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, February 05, 2015

The heart of our democracy in a time of terror -- In praise of red tape

On the day after a madman stormed Centre Block, there was defiance and appreciation. “We are here, in our seats, in our chamber, in the very heart of our democracy,” Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons on Oct. 23, “and our work goes on.”

Three months later, one of the government’s parliamentary secretaries was sent out to shoo away suggestions that the occupants of those hallowed seats—”In all its diversity of peoples and opinions, this House personifies the spirit of Canada,” the Prime Minister said in October—should have greater insight into the operations of our national security apparatus. “We are not interested in creating needless red tape,” Roxanne James explained.

Canada’s evolving no-fly list—and why changes to it were inevitable

Canada’s “no-fly list” is, by design, a tight-lipped operation—a database so top-secret that the people on it have no idea (until they try to board an airplane). The federal government won’t even reveal how many names the list contains, insisting that such basic disclosure could somehow help a terrorist plan an attack. Reported estimates range from 500 to 2,000 entries, which means someone is way off.

Whatever the actual figure, the list is about to expand.

From parliamentary attack dog to international statesman, John Baird covered all the bases for his boss, Stephen Harper

On the morning of Thursday, December 6, 2008, veteran CBC parliamentary journalist Don Newman exposed for all Canadians the reflexive contempt the Harper Conservatives hold for Canada’s parliamentary form of government – a reflexive contempt that continues to grow and fuel every new parliamentary outrage.

Writes Newman in the first paragraph of his bestselling autobiography Welcome to the Broadcast:

“Outrage comes naturally to him (Baird.) But on the morning of Thursday, December 6, 2008, John Baird was ready to outdo himself,” Newman writes, quoting Baird: ‘We’ll go over the heads of the members of Parliament, go over the heads, frankly, of the Governor-General; go right to the Canadian people,’ Baird fumed, “telling me face to face, one on one, on live television across the country,”

SIRC's mixed record in watching Canada's spies — remember Air India?

Oversight, oversight. Now that we've seen the sweeping new powers in the government's anti-terrorism bill, everybody wants oversight.

But we already have it, says the government. Don't worry, the prime minister tells the House of Commons, SIRC is there and SIRC will do the job just fine. It "provides robust oversight," he says.

Of course, if you asked a hundred Canadians what "SIRC" means, you might not find many who know it's the Security Intelligence Review Committee, in charge of keeping tabs on CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Harper: Trudeau Has 'Deep Distrust.. Dislike Of The Canadian Military'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has accused the Liberal leader who aims to replace him of harbouring a "deep distrust" of the Canadian military.

Harper made the charge at Justin Trudeau in an interview with London, Ont. radio station AM980 on Sunday.

The prime minister's discussion with host Andrew Lawton centered on Bill C-51, the Conservative government's recently tabled anti-terrorism legislation, and Canada's mission in Iraq.

As Vaccine Prices Soar, Big Pharma Profits

Last week in Berlin more than 15 countries, along with the European Commission, the Gates Foundation and others, pledged over US$7.5 billion to buy vaccines for the children of the world's poorest countries for the next five years. Canada alone pledged $500 million to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. While this is great news for the millions of children living in the 73 countries supported by Gavi, there were other big winners: the pharmaceutical companies that benefit from the soaring vaccine prices they charge for vaccines worldwide.
The price to vaccinate a child is now a colossal 68 times more expensive than it was in 2001.

Paul Ryan's First Tax Legislation Adds Nearly $100 Billion To Deficit

WASHINGTON -- The first bills promoted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as the new chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee would add nearly $100 billion to the deficit over 10 years.

Ryan, a deficit hawk during his time as the chairman of the Budget Committee for the previous six years, made his fame proposing budgets that aimed to dramatically cut domestic spending and balance the budget within a decade.

But in his first legislative act as head of the committee that will be central to expected tax reform efforts over the next two years, Ryan pushed through a package of seven tax cut bills that would add $93.5 billion to the deficit in the next decade.

Scott Walker Objects to ‘the Search for Truth’

UPDATE (2-3-15) 5:30 PM: Facing sharp criticism for proposing to abandon the University of Wisconsin's public-service mission statement, as outlined in state statutes, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Wednesday afternoon abruptly dropped the plan. Criticized for attacking The Wisconsin Idea and the state's historic commitment to academic inquiry, the all-but-announced 2016 presidential candidate shifted course less than 24 hours after making his proposal, which came as part of a broader assault on higher education funding. Walker claimed the line-by-line proposal for changing the statutes was a "drafting error." The following article provides background and context regarding the prospective presidential candidate's stumble.

Americans have returned to the question of whether the Republican Party has launched a “war on science”—as 2016 presidential prospects Chris Christie and Rand Paul have abandoned public-health imperatives in order to feed skepticism about whether children should be vaccinated against infectious diseases.

But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has trumped his fellow 2016 contenders.

Walker is launching a war on the truth.


FCC Chairman Finally Gets Fully Behind Net Neutrality

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is now officially on board supporting the strongest possible version of net neutrality. Here's his first-person statement:
Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new 
concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.

Wisconsin Officials Call Scott Walker’s Budget ‘Nonsensical’

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unveiled his budget for 2015 in a prime-time speech Tuesday night, telling the state assembly it “will help restore that America Dream right here in Wisconsin.”
But as the Governor struggles to close a nearly $2 billion budget gap, state officials on both sides of the aisle tell ThinkProgress the plan is “nonsensical,” and predict it will trigger public sector layoffs, weaken environmental protections and devastate higher education. State leaders are also blasting the budget as fiscally irresponsible, estimating that one controversial proposal to administer drug tests for food stamp recipients could cost local counties millions.

Mounties to take control of Hill security

OTTAWA - The RCMP are taking over responsibility for defending Canada's Parliament Buildings, ending a nearly 100-year-old tradition of having independent security officers patrol the House of Commons and the Senate.

The Conservative government is giving the Mounties jurisdiction over the independent security forces currently guarding Canada's halls of power, who report directly and solely to Parliament's own overseers.

Members of that tight-knit Commons team, led by former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, stopped a gunman's rampage in the Centre Block last October — a show of bravery that was widely hailed by MPs in the House of Commons.

Some Alberta Temporary Foreign Workers To Get Reprieve

The federal government is allowing some temporary foreign workers in Alberta more time in the province before their work permits end.

In a letter to MPs, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said repreive will be offered to some Alberta workers in the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program, granting them a one-year extension to their permits, before they expire.

However, the one-time exemption means those eligible will have to meet strict criteria.

Tories Quietly Give Alberta A Foreign Worker Crackdown Exemption

OTTAWA - Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says Ottawa is willing to extend to other provinces the measures it has given Alberta for some of its temporary foreign workers.

In a letter to Conservative MPs last week, Kenney says the federal government is giving a one-time exemption to temporary foreign workers in Alberta from being counted under the cap on low-wage workers, provided they meet strict criteria.