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, May 30, 2011

Canada Post workers could strike as early as Thursday night: union

The union representing Canada Post's urban workers gave the Crown corporation an ultimatum Monday that it will go on strike this week if its final offer is rejected.

Denis Lemelin, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said the notice puts the union in a legal position to strike on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET after it turned down the latest offer from Canada Post.

Full Article

In Kandahar, PM hails Canada’s success as mission winds down

Stephen Harper has travelled to Afghanistan to pay tribute to the last rotation of Canadian combat troops, marking the coming end of a bloody five-year mission in Kandahar.

The Prime Minister, who flew into Afghanistan under tight security and secrecy Monday, mounted a Chinook helicopter to serve lunch to Canadian troops at a battlefield base in Sperwan Ghar, in the still hotly-contested Panjwai district of Kandahar. He also laid a wreath at a memorial for fallen soldiers and spoke to hundreds of assembled Canadian troops at Kandahar Airfield.

Full Article

Afghan mission a ‘great success,’ Harper tells troops in Kandahar


The Canadian legacy in Afghanistan cannot be properly written for years.

But in the dust of Kandahar on a day in late May when the mid-afternoon temperature topped 40C, Stephen Harper tried to get ahead of history.

As Canadian troops prepare to pivot, moving from a combat role to a training role in two months, the Prime Minister all but declared victory for this mission, both in front of some 500 soldiers at New Canada House, but more passionately to reporters afterward.

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Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood

A Democracy Now! special with the Canadian physician and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté. From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Dr. Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.


Jefferson Memorial Flash Mob Arrested For Dancing, Protesting Court Ruling

U.S. Park Police arrested five people on Saturday at the Jefferson Memorial. Their offense? Dancing.

The dancers were protesting an appeals court ruling handed down last week that the national monuments are places for reflection and contemplation -- and that dancing distracted from such an experience.

In 2008, Mary Brooke Oberwetter and a group of friends went to the Jefferson to commemorate the president's 265th birthday by dancing silently, while listening to music on headphones. Park Police ordered the revelers to disperse and arrested them when they did not.

Full Article and Videos

Afghanistan War IEDs Cause Surge In Double Amputees Among U.S. War Wounded

American soldiers and Marines walking combat patrols in Afghanistan have suffered a surge of gruesome injuries, losing one or both legs and often their genitals to crude homemade bombs Taliban insurgents bury in dirt roads and pathways.

In some cases, American military surgeons tell The Huffington Post, these traumatic amputations occur so close to soldiers’ hips that it is difficult to fit prosthetic legs, severely limiting the patients’ future mobility and rehabilitation. In addition, the loss of sexual function for formerly healthy young men in their early 20s causes severe anxiety and depression and can wreck new marriages.

Full Article

Israel 1967 Borders: Harper And Netanyahu Didn't Chat About It

Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not discuss the G8 summit with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, a Harper spokesman says.

The statement by Dimitri Soudas, Harper's communications director, appears to contradict a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Netanyahu phoned Harper before the summit to ask him to block G8 support for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.

Soudas said Sunday in an email to The Canadian Press that Harper did speak to "various leaders in the last few days, including the Israeli prime minister as well as the head of the Arab League."

Full Article

Tories left oilsands data out of UN report

The federal government has acknowledged it deliberately excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in annual pollution from Canada’s oilsands industry in 2009 from a recent 567-page report on climate change that it was required to submit to the United Nations.
The numbers, uncovered by Postmedia News, were left out of the report, a national inventory on Canada’s greenhouse gas pollution. It revealed a six per cent drop in annual emissions for the entire economy from 2008 to 2009, but does not directly show the extent of pollution from the oilsands production, which is greater than the greenhouse gas emissions of all the cars driven on Canadian roads.
The data also indicated that emissions per barrel of oil produced by the sector is increasing, despite claims made by the industry in an advertising campaign.

Full Article

G8-G20 Security: Police Made Millions On Toronto Summit

(CBC) Police officers from forces outside the Greater Toronto Area brought in to work at last summer's G8 and G20 summits made millions of dollars through lucrative contracts paying them overtime and vacation rates, according to newly released RCMP documents.

CBC/Radio-Canada has obtained copies of RCMP contracts totalling $7 million for the hiring of 657 officers from 17 different local forces from coast to coast. The invoices detail how over the course of a week or two in June 2010, more than half of all the work performed by those officers was paid for at premium rates of 1½ or two times an officer's usual wages.

One of the most costly examples involves Montreal's police force, which submitted an invoice to the RCMP for 278 officers paid at "double time" for all the work they performed around the Toronto and Huntsville summit sites between June 19 and June 29, at a total cost of $3,342,578.

The officers were technically on vacation and so charged the premium rates, according to Mélanie Lajoie, a spokeswoman for Montreal's police force.

The RCMP insists it had no choice but to hire additional officers who were on vacation or time off from their local force for the G8/G20, and to pay them at premium rates according to each force's respective collective agreements.

Full Article

Advice to Harper

Prime Minister Harper,

Your first parliamentary majority comes at a time of considerable change in Canadian political culture, liberty movements in many nations and a systemic crisis in the global ecology. It's worth noting that the Conservative party's founding principles include a commitment to upholding our "obligations among the nations of the world," with references to fair trade and future generations, and to "integrity, honesty and concern for the best interests of all."

That, then, should commit you to transparency, civility and co-operation. In this spirit -- and for your legacy -- please consider the following:

- Apologize to Canadians for being in contempt of the House -- the true reason your minority government was brought down, and a rightful concern for Canadians, which you've dismissed as mere "bickering." Have the humility and courage to say, "I'm sorry."

- Stun the country with massive support for clean renewable energies to make the Tar Sands a footnote in the sad history of polluting industries. Make Canada a world leader in the clean jobs sector.

- Respect the clear and compelling climate science that should put Canada in the forefront of climate action. Support "the right to a future" for all Canadian kids.

- Reduce crime by investing in early years and increasing literacy, not by ineffective and costly prisons.

- Show your respect for Canada's children by legislating a ban on direct advertising and marketing to kids 12 and under.

Show us you're truly committed to balancing "fiscal accountability, progressive social policy and individual rights and responsibilities" and want to "build a national coalition of people who share these beliefs" as the Conservative Party's founding principles state.

Canadians want to believe their Prime Minister. We all expect you to set a good example, especially our children and youth.


Like a Surveillance Camera in Your Home

Stephen Harper's "lawful access" legislation represents an unprecedented invasion of privacy.

The internet is no longer simply an information revolution; it has become an integral part of our lives, and our increasing reliance on it has become a serious vulnerability. The Canadian government will soon table “lawful access” legislation, which will require internet service providers (ISPs) to record our contact information, set up a constant internet surveillance system, and report specific online exchanges upon request. This information would then be made available to law enforcement officials even if they did not have a court order or a warrant.

When this legislation was initially proposed, Canadian privacy and information commissioners expressed grave concern about the implementation of such drastic measures. They noted that the range of information obtained could exceed that gleaned from a lawful wiretap, and that there were many gaps in the proposed oversight model.

If passed, this law will fundamentally affect our social and personal lives. It’s akin to the government setting up a surveillance camera in our homes that it can turn on whenever it sees fit. The more we use the internet, the greater the chances are that we will be subject to state oversight.

Full Article

Conservative bill to set term limits, allow elections for senators

The Conservatives will introduce legislation in June that will bring about the most important changes to the Senate since Confederation, just weeks after they were criticized for appointing three Tory faithful to the Red Chamber.
One new bill will impose term limits on all senators, including those already in the chamber; the other will allow provinces to hold elections for senators whenever seats become available.
The Senate reform legislation will be a major priority for the new majority Conservative government when the 41st Parliament convenes Thursday.

Full Article

CEO pay jumps 13 per cent

The economic downturn in 2008 and 2009 was a distant memory by 2010 for Canada’s top chief executive officers, at least as far as their pay packages were concerned.

A Globe and Mail review of executive pay last year shows CEOs at Canada’s 100 largest companies saw their compensation jump 13 per cent last year, led higher by a 20-per-cent increase in annual cash bonuses. Base salaries climbed 4 per cent.

Full Article

Foreign workers uniting to seek better treatment

Foreign farm workers, nannies and other temporary labourers in Canada are forming a united front to fight for better treatment by employers.

“What we are seeing now is a shift and expansion of the temporary foreign workers program from agriculture and live-in care to food industry, restaurants, hospitality and tourism,” said Sonia Singh of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, the coalition to be launched this week.

“We are seeing worsening work conditions for these workers. It sets a dangerous path to have our immigration policy based on temporary work.”

Despite the recent economic downturn, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has skyrocketed from 160,908 in 2006 to 283,096 in 2010.

Individual groups have organized within their own sectors, but it is time to have a united front to advocate for all foreign workers, who are at the mercy of Canadian employers and third-party recruiters, said Singh, whose group is made up of 17 grassroots organizations and unions.

Full Article

$784M budget shortfall a sign of fiscal doomsday?

Toronto faces a massive $784 million shortfall projected for its 2012 budget. To balance it, the city will be forced to cut services and struggle to find new sources of revenue.

And without offering him extra staff or resources, the mayor has tasked Del Grande with what seems like a mission impossible. During last year’s municipal election, Rob Ford promised he’d lower taxes and stop the gravy train — all without cutting any city services, “guaranteed.” Now, unless the mayor and Del Grande pull off a miracle, this budget chair may unfairly, but forever, be identified as the man who couldn’t save Toronto from the approaching apocalypse (assuming there’s anyone left around to remember).

But I have some faith in Del Grande’s abilities and don’t honestly believe society as we know it will come to an end next year. But it very well may look different than what we’re used to. The buses will continue to run, but not as often. We’ll still have community centres, but they’ll be more expensive to access. Our roads will be repaired, but not as quickly. Some services may disappear completely.

To avoid this scenario, I wonder if most Torontonians are willing to pay higher user fees or taxes? Should we consider other options such as the controversial subject of introducing road tolls for 905ers, who are essentially subsidized by Toronto’s property taxpayers when using our infrastructure?

If Mr. Ford was wrong about his gravy prophecies, something will surely have to give.

Full Article

Was Harper asked to help Israel at G8 summit?

ATHENS—Stephen Harper has been portrayed as more than just a friend to Israel but someone who did the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at last week’s G8 summit in France.

A leading Israeli newspaper reported that Harper was asked by Netanyahu to ensure that the summit of the world’s leading economies did not refer to Israel’s pre-1967 borders as any starting point to new Middle East peace negotiations.

U.S. President Barack Obama had called for those borders in concert with land swaps as a negotiating start but Netanyahu called those borders “indefensible.’’

The English language Haaretz said Netanyahu called Harper on the eve of the summit to express his concern that the summit would back the Obama position.

At the summit neither Harper nor his spokesperson would deny reports that the Canadian PM blocked the 1967 reference from the final communiqué.

After any reference to 1967 borders was dropped from the final communiqué Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called his Canadian counterpart John Baird to thank him for his help, Haaretz said.

Full Article