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.]

Friday, January 11, 2013

Canada-China FIPA: 'Sleight of hand' makes environmental measures more vulnerable to corporate lawsuits, says expert

A senior international law adviser with the International Institute for Sustainable Development is warning Canadians that a new investment treaty with China will make environmental measures more vulnerable to costly investor-state disputes than they are under existing treaties. He argues that a "sleight of hand" by the Harper government will have repercussions here at home, but importantly for African countries like Benin whose governments are currently negotiating investment treaties with Canada.

The Inconvenient Truth About Jack Lew

I suppose that he can't be much worse than Timothy Geithner, but that should be scant cause for cheer over the news that the president has nominated Jack Lew as Treasury secretary. Both championed the financial deregulation craze of the Clinton administration, and both are acolytes of Robert Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who unfettered Wall Street greed and then took his own considerable cut of the action.

Idle No More Targets North America's Busiest Border

People participating in the Idle No More movement plan to target the Ambassador Bridge next week.

Members of the movement are organizing what they call "an economic slowdown" in Windsor on Jan. 16. Organizers insist it's "not a blockade."

Parks Canada moves ahead with plan to privatize hot springs Read more:

EDMONTON - The plan to give three popular Parks Canada hot springs a spa-style makeover by transferring their operation to private companies is plowing ahead despite concerns from critics who say the plan will cost parks staff their jobs and increase costs for visitors.

Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park, Banff Upper Hot Springs in Banff National Park, and Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park are slated to be run by private operators in the hopes of boosting attendance.

Government loses personal information of half a million student loan borrowers

The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development has lost a hard drive containing the personal information of hundreds of thousands of individuals who borrowed from the Canada Student Loans Program.

The portable hard drive contained the names, dates of birth, Social Insurance Numbers, addresses and student loans balances of 583,000 Canada Student Loans borrowers dated from 2000-2006. It also contained the personal contact information of 250 HRSDC employees.

Taxpayers top up money-losing Tim Hortons at Halifax hospital

Owning a Tim Hortons is sometimes described as having a licence to print money, which is why some people are shaking their heads over the fact that four locations in the Halifax area are losing money.

Perhaps even more surprising is that taxpayers are making up the losses.

All four outlets are located at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and money that is supposed to pay for health care is instead being used to keep them afloat.

PM agrees to stay for entire First Nations meeting as protesters amass outside

As thousands of First Nation protesters descended on Parliament Hill on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to attend the entirety of a controversial meeting with aboriginal leaders – an about-face from the schedule released one day earlier.

A crowd that police estimated at 3,000 gathered outside the Prime Minister’s Office in opposition of the working session between federal officials and Assembly of First Nations leaders.

House Prices: Canada's Residential Real Estate Severely Overvalued, The Economist Says

House price overvaluation “is especially marked in Canada,” says a new report on the state of the world’s housing market from The Economist.

The magazine’s survey found Canadian house prices are severely overvalued when compared to rental rates, and also significantly overvalued when compared to Canadians’ earnings.

Argo vs. Zero Dark Thirty: Two Takes on Torture

When the Academy Award nominations were announced on Thursday morning, Kathryn Bigelow was not on the list for Best Director. That surprised some people; maybe it shouldn’t have. The film she made, “Zero Dark Thirty,” was nominated for Best Picture and four other awards, and she’s won in the past, for “The Hurt Locker.” The problem appears to have been torture—the way it was depicted in the movie, which is about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and her insistence that she was constrained in the story she told by the truth, when, in fact, she veered away from it.

Ontario teachers' fight against Bill 115 belongs in court, not the classroom, says Premier Dalton McGuinty

An overnight ruling that Friday’s planned protest by public elementary school teachers would be an illegal strike proves their fight against Bill 115 belongs in the court — not the classroom, Premier Dalton McGuinty says.

The decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board puts the issue “squarely” in the hands of judges who will handle the court challenge of the controversial legislation, McGuinty told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Theresa Spence: Money Spent Mostly Ends Up Outside Attawapiskat

OTTAWA - A sprawling crowd of native protesters swirled outside the Prime Minister's Office in the shadow of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill on Friday as a controversial meeting between First Nations leaders and Stephen Harper got underway.

A crowd of about 3,000 people, according to police estimates, first gathered outside the sandstone building known as Langevin Block, chanting, drumming and waving makeshift banners.

Why Idle No More has resonated with Canadians

Imagine a country where the national government introduces and passes legislation that detrimentally affects all of its First Nations communities but it doesn't bother to consult with them. Then a chief of an impoverished northern First Nation community goes on a hunger strike to get a meeting between the First Nations leadership and the government several months after this legislation was passed. Does this have implications for all Canadians? You bet it does. This will not be the last time that individuals or groups will take such extreme measures in response to the federal government's public policy process or lack thereof.

First Nations leaders want in on natural resources boom

OTTAWA—Over the next decade, a huge boom in Canadian natural resource projects — possibly worth $600 billion — is foreseen on or near First Nations lands.

And this time, aboriginals are demanding their share of the economic pie.

Behind the complex issues of treaties and historic rights being raised by native leaders is the dollars-and-cents reality of who gets to pocket the benefits from Canada’s mining and petroleum riches.

15 Factory Jobs Lost For Every One Created In Resources

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has staked the future of the world’s 11th largest economy on natural resource wealth spreading across the country. Brandy Damm, a welder who lost her job from a locomotive factory in London, Ontario, last year, isn’t seeing the benefit.

Damm was one of about 465 unionized workers fired after Caterpillar Inc.’s Electro-Motive Canada unit said it would close its London plant following a labor dispute. Now, many of the jobs in her field are paying far less than the C$20 ($20.24) to C$30 per hour common at the factory -- some just above Ontario’s C$10.25 per hour minimum wage.

Inside the Terror Factory

Quazi Mohammad Nafis was a 21-year-old student living in Queens, New York, when the US government helped turn him into a terrorist.

His transformation began on July 5, 2012, when Nafis, a Bangladeshi citizen who’d come to the United States on a student visa that January, shared aspirations with a man he believed he could trust. Nafis told this man in a phone call that he wanted to wage jihad in the United States, that he enjoyed reading Al Qaeda propaganda, and that he admired "Sheikh O," or Osama bin Laden. Who this confidant was and how Nafis came to meet him remain unclear; what we know from public documents is that the man told Nafis he could introduce him to an Al Qaeda operative.

Ontario Teachers Strike Illegal, Labour Relations Board Rules Just Hours Before Walkout

TORONTO - An Ontario labour board ruling that declared a planned elementary teachers walkout an "unlawful strike" came too late to avoid a morning of confusion and uncertainty for students, parents and school boards Friday.

Parents had gone to bed Thursday night thinking public elementary schools would be closed the next day, only to wake up to the news that the teachers called off the protest after the 4 a.m. ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Public sector workers should not have a right to strike

Rotating strikes by Ontario teachers are only the latest example of what a terrible mistake we made in the 1960s and 1970s when the decision was made by various governments to enact legislation granting public sector workers the right to strike.

Few today even remember that powerful public sector trade unions are a relatively recent creation. And while trade unions before the grant of the right to strike amusingly described public sector labour negotiations as “collective begging,” the very special and unusual position of public sector workers makes strikes there unusually damaging to the rest of society.

You’re Wrong – Canada Isn’t Selling Assault Rifles to Colombia. It’s Selling Them Light Armored Vehicles Instead, Says John Baird’s Office

There was some chatter in the defence industry about how John Baird’s office inadvertently released the news that General Dynamics Land Systems Canada out of London had received a contract from Colombia for light armored vehicles. All this came before GD Land Systems Canada could put out its own news release.

It all started with a Jan. 2 Canadian Press article that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had recommended an order amending the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL), paving the way for Canada – according to the news agency – to export “assault-style” weapons to Colombia.

First Nations: The media misses the point — again

In the game of cowboys and Indians that’s been played by Stephen Harper and a fasting aboriginal woman, the cowboys, as usual, are winning — in the short term.

In the movies, they win because they have carbines and six-guns. The Indians have the bow and arrow, no saddles, and superb horsemanship.

No excuse for inaction at aboriginal meeting

For far too many hours Thursday, an issue that should profoundly trouble this nation had devolved into a tawdry soap opera.

A meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and native leaders had lost its way, foundering on contradictory statements on whether and when the Governor-General would attend. Impossible demands and threats were being tossed around.

Harper’s reputation as a brilliant economic manager rests on luck and bravado

It’s hard to be a hero when the economy goes soft.

Dalton McGuinty couldn’t make the transition from Premier Dad to fiscal disciplinarian. Alison Redford’s popularity is drooping, thanks to weakening demand for Alberta’s oil. Christie Clark is struggling to avoid defeat in British Columbia’s coming election. Rodney MacDonald, Nova Scotia’s fiddle-playing premier, went down to defeat in 2009.

Al Jazeera America, test case for an open society

Most Westerners have no idea where N'Djamena is. Al Jazeera English operates a news bureau there (it's the capital of Chad).

AJE also has correspondents in Juba, Diyarbakir, Harare, Khartoum, Nouakchott, Skopje, and about 65 other cities, including a North American metropolis all but ignored by big U.S. media: Toronto.

The network, owned and operated by the Emirate of Qatar, no longer has anything to prove about the quality of its journalism. It has won all sorts of prestigious awards and broken all sorts of stories.

Freedom from gun terror: Why understanding American history can help keep Canada sane

One of the effects of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook last year is that -- slowly, slowly, ever so slowly -- gun control is coming to the U.S.A.

The sheer lunacy of the substantial cohort of firearms-proliferation advocates and their politically influential organizations in the United States after the massacre of six-year-olds on the anniversary of the death of George Washington has effectively driven forward increasingly mainstream efforts to impose some sanity and order on gun sales within our large and noisy neighbor's borders.

Are You Dirty for Seeing 'Zero Dark Thirty'?

If you pay attention to film you probably have strong opinions about Zero Dark Thirty. You've read the blogs, seen Glenn Greenwald's Guardian piece and the strong reaction to it. You may well have taken a stand, pro or con. Now, in the interests of thorough research, you can actually see the movie.

Porter Airlines workers set up picket lines outside Toronto island airport

Porter Airlines reported no delays in its flight schedule on Thursday after workers who fuel planes at Toronto’s island airport walked off the job.

“No problems at all,” said Jeff Swystun, who arrived on a morning flight from Ottawa. “The flight was actually ahead of schedule.”

Up to half of world’s food goes to waste, report says

The companies that produced the world’s supply of loose-leaf tea had a problem: nearly one-quarter of their product was being thrown out.

Customers, who preferred whole tea leaves to make the perfect cuppa, had no use for the dust or the small bits of leaves known as fannings that came with their purchase.

So engineers came up with a solution: tea bags, which contained the fannings, dust and residue.

Chiefs demand fundamental change but can’t guarantee they’ll meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper

OTTAWA—First Nations leaders are demanding Prime Minister Stephen Harper commit to fundamentally changing the relationship between Canada and its indigenous peoples, but they could not guarantee their planned Friday meeting would actually take place.

“It is time we broke through the paralysis and endless broken promises and it is time to act,” National Chief Shawn Atleo told a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday that had been delayed by a day as the Assembly of First Nations continued discussing the demands they expected to put on the table.

What If We Responded to Sexual Assault by Limiting Men’s Freedom Like We Limit Women’s?

Calls for Men to Be Blindfolded in Public
In response to claims that men are unable to restrain themselves from committing rape if they see women in skimpy clothing, members of law enforcement agencies around the country have called for men to blindfold themselves when they are in places where they might encounter a female wearing a tank top or a short skirt.

The Buck Shouldn't Stop at Theresa Spence

Imagine a country where the national government introduces and passes legislation that detrimentally affects all of its First Nations communities but it doesn't bother to consult with them. Then a chief of an impoverished northern First Nation community goes on a hunger strike to get a meeting between the First Nations leadership and the government several months after this legislation was passed. Does this have implications for all Canadians? You bet it does. This will not be the last time that individuals or groups will take such extreme measures in response to the federal government's public policy process or lack thereof.

Prince George Sex Assault: Boy Recovering After 6 Arrests Made

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - A male youth remains in a northern B.C. hospital and six people, including two females, are in custody in what police are calling a "horrific" and "disturbing" case of sexual and aggravated assault.

RCMP Cpl. Craig Douglass said Thursday night senior officers with more than 20 years of experience are describing it as one of the worst such cases they have seen involving youth.

Leon Panetta On Afghanistan War Withdrawal: 'We're Not Gonna Walk Backward'

WASHINGTON -- Starting Sunday, tens of thousands of troops from the 10th Mountain, 101st Airborne and the 1st Armored Divisions will begin boarding aircraft bound for yet another combat tour in Afghanistan. At least some of the troopers will have been in grade school when the war started in 2001, and some will be on their second or third rotation.

But now, after a U.S. investment of $641 billion sunk into the war and a casualty toll of 2,162 dead and 18,188 wounded, the Pentagon reports that the Taliban insurgency that was supposed to have been beaten is still active and resilient, that the Afghan government is still corrupt and that Afghan security forces are still unable to fight the war on their own.

Twelve Questions Progressives Should Ask Jack Lew

How do we reconcile the contradictions that are inherent in Jack Lew? He's the Carleton College student whose faculty adviser was Professor Paul Wellstone and the Clinton aide who promoted trade agreements and budget policies that Senator Paul Wellstone opposed; the former aide to populist Massachusetts Congressmen Joe Moakley and Tip O’Neill who made at least $1.1. million a year as a managing director of Citigroup; and now, the man President Obama has nominated to replace Tim Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury.

Karnalyte Resources: Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd. Buys Stake In Saskatchewan Potash Project For $45-Million

CALGARY - An Indian company has signed a $45-million deal to buy a 19.98 per cent stake in Karnalyte Resources Inc. (TSX:KRN), which is developing a potash project in Saskatchewan.

Under the deal, Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd., has agreed to pay $8.15 per share for about 5.5 million shares.

First Nations meeting with PM thrown into disarray

A meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations chiefs is in question amid demands that the Governor General be present at the gathering.

Questions over who will attend the meeting — and new demands about where it should be held — created confusion on the eve of the gathering called to discuss concerns about the relationship between the federal government and First Nations.

Canada’s First Nations Ratchet Up Pressure on Harper

Ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian native leaders warned the government Thursday it’s time to fundamentally change the relationship between Ottawa and the country’s aboriginals.

It’s the latest salvo amid one of Canada’s most contentious, nation-wide aboriginal protests in years. At a press conference a day before native leaders are set to meet Mr. Harper, Shawn Atleo, head of the Assembly of First Nations, a national umbrella of native groups, and other leaders said failure to make progress at the meeting could spark more aboriginal-led protests across the country.

Three Years After the Quake, How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster

Three years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, we’re joined by Jonathan Katz, author of "The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster." The earthquake on January 12, 2010, ultimately resulted in the deaths of roughly 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless in what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. A cholera epidemic, widely blamed on international U.N. troops, killed almost 8,000 people, making more than half-a-million sick. Today, despite pledges of billions of dollars in international aid, rebuilding has barely begun, and almost 400,000 people are still living in crowded camps. After four years of reporting in Haiti, Katz joins us to discuss where the reconstruction effort went wrong.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Matt Taibbi & William Black on Bailout Secrets & How New Foreclosure Deal Spares Banks from Justice

Four years after the massive bailout that rescued Wall Street, we look at the state of the financial sector with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and former financial regulator William Black. In a new article for Rolling Stone, Taibbi argues the government did not just bail out Wall Street, but also lied on the financial sector’s behalf, calling unhealthy banks healthy and helping banks cover up how much aid they were getting. The government’s approach to the banks came under new scrutiny this week after it reached an $8.5 billion settlement for improprieties in the wrongful foreclosures on millions of American homeowners, including flawed paperwork, robo-signing and wrongly modified loans. The settlement will end an independent review of all foreclosures, meaning the banks could be avoiding billions of dollars in further penalties, in addition to criminal prosecution.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

"Failure of Epic Proportions": Treasury Nominee Jack Lew’s Pro-Bank, Austerity, Deregulation Legacy

Former bank regulator William Black and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi join us to dissect the career of Jack Lew, President Obama’s pick to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither. Currently Obama’s chief of staff, Lew was an executive at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008 at the time of the financial crisis. He backed financial deregulation efforts while he headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. During that time, Clinton enacted two key laws to deregulate Wall Street: the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Black, a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator, is the author of "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." A contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, Taibbi is the author of "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

The Commons: Shawn Atleo at the fork in the road

“We have arrived at a moment unlike any other in the history of our peoples,” ventured Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

And yet, here we are again.

“Generations of our leaders have delivered the same message to successive federal governments for over a century,” he explained, a few moments later. “From the battle against the destructive federal government white paper back in 1969 to the struggles to win section 35 in the Constitution in ’80, to the Charlottetown debates in the 90s, to our efforts to make effective the recommendations of the royal commission 16 years ago, we have never wavered. Our voices have always been clear. Continuing attempts to undermine our resolve, to divide our people, have and always will fail. Today our work in preparation for the meeting with the prime minister on January 11, 2013, stands on the shoulders of decades indigenous leadership.”

Prime minister’s wife sells off entire stock portfolio

OTTAWA — An ethics disclosure filed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper shows that his wife Laureen liquidated her entire portfolio of stock market investments late last year.

The prime minister last month amended a disclosure of assets and liabilities he had filed with Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and removed its reference to his wife’s investments.

Previous versions of Harper’s MP disclosure said his wife held an “investment account with Raymond James Ltd. partly composed of publicly traded securities.”

NRA Membership Surges By 100,000 In Wake Of Sandy Hook Shooting

The National Rifle Association's paying member ranks have grown by 100,000 in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the organization told Politico on Thursday.

In the days since the Dec. 14 massacre -- in which a gunman armed with a military-style assault weapon and high-capacity magazines shot and killed 26 people, including 20 young children -- the NRA's membership increased from 4.1 million to 4.2 million, Politico's Mike Allen reports. New members must pay a fee of $25, and in return get access to NRA events and a free gift.

First Nations Resources: Chiefs Vow To Block Projects If Ottawa Doesn't Play Fair

OTTAWA - They can — and they will.

If the chiefs and protesters making noise across Canada have a common message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it's that they intend to stand in the way of his resource development ambitions if he doesn't play fair.

"We've got the geography covered," Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak told a news conference Thursday. With First Nations and their supporters mobilizing across the country, they have the power to "bring the Canadian economy to its knees."

Biggest Threats To The Global Economy, According To The World Economic Forum

Growing income inequality is the biggest threat to the world’s economy, says the latest edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report.

The report, which surveyed more than 1,000 industry, government and academic experts, also throws up a litany of other risks that could derail the slow, lumbering recovery from the financial crisis of recent years, including a “major systemic financial failure,” food and water shortages, cataclysmic climate events, and “diffusion of weapons of mass destruction.”

Deutsche Bank Made Huge Profit On Libor During Financial Crisis: Report

Back in 2008, when financial markets were chaotic and unpredictable, at least one large bank managed to turn a hefty profit with finely-tuned bets on an interest rate that was being manipulated almost constantly by large banks.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Deutsche Bank turned a neat profit of $654 million betting on small changes in the benchmark lending rate known as Libor in 2008, the year when global markets were at their absolute craziest. The bets were an "extremely large risk" even for Deutsche Bank, one of the biggest banks in Europe, one analyst tells the WSJ.

NRA: White House Meeting 'Had Nothing To Do With Keeping Our Children Safe'

WASHINGTON—The nation's largest gun-rights lobby says its meeting at the White House was more about demonizing the Second Amendment than about keeping students safe.

The National Rifle Association met with Vice President Joe Biden's school safety study group on Thursday and afterward said the participants spent most their time on proposals to limit gun rights. The NRA says it, quote, "will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen."

Tactical Response CEO Threatens To 'Start Killing People' Over Possible Obama Gun Measure

One CEO says he's willing to go to outrageous lengths to protect his right to use a gun.

James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, claimed in a video posted on YouTube and Facebook that he would "start killing people" if President Barack Obama decides to take executive action to pass further gun control policies, Raw Story reports.

Taft High School Shooting: Suspect In Custody In Taft, California

A shooting has been reported at Taft Union High School in Taft, California, KERO reports.

The shooting suspect is in custody, according to ABC 7.

UPDATE: At a press conference held Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said that the shooter, a 16-year-old student at the high school, entered a science classroom at around 9 a.m. that morning armed with a 12-gauge shotgun.