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.]

Monday, March 25, 2013

BC's Environmental Protection Has Fallen Behind

[]Up in the Peace River Valley, residents fear lethal sour gas escapes, and call for tougher regulations on the oil and gas industry. On Vancouver Island, Comox Valley residents are concerned that new mines threaten their drinking water, and ask why the law leaves taxpayers with the bill for mine clean-ups. Across B.C., archaic laws contribute to water shortages that threaten both jobs and fish. More than 1,600 species are now "at risk" in B.C. -- without a provincial law to protect them. Likewise, inadequate laws to contain urban sprawl threaten the "natural" B.C. that attracted us here in the first place.

Harper Gov't Changes to NEB Make First Nations' Concerns 'Irrelevant': Lawyer

In December 2010, Kitimat LNG applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for an export license. It wanted to ship 200 million tons of liquefied natural gas from Canada's West Coast over the next two decades.

Kitimat LNG at the time was a partnership between three major oil and gas companies. Two were subsidiaries of Houston-based corporations: Apache Canada and EOG Resources Canada.

The third was EnCana, a Calgary-based energy giant whose founder and former CEO, Gwyn Morgan, served on B.C. Premier Christy Clark's transition team. (Chevron recently bought EnCana's and EOG's stakes in the project.)

Chavez and the Latin American Spring: This is what democracy could look like

One of the many things that Hugo Chavez, the charismatic and revolutionary president of Venezuela contributed to the world, was his demonstration for people everywhere the difference between democracy and liberal democracy. Chavez's hyperbolic style, his tweaking the tail of the Imperial tiger and his willingness to be just as ruthless as his U.S.-backed opponents, gave Western leaders and journalists lots of ammunition to demonize him.

Indigenous youth on epic journey to Ottawa deserve attention and respect

Monday, March 25: The Journey of Nishiyuu arrives in Ottawa today. Hundreds of supporters, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, will be on hand today in Ottawa to greet them. Members of the labour movement and other civil society groups will be there to show their support. Some Members of Parliament, from opposition parties, will be there when the group arrives on Parliament Hill shortly after 1p.m. EST today.'s parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg will be there on the Hill to report on this historic event.

When native-bashing became good politics

The disequilibrium of modern life leads people to strike poses not seen when things are normal: Hard times make for hard views.

Consider this response to my last column on aboriginal issues, which predicted that unless the federal government abandons the status quo, there will be big trouble in the land of peace, order and good government — and sooner rather than later:

“What you fail to grasp Michael is the widespread support Harper has amongst the white majority in Canada regarding the natives. The vast majority of Canadian whites are fed up with the natives. The natives may be fed up with us as well. However, that doesn’t matter, we have the population, the money and the guns.”

Ottawa opposes cancer mom’s EI sickness benefits despite new law

A Stratford-area mother diagnosed with breast cancer during maternity leave doesn’t know why Ottawa is fighting her claim for employment insurance sickness benefits while, at the same time, heralding a new law aimed at helping parents just like her.

“I was shocked. I didn’t understand why the government was doing this … I was hurt,” said Jane Kittmer, 41, who learned in January that the federal government is appealing her successful 2½-year fight for EI sickness benefits.

Richard Nixon Turns Out to Be Even Worse Than We Thought

Richard Nixon has been keeping me up at night for months, which is troubling as he was president of America before I was born. The reason the squalid mind of Nixon has been in my thoughts at night is because I'm writing a book about psychopathic traits and cultures. He is included.

The release of tapes from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, revealing that Nixon deliberately destabilised Vietnam peace talks to save his presidential campaign, made me realise he deserves more space in my book.

Canada’s pipeline preacher will not slow down

OTTAWA—Stephen Harper’s pipeline preacher has not lost any of his zeal.

Joe Oliver takes to his pulpit daily, spraying statistics and “fact-based” arguments at his opponents, refusing to be slowed by recent heart surgery, perhaps the loudest and most determined environmental protest ever mounted on both sides of the border or native leaders who promise a long, hot summer followed by potentially years of court challenges.

Federal Budget 2013: NDP Calls On RCMP To Investigate Leak

OTTAWA - The RCMP should investigate last week's federal budget leak about tariff reductions because it could have allowed insiders to manipulate markets, the Opposition New Democrats charged Monday.

NDP deputy finance critic Guy Caron has written RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson about "potentially criminal actions related to a breach of budget secrecy."

The National Post, followed by the Globe and Mail, both reported on the eve of last Thursday's budget delivery that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty would cut tariffs on hockey gear and some baby clothing.

Myanmar Buddhist-Muslim Violence Spreads

YANGON, Myanmar - Anti-Muslim mobs rampaged through three more towns in Myanmar's predominantly Buddhist heartland over the weekend, destroying mosques and burning dozens of homes despite government efforts to stop the nation's latest outbreak of sectarian violence from spreading.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in central Myanmar on Friday and deployed army troops to the worst hit city, Meikhtila, where 32 people were killed and 10,000 mostly Muslim residents were displaced. But even as soldiers imposed order there after several days of anarchy that saw armed Buddhists torch the city's Muslim quarters, anti-Muslim unrest has spread south toward the capital, Naypyitaw.

Louisiana Judge Rules That Violent Felons Have Gun Rights Too

A New Orleans judge ruled last Thursday that a law forbidding felons from owning firearms infringes their rights to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the state's newly amended constitution.

Although Louisiana already had extremely permissive gun laws (and the second highest gun-murder rate in the country), last November voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative backed by the National Rifle Association that made gun ownership a fundamental right with the same levels of protection as the freedoms of religion and speech.

Hot Money Blues

Whatever the final outcome in the Cyprus crisis — we know it’s going to be ugly; we just don’t know exactly what form the ugliness will take — one thing seems certain: for the time being, and probably for years to come, the island nation will have to maintain fairly draconian controls on the movement of capital in and out of the country. In fact, controls may well be in place by the time you read this. And that’s not all: Depending on exactly how this plays out, Cypriot capital controls may well have the blessing of the International Monetary Fund, which has already supported such controls in Iceland.

Tory Grandee Lord Heseltine: 'Britons Are Too Rich To Care About Improving Economy'

Britain lacks a "national will" to improve its economy because people are too rich, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has suggested.

The Conservative grandee questioned whether people who live comfortably in advanced economies are motivated to strive for better.

However in economies like China and India, which are growing at a much faster rate than Britain, people are driven to overcome "real problems".

David Cameron Accused Of Peddling Immigration Benefits 'Myths'

David Cameron has been accused of peddling "myths" about the number of immigrants who claim benefits in Britain, after he said he wanted to stop the UK being a "soft touch".

In a major speech on Monday, the prime minister announced that from next year, arrivals from the European Union will be stripped of jobseekers benefits after six months unless they can prove they have been actively looking for a job and stand a "genuine chance" of finding one.

Immigration Row: 'Romanians Are Not Coming To The UK To Claim Benefits' Expats Say

Romanians coming to live in the UK are not migrating to claim benefits, but to work, one of Romania's leading recruiters for Britain has said.

David Cameron has warned those coming to Britain they can no longer expect "something for nothing," and is to reveal tougher curbs on benefits for immigrants.

Flanagan’s Last Stand?

Decoding the Encounter between Professor Tom Flanagan and Idle No More at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta Canada.

Professor Tom Flanagan was instrumental in mentoring, grooming and handling Stephen Harper during the most formative stages of the meteoric political career of Canada’s current prime minister. Professor Flanagan is a US-trained political scientist who was hired by a transplanted Pentagon intelligence expert to help make Calgary safe for Houston and Dallas-based oil companies in Texas North. Professor Flanagan was politically disowned recently by many of his former students and associates, including by Stephen Harper, for characterizing the consumption of child pornography as a victimless crime that should be met with counseling rather than incarceration. Professor Flanagan made the comments in response to questions from Aboriginal supporters of the Idle No More movement who look at the denigration entailed in child pornography through the lens of many of their their people’s harsh experiences as victims of the child sexual exploitation in Canada’s federally-funded system of Christian residential schools for Aboriginal youths.

The Mandate of Poverty Reduction Must Not Be Lost in CIDA's Merger

In yesterday's budget the government announced that Canada's International Development Agency (CIDA) will be merged within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). A new Department -- possibly with the amusing acronym DFATD -- will be created, although we have no idea how soon and at what cost.

Let's be clear: placing CIDA within DFAIT is not, in principle, a bad idea. In fact, this kind of arrangement has worked fairly well in other countries, including Norway, the Netherlands, and Ireland -- all respected international donors with strong records.

Nishiyuu Walkers reach Chelsea, their ranks swollen from seven to several hundred

OTTAWA — Every step David Kawapit took on Sunday brought him closer to Parliament Hill, the final stop on an extraordinary journey that has galvanized aboriginal youth and captured the broader public’s attention.

The 18-year-old and six others, including a guide, are the Nishiyuu Walkers.

They left Whapmagoostui, their small Quebec community on the coast of Hudson Bay, in the middle of January, travelling by foot along traditional Cree and Algonquin trading routes to bring a message of unity to other First Nations and Canadians alike.

California Officials Turn Up The Heat On Secretive 'Dark Money' Groups

WASHINGTON -- California officials have widened an investigation into the source of $11 million that was mysteriously funnelled by a few nonprofit groups in 2012 to sway two ballot measures in the state, The Huffington Post has learned.

The state’s election watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, which launched the inquiry last November, is working closely with the California attorney general’s office, according to a person familiar with the matter. They have issued about a dozen new subpoenas to individuals and organizations for financial records, according to the person, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the probe.

Northern Gateway Attack Ads Recall Exxon Valdez Spill

VANCOUVER - The date March 24, 1989 remains a black mark in the minds of environmentalists and coastal communities as they witnessed a massive oil slick unfurl in the waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound.

The Exxon Valdez disaster was one of history's worst oil spills, and twenty-four years later, a B.C. First Nations group is pointing to the tragedy as proof the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project should not go forward.

Cyprus Reaches Bailout Deal With International Lenders

BRUSSELS, March 25 (Reuters) - Cyprus clinched a last-ditch deal with international lenders on Monday for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout that will shut down its second largest bank and inflict heavy losses on uninsured depositors, including wealthy Russians.

The agreement emerged after fraught negotiations between President Nicos Anastasiades and heads of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - hours before a deadline to avert a collapse of the banking system.

Labour unions gearing up to challenge changes made by Harper majority

TORONTO – The head of a major labour group says changes brought in by the Harper government dealing with working Canadians is galvanizing union opposition to the Conservatives.

Government decisions such as raising the onset of old age security and lowering the cost of temporary foreign workers are not only making things harder for workers but also spurring the labour movement into action, says Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti.

Unions and media: Will journalists save themselves?

Unions get a rough ride from corporate news sources.

From the loudest and most angry leading the charge (the Sun) down to the soft opponents at (barely) progressive papers, like the Toronto Star, the industry as a whole is not “pro-labour.”

Part of this phenomenon is driven by the growth of and emphasis on business reporting. Rather than balancing coverage with the perspective of workers, the news about “business” is dominated by stories about what the masters, bosses and owners are or aren’t doing.

Penashue repayment, running for re-election bid within Elections Act rules

The bulk repayment of former Labrador Conservative MP Peter Penashue’s ineligible campaign contributions by the Conservative Party of Canada is well within the rules of the Canada Elections Act, but elections law experts say the former intergovernmental affairs minister could be in an awkward position if he returns to the House of Commons and is prosecuted.

Mr. Penashue’s resignation and the advanced advertising that has accompanied his impending byelection bid had the opposition frothing at the mouth last week, with interim Liberal leader Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.) deploring the tactics on the grounds that they undermine the rule of law.

Former AGs critical of Senate’s handling of expense claims review, ‘it’s public money’

Two former auditors general are raising concerns over the Senate’s internal investigation into Senators’ expense claims after yet another week of secrecy in the Red Chamber.

Sheila Fraser and Kenneth Dye both told The Hill Times that the public has a right to know how Parliament spends their money.

“As a taxpayer, I’d be a bit suspicious that they’re trying to guard the information that they have. After all, it is public money,” said Ken Dye, who served as Canada’s chief accountant from 1981 to 1991, under the Trudeau and Mulroney administrations. “This is where auditors — not me alone—would look and say, ‘There’s something more to this.’ ”

Feds ‘blackmailing’ First Nations into signing away their power over water, resource development for continued funding

The federal government is “blackmailing” First Nations into supporting its policies through revised funding contribution agreements and telling them to “take it or leave it,” say First Nations chiefs.

“The government through its contribution agreements is trying to get First Nations to sign onto [their policies] or else be cut from their funding,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta.

Mayor Ford calls in to radio show, offers opinion on Kachkar trial

Criminal defence lawyer Leora Shemesh was surprised to hear Mayor Rob Ford’s voice when a listener called in to Newstalk 1010 to discuss the ongoing Richard Kachkar trial.

Shemesh was a panelist on the legal round table of Closing Arguments with Steven Skurka, a program on the Newstalk 1010 radio. The panel was discussing the trial when Ford called in on air.

Teachers make their marks with Dufferin Mall “grade-in”

When Leigh Thornton talks about her students at Bloor Collegiate, her face lights up.

“Our students are fantastic,” she said, beaming. “To know them is to fall in love with them.”

Thornton was one of a few dozen teachers who did her usual weekend grading not at home, but in the Dufferin Mall food court on Sunday afternoon. Teachers say the “grade-in” was meant to raise awareness about the impact of ongoing education cuts, and about the danger of imposed labour contracts.

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism." Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101. [includes rush transcript–partial.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Big-picture thinking needed to protect nature

Few places on Earth have been untouched by humans, according to a study in the journal Science. Satellite images taken from hundreds of kilometres above the planet reveal a world that we have irrevocably changed within a remarkably short time.

Although industrial projects like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or the recently defeated mega-quarry in Ontario typically grab the headlines and bring out public opposition, it's often the combined impacts of a range of human activities on the same land base that threaten to drive nature beyond critical tipping points. Once those are passed, rapid ecological changes such as species extinction can occur.

‘Pay fair share’: Over 100,000 Britons sign Amazon tax petition

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition launched by a small independent British bookseller calling on Amazon to “pay their fair share of tax in the UK”, as it is “endangering many UK high street businesses”.

Now the petition has hit the 100,000 mark they plan to take it to 10 Downing Street, where they will be accompanied by a large crowd of authors.

Tel Aviv refuses to end Gaza blockade as part of Turkey-Israel reconciliation

Israel did not agree to end its Gaza blockade as part of reconciliation with Turkey, and could clamp down even harder on the Palestinian enclave if security is threatened, a senior Israeli official said on Sunday.

"We did not agree to promise [Turkey] that under any condition we would continue to transfer all the things into Gaza and ease up on the residents of Gaza if there is shooting from there," Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror told Israel's Army Radio.

Thousands march in Paris against same-sex marriage and adoption

Tens of thousands of French families, activists and conservatives have marched in Paris protesting against a bill that if passed would allow same-sex marriage and adoption. Police fired teargas to prevent protesters from entering the Champs Elysees.

Demonstrators gathered Sunday in the center of the French capital for a final mass protest against the controversial bill that if backed in the Senate during April’s, vote may become law as early as the summer. So far the draft has been passed in the lower house of parliament.

A People’s Revolt in Cyprus: Richard Wolff on Protests Against EU Plan to Seize Bank Savings

The eyes of the financial world are on the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus today. The government of Cyprus has brokered a last-ditch $13 billion bailout deal with European officials to stave off the collapse of its banking sector. Under the deal, all bank deposits above approximately $130,000 will be frozen and used to help pay off the banking sector’s debts. An earlier version of the deal collapsed last week when Cypriots took to the streets to protest paying a tax of up to 10 percent on their life savings. The plan led to mass demonstrations as well as panicked bank withdrawals as Cypriots rushed to protect their savings. "It’s a demonstration of people power in this little corner of the world that’s very impressive, and the basis, I think, for some optimism about opposition," says Richard Wolff, economics professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and visiting professor at New School University. He is the author of several books including, most recently, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Obama in Israel: A President at Large

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Philip Gourevitch and I interviewed Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, at a New Yorker event on stage, at Joe’s Pub. We hoped for a round-the-world survey of expansive and off-the-cuff honesty, but, as it turned out, there was only so much candor that diplomatic propriety would allow. Rice, from Syria to Rwanda, strictly adhered to the made-in-Washington talking points. She even pronounced herself “happy” that she was still U.N. Ambassador, even after losing a bid to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. (I am sure she was “happy” beyond words to have been the hate-object of a cynical gaggle of right-wing senators who exacted some post-election revenge on the President by punishing her for the disaster in Benghazi.) It was frustrating but not unexpected. You had to admire Rice’s discipline—and even how, at the end of the discussion, she robbed some French fries from a guy in the audience who was eating, flagrantly, at the lip of the stage.

Postscript: Chinua Achebe, 1930-2013

Chinua Achebe, who died in Boston today at the age of eighty-two, was a few weeks shy of thirty years old when Nigeria was granted independence from the British Empire, on October 1, 1960, and he was already acclaimed, worldwide, as the preëminent novelist of “black Africa.” The British publisher Heinemann had brought out Achebe’s first novel, “Things Fall Apart,” only two years earlier, and it had to have been the first African novel that many of his admirers—on the continent and off—had read. The sure tragedian’s authority with which Achebe tells the story of Okonkwo, an Igbo elder of immense strength and pride, a figure of heroic qualities within the traditions of his culture, who is ill-served, brought low, and undone by those same qualities in his first violent encounters with colonial power, has ensured that still today, with more than ten million copies sold, “Things Fall Apart” remains the best-known work of African literature.

Rand Paul: Marijuana Use Is Not Something To 'Promote,' But 'It's A Big Mistake' To Jail People Over It

Riding the high of his win in last week's CPAC straw poll, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) addressed a different kind of high on Sunday.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, Paul was asked why he advocates for more lenient marijuana laws.

Explaining Tom Flanagan's spectacular fall: Professorial Mentality Syndrome

TORONTO - Prof. Tom Flanagan (ret.) may have been thrown over the side of the Good Ship Tory by Capt. Preston Manning and the Motor Vessel Wildrose by First Mate Danielle Smith, but he still inspires warm feelings of solidarity at the Fraser Institute.

Leastways, Flanagan remains on the list published by the loony-right Vancouver-based "think tank" of its favourite "senior and visiting fellows" -- fellows, indeed, who to a man, and woman, have never seen an opportunity for privatization of public assets they couldn't love.

Immigrants Held in Solitary Cells, Often for Weeks

WASHINGTON — On any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the sprawling patchwork of holding centers nationwide overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to new federal data.

Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.

Paul Krugman: Matt Yglesias Condo Criticism Shows Conservatives 'Don't Actually Believe In Any Rules At All'

Paul Krugman is getting a bit fed up with all of this “right-wing huffiness.”

The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist criticized conservatives in a blog post Saturday for accusing left-leaning Slate blogger Matt Yglesias of hypocrisy for, of all things, buying a condo. In fact, as Krugman sees it, the right-wing bloggers are the ones acting hypocritical in this case by “attacking success” after they told everyone to lay off the super-rich during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Hunger strike draws world attention to Obama's broken promise on closing Guantánamo

The general overseeing the Guantánamo military prison is reportedly downplaying the scope and significance of an ongoing hunger strike undertaken by detainees at the infamous detention center in an effort to highlight the "desperation and hopelessness of indefinite detention" and draw attention to the "normalization of Guantánamo."

Despite the fact that a number of the detainees have not eaten since February, "threatening the lives of many," General John Kelly testified before the House Armed Services committee on Wednesday that some prisoners "were eating a bit, but not a lot," and that it was "difficult to confirm how many of the inmates were on hunger strike, because the prisoners eat communally."