Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Drip, Jordan -- Israel's water war with Palestine

We had come to the Jordan River—the one from the spirituals, which our souls yearn to cross. The same one, in name at least, that forms the boundary between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the occupied West Bank. If you believe the old stories, it was across the Jordan’s waters that Joshua led the Israelites from Egyptian exile into the land of Canaan, and it was into the Jordan that John the Baptist submerged the son of God. In 1848, when Lieutenant William Francis Lynch of the United States Navy explored the length of the lower Jordan from Lake Tiberias to the Dead Sea, he described a river between twenty-five and one hundred eighty yards wide, “serpentine” and “impetuous,” its banks thick with thistle, cane, and tamarisk. Between a “desperate looking cascade” and a “fearful cataract,” the Jordan “flowed broad and deep, yet maintaining much of the character of a torrent.”

The Citizen Kane Era Returns

Last month, the Denver Business Journal showed that international banking scandals can be a major focus of local reporting. In its article “LIBOR scandal may cost Denver schools money,” the low-circulation trade magazine documented how the interest-rate scandal, which originated in the United Kingdom, could end up bilking Colorado taxpayers of millions thanks to a refinancing plan for schools orchestrated in 2008 by then superintendent Michael Bennet. His controversial scheme placed Denver’s public-school-district pension fund in the hands of the finance industry, which later underwrote his U.S. Senate campaign.

In a state facing recurring budget deficits and underfunded schools, such losses are a blockbuster story—just as they are in every municipality whose finances have been destroyed by conniving politicians. But to date, most Coloradans haven’t heard about the local implications of the LIBOR scandal or the problems with the school-refinancing scheme. That’s because their media market’s dominant broadsheet, the Denver Post, has chosen not to invest serious resources in reporting on them.

Canadian Democracy: Death by Pipeline

You should know a few things about the Gitga’at people. They live in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, just south of Alaska, and speak the Tsimshian language. They dance and sing like spirited Maori warriors. The women speak softly to living cedar trees when they harvest a single strip of bark for basket or hat making. Every summer the Gitga’at greet returning schools of pink and chum salmon with smiles and shouts of "Ayoo, ayoo." Each member of the Gitga’at nation possesses a traditional name -- Gu thlaag, for example, means "the very instant that lightning hits a tree and the tree splits apart." For the past 10,000 years the Gitga’at have set their dinner tables with bounty from the sea, including salmon, cockles, crab, and halibut. In recent years they have struggled as commercial fisheries have declined in the region, yet the Pacific Ocean still defines them.

Canada And Torture: Feds Give RCMP And Border Guards Green Light To Use Tainted Info

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has quietly given Canada's national police force and the federal border agency the authority to use and share information that was likely extracted through torture.

Newly disclosed records show Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued the directives to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency shortly after giving similar orders to Canada's spy service.

Canadian prime ministers have too much power

The winner of the prestigious Donner Prize, an annual award for the best book on Canadian public policy, was announced last night by Allan Gotlieb, chairman of the Donner Canadian Foundation, at a gala awards dinner at the Carlu in Toronto hosted by Don Newman, chairman of Canada 2020. The $50,000 prize was awarded to the authors of Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government. An op-ed summarizing the thesis of the book, written by its two surviving authors, appears below:

Harper government cancels 3,000 environmental reviews on pipelines and other projects

OTTAWA-The Harper government’s budget legislation has forced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to cancel nearly 3,000 screenings into potential environmental damage caused by proposed development projects across Canada, including hundreds involving a pipeline or fossil fuel energy, according to published records.

Out of 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the legislation that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development, 678 involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada.

The numbers were calculated using the agency’s new online database that is still undergoing some revisions, additions and corrections.

Defra scientist's grim warning on climate change

Speaking before he steps down as chief scientist at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Sir Bob Watson also warned that governments couldn't afford to do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions despite the economic downturn, writes Channel 4 News Science Editor Tom Clarke.

At global climate summits like in Copenhagen in 2009 it was agreed to try and limit global warming to two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial temperatures. "There is really almost no chance now of meeting that political target," said Dr Watson, who also served chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "If we continue the way we are we've got a 50-50 shot of a 3 degree [warmer] world and I would not rule out a 5 degree world."

Reagan-Appointed Judge: Deregulation Movement Made 'A Fundamental Mistake'

Apparently the financial crisis was a big enough disaster to convince even some of the firmest deregulation advocates that they were wrong.

Federal judge Richard Posner said his one-time support for deregulating the financial industry was based on a “basic misunderstanding,” in an interview with Eliot Spitzer on Current TV. His about-face is all the more noteworthy because Posner was appointed by Ronald Reagan, the president known to advocate for leaving businesses alone.

GOP Attorneys General Target Voting Rights Act, Ask Supreme Court To Strike Down Key Section

Several Republican state attorneys general called a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional and asked the Supreme Court to strike it down.

The officials from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas submitted a brief in a closely watched case arguing that the law oversteps federal authority and places an unfair burden on certain states.

The case at issue involves a plan to reshape a district in Shelby County, Ala., a largely white suburb of Birmingham. The new district maps led to the sole black council member in one of the county's towns losing his seat. But the Justice Department blocked the certification of the voting results, and the town eventually redrew its districts. The black council member later re-won his seat.

Nasty Election Could Wreck The Economy, BofA Economist Warns

Like most Americans, you're probably thoroughly enjoying the nasty 2012 presidential election. We just can't get enough of the rape gaffes and the birth-certificate jokes, am I right?

But did you know that what you might consider frivolous electo-tainment could actually cause the entire U.S. economy to crash?

That is the warning in a new note by Bank of America economist Ethan Harris. He cautions that the ugly back-and-forth of this campaign could hurt the chances of Congress getting anything done about the "fiscal cliff," the $600 billion to $700 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year.

Romney Open To Sending Troops To Syria, Says Iran Nuclear Weapons Unacceptable

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday that he would send U.S. troops to Syria if needed to prevent the spread of chemical weapons.

"I think we have to also be ready to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that we do not have any kind of weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and whether that requires troops, or whether that requires other actions by our friends and allies," Romney said in an interview with CBS News.

Paul Ryan Goddam!

Despite his seemingly robotic demeanor, Mitt Romney is proving himself a bit of a rogue. His campaign has broken the cardinal rule of presidential races: pander and pivot. First the candidate secures the base during the primaries by pandering to party ideologues; then the candidate swiftly pivots to the center to attract swing voters and independents. Eric Fehrnstrom’s infamous Etch A Sketch comment back in March suggested that Romney was preparing to execute this venerable campaign two-step. But the choice of Paul Ryan as running mate obliterates the possibility of moderation. This campaign is going to run hard and fast to the right. Forget the pivot; they’re just going to pander.

Fear of a Black President

The irony of President Barack Obama is best captured in his comments on the death of Trayvon Martin, and the ensuing fray. Obama has pitched his presidency as a monument to moderation. He peppers his speeches with nods to ideas originally held by conservatives. He routinely cites Ronald Reagan. He effusively praises the enduring wisdom of the American people, and believes that the height of insight lies in the town square. Despite his sloganeering for change and progress, Obama is a conservative revolutionary, and nowhere is his conservative character revealed more than in the very sphere where he holds singular gravity—race.

John Baird: Syria's Religious Minorities Greater Concern Than Al Qaeda

OTTAWA - Fear may be escalating over the influence of al Qaeda and other Islamist fighters among Syria's rebels, but Canada's foreign affairs minister says he's more concerned about the fate of the country's religious minorities.

John Baird offered that counterpoint this past week on a growing area of concern in the Syria conflict: whether the radical jihadists among the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad pose a long-term threat to the country.

Canada Housing Market: Bubble Could Be Poised To Burst, According To Report

As debate about the stability of the Canadian housing market continues to swirl, a new report has come down firmly on the side of the bubble believers.

Rising debt levels, falling personal savings rates and house prices that have become detached from rents signal that a significant correction is on its way, according to Euro Pacific Canada, the Toronto-based branch of the global brokerage headed by Peter Schiff, who gained notoriety for predicting the U.S. housing meltdown. (Schiff also served as economic consultant the the failed 2008 presidential campaign of libertarian-leaning Ron Paul.)

Northern Gateway Poll: B.C., Alberta Strongly Divided On Pipeline

A wide chasm divides Alberta and British Columbia when it comes to the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Enbridge's proposal to bring crude from the oil sands to Kitimat, B.C. for transport across the Pacific Ocean has garnered strong support in Wild Rose Country but even stronger opposition on the West Coast.

A poll conducted by Abacus Data shows that 30 per cent of Alberta respondents strongly support the Northern Gateway while 33 per cent "somewhat" support it.

Mayor Rob Ford to face public Clayton Ruby cross-examination in conflict case

Mayor Rob Ford has been forced to testify in open court, and face cross-examination from prominent lawyer Clayton Ruby, in a high-stakes conflict of interest lawsuit that could push him out of office.

The lawsuit accuses Ford of breaking provincial law by voting in February on the issue of whether he should have to pay back a total of $3,150 to lobbyists, clients of lobbyists, and a corporation whose donations to his football foundation he improperly accepted.

Ottawa judge Charles Hackland’s Friday decision to make him take the stand means he will face an unusual public grilling from one of the country’s top legal minds.

Northern Gateway’s unpopularity may force Tories to rethink project

OTTAWA — The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline’s unpopularity in B.C. — even among Conservatives — may have provided a “motivation” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s west coast MPs to convince the government to distance itself from the project, suggests a poll released Friday.

The Abacus Data Inc. poll reveals a deep wedge between Alberta and B.C., two political pillars of Harper’s majority government, and suggests a growing distance between Alberta and the rest of the country.

Political games surround the F-35

More than four months after the auditor general raised concerns about the Harper government's handling of the $25-billion F-35 program, the political spin continues - with no end in sight.

This week was no exception as the NDP held a day of "hearings" into the program, while Defence Minister Peter MacKay's parliamentary secretary claimed the government never said it had decided to buy the stealth fighter.

And that was only after a senior Lockheed Martin official said the company is still planning its deliveries of 65 F-35s to Canada - the Harper government's promise to review the purchase notwithstanding.

Canada’s secret military task force unveiled

Canada’s top secret task force isn’t so secret anymore, emerging from the shadows and landing in the public spotlight Friday in an unprecedented show of its specialized military skills.

Members of Joint Task Force 2, an elite group praised for its counter-terrorism operations around the world, participated in a complex simulation exercise in Hudson Bay and Churchill, Man., in front of cameras for the first time, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay looked on.

Guergis to appeal dismissed lawsuit against Harper

Former Conservative MP Helena Guergis will appeal an Ontario court's decision released Friday that struck down the lawsuit she filed against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other top Conservatives and staff.

Harper and the other defendants countered her lawsuit, filed in December, with a motion to toss it out and Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland granted that motion.

Michael Bryant is sorry, but I want more

For someone trying to prove he’s newly humbled, showing up on every available media outlet to hype a book about his downfall is a questionable plan.

Whether he’s seeking a return to politics or just a rehabilitation of his image, though, there is really no playbook for the comeback Michael Bryant is trying to achieve. So he’s attempting to write his own.

Payment system operators violating Competition Act, says Commissioner Aitken

Current payment processing practices violate the Competition Act and should be changed to give merchants more choice and consumers fairer prices, but banks issuing credit cards with premiums and perks on them say it’s the cost of doing business.

“Payment cards are a cheaper and a safer payment system than using cash, and the benefits of the cards far outweigh the legitimate cost of accepting them,” Canadian Bankers Association president Terry Campbell said. “Credit card costs are a cost of doing business. Quite frankly, it’s among the smaller costs that businesses face.”

Canadian special forces soldiers put on rare display of fighting talents

ABOARD HMCS ST. JOHN’S—Three rigid inflatable boats speed across the choppy waters of Hudson Bay, slow alongside a fishing vessel and send soldiers clambering up the sides.

Two helicopters swoop in overhead. They slow to a hover 10 metres off the deck, ropes drop down and other soldiers rappel to the moving boat below.

They hit the deck fast and hard and unclip from the ropes with guns at the ready.

Political words: A reply

At Maclean’s, Aaron Wherry took issue with parts of my piece from yesterday on the way the NDP has used the words from Jack Layton’s last letter.

My contention was that, though they were nice things in spirit, they have been co-opted, packaged and sold to us as political sloganeering. As such, they should never been seen as anything but part of the cynical political system within which we operate. That is, rather than us all becoming cynical about the words because of the overall tone of discourse, or the way we all approach politics generally, the framing of the words from day one was inherently playing into that structure. So, there is no way to not be cynical about the words and view them as purely partisan marketing.

Conservative MP Chris Alexander Takes MacLean’s Writer To Task After He Publishes Accurate Quotes on the F-35 Issue and The Conservatives

Defence Watch has received a number of phone calls and emails about Conservative MP Chris Alexander and his latest statements/claims about the Conservative government and the F-35 procurement. One reader stated that Alexander has “made a fool of himself once again” while another called him “the new Julian Fantino.”

What was it all about?

It appears to have started when Alexander said the following about the F-35 issue during a discussion on Power and Politics on CBC.

Ottawa allows RCMP, border agency to use torture-tainted information

The Conservative government has quietly given Canada’s national police force and the federal border agency the authority to use and share information that was likely extracted through torture.

Newly disclosed records show Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued the directives to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency shortly after giving similar orders to Canada’s spy service.

Council of Canadians defends data suggesting robocalls affected election outcomes

The Council of Canadians has assembled detailed rebuttals of the Conservatives’ attack on polling data used to back claims that “robocalls” swung the results of last year’s federal election in a small number of ridings.

The advocacy group is backing a series of court challenges brought by voters who claim live and pre-recorded calls changed the outcome in the seven ridings, all won by Conservatives.