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.]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Braydon Mazurkiewich's Racist Facebook Post Leads To Ouster

WINNIPEG - The head of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party's youth wing was ousted Friday after posting an admittedly racist comment about aboriginals on his Facebook page.

Braydon Mazurkiewich was upset about a planned urban reserve in Winnipeg when he wrote that the site, which sits on a former military base, was "built for hardworking men and women of the military, not freeloading Indians."

Opposition disunity key to Harper win

There were many reasons for Stephen Harper's 2011 election victory, not least of which is the prime minister's particular and calculated genius for strategy, organization and party discipline.

However, as former Winnipegger Paul Adams argues in this extremely well-crafted, gripping and persuasive polemic, the main factor was -- and continues to be -- a divided left-progressive opposition, which, had it been united, would have overwhelmed Harper with almost 54 per cent of the popular vote.

Jason Kenney expresses 'solidarity' with the Roma, but designates Hungary a 'safe' country

The 1950s comedy 'Some Like it Hot' ends with the hilarious line: "Nobody’s perfect!"

That happens when millionaire Osgood Fielding III (played by the very funny Joe. E. Brown) discovers the woman to whom he has just proposed marriage is, in fact, Jack Lemmon in (barely convincing) drag!

Well Canada's Immigration Minister is no Jack Lemmon (or Marilyn Monroe) but "nobody's perfect" was almost the main theme of his news conference on Friday.

I don't want to talk about gun control

As nearly everyone in the Western world knows by now, a 24-year-old man took two guns into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered 27 people, 20 of them children between the ages of five and ten years old.

The conversations which will feature in the news in the coming weeks are as predictable as they are futile. "Evil visited this community today," said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. The killer will be declared a psychopath with a grudge against his mother. His various pathologies will be diagnosed, anatomized, second-guessed and fetishized. Many will demand tougher gun laws and just as many will decry such demands as misguided overreaction. Jon Stewart will mock the gun nuts and Fox News will taunt handwringing liberals. God will feature prominently. And 20 children, shot dead in their classroom, will still be gone.

Golden Dawn: In Greece, hunger feeds hate

ATHENS—On a grey, drizzly Saturday morning, the farmer’s market downtown is bustling with hundreds of customers. There is a fresh citrus tang in the air as farmers unload the first of the season’s oranges. The produce is sold directly to the public, which keeps prices down: a kilogram of oranges costs 35 cents, eggplants are one euro per kilo.

But even these prices are too high for some Greeks, which is why there are nearly as many people at Golden Dawn’s food handout outside the party’s newly opened office in Alimos, a middle-class neighbourhood. An hour before the food distribution starts, a line of about 500 people snakes down the sidewalk.

ORNGE: Salary for service’s new No. 2 executive is $240,000, plus bonus

ORNGE has taken another step toward transparency, making public the salary of its No. 2 man and the salaries of other executives.

The move came two days after ORNGE announced it had hired former airline executive Rob Giguere as chief operating officer but then refused to disclose his salary.

This same secrecy led to the Star investigation that sparked the ORNGE scandal last year, when it was discovered that the publicly funded air ambulance service hid the $1.4-million salary of former CEO Dr. Chris Mazza — as well as the salaries of other executives — for several years.

Police defend panhandling crackdown

The Toronto Police Services Board has rejected a call to soften the force’s crackdown on panhandlers.

At a board meeting at police headquarters on Friday, anti-poverty activists said that the thousands of tickets given out under the Ontario Safe Streets Act every year have effectively made it illegal to be homeless on Toronto’s streets.

Teck Liable For Columbia River Clean-Up In Washington State: Judge

TRAIL, B.C. - Teck Resources treated the Columbia River as a free waste disposal system for decades, said a Washington state judge who has ruled the Canadian company is liable for the cost of cleaning up the contamination of the river south of the border.

In a decision announced late Friday, Judge Lonny Suko ruled that, "for decades Teck's leadership knew its slag and effluent flowed from Trail downstream and are now found in Lake Roosevelt, but nonetheless Teck continued discharging wastes into the Columbia River."

Russian Opposition Protest: Thousands Gather At Unsanctioned Meeting Against Putin

MOSCOW -- Thousands of people challenged the administration of President Vladimir Putin in a defiant, unsanctioned gathering amid temperatures that hovered around minus 17 C.

“Respected citizens, this event is against Moscow laws, please walk to the Metro in order not to be detained,” repeated policemen -- who numbered in the hundreds -- over a megaphone throughout the meeting.

The crowd did not heed the call.

Gun Advocate On Connecticut Shooting: Armed Teachers Could Have Minimized Tragedy

Steve Dulan, a board member for the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners who is supporting a state bill that would allow concealed weapons in schools and other gun-free zones, said Friday that having armed teachers inside Sandy Hook Elementary School would have, "if not prevented, then perhaps minimized," the tragedy.

"We do know that armed citizens defend themselves all the time, in all kinds of different contexts," Dulan told HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski.

Dulan's comments came in response to a mass shooting Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Police reported 27 deaths, including 20 children, six adults and the shooter, according to the Associated Press.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: John Stephens

How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House

Wisconsinites leaned Democratic when they went to the polls last month, voting to re-elect President Obama, choosing Tammy Baldwin to be their new United States senator and casting more total votes for Democrats than Republicans in races for Congress and the State Legislature.

 But thanks in part to the way that Republicans drew the new Congressional and legislative districts for this year’s elections, Republicans will still outnumber Democrats in Wisconsin’s new Congressional delegation five to three — and control both houses of the Legislature.

First Nations to Harper government: Honour constitutional duty to consult on Canada-China FIPPA

In recent days, Indigenous rights protests have taken place across the country under the slogan of 'Idle No More.' These protests were sparked in large part by the Harper government's Bill C-45, but also reflect ongoing issues around land and title rights, as well as the constitutional duty of the government to consult with First Nations. Today the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in partnership with and the Council of Canadians, put out this statement demanding consultation in the matter of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA).

First Nations Demand Harper Government Honour Constitutional Duty to Consult Regarding the Canada China FIPPA

Gun Sales In 2012 Set Record, FBI Data Indicates

The gun business in the United States is thriving and the tragic events on Friday in Newtown, Conn. may likely do little to quell Americans' spending on munitions.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded more than 16.8 million background checks for gun purchases in 2012, the highest number since the FBI began publishing the data in 1998. A record number of requests for background checks for gun buyers went through on Black Friday in November, the FBI reported at the time, in part because of fears that President Barack Obama and other lawmakers would tighten gun control laws.

Mike Huckabee: Newtown Shooting No Surprise, We've 'Systematically Removed God' From Schools

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) weighed in on the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, saying the crime was no surprise because we have "systematically removed God" from public schools.

"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee said on Fox News. "Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"

2012: Outrageous attacks on science

The year 2012 brought with it many opportunities for wielding a big, debunking stick and pointing it towards outrageous attacks on science. From the Science-ish archives, to be read with a festive beverage, here are the worst offenders from 2012:

Though he may have started out as one of America’s most-trusted MDs after earning a seal of approval from none other than Oprah Winfrey, the medical community has long known that Dr. Mehmet Oz can be a font of pseudoscience. This year, when he was in Toronto to give a motivational lecture about the “biology of blubber,” I had a chance to sit-down with Oz and grill him about his use of medical evidence. In particular, when asked about his promotion of raspberry ketones for weight loss—a dubious supplement—he said it was “an example of where I’m trying to give you hope.” Needless to say, he didn’t pass the evidence test. I’m pretty sure I was the only reporter in the room he didn’t hug that day.
Related link: Dr. Oz, faith healer

Zero Conscience in “Zero Dark Thirty”

At the same time that the European Court of Human Rights has issued a historic ruling condemning the C.I.A.’s treatment of a terror suspect during the Bush years as “torture,” a Hollywood movie about the agency’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty”—whose creators say that they didn’t want to “judge” the interrogation program—appears headed for Oscar nominations. Can torture really be turned into morally neutral entertainment?

What Obama Must Do About Guns

Barack Obama has been in our field of vision for a long time now, and, more than any major politician of recent memory, he hides in plain sight. He is who he is. He may strike the unsympathetic as curiously remote or arrogant or removed; he certainly strikes his admirers as a man of real intelligence and dignity. But he is who he is. He is no phony. And so there is absolutely no reason to believe that his deep, raw emotion today following the horrific slaughter in Connecticut—his tears, the prolonged catch in his voice—was anything but genuine. But this was a slaughter—a slaughter like so many before it—and emotion is hardly all that is needed. What is needed is gun control—strict, comprehensive gun control that places the values of public safety and security before the values of deer hunting and a perverse ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment. Obama told the nation that he reacted to the shootings in Newtown “as a parent,” and that is understandable, but what we need most is for him to act as a President, liberated at last from the constraints of elections and their dirty compromises—a President who dares to change the national debate and the legislative agenda on guns.

Zero Dark Thirty: CIA hagiography, pernicious propaganda

I've now seen "Zero Dark Thirty". Before getting to that: the controversy triggered this week by my commentary on the debate over that film was one of the most ridiculous in which I've ever been involved. It was astounding to watch critics of what I wrote just pretend that I had simply invented or "guessed at" the only point of the film I discussed - that it falsely depicted torture as valuable in finding bin Laden - all while concealing from their readers the ample factual bases I cited: namely, the fact that countless writers, almost unanimously, categorically stated that the film showed exactly this (see here for a partial list of reviewers and commentators who made this factual statement definitively about the film - that it depicts torture as valuable in finding bin Laden - both before and after my column).

Robocalls Poll Evidence Deeply Flawed, Tory Lawyer Says

OTTAWA - A key piece of evidence in the robocalls legal saga is deeply flawed and should be tossed out, says a lawyer representing Conservative MPs whose election wins last year are being challenged in court.

An Ekos Research survey that suggests voter-suppression tactics were widespread in the last election cannot be trusted, lawyer Ted Frankel said Friday.

Highway 2 Blockade Alberta: Driftpile Cree Nation Plan Peaceful Protest On Dec. 15

In the wake of a massive Canada-wide aboriginal day of action, one band is now planning to block a major highway in Alberta.

The Driftpile Cree Nation will be holding a peaceful blockade of Highway 2 in Driftpile, Alta. Saturday to protest the passing of the omnibus budget bill, C-45.

Do the math: Day 3 of robocalls in court

With the first wave of powerful evidence of a widespread and targeted campaign of voter suppression put before the Federal Court on Tuesday, on Day 3 hard numbers were presented to support it.

Steven Shrybman, lawyer for the applicants, led the court through the findings of a poll commissioned by the eight applicants and conducted by EKOS Research to survey the scope and impact of the fraudulent calls in the six federal ridings involved in these legal cases.

Sixteen US Mass Shootings Happened in 2012, Leaving at Least 88 Dead

Today’s nearly indescribable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty-seven people, including eighteen children, were shot to death inside an elementary school, is at least the sixteenth mass shooting to take place in America this year. The death toll is now at eighty-four.

Here is a list of every fatal mass shooting that’s taken place since January 1—defined as multi-victim shootings where those killed were chosen indiscriminately. The tragedies took place at perfectly random places—at churches, movie theatres, soccer tournaments, spas, courthouses and, now, an elementary school. But given the frequency of these awful events, perhaps in the long view their occurrence isn’t so random after all—it’s predictable.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

I've heard it said that, if you take a walk around Waikiki, it's only a matter of time until someone hands you a flyer of scantily clad women clutching handguns, overlaid with English and maybe Japanese text advertising one of the many local shooting ranges. The city's largest, the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club, advertises instructors fluent in Japanese, which is also the default language of its website. For years, this peculiar Hawaiian industry has explicitly targeted Japanese tourists, drawing them away from beaches and resorts into shopping malls, to do things that are forbidden in their own country.

Ontario Tories' 'Right-To-Work' Plan Would Make Province 'The Next Alabama'

TORONTO - The Progressive Conservatives' call to make Ontario a so-called "right-to-work" province is "misguided" and would mean lower salaries and a weaker economy, the Liberals and New Democrats warned Friday.

"It just doesn’t reflect Canadian values," Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey said in an interview.

"I believe it would mean lower wages and reduced buying power, and would have a very serious effect on the economy."

Flaherty says economy still too weak to boost Canada Pension Plan

OTTAWA - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is re-introducing options for enriching Canada's primary pension plan, but says the time is still not right for acting.

The dual message comes as Flaherty prepares to welcome provincial and territorial colleagues to a government retreat outside of Ottawa on Monday, where pension reform will again take centre stage in discussions.

It’s official: Harper government withdraws from Kyoto climate agreement

OTTAWA – Canada will officially become the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement Saturday, following years of criticism from the Harper government and lobbying from major industrial polluters.

The withdrawal, first announced by Environment Minister Peter Kent in 2011, coincides with new public opinion research by the Environics Institute that shows more than half of Canadians support British Columbia’s carbon tax and believe governments should show more leadership with regulations and standards to get consumers and industry to change their habits and slash heat-trapping pollution.

Election result can be overturned if one voter kept from ballot box because of widescale fraud: Elections Canada lawyer

OTTAWA—Election results can be overturned if only one voter in the riding was kept from the ballot box because of fraudulent activities and if there is evidence the fraud was on such a scale it eroded the integrity of the electoral process, says a lawyer representing Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.

Barbara McIsaac, the lawyer representing Mr. Mayrand at Federal Court in a hearing into allegations of fraud in six federal electoral districts during the 2011 general election, argued that the word “fraud” as it appears in a section of the Canada Elections Act—allowing voters to legally challenge disputed elections over irregularities in the vote or more serious allegations—should be interpreted as an offence under civil legal standards, rather than criminal. That countered a position taken earlier by lawyers representing six MPs who could lose their House of Commons seats if the challenge by eight voters in the six ridings is successful.

Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke

If you've ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you've ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or "drug paraphernalia" in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me.

Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who's ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a "record" financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

Ontario Tories like American-style right-to-work legislation

Tories are eager to follow in the footsteps of Michigan’s anti-union legislation next week and turn Ontario into a right-to-work jurisdiction where workers can opt out of joining unions and paying dues.

The move is a near the top of the agenda for the Progressive Conservatives led by Tim Hudak should they be elected come the next general election.

Battleground America -- One nation, under the gun

Just after seven-thirty on the morning of February 27th, a seventeen-year-old boy named T. J. Lane walked into the cafeteria at Chardon High School, about thirty miles outside Cleveland. It was a Monday, and the cafeteria was filled with kids, some eating breakfast, some waiting for buses to drive them to programs at other schools, some packing up for gym class. Lane sat down at an empty table, reached into a bag, and pulled out a .22-calibre pistol. He stood up, raised the gun, and fired. He said not a word.

Russell King, a seventeen-year-old junior, was sitting at a table with another junior, Nate Mueller. King, shot in the head, fell face first onto the table, a pool of blood forming. A bullet grazed Mueller’s ear. “I could see the flame at the end of the gun,” Mueller said later. Daniel Parmertor, a sixteen-year-old snowboarder, was shot in the head. Someone screamed “Duck!” Demetrius Hewlin, sixteen, was also shot in the head, and slid under the table. Joy Rickers, a senior, tried to run; Lane shot her as she fled. Nickolas Walczak, shot in his neck, arm, back, and face, fell to the floor. He began crawling toward the door.

The Right Day to Talk About Guns

“I don’t think today is that day,” Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said on Friday. He was responding to a question about gun control and the shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut that reportedly claimed the lives of twenty-six people —including twenty children between the ages of five and ten years old, as well as that of the shooter and, separately, one of the shooter’s parents. (The reports about what exactly happened are still somewhat shaky and unconfirmed. It’s likely that, as in most situations like this, some of what we now think we know will turn out to have been wrong. I will update this post as the day goes on.)

Brigadier General On Keystone XL Pipeline: 'All Americans Should Be Outraged'u

In an interview with HuffPost Live Thursday, former U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson spoke out against the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, warning that "all Americans should be outraged" about the national security implications of the project.

"I want to stop paying big oil and I want to start seeing a green economy in this nation," he told host Alicia Menendez. "And big oil is pushing Keystone, and Keystone is essentially going to maintain the status quo for another 25 years. And during that time I can only imagine the impact it's going to have on our environment and, indeed, our national security."

Allan Gregg Speech Slams Tories' Orwellian 'Assault On Reason'

Well-known Canadian pundit and former Progressive Conservative pollster Allan Gregg delivered a scathing critique of the the Conservative government under Stephen Harper in a speech at Carleton University last week in Ottawa.

Titled "1984 in 2012 – The Assault on Reason," the speech was given at an event to celebrate the move of Carleton's Faculty of Public Affairs into a new building.

1984 in 2012 – The Assault on Reason

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” – Voltaire

In his novel 1984, George Orwell paints a portrait of a nightmarish future where rights that we now take for granted – the freedom of assembly, speech and to trial – have all been suspended. Acceptance of this totalitarian state is justified by the interests of stability and order, and by the needs a perpetual war. But what makes 1984 endure where other dystopian novels have been forgotten is that Orwell removed one more right that is even more unimaginable in a modern context – the right to think.

On the Front Lines of a New Pacific War

On the small, spectacular island of Jeju, off the southern tip of Korea, indigenous villagers have been putting their bodies in the way of construction of a joint South Korean–US naval base that would be an environmental, cultural and political disaster. If completed, the base would hold more than 7,000 navy personnel, plus twenty warships including US aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and destroyers carrying the latest Aegis missiles—all aimed at China, only 300 miles away.

White House On Newtown School Shooting: Today Not The Day For Gun Control Debate

WASHINGTON -- In an immediate response to a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today is not the day for a debate on gun control.

"I think it's important, on a day like today, to view this -- as I know the president, as a father, does, and I as a father and others who are parents certainly do, which is to feel enormous sympathy for families that are affected and to do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement and support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event," Carney told reporters in the daily White House press briefing. "There is, I am sure -- will be, rather -- a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day." Carney did say that President Barack Obama remains committed to renewing a ban on assault weapons.

Robocalls judge has to balance rights of those who might have not voted against those who did, lawyer argues

OTTAWA — A judge can overturn the outcome of an election if he believes “at least one voter” in the riding did not vote as a result of electoral fraud, a lawyer for Elections Canada argued in Federal Court on Friday.

The applicants in the “robocalls” election challenge of 2011 election results in six ridings have not presented evidence of specific individuals who were prevented from voting by deceptive poll-moving calls.

But if the judge hearing the case agrees with Elections Canada’s reading of the law, he could overturn the results in any of six ridings at issue if he believes that fraud occurred “on the balance of probabilities,” an easier standard of proof than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard required in criminal cases.

20 children among dead in Connecticut school massacre

A heavily armed man opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school Friday leaving 27 dead — including 20 children — and forcing students to cower in classrooms and then flee with the help of teachers and police.

The gunman, who committed suicide at the school, was counted among the dead, authorities confirmed.

Lt. Paul Vance said 18 children were pronounced dead at the school as well as six adults and the shooter. The principal was believed to be among the victims.

Organize together to defeat the corporate agenda: The Port Elgin Coalition Proposal

This November, 80 activists and representatives from across Canada met in Port Elgin, Ontario to discuss and strategize how progressive forces can organize more effectively against the right-wing corporate agenda. We believe the experience of the successful Quebec student strike in 2012, the largest popular mobilization in decades in Canada, clearly demonstrates the need for collective spaces where movements can support ongoing local mobilizations while coordinating at regional and cross-Canada levels.

Canada joins Western countries rejecting UN Internet treaty over fears of government control

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Canada is refusing to sign a United Nations telecommunications treaty over fears it would give governments control over the internet.

Canada is part of a Western bloc, including the U.S., Britain, and several European nations, that is snubbing the new treaty which was expected to be signed Friday at the end of ten days of hard negotiations at the World Conference on International Telecommunications.

Victims of forced evictions from Haiti's earthquake survivor camps speak out

December 10 is recognized worldwide as International Human Rights Day, marking the anniversary of the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. Enclosed are two statements concerning one of the more pressing human rights issues in the Western Hemisphere -- the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti who were made homeless by the 2010 earthquake and who are still living, three years later, in appaling conditions of housing or shelter. The statements are issued by the Under Tents housing rights campaign and by OXFAM.

Kenney names 27 countries as 'safe' in refugee claim dealings

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney today named 27 countries he deems "safe" for the purposes of dealing with refugee claims in Canada.

One day before his omnibus refugee bill C-31 is to be implemented, Kenney on Friday listed 25 countries in the European Union, as well as Croatia and the United States, whose refugee claims have been deemed by the Canadian government as being largely unfounded or "bogus." Romania and Bulgaria are not on the list.