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.]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Final Countdown For Extended Unemployment Benefits

BENSALEM, Pa. -- For one happy week in January, Casey O'Connell and her husband, Gerry Ferguson, both had jobs.

Ferguson, an Iraq war vet, had been out of work 15 months when he landed employment with Pennsylvania's workforce development system. For two years, O'Connell had been working in customer service for a heating oil company.

India Court Homosexuality Ruling: Law Making Gay Sex Crime Will Remain In Effect

India's top court says a colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime will remain in effect.

The decision dealt a blow to gay rights activists campaigning for years against strong religious opposition in India's deeply conservative society.

Supporters of gays, lesbians and transsexuals vowed to continue pressing for the removal of a law which makes gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The court said in its ruling Wednesday that a High Court decision in 2009 to strike down the law was unconstitutional, as that it was for lawmakers — and not courts — to decide the matter.

Original Article
Author: AP

As Olympic Winter Games Near, Russian LGBT Activists Speak Out Against Anti-Gay Laws

WLGBT foreigners to be detained and then deported. We are joined by two prominent Russian LGBT activists: Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of the Russian LGBT Network; and journalist Masha Gessen, who recently announced she is fleeing Russia due to the country’s repressive laws. Gessen is author of the book, "The Man Without a Face: The Rise and Rule of Vladimir Putin," and the forthcoming, "Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot."
ith the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, less than two months away, gay rights activists from around the world are using the games to put a spotlight on Russia’s new law criminalizing the so-called "promotion of homosexuality." The law allows Russian authorities to fine anyone accused of promoting "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors." One provision allows gay or pro-

Author: --

Canadian Job Growth In 2013 Worst In A Decade, Outside Recession

Job creation in Canada this year has been the weakest in a non-recession year in more than a decade, and the low quality of the jobs being created is causing some economists to raise concerns about the country's economy.

Looking at StatsCan’s latest job numbers, released last week, BMO economist Benjamin Reitzes notes that Canada created fewer than 175,000 net jobs in the year to date (meaning all of 2013 except December).

“Compared to November 2012, employment is up a meagre one per cent, with both the goods and services sectors clocking in at that pace,” Reitzes wrote, adding that “this is hardly the stuff of a firm underlying economy.”

MPs' Staff Asked To Sign Lifetime Confidentiality Agreements

A proposed lifetime gag order for employees of members of Parliament that would restrict their ability to share information — and stifle the kind of whistleblowing that led to some of the revelations in the Senate scandal — is triggering alarm among Parliament Hill staff, according to a union representing some of the workers.

Hill journalists were sent a grainy photo of the new agreement last week from "Nanker Phelge," a pseudonymous email account that appears to have been set up by a Hill staffer unhappy over the change in policy.

Canada Has Most Overvalued Housing Market: Deutsche Bank

Canada has the most overvalued housing market among 20 developed countries, says a report from Deutsche Bank.

The new report comes as real estate giant Re/Max predicts an “exceptionally healthy” year for real estate in 2014.

Deutsche Bank estimates that house prices in Canada are overvalued by 60 per cent. That’s an average of two different measures: Home prices compared to rent (88 per cent overvalued) and home prices compared to income (32 per cent overvalued). The analysis compares house prices to historical norms.

A Cruel, Irresponsible and Dysfunctional Budget Deal

The trouble with making “functional” government the great aspiration of the American experiment – as so many pundits and politicians now do – is that a smoothly operating Congress is not necessarily moral, humane or even economically smart.

It is important to remember this disconnect as we consider the budget deal announced late Tuesday by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray, D-Washington.

Ukraine protests: outrage as police attack Kiev barricades

Thousands of riot police carried out a co-ordinated attack on barricades in Kiev during the dead of night on Wednesday – a determined and unexpected crackdown on protesters who have occupied the centre of Ukraine's capital for the past fortnight.

As temperatures fell to -13C (9F) during the coldest night of the winter to date, columns of riot police closed in on Independence Square, hub of the protests that erupted after President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of an association pact with the EU that had been due for signing at a summit in Vilnius last month. Shortly after 1am battalions of police approached the vast square from all sides and began to dismantle the makeshift barricades that have been erected in recent days.

The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa

As the world focuses on Tuesday’s historic handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, we look back at the pivotal role Cuba played in ending apartheid and why Castro was one of only five world leaders invited to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. In the words of Mandela, the Cuban "destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor ... [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa." Historian Piero Gleijeses argues that it was Cuba’s victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa. We speak to Gleijeses about his new book, "Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991,” and play archival footage of Mandela meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba.

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ALEC’s "Institutional Corruption," From Backing Apartheid to Assault on Clean Energy, Public Sector

The secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has just ended a week-long meeting in Washington where corporate lobbyists worked with state lawmakers on model bills that will later be introduced in states nationwide. ALEC has reportedly drafted a number of new bills designed to prevent President Obama from cutting emissions, and to weaken state policies promoting clean energy. Now conservative groups across the United States are apparently planning a coordinated effort in six states to raise money for attacks on public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, and workers’ compensation. The proposals were coordinated by the ALEC-backed State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at the state level. ALEC is struggling to re-enlist donors after an exodus prompted by its backing of Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law. According to The Guardian, ALEC has lost nearly 400 state legislators from its network over the past two years and more than 60 major corporate donors. We discuss ALEC’s latest efforts, along with its historic opposition to divestment campaigns from apartheid South Africa, with Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy.

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Has America Become Less Poor?

In 2006, John Cassidy wrote in the magazine about the difficulties of measuring poverty. For years, the U.S. government didn’t try to calculate how many people were poor, Cassidy wrote. Then, in the nineteen-sixties, a government statistician named Mollie Orshansky came up with a way to determine what a family would need to not be impoverished. She based her calculations on the cost of food, which, at the time, made up a big proportion of household budgets.

To this day, the government uses a version of that approach to measure poverty, even as families’ budgets have transformed: food expenses make up a much smaller percentage, and low-income families benefit from new social services and tax benefits that the poverty measure also doesn’t account for. Starting in 2010, the government created a second way to calculate poverty that accounts for these factors—the supplemental poverty measure.

Two Cheers for the New Volcker Rule

Back in the spring and summer of 2010, I spent a bit of time with Paul Volcker, the grand old man of American finance, who was busy pushing Congress and the Obama Administration to severely restrict the risky trading activities of banks that enjoy government guarantees in the form of deposit insurance and access to emergency-lending resources at the Federal Reserve. Sitting in his reassuringly modest office in Rockefeller Center, the walls lined with books, papers, and mementoes of his fishing trips, the six-foot-seven former chairman of the Fed explained his reasoning in characteristically succinct and direct fashion: “If you are going to be a commercial bank, with all the protections that implies, you shouldn’t be doing this stuff. If you are doing this stuff, you shouldn’t be a commercial bank.”

Volcker Rule Finalized With Wall Street Responsible For Judging Compliance

Big Wall Street banks face an uneasy future after U.S. regulators on Tuesday finalized the Volcker Rule, a measure that attempts to curtail big bets on certain financial instruments. But in a potential concession, the banks themselves largely will be responsible for determining whether they're in compliance.

As Wall Street, Washington and the lawyers that advise them digested the rule, investors appeared to brush off concerns that the final version would dent banks’ profitability. Share prices of banks seen as most vulnerable to the rule rose.

NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking

The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.

The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.

The Gun Lobby's Stealth Assault on Small Town America

This past spring, strangely similar pieces of mail started arriving at the offices of city attorneys in 28 Maryland communities. The tersely worded letters, many dated March 26, warned each town that some of its firearms laws were illegal and needed to be repealed immediately. Takoma Park's letter claimed that ordinances against carrying unlocked guns and possessing or selling guns in public places "grossly" exceeded state law and should be taken off the books, "out of respect for the rule of law." All of the letters warned that failure to comply would put the towns "at risk for a lawsuit."

Putin One Ups Canada's North Pole Claim With More Russian Military

OTTAWA - Russian President Vladimir Putin is pawing the snow over Canada's claim to the North Pole.

A day after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Canada is extending its Arctic territorial claim beyond the area mapped by federal scientists, Putin responded Tuesday with a highly visible message to the Russian military.

"I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic," Putin was quoted saying in televised comments at a meeting of the Defence Ministry Board in Moscow.

Canada’s electronic spy agency says tracking allies is necessary

Canada’s electronic spy agency is defending its espionage activities against countries around the world, including trading partners — often at the request of the U.S. — as necessary to support government decision-making and provide a better understanding of global events.

The statement came in response to questions that CBC News posed to the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the little-known spy service that collects intelligence by intercepting mainly foreign communications and hacking into computer data systems.

Christy Clark's Jobs Plan Isn't Working

"I'm going to run in the next election on the strong economy. I'm going to run on [being] number one in job creation." -- B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Oct. 2012

B.C.'s Jobs Plan isn't working.

And neither are about 8,000 British Columbians who actually lost their jobs in November alone, according to Statistics Canada's latest labour force survey, bumping the unemployment rate up to 6.7 per cent from October's 6.5 per cent, even though 21,600 jobs were gained nationally.

Bad Banks Could Do It Again

Are you ready for the Western world's economy to crash -- again?

More banks will go under. Many tens of thousands of people will again be thrown out of work. Billions of dollars in "investments" will disappear into thin air.

I believe it's not a question of "if" financial markets and the economy will crash again, but "when."

Boom and bust economies are features of unfettered capitalism. There have been more than 20 major international and national economic collapses since the early 20th century.

The Criminalization of Everyday Life

If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving”  social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them,  with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements.  There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war.   (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.)  But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct.  It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.

How History Will Remember Obama (Hint: Not Well)

Action begets reaction in foreign policy as in physics, and action unconsidered for its possible consequences has been responsible for many results for which statesmen (or their unqualified counterparts) are eventually sorry, as are multitudes (as it may be) who pay the price. That, sententious as it may be, is my holiday message to Barack Obama. I continue:

In 2012, at the start of his second term, President Barack Obama called the Pentagon to assure its leaders that the American nation would remain the “greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.” The war in Afghanistan was, at that time, continuing, and the disorders and sectarian attacks had begun, which have continued in Iraq ever since the United States had declared that war over in 2011—after 8 years, 8 months, 3 weeks and 4 days.

Battered women morally entitled to kill abusers, U of O professor asserts

OTTAWA — Battered women are morally entitled to kill their abusive partners, even those who are passed out or asleep, says a respected University of Ottawa law professor.

Elizabeth Sheehy raises the provocative idea in her new book, eight years in the making, called Defending Battered Women on Trial. It will be published Dec. 15 by UBC Press.

“Why should women live in anticipatory dread and hypervigilence?” she writes in the book’s concluding chapter. Would it not be just, Sheehy asks, “to shift the risk of death to those men whose aggressions have created such dehumanizing fear in their female partners?”

What lies beneath Alberta’s man-made lakes?

From a distance, Base Mine Lake in northern Alberta looks like any other lake in the Athabasca region, with the white spruce of the South Bison Hills surrounding part of the eight-square-kilometre body of water. Off in the distance, though, smokestacks at an oil-sands operation are one reminder why this isn’t the type of place families typically swim or fish. Another lies five metres below the surface, where sits a roughly 13-storey-deep amalgam of tailings, the toxic waste by-product of the oil-sands mining process.

Jama Warsame is a citizen of nowhere

Jama Warsame sat in the back of an airplane soaring toward his nightmare. To his right sat two Canadian government escorts, a man and a woman, neither “particularly tough-looking,” Warsame recalls.

It was February 2012, shortly after Warsame’s 28th birthday and, despite the efforts of his dogged lawyer, two imaginative law students and the backing of the United Nations, Warsame was being deported from Canada to Somalia, a place he had never been, with languages he did not speak, in the midst of bloody civil strife. Warsame, who grew up in Canada, found himself in a terrifying situation: He was more Canadian than Somali, but not Canadian enough to avoid being deported to a country where he could be killed.

Is Calgary The Next Detroit? Bankruptcy Fears As Cities Share Similarities

The recent decision by a U.S. judge to allow the City of Detroit to potentially shed billions in debt is raising concern among some for a Canadian city.

Some fear that Detroit's financial situation, which is the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history, may be replicated in Calgary as the cities share similarities including reliance on a few key major industries and heavy investment in infrastructure.

Idle No More One Year Anniversary Marked With Smaller Protest

OTTAWA - On the one-year anniversary of Idle No More, the aboriginal rights movement, about 50 activists marched from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill to protest a reform plan for aboriginal schools.

"It's not only an issue of saying 'We don't accept, we want the (Indian) Act kicked out," said Chief Gilbert Whiteduck of the Maniwaki First Nation.

Tory ban on heroin for addicts in study breaches international ethics

OTTAWA — The government breached international ethical standards when it made a policy change that will cut access to heroin for addicts who were receiving it as part of a clinical trial, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) says.

The Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness (SALOME) provides participants with versions of heroin based on the theory that continued use in small amounts reduces addicts' illegal use of the drug and makes them more likely to stay in treatment programs.

Grading Canada's economic recovery: More employment in Canada is precarious

Grading Canada's economic recovery: More employment in Canada is precarious
This week, Behind the Numbers is publishing a series examining Canada's economic recovery and scrutinizing the government's economic message. We first looked at GDP and economic growth, then at unemployment in Canada, and yesterday we began looking at employment quality by examining underemployment. Today we continue looking at employment quality in the economy.

"We will take decisive action to ensure our economy will create good jobs and sustain a higher quality of life for our children and grandchildren." - 2012 Budget speech

Mint chair Jim Love signed deal to keep taxman in dark about offshore case

A $15-million lawsuit against the chair of the Canadian Mint, which turned up evidence that millions of dollars were moved through offshore havens in a "tax avoidance scheme" and much of it was never reported to tax authorities, ended with a pact not to alert the Canada Revenue Agency about the case, CBC News has learned.

As reported last month by CBC, descendants of former prime minister Arthur Meighen sued Toronto lawyer and mint chairman Jim Love, his trust company, his law firm and others in 2008, alleging wrongdoing in how they managed the Meighen family fortune and helped transfer $8 million through tax havens.

Duffy Expense Audit: Senate Speaker Nixes Liberal Bid To Probe Alleged PMO Interference

OTTAWA - The Speaker of the Senate has shot down a Liberal bid to investigate allegations that the Prime Minister's Office interfered in an independent audit of Mike Duffy's expenses.

Noel Kinsella rejected Liberal Senate leader James Cowan's argument that the alleged interference constituted a breach of senators' privileges.

Key Military Sexual Assault Reforms Dropped From Defense Bill

House and Senate leaders pre-negotiated a defense authorization bill on Monday that doesn't include Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) controversial amendment to remove military sexual assault cases from the chain of command.

The bill that will move forward does work to address the problem of military sexual assault, but several victim advocacy groups had considered Gillibrand's amendment to be the most essential proposed reform. Military sexual assault victims have said they are afraid to report their assaults because they don't trust the chain of command to handle their cases effectively. The Pentagon estimates that out of the 26,000 incidences of unwanted sexual contact that occurred in the military in 2012, only 3,000 were reported, and only 300 led to prosecutions.

The NSA's Reach Might Be Even Bigger Than We Thought

The National Security Agency's court-approved authority to access and analyze phone records three "hops" away from a suspected terrorist's phone number has alarmed civil liberties groups like the ACLU, which estimated that just one starting number could yield 2.5 million people's phone records.

Now, new research from Stanford graduate students Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler suggests that the NSA's dragnet could be bigger -- much bigger.

How Stolen Smartphones End Up In The Hands Of Colombian Cartels

BOGOTA, Colombia -- In the capital of a country notorious for drug trafficking, here was a familiar scene. Colombian police, acting on a tip from an informant, stopped a Chevy minivan leaving Bogota’s El Dorado Airport. They found what they were seeking in the back of the vehicle: dozens of boxes packed with precious contraband.

But this seizure in the early hours of Sept. 26, 2012, did not involve cocaine or other illegal narcotics. The boxes held more than 400 Samsung, LG and BlackBerry smartphones, complete with instruction manuals and power chargers. When police turned on the phones, the screens displayed the names and logos of two American wireless companies, AT&T and Verizon.

Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan

On September 4th the Harper government clearly signaled its intention to:

1) Focus all its efforts to assimilate First Nations into the existing federal and provincial orders of government of Canada;

2) Terminate the constitutionally protected and internationally recognized Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations.

Termination in this context means the ending of First Nations pre-existing sovereign status through federal coercion of First Nations into Land Claims and Self-Government Final Agreements that convert First Nations into municipalities, their reserves into fee simple lands and extinguishment of their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.