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, March 07, 2013

NDP MP claims failure to Charter-proof bills breaches privilege

As the Senate ponders whether to order the parliamentary budget office to cease and desist his efforts to seek clarity from the courts on the extent of his mandate, another ongoing federal court case has sparked a sweeping privilege claim from New Democrat MP Pat Martin.

Yesterday afternoon, Martin made his case for what he described as an "unprecedented" potential breach of privilege.

N Korea building huge 'security perimeter'

North Korea has built a huge "security perimeter" around a camp for political prisoners, restricting movement in nearby villages as part of its "general repression" of its people, according to Amnesty International, the London-based rights watchdog.

The reclusive country's network of political prison camps is believed to hold at least 200,000 people and has been the scene of rapes, torture, executions and slave labour, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in January.

Elizabeth Warren Takes On Eric Holder's 'Too Big To Jail' Statement

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took on Attorney General Eric Holder's admission that some banks are too big for the Justice Department to prosecute, asserting that Holder's statement illustrates why the financial institutions should be held accountable.

“It has been almost five years since the financial crisis, but the big banks are still too big to fail," Warren said in a Wednesday statement. "That means they are subsidized by about $83 billion a year by American taxpayers and are still not being held fully accountable for breaking the law. Attorney General Holder’s testimony that the biggest banks are too-big-to-jail shows once again that it is past time to end too-big-to-fail."

Eric Holder Admits Some Banks Are Just Too Big To Prosecute

When the Attorney General of the United States admits some banks are simply too big to prosecute, it might be time to admit we have a problem -- and that goes for both the financial and justice systems.

Eric Holder made this rather startling confession in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, The Hill reports. It could be a key moment in the debate over whether to do something about the size and complexity of our biggest banks, which have only gotten bigger and more systemically important since the financial crisis.

North Korea Threatens Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike Against U.S.

UNITED NATIONS -- North Korea vowed on Thursday to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric as U.N. diplomats voted on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test.

An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for "a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors" because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.

Rick Snyder's Detroit Takeover Plan Is Not What Democracy Looks Like

Recalling the partial meltdown of a nearby nuclear power plant a decade earlier, and a book that revealed the extent of the crisis, Gil Scott Heron sang in 1977, “We Almost Lost Detroit.”

The city survived, and remains home to 700,000 Americans and the symbolic center of the nation’s auto industry. But after decades of neglect by federal and state officials, and a meltdown of American manufacturing, Detroit is facing hard economic times.

At the UN, Twenty Years of Backlash to 'Women's Rights Are Human Rights'

Socially conservative American Catholics and like-minded evangelical Protestants who have led a decades-long campaign against the rights of women in the United States are now gearing up for a season of battles on the bigger global stage. This week, the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN begins a two-year series of international meetings that pave the way to the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, which fundamentally redefined the role of women in family and society. In agreements made at that conference, a woman’s right to control her own body became international policy at the UN. Before that conference, a majority of the world’s women lived in nations where women’s rights were certainly not a given, not the right to make their own reproductive choices nor to expect to be protected in numerous other ways. The Cairo conference, pledging to put women’s rights in the center of development, steamrolled with surprising ease over the Vatican’s delegations that stalked the halls with their grisly photos of aborted fetuses. Among feminists from every corner of the world, euphoria reigned.

On the Legacy of Hugo Chávez

I first met Hugo Chávez in New York City in September 2006, just after his infamous appearance on the floor of the UN General Assembly, where he called George W. Bush the devil. “Yesterday, the devil came here,” he said, “Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.” He then made the sign of the cross, kissed his hand, winked at his audience and looked to the sky. It was vintage Chávez, an outrageous remark leavened with just the right touch of detail (the lingering sulfur!) to make it something more than bombast, cutting through soporific nostrums of diplomatese and drawing fire away from Iran, which was in the cross hairs at that meeting.

Report to show aboriginal prison population has risen to 23 per cent Read more:

The First Nations prison population in Canada has risen to 23 per cent, up from 14 per cent 10 years ago, according to a special report on aboriginals in the Canadian correctional system that will be released Thursday.

Canada’s Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers’ report will be released Thursday, but CTV’s Power Play was briefed in advance.

Isolated Canada insists on being a polar bear bad guy

In a world where symbols matter, Canada’s reluctance to ban the trade in polar bear body parts speaks volumes.

For an increasing number of countries, protecting the majestic polar bear is a no-brainer. The United States, as well as Britain, wants an international ban on commercial trade in polar bear pelts, teeth, claws and other body parts.

So it seems, do a good many others among the 178 nations that have signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Page frustrated in bid to calculate tax gap

OTTAWA — Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page wants to calculate how many billions of tax dollars are being lost due to fraud, but so far the government won’t give him the numbers.

Page’s office confirmed Wednesday it was asked by Liberal Sen. Percy Downe to calculate the tax gap — essentially how much tax revenue Canada is losing out on through fraud and offshore bank accounts.

Oops! Our files are gone

News from the government of British Columbia. Sorry citizens, we have no files. There is no written record of our decisions. You want to know how we operate? Sorry.

It’s no joke. A report from Elizabeth Denham, the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, says the rate of ‘no records’ responses to freedom of information requests is soaring. At the premier’s office, no less than 45 per cent of requests were turned back for that reason.

Spy watchdog SIRC seems strangely uninterested in Galati and Porter cases

Chuck Strahl has flunked the test.

The rookie chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) — the part-time review agency over Canada’s spy service, CSIS — has, regrettably, but not surprisingly, failed to disabuse anyone of the notion that he is little more than a loyal Conservative apparatchik.

The former Tory cabinet minister was appointed SIRC chair last June by his former political boss, Stephen Harper. Immediately, questions were raised about whether Strahl, given his political pedigree, would or could exercise any independence when it came to keeping tabs on this nation’s scandal-prone spy service.

Canada-EU trade deal: No time for NDP to show moderation

It is always uncomfortable to give public advice to a friend, but when he is about to head down a perilous path, a good friend offers a strong warning.

This is how I feel about NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s recent appeal to Canadians to remain open to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). If the NDP is seeking to demonstrate its thoughtfulness and moderation, this secret deal is not the right moment. NDP support for CETA — no matter how qualified — could lead Canadians down the wrong path.

6 potential stumbling blocks to Canada-EU trade deal

Negotiators from the federal and provincial governments are spending a second week in Brussels for intensive negotiations toward a Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement.

The Canada-EU talks were originally supposed to wrap up by the end of 2011. That timeline was extended by a year as negotiators on both sides said talks were progressing, albeit more slowly than hoped. In the last few months of 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said he hoped to see talks conclude before the end of the year.

Opposition, Conservatives poised to do battle over budget transparency

OTTAWA - Opposition MPs who sit on a key House of Commons committee are poised to ask the government to turn over key financial documents in the run-up to the federal budget.

How much information Parliament and the public is allowed to see about the nation's finances has become a hot political issue in Ottawa. This week, two former public servants published a scathing article slamming the government for not equipping parliamentarians with enough information before important votes on money bills.

Alberta budget primer: when they say 'tough decisions,' they really mean … 'decisions that will be tough on you'

Oh, we’ll squeeze you till the pips squeak, Premier Alison Redford seemed to be promising Albertans yesterday, as we nervously awaited the provincial budget that is to be brought down, possibly in flames, this afternoon.

Well, we're all really looking forward to that out here in the pothole-riddled Richest Place on Earth, I can assure you!

This is different, of course, from the promises Redford was promising back when it looked like the Wildrose Party under Danielle Smith might actually win the provincial election in April 2012 -- and then squeeze us till the pips squeaked.

Harper's response to the death of Hugo Chavez was both arrogant and baseless

Upon hearing the news of the death of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper had this to say:

    Canada looks forward to working with his successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic ... At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Elements of BC Liberal Style

"I sincerely apologize for the language that was used in that document," Premier Christy Clark said on March 3 about her party's ethnic outreach memo leaked a few days earlier. "It's language that isn't worth repeating."

Actually, the memo's language is worth careful study. As E.B. White, co-author of The Elements of Style, observed long ago, "No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing."

A close textual analysis of the language of the memo offers a disturbing glimpse into the minds of those who composed it, read it, and (to an unknown extent) acted on it. After all, these people have ruled the province since 2001.

End Cell Phone Gouging

This week a B.C. man decided to take his cell phone horror story to the media after he was hit with $22,000 of data roaming fees when his 11-year-old son mistakenly turned off "airplane mode" on his cell phone. I wish I could say I was shocked, but after weeks of reading through the thousands of citizen submissions that received as part of its "Cell Phone Horror Stories" campaign, I've become somewhat numbed by the depth and variety of mistreatment that Canadians suffer at the hands of their service providers.

Matt Buie, the unfortunate recipient of the whopping $22k bill, told a familiar story of service provider price-gouging, which is echoed in many of the citizen submissions that I read at, alongside complaints of disrespectful customer service and restrictive contracts.

Catholic school board investigating Rob Ford’s ‘inaccurate’ Sun News interview

Mayor Rob Ford has angered teachers and parents at the Etobicoke high school where he coaches football — and prompted an investigation by the Catholic school board — with comments the teachers say depicted the school in a “demeaning way that was filled with untruths.”

The board’s review of Ford’s interview with Sun News last week comes in response to an anonymous letter sent to senior board officials by a “significant” number of teachers at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School.

Silvio Berlusconi: Former Italian Premier sentenced to jail in wiretaps case

MILAN—A Milan court on Thursday convicted former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of breach of confidentiality for the illegal publication of wiretapped conversations related to a failed bank takeover in a newspaper owned by his media empire.

The court sentenced him to one year in jail, but issued no orders on the carrying out of the sentence. In Italy, it is rare for anyone to be put behind bars pending a possible appeal except in the case of very serious crimes like murder.

Clawing back job training money could expand EI backlash

In a previous life Stephen Harper advocated the creation of a provincial firewall to shelter Alberta from the policies of the federal government of the day. The concept must have stuck with him. As prime minister, he has presided over the building of an increasingly thick firewall to insulate his government from the input of the provinces.

Over Harper’s seven years in power, his management of the federation has come to feature a command-and-control approach that leaves less room for consultation and cooperation with the provinces than at any time in the recent past.

Facebook Privacy Study Shows Why You Gave Up On Keeping Your Data To Yourself

While we've always known that Facebook has the final say in how people use its service, a new study reveals just how effectively the social network can nudge its members to behave in ways Facebook might consider most fitting.

An unprecedented study from Carnegie Mellon University followed the privacy practices of 5,076 Facebook users over six years, between 2005 and 2011. Researchers found that during the first four years, users steadily limited what personal data was visible to strangers within their school network. Yet through changes Facebook introduced to its platform in 2009 and 2010, the social network actually succeeded in reversing some users' inclination to avoid public disclosure of their data.

Regina Tenants Face Huge Rent Hike, Minister Says No Rent Control Option In Place

REGINA - Residents of a Regina apartment block say they feel like "faceless people" and are frustrated after their building was recently sold to a Calgary company that has implemented massive rent hikes.

In some cases, the tenants say, rents are going up 77 per cent.

Pat Colpitts, a senior who has lived in the building for nine years, says the rent on her small two bedroom apartment is $675, but come Sept. 1 it will jump to $1,195.

Canadian Non-Energy Exports Fizzle: Dutch Disease, U.S. Weakness, Chinese Slowdown To Blame?

This week saw the arrival of two more reports denying that Canada is suffering from Dutch Disease, that condition in which a country’s manufacturing export base hollows out because of a high currency linked to oil exports.

But a new analysis from BMO Capital Markets illustrates just how intensely Canada’s non-energy export sector has collapsed in recent years. And yes, the economist behind it does put some — just some — of the blame on a rising dollar.

Bank of Canada Interest Rate To Stay At Historic Lows As Economy Slows

OTTAWA - The Bank of Canada is hinting it is less concerned about household debt levels, making it possible to keep attractive interest rates in place longer to spur investment and economic growth.

As expected, the central bank kept its overnight policy rate at one per cent on Wednesday, the level that has been in place for about two-and-a-half years to ease Canada's recovery from the 2008-9 global financial meltdown.

Has the NDP lost its way?

Brian Topp may be vindicated yet.

During the NDP (now also known as the Bloc Orange) leadership debate last year, Topp insisted that if voters had two Liberal parties before them, they’d vote for the real one. He argued the NDP should avoid moving too close to the centre, something Thomas Mulcair was implicitly advocating.

Topp believed the NDP should stick to its convictions instead of trying to please everyone. The Liberals made the same mistake under Michael Ignatieff. While they were promising corporate tax hikes and increased spending on social programs of dubious jurisdiction, they were also accusing Stephen Harper of spending like a drunken sailor.

Dean Del Mastro missed 26 ethics committee meetings

OTTAWA — Opposition MPs are calling on the prime minister to dump his parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, after he missed more than two dozen consecutive meetings of the House of Commons ethics committee.

Although he has been listed as a member of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee since shortly after the 2011 election, the Ontario MP hasn’t attended a single meeting in more than nine months.

Food cravings engineered by industry

Standing in her kitchen in downtown Toronto chopping vegetables for dinner, Pat Guillet is aware she has entered the battleground.

"Whenever you go grocery shopping, or into your kitchen, you're in a war zone. You have to really be prepared before you go in," she said. She decides, in advance, exactly what she's going to eat, and she forces herself to stick to the plan. Because she knows she is just one sweet mouthful away from a descent back into hell. Pat Guillet is a food addict.

Resident Frank Trotz files complaint about Rob Ford’s lobbyist letters

A Parkdale artist has complained to Toronto’s integrity commissioner about the fundraising letters Mayor Rob Ford recently sent to lobbyists.

Frank Trotz submitted his formal complaint at City Hall on Tuesday. He said he hopes Ford is taken to court over the issue and forced out of office. Neither will happen.

“I’d like to see him dismissed,” Trotz said in an interview.

ORNGE spent taxpayer money on $10M life insurance policy for Chris Mazza

ORNGE took out a $10 million life insurance policy on its highly paid former chief executive Dr. Chris Mazza in the latest example of excess at the troubled air ambulance agency, the Progressive Conservatives say.

Taxpayers footed a $450,000 one-time premium for the coverage, which the provincial government should terminate and salvage whatever cash value remains, Tory MPP Frank Klees (Newmarket—Aurora) told reporters Wednesday.

TPP 'most harmful trade deal ever for access to medicines,' says Médecins Sans Frontières

The humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling on the U.S. government to revise its intellectual property demands in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal or watch it become "the most harmful trade deal ever for access to medicines in developing countries." TPP negotiations continue this week in Singapore, with Canada participating in the talks for the second time.

Intellectual property rights will be discussed on seven of the eight days' worth of negotiations, showing its importance in the overall TPP agreement. But MSF warns the U.S. pharmaceutical IPR proposals, which are being resisted by most of the 10 non-U.S. TPP negotiating countries, "threaten to roll back internationally-agreed public health safeguards and would put in place far-reaching monopoly protections that keep medicine prices high and out of the reach of millions in the Asia-Pacific region."

Jason Kenney's censorship problem

There's something about the free speech debate that makes everyone act as if they have one of those long white body worms in their brains, writhing to get out through the thinnest pore possible.

It makes people state things as fact that would normally only be appropriate in a George Orwell novel.

Take, for example, the statement made by Jason Kenney on Israeli Apartheid Week.

Kenney, a member of cabinet and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, issued a statement warning the public about university activists who were trying to censor supporters of Israel on campus during IAW events.

Operation Condor Trial Tackles Coordinated Campaign by Latin American Dictatorships to Kill Leftists

A historic trial underway in Argentina is set to reveal new details about how Latin American countries coordinated with each other in the 1970s and '80s to eliminate political dissidents. The campaign known as "Operation Condor" involved military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. They worked together to track down, kidnap and kill people they labeled as terrorists: leftist activists, labor organizers, students, priests, journalists, guerrilla fighters and their families. The campaign was launched by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and evidence shows the CIA and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were complicit from its outset. We're joined by John Dinges, author of "The Condor Years: How Pinochet and his Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents." The book brings together interviews and declassified intelligence records to reconstruct the once-secret events.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

CETA: It's the new Constitution, stupid

Current media coverage of the negotiations to establish a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement ("CETA") with the European Union ("EU") has focused on whether it makes sense for Canada to adopt greater patent protection rules (read: more money to large pharma corps -- much more) for greater putative access to EU markets for Canadian pork and beef producers (and no, the EU won't accept genetically modified food, no matter what CETA provides). But the media and others have missed the boat -- trade agreements haven't primarily been about trade in goods for years, and that is certainly the case for CETA.

Petition asks for review of Mike Duffy's residency

A Prince Edward Island man has started a petition asking for a public review of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s eligibility to represent P.E.I. and asking the Ghiz government to publicly declare him a non-resident.

Chris Stewart of Fort Augustus says he is concerned over questions that have been raised over Duffy’s residency in P.E.I.

If his primary residence is not in the province, how can he properly represent Islanders, Stewart asked.

Mr. Flaherty is worried. He should be

There could be three budgets before the next general election in the fall of 2015. According to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the sole objective of these budgets will be to eliminate the deficit by 2015-16.

This has been the objective of the government for some time — not because there is a serious deficit problem, but because the government is betting its “good management” reputation on slaying the deficit prior to the next election. We won’t know whether Mr. Flaherty succeeded until the fall of 2016, when the final audited results are published — long after the election is over.

Harper government targets U.S. reporters to promote Keystone XL pipeline

The Harper government has created an elaborate strategy to promote approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that includes an outreach program targeting American journalists behind the scenes, newly released diplomatic correspondence reveals.

The documents reveal a flurry of activity among Canadian diplomats in the United States, dating back to the summer of 2011, as unexpected delays and a national North American protest movement started to emerge regarding Alberta-based TransCanada’s pipeline expansion proposal, which is still under review by the Obama administration.

F-35 design problems make night flying impossible, increase risk of being shot down, U.S. pilots warn

OTTAWA — It seems U.S. fighter pilots have lost that loving feeling for their new F-35 stealth jets.

At least that’s the impression given in a scathing Pentagon report leaked this week that identifies a huge number of problems facing the U.S. military’s F-35 fleet — including fears that it can easily be shot down.

From radars that don’t work, to blurry vision from the aircraft’s sophisticated helmet, to an inability to fly through clouds, the report, which includes pilot comments, paints a picture of a jet nowhere near ready for real-life operations.

The candidate of co-operation finishing strong again, this time for Liberals

For the second consecutive year, a politician from the west coast, far from the central Canadian political establishment, has proposed fundamental change in the way politics is practiced in this country.

For their efforts, Nathan Cullen and Joyce Murray have faced charges from their own party elite of disloyalty, of abandoning a great institution, of capitulating to the enemy.

But for the second consecutive year, a federal leadership candidate pitching a platform of electoral co-operation among progressives is overperforming in the race.

South Korea Will Retaliate At North If Attacked, Military Says

SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS, March 6 (Reuters) - South Korea's military said it will strike back at North Korea and target its top leadership if Pyongyang launches a threatened attack in response to what it says are "hostile" drills between U.S. and South Korean forces.

One of North Korea's top generals, in a rare appearance on state television on Tuesday, said Pyongyang had torn up its armistice deal with Washington and threatened military action against the U.S. and South Korea if the drills continued. The military exercises began on March 1 and run until April 30.

ACLU Launches Nationwide Police Militarization Investigation

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a nationwide campaign to assess police militarization in the United States. Starting Wednesday, ACLU affiliates in 23 states are sending open records requests to hundreds of state and local police agencies requesting information about their SWAT teams, such as how often and for what reasons they're deployed, what types of weapons they use, how often citizens are injured during SWAT raids, and how they're funded. More affiliates may join the effort in the coming weeks.

Keystone XL May Create Fewer, More Temporary Jobs Than Previously Estimated

If President Barack Obama approves the Keystone XL project, the 875-mile pipeline extension from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, through Nebraska could create an array of environmental problems. It could also provide jobs for some of the 12 million unemployed Americans -- hundreds of thousands of them -- according to some supporters of the project and TransCanada, the company behind it.

The long and partisan debate over the project has at times been reduced to a matter of balancing environmental and economic concerns. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently urged Obama "to stand up for middle-class jobs" and approve the pipeline, and some Republican leaders have argued that it could have a significant impact on unemployment.

Iraq Reconstruction Cost U.S. $60 Billion, Left Behind Corruption And Waste

WASHINGTON -- In nine years of war in Iraq, 4,448 Americans died and 32,221 were wounded in battle, leaving behind a deeply divided country steeped in corruption. And despite a $60 billion U.S effort to rebuild Iraq, life for most Iraqis has not improved significantly, according to a bitter and regretful retrospective by Iraqi officials and U.S. diplomats, military officers and politicians.

Their views come with the final report of the Special U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, released Wednesday. Congress set up the SIGIR office in November of 2003 to monitor the vast sums of Iraqi and U.S. money being spent by the U.S. occupation authorities in Baghdad.

Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.