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.]

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Laurier LaPierre, ex-senator and broadcaster, dies at 83

Retired senator Laurier LaPierre, who co-hosted CBC Television's influential and controversial current affairs program This Hour Has Seven Days in the 1960s, has died at age 83.

Outspoken about social issues and an expert in constitutional affairs, LaPierre was a McGill University professor, author and broadcaster before being appointed to the Senate in 2001 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He served until his mandatory retirement at age 75 in 2004.

Born in Lac Megantic, Que., on Nov. 21, 1929, LaPierre received a PhD in history from the University of Toronto.

Why Jesus Would Be Angry This Christmas

"Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." -- Proverbs 31:9, the Bible 

Jesus would be angry this Christmas, furious to see charities feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, comforting those with disabilities and supporting the poor, all asking for donations.

But Christ wouldn't be mad at those worthy groups doing good works. He would be disgusted our society refuses to properly care for those in need, making them depend on the whims of individual generosity.

Allan Richter Found Guilty After Brutal Attack On Gay, Blind Man

An Alberta man was found guilty Monday of aggravated assault for a brutal attack on a gay and legally blind man who'd made a sexual advance on his attacker in McBride, B.C.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven said Allan Richter, 33, of Ponoka, Alta., used a degree of force "far beyond that which could reasonably or even conceivably be considered necessary in the circumstances,'' when he attacked William Floris Groeneveld, 56.

Couple Who Lived In B.C. Garden Shed Still Homeless

A homeless couple in Kelowna, B.C., who had to leave the garden shed they were living in after a city inspector forced them out are still without a place to rent.

In October, a woman rented her backyard, store-bought, sheet-metal garden shed to Dean Schaffler and his partner — and their three dogs — for $200 a month. Electrical power was supplied to the shed through a single extension cord.

Coal Consumption Booms Amid Rising Climate Concerns: IEA Coal Report 2012

In a report destined to frustrate advocates for global action on climate change, the Paris-based International Energy Agency projected Tuesday morning that in five years' time, the amount of coal burned around the globe every year will increase by an additional 1.2 billion metric tons -- an amount roughly equivalent to the current annual coal consumption of the U.S. and Russia combined.

The uptick, virtually all of it attributable to rapid economic expansion in China and India, comes even as the U.S. continues to experience decreases in coal use for electricity generation amid the availability of cheap and plentiful natural gas -- which has a smaller carbon footprint than coal when burned.

Child Poverty Affected One-Fifth Of Nation's Kids In 2011: Study

NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - One in five children in the United States was living in a family with an income below the official poverty level in 2011, marking a decade of increases in child poverty worsened by the Great Recession of 2007-2009, a study released on Tuesday said.

The official U.S. government poverty threshold for a family of four in 2011 was annual income of $23,021.

The Police State Comes To Arkansas

Unfortunately, not an exaggeration:
"[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck," Stovall said. "If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, check for your ID." Stovall said while some people may be offended by the actions of his department, they should not be.
"We're going to do it to everybody," he said. "Criminals don't like being talked to."

John Boehner's 'Plan B' Fiscal Cliff Proposal Panned By White House, Cautiously Backed By Republicans

WASHINGTON -- Democrats from the White House and beyond panned the new "Plan B" proposal of House Speaker John Boehner to avoid at least the tax portion of the fiscal cliff, but anti-tax GOP House members sounded cautiously optimistic about the idea of passing a measure that allows tax hikes only on income over $1 million.

Boehner said on Tuesday that he is working up the proposal in the event that he and President Barack Obama are unable to come to a broader agreement by the looming Dec. 31 deadline, after which automatic spending cuts and across-the-board tax increases will kick in. The Ohio Republican referred to his Plan B approach as a "backup plan," though he reiterated that he is continuing negotiations with the president on averting the so-called fiscal cliff.

Four white South Africans charged in plot to blow up ANC convention

JOHANNESBURG—Four white men in South Africa face treason and terrorism charges over an alleged plot that included plans to attack the ongoing African National Congress political party convention and kill President Jacob Zuma and others, authorities said Tuesday.

The organizers called their plan “the Slaughter of Mangaung,” using the ANC’s name for its meeting in the central city also known as Bloemfontein, prosecutors said. They planned to use mortars and machine-guns to kill leaders, possibly at a dining hall the men previously took photographs of at the University of the Free State, where the leadership meeting is being held, officials said.

Brominated vegetable oil: PepsiCo and Coca-Cola not removing chemical from Canadian drinks

Major soft drink-makers and Health Canada say the use of brominated vegetable oil in Canadian beverages is safe, despite a growing movement elsewhere to ban its use.

The additive, which is used to cloud and stop separation in some drinks, has been banned in most of Europe for decades and Japan recently discontinued its use. However, BVO continues to be used in popular drinks sold in Canada, including some flavours of Gatorade, Powerade, Fresca, Mountain Dew and Amp Energy Drink.

Canada, it’s time. We need to fix this in our generation

Today is December 16, 2012 and Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike for six days.

Contrary to what some media outlets are reporting, she is not doing this only to protest Bill C-45 or even the deplorable treatment her community has received since declaring an emergency last year. She has vowed to continue her hunger strike until the prime minister, the Queen or a representative, agrees to sit down in good faith with First Nations leaders to rebuild what has become a fractured and abusive relationship. She is staying in a tipi on Victoria Island, which sits below Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.

2012: Top Ten Signs of a Warming World

Another year, another set of climate records. Here are the top ten signs you are living in a warming world, 2012 edition:

1. Hot enough for you? Though it’s only mid-December, it’s already clear that 2012 will be the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States. “The warm November virtually assures that 2012 will be the warmest year on record in the U.S.,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently observed. “The year-to-date period of January-November has been by far the warmest such period on record for the contiguous U.S.-a remarkable 1.0°F above the previous record. ” The Web site Climate Central put it this way: “There is a 99.99999999 percent chance that 2012 will be the hottest year ever recorded in the continental 48 states.”

So You Think You Know the Second Amendment?

Does the Second Amendment prevent Congress from passing gun-control laws? The question, which is suddenly pressing, in light of the reaction to the school massacre in Newtown, is rooted in politics as much as law.

For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

Renters At Risk In Foreclosure Crisis Rely On Short-Term Federal Law

A key law that has prevented millions of low-income tenants from becoming homeless is set to expire at the end of the 113th Congress, kicking off what experts warn could be a new wave of evictions.

Homelessness is up 16 percent among families in major cities since the beginning of the foreclosure crisis, according to a report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the number of renters affected by foreclosure has tripled in the past three years.

The GOP's Electoral College Scheme

Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party's path to the Oval Office.

Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party's majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.

James Dobson: Connecticut Shooting Linked To Gay Marriage

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said Monday that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary resulted from America turning its back on God, joining other conservative Christian leaders in assigning blame for Friday's Connecticut shootings. Speaking to listeners of his "Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk" program, Dobson said God "has allowed judgment to fall upon us."

    Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I'm not talking politically, I'm not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

As NRA Hides From Public After Newtown, ALEC Ties Reveal Extensive Lobbying Behind U.S. Gun Laws

Since Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 27 dead — 20 children and seven adults — the National Rifle Association has been silent. The powerful lobbying organization has long pressured lawmakers to maintain easy access to firearms in the United States, prompting many to say the NRA is standing in the way of reform. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has spent more than $2.2 million lobbying Congress this year alone. By comparison, the gun control lobby spent just $180,000. We’re joined by Lisa Graves, who has extensively tracked how the NRA’s power and wealth has long thwarted gun control proposals. Graves documents how one of the key avenues used to exert its influence is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the secretive group helps corporate America propose and draft legislation for states across the country. Graves formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton administration’s Justice Department, where she handled national gun policy.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

House Republicans' Three Big Lies About the Volcker Rule

On December 13th, the House Financial Services Committee convened what is likely to be the last hearing of this Congressional session for the purposes of seeking “alternatives” to the Volcker Rule. The Volcker Rule, as I’ve written previously for The Nation, is a piece of Wall Street reform with a crucial purpose: to create a firewall that bars banks that enjoy FDIC insurance from risky, speculative gambling. On Wall Street, gambling with the firm’s money is known as proprietary or “prop” trading. This is an important rule to get right, and its final version has been delayed far too long. And unfortunately, the aim of this hearing was not implementing the regulation, or even about exploring alternatives to the Rule, but rather dragging things out to the benefit of the banks.

How Walmart Helped Make Newtown Shooter's AR-15 the Most Popular Assault Weapon in America

When Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14, inexplicably bent on ending as many lives as possible, he was carrying a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle and several high-capacity magazines. Sadly, this isn’t the first time the country has had to deal with the aftermath of a horrific shooting spree, nor is it the first time we’ve encountered an AR-15 in this context: only days earlier, it was the weapon of choice for a shooting at an Oregon mall that killed two people. Five months earlier, it was used by James Holmes in an attack that wounded fifty-eight people and killed twelve in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. And several years before that, a man and his teenage accomplice used a Bushmaster AR-15 to terrorize the Washington, DC, area with a series of random shootings.

Blast From the Past: NRA Propaganda Anticipates Newtown

"Second Amendment freedom today stands naked in the path of a marching axis of adversaries far darker and more dangerous than gun owners have ever known." So opens "Freedom in Peril," a slick 2006 brochure by the National Rifle Association that serves up the group's agenda with a heavy dose of omnious hyperbole. The UN and George Soros are coming for your guns! PETA will ban hunting! Suburban dads must defend their families from torch-carrying marauders!

The document's text and its illustrations are so over-the-top that when they were first leaked by Wonkette, there was speculation that they were a hoax. But the NRA confirmed they were real, though it maintained they were from a stolen draft of a publication that has still yet to be publicly released.

The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Used Payoffs to Get Its Way in Mexico

SAN JUAN TEOTIHUACÁN, Mexico — Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.

One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.

After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.

TransCanada's Russ Girling Says Company Factoring Politics Into New Pipeline Plans

CALGARY - TransCanada Corp. is changing the way it tackles new projects, having learned the hard way how politics can affect construction schedules and costs, CEO Russ Girling said Monday.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Girling said the company won't start procuring materials or securing land for pipelines until it knows for sure it has regulatory approval in hand.

TransCanada (TSX:TRP) has already sunk $2.5 billion into its controversial $7.6-billion Keystone XL pipeline, which has yet to be awarded a federal U.S. permit after a litany of delays and setbacks.

Obama Hits Social Security In Fiscal Cliff Offer Friendlier To The Wealthy

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, with his latest fiscal cliff offer, proposes extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone earning less than $400,000 a year, and paying for it by increasing taxes on the middle class and cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Obama's offer would allow the payroll tax holiday to expire, meaning middle class workers will see smaller paychecks in 2013. Economists have warned that the recovery is too fragile to risk a broad tax hike on workers. It would also gradually reduce Social Security, pension and Medicare benefits seniors are due to receive, taking a small bite up front, but building up to much larger cuts over time.

Idle No More Is Not Just an "Indian Thing"

What is "Idle No More"?

It is a loosely knit political movement encompassing rallies drawing thousands of people across dozens of cities, road blocks, a shoving match on Parliament hill between Chiefs and mounties and one high profile hunger strike.

It is also a meme tweeted and shared about thousands of times a day, for messages about indigenous rights, indigenous culture and cheap indigenous jokes ("Turn off your ignition #idlenomore").

EI cuts for migrant workers to save federal government $18M

OTTAWA — The federal government expects to save $18 million a year by cutting “special” parental, maternity and compassionate-care benefits to about 1,900 temporary foreign workers who aren’t  eligible to be in Canada, Postmedia News has learned.

The cuts, quietly announced earlier this month, took effect on Dec. 9 and are expected to impact those with expired social insurance numbers or work visas who are no longer eligible to live and work in Canada but who, under the old rules, were still allowed to collect special employment insurance benefits.

Gun-control advocates in Canada fear Conservatives will loosen rules

As debate over stricter gun control ratchets up in the U.S. in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Connecticut, there is fear among gun-control advocates in Canada that the Conservative government is moving to further loosen some of this country’s gun rules.

While Prime Minister Harper earlier this month threw cold water on a government committee’s suggestion of reclassifying “prohibited” weapons as “restricted” ones, the government appears to be open to some of the committee’s other recommendations, including extending the life of firearms licences from five years to 10 years or longer.

Incoming Bank of England governor warned to stay out of British politics

The incoming governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has been warned to stay out of British politics when he arrives next summer after he was found holidaying with a prominent opposition minister in his native Canada.

Carney, who was appointed by George Osborne last month to succeed Sir Mervyn King, was cleared on Monday by the Bank of Canada of breaching conflict of interest rules after reports that he considered running for leader of the Liberal party.

Expensive questions: It cost taxpayers $150,000 to answer a single query from a Liberal MP

It cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2-million to answer written questions from MPs – including $150,000 on a single query from a Liberal MP, new figures reveal.

The questions, 305 of them, were all tabled in the House of Commons during a three-month period this year, and they were wide-ranging.

For instance, a written question from NDP MP Peter Stoffer about IT spending at the Department of Defence, Public Security and other federal agencies cost $15,733 to answer. It cost $15,358 to study the kinds of backdrops the government used when making announcements between February 2011 and June 2012 — a question asked by Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, of Winnipeg North. Mr. Lamoureux tabled four questions on June 19, for a total cost of $46,228.

Harper goes after trade unions with Bill C-377

The latest victory of business-funded politics was recorded last week when the Harper Conservatives passed Bill C-377 aimed at hobbling the ability of trade unions to participate in public life.

With its legislation (technically an amendment to the Income Tax Act), the Harper government is imposing new financial regulations that will add steep compliance costs and time-consuming administrative requirements to the normal activities of representing trade unionists.

The growing power of the Canadian gun lobby

"Your shopping cart is currently empty."

This little notice popped onto my screen as I browsed the website of one of Canada's biggest gun retailers, surveying the wide assortment of assault weapons it offers for sale online -- including one virtually identical to the semi-automatic rifle used in last week's horrific school slaughter in Connecticut.

Canadians often take comfort in the notion that spectacles of gruesome gun violence are part of a U.S. pathology that has prevented Americans from putting in place sensible laws to limit the availability of personalized weapons for mass destruction.

Council of Canadians says ‘Canadians have won’ no matter what; Marlow says voters will appeal to Supreme Court if Federal Court rejects arguments

OTTAWA—Dramatic Federal Court hearings into allegations the results in six federal ridings from the 2011 general election should be overturned because of electoral fraud ended Monday, with a final argument from voters challenging the outcomes, depending heavily on a telephone survey that purportedly shows hundreds of voters fell prey to election day trickery.

The case also relies to a large extent on evidence from separate Elections Canada investigations that confirmed thousands of voters in the electoral district of Guelph, Ont., were misled by voting day telephone calls with directions to incorrect polling stations, as well as internal Elections Canada records of a blizzard of complaints on May 2 voting day about misleading calls, and yet another investigation into more recent complaints about misleading, harassing, or fraudulent calls in 56 ridings outside of Guelph.

Female managers feel bump of glass ceiling

You brought your daughter up to believe she could accomplish anything she sets her mind to. While that may be the case in some jobs, new research confirms that the “glass ceiling” is still a very real challenge for Canada’s female business leaders.

Based on 2010 data published in the blog “Canada MBA School,” it appears that  the average number of women entering full-time MBA programs at five top Canadian schools has peaked at about 30 per cent.

Canada's Oil Industry Running Out Of Pipeline Capacity, CIBC And TD Warn

CALGARY - Two major banks are warning that increased pipeline capacity is badly needed to bring Canadian oil to market.

In a report released Monday, TD Economics calls pipeline expansion a "national priority."

"Canada's oil industry is facing a serious challenge to its long-term growth," says the report.

Mark Carney: Liberal Leadership Controversy, Bank Of England Plans Put A Dent In Knight's Shining Armour

A week ago, Mark Carney was an unqualified superstar of central banking, the fair-haired boy of finance about to leave the Great White North to take on a more prominent, more challenging role fixing Britain’s debt-riddled economy.

What a difference a week makes. Carney now finds himself in the midst of two brewing political wars — one at home, one on the other side of the pond.

Missing Women Inquiry: Bias Against Pickton's Victims Led To Police Failures, Indifference

VANCOUVER - The families of Robert Pickton's victims have received public confirmation of something they already knew to be true: if their daughters, sisters and mothers weren't poor, drug-addicted sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, many of them aboriginal and all living on the margins of society, some of them might still be alive.

If they were a different group of women, living in other, richer parts of town, the police would have done more to find the killer. The public would have been outraged.

Canadians protected from gun violence: Toews

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tried to assure Canadians Monday that his government is doing the right things to protect citizens from the horrific gun violence that took place last week in Connecticut.

Toews said he was "horrified" by the slaying of 20 school children in Newtown, Conn. The Provencher MP — and Manitoba’s lead federal cabinet minister — is a father of a five-year-old.

"I can only imagine how horrifying it must be for parents to leave their children in what they believe is a safe environment and ... then to be faced with the reality of that horrendous act," he said.

Ceasefire means 'nothing' to Gaza fishers

GAZA CITY, Dec 17 2012 (IPS) - Shortly after Israel and Hamas signed a ceasefire agreement on Nov. 21, the Israeli navy abducted 30 Palestinian fishers from Gaza's waters, destroyed and sank a Palestinian fishing vessel, and confiscated nine fishing boats in the space of four days.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 14 fishers from a single family, stationed just three nautical miles from the coast of the Gaza Strip, were all arrested on Dec. 1.

Labour unions support hunger striker Theresa Spence, urge federal government to meet

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has now been on hunger strike for nearly a week, and she has still received no direct response to her demand for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Many people have written, demonstrated and fasted to show their solidarity with Chief Spence. Yesterday, the Assembly of First Nations issued an urgent open letter to the prime minister, calling for a meeting. Today, two of the larger labour unions in Canada have written the following letter of support.

Negotiate First Nations treaty rights, labour leaders urge, in support of Chief Theresa Spence

From Newtown to Afghanistan: Connecting the dots of a violent society

Just as people in places like the Maldives, Bangladesh and Pakistan may have shook their heads at the cluelessness of Americans who suddenly woke up to climate change when Sandy came to town, people living in hot spots of violence around the world now have every right to be shaking their heads at the collective American refusal to see and understand how, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, we are much to blame for our own misery.

The U.S. is the largest arms manufacturer and exporter in the world.  We have by far the largest military.  We are also by far the most heavily armed civilian population in the world, with some 300 million guns circulating among our population of about 300 million people. Americans, we need to acknowledge that collectively, as a nation, we have been responsible for hundreds, and probably thousands of deaths of children worldwide through the weapons we sell abroad.