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, January 15, 2013

'Why I'll never take the Pill again'

Since it was released 50 years ago, the Pill has become a by-word for liberation. I was on the Pill for a decade – from 16 to 26. I would not describe my experience as liberating. In a blog, Sweetening The Pill, I have detailed how this tiny tablet made me feel – trapped, silenced, suppressed, stagnant. The Pill made me feel as though I were held hostage, and later, as though I were an addict. I know I am not the only woman who had, or is still having, problems with the Pill, because I hear from women with stories similar to mine every day.

No less than Idle No More

There are seldom moments of sheer magic in the world, but one certainly took place on January 11, 2013 in the Grand Parade in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Grand Parade is the political, spiritual, military, and commercial center of the city with City Hall on one side of the square, St Paul's Anglican Church (the first Anglican diocese in North America) on the other, the Nova Scotia provincial Legislature just east of the square, and the Halifax Citadel -- the historical, military fortress -- just to the west, and with Halifax's clock tower looking down on it all. The Grand Parade is the place for democratic speech and action, the former home of the Occupy movement in Halifax, the site of the cenotaph to the fallen of the First and Second World Wars. And so it was a fitting place for hundreds of people to gather to be a part of the Idle No More movement.

Protesters arrested after storming pipeline hearings in Vancouver

Several people have been arrested in Vancouver after protesters burst into hearings on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project and cordoned off the room with tape.

There are reports that about six people have been removed from the downtown hotel where the hearings are taking place, but Vancouver Police did not immediately confirm that.

Right-wing Group Plans 'Blanket Coverage' Ad Blitz against BC NDP

"Christy has not been given a fair shake. She has not been identified as a competent premier." -- Jim Shepard, Concerned Citizens for B.C.

A political action group formed by a retired corporate leader will soon launch a $1 million "blanket coverage... full multi-media campaign" to attack the BC New Democrats and help re-elect Premier Christy Clark's BC Liberals, according to leaked documents obtained by 24 hours Vancouver and The Tyee.

Why Are Some Leading Dems Getting Soft on an Assault Weapons Ban?

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, support for re-banning assault weapons grew exponentially inside and outside of the Beltway. It's only natural when an AR-15 is used to slaughter twenty schoolchildren and six educators, only months after another was used to shoot seventy-one people inside a movie theater.

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—seen as recently as 2006 recruiting pro-gun Democrats to run in House races—said that Newtown was a “tipping point, a galvanization for action.” He’s now calling for an assault weapons ban, expanded background checks, and is ordering Chicago municipal pension funds to divest from all gun manufacturers.

The Triumph of the Far Right in Israel

During his first term in office in the late 1990s, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was considered the most polarizing leader the country had known. The left refused to forgive him for his part in the incitement that led to Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 assassination, while the right adored him for leading the opposition to the Oslo Accords. Now approaching his fifth election campaign as head of the Likud party, Netanyahu doesn’t generate that much passion anymore. His fans are less enthusiastic, while his critics have grown tired. More than anything, it seems that a majority of Israelis have simply grown accustomed to him. At a time of regional upheaval and international instability, Netanyahu’s ability to maintain the status quo seems enough to deliver what, according to all indications, should be his third term in the prime minister’s office. But Netanyahu’s success is not just about the relative stability Israelis are enjoying; it has even more to do with political and ideological changes that have seen the entire political system shift gradually to the right, including the rise of a new right-wing elite.

First Nations leaders, Idle No More activists warn peaceful protests could turn into months-long blockades this spring

First Nations leaders and Idle No More activists have promised only peaceful protests on their national day of action Wednesday, but once the snow melts and warmer weather sets in, key highways — including the main road to Alberta’s Fort McMurray, a major oil production hub — could be blocked for days, weeks or even months, prompting what one chief called “chaos.”

These latest threats of economic upheaval come at a fragile moment in First Nations-Crown relations, especially now that National Chief Shawn Atleo announced on Monday that a regional chief will take over his duties while he takes a “brief” doctor-ordered stress leave.

Protesters in custody after disrupting Northern Gateway hearings in Vancouver

VANCOUVER - Five protesters face charges after a group of people staged a noisy disruption at Vancouver hearings into the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Three men and two women managed to sneak into the hearings on Tuesday despite efforts by the federal review panel to limit access, said Vancouver Police Sgt. Randy Fincham.

Forced labour used in Canadian-Eritrean mine

OTTAWA - A highly critical human rights report released Tuesday is shedding new light on the darker implications of the Conservative government's ambitions for Canadian mining companies in Africa.

The report by Human Rights Watch says Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources Ltd.  failed to ensure that forced labour was not used in the construction of its mine in Eritrea, the hermit-like pariah state on the Horn of Africa.

EI plight brings flood of support to Montague woman

MONTAGUE — A single mom protesting a denial of her EI benefits has been flooded with everything from hot soup and support, to offers of money and even a possible job.

Marlene Geirsdorf’s one-woman protest has sparked an outpouring of public concern as the 30-year-old epitomizes the fears anticipated by many in the Atlantic region about federal government EI changes in a region ripe with seasonal work.

First Nations peoples and the honour of the Crown

On Friday, January 11, in the Langevin Block, across from Parliament Hill, the Prime Minister hosted a working meeting, attended by Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and some others from the AFN, but boycotted in anger by treaty Chiefs from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and elsewhere.

Later in the day, the Governor General convened, and addressed a ceremonial meeting of Chiefs that included Chief Theresa Spence, a focus of attention since she announced her hunger strike over a month earlier.

Idle No More opposes Canada's energy juggernaut

Those who believe we can freely trash the environment in our quest to make ourselves richer suffer from a serious delusion -- a delusion that doesn't appear to afflict aboriginal people.

Aboriginals tend to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their approach has long baffled and irritated Canada's white establishment, which regards it as a needless impediment to unbridled economic growth.

MIT Refused To Support Push To Keep Aaron Swartz Out Of Prison, Lawyer Says

Officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology declined to support a petition last fall from Aaron Swartz's attorneys that could have helped the well-known Internet activist avoid prison, one of his attorneys told The Huffington Post Monday.

"As an institution, [MIT] declined to take a formal position in the plea negotiations, even though they recognized that a large segment of the MIT community cared deeply about Aaron and would have wished to have this case resolved in a positive manner," one of his attorneys, Martin Weinberg, said in an interview.

BC Health Privacy Breach Affects Millions

VICTORIA - The personal-health data of more than five million British Columbians has been accessed without proper authorization, and in the most serious cases, the provincial government says it will notify more than 38,000 individuals of the breaches by letter.

As part of an ongoing probe into research-grant practices between ministry employees and researchers at the universities of B.C. and Victoria, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced Monday three specific instances of data breaches in October 2010 and June 2012.

Elections Canada set to interview Tory campaign workers over voter suppression calls

OTTAWA — Elections Canada investigators have arranged to interview Conservative campaign workers on Tuesday as part of their probe into apparently deceptive and fraudulent election calls in ridings across Canada, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

The interviews come as investigators sort through newly-obtained phone records they hope will help locate the source of suspect election calls in 85 ridings across Canada.

What's with Laureen Harper's stock portfolio selloff? Fiscal Götterdämmerung? Or what?

Terribly rude of me to ask, I know. Positively un-Canadian! But what's with Laureen Harper's stock portfolio selloff?

The Ottawa Citizen reported in a remarkably uninformative story last week that what it termed a disclosure of assets and liabilities filed with the federal Ethics Commissioner by Harper and her husband, who happens to be the Conservative prime minister of Canada, showed Harper had “liquidated her entire portfolio of stock market investments late last year.”

Ontario teachers' labour dispute may be beginning of broader battle across public service

The ongoing labour crisis in Ontario's public schools may just be a prelude to a much broader battle about to unfold between the government and all public sector workers in the province.

As it stands, teachers are at an impasse in their face-off with the Liberal government of soon-to-be-retired Premier Dalton McGuinty. After Education Minister Laurel Broten used the controversial Bill 115 on January 3 to impose a contract on the province's 126,000 teachers and education workers who had yet to reach agreements with their school boards, teachers' unions were outraged and warned this would not be the end of the bitter dispute.

In 2011, Fraser Institute continued to take foreign donations and file tax returns claiming no political activity

In 2011, the market-fundamentalist Fraser Institute continued to accept substantial funding from the U.S.-based Koch Brothers, the far-right New York billionaires who have helped bankroll the extremist American Tea Party.

A U.S. tax filing for a foundation controlled by Charles Koch (pronounced "coke") and his brother David show the organization, which specializes in funding extreme-right-wing advocacy groups, donated $150,000 to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute in 2011.

Harper Gov't Asks Court to Rule It Powerless on Key Chinese Miner Issue

Employers wishing to use temporary foreign workers could be spared the hassle of proving they are legitimately needed depending on a court ruling this week.

Last Wednesday lawyers representing two Canadian unions squared off in court against lawyers representing the Canadian government over who controls documents related to a mining company's application for Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) permits.

Toronto casino: Ford pushes potential jobs, revenue at third public consultation

Toronto’s third session asking the public if they want a casino featured appearances Monday night by Mayor Rob Ford and a protester dressed as Darth Vader.

More than 200 people attended the three-hour event at the Etobicoke Olympium. It was the third of five such events over 10 days organized by the city manager’s office, ahead of a report to the mayor’s executive committee on the possibility of bringing a casino to Toronto.

What is France risking in Mali?

Hundreds of French troops have been deployed, and French airstrikes have already driven back Islamist rebels from the town of Konna. France moved swiftly when fighters swept south towards the capital, Bamako.

West African nations have also scrambled their troops, with soldiers from Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Nigeria being mobilised by the African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The Party Faithful

At a makeshift theatre in the port of Tel Aviv, hundreds of young immigrants from Melbourne, the Five Towns, and other points in the Anglophone diaspora gathered recently to hear from the newest phenomenon in Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett. A forty-year-old settlement leader, software entrepreneur, and ex-Army commando, Bennett promises to build a sturdy electoral bridge between the religious and the secular, the hilltop outposts of the West Bank and the start-up suburbs of the coastal plain. This is something new in the history of the Jewish state. Bennett is a man of the far right, but he is eager to advertise his cosmopolitan bona fides. Although he was the director general of the Yesha Council, the main political body of the settler movement, he does not actually live in a settlement. He lives in Ra’anana, a small city north of Tel Aviv that is full of programmers and executives. He is as quick to make reference to an episode of “Seinfeld” as he is to the Torah portion of the week. He constantly updates his Facebook page. A dozen years ago, he moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to seek his fortune in high tech, and his wife, Gilat, went to work as a pastry chef at chic restaurants like Aureole, Amuse, and Bouley Bakery. Her crème brûlée, he declares proudly, “restored the faith of the Times food critic in the virtues of crème brûlée.”

How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz—And Us

Tomorrow is the funeral for Aaron Swartz, the programmer and sometime activist who killed himself last Friday, while facing federal trial. No one knows, or will ever really know, what caused Swartz to take his own life. But his suicide, in the face of possible bankruptcy and serious prison time, has created a moment of clarity. We can rightly judge a society by how it treats its eccentrics and deviant geniuses—and by that measure, we have utterly failed.

Obama's Job One: Middle-Class Employment Problems Loom Over Second Term

WASHINGTON -- On election night in Chicago two months ago, President Barack Obama triumphantly pledged to fight for a middle class he'd appealed to relentlessly -- and successfully -- on the 2012 campaign trail.

"I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class," Obama said. "I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard ... you can make it here in America."

Military Suicides Reached Record High In 2012

WASHINGTON — Suicides in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year, far exceeding American combat deaths in Afghanistan, and some private experts are predicting the dark trend will grow worse this year.

The Pentagon has struggled to deal with the suicides, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have called an epidemic. The problem reflects severe strains on military personnel burdened with more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of a shrinking force.

TekSavvy File-Sharing Lawsuit: Judge Adjourns Case To Give Defence More Time To Prepare

Unauthorized file-sharers, take a deep breath. Your day of judgment hasn’t arrived quite yet.

A federal judge in Toronto has delayed a decision on handing over the personal information of 1,100 TekSavvy internet subscribers in a landmark file-sharing lawsuit, according to multiple news reports.

Idle No More calms after the storm

The fever pitch sustained by Aboriginal leaders, Idle No More protesters, and hunger-strikers on Ottawa’s Victoria Island relented over the weekend. Everyone’s taking a breather after an onslaught of pressure forced Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston to meet with Assembly of First Nations chiefs. Over the weekend, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who stayed relatively quiet during the last week of protests, suggested Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence should end her protest, instead calling on Aboriginal leaders to pressure the government to follow through on its commitments. Former AFN national chief Matthew Coon Come sent a similar message, as did Justice Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As well, Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak stepped down from earlier comments about bringing Canada’s economy “to its knees,” instead endorsing only peaceful protests.

HMCS Toronto headed for Arabian Sea

A Canadian warship will leave Halifax Monday morning and head for the Arabian Sea on a lengthy deployment that will see them join an international security mission.

HMCS Toronto leaves Halifax Harbour at 10 a.m. Monday morning. Capt. Tyrone Grande says the deployment could last as long as 200 days.

Harper announces plan to strengthen venture capital investment

MONTREAL - Saying Canada's economic well-being depends on companies having the capital they need to create growth, Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid out the details Monday of a plan to bolster venture capital investment in the country.

The government's Venture Capital Action Plan, which was announced in the last federal budget, is making $400 million available to help increase private-sector investments in the next seven to 10 years.

B.C. judge declares human smuggling law too broad

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has taken the bluster out of the Conservative's campaign against illegal migrants by striking down a section of the law targeting human smuggling, putting at least two high-profile prosecutions in limbo.

In February 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to toughen asylum laws as he stood aboard one of the ships used to bring Tamil migrants to Canada in 2009 and 2010.

Atleo humbled, native solidarity shattered — advantage Harper

The very least Stephen Harper can do for Shawn Atleo is give the poor man a job in the PMO.

What is he but the national chief of the Disassembly of First Nations? Atleo has earned a spot on the Harper Team for three reasons.

First, he destroyed the official unity of his organization. That is a big gift to the PM, a master of the Rovian game of divide-and-conquer politics. Thanks to Atleo, it will be much easier for Harper to pull the wings off the troublesome new pest that took over Ottawa last week: authentic native pride.

Feds losing ground on timely access-to-information responses: commissioner

OTTAWA - New federal statistics show the government is backsliding when it comes to answering access-to-information requests in a timely way, says information commissioner Suzanne Legault.

"There's no other way to look at it," Legault said Monday in an interview.

Fewer requests were being answered within 30 days in 2011-12 than during the previous year, Legault noted.

Norovirus sidelines AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo

OTTAWA — Amid rising discontent among aboriginal grassroots and dissension in the ranks of Assembly of First Nations chiefs, National Chief Shawn Atleo is stepping briefly aside for health reasons, he announced suddenly Monday.

Atleo, who was visibly thinner and pale last week, is not quitting the job but suggested the stress of the past weeks has taken a toll. B.C. regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould confirmed Atleo had been battling a norovirus over the holidays, was not contagious, but not yet fully recovered.

SIU closes investigation into alleged brutality by Toronto police — again

It was opened, then closed, then reopened, and now it’s closed again.

The province’s police watchdog said Monday there are “no reasonable grounds” to charge a Toronto police officer with a criminal offence in the case of 27-year-old Tyrone Phillips, who alleged he was beaten unconscious by police during an arrest last summer.