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.]

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Preparations for greatly expanded oil exports already moving forward

As opponents rage against new pipelines, planning has already begun in preparation for the hundreds of oil tankers the pipelines would supply off B.C.’s coast.

Port Metro Vancouver is creating a Canadian “Center of Excellence” for oil and liquefied gas shipments, in anticipation of the port becoming a major exporter of energy products.

In a recent submission to a federal panel on tanker safety, the port revealed the centre will be a “leading source of information on best practices for shipping Canada’s energy and oil and LNG commodities on Canada’s Pacific Coast.”

Senator denies report that she knew about Duffy-Wright deal

New questions are being raised about the $90,000 deal between Senator Mike Duffy and the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, suggesting other people close to Stephen Harper may have known about the pact.

CTV reported Monday that Nigel Wright, who has since resigned his post as Mr. Harper’s top aide, consulted two Conservative senators while hatching the deal that would see him write a May 15 cheque to Mr. Duffy to, in effect, cover the $90,000 in housing expenses Mr. Duffy repaid.

Unifor and the potential rebirth of militant union activism

This Labour Day weekend promises to be an exciting time for the Canadian union movement and perhaps a spark for workers around the world.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) are merging to create Unifor, the largest primarily private sector union in Canada with about 300,000 members.

The new union offers the potential of something great for the future of unions and the Left. Many good things will happen if Unifor fulfills the promise of its new constitution. For example, Article 2 — 10 states: "Our goal is transformative. To reassert common interest over private interest. Our goal is to change our workplaces and our world. Our vision is compelling. It is to fundamentally change the economy, with equality and social justice, restore and strengthen our democracy and achieve an environmentally sustainable future. This is the basis of social unionism -- a strong and progressive union culture and a commitment to work in common cause with other progressives in Canada and around the world."

Winding down the world money machine

Each year in August, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City brings world central bankers and top economists together to brainstorm about global finance. The meetings are held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a good trout fishing spot, not a financial centre. It was chosen in 1982 to entice noted angler and Federal Reserve Board Chair Paul Volcker to speak about the major downturn in the world economy that was then underway, thanks to the greatest hike in interest rates in recorded history, engineered by Volcker and the Fed.

In defence of online anonymity

Every time a mainstream news media outlet bans "anonymous" online comments a debate opens up somewhere about the nature of online anonymity.

Recently the Huffington Post made a decision to move in this direction starting next month. Despite its leftish pretensions, the Huffington Post is part of a multimillion-dollar online publishing empire. It was purchased by AOL two years ago for $315 million.

Budget 'mistake' more than doubles tax on credit unions

The NDP is calling on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to acknowledge a mistake in last spring's federal budget that more than doubled the corporate tax rate for credit unions and bring in a fix immediately.

The government had signalled it was raising the tax rate for credit unions and caisses populaires to 15 per cent from 11 per cent, to bring them in line with Canadian banks.

A Dream Deferred: The Minimum Wage Was Higher in 1963 Than It Is Today

When Bayard Rustin addressed the March on Washington in 1963 he said this: "We demand that there be an increase in the national minimum wage so that men may live in dignity." The crowd cheered in response. But after fifty years of commemorating that march, after thousands of reverent re-readings of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, that dream remains deferred - and worse.

The minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1963.

Of the people who speak reverently about that march this week, how many will fight for a higher minimum wage so that all people can live in dignity? How many people will remember the full name of that gathering - "the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom"?

Woman stopped at SkyTrain fare check being deported

A Peruvian woman in Canada to nurse her cancer-stricken husband was arrested and is now being deported after a simple SkyTrain fare check led to the discovery of an expired visa.

Jazmine Rosales is required to appear at YVR on Monday, 11 a.m. to board her flight back home.

But the mother-of-three says she applied — twice — to extend her visitor’s stay as required by law well in advance of the 30-day deadline.

JPMorgan Chase Would Be Worth More If It Were Broken Up: Analyst

Breaking up JPMorgan Chase & Co. could make billions of dollars available to the economy and be a boon to the bank's own shareholders, according to one bank analyst.

Christopher Mutascio, a managing director with the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette and Woods in Baltimore, suggested in a research report on Friday that JPMorgan's value might be 30 percent higher if it were broken into pieces. Rather than cowering at the prospect of the nation’s largest bank by assets being dismembered, Mustacio suggested that shareholders might greet the possibility with calls of, “Go ahead, make my day.”

JPMorgan Liable To Leonard Blavatnik Over Mortgage Losses

NEW YORK, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A New York state judge found JPMorgan Chase & Co liable to Russian-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik for breach of contract for stuffing an investment account he held with risky subprime mortgage securities, and ordered the bank to pay more than $50 million of damages including interest.

In a decision made public on Monday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer ordered the largest U.S. bank to pay $42.5 million on the breach of contract claim, plus 5 percent annual interest starting in May 2008.

Health Problems Still Plague Arkansas Residents Near ExxonMobil Tar Sands Spill

It’s been a warm, rain-soaked summer in the small lakeside community of Mayflower, a sleepy residential town north of Little Rock famous for its bluegill and bass fishing in nearby Lake Conway.

But for some folks here, the rain has brought an unpleasant reminder that Mayflower is not the same picture-postcard community it once was. Instead, its residents say they are still suffering health effects from an estimated 5,000 barrels of tar sands crude that burst from an ExxonMobil pipeline on March 29th and poured through a residential neighborhood. The black viscous oil then flowed into culverts and a creek by the town shopping center, finally draining into a marshy area of the lake where much of it remains buried in sediment. Residents say heavy rains cause the oil to leak out into a cove that drains into the lake.

Shea's shaming of Liberals over marijuana an attack from PMO, MPs say

P.E.I.’s three Liberal MPs say Fisheries Minister Gail Shea’s public shaming Monday of their support for legalizing marijuana was an attack from Conservative party central.

On Monday morning, Shea released a statement slamming Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, Malpeque MP Wayne Easter and Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay for endorsing their leader Justin Trudeau’s “reckless position” on pot legalization.

Fraser Institute report leaves children out in the cold

Apparently people get all subjective when they talk about children. Thank goodness we have economists. Not those crazy "social welfare" people who are "lobbying the state for more resources for families with children." Real economists. With real facts. Economists like Christopher Sarlo, from the Fraser Institute, who published a real report (The Cost of Raising Children) on the real cost of raising children in Canada.

So let's talk economics shall we? Let's talk cost. Let's talk cash changing hands. Because the primary critique that this report makes of other (higher) estimates of the cost of raising children is that these other reports measure how much parents SPEND, not the absolute COST of meeting a child's essential needs. The report's point is that, as parents, we spend money on all kinds of things that aren't really needed (bigger houses, expensive vacations to Disneyworld). Fair enough.

The Privacy Question Canada Ignores

As the near-weekly revelations of pervasive surveillance activities generates both debate and mounting opposition in the United States and Europe, the Canadian reaction has remained somewhat muted.

Following an initial flurry of coverage over the surveillance activities of Canadian intelligence agencies, the issue has largely disappeared despite evidence that Canadian data is regularly collected by foreign intelligence agencies, most notably the U.S. National Security Agency.

Interestingly, the battle over the potential entry of Verizon into Canada may have opened the door to greater public scrutiny of the privacy practices of all telecom carriers. The debate unexpectedly features a privacy and surveillance dimension, with the incumbents and their unions raising fears about the link between Verizon and U.S. surveillance.

Two-thirds of Canadians disapprove of Harper's plans to prorogue Parliament: poll

PARLIAMENT HILL—A decisive majority of Canadian voters are opposed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament this fall and delay a return for MPs and Senators to grill the government over the Senate expense scandal, a new Forum Research poll suggests.

The Forum Research telephone poll last Friday found fully 66 per cent of respondents disapproved of Mr. Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) decision to shut down Parliament before its scheduled resumption on Sept. 16 and to delay the resumption until possibly as late as the week of Oct. 21.

Senator Mac Harb pays back $231,000 in expenses, retires

Mac Harb is stepping down from the Senate, dropping his legal action and repaying the remaining $180,000 the Senate says he owes for inappropriate living and travel expense claims.

Harb, who was a Liberal senator until his spending came under scrutiny through an external audit, had already paid back $51,482.90. He did so under protest and had asked the court for a judicial review of the order from the Senate to pay money back.

In a news release Monday, Harb said he delivered a cheque to the chair of the Senate standing committee on internal economy for $180,166.17. That means he's repaid a total of $231,649.07.

Millions in taxpayer-funded consulting work kept secret

Most federal departments are not following government guidelines that encourage them to tell the public just what they’re getting for the millions of dollars spent on management consulting.

A Star investigation found that 90 per cent of the $2.4 billion paid out for management consulting in the past decade comes with no description of the work done on the government’s public disclosure sites.

Whose City Is It, Anyway?

What do the demonstrations at Gezi Park in Turkey, the mass protests in Natal, Brazil, and the uproar over recent rezoning in Vancouver's Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhood have in common?


Throughout the world we are observing what happens when you suppress a debate about who the city is for, and how it should be built.

At Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey, middle-class citizens reacted angrily to a proposal to add a shopping mall to not just one public space in the city, but to many.

Experts warn U.S. military intervention in Syria would likely only cause 'further catastrophe'

Top White House officials dismissed a Sunday announcement that Syria had agreed to allow United Nations investigators access to sites of Wednesday's alleged chemical attacks, declaring that the development is "too late" in what appears to be a hardening U.S. stance.

"If the Syrian government had nothing to hide and wanted to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons in this incident, it would have ceased its attacks on the area and granted immediate access to the U.N. five days ago," a top U.S. official declared Sunday. "At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days."

50 Years After March on Washington, Tens of Thousands Say Struggle for MLK’s "Dream" Continues

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the nation’s capital on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, originally held on August 28, 1963. People filled the National Mall as speakers reflected on the progress in achieving the goals outlined by the event’s most famous speaker, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We spend the hour featuring highlights from Saturday’s event, with voices including 13-term Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march; Rev. Jesse Jackson; Rev. Al Sharpton; Julian Bond, former chair of the board of the NAACP and one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; the AFL-CIO’s Arlene Holt Baker; professor and author Michael Eric Dyson; and Medgar Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams. "This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration, nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration," King’s son, Martin Luther King III, told the crowd. "The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more. Paramount to Martin Luther King Jr.’s fervent dream was a commitment that African Americans gain full economic opportunity and not be confined to basic mobility from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. Today, with 12 percent unemployment rates in the African-American community and 38 percent of all children of color in this country living below the level of poverty, we know that the dream is far from being realized."

Author: --

Conservatives to blame for Chicago's pitiless plight

It's only too easy for a Canadian visitor -- all right, a Toronto visitor -- to go gaga in Chicago. Everybody knows why: the waterfront that remains a vibrant part of the city instead of secreted away behind an impenetrable wall of identical condos; the exciting skyscrapers instead of Toronto's mediocre and banal ones; the commitment to preserve and repurpose splendid historic buildings.

And, like more privileged Chicagoans themselves, you have almost no idea what most of the city is really like. In reality, huge sections are little more than deprived ghettoes -- this is where Barack Obama got his start as a social worker -- which for some time have been in a little-known state of fight-back against the austerity-loving administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Five suggestions for a monument to the victims of capitalism

On Friday, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney announced that the Canadian government would be awarding $1.5 million to Tribute to Liberty under the ministry's Inter-Action program to build a Canadian monument commemorating the "victims of communism." The in-no-way-selective-and-ideological monument is not specific on who the victims of communism are meant to be, although based on the inflated Cold-War era rhetoric employed by Kenney ("[The monument] will also serve as a reminder to all Canadians that glorifying Communist symbols insults the memory of these victims") we can expect that anyone defaulting to words like "gulag" or "purges" will earn a quiet smile from the Immigration Minister.

With the statue now slated to be built in downtown Ottawa, we can start to look forward to Jason Kenney's next memorial project, which will surely require far more planning and resources: a Monument Commemorating the Victims of Capitalism.

Energy East? Use oil from Newfoundland, not the tar sands

In Saint John New Brunswick, Mr. Harper exclaimed that with TransCanada's proposed Energy East Pipeline, "We're not just expanding our markets for our energy projects … We are also at the same time making sure that Canadians themselves benefit from those projects and from that gain energy security."

Instead of always promising energy security to the United States, it's refreshing to finally hear Mr. Harper talk about energy security for Canadians. This country is vulnerable to the next international oil supply crisis because it still imports almost half the oil Canadians use.

MacKay’s credibility gap: pot, meet kettle

I began to suspect that Peter MacKay was not Reach for the Top material in 2011.

That’s when he told former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California and British Columbia “shared” a border. He apparently forgot that Oregon and Washington stand between beautiful BC and the Golden State.

That impression deepened last July when MacKay used Bastille Day to tell guests gathered at the French Embassy in Ottawa that during the War of 1812, “had the French not been there fighting side by side, we might be standing here next to each other in a new light.”

Voluntary census already damaging reliability of statistics, harm is ‘cumulative’

Playing politics with Canada’s census data by eliminating the mandatory long-form survey has already done “irreparable harm,” says Carleton University economics professor Frances Woolley, noting that the country’s small and rural communities are being the most impacted.

“The big thing is loss of information,” Prof. Woolley told The Hill Times. “As this policy [a non-mandatory survey] continues, we’re going to be getting further and further away from a point when we ever did have good information about what society looked like. The effect of bad information is cumulative, and it shows up in all kinds of policies.”

Peter MacKay Misleading Canadians By Saying Trudeau Broke Law, Professor Says

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — A law professor has accused Justice Minister Peter MacKay of misleading the public by saying Justin Trudeau broke the law by smoking pot.

While it is illegal to grow, traffic or possess marijuana, smoking weed is not a criminal offence.

University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran has written to the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society asking that they investigate MacKay, a former provincial Crown prosecutor and, as the current Attorney General of Canada, the person charged with enforcing the rules of the land, for unprofessional conduct as a lawyer.

'90 Percent of Workers Aren’t Getting Bupkis'

One of the obstacles to addressing poverty in this country is that too many people think of low-income people as different, flawed or less than, which often leads not only to a lack of empathy but to outright blame.

However, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows just how much Americans across the economic spectrum have in common when it comes to stagnating wages.

No War With Syria!

Here’s the core question now, in regard to Syria: If it’s true that President Bashar al-Assad’s government used poison gas in an incident that killed hundreds of people, at least, in the suburbs of Damascus, can the United States avoid military action in response? The answer is: yes. And it should.

That doesn’t mean that the United States ought to do nothing. The horrific incident, reported in detail by Doctors Without Borders, demands action. But the proper response by the United States is an all-out effort to achieve a cease-fire in the Syrian civil war. It’s late in the game, but it can be done. The first step would be for Washington to put intense pressure on Saudi Arabia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Turkey, to halt the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, while simultaneously getting Russia and Iran to do the same. A concerted, worldwide diplomatic effort along those lines could work, but there’s zero evidence that President Obama has even thought of that.

Anti-Abortion Laws Take Dramatic Toll On Clinics Nationwide

More than 50 abortion clinics across the country have closed or stopped offering the procedure since a heavy wave of legislative attacks on providers began in 2010, according to The Huffington Post's nationwide survey of state health departments, abortion clinics and local abortion-focused advocacy groups.

At least 54 abortion providers across 27 states have shut down or ended their abortion services in the past three years, and several more clinics are only still open because judges have temporarily blocked legislation that would make it difficult for them to continue to operate. Nebraska and Massachusetts have each added one clinic since 2010, and the other 21 states and the District of Columbia, most of which have not passed new anti-abortion laws since 2010, were unable to accurately count their clinics because their health departments do not license abortion providers separately from other kinds of medical providers. The Huffington Post's tally did not include hospitals that provide abortions.

CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America's military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen, Foreign Policy has learned.

 In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

Manning Wronged and Miranda’s Right

“There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people,” wrote the late historian Howard Zinn, author of “A People’s History of the United States.” These words were included in a statement by Pfc. Bradley Manning, read by his defense attorney David Coombs, at a press conference following Manning’s sentencing to 35 years in military prison for releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. The statement accompanies Manning’s request to President Barack Obama for a presidential pardon.

Across the Atlantic, David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained under Britain’s terrorism laws at London’s Heathrow Airport, his electronic equipment was confiscated, and he was interrogated and threatened with prison.

Larry Summers and the ‘End-Game’ Memo

A 1997 memo retrieved from the filing cabinet of investigative reporter Greg Palast shows the involvement of Lawrence Summers—Obama’s current favorite for chairman of the Federal Reserve—in a successful plan to help big bank CEOs “rip apart financial regulation across the planet.”

In the memo, future Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reminds “his boss to call the then most powerful CEOs on the planet and get them to order their lobbyist armies to march” to tear down financial safety regulations in all 156 nations party to the World Trade Organization.