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, July 05, 2013

A law that won’t help offenders or their victims

Bill C-54, the Conservative government’s latest salvo in the tough-on-crime war, has passed third reading in Parliament and awaits only Senate approval and royal assent to become law. The legislation has been criticized by many with expertise in criminal law: by criminal lawyers, academics, review boards, forensic psychiatrists, criminologists, etc. But the criticism has fallen on deaf ears; criticism seems to have little effect on this government — they are right, the critics are wrong.

None of the provincial review boards who actually administer the relevant sections of the Criminal Code were consulted on the legislation. Had they been consulted, no doubt they would have made the point that the victims of crime and the mentally ill are not adversaries: this is precisely the point the Conservative government did not want to have expressed because it might undermine the photo ops that the prime minister and his minister of justice stage with victim’s right groups. In other words, Bill C-54 is about votes; it is not about public safety, still less about victim’s rights.

Alberta commits $5B to pipeline

EDMONTON — Alberta has made a $5-billion commitment to the proposed Energy East pipeline to carry oilsands bitumen to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick.

The province has signed an agreement with Energy East Ltd. Partnership to purchase firm capacity of up to 100,000 barrels per day for 20 years on the proposed TransCanada Pipelines eastern main line conversion project, according to financial documents released last week.

Conservative Refugee Reforms Put Party At Odds With Jewish Group

OTTAWA — The federal government has found itself at odds with an unlikely adversary: a Jewish group.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has courted the Jewish community and considers it an important ally on his foreign policy agenda, but a new Jewish group is questioning the government’s commitment to human rights one year after the passage of controversial legislation on refugees.

Texas Lawmakers Too Busy Targeting Abortion Providers to Deal With Exploding Fertilizer Plants

In the two and a half months since an explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer storage facility left 12 first responders dead and at least 200 people injured, two things have become clear. The disaster could have been avoided if the proper regulations had been in place and enforced—and state and federal agencies don't appear to be in a hurry to put those regulations in place or enforce them.

Texas, whose lax regulatory climate has come in for scrutiny in the aftermath of the West explosion, went into a special session of its state legislature on Monday to push through an omnibus abortion bill designed to regulate 37 abortion clinics out of existence. But the 2013 session will come to a close without any significant action to impose safeguards on the 74 facilities in the state that contain at least 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate.

Gay Marriage Will 'Destroy' Children And Lead Them To Crime And Violence: Bishop Harry Jackson

The Supreme Court's rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Prop 8 have been enthusiastically received by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates nationwide, but one conservative religious figure isn't having any of it.

In an impassioned column for the Christian Post, Bishop Harry Jackson claims that same-sex marriage will lead to "terrible suffering" for children, who will inevitably "turn to lives of crime and violence."

Paul Scalia, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's Son, Doesn't Think That Homosexuality Is A Thing

Almost a month after the Supreme Court's landmark decisions in favor of marriage equality were handed down, one son of dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia will speak in front of Courage, an organization that believes gays and lesbians should never have sex.

Paul Scalia is a Roman Catholic priest affiliated with Courage, a group that "ministers to persons with same-sex attractions," according to its website. He is also a featured speaker at Courage's annual summit, taking place this year between July 25 and July 28 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill.

Canadians need answers on Cold Lake oil spill

"We don't know what the hell is going on under the ground".

That's what Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation told me this morning. On June 27, an oil spill occurred at Canadian Natural Resources Limited's (CNRL) Primrose operations 75km east of Lac la Biche. The spill happened on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), located in a region The Royal Canadian Airforce calls"the inhospitable wilds of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan." This "inhospitable" region happens to be in her community's traditional hunting territory where her family traditionally hunted and trapped and where her elders are buried.

Remembering grassroots democracy movements on the Fourth of July

More than 160 years ago, the greatest abolitionist in U.S. history, the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, addressed the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass asked those gathered, "What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" His words bear repeating this Independence Day, as the United States asserts unprecedented authority to wage war globally, to spy on everyone, everywhere. Independence Day should serve not as a blind celebration of the government, but as a moment to reflect on the central place in our history of grassroots democracy movements, which have preserved and expanded the rights proclaimed in the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Minimum wage risks becoming going rate for millions, low pay pioneer warns

The UK is at risk of creating a two-tier labour market in which growing numbers of workers earn little more than the legal minimum, the founding chair of the government's Low Pay Commission has warned.

Professor Sir George Bain said that without new thinking on the minimum wage there was a risk the purpose of the commission would be perverted and it might even turn into a drag on wages.

Iceland Discusses Edward Snowden Citizenship In Parliament

REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- Icelandic lawmakers introduced a proposal in Parliament on Thursday to grant immediate citizenship to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who admits to revealing key details of U.S. surveillance activities.

Ogmundur Jonasson, whose liberal Left-Green Party is backing the proposal along with the Pirate Party and Brighter Future Party, put the issue before the Judicial Affairs Committee, but the idea received minimal support.

The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret

On the cut-and-kill floor of Quality Pork Processors Inc. in Austin, Minnesota, the wind always blows. From the open doors at the docks where drivers unload massive trailers of screeching pigs, through to the "warm room" where the hogs are butchered, to the plastic-draped breezeway where the parts are handed over to Hormel for packaging, the air gusts and swirls, whistling through the plant like the current in a canyon. In the first week of December 2006, Matthew Garcia felt feverish and chilled on the blustery production floor. He fought stabbing back pains and nausea, but he figured it was just the flu—and he was determined to tough it out.

Garcia had gotten on at QPP only 12 weeks before and had been stuck with one of the worst spots on the line: running a device known simply as the "brain machine"—the last stop on a conveyor line snaking down the middle of a J-shaped bench [DC] called the "head table." Every hour, more than 1,300 severed pork heads go sliding along the belt. Workers slice off the ears, clip the snouts, chisel the cheek meat. They scoop out the eyes, carve out the tongue, and scrape the palate meat from the roofs of mouths. Because, famously, all parts of a pig are edible ("everything but the squeal," wisdom goes), nothing is wasted. A woman next to Garcia would carve meat off the back of each head before letting the denuded skull slide down the conveyor and through an opening in a plexiglass shield.

Alberta's Underground Tar Sands 'Oil Blowout' Industry and Government Don't Want You to

"We don't know what the hell is going on under the ground".

That's what Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation told me this morning. On June 27, an oil spill occurred at Canadian Natural Resources Limited's (CNRL) Primrose operations 75km east of Lac la Biche. The spill happened on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), located in a region The Royal Canadian Airforce calls "the inhospitable wilds of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan." This 'inhospitable' region happens to be in her community's traditional hunting territory where her family traditionally hunted and trapped and where her elders are buried.

Conservatives now billing themselves as ‘Canada’s founding party’

When your name is tarnished by a series of scandals and the public starts viewing you as a bunch of entitled ne’er–do–wells, there’s only one thing left to do: rebrand yourself!

That’s what the Conservative Party of Canada is apparently trying to do with its new slogan describing Stephen Harper and his merry gang of pranksters as “Canada’s founding party.”

Red, Divided and Blue Fly This Independence Day

It seems entirely revealing, if dispiriting, that the days before the July Fourth holiday showed Red America and Blue America pulling apart at an accelerating rate.

Of all of our national holidays, Independence Day is the one most intimately rooted in our common history and shared experience. Yet this year it arrives against a background of polarization, separation, and confrontation in the states and Washington alike. With municipal politics as the occasional exception, the pattern of solidifying agreement within the parties—and widening disagreement between them—is dominating our decisions at every level.

Why Canada's Wheat Board will be missed

In 2012, the Conservatives ended the 70-year monopoly seller status of the Canadian Wheat Board, one of the world's largest and most successful "state trading enterprises."

The government decision came without a vote among prairie grain farmers, required by the Canadian Wheat Board Act, and despite a 2011 plebiscite in which a majority of farmers voted to maintain the Board's status. The matter is now before the courts, but the Board cannot simply be revived after having been dismantled. Instead, a coalition of farmer groups has launched a class action suit against the government seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

Top government brass gain from layoffs

Federal deputy ministers received more than $50,000 each in bonuses and other performance rewards – a 12-per-cent hike – during the year they identified thousands of public-service positions for elimination, according to federal spending data on Ottawa’s top officials.

The average performance award for the 94 officials paid at the deputy-minister level is significantly higher than the average performance pay for the 5,987 executives working in senior positions under deputy ministers. Figures show those executives saw an average amount of $14,327 – a 1.6-per-cent increase – for performance pay in 2011-12.

Mortgage Rates Canada: 1% Hike Could Sink Housing Market

Canada’s banks have declared a “soft landing” for the housing market, noting with evident relief that home sales in markets like Vancouver and Calgary have recently been showing surprising strength. (Sales in Toronto's incomprehensible housing market slumped one per cent even as prices jumped 4.7 per cent in June.)

But few would deny that Canada’s house prices are strained to the brink — even the optimistic bank economists concede there is simply no room for prices to grow much in the coming years. Many of them continue to say there is a risk of falling house prices.

France Intelligence Agency Spies On Phone Calls, Emails, Social Media Activity: Report

PARIS, July 4 (Reuters) - France's external intelligence agency spies on the French public's phone calls, emails and social media activity in France and abroad, the daily Le Monde said on Thursday.

It said the DGSE intercepted signals from computers and telephones in France, and between France and other countries, although not the content of phone calls, to create a map of "who is talking to whom". It said the activity was illegal.

The N.S.A.’s Costly European Adventure

In the last few days, Der Spiegel and the Guardian published the latest revelations from Edward Snowden’s often random-seeming cache of PowerPoint slides, memoranda citing acronyms whose full import remains mysterious, and other top-secret files from the National Security Agency. The new disclosures describe data collection and black-bag bugging jobs directed by the United States against European allies, including Germany, France, Britain, and the European Union.

Interns Face 'Patchwork' Of Rules, Even On Parliament Hill

Estimates of the number of unpaid interns working in Canada range from 100,000 to 300,000, but the federal government's Labour Code doesn't even contain the word "intern."

"While the Labour Code does not specifically address internships, it protects the rights of an employee to be paid for work that is conducted," a spokesperson for Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said in an email. "An employee can file a complaint for unpaid wages, overtime and vacation pay to the labour program."

The grey area that exists around unpaid internships is partially due to the fact that labour is a provincial responsibility, and only three provinces have drawn up regulations concerning interns. But there is no federal policy that applies to the growing culture of young people who work for no money, hoping to get a foot in the door of paid employment.

Adly Mansour Sworn In As Egypt's Interim President

CAIRO - The chief justice of Egypt's Supreme constitutional Court was sworn in Thursday as the nation's interim president, taking over hours after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, while the army launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails.

Egyptian prosecutors ordered the arrest of the Brotherhood's leader, Mohammed Badie, and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater for the killing of eight protesters in clashes outside the group's Cairo headquarters this week, according to the official news agency reported.

New nation-wide computer glitches at Environment Canada

OTTAWA — Environment Canada had its current weather observations online again early Thursday after an unexplained breakdown, but a further glitch has taken past weather data offline.

Anyone looking for weather data more than 24 hours old now gets this message: "The database is currently unavailable. This may be due to maintenance or we may be experiencing difficulties. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please try again later."

CTV poll: 30 per cent of Canadians think Harper gov't should be re-elected

Accoding to a new poll, the Conservatives appear to have weathered most of the Senate scandal storm and put a halt to their declining popularity, although most of the Canadians surveyed believe it’s time for a change in government.

A CTV News Ipsos Reid poll found that 30 per cent feel the Harper government has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected, while 70 per cent feel it’s time for a different party to take over.

The results could be troubling for the Conservatives ahead of the 2015 election.

Tailings Dump at the Red Chris Mine: Will It Hold Water?

More work is required before anyone knows how an estimated 300-million tonnes of tailings from the proposed Red Chris mine will eventually affect water in the upper Stikine watershed of northwest B.C., concludes a confidential industry-funded review acquired by The Tyee.

The report, paid for by mine owner Imperial Metals at the urging of the Tahltan Nation, recommends a comprehensive field investigation including additional drilling, groundwater collection and monitoring wells be undertaken as a way of addressing existing information gaps.

Harper government spin-doctors planned environment cuts

OTTAWA — The Harper government included communications strategists in closed-door discussions that led to an estimated $60 million in cuts at Environment Canada in the 2012 federal budget, according to internal briefing documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The records — labelled as “secret advice to the minister” — were part of more than 500 pages of briefing material prepared for the department’s deputy minister, Bob Hamilton, when he replaced Paul Boothe as Environment Canada’s boss in the summer of 2012.

Reddit, Mozilla And Others Plan Huge Online Protest Against NSA For July 4

Reddit, Mozilla, Wordpress, 4chan and other websites are planning a Fourth of July protest against the National Security Agency over its widespread surveillance of telephone records and Internet traffic through secret programs that came to light last month.

Spearheaded by the Internet Defense League, a 30,000-member group of Internet activists and websites, the Restore The Fourth campaign will have websites promote anti-NSA messages on their homepages along with directing visitors to, where they can donate to help fund television ads against the intelligence programs.

A Letter From Guantanamo

This is my call to the outside world from behind these rusty bars, in this monstrous cell. Does the world know what is happening in this prison?

Despite the long years we the prisoners have spent in this place from 2002 to 2013, the American government does not seem interested in solving the problem. The past few months have been among the harshest lived by the prisoners here. During the Bush years, solutions seemed possible. Under Obama, it seems like there is no will to solve the problem.

Rupert Murdoch Tape Reveals Angry, Dismissive News Corp Chief

A secret recording of Rupert Murdoch reveals that the News Corp chief was angry and dismissive about investigations into corruption at his British newspapers.

The recording, which was obtained by the British network Channel 4, was taken behind Murdoch's back during a meeting he held with staffers at The Sun, his biggest UK title, earlier in 2013. The paper has been beset by a string of arrests in connection with an inquiry over illegal payments to police officers. Murdoch has been blamed for many of the arrests because, in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, he set up a special committee that has handed over information about potential illegality at his company to the police.