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 21, 2013

Our Home and Unequal Land?


On March 21, 1960, a large crowd of anti-discrimination demonstrators gathered outside the Sharpeville police station on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. The British colony installed a race-based class system called Apartheid by which people of colour were introduced to unequal access to education, housing, public services, medical care and jobs. Blacks were even deprived of their citizenship.

The black demonstrators were assembled to peacefully protest but the police opened fire. Seventy were killed, including women and children. More than 180 people were injured.

CIDA Closed: International Aid Agency Merged With Foreign Affairs

OTTAWA - A 45-year-old federal agency that's spent billions improving the lives of people around the world is closing.

The Canadian International Development Agency will be merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Thursday's federal budget announced.

The move finishes something the Conservatives began in 2006, when they remarried the trade and foreign affairs portfolios to emphasize that trade policy was a key part of their foreign affairs agenda.

Head Start Programs Gutted By Sequestration Cuts

WASHINGTON -- Citing budget cuts caused by sequestration, a Head Start program near Fayetteville, Ark., has decided to take the dramatic step of closing its classrooms for the summer 13 days earlier than planned.

The closure will help the Washington County Head Start program cut a required $150,000 from its operating budget by the end of September. But the ripple effects of taking 30,000 hours of educational and family development services and 10,000 meals from 381 families who rely on the program will result in a major economic blow for the neediest in the area, officials warn.

Freddie Mac Unaware Of Homeowner Complaints, Inspector General Concludes

NEW YORK -- For more than five years, many homeowners who complained about mortgage industry foreclosure abuses have wondered whether anyone with a financial stake in keeping them in their home was paying attention. On Thursday, with the release of a new report from a federal watchdog, they got their answer: No.

The report, by the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, says banks and other companies that manage more than 10 million home loans for Freddie Mac "largely failed" to alert the mortgage giant to the most serious category of homeowner complaints, despite a requirement they do so. These "escalated complaints" often include the most serious allegations of misconduct, including improper fees, misapplied mortgage payments and a frustrating cycle of lost paperwork and unreturned calls. In some instances, the mismanagement has led to a wrongful foreclosure.

Paul Ryan Budget Passed By House Republicans

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans have passed a budget plan that would bring the federal government's finances into balance in 10 years by sharply cutting safety-net programs for the poor and by clamping down on domestic agencies.

It would not raise taxes, in sharp contrast to budget plans offered by Democrats.

Instead, the plan written by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan – which passed on a 221-207 party-line vote – would reduce spending on the Medicaid health care plan for the poor and eliminate "Obamacare" subsidies.

It exempts the Pentagon and Social Security beneficiaries from spending cuts but revives a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like system for beneficiaries born in 1959 or later.

The plan sets nonbinding targets for taxes and spending.

Original Article

Big Banks Offer Payday Loans At 300 Percent Interest: Study

Step aside, Tony Soprano: Big banks will now lend money at 300 percent interest without threatening to break a leg.

Then again, the payday loans some big banks are offering can have other ill effects, such as financial ruin, according to a new study by the Center for Responsible Lending. Even as public anxiety grows about the dangers of payday lending, with 15 states recently banning the practice, many big banks are offering the service to their customers.

Kevin Page: the accidental crusader

OTTAWA - Kevin Page sits by the window in a downtown Ottawa food court, eating his fiscally-prudent $11.50 lunch, when a man – a stranger – slowly approaches.

“You’ve done a good job, Mr. Page,” says the man, extending his hand.

It’s the last week on the job for one of the country’s most famous public servants – no small feat in a town where anonymity is the status quo.

SNC-Lavalin staff donated $15K to Conservative nominee

SNC-Lavalin is defending $15,000 in political donations made during the 2011 federal election to a Conservative candidate by at least 12 company executives and two family members — even though at least one alleged donor says he was unaware any contribution was made in his name.

The Montreal-based engineering company's staff made a string of donations on April 30, 2011, to Michel-Éric Castonguay, who was in a hotly contested race in Montmorency-Charlevoix-Haute-Côte-Nord, east of Quebec City. Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the riding during the campaign. Each person contributed the maximum $1,100 except for a $600 donation by SNC-Lavalin executive VP Michael Novak, whom Castonguay says is a friend of both his and his campaign finance chairman, Conservative Senator Michel Rivard.

More to Penashue campaign story

Supporters beware. More than one contributor to the 2011 campaign of now-former Labrador MP Peter Penashue — contacted about their donation by The Telegram — have said they were not aware their donation had been found by Elections Canada to be an ineligible contribution or an overpayment to the campaign.

To date, coverage of the campaign finances that ultimately led to Penashue’s resignation has focused on $5,500 donated  by senior staff at Pennecon, found to be a corporate contribution, and cheap flights offered to Penashue by Provincial Airlines and Innu Mikun Airlines.

Climate change: Is it game over for Earth?

Significant news is coming out of the Arctic these past few weeks - and none of it bodes well for the future of the Earth. In fact, for climate scientists and environmentalists, worst case scenarios are now playing out in real time - mainly revolving around the release of methane gas and how abrupt climate change is literally unfolding before our eyes.

Experimental Lakes scientists kept in dark on facility's future

Scientists with ongoing projects at the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario had to contact the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to find out they would not be allowed to work at the facility this summer.

Principal researchers on a mercury contamination study in the area initiated and arranged a conference call with David Gillis, director general of the Ecosystem Science Directorate at DFO.

The scientists say they had only heard about the cancellation of the 2013 field season through rumours, gossip and the media but nothing officially from the DFO. They were confused about why the government would mothball the facility for the summer when DFO only gives up control on Sept. 1.

Oil spill clean-up ship hit sandbar en route to government news conference in Vancouver

VANCOUVER - British Columbia’s largest oil spill response vessel got stuck on a sandbar en route to a federal news conference about strengthening Canada’s oil spill defences.

The shipping-industry-funded company in charge of the vessel confirmed it ran aground briefly on an uncharted sandbar off Sand Heads at the mouth of the Fraser River en route from its Esquimalt base to the Coal Harbour news conference. But it denied the ship had a “close quarters situation” with a B.C. ferry near Active Pass earlier Monday – as claimed by the Coast Guard’s marine communications union.

Budget watchdog's swansong is a day in court

On the eve of his last day on the job, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is taking the government to Federal Court to argue his right to access documents and data relating to last year's budget.

Page is also asking the court, which will hear his case Thursday, to clarify his office’s mandate.

Page’s challenge was prompted when NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair asked his office to analyze whether the savings outlined in the 2012 budget are achievable and whether they would have a long-term fiscal impact. Frustrated by the inability to retrieve documents to investigate Mulcair’s request, Page turned to the court after unsuccessfully issuing several deadlines to government departments to hand over data.

As crime plummets, it's costing us more, thanks to Harper

Crime is way down but we're paying more and more for policing, the legal system and prisons under the federal Conservatives.

While the crime rate fell 23 per cent over the last decade, the cost of dealing with it skyrocketed by a similar amount - to $20.3 billion a year, the Parliamentary budget officer reported Wednesday.

That's about the same amount Canada spends on military defence.

Tories scrambling to keep energy-based economic agenda on track

MONTREAL—It’s hard for a seven-year old government to correct its course when the turn not taken is but a distant point in its rear-view mirror.

For Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, missing the fork in the road that could have led Canada to a more environmentally-sustainable economy is turning out to be anything but a shortcut to lasting prosperity.

Federal Budget 2013: Experts Say Cutbacks Mostly About Politics, Not Necessity

As an economic slowdown bites into government revenue, the anti-tax hike Conservatives will resort to slashing more programs in Thursday’s budget to balance the books by 2015.

But why are the Tories so bent on that goal at any cost?

There is no pressing economic need for a balanced budget in the next two years; it will make little difference for Canadian households whether it takes another year or two, economists say. Instead, the 2015 target may be pivotal for the Tories for another reason: a successful re-election campaign.

And the Most Outrageous Neocon Iraq War Anniversary Remark Is...

The past week has brought about a 10-years-after review of the Iraq war—particularly an examination of how the Bush-Cheney administration sold the war prior to the invasion launched on March 19, 2003. Pundits and politicians have relived those days—and somberly reconsidered the run-up to the war, the role of the media in enabling the swindle, and the consequences of that military action. MSNBC has aired a documentary based on the book I cowrote with Michael Isikoff, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War. Showtime featured a documentary on Dick Cheney that centered on the war. The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University released a study noting that the war cost US taxpayers $2.2 trillion and consumed the lives of 4,488 members of the US armed services and at least 123,000 to 134,000 Iraqi civilians.

The US Capitol Is Full of White Supremacists

When a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks was unveiled in the Capitol's Statuary Hall in late February, it joined an exclusive club. The collection includes generals and statesmen, inventors and priests—as well as some of the most notorious leaders of a five-year armed insurrection that left 600,000 people dead in the name of protecting white Americans' rights to own black Americans as slaves. What all the people portrayed in Statuary Hall have in common, with few exceptions, are two things: They are white, and they are men.

Anti-Choice March Madness: The Worst State for Women

Despite being Women's History Month, March has seen relentless attacks on ladies' rights. As soon as one state passes some outrageous woman-restricting bill, another is right behind with something even, well, outrageous-er. The "state-by-state race to the bottom on women's health," as the president of Planned Parenthood put it, inspired us to set up our own March Madness bracket to determine the national champion in the War on Women.

Phil Donahue on His 2003 Firing from MSNBC, When Liberal Network Couldn’t Tolerate Antiwar Voices

In 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war," providing "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity." Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. "They were terrified of the antiwar voice," Donahue says.

Source: Democracy No w!
Author: -

Women in Healthcare Suffer Abuse Inside and Outside the Home

It’s pretty well known that while women dominate the fast-growing fields of domestic work and home health work, this is only a partial victory. After all, not only are these jobs low-paid, they come rife with abuse. But women also dominate other quickly growing healthcare jobs such as nursing, making up over 90 percent of that workforce, which are far better paid. Where a home health aide can expect to make just over $20,000 a year at the median, a registered nurse looks forward to nearly $65,000. This should be a great sign. Yet a new report shows that the abuse that plagues those who work in the home follows women even when they work in a hospital.

Labor Board Alleges Repeated Retaliation at Walmart's Top US Warehouse

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against four companies involved in staffing and managing Walmart’s largest distribution center in the United States. The NLRB complaint—similar to an indictment—alleges that the companies repeatedly threatened and punished warehouse workers for labor organizing, including by firing activists involved in a September strike that helped to inspire November’s Black Friday retail walkout.

“They had targeted the organizers ever since we got back to the warehouse,” Philip Bailey, one of the fired workers, told The Nation Monday.

Statutes of Limitations Are Expiring on Some Bush Crimes

Americans have been facing a number of momentous deadlines, including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the “sequester” of $1 trillion from federal programs. But another critical deadline is fast approaching without attracting much notice. Statutes of limitations applicable to possible crimes committed by former President George W. Bush and his top aides, with respect to wiretapping of Americans without court approval and to fraud in launching and continuing the Iraq War, may expire in early 2014, less than a year from now.

Uninsured Americans 2012: More Than 45 Million Lacked Health Insurance Last Year, CDC Reports

More than 45 million U.S. residents didn't have health insurance during the first nine months of last year, according to survey findings released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even more people, 57.5 million, were uninsured for at least part of the 12 months before being polled.

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns' Advice For Young Women: 'Marry Someone 20 Years Older'

Ladies, listen up. One of the most powerful women in the country is revealing her secret to getting ahead, and it's not what you'd expect.

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns told an audience Wednesday that one of the keys to her success was marrying a great man 20 years her senior.

The Pirates Around Cyprus

The other day, near Athens, I met a cheerful Greek-American economist who is in his mid-seventies. He sported a white Vandyke beard. He was shuffling around his veranda in a mischievous mood. He was planning a party for that night, which would run from ten o’clock until about five in the morning. All of his guests would wear pirate costumes. He had invited an Icelander he had barely met, he told me, because Icelanders were familiar with plundering and being plundered, and also, he noted facetiously, “They don’t drink much.”

I asked where the idea for the party theme had originated. “European Union pirates,” he explained.

Why is Obama Being So Friendly to Netanyahu?

As jokes go, President Obama’s aside to Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, wasn’t exactly a rib tickler, but it set the tone for what we can expect over the next couple of days. “It’s good to get away from Congress,” Obama said, and, according to reporters on the scene, the Israeli Prime Minister responded with a chuckle. Just a couple of old buddies catching up and having fun.

In reality, of course, the two leaders don’t agree on very much at all. Back in 2011, there was the famous slip, when a microphone caught Obama grumbling about Netanyahu with Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French President. And earlier this year, as Netanyahu was preparing for a general election, there was another flap when Jeffrey Goldberg, of The Atlantic, reported that, in the weeks after a United Nations vote on the status of the Palestinians, “Obama said privately and repeatedly, ‘Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are,’” and that the President believed the Israeli leader, with his policy of constructing new settlements in the West Bank, was leading his country down a path, in Goldberg’s words, “toward near-total isolation.”

When the Money Gets Too Big

People lie about reading books as often and casually as they lie about having sex—less about who, what, or how good than about how much. Remember George Bush’s annual competition with Karl Rove? In 2006, the year Iraq descended into civil war, Bush supposedly read ninety-five books to Rove’s hundred and ten. Most readers try to make their exaggerations more credible than this, but the honest will admit that the Internet, social media, T.V., and the flood of information to which we subject ourselves every day, if not every minute, have seriously cut into not just book reading but book readiness. Add small children, and the nineteenth-century novel threatens to disappear from your life.

$900 Million Lawsuit Filed Against Rio Tinto's IOC

MONTREAL, March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

    Innu communities of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John defend their aboriginal rights

    On March 18 at the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal, the Innu First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (Uashaunnuat) and Matimekush-Lac John (MLJ), whose traditional territory (Nitassinan) covers much of northeastern Quebec and Labrador, filed a motion to obtain an injunction against Iron Ore Company of Canada's (IOC) mining operations in Quebec and Labrador as well as damages for the harm caused to them by IOC estimated at $900 million. IOC's majority shareholder is Rio Tinto.

A Jumbo Summer Ahead?

A provincially appointed mayor in a town with no residents, two court challenges, plans for summer skiing on Jumbo glacier this year, and an upcoming provincial election that could change everything -- that's the reality for an East Kootenay real estate and ski resort development proposal as it enters its 23rd year of controversy.

On Feb. 18, the West Kootenay EcoSociety filed an application asking the B.C. Supreme Court to review the legality of a recent amendment to the B.C. Local Government Act that enabled the recent creation of the Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality.

How not to rebuild Canada's navy

If you thought it hard having to deal with the bizarre budgetary twists and turns of the F-35 fighter jet procurement, with its stratospheric cost overruns, brace yourself for even wilder turbulence over the navy's massive construction program.

Not what anyone wants to hear, I know. After all, for years now the Harper government has been promising that this $33 billion plan to rebuild our navy's aging fleets would be a model of how to handle big, complex procurement programs.

Saskatchewan Budget 2013: Alcohol, Tobacco Taxes Raised To Eke Out Balanced Budget

REGINA - Drinkers and smokers will pay more and businesses will have to wait longer for a tax cut so that Saskatchewan's budget can stay in the black.

"I'm sure the two-pack-a-day smokers will not be pleased," Finance Minister Ken Krawetz said Wednesday before he tabled the 2013-14 financial plan.

Cpl. Josh Baker Killed In Afghanistan Firing Range; Training Turns To Tragedy

It was supposed to be a training day on the weapons range, away from the usual threats of a war zone.

It ended in bloodshed. One Canadian soldier dead and four others seriously injured.

Three fellow soldiers would eventually be convicted for what they did — or didn't do — that day.

An accident on the Kan Kala firing range on Feb. 12, 2010, marked a dark chapter in Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. The saga moved a step closer to closure this week with the sentencing of the final soldier to face a court martial.

Stephen Harper, Bob Rae Debate Who's Uglier Over Penashue Scandal

OTTAWA - Things got ugly in the House of Commons — literally.

With opposition accusations flying over the resignation last week of Labrador MP Peter Penashue, Prime Minister Stephen Harper again heaped praise on his former intergovernmental affairs minister.

Harper told the Commons he expected the Conservatives would run a clean campaign in a byelection in which Penashue has pledged to run.

Jim Flaherty adds $150B to national mortgage, then lectures on evils of too much debt

Following his path-breaking intervention to spare consumers the horror of lower mortgage rates, can we expect the finance minister to act with the same boldness should competition threaten to break out in other sectors?

The risk of what the minister called a “race to the bottom,” after all, is ever present, and while I’m sure he maintains a constant vigil, even Jim Flaherty may not be able to call in time to stop some shady operator from cutting prices — not even with the full-time staff he apparently keeps on hand for such emergencies. I don’t want to cause a panic, but I’m told that, as we speak, Sobeys has a special on canned peaches.

First Nations say they will fight oilsands, pipeline

An alliance of First Nations leaders is preparing to fight proposed new pipelines in the courts and through unspecified direct action.

Native leaders from Canada and the United States were on Parliament Hill on Wednesday to underline opposition to both the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines.

The first would tie the Alberta oil sands to the West Coast, while the second would send bitumen to refineries on the American Gulf Coast.

Federal Budget 2013: Canada’s military under the gun in spending cuts

OTTAWA—Canada’s fighting forces are bracing for their next battle — the bottom line.

After years of enjoying big budget hikes, the Canadian Forces are enduring a new reality of cutbacks that has started to hit the frontlines.

And Thursday’s federal budget could force the military to trim even further as the federal Conservatives seek to balance Ottawa’s books by 2015.

Canada Cuts Direct Foreign Aid To China

OTTAWA - Canada has cut direct foreign aid to China as part of an overhaul of international assistance spending.

It's one of 14 countries that will see their aid either reduced or eliminated by the end of next year as the Canadian International Development Agency slashes $377 million in aid spending by 2014-2015.

The cuts are part of an overhaul of bilateral aid programming, with CIDA aiming to target funds more precisely and work more with the private sector.

Transgender Rights Bill Passes House Of Commons

OTTAWA - A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender Canadians was approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Opposition private member's legislation passed by a vote of 149-137, with the crucial support of 16 Conservatives, including four cabinet ministers.

The Commons: Stephen Harper is very sensitive

Shortly after Conservative Brian Jean had stood to accuse the New Democrats of advocating for a “job killing carbon tax” and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong had stood to say that “the policy of the NDP is to go south to recruit foreign criminals to come to Canada” and Conservative MP David Wilks had stood and claimed to posses “a long list of attacks on Canadian interests from the NDP” and Conservative MP Robert Sopuck had stood and ventured that the NDP leader “leader rejects sound science and works hard to kill Canadian jobs” and Conservative MP James Bezan stood and said Thomas Mulcair had “attacked Canadian jobs, attacked Canada’s national interests and took up the cause of a convicted cop shooter” and shortly before Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood and declared that “New Democrats are never on” the side of victims of crime, Stephen Harper stood and declared himself quite disappointed with Mr. Mulcair’s tone.

Manning Conference II: Cons' pipeline sales pitch sure to feature 'Green Conservatism'

When they weren't imaging the end of the world in a fiscal holocaust brought on by Keynesianism or worrying about the political end of the world caused by Liberal Dauphin Justin Trudeau's political talents or banished neoconservative hero Tom Flanagan's embarrassing shenanigans, conservative "big thinkers" at the Manning Centre's conference March 7-9 in Ottawa were demonstrating a remarkable tolerance for cognitive dissonance.

Leastways, the obvious differences between the current policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government and the prevailing "libertarian" views of the majority of conference participants seemed remarkably un-troubling to the conservatives in conclave.