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.]

Monday, May 20, 2013

2015 Federal Election: For Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair, The Campaign Is Underway

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives will reach the midway mark of their governing mandate later this summer. When Canadian politics crests that hill, it starts rolling quicker and quicker towards the next election.

The pieces have already moved into place.

The last slot in the lineup that will contest the 2015 federal election was filled when Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in April.

Tory senator says it's time for some colleagues to go

After watching the Senate expense scandal deepen over the last week, Senator Vern White spoke out Sunday, saying his colleagues in the red chamber need to understand with greater clarity that, “Loyalty can’t be more important than integrity.”

White, who was Ottawa Police chief before being appointed to the Senate early last year, said watching events unfold has been “frustrating.”

Abortion debate looms for Prime Minister Stephen Harper

OTTAWA — As he grapples with a growing scandal over Senate expenses, Prime Minister Stephen Harper faces another potential flashpoint as the House of Commons resumes sitting: The political debate over abortion is far from over.

Members of Parliament in the pro-life caucus, including several Conservatives, say politicians and Canadians are eager to see the issue debated and plan on continuing to place it on the public agenda.

Harper strong on offence, in every way

Here are a few things Prime Minister Stephen Harper can do in the coming months to cement the legacy of his remarkable government. Name Ottawa-area MP, Pierre Poilievre, to Cabinet as a reward for his indiscriminate sycophancy. Find a comfortable government job for defeated and discredited former Cabinet minister Peter Penashue. Appoint Don Cherry to the Senate.

Okay, maybe Cherry, 79, is too old. How about Senator Rob Ford? How would you like that, downtown Toronto?

Scientists offer much-needed reality check on climate implications of Ottawa’s resource agenda

TORONTO—Two weeks ago, a group of 12 prominent climate scientists and energy experts from across the country sent Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver a letter. It’s a great statement that’s worth reading in full, but the following paragraph sums up the central issue: “If we truly wish to have a ‘serious debate’ about climate change and energy in this country, as you have rightly called for, we must start by acknowledging that our choices about fossil fuel infrastructure carry significant consequences for today’s and future generations.”

Empire States: On Pankaj Mishra

In the fun-house mirror of the present, the contours of the twentieth century have assumed a strange symmetry. It begins and ends with imperialism. The century opens with the West plundering the Rest, until one Asian nation, Japan, joins the action and becomes an empire itself. In the century’s last decade, the pattern repeats: the forces of liberal capitalism are again as dominant as ever, only this time China is the apt pupil of Western rapacity. The way historians speak of the present in terms of “imperialism,” ”anti-imperialism” and “the rise of Asia” makes the burst of decolonization after World War II seem like an interlude in a perpetual age of empire. The temptation to see Western colonials still lording it over hapless subalterns continues to guide our understanding of the relations between the “North” and “South” since the end of formal imperialism in the 1960s. But this perspective passes over the major structural changes in the history of the postwar decades, when the United States reconceived its mission in the world and new nations were no longer willing to support it on the same terms. Without grasping how this new configuration of forces reshaped the world order, we will continue to misidentify ways to change it.

America's Youth Unemployment Problem Could Cost $18 Billion Over The Next Decade: Analysis

America has a youth unemployment problem, and it’s not just the kids who are suffering.

The nation is poised to lose $18 billion in wages over the next decade due to high youth unemployment, according to a Bloomberg Brief from Bloomberg Senior Economist Joseph Brusuelas.

Brusuelas estimated that about 1.3 million 16- to 24-year-olds have been unemployed for six months or more. He came to the $18 billion figure using earlier research, which found six months of joblessness at age 22 results in a wage that’s 8 percent lower at age 23, 6 percent lower at 26 and 4 percent lower at 30. Still, the problem of lost wages due to unemployment could actually be much worse, Brusuelas told The Huffington Post.

Feds Say Peace Activists Who Trespassed Onto Nuclear Facility Are A National Security Threat

In another case of possible overreach by federal prosecutors, an 82-year-old nun and two anti-nuclear activists face long prison terms after being convicted of "sabotage against the U.S. government" and other serious felonies. In truth, the three trespassed onto a nuclear facility, and damaged and vandalized some government property. Their most serious offense may have been to expose lapses in federal security at a nuclear weapons production facility.

Stephanie Pucheta, 10-Year-Old, On Dad's Deportation: 'Why Do They Have To Be So Cruel?'

WASHINGTON -- Every day for two weeks, 10-year-old Stephanie Pucheta sat down in front of a camera and talked about her father, Julio Cesar Pucheta, who was deported in January. She talked about the day a judge told her father he would be forced to leave home, about how she was removed from the room because she couldn't stop crying, about her mother's chronic illness, and about doing her homework alone without her father's help.

Julian Assange Claims GCHQ Officials Cast Doubt Over Extradition, Called It A 'Fit-Up'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed that "spies" at one of the UK's intelligence agencies openly discussed his predicament over instant messenger, with one suggesting allegations against him were a "fit-up".

The revelations, sure to embarrass authorities at GCHQ, were revealed by Assange on a Spanish TV programme, after a special access request, made under the Data Protection Act, the contents of which he said "are not public yet".

Legal Aid Cuts Will Leave Wrongly Accused Under Pressure To Plead Guilty To Save Costs, Lawyer Warns

Legal aid is being slashed "at random" by the Ministry of Justice, leaving a system where the wrongly accused can be represented by a "pig in a poke" desperate for clients to plead guilty, a leading human rights barrister has said.

Writing for the Huffington Post UK, Francis Fitzgibbon QC warned that any ordinary, law-abiding person could find themselves without access to justice.

Egypt sends more forces over Sinai kidnapping

Egypt's army has sent reinforcements into the Sinai Peninsula after President Mohamed Morsi said there would be no talks with fighters who abducted seven members of the security forces last week.

An army official said on Monday that the decision followed a meeting between the military leadership and Morsi, who has said he will not submit to blackmail by the kidnappers, who are demanding the release of fellow fighters jailed over attacks in 2011.

Iraqi tribal leaders demand federation

Tribal leaders in Iraq are warning of war unless the country splits into a federation amid a deadly new wave of apparently sectarian violence.

Monday's car bombings across Iraqi cities left at least 77 people dead and more than 240 others injured, police and medics say, pushing the death toll over the past week to above 200.

Lines in the Sand

A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By the nineteen-fifties, it was well understood that, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, humans were adding vast amounts of carbon to the air. But the prevailing view was that this wouldn’t much matter, since the oceans would suck most of it out again. Keeling thought that it would be prudent to find out if that was, in fact, the case. The setup on Mauna Loa soon showed that it was not.

EU Criticizes Russia's Human Rights Record, Discusses 'Worrying Situation Of Civil Society'

BRUSSELS, May 19 (Reuters) - The European Union criticised Russia's human rights record on Sunday, saying it was increasingly concerned at a wave of restrictive legislation and prosecutions against activists.

The 27-nation bloc cited the cases of protesters arrested at a demonstration on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration last year who are still awaiting trial, and a new law requiring charities with funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents".

Israel's Yair Lapid Seeks Interim Deal With Palestine, Says Final Peace Agreement Currently Unrealistic

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior coalition partner says that reaching a final peace agreement with the Palestinians is unrealistic at the current time and the sides should instead pursue an interim arrangement.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid's assessment, delivered in a published interview Sunday just days before the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, throws a contentious idea into the mix as the U.S. searches for ways to restart peace talks.

Inmate Sex Abuse Report Documents Crimes Behind Bars

INDIANAPOLIS -- Inmates at jails in Indianapolis, Baltimore, St. Louis and Philadelphia face the nation's highest levels of sexual abuse at the hands of guards, according to a new federal report based on surveys of inmates at U.S. jails and prisons.

The report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Marion County Jail's inmate-intake center in Indianapolis had a 7.7 percent rate of staff sexual misconduct involving inmates – the nation's highest for jails – and well above the average 1.8 percent sex abuse rate among all jails surveyed.

A Word from Our Sponsor

Last fall, Alex Gibney, a documentary filmmaker who won an Academy Award in 2008 for an exposé of torture at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, completed a film called “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream.” It was scheduled to air on PBS on November 12th. The movie had been produced independently, in part with support from the Gates Foundation. “Park Avenue” is a pointed exploration of the growing economic inequality in America and a meditation on the often self-justifying mind-set of “the one per cent.” As a narrative device, Gibney focusses on one of the most expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan—740 Park Avenue—portraying it as an emblem of concentrated wealth and contrasting the lives of its inhabitants with those of poor people living at the other end of Park Avenue, in the Bronx.

Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt: DOJ's Seizure Of Phone Records Was 'Unconstitutional'

WASHINGTON — The president and chief executive officer of The Associated Press on Sunday called the government's secret seizure of two months of reporters' phone records "unconstitutional" and said the news cooperative had not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department.

Gary Pruitt, in his first television interviews since it was revealed the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of AP reporters and editors, said the move already has had a chilling effect on journalism. Pruitt said the seizure has made sources less willing to talk to AP journalists and, in the long term, could limit Americans' information from all news outlets.

Why I'm Voting for Her

In 2008, I was one of the young feminist whippersnappers who voted for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries—or as many of my older counterparts called me at the time, a traitor. I didn’t believe there was (as Jen Moseley, my then-colleague at Feministing, put it) a “vagina litmus test.” I wanted to vote for the most feminist candidate, regardless of gender.

Billionaires Now Own American Politics

Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country.

The Mike Duffy bomb sends more political shrapnel through Conservatives

Mike Duffy is radioactive.

The one-time Conservative cheerleader is now the poster boy for the filth which envelops the party brand.

The man holed up on Friendly Lane in Cavendish, P.E.I., has brought down one of the most powerful men in Canada, shaken the Stephen Harper government to its core and blown a hole in the confidence the increasingly skeptical Conservative base has in the party.

Behind the job-rigging at ACOA

OTTAWA — Two of Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s political aides had their civil service appointments revoked last fall when the hiring process was found to be rigged.

In total, three of MacKay’s aides were given civil service jobs linked to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency after MacKay lost responsibility for it in 2008.

(Prime) ministerial responsibility and all that … surely the wrong man has quit!

Surely the wrong man has quit!

Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, resigned yesterday in the imbroglio that followed the revelation he gave disgraced Senator Mike Duffy $90,172 to pay back the Parliamentary expenses the supposed representative for Prince Edward Island in the Upper House had improperly claimed.

The purpose of the controversial payment, obviously, was to make the political problem created by the discovery of Senator Duffy's unethical behavior disappear.

Ivany commission reports on Nova Scotia's progressive economic future

Here's some good reading on the economic future of Nova Scotia. The Ivany commission on the "new economy" has written up what it heard on the road in an interim report (at In so doing, it has cleared much underbrush and roughed out a path forward, like Dr. John Ross's report did for health care.

In short, we may be getting better at grappling with our problems -- just in the nick of time as the economic prognoses get more ominous and as one-note Harperist forces to the West work to trivialize the Maritimes as a mere welfare case.

The commission had been warned that "consultation fatigue," cynicism and "one-issue" interests would make this just another round-and-round. It didn't happen. The response has been enthusiastic, making it "hard to conclude that Nova Scotians are risk-averse."

UNESCO expresses concern about fracking near Gros Morne National Park

CBC reports, "Gros Morne National Park's status as a world heritage site may be in jeopardy due to plans for controversial oil exploration on Newfoundland's west coast, CBC News has learned. Black Spruce Exploration wants to use hydraulic fracturing -- the so-called fracking process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth -- to find oil and gas in Sally's Cove and other areas, which lie just a few kilometres from the boundaries of the park. …The company (has) submitted its fracking and drilling plans for environmental review with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, but nothing has been presented to the Newfoundland and Labrador government yet."

Atleo says time for ‘bold, transformative change’ for First Nations communities

The situation in many First Nations communities is “catastrophic” and “bold, dramatic, and transformative change” is required today, says Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, who praised two recently-released provocative reports from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute on the issue as a wake-up call for Canadians.

“I think that [the reports are saying] what First Nations leaders like myself and others have been saying for a long, long time. We’ve had an aboriginal youth tsunami coming our way for a long time, and now it’s here. We’ve got 25 per cent growth rate compared to six per cent in the rest of Canada. And when you’ve got the kinds of social challenges, poverty, rates of incarceration outstripping K-12 graduation, it really does create a moment of incredible opportunity, and at the same time if not responded to appropriately in a bold and rapid manner, could cause a continuation of the kind of challenges that we face,” Mr. Atleo told The Hill Times.

Attack ads here to stay, say political pundits skeptical of Trudeau’s ‘sunny ways ’ Wilfrid Laurier strategy

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau may be taking on Wilfrid Laurier’s “sunny ways” strategy to fight against the Conservatives by staying above the fray, but negative political ads are here to stay, say political pundits.

“Nobody will ever say they like negative advertising. No focus group has ever responded to saying they like the negative ad, but it’s naïve to say they don’t play a role in how voters form impressions of political leaders and parties,” Summa Strategies consultant Robin MacLachlan told The Hill Times last week.

Climate drifts into uncharted global warming territory, feds still pushing fossil fuels

As the federal government continues to push fossil fuel energy sources, including approval for TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline south of the border, leading scientists and environmental activists are sounding the alarm over the recent discovery that the presence of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere had surpassed 400 parts-per-million for the first time in at least three million years.

The climate entered uncharted territory on May 9 when Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory recorded a daily average of 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere for the first time since the laboratory began recording atmospheric carbon presence in 1956. Since May 9, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the facility, has consistently recorded daily CO2 averages in the range of 399.5 to 399.98 ppm.

Conservative MP Benoit says abortion should be illegal in Canada

In the absence of federal law governing abortions in Canada, Parliamentarians should be debating this “important” issue, says a government backbencher, who says abortions should be illegal.

“Yeah, I want it to be made illegal. Let’s start with the basics; let’s start with having some law where, after a certain period of time, it’s illegal to have an abortion in Canada, that isn’t even there now. Let’s start with the very basics whereby [we] condemn female infanticide or gender-selective abortion,” said Conservative MP Leon Benoit (Vegreville-Wainwright, Alta.) in an interview last week with The Hill Times. “Let’s deal with that issue and condemn it, have Parliament condemn it.”

Senate enters ‘darkest days’ in 146-year history, it’s ‘mired in deep mud,’ it's 'fighting gangrene, they're going to start cutting parts off, piece by piece'

What was identified as insufficient expense documentation in the auditor general’s 2012 audit of the Senate has become a full-blown, explosive scandal that has ensnared the Prime Minister’s Office and the entire 146-year-old Upper Chamber. Political observers say that the Red Chamber is becoming increasingly indefensible as the scandal overshadows any good work done by the institution and its members.

The Senate’s independent ranks got a little bigger last week as Conservative Senator Mike Duffy became the latest member of the Upper Chamber forced to leave his party’s caucus over ineligible housing allowance claims. The scandal has not only left the former CTV Hill journalist’s reputation in tatters, but the Senate itself appears to have lost any shred of credibility it may have had left with the public, say observers.

Can the Senate fire a senator?

An expert on parliamentary rules says the Senate has the power to turf a senator from the chamber, as long as a majority approves the expulsion.

Ned Franks, an emeritus political science professor at Queen's university, said, "The Senate is master of its own house."

Franks cautioned that the removal of a senator cannot be done without cause, but, "If the Senate considers that a senator's behavior is so egregious that they're unfit to sit in the chamber it can act on it. They don't have to go and ask anyone's permission."

Canadian on EI shut out amid foreign worker influx

A jobless Canadian IT professional who is collecting employment insurance is upset because he now suspects several recent jobs he applied for went to temporary foreign workers.

"Out of the 50 some odd jobs that I’ve applied for, I’ve heard back from two," said Glen Hamel, of Mississauga, Ont. "The rest — I never hear anything."

Harper under pressure as Duffy scandal claims his chief of staff

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper faces growing pressure to order an independent probe into the spending scandal that has cost him a high-profile senator and now his right-hand man.

Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff, quit his post early Sunday morning amid questions about whether his secret $90,000 payment to Sen. Mike Duffy deliberately thwarted a probe into the former Conservative senator’s expenses.

Sovereign Nations Walk Out of Meeting With U.S. State Department Unanimously Rejecting Keystone XL Pipeline

The State Department, still with "egg on its face" from its statement that Keystone XL would have little impact on climate change, sunk a little lower today as the most respected elders, and chiefs of 10 sovereign nations turned their backs on State Department representatives and walked out during a meeting. The meeting, which was a failed attempt at a "nation to nation" tribal consultation concerning the Keystone XL Pipeline neglected to address any legitimate concerns being raised by First Nations Leaders (or leading scientific experts for that matter).

Forget pipelines – Canada must prepare for a post-carbon world

The expansion of oil-sands operations and various pipeline proposals to get bitumen to market have incraseingly been topics of conversation in Canada, from debates in the House of Commons to discussions around the dinner table. Much of the discussion has focused around tangible things that we can see – devastation of the Alberta landscape from surface mining operations, pollution of downstream rivers, the threat of pipeline spills, and the danger of accidents involving supertankers along the British Columbia coast.

Ontario judge blasts Harper government’s ‘tough on crime’ agenda

We’ve known for some time that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “tough on crime” agenda carries a stiff and wasteful price tag. Canadians are spending $5 billion more a year on the criminal justice system since the Tories were elected in 2006, even as the crime rate has plummeted. Those billions would be better invested in economic growth, productivity and jobs.

What’s less well-recognized is the corrosive effect the government’s punitively blind obsession with crime is having on the justice system itself. Changes to the Criminal Code have cast what one respected jurist calls a “dark shadow” on foundational principles of proportionality and restraint that hark back to Biblical law thousands of years ago. Today sentencing seems to be more about exacting vengeance than about deterrence, rehabilitation and making good.

5 reasons Turkey is unlikely to go to war with Syria

While Syria's civil war is increasingly bleeding over into neighbouring Turkey, including a bombing in a border town this past weekend, most Middle East watchers say it's unlikely that Turkey will strike back militarily.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Thursday, where he is expected to exert pressure on his American counterpart to commit to a greater military role in war-racked Syria.

Rob Ford, gas pains, the Senate: Scandals and bad spin-jobs plague all levels of government

In the midst of his recent testimony about the Ontario government’s gas-plant fiasco, Dalton McGuinty countered one opposition attack with the sort of axiom he favoured back when he was Premier Dad.

“You shouldn’t try to outsmart the truth,” the former premier told MPPs on a legislature committee. “We should just let it breathe.”

Harper to be on hot seat at Tuesday caucus after chief of staff quits

OTTAWA - Emerging from a dramatic week that has seen him lose two senators and his chief of staff, Stephen Harper will focus now on calming down his anxious caucus and righting a listing Conservative ship.

Tory MPs have been hearing from upset constituents about the Senate expenses controversy that has become one of the most serious challenges for the prime minister's administration.

Stephen Harper needs to answer for Mike Duffy

There are so many questions raised by the disclosure, by the Prime Minister's Office no less, that the Chief of Staff cut a personal cheque to cover Mike Duffy's illegitimate claims for a housing allowance in the place where he has been ordinarily resident for decades, that even to list them is a challenge.

The problem with most of the questions is that they start a bit later in the scenario than they should.

First up, was Mike Duffy promised a Senate seat if he worked really hard to sabotage the Liberals in the 2008 election?