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, December 14, 2012

Before championing human rights abroad, Canada needs to look closer to home

On December 10th, the world celebrated Human Rights Day. Of course, I didn't expect this celebration to be a joyful or a rosy one. Canada, with the trembling voice of its Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, added its fading voice to the international scene.

In his press release, Baird reminded us of Malala Yousfai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban, of the religious persecution of minorities in Iran, of political prisoners in North Korea, and of political activists in Hong Kong. As a human rights activist, I didn't expect Baird to raise all cases of abuses, human rights violations and injustices. This is simply impossible. Nevertheless, as a Canadian, I would assume that his press release would show more subtleties, courage and admit some mea culpa. Clearly, I was dreaming, as I would be ignoring the strong ideology tainting the Conservative government and its highly partisan approach to politics.

Spectators barred from Enbridge hearings in Victoria

Spectators will not be allowed to attend Victoria hearings into the Enbridge Northern Gateway project in January, to avoid the risk of demonstrations.

Instead, people interested in watching the proceedings will be sent about three kilometres away to the Ramada Hotel on Gorge Road, where they can watch a live video feed. The hearings are being held at the Delta Ocean Pointe.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister, Resigns After Indictment

JERUSALEM, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday he was resigning after being charged with fraud and breach of trust, in a move that could have repercussions on the upcoming general election.

"Though I know I committed no crime ... I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister," Lieberman said in an emailed statement, adding that he hoped to clear his name "without delay".

Opinion polls have predicted that the right-wing party of Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would win the Jan. 22 election, and it was not clear if his removal from the race would hurt their chances. (Reporting by Dan Williams, editing by Crispian Balmer)

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Reuters  

The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis

We are not having a debt crisis.

 It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.

Today in Poverty: GOP Leadership and Violence Against Native Women

My question for Congress was and has always been: why did you not protect me, or my family? Why is my life, and the life of so many other Native American women, less important?”
Deborah Parker, vice chairwoman, Tulalip Tribes, 04.25.2012

On April 24, Deborah Parker, vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington State, visited Congress regarding an environmental protection matter. She stopped by Senator Patty Murray’s office and asked how the Senate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was proceeding. Staff members informed her that despite the efforts of Senator Murray and others, provisions to protect Native American women would not be included in the bill.

TDSB Strike: Elementary School Teachers Striking On December 18

TORONTO - The Toronto District School Board says its elementary teachers will be staging a one-day walkout on Tuesday.

The school board — the province's largest — announced the planned walkout on Twitter and its website on Thursday afternoon.

Alberta queue jumping inquiry hears senior AHS managers were asked to keep tabs on VIPs

EDMONTON - Former Capital Health CEO Sheila Weatherill required senior managers to “keep tabs” on prominent people, donors and VIPs who came in for care in hospitals and emergency rooms, the provincial inquiry into queue jumping heard Thursday.

Brigitte McDonough, former director of clinical care, was among senior managers who took turns taking nightly calls at the University of Alberta Hospital. She said she regularly received calls from Weatherill’s office — about one every two months — telling them that a VIP, at times a donor to the hospital system, was in the hospital and asked the manager to check on the patient’s status, and keep tabs on their progress through the system and report back, said McDonough.

Ridley Terminals for sale

The federal government announced Thursday it intends to sell Prince Rupert's Ridley Terminals, reversing a policy that was a key part of the Conservative election platform seven years ago.

The terminal, which handles bulk cargo and is a major export terminal for B.C. coal, has been viewed by coal exporters as a key to the Pacific Gateway strategy to improve export links with Asia.

But at a news conference Thursday, federal Minister of State for Finance Ted Menzies said the Crown corporation has grown in value to the point where federal ownership is no longer required.

Conservative bungling of the F-35 file would make Monty Python blush

Watching Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hapless political aerobatics over the F-35 stealth fighter fiasco, it’s hard not to think of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, or maybe a comic film from the early days of flight. The Tory “barnstormers” keep slamming into the barn instead of performing elegant barrel rolls and loop-the-loops high above it.

The Conservative government’s credibility as a prudent steward of public funds has gone down in flames. Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been fatally discredited. The military has been ridiculed for buying a flying pig in a poke. And no amount of “pressing reset” involving blue-ribbon oversight panels, KPMG audits, third-party reviews, 7-point plans and other controls is going to repair the damage caused by the mendacity that has tainted this file from the get-go. This is the Tories’ biggest bungle yet, and it may hurt them in the next election.

EI overhaul 'devastating,' NDP critic says

The federal government's sweeping employment-insurance reforms - set to take effect in a few weeks - will devastate some communities and withhold EI benefits many Canadians rightly deserve, opposition parties charged Thursday.

The federal government's changes to the $17-billion employment-insurance program will come into force Jan. 6, 2013, when recipients will be expected to commute possibly an hour or more for a job and accept work if it pays between 70 and 90 per cent of their previous income.

Stricter rules for EI coming in new year

OTTAWA -- Ottawa is forging ahead with contentious changes to employment insurance, announcing an implementation date of Jan. 6, despite heated opposition from unions and politicians from Eastern Canada.

Starting in the new year, people on EI will face stricter, more complex rules for keeping their benefits, with the goal of getting unemployed workers back into the workforce sooner.

Why, oh why, is Peter MacKay still in cabinet?

Given his record, if Peter MacKay were a moose, his head would be gracing the space above the mantlepiece, impressive rack and all.

He would be stuffed, his eyes would be made of glass, and the taxidermist would already be working on the next large, dead animal.

Clipping Peter MacKay's wings over F-35s

The House of Commons wrapped up its fall session this week, a few days earlier than planned but not a moment too soon for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

It's not clear why opposition politicians agreed they should all head home for the holidays on Wednesday.

Especially when earlier in the day an independent audit confirmed what they had been arguing about for the past 18 months — that MacKay's $9-billion price tag for the controversial F-35 fighter jets represented only a fraction of the total cost to be borne by taxpayers in the decades to come.

The Men's Rights Movement, CAFE and the University of Toronto

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) and one of its spawns in the campus-based Men's Issues Awareness Group movement have arrived at the University of Toronto with a bang; and a seeming campaign of overt intimidation against those who oppose them.

CAFE, as I have previously written about at some length, is the front group that presents the public and ostensibly less extreme face of the Men's Rights Movement (also known as the Men's Rights Advocacy or MRA) in Canada. As I noted in the article they have made on-campus recruitment a major thrust of their overall strategy.

The crisis in funding legal support for refugees

Ontario and the rest of Canada. For years Ontario had one of the most generous, but still very limited, funding for representation of refugee claimants in Canada.

Back in the early 1990s, when I started do refugee work, we had 16 hours to prepare the PIF's and an additional 16 hours to prepare for the hearing of the refugee claim. There also was additional time for administrative matters, 5 additional hours at each stage. This was a total of 42 hours to prepare a refugee claimant for their hearing. Time at the hearing was also covered as was travel time.

What life looks like under a national security state

Life under a national security state is not a life. Living under such a state is simply living like a slave, or at best it is like living in a big prison, albeit one that has invisible bars. While invisible, these bars are, nevertheless, extremely constraining.

One of the pillars the national security state heavily depends on is wholesale surveillance. Total surveillance society, as predicted by George Orwell more than a half-century ago, has finally arrived. Technological advances, achieved over the past three decades, made total surveillance both possible and "affordable."

The dismantling of the Tea Party

I miss the Tea Party already.

I miss the pot-bellied guys in tricorne hats waving around muskets (or, sometimes, assault rifles), demanding dramatic cuts in government spending, except for spending that benefited them, which, given their age and physical condition, was most government spending.

I miss all the warnings about official communism and posters of Barack HUSSEIN Obama with a Hitler moustache (although I could never quite understand the conflation of Hitler and communism) and the speeches about how the government wants to confiscate your guns and surrender to the United Nations.

Detention centres no place for migrant children, critics argue

CBC News has learned that over the past year 289 migrant children have been held in detention centres in Canada, many of whom were under the age of 10.

The numbers, provided to the CBC by the Canada Border Services Agency, include children held with parents seeking asylum in Canada and also deportees waiting to leave. Detention is usually based on one of two grounds: either the CBSA is not satisfied with a person's proof of identity, or an officer believes the family is at risk of absconding.

Pentagon to send Patriot missiles, 400 troops to Turkey to help NATO defence against Syria

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, TURKEY—The U.S. will send two batteries of Patriot missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a NATO force meant to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian missile attack, the Pentagon said Friday.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta signed a deployment order en route to Turkey from Afghanistan calling for 400 U.S. soldiers to operate two batteries of Patriots at undisclosed locations in Turkey, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters flying with Panetta.

Robocall Ruling To Overturn Votes Would Cause Chaos: Tory Lawyer

OTTAWA - It speaks volumes that no Canadian voters have come forward to swear out an affidavit saying their trips to the federal ballot box were thwarted last year by misleading robocalls, a Conservative lawyer argued Thursday.

Casting a ballot — visiting a polling station, showing ID, getting one's name crossed off the voters list — is an inherently public activity, Arthur Hamilton told a hearing that's examining the impact of the calls in six federal ridings.

Encana, PetroChina Form Partnership To Develop Natural Gas In Alberta

CALGARY - Less than a week after Ottawa waved through CNOOC Ltd.'s $15.1-billion takeover of Nexen Inc., a different Chinese state-owned company is plowing another $2.2 billion into the Canadian oilpatch.

Natural gas giant Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) and PetroChina subsidiary Phoenix Duvernay Gas announced Thursday they have reached a deal to work together in the Duvernay, a promising shale natural gas formation in west-central Alberta.

CIA Torture Report Approved By Senate Intelligence Committee

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 9-6 on Thursday to approve a report on the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program that could shed light on the debate over torture. But for now, even as the new movie "Zero Dark Thirty" stirs up public debate about the use of harsh interrogation tactics, declassifying the report to prepare for its release to the public could take months, if not longer.

"The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight," Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement after the vote. "I strongly believe that the creation of long-term, clandestine 'black sites' and the use of so-called 'enhanced-interrogation techniques' were terrible mistakes. The majority of the Committee agrees."

High-End Tax Hikes Would Have 'Negligible' Impact On Growth, Revised CRS Report Says

WASHINGTON -- A Congressional Research Service report that was reissued Thursday after Republicans complained about it before the elections still finds little evidence that the Bush-era tax cuts spurred growth or that hiking the top rates would have more than a "negligible" impact on the economy.

The CRS study did find, however, that the lower tax rates in place since 2001 have had a strong impact on increasing income inequality in America.

Torturing the Wrong Man

A judgment issued on Thursday by the European Court of Human Rights contains an account of the treatment of a man who, after some detective work by a foreign police force, was handed over to the C.I.A. as suspected member of Al Qaeda:

    Upon arrival, still handcuffed and blindfolded, he was initially placed in a chair, where he sat for one and a half hours….Then, two people violently pulled his arms back. On that occasion he was beaten severely from all sides. His clothes were sliced from his body with scissors or a knife. His underwear was forcibly removed. He was thrown to the floor, his hands were pulled back and a boot was placed on his back. He then felt a firm object being forced into his anus….He was then pulled from the floor and dragged to a corner of the room, where his feet were tied together. His blindfold was removed. A flash went off and temporarily blinded him. When he recovered his sight, he saw seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks.

Renegade sign protesting fire cuts directs people to contact Mayor Ford

A show of civic displeasure over upcoming cuts to fire services popped up this week in front of a Toronto fire hall, in the form of a large sign placed on city property.

The sign read: “Fire truck A215 out of service permanently January 2013 contact Mayor Ford.” The sign was placed squarely on the grass in front of the fire hall at 5318 Lawrence Ave., near Lawrence Ave. and Port Union Rd., in Scarborough.

Ex-doctor's release proves need for new law, minister says

The federal government says it will introduce legislation to make it harder for mentally ill criminals to be let out of custody, following the conditional release of a former doctor who was found not criminally responsible for killing his two children.

The statement comes the day after Guy Turcotte was granted conditional release from Montreal's Pinel Institute, a psychiatric facility, and is the second time in three weeks that the federal government has made an announcement of its intention to change the law.

For Peter MacKay, F-35s mean never having to say you’re sorry

Original Article
Source: the star
Author: Tim Harper

State of emergency

The question of Rob Ford’s mayoralty may be up in the air, but his impact continues to wreak havoc on the budget process.

Last week the Budget Committee proposed major cuts to Fire Services despite the fact that the department’s resources are substandard by industry benchmarks. Four local fire stations could wind up with one truck instead of two, and the Runnymede station might be abolished altogether.

Pipeline Petition Calls For Tanker Ban On First Nations Land

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. - There have been times over the past few days at the review hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline when the testy exchanges between Enbridge experts and First Nations lawyers have bordered on verbal warfare.

And as the proposal progresses, it seems increasingly likely that the debate about the oil pipeline — an oil pipeline, any oil pipeline — will end in a showdown between the federal government and First Nations over aboriginal rights.

Ex-Commissioner Michael Copps on the FCC’s Unrelenting Anti-Diversity Push for Media Consolidation

Former Federal Communications Commission Chair Michael Copps joins to discuss the growing opposition to the FCC’s effort to weaken media ownership rules and clear the way for greater media consolidation. Last month, Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski circulated a plan to relax a longstanding ban that prevents the owner of a television broadcast station from also owning a newspaper in the same town or city. The move has drawn harsh criticism from public interest groups and lawmakers. Copps, who was the longest serving FCC commissioner in the agency’s history, now leads the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Thus far but no further

HAVING spent the past three years trying to woo Asian investors, Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister, would have looked foolish had he snubbed the first significant show of interest, a $15.1 billion bid by China’s CNOOC, a state-owned oil giant, for Nexen, a smallish oil company whose main property is in Alberta’s tar sands. But he also had to appease public opinion and some members of his own Conservative Party who opposed the takeover, either because CNOOC is state-owned or because of China’s human-rights record.

In landmark ruling, House Speaker stands up for minority rights

In a ruling that has been described as both a "mild scolding" and a "ringing message" to the government, House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer has served notice that when it comes to balancing the clockworks of the Chamber against the rights of the often rancorous and unruly 300-odd charges committed to his care, this speaker will not, as he puts it, "make decisions based on who is in control of the House."

That, of course, was exactly what Van Loan had asked him to do on the eve of the mini-marathon vote on the omnibudget bill, when he recommended that Scheer discard the bulk of the 1,162 opposition-backed amendments, and bundle the remainder by theme, in order to minimize the total number of standing votes required, on the grounds that this is, after all, a majority-held House.

Irving Schools 'Muslim Bias' Investigation Instead Finds Christian Bias In Texas District's Curriculum

A chain email sent to Dallas-area school board members and district officials that prompted an investigation into alleged Islamic bias in the system's curriculum turned up perhaps unintended results.

The email, titled "IRVING ISD INDOCTRINATING ISLAM," warned: "Christians are going to have to stand up against the pro Islamic teaching in our public schools with CSCOPE curriculum."

Bank Foreclosures Hit Nine-Month High In November: RealtyTrac

LOS ANGELES -- U.S. home repossessions rose to a nine-month high in November, even as the number of homes starting on the path to foreclosure declined to the lowest level in six years.

Banks completed foreclosure on 59,134 homes last month, an increase of 11 percent from October and up 5 percent from November last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Walmart Workers At Risk In States Rejecting Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

If state governors follow through on plans to oppose the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, one substantial group of low-wage workers appears vulnerable to going without medical coverage: people who work at Walmart.

The world’s largest retailer recently outlined a new policy that will exclude from health coverage newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, as The Huffington Post reported this month. Experts described that move as an attempt by Walmart to shift the burden of providing health coverage to the government -- specifically, to Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

Drone Strikes Draw Congress' Ire Over Lack Of White House Transparency

WASHINGTON -- A rare congressional hearing into the use of unmanned drones for targeted killings drew bipartisan agreement over the White House's lack of transparency, even as lawmakers rejected a measure that would require the administration to share more data about drone strikes with Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing was held on Thursday to discuss a resolution put forward by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) that would order the White House to turn over to Congress all documents related to the government's targeted killing program.

Bill C-377: Canada's Unions Should Quit While They Are Ahead

An important piece of legislation was passed by the House of Commons this week. Bill C-377, sponsored by British Columbia MP Russ Hiebert, will require unions and other labour organizations in Canada to file annual public reports detailing their financial statements, salaries paid to top employees, the amount of time spent on lobbying and political activities, and certain information about expenditures over $5,000.

If this legislation is passed by the Senate, it will shine a light on the over $4 billion that unions collect annually in forced contributions from workers and bring Canada's union financial disclosure laws in-line with those in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Ireland, the UK and the US.

Oil Price Gap Costing Canada Billions

The wide gap between oil’s global benchmark price and what Canadian producers can get for their oil is costing Canada $2.5 billion a month, according to new research that sees the spread remaining for years even if new pipelines are built.

Normally, the price gap between Brent North Sea oil and Western Canada Select oil is $10 to $15 a barrel, says Charles St-Arnaud, an analyst at Nomura Securities. But currently, that spread is a near-record $50 a barrel.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Chief Canadian Negotiator Refuses To Say If Canada Will Uphold Copyright Laws

A prominent consumers’ advocate says he’s worried Canada will sell out its new copyright law in favour of tough new restrictions on consumers as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Steve Anderson, executive director of OpenMedia, says Canada’s chief negotiator at the TPP talks, Kirsten Hillman, would not answer a question on whether Canada would fight to maintain the copyright policies it put into effect earlier this year.

Panel urges hydro mergers

Ontario’s 75 local hydro utilities should be consolidated into 8 to 12 regional companies, says a three-man panel appointed by the province.

The panel predicts is would result in substantial savings for customers – about $1.7 billion over ten years, through streamlining and reduced borrowing costs.

Consumer Debt: Canada Sees Another All-Time High In Q3, StatsCan Reports

OTTAWA - Canadians are more in hock today than ever before, Statistics Canada said Thursday in releasing fresh data on household debt.

The new report shows household debt to annual disposable income reached a new high at 164.6 per cent, from 163.3 per cent the previous quarter.

Canadians shut out of jobs at B.C. mine for at least four years

It could be more than four years before any Canadian miners are hired at a controversial underground coal project in northern British Columbia and more than 14 years before all the temporary foreign workers are gone, says a transition plan prepared by the company behind the mining proposal.

HD Mining submitted the document to the federal government earlier this year as it applied for temporary foreign worker permits to bring 201 Chinese miners to its proposed Murray River coal mine near Tumbler Ridge.

At least one voter says robocall stopped him from voting

Daniel Speik, of Saint-Colomban, Quebec, says he didn’t vote in the last election because of robocalls that told him his polling station had moved.

A few days before the election, Speik received two or three automated calls, in French, identified as coming from Elections Canada, telling him his polling station had moved, much like more than 1,000 Canadians who have filed complaints about deceptive election calls.

Conservative lawyer in voter suppression case warns against allowing litigation to triumph over will of voters

OTTAWA — Except in extreme situations, the will of voters who cast ballots must take precedence in court challenges of election results, said the lawyer representing six Conservative MPs facing an attempt to throw out the results of the 2011 election.

Arthur Hamilton argued on Thursday that allowing a wide latitude for challenging elections in court would open up every vote to potential litigation.

“Election night, when the votes are counted, has to be about who will take the seat in parliament,” he said. “It can’t be about who will be the applicants and who will be the respondents.”

Beyond public view: Harper's Beyond the Border initiative a year later

A year ago this year, Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President Obama re-started a defunct or stalled North American "security and prosperity" dialogue only minus Mexico and with a new name: Beyond the Border. On December 7, 2011, Maude Barlow and I wrote:

    Based on news reports, the 32-point Beyond the Border Action Plan will create new checks on travel into and out of Canada and increase the amount of personal information that is shared with U.S. security agencies. It will announce new joint policing initiatives that could make it normal to have U.S. agents operating in Canada…. The perimeter deal will also likely commit to further convergence of Canadian and U.S. environmental, food safety and health regulations in areas important to large transnational business lobby groups.