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, March 19, 2013

NDP’s Megan Leslie says emails confirm “ideological hack-job” at Environment Canada

OTTAWA-The NDP’s deputy leader Megan Leslie says it’s no surprise that budget cuts at Environment Canada are having an impact on the enforcement of environmental regulations, given how “hastily” the cuts were done.

Reponding to a Postmedia report about internal emails exchanged between environmental enforcement officers across the country, Leslie said the correspondence calls into question the government’s capacity to maintain good air quality in Canada’s cities.

For U.S. veterans and Iraq's victims, the war is not over

Ten years ago today, Iraqis braced themselves for the anticipated “Shock and Awe” attacks that the United States was planning to launch against them. The media buildup for the attack assured Iraqis that barbarous assaults were looming.

I was living in Baghdad at the time, along with other Voices in the Wilderness activists determined to remain in Iraq, come what may. We didn’t want U.S.-led military and economic war to sever bonds that had grown between ourselves and Iraqis who had befriended us over the past seven years. Since 1996, we had traveled to Iraq numerous times, carrying medicines for children and families there, in open violation of the economic sanctions which directly targeted the most vulnerable people in Iraqi society -- the poor, the elderly and the children.

Building a more inclusive and representative labour movement in Canada

This month in Toronto, labour activists will gather for two conferences looking at the challenges facing unions and workers in Canada. First is the Canadian Labour Congress's Political Action Conference, from March 22 to 24, followed by an international conference on Labour Rights and their Impact on Democracy, Economic Equality and Social Justice, hosted by the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights, from March 26 to 28.

Labour reporter Lori Theresa Waller recently discussed some of those conference themes with Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, an umbrella organization bringing together Canadian and international unions, provincial federations of labour and regional labour councils. The following is an excerpt of their conversation.

Warm and fuzzies: Canadian mythmaking on the 10th anniversary of a slaughter

This past week has provided Canadians with a series of warm and fuzzies that, like most of this nation's mythology, were built on self-congratulatory lies. From the breathless and ankle-deep CBC and CTV interviews with former prime minister Jean Chretien to the Globe and Mail's front-page shout out to that most disingenuous of foreign ministers, Bill Graham, the occasion was the 10th anniversary of the 2003 escalation of the 23-year war against the people of Iraq.

That numerically awkward phrase is necessary because 2003 was billed as a new war when, in fact, the aggression against the Iraqi people never ended following the 1991 slaughter from the skies. Indeed, war continued through a combination of the devastating Clinton-era sanctions that claimed over one million Iraqi lives, alarming rates in cancers and child deformities from depleted uranium and other military toxics, and daily attacks from the air for over a decade. Canada spent over a billion dollars militarily enforcing sanctions that were described by UN officials as genocidal. Canada more than made up for that outlay with billions in war contracts for everything from the hundreds of millions of bullets pouring out of the Quebec SNC-TEC factory to guidance systems for cruise missiles and drone strikes produced by the likes of Northrup Grumman (Litton) and L-3 Wescam.

Cyprus refuses European terms for bailout

Cyprus’s parliament has snubbed the European Union by refusing to impose a levy on all bank accounts in order to stop the collapse of the nation’s banking system, a move that could plunge the tiny Mediterranean island into bankruptcy.

Last weekend, eurozone creditors demanded a tax be imposed on bank accounts — 6.75 per cent on all insured investments of less than $135,000 and a 9.9 per cent levy on everything above that threshold — in exchange for a $13-billion bailout package. The tax would have raised $7.6 billion for Cyprus.

Harper government in frenzy as doubts grow over Keystone XL pipeline

Stephen Harper's government and a big part of Canada's ruling establishment are in a frenzy over Keystone XL.

The Conservatives and their provincial allies have spent millions (probably tens of millions) of dollars in public money to push a pipeline that will export Canadian jobs, trample First Nations rights and, overall, be bad for the environment. But it'll be good for the profit margins of some of their oil industry friends.

German research institute pulls out of Canadian tar sands project

As many as 20 scientists at the world-famous Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres have ceased involvement in the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI), after a moratorium on contacts was declared last month.

“It was seen as a risk for our reputation,” Professor Frank Messner, Helmholtz UFZ’s head of staff said stiffly over the phone from his offices in Leipzig.

Andrew Cash: Harper Conservatives Are Afraid Of Librarians

New Democrat Andrew Cash wants to know why Heritage Minister James Moore and other Harper Conservatives are so terrified.. of librarians.

The Toronto MP rose in Question Period on Monday afternoon to shine a light on a controversial new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada that some fear will muzzle federal librarians.

“According to the Conservatives, there is a new threat: librarians,” he said to some laughs. “And their ‘high risk activities.’ Activities like teaching and conferences.”

A Failed Whale, and How to Fix It

In the spring of 2012, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, where nearly all the senators present approached him as a supplicant would approach an altar. Last week, after a damning report from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and a hearing led tirelessly by Senator Carl Levin, it became clear what a false, deceptive and manipulative set of gods Washington has been worshipping.

New York’s Police Union Worked With the NYPD to Set Arrest and Summons Quotas

Audio obtained by The Nation confirms an instance of New York City’s police union cooperating with the NYPD in setting arrest quotas for the department’s officers. According to some officers and critics of quotas, the practice has played a direct role in increasing the number of stop-and-frisk encounters since Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to office. Patrolmen who spoke to The Nation explained that the pressure from superiors to meet quota goals has caused some officers to seek out or even manufacture arrests to avoid department retaliation.

MIT Officials Subject To 'Pattern of Harassment And Personal Threats' Since Aaron Swartz's Death

Officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have faced harassment and personal threats since the death of well-known Internet activist Aaron Swartz, the university's president said Tuesday.

In a letter to the MIT community, President Rafael Reif said he would publicly release documents about MIT's role in the case after the university completes its own investigation into the matter.

Brokers of Deceit: As Obama Visits Israel, Scholar Rashid Khalidi on How the U.S. Undermines Peace

As the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq is marked around the world today, President Obama is heading to Israel for the first trip there of his presidency. Obama’s three-day tour also includes stops in the occupied West Bank on Thursday and in Jordan on Friday. The White House has taken pains to play down expectations of Obama’s visit, billing it a "listening tour." Obama’s supporters say that mission reflects the reality of the Middle East conflict, with the United States unable to forcefully change an intractable dispute. But in his new book, the Palestinian-American scholar Rashid Khalidi argues that the United States could in fact play a decisive role in achieving Middle East peace if it simply reversed decades of policy backing the Israeli occupation. In "Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East," Khalidi draws on his research as a historian, and on his own experience as an advisor to Palestinian negotiators, to argue that far from being an impartial broker, the United States has effectively acted as Israel’s lawyer.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

"We’ve Lost Our Country": An Iraqi American Looks Back on a Decade of War That’s Devastated a Nation

We continue our look at the Iraq War’s 10th anniversary with Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-American blogger and political analyst. Jarrar led the first civilian casualty survey in Iraq as the country director of Civic Worldwide and has closely monitored the issue of civilian casualties as well as the larger fallout from the U.S. invasion for the last 10 years. He’s currently the communications director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Discussing Iraq’s current Shiite-Sunni divide, Jarrar says the U.S. invasion has brought "the complete destruction of the Iraqi national identity. There is no civic identity in Iraq anymore. So people ... regressed. They went to the other level that they can identify with, and that, unfortunately, was the sectarian affiliation."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Ottawa’s new oil-spill defence plan derided by critics as mere public relations

The federal government announced Monday it plans to institute eight new measures to strengthen Canada’s oil spill defences, but critics argue the move is just a ploy to persuade the public to buy into expanded pipeline projects.

The measures, tabled as part of the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, are slated to cost $120-million over five years and include increased inspections of foreign vessels, expanded aerial surveillance of tankers and an incident command system similar to what’s used to monitor B.C. forest fires.

In advance of budget, Atleo calls for ‘fundamental transformation’ of government’s relationship with First Nations

OTTAWA — The head of the Assembly of First Nations says he’s hoping Thursday’s federal budget will mark another step toward breaking the longstanding pattern of government policymaking that doesn’t take First Nations’ perspectives into account.

AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo said the government’s “unilateral legislative initiatives” have “consistently failed,” and have left First Nations without adequate say in major policy decisions.

Why Cyprus Matters: The Eurozone Strikes Again

The kaleidoscope spins again; the shards are rearranged; this time, the fragment at the centre is Cyprus. Faced with yet another country needing an urgent bailout (and with the German election looming in September), Eurozone leaders and the IMF have come up with a new wheeze: make savers pay to rescue the banks that were meant to look after their money, in exchange for a bailout of 10 billion euros.

Not unreasonable, you might say: Why should the proverbial German taxpayer cough up for Russian oligarchs and shady foreign businessmen who’ve stashed billions on the island? But the plan will take a cut from everybody’s savings—farmers, pensioners, orphans, oligarchs and oil magnates—on a roughly graded scale. (The proposed levy on accounts under 100,000 euros—which were in theory guaranteed by the Cyprus government—will probably now be reduced from 6.7 percent to 3.5 percent, which reminds me of the sage Nasrudin Hoja’s advice to the man whose house was too small.) Over the weekend Cypriots queued at cash machines; one man drove his bulldozer up to the door of the bank.

Lie by Lie: A Timeline of How We Got Into Iraq

At A congressional hearing examining the march to war in Iraq, Republican congressman Walter Jones posed "a very simple question" about the administration's manipulation of intelligence: "How could the professionals see what was happening and nobody speak out?"

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, responded with an equally simple answer: "The vice president."

Gunmakers and the NRA Bet Big on Silencers. What Could Go Wrong?

"Make Love Loudly. Make War Silently."

So reads an ad for the Advanced Armament Company, which produces silencers for assault weapons. These gadgets, long associated with snipers and Hollywood assassins, represent the latest push by a gun industry seeking new ways to boost sales in a country that is already home to some 310 million civilian firearms.

The silencer industry is "the highest-growth niche of the firearms industry right now," says Josh Waldron, founder and CEO of the Utah-based Silencerco. According to Waldron, the industry has seen 400 to 500 percent growth over the past five years. In 2008, he says, American silencer companies sold about 18,000 units in the United States. In fiscal 2012, "We're gonna do over 110,000."

Human rights watchdogs turn blind eye on Gitmo hunger strikers

Despite the prisoners' hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay being acknowledged by the US military, there has so far been little reaction from the international humanitarian organizations to the action, which enters its 42nd day on Tuesday.

The United Nations has yet to acknowledge or comment upon the Gitmo hunger strike. RT has reached out to UN human rights bodies in Geneva and officials have promised to respond to the inquiry with a comment by Tuesday afternoon.

Bailout or bankrupt: Cypriots (and Russians) hold their breath

Negotiations in the Cyprus parliament on the fate of the deposit levy have been again pushed further back and are now scheduled for Thursday, Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation reported Tuesday.

Various media outlets have reported that Cyprus’ finance minister Michael Sarris has resigned, each citing its own sources. Michael Sarris is in Moscow Tuesday to meet with Russian officials over the Cyprus bank bailout package, so the timing of the reports raises questions.

Accusations fly over Keystone XL pipeline

The NDP and Tory battle over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline escalated into accusations and countercharges of treachery as Premier Alison Redford opened the province’s new office in Ottawa on Monday.

Redford, who also spoke at the Economic Club of Canada and made the rounds of media interviews, took several opportunities to portray federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair as undermining Canada’s interests by airing his opposition to the pipeline — intended to ship Alberta bitumen to the U.S. Gulf Coast — last week in Washington, D.C.

But at the legislature in Edmonton, it was provincial NDP Leader Brian Mason who accused the Progressive Conservative government of betraying Alberta by supporting Keystone — instead of requiring greater upgrading of bitumen within Alberta.

Tories inconsistent on budget restraint

Which ought to come first, an end to austerity policies or an end to deficit spending? A focus on economic growth or on sharing the wealth more equitably?

These are the key questions facing government budget-crafters in every developed country in this era of slow, unsteady recovery from a nasty global recession. It's not that a rich nation like Canada can't ultimately have both kinds of outcomes - a combination of stronger growth and better social policy - it's that we can't have everything first. We need to establish priorities, and that's what a budget does.

Government won’t reveal cost to taxpayers of reality TV show on border guards

OTTAWA— Public Safety Minister Vic Toews refused Monday to spell out how much it’s costing federal taxpayers to have Canada’s border guards participate in a B.C.-based reality TV show.

The opposition accused Toews of agreeing to participate in an “offensive PR (public relations) stunt” when he approved a 2011 Canada Border Services Agency’s proposal to co-operate in making Border Security: Canada’s Front Line.

The proposal submitted to Toews said the CBSA would benefit through higher “profile,” boost employee morale and increase public awareness of Canada’s border laws.

Create jobs, raise incomes or balance the budget?

Canada needs to be rid of the idea that for the public good, and the general welfare, the federal government needs to balance the budget.

On March 21, in Ottawa, Finance Minister Flaherty (the best finance minister in the world according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper) will deliver his budget. He has already stated he wants to balance the budget sooner rather than later, and he grades himself, and expects to be judged by others, according to the speed with which the federal budget is balanced.

Sorry, Canadian Wireless Users Are Still Suckers

Is the Canadian wireless market truly competitive? Earlier this month, Scotia Capital released a report maintaining that it is, arguing that "it is time for the regulators to declare victory on the policies they adopted five years ago." That advice may be news to the government and regulators, however, as Industry Minister Christian Paradis recently admitted that "there is much more to do" on wireless competition and the Competition Bureau lamented that "certain impediments continue to diminish the effect of competitive forces in this industry."

Paradis and the Bureau have good reason to be skeptical about prematurely declaring victory since Canadians continue to pay higher prices than those found in peer countries. Last year, the CRTC issued the 2012 Communications Monitoring Report, which canvassed wireless service pricing across three levels -- basic users, average users, and premium users -- in Canada, the U.S., UK, France, Australia, and Japan.

Mandarin Need Cited as Feds OK'd 95 Chinese Miners for Gething

Months after controversy gripped a Chinese-backed company's efforts to bring in temporary foreign workers to mine coal in British Columbia rather than hire Canadians, newly surfaced documents show the federal government granted a key dispensation to a different, similarly Chinese backed B.C. project to hire nearly a hundred workers on the basis that they spoke Mandarin.

The project that drew criticism and court challenges in the fall was HD Mining's attempt to hire 201 foreign workers for its Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. Newly revealed Services Canada files show that a partner company in HD Mining was itself given permission to bring in almost 100 foreign workers after listing Mandarin as the sole language requirement.

Kitimat Refinery Project Demands Transparency

It is big news. An astounding $25 billion has been raised to build pipelines, tankers and one of the biggest refineries in the world at Kitimat, British Columbia. David Black, owner of the Black Media chain, first announced the proposed project last summer. Since then, Black, through his company Kitimat Clean, has hired the Swiss-based firm, Oppenheimer Investments Group to assemble the financing and see the project through "from start to finish."

According to news reports, Richard Cooke, a senior managing director for Oppenheimer Investments Group, says that his firm has "arranged and [has] the funding committed to do this whole project." This is quite a feat, of course, considering that the $25 billion amounts to more than half the annual budget revenue for the entire province of British Columbia. And that the oil industry itself has not invested in new refinery creation in Canada since the 1980s because of low profit margins and refinery overcapacity.

HudBay Minerals Sues Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Over Protests At Manitoba Mine

WINNIPEG — A legal battle has erupted between HudBay Minerals Inc. and a northern Manitoba First Nation over two Idle No More rallies this winter.

HudBay is suing the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation over the rallies it says blocked the entrance to where the company's gold, zinc and copper mine is being developed.

Hall Findlay doubts Trudeau’s strength

Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay will not come anywhere near acknowledging she is up against a juggernaut in the contest — namely Justin Trudeau — and doubts the huge numbers being bandied about over his strength.

Montreal-area MP Marc Garneau quit last week, citing a huge disparity in support for Trudeau and the seven other candidates in the race that concludes April 14.

Put off byelection until MP's legal status is clarified

OTTAWA -- Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue stepped down from cabinet and resigned his seat as the MP for Labrador Thursday.

But while he and the party say he will run in the byelection that will be called there, a debate rages about whether he should be allowed to be on the ballot.

Penashue has been under fire since last summer after it became apparent his slim 79-vote winning margin in the riding of Labrador was earned in part with a campaign that spent more than it was allowed and accepted illegal donations.

Penashue approved new election file 10 days before he quit

Former Labrador MP Peter Penashue, under fire for taking illegal campaign donations, signed off on new spending records 10 days before resigning his seat, newly released documents show.

Records in Penashue's updated election file show he approved the changes on March 4, 2013, the last day possible for the campaign to update the file without facing penalties.

Indigenous youth on epic journey to Ottawa deserve attention and respect

David Kawapit Jr. is a name that everyone who cares about this country deserves to know.

This young man, a 17-year-old Cree from the isolated community Whapmagoostui on Hudson Bay in northern Quebec, decided it would be a good idea to walk 1,600 kilometres to Ottawa in support of the Idle No More movement. Some of his friends joined him.

So with temperatures apparently hovering at around -50C, he and six others left home on Jan. 16, trekking on snowshoes and pulling their supplies, stopping at communities along the way to tell people that they wanted changes to how Indigenous people are treated in Canada.

Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Goldman Sachs' Appeal To Financial Crisis Lawsuit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc suffered a defeat on Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision forcing it to defend against claims it misled investors about mortgage securities that lost value during the 2008 financial crisis.

Without comment, the court refused to consider Goldman's appeal of a September 2012 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Goldman shares sank more than 2 percent.

That court let the NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund, which owned some mortgage-backed certificates underwritten by Goldman, sue on behalf of investors in certificates it did not own, but which were backed by mortgages from the same lenders.

Oil Tanker Safety Changes Unveiled By Harper Government

VANCOUVER - The federal government announced changes Monday to improve oil tanker safety off Canadian coasts, and shore up support for several controversial projects that would increase oil exports from British Columbia.

The changes include some new measures — administrative penalties for polluters and mandatory marine response plans for oil terminal operators — and increased frequency for measures already in place, such as annual inspections for all tankers and offshore aerial surveillance.

Omar Khadr: Faulty Info In File Suggests He Killed Two Afghans

TORONTO - The federal government's file on Omar Khadr contains faulty information based on a memo prepared by a senior policy analyst for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, internal documents obtained by The Canadian Press suggest.

Among other things, the government alleges the late terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was an accomplice of a 15-year-old Khadr, and that the Canadian citizen killed two Afghan militia men.

The assertions are important given they will help inform decisions Canadian prison and parole authorities make on Khadr.

Minister defends controversial TV show, says illegal immigrants take advantage

VANCOUVER - Illegal immigrants take advantage of Canadian taxpayers — not the other way around, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told critics in Parliament as he defended the use of reality TV cameras on immigrant raids.

The federal government is facing criticism on several fronts for its approval of the TV show focusing on border security after camera crews filmed the arrest of several men in Vancouver last week by officers with Canada Border Services Agency.

But Toews isn't backing away from the plan.

The Commons: Vic Toews’ real world

The NDP’s Randall Garrison stood and declared the country to be taken aback.

“Canadians across the country are shocked that he personally approved filming immigration raids for reality TV,” Mr. Garrison reported, referring to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. “This is not some episode of Cops. These are real people and real officers doing a dangerous job. Filming is exploitative and can put individuals in danger.”

It ain’t over till it’s over, Trudeau hasn’t won Liberal leadership yet, say Murray and Hall Findlay

PARLIAMENT HILL—Two Liberal leadership candidates whose profiles have grown significantly over the past week are challenging the media and punditry wisdom that Montreal MP Justin Trudeau has sealed a victory with four weeks remaining in the contest, and citing the Trudeau campaign’s last-minute appeal for an extension of the deadline for voter registration as evidence.

Campaign officials for Liberal MP and leadership candidate Joyce Murray (Vancouver-Quadra, B.C.) and former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay have provided The Hill Times with numbers that suggest the Trudeau campaign managed to convert only a fraction of the 150,000 Liberal Party supporters his legion of volunteers had signed up prior to the original March 14 deadline into registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the election to take place between April 7 and April 14.

4 former prime ministers, 4 rebukes of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy

I'm told that there used be a time when former presidents and prime ministers didn't criticize their successors.

It doesn't look like that unwritten rule exists anymore, at least not in Canada and at least not when it comes to foreign policy.

Over the past week, Jean Chrétien has been on some sort of media tour 'celebrating' the tenth anniversary of his decision not to send troops to Iraq.

He's also taken the opportunity to chide the current regime's record.