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 16, 2015

Ottawa’s spin doctor payroll rivals that of the Commons

When we’re spending nearly as much on spin as we are on the House of Commons, we’re on a very slippery slope indeed.

Last week, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released the head count and salary costs of the federal government’s legion of information services staff.

The numbers, released in response to an access to information request, reveal that 3,325 spin doctors toil for the Harper government at an estimated cost this year of $263 million.

Palestinians will never have a state and will be ruled by Israel — says Israeli minister

Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said yesterday: “Palestinians have to understand they won’t have a state & Israel will rule over them.”

The report is in Hebrew from Udi Segal of Israeli Channel 10, as translated by David Sheen on Facebook and Emily Hauser.

Ben-Dahan referred to Palestinians as animals in 2013, according to the Times of Israel:

“To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human.”

Ben Dahan told Maariv that homosexual Jews were superior [to]gentiles — gay or straight.

“A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual,” he said.

Original Article
Author:  Philip Weis

Israeli Gov't Under Pressure to Lock Down Palestinian Neighborhoods

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog has urged the government to temporarily close the flashpoint Temple Mount, following Tuesday's deadly terror attacks in Jerusalem. Herzog also called on the government to impose a lockdown on Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods and fight what he called "online incitement" by Islamists. He made the comments on Facebook.

Herzog's statements come amid calls from politicians from across the political specturm for the government to crackdown on Arab communities inside Israel.

'Get out the vote' operations critical in tight race

Although many look at opinion polls to forecast what candidate will likely win on Oct. 19, the ability of the parties to get their supporters out come election day could well be the deciding factor in a tight race.

"Five per cent difference in polling means nothing on election day if you can't get your vote out the door, or the other guy does it better," said Bill Tieleman, a communications consultant and former NDP strategist.

Toronto holds onto its shameful title: Child poverty capital of Canada

Toronto remains the child poverty capital of Canada, with 28.6 per cent of children living in low-income households, according to a new report being released Tuesday as the city prepares to release its final poverty reduction strategy to address the problem.

“It is shameful that our leaders have allowed widespread poverty of young people to continue,” said Michael Polanyi of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, one of six community groups that began comparing child poverty rates in cities across the country in 2014.

Welcome to the Orwellian world of Wildrose, where keeping your promises makes you a liar

Is Alberta ready for democracy?
Notwithstanding the unexpected election of a New Democratic Party majority government in Alberta last May 5, it's pretty obvious a lot of Albertans -- especially the business crowd in Calgary -- still don't really get this democracy thing.
Consider the stunned reaction Friday from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce to the shocking revelation by NDP Premier Rachel Notley -- leader of the Alberta NDP, raised by committed NDP parents and well known for her NDP convictions -- that she intends to vote … just wait for it … for the NDP in the Oct. 19 federal election. Shock! Horror! Bewilderment!

Election 2015: Welcoming the last days of a tyrant

The way things work in a subordinate capitalist society came to light in Hamilton last week. In an effort to bully its unionized workers, U.S. Steel revealed it was about to shift production from Canada to the United States, 75 cent Canadian dollar or not.
As Steve Arnold of the Hamilton Spectator reported, the company operating under bankruptcy protection got a court to affirm it no longer needed to pay agreed health and supplementary pension benefits owed USW members, or even pay municipal taxes.

China's September Imports Plunge 20.4% In New Sign Economy Is Tanking

BEIJING — China's September imports fell by an unexpectedly wide margin of 20.4 per cent from a year ago in a new sign of weakness in the world's second-largest economy.

The fall in imports worsened from August's 5.5 per cent contraction, defying stimulus efforts aimed at halting an economic slowdown, customs data showed Tuesday. Exports shrank 3.7 per cent, though that was an improvement from the previous month's 13.8 per cent decline.

Beyond the Patriot Act: The Most Harmful State Policy Enacted in the Wake of 9/11

The United States is a racial state. We are the inheritors of systems and institutions that enable the denial of basic human rights to Indigenous and Black and Brown communities, from colonization to slavery, from Jim Crow segregation to Japanese American internment. The post-9/11 treatment of South Asian, Arab and Muslim communities by the US government continues this shameful legacy.

In the years after 9/11, the state took on several functions and roles, many of which operated in direct contradiction to one another. Federal government agencies conducted outreach and enforced civil rights laws that protected South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities against discrimination and hate violence on the basis of race, national origin or religion. Simultaneously, other parts of the federal government implemented domestic policies that essentially treated South Asian, Arab and Muslim immigrants as the "other."

Former CIA Detainees Are Suing The Psychologists Who Developed The Torture Program

WASHINGTON -- Three former CIA detainees are suing over being tortured at the agency's infamous "black sites," the first suit to seek accountability in a U.S. court for the CIA's tactics since the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of its groundbreaking torture report. But the ex-detainees aren't suing the CIA.

They’re suing the pair that sold the spies the program.

Israel, Palestinian Territories Suffering Worst Period Of Unrest In Years

Palestinian men armed with knives and a gun killed at least three people and wounded several others in a string of attacks in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, police said, on a "Day of Rage" declared by Palestinian groups.

With the worst unrest in years in Israel and the Palestinian territories showing no signs of abating, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a security cabinet meeting for 3 p.m. to discuss what police said would be new operational plans.

China's Imports Plunge 20 Percent In New Sign Of Economic Weakness

BEIJING (AP) — China's September imports fell by an unexpectedly wide margin of 20.4 percent from a year ago in a new sign of weakness in the world's second-largest economy.

The fall in imports worsened from August's 5.5 percent contraction, defying stimulus efforts aimed at halting an economic slowdown, customs data showed Tuesday. Exports shrank 3.7 percent, though that was an improvement from the previous month's 13.8 percent decline.

TPP: Foie Gras for Corporations; Dead Rats for Workers

Some terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation trade proposal completed last week, are so repulsive that the New Zealand trade minister who helped negotiate the scheme described accepting them as swallowing dead rats.

Here’s what New Zealand Minister Tim Groser said: “On the hardest core issues, there are some ugly compromises out there. And when we say ugly, we mean ugly from each perspective – it doesn't mean ‘I've got to swallow a dead rat and you're swallowing foie gras.’ It means both of us are swallowing dead rats on three or four issues to get this deal across the line.”

A reality check on Stephen Harper’s math: ‘Ka-ching.’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper played game show host Monday to demonstrate the thousands of dollars Conservatives claim would be taken from the average family’s pocket if Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were to win power on Oct. 19.

To the constant “ka-ching, ka-ching” chirp of a cash register, Nicole Ropp, a married mother of three, piled up $20 bills as Harper rhymed off a list of a purported tax increases Canadians can expect from a Liberal government. For the Ropp family, it all added up to about $8,000, according to Harper.

Why These Cities Are Dropping ‘Columbus Day’ For ‘Indigenous People’s Day’

Every year on the second Monday of October, millions of Americans get a day off from work in honor of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America in 1492. The day is always a controversial one, as it glorifies a man who launched a large-scale genocide and European colonization.

But instead of celebrating Columbus, more cities than ever are choosing to commemorate Indigenous People’s Day this year. By remembering the history of native peoples, Albuquerque, Portland, St. Paul, and Olympia join at least five other cities shedding light on a population that still feels Columbus’ impact, centuries after his arrival.

Government sensitivity over you hearing about 'sensitive' information

Canadian democracy has, we are told, been maliciously undermined at Citizenship and Immigration, and the department's top public servant is determined to set things right, on behalf of the Canadian people.

Deputy Minister Anita Biguzs has declared herself "deeply concerned." What has happened, she says, is an ethical erosion of the very cornerstone of the trust and democratic function of government.

'Pre-marked' ballots at Vancouver polling station blamed on printing error

Elections Canada says a printing error is to blame after a Vancouver teacher who tried to vote in the advance poll on Friday got two spoiled ballots with pre-markings on them.

Chris Quarrie went to vote Friday at the West Point Grey United Church, near the University of British Columbia in the Vancouver Quadra riding, but found a black streak on his ballot next to the circle for the Conservative candidate.

Why No One Really Knows a Better Way to Train Cops

After a year in which killings of unarmed suspects by the police have become a major national issue, activists, law enforcement experts, and political leaders have all stressed the importance of introducing more and better training for officers. Police departments across the country have begun to re-evaluate how they teach cops to use physical force, defuse tension with suspects, approach the mentally ill, and check their own unconscious biases. But what do we really know about police training as a solution? Will it be effective? Here are some of the key questions:

6 Years Ago, New York Banned the Shackling of Pregnant Inmates. So Why Are These Women Still Being Restrained?

When Maria Caraballo delivered her daughter in 2010, she was handcuffed to the hospital bed.

"They didn't even remove my cuffs for me to hold my baby," says Caraballo, who at the time was serving a prison sentence in New York. "I had to hold my baby with one hand for two to three seconds. They didn't take my handcuffs off until after I was stitched up and in the prison ward, and I didn't see my baby until the next day."

Voter registration glitch keeps growing

An Elections Canada spokesman called them “very isolated.” An acceptable level of systemic error. A glitch.

This glitch is growing. Complaints of voters being de-registered, of not receiving their voter information cards or of having the wrong information on those cards have been reported across the country.

After writing about a few of those examples in Vancouver, I asked readers to write me if they had trouble with their voter registration.

Harper lacks authority for promised $4.3B TPP farm compensation, PCO admits

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet may have approved the parameters of programs to compensate farmers affected by concessions Canada made in the Trans Pacific Partnership, but it stops well short of legally committing to the measures necessary to authorize the money to be spent, iPolitics has learned.

Those measures will have to be adopted before any money can flow, Privy Council officials have confirmed to iPolitics.

Veiled TPP Deal Holds Hidden Privacy Risks

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that covers nearly 40 per cent of world GDP, wrapped up years of negotiation earlier this month. The TPP immediately emerged as an election issue, with the Conservatives trumpeting the deal as a source of future economic growth, the Liberals adopting a wait-and-see approach (the specific details of the agreement are still not public), and the NDP voicing strong opposition.

The focal point of most TPP discussion in Canada has centred on two sectors: the dairy industry, who would experience a modest increase in competition and receive a staggering multi-billion dollar compensation package, and the automotive parts sector, which would face Asian-based competition as a result of new, lower local content requirements (the industry is also pressing for a compensation package).

Dirty ballots reported in three ridings at advance polls

There have been multiple reports of printing errors or markings on ballots in the advance polls in the federal election.
In one post on Facebook that has been shared over 19,000 times, Chris Quarrie, a teacher in Vancouver, said that when he went to vote he was given a ballot that "had been pre-marked, with what looked like black streaks, in the 'circle' where you mark your X."

Israel's 'Mr. Security' Tells Nation It Could Be Worse’ as Terror Attacks Multiply

What’s left for a leader who habitually boasted that during his many years in office, and thanks to his policies, terror had disappeared, and now, by a twist of fate, must address the people’s representatives just a few kilometers from the site of incessant terror attacks?

Only to remind listeners that it could be worse and that it has been worse; that we’ve seen bloodier times with a thousand dead and buses blowing up every other day. And, naturally, to castigate his political opponents and make them the exclusive culprits. When all is calm, it’s him and his “policies.” When everything starts to fall apart, it’s suddenly the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, and Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas.

Is Canada a Country, Or a Commodity?

Haven't really crystallized this into a coherent argument yet, but I can't remember feeling this disheartened about a federal election since 1997. Ever since then, there's been a growing malignancy in our body politic -- a malignancy that goes beyond partisanship.

Successive governments since then have, for whatever reason, surrendered more and more policy tools, and more and more of their innate capacity to advance the public good, in the face of supranational trade and investment regimes. Regardless of who's been in power in Ottawa (and provincial capitals, for that matter), we've been watching the gradual but unmistakable enfeeblement of government, to the point where it may well be irreversible. As awful as Stehen Harper's been on so many files -- environment, the war on women, civil liberties, First Nations, the economy, health care, immigration, housing, veterans, integrity in government, climate change -- this didn't start with him.

Christopher Columbus was a lost sadist. There shouldn't be a holiday in his name

The second Monday in October has been designated an American federal holiday in Christopher Columbus’s honor since 1937. To most people in the United States, this commemoration of his 1492 landing in the Bahamas no longer has much meaning – many Americans outside of large Italian American communities are only dimly aware that it’s an official holiday. Many people don’t even get the day off work, instead trading Columbus Day for the day after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Ben Carson, Crackpot

The craziest thing about the Republican presidential contest isn’t that Donald Trump is in the lead. It’s that Dr. Ben Carson—who truly seems to have lost his mind—is in second place and gaining fast.

Trump may be a blowhard, but Carson has proved himself to be a crackpot of the first order. Of all the GOP contenders, he’s the scariest.

Elections Canada asking improper questions at poll: voter

A Saskatoon woman says Elections Canada workers don’t appear to know the rules at advance polling stations, and she worries it could prevent others from casting a ballot.

“I am deeply concerned about marginalized Canadians being turned away or simply giving up,” said Stephanie Sydiaha.

Sydiaha, a former provincial election returning officer and Saskatchewan Polytechnic instructor, said she went to cast her federal election ballot Friday at the Royal Canadian Air Force Association Hall on Avenue C. The main voting day is October 19, but advance polls opened Friday and run to the end of Monday across Canada.

Stephen Harper Attacks Trudeau With Cash Register Sound Effects

OTTAWA — There weren't any whistles, but there were more than a few bells, as the marathon federal election campaign entered its final week Monday.

Stephen Harper launched a game-show style attack — complete with clanging cash register — aimed directly at front runner Justin Trudeau during a campaign event in Waterloo, Ont., in an attempt to portray the Liberal leader as a threat to the pocketbooks of Canadian families.

Please Advise! Is My Cynical, Divisive Tip Line Working?

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

If re-elected, we at the Conservative Party of Canada have promised to set up a "barbaric cultural practices" tip line. As revealed by Conservative candidates Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch, the phone line would allow patriotic Canadians to report on the shameful behaviour of any neighbourhood barbarians.

Does this seem to you to be a winning political strategy?

Thankfully yours,


Harper’s math on Liberal tax hikes doesn’t always add up

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper played game show host Monday to demonstrate the thousands of dollars Conservatives claim would be taken from the average family's pocket if Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were to win power on Oct. 19.

To the constant "ka-ching, ka-ching" chirp of a cash register, Nicole Ropp, a married mother of three, piled up $20 bills as Harper rhymed off a list of a purported tax increases Canadians can expect from a Liberal government. For the Ropp family, it all added up to about $8,000, according to Harper.

Meet the Right-Wing Rebels Who Overthrew John Boehner

The Republican civil war has claimed its biggest casualty yet. The revolution that toppled John Boehner was carried out by a group of intransigent conservatives who had made the speaker of the House's job hell ever since the Tea Party wave of 2010 elevated him to power. It is only in recent months that this disruptive force in American politics even has a name: the House Freedom Caucus.

Composed of nearly 40 of the most committed ideologues in the House, the Freedom Caucus has a simple mission: to get GOP leadership to deliver on the extreme, anti-government and social-conservative rhetoric that nearly all Republicans spout to get elected.

Harper thinks we won’t vote. Let’s show him he’s wrong

“Already booked the 20th off work to either sleep off the delicious celebration hangover, or kill myself.” Rudy Limeback, Twitter

Beyond the fear, hope and angst that has been the trademark of Election 2015, the bottom line is unchanged: it is time to show the dictator the door.

After nearly ten years in office, Stephen Harper remains as secretive, dishonest, and ruthless as ever. He shows no remorse for the wagonload of scandals, international embarrassments, meltdowns of judgement, and attacks on civil liberties and Canadian democracy – the sum of his depressing decade in power. He did rent Chinese panda bears, I give you that.

Americans Pay More For Drugs Than Anyone In The World

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. prices for the world's 20 top-selling medicines are, on average, three times higher than in Britain, according to an analysis carried out for Reuters.

The finding underscores a transatlantic gulf between the price of treatments for a range of diseases and follows demands for lower drug costs in America from industry critics such as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Subject Harper to RCMP criminal investigation over offshore tax haven scandal, 3 out of 5 Canadians say

A significant majority of Canadians (61%) want to see Stephen Harper subjected to an RCMP criminal investigation over his and his government’s role in the KPMG tax haven scandal which allowed billionaires to pay no taxes while obtaining federal and provincial tax credits, according to Google Consumer Survey.

The poll commissioned by ThinkPol found that only 13% of Canadians oppose such a move while 26% of the respondents preferred not to express their opinion.

Harper under fire for Elections Canada budget cuts amid rampant voting problems

OTTAWA — The Harper government is under fire for cutting Elections Canada’s budget even as the agency struggles to address rampant procedural errors and widespread allegations of cheating during the last federal vote.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the eight per cent cut to the election watchdog’s 2013 budget is symptomatic of a government that has no respect for democratic institutions.

He accuses the Conservatives of showing a consistent willingness to cheat during elections — citing the so-called in-and-out affair and the robocall scandal.

Stephen Harper is the last remnant of George W Bush in North America

I frequently tell my American friends, who know little about Canada, that Stephen Harper is the last remnant of the George W Bush administration in North America. The response I get is usually a mixture of dismay and pity. Bush’s worldview and politics of fear have been rejected by Americans in the last two elections, many of whom now lament his era as a period of folly and hubris.

My American friends are also confused. How could Canada, a country widely regarded as being full of socially-progressive and tolerant people, elect someone from a party so antithetical to that image?

US government deporting Central American migrants to their deaths

The US government is deporting undocumented immigrants back to Central America to face the imminent threat of violence, with several individuals being murdered just days or months after their return, a Guardian investigation has found.

The Guardian has confirmed three separate cases of Honduran men who have been gunned down shortly after being deported by the US government. Each was murdered in their hometowns, soon after their return – one just a few days after he was expelled from the US.