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.]

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy as Greek Tragedy

Never has a hurricane been more aptly, if tragically, named than Sandy, the superstorm that flooded New York City and battered much of the East Coast. At press time, the storm had killed at least forty-three people and caused an estimated $32 billion in damages to buildings and infrastructure—figures expected to increase in the coming days as emergency personnel pick through the wreckage—and left 8 million homes without electricity.

Sandy is short for Cassandra, the Greek mythological figure who epitomizes tragedy. The gods gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy; depending on which version of the story one prefers, she could either see or smell the future. But with this gift also came a curse: Cassandra’s warnings about future disasters were fated to be ignored. That is the essence of this tragedy: to know that a given course of action will lead to disaster but to pursue it nevertheless.

Afghanistan War Vets' Class-Action Lawsuit Against Feds Targets Disability Payments

VANCOUVER - A group of Afghanistan war veterans has filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, saying the disability payment regime under the New Veterans Charter violates their human rights.

The lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday claims disability payments are decided arbitrarily and aren't enough to support soldiers who have been injured.

"There's no other group of people who can be ordered to put their life on the line for their country," said Don Sorochan, the Vancouver lawyer representing six current and former soldiers named in the suit.

Canadian Real GDP Shrank By 0.1 Per Cent In August Says StatsCan

OTTAWA - Canada's economic expansion came to a surprising halt in August, posting the first decline since February and setting the stage for the worst quarter of economic activity in more than a year.

Real gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 per cent over the month, with both temporary and fundamental factors taking the steam out of what economists had expected to be a relatively healthy 0.2 per cent advance.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty cautioned against overreacting to the one-month setback, saying the economy is growing.

There’s no such thing as a free bridge

The Canadian government and the state of Michigan signed a deal this June to build a new $2-billion bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Including highway upgrades and customs plazas, the estimated cost is $4-billion. The government of Canada will absorb the entire cost.

Backers of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), as the project is called, believe that there is a need for increased capacity at the Windsor-Detroit border. As much as 25% of trade between Canada and the United States crosses the existing Ambassador Bridge between the two cities, and NITC backers project that traffic will double by 2034.

Petition targets Canada-China deal

A petition signed by 60,000 Canadians calls on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject a "secretive and sweeping" Canada-China trade agreement.

The Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA), discussed mostly behind closed doors, comes as the Conservative cabinet reviews a Chinese state-owned oil company's $15.1-billion bid to take over Calgary oil company Nexen.

Reflecting on racisms

A few months ago now I was in court for another one of Mohammad Mahjoub’s court hearings, another day in the 12 year trauma he’s had to bear, living in indefinite detention without being charged. On the witness stand was Egyptian lawyer Magdy Salem, who had spent nearly 20 years in Mubarak’s jail and had taught himself law, recently released and speaking from Cairo via video link and through an interpreter. To accommodate the time difference the federal court was unusually sitting on a Sunday and starting at 7am, and it seemed everyone’s nerves were fraught.

$2B fundraising for U.S. presidential race raises concern

When all is said and done, and all the money contributed to the presidential campaigns is tallied up, more than $2 billion will have been raised and spent on the bid for the White House.

That total, which is roughly the equivalent of Greenland's GDP, will represent the highest amount of money gathered during a presidential campaign.

The risk of shrugging at climate change

Weather is what you see out the window right now; climate is the probability of that weather happening outside your window. It’s a simple distinction. And it’s the reason why we cannot be certain if climate change played any role in Hurricane Sandy.

Scientists can only say climate change is expected to increase the probability of such hurricanes, and there are considerable uncertainties and disagreements about even that.

Stephen Harper and the triumph of the corporation state

Stephen Harper has moved beyond being the prime minister of Canada. He’s its CEO, making Canada the first democracy to tacitly embrace global corporate governance.

Canada finds itself presiding over the birth of a new Dark Age. The Age of Democracy is over. The Age of Corporate Rule is upon us.

Harper is uniquely qualified to be Canada’s first CEO. His father worked for Imperial Oil (Exxon in global parlance) in Calgary. Harper graduated in economics from the University of Calgary. Its “Calgary School” politicial scientists were recruited largely from the American Right, according to one of their mentors, Allan Kornberg. The objective was to blunt the “leftist statism” of Canadian academia.

Fair or not, Opposition targets Katz donation(s) as symbol of Tory sleaze

The Wildrose Party strategy for defeating the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Alison Redford when the next election rolls around in 2016 is a variation of the right-wing party's plan when it came close to winning earlier this year: paint the PCs as corrupt and themselves as the only viable uncorrupted alternative.

As a result, we can expect to see a lot more implications and inferences in the Legislature's Question Period like the attack Monday by Opposition Leader Danielle Smith on Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz's ability to perform his duties on the board of the Alberta Investment Management Co., which invests the province's public service pension funds and other huge pools of money.

Blinded by the right: My past as an anti-abortion activist

To start, I didn't want to write this. So I searched hoping to find someone that had a similar experience to share and to read their take on their progression from "pro-life/anti-choice/anti- abortion" to believing in and advocating for abortion rights. I'm sharing this story of my past anti-choice activism because it is a past I have been ashamed of. Yet it also shaped me and is part of what, ironically, made me who I am today.

This, in the end, is a story about how destructive an influence this movement can be not only socially, but to individuals as well.

E. coli is sign of a sick system: My days working at Alberta's XL meat-packing plant

The major recall of E. coli contaminated meat from XL doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

There may be some substance to calls for greater regulation and the resignation of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. But there is a deeper problem that no one in the elite media seems capable of addressing: the sweatshop working conditions at XL. I know it from personal experience.

Like many New Brunswick men, I went west at 19 to seek my fortune. One of my many jobs was in Alberta's now infamous XL Foods plant, which advertised "1,100 positions available." If you could wield a knife and obey basic commands, you started at $8.50 an hour for a 40-hour week.

EPassports Canada: New Design Lacks Women, Diversity, Says Focus Group

OTTAWA - The iconic images on Canada's new passports, unveiled with fanfare last week, short-change women and multicultural communities, says a report ordered by Passport Canada.

The passport agency hired a survey firm to "disaster check" more than a dozen of the watermark images on the pages of new passports being introduced next year, to ensure nothing offensive would be released.

Ottawa investigating permits for Chinese miners in B.C.

The federal government is investigating foreign worker permits that will bring Chinese miners to British Columbia to determine whether the applications meet federal requirements.

Labour leaders have raised numerous concerns about permits obtained by HD Mining to bring 200 temporary workers to B.C. for its proposed Murray River coal mine.

Scrums: About that Net New Jobs total…

Thomas Mulcair wanted to talk about the economy. He stood at the small, portable lectern that’s placed at his desk every day and started question period with a nod to the parliamentary budget officer. The budgetary watchdog released a report Monday that concluded that Canada’s level of nominal GDP “is now projected to be $22 billion lower annually, on average,” relative to the PBO’s April fiscal outlook.

Mulcair interpreted some of the numbers for the government side. The PBO, he said, had declared that putting an end to the economic stimulus signified 125,000 fewer jobs in the Canadian economy. That was a mild simplification.

The Commons: Like a lawfully authorized bridge over navigable waters

The Scene. And so the House returned to the drama, intrigue and tragedy of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Oh if only the Marquess of Lorne—John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll and fourth governor general of Canada—had known what he had wrought when he signed into law “an Act respecting Bridges over the navigable waters, constructed under the authority of Provincial Acts” on May 17, 1882. One wonders if he would have hesitated to put his signature on the bill if he’d known that one day its reform would be used to mercilessly mock the president of the Treasury Board.

Canadian majority opposes omnibus legislation: Forum Research poll

PARLIAMENT HILL—A new poll has found an overwhelming majority of Canadians say the government should not be allowed to use omnibus bills, rolling amendments of several unrelated laws into one massive volume of legislation, as the Conservative government is doing with an array of measures they say stem from last spring’s federal budget.

The Forum Research poll, conducted last weekend after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.) tabled a second massive budget implementation bill, found 64 per cent of respondents opposed the tactic, which also failed to get support from a majority who ranked the Conservative Party as their current voter preference.

Federal spending on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s international trips grows by 75 per cent

OTTAWA — Federal spending on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s international trips and related hospitality increased more than 70 per cent last fiscal year to nearly $14 million while his office cut costs in other areas, according to new government figures.

As Harper was flying overseas more often, the Prime Minister’s Office cut its spending on staff, communications and other costs by 15 per cent in the 2011-12 budget year to around $7.6 million, compared to about $9 million the previous year, according to federal public accounts tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons.

Canadian middle class left out of the growth equation

Those who think the middle class is thriving in this country should spend more time with their fellow citizens.

Canada’s extraordinary success is that we have bound together a vast country with a set of shared ideas and beliefs. We have created a society where individual rights and freedoms, compassion and diversity are core to our citizenship. But underlying that idea of Canada is the promise that we all have a chance to build a better life for ourselves and our children. We provide our citizens upward mobility through economic opportunity. This is at the heart of the Canadian ideal, and it is under real threat. Our political leadership is not addressing it.

Conservatives defend new waterways rules against accusations of favouritism

OTTAWA — The opposition New Democrats say the Conservative government is creating a special class of environmental rules that protects a small number of lakes circled by affluent cottagers and leaves out thousands of others lakes across the country.

“They’re saying there’s going to be an exclusive club for environmental protection and the rest of Canadians, well, you know, you boat users, you lake users, well, you can just buzz off,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus on Tuesday.

Tories deny sitting on extradition request for businessman

TORONTO – The Federal Conservatives rejected the suggestion on Tuesday that they sat on an extradition request from the United States for a businessman who is close to senior cabinet ministers.

Nathan Jacobson, a philanthropist and businessman who was friendly with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, was arrested Thursday in his Toronto home on a provisional warrant granted after a request by the federal justice department.

'Trudeau Effect’: With Justin as leader Liberals would win majority government, poll finds

With Justin Trudeau at the helm, the Liberals could instantly bounce from political ignominy to a majority government if an election were held tomorrow, according to new Forum Research poll commissioned by the National Post.

“The ‘Trudeau Effect’ has proven itself as a real phenomenon, and it appears to be growing, not going away,” said Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff.

Email from Mayor Rob Ford signals support for downtown casino

An email from Mayor Rob Ford’s office to his city council allies shows, for the first time, his explicit endorsement for a downtown casino.

Ford’s office sent the email, which includes talking points, to his allies Monday ahead of a report released by city manager Joe Pennachetti on the viability of a downtown casino.

The email suggests Toronto’s interests would be best served if the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation “simply” expanded Woodbine Racetrack and built a new casino downtown.

For a politician elected to stop the “gravy train,” Mayor Rob Ford’s sense of entitlement is a bit rich

No matter where you travel in Canada, there’s no getting away from Rob Ford. Mere mention of his name in Halifax is enough to bring a crowd of several hundred to laughter, even guffaws. In Calgary, people fret about how his buffoonery makes the country look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

But just when you think Ford’s banality couldn’t get any worse, any more humiliating and disturbing, it does.

Indeed, the more we learn about the chief magistrate’s willingness to use his office — first as councillor and now as mayor — for his own purposes, the more we cringe.

Ontario ombudsman André Marin says municipalities ‘shockingly secretive’

Ontario ombudsman André Marin says the province must put “some teeth” into its government transparency legislation by penalizing municipal councils which break open meeting laws.

Saying “shocking secrecy” exists in some of Ontario’s 444 municipalities, Marin said the government should consider prosecuting councillors and making them face fines or jail time for holding secret meetings.