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, January 28, 2015

Downsize Democracy for 40 Years, Here's What You Get

If you are searching for significant anniversaries for 2015, one that you might find illuminating is the publication of a book published 40 years ago entitled The Crisis of Democracy.

The title would seem fitting today but that's not the crisis its authors had in mind.

The book was commissioned by a new international boys club of finance capitalists, CEOs, senior political figures (retired and active) and academics from Europe, North America and Japan. The Trilateral Commission (TLC) could be said to be the birthplace of neoliberalism, a political theory that suggests progress depends upon "liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade."

The three pillars of Stephen Harper’s re-election hopes

OTTAWA—He left this place before Christmas with a bump in the polls and a potential road map to a fourth victory.

When the House of Commons reconvenes Monday for a pre-election sprint, Stephen Harper will seek to recapture that combination in a political environment which has been radically reconfigured in six short weeks.

How to get there?

Evolution, dear voter, evolution.

'American Sniper' Triggers Flood Of Anti-Muslim Venom, Civil Rights Group Warns

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said this week that threats against Muslims and Arabs have soared following the release of "American Sniper," a hugely popular and hugely controversial film.

Threats reported to the civil rights group have tripled since the film’s wide opening over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the committee told The Guardian. "The last time we saw such a sharp increase was in 2010, around the Ground Zero mosque," said the group’s national legal and policy director, Abed Ayoub, referring to an Islamic center that was going to be located a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

Social Conscience Is Key to Cutting Household Energy

LONDON—Altruism is alive and well and living in California. An extended experiment involving more than 100 households suggests that people are more likely to reduce energy use if they believe it is good for the environment rather than good for their pockets.

Those who tuned into the messages about public good saved, on average, 8% on their fuel bills, while households with children reduced their energy use by 19%. But people who were repeatedly reminded that they were using more power than an economy-conscious neighbour altered their consumption hardly at all.

Fighting In Ukraine Surges To Worst Level In Months

KIEV, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Pro-Russian rebels launched an offensive against the strategic port of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, prompting the European Union's foreign policy chief to warn of a further "grave deterioration" in EU-Russian relations.

Mariupol's city administration said the rebels had killed at least 30 people and injured 83 others in the offensive by firing rockets from long-range GRAD missile systems.

Top Target Canada managers get big cash payouts as stores close

As Target Canada prepares to shut its doors, key managers will walk away with thousands of dollars of extra cash, but none of its approximately 17,000 front-line workers will be so lucky. Target is not offering any severance.

Target, based in the U.S., is closing all of its 133 Canadian stores.

Between 21 and 26 of Target Canada's top senior and operations managers will receive an average of about $30,000 each on top of their final paycheque. That's equal to eight to 12 weeks' salary for most of them.

Canada's Foreign Aid Spending To Hit Record Lows: PBO

OTTAWA - The parliamentary budget officer says Canadian foreign aid spending is set to plunge to record lows in the coming years, prompting pleas to the Harper government to halt the slide.

The PBO report, issued earlier this month, offers a contrast to the high-profile big-ticket aid projects touted by the Harper government, including its multibillion-dollar commitment to the health of children and mothers in poor countries.

The report says that in the first six months of the last fiscal year, spending on poverty reduction shrank 23 per cent.

Conservative Scholar Helped Shape Stephen Harper's Worldview

Walter Berns, an American constitutional scholar, who once taught in Canada and helped shape a band of conservative disciples in Alberta -- including Stephen Harper -- has died at age 95. Berns died Jan. 10 at his home in Bethesda, Maryland.

One of Berns' most lasting legacies may have been to foment Harper's disdain for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

When Harper turned his back on the charter's 25th and 30th anniversaries he was following in Berns' footsteps. Berns refused to accept the validity of any political rights not contained in the nation's founding documents.

Anti-Terror Bill To Expand No-Fly Regime, Detention Provisions

OTTAWA - The Conservative government wants to retool Canada's no-fly list procedures to make it easier to prevent a suspected terrorist from boarding an airplane.

The Canadian Press has learned the government is also looking to give police greater ability to generally restrict the movements of purported extremists by lowering the threshold for obtaining a peace bond.

An internal federal review of two deadly attacks on Canadian soldiers last October has also highlighted a lack of suitable laws to crack down on radicals who openly encourage others to wage terrorism.

The government intends to address those areas as it prepares to deliver legislation that was promised following the killings.

On Oct. 22, Michael Zehaf Bibeau shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, an honour guard at the National War Memorial, before storming Parliament's Centre Block, where he died in a shootout.

Two days earlier, Martin Couture-Rouleau fatally rammed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Original Article
Author: CP

CIA Torture Report Sinks A Little More, As Agencies Don't Bother To Read It

WASHINGTON -- When the new Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), announced that, allegedly unbeknownst to him, the former chairwoman had widely distributed the panel's study of CIA torture, he said he was perturbed. A sensitive document -- one whose validity he has vehemently challenged -- now being spread within the executive branch? Concerning, Burr said, to say the least.

Except most of the recipients that Burr is concerned about never even opened their copy.

Senate Republicans Remove 'Civil Rights And Human Rights' From Subcommittee Name

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans revealed this week that they have eliminated the phrase “civil rights and human rights” from the title of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with overseeing those issues.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and announced the members of the six subcommittees this week. With Grassley’s announcement, the subcommittee formerly known as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights suddenly became the Subcommittee on the Constitution.

Greece’s Solidarity Movement: ‘A Whole New Model—and It’s Working’

There are accounts of Greeks pulling together to support themselves and each other ahead of an election that polls predict will result in a leadership firmly opposed to austerity policies imposed by the European Union.

Big Tax Bills for the Poor, Tiny Ones for the Rich

American politics are dominated by those with money. As such, America’s tax debate is dominated by voices that insist the rich are unduly persecuted by high taxes and that low-income folks are living the high life. Indeed, a new survey by the Pew Research Center recently found that the most financially secure Americans believe “poor people today have it easy.”

The rich are certainly entitled to their own opinions—but, as the old saying goes, nobody is entitled to his or her own facts. With that in mind, here’s a set of tax facts that’s worth considering: Middle- and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local tax rates than the wealthy. In all, a comprehensive analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent).

Bibi Netanyahu Has Set a New Record for Chutzpah

On Thursday, the Obama administration put out the word that neither President Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Washington in March. It is an unprecedented snub, provoked by Netanyahu’s far-from-unprecedented effort to thwart a key US policy in the Middle East: achievement of a nuclear deal with Iran.

The story began just hours after Obama’s State of the Union speech. In outlining his foreign policy goals, Obama expressed the importance of reaching an agreement with Iran and said that he would oppose efforts by Congress to get in the way:

Contingency fund can be used to balance the books if necessary: Oliver

Canada’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, appears to be correcting the record on whether the contingency fund is in play to help balance the budget.

Last week on The West Block, Jason Kenny told Tom Clark, “We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.”

Instead, he said there may have to be some adjustments on the spending side in the future.

During an interview with Tom Clark for this week’s episode of The West Block, Oliver told a different story.

“The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system and, you know, the oil price decline – which was a dramatic one – would fall in that category,” he said.

Though, he said that doesn’t mean they will use it they are just not ruling it out.

At the same time he made a point of reminding everybody who handles the books.

“I’m speaking as minister of finance so I’m sort of current on the thinking here,” Oliver told Clark.

You can catch the entire interview with Joe Oliver on The West Block this Sunday.

Original Article
Author: By Staff Global News

Municipal workers locked out in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Two weeks ago, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay locked out its municipal workers. 
The 43 members of CUPE Local 2019 are fighting to keep their Defined Benefit (DB) pension plan, which their employer is looking to downgrade. In a 96 per cent strike vote, the workers rejected the Town's demand for a two-tiered pension plan, which would have seen all new hires move to a Defined Contribution (DC) plan.
"The 48 members at the local have said look, a defined contribution plan is nothing better than an RRSP and that's an absolute sell-out to the next generation," said President of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador Wayne Lucas.

Squamish council votes down LNG pipeline drill tests

In a showdown over fossil fuel development versus preservation of the environment, Squamish Council voted narrowly to deny FortisBC permission for test drilling for a natural gas pipeline that would feed the proposed $1.6-billion Woodfibre LNG export plant.

The main concern is the test drilling would disturb the ecologically sensitive Howe Sound, home to dolphins, eagles, salmon and bears.  The estuary is also described by conservationists as a veritable “rainforest" of eco-diversity.