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, June 24, 2013

Alberta could have reduced flood damage, critics say

Successive Alberta Conservative governments failed to act on a shelved 2006 flood-mitigation report that critics now say may have significantly reduced flooding, the displacement of thousands of people, and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

“[The report] was very prescient,” said Paul Kovacs, executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, a think tank at Western University in Ontario.

Sexual harassment on the street: Taking misogynist hate speech seriously

As a society we need to start discussing and confronting one of the last broadly practiced, widely condoned, accepted and excused forms of public hate speech and shaming in Canada. The regular and chronic abuse and violation of women by men through street sexual harassment and intimidation.

Just in the last few days I have personally seen and heard of several explicit examples of male street harassment of women in my own immediate neighbourhood. In one case, as I was taking my kids home on the streetcar I saw a car with two men in their early twenties slow down to yell degrading comments at a young woman of no older than sixteen.

Federal Law Promising Price Cuts On Hospital Bills In Limbo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Huge list prices charged by hospitals are drawing increased attention, but a federal law meant to limit what the most financially vulnerable patients can be billed doesn't seem to be making much difference.

A provision in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul says most hospitals must charge uninsured patients no more than what people with health insurance are billed.

Starbucks Pays UK Corporation Tax For First Time Since 2008

US-based coffee giant Starbucks said on Sunday it had paid £5 million in British corporation tax and will pay another £15 million by next year after facing a backlash from lawmakers and customers over non-payment.

The move comes despite Starbucks claiming that it remained unprofitable in Britain, and that it was looking at closing its struggling stores in the country.

Michael Sona in exile

Its a long way from the North River Road Gospel Hall to the Halls of Justice, and the road just got rockier for the son of a preacher man.

According to Michael Sona, the only person so far charged in the Robocalls Affair, the Crown has decided to proceed against him by indictment rather than summary conviction.

“What this means is that if convicted I will go to jail. What this means is now we have to win the case,” he said.

Ottawapiskat: Amidst raft of scandals, are Canadians really ready for self-government?

With Ottawa embroiled in a mushrooming number of financial embarrassments, observers across Indian Country are raising their collective eyebrows over the Conservatives' focus on alleged First Nations improprieties.

From the arrest of Canada's ex-spy watchdog on corruption charges on May 27, to swirling suspicions around Senator Pamela Wallin's $350,000 travel expenses, and a $90,000 cheque cut by the Prime Minister's since-resigned chief of staff to cover Senator Mike Duffy's falsely claimed P.E.I. residence as his primary home, many are accusing the government of a double-standard when it comes to Aboriginal transparency.

It’s about time secretive Commons Board of Internal Economy yanked into 21st century, says former NDP MP

A former veteran member of the Commons Board of Internal Economy, the powerful governing body of the entire House which meets secretly and which MPs unanimously voted last week to try to scrap and replace with an independent body, says it’s about time the Commons was yanked into this century.

“I’ve personally always felt slightly embarrassed by the terms of reference of the Board of Internal Economy. MPs overseeing themselves in total secrecy, behind closed doors as to how they’re using taxpayers’ money seems to be something that doesn’t fit with this century. Considering what’s gone on in the last little while, I can’t imagine that anybody in the country would be able to justify continuing in the way it was,” former NDP MP Nelson Riis, who served as his party’s House leader for 10 years between 1986 and 1996 and was a longtime member of the Board of Internal Economy, told The Hill Times last week.

Proof of Duffy-Wright cheque won’t spare PMO from RCMP probe

The opposition has spent weeks pressing the federal government to produce a copy of the $90,000 cheque from former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright to disgraced Senator Mike Duffy, but former RCMP national director Garry Clement says that it’s now the Mounties’ job to figure out where the money came from.

Mr. Clement said he expects that investigators will focus on where the transferred funds originated in the ongoing criminal investigation into the transaction between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) former chief of staff Nigel Wright and Senator Mike Duffy.

Why Arianna Huffington says there's more to business than profit

An international conglomeration of corporate leaders that has banded together recently kicked off a new venture — to deliver a so-called 'Plan B' that gets companies to put people and planet alongside their goal of profit.

Spearheaded by British billionaire Richard Branson and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, The "B Team" believe that for far too long, businesses, in pursuit of short term gain, have not accounted for the costs of their activities and negative impacts on society and the environment. Instead, they need to focus on the long term, and the consequences of their actions.

Mayor Rob Ford trashes proposal to close King St. to cars

Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford condemned the idea of closing downtown King St. to car traffic on their radio show Sunday.

“You cannot shut down King St. for streetcars. We need to phase out streetcars,” said Mayor Ford, who would replace them with buses.

Councillor Karen Stintz, who chairs the TTC board, is to move a motion there Monday, asking staff to look into the feasibility of banning cars from King St. in rush hour during the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Canada’s outdated infrastructure vulnerable to disasters, experts warn

Canada’s infrastructure has become more vulnerable to natural disasters such as the flooding in southern Alberta due to the rising cost of upkeep and increasing frequency of dangerous weather due to climate change, say experts attending a major conference on disaster management.

“How prepared are we? One way of answering that is that we will never be as prepared as we could be,” said Adrian Gordon, former President & CEO of the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness.

ORNGE chopper lacked safety system

An air ambulance helicopter that crashed in northern Ontario killing four lacked a key piece of safety gear that may have provided an urgent warning to the pilots to “pull up” as they descended into a forest.

Several of the aging Sikorsky helicopters in ORNGE’s fleet had upgraded electronics, including a ground proximity warning system, but not the one that was based in Moosonee.

That left the crew of the Sikorsky S-76 without a potentially life-saving back-up as they departed on a midnight flight to Attawapiskat from their Moosonee base on May 31.

Canadian foreign aid: Clever politics, poor statesmanship

Canada, like all civilized countries, needs a stable world to nourish its prosperity and civility. International turmoil drains governments of opportunities to improve the lives of their citizens. This is why intelligent, prosperous governments invest in development in less fortunate parts of the world.

When I was chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Conservative and Liberal members alike were adamant that Canada needed the military strength to both defend itself and contribute to maintaining international stability. But we also published reports arguing for an increased foreign aid budget. While wars sometimes have to be fought, they are incredibly costly in both blood and treasure. Which is why investing taxpayers’ dollars in ameliorating the conditions that breed conflict is so important.

Roma refugees should be welcomed, not rebuffed

If there are bogus refugees in Canada, the Roma aren’t likely to be among them. The latest evidence comes from a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund. It states that the Roma are at great and growing risk in the European countries of their birth. Their rights are being systematically violated through deliberate neglect and persecution.

They aren’t being killed outright, but extreme poverty, social marginalization and countless other forms of discrimination condemn many to a slow death.

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.

Fast-forward a decade, and we've become a true north suppressed and disparate -- where unregistered civic demonstrations are inhibited and repressed, rebellious Internet activities are scrutinised and supervised, government scientists are hushed and muzzled, and public information is stalled and mired by bureaucratic firewalls.

Where is Edward Snowden? Glenn Greenwald on Asylum Request, Espionage Charge; More Leaks to Come

The international mystery surrounding National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has deepened after the former U.S. intelligence contractor failed to board a flight as expected from Moscow to Havana today. Snowden reportedly arrived in Moscow Sunday after fleeing Hong Kong. The developments come just days after the United States publicly revealed it had filed espionage charges against Snowden for theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person. "The idea that he has harmed national security is truly laughable," says Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the NSA surveillance stories. "If you go and look at what it is that we published, the only things that we published were reports that the U.S. government was spying, not on the terrorists or the Chinese government, but on American citizens indiscriminately."

Author: --

Edward Snowden’s Flight to Moscow

What piece of paper or paragraph was missing from the Obama Administration’s request that Hong Kong hold Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. leaker, on a provisional warrant pending an extradition? Hong Kong decided that the submission was “incomplete,” and let Snowden get on a flight to Russia, another place he may not stay long. There was mention, early Sunday, of Cuba and Venezuela, or maybe Ecuador and Iceland—there were reports of the diplomatic cars of various nations meeting his plane on the tarmac in Moscow, and Sarah Harrison, a legal aide for WikiLeaks, is flying with him. (The Guardian has a comprehensive live blog.)

Mike Rogers: Edward Snowden 'Defies Logic,' U.S. Must Get Him Back

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's reported choice to fly to Cuba and Venezuela undermines his whistleblower claims, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said on Sunday.

"Every one of those nations is hostile to the United States, the Michigan Republican said on NBC's "Meet the Press" news talk show.

The U.S. government must exhaust all legal options to get Snowden back to the United States, Rogers said.

"When you think about what he says he wants and what his actions are, it defies logic," said Rogers, who repeated his assertion that Snowden's leaks of secret government surveillance programs had damaged U.S. national security. (Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Bill Trott)

Original Article
Author: Reuters  

Paul Krugman: Greg Mankiw Forgets 'We Are A Much More Unequal Society Now'

Paul Krugman thinks Harvard economist Greg Mankiw forgot an important detail in his new paper, "Defending The One Percent": Social inequality just keeps growing.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist wrote in blog posts Saturday and Sunday that rising social inequality makes it less likely for children born into poor families to earn more money later in life. Krugman illustrates this point with a chart from Miles Corak, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa, that shows a widening gap between how much money the rich and poor spend on their children.

Russia Slammed By Lawmakers For Abetting Edward Snowden Flight

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Sunday said former national security contractor Edward Snowden's reported flight to Russia with a plan to flee onward to Cuba or Venezuela undermined his whistle blower claims and they slammed Moscow for helping a fugitive.

An aircraft thought to be carrying Snowden landed in Moscow on Sunday after Hong Kong let the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor leave the territory, despite Washington's efforts to extradite him to face espionage charges.

Texas Abortion Restrictions Protested By Hundreds

AUSTIN, Texas — More than 800 women's rights protesters crowded into the Texas Capitol on Sunday to watch Democrats try a series of parliamentary maneuvers to stop the Republican majority from passing some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country.

Democrats, some waving coat hangers to symbolize illegal abortions, passionately spoke against the bill or tried to add amendments to soften it. They started the session pointing to a technicality that delayed voting on any bills for 4 1/2 hours. The forced adjournment burned up precious time since the session ends at midnight Tuesday and the abortion bill still needs to go back to the Senate for final approval.

The Surveillance-Marketing Complex, Coming Soon to a Computer Near You

Here's a quote that should probably scare you:

    "We are all in these Big Data business models."

Why scary? Because the "we" in this case is Silicon Valley and the American intelligence community. As James Risen and Nick Wingfield reported yesterday in the New York Times, the interests of tech companies and the NSA have been converging over the past decade in two ways. The first way is fairly prosaic: Lots of Silicon Valley companies are in the business of selling stuff to the NSA: storage hardware, sophisticated communications equipment, data analytics software, and more. But while this may have increased recently, it's not fundamentally new. It's just the latest high-tech twist on the good old military-industrial complex.

Northern Gateway equity offer would give First Nations about $70K a year: report

TERRACE, B.C. - The equity offer from Northern Gateway to aboriginal groups along the route of a controversial oil pipeline would amount to as little as $70,000 a year for some bands, according to one base offer obtained by The Canadian Press.

The company says that is not the average offer, and in fact is in the lower range of a wide array of agreements, but some aboriginal leaders says it's a far cry from the path out of poverty the company claims.

Kathleen Wynne to be first Ontario premier to march in Toronto gay pride parade

TORONTO - Canada's first openly-gay premier, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne, will march into history later this month when she becomes the first sitting premier to take part in Toronto's annual gay pride parade.

Wynne, who is married to Jane Rounthwaite and has three children and two grandchildren, said attending gay pride activities is an annual event for her.

"Well it's part of summer you know," said told The Canadian Press in an interview.

Siksika First Nation in crisis from flooding on Bow River

Heavy flooding along the Bow River has the Siksika First Nation in crisis mode, with residents saying there is little help available in their region.

Approximately 1,000 of the 6,000 residents have been evacuated from low-lying areas, and local authorities say they need more help.

“Other communities, they’ve got the Red Cross and Emergency Alberta helping them out … here we only have each other,” said Ron Little Light of the Siksika Nation.

Federal briefing deflates claim of inappropriate hoard of corporate cash

OTTAWA - An internal briefing for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty deflates repeated claims that corporations are irresponsibly sitting on a hoard of idle cash rather than injecting it into the economy.

"While Canadian non-financial corporations are holding more cash than ever before, they appear to have legitimate business and economic reasons for doing so," says a summary.

Information services staff has grown 15% under Harper

The federal government employs nearly 4,000 communications staff in the public service, an increase of 15.3 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

Data compiled by the Parliamentary Budget Office shows there were 3,865 "information services" employees on the payroll at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, up by 512 since Prime Minister Stephen Harper assumed office.

NSA whistleblower Snowden leaves Hong Kong, headed for asylum with aid from Wikileaks

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong, arriving in Moscow Sunday on his way to asylum. His final destination remains unconfirmed, but there are reports it will be Venezuela or Ecuador.

His departure from Hong Kong came as authorities there rebuffed U.S. demands for his extradition.

Meanwhile the organization Wikileaks has issued a statement explaining their assistance in securing safe passage to asylum for Snowden. Wikileaks, whose founder Julian Assange remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, stated:

    Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.