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.]

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Palestine Goes to U.N. Security Council to Demand Israeli Withdrawal by 2016

AP reports that Palestine is presenting a resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, by 2016.  Palestine will argue that Israel has systematically and over decades violated all the international laws regulating military occupations, and that it is quickly marching toward being an Apartheid state (Apartheid is itself a form of crime against humanity).

Canadian Universities' Rankings Show A Downward Trend

Canadian universities are slipping in a global ranking based on learning environment, research, innovation and other performance indicators.

Eight Canadian universities made the top 200 in the Times Higher Education ranking, and of those, only one — the University of Toronto — held its position at number 20.

Harper: Federal Deficit To Come In At $5.2B, Down From $16.6B

BRAMPTON, Ont. - The federal deficit for the last fiscal year is expected to come in at $5.2 billion — well below earlier forecasts, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In the last federal budget, the deficit for 2013-14 was projected at $16.6 billion, Harper told a business audience Thursday in Brampton, Ont.

World's Most Energy-Guzzling Countries: Canada Ranks Ahead Of U.S.

Canadians are the world’s eighth-largest energy consumers, sucking up about 7 per cent more energy than Americans, according to research from

On average, Canadians consume the equivalent of 7,333 kg of oil per year, compared to 6,793 kg per capita in the U.S. (That includes energy from all sources, expressed as kilograms of oil.)

“While many equate Canada's energy sector with the oil sands, it is, in fact, other forms of energy that account for the lion's share of consumption,” reports.

Corporations get lots, Canadians get little in CETA trade deal

When is a $16 glass of orange juice just an expensive glass of orange juice, and when is it a toxic, career-ending beverage?

No doubt advisers inside the PMO are contemplating this very question as they ponder whether Stephen Harper's decision to squander more than $300,000 of taxpayers' money to fly two European Union officials home last week could become the latest example of a $16 orange juice.

Just as former cabinet minister Bev Oda's pricey choice of breakfast drinks at taxpayers' expense ended her career, the PMO is no doubt worried that the $300,000 plane extravaganza could dash any remaining illusions that Harper is a trustworthy steward of public dollars.

Why we need to win the battle over the tar sands

A Line in the Tar Sands: Struggles for Environmental Justice

Stephen D’Arcy, Toban Black, Tony Weis and Joshua Kahn Russell

(Between the Lines, 2014; $25.95)

As our governments willingly unleash unprecedented destruction upon the earth through the promotion of extractive industries, and growing mobilizations of climate activists challenge climate emergency, I am reminded of a cautionary warning: "the Owl of Minerva takes flight at dusk."

This environmental metaphor conveys that the awareness of a historical period only becomes apparent when that era is coming to a close and as we come face-to-face with urgent tasks that need to be addressed.

Secret History of U.S.-Cuba Ties Reveals Henry Kissinger Plan to Bomb Havana for Fighting Apartheid

In the new book, "Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana," authors Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande use recently declassified documents to expose the secret history of dialogue between the United States and Cuba. Among the revelations are details of how then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger considered launching airstrikes against Cuba after Fidel Castro sent troops to support independence fighters in Angola in 1976. In the years that followed, top-secret U.S. emissaries, including former President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, worked to normalize relations with Cuba. The book’s release comes as Cuban leader Raúl Castro is set to participate for the first time in next year’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. Cuba recently denounced the Obama administration for extending the more than 50-year embargo for another year in a little-noticed move in September.

Author: --

After U.S. Sanctions & Wars Tore Iraq Apart, Can American-Led Strikes Be Expected to Save It?

Islamic State militants have reportedly made advances in both Iraq and Syria despite an escalating U.S.-led bombing. In Iraq, militants are said to have seized control of the town of Heet in Anbar province. In Syria, militants have advanced on Kurdish towns near the Turkish border, forcing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee in recent days. The United Nations says more than 1,100 Iraqis were killed in violence last month. The actual toll is far higher because it does not include deaths in areas controlled by the Islamic State. The United Nations says the Islamic State has carried out mass executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used children as fighters. The United Nations also says airstrikes by the Iraqi government have caused "significant civilian deaths and injuries." This comes as the White House has confirmed it has relaxed standards aimed at preventing civilian deaths for the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. We discuss the developing situation with Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi poet, novelist and translator. A professor at New York University, Antoon is co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya ezine.

Author: --

Scott Brown: Birth Control and Equal Pay Are Not 'Issues That People Care About'

New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown avoided talking about his record on reproductive rights and equal pay in a Tuesday appearance on Fox News by suggesting that nobody cares about those issues.

Fox News host Gretchen Carlson asked Brown to address comments from his opponent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), about his voting record.

"He doesn’t stand up for women’s reproductive rights and economic security," Carlson quoted Shaheen as saying. "He co-sponsored legislation to let employers deny women coverage for birth control or even mammograms. He had two opportunities to vote for equal pay laws and both times he voted no."

The Remarkable Idiocy of 'Economically-Driven Education'

On October 2, 2014, I will be speaking in Indiana to an audience chiefly comprised of university students who have a passing understanding of the intentions of monied interests to usurp control of public education.

Canadians becoming more 'progressive': poll

Canadians are increasingly embracing “progressive” values that stand in sharp contrast to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s brand of conservatism, a new poll has found.

The EKOS Research poll, to be released Thursday at a conference organized in Ottawa by the Canada 2020 think-tank, reveals a shift in public opinion that could have ramifications for next year’s federal election.

On a range of issues – law enforcement, legalization of marijuana, foreign policy, and the appropriate role and size of government – a majority of Canadians are offside with the government, the survey suggests.

Open Letter on Censorship and Google

George Orwell was right: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Such power isn’t limited to rewriting history. It extends to defining what we hear, what we read, what we say—and ultimately what we think. It affects all of us, especially those who believe in the potential of words to shine a light on hidden agendas, hold the powerful to answer, and express ideas that shape our values.

Cut in UK aid to Sierra Leone may have helped spread of Ebola, MPs say

Cuts in the UK’s aid to Sierra Leone and Liberia may have played a part in the rapid spread of Ebola, according to MPs.

The international development select committee says Britain’s reduced funding to the west African countries could have helped compromise their health systems, which have disintegrated in the face of the epidemic, exacting a heavy death toll on health workers as well as patients.

The report comes as world leaders and public health experts are gathering in London for a conference to raise awareness about the Ebola virus.

Shrinking the Global Income Gap

John Steinbeck allegedly once said: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

That’s part of what activists like the Occupy movement see as the problem in this country today. Americans have been jailed and abused, as we saw in the case of Cecily McMillan, in their efforts to bring the issue of income inequality into the spotlight. Ever since the Occupy movement amplified the battle cry of the 99 percent, the country has been appraised of the fact that a small group of people, to whom we refer as the 1 percent, controls almost 40 percent of the wealth in the U.S. The Fight for $15 movement is still going strong among employees of fast-food restaurants and other low-paid workers, and the debate doesn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon.

Congress Cut $8.7 Billion in Food Stamps in Same Year We’ll Spend $22 Billion to Fight Islamic State

It was all the way back in February, so the memory of this headline has faded:
” Congress passes $8.7 billion food stamp cut
By Ned Resnikoff

It’s official: 850,000 households across the country are set to lose an average of $90 per month in food stamp benefits.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 68-32 to send the 2014 Farm Bill – which includes an $8.7 billion cut to food stamps – to President Obama’s desk. Nine Democrats opposed the bill, and 46 members of the Democratic caucus voted for it, joining 22 Republicans.”

10 Myths About Obama’s Latest War

Veteran foreign correspondent Reese Erlich was in northern Iraq at the start of the U.S. bombing campaign against Islamic State. He interviewed Kurdish leaders, peshmerga fighters and U.S. officials. He says the reality on the ground is far different from the propaganda coming out of Washington.

1. Islamic State presents an immediate threat to the people of the U.S.

In justifying air attacks on Syria on Sept. 23, President Barack Obama said, “We will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

Tories To Overhaul Veterans' Benefits Again, Spell Out Obligations To Ex-Soldiers

OTTAWA - The Harper government plans further changes to its oft-maligned veterans charter, hoping to take the political sting out of complaints by ex-soldiers threatening to campaign against them in the next election.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino tabled the government's response to a House of Commons committee review, which earlier this year recommended 14 specific changes to the support and benefits regime.

Fur Institute Of Canada Lobbied Tories Over RCMP Muskrat Hats Decision

OTTAWA - A national fur organization says it raised objections with federal cabinet ministers upon learning the RCMP planned to begin outfitting officers with tuques instead of muskrat hats.

The Fur Institute of Canada made its concerns known to the environment and public safety ministers after seeing a recent media report about the move, said Glen Doucet, the group's executive director.

U.S. Sharply Criticizes Israel Over Settlement Construction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says that if Israel were to move forward with a controversial housing development in east Jerusalem, it would distance Israel from, quote, "even its closest allies."

The sharp criticism came just hours after President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. The two leaders did not mention the new construction project during their remarks to reporters.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says that the 2,500-unit project would only draw "condemnation" from the international community. He says it would also call into question Israel's commitment to peaceful negotiations with Palestinians.

The new project is contentious because it would complete a band of Jewish areas that separate Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem.

Original Article
Author: AP

Germany Scraps Tuition Fees. Should Canada Follow?

Attention Canadian students: How is your German?

If you’re tired of fretting about how to pay tuition as rates rise to record levels, you may want to consider making a move to Deutschland. Post-secondary tuition is now free across the country after fees were overturned in Lower Saxony, the last state still charging students, according to The Times of London.

Bill C-13 Moves Ahead, Despite Claims Supreme Court Already Killed It

The Harper government is set to push through a bill that critics say the Supreme Court has already in effect struck down.

Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians From Online Crime Act, comes up before the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Often referred to as the “anti-cyberbullying bill,” C-13 was the government’s response to a high-profile Nova Scotia cyberbullying case that is currently under a controversial publication ban.

Canada is now the world's leading 'deforestation nation'

UXBRIDGE, Canada (IPS) - The world's last remaining forest wilderness is rapidly being lost -- and much of this is taking place in Canada, not in Brazil or Indonesia where deforestation has so far made the headlines.
A new satellite study reveals that since 2000 more than 104 million hectares of forests -- an area three times the size of Germany -- have been destroyed or degraded.
 "Every four seconds, an area of the size of a football (soccer) field is lost," said Christoph Thies of Greenpeace International.

Harper government appeals reinstatement of refugee health program

When a government is strongly committed to a policy it is usually very open and up front about it.
The Harper government has said, for quite a while, that most of those who come to Canada seeking refugee status do not deserve health care.
Current Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and his predecessor Jason Kenney have both characterized a large number of the often-desperate people who seek Canada’s protection under the 1951 Geneva Convention as 'bogus refugees.'

Automating elections and privatizing democracy: What's wrong with counting by hand?

When Mike O'Neill admitted that he's a federalist on The Current, it shouldn't have been a surprise. He's a former Liberal Party staffer and strategist, after all. But his admission was during an interview on Scottish independence, and his involvement with the Yes campaign.
O'Neill's company, First Contact had been hired by the Yes campaign more than a year in advance to provide data-driven analysis to assess support and target people. You see, money has no allegiance.
First Contact offers services that were once the sole domain of party activists: "Identification of voters using our VoterID service, persuasion calling, GOTV, TeleForum™, automated polling, voice broadcasting, membership recruitment, live transfer calls and virtual call centre."

Stephen Harper's Iraq Airstrikes Plan Questioned By Some Tories

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to recommend to his caucus Wednesday that Canada take part in airstrikes in Iraq, but not all Conservative MPs are onside with the plan.

Speaking in the House of Commons Tuesday, Harper described the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as “necessary” and the international response as “noble actions.”

Poll: 24 percent of Jewish Israelis boycott Arab businesses

Nearly a quarter of Israeli Jewish consumers are boycotting Arab businesses, a poll released on Tuesday found.

Some 24 percent of respondents said they refuse to patron Arab shops, down from 47 percent during a similar Geocartography poll conducted during the Gaza war, Globes reported.

NDP loses vote to make Parliament more relevant, but wins battle for public opinion

On Tuesday night the House of Commons voted down an NDP motion that would have made Parliament a little more serious and relevant to the concerns of Canadians.
The motion, proposed by Official Opposition House Leader Peter Julian, pertained to government behaviour during the daily Question Period.
Had it passed, Julian's motion would have given the Speaker the authority to assure that when government ministers and parliamentary secretaries answer questions they address the subject matter at hand.