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.]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Drought-hit farmers asked to repay funds from mad-cow crisis

As Eastern Ontario farmers deal with the worst drought in more than a decade, the provincial government is asking approximately 4,500 farmers to return overpayments from as far back as 2003.

Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren’s office says Agricorp, an Ontario government agency that provides risk management programs for farmers, began sending the letters to Ontario farmers in April. MacLaren, a farmer, received a letter himself.

Rachel Corrie's death is not merely a 'regrettable accident'

Independent Jewish Voices - Canada rejects Haifa District Court's decision to remove any blame from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) or the Israeli driver of the military bulldozer that killed 23-year old Rachel Corrie nearly a decade ago. In a decision issued today, Judge Oded Gershon called her death a “regrettable accident."

In March 2003, Corrie, an American peace activist from Washington State, stood in front of the house of a local pharmacist in Rafah, Gaza. Dressed in a bright orange security vest, she and other members of the International Solidarity Movement peacefully stood in front of the home to prevent its demolition.

Turning anger into action to stop Harper's foreign policy

If you're reading this you probably know that the Harper-led Conservative government has ramped up the corporate and military orientation of Canadian foreign policy. But, the extent to which they’ve done so will likely be a surprise.

In The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy I detail the sordid story of this country's sabotage of international environmental efforts, of a government in bed with tar sands producers and a mining industry widely criticized for abuses. My forthcoming book also discusses the Conservatives' bombing of Libya, ongoing war in Afghanistan and support for aggression in Iran, Lebanon and Somalia. In effect, Harper's Conservatives have designed Canadian foreign policy to please the most reactionary, short-sighted sectors of the Conservative Party's base — evangelical Christian Zionists, extreme right-wing Jews, Islamophobes, the military-industrial-complex as well as mining and oil executives.

China's Nexen offer hard for Ottawa to refuse

China’s $15-billion deal to buy a major Canadian petroleum producer and a slice of the Alberta oilsands may have trapped the Harper government between a rock and a slippery slope of Chinese takeovers.

The bid by the state-controlled giant China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) to buy Calgary-based Nexen Inc. and its stake in the oilsands was formally submitted to the Canadian government for approval late Wednesday.

Miners charged with murder of 34 colleagues who were shot and killed by South African police

JOHANNESBURG—South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority says it is charging 270 arrested miners with the murders of 34 striking colleagues who were shot and killed by police officers.

The strange development — which comes under an arcane Roman-Dutch common law — seems to show that President Jacob Zuma’s government is attempting to shift the blame for the killings from police to the striking miners. The killings shocked the nation and Thursday’s news likely will inflame already angry South Africans.

Prosecuting Authority spokesman Frank Lesenyego says all 270 miners arrested after the shootings were charged Thursday at a court near the Lonmin PLC platinum mine where the fatalities occurred.

On Aug. 16, striking miners armed with clubs, machetes and at least one gun allegedly charged at police, who opened fire.

Original Article
Source: the star
Author: AP

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.

The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.

The Legitimate Children of Rape

Writing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Felicia H. Stewart and Dr. James Trussell have estimated that there are twenty-five thousand rape-related pregnancies each year in the United States. While these numbers make up only a small part of this country’s annual three million unwanted pregnancies, the numbers are still extremely high. Nonetheless, the relationship between rape and pregnancy has been a topic of highly politicized debate since long before Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape,” Paul Ryan’s bill with its category of “forcible rape,” and Sharron Angle’s suggestion, two years ago, that women pregnant through rape make “a lemon situation into lemonade.” There is a veritable war of statistics about rape and pregnancy, and the confusion is exacerbated by the competing agendas of the pro-choice and anti-abortion movements. It has been argued that fear promotes ovulation, and that women who are raped have a ten-per-cent risk of pregnancy; there are estimates of as little as one per cent. Numbers are also skewed when they are adjusted to include or exclude women not of reproductive age; for sodomy and other forms of rape that cannot cause pregnancy; for rape victims who may be using oral birth control or I.U.D.s; and for women who are raped and become or are pregnant as a result of consensual sex with a husband or partner who is not the rapist, before or after the rape. Women who are being abused on an ongoing basis are particularly likely to conceive in rape. Catherine MacKinnon has written, “Forced pregnancy is familiar, beginning in rape and proceeding through the denial of abortions; this occurred during slavery and still happens to women who cannot afford abortions.”

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Loses Appeals Court Ruling Allowing False Arrest Lawsuit

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio might want to get ready to spend more time in court defending himself.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that two news executives for the Phoenix New Times can sue the Maricopa County sheriff's office for their 2007 arrests.

The men, newspaper co-owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, were arrested at their homes in the middle of the night after their publication reported the sheriff's office planned to use a subpoena to figure out who was talking to journalists about Arpaio. Arpaio's allies drafted subpoenas that "demanded that the paper reveal its confidential sources as well as produce reporters’ and editors' notebooks, memoranda, and documents" related to stories about Arpaio, according to the court ruling. The New Times refused, leading to misdemeanor charges against Lacey and Larkin of disclosing grand jury inner workings. The charges were dropped the next day.

Super PACs Spending: Tech Tools That Help You To See Who's Funding Whom

Do you want to throw your remote at the TV when a political ad, especially one sponsored by a super PAC, interrupts your sacred "Breaking Bad" time to bombard you with partisan, distorted messages? Well, put your clicker down, because there's a better way to channel your frustration.

While many are unhappy with influence of super PACs in this election cycle, there's a bevy of websites and apps that techies have put together to help average voters uncover who's funding which groups and to learn who's really speaking in the ads. This is ordinarily a tough task, due the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which lets corporations and unions donate unlimited funds to super PACs, organizations nominally unaffiliated with any campaign. While the ruling requires ads to say which group is sponsoring them, the super PACs themselves often use legal loopholes to obscure who’s funding them.

The Paul Ryan Speech: Five Hypocrisies

My quick take on Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night is that it is awfully difficult to criticize President Obama when you’ve spent the last fourteen years in Washington dealing with many of the same issues. In five significant cases, Ryan’s attacks on the President were breathtakingly hypocritical.

Fox News' Sally Kohn: Paul Ryan's RNC Speech 'Was Attempt To Set World Record For Blatant Lies'

According to Fox News columnist Sally Kohn, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday "was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."

"On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold," Kohn wrote.

Paul Ryan Address: Convention Speech Built On Demonstrably Misleading Assertions

TAMPA, Fla. -- Paul Ryan pledged Wednesday that if he and his running mate Mitt Romney were elected president, they would usher in an ethic of responsibility. The Wisconsin congressman and GOP vice presidential candidate repeatedly chided President Barack Obama for blaming the jobs and housing crises on his predecessor, saying that his habit of "forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago -– isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?"

Ryan then noted that Obama, while campaigning for president, promised that a GM plant in Wisconsin would not shut down. "That plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight," Ryan said.

Except Obama didn't promise that. And the plant closed in December 2008 -- while George W. Bush was president.

They Love the Lies Paul Ryan Tells

It fell to Mitch McConnell, arguably the lousiest public speaker ever to practice the political craft, to sum up everything that can or should be said about the Republican National Convention.

Opening the “We Can Change It” themed second night of he convention with a call to remove President Obama, the Senate minority leader declared that it was time to put “Mitt Ryan” in charge of the republic.

Forgive McConnell.

He just said what everyone at the convention seemed to be thinking: Wouldn’t it be cool if Paul Ryan were topping the ticket?

Obama: "We Need to Seriously Consider" A Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United

President Obama set the internet aflame Wednesday with his "Ask Me Anything" Q-and-A on Reddit, the massive web aggregator and online community.

Given Mother Jones' obsession with super-PACs, dark money, and the mad dash for campaign cash in 2012, one particular question stood out to us: "What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?"

Obama responded by decrying the "no-holds barred flow of seven- and eight-figure checks" into super-PACs' war chests. He worried that these outside groups "threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens."

With Ryan Speech, Romney Campaign Goes Full Tea Party

If there is a bedrock of conventional wisdom in presidential politics, it is this: First, succeed in the primaries by winning over the base, and then move to the center in the general election to court independent and middle-of-the-road voters. So where is Mitt Romney's pivot to the center?

Throughout his political career, Romney has demonstrated a high degree of flexibility. But he has yet to employ those skills as the final stage of this presidential slog begins. And with Rep. Paul Ryan's fiery speech at the GOP convention on Wednesday night, it was clear that Romney did not pick Ryan to appeal to the undecideds in the middle. The speech was an indication that the Romney crew has gone rogue—or completely tea party.

Kimberly Rivera, Iraq War Resister, Deportation Hearing Today

TORONTO - An American soldier who has been living in Canada with her family for the past five years will learn today if she will be deported to the U.S.

Kimberly Rivera, the first female U.S. war resister, fled to Canada in 2008 to avoid further military service.

She had initially arrived while on leave but then applied for refugee status.

The War Resisters Support Campaign says Rivera will face harsh penalties if she is ordered to return to the United States.

The group says two other Iraq war resisters who were deported, Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, faced year-long jail sentences upon their return.

Rivera lives in Toronto with her husband and four children.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: The Canadian Press

Rob Ford lets molehill become mountain

The indefatigably controversial Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, will face a moment of truth next Wednesday when he appears before an Ontario Superior Court judge to face allegations that he violated the province’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. If the judge rules against him, Mr. Ford will be summarily thrown out of office. This is a drastic outcome that does not correspond proportionately to the allegations. Furthermore, to unseat a democratically elected mayor so easily would set a terrible precedent.

How to fix an 'upside-down' immigration system

You know all those "illegal aliens," meaning the Mexican migrant workers that the Americans want to throw out? If we had any sense, we'd bring them to Canada.

It is not an idea you hear very often. But it is exactly what James McNiven proposed, albeit more for dramatic effect, at the annual Palmer Conference on immigration at the University of PEI this summer.

Every single speaker and contributor at the conference agreed immigration is good for Canada's growth and prosperity.

Canada: Not quite the conservative paradise Republicans think it is

Chatting on the way into Tampa's arena, a pleasant sixty-something woman advised me that I really should watch 2016: Obama's America, a favourite of delegates here that darkly warns of what will result from four more years of a President whose ideological roots are supposedly in Africa. She also wanted me to know how much she likes Canada.

She and her husband live in upstate New York, so they're well-acquainted with Montreal's charms. If Barack Obama wins re-election in November, she said half-jokingly, maybe they'll move there.

Ottawa’s ‘dead money’ tirade misses the point

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is lambasting Canadian business for hoarding cash instead of creating jobs. He should look into a mirror. It’s his government that has created this sorry state of affairs.

The hoarding controversy made headlines last week when Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney publicly urged Canadian businesses to reinvest the estimated $500 billion in what he called “dead money” they are now sitting on.

Flaherty followed suit a few days later.

The challenges for charities of disclosing fundraising costs

It's not that often that charities law and criminal law intersect, but the decision of R. v. Gour, decided June 28, 2012, did just that. The case was about an individual, Adam Gour, who had contracted to fundraise for charity, and his and his contractor's failure to disclose the commissions that would be earned. The court concluded this was a fraud. The case is only six pages long, and makes for a compelling read.

The issue of paying fundraisers in the context of charitable donations has been a controversial one for some time. Under the Income Tax Act, charities are obligated to devote their resources exclusively to charitable purposes and activities. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the agency which oversees charities, does not consider fundraising in and of itself to be a charitable purpose or a charitable activity that directly furthers a charitable purpose. The CRA has developed extensive guidelines for charities.

U.S. workers stand against Mitt Romney model of outsourced jobs

TAMPA, Fla.—Four hardy souls from rural Illinois joined tens of thousands of people undeterred by threats of Hurricane Isaac during this week's Republican National Convention. They weren't among the almost 2,400 delegates to the convention, though, nor were they from the press corps, said to number 15,000. They weren't part of the massive police force assembled here, more than 3,000 strong, all paid for with $50 million of U.S. taxpayer money. These four were about to join a much larger group: the more than 2.4 million people in the past decade whose U.S. jobs have been shipped to China. In their case, the company laying them off and sending their jobs overseas is Bain Capital, co-founded by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

Paul Ryan’s rousing, disappointing speech

Watching Paul Ryan’s speech from inside the Tampa Bay Times Stadium, it was clearly a huge success with the party faithful. The crowd of delegates roared their approval and jumped to their feet energized by his delivery and his message. The convention hall was not quite as electrified as by Sarah Palin’s combative speech in 2008, but it was still buzzing.

The personal stories and the conservative platitudes were all well done. But the substance was a  let down. Sure, all political speeches contain some exaggeration and smoke and mirrors, and the Obama campaign and its allies have run some misleading ads in this election campaign. But this speech was a flat-out taunt to fact-checkers. For a guy who has assumed the role of the Republicans’ egghead policy wonk, promising to give bold solutions to tough problems and to make the campaign about “big things,” his speech was a disappointment.

Tory government likely to continue with F-35 purchase: Williams

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government intends to continue with plans to acquire a fleet of F-35 stealth warplanes rather than look at other options to replace Canada’s aging fleet of fighter jets following a scathing report on the project from Auditor General Michael Ferguson last April, says a former assistant deputy minister about an email exchange between Public Works and The Hill Times.

In an email exchange with The Hill Times clarifying an independent review of the F-35 acquisition that Public Works plans to obtain, the department said the outside firm that will carry out the review will be tasked with ensuring only that all of the steps the government has taken since the July, 2010, Cabinet decision to buy the F-35s will be under scrutiny.

Lowe’s hires Ottawa lobbyist in push for Rona takeover

U.S. retailer Lowe’s Cos. Inc. has retained the services of an Ottawa lobbyist as it tries to navigate tricky political waters in its attempt to land Quebec hardware chain Rona Inc.

Robert Evershed, principal at Prospectus Associates in Corporate Development Inc., disclosed in Canada’s registry of lobbyists that his firm began promoting Lowe’s interests as of Aug. 20.

Dalton McGuinty has made enemies of friends

It’s not every day that 5,000 teachers mass at Queen’s Park for an anti-government protest. Not since the Mike Harris and Bob Rae eras have unions targeted the party in power for defeat.

For the minority Liberals, itching to transform themselves into a majority government in two coming byelections, this is not looking like a winning strategy

Miners' attack on Yanomami Amazon tribe 'kills dozens'

An attack by gold miners on a group of Yanomami tribespeople in Venezuela has left up to 80 people dead, according to campaign groups.

The attack is reported to have taken place last month in the remote Irotatheri community, close to the border with Brazil.

The miners allegedly set fire to a communal house, with witnesses reporting finding burnt bodies.

Growing Opposition to the Canada-EU Trade Agreement

With the final rounds of negotiations sessions planned for September and October, Canada and the EU are closing in on a free trade deal that would go far beyond the reach of NAFTA. Meanwhile, there is growing opposition to the agreement as the whole process has lacked openness, transparency and any public consultations. In Canada, there are concerns over the threat it poses to local democracy. This includes fears of deregulation and privatization, as well the expansion of corporate investor rights. There are also warnings that the deal could be used as a backdoor means to implement ACTA which was rejected by the European Parliament in July.

Antarctic may host methane stores

Large volumes of methane - a potent greenhouse gas - could be locked beneath the ice-covered regions of Antarctica, according to a new study.

It says this methane could be released into the atmosphere as ice retreats, contributing to climate warming.