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, December 02, 2012

DIA sending hundreds more spies overseas

The Pentagon will send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size, U.S. officials said.

The project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has been dominated for the past decade by the demands of two wars, into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.

As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price

In the end, the money that towns across America gave General Motors did not matter.

When the automaker released a list of factories it was closing during bankruptcy three years ago, communities that had considered themselves G.M.’s business partners were among the targets.

Stephen Harper is not doing Israel any favours

If the UN decision to recognize Palestine was as meaningless as it’s made out to be, why did its opponents fight so ferociously against it?

Of course, the vote was significant. Its critics knew that as well — hence the panic, before and after it.

The vote was overwhelming, more than two-thirds in favour — 138 for, 9 against and 41 abstentions. Much to Canada’s shame, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was among the loudest pipsqueak noises against the tide of history.

Federal commission says 'no' to building code changes for wildfire-prone areas

EDMONTON - A federal commission has rejected proposals to change Canada's national construction codes to better protect communities from destructive wildfires.

The changes would have required builders in areas prone to forest fires to use less flammable building materials, to space buildings farther apart and to keep them clear of trees and vegetation.

Stakes of Canadian culture shift steeper than next election, experts warn

The Conservative government’s moves to re-imagine Canadian identity could end up creating national tensions, experts speaking a the annual State of the Federation conference in Kingston warned this weekend.

Tracey Raney of Ryerson University and Tim Nieguth from Laurentian University study what enables government to shape national identity and what the implications of this might be. Their central argument is that the Conservative government is rebranding its role and attempting to rebrand Canadian national identity.

And the winner is … Elizabeth May

One morning this session, at the start of parliamentary business, Elizabeth May and Liberal MP Frank Valeriote ran into each other in the House of Commons. They had both been there late the night before for a debate. Valeriote apparently assumed that May had had the misfortune to be assigned a morning shift in the House. “He looked at me and he was so tired he forgot that I didn’t have somebody ordering me around,” May recalls. “He said, ‘Oh jeez, did you get House duty again?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, my leader’s such a bitch.’ ”

Canada's Military Ombudsman Wants Access To Secret Cabinet Records And Information

OTTAWA - Canada's military ombudsman is reviewing whether he has the right to look at cabinet secrets in light of stonewalling from the Harper government during a recent investigation into the care of reservists.

Pierre Daigle's office ran into roadblocks when it asked for documents related to the inability of National Defence to deliver on a promise to increase dismemberment coverage for part-time soldiers.

Egypt protesters storm Muslim Brotherhood headquarters

A 15-year-old is dead after rioters stormed a Muslim Brotherhood headquarters building in the clash between protesters and police late Sunday in the town of Damanhoor in the Nile delta, according to Egyptian security officials.

More than 40 others were also injured. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Lessons from Oslo

OSLO—Britain is cool, Denmark is heavenly and Norway is next.

Two down and one to go in my three-nation quest to find out why Stephen Harper in 1997 sneered in a speech to Americans that “Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.”

I can hold a grudge for 15 years, easy, but that isn’t the point. I assumed the innocent Harper simply hadn’t visited these northern nations or he’d have seen how badly we needed to nudge closer to their style, their way of thinking.

My Thanksgiving: A Turkey Sandwich at Walmart

I did not spend Thanksgiving evening with my wife and my five children. I spent it, instead, handing out turkey sandwiches to workers in Walmart. And showing my support for one brave soul who walked off the job in protest against exploitation.

Walmart "associates" make an average of just more than $10 an hour. That means that if they manage to get a full 40 hours a week -- and many don't -- they get paid $1,700 a month, before taxes. Somehow, that is supposed to pay for their food, shelter, clothing and medical care, and that of their children. Quite a trick.

The 12 Companies Paying Americans the Least

The gap between rich and poor is well illustrated by the large multi-billion dollar corporations employing thousands of low-wage workers. With the Great Recession over, not only are many of these companies now hitting record profits, but their executive pay remains spectacularly high. Meanwhile, according to a report released by the National Employment Law Project, the current federal minimum wage the workers are often paid, is worth 30% less than it was in 1968 in terms of purchasing power.

CEO Council Demands Cuts To Poor, Elderly While Reaping Billions In Government Contracts, Tax Breaks

WASHINGTON -- The corporate CEOs who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed.

The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies' tax bills.

Company behind B.C. mine shuts separate project over temporary worker concerns

VANCOUVER - The legal and political troubles that have overshadowed a plan to bring 201 Chinese workers to a proposed coal mine in northern British Columbia have prompted one of the companies involved to shut down a separate coal project nearby.

Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. announced Saturday it has decided to wind down work at its Wapiti River coal project, located southeast of Tumbler Ridge.

Poll points to lagging support for monarchy and universal pride in medicare

OTTAWA - Canadians, it seems, love their universal health care.

The monarchy? Not so much.

A new national poll commissioned by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies examined the pride Canadians place in a list of more than a dozen symbols, achievements and attributes.

Harper a no-show when it comes to public health care

On November 22 and 23, Canada's premiers are holding an economic summit in Halifax. Stephen Harper was invited, but he's not coming.

On the agenda is the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), the federal financial contribution allotted to the provinces to pay for health care. In December last year, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced cuts to the CHT totalling $36 billion by the end of 2024.

Half-hearted medical care for hopeless cases

It’s a phrase that appears nowhere in hospital policy manuals or medical charts.

Doctors or nurses will never utter it in discussions with patients or family members.

But in quiet hospital corners, the words are whispered among medical professionals.

With Stickers, a Petition and Even a Middle Name, Secession Fever Hits Texas

HOUSTON — In the weeks since President Obama’s re-election, Republicans around the country have been wondering how to proceed. Some conservatives in Texas have been asking a far more pointed question: how to secede.

 Secession fever has struck parts of Texas, which Mitt Romney won by nearly 1.3 million votes.

Sales of bumper stickers reading “Secede” — one for $2, or three for $5 — have increased at In East Texas, a Republican official sent out an e-mail newsletter saying it was time for Texas and Vermont to each “go her own way in peace” and sign a free-trade agreement among the states.

Quebec Environment Minister, Activists Concerned About Pipeline

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois's willingness to examine a proposal to pipe Alberta oil and eventually oilsands crude to the province has some Quebec environmentalists worried.

"It means Quebecers will have dirty hands," said Daniel Green, the co-president of la Société pour Vaincre la Pollution, an anti-pollution group.

The concern comes after Canadian premiers met in Halifax for two days to discuss the Canadian economy and possibilities for collaboration on energy issues.

RCMP Issues Denial In Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Series

VANCOUVER - The RCMP has issued its latest denial in a series of harassment lawsuits filed by female Mounties.

The latest case involves Const. Karen Katz, who has launched two lawsuits — the first alleging harassment by one of her colleagues, and a second alleging widespread harassment and abuse throughout her career on the force.

The (CL)ASSE is ascendent: Quebec student movement realigns in wake of strike

"The times, they are a changin'" sang Bob Dylan, and nowhere is that more true than in the Quebec student movement.

Lost amid the celebration of the victories of this year's Maple Spring is a different consequence of the longest strike in Quebec history, one which has gone largely unnoticed outside student circles.

There is a fundamental realignment going on within the student movement in this province, one which promises to have far reaching repercussions. CLASSE, the temporary coalition formed to fight the tuition hike, may have dissolved, but its mother organization, the ASSE (Association for Syndical Solidarity among Students) is ascendent.

Gaza: Clarifying Israel's Intentions

Sometimes wars, even little ones, can become clarifying moments in which the clouds of propaganda are blown away and motives of the antagonists come into clear focus. This appears to be the case with the recent hostilities in Gaza.

In the midst of the short but deadly Gaza War, one statement by an Israeli spokesperson struck me as a particularly disturbing distortion of the truth. He claimed that Israel's goal in the conflict was "to finish [Hamas] off, so we can sit with moderates and talk peace."

'People Are Resisting by Existing': Gaza After the Bombing

Minutes after the agreement was implemented at 9 pm, the crackle of gunfire, ululations and cries of Allah Akbar began to ring out from the city’s mosques, drowning out the hum of drones still circling overhead. Dark, deserted and under bombardment for the past eight days, Gaza’s streets sprang back to life, with cars whizzing by honking their horns, fireworks exploding in the sky and thousands of residents pouring into the streets waving flags, and chanting victory over Israel.

“There is an unprecedented mood among the people,” says Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza. “We lost a lot, we are bleeding, but there is this feeling that we made it, that this was a victory.”

With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again

Hanover and Severn, MD—For about twenty-four hours, Walmart workers, union members and a slew of other activists pulled off the largest-ever US strike against the largest employer in the world. According to organizers, strikes hit a hundred US cities, with hundreds of retail workers walking off the job (last month‘s strikes drew 160). Organizers say they also hit their goal of a thousand total protests, with all but four states holding at least one. In the process, they notched a further escalation against the corporation that’s done more than any other to frustrate the ambitions and undermine the achievements of organized labor in the United States.

Your Smartphone's Dirty, Radioactive Secret

It's a sweltering late February afternoon when I pull into the Esso gas station in the tiny town of Bukit Merah, Malaysia. My guide, a local butcher named Hew Yun Tat, warns me that the owner is known for his stinginess. "He's going to ask you to buy him tea," Hew says. "Even though he owns many businesses around here, he still can't resist pinching pennies."

An older man emerges from the station office. His face and hands are mottled with white patches, his English broken.

UNEP Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report Finds Climate Change Goals Growing More Elusive

Global greenhouse-gas emissions already have passed the point where the worst effects of global warming could be averted, and they are still rising, according to the third annual United Nations report on the so-called emissions gap.

Some countries have made pledges to help reverse this trend by lowering their emissions. However, the report by the U.N. Environment Programme warns that the gap between these pledges and reductions necessary to cap average global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2020 continues to widen.

Black Friday 2012 Walmart Shooting: 2 Shot Outside Tallahassee Retail Location

Two people were shot outside a Walmart in Tallahassee, Fla., on Friday, police confirmed to WCTV.

The victims were a man and a woman, according to witnesses. Neither have suffered life-threatening injuries, say police.

National Debt Canada: Taxpayers Federation Says Total To Hit $600 Billion On Nov. 24, 2012

OTTAWA - The country is about to pass a red-ink milestone that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says is completely unnecessary.

The national debt is set to reach $600 billion just seconds before 11:19 p.m. ET Saturday, says the federation, which has set up a "debt clock" to let everyone view the event online.

That works out to nearly $17,200 for each person in the country.

Radio Host Calls Montreal Jewish Population 'Annoying'

The Jewish organization B'nai Brith Canada is demanding an apology from a Quebec talk show host who sympathized on the air with anti-Semitic statements.

A woman, who called herself Maria, phoned into Jacques Fabi's late night radio talk show on 98.5 FM last week.

She started by criticizing Israel for last week's bombings. Then she began to attack Jewish people and even lauded the Holocaust.

Egypt judges urge strike after Morsi widens powers

Egypt's judges have called for an immediate strike in all courts and prosecutors offices to protest against President Mohammed Morsi's decree expanding his powers, according to BBC News and Reuters.

After an emergency meeting on Saturday, the Supreme Judicial Council urged Morsi to retract the decree, which they call an "unprecedented assault on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings."

In Gaza conflict, innocent from both sides need to be heard

So what have we learned from this most recent fighting in the Middle East — beyond the pain, suffering and utter futility of it all? We have learned at least two things about the long-term: using violence as a solution will never work, and no solution without bringing in Iran — and Hamas — will ever matter.

The frightened faces of innocent children in Gaza and southern Israel were familiar scenes, and so were the empty words coming from political leaders on all sides. But there was a difference. For the first time, long-range rockets supplied to Hamas by Iran were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Ottawa signals shift in foreign-aid policy toward private sector

The federal government is signalling a profound shift in its approach to foreign aid that could see Canada’s international development agency align itself more closely with the private sector and work more explicitly to promote Canada’s interests abroad.

International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino outlined his vision for the agency’s future in an address to the Economic Club of Canada Friday morning, his first major speech since taking the job several months ago. The Canadian International Development Agency funds humanitarian aid and long-term development projects intended to help people living in poverty.

The law behind China’s ‘nail houses’: Why the government was forced to pave highway around stubborn homeowners

Luo Baogen and his wife must have felt they were sitting pretty when they rejected government compensation for their apartment, saying it wouldn’t cover the cost of rebuilding somewhere else.

In any other jurisdiction their intransigence would probably trigger a lengthy court battle. But this was in China.

The government forged ahead and built a four-lane highway, lapping the asphalt on either side of the five-storey apartment building in Xiazhangyang, a village in Zhejiang province.

Why is nuke industry blowing off low-level radiation health findings?

The health risks of nuclear are very much under the radar as hearings begin December 3 on whether Ontario will spend billions to resuscitate the aging Darlington station.

As physicians, it is our duty to advocate for illness prevention, and we believe nuclear power is a serious threat to public health, from uranium mining to refining to the day-to-day release of small amounts of radioactivity from reactors.

Rob Ford’s old shrug defence... again

Anonymous calls from pay phones, blocked calls from cellphones, a letter asking for a police investigation: Mayor Rob Ford’s testimony in the $6-million libel suit against him, #fordcourt2 as it’s been dubbed in the Twitterverse, had all the earmarks of a political thriller. All that was missing was a brown paper envelope full of money.

But when the moment came for Ford to back up his claim that the city’s 20-year lease deal with the Boardwalk Café and George Foulidis, also known as the Tuggs deal, was corrupt, Ford could only burble and shrug. He had nuthin’ to support his assertion of backroom “skulduggery” made at a Toronto Sun editorial meeting in the heat of the 2010 mayoral election.

A Failed Experiment

In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.

 In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again and again.

Are Walmart's Chinese Factories As Bad As Apple's?

On a warm, sticky winter morning, I waited nervously in a parking lot in Foshan, a city in southeastern China's smog-choked Pearl River delta, for a man I'd never met. His name was Mr. Ou, and he ran the sprawling factory in front of me, a jumble of offices, low-slung buildings, and warehouses. Though the factory was teeming with workers, a Subaru SUV and BMW coupe were the only cars in the lot. Drab, gray worker dormitories loomed nearby, and between them ran a dusty road that led to the factory. At last a young man emerged from an office building. He motioned for me to follow him in.

Refugee Health Cuts: Denial Of Chemotherapy 'Unbelievable' Says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall

REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is criticizing a federal decision to deny chemotherapy to a refugee as "unbelievable" and un-Canadian.

Wall says he doesn't understand the rationale behind the move.

"It's unbelievable that some of the decisions that have been taken federally are having this impact on people who are clearly the most vulnerable, refugees who are obviously fleeing something quite terrible — that's why they're refugees," Wall said Thursday.

Does It Make Sense to Arm Canada’s Coast Guard Vessels?

The Conservative government is considering arming Canadian Coast Guard vessels after coming under pressure from various countries in the Americas.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been quoted as saying that the Organization of American States has been putting pressure on the Canadian government to arm the coast guard as part of efforts to combat drug and other smuggling. “This is something we obviously have to contemplate whether to further up-armour some of these coast guard vessels and to have weapons aboard,” MacKay told journalists.

Former Environment Canada boss calls for more balanced economy

OTTAWA – The former boss at Environment Canada is casting doubt on rosy economic projections for the country that put too much emphasis on exploitation of the oilsands and other natural resources.

In an opinion piece submitted to Postmedia News, Environment Canada’s former deputy minister Paul Boothe took aim at recent economic forecasts, including an OECD projection that Canada would lead the G7 countries in growth over the next 50 years.

Dalton McGuinty scores an assist as WTO torpedoes Ontario green strategy

Say goodbye to Dalton McGuinty’s green industry strategy for jobs and manufacturing. The World Trade Organization may have put the boots to it. But the Ontario premier and his government were unwitting accomplices.

Critics are already denouncing the trade body for vetoing a Buy Ontario plan designed to revitalize the province’s manufacturing base.

Blood, ignorance and moral cowardice: Gaza and the world

Once again in the Middle East, the old adage has been confirmed: seek vengeance, dig two graves.

This time around, so far, there are 150 dead Palestinians, 5 dead Israelis. With Wednesday’s ceasefire, some are cheering. A lot of diplomats are taking deep bows. Make no mistake about it, the ceasefire is good. But it is merely cause for relief, not for cheering.

Canada, like a demented cheerleader doing cartwheels for one side, happily continues to contribute absolutely nothing to stopping the fiery wheel of misery afflicting the civilian populations of Israel and Gaza. Yes, Yeats’ blood-dimmed tide is released again; is that really about defending Israel?

The Commons: Retroactively outraged

The Scene. Jason Kenney walked out into the foyer, towards the appointed microphone, perhaps appearing not quite as ashen as he was supposed to look.

“Why are you smiling, Mr. Kenney?” a TV reporter quipped.

“Because it’s lovely outside,” the Immigration Minister responded cheerfully. “And I’m always glad to see you, Bob.”

Israeli gunfire kills man in 1st violence since ceasefire

Israeli troops fired on Gazans surging toward Israel's border fence Friday, killing one person but leaving intact the fragile two-day-old cease-fire between Hamas and the Jewish state.

The truce, which calls for an end to Gaza rocket fire on Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, came after eight days of cross-border fighting, the bloodiest between Israel and Hamas in four years.

Harper's foreign policy is pragmatism over principle

The confidential draft of the Harper government's new "foreign policy plan" recently obtained by CBC News offers a disturbing view of Canada's growing economic challenges abroad and diminishing political influence in a world looking to Asia.

By extension, it also raises some serious questions about how well — or poorly — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has managed Canada's trade policy, clearly one of his government's most important files.

Egypt’s president Morsi grants himself far-reaching powers

CAIRO—Egypt's president on Thursday issued constitutional amendments that placed him above judicial oversight and ordered the retrial of Hosni Mubarak for the killing of protesters in last year's uprising.

Mohammed Morsi also decreed immunity for the Islamist-dominated panel drafting a new constitution from any possible court decisions to dissolve it, a threat that had been hanging over the controversial assembly.

Milton murder-suicide: Grieving mother denied widow’s benefits because of age eligibility

Tanya Brancalion is 34, not 35.

If she were just a year older, the grieving mother whose 6-year-old son, Noah, was killed by his father in a September murder-suicide, would qualify for an ongoing survivor’s pension.

She’s been denied because she now also lacks the other factor that would qualify her for a couple of hundred dollars each month: a dependant child.

Tories chose patent protection over children’s lives in defeating drug bill

Proponents of an NDP bill crafted to fix Canada’s flawed regime for sending cheap copies of life-saving drugs to poor countries say the Conservative government defeated the initiative because it did not want to be perceived as supporting the generic pharmaceutical industry.

When confronted in the House of Commons on Thursday about the government’s decision to kill the proposed legislation, Industry Minister Christian Paradis said: “We know that that bill would not have improved the lot of the people that they (the New Democrats) claimed to help.”