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, February 22, 2013

Is Senator Ted Cruz our new McCarthy?

Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s prosecutorial style of questioning Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, came so close to innuendo that it raised eyebrows in Congress, even among his Republican colleagues. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Cruz’s inquiry into Hagel’s past associations “out of bounds, quite frankly.” The Times reported that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, rebuked Cruz for insinuating, without evidence, that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. Some Democrats went so far as to liken Cruz, who is a newcomer to the Senate, to a darkly divisive predecessor, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose anti-Communist crusades devolved into infamous witch hunts. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, stopped short of invoking McCarthy’s name, but there was no mistaking her allusion when she talked about being reminded of “a different time and place, when you said, ‘I have here in my pocket a speech you made on such-and-such a date,’ and of course there was nothing in the pocket.”

Dissenters deeply resented by Tories

CALGARY — Even as Mayor Naheed Nenshi was being invited to meet with the premier, provincial needling continued Thursday over the city charter.

The PCs don’t forgive readily, and they never forget.

Premier Alison Redford implied that Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel co-operates, and Nenshi doesn’t.

EU wants more, more, more from Canada in controversial trade negotiations

So how do you like it, Mr. De Gucht? The Canada-EU trade deal, that is. Not very much, according to news reports of public posturing on both sides of the CETA negotiations.

"What was on the table simply didn't please me, so I didn't make an agreement," said the European trade commissioner (pictured) in Brussels today, as if he were bargaining with a parent over whether or not to eat his peas. In fact, De Gucht was referring to a February 6 ministerial meeting with International Trade Minister Ed Fast that failed to bridge the remaining gaps in the CETA negotiations.

More changes to refugee system from Jason Kenney: Mexico added to 'safe countries' list

The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announced on February 14, 2013 that the list of Designated Countries of Origin is being expanded to include an additional eight countries. The Designation came into force on February 15, 2013.

The Designated Country of Origin (DCO) is part of the new refugee system that came into effect in Canada on December 15, 2012. The Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act gives the authority for the Minister to designate countries of origin for fast tracking of refugee claims. The designation also restricts the rights refugees to obtain work permits who come from the DCO's that generally "offer state protection, have active human rights and civil society organizations, and do not normally produce refugees."

Queue-jumping inquiry update: Who pays $10,000 a year for yoga and diet advice?

Can we agree on one thing? Nobody pays $10,000 to $15,000 a year just for massages, yoga and diet advice.

Alberta's medical queue-jumping inquiry continued this week with testimony from the principals of a high-end Calgary medical clinic -- unfortunate turn of phrase, that, under the circumstances -- whose customers got to skip the line for diagnostic colon cancer screening at a public colonoscopy clinic in the same building.

Fracking: Feds Throw Wrench in High Profile Lawsuit

In a stunning move the Harper government has thrown another hurdle before a high profile Alberta lawsuit that seeks to put the regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public trial.

Last week the Department of Justice appointed Honourable Barbara L. Veldhuis, a Court of Queen's Bench judge presiding over the landmark case, to the Court of Appeal of Alberta. The promotion effectively removes Veldhuis from the multi-million dollar lawsuit.

Budget Cuts Amidst Forest 'Crisis' Anger Critics

Budget cuts announced for forest stewardship in British Columbia are signs of the government's short term thinking, a theft from future generations and evidence that recent commitments were lies, according to critics.

The minister responsible, Steve Thomson, acknowledges the ministry made sacrifices to help balance the provincial budget, but argues the key inventory work is being done to prepare for future years when the budget is restored.

Violent police arrest video released in Quebec court

Surveillance video showing the forceful arrest of a man suspected of robbery in Trois-Rivières, Que., has been released.

The footage, captured by a surveillance video, shows 19-year-old Alexis Vadeboncoeur lying face down in the snow, with his arms outstretched as four Trois-Rivières municipal police officers approach.

Toronto declared ‘sanctuary city’ to non-status migrants

Toronto has made history by affirming itself as a “sanctuary city,” the first Canadian city with a formal policy allowing undocumented migrants to access services regardless of immigration status.

On Thursday, City Council passed the motion by a vote of 37 to 3 that also requires training all city staff and managers to ensure Toronto’s estimated 200,000 non-status residents can access its services without fear of being turned over to border enforcement officers for detention and deportation.

After visit from CSIS, Hamilton man criticizes 'intimidation'

Hamiltonian Ken Stone is speaking out against what he says is a campaign by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to put a “chill” on activists.

An outspoken labour and anti-racism advocate, Stone said he got an unexpected visit at home from two CSIS agents after an editorial he wrote for the Jan. 11 issue of the Hamilton Spectator, headlined “Harper is Wrong in Demonizing Iran.”

“Two people appeared at my door, and I thought they were Jehovah's Witnesses,” he said of the Jan. 25 encounter. “They identified themselves as being CSIS agents.”

Rise of democracy by petition could be a bad sign

Kennedy Stewart, the 46-year-old New Democratic Party MP for the British Columbia riding of Burnaby-Douglas, is a good egg. Before he was elected in 2011, Stewart was a tenured professor at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. He’s the NDP’s science and technology critic. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics.

Stewart is obviously a very smart guy, but he has this very big idea about how to revivify Canadian democracy, and if we’re all not very careful, Stewart’s idea will turn Parliament into an audience-participation reality show, like Dancing with the Stars. Or worse.

Terrorism against women: The war that never ends

In September 2005, Emory University Professor Erica Frank came to a none-too-startling conclusion: that investments in basics like disease prevention and research would save far more lives than the hundreds of billions spent in the "war on terror." Citing one example, Dr. Frank noted that in September 2002, New York State spent $1.3 million to reduce heart disease (the leading cause of death in the state) while the state budgeted $34 million for bio-terrorism preparedness (the latter an issue rooted largely in the netherworld of speculation).

Five reasons the Keystone XL pipeline is bad for jobs, as well as the environment

The American labour movement is once again facing a most controversial issue -- the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While the KXL debate has largely centered around the environmental risks, from labour's perspective opening up the Canadian tar sands is often seen as an economic, not an environmental, issue.

And it's no wonder: Construction unemployment is double the national average and, from a worker's perspective, Keystone jobs will be good-paying union jobs in an economy that increasingly offers up only minimum-wage service work.

Academics split on Canada's religious freedom ambassador

Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls Canada's new ambassador of religious freedom "a scholar, a man of principle and deep convictions," but the emphasis on Dr. Andrew Bennett's academic qualifications has some scholars of religion scratching their heads.

Harper introduced the government's choice to head up the new $5-million Office of Religious Freedom, which is housed within the department of Foreign Affairs, at a mosque north of Toronto on Tuesday before an audience of about 200 religious leaders and others.

It’s not complicated: No one should have to sleep in the street

It was a juxtaposition that would have been funny were it not so damn sad: Last Friday, Mayor Rob Ford visited the car show, press gallery in tow. Some of the photos the reporters periodically tweeted out included Ford sitting in a $90,000 Dodge Viper, Ford sitting in a $360,000 McLaren Spyder, and Ford sitting in a $571,000 Rolls Royce. Meanwhile the anti-poverty group Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) staged a sit-in outside his office at City Hall.

Ford took questions. About the cars, he said his favourite was the Rolls. About the OCAP protestors, he asked, “Why are they doing it?”

New details emerge of potential sequester cuts to national parks

The automatic budget cuts set to take effect on March 1 will delay the opening of the East and West Rim drives at the Grand Canyon and reduce hours of operation at the main visitor center. At Gettysburg, 20 percent of student education programs would be eliminated this spring.

The Blue Ridge Parkway would lose 21 seasonal interpretive ranger programs, resulting in the closure of half of the park’s visitor stations and leaving 80 miles between each one.