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, September 19, 2015

Joe Oliver's expensive travel costs undermine Conservatives' fiscally responsible

National Observer has learned that Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver has the most expensive costs in flights among all the members of Stephen Harper's cabinet, sometimes spending over $6,000 on a domestic plane trip between major Canadian cities.

Air Pollution Is Responsible For 3.3 Million Deaths Every Year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Air pollution is killing 3.3 million people a year worldwide, according to a new study that includes this surprise: Farming plays a large role in smog and soot deaths in industrial nations.

Scientists in Germany, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Harvard University calculated the most detailed estimates yet of the toll of air pollution, looking at what caused it. The study also projects that if trends don't change, the yearly death total will double to about 6.6 million a year by 2050.

The Republican Party Has Given Up on Hispanics

Neither Rick Santorum nor Senator Lindsey Graham is likely to win the Republican nomination for president, much less the presidency itself. But their back-and-forth at Wednesday undercard debate illustrated, better than any other exchange of the night, why immigration is such a divisive, and potentially decisive, issue for the Republicans. Graham won applause from the establishment-friendly crowd by calling for Republicans to reach out to Hispanic voters, but in the end, the toxic blend of faux-populism and xenophobia that Santorum championed is the dominant strain in the GOP primary.

Thousands Of Indonesian Fishermen Rescued After Slave Island Probe

AMBON, Indonesia — More than 2,000 fishermen have been rescued this year from brutal conditions at sea, liberated as a result of an Associated Press investigation into seafood brought to the U.S. from a slave island in eastern Indonesia.

Dozens of Burmese men in the bustling port town of Ambon were the latest to go home, some more than a decade after being trafficked onto Thai trawlers. Grabbing one another's hands, the men walked together toward buses last week. As they pulled away for the airport, some of those still waiting their turn to go home cheered, throwing their arms in the air.

54,000 IT Jobs In Canada Unfilled: Report

The Canadian IT industry is short 54,000 jobs, IDC Canada reports.

IDC defines the skills gap as what is needed to "get the right resource at the right time and at the right price."

In 2014, the IT skills gap amounted to 54,000 people and cost Canadian organizations close to $1 billion, according to the report.

Cut Carbon Emissions Now Or Risk Economic Obsolescence, Canada Told

Canada is well positioned to become a leader in a new low-carbon economy, says a new report prepared for the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

But if the country doesn’t take steps now, it risks getting stuck with a high-carbon economy that won’t be able to compete globally, says the report from Calgary-based CMC Research Institutes.

Expat Voting: Canadians Living Abroad Confused By Rules

TORONTO — A long-term Canadian expat who cast a ballot last month for the Oct. 19 election should not have done so, Elections Canada said Thursday.

Essentially, officials say, the local returning officer allowed Ashley O'Kurley to vote in his old Alberta riding on the basis he was a Canadian resident who was going to be away during the election period.

Blaney met with police lobbyists during campaign

Early in the election campaign, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney met with a police group that is registered to lobby him, despite a convention that requires ministers to postpone non-urgent business that could be seen as partisan until after the vote.

Blaney attended the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Quebec City on Aug. 19, nearly three weeks after the election began.

NDP signs that 'Send Harper a Message' disappearing in Calgary Heritage

The NDP candidate running against Conservative Stephen Harper in the riding of Calgary Heritage says his signs are not only being vandalized during this campaign — they're being stolen.

"They're silencing the voice of Canadians," said Matt Masters Burgener in the southwest community of Evergreen.

How the Harper government is manipulating the refugee crisis

The Harper government has long resisted bringing in Syrian refugees, an overwhelming majority of whom are Muslims. But it has been keen on fast-tracking Christians, Yazidis and others from Syria and Iraq.

Its rationale for the first is that with so many extremist militias operating there, terrorists could sneak in masquerading as refugees. Its explanation for the second is that the Islamic State is targeting minorities.


Last week, NDP leader Tom Mulcair set the defence community abuzz when he told Peter Mansbridge in a one-on-one interview on the CBC that the NDP would end the current military campaign to combat ISIS in Iraq if it’s elected.

In any previous election, the military old boys’ club would have responded to such a pronouncement with amused chuckles – the NDP could promise the moon because everyone knew it would never form the next government. This time around, the polls indicate that Mulcair as prime minister is a very real possibility.

Conservatives Slam Trump Over Support for Eminent Domain

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has taken fire from the right for his lack of foreign policy experience, his immigration proposals, and his apparent eagerness to insult women. Now a conservative free-enterprise advocacy group has attacked him for his views on a more esoteric subject: eminent domain, long held up by conservatives as an example of government overreach.

The Club for Growth launched a $1 million ad buy in Iowa this week that in part attacks the real estate mogul on his support for the practice, in which the government is able to take private property for public use. "Trump supports eminent domain abuse," the ad says. "Because he can make millions while we lose our property rights."

State-Targeted Iranian Journalists Show Distress, Canadian Study Finds

TORONTO — Many Iranian journalists who have been the targets of state-sanctioned aggression are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, a Canadian study has found.

The symptoms are especially severe for those who have been arrested by Iranian government agents, according to the study being released Thursday.

The privy council has no place in our democracy. Corbyn must challenge it

It’s difficult to make a case for social justice and equality on one bended knee, so my advice to Jeremy Corbyn would be to stay standing and to use his new position as a privy counsellor to make a couple of very clear statements about British democracy. First, that democratic values should be enshrined in all our institutions, top to bottom. Second, that for good, pragmatic and political reasons, our institutions need radical reform, starting with the abolition of the privy council.

Head of firearms group claims Tories backed out of deal

OTTAWA—The head of the National Firearms Association says the Conservative government did a “deal” with him to quell gun owners’ criticism of Bill C-51 last spring and then betrayed them by not agreeing in exchange to loosen restrictions in a firearms bill.

In an online posting to Facebook on Monday and in an interview Wednesday with the Star, NFA president Sheldon Clare said Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s office asked his group not to publicly testify to criticize the national security bill, C-51. In exchange, he said, gunowners would see changes made to C-42, a bill amending firearms legislation.

Why is a global tax-dodger like Google sponsoring an election debate?

The economy has been a key issue in this campaign. How taxes are paid – and who ends up paying them — is a key part of that discussion. So it would make sense that it would be a hot topic at Thursday’s leaders’ debate on the economy.

But there’s a worrisome development. One of the world’s biggest tax avoiders is getting in on the election action. Google is partnering with the Globe and Mail to host the leaders’ debate on the economy.

Who's Up for Debating an Anti-Poverty Plan?

With the economy the focus of tonight's leaders debate, some observers will be watching to see how much the discussion speaks to the needs of Canadians who are struggling.

"For a lot of voters it comes down to how they're doing, how their family's doing, whether they can make ends meet," said Trish Garner, a community organizer for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

Three Economic Risks Now Backfiring on Tories

Market wonks are sure to rejoice as three party leaders go head to head-to-head on the economy tonight.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has been taking a beating on the economy despite the announcement of a surprise surplus and the party's new attempts to frame the NDP and Liberals as poor economic managers.

One attempt took the form of a letter from Industry Minister James Moore (not seeking re-election) to British Columbia's business community, which warned against electing a "risky" new government.

Proportional Representation: So Close, Supporters Can Taste It

For supporters of electoral reform in Canada, the 42nd federal campaign is one their inner cynics were sure would never come.

"Who would have imagined 10 years ago that you would have all federal parties talking about electoral reform?" David Moscrop, of Fair Vote Canada, asked the over 130 people who attended this week's "In Defense of Democracy" panel on electoral reform at the Vancouver Public Library.

Technically the New Democratic Party campaigned on the issue -- and the Liberal and Conservative parties talked about it -- in the 2004 federal election. Nevertheless, the panelists and their audience were clearly energized by party's acknowledging the issue.

The Conservatives’ veiled pitch for the anti-Muslim vote

It might be an awkward time to remind Conservatives of this, but the current government has two different standards for when one can wear a niqab — one for citizenship ceremonies, one for voting.

It is definitely not OK — “offensive” even — for people to wear face coverings at citizenship ceremonies, Conservatives swiftly declared after an important court ruling cleared the way for that practice this week.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Visit To Canada Cost Taxpayers $373,000

OTTAWA — A three-day visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year cost taxpayers more than $373,000 — including almost $17,600 on beverages including alcohol, $80,000 on receptions, and $106,400 on a motorcade.

The costs of the visit were provided to The Huffington Post Canada under the Access to Information Act. They included $10,448 on hotel rooms, $30,000 on audio visual equipment, $21,708 on unspecified consultants, $73,213 on public servants’ travel, $14,790 on health services, $3,656,54 on flowers and wreaths, $1,584 on gifts, $5,981 on interpreters and translation and $75 for a flag. The bill did not include security costs.

Santorum Compares Kim Davis To MLK, Columbine Victim

Rick Santorum went out of his way on Wednesday to say that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, a woman who was jailed a few days for refusing to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples, was a Christian martyr on the level of a Columbine victim and Martin Luther King Jr.

After virtually unknown presidential candidate George Pataki said at the second Republican presidential debate on CNN that he would have fired Kim Davis for refusing to do her job, the former Pennsylvania senator defended her.

Conservatives made deal to quiet dissent on C-51, gun group says

The president of the National Firearms Association says the Conservative government offered to make changes to its gun licensing bill if the NFA held its fire on the controversial bill C-51, then reneged on the agreement.

Sheldon Clare, who is running as an Independent candidate in British Columbia’s Cariboo–Prince George riding, posted the details of the alleged arrangement to quell dissent about C-51 on his Facebook page Monday. Clare said the NFA’s opposition to C-51, which became law in June, was well known, and that there were “great legal minds” already arguing for changes. But the organization also decided to cancel its committee appearance to discuss C-51 because the government offered to make changes to C-42, another bill that worried the NFA.

Key Conservative witness in robocalls trial said scheme was national in scope

GUELPH — The Crown’s star witness in the robocalls case wrote last year that the Conservative party was complicit in a national scheme in the 2011 election that it has blamed on local staffers.

Former Guelph Conservative campaign worker Andrew Prescott wrote the statement in July 2013 while he was upset over problems he was having getting accreditation from the party to attend the national convention in Calgary in November of that year.

We’re Aiming At 200 Feet Or More Of Sea Level Rise: Here’s What That Looks Like

The bad news: If we burn all of the planet’s fossil fuels, we’ll melt all of the world’s land ice.

The good news: You’ll be long gone so … party on!

Homo sapiens sapiens, the species with the ironic name, is not known for long-term thinking. So if the very real danger of Sandy-level storm surges coming every year or two in a half century — along with Dust-Bowlification of a third of the Earth’s habitable and arable landmass — isn’t enough to stop us from using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, then the prospect we are going to melt all of the Earth’s land ice and raise sea levels more than 200 feet over the next few millennia or so ain’t gonna do the trick.

If You're White, Married, or College Educated, There's a Good Chance You Just Got Poorer

Are you white? Or married? Or do you have a college degree? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there's a good chance that you got poorer last year.

The US Census Bureau released its annual report on income and poverty today, and it's the latest reminder that the economic recovery hasn't really brought about any recovering for large segments of the population. The report looks at changes in income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States between 2013 and 2014. The main takeaway is that income is still stagnant. The median income in 2014 was $53,657—essentially unchanged for the third consecutive year, but 6.5 percent lower than in 2007, before the recession, and 7.2 percent lower than in 1999. The overall poverty rate hasn't changed, although it has risen for some demographic groups. The one bright point is that, thanks to Obamacare, the uninsured rate is at a record low.

Jason Kenney Defends Government's Response To Refugee Crisis

CALGARY — Conservative Jason Kenney insists the federal government will soon release details on how it plans to accelerate the intake of 20,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees but warns there are security matters that take precedence.

The party dispatched Kenney, the defence minister, to respond to a number of issues as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper prepared for Thursday's leaders debate on the economy.

Canada's Small-Business Tax Rate Mostly Helps The Wealthy, Economist Jack Mintz Says

OTTAWA — One of Canada's foremost tax experts argues in a new paper that it's time to raise small-business tax rates because too many wealthy Canadians are using the rate to reduce their tax bill.

Economist Jack Mintz argues that about 60 per cent of the value of the small-business deduction — the amount small businesses are allowed to claim on their tax return if their total capital is low enough  — accrues to households earning more than $200,000 a year.

Niqab Ban Ruling To Be Appealed By Feds, Chris Alexander Says

OTTAWA — The Conservatives said Wednesday they want the Supreme Court of Canada to consider the issue of whether face coverings can be banned from citizenship ceremonies.

This comes in the wake of a Federal Court of Appeal decision that tried to quickly quash that ban so that at least one woman could get the right to vote next month.

But whether Zunera Ishaq will be able to vote on Oct. 19, as the appeal court justices hoped, remained unclear as the government did not say whether it also intends to seek a stay of Tuesday's decision.

Corporate Tax Cuts Have Made Canada a Poorer Country

Even though we are neighbours, Canada does not follow the U.S. in spending astronomical amounts of funds to develop and purchase weapons and use them in wars. Our health care expense is way lower than that of the U.S. The U.S. spends about 17 per cent of its GDP on health care, whereas the Canada medical share is around 11 per cent.

So where has the Canadian government's money gone?

Income inequality: The elephant in the room this election

The need to end the expansion of social inequality and the concentration of wealth of the 1% has gone missing in action in the 2015 federal election campaign trail.
"No party's really campaigning to end inequality or made it a centrepiece of their platform. No leader's tour stop uses inequality as a stage or backdrop," said pollster Marc Zwelling, president of Vector Research.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau do address it indirectly with measures to help, what they call vaguely, a beleaguered "middle class." Mulcair has come out with a national child care plan and a $15 an hour minimum wage for federal workers, while Trudeau has spoken about a single integrated child tax benefit and asking the wealthiest Canadians to pay more tax.

Digging deeper into the federal 'surplus'

This week Stephen Harper's Conservatives are trumpeting the announcement of a small surplus ($1.9 billion) for fiscal year 2014-15. The political symbolism of this "good news" is a welcome change for them from a string of negative economic reports (most importantly, news that Canada slipped into recession in the first half of 2015) that has damaged their traditional claim to be the best "economic managers" for the country. Let's take a deeper look at the surplus, where it came from, and what it means. 

Avi Lewis: Canada Can't Use China As Climate Change Excuse

When it comes to climate change and green energy policy, director Avi Lewis says there are a few things Canadians can learn from Germany and China.

Yes, China.

Despite the hazardous amounts of smog levels in cities like Beijing, Lewis says the poor air quality associated with the country's rapid industrialization has pushed Chinese officials to strengthen their climate policies.

Federal Surplus Comes with Social Costs, Critics Say

If Canadians want to see how the federal government managed to reach a surplus for the 2014-15 fiscal year, they should think of veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and other wounds, said veterans' advocate Tom Beaver.

The Conservative government ran a surprise $1.9-billion budget surplus last year, its first since 2008. The surplus has been attributed in part to government "lapses" in spending, in which departments do not spend their full allotted budgets for the year.

Veterans like Beaver have complained a $1.1-billion lapse in spending over several years at Veterans Affairs could have been used to keep department bureaus open across the country, or to help vets who were wounded in the line of duty.

Jenni Byrne's brother-in-law broke ethics rule by joining lobby firm

The brother-in-law of Conservative Party campaign manager Jenni Byrne broke ethics rules by taking a job with a lobbying firm during the so-called “cooling off” period required of former ministerial staff, the federal ethics commissioner said Tuesday.

Dan Kosick, who is married to Byrne’s sister, Jerra, and now works for Human Resources Minister Pierre Poilievre, was found to have breached the Conflict of Interest Act after leaving government in 2013.

Men Educated At Ivy League Schools Vastly Outearn Female Classmates

Attending the country's most prestigious schools doesn’t make you immune to the unfortunate societal stew of sexism, bias and history that drives the income gap between men and women in the U.S.

Men who graduate from the country’s most exclusive universities vastly outearn their female counterparts, according to startling statistics released over the weekend by the Department of Education.