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.]

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bibi on the Brink

On March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to a joint session of Congress, where he undermined President Barack Obama by calling for a tougher deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. Before the speech, Netanyahu had been slipping in the polls, but he still faced no domestic challenge to his foreign policy. Bibi thought, not unreasonably, that this would play to his strength and demonstrate to Israeli voters that even though his relationship with Obama is sour, America was as solidly behind him as ever.

Worst Is Yet To Come': Economic Bad News Could Hit Just In Time For Election

Six words that appeared in several economists’ analyses over the past several days should give pause to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political strategists: “The worst is yet to come.”

That was the sentiment following StatsCan’s release of unemployment numbers for February, which showed the jobless rate ticking up to 6.8 per cent as the country lost a net total of 1,000 jobs.

It was actually better than the 5,000 lost jobs economists had been predicting, but the experts don’t see this as a sign that Canada will come out of the oil price collapse unscathed.

Duffy’s day in court is sure to shed light on Harper’s secretive PMO

In just three weeks, suspended Senator Mike Duffy goes on trial to defend himself against a bushel of criminal charges – 31 in all.

But it is not just the man who went from media icon, to politics, to a hot-air balloon of alleged corruption who has a vested interest in the outcome of this long-awaited trial.

For the first time since this circus began back in 2013, PMO staffers will not have the option of offering ‘scenarios’ — the lovely euphemism to describe the oft-fictitious claims of their boss. They will take the stand under oath. This time around it’s truth or consequences – the consequences being perjury.

Canada and the United States to announce new cross border deal today

WASHINGTON - Travel to the United States by road, rail and sea could undergo a major revamp as a result of an agreement set to be announced today between Canada and the U.S.

A U.S. government advisory says Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will announce a pre-clearance customs agreement at a ceremony in Washington.

The governments have been negotiating a legal arrangement that would allow customs agents into each other's countries — so that they can screen passengers away from the border, and ease the choke points there.

Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander delivers a troubling speech on Ukraine

One of the principal talking points of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his supporters in the federal election campaign that is now for all intents and purposes under way is that the Conservatives are statesmanlike and mature, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is a crazy kid who could do or say anything and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is an angry old man.
But when the media's not around, nobody can match our Conservatives for recklessly immature and angry rhetoric.

42-2: John Tory, Toronto City Council and the austerity consensus

Remember how, during last year's municipal election in Toronto, supporters of Olivia Chow and progressive activists and organizations warned that John Tory, were he to be elected as Mayor of Toronto, would simply be a more effective version of Rob Ford?
How we were told his agenda would represent the Ford agenda without the antics, drugs and buffoonery?

Canadian government pushing First Nations to give up land rights for oil and gas profits

The Harper government is trying to win support for its pipelines and resource agenda by pushing First Nations to sideline their aboriginal rights in exchange for business opportunities, documents reveal.

The news that Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is working to this end by collaborating with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is sparking strong criticism from grassroots Indigenous people.

Harper exploits weak opposition, media amnesia

Stephen Harper, a master propagandist of the first order, is doing it again. He’s blowing the dog whistle and he’s got them running, no matter what gets trampled. This time, the overblown tune is war, terror, security, with civil liberties, prudence and rational thought underfoot.

The issue here is not just Harper. It’s also the failure of the opposition to crystallize the argument against him over the long term, not just with regard to the terror legislation but with most of the agenda.

Tories’ cynical monument to victims of communism

Ottawa’s promised new memorial to victims of Communism threatens to be both an esthetic monstrosity and a tribute to moral obtuseness. Many have expressed alarm about its visual impact, from the mayor of Ottawa to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, without deterring the Harper government from financially and ideologically backing the project.

The proposed four-storey-tall, 54,000-square-foot structure is the thought-child of Voytek Gorczynski, a Canadian architect of Polish origin. He has earned his right to detest Communism, having experienced Stalinist oppression in his native country — just as I witnessed it in my birth land of Hungary. It is common for people to empathize primarily with the fate of the ethnic or political grouping they identify with: grieving its sufferings, turning a blind eye to its sins. Less excusable is the cynicism of the ruling Conservatives.

Montreal March Against Police Brutality Declared Illegal

MONTREAL - A Montreal march against perceived police brutality ended on Sunday with one arrest and nearly 100 tickets being given out.

The march was declared illegal as soon as it began because organizers had not informed authorities of their route.

As protesters split into different directions, police quickly surrounded a group of about 30 people, who were put onto waiting city buses without incident.

Parliament lost scrutiny of borrowing in omnibus budget bill

Parliament used to annually review the billions of dollars the government borrowed until it unwittingly gave away that power in a clause buried in a budget bill that went unnoticed until it was too late.

Some parliamentarians admit they abdicated their responsibility when the legislative change slipped through unchallenged in the Conservatives’ 2007 omnibus budget bill, a time when no one expected Canada would be racking up deficits again.

Since then, the finance minister has had the authority to borrow and fund Canada’s debt without going to Parliament for permission.

Chris Hedges on Bill C-51 and the corporate state

This weekend, protests were held in communities across Canada to protest Bill C-51, a bill that would increase powers for CSIS.
Journalist and author Chris Hedges has spent much of his career working as a foreign correspondent in war zones across the globe, and has written extensively on the surveillance state and world conflict. The journalist and writer was scheduled to speak at the Toronto protest on Saturday. His plane was forced to land in Windsor due to heavy fog and so he was unable to attend the Toronto protest.'s H.G. Watson was able to catch up with him by phone on Saturday to find out why he was travelling to Canada to join the Day of Action Against Bill C-51. This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Muslim group denounces Kenney's misrepresentation of photos as "corrosive"

Defence Minister Jason Kenney’s misrepresentation of photos of a Muslim religious ceremony to bolster support for the war against ISIS is “corrosive” and “inflammatory,” a group representing Canadian Muslims said Tuesday.

To mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, Kenney tweeted photographs of Muslim girls in chains with a message thanking Canadian Forces for “for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls.”

The picture he posted with the message, however, depicted a re-enactment that is part of the annual Ashura ceremony celebrated by Shia Muslims the world over.

NATO disputes Conservative claim that Russians confronted Canadian warship

The Conservative government has ratcheted up its war of words over Ukraine, with the parliamentary defence secretary claiming Russian warships confronted a Canadian frigate in the Black Sea.

But NATO officials say no such thing happened.

James Bezan, parliamentary secretary to Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney, told the House of Commons earlier this week, “Since arriving in the Black Sea, Royal Canadian Navy sailors have been confronted by Russian warships and buzzed by Russian fighter jets.”

Tom Cotton: 'No Regrets At All' Over Letter To Iran

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on CBS’ "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he had “no regrets at all” over the letter he orchestrated to be sent to Iranian ayatollahs warning them that any deal struck with the Obama administration over their country’s nuclear program could be cancelled by a future administration or Congress.

Cotton and the 46 other Republican senators who signed his letter have come under severe criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for seeking to undermine ongoing negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Unite-the-left pot starts to boil in Alberta, whether progressive parties like it or not

Efforts to "unite the left" are going to happen in Alberta whether certain political parties like it or not.

Both the Alberta New Democrats and the Alberta Liberals have indicated they want no such thing, but Alberta voters who are not part of the loony Wildrose right and are sick to death of the unprogressive Progressive Conservatives are going to push their preferred parties in the direction of co-operation anyway.

Bill C-51 'Day of Action' protests denounce new policing powers

Protests were held across Canada against the government's proposed anti-terrorism legislation, which would give police much broader powers and allow them to detain terror suspects, and give new powers to Canada's spy agency.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair joined hundreds in Montreal in a march through the city. One protester held up a poster saying "C-51 is an act of terror," while others carried red "Stop Harper" signs.

The protest planned to end in front of the riding office of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has said his caucus will vote in favour of the bill.

Ontario, Quebec Transportation Ministers Send Letter To Lisa Raitt Over Train Derailments

TORONTO - The transportation ministers of Ontario and Quebec are expressing concern to their federal counterpart over the increasing number of train derailments.

Steven Del Duca and Robert Poeti sent a letter to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on Saturday over what they call the growing number of "very serious and unacceptable train derailments" across Canada.

The two provinces are calling on the federal government to do more to improve rail regulations.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: Disloyal Arabs Should Be Beheaded

TEL AVIV — Israel's foreign minister has suggested that disloyal Arabs should be beheaded, drawing condemnation for invoking the grisly tactics of ISIS.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — who heads the ultanationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party — told an event that Israel is "acting like fools ... soft and weak."

"Whoever is with us should get up to half the kingdom," he said. "Whoever is not with us we should take an axe and lower his head."

Bill C-51 Protests Held Across Canada

MONTREAL - Thousands of Canadians came together to loudly denounce the Conservative government's proposed anti-terror legislation in rallies held across the country on Saturday.

In a park in Montreal's north end, a few dozen of the hundreds of demonstrators taped their mouths shut in protest of the bill, which opponents say would allow the government to stifle protest and dissent. As they marched toward the office of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, many of the large contingent waved signs bearing messages such as "Stop Harper," and "Activism is not a crime."

The Conservative government introduced the legislation, known as Bill C-51, in January.

California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California's winter was as well.

As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too.

Scott Walker: Abolishing Federal Income Tax 'Sounds Pretty Tempting'

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Saturday that eliminating the federal income tax sounded like a pretty appealing idea.

"I haven't proposed that, although it sounds pretty tempting right now. Particularly in this state, I'd love that," Walker said, speaking to a group of Republicans in New Hampshire.

Letter From Berlin: Why Are the Germans So Hellbent on Austerity?

Berlin—Weimar-era hyperinflation, Prussian thrift, the staggering cost of German unification: These explanations, among others, are regularly trotted out (by outsiders) to explain Germany’s unflinching tight-money policies—at a time when Europe is staring deflation in the eye.

Yet if you ask around in Berlin and Brussels, you’ll get no single answer (and zero allusions to Weimar or Prussia) to the question that so perplexes: Why is Germany so stubborn in its insistence that Greece—and all of Europe—stick to suffocating austerity and restrictive monetary policies when the continent is teetering on the brink of another recession?

With World's Attention Turned To ISIS, The Syrian Regime Ramps Up Bombings On Civilians

ISTANBUL -- In Syria’s second city of Aleppo, hell hovers in the sky.

It often comes with little warning -- just the whooshing of helicopter blades overhead. And then, a deafening boom that makes the ears bleed and buildings crumble.

The Erasure of US History Starts in Texas

Combating racist tendencies starts in the classroom. Already an uphill battle, the struggle against xenophobia and discrimination is rendered impossible without a progressive curriculum and historically accurate textbooks.

Famous for the Alamo, the Dallas Cowboys, cold beer and oil, the Lone Star State is considered by many to be a hub of southern hospitality. The second most populous state in the US, Texas has also long been the frontline of a right-wing offensive against historical accuracy in the United States.

School Funding Inequality Makes Education 'Separate And Unequal,' Arne Duncan Says

Many school systems remain "fundamentally separate and unequal," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday, with 23 states spending more per pupil in affluent school districts than they do in high-poverty districts. What's more, Duncan said on a call with reporters, the inequality may be getting worse.

Why Did Christie Settle With Exxon?

Last week, Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration settled New Jersey’s long-standing environmental lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. for pennies on the dollar. For a decade, the state had been seeking $8.9 billion in damages for pollution at two refineries in the northern part of the state, and yet Christie’s top officials abruptly proposed closing the case for just $225 million.

In the aftermath, as environmentalists express outrage and legislators move to block the settlement, the question on many observers’ minds has been simple: Why did Christie settle?

Canada's Wealthiest Don't Deserve More Leeway on Taxes

There is a double standard when it comes to paying taxes in Canada. And the Canada Revenue Agency makes it worse with each passing year.

Take the recent news story about Irwin Rodier, the Montreal doctor with accounts at the Swiss branch of HSBC. Leaked data showed that he had hidden money in the account and that he went to extraordinary, almost "paranoid," efforts to keep it a secret. He did not report this money in his tax returns nor did he pay taxes on it. That is against the law.

Mr. Harper, you may have missed your true calling

‘We do not allow people to cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies. Why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open and, frankly, is rooted in a culture that is anti-women?” asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and I wonder if this question is keeping him up at night.

I worry he wakes at 2 a.m., paces the hall, gets himself a sandwich, comes back to bed.

“Laureen,” he says, “why would Canadians …?”

Tories unrepentant for 'McCarthyesque' attacks on security-bill critics

Conservative MPs ignored opposition demands Friday to apologize to some of Canada’s leading environmentalists, civil liberty advocates and Muslims for remarks that appeared to insinuate critics were national security threats because they spoke out against the government’s security legislation.

Tory members on the Commons public safety committee launched strident questioning of three groups testifying this week against Bill C-51, which would radically change Canada’s national security laws to combat terrorism and other security threats.