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, April 13, 2013

Scientists still wary after science minister says he believes in evolution

Canadian scientists say they are somewhat comforted that the minister of state for science and technology, Gary Goodyear, has clarified that he believes in evolution, but his recent comments still raised some concerns and questions.

John Smol, a biology professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said in an email Wednesday he found the clarification "reassuring."

European Union Loses 1 Trillion Euros Each Year To Tax Dodging

BRUSSELS, April 12 (Reuters) - Tax dodging causes the European Union to lose around 1 trillion euros of income each year, the president of the European Council said on Friday as he announced that EU leaders would discuss the issue at a summit next month.

This haemorrhage of tax revenues is equivalent to the entire annual economic output of Spain, and far exceeds the total of about 400 billion euros committed to the bailouts of euro zone member states Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus.

Scott London, KPMG Partner Accused Of Insider Trading, Lied About Baseball Career

Scott London's bad case of tarnished credibility this week started when the partner at accounting giant KPMG was fired after federal prosecutors charged him with insider trading, alleging that he gave a golfing buddy tips about three client companies in exchange for cash and gifts.

Now, it appears London also stretched the truth about his prowess as a college baseball player.

Obama Budget Plan Limits Bargaining Power

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's budget overtures to Republicans may limit his bargaining power if the GOP ever returns to the negotiating table on a grand deficit-reduction deal.

In essence, Obama's spending blueprint is a final offer, a no-budge budget whose central elements have failed to persuade Republicans in the past.

By voluntarily putting entitlement cuts on the table, particularly a proposal to slow the rise of Social Security benefits, Obama has no other gambit to win tax increases from Republicans.

Obama Budget Medicare Hike Could Hit Some In Middle Class

WASHINGTON — Retired city worker Sheila Pugach lives in a modest home on a quiet street in Albuquerque, N.M., and drives an 18-year-old Subaru.

Pugach doesn't see herself as upper-income by any stretch, but President Barack Obama's budget would raise her Medicare premiums and those of other comfortably retired seniors, adding to a surcharge that already costs some 2 million beneficiaries hundreds of dollars a year each.

Manitoba’s dark secret

It oozed oil for a confirmed 10 days, or a rumoured 30, depending on the source. But the oil spill, one of the province’s largest, went unnoticed by most media outlets. Upwards of 100,000 litres, approx., 500 barrels, of oil spilled out a broken underground flow line near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, covering an area equivalent in size to two football fields a half mile from Carlyle Jorgensen’s farmland and mere metres from Jackson Creek in an area of the province known to house many rare plant and animal species. The leak is reported to have started end of January of this year. The Brandon Sun was the only major news source to cover the spill. Sun reporter Graeme Bruce broke his usual silence and gave other media, Spectator Tribune, the information it needed to start investigating the story, in the interest of getting the word out.

Northern Gateway faces 199 possible conditions

CALGARY — A shopping list of 199 proposed conditions have been compiled by the National Energy Board as it reviews the Northern Gateway pipeline project to bring Alberta crude to the B.C. coast.

The conditions include $950 million in insurance to cover cleanup, remediation and damages from project operations and “ready cash” of at least $100 million that can be accessed within 10 business days of a large spill.

Both the national agency and the builder, Calgary-based Enbridge Inc., emphasized on Friday that the conditions are being released to solicit comment and are not necessarily going to be part of the agreement if the line is approved.

Temporary Foreign Worker Impacts Felt Far Beyond RBC

The Royal Bank of Canada has issued a printed apology to workers affected by their outsourcing arrangements, but the bank's public relations problems haven't gone away.

After a week of backlash following a CBC News exclusive that revealed the bank is bringing in foreign workers to replace Canadian employees, RBC spent thousands of dollars on a public apology that was published in national newspapers Friday.

Margaret Thatcher Protest Planned For Trafalgar Square, Miners, Anarchists To Attend

A party celebrating Margaret Thatcher's death - first organised nine years ago - could see hundreds of ex-miners, activists and anarchists descend on Trafalgar Square this Saturday.

The party was first touted in 2004 by long-defunct anarchist organisation Class War, on the site IndyMedia, but has been spread around social networks since Thatcher's death on Monday.

It will take place at the scene of the 1990 Poll Tax riots, in central London.

Russia strikes back with Magnitsky list response

Russia has released the list naming 18 Americans banned from entering the Russian Federation over their alleged human rights violations, as a direct response to the so-called Magnitsky list revealed by the US on Friday.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich stressed that the publication of Magnitsky List is a “heavy blow to bilateral relations and mutual trust.”

Reputation-scarring foreign bribery scandals force change upon corporate Canada

For years, it wasn’t uncommon for Canada’s corporate bosses to turn a blind eye when it came to dishing out lavish gifts to foreign officials — a Land Rover, money to cover children’s tuition, access to booze and women. They chalked it up to the cost of doing business overseas.

But those attitudes are changing, experts say, in the wake of reputation-scarring foreign bribery scandals involving Canadian companies.

Islamophobia, not Islam, will be the end of Israel

SAN FRANCISCO – Everyone knows how it works. Everyone knows what it sounds like. Everyone knows how easy it is to get away with it.

Everyone knows, deep down, that hatred feeds on tolerance. That however well-intentioned, a society's forbearance for the toxic slur, for the poison of ethnic or religious or racial prejudice, does hatred invaluable service.
No one knows this better than professional bigots. People like Pamela Geller, who pass themselves off as supporters of a worthy cause even as their hatred and prejudice stain and undermine anything and everything worthy about that cause.

For years, in the guise of supporting Israel, Geller has engaged in promoting hatred of Islam. In recent weeks, in a campaign timed to coincide with Muslims' observance of the sacred month of Ramadan, her American Freedom Defense Initiative has run caustic, self-styled "pro-Israel" advertisements on the sides of public transit buses in San Francisco.

"In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man," the ads begin, white letters on black. Below it, in blue letters flanked by Stars of David, it read "Support Israel" and below that, in red, "Defeat Jihad."

Last year, when Geller's group tried to place the ads on public buses in New York, the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority rejected them as violating its prohibition on messages that demean individuals or groups. But in July, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the Geller group had been denied First Amendment guarantees of free speech. That same day, the ads went up in San Francisco.

Geller told ABC News that the purpose of the ads was to counter "fallacious and dangerous" ads on San Francisco area transit trains a year ago, urging cuts in U.S. aid to Israel. "If I had my way, the ("support Israel" ads) would be in every city in the United States of America, and if I can get the funding, that's exactly what's going to happen."

To its credit, Muni, the San Francisco transit agency, did more than simply mount Geller's message. It condemned the ads. Alongside them. In bus ads of its own.

In a move without precedent, Muni said in the new ads that its policy "prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics, and condemns statements that describe any group as 'savages.'"

Muni spokesman Paul Rose said that while Muni is bound by the First Amendment, "Obviously we think the [Geller-sponsored] ads in place right now are repulsive and they definitely cross the line."

Of late, in tandem with anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab attacks by radical settlers and Arab-hating Jewish youths in Israel and the territories ("He's an Arab. He deserves to die," a 14-year-old assault suspect told a court on Monday), there are troubling signs in America of a tendency to conflate hatred of Muslims with support for a Jewish state.

"The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures," a "pro-Israel" NGO called the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights quotes Geller's ideological inspiration as having said in a 1974 speech. "Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are."

In this light, Bay Area Jews are to be especially commended for denouncing Geller and her works. J., the community newspaper, said that "any right-thinking person, Jewish or not, must oppose these ads." The Anti-Defamation League called the ads “highly offensive and inflammatory,” and the Jewish Community Relations Council and the American Jewish Committee issued a similar denunciation.

At root, this is what Geller denies: Israel can only exist as a democracy if it continually acts to foster and equalize the rights of its Arab citizens, not abrogate and dismiss them. It can only exist as a democracy if it actively works to end the unperson status of the Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A true democracy cannot treat bigotry with understanding. It has to fight it, or its sense of democracy has no meaning.

At root, the Geller and pro-Kahane brand of "support of Israel," is little more than a slash and burn Arab–hate that, if left unanswered, will tear apart the Israel and the Jewish community from within. It blinds people to solutions. It convinces people that there are no solutions. It persuades people that there are no options apart from violence, both of word and deed.

Israel has elaborate defense systems against military attack and terrorism. Its defenses against its own extremists are much more porous.

The Gellers and Kahanists attack Israel at the root. An Israel torn apart from within doesn't need an external enemy to destroy it. The enemy is right here.

Original Article
Author: Bradley Burston

Alberta town would be 'shut down' without foreign workers

After news of RBC’s outsourcing of jobs caused a nationwide outcry, one small Alberta town said it depends on foreign workers to fill jobs that Canadians refuse.

In Rocky Mountain House, a town in central Alberta, business owner Nikki Searth said she relies on the program because she has trouble finding a student who will accept an $11-an-hour cashier job.

According to Searth, it wasn’t always so.

Forget Trudeau — It’s the economy, Mr. Harper

Despite the fact that there is no election imminent, speculation about the viability of Stephen Harper’s leadership of the Conservative party is intensifying. As we near the midterm we will consider what light trends in public opinion might shine on this question.

In this piece we’ll set aside discussing the fortunes of Mr. Harper’s two main political competitors, the NDP and the (soon to be) Justin Trudeau-led Liberal party. Obviously, their prospects will affect Mr. Harper’s prospects — and we’ll get into their prospects in later articles — but we argue that Mr. Harper’s more important challenges do not come from his political opponents. Nor do they come from the issues of the day, the apparent profligacy of some of his Senate choices, or even the yet-to-be-determined impacts of allegations of improprieties in the 2011 election.

When the media is the target

A little over a week ago, my colleague Peter Cowan found himself in a fairly odious situation. In the middle of a scrum with federal Conservative candidate Peter Penashue, Cowan became a target.

Cowan was simply doing his job by asking Penashue to explain the finer details of the florid election spending that led to Penashue’s resignation from cabinet and Parliament. Penashue has yet to give a full account of that to provincial media. He didn’t give it to Cowan. But Penashue did give Cowan a piece of his mind.

Andrew Coyne on the modern party leader: Pragmatic, disciplined and without political principles

What a happy, happy time in Canadian politics. It’s been a long while in the making, and there are a lot of people to thank, but we are on the verge of fulfilling the dream of generations of strategists and political operatives: a politics drained of any remaining differences between the parties, or indeed ideas of any kind.

Previously, party leaders were obliged to pretend to believe in policies before they could abandon them: now that first stage has been eliminated, freeing them to focus on slandering each other’s character and passing out baby pictures of themselves. The day is not far off when parties will have more or less ceased to exist except as extensions of the leader, which if nothing else would be clarifying.

Conservative call centre company granted bankruptcy protection

The Conservative party’s main fundraising and voter contact firm announced late Friday that it has been granted bankruptcy protection to allow it to restructure.

At the beginning of the month, iMarketing Solutions Group (iMSGI), formerly known as Responsive Marketing Group (RMG), laid off workers at call centres across the country. In November, the firm announced it planned to delist from the Toronto Stock Exchange. In December, it announced it had arranged a $3.5-million loan after posting a $3.9-million loss in the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2012.

NDP MPs embrace Stiglitz’s message to share prosperity, want to run on it in next federal election

MONTREAL—Nobel-Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told NDP delegates that inequality is inherently unstable for Canadian society, and that shared prosperity is needed in the country. It’s something that New Democrats are embracing heading into the 2015 federal election.

“He’s one of the most credible global voices on the economy. When he talks about the kind of ideological, dogmatic conservatism that we see in some countries and here in Canada as well, that it increases inequality and instability and hinders economic growth, then I know we can take another path that other countries have taken with spectacular economic results,” said NDP MP Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park, Ont.). “So if we look at the strongest economies, whether it’s Denmark or Sweden, countries that have decided that the well-being of their citizens is the priority have shown that that also leads to economic growth. Shared prosperity, benefits everyone.”

Offshore outsourcing 'not always a negative thing'

As the Royal Bank of Canada faces stinging controversy over outsourcing jobs, some small business owners say that the strategy is key to their survival in Canada.

At the same time, the debate unleashed over RBC's actions has also drawn attention to the question of balancing those economic needs with the social responsibility business owners might have to provide jobs for Canadians.

Former outsourcer describes how job destruction works

These are the confessions of an outsourcer. She has spent more than a decade helping some of Canada’s biggest financial institutions shed workers and replace them with low-wage help.

She has made a good living doing this. But she now thinks that contracting out middle-class jobs — the very practice she aided — is short-sighted and morally wrong.

“What kind of world do we want?” she asks. “We are not building a future for kids.”

Bangladesh Factory Fire Victim Calls On Walmart To Pay Compensation

WASHINGTON -- Sumi Abedin hasn't worked a day since Nov. 24 of last year. That was when her workplace, Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh, went up in flames, killing at least 112 workers. Abedin, 24, was brave enough to jump from the factory's third floor, having found no other clear route to safety.

Still recovering from a broken leg and hand from the fall, Abedin has traveled from Bangladesh to Capitol Hill, hoping to pressure U.S. garment buyers to commit themselves to improving safety standards at workplaces in her homeland. She's also here to demand that Walmart, which, among other retailers, had clothes manufactured at the facility, pay compensation to victims like herself and the families of those who died at Tazreen.

New Hampshire Stand Your Ground Law Opponents Threatened With Arrest, Removal From Office

Tea party Republicans in New Hampshire want to press criminal charges against state legislators who voted to repeal the state's Stand Your Ground law and kick them out of office.

Two Republican members of the state House of Representatives and a former state GOP chairman have filed a petition to remove 189 members of the state House and file criminal charges against them for their March 27 vote to repeal the controversial gun law. The group claims that the vote violates the lawmakers' oath of office, unconstitutionally challenges the Second Amendment and fails to adhere to state constitutional protections on life.

FBI Wants $41 Million Boost To Cyber Monitoring Capabilities

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has requested more than $41 million to improve the bureau’s ability to collect and analyze cyber information and address “critical gaps” in its capability to monitor web activities.

As part of an overall $86 million budget request for a "Next Generation Cyber Initiative," the FBI wants to hire 36 employees, including 10 agents, to improve its cyber collection and analysis capabilities. The justification for that $41 million request, which includes over $33 million in nonpersonnel spending, was submitted in a classified report to Congress as part of the bureau’s 2014 budget request.

Budget Games: Is Obama Playing Chess or Checkers?

According to Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser at the White House, President Obama has three rules for his staff: no drama; be disciplined; play chess not checkers. But if that’s the case, how can we explain the President’s new budget proposal, which has riled up his liberal base and gained him precious little credit from the Republicans? Is Obama breaking his own rules? Or does he have a fiendishly clever plan that his critics, on the left and the right, are too dim to discern?