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.]

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Ecojustice research offers troubling glimpse of harm oilsands pollution causes

What’s really going on in the oilsands region?

That’s the question Ecojustice hoped to help answer when we undertook our latest research. What we uncovered was unsettling, to say the least. Our research showed that toxic emissions from oilsands facilities in Northern Alberta are polluting the nearby Athabasca River, contaminating a waterway that’s home to more than half of the province’s fish species.

The Athabasca River is Alberta’s longest and only major free-flowing river, and it holds ecological, cultural and commercial significance for the people that live along its shores. It is also a vital life source for many wildlife species.

Embodying the transformation of Idle No More: In conversation with Leanne Simpson

In December 2012, the Indigenous protests known as Idle No More exploded onto the Canadian political scene, with huge round dances taking place in shopping malls, busy intersections, and public spaces across North America, as well as solidarity actions as far away as New Zealand and Gaza. Though sparked by a series of legislative attacks on indigenous sovereignty and environmental protections by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the movement quickly became about much more: Canada's ongoing colonial policies, a transformative vision of decolonization, and the possibilities for a genuine alliance between natives and non-natives, one capable of re-imagining nationhood.

Where is Tom Flanagan's good friend Stephen?

Well, I haven't heard a thing from the PMO since last Thursday. It has left me wondering, where is Stephen?  I see his name a lot, linked to his old buddy Tom, but he has all but vanished from public view. Could it be that he is avoiding the inevitable question?

The last I heard was a statement form his press secretary.  Usually, I get a daily briefing email or two, mostly to let photojournalists know where they can take Stephen's picture, and sometimes, but not often, because he has something to say.

What Saved the Dow? Sensible Economic Policies

As of the closing bell on Tuesday, the Dow was trading at 14,254—well above the previous all-time peak of 14,198, which the market reached on October 11, 2007. With investors increasingly optimistic about the economy, nearly four hundred issues on the New York Stock Exchange hit new highs. Sticklers will point out that, after accounting for inflation, stock prices are still more than ten per cent below their previous peak, but that’s quibbling. Any way you look at it, during the past four years the market has made a remarkable recovery from the post-Lehman crash.

One way to gauge this turnaround is to take a quick historical quiz. How long do you think it took the market to regain its high after the stock-market crash of 1929? Five years? Ten years? Fifteen years? Twenty years? Keep going. On September 3, 1929, the Dow closed at 381.17, a level it didn’t see again until November 23, 1954. That’s twenty-five years, two months, and twenty days—more than a quarter of a century. The stock market’s recuperation from the Great Depression took almost five times as long as its recovery from the Great Recession.

Obama’s Transparency Test

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama vowed that when it came to counterterrorism in his second term, he would be “even more transparent to the American people and to the world.” That commitment is about to be tested. With Obama’s pick for C.I.A. Director, John Brennan, now all but assured of confirmation, his Administration needs to decide whether to push for the public release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s still-classified blockbuster report on C.I.A. wrongdoing during the Bush years. It’s hard to see how the Obama Administration can square its talk of transparency with any further cover-up of this ostensibly mammoth, comprehensive, and devastating report on the brutal interrogation and detention practices during those years.

Upgrade or Die

Every day, in every way, things are getting better and better. The iPhone 6 will dispense with the annoying home button and feature a 4.8-inch screen and quad-core processor. Google is developing Google Glass, which will allow users to text, take pictures and videos, perform Google searches, and execute other essential functions of contemporary life simply by issuing conversation-level spoken commands to a smart lens attached to a lightweight frame worn above the eyes.

Yelp has a hundred million unique monthly visitors, up from seventy million at this time last year. The Dow Jones average just reached an all-time high, having passed 14,000 last week, while, according to the Times, corporate profits are enjoying “a golden age”; as a share of national income, they are at their highest point since 1950.

Southern Poverty Law Center Report Finds 'Patriot' Groups Surge As Anti-Obama Fervor Grows

The number of anti-government “patriot” groups, including paramilitary hate organizations, reached an all-time high in 2012, fanned by President Barack Obama's reelection and talk of gun control following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

NYC Homeless Population Rises To 50,000 People Sleeping In Shelters Each Night In January

A new report reveals the number of people living in homeless shelters has surpassed 50,000 people a night-- a record high for the city and a 19 percent jump from last year.

And although the rise is a reflection of a broader national trend, the Coalition for the Homeless believes the problems facing New York City are much more alarming.

In fact, the startling numbers show a sharp increase in child homelessness with more than 21,000 children forced to seek shelter each night in January.

It’s Time to Tax Financial Transactions

On Friday at midnight, the sequester kicked in, triggering $85 billion in deep, dumb budget cuts that sent “nonessential personnel”— such as air traffic controllers — packing.

Not to worry, though: Wall Street’s day was pretty much like any other. Billions of dollars in profits were made off of trillions of dollars in financial transactions. And the vast majority of those transactions were conducted tax-free.

Moral of the story: What else is new?

Obama Administration Says President Can Use Lethal Force Against Americans on US Soil

Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil—but only in "an extraordinary circumstance," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday.

"The US Attorney General's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening," Paul said Tuesday. "It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans."

Tom Flanagan's 2009 Child Porn Comments Led To 2013 Uproar

It took only one day for Tom Flanagan's career to unravel last week, but the process began back in 2009.

Flanagan's statement last Wednesday during a lecture at the University of Lethbridge that he has "grave doubts" about incarcerating viewers of child pornography because they do "not harm another person" led to public outrage and the termination of a number of professional engagements.

Shocking as they were to some, the comments from the man who was once one of Stephen Harper's closest advisers and who ran the Conservative campaign in 2004 did not come out of thin air but rather in response to a question about child pornography remarks he made at a similar talk nearly three and a half years ago.

Syrian Refugee Figure Hits 1 Million, UN Says

BEIRUT — The number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country and are seeking assistance has now topped the 1 million mark, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday, warning that Syria is heading toward a "full-scale disaster."

The announcement came as government troops and rebels fought street battles in Syria's strategic northern city of Raqqa. The Syrian military dispatched reinforcements in an attempt to push out opposition gunmen who now control most of the city, activists said.

State Department's Keystone XL Report Provides As Much Grounds For Rejecting Pipeline As Approving It

The U.S. State Department released its report into the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, and its declaration that the project would have little impact on the environment and on oil sands development was met almost instantly with cheers from the oil industry and Alberta politicians, and jeers from the environmental activist community.

The interpretation of the report by media and politicians was unequivocal: With the environment now a “non-issue” in the Keystone debate (a point that many people do not concede), the main roadblock to approving Keystone XL had been lifted.

62 detained as protests resume

MONTREAL — Disgruntled students took to the streets of downtown Montreal Tuesday night to voice their displeasure over tuition hikes that will see their fees increase by about $70 a year.

In a scene reminiscent of the nightly demonstrations that brought parts of downtown Montreal to a standstill last spring, students gathered in Parc Émelie-Gamelin and marched into the night with police keeping a close eye on their movements.

The march began peacefully, but was broken up by police about 10:15 p.m. after several acts of vandalism were committed by troublemakers who had infiltrated the boisterous crowd.

Time to scrap the Universal Child Care benefit

Next month, the federal government will introduce another austerity budget. More public sector jobs will be eliminated, and more services will be cut, all in the name of restoring Canada’s fiscal health.

The government will present itself as the guardian of the public purse, respectful of provincial jurisdictions, and focused on helping working families. The opposition will disagree. And no one will talk about the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), an indefensible program that has cost Canadians approximately $15 billion since it was first introduced in 2006.

Tories will need solid data to justify clawing back $2.5-billion in training transfers

The prospect of Ottawa clawing back $2.5-billion in training transfers it gives to provincial governments has provoked fear and loathing in provincial capitals across the country.

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, said his province receives around $1-billion from the federal government for training.

“We have had some pretty good success here. Our Second Careers program has helped turn around 64,000 workers and given them the skills they need in other sectors where there are more opportunities. This is a diverse country with diverse labour markets and to look at centralizing things again makes no sense to me whatsoever,” he said.

Hugo Chávez Dead: Transformed Venezuela & Survived U.S.-Backed Coup, Now Leaves Uncertainty Behind

With the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez after a two-year fight with cancer, we host a roundtable discussion on a revolutionary leader whose democratic-socialist policies not only transformed his country, but helped steer the entire Latin American region away from U.S.-backed neoliberalism. We’re joined by five guests: Miguel Tinker Salas, Pomona College professor and author of two books on Venezuela; Venezuelan-American attorney Eva Golinger, a friend and adviser to Chávez; New York University professor and author Greg Grandin; Gregory Wilpert, founder of; and Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy forum on Western Hemisphere affairs. We spend the hour on the life of Chávez, his legacy, and what may come next in Venezuela

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Thirty years of business-like “reforms” have backfired on the public service: expert

OTTAWA — The governing Conservatives should return to basic rules and controls and abandon the business-like reforms of the past 30 years that threw Canada’s public service off its “moorings” and left it bigger, costlier and more inefficient, says one of Canada’s leading experts on public administration.

Donald Savoie, the Canada Research Chair in administration and governance at the Université de Moncton, warns the government’s plans to cut spending will come from front-line programs and services rather than operations unless it simplifies, de-layers and rolls back many of the practices that have become embedded over the past decades.

Ottawa pitches the oil sands as ‘green’

Relying on Canadian crude imports is the best choice for the United States – not just because it’s reliable and secure but because of Canada’s unmatched environmental record, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday.

Adding green to the attributes of Alberta’s oil sands is the latest twist in Ottawa’s concerted effort to push for U.S. approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline designed to funnel more than 800,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude to Texas Gulf oil refineries next to deep-water export terminals.

2012 Rise In CO2 Levels Second-Highest In 54 Years

WASHINGTON — The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped, new federal figures show.

Scientists say the rise in CO2 reflects the world's economy revving up and burning more fossil fuels, especially in China.

Perdue Chicken Processing Plant Worker Talks Gross Chicken Nuggets, Unclean Birds On Reddit

In 2010, over a year before the pink slime scandal came to light, there was a viral photo of pre-chicken nugget meat paste, more technically known as mechanically-separated poultry. While the validity and origins of the photo remain slightly dubious, the picture cast light on the fact that the ingredients in chicken nuggets may be a bit suspect. These suspicions have continued -- most recently when Melanie Warner, author of the book "Pandora's Lunchbox," conducted an experiment in which she left chicken nuggets out, only to find they they completely liquefied after a couple of months.

Senate Republicans Open To Gutting Voting Rights Act, Despite Scalia's Analysis

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued last week that the court may need to reject the key element of the Voting Rights Act because political pressures would prevent Congress itself from doing so.

"I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act," Scalia said during a Supreme Court hearing. "And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless -- unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. That’s the concern that those of us who have some questions about this statute have. It’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress."

Eric Holder: Drone Strike To Kill U.S. Citizen On American Soil Legal, Hypothetically

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration believes it could technically use military force to kill an American on U.S. soil in an "extraordinary circumstance" but has "no intention of doing so," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter disclosed Tuesday.

Holder's March 4 letter was disclosed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had asked whether the Justice Department believed President Barack Obama had the legal authority to order a targeted strike against an American citizen located within the United States.

John Baird Warns Palestinian Of 'Consequences' For Pursing Israel At UN

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told a powerful pro-Israel lobby that Palestinians will feel "consequences" from Canada if they pursue the Jewish state at the International Criminal Court.

Baird issued the warning just as the federal government considers whether to end hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian humanitarian aid to the Palestinians when it expires at the end of this month.

Peter Kent defends budget cuts in Environment Department and Parks Canada

OTTAWA – Environment Minister Peter Kent is dismissing opposition concerns about a significant decrease in visits to national parks, coinciding with $51 million in projected spending reductions at Parks Canada for the next year.

Kent defended the government’s budget cuts Tuesday in response to questions raised by NDP deputy environment critic Anne Minh Thu Quach at a House of Commons environment committee hearing.

Contracting out at DND up by $500 million despite promises to cut

OTTAWA - Money spent by National Defence on outside consulting and professional services has increased dramatically, even as the Harper government was warned the practice needed to be curbed.

Spending on external contracting rose by $500 million between 2009 and 2011, the year retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie advised the department it could safely cut 30 per cent of those agreements.

The contracting figure stood at $2.7 billion when Leslie, former top army commander, tabled his watershed analysis of how to overhaul the military in 2011.

Two polls show how, and maybe why, Alberta's Tory coalition is crumbling

It's interesting to juxtapose the results of two new polls on related but different topics that were released yesterday -- a Think HQ poll of Alberta voter intentions and an Environics poll of Albertans attitudes about taxes and public services.

The results of the former were published in the afternoon by CTV; the results of latter were released in the morning by the Alberta Federation of Labour, for which the survey was done.

If you believe them, the Think HQ numbers show support for Premier Alison Redford and her party alike falling through the floor.

Environics' results show extremely strong support among Albertans for a return to a progressive income tax, higher corporate and wealth taxes, and higher petroleum royalties.

Feds' reasons for acquiring fighter jets implausible, says Liberal MP

PARLIAMENT HILL—A series of war or terrorism scenarios, including attacks against terrorist cells in other countries and “state on state war fighting,” dominate a series of possible missions the federal government has set out for five fighter jets, including the controversial Lockheed Martin F-35, that are now under consideration as potential replacements for Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighters.

In reaction to requests for more information from firms who want to sell their fighters to Canada, as part of a review of options the government began after its $45.8-billion plan to acquire a fleet of 65 F-35 jets hit a brick wall last April, the government last Sunday released a 22-page questionnaire that included six “vignettes” the new fighter planes might face from 2020 past 2030, four of which involve terrorist attacks within Canada, terrorist attacks from abroad, or war operations as part of a coalition.

Contraband tobacco bill sets mandatory minimum sentences

The Harper government has introduced legislation to set mandatory minimum prison sentences for trafficking contraband tobacco.

A new 50-officer RCMP anti-contraband force is also being created to target illegal tobacco sales.

The new bill, introduced Tuesday afternoon in the Senate, creates a new Criminal Code offence for trafficking in contraband tobacco. The maximum penalty for a first offence would be six months imprisonment for a summary conviction and five years in jail for an indictable offence.