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, April 25, 2013

Nick Clegg takes on the Tories over 'snoopers' charter'

Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, appeared to put a stop to the Tory proposals during his weekly Call Clegg programme on LBC Radio, saying they are “not going to happen”.

Mr Cameron’s official spokesman insisted that discussions about the plans are still “ongoing”, however senior Lib Dems said that Mr Clegg had “killed” the proposals.

Gun Control: 45 Percent of the Senate Foils 90 Percent of America

"Shame on you!" That was the verdict shouted from the gallery as the Senate voted down the gun-control amendment introduced by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), which would have extended federal background checks to cover both gun shows and Internet arms sales. The heckler was Patricia Maisch – a hero of the 2011 Tuscon shooting, who knocked a clip out of Jared Loughner's hands, helping to end that rampage.

Billionaire Dan Loeb Turtles, Flees Investor Conference, After Political Affiliations Exposed

Last week, I wrote an article about hedge fund king Dan Loeb's involvement with StudentsFirstNY, a group that lobbies against defined benefit plans in public-sector retirement funds. What made that story interesting was that Loeb takes money from defined benefit plans, so turning around and supporting a group that campaigns against guaranteed benefits for teachers and other public-sector workers seemed like a peculiarly ugly form of betrayal, particularly coming from someone who doesn't need to worry too much about his own retirement.

Yemeni Whose Village Was Bombed Testifies At First Senate Drone Hearing

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist and journalist whose village was bombed last week, was one of six witnesses who testified before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon about the effects and consequences of the Obama administration's drone and killing program in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. The other witnesses included lawyers, journalists and former members of the military, many of whom were bothered by the program's secrecy. Despite recent pledges by President Obama to increase transparency in how the government kills those it suspects of terrorism, the White House declined to send a representative to the hearing – the first on this topic in the Senate. The administration also failed to appear before a similar House panel in February.

Taxpayer-funded MP mail-outs target Trudeau

The Liberal Party’s research office was gleefully distributing these proposed mailers for Conservative MPs that attack new leader Justin Trudeau’s experience and judgment.

The letter attached says that Tory MPs can sign off and allow the Conservative Research Group to handle mailing out the so-called “10 per center” on their behalf. The cost to send to 40,000 households is about $175 out of each MPs’ budget. (That is to say, $175 ultimately drawn on the taxpayer-funded exchequer. But, really, at this point, who’s counting?)

Terror bill becomes law despite concerns over civil liberties, redundancy

OTTAWA — As passions flared in the wake of a foiled terror plot to attack a Via Rail passenger train, parliamentarians passed a controversial bill Wednesday to give law enforcement additional tools to stop such activities before they escalate.

Though never before been used, a number of the provisions have been on the books before. Critics, who’ve raised concerns about the bill’s impact on civil liberties, say this week’s arrests are proof the measures are not needed, while experts offer mixed reviews.

War of the Rosedale - Idle No More crashes young Liberals’ Scotch and cigar club

When I pressed the doorbell, a bit of yellow goo dripped onto my fingers. Then I noticed the broken shells.

The April meeting of the Rosedale Club had been egged. I didn’t know people did that in real life.

Situated deep in the valley between knowing parody and inscrutable obliviousness, the club is a project of early-20-something Zach Paikin and his friends. Paikin, son of TVO broadcaster Steve, is a right-leaning Liberal, full-time networker and grad student at the Munk School of Global Affairs. Seven of his Facebook profile pictures show him posing alongside past and present Liberal leaders.

Counting on housing

The only way reporters could look inside the city’s controversial homeless census last Wednesday, April 17, was to actually participate in it.

Despite the journalistic dilemma this posed, the city deemed that a visible media presence might skew the results of the Street Needs Assessment, a one-day blitz that sends more than 500 volunteers out into the streets and shelters to count and appraise the needs of the homeless population.

Stintz aims to take control of transit debate

One year after orchestrating a special meeting to kill Rob Ford’s subway dream, TTC chair Karen Stintz is again planning to bypass the mayor and bring a major transit debate to council.

On Tuesday, Mayor Ford’s executive committee voted 6-4 to defer a staff report on taxes and tolls dedicated to transit. The report was to go to council next month so that the city could give input on a provincial funding strategy for GTA transportation expansion.

Being In the Middle Class Means Worrying About Falling Behind

Americans still believe they can reach for the stars, but they are increasingly fearful they are standing on a trapdoor as they try.

That’s the deeply ambivalent message from the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll exploring the public’s perception of what it means to be middle class in America today. Fully 56 percent of those surveyed said they believe they will eventually climb to a higher rung on the economic ladder than they occupy now. But even more said they worry about falling into a lower economic class sometime in the next few years. Reaffirming the results in earlier Heartland Monitor polls, most of those surveyed said the middle class today enjoys less opportunity, job security, and disposable income than earlier generations did. And strikingly small percentages of American adults said they consider it “very realistic” that they can meet such basic financial goals as paying for their children’s college, retiring comfortably, or saving “enough money to … deal with a health emergency or job loss.”

Bank Owned by Paraguay’s Leading Presidential Candidate Linked to Tax Haven

Top officials of a Paraguayan bank owned by Horacio Manuel Cartes, the country’s leading candidate in this month’s presidential election, operated a secret financial institution in a tax haven in the South Pacific, files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveal.

Cartes' father, Ramón Telmo Cartes Lind, and four other executives of Paraguay’s Banco Amambay S.A. created Amambay Trust Bank Ltd. in 1995 in the Cook Islands, a tiny chain of atolls and volcanic outcroppings more than 6,000 miles away from the South American nation.

Finnish Finance Minister Calls State-Owned Postal Company’s Links to Tax Havens 'Repulsive'

Finnish state-owned postal company Itella has offshore subsidiaries in both Cyprus and the BVI, documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show.

The revelation comes at a time when the Finnish government promised to be at the frontline of the fight against tax evasion. Since 2011, Finland has explored the possibility of adopting a stricter set of criteria for tax havens, surpassing the standards applied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Bankrupt Swedish Tycoon Had Fortune Stashed in South Pacific

Real estate mogul Hans Thulin built offshore maze as Swedish government and other creditors pursued him, secret records show.

STOCKHOLM — Bankrupt Swedish real estate tycoon Hans Thulin had as much as $17 million sheltered offshore at a time when the Swedish government was pursuing him in court for millions of dollars in unpaid debts, according to secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and reviewed by Fokus, Sweden’s leading newsmagazine.

One in 10 Finnish men now unemployed

The increasing rate of unemployment in Finland has been especially hard on the country’s men, one in 10 of who are out of work. Finland’s unemployment rate has now reached the nine per cent mark, but the rate among men is closer to 10 per cent.

Finland recently conducted a labour force survey which indicates about 41,000 public and private sector jobs have disappeared from the country since 2012, adding 9,000 more people to the list of 236,000 Finnish citizens now searching for jobs.

Toronto’s missing shelter beds

It’s the night of Jan. 21. Toronto’s temperature has dipped below -15 degrees Celsius without the wind chill, and an extreme cold weather alert is in effect. It’s so cold that the wind feels like it’s tearing through the skin of anyone brave enough to weather the city’s frigid streetscape.

Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto street pastor Doug Johnson Hatlem is one of those people.

Why we must rely on a Jedi mind trick to create transit funding

Ontario’s new premier, Kathleen Wynne, was doing a bit of a media blitz on transit last week, so I went up to Queen’s Park to chat with her for a few minutes about City Hall’s favourite subject. Her key message, delivered the day before in a talk at the CivicAction Alliance forum and summarized again for me, was like music to a long-suffering bus rider’s ears.

“The priority is helping people to move around the city better, more quickly, and dealing with the issues around lost productivity because of congestion,” she says. “We have not built transit seriously for a generation, probably two, and so we’ve never decided as a society to have an ongoing stream of revenue dedicated to transit. And I think we’ve demonstrated over the past two generations that we’re not going to build transit if we don’t have that revenue stream.” And, yes, she is in favour of such a stream. Amen.

Over 200 Killed in Bangladesh Factory Collapse After Workers Forced to Ignore Building’s Dangers

The death toll in Bangladesh has topped 200 after an eight-story garment factory building collapsed with thousands of workers inside. More than 1,000 people were injured, and an unknown number of workers are still trapped in the wreckage. Cracks had been found in the building, but workers say the factory owners forced them to go to work anyway. Protests broke out in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka today as angry workers blocked key highways, marched on several factories, and rallied outside the headquarters of Bangladesh’s main manufacturers group. The disaster comes exactly five months after a massive fire killed at least 112 garment workers at Bangladesh’s Tazreen factory, which made clothing sold by Wal-Mart, among other companies. We’re joined by two guests: Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and Charlie Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Connect The Dots On Climate Change: The Tangible Effects Of A Warming World

Climate change means drastic and long-term effects like rising sea levels and the increased likelihood of extreme weather events. But across the world, we are already witnessing the consequences of a warming world.

In the U.S., climate change means that allergies are getting worse as pollen counts increase, and some of your favorite foods -- from apples to oysters to coffee and wine -- are also in jeopardy. Warmer winters in northern latitudes also mean worsening conditions for outdoor sports like hockey, dog sled racing and skiing. There is also increased pressure on an already fragile water supply.

The Chechen Factor and the Marathon Bombings

Last Monday I was on Boylston Street, having just completed my first Boston Marathon, when the bombs detonated. As is so often the case in the digital age, I may have been just a couple of hundred yards from the epicenter, but in the immediate aftermath, people watching on television and following via social media knew far more than I about the unfolding horror. I could hear the sirens, could see some anxious faces, but I was shielded from the full force of events.

The fact that I never felt that initial sense of panic proved to be a calming factor in ensuing days, as I repeatedly contemplated my good fortune at not having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But now, as editor of EurasiaNet, I’m wrestling with the news that those suspected of carrying out the bombings, Tamerlan and Djokar Tsarnaev, are Chechens who lived for a long stretch in Kyrgyzstan.This adds a potentially volatile element to efforts to seek justice for the victims of the attacks, as well as to foster a sense of closure for those in the Boston metropolitan area, and all those affected by the mind-boggling events of the past week.

Helping whom, exactly?

IT IS the sad fate of American overseas food aid to occupy a policy “sweet spot”, says Chris Barratt, an expert in the subject at Cornell University. Its budget, the largest of any country’s, is big enough to attract rapacious special interests, but still sufficiently small and complex that its scandalous inefficiencies rarely make headlines.

Scandalous barely covers it. Since America began donating surplus wheat, corn meal, vegetable oil and other farm commodities to the world’s hungry six decades ago, the programme has been captured by an “iron triangle” of farm interests, shippers and voluntary organisations, with plenty of help from Congress. Rules state that most food aid must be bought from American farmers and processed in America. At least half must then be carried on American-flag ships. With competition severely curbed, ocean shipping eats up 16% of the budget for the largest food-aid programme, Food for Peace.

The Cost of Ad Hoc Aid - How uncertainty and inconsistency are undermining Canada's aid policy

Canada has a strong record of providing assistance for combating poverty and underdevelopment. Particularly in Africa, Canada maintains a positive reputation on the continent as a partner in development with no colonial legacy. In a region where traditional colonial relations are still apparent and sensitivities exist, this makes Canada an influential force. Indeed, Canada’s role on the continent is impressive. In 2011 Canadian official development assistance (ODA) reached every Sub-Saharan African country with the exception of Mayotte, St Helena, Seychelles, and Mauritius (the 2012 data is not available yet via the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)). But recent policy approaches surrounding ODA threaten Canada’s current position.

Canada Post says they hold trademark on the words ‘postal code’

In a stunning update to the lawsuit currently underway between Canada Post and Geolytica, the firm which runs, Canada Post now claims they also own the common word pair “postal code.”

In an amended statement of claim, filed this week in federal court, Canada Post is expanding their original claim — that they own the copyright to postal codes — against Geolytica to include not just copyright violations but trademark violations.

The Problem With Public Shaming

Today most people would tell you that the stocks, pillory and other tools of public punishment are barbaric. We’ve moved passed them, having figured out more humane ways to deal with crime. Why, then, the resurgence of public shaming, namely the mainstream acceptance of the “dox,” which, in its purest form, is the digging up of a target’s personal information—name, phone number, address, Social Security number, familial relationships, financial history—and exposing it online to encourage harassment from others? This practice has gradually been popularized by Anonymous, the amorphous collective of trolls and “hacktivists” that alternately terrorize tween girls and disable government websites.

8 Things You Won't See At The George W. Bush Presidential Library

"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." —Former President George W. Bush, July 2012

On Thursday, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will be officially dedicated at Southern Methodist University, a school attended by the likes of former First Lady Laura Bush, actor Powers Boothe, and Kourtney Kardashian. The invitation-only event will be attended by President Obama, before he visits a memorial at Baylor University for victims of the West, Texas plant explosion. A spokesperson says attendance at the library dedication is expected to be in the thousands.

The Immigration Bill's Forced-Labor Problem

The recruiter promised Ana Rosa Diaz three things before she came to the United States from Mexico to work for CJ's Seafood: She'd be peeling crab, she'd be making $8.53 an hour, and she'd be working for six months out of the year.

Instead, Diaz ended up peeling crawfish in a cramped room with about 40 other workers until her nails were torn off, was paid by the pound instead of the hour with no overtime, and was sent home after only about five months. Even so, she was desperate. The money wasn't what she was promised, but it was good enough that she talked a friend, Martha Uvalle, into joining her a few years after she first left for Louisiana in 2003. Diaz and Uvalle both had families to think of—Diaz has four children and Uvalle has five. So every year, they'd relocate to Louisiana and live in a trailer park for five months, peeling crawfish from five in the morning until three in the afternoon six days a week until they were sent home.

Sun News ‘Canadian TV First' Campaign Uses U.S. Footage: Report

Sun News has been working tirelessly to convince the CRTC it should be made a mandatory part of basic cable, and one of the channel’s principle arguments is that it is a major producer of Canadian content.

But its own campaign to highlight this appears to be a little heavy on American content.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor points out in a blog post that at least one segment in Sun News’ video presentation to the CRTC comes from a U.S. stock footage company.

John Baird Slams United Nations Over Boston Bombings Remark

OTTAWA - Canada slammed a top United Nations official Wednesday for suggesting the Boston Marathon attacks were the result of the United States "global domination project" and Washington's policy on Israel.

Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, made the controversial remarks in an April 21 commentary published in Foreign Policy Journal.

"The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world," wrote Falk.

Canada Anti-Terror Bill S-7 Passes House Of Commons

OTTAWA - When the Conservatives suddenly decided to bring anti-terrorism legislation to a vote, they pinned the urgency on current events.

The move to go ahead with the Combating Terrorism Act after it had sat in the House of Commons for months came days after twin explosions at the Boston Marathon killed three and wounded scores more.

Meanwhile, officials continue to probe links between an attack at a gas plant in Algeria last January and a group of men from London, Ont.

Interim PBO again requests contentious budget data

OTTAWA — Interim parliamentary budget officer Sonia L’Heureux is resuming her predecessor’s battle for information with another round of requests to all deputy ministers to turn over details on the impact on their departments of the Conservatives’ $5.2 billion spending cuts from last year’s budget.

The letters, which are expected to be sent Thursday to 84 departments and agencies, comes within days of a Federal Court decision that dismissed former PBO Kevin Page’s application in a ruling that also reaffirmed the right of the PBO to ask for the information it has been seeking for more than a year.

Conservative anti-terror bill and arrests match up beautifully, don’t they

How odd. The week after the Boston bombings, the Conservative government had MPs suddenly debating an anti-terror bill that had long been hanging around with its hands in its pockets. The very same day, conveniently, the RCMP arrested two alleged terrorists.

They had a tip from an imam, the cops said. They got it a year ago.

Canada’s Oil Minister, Unmuzzled

The last time your friendly scribe sought an interview with Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, he was turned down flat. It was February last year. Oliver had made a series of impolitic remarks about the efforts to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which, if it’s ever built, would import oil from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast — and which Canadians believe that the United States would be nuts to reject.

Mr. Nice finds a way to fight Harper’s dirt machine

There’s a wily touch in Justin Trudeau’s response to Stephen Harper’s insulting attack ads. In his own just-released publicity spot, the new Liberal leader is standing with a school classroom as a backdrop.

With the bullying controversy a heated one in our schools and with Trudeau referencing Harper’s … let’s call them ‘low-grade tactics’, the message comes through: Political leaders should occupy higher ground. Canadians deserve a better role model as prime minister than a practitioner of gutter politics.

Tory Slime Machine is losing the fight it picked with Justin Trudeau -- for now

Round One in the fight started with Justin Trudeau by the Tory Slime Machine pretty clearly went to Trudeau -- well, to Trudeau and the Canadian Liver Foundation.

Now, Round Two, Trudeau's riposte, a 30-second video ad released by the Liberal Party yesterday, seems to have gone his way too.

I am speaking here as a guy who’s spent a lot of time and money over the past decade working on advertising campaigns. Naturally, there are tons -- or should that be tonnes? -- of qualifiers about this. Just for starters: Where will the ads run? Who will actually get to see these things?

Temporary foreign workers: A part of our heritage

There has been much bristling over the Royal Bank of Canada's recent move to replace 50 Canadian employees with temporary foreign workers. Yes Canada’s largest bank, with profits in excess of $7 billion, was caught sending Canadian jobs overseas in order to save a few bucks.

But I for one will say that critics have rushed to judgment far too quickly. Their mistake? Forgetting that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program reaches back to the very roots of Canada -- to our national DNA if you will.

How the Conservatives built the temporary worker pipeline, and why you should care

When IT worker Dave Moreau went public about the fact that the largest bank in Canada was firing him and 44 of his RBC colleagues while bringing in temporary workers from another country to learn their jobs, he blew the lid off a program hidden in plain sight.

Since coming to office in 2006, the Conservatives have massively expanded the pipeline that brings workers from around the world who often toil for less money and endure little to no meaningful workplace protections or human rights.

Commons passes controversial anti-terrorism bill, NDP says feds should put money back into RCMP, border security, and CSIS instead

PARLIAMENT HILL—A controversial government bill containing new anti-terrorism detention and arrest powers which human rights groups say threatens civil liberties in Canada passed through the Commons Wednesday after a series of coincidental incidents that kept crucial information almost entirely excluded from the final debate—the successful arrest on Monday of two alleged terrorism plotters in Toronto and Montreal under existing anti-terrorism law.

Bangladesh garment factory collapse kills more than 200

Deep cracks visible in the walls of a Bangladesh garment building had compelled police to order it evacuated a day before it collapsed, officials said Thursday. More than 200 people were killed when the eight-storey building splintered into a pile of concrete because factories based there ignored the order and kept more than 2,000 people working.

Wednesday's disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar is the worst ever for Bangladesh's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire less than five months earlier that killed 112 people. Workers at both sites made clothes for major brands around the world; some of the companies in the building that fell say their customers include retail giants such as Wal-Mart.

Toronto city council must speak up on funding transit

If Mayor Rob Ford gets his way, silence will be Toronto’s official contribution to recommendations shaping public transit for decades to come.

Silence on endorsing new “revenue tools” to fund a bold attack on costly gridlock. Silence, despite calls for action from business, labour, academics and urban activists across the Greater Toronto Area. Silence when the city’s own staff urges action.

Tim Hudak — the last Thatcherite

Tim Hudak wants Ontario voters to know he’s a changed man.

He’s strong now, not weak. He’s ready to fight, not compromise. He believes in hard-right politics, not the mushy middle.

In a revealing interview this week with Martin Regg Cohn, the Star’s provincial affairs columnist, Hudak portrayed himself as a protégé of Mike Harris, the former Conservative premier who is providing advice to the current Tory leader.

Jason Kenney creating a two-tier Canada

Terrorism was one reason for the inordinate delays in the processing of immigration papers to Canada — each applicant had to have a thorough security check, which took time. How is it, then, that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has managed to rush in hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers in record time? Have they been given only a cursory security check — and the briefest of medicals?

When the Conservatives took office in 2006, there were 140,000 temporary foreign workers (farm labourers, nannies, professionals, etc.). That number has since jumped to 338,000.

Escalating ad war around Justin Trudeau drowns out freedom-of-speech debate in Parliament

OTTAWA—Freedom of speech met the power of advertising in Parliament on Wednesday — and the ads won the day.

While the stage had been set in Ottawa for a debate over whether MPs are free to speak their minds, a new wave of ads created a battle over the freedom to wage partisan advertising wars instead.

Liberals are crying foul at yet another set of looming Conservative attacks on their new leader, Justin Trudeau, which are due to be mass-mailed to voters in flyers financed by the public purse.

Ottawa gives security agencies “exceptional” powers to probe terror plots

OTTAWA—With bombings abroad and a terror plot at home, MPs have voted to give Canadian security officials “exceptional” powers to probe potential terrorist acts — powers that critics say trample on civil liberties.

Anti-terror legislation passed Wednesday will enable preventive arrests, meaning Canadians can be held for up to three days without charge. And it opens the door to investigative hearings, where people can be compelled to testify under threat of detention.

Condo renters pay hefty price for downtown living

Kerri Lynn McAllister was shocked last month to receive notice of an almost 10 per cent increase — $150 a month — on the downtown condo she and her boyfriend had been renting for $1,625.

She was even more surprised to find out the hike — three times what’s allowed for most apartments under provincial rent controls — was perfectly legal.

Canadian oil minister Joe Oliver condemns climatologist James Hansen

Canada's natural resources minister, Joe Oliver, rarely bothers to hide his dislike for critics of the country's carbon-heavy tar sands or the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

But it still came as a surprise to hear Oliver lash out at one of America's pre-eminent scientists, climatologist James Hansen, during a visit to Washington DC.

'You voted against money for our troops': NDP calls out Peter MacKay

On Wednesday in the House of Commons, the Opposition tried to get answers from Defence Minister Peter MacKay on the cutting of danger pay for some of the Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

The Minister tried to claim that this was all an unfortunate error, caused by an "arm's length" process, and that the Government is looking into remedies.

Fair enough, perhaps, although until the matter became public the Government was not rushing to do anything about it.

But, then, MacKay had to get in his own shot at the Opposition.