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, February 01, 2013

Orrin Hatch: Gun Background Checks Could Destroy Liberty, Cause Persecution

WASHINGTON -- Pursuing even the most popular of measures to curb gun violence would be a step toward destroying Americans' liberty, Sen. Orrin Hatch argued Thursday.

According to a string of polls, most gun owners favor the idea of universal background checks for gun purchases, and such a system was considered the most likely response to the horrifying rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Jason Rapert, Arkansas Abortion-Ban Sponsor, Made Racial Remarks At Tea Party Rally

New video has surfaced of the Arkansas Republican state senator who sponsored the state's new abortion-ban bill making racially charged remarks about President Barack Obama at a 2011 Tea Party rally.

State Sen. Jeffrey Rapart (R-Conway) told rally participants that they should not allow "minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in," The Nation reports.

A minute-and-a-half segment of the video surfaced on The Nation website a day after the Arkansas Senate passed legislation, sponsored by Rapart, that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Government Fails To Tackle Unemployment, As Sequestration Looms

The January jobs numbers released earlier on Friday show that while the private sector added 166,000 jobs, the government shed 9,000 positions in January.

Those job losses have ripple effects throughout the economy, economist Dean Baker explained. "If these people were still getting paychecks, they would have spent them, and that would have employed people elsewhere in the economy," Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Huffington Post. He estimated that government job cuts have cost the economy more than 1 million jobs total.

Conservatives Consulting Supreme Court About Senate Reform

CBC News has learned that the federal government will seek clarification from the Supreme Court on its powers to reform or abolish the Senate.

A key piece of the Conservative Party's platform going back to the days of its predecessor, the Reform Party, Senate reform has stalled against resistance by senators and some of the provinces.

The government's Senate reform bill, C-7, would limit senators' terms to nine years and allow the provinces to hold elections to choose senators. The Governor General would then, on the advice of the prime minister, appoint senators who had been selected through provincial elections.

Why Canada Oil-Sands Industry Wants CO2 Tax Harper Hates: Energy

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vilified political opponents who support a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. The oil-sands industry, Canada’s fastest growing CO2 polluter, says he’s out of step.

The contradiction of an industry seeking a new tax on itself has emerged in energy-rich Canada because producers are concerned the crude they process from tar-like sands will be barred from foreign markets for releasing more carbon in its production than competing fossil fuels.

Infected salmon declared fit for human consumption by Canadian Food Inspection Agency

For the first time, Canada’s food safety regulator is allowing Nova Scotia salmon infected with a flu-like virus to be processed for supermarkets and restaurants.

Last week the Canadian Food Inspection Agency declared fit for human consumption 240,000 Atlantic salmon with infectious salmon anemia — a disease it says poses no risk to human heath. The ruling is the first time the CFIA has opted not to destroy fish carrying the virus since it started regulating the fish farming industry in 2005.

When crisis becomes opportunity: Progressive organizing after Bill C-377

Yesterday morning, I happened upon a Toronto Star article that woke me quicker than my morning coffee. The article featured a Conservative MP and Senator taking turns insulting Attiwapiskat Chief Teresa Spence after her six week hunger strike.

In the world of public low blows, these were among the dirtiest I've seen.

 Senator Patrick Brazeau, the outspoken Algonquin Tory, solicits ridicule for Chief Spence's weight and appearance. Royal Galipeau, an Ottawa-area MP, then adds insult to injury by remarking on Chief Spence’s fingernails: "I noticed that manicure of hers. I tell you Anne [Galipeau's spouse] can't afford it."

U.N. Drone Investigator: If Facts Lead to U.S. War Crimes, So Be It

Ben Emmerson wants to be clear: He’s not out to ban flying killer robots used by the CIA or the U.S. military. But the 49-year-old British lawyer is about to become the bane of the drones’ existence, thanks to the United Nations inquiry he launched last week into their deadly operations.

Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, will spend the next five months doing something the Obama administration has thoroughly resisted: unearthing the dirty secrets of a global counterterrorism campaign that largely relies on rapidly proliferating drone technology. Announced on Thursday in London, it’s the first international inquiry into the drone program, and one that carries the imprimatur of the world body. By the next session of the United Nations in the fall, Emmerson hopes to provide the General Assembly with an report on 25 drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine where civilian deaths are credibly alleged.

Egyptian protesters march on Cairo's presidential palace

Egyptian protesters throwing stones clashed with security forces firing tear gas and water cannons at the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday as the country's political violence extended for an eighth day.

Protests were held in cities around the country on Friday after a call for rallies by opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. But some cracks appeared in the ranks of the opposition. Some in the crowds sharply criticized opposition leaders for holding their first meeting with the rival Muslim Brotherhood a day earlier.

Withdrawn: $114 Billion From Big U.S. Banks

More than $114 billion exited the biggest U.S. banks this month, and nobody’s quite sure why.

The Federal Reserve releases data on the assets and liabilities of commercial banks every Friday. The most current figures, covering the first full week of 2013, show the largest one-week withdrawals since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Even when seasonally adjusted, the level drops to $52.8 billion—still the third-highest amount on record, and one for which bank experts and analysts were reluctant to give a definitive explanation.

Iceland Kicked Out FBI Agents Who Flew in Unannounced to Investigate WikiLeaks Operations in the Country

According to the RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, FBI agents landed in Reykjavík in August 2011 without prior notification in an attempt to investigate WikiLeaks operations within the country. However, their plan was interupted when Home Secretary Ögmundur Jónasson learned about the FBI's visit and sent them packing. The Icelandic government then formally protested the FBI's activities with U.S. authorities.

This is not the first time that the U.S. government's hunt for WikiLeaks has involved private individuals and companies in Iceland. In the past, the U.S. has been successful in obtaining account information from Twitter on parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who now refuses to travel outside of Iceland for fear of being arrested for her connections with WikiLeaks.

The real invasion of Africa is not news

A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media.

The invasion has almost nothing to do with "Islamism", and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine. As in the cold war, a division of labour requires that western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a "menacing arc" of Islamic extremism, no different from the bogus "red menace" of a worldwide communist conspiracy.

Is Alberta Premier Alison Redford's bitter fight with the docs about money, or control?canad

Is the increasingly bitter fight between Alberta's government and the province's physicians just about money? It's said here it’s more about who gets to control the health care system.

If you need evidence for this assertion, look no further than the fact just two and a half months ago Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said he was going to impose a pay deal on the docs that would have seen their salaries keep on rising.

Using the tax system to offset rising income inequality

Congratulations to Statistics Canada for providing an update on top incomes in Canada, and for launching two new CANSIM tables allowing researchers to dig into the details.

While the income share of the top 1 per cent has slipped slightly since the Great Recession -- likely due in large part to the reduced value of exercised stock options -- their share of all income (10.6 per cent in 2010) still stands well above the low of about 7 per cent that was reached in the early 1980s.

Wynne's victory a sign of major progress over past 25 years

"Is Ontario ready for a gay Premier?"

"Can a gay woman win?"

 Kathleen Wynne's questions to delegates at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention were answered with a resounding "yes," as she went on to become the first openly gay head of a government in Canada.

As I joined in the celebration of this milestone, watching the voting into the wee hours of the morning on the Internet at my home in Switzerland, I couldn't help but think back to my own journey as the first openly gay MP in Canada. When I came out publicly in an interview with the late Barbara Frum in February, twenty-five years ago next month, in 1988, even putting those two questions would have been unthinkable.

Foreign Miners 'Piled up and Sent Home': BC Fed's Sinclair

As Chinese miners in Tumbler Ridge head back to China, labour groups are pointing to the sudden decision by HD Mining to send its workforce home as an example of serious problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The 16 miners were sent back to China -- perhaps only temporarily -- just days after the company handed over documents related to the workers' permits to two unions after a court fight aimed at getting a judicial review of the case.

Ontario slow to stop water filtration scam

Ontario's Ministry of Consumer Services has taken few steps to stop an Ontario-based water filtration company using deceptive sales tactics, a CBC investigation has found.

In 2011, Marketplace found Woodbridge, Ont.-based Simple H20 was using bogus scientific tests and misleading claims to sell expensive water purification systems to homeowners.

Alleged price-fixing at GTA construction companies

Canada’s Competition Bureau is investigating allegations of wide-ranging price fixing among companies that build the foundations of new homes across the GTA — a conspiracy that may have added thousands of dollars in extra costs to houses built over the past 15 years.

In a court document obtained by the Star, Ottawa’s competition watchdog alleges that at least three GTA companies, and a building association, contravened the Competition Act by colluding to fix the price of concrete forming, the process of building the concrete foundation of a home.

Government reverses course on secret loans

The federal government agreed on Thursday to disclose the recipients of loans, made through a $20 million fund, which were previously going to be kept secret.

The contribution agreement that provided the federal tax dollars does not require the two groups handing out the loans to disclose the recipients publicly, and earlier spokespeople for one of the groups and for FedDev – the development agency for southern Ontario – said the recipients would not be identified because of privacy concerns.

Conservatives sidestep criticism about mocking of Chief Theresa Spence

OTTAWA — The Conservative government defended its handling of aboriginal issues Thursday and sidestepped disparaging comments made by two members of Stephen Harper’s caucus about the Idle No More movement and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

In the Commons, the NDP’s Romeo Saganash said the remarks made by Sen. Patrick Brazeau and MP Royal Galipeau (Ottawa-Orleans), and Harper’s failure to prioritize aboriginal concerns at a speech to his caucus, do not bode well for any concrete progress for First Nations.

Choosing not to look away: Confronting colonialism in Canada

Canada has "no history of colonialism." So said Stephen Harper in 2009. Today the Idle No More movement is shouting down this lie through actions both creative and courageous. In its place, it is telling Canadians at large what some of us have always known: that the country we live in was founded as -- and continues to be -- a colonial-settler state.

Colonialism involves one society seeking to conquer another and then rule over it. European countries worked to conquer the Americas, Africa and most of Asia between the end of the 1400s and the 1800s. In the beginning, the goal was usually to gain access to resources -- including gold, silver, furs and fish -- that could give a boost to the feudal societies that existed in most of Europe at that time.

Elections Alberta Illegal Donations: Towns, Counties, Schools Fined For Illegally Donating To PCs

EDMONTON - Critics say thousands of dollars in illegal donations from towns, cities and schools to Alberta Premier Alison Redford's party are proof of institutionalized political corruption and kickbacks.

"This is a system that has been established in order to shake down public institutions and have taxpayers' money flow to the Progressive Conservative party," NDP Leader Brian Mason said after 45 cases of illegal contributions were released Thursday.

Group Of Tory MPs Want Late Abortions Investigated As Murders

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while some of his Conservative MPs may not agree, abortion is legal in Canada.

Harper made the comments while under questioning in the House of Commons over a letter written by three Tory MPs who want the RCMP to investigate hundreds of abortions as possible homicides.

Dan Brown, Missouri State Senator, Wants Gun Education In First Grade

A Republican state senator in Missouri has proposed legislation that would make gun safety a mandatory part of the first-grade curriculum.

State Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla) told a Senate committee Tuesday that the course would teach first-graders what to do if they found a weapon, to prevent them from shooting themselves or someone else, the Associated Press reported. Brown's legislation specifies a curriculum -- which includes cartoons -- designed by the National Rifle Association. The legislation was filed a day before December's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children -- many of them first-graders -- dead.

Sheryl Nuxoll, Idaho GOP State Senator, Compares Health Care To The Holocaust

Sherly Nuxoll, a Republican state senator from Idaho, compared President Barack Obama's health care plan to the Holocaust, the Idaho Spokesman-Review reports.

In an email to supporters, Nuxoll, who opposes opposes the administration's plan, wrote:

    The insurance companies are creating their own tombs. Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: "The United States Is Fast Becoming One of the Biggest Open-Air Prisons on Earth"

In a rare live interview, Mumia Abu-Jamal calls into Democracy Now! as the new film, "Long Distance Revolutionary," about his life premieres in New York City this weekend. After 29 years on death row, he is now being held in general population at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution – Mahanoy. "How free are we today, those who claim to be non-prisoners? Your computers are being read by others in government. Your letters, your phone calls are being intercepted," says Mumia Abu-Jamal. "We live now in a national security state, where the United States is fast becoming one of the biggest open-air prisons on earth. We can speak about freedom, and the United States has a long and distinguished history of talking about freedom, but have we exampled freedom? And I think the answer should be very clear: We have not." In 1982, Mumia was sentenced to die for killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He has always maintained his innocence and is perhaps America’s most famous political prisoner. In 2011, an appeals court upheld his conviction, but also vacated his death sentence. It found jurors were given confusing instructions.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Elizabeth Warren, Elijah Cummings, Maxine Waters Call For More Transparency On Failed Foreclosure Reviews

Three influential lawmakers on Thursday called for bank regulators to disclose more details of the $8.5 billion foreclosure abuse settlement reached earlier this month and to reveal what happened during the case-by-case review program it abruptly replaced.

In a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote that "additional transparency" was necessary to ensure the confidence necessary "to speed recovery in the housing markets." They asked regulators to turn over the results of the performance reviews of the independent contractors hired to examine the loan files, as well as detailed information about the reviews' preliminary results, to determine the extent of the harm to the 500,000 people who applied to the program.

San Francisco 49ers' Ahmad Brooks, Isaac Sopoaga Deny Participating In 'It Gets Better' Gay Youth Video

A series of anti-gay remarks made by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver cast the Super Bowl-bound team in a negative light just days ahead of the NFL championship game.

Though Culliver has since apologized for the controversial statements, the backlash seems unlikely to dissipate now that a new wrinkle has emerged. The 49ers' linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, both of whom participated in the team's widely-praised "It Gets Better" video last summer, have denied ever producing the clip.

Being hated means getting it right

In two months Kevin Page’s term as parliamentary budget officer will end. He’s the fellow appointed under the Federal Accountability Act—the first piece of legislation the Harper government passed—to provide independent analysis of federal spending. He keeps disagreeing with the Harper government’s explanations of its spending. That’s actually his job. “It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and would not be part of the government,” Monte Solberg said in 2004, in the Conservatives’ opposition days, about the office Page wound up occupying. “It would not be a situation where the government could manipulate the figures to its own ends.”

‘No plan’ to halt casino expansion: Kathleen Wynne

OTTAWA — Critics of the provincial government’s plan to expand casino gambling in Ontario don’t have an ally in premier-designate Kathleen Wynne, who said Thursday she will be staying with the plan.

“I understand that the reality of casinos is with us. There’s no plan on my part to change that reality,” she said in a conference call with reporters from Eastern Ontario.

Wynne also talked about job cuts at the Ottawa Hospital and the need to give cities like Ottawa more power to tax residents to pay for their needs.

The genius of Spence

In media time, it’s been light years since Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence ended her 44-day fast last week. But beyond the dismissive attention span of Canada’s mainstream body politic, there are different ways to count time.

In the near term, Spence has been shockingly belittled and underestimated because she spoke to the country in a new language, and I don’t mean Cree, though that is also true.

Karen Stintz: Rob Ford won’t call me back

The frosty relationship between Karen Stintz and Rob Ford was on display Wednesday, when the TTC chair crashed a press conference in the mayor’s office, claiming he refused to return a voicemail she left for him last week.

The unusual scene unfolded around 5 pm, after Mayor Ford’s staff alerted reporters that he would soon be giving a rare unscheduled media availability.

Canada has nothing to gain, much to lose by ignoring land rights of indigenous peoples

Community hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline wrap up this week in Vancouver. As an international human rights organization with strong roots in communities across Canada, Amnesty International wanted to be part of this process to emphasize that whatever the mandate of this specific review, all decisions affecting the lands of indigenous peoples must uphold domestic and international protections for their rights.

Even more than this, we wanted to demonstrate that respect for the human rights of indigenous peoples is matter of urgent priority for Canadian society and for the example that Canada sets for the world.

UN inquiry says Israel must end settlements

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violate international law, and the country must "immediately" withdraw all settlers from such areas, UN human rights investigators have said.

Israel has not co-operated with the inquiry, set up by the Human Rights Council (HRC) last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem.