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.]

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Colonel, the Soldier and the Caregiver

An unexpected blizzard roars out of the night sky to whiten the land and sink the margin between highway and field under a deepening slough of snow. Peering from the motel window at first light, I think, “We’re not going anywhere.” I’m traveling with a colonel from the Pentagon whose job it is to canvass the country and visit loyal but perhaps disheartened Americans who want to raise money and start organizations to “support our troops.” He checks them out, pats them on the back, looks into their funding, tries to get them more and offers words of encouragement about the importance of their mission. He gives the same talk everywhere, like a presidential candidate, in a tight-lipped, fast-paced monotone with an urgent edge to it that warns listeners not to interrupt. It’s not a conversation, it’s a talk—and it provokes a complicated response. It makes you feel sorry for wounded warriors yet secretly glad to be an American who is not a wounded warrior or related to one, and at the same time ashamed of yourself and the folly of your country and painfully sick at heart and sad.

Justin Trudeau confuses forceful debate for negative politics

In his effort to present himself as the appropriate leader for the post-Harper era, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau seems keen to reframe Canadian political debate in a profound way, depicting hard-hitting, substantive debate as negative, divisive politics.

It was striking that, after the Liberals beat the NDP in two Liberal strongholds in Monday night’s by-elections, Trudeau used the occasion to denounce the NDP as “negative” and “divisive.”

In attacking the NDP like this — in the midst of his own victory speech, no less — Trudeau appeared to be trying to stigmatize forceful debate, suggesting it has no place in political discussion.

Business as usual for tone deaf Tories

More than six months into the Senate spending affair it is possible that none of Stephen Harper’s otherwise combative senior ministers want to volunteer to risk a political limb in the scandal’s muddy trenches.

Even if they did, it may be that none of them would be willing to execute the masochistic marching orders emanating from Harper’s PMO that have so far only increased the government’s daily suffering in question period.

Former PMO staffers hire pricey law firms as RCMP probes Wright-Duffy deal

Three former staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office have hired high-priced Toronto law firms as the RCMP investigates a $90,000 cheque Nigel Wright wrote to Sen. Mike Duffy.

CTV News has learned that David Van Hemmen, Chris Woodcock and Benjamin Perrin have retained the legal services of three Toronto firms that charge hundreds of dollars per hour -- and taxpayers are footing the bill.

The federal government typically uses Justice Department lawyers, but outside lawyers can also be hired.

Britons protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins

More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land – an act condemned by critics as ethnic cleansing.

The letter, published in the Guardian, is part of a day of protest on Saturday in Israel, Palestine and two dozen other countries over an Israeli parliamentary bill that is expected to get final approval by the end of this year.

Violent police crackdown in Kiev

Riot police have launched a violent crackdown in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, using batons and stun grenades to expel hundreds of pro-Europe protesters from the city's main Independence Square early on Saturday, according to witnesses.

Police moved in on protesters who were still camped on the square following bigger demonstrations on Friday night against President Viktor Yanukovich's decision not to sign a landmark agreement on trade with the European Union.

Activists Are Arrested Protesting Walmart’s Low Wages

Walmart employees and supporters protested in cities all across the country on Black Friday in opposition to Walmart’s low wages and poor treatment of workers. In some cases, protesters volunteered to engage in acts of civil disobedience and were arrested by police. Organizers expected 1,500 total protests in California, Alaska, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington and Canada. In Secaucus, New Jersey, thirteen activists were arrested after sitting in the middle of the street to block traffic.

Canada Falls On Internet Speed Rankings

Canada has some of the slowest internet speeds in the developed world.

According to data from broadband research company Ookla, Canadians on average had the 38th fastest internet speeds in the world. Among developed countries, only a handful had slower internet speeds than Canada, among them Australia, New Zealand and Italy.

That represents a fall of five spots since this spring, when Canada ranked 33rd in Ookla’s survey.

Feeling social? If so, feds could be watching

OTTAWA - Big Brother is watching you — on just about every social-media platform you can imagine.

Tweets, public Facebook posts and YouTube videos could soon be subject to round-the-clock scrutiny by the federal government, a procurement document posted this week by Public Works and Government Services Canada suggests.

Welcome to media monitoring in the 21st century, when simply leafing through a stack of newspapers in the morning is about as antiquated as, well, newspapers.

Critic Slams BC Liberals' Slow-Leaking Liquor Review

The NDP's liquor critic is calling on the BC Liberal government to publish the B.C. liquor review instead of releasing recommendations about deregulating liquor sales in drips and drops.

When Parliamentary Secretary John Yap announced Nov. 28 that the government wants to allow liquor sales in grocery stores, Yap said it was among more than 70 recommendations in his report delivered Nov. 25 to Attorney General Suzanne Anton. The report will be released early in 2014, but Yap said more recommendations could be released in coming weeks.

Auditor confirms Sen. Gerstein's senior Deloitte contact named in RCMP docs asked him for sensitive info on Duffy investigation

PARLIAMENT HILL—A forensic accountant leading a Deloitte investigation last March into Senate expenses disclosed Thursday that sensitive information Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein attempted to obtain was the same that former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright was seeking while he was planning to repay Senator Mike Duffy’s ineligible housing claims.

Gary Timm, a member of Deloitte’s forensics financial advisory team, told the Senate Internal Economy Committee that Deloitte’s managing partner for Ontario, Michael Runia, telephoned him last March to ask how much Sen. Duffy would have to give back to the Senate if he repaid four years worth of living and travel expenses that had been at the centre of a growing government crisis since December 2012.

Canadian woman refused U.S. entry because of depression

A Toronto woman denied a flight to New York as part of a cruise trip wants to know how U.S. border agents knew about her history of mental illness.

Ellen Richardson says she was told by U.S. customs officials at Pearson International Airport on Monday that because she had been hospitalized for clinical depression in June 2012, she could not enter the U.S.

Education Department To Renew Sallie Mae Contract, Despite Allegations Of Wrongdoing

Student loan giant Sallie Mae is currently under fire from lawmakers, federal regulators, consumer groups and student advocates for allegedly violating numerous consumer protection laws. The company is facing accusations that it cheats soldiers on active duty, engages in discriminatory lending, pushes borrowers into delinquency by improperly processing their monthly payments, and doesn't provide enough aid to borrowers in distress.

Monsanto, the TPP and Global Food Dominance

“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  ”Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

As NAFTA Nears 20 and the TPP Nears Birth, the Middle Class Nears Death

As the Obama administration continues to press for the ill-advised Trans-Pacific Partnership, it is worth taking a look at the repercussions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, nearing its 20th birthday on Jan. 1. The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” weekly battle of op-eds on Sunday trotted out the usual arguments from the free traders, who ignore the sufferings of American workers under NAFTA and focus instead on the amount of business that’s being done.

Federal government not ready to reduce pollution from oil companies

OTTAWA – The federal government isn’t ready to release regulations aimed at stopping rising climate-warming emissions from the oil and gas sector, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Thursday.

“We want to get this right for Canada and when I’m ready to release this information that will be released publicly,” said Aglukkaq in response to questions from opposition New Democrats and Liberals at a parliamentary committee.

Environment Canada recently released a report on Canada’s emissions trends showing that annual carbon pollution from the oilsands industry, the fastest growing source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the country, is pushing an international climate change commitment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of reach.

Gov. Scott Walker Pushed By Tea Party, Conservatives To Abandon Common Core Standards

Tea Party and conservative groups across the state of Wisconsin are calling on Gov. Scott Walker to lead the fight against the Common Core State Standards.

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted in more than 40 states and are being taught to the same benchmarks. While the standards are typically seen as more rigorous than what most states previously used, in Wisconsin, some critics are arguing the standards are too mild and represent an example of federal overreach.

What The Pentagon Means When It Says The U.S. Military Is 'Ready'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Warnings from defense officials and some experts are mounting and becoming more dire: The nation's military is being hobbled by budget cuts.

"You'd better hope we never have a war again," the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said of the decline in what the military calls its readiness.

So should Americans be worried?

Egyptians Demonstrate Despite New Protest Law

CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds of Islamist demonstrators took to the streets on Friday in cities across Egypt, days after a disputed protest law was adopted and police forcefully broke up unauthorized gatherings.

Since a popularly backed military coup ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July, his supporters have been staging near-daily protests calling for his reinstatement, with Friday's weekly Muslim prayers a key time for mobilizing their largest numbers. The rallies have often descended into street clashes with security forces or civilians.

There’s Nothing Postracial About Richie Incognito or Craig Cobb

They're curiously phrased, those expressions of sympathy by Miami Dolphins players who have lined up to defend left guard Richie Incognito's violent behavior toward his teammate, offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. Incognito achieved particular notoriety recently for directing a hefty wet stream of racialized epithets at Martin. ("Hey, wassup, you half-[n-word] piece of [expletive]...[I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face.... I'll kill you!") This bullying was so relentless that Martin decided to resign from the NFL.

Michael Eligon, Escaped Mental Patient, Killed In Toronto Police Shooting

Video of the disturbing last moments of an escaped mental patient who was fatally shot by police has been released to the public.

The video, captured by a police dashboard camera shows officers screaming at escaped mental patient Michael Eligon before shooting him dead.

The video, captured in Toronto's east end on Feb. 3, 2012, shows Eligon walking toward a line of officers, wearing a hospital gown and a pair of scissors in each hand.

If we abolish Senate, why not the Commons

It’s a website designed to give us a laugh, but is accidentally revealing the broken state of things on Parliament Hill as this scandal-filled year in politics draws to a close.

In case you haven’t seen it, the website is pretty simple comedy. You merely have to type in a question, click a button, and you receive a recording of Paul Calandra, the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, talking about something totally off-topic.

This is what Calandra, also the MP for Oak Ridges-Markham, has been doing almost every day since Parliament resumed this fall. He’s regaled us with tales of his daughters’ lemonade stand, for instance, and, memorably, Eugene, the Filipino immigrant who delivered pizzas at the Calandra family restaurant.

Mike Duffy audit: 3 things we've learned about Deloitte

More than a week after the latest RCMP court filings turned the spotlight on alleged communications between Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein and a senior partner at the auditing firm that investigated Senator Mike Duffy's expense claims, the two lead auditors responsible for conducting that review appeared before the Senate committee that ordered the initial investigation last spring.

In Africa, Canada's 'economic diplomacy' is nothing new

The Conservative government’s new strategy of “economic diplomacy” is largely just a formalization of what its diplomats have already been quietly doing on the ground in places like Africa.

While the government complains that its diplomats in “tweed jackets” should be buying “business suits” and devoting themselves to trade deals, the reality is that Canadian diplomats have been focusing on business and trade for years already, under heavy pressure from Stephen Harper’s government.