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.]

Thursday, February 07, 2013

CUPE conference: Building an economy that works

Quality public services provided by union members drive our country’s economy. Yet far too often, discussions about our economy are only framed from the point-of-view of banks and corporations, neglecting the interests of workers.

Finding ways CUPE can open up the public debate on our economy was the topic at a plenary session at CUPE's first ever National Bargaining Conference, now underway in Ottawa.

Drone strikes, assassination and detention: Obama's frightening new normal

John Brennan and John Kiriakou worked together years ago, but their careers have dramatically diverged. Brennan is now on track to head the CIA, while Kiriakou is headed off to prison. Each of their fates is tied to the so-called war on terror, which under President George W. Bush provoked worldwide condemnation. President Barack Obama rebranded the war on terror innocuously as "overseas contingency operations," but, rather than retrench from the odious practices of his predecessor, Obama instead escalated. His promotion of Brennan, and his prosecution of Kiriakou, demonstrate how the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.

Cellphone contract crackdown sought by watchdog

Canada's competition watchdog told the broadcast regulator how it would overhaul cellphone contracts, including doing away with hidden fees and misleading claims designed to make it harder to switch carriers and keep prices high.

In a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Competition Bureau laid out changes it would like implemented in the telecom industry.

Zero justice: Not one charge in over 100 cases against Israeli soldiers for attacking Palestinians in 2012

The Israeli legal advocacy group Yesh Din has found that out of 103 investigations opened in 2012 into alleged offenses committed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories against Palestinians and their property, not a single one has so far resulted in any charges.

From 2009-2011, Yesh Din says in its latest report, just 2.62 percent of investigations led to charges.
The figure from 2012 represents a deterioration in the already shocking lack of justice for Palestinians living under Israeli military tyranny.

What We Don’t Know About Drones

When I read the news that John Brennan was set to appear before the Senate in hopes of becoming of the C.I.A. director, I thought of the group of villagers I met at a seaside hotel in Yemen two years ago. They had driven many miles to see me, coming from the Yemen countryside in a pair of battered taxis, and they were waiting in the hotel parking lot. There were about a dozen of them in all. It was a beautiful hotel, called the Mercure, with panoramic views of Aden harbor. The villagers, dressed in robes and rags, looked out of place, but they’d come to talk.

The Constitutional Roadblock to Efforts to Fix Federal Elections

Yesterday The New York Times ran a front-page feature on attempts by Democrats, both in the White House and on Capitol Hill, to pass reforms to fix the scandalously long lines faced by voters at the polls last November. It comes the same day that the Virginia House and Senate passed a bill to disallow the use of a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, government check or Social Security card as acceptable identification to present at the polls—making it, of course, all the harder for traditionally Democratic constituencies in this crucial battleground state to have their voice heard at the ballot box.

Why Don't White-Collar Criminals Get Equal Time?

The Obama administration collected some crowd-pleasing headlines with its announcement that the Justice Department is suing Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency that notoriously fueled the financial crisis and crash by duping investors into buying billions in rotten securities. The government is said to be seeking a cash penalty of more than $1 billion.

Postal Cuts Are Austerity on Steroids

The austerity agenda that would cut services for working Americans in order to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy—and promote the privatization of public services—has many faces.

Most Americans recognize the threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as pieces of the austerity plan advanced by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the rest of the Ayn Rand–reading wrecking crew that has taken over the Republican Party. But it is important to recognize that the austerity agenda extends in every direction: from threats to Food Stamps and Pell Grants, to education cuts, to the squeezing of transportation funding.

NRA Pushes Bill to Outlaw Anti-Smoking Programs

The National Rifle Association is worried that Kansas might try to discourage gun ownership. So it is throwing its weight behind a bill that would prevent the state from spending money lobbying against "any legal consumer product"—a category that includes, among other things, tobacco and junk food.

Although State Bill 45, debated yesterday by a state Senate committee, focuses on lobbying efforts at the state and local level, a broad interpretation of the language could prevent Kansas from spending anything on programs that discourage the use of harmful products. The bill could "scuttle public health campaigns and other proven public health programs," the Topeka Capital-Journal reported yesterday, citing testimony from a Democratic senator and a representative from the American Cancer Society.

Obama Released Bush's Torture Memos. Why Not Release the Targeted-Killing Memos?

The Obama administration announced Wednesday night it will disclose classified Department of Justice documents explaining the legal justification for the killing of American terror suspects abroad to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The decision came in advance of hearings scheduled for Thursday in which the Senate intelligence committee was set to consider the nomination of John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, to head the Central Intelligence Agency. A bipartisan group of senators and representatives led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had spent months pressuring the administration to disclose the contents of the memos before the hearings. But while certain members of Congress will get to see the memos, the documents will not be made public.

Mike Duffy Dodges Residency Questions At Maritime Energy Association Dinner

HALIFAX - Senator Mike Duffy took a back exit through a Halifax hotel kitchen after a speech on Wednesday night as he declined to answer reporters' questions about his claims for living allowances for an Ottawa residence.

The former broadcaster suggested journalists focus on energy issues, the topic of the speech he'd just given to the Maritime Energy Association, rather than ask him about a controversy over his primary residence.

Senator Mike Duffy takes kitchen exit as reporters seek answers on residence

HALIFAX - Senator Mike Duffy took a back exit through a Halifax hotel kitchen after a speech on Wednesday night as he declined to answer reporters' questions about his claims for living allowances for an Ottawa residence.

The former broadcaster suggested journalists focus on energy issues, the topic of the speech he'd just given to the Maritime Energy Association, rather than ask him about a controversy over his primary residence.

Liberal senators walk out on Aboriginal Affairs minister

Three Liberal senators, all of them aboriginal, walked out of a committee meeting Wednesday night, as Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan was testifying about the need for his government's proposed First Nations Accountability Act.

The act would force all First Nations to post their annual financial statements online, along with the salaries of the chief and council members.

Prison double-bunking poised to be 'the new norm'

A new directive on inmate accommodation from the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada appears to more readily accept the practice of double bunking.

The document, obtained by CBC News Network's Power & Politics, dated Feb. 5, 2013, no longer includes the principle that existed in a previous directive that stated "single occupancy accommodation is the most desirable and correctionally appropriate method of housing offenders."

Tar Sands Deal And China’s Colonization of Canada

“Those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle.  They capture his cities without assaulting them, and overthrow his state without protracted operations.  Your aim is to take the opponent’s country intact.  This is the art of offensive strategy.”

These are the words of legendary Chinese general and tactician Sun Tzu, thought to be the author of The Art Of War, written before the time of Christ.

Brazeau used father-in-law's address to get tax exemption

Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau used his former father-in-law’s address in a First Nations community when he claimed an aboriginal income tax exemption from 2004 to 2008, CTV News has learned.

Brazeau, who has publicly called on aboriginal leaders to be more financially accountable, listed the residence on the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec as his mailing address for four years, unbeknownst to his ex-wife’s father.

Ten Things to End Rape Culture

Rape culture exists because we don't believe it does.  From tacit acceptance of misogyny in everything from casual conversations with our peers to the media we consume, we accept the degradation of women and posit uncontrollable hyper-sexuality of men as the norm. But rape is endemic to our culture because there's no widely accepted cultural definition of what it actually is.  As Nation contributor and co-editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes Jessica Valenti explains, “Rape is a standard result of a culture mired in misogyny, but for whatever reason—denial, self-preservation, sexism—Americans bend over backwards to make excuses for male violence.” But recent headline-grabbing instances of sexual assault, from Steubenville, Ohio, to Delhi, India, are prodding Americans to become self-aware about the role we play in propagating a culture that not only allows but justifies sexual violence against women. Activists Eesha Pandit, Jaclyn Friedman, filmmaker Nuala Cabral and The Nation’s Valenti believe that we can end rape culture. They’ve suggested the following "Ten Things" to end our collective tolerance for violence against women and create an environment that empowers both men and women to change the status quo.

Ron Paul In Canada: Conservative Conference To Be Headlined By Controversial Republican

OTTAWA - Former Republican presidential candidate and libertarian Ron Paul will be the marquee speaker at Canada's premier gathering of Conservatives next month, a figure that even organizers bill as controversial.

Paul will speak to the Manning Centre for Building Democracy's networking conference, an event that in the past has drawn Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his key cabinet members and advisers.

Obama Drone Program Secrecy Reaches 'Alice-in-Wonderland' Extremes

WASHINGTON -- In October 2011, Scott Shane, a national security reporter for The New York Times, sent an email to a branch of the Department of Justice that deals with Freedom of Information Act requests, to check on one of his FOIA filings.

Sixteen months earlier, Shane had asked that DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel -- which advises the White House on the legality of government actions -- release any memoranda it had relating to the president's top-secret program of targeted killing of suspected terrorists, much of which was understood to be conducted by drones.

U.S. Fiscal Policy is Upside Down

Reading through the new budget outlook from the Congressional Budget Office, which was released on Tuesday, three figures made the biggest impression on me: 1.4 per cent, 2.4 per cent, and 76 per cent. Taken together, these three numbers explain a good deal about what’s wrong with Washington, and how we are focussing on precisely the wrong things. Rather than tackling the projected rise in entitlement spending, which does present a long-term threat to the country’s prosperity, policy makers, particularly congressional Republicans, are intent on making short-term spending cuts across the board, which would threaten the current economic recovery. In short, they’ve got things upside down.

Bernie Sanders Exposes the Dirty Secret that a Few Wealthy People Control Congress

Bernie Sanders has spilled the beans on Congress. Sen. Sanders said, “The Congress of the United States of America is controlled by a handful of extraordinarily wealthy people and corporations.”


    Tavis: To your point about Citizens United, one of the ways that we might push back on this money being the mother’s milk of all of our politics notion, one of the way to push back on that would be some real, some serious, campaign finance reform.

Radio Ambulante: Spanish-Language Radio Program Showcases the Untold Stories of the Americas

The new Spanish-language radio program “Radio Ambulante” gathers voices from around Latin America and the United States to showcase the untold human stories behind issues such as immigration and kidnappings. Using a network of journalists from around the Americas, the monthly program fills a gaping hole in the radio landscape for Spanish speakers. We’re joined by Radio Ambulante executive producer Daniel Alarcón, the acclaimed author of the novel "Lost City Radio"; and by Annie Correal, a Radio Ambulante producer who tells her family’s story of using radio to convey messages to her kidnapped father in Colombia.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Bob Rae Questions John Baird's 'Courage' During Mali Debate

Bob Rae questioned John Baird's courage Tuesday night during a debate in the House of Commons on Canada's role in the conflict in Mali.

And say what you will about the interim Liberal leader, but he certainly has a way with words.

After a lengthy speech, which he delivered without notes, Rae dove into the debate with his fellow MPs, expanding upon his main argument that Canada can, and should, be doing more to support the French and UN in the war-torn east African nation. You can read the full text of what Rae said here.

Canada-U.S. Price Gap Senate Report Says Tariffs A Contributor

OTTAWA - The federal government needs to launch a comprehensive review of its tariff policy to help bridge a yawning price gap between Canadian and American retail prices, a Senate committee said Wednesday.

After studying the issue for eight months, the Senate finance committee said tariffs on consumer imports are not the only, or even major, reason for the price differential, but they are a significant factor and one that government can do something about.

Stephen Harper: Robocalls In Saskatchewan 'Followed The Rules'

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making no apologies for his party's use of deceptive robocalls to rally public opinion against proposed changes to riding boundaries in Saskatchewan.

Harper insisted Wednesday there was nothing wrong with the automated calls last week, which warned listeners that the changes would "destroy Saskatchewan values" and pit rural folk against urban dwellers — all without identifying that the caller was the Conservative party.

Government to appeal court ruling that Metis, other natives are 'Indian'

OTTAWA - The federal government will appeal a landmark Federal Court ruling which would vastly expand the ranks of people considered Indians under the Constitution.

After more than 13 years of legal wrangling, the court ruled last month that Metis and non-status Indians are indeed "Indians" under a section of the Constitution Act, and therefore fall under federal jurisdiction.

Globalizing Torture: Ahead of Brennan Hearing, International Complicity in CIA Rendition Exposed

As counterterrorism czar John Brennan appears on Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearing to head the CIA, a new report provides a detailed look at global involvement in the agency’s secret program of prisons, rendition and torture in the years after 9/11. In "Globalizing Torture," the Open Society Justice Initiative says 54 countries helped the CIA detain 136 people, the largest tally to date. The report’s author, Amrit Singh, joins us to discuss her findings and Brennan’s role in the expansive program she’s documented.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Saskatchewan ridings robocall ‘followed the rules,’ prime minister says

OTTAWA — The prime minister said Wednesday that a controversial “push poll” in Saskatchewan followed all the rules, hours after a senior Conservative MP from that province denounced the robocall as “deceptive” and said the party’s political director should be held responsible.

“The party has already explained that it has followed the rules and the law in this situation,” Stephen Harper said.

The Commons: How do you solve a problem like Mike Duffy?

The NDP leader had asked a straightforward question and the Prime Minister had not quite responded with a straightforward answer and so now Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader forced to gesture demonstratively this day with only his left arm on account of a fall on his right arm this morning, leaned forward and stared down the Prime Minister.

“Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve a straight answer,” he ventured. “Did the Prime Minister know his party was behind these fraudulent calls, yes or no?