Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Yours, Mine, but Not Ours

Political fear is universal, but its language is particular. Racism is one language of fear; risk assessment is another. There is little doubt, however, that security — whether national or domestic — is the most potent and pervasive language of all.

Security is the one good, political theorists like John Dunn and Bernard Williams agree, that the state must provide.  It has the ability, like no other argument, to mobilize the resources and attention of the state and its citizens.  It has arguably inspired — and, in the case of nuclear deterrence, certainly threatened — more devastation and destruction than any other ideology of the modern era.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper knows there must be progress at summit with First Nations leaders

OTTAWA —Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads into a crucial meeting with aboriginal leaders mindful that the seriousness of growing protests and the health of Chief Theresa Spence and two other hunger strikers require a meaningful response, a senior government source said Wednesday.

Although Harper has downplayed the encounter all week as a “working” follow-up to last year’s summit, a government insider said the prime minister realizes there are broader risks if the meeting fails to quell the unrest.

Chiefs mull issuing demand Harper scrap omnibus bills, Indian Act during planned Friday meeting

OTTAWA–If Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets a delegation of First Nations chiefs in Ottawa Friday, he could face demands to scrap the Indian Act and to repeal his government’s omnibus budget bills, which have already passed into law.

The location of the planned meeting was still unknown Wednesday evening and it was even unclear whether the meeting would take place after Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is in the midst of a nearly month-long hunger strike, urged chiefs not to attend unless Gov. Gen. David Johnston, whose office said would not show up, also appeared.

An open letter to all my relations: On Idle No More, Chief Spence and non-violence

All my relations,

My Anishinaabe name is White Wolf and the name my mother gave me is Aaron James Mills. I’m a Bear Clan Anishinaabe, a Canadian and the son of a single mother. I say “Anishinaabe” and not “aboriginal” intentionally, for this is who I am and how you should understand me. Regarding our relationship, I’m from Treaty #3 Territory. I’m also from Couchiching First Nation, North Bay, Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, and now Victoria. I’m a lawyer. I have a graduate degree from Yale Law School where last year I was a Fulbright scholar. I’m 31 years old and I have a partner I love very much.

Governor-General to meet First Nations leaders after Friday meeting

OTTAWA—Governor-General David Johnston has agreed to meet First Nations leaders at Rideau Hall following their meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday.

“The Prime Minister has asked the Gov. Gen. to host a ceremonial meeting with First Nations leaders at Rideau Hall following the working meeting on Friday afternoon, and the Gov. Gen. has accepted,” said a statement from the PMO emailed to the media on Thursday afternoon.

Attention Democrats: Chris Christie Isn't Your New Best Friend

I'm not sure if I'm suffering from some sort of latent dyslexia or if I'm channeling the godlike reputation he's gained in the last several months, but nearly every time I try to type the name "Chris Christie," I accidentally type "Christ" just before stopping myself and retyping the New Jersey governor's actual first name. I'm not making that up, sadly.

There's no doubt that, at a glance, Chris Christie (I just did it again, by the way) sounds like the real deal. His press conference last week in which he mercilessly pummeled the congressional Republicans for not passing a Hurricane Sandy relief bill is just the latest example of Christie stepping onto the national stage and providing a brief but welcome breath of fresh air in a universe where Republicans hardly ever break ranks and eat their own, and a universe where even fewer politicians sound as forthright and authentic.

US Ramps Up Pakistan Drone Strikes

QUETTA, Pakistan -- A bomb targeting paramilitary soldiers killed 12 people in southwest Pakistan on Thursday, while five suspected militants died in a U.S. drone strike in the country's northwest, officials said.

Separately, an explosion ripped through a crowded mosque in the northwest city of Mingora, killing 21 people and injuring more than 70 others, said hospital official Mian Gul Aleem. The blast was caused by a gas cylinder that exploded, said senior police official Gul Afzal Khan.

Shawn Atleo, National Chief, Under Pressure As First Nations Meeting Approaches

OTTAWA - The abrupt postponement Wednesday of an Assembly of First Nations news conference spoke volumes about the turmoil and mistrust that underlies planning for Friday's meeting between aboriginal leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

National Chief Shawn Atleo is tip-toeing through a minefield as he tries to negotiate a list of demands that must at once satisfy angry chiefs, win over the reluctant Conservative government and keep restless grassroots protests relatively peaceful.

Bedside visits sought for VIPs

Tales of VIPs given "aliases" while in hospital, requests from vice-presidents for bedside visits to notable patients and "celebrities" ushered into private ER waiting rooms emerged from the provincial health inquiry Wednesday, part of growing evidence that Alberta's medical staff felt pressured to treat prominent patients differently.

The inquiry also heard from a Calgary hospital administrator about a decade-old request from then Calgary Health Region CEO Jack Davis to help out a member of Ralph Klein's "inner-circle," whose child was in hospital.

The cheek of Jim Flaherty … expensing his Maybelline while preaching austerity!

Who would have thought that when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he was going to powder his nose … he was! (Ba-Bam!)

OK. That's already enough. Get the drummer off the stage right now! You get the idea.

But seriously … and I mean that, people, seriously … beyond the obvious hilarity of Canada's hard-ass Finance Minister (the tough guy who's promised to stick around till the deficit dragon is slain one copper penny at a time no matter how many civil servants have to lose their jobs) getting busted for expensing his Cover Girl and his Maybelline, there's a quality of cognitive dissonance to this story.

Justice will remain absent

While the saga of who will attend tomorrow's meeting between Harper government representatives and First Nations leaders continues, we can be certain that justice will be absent.

For obvious reasons, there will be no justice for the Inuit, as they will not be represented. Nor will there be any justice for the Métis and non-status Indians, who this week won a court battle to have the federal government recognize its obligations toward them, because they aren’t at the table either.

Obama's new CIA head and the horror of Guantanamo

It takes courage to enter a war zone willingly, armed with a microphone and a camera as a journalist. That is what Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj was doing in Dec. 2001, as he was entering Afghanistan from Pakistan to cover the U.S. military operations there. While his colleague was allowed in, al-Hajj was arrested, in what was to be a harrowing, nightmarish odyssey that lasted close to seven years, most of it spent as prisoner 345, the only journalist imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay -- without charge. Al-Hajj is out now, back at work at Al-Jazeera and reunited with his family. His recollections of the horror of detention by the United States should be front and centre in the forthcoming confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama's choice to lead the CIA, John Brennan. It has been 11 years since the Guantanamo prison was opened, and four years since President Obama promised to close it within a year.

Will Tories Fix Temp Foreign Worker Program?

Social justice lawyer Fay Faraday says it's time for Canadians to insist on sweeping reforms of the federal Foreign Temporary Workers Program to protect workers from the kinds of abuses reported on in the three previous articles in this series. "It's a systemic problem and we will keep hearing those horror stories until we do something about it."

Idle No More, Meet the Norwegians

Norway is a long way from Attawapiskat but there may be some important lessons for Canada's First Nations from across the Atlantic in the looming showdown with Stephen Harper. In a recent series for The Tyee, I documented how this tiny Nordic country stood up to powerful outside oil interests intent on exploiting their natural resources and achieved a remarkable economic success.

Shale Gas: How Clean Is It?

The last and most prevalent myth about shale gas is that it's a clean, even green, alternative energy.

The government of British Columbia calls natural gas "the world's cleanest fossil fuel" and a path to a low carbon future.

But you have to dig much deeper for the truth, says Cornell University fracking expert Anthony Ingraffea, whose decades of research are a main basis for this series ending today.

Ontario teacher protests: High school and elementary teachers plan one day ‘illegal’ strikes

Teachers who walk off the job in planned illegal strikes face fines of up to $2,000 each, under Ontario law.

Premier Dalton McGuinty urged teachers to rethink the job action, as the government heads to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Thursday at 3 p.m. to stop it.

“On behalf of parents and students alike, it is our full expectation that teachers will be in school on Friday and every day in keeping with their employment obligations,” he warned.

Aaron Sandusky Sentenced: Marijuana Dispensary Operator Gets 10 Years In Federal Prison

A Southern California man was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for operating medical marijuana dispensaries, even though they are legal in the state.

Rancho Cucamonga resident Aaron Sandusky, 42, ran three Inland Empire dispensaries known as G3 Holistics. “I want to apologize to those with me and their families who have been victimized by the federal government who has not recognized the voters of this state," Sandusky said in court Monday. His G3 dispensaries served 17,000 medical marijuana patients, according to marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

Matt Taibbi: 'The Bailouts Officially Created A Sucker Class' (Here's Who's In It)

Finally, we have a term for all of those people who've gotten screwed over by the bailouts: "The sucker class."

The stated intention of the post-financial crisis bailouts was to keep the economy from collapsing and ensure the economic well-being of ordinary Americans, but in reality, the bailouts had the opposite effect, according to Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi.

“[The] bitter reality … is that the bailouts officially created a sucker class,” he writes in his most recent article.

Families grieve as Chicago killings increase

Chicago, US - A stack of glossy images showing an active and smiling young man is all that's left for Darius McGraw's family to remember him by.

On a cold morning in November 2012, 22-year-old McGraw was gunned down while walking to the home of his fiancée on Chicago's Southwest Side to pick up the couple's two-year-old daughter, Harmony.

Majority of Canadians believe arts, culture should get government support: poll

TORONTO - An overwhelming majority of Canadians believe arts and culture is worthy of government support, according to the results of a poll commissioned by Canadian Heritage.

When asked: "How much importance do you think governments in Canada should place on supporting arts and culture in Canada?," 39 per cent chose "a great deal" from a list of four responses, while 48 per cent chose a "moderate amount." Nine per cent said "not very much" and three per cent responded "no importance at all."

U.S. urges Canada to stay the course in Haiti, UN saddened by Fantino's remarks

OTTAWA - The U.S. State Department and the United Nations chided Canada's international co-operation minister Wednesday over his controversial remarks about re-tooling aid to impoverished Haiti.

Julian Fantino told a Montreal newspaper last week he wanted to freeze aid to Haiti, only to have his department, the Canadian International Development Agency, backtrack to explain it was conducting a thorough review of Canada's $1-billion contribution to the Caribbean country.

One quarter of Canada's First Nations are under financial scrutiny by feds

OTTAWA - One-quarter of Canada's First Nations bands are under some kind of financial supervision ordered by the federal government, suggesting issues with money management on reserves stretches far beyond the bounds of the remote community of Attawapiskat.

Of the 615 bands across Canada, 157 are currently considered as having defaulted on their financial obligations, according to a list on the website of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Harper's Conservatives see possible common ground with Idle No More movement

OTTAWA - Amid all the anti-Harper, anti-government placards and slogans, it's hard to imagine the Conservatives see any positives from the Idle No More movement.

And yet going into Friday's meeting with First Nations chiefs, the government says it does see a nexus between its policy desires and the grassroots uprising — a belief that the current system of aboriginal governance is broken in Canada.

Energy industry letter suggested environmental law changes

A letter obtained by Greenpeace through access to information laws and passed on to the CBC reveals the oil and gas industry was granted its request that the federal government change a series of environmental laws to advance "both economic growth and environmental performance."

Within 10 months of the request, the industry had almost everything it wanted.