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.]

Friday, September 07, 2012

Spiritual rights of inmates under attack as contracts halted, prison chaplains say

For the past six years, Wiccan priestess Kate Hansen has been visiting federal inmates across British Columbia who follow the pagan religion, guiding them in meditation and leading them in prayerful chants.

But now she and other minority-faith chaplains contracted by the Correctional Service of Canada face an uncertain future after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced that he is “not convinced” all chaplaincy services are an appropriate use of taxpayer money and ordered a stop to the tendering of new contracts until a review is complete.

Alberta’s expense transparency policy will do little to battle culture of entitlement, critics charge

Calgary — First there was Allaudin Merali, the Alberta Health Services chief financial officer who racked up $346,000 in expenses on butlers, fine wine and Mercedes repairs while working on a now-defunct health board. Then came revelations this week that Doug Black, a senator-in-waiting who ran under the Progressive Conservative banner, charged $28,000 in first-class flights and hotel rooms while serving an 18-month tenure as the chair of the board at the University of Calgary.

He paid back about $5,400 after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation exposed the expenses through a freedom of information request — the previous board chair had expensed only $434 in three years.

You don’t have to obey a law ‘that is clearly unlawful,’ Rob Ford’s lawyer argues as hearing comes to close

All eyes are now on Justice Charles T. Hackland, the Ottawa-based Superior Court judge presiding over Mayor Rob Ford’s conflict of interest hearing, and what few hints he dropped about what he is thinking may be found in questions posed to both lawyers on Thursday.

In particular, Justice Hackland spoke up during arguments presented by the mayor’s lawyer that he made an honest mistake and voiced “some trouble” with the notion put forward by the opposing side that an elected official cannot, during a city council meeting, defend any conduct that has been scrutinized by an integrity commissioner due to a potential conflict.

UAV Radar Tested Along U.S.-Canadian Border Can Track Slow Moving Vehicles and People

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. has just announced that it has completed the successful integration and operational testing of its Lynx Multi-mode Radar.

The system is a next-generation capability that integrates synthetic aperture radar (SAR), ground moving target indicator (GMTI), and dismount moving target indicator (DMTI) radar.

The testing was conducted in May by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Customs and Border Protection (CBP) out of its National Air Security Operations Center in Grand Forks, N.D. That center uses Predators to patrol the Canada-U.S. border.

Canada’s voting system has the potential to distort electoral outcomes, expert says

MONTREAL - Canada’s future hinged on just a few percentage points Tuesday.

With just under 32 per cent of votes cast, the Parti Québécois eked out a narrow victory, winning 54 seats, to 50 for the Liberals, 19 for Coalition Avenir Québec 19 and two for Québec solidaire. The difference between the PQ and the Liberals was 0.7 of a percentage point.

Closer economic ties with China could bring ‘long-term pain’ for Canada: study

CALGARY — Bribery, corruption and state interest trumping business logic remain common in China, and Canada must remain keenly aware of those trends as it mulls closer economic ties with the Asian superpower, says a report published Thursday.

The University of Calgary paper, titled Dancing With The Dragon, was released the same day two other reports urged Canada to take steps toward fostering more business relationships between the two countries.

Harper’s one-man foreign policy winning few friends

When Latin American countries become increasingly critical of Prime Minister Harper’s attitude and policies towards their region, with some leaders even questioning the value of Canadian membership in the Organization of American States, OAS, something is very very wrong with Canada’s relations with its hemispheric neighbours.

This negative attitude towards the Harper government was once again in the news in recent days when OAS states were angered by Ottawa’s refusal to accept an August 24 resolution by the OAS criticizing Britain for threatening to forcibly enter the embassy of Ecuador in London to seize Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who sought asylum in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden and the United States.

U.S. should 'get a grip,' Harper says

Concerns about a so-called "fiscal cliff" in the United States are warranted, but they should not overshadow the need for America to "get a grip" on its longer-term fiscal situation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

"The United States fiscal situation is very bad; the trajectory is very bad," Harper said at a Bloomberg conference in Vancouver when asked about the fiscal woes of Canada's biggest trading partner.

Supporting the Conservatives’ plan to set workers free

There was something absurd about the whole thing. On Monday, a branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — the largest union of federal public servants in the country — endorsed two separatist parties in Quebec’s election. After assessing the provincial parties “on the basis of their positions on workers’ and citizens’ rights, public services and unions,” PSAC’s National Capital Region arm ranked the Parti Québécois first, followed by Québec Solidaire in second. It ranked the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Québec third and fourth, respectively.

Everyone benefits from women’s representation in politics

Pauline Marois is Quebec’s first female premier, a fact that got somewhat lost amid the nail-biting and shock that followed the Parti Québécois’ minority victory Tuesday night and then the shooting that shattered the celebrations. The new leader’s gender was significantly down the list of pertinent facts about the election. That, in itself, says something about the new normalization of women in Canadian politics, especially provincial politics.

Marois’ win brings to five the number of female first ministers in Canada today (there have only been 10), a remarkable number, given that Canada ranks 45th on the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s list of women in national parliaments, with women accounting for just 24.7 per cent of MPs.

CRTC investigating Harper Tories for failing to adhere to do-not-call list

The federal Conservative Party, already in the spotlight over an Elections Canada investigation into fraudulent robocalls, has come under scrutiny by the country’s telecom regulator for dialling people who don’t want to hear from them.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced Thursday it has been investigating the Harper Conservatives over what it says was the party’s failure to stop telephoning people who’d asked the Tories to stop calling.

Harper should call Quebec's bluff

Two words aptly describe newly elected Parti Quebecois Premier Pauline Marois' threats to demand expanded provincial powers from Ottawa: Paper tiger.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with a majority government and just five seats in Quebec, has seemed much more a provincial rights advocate than previous Prime Ministers. And, it bears mentioning, how most of Harper's predecessors were often held hostage by the demands of Quebec and the ever-simmering national unity file.

The more fatigue that Canadians have come to feel about Quebec, the more it seems that a national unity crisis happens only when a federal government permits itself to behave like there is a crisis by knuckling under to Quebec's demands.

Few fans of U.S. intellectual property proposals in Trans-Pacific Partnership

A 14th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade and investment negotiations begins in Virginia, U.S.A. this week as scorn for the agreement's proposed intellectual property chapter piles up. To be fair, that scorn is almost entirely aimed at the United States' positions on patent and other monopoly protections for pharmaceutical firms, as well as on copyright and Internet rules, which civil society observers and even other TPP negotiating countries see as regressive, unnecessary, dangerous to public health and harmful of online privacy and innovation.

"Effective Evil" or Progressives’ Best Hope? Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama Presidency

As President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination to seek four more years in the White House, we host a debate on his presidency with Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Michael Eric Dyson, professor at Georgetown University and author of numerous books. Ford calls Obama the "more effective evil" for embracing right-wing policies and neutralizing effective opposition, while Dyson argues Obama provides the best and obvious choice for progressive change within the confines of the U.S. political system.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Environics poll shows Tories in full flower, Wildrose withering on the vine

From the perspective of Alberta’s market-fundamentalist Wildrose Party Opposition, yesterday's Environics Research Group poll of voter support for the province's political parties did not contain particularly good news.

The survey -- the first major Alberta opinion poll to be published since the April 23 provincial election -- shows support for Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative government remains at a commanding level almost identical to where it was on the day of the election.

As for the Wildrose Party, which saw its support peak a few days ahead of the spring election, the Environics numbers indicate the right-wing opposition party's support is slumping, possibly quite seriously give or take the margin of error. (Note that at least one other poll, which will be published very soon, has produced similar results.)

March 4 Justice completes 4,400 km trek from Vancouver to Ottawa for Indigenous justice

For most of us, a kilometre is a decent distance to walk to just buy groceries. For Leo Baskatawang, four thousand and four hundred kilometres was worth it to go to seek justice for Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Leo, a 32-year-old Masters student, decided earlier this year that something needed to be done. He had watched the coverage of the Crown-First Nations summit in January, and realized that the government was giving short-shrift to Aboriginal issues. "That was the last straw," he said of the summit.

Dysfunctional Canadian political system ‘crying out for change’

Canadians are tired of being part of the “political audience” and want in on policy-making action, says author and political scientist Vaughan Lyon, whose book Power Shift: From Party Elite to Informed Citizens, outlines a radical new approach to re-connecting Canadians with governing.

Mr. Lyon, a now-retired political science professor who taught at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., for more than 25 years, told The Hill Times recently that he’s tired of the dogma that political parties are a necessary part of running the country. He posits that with Constituency Parliaments, or groups of informed locals who advise their members of Parliament, the House of Commons can become a place of consensus policymaking that truly reflects the needs of Canadians.

Harper appoints five new senators

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed five new senators, bolstering his majority in the upper chamber.

The new senators are Diane Bellemare of Quebec; Tobias C. Enverga Jr. and Thanh Hai Ngo, both from Ontario; Thomas Johnson McInnis of Nova Scotia; and Paul E. McIntyre of New Brunswick.

Citing 'threat to global peace,' Canada cuts diplomatic ties with Iran

Canada has closed its embassy in Iran and is expelling all remaining Iranian diplomats in Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Canada was choosing now to sever diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic. In explaining the move, Mr. Baird gave a laundry list of reasons: Iran’s current support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its nuclear program, its long-time support for organizations Ottawa considers terrorist groups, its threats against Israel, its human-rights record and even the 1979 hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Tories hire KPMG to conduct review of F-35 costs

Five months after it promised to conduct an independent review of controversial cost projections for F-35 fighter jets, the Harper government has finally hired accounting firm KPMG to do the job.

The Conservatives say they'll release the findings sometime this fall during an annual National Defence update to Parliament.

The Harper government, which has sold itself as competent stewards of public money, was heavily embarrassed this spring when Auditor General said the government had lowballed the full cost of buying costly F-35 Lightning fighter jets.

The total bill, he concluded, was $25-billion rather than $16-billion.

KPMG's job will include:

    Reviewing the National Defence acquisition and sustainment project assumptions for replacing Canada's aging CF-18 jets.
    Developing a framework to assess the life-cycle cost estimate of a fleet of 65 F-35 fighters throughout its expected operational life.

Original Article
Source: the globe and mail
Author: Steven Chase

Slow progress in creating jobs

Canada’s economy created a higher-than-expected number of jobs in August while the U.S. job-creation engine sputtered, reports released Friday showed.

Employers in Canada added 34,300 workers to their payrolls, while in the U.S. the economy created a lower-than-expected 96,000 net new jobs.

If we silence dissent we silence democracy

Recently, I participated in a lively debate on the subject of faith and politics, publishing an article with my thoughts on the topic. Given the widespread response, I decided to share it with a number of faith publications who I thought might be interested in passing it on to their readers. While it was picked up by several groups, I was stunned by one response from the editor of one Canadian faith Magazine:

Very well-done, John. … I’ll keep it in the (queue) for right now as I have just received an official “reminder” from Canada Revenue that our charitable status may be in jeopardy because of too much “political advocacy” on the part of our publication, citing six different editorials and articles as evidence. Needless to say we are chaffing at this heavy hand of the Harper government and consider it a “chill” on speech.

(Name withheld for obvious reasons)

Georgetti to Poilievre: Apologize

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 6, 2012) - The veiled threats of a backbench Conservative MP to punish federal public servants for exercising their democratic rights as citizens has drawn the ire of the country's largest labour organization.

The president of the Canadian Labour Congress says Pierre Poilievre owes an apology to every public servant, especially to citizens of Quebec, for suggesting that a law be passed to deny them the same democratic rights enjoyed by other Canadians.

Rob Ford pleads incompetence

Oh, my. What an astonishing display Toronto’s mayor has put on these last few days. The mayor of Canada’s largest city has been left with no defence other than ignorance, apathy and ineptitude. And that’s his version of events.

Appearing before an Ontario court in Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has been testifying in a case that seeks to determine whether he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA). The facts of the case are not in dispute. Rob Ford runs a charity that provides funds to get underprivileged youths involved in football. Before he was mayor, then-councillor Ford used City of Toronto stationery to solicit donations to his charity. The city’s integrity commissioner ruled in 2010 that it was improper for Ford to blur the lines between his duties as an elected official and his private activities, and ordered Ford to repay $3,150 in improperly solicited donations out of his own pocket.

Anti-choice failures are no reason to give them an inch

This month, Canada's Parliament will vote on whether to re-open the thorny issue that has bedeviled philosophers and theologians for over two millennia: Are women human beings?

OK, the actual question up for debate in Motion 312 is whether "a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth" -- but you can't have it both ways, or even halfway. Any legal rights given to a fetus must be taken away from the pregnant woman, period. Even under a majority Conservative government that is gradually snuffing out women's ability to exercise their human rights, the supporters of Motion 312 have a huge hole to dig before they can hope to bury those rights forever.

1984 in 2012 – The Assault on Reason

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” – Voltaire

In his novel 1984, George Orwell paints a portrait of a nightmarish future where rights that we now take for granted – the freedom of assembly, speech and to trial – have all been suspended. Acceptance of this totalitarian state is justified by the interests of stability and order, and by the needs a perpetual war. But what makes 1984 endure where other dystopian novels have been forgotten is that Orwell removed one more right that is even more unimaginable in a modern context – the right to think.

NDP on defensive over Quebec policy

The federal New Democrats, who head back to Parliament promising to act like a government-in-waiting, could find themselves on the defensive over the conditions they would establish for the breakup of Canada.

Members of the 100-person caucus confirmed at a meeting in St. John’s this week that they remain committed to party policy that states Quebec could separate if sovereigntist forces muster 50 per cent plus one vote in a future referendum.

Ford’s conflict of interest: Honest error or ‘wilful blindness’?

It took Alan Lenczner less than an hour and a half to lay out Rob Ford’s defence in the conflict-of-interest hearing that could cost the mayor his job.

Lenczner’s case hinged on three arguments.

One, that city council had no authority to make Ford repay $3,150 in football charity donations in the first place.