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, August 20, 2012

The right response to 'no job is a bad job'

Last May federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said there was no such thing as a bad job. The Law Commission of Ontario may disagree.

This week it put out a report about the rise in vulnerable workers and precarious jobs. Now that he's heard from executives who think Canadians are paid too much, Mr. Flaherty should consider the other side of the story, and the suggested fix.

Most of us rely on our jobs as our main form of economic security, but gradually the market has been shifting away from jobs offering reliable incomes and benefits.

Harper's response to AIDS epidemic has been a tale of disappointment

By the time Stephen Harper formed his first minority government in January 2006, then-president George W. Bush's surprising AIDS initiative was in full stride. The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief -- PEPFAR -- was a commitment of billions of dollars to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. PEPFAR has been the one great positive achievement of the Bush presidency, dramatically increasing the number of people in poor countries receiving life-saving HIV treatment.

Mr. Bush's PEPFAR gave hope that Mr. Harper might follow suit. So did the swift non-partisan commitment of funds by the previous Liberal government for international efforts to fight AIDS and related diseases. So did the enactment in 2004, by a unanimous vote in Parliament, of Canada's Access to Medicine Regime. CAMR was designed to increase the supply to poor countries of affordable generic versions of expensive patented drugs to combat HIV and other public health problems.

Liberals to cap debt limit on leadership campaign, says caucus chair

The federal Liberal Party is expected to present its Parliamentary caucus with a plan that will sharply limit the amount of debt candidates will be allowed to build up to finance leadership campaigns that is set to begin in November.

Party brass and MPs involved in backroom planning for the race, with a leadership vote to be held on an as-yet undisclosed date next April, are also expected to set a leadership campaign expense limit well below the $3.4-million ceiling for the last federal Liberal leadership race, held in 2006 prior to severe limits on political contributions took effect under the freshly minted Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.).

Ottawa to hire collection agency to recoup millions in unpaid fines

The federal government is looking to hire a collection agency to recoup millions of dollars in unpaid fines.

A letter of interest posted on a government contracting website shows 22,313 people owed close to $129 million in unpaid fines as of March 31.

“The (Public Prosecution Service of Canada) requires the services of firm or agency specialized in collection services,” the document says.

An Unserious Man

hereMitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate led to a wave of pundit accolades. Now, declared writer after writer, we’re going to have a real debate about the nation’s fiscal future. This was predictable: never mind the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan’s true constituency is the commentariat, which years ago decided that he was the Honest, Serious Conservative, whose proposals deserve respect even if you don’t like him.

 But he isn’t and they don’t. Ryanomics is and always has been a con game, although to be fair, it has become even more of a con since Mr. Ryan joined the ticket.

Paul Ryan Defended Stimulus -- When George W. Bush Wanted It In 2002

WASHINGTON - When Congressman Paul Ryan has been asked the past few years about the value of stimulus to the sagging economy and the nation's jobless, the Wisconsin Republican has dismissed it as meaningless, and dubbed it "sugar-high economics."

But that's when President Obama is pushing for the spending. When it was President George W. Bush arguing for more stimulus to boost a slow economy in the early 2000s, Ryan's economic analysis was entirely different.

A Canard That Will Not Die: 'Legitimate Rape' Doesn't Cause Pregnancy By Garance Franke-Ruta

Here we go again. Trotting out the contemporary equivalent of the early American belief that only witches float, Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, told a local Missouri station in an interview that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy.

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," Akin said in an interview with KTVI-TV that caused a furor online Sunday afternoon after being posted on TPM. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Rep. Todd Akin: Wrong, But Not Alone

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) opened up a can of controversy on Sunday when he claimed that women who are the victims of "legitimate rape" are unlikely to become pregnant. (Akin was defending his belief that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest.) Then Akin, who is running against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill for Senate, issued the obligatory statement saying he simply misspoke and really feels very deeply for women who are raped.

But here's the thing: Akin didn't make this idea up. That women can't get pregnant when they're raped is a thing that some people actually believe. I stumbled across this several months ago while researching another story. It turns out to be an idea held and repeated by individuals who oppose abortion in any circumstance.

Romney's Health Care Plan Freaks Out Utah Republicans

Few states can claim to be as uniformly conservative as Utah, where many Mormon residents consider Mitt Romney a native son. (Romney claimed a whopping 93 percent of the GOP primary vote here.) But even Utahns appear to be deeply worried about the impact of proposals by Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

Last Thursday night, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was in Salt Lake City to campaign for Mia Love, the African American mayor of Saratoga Springs and tea party darling who's trying to knock off the state's only Democratic House member, Jim Matheson. At an open-air amphitheater in West Valley City McCain and Love held a town hall meeting attended by about 250 people. There they were peppered with questions by people who identified themselves as loyal Republicans but were seriously concerned that the Romney-Ryan proposals would make life harder for them. Ironically, Love and McCain attempted to quell their supporters' concerns by offering up proposals that have already been implemented—by President Barack Obama.

Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and Redefining Rape

On Sunday, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who is challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race, used an interview with a local television station to defend his belief that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape: He claimed that women who are the victims of "legitimate rape" are unlikely to become pregnant. Akin said that the female body has "biological defenses" that prevent rape victims from getting pregnant. (That's not true.) The implication of his position is that if you were raped and became pregnant, you must have actually wanted it—it wasn't really rape.

Harper In The Arctic: PM's Golden Touch Wears Off With Mixed Record On Northern Promises

OTTAWA - Each of the last six summers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has journeyed to the North, sprinkling throughout its remote communities promises of federal funding and development.

This year will be no different: Harper leaves today for a five-day trip that begins with a rally near Whitehorse and ends Friday in Churchill, Man.

Immigration suspects fraud in marriage of 60-year-old Alberta man and 22-year-old wife

CALGARY — Federal immigration officials are fighting a court battle to keep an Alberta man from bringing his Filipino wife to the country because they suspect their marriage is a fraud.

But Carwin Miltimore insists the young woman he met online four years ago married him out of love, not a desire to come to Canada.

A visa officer rejected the 60-year-old truck driver’s sponsorship application of his 22-year-old spouse because they felt their age difference made it improbable the relationship was genuine. But last fall an immigration appeal tribunal ruled in the Ryley man’s favour.

Kitimat refinery would be a game-changer

In a startling development, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline idea has been resurrected. Until Friday, the smart money was calling this line doomed by overwhelming political forces. Its chances must now be at least 50-50.

The startling development is a proposal for a $13-billion oil refinery at Kitimat, B.C., that would provide 6,000 construction jobs for five years and 3,000 direct jobs thereafter, as well as thousands of service spinoffs. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues would be generated annually. In effect, our resources would have value added here instead of in China. No government could ignore that kind of opportunity.

Foreign influence in our elections?

OTTAWA -- Canada's Elections Act specifically prohibits foreigners from interfering in our elections.

That means if you are not a Canadian citizen you cannot "in any way induce electors to vote or refrain from voting or vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate."

The fear is a powerful foreign entity could come in and corrupt the process or try to swing our vote to help their interests rather than our own.

How that section of the act is interpreted, however, depends on who you ask.

Corrections Canada to make budget cuts as prison population grows

Corrections Canada faces years of big budget cuts even as its resources are stretched increasingly thin.

The federal agency must trim $295-million in spending by 2015 as part of the Conservative government’s deficit-reduction program. This is the first time the agency has had to cut its budget, year to year, since 2006.

One in two worried about eco-terrorist threats

OTTAWA - The Conservative government's verbal attacks on "environmental and other radical groups" have sparked a fear, most prevalent among Conservative voters, of an eco-terrorist attack on Canada's energy infrastructure, a new poll has found.

And the government would find strong support not only among its own supporters but from all Canadians, the poll finds, of using the RCMP and CSIS to spy on environmental groups as one of the means of preventing attacks on Canada's pipelines, refineries and hydro dams.

Canadian War Department drones on with summer splurge

With student activists away for summer vacation, it was the perfect occasion in late July for Carleton University to celebrate a new $40-million war-training contract. In partnership with war manufacturer CAE, Carleton's Visualization and Simulation Centre will enable Canadian Forces to better practice, in the coarse but memorable phrase of former Canadian warlord Rick Hillier, the fine art of killing people.

In a moment that would have done Orwell proud, Carleton President Roseann O'Reilly Runte gushed: "This is about saving lives. This is about saving money." On hand for the announcement was Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who boasted this war-training partnership will advance "Canada's security interests and...Canadian values around the world."

Anti-union Wildrose Party's fund-raising pitch piggybacks on union's heavy lifting

Is it just me, or is there a certain irony in the spectacle of a political party dedicated to the proposition that trade unions are bad trying to raise money by taking credit for the good work done by a union?

I refer, of course, to the Wildrose Party's recent exploitation of the brilliant exposure by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees of the appalling menu fed to helpless seniors in the province's continuing care facilities -- which even the mainstream media seems to think was the main reason Health Minister Fred Horne ordered 73 such residences to return to home cooking by Christmastime.

Alert readers will recall that nothing was done about Alberta Health Services' so-called 21-day menu -- the unpalatable tinfoil- and plastic-wrapped meals that have been trucked in, reheated and fed to helpless nursing home residents for months now -- until AUPE created a video that cleverly asked a food critic to say what he thought of the culinary qualities of the frozen meals.

Parties should stop ‘trying to kill each other’ in between elections: May

Parliamentarians need to “smarten up” and work together more often because politics is a mess and “spiraling out of control,” say MPs.

“We are clearly in a mess and the mess is spiraling out of control,” Independent MP Bruce Hyer told the Green Party convention last weekend. “We can continue to pursue a path that results in winners and losers ... or we can smarten up. … As far as I can see, Elizabeth is the leader who is putting our planet and our country ahead of party politics.”

Environment Minister Kent’s claim that GHG emissions reductions result of government’s sector by sector approach ‘nonsense’

In presenting his latest report on greenhouse gas emissions, Environment Minister Peter Kent boasted of what he called “our government’s leadership,” claiming that Canada’s reductions were “the result of the Harper government’s realistic, sector by sector approach to greenhouse gas regulations that is reducing emissions, while continuing to create jobs and encouraging economic growth.”

This is nonsense. The Conservative government under Stephen Harper has shown a serious absence of leadership. Even its boast of adopting U.S. fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles is a stretch since the auto industry’s move to more fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S. means the same vehicles will be sold in Canada.

GM extends pension, health cuts to salaried employees

General Motors of Canada Ltd. is tackling a broad array of costs, making substantial changes to pension plans and health-care benefits for its salaried employees as it kicks off wage negotiations with its unionized workers.

A defined-benefit pension plan for the company’s salaried employees will be converted to a less-expensive defined-contribution plan beginning Jan. 1. Salaried employees who retire after 2014 will receive lump-sum payments for health care instead of the traditional plan that had given them coverage for vision, dental and other expenses.

The day Canada’s white supremacists saluted Stephen Harper

hereSo far, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ideology-inspired of project of social and political engineering expresses itself most eloquently in three ways: the Conservatives’ egregious assault on civil liberties; the metamorphosis of Canada into a petro-state; and militarization of both Canadian society and our foreign policy. We’re yet to acknowledge how this project oppresses the “other” while empowering utopian idealists who believe that the eradication of minorities will cleanse their world of some perceived contamination.

In early June, Canada’s white supremacists saluted Harper.

The Conservative majority in the House of Commons had just passed Bill C-304 by 153 votes to 136. As usual, the bill passed with very little public debate and parliamentary oversight. And scant media attention. All opposition MPs voted against the bill.  All but Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Scott Simms, who sided with the Conservatives.