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.]

Monday, September 09, 2013

The President and the Pipeline

On the day of his second Inauguration, in January, Barack Obama delivered an address of unabashed liberal ambition and promise. As recently as early April, before the realities of the world and the House of Representatives made themselves painfully evident, the President retained the confidence of a leader on the brink of enormous achievements. It seemed possible, even probable, that he would win modest gun-control legislation, an immigration-reform law, and the elusive grand bargain with Republicans to resolve the serial crises over the federal budget. And he seemed determined to take on even the most complicated and ominous problem of all: climate change. The President, who had a mixed environmental record after his first term, vowed that he would commit his Administration to combatting global warming, saying that “failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Elizabeth Warren Calls Supreme Court Right-Wing, 'Pro-Corporate'

In a speech at an AFL-CIO convention on Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the Supreme Court for being too right-wing and serving the interests of Big Business over the needs of Americans.

In voicing her support for the labor movement and promoting an agenda aimed at defending working families, Warren warned of conservative-leaning justices and a "corporate capture of the federal courts."

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of big business,” Warren said.

Glass houses, Mr. MacKay

Recently, I was awarded the Peter G. MacKay Award for sub-standard and cowardly journalism by Canada’s justice minister.

Touched as I was, I’ll have to turn the honour down. The column for which I was given the award simply doesn’t qualify — at least not in my sub-par opinion.

Besides, I have learned over time that judgements about journalism from politicians or government agencies are tricky matters.

Got trouble with 'overbearing urban planners'? The Manning Centre wants to help!

If on Oct. 21 the market-fundamentalist slate trained and sponsored by the so-called Manning Centre for Building Democracy should fail to sweep most of the seats on Calgary City Council, the wealthy developers who bankrolled this effort can take comfort in the knowledge they received their money's worth in other ways.

Leastways, the Calgary-based Manning Centre -- set up in the mid-Zeroes by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning to be a key facilitator in the coast-to-coast network of think tanks, Astro-Turf groups, media bloviators, academics, pollsters, campaign operatives and other ideological agents that comprise the Organized Right in Canada -- is likely to place undermining democracy in Canadian city halls high on the agenda of its next national conference.

The details in a moment, but first, a little background:

What would Martin Luther King think of Obama?

There's an endearing old Yiddish exclamation that goes, "If my zaidie were alive today, he'd turn over in his grave." It occurred to me last week that had Martin Luther King been alive during the 50th anniversary commemoration of his "I Have A Dream" speech, that's exactly what he’d have been doing. Dr. King would surely have been confounded by the record of Barack Obama, whose presidency would have been unthinkable without King and who paid King a lengthy tribute at the commemoration despite his hectic schedule.

M is for misogyny: From frat boy chants to society

From the Atlantic: "SMU boys, we like them young. Y is for your sister. O is for oh so tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass."

To the Pacific: "Y-O-U-N-G at UBC we like em young Y is for yourrr sister O is for ohh so tight U is for under age N is for noo consent G is for goo to jail."

We have all heard about the Canadian university rape chants by now. Many of us may remember hearing or are hearing similar chants or sentiments at our university "Frosh Weeks" and beyond.

PMO to focus on long-term, policy-centric, offensive political game

PMO chief of staff Ray Novak has repatriated familiar and experienced staffers whose strengths play to the offensive, long-term and policy-centric political game which Conservative sources say the government will pursue in the fall with the 2015 election in mind.

“You have to have staff in place who have the skill to recognize that a particular issue is an issue that can surface during an election and they’ve got these types of people in there now,” said Keith Beardsley, a former PMO deputy chief of staff for issues management and now a partner at True North Public Affairs, in an interview with The Hill Times.

National Grandparents Day: Our elders are badasses who changed the world

One of my very lovely and smart Facebook friends brought to my attention that today is National Grandparents Day. She asked everyone to share stories about their beloved grandparents. Folks quickly piped in with beautiful anecdotes primarily pertaining to memories of cooking, laughing or being reprimanded by elders.

I almost began to share how my grandmother taught me how to cook Caribbean cuisine, which has become an important tie to my culture and one of the important ways that I express love for my friends and extended community.

Time Warner To Remove U.S. Retirees From Company Health Plan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc is planning to transfer its U.S. retirees from company-sponsored health plans and move them to private insurance exchanges.

According to an August memo obtained by Reuters, the media company will make allocations to a Health Reimbursement Arrangement account for retirees to use towards the purchase of coverage on an exchange. Previously, Time Warner provided an indirect subsidy through a supplementary Medicare program.

How the N.S.A. Cracked the Web

It’s been nearly three months since Edward Snowden started telling the world about the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of global communications. But the latest disclosures, by the Guardian, New York Times, and ProPublica are perhaps the most profound yet: the N.S.A. and its partner agency in the United Kingdom, the Government Communications Headquarters, possess significant capabilities to circumvent widely used encryption software in order to access private data.

Encryption poses a problem for intelligence agencies by scrambling data with a secret code so that even if they, or any other third-party, manages to capture it, they cannot read it—unless they possess the key to decrypt it or have the ability to crack the encryption scheme. Encryption has become only more pervasive in the decade since the N.S.A.’s “aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies” began in 2000. When you log into Gmail or Facebook, chat over iMessage, or check your bank account, the data is typically encrypted. This is because encryption is vital for everyday Web transactions; if for instance, you were to log in to your Gmail account using a park’s open wireless network and your username and password were transmitted in plain form, without being encrypted, your credentials could potentially be captured by anyone using that same network.

Campus police deny asking protester to leave

A Western University dean is demanding answers about how campus police broke up a student demonstration during Orientation Week.

Nick Dyer-Witheford, acting dean of the faculty of information and media studies, contacted the university to request a review into whether campus police turfed protesters or asked them to move their demonstration to another area of campus.

An official from the university who spoke with campus police maintains the group was merely asked to relocate.

IBM To Move Retirees Off Its Health Plan Due To Rising Costs

IBM plans to move many retired workers off its health plan and give them money to buy coverage on a health-insurance exchange. The move is part of a corporate trend away from providing traditional retiree health benefits as costs rise.

The company says it acted after projections showed that costs under its current plan for Medicare-eligible retirees will triple by 2020 and that the increases would be paid by retirees through premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

It happened on my campus too: The SMU rape chant at UBC

Just two days ago, I published an article detailing my concerns about having heard misogynist lyrics being played loudly on campus during frosh week at UBC. The song, which was played at a booth run by an off-campus nightclub, right near the Student Union Building, described -- repetitively -- being here "for the bitches and the drinks." I expressed my frustration at having to be exposed to such misogyny in this environment, especially when we know that sexual assaults (especially those facilitated by drugs and alcohol) and sexual harassment run rampant on so many post-secondary campuses.

Solitary confinement a growing issue in Canadian, U.S. prisons

Ashley Smith was alone when she choked to death after tying a cloth strip around her neck, while guards looked on. She died in a segregation cell, a controversial form of prison isolation that experts compare to solitary confinement.

As the ongoing inquest into her death in 2007 has heard, the effects of the kind of long-term segregation she faced during her multiple years in confinement can be deeply detrimental to a person’s mental well-being.

Harper Keystone Appeal: Reported Emissions Offer To Obama Prompts Cynicism

OTTAWA - Environmentalists on both sides of the border are cynical about reports of a prime ministerial appeal to the White House for common North American greenhouse-gas emissions standards in the oil and gas sector.

Ottawa sources confirm Stephen Harper wrote U.S. President Barack Obama last month with an offer to work more closely on emissions regulations to help win approval for the embattled Keystone XL pipeline.

Fooling Ourselves Into War

"Look to the moon, not to the reflection in the pond."

That wise Buddhist expression encourages me to dig deeper into chemical weapons being presented as the reason we're attacking Syria. As an expert on the prediction and prevention of violence, I can't do a thing to prevent the U.S. military action against Syria, but I can predict with certainty that it is coming. That means we can see recent congressional debate for what it is: an illusion and distraction. In our times, a president does not state his intention to take military action, and then change his mind a few days later -- no matter what. Accordingly, rather than add to the debate show, I want instead to deconstruct the main reason we've been told/sold for our imminent and direct killing of people in Syria.

EPA Quietly Withdraws Two Proposed Chemical Safety Rules

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency this week quietly withdrew two draft rules dealing with the regulation of chemicals. The potential rules were in limbo at the Office of Management for several years.

One of the rules was a proposal to add Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical included in many water bottles and other plastic products that has been linked to a number of potential health concerns, to the list of "chemicals of concern" that would be subject to more scrutiny. The EPA also proposed listing eight different types of phthalates, another group of chemicals often used in plastic products, and several types of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Dana Perino Is 'Tired Of Atheists'; Fox News Host Says 'They Don't Have To Live Here'

Freedom of belief doesn't appear to be important to Fox News host Dana Perino, who suggested that if atheists don't like having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, well, "they don't have to live here."

Massachusetts' highest court is currently hearing a case against the Pledge brought by atheist parents, who feel that due to its religious wording, atheist children "are denied meaningful participation in this patriotic exercise." The case specifically involves the phrase, "under God," which was not actually a part of the original phrasing of the Pledge.

August Jobs Report: U.S. Creates 169,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Down To 7.3 Percent

The U.S. job market is turning ugly, exposing the folly of the Fed's plan to tighten monetary policy and Congress' hellbent march toward another destructive budget battle.

Policy makers should be doing more to boost an economy that remains stubbornly mediocre. Instead, leaders in Washington are getting ready to make things worse.

Employers added 169,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday, while the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest since December 2008.

The Real Reason for War With Syria

The resolution in favor of American intervention in Syria conceals an agenda for escalation far beyond, as a statement by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez described it, a “narrow” and “focused” US response to the chemical weapons attack on August 21. The American public and Congress are being fooled into a broader effort that looks a lot like war and regime change.

Maybe it’s the price the president paid for Senator John McCain’s vote. But McCain’s amendment, which says, “It is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement,” suggests escalation will not be far behind air strikes.

Samantha Power Sells Action in Syria to the Left

Ambassador Samantha Power made her case for military strikes in Syria today at the Center for American Progress, where she argued that in the face of a “paralyzed” Security Council, the deployment of American war power is the only viable response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, if one that supporters needed to “justify.”

“This is the right debate for us to have,” Power said, and yet took no questions, turning the assembled press into props. To be fair, President Obama answered many questions from reporters this morning. But the absence of a question-and-answer session created the impression that, despite the optics of appearing before the press at a progressive institution, Power wasn’t particularly interested in a real conversation. CAP president Neera Tanden, meanwhile, expressed her support for military intervention.

Harper: Russia Should Not Have Veto Over Global Security

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Russia should not be handed a veto over how the world responds to an unprecedented threat to its security, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday as Canada and nine other nations backed the American position on Syria.

They were some of Harper's toughest words yet on the global impasse that played out at the G20 summit over the last two days in the imperial Russian capital, pitting Moscow against Washington.

Marois Wrong On Quebecers' Expectations, Trudeau Says

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said a policy of multiculturalism in England has led to people "beating each other up and setting off bombs" because the society has no clear sense of identity.

She made the comments in an exclusive interview with the French-language newspaper Le Devoir about the Parti Québécois’ proposed charter of values.

In the interview, she said women working in daycares who wear hijabs are in a position to influence children to practice religion.

Harper's Growth Record Is the Worst Since R.B. Bennett

Stephen Harper went to Russia this week to lecture G-20 countries about fiscal responsibility. It all rang a bit hollow because of his fiscal record here at home.

In 2006, he was handed a steadily growing economy which had generated 3.5 million net new jobs, declining debt and taxes, a decade of balanced budgets, annual surpluses at about $13-billion and fiscal flexibility projected ahead five years totaling $100-billion. That's what Mr. Harper had to work with -- the most robust fiscal situation in the western world. And he blew it in less than three years.

Eva Aariak's Salary: Nunavut Premier Among Best-Paid In Canada

Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak announced Thursday she will not seek a second term, but there are close to 200,000 reasons why she may consider changing her mind.

It may surprise some to learn that the premier of Nunavut, which has a population of roughly 32,000, earns $193,499, according to figures from the recent "Who Earns What" issue of Maclean’s magazine.

Seeking Keystone XL Backing, Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper Pens Letter To Obama

OTTAWA, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, trying to win U.S. backing for the Keystone XL pipeline, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama proposing joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector, CBC News said on Friday.

The White House has not responded to the letter, which was sent in late August, CBC said, although Harper met Obama briefly during the just-ended G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Canada's Jobless Numbers Questioned: Toronto Created How Many Jobs?

Some unusual numbers in Statistics Canada’s latest unemployment data, released Friday, have some economists questioning the accuracy of the monthly report.

Will Dunning, who works as the chief economist for mortgage industry group CAAMP, pointed to StatsCan data showing that, of the approximately 59,000 net jobs created in Canada, 45,500 came from the Toronto area.

Dunning describes that number as impossible.

40 Years After Chile Coup, Family of Slain Singer Víctor Jara Sues Alleged Killer in U.S. Court

This week marks the 40th anniversary of what’s known as the other 9/11: September 11, 1973, when a U.S.-backed military coup ousted Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende and ushered in a 17-year repressive dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet. We’re joined by Joan Jara, the widow of Chilean singer Víctor Jara, who has just filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer who allegedly killed Jara 40 years ago. Jara’s accused killer, Pedro Barrientos, has lived in the United States for roughly two decades and is now a U.S. citizen. Jara’s family is suing him under federal laws that allow U.S. courts to hear about human rights abuses committed abroad. Last year, Chilean prosecutors charged Barrientos and another officer with Jara’s murder, naming six others as accomplices. We also speak with Almudena Bernabeu, an attorney with Center for Justice and Accountability, who helped file the Jara family’s lawsuit last week. "I saw literally hundreds of bodies that were piled up in what was actually the parking place of the morgue," Joan Jara says of finding her husband’s body 40 years ago. "I recognized him. I saw what had happened to him. I saw the bullet wounds. I saw the state of his body. I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the sense that I had to face in that moment what had happened to Victor. I could [later] give my testimony with all the force of what I felt in that moment — and not the horror, which is much worse, of never knowing what happened to your loved one. That happened to so many families, so many women who have spent these 40 years looking for their loved ones who were made to disappear."

Author: --

Is the PBO dead, or just sleeping?

For John Ivison at the National Post, the appointment of long-time Library of Parliament drone Jean-Denis Fréchette as the new PBO signalled a tilt toward a weaker office. According to Ivison, Fréchette already has told PBO staff “that the future will be synthesis, rather than analysis; committee support, rather than public reports; and a lower profile in the media” — all of which sounds, to those who’ve been following the Parliamentary Budget Office saga, very much like it came off a PMO talking points list.

Uneasy allies seek to kill Senate

REGINA -- Two political leaders who have butted heads over the oilsands and the economy have become unlikely allies in a push to abolish the Senate.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is scheduled to meet Monday with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in Regina.

They are expected to talk about the state of the Canadian economy, the Senate, health care and the federal skills training program.

Prime Minister’s Office tipped on access to information requests in Senate spending scandal

OTTAWA — Federal bureaucrats notified Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff in June that they were about to make public that a search of the Privy Council Office had not uncovered a single document related to the scandal involving Sen. Mike Duffy.

A briefing note to Ray Novak, released to Postmedia News under the access to information law, shows that Harper’s right-hand man was informed on June 25 about the answer to be sent imminently to an access-to-information request. On the same day, PCO bureaucrats sent the Prime Minister’s Office the “red files” — the term used for flagged requests that could be politically sensitive or damaging to a department or minister.

Harper's proposed unilateral changes to Parliament unsupportable: B.C.

The federal government shouldn't be allowed to unilaterally reform the Senate without letting the B.C. legislature and ordinary British Columbians weigh in, Premier Christy Clark's government said Friday.

B.C., the final participant in a Supreme Court of Canada case to make a submission, joined a majority of provinces in opposing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's bid to impose nine-year term limits on senators and bring an election process to picking members of the scandal-plagued upper chamber.