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, November 06, 2012

U.S.-style voter suppression comes to Canada: Can the Courts nip it in the bud?

It is entirely appropriate that lawyer Steven Shrybman, acting on behalf of the six Canadians seeking redress in the voter suppression (aka "robocall") case, should submit his factum to the Federal Court just as the Americans are voting.

Voter suppression in this country is, in fact, a fairly recent import from the U.S.

Anyone watching the U.S. election and seeing the long, nearly endless line-ups of largely minority voters, in crucial "swing" states, will get a hint at what systematic voter suppression is all about.

Sky fall: The collapse of the Toronto condo market and the new non-productive economy

Pity the poor Toronto Mr. Christie's workers.

A factory in business from just after the Second World War, producing baked goods in a west-end Toronto community since 1948, that is now due to be closed. Over 500 well-paying jobs to be lost.

While the closure has been extensively reported on, the fact that it is occurring after a Mitt Romney/ Bain Capital-like takeover has been less discussed.

Words can be weapons: An Aboriginal re-thinking the word 'Aboriginal'

When it comes to the power of identity,  who gets to decide, title and name another?

Is it another who has the authority to define us -- or is it ourselves?  

Is a Nation entitled to name (or to determine) the identities of those from another Nation?

Lastly, how is the term "Aboriginal," the term's purpose, and its effect of the term situated within the Canadian State?

Getting at the root causes of hunger in Atlantic Canada

Food Banks Canada released its latest statistics on national food bank usage this week. The data are assembled in a document titled HungerCount 2012. Not only has food bank usage continued to increase, more and more users are working and more are families with children. According to the report's authors, "In March of this year, 882,188 people received food from a food bank in Canada. This is an increase of 2.4 per cent over 2011, and is 31 per cent higher than in 2008, before the recession began."

G20 Summit: Jim Flaherty Says U.S. Is Now Biggest Economic Threat To Canada

OTTAWA - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says Canada's closest ally and trading partner, the United States, has replaced Europe as the biggest threat to the domestic economy.

The minister made the comment Monday evening on a conference call after wrapping up two days of meetings with his G20 counterparts in Mexico City, which had a mood he described as serious but not "doom and gloom."

Greece Strike: Thousands Protest Austerity Cuts, Reforms

ATHENS, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Greeks began a crippling 48-hour strike on Tuesday to protest against a new round of wage and pension cuts that parliament is expected to approve by a narrow margin.

The parliamentary vote on Wednesday is the biggest test yet for the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which needs victory to secure aid from foreign lenders but has failed to convince its smallest coalition partner and the public to back the reforms.

Brandon Whipple Attacked For Not Having Children

A Tea Party group in Kansas is saying that a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives should not be elected because he does not have children.

Literature dropped off at homes in Wichita Saturday by Kansans for Liberty, a Tea Party group, says that Democrat Brandon Whipple should not be elected to the state House because he has no children. It is one of a list of reasons why Whipple, 30, should not be elected over Republican Rick Lindsey in the newly drawn district, according to the literature.

The Villages' Democrats Find Second-Rate Citizenry In A Billionaire's Republican Kingdom

THE VILLAGES, Fla. -- When Francis and Frances Durr returned home from a trip to Disney World with their grandchildren in mid-October, they found a pile of mail waiting for them. The Durrs live in a sprawling retirement community in Central Florida that's often called its own kind of Disney World -- one for retirees, a magic kingdom of pristine golf courses, perennial softball games and daily two-for-one happy hours.

Why we should name hurricanes after fossil fuel corporations

As gutsy New Yorkers begin the task of drying out the city, here's one thought that occurred to me last night watching the horrifying pictures from a distance. It's obviously not crucial right now – but in the long run it might make a difference. Why don't we stop naming these storms for people, and start naming them after oil companies?

Global warming didn't "cause" the hurricane, of course – hurricanes are caused when a tropical wave washes off the coast of Africa and begins to spin in the far Atlantic. But this storm rode ocean waters five degrees warmer than normal, so it's no great shock that it turned into a monster. By the time it hit land, it had smashed every record for the lowest barometric pressure and the largest wind field.

Romney Closes Dirty

Mitt Romney had a choice this election: He could surf the bubbling froth of right-wing rage against the president all the way to the White House, or he could discard the racialized narrative of the Obama presidency put forth by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.

Throughout the campaign, much of his party was pushing him in one direction: Some Republicans still believed the president was not born in the United States; conservative media figures presented everything from Obama's economic policy to the Affordable Care Act as seeking racial vengeance, accused him of lying about his religion, and argued that he secretly sympathizes with America's enemies. As National Journal's Ron Brownstein dubbed it, the 2012 election is a battle between the gray and the brown, the GOP's aging white base versus the Democrats' increasingly diverse coalition. Relying almost exclusively on the white vote, however, is a strategy with an expiration date. It's a move that cuts against the demographic tide. As one Republican adviser put it to Brownstein, "This is the last time anyone will try to do this."

'Pro-Choice' Graffiti Sparks Heated Debate In Alberta

It may be nothing more than a case of graffiti but a photo of a vandalized trailer originally sporting an anti-abortion banner in rural Alberta has spurned a heated debate online.

The photo, released by the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP in a bid by investigators to harness public assistance in solving the crime, has plucked at the political, religious and democratic nerves of Albertans.

Rise in food bank use defies poverty stats

They operate discreetly around Vancouver, in unpublicized locations, offering crucial help to those who cannot afford food.

It seems incredible in a city where fixer-uppers go for $1 million a pop, but food banks are feeding some 27,000 Vancouver residents each week.

The fact the 15 depots, in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and the North Shore, do not list addresses online — “for reasons of security and confidentiality,” says the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society — hints at the shame associated with food bank reliance.

Navigable Waters Act at committee one last time 130-year-old law gets two hours, four witnesses at Transport Committee

Two hours of Transport Committee hearings today will be the last word the House of Commons hears on the 130-year-old Navigable Waters Protection Act.

The Act is to be replaced by the Navigation Protection Act, a piece of legislation included in bill C-45, the government's second omnibus Budget Implementation Act.

In Ohio, African-American Turnout Threatened by Reduced Early Voting and Faulty Ballots

As in all recent elections, Ohio again is a crucial state to win for either presidential candidate. And once again, Ohio is at the center of charges of systematic suppression of the African-American vote. In a report for Democracy Now!, investigative reporter Greg Palast discovers that some early voters in the Buckeye State have received the wrong ballots. Palast is the author of "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

I think parliament’s going to die’: Ignatieff predicts end of Western democracies

Former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is predicting the death of parliament in Western democracies if party leaders don’t loosen the reins on their own members, allowing more free votes and more freewheeling debate to reverse the deterioration of legislatures into “empty, pointless” stages for tightly scripted exchanges between hyper-partisan political rivals.

“I think something really bad has happened to parliamentary democracies all over the world — not just in my country, Canada. What’s happened is increasing power to the prime minister, increasing power to the bureaucracy, and the legislature — parliament — is a kind of empty, pointless debating chamber because it’s all stitched up in advance by party leaders,” Ignatieff said during a weekend panel discussion, aired by the BBC during its annual Free Thinking Festival.

Indian government says Harper was offered top-rate security vehicle for visit

NEW DELHI - The Indian government is refuting a claim by Canadian officials that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn't offered a top-rate security vehicle during his visit.

Harper has been using two armoured cars with Ontario plates while in India -- something he has only done in Afghanistan and Haiti before.

Contemptible: The political trial of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

Quebec student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was convicted November 1 of contempt of court for publicly criticizing a court injunction issued during last spring's student strike. The injunction ordered the strikers to allow dissident students who opposed the strike to attend classes.

Nadeau-Dubois will be sentenced on November 9. He faces a fine of up to $50,000 and possible imprisonment for up to a year. This is the first time in the history of the Quebec student movement that a leader has been convicted of contempt of court. In a highly politicized judgment, the court declared that in criticizing the injunction and defending the democratic decision to strike made by the students in mass assemblies he had advocated "anarchy," encouraged "civil disobedience," and his comments could be used to pave the way to "tyranny."

Apparently being Ezra Levant means never having to say you're sorry

As tout le monde tout le monde nervously awaits today’s U.S. election, the story generating buzz on the Canadian Interwebs is a sorry tale of a Manitoba journalist fired for annoying her local Conservative Member of Parliament.

Jill Winzoski's particular sin in the view of the pathetic management of her erstwhile employer the Selkirk Record, as reported yesterday by journalist Michael Harris at, seems to have been asking local MP James Bezan hard questions. Apparently she missed the memo that says this is no longer permitted without career-threatening consequences. Bezan's whinging letter about her efforts was read aloud to Winzoski by her boss as he ordered her to walk the plank.

Montreal mayor steps down amid corruption allegationscanad

After months of speculation about his future in politics, Gérald Tremblay has stepped down from his position as mayor of Montreal.

"I am leaving public life," said Tremblay on Monday evening at a hastily organized news conference at Montreal's city hall.

Canadians eligible for employment insurance at decade-long low

The rate of eligibility for collecting employment insurance has plunged to its lowest level in nearly a decade and critics warn it’s only going to get worse.

Statistics Canada released figures Monday that revealed of 867,000 unemployed individuals who contributed to EI in 2011, only 545,000 had worked enough hours to qualify for coverage.

It’s the lowest rate — 78.4 per cent — since 2003. More part-time job losses than full-time losses are to blame because part-time workers do not accumulate enough hours, according to Statistics Canada.

Hiring of Chinese miners in B.C. sends unions to court

VANCOUVER—The hiring of about 200 Chinese miners to work in northern British Columbia has raised concerns with Ottawa as unions went to court Monday seeking to overturn the decision to allow the foreign workers into Canada.

The workers, some of whom are already at the mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., were allowed in after getting approval from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

G20 policing: Clayton Ruby challenges ‘backroom decisions’ not to hold disciplinary hearings

Veteran civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby will ask Ontario’s Superior Court to overturn “backroom decisions” by three GTA police forces not to pursue complaints of officer misconduct during the G20 protests — even though the complaints have been substantiated by the province’s police oversight body.

Because the body, called the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), took longer than six months to investigate, it directed police in Toronto, York and Peel not to launch disciplinary hearings against officers involved — even though it found that accusations of excessive use of force, unlawful detention and arrest, and illegal search had substance.

In Key Florida Battleground, Tea Party-Linked "True the Vote" Challenges Voters at the Polls

Election Day 2012 has arrived, and the battle over voter suppression has reached a fever pitch in battleground states. We go to Virginia, where volunteers with the tea party-linked group True the Vote are challenging voters at the polls. We speak with Brentin Mock, the lead reporter for Voting Rights Watch 2012, a collaboration between The Nation magazine and Mock also describes voter suppression efforts in Florida, where True the Vote has also targeted alleged felon voters who will be asked to submit a provisional ballot if they attempt to vote today.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Hurricane Sandy Price Gouging: New York Attorney General Launches Price-Gouging Probe

NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday launched an investigation into post-storm price gouging after consumers flooded his office with complaints about jacked-up prices for everything from gasoline to hotel rooms.

Schneiderman's announcement came as AAA, the national auto club which tracks gas price trends, said prices in some storm-stricken zones have risen as much as 15 cents a gallon in the week since Sandy struck, even as the national gas price keeps falling.

China Power Transition 2012: Crackdown Targets Activists, Critics

BEIJING — During her 30-hour train journey to Beijing, Wang Xiulan ducked into bathrooms whenever the conductors checked IDs. Later, as she lay low in the outskirts of the capital, unidentified men caught her in a nighttime raid and hauled her to a police station. She assumed a fake identity to get away, and is now in hiding again.

Wang's not a criminal. She's a petitioner.

She's among many people attempting to bring local complaints directly to the central government in an age-old Chinese tradition that has continued during the Communist Party era. But police never make that easy, and this week, as an all-important leadership transition begins, a dragnet is aimed at keeping anyone perceived as a threat or a troublemaker out of Beijing.

Mitt Romney's Bain Capital Dodged $102 Million In Taxes By Using Dutch Tax Loophole, Newspaper Writes

Bain Capital evaded about €80 million (or $102 million) in taxes by using a financial loophole in the Netherlands, according to a HuffPost translation of an article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant Monday.

De Volkskrant and the website Follow the Money claim that by routing its 2004 investments in the Irish pharmaceutical company Warner Chilcott through the Netherlands, Bain was able to dodge dividends and capital gains taxes. Financial adviser Jos Peters estimates that the loophole allowed Bain to save about $102 million.

Tory Election Call Scripts Raised Polling Station Changes

A company working for the Conservative Party phoned voters about polling station changes in ridings that had none, according to documents filed in Federal Court on Friday.

Responsive Marketing Group was making get-out-the-vote calls on behalf of Conservative candidates in a number of ridings, including five of six ridings at issue in a Federal Court challenge over the result of the election May 2, 2011.

When it comes to MP pensions, principles take second place

Out of 52 Reform Party members who entered the House of Commons in 1993 raring to pull out their broom and clean up the self-serving mess they saw in Ottawa, only three ever stuck by their promise to reject the gold-plated pension that MPs awarded themselves.

As a Postmedia News story noted on the weekend,

    Former MPs Preston Manning, Lee Morrison and Werner Schmidt are believed to be the only three original Reformers, from the class of 52 Reform MPs elected in 1993, who not only stuck to their commitment to opt out of what they said was a gold-plated pension plan, but won’t receive any parliamentary pension whatsoever.

The sincerity of question period

In the last few weeks, just about every time New Democrat MP Alexandre Boulerice stands in question period to demand answers on what the Opposition sees as various ethical transgressions the government has apparently committed, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has served as the point man to deliver an answer.

This is because, in the context of question period, he tends to deliver pointed, if rote, answers.

The Commons: Horrible reality intrudes

The Scene. The House went quiet.

Thomas Mulcair had concluded a sharp exchange with John Baird and Peggy Nash had just needled the government side about the price of shipping armoured limousines and now Bob Rae was on his feet. And suddenly all was very quiet. Not so much because of Mr. Rae—though here he held the House—but of what he had to say.

PMO, anti-organized labour group meet behind closed doors on 'transparency' bill

OTTAWA – A Conservative MP who has said his private member’s bill was not part of the government’s agenda has been attending closed-door meetings with senior government players and a vocal anti-organized labour organization – a revelation that is raising red flags among critics.

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s bill would force unions to open up their books, or risk facing hefty fines.

RCMP ships Harper's armoured Cadillac to India

CBC News has confirmed that a C-17 military transport plane flew armoured vehicles to India for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's five-day visit.

The total cost per flying hour for a C-17 is $21,239. It is not known how many hours were required for the trip or how many stops were involved.