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.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Political Frauds and the Ghost of Totalitarianism

In the current historical moment in the United States, the emptying out of language is nourished by the assault on the civic imagination. One example of this can be found in the rise of Donald Trump on the political scene. Trump's popular appeal speaks to not just the boldness of what he says and the shock it provokes, but the inability to respond to shock with informed judgment rather than titillation. Marie Luise Knott is right in noting, "We live our lives with the help of the concepts we form of the world. They enable an author to make the transition from shock to observation to finally creating space for action - for writing and speaking. Just as laws guarantee a public space for political action, conceptual thought ensures the existence of the four walls within which judgment operates." (1) The concepts that now guide our understanding of US society are dominated by a corporate-induced linguistic and authoritarian model that brings ruin to language, politics and democracy itself.

Oka Denounces Energy East Pipeline Plans

The town of Oka's municipal council adopted a resolution Monday night opposing the Energy East pipeline project.

Residents are concerned the pipeline could contaminate Lake of Two Mountains.

Harper: Alberta Government Made Recession Worse By Raising Taxes

VANCOUVER — Federal Conservative Leader Stephen Harper may have opened a new battlefront with Alberta's NDP premier.

After a campaign announcement Tuesday in North Vancouver, Harper said Alberta has fallen deeper into recession since Premier Rachel Notley was elected in the spring.

"We know why there's a recession. It's not because the (federal) government ran a $2-billion surplus. There's a recession because oil prices have fallen by half," Harper said.

Canadian Home Sales Edge Up 0.3% In August, Average Price Hits $433,367

OTTAWA - The boom in Canada's housing market continued in August with sales of existing homes edging up 0.3 per cent month over month and holding at levels not far off the five-year high reached in May, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Why is Stephen Harper one of Israel’s staunchest supporters?

TORONTO (JTA) — It took seven years, but one of Israel’s staunchest allies among world leaders will be making his maiden voyage to the Jewish state on Sunday.

In announcing the trip last month at a Jewish National Fund dinner, where he was being honored, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Israel “a light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness” and pledged that the Jewish state “will always have Canada as a friend.”

Manifesto backed by prominent NDPers calls for overhaul of capitalist economy

OTTAWA — Just as Tom Mulcair attempts to convince Canadians that the NDP is a safe, moderate choice in the Oct. 19 election, some of his party's highest profile supporters are issuing a manifesto calling for a radical restructuring of the country's economy.

The "leap manifesto," signed by more than 100 actors, musicians, labour unions, aboriginal leaders, environmentalists and other activists, aims to pressure the next federal government to wean Canada entirely off fossil fuels in as little as 35 years and, in the process, upend the capitalist system on which the economy is based.

35 Years Of Economic History Is Coming To An End, And A Global Debt Crisis Could Be Next

This is the beginning of the end of low interest rates. What does that mean for Canada's heavily indebted consumers?

If you’re old enough to have made a mortgage payment, say, a couple decades ago, then you likely remember a time when 8 per cent or even 10 per cent was a good mortgage rate.

U.S.-China Relations Show Chilling Signs After Obama Changes Hotel Accommodations

The United States’ relationship with China has become so strained the president will break decades of precedent during his annual trip to New York this month for the United Nations General Assembly. Due to spying concerns, Obama and other White House staff will not stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but at the New York Palace Hotel.

Ferguson’s ‘Unbanking’ Problem

Just over a year on from police officer Darren Wilson’s killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, a commission convened by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has issued a lengthy report on the societal, governmental, and economic crisis that afflicts Ferguson and many communities like it in the St. Louis area.

The Ferguson Commission organizes many of its ideas around the importance of economic justice. “Many factors impact an individual’s opportunity to thrive. Key among them are health and financial stability,” the commissioners write. “Unfortunately, for many in the St. Louis region, these are not a given.”

Elizabeth Warren Points Out How Unfair This Hiring Practice Can Be

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) are calling for a ban on the ability of employers to check the credit history of their employees, saying that the practice is a form of discrimination unfairly targets people who have suffered as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.

In an op-ed published on Tuesday, the two noted that an employee's credit report had nothing to do with their ability to do their job. They also noted that the 2008 financial crisis had cost many people their homes and given them debt that they are still resolving. Both Warren and Cohen have also reintroduced the Equal Employment for All Act, which would ban employers from checking the credit reports of potential employees with a few exceptions.

Surplus during recession seems like bad economic planning

If the time for deficit spending is when the economy is in recession, then the Harper government seems to have got it backwards.

According to the latest figures, during the years when Canada was reaping the staggering benefits of an oil and commodities boom, the government piled on more debt. We now know that it was only after the economy began shrinking and needed help that the government squeezed out a surplus.

UVic's New Telus MBA: Creeping Corporatization, or Just Keeping Up?

The creation of a Telus-specific master's degree in business administration at the University of Victoria has wound the corporatization of Canadian universities up a notch. Alternatively, it has modernized on-the-job training while bringing a public institution to "the edge of" -- as UVic's slogan goes -- exclusivity with access to private technology. It depends on who you ask.

In July, the telecommunication giant and B.C.'s capital city university announced that the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business will offer Telus employees -- and only Telus employees -- the chance to enrol in a two-year MBA program customized to the company's specifications. If the program starting in October works in its first year, it will be extended to Telus business customers. There are no plans to open enrolment to the wider student body.

It's Time for Action on Canada's Muzzled Scientists

What has become of the federal Information Commissioner's investigation into Canada's muzzled federal scientists?

There's evidence that scientists are being silenced, and that the government has been misleading the public and Parliament about it. The damage to the public interest is extensive and ongoing.

Stephen Harper is done

This election is over.

Its details, such as the counting of the votes and the official declarations of the winners in each riding, have of course still to be completed.

The election’s essence, though, is already part of our history. And this is that as soon as the election is held, Stephen Harper will cease to be Canada’s prime minister.

How Harper got his surplus … and why it may not matter

Back in black … I hit the sack
I been too long, I’m glad to be back

While I’m not sure AC/DC would approve, their lyrics aptly describe the Conservatives’ reaction to the unanticipated surplus of $1.9 billion announced for fiscal 2014-2015. The country’s finances are out of the red for the time being; the Tories figure their electoral prospects ought to be as well.

Pope Francis Is About to Blow Elizabeth Warren Out of the Water

Pope Francis will arrive in the United States next week, with stops planned in Washington, New York City, and Philadelphia. In the nation's capital, he will become the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. When House Speaker John Boehner extended the invitation, he said Francis' teachings "have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views." He may not have appreciated just how radical the Pope's teachings are.

Here’s How Bernie Sanders May Be Changing Politics for Good

SOMETIME IN THE late 1970s, after he'd divorced his college sweetheart, had a kid with another woman, lost four statewide elections, and been evicted from his home on Maple Street in Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders moved in with a friend named Richard Sugarman. Sanders, a restless political activist and armchair psychologist with a penchant for arguing his theories late into the night, found a sounding board in the young scholar, who taught philosophy at the nearby University of Vermont. At the time, Sanders was struggling to square his revolutionary zeal with his overwhelming rejection at the polls—and this was reflected in a regular ritual. Many mornings, Sanders greeted his roommate with a simple statement: "We're not crazy."

The United States Probably Has More Foreign Military Bases Than Any Other People, Nation, or Empire in History

With the US military having withdrawn many of its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans would be forgiven for being unaware that hundreds of US bases and hundreds of thousands of US troops still encircle the globe. Although few know it, the United States garrisons the planet unlike any country in history, and the evidence is on view from Honduras to Oman, Japan to Germany, Singapore to Djibouti.

Like most Americans, for most of my life, I rarely thought about military bases. Scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson described me well when he wrote in 2004, “As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize—or do not want to recognize—that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.”

Germany Seeks Talks With Russia Over Syria as Putin Conducts Naval Maneuvers Off Tartous

Agence France Press Arabic says that Cypriot officials are reporting that Russia has asked them to alter airline routes this week because it is planning naval military maneuvers off the Syrian coast near its leased naval base, Tartous.

The maneuvers are called “routine” by Moscow but come at a time of heightened American, European and Israeli concern about increased Russian military backing and aid for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Community Groups Work to Provide Emergency Medical Alternatives, Separate From Police

When Jens Rushing was working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for a 911 service in one small Texas city, he was dispatched on a call where he witnessed a man suffering during a mental health crisis. He remembers how the police officer who accompanied him wanted to cuff the man's hands behind his back and force him, face down, to the ground, until he "calmed down."

What's Powering The Revolving Door?

Is it our fault?

An understandably shattered Tony Abbott this afternoon served up his own analysis of the political climate which has landed us with our fifth Prime Minister in five years.

North Korea Revamps, Restarts Nuclear Bomb Fuel Production Plants

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A day after threatening rocket launches, North Korea declared Tuesday that it has revamped and restarted all its atomic bomb fuel production plants.

The back-to-back announcements, which many outside analysts consider threats designed to spur talks with the United States that could eventually provide impoverished North Korea with concessions, will push Pyongyang further toward a standoff with Washington and its allies.

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Never marry again in slavery.
— Margaret Garner, 1858

Wherever the law is, crime can be found.
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1973


“lower-class behavior in our cities is shaking them apart.”

By his own lights, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator, sociologist, and itinerant American intellectual, was the product of a broken home and a pathological family. He was born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but raised mostly in New York City. When Moynihan was 10 years old, his father, John, left the family, plunging it into poverty. Moynihan’s mother, Margaret, remarried, had another child, divorced, moved to Indiana to stay with relatives, then returned to New York, where she worked as a nurse. Moynihan’s childhood—a tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood—contrasted starkly with the idyllic American family life he would later extol. “My relations are obviously those of divided allegiance,” Moynihan wrote in a diary he kept during the 1950s. “Apparently I loved the old man very much yet had to take sides … choosing mom in spite of loving pop.” In the same journal, Moynihan, subjecting himself to the sort of analysis to which he would soon subject others, wrote, “Both my mother and father—They let me down badly … I find through the years this enormous emotional attachment to Father substitutes—of whom the least rejection was cause for untold agonies—the only answer is that I have repressed my feelings towards dad.”


There is an amplified voice of annoyance swirling around Ontario’s education system, and it’s not a teachers union leader screaming insults at education minister Liz Sandals from across a bargaining table.

The yelling, screaming and complaining is coming from parents and closed-minded think-tanks who feel "hopeless" their children will finally be enlightened by a new health curriculum in the age of Tinder, Snap-Chat, Ashley Madison and Instagram.

The Wreck Of HMS Erebus: How A Landmark Discovery Triggered A Fight For Canada’s History

The curt notice from the Canadian prime minister’s press secretary gave no hint that history had been made.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper will participate in a photo opportunity,” read the one-sentence advisory from his spokesperson Carl Vallée, on Sept. 9, 2014. The event was scheduled for 10 a.m.

There wasn’t a word about the topic. It also included a now-standard restriction from the Prime Minister’s Office: “Photo opportunity only (cameras and photographers only).”

Ontarians paying billions extra for electricity, auditor general finds

TORONTO -- People in Ontario are paying billions of dollars extra for electricity thanks to a flawed smart meter program and the above-market rates the province pays most power generators, Ontario's auditor general reported Tuesday.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli disputed the auditor's conclusions, suggesting her numbers were inaccurate because she didn't understand the "complex" electricity system.

Scott Walker’s Economically (and Politically) Wrongheaded Scheme to Destroy Unions

Back in the pre–Donald Trump era of American politics, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was briefly the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Polls had him 14 points ahead of his closest rival in the first-caucus state of Iowa, and 10 points ahead in the first-primary state of New Hampshire.

From February through May, he frequently led national polls. As late as August 6, his numbers were strong enough to secure Walker a spot next to Trump in the ranked-order positioning for the first GOP debate.

Harper Reportedly Denies Saying MMIW Inquiry Wasn't High On 'Radar'

Stephen Harper told Chatelaine magazine he never said a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women wasn't high on his government's "radar," despite the fact he said those very words during a television interview last year.

In a Q&A interview published Monday, journalist Katrina Onstad noted that the United Nations, First Nations leaders, and Rinelle Harper — the Manitoba 16-year-old left for dead last year — have all called for an inquiry.

Federal departments left $8.7 billion unspent last year

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on Monday defended federal departments for holding on to billions of dollars last year. The unspent money was instead returned to the federal treasury, and played a huge role in the Conservative government posting a $1.9-billion budget surplus in the last fiscal year.

Finance Canada reported the federal surplus Monday, after initial projections in April had suggested a $2-billion deficit. The report said a variety of factors were responsible for the surplus, including a slight bump in government revenue from corporate and personal income tax.

Information commissioner taking PMO to court over withholding Senate documents

TORONTO - The information commissioner is taking the Prime Minister's Office to court, accusing it of refusing to release documents about four senators embroiled in scandal.

The Canadian Press filed an access-to-information request to the Privy Council Office, the central bureaucracy serving the prime minister and cabinet, in August of 2013 asking for any records created since March relating to senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau or Pamela Wallin.

Is this man the worst MP (and minister) in Canada?

This month, two Conservative candidates, Jerry Bance and Tim Dutaud, were dismissed for inappropriate past behavior— Bance for peeing in the mug of a client of his repair business, and Dutaud for prank calls involving fake orgasms and imitating a mentally handicapped person. Since records of both candidates' actions were online before the election was called, many have questioned how the Conservative Party vets its people.

MP Julian Fantino, the Associate Minister for National Defence, has so far escaped the same kind of exposure and resulting condemnation. But that may be about to change.

Refugees confounded by Merkel’s decision to close German borders

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has cut a chequered figure this summer: scorned for taking Greece to the wall, and praised for welcoming large numbers of Syrians to Germany. But nowhere and at no time has she been more of an enigma than she was in Vienna’s central station on Monday where crowds of refugees struggled to reconcile how the same “Mama Merkel” had opened Germany’s borders one week, and closed them again barely eight days later – leaving those at the station stranded.

This Is How Bad the Sharing Economy Is for Workers

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs keep telling us their way of doing business will “change the world.” And in many ways it already has, but it’s changed your world differently than it’s changed theirs.

The “sharing” or “gig” economy—think Airbnb, Uber, and Taskrabbit—has made massive fortunes reducing labor to disassembled microtasks; unfortunately, it’s shrunk workers’ rights too. But as our jobs are redefined by labor-brokering platforms, some advocates are trying to redefine labor rights for a digital economy.

Harper: Budget Surplus Shows Government's Plan Is Working

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Stephen Harper seemed to have some extra spring in his step Monday after struggling on a variety of fronts in what has been a tough campaign so far.

The Conservative leader started the week firing away at his main rivals on small business taxes and now appears to be riding an unexpected wave heading into this Thursday's economic debate in Calgary.

New Study: Racism Can Make Kids Sick—for the Rest of Their Lives

Racism is still one of America's greatest social ills—and it might actually be making people sick. According to a new study out of Northwestern University, racial discrimination experienced in adolescence can have a profound impact on health later in life.

Controlling for other factors that might cause stress, including socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and depression, researchers found that adults who had reported higher levels of discrimination when they were young had disrupted stress hormone levels 20 years later—and that African Americans experienced the effects at greater levels than their white counterparts.

Australia's Divisive Prime Minister Tony Abbott Is Out. Meet the New Guy.

Australia has a new prime minister. Again. The turbulent tenure of now former conservative PM Tony Abbott—infamous around the world for repealing Australia's groundbreaking carbon pricing system and extending the country's draconian immigration policies, which include locking up refugees in offshore detention centers—has come to an end after a dramatic day in Canberra, the nation's capital.

Trudeau: Harper Balanced Budget On Backs Of Vulnerable Canadians

TORONTO — Justin Trudeau pledged billions for low-income seniors on Monday while accusing Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of creating a surprise $1.9 billion surplus on the backs of vulnerable Canadians to bolster his election campaign.

The Liberal leader told a Canadian Association of Retired Persons town hall that his party would boost the guaranteed income supplement for single, lower-income seniors by $3 billion over four years, giving them an extra $920 a year.

Fact check: Harper's warning of refugee security threats is cynical fearmongering

The claim: Stephen Harper says Syrian refugees are coming from a "terrorist warzone" and need to be screened properly in order to "[protect] Canadians from the security risk." Is this true?
Is security a legitimate concern, or is this simply a stall tactic from a party that isgenerally hostile to certain kinds of immigrants?
The Conservatives have committed to $100 million to help Syrian refugees through the UN, and will spend more than $360 million dropping bombs on Syria and Iraq to stop ISIS. In a campaign stop today In Victoriaville, Quebec, Stephen Harper marked the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with a $10-million pledge to study the root causes of terrorism and the "radicalization" of young people to help Canada's war against ISIS.

Fact check: Is Conservative spin-doctor Lynton Crosby really the worst?

The claim: Lynton Crosby is an Australian campaign spin doctor who exploits divisive politics to win campaigns. How true is this?

Lynton Crosby, also known either as the Wizard of Oz or the Lizard of Oz, depending on who you ask, has been brought in to help boost Harper's campaign in the final six weeks.

In 2001, Crosby was the director of the Liberal Party in Australia. In a speech reflecting on his party's success, he downplayed the effect that public opinion over asylum seekers and refugees had on their 2001 election victory. It was widely accepted that the right-wing John Howard had won in part due to his party's refusal to accept refugees aboard the MV Tampa, a boat full of Afghani refugees. 

How new data-collection technology might change office culture

Imagine a tiny microphone embedded in the ID badge dangling from the lanyard around your neck.

The mic is gauging the tone of your voice and how frequently you are contributing in meetings. Hidden accelerometers measure your body language and track how often you push away from your desk.

At the end of each day, the badge will have collected roughly four gigabytes worth of data about your office behaviour.

What do voters hear in Conservatives' message on refugees?

On the day Canadians were confronted by images of the lifeless body of a young Syrian boy lying face down on a faraway beach, the tragedy and horror of what's been unfolding in that part of the world seemed all the closer.

"We could drive ourselves crazy with grief," said Stephen Harper, as he assured voters he would not.

"Our message has been the same all along," the Conservative leader said. "We are admitting more refugees and we will — we promised that earlier in the campaign."

Offshore Tax Haven Prosecution Pitifully Low As Sheltered Money Spikes: Reports

Only 44 Canadians have been convicted of offences related to offshore tax havens since the Harper government came to power — a period during which the amount of Canadian money held in the largest offshore havens is estimated to have doubled.

According to documents from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), tabled in parliament Thursday, 44 taxpayers were convicted of crimes related to offshore accounts between April 1, 2006, and March 31, 2012.

How the Conservatives are gutting tobacco control

About a month ago, Ottawa quietly announced it was slashing $15 million from Canada’s Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, one of the many cuts to the federal budget. Haven’t seen it in the headlines much? It might be because this is far from the first time the federal Conservatives have swung the axe at the national tobacco control budget. Over the last six years, funding for the FTCS has shrunk by nearly 60 per cent, down to $28 million in fiscal 2012 from $68 million in 2006.

Stephen Harper Is Not an Economist

Monday night, the CBC's Peter Mansbridge made the mistake of referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an economist: "Given your track record on analysis ... and you're not alone as an economist ...."

The Prime Minister is many things, but one thing he certainly is not is "an economist." And it is a serious mistake to grant Harper (or anyone in a position of such power and influence) the authority, gravitas and political advantage that this label can confer.

Four reasons why Stephen Harper won't debate Elizabeth May

No, he’s not afraid that she’ll leave her podium and come over and whack him.

Harper's afraid – he knows – that if he were to engage in a fair debate against Green Party leader Elizabeth May, in public with millions of Canadians watching, he’d lose.

 How Xenophobia Could Ruin the Best Thing About the EU

In September 2014, the European Union’s press office released a striking, if difficult to verify, statistic. One million babies, it estimated, had been born as a result of the Erasmus Programme, which allows students within the EU to study in one another’s countries. The headlines it provoked fit neatly with the EU’s founding myth, which runs something like this: After the Second World War, European states came together in a spirit of cooperation, determined never again to repeat the horrors wrought by nationalism on their continent. As trade agreements have brought down borders between states, and European citizens have been able to travel more freely than ever before, the EU has become a beacon of democracy and human rights to the rest of the world.

Europe Is Paralyzed By Fear

Thousands of lives continue to be lost on our continent. In most cases, these losses take place away from the cameras. Nevertheless, each fatality is a separate tragedy and an insupportable loss. The only wish among the people risking their lives is to escape war and persecution. As a result of our own failures and fears, they continue to die in our continent, where they came to seek refuge. How have we come to this?

Closing the Border Is Voodoo Politics, and It Will Lead to Catastrophe

Imagine you had sold your house and valuable belongings to pay a dubious smuggler, whom you didn't even know personally. And now imagine you had risked your own life and that of your loved ones to cross the Mediterranean in the middle of the darkest night.

You would have defended yourself against brutal border patrol officers in Macedonia, endured the bleakness of Belgrade train station and had even escaped the deliberately induced misery in Budapest.

Scott Walker Calls Food Stamp Drug Testing 'A Progressive Thing'

MAQUOKETA, Iowa -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants to make food stamp recipients take drug tests so he can help them.

"For us, it's not a punitive thing, it's a progressive thing," Walker told The Huffington Post on Friday, following the first of several campaign stops in Iowa over the weekend.

"We're trying to help people who are in need of our assistance to get jobs," Walker said, "because the best thing we can do with them is to make sure they get the skills and education they need, and make sure they are drug free if they have an addiction, to get back in the workforce."

Kim Davis Says She Won't Authorize Licenses For Gay Couples Issued By Deputies

MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — A defiant Kentucky clerk said Monday she will not interfere with her deputies if they keep issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but she declared they will not be authorized by her and questioned their validity.

It was Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' first day back in the office after a stint in jail for five days for defying a federal judge. Reading a hand-written statement outside the courthouse upon her return, Davis said gay marriage licenses issued by her office would be "unauthorized."