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, July 20, 2012

Government Leaks: Leon Panetta Orders Pentagon Officials To Monitor Major Media Outlets

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered senior Pentagon officials on Thursday to begin monitoring major U.S. news media for disclosures of classified information in an effort to stop the release of government secrets after a series of high-profile leaks.

The announcement came hours after Panetta and other senior defense officials appeared before a closed-door hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee to discuss recent disclosures of classified security information.

Romney Mishandles Tax Returns

The left and the right don’t agree on much, but increasingly they agree on one thing: Mitt Romney is completely failing to address public concerns that he may have a shady personal and professional history of tax avoidance. (Romney refuses to release more than his returns from 2010 and 2011.) Liberals and conservatives have different reasons for taking this view.

Liberals believe that Romney’s established history of using foreign bank accounts to shelter money and bet against the dollar, as well as his bizarre history of being paid by Bain Capital long after he supposedly stopped working there, raises valid questions about Romney’s values and potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, the public has a right to know what else is in Romney’s financial history. How much lower has his tax rate been than of the average working stiff? How much does he give to charity? How did he amass a preposterously large IRA?

Large, Profitable Companies Employ Most Minimum-Wage Earners

If you’ve ever had a conversation about the minimum wage with friends and family, you invariably hear an argument about how raising it would hurt small businesses.

There is compelling academic research that increasing the minimum wage doesn’t dramatically impact employment levels, but a new study released today underscores another important point—most people earning minimum wage work for large, profitable corporations.

6 Things Mitt Romney Is Hiding

Presidential candidates try as best they can to control their public image. But by modern standards, Mitt Romney has taken his quest for secrecy to extraordinary lengths. Here's all there is to know about what we don't know about Romney.

His Old Emails

Reporters looking for emails and other records from Romney's tenure as Massachusetts governor are out of luck.

Why Aren't the Feds Helping This Native American Tribe Recover From a Wildfire?

They pray for rain these days across a drought-stricken American West. The very idea—a light shower, even an inch of rain—fills Walter Dasheno with dread.

Dasheno is the governor of the Santa Clara pueblo, a Native American community living just below a canyon of the same name.

The survival of the tiny village is mapped out on the computer projections Dasheno keeps in his office. An inch or so of rain could damage or wash away the first three homes on the edge of the pueblo. A monster storm could unleash a flood that would take out the administration building where Dasheno and other tribe officials sit poring over their flood maps.

Leona Aglukkaq Interrupted By Protest Of Refugee Health Cuts

HAMILTON - Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has become the latest federal cabinet minister to be interrupted during a funding announcement event by critics of recent changes to Canada's refugee system.

Aglukkaq had just announced $7 million in bone health research projects at McMaster University in Hamilton, when two people stood up to protest recent cuts to a federal program that provides extended health-care benefits to refugee claimants.

Why the secrecy around Redford-Clark meeting?

EDMONTON - British Columbia Premier Christy Clark paid a secretive visit to Alberta Premier Alison Redford in Edmonton on Thursday — an unannounced stop that had Clark ducking in and out of a side door of the legislature to avoid reporters.

But it was a visit that didn’t seem to accomplish much and left some Alberta officials scratching their heads as to why Clark bothered to come at all.

Oil sands monitoring must be credible

It made for a dramatic photo op when federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and his counterpart in Alberta, Diana McQueen, swooped in via helicopter this week to check out some of the new oil sands monitoring sites in northern Alberta. The new stations are the result of a joint federal-provincial plan announced in February to sharply beef up the scientific study of the cumulative effects of oil sands development on water, air, land and biodiversity.

The two levels of government deserve praise for moving ahead with a system that will examine many more sites, more frequently, and look for a much broader number of contaminants than ever before. Compared to the inconsistent and haphazard testing in the past, the new program is a huge improvement.

Feds drop trans-fat monitoring in foods, despite expert advice

OTTAWA — Health Canada has rejected the advice of its own advisory panel of food experts to renew monitoring of trans-fat levels in processed foods and send a "strong signal" to companies that regulations are on the table if levels don't drop.

The department's Food Expert Advisory Committee made the recommendations in June 2011 after Health Canada asked its external advisers on food policy about how best to manage trans-fat levels in the Canadian food supply.

Canada's 'Most Wanted' still draws fire

One year after its creation, the federal government's "Most Wanted" list still sparks controversy.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews calls it a resounding success: it has seen the capture, thanks to public reporting, of 26 fugitive immigrants, and the expulsion from Canada of 19 of those people. But the list, which appears on a government web-site and uses the public's eyes and ears to capture men and women wanted out of Canada for potential war crimes, criminal convictions or links to terrorism and espionage, masks problems, say law and civil rights experts.

It has also attracted international attention - not necessarily positive.

Harper’s agenda does not include federal-provincial conferences

There has been considerable discussion in the media about Prime Minister Harper’s continued unwillingness to meet with the Premiers in a formal federal-provincial conference. His behavior provoked an editorial in the Globe and Mail on 11 July 2012 in which the writer pleaded that Harper and the premiers need to talk.

Of course the Prime Minister and the Premiers need to talk. Yet, I suggest that Canadians not hold their breath any longer since any formal multilateral talks are unlikely to occur. The boisterous, yet at times productive, federal-provincial conferences that dominated Canadian politics over the past half-century – often characterized as “cooperative/competitive executive federalism” – are now all but dead and buried.

DND’s $23M cluster bomb stockpile will cost $2M to junk

The national defence department spent upward of $22.7-million buying cluster bombs that Ottawa now says it wants to ban and destroy at a cost of another $2-million — a job that will inevitably be outsourced because no Canadian company is capable of disposing of the controversial weapons, the National Post has learned.

The Canadian Forces never used any of the 12,600 projectiles it purchased for between $1,500 and $1,800 each in 1988. Today, the stockpile is sitting at the Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot in Dundurn, Sask., while Ottawa waits for a firm to step up to the job of destroying the projectiles and the more than one million bomblets they contain.

Patronage alive and well under Conservatives

OTTAWA — A string of Conservative-friendly appointees to federal boards proves the government needs to bring Canada’s federal patronage watchdog back from the dead, New Democrats say.

“Patronage is a rot that is affecting Canada’s trust in public institutions,” NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said Thursday in Ottawa.

It's summertime, and the livin' is easy -- especially if you're Alison Redford

It's summertime, and the livin' is easy -- especially if you're Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine a more congenial political climate than the one Redford and her Progressive Conservative government now find themselves enjoying this summer.

Not quite three months have passed since Redford's unexpected but decisive victory on April 23, and we are not yet embroiled in the minutiae of a fall session. So this is the perfect moment to assess the true strength of her Progressive Conservative government, now and possibly forevermore.

Subhankar Banerjee: Looming Deadline Creates Window for Protests to Stop Shell’s Arctic Drilling

As the oil giant Shell prepares to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic, activists across the world have begun holding protests. The Obama administration has set a deadline for next month to decide on whether to grant the final drilling permits. Over the last decade, Arctic Alaska has become the most contested land in recent U.S. history. But in addition to oil, natural gas and coal, the Arctic is rich in biodiversity and has been home to generations of indigenous people for thousands of years. We’re joined by Subhankar Banerjee, a renowned photographer, writer and activist who has spent the past decade working to conserve the Arctic and raise awareness about human rights and climate change. Banerjee is editor of the newly published book, "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point," and has just won the 2012 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Higher vehicle prices push inflation higher

Consumer prices rose at an annual pace of 1.5 per cent in June, slightly ahead of the 1.2 per cent increase a month earlier.

Statistics Canada said Friday that higher prices for vehicles and electricity were the two biggest factors in the uptick.

The price of vehicles increased by 3.9 per cent over last year's level, in part because of heavy discounting in the summer of 2011, the data agency said.

The cost of electricity rose 5.9 per cent year over year in June, mostly as a result of increases in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.

Colorado theatre shooting: 12 killed after gunman opens fire at Batman movie; Eaton Centre shooting witness among dead

A graduate school dropout wearing a gas mask and armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle, a shotgun and a hangun opened fire early Friday at a suburban Denver movie theatre on the opening night of the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and injuring 59 others, authorities said.

The gunman, who is in custody, has been identified as 24-year-old James Holmes. He stood at the front of the theatre and fired into the crowd at about 12:30 a.m. MDT at a theatre at a multiplex theatre in a mall in Aurora.

Ford wants to force all convicted gun criminals out of Toronto

In the aftermath of the largest mass shooting in Toronto’s history, Mayor Rob Ford is calling in reinforcements, going so far as to appeal to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and demand more money from Queen’s Park to fund a crackdown against street gangs.

"I’m going to hopefully meet with the Prime Minister to see if we can toughen our gun laws," Mayor Rob Ford told radio station AM640 Wednesday night. "Once they’re charged and they go to jail the most important thing is when they get out of jail, I don’t want them living in this city. They can go anywhere else, but I don’t want them in the city.”

Canadian soldiers get pins, banners to mark War of 1812 anniversary

Canada’s soldiers, sailors and air personnel are being drafted in Ottawa’s commemoration of the War of 1812 and starting Thursday will wear a pin recalling the 200-year-old conflict with the United States.

The pin has a blue background and features a red maple leaf with two crossed cutlasses.

Canadian Forces members will be authorized to include it on their uniforms for three years.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay served ‘layoff notice’ by union

OTTAWA — In a turn of the tables, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was served Thursday with a layoff notice by one of his department’s union members.

A representative of the Union of National Defence Employees served the “affected” notice on MacKay as the minister was finishing an announcement about new infrastructure at CFB Esquimalt in Victoria.

Remembering Guernica, resisting war

Seventy-five years ago, the Spanish town of Guernica was bombed into rubble. The brutal act propelled one of the world's greatest artists into a three-week painting frenzy. Pablo Picasso's "Guernica" starkly depicts the horrors of war, etched into the faces of the people and the animals on the 20-by-30-foot canvas. It would not prove to be the worst attack during the Spanish Civil War, but it became the most famous, through the power of art. The impact of the thousands of bombs dropped on Guernica, of the aircraft machine guns strafing civilians trying to flee the inferno, is still felt to this day -- by the elderly survivors, who will eagerly share their vivid memories, as well as by Guernica's youth, who are struggling to forge a future for their town out of its painful history.

Rape is not a matter of religion

In Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square, street corners are crowded with religious buskers, preachers, end-of-lifers. They’re often ignored until they make statements so foolish that you have to stop and stare.

A Muslim street-preacher in Toronto recently stated in a letter to the Toronto Sun following a string of sexual assaults that he believes women should be forced to cover up in Canada if they don’t want to get raped. Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana believes that Canadian laws “give too much freedom to women” and that Canadian women should adhere to a dress code to avoid being raped.

Behind Enbridge’s mishaps: The alarming reality of pipeline safety

A million gallons. That’s the bottom line, give or take a few per cent, when it comes to Enbridge Inc.’s Line 6B leak of July 26, 2010: a million gallons of diluted bitumen, blorping through a weak spot in the pipeline and burbling its way into a tributary of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board—the same agency that handles plane crashes—investigates major oil pipeline accidents. The NTSB is preparing its final report into the 6B incident for public release, but agency chairman Deborah Hersman has already compared the pipeline company’s response to the silent-cinema antics of the Keystone Cops.

Doctors, scientists vow to continue protests against Prime Minister Harper government’s agenda

Medical doctors, who promise to continue the practice, have been showing up at Cabinet ministers’ press conferences to oppose changes to healthcare coverage for refugees and scientists recently held a rally on the Hill to protest federal government muzzling of its scientists and cuts to research program funding, but the jury’s out on whether these public demonstrations will influence public opinion or the government.  

Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, which helped promote the July 10 Parliament Hill rally along with many other organizations, said the recent protests by scientists and doctors are be a sign that public opinion is turning against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) Conservative government.

Shawn Atleo demands treaty, resource rights for First Nations

Shawn Atleo, the newly re-elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, wants to make one thing very clear to the federal government.

“We will stand in front of efforts to sweep away our titles and rights,” he said Thursday. Failing to make First Nations partners in the development of the major resources on their land “will not lead to (the) more efficient development” promised in omnibus budget bill C-38.

Chef’s trial puts fresh spotlight on police arrest tactics

The video was a little grainy, but the images unmistakable — a Toronto police officer repeatedly elbowing a drunk-driving suspect lying pinned down on a dark city street.

It is the main exhibit at a trial that resumes Friday in a downtown courtroom, where Raymond Costain is seeking to get charges of drunk driving, assault and resisting arrest tossed out, alleging police used excessive force when arresting him in April 2010.

Toronto teacher denied Old Age Security pension needs proof of immigration

Elisabeth Horley McLeod has a Canadian passport and citizenship, and annual income tax returns to prove she is Canadian. She has lived and worked in this country for more than 60 years.

But the retired Toronto school teacher, who turned 65 last year, was denied her Old Age Security when she applied for the government-funded pension.

The reason: She couldn’t produce the landing papers to show the date she arrived from England with her family when she was four.

Election results challenge to go ahead in Federal Court

Robocall allegations prompted challenge over results in 7 ridings

The Federal Court is letting a challenge proceed regarding the 2011 election results in seven ridings across the country.

A group of voters, backed by the Council of Canadians, wants the court to overturn the results because of allegations of misleading phone calls that attempted to send voters to the wrong polling stations.