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.]

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tory-linked charity behind monument declared it was not active politically

The charity behind the campaign to erect a monument to the victims of communism has declared zero political activity in its five-year history, even though it originally told the Canada Revenue Agency some of its work would be political.

A review of Tribute to Liberty’s official filings with the CRA reveals a clear intention to engage in political activity. When asked if it planned to engage in political activities, it answered “Yes” in its 2009 application for charitable status. It said this would involve contacting MPs and senators to gain their support for the project.

BC Gov't Ignores Review Panel, Pursues Site C

With a price tag of $8.8 billion, the construction of the Site C dam would entail the largest outlay of taxpayer money in B.C. history.

That's 18 times the cost of B.C.'s fast ferries. Or 11 times the cost of a sewage treatment facility for the Capital Regional District. Heck, it's the most expensive infrastructure project currently proposed in all of Canada.

Yet a BC Hydro survey in July 2014 found only six in 10 British Columbians had even heard of the project.

'My Niqab Gave Me a Voice'

Dear Mr. Prime Minister Harper,

Do you know who I am? You should, because you are asking me to unveil myself. So, let me tell you who I am.

I am a Canadian. I was born in this beautiful land, and I call it home. I'm hidden, but no stranger, active, but not really an activist, often terrified, but not a terrorist, a fan, but not a fanatic. I am just me.

After 35 years, federal government takes jobs from developmentally disabled workers

Gladys Whincup is losing the $1.15-an-hour job she’s had for 35 years, and she’s devastated.

“I loved working there,” she says. “It was a nice job and we got paid for it. I liked everything about the job. All the people I work with I like very much — they are all my friends.”

Whincup’s workplace is — or was — a wastepaper sorting and disposal plant at Tunney’s Pasture where she and dozens of other developmentally disabled people have been gainfully employed disposing of copious quantities of secret and confidential federal government paper — as much as 40 per cent of it — since 1980.

Feds Eye Oil, Gas Drilling Off East Coast, Alaska, Gulf

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Environmentalists say allowing offshore drilling along the U.S. East Coast from northern Virginia to the Georgia-Florida border could lead to a catastrophic oil spill devastating to the crucial tourism industry.

But business and petroleum groups say they want to be able to explore whether significant oil and gas reserves exist that could stabilize energy prices and help the economy overall.

Bernie Sanders Rails Against GOP Budget As Boost To Income Inequality

WASHINGTON -- To Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the new Republican budgets offered this week aren't so much spending blueprints as they are promises to help the rich get richer and boost income inequality.

There are some large differences between the House GOP budget offered Tuesday and the Senate plan unveiled Wednesday. The House version includes deeper cuts to the safety net, for example, along with significantly greater military spending.

But to Sanders, the top minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, neither version of the budget would do much to help working-class Americans, students, the elderly or the sick -- although they both offer plenty of handouts to wealthy taxpayers and corporations.

U.S. Chides Netanyahu's Party After Israeli Election Win

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration signaled on Wednesday it could take a tougher stance toward Benjamin Netanyahu following his decisive Israeli election victory and campaign tack to the right, saying there will be consequences for his sudden reversal on the idea of an independent Palestinian state.

While senior American officials said the administration was still evaluating options, they suggested the U.S. could ease its staunch opposition to Palestinians turning to the UN Security Council to create a state.

Obama Regrets Not Closing Guantanamo Prison 'On The First Day'

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Wednesday that if he could go back and do his presidency over again, he would have immediately shut down the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day," Obama said to applause at an event in Cleveland, Ohio.

Conservatives Say $15 Minimum Wage Is Killing Seattle Restaurant Scene, Restaurateurs Disagree

As Seattle prepares for the April launch of the highest minimum wage law in America, conservatives are warning that businesses are already shuttering under the pressure of higher labor costs and pointing to a recent report of a rash of restaurant closures as evidence. The problem is, the actual owners of those restaurants say that they’re not closing because of wages, and the city seems to be enjoying robust growth in that industry.

IRFAN-Canada, Accused Terrorist Group, Should Not Be Given State-Funded Lawyer: Feds

OTTAWA - The federal government argues that an organization formally branded a terrorist entity last year — and prohibited from raising money — should not be given a state-funded lawyer to wage the first phase of its legal fight.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney denied the Canadian branch of the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy permission last November to raise money to fight the listing.

Quebec Should Have Been Consulted On Anti-Terror Bill: Quebec Ministers

QUEBEC - The Quebec government says it has serious concerns with the Conservatives' anti-terror bill and chided Ottawa for not consulting with the provinces before drafting the legislation.

Three Quebec ministers sent a highly critical letter Tuesday to three federal ministers and tabled it in the national assembly on Wednesday.

The letter states the Quebec government has "many concerns" with the controversial legislation — known as C-51 — notably with the "vast powers" the bill gives the country's spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

House Republicans Just Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

WASHINGTON -- Since taking control of the House in 2010, Republicans have crafted dozens of bills ostensibly devoted to "streamlining and simplifying" the federal government. They've pushed them through the lower chamber, promising to cut red tape and create jobs. But on Tuesday, they let the cat out of the bag. These bills, it turns out, are essentially efforts to undermine Wall Street reform and Obamacare while greenlighting pollution.

What Netanyahu’s Victory Means for America

The American political class has spent decades convincing itself that the Israeli political class really does want a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The last six years have been the hardest—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed a tepid desire for peace, but consistently acted contrary it—and yet the image of an Israel that would strike the deal if only this or that condition was met by the Palestinians persisted. Perhaps the image even grew stronger: who can forget all the standing ovations Netanyahu received during his 2009 address to Congress and, despite all the controversy, again this winter?

Vic Toews Met With Peguis Lawyer About Kapyong Settlement: Court Documents

Within months of leaving cabinet, former treasury board president Vic Toews met with with a lawyer representing Peguis First Nation on several occasions regarding a settlement of the Kapyong lands, according to court documents.
"I think there are reasonable grounds to investigate this situation as a possible violation of the federal conflict of interest law," said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa.

What Canada Can Learn From Sweden's Unionized Retail Workers

When Toys “R” Us arrived in Sweden in 1995 armed with a translation of its U.S. employee handbook, it underestimated the Swedes’ fierce commitment to the quality of their working lives.

The solidarity among Swedish workers was powerful enough to accomplish a feat that may seem inconceivable in Canadian retail; they brought the global conglomerate to its knees.

The company refused to sign a standardized collective agreement, the heart of employee-employer relations for more than 25,000 companies across all sectors of the Swedish economy. The decision affected only 150 employees, but it resulted in a three-month long strike by the retail-store employees union that snowballed into an all-out boycott.

Target Canada's Failure Translates Into $1.6-Billion Tax Break For Retailer

Target lost some US$5.1 billion in all on its ill-fated Canadian venture, but Uncle Sam is softening some of the blow, to the tune of $1.6 billion.

That’s the size of the tax break Minneapolis-based Target expects to see in the U.S. this year as a result of its writedown of Canadian assets, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, first obtained by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

Alberta Not Stashing Enough Royalties, Study Finds

CALGARY - An analysis of three oil-producing heavy hitters suggests Alberta isn't socking away enough money from oil royalties.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce says there would be an extra $150 billion in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund if Alberta put aside resource taxes the way Norway does.

The study also looked at the royalties approach taken by Alaska.

Thousands Of Protesters Clash With Riot Police Near New European Central Bank Headquarters In Frankfurt

FRANKFURT, March 18 (Reuters) - Anti-capitalist protesters clashed with riot police near the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt on Wednesday and set fire to barricades and cars, casting a pall over the ceremonial opening of the billion-euro skyscraper.

Nearly 90 police were injured by stones and unidentified liquids hurled by a violent minority from within the thousands-strong protest, police said. Some protesters said they were injured when police used pepper spray.

U.S. Sets New Record For Denying, Censoring Government Files

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a new record again for more often than ever censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn't find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

World No Longer Bound to Defend Israel Internationally

AMMAN -- The Israeli electorate had a choice to make. By re-electing a leader who publicly reneged on his commitments to peace and a two-state solution, they voted against peace. What remains now is how the Palestinians and the world will react to the closure of the charade that was called the peace process.

Palestinians have for years lost hope in the peace process and have been telling everyone who is willing to listen that the Israeli leaders are merely giving lip service to it as their own bulldozers were gobbling up Palestinian lands. The world kept on believing in the lip service until the Israeli public forced their leader to state his case in Hebrew to his own people. Now that we know that Israel is not a democracy to all its citizens (see Netanyahu's racist comments about Arab citizens) and Netanyahu never meant his commitment to a Palestinian state, the world must react.

Binyamin Netanyahu bids to form rightwing Israeli coalition after decisive win

Binyamin Netanyahu has begun efforts to assemble a new rightwing coalition to govern Israel after his Likud party scored a decisive victory in the country’s general election.

Hours after opposition leader Isaac Herzog conceded defeat on Wednesday morning, Netanyahu called Naftali Bennett, the hard-right pro-settlement leader of the Jewish Home party, to open negotiations over the shape of his new coalition.

Does money make you mean?

From grumpy old misers to the wolves of Wall Street, Hollywood has always had plenty to say about the corrupting influence of wealth. But how accurate are the silver screen stereotypes - does money make you mean?

The road along the seafront in Los Angeles is lined with palm trees - skateboarders and dog-walkers stroll along, heading for the beach. And social psychologist Prof Paul Piff is spending the afternoon going back and forth over a pedestrian crossing.

The Big Dick School of American Patriotism

Let’s face it: we live in a state of pervasive national security anxiety. There are various possible responses to this low-grade fever that saps resolve, but first we have to face the basis for that anxiety—what I’ve come to think of as the Big Dick School of Patriotism, or (since anything having to do with our present version of national security, even a critique of it, has to have an acronym) the BDSP.

The BDSP is based on a bedrock belief in how America should work: that the only strength that really matters is military and that a great country is one with the capacity to beat the bejesus out of everyone else. Think of it as a military version of 50 Shades of Grey, with the same frisson of control and submission (for the American citizen) and the assumption that a good portion of the world is ripe to be bullied.

Schools Plan Massive Layoffs After Scott Walker Guts Funding

This week, Wisconsin kicked off a series of hearings on Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget, which would slash about $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system over two years, funnel hundreds of millions to build a pro-basketball stadium, and cut deeply from funds for health care, food stamps andpublic media.
College campuses across the state are already preparing for the worst.

Oregon’s Radical Innovation: Make Democracy Easy

Here is a novel notion: Why not make democracy easy?

Why not take the trouble out of registering to vote—and out of voting?

It can be done. Other countries, where voter turnout is dramatically higher than in the United States, craft their laws to encourage voting.

Unfortunately, politics gets in the way of voting-friendly elections in the United States.

At least in most states.

Harper Will Ask Parliament To Extend And Expand Iraq Mission

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper intends to ask Parliament next week to "extend and expand" Canada's participation in the war against the Islamic State, possibly erasing the geographic distinctions that have thus far shaped the conflict.

On at least two occasions recently, Defence Minister Jason Kenney has mused that CF-18s could be asked to fly strike missions against extremist targets in Syria.

Harper is not ruling out that possibility.