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, April 29, 2013

Racial Wealth Gap Exacerbated By Great Recession: Study

The Great Recession decimated the wealth of many Americans, but the downturn hit black and Hispanic families especially hard, a new study finds, widening the already large gap in wealth between white and minority households.

The average white family was six times wealthier in 2010 than the average black or Hispanic family, according to a study from the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research organization. That’s up from 1983, when the average white family was five-times as wealthy as the average black or Hispanic family.

Lamar Smith, GOP Push Politicization Of Scientific Research

WASHINGTON -- Republicans on the House science committee are making an unprecedented move to require oversight of the scientific research process, pushing a bill that would in effect politicize decisions made by the National Science Foundation, according to a draft of the legislation acquired by The Huffington Post. As part of the same effort, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, sent a letter to the NSF Thursday demanding that it provide supporting materials to justify research that its panels of independent scientists have approved.

Austerity Having A 'Devastating Effect' On Health, Researchers Find

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - Austerity is having a devastating effect on health in Europe and North America, driving suicide, depression and infectious diseases and reducing access to medicines and care, researchers said on Monday.

Detailing a decade of research, Oxford University political economist David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist at Stanford University, said their findings show austerity is seriously bad for health.

Preschool Funding Reached 'State Of Emergency' In 2012: NIEER Report

States are drastically underfunding programs for their youngest learners now more than ever, according to a report released Monday, even as researchers and policymakers increasingly point to pre-school as a ladder to the middle class.

Funding per student for state pre-school programs has reached its lowest point in a decade, according to "The State of Preschool 2012," the annual yearbook released by Rutgers University's National Institute for Early Education Research. "The 2011-2012 school year was the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for America’s children," the authors wrote. After a decade of increasing enrollment, that growth stalled, according to the report. Though the 2011-2012 school year marks the first time pre-K enrollment didn't increase along with the rate of population change.

A Fighter by His Trade: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Sports and the American Dream

“The most difficult part of getting to the top of the ladder is getting through the crowd at the bottom.”
       —Arch Ward (1896–1955), Chicago Tribune sports editor and founder of the Golden Gloves of America Tournament of Champions

Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin.

THE THING THAT STRUCK ME when I first met my cousin Houston was his size. He wasn't much taller than me, if at all, and was slight of frame. On the other side of the visitors' glass, he looked surprisingly small, young for his 22 years. The much more remarkable thing about him turned out to be his vocabulary, vast and lovely, lyrical almost—until it came to an agitated or distracted halt. In any case, all things considered, he seemed altogether extremely unlike a person who had recently murdered someone.

Bangladesh Factory Collapse: Joe Fresh Owner Loblaws Moves Into Damage Control Mode

Joe Fresh’s owner, Loblaw Co., held an emergency meeting with the Retail Council of Canada Monday to discuss how the company will address a deadly collapse at a Bangladesh factory that made clothes for the Canadian chain of cheap chic fashions.

“We are committed to finding an approach that ensures safe working conditions, drives lasting change in the industry and helps prevents other tragedies,” the company said in a statement.

Forget Keystone – it’s everything else Joe Oliver is saying that’s important

Lately, Canada’s natural resources minister, Joe Oliver, is spending a lot of time in the U.S., singing the virtues of the Keystone XL pipeline, that would funnel Alberta crude down to refineries in the southern States. At the same time, he’s been calling out those warning continued oilsands exploration could worsen climate change. But it’s not the fights he’s picking with rocket scientists about climate change that are ultimately important. That’s just a sideshow, and likely a rhetorically strategic one. What’s really important is everything else he’s saying.

Getting to the bottom of 'root causes'

OTTAWA -- It's not entirely clear how one might go about committing sociology, but the prime minister of Canada apparently thinks doing so is a bad thing, at least when it comes to trying to figure out what motivates terrorists to kill.

"I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology," Stephen Harper said Thursday in the wake of the Boston bombings and the arrests of two men in Canada accused of plotting to blow up a Via Rail train.

Ambitious young Tories hoping for Cabinet posts are mere pawns in Harper’s game

Watching Michelle Rempel in the House of Commons Thursday, it was obvious why so many people think she’s a lock for a job in Cabinet when Stephen Harper shuffles his deck this summer.

The 32-year-old from Calgary is pretty — can we still say that? — and shrewd. She was taking part in a debate on climate change and revealed that as a 10-year-old “science geek,” she read about Earth Day and started worrying about climate change.

Five reasons Canada should NOT ratify a Canada-EU free trade agreement

Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of British Columbia recently wrote a column for Troy Media on the virtues of the Canada-European Union free trade deal. He listed five reasons why he thinks the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, should be ratified as soon as possible.

But there are at least as many reasons why Prime Minister Stephen Harper should walk away from the CETA negotiations. Most relate to the ways that CETA is not about trade at all but about making dubious policy reforms that constrain our economic, social and environmental policy options in the future.

Report launch: Fracking in Nova Scotia -- the real story

This past Monday evening (on Mother Earth Day), NOFRAC launched the report, Out of Control: Nova Scotia's experience with fracking for shale gas, in the community it happened back in 2007-2008. Kennetcook, N.S. still has tailings ponds full of fracking waste, and many community members didn't know the details of what had happened or even where the toxic waste ponds are.

To read the report, report summary and supporting documentation, click here.

To read the Chronicle Herald on the report and launch, click here.

Project mania and partisan rants in the B.C. election

One can excuse politicians in the heat of a campaign of simplifying issues and seeking out tags and slags in lieu of substantive debate. But there is no excuse for leading columnists of major newspapers, like Barbara Yaffe in her most recent attack on the B.C. NDP, to do the same.

Yaffe raises the spectre of economic doom because of the NDP's opposition to a number of major projects. Much like the proponents' themselves, she decries the jobs that may be lost if these projects do not go ahead. People will apparently have to go to Alberta, she suggests, to find work.

Canada, your Emperor has no clothes

On our first day of fundraising for the NoRobo Campaign, we had a exciting and scary moment when an article written about us appeared on Postmedia's The tone was both critical and amused, but it was a pleasure to see her cite our assertion that the Robocall Scandal "is the biggest case of electoral fraud in Canada, ever."

That might seem like a big statement until you know how easy it is to make it. During the 2011 federal election there were complaints of voter fraud in 247 of Canada's 308 ridings. Three major polling companies estimate 690,000 voters got fraudulent calls telling them to vote in the wrong place. That's almost three per cent of Canadian households!

Insiders say Canada 'scammed' by foreign worker industry

Several information technology industry insiders have come forward to expose some of the inner workings of multinational outsourcing companies from India, which they claim exploit Canada's temporary work visa system and bring no real benefit.

“I need to stop this scam. I am hurting,” said one experienced Canadian IT worker, originally from India, who told CBC he’s been pushed out of his industry as a result of outsourcing.

Marriage fraud: Canadian immigration officials tread thin line

The immigration officer pondered the woman’s older age, better education and large family — and denied 21-year-old Sarem Soomro’s application to sponsor his wife to Canada.

To the shock of Soomro and his parents, his arranged marriage to 25-year-old Ghulam Fatima Soomro in Pakistan was deemed a fake.

“We have worked very hard to give Sarem a normal life,” said his upset mother, Armaghan Soomro, a support worker for the Red Cross and a CPR instructor for St. John Ambulance.

On Sequester, Republicans Finally Cross the Line from Obstructionism Into Insanity

I won't waste space in this blog discussing the harmful effects of the sequester. If the recent FAA debacle doesn't give you an idea of how bad this is, or how bad it will get, nothing will.

Instead, I want to highlight just how crazy the Republican position is on this issue.

A Desperate Situation at Guantánamo: Over 130 Prisoners on Hunger Strike, Dozens Being Force-Fed

The U.S. military has acknowledged for the first time the number of prisoners on hunger strike at the military prison has topped 100. About a fifth of the hunger strikers are now being force-fed. Lawyers for the prisoners say more than 130 men are taking part in the hunger strike, which began in February. One of the hunger strikers is a Yemeni man named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. In a letter published in The New York Times, he wrote: "Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late." We speak to attorney Carlos Warner, who represents 11 prisoners at Guantánamo. He spoke to one of them on Friday. "Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo," Warner says. "The president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. But he doesn’t have the political will to do so because 166 men in Guantánamo don’t have much pull in the United States. But the average American on the street does not understand that half of these men, 86 of the men, are cleared for release."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Meals On Wheels Sequestration Cuts Taking Effect

ROANOKE, Va. -- William McCormick remembers from his working-class upbringing in Covington, Va., that neighbors took care of neighbors.

"Both my parents worked in the mill," he said. "For people in the neighborhood who were hungry we'd make up two or three bags of groceries, put $5 or $10 in it, set it on the porch, knock on the door and leave. We wouldn't tell 'em who did it."

Charts: Are the NYPD's Stop-and-Frisks Violating the Constitution?

This week, New York City is defending itself against a lawsuit that claims its controversial "stop and frisk" policy is used to illegally detain and search people on the basis of race. The subject of an ongoing trial, the suit also argues that the weak justifications given by NYPD officers for most stop-and-frisks fail to meet the constitutional burden for search and seizure. We put together this explainer and some charts to help you make sense of what's going on.

Hudak calls for non-confidence vote over gas plants

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is calling for a vote of non-confidence in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government over the cost of two gas plants cancelled by the Liberals during last year’s election.

The Tories introduced a non-confidence motion at Queen's Park on Monday, as Hudak accused the Liberal government of corruption, and said Ontarians should have no faith in Wynne's government because of the gas plants scandal.

The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada

Less than a generation ago, Canada was a world leader when it came to the fundamental democratic freedoms of assembly, speech and information.

In 1982, Canada adopted the Access to Information Act -- making it one of the first countries to pass legislation recognizing the right of citizens to access information held by government, and as recently as 2002, Canada ranked among the top 5 most open and transparent countries when it came to respect for freedom of the press.

Pierre Poilievre’s “Root Causes of Terrorism Is Terrorists” Comment Shows Just How Out of Touch The Harper Government Is, Say Defence Watch Readers

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s musing on how to deal with terrorists certainly generated a lot of reaction among Defence Watch’s readers. The general tone of the emails and discussions was that Poilievre is “out to lunch” and “out of his depth.”

In October 2010, Poilievre allegedly got impatient waiting at a Parliament Hill checkpoint and pressed a button to open the security gate and drove his car through without being identified and without having his vehicle inspected. He later apologized

The road to hell is paved with secrets

At the risk of committing sociology, if not history, some thoughts on an issue that has vanished almost completely from public sight: Canada’s unresolved detainee dilemma and the Harper government’s policy on torture.

It is timely to raise these matters because of a devastating report released last week in the United States on the same subjects.

The 'monarchs of money' and the war on savers

Quietly, without much public fuss or discussion, a new ruling class has risen in the richer nations.

These men and women are unelected and tend to shun the publicity hogged by the politicians with whom they co-exist.

They are the world's central bankers. Every six weeks or so, they gather in Basel, Switzerland, for secret discussions and, to an extent at least, they act in concert.

The decisions that emerge from those meetings affect the entire world. And yet the broad public has a dim understanding, if any, of the job they do.

Why Canadians are stuck in a low interest rate trap

Western economies are caught in a low interest rate trap that is proving a difficult problem to fix.

Rates have been so low for so long, that the trick is how to wean the patient off the cheap-money drug without causing an economic collapse. Nobody knows how to do it safely, which is why rates are bound to stay low for a while yet.

Low-income ‘streaming’ in Ontario high schools alive and well, report says

Ontario may have officially done away with “streaming” in high schools well over a decade ago but in reality the controversial practice continues — and with the same troubling patterns: teens from low-income homes make up the bulk of those taking non-academic credits, a study by People for Education has found.

The numbers show the lower the average family income at a particular secondary school, the higher the percentage of students taking “applied” math.

Remote Control -- Our drone delusion

In the summer of 1960, Sidney Gottlieb, a C.I.A. chemist, flew to Congo with a carry-on bag containing vials of poison and a hypodermic syringe. It was an era of relative subtlety among C.I.A. assassins. The toxins were intended for the food, drink, or toothpaste of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s Prime Minister, who, in the judgment of the Eisenhower Administration, had gone soft on Communism. Upon his arrival, as Tim Weiner recounts in his history of the C.I.A., Gottlieb handed his kit to Larry Devlin, the senior C.I.A. officer in Léopoldville. Devlin asked who had ordered the hit. “The President,” Gottlieb assured him. In later testimony, Devlin said that he felt ashamed of the command. He buried the poisons in a riverbank, but helped find an indirect way to eliminate Lumumba, by bankrolling and arming political enemies. The following January, Lumumba was executed by the Belgian military.

Alberta Jail Guards Continue Strike As Dispute Enters Third Day

EDMONTON - More provincial workers are joining Alberta's prison guards in a wildcat strike, according to their union, while the government counters the union is spreading rumours and many guards are actually returning to work.

Tyler Bedford, a spokesman for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, announced Sunday that provincial sheriffs in Edmonton and Calgary will join the strike by hundreds of jail guards who are ignoring a provincial labour board order to return to work.

Did Obama and Cameron also 'commit sociology'?

Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio's The House, reflects on why words matter in times of crisis in his weekly radio essay as heard on April 27, 2013.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took another not–so–veiled swipe at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau when he said "this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression."

National Defence expected to lose some F-35s before all 65 delivered: Report

OTTAWA — National Defence scientists predicted in 2011 that the military would have almost certainly lost several of its brand-new F-35 stealth fighters before all 65 were even delivered, Postmedia News has learned.

In December 2011, the Defence Department’s research arm, Defence Research and Development Canada, published a report in which it said “that the probability of having 63 or more (F-35s) remaining at this time (when the last one is delivered) is approximately 54 per cent.”

Craziness in Alberta jails continues -- and may get worse today

With Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk at the helm, the stalemate in Alberta's provincial jails continued through the night with wildcatting Correctional Peace Officers still manning picket lines and the government making dubious claims guards were returning to work.

The dispute started months ago over occupational health and safety concerns about Edmonton's just completed $580-million Remand Centre, turned into a strike Friday when two CPOs were disciplined for complaining about them, and quickly spread to the province’s other seven provincial Correctional facilities.

New Poll Gives Dix 'Insurmountable' 22-Point Lead

A new poll gives the opposition New Democrats a massive lead of 22 percentage points, suggesting that the BC Liberals are too far behind for Premier Christy Clark to save her governing party in tonight's televised leaders' debate.

"It's an insurmountable gap," said Barb Justason, whose firm, Justason Market Intelligence, conducted the online/telephone survey of 600 British Columbians between April 15 and 23.

RCMP Accountability Act gets sober second thought from Senate National Security Committee

The government’s legislation to stamp out harassment in the RCMP got a strong defence from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and top Mountie Bob Paulson at the Senate National Security Committee last week, despite concerns that the bill will be used to dismiss officers who complain about harassment within the RCMP.

Within hours of the announcement that the RCMP had arrested two individuals for allegedly plotting to bomb a Via Rail train between Toronto and New York City, Mr. Toews (Provencher, Man.) and Commissioner Paulson were before the Senate National Security and Defence Committee to defend Bill C-42, The Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act.

PM says Federal Court ruling on PBO was ‘against partisan action of former budget officer,’ but current PBO picks up Page’s battle

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says last week’s landmark Federal Court ruling that dismissed the former Parliamentary Budget Office’s application on a technicality, but reaffirmed its right to ask all deputy ministers to hand over details of the impact on their departments of the government’s $5.2-billion spending cuts in last year’s budget, was a ruling “against the partisan action of the former Parliamentary budget officer.”

Feds say they’re trying to make it easier to read $252.5-billion spending in 2013-2014

The government is moving forward on making the way it reports spending easier for Parliamentarians to understand, based on recommendations from MPs, but whether it will follow up on one of the “most exciting” reforms is still up in the air.

Members of Parliament on the House of Commons Government Operations and Estimates Committee want Parliament to vote to approve spending based on the actual programs the money will go to. Right now, votes are organized around vague categories like operating, capital, and grants and contributions.

Canada’s Keystone XL pitch goes into overdrive

Federal officials are stepping up efforts to make the case for the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington D.C., but some experts warn that the frequent public visits could be doing more harm than good.

Between federal Cabinet ministers and Western Canadian premiers, Canadian representatives have been averaging a trip to Washington every two weeks in 2013, with a focus on making the case for the Keystone XL pipeline and addressing concerns over Canada’s environmental record.

With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

Study: Intelligence, cognition unaffected by heavy marijuana use

The new study of cognitive changes caused by heavy marijuana use has found no lasting effects 28 days after quitting. Following a month of abstinence, men and women who smoked pot at least 5,000 times in their lives performed just as well on psychological tests as people who used pot sparingly or not at all, according to a report in the latest edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

That's the good news. The bad news, not included in the study, is that most heavy users admit that pot has had a negative effect on their physical and mental health as well their functioning on the job and socially.