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 04, 2011

Cisco, the Whistleblower, and the Angry Judge

[Q&A] A high-tech giant stands accused of using U.S. officials to subvert Canadian justice.

British Columbia’s highest court has accused tech giant Cisco and U.S. officials of a massive abuse of process in order to have a Cisco whistleblower thrown in jail. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ronald McKinnon said Cisco had the “unmitigated gall” to attempt to use Canada’s justice system, via U.S. officials, to pressure former Cisco exec Peter Alfred-Adekeye into dropping a civil suit against the company. Alfred-Adekeye had alleged that Cisco was illegally forcing customers into maintenance contracts. Cisco eventually settled the suit and abandoned the maintenance-contract practice, but not before Alfred-Adekeye spent 28 days in a Canadian jail. The Alfred-Adekeye case has caused outrage among many commenters, some of whom have suggested it’s a sign that the U.S. is becoming a “corporate police state.” The Mark interviewed Marilyn Sandford, who represented Alfred-Adekeye during his extradition proceedings.

THE MARK: What happened in this case, and how did you get involved?

MARILYN SANDFORD: On May 31, the Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld a decision to stay extradition proceedings against my client, Peter Alfred-Adekeye. The United States was seeking to have my client surrender to face charges in the state of California, in which they alleged that he gained unauthorized access to Cisco’s computer products.

My client’s company had sued Cisco in the United States, in what’s called an anti-trust lawsuit. He and his company alleged that Cisco was engaging in competitive practices that were not lawful, as they were unduly restrictive to competitors. In response to that, Cisco counterclaimed that, just after he left his job there, my client had used a friend’s password – someone who still worked at Cisco – and had accessed things that, as a former employee, he should have been paying money to access online. As a result, Cisco claimed losses that it said amounted to over $14,000.

In the face of that criminal charge in the United States, my client was arrested here in Canada. Alfred-Adekeye is a British citizen who was residing in Switzerland. He was in Vancouver for the purpose of testifying in the lawsuit against Cisco, but, during the course of his testimony, the Canadian authorities – at the request of the Americans – arrested him on an extradition warrant. That was in May 2010. Prior to the extradition hearing in Vancouver, we brought a motion to have the case stayed as an abuse of the process of Canadian courts, and Justice McKinnon sided with us.

Cisco communicated with the U.S. prosecuting authorities concerning the factual allegations raised in its counterclaim, and a criminal charge was then laid. So the charge that my client was arrested on in Vancouver – as he was testifying in his lawsuit – was a criminal charge that mirrored this counterclaim. The judge found that the criminal process in the United States was used in an effort to pressure my client into abandoning his anti-trust suit against Cisco. That’s one of the aspects of what the judge found to be abusive – the fact that the U.S. used Canada’s criminal process, and then the arrest itself, to arrest Alfred-Adekeye as he was testifying in front of six lawyers. It was all on videotape, too, with the cameras rolling.

Full Article
Source: The Mark 

At least the Canada Post filibuster was exciting for the kids

It didn’t take long for this new Parliament’s odd character to assert itself. The NDP launched a filibuster to stall back-to-work legislation aimed at Canada Post employees. One NDP MP after another got up to hurl thunderbolts at the government and chew up time. Under Hansard’s rules, the clock accompanying the House of Commons’s workday stopped. The fourth Thursday in June lasted until Saturday night. The Prime Minister played host at a late-night hospitality suite for his MPs. The little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon.

Let’s unpack all of this and see what we can learn from it. As soon as Jack Layton dropped his stalling tactics the NDP lost, which means postal-union employees lost too. Stephen Harper’s government legislated a smaller pay increase than Canada Post had proposed in its final offer. Jean Chr├ętien took his pound of flesh in precisely the same way when he legislated posties back to work, at a discount, in 1997.

So the NDP learned it’s unable to shout back the tide. In a way this reinforces Ottawa’s latest conventional wisdom. Layton, it is fashionable to say, has less influence with 103 MPs against a majority government than he used to have with 37. He can’t force an election. He can’t block legislation. What good is he?

Plenty good, to his supporters. The supposed power he wielded from 2004 to 2011 was mostly a headache. Forcing an election meant returning, each time, to a Parliament with more Conservatives. Deciding not to force an election meant backing down. The Liberals usually helped Layton by backing down before he had to, but every once in a while he had to swallow himself whole.

Now he can do what opposition leaders are best at: he can oppose. Loudly, grandly, painlessly. Or he can choose not to oppose—to play the statesman. In fact the NDP has already done both. They voted to support a bill streamlining big trials with lots of criminal suspects, after a Quebec biker-gang trial dragged on so long the judge threw the case out. And then, when the mail strike came, they dug their heels in.

How smart was that? Conservatives were delighted because Layton’s play made his NDP look old-fashioned, a shill for organized labour. That’s no way to broaden the party’s appeal. But as Stephen Harper knows well, broadening your appeal isn’t always the smart thing to do. Big tents collapse if there’s nothing persuasive to hold them up, a fate that befell Joe Clark, Kim Campbell and Paul Martin in turn. Layton’s voters include a lot of people who believe in the right to strike. Now they know he still does, too. He can pick a big-tent issue some other time.

Meanwhile, his very young NDP caucus has enjoyed a few days’ adventure. Dozens of them got a chance to speak at length in the Commons, in the dead of night, on a not very important issue. They will have more confidence next time.

Full Article
Source: Maclean 

Muskoka G8 venue ‘ideal’ for snipers: RCMP review

OTTAWA — An internal RCMP review says the Conservative government’s choice of Ontario cottage country as the 2010 G8 Summit venue offered would-be snipers “ideal conditions” to assassinate a world leader.

It says the hilly, wooded terrain around Huntsville, Ont., featured not only excellent vantage points for gunmen, but covered approaches for intruders, and problematic land and water routes leading in and out of the area.

The 353-page review was released to The Canadian Press in response to an Access to Information request.

It also says the decision to host the G20 Summit in Toronto immediately afterwards “added a significant planning challenge” that prompted a “complete re-examination of the G8 Summit security.”

Security for the G8 and G20 events in late June 2010 involved over 20,000 personnel from across the country and a budget of $930 million — the biggest domestic security operation in Canadian history.

Disclosure of the RCMP’s security concerns about the Muskoka G8 venue follows an auditor general’s report that said the federal government “did not clearly or transparently” explain how $50 million was going to be spent in the region, home to senior cabinet minister Tony Clement.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

Our upper house of ill repute

The Senate is Confederation’s original sin, the great stain on the fathers’ handiwork, from which much greater evils have flowed. Structurally, it has contributed to the divisions and weaknesses that have bedevilled the federation. Without some constitutionally appropriate vehicle for expressing the concerns of the regions in federal politics, it has been left to the premiers, inappropriately, to do the job.

Worse, however, has been its corrosive effects, compounded over time, on our political ethics. It is of course intolerable that a free people should be governed, even in part, by those to whom they did not expressly grant such power. That would be true even if the Senate were filled with Solomons, and not the bizarre cargo of bagmen, strategists, failed candidates, criminals, cranks and other political problems that prime ministers have traditionally solved by the expedient of the Other Place.

Yes, some senators do good work. Committees of the Senate often produce thoughtful reports. But they have no more democratic right to translate their views into law, to move, amend, pass or reject bills and otherwise exercise the powers of legislators than I do. Though by convention the Senate’s powers are less than they appear on paper, they are still more than any patronage house should rightfully have, and have been exceeded on more than one occasion.

So it’s wrong: wrong in principle, and decidedly wrong in its sordid Canadian practice. What is more, we all know it’s wrong, and have known it from the start. And yet there it was, staring us in the face every day: a bordello, where one of our two legislative houses should have stood. As with certain other sins to which we have accommodated ourselves (our 50-year indulgence of separatism comes to mind), it made us more tolerant of the intolerable generally. After all, if such blatant corruption—let’s call it what it is—could be carried on in full view of the public, again and again, without kicking up more than a token amount of fuss, what else could the public be persuaded to accept?

Quite a lot, it turned out. If you want to know why our politics are so peculiarly amoral, so entirely uninterested in priniciple, so pliable, I suggest you start with the effects of 144 years of bending ourselves around the Senate. It was, to be frank, shaming, but since people can’t live with shame, we became cynical instead. Can’t be helped, we shrugged. No way to change it. And so instead it changed us.

All of which is a prologue to the current attempt at Senate reform. Though the critics have made no conspicuous proposals to reform the Senate themselves, they are full of reasons why this plan cannot possibly succeed. The provinces might not agree to elect their senators. The prime minister might not appoint those they did. Worse, he might—and then where would we be: with a Senate half-elected, and half-appointed?

Inspired by the legitimacy a democratic mandate confers, elected senators might begin to exercise real legislative power, based purely on the present haphazard allotment of seats, in which New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have more senators than British Columbia or Alberta. Why, it would be a mess, that’s what it would be. And—the capper—to what end? The public is not demanding this. There is no crisis to be averted. What on Earth could Stephen Harper be thinking, to wander into such a thicket?

Well, yes. And yes and yes and yes. There is no crisis. The public is not clamouring for the Senate to be fixed. There is no momentum for reform, and the Prime Minister’s proposals would almost certainly end in chaos. Perhaps that’s the point.

Full Article
Source: Macleans