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.]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Beyond the Rob Ford embarrassment is a broken Toronto

Long the epitome of a humane, prosperous, diverse, caring city, Toronto has at long last captured the world’s attention – but not in the way that anyone would want. Mayor Rob Ford’s latest scandal has drawn headlines in the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Vanity Fair, making him the butt of jokes on talk shows like Real Time with Bill Maher, and even on the sports network ESPN.

E.W. Jackson, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Candidate, Compared Planned Parenthood To KKK

E.W. Jackson, the conservative minister nominated to run for lieutenant governor by the Virginia Republican Party, once compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, Politico reported Sunday.

In a video posted to YouTube last September, the minister and activist urged black Christians to reject the "ridiculous lies" of the "Democrat Party."

"It is time to end the slavish devotion to the Democrat Party," Jackson says in the clip. "They have insulted us, used us and manipulated us. They have saturated the black community with ridiculous lies... They think we are stupid and that these lies will hold us captive while they violate everything we believe as Christians.

Paul Krugman: Today's Austerity Policies Based On 'A Mythical 70s That Never Was'

They say hindsight is 20/20, but according to Paul Krugman it may actually be much worse than that when it comes to economic policy-making.

The Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist wrote in a blog post Sunday that current policymakers are basing their decisions to cut spending, leading in many cases to high unemployment, on the false notion that the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s was caused by too much government debt and too many government handouts.

Prominent Canadians back petition to rename Victoria Day to honour aboriginals

A group that includes some prominent Canadian actors, writers and politicians is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change the name of Victoria Day.

Author Margaret Atwood, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and actor Gordon Pinsent are among those behind an online petition to rename the public holiday, which is celebrated on Monday, as "Victoria and First Peoples Day."

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel says Wright wanted to ensure no taxpayer money 'on the hook'

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said she’s “disappointed” over the ongoing Senate expenses scandal but stands firmly by her party, and the government is motivated by a “desire to make sure that we have accountability and transparency in the Senate.”

Speaking for the Conservatives on CTV’s Question Period Sunday, the Calgary-Centre North MP expressed her frustration over the expense claims controversy.

With Nigel Wright gone, Stephen Harper faces even more questions

Did Prime Minister Stephen Harper have foreknowledge of a backroom deal between his now former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and Sen. Mike Duffy, in which the latter’s $90,172 tab for improper housing expenses would be made to go away?

That question now takes centre stage, as Harper finds himself, for the first time in his seven-plus years in power, in the grip of a full-blown crisis at the highest levels of his government, with as-yet unknown consequences for all the players involved, including him. Tuesday, the PM is set to meet with his caucus. The exchange, one suspects, will be neither pleasant nor brief.

Harper out of touch on climate change science and economic impacts

Climate change is accelerating much more quickly than previously thought. Nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern weather record occurred since the year 2000. While global average temperature increased by 0.7°C over the past 100 years, Arctic temperatures often doubled this mean; the central and western Canadian Arctic experienced increases of two to three degrees Celsius in just the last 50 years. And in 2012, the Arctic region broke records in the loss of summer sea ice, spring snow cover, and melting of Greenland’s ice sheet.

More worrying, the duration and magnitude of the decline of summer sea ice may be unmatched over the last 1,450 years, as highlighted in a 2011 article in the prestigious journal Nature.

Stephen Harper’s failure to address Senate scandal is hurting his party

Just how long does Prime Minister Stephen Harper hope to float, butterflylike, above the Senate scandal that is ravaging his Conservative party’s credibility? Sen. Mike Duffy’s abrupt exit from the Tory caucus in the Red Chamber to sit as an independent settles exactly nothing about this sordid affair.

Canadians deserve to hear directly from the Prime Minister, not from his minions, on what he thinks of a scandal that has been building for the better part of a year, and how he intends to make things right. Harper’s silence is no longer just hurting his party brand. It is undermining public confidence in his leadership. It appears to condone the dubious actions of a Conservative senator and the PM’s right-hand man.

‘Skippy’ aka MP Pierre Poilievre has sunk to new low

Over the course of his short, less than stellar political career, Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre has said a number of silly and really foolish things.

This past week, he took all of that to the extreme, attempting to put a positive spin on the drama that is now Mike Duffy’s life.

Not sure who worked on the speaking points the local MP has been peddling, but they’re a stretch for even the most gullible among us.

Canada Jobs Grant: Harper Government Buying Ads To Promote Program That Doesn't Yet Exist

OTTAWA - The Harper government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising a program that does not yet exist.

Prime-time ads began airing this week during NHL playoff games — currently the priciest advertising real estate on the dial — that tout a new federal Canada Jobs Grant for training workers.

The trouble is, the freshly announced program is at present little more than a concept that has yet to be negotiated with provincial governments, and requires buy-in from employers as well.

Nigel Wright Resigns As Stephen Harper's Chief Of Staff

OTTAWA -- The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff has resigned in light of the controversy around his handling of expense payments involving Senator Mike Duffy.

In a statement issued Sunday morning, Nigel Wright says Stephen Harper has accepted his resignation.

Michael Kinsley Feels Your Austerity Pain, Middle Class, But Pain Makes You Beautiful

The austerity policies that gripped the world in the face of the global economic downturn have not worked. Unless the intent was to make a bad situation almost intractably worse. In which case they have worked like gangbusters. Pop some Cristal!

The good news is that people are starting to wake up from this dementia. As Kevin Roose noted, the media are starting to question premises of austerians. As well they should, considering that the holy illuminated manuscript, a study by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, turns out to have been an error-ridden mess. We are in the midst of what Politico calls "an intellectual shift away from austerity." Better late than never, I guess.

Pope Francis Insists Church Must Help Poor, Not 'Speak Of Theology'

VATICAN CITY, May 18 (Reuters) - Pope Francis shared personal moments with 200,000 people on Saturday, telling them he sometimes nods off while praying at the end of a long day and that it "breaks my heart" that the death of a homeless person is not news.

Tax Avoidance Revenues Could Eradicate World Hunger Says Christian Aid

World hunger could be eradicated if the revenues that developing countries lose through tax dodging were available to them to invest in agricultural development, according to a report from charity Christian Aid.

Its report Who Pays the Price? Hunger: The Hidden Cost of Tax Injustice, says 50 billion US dollars (£33 billion) plus would be raised every year if governments ended tax haven secrecy and curtailed profit-shifting and tax dodging by multinationals in poor countries.

MPs Pay Rise Of Up To £20,000 Set To Come Into Effect After 2015 General Election

MPs are set to receive a pay rise of up to £20,000.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has been looking at an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000 - although the lower figure is considered more likely.

The hike would be partly offset by curbs to their gold-plated pensions and personal expenses.

Sir Mervyn King: 'Stop Demonising Bankers Over The Financial Crash'

Sir Mervyn King has called for an end to the demonisation of bankers over the financial crash, insisting the problem was with the system rather than individuals.

The outgoing governor of the Bank of England said there was a failure to adequately regulate the financial sector and society had given "too much status" to those in the City.

‘Only way to end Gitmo strike fairly is to set cleared inmates free’

Activists demand the closing of the US military's detention facility in Guantanamo during a protest, part of the Nationwide for Guantanamo Day of Action, April 11, 2013 in New York's Times Square. (AFP Photo)As the Guantanamo hunger strike enters day 100, the inmates’ lawyers have revealed details of abuses their clients are subject to, while the prison authorities keep denying they are resorting to practices violating human rights.

A fair trial would have been a natural step. To have all of the parties heard and resolve the crisis, believes Clive Stafford Smith, founder of legal group Reprieve, and an attorney for several detainees in the Guantánamo Bay camp.

‘Environmental genocide’: Native Americans quit talks over Keystone XL pipeline

Leaders from 11 Native American tribes stormed out of a meeting with US federal officials in Rapid City, South Dakota, to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which they say will lead to ‘environmental genocide.’

Native Americans are opposed to the 1,179-mile (1,897km) Keystone XL project - a system to transport tar sands oil from Canada and the northern United States to refineries in Texas - for various reasons, including potential irreversible damage to sacred sites, pollution, and water contamination.

Inequality surges in world’s richest countries, esp. in times of crisis

Not only has social inequality risen in the industrialized nations over the past three decades, the economic crisis of 2008-09 sped up the deterioration as “pain of the crisis was not evenly shared,” a new report says.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which unites the world’s most developed countries, has published an update to its report ‘Divided We Stand’. The report published in December 2011 showed that by 2008 the industrialized nations had the worst situation with inequality in three decades.

Job grant program advertised by Harper government doesn't yet exist

OTTAWA -- The Harper government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising a program that does not yet exist.

Prime-time ads began airing this week during NHL playoff games -- currently the priciest advertising real estate on the dial -- that tout a new federal Canada Jobs Grant for training workers.

The trouble is, the freshly announced program is at present little more than a concept that has yet to be negotiated with provincial governments, and requires buy-in from employers as well.

France Taxed Some Wealthy Households More Than They Made In 2011

PARIS, May 18 (Reuters) - More than 8,000 French households' tax bills topped 100 percent of their income last year, the business newspaper Les Echos reported on Saturday, citing Finance Ministry data.

The newspaper said that the exceptionally high level of taxation was due to a one-off levy last year on 2011 incomes for households with assets of more than 1.3 million euros ($1.67 million).

Should genetic testing for cancer be available to all Canadians?

The revelation that Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy as a preventative measure against cancer stoked heated discussion this week, but one prominent cancer researcher says it demonstrates the need to make genetic testing available to all Canadians.

The actor and humanitarian wrote an opinion column in the New York Times on Tuesday in which she revealed that she had had a preventative double mastectomy in February.

Who is Nigel Wright, the man who bailed out Mike Duffy?

Nigel Wright has been parachuted in to lead high-profile talks on the trans-Pacific free-trade zone. He was instrumental in drafting the policy to limit foreign investment in the oil sands. He is a key strategist on job-skills training arrangements with the provinces. But this week, Stephen Harper’s chief of staff – who is described by one official as “almost like a deputy prime minister,” has known his boss for decades and commands his respect as few others – also became a $90,172.24 liability.

Federal finance watchdog ignores spending limit at gala dinner

OTTAWA -- A federal agency that ensures banks and other financial institutions follow the rules has itself broken the rules on hospitality spending.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada spent well in excess of the maximum allowed for a gala dinner in Toronto last November.

Israeli law professors call out IDF on draft resister's 10th jail sentence

Thirty-six academic faculty members sent a letter Thursday to the Military Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni, criticizing the Israel Defense Forces’s repeated jailing of draft resister Natan Blanc. Blanc has been held in military prison for over 150 days for refusing to serve in the IDF because of his opposition to the occupation.

Blanc was sentenced earlier this week to a further 28 days in Military Prison 6. This was his tenth trial. He has been in military prison since reporting to the IDF Induction Center on November 19, 2012 − and declaring his refusal to serve in the military owing to Israel’s rule over the Palestinians.

New York Man Fatally Shot In Alleged Anti-Gay Hate Crime

In what may be the latest in a disturbing series of crimes allegedly targeting New York's gay community, a man was fatally shot in the head May 18 while walking through the West Village.

As NBC is reporting, local law enforcement officials are investigating the case as a hate crime after learning the suspect, who was arrested just blocks from the scene, allegedly hurled a series of anti-gay insults at the 32-year-old victim before shooting him.

Darrell Issa: 'You Don't Accuse The IRS Until You've Had A Nonpartisan, Deep Look'

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said earlier this week in a little-noticed interview that he knew "approximately" what the IRS inspector general would report about selective targeting of conservative groups, but that it wasn't appropriate to "accuse the IRS until you've had a nonpartisan, deep look."

The comments back up the White House argument that administration officials did not know enough about the investigation to condemn the IRS until the IG completed his work recently. A Treasury Department official, Neal Wolin, was informed that the IG was looking into the situation this past summer, a revelation the media and GOP have seized on to suggest the White House may have covered up the scandal in the midst of a campaign.

Alleged 'PayPal 14' Hackers Seek Deal To Stay Out Of Prison After Nearly 2 Years In Limbo

Before he was charged in July 2011 with aiding the hacker group Anonymous, Josh Covelli lived what he considered the life of an ordinary 26-year-old. He spent countless hours on the Internet. He had a girlfriend. He was a student and employee at Devry University in Dayton, Ohio.

But after federal authorities accused him and 13 other people of helping launch a cyberattack against the online payment service PayPal, Covelli faced potentially 15 years in prison, and his life began to unravel.

Harper's free passes for friends

Lost in the Senator Mike Duffy scandal is what exactly he's done to deserve such lavish treatment.

It may actually a bigger, more important question than Canada's never-ending debate over the value of the Canadian Senate itself, because it delves even more deeply into the core of what's wrong with the Canadian political system.

Sure, the Senate should be abolished, if for no other reason than for too long now it's been nothing more than a hideously convenient patronage vehicle used to reward longstanding political operatives and fund-raisers who previously toiled in anonymity.

Jason Kenney: Silicon Valley Tech Entrepreneurs Can Get Instant 'Green Card' In Canada

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The Canadian government has launched an aggressive campaign to lure Silicon Valley tech workers frustrated by U.S. visa policies northward, just as Congress wrestles with a long-sought overhaul of America's immigration system.

Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, arrived in the San Francisco Bay area Friday for a four-day visit aimed at snapping up talent for his country's high-tech economy by offering startup entrepreneurs a new visa.

A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit

WINDSOR, Ontario — Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

Taxpayer Dollars Are Helping Monsanto Sell Seeds Abroad

Nearly two decades after their mid-'90s debut in US farm fields, GMO seeds are looking less and less promising. Do the industry's products ramp up crop yields? The Union of Concerned Scientists looked at that question in detail for a 2009 study. Short answer: marginally, if at all. Do they lead to reduced pesticide use? No; in fact, the opposite.

And why would they, when the handful of companies that dominate GMO seeds—Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow—are also among the globe's largest pesticide makers? Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds have given rise to an upsurge of herbicide-resistant superweeds and a torrent of herbicides, while insects are showing resistance to its pesticide-containing Bt crops and causing farmers to boost insecticide use. What about wonder crops that would be genetically engineered to withstand drought or require less nitrogen fertilizer? So far, they haven't panned out—and there's little evidence they ever will.

Frazier Park Fire: Firefighters Battle Flames & Terrain Of Mountains

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — As firefighters took on a stubborn 3-day-old wildfire Friday in rough terrain north of Los Angeles, a second and more serious blaze broke out 30 miles away near Interstate 5, quickly surging to more than 500 acres, briefly threatening an elementary school and leading to the precautionary evacuation of nearly 20 homes.

The new fire was burning very close to I-5 during some of the busiest hours of the week for the heavily traveled route in and out of Los Angeles. The freeway has seen wildfire activity in its surrounding hills all week. One southbound lane was closed because of the firefight.

Reince Priebus: 'You Don't Call For Impeachment Until You Have Evidence'

As President Barack Obama's administration continues to face the fallout from three separate political scandals, some conservatives have been quick to argue that presidential impeachment is a logical conclusion.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus urged restraint on Friday, however, telling Politico that Republicans should be careful not to jump the gun.

Ken Cuccinelli Nominated As Republican Virginia Governor Candidate

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's activist conservative attorney general has won the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination by acclamation.

At the GOP's statewide convention, thousands of conservatives and tea party followers who dominated the Richmond Coliseum on Saturday roared their unanimous support for Ken Cuccinelli. He was unopposed for the nomination and is generally beloved by the tea party for his aggressive challenges to federal mandates

Treasury Officials Told Of IRS Probe In June 2012

WASHINGTON — Senior Treasury officials were made aware in June 2012 that investigators were looking into complaints from tea party groups that they were being harassed by the Internal Revenue Service, a Treasury inspector general said Friday, disclosing that Obama administration officials knew there was a probe during the heat of the presidential campaign.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified alongside ousted IRS head Steven Miller, who did little to subdue Republican outrage during hours of intense congressional questioning. Both defiant and apologetic, Miller acknowledged agency mistakes in targeting tea party groups for special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, but he insisted that agents broke no laws and that there was no effort to cover up their actions.

IRS Probe Ignored Most Influential Groups

WASHINGTON — There's an irony in the Internal Revenue Service's crackdown on conservative groups.

The nation's tax agency has admitted to inappropriately scrutinizing smaller tea party organizations that applied for tax-exempt status, and senior Treasury Department officials were notified in the midst of the 2012 presidential election season that an internal investigation was underway. But the IRS largely maintained a hands-off policy with the much larger, big-budget organizations on the left and right that were most influential in the elections and are organized under a section of the tax code that allows them to hide their donors.

WHO concerned coronavirus spreading person to person

The World Health Organization has issued a blunt assessment of the coronavirus outbreak in Saudi Arabia, acknowledging for the first time that there are concerns the virus may be spreading from person to person, at least in a limited way.

The statement called for urgent investigations to find the source of the virus and how it is infecting people. And it reminded countries they have a duty to the international community to rapidly report cases and related information to the WHO.