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.]

Friday, September 12, 2014

The ISIS Speech: Obama and the Dogs of War

Here is President Barack Obama's challenge: how to unleash the dogs of war without having them run wild.

This dilemma applies to both the political and policy considerations Obama faces, as he expands US military action in Iraq (and possibly Syria) to counter ISIS, the militant and murderous outfit that now calls itself the Islamic State and controls territory in northern Iraq and eastern Syria. In a speech from the White House on Wednesday night, Obama announced what was expected: The United States would widen its air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, "take action" of some sort against ISIS in Syria, ramp up military assistance for the Syrian opposition, keep sending advisers to assist the Iraqi military's on-the-ground-campaign against ISIS, and maintain pressure on Iraqi politicians to produce a national government that can represent and work with Sunnis and, consequently, undercut ISIS's support and appeal in Sunni-dominated areas of the country—all while assembling a coalition of Western nations and regional allies. (He gave no details about the membership of this under-construction alliance.) The goal: to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS. There were no surprises in the speech, and this strategy of expanded-but-limited military intervention—Obama referred to it as a "counterterrorism campaign" different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has a fair amount of support from the politerati and the policy wonks within Washington and beyond, as well as from the public, per recent polling. But whatever he calls it, the president is attempting a difficult feat: waging a nuanced war.

Conservatives to cut EI premiums in response to sluggish job market

The Conservative government will announce Thursday that it is lowering Employment Insurance premiums in an effort to boost hiring at a time of sluggish job growth – the first of an expected series of tax cuts as Ottawa moves out of deficit and prepares to face voters in next year’s federal election.

The cut in payroll taxes for workers and small business marks a key decision for Finance Minister Joe Oliver ahead of a crucial budget, since it shows he’s confident he can sacrifice some revenue from EI premiums and still balance the books, a key Conservative promise.

Part of Harper government’s tougher sentencing laws ruled unconstitutional

TORONTO - The Harper government's tough-on-crime agenda took another hit Wednesday when Ontario's top court struck down provisions that limit pre-trial sentencing credit.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal ruled the law unconstitutional because, among other things, it could create sentencing disparities for similarly placed offenders.

"Both the offender and the public must have confidence in the fairness of the sentencing process and in the results," the court ruled.

Labour Hands Teachers $8-Million 'Solidarity' Loan

The B.C. education ministry says it isn't surprised by a more than $8-million loan pledged by the provincial labour movement to striking teachers Wednesday, saying the unions have a "vested interest" in the dispute.

The B.C. Federation of Labour brokered the interest-free funding from B.C.'s biggest unions, earmarking the funds for the cash-strapped B.C. Teachers' Federation which has been on a province-wide strike since June 17.

Teachers Vote to End Strike If Government Agrees to Arbitration

Results from a teachers' union vote last night showed the majority of the province's teachers are united in their desire to return to the classroom if the provincial government agrees to binding arbitration. But the government has already said no.

BC Teachers' Federation President Jim Iker announced 99.4 per cent of the 30,669 teacher who voted are in favour of ending their strike and entering binding arbitration. That's a larger majority than those who voted in favour of gradual strike action and the full-scale strike earlier this year.

New Jersey's Credit Rating Has Been Cut 8 Times Since Chris Christie Took Office

Standard & Poor's became the latest agency to downgrade New Jersey's credit rating on Wednesday, the state's eighth such downgrade since Gov. Chris Christie (R) took office in 2010.

Last week, Fitch decided to do the same. In its statement explaining the move, S&P directly cited major revenue shortfalls and the governor's decision to reduce pension contributions this fiscal year for the state's public workers.

Education Department Admits It Will Pay Much Reviled Student Loan Firms More Money

The U.S. Department of Education will pay its oft-criticized student loan servicers more money under new contracts that the White House demanded in response to the companies' lack of adequate customer service.

An Education Department official acknowledged the bump in pay on Wednesday during a testy exchange with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

"Let me get this straight: You break the law. You don't follow the rules. You treat the borrowers badly," Warren said of the loan servicers. "And you all just renegotiated the contracts to make sure that across the portfolio [loan servicers] are going to make a little more money if nothing changes?"

Tories' Own Program Contradicts Harper On Missing Aboriginal Women

OTTAWA - One of the Conservative government's key programs on missing and murdered aboriginal women includes a focus on "addressing the root causes," despite the prime minister's suggestion that sociology isn't the right lens to use.

The $5.7-million Aboriginal Community Safety Development Contribution Program was created in 2010 as part of the government's larger initiative to deal with the issue.

A July 8 draft report evaluating the program was largely positive about the program that works with remote First Nations communities to create collaborative safety plans and train and mobilize people to implement them.

Canada Has Dutch Disease, Bank Of America Declares

Is Canada’s oil sector harming the rest of the economy? According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the evidence points to yes.

In a new report, the bank has come out squarely in favour of the "Dutch Disease" theory — the notion that Canada's oil and gas boom has driven up the loonie to the point it's hurting other export-dependent parts of the economy.

Terri-Jean Bedford kicked out of prostitution bill hearing

Retired dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford was escorted by security out of a Senate committee meeting after refusing to heed the chair's warning that her allotted speaking time had run out — but not before threatening to make politicians "forget about Mike Duffy."

The woman who won a Supreme Court challenge to Canada's prostitution laws told committee members that the government's proposal to criminalize buyers of sex would "make Canada the laughingstock of the world."

Site C Review Process Lacked Independence, Says Northern Mayor

Local municipal and First Nations officials from northeastern B.C.'s Peace River area renewed their opposition to the proposed 1,100-megawatt Site C hydroelectric dam at a press briefing Tuesday.

In front of them on a long table, laid out like Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper, were succulent cantaloupes and pots of honey produced in their fertile agricultural region, which could see an 83-kilometre stretch of riverside land submerged if Site C gets the green light.

Ferry Fare Hikes Killed $2.3 Billion in Economic Activity: Report

Skyrocketing ferry fares killed $2.3 billion in economic activity over the last decade, says a consultant's report released today.

High ferry fares also reduce government revenues and may make coastal communities unsustainable, said Boatswains to Bollards: A Socioeconomic Impact Analysis of BC Ferries, which Larose Research & Strategy prepared for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities.

B.C. teachers' strike drags on with no end in sight

As the dispute between B.C.’s 40,000-plus striking public school teachers and the provincial government drags towards the end of a fourth week, (two at the end of the last school year and two so far this month) the lack of realistic, creative ideas from both sides for ending the standoff and getting students back into classrooms is becoming more and more apparent.

Both the union and government continue to remain more focused on public relations and rhetoric than actually sitting down and hammering out a deal.

Israeli officer admits ordering lethal strike on own soldier during Gaza massacre

The civilian population in Gaza is “a partner of terror” that “gets what they choose,” the top commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade told the Israeli press recently, after orchestrating some of the deadliest episodes of butchery visited upon the Gaza Strip this summer.

Colonel Ofer Winter also admitted to ordering the mass-bombardment of an area where an Israeli soldier was known to be in order to prevent his capture alive by Palestinian resistance fighters — an army policy known as the Hannibal Directive.

Climate scepticism still rife among Tory MPs – poll

Climate scepticism is still rife among the Tory parliamentary party, according to a new poll of MPs.

More than twice as many Conservative MPs as Labour MPs who responded to the poll cast doubt on scientists having “conclusively proved” climate change is caused by humans, despite the world’s most authoritative panel of climate scientists last year saying they were 95% confident that recent global warming is manmade.

Andrew Cuomo spent almost 40 times as much for his votes as Zephyr Teachout

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has been raising money for his reelection essentially since he took office in 2010. His campaign account has been in the eight figures since 2012; he's been raising $5 million or more every six months like clockwork. In Tuesday's New York Democratic gubernatorial primary, he won by a healthy margin, against a candidate who didn't raise much at all.

A Progressive Estate Tax

The founders of our country declared their independence from what they viewed as a tyrannical aristocracy in England. More than two centuries later, today’s tyrannical aristocracy is no longer a foreign power. It’s an American billionaire class which has unprecedented economic and political influence over all of our lives.

Unless we reduce skyrocketing wealth and income inequality, unless we end the ability of the super-rich to buy elections, the United States will be well on its way toward becoming an oligarchic form of society where almost all power rests with the billionaire class.

Work Is Eating Up Americans’ Nights And Weekends

Americans don’t just put in more hours at work each week than residents of many developed countries. We’re also putting in more hours on our supposed free time.
A new paper from Daniel S. Hamermesh and Elena Stancanelli finds that the average American puts in 41 hours at work each week, compared to 38.4 in the United Kingdom, 36.9 in Germany, 35.7 in France, 34.6 in Spain, and just 32.7 in the Netherlands. And more of us are working even longer: while half of Americans work 35-44 hours a week, about 8 percent work 55-64 hours and nearly 4 percent work 65 or more hours. Nearly double the share of Americans are working 45 or more hours than in Germany, and it’s more than double compared to France, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Betrayed by Obama, Latino Activists Debate Boycotting the 2014 Midterms

Until Saturday, 14-year-old Elena Marquez was full of hope—hope for herself and her siblings and, she told me, for other kids whose parents are undocumented. Then she heard that President Obama had decided to delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections. “He said, yes, he will, and then he won’t,” said Marquez, who lives in Homestead, Florida, and is a US citizen. “Why can’t the president make one choice?”

How Hillary Clinton's State Department Sold Fracking to the World

ONE ICY MORNING in February 2012, Hillary Clinton's plane touched down in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, which was just digging out from a fierce blizzard. Wrapped in a thick coat, the secretary of state descended the stairs to the snow-covered tarmac, where she and her aides piled into a motorcade bound for the presidential palace. That afternoon, they huddled with Bulgarian leaders, including Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, discussing everything from Syria's bloody civil war to their joint search for loose nukes. But the focus of the talks was fracking. The previous year, Bulgaria had signed a five-year, $68 million deal, granting US oil giant Chevron millions of acres in shale gas concessions. Bulgarians were outraged. Shortly before Clinton arrived, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets carrying placards that read "Stop fracking with our water" and "Chevron go home." Bulgaria's parliament responded by voting overwhelmingly for a fracking moratorium.

The economy is in a coma. Tax cuts won’t help.

We’re roughly a year away from the next federal election, and the recession recovery that forms the bedrock of the Harper government’s political narrative is looking more and more like smoke. Last Friday, Statistics Canada released its Labour Force Survey for the month of August. It showed the economy lost 11,000 jobs in August, following an unprecedented decline of 112,000 private sector jobs only partly offset by an equally unprecedented increase in self-employment.

Mandatory voting would erode Conservatives’ strategic advantage, say experts

PARLIAMENT HILL—A system of mandatory voting now being crowd-tested by the Liberal Party would either erode or eliminate a strategic advantage the Conservative Party held over the past two federal elections through the disproportionate weight of its loyal base, U.S.-style campaign tactics, and negative attack ads, experts say.

Electoral strategy and tactics the Conservatives have developed under Prime Minister and party leader Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) since 2005 produced election gains won largely because of low voter turnout, elector alienation, and the Conservative focus on electoral districts where margins had grown increasingly tighter, analysts said in interviews with The Hill Times.

What would you do to un-Harper Canada?

For as long as I can remember, Canadian politics has been a pleasantly diverting if meaningless game of rascal tossing. We pick one set of rascals to govern us and toss the last set out. After a while, those no-longer new rascals run amok. Can you say sponsorship scandal? Brian Mulroney? Need we say more? So we kick those rascals out, and let the old lot back for another kick at the governing can. Occasionally, we say a pox on both their sorry houses and elect enough neither-of-the-aboves to make things interesting without fundamentally altering anything significant.

Something is rotten in the state of labour negotiations

The rich are growing richer at a faster pace than the rest of the population, which explains the widening gap between the richest and the poorest. That we know. Studies have proven the existence of income inequality time and time again. But why is the 1% getting richer at the expense of others? The latest IRIS study, conducted by associate researcher Paul-André Lapointe, provides potential answers. Basically, labour unions' decline has weakened workers' bargaining power, preventing them from taking full advantage of productivity gains. And if unions can no longer hold the balance of power, they can't negotiate advantageous working conditions or ensure compensation keeps up with productivity gains.

Here Comes Dick Cheney to Beat the Drums of War in Iraq (Again)

In what is hopefully not one of the seven signs of imminent apocalypse, former Vice President Dick Cheney once again darkened the halls of Congress on Tuesday, huddling with House Republicans to strategize about the simmering war zone that is Iraq.

Arthur Porter dishes dirt on Harper, Couillard

From his jail cell in Panama, accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter dishes the dirt on his once-thriving political connections with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in a new wide-ranging memoir that is bound to incense both Harper and Couillard while providing ammunition to their critics.

Porter, who at one point served as chairman of Canada's spy watchdog, also provides details on the inner workings of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that is entrusted with the country's most sensitive surveillance secrets.

Why Teachers Fear the Worst of Clark Government

Today, public school teachers in British Columbia will vote to end their job action if the government agrees to leave the issues of class size and class compensation to the courts. Both parties are almost on the same page when it comes to wages and contract length, but regardless the government continues to say the two are miles apart, and continues to refuse to participate in binding arbitration.

Why this government is so adamantly against making any deal with teachers, other than a deal that essentially amounts to the B.C. Teachers' Federation giving up its court case, giving up on wages and giving up on any issue of importance to its members, is what everyone watching this dispute is asking.

Why Binding Arbitration Would End the Strike

Don't believe the reasons Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Premier Christy Clark give for their rapid rejection of binding arbitration to settle the teachers' dispute. This is the game changer.

Dismiss their contention that the BC Teachers' Federation's demands for wages and benefits is the reason they can't go to binding arbitration. It isn't.

The BC Liberals do not fear arbitration could give teachers more than other public sector workers. They know it won't.

'Bootstrapper' Bias May Blind Clark's Team to Teachers' Case

Ingrained in North American culture is the belief that education is the key to personal and national advancement and success. We estimate our economic success in part by the proportion of our people with advanced degrees. Our children go into debt just to obtain a degree, though it's increasingly become a lottery ticket rather than a passport to guaranteed work.

When a truth is universally acknowledged, it's time to question it, especially when contrary evidence is staring us in the face.

We continue to be scandalized by the percentage of high school students who don't graduate, and the post-secondary students who fail to acquire at least a B.A. Their prospects for success seem fatally diminished, especially to those of us who have graduated and found work. But we are just one of two political cultures, and the other one is flourishing across Canada and within B.C.

BC's Finances Not Healthy Enough to Settle the Strike: Minister

British Columbia is in better financial shape than expected, but not good enough to commit more money to settling the provincial teachers' dispute that has half a million students shut out of classes, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said today.

Nor did de Jong rule out legislating the B.C. Teachers' Federation back to work, breaking with the government's message in recent weeks.

Canadian university costs to rise 13 per cent over 4 years: report

Students will need deeper pockets to study at Canadian universities over the next four years with annual fees projected to rise 13 per cent on average to $7,755, having almost tripled over the past 20 years, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Students in Ontario can expect to shell out $9,483 on average in tuition and other compulsory fees in 2017-18. Fees in the province have nearly quadrupled over the last two decades, said the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

First Nations Take Federal, Ontario Governments To Court Over $4/Year Benefit

TORONTO - The annual payment of $4 to members of First Nations under a treaty signed in 1850 has not been increased in 140 years and that is unfair, a group of chiefs is arguing as it takes the federal and Ontario governments to court.

The chiefs from the Robinson-Huron Treaty territory say the Anishnabek agreed under the treaty to share their lands and resources with newcomers and in return the Crown would pay annuities that were supposed to increase over time. But, they say, the last increase was in 1874 and they still receive just $4 per year.

Ontario Affordable Housing Wait List Hits Record High

The waiting list for affordable housing in Ontario is now at a record high, according to a report released today by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONHPA).

According to the report, 165,069 households in the province are currently waiting for subsidized housing — the highest since the ONHPA started collecting data in 2003.

New Afton Mine In Kamloops, B.C. Sees Small Tailings Pond Spill

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A broken valve between two tailings ponds at the New Afton gold and copper mine in Kamloops, B.C., has resulted in a spill of about 16 cubic metres of mine slurry.

B.C. Environment Minister spokesman David Karn says the tailings went into a dry ditch and no waterways are involved.

A company spokeswoman says the crushed rock was completely contained on mine property, there was no danger to people or the environment and clean-up has begun.

Karn says the spill is minor compared to the breach released at the Mount Polley mine last month that sent 17 million cubic metres of water and more than seven million cubic metres of slurry into nearby waterways.

A registered letter sent Tuesday to the operators of the Mount Polley mine from the Environment Ministry warns the company that the tailings pond was still discharging effluent into a nearby creek.

The ministry issued a compliance order to the company to take prompt action to shut down all discharge and make sure there's enough capacity in the storage facility to handle a large rainfall event.

Original Article
Author: CP

Temporary foreign worker dies in freak accident, leaves chilling testimony

A video uncovered by Radio-Canada paints a grim picture of the working conditions one temporary foreign worker allegedly experienced on an Ormstown, Que., farm.

Mexican worker Ivan Guerrero drowned in May on the farm where he worked. Police ruled his death an accident.

Russia May Block Airspace To Western Flights In Bid To Drive Airlines Out Of Business

Russia has threatened to block Western flights over its airspace if the European Union brings in more sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, in a step that prime minister Dmitry Medvedev warned could force "struggling" airlines out of business.

This comes as European leaders have adopted new sanctions that would come into effect "in the next few days" aimed at Russia's energy sector. EU Council President Herman van Rompuy said leaders were "ready to review" the measures depending on how the ceasefire goes, which was agreed between Russia and Ukraine on Friday.

Atikamekw First Nation Declares Sovereignty Over Its Territory

QUEBEC - The Atikamekw First Nation has declared its sovereignty over 80,000 square kilometres of territory and says any development in that area must get its approval.

Armed with a Supreme Court of Canada judgment recognizing ancestral rights for First Nations in British Columbia, the Atikamekw want to have their say on projects located in the Nitaskinan region.

Constant Awashish, grand chief of the Atikamekw First Nation, says 35 years of territorial negotiations with governments have provided nothing.

Apple Wants You To Pay For Things With An iPhone — But There’s One Nagging Problem

Forgetting your wallet at home may no longer be a problem when picking up prescriptions or incidentals, as the nation’s biggest drugstore chain and other major retailers partner with Apple and its new mobile payment system. Apple’s new mobile payment system — Apple Pay — could certainly make life for consumers much easier. But the move also makes the iPhone a virtually indispensable — and invaluable –piece of property that will be even more vulnerable to security risks if lost, stolen or hacked.