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 16, 2013

Insecticide 'unacceptable' danger to bees, report finds

The world's most widely used insecticide has for the first time been officially labelled an "unacceptable" danger to bees feeding on flowering crops. Environmental campaigners say the conclusion, by Europe's leading food safety authority, sounds the "death knell" for the insect nerve agent.

The chemical's manufacturer, Bayer, claimed the report, released on Wednesday, did not alter existing risk assessments and warned against "over-interpretation of the precautionary principle".

French envoy says money needed from Canada and others to support Mali fight

OTTAWA - France is looking for financial backing from Canada and the world to support the international military mission in Mali, says the country's Canadian envoy.

Ambassador Philippe Zeller told The Canadian Press his country is grateful for Canada's contribution of a military transport plane to the Mali mission, but says money is needed to support the international force, which will eventually be buttressed by 2,500 French troops.

Online campaign begun to buy EI protester a car

MONTAGUE – Some want to take her to lunch, some want to give her money, and some want to buy her a car.

But Marlene Geirsdorf, who started a one woman protest here last Friday after being denied EI benefits and told to go on welfare, has become a lightning rod of controversy.

The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime”

I did not know Aaron Swartz, unless you count having copies of a person’s entire digital life on your forensics server as knowing him. I did once meet his father, an intelligent and dedicated man who was clearly pouring his life into defending his son. My deepest condolences go out to him and the rest of Aaron’s family during what must be the hardest time of their lives.

Idle No More: Protesters force VIA to stop trains

VIA Rail has been forced to stop passenger trains between Toronto and Montreal and Toronto and Ottawa because of a blockade on the tracks near Marysville, Ont.

VIA Rail says ground transportation will get passengers through the site of the blockade, which is one of several protests across the country as part of a national day of action in the Idle No More movement.

Stacie Halas, California Teacher Fired For Porn Star Past, Loses Appeal

OXNARD, Calif. -- A middle-school science teacher fired after students learned she had appeared in pornographic movies had hoped not just to get her job back, but to set a precedent for people looking to escape an embarrassing personal history.

A three-judge commission put a decisive stop to both, saying firmly and unanimously that Stacie Halas should not be in the classroom.

"We were hoping we could show you could overcome your past," Halas lawyer Richard Schwab said Tuesday. "I think she's representative of a lot of people who may have a past that may not involve anything illegal or anything that hurts anybody."

Paul Krugman: Anti-Obamacare Governors Risk Killing Poor People

Anti-Obamacare governors are boosting their political profiles on the backs of their suffering constituents, according to Paul Krugman.

Ten Republican governors -- including the governors of Texas, South Carolina and Louisiana -- have refused to participate in Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid, which would have allowed their residents who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level to get public health coverage.

Warm Winds Smash Temperature Records Across Central, Southern Alberta

Cities and towns around Alberta may have smashed through weather records with unseasonably high temperatures yesterday, but don't call it a Chinook.

"That's not what this is," says David Spence, meteorologist for CTV Calgary.

Idle No More Stages Day Of Action

OTTAWA - If there's one issue that unites Idle No More protesters, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and militant and moderate First Nations alike, it is the federal government's recent changes to environmental oversight.

But the united stand among First Nations, grassroots and environmentalists has been met with an equally adamant federal government that appears unwilling to budge, forming the battle lines for an extended conflict.

Climate scientists to Obama: Reject the Keystone XL pipeline

Some of the nation's leading climate scientists on Tuesday are urging President Obama to show his "climate convictions" and reject the tar sands-carrying Keystone XL pipeline.

 In an open letter, the 18 scientists, including noted climate scientist James Hansen, Ralph Keeling of Scripps CO2 Program Scripps Institution of Oceanography and James Box of the Byrd Polar Research Center, write that rejecting the pipeline would be a "relatively easy" step to take to address the planet's rising temperature.

Misleading with statistics: The Fraser Institute on health care and 'value for money'

No sooner noted than illuminated -- yesterday morning mainstream media was credulously reporting another "Fraser Factoid," this one a report by the far-right political lobby group purporting to show Albertans get poor value for the money they spend on public health care.

Actually, since in this case the market-fundamentalist "think tank" had little choice but to rely on publicly available and legitimate research to tease out its predictable conclusions, the news couldn't be made to seem as bad as the reports author doubtless would have preferred.

Idle No More and the lessons of history

Apparently decolonization happens when you are busy taking other stands.

As activists in Canada this fall struggled to defeat a tuition hike in Quebec, to defy anti-union legislation in Ontario, and to block pipeline and other colonial and capitalist development on Indigenous territories in the West, four women from Saskatchewan -- Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon, and Sheelah McLean -- sparked the grassroots Idle No More movement to raise awareness about the potentially devastating effects of Bill C-45 for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the territories today known as Canada.

Debate on Armed Police in Schools: Needed For Kid Safety or Part of the Student-to-Prison Pipeline?

As the National Rifle Association pushes for armed guards in every school, we host a debate over what type of security measures should be taken in schools to prevent future tragedies. On Monday, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools proposed forming the school system’s own police force. We’re joined by Sean Burke, president of the School Safety Advocacy Council; and Damon Hewitt, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and co-author of "The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Delhi's voices, women and rape in India

There is something callously casual about how the media reports rape in India. Though often harrowing, these accounts are usually routine, crime-page fare.

No surprise, perhaps. The government's own statistics indicate an Indian woman is raped every 22 minutes. As a phenomenon, rape in India is just one symptom, one form of a grander injustice dealt the country's women every day, and across the generations.

"You flip through the newspapers, and you just see someone's raped here, someone's raped there, it's so common," says university student Faiza Mookerjee. She is only 19.

Newtown school massacre a hoax to tighten gun laws: Latest conspiracy theory

WASHINGTON—The United States has long been a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists, spurred by an often violent history riddled, in particular, with shadowy political assassinations.

But the latest conspiracy movement seems custom-made to underscore the need for a national debate on mental illness. Some of the Sandy Hook Truthers, as they’ve been dubbed, believe last month’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.

Ask Brennan: Are Drones Really Working?

President Obama's nomination of John Brennan, who currently serves as the White House Senior Advisor for Counterterrorism, should occasion a debate regarding how the United States can best confront, respond to, or mitigate our most pressing security challenges, including the current counterterrorism strategy. In particular, John Brennan's nomination as CIA director should spur re-evaluation of the U.S. strategy of using unmanned drone aircraft in conducting lethal strikes against suspected terrorists.

Here's What Happened the Last Time the U.S. Defaulted on Its Debt

Once upon a time, Congress didn't want to raise the debt ceiling, and sent the country into default. It was bad, and we shouldn't do it again. The end.

Oh, you wanted to hear the rest of the story? Okay, here it is. Back in 1979, Congress waited, and waited, and waited to lift the debt ceiling, because Congress never likes taking responsibility for the tax and spending decisions it's already made. Now, Congress usually does the right thing after it's exhausted every other possibility, at least when it comes to paying our bills, and this debt limit increase was no exception. Congress did raise it right before defaulting on our obligations would have been unavoidable ... but that didn't let us avoid defaulting on our debt. At least not $120 million or so of it. That's because the logistically and technologically-challenged Treasury couldn't get the checks out in time on such short notice. As Donald Marron of the Tax Policy Center explains, the Treasury got swamped with an inordinately high demand for Treasury bills, which it couldn't meet due to a word-processing error. So we defaulted on some of them.

EPA's Water Contamination Investigation Halted In Texas After Range Resources Protest

WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — When a man in a Fort Worth suburb reported his family's drinking water had begun "bubbling" like champagne, the federal government sounded an alarm: An oil company may have tainted their wells while drilling for natural gas.

At first, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. More than a year later, the agency rescinded its mandate and refused to explain why.

Unmasking the NRA's Inner Circle

The resurgent debate over gun control has put a spotlight on the hardline leaders of the National Rifle Association. In the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre delivered a full-throated rejection of gun control and called for more firearms in schools, while David Keene, the group's president, predicted the failure of any new assault weapons ban introduced in Congress. The two NRA figureheads purported to speak for more than 4 million American gun owners, though the group's membership may in fact be smaller.

Fantino's Partisan CIDA Letters Pulled Down By PMO

OTTAWA - Two highly partisan letters by a Conservative cabinet minister posted on a government of Canada website are to be removed after the Prime Minister's Office acknowledged they were inappropriate.

The letters by Julian Fantino, the minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA, were posted to the departmental website in December.

Surge in private security raises concerns over rights

As the number of security guards in Canada rises faster than the number of police officers, some are expressing concerns over blurring the line between private and public police forces.

There are now more than 140,000 private security guards licensed in Canada and only about 70,000 active police officers. Compared to the growing population, the number of police officers is actually decreasing, according to Statistics Canada.

Private clinic patients tested faster at public screening centre, queue-jumping inquiry told

CALGARY - Patients from a private clinic were fast-tracked at a colonoscopy centre in Calgary, an Alberta health inquiry heard Tuesday.

Witnesses told the Alberta Health Services queue-jumping inquiry that patients under the care of Helios Health and Wellness, a private clinic in Calgary, were tested faster than those under the public system.

When the law’s an ass: Politicians and civil disobedience

In a recent issue of the Toronto Sun, Liberal activist Warren Kinsella took on certain Ontario Liberal leadership candidates for courting certain union leaders at the expense of demonstrating support for a law that curbs the right of teachers to strike.

Kinsella’s argument basically boils down to dura lex sed lex — “the law may be harsh, but it’s still the law.” Politicians are expected to demonstrate support for the rule of law. Failure to do so, says Kinsella, surrenders society to the “caprice of despots and ideologues.”

Global capitalism and David McNally's monsters

One of the many carnivalesque aspects of consumer society is the popular fascination -- and fashion -- oriented around various types of monsters. As with previous groups that rebelled via a parodic inversion against the regulatory demands of official culture -- such as hippies in the 1960s, skinheads in the 1980s and the occasional cyborg in the 1990s -- today's zombie and vampire enthusiasts present themselves in opposition to mainstream, bourgeois style, costume and aesthetics.

How 20 tents rocked Israel: Palestinians take the fight to their occupiers

When the Palestinian leadership won their upgrade to non-member observer status at the United Nations in November, plenty of sceptics on both sides of the divide questioned what practical benefits would accrue to the Palestinians. The doubters have not been silenced yet.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has done little to capitalise on his diplomatic success. There have been vague threats to "isolate" Israel, hesitant talk of "not ruling out" a referral to the International Criminal Court, and a low-key declaration by the Palestinian Authority of the new "state of Palestine".

Protect the Global Domestic Worker: Report

Working in other people's homes is no guarantee of safety and dignity, according to a new report that finds domestics all over the world are vulnerable to economic exploitation, overwork, rape and other forms of physical abuse.

In the wake of that new UN sponsored research, local advocates say that Canada should be doing more to protect those who tend our children, clean our houses, cook our meals and care for the ill and the dying.

Idle No More protests, activities planned nationwide

First Nations chiefs and activists are promising to stage Canada-wide protests today, as part of the Idle No More movement's national day of action, including at North America's busiest border crossing.

People participating in the grassroots movement are targeting the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit on Wednesday morning for an "economic slowdown." Organizers say, however, it is "not a blockade".

ORNGE: Dr. Chris Mazza’s salary and expense records gather dust after Queen’s Park legislature prorogued

A bankers box stuffed with Dr. Chris Mazza’s financial records sits, gathering dust, at Queen’s Park.

Details of about $400,000 of the former ORNGE president’s expenses, plus salary, bonus and loan payments totalling an estimated $4 million over six years, would have been made public last October if Premier Dalton McGuinty had not prorogued the legislature.

Housing market : Prices steady, but sales down 17%

So far it’s looking like a soft landing for Canada’s housing market, analysts, economists and realtors generally agree, despite the fact home sales were down 17.4 per cent in December over a year earlier, according to figures released Tuesday by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

With prices up an average 1.6 per cent across Canada in December year over year — six per cent in Toronto — housing experts are looking to the spring market, the busiest time of year for home sales, as the best barometer of where the housing market is ultimately headed.

Sandy Relief Passes House Despite Conservative Opposition

A measure providing $51 billion for relief and recovery from Hurricane Sandy was approved by a bipartisan majority in the House on Tuesday evening, three weeks after Northeast Republicans excoriated the chamber's GOP leaders for failing to vote on storm aid before the end of the last Congress.

An amendment to the relief package introduced by Tea Party-allied conservatives requiring across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs to pay for $17 billion of storm aid was supported by a majority of Republicans, but was defeated 258-162 with a combination of GOP and Democratic votes.

New York State Gun Laws The First In Country Since Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting In Newtown

ALBANY, N.Y. — Jumping out ahead of Washington, New York state enacted the nation's toughest gun restrictions Tuesday and the first since the Connecticut school massacre, including an expanded assault-weapon ban and background checks for buying ammunition.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law less than an hour after it won final passage in the Legislature, with supporters hailing it as a model for the nation and gun-rights activists condemning it as a knee-jerk piece of legislation that won't make anyone safer and is too extreme to win support in the rest of the country.

Robocalls election probe turns to Rogers clients

An investigation into allegedly misleading live and robocalls in the last federal election has turned to complainants who are Rogers customers, newly released court documents show.

Elections Canada investigators have already obtained records for clients of Shaw and Vidéotron in an effort to track back the calls to their originating number or numbers.

Mulcair blasts Fantino for 'breaching rules' with CIDA web posts

The Canadian International Development Agency has abruptly pulled partisan letters from its website after NDP Leader Tom Mulcair blasted the published correspondence as “highly partisan” and a breach of federal rules.

One of the letters, titled “Dear NDP: CIDA Does Not Need Your Economic Advice,” was dated Dec. 21, 2012, and signed by Minister Julian Fantino. It was penned in response to an article NDP critic Hélène Laverdière wrote for the Huffington Post.

Idle No More: OPP defends hands-off approach ahead of planned blockades

The Ontario Provincial Police say they don’t plan to change the way they have been handling Idle No More protests.

In a taped message posted on YouTube Tuesday, OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis said First Nations groups could “paralyze” Canada by “shutting down travel and trade routes,” but that it’s not the OPP’s job to solve disputes between First Nations communities and government.

Last week, an Ontario Superior Court judge slammed the OPP for not doing enough to stop a protest that stranded hundreds of passengers on a main rail line between Toronto and Montreal.

Aaron Swartz's Father Says Reddit Co-Founder Was 'Killed By The Government'

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. -- Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz was "killed by the government," his father told mourners Tuesday during his son's funeral in suburban Chicago.

Swartz, who help create Reddit and RSS, the technology behind blogs, podcasts and other web-based subscription services, was found dead Friday in his New York apartment. He was facing federal charges that alleged he illegally gained access to millions of articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer archive.