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 22, 2014

John Baird Likens ISIS Fight To Struggles With Communism, Fascism, In UN Address

OTTAWA - American praise for Canada as one of its strongest allies in the fight against militants in Iraq and Syria wasn't enough to conceal sharp differences Friday over the role of Iran in potentially helping the cause.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a special ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council that "our near neighbour to the north" was making one of the strongest contributions in the battle, prior to an address by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

John Tory: No city funding for Pride if 'Israeli apartheid’ group allowed

The gay Pride festival should be denied city funding if the activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is allowed to participate, mayoral candidate John Tory said at a debate held by a Jewish group on Friday — reigniting a long-running city hall debate that appeared to have finally dissipated.
Pride received a government grant of $160,500 this year. About 50 people marched under the QuAIA banner in the WorldPride parade, a group representative says — out of about 12,000 registered marchers in total.

France Strikes Islamic State Group In Iraq

PARIS (AP) — France is back at America's side in conducting military strikes in Iraq.

More than a decade after spurning President George W. Bush's war against Saddam Hussein, France on Friday became the first country to join U.S. forces pounding targets inside Iraq from the air in recent weeks — this time in pursuit of militants of the Islamic State group.

Connecticut Ex-Governor Convicted Of New Crimes

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned from office a decade ago in a corruption scandal, was convicted Friday of federal charges that he conspired to hide payment for work on two congressional campaigns.

Rowland, once a rising star for the Republican Party, served 10 months in prison for taking illegal gifts while in office and now as a repeat offender faces the possibility of a much stiffer sentence.

Thousands Flee Into Turkey Fearing Imminent ISIS Attack On Kurdish Town Of Kobani

DIKMETAS, Turkey, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani called on Friday for international intervention to protect a Kurdish town in neighboring Syria from Islamic State fighters who have forced many Syrian Kurds to flee across the border into Turkey.

Thousands of Kurds crossed the frontier on Friday, fearing an imminent attack on the border town of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, as Islamic State (IS) fighters advanced after seizing dozens of nearby villages over the past two days.

Lawmakers Try To Save Science Funding Amid Rush To Restore Defense Spending

WASHINGTON -- As pressure builds among the hawks in Congress to get rid of budget limits on defense spending, liberals in the House are making sure their own priorities aren't left underfunded.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation late Thursday that would effectively do away with the budget cap for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill, titled the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act, would replace the institute's existing budget limit with a much higher ceiling, one that would see funding for the NIH restored to the levels it would have reached had it kept up with inflation after 2003.

Couple Who Let Homeless People Sleep On Their Porch Threatened With Daily Fine

Brenda Konkel and her partner Robert Bloch didn’t expect to be rewarded for their decision to open up their front porch to any homeless person who needed a place to rest or store their belongings, but the last thing they could have imagined was that their good deed would go punished.
According to the Madison Capital Times, for the past 18 months the couple have let homeless Madison residents secure their stuff in the dozen lockers they put on their front porch. And when someone needed a safe place to rest at night, Konkel and Bloch welcomed them to stay.

The Justice Department Claims This Defamation Case Will Reveal State Secrets—But Won't Say HowU

In an unprecedented move, Attorney General Eric Holder has intervened in a defamation lawsuit, seeking to have the case thrown out on the grounds that it will reveal state secrets—without publicly explaining how it would do so. On Wednesday, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the case, a Greek business mogul accused of doing business with Iran, fired back at Holder in a letter to the court that essentially says: Prove it.

Justin Trudeau's Abortion Tweet About Women Is Pretty Refreshing

At a time when it can feel like women's rights are being determined by people who aren't, frankly, affected by them, one Canadian politician is taking a hard line stance — 100 per cent in favour of a woman's choice.

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has been under fire as of late for requiring Liberal candidates to clarify their views on abortion, and agree to vote pro-choice on any bills that may come to them on the issue.

A letter from seven former members of Parliament — all of them men — was released this week, calling Trudeau's stance "undemocratic" and asking him to rescind it.

Trudeau has been unequivocal in his support of women in his campaign.

"I don't know that there is anyone in this country that is in favour of abortions," he said in June. "But what I am very much in favour of is a woman's right to make that determination on her own, in consultation with the medical community, in consultation with whomever she chooses to consult.

A woman should have the option to her right to choose. Sounds pretty straightforward to us.

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post Canada | By Rebecca Zamon

Did Corporate Tax Cuts Really Pay for Themselves As Harper Claims?

In a little noticed comment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was recently reported to say:
"Dropping our tax rate has not caused the government's corporate income tax revenues to fall, which indicates that it does in fact attract business."
No one seems to have questioned his statement, even though it was made on the same day Canada dropped to 15th place on the World Economic Forum's index of global competitiveness from 9th in 2009. These rankings show corporate tax rates bearing little relationship to measures of global competitiveness.

BC teachers vote to end strike

B.C. teachers have voted decisively Thursday evening to end the acrimonious strike that has kept public schools closed since mid-June, and to accept the negotiated deal between the union and the province.

“We all know this deal isn’t perfect, but it provides some gains for teachers, protects ourCharter Rights, and increases support for students,” said BCTF President Jim Iker in a statement.

'Misconception' Reveals The Dark, Misleading World Of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Some women looking for abortions are being misdirected to "clinics" that have no intention of providing them with such a service.

"Misconception," a short documentary from Vice News, looks at the phenomenon of "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs) -- organizations staffed by anti-abortion groups, usually religiously-based, that encourage women to follow through with their pregnancies, even if they have already decided to terminate.

Government Nutrition Program's Problems Driving Some Low-Income Women Away

WASHINGTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A government nutrition program for pregnant mothers and small children has not kept pace with technology and U.S. poverty experts say its paper voucher system is driving low-income women away from the program when they need it most.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has seen a sharp drop in participation since 2010, unlike food stamps and other anti-poverty programs that ballooned during the 2007-9 recession and the economic recovery that followed, government figures show.

What Is India?

In May, in a national election widely perceived as marking a dramatic new phase for India, the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an absolute majority in Parliament. The Indian National Congress Party (INC), the country’s oldest political party and the winner of more elections than any of its rivals, saw itself jeered to defeat, its prime-ministerial candidate, the Harvard-educated Rahul Gandhi, portrayed as an ineffectual representative of a political lineage out of touch with the impatient, assertive mood of contemporary India. That mood, it was said, was far better captured by the 64-year-old Narendra Modi, who led the BJP campaign and is now the fifteenth prime minister of India. Of far more humble origins than Rahul Gandhi (the scion of a family that has produced three generations of prime ministers), Modi is thought to have presided, as chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, over a remarkable economic and social renaissance in his home state, even as India, under the tutelage of the Congress Party, went from boom to bust.

Bloomberg Beyond the Billions

Michael Bloomberg is a case study in the reputational value of thirty-five or so billion dollars. His foray into gun control apparently stalled by the National Rifle Association’s vise-like grip on US legislators, the former New York City mayor has announced that he will now return to running the massive media and technology corporation that bears his name.

Bloomberg News employs many fine journalists who rightfully take pride in their work, but it has a rather odd rule—for journalists, that is—when it comes to its own actions. As stated by Matthew Winkler, the company’s editor in chief, Bloomberg News does not cover itself, because doing so is “an inherent conflict of interest and no outlet does it well.” Instead, when other news organizations cover its activities, Bloomberg News employees are advised to “summarize what their stories say.”

Ohio Supreme Court: It’s OK To Strip Mine State Wildlife Areas

This week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to potentially allow part of a state wildlife area to be strip-mined for coal. The ruling, which settles a dispute involving an esoteric land contract from 1944, could open up $2 million of coal to be dug out of a 651-acre section of the Brush Creek Wildlife Area owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Appellants Ronald Snyder and Steven Neeley appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court after an appeals court and common pleas court ruled in favor of the state’s claim that the land could not be strip mined unless it was explicitly permitted in the contract. They argued that the only way to get at the coal was to surface mine.

What’s unforgivable about the Fords

Here’s what I find unforgivable about the Fords; it took till now to figure it out. It’s not their right-wing politics. There’s lots of that around. It’s not the bullying, bullies can be dealt with. Nor their huge ambition and sense of political entitlement. It’s not Rob’s moral foibles or unsavoury social life or his crassness.

What’s unforgivable is their implacable need and ability to suck up attention in the public arena so there never seems room for anything or anyone else in the city. The stuff I just listed serves primarily to keep them at the centre of attention and stifle other matters. It’s all, always about them. That’s what the cancer episode revealed. It too becomes part of the Ford family circus. It’s not just a private experience; it takes over the public agenda.

FIPA agreement with China: What's really in it for Canada?

The secrecy shrouding the much-delayed Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China makes it hard for experts, let alone average Canadians, to figure out what benefits this country will see from the deal.

While reporting on Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the first time, during his visit to China in early 2012, I wrote a column with the headline Great Glorious and Always Correct, which began: “If Stephen Harper ever gets tired of being Canada’s Prime Minister, he might like to consider a second career in China – he’d fit right in.”

Michael Chong's revised reform bill would do little to boost backbench power

When Conservative MP Michael Chong launched his bid to rebalance the power between MPs and party leaders, it was seen as a noble, if doomed, endeavour — a quixotic campaign to restore a modicum of dignity to beleaguered backbenchers that would almost certainly be squelched by the front benches at the earliest possible opportunity.

Nearly one year later, Chong is about to see his bill receive a second-reading stamp of approval from the House of Commons — with the full blessing of the government.

Federal government racks up nearly $300,000 in cellphone late fees

Hold the phone — the federal government has racked up close to $300,000 in late fees for cellphone services and other wireless devices over the past few years because it never paid its bills on time.

The eye-popping wireless late-payment charges have accumulated as the government insists it is owed $3.5 million in wrongfully charged late fees by telephone companies.

Nearly $70,000 in cellphone late payment fees came in October 2013 alone and another $65,000 from November 2013, according to documents tabled this week in the House of Commons.

Act now, Canada, or lose your reproductive rights

In April, when New Brunswick's Morgentaler Clinic announced it would be forced to close, the barriers to accessing abortion in the Maritimes came to national attention. Now, with the New Brunswick election on September 23 and the federal election coming in 2015, reproductive justice activists across Canada are hoping to keep the momentum going for change.
This Saturday, September 20, will mark a National Day of Action for Reproductive Justice, with rallies set for cities across Canada in solidarity with activists in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, who are demanding equal access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.

Chris Christie Defends NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is playing defense for embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Christie said Thursday evening he strongly believes Goodell should stay in his job despite mounting criticism over his handling of a domestic violence incident involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Christie hailed Goodell as an outstanding and honest man with great integrity. The two worked together during the lead-up to the Super Bowl.

He said Goodell had admitted he made a mistake in the way he handled the case but that he should be judged on the totality of his work.

Christie made the comments during an appearance on New Jersey 101.5 FM's "Ask the Governor" call-in show on Thursday evening.

Some female lawmakers in the state have called on Goodell to resign.

Original Article

Obama Is Wrong That ISIS Is 'Not Islamic'

"We are fighting an ideology, not a regime." - U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry

"Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way." - U.S. President Barack Obama

Three Labour Lessons from the Teachers' Strike

According to BC Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker, credit for moving forward in the public school strike goes to the "courageous stand that teachers took for the future of public education." Thanks to teachers, our public school system is stronger. And thanks to the BCTF and other unions, we've learned some valuable lessons about the positive role that unions can play in defending the rights of all workers and to ensure that public programs that benefit everyone remain strong.

Strike Ends as Teachers Accept Contentious Contract

After 20 months of negotiations and six months of administrative action, strike votes, and eventually picket lines, B.C. teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting a negotiated contract.

"Our turnout was huge," BC Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker said last night, referring to the 31,741 teachers who turned out to vote, 86 per cent of whom voted yes to the deal. "This vote actually had more people voting than in our last four ratification votes."

India, China Vow Cooperation As Troops Face Off

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian and Chinese troops faced off at their countries' unmarked border in the Himalayas on Thursday as their leaders were promising to boost economic cooperation and substantially increase Chinese investment in India's infrastructure at a rare meeting.

The long-festering border dispute is a stark reminder of the complicated relationship between the Asian giants as they try to increase trade and investment.

Republican Campaign Ads Fear-Mongering Over ISIS Threat

The threat of terrorism is once again being featured on the campaign trail.

Republicans in particular are putting America's military conflict in the Middle East front and center in television ads less than two months before the midterm elections, calling into question their opponents' willingness to confront Islamic State extremists that beheaded two U.S. journalists earlier this summer.

Americans With Disabilities Are More Likely To Be Poor, Report Finds

Americans with disabilities are more likely to be poor than any other demographic group, and their average income in 2012 was about $6,000 less than people without disabilities, according to a report released Thursday.

The report, "Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities," was released by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), whose Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on the topic.

Forget A Perfect SAT -- What Colleges Really Want Are International Students

When UCLA freshmen arrive on campus in two weeks, an estimated 1 in 10 will be from outside the United States.

UCLA is among the schools with the highest international student enrollment in the nation, and it has rapidly increased its percentage of foreign students in the last several years. This year's projected total is up from 2008, when just 2.3 percent of the freshman class was international, according to figures provided by the school.

With Eye on 2016, Christie Resists Climate Change Plan

WASHINGTON — As Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey explores a 2016 presidential campaign, he is under growing pressure from his State Legislature to rejoin a regional cap-and-trade program that would limit New Jersey’s carbon emissions — and likely hurt his chances for the Republican nomination.

Mr. Christie, who withdrew from the program in 2011 as he first considered running for president in 2012, remains adamant that New Jersey not participate in the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, even though the majority of state legislators say it would be in New Jersey’s economic and legal interests. Business groups remain divided on the plan. “No, I would not think of rejoining it,” Mr. Christie told reporters during a recent trip to Mexico. “I think it’s a completely useless plan.”

Is Canada on the precipice of war?

The Prime Minister is holding a rare emergency debate Tuesday evening to decide Canada's next steps into what could be an international war in the Middle East.

Canadians were recently shocked by the news that some 130 Canadian citizens -- many from Calgary -- have been drawn into an extremist Islamic military movement, called ISIS, according to a new federal report on terrorist threats to Canada.

The movement -- also known as ISIL -- has some 80,000 members in Syria and northern Iraq who are seizing control of the region, in pursuit of establishing an Islamic caliphate—or state.

Supreme Court rejects Burnaby's injunction to stop Kinder Morgan

Under a cloudy, grey sky  on top of Burnaby Mountain, a crowd of around 25  rolled out a banner that read “Stop Kinder Morgan!” in bold red letters and prepared to hear the news from the B.C. Supreme Court.

They had gathered from all around Metro Vancouver to hear Justice Brenda Brown's decision on whether to grant the City of Burnaby an injunction to stop Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Putting Solar Panels On School Roofs Could Dramatically Increase America’s Solar Capacity

Any building with a large, flat rooftop is a prime candidate for a solar installation. And one particular large, flat roof that’s ubiquitous in the U.S. is on schools.
According to a new report by the Energy Department and the Solar Foundation — the research arm of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar trade organization — if schools took advantage of their full potential for solar, they would add 5.4 gigawatts to the country’s solar capacity. That’s just over a third of the 16 gigawatts of total capacity America currently boasts. That would be enough to power roughly one million homes, and a carbon emissions reduction equivalent to taking around one million passenger vehicles off the road.

Harper Conservatives Enable U.S. Steel’s Latest Blow to Canada

TORONTO - The United Steelworkers (USW) union is committed to defending the interests of its members and pensioners affected by U.S. Steel Canada's application for bankruptcy protection.

"We are extremely concerned about these developments and we intend to do everything we can to protect our retirees and our members," USW National Director Ken Neumann said following today's filing by U.S. Steel under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

"Once again U.S. Steel has left thousands of families and entire communities in limbo. They will have to endure a long and complex court process," Neumann said. "We will work together with other stakeholders to seek the best outcome for our members and retirees."

Trudeau Says Ideological Tax Cuts Won’t Spur Canada Jobs

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau said Canada’s government should abandon its “ideological” focus on tax cuts and instead boost infrastructure spending to help the country pull out of the worst job slump since the 2009 recession.

“They’re in a tax-cut box,” Trudeau said yesterday in an interview in his office in the nation’s main parliament building, referring to the ruling Conservative Party. “There’s nothing wrong with tax cuts, as long as they’re targeted toward helping the economy grow, helping people get jobs.”

José Mujica: is this the world’s most radical president?

Emo Mannise was just 16 when he met Uruguay’s current president, José Mujica. On a spring day in 1969, Mannise was at home alone with his sister, Beatriz, when the future president burst out of the lift outside their penthouse in Montevideo with a pistol in his hand. “Turn around, shut your mouth and keep your hands above your head!” he barked. Mannise immediately recognised the pinched eyes and thick, wavy brown hair of one of the most notorious members of the daring, violent Tupamaro guerrillas. After his initial sense of panic subsided, he recalled, he felt strangely calm. “I remember telling the young gunman who was with him not to worry, that I wasn’t going to do anything,” the 62-year-old travel agent told me when we met in his favourite Montevideo bookshop, a short distance from the murky waters of the immense River Plate. His sister, who suffered from polio and used a wheelchair, was taken off to another room. “Don’t worry viejita,” Mujica told her, “you’ll be fine, this has nothing to do with you.” The colloquial, affectionate viejita – “little old lady” – was a typical Mujica touch.

The Walmart Heirs Give a Measly Amount to Charity

The Walmart heirs are infamous for their wealth and penny-pinching. Christy, Jim, Alice, and Rob Walton wouldn't be the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-richest Americans, respectively, if not for Walmart's relentless exploitation of its low-wage workers. But the Waltons' stinginess also extends to their philanthropy. According to a new analysis by the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign, the Walton scions give way less money to charity than other über-rich Americans.

5 Signs the Dark-Money Apocalypse Is Upon Us

It's the home stretch of the 2014 election season. No single theme or issue has dominated the midterms, but 2014 is on pace to be the Year of Dark Money.
Nonprofit groups, some well known (such as the US Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers) and some obscure (America Inc., anyone?), have dumped huge sums of anonymous money into every competitive Senate race and many House contests. Here are five eye-opening indicators showing the rapid spread of dark money in this year's campaign season—and why it's going to get worse as Election Day approaches.

Deep Inside the Wild World of China's Fracking Boom

ON A HAZY MORNING LAST SEPTEMBER, 144 American and Chinese government officials and high-ranking oil executives filed into a vaulted meeting room in a cloistered campus in south Xi'an, a city famous for its terra-cotta warriors and lethal smog. The Communist Party built this compound, called the Shaanxi Guesthouse, in 1958. It was part of the lead-up to Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward, in which, to surpass the industrial achievements of the West, the government built steelworks, coal mines, power stations, and cement factories—displacing hundreds of thousands and clearcutting a tenth of China's forests in the process. Despite its quaint name, the guesthouse is a cluster of immense concrete structures jutting out of expansive, manicured lawns and man-made lakes dotted with stone bridges and pagodas. It also features a karaoke lounge, spa, tennis stadium, shopping center, and beauty salon.

Harper ramps up his war on independent thought

In the conservative quest to shape public debate in recent years, no tool has proved more useful than the think tank. Nobody understood this better than the director of the ultra-right wing U.S.-based ATLAS Foundation, who once stated that his mission was “to litter the world with free-market think tanks.”

Mission accomplished. Certainly the Canadian landscape is cluttered with right-wing think tanks — the Fraser Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Montreal Economic Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Institute, just to name a few — all well-funded by a business elite keen to have its message packaged in a manner that makes it appear grounded in serious research.