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 18, 2013

Gun Appreciation Day Sponsored By American Third Position, White Supremacist Group

Firearms enthusiasts around the country are being encouraged to head down to their local gun shops on Saturday, constitutions and American flags in hand, to send a message to President Barack Obama about Second Amendment rights -- and, of course, to buy more guns.

The event is being billed as Gun Appreciation Day and has backing from white supremacist group American Third Position (A3P), Media Matters reported on Friday.

Fed Admitted Ignorance, Underplayed Severity Of Situation Just Ahead Of Massive Crisis, New Docs Reveal

If you want to feel confident that the Federal Reserve knows where it's going as it steers the world's biggest economy, then you probably should not read the transcripts of its 2007 policy meetings.

Those transcripts, released on Friday, show a Fed groping blindly for answers about the early market tremors preceding the financial crisis, while also blithely deciding that everything was probably going to be just fine.

Secrecy on federal job cuts hurting Ottawa’s economy: mayor

Secrecy surrounding the federal government’s plans to cut jobs is fuelling uncertainty and hurting Ottawa’s economy, said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

While Ottawa is still doing better than the national average, unemployment has nudged up and public servants nervous about losing their jobs are thinking twice about making big purchases.

“My view is that the uncertainty creates the greatest stress and challenge for the individuals and for the local community,” said Watson in an exclusive interview with iPolitics.

Canada closing in on free-trade pact with EU

The federal government appears only weeks away from completing negotiations on a Canada-European Union free-trade agreement that would be the country’s largest and most important international trade pact in a generation.

The deal is expected to immediately eliminate tariffs on approximately 98 per cent of European goods in Canada and lead to what some observers believe could be a three- to five-per-cent drop in the price of consumer goods ranging from European automobiles to clothing to coffee makers.

The demonizing and destabilization of Shawn Atleo

OTTAWA—As he rode to a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Friday, Shawn Atleo’s Blackberry buzzed.

“Since you have decided to betray me, all I ask of you now is to help carry my cold dead body off this island,’’ the text message said.

It was sent in the name of Chief Theresa Spence, but those who saw the text believe it came from someone else in her circle on Victoria Island.

The government shouldn’t play politics all the time

OTTAWA—Rumour has it that many people in this Canadian government carry two smartphone devices — one to do the business of the nation, and the other to have more candid chats about personal and political matters.

And that’s an excellent idea. Let’s encourage the people running this government to keep us, the citizens, out of their personal or political power struggles.

Flaherty broke conflict-of-interest rules: Ethics commissioner

OTTAWA—The federal watchdog’s reprimand of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty marked the second time in a week that a Conservative cabinet minister has been forced to own up to a breach of rules meant to keep government actions free of political influence.

On Friday, ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said Flaherty ran afoul of conflict-of-interest rules by sending a letter to the federal broadcast regulator on behalf of a company in his riding seeking a radio licence.

Dawson’s unusual compliance order to Flaherty came to light a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office defended Flaherty’s letter to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on behalf of Durham Radio Inc., which is based in the finance minister’s Whitby-Oshawa riding.

Rape in the 'New India'

In the days following the tragedy, the young physiotherapy student who was gang-raped on a New Delhi bus in mid-December quickly became a woman of many names. Required by law to protect her anonymity, Indian publications jumped on the opportunity to rechristen her. The stirring pseudonyms were selected to reflect her newfound status as an icon of feminine power: Nirbhaya (Fearless), Damini (Lightning), Jagruti (Awakening).

This is Forty: The Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Forty years ago this Tuesday, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade. Nine months later, Reader’s Digest published an essay by Alan Guttmacher, an obstetrician and gynecologist, called “Why I Favor Liberalized Abortion.”

Guttmacher was born in 1898. His father was a rabbi, his mother a social worker. In 1916, when a nurse named Margaret Sanger opened the nation’s first birth-control clinic, in Brooklyn, and was promptly arrested, Guttmacher was eighteen years old and a sophomore at Johns Hopkins. He formed his ideas about contraception and abortion in the nineteen-twenties. “I graduated from medical school firm in the belief that abortion was a simple, straightforward matter: bad guys did it; good guys did not,” Guttmacher explained, but “four years of hospital residency, and several experiences during my early years of practice, radically changed my attitude.” When he was a young doctor, Guttmacher’s patients included a mother of four (“the second person I ever saw die”) who, “screaming vainly for life,” died after what was probably a self-induced abortion: there was not a thing he, or anyone, could do to save her.

China's Green Leap Backward

Signaling China’s ambition to be the world’s leader in solar energy, Beijing officials announced in January that the country had installed an impressive seven gigawatts of solar power capacity in 2012 and would add an additional ten gigawatts this year. The bold announcement is consistent with the “Green Leap Forward,” China’s goal to assert global leadership in renewable energy and low-carbon development. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen three years ago, Wu Changhua, China director of the London-based Climate Group, galvanized an auditorium of environmentalists by stating that low-carbon growth had become “mainstream” in China. No longer a fringe industry, clean energy would be transformed into a robust market, with mass-scale production enabling global distribution and bringing downward pressure on prices everywhere. China would become a cornucopia of state-of-the-art, cheap and abundant green technology, all flowing from the enlightened thinking of its centrally planned economy and ambitious energy-savings targets.

America's New Cold War With Russia

With the full support of a feckless policy elite and an uncritical media establishment, Washington is slipping, if not plunging, into a new cold war with Moscow. Relations, already deeply chilled by fundamental disputes over missile defense, the Middle East and Russia’s internal politics, have now been further poisoned by two conflicts reminiscent of tit-for-tat policy-making during the previous Cold War.

Keystone XL Pipeline: John Kerry Has Investments In Canadian Energy Companies

WASHINGTON - John Kerry's expected cakewalk to the U.S. State Department has delighted American environmentalists due to his stance on climate change, but the longtime senator owns stock in two Canadian oil companies that have pushed for approval of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

Federal financial disclosure records show Kerry has investments of as much as US$750,000 in Suncor, a Calgary-based energy company whose CEO has urged the U.S. to greenlight TransCanada's controversial project.

Ashley Smith case: Federal Justice department refuses to divulge how it spent $3.6 million fighting abuse revelations

The federal Justice department is refusing to tell Canadians how it spent more than $3.6 million trying to keep abuses against teen inmate Ashley Smith a secret.

“Our office stands by the redactions applied to this file,” Maria Petropoulos, an information co-ordinator, said by email.

The national media chorus rips into Theresa Spence

Just as Leonard Cohen’s narrator in Beautiful Losers sets out to save the real Catherine Tekakwitha from the Jesuits, someone has to rescue Theresa Spence from the government’s loyal huntsmen in the press.

Now the poor woman is being pilloried because she isn’t Ghandi or Mother Teresa. No, really! And aboriginals in general, other than the ones who dine with prime ministers, are also having a hard time in the image department.

Ottawa drags feet on replacing Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page

It’s one way to silence the barking. Kevin Page’s five-year term as Parliament’s financial watchdog ends in March, but an effort has barely begun to find a replacement.

Federal foot-dragging was exposed by The Hill Times this week. And it was subsequently reinforced by Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, in an email to the Star. “I am not aware of a process” to find someone new, he wrote. “PBO staff are concerned about transition.”

Jim Flaherty's CRTC Letter Broke Rules, Ethics Commissioner Says

OTTAWA - The federal ethics commissioner says Finance Minister Jim Flaherty broke the rules by supporting the radio licence application of a company in his riding.

Mary Dawson has ordered Flaherty to refrain from writing such letters of support without first seeking permission from her office.

Jim Flaherty’s bluster on CRTC flap sets the tone for bad behaviour throughout the Tory ranks

Advocating on behalf of their constituency is a fundamental part of the job for Members of Parliament. They are elected to act as representatives of their community, arguing on behalf of local needs and championing issues of particular relevance to the riding. On occasion, they might also put in a good word for a local firm, go to bat for a voter with a problem, or sign a letter urging due consideration for an applicant seeking approval from a federal regulator.

Prime minister’s office issues “amateurish” statement questioning credibility of Postmedia reporter

OTTAWA — In an unusual, if not unprecedented personal, public attack against a journalist, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office has questioned the credibility of one of the two reporters who first broke the story about alleged election spending irregularities by a Conservative MP.

Harper’s office issued a statement through embattled Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s office Thursday in response to an Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia story published Thursday reporting that RCMP officers had stepped in to help Elections Canada investigate the MP’s 2008 election campaign spending.

France launches bombing of northern Mali, with Canadian support

France, the former slave power of west Africa, has poured into Mali with a vengeance in a military attack launched on January 11. French warplanes are bombing towns and cities across the vast swath of northern Mali, a territory measuring some one thousand kilometers from south to north and east to west. French soldiers in armoured columns have launched a ground offensive, beginning with towns in the south of the northern territory, some 300 km north and east of the Malian capital of Bamako.

A French armoured convoy entered Mali several days ago from neighbouring Ivory Coast, another former French colony. French troops spearheaded the overthrow of that country’s government in 2011.

Idle No More shakes up status quo and definitions of 'mainstream'

Here's a striking moment during Idle No More: In the National Post, columnist George Jonas writes that the "ultimate solution" -- a poor choice of phrase -- for native peoples is to "end special status" by "fashioning an entry for native Canadians into the mainstream of society" because "people must join the century in which they live." In this respect he says residential schools were based on the right "model" even though their effects were "abominable."

Inquiry suggests pricey private clinics -- nudge-nudge, wink-wink -- really can engineer preferential access

What appears to be the first confirmed example of methodical and systematic queue jumping uncovered by Alberta's Health Care Preferential Treatment Inquiry emerged this week and, lo and behold, it involved the operations of a private medical clinic.

This should not surprise us. After all, in a fair and well-run public health care system, what else do these private, for-profit clinics that are cropping up throughout Western Canada have to offer for the thousands of dollars in annual fees they charge patients other than insider connections and the promise of preferential treatment?

Air Christy: Flights Top $250,000

When Premier Christy Clark and aides flew to Calgary on Oct. 1, 2012 for her "frosty" 15-minute meeting about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline with Alberta's Premier Alison Redford, the airfare was just under $10,000 and British Columbians picked up the bill.

It wasn't a futile trip by any means. Clark had other business to tend in the Stampede City. She was the featured attraction at an evening fundraiser for the BC Liberals in the Calgary Petroleum Club, hosted by Murray Edwards, the billionaire tarsands tycoon who chairs Canadian Natural Resources and is a a part-owner of the Calgary Flames. She also gave a speech the next day to university students.

Mulcair takes charge of any talks on electoral cooperation, orders NDP MPs not to respond to Green Leader May’s letter

PARLIAMENT HILL—NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has taken charge of public statements from his caucus over the possibility of electoral cooperation with other opposition parties in the next federal election and instructed New Democrat MPs not to respond to a letter Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sent to NDP and Liberal MPs last month broaching the politically explosive topic.

The Hill Times learned of Mr. Mulcair’s (Outremont, Que.) edict on Thursday while asking NDP MPs at a two-day Parliament Hill caucus meeting for their views on the possibility of alliances at local electoral district levels, in light of the prominence the Liberal Party has given to discussions over the issue, placing it separately among seven topics for the first Liberal leadership televised debate in Vancouver on Sunday.

Criminalizing Pregnancy: As Roe v. Wade Turns 40, Study Finds Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women

A new study shows hundreds of women in the United States have been arrested, forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures, and locked up in jails or psychiatric institutions, because they were pregnant. National Advocates for Pregnant Women found 413 cases when pregnant women were deprived of their physical liberty between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005. At least 250 more interventions have taken place since then. In one case, a court ordered a critically ill woman in Washington, D.C., to undergo a C-section against her will. Neither she nor the baby survived. In another case, a judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her from having an abortion. We’re joined by Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. "We’ve had cases where lawyers have been appointed for a fetus before the woman herself, who’s been locked up, ever gets a lawyer," Paltrow says. "[We’ve had] cases where they’ve ordered a procedure over women’s religious objections. And one court said pregnant women of course have a right to religious freedom — unless it interferes with what we believe is best for the fetus or embryo." The new study comes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision on the right to abortion — a right that has been under siege ever since.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Ottawa’s immigration backlog wipeout illegal, lawyers argue before Federal Court

The Federal Court has been asked to strike down legislation passed by the Conservative government last year to wipe out immigration backlogs because it breaches the Charter of Rights and the rule of law.

Lawyers representing 1,000 people affected by the move to toss out nearly 98,000 immigration applications allege that the Tory government had discriminated based on the national origins of the applicants.

Idle No More Quebec and national myths

Last week, I attended a presentation on Idle No More in Quebec City. It was the first time I heard about Indigenous solidarity in a Quebec context.

For the most part, it was very similar to other events I’ve attended. The crowd had a lot of questions and the two presenters did their best to explain the complex and difficult relationship between First Nations people and the Crown.

Racism, hunger and laziness: A First Nations youth perspective on Idle No More media coverage

As Chief Theresa Spence has demonstrated since December 11th, there is supreme hunger in this country. For too many First Nations people, that hunger is literal, as they struggle to find a way to feed themselves despite the wealth that is being extracted from their lands. For others, this hunger is more abstract.

As a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishinàbeg woman (that’s Mohawk and Algonquin) who was raised off-reserve, I have been sustained throughout my life by strong connections to my home communities and my First Nations identity.

France wants Canada's C-17 missions to Mali extended

A Canadian C-17 transport plane has begun daily shuttle runs between the French military base at Le Tubé and the troubled country's capital Bamako — a mission that France now is asking Canada to continue for longer than one week.

Mali's ambassador to Canada, Traoré Ami Diallo, has told Radio-Canada that she expects the mission to be extended.

Government mum on ministerial rules after Flaherty accused of meddling with CRTC

OTTAWA - The Conservative government would not say whether it stands by its own accountability rules for members of cabinet after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was accused of breaching the guidelines.

Carl Vallee, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, declined to say Thursday whether the Prime Minister's Office continues to endorse the rules on ministerial responsibility.

Canada's Environmental Health Lags Developed World: Conference Board Report

Canada is an 'environmental laggard,' according to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada.

The study ranks Canada 15th out of 17th developed nations on environmental performance, ahead of only The United States and last place Australia.

The bottom three are also the largest nations surveyed in terms of land mass and all depend on natural resources for a large part of their economic output.

Levee Repairs Needed Across America, Including Washington, D.C., Dallas And More, Study Says

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Inspectors taking the first-ever inventory of flood control systems overseen by the federal government have found hundreds of structures at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states.

Levees deemed in unacceptable condition span the breadth of America. They are in every region, in cities and towns big and small: Washington, D.C., and Sacramento Calif., Cleveland and Dallas, Augusta, Ga., and Brookport, Ill.

Restaurant Employees Have Broad Public Support For Better Pay, Sick Days: Survey

One of the key narratives in the restaurant world over the past year has been an increased focus on workers' rights. Restaurant employees scored big settlements in tip-skimming lawsuits against restaurateurs such as Mario Batali and Eric Ripert, and fought tooth-and-nail for better pay from fast-food conglomerates, even as a few restaurant executives threatened to cut hours to avoid giving employees the benefits that Obamacare would require them to provide. Workers' struggle for higher pay and better benefits has been conveyed movingly in both personal essays and reported articles.

"Unintended Consequences of Military Intervention": Roots of Mali, Algeria Crisis Tied to Libya War

In Algeria, at least 22 foreign hostages remained unaccounted for in what has been described as one of the biggest international hostage crises in decades. Islamist militants opposed to the French air strikes in neighboring Mali seized a gas facility near the Libyan border. It remains unclear how many people died on Thursday when Algerian forces stormed the desert gas complex to free the workers. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has acknowledged it is now directly aiding France’s military operation in Mali. We speak to Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Campaign To Overturn Citizens United: LA Set To Become Largest Electorate To Weigh In

Following the most expensive presidential election in history, Los Angeles voters are set to become the largest electorate to vote whether to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.

The LA City Council voted Wednesday to draft ballot language for voters to weigh in on whether they believe there should be limits on campaign spending and whether corporations should have the same rights as people.

Marijuana Possession Arrests Exceed Violent Crime Arrests

Americans are shifting on marijuana. More than half of them think it should be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, 18 states have passed legislation approving it for medical use and Washington State and Colorado have legalized it for recreational use, but it remains illegal under federal law. And the arrests continue — one every 42 seconds, and 86 percent of those are simply for possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Aaron Swartz Prosecution Sparks Push For Changes To Law By Top Tech Representative

WASHINGTON -- One of the top tech experts in Congress, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), told HuffPost Thursday that the case against Aaron Swartz shows that federal laws need to be changed to prevent prosecutorial abuses. Demand Progress, the liberal activism group Swartz co-founded, is marshalling support for Lofgren's effort, and on Thursday endorsed a concurrent investigation by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) into the prosecution's behavior in the case.

U.N. Criticizes Beheading of Guest Worker in Saudi Arabia

The United Nations is criticizing the U.S.-backed regime in Saudi Arabia for the beheading of a Sri Lankan guest worker. Rizana Nafeek, a 24-year-old housemaid, was decapitated last week over allegations of murdering the baby of her employer. Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, condemned the execution.
Rupert Colville: "We express our deep dismay at the execution of a young Sri Lankan woman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Rizana Nafeek, who arrived in Saudi Arabia from Sri Lanka to work as a housemaid in 2005, was charged with the murder of her employers’ baby a week after her arrival. Despite a birth certificate that allegedly showed she was a minor at the time of the baby’s death and repeated expressions of concern from the international community, she was convicted of murder, sentenced to death and beheaded."
Original Article
Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Big Banks Get Tax Break On Foreclosure Abuse Deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer advocates have complained that U.S. mortgage lenders are getting off easy in a deal to settle charges that they wrongfully foreclosed on many homeowners.

Now it turns out the deal is even sweeter for the lenders than it appears: Taxpayers will subsidize them for the money they're ponying up.

Obama’s Gun Pulpit

It’s odd how Teddy Roosevelt’s expression “bully pulpit” has outlasted the disappearance both of the widespread, or even marginal, use of the adjective “bully,” and even, to a certain extent, of pulpits. (We have as many preachers as ever, but they speak to us more often from screens than wooden lecterns.) The expression lasts because its near equivalents—the towering soapbox? the enlightened podium? the high-placed megaphone?—seem feeble, and also because the nineteenth-century, T.R.-tone does catch something essential to the notion. For all that is badly arranged in the American constitutional system, the idea of having a head of state whose words alone can resonate, like those of an impassioned speaker in a chastened hall, independent of his formal executive powers, is a good one. A head of state, whether British or American, ought to be someone whose words count as power in themselves.

Tensions simmer over disputed areas in Iraq

Al Jazeera has recieved reports that there has been progress in talks between Kurdish military officials and the Iraqi central government.

The two sides are trying to defuse an armed confrontation over disputed territory.

But neither side has finalised a deal on how to deploy a joint armed force into the area, which is claimed by both Kurdish and Iraqi governments.

Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh reports from the South of Kirkuk.

Original Article
Source: al jazeera
Author: --

France: hostage crisis justifies Mali action

Francois Hollande, French president, has said the on-going hostage crisis in Algeria is evidence that France's military intervention in Mali is justified.

Speaking to business leaders in Paris on Thursday, Hollande said "What's happening in Algeria provides further evidence that my decision to intervene in Mali was justified."