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.]

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sergei Udaltsov, Russia Opposition Leader, Placed Under House Arrest

MOSCOW -- A top Russian opposition figure has been placed under house arrest for two months, a move that also bans him from using most forms of communication, including the Internet, telephone and mail.

A Moscow court imposed the restrictions Saturday on Sergei Udaltsov after prosecutors complained he had violated a previous agreement not to leave Moscow.

Melissa Harris-Perry: Obama Administration Has Institutionalized 'Perpetual War'

Melissa Harris-Perry was alarmed over President Obama's drone policy on Saturday, lamenting the country's "perpetual war state" and alleging that Obama has expanded some of policies put in place by George W. Bush.

The MSNBC host was reacting to a controversial Justice Department white paper, which says that the U.S. can legally order the killing of Americans if they are suspected of being senior Al Qaeda members. Harris-Perry noted that while on-the-ground fighting in Iraq has largely ended, she said that there are still special forces units and drone strikes being carried out in war zones — a development she said indicated the country's never-ending state of war.

Plan Nord Protesters Arrested In Montreal

MONTREAL - Montreal police arrested more than 30 people, including nine minors, during a second day of protests against Quebec's northern development plan.

Demonstrators gathered on Saturday outside a job fair at the city's convention centre, where businesses and workers were meeting to discuss opportunities in the natural resources sector.

Police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said at least one window was smashed and a flare gun was fired inside the building.

Ernst & Young Report Predicts Mass Selloff In The Oil Patch

CALGARY - Ernst & Young foresees a lot of "for sale" signs being posted on energy assets around the world — and Canada's oilpatch is no exception.

The global advisory firm found 37 per cent of oil and gas respondents it surveyed globally are either in the process of selling assets or plan to do so over the next two years.

Canada's management of polar bears at risk

Canada is in danger of losing a major international battle over its management of polar bears with former allies reversing their position and supporting a proposed ban on cross-border trade in parts of the animals.

At stake is a growing and lucrative business for Inuit hunters, who sell the skins as a byproduct of their traditional hunt. A defeat would also be a "warning" to Canada's self-image as a responsible steward of the mighty Arctic predator.

Anti-gay religious group gets CIDA funding for work in Africa

OTTAWA, Ont. -- An evangelical organization that describes homosexuality as a "perversion" and a "sin" is receiving funding from the Government of Canada for its work in Uganda, where gays and lesbians face severe threats.

The federal government has denounced virulent homophobia in that East African country and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has condemned plans for an anti-gay bill that could potentially include the death penalty for homosexuals.

Tories ask ethics watchdog to look into Pat Martin defence fund

Freshly by-elected Durham Conservative MP Erin O'Toole may have set a new record for the shortest time between arriving in the House of Commons, and filing an ethics complaint against one of his new colleagues.

According to a release posted on the party-run website, the rookie backbencher is calling on Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to "investigate a possible conflict of interest" related to the Pat Martin Defence Fund, which was set up last year in response to the robocalls-related defamation suit launched against him by RackNine Inc.

Ex-Tory staffer linked to '11 robocalls speaks out about latest scandal

An ex-Tory staffer who’s been linked to the robocalls scandal that followed the 2011 federal election says the Conservative Party has lost credibility in its handling of the latest controversy.

Michael Sona told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that he’s been portrayed as a rogue operative behind the thousands of calls made to the Guelph, Ont. riding that directed voters to go to the wrong polling stations.

Summit call for ATB Financial privatization sets stage for rural Alberta banking battle

Assuming at least some of the ideas put forward at Saturday's Alberta Economic Summit in Calgary actually represent the Redford Government's policy plans and preferences, it was extremely interesting to hear investment banker George Gosbee call for privatization of ATB Financial.

The sale of the former Alberta Treasury Branches financial institution created by premier William Aberhart as a Social Credit remedy to the darkest days of the Depression would net about $4 billion for the government, Gosbee noted.

This sum, he didn't add, could be used as a temporary fix to patch up the government's crumbling bottom line in time to get Premier Alison Redford and her Progressive Conservative government re-elected one more time in 2015.

Islamic extremists stage surprise attack in Mali town

Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles snuck into the city of Gao in canoes Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the Malian army in the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops ousted the jihadists.

The combat started at about 2 p.m. in downtown Gao and the fighting was continuing as night fell. Later the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of French military helicopters overhead.

Lipstick for the Senate

Canadians don’t normally associate the plump, cosseted Senate with sex, violence, skulduggery and uproar. The august Red Chamber likes to think of itself as a place of sober second thought, not an episode of Breaking Bad. But now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative appointees own the joint it’s beginning to look more like a biker bar.

Senator Patrick Brazeau was hauled before an Ottawa judge on Friday, charged with assault and sexual assault. But not before Harper booted the trouble-prone senator from the Tory caucus. He sees the case as “extremely appalling.” Brazeau, whose Twitter handle is @TheBrazman, is a brash figure well-known for sniping at Theresa Spence and other native leaders, falling behind in child support payments and slagging the media. He’s now “on leave” with full pay until the charges are dealt with.

Mutant virus sparks bioethics debate

In a storage facility in the Netherlands, a mutant virus has been locked in a freezer for more than a year, unaware of the global debate swirling around it.

As far as scientists know, this virus cannot be found anywhere else on Earth; it was engineered into existence. This strain — once described by its creator as “probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make” — has sparked one of the most inflamed bioethics debates in recent memory, raising anxieties over bioterrorism, scientific censorship and the prospect of a manmade pandemic.

First Nations chief to perform rare shaming rite on legislature lawn today

A traditional Kwakwaka’wakw ceremony that has not been performed for decades will take place Sunday on the legislature lawn as a symbolic shaming of the federal government.

A copper — a metal plaque traditionally used to measure the status, wealth and power of Kwakwaka’wakw chiefs — will be broken by hereditary Chief Beau Dick, who has walked from Quatsino, near Port Hardy, with family members and supporters.

The VIPs' hush money

It's no coincidence that a group of young Palestinians now organizing protests in the West Bank against a return to negotiations is called 'Palestinians for Dignity.'

Two people signed the entry permit into Israel that Mahmoud Abbas received from Israel's Civil Administration on January 1 (and which will be in force until March 1 ): 1st Lt. Noy Mitzrafi, commander of the permits office, and Lt. Col. Wissam Hamed, a department head in the Israel Defense Forces' operations directorate. It is this limited permit that Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president and PLO chairman, complained of receiving instead of his normal VIP permit during a closed meeting of his Fatah faction.

Ontarians least interested in political news, world events

OTTAWA — Ontario residents are less likely than other Canadians to follow political news or stories about world events, according to a new survey.

The November 2012 web survey of 2,200 Canadians, done by Léger Marketing for the Association for Canadian Studies, found that 57 per cent of Ontarians say they follow world news, 45 per cent follow news about Canadian politics and just 37 per cent follow news about provincial politics.

Canada’s offshore carries too many risks for taxpayer, environment

If Canada is serious about developing its offshore oil and gas resources, it’s time for an overhaul of its regulatory and fiduciary regime to provide better protection for workers, the environment and taxpayers.

The federal government’s environmental watchdog has pointed to the weaknesses of an outdated and cumbersome regulation framework for offshore development.

TransCanada planning cross-country pipeline end-around

CALGARY, Canada — Crude from Alberta's oil sands sells at a 30 percent discount to its U.S. counterpart. TransCanada Corp. Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling plans to narrow that gap whether or not his Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico wins approval from the Obama administration.

Canada's second-largest pipeline company proposes to pipe oil 3,000 miles across Canada to the Atlantic Coast, allowing producers to pick it up there and send it by tanker to the Gulf, Girling said in an interview. He expects U.S. passage of Keystone "very soon," but the East Coast route makes sense in any event because of rising production from Alberta, Girling said.

Jim Prentice says Canada playing global energy game without much skill

CALGARY - Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice says Canada has been complacent when it comes to making the most of its resource wealth.

Prentice, currently a CIBC executive, says Canada hasn't been playing the global energy game with much skill, foresight or cohesiveness.

He told a summit on Alberta's economy that relying on the U.S. as a customer for energy exports used to be a nuisance but now it's an enormous vulnerability for Canada and Alberta alike.

Gays, blacks nixed as images on Canada's new plastic bank notes: report

OTTAWA - The Bank of Canada considered celebrating gay marriages, black hockey players, and turban-wearing RCMP officers on its new plastic bank notes — but eventually nixed them all in favour of the more traditional images of a train, a ship and a monument.

Internal documents show that focus groups and a Bank of Canada team reviewed a series of currency images intended in part to reflect the diversity of Canada's population, particularly the country's varied ethnic character.

Egypt Bans YouTube For A Month After 'Innocence Of Muslims' Video Sparks Riots

CAIRO — A Cairo court on Saturday ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots across the world.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying the film, which he described as "offensive to Islam and the Prophet (Muhammad)." He made the ruling in the Egyptian capital where the first protests against the film erupted last September before spreading to more than 20 countries, killing more than 50 people.

Feds 'Not Transparent,' Says Information Commissioner

Canada's Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, says the current federal government is "not the most transparent" and that response to requests for Access to Information is now at a record low.

"We are at a record low in terms of timeliness," Legault told CBC Radio's Sunday Edition. "The percentage of information being disclosed is also low."

Anti-Evolution Missouri Bill Requires College Students to Learn About Destiny

Late last month, Rick Brattin, a Republican state representative in Missouri, introduced a bill that would require that intelligent design and "destiny" get the same educational treatment and textbook space in Missouri schools as the theory of evolution. Brattin insists that his bill has nothing to do with religion—it's all in the name of science.

"I'm a science enthusiast...I'm a huge science buff," Brattin tells The Riverfront Times. "This [bill] is about testable data in today's world." But Eric Meikle, education project director at the National Center for Science Education, disagrees. "This bill is very idiosyncratic and strange," he tells Mother Jones. "And there is simply not scientific evidence for intelligence design."

Arkansas law jails tenants who don’t pay their rent

Under a state law in Arkansas, renters can be imprisoned for failing to pay their rent. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, titled “Pay the Rent or Face Arrest: Abusive Impacts of Arkansas’s Criminal Evictions Law,” hundreds of tenants each year are taken to court, fined and jailed under the state’s “failure to vacate” law.

“The failure-to-vacate law was used to bring charges against more than 1,200 Arkansas tenants in 2012 alone,” read the report. “This figure greatly understates the total number of people impacted by the law. The vast majority of tenants scramble to move out when faced with a 10-day notice to vacate rather than face trial — and with good reason.”

Afghan Children Deaths: Hundreds Killed By U.S. In Last Five Years, UN 'Alarmed' By Civilian Casualties

A UN committee has expressed "alarm" over reports that hundreds of children have been killed by US military forces in Afghanistan in the past five years.

US forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), which leads the NATO fight against Taliban insurgents, dismissed the committee's concerns as "categorically unfounded".

US food industry battles against regulation

Why are Americans getting fatter, and who's to blame? It's a question members of the US Congress need to be asking.

Like the war on tobacco decades ago, the US is now fighting a new battle on obesity. On one side are US public health officials advocating for their government to put in place better nutrition policies. But those efforts have met stiff resistance, in part because the $1 trillion US food and beverage industry is fighting regulation with a powerful weapon: its deep pockets.

British firm 'avoids paying tax' in Zambia

An investigation by the British charity ActionAid has found that a major British corporation avoided paying income tax on hundreds of millions of dollars earned in the African state of Zambia.

The charity says that Zambia Sugar, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods (ABF), has paid almost no tax in Zambia since 2007.

The company moved millions of dollars out of Zambia and into tax havens like Mauritius and the Netherlands, reducing its taxable profits.