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, November 28, 2013

Where Is Media Hunger for Government Transparency?

Journalists must "take the gloves off by pushing governments to be more transparent."

Award-winning CBC News producer David McKie rang that fight bell in a column published earlier this month in J-Source.

But so far, many newspaper columnists and editorial writers appear to have left their gloves on when it comes to covering recent proposals to fix the country's broken access to information system.

Why Climate Pariahs Like Australia and Canada Matter

Another year, another climate conference. Another round of name-calling, blame-pinning and hand-wringing. Another set of vaguely worded commitments. Another pledge to do better the next time around.

In case you missed them, two weeks of international climate talks in Warsaw wrapped up last week. And yes, there was little on the surface to distinguish their "blurry" outcome, in the words of Politico, from the negotiations of the year before, or the year before that, or the year…

More Conservative hypocrisy on vicious cluster bombs

They call it Bill C-6.

Sounds innocent enough, though the matter at hand is anything but innocent.

The bill, now before the House, deals with nasty little weapons called cluster bombs.

They are explosives that release small and quite vicious little "bomblets."

Those bomblets sound almost cute, until you realize they take peoples’ arms, legs and heads off.

Victims of cluster bombs -- or cluster munitions -- include a great many civilians, including thousands of children.

'Undoing Border Imperialism' contextualizes urgency of migrant justice issue

Harsha Walia is a migrant justice activist trained in law, who is involved with the Vancouver chapter of No One Is Illegal (NOII), and in Undoing Border Imperialism she offers a unique blend of handbook and textbook. Walia combines academic discourse on border imperialism -- drawing on feminist studies, Marxist analysis, critical race theory and post structuralism -- with strategies for anti-oppression movements, the latter based on her analysis of the chronology and shape of NOII.

She also gives us 13 short narratives by migrants of colour, and these pieces -- variously tender, thoughtful, angry -- serve to humanize a theory-heavy narrative for those of us readers who aren’t active in or well-informed about these movements.

Walia states that borders, both physical and conceptual, are the outcome of an unfair global capitalist system, which, in collusion with imperialism and colonialism, causes global displacement and migration.

How scandal has become ingrained in our political way of life

The Prime Minister’s explanation once sounded so simple. Confronted last spring by news reports that his then chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had cut a $90,000 cheque to cover Sen. Mike Duffy’s dubious expenses, Stephen Harper said it was the first he’d heard about it, and his top aide was soon out of a job. But RCMP documents filed with an Ontario court earlier this month, as part of the Mounties’ ongoing investigation into Wright’s deal with Duffy, paint a much more complicated picture. As high-level Conservatives connived last winter over how to make Duffy’s expense embarrassments go away, Wright emailed Harper’s top communications advisers, telling them, “The PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to agree to repay the expenses.”

Harper says he’s telling the truth. Let him prove it.

It’s time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a public inquiry into Duffygate.

Former PM Paul Martin did that in the eye of the storm that was the ad sponsorship scandal. It was the only way to shore up badly-damaged public confidence in government. It also gave a measure of closure to public revulsion over serious institutional corruption — to the degree that was possible.

It was a hard call because Martin himself was not involved in AdScam, but knew full well what opening up that barrel of worms would mean to his tenure as prime minister.

Tory changes to accountability rules leave Harper blameless in Duffy affair

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not know about the cheque written by his former chief of staff to cover the improperly claimed expenses of Senator Mike Duffy, federal accountability guidelines written by his government suggest he does not need to shoulder responsibility.

When the Conservatives first took power in 2006, Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Secretaries of State said that ministers were responsible for “the actions of all officials under their management and direction, whether or not the ministers had prior knowledge.”

Flaherty submitted pre-redacted expense claims in apparent violation of information law

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty submitted travel expense claims that had been heavily redacted, with numerous “personal” items blacked out from his hotel bills before they were processed for reimbursement, in an apparent violation of the federal information law.

Eight of the hotel bills expensed to the Department of Finance by Flaherty in 2013 were altered to obscure the descriptions and prices of numerous line items charged to his rooms — items for which Flaherty was not paid back.

Joe Oliver: Natural Resources Ad Campaign To Cost $40 Million

OTTAWA - The Conservative government is spending $40 million this year to advertise Canada's natural resource sector — principally oil and gas — at home and abroad.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver revealed the figure Wednesday as his department seeks another $12.9 million to augment an international campaign designed to portray Canada as a stable and environmentally responsible source of energy.

That will bring NRCan's 2013-14 ad budget to about $40 million — $24 million for advertising abroad and $16.5 million for the domestic market.

Why Climate Change Skeptics and Evolution Deniers Joined Forces

All across the country—most recently, in the state of Texas—local battles over the teaching of evolution are taking on a new complexion. More and more, it isn't just evolution under attack, it's also the teaching of climate science. The National Center for Science Education, the leading group defending the teaching of evolution across the country, has even broadened its portfolio: Now, it protects climate education too.

Joe Arpaio Offers Inmates, Fed Only Twice A Day, 56-Cent Thanksgiving Meal

Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has planned a particularly economical meal for the roughly 7,500 to 10,000 inmates in his jail system this Thanksgiving.

The meal comes in at a cost of just 56 cents per inmate, and its main entrée will be 24-cent vegetarian turkey soy casserole. Arpaio tweeted the Thanksgiving menu Wednesday morning.

Boris Johnson IQ comments reveal 'unpleasant, careless elitism', says Clegg

Nick Clegg has attacked the "unpleasant, careless elitism" of Boris Johnson and his remarks about IQ, and accused him of talking about people as if they were dogs.

The deputy prime minister laid into Johnson after the Conservative London mayor mocked the 16% "of our species" with an IQ below 85 and called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130.

Johnson made the remarks during a speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher, declaring that inequality was essential to foster "the spirit of envy" and hailing greed as a "valuable spur to economic activity".

New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto

Top secret documents retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.

The documents are being reported exclusively by CBC News.

The briefing notes, stamped "Top Secret," show the U.S. turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the National Security Agency while U.S. President Barack Obama and 25 other foreign heads of government were on Canadian soil in June of 2010.

Written Proof Harper Doesn't Care About Aboriginal Education

Last week's sensational release of documents from the RCMP's Information to Obtain (ITO) production order in the ongoing Senate scandal created a political firestorm. This is not surprising, given it is now abundantly clear that the RCMP believes individuals in the Prime Minister's inner circle violated the Criminal Code.

But buried in the tsunami of evidence were documents which also shine a light on what the Conservative government really thinks about equitable funding for First Nations schools. This peek behind the scenes of the Conservatives' cynical political machine underscores why we cannot trust Minister Valcourt when he says we should just pass government legislation reforming First Nations education without any money attached and trust that "funding will follow."

Control your own hydro bill, says energy minister

If you don’t like your hydro bill, then it’s up to you to do something about it.

Energy minister Bob Chiarelli didn’t quite put it in those terms Wednesday. But it’s clear that consumers will be expected to take a more active role in managing their own bills in future, by choosing how much power they use, and when.

They’ll have to manage consumption, because they can’t expect lower prices, Chiarelli said bluntly, in a theme that will be central to the province’s updated long term energy plan, due to be released Monday.

The Cost of Silence

Myths of Contamination Unveiled

The dominant discourse being fed to New Brunswick by Southwestern Energy (SWN) is that no harm to the environment or to humans can result from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly called. This view places fracking as separate from the pre-drilling process, as well as the post-fracking wastewater disposal. As there are no legal documents confirming which stage of the process is to blame for the overwhelming number of cases of water contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing, SWN has been able to keep boasting its “spotless” reputation.

Senate sole-sourced contracts to Deloitte, says ‘competitive process set aside for services of confidential nature’

PARLIAMENT HILL—Two auditing contracts that a Conservative-dominated Senate committee authorized for forensic investigations of Senate expense claims by Senator Mike Duffy, two other former Conservative Senators, and a former Liberal Senator were awarded without competitive bidding to a firm that has been the official auditor of the Conservative Party since it was formed a decade ago, The Hill Times has learned.

The accounting firm Deloitte, also one of the mainstream accounting firms routinely retained by government departments through the years, began the Senate expense audits last January and had received a total of $518,842 by the end of last September as the original value of each contract mushroomed through successive amendments.

Home Affordability Deteriorating As Prices, Rates Rise: RBC

OTTAWA - Higher prices and an increase in mortgage rates have made home affordability more of a problem for the average Canadian family, says a new report from the Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY).

RBC's latest research on the portion of average household income needed to maintain a home shows that affordability deteriorated over the summer, the second consecutive drop in as many quarters.

The level of deterioration differs from region to region and between types of homes, but for the average bungalow the affordability measure rose 0.7 of a percentage point to 43.3 per cent nationally in the third quarter, after a 0.3-percentage-point gain in the second quarter.

Tories Kill Study Examining Environmental Impact Of Lead Bullets

OTTAWA - The federal government has cancelled a tender for a study on the environmental impact of lead shot and bullets.

The tender was issued earlier this month by Environment Canada, but immediately ran into opposition from shooting groups.

Tony Bernardo, spokesman for the Canadians Shooting Sports Association, called the study complete nonsense — a perspective shared by the Conservative government.

The Workers Who Bring You Black Friday

The call from the temp agency comes in late October. I’ve passed the drug test, cleared the background check, sat down for a quick interview—“Can you lift fifty-pound boxes?”—and completed a worksheet of basic math problems. Now there’s a job. A warehouse just outside the city of Ontario, about forty miles east of Los Angeles, needs more bodies to meet the holiday crush.

They do work for Walmart, Best Buy, “all sorts of big companies,” says the female voice on the line. Orientation starts at 8:15 am; pay is $9 an hour. “Make sure you’re early.” Before hanging up she repeats the order. “Be early.”

Biden to press Beijing on air defence zone in bid to ease China-Japan dispute

The US announced on Wednesday that Joe Biden, the vice-president, will use a visit to Beijing to discuss in person China’s unilateral declaration of an expanded air defense zone over the East China sea.

Biden’s trip to Japan, China and South Korea, which begins on 1 December, was meant to be mainly about economic issues but will now be dominated by rising tensions over the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Japan and China and fall under Beijing’s expanded air defense zone.

Boris Johnson invokes Thatcher spirit with greed is good speech

Boris Johnson has launched a bold bid to claim the mantle of Margaret Thatcher by declaring that inequality is essential to fostering "the spirit of envy" and hailed greed as a "valuable spur to economic activity".

In an attempt to shore up his support on the Tory right, as he positions himself as the natural successor to David Cameron, the London mayor called for the "Gordon Gekkos of London" to display their greed to promote economic growth.

Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, Johnson also called for the return of a form of grammar schools.