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 14, 2013

Abuse of Aboriginal women: A story of complete lack of trust

A number of years ago, as part of a CBC inquiry into strained relations between the Montreal police and the black community, we interviewed a woman who had been abused by some cops.

While telling the story of her mistreatment, she related having calling out, at one point: "Call the police!"

Then, she said, "I realized these were the police!"

Open letter to Thomas Mulcair: Maintain NDP's opposition to 'trade' deals like CETA

I want to add my name to those who have written to you expressing our concern about the possibility that the NDP might endorse the CETA agreement.

This agreement is primarily about limiting the public policy options of government. It is not fundamentally about lowering tariff barriers as these are already quite low. Rather it is about enhancing investor rights. It is also about further entrenching the intellectual property regime that has led to such major increases in Canada's pharmaceutical prices since Brian Mulroney abolished compulsory licensing in 1987 and 1992 with Bills C22 and C91.

Wall Street Setting Itself Up For Next Derivatives Crisis, Market Participants Warn

A crucial change in the way financial derivatives are packaged and sold on Wall Street is enabling traders to bypass new regulations aimed at limiting reckless speculation, enhancing the prospect of another derivatives crisis, warn some market participants.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law adopted by Congress in 2010, investors are required to set aside significant sums of cash to cover losses on their derivatives trades -- money they could otherwise plow into additional investments. That policy came in response to the financial crisis that began in 2007, when major financial institutions found themselves unable to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in shortfalls on derivatives trades.

Christopher Dorner Not A Sociopath, Experts Say

Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-Los Angeles cop who had declared "war" on the LAPD, is not a sociopath, psychologists said.

Dorner's spree of violence, which appears to have ended Tuesday with the discovery of a charred body after a shootout and fire at a Big Bear Lake cabin, may seem consistent with the definition of a sociopath -- a person who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. He was accused of killing a retired captain's daughter and her fiance in Irvine, Calif., and shooting multiple cops in Riverside and Big Bear, killing two.

Gender Pay Gap Widened In 2012, Back To 2005 Levels

Women have made huge strides in the workplace but still are falling short when it comes to pay.

New data from the Labor Department reveals that in 2012, women made only 81 percent as much as male workers, on average. Women made less than men in all but two occupations, according to the available data.

The gender pay gap actually widened last year (women made 82 percent as much as men in 2011) and now has returned to 2005 levels, according to the Labor Department.

The latest push to end the gender wage gap is coming from President Barack Obama, who on Tuesday night made another push in support of a bill that would seek to ensure paycheck fairness.

Original Article
Author: Bonnie Kavoussi

Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry's role in driving climate disruption.

Harper’s fish-protection changes bog down

OTTAWA — Implementation of the Harper government’s sweeping changes to the Fisheries Act, intended to make life easier for developers, has been stalled inside a Fisheries Department facing “a very stressful and uncertain” period of transition, according to internal documents.

The changes were included in last spring’s federal budget, but the target to fully implement them has slipped from last month to June, the documents say.

The delay means clear answers aren’t easy to obtain when resource and industrial companies approach Fisheries seeking authorization for work that might affect fish habitat, according to one industry spokesman.

RCMP has a bullying problem, watchdog says

The RCMP has a bullying problem that needs to be countered by better training and record-keeping, the force's watchdog says in a long-awaited report released today.

The RCMP public complaints commission launched its investigation in November 2011 in reaction to widespread reports from female Mounties about systemic sexual harassment.

How the NRA Hobbled the ATF

Just a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama signed nearly two dozen executive actions and proposed a package of legislative initiatives that together represent the most comprehensive effort in decades to reduce what he called "the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country."

Conspicuously absent from the president's agenda, however, is much of anything that might address the stunning and widespread weaknesses that have for years crippled the federal agency responsible for enforcing the nation's gun laws—the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Yes, the president announced his nomination of a full-time director for the long-leaderless agency, and some of the new proposals do tacitly acknowledge a number of ATF's long-standing challenges. But the initiatives are modest, and Congress may not go along with any of them. So for now, the bureau remains systematically hobbled by purposeful restrictions, flimsy laws, impotent leadership and paltry budgets. And it's not at all clear there's anything on the horizon that would change that situation.

Wayne LaPierre: More Guns Needed For 'Hellish World' Filled With Hurricanes, Kidnappers, Drug Gangs

WASHINGTON -- Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, adopted on Wednesday a significantly more ominous and expansive line of reasoning than he has before in order to make the case that newer, more dangerous threats require Americans to buy more guns, join the NRA and organize opposition to gun control measures.

Conservatives’ Keystone diplomacy features an unflattering shade of green

It's not easy being green? Don't tell that to federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. The same man who called environmentalists radicals who "threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda," is now casually donning a green suit ("This old thing?") as part of the federal government's campaign to convince the Obama administration that Canada is serious about climate change.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in Washington last week meeting with incoming secretary of state John Kerry to send a similar green-tinged message. The greening of the federal cabinet has nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day and everything to do with trying to spruce up, or at least distract from, the government's increasingly nasty environmental reputation at home and abroad. Rebranding might be overstating what is going on, but, even so, the federal government has an uphill climb to convince the world that, as Oliver told The Globe and Mail, "We're not cavalier with the environment."

Feds new confidentiality rules on Arctic project called ‘chilling’

A bid by the federal government to impose sweeping confidentiality rules on an Arctic science project has run into serious resistance in the United States.

“I’m not signing it,” said Andreas Muenchow, of the University of Delaware, who has taken issue with the wording that Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans department has proposed for the Canada-U.S. project.

A town where truth is a moving target

Odd. Very odd.

Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin is having her expenses audited. Others senators are being audited as well and let’s not jump to any conclusions before the results are in. But what was strange is that the Conservatives, in the case of Wallin, tried to deny it was happening.

Government may have underestimated cost of new resupply ships

OTTAWA — A new wrinkle appears to have emerged in the Harper government’s $35-billion national shipbuilding plan following revelations planners may have underestimated how much it will cost to build new resupply ships.

Successive federal governments have been planning to replace Canada’s fleet of 45-year-old support vessels for the better part of a decade.

Sweet heart, bitter pill: Rising, dancing and costing violence against women in Canada

On Valentine's Day this year, women around the world will be dancing. One Billion Rising, a new initiative from Vagina Monologues' author Eve Ensler, calls on women to dance their way to a future without violence.

Now, I'm all for dancing, but I'd like to add a little counting into the mix.

Largest climate-change protest in U.S. history planned for Presidents Day

For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club engaged in civil disobedience, the day after President Barack Obama gave his 2013 State of the Union address. The group joined scores of others protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which awaits a permitting decision from the Obama administration. The president made significant pledges to address the growing threat of climate change in his speech. But it will take more than words to save the planet from human-induced climate disruption, and a growing, diverse movement is directing its focus on the White House to demand meaningful action.

Four-day school scheme shows Tories view Fort McMurray as not much more than a work camp

And where, the good people of Fort McMurray should be asking themselves today as Canadians scratch their heads at the idea of four-day school for children in the Alberta oil sands boom town, is Guy Boutilier now that they really need him?

Boutilier, as readers with long memories may recall, was the Conservative MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo who was kicked out of the Tory caucus in the summer of 2009 by then-premier Ed Stelmach for speaking up too vigorously on behalf of his constituents in the matter of a seniors' home that was promised but never built.

Harper’s Canada-EU trade deal could cost Canada more now that U.S. is in mix

For Canada, the most important element of Barack Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union address was buried deep inside the U.S. president’s hour-long speech.

It was just one line and few in the audience paid it much heed. But Obama’s announcement that Washington is starting free trade talks with the European Union has put new pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Senator Pamela Wallin insists 'Saskatchewan is my home'

Senator Pamela Wallin insists her home is Saskatchewan, in response to questions about whether she meets the residency requirements to sit in the Senate.

"The question of home is pretty clear to me," Wallin said from Ottawa Wednesday when asked where she lives. "Saskatchewan is my home. I have lived and worked and continue to work not only in Ottawa but around this country."

Senators are required to be residents of the province they represent, but according to Howard Leeson, political science professor emeritus at the University of Regina, since she was appointed in 2009, Wallin has given less than satisfactory answers to questions about her connection to the province.

Fifty years since The Feminine Mystique: A memoir of feminism in the 1960s

Fifty years ago, on February 13, 1963, the publication of Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique sparked a new awakening in the thinking of women across North America.

Betty Friedan denounced the repression women suffered in the aftermath of World War II when they were forced out of wartime jobs and convinced to accept the role of keepers of the home. Profiteers of the market launched an unrelenting but subtle propaganda campaign to venerate women as wife and mother. This role, Friedan said, was the "feminine mystique."

This domestic existence became, Friedan wrote, "a religion, a pattern by which all women must now live or deny their femininity." In submitting to this concept of womanhood, women gave up their self-respect, recognition of their talents and abilities, and -- most importantly -- their identities. Fundamentally, Friedan said, this was a scam to sell more consumers' goods to women, who were to be the major purchasers for home and family.

U.S. ambassador warns Ottawa to heed Obama on energy

Canadian progress on combatting greenhouse-gas emissions would sway American views on Alberta’s oil, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson says.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama told the Congress that climate-change action is coming, one way or another. He devoted a substantial part of a speech outlining his second-term agenda to pledges to both reduce emissions and beef up U.S. energy security – but he gave no hints of where Canadian oil fits in.

Rubio's Lies About Healthcare Reform

Marco Rubio’s rebuttal to the State of the Union address was remarkable for being unremarkable—it contained much of the same warmed-over pablum we heard from the stage in Tampa Bay at the Republican National Convention six months ago. President Obama “believes [the government] the cause of our problems” and that “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.” There was even a Solyndra reference.

Drones: Peter Welch Says Obama's State Of The Union Promise Is Just First Step

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's oblique references in his State of the Union address to America's targeted killings and drone strikes was a welcome sign, but must be followed up with steps that open the nation's clandestine attacks to scrutiny, a leading progressive Democrat argued.

"A policy on drones is overdue. We've got to maintain checks and balances," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) told The Huffington Post immediately after Obama's Tuesday night speech. "We have to have transparency -- the president acknowledged that. But we're several years into the use of drones, so this is something we've got to get on yesterday, not tomorrow."

Minimum Wage Would Be $21.72 If It Kept Pace With Increases In Productivity: Study

President Obama's call to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour was one of the more significant proposals he laid out in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. But $9 an hour is still a far cry from what workers really deserve, a 2012 study finds.

Pat Robertson Claims Islam Is 'Demonic' And 'Not A Religion' But An Economic System

Controversial conservative Christian Pat Robertson doubled down Tuesday on claims that Islam is not a religion.

According to Right Wing Watch, Robertson, an elder statesman of the evangelical movement, made the inflammatory claim during an episode of his TV program, "The 700 Club."

"Every time you look up — these are angry people, it’s almost like it’s demonic that is driving them to kill and to maim and to destroy and to blow themselves up," Robertson said of Islam. "It's a religion of chaos."

Marco Rubio's Personal Finances Don't Match His Rhetoric

WASHINGTON -- Addressing the nation on Tuesday night, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio came with a simple message.

"More government isn't going to create more opportunities. It's going to limit them. And more government isn't going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs," Rubio said. "More government isn't going to help you get ahead. It's going to hold you back."

That might be true for you. But it's not true for Marco Rubio.

Harper brushes off calls for inquiry into violence against aboriginal women

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brushed off renewed calls for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The matter dominated a fiery question period in the House of Commons, with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair pressing Harper over a scathing report containing allegations from some aboriginal women and girls in northern British Columbia, who say they were sexually or physically abused by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

Keystone XL protesters arrested outside White House

Several leading American environmentalists were among 48 people arrested outside the White House on Wednesday as they protested TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a flashpoint for the U.S. climate change movement.

After the activists gathered outside the White House's northernmost wrought-iron fence, along a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue where protests are prohibited, police began their methodical arrests as supporters chanted: "Hey, Obama, we don't want no climate drama."

Obama vows action on climate change -- now it's time to stop tar sands pipelines

It's a complicated world. It is of course a huge step in the right direction for the President of the United States to be talking about climate change and extreme weather in such detail in the State of the Union address.

But ultimately large scale change isn't going to come from the top down. Frankly it's amazing the president wants to do anything about climate change given the aggressive defence of the fossil fuel industries in Washington D.C. and the blatant denial of basic climate science on the floor of the Congress from elected officials these days.

Parizeau considers free tuition a realistic option

QUEBEC — Pauline Marois, facing her greatest challenge since winning the Sept. 4 election — resolving the tuition dispute that dominated Quebec politics last year — now faces an added challenge, this time to her authority as premier.

Jacques Parizeau, former Parti Québécois premier, is quoted in a front-page story in the daily Le Devoir saying free tuition is a realistic option.

The Commons: And so Stephen Harper finds himself having to defend unelected Senators

In being the last of the major parties never to have formed a federal government, the NDP has won something almost nearly as satisfying: the right to pronounce shame on the Senate. Perhaps the meek shall one day inherit the earth, but first those unencumbered by never having had to do anything about the Senate shall inherit the righteous indignation about the chamber’s continued existence.

“Mr. Speaker, in the Senate, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Thomas Mulcair sighed this afternoon. “Senator Pamela Wallin claimed more than $300,000 in travel expenses over the last three years alone. Less than ten percent of these costs were used for her movements in Saskatchewan. This is taxpayers’ money that Senator Wallin used to walk across the country to star in fundraising for the Conservatives. Does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable for taxpayers’ money to be used to raise funds for his political party?”

Four-Day School Week Proposal In Fort McMurray Shows Alberta Underfunding Education: NDP

EDMONTON - Alberta's New Democrats say a proposal to cram five teaching days into four each week at public schools in Fort McMurray is proof positive the province is short-changing education.

"If we can expect Fort McMurray ... to do something like this, Albertans should be concerned this might be an option in other centres," NDP critic Dave Eggen told a legislature news conference Wednesday.

Highway Of Tears: Human Rights Watch Alleges RCMP Officers Raped, Abused Aboriginals In BC

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling on the group Human Rights Watch to share information with police about allegations of abuse by RCMP officers against aboriginal women in British Columbia.

Harper also announced that the government has asked the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into the allegations raised in the report released Wednesday by the respected New York-based rights watchdog.

State Of The Union: Republicans Praise Obama On Energy, Immigration

WASHINGTON -- Despite Republican criticism of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, some GOP lawmakers offered rare praise for some aspects of the president's speech, including his emphasis on energy independence and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

'Fire Steve Heymann' Petition Reaches Threshold, Must Be Answered By White House

A White House petition calling for the firing of prosecutor Stephen Heymann, who handled the case against Aaron Swartz, has reached the threshold of signatures needed to warrant an official White House response -- yet the White House has so far been silent.

Sometime between Feb. 8 and Feb. 10, the petition reached 25,000 signatures, an achievement that a video on the White House's website says is enough to have it forwarded to administration officials and to earn it a response. (The threshold was raised to 100,000 shortly after the creation of the Stephen Heymann petition.)