will only add more fuel to the fire, as the labour movement continues to ramp up its Stop Harper campaigns for the upcoming federal election.

Fighting for retirement equality: What women need to know

The second day of the Union Coalition for Free Negotiation's States-General took place in Montreal on April 27, 2015. We heard from distinguished guest speakers who introduced us to the reality of women's pensions vs. those of men. Several statistics emerged, showing realities that the majority of women may not know.
Quebec statistics in 2014 show that as the aging population increases, the percentage of women relative to men also increases; at age 80 and over, the percentage of women versus men is 63.5 per cent.

New reports slam Canada's immigration detention system

Two new reports released last month from the University of Toronto and the End Immigration Detention Network detail the systemic flaws and inhumane treatment of immigration detainees, dubbing the entire system a "legal black hole."
On top of that, Abdurahman "Abdi" Ibrahim Hassan died in custody on June 11 after being restrained by prison guards. His is the 12th reported death in immigration custody in the past decade.
Now, the End Immigration Detention Network is calling for change. 

Don't Underestimate Religion's Role This Election

Consider two separate events that took place recently on the same day in Ottawa and Toronto.

In one, Prime Minister Stephen Harper hosted an Iftar reception on June 22 at 24 Sussex Drive for about 40 of the country's leading Muslim representatives.

Iftar is an evening meal during Ramadan to mark the end of fasting. (Muslims do not eat between dawn and dusk during month-long Ramadan.)

Use Of EI Funds By Tories To Help Balance Budget Draws Criticism

The federal government is using $1.8 billion in surplus EI funds to help balance its books, drawing criticism from opposition parties and labour groups who say the money belongs in taxpayers’ pockets.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered Tuesday the Tories’ long-promised balanced budget ahead of this year’s federal election — though it was one that eked out a very small surplus of $1.4 billion.

To get there despite a $6 billion decline in revenues due to falling oil prices, the government had to take $2 billion out of its $3 billion contingency fund and dip into the country’s EI fund.

Greek crisis: surrender fiscal sovereignty in return for bailout, Merkel tells Tsipras

European leaders have confronted the Greek government with a draconian package of austerity measures entailing a surrender of fiscal sovereignty as the price of avoiding financial collapse and being ejected from the single currency bloc.

A weekend of high tension that threatened to break Europe in two climaxed on Sunday night at a summit of eurozone leaders in Brussels where the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and President François Hollande of France presented Greece’s radical prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, with an ultimatum.

Stephen Harper Says Economy In 'Downturn' Due To Negative Global Trends

PICKERING, Ont. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government will react with "strong fiscal discipline" to the "downturn" in the Canadian economy, which he blamed on the recent turmoil in the global economy.

"Let me just state clearly what the situation is, there has been a downturn and the reason for that has been the downturn in the global economy," Harper said in Pickering, Ont.

"It's really that simple. Look around the world, we have another crisis downturn in Europe, we have a very significant slowdown and some other related economic problems now in China, we had very negative first quarter growth in the United States.

Many Southern Alberta Trout Streams Threatened Despite Recovery Plan: Survey

EDMONTON - Virtually all southern Alberta streams that spawn native trout are threatened by industrial development or overuse, says a survey from a respected fisheries biologist.

That's even though both bull and rainbow trout are protected under federal law and are supposed to be benefiting from a recovery plan, says Lorne Fitch.

CP Investigation: Canada’s embassy in Ukraine used as pawn in 2014 uprising

KYIV, Ukraine - It was one of those events that simply appeared and disappeared during the bloody, swift-moving events of Ukraine in the winter revolution of 2014.

Canada's embassy in Kyiv was used as a haven for several days by anti-government protesters during the uprising that toppled the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The Harper government never fully acknowledged — during the upheaval or since — the depth and extent of the security breach, which has had far-reaching implications on how Canadians are perceived in the region.

Taken From Families, Indigenous Children Face Extreme Rates of State Violence in US

The plight of Indigenous children recently made headlines, as Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a damning report calling the country's long-held policy of removing Native children from their families by force and placing them in state-funded residential schools "cultural genocide." According to the report, even before Canada was founded in 1867, churches were operating boarding schools for Indigenous children, and the last federally supported residential school didn't close until the late 1990s.

Lockdowns soaring in Ontario jails due to staff shortages

There were 900 lockdowns in Ontario’s provincial jails due to staff shortages last year, a figure that has more than tripled since 2009.

The full and partial lockdowns, which can last a day or several days, were triggered by shortages of staff including correctional officers and managers.

There were 259 lockdowns in 2009.

New Poll Shows Donald Trump, Jeb Bush In Dead Heat

WASHINGTON, July 11 (Reuters) - Donald Trump, who became the center of attention in the race for the 2016 Republican U.S. presidential nomination with his denunciation of illegal immigrants from Mexico, has vaulted into a virtual dead heat with Jeb Bush atop the field, a Reuters-Ipsos poll released on Saturday showed.

Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, had the support of 15.8 percent of respondents in the online poll of self-identified Republicans compared to 16.1 percent for Bush, a former Florida governor.

More Than 4 Million Refugees Have Now Fled Syria, UN Says

ISTANBUL (AP) — More than 4 million Syrians have fled abroad since the 2011 outbreak of civil war, the largest number from any crisis in almost 25 years, the United Nations said Thursday.

A recent wave of people leaving Syria and an update of Turkish statistics confirmed the tragic milestone, according to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. The agency said 7.6 million additional people have been displaced from their homes within Syria by the fighting.

Shanghai's Stock Market is Collapsing. Do Chinese People Care?

CHENGDU -- The Shanghai stock market has been one wild ride for the last few months. The world has watched as stocks soared for months before a precipitous plunge in recent weeks. Millions of "novice investors" got involved in the markets when prices dramatically increased last year, the Associated Press reported.

So what do normal Chinese people think about the roller coaster markets, now that they're in a meltdown?

German Parties Split Over Greek Bailout Proposal

BERLIN, July 10 (Reuters) - The parties in Angela Merkel's coalition government sent conflicting signals on the latest reform proposals from Greece on Friday, underscoring the challenge facing the German chancellor before a pivotal summit of EU leaders this weekend.

Leading Social Democrats (SPD) welcomed concessions from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on taxes, pensions, defense spending and privatization, saying the measures showed his government was finally getting serious about reform.

After BRICS, Putin Hosts Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit In Ufa

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted regional leaders at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on July 10, a second day of meetings meant to show the West that Moscow has friends and influence elsewhere at a time when ties with the United States and EU are tense.

Putin criticized the NATO-led military contingent that ended its mission in Afghanistan last year during the meeting of the SCO, which brings together Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Serbian Prime Minister Attacked At Srebrenica Commemoration AP

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Anger boiled over Saturday at a massive commemoration of the slaughter of Bosnia Muslims at Srebrenica 20 years ago as people pelted Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with stones, water bottles and other objects. An aide said he was hit in the face with a rock.

Vucic's associate, Suzana Vasiljevic, told The Associated Press that his glasses were broken when he was struck in the face with a stone. Vasiljevic said she was behind Vucic when "masses broke the fences and turned against us."

Clinton's Big Economic Speech Will Go Heavy On Middle Class Wages

WASHINGTON -- In her first major economic policy speech on Monday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces dual tasks: contrasting her agenda with the leading Republican presidential candidates and embracing -- while still drawing distinctions from -- the president she hopes to succeed.

The former will come quite easily. The latter requires a deft touch.

Jeb Bush Wants You to Work Longer Hours

When economic theory makes its way into campaign trail chatter it can take on a life of its own. And Jeb Bush’s gaffe-of-the-week showed how even today, Reaganomics keeps trickling down into the popular conservative parlance.

When asked about the crisis of unemployment, Bush stated, “Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

Germany won’t spare Greek pain – it has an interest in breaking us

Greece’s financial drama has dominated the headlines for five years for one reason: the stubborn refusal of our creditors to offer essential debt relief. Why, against common sense, against the IMF’s verdict and against the everyday practices of bankers facing stressed debtors, do they resist a debt restructure? The answer cannot be found in economics because it resides deep in Europe’s labyrinthine politics.


It's a distinction that few civic leaders would welcome: if Porter Airlines' proposal to expand Billy Bishop Airport to handle jetliners goes ahead, this city might be home to Canada's most dangerous major airport.

A new study released by the Greater Waterfront Coalition (GWC) on Monday, July 6, lays out a wide range of safety concerns. How big must the marine exclusion zones be if the runway is extended into the harbour and jets are allowed? Will jets, which descend at a lower angle than the turboprops now used by Porter, come too close to boats to be safe? What about the effects of "wake turbulence"? Will the "wingtip vortices" and air disturbances created during takeoffs and landings endanger canoeists and kayakers nearby?

Mother Canada Project Managers Seek More Public Funding

The Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation has applied for additional public funding for its eight-storey Mother Canada project in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

A spokesperson for the foundation says it is exploring support options through the federal government's Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program — a funding pool of $150 million set aside to celebrate the country's 150th birthday.

Harper Government Responds To Letter Claiming 'Errors' In CBC Doc

Canada’s environment minister is reviewing a letter from philanthropist Jim Balsillie raising concerns over “misleading” information presented in a CBC documentary about the Franklin expedition.

“I think it’s important that the contribution to the search is recognized accurately, that the history of the project is documented correctly,” reads the letter Balsillie sent to Leona Aglukkaq and the Prime Minister's Office on April 30.

He never received a response.

It’s Not Just the NSA—the IRS Is Reading Your Emails Too

The privacy of Americans’ email has an expiration date.

Because of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)—passed in 1986, long before electronic communications became prevalent in the United States—email content is easily accessible to many civil and law enforcement agencies as soon as it is at least 180 days old.

Fortunately, politicians on both sides of the aisle are now backing the movement to change the outdated law.

Obama Won’t Let Some Mass Graves Stop the TPP

When Congress finally passed fast-track trade authority last month, there was a major problem for President Obama and his trade negotiators: a provision of the bill forbid any fast-tracked trade deal from including countries on Tier 3 of the State Department’s human trafficking list.

That’s the worst classification the United States gives to countries in its Trafficking In Persons annual report, a status earned by countries like Zimbabwe, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and North Korea. Also on the list: Malaysia, one of the 12 potential signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that is in the final round of negotiations this month.

Throwing Greece on the fire: The incendiary politics of austerity

As the unending financial tragedy of Greece continues to hover between utter misery and incipient tragedy, it is worth delving into the roots of the crisis. Who is responsible for this collision between capital and humanity? How can the Greek people escape from being consumed by the flames of austerity?
In finding a course for Greece, we may ourselves find a path that leads from the sterile plains of corporate greed back to the common humanity of the Greek agora -- at once an artistic, spiritual, athletic, commercial, and political gathering place for one and all.

How an enviro minister spent her day not attending a climate summit

Canada's federal environment minister’s decision not to represent the country at The Climate Summit of the Americas this week in Toronto raised the question: how did she spend her time instead?

What was so important that kept Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk environment minister —the first ever to be appointed to a federal cabinet role — away from those talks?

Greece Submits Reform Proposals To European Creditors

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece finally met a deadline that counted on Thursday, delivering a series of sweeping proposals to its creditors before midnight to set off a mad rush toward a weekend deal to stave off a financial collapse of the nation.

The package of reforms raised hopes that Greece can get a rescue deal that will prevent a catastrophic exit from the euro after key creditors said they were open to discussing how to ease the country's debt load, a long-time sticking point in their talks.

Here's Why All the Bees Are Dying

Bees are having a really hard time right now. For about a decade, they've been dying off at an unprecedented rate—up to 30 percent per year, with a total loss of domesticated honeybee hives in the United States worth an estimated $2 billion.

At first, no one knew why. But as my colleague Tom Philpott has reported extensively, in the last few years scientists have accumulated a compelling pile of evidence pointing to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. These chemicals are widely used in commercial agriculture but can have lethal effects on bees. Other pesticides are also adding to the toll. So are invasive parasites and a general decline in the quality of bees' diets.

Stephen Harper offers a record of selective accomplishment

The prime minister wishes to be judged on his record. “Most of the decisions you have to make in this job are hard ones,” Stephen Harper says in a Conservative pre-campaign advertisement. “You just work hard and try to make the best decisions possible for Canada.”

No election platform, no indication of his priorities, just a 28-second personal assurance that he is up to the job.

Harper’s heavy campaign lift: Everything other than recession denial and terror hysteria

In what promises to be a summer of political mayhem, one option appears to be off the table for Stephen Harper; holding up his gloves a la Roberto Duran in the Sugar Ray Leonard fight and crying “No mas.”

The Great Strategist has dithered that option off the table. We are only three months away from the rumble for democracy in this country, and not even Stephen Harper can scarper now — unless he postpones the election and violates his own fixed election date — again.

Majority of Canadians support bill to force unions to disclose spending and salaries: poll

Many legal experts hate it, pro-labour groups lambast it and the Senate manipulated its own rules to pass it, but Canadians overwhelmingly support a new union transparency bill, according to a new poll.

Nearly two thirds — 62 per cent — of Canadians approve of Bill C-377, legislation that requires unions to disclose expenses over $5,000 and salaries over $100,000, an exclusive Forum Research poll shows. Support remains high among self-identified union supporters: 59 per cent of them said they support more disclosure. Support spikes among Conservative-aligned respondents to 81 per cent, which could help explain why the party helped ram the bill through ahead of the expected October election.

Federal Green party ‘stunned’ over snubs from election debate organizers

OTTAWA - The federal Green party says leader Elizabeth May is being unfairly excluded from two high-profile election debates, denying Canadian voters a full range of national viewpoints.

May has not been invited to an exchange of views on the economy hosted by the Globe and Mail newspaper and Google Canada, nor one on foreign policy planned by the Munk Debates.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been asked to take part in these debates.

We Are All (or Should Be) Greeks Now

The temple of neo-liberalism and its ideology of social suicide in the interests of the banks has been breached. The hysteria in European capitals (particularly Germany) after the resounding "No" vote by the people of Greece is entirely appropriate. For decades now developed country governments and their enforcers, the IMF and the World Bank, have managed to bamboozle people in country after country, convincing them that up is down and black is white -- that austerity and recession are nirvana -- pie in the sky, bye and bye.

Until now.

Mind The Gaffe: What’s Missing From The Media Scrum Over Bush’s Call To ‘Work Longer Hours’

The political media is in a tizzy over comments 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush (R) made to a New Hampshire paper about what needs to happen to fix the American economy for working people. But the gaffe frenzy fixates on the wrong thing from Bush’s remarks.

To hit his desired economic growth rate, Bush told the Manchester Union Leader, “we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Unbridled capitalism is the 'dung of the devil', says Pope Francis

Pope Francis has urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land.

In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America”.

George W. Bush Charged Veteran Charity $100,000 Speaking Fee For Fundraiser

Former president George W. Bush charged a veterans' charity $100,000 to speak at a fundraiser in 2012.

The former commander in chief was also provided with a private plane to fly to the event, which cost another $20,000, ABC News reports.

Jeb Bush Wants You to Work More, Whether You Like It or Not

Jeb Bush’s instantly controversial argument to the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader—that “people need to work longer hours” if the U.S. economy is to attain perpetually high economic growth—has created a great deal of confusion, when the real implications of his view are clear and troubling.

Scott Walker Prepares To Sign Budget That Eliminates The Living Wage And Prevailing Wage

For months, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he won’t launch his long-expected run for the Republican nomination for President until he gets his own house in order and signs Wisconsin’s budget into law. Despite weeks of delays, he still may make that deadline before his planned announcement on July 13th.

Fear and uncertainty on Wall Street: investors, buckle up for a bumpy ride

Are we heading for another stock market crash? The signs are ominous. The New York stock exchange – the world’s largest stock market – shut down for three and a half hours due to a mysterious “technical issue” on Wednesday; China’s speculative stock market plunged still further, despite tens of billions of dollars of spending on the part of the government in a futile attempt to halt the carnage; Greece is sailing into uncharted territory and teetering on the brink of leaving the Eurozone; and meanwhile Puerto Rico is mired in its own debt crisis.

Watch House Republicans Block an Effort to Remove the Confederate Flag From the US Capitol

The floor of the US House of Representatives was as noisy and contentious as the British Parliament on Thursday afternoon, when House Republicans tried to stall a vote on a spending bill that surprisingly included a Republican amendment to keep the Confederate flag on display in federal cemeteries.

Harper Shows Contempt for Workers by Passing Anti-Union law

It's hard not to reflect on the profound contempt Stephen Harper's Conservative government has consistently demonstrated towards all those who for purely ideological reasons it has designated as its enemies.

There's contempt for those who think Canada should be a force for peace on the world scene, and for those who think environmental protection should be a priority. Contempt for those who think controlling firearms might prevent bloodshed, and contempt for those who think fiscal measures that benefit the well-to-do to the detriment of everyone else are an abandonment of our long-held commitment to social justice. And there's the government's contempt for its own scientists. By muzzling them to keep the public in the dark about facts and science, the government seeks to focus political and economic discourse on ideology and religion. And now by railroading Bill C-377 into law, the Conservative government has laid another brick in this wall of contempt. Contempt for workers and their means of acting in solidarity: unions.

Paul Martin: Harper Government Responsible For Underfunding Aboriginal Schools

MONTREAL - The Harper government is underfunding aboriginal schools and depriving First Nations children of any real chance of success, former prime minister Paul Martin said Thursday.

The Conservative government's native education policy is immoral, Martin said in a speech during the Assembly of First Nations' annual meeting.

Tories skip Ontario's infrastructure wish list, fund university expansion

The Conservative government has skipped over Ontario’s wish list of 106 infrastructure projects and instead announced millions of dollars toward expanding a university in a politically strategic area of the province.

As part of a recent wave of cash announcements from Ottawa’s New Building Canada Fund, the government said on Wednesday that it will contribute up to $26.9-million for a new research building at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in the Durham Region.

Exxon Knew About Global Warming More Than 30 Years Ago

ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, knew as early as 1981 of climate change—seven years before it became a public issue, according to a newly discovered email from one of the firm's own scientists. Despite this the firm spent millions over the next 27 years to promote climate denial.

The email from Exxon's in-house climate expert provides evidence the company was aware of the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, and the potential for carbon-cutting regulations that could hurt its bottom line, over a generation ago—factoring that knowledge into its decision about an enormous gas field in south-east Asia. The field, off the coast of Indonesia, would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time.

The Roots of Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis—and Why Austerity Will Not Solve It

Riding through the hills of Canóvanas last weekend with Prima, a vacationing 65-year-old Brooklynite who was born and raised in the Puerto Rican countryside, I got a brief lesson on the island’s history and political economy. “This land was all cañaverales,” she said, meaning rough acres of sugarcane, which has now been replaced by mile after mile of suburban tract housing. “When that ended, some people worked in factories and construction. Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think the empire is collapsing.”

Congress Considers Expanding Charter Program Despite Millions Wasted on Closed Schools

As both the House and the Senate consider separate bills that would reauthorize and expand the quarter-billion-dollar-a-year Charter Schools Program (CSP), the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has examined more than a decade of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as well as documentation from open records requests. The results are troubling.

Between 2001 and 2013, nearly 2,500 charter schools have been forced to shutter, affecting 288,000 American children enrolled in primary and secondary schools.

Trumping America

Donald Trump lit up the mainstream media spectacle by stating in his presidential candidacy announcement, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." (1) The mainstream press could not let such an opportune racist outburst go unnoticed. After all, it was perfect fodder for fueling the corporate media's never-ending spectacle of entertainment. Mouthed from one of America’s favorite billionaire buffoons, his racist and xenophobic statements have been defended as brave, dismissed as uncivil, or set aside  as the colorful discourse of a cantankerous, rich eccentric. Such commentary collapses into the realm of the personal by privatizing racism. That is, it ignores the deep seated contours of systemic racism and xenophobia and the conditions that promote it, instead focusing on the individual who spouts such poisonous racist language. Rather than viewing Trump’s comments as a political virus that has deep roots in nativist apoplexy and a long legacy of racism and state violence, his despicable remarks are reduced to an uncivil rant by a bullying member of the billionaire class with no reference to the unmarked status of white privilege and its underlying logic of white supremacy.  Such commentary at its core is superficial, duplicitous, and represents a flight from responsibility and a politics of denial.

NAFTA's Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals

Canada is the most-sued country under the North American Free Trade Agreement and a majority of the disputes involve investors challenging the country’s environmental laws, according to a new study.

The study from the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found that more than 70 per cent of claims since 2005 have been brought against Canada, and the number of challenges under a controversial settlement clause is rising sharply.