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.]

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Germany Closes Its Border With Austria, Hoping to Stop the Refugee Flow

Two weeks ago I wrote about what might happen if Germany decided to start policing its borders again in response to the huge numbers of refugees and migrants entering the country. Now we're going to find out.

The German government has announced that the country is closing its border with Austria and also suspending train traffic its southern neighbor, the route by which tens of thousands of refugees have entered Germany in recent days. Those borders have been open for nearly 20 years under the Schengen Agreement, which turned most of the European Union into one large free-travel zone with no internal border checks. Until now, you could go from Berlin to Amsterdam or Paris much like you were going from New York to DC. Along with the euro, the Schengen zone is considered one of the EU's most important achievements, a powerful symbol of European unity as a well as a major booster of trade and tourism. All of that now hangs in the balance as the refugee crisis strains internal EU politics.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn to lead Labour is proof that, sometimes, hope triumphs over fear mongering

If you're one of those who imagines Alberta has embarked on a "dangerous experiment" by electing the moderately centrist New Democrats led by Rachel Notley, what must you make of the choice of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain's Labour Party?
The bearded Corbyn, chosen leader of the Official Opposition on a huge wave of public enthusiasm in an open party election, really is a socialist, not just a watered-down social democrat. "Let's be proud of the principle of a welfare state that protects everyone," he says softly and clearly in a recent speech recorded on Youtube.

Harper says public servants should not fear Conservative election victory

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says public servants in the national capital should not be worried if his party gets re-elected to govern in the Oct. 19 election.

However, he warned that reforms to sick leave and disability benefits will be designed to strengthen the system so it helps people who are “actually ill.”

As well, he thinks most public servants “respond positively” to the Tories’ efforts to run the federal government “efficiently.”

Canada’s science performance, down the memory hole

It is distressing when organizations with no partisan role play the sort of games partisans want. The latest example is the advisory board that the Harper government created to tell it how Canada is doing in science.

I have written about the Science, Technology and Innovation Council every two years since it produced its first major report, in May 2009. STIC, as it’s known, is not some fringe group of pinko malcontents trying to stir up trouble and turn the people against their right and proper governing party. It was conceived by the Harper government (in 2007), appointed by the Harper government (in bits ever since), and it consists, in part, of senior officials who work with the Harper government every day. Its current membership include: the presidents of three universities and the Institute for Quantum Computing; the federal deputy ministers of health and industry; and a bunch of CEOs in tech and energy.

How A Different Electoral System Would Affect The Federal Parties

What if we had a different electoral system?
The current polls can’t agree on who is first, or second, or third, and the most recent projections show an even closer three-way race than before. This is, however, a result of our electoral system – a system that can occasionally produce unexpected results where a party can win more seats with fewer votes for instance.

Transphobia at the Intersection of the Military and Prison Industrial Complexes

My home - or, at least my place of residence for the time being - is the US Disciplinary Barracks, the United States' crown jewel military prison. Being both a military institution and a prison, it lies in a unique, though not necessarily uncommon, intersection of two of the world's largest institutional ecosystems: the military-industrial complex and the prison industrial complex.

My status as a trans woman in a military prison places me in the unique position in which the extraordinary administration, regulation, surveillance and policing of gender norms, expectations, vices and virtues clash with my most fundamental understanding of my identity and how I intend to express myself as a female. For instance, although I am now being allowed to wear female undergarments, use cosmetics and take hormones, I am not allowed to grow my hair beyond the two inches authorized by the military.

China's Political Elite Take the Money and Run - Abroad

The Chinese government is keen to speak with a man named Ling Wancheng who's hiding out somewhere in the United States under an assumed name - and not without good reason. Mr. Ling is the brother of Ling Jihua, a former high-ranking apparatchik of the Chinese government who was recently expelled from the Communist Party after being investigated for taking bribes and obtaining state secrets. The latter charge is particularly interesting because it suggests why Ling Wancheng is keeping a low profile. But it's not the only reason.

What History Can Teach Us About The Worst Refugee Crisis Since WWII

Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. Today, we speak with Alexander Betts, Director of the University of Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre.
The thousands of men, women and children streaming through the borders of Europe have finally drawn the world's attention to a historic crisis.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Is A 'Threat To National Security', David Cameron Claims In Tweet

David Cameron has labelled the Labour Party "a threat to national security" now that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected as leader.
As Corbyn is set to announce his shadow cabinet, the Prime Minister tweeted: "The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family's security."

Former CPC nomination contestants under $1,000 ‘gag order’

Publicly criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party or its candidates during the current election campaign could prove costly for former Conservative nomination contestants, iPolitics has learned.

Unsuccessful nomination candidates risk losing a $1,000 “Good Conduct Bond” they were required to post with the Conservative Party when they applied to seek a nomination if they do anything the party decides doesn’t meet its criteria for good conduct. If, however, they meet the party’s test they get their $1,000 back at the end of this election campaign.

One former nomination contestant describes the bond as “a gag order.”

"Let Them In" - Michael's essay

On a sun-blasted morning last week, I biked down to the lake's edge and sat for a long time in a small, almost hidden parkette called Ireland Park. Out on Lake Ontario, small boats, kayaks, yachts, ferries competed for space on the broad calm waters. No dinghies over-jammed with children and mothers and old men. At the Toronto Island Airport, planes took off and landed, their passengers not stateless, not homeless, no doubt all suitably credentialed.

Colleges With Plenty of Cash Saddle Their Poorest Students With Heaps of Debt

New York University is among the country’s wealthiest schools. Backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, the school has built campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, invested billions in SoHo real estate, and given its star faculty loans to buy summer homes.

But the university does less than many other schools when it comes to one thing: helping its poor students.

A ProPublica analysis based on new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that students from low-income families graduate from NYU saddled with huge federal loans. The school’s Pell Grant recipients – students from families that make less than $30,000 a year – owe an average of $23,250 in federal loans after graduation.

The TPP Will Finish What Chile’s Dictatorship Started

This September 11 will be the 42nd anniversary of the US-backed coup against the democratically elected Chilean government led by the Socialist Salvador Allende, kicking off a battle that is still being fought: In Chile, protests led by students, indigenous peoples, and workers to roll back the “neoliberalization,” or Pinochetization, of society, are a continuing part of everyday life.

Neoliberalism is hard to define. It could refer to intensified resource extraction, financialization, austerity, or something more ephemeral, a way of life, in which collective ideals of citizenship give way to marketized individualism and consumerism.

 Can Jeremy Corbyn Free Labour from the Dead Hand of Tony Blair?

London. As if to underline the magnitude of the political earthquake that struck Britain this morning, Jeremy Corbyn, the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party, said that his first official act would be to attend a “Refugees Welcome Here” rally today in London. A 100-to-1 outsider when he entered the race at the beginning of the summer, the veteran left-wing MP and chair of the Stop the War coalition had trouble scraping together the 35 nominations from his fellow Labour members of parliament. Branded a fringe figure by the media and party insiders, Corbyn’s forthright opposition to austerity—he was the only one of the four leadership candidates to vote against the Conservative government’s punitive new welfare bill—brought hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters into the Labour Party. Yet when the votes were counted, Corbyn won nearly 60 per cent of the total, giving him the largest mandate of any leader of any British political party—ever.

Vancouver law firm wants investigation after Conservatives hire Australian campaign manager

A Vancouver law firm is seeking an investigation from Canada’s Chief Election Officer, following the federal Conservative Party’s decision to employ an Australian campaign manager.

The Conservatives say Lynton Crosby has been helping Stephen Harper’s campaign team since March, primarily with analysis of polling data.

Socialist Elected UK Opposition Labour Leader

LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Karl Marx admirer Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of Britain's opposition Labour party on Saturday, a victory that may make a British EU exit more likely and which one former Labour prime minister has said could leave their party unelectable.

Greeted by cheers from supporters in the room and hailed by radicals across Europe, Corbyn's triumph opened up the prospect of deep splits within Labour with some fearing he will repel voters with radical policies that include unilateral nuclear disarmament, nationalization and wealth taxes.

Why Stephen Harper doesn’t want to talk about ‘women’s issues’

Last night’s “All-Candidates Debate on Women’s Rights & Gender Equity” in Halifax was falsely billed: not all candidates were present. NDP candidate (and incumbent) Megan Leslie, Andy Fillmore of the Liberals and Dr. Thomas Trappenberg of the Green party agreed to participate. Conservative candidate Irvine Carvery sent his regrets, pleading a previous engagement. Given that the four riding associations were informed about the debate last December, Carvery’s schedule must be busy indeed. Speculation over whether Carvery’s no-show was part of a larger party strategy was inevitable, given the fact Stephen Harper declined to participate in a national leaders’ debate on issues classified as “women’s” (or the more modern “gender”)—inequality, violence against women and girls, and child care—proposed by Up for Debate, an alliance of “more than 175 women’s organizations and their allies.” That event imploded after Harper said no, leading Tom Mulcair to bow out. The group  turned to “Plan B,” says Up for Debate spokeswoman Kelly Bowden—interviewing the NDP, Liberal, Green and Bloc leaders separately for 20- to 30-minute videos to be aired Sept. 21. Again, Harper said no thanks.

Thousands join Solidarity with Refugees rally in London

Tens of thousands of people have marched through the streets of central London for a rally in support of refugees, with similar events taking place in other European capitals.

The Solidarity with Refugees event on Saturday began at Park Lane and proceeded to Downing Street, with speeches in Parliament Square from a number of politicians and public figures including Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected leader of the Labour party, and musician and activist Billy Bragg.

USAID and the Criminalization of Social Movements in Paraguay

The #somosobservadores campaign, organized by community organizations and social movements in Paraguay, is moving forward with its campaign to bring attention to the victims of the Curuguaty massacre, a violent attack on farmworkers by special operations police forces that occurred three year ago.

The massacre took place on June 15, 2012, when more than 300 special operations police officers within the Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GEO) attempted to forcibly displace 60 campesinos (farmworkers or peasants) who were occupying a highly contested piece of land. Long-distance shots were fired and a battle ensued leaving 11 campesinos and six officers dead. This moment, which shocked the country with violence unheard of since Paraguay's military dictatorship ended in 1989, was used by the Congress of Paraguay as a primary excuse to impeach center-left president Fernando Lugo. Three years later, 13 of the campesinos are on trial facing criminal charges. However, the #somosobservadores campaign has highlighted the fact that as of this date no police officers or officials have been investigated for the killings of the 11 campesinos.

The 5 Times America Elected Donald Trump

If you can't believe that Donald Trump is still the GOP front-runner, then consider this: America has elected the likes of The Donald before. There are, deep in our history, plenty of men who brazenly exploited nativist sentiments to win the White House or strengthen their grip on the office. Here are five US presidents who, if they lived today, might, in Trump's words, "make America great again."

Anti-Feminist Ad Turns Up In Toronto Subway, Asks 'How's Feminism Working For You?'

An anti-feminist sticker from a men's right group was spotted in a west-end Toronto subway station on Thursday.

The image, which was uploaded on Instagram by user Andrew Cameron, features a series of questions to women, ending with the tagline: "How is feminism working for you?"

Canada's Refugee Travel Loans Come With Interest

VANCOUVER — Canada is the only country in the world to charge interest to refugees on travel loans, saddling struggling newcomers with debt as they try to rebuild their lives, advocates say.

The federal government requires privately sponsored and government-assisted refugees to pay for their own travel costs and overseas medical exams and will loan families up to $10,000.

Jean Chrétien says Stephen Harper 'has shamed Canada'

In an open letter published Saturday morning in several newspapers, former prime minister Jean Chrétien says he is ashamed of Stephen Harper.

Chretien wrote in the Globe and Mail, La Presse and Le Devoir that Harper's reaction to the refugee crises in Syria and Iraq have helped to cast Canada as a "cold-hearted" nation in the international community, and that he has "shamed Canada."

US spy chief's 'highly unusual' reported contact with military official raises concerns

Barack Obama’s intelligence chief is said to be in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against the Islamic State, the Guardian has learned.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is said to talk nearly every day with the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, Army Major General Steven Grove – “which is highly, highly unusual”, according to a former intelligence official.

Bringing Canada’s access to information back from the brink

OTTAWA—Canada’s access to information regime is beset by record numbers of complaints, by delays, and by barriers between the public and the data their government collects.

So how did the one time world-leading system “erode” to the point of protecting government secrets rather than bringing them to light, as Ottawa’s information watchdog recently said?

BC's Hard Hat Premier Builds Faulty First Nation Bridges

Another week and another bravura demonstration by our premier, Christy Clark. When it comes to levelling with First Nations people in British Columbia, she's at least a bubble and a half off plumb.

For someone who styles herself as our province's tradesperson-in-chief -- her love of safety jackets, work boots and hard hats borders on the kinky, and in her endless promotion of skills training she achieves almost religious rapture -- it is passing strange that there are no straight lines to be found in the house that Christy's building, and there is even less straight talk.

The Case Against Stephen Harper

Until recently, Canada’s upcoming election seemed headed for a three-way tie, with potential for constitutional turmoil if Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to stay in power. Harper’s Conservatives, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats, and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals each hovered around 30 percent in the polls ahead of the October 19 vote.

Then the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish beach, and initial reports suggested relatives had been trying to bring the Syrian boy and his family to Canada, only to be rebuffed under new, Harper-imposed rules that have slowed the admission of Syrian refugees to a trickle. The real story turned out to be more complicated. Canadian immigration officials had actually rejected a refugee application from Alan’s uncle’s family, although Alan’s aunt in Vancouver said the application had been part of a two-stage plan to eventually resettle the entire extended family in Canada.

Eight Things about the Man Hired to Save Harper

When the going got tough for Stephen Harper's campaign this week, his brain trust faced a fork in the road. Should they soften up a bit, signal that Stephen Harper isn't the ruthless, controlling, divisive character that many increasingly perceive him to be?

Or should they bring in a political "rottweiler" who specializes in fomenting wedge issues, abusive exchanges, and winning, most recently, conservative victories in the United Kingdom and Australia.

They went with option two. The rottweiler's name is Lynton Crosby. Knowing more about Crosby offers a window into not only how the Harper team hopes to salvage this election but what they believe are the keys to gaining and holding government for the past near decade. Here, therefore, are eight things to know about the Australian his fans call "an evil genius" and critics have named "The Lizard of Oz."

Desperate Harper hires TFW tobacco lobbyist to lead campaign in violation of election law

Stephen Harper has hired a temporary foreign worker known for lobbying against the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes to lead the Conservatives’ sagging campaign, in violation of Canada’s election laws which prohibit foreigners from influencing voters.

Lawyers Have Worked in Amazon-Style Conditions For Decades

Over the last several weeks, many have learned of the workplace experiences of white collar workers at Amazon. How they cry at their desks. How they are given little time off even when sick, or to recover from a health issue. That workers are expected to respond to e-mails they receive late into the night. Add to that the conditions of blue collar workers at Amazon warehouses, and one gets the distinct impression that Amazon may be a pretty bad place to work.

NYPD Releases Video Of Cop Slamming James Blake To The Ground

Security footage released by the New York City Police Department on Friday shows a plainclothes cop slamming former tennis star James Blake to the ground as he casually stands outside his hotel.

Blake said he suffered cuts and bruises from the Wednesday incident, when detectives in Manhattan mistook him for a suspect in an identity theft ring. The video shows the officer, James Frascatore, accost Blake as he leans against a wall outside the Grand Hyatt in midtown. Frascatore can be seen slamming Blake to the ground to cuff him.

Controversial Australian strategist to help with Tories' campaign

Stephen Harper’s struggling Conservatives have taken on Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby as a campaign adviser – the man widely credited with helping David Cameron win a majority government in the U.K. earlier this year.

Mr. Crosby’s work for Canada’s Conservative Party has become public as Mr. Harper’s party, now third in the polls, tries to reboot its campaign after a series of blunders in recent weeks and questions about campaign director Jenni Byrne ‘s adeptness during this race.

PM's new fixer in racist rant at Muslims: Foul-mouthed abuse by campaign chief revealed as he lands top Tory post

The man David Cameron has picked to head his Election campaign once launched a foul-mouthed rant against Muslims.

Outspoken Australian ‘fixer’ Lynton Crosby used the phrase ‘f****** Muslims’ in a diatribe while working for London Mayor Boris Johnson.

But No 10 officials said the Prime Minister has no intention of changing his mind about appointing the strategist, despite the new revelations.

I’ve Refused Work Because Of My Religion. Here’s What Kim Davis Doesn’t Understand About Faith.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who is currently winning the affection of prominent Republican lawmakers for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, has thrust the nation into another round of debate over the legal bounds of religious liberty. It’s a conversation we’ve been having more frequently since the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby won the right to refuse birth control coverage to thousands of their craft store employees, saying — just as Kim Davis does — that they want to remain faithful to their notion of God’s will while conducting their jobs.

There's Still No Solution To The Real Cause Of The Refugee Crisis

Every week, we bring you one overlooked aspect of the stories that made news in recent days. You noticed the media forgot all about another story's basic facts? Tweet @TheWorldPost or let us know on our Facebook page.

European Union leaders will meet next week to try and establish a common policy for the EU’s member states to deal with the continent’s ongoing refugee and migrant crisis, as thousands of people continue to cross into Europe each day. This summer saw a dramatic increase in the number of people fleeing conflict and hardship, particularly from Syria, underscoring the need for an international response to a humanitarian disaster that has been going on for years.

Vietnamese boat people of more than 3 decades ago now thriving, proud Canadians

It was a photo that transported my parents back to the moment of their darkest fears, that their quest for a better life would be an exercise in futility and cost them their children's lives.

The photo was of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach after his family tried to flee their war-ravaged past.

Unbowed by Supreme Court defeat, plaintiffs demand full overhaul of National Energy Board

Environmentalists are demanding a complete overhaul of the National Energy Board (NEB) after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a challenge on Sept. 10 against restrictions on public consultation in pipeline hearings.

Vowing to take its fight to Parliament after Oct. 19, ForestEthics Advocacy slammed the Harper government’s reforms of the NEB Act as a violation of free speech, by barring scientific evidence of greenhouse gas emissions from hearings on  Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline twinning proposal, limiting the participation of Burnaby residents living near the planned route, and accusing the oil industry of influencing the rules to their advantage by appointing Kinder Morgan’s Steven Kelly as a member.

The refugee crisis and Harper's politics of fear

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a prime minister seeking re-election must be in want of a plausible alibi.

Or a halfway decent lie.

Both options have deserted the prime minister and the microphone into which he recites, with numbing repetition, the canned “media lines” concocted to distract everyone from the panicked chaos of a campaign so badly off the rails that it's been outsourced to a temporary foreign worker.

For Stephen Harper, there’s nothing to fear but not enough fear. So fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

9/11: What Didn't Change -- The attacks altered the world—but not our politics

It changed everything.

That's the mantra that emerged from the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001. In certain areas of our collective lives, it was an accurate description. Security concerns increased. The United States went to war in two far-away lands. It engaged in brutal practices that amounted to torture and opened secret prisons and the ever-controversial Guantanamo facility. Ugly barriers went up around public facilities. Navigating airports became a new kind of nightmare.

Think Your Condo Fees Are Too High? These Owners Will Be Paying $2,000 A Month

Homeowners at one Toronto condo are facing a spike in condo fees so large they may default.

After years of neglect and low fees, the building at 40 Panorama Court in Etobicoke required millions of dollars in repairs. Now, the building needs $600,000 more to repair mould problems, CTV reports.

Canadians' Household Debt Hits All-Time High, With Nearly $1.65 Owed For $1 Earned

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says the amount owed by Canadians compared with disposable income increased in the second quarter as debt levels rose more than income.

The ratio of household debt to disposable income climbed to 164.6 per cent from 163.0 per cent in the first quarter, the agency reported Friday.

Prosecution of White-Collar Crime Hits 20-Year Low

Just a few years after the financial crisis, a new report tells an important story: Federal prosecution of white-collar crime has hit a 20-year low.

The analysis by Syracuse University shows a more than 36 percent decline in such prosecutions since the middle of the Clinton administration, when the decline began. Landing amid calls from Democratic presidential candidates for more Wall Street prosecutions, the report notes that the projected number of prosecutions this year is 12 percent less than last year and 29 percent less than five years ago.

 AIPAC Spent Millions of Dollars to Defeat the Iran Deal. Instead, It May Have Destroyed Itself.

It is hard to exaggerate the damage inflicted on AIPAC by the congressional defeat of its efforts to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal. It is not as if AIPAC won’t live to fight again, because it will, but this defeat has ruptured the status quo, possibly forever.

The extent of its efforts to defeat the deal was unprecedented even for a lobby known for its no-holds-barred wars against past White House initiatives it considered unfriendly to Israel, going all the way back to the Ford administration. AIPAC, and its cutout Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran, reportedly budgeted upwards of $20 million for a campaign that included flooding the airwaves with television spots; buying full-page newspaper ads, arranging fly-ins of AIPAC members to Washington, organizing demonstrations at offices of AIPAC-friendly members of Congress who were believed to be wavering, and ensuring that problematic legislators were officially warned by precisely the right donor. Rank-and-file AIPAC members were largely irrelevant to the process. Money did the talking, and also the yelling and the cursing when necessary. As one congressional staffer put it to me, “Taking money from AIPAC is like getting a loan from the mob. You better not forget to pay it back. They walk into this office like they own it.”

Rising tuition fees across Canada highlights need for Newfoundland-style grants program

Post-secondary students going back to school this year in Newfoundland and Labrador will be the first to fully benefit from the province's new student aid provisions. Starting in the 2015-2016 academic year, Newfoundland's student loan program will be eliminated and replaced with increased grants.
For those students eligible for the maximum amount per term, the provincial grant is $2,380 -- significantly more than enough, for example, to cover undergraduate tuition at the province's only university Memorial University of Newfoundland.

More grief for Harper: ex-advisor Bruce Carson back in court Monday

As if Stephen Harper needed more embarrassment in the middle of a tough election campaign, Monday will see the start of another criminal trial of a former member of his inner circle: Bruce Carson, once his senior adviser.

News from the trial may be another distraction keeping the Conservative leader from sticking to his platform points, just as questions about Senator Mike Duffy’s criminal trial knocked him off-message during the first few weeks of the campaign.