Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Friday, March 15, 2013

Canada’s Conservative Party Taps Keystone Pipeline…For Cash

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is many things to many people: a jobs creator for U.S. Republicans; an oil spill waiting to happen, to many environmentalists; In cash-strapped Alberta, it’s a potential economic lifeline.

Now, Canada’s governing Conservative party has fashioned the project into a fund-raising cause. The Tories are asking members for money to help it make the case for Keystone XL in the U.S. and at home, according to a letter sent to potential Conservative party donors, reviewed by Canada Real Time.

Online misogyny, Sarah Thomson and the new culture of backlash

Sarah Thomson. The latest in a long line of women, from before Anita Hill on, to fall victim to the reality that many men (and sadly women) will take the word of a rich or powerful male, or excuse their behaviour, over the completely plausible claims of a woman. Even when, as in this case, the man in question has a long history of having a problem with the truth.

To those who have somehow missed the latest scandal to hit Toronto's Ford administration, Thomson is a former mayoral candidate who ran against Toronto's present mayor Rob Ford in 2010, and who says that Ford groped her and made inappropriate comments to her at a social function a week ago.

We need to change our approach to banking reform

In the painful aftermath of the worst financial crisis in 80 years our approach to urgently needed banking reform has been dreadfully wrong-headed. Which means we can be certain of yet another global credit crisis sooner rather than later.

To date, the reforms under consideration by various governments including the U.S. do not address the core issue, which is that banks have too little skin in the game. It’s “other people’s money” with which bankers make their loopiest bets: to wit, federally insured depositors’ money, funds borrowed in global bond markets and $2 trillion-plus of taxpayer funds injected into banks to rescue them at the onset of a Great Recession triggered by the banks themselves.

Court Says CIA Can't Have It Both Ways On Drones

A federal appeals court has rejected an effort by the CIA to deny it has any documents about a U.S. drone program that has killed terrorists overseas, ruling that the agency is stretching the law too far and asking judges "to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible."

The ruling by a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit cites several public speeches by prominent American officials about the U.S. use of weaponized drones, including a 2009 talk by then-CIA director Leon Panetta, a Google+ web chat by President Obama last year and a 2012 speech by the president's new CIA chief, John Brennan.

Pope Francis and the Dirty War

The new Pope, Francis the Humble, as he perhaps would like to be known, is an Argentine with a cloudy past. This in itself is not an offense but, rather, is in keeping with a religious institution that has long been marked by secrecy. From the smoke signals with which the papal conclave makes the fact, if not the process, of its decision known to the world to the wide-ranging coverups of sexual abuse involving priests and bishops, the Catholic Church is too often associated in the popular imagination with the darkest kind of institutional opacity.

US Drone Strikes In Pakistan Violate Country's Sovereignty, UN Says

ISLAMABAD — The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes – a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.

Enbridge Kalamazoo River Oil Spill: Company Ordered Finish Clean Up, Dredge River

VANCOUVER - More than two and a half years after a Canadian pipeline rupture spilled heavy oil into a Michigan River, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) to perform additional dredging to remove submerged oil.

The agency said it has repeatedly found oil in sections of the Kalamazoo River.

Canada Housing Bust Sees Sales Tumble; So Why Are Prices Still So High?

Home sales fell a whopping 15.8 per cent year-over-year in February, according to the latest numbers from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). It's more evidence that the slump over the past half year persists, but prices in many markets are still rising.

The national average price fell one per cent to $368,895 in February, but removing Vancouver's sluggish market from the mix, prices actually rose 1.3 per cent year-over-year, CREA said Friday. Using its home price index measure, CREA says prices actually rose 2.7 per cent in February from the year before.

Think aboriginal rage has cooled? Think again

Some people might think that Canada’s aboriginal spring was about fake hunger strikes, mawkish speeches and hokey ceremony, all put in its place by a firm hand from the federal government — Stephen Harper as hard-assed Indian agent, wising up the tribes.

The same types who see it that way probably thought the Beatles were a passing fad. Real news never disappears; it just goes underground until it comes back to the surface and makes the walls shake.

What the Tom Flanagan affair can teach us about Canada’s conservative movement

Tom Flanagan and I might look pretty similar on paper, albeit 30 years removed. We both teach political theory at Canadian universities. We both received our PhDs from American schools. We’re both convinced that academics should play a larger role in the public sphere.

Yet we deeply disagree on most philosophical and political questions. Flanagan has been in the news recently because he suggested that viewing child pornography is primarily an “issue of personal liberty” and that such acts do “not harm another person.” He is profoundly wrong on both counts and his comments have not added constructively to a debate about child pornography policy. However, given the fact that Flanagan has literally been at the epicentre of conservatism in Canada over the last 20 years, his remarks and the resulting backlash do illuminate a number of important things about the contemporary conservative movement in Canada.

Tories put public servants’ sick leave in sights

OTTAWA — Canada’s public servants are bracing for sweeping changes to their sick leave and disability insurance as the government looks to save millions in rising benefit costs and beef up the wellness and productivity of the workforce.

It’s expected money for the overhaul, which Treasury Board bureaucrats have been working on for several years, will be announced in next week’s budget.

The moment anti-abortion MP gets shouted down by protesters at University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is investigating after an anti-abortion Conservative MP was blocked from delivering a lecture Wednesday night by protesters led by a man dressed as a giant vagina.

Ethan Jackson, 21, an art student at nearby Wilfrid Laurier University, said he calls his pink costume Vulveta, and that Stephen Woodworth’s talk about the universality of human rights came from an oppressive western discourse that ignores the rights of indigenous people.

Election robocalls need new regulations, panel advises

A report for Elections Canada obtained exclusively by CBC News calls for new laws to crack down on federal political parties making misleading and fraudulent phone calls to voters during election campaigns.

The report comes on the heels of news stories that Elections Canada is recommending charges be laid in connection with automated phone calls — so-called robocalls — to voters in Guelph, Ont., on election day 2011, deliberately directing them to wrong polling stations.

From 'Bible Bill' to Stephen Harper, the evolution of faith-based politics

When Tommy Douglas, a Baptist minister, was the premier of Saskatchewan in the 1940s and '50s, his Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was inspired by the ideals of the "social gospel" movement, which sought to apply Christian ethics to attack social injustice.

Next door in Alberta, another Baptist minister, William "Bible Bill" Aberhart had been premier since 1935 and when he died, in 1943, he was succeeded by Ernest Manning, who had been the first graduate of Aberhart's Prophetic Bible Institute in Calgary.

Pink Smoke at the Vatican: Women Demand a Voice in Catholic Church Led by "Old Celibate Men"

While the world focused on the selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become pope, a protest took place outside the Vatican that received far less attention. The masses gathered outside the Sistine Chapel were waiting for white smoke, the signal that a new pope had been chosen. But smoke of a different color began billowing into the sky over the Vatican. It was released by protesters demanding a greater role for women in the Catholic Church. We speak with Erin Saiz Hanna, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, an excommunicated female priest.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

‘Muzzling’ of Canadian government scientists sent before Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is being asked to investigate the “muzzling” of Canadian government scientists in a request backed by a 128-page report detailing “systemic efforts” to obstruct access to researchers.

“She is uniquely positioned, and she has the resources and the legal mandate, to get to the bottom of this,” says Chris Tollefson. Tollefson is executive director of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre, which issued the request with the non-partisan Democracy Watch.

Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike in desperate act of defiance

Reports are emerging from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay that a majority of the prisoners are on a hunger strike. One hundred sixty-six remain locked up, although more than half of them have been cleared by the Obama administration for release. Yet there they languish (in some cases now in their second decade) in a hellish legal limbo, uncharged yet imprisoned. President Barack Obama's failure to close Guantanamo, as he boldly promised to do with an executive order signed on Jan. 22, 2009, and the deterioration of conditions at the prison under his watch will remain a lasting stain on his legacy.

SNC-Lavalin Admits To Illegal Political Donations In Quebec

MONTREAL - Canada's largest engineering company has admitted it helped raise money for Quebec political parties despite a three-decade-old law that makes corporate donations illegal in the province.

A vice-president at SNC-Lavalin (TSE:SNC) admitted to participating in such financing activities while testifying Thursday at Quebec's corruption inquiry.

Teaching Men Not to Rape: Survivor Zerlina Maxwell Defies Threats After Speaking Out on Fox News

Over the past week, political analyst Zerlina Maxwell has received racially fueled death threats for speaking out against rape. Maxwell, who is a rape survivor, appeared on a Fox News segment with Sean Hannity last week about the possibility of arming women to prevent rape. She said the responsibility should lie instead with men. In response to her remarks, Maxwell received a torrent of abuse on social media with commenters saying she deserved to be gang-raped and killed. Zerlina Maxwell joins us to discuss her ordeal and her refusal to be silent in the face of the threats against her.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Paul Ryan Budget Reduces Spending To Lowest Levels Since 1948

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposed budget would reduce government spending outside of Social Security and interest on debt to its lowest levels in over six decades, Investor's Business Daily reported Wednesday.

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, unveiled his latest fiscal proposal on Tuesday, laying out $4.6 trillion in cuts over the next decade. The blueprint aims to balance the budget in 10 years by slashing Medicare, Medicaid and programs to aid the poor, including food stamps. Ryan's plan would also repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

Matthew Keys Charged In Connection With Anonymous Hack Of The Tribune Company

WASHINGTON -- Web producer Matthew Keys, 26, has been charged by the Justice Department in connection with an attack on the website of his former employer by the group Anonymous.

Keys is currently a deputy social media editor at Thomson Reuters.

The Justice Department indictment says Keys gave hackers affiliated with Anonymous usernames and passwords after he was fired from his job at Tribune Co.-owned KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, Calif. He allegedly told hackers to "go f**k some s**t up."

Federal budget coming next week: What will Flaherty cut?

On the day Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announces the date for the 2013 federal budget -- it will be Thursday, March 21 -- the United Nations Human Development Index boots Canada out of its top ten because of lack of progress on education and increased inequality.

That should worry the government, but probably does not.

Inequality has not been a high agenda item for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his colleagues.

Security Chief's Cyberwar Testimony Seen As Veiled Threat To Enemies

As threats of a crippling cyberattack against the United States have mounted, the Obama administration has pushed repeatedly for stronger digital defenses while remaining quiet about its own hacking arsenal.

But in a rare public disclosure this week, a top general acknowledged that the United States is focused not only on playing defense on the cyber battlefield -- it is also bolstering its offense.

Gen. Keith Alexander, who runs the Pentagon's Cyber Command, told Congress on Tuesday that he is establishing 13 teams of experts to carry out cyberattacks against foreign countries that target the United States with destructive computer code.

Senate Report Blames JPMorgan Senior Managers For Bad Bets That Led To 'Whale' Loss

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel on Thursday issued a scathing assessment of JPMorgan's $6.2 billion trading loss last year. The investigation found that bank officials ignored growing risks and hid losses from investors and federal regulators.

Officials at JPMorgan understated the trading losses to federal examiners by hundreds of millions of dollars and dismissed questions raised about the trading risks, according to the report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

FinFisher Spyware: Canada Among 25 Countries Hosting Servers For Controversial Software

Canada is among 25 countries linked to a spyware network that is being used by repressive governments to stifle dissent, according to researchers at the University of Toronto.

A new study from the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs has identified Canada as one of the countries where servers are hosted for FinFisher, a trojan horse program that can log keystrokes on a computer, turn on cameras and microphones, grab screen images and even listen in on Skype chats.

Peter Penashue Quits: Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Resigns, To Run In By-Election

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue has decided to step down.

The Labrador MP had been under fire for questionable campaign spending and donations from his 2011 election victory.

OTTAWA — Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue has resigned his seat in the House of Commons and says he'll run again in Labrador in an effort to clear the air over election funding irregularities.

Bon Appetit from Stephen Harper! New campaign takes on cuts to public services

With omnibus budget after omnibus budget being thrust upon us by our friends in the Harper government, it can become difficult to keep track of what specifically we're losing. Many who are troubled by the deep cuts to government spending the Conservatives have made would nevertheless have trouble pointing to specific cuts which have impacted their lives.

The Quebec and National Capital Region sections of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, whose members are most directly affected by the cuts, plan to change that.

In partnership with Quebec communications firm Tope là!, the union is rolling out a series of four short videos, each highlighting a different aspect of government services we all rely upon which will be affected by Harper's cuts. In French these videos will be showcased on a central website ( and will eventually be accompanied by an interactive tool, the nature of which is being kept hush hush for the moment.