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, August 28, 2015

The Same People Who Pushed for the Invasion of Iraq Now Want to Scrap the Iran Deal

“We’re going to push and push until some larger force makes us stop.”

David Addington, the legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, made that declaration to Jack Goldsmith of the Office of Legal Counsel in the months after September 11, 2001. Goldsmith would later recall that Cheney and Addington were the first people he had ever met of a certain kind: “Cheney is not subtle, and he has never hidden the ball. The amazing thing is that he does what he says. Relentlessness is a quality I saw in him and Addington that I never saw before in my life.”

CIBC Hints NDP Win Could Hurt Markets

TORONTO — The possibility of neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals winning the Oct. 19 federal election could be a negative for equity markets, although other factors are far more important, according to a commentary issued by CIBC (TSX:CM).

The note, dated Sunday and written by Ian de Verteuil, managing director and head of portfolio strategy and technical research at CIBC World Markets, predicted the recent decline in equity markets would continue until the end of the year.

Warrantless access to internet customer info being pondered by Ottawa, police chiefs say

A new administrative scheme that would allow police to obtain basic information about internet subscribers without a warrant is one option being considered by federal officials following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that curbed access to such data, Canadian police chiefs say.

The glimpse into federal deliberations about how to address the highly influential court decision comes in a newly published background document from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which is urging the government to fill the legislative gap.

Possible Saviour of Canadian Democracy? Independents

On the surface, it's a bit of a head scratcher.

Sheldon Clare is the volunteer president of the National Firearms Association, a historian and college instructor who helped once organize two Reform ridings, before that party merged into the modern Conservative party.

"I took Preston Manning to meetings when you couldn't get 25 people in a room," Clare boasts.

Some would argue that such a resumé makes him a shoe-in for a Conservative party nomination today, but Clare doesn't want any part of it.

Backed by Conservative government, Canadian mining companies are plundering Africa

Canadian policy in Africa can be summed up in nine words: Do what is good for Canadian-owned mining companies.
Despite rhetoric about aid to the poorest people in the world, the Harper Conservatives have worked assiduously to ensure that Canadian corporations profit from Africa's vast mineral resources.
Even widespread criticism of their operations has failed to dampen the Conservatives' support for Canada's many mining interests in Africa. Canadian mining companies have been accused of bribing officials, evading taxes, dispossessing farmers, displacing communities, employing forced labour, devastating ecosystems and spurring human rights violations.

Taking back our country from the scourge of Harperism

When Stephen Harper announced he'd institute a ban on travel by Canadians to areas of terrorist activity -- a desperate idea quickly trashed as highly problematic by the experts -- I expected the NDP to lunge at this low-hanging fruit.
After all, the arguments over the anti-terror law, Bill C-51, were still fresh -- a law denounced by four former prime ministers (including a Tory one, Joe Clark), five retired chief justices of the Supreme Court, former ministers of justice and pretty well every legal expert in the country, that triggered alarm at the United Nations, that was described by both the RCMP and CSIS as "unnecessary" and that was denounced by the otherwise small-c conservative Globe and Mail as a "quasi-police state bill." And here was Harper jerking our chains again on the same issue, proposing another broad dragnet largely outside the rule of law. What a political opportunity!

Have the Mounties become Harper’s private police force?

Are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police turning into Dudley DoWrong?

You remember, of course, Dudley DoRight. He was the cartoon Mountie with the Mulroney-esque jaw, arch-enemy of the villainous Snidely Whiplash. Snidely made his living tying damsels in distress to railway tracks; Dudley made his by whisking them away just before the onrushing train turned them into Cubist art.

Court documents ‘validate’ allegations of PMO involvement in committee business: Rathgeber

The emails and memos entered as evidence in Sen. Mike Duffy’s criminal trial speak to what’s become “the new normal” in the Prime Minister’s Office of interfering with Parliamentary business, says Conservative-turned-Independent MP Brent Rathgeber.

 Mr. Rathgeber didn’t know it then but around the same time that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office was working to clean up the mess around improper expense claims in spring 2013, staffers also began their “battle of wills” with the then-dissenting Conservative MP over whitewashing his private member’s bill on public service salary disclosure.

10 Reasons to Vote for Anyone but Harper

As the longest federal election in Canadian history kicks off and the mud starts flying, I want to take a look at the overwhelming need for a new government in our country. Over the course of Harper's reign of terror we have faced attacks on Canadian values, freedoms and rights and we have endured a constant stream of lies and deceit. To keep this list to 10 will be a challenge but here we go:

Moving Alberta Oil By Rail Under Fire By U.S. Opponents

CALGARY — To crude producers hankering for a route to market while pipeline proposals stall, a bevy of crude-by-rail projects planned on the U.S. West Coast may look enticing.

But efforts to connect trainloads of crude to refineries and marine terminals in Washington, Oregon and California aren't having an easy time of it either.

Big environmental organizations and small community groups have been teaming up to fight rail projects in various stages of development in the region. Among the concerns is the prospect of more Alberta bitumen, derided as "dirty'' in some quarters, coming to the area by rail.

First Nations Chiefs, Ontario Government Sign Political Accord

TORONTO — The Ontario government has signed a political accord with the Chiefs of Ontario that Premier Kathleen Wynne says will guide relations between First Nations and the province.

The accord signed by Wynne and Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day in a ceremony at the legislature creates a formal bilateral relationship between the government and First Nations.

It affirms that First Nations have an inherent right to self-government and that the relationship with Ontario is based upon respect for that right.

5 Reasons Stocks Are Tumbling Worldwide On 'Black Monday'

NEW YORK -- Wall Street woke up to, if not a Black Monday, at least a Blackish Monday. 
Markets around the world tumbled toward historic losses amid a toxic cocktail of financial volatility. As the global sell-off hacksawed European and Asian markets, U.S. traders braced for the worst. The New York Stock Exchange invoked the rarely used Rule 48, allowing stocks to open without any price indications.

Feds Ponder Warrantless Police Access To Internet Subscriber Info: Chiefs

OTTAWA — A new administrative scheme that would allow police to obtain basic information about Internet subscribers without a warrant is one option being considered by federal officials following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that curbed access to such data, Canadian police chiefs say.

Oil Field Workers Keep Dying, and the Feds Want to Know Why

This story was originally published by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The oil boom in North Dakota and elsewhere has helped the US become the world's leading energy provider and has captured the attention of Hollywood producers. It also has claimed the lives of dozens of oil field workers.

"Sorry, I'm Not Taking This Test"

ONE HOT MORNING in May, Kiana Hernandez came to class early. She stood still outside the door, intensely scanning each face in the morning rush of shoulders, hats, and backpacks. She felt anxious. For more than eight months she had been thinking about what she was about to do, but she didn't want it to be a big scene.

As her English teacher approached the door, she blocked him with her petite, slender frame. Then, in a soft voice, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm not going to take the test today." The multiple-choice test that morning was one of 15 that year alone, and she'd found out it would be used primarily as part of her teacher's job evaluation. She'd come into class, she said, but would spend the hour quietly studying.

The Plague of American Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism in the American collective psyche and in what might be called traditional narratives of historical memory is always viewed as existing elsewhere. Viewed as an alien and demagogic political system, it is primarily understood as a mode of governance associated with the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and, of course, in its most vile extremes, with Hitler’s poisonous Nazi rule and Mussolini’s fascist state in the 1930s and 1940s. These were and are societies that idealized war, soldiers, nationalism, militarism, political certainty, fallen warriors, racial cleansing, and a dogmatic allegiance to the homeland. Education and the media were the propaganda tools of authoritarianism, merging fascist and religious symbols with the language of God, family, and country, and were integral to promoting servility and conformity among the populace. This script is well known to the American public and it has been played out in films, popular culture, museums, the mainstream media, and other cultural apparatuses. Historical memory that posits the threat of the return of an updated authoritarianism turns the potential threat of the return of authoritarianism into dead memory. Hence, any totalitarian mode of governance is now treated as the relic of a sealed past that bears no relationship to the present. The need to retell the story of totalitarianism becomes a frozen lesson in history rather than a narrative necessary to understanding the present

Five Things You Need to Know About the US "Reconstruction" Effort in Afghanistan

Let's start with what we know: Since 2002, the US Congress has appropriated just over $109 billion for Afghanistan's development, making this the largest foreign reconstruction program the government has ever undertaken (and surpassing the amount spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe's economies following World War II). Much of the money has already been spent, with just $11.9 billion remaining in the kitty as of July 2015.

This much is clear. The rest - where the money has gone (and to whom), how it has been spent (and why), what there is to show for it (and where) - is guess work.

Whew, What a Turn Off!

Last year political journalist Paul Wells wrote that Stephen Harper "could not win elections without widespread support in the land" because Harper "has what every successful federal leader has needed to survive over a long stretch of time: a superior understanding of Canada."

But if Wells means Harper wins by figuring out how to appeal to a truly wide spread of Canadians, he got that dead wrong -- as do so many Ottawa pundits.

Harper owes his political longevity to declining voter turnout and a superior understanding of how political marketing can take advantage of that reality with hardcore propaganda.

Conservative insider won huge contract to build Harper’s Arctic project

A hugely expensive public contract to build an Arctic research station —promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper —went to a joint venture that included a company run by a Conservative Party insider with close ties to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the National Observer has confirmed.

An $85-million construction contract to build the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) was awarded in June 2013 to a partnership between EllisDon and NCC Dowland Construction —the latter is controlled by a prominent Iqaluit businessman, Greg Cayen, who has been a key planner behind Leona Aglukkaq’s two federal election victories.

Robocalls registry will stay secret until after vote

The Conservative government created the Voter Contact Registry last year as part of the Fair Elections Act, in response to outrage over pre-recorded calls in Guelph that directed voters to the wrong polling location in the 2011 election.

The registry is now up and running but voters will have no way of consulting it to see if the calls they receive are legitimate until at least a month after the Oct. 19 election.

Cuts to MD/PhD funding greeted with 'horror' by medical scientists

Canada's medical research community is reacting with shock and disappointment to the cancellation of a 30-year program to train doctors who see patients and work as scientists searching for new treatments.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is the federal government's major health science research organization. Its MD/PhD program was launched in the 1980s out of concern over the lack of specialists who could move easily between the lab and hospital.

Stephen Harper 'gaming the system' with early election call, says former Elections Canada head

The former head of Elections Canada says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "gaming the system" with an early election call and the result is parties with less money are politically disadvantaged.

"What it does is completely distort everything we've ever fought for, everything we've established as rules," Jean-Pierre Kingsley said in an interview on CBC Radio's The House.

Another federal scientist fired in Harper's ongoing war on science

As a researcher, I have been following with great interest and deep unease the ongoing story of the federal government’s fight to prevent federal scientists from freely sharing the results of their work.

This government has used a culture of fear— achieved by de-funding, and the strategic dismissal of key leaders— as a means to suppress the flow of information from federal scientists. This ‘muzzling’ of researchers has been noticed in Canada and indeed around the world.

At one federal department, office pals are risky business

Last month, employees of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) were asked to fill out and sign a confidential conflict-of-interest document, part of a new code-of-conduct protocol that includes a mandatory training session and meeting with a manager. In itself, this is not unusual. Employers routinely require staff to disclose potential conflicts—financial or personal—that could compromise their ability to do their jobs.

Why Harper (and friends) are a bigger threat than IS

The comedian Peter Sellers acting in the role of Inspector Clouseau has always been one of my investigative heroes. So, using Clouseau-like sleuthing skills, I think I have finally figured out what Stephen Harper must have meant in the recent Canadian election debate when he warned of an “international movement” presenting “a very serious menace to this planet, including to this country.”

Harper abandons openness with latest nomination to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Canada has never been so important, regularly challenging the federal government on key issues and carving out a bigger role for itself in our national life.

Yet, with the appointment of Justice Russell Brown of Alberta to the top court, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has abandoned any pretence of openness and accountability in the process of selecting the country’s most senior judges.

Canada surpasses Brazil as global leader in deforestation

Read this Sept. 3 story from the Washington Post on a new report suggesting wild fires and industrial activity are giving Canada the dubious distinction of being the new global leader on deforestation.

I am Canadian – but now not as much as I used to be

On Monday, I lost my right to vote in the next federal election. So did some 1.4 million other Canadians, many of whom moved abroad to pursue their careers.

They are aid workers, teachers, business people, entertainers. More than a few names on Canada’s Walk of Fame were just deprived of part of their Canadian-ness because they followed their careers across a border.

Harper’s 10 Year War on First Nations

In ten short years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has set the relationship with First Nations back a hundred years. While all past governments have had a hand in the colonization and oppression of First Nations, the Harper government stands out as one of the most racist and aggressive governments that First Nations have had to work with in many generations. His government’s pattern of victim-blaming, racist stereotyping, and using misinformation to vilify First Nations leaders in the media has led even the most reserved voices at the United Nations to conclude that Harper’s actions have put “social peace” at risk. It should be no surprise, then, that Idle No More, representing the largest, most coordinated social protest movement in Canada, arose during Harper’s regime.

Harry Leslie Smith: Harper government 'risk to our civilized society'

At 92 years old, Harry Leslie Smith has seen it all.

He rummaged through garbage to find food during the Great Depression. He worked for pennies at just seven years old. He fought for Great Britain in the Second World War, and he immigrated to Canada with little more than the clothes on his back.

He witnessed the rise of democracy, freedom, social justice and the welfare state. But now, in his opinion, he’s witnessing its decline.

Harper's Claim About Prudent Economic Management An 'Absurd' Myth: Liberals

OTTAWA — The Liberals are taking aim at Stephen Harper's assertion that the Conservatives are the best choice for voters seeking stability in the midst of global economic turmoil.

The Liberal party trotted out some of its economic specialists on Saturday to launch a double-barrelled attack on what they portrayed as the "tired" economic policies of the governing party and the empty or damaging alternatives proposed by the NDP.

Corporate, Koch Money Dominates Early 2016 Senate Race Spending

WASHINGTON -- The race for control of the Senate is already underway -- and it is being fueled by outside groups that do not disclose their donors.

In nine key Senate races, outside groups have already spent at least $12.5 million on advertising and grassroots communications targeting both already announced and potential candidates. Nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors are responsible for $11.2 million of that spending. These totals are reached through a combination of Federal Election Commission and Federal Communication Commission records, press releases and advertising buy data provided by a Democratic source.

South Korea Accuses North Korea Of Readying Troops Despite Talks

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — South Korea's president on Monday vowed a hard line and signaled Seoul's mounting frustration as marathon negotiations by senior officials from the rival Koreas stretched into a third day.

Park Geun-hye said that without a clear North Korean apology for a land mine attack that maimed two soldiers, anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts will continue. Her strong words provide a good hint at why the talks, which started Saturday evening and whose second session began Sunday afternoon and was still going Monday afternoon, have dragged on.

Duffy Developments Put Tories In Damage Control Mode

OTTAWA — The week began with Conservative operatives whisking their party's former Senate leader away from inquisitive reporters — and it never got much better.

As each day of testimony from the Mike Duffy trial traced a tighter and tighter loop around Stephen Harper's inner circle, the mood on the Conservative campaign bus grew ever frostier.

Fair Elections Act will bring big changes on voting day

OTTAWA—The marathon election campaign will be a test of more than voters’ patience and attention span.

It will be a test of the Fair Elections Act, the controversial and sweeping legislation that has introduced changes to how Canadians prove they are eligible to vote, the way elections are financed and how voting shenanigans are investigated.

It puts more money in the pockets of political parties for a longer campaign, while capping how much third parties can spend on election advertising.

Document raises questions about Harper retirement policies

Canada scores poorly among developed countries in providing public pensions to seniors, according to an internal analysis of retirement income by the federal government.

And voluntary tax-free savings accounts or TFSAs, introduced by the Harper Conservatives in 2009, are so far unproven as a retirement solution and are largely geared to the wealthy.

'You Buy These Or I Take Your Car': Cop Shakes Down Driver For Police Fundraiser

A Philadelphia police officer was reassigned to desk duty and stripped of his service weapon on Friday, the day after video surfaced showing him pressuring a motorist to donate to a fundraising event.

In the first video, posted to Facebook on Thursday, Officer Matthew Zagursky is seen giving the driver a choice of either buying tickets to an annual police and firefighter fundraiser, or having his car towed.

Joe Biden Meets With Elizabeth Warren Ahead Of Possible Presidential Campaign: Report

Vice President Joe Biden privately met with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in Washington on Saturday amid speculation that he is preparing to launch a campaign for the White House, CNN reported.

According to the New York Times, the hour-long meeting took place at the Naval Observatory, with no aides present.

South Korea Preps For Action Against North's Provocations

SEOUL, Aug 21 (Reuters) - North Korea put its troops on a war footing on Friday as South Korea rejected an ultimatum to stop propaganda broadcasts or face military action, prompting China to voice concern and urge both sides to step back after an exchange of artillery fire.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry said the country's military and the public stood ready to safeguard its regime even if it meant fighting an all-out war, and rejected the idea of restraint in an apparent rebuff to China's call.

Munir Sheikh, Ex-StatsCan Head, Says Harper's Debt Policies Risk Canada's Future

A former head of Statistics Canada has waded into the federal election campaign, arguing in a newspaper column that the Harper government’s dual policies of fighting deficits and boosting the housing market are risking Canada’s economic future.

Ordinary folks don't care about arts: Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sparked a culture war in the federal election campaign with a claim that "ordinary people" don't care about arts funding.

Under fire for his government's $45 million in cuts to arts and culture funding, the Conservative leader yesterday said average Canadians have no sympathy for "rich" artists who gather at galas to whine about their grants.

Benjamin Perrin, ex-PMO lawyer, believed Harper OK'd details of plan to repay Duffy's expenses

A former legal adviser of the Prime Minister's Office wrapped up his testimony today, saying he believed Stephen Harper had directly approved the details of a plan by members of his staff to pay back Mike Duffy's living expenses.

Benjamin Perrin, who is testifying for a second day at the senator's trial in Ottawa, referred to an email in which Harper's then chief of staff Nigel Wright wrote "we are good to go from the PM."

Joseph Stiglitz: "Deep-Seatedly Wrong" Economic Thinking Is Killing Greece

On August 18th, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz joined Harper’s Magazine deputy editor Christopher Beha at Book Culture in New York to discuss the Greek financial crisis. In Stiglitz’s view, the latest bailout not only ensures that the country’s depression will worsen, but undermines the entire European project.

Bad economic ideas inflict untold human suffering. When they come cloaked in a fog of Orwellian obfuscation, their poison and effects can spread with little hindrance. The public is misled. Power plays are hidden from view.

The Experience Economy: Why Aussies Want Less Stuff, More Living

How many dresses or suits are hanging in your closet pleading with you to wear them? How much food do you throw out of your fridge every week?

We live in a disposable culture where ubiquity of items means that we derive less meaning from stuff.

Emerging markets' shine dims as capital flight nudges $1tn in a year

There has been no shortage of disturbing trends in Asian foreign exchange markets this year, even before China shocked traders last week with its unilateral devaluation of the yuan. The Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah have been in freefall for months, and the Thai baht was haemorrhaging support long before the Bangkok shrine bombing.

The Drought Isn't Just a California Problem

California's been getting a lot of attention for the drought, but it's not alone in its lack of rain: This year is on track to be the driest on record for several western states. As the map below—a recent iteration from the US Drought Monitor—shows, virtually all of Washington, Oregon, and Nevada are covered in swaths of "severe," "extreme," or "exceptional" drought. 

Message management in the Harper PMO: replacing one lie with another

There is a monument at the West Point academy that lays down the credo for new cadets: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Despite his love of all things militaristic, (please note I do not say military) Stephen Harper wouldn’t make much of a cadet. Throughout his tenure as prime minister, he has stood by calmly while lying and cheating was going on all around him.

Harper retained Dean Del Mastro as his parliamentary secretary even though he was under investigation by Elections Canada. Remember when the PM solemnly informed the House of Commons that Del Mastro had provided EC with all the proper documentation and that everything was hunky-dory? So hunky dory, in fact, that he made Del Mastro his spokesman on ethics during the Robocalls fiasco? Del Mastro was eventually convicted of cheating in the 2008 election and sentenced to jail.

The Harper article that taught us to get angry again

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper called this election two weeks ago, I thought nothing of much significance would occur until after Labour Day. I was wrong.

A deeply passionate and serious debate about Canadian politics emerged last weekend with the publication of a Sunday New York Times op-ed piece provocatively titled, “The Closing of the Canadian Mind”.

Foul-mouthed Conservative learned his attitudes about the media from the party he supports

I have to confess I felt the tiniest bit of empathy for the aged Harper supporter whosesqueaky-voiced rant at a reporter Tuesday so captivated the Interwebs.
I sympathize partly because I'm an old geezer myself, and when I get really angry about stuff my voice goes all squeaky too.
It's hard to do, but experience says it's more effective just to glare and say nothing -- that way you can leave what might happen to the imagination of the person it might happen to. Sometimes that works, anyway.