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 25, 2013

Finger-pointing at Attawapiskat more than a little hypocritical

One need not agree with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's attempt to coerce others' behaviour by harming herself to be disgusted by the reactions she has received.

Her claim of a witch hunt has credibility when one examines the more venomous criticism. It ranges from contemptible comments about her weight to the nasty cud of racism in the form of regurgitated statistics carefully selected to distort perceptions.

Take, for example, the unsolicited email purporting to reveal endemic corruption on Indian reserves, in particular the administration of Attawapiskat under Chief Spence.

What lessons has Rob Ford learned?

Exhale, Toronto. Your mayor is safe for now — tossed a lifeline by a panel of judges who found him not guilty of conflict of interest, on a technicality.

“It is our view that Mr. Ford did not contravene s. 5(1), because the financial sanction imposed by (the council vote) was not authorized by the (City of Toronto Act or the councillors’ code of conduct). In other words, it was a nullity,” the decision reads.

Conservatives selling out Canada's future for short term economic gain in oil sands and other petroleum developments, say critics

Following a 600-page report showing Canada has fallen back on support for clean-energy technology development and two months before the Prime Minister’s advisory group on the environment is dismantled permanently, MPs and critics accuse the Conservatives of promoting and financing oil sands and other petroleum exploitation for short-term economic gain “at the expense of Canada’s future.”

The Conservative government is “ideologically driven against nature” and “have put all their eggs in one basket,” said NDP MP Megan Leslie (Halifax, N.S.).

Services frozen at national parks

OTTAWA -- Several of Canada's national parks, long celebrated by the federal government as an "integral part of the Canadian identity," have shut down winter services because of budget cuts.

The move, which followed a $29.2-million funding reduction, has forced some rural communities to do their own snow-clearing with Parks Canada machines in order to continue participating in activities and attracting tourists.

Religious Liberty Double Standards Indicated In New Poll

WASHINGTON (RNS) Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups -- particularly gays and lesbians -- are trying to remove "traditional Christian values" from the public square.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a "double standard" among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

Kansas Drug Testing Next On The Docket Of 'Ultraconservative' Bills

Lawmakers seeking to abolish income taxes and stymie unions in Kansas think it might also be worthwhile to make the poor and unemployed pee in cups to prove they're not wasting taxpayer money on drugs.

A favorite policy of Republican legislators across the country, the latest drug-testing proposal has gathered support from leaders of Kansas's conservative-dominated statehouse. Kansas lawmakers say people who want unemployment insurance or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits would have to undergo the testing, and if they are found to have drugs in their system would be required to receive treatment or have their benefits suspended.

Ex-Officer for C.I.A. Sentenced to 30 Months in Leak Case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The first Central Intelligence Agency officer to face prison for disclosing classified information was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in prison by a judge at the federal courthouse here.

 The judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, said that in approving the sentence, she would respect the terms of a plea agreement between the former C.I.A. agent, John C. Kiriakou, and prosecutors, but “I think 30 months is way too light.”

Regarding the “Clement, NDP riding president face off”

I had never met Tony Clement until Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. I will never forget his first words to me and the group I was standing with across the street from his New Year’s Levee in Parry Sound. As he walked up to us he said, looking at me directly, “NDP, you’re the letter writing guy, I’m not going to speak to you.” There was no hello, how are you or offer of a hand shake. A few moments later he added “you are disrespectful.” As Parry Sound-Muskoka’s federal member of Parliament who is the president of the Treasury Board of Canada I believe any citizen meeting your federal MP for the first time would expect better.

European, Canadian labour opposes investor-state arbitration, municipal procurement restrictions in CETA

The European Trade Union Confederation and Canadian Labour Congress issued a joint statement on the Canada-EU free trade negotiations (CETA), which continue this week in Brussels, Belgium.

"Negotiators have claimed that their work will be finalized in the coming days and weeks, but unions on both sides of the Atlantic have made it clear that any agreement is only acceptable if based on a high standard, setting a benchmark for future agreements worldwide, and certainly not undermining existing conditions in relation to labour rights, public policy space and the provision of public services," says a press statement from the ETUC.

Egypt Protests: Violence Flares In Tahrir Square On Second Anniversary Of Uprising

CAIRO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Youths fought Egyptian police in Cairo and Alexandria on Friday on the second anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak and brought the election of an Islamist president who protesters accuse of riding roughshod over the new democracy.

The Jan. 25 anniversary showcased the divide between the Islamists and their secular foes that is hindering President Mohamed Mursi's efforts to revive an economy in crisis and reverse a plunge in Egypt's currency by enticing back investors and tourists.

Poll Suggests Harper Will Keep Winning As Long As Rivals Fail To Corral Supporters

More Canadians would consider voting for the New Democrats or the Liberals than the governing Conservatives according to a new poll, but too few support either one to drop the Tories to second place.

An online poll by Nanos Research for the CBC shows 45 per cent of Canadians would consider voting for the Conservative Party, compared to 49 per cent who said they would consider voting Liberal and 51 per cent who might cast their ballot for the New Democrats. As ceilings go, these numbers are all more than enough to win a majority government in our electoral system.

Despite his Premier Dad nickname, McGuinty is a cynical politician cast in the same mould as Harper

Before he got to the meat of a speech to a Toronto business audience this week, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan took a moment to salute the man who beat him for the provincial Liberal leadership 16 years ago and who is stepping down after nine years as Premier.

“His legacy will survive the taunts, it will survive the unfair comments,” Mr. Duncan said of Dalton McGuinty.

OK. I’m going to give it a go anyway.

Chief Theresa Spence can end hunger strike with head high

She leaves Ottawa with her head high. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s courageous 44-day fast epitomized the hunger of Canada’s First Nations for recognition and a square deal, and her camp-out near Parliament Hill helped drive the issue to the top of the national agenda and onto the international stage.

While Spence couldn’t compel Prime Minister Stephen Harper to convoke Gov.-Gen. David Johnston to a meeting with First Nations leaders, her protest had a far wider impact by highlighting the plight of many native communities: High unemployment, youth suicides, underfunded schools and services, mouldy housing, unfit water, missing and murdered women. After having roused the nation’s conscience, and having catalyzed other protests, Spence was right to call off her fast. There was no cause to risk her health any further.

PM Harper believes Idle No More movement creating “negative public reaction,” say confidential notes

Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes the Idle No More movement has created a negative public reaction, according to detailed notes from his Jan. 11 meeting with First Nations leaders obtained by APTN National News.

The nine-page, “confidential” document is based on notes taken by Assembly of First Nations staff during the meeting between Harper and 17 First Nations leaders. The draft “internal summary” outlines the positions and interventions from each person who spoke during the meeting and lays out the prime minister’s own views, point-by-point, on key demands from First Nations leaders.

Forget the polls — Theresa Spence changed things

At the end of Theresa’s tussle, it was an order of toast and over to you chiefs — but was the country’s most famous diet worth it?

Judging from the reactions to the end of Chief Theresa Spence’s nutrition action, a lot of people think the whole thing was a waste of time, if not a fraud.

The facts will bear out the first part of that interpretation. They also will carry you to speculate on the second part, if you’re so disposed.

Killing long-gun registry saves only $2M a year

OTTAWA—Government documents reveal that ending the long-gun registry would save the government only about $2 million a year — far below the “billion dollar” price tag the Conservatives long put on the registry.

The $2-million cost saving is identified in a Public Safety communications plan prepared in anticipation of questions that would arise over the passage last April of Bill C-19, which ended the registry.

Stories from the front lines of the abortion victory in Canada

Judy Rebick was the spokesperson for the Morgentaler Clinic when it first opened in Toronto and later a key spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics.

 Monday, January 28 is the anniversary of the deepest and most important victory the women's movement in Canada has ever had. After almost 20 years of struggle, beginning with the Abortion Caravan in 1970, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law in a landmark decision citing women's right to privacy -- in effect women's rights to control their own bodies.

When the judgment came down, I was standing with about 50 other supporters outside the Morgentaler Clinic on Harbord Street in downtown Toronto. Along with Dr. Henry Morgentaler, we had been battling Conservative governments at two levels, the cops and the anti-choice forces, including the Catholic Church, for eight years.

Democracy, leadership conventions and the voting fallacy

Ontario Liberals hold their leadership convention this weekend at Maple Leaf Gardens -- a great choice of venue. The event belongs to a dying breed: brokered conventions. That means the wheeling, dealing and decision-making happen right there on the floor among delegates in real time. It runs counter to the trend toward more self-evidently democratic conventions, in which party members everywhere get to vote by mail or online -- the way the NDP chose Tom Mulcair last spring and federal Liberals will do so in April.

Timothy Geithner On 'Justice' After Financial Crisis: 'I Never Felt That Was My Thing'

Now that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is close to leaving his post, he's opening up more about his role during the financial crisis.

The crisis triggered an economic collapse that threw millions of people out of work or their homes. But making sure justice was served for those Americans wasn't a top priority for Geithner, he said.

Shawn Alteo Back To Work As Theresa Spence Ends Protest

VANCOUVER - Chief Shawn Atleo returned to the helm of the Assembly of First Nations on Thursday adamant that aboriginal groups across the country are united against a common enemy: the status quo.

Acknowledging differing opinions within the assembly membership, Atleo, who was sidelined 10 days ago by doctor-ordered sick leave, said he never expected unanimity as the Idle No More protest movement gained momentum.

Sinopec Oil Sands Workers' Deaths: Energy Giant To Pay $1.5 Million

ST. ALBERT, Alta. - A firm linked to a Chinese state-owned company was ordered Thursday to pay $1.5 million in penalties in the deaths of two foreign workers at an Alberta oilsands project.

SSEC Canada Ltd. pleaded guilty last September to three workplace safety charges in the deaths of the Chinese temporary foreign workers.

Al Qaeda like a 'cancer' that will spread if not cut out: MacKay Read more:

The federal government is prolonging the mission of a Royal Canadian Air Force cargo plane to fly equipment and supplies into Mali's capital to support French forces as they battle al-Qaeda extremists.

The extension of flights from one week to one month was ordered after a request from the French president and defence minister, said Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Premier's fireside chat: No fire, few facts, and no there there

When Alberta Premier Alison Redford's $55,000 fireside chat wrapped up after eight thoroughly unsatisfactory minutes last night, Albertans didn't know anything substantive they hadn't already known the night before.

Surely I wasn't the only Albertan thinking, "That was it?"

OK, we're going to have to make some hard choices -- or have them made for us, more likely. But that much has been obvious for days.

Mortgaging BC, One Deal at a Time

If the B.C. government is ever on the hunt for a new slogan, perhaps "spending our children's inheritance" would be fitting.

Since 2001, British Columbians have been witness to the sale of key parts of B.C.'s infrastructure, transfers of its wealth to private interests and sweetheart deals for industries that can afford well-connected lobbyists.

There's the scandalous: the sale of BC Rail; the infamous: the run of rivers; and the it-would-almost-be-funny-if-it-weren't-true: the incorporation of Jumbo, B.C. a community with a council of three and not a single resident.

Province's Plan for Teacher Bargaining Peace 'Irrelevant': Union

After four months of mulling over suggestions from education stakeholders, the B.C. government hopes to have found the solution to almost 20 years of adversarial teacher bargaining.

Government says its plan, "Working Together For Students: A Framework For Long Term Stability In Education," is the product of consultations between government and education stakeholders. Groups like the BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) submitted their suggestions for improving bargaining and the government incorporated those into the framework.

What Canada is doing in Mali

Canada's decision to send a C-17 transport plane to help France repel Islamist militants in Mali has certainly raised public awareness among Canadians of this desperately poor sub-Saharan country.

Mali hasn't historically generated much in the way of international media coverage. But Canada has been providing development aid assistance to this sprawling West African nation for more than 40 years.

Fruitvale: Ryan Coogler’s Debut Film on Bay Area Police Slaying of Oscar Grant the Buzz of Sundance

It was four years ago this month that Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African American, was shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer on New Year’s Day in Oakland, Calif. Portraying the last day of his life, the new dramatic film "Fruitvale" has become one of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. We’re joined by the director, 26-year-old first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who works as a social worker at a juvenile-detention center in San Francisco.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Rethinking Egypt's revolution

It isn't immediately clear who is behind the highly produced, richly coloured ad on Egypt's state-owned television, but the message is.

"Be safe, Egypt," it concludes.

The phrase is borrowed from the Egyptian anthem, which plays softly in the background over a pensive montage of proud-looking Egyptians variously working, marching and waving flags — all of it a seemingly nostalgic echo of the revolution that erupted here in Tahrir Square two years ago today.

The network's version of a public service announcement seems an attempt to will into existence an Egypt that is very different from the current one — a country where Egyptians might celebrate, instead of protest, on the anniversary of the unplanned revolution that deposed the long-entrenched regime of Hosni Mubarak in a mere 18 days.

First Nations leaders vow to keep pressure on government

First Nations leaders vowed Thursday to keep up the pressure on the federal government, as Shawn Atleo returned to work following medical leave and Theresa Spence left hospital following her six-week hunger strike.

Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, sounded ready to continue work on issues like poverty, education and violence against women, as he praised the protesters behind Idle No More.

"Make no mistake, the energy that's coming from our people is not going anywhere," Atleo said from British Columbia, where he held his first press conference since going on medical leave Jan. 14.

What The 2012 Election Would Look Like Under The Republicans' Vote-Rigging Plan

Republicans have a new strategy for 2016: Change the rules of presidential elections in order to swing the Electoral College in the GOP's favor.

On Wednesday, Virginia's Republican-controlled legislature became one of the first to advance a bill that would allocate electoral votes by congressional district. Last week, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed pushing through similar proposals in other states with Republican legislative majorities.

Inadequate monitoring caused two oil spills, federal records show

OTTAWA – Separate oil spills in 2010 – one from an abandoned pipeline owned by a midstream energy company, the other from an oilsands company’s well – were caused by inadequate oversight and monitoring, according to federal government records, which concluded they violated environmental laws.

The oilsands company in question has been featured in industry television advertising that praises other aspects of its environmental performance.

North Korean propaganda -- Human pixels

THE Arirang mass games in Pyongyang, North Korea, are the largest and most bombastic exercise of state propaganda in the world. Few foreigners are permitted to watch this summertime spectacle extolling the founding myths of the communist state.

With the death of the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il in 2011, however, the show has been slowly wound down. Under Kim Jong Un, his son and successor, Arirang (which takes its name from a Korean folk song symbolic of the divided peninsula) will no longer run in its current form. Jeremy Hunter, a British photojournalist, managed to attend the penultimate performance at Pyongyang’s massive May Day stadium in August 2011. In his hands, an ordinary tourist camera is a unique window on the world’s last hereditary Stalinist regime.

Mark Zuckerberg to host fundraiser for controversial governor Chris Christie

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla are to host a fundraiser for Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor.

According to the Buzzfeed website Zuckerberg, who is America's youngest billionaire, will host a fundraiser next month in his Palo Alto home for the outspoken governor's reelection campaign.

Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science

A secretive funding organisation in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate "counter movement" to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.

The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.

From Libya to Mali: Triumphs and Consequences

When the Gadhafi regime in Libya collapsed in 2011 following a mass uprising and civil war, the international community welcomed the ousting of a tyrannical dictator. But even in the euphoria of the moment, some observers of the region urged caution. I wrote in an article on The Mark at the time:

    An even more disturbing concern – which has received very little attention in the media – is the impact that the Libyan crisis could have on the rest of Africa. During his 40 years in power, Gadhafi has thrown his influence and money across the continent to prop up or bring down governments. He has done this more than any other African leader. His fingerprints can be found on armed conflict from Chad to Sudan to the Central African Republic. He has also cultivated a loyal band of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa that he now uses to terrorize his own people.

Virginia Electoral Votes Allocation Measure Advances In State Senate

Legislation that would apportion Virginia's electoral votes by the winner of each congressional district, instead of the current winner-take-all system, emerged from a Senate subcommittee today without a recommendation.

The vote in a Privileges and Elections subcommittee was 3-3, with Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, siding with the two Democrats on the six-member panel to produce a tie. The legislation now heads to the full committee, where a 10-5 GOP majority is likely to send it to the floor of the full Senate for a vote.

John Kerry: Foreign Hackers Are '21st Century Nuclear Weapons'

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Thursday likened the threat posed by foreign hackers to “modern-day, 21st century nuclear weapons" and pledged to use diplomacy to avert cyber attacks against the nation’s power grid, transportation system and financial networks.

“Every day while we sit here right now certain countries are attacking our systems,” Kerry said at his confirmation hearing for the post of Secretary of State. “They are trying to hack into classified information to various agencies of our government."

Dianne Feinstein Introduces Assault Weapons Ban, Urges Public To Help It Pass

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Thursday that would ban more than 150 types of assault weapons along with certain high-capacity gun magazines, saying she knows she faces an uphill battle to get her measure through Congress but, with the help of the American public, it can be done.

Feinstein's bill is far more detailed than the 1994 assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004. Her bill would stop the sale, manufacture and importation of 158 specifically named military-style firearms and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. It would also ban an additional group of assault weapons that accept detachable ammunition magazines and have at least one military characteristic -- a new provision she said addresses a loophole in the 1994 law.

Kerry to make informed decision on Keystone after State Department review

WASHINGTON - John Kerry offered scant indication Thursday about his position on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, saying simply that he hopes to make "appropriate judgments" about the fate of the project should he officially become secretary of state.

The Massachusetts senator, appearing at his confirmation hearings, didn't face many questions on either climate change or the Keystone pipeline during almost four hours before the Senate foreign relations committee, of which he's currently the chairman.

Let's show Harper who's in charge and build a country based on fairness and equality

If you have the sentiment that the country is headed in the wrong direction, you are absolutely right.

Like me, you are probably wondering what happened to building a society based on fairness, solidarity and equality for all Canadians.

 Well, let's be clear. The Conservative government has been acting against these principles during its too many years in office. The protection of the environment has become less important, the rights of working people and of vulnerable communities have come under attack, and Stephen Harper is building a Canada that is devoid of compassion and solidarity.

AFN chief Shawn Atleo: Canada faces ‘moment of reckoning’

Canadians are facing a moment of reckoning with the end of hunger strikes by two First Nations figureheads and a renewed sense of empowerment among the country’s aboriginal peoples, the head of the Assembly of First Nations said Thursday.

National Chief Shawn Atleo, in his first remarks since going on a doctor-ordered medical leave 10 days ago, said the country’s aboriginal peoples have never been so prepared to take extreme actions to achieve real change.