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, May 07, 2013

Conservatives' interest in Canadian history raises eyebrows

The House of Commons heritage committee has launched a study of how history is preserved in federal, provincial and municipal programs, and how easily Canadians can access historical information.

However, it backed down from a plan to examine how history is taught in schools after a barrage of complaints from the opposition, which had accused the government of intruding on provincial jurisdiction, which includes school curriculum development, and of wanting to revise history in its own image.

Sexual Assaults In Military Rose To Over 26,000 In 2012: Pentagon Survey

WASHINGTON -- The sexual battery arrest of the Air Force officer who led the service's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit underscores how far the Defense Department has to go in addressing the plague of sexual crimes in the military, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told a committee hearing that a Pentagon report to be released later Tuesday reportedly estimates that, on average, there are more than 70 sexual assaults involving military personnel every day.

Canada Military Battling Harper Government Over Information Access

OTTAWA - The country's military police watchdog has told Parliament it still does not have the full authority it needs to discharge its mandate, despite recent changes to the law.

Specifically, the Military Police Complaints Commission says there remain "significant gaps" in its power to pry documents out of the federal government when conducting a public hearing or investigation.

The commission's annual report was tabled Monday in Parliament.

Science Cuts: Ottawa Views Pure Science As 'Cash Cow,' Critics Say

The email landed without warning in Brad Anholt’s inbox last April. It left him speechless.

“I couldn’t even talk about it. Not for hours,” said Anholt, one of Canada’s leading experts in marine biology and the director of the world-renowned Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, a not-for-profit teaching and research facility on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

MPs don’t really want to talk about history

What do you have against Canadian history?

That’s the question Conservative MPs are getting ready to ask opposition MPs. When the House of Commons Heritage Committee decided last week to hold a thorough review of Canadian history, they knew criticism was sure to follow.

The Conservative government’s commemorations of historical events and its funding cuts to important historical institutions such as Library and Archives Canada have created a continuous small froth of controversy. This was especially so around the commemorations of the War of 1812, commemorations that turned out, despite some riveting TV commercials that seemed to be channelling Mel Gibson, to be less “yee-haw!” and more “ho-hum.”

Census replacement to portray patterns of immigration, aboriginals and religion

OTTAWA - Canada is about to find out how colourful a country it is. Just how vibrant the colours will be, however — well, that's another story.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada will publish the first part of its controversial National Household Survey, detailing patterns of immigration, Aboriginal Peoples, race and religion.

The first-of-its-kind voluntary survey, which compiles responses from more than three million people, replaces the cancelled long-form census. And even Statistics Canada itself has admitted it won't match the detailed, neighbourhood-level information of its mandatory predecessor.

Harper stokes resentments in discreet class war

The willingness of much of the Canadian media to go along with the Conservative narrative about Stephen Harper’s “moderation” has allowed the prime minister to wage a discreet class war against working people without attracting too much attention.

Canadians don’t like Harper’s anti-worker agenda — when they notice it. That’s why there’s been such a public outcry since the temporary foreign worker program was exposed as a mechanism by which the Harper government has flooded the country with hundreds of thousands of cheap foreign workers, thereby suppressing Canadian wages in the interests of helping corporations.

Harper comms 101: When cornered, blame a bureaucrat

When Ground Control cuts Major Tom’s umbilical cord, you know the acidification of Canadian politics is complete.

Not only is Marc Garneau this country’s first astronaut, he actually operated Canada’s robotic space arm on two NASA missions. Moreover, it was Garneau who suggested to Industry Minister Christian Paradis that the Canadarm, a Canadian invention, be placed in a venue where people could actually see it — the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

RCMP muzzling testimony at Senate committee, says officer

A B.C. Mountie on stress leave says the force is preventing him from travelling to a Senate committee hearing in Ottawa to testify about harassment within the force.

Cpl. Roland Beaulieu was supposed to be in Ottawa on Monday, but late last week an RCMP doctor sent him an email saying if he is well enough to travel and testify at the committee then he's well enough to return to administrative work with the force.

No personal comments about us, Statistics Canada warns employees

OTTAWA — Number-crunchers at Statistics Canada are expected to refrain from making personal comments about the organization and government, including on social media and during their personal time, as part of the agency’s “code of conduct.”

A separate document on media training warns Statistics Canada bureaucrats about how to avoid “heading for a disaster” in a news interview and to “expect the sensational to be at the top of the story.”

Is Joe Oliver actually winning the debate on climate change?

In Ottawa? Maybe.

Once again, Natural Resource minister Joe Oliver is making some people (read: the Opposition) shake their heads in some combination of shame and disbelief thanks to something he said in response to a well-regarded voice on climate change. And once again, as a result, everyone is talking about Canada’s resource sector.

Elizabeth May calling for investigation into Labrador by-election

Green Party MP Elizabeth May wants the ethics commissioner to investigate Prime Minister Stephen Harper, particularly his calling of a by-election in Labrador.

It’s the riding former cabinet minister Peter Penashue held until he resigned his position and seat amidst a swirl of controversy in March.

Senators Brazeau, Harb to repay thousands in living expenses

Two senators whose housing and meal expenses were audited will have to repay tens of thousands of dollars, CTV News has learned.

Liberal Sen. Mac Harb will have to repay more than $100,000 while Independent Sen. Patrick Brazeau will be asked to reimburse the taxpayers about $30,000.

Class, politics and the undifferentiated middle

The middle class must occupy a privileged position in Canadian politics. Appeals to middle-class voters are a part of every party platform.

The Harper Conservatives talk about hard-working Canadians. The NDP likes middle-class working families. Recently, Justin Trudeau made middle-class Canadians the centrepiece of his victorious campaign for the Liberal leadership.

In Cold War America, calling everyone middle class allowed academics to avoid class analysis with its social divisions along economic lines, and its Marxist origins. In Europe, not only did sociologists divide society into workers and employers, each group had several of its own political parties.

Safe country? World Jewish Congress fears Hungary will relive 'darkest era in European history'

On Saturday, the former chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, tweeted: "Large anti-Semitic rally in Hungary by Fascist, Jobbik Party. Same Hungary that Immigration Min Kenny says is a safe country."

Hungary's rising and increasingly powerful extreme right Jobbik Party organized the rally to coincide with the World Jewish Congress (WJC) holding its plenary assembly in Budapest.

The Conservative Hungarian governing Party, Fidesz, headed by Prime Minister Victor Orban, formally disassociates itself from Jobbik's extremism.

Trade Talks? Only Business Insiders Invited

As the future of the proposed Canada-European Union Trade Agreement becomes increasingly uncertain -- the EU has been unwilling to compromise on the remaining contentious issues leaving the Canadian government with a deal that offers limited benefits and significant costs -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is likely to emerge as the government's new top trade priority.

The TPP has rapidly become of the world's most significant trade negotiations, with participants that include the United States, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, and Canada. There is a veil of secrecy associated with the TPP, however, as participants are required to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of entry into the talks. Despite those efforts, there have been occasional leaks of draft text that indicate the deal could require major changes to Canadian rules on investment, intellectual property, cultural protection, procurement, and agriculture.

Health Worker Fired to Protect Liberal Donors, Suit Alleges

The British Columbia government's attack on research that exposes the harmful effects of pharmaceutical drugs was aimed at protecting the profits of donors to the BC Liberal Party, according to court documents filed this week.

Bill Warburton, whose contract was terminated last July, filed his notice of claim in B.C. Supreme Court on May 6, 2013.

"The Province's acts against Dr. Warburton are part of a bad faith program by the Defendants to end the investigation of harmful effects of drugs which risk leading to diminishing payments to their political contributors," said the notice.

Prime Minister Harper needs to put substance into his ‘energy superpower’ boast

Stephen Harper, despite being descended on one side from builders of a transcontinental railway, is not one for grand national projects. To him, these undertakings smack of so much Liberal overreach.

But Harper’s party is in the doldrums these days. So is the economy. It may be time for a bold strategic initiative, something truly worthy of the incessant invocation of ‘Canada’s economic action plan.’

Temporary foreign workers hired in areas with EI claimants

The minister responsible for the temporary foreign worker program was told last year that employers were hiring temporary foreign workers in the same jobs and same locations as Canadians who were collecting employment insurance, CBC News has learned.

On May 29, 2012, the deputy minister for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada wrote a briefing note to the minister, Diane Finley, which cited four examples in which there was deemed to be a "disconnect" between the temporary foreign worker and employment insurance programs.

Robert Fisk on Syria’s Civil War, Chemical Weapons "Theater" & Obama’s Backing of Israeli Strikes

As the United States moves toward increased intervention in Syria, we’re joined by Robert Fisk, the longtime Middle East correspondent of the British newspaper The Independent. Just back from two weeks in Syria reporting around the capital Damascus, Fisk discusses what he calls the "theater of chemical weapons," the latest in Syria’s civil war — a battle he says the Syrian government is winning — as well as his reaction to what he calls President Obama’s "pitiful" backing of the recent Israeli missile strikes. "Don’t ask me if they have used chemical weapons," Fisk says. "It’s conceivable. There really isn’t any proof. What you have got to realize is that this is a propaganda war just as much as it is a savage war, killing many thousands of human beings."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Austerity Has Cost The U.S. Economy 2.2 Million Jobs: Study

There are more than 2 million unemployed Americans who might have jobs today if not for austerity.

That's the conclusion of a new study by Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney at the Brookings Institution. In the 46 months since the Great Recession ended, state, local and federal governments have cut about 500,000 jobs. In contrast, in every other U.S. recession since 1970, the government hired approximately 1.7 million people, on average. That means the U.S. is an estimated 2.2 million jobs in the hole.

Congress Helps Air Travelers, Ignores Victims of Rape and Domestic Violence

In March, shortly after President Barack Obama signed an extension of the Violence Against Women Act into law, the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women sent an email to the hundreds of nonprofits and government agencies around the country that rely on its annual grants. The message was grim: Due to cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, better known as sequestration, programs that fight domestic violence and sexual assault would see a $20 million drop in funding over the next year. It was Washington at its most inept: Almost immediately after renewing VAWA, a popular law intended to help victims of abuse, Congress had stunted its own efforts, leaving already cash-strapped programs looking for ways to scrape by.

US Cyberattacks: China Government Hackers Responsible, According To Pentagon Report

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon for the first time used its annual report on China to directly assert that Beijing's government and military have conducted computer-based attacks against the U.S., including efforts to steal information from federal agencies.

In a new report on the Chinese military, the Defence Department goes a small step further than it has gone in the past, when it said that cyber-attacks originated in China and may be linked to Beijing's use of civilian experts in clandestine attacks against American companies. But over the past year, U.S. government officials and private cyber-security experts have increasingly stepped up accusations that the Chinese government is directly involved in cyber espionage against the U.S.

Canadian charities spend thousands hosting MPs on foreign trips

OTTAWA — Canadian charities that raise money to feed malnourished children and develop sanitation projects in the developing world have spent more than $40,000 taking MPs on foreign trips over the past two years.

Registered charities World Vision Canada, Engineers without Borders and Canadian Economic Development Assistance for Southern Sudan have all sponsored trips for MPs — and, in some cases, their spouses — according to reports filed with the federal ethics commissioner.

All MPs are required to file a report when they accept trips from third parties, which are considered a perk for backbench or opposition MPs who normally travel only between their ridings and Ottawa.

N.B. farmer sues Canadian government over Beirut jail time

A New Brunswick farmer who languished for more than a year in a Beirut jail cell on allegations he shipped rotten potatoes to Algeria is suing the Canadian government, arguing it didn't protect his Charter rights.

In a statement of claim filed Monday with the Federal Court in Ottawa, Henk Tepper says the government didn't do enough to try to secure his freedom, and therefore his right to life, liberty and security of person were violated.

How to blame the NDP for losing track of $3.1 billion

We’ve all been very mistaken, apparently.

Over the last week, ever since the Auditor General’s Office released its spring report and revealed that $3.1 billion in potential anti-terror and public safety spending had not been accounted for, a lot of people in Ottawa have been asking what might have happened to it — and why the government can’t seem to track it down.

Cleverly subversive Liberal ad messes with Harper’s head

Justin Trudeau is obviously smarter and wilier than some of us gave him credit for. He’s been Liberal leader for less than a month and already he and his party strategists have devised a clever plan to mess with Stephen Harper’s head that is almost certain to cause cranial explosions deep within the Hidden Agenda Room at 24 Sussex Drive.

Yesterday the party released a video of Trudeau bragging about the money that’s been pouring in since he became leader.  The party was so eager to get it out that they didn’t give him time to get dressed, and he turns up in somebody’s front yard in his crumpled Saturday cargo pants and a green Joe Fresh T-shirt.

Debt-free B.C.?

It is pretty clear that Premier Christy Clark's election-inspired promise of a debt-free B.C. is not to be taken seriously. There is no credible market analysis indicating that the royalties from B.C. liquified natural gas (LNG) exports would be sufficient to do that in 15 years, as the Premier would have it. The potential for increased gas supply from other sources and diminishing price spreads between North America and the Asian market are simply too great to place any weight on a promise of the multi-billion dollar windfall that would be needed to pay off B.C.'s debt.

I can't quit you, sociology

True confession time, people.

I commit sociology.

And not just as a one-off.
You might say -- all right, I will say it -- that I'm a repeat offender. In fact, I'm practically addicted. Scarcely a minute can go by without my synapses looking for their next fix.

That might not be a politically correct admission. After all, this is tough-on-crime Canada, where such wanton disregard for Father-Knows-Best-ology and doing the "right" thing (and not in that perilously-close-to-committing-sociology Spike Lee kind of way) seems almost, well, unpatriotic.

Feds eliminated more than 15,000 public service jobs last year: PCO report

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government cut jobs for students and temporary employees at more than six times the rate of cuts to fulltime public service positions after the March 2012 restraint budget, a new report says.

The report quietly tabled in the House of Commons last Friday shows that overall, the government cut its total number of employees from 278,092 to 262,902 from March 31 last year to Dec. 31.