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.]

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Dodgy data might hinder perimeter pact's entry-exit tracking: border agency

OTTAWA - Canadian officials worry that the poor quality of information routinely collected from airline passengers could hamper a key feature of the perimeter security deal with the United States.

An internal Canada Border Services Agency briefing note warns the lack of reliable data might be an obstacle to compiling a comprehensive record of almost everyone who enters and leaves the continent.

The entry-exit tracking system, to be phased in over the next two years, is a crucial feature of the perimeter security pact unfurled with much fanfare a year ago.

Prisons watchdog: Some lessons 'ignored' since Ashley Smith death

In his first public comments since the release of surveillance videos related to the prison-death case of teenager Ashley Smith, Canada's prison watchdog conceded that correctional staff still struggle with the "day-to-day practice" of looking after inmates with mental illnesses.

Speaking to CTV's Question Period Sunday, Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers said frontline prison staff are still forgetting to consider mental health issues in everyday transactions with inmates, despite the recognition that a different approach is needed.

Religion And Politics: IRS Not Enforcing Rules On Separation Of Church And State

NEW YORK (AP) — For the past three years, the Internal Revenue Service hasn't been investigating complaints of partisan political activity by churches, leaving religious groups who make direct or thinly veiled endorsements of political candidates unchallenged.

The IRS monitors religious and other nonprofits on everything from salaries to spending, and that oversight continues. However, Russell Renwicks, a manager in the IRS Mid-Atlantic region, recently said the agency had suspended audits of churches suspected of breaching federal restrictions on political activity. A 2009 federal court ruling required the IRS to clarify which high-ranking official could authorize audits over the tax code's political rules. The IRS has yet to do so.

Living Wage To Be Introduced By Labour Says Ed Miliband As Part Of One Nation Vision

Plans to deliver a "living wage" of at least £7.20 per hour for millions of people in the public and private sector are being put at the centre of Labour's bid to return to power, Ed Miliband has said.

The leader of the opposition said the wage - the minimum hourly rate needed for an acceptable standard of living - was a key plank of his "One Nation" vision to share prosperity.

Miliband has been working closely with his brother, David, at looking at three ways of making the pay terms the new norm, including naming and shaming listed companies who do not pay the wage through corporate governance rules, the Daily Mail reports.

The Tea Party is the GOP’s own worst enemy

The Obama-Romney contest will get the eyeballs, but the more important battle Tuesday night will be the battle for control of Congress.

Today, Republicans control the House of Representatives 242-193. Democrats hold the Senate, 53-47 (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont).

Crossing the Line

In the summer of 2007, Eve Mosher, an artist who grew up in Texas and lives in New York, bought a machine known as a Heavy Hitter. Heavy Hitters are typically used to produce the white chalk lines found on Little League fields, but Mosher had an entirely different purpose in mind. She filled the Heavy Hitter with a combination of white chalk and blue pigment and began pushing it through the streets of Brooklyn.

Police refuse to confirm major purchases are rights violating devices

The BC Civil Liberties Association has confirmed that both the RCMP and Vancouver Police Departments have made major purchases from Dyplex Communications, the Canadian distributor for Datong, manufacturers of a futuristic communications interception device that can shut down cell phone service, act as a mobile cell tower and intercept phone messages, and build lists of all unique cell phone identifiers over a four block area. Both police agencies have refused to confirm whether or not they have purchased the device. The OPP has also refused to confirm whether they have a similar device. The Metropolitan Police in London, England have confirmed they have the device.

Leah-Lynn Plante and Portland's Anarchist Grand Jury Resistors

On May 1st, 2012, an initially peaceful march in Seattle turned violent when dozens of black-clad protesters brandishing sticks, poles, rocks, paint bombs, and homemade incendiaries joined the demonstration. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn declared civil emergency that afternoon, and by the end of the day, the clash between police and protesters resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in damage to private and city property and multiple arrests for assault, pedestrian interference, and vandalism.

On July 25th, 2012, the FBI raided three houses in Portland, Oregon. According to one search warrant, officials were looking for black clothing, sticks, flags, diary entries about the protests, and “anti-government or anarchist literature or material.” In the wake of those sweeps, members of Portland’s anarchist community including Leah-Lynn Plante, Dennison Williams, Katherine “Kteeo” Olejnik, and Matt Duran were subpoenaed to testify in front of a federal grand jury about their knowledge of the May Day action.

Beck Acts as a Bridge Between Romney and Evangelical Christians

On radio and on his Internet network, the influential conservative pundit Glenn Beck frequently invokes God, religious freedom and the founding fathers, but he does not regularly discuss his own Mormon faith.

 But in early September, he broke with practice and hosted a special one-hour show, asking his audience, “Does Mitt Romney’s Mormonism make him too scary or weird to be elected to president of the United States?”

Romney Campaign, Karl Rove Framing Hurricane Sandy For Possible Election Day Defeat

Three days remain until Election Day, but Mitt Romney's campaign has suggested that Hurricane Sandy would be to blame for a possible defeat.

Citing sources within the campaign, Jan Crawford of CBS News reported Saturday that Team Romney believes the storm, which devastated parts of the East Coast last week, is responsible for putting a halt on their much-touted momentum.

Senate Could Still Be Republican Prize If Everything Breaks Their Way

This was supposed to be a Republican year in the U.S. Senate contests, with better than even odds that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would take the majority leader's seat from Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the 113th Congress.

In January 2012, Democrats were looking at defending 23 seats, with seven incumbents retiring, while the GOP had only 10 seats to worry about, with just two senators retiring in reliably Republican states. To guarantee McConnell would grab the gavel, the GOP needed to pick up just four seats, theoretically powered along by widespread discontent over the economy.

Don’t hobble probe into Ashley Smith’s death

Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls Ashley Smith’s 2007 death in Canada’s prison system a “terrible tragedy.” He calls the behaviour of Correctional Service Canada “completely unacceptable.” Yet he has been content to let federal lawyers fight doggedly to limit the scope of the coroner’s inquest into her death.

That has left Canadians wondering just what the prison service is trying to hide in a scandalous case that has appalled the nation, created a furor in Parliament and dragged on for far too long already.

For all its problems, India is still an attractive place for Canadians to do business

MUMBAI, India — Playboy is opening a club by the beach next month in the predominately Christian Indian state of Goa.

This development shows how much India has changed. And how much it hasn’t.

The first of what may be many Playboy clubs in India will emphasize luxury and glamour rather than sexuality, according to a spate of Indian and international news reports. The bunnies, who elsewhere usually have rabbit ears, cotton tails and skimpy costumes, are to dressed modestly in Goa, whatever that means. The state’s tourism ministry is said to be insisting on it.

Glen Murray to unveil tax cuts plan at campaign launch

Liberal leadership contender Glen Murray will unveil a platform of tax cuts and “no money down” university and college tuition when he officially launches his campaign Sunday, the Star has learned.

Murray resigned his post as minister of Training, Colleges and Universities in a phone call to outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty on Saturday morning, clearing the way for the announcement.

The 55-year-old, who is openly gay, said in an interview with the Star that his experience as mayor of Winnipeg for six years ending in 2004 and two years in cabinet qualify him for the province’s top post.

New J-31 stealth jet gives China a fighting chance

CHINA has unveiled a new advanced fighter jet - the second in only two years.

As cost-blowouts and technical troubles continue to delay the United States' only new fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, China appears to be rapidly gaining ground in the technological arms race.

Earlier this year China' first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, entered active service. A large stealth fighter, designated the J-20, was revealed to the public last year.

TTC’s Andy Byford 'not happy' after buses diverted for Mayor Rob Ford’s high school football team

TTC head Andy Byford says he is “not happy” after learning fare-paying riders were taken off two buses so they could be dispatched to pick up high school football players coached by Mayor Rob Ford.

In an email to transit commissioners Saturday, the CEO said he planned to follow up with Toronto police and the mayor’s office about the incident.

“For the record: I had no idea that two buses were used nor that customers were inconvenienced,” Byford wrote.

Media mars Canadian PM’s ‘dhaba food’ diplomacy

CHANDIGARH - He would have savoured spicy chicken curry and dal tadka with tandoori naans and rotis at a popular dhaba (roadside eatery) here but security concerns and “media leaks” have knocked this off the menu of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit here November 7, during which he will pray at the Takht Keshgarh Sahib, the second most important Sikh shrine after Golden Temple, at Anandpur Sahib, 80 km from here.

“The dhaba visit has unfortunately been cancelled. He being a G-20 leader, there were a lot of security issues involved. It’s not happening now,” Shiv Raj who works in Harper’s office and is here as part of the advance party, said.

Climate change silence and Jason Kenney's award: Signs of depressing state of our political discourse

In the United States just about the first mention of climate change during this year's election campaign came when New York Mayor Bloomberg linked Hurricane Sandy to climate change. It was, Bloomberg said, the reason why he decided to endorse President Obama.

The Mayor believes Obama will take the global warming crisis more seriously than his Republican opponent -- although the President has not actually said anything during the campaign to justify that confidence.

There are reasons for Obama's current silence on climate change and virtually every other environmental issue and they can all be summed up in one word: politics.

In Ontario politics, money talks

Even before it starts, the race to renew Ontario’s Liberal party is stuck in time.

Listen to the candidates earnestly talk up future reforms. Then watch how money talks, as the contestants shamelessly revert to past tactics to finance their leadership campaigns.

On Sunday, Glen Murray finally becomes the first Liberal to formally launch his campaign, to be followed Monday by Kathleen Wynne — and with more to come. Collectively, they will hit up a Who’s Who of Liberal patrons for potentially unlimited funding.

Mitt Romney Crippled Model Anti-Smoking Program In Massachusetts

WASHINGTON -- In the mid 1980s, Massachusetts Department of Public Health official Gregory Connolly began a seemingly hopeless campaign to end smoking in his state. He had no full-time staff and a piecemeal budget. More people complained about his smoking cessation clinics than attended them. If he wanted to check his effectiveness with his own colleagues, he just had to get up from his desk and inhale.

"My building was filled with smoke," he told The Huffington Post. "Doctors, nurses smoked."

In Sandy's Wake, Insurance Industry Must Better Account For Climate Change, Critics Say

In 2009, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a standard-setting and regulatory support body comprised of chief insurance regulators from all 50 states, reached a historic agreement.

Beginning in 2010, the organization announced, insurance companies would be required to disclose, to regulators and investors, "the financial risks they face from climate change, as well as actions the companies are taking to respond to those risks."

In a matter of months, that agreement fell apart.

Progressive Activists: The Idealists

2012-11-02-SVossJeffAravosis03copy3.jpgFour years ago, on the day Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, the world seemed full of possibilities -- particularly for the people who spend their careers trying to make the world a better place.

Advocates for economic fairness, gay rights, civil liberties, the environment and campaign finance reform were filled with hope for momentous change.

They weren’t just celebrating the end of eight years of deregulatory disaster, constant war, growing inequality and state-sanctioned torture under the Bush administration. They were responding to Obama’s explicit commitment to such key progressive goals as closing Guantanamo, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich, capping carbon emissions and introducing comprehensive immigration reform.

The Blackmail Caucus

If President Obama is re-elected, health care coverage will expand dramatically, taxes on the wealthy will go up and Wall Street will face tougher regulation. If Mitt Romney wins instead, health coverage will shrink substantially, taxes on the wealthy will fall to levels not seen in 80 years and financial regulation will be rolled back.

 Given the starkness of this difference, you might have expected to see people from both sides of the political divide urging voters to cast their ballots based on the issues. Lately, however, I’ve seen a growing number of Romney supporters making a quite different argument. Vote for Mr. Romney, they say, because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.

Romney, Business Allies Finish With Strong Argument: Vote With Us, Or You're Fired

WASHINGTON -- The Mitt Romney campaign and its business allies are driving home a final message unlike one we've seen in past presidential campaigns: Vote Romney, or you're fired.

The pressure on workers in swing states to toe the GOP line hasn't been restricted to any particular industry. Corporate apparel makers in Ohio, truck stop attendants in Ohio and Virginia, casino employees in Nevada, construction workers in Florida, gift-card purveyors in Colorado and Florida, car-parts makers in Michigan, software technicians in Florida and Colorado, coal miners in Ohio, dock manufacturers in Wisconsin, frozen-food packers in Michigan, resort staff in Florida, Virginia and Nevada, and people all over the country who work -- or used to work -- for Koch Industries or another Koch-owned company have all been given notice by their boss that an Obama victory could lead to layoffs or otherwise harm the company and its workers.

Nexen Takeover: Ottawa Gives Itself More Time To Review Controversial Bid From CNOOC

OTTAWA - The Harper government bought itself some more time to deal with a political hot potato, extending a review of the controversial $15.1-billion bid by a Chinese state-owned company to acquire Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen Inc (TSX:NXY).

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in a news release issued Friday evening that the Investment Canada Act review of the proposed purchase has been extended by 30 days until Dec. 10.

Quebec NDP Divides Members, Party Focuses On Defeating Harper

MONTREAL - New Democrats were divided Saturday about whether to set up a Quebec wing of their party that would add a left-leaning, federalist voice to the provincial political arena.

There was no clear consensus as Quebec party delegates debated the issue at a weekend meeting in Montreal.

Some argued setting up a provincial party cousin would provide voters with a much-needed alternative to the sovereigntist parties that occupy the left end of Quebec's political spectrum. Others worried it would steal away resources that could be used to beat the federal Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mulcair’s bull by the horns attitude may have Conservatives shaking in their boots

On his 58th birthday, New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair stood in the House of Commons for more than an hour delivering perhaps his most important speech yet as leader.

He was elected the party’s seventh leader in its 51-year history earlier this year, replacing Jack Layton who led the party to an historic second-place finish in the 2011 election before dying of cancer.

Glen Murray quits cabinet, leadership bid expected

The resignation of another Ontario cabinet minister Saturday is fuelling speculation that the race for the provincial Liberal leadership is about to get off the launching pad.

Toronto-Centre MPP Glen Murray broke the news in a Twitter message on Saturday that he is stepping down as the province's minister of training, colleges and universities — a necessary step for those who want to enter the leadership race to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty as party leader.

Superstorm Sandy: Power slowly returns to New York as frustration over gas shortages grow

NEW YORK, N.Y.—The lights went back on Saturday in lower Manhattan, prompting screams of sweet relief from residents who had been plunged into darkness for nearly five days by Superstorm Sandy. But that joy contrasted with deepening resentment in the city’s outer boroughs and suburbs over a continued lack of power and maddening gas shortages.

Adding to the misery of those lacking power, heat or gasoline: dipping temperatures. Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged older residents without heat to move to shelters, and said 25,000 blankets were being distributed across the city.

PM Harper looks to boost ties to India

OTTAWA—He’ll take a bit of curry and play tourist at the Taj Mahal but make no mistake, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to India is all business.

Harper leaves Ottawa on Saturday, leading a political and business delegation to the world’s largest democracy on a mission to forge closer economic ties with the emerging powerhouse.

Travelling from Chandigarh in the north to Bangalore in the south, Harper will spend six days in India, a duration rarely seen on the PM’s foreign travels but that reflects the priority Canada now places on the nation, an aide says.