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 13, 2014

The ‘shadow PS’: Feds pay minimum wage to thousands of temps

The job, when you come across it on the staffing agency website, looks promising. Government finance clerk, accounting degree required. You’ve got that.

Three years experience. That too.

Conversational French? Un petite peu, but probably enough.

Just a five-week contract, but hey, maybe it could lead to more.

Tim Hudak compares equalization payments to welfare

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says Ontario needs to get off the "welfare rolls" of equalization payments from the federal government.

In an interview on CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon asked Hudak if he would stand up to Ottawa on transfer payments.

"I think we should get off the welfare rolls," Hudak said.

Internal survey blasts feds for missing database: long-form census

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has touted the thousands of databases it is making public as proof of its openness and transparency.

But key data users in a Treasury Board survey complained about one giant database that has actually disappeared: the long-form census, killed by the Harper government in 2011 and again for the 2016 census.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement has repeatedly rebuffed complaints the government is opaque about information, citing in part its Open Government Action Plan, which includes the web posting of 200,000 data sets available for free download on

John Gomery criticizes Harper for spat with chief justice

Retired Quebec Superior Court judge John Gomery is adding his voice to those criticizing Stephen Harper's treatment of the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

"I think it's appalling that the judiciary should be used for political purposes in this way and I'm puzzled as to the motivation of the prime minister and his office as to why they would take on the chief justice," Gomery said.

Canadians seem to be getting tired of the often nasty man at 24 Sussex

This week, as Ottawa got ready for the National Day of Honour to mark the end of the Afghan mission, Gordon Moore, the Royal Canadian Legion dominion president, got angry.

Moore told reporters that the government was unnecessarily secretive, that the Legion wasn’t given enough time to plan events across Canada, that many veterans and their families would not participate because they are angry about how they are being treated.

All Science Is Wrong, Concludes Esteemed Fox News Panel

There is no issue where educated ignorance is on more perfect display than watching the conservative movement confront scientific evidence of climate change. Educated ignorance is not the same thing as the regular kind of ignorance. It takes real talent to master. George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer are two of the intellectual giants of the right, former winners of the Bradley Foundation’s $250,000 annual prize, Washington Postcolumnists, and Fox News All-Star panelists. They numbered among the select conservative intellectuals chosen to dine with newly elected president Barack Obama in 2009.

Canada's war on experts is unique

Having accused the chief justice of being unethical, the chief electoral officer of being money and power hungry, a former auditor general of being a self-proclaimed expert, the head of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission of being a paper-pusher, and the subsequently fired head of the Military Police Complaints Commission of being partisan, the Harper government’s nasty and sustained attacks on independent public officials are unmatched in Canada. But would other democracies find this behaviour bizarre?

$83.49 For A Case Of Water? Welcome To Nunavut

If you think the price of bacon is getting outrageous, just consider what you have to pay for food and beverages in Nunavut.

This picture of cases of Nestle water on sale in a Northmart in Iqaluit on Baffin Island was posted to imgur earlier this week:

Paul Krugman: American inequality isn’t about education or opportunity — it’s about oligarchs!

Institutional Investor’s latest survey of the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers is out, and — if you can believe it — the 25 men who made the “rich list” are very, very, very rich.

These men (they are all men, natch) made a combined $21 billion in 2013. And while it’s tempting to dismiss a report on an assorted crew of hedge funders as just another of many generic and demoralizing reminders about the of the obscene wealth of the .01 percent, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman points out in his Friday column that the “good fortunes” of these rich dudes actually expose a lot of the lies we’re told about income inequality in America:

Premier Clark in Asia promoting investment for $175 billion LNG industry

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is in Asia this week shaking hands to speed LNG investment worth a mind-boggling $175 billion according to a new provincial figure.  That's enough for 15 Northern Gateway oil pipelines, by comparison.  

The list of projects is staggering.  18 LNG export terminals are planned, 9 natural gas pipelines, and 100,000 jobs promised for "150 years" of prosperity.

Canada's 665,000 Missing Jobs

If the percentage of Canadians with a job today were the same as it was before the last recession, Canada would have 665,000 more working people, according to economist Jim Stanford.
Canada lost 28,900 jobs in April, StatsCan reported, surprising economists who had been looking for the economy to add about 12,000 jobs.
But Canada’s unemployment rate didn’t budge, sitting at 6.9 per cent. That’s because about 26,000 Canadians simply stopped looking for work, and therefore stopped being counted among the unemployed.

Hungary and the End of Politics

On April 6, Hungarians went to the polls and re-elected their government. In most countries, such an outcome would be a reaffirmation of the political status quo. But Hungary is no longer like most countries. The re-election of its government marks the collapse of politics in Hungary.

Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party first came to power in 2010 with a clear majority of the vote. In April, the party won a second term with just 45 percent of the vote, yet a set of Fidesz-friendly changes to the election laws enacted by Orbán during his first term as prime minister transformed this plurality into a two-thirds parliamentary mandate, giving him the power to continue to amend the Hungarian Constitution at will. Still, the April results should not be taken as a vindication: Orbán has maintained his grip on the Parliament with 21 percent fewer domestic votes than Fidesz garnered in 2010, reflecting a decline in its overall margin of victory and a drop in turnout.

How to Shrink Inequality

Some inequality of income and wealth is inevitable, if not necessary. If an economy is to function well, people need incentives to work hard and innovate. The pertinent question is not whether income and wealth inequality is good or bad. It is at what point do these inequalities become so great as to pose a serious threat to our economy, our ideal of equal opportunity and our democracy.

Now That’s Rich

Institutional Investor’s latest “rich list” in its Alpha magazine, its survey of the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers, is out — and it turns out that these guys make a lot of money. Surprise!

Yet before we dismiss the report as nothing new, let’s think about what it means that these 25 men (yes, they’re all men) made a combined $21 billion in 2013. In particular, let’s think about how their good fortune refutes several popular myths about income inequality in America.

You Didn't Even Know These Wall Streeters Were Ripping You Off

WASHINGTON -- Private equity firms are routinely ripping off their clients, harming pension funds, universities and charitable foundations, according to a top government regulator with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"When we have examined how fees and expenses are handled by advisers to private equity funds, we have identified what we believe are violations of law or material weaknesses in controls over 50 percent of the time," Andrew J. Bowden, director of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, said Tuesday, according to a transcript. "This is a remarkable statistic."

Excusing abominable leadership isn’t just a City Hall problem

Bigotry must be entering its own kind of cretacious period, because it’s slowly beginning to get harder for dinosaurs to roam the great plains of our most influential industries. While white men still dominate much of politics, mainstream media, technology, entertainment and other key sectors, attitudes of overt exclusion (or worse) toward women and other underrepresented groups are slowly becoming a risk for those who hold power.
As social media users begin to learn what kind of power they hold, too often the risk of bigotry in leadership is quantified in public relations terms. Progress is hollow when things like racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of less-than-human treatment are treated as more “brand” problems (personal or commercial) than, you know, societal ones. Treating bigotry like a PR crisis snuffs out the potential for honest reflection about how it subtly takes shape in our psyches, the harm it causes, and how we might perpetuate it.

Time Warner Cable Makes Hilariously Absurd Argument For Comcast Merger

Anybody who's ever tried to stream a movie or use the web on a 3G or 4G LTE network knows it is no competition for a Wi-Fi connection, at least in terms of cost and reliability. And yet Comcast and Time Warner Cable, hilariously, want us to believe it is.

The two companies are currently engaged in a full-court press to convince regulators and lawmakers that Comcast's $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable -- which would create a behemoth of a company that controls nearly 40 percent of the U.S. broadband market and provides cable to almost a third of American homes -- isn't anti-competitive and is in the public interest.

Thousands of infrastructure projects in limbo as confusion plagues $14-billion federal funding program

OTTAWA — By now, municipalities and small communities across Canada had expected to see thousands of infrastructure projects taking shape. That hasn’t happened.

The federal government’s $14-billion construction program began last month, when the money earmarked for roads, bridges and many other new or crumbling services was supposed to land in local hands.

Or, so they had thought.

Stephen Harper: No longer taking advice

OTTAWA—It was somewhat heartening to learn this week, via a new book on power change in Canada, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper looked to Jean Chrétien forlessons on leadership.
That’s someone, at least.
From the highest court in the land to lowly public servants, scientists, statisticians and staffers, it’s a perilous business telling this prime minister something he doesn’t want to hear.

Austerity bites, employment rate falls again

Today's labour force numbers are ugly, there's no other word for it. Employment down 29,000 jobs. Paid employment (i.e. not counting self-employment) down 46,000 jobs. The only reason the unemployment rate held steady (at 6.9 per cent) is because labour force participation fell again: by almost two tenths of a point, to just over 66 per cent. That's the lowest level of labour force participation since 2001. Convenient for suppressing the headline unemployment rate, but socially destructive and very costly in the long run (as more and more Canadians lose contact with the labour market).

Save the environment, boot out Harper and change the world

The decision concerning the development of Northern Gateway's pipeline will be revealed sometime during the first week of June. It's safe to say that no one is waiting with bated breath. Everyone knows all too well that even if Stephen Harper would be the only Canadian supporting the project, it will go through -- despite having lost referendums and faced opposition from Indigenous peoples and Canadian citizens alike -- ignoring Canada's responsibilities and the negative impact that expanding the tar sands industry will have on climate change. A recent exchange with Barack Obama in regards to the Keystone XL pipeline sums it up: Harper "won't take no for an answer."

Tim Hudak would cut 100,000 public sector jobs if Tories win Ontario election

Ontario's Progressive Conservative leader drew swift condemnation from his opponents Friday as he announced a plan to slash the number of public sector workers in the province by 100,000 if he wins next month's election.

Tim Hudak said it would be a tough move, but one that would reap benefits in the future.

"I take no joy in this, but it has to be done if we want job creators to put more people on the payroll in our province," he said in Barrie, Ont.

Oil Companies Take Trillion Dollar Gamble

LONDON—Investors are being urged to warn oil companies that they are risking trillions of dollars in exploiting oil fields that will probably never be profitable ? and to consider selling their shares if the companies fail to listen to them.

A report out today from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation of specialists who assess climate risk in today’s financial markets, says it was surprised to find that many of the investments by oil companies were financially dubious ? even without taking into account climate change factors.

Why the FCC Is Ditching Net Neutrality

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would propose new rules allowing companies like Netflix or Google to pay internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon or Comcast for faster data lanes to deliver video and other content to their customers. In other words, the FCC was proposing to replace net neutrality—the egalitarian internet that we all know—with a pay-to-play platform designed to favor the biggest and richest players.

Harper's Team Knew Early There Could Be Trouble With Nadon Pick

OTTAWA - Canada's justice minister says he didn't personally recommend to Marc Nadon that he resign from the Federal Court of Appeal and rejoin the Quebec bar in order to be eligible to join the Supreme Court.

But Peter MacKay is not refuting a Global News report that says the Prime Minister's Office did just that, a recommendation Nadon reportedly refused.

StatsCan's Job Numbers May Be 'Extraordinarily Misleading'

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada is unveiling its monthly jobs numbers today at a time when the federal government's labour data is under heightened scrutiny.

The Labour Force Survey comes just days after the auditor general's spring report found Statcan's job-vacancy survey too vague, concluding the figures provided little value to governments and other users.

And it comes with the Conservative government under sustained fire over alleged abuses of its temporary foreign workers program, which was created to fill labour shortages in certain sectors.

Indyk: Settlements could drive Israel into binational reality

U.S. special envoy to the Middle East peace talks Martin Indyk issued a strong condemnation of Israel's settlement activity in the West Bank on Thursday night, saying that it could "drive Israel into an irreversible binational reality."

"Rampant settlement activity – especially in the midst of negotiations – doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations; it can undermine Israel’s Jewish future," he said. "If this continues, it could mortally wound the idea of Israel as a Jewish state – and that would be a tragedy of historic proportions."

Hey Rob Ford! Toronto women don't need fixing

Does Mayor Rob Ford have a problem with women? Toronto women don't need fixing, but the Mayor certainly does.

Over the last several months, the Mayor would have us believe that every slip of the tongue was the result of inebriation. Human mistakes to be forgiven with every apology, and we go back to politics as usual. Were it not for the ongoing mayoralty race, the most recent video may have simply been more fodder for the late night political pundits, with no credible change to the structures which enable sexism in our public institutions. Which begs the question, in an election year, what next for Toronto?

Here’s Why Hillary Clinton Resisted Designating Boko Haram As A Terrorist Organization

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week tweeted out support for efforts to recover the more than two hundred girls kidnapped almost a month ago, saying “We must stand up to terrorism” and using the now ubiquitous #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. But now conservatives are angrily pointing out that she had refused to list the Nigerian group behind the kidnapping as a terrorist organization during her time at the State Department, threatening to turn the latest push against the group into a political football.

The Dangers of a Single Book Cover: The Acacia Tree Meme and “African literature”

“Like so many (wildly varying) writers on Africa, Chimamanda Adichie gets the acacia tree sunset treatment. Whether Wilbur Smith or Wole Soyinka, Rider Haggard or Bessie Head, apparently you get the same cover imagery.”
We’re obliged to Simon Stevens, a reader who put together the picture above and pointed out that whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever kind of writing you do, if you write a novel “about Africa,” chances are you’re going to get the acacia tree treatment. And the orange sky.
As Jeremy Weate tweeted icily: “Funny that. Nigeria is not known for its acacia trees.”

Israel’s Aggressive Spying in the U.S. Mostly Hushed Up

When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.

According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”

New book identifies nine surveillance trends in Canada

The New Transparency Project at the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University launches an intriguing book on Thursday revealing the extent to which covert surveillance now invades our lives.

Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada investigates the ways government and the private sector gather, monitor, analyze and share information about ordinary citizens in Canada.

Tories force early end to final round of election bill debate

The government has shut down debate on its controversial bid to rewrite Canada's election laws.

Just one day — and a little more than two hours — after consideration of the now-amended fair elections act bill got underway in the House of Commons, Conservative MPs used their majority to pass a motion that will see the House spend just one more day on report stage, followed by one day for third reading.

The controversial bill is now likely to go to a final House vote early next week.

Homeless Blame World Cup For High Rent In Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) — Thousands of impoverished Brazilians are living illegally on land near the World Cup stadium where the opening match will be played next month, blaming the arena's construction for rent increases that drove them out of their homes.

Braving insects, little food and a lack of privacy, the families seized a field nestled in the green hills of eastern Sao Paulo forming a village 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) away from the stadium built for the sports' biggest tournament.

Basically Every Big Internet Firm Signs Letter Against FCC's Net Neutrality Plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 100 technology companies, including Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Inc, have written to U.S. telecom regulators to oppose a new "net neutrality" plan that would regulate how Internet providers manage Web traffic.

The letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and the agency's four commissioners, warning of a "grave threat to the Internet," came as one FCC commissioner called for a delay of a vote on the plan scheduled for May 15.

Congress Holds Lois Lerner In Contempt In IRS Targeting Probe

WASHINGTON -- In the name of protecting Americans' rights against government abuses, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to hold a former IRS official in contempt of Congress for asserting her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Lois Lerner, who led the IRS division in charge of approving applications from political social welfare groups for tax-exempt status, twice invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify to the House Oversight Committee beyond asserting her innocence.

Jason Kenney: Without Foreign Workers, Canadians Would Lose Jobs

OTTAWA - Most of the temporary foreign workers hired in the manufacturing sector over the past three years in Windsor, Ont. — a hotbed of unemployment hit hard by the global recession — were skilled workers who repaired and installed industrial equipment, Jason Kenney said Wednesday.

"The overwhelming majority of these (labour market opinions) were issued for industrial instrument technicians and mechanics for less than six months," the embattled employment minister said in the House of Commons before tabling some of his department's data on the region.

Online Surveillance: Government, Business Sharing Info In 'Unprecedented' Ways

OTTAWA - Personal information is flowing between the public and private sectors in unprecedented ways, posing fresh risks to privacy, says a new book on surveillance in Canada.

Data gathered for one purpose may easily be used for another when public and private organizations share data, flying in the face of fair information practices, says "Transparent Lives: Surveillance in Canada."

Harper has tarnished Canada's reputation for 'sustainable governance' -- new report

The Harper government must be getting used to negative report cards from respected international bodies.
The latest comes from the Bertelsmann Foundation, based in Germany.
It says that "a strong case can be made that the quality of governance provided by the government of Canada has deteriorated" since Harper got his majority in 2011.   
Bertelsmann is especially critical of Canada's environmental performance in the Harper majority era. 
Bertelsmann points to the Conservatives' omnibus budget bill of 2012, which gutted federal environmental oversight of major projects while, at the same time, announcing Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Accord.

Federal government is ‘creeping’ your Facebook page

OTTAWA–Ottawa is creeping you on Facebook.
The government that characterized the long-form census as unduly intrusive is increasingly lifting Canadians’ personal information from their social networking websites, according to the federal privacy watchdog.
In a letter to Treasury Board President Tony Clement, interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier said an “increasing number” of government institutions are collecting publicly available personal information from sites like Facebook and Twitter “without any direct relation to a program or activity.”

Kathleen Wynne says Stephen Harper ‘smirked’ and said people should save for their own retirement

KITCHENER—Prime Minister Stephen Harper “smirked” and told Kathleen Wynne in a private meeting that Canadians need to save for their own retirement because‎ it’s not up to government to look after them, the Star has learned.
In a 45-minute meeting in Harper’s Centre Block office on Parliament Hill on Dec. 5‎, he apparently said his Conservative government has given people the ability to fend for themselves so there is no need to bolster the Canada Pension Plan.

Ontario Election 2014: Tim Hudak Expected To Reveal Details On Jobs Plan

TORONTO - Promises to create hundreds of thousands of jobs designed to lure Ontario voters dominated Thursday's election campaign as party leaders heckled one another's employment proposals and what it would mean for the province.

Both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats pushed job-creation plans as the Liberals and federal government traded barbs over support for the province.

Harper's Dustup With The Chief Justice - Pique Or Strategy?

There's a great deal of puzzlement about why Prime Minister Stephen Harper waited nine months before letting it be known he feels Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin should not have tried to approach him about a Supreme Court appointment.

The question came up again in question period Wednesday as NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asked when Harper intends to apologize to McLachlin.

Meet the Sex Hypnotherapist Helping the GOP Retake the Senate

As Democrats and Republicans jostle for control of the Senate in 2014, the Senate race in Oregon—where the incumbent is Democrat Jeff Merkley—is not considered much of a pickup opportunity for the GOP. But several Republican superdonors are trying to change that, including a multimillionaire vintner, one of the wealthiest conservative families in the country, and a sex hypnotist who has warned rape victims not to try to get "mileage" out of their stories.

Hundreds killed in Boko Haram raid on unguarded Nigerian town

Boko Haram has been further condemned after details emerged of a massacre of as many as 300 people close to Nigeria's border with Cameroon, while the Islamist group continued to hold more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls.

The US president, Barack Obama, said the kidnappings and murders in Nigeria, as well as the war in Syria and other conflicts, showed humanity's "darkest impulses".

Tim Hudak's job-creation vision -- or, how not to create a million jobs

It was almost too painful to watch: Tim Hudak and top Conservative luminaries kicked off their campaign for the 2014 Ontario election in a Toronto music recording studio. Problem: that studio (like others in the business) is supported in part by recording and production industry grants from the provincial government -- exactly the kind of "corporate welfare" that Hudak routinely rails against. Reporters asked about this seeming contradiction, and after a couple of kicks at the can Hudak abruptly walked off the stage -- leaving his confused host (studio owner and former rocker Gil Moore) standing alone at the mike like a deer in the headlights. Here's the link to Global's coverage of every awkward bit of it. Moore later told reporters (not surprisingly) that he fully supports the government's music industry subsidies (but endorses Hudak anyway -- aging rock stars are known for many things, but consistency is not one of them). Quite apart from the incredible contradictions of this botched photo-op, a separate claim that Hudak made during the episode is worthy of more serious consideration by Ontario voters -- and anyone else concerned with unemployment during this brutal, austere era. Hudak summed up his job-creation vision with this succinct quote:
"The biggest thing that we can do to actually create jobs in the province of Ontario is to balance the budget."

The Ford Brothers Are Addicted To Lying

Rob Ford is an addict.

Crack, cocaine, booze, attention -- the mayor appears to love them all. But it's the lies that concern me the most.

The drugs hurt the mayor. But the deceit hurts the city.

At this point, Ford has lied so much, about so many things, that Toronto wouldn't come to his aid if there was an entire pack of wolves at his door. Then again, we don't even know where his door is right now.

NYPL Shelves Plan to Gut Central Library

In November 2011, The Nation revealed the details of a radical plan conceived by the board of trustees of the New York Public Library: the removal of 3 million books from seven levels of historic book stacks beneath the Rose Reading Room, the subsequent demolition of those stacks and the insertion therein of a modern computer library designed by the British architect Norman Foster. How would the NYPL pay for such an undertaking? By selling two of its nearby libraries to private interests. It was a Bloomberg-era scheme conceived in absolute secrecy by the trustees, with assistance from McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen, which was paid $2.7 million. The NYPL’s librarians were almost entirely excluded from the process; and not a single public meeting preceded the creation of the plan in 2007.

Al Franken Wants You to Save the Internet From the FCC and Greedy Corporations

The senator has positioned himself as the most ardent defender of a free and open Internet, and has just issued a direct challenge to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Franken opposes the impending merger of Time Warner and Comcast that would leave 19 of the top 20 markets with only one choice for truly broadband Internet.

Now the senator is ramping up his campaign to preserve net neutrality. He has successfully urged interested corporations, such as Netflix and Google, to become more involved, and he’s issued the following video plea:

Original Article
Author: Peter Z. Scheer