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.]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Japan’s 3/11

When the time came for Japan to stop in remembrance, there was not one moment of silence but two: The first, at 2:46 P.M., when the biggest quake in the nation’s history struck one year ago. And then the second: In tiny towns up and down the coast, they paused again, exactly thirty-three minutes later, to mark the moment when the tsunami arrived.

The moment that Japan remembers as 3/11 was not one disaster but three—an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear meltdown. And then there was the repercussion that nobody expected in the rush of stoicism and sacrifice that so impressed the world. As evidence piled up of government failures—cover-ups, bureaucratic paralysis, an industry that disguised honest assessments of the risks—Japan’s confidence in the political establishment that has created its modern miracle collapsed: the “fourth disaster” of March 11,” as one commentator puts it.

Egypt Parliament To Consider Cutting Off U.S. Aid

CAIRO — Egypt's parliament moved Sunday toward a vote to order an end to more than $1 billion in U.S. aid, a reflection of tensions with Washington over the case of Americans charged with illegal activity by their pro-democracy groups.

The U.S. was angry enough over the charges against the American workers that it threatened to cut off aid to Egypt. The measure in the Islamist-dominated Egyptian parliament, probably just symbolic, showed that there is considerable anger in Cairo over charges that U.S. pressure led to interference in the judicial process.

The 508-seat chamber also voted to start the process of a no-confidence vote in the military-backed government, a move that, if successful, could spark a political crisis with just under four months left before the military is scheduled to hand over power to a civilian administration.

The move by the People's Assembly against U.S. aid was sparked by the March 1 departure of six American defendants in a case of 43 employees of nonprofit groups accused of using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest in Egypt.

John Boehner: 'Some Of The Dumbest' People In America Are Members Of Congress

Great news, America! Some of the dumbest people in the country are leading your nation, according to Speaker of the House John Boehner.

"We got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here, and some of the dumbest. We got some of the best people you'd ever meet, and some of the raunchiest. We've got 'em all," he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

He also touted his own achievement in Congress

"There's nobody who tried harder last year with the president to do the right thing," he said. "There's nobody who walked further out on a limb than I did to try to get him to do the right thing."

Boehner's comments referred to last year's contentious debt talks. The months-long saga resulted in a bitter struggle between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between Obama and GOP leaders. Obama once blamed Boehner for the talks falling apart after the Speaker walked out in the middle of a meeting.

As Politico reports, Boehner has been facing serious backlash from fellow Republicans who have recently vowed to kill his massive highway bill.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Alana Horowitz

Ken Griffin, Billionaire Romney Backer, Says Super Rich Have 'An Insufficient Influence' On Politics

A billionaire backer of Mitt Romney said that the wealthy have "an insufficient influence" on politics and policy.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Ken Griffin, founder of the hedge fund Citadel was asked if he thought rich people had too great of an influence on politics.

"I think they actually have an insufficient influence," he responded. "Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet."

He also told the Tribune that he believes he should be able to donate an unlimited amount of money to Super PACs.

According to FEC filings, Griffin recently donated $100,000 to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC. He gave $2,500 to Romney personally, as well as to a slew of other Republican candidates and groups. His wife has also donated to Romney.

As the Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin reported, Romney's hedge fund backers (including Griffin) stand to profit big from their donations. A second Obama term could mean more and higher taxes on the ultrawealthy. Private equity or hedge fund moguls comprise over half of the donations to Restore Our Future, according to the New York Times.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Alana Horowitz 

Clement Warns Budget To Spark A 'Culture Shift'

The upcoming federal budget will mark the start of a "culture shift" in Ottawa from "spending enablers" to "cost containers," Treasury Board President Tony Clement says.

Clement, the minister responsible for finding anywhere from $4 billion to $8 billion in annual savings as part of the government's plan to reduce the deficit and balance the books, made the comments in a speech to Conservatives gathered at the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa on Saturday.

He said everyone who works in government ought to ask themselves not only how they can do their job to the best of their ability but also how they can do it "in an excellent way at less cost to the taxpayers."

The way to do that is "by changing the incentives and rewards, and by changing the internal governance and accountability that should be felt at every level," Clement said.

"If you take nothing else from my talk this morning, please take this: We are working to change the culture in official Ottawa from one of spending enablers to one of cost containers."

Alberta Oilsands: Researchers Doubt Damaged Land Can Be Restored To What It Was

EDMONTON - In a small corner of the vast scrape the oilsands have left on northern Alberta, a small sampling of seeds is gradually warming up in the slow boreal spring.

Painstakingly hand-gathered last fall from sedges, grasses and shrubs at undisturbed marshes and bogs, the seeds were carefully strewn atop a former Syncrude tailings pond, now a crucial pilot project in wetland reclamation. If they sprout, much will rest on those slender shoots of water sedge, slough grass, marsh cinquefoil and bog birch.

There's the fate of a huge ecosytem being disrupted at an increasing pace. There're the millions of dollars companies have spent studying how to rebuild wetlands destroyed by oilsands mining. And there's the social licence of an industry that promises to restore land — in the words of one ad — to "where you'd never know there'd been a mine in the first place."

"The probability of success is extremely high," said Warren Zubot, a Syncrude senior engineer who's working on the Sandhills project, the rebuilt fen that is home to those scattered seeds.

Ethics-challenged Conservatives doomed ... in 2019

Living north of the Queensway, as they all do, some members of the Ottawa commentariat are telling us that the burgeoning Robocon scandal isn’t going to harm the Conservative regime.

They’re wrong, for the reasons they cite.

They’re right, for the reasons they don’t.

Let us explain: This week, the Toronto Star’s much-respected Chantal Hebert cited — with no apparent enthusiasm — two public opinion polls, by Ekos and Nanos, and declared the Conservative government’s support “rock solid.”

Wrote she: “The bottom line is that the Conservative core vote is more solid than that of either of the other two main parties.” In that, she is right.

Acclaimed author and commentator Michael Harris, no fan of the Harper cabal, is similarly pessimistic. We will “never get to the bottom” of the scandal, a weary Harris wrote last week in iPolitics. There’s simply too many details for a beleaguered agency like Elections Canada to chase down. He’s probably right about that, too.

Tory woes won't delay election call

Premier Alison Redford remains committed to calling an election immediately after the provincial budget is passed, in spite of multiple controversies that have hounded the governing Tories in recent weeks.

Speaking to reporters at a fundraising dinner in Airdrie on Saturday, Redford admitted she is concerned by a series of recent events that have cast the government in a negative light.

"There's a lot of those things going on right now, and there's no doubt they're troubling to me," Redford said. "There's no doubt that right before an election there's an awful lot of politics, but I'm not diminishing this as politics. These are the issues that we need to talk about in an election."

The most recent blow to the PCs came Friday, when Redford suspended former leadership candidate Gary Mar from his post as Alberta's envoy to Asia over a recent fundraiser held to clear up his debts from the campaign. The $400-per-ticket event held at the Edmonton Petroleum Club offered Mar in his capacity apparently as envoy speaking about doing business in Asia. Redford has asked the province's ethics commissioner to look into the situation.

'Do the right thing,' Manning tells Tories

Preston Manning cautioned his fellow Tories on Saturday that the conservative movement in Canada must practise as well as preach ethical policies, be open to new ideas and better train political candidates.

The patriarch of the modernday Conservatives highlighted the three challenges facing the governing party - ideas, training, and ethics - during a keynote speech to hundreds of Tories who've gathered in Ottawa for the Manning Centre conference hosted by the former Reform party leader.

He delivered his message the same day Conservatives also debated their communication tactics and what's needed to defeat the Liberals and NDP at the provincial and federal levels.

Manning said the robocall votesuppression scandal being investigated by Elections Canada, as well as new polling numbers he released Friday - showing only one per cent of Canadians have a very favourable opinion of politicians - reinforce the need to improve the practices employed by all political organizations, including the Conservatives.

He wants all parties to avoid using vote-suppression tactics and robocall technology for nefarious reasons.

Security experts say China hacked secret F-35 fighter jet plans from BAE Systems

Chinese spies hacked into computers belonging to BAE Systems, Britain's biggest defence company, to steal details about the design, performance and electronic systems of the West's latest fighter jet, senior security figures have disclosed.

The Chinese exploited vulnerabilities in BAE's computer defences to steal vast amounts of data on the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a multinational project to create a plane that will give the West air supremacy for years to come, according to the sources.

The hacking attack has prompted fears that the fighter jet's advanced radar capabilities could have been compromised.

Details of the attack on BAE have been a closely guarded secret within Britain's intelligence community since it was first uncovered nearly three years ago. But they were disclosed by a senior BAE executive during a private dinner in London for cyber security experts late last year.

When Everything is Political

Our current political climate is obscuring any semblance of substantive debate.

Tory MP Rob Anders apparently has a reputation for falling asleep on the job. He even became an unwitting YouTube sensation last fall when he fell asleep during Question Period. Total views are clocking in at 98,000+, for those who are keeping count.

This week, Anders apparently fell into a slumber while presiding over a veterans-affairs committee. Don’t get me wrong: Falling asleep on the job crosses party lines. Just ask young NDP MP Jonathan Genest-Jourdain, who checked out a few weeks ago during a parliamentary session, the YouTube clip of which is now running at over 140,000 views.

The issue with the AnderZZZ… encore (all jesting aside) is not so much what happened as how it’s interpreted. Jim Lowther, the man who was giving the presentation to the committee at the time, was understandably slighted by Anders’ snoozing. But a simple apology, he says, would have done just fine. Instead, Anders went on a full-blown offensive. Lowther, argues Anders, is just another “NDP hack.” Never mind the fact that Lowther has voted Conservative federally and is a member of the provincial wing of the party in Nova Scotia.

Sharing the Fruits of Scientific Discovery

After the success of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's conference in Vancouver, it is time Canada developed its own dedicated science-policy conference.

In February, Vancouver hosted one of the most exciting science festivals in the world: the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual General Meeting (AAAS 2012). Hosting the meeting is a source of pride for Canada. AAAS is the largest general scientific organization in the world, with a significant international membership including thousands of Canadians. By any measure, the conference was a great success. With hundreds of panels and more than 1,000 speakers, it hosted nearly 6,000 delegates from more than 50 nations, as well as more than 6,000 members of the general public who visited the exhibition on public science days. Under the theme “Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society,” AAAS 2012 added much to the discourse on the connection between innovation, development, and international science and technology collaboration.

Prayers, protests mark Japan tsunami anniversary

The people of Japan paused for a moment of silence to mark the one-year anniversary of a powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed almost 19,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless.

Entire cities and towns were wiped off the land by the twin disasters, and more than 340,000 people who lost homes are still living in temporary housing a year later.

Emperor Akihito led a national memorial service in Tokyo, and smaller memorials were held across the country.

The moment of silence was observed at 2:46 p.m. local time Sunday, at the exact moment the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit last year and unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan's northeast coast.

While much of the debris has been gathered into massive piles, very little rebuilding has begun.

The myth of 1812: How Canadians see the war we want to see

Some wars never end.

Two hundred years ago this June, the still-new nation of the United States reopened hostilities against its bothersome British adversaries, and the War of 1812 began its long march into Canadian history.

On a bitingly cold, sleet-filled Saturday in a city newly famous as the epicentre of an emerging robo-call scandal, Glendon Hovey is dressed for an older and more patriotic kind of conflict – one designed to make Canadians feel good about themselves, if Ottawa's $28-million, three-year bicentennial commemorations go according to plan.

In the crowded atrium of a University of Guelph lecture-hall complex, which today is playing the part of an 1812 marketplace, the former policeman turned period-dress tailor fits right in with his 19th-century seaman's rig: a brass-buttoned wool jacket, relaxed-fit hemp breeches, a form-fitting Monmouth cap designed to stave off wind and rain, and a dandyish silk kerchief that, he promises with his best naval-warfare sales pitch, “doubles as a do-rag, mopping up the sweat or the blood when you're in heavy action.”

Thousands protest Putin but movement has lost momentum

MOSCOW — More than 20,000 protesters streamed down a central Moscow avenue Saturday to denounce Vladimir Putin’s presidential election win, but the crowd’s relatively small size compared to recent protests suggested the opposition movement has lost some momentum.

Some of the new political energy that has emerged in Russia in recent months, however, is being channeled into local politics and civic activism. Two men in their 20s who had both just won seats on municipal councils were among those who addressed the crowd Saturday to call on Muscovites to get involved in how their city is run, starting with their own neighborhoods.

The protest on Novy Arbat street ended peacefully, but leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov and two of his followers were detained shortly afterward as they tried to march to nearby Pushkin Square.

Since the March 4 election, Udaltsov has returned to the confrontational approach of last year, when he spent a total of almost three months in jail as a result of defying city bans or restrictions on his protests.

NDP leadership: Peggy Nash, a pit bull who is always there for her neighbourhood

Peggy Nash lights up when she talks about her favourite place in the city — the heart of the neighbourhood where she lives and works.

“High Park,” Nash, 60, says without hesitation when asked where she goes to find rejuvenation.

Her slow, deliberate way of speaking picks up pace as she talks about how much she loves the zoo, running in the park, how her children, now three grown men, played sports on its grassy lawns, how the trees surrounding Grenadier Pond change with the seasons, the deer, foxes and coyotes she has spotted there.

“To me, High Park is a magical place,” she says.

She is deeply concerned some of that magic will disappear, as the year-round, free-admission zoo is threatened with closing due to municipal budget cuts.

“The mean-spiritedness of eliminating one of the pleasures we have in this city,” Nash says when she talks about the possibility of saying goodbye forever to the wallabies, peacocks and other animals in the paddocks. “We need our bread, but we also need our roses.”

Iraq militia stone youth for “emo” style

BAGHDAD — At least 14 youths have been stoned to death in Baghdad in the past three weeks in what appears to be a campaign by Shi’ite militants against youths wearing Western-style “emo” clothes and haircuts, security and hospital sources say.

Militants in Shi’ite neighbourhoods where the stonings have taken place circulated lists on Saturday naming more youths targeted to be killed if they do not change the way they dress.

The killings have taken place since Iraq’s interior ministry drew attention to the “emo” subculture last month, labelling it “Satanism” and ordering a community police force to stamp it out.

“Emo” is a form of punk music developed in the United States. Fans are known for their distinctive dress, often including tight jeans, T-shirts with logos and distinctive long or spiky haircuts.

At least 14 bodies have been brought to three hospitals in eastern Baghdad bearing signs of having been beaten to death with rocks or bricks, security and hospital sources told Reuters under condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Robocalls By Liberals Also Targeted Guelph

An audio recording surfaced Friday showing the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., wasn't the only one to use automated robocalls in the last federal election campaign: the Liberals also employed the technique.

Liberal MP Frank Valeriote has confirmed his campaign used an auto-dialed phone message to tell voters in the riding that the Conservative candidate, Marty Burke, opposed abortion. Valeriote said the call was recorded by a volunteer from his campaign who used a fake name because she feared retribution from anti-abortion activists.

The recording, provided by a Conservative supporter, features a woman who identifies herself as Laurie MacDonald, but doesn't say she's calling from Valeriote's campaign.

"The race in Guelph is very close," the woman says in the message. "Vote strategically on Monday to protect our hard-earned rights from the Conservatives and Marty’s extreme views."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Valeriote campaign calls were illegal because they are supposed to identify which party made them.

Robocalls subject of rally

Protesters are expected to take to Grand Parade in Halifax today to call for a public inquiry into the robocall election fraud scandal.

The demonstration, one of several to be held across the country, gets underway in Halifax at 1 p.m., with several speakers including Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie. Other rallies will be held in at least 28 other cities, including St. John’s, Toronto, Calgary and Victoria.

"Elections Canada is investigating, RCMP are investigating, political opposition parties are pressuring. . . . Lots of people are paying attention," Project Democracy spokesman Christopher Majka, one of the rally speakers, said Saturday.

"Our interests are to keep up the pressure and let the various authorities know that lots of Canadians are concerned about this and we want to see action."

Canadians demand robo-call inquiry at protests nationwide

Protesters armed with placards and megaphones gathered in a number of Canadian cities across Canada on Sunday to call for a public inquiry into the robo-call election fraud scandal.

There were modest turnouts of several dozen in Halifax and Montreal while local media outlets estimated the turnout in Toronto was in the hundreds.

Protest organizers are calling for a full public inquiry into the robo-call scandal, in which thousands of voters got phone calls directing them away from the proper polling stations in last May's election.

Montreal demonstrator Alexandra Smith says she wants someone held accountable for the robo-calls to ensure Canada has fair and transparent elections.

The Liberals and New Democrats accuse the Conservatives of being behind the calls — a charge Prime Minister Stephen Harper denies.

Elections Canada is reviewing more than 31-thousand reports of Canadians receiving robo-calls.

About 42,000 people have signed an online petition for a public inquiry into the matter.

Protests were planned in other cities including Calgary, Regina and Victoria.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: Canadian Press

Why McGuinty can’t back down against teachers

A premier is not a president, nor even a prime minister. He can’t call up the TV networks to demand free air time for a fireside chat.

So when Dalton McGuinty wanted a heart-to-heart with the province’s 128,000 teachers, he took a shortcut: The premier posted a speech on YouTube.

It hasn’t quite gone viral. But 21,000 hits isn’t bad for his awkwardly upbeat sermon about tough love at the bargaining table.

Trouble is, teachers are in no mood to be strong-armed in contract negotiations. The main elementary teachers’ union stormed out of talks last month, raising the spectre of a messy confrontation between educators and the education premier.

This conflict is a family affair — and not just because the premier’s wife Terri teaches kindergarten. Teachers volunteered and voted for McGuinty’s Liberals in huge numbers during the past three elections.

They always got a good deal in return: generous raises (12.5 per cent over four years in a 2008 deal with most unions) and better classroom conditions (full-day kindergarten, caps on class sizes and more prep time).

Robocalls: Thousands expected to rally across Canada to denounce robocall scandal

Thousands of Canadians are expected to attend rallies across the country today to denounce the robocall scandal.

Organizers are calling it the National Day of Action Against Election Fraud.

Rallies are planned for more than two dozen locales, including all major cities from St. John’s to Victoria.

Organizers want a full public inquiry into the robocall scandal, in which thousands of voters got phone calls directing them away from the proper polling stations in last May’s election.

Jon Allen, who’s organizing Sunday’s rally in Toronto, says the scandal has “struck a nerve” because it suggests the last election may have been stolen.

In Toronto, the rally will begin at 2:30 p.m. at Yonge-Dundas square, followed by a march to the City Hall cenotaph.

The Liberals and New Democrats accuse the Conservatives of being behind the calls — a charge Prime Minister Harper denies.

Elections Canada is reviewing more than 31,000 reports of Canadians receiving robocalls.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: The Canadian Press

Way to go, IDF!

Here we go again - a targeted killing; retaliation; retaliation to the retaliation. Here we go again - The reflexive act; the harsh rhetoric; the blindness. The Israel Defense Forces carries out a targeted killing. The Palestinian organizations avenge it - and it's the Palestinians instigating war and terrorism. MK Danny Danon (Likud) has, of course, already called for "all of those in possession of weapons in the Gaza Strip" to be targeted because of the "million people living under fire."

Those million people, in case you failed to get it, are the residents of southern Israel. Only they live under fire. By yesterday afternoon, the bodies of 15 Palestinians were already laid out on the other side of the Gaza border. There were eight people injured on this side, and the Iron Dome antimissile system chalked up the successful interception of 25 rockets.

This cyclical ritual of bloodletting always prompts two questions: "Who started it?" and "Whose is bigger?" It's as if both questions were straight from some preschool playground. The response to the first question is always mired in uncertainty, while the answer to the second is always razor-sharp.

Who started it? The IDF and the Shin Bet security service did. The impression is that they carry out the targeted killings whenever they can, and not whenever it is necessary.