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.]

Monday, July 30, 2012

B.C. Premier urged to reject Enbridge and its ‘cowboy culture’

Former federal Environment Minister David Anderson has ripped into Enbridge as “probably the last company” that should be allowed to build an oil pipeline across British Columbia.

At a news conference in Vancouver on Monday, featuring high-profile opponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, Mr. Anderson accused the company of having a “cowboy culture” that is indifferent and careless toward environmental safety.

Scientists warn it’s the ‘new norm’ after worst drought in 800 years

The signs of drought were everywhere, from shrivelled rivers and lakes in the American West to brittle brown lawns and parched farm crops in the Canadian Prairies.

Even the hardy, drought-tolerant pinyon pine forests of New Mexico turned grey as they withered and died, starved of water for far too long.

The growing mobilization against Harper: Not your ordinary revolution

Scientists. Doctors. Nuclear engineers. Academics. Researchers. Stephen Harper has a big problem.

He has ticked them all off. And they are not suffering their grievances or concerns for informed, fact-based public policy and decision-making, the environment, the health of Canada's most vulnerable citizens and the safety of all of us in silence.

No. Instead they are protesting, marching, disrupting government news conferences. They are mobilizing.

Toronto’s other crime problem

For our typically unassuming city, events of recent months have rendered this sweltering summer as one of violence. And while horrific incidents like last week’s east-end shooting rampage have, for good reason, occupied Toronto headlines, less prominent is a recent spate of sexual assaults.

A string of attacks at York University occurred earlier this month. Meanwhile, three separate women in their 20s reported being sexually assaulted over the course of several weeks in the Kensington Market area*. Police have yet to identify any suspects. All in all, sexual violence in Toronto seems eerily prevalent at the moment.

'Dark Money' Hits $172 Million In 2012 Election, Half Of Independent Group Spending

WASHINGTON -- In May, the conservative nonprofit group Crossroads GPS, founded by famed political strategist Karl Rove and other leading Republican operatives, ran a television ad showcasing a fictional mother who had supported Barack Obama in 2008. The mom was disappointed in Obama's performance, saddled as she was with two adult children who had moved back in with her due to the stalled economy. The ad was the centerpiece of a $25 million campaign -- one of the biggest ad buys so far in the 2012 election cycle.

Despite the fact that the ad's central message was the failure of the president, it wasn't considered a campaign ad under election laws. Although the group spends tens of millions of dollars on ads targeting Democratic candidates, Crossroads GPS is organized as a "social welfare nonprofit" under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code and therefore not subject to the rules governing political organizations.

HSBC To Pay More Than $2 Billion In Penalties

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - HSBC's boss said on Monday revelations of lax anti-money laundering controls had been "shameful and embarrassing" for Europe's biggest bank, and may force it to pay out well over $2 billion for those flaws and in compensation for UK mis-selling.

HSBC set aside $700 million to cover fines and other costs for an anti-money laundering scandal, after a U.S. Senate report criticised it this month for letting clients shift funds from dangerous and secretive countries, notably Mexico.

Fussbudget -- How Paul Ryan captured the G.O.P.

One day in March, 2009, two months after the Inauguration of President Obama, Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, sat behind a small table in a cramped meeting space in his Capitol Hill office. Hunched forward in his chair, he rattled off well-rehearsed critiques of the new President’s policies and America’s lurch toward a “European” style of government. Ryan’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all died before their sixtieth birthdays, so Ryan, who is now forty-two, could be forgiven if he seemed like a man in a hurry. Tall and wiry, with a puff of wavy dark hair, he is nearly as well known in Washington for his punishing early-morning workouts as he is for his mastery of the federal budget. Asked to explain his opposition to Obama’s newly released budget, he replied, “I don’t have that much time.”

Feel the Burn: Making the 2012 Heat Wave Matter

There have been two, maybe three, landmark heat waves in the history of man-made global warming. The first was in 1988. Then as now, the eastern two-thirds of the United States was broiling while relentless drought parched soil and withered crops across the Midwest. But in Washington, the underlying problem was being named for the first time. On June 23, NASA scientist James Hansen testified to the Senate that man-made global warming had begun. The New York Times reported his remarks on Page 1, and the rest of the media at home and abroad followed suit. By year’s end, “global warming” had become a common phrase in news bureaus, government ministries and living rooms around the world.

How WikiLeaks Revitalized Brazil's Media

As the Boeing 777 from London arrived at the gate of Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo on December 2, 2010, its passengers queued up to deplane, many with the local newspaper under their arm. “Brazil fears terrorism at the 2016 Olympics, says US Embassy” blared the headline of the daily Folha de S. Paulo—a front-page story generated from the first of tens of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables obtained and released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. Unnoticed among those passengers was a young woman with a backpack slung over her shoulder. Concealed within a bundle of messy clothing inside her bag was a pen drive containing nearly 3,000 sensitive cables to and from the US Embassy and consulates in Brazil between 2003 and 2010—a cache of documents provided by WikiLeaks.

Is the Natural Gas Industry Buying Academics?

Last week the University of Texas provost announced he would reexamine a report by a UT professor that said fracking was safe for groundwater after the revelation that the professor pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Texas natural gas developer. It's the latest fusillade in the ongoing battle over the basic facts of fracking in America.

Texans aren't the only ones having their fracking conversations shaped by industry-funded research. Ohioans got their first taste last week of the latest public-relations campaign by the energy policy wing of the US Chamber of Commerce. It's called "Shale Works for US," and it aims to spend millions on advertising and public events to sell Ohioans on the idea that fracking is a surefire way to yank the state out of recession.

Enbridge Oil Spill Worries B.C. Pipeline Critics

An oil spill on an Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin has critics in B.C. questioning the safety of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

About 1,200 barrels (190,000 litres) seeped out of an Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin, which was delivering Canadian crude to Chicago-area refineries. According to Reuters, Enbridge plans to replace the leaky Wisconsin oil pipeline Monday, though it is not clear when the line will restart.

Native leader decries lenient sentence for ex-Mountie

A prominent B.C. native leader says disgraced ex-RCMP officer Monty Robinson should have gone to jail, and he’s concerned that public outrage over the seemingly lenient sentence may lead to a backlash against the principle of aboriginals receiving less time in custody than other offenders.

In handing Mr. Robinson a year’s conditional sentence, including a month of house arrest, for obstruction of justice, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon said the former Mountie’s aboriginal status was a factor in her decision not to send him to prison. Under the so-called Gladue principle, courts are required to provide distinct treatment for aboriginals.

Last unstaffed border crossing closes between Stanstead and Derby Line

MONTREAL - In the age of heightened border security and tightening immigration restrictions, the Eastern Townships community of Stanstead seems to have existed in a kind of time warp for years.

Located next to Derby Line, Vt., it isn’t uncommon to see houses, office buildings, residential streets and even a public library split in half by Canada’s border with the United States.

“You could cook dinner in the U.S., walk into your dining room and eat it in Canada,” said 73-year-old Sydney Flanders, who has lived in Stanstead his entire life. “It’s definitely something unique, almost bizarre about our town.”

PM makes changes to senior ranks of civil service, focuses on good managers, not just good policy wonks

Recent changes to the upper crust of the public service may resemble a busy NHL trade deadline to outsiders, but those who know the players involved say they are evidence that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters have a traditional approach to managing senior civil servants.

In the past six weeks, there have been 17 major changes to the ranks of the senior public service, sparked by a series of high-level retirements, but this isn’t a major shakeup of the system, say the experts.

Confronting Jason Kenney and the cuts to refugee health care: An interview with Bashir Mohamed

Bashir Mohamed is, to many people, "just" a university student. However, inside him brews the power and spirit of politics and social change. His previous actions involve starting and contributing to numerous charitable projects, including an initiative to send 1500 water filters to Haiti earlier this year. He hopes in the future to become a Member of Parliament with the hope of instituting true and effective change.

On Saturday, July 14, 17-year-old Bashir Mohamed interrupted a speech given by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to highlight the growing opposition to the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) imposed by the Conservative government as of June 30. The disruption -- which took place at a BBQ in Edmonton that was open to the public, but required pre-registration -- was inspired by similar actions taken by physicians and other healthcare providers (HCPs) across the country to force CIC to reverse the cuts to the IFHP.

Romney’s ‘racist’ economic statement outrages Palestinians

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted at the luxurious King David Hotel.

‘Pussy Riot’ go on trial for cathedral protest against Putin

MOSCOW—Three women who protested against Vladimir Putin in a “punk prayer” on the altar of Russia's main cathedral went on trial on Monday in a case seen as a test of the longtime leader's treatment of dissent during a new presidential term.

The women from the band “Pussy Riot” face up to seven years in prison for an unsanctioned performance in February in which they entered Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, ascended the altar and called on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out!”

Jewish culture makes Israelis more economically successful than Palestinians, Romney tells donors

JERUSALEM—Having publicly pledged a “solemn duty and moral imperative” to protect Israel, Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians.

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.

Blackout in India: power mostly restored in the north

NEW DELHI—India’s electrical grid suffered a major systemic failure Monday morning, affecting at least seven northern states and an estimated 360 million people. By late afternoon, service was about 75 per cent restored across the region.

Power failures are common in India, but officials said Monday’s blackout was the worst in a decade. The Ministry of Power was investigating the cause, but officials suggested that part of the problem was probably excessive demand during the torrid summer.

OAS benefits denied: Immigrants told to produce residency proofs

After 40 years as a registered nurse, Yvonne Gardner never thought she'd have to beg to get her federal pension benefits.

For 14 months, the Toronto retiree has been struggling to prove to Service Canada that she's eligible for the $500 monthly Old Age Security (OAS) pension.

In the latest twist, she was asked for copies of plane tickets for all of her travels in and out of Canada since moving here from England in 1975 — a mission impossible — as proof she has lived here the minimum 10 years required to qualify.

Burlington, Vermont Protest: Protesters, Cops Square Off Ahead Of Canadian Premiers And New England Governors Meeting

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Protests kicked off Sunday ahead of the 36th annual meeting of eastern Canadian premiers and New England governors, even before official talks got underway.

A protest group official said Sunday that police in riot gear used rubber and pepper bullets against protesters outside a Burlington, Vt., hotel that is the site of the conference.

Angel Sue Larkman Indian Status: Woman's Quest To Gain Indian Status Closer To End

TORONTO - An Ontario woman's long and byzantine quest to gain Indian status — lost because her grandmother was "enfranchised" under a discredited federal government statute — is set to enter a new phase.

Federal Court will soon have to decide whether a 1952 cabinet decision that stripped Angel Sue Larkman's grandmother and her descendants of their Indian status was the result of fraud.

"I'm really sad that she couldn't be here to see this because she was a big part of it," Larkman said of her grandmother, who died two years ago.

Mitt Romney: United States Has 'Solemn Duty' To Block Nuclear Iran

JERUSALEM — Standing on Israeli soil, U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has "a solemn duty and a moral imperative" to block Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

"Make no mistake, the ayatollahs in Iran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the other way," he said. "We will not look away nor will our country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel."

Conservatives to douse fire protection program

The Conservative government plans to scrap a program designed to safeguard federal office towers and major public buildings on aboriginal reserves.

Leaked documents obtained by the Citizen show the government will dismantle the national Fire Protection Program by March 31, 2014.

Members of the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) program are responsible for ensuring federal office towers and major buildings in aboriginal communities meet National Fire Code standards.

Senate stubborn on making information about chamber more accessible

OTTAWA - When Moncton's Pascal Raiche-Nogue wanted to know how often senators from New Brunswick showed up for work, he found it near impossible to pull back the curtain on their attendance.

The reporter for weekly newspaper L'Etoile was told that he would have to physically come to Ottawa to look through the Senate attendance register, fat red binders with forms filed monthly by each senator.

The register, developed in 1998 following the scandal around truant Liberal Andrew Thompson, remains stubbornly stuck in pre-Internet, pre-open government times. The Senate website offers no information on how to access the registry or even where it is, although communications staff are helpful when one does arrive to take a peek in the downtown office building.

Opposition parties slam slow federal response to drought in Eastern Canada

Opposition MPs are calling on the federal agriculture minister to deliver assistance to drought-stricken farmers in Eastern Canada, but Conservative MPs say it’s too soon to kick-start relief programs.

“There’s just no feed crop to go around in this area, so farmers are starting to sell some of their animals,” NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac, Que.) said following meetings with farmers in his riding on July 25. “The price of beef, in particular, is really down, so this is a very tough time for farmers.”

It’s almost August: PM about to get busier

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet ministers and MPs have been busy fanning out across the country, making announcements, meeting with constituents and playing their “strongest hand” by talking about the economy, but politicos say it’s not a “charm offensive” to increase public support.

“From all the different things that I’ve seen, they’re all pretty active, doing a lot of regional stuff which is not unusual in the summer, getting close to the constituents,” Conservative pundit and Summa Strategies vice-president Tim Powers told The Hill Times last week.

Elections Canada already has power to clean up election system, it has an enforcement problem, say experts

The federal government will likely miss its own deadline to introduce legislation to crack down on voter suppression by forcing telecommunications companies and their clients to register during an election, but some experts say registration wouldn’t be much help anyways.

“As so often is true about elections laws, they sound great on paper but when it comes to either enforcement or even just evasion, it’s quite a simple matter even to get around them,” said Robert MacDermid, elections expert and political science professor at York University.

Tory MP’s ‘piddly’ fundraiser donation conflict overblown, say lobbyists Capobianco, Powers

 Lobbyists say a Conservative MP’s run-in with political fundraising and ethics rules has been overblown.

“I think you have to be pretty naïve that any politician in any party is going to act inappropriately because somebody had a piddly little fundraiser for them where the maximum any individual could give was $1,000,” said Summa Strategies vice-president Tim Powers, a Conservative pundit. “You can’t even buy a good big screen TV for $1,000 so how are you going to buy a politician? I mean, I think we’re unfair to politicians sometimes when we talk about these things and think they’re cheaper than a big screen TV.”

Pulitzer-Winning Reporting Duo Don Barlett and James Steele on "The Betrayal of the American Dream"

The famed award-winning investigative reporting team of Donald Barlett and James Steele have just published a new book, "The Betrayal of the American Dream," a followup to their landmark bestseller, "America: What Went Wrong?" As Republicans and Democrats continue disputing who should bear the brunt of the tax burden, Barlett and Steele argue that America’s middle class has been decimated over the years due to policies governing not only taxes but also bank regulations, trade deficits and pension funds. Their book chronicles how the American middle class has been systematically impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite. Barlett and Steele have worked together for more than 40 years, sharing two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards. The duo joins us for the hour to discuss the assault on the middle class, the great tax heist, deregulation, the end of retirement, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, the 2012 election and more.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Busted! Your yard sale may be breaking Toronto’s bylaws

Erik Boss, a gentle giant in dark sunglasses, peers beyond the lemonade stand, used toys and household detritus to a pair of racks positioned discreetly at the back of a cluttered Scarborough driveway. Bargain hunters mill around tables on a sunny Saturday morning, oblivious to the illegal goods that lurk amid the flotsam and jetsam of a run-of-the-mill garage sale. But something illicit has caught the eye of Mr. Boss, 300-plus-pounds of civic authority in work boots and a city uniform.

London 2012: Troops and students will help fill empty seats

LONDON—Troops, teachers and students are getting free tickets to fill prime seats that were empty at some Olympic venues on the first full day of competition.

Organizing chief Sebastian Coe answered widespread criticism Sunday by predicting that seats left unused, largely by Olympic and sports officials, will not be an issue as the games proceed.

“It is obvious, some of those seats are not being used in the early rounds,” he said at a briefing.

Toronto votes: Ranked ballots for 2018? Toronto city council may vote on changing its election system

Toronto’s council might vote in the fall on whether to use a different election system in 2018 and beyond.

At the request of Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee and council’s government management committee, city elections officials are now studying a proposal to switch to a ranked ballot system. Councillor Paul Ainslie, the government management chair and a Ford ally, said he plans to bring the proposal to the council floor in November.

The group that has spearheaded the push for ranked ballots, the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto (RaBIT), says 18 of the 45 members of council have endorsed the idea, including four members of Ford’s executive committee. While an endorsement-in-principle does not necessarily mean a committed vote, and while the Star could not independently confirm all of the endorsements, a 23-vote majority appears within reach.