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, October 11, 2015

Politics behind Harper ad that cites mentally ill dad who killed kids: lawyers

VANCOUVER - Stephen Harper is interfering with Canada's justice system in an election advertisement that unfairly puts the label "criminal" on a father who killed his children while extremely mentally ill, say the man's lawyers.

In the minute-long radio ad, the Conservative leader references "the tragic story" of Allan Schoenborn, who in February 2010 was found "not criminally responsible" on account of a mental disorder.

"We Conservatives believe that public safety must be the primary consideration in deciding how to treat criminals like that," Harper says in the ad that broadcast on Thursday.

Harper's Cultural War on Muslim Women Must End

It was autumn like today when I first saw Canada's coastline from the deck of the Empress of Australia in November 1953. I was a new immigrant who had come to this land from England with my wife to put down roots in a country that promised both economic opportunity and fair play.

At that time, I was 30 years of age but because I had experienced both the extreme hardships of the Great Depression and the horrors of the Second World War, I was old beyond my years and ready for a fresh start. Fortunately this country gave my wife and me a chance for that new beginning. But it was more than hard work and luck that brought material and emotional comfort to my life; it was also my generation's commitment to build the welfare state in part to prevent our young from ever having to encounter the despair of the Dirty Thirties or the bloodshed from our world war against Nazism and imperial Japan.

Elizabeth May: 'Stephen Harper Should Be Ashamed' Of His Campaign

For Elizabeth May, there are few clearer examples of how Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has manipulated this election campaign than his party's pledge last week to create a tip line for "barbaric cultural practices."

It was another moment that confirmed for the Green Party leader that the longest Canadian election campaign in 143 years has, paradoxically, produced less meaningful debate of real issues.

Harper on the niqab much more than mere distraction

If Stephen Harper was just using the niqab as a political distraction in the dwindling days of this long campaign, that would be the most charitable description of this gambit that could possibly be found.

If it was just a cynical ploy to avoid late-campaign scrutiny of his economic record, many of us would shake our heads, but others would grudgingly nod to the shrewd political tacticians on the Conservative side.

Conservatives ask RCMP to investigate Citizenship leak to media

OTTAWA—The government is calling in the RCMP to investigate another highly sensitive leak to the media, this time at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, according to media reports.

The CBC reported late Friday afternoon that the Citizenship ministry has requested the RCMP investigate the release of “sensitive information” to journalists this week.

“Leaks such as these are unethical and are against the law,” a memo obtained by the broadcaster read. “As such, we have contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have now launched an investigation. The trust that the public, our partners and elected officials have in us is the cornerstone of our democratic functions.”

This Supreme Court Case Could Upend The Way Democracy Works

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court this term could change how states meet the basic democratic goal of "one person, one vote." Ironically, a victory for the conservative plaintiffs who brought the case may turn on a national survey that Republicans have tried to eliminate.

In the Supreme Court case of Evenwel v. Abbott, the plaintiffs argue that the votes of eligible voters -- like themselves -- are unconstitutionally diluted because Texas counts non-voters when drawing its legislative districts. Specifically, Texas uses "total population" data, which include such non-voters as children, inmates, former felons who haven't had their voting rights restored and non-citizen immigrants.

Auto-sector protection under TPP deal less than Ottawa touted

The Canadian government has omitted a key detail from its public explanation of what would change for this country’s vital auto sector under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

And pressure is building on Ottawa to release the full text of this massive Pacific Rim deal before voters cast their ballots on Oct. 11.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast, whose party hopes to capitalize on the deal, which would open Japanese markets for Canadian business, is pledging to make the agreement public in a matter of days.

King Stephen has changed Canada for the worse

One can agree or disagree with the political orientation of a government, even on such seminal issues as where to draw the line between security and civil liberties in this age of terrorism. Stephen Harper’s biggest problem is not that he is a right-wing ideologue. It is how he has governed.

A prime minister must lead the nation but also find the time to do politicking for her/his party. Harper, being in a permanent state of campaigning, has shown himself incapable of rising above partisanship.

Stephen Harper’s hypocrisy and hysteria on marijuana

Politicians know how to harvest the low hanging fruit at election time.

Now, Justin Trudeau has sniffed out the low hanging cannabis on the campaign trail — and promised to legalize it.

It’s time, long past time. The Liberal leader can make up for the sins — or omissions — of his father in failing to decriminalize marijuana possession generations ago, when Pierre Trudeau ignored the recommendations of the 1973 Le Dain Royal Commission he created as prime minister.

Harper's Relationship With the Jewish Defense League Is Disturbing

With Canada's federal election less than two weeks away, I felt it important to address a highly topical matter: the Conservatives' close relations with the controversial Jewish Defense League (JDL).

The JDL was founded in the United States by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968. Kahane promoted the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians living in current day Israel, as well as the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Kahane's goal was to create a theocratic Jewish state encompassing the entirety of the land of Biblical Palestine.

GOP Probe Into Planned Parenthood Funding Comes Up Empty

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday that the GOP's investigation into Planned Parenthood's use of federal funds hasn't turned up anything.

"Did I look at the finances and have a hearing specifically as to the revenue portion and how they spend? Yes. Was there any wrongdoing? I didn't find any," he said during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the family planning provider.

The niqab issue is about to blow up in Stephen Harper’s face

Pollsters in Canada like to say their trade is a science. These days it looks more like science fiction. Or maybe voodoo.

What’s supposed to be a beacon of light in a cluttered campaign has turned into a Tower of Babble. Pollsters and the media agencies that feed off them are sowing confusion, not the clarity that comes from a thorough, searching and substantive debate.

Precarious work is now the new norm, United Way report says

Precarious employment is here to stay, a new study shows, and Toronto’s new economic reality impacts everyone from the working poor to the middle class.

The research confirms United Way and McMaster University’s groundbreaking 2013 findings that fewer than half of workers in the GTA and Hamilton are in permanent, full-time jobs.


While protests raged in New Zealand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) last month, Canadians have been mum on the agreement to create the world’s largest trading block. Until, that is, the terms were finalized this week and dropped with a thud right in the middle of the federal election campaign. 

Hamas leader in Gaza declares intifada as deadly attacks continue

Hamas’s leader in Gaza has declared the current unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank an intifada, as six Palestinians were shot dead protesting at the border fence, further raising the stakes after a week of escalating violence.

The comments by Ismail Haniyeh contradicted recent remarks by Fatah’s leadership, including the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. There has been increasingly widespread use of the hashtag #intifada on Palestinian social media.

Conservatives Called Out For 'Inflammatory' Campaign Tactics

Hundreds of academics across Canada are condemning the campaign tactics of the Conservative Party.

In an open letter published Friday on the public affairs blog In Due Course, the group says it's concerned about "the ugly and dangerous turn we have recently witnessed in the election campaign."

"Increasingly, the Conservatives seem to have been opting for a particularly nasty form of 'wedge politics,'" the letter states.

Concentration Of Media Ownership In Canada Worst In G8 For TV Industry, Study Says

Canada has the most concentrated TV industry ownership of any G8 country, and the second most concentrated TV audience, says a new report that aims to measure the impact of the proposed Bell Canada-Astral Media merger.

The report from Boston-based Analysis Group reports that 81.4 per cent of the value of Canada’s TV distribution (cable and satellite) market is controlled by companies that also create content, such as broadcasters and production companies.

Canada Caves on Copyright in TPP: Commits to Longer Term, Urge ISPs to Block Content

The final Trans Pacific Partnership intellectual property chapter leaked this morning confirming what many had feared. While the Canadian government has focused on issues like dairy and the auto sector, it caved on key copyright issues in the agreement. As a result, works will be locked out of the public domain for decades at a cost to the public of hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, the government will “induce” Internet providers to engage in content blocking even where Canadian courts have not ruled on whether the content infringes copyright. As a result (and as expected – this was raised years ago), the government’s “made in Canada” approach to copyright – which it has frequently touted as representing a balanced approach – faces a U.S. demanded overhaul.  In fact, even as other countries were able to negotiate phase-in periods on copyright changes, the Canadian negotiators simply caved.

PMO sought political gain in prioritizing certain Syrian refugees: sources

Sources tell CTV News that a temporary halt to the processing of some Syrian refugees was ordered earlier this year to make sure the types favoured by the Prime Minister’s Office were being prioritized.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration insiders told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that PMO staff went through the files to ensure that persecuted religious minorities with established communities already in Canada -- ones that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper could court for votes -- were being accepted. Insiders say PMO actively discouraged the department from accepting applications from Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Remember the Temporary Foreign Worker Scandal? It's Back

Did the Harper government repair its Temporary Foreign Worker Program mess, or did it just use sleight of hand to distract voters from what loomed as a political threat for the 2015 election?

In the midst of a tight race where jobs are a top concern, critics say the TFWP fix is proving to be a mirage, and deserves to be a bigger campaign issue.

The TFWP, which began in the 1970s and ballooned under the Tories since 2005, has imported hundreds of thousands of workers. Starting three years ago, Canadians began to realize how ripe for abuse the program had become. Headline after headline rolled in about how easily feds were granting approval to let foreign temps fill Canadian jobs in mining, oil, banking, fast food, software and other sectors.

Judge Rules 'Muslims Are Coming!' Ads Allowed In NYC Subways

NEW YORK -- The mere mention of the word "Muslim" or the simple discussion of Islam is not political, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, ordering New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to allow a series of subway advertisements for the documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!"

The documentary follows a group of Muslim comedians on a standup tour of the United States in an effort to combat Islamophobia. The film's production company, Vaguely Qualified Productions, sued the MTA in July after the agency wouldn't allow a subway ad campaign promoting the film.

The ads in question were decidedly lighthearted and disarming. One poster reads, "BEWARE: The MUSLIMS are COMING! ... And they shall strike with hugs so fierce, you'll end up calling your grandmother and telling her you love her."

PMO's Syrian refugee audit looked at religion, whether some groups benefitted

An audit of Syrian refugee files ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office in the spring was not limited to potential security concerns, but examined all aspects of the process – including whether Christians and other vulnerable groups were getting priority status.

The Syrian refugee crisis threatened to hijack the federal election campaign again on Thursday, after the Globe and Mail reported that Citizenship and Immigration Canada stopped processing Syrian refugee applications that it had received from the United Nations.

Pritam Singh Jauhal, Second World War Vet Who Fought For Sikh Rights, Decries Niqab Ban

OTTAWA — A 95-year-old Second World War veteran who famously championed the rights of turban-wearing Canadian Sikhs says he disagrees with limiting the freedoms of Muslims who wear religious face coverings.

Retired lieutenant-colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal and four friends were barred from a 1993 Remembrance Day ceremony at the Royal Canadian Legion Newton branch in Surrey, B.C. because of a rule that banned head coverings.

Harper Government's Audit Of Refugees Did Not Include Those From Church Groups

OTTAWA — Privately sponsored refugees were exempted from the Conservative government's security audit of the Syrian refugee resettlement program, raising questions about whether it's because most probably aren't Muslim.

The Conservative government ordered a review of some Syrian refugee cases this summer as a result of intelligence reports suggesting refugees could pose a threat.

Federal Election 2015: RCMP Take Protesters Away From Harper's Surrey, B.C. Rally

SURREY, B.C. — A man ran towards Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a rally in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday evening and was grabbed by RCMP officers before being taken away.

The incident came minutes after another protester at the Conservative event attended by many members of the South Asian community stood up with a sign reading "Climate Justice" before being taken away.

Indigenous voters could yank victory from Conservatives in Kenora

Despite an abundance of natural resources including minerals, timber, and freshwater lakes, no one in the northwestern Ontario riding of Kenora takes drinking water for granted.

The riding is one of the largest in Canada, and home to 40 different Indigenous communities, many of which have been boiling water for decades under official advisory. The Neskantaga First Nation in particular has been boiling water for more than 20 years, and the Grassy Narrows First Nation has even declared a “state of emergency.”

As Conservative MP skips debates, London West becomes Liberal swing riding

London West in southern Ontario is a recognized bellwether riding. Its successful MPs tend to echo the mood of the country, with Liberals winning the seat during times of federal Liberal government and Conservatives winning during periods of Tory federal governments more often than not.

But if vote-splitting has been a calling card of the London West riding in the past, an exclusive new poll from Environics Research for National Observer shows a dead heat shaping up between the Conservatives and the Liberal Party.

Fact check: The TPP puts Big Pharma in the driver's seat of Canada's health system

The claim: The NDP saysthe TPP "could mean dramatic increases in the price of life-saving medication." Is this true?
If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were at all worthwhile, then we should ask why Hillary Clinton -- who consistently aligned herself to the right of Barack Obama and wouldn't take a position on the unpopular Keystone XL pipeline -- opposes it. The implications TPP has for key economic sectors -- namely dairy and auto -- have formed the brunt of popular discourse for and against the TPP. But less has been said publicly by political candidates about the implications the trade deal has on public health.

How Employees Everywhere End Up Working For Free

Are we really so shocked that Urban Outfitters asked its salaried office workers to “volunteer” their time on a weekend unpacking boxes in a company warehouse?

The hipster retailer’s parent company URBN -- which also owns Anthropologie and Free People -- came up for a cycle of Internet thrash-and-shame this week, after Gawker published an internal company email with the subject line “A Call for URBN Volunteers.” Salaried employees were urged to “work side by side” with paid workers in a Pennsylvania fulfillment center to pack and ship orders. “Get your co-workers together for a team building activity!” the email said. There would be free lunch.

A Legal Loophole May Have Cost This Woman Her Life

From the outside looking in, Monica Weber-Jeter was far from isolated. The 35-year-old kept busy with five school-aged children, and worked at a bustling oncology clinic as a medical assistant. Her mom, her two older sisters and her identical twin sister all lived within a 10-mile radius of her home in North College Hill, Ohio, which she shared with her childhood sweetheart. The sisters each had their own rapidly expanding families, and weekends were punctuated with kids’ birthday parties and play dates. But in many ways, Weber-Jeter was entirely alone.

Here's Evidence That Something Very Bad Is Happening In Our Oceans

The planet's coral reefs are experiencing a mass global bleaching, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday. The bleaching, only the third event of its type in recorded history, is another troubling sign of the damaging effects of climate change on the planet's health.

Bleaching happens when usually vibrantly colored corals lose their hues and turn bright white due to warmer oceans or other environmental factors. The colorful algae that live in and feed coral polyps leave in stressful times, turning the otherwise breathtaking formations into ghostly shells.

Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime

“We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds.”

So said Lajos Zoltan Jecs, a nurse at the hospital the U.S. bombed in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 people: doctors, staff, patients (including three children). This image is now spiraling through the Internet and across the global consciousness.

Canada Caved In TPP Talks, Agreed To Website Blocking, Copyright Extension: Geist

Canada has agreed to tough new rules surrounding internet piracy under the recently announced Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and will also extend copyright terms by 20 years, documents released by Wikileaks show.

The TPP’s intellectual property chapter will extend Canada’s copyright terms from the life of the author plus 50 years to life of the author plus 70 years.

“As a result, works will be locked out of the public domain for decades at a cost to the public of hundreds of millions of dollars,” writes Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

Boehner and McCarthy Reap What They Sowed

The chaotic House GOP leadership battle—if it can be called a battle, when virtually no one wants to be leader—is normally blamed on fractious right-wing extremists in the so-called “Freedom Caucus.” But when House Speaker John Boehner and his would-have-been successor Kevin McCarthy wonder who’s to blame for their troubles, they should start by looking in the mirror.

Since Boehner came to power in 2011, his leadership team has encouraged the far right in its crusade against government, governing, and compromise. They’ve fostered the extremists’ delusions that they can do things they simply can’t, with a Democrat in the White House—repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, hold the debt ceiling hostage to force huge budget cuts.

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.

The Deadly Fraud of "American Exceptionalism"

Doubtless you have heard more than once the term "American Exceptionalism." It implies, in short, that we are somehow special, different, superior. We are the "city upon a hill" whose freedoms and accomplishments set us apart. Alexis de Tocqueville coined the phrase midway through the 19th century, and it has enjoyed constant deployment by politicians and pundits ever since, because it lights a warm bulb of self-satisfaction in many bellies ... and people feeling good about themselves are easier to convince. Salesmen thrived on this axiom before Babylon's bricks were laid.

Former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour Talks Niqabs

One of Canada's most esteemed jurists, Louise Arbour, has had enough with what she calls the "unhealthy debate" over the niqab face-covering looming large in the federal election campaign.

Arbour — a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, one-time UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda — wrote in an open letter published Thursday in the French-language daily La Presse that constitutional rights guaranteed in law are being threatened in the niqab debate.

Harper Holds Another Unpublicized, Exclusive Media Conference

After rhetorically asking New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair how one holds a secret meeting with the media during the English debate in Calgary, it appears Stephen Harper did just that today.

Harper met privately with select media outlets at the Red Truck Beer Company in East Vancouver this morning, The Tyee has learned.

Citizenship strippings expose flaws in 'Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act'

Enthusiastically exercising its newly expanded powers of denationalization, the Conservative government recently announced that it would be stripping the citizenship of at least seven men convicted of terrorism. Zakaria Amara, Asad Ansari, Saad Khalid, and Saad Gaya were four of the so-called Toronto 18, which hatched an abortive plot to bomb several sites in Toronto in 2006. Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh and Misbahuddin Ahmed were apprehended in the RCMP's (bizarrely named) Project Samosa investigation, and sentenced (to 24 years and 12 years, respectively) for planning bombings in Canada in 2010. Mohamed Hersi received a 10-year sentence for attempting to join the Somali militant group al-Shabaab in 2014. 

Stephen Harper unpopular – except with those who worship him

Stephen Harper, the longest serving leader in the Group of Seven after Germany’s Angela Merkel, faces headwinds the likes of which usually destroy political campaigns: voter fatigue, scandal and a wobbly economy.

So how is it that less than two weeks away from the Oct. 19 election polls show Harper remains in the race? The folks who like him, it seems, like him a lot.

Syrian Government Forces Launch Wide-Ranging Offensive

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's chief-of-staff on Thursday declared a wide-ranging ground offensive by government forces, a day after Russian airstrikes and cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea backed Damascus' multipronged advance into two Syrian provinces.

In a rare televised speech, Gen. Ali Ayoub said the Russian strikes have facilitated an expanded military operation to eliminate "terrorists" — a term the Syrian government uses to refer to all armed opposition to President Bashar Assad.

The real legacy of Stephen Harper

Want to know what the real legacy of the Harper government is? Look no further than Canada After Harper.
Edited by veteran journalist and contributor Ed Finn, Canada After Harper is a collection of essays by such notable Canadians as Maude Barlow, David Suzuki and Linda McQuaig that essentially outline all the ways in which, as Finn points out in his preface, "we have fallen far short of creating the 'just society' that Pierre Elliot Trudeau claimed to be his goal."
Not to put too fine a point on it, American author, lecturer and activist Ralph Nader adds his American perspective in the introduction with, "the visions of your distinguished forebears are being clouded by the forces of greed and narcissism."

Ben Carson Suggests Some 'Lifestyles' Are More Valuable Than Others

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, calling for a focus on families with "traditional, intact values," said Wednesday that not "every lifestyle is exactly of the same value," and attacked what he called the "p.c. police."

"We have got to stop paying attention to the 'p.c. police,' who say every lifestyle is exactly of the same value,” Carson said in an radio interview with Sirius XM. “No, it’s not of the same value. It is very clear that intact, traditional families with traditional, intact values do much better in terms of raising children. So let’s stop pretending that everything is of equal value."

How Did the Democrats Become Favorites of the Rich?

Voters on both the left and the right often claim that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties, and of course that isn’t true. There’s a big difference between Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia, for one thing. But there may be more to this argument than you think.