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.]

Monday, October 19, 2015

Obama Just Signed a Blank Check for Endless War in Afghanistan

Barbara Lee has always had the clearest vision when it comes to the US role in Afghanistan—and the rest of the world.

The California congresswoman cast the sole vote in the US Congress against the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a veteran congressional aide and legislator who has a long history of highly engaged and thoughtful involvement with global issues, Lee did not oppose responding in appropriate and necessary ways to genuine threats to the United States. But she feared the open-ended authorization would become a blank check for endless war in the targeted country of Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Harper Cites 'Science' As Proof Pot Is Worse Than Tobacco

Stephen Harper isn't budging from his claim that marijuana is an "infinitely" more harmful substance than tobacco.

However, the Conservative leader was unable to draw on research to prove that assertion when pressed about the matter during a radio interview that aired this week.

Harper sat down with CKNW's Jon McComb in Vancouver for a discussion that turned somewhat testy on the matter of pot.

Stephen Harper's Legacy Will Be a Democratic Deficit

Forget the election debate over budget deficits and tolerance of the veil. We have another deficit in Canada and it is neither looming nor veiled. We're in the midst of an incrementally created democratic deficit that after nine years of accumulated budget cuts, abuse of power, and muzzling diverse voices has now arguably put at risk our democracy's health and vigour.

Liberals, NDP decline PCO offer of confidential briefing on TPP trade deal

The Liberals and New Democrats have declined an offer from the Privy Council Office to attend a confidential briefing just days before the federal election to learn more details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, saying the meeting was offered at the "last minute" and would still leave Canadians "in the dark."

Campaigning in Sherbrooke, Que., Thursday night, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he refused because he would be forbidden by the government from revealing the details to voters.

Thank you, Stephen Harper. Sincerely, Indigenous women

Indigenous women have a message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Under his watch, nearly 300 of their own have been found missing, murdered or dead under suspicious circumstances, but a national inquiry “isn’t really high” on the PM's radar. Their children make up nearly half of the country’s foster care population, and one in four Indigenous children currently lives in poverty.

Under his watch, more than 90 First Nations communities lack access to safe drinking water, and over $60 million has been slashed from Indigenous organizational budgets.

Cost of Ontario’s 1995 ‘welfare diet’ soars amid inadequate rates

Despite more than a decade of yearly rate increases and small policy adjustments, people who rely on social assistance are hungrier today than in 1995, when the former Mike Harris Conservative government gutted the province’s welfare system, according to a new report.

Twenty years ago this month, Harris’s social services minister David Tsubouchi suggested a single, able-bodied person on welfare could survive on a monthly food budget of $90.21.

New law makes Canadian Jews second-class citizens

The past 10 years have seen many changes that have fundamentally altered the Canada that we love.

The Conservative government has made it more difficult for refugees to find safety for themselves and their children on our shores. It has passed Bill C-51 anti-terror laws that threaten fundamental civil rights and expand state espionage against citizens, even over objections from national security experts that the new laws will not make us safer. It has singled out certain “others” within Canadian society as the object of fear, for political benefit.

Nearly 90 Percent Of People Killed In Recent Drone Strikes Were Not The Target

The controversial U.S. drone strike program in the Middle East aims to pinpoint and kill terrorist leaders, but new documents indicate that a staggering number of these "targeted killings" affect far more people than just their targets.

According to a new report from The Intercept, nearly 90 percent of people killed in recent drone strikes in Afghanistan "were not the intended targets" of the attacks.

Huckabee Suggests Poor People Should Be Sold Into Slavery For Stealing

The United States criminal justice system could be improved if we sell poor people convicted of crimes into slavery, according to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor weighed in on our nation’s current criminal justice system during an appearance yesterday on Mickelson in the Morning, a leading Iowa radio program.

Obama Announces Another Delay in Ending the War in Afghanistan

Next year was supposed to be the year American soldiers finally came home for good from the war in Afghanistan, the longest conflict in the history of the United States. Now the end of that war is being delayed yet again.

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that the United States would keep its current force of 9,800 soldiers in Afghanistan through most of next year. Under a plan announced in March, troop numbers were supposed to drop to 5,500 by the end of 2015, but that reduction now won't take place until early 2017.

Three million at the advance polls? Call it the revenge of the robo-called

When more than three million people converge on advance polls in a Canadian election, something clearly is going on.

I think I’m going to call it ‘revenge’.

Four years after election fraudsters tried to keep voters away from the polls in 2011 with robocall warnings of “higher than expected turnout,” Canadians flocked to crowded advance polls with, well … higher than expected turnout.

About 3.6 million people went to the voting booths over the Thanksgiving weekend, undeterred by early reports of lineups and frustrating bureaucracy. Elections Canada says that represents a 70-plus per cent increase over the number of people who voted in advance polls in 2011.

Advance poll workers decry 'absolutely terrible' work conditions

A couple of Elections Canada temporary workers are calling on the agency to overhaul its labour standards after describing their working conditions during advance polls in Toronto as "awful" and "intolerable."

"It was absolutely terrible," said Kathy Friedman, who worked at a polling station in the University-Rosedale riding.

Is a Canada Revenue Agency landlord avoiding taxes via offshore havens?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rents office space from a Vancouver-based property developer – a company that exploits offshore tax havens in Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands and Channel Islands.

Larco Investments Ltd. owns three buildings in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton where they rent office space to the CRA. Larco purchased the buildings from the federal government in 2007.

Big Business Could Shut Down Class-Action Suits With One Weird Trick

WASHINGTON -- Chances are you've received annoying, unsolicited text messages before. Chances are you've never taken the sender to court over the nuisance.

José Gómez did once, and he went for broke: He aimed to form a class action against the alleged mass texter, hoping to convince a federal court to make it pay dearly for violating federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gómez -- a quirky, low-profile case that's about much more than undesired text messages. A ruling against Gómez could have wide-reaching implications for class-action lawsuits and access to justice more generally.

The US Could End Saudi War Crimes in Yemen - It Just Doesn't Want To

The Saudi-led coalition is guilty of systematic war crimes in Yemen, and the US bears legal responsibility because of the use of arms purchased from the United States, an Amnesty International report charged in early October.

But although the Obama administration is not happy with the Saudi war and has tremendous leverage over the Saudis, it has demonstrated over the past several weeks that it is unwilling to use its leverage to force an end to the war. And it now appears that the administration is poised to resupply the munitions used by the Saudis in committing war crimes in Yemen.

It gets worse: Economy continues decline under Harper government

As this marathon election campaign enters its final days, it is interesting to look back on the evolution of the economic debate during the past 11 weeks on the hustings. The Harper Conservatives once again tried to play the "economic card," claiming their policies are essential to Canada's future growth and prosperity. But this time, that argument did not resonate with voters. Indeed, opinion polls indicate no significant gap remaining in public perceptions of the economic credentials or credibility of the three major parties.

Stephen Harper: master manipulator

An unkind cartoon this summer showed the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, kneeling before the statue of another politician, asking: “What now, O Great One?” That in itself would not be unkind. The punchline is that the statue is clearly labelled as that of Richard Nixon, famed above all for his attempts to corrupt democracy.

As Harper tries for a fourth term in office at the Canadian federal election next week, he is trailed by an extraordinarily long list of allegations. In the Watergate scandal, all the president’s men were accused primarily of breaking the law to get Nixon a second term in the White House. In Canada, some of the prime minister’s men and women have been accused not simply of cheating to win elections but of conspiring to jam the machinery of democratic government.

The Gateway Fundamentalism of Kim Davis and Her Supporters

In theory the government of the United State of America operates under a separation of church and state even though contradictions are rife. We refer to God in the Pledge of Allegiance. When asked to swear an oath, once again we're pledging honesty "so help us God." And churches are tax exempt, a sticky issue rife with corruption and fraud recently examined in depth by John Oliver.

The Supreme Court Could Soon Give Corporations Even More Immunity From The Law

Suppose that a company cheats you out of a few hundred dollars. While you’ll probably be angry and may make some irate phone calls to the company’s customer service line, chances are you’re not going to sue if the company refuses to back down. The cost of bringing a lawsuit will greatly exceed any amount you are likely to recover from the company, and you are unlikely to find a lawyer willing to take such a small-dollar case unless you agree to pay that lawyer expensive hourly fees.

Second Republican Congressman Admits Benghazi Committee Was ‘Designed To Go After’ Clinton

A second House Republican has now conceded that the overarching purpose of the House Select Committee on Benghazi has been to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In September, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) argued that one of House Republicans’ successes has been using the Benghazi Committee to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Though McCarthy tried to walk back his controversial comments, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) argued on Wednesday that the Majority Leader had it right to begin with.

Casino Capitalism: Democrats and Republicans Gamble With Democracy

“We are live at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas!” So opened the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 electoral season—that’s right, in a Las Vegas casino.

Five Democrats were given space on the stage at the casino: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. CNN, the network that hosted the debate, had a sixth podium at the ready, hoping that Vice President Joe Biden would jump into the ring in time to give its ratings a boost. He declined.

TPP deal contains some exemptions on temporary foreign workers

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is reviving the debate over temporary foreign workers because side agreements would exempt international companies in Canada from requirements to offer jobs to Canadians first.

The Globe and Mail has confirmed that the deal, like Canada’s existing trade pacts, contains provisions that would make it easier for companies from TPP countries to bring temporary foreign workers to their operations in Canada. Employers from some of those countries would also be exempt from a wage floor Ottawa established in 2014 to ensure foreign workers on intracompany transfers are paid the prevailing wage for their occupation.

Senior Trudeau official helps big oil during the election campaign -- should we worry?

We have learned, thanks to good work by the Canadian Press, that the Liberals’ campaign co-chair is moonlighting as an oil industry lobbyist.
His name is Dan Gagnier.
He was Chief of Staff to former Quebec Premier Jean Charest and, before that, a senior federal government official.
As of a year ago, Gagnier was President of something called EPIC, the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.

Who Promised What: Tyee's Rapid-Fire Party Platform Reader

While one veiled new citizen and the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership deal captured much of last week's headlines, Canada's major parties also finally released the full text of their party platforms.

Now that all four national parties have their pledges on paper, The Tyee dug into each platform and pulled out the issues our readers have ranked as their top priority this election.

Remember When America Doubted Capitalism?

  • The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power
  • Steve Fraser
  • Little, Brown (2015)
Much of North American history has been discreetly consigned to the memory hole, forgotten even by scholars. Journalist and labour historian Steve Fraser has retrieved that history, tracing generations of violent class warfare through America's "long 19th century," which he argues lasted until 1930 and the onset of the Great Depression.

Next in Harper's War on Science Crosshairs: Health Research

"In the nineteenth century health was transformed by clear, clean water. In the twenty-first century, health will be transformed by clean, clear knowledge." -- Sir Muir Gray

Rooting around in a dumpster looking for treasure is unseemly and demeaning for anyone. Maybe more so when the dumpster diver happens to be a federal agricultural scientist who is trying to save some choice publications from being destroyed after a federal agricultural library in Lethbridge, Alberta is closed down. Seems pathetic, right?

Harper's Revolutionary Foreign Policy

`No Canadian prime minister has put his personal stamp on foreign affairs more than Stephen Harper. And no prime minister has parted so radically from the national traditions of the past.

Canada used to play the role of a noble and sometimes self-serving Boy Scout abroad. The nation brokered peace deals, elevated the status of women, fought international poverty, championed arms control, and shared critical science.