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.]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Quebec Women Who Wear The Niqab Cannot 'Go Home To Their Country,' Consider Themselves 'Old Stock Canadians'

They eat halal shepherd's pie, are fond of maple syrup and believe Quebec should become an independent country — or did, at least until recently.

HuffPost Quebec sat down with three Quebec women who converted and decided to wear the veil at the risk of upsetting the people of "their country."

One would be tempted to think that Warda Naili, 31, Carina Demonceaux, 24, and Julie* (not her real name), 18, had converted to Islam after falling in love with a Muslim man and then been forced to start wearing the niqab. However, two of them are adamant that they chose to cover their faces to their husbands' great dismay.

20,000 Pensioners Lose Critical Health and Drug Benefits Due to Harper's U.S. Steel Sellout

TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - The federal Conservative government must accept its responsibility for 20,000 pensioners who are immediately losing critical health benefits and prescription drug coverage, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

"There will be 20,000 pensioners waking up tomorrow without health benefits and prescription drug coverage, because of the Harper government's secret deals with U.S. Steel. It's a disgrace," said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

Back When Ottawa Created a Housing Agency for All Canadians

It was the year 1946 that reality set in for Canada after the euphoria of helping win the defining combat of the 20th century. Suddenly tens of thousands of battle-weary soldiers, sailors, aviators and support men and women were coming home to make a belated start on family life.

Canada had nowhere near enough housing for everyone. And not much new had been built outside of military bases during the six years of the Second World War. What to do?

PS fighting for respect in election, not sick leave

Canada’s public servants won’t buy Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s last-minute love letter to them because respect and the ability to do their jobs — not sick leave benefits and pensions — are what they are fighting for in this election.

Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Harper’s recent open letter to public servants, patting them on the back and offering assurances that sick leave reform will be fair and pensions untouched, totally missed the mark of what public servants their and unions are campaigning for.

Kellie Leitch defends lack of abortion funding for victims of war rape

OTTAWA—Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch is blasting the “abhorrent” practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of young children in the developing world.

But she’s defending Canada’s refusal to fund any aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations on Friday to celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl, told The Canadian Press that Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

How John Baird bungled Mohamed Fahmy's release

Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy wasted no time in blasting the Harper government just 18 days before the federal election for overstating its role in securing his recent release from an Egyptian jail.

“When a Canadian citizen is in prison and caught up in a case so complicated, related to terrorism, the most efficient and senior officials in the Canadian government should intervene from day one," Fahmy told Canadaland’s Jesse Brown in an extensive interview on Sept. 28.

Syrian Asylum Claims in Canada Slowed by Stephen Harper’s Office

TORONTO — The office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper slowed the handling of refugee claims from Syrians by intervening in the review process, the government confirmed on Thursday.

The unusual move, which revived the handling of refugee claims as an issue in Canada’s current election campaign, was reported by The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper. It was unclear why Mr. Harper’s office took the step against Syrians in particular. But Chris Alexander, the minister of citizenship and immigration, described it as a security audit.

The damage of the Harper years

In hushed tones, speaking on conditions of anonymity, one hears a remarkably similar refrain from front-end federal government monitoring staff who were once—and theoretically still are—tasked with environmental regulatory enforcement: There’s no time any more. So keep your head down and just go through the motions.

The back-end staff, office-bound folks who might, say, prepare the necessary paperwork related to a potential infraction, have been downsized to the point where it simply doesn’t make sense for front-liners to file the paperwork anymore. It’s a time of low morale and routine work; a loss of regulatory capacity that goes part and parcel with gutted protective legislation.

These are the Harper Years.

Giving Thanks for 'New-Stock Canadians'

A week or so before Thanksgiving, I took a cab downtown to the Eaton Centre. On a good, fast evening it's a 10-minute ride. A bit of traffic can stretch it to 15 minutes, but rarely longer than that.

Cab drivers are the unsung heroes of urban life. Anonymous backs of heads by default, they work in a virulently competitive field for a relative pittance, when measured against their investments. By definition they are vulnerable: their shifts are spent with their backs turned to the people upon whom they depend for their income.

Activists Criticize Prosecutor In Charge Of Tamir Rice Reports

CLEVELAND, Oct 11 (Reuters) - An Ohio prosecutor handling the fatal shooting by police of a 12-year-old boy while he played with a replica pistol was criticized by activists on Sunday for releasing two reports that called the shooting "reasonable" before any grand jury decision on charges had been announced.

"It looks as though the prosecutor is trying to taint the grand jury process as well as manipulate the judicial process overall," said Edward Little, one of the so-called Cleveland 8, a group of clergy, academics and activists who have called for the two police officers involved in the November 2014 playground shooting of Tamir Rice to be indicted.

This government has scraped the barrel in its symbolic pandering

It is astonishing that, with barely a week left before the federal election, pollsters seem to agree the principal issue between the main parties is whether the face-covering niqab can be worn by a handful of women when they take their oath as new citizens of Canada, having privately satisfied authorities of their identity. It has now potentially broadened to all government positions, but the numbers are still insignificant.

This government has scraped the barrel in symbolic pandering: building new prisons and hiring new hosts of correctional officers as the crime rate declines, dispensing with elemental safeguards to due process in Bill C-51, claiming the right to expel and revoke the citizenship of dual citizens found guilty of terrorist offences, all in the name of enhanced public security, and now conducting the concluding phase of a general election campaign on an issue of no relevance involving a trivial number of people.

Canada's War on Science Brings Us International Shame

A push to prioritize economic gains over basic research is endangering science and academic freedom in countries around the world, according to a new report published by a leading researchers union, the French National Trade Union of Scientific Researchers (SNCS-FSU).

The group surveyed higher education and research unions in 12 countries including France, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

Basic Gun Violence Research Is Seriously Underfunded

NEW YORK (AP) — Amid the bloodbaths of 21st-century America, you might think that there would be a lot of research into the causes of gun violence, and which policies work best against it.

You would be wrong.

Gun interests, wary of any possible limits on weaponry, have successfully lobbied for limitations on government research and funding, and private sources have not filled the breach. So funding for basic gun violence research and data collection remains minuscule — the annual sum total for all gun violence research projects appears to be well under $5 million. A grant for a single study in areas like autism, cancer or HIV can be more than twice that much.

Investigators Seek Evidence Implicating the CIA in 1976 Murder of Chilean Diplomat on U.S. Soil

Recently declassified documents make it clear that the brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet ordered the killing of Chile’s former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier near the White House in 1976. However, an important question remains: Did the CIA have anything to do with the assassination?

Ministers had no objection to niqabs in public service last March

After Zunera Ishaq won a Federal Court challenge of a 2011 government change to citizenship judicial rules requiring the judges to refuse citizenship for Muslim women who refused to take off face-covering niqabs while swearing oaths in public ceremonies, Treasury Board President Tony Clement, saying he had no objections to niqabs in the public service, told reporters hijabs and niqabs were “frequently worn” in the ranks of government.

Canada Immigration had backlog of 7,500 Syrian refugee applications

Canada’s Immigration department had accumulated a backlog of nearly 7,500 applications from Syrian refugees by the time three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach at the beginning of September, the Citizen has learned.

Of those stuck in limbo, nearly 2,000 had been identified by the United Nations as being amongst the most vulnerable — and whose applications had been put on hold for at least several weeks by the Prime Minister’s Office in the spring.

Is Stephen Harper 'Americanising' Canada?

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's political opponents have a difficult time figuring out exactly which disliked US leader he most reminds them of.

Is it President Richard Nixon, with his mercurial temper, paranoid scheming, penchant for scandal and divisive politics? Perhaps it's the foreign policy hawkishness - fuelled by an evangelical certitude and oil patch brashness - of President George W Bush?


Many Native people believe the federal elections mean little or nothing to them, that no matter the promises and gilded speeches, meaningful changes are impossible.

Others, such as my fellow Mohawks and other members of their respective Iroquois communities, argue that to take an active part in the Canadian political process is to compromise our standing as independent peoples and that formal treaty status is incompatible with citizenship; a nation cannot make treaties with its own people.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Says They Would 'Look Favorably' On Paul Ryan For Speaker

As many Republicans urge Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make a bid for House speaker, some hardline conservatives say he's been too willing to compromise -- the same complaint that plagued departing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

But Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Sunday that members would "look favorably" on Ryan for speaker, so long as he agrees to their demands for policy changes within the GOP conference.

A myopic view of Mexico, the border, and homegrown American fascists: Matthew Heineman's Cartel Land

Matthew Heineman's Cartel Land is a 2014 documentary that describes itself thus:
"With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a riveting, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels." [From the Cartel Land website.]
And as stated the film is divided into two parts: One follows a self-defense or auto-defensa organization in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, a region currently in the grips of violence between competing drug cartels. The other section of the film follows a group of US vigilantes on the Arizona/Mexico border. The two stories are interlaced, and the two situations are juxtaposed without comment.

Lawyers, guns and money: Russia's intervention in Syria offers a useful teaching moment for Canadians

Russia's military intervention in the Syrian civil war has offered a unique teaching moment for Canadians about the role and strategy of the U.S.-led Western military alliance in the Middle East, of which we are an enthusiastic part.
Unfortunately, with our country in the midst of a federal election campaign, we have been too distracted by the question of whether one woman -- or is it two? -- should be allowed to wear a niqab to a citizenship ceremony, something the Harper Government has managed to persuade a significant percentage of its supporters is a matter of grave national security, to pay attention to what's happening in the Levant.


There’s a lot of talk in the media about the reluctance of Muslims and other ethnic minorities to vote in Canadian national elections. The same can be said for this country’s First Nations people.

Voter turnout among aboriginals is lower than among non-aboriginals. Even the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Perry Bellegarde, has admitted to never having voted in a federal election. Ironically, Chief Bellegarde is urging native people to go out and vote in this election, to be part of this country’s democratic practice, a very public instance of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Native American Activists Ramp Up Push To Rebrand Columbus Day

NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - About four miles from the world's largest Christopher Columbus parade in midtown Manhattan on Monday, hundreds of Native Americans and their supporters will hold a sunrise prayer circle to honor ancestors who were slain or driven from their land.

The ceremony will begin the final day of a weekend "powwow" on Randall's Island in New York's East River, an event that features traditional dancing, story-telling and art.

Russian Air Assault Hits Rebels, Helps Assad Regain Lost Ground

SOCHI, Russia/AMMAN, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Russian war planes pounded Syrian rebels unaffiliated with Islamic State on Sunday, insurgents said, helping Moscow's ally Bashar al-Assad reclaim territory and dealing a fresh setback to the strategy of Washington and its allies.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the 4-year-old conflict, said the Syrian military and its Lebanese Hezbollah militia allies had taken control of Tal Skik, a highland area in Idlib province, after fierce Russian bombing.

Christine Lagarde, IMF Chief, Warns World Is 'Toast' Without Climate Change Action

LIMA, Peru -- International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said Wednesday that failure to take urgent action on global warming will condemn humanity to the same fate as the Peruvian poultry that so many delegates to the group's annual meeting are enjoying this week in a country famed for its cuisine.

"If we collectively chicken out of this we'll all turn into chickens and we'll all be fried, grilled, toasted and roasted,'' said Lagarde.

The master of hate politics hits a new low

This election is not about the niqab. It is about Stephen Harper’s record during the last 12 years.

It is about the damage to our democracy – about the prevention of debate through omnibus bills, even within his own party. Organizations that do not agree with his policies are closed, defunded or subjected to debilitating audits. It is about making voting more difficult for young people and others who are not likely to vote for Conservatives.

Ex-Benghazi Investigator Says U.S. Panel Targeted Clinton

WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - A former investigator for the House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi is accusing the Republican-led panel of targeting Democrat Hillary Clinton to scupper her presidential bid, the New York Times and CNN reported on Saturday.

They said Major Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve on active duty in Germany, alleged that he was fired for resisting pressure to focus his investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on Clinton's role. They said he planned to file a complaint in federal court next month.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement: a dead end for jobs

Canada used to excel at industrial strategy, but now we are satisfied with trade, and any type of trade will do. Some will say that old economic project is dead (or should be). They suggest it’s futile to want to graduate up the export food chain—from iron ore to steel, from steel to airplanes—because “the market” demands we specialize in what we’re best at. If it’s oil, gold and raw materials instead of auto parts, so be it.

That hands-off mentality, which is at the heart of global trade deals like the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), goes some way to explaining why Canada’s trade deficits are growing, faster with free-trade partners than other countries, and the job intensity of our exports is declining. It’s a main reason we should not accept government claims the TPP will be good for jobs.

Sweden’s feminist foreign minister has dared to tell the truth about Saudi Arabia. What happens now concerns us all

If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair. It has all the ingredients for a clash-of-civilisations confrontation.

A few weeks ago Margot Wallström, the Swedish foreign minister, denounced the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia. As the theocratic kingdom prevents women from travelling, conducting official business or marrying without the permission of male guardians, and as girls can be forced into child marriages where they are effectively raped by old men, she was telling no more than the truth. Wallström went on to condemn the Saudi courts for ordering that Raif Badawi receive ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website that championed secularism and free speech. These were ‘mediaeval methods’, she said, and a ‘cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression’. And once again, who can argue with that?