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 21, 2012

Tom Mulcair will not move, but Conservatives define oilsands debate

OTTAWA—The Conservatives like to call it “poking the bear.”

But the big question on the federal political landscape right now is how the bear, so far unwilling to move no matter how many times the stick is stuck in his ribs, will ultimately respond.

The government will keep poking Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, alleging he is pitting east versus west, because they believe they have found the NDP leader’s soft underbelly, a flank Mulcair himself exposed.

Some Conservatives may sincerely believe Mulcair’s call for environmental sustainability in this country is really a question of unity and an insult to the ascendant west. But in strictly political terms, the goal here is to spark a Mulcarian eruption or a humiliating climb down.

And the longer they poke, the more they evade scrutiny of Employment Insurance reforms or Old Age Security changes or anything else they have buried in their giant budget bill.

Thomas Mulcair’s ill-conceived war on the West

CALGARY—NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair might as well have declared war on the West.

That’s the way it sounded from this end of the country when a couple of weeks ago he told a CBC radio program that something needs to be done about rapid oilsands development.

According to Mulcair, it has artificially inflated the Canadian dollar and thereby delivered a bruising blow to central Canada’s export-dependent manufacturing sector.

Mulcair might as well have said that the western resource-based economy is the enemy of the eastern-based manufacturing sector and must be stamped out at all costs.

Raw resources: remembering our history in order not to repeat it

Just about at the same time that people in the province of Quebec decided, in overwhelming majority, that decisive action was required by their provincial government to protect the French language, people in western Canada decided that equally decisive action was required by their provincial governments to ensure control of their own natural resources.

The federal government of the day (led by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) more-or-less accepted the Quebec National Assembly's right to address the language issue. But the same government waged a battle of sumo-like proportions to try to wrestle control over oil, potash, uranium and other resources from western Canadian provinces.

Which didn't go over very well.

Occupy Toronto to march in solidarity with the Quebec student strike

In support of striking students in Quebec against the Charest government and Law 78, Occupy Toronto is answering the call from Quebec to bring the spirit of the student strike to Ontario.

Both Quebec and Ontario students have the same demands, accessible education.

In Quebec, the student strike - which sparked the Maple Spring - has been going on for months. 160,000 students are on strike, approximately 35% of the post-secondary student population in the province. Of those, 65,000 are CEGEP students, all in Montreal and surrounding regions.

The call to spread the spirit of the student strike is echoed in an open letter drafted to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

Tories train their intellectual big guns on Tom Mulcair: if Rex Murphy fails, there's always Don Cherry!

"BRIEFING NOTE: Respond to criticism about economic impact of high-Loonie, everything-for-petrochemical-industry policy by making voters see Thomas Mulcair as recklessly un-Canadian…"

This isn't an actual quote from the Tories' current list of talking points, but it seems to be what the Strategic Heavy Lifters in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative brain trust have in mind for their main attack on the leader of the NDP Opposition. Expect them to trot out that French passport momentarily.

They promised us the Mother of All Battles, and the best they can come up with before Harper's Republican Guards bug off to the dusty hills of Alberta is to call the NDP leader un-Canadian?


Oh, I know, I'm being hyperbolic. I admit it. It'll be a long road before Mulcair and the NDP form the government of Canada, and the possibility's quite high the old slime-hurlers of Harper’s Tea Party of Canada will come up with something more effective than this kind of fake patriotism, the last refuge of the modern neo-Con petro-scoundrel. So I guess we shouldn't start measuring the orange shag carpet for the prime ministerial residence on Sussex Drive just yet.

But, really people, does Harper seriously think getting his party’s Media Auxiliary over at the National Pest to assign Rex Murphy the job of calling Mulcair "recklessly un-Canadian" is a strategy? Rex Murphy?

Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we need strong financial regulation — especially in an era saturated with pro-business, pro-market propaganda. So we should always be grateful when someone makes the case for regulation more compelling and easier to understand. And this week, that means offering a special shout-out to two men: Jamie Dimon and Mitt Romney.

I’ll come back shortly to the troubles at JPMorgan Chase, the bank Mr. Dimon runs. First, however, let me talk about Mr. Romney, whose remarks about those troubles were so off-point that they constitute a teachable moment.

Here’s what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said about JPMorgan’s $2 billion loss (which may actually have been $3 billion, or $5 billion, or more, but who’s counting?): “This was a loss to shareholders and owners of JPMorgan and that’s the way America works. Some people experienced a loss in this case because of a bad decision. By the way, there was someone who made a gain.”

Why Is NATO Necessary?

For much of the post–cold war era, NATO has been a military alliance in search of a reason to exist. When ministers from the alliance’s twenty-eight member nations meet in Chicago in May, the question Why NATO? will once again hang over the proceedings.

For the past decade, Afghanistan has been the principal mission of the alliance, with America’s NATO allies supplying more than 30,000 troops to the war effort there. With that engagement beginning to wind down, now is the right time to ask what kind of NATO—if any—we need.

The alliance has twice been reinvented since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. In the decade after the cold war, membership in or partnership with NATO was seen as a way to stabilize the transitional nations of Central and Eastern Europe, including the Balkans. “NATO 3.0,” as US Permanent Representative Ivo Daalder calls it, expanded the alliance’s mission far beyond Europe, remaking it into a quasi‑global-security and crisis-management organization with partnerships beyond its core members.

"I Always Knew Somebody Would Get Killed Inside That Place"

Early on the morning of September 3, 2009, Nicholas Adrian Revetta left the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, suburb of Pleasant Hills and drove 15 minutes to a job at US Steel's Clairton Plant, a soot-blackened industrial complex on the Monongahela River. He never returned home.

Revetta was working as a laborer for a US Steel contractor that had employed his father, at the same plant that employed his brother. Shortly before 11:30 a.m., gas leaking from a line in the plant's Chemicals and Energy Division found an ignition source and exploded, propelling him backward into a steel column and inflicting a fatal blow to his head. Thirty-two years old, he left behind a wife and two young children.

Nick Revetta's death did not make national headlines. No hearings were held into the accident that killed him. No one was fired or sent to jail.

With Keystone and Gateway in political limbo, pipeline advocates turn to Canada’s East Coast

EDMONTON - The movement to ship Alberta bitumen to Canada’s eastern provinces is gathering momentum as plans to build the Gateway and Keystone lines languish in political limbo.

Major industry players, politicians and high-profile advocates are starting to pay serious attention to the idea, which could see bitumen piped from the oilsands through Ontario, Quebec and eventually to ports on the East Coast.

Advocates say shipping Alberta bitumen east could be a nation-building exercise, uniting Canadians around the oilsands by creating jobs across the country.

They say upgrading and refining the oil in Canada ensures Canadians reap the rewards of value-added work, and that using Canadian oil in Canada increases the country’s energy independence.

The tuition protesters’ fellow travellers

Mix together a generation of kids used to having their way at home with various groups of adults carrying their own political agendas, and the cocktail you get is the longest and wildest student revolt in Canada’s history.

This so-called “strike” would never have lasted so long if it hadn’t been supported by adult fellow travellers from political parties, labour unions and pressure groups determined to strike a mortal blow to Jean Charest’s Liberal government. The increase in university tuition, a relatively minor issue, served as a pretext for a ferocious political fight that would eventually gather a grab bag of protesters, from environmentalists to sovereigntists to ordinary citizens angry at the alleged government corruption.

MacKay’s take on Libya mission puzzling

Over the past few weeks, embattled Defence Minister Peter MacKay has drawn opposition and media fire over a number of sticky issues.

First it was his use of a search and rescue helicopter to pluck him from a private fishing lodge. Then it was his department’s $10-billion accounting shortfall on the cost of buying the F-35 fighter jet. Most recently, it’s been his bobbling of the actual cost of Canada’s participation in last year’s Libya mission.

On Oct. 29, 2011, just days after Moammar Gadhafi was killed and the NATO campaign was coming to a close, a gleeful MacKay told the CBC that the war effort had come in under budget at less than $50 million.

Last week, the Department of National Defence tabled the final tally in a parliamentary budget report, which pegged the total cost of the 10-month long intervention at $347 million, of which at least $106 million was “incremental” costs directly associated with the Libya mission.

France is in worse shape than it seems

Less than 12 hours after taking office, President François Hollande, France's first Socialist leader in 17 years, headed to Berlin and his first meeting with conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His plane was struck by lightning, perhaps an indication of what lies ahead. It is bound to become a familiar journey, as the leaders of the euro zone's two largest economies grapple with the intertwined problems of what to do about Greece and how to hold the currency union together. After their initial meeting, Mr. Hollande restated his commitment to redirecting Europe toward growth policies and away from more economy-choking austerity.

It is important to note that Mr. Hollande is still in full campaign mode, trying to win a majority in next month's parliamentary elections. Bashing austerity plays well with voters in the midst of a slump, as a handful of radical Greek parties and Mr. Hollande himself can attest. But he is committed to another plank in his mainly centrist platform: sound fiscal management. He has promised to slash the budget deficit to the current EU standard of 3 per cent of GDP next year (from 5.2 per cent by the end of this year) and to balance the budget by 2017.

He intends to accomplish this through higher taxes, rather than making deep spending cuts or tackling the country's myriad structural problems. That's a tall order, given the deteriorating economy and the fact that no French government has run a surplus since 1974. By some measures, France is in worse shape than embattled Italy, which has a healthier export sector, less external debt and better-capitalized banks. After barely reaching 0.1-per-cent growth in the final quarter of 2011, France did not expand at all in the first quarter of 2012. And prospects look bleak. Exports are nearly flat, corporations have reduced capital investment, consumer spending is weak, and a rapid rise in unit labour costs is making the country increasingly uncompetitive.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: editorial

The misguided whip of Dalton McGuinty

In medieval times, whipping boys were the young surrogates, often of noble birth, who were assigned to take the punishment meted out when princes misbehaved. And properly so, according to the divine right of kings, which held that only a king could whip a prince. With modest literary adaptation, the whipping boy now serves as an apt metaphor for Ontario’s lashing of doctors for offences they did not themselves commit.

Premier Dalton (“King Dalt”) McGuinty has decreed that Ontario’s best-paid and most skilled doctors – cardiologists, radiologists and ophthalmologists among them – must be punished for working harder, for treating more patients, for saving more lives. But the offender here is not our princeling doctors. It is the regent himself whose treasury, long depleted by royal profligacy, is now bare.

So 27 Ontario doctors earned more than $2-million last year – an increase of seven (yes, seven) from the previous year. So 400 Ontario doctors earned more than $1-million last year. So what? What specifically is the crime here? And who committed it, anyway?

Heralding end to Afghan war complicated by harsh realities

President Barack Obama and NATO leaders expressed confidence in Afghanistan’s ability to take the lead for its own security next year, as nations with a stake in the deeply unpopular war huddled Monday for talks aimed at paving the way for its end.

The alliance leaders, meeting in Mr. Obama’s hometown, solidified plans for an “irreversible transition” in which Afghan security forces take control next summer with NATO sliding into a support role and ultimately withdrawing by the end of 2014.

Mr. Obama said the transition was “the next milestone” in NATO’s plans for bringing the nearly 11-year long war to a close.

Police under attack — the flip side of G20 misconduct

Aluminum baseball bats twirled through the air. Rocks, wood pieces and bottles of urine were hurled, along with a cacophony of insults.

A handful of police testimony in last week’s sweeping G20 report by Ontario’s police complaints watchdog outlines in striking detail the hostility officers faced during the June 26-27, 2010 summit. The report collects in one place for the first time evidence suggesting officers policing the summit were attacked, and possibly provoked, by protesters.

“That’s the subtext of the G20, the conditions that our officers had to face,” Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said Sunday. “It was pretty well unprecedented. It’s very frustrating as a police officer for you to be abused like that.”

The violent conditions front line police faced depict an atmosphere in which officers legitimately feared for their safety.

Montreal streets turn chaotic as protesters clash with police

MONTREAL—Quebec’s student protests took a dark, angry turn over the weekend following the introduction of an emergency law aimed at restoring order in the province, while the movement gained a number of high-profile supporters on the international stage.

For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 300 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called “non-life threatening injuries.”

Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.

CP Rail Strike: Labour Minister Lisa Raitt Urges Workers To Reconsider Striking

OTTAWA - Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is expressing concern about the threat of a strike at CP Rail (TSX:CP).

The union representing 5,000 employees issued 72 strike notice this weekend and the workers could legally walkout as early as Wednesday.

The two sides are continuing to negotiate and Raitt issued a news release Sunday urging talks or binding arbitration rather than a work stoppage.

But the release didn't give any hint whether Raitt would intervene as she did to block job action at Air Canada and Canada Post.

A spokeswoman for Raitt also wouldn't comment on the possibility.

Quebec Student Protests: 300 Arrested In Montreal Night Of Protest, Movement Gains International Exposure

MONTREAL - Quebec's student protests took a dark, angry turn over the weekend following the introduction of an emergency law aimed at restoring order in the province, while the movement gained a number of high-profile supporters on the international stage.

For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 300 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called "non-life threatening injuries."

Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.

Quebec's emergency law, high-profile supporters emboldens protest movement

MONTREAL - Quebec's student protests took a dark, angry turn over the weekend following the introduction of an emergency law aimed at restoring order in the province, while the movement gained a number of high-profile supporters on the international stage.

For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 186 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called "non-life threatening injuries."

Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.

Afghanistan mission won't be extended, MacKay says

The Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan to train the country's army will end in 2014 as planned despite entreaties from NATO to extend the deployment, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Sunday.

At a meeting of NATO leaders in Chicago, MacKay said Canada has "been a major contributor" to the Afghan war "since the very beginning" and has done more than its fair share. Canada will continue to contribute to Afghanistan in ways other than military personnel, he said. It's believed that would include financial assistance and development aid.

"That doesn't necessarily mean troop contributions or trainers — that means giving the Afghans the resources that they need to continue to make progress and hold the fort," MacKay said.

A formal announcement on Canada's plans for Afghanistan is expected Monday from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is also in Chicago for the NATO meeting.

Lobbying czar should be able to fine lobbyists: House Ethics Committee report

The federal government will likely make changes to legislation following a House committee report recommending that Canada’s lobbying commissioner should be able to fine practitioners who breach the Lobbying Code, say MPs.

“My feeling talking to people at Treasury Board and the minister on this is that they are awaiting the report and want to consider what the committee actually had to say following its hearings. I think they’re approaching it with an open mind,” Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ont.) told The Hill Times last week. “If there’s one thing that Minister [Tony] Clement has been clear on, it’s he wants to provide even more transparency.”

The House Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee released its report on its review of the Lobbying Act on May 14. It made 11 recommendations after months of hearings from stakeholders and Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd.

Lead ‘robocalls’ investigator experienced in ‘politically charged’ investigations

The man behind the controversial robocalls investigation is Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews, a certified fraud examiner, a 30-year veteran of the RCMP who investigated the Airbus affair and the George Radwanski affair and is known as methodical, meticulous and by the book.

Mr. Mathews is leading the ongoing Commissioner of Canada Elections investigation into allegations of misleading phone calls made on the day of the May 2, 2011 federal election, and has been working his way “very methodically” through evidence, but appears to now be likely nearing the end of his investigation, says Ottawa Citizen journalist Glen McGregor who, along with Postmedia News reporter Stephen Maher, have been closely tracking Mr. Mathews’ investigation and are the two reporters who broke the original story.

House set to pass controversial Copyright Bill next week, after 10,000 consultations

Seven years, two governments, four bills, and more than 10,000 consultations later, Canada is one step closer to having an updated copyright regime as the House is set to pass Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, at third reading when MPs return next week.

After a marathon 23 votes last Tuesday, MPs passed Bill C-11 at report stage, disappointing the opposition parties who tried to amend the legislation before it’s sent to the Senate.

“None of the amendments were passed either at report stage or during the committee which is unfortunate,” said NDP MP Tyrone Benskin (Jeanne-Le Ber, Que.), who sat on the legislative committee which studied Bill C-11.

Government House leader like air traffic controller, directs traffic in daily Question Period political drama

The cameras are always rolling in the House Chamber, but everyone knows the biggest show is the 45-minute daily drama known as Question Period. Both sides of the House prepare accordingly by rehearsing the intended steps of what NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen describes as the “tricky dance” that is QP.

“We do an early morning go-through…a quick scan of the news, and figure out some of the priorities for the party [in Question Period] all based on a theme that we work through with the leader and other key folks in the executive,” said Mr. Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) of his party’s daily preparations.

And the formula seems to be the same across the House. It is typically, though not necessarily, the respective party House leaders who take charge of QP choreography and hold early morning meetings to review the day’s news and pinpoint the hot issues. Party Whips, deputy leaders, and even leaders may also be involved.

Feds send ‘strong signal’ to PS executives on ‘at-risk’ pay

The government is using the way it pays its executives to send a “strong signal” through the public service that austerity is its priority, says governance expert Maryantonett Flumian.

The federal government has tied 40 per cent of executives’ at-risk pay to how well they did as a group in finding efficiencies in the public service as a part of the government’s strategic and operating review, the results of which where in the 2012 budget. If executives have fumbled the file, they risk losing a portion of their salary.

The decision came to light last fall, and Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) said that it was the first time an executive’s pay would be tied to reducing the size of government.

Montreal protesters defy demo law and clash with police

About 300 people were arrested and 20 were injured during overnight protests in Montreal in defiance of Quebec's contentious Bill 78, which cracks down on student-stoked demonstrations sparked by the province's proposed tuition hikes.

Ten police officers and 10 civilians suffered minor injuries in the latest protest. One person was taken to hospital with a serious head injury that emergency services called "non-life-threatening."

Just before midnight on Sunday, about 5,000 people gathered in the streets in the heart of the city's Latin Quarter, alternating between cacophonous cheering and chanting.

"Devrait pas nous fâcher," they yelled — "You shouldn't get us mad."

The troubling truth about free trade

As soon as it won its coveted majority, the Harper government put the pedal to the metal on the trade front, with a stampede of new free-trade deals. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade currently lists 18 different deals in play, ranging from puny (Panama and Jordan) to gargantuan (Europe, Japan and India).

Anyone who stands in the way of this juggernaut clearly must oppose trade in general. At least that’s how the Conservatives portray the issue, attempting to brand its New Democratic opponents as economically illiterate dinosaurs.

There’s a big difference, however, between signing free-trade pacts and actually doing something about trade. Canada’s trade performance deteriorated badly over the past decade. The quantity of goods and services shipped abroad is seven percentage points lower than when the Harper government took office, lower even than back in 2000. And what we do export increasingly consists of raw resources (especially oil). Our once-impressive trade surplus has melted into deficit. Despite accelerating petroleum sales, we’re running up international red ink at the rate of 3 per cent of GDP per year.

Low-lying Harper usually signals major policy shift

“Harper’s gone missing,” someone who is close to this government recently observed in a conversation.

The Prime Minister isn’t literally missing – he’s in Chicago (for NATO talks). But he does appear to have retreated from the front lines of the political battle under way over the omnibus bill, the F-35 purchase, and much else.

If that’s true, a shoe could be about to drop. There are two likely shoes: one is public-sector union agreements; the other is equalization.

Either one, or both, could soon be in for major reforms.

This Prime Minister has a tendency to disappear periodically from the day-to-day life of the government, only to return with an announcement. He did it last fall, before deciding to scrap health-care negotiations and proceed with a series of straight transfers without strings.