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.]

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Spence calls for cancellation of First Nations meeting over GG's absence

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is calling on the Assembly of First Nations to cancel Friday’s summit with the federal government unless the governor general agrees to attend, CTV News has learned.

Spence says she will not participate in the upcoming First Nations meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper after learning that Governor General David Johnston will not attend the meeting. But she went a step further Wednesday, asking that the AFN outright cancel the meeting due to the vice-regal’s absence.

What Jason Kenney doesn't want you to know about Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Once again, Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been in the national news. This time, members of the Canadian labour movement questioned the integrity of the program when it was exposed that a mining company had been approved to bring in 200 of potentially 2,000 coal miners from China to work at a site in northern British Columbia. Labour brokers based in China, recruiting for mining operations such as this one, were charging up to $16,000 dollars from interested applicants and, on their job postings flyers, had listed being able to speak Mandarin. In addition, the labour brokers cited wages significantly lower than the base rate wage for miners in B.C.

Victims in India gang rape case are to blame, defendants' lawyer says

NEW DELHI—The lawyer representing three of the men charged with the gang rape and murder of a medical student aboard a moving bus in New Delhi has blamed the victims for the assault, saying he has never heard of a “respected lady” being raped in India.

Manohar Lal Sharma said his clients will plead not guilty to all charges Thursday when they make their next court appearance. His comments come as Indians have reacted with outrage to the opinions of politicians and a religious preacher who have accused westernized women of inviting sexual assaults.

Ontario Teachers To Protest New Contracts On Friday

TORONTO - Tens of thousands of Ontario elementary teachers and education workers will stage a one-day protest Friday over the government's decision to impose new collective agreements, their union said Wednesday.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario — one of the largest teachers' unions in Canada — said it's following through on what the majority of its 76,000 members said they wanted should contracts be forced on them.

Finally, native Canadians defend themselves at every level

It is the worst of times for dealing with the massive problems faced by Canada’s aboriginal people. There hasn’t been a government less sympathetic than Stephen Harper’s in many decades.

With Harper it’s always about the money. This battle is only partly about money, and that’s where the misunderstandings begin.

The real story behind Attawapiskat’s problems

Making sense of Attawapiskat is not easy. The James Bay native community is synonymous with poverty. But it sits next to a diamond mine.

Its chief, Theresa Spence, has become famous across Canada because of the hunger strike she is waging on an island in the Ottawa River.

She insists she’ll only consume liquids until Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with her (which he has agreed to do).

Canada’s climate change ambassador looks beyond Kyoto

Back from his first United Nations conference as Canada’s climate change ambassador, Dan McDougall offered reassurance: our international reputation is not in tatters.

“We have very good relations with our colleagues and countries around the world. Canada’s positions are respected,” McDougall said Friday. “We’re very active in all of the negotiation sessions and making very positive contributions.”

Few Canadians Are Hopeful Before Harper Meets Aboriginal Leaders

More than half of respondents think the government has done a poor job handling health care, the environment, Aboriginal affairs and poverty.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to discuss various concerns with Aboriginal leaders, many Canadians believe the impending meeting will be ineffective, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

Cutbacks force more homeless to sleep on Toronto streets

Like so many others, Angel Conception died long before his time. He was only 58 years old when he passed away shortly before Christmas.

Living in shelters and on the street over a number of years can age a person well beyond their years.

At least he was identified.

Paul Ryan Cosponsors New Fetal Personhood Bill

Despite the deep unpopularity of fetal personhood bills in 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has again decided to cosponsor the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that gives full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization.

Ryan, who reportedly has 2016 presidential ambitions, had to de-emphasize his opposition to abortion without exceptions during the 2012 election to align his position with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But this year, Ryan has been tapped as a keynote speaker for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List's sixth annual Campaign for Life Gala, and he is re-upping his support for the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the country.

KBR, Guilty In Iraq Negligence, Wants Taxpayers To Foot The Bill

WASHINGTON -- Sodium dichromate is an orange-yellowish substance containing hexavalent chromium, an anti-corrosion chemical. To Lt. Col. James Gentry of the Indiana National Guard, who was stationed at the Qarmat Ali water treatment center in Iraq just after the 2003 U.S. invasion, it was “just different-colored sand.” In their first few months at the base, soldiers were told by KBR contractors running the facility the substance was no worse than a mild irritant.

President Obama: Start the Climate Conversation Now

Dear Mr. President,

You promised, days after you were re-elected, that you would lead a national conversation about climate change during your second term. Well, here’s your chance, sir. Yesterday your own administration’s scientists have announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the Lower 48 states. This disturbing news provides all the opening you need.

The true scandal of First Nations' funding -- not the Deloitte and Touche version!

It's sad to report, but the strategic leak of the Deloitte & Touche audit of Theresa Spence's Attawapiskat band seems to have had its desired impact.

The leak has tarnished the reputation of a woman who has only been Chief since 2010 -- the audit goes back to 2005 -- and it has significantly distracted national attention from the fundamental issues at stake.

Washington's jaw drops at possibility of AIG lawsuit

Remember when AIG took a $182 billion bailout only to turn around and hand out seven-figure bonuses to the same guys who tanked their company?

Grab the pitchforks — it gets better.

Now the insurance organization might join a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the terms of the bailout — saying the deal that saved the company cheated shareholders.

Idle No More's Hunger for Justice

Chief Theresa Spence is hungry. The Attawapiskat First Nation leader began a fast twenty-seven days ago to draw public attention to Canada’s Bill C-45. Critics charge that the omnibus legislation will challenge indigenous sovereignty and negatively alter the ways in which land and water are protected. Attawapiskat is in Ontario’s northernmost region. Edging the Hudson Bay, it’s plagued by deep unemployment and woefully inadequate housing. The only real employer is a DeBeers open-pit diamond mine, about an hour’s drive from where most people reside. Attawapiskat is just 600 straight miles from Canada’s Parliament Hill in Ottawa, but because road conditions are so dire you won’t find a map that will instruct you how to get there: it’s so remote, one has to fly in or out of major cities in order to get there.

In California and Beyond, Voters Say Yes to Higher Taxes, Better Services

On November 6, a solid majority of California voters supported Proposition 30. The ballot initiative, which temporarily raises the sales tax and increases income taxes for the wealthy, will generate an estimated $6 billion per year to help stabilize the state’s dismal finances. The vote was a landmark event in California, the state that launched a national anti-tax revolt by passing Proposition 13 in 1978. And for Governor Jerry Brown—who was serving as a much younger governor back then—the triumph was particularly sweet.

A White House Meeting With Low-Income Americans

Throughout these budget talks, the Obama administration has projected an image that it is open to good ideas from anyone, and interested in the prosperity of everyone.

So Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein had his day at the White House along with thirteen other corporate heads. The same is true for a group of small-business owners as well as some labor leaders and progressive groups. And certainly President Obama has surrounded himself with middle-class families throughout these fiscal negotiations.

As Brennan Tapped for CIA, Case of Somali Detainees Highlights Obama’s Embrace of Secret Renditions

New details have emerged about how the Obama administration has quietly embraced the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition in which terrorism suspects are secretly detained and interrogated abroad without due process. The Washington Post recently reported three European men with Somali backgrounds were arrested in the East African country of Djibouti on a "murky pretext" in August. They were then questioned by U.S. interrogators before being secretly indicted by a U.S. grand jury and flown to the United States for trial. News of their case accompanies this week’s nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA. Brennan withdrew from consideration for the same position in 2008 amidst protests over his role at the agency under George W. Bush and his public support of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition. We’re joined by Ephraim Savitt, a lawyer representing Mohamed Yusuf, one of the three accused Somali detainees; and Clara Gutteridge, a human rights investigator and director of the Equal Justice Forum.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

What Does Biofuel Have to Do With the Price of Tortillas in Guatemala?

I used to write about biofuels a lot. The idea of devoting large swaths of prime farmland and annual gushers of agrichemicals to grow "fuel" crops—not to be eaten but to be set aflame in automobile engines—struck me as so nakedly stupid, so willfully ignorant, that surely pointing it out could help change policy. And so point it out I did, in dozens of blog posts and articles per year starting in 2006. (Here, here, here, here, and here are a few highlights). But the US and EU governments brushed off my verbal assault, maintaining their escalating biofuel mandates. Long about 2011, I realized that some blogger's crusade was never going to affect policy, so I largely stopped writing about the topic out of discouragement and, yes, boredom.

Revealed: The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics

It was the kind of meeting that conspiratorial conservative bloggers dream about.

A month after President Barack Obama won reelection, top brass from three dozen of the most powerful groups in liberal politics met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA), a few blocks north of the White House. Brought together by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the NAACP, the meeting was invite-only and off-the-record. Despite all the Democratic wins in November, a sense of outrage filled the room as labor officials, environmentalists, civil rights activists, immigration reformers, and a panoply of other progressive leaders discussed the challenges facing the left and what to do to beat back the deep-pocketed conservative movement.

AIG To Decide Whether To Join Insane Lawsuit: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Science has determined that people need to know 7.5 things per day, on average, about the world of business. You can't argue with science. Lucky for you, the Huffington Post has an email newsletter, delivered first thing every weekday morning, boiling down the day's biggest business news into the 7.5 things you absolutely need to know. And we're giving it away free, because we love you, and also science. Here you go:

Thing One: Whole World Angry At AIG, Again: If AIG were a C-list celebrity instead of a company, it would be Donald Trump. It just has a special gift for pissing people off.

MacKay, Ambrose and the F-35: They’re still not getting it

As we begin 2013, the jury is still out as to whether Canadians can expect the government to honestly pursue an open, fair and competitive process to replace Canada’s jet fighters. It’s hard not to remain sceptical when ministers continue to make remarkably foolish statements reflecting a lack of understanding of the basics of procurement.

First it was Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, who proudly announced this past fall that the statement of requirements (SOR) “will be set aside while that full option analysis is done.”

Stephen Harper prepares to fail his biggest test as PM

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be facing the defining issue of his regime.  As he prepares for Friday's meeting with First Nations leaders, he faces the strongest public opposition to his core agenda that he has seen in his seven years in office, one that is widespread, motivated, and legally empowered.

I am not speaking of a hidden agenda, but one that is plain to any observer.

Mr. Harper's long ties to the oil and gas industry are well known. That industry employed his father, it employed him, and he served notice early in his first term that "Canada's emergence as a global energy powerhouse -- the emerging 'energy superpower' our government intends to build," is his overriding economic vision.

Law Leaves Migrant Workers Dangling Precariously

Canada has created a two-tiered system of labour rights though its Temporary Foreign Worker program started in 2002. As reported in the previous two articles in this series, the fact that migrant workers have fewer protections and options has led to abuses. Short of shutting down the program, a monitoring system that regulates the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure employment standards are respected is an obvious fix.

But Charles Gordon, the lawyer who represented the Latin American construction workers who were confirmed by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to have been exploited, isn't optimistic. Gordon, whose clients' case was profiled in yesterday's article, says there is no "political appetite" to create a rigorous monitoring system.

Shale Gas: How Often Do Fracked Wells Leak?

The many ways methane can escape a natural gas well.
One of the boldest claims made by the shale gas industry goes like this: oil and gas companies have drilled and fractured a million oil and gas wells with nary a problem.

In other words fracture fluid or methane leaks are "a rare phenomenon."

But industry data disproves this dubious claim says Cornell University engineer Anthony Ingraffea, the main source for this series, who has studied the non-linear science of rock fractures for three decades.

Australia on Fire: Record-Shattering Heat, Wildfires Engulf World’s Largest Exporter of Coal

Two new colors have been added to Australia’s weather maps to show temperatures exceeding 122 degrees Fahrenheit in the country’s fiercest heat wave in more than 80 years. Wildfires are raging through Australia’s six states, including in Tasmania where some 50,000 acres of forests and farmland have been destroyed. We go to Sydney to speak with Anna Rose, co-founder and chair of Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Part 2: Al Jazeera’s Sami al-Hajj on His 438-Day Hunger Strike in U.S. Detention at Gitmo Prison

In part two of our exclusive interview, Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera journalist imprisoned and tortured at Guantánamo for six years, describes how he waged a 438-day hunger strike to protest his detention. Al-Hajj was arrested in Pakistan in December of 2001 while traveling to Afghanistan on a work assignment. Held for six years without charge, al-Hajj was repeatedly tortured, hooded, attacked by dogs and hung from a ceiling. Interrogators questioned him more than 100 times about whether Al Jazeera was a front for al-Qaeda. Al-Hajj waged his hunger strike from January 2007 until his release in May 2008. Part 1

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Attawapiskat chief won't attend PM meeting in GG's absence

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence says she won't attend Friday's "working meeting" between First Nations chiefs and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, because the presence of Gov. Gen. David Johnston is "integral" and he won't be there.

"We have sent a letter to Buckingham Palace and requesting that Queen Elizabeth II send forth her representative which is the Governor General of Canada," Spence said in a release. "I will not be attending Friday's meeting with the prime minister, as the Governor General's attendance is integral when discussing inherent and treaty rights."

Anti-Roma article by Hungarian politician sparks outrage

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY—A founding member of Hungary’s governing Fidesz party has been sharply criticized for writing a newspaper column that contained offensive remarks about the nation’s Roma minority.

Writing about a New Year’s Eve bar fight in which several people were seriously injured and some of the attackers were reportedly Roma, the journalist Zsolt Bayer said “a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals.”

Bradley Manning Ruling: Judge Reduces Sentence For Army Private In WikiLeaks Case

FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army private suspected of sending reams of classified documents to the secret-sharing WikiLeaks website was illegally punished at a Marine Corps brig and should get 112 days cut from any prison sentence he receives if convicted, a military judge ruled Tuesday.

Army Col. Denise Lind ruled during a pretrial hearing that authorities went too far in their strict confinement of Pfc. Bradley Manning for nine months in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., in 2010 and 2011. Manning was confined to a windowless cell 23 hours a day, sometimes with no clothing. Brig officials said it was to keep him from hurting himself or others.

Paul Krugman Warns: 'We Are Crippling Our Future'

Paul Krugman is worried about our future.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist told a meeting of other prominent economists that we're not doing enough in the short term to ensure that country's long-term economic health is taken care of.

"We are crippling our future as well as our present by failing to do what is needed to deal with the short run," the Nobel Prize-winning economist said at the American Economic Association's 2013 annual meeting on Sunday, according to a new transcript by Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. "A failure to deal with the short run is inflicting very large long-run costs."

NRA, Joe Biden To Meet As Vice President's Task Force On Guns Intensifies Efforts

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joseph Biden will be sending his recommendations for gun policy reform to the president in a matter of weeks, according to administration officials.

The recommendations are still being crafted. As part of the process, Biden will be speaking with key lawmakers, officials and stakeholders in the debate, including the National Rifle Association, an NRA official confirmed.

2012 Hottest Year On Record For Lower 48 States, NOAA Confirms

It’s official: 2012 was the warmest year on record in the lower 48 states, as the country experienced blistering spring and summer heat, tinderbox fire weather conditions amid a widespread drought, and one of the worst storms to ever strike the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.