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.]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Republicans Seek Volcker Rule Repeal In Exchange For New Wall Street Reforms

WASHINGTON -- After more than four years of blanket opposition to Wall Street reform, House Republicans are finally offering Democrats a deal. But there's a hefty price attached to the GOP's newfound interest in financial regulation. In return for a new policy that would force the Fed to shut down big banks when they run into trouble, Democrats would have to repeal the signature systemic risk reform they passed in 2010, known as the Volcker Rule.

John Baird slams anti-gay statements by CIDA-funded group

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird took aim Tuesday at "offensive" and "mean-spirited" statements on the website of an organization that gets federal funding to do aid work in Uganda.

The Canadian International Development Agency is providing $544,813 over three years to Christian Crossroads Communications Inc. to provide water and sanitation in Uganda, a country that is considering the death penalty for gays and lesbians.

Mark Carney ‘disappointed’ by lack of investment by Canadian business

OTTAWA—Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney is sticking by his criticism of corporate Canada, saying the disappointing pace of investment by business is a risk to the economy.

Asked about an earlier remark in which he accused businesses of sitting on huge piles of “dead money,” Carney told Members of Parliament Tuesday he “absolutely” stands by that statement.

Investment by Canadian companies in new machinery and equipment — considered vital to boosting growth, creating jobs and making the economy perform more efficiently — has “disappointed” in the second half of 2012, he told the Commons finance committee.

Corporate profit shifting erodes the developed world’s tax base: report

Governments in the developed world are losing important sources of tax revenues, according to a landmark report, and a “significant” reason is that multinational companies are shifting profits to places where they pay little or no tax.

Profit shifting is a “current and pressing” issue and needed urgent reform, says the report, released Tuesday by the 34-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which sets international tax guidelines.

Obama's Mortgage Crisis Working Group Falls Short Of Billing

WASHINGTON -- Hours before last year's State of the Union address, the Obama administration offered The Huffington Post an exclusive. During his speech, President Barack Obama would announce a new law enforcement unit aimed at exposing and prosecuting financial fraud behind the housing crisis. The unit would be co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a progressive champion who'd been pressuring the White House to get tougher on banks.

Taxpayers foot $110,054 bill for premiers conference swag

HALIFAX — Most Nova Scotians weren’t invited to the swanky party, but they paid for it. During last year’s premiers’ conference in Halifax, taxpayers coughed up $110,054.90 for a meeting steeped in swag.

The bill included $1,653 for whiskey tumblers with the Titanic etched on them, $1,625 for 25 cheese boards with beeswax, $1,875 for Diamond Jubilee leather journals, $4,940 for ‘Taste of Nova Scotia’ crates and $35,654.35 for 400 fleece jackets.

Canada appeals WTO decision against Ontario's Green Energy Act

Canada has notified the World Trade Organization that it will be appealing a December ruling against the local content rules in Ontario's Green Energy Act. Japan and the EU successfully argued that requiring a percentage of solar and wind power components to be made in the province violated national treatment obligations in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIM). Canada is appealing this ruling at the request of the Ontario government.

The "buy local" rules in the Green Energy Act create an economic incentive to transition away from coal and other dirty forms of energy and toward renewable power. Canada argued at the WTO that the feed-in-tariff (payment) that wind and solar producers receive for putting energy into the grid was a government procurement exempted from GATT national treatment rules. The WTO agreed that energy purchased in Ontario by public agencies is procurement for governmental purposes but that the purchase is also for commercial resale, meaning that the GATT exemption does not apply. The Ontario government is mum on whether Canada will contest this in its appeal.

Saskatchewan robocalls: The Prime Minister is the pot

In my last post, I noted that the Conservative Party admitted it was behind recent misleading robocalls in Saskatchewan only after being confronted by forensic evidence linking it to the calls.

When confronted with the facts, the Prime Minister made this claim:

"There is no violation of the CRTC rules, in this case, unlike what the Liberal party did in a very different case …"

Immigration Is Not a Domestic Issue

As the builder of fences for the US-Mexico border, as well as immigration jails and a Border Patrol station, the Golden State Fence Company was well served by the politics of xenophobia. The popular desire to turn the United States into a huge gated community, fortified against poverty and aspiration, was good for business. The only problem was that undocumented workers—the very people the fences were designed to keep out—were also good for business. “They were more trustworthy and more apt to stay long term,” said one of the executives.

We're Spending More on Nukes Than We Did During the Cold War?!

On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama took the stage before 20,000 people in Prague's Hradcany Square to offer an ambitious global vision. "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he told the open-air audience in the former Eastern Bloc capital. "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same."

The timing of his bold promise seemed perfect. Russia was ready to whittle down its destructive power; a year later, Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev would sign a treaty limiting both countries to 1,500 active warheads—though still enough to annihilate millions of people, a 50 percent reduction to each nation's atomic arsenal. Back home, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were scrutinizing the federal budget for unnecessary spending, and nuclear weapons no longer appeared to be off limits.

Vladmir Putin is Trying to Buy Up the World's Gold

According to a new report from Bloomberg, Russia has become the world's biggest buyer of gold under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.

Over the last decade -- during which Putin was perennially in a position of power, serving as both president and prime minister -- Russia's Central Bank added 570 metric tons of gold, or about 1.25 million pounds. According to Bloomberg, that's about 25 percent more than China has added over the same time period. The report adds that the gold bullion acquired by the Central Bank weighs as much as three Statues of Liberty.

F-35 Report Was Edited To Remove Harsh Criticism Of Tory Leadership

OTTAWA - Stinging criticism of the political and bureaucratic fiasco surrounding the F-35 by the country's budget officer and even the auditor general was edited out of the final version of a parliamentary investigation, a draft copy of the report shows.

The Conservative-dominated all-party House of Commons public accounts committee held seven hours of hearings and spent much more time arguing with Opposition members behind closed doors last spring and fall over the handling of the stealth fighter program.

Dick Cheney: Obama Drone Program Is 'A Good Policy'

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney says the Obama administration's policy of targeting terrorists abroad with unmanned drone strikes is "a good policy," even though he disagrees with most of President Barack Obama's views on national security.

In an interview that aired Tuesday on "CBS This Morning," Cheney dismissed the need for "checks and balances" against the drone program. He says Obama "is getting paid to make difficult, difficult decisions."

Al-Qaeda affiliates attracting Canadians, CSIS head says

The head of CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, warned Monday that Canadians are involved in every al-Qaeda affiliate group and that these groups have mentioned Canada as a possible target.

Richard Fadden appeared before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence in Ottawa. He told the committee the threat posed by al-Qaeda is changing and becoming harder for authorities to track.

Helicopter executives with ties to ORNGE arrested in India bribery scheme

Two Italian helicopter executives who dealt with Ontario's ORNGE air ambulance deal are facing bribery allegations overseas involving a chopper deal in India.

Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolni were top executives with AgustaWestland during the time period of both the deal for 12 helicopters in India, and in Ontario. Spagnoli is still with Agusta, while Orsi is the chairman and chief executive officer of parent company Finmeccanica.

Stop Harper, how? An alternative form of political co-operation

So you want to stop Harper. Happily, you stand with a solid majority of Canadians, who are unhappy with what he represents. His government has the support of only about one Canadian in three.

Unfortunately, the opposition to his regime, a.k.a. one-man rule, is divided. Four opposition parties share prospective anti-Harper voters. Not everybody who wants to stop Harper is as engaged politically as Brigette DePape, the page who was terminated for brandishing a Stop Harper sign on the floor of the Senate.

Remembering the Overlooked Life of Eslanda Robeson, Wife of Civil Rights Legend Paul Robeson

In a Black History Month special, we remember the lives of the legendary civil rights activist, singer and actor Paul Robeson and his wife Eslanda, whose story is not as well known. One of the most celebrated singers and actors of the 20th century, Robeson was attacked, blacklisted and hounded by the government for his political beliefs. Eslanda Robeson, known by her friends as "Essie," was an author, an anthropologist and a globally connected activist who worked to end colonialism in Africa and racism in the United States. We’re joined by historian Barbara Ransby, author of the new biography, "Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson." [includes rush transcript–partial. More to come.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Fantino: Anti-Gay Group Funding Resulted From Sound Policy

OTTAWA - International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino is defending the Conservative government's decision to provide funding to an Ontario evangelical group that has described homosexuality as a perversion and a sin.

The Canadian International Development Agency provides money for aid projects abroad on the basis of results, not religion, Fantino said Monday as he came under opposition fire in the House of Commons.

Tim Hudak wants student loans tied to marks

Student loans should be tied to marks and more young adults should be steered toward applied learning programs at community colleges than universities to improve their prospects of getting jobs.

Those are among the recommendations of a new policy paper on improving higher education from Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak as his party prepares for an election that could come later this year.

Barclays Bank To Cut 3,700 Jobs After Profits Plunge

Barclays is to cut 3,700 jobs, it has announced.

The jobs to go are 1,800 investment banking posts and 1,900 in retail and business banking.

The bank also announced its pre-tax operating profit was £7.05 billion, up about a quarter from the £5.59bn achieved a year earlier.

North Korea Nuclear Test: White House Issues Statement Condemning Test

The White House issued the following statement on Feb. 12, 2013 on North Korea's announcement of a third nuclear test:

    North Korea announced today that it conducted a third nuclear test. This is a highly provocative act that, following its December 12 ballistic missile launch, undermines regional stability, violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation. North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region.

    These provocations do not make North Korea more secure. Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

    The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies. We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other UN member states to pursue firm action.

Original Article
Author: --

Unions in Canada under siege from government, business and media

Although much denigrated by the right these days, union activists are, as the old saying notes, “the people who brought you the weekend.”

The right apparently wants you to believe that the weekend is now out of date.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, along with influential members of the corporate and media world, are hostile to unions, rarely missing an opportunity to portray union leaders as autocratic “bosses.”

EI benefits reinstated to protester

MONTAGUE – Marlene Geirsdorf will get her benefits back and prays never again to join the ranks of the unemployed.

“It’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through and I never want to do it again after I graduate my course,” she said Monday. “But I’m not giving up the protest to help others in the same boat.”

Religious charities see surge of CIDA aid, study says

It’s a good time to be a religious charity in Canada.

Since Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won power in January 2006, faith-based charities, primarily Christian, have enjoyed a surge in funding from the Canadian International Development Agency, according to a study released by University of Quebec in Montreal political science professor François Audet.

From March 2005 until 2010, according to Audet’s findings, the funding received by 57 religious non-profits surged to a collective $129 million from $90 million, a 42 per cent increase.

Auditor and budget officer's F-35 critiques watered down in Commons report

OTTAWA - Stinging criticism of the political and bureaucratic fiasco surrounding the F-35 by the country's budget officer and even the auditor general was edited out of the final version of a parliamentary investigation, a draft copy of the report shows.

The Conservative-dominated all-party House of Commons public accounts committee held seven hours of hearings and spent much more time arguing with Opposition members behind closed doors last spring and fall over the handling of the stealth fighter program.

Oil price gap a handy excuse for strapped governments

Both the Alberta and federal governments are now pointing to the “oil price differential” as the culprit that has forced them to revamp budget projections and talk darkly about the need for cuts to programs, services and public employees.

But is this really true? Or is it just a complicated but convenient excuse that draws attention away from deeper problems?

A 2011 Alberta government research document recently released to the Alberta Federation of Labour after a lengthy tussle with the Freedom of Information gatekeepers suggests that it is a convenient excuse.