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.]

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Founders of Idle No More to attend People's Social Forum in Ottawa

Activists from across the country will be coming together this weekend in Ottawa to unite their movements against the right-wing policies of the Harper government. They are joined by two of Idle No More's founders. Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean are scheduled to address the meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday January 26th.

At a general assembly set to take place at the University of Ottawa on January 26th and 27th, a number of activists from national social movements plan to launch a process that will pave the way towards a countrywide Canada-Quebec-Indigenous People’s Social Forum scheduled for 2014. The forum’s purpose is to establish a structure for uniting social movements against Harper’s conservative policies. This weekend’s assembly will feature Jérémie Bédard-Wien, spokesperson for the militant Québec student organization ASSÉ, as well as many representatives from national unions (Postal workers, Public Sector, Communications and Energy, etc.) and labour federations (Ontario Federation of Labour and Québec’s FTQ, CSN and CSQ). The co-founders of the Québec branch of Idle No More, Widia Larivière and Mélissa Mollen Dupuis, will also be in attendance.

Michael Moore On 'Zero Dark Thirty' & Torture: Movie Doesn't Condone Enhanced Interrogation

Michael Moore stopped by HuffPost Live on Friday to weigh in on the seemingly never-ending debate around "Zero Dark Thirty." Moore penned a HuffPost blog post defending the film against critics, many of whom say it condones and promotes torture.

"I understand why a lot of people on the left ... believe the movie endorses torture," Moore began on HuffPost Live. "But that's not how I saw it, I left the movie thinking it made an incredible statement against torture."

Egypt Riot After Soccer Violence Verdict Kills 27

CAIRO — Angry relatives and residents rampaged through an Egyptian port city Saturday in rioting that killed at least 27 people after a judge sentenced nearly two dozen soccer fans to death for involvement in deadly violence after a game last year.

The unrest was the latest in a bout of violence that has left a total of 38 people dead in two days, including 11 killed in clashes between police and protesters marking Friday's second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

Obama's Drug War: After Medical Marijuana Mess, Feds Face Big Decision On Pot

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In the summer of 2007, the owners of Harborside Health Center, then and now the most prominent medical marijuana dispensary in the U.S., were reflecting on their rapid rise. Steve DeAngelo had opened the center with his business partner in October 2006, on a day when federal agents raided three other clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area. "We had to decide in that moment whether or not we were really serious about this and whether we were willing to risk arrest for it," DeAngelo said. "And we decided we were going to open our doors. And we did, and we haven’t looked back since. The only way I’ll stop doing what I’m doing is if they drag me away in chains. And as soon as they let me out, I’ll be back doing it again."

Workers Tell OSHA They Were Locked Inside Target Stores Overnight

In OSHA charges filed last week, twenty-five workers allege that they were regularly locked indoors while cleaning Target stores in the Twin Cities.

“At 11 at night, I would ring the doorbell to get let in, and then from there, we would be locked in the store all night, until 7 am when they opened the store,” said Honorio Hernandez, who cleaned Target stores for three years before leaving a year ago for other work. “I was scared that something would happen, and I wouldn’t be able to get out of the store…. But I never complained about it because I was scared that I would lose my job.” (Hernandez was interviewed in Spanish.)

Can Israel’s Non-Right Ever Win?

For the vast majority of readers who tune into Israel every so often but are not obsessive about it, the country’s election on Tuesday appears to have delivered a rare moment of mild encouragement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deservedly cast as a peace rejectionist, has been weakened and the overall right-wing bloc unexpectedly lost seats, creating the narrowest margin of victory of the right over the non-right of 61–59 (down from 65–55 in the previous Knesset), when polls had predicted the margin to grow further (although describing the split this way is not a helpful guide, of which more later).

F-35 Alternatives Probed By Harper Government

OTTAWA - A questionnaire meant to gauge what options exist to replace the air force's aging CF-18 fighters has landed on the desks of aerospace companies in North America and Europe.

The 15-page survey is considered the first step in evaluating whether the Conservative government should bail out of its planned and controversial F-35 stealth fighter deal with U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin.

Anonymous Takes Over Sentencing Commission Website

WASHINGTON — The hacker-activist group Anonymous says it hijacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide. The FBI is investigating.

The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday and replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago "a line was crossed."

Ontario Is Cheating Our Children

The details of Bill 115, Ontario's ironically named Putting Students First Act, have not been adequately explained to the public. The missing facts about this legislation follow.

Pay Freeze
When teachers' contracts come up for collective bargaining -- usually every four years -- the salary grid is updated to allow for cost-of-living increases of approximately 3% per year. These are the "raises" of which Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten, and a variety of uninformed columnists have been speaking. Actually these so-called "raises" do no more than maintain the value of teachers' current compensation. To help with a deficit they didn't create, teachers were willing to accept a pay freeze (forgoing the 3% increase to compensate for cost-of-living and inflation) months ago, but as Rick Salutin brilliantly put it this month, "the government refused to take 'yes' for an answer." We don't necessarily oppose a pay freeze; we oppose a bill of which one part is a pay freeze.

Canadian-trained Malian soldiers have been tortured and killed by forces loyal to current regime

Paratroopers trained by Petawawa-based special forces were behind a failed counter-coup in Mali last year to bring back a democratically-elected government but many have since been hunted down and killed by the country’s military.

Soldiers from the parachute regiment, 33eme RPC, were captured and later disappeared. They are believed to have been tortured and murdered by those behind Mali’s coup. Others fled to neighbouring countries.

Boy Scouts Threaten to Kick Out Troop For Supporting Gay Members

The Boy Scouts council in charge of overseeing scout programs in the Washington, DC-area is threatening to kick out a Maryland troop for posting a statement on its website declaring it won't discriminate against gay scouts. The troop has to decide by tomorrow whether to remove the statement.

Can terrorists be rehabilitated?

With allegations surfacing this week that two Canadians may have played a role in the deadly hostage taking in Algeria, questions are being raised as to the whereabouts of about 60 Canadians the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) believes have travelled to North Africa and the Middle East to join al-Qaida inspired militants, as well as homegrown terrorists who have sought to wreak havoc here.

But the allegations, though unproven, have also renewed questions about what to do with Canada’s small but growing population of violent, extremist inmates, to make sure they change their views before they get out.

Taxpayer tab for credit and identity theft protection could top $711 million

Canadian taxpayers could be on the hook for $700 million for the loss of almost 600,000 student loan files, found during a search for another 5,000 missing personal files first reported by The Free Press.

Taxpayers will pick up the tab for credit and identity theft protection service to as many as 583,000 Canada Student Loans Program participants whose personal information was contained in a missing hard drive.

Doug Black named to Senate, as questions about his past U of C expenses remain unanswered

Prime Minister Stephen Harper named another of Alberta’s elected senators to the upper chamber Friday, but this one will be bringing his share of baggage to Ottawa.

Doug Black, a lawyer and University of Calgary’s former board chairman, secured his nomination in last April’s senator election.

Four months later came revelations that he had racked up $28,000 in travel and office expenses in 18 months as the school’s chair, including bills for executive class flights and liquor that had contravened school policy and he had to pay back.

Rob Ford defamation case: Boardwalk Pub’s George Foulidis files appeal

If Mayor Rob Ford thought he would be done with legal appeals for a while if he won his conflict of interest case on Friday, he now knows he was wrong.

George Foulidis, owner of the Boardwalk Pub in the Beach, has appealed his defeat in the defamation lawsuit he filed against Ford. Ontario Superior Court Justice John Macdonald ruled in December that Ford did not defame Foulidis when he criticized the controversial sole-sourced deal between the city and Foulidis’s company, Tuggs Inc.

Ashley Smith: Youth jail file lists punishments, her appeals for help

Ashley Smith packed for jail like a kid headed to summer camp.

Blue plaid pyjama pants, three pairs of socks, four pairs of underwear, jeans, a few hoodies, sweatpants, one bottle of Pert shampoo, hair mousse, vanilla body wash, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, a plush pink pig, a SpongeBob SquarePants address book, a Walkman, headphones, one colouring book and a rhyming dictionary.

The duffle bag was light but she had no reason to think she’d be there three years.

The Ford show goes on

Well, we still have Rob Ford to kick around some more.

The good news for Rob Ford: he lives to fight another day.

The bad news for Rob Ford: he has to keep on fighting, and it’s been a while since he’s won those fights with any consistency. Roughly a year has passed since he had any real control over council’s agenda, and he seemed to see his alliances weaken even more through the last budget process. Though today’s decision keeps him in office, it does so on the very narrowest of criteria, finding that council had no authority to impose a $3,150 penalty on Ford, and because of that the subsequent votes don’t count. But he would have been in conflict, the appeal court ruled, if council had been acting within its authority, and he was willfully blind and failed to exercise good faith, as the original judge found.

A passenger’s a passenger, no matter how small

Toronto’s stroller war was reignited earlier this week thanks to a metaphorical Molotov cocktail from Elsa La Rosa, the lone 61-year-old woman who told TTC commissioners that stroller-pushing parents should be charged extra and limited in numbers. Oh, and she also said the age of eligibility should be lowered for a Seniors Metropass.

In other words, La Rosa’s complaint was crassly self-serving—she wanted cheaper transport for herself, and for those damn babies to get off her streetcar lawn. However, I imagine if she one day requires a walker or wheelchair, La Rosa would probably not want to pay extra or be left at the curb in the pouring rain or swirling snow because too many similarly-impaired seniors were already onboard.

10 Years Later: Antigua May Finally (Really) Set Up Official 'Pirate' Site To Get Back What US Owes In Sanctions

Well here's a story that's more than a decade in the making. Way back in 2003, we first wrote about Antigua filing for sanctions against the US for its ban on online gambling. Antigua argued (with fairly strong support) that this violated a trade agreement between the US and Antigua, by blocking a form of free trade. The case was at the WTO for years, bouncing around. In 2004, the WTO ruled against the US, which the US promptly ignored. In 2005, the WTO again ruled in favor of Antigua on the issue, and the US (stunningly) responded by pretending that it had won, when it most clearly had not. Following that, the US pretended that it could just unilaterally change its free trade agreement to carve out gambling. Not surprisingly, Antigua (and the WTO) found that to be problematic.

Memo to Obama: Send Mary Jo to Justice, not the S.E.C.

By now, you’ve probably heard the yarn about a young and pint-size Mary Jo White challenging a boastful male colleague to a tennis match, riding up to the court on a red motorcycle, and proceeding to beat the braggart. If you haven’t, take a glance at some of the laudatory pieces about President Obama’s decision to nominate White, a veteran prosecutor and corporate lawyer, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission: the story features in more than one of them.

Dalton McGuinty says 'joy and honour' to serve as premier

After nine years as premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty on Friday said thank you to Ontarians and members of the provincial Liberal Party, while stressing unity as the party chooses its next leader.

"It has been my joy and honour to serve as your premier," he said.

Harper's new Senate appointments feature personal, political connections

OTTAWA - Personal connections and political obligations played a role Friday as Stephen Harper named five new senators, including the controversial winner of a Senate election in Alberta and the wife of a Conservative MP who committed suicide in 2009.

Denise Batters, a Regina lawyer and senior figure in the province's Crown Investments Corp., is the widow of Conservative MP Dave Batters, whose suicide prompted Harper to deliver an emotional call to arms at his funeral.

Finland's Super Kids

Everyone agrees that Finland -- a small, cold, northern country with about the population of B.C. -- is, as the BBC once called it, an "education superpower." Only South Korea really matches the Finns on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the accepted yardstick for comparing school achievement around the world.

The N.R.A. Dystopia

For its 2010 product line, Weatherby, Inc. decided to go after a growing segment of its market with a new offering: the PA-459 pump-action shotgun. The numbers in the model name weren’t chosen at random, or because they trip nicely over the tongue. “Our new pump shotgun is named after Penal Code 459, which covers ‘burglary in progress,’” Brad Ruddell, Weatherby’s vice president of sales and marketing, said in a press release at the time. “For this reason, we’ve been careful to do our homework in designing this firearm with features that deliver top-flight performance in threat response situations.”

John Boehner: Ending Abortion Is 'One Of Our Most Fundamental Goals This Year'

As hundreds of thousands of people braved sub-freezing temperatures in Washington, D.C., on Friday to join the anti-abortion protest March for Life, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took the opportunity to reiterate his commitment to banning abortion in America for good.

SNC-Lavalin Bribery Allegations: Saadi Gaddafi Got $160 Million For Contracts, RCMP Says

Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin paid $160 million in bribes to the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in order to secure contracts in the North African country, according to RCMP documents obtained by the National Post and La Presse.

According to the documents, which were used by the RCMP to obtain a search warrant for a raid on SNC-Lavalin headquarters last spring, the company’s former head of construction, Riadh Ben Aissa, was responsible for funnelling the money to Saadi Gaddafi, the Post reported.

AFN national chief lays out timelines, priorities for talks with Harper

OTTAWA - National Chief Shawn Atleo has staked his ground for upcoming talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to improve the quality of life for First Nations, setting a time limit of this spring for concrete action.

The Assembly of First Nations leader returns to Ottawa re-energized after a 10-day sick leave, protests across Canada and a six-week hunger protest by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence that exacerbated schisms within his own organization.

Robocalls enough to turn people off politics

OTTAWA—As part of its rebranding effort, the newly renamed Canadian Museum of History is looking for suggestions from the public.

“What would you put in your national history museum? What stories would you tell?” the website asks.

Here’s one suggested artifact: the humble telephone.

PM Harper appoints 5 new senators

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed five new senators to sit in the Upper Chamber, including one chosen by voters in Alberta.

Harper made the announcement in a press release Friday afternoon.

The new senators are:

    Denise Batters, a Regina lawyer and mental-health advocate whose late husband, former MP Dave Batters, committed suicide.
    Lynn Beyak, a small business owner from Dryden, Ont., with experience in real estate, insurance and tourism.
    Doug Black, a Calgary lawyer, as well as vice-chair and senior counsel of the law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP.
    Victor Oh, a Mississauga, Ont., entrepreneur and president of Wyford Holdings, a property development and management business.
    David Wells, a St. John's executive who most recently served as deputy CEO of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Reports of war atrocities in Mali grow as France and allies settle in for a long war

The French daily Le Monde publishes a report on Jan. 25 by one of its correspondents in Mali, Jean-Phillipe Rémy. He managed to enter the town of Sévaré, one of the first to be taken by French forces and their Mali army subordinates. It is located in the region of the city of Mopti, near the frontier separating southern Mali from the beginning of the vast expanse of northern Mali.

Rémy reports that soldiers of the Mali army, following in the wake of the French air strikes and ground force invasion six days earlier, seized people in the town and executed them summarily. Their bodies were thrown into numerous pits, pictured in accompanying photos. He writes that when a photographer of the newspaper later questioned an officer of the Mali army about the photos of body parts he had taken, the officer declared, "So what do you think we did with people we grabbed? We snuffed them out."

'They know they are not alone': Anti-mining activists connect-the-dots in Oaxaca, Mexico

Between January 17th and 20th, nearly 500 activists from across Mexico, Central America and beyond, gathered in the Mexican mountain town of Capulálpam de Méndez, Oaxaca, to support a growing tide of resistance to the human and environmental impacts of the extractive industries in the region.

'Yes to life! No to mining!,' organized by the Oaxacan Collective for the Defence of Territories, was one of the largest anti-mining gatherings the region has seen, as local opposition to some of the many thousands of individual extractive projects in Mesoamerica has grown dramatically in recent years.