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.]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doctors condemn Jason Kenney's self-congratulation on refugee health cuts

Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, has faced widespread criticism in recent weeks for his government's cuts to refugee health care.

Doctors and other health-care workers have held protest actions across the country and disrupted speaking appearances by government ministers. A broad range of civil society groups have also condemned the cuts.

Yesterday a petition thanking Minister Kenney for the cuts was highlighted on a website. It read, in part: "We, the undersigned, thank Jason Kenney for his efforts to streamline benefits afforded to refugees claimants under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and bring them in line with the benefits received by tax-paying Canadians, including new Canadians..."

Young girl could have died under new health benefits for refugees: doctor says

A four-and-a-half-year-old girl living in Parkdale and seeking asylum from persecution in her country of origin, brings to light the deadly affects changes to the federal interim health care benefits, says downtown west end Dr. Anna Banerji.

Banerji is a specialist in children's infectious diseases and works with refugees at St. Joseph's and St. Michael's hospitals. Recently, she and her colleagues treated the young girl who arrived at the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in the downtown west end. The girl almost died of meningitis, but Banerji said they were able to diagnose and treat the child.

Can this premier coax Stephen Harper out from under the porch?

Premiers don’t get much attention far from home. When Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter pulled up in a cab Monday, I signed him in at security incognito before taking him up to the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau for a chat.

After reminiscing about our university days in Nova Scotia — he shot hoops and remains a diehard Raptors fan, perhaps because New Democrats dream of upset victories — the conversation turns to Ottawa: A place where premiers command less attention than ever.

Romance blooms between B.C. and Mulcair’s federal NDP

Quebec is not the only province having a love affair with Tom Mulcair. B.C. has leaped onto the federal NDP bandwagon.

What gives? British Columbians traditionally are wary of Quebec-centric political leaders. Yet a mid-June Angus Reid poll showed as many British Columbians would have voted for the NDP — 40 per cent — as Quebecers, 42 per cent of whom back the socialist party.

“With continued dominance in Quebec, B.C. could be the second plank of an NDP election victory in 2015,” says political blogger Eric Grenier, who operates the polling website

Supreme Court hears democracy at stake in Etobicoke case

Lawyers for the former and current MPs for Etobicoke Centre debated how serious clerical errors need to be before a new election is required, as part of a case at Canada's top court over missing paperwork from last year's federal vote.

Put another way, how easy should it be for Canadians to vote?

Conservative MP Ted Opitz is fighting a lower court decision that declared his 2011 election win null and void. The appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is his only recourse to avoid having to fight another election against his former opponent, Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Etobicoke Centre Byelection Will Be Close, If It Happens

The Supreme Court of Canada will begin hearing the case of the overturned election result in Etobicoke Centre on Tuesday and if it upholds the ruling of the Ontario Superior Court, voters in the riding will be headed to the polls in a byelection before the year is up.

If the 2011 result in the riding is any indication, it could be a close one.

When the ballots were counted on May 2 of last year, Conservative candidate Ted Opitz came out on top with 21,644 votes to the incumbent Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s 21,618 votes. So close was the result that two decimal points are needed to express the outcome: the Conservatives took 41.21 per cent of the vote to the Liberals’ 41.16 per cent.

Enbridge Michigan Pipeline Spill: Company Acted Like 'Keystone Cops', NTSB Says

Enbridge Inc. handled a crude pipeline spill in Michigan like "Keystone Kops," the chairwoman of a U.S. investigator said Tuesday as environmental groups called for greater scrutiny of future projects.

A probe by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluded Enbridge did not fix a defect on the pipeline when it was discovered five years earlier and control room staff responded poorly when Line 6B ruptured on July 25, 2010.

Canada Real Estate Market At Tipping Point: Royal LePage

TORONTO - Canadian home prices generally rose in the second quarter and the pace of home-building increased in June, but industry observers say the real estate market is at a "tipping point" and could soon lose steam.

Royal LePage, one of the country's largest real-estate sales organization, said Tuesday that prices for all types of housing were mostly higher in the second quarter compared to both the first quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2011.

Obama: No More Tax Breaks for Top Earners

President Obama appeared at the White House on Monday to push for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for one year, except for earners above $250,000—there, the president is “100 percent committed” to letting those tax cuts expire, in the words of senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: there’s no way Congress reaches a deal on this before the November elections, nor even makes a meaningful effort. Republicans think they could win control of the Senate, so there’s no reason to negotiate now from a weaker position, and Democrats believe the same about their chances to retake the House.

Rather, tax justice is clearly something Obama’s team believes can be a powerful election-year narrative. (A belief no doubt shared by Republicans, for inverted reasons).

Republican Negative Ad Spending Explodes

On Friday Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS announced a major advertising blitz. Over the next month, beginning Tuesday, it will spend $25 million on air time in the key swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.

It will all be spent on one ad that, while it may be effective, is in no way informative. The commercial attempts to tie together two GOP talking points that actually have little to do with one another: that President Obama has failed to create enough jobs and that he has created too much federal debt.

Rick Perry Won't Implement Obamacare

Texas will not expand Medicaid or implement a state health exchange following the Supreme Court's upholding of the constitutionality of Obamacare, Gov. Rick Perry (R) said Monday.

"If anyone was in doubt, we in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, I will not be party to socializing healthcare and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government," Perry said in a statement Monday. He sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announcing his opposition to the law.

Libor Scandal: Manipulation Spanned Decades, According To Reports

Though the Libor scandal is just breaking now, some financial insiders claim that Wall Street's been fiddling with the key interest rate for decades.

"Fifteen years ago, the word was that LIBOR was being rigged," a financial industry veteran involved in the Libor process told the Economist. "It was one of those well kept secrets, but the regulator was asleep, the Bank of England didn't care, and...[the banks involved were] happy with the reference prices." (Hat tip: Barry Ritholtz.)

CETA: Provinces Failing To Defend Themselves In Canada-EU Free Trade Negotiations, Says Lawyer

OTTAWA — Canadian provinces are either ill-equipped or incompetent when it comes to defending their rights in a massive and overarching free trade agreement Canada is currently negotiating with the European Union, says a lawyer who has studied leaked drafts of the text.

“The provinces are selling us out and they are not doing their homework,” Steven Shrybman, an international trade and public interest lawyer, told The Huffington Post Canada.

Nine-year-old Quebec girl pulled from soccer tournament for wearing hijab

OTTAWA — A nine-year-old Gatineau, Que., girl who refused to remove her headscarf was forced to stand on the sidelines Sunday as her team played — and won — the final match of a soccer tournament.

The order came just days after the International Football Association Board voted to lift its hijab ban based on the fact “there is no medical literature concerning injuries as a result of wearing a headscarf,” the organization stated on its website.

Rayane Benatti was told to take off her headscarf for safety reasons, but she refused.

“It made me feel very sad,” she said Monday. “I love soccer.”

Blackouts as four power plants shut down

EDMONTON - Monday’s rolling power blackouts were caused by a combination of high demand for power and the unexpected outage of several coal power plants in Alberta, made worse by exceptionally poor output from becalmed wind generators.

A total of four power generators were down at once on Monday, said Cathy O’Connell, a spokesman for the Alberta Electric System Operator.

TransAlta Utilities’ 362-megawatt Sundance 3 has been out of commission since Friday, but was joined early Monday morning by Atco Power’s Battle River No. 5 and then, in quick succession in the early afternoon by TransAlta’s 406-MW Keephills 1, Capital Power’s 400-MW Genesee 2 and Atco Power’s 385-MW Joffre CT201.

Renewed interest in High Arctic coal mining unearths angry opposition

A proposed Arctic coal-mining project that was rejected by a Nunavut development regulator in 2010 but has been revived by another Canadian company has triggered renewed concern about the potential impact on wildlife, Inuit hunting grounds and world-renowned fossil sites on Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands.

Linking the rebirth of the planned coal dig on Canada's northernmost landmasses with recent federal cuts to Arctic environmental monitoring, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said: "Is it a coincidence that one of the most polluting resource-extraction industries is now ready to exploit the area?"

Death of scientific evidence mourned on Parliament Hill Scientists

Hundreds of people held a mock funeral on Parliament Hill to mourn what they call the death of evidence and the muzzling of scientists by the federal government.

Scientists and their supporters wore white lab coats or dressed in black and carried a wooden coffin that represented "the body of evidence" on to the steps of Parliament Hill. They carried signs with slogans and some wore buttons that said [Prime Minister] "Stephen Harper hates science."

Decision-makers on the hill should look to those in white coats for advice

EDMONTON - Canadian scientists are doing something very unscientific today. They’re staging a political protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. A mock funeral, to be precise, complete with casket and pallbearers. And at this funeral, participants are being asked to wear white: their lab coats.

“If you are fed up with the closure of federal scientific programs and muzzling of scientists, if you think that decisions should be based on evidence and facts instead of ideology, then please come out and show your support,” reads a news release urging “concerned” scientists and citizens to show up for the funeral to mark the “Death of Evidence.”

Dodging Bubble Means Canada Economy Loses Edge

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s efforts to avert a housing bubble are hastening the end of a six-year streak of outperforming the U.S. economy.

Changes implemented yesterday include shortening the maximum length of government-insured mortgages to 25 years from 30 years to quell demand for new homes and curb record household borrowing that Flaherty said has become a greater risk to the economy than slowing growth.

Canada Studying Private Firms for Prisons as Budgets Fall

Canada is studying the use of private companies to deliver some prison services as it cuts spending and imposes tougher sentences on criminals, which may benefit companies like GEO Group Inc. (GEO)

Correctional Service Canada, which oversees federal prisons, “may consider” partnerships with private firms to provide “basic institutional services such as cleaning and food preparation,” says a memo prepared for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in advance of a May 14 meeting with Crispin Blunt, U.K. Minister of State for Prisons in London.

Greenhouse gas levels at highest point in 800,000 years

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its 35th session recently in Geneva, on the northern shore of Lac Leman. Across the water from the UN quadrant where the IPCC's decision-making body met lies Mont Blanc.

At 4,800 metres Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps. Like nearly all alpine glaciers, it is losing mass at a rapid rate. Light brown patches on its slopes point to where the ice recently lay and the extent of the mountain's glacial retreat is obvious and worrisome. It is disappearing as fast as the multi-year sea ice in the Arctic.

Alison Redford has already been Alberta premier too long to be prime minister

Alison Redford has been premier of Alberta too long ever to be prime minister of Canada.

A columnist for a local daily newspaper recently made the suggestion Redford may harbour prime ministerial ambitions -- a notion he presumably heard first in the same place everyone else did. While this may be true, and while there is also conflicting evidence to the contrary, the possibility of her realizing such an ambition is extremely unlikely whatever she wishes.

Indeed, with only one notable exception -- and that one is so exceptional that it truly is the proverbial exception that makes the rule -- no Canadian provincial premier has ever become prime minister of Canada.

‘What the world must become in the future … is what Canada is today’

The prepared text of the Prime Minister’s remarks to a Conservative rally in Calgary yesterday.

    Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much for that kind introduction. And I want to thank all of you for that warm Stampede welcome.

    Cent ans à célébrer le Stampede de Calgary. One hundred years of the Calgary Stampede. Yesterday morning I said, If only the founders could see what they have built: The greatest outdoor show on Earth! Hosted in the greatest city of the greatest country in the world! An incredible achievement. And please, all my parliamentary colleagues, stand up … They’ve come from all over Alberta, all over Canada … So friends, give them one more big Calgary Stampede welcome! Look at those hats. Doesn’t take long to become a cowboy! Wherever you’ve come from, tonight we say, “Bienvenue a Calgary, welcome to Calgary, welcome to our home, it’s great to see you here.”

Conservatives have most to gain with six new seats in Alberta, but NDP sets sights on new Edmonton ridings too

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives stand to gain the most when the Tory blue province gets six new seats in Alberta before the next election under the electoral boundaries readjustment, says one pollster.

While the Conservatives are likely to take five of the six new seats in the 2015 election, the NDP will likely pick up at least one riding in Edmonton and could gain another, says Bruce Cameron, president of the Calgary-based firm Return on Insight.

Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, on the Struggle to Win–and Now Protect–Voting Rights in U.S.

We spend the hour looking at the bloody struggle to obtain — and protect — voting rights in the U.S. with the civil rights icon, now 13-term Georgia congressmember, John Lewis. During the 1960s, Rep. Lewis was arrested more than 40 times and beaten almost to death as he served as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, marched side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the Freedom Rides, campaigned for Robert Kennedy’s presidential bid, and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington. He has just written a new memoir looking back on his more than 50 years of political involvement, "Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change."

Having risked his life marching for the right of all Americans to vote, Lewis reflects on the ongoing struggle for voting rights today, when 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that critics say target people of color. "It is so important for people to understand, to know that people suffered, struggled," Lewis says. "Some people bled, and some died, for the right to participate. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool that we have in a democratic society. It’s precious. It’s almost sacred. We have to use it. If not, we will lose it.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Scientists march to Parliament Hill to protest 'death of evidence'

OTTAWA - Hundreds of scientists stepped away from their petri dishes on Tuesday to denounce what they say are the Harper government's sweeping cuts to research.

Flanked by supporters, the white-coated scientists marched through downtown Ottawa to Parliament Hill for a mock funeral marking "the death of evidence."

They carried placards that read "No Science, No Evidence, No Truth," and "Save ELA," referring to the experimental lakes area that recently had its funding cut.

Scientists rally on Parliament Hill to mourn 'death of evidence'

Canadian scientists aren't normally among the placard-waving crowd on Parliament Hill.

But today in Ottawa, scientists invoking an image of the Grim Reaper will take on the Stephen Harper government for what they call the "death of evidence" brought about by federal cuts to everything from the long-form census to closure of the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut.

The Quiet Extermination Of Labor Rights From Human Rights

Progressive intellectuals have been acting very bipolar towards labor lately, characterized by wild mood swings ranging from the “We’re sorry we abandoned labor, how could we!” sentiment during last year’s Wisconsin uprising against Koch waterboy Scott Walker, to the recent “labor is dead/it’s all labor’s fault” snarling after the recall vote against Gov. Walker failed.

It must be confusing and a bit daunting for those deep inside the labor movement, all these progressive mood swings. At the beginning of this month, New York Times’ columnist Joe Nocera wrote a column about having a “V-8 Moment” over the abandonment of labor unions, an abandonment that was so thorough and so complete that establishment liberals like Nocera forgot they’d ever abandoned labor in the first place!

The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama

Sure, we as a nation have always killed people. A lot of people. But no president has ever waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, wherever they are. The Obama administration has taken pains to tell us, over and over again, that they are careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives. They're careful because when it comes to waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder becomes a fine one. Especially when, on occasion, the individuals we target are Americans and when, in one instance, the collateral damage was an American boy.

You are a good man. You are an honorable man. You are both president of the United States and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You are both the most powerful man in the world and an unimpeachably upstanding citizen. You place a large premium on being beyond reproach. You have become your own deliberative body, standing not so much by your decisions as by the process by which you make them. You are not only rational; you are a rationalist. You think everything through, as though it is within your power to find the point where what is moral meets what is necessary.

Rules of American justice

Gretchen Morgenson, the New York Times business reporter, yesterday wrote about aggressive action taken by British financial authorities against top Barclays executives in connection with illegal manipulation of LIBOR interest rates, including the bank’s Chairman, Marcus Agius, and its CEO, Robert E. Diamond Jr., both of whom were forced out of their jobs. In doing so, Morgenson bluntly summarizes the general, governing rules of American justice for financial elites:
One of the most revealing exchanges in the Barclays documents came when a bank official tried to describe why Barclays’s improper postings were not as problematic as those of other banks. “We’re clean but we’re dirty-clean, rather than clean-clean,” an executive said in a phone conversation. Talk about defining deviancy down.
“Dirty clean” versus “clean clean” pretty much sums up Wall Street’s view of cheating. If everybody does it, nobody should be held accountable if caught. Alas, many United States regulators and prosecutors seem to have bought into this argument. . . .
MR. DIAMOND seemed shocked to be pushed out. An American by birth, he probably thought he’d be subject to American rules of engagement when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing at his bank. You know how it works on this side of the Atlantic: faced with a scandal, most chief executives jettison low-level employees, maybe give up a bonus or two — and then ride out the storm. Regulators, if they act, just extract fines from the shareholders.

Original Article
Author: Glenn Greenwald