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.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Keystone Opponents 'Foolish,' Says Calgary Mayor

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he defended the Keystone XL pipeline proposal last week while he was at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Nenshi says the massive $7-billion project is the core public policy issue right now for both Canada and the United States and says protests against the pipeline are misdirected and could ultimately result in higher carbon emissions if the pipeline project is rejected.

Idle No More supporters demonstrate on Parliament Hill

A non-indigenous person held a cardboard sign with those words scrolled in black ink as the snow fell gently on a few hundred people gathered on the steps of Parliament Hill.

A sentiment echoed by the majority of Canadians.

“Over 50 per cent of Canadians now say Indigenous issues are top priority in this country,” said Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

“And there is no better medicine than dancing in a circle with friends and relatives and those from the settler society saying that this is the moment in history when change arrives.”

How to keep Canada's crime rate low

Canada's crime rate has steadily dropped since its peak in the early 1990s. But grasping at the usual explanations could waste a golden opportunity to make Canada even safer for the longer term.

Voices from the political left tend to point to an aging population, rising education levels and overall standard of living as the main drivers behind this fortunate drop.

Crackdown or coup, what is Egypt's army up to?

Why would the chief of the Egyptian army wade into the latest political crisis, with calamitous warnings that the country is in danger of falling apart?

"The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state, and threaten future generations," said Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who also acts as defence minister.

Syria Massacre: Group Says At Least 65 Found Shot In Head, With Hands Bound In Aleppo

BEIRUT, Jan 29 (Reuters) - At least 65 people were found shot dead with their hands bound in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday in a "new massacre" in the near two-year revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.

Opposition campaigners blamed the government but it was impossible to confirm who was responsible. Assad's forces and rebels have been battling in Syria's commercial hub since July and both have been accused of carrying out summary executions.

Corporations’ stockpile of ‘dead money’ tops $500 billion: CLC report

OTTAWA—The build-up of corporate cash that Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney called “dead money” has hit more than $500 billion, says a report by labour economists that urges Ottawa to revise its business tax-cutting strategy.

“Rather than investing the windfall from their tax cuts to create jobs, Canada’s largest non-financial corporations are hoarding cash and paying fat compensation to their CEOs,” says the Canadian Labour Congress in a press release accompanying the study.

Defense Contractors: A Tale of Fraud, Waste and Crime

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come at a great cost to the American people. Thousands of men and women have died in uniform in the war zones, and billions of dollars have been spent on the wars. The wars have caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have arguably had a destabilizing effect on the Middle East. It seems that the only ones benefitting from the wars have been defense contractors. Over the last decade the United States has outsourced much of the wars. Defense contractors have built bases, shipped supplies, cooked food, cleaned uniforms, and provided security. Many of the functions that used to be performed by the military have been outsourced to corporations such as Halliburton. However, we don't always get what we paid for.

Texas Obamacare Bill Would Give Tax Breaks To Companies That Don't Cover Contraception

Texas may consider rewarding companies for violating a key Obamacare provision.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) introduced a bill in the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday that would give tax breaks to companies that don't cover emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Under Obamacare, company health insurance plans are required to fully cover employees' contraception costs, and companies must pay a federal fine if they do not.

Dror Moreh, 'Gatekeepers' Director: Jewish Population In America Cherishes Israel Too Much

Dror Moreh, the Israeli director of the Oscar-nominated documentary "The Gatekeepers" told HuffPost Live Monday that American Jews cherish the idea of Israel too much.

Moreh's film, which was nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar, features surprisingly candid interviews with six retired directors of Israel's domestic spy agency, the Shin Bet, and offers a sobering look into the targeted killings behind Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. It has sparked a collective soul-searching for many both in Israel and the United States.

Introducing The Super Arrow – An Alternative to the F-35?

There has been a lot of talk on Canada’s defence scene about a next generation aircraft based on Avro Arrow technology and the possibility of a made-in-Canada solution for the replacement of the CF-18. Retired general Lewis MacKenzie floated the idea publicly which was met with both enthusiasm and dismissal.

Documents obtained by Global News in September indicated that the concept was briefly looked at by the government and dismissed.

Canada concerned about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear intentions

OTTAWA — Canadian officials have expressed private concerns about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear intentions, repeating in internal documents their fears that the Persian Gulf state could try to acquire atomic weapons if Iran managed to acquire the bomb.

The concerns, raised in briefing notes prepared for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in advance of a trip to the Gulf region last March, were cited as a key reason to reject any Canada-Saudi nuclear co-operation.

Fight over Keystone pipeline entering final rounds

As Barack Obama ponders whether he will approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, environmentalists on both sides of the border are mounting a vigorous last-ditch bid to kill both the pipeline and the oilsands.

They are taking hope from a reference in Obama’s inaugural speech last week regarding the climate change crisis in which he pledged not to “betray our children and future generations.”

NDP want MPs in the penalty box or suspended for bad behaviour in Commons

OTTAWA - The NDP wants to bring civility to the raucous House of Commons with measures that would impose suspensions and even loss of pay for MPs who go too far in personal comments or attacks.

Stronger penalties are needed to stop the behaviour that mars question period and turns off Canadians, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen told a news conference Tuesday.

The NDP motion targets "harassment, threats, personal attacks, or extreme misrepresentation of facts."

Common Causes: Human rights policies eroding under Harper government

Through a wide variety of initiatives, policies and positions at both national and international levels, Canada's traditional reputation as a human rights leader has eroded. The speed at which decades of human rights leadership has come undone has been dizzying.

First Nations are betrayed

While no one is laying blame for the chronic conditions of poverty and poor living standards of First Nations communities on the doorstep of one party or government, the Harper government abandoned the 2006 Kelowna Accord and with it, a whole host of programs to address issues of aboriginal health, addictions, youth suicide, fetal alcohol syndrome, maternal health and child care, and others.

Canada to provide $13M more for Mali aid

Canada will provide another $13 million in aid to Mali, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino announced Tuesday in Ethiopia.

Fantino is the Canadian representative at a donor's conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Egypt’s state could collapse if crisis continues, army chief warns

PORT SAID, EGYPT—Thousands of mourners chanting for the downfall of Egypt's president marched in funerals again Tuesday in the restive city of Port Said as the army chief warned the state could collapse if the latest political crisis drags on.

Troops in Port Said and Suez, two riot-torn cities along the strategic Suez Canal, stood by and watched Monday night as thousands took to the streets in direct defiance of a night curfew and a state of emergency declared by President Mohammed Morsi a day earlier. Residents of the two cities and Ismailiya, a third city also under the emergency, marched just as the curfew came into force at 9 p.m.

Beijing cancels flights, shuts factories as pollution hits ‘beyond index’ levels

BEIJING- Thick, off-the-scale smog shrouded eastern China for the second time in about two weeks Tuesday, forcing airlines to cancel flights because of poor visibility and prompting Beijing to temporarily shut factories and curtail fleets of government cars.

The capital was a colourless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air. The flight cancellations stranded passengers during the first week of the country’s peak, six-week period for travel surrounding the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.

Stephen Harper discusses free trade agreement with new Japanese Prime Minister

OTTAWA—The prime minister and his Japanese counterpart have pledged to work together to reach a comprehensive free trade agreement between the two countries.

In a phone call on Monday night to congratulate Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his recent election, Stephen Harper noted that enhancing bilateral trade and economic relations between Canada and Japan is important to the prosperity of both countries.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Harper and Abe also discussed the potential for energy cooperation and matters of international security.

Plan would take Alberta oil to East Coast refineries

EDMONTON -- While Alberta's discounted bitumen languishes for lack of a way to get to international markets, eastern Canadian refineries import 600,000 barrels of pricy oil a day from places like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Libya.

That could change now that New Brunswick Premier David Alward is Alberta-bound and ready to get a pipeline to Canada's East Coast in gear.

Experts clash over impact of NDP position on rights

All Canadian laws must be "consistent" with a 2007 United Nations declaration that says economic development cannot occur on First Nations territory without local aboriginals' "free, prior and informed consent," says a an NDP private member's bill tabled Monday.

The bill, sponsored by aboriginal affairs critic Romeo Saganash and endorsed by leader Thomas Mulcair, drew opposing views from two B.C. aboriginal rights experts.

Corporations using tax savings to fatten bank accounts, not create jobs: report

OTTAWA -- Corporate tax freedom day continues to get earlier with each passing year thanks to generous government tax cuts, the Canadian Labour Congress says in a report issued Tuesday.

While most individual Canadians don't earn enough to pay off their taxes until sometime in late June, the labour group says the country's businesses will have reaped sufficient revenue to pay their year's share by Jan. 30.

The Republic of Harper

Members of Parliament arriving after the holiday recess were greeted Monday by hundreds of Idle No More demonstrators rallying on Parliament Hill. The Canada-wide protests give encouragement to the numerous adversaries of the Harper government, which studiously ignores opposition to its agenda.

At the halfway point in its majority mandate, the Harper government treats the House of Commons with disdain, refusing to answer opposition questions, undermining committee work, and using members' statements to lie about its opponents. The government wants to foster cynicism about Ottawa, Parliament and the political process in general.

Corporate Tax Freedom Day: CEOs dancing in their suites

Corporate executives in Canada will be dancing in their suites to celebrate Corporate Tax Freedom Day on January 30. A research study by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) -- called What did Corporate Tax cuts Deliver? -- shows that by that date corporations will have paid their taxes to all levels of government for the entire year.

When the CLC observed Corporate Tax Freedom Day last year, spokespersons for big business rushed to defend both tax breaks and the high level of corporate cash reserves. They said that Canada has to be competitive with other countries. That is just talk. Canadian corporate income taxes are already competitive and did not have to be lowered. Business representatives also claimed last year that corporate income tax as a share of government revenue would soon increase. That has not happened. Corporate income taxes fell from 8.8 per cent of government revenues in 2010 to 8.3 per cent in 2011. Back in the 1960s and 70s, corporate income tax represented an average 11 per cent of government revenues.

Teachers refusing to collect milk money, labour board told

Got milk?

Not in school snack programs any more in most of cottage country, where teachers are refusing to collect milk money as part of their protest against Bill 115.

The cancellation of all but six school milk programs in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board is just one of the lost services that has prompted it and the Upper Canada District School Board to seek a cease-and-desist order against the teachers’ extracurricular boycott from the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Aaron Swartz Case Draws Letter To Eric Holder From Darrell Issa, Elijah Cummings

WASHINGTON -- The top Republican and top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee sent a joint letter late Monday to Attorney General Eric Holder posing pointed questions about the prosecution of Internet pioneer and political activist Aaron Swartz.

Swartz committed suicide this month after fighting federal hacking charges for two years. The letter from Issa and Cummings is the first clear bipartisan response to Swartz's prosecution, heavily criticized by computer and criminal justice experts as unwarranted and excessive. Swartz would have faced up to 35 years in prison if convicted of hacking charges stemming from mass downloads of academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. Although Swartz had legal access to all of the articles, he was accused of violating the database terms of service by downloading so many at once. JSTOR had opposed his prosecution.

Canadian Oil Producers' Crocodile Tears

Cenovus CEO Brian Ferguson, speaking at a Whistler investor's forum Jan. 24, 2012, claimed the double discount in crude prices from a lack of pipeline capacity is a "subsidization to the United States consumer by the Canadian economy" which he calculated is "$1,200 per Canadian."

The message he's sending? If each one of us wants to keep that $1,200 a year instead of providing income support for Americans, then get on the pipeline band wagon and become like him -- "in favour of all pipelines, going anywhere."

If You Can't Win the Presidency, Put the Fix In

After Republicans took a drubbing in the 2012 elections, failing to win the presidency, losing seats in the Senate, and only hanging on to the House because of extreme gerrymandering, we heard a lot about the party's renewed "soul searching." This journey of self-exploration, we hoped, would produce a truce in the War on Women, a more moderate approach on taxes, and a dialing back of the assault on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, all ways of picking up the pieces of a coalition shattered by the Tea Party.

Immigration Reform: Should We Treat Engineers Differently Than Bricklayers?

Whisper it softly, but signs of sanity are breaking out in the G.O.P. Ten days after John Boehner wisely backed down on the threat of refusing to raise the debt ceiling, four Republican senators, led by Marco Rubio and John McCain, have joined four Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, to propose a framework for immigration reform. By containing principles that have bipartisan support from the start, the framework—or at least some version of it—has a good chance of eventually becoming law.

Facing multi-billion dollar deficit, Alberta to spend $275 million on environmentally friendly office for bureaucrats

EDMONTON — As Premier Alison Redford warns Albertans to tighten their belts for a tough March budget, tenders are going out for completion of a $275-million renovation of an environmentally friendly office to house MLAs and bureaucrats.

The massive expenditure, while Alberta braces for its sixth consecutive deficit, has Alberta opposition parties questioning the government’s priorities and its timing.

Wildrose critic Rob Anderson said the fact the government is pressing ahead with the building renovation at the legislature in Edmonton while the premier is preaching fiscal austerity is “just beyond belief.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper boasts of his ‘unprecedented’ investment for Canada’s aboriginals

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper made no apologies Monday for his aboriginal policies, boasting the governing Tories have improved the lives of Canada’s First Nations peoples — from the water they drink and the houses in which they live, to the schools where their children are educated.

But opposition parties, which hammered away at Harper on the issue as the Commons returned for business after a six-week break, said Harper’s record is abysmal.

Seattle’s Teacher Uprising: High School Faculty Faces Censure for Boycotting Standardized MAP Tests

Earlier this month, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, voted unanimously to stop administering a widely used standardized test, calling them wasteful and unfairly used to grade their performance. They are now facing threats of 10-day suspension without pay if they continue their boycott. We go to Seattle to speak with two guests: Jesse Hagopian, a high school history teacher and union representative at Garfield High School who has refused to administer the MAP standardized test; and Wayne Au, a former high school teacher, assistant professor at the University of Washington, and author of "Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Canadian gov't moves to fend off another oilsands PR storm, this time in New England

MONTREAL - The Canadian government has moved to shield the oil industry from yet another public-relations storm related to pipelines — this time on the U.S. East Coast.

Canada's envoy to New England penned an editorial published in a Maine newspaper Monday, two days after more than 1,000 protesters in the state expressed concern Alberta oil could soon flow across the region.

The Commons: Idle No More and the complaints of before

With protesters standing in the snow outside, our House moved quickly to make up for six weeks without these formal proceedings.

“Mr. Speaker, today in First Nations communities across the country, the unemployment rate can reach 80%, half of the housing units are in a pitiful state and schools and students receive 30% less funding than others,” Thomas Mulcair reported. “Last year, during meetings between the Crown and First Nations, the Prime Minister promised to renew our nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people. He promised substantial consultations: he never listened. He promised to tackle these problems: instead he attacked the chiefs. Will the Prime Minister finally take concrete action in this matter?”

DND looks to privatize management of properties and installations

OTTAWA — The Defence Department will turn to the private sector to help manage its vast holdings of properties and plans to have a number of companies in place by 2015 to handle that job, according to a high level document obtained by the Citizen.

The department is the largest landholder in the federal government, with more than 2 million hectares of property from coast to coast. Those holdings include 20,000 buildings as well as 23 major installations including bases such as CFB Petawawa.

Canadian special forces on ground in Mali, sources say

Canadian special forces are on the ground inside the troubled West African country of Mali to protect Canadian assets there, CBC News has learned.

The special forces are not there to train Malian troops — and they are not involved in any combat role, as the government has repeatedly stressed and Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated again Monday in the House of Commons.

The Gatekeepers: In New Film, Ex-Shin Bet Chiefs Denounce Occupation, Compare Israel to Nazi Germany

Amidst a spate of killings by Israeli forces of unarmed Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, we turn to the stunning Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Gatekeepers." The film brings together six former heads of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, collectively speaking out for the first time ever. They detail their methods against Palestinian militants and civilians in the Occupied Territories, including targeted killings, torture, recruiting informants, and the suppression of mass protests during two intifadas. But in doing so, they also criticize the occupation they were assigned with defending and warn that successive Israeli governments have endangered their country’s future by refusing to make peace. "We are making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, [and] it kills me," Carmi Gillon says in the film. "[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II," adds Avraham Shalom. We are joined by the film’s director, Dror Moreh.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Taxpayers Group Wants Transparency From New Alberta Senator

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation wants the newly appointed Alberta senator to be open about his expenses.

Doug Black was one of five people appointed to the Senate on Friday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canada In Mali: Special Forces On The Ground Say DND Sources

OTTAWA - Canada's special forces are on the ground in Mali to help protect Canadian personnel who are already operating in the troubled African country, say sources within the Department of National Defence.

Few other details were immediately available, although the Department of Foreign Affairs went to lengths to spell out that the presence of special forces soldiers does not signal an involvement in combat.

Arizona Bill Would Turn Hospitals Into Immigration Checkpoints, But Exempts Canadians, Europeans

An Arizona lawmaker wants to turn hospitals into immigration checkpoints -- but the law wouldn’t apply in the same way to Canadians or many Europeans.

As Republicans and Democrats come together in Washington to debate immigration reform, Rep. Steve Smith, a Republican from Maricopa County, has submitted a proposal to the state legislature that would require the uninsured to provide proof of citizenship at hospital visits.

Senate Immigration Reform Proposal Backs Drones, But Critics Say They're Useless And Invasive

The bipartisan Senate framework for comprehensive immigration reform released on Monday puts a controversial, high-tech tool front and center: drones. The unmanned aerial vehicles allow conservatives and liberals alike to look tough on border security, but critics say the drones are a threat to civil liberties -- and the Department of Homeland Security's own inspector general says they're so wasteful that the border police should stop buying them.

Wyoming Legislative Committee Rejects Gay Marriage, Passes Domestic Partnerships

A Wyoming legislative committee voted Monday to advance a bill to legalize domestic partnership in the state, while killing a bill to permit gay marriage.

The state House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee issued the split decision Monday afternoon following a contentious two-hour hearing. While supporters of gay marriage described the need for Wyoming -- which is nicknamed the Equality State -- to pass the bill to ensure said equality, opponents offered a number of arguments against gay marriage, including moral and public health concerns. The gay marriage bill failed in a 5-4 vote, while domestic partnerships passed 7-2.

Office Working to Close Guantánamo Is Shuttered

FORT MEADE, Md. — The State Department on Monday reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him, according to an internal personnel announcement. Mr. Fried’s office is being closed, and his former responsibilities will be “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser, the notice said.
The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues pertaining to repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.