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, February 09, 2013

Neocon Tantrums

The hysterics of neoconservative senators has become a cacophony that's pretty similar to a room full of children. It's a series of tantrums that clearly shows they are losing, badly.

Senator Lindsey Graham says the Obama administration should "reconsider" the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

Senator Ted Cruz, who already put out edited clips of Hagel in an effort to falsely smear him, now says he needs to see the text of certain paid speeches Hagel gave, even though Hagel has explained that he did not speak from prepared notes at those speeches. Senators Jeff Sessions and James Inhofe lamely float the idea of a filibuster, even though all indications are that they don't have the 60 votes for one.

Obama and Drones: Unkept Promises

I find deeply troubling the White House claim that their use of drones to assassinate suspected terrorists is "legal, ethical and wise". The release of a Department of Justice "White Paper" that purports to establish the Administration's legal justification for these killings only compounds my concern.

In response to the excesses of his predecessor, President Obama promised an Administration that would respect due process, rule of law, judicial oversight, and a government that would be transparent and accountable. The "White Paper" fails to deliver on this promise.

Paul Krugman: Global Austerity 'An Unethical Experimentation On Human Beings'

Paul Krugman doesn't just think austerity is bad economic policy; the Nobel Prize-winning economist says it's just plain wrong.

"We've basically had an unethical experimentation on human beings going on across the world right now," Krugman told HuffPost Live on Friday. "All these countries are pursuing austerity policies, and in doing so, they are giving us evidence on what actually happens when you do those policies."

Several European countries -- including Great Britain, Greece, Spain and Italy -- have slashed their budgets in recent years. Those countries have seen high unemployment rates and stagnant economies.

"It's been a disaster," Krugman said of austerity in Great Britain. "They have gone back into recession."

The U.S. has also pursued austerity, albeit to a smaller extent. The U.S. government has cut 719,000 jobs since President Barack Obama took office. And the unemployment rate still is far higher than before the recession.

You can watch the whole segment here.

Original Article
Author: Bonnie Kavoussi

Harper says closure of Vancouver coast guard base in keeping with public safety

VANCOUVER - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the closure of a Vancouver coast guard station is in keeping with his government's emphasis on public safety.

The shuttering of the Kitsilano base announced last year has prompted demands from Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for the government to change its mind, saying the move puts lives at risk.

Weak support in poll for sending Canadian troops to Mali

A new poll suggests most Canadians would oppose the deployment of combat troops to Mali to fight Islamist rebels.

Fewer than one in five respondents to the Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey favour sending troops to the landlocked African country to fight a violent insurgency.

Chris Mazza of ORNGE got $4.6 million in two years

Dr. Chris Mazza received a hefty $4.6 million in public dollars in his last two years at ORNGE — a lot more than previously known.

That amount includes salary and bonus of $1.9 million in his last year as president; $1.5 million in salary and bonus the year before; a $250,000 cash advance against a future bonus; and two housing loans totalling $950,000.

Cutting off EI to convicts bound to backfire, social agency warns

Clawing back employment insurance benefits to convicts is a tough-on-crime measure destined to backfire, a Calgary agency told a Senate committee this week.

The United Way of Calgary appeared on Parliament Hill to voice its opposition to Bill C-316, a private member’s bill that would severely limit the ability of offenders to collect EI when they get out of jail.

The bill, introduced by B.C. Conservative MP Bill Harris in 2011, has passed the House of Commons and is now being considered by the Senate.

Critical mass building to abolish senate

History will eventually tell whether this was the week when public fatigue with the Canadian Senate passed the point of no return.

What is certain is that the abolition of the upper house is well on the way to being upgraded from a Plan B dearest to the heart of the NDP to the Plan A of a critical mass in the country’s political class — possibly including Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself.

XL Keystone Pipeline’s Construction in Serious Doubt

The Trans-Canada-Keystone XL oil pipeline’s eventual construction may never see the light of day, according to reliable U.S. officials who revealed this opinion under the guise of anonymity. This route to a massive increase of Canadian crude oil converted from tar sands in the Athabasca region of Canada’s Alberta Province direct to U.S. refineries in Southern Louisiana and the Houston area could currently provide available refinery capacity with approximately 830,000 daily barrels.

As economic summit kicks off in Calgary, key budget details emerge

Saturday’s Alberta Economic Summit at Mount Royal University promises to be a day of fascinating chatter — with no impact on the provincial budget.

The budget documents will apparently go to the printer soon, after several aspects were thrashed out Thursday at a Treasury Board meeting.

Alberta Budget: Canadian Tax Group Says Alberta Needs A Spending Diet

EDMONTON - The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it is going to Alberta's economic summit this weekend to spread the word that Alberta needs to go on a diet.

Federation spokesman Derek Fildebrandt says Alberta spends more per capita than almost any other province, but lags behind on health care and other services.

The PCs and Alberta's government: one entity, indivisible, under God?

As befits an almost exclusively political event, criticism of today's Alberta economic summit by the Opposition Wildrose Party prompted a harsh and highly partisan riposte by the Redford Government.

A news release issued yesterday on government letterhead over the name of Stefan Baranski, Premier Alison Redford's communications director, accuses Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith of a "deliberate misinformation campaign" against the premier, the summit and the March 7 budget.

Stripping Canadian wrongdoers of citizenship is knee-jerk folly

The law takes a very dim view of treason and terrorism. A Canadian who makes war on our country faces mandatory life in prison, the toughest sentence the law imposes. And someone who commits a terrorist act can also be jailed for life. Those are harsh deterrents.

Nor does it matter whether the offender is a native-born Canadian, a new Canadian who gave up some previous citizenship, or a dual Canadian/whatever passport holder. In the eyes of the law, a Canadian citizen is a citizen, without hyphenation. That’s as should be.

Municipal election spending strangely exempt from oversight

For most criminal or regulatory offences, the process for investigating and prosecuting the alleged offender is, generally speaking, fairly similar. A police officer or other government agent investigates the alleged offence. If there’s enough evidence, the individual is charged. After that, the accused receives disclosure of the evidence against him. A trial ultimately follows, after which there are typically two opportunities to appeal.

In broad terms, this same general process unfolds for everything from parking infractions to shoplifting to murder. But not for the enforcement of Ontario’s municipal elections law.

What did rock-star banker Mark Carney do for Canada?

Mark Carney remains the man of the hour. In Britain, the Canadian who will soon head the Bank of England is lauded as a rock star of international finance.

In Ottawa, where he served for five years as Bank of Canada governor, he is routinely praised as the man who prevented the country from falling into the abyss.

Wasted food in China could feed 200 million

China is in the midst of a high-profile 'Clean Your Plate Campaign' aimed at reducing the staggering amount of food that is heaved into wastebins across the country every single day.

Each year China wastes enough food to feed 200 million people or one-sixth of the country's 1.3 billion population according to state news agency Xinhua. Further, about 50 million tonnes of grain, or a tenth of the country's annual production is also wasted.

John Brennan and the “So-Called” Americans

“One of the problems is, once the drone program is so public, and one American is caught up, people don’t know much about this one ‘American citizen’—so called,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, in her questioning of John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. director, on Thursday. (John Cassidy has more on the hearing.) She was referring to Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen, in 2011, and was a “so-called” American because he was an American, born in New Mexico. “They don’t know what he’s been doing,” Feinstein continued. “They don’t know the incitement he has stirred up. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about Mr. Awlaki and what he’s been doing.”

American Airlines, US Airways Merger Likely A Bad Deal For Customers: Consumer Advocates

Air travelers may end up losing big in a deal that would create the largest airline in the U.S., consumer advocates told The Huffington Post, after various leaks this week suggested such a merger was imminent.

Reports in the financial media Thursday and Friday noted that after months of complicated haggling, US Airways and the bankrupt parent company of American Airlines were almost ready to announce a corporate marriage.

Torture and Taboo: On Elaine Scarry

We are disturbed about torture—yet again. What incest was for Oedipus and his Greek audience, torture is for us: the polluting stink that incites outrage and demands expiation. Even before its release in December, Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden after 9/11, was engulfed in a controversy over several scenes that seem to show that torture is effective. Three members of the Senate released a highly unusual statement, insisting that in its representation of torture, the film should have clearly condemned and rejected the practice. In a note to his staff, Michael Morell, the acting director of the CIA, worried that the film suggested in too simplistic a way that torture was instrumental in locating our quarry. (He left open the question of whether torture ever works.) On the News Desk blog of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer—whose investigative reporting for that magazine on the CIA’s policy of extraordinary renditions, “black site” prisons and the brutal interrogation of terrorism suspects did so much to spark the current debate on torture—took especially angry exception, writing that if Bigelow “were making a film about slavery in antebellum America, it seems, the story would focus on whether the cotton crops were successful.” Mayer contends that Zero Dark Thirty not only falsifies history; it also disturbs a long-settled consensus that torture never produces useful intelligence and, for the sake of a Hollywood buck, risks a return to the ethically unthinkable. “Can torture really be turned into morally neutral entertainment?” Mayer asked. It was a rhetorical question.

The Missing Link in Obama's Liberalism

Consensus! Left and right agree that Barack Obama not only gave a powerfully liberal inaugural address, but that he touched on all the important bases. “In effect, Mr. Obama endorsed the entire liberal agenda as the guiding star of his next four years in the White House,” wrote Fred Barnes in The Wall Street Journal. New Yorker editor David Remnick called it “Barack Obama without apology—a liberal emboldened by political victory and a desire to enter the history books with a progressive agenda.”

Search for budget watchdog hamstrung by job description, critics say

OTTAWA — The parliamentarian librarian has begun the search for an executive to replace budget watchdog Kevin Page with a salary and job description that some say will further weaken the office and its independence.

Page reports to Parliamentary Librarian Sonia L’Heureux who is putting together a search committee and has hired headhunters Renaud Foster to find a mid-level executive to take over the job — a move critics say rules out any serious “heavy-hitter” finance executives from either the public or private sectors.

Tories introduce new bill for mentally ill offenders

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says proposed changes to the Criminal Code would include stringent restrictions for people found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder.

His announcement Friday in Burnaby, B.C., came after the federal government tabled Bill C-54 in Parliament earlier in the day.

Harper said the changes would create a new legal designation to protect the public from an accused person designated as "high-risk non-criminally responsible."

Interim PBO not an option under law, government saysca

OTTAWA — The Conservative government says the law doesn’t allow the appointment of an interim parliamentary budget officer to fill in until a successor is hired to replace Kevin Page.

Andrea Mandel-Campbell, a spokeswoman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement, said the legislation has no provisions to appoint an interim or acting budget officer if a new replacement is not found before Page’s five-year term expires in late March.

We can choose not to export coal in B.C.

“Seems like it's a problem we probably have to get used to,” said conservative CNN commentator Erick Erickson about climate change, “as opposed to something we can cure.” In a segment lampooning the curious habit of conservatives rejecting the fact of human-caused global warming only to eventually claim it’s too late to do anything about it, Stephen Colbert summed it up well: “Erickson has finally hit the fifth stage of conservative climate change grief: denial, denial, denial, denial, and acceptance.”

This mystifying, and disingenuous, change of heart is visible practically everywhere now -- including in the debate over coal. Terminal ports around the Pacific Northwest are planning on shipping coal abroad, particularly to China. And the rationalization is, basically, that it’s too late to do anything about it -- so we might as well sell it off and get the tax revenues and the jobs before someone else does.

40 per cent of Canadians want a reformed Senate, 31 per cent want it abolished: Forum Research poll

PARLIAMENT HILL—In the wake of the latest controversies involving allegations of wrongdoing by Senators, including two appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a new poll shows Canadians who want an elected Senate outnumber those who want it abolished it entirely.

But, even though only 14 per cent of respondents said the Senate should be left as it is, the Forum Research survey suggests if Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) succeeds in his Supreme Court of Canada quest to take incremental steps toward an elected Senate, the political turmoil could be significant.