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, August 29, 2015

Duffy trial takeaway: The PMO as rogue operation

It may not be Rumpole of the Bailey, but the Perils of the Puffster are making one thing crystal clear: Stephen Harper has become a law unto himself.

The evidence from the near past is damning enough: Found in contempt of Parliament; breaking his own elections law; sending unconstitutional legislation to the Supreme Court; passing retroactive laws to make the illegal legal; publicly attacking the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; forcing out Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commissioner for following the statute governing her agency; dumping the Parliamentary Budget Officer for correcting the government’s false program costings; usurping some of the constitutional functions of the Governor-General; and passing legislation to punish political enemies such as unions and environmentalists.

Public servant investigated over political 'Harperman' song

An Ottawa federal scientist is being investigated for breaching the public service’s ethics code for writing and performing a highly political protest song to get rid of the Harper government.

Tony Turner, a scientist in habitat planning at Environment Canada, was recently sent home on leave with pay while the government investigates the making of Harperman, a music video posted on YouTube in early June that has attracted about 48,000 hits.

Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Environment Canada, said the department wouldn’t be commenting on the case because of “privacy concerns.” He said public servants agree to comply with the value and ethics code — which lays out expected behaviours — when they join the government regardless of their level or job.

New Report Highlights Koch Brothers' Role In Hurricane Katrina Damage

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the Democratic opposition research group American Bridge's Bridge Project describes the way Charles and David Koch, the influential conservative billionaires, put their vast resources into actions that exacerbated the impact of Hurricane Katrina and stalled the Gulf Coast’s recovery.

The report, released Thursday, highlights the Koch brothers' influence on the region before and after the storm, including constructing and operating pipelines that destroyed wetlands south of New Orleans and attempting to obstruct legislation that would have aided the recovery.

The Republican Nomination: Anyone Who Says Donald Trump Can’t Win Is in Deep Denial

I know you haven’t heard enough about Donald Trump recently, so here’s more: At this point, anyone who says he can’t win the Republican nomination is in deep denial.

Trump announced his candidacy on June 16 and immediately vaulted into the top tier of candidates. On July 14, a USA Today poll put Trump in the lead by three points—and he has led every survey since. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday said he had the support of 28 percent of GOP voters—which is huge in a field this big.

Grassy Narrows First Nation Declares State Of Emergency After Years Of Unsafe Drinking Water

After almost two years of not being able to drink its water, a remote Ontario First Nation decided to issue a state of emergency Thursday.

Grassy Narrows, a small reserve about 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, has long dealt with regular cases of mercury poisoning since a local paper and chemical mill shut down in the 1960s.

Keystone XL Pipeline Fate Rests In Obama's Hands, Says Harper

MARKHAM, Ont. — Stephen Harper offered a glimpse Thursday of how he might distance himself from the Obama administration's long-awaited decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline: if it gets rejected, don't blame Ottawa.

Harper said U.S. President Barack Obama has never linked any particular Conservative policy to the decision-making process on the multibillion-dollar project, which would pump bitumen from Western Canada's oilsands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Conservatives bring in former soldiers for extra security on Harper’s campaign

OTTAWA — The Conservatives are using former members of the Canadian military to act as security guards at their election campaign events, in addition to the RCMP officers who are assigned to the prime minister's personal detail.

The former Canadian Armed Forces soldiers, who are travelling with members of the media on the Conservative campaign bus, wear suits and earpieces much like the Mounties assigned to protect Stephen Harper.

One member of the private security team, a former sniper, escorted a man out of a Harper event with the help of RCMP officers Thursday in Markham, Ont., when he tried to line up behind journalists to ask the prime minister a question.

Country bracing for 'made in Canada' recession: former chief statistician

As Canada braces for the anticipated confirmation next week that it’s in a recession, a former chief statistician says the country has no one else to blame but itself.

Munir Sheikh told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday that the country is likely headed into a “made in Canada recession,” especially given recent news that the U.S. economy grew 3.7 per cent in the last quarter.

“Obviously we are doing something in this country, given that three quarters of our exports go to the U.S., which will make the economy pretty weak. So to some extent, our recession is a made in Canada recession.”

Kenney Touts Tory Immigration Record at Conference for Chinese Media Only

Last week there was a touch of bitterness in the Vancouver media sphere when it was discovered that Conservative Jason Kenney hosted a roundtable meeting for Chinese media only in Richmond.

Kenney is Canada's former immigration minister, and his presentation focused on the government's performance on immigration issues over the last nine years.

With nearly 15 per cent of Vancouver residents identifying a Chinese-language as their mother tongue, the demographic could be key for the Tories' voting efforts in British Columbia.

Tories' Salmon Gaffe Part of Awkward Off-Message Streak

There are two cardinal rules for a leader's campaign tour. Rule one: the leader has to stay on message. Rule two: no screw-ups by the staff on tour or back in the war room.

Well, Stephen Harper has been off-message since the start of the campaign. And the Conservative campaign team has been screwing up on a regular basis, stepping on the leader's message.

Last Thursday, Harper made a nice family announcement about increasing the Adoption Expense Tax Credit from $15,000 to $20,000 for thousands of parents adopting children from Canada and abroad. Laureen and Stephen Harper walked in a field with a family and their adoptive daughter. The images were lovely.


"It's a big, big clusterfuck."

In private conversations and online, this is hardly an unusual descriptor for any number of debates in Toronto politics, perhaps trailing only "shitshow" and the elegant simplicity of "mess." Its use, however, is especially apropos as an encapsulation of the city's transit planning woes and our leaders' terminal inability to chart a course based on policy instead of populism.

Lawmakers Sue To Take Away People’s Health Care, Send $450,000 Legal Bill To Taxpayers

Low income people in Alaska are on the verge of getting health care. So, in a story that’s become so familiar that it’s practically a cliché, Republican elected officials filed a lawsuit on Monday trying to prevent this expanded access to health care from happening.

As a bonus, they’re sending the bill for this lawsuit to the state’s taxpayers.

Sun Media reporter unloads on Tories

Sun Media Parliamentary Bureau Chief David Akin says Stephen Harper’s Conservative government cheats its way to power year after year.

Akin posted a diatribe about the Harper government’s record of cheating on a thread on his Facebook page. The post went viral.

To recap, the prime minister is not responsible for almost anything

To recap, the prime minister is not responsible. He is not responsible for appointing Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau to the Senate. He is not responsible for appointing senators from provinces in which they were not resident, and he is not responsible for their subsequent activities shilling for the Tories across the country at public expense.

And he is most certainly not responsible for the clandestine campaign, involving officials in his office, the chairman of the Conservative Fund Canada, and several leading Conservative senators, to repay Senator Duffy’s falsely claimed expenses on his behalf and conceal his misdeeds from the public. He is not responsible for his spokesman’s statements, even after the plot had been exposed, praising Mr. Duffy for “doing the right thing” and vouching confidence in his chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Why Harper corrupted the Senate

Mike Duffy’s ads for the Conservative Party look surreal and ironic.

For instance, there were hundreds of personalized ones he taped where, clutching a rolled up piece of paper in his right hand and dressed in a dark suit against a black background, Duffy stares into the camera and says things like, “Hey Aaron, how’s it going? The Old Duff here.”

These were emailed to supporters.

Is the Workplace Culture at Amazon Progressive or Destructive?

I've been reading some pretty horrifying posts this week about Amazon's business culture. There was the front page New York Times article, written by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, a fascinating op-ed piece in the Times by Joe Nocera, and many compelling letters to the editor, responding to the original article.

Kantor and Streitfeld describe a work environment at Amazon that's exceedingly demanding, unforgiving, and adversarial. While some workers are rewarded for doing well, they're constantly made to compete with one-other for these rewards.

Peerage Handed To Tory MP Douglas Hogg Who Claimed £2,200 To Clean His Moat On Expenses

The Tory MP who epitomised the expenses scandal has been handed a seat in the House of Lords as David Cameron gave peerages to long-serving Conservative frontbenchers and advisers.

Douglas Hogg, the former agriculture minister who claimed the £2,200 cost of having the moat at his country mansion cleared, is among 45 new peerages announced today to mark the dissolution of the last Parliament.

Our Home and Surveilled Land

“You Should Have Stayed Home” is a play about the criminalization of protest during the G20 meeting in Toronto in 2010. Over 1100 people were arrested—the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. During the protest, detainees were shoved into makeshift cages in a huge warehouse on Eastern Avenue in Toronto. Most could not even sit down, let alone move in their cells. There was almost no water or food. Police meted out humiliating treatment to all the prisoners, including strip searching some of the women prisoners. More than 20,000 police and special forces were deployed to stop 10,000 protesters in downtown Toronto.

A single-issue election: The anti-Harper vote

By now, under a typical government, a federal election in Canada called on August 2 would nearly be over. But Stephen Harper's fetish for trying to manipulate the public created an 11-week campaign instead of the ordinary 37 days. A seemingly everlasting election gives Harper's Conservatives more time to raise money while exhausting their opponents' bank accounts.
When a national Forum Poll (conducted August 2) told respondents that "the prime minister called the election earlier than expected, and it will last 11 weeks," 59 per cent said they disapproved of the early start.

Parm Gill Tory Donation Shows Up On Liberal Supporter's Credit Card

BRAMPTON, Ont. — A faithful Liberal supporter is accusing Conservative MP Parm Gill of charging his credit card for a substantial donation without his knowledge — actions he thinks the RCMP should investigate.
Jagdish Singh is a long-time Liberal donor who lives in Brampton, Ont., on the western end of the Greater Toronto Area. For the past several years, Singh has donated $400 to former Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt MP Jim Karygiannis.

Tougher Immigration Rules Test Conservative Support in Chinese Community

The battle for votes in Vancouver's large Chinese community is being complicated by deep divisions over immigration issues here and across the Pacific in Hong Kong.

Chinese-language radio talk-show hosts say callers are more worked up than ever about the federal election.

And their support seems largely determined by where they came from in China and their attitude toward tougher immigration rules introduced by the federal government since the 2011 election.

The Case for Universal Basic Income


Support for a universal basic income (defined here) is growing. In Europe, for example, the City of Utrecht is about to introduce an experiment that aims “to challenge the notion that people who receive public money need to be patrolled and punished,” in the words of a project manager for the Utrecht city council. Nijmegen, Wageningen, Tilburg and Groningen are awaiting permission from The Hague in order to conduct similar programmes. In Switzerland, the necessary 100,000 signatures have been obtained for holding a referendum on whether Swiss citizens should receive an unconditional basic income of €2,500 per month, independently of whether they are employed or not. On 16 June, the centre-right government of Finland, where 79% of the population is in favour of a universal basic income, made good on its electoral promise and ratified the implementation of an “experimental basic income”. A recent survey in Catalonia (13 to 17 July) shows that 72.3% of the population (basically excepting the right-wing and wealthiest sectors) would support a basic income of €650 per month, and, contrary to a tiresomely hackneyed claim, 86.2% say they would continue working if the measure were introduced. More notably, 84.4% of the unemployed say they’d still want to work.

Amazon Offers Free Delivery of Workplace Hell

A lengthy exposé by The New York Times about Amazon’s work environment recently revealed the depths to which American workplace culture has plummeted, particularly for white-collar workers. Journalists Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld interviewed more than 100 current and former Amazon employees and concluded, “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.”

This GOP Presidential Candidate Is Trying to Destroy Planned Parenthood. Now Planned Parenthood Is Fighting Back.

Planned Parenthood in Louisiana is asking a federal judge to halt presidential candidate and state Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to cut Medicaid funding for the health care organization, arguing that the cut would hurt nearly 6,000 low-income women, men, and teens who access the group's services each year.

Referencing the series of attack videos that depict Planned Parenthood officials in California and other states discussing fetal tissue donation, Jindal earlier this month directed the state's department of health to terminate Planned Parenthood's contract with Medicaid, saying the organization was not "worthy of receiving public assistance from the state."

Longer Hours, More Stress, No Extra Pay: It’s Not Just Amazon, It’s the Modern Workplace

By now many of us have read The New York Times’s insider account of the brutal workplace culture at Amazon’s corporate offices. We already knew about what it’s like to work in Amazon’s warehouse centers: boiling heat, impossible production demands, and frequent firings of the temporary workforce. For the white-collar workers, demands are also high, if of a different nature: staff regularly cry at their desks, are shamed for taking time off for cancer treatments, and so often work during weekends and vacations that they develop ulcers. Failure to respond to a late-night e-mail comes with a reprimand. One employee recounts that her fiancee had to come to headquarters every night at 10 pm and call her repeatedly to get her to leave.

Drought Relief Bill Threatens to Drown Sacred Sites of a Northern California Tribe

The McCloud River gurgles and gushes down the Cascade Range, gathering streams from the towering Mount Shasta, a mountain of mythic and sacred symbolism to many. The river pours down three waterfalls over basaltic lava flows, where Chinook salmon once heroically jumped up the falls to spawn and propagate. This August, members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe gathered for their annual "salmon challenge," an effort to trace the path of their revered fish as it once swam its way up the McCloud River. The venerated salmon are long gone: The Shasta Dam's construction in 1944 framed a permanent deleterious barrier, and the salmon were unable to reach their spawning grounds upstream to regenerate as they had for millennia.

Jorge Ramos Challenged Both Trump and an Increasingly Absurd Debate

When Univision anchor Jorge Ramos kept asking Donald Trump tough questions about immigration policy—until Trump’s security forces physically removed one of the nation’s most prominent journalists from what was supposedly a press conference—he was not just challenging a billionaire blowhard. He was challenging a political process that has veered toward absurdity.

Some critics claim that Ramos, who is often described as “the nation’s top Latino newsman,” offended journalistic and political propriety when he rose at a reasonable point during a Tuesday press conference in the first caucus state of Iowa to question a candidate for president.

Veterans scarred by war share snapshots of life under Harper

The seaplane crashed just yards from water, its mangled wreckage holding the bodies of two young men.

A doctor walked through the plane’s shattered remains to examine the bodies. Susan Clarke-Tizzard, a logistics corporal attached to the search-and-rescue team, had to turn away.

Justin Trudeau's fight for the top

In Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, the Conservatives have long recognized a threat. Since he became Liberal leader in 2013, the Tories have taken pains to undermine his credibility—usually through personal attacks rather than policy critiques.

The Conservatives like to refer to him as "Justin" rather than invoke his hallowed last name, downplaying his status as heir to one of Canada’s most respected former prime ministers. And they continue to attempt to make political hay out of his relatively young age (Trudeau is 43, while Harper is 56).

New Defense Department Manual Allows Journalists To Be Held As 'Unprivileged Belligerents'

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Defense Department guidelines allow commanders to punish journalists and treat them as "unprivileged belligerents" if they believe journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy.

The Law of War manual, updated to apply for the first time to all branches of the military, contains a vaguely worded provision that military commanders could interpret broadly, experts in military law and journalism say. Commanders could ask journalists to leave military bases or detain journalists for any number of perceived offenses.

South Sudanese Troops Brutalize Civilians; U.N. Intervenes

Violence in the ongoing civil war in South Sudan, in which government forces have viciously targeted civilians in the struggle between two national leaders, has been so severe of late that the United Nations has once again gotten involved in the roiling regional conflict.

Spurred by findings from a panel of experts on the area, the U.N. Security Council has called for both sides to sign a peace treaty, as Reuters reported Tuesday:
UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council on Tuesday that the scope and level of cruelty in the attacks against civilians “suggests a depth of antipathy that goes beyond political differences”.
Referring to examples of the recent violence in Unity State, Mr O’Brien said: “A witness from Rubkona County has said that she saw government forces gang-raping a breast-feeding mother after tossing her baby aside.”
South Sudan was plunged into a civil war in December 2013 when a political crisis sparked fighting between forces loyal to president Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy Riek Machar.
The conflict has reopened ethnic fault lines that pit Mr Kiir’s Dinka people against Mr Machar’s ethnic Nuer people.
Mr Kiir is expected to sign a peace deal on Wednesday to end the conflict. Mr Machar signed the deal last week.
Whether a signed document created by an international governing body does anything to help the situation on the ground in South Sudan remains to be seen.

Original Article
Author: Kasia Anderson

Jeremy Corbyn: like Bernie Sanders, UK politician is shaking up the mainstream

Few American voters may yet have heard of Jeremy Corbyn, the previously obscure British parliamentarian who is poised to become leader of the official Labour opposition to David Cameron’s government. But if they have been following the US presidential race, they may already understand the general idea.

Slap a beard on leftwing Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and make him as casual as a Romantic poet and you have a good approximation of the elderly radical across the Atlantic who is shaking the fragile pillars of the British establishment and could (at least in theory) become Queen Elizabeth’s next prime minister of the not-so United Kingdom.

Ottawa's arms deal with Saudi Arabia contingent on secrecy

Ottawa is contractually obliged to keep secret the details of a controversial $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia – a transaction that Stephen Harper personally assured the country’s monarch will be guaranteed by the Canadian government, documents say.

Foreign Affairs e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail under access-to-information law indicate the Saudis have made excess publicity about the sale of armoured fighting vehicles a deal-breaker.

Rallying the Vote, On and Off Reserve

Indigenous people in Canada are far from apolitical or apathetic.

A legacy of several hundred years of colonialism -- broken treaties, residential schools, unliveable houses on some reserves, missing and murdered women, high incarceration rates and low high school graduation rates -- has resulted in political actions such as protests, hunger strikes, blockades and plenty of court cases.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are perhaps more politically engaged now, during the Conservative government years, than at any other time in this country's history.

Campus Food Bank Use Is Rising Along With Tuition, Costs, Students Group Says

A new campus food bank at Saint Mary's University in Halifax is part of a troubling trend, says the Canadian Federation of Students.

Similar services have sprung up on campuses across Canada as tuition fees and living costs have risen along with student debt, national chairperson Bilan Arte said Tuesday.

Chilcot inquiry: blame will be spread beyond Blair's inner team, sources say

Sir John Chilcot is to apportion blame for Britain’s role in the Iraq war much more widely than had been expected, going well beyond Tony Blair and his inner team, according to sources involved with his six-year inquiry.

While Blair will bear the brunt of the report’s criticism, one source said it would suit the former prime minister to see a wide range of targets blamed when it is published.

Canada’’s Chokehold on First Nations

July 18th, 2012- The Chiefs within the Assembly of First Nations have re-elected National Chief Shawn Atleo to represent their voice. This article is not about the voice of the Chief’s. This article is about the voice of the people, and reflecting on what happened to it. Never has it been more imminent to question the current realities of the First Nations north of the colonial border. Not because of the re-election of a National Chief, but because of the repeated cycles and limited momentum within the movement of Indigenous Liberation.

Illegal Immigrants Working In UK Face Six Months Jail, And Businesses Employing Them Could Face Closure

Illegal immigrants caught working in the UK could be jailed for up to six months and their pay will be taken off them as proceeds of crime, under new government plans.

The crackdown will also see late-night takeaways and off-licences facing closure if they are found to be employing foreigners who are not entitled to be in the country.

These Aren't Scare Tactics. A Republican President Will Take Away Your Obamacare Protections

It's hard to get 17 people -- especially 17 people with egos big enough to think they should be president of the United States -- to come together on too many things. Even though they share much in terms of political beliefs, the 17 members of the GOP clown car can't all agree, for example, on exactly how high a wall we should build with Mexico, or if Donald Trump should oversee construction -- irrespective of whether he becomes our next president.

Congresswoman Asks For Investigation Into Israeli Shooting Of Two Palestinian Teens

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) has requested the State Department open an investigation into whether the killing of two Palestinian teenagers last year by Israeli security forces warrants withholding of military aid under the conditions of the Leahy Law.

“The murders of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Daher highlight a brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children," she wrote in a letter to two State Department officials, referring to the teenagers who were shot and killed May 15, 2014, during a protest at the Ofer prison in the West Bank. “It is time for a strong and unequivocal statement of U.S. commitment to the human rights of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation,” McCollum continued in the letter, which was publicly released on Monday.

Native Vote Could Make The Difference In Canada's Elections

Canada is facing a critical moment in its history.

The Canadian dollar is at an 11-year low, and some say the country is in a recession. Oil producers in the tar sands are selling at a loss. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which had banked on turning the country into a sort of petrostate, is now mired in scandals. Author Stephen Marche's scathing critique of the Harper administration, entitled "The Closing of the Canadian Mind," recently became the most-read story in The New York Times.

President of Israel Says Israeli Squatting in the Palestinian West Bank Is a ‘Right’

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday declared Israeli squatting on the Palestinian West Bank a “right” and as an essential Zionist principle.

Reuven, a former chairman of the far-right Likud Party now in power, is known to favor a paternalist form of the one-state solution.  He has said he would rather give Palestinians citizenship than give up Israeli squatter settlements in the West Bank. (Although, it must be pointed out, he hasn’t actually done anything practical to end Palestinian statelessness and lack of basic rights in the West Bank, and Israeli squatter settlements there often disadvantage native Palestinians by stealing land, water and other resources without offering compensation).  Reuven, who speaks fluent Arabic, has a vision of Israel as a multi-ethnic state, and has championed rights for Palestinian-Israelis, even the right to dissent from Israeli government policy.  But he clearly also gets the confidence for this relative generosity to minorities from a conviction that Jews will remain on top of the political and social hierarchy.  His supremacism extends to the Orthdox/ Conservative/Reform/Reconstructionist divide in contemporary Judaism.  Reuven has been dismissive of Reform and Conservative Judaism, the major denominations in the United States, as not really Jewish, insisting that a fundamentalist approach to law is what makes for the essence of Judaism (in the same way that Muslim fundamentalists see sharia as the essence of Islam.  He is not himself terribly observant, though).