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.]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

If Oilsands Crude Can't Get to China, then Europe Instead?

Any day now Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce whether he's approving Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal. It's a big moment. But with First Nations vowing lawsuits against the pipeline, and Canada's green movement united in opposition, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco has already warned investors that "regardless of the government's decision," he doesn't expect to see construction begin anytime soon. "The regulatory process is one step," Monaco said at the company's annual meeting in Calgary last month.

How Harper became a global guru for climate skeptics

This may be hard for Canadians to understand, but Stephen Harper has become a guru of sorts.

He has always had an air of mystery, to be sure. But here at home, even the average Conservative has ceased to believe that it shrouds a preternatural strategic genius.

From afar, apparently, he looks quite different. Nearly nine years in office have given him a shimmering glow to conservatives around the world; this week, Australia’s newly-minted conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, came to bask in it.

Internal memo reveals Ottawa cut labour market data spending

An internal memo reveals Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s department cut spending on labour market information by over 20 per cent at a time when the government was coming under fire over the quality of its jobs data.

Spending on “Learning and Labour Market Information” – which includes gathering, analyzing and sharing labour data – dropped to $66.9-million in 2013-14, down from $80.8-million the year before and $84.9-million in 2011-12, according to the memo to the minister’s office.

World Cup, Olympics Have 'No Convincing Legacy' For Host Nations

For Brazil, hosting the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be a moment of national pride and international prestige.

Yet on the eve of the biggest sporting event in the world, the South American country is dealing with street riots, the death of another construction worker, the threat of more transit strikes and a growing sentiment that hosting mega sports events carries few social benefits.

International competitions allow nations "to showcase their country, to attract both tourism and investment," says Richard Powers, a professor at the Rotman School of Management and an expert in sports marketing and governance.

Iraq’s Nightmare Gets Worse

The crisis now engulfing Iraq provides the ultimate condemnation of the decision by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their cohorts—backed, of course, by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry—to invade Iraq in 2003. That action, which destroyed virtually all of Iraq’s institutions and created a power vacuum that led directly to an ethnic and sectarian civil war, is now playing out all of its terrible consequences.

Yesterday, in a surprise military action, fighters from the Al Qaeda–linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized what appears to be virtual control of Nineveh province and Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city. The insurgents, working in close coordination with Islamist forces in Syria fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, seized the governor’s office in Mosul, the airport, the television station and other key locations, and invaded prisons, freeing large numbers of prisoners. According to numerous reports, the Iraqi army and police suffered a huge defeat, melting away and fleeing en masse, leaving their weapons behind. The governor, a leading Sunni politician whose brother is speaker of the Iraqi parliament, managed to escape.

What's Wrong With Washington? We Ask Those Who Left It Behind

WASHINGTON -- Americans view Congress more negatively now than at any point in our nation’s history.
Which raises the oft-asked question: what’s the matter with Washington?
We decided to ask those who were once in power and have left, figuring they might have some perspective. What have they come to realize matters most about the legislative branch? And what did the political world treat as important that, in retrospect, was trivial?

Time for Congress to Investigate Bill Gates' Coup

The story about Bill Gates' swift and silent takeover of American education is startling. His role and the role of the U.S. Department of Education in drafting and imposing the Common Core standards on almost every state should be investigated by Congress.

The idea that the richest man in America can purchase and -- working closely with the U.S. Department of Education -- impose new and untested academic standards on the nation's public schools is a national scandal. A Congressional investigation is warranted.

Gap Is Starting To Make Clothes In Myanmar, Where Workers Are Horribly Mistreated

Gap is proudly touting its plans to start making clothes in Myanmar. One executive even called it a "historic moment" for the beleaguered Southeast Asian country. The retail giant will be the first American apparel maker to have clothes made in the country since U.S. sanctions were lifted two years ago.

But human rights advocates say, "Not so fast." Myanmar has a miserable track record when it comes to workers, who are frequently underpaid and horribly mistreated. Gap simply wants to get its clothes produced as cheaply as possible, the advocates argue, and it's dressing up the move as global philanthropy.

The World Cup Exposes Brazil's Injustices

Last year up to a million people demonstrated across Brazil: protesting the vast expense of the World Cup, calling for better public services and an end to corruption. On June 3rd, the police were accused of heavy handedness as protestors gathered outside the World Cup Stadium in Goiania, during a friendly football match between Brazil and Panama. The demonstrators condemn the 15 billion dollars spent on the tournament which could have gone towards social services and improving living standards for the poor of Brazil. It's the latest in a long line of demonstrations.


Remember when climate change could be a bipartisan issue? Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi did an advertisement together, boasting of their partnership on the challenge it posed. John McCain also believed that man-made climate change was an urgent problem. Now it’s virtually impossible to find any leading Republicans, including potential Presidential candidates, who will agree, without equivocation, on all of these points: that temperatures are rising, that human beings caused it, and that the nation and the world must take action to address it.

Military Equipment Rolls Into America's Cities

As America's war in Afghanistan winds down, the tools used to fight the battle are popping up in towns and cities across the country.

As the New York Times reports:

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.
The Times cites the example of Neenah, Wisconsin, "a quiet city of about 25,000 people," with a low violent crime rate that "has not had a homicide in more than five years."

GOP Straight Up Bribes Democratic Senator In Effort To Block Obamacare

The Republican Party in Virginia has resorted to what appears to be outright bribery in its ongoing effort to deny low-income residents in the state access to the Medicaid expansion authorized by Obamacare.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Republicans offered to move Democratic state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett and his daughter into prestigious jobs in exchange for Puckett's resignation, which will flip the chamber into Republican hands. Puckett officially accepted the offer on Monday, but then appeared to back away amid a public outcry.

Canada Post Cuts Home Delivery But Continues Postage-Free Mail For MPs

OTTAWA - As Canadians anticipate a future of slogging through snow, rain, heat and gloom of night to get their mail, they can take comfort in knowing their community mail boxes will continue to be stuffed with wads of postage-free political propaganda.
And they can congratulate themselves that their tax dollars helped produce and deliver that junk mail.
Canada Post has hiked postal rates for regular mail and plans to cut up to 8,000 jobs as it phases out urban home mail delivery over the next five years — all in a bid to reverse the tide of red ink at the money-losing Crown corporation.

As Stories of Bergdahl's Torture Surface, The Case of Rumsfeld As War Criminal Grows

Even the most ardent believers that Bowe Bergdahl deserted his base and acted dishonorably can't deny that torturing an American is wrong. According to recent reports, Bergdahl claims he was tortured, beaten, and held in a cage by the Taliban. While Republican lawmakers have no problem at all believing claims that Bergdahl deserted, they're a bit skeptical that he was tortured by a terrorist group. Senator Saxby Chambliss responds to the issue of Bergdahl's torture at the hands of the Haqqani network (a Taliban affiliate) by saying, it will be "difficult to validate." This reaction to claims of torture by the Haqqani network, the Taliban associates that held Bergahl, is a bit odd considering that that the U.S. declared it a terrorist organization in 2012. As for the validation that Bergdahl was in the hands of a group known for torture, The Telegraph in 2001 published an interview with a former conscript of the Taliban. The following is what he told The Telegraph about what Taliban superiors demanded of their fighters:

"YOU must become so notorious for bad things that when you come into an area people will tremble in their sandals. Anyone can do beatings and starve people. I want your unit to find new ways of torture so terrible that the screams will frighten even crows from their nests and if the person survives he will never again have a night's sleep."
Therefore, considering the Taliban's use of torture as a tool of statecraft, it's safe to say that Mr. Chambliss and others shouldn't have a difficult time believing Bergdahl's claims.

Harper sinks to new lows with cold war posturing

The dumbing down of Canadian politics has surely hit rock bottom with Stephen Harper’s cynical exploitation of the tumultuous events in Ukraine.

A reasonable person might think he has defected to that country based on how much time he has spent there recently. Surely by now foreign minister John Baird is an honorary Ukrainian too.

Feds’ move to ram bills through House, again, creates Hill speculation of early election, prorogation, PM’s possible exit...

The federal government’s move two weeks ago to extend House sitting hours to midnight, use time allocation on non-urgent bills, and suspend some Commons Standing Orders until the summer recess has put the rumour mill into full gear with suggestions that the Conservatives are considering proroguing Parliament, laying the ground work to go to the polls early, or even that the Prime Minister is thinking about packing it in before the next election.

“It’s not exactly earth-shattering and there doesn’t appear to be very important reasons why you’d want to suspend all the rules, unless the government has something else up its sleeve,” former six-term Liberal MP and House leader Don Boudria, now a lobbyist with Hill & Knowlton Strategies, said in an interview with The Hill Times last week.

The robocall story is not yet over -- just watch the Sona trial in Guelph

Andrew Prescott, a Conservative campaign worker in Guelph in 2011, accused his party of a "widespread, well-organized" scheme to suppress votes through deceptive calls during the last campaign.
The campaigner made those accusations on Facebook, in a communication to fellow Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona, who is now on trial for willfully preventing a voter from voting.
Prescott, who was the Guelph Conservative candidate's deputy campaign manager during the last campaign, now says he didn't really mean it when he wrote those words. He was angry at the Party, he claims, and just wanted to lash out.

Vengeance is mine: The Conservative sabotaging of Ontario

When one looks at the way conservative politics has played out in Ontario over the past 30 years, a pattern emerges. From Brian Mulroney to Mike Harris to Stephen Harper -- even to Harris protégé Rob Ford -- and, if he gets his way in Ontario's upcoming provincial election, the pattern will continue under Tim Hudak. 

The pattern? A systematic sabotaging of Ontario. 

Wealthy London Neighborhood Installs Metal Spikes To Keep The Homeless Away

A block of privately-owned apartments in a tony area of London has installed metal studson the ground to keep homeless people from sleeping there.
Similar to the window spikes many buildings use to deter pigeons from roosting, the studs reportedly appeared last month and have inspired outrage on Twitter.

The problem with right-wing populism

When Andrea Horwath is called a right-wing populist (by me, among others), I'd like to clarify that it's not the populist part that's objectionable. Populism is a good starting point. There's no agreed definition, but in general it builds on a sense among "the people" that they've been screwed: by the big shots, the elites, the one per cent -- a sense that's usually justified.
What really matters is: where do you go then? What conclusions do you draw? Do leaders who try to take advantage of this sense of injustice -- and there will always be leaders who do -- leave people to stew in their resentment, everyone working alone to get a slightly better deal, or do you urge them to pool resources and channel their anger into joint action -- government programs, co-ops, unions, whatever.

Billionaire Heir Sentenced To Four Months In Jail For Sexually Assaulting His Stepdaughter

A Wisconsin billionaire pled guilty to sexual assault of his stepdaughter, but was onlysentenced to four months in jail on Friday. Samuel Curtis Johnson III, heir to the SC Johnson cleaning supplies empire, will have to serve at least 60 days of his sentence and pay a fine up to $6,000.
Originally, Johnson was charged with felony sexual assault of a child for repeatedly targeting his stepdaughter for three years. His stepdaughter initially told police Johnson was “a sex addict” and touched her inappropriately 15 to 20 times starting when she was 12 years old. She told her mother about the abuse in order to protect her younger sister, and Johnson confessed when the mother confronted him.

Here's The Simple Reason Congress Hasn't Fixed The VA

WASHINGTON -- In 2011, a significant chunk of the congressional agenda was taken up by banks and merchants battling over swipe fees -- namely, how much could banks charge Walmart and others to run a debit card. The focus on the penny brawl made no sense from a public policy perspective.

But merchants and banks rained down a staggering sum of money in their fight -- on lobbyists, consultants, campaigns, public relations firms and any other bucket that Washington put out. That flow of dollars determines what gets on Congress' agenda.

Vodafone Report: Some Governments Have 'Permanent Access' To Telecom Networks

LONDON - Vodafone, one of the world's largest cellphone companies, revealed the scope of government snooping into phone networks Friday, saying authorities in some countries are able to directly access an operator's network without seeking permission.

The company outlined the details in a report that is described as the first of its kind, covering 29 countries in which it directly operates. It gives the most comprehensive look to date on how governments monitor the communications of their citizens.

Temp Nation: How Corporations Are Evading Accountability, at Workers’ Expense

At Taylor Farms in Tracy, California, one of the country’s major salad producers, Susie Serna works in quality control, making sure food production standards are upheld. But lately, it’s the quality of the jobs she’s been worried about. In her department, she sees temporary workers constantly milling through, facing safety risks at work and constantly at risk of losing their jobs altogether.