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.]

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Shelter is on City Hall’s agenda, and there’s a lot of catching up to do

Last month, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty staged a demonstration at Metro Hall. Outside, I ran into an old friend, Mark, who was there with the protestors. When I knew him more than a decade ago, he lived in a great old house in Yorkville with a whole bunch of roommates who threw tremendously fun parties—bohemia’s last stand in that former hippie neighbourhood, whose gentrification pretty much defined the word in Toronto. That house is long gone, converted into condos. Mark’s living in another apartment, but has to move again soon—his landlord is kicking him out so a relative can move in, which is code for being evicted because you don’t pay enough rent.

No stable rents

Among the many dangerous consequences of Rob Ford’s austerity regime is the way it can penetrate all layers of the civic administration, including those that fly beneath the radar.

While we don’t know exactly what prompted city staff to start a process threatening the existence of community groups in the Below-Market-Rent (BMR) program, it’s a good bet cost-cutting directives are to blame.

Betting on the farm

For casino foes, there was an important vote in the legislature Thursday afternoon, March 28 – that is, if you believe in symbolic gestures. Then again, it may be something more, even the out the Libs are looking for to kill Paul Godfrey’s gamble with Toronto’s future.

The PCs joined the NDP to pass a motion calling on the Liberal government to delay its implementation of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG) so-called “modernization” (read privatization) plan until the 2014 municipal elections. That’s so municipalities that may want a casino can add that question to the ballot.

The thin blue line and the criminalization of dissent

On June 27th 2012, I attended a Casserole demonstration in solidarity with Quebec students at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). So did the Vancouver Police Department's 'Public Safety Unit.'

As the rally began, there was a 1 to 1 ratio of police to demonstrators. After being approached and informed that if we marched and blocked intersections or oncoming lanes of traffic, we would be arrested, we decided to stay at the VAG and that we would 'casserole' and approach officers present and ask for their names and badge numbers, which they are legally obligated to provide.

Government whistleblower just doing ‘the right thing’

It used to be his cottage, but now Edgar Schmidt calls the three-storey white pine loft his home.

The 60-year-old lawyer relocated to Val-des-Monts, Quebec in January, a month after he was suspended without pay from the Department of Justice for filing a lawsuit against his own employer.

The claim is one experts believe could have wide-ranging ramifications for both the public and whistle-blowing public servants.

Schmidt alleges the department is failing to ensure that laws comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under that test, the Minister of Justice does not have to inform Parliament of laws likely to be unconstitutional.

Korean War Games

North Korea greeted 2013 with a bang (or several of them), not the dying whimper that Beltway officials and pundits had hoped for—and have been predicting ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In December, Pyongyang launched a long-range missile that, after many failures dating to 1998, got the country’s first satellite rotating around the earth. A couple of months later, North Korea detonated its third atomic bomb. Then, as the annual US–South Korean war games got going and a new president took office in Seoul, the North let loose a farrago of mind-bending rhetoric, bellowing that events were inching toward war, renouncing the Korean War armistice of 1953, and threatening to hit either the United States or South Korea with a pre-emptive nuclear attack. In between, Chicago Bulls great Dennis Rodman brought his stainless-steel-studded, tattooed and multi-hued six-foot-eight frame to sit beside “young lad” (as the vice chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff described the North’s new leader) Kim Jong-un at a basketball game in Pyongyang. As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up.

Keystone XL Stirs Montana Farmer's Climate Change And Crop Concerns

Last year proved too dry. The year before -- too wet. For Wade Sikorski of Fallon County, Mont., the years in which the weather is just right to grow food on his ranch seem to be increasingly few and far between.

"We go from one extreme to another," said Sikorski. "With either extreme, I can't produce anything."

Sikorski sees climate change as a culprit, and the Keystone XL pipeline -- which is slated to run within a couple miles of his ranch -- as likely to make matters worse.

Jim DeMint: '69.5 Million Americans' Are Dependent On Government

Former Sen. Jim DeMint, the new president of the Heritage Foundation, began work there Thursday with a letter to the group's staff outlining his vision for the organization. Mitt Romney would find much to admire in it.

Though he adjusted the former GOP presidential candidate's estimate that 47 percent of the voting population is "dependent upon government," DeMint doesn't stray far from the underlying message.

On 45th Anniversary of His Death, Martin Luther King Jr. on the Power of Media and the Horror of War

Forty-five years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was in Memphis to march with sanitation workers demanding a better wage. We air part of a speech he gave to the National Association of Radio Announcers the previous year in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King spoke about the power of the media and the horrors of war in Vietnam.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Provincial government defends its new commission on EI reforms

MONTREAL - The relationship between Quebec and the federal government soured further Wednesday with the province setting up its own independent commission to examine federal employment insurance reforms.

Ramping up its offensive against Ottawa, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier said the new commission — which has a budget of $1.5 million — will roam the province to hear how the reforms are affecting Quebecers' day-to-day lives.

Greens do politics differently -- but not in the way that Rex Murphy thinks

In his Saturday National Post column, Rex Murphy claimed that Canada's Green party has no goal other than to get me elected as an MP -- and that this has been the case for "two or three general elections."

In fact, I have led the party into only two general elections. The Green Party, unlike any of the other parties represented in Parliament, is truly grassroots. The leader is not the boss, and electing the leader was not a priority before 2011.

Fiscal debate in Quebec: Myth busting and flak

Some myths are just so hard to debunk. For instance, people in Québec generally assume that they are the most taxed in North America. IRIS tackled the well-rehearsed allegation in a recently published socio-economic notice. The reply resounded of what Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky have presented in Manufacturing Consent as flak. Here's a short demonstration of how strongly myths are defended in Québec nowadays.

Uh-oh! Looks like Trudeaumania again! Break out the Tory slime machine!

The Forum poll of Canadians' voting intentions publicized yesterday by the National Post cannot be said to contain good news for the most prominent old guys in our nation’s politics -- leastways those that are still in the game.

The demon-dialler survey of 1,310 voters done the day before yesterday by the Toronto-based pollster certainly didn't contain particularly good news for either Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is 55 at the end of the month, or Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, 58.

There is no such thing as 'young voter': Elections, movements and the politics of identity

Not long ago I was at a political event having a conversation with another young organizer, and as these conversations often do, they turned to some of our gripes with some of our older colleagues. Today, it was a particular frustration, the elusive "youth vote."

Politicians, political organizers and pundits have made a lot of hay over the past decade decrying, appealing to and discussing the crisis with what they tend to call "young voters." With an election in British Columbia right around the corner, it's beginning again.

Why were we sharing this moment of frustration? Because there is no such thing as a young voter.

Changes to LNG Plan Pull Plug on Jobs Say First Nations

When Premier Christy Clark unveiled her liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy just over a year ago, it had the look and feel of a grand compromise.

The Liberal government's plans included at least three new LNG terminals on the North Coast (one of them producing enough liquefied gas to fill seven B.C. Place Stadiums each day) and hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of tankers navigating its pristine waters.

Sen. Roy Blunt: Monsanto's Man in Washington

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, a recent Senate bill came with a nice bonus for the genetically modified seed industry: a rider, wholly unrelated to the underlying bill, that compels the USDA to ignore federal court decisions that block the agency's approvals of new GM crops. I explained in this post why such a provision, which the industry has been pushing for over a year, is so important to Monsanto and its few peers in the GMO seed industry. (You can also hear my talking about it on NPR's The Takeaway, along with the senator who tried to stop it, Montana's Jon Tester, and see me on Al Jazeera's Inside Story.)

Racist Graffiti In Edmonton: House Covered In Swastikas, Racial Slurs As Family Returns Home

Coming home to find her home tagged with racist graffiti and racial slurs broke an Edmonton woman's heart, the victim said Wednesday.

The family had been away for the weekend and returned to find their south Edmonton home vandalized with swastikas and racial slurs, CTV News Edmonton reported.

“My heart sank and all I could do was cry for my mixed [race] children in the back seat [of the] car,” the victim told CTV News Edmonton.

Jim Flaherty’s Cyprus-style bank rescue plan

Be prepared. If you hold the wrong kind of bank accounts, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may have your savings in his cross-hairs.

That’s the message from the finance department, which has been set the unwelcome task of having to explain the government’s latest attempt to prevent a Cyprus-style financial meltdown in Canada.

Two weeks ago, Flaherty quietly served notice in his budget that Ottawa is preparing a new set of what it called bail-in rules that it could impose should one of the country’s big banks face collapse.

It’s not the abortion part of sex-selection that should concern us

That the fetus you are carrying is female is certainly a terrible reason to have an abortion — but, good or bad, your reason is none of the government’s business. It’s simply not the place of our federal Parliament to voice an opinion on the merit of this or that reason behind a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

To make this point is not, of course, to applaud the refusal by the House affairs committee to allow MP Mark Warawa to bring M-408 to the House of Commons. M-408 would have had Parliament “condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selection pregnancy termination.” As Andrew Coyne has written in the Citizen, denying MPs the privilege to introduce motions and to speak in the House corrupts Parliament (“How mob rule muzzled Mark Warawa,” March 30). Less party discipline and more respect for the rules and traditions of Parliament would serve Canadians well.

Status of Women drops long-standing raison d’être, performance targets

Status of Women Canada has taken another blow under the Conservative government, with this year’s plans and priorities report revealing the department’s guiding principle and its performance targets have been nixed.

Status of Women Canada (SWC) had been working towards the same specific strategic outcome every year since at least 2008, which is as far back as the reports are available online.

More action needed to stop tax cheats, MPs say

Opposition MPs are calling on the federal government to stop taking "baby steps" in its crackdown on people who hide money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.

This comes as the CBC is part of an exclusive worldwide release of offshore financial information, that was first obtained by the Washington based, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Public robocalls documents don’t tell the full story of the case against Sona: expert

OTTAWA — The prosecutors who decided to proceed with a charge against Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona in the robocall case must believe they have a shot at conviction, which suggests Elections Canada has evidence stronger than anything it has disclosed in publicly available court documents, says veteran elections lawyer Jack Siegel.

“The standard to get it through a prosecutor is reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction,” said Siegel, an active Liberal, in an interview Wednesday. “Of course, all the evidence they have is not going to be on the public record.”

Sir Galahad needs spurs: Trudeau vs. the Tory war machine

We learn that Stephen Harper’s team has its attack ads — there being no ban on assault weapons in this country either — ready to fire the minute that Justin Trudeau is crowned Liberal leader.

For two reasons this is not the least bit surprising. The first reason is the ongoing and eye-popping poll results (hypothetical polls, mind you) that see Sir Galahad’s Liberals making mincemeat of the Harpercons.

Conservative attacks on Justin Trudeau reach new level of hypocrisy

Since the day Justin Trudeau formally entered the Liberal leadership race, Conservative politicians and right-wing commentators have worked relentlessly to portray him as a “policy light” pretty boy who lacks the experience to head a major political party.

The Conservatives will step up that campaign with a wave of attack ads immediately following the Liberals’ announcement on April 14 of their new leader, which will undoubtedly be Trudeau.

Don't get mad about the Mail's use of the Philpotts to tarnish the poor – get even

The Daily Mail reminds me a little bit of climate change: you think you've got the measure of just how bad it is, but every time you look it's taken another appalling leap forward. Yesterday, following the conviction of the Philpotts for the manslaughter of their six children, it called Mick Philpott the "vile product of welfare UK". The cynicism, the lack of respect for the dead, the dehumanising terminology (he "bred" the children, it says); the front page alone told us all we need to know.

Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore

Millions of internal records have leaked from Britain's offshore financial industry, exposing for the first time the identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world, from presidents to plutocrats, the daughter of a notorious dictator and a British millionaire accused of concealing assets from his ex-wife.

The leak of 2m emails and other documents, mainly from the offshore haven of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.

Morsi in Bazinga: Jon Stewart Defends Bassem Youssef

My Arabic classes in Cairo usually do not begin with Jon Stewart. The teacher’s name is Rifat, and he’s a committed Nasserite; as far as he’s concerned, the Egyptian revolution that mattered was the one that occurred in 1952. We often have detailed discussions about the Free Officers Movement, the ration-card system of the nineteen-sixties, and the singer Om Kalthoum. I’ve been forced to perform painstaking translations of radio broadcasts that are almost fifty years old. But this morning Rifat produced a fresh copy of The Seventh Day, a Cairo newspaper, and pointed to the front-page headline:


Zeke Emanuel Offers Little Hope To Chicago Teachers Union In School Closings Battle

Zeke Emanuel, the oldest brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, offered simple advice to the Chicago Teachers Union Wednesday. If you're fighting his brother Rahm, it's better to lose.

The Chicago Teachers Union organized crowds outside the mayor's office Tuesday morning to protest Emanuel's plan to close 54 neighborhood elementary schools. Zeke Emanuel said their labor is for nothing.

Secret Files Expose Offshore's Global Impact

A cache of 2.5 million files has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and the mega-rich the world over.

The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lay bare the names behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other offshore hideaways.

Schumer Wants to Have His Cake and Eat It, Too

Senator Chuck Schumer is the leading Democrat from the Gang of Eight lawmakers that have been crafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Schumer has used various opportunities to take credit for progress on that bill. Activists, on the other hand, want to take him to task for garnering more than $100,000 dollars in campaign contributions from private immigrant detention lobbyists.

Virginia Gov. Candidate Cuccinelli Defending Law That Forbids Oral Sex

Last month, three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit deemed a Virginia anti-sodomy law unconstitutional. The provision, part of the state's "Crimes Against Nature" law, has been moot since the 2003 US Supreme Court decision overruled state laws barring consensual gay sex, but Virginia has kept the prohibition on the books.

Now Virginia attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is asking the full 4th Circuit to reconsider the case. Cuccinelli wants the court to revive the prohibition on consensual anal and oral sex, for both gay and straight people. (The case at hand involves consensual, heterosexual oral sex.)

Raymond Robinson, Manitoba Aboriginal Leader, Begins Hunger Strike Against Harper Government

MONTREAL - An aboriginal leader from Manitoba says he has begun yet another hunger protest in an effort to stop changes to federal funding for First Nations people.

Grand Elder Raymond Robinson says his latest action will continue until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to have a meaningful dialogue with aboriginal leaders.

"I'm going all out this time," Robinson said of his new protest, during which he says he will not consume any food or water.

Jennifer Pawluck Arrested For Instagram Photo Of Ian Lafreniere Graffiti

A 20-year-old Montreal woman was surprised when police showed up at her home to arrest her for an Instagram photo she took of graffiti showing Montreal police spokesperson Ian Lafreniere with a bullet in his head.

Jennifer Pawluck took the photo in question in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood of Montreal last month.

North Korea Seen Moving Missile: Report

SEOUL, April 4 (Reuters) - North Korea has moved what appears to be a mid-range Musudan missile to its east coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Thursday, quoting multiple government sources privy to intelligence from U.S. and South Korean authorities.

It was not clear if the missile was mounted with a warhead or whether the North was planning to fire it or was just putting it on display as a show of force, one South Korean government source was quoted as saying.

NDP ponders deleting socialism from its guiding statement

OTTAWA — NDP brass are taking a second shot at jettisoning some of the socialist baggage that many — including Leader Tom Mulcair — feel might hold them back in the next federal election.

A committee of senior NDP members is recommending the party modernize its guiding statement by making it less ideological and dropping most of its many references to socialism.

A proposed rewrite of the opening lines of the NDP constitution was sent to party members Wednesday, in advance of next week’s policy convention in Montreal.

Pay raise for MPs also gives senators a salary bump

OTTAWA — When MPs quietly gave themselves a pay increase late last month — ending a three-year salary freeze — they not only gave a gift to themselves, but to the legislative body down the hall.

The base salary for senators went up to $135,200 from $132,300 — an increase of $2,900 — on April 1, the same day salary increases kicked in for MPs, whose base salary rose to $160,200 from just under $158,000, for an increase of about $2,500.

Dropping UN drought convention: The death knell of Canada's international reputation?

According to UNICEF's 2009 Human Development Index, the impoverished North African nation of Niger ranks lowest in nutritional and health indicators. In that country, one child in five dies before their fifth birthday.

Bordering Niger to the southwest is Burkina Faso, a similarly destitute, landlocked republic where there are as few as ten physicians per 100,000 people and a child malnutrition rate of 25 per cent.

Canadian Senator Pana Merchant’s lawyer husband stashed $1.7 million offshore, CBC says

Prominent Canadian lawyer Tony Merchant, married to Saskatchewan Liberal Senator Pana Merchant, has stashed at least $1.7 million in a sunny offshore tax haven — cloaked in secrecy, the CBC and Radio Canada has reported.

An in-depth investigation based on 2.5-million documents obtained by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with 38 news organizations, shows 450 Canadians have money hidden offshore.

The Big Move: Pay-per-kilometre system could be the way of the future

Officials in Oregon saw the problem coming years ago: Fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles would spell disaster for a state reliant on gas taxes to pay for road repairs.

So they asked some drivers to pony up at the pump in a different way. In 2007, they launched a pilot project involving 300 motorists, who had GPS devices installed in their vehicles to record miles driven. Whenever they filled up, the drivers would pay an additional fee of about one cent per mile travelled, based on the device’s information.

Joe Oliver’s platitudes ignore dirty reality of oil spills

The federal government’s recently stated intention to establish a “world-class oil spill response and prevention” plan is clearly designed to assuage public fears in British Columbia over the dramatic increase in oil tanker traffic that would accompany the Enbridge Northern Gateway project and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion.

Energy Minister Joe Oliver’s announcement, however, does little to diminish the risk or change the nature of shipping oil on the B.C. coast. The reality is that human nature and physical nature are the forces that produce tragedies at sea. Unforeseen events that inevitably occur in narrow channels, high-traffic corridors and bad weather increase the risk of oil tanker accidents on B.C.’s coast. Major oil spills show that despite assurances of low risk and advanced technology, poor decisions still lead to major incidents. Groundings, collisions, equipment failures and explosions are all cited as causes for accidents, but these are consequences, not causes. Root causes of incidents are more insidious, with human error, cost-cutting and miscommunication foremost among them.

Conservative MP Mark Warawa’s Motion 408 is about abortion, not free speech

Conservative MP Mark Warawa’s Motion 408 condemning sex-selection abortions and the subsequent decisions by the Conservative Party to disavow it have raised a host of hotly debated questions. Few, however, have questioned the unanimity with which the issue is now being framed as one of free speech and democratic rights. We should. Because if this becomes the dominant frame, it will be a significant victory for the anti-abortion movement.

Senator's husband put $1.7M in offshore tax havens

A prominent Canadian lawyer, husband to a Liberal senator, moved nearly $2 million to secretive financial havens while he was locked in battle with the Canada Revenue Agency over his taxes, according to documents in a massive leak of offshore financial data that were shared exclusively in Canada with CBC News.

The transactions are detailed in a huge leak of offshore financial information received by the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a non-profit group that has shared the records with CBC News and media outlets in 35 other countries. It is thought to be one of the biggest ever leaks of financial data.

It's About the People, Not the Pipeline

Any casual observer of the debate that has swirled around Enbridge Northern Gateway's proposal to run a diluted bitumen pipeline 1,100 km from Alberta to B.C.'s north coast might see this as a debate between competing interests: on one side, First Nations and wild-eyed environmentalists pitted against bottom-line oil industrialists on the other.

This simple telling of the tale misses the real story and the great lessons for all who might have interests in oil, energy, the land and Canada's future. Namely: everyone.