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.]

Friday, April 05, 2013

Lucy Flores, Nevada Legislator, Receives Threats After Admitting She Had An Abortion

A state lawmaker in Nevada received threats after giving an emotional testimony about an abortion she had as a teenager, according to sources familiar with the matter. She made the comments during a sex education bill hearing on Monday.

Nevada state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores (D-Las Vegas) canceled a TV appearance Wednesday because of the threatening messages she had received after her April 1 appearance, Las Vegas NBC affiliate KSNV producer Dana Gentry told The Huffington Post on Thursday.

North Korea Reportedly Moves Missiles, Full-Scale Conflict Remains Unlikely

LONDON/SEOUL, April 5 (Reuters) - North Korea has asked embassies in Pyongyang that might wish to get staff out if there is a war to submit plans to it by April 10, Britain said on Friday, as it upped the pressure as part of a war of words that has set the Korean peninsula on edge.

Initial reports by Russia's Foreign Ministry and China's Xinhua news agency suggested that North Korea had suggested that embassies should consider closing because of the risk of conflict.

New Jobs Report 'Should Be A Wake-Up Call,' Analyst Says

WASHINGTON -- Nearly half a million Americans left the labor force in March, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday, causing the unemployment rate to decline from 7.7 to 7.6 percent.

Part of the reason fewer people are participating in the labor force is that the baby boomers are hitting retirement, but another part is that the economy is lousy. Employers added only 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in any month since June.

Capitalism: A Disaster for All Seasons

In 2007, a financial firestorm ravaged Wall Street and the rest of the country. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy obliterated a substantial chunk of the Atlantic seaboard. We think of the first as a man-made calamity, the second as the malignant innocence of nature. But neither the notion of a man-made nor natural disaster quite captures how the power of a few and the vulnerability of the many determine what is really going on at ground level. Causes and consequences, who gets blamed and who leaves the scene permanently scarred, who goes down and who emerges better positioned than before: these are matters often predetermined by the structures of power and wealth, racial and ethnic hierarchies and despised and favored forms of work, as well as moral and social prejudices in place before disaster strikes.

This Week in Poverty: Sequestration, Housing, Homelessness

Sequestration can seem a little vague, abstract, difficult to wrap your head around.

But here’s what it means when it comes to housing: up to 140,000 fewer low-income families receiving housing vouchers, more children exposed to lead paint, higher rent for people who can’t afford it and a rise in homelessness.

These are among the human costs of sequestration noted in a new paper by Doug Rice, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who has worked on housing policy for ten years.

Credit Card Fees Canada: Visa, MasterCard Ruling Could See New Charges For Consumers

Canadians could see new surcharges on their credit card purchases if a Competition Bureau tribunal decides to eliminate existing rules put in place by Visa and MasterCard, a consumers’ group is warning.

And if Australia’s experience with allowing credit card surcharges is anything to go by, Canadians could pay as much as 10 per cent more on some purchases, Bruce Cran of the Consumers’ Association of Canada told the Vancouver Sun.

Canada Foreign Service Job Action: Diplomats Threatened Over 'Out Of Office' Email Alerts

OTTAWA — The federal government has escalated a battle against its diplomats by threatening to fire any foreign service officer who engages in a so-called “e-picket,” The Huffington Post has learned.

A group of 1,350 rank-and-file foreign service officers began job actions on April 2 over what they say is a pay equity issue.

Unemployment Canada March 2013: Rate Spikes To 7.2 Per Cent As 84,500 Private Sector Jobs Lost

Canada's job situation was even worse in March than headline numbers suggest.

While Canada lost a net total 54,500 jobs, the number of job lost in the private sector was a whopping 85,000 -- the worst performance since February of 2009, at the height of the financial crisis.

Costs continue to climb for Defence department renovations to former Nortel campus

The cost to renovate the former Nortel Campus for the Defence Department continues to climb even as the government has launched a review of its plans for the project.

Defence sources say the estimated cost of preparing the campus for DND is now around $880 million. The cost to prepare the site involves everything from creating new offices to installing secure computer networks.

An Israeli documentary Harper should see

The Gatekeepers is a superb Israeli documentary (partially funded by the CBC) that is based on interviews with a half-dozen former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel's primary security agency.

Speaking frankly about their work, dealing with major incidents during their careers, these highly intelligent, articulate officials shed a revealing light on Israel's policy toward the Palestinians and toward the militant settlers who dominate the right wing of Israeli politics.

Alberta trying to pin blame for possible carbon levy on Ottawa

Don’t like the idea of a $40-per-tonne Alberta penalty for excess greenhouse gas emissions?

Blame Ottawa.

That’s the line from senior provincial sources, who do not deny a report they’re considering the $40 levy as well as 40 per cent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions per barrel.

You might think the Alberta government is worried about the United States, where the Keystone XL oil pipeline hangs in the balance, and a tough carbon levy might help with approval.

Group concerned about climate change proposes warning labels for gas nozzles

TORONTO - An environmental group focused on the dangers of climate change is lobbying for Canadian municipalities to pass bylaws that would require warning labels on gas station pump nozzles.

Lawyer Robert Shirkey says the warning labels on the nozzles would be similar to those found on cigarette packages and would act to warn users of the negative effects of fossil fuels.

"The future of the planet is literally in the palm of your hand (when you pick up the nozzle)," Shirkey, founder of Our Horizon, told an audience Thursday at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto.

They're in the money

In late March, your MPs quietly voted in favour of giving themselves a pay raise.

You likely didn't hear about it because the memo was released on Thursday, the day before Good Friday, and the start of a two week break of Parliament.

The Ottawa press corps typically refer to the day before a long weekend as "taking out the trash day"because it is quite often when governments release things they don't want people to hear about.

Standing up for science in Harperland

These days, I am beginning to think that George Orwell was the greatest whistleblower of all time.

After all, it was Orwell who lifted the curtain on how the end of free thought was creeping across western democracies. In the end, stripped of the very language needed to form ideas, future citizens would be shuddering under a government colossus whose most efficient agency was the Thought Police.

Harperites undermine democracy

Canadian democracy is under threat from its own government.

The Conservatives under Stephen Harper are running an effective dictatorship. They believe they are quite within their rights to muzzle Parliament, gag civil servants, use taxpayer money for blatant political self-promotion, stand accused of trying to subvert a federal election and hand over much of Canada's magnificent natural heritage to the multinational oil and gas lobby.

What is even more disturbing is that the national media, with a few notable exceptions, has underplayed or ignored these developments that are a clear assault on Canada's democratic institutions and processes.

Review: The Oil Road -- Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London

The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London
by James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello
(Verso , 2012; $12.99)

The corporate oil industry is unsustainable; it is damaging not simply to the environment, but across a range of political and social dimensions. The effects of the extraction, transport, trade and consumption of oil is well known in general, but often less easy to document in specific terms, given the secrecy with which oil companies and oil states generally try to shroud their activities.

A number of encounters with security personnel in The Oil Road bear out this problem, in the course of travels through the areas crossed by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, from Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

NDP set to regain power in B.C., but what will it take to defeat neoliberalism?

British Columbia's New Democrats will form government this spring if recent polling sticks. The May election is arriving amidst a crisis of the philosophy and policy-paradigm that has guided governance worldwide for the past 40 years: neoliberalism.

Understanding neoliberalism's legacy, appeal, and current transformation -- both globally and in British Columbia -- can facilitate successful social democratic governance starting in May. Renewed social democracy in B.C. can yield ecological and social benefit in this region, but also serve as a model for other jurisdictions seeking alternatives to neoliberal orthodoxy. Political openings for progressives are afoot.

Trading away human rights? Canada turns a blind eye toward abuses against Roma in EU

Barely a week goes by when the Conservative government does not issue at least one press release touting the value of a Canada-European Union (EU) trade deal.

Last week Trade Minister Ed Fast told British Columbians that such a deal would "eliminate tariffs, including those on key provincial exports such as forest products, metals and minerals, fish and seafood, agriculture and agri-food products, and services."

The week before, the Minister told Quebeckers that a trade deal with the EU would benefit that province's chemical and aluminum industries.

Canada loses 54,500 jobs in March

Canada's economy lost 54,500 jobs in March, bleak new data from Statistics Canada showed Friday.

That's the worst month for Canadian employment since before the last recession, in February 2009. When added to the numbers for January and February, they show that Canada's economy has lost 26,000 jobs so far in 2013 as a whole.

The job losses pushed Canada's jobless rate higher to 7.2 per cent.

Ontario teacher deal boosts sick day payouts, reduces unpaid days off

A “refreshing” return to give-and-take bargaining is what led to a fair deal with Kathleen Wynne’s government, says the president of the province’s high school teachers’ union.

Ken Coran won the approval of 96 per cent of his local bargaining unit presidents Thursday with an agreement that boosts sick day payouts to newer teachers and reduces the number of unpaid days off to one or two, rather than three.

Results of the teachers’ ratification vote will be available April 18.

HBOS: Regulator's findings shame three executives who brought down a bank

The three executives who ran HBOS bank in the runup to its near-catastrophic collapse have been slated for their "colossal failure" of management in a scathing report which calls for them to be held to account by the City regulator.

The highly critical account of the events that led to HBOS being rescued by Lloyds in September 2008 said the responsibility for the management failings rested with the former chairman Lord Stevenson, and the former chief executives Sir James Crosby and Andy Hornby, and says the bank would have gone bust even if the global financial meltdown of that year had not happened. The bank, formed out of Bank of Scotland and Halifax in 2001, racked up £47bn of losses on bad loans.

North Korea's threats of war make Chinese neighbours nervous

Every time North Korea threatens a nuclear strike, Ge Weihan receives a frantic call from his mother. Although the 34-year-old filmmaker moved to Beijing years ago, his parents still live in a small Chinese village less than 25 miles (40km) from the insular nation.

"If a war ever actually breaks out, I'm very nervous about what it would do to my hometown," Ge said. "It's hard living right next to a country that seems willing to do anything."

Hundreds of bankers to save average £54,000 a year through tax cut

Hundreds of millionaires working in Britain's banks will save an average of almost £54,000 when the top rate of tax is cut this weekend, according to figures compiled by the Labour party.

The changes mean that 643 bankers, each earning more than £1m, could get a combined tax cut worth at least £34.6m.

Labour's figures were derived from details of published accounts by banks showing the number of employees earning more than £1m in the past year. It is not known what proportion of these – other than the employees of HSBC – currently pay taxes in the UK.

Tax Haven Use Costing Americans $150 Billion Per Year: Study

Worried about the federal deficit? Then you're worried about foreign tax havens, the use of which is costing the U.S. $150 billion per year in the form of lost tax revenues, according to academic studies cited by a recent report from U.S. PIRG, a left-leaning consumer group. To break it down, corporations account for $90 billion of the lost revenue, and individuals make up the other $60 billion.

Young College Graduates Are $3,200 Poorer Than They Were In 2000: EPI

Recent college graduates trying to make it on their own have truly been living through a lost decade.

Young college graduates are making less money than they made in 2000, according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. Those working full-time for the entire year made roughly $3,200 less in 2012 than they made in 2000, when adjusted for inflation.

In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years

Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance.

 The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago.

Aetna Seeks To Avoid Obamacare Rules Next Year

WASHINGTON -- One of the largest health insurance companies in the United States is advising insurance brokers on how to evade new mandates and benefits set to take effect next year under President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

In an email sent to brokers, the insurance giant Aetna explains how they can renew customers' current health plans before Jan. 1, a strategy the Los Angeles Times reported this week is under consideration at other big health insurance companies.

The Cypriot Crash

In Cyprus’s divided capital, the early symptoms of the familiar plague are plain. There’s the rash of For Rent and 50% Off signs, scattered still but spreading; the numb, unnatural quiet; the melancholy of shop windows full of things no one will buy. On classy Makarios Avenue, Guess Jeans, Juicy Couture and Planet Organic survive from the cosmopolitan boom time, but the Nike outlet has closed. The pavement opposite is strewn with leaflets from ELAM, the Greek neo-Nazi movement’s small Cypriot franchise. The town center is packed with what one Cypriot called “crowds of indignant journalists” waiting for the sky to fall; in the vegetable market, a widow who lost her catering job six months ago sits hunched by a folding table piled with sesame bread. She got the flour from the church, she says; she was up baking all night and hasn’t sold a single loaf. Today was her last hope.

Tony Clement: David Suzuki, Environmental Groups To Blame For Pipeline Opposition

Tony Clement says David Suzuki and other environmentalists are again standing in the way of building public support for pipelines.

The Ontario MP and treasury board president told members of the Alberta Enterprise Group on Wednesday night that TransCanada’s plan to ship oil from Western Canada to eastern refineries would be a hit in his neck of the woods, but faces spirited opposition from Suzuki and company.

Privacy Protection: Canadians Don't Think Government, Businesses Take It Seriously

A newly released poll suggests Canadians overwhelmingly believe their private information is more at risk today than it was a decade ago and that the federal government and corporations don't take the issue very seriously.

The poll commissioned by the office of the federal privacy commissioner found about 70 per cent of Canadians believed there's less privacy protection today than there was 10 years ago.

Alberta Carbon Tax Far Away Says Diana McQueen, Environment Minister

EDMONTON - Environment Minister Diana McQueen says Alberta is a long way from imposing higher carbon levies on its energy industry.

Responding to a story in the Globe and Mail, McQueen on Thursday acknowledged that she's working with her federal counterpart on a new climate change policy. But she said those talks are preliminary and nothing specific has been determined.

Fukushima Cooling System Fails For Second Time In A Month

TOKYO -- Power was restored Friday to a cooling system at a tsunami-damaged nuclear plant in Japan that failed for the second time in a month after an outage caused by construction work to keep out rats suspected of setting off the earlier blackout.

Power for the cooling system for a storage pool for fuel was restored after a two-hour break at reactor No. 3, and there was no immediate danger from the breakdown, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates Fukushima Dai-ichi in northeastern Japan.

Peter Penashue Byelection: Poll Delivers Bad News For Former Tory Cabinet Minister

Peter Penashue may not be returning to the House of Commons, as a new poll suggests the beleaguered former Tory cabinet minister’s re-election hopes in the upcoming Labrador by-election are slim.

The survey by Forum Research contacted 274 residents of the riding of Labrador between March 30 and April 2 by IVR telephone polling. It is a small sample with a margin of error of +/- 5.9 per cent, but with 37 points separating Penashue from Yvonne Jones, the leading Liberal candidate, it may not matter much.

Energy East Pipeline: What You Need To Know About TransCanada's Latest Plan

Amid a flood of controversy over two proposed pipelines that would ship crude from Alberta’s oilsands to markets overseas, progress is picking up on plans to construct a third pipeline that would bring oil across the country to the East Coast.

The TransCanada Corp. project, the Energy East Pipeline, would move oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to ports and refineries in Atlantic Canada.

"Shadows of Liberty": New Film Explores How Corporate Control of Media Erodes Press Freedoms

The new documentary "Shadows of Liberty" had its U.S. premiere last night at the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver. Using individual cases of journalists whose attempts to tell their stories have been muzzled by corporations and the government, the film shows how a corporate-controlled media can silence the truth about issues ranging from war to labor practices. In one instance, CBS refused to re-air an investigation by the prize-winning journalist Roberta Baskin on Nike’s use of sweatshop labor in Vietnam.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

B.C. pipeline follies

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It seems like only yesterday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was talking about the Great Northern Gateway to Energy Prosperity in China the way prime minister Wilfrid Laurier used to talk about his vision for a Grand Trunk Pacific Railway to the Northwest Coast back in 1903.

Wealthy who stash millions in offshore accounts can no longer hide, OECD says

Gone are the days when the wealthy 1 per cent could stash their millions in sun-drenched tax havens and the world would turn a blind eye.

The release of 2.5 million documents by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) detailing the activities of tens of thousands of people and corporations who have an estimated $32 trillion in offshore accounts is providing a paper trail for cash-strapped governments looking to recoup lost funds.

Canadian housing market ‘in a highly unusual place’

Toronto house prices are likely to continue to soften into next year, but will avoid a hotly anticipated major downturn, as “2013 finds the Canadian housing industry in a highly unusual place,” according to a new quarterly housing survey by Royal LePage.

The rare combination of low interest rates, flattening house prices and an improving economy “is not something we’ve seen before,” says Royal LePage president Phil Soper.

Robocalls: What Will Charged Junior Tory Reveal?

A junior Conservative staffer on the 2011 federal campaign in the Guelph riding has been charged with attempting to prevent someone from voting, an offence under the Canada Elections Act.

The staffer's name is Michael Sona.

He is alleged to have committed his offence by ordering automated -- or "robo" -- calls, which told carefully selected "non-Conservative" voters, falsely, that polling stations had been moved.

The strategic importance of a 'talkfest' on drought

To grasp just how dangerous droughts are, consider that, according to the top UN disaster experts, there's simply nothing bigger "in terms of human mortality." Not even famine or flooding.

When drought combined with famine and social unrest in Ethiopia in 1984-85, a million people died within weeks.

Drought prevention ranks up there with nuclear safety as, well, super important.

Senator wants answers on colleague's role in offshore account

A Liberal senator says he wants his caucus colleague, Senator Pana Merchant, to explain herself following the revelation by CBC News yesterday that she has been the beneficiary of a secret offshore trust set up by her husband.

"We're all innocent until proven guilty in this country, but I want to hear her explanation," Senator Percy Downe, who has campaigned for years against the abuse of offshore tax havens, told CBC News in an interview.

Justin Trudeau poised to make politics exciting: poll

Get ready for a three-way race.

With Justin Trudeau at the helm, the Liberals would essentially tie the Harper Conservatives in decided votes if an election were held tomorrow, according to a new Ipsos-Reid poll for Global News.

And the NDP, under leader Thomas Mulcair, wouldn’t be far behind.

“It makes the House of Commons an interesting place to watch now,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Reid.

Missouri Lawmaker Wants To Tie Welfare Benefits To Public School Attendance

A Republican lawmaker in Missouri wants to tie welfare benefits to school attendance with a bill that would require 90 percent attendance for children of families receiving benefits.

Steve Cookson (R-Poplar Bluff) , the state House elementary and secondary education committee chairman, filed legislation Wednesday that would mandate school-age children of welfare recipients attend public school 90 percent of the time, unless the children are physically disabled, "in order to receive benefits." The one-sentence bill does not specify if medical absences would be counted or if students from private, parochial or charter schools would face a similar mandate.

Legal Group Launches to Aggressively Challenge US Government Prosecutions of Whistleblowers

A legal group of criminal defense attorneys has formed to combat what they describe as the FBI and Justice Department’s use of harassment and over-prosecution to chill and silence those who engage in journalism, Internet activism or dissent.

The group, the Whistleblower Defense League, will, according to attorney Jason Flores-Williams, defend individuals engaged in investigating the United States government and those who are “in positions to reveal truths about this government and its relationships with other governments and corporations.”

It’s time to ban corporate donations from city politics

Political skulduggery is a hot topic in Montreal these days. This incredible imbroglio shows us that mixing business with politics is fraught with danger. All the more reason why the City of Ottawa should take every step it can to separate the pecuniary interests of corporations and unions from our elected officials who make decisions for the public good. What I am talking about is banning corporate and union donations from municipal politics.

This is not merely an academic question. Six unions, nine associations and 174 corporations donated $134,335 to help Jim Watson become mayor. Larry O’Brien’s campaign took in $52,512 from one association and 89 corporate supporters in a losing effort.

iPod Tariff Increased In Federal Budget, Along With Wigs For Cancer Patients: Economist

OTTAWA - A business professor has discovered that last month's federal budget contained a five-per-cent increase in the tariff on iPods, as well as tricycles and wigs often used by cancer patients.

But Mike Moffatt said he thinks the government placed the levy on iPods and other digital music players by accident, tripped up by the complex tariff codes.

At National Conference for Media Reform, Activists Hope to Stop Murdoch, Koch-Backed Consolidation

We broadcast from the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver, where some 2,000 people are expected to gather to look at how media, technology and democracy intersect. One of the major topics this year is media consolidation. As newspapers struggle to survive, billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have expressed interest in buying Tribune Company, which includes The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is also weighing a bid for the Los Angeles Times in a market where he already owns two television stations. We’re joined by Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, the main organizer of the National Conference for Media Reform.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Derrick de Kerckhove, PhD Student, Questions Need For Streamlined Environmental Assessments

Research is questioning the logic behind the federal government's move to streamline environmental assessments.

After tracking thousands of assessments over a decade, the peer-reviewed findings of Derrick de Kerckhove suggest a great majority of Fisheries Act environmental reviews over the last decade were completed well within recommended timelines.

Nor was there a bottleneck of projects being held up by a clogged review process, he said.

CP Oil Spill In Northern Ontario Grows From 4 To 400 Barrels

WHITE RIVER, Ont. - The cleanup operation at the site of a freight train derailment in northwestern Ontario has broadened.

Canadian Pacific says while it initially thought only four barrels of oil has escaped the toppled cars, it appears about 400 barrels broke free.

Insurers Fined $15 Million For Massive Fraud Kickback Scheme

For more than a decade, four mortgage insurance companies paid illegal kickbacks to banks as part of a scheme that greatly inflated insurance costs for distressed homeowners, the nation's top consumer financial regulator said Thursday.

The companies -- Genworth Mortgage Insurance Corporation, United Guaranty Corporation, Radian Guaranty Inc., and Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation -- colluded with the banks, which forced borrowers to purchase policies from specific insurers, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The companies agreed to pay $15 million to resolve the charges.

Wall Street's Congress Investment Yields Dividends In Deregulation Votes

WASHINGTON -- The recent Wall Street deregulation push in Congress has been fueled by a significant disparity in campaign donations from big banks: Members of Congress who voted to expand taxpayer support for big banks in late March have received nearly eight times as much money from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup as the members who voted against the legislation, according to an analysis by MapLight, a government transparency nonprofit.