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.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

John A. Macdonald wanted an ‘Aryan’ Canada

In 1885, John A. Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed …” This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British Dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state.

He did this not just in any piece of legislation, but in the Electoral Franchise Act, an act that defined the federal polity of adult male property holders and that he called “my greatest achievement.”

Robocalls Scandal: Complaints From Canadians Have Doubled

OTTAWA - The number of complaints about fraudulent or misleading telephone calls in last year's federal election has almost doubled, according to court documents filed by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

By mid August, Elections Canada had received 1,394 complaints "alleging specific occurrences" in 234 of Canada's 308 federal ridings, the lawyer for the elections watchdog says.

Syria Conflict: Russia Warns West Against Unilateral Action On Syria Following Obama Threat

BEIRUT, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Russia warned the West on Tuesday against unilateral action on Syria, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama threatened "enormous consequences" if his Syrian counterpart used chemical or biological arms or even moved them in a menacing way.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking after meeting China's top diplomat, said Moscow and Beijing were committed to "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law...and not to allow their violation".

Elections Canada commissioner declines to hand over robocalls investigation data to Federal Court

OTTAWA — Elections Canada has updated the number of complaints it received over misleading election phone calls but is refusing to provide more details in Federal Court about its ongoing “robocalls” investigations.

By Aug. 16, the agency had fielded 1,394 complaints alleging specific instances of misleading phone calls during the election from people in 234 different ridings, according to new data provided by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Wall Street crooks: A brief history of financial deregulation

'Deregulation for Wall Street crooks' is one chapter of a manuscript entitled, Wall Street Thieves: the Crisis of Capitalism and the 99% Movement for a Just and Better World. I wrote the first draft of this book from Havana where I live half the year with my Cuban wife and family.  Over the three months from November to January as I was writing the original draft, the rapid spread of the 99 per cent movement in the US and elsewhere was unfolding.

I had the opportunity to participate in the beginning of Occupy Vancouver, Canada assemblies in October, 2011 before returning to Cuba.  That experience, from the perspective of 40 years of citizen activism, gave me a feeling of intense excitement and hope for a better world, a feeling I had not felt for decades.

Critics blast Harper's proposed F-35 procurement plan

One of the most vocal critics of the F-35 stealth-fighter program had some simple advice for the Harper government: fly before you buy.

Winslow Wheeler, a former defence auditor in Washington, says anyone would be a “fool” to commit to the program before the multi-role jet fighter exits its testing and development phase in 2019.

Mr. Wheeler was among four witnesses to appear on Parliament Hill on Tuesday before a panel of New Democrat MPs, who interrupted their summer recess in an attempt to put last spring’s incendiary controversy back on the public radar.

Ottawa cuts to refugee health care almost costs man his vision

Daniel Garcia Rodriguez would have permanently lost his vision from a chronic retinal detachment if it wasn’t for a Toronto surgeon who defied Ottawa’s order not to operate on the Aurora man’s eye.

Garcia Rodriguez was almost certain to go blind, after Ottawa terminated the interim federal health coverage of the Colombian refugee and many others like him as of June 30.

Repeated pleas by Dr. David Wong, an eye surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital, for an exemption for Garcia Rodriguez had fallen on deaf ears at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The Wrong Reasons to Back Pussy Riot

From Madonna to Bjork, from the elite New Yorker to the populist Daily Mail, the world united in supporting Russia’s irreverent feminist activists Pussy Riot against the blunt cruelty inflicted on them by the state. It may not have stopped Vladimir Putin’s kangaroo court from sentencing them to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, but blanket international media pressure helped turn the case into a major embarrassment for the Kremlin.

Yet there is something about the West’s embrace of the young women’s cause that should make us deeply uneasy, as Pussy Riot’s philosophy, activism and even music quickly took second place to its usefulness in discrediting one of America’s geopolitical foes. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, are dissident intellectuals once again in danger of becoming pawns in the West’s anti-Russian narrative?

Back in the ’70s, the United States and its allies cared little about what Soviet dissidents were actually saying, so long as it was aimed against the Kremlin. No wonder so many Americans who had never read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s books cheered when he dissed the Soviet Union later felt so shocked, offended and even betrayed when he criticized many of the same shortcomings in his adoptive homeland. Wasn’t this guy supposed to be on our side?

Using dissidents to score political points against the Russian regime is as dangerous as adopting a pet tiger: No matter how domesticated they may seem, in the end they are free spirits, liable to maul the hand that feeds them.

How many fans of Pussy Riot’s zany “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s erudite and moving closing statement were equally thrilled by her participation, naked and heavily pregnant, in a public orgy at a Moscow museum in 2008? That performance, by the radical art group Voina (Russian for “war”), was meant to illustrate how Russians were abused by their government. Voina had previously set fire to a police car and drew obscene images on a St. Petersburg drawbridge.

Stunts like that would get you arrested just about anywhere, not just in authoritarian Russia. But Pussy Riot and its comrades at Voina come as a full package: You can’t have the fun, pro-democracy, anti-Putin feminism without the incendiary anarchism, extreme sexual provocations, deliberate obscenity and hard-left politics.

Unless you are comfortable with all that (and I strongly suspect 99 percent of Pussy Riot’s fans in the mainstream media are not), then standing behind Pussy Riot only now, when it is obviously blameless and the government clearly guilty, is pure opportunism. And just like in the bad old days, such knee-jerk yet selective support for Russian dissidents — without fully engaging with their ideas — is not only hypocritical but also does a great disservice to their cause.

A former Soviet dissident and current member of the anti-Putin opposition, Eduard Limonov, knows such cynicism too well. Thrown out of the Soviet Union and welcomed in New York as a Cold War trophy, Limonov soon learned that it wasn’t the dissent part that the United States loved about Soviet dissidents, but their anti-communism. A bristly and provocative anti-Soviet leftist, he got to work doing what he did best — taking on the establishment — and quickly found himself in hot water again, this time with the Americans. Limonov concluded that “the F.B.I. is just as zealous in putting down American radicals as the K.G.B. is with its own radicals and dissidents.”

At the core of much of the media fever over Pussy Riot lies a fundamental misunderstanding of what these Russian dissidents are about. Some outlets have portrayed the case as a quest for freedom of expression and other ground rules of liberal democracy. Yet the very phrase “freedom of expression,” with its connotations of genteel protest as a civic way to blow off some steam while life goes on, is alien to Russian radical thought. The members of Pussy Riot are not liberals looking for self-expression. They are self-confessed descendants of the surrealists and the Russian futurists, determined to radically, even violently, change society.

Anyone who has bothered to see them beyond their relevance as anti-Kremlin proxies will know that these young people are as contemptuous of capitalism as they are of Putinism. They are targeting not just Russian authoritarianism, but, in Tolokonnikova’s words, the entire “corporate state system.” And that applies to the West as much as to Russia itself. It includes many of the fawning foreign media conglomerates covering the trial, like Murdoch’s News Corp., and even such darlings of the anti-Putin “liberal opposition” establishment as the businessman and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny.

Pussy Riot’s fans in the West need to understand that their heroes’ dissent will not stop at Putin; neither will it stop if and when Russia becomes a “normal” liberal democracy. Because what Pussy Riot wants is something that is equally terrifying, provocative and threatening to the established order in both Russia and the West (and has been from time immemorial): freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, religion, conventional morality, inequality and the entire corporate state system. We should only support these brave women if we, too, are brave enough to go all the way.

Original Article
Source: ny times

Telling Harper What He Wants to Hear

On Aug. 8, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced that Canada is half way toward meeting its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions targets for 2020, and congratulated his government for having “set the stage for the progress we’ve achieved this year.” Minister Kent drew his remarks from a new Environment Canada (EC) report titled, “Canada’s Emissions Trends 2012.”  Unfortunately, key conclusions made in the report are without merit, and the progress Minister Kent heralds is largely illusory. It appears that the Harper government is either meddling in EC’s science reporting or that EC, pulverized by cutbacks, has resorted to telling Kent what he wants to hear. Perhaps it is both.

The report makes a number of spurious claims. It says, for instance, “Total emissions in 2020 are projected to decrease to 720 Mt.” But the emission level in 2010 was 692 Mt, so 720 Mt actually represents an increase in emissions.

Ohio GOP Admits Early Voting Cutbacks Are Racially Motivated

Earlier this month I reported how Ohio Republicans were limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, while expanding them on nights and weekends in Republican counties.

In response to the public outcry, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who intervened in favor of limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, issued a statewide directive mandating uniform early voting hours in all eighty-eight Ohio counties. Husted kept early voting hours from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays from October 2 to 19 and broadened hours from 8 am to 7 pm from October 22 to November 2. But he refused to expand early voting hours beyond 7 pm during the week, on weekends or three days prior to the election (which is being challenged in court by the Obama campaign)—when it is most convenient for many working Ohioans to vote. Rather than expanding early voting hours across the state, Husted limited them for everybody. Voter suppression for all!

The Danger of Laughing at Todd Akin

The Twittersphere went nuts yesterday after a video was posted of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin expressing some jaw-dropping views on rape and abortion in an interview with local news:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

What's the Single Best Explanation for Middle-Class Decline?

Median household income is in the middle of its worst 12-year period since the Great Depression. David Leonhardt and the New York Times have launched a feature to investigate the hardest question: Why?

I don't know! Or at least, I have no confidence that I understand exactly which issues had exactly what effect on the stagnation. The flat-lining of middle class wages is probably the most important long-term economic story in the United States, and its roots stretch deep into such far-flung themes as how technological changes hurt unions and how the subsidy for employer-provided insurance contributed to escalating health care costs.

The Problem With Men Explaining Things

I still don't know why Sallie and I bothered to go to that party in the forest slope above Aspen. The people were all older than us and dull in a distinguished way, old enough that we, at 40ish, passed as the occasion's young ladies. The house was great—if you like Ralph Lauren-style chalets—a rugged luxury cabin at 9,000 feet complete with elk antlers, lots of kilims, and a wood-burning stove. We were preparing to leave, when our host said, "No, stay a little longer so I can talk to you." He was an imposing man who'd made a lot of money.

He kept us waiting while the other guests drifted out into the summer night, and then sat us down at his authentically grainy wood table and said to me, "So? I hear you've written a couple of books."

I replied, "Several, actually."

Pussy Riot Sentence Prompts Soft Response From John Baird And Canada

OTTAWA - The one thing John Baird has rarely done in his 15 months as Canada's top diplomat is sow doubt about where he stands on an issue.

Canada's usually outspoken foreign affairs minister stepped out of character Monday with a low-key response to last week's sentencing of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, which has sparked condemnation worldwide.

GOP Platform To Call For Constitutional Ban On Abortion: Report

Draft language for the 2012 Republican Party platform includes support for a constitutional ban on abortion without specifying exclusions in the cases of rape or incest, according to CNN.

The news comes amid ongoing controversy surrounding Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) suggestion that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant. The GOP Senate candidate running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has faced calls to abandon his campaign from both parties despite attempting to walk back his remarks.

Lakeland Mills sawmill warned multiple times before fatal blast

Five months before a deadly explosion at Lakeland Mills sawmill, photos show combustible wood dust built up on ledges, under a machine, and on hand railings, light fixtures and pipes for the water-sprinkler system.

In several photos of the Prince George mill, obtained by The Vancouver Sun under a freedom of information request, the dust is so thick it is visible in the air as hazy, luminescent dots.

A five-year span of fire inspection reports, as well as the Nov. 29, 2011 photos, show Lakeland Mills was warned several times about combustible dust hazards before the April 23 explosion that killed two workers.

Private sector could run federal energy plants in Ottawa

OTTAWA — Operation of the energy plants that heat and cool more than 100 federal buildings in the national capital could soon be placed in private hands to make them greener and less expensive to maintain and run.

Public Works and Government Services Canada has invited proposals from suppliers of public-private partnership advisory services for its “energy service acquisition project.”

Time to fight for universal Pharmacare

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with the health and immigration ministers, tried to justify cutting refugee health coverage in Canada they argued it was about fairness. Providing prescription drug coverage to refugees was unfair, they claimed, because other Canadians do not have such coverage. They were at least partly right.

As a country, we provide universal access to medically necessary hospital care, diagnostic tests and physician services based solely on need. It’s a point of national pride. But Canadian “medicare” — as it is affectionately known — ends as soon as a patient is given a prescription to fill.

Anti-F-35 campaign about to resume

After a week in which Canadians spent more time than usual commemorating ancient wars, it should be pointed out that renewed battles are looming over preparations for our next conflict.

Commons committees will soon resume sitting again up in Ottawa. That means the opposition’s attacks on Canadian defence spending will also be gearing up, especially the campaign to halt the controversial F-35 fighter program.
The attacks on the federal government’s national shipbuilding program haven’t been as sustained as the endless denigration of the jet purchase. Maybe that’s because most of the $35 billion Ottawa is budgeting for navy and coast guard ships will be spent within Canadian borders.

Merger of private-sector unions needed to combat Conservatives' attack on labour movement: CAW chief

TORONTO - A merger of two of Canada's largest private-sector unions is needed to help combat the federal Conservative government's attack on the labour movement, the head of the Canadian Auto Workers union said Monday.

"The attack on workers is heating up," Ken Lewenza told a CAW convention in referring to the proposed merger with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

"Again collective bargaining is being strangled and unions are being targeted. The downward pressure on wages and other forms of compensation is staggering."

The politicization of Canada’s history

The latest offensive in the federal government’s campaign to promote the bicentennial of the War of 1812 comes in that diverting one-minute film appearing on big and small screens this summer.

The film offers a microcosm of the War of 1812: ranks of red-coated soldiers, marching in lockstep, shouldering muskets with fixed bayonets, firing on command. Feverish violins, and a mélange of breathless players: Laura Secord, Tecumseh, Sir Isaac Brock.

Over this the narrator intones darkly: “The United States invaded our territory. But we defended our land. We stood side-by-side, and we won the fight for Canada!”

Conservatives not standing up for their regions on EI: Toone

CARLETON-SUR MER — Conservative politicians in New Brunswick including Premier David Alward should be doing more to defend their region and fight the federal government’s planned changes to Canada’s employment insurance system, says NDP MP Philip Toone.

“He’s got a lot of explaining to do,” Toone said in an interview with iPolitics. “He’s not fighting this EI reform at all. Frankly, I don’t think people in New Brunswick are very happy about that.”

Toone says he has begun putting together a common front to fight the changes and is encouraging Conservative politicians to join it as well.

Moiling for gold: Harper spends second day in the North at area mine

WHITEHORSE - As the classic Canadian poem says, the Yukon is where people moil for gold.

And today Stephen Harper is off to see what a more modern day version of that work looks like.

On his first full day in the North, Harper was to tour Captstone's copper gold Minto mine, about 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse.

Northern resources could turn Canada into economic powerhouse: Stephen Harper

WHITEHORSE — Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested Monday the pace of oil and gas development in the North could increase exponentially in the coming years and that could feed money into the local and national economies.

The untapped oil, natural gas and mining resources in the North could bring billions in revenues and investment, according to some estimates, and Harper went so far as to predict that cash could turn Canada into an economic powerhouse.

Environment department urges minister to avoid distractions and regulate polluters

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Peter Kent is being urged by his department to avoid distractions and focus on “essential” regulations for oilsands companies and other large polluters, a newly released internal memorandum has revealed.

Kent received the memo after a widely-circulated scientific commentary downplayed the global warming footprint of oilsands production.

Canada-EU free trade and the Quebec election: The view from ATTAC-Quebec

Claude Vaillancourt, president of ATTAC-Quebec, writes in Le Devoir that CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, is not but should be an important issue in the provincial election race. Whichever party wins government on September 4 will have "enormous responsibilities" to decide how CETA will affect policies related to health care, water, agriculture, education, culture, public procurement and investment, among other areas, he writes. Yet only the Liberal Party of Jean Charest, which has otherwise been extremely secretive about the negotiations, included a mention of CETA in its economic platform, adds Vaillancourt.

Church, State, and the Pussy Riot Trial

Last Friday, Russian judge Marina Syrova convicted three members of the feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot of hooliganism, and sentenced them each to two years in a penal colony. She portrayed the defendants as a danger to society, suggesting they had committed “grave crimes” including “the insult and humiliation of the Christian faith.” Finally, while taking care not to suggest that feminism itself is a crime, she criticized the women for their feminist predilections and relied upon evidence that they suffered from “psychological disorders.”

Harper v. The Judges

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it “essential.” The judge called it “fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent and intolerable.” They were both speaking about mandatory minimum jail times for gun-related crimes—Harper when touting the law requiring them, and Justice Anne Molloy of the Ontario Superior Court when she struck it down by uttering the fateful word: unconstitutional.

Lockheed Martin executive says F-35s will deter 'potential adversary countries' Russia, China

PARLIAMENT HILL—A top Lockheed Martin official has for the first time publicly named China and Russia as “potential adversary countries” that pose the kind of threat the controversial F-35 stealth fighter jet is being designed and built to meet.

In a Sun News TV interview about opposition to the Conservative government’s decision to acquire a fleet of 65 F-35s for the Canadian Air Force, Lockheed Martin executive Steve O’Bryan defended the aircraft and, in response to a question from interviewer Lorne Gunther, explained why the U.S. and other members of an F-35 consortium feel the sophisticated and costly new warplane is required.

Quebec is committing slow-motion suicide

Whatever her intention, Pauline Marois’s proposed secular charter is bound to worsen the immigration crisis in Quebec.

The province is committing slow-motion demographic suicide. Year after year it fails to bring in enough newcomers to replenish the diminishing ranks of the native-born.

The Parti Québécois Leader’s proposed law banning the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols, such as turbans, skullcaps or other head coverings, by provincial employees – while permitting a discreet crucifix on a necklace – will only make the problem worse.

Todd Akin Piers Morgan Interview Fail: Embattled Senate Candidate Bails On CNN Host

Todd Akin's bad week keeps getting worse.

The six-term Missouri GOP congressman, a candidate for U.S. Senate, apparently bailed on a planned interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, leaving the host to berate him as a "gutless little twerp" Monday evening.

Akin's troubles began Sunday when he suggested during a television interview that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" are biologically unlikely to become pregnant -- attributing the dubious science to "doctors." Numerous Republicans have called on the congressman to withdraw from his challenge against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

F-35 jet program funding unchanged despite promised review

Canadian funding and participation in the F-35 stealth fighter jet program continues unchanged despite the Conservative government’s insistence it has launched a seven-point program to review the controversial purchase.

Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice-president for F-35 program integration, says the company is still planning its deliveries of 65 of the jets to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Defence officials juggled numbers to rationalize F-35 costs, e-mails show

OTTAWA — Defence Department officials were juggling numbers and struggling to rationalize their own claims last year that the F-35 stealth fighter would cost the same to sustain as Canada’s existing CF-18s, internal departmental e-mails show.

The revelation — which one analyst says is completely wrong — emerges as the NDP prepares to hold its own hearings into the government’s plans to purchase the controversial fighter jet.

Since the Harper government announced its intention to purchase 65 F-35s in July 2010, it and the Defence Department have maintained that the cost of sustaining the fleet would run in the same order of magnitude as Canada’s CF-18s.

Green Party of Canada convention: 'Cooperate to defeat Harper'

The Green Party of Canada's three-day long convention in Sidney, B.C. has just wrapped up. Here is an account of the major decisions taken, from one of the nearly 300 delegates who were in attendance.

This year's convention saw discussion of 27 policy motions, six constitutional motions, eight directive motions and three emergency motions.

All of the policy, constitutional and directive motions were subjected to an online vote prior to the convention. Emergency motions were first presented at the convention itself and thus had not previously been voted on. All resolutions will be subjected to a final and conclusive vote by the membership after the convention.

In Canada, ‘non-ethnic’ is still the norm

It has been nearly two years since I wrote a guest column in this paper, expressing my concerns over a Maclean’s article that controversially addressed the growing Asian population at Canadian universities. The piece predicted a dark future for postsecondary education based on racist portrayals of Asian students. I thought that particular maelstrom had passed.

I was wrong. Now the Bank of Canada is insisting that a female image on our $100 bill might once again be “too Asian” for Canadian society.

The United Church boycott is in keeping with its principles

The general council of the United Church of Canada (UCC) took a momentous decision last week. After years exploring the issue, and dialoguing with Muslim and Christian Palestinians, Jewish Israelis and Jewish Canadians, the UCC has decided to support a boycott of products from Israeli settlements.

In making its decision, the UCC has provided principled leadership on an issue of international importance – leadership sorely lacking from the Harper government and our other political leaders.

Cycling ban proposed on street with disused streetcar track following death of cyclist

After the death of a cyclist whose wheel became caught in an unused stretch of streetcar track on Wychwood Avenue, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong says the city should consider banning cycling on the quiet, residential street.

Cycling advocates and local politicians have called for the city to examine the dangers that streetcar tracks pose to cyclists since the death of Joseph Mavec on Aug. 6. Although the city does not track crashes on streetcar tracks, advocates say a wrong turn onto the rails can send even the most seasoned rider flying.

"Nonprofits" Tied to Karl Rove, Koch Brothers Spend Millions on Elections and Call it Public Welfare

With the presidential election less than three months away, Republicans and Democrats are blanketing the airwaves with campaign ads. Much has been written about the super PACs behind these ads, but far less is known about social welfare nonprofits that are far outspending super PACs on TV advertising in the presidential race. As of August 8, these nonprofits had spent more than $71 million on ads mentioning a candidate for president, whereas super PACs have spent an estimated $56 million. And, unlike super PACs, these organizations enjoy tax-exempt status and do not have to disclose the identity of their donors. A new investigation by ProPublica reveals how these nonprofits are exploiting their special tax status to mount a secretly funded, permanent campaign. We speak to investigative reporter Kim Barker.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Stephen Harper: Canada’s future lies in its northern resource riches

CARCROSS, YUKON—Prime Minister Stephen says Canada’s future lies in the exploitation of the nation’s northern resource riches, branding it as a “great national dream.”

Harper kicked off his annual tour of northern Canada here Monday with a bullish vision that sees the country’s prosperity fuelled by the untapped Arctic resources.

“Those who want to see the future of this country should look north,” the prime minister told a gathering of Conservative supporters.