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, September 10, 2012

Better to talk to your enemies

The decision to sever diplomatic relations with Iran marks a retreat from the enlightened influence Canada can have in the world.

Everything that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has said about Iran is true. The country has, under its ruling mullahcracy, descended into something resembling a rogue state. But the government’s decision is still baffling.

Jason Kenney announces 3,100 people being stripped of citizenship for fraud

A widening federal crackdown has identified a record number of people suspected of acquiring their Canadian citizenship and immigration status through fraud.

The number of newcomers under investigation for misrepresenting themselves in their dealings with Citizenship and Immigration Canada has ballooned to an historic 11,000 as a result of nation-wide enforcement.

The figure is almost double the 6,500 identified by federal officials less than a year ago, suggesting that Canada’s citizenship and immigration fraud problems may be more widespread than previously thought.

Don't let fear ruin political discourse

OTTAWA -- The images seem like something straight out of Hollywood.

A politician giving a speech is suddenly surrounded by burly security officers and hustled off the stage after a gunman opens fire.

One cannot imagine the emotional roller-coaster Quebec premier-designate Pauline Marois felt Sept. 4. After winning a minority government, she was giving her victory speech when a man, dressed in a blue bathrobe and a black balaclava, approached the back entrance of the hall where the PQ was having its election-night celebration.

Parliamentary Budget Officer pleads once again for the information he needs to do his job

OTTAWA - Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is giving Canada’s top bureaucrat another chance to get departments to turn over details about the impact of the Conservative government’s $5.2 billion in spending cuts.

Page recently fired a letter off to Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, warning him of the urgency for the information as MPs prepare for the return of Parliament. He urged Wouters to reverse his earlier refusal “without further delay” and give departments the green light to turn over details about the savings and spending cuts so Page can fulfill his mandate to help MPs hold the government to account.

Who will address the growing problem of inequality?

It flashed through our lives like a comet in the sky, illuminating the most insidious development of our time. Then just as suddenly it flamed out and died. Or at least disappeared. Having made headlines around the world, having made the phenomenon of unprecedented inequality a major issue, having popularized the concept of the 1 per cent versus the 99 per cent -- after all these triumphs, the Occupy Movement is playing no perceptible role in any of the big events that now affect our lives.

In the American election, however disappointing President Obama has been, a victory for the Romney party will make today's level of inequality seem like a socialist utopia. Yet the Occupiers are MIA.

After a stressful spring, how can Conservatives gain ground this fall?

How was Stephen Harper’s summer?

A good deal better than his spring. That’s not saying much, and may be cold comfort for Conservatives as fall arrives in Ottawa.

Problems were mounting before the House rose, and the government was mostly on the defensive.

Stephen Harper’s environment watchdog to investigate ‘risks’ of federal budget bill

OTTAWA – Parliament’s environment watchdog says he will investigate the “inherent risks” from the Harper government’s overhaul of Canada’s environmental laws.

“This (change to existing laws) wasn’t tinkering,” said Scott Vaughan, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, in an interview with Postmedia News.

Elections Canada deregisters Tory association in Ottawa-Vanier

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has deregistered the Conservative riding association in Ottawa-Vanier for failing to file financial reports as required by law.

It’s the first time since the Conservative Party was created in 2003 that one of the party’s Ontario riding associations has been deregistered. The action was made public in the latest edition of the Canada Gazette and is effective Sept. 30.

Harper's wish for war with Iran: An ill Tory wind that blows no good for Canada

When Igor Gouzenko came in from the cold 67 years ago last Wednesday, Canada had an extremely serious and completely legitimate complaint against the Soviet Union.

From 1939 until 1945, when the Soviet Union was our ally in the long war against Nazi Germany and its actual Axis of evil, it turned out the Soviets were carrying on as if we Canadians were their enemies too!

Whether by accident or design, when the little cipher clerk from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa defected to Canada with his wife and infant child, bringing with him evidence of the extensive Soviet spying efforts against our country, Gouzenko effectively tripped the alarm that started the Cold War between the Soviet Bloc and the West.

Bryant book launch angers cycling community

Three years later, Alan Wayne Scott is still haunted by the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard.

When Scott listened to the original witness reports on the morning following the accident, he’d never heard of a similar incident between motorist and cyclist that came close to what the construction workers described.

“It was like I’d been kicked in the gut,” said Scott, a former foot, transit and bicycle courier for 25 years. “And for over a year it never went away. It was like I’d physically been assaulted myself.”

Google ‘sucking air out’ of news industry that’s losing print, broadcast ad revenue, says Harvard professor

It has not been easy for traditional media outlets to capitalize on online advertising as revenues in print and broadcast continue to decline, but the rise of search engine Google’s news environment is “sucking the air out” of the news industry, says a Harvard Business School associate professor.

“I think there’s a public policy problem. It’s hard enough to be in the journalism business without Google coming and sucking the air out of it,” said Professor Ben Edelman, an expert in internet architecture and how it affects business opportunities and a consultant for various companies such as Microsoft, the New  York Times, the National Football League and Wells Fargo.

Federal approach to environment undermining energy industry, say experts

The federal government has streamlined environmental assessments and rejected carbon pricing for the sake of economic growth, but this approach to climate change will do long-term harm to the energy sector’s reputation, say industry leaders.

“I think that a lot of people in industry would say that we do need to some how come down with a price signal on carbon,” former Syncrude CEO Eric Newell told The Hill Times last week. “By avoiding it, I don’t think the federal government’s policy will allow for the range of options that we need to be successful.”

Mr. Newell, who headed Syncrude for 14 years, chairs Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC). CCEMC takes revenues generated by the province’s carbon tax and invests them in a variety of projects aimed at reducing the province’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

Nexen registered lobbying over, action still happening behind scenes, say Ottawa watchers

Now that the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation has officially applied to buy Calgary-based Nexen Inc. under the Investment Canada Act for more than $15-billion, there likely won’t be any lobbyist meetings with the Industry Minister or his officials during the 45-day review process, which began on Aug. 29, but there is still action going on behind the scenes, say Ottawa political watchers.

Since CNOOC’s proposed takeover of Nexen was made public in July, lobbyists for both sides were busy meeting face to face to with senior Canadian federal government officials and ministers, according to monthly communications filings with Canada’s federal lobbying commissioner. There were 17 meetings with 22 people between July 22 and Aug. 15, but because of the sensitive nature of the transaction and the secretiveness of the Investment Canada Act, the government will not want to be seen as being unduly influenced by the parties’ lobbyists, said Playbook Communications senior strategist Erik Waddell.

NDP holds six Atlantic seats, ‘going for’ 32 next time, says Cleary

Call it the strike-while-the-iron-is-hot department, but the federal NDP, still riding a high on both holding 100 seats in the Commons and in public opinion polls in Atlantic Canada, say they are working to boost their seat count in the region in the next election.

“We keep a finger on the pulse of the Atlantic region, we’re on top of all the issues and we mean business,” said NDP MP Ryan Cleary (St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, Nfld.), his party’s chair of the Atlantic caucus.

It’s the permanent campaign, Harper’s team never rests, says Flanagan

Call it the permanent campaign model, but the political party that keeps its campaign weapons sharp at all times and uses them strategically is “more likely to build an advantage over its opponents than a party that sleepwalks its way through the pre-writ period,” writes Tom Flanagan, a former top adviser and national campaign manager to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a new book.

“Harper’s team never rests,” writes Prof. Flanagan in his chapter titled, ‘The Permanent Campaign,’ in How Canadians Communicate IV: Media and Politics, edited by David Taras and Christopher Waddell. “A campaign manager reporting directly to the Conservative leader, not to a committee, is always on the job. Voter identification linked to fundraising goes on 363 days a year (Christmas and Easter excepted). With the cash flow from such aggressive fundraising the party can afford to spend millions on advertising, even years in advance of the writ, and to train candidates and workers, especially in the use of the potent Direct Voter Contact program and the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) database.”

Harper government’s assault on reason, scientists, ‘Orwellian’ and ‘alarming,’ warns pollster

OTTAWA—One-time Progressive Conservative pollster Allan Gregg lambasted the government for its “assault on reason” and bemoaned its “Orwellian” attacks on scientists and environmental policy advocates in a stinging criticism of the Harper Conservatives to a Carleton University campus audience of 250 last week in Ottawa.

“Our government’s use of evidence and facts as the bases of policy is declining,” Mr. Gregg, chair of Harris/Decima public opinion and market research, who worked for 18 years as a pollster for former prime ministers Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell, “and in their place, dogma, whim and political expediency are on the rise.”

Split with Iran stokes diaspora’s fear, draws Israel’s praise

Israel on Sunday applauded the Harper government’s suspension of diplomatic ties with Iran, while the abrupt move has left Canada’s large Iranian expatriate community torn between anxiety and guarded hope.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Canada’s decision, announced last Friday, to recall its diplomats from Tehran and expel Iranian diplomats from Ottawa. “I call on the entire international community, or at least on its responsible members, to follow in Canada’s determined path and set Iran moral and practical red lines, lines that will stop its race to achieve nuclear weapons,” he told his cabinet.

Why Obama should lose the election, and why he won’t

Now that all the balloons have popped at the Democratic and Republican conventions, where is this crucial U.S. presidential race heading?

Here are four reasons why Barack Obama should lose the Nov. 6 election, and four reasons why he won’t.

Why Obama and the Democrats should lose:

1. He lost sight of why he was elected.

Barack Obama’s 2008 election was historic for reasons other than his race. Obama won by the largest margin for a non-incumbent since 1952. The driving motivation was a desire for “change” after eight years of conservative Republican rule. Yet Obama surrounded himself with people who were largely the architects of past economic and foreign policies.

Robin Hood corporate taxation? Good idea

Whenever someone suggests corporations and the richest Canadians should pay their fair share of taxes – or at least something approximating the level they paid back in the post-war decades when rising prosperity was lifting all boats – the reflexive response is: “Oh, no, we couldn’t do that. They’d just move somewhere else.”

Impose taxes on carbon emissions in order to help scrub our screwed-up environment? But what about China? India? We couldn’t compete if our businesses had to actually pay for the environmental messes they create.

Protect the jobs of Canadian workers from sweatshops and cheap offshore competitors? But who would make our iPads if we did that?