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, July 24, 2015

IMF says Greece needs extra €60bn in funds and debt relief

The International Monetary Fund has electrified the referendum debate in Greece after it conceded that the crisis-ridden country needs up to €60bn (£42bn) of extra funds over the next three years and large-scale debt relief to create “a breathing space” and stabilise the economy.

With days to go before Sunday’s knife-edge referendum that the country’s creditors have cast as a vote on whether it wants to keep the euro, the IMF revealed a deep split with Europe as it warned that Greece’s debts were “unsustainable”.

Data show Conservatives using infrastructure fund as campaign fodder: Goodale

OTTAWA - The federal government's marquee, multibillion-dollar infrastructure fund has been handing out money at a slow pace, newly released figures show, prompting complaints that the government is playing politics with the cash.

About 92 per cent of the $10-billion provincial-territorial stream of the New Building Canada Fund remains unspent, with about $782 million allocated through the start of this fiscal year, according to figures tabled in Parliament last month.

Infrastructure Canada, the department responsible for overseeing the cash, says that it may take some time to get the money out the door, especially given that the commitment is for a 10-year period.

Newly passed anti-labour bill seeks to eliminate unions, not enforce transparency

On June 30, Canada's Senators voted on one final piece of legislation; so important that it didn't matter that they might waste that precious extra second in the Red Chamber. They voted in favour of passing Bill C-377 into law.
The amendments contained in C-377 to the Income Tax Act are sweeping, broad and idiotic. If Canadians need any example that the Harper Conservatives care more about personal vendettas than good governance, the proof is wrapped up in C-377.

Greece and the inhuman economics of the EU

Let me recount a recent car breakdown melodrama with relevance, I hope, to the Greece-EU catastrophe and other economic nightmares.

My transmission failed on a rainy road in cottage country. I called CAA. In minutes Jason responded from Griffith Brothers towing service in South River saying he was on the way. Forty minutes later he arrived with a flatbed truck. Since it was Sunday, with mechanics unavailable, he drove me the 200-plus kilometres to Toronto. He was efficient and sociable.

Early retirement leaves some Canadians cash strapped

More than half of Canadians responding to an Angus Reid survey about retirement said they did not leave their jobs at the time they expected, with 48 per cent saying they were forced to retire early because of factors beyond their control.

Another six per cent said they retired later than expected, with just 46 per cent saying they retired exactly as planned.

Angus Reid performed the survey of 2,000 Canadians Jan. 15-19 and Feb. 2-4. Of the 2,000, 818 were retired.

‘The Harper government’ used to be a brand. It is now an almost literal description

In the Conservative TV ad, Stephen Harper is shown alone at his desk, late at night. The message: he’s working hard for the Canadian people. The other, unintended message: he’s alone.

No one else appears with him: not a minister, not an aide, not even a taxpayer. The ad is airless, joyless, illuminated only by images of terrorism and economic chaos. At the end, the prime minister turns out the lights and trudges wearily down the hall, his back to us. Alone.

How The Oil Industry Got Two Regulators Fired For Doing Their Jobs Capital & Main

Here’s something you probably didn’t know happened in California in the last few years, and maybe it’s something you never imagined could happen: In 2011, two high-ranking state regulators were fired from their posts for pissing off the oil industry. No one really disputes the veracity of that statement; not even Governor Jerry Brown. “They were blocking oil exploration in Kern County,” the Sacramento Bee reported Brown announcing at an event six months later. “I fired them, and oil permits for drilling went up 18 percent.”

These Economists Are Calling For An End To Greece's Austerity Nightmare

A tense standoff between the Greek government and its international creditors reached a breaking point this week. On Tuesday, Greece became the first developed country ever to miss a debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile, the government is preparing to hold a national referendum on a new proposed bailout deal.

Gaza’s Mental-Health Crisis and the Trauma of Permanent War

“The Jews shot me.” I was eating breakfast with 3-year-old Ibrahim Awajah in February 2015, in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, when he made this proclamation. His father, Kamal Awajah, saw the surprise on my face.

“No, no, you’re the second Ibrahim,” Kamal quickly corrected the small, sandy-haired boy. “It was your brother who was shot, not you.”

Shrinking Canada Economy Doesn’t Faze Surplus-Projecting Oliver

Canada’s finance minister is confident his government will post a budget surplus this fiscal year even as the economy faces a possible recession after four straight monthly declines.

Joe Oliver spoke Thursday after Statistics Canada reported this week that gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percent in April, on the heels of a 0.6 percent annualized contraction in the first quarter. His political opponents want him to release a fiscal update in light of the sluggish figures, saying Canada’s 2015-16 budget is not actually balanced heading into a fall election.

“We’re very comfortable,” Oliver told a business audience in Toronto. “I think we’re going to meet our projected surplus this year of C$1.4 billion ($1.1 billion).”

We need to keep Hydro One in public hands

Undeniably, climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity. And nobody can dispute that Canada, once a leader in the fight to protect our environment, has become a global laughing stock to the ever-growing numbers of people around the world who understand action is needed.
We also know from poll after poll, that solving the climate crisis is a high priority for Canadians. So, why this rift between public will and political action?

Trans Pacific Partnership patent rules could threaten LGBT lives

Countries that pride themselves on their human rights records, particularly for LGBT people, are endangering lives through patent rule changes in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP, one of the major multilateral trade deals that Canada is a part of, will introduce rules on patents for medication that critics say will reduce the availability of affordable generic brands. Such policies would restrict access to antiretroviral medication, used to treat HIV, which disproportionately affects LGBT people.

Canada-Iran 'Best Friends' By Restoring Relations? That's A Lot Of Baloney

OTTAWA - "I think it's very strange. At a time in history — in fact he made the announcement on the national day of remembrance for victims of terrorism — to say that his priority is the restoration, or to become best friends, with one of the state sponsors of terrorism in the world, the government of Iran, and that he wants to cut the relationship we've established with all of our allies." — Prime Minister Stephen Harper, June 25.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper ripped into Justin Trudeau last week after the Liberal leader said he would re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran and end Canada's military role in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Is There a Human Right to Kill?

On a cool spring day in May 2012, the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met in McCormick Place, Chicago. The 28 heads of state comprising the military alliance had come to the Windy City to discuss the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, among other strategic matters. Nearly a decade before, in August 2003, NATO had assumed control of the International Security Assistance Force, a coalition of more than 30 countries that had sent soldiers to occupy the most troubled regions in Afghanistan. Not long before the Chicago summit, President Barack Obama had publicly declared that the United States would begin pulling out its troops from Afghanistan and that a complete withdrawal would be achieved by 2014. NATO was therefore set to decide on the details of a potential exit strategy.

EU Bailout Terms Are Designed to Force Syriza From Power

The aim of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU powers in the Greek debt crisis is “apparently to humiliate Tsipras and his government in preparation for its early replacement with a more pliable administration,” writes Seamus Milne, associate editor of The Guardian.

“We know from the IMF documents prepared for last week’s ‘final proposals’ andreported in the Guardian that the creditors were fully aware they meant unsustainable levels of debt and self-defeating austerity for Greece until at least 2030, even on the most fancifully optimistic scenario,” Milne continues.

Christine Lagarde attack on Greece backfires as she pays no tax

Ms Lagarde was forced to publish an embarrassing climbdown on her Facebook page over the weekend after being bombarded by hundreds of Greek people who felt insulted by her suggestion that the country’s crisis was partly due to “all these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax”.

However, on Tuesday she had to admit that her $467,940 (£300,000) annual salary and $83,760 of additional allowances are entirely tax-free as the IMF is an international organisation.

The tragedy of Puerto Rico, America’s very own Greece

The eyes of the world are trained on Greece, this week, as it teeters on the brink of disaster. Which perhaps helps to explain Alejandro García Padilla’s timing: the Puerto Rico governor chose Monday to announce that the island territory is insolvent, and cannot (will not) pay back its $72 billion in debt. Not on time and in full, in any case.

The US Government Spent Hundreds of Millions on Afghan Health Clinics. Now It's Not Sure It Can Find Them.

The US government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on heath care facilities in Afghanistan as part of its efforts to rebuild the war-torn country. The problem is that two government agencies involved with the project can't seem to agree on whether they know where the facilities are located—or even whether they're all in Afghanistan.

Under the US Agency for International Development's Partnership Contracts for Health program, the US government helps support basic health care needs for people across Afghanistan. As of March 2015, it had spent more than $210 million on the program, spread across 641 individual facilities.

Judge slams Peel police over ‘cavalier’ attitude towards search powers

A Brampton judge rebuked a senior Peel Regional Police sergeant and his fellow officers for “self-serving and less than credible” evidence in court and “lackadaisical attitudes” towards police search powers in a recent ruling on a drug possession case.

Ontario Court Justice Louise Botham dismissed charges of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking against brothers Eduardo and Jesus Aguilar-Mellado and Jesus’ girlfriend, Maria Martinez, finding that the officers displayed a “cavalier” attitude toward their Charter rights.

Secret deal between Canada’s spies and border guards raises concerns

OTTAWA—A secret deal between Canada’s spies and border guards proposed more information sharing and joint operations without the need for political sign-off, the Star has learned.

A 2014 deal between the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency proposed the two agencies be allowed to share information and resources without the prior approval of their political masters.

This Is Why Americans Have No Idea What Really Happens In Prisons

WASHINGTON -- When Kalief Browder killed himself last month after being held for three years without trial at Rikers Island, Americans took notice. His death focused more attention on the appalling treatment of youthful inmates at the New York City jail complex. But Browder, who entered the system at 16, was only one of thousands of teenagers held in adult lockups across the United States. We have very little idea what happens to the rest of them.

Bernie Sanders Blasts Greece's Creditors

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked the International Monetary Fund and European authorities on Wednesday for imposing what he called excessive austerity measures on Greece in negotiations over the country’s debt payments.

“It is unacceptable that the International Monetary Fund and European policymakers have refused to work with the Greek government on a sensible plan to improve its economy and pay back its debt,” Sanders said in an exclusive statement to The Huffington Post. “At a time of grotesque wealth inequality, the pensions of the people in Greece should not be cut even further to pay back some of the largest banks and wealthiest financiers in the world.”

The KKK Understands Exactly What the Confederate Flag Symbolizes: White Power

The controversy over the Confederate flag keeps threatening to devolve into a seminar in semiotics. What does the flag really symbolize—racism or “Southern heritage?” Should we be fighting over symbols or is that a diversion from real issues, like actual, institutional racism? “Quit looking at the symbols,” South Carolina State Representative John Graham Altman said in an earlier iteration of these debates in 1997. A Ku Klux Klan group's decision to schedule a rally in support of the flag flying at the state capitol has the merit of clarifying the debate.

This Is How We Are Spending Billions On The Sexual Mis-Education Of America’s Youth

In early February, Kelly Wortham’s sixth-grade son brought home a letter from Jarrett Middle School in Springfield, Missouri. The letter, from the Missouri State University School of Social Work, informed Wortham and other parents at Jarrett that their children were “being invited to take part in an abstinence-based education program designed to reduce teen pregnancy in southwest Missouri.”

Federal Election 2015: Groups Seek Court Order To Ease New Voter ID Rules

OTTAWA - A left-leaning advocacy organization and a national student group will be in Ontario Superior Court on Thursday and Friday hoping to relax voter identification rules for the looming federal election.

The court factum prepared by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students argues that tens of thousands or more of eligible voters will be denied a ballot this October due to changes enacted last year by the Conservative government.

Shane Koyczan Refuses To Perform 'We Are More' This Canada Day

Shane Koyczan isn't celebrating Canada Day on July 1 this year.

The award-winning Canadian spoken word artist took to Facebook to deny requests to perform his iconic poem "We Are More" for Canada Day. The poet explained he doesn't stand behind the poem anymore, which describes Canada as "an experiment going right for a change."

A Foot in the Door: Housing in Boomtowns a 'Rollercoaster'

When teacher Nancy Ball moved to Fort McMurray, Alberta from Nova Scotia in 1981, affordable housing was already in short supply in the oilsands town. She had to live with three other young teachers in a two-bedroom apartment and moved "many times" before finally finding a house with her husband.

"We bought it just before the latest boom," the Timberlea Public School vice-principal recalled, "before the prices skyrocketed."

In the last 20 years, she said, houses that once cost $112,000 go for $600,000. The average price of a detached house is $751,232.

UN wants probe of oilsands’ impact on Canadian park

EDMONTON—The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has asked Canada to invite a team to Alberta to study how the oilsands and other nearby projects will affect Wood Buffalo National Park.

The UN committee’s request follows a petition by the Mikisew Cree First Nation in December that asked for the park to be added to a list of world heritage sites in danger.

After asking Ottawa for responses to the First Nation’s concerns, the committee has made several recommendations.

It's Not Just Flags. All These Public Schools Are Named After Notorious Racists.

The Confederate flag is hardly the only symbol of the South's racist history that has yet to go away. Indeed, public schools nationwide still bear the names of long-dead champions of a white-supremacist state.

The good news is that several of those schools have reconsidered their loaded names. Last year, the Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida, became Westside High School. Forrest was a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. And Aycock Hall at Duke University, named for former North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock, an avowed white supremacist, became East Residence Hall. This move prompted East Carolina University eight months later to rename its own Aycock Hall as Heritage Hall. Last May, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill changed Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall to shed its association with Klan leader William Saunders.

An Inside Look at How Hillary Clinton Plays the Media

On Tuesday night, the State Department released some 3,000 pages of emailsbetween Hillary Clinton and her aides during her tenure as secretary of state. The correspondence offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of American diplomacy in action, as well as the former first lady's fashion choices. But some of the more intriguing exchanges involved the media—how her team sought to shape the news, the journalists they considered receptive to their message, and the close degree to which Clinton monitored how she was covered. 

Business innovation has continued to fade despite billions in federal cash: memo

OTTAWA - Spending billions of public dollars over two decades has done little to reverse Canada's long decline in the key economic category of business innovation, the federal government acknowledges in a newly released document.

The self-assessment, contained in a "secret" memorandum to Finance Minister Joe Oliver, underlines how chronically sluggish business innovation remains "of great concern" for Canadian productivity.

"Canada's productivity performance, a key determinant of economic growth, continues to lag significantly behind that of the United States, eroding our relative standard of living," says the October memo, signed by deputy finance minister Paul Rochon.

Genocide, racism and Canada Day: An Algonquin-Anishinaabekwe love letter

Between June 21 and July 1 -- National Aboriginal Day to Canada Day -- we'll be featuring a series of articles examining and critiquing the uses of Canadian identity, the resurgence of Indigenous movements for justice, and the ways in which activists and thinkers across these lands are addressing these fundamental questions.
Living in Canada as I do, I encounter proud Canadians all the time, more so around the time of Canada Day celebrations.  The commonly held view put forward by these proud Canadians is that Canada is the country where they were born, and that Canada is the country that welcomed their parents and grandparents with open arms and gave them their new beginning they so very much needed. Given this, they tell me. "A proud Canadian is who I am."

Canadian elections hinge on women – at the polls and behind the scenes

The fact that the women’s vote could be a deciding factor in Canada’s forthcoming federal election is not lost on any of the three main parties.

For the first time in the country’s history, all three have women in charge of their national campaigns.

The Conservative national campaign manager, Jenni Byrne, New Democrat national campaign director, Anne McGrath, and Liberal national campaign co-chair, Katie Telford, will be engaged in the battle for votes in roles long dominated by men.

Greek debt: Merkel dismisses Tsipras's last-ditch compromise plan

Germany has dismissed a last-ditch compromise plan from Greece that bowed to some key demands of its creditors.

In an address to the Bundestag, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, reiterated her stance that there was no point in having talks with the government of Alexis Tsipras before a referendum in Greece on an EU bailout plan.

“The door to talks with the Greek government has always been, and remains, open,” she said, but added that talks could not take place before Sunday’s poll.

Detention centre staff speak out in defiance of new asylum secrecy laws

Social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and humanitarian staff who have worked inside Australia’s detention centres have united in an unprecedented show of defiance against new laws that could see workers in detention centres jailed for speaking out about abuses.

More than 40 staff who have worked at detention centres on Manus Island, Nauru and across the Australian mainland have spoken out on the same day that a new offence comes into force that criminalises the disclosure of information.

Fire At Black Church In South Carolina Is Latest In String Of Blazes At Places Of Worship

A fire broke out at a prominent black church in South Carolina on Tuesday night, the latest in a series of blazes at places of worship in the South serving the African-American community.
A federal law enforcement source told the Associated Press that the fire was not the work of an arsonist, and that preliminary investigations show it was not intentionally set.
It is the seventh prominent African-American church in the South to burn down since a gunman killed nine people at the historic black church Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston two weeks ago.

Did Jeb Bush's Campaign and Super-PAC Cross the Line on Coordination?

Jeb Bush officially declared that he was seeking the presidency two weeks ago, yet political observers have assumed he made the decision long ago and may have remained a shadow candidate for strategic purposes. Official candidates are not permitted under campaign finance law to coordinate with super-PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money. As a supposedly undecided candidate Bush could work closely with Right to Rise, the multimillion-dollar super-PAC supporting his candidacy. But recent statements by one of Bush's top political allies suggest Bush may have coordinated with Right to Rise even after he technically qualified as an official candidate.

Anti-Union Bill Passes Senate, Transgender Rights Bill Left To Die

OTTAWA - Three bills passed by the House of Commons had their fates decided by the Senate on the eve of Canada Day — one was pushed through by the Conservative majority, while the other two died without a word being spoken.

A third didn't even get a mention, failing to come as far in the legislative process as it did two years ago.

Combined, they were the last acts of the Senate as it trudged into the summer after two years of scandal or questionable spending by 34 senators, and ethical questions surrounding one additional member of the upper chamber.

This Election's about Canada's Frighteningly Near Future

Ah, Canada.

One-hundred-and-forty-eight years into this post-colonial experiment, today's self-congratulatory celebrations of our past might incline us to consider, as well, our future as a nation. It's an especially ripe question this summer, when no barbecue or beach party or parade is safe from the cloying attentions of the hundreds of candidates vying for low office come October.

So, cast your minds ahead. Not too far, but how about 15 years? O Canada, 15 years from now, what will we have wrought? To what do we aspire as a country?

Supreme Court Rejects Argument to Dismiss Landmark Fracking Case

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected a motion by the country's most powerful energy regulator that Jessica Ernst's case involving fracking and groundwater contamination raises no significant constitutional claim and should be dismissed.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin ruled that the case raised a significant constitutional question on whether or not an "immunity clause" in the regulator's legislation placed it above the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A Foot in the Door: From Jailhouse to No House

David Jolivet's prison experience is unusual. He's the rare Canadian to serve all 30 years of a sentence behind bars.

Most federal inmates -- anyone doing two years or longer -- are released before their sentence ends.

Parolees may be released as early as six months before finishing one-third of their sentence, but serve the rest of their time on the outside under the watchful eye of a parole officer. But parole rates have plummeted, from over 50 per 100,000 imprisoned adults in 1993/4, to just 20 in 2010/11, according to Statistics Canada.

KKK Plans Pro-Confederate Flag Rally In South Carolina

Members of the Ku Klux Klan have announced plans to rally next month in South Carolina in support of the Confederate flag.

State officials confirmed to The Washington Post that the Loyal White Knightschapter of the KKK got permission to meet at the statehouse in Columbia on July 18. The group's website says it is the largest Klan in America.

From Greece To France To China, Nationalism Is Back In A Big Way

WASHINGTON -- In China, a military parade this year will commemorate not the triumph of communism, but, rather, the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. Chinese nationalism (and historical hatred of Japan) will trump Marxist ideology.

In France, right-wing ultra-nationalists support the referendum that Greek's leftist government called to determine whether the indebted country should accept the latest debt-deal proposal from its international creditors. Why? Because National Front party leader Marine Le Pen wants to use the same mechanism -- a referendum -- to vote France out of the European Union.

Governor Chris Christie Wants To Be President. Here’s How He Hurt New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will announce on Tuesday at his former high school in Livingston, New Jersey that he will enter the already-crowded pool of Republican candidates vying for the presidency.

While the two-term governor and former chair of the Republican Governors Association gained a national reputation early in his tenure for his brash demeanor and tendency to say whatever comes to mind, his leadership of the Garden State should be a better indication of how he would lead the country.

Suddenly, Another Interest Rate Cut Is Back In The Cards

The surprisingly bad GDP readout for April has many economists saying another interest rate cut from the Bank of Canada is now more likely.

The economy shrank 0.1 per cent in April, StatsCan said, confounding economists’ expectations of a 0.1 per cent increase in GDP. It marked the fourth straight month of declining economic output in Canada, and prompted renewed questions on whether Canada will have seen a recession in the first half of this year.

Leo Housakos says measures to pass Bill C-377 through Senate within rules

Senate Speaker Leo Housakos says the Conservatives in the Senate were within the rules when they took "draconian steps" to move along a controversial labour bill that passed today before the summer break.

Conservative senators used their majority to overrule Housakos, after he saw fit last week to rule against a Tory motion to cut off debate and force a final vote on a private member's bill that will require unions and labour organizations to publicly disclose the details of their spending.

Slavery and racism is easy to rationalize if you dehumanize an entire people

How do humans justify the terrible deeds we commit? This question perplexed the Globe'sKonrad Yakabuski in his column last week on slavery in the United States and the murder in Charleston, South Carolina, of nine African Americans by a white racist. "It seems incomprehensible how anyone could have rationalized" slavery, he wrote. We all know what he means. Yet in a perverse way it's also the easiest thing in the world to explain: white Americans simply denied the humanity of their black slaves.

A gang of wolves comes for Greece

The election of an anti-austerity Syriza government in Greece signalled trouble for the powers-that-be in the European Union. Principally Germany which has no interest in rethinking how the EU operates, since it servesGerman interests so well, but also the most powerful European institution: the European Central Bank (ECB).
As of Saturday, June 27, it is clear what Syriza was up against. As Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis explained, the Eurogroup (finance ministers from the 19 countries that use the euro -- collectively, the Eurozone) was never prepared to discuss the anti-austerity proposals put forward by Syriza and provide debt relief for Greece.