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.]

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Gay asylum seekers feeling increased pressure to prove sexuality, say experts

Gay asylum seekers are increasingly going to extreme lengths to meet immigration officials' demands that they prove their sexual identity or else be returned to countries where they face persecution.

In a lecture to be delivered this week at the Law Society, S Chelvan, a barrister who specialises in asylum cases and works with the UK Border Agency (UKBA), will detail the extraordinary methods to which individuals are resorting – including filming themselves having sex – to justify requests for refuge.

U.S. media complicit in Obama's drone doctrine

In 2001, when Israel started killing militant Palestinian enemies (and, often, innocent bystanders) with missiles fired from helicopters hovering so high you could barely see them, foreign reporters were urged by the Israeli government to call the practice “targeted killing.”

Most of us, including many of my American colleagues, preferred the term “extrajudicial assassination.” We felt we were in the news business, not the euphemism business.

Negotiators talking to inmates in Hull jail lockdown

Negotiators are speaking to some of the inmates who have refused to return to their cells in the maximum-security section of the Hull jail in Gatineau, Que., which forced Quebec provincial police to put the jail in lockdown.

Sgt. Marc Tessier said 16 inmates failed to return to the cells in their wing and they were not co-operating with jail officials Wednesday morning.

Harper Government’s Position On Mali Marked By Confusion, Says Liberal Defence Critic

Parliamentarians got their first public glimpse into the Government’s thinking last week with a formal briefing by Officials from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence. It was instructive but possibly not in the way that the Harper Government intended.

General Vance was asked “what is Canada’s military goal?” He replied that it was to support France. The follow up question is “what are France’s goals?” France has a long history in the region dating back to the colonial era and has specific national interests that is pursuing. If we are going to hitch our wagon to theirs let’s hope that our goals are the same as theirs.

Tories short-sighted on green energy

When Peter Julian visited his in-laws in Shandong province in 2011, he was struck by skies which, depending on weather, either were grey, or grey and wet.

The New Democratic Party MP for Burnaby-New Westminster recalls, on sunny days, blue skies were absent with the sun appearing only faintly as a faint yellow blob behind thick haze.

As NDP energy and natural resources critic, Julian lately has been thinking a lot about greenhouse gas emissions.

Dual Citizens Who Commit Terrorist Acts Should Lose Canadian Status, Kenney Says

OTTAWA - A Lebanese-Canadian implicated in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last year came to Canada at the age of eight, then left about four years later after becoming a citizen, says Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The scant details Kenney offered up Wednesday provided a bit more shape to the amorphous, anonymous figure who emerged the day before as a key player in the attack last July, which killed six people.

Marco Rubio Not Convinced Climate Change An Actual Problem

One of the Grand Old Party's brightest young stars claims he's still not convinced climate change is a real problem.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), spoke at the inaugural BuzzFeed Brews event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night. The conversation eventually turned to environmental reforms.

Speaking with BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, Rubio said that climate change was not a proven fact, and that even if it was, it would not be cost-effective for the U.S. to take action.

How does native funding work?

The recent Idle No More protests, as well as Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s 45-day hunger strike, have raised awareness of native issues.

One of the most complicated and misunderstood issues is the subject of native funding, which stems largely from the relationship between governments and aboriginal peoples. The history of that relationship has determined how various aspects of what we are calling aboriginal finance work — or don't work.

Burning Down the House of S. & P.

One of the most surprising aspects of the Justice Department’s five-billion-dollar lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s, which the D.O.J. accuses of defrauding investors by issuing ratings on subprime mortgage securities that it knew to be misleading, is that the settlement talks broke down. According to a story in the Times, McGraw-Hill, S. & P.’s parent company, decided to take its chances in court rather than accept a billion dollar fine and admit wrongdoing, which could have made it vulnerable to more lawsuits from investors.

Whom Can the President Kill?

About a third of the way into in a Department of Justice white paper explaining why and when the President can kill American citizens, there is a citation that should give a reader pause. It comes in a section in which the author of the document, which was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last year—and obtained by Michael Isikoff, of NBC, on Monday—says that this power extends into every country in the world other than the United States, well beyond those where we are engaged in hostilities. The reference is to an address that John R. Stevenson, a State Department legal adviser, gave before the Association of the Bar in New York in May, 1970, to justify the Nixon Administration’s incursion into Cambodia. Does that make everyone, or anyone, feel better about what the Obama Administration has decided it can do, or the extent to which it thought through the implications, unintended consequences, precedents, and random reckless damage it may be delivering with this policy?

Drone Strike Limitations Considered By Congress After Justice Department Memo Surfaces

WASHINGTON -- Uncomfortable with the Obama administration's use of deadly drones, a growing number in Congress is looking to limit America's authority to kill suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens. The Democratic-led outcry was emboldened by the revelation in a newly surfaced Justice Department memo that shows drones can strike against a wider range of threats, with less evidence, than previously believed.

Nearly Half of All US Farms Now Have Superweeds

Last year's drought took a big bite out of the two most prodigious US crops, corn and soy. But it apparently didn't slow down the spread of weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), used on crops engineered by Monsanto to resist it. More than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the US is now genetically modified to withstand glyphosate.

Back in 2011, such weeds were already spreading fast. "Monsanto's 'Superweeds' Gallop Through Midwest," declared the headline of a post I wrote then. What's the word you use when an already-galloping horse speeds up? Because that's what's happening. Let's try this: "Monsanto's 'Superweeds' Stampede Through Midwest."

Suncor Voyager Oilsands Upgrader Takes $1.5 Billion Charge, Q4 Loss

CALGARY - Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU) reported a fourth-quarter net loss as it took a big charge related to its long-shelved and economically "challenged" Voyageur oilsands upgrader.

Canada's biggest energy company said late Tuesday that the net loss for the last three months of 2012 was $562 million, or 37 cents per share, compared with net earnings of $1.43 billion, or 91 cents per share, during the same period a year earlier.

The slow, sliding decay of Canada’s national project

A wide swath of Canada’s political, corporate and media elite want Canada turned into what former senator and constitutional scholar Eugene Forsey once called “a boneless wonder.” And they are fast achieving their goal.

This country, the world’s second-largest in geographic size, is now already acknowledged to be its second-most decentralized federation, second only to Switzerland.

Lawmakers Threaten Funding of Brooklyn College for Hosting Event on BDS Campaign Against Israel

New York politicians are threatening to cut funding to Brooklyn College if the school hosts a forum Thursday night about the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott and divest from Israel. The Brooklyn College Political Science Department is among the event’s co-sponsors. In response, a group of New York City Council members has raised the possibility of Brooklyn College losing taxpayer support. The council members’ threat is just one of several efforts by local lawmakers, from Congress on down, to pressure Brooklyn College to remove its sponsorship or even cancel the event. As the school vows to proceed with the event, we’re joined by one of its featured speakers, author and activist Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the BDS movement and author of "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights." On BDS, Barghouti says, "It follows in the steps of the civil rights movement in this country, in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. … It’s just when we talk about Palestinian rights, that some people are trying to criminalize and make it completely unacceptable speech to address Palestinian rights under international law." We’re also joined by Glenn Greenwald, columnist for The Guardian and author of "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Federal Court of Canada rules in favour of U.S. war deserter

OTTAWA — The Federal Court has ruled in favour of another United States war resister and has ordered Jules Tindungan’s case be returned to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

According to his lawyer Alyssa Manning, this is the 11th time since 2008 that the courts have ruled in favour of U.S. war resisters.

Canada’s environmental protection must keep pace with economic development

If two weeks in China teaches you anything, it is the perils of growth-at-all-cost. Lack of environmental protection there has left much of the country facing what Internet users are calling “airpocalypse.”

The latest report by the environment commissioner does not suggest Canada is anywhere close to China’s level of ecological degradation, but Scott Vaughan said he is concerned environmental protection is failing to keep pace with economic development.

Pedagogy and progressives

An interesting book on education, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (John Wiley & Sons 2010), is a recent formalist attempt at improving pedagogy. The seven principles mentioned in the book are prior knowledge, the organization of knowledge, motivation, mastery, feedback, course climate and self-direction. The most compelling chapter is the second: "How does the way students organize knowledge affect their learning?" The section notes that the difference between the teacher and the learner is that the latter lacks a sophisticated framework by which to organize information. In the study of physiology, for example, a student may consider knowledge in terms of understanding significant systems -- such as the skeletal, the digestive, and the circulatory -- but lacks the ability to explain how these discrete elements work together to affect blood pressure. The study of sub-systems can lead to some understanding, but the interconnected organization of knowledge enables more effective explanation.

'We will defend what we have won' - Maple Spring: Part Deux in Quebec?

The ASSE, parent organization to the Maple Spring's CLASSE, had been remarkably quiet of late, staying largely out of the media spotlight and explaining that they were preoccupied with preparations for the Quebec government's summit on the future of higher education. On Monday morning the other shoe dropped, as spokesperson Jérémie Bédard-Wien delivered an incendiary message to media assembled at an ASSE organized press conference.

Environment Commissioner raises alarm; government remains passive and indifferent

The British North America (BNA) Act, the founding Canadian constitutional document, makes no mention of the environment as a public policy area.

While the BNA Act assigns education and health to the province and the military to the federal government, it assigns the environment to nobody.

Redford government floats risky scheme to impose contract on teachers

Trapped in a no-deficit, no-tax-increase cage of its own devising, with few ideas and a budget looming on March 7, the government of Premier Alison Redford has floated the idea of using legislation to impose a salary cap on Alberta's teachers.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson has been shopping this brainstorm around to the province's school boards to see who salutes and who heaves rotten tomatoes.

Five Keystone XL Keyholders

On Thursday, visitors to the Pipe Tech Americas Summit got a speech they weren't planning on hearing. As employees from pipeline construction companies gathered to discuss new technology and listen to Tom Hamilton, manager of quality and compliance for TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline, talk about safety, tar sands blockader Ramsey Sprague jumped up from the crowd and chained himself to the audio equipment next to the projection screen.

While security tried to figure out how to get him unchained, Sprague gave the crowd an earful of a different sort about TransCanada and pipeline safety. He told them:

Supreme Court’s decision on Senate's future could pit Ottawa against Atlantic Canada, says expert

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to ask the Supreme Court of Canada whether his government has the constitutional authority to unilaterally change the way Senators are selected, or to abolish the Senate with the support of at least seven provinces, will pit Ottawa against the Atlantic provinces and divide the country region against region, says a leading political scientist in Atlantic Canada.

Harper retreats to the safety of crime

Stephen Harper is moving back into safe territory.

That’s the significance of Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s announcement Monday that the Conservative government plans to get tougher on those who sexually abuse children.

The announcement was unusually content-free. Nicholson didn’t say how Ottawa would get tougher. On CBC radio the next day he was equally vague.

Canada’s role in Mali: Little clarity, a lot of confusion

Parliamentarians got their first public glimpse into the government’s thinking last week with a formal briefing by officials from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence. It was instructive but possibly not in the way that the Harper government intended.

Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance was asked, “What is Canada’s military goal?” He replied that it was to support France. The follow-up question is, “What are France’s goals?” France has a long history in the region dating back to the colonial era and has specific national interests that it is pursuing. If we are going to hitch our wagon to theirs let’s hope that our goals are the same as theirs.

Decade After Iraq WMD Speech at UN, Ex-Powell Aide Lawrence Wilkerson Debates Author Norman Solomon

Ten years ago this week, a defining moment occurred in the Bush administration’s push to invade Iraq. On February 5, 2003, then Secretary of State General Colin Powell addressed the United Nations Security Council. His message was clear: Iraq possessed extremely dangerous weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein was systematically trying to deceive U.N. inspectors by hiding prohibited weapons. A decade late, we host a debate between Powell’s former aide, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson — who prepared the UN speech, only to later renounce it — and media critic Norman Solomon, author of "War Made Easy." "I don’t believe the hype about that having been the ultimate presentation that led us to war with Iraq," Wilkerson says of Powell’s speech. "George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and others had decided to go to war with Iraq long before Colin Powell gave the presentation. It added to the momentum of the war. ... Frankly, we were all wrong. Was the intelligence politicized in addition to being wrong at its roots? Absolutely." In response, Solomon says, "We were not all wrong. Many experts and activists and researchers from the get go in 2002 were saying that the administration case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was full of holes. … So now to say, ‘Well it wasn’t just us at the administration, other people believed it’ — people believed it because they were propagandized by the administration with massive assistance from the mass media."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

A case for civil disobedience

OTTAWA — All the benefits Roslyn Kunin attributes to life in Canada in her recent column, including peace and order and good government, came about through civil disobedience. The suffragettes who won women the right vote did not shy away from it.

Civil disobedience is breaking an unjust law or breaking a law to draw attention to an unjust law. It has played a major role in creating democracy around the world. We shouldn’t forget that ever.

Conservatives admit they were behind last week’s Saskatchewan robocalls after voice-analysis links them

OTTAWA – A forensic voice-analysis expert has matched a voice recording from a mysterious company that sent out a robocall “push poll” about Saskatchewan riding boundaries to the firm that was used to send out the infamous “Pierre Poutine” calls in the last election.

After initially denying any involvement, the Conservatives said Tuesday that they had failed to identify themselves as the source of the voice-broadcast to Saskatchewan residents last week.

Hungary's right-wing inflames ethnic tensions

In a cafe in Budapest's 8th District, known for its high population of Roma - also known as Gypsies - Hungarian activist Jeno Setét spoke about the discrimination he says his community faces on a regular basis.

He described how he and his wife, a non-Roma, were applying to live in an apartment. The owner initially thought Setét's wife would be the only renter - but when he found out that Setét, a Roma, would also be living there, the couple was immediately told they could not take the apartment.

British parliament approves same-sex marriage

British legislators have approved gay marriage despite fierce opposition from members of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party.

Members of the House of Commons - the lower House - voted on Tuesday by 400 to 175 to approve the draft law allowing same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales.

The move puts Britain on track to join the ten countries that allow same-sex couples to marry, but Cameron had the embarrassment of seeing more than half of his Conservative legislators refusing to back him.

CIA renditions 'aided by 54 countries'

As many as 54 countries have been complicit in the CIA's extraordinary rendition operations in which terrorism suspects were held in secret prisons overseas or turned over to foreign governments for interrogation, a human rights organisation has said in a report.

The report, released on Tuesday, claims that foreign governments in Europe, Asia and Africa have been secretly involved in global kidnap, detention and torture of at least 136 people on behalf of the United States after September 11, 2001 attacks.

DOJ Drones Paper: Obama's Second-Term Cabinet, Agenda Faces New Scrutiny

WASHINGTON -- A report Monday night on the nature of the administration's drone program has the potential to dramatically revamp the debate over President Barack Obama's foreign policy and the confirmation process for his incoming cabinet.

The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al Qaeda or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.

Canada-U.S. Price Differences Report Coming Tomorrow

Canadians may soon know why they pay more for many products than shoppers south of the border.

The final report of a Senate finance committee study into price differences between Canada and the U.S. is due today.

Sen. Mike Duffy not on P.E.I. voters’ list

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, who must prove that his main residence is in Prince Edward Island, was not on the voters’ list in that province in 2011, records show.

Duffy did cast a ballot in the Ontario provincial election that year, however.

Opposition accuses Conservative Senator Mike Duffy of ‘falsifying’ living expenses

OTTAWA—Conservative Senator Mike Duffy was sitting on the outer edge of the upper chamber on Tuesday, but he received far more attention on the other side of the building in the House of Commons.

“This is a guy who was caught falsifying facts and sticking his hand in the taxpayers’ pocket. Do we really believe that the Conservative cronies in the Senate are going to make him pay the money back?” NDP MP Charlie Angus asked during question period.

P.E.I. considers Mike Duffy a "non-resident"

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy may call P.E.I. home, but P.E.I. considers him a non-resident.

Records obtained by The Guardian Tuesday from the provincial taxation and property division office show Duffy and his wife Heather are identified as non-resident owners of their Cavendish cottage and thus pay higher property taxes.

Prince Edward Island charges 50 per cent more in property taxes to owners who are not permanent residents of the Island.

Conservatives admit they were behind “push poll,” following analysis of phone message

OTTAWA – A forensic voice-analysis expert has matched a voice recording from a mysterious company that sent out a robocall “push poll” about Saskatchewan riding boundaries to the firm that was used to send out the infamous “Pierre Poutine” calls in the last election.

After initially denying any involvement, the Conservatives said Tuesday that they had failed to identify themselves as the source of the voice-broadcast to Saskatchewan residents last week.

Making Quebec the enemy

Should Tom Mulcair be surprised to learn that a chorus of Canadian editorial boards have condemned him for being soft on Quebec sovereignty, and therefore a danger to national unity? That a garage band of pundits and academics has tried to Twitter-fry the NDP for being confused about the Constitution, and what the Supreme Court had to say about secession from Canada?

The media-driven controversy seems strange given that the leader of the Official Opposition has been clear where he stood on Quebec nationalism throughout his career. Mulcair knows, and wants it further understood, that Quebecers will continue to fight to preserve what makes them distinct. In a statement to the House of Commons he pointed out that Quebec twice voted for Canada, and deserves more than the politics of division practiced in the past by the federal Liberals, and the Bloc.

Banks in bad odour but still filthy rich

Back during that terrifying span of 2008 to 2009 when the U.S. financial system came to edge of collapse and a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s seemed entirely likely, an expressive phrase entered the popular vocabulary.

Said most times in a combination of outrage and of resigned acceptance, that saying was that some banks were “too big to fail.”

Bitumen bubble gives Alberta the vapours: Greenspon

Alberta Premier Alison Redford brought her sad tale of budgetary woe to Ontario last week. Her province isn’t collecting enough money for its oil. It suffers from overreliance on a single export market. That market is not as needy as it once was. And so Alberta is headed for a $6-billion surge in its deficit. Her finance minister described the situation as a perfect storm.

Cry me a Bitumen Bubble.

Conference Board findings on poverty, inequality should spur change

Canada may bask in its five-star image as a nation where the roads are paved with silver, if not gold. But for many of us the reality is less rosy, the Conference Board of Canada finds in its latest report on How Canada Performs. In fact, our national performance is downright “troubling for a wealthy country” when it comes to some key social indicators including the rich/poor gap, and the number of working-age adults and children living in poverty.

“Canada’s middle of the pack ranking means it is not living up to its reputation or its potential,” the board found after surveying 17 industrial nations.We earned a B average and a middling 7th place ranking.