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, July 04, 2012

Will Romney Pretend to Have a Health Plan?

The health-care ruling has exposed a delicate dance within the Republican Party. Romney does not want to run on the health-care issue. To the extent that he wants to invoke the issue, it’s to flay Obama for having focused on it as a distraction from the economy, not as an ideological crusade against Big Government. But conservative activists want to be sure that, if Romney wins, he will commit his political capital to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Thus their current focus on demanding that Romney pledge to repeal the law (see Avik Roy, Keith Hennessey, Rich Lowry, and David Brooks, among many others).

White supremacist can seek help online in attempt to prove racist claims: court

Facing charges for online hate speech, a Regina neo-Nazi leader has been given a judge’s permission to go back online to white supremacist websites for help in proving that the anti-Semitic and racist comments are true.

The court order gives Terry Tremaine permission to ask for information from denizens of online forums, some of which are notorious for virulent messages of intolerance, suggesting his eventual criminal trial could become a controversial marathon like Ernst Zundel’s and Jim Keegstra’s attempts to prove the Holocaust was a fraud.

North Carolina Defunds Planned Parenthood In Midnight Vote, Overriding Veto

North Carolina's Republican-controlled state legislature voted Monday night to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a state budget that strips money from Planned Parenthood.

The same lawmakers overrode Perdue's veto and moved to defund Planned Parenthood last year, but a judge blocked the provision, arguing that a state can't single out a particular health provider. This time around, lawmakers found a way to sidestep legal challenges by not specifically naming Planned Parenthood in the budget. Instead, the bill prevents the state's Health and Human Services department from contracting with "private providers" of family planning services -- effectively, but not explicitly, singling out Planned Parenthood.

Justice Department: Texas Police Department Discriminated Against Women

July 3 (Reuters) - A federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday accuses Corpus Christi, Texas of discriminating against female applicants to the city's police department by requiring them to pass a physical test that favored men.

The Justice Department said the female pass rate for the test, which was used between 2005 and 2011, was 80 percent lower than the male pass rate and that it excluded otherwise qualified applicants from consideration for hire as entry-level police officers based solely on their gender.

Homeless Veterans To Get Job Assistance Thanks To $20 Million In Department Of Labor Grants

Homeless veterans got some welcome news on the job front Monday.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced it will commit more than $20 million to fund job training and support services for homeless veterans. The 90 grants -- which will be awarded through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program -- will help provide on-the-job training, job search and placement assistance and follow-up services.

“Americans who have served their country should not find themselves without a home,” Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a press release. “The grants announced today will help these heroes find good jobs and take us one step closer to the goal of ending veteran homelessness altogether.”

Barclays Scandal Bad News For Investor Confidence

The ballooning interest rate manipulation scandal at Barclays, coupled with stock market instability, is likely to fuel fresh doubts about the integrity of the stock market, insiders said.

“Every time people begin to gain a little confidence, something else comes up,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “If it’s not Europe, it’s [troubled] IPOs, or JPMorgan or Barclays. Something new blows up and people say, ‘I knew it was rigged.’"

Iraq, Afghanistan War Veterans Struggle With Combat Trauma

HAVERHILLL, Mass. -- Before her life fell apart, before suicide began to sound like sweet release, Natasha Young was a tough and spirited and proud Marine.

Straight off the hardscrabble streets of Lawrence, Mass., a ruined mill town ravaged by poverty and drugs, she loved the Marine Corps' discipline, the hard work, the camaraderie, the honor of service to her country.

Bilingual Benefits: Is It Worth The Trouble Of Learning French Anymore?

There’s no doubt Canadians are facing an extremely competitive job market. In January, Statistics Canada revealed there are three times more people applying for jobs than there are openings.

But there are also public servants retiring at an increasing rate, with 4,800 and 6,000 bilingual positions needing to be filled every year in federal government roles. A 2009 parliamentary committee report noted there are not enough bilingual graduates to fill these positions, though job prospects at the federal level have changed dramatically since the Tories' March budget, which aims to cut 19,000 positions in the public service.

Global warming caused the heat wave that’s burning cities and destroying perfectly good hair

If you think this heat wave isn’t evidence of global warming, I give you our drab brownish snowless winter, tens of thousands of new heat records across the continent, drought, massive and sudden rainfall, the terrible windstorm known as a “derecho” that has devastated the U.S. from Chicago to Washington, astounding wildfires and the weirdness of June and September becoming oven months when it used to be just July and August.

Privacy worth fighting for

For those Canadians who found the Conservatives’ all-encompassing Bill C-38 disconcerting, there is another new reason to be worried about the state of democracy in this country.

Bill C-38 was presented as a budget bill, but it was lumped in all sorts of extras: Changes to Old Age Security eligibility, Employment Insurance, environmental oversight and laws impacting fisheries.

You name it, it was probably there.

HMCS Regina sails from B.C. to Gulf as tensions with Iran escalate

HMCS Regina sailed Tuesday from B.C. to replace HMCS Charlottetown in the Arabian Gulf at a time when the U.S. has been quietly moving additional naval forces into the volatile region to prevent any attempt by the Iranian military to block the Strait of Hormuz.

The buildup of U.S. forces near Iran was reported in the New York Times Tuesday. The move is part of a game of high-stakes brinksmanship involving Iran, the U.S. and Israel over Iran's nuclear program.

Peter MacKay’s future lies at heart of shuffle talk

You can tell it is summer in Ottawa by the  never-ending speculation about a cabinet shuffle. First the bets were on mid-July,  then it was mid- to late August followed by a short prorogation over the summer break period and a return of Parliament on the already established date of September 17. Now speculation is looking at an early- to mid-August shuffle. The one thing we do know is that the only person who really knows the answer rarely discusses his decisions, except with one or two key advisors.

It does look like Bev Oda had her ministerial year-end review with the Prime Minister about two weeks ago, which prompted her decision to announce she is stepping down as an MP on July 31. It was a good move on her part to get ahead of what looked like the inevitable embarrassment of being dropped from cabinet. At least this way she goes on her terms.

With Keystone in limbo, VFW helps vets get work on Canada's section

U.S. veterans looking for jobs have a new employment opportunity -- in Canada, working on that country’s section of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Though the push to start building the Canada-to-Texas oil route has been delayed in the United States amid political and environmental disputes, the Veterans of Foreign Wars is part of a deal that would send veterans and transitional active-duty soldiers across the border to fill as many as 114,000 skilled-labor jobs. The jobs include work on the crude-oil pipeline as well as work on infrastructure and even skyscrapers.

Canada: Land of mines and banks

Just in time for Canada Day, the Globe and Mail's Report on Business issued its annual Top 1000 rankings of the thousand largest publicly traded companies (by assets) in Canada (ranked by profit). I blogged about this last year as well. It's such an interesting snapshot of Canadian business it's worth perusing.

Once again, this listing reveals the extent to which Canada's economic base is being steadily narrowed in the face of globalization and financialization.

Equalization: Is Quebec committing a hold-up?

Is it normal that Albertans pay the much too generous social programs to which the people of Quebec are treating themselves through equalization, especially when they are being patronized regarding the environment by people that refuse to exploit their own gas and oil resources?

That would summarize Danielle Smith's view, the very libertarian leader of the Wildrose. In last April's elections, this party to the right of the right seriously threatened the Conservatives, who have been in power in Alberta for the last 41 years. Are her claims well founded?

Financial transfers within the Canadian federation are a complex phenomenon, with sensitivity to the vagaries of the economic climate. It's an area in which simplistic views are at a greater risk to feed prejudice than to illuminate discussions.

Enbridge has a best friend in Ottawa

Patrick Daniel started in the oil and gas pipeline business more than 30 years ago. At the time, pumping oil through thousands of kilometres of buried metal pipes was viewed as a relatively innocuous activity, to the extent it was even thought about at all. “It was generally considered to be dull, boring and well below the radar screen,” says Daniel, the chief executive of Calgary’s Enbridge Inc., now the country’s largest transporter of crude oil. “It provided an essential service to society and was something that most everyone took for granted.”

New military helicopters may not be ready for 5 years

Canada’s long-promised fleet of new Sikorsky naval helicopters, already four years late and $300 million over budget, likely won’t be delivered and ready for combat for up to another five years, informed industry sources tell CBC News.

Last month, Connecticut-based Sikorsky missed its latest contract deadline to finish delivering 28 sleek, state-of-the-art Cyclone maritime helicopters to replace Canada’s aged fleet of increasingly unreliable Sea Kings, now nearing 50 years old.

In fact, delivery of the new choppers hasn’t even started.

Canadian senators warn United Church over Israel boycott

A group of nine senators has warned the United Church of Canada that it could spark a rift with the Jewish community if it approves the boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in occupied lands.

The senators, all United Church members and from both the Conservative and Liberal parties, have waded publicly into a controversial issue before it comes to a vote in mid-August.

It’s a debate in which the lines between church and state have already been crossed several times as the United Church considers a new foray into the electrified world of Mideast politics.

Diamond admits ‘reprehensible’ behaviour at Barclays

The chastened former head of Barclays apologized for the “reprehensible” behaviour of his traders who fixed interest rates, but told MPs on Wednesday his bank had been unfairly singled out after coming forward to admit wrongdoing.

Bob Diamond, 60, quit this week after Barclays agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars in fines for manipulating the interest rates at the heart of the global financial system.

Federal cuts to youth justice services baffle Toronto agencies

Toronto organizations which successfully divert young offenders from the court system are baffled why the federal government is slashing crucial funds for that purpose.

Last week, when Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced “continued support” for the federal Youth Justice Services Funding Program at $141.7 million annually, he did not mention that number represents a 20-per-cent cut from previous years.

Advocates and experts are struggling to understand the rationale behind the cuts.

Teenage prodigy Thomas Bacsi facing deportation

The experts agree that pianist Thomas Bacsi is an excitingly gifted young performer with the talent to become one of Canada’s classical music stars of the future. There is just one problem. Bacsi, his sister and their father are facing a deportation order from the federal government.

Barring a last-minute reprieve, they will board a plane on Friday and return to Hungary, which they left in 2008.

“It will be a devastating blow for the entire family if we have to leave,” says Betty Bacsi, the prodigy’s 16-year old sister, who fills the role of manager and spokesperson for her talented but bashful older brother.

No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy

The people in white coats are coming for Stephen Harper.

On July 10, an as-yet-to-be-determined number of scientists, evolutionary biologists to be precise, will begin winding through the streets of downtown Ottawa on their way to a protest on Parliament Hill. Their official business will take place at the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution Conference. But the big story will be how they decide to spend their lunch break on the second last day of their convention.

The scientists who are willing to participate have been asked by protest organizers to wear their lab coats that day. They hope that will remind Canadians that scientists stand for the objective and rational pursuit of knowledge. You know, the opposite of Peter Kent. Not for nothing is the July 10th event called the Death-of-Evidence rally. That might yet be the epitaph written across the experiment in Republican politics in Canada otherwise known as the Harper government.

Joe Walsh Accuses Tammy Duckworth, Double Amputee, Of Not Being A 'True Hero'

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) on Sunday accused his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth -- a double-amputee veteran of the Iraq War -- of not being a "true hero" because she made her military service central to her campaign.

After calling Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a "noble hero" for downplaying his military experience during a 2008 presidential bid, Walsh shifted gears to Duckworth at an Elk Grove, Ill., town hall.

Duckworth lost both her legs after Iraqi insurgents hit her helicopter with a rocket propelled grenade in 2004. She is now challenging incumbent Walsh in Illinois' re-drawn 8th Congressional district.

JPMorgan Chase Manipulation Scandal Raises Specter Of Enron

Did Jamie Dimon break a mirror or something? Because his bank, JPMorgan, once less fallible than the Pope, is suddenly having a terrible run of luck.

The bank's stock price was hit by a series of blows on Tuesday -- including a fresh scandal that raised the specter of Enron -- even as the rest of the stock market rallied.

The biggest blow was probably a New York Times story that the bank pushed mutual-fund clients into its own brand of mutual funds, which performed poorly and charged high fees. The story might make you think that maybe JPMorgan Chase cares only about money and not its clients! And you'd be right.

Squelching Secrets: Why Are Obama's Prosecutors Pursuing John Kiriakou?

WASHINGTON -- One of Patrick J. Fitzgerald's last cases as one of the nation's most prominent U.S. attorneys may turn out to be a misfire.

John Kiriakou is a 14-year CIA veteran who, until his indictment, was best known for publicly rejecting the Bush administration's Orwellian doublespeak about "enhanced interrogation." In a 2007 ABC News interview, Kiriakou became the first person directly involved in the handling of terror suspects to call waterboarding at the CIA's hands what it was -- torture.

U.S. Banks Greatly Benefiting Off Colombian Cocaine Trade

Even as their governments fighting it, Western businesses are benefiting from the Latin American drug trade.

More than 97 percent of the total street value of cocaine produced in Colombia -- that’s billions of dollars -- ends up in the hands of criminal groups in the U.S. and other first-world drug consuming countries, according to a study by two economists at the University of the Andes cited by the Guardian, and that money is laundered through banks. The study’s authors allege that Western financial regulators are hesitant to go after western banks for profiting off the drug trade.

History’s Harsh Lessons

The Second World War in many ways shaped the world we live in. It sealed the fate of the British Empire. It saw the rise of the United States, and then the Soviet Union, to super-power status, precipitating an age of nuclear confrontation that, even years after the end of the Cold War, is still a source of anxiety and conflict. It spurred a movement towards European union. In the Far East, with the defeat of the Japanese, it paved the way for the rise of modern China and embedded its distrust of the West. It also gave birth to the United Nations, which, for all its arguable effectiveness, was inspired by a belief in the possibility of a better world.

Why Sarkozy is in Canada while police raid his Paris home

While police rifle through his Paris residence, recently defeated French President Nicolas Sarkozy is vacationing in Quebec at a country abode owned by one of Canada’s richest families.

Fresh off his defeat in France’s June elections, Sarkozy is apparently suffering from a touch of burn out, according to a report in French magazine Le Point. The ex-President’s timing is auspicious: on Tuesday, police raided his home and office as part of an investigation into illegal financing of his 2007 presidential campaign.

Doctors protesting refugee health cuts claim small victory as CIC appears to backpedal on some reforms

Members of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care say they will continue to confront the federal government over cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), despite an apparently unpublicized last-minute reversal of some of the reforms by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

At a Friday, June 29 press conference marking the passage of the government’s immigration reform bill, Bill C-31, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) defended the cuts.

Time to shuffle the deck, but Harper’s short on aces

We are more than a year removed from the last federal election. The Harper Conservatives have done hard, controversial things with their majority. Predictably, they have suffered politically, if polls can be believed.

Polls, of course, are the most overworked, over-analyzed, and overrated part of politics, especially with so much time remaining before the next election. So let’s just say that the government has lost support since the last election, and leave it at that.

Australia chases migrant ship in distress off Indonesian coast

Australian rescue crews were hunting for a boat in distress and crowded with asylum seekers off the coast of Indonesia on Wednesday, one day after the leaders of Australia and Indonesia agreed to strengthen maritime ties as part of a bid to combat people smuggling.

The boat issued a distress call early Wednesday morning, and was believed to have up to 180 people on board, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. The Australian navy ship HMAS Wollongong was searching where the boat was believed to be – about 110 kilometres south of Indonesia – but had not located it as of late morning, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said.

German spy agency faces shakeup over neo-Nazi case

The case horrified Germany, a nation where the Hitler era still casts a long shadow: a small band of neo-Nazis suspected of killing ethnic Turks and others in a seven-year terror spree, undetected by security forces until a botched bank robbery brought down the group last year.

Now, Germany’s domestic spy agency faces awkward questions about a possible cover-up after revelations that an official destroyed files related to the neo-Nazi group. The case prompted the government to announce this week that the agency’s head for the past 12 years will take early retirement.

Florida ‘first offender’ gets 161 years in prison

MIAMI—Quartavious Davis is still shocked by what happened to him in a U.S. federal court two months ago.

“My first offence, and they gave me all this time,” said Davis in an interview at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. “Might just as well say I’m dead.”

Davis was convicted of his role in a string of armed robberies in the Miami area in 2010. His accomplices testified against him, saying he carried a gun during their crimes and discharged it at a dog that chased them. But Davis was not convicted of hurting anyone physically, including the dog.

Polls show Canada actually more progressive after six years of Tory rule

Six years into the Harper era, Canadians are inching inexorably into the conservative, and Conservative, columns. Right? And though not all are pleased with this incremental, rightward shift, most — the so-called silent majority — tacitly accept it.

Well, no, actually. The latest data from pollster Ipsos Reid, part of a wide-ranging examination of popular sentiment for Postmedia News and Global Television, doesn’t suggest this at all. If anything the numbers indicate Canadians today are more solidly progressive than we have ever been. Perhaps we are a more complex and mature people than the received wisdom gives us credit for. And perhaps this means that our national political leaders, across the spectrum, don’t understand or reflect our views nearly as fully or as precisely as they might.

We were wrong on peak oil. There's enough to fry us all

The facts have changed, now we must change too. For the past 10 years an unlikely coalition of geologists, oil drillers, bankers, military strategists and environmentalists has been warning that peak oil – the decline of global supplies – is just around the corner. We had some strong reasons for doing so: production had slowed, the price had risen sharply, depletion was widespread and appeared to be escalating. The first of the great resource crunches seemed about to strike.