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, October 09, 2015

House Republicans Create Special Committee To Harass Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans created a special committee on Wednesday to investigate abortions, fetal tissue procurement and the use of federal funds at Planned Parenthood.

Lawmakers voted 242-184 on a resolution establishing the committee, which will function as an Energy and Commerce subcommittee and will have the power to subpoena documents and testimony. Its stated mission, among other things, is to examine "medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement" and "federal funding and support for abortion providers."

Let’s Focus on the Gun-Makers

It’s not just Congress that fails to respond after another massacre briefly focuses attention on the irrationality and permissiveness of our country’s firearms statutes. Those of us seeking change also regularly fall down on the job. We express outrage and move on, leaving the debate exactly where we found it.

Opponents of the big gun interests are often insufficiently innovative in what we propose. Let’s face it: We have been losing this fight.

Voter info card errors cause confusion over how to vote in election

Canada's chief electoral officer says it's "normal" to have mistakes on voter information cards and that there's still plenty of time to fix problems before Canadians head to the polls.

During an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Marc Mayrand said the list of registered voters and polling locations is still in "revision" and corrections are being made. He suggested the volume of problems is no cause for alarm.

Years Ago, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper Launched His Political Career By Trying To Ban The Sikh Turban. He Lost

The rhetoric over the niqab in the federal election campaign is proving reminiscent of another furor, more than 20 years ago, around the Sikh turban and its compatibility with Canadian values and the country's dearest institutions.

What was allegedly at stake in that debate in the 1990s was the very fabric of the nation, and the sanctity and perhaps survival of an important historic symbol of the country -- the Stetson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Baltej Singh Dhillon, a young Sikh-Canadian, wanted to become a Mountie. But his application to the force led to a kind of turban turmoil and an eventual intervention in Parliament by the Progressive Conservative government of the day. [The ‘Progressive Conservatives’ were a completely different party from today’s ’Conservatives/Tories’; the latter, now led by Stephen Harper, is merely the reincarnation of the racist Reform Party which then led the fight to ban the turban.]

Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen

“Too broken to write,” I told my editor, after the onslaught of Conservative announcements. The niqab was condemned. Citizenship was revoked for convicted terrorists with dual citizenship. Canadians were reminded of “barbaric cultural practices,” and the federal government’s preference for mainly non-Muslim Syrian refugees was reiterated. Make no mistake: This divisive strategy is meant to prey upon fear and prejudice.

Conservative policies hurt the middle class

If you accept the theory presented in my last article that high income inequality helps create persistently weak and unstable economies, the question then becomes what causes inequality and how can it be reduced?
In my opinion, high inequality is a natural outcome of free-market capitalism. A healthy middle-class is a government-created phenomenon requiring strong labour laws and a progressive tax code (where rates increase as income increases). That's what we had in the postwar period until Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan convinced much of the world to undo those very successful policies.

Tory Candidate Supportive of Drug Tests for EI Recipients

Anyone wanting to receive Employment Insurance benefits should first have to pass a drug test, a Conservative MP who is running for re-election in British Columbia said this week during an all candidates' meeting.

The Liberal candidate agreed with him during the meeting for the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding, but later in an interview said he has changed his mind.

The candidates, Conservative Bob Zimmer and Liberal Matt Shaw, were responding to a question from an audience member at the Oct. 4 meeting at the recreation centre in Fort Nelson.

Feds Using Old, Inaccurate Data to Set Temporary Foreign Worker Wages

The Conservative government is using inaccurate and outdated wage information to set pay rates under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and could be driving down wages for Canadians, according to a Tyee analysis of data obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Employers have to show they are prepared to pay the going rate for a job before they are allowed to bring in temporary workers from other countries. The rules are intended to ensure employers can only bring in foreign workers once they've shown efforts were made to hire Canadians at prevailing wages.

Conrad Black to Bay Street: Justin can be trusted

"Trudeau seems to be regaining enough of the old Liberal dexterity of being just far enough to the left of the Conservatives as not to seem like tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum to voters of the centre-left, and adequately to the right of the NDP not to frighten the cautious Canadian bourgeoisie." [italics added]
-- Conrad Black
National Post, October 2, 2015
In the end, it fell to Conrad Black to unpack one of the central mysteries of this election campaign.
For weeks, the Liberals have been managing to rebrand themselves as progressives on the grounds that Justin Trudeau would run deficits.

Should Canada have completed a trade deal in the middle of an election?

The Obama administration pulled out all the stops to wrap up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations last week. Trade ministers, including Canada's Ed Fast, were summoned to Atlanta for a final session.
The participation of Fast was controversial back in Canada, where a federal election campaign is in full swing. Concluding a sweeping, still-secret trade treaty on the brink of election day is unprecedented and arguably illegitimate.

Fahmy says he rebuffed invitation to Tory rally; questions niqab debate

An exhausted but “ecstatic” Mohamed Fahmy woke up Wednesday outside of Egypt for the first time in two years and began something of a victory tour in the United Kingdom, a celebratory pit stop on his way home to Canada. “I’m ecstatic, I finally feel that I’m free. It has just kicked in, to be honest,” he said by telephone between a visit to Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a visit to Amnesty International, to thank the organization for its support during his 21-month ordeal, which included more than 400 days in prison.

Bureaucracy baffled by Harper's niqab stance

Stephen Harper’s startling statements that he will consider banning the niqab in the federal public service drew fire from his foes but appeared to mostly baffle bureaucratic insiders.

Unions and other political party leaders were quick to condemn the Conservative leader’s remarks. However, it wasn’t clear if there were more than a few, if any, women who wear the niqab – a veil that conceals the face except for the eyes – in the federal public service.

Oil Industry Could Cut Methane Emissions 45% Right Now: Report

CALGARY -- A new report commissioned by an environmental group says Canada's oil and gas industry could reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent using existing technology.

The study, carried out by energy industry research firm ICF International, found that the industry could eliminate the equivalent of 27 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions at a cost of $2.76 per tonne.

Elections Canada Resending 5,600 Toronto Voter Cards After Polling Station Mixup

Elections Canada will re-send 5,600 corrected voter information cards to residents in the Toronto-St. Paul's riding after the first batch told people to vote at an address that doesn't exist.

It's unclear exactly how 44 Room Ave. — a street that doesn't exist in the riding or in the city itself — found its way on to the cards.

Leona Aglukkaq Spent More Than $140K To Speak At Close Of Lima Climate Conference

OTTAWA — Nunavut Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq spent more than $140,916 as environment minister to attend a climate change conference with 26 staff and government officials.

The Canadian delegation at the meeting in Lima, Peru, for the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dec. 2014, didn’t generate much news — aside from the government’s own release.

Elections Canada Policy Allows Women To Wear Niqabs While Voting

A woman's right to wear a niqab has been a hot topic on the hustings, but when it comes to actually casting a ballot, it hasn't been an issue for Elections Canada in eight years.

Women who show up to vote on Oct. 19 wearing a face covering won't be forced to remove it to verify their identity. They will be asked to sign an oath attesting to their eligibility and to present two pieces of identification — at least one having a current address.

Elizabeth May: Paying Everyone A Basic Income Will End Poverty AND Save Money

Call it basic income, guaranteed annual income, negative income tax, or minimum income, it all essentially amounts to the same simple solution: eliminate poverty by giving people money.

The idea — supported by 46 per cent of Canadians according to one poll — has boosters across the political spectrum because it not only helps people, it can also save money by reducing bureaucracy and poverty-related health care and criminal justice expenses.

Ubaka Ogbogu, Alberta Law Professor, Told By Tory Candidate To Renounce His Heritage

An Edmonton law professor says he was taken aback when the Conservative candidate in his riding told him to "renounce his heritage" if he wants to feel safe under new citizenship legislation.

Ubaka Ogbogu, who teaches at the University of Alberta, said he was eager to chat with James Cumming about his party's support of Bill C-24, which he has been following closely.

Tennessee’s First Year Of Drug Testing Welfare Applicants Didn’t Go Very Well

Tennessee’s first year of drug testing welfare recipients uncovered drug use by less than 0.2 percent of all applicants for the state’s public assistance system.

The state implemented the testing regime in the summer of 2014, adding three questions about narcotics use to the application form for aid. Anyone who answers “yes” to any of the three drug questions must take a urine test or have their application thrown away immediately. Anyone who fails a urine test must complete drug treatment and pass a second test, or have their benefits cut off for six months.

Bystander Opens Fire On Suspected Home Depot Shoplifters

The only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun stealing home improvement supplies is ... a good guy with a gun?

A bystander outside a Home Depot in Auburn Hills, Michigan, opened fire on a man suspected of shoplifting from the store on Tuesday as he attempted to flee the scene in an SUV driven by another man.

'Shark Tank' Investor Explains Why Trump Is Really Running

Donald Trump has already lost business because of the outlandish comments he's made in his campaign for the Republican nomination for president, but "Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary thinks the real estate mogul's upending of the political process will be positive for him as an entrepreneur.
"I think it's good for his brand," O'Leary told HuffPost Live on Tuesday. "I think he's being honest when he talks to people."

After Over a Decade of Occupation and $1.5 Billion in US Aid, the Reality Facing Women in Afghanistan Has Barely Changed

The reality is light years from pledges and public statements made by high-ranking Afghan and American officials.

The fate of women in Afghanistan has been the moral linchpin for the continued occupation by U.S. and NATO forces since the presidency of George W. Bush. But according to experts and women across the war-torn country, little has changed for women there despite upwards of $1.5 billion spent to empower women and girls.

Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against TPP

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Wednesday, breaking with President Barack Obama on the 12-nation trade deal that is set to become a key part of his legacy.

"As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it," Clinton told Judy Woodruff of "PBS Newshour."

The largest arms export contract in Canadian history is apparently no longer an arms deal

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is referring to a $14-billion deal to provide Saudi Arabia with light armoured vehicles as a contract for “transport vehicles.” And he says such equipment can’t be considered arms.

The characterization of the deal comes as Harper defends the contract with the Saudi Arabian regime.

White people don’t have to worry about Canada’s new “report your neighbor” hotline

Last week, Canada’s Conservative party announced plans to set up a police hotline called “Report Your Neighbor,” which is exactly as terrifying as it sounds. This is the totalitarian nightmare of “Brazil” married to the paranoid delusions of “Arlington Road,” where all it takes is one malicious busybody deciding you look suspicious and poof! You’re an enemy of the state.

Timely new film shows voter suppression in the past: will it happen again?

For most Canadians, organized electoral fraud seemed to emerge with the 2011 election with the robocall scandal.

But that was actually the second election in which these tactics were employed. The successful test-drive took place three years earlier.

Here’s the story of what happened in the Saanich-Gulf Islands (SGI) riding in 2008, based on a stunning new documentary by veteran journalist and filmmaker Peter Smoczynski.

Black Trans Woman Attacked, Killed By Group Of Men In Pennsylvania

A transgender woman in Pennsylvania was attacked by a group of men before being fatally shot Tuesday morning, authorities say.

Kiesha Jenkins, 22, was shot in the back around 2:30 a.m. in the North Philadelphia, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed.

"She was known to the LGBTQ community as a transgender individual," the spokeswoman said.

Sabrina Zuniga, Conservative Candidate, Says The Ground Can Absorb Oil Spills

Oil spilled from pipelines can be naturally absorbed by the ground, according to a Conservative candidate who is also a science teacher.

In an interview with CPAC, Sabrina Zuniga, who is running in the downtown Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York, made the statement when asked about climate change and Conservative support for pipelines projects like Keystone XL.

Jindal Pens Angry Blog Post Blaming Oregon Shooting On Abortion, Movies, Absent Dads

Bobby Jindal is mad about the Oregon shooting, and has taken to the internet to vent.

On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate published a strongly-worded blog post on his campaign website blaming the tragedy on the “cultural decay” of American society: Things like abortion, video games, movies, music, nontraditional family structures, and absent fathers.

Monsanto and Syngenta Tighten Stranglehold on Global Food Supply

There is a corporate monster in the making. If allowed to emerge, it will gain near complete control of one of the most vital elements to human survival: our global food supply. This monster - a conglomeration of two corporate entities, Monsanto and Syngenta - must be stopped for the sake of the planet and future generations.

The companies that would make up this monster conglomeration both want complete control of our food. They envision a world completely inundated with their "patented" genetically modified seeds and saturated in their environmentally destructive chemicals. They seek to put all of their critics and those deemed "in the way" in prison or leave them financially ruined. They threaten to subvert the democratic process with their "bought" legislators, who are strategically placed inside virtually every facet of the governmental apparatus. And they do all of this while wrapped in the rhetoric of superheroes, sustainability and stewardship.

Sweden introduces six-hour work day

Sweden is moving to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and make people happier.

Employers across the country have already made the change, according to the Science Alert website, which said the aim was to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people had the energy to enjoy their private lives.

Toyota centres in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, made the switch 13 years ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits in that time.