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, September 26, 2013

Climate change report's 'temperature hiatus' fuels skeptics

Climate change researchers and activists say the debate is over on the science of global warming but deniers of the evidence think a 15-year pause in temperature rise is reason enough to keep questioning conclusions.

On Friday, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change will release its summary for policy makers of the physical science basis study. This study is the first part of the IPCC's fifth Assessment Report.

GO Transit audit sparked by claims CN overbilled taxpayers

CBC News has learned more details about an internal audit called this week at GO Transit, as well as a probe by the Ontario Provincial Police's anti-corruption unit into allegations that CN Rail improperly billed taxpayers for millions of dollars in expenses during upgrades to commuter train service west of Toronto between 2005 and 2008.

“They were taking money from GO to pay their operating [costs] to maintain that ratio of the best railroad in North America, “ former CN construction supervisor Scott Holmes alleged to CBC News in an interview this week.  “They were using GO Transit as though it was a slush fund. I can prove it in a heartbeat let's just go to trial.”

Why Stephen Harper has no time for the UN

You could see just that hint of the smile Stephen Harper reserves for questions he doesn't agree with, as he waited out one such query during a media session this week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Why, the reporter wondered, would Harper not attend the opening of the UN General Assembly as other Canadian prime ministers have done?

A Sad Anniversary for Native Americans

"I think I can explain beyond serious doubt, that Leonard Peltier has committed no crime whatsoever," said former US Attourney General Ramsey Clark. "But that if he had been guilty of firing a gun that killed an FBI Agent, it was in defense of not just his people but the integrity of humanity from domination and exploitation."

A new effort is underway on the anniversary of Native American activist Leonard Peltier's conviction to urge President Barack Obama to grant clemency to a man Amnesty International considers to be a "political prisoner" in the United States.

Pope Francis: Sexism With a Human Face?

Pope Francis seems a lovely man. He washes the feet of prisoners, drives a Ford Focus and lives in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the isolated papal apartments. He even calls people who write him with their troubles. In July, he made headlines when he said of gay priests, “Who am I to judge?” Most recently, he astonished the world with a long interview in America, the Jesuit magazine, in which he said the church is too “obsessed” with abortion, gay rights and birth control and risked becoming a “house of cards.”

From Dr. Seuss to the Bataan Death March: Ted Cruz Does His Stuff

By the time I checked in with C-SPAN on Wednesday morning, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, was into the twenty-first hour of his effort to prevent the Senate from funding Obamacare and keeping the government operational. Frankly, he was looking surprisingly good for it. His hair was still in place; his dark suit didn’t appear wrinkled. The only visible sign that he’d been up all night was that his top shirt button was open, and his blue necktie loose around his neck. And he was still going at it, riffing up a lengthy metaphor about how members of Congress, with their supposed exemption from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, would be sitting in the first class of Obamacare whilst millions of Americans were loaded into coach, or even the baggage compartment.

The Harper government's war on science and knowledge

For years now, the federal government has been censuring, muzzling, de-funding, and laying off scientists, librarians, archivists, statisticians, and researchers in its efforts vacate government involvement in core research, and to shift its focus to industry-specific needs.

There are three granting councils that allocate federal funding for research in Canada: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR). In constant dollars, from 2007-2013, base funding for SSHR has decreased by 10.1 per cent; funding for NSERC has decreased by 6.4 per cent; and funding for CIHR has decreased by 7.5 per cent. Meanwhile, NSERC funding aimed at "company-specific" problems has increased (between 2001-2012) by 1178 per cent, while success rates for CIHR grants has dropped by 61 per cent.

UN Arms Trade Treaty: Canada Refuses To Join 90 Nations In Signing

OTTAWA - The Harper government faced sharp criticism Wednesday for its continued refusal to sign a landmark treaty to regulate the global arms trade.

A group of non-governmental agencies, called the Control Arms Coalition, said it was frustrated and disappointed that the government did not follow the United States and more than 90 other countries in signing the Arms Trade Treaty.

As IPCC Warns of Climate Disaster, Will Scientific Consensus Spark Action on Global Warming?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to issue its strongest warning yet that climate change is caused by humans, and that the world will cause more heat waves, droughts and floods unless governments take action to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses. The IPCC report, released every six years, incorporates the key findings from thousands of articles published in scientific journals, concluding with at least 95 percent certainty that human activities have caused most of Earth’s temperature rise since 1950, and will continue to do so in the future. “Drought is the number one threat we face from climate change because it affects the two things we need to live: food and water,” says Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground. We also speak to Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.

Author: -

Sabotaging Obamacare Is a Lucrative Endeavor for Some

To gain steam for his initiative to tie funding of the government to defunding Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz appeared at events over the summer with the Tea Party Express, a political action committee. “Either continue funding the government without giving one more dime to Obamacare, or shut down the government,” demands Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer.

The Tea Party Express, in turn, has sponsored fundraising drives to help “elect more leaders like Ted Cruz.”

Seeing through the fog of war: Graeme Smith on Canada in Afghanistan

Graeme Smith stood out among his colleagues for his comprehensive coverage of the war in Afghanistan in a 2007 to 2009 posting for the Globe and Mail. Now he is on a book tour, promoting The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan, published by Random House. He recently sat down for an interview with

Smith, dressed in a dark brown sports jacket, is soft spoken and modest in person. He has written a frank and honest account of his posting in southern Afghanistan in the conflict zones.

Our “Barking Mad” Democracy

The British have a vivid phrase for behaviour that is either unfathomably stupid or unconscionably reckless. That phrase is barking mad.

A lot of mad barking is being heard all over — from business elites, politicians and governments. Perhaps it’s all the hydrocarbon fumes in the air from fracking, tar sands, tar ponds, and pipelines.

Who is prepared to deny that it’s barking mad to run a pipeline through earthquake-prone British Columbia?

Does "Corporate Farming" Exist? Barely

Goaded on by small-is-good gospel, plenty of people have adopted a Manichean view of modern US farming: large, soulless corporate enterprises on one side, human-scale, artisanal operations on the other.

Take, for example, Chipotle's much-discussed new web ad, which tugs at the heartstrings by painting a haunting picture of a small-time farmer who finds himself working for—and then competing against—a fictional industrial-farming behemoth.

CFPB Takes Aim At Sallie Mae For Student Loan Servicing

A federal consumer regulator has taken aim at the Department of Education’s preferred companies for servicing the agency’s $1 trillion in student loans, highlighting potentially poor customer service and raising the specter of increased government scrutiny.

The move, in the form of a Monday blog post by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s top student loan official, relied on Education Department surveys, which grade the four preferred companies -- SLM Corp., or Sallie Mae; Nelnet; FedLoan Servicing, or the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency; and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates -- and determine how many new loans each will receive in the coming year to service as a new crop of students enter college and graduate.

Firefighters strike over pensions across England and Wales

Firefighters across England and Wales have walked out on strike in a row over pensions, with the threat of further action if the dispute is not resolved.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) left their stations and set up picket lines, leaving brigades to put contingency plans into place.

Some, including London and Surrey, were using private contractors to cover for the strikers, while others were relying on retained firefighters and volunteers. The union has not ruled out further industrial action if the dispute continues.

The Coming Hillary Clinton Train Wreck

Do people really think that a Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign is a good idea—for the Democratic Party, our collective sanity, even for her? Maybe it doesn’t matter; some political locomotives just move ahead, even if the wreck is predestined, and her campaign is now coming around the bend. There is talk of the real rollout beginning this week, which may make for slightly odd timing given that a better focus might be on introducing Obamacare, aspects of which go into effect October 1st. Bill Clinton is supposed to be helping with that. Then again, it’s also the week of the big Clinton party, the Clinton Global Initiative summit, with all sorts of worldly people in town for the General Assembly, too. That could help Hillary, who will introduce her husband and Obama at the summit tonight, and whose name, with her daughter’s, has been added to the name of the Foundation. But there are also two new magazine stories out, at least one of which won’t help her at all.

For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Mexico, whose economic woes have pushed millions of people north, is increasingly becoming an immigrant destination. The country’s documented foreign-born population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, and officials now say the pace is accelerating as broad changes in the global economy create new dynamics of migration.

 Rising wages in China and higher transportation costs have made Mexican manufacturing highly competitive again, with some projections suggesting it is already cheaper than China for many industries serving the American market. Europe is sputtering, pushing workers away. And while Mexico’s economy is far from trouble free, its growth easily outpaced the giants of the hemisphere — the United States, Canada and Brazil — in 2011 and 2012, according to International Monetary Fund data, making the country more attractive to fortune seekers worldwide.

Nearly One In 10 U.S. Watersheds Is 'Stressed'; Demand For Water Outpacing Supply: CIRES Study

Nearly one in 10 watersheds in the United States is "stressed," with demand for water exceeding natural supply -- a trend that appears likely to become the new normal, according to a recent study.

"By midcentury, we expect to see less reliable surface water supplies in several regions of the United States," said Kristen Averyt, associate director for science at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder and one of the authors of the study. “This is likely to create growing challenges for agriculture, electrical suppliers and municipalities, as there may be more demand for water and less to go around.”

B.C. Mining Protest: Company Pulling Out From Mt. Klappen

VANCOUVER - A Canadian mining company is moving to diffuse a growing dispute with First Nations over a proposed open pit coal mine in northern B.C., by pulling out of the mine site for several months.

However, Fortune Minerals (TSX:FT) said it is not leaving Mount Klappan for good, and that the company remains committed to the mine in an area considered sacred by First Nations.

"While all of Fortune's activities at the project site are focused on gathering necessary information that will be used in a B.C. environmental assessment process, ... the company has faced disruptive and damaging protests," the firm said in a statement.

Canada's Keystone Pipeline Promises, Climate Record Slammed By U.S. Environmental Coalition

OTTAWA - American environmentalists are urging the White House not to make any deals with Canada that would green-light TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline — even if America's neighbour to the north gets tougher on carbon emissions.

The letter to U.S. President Barack Obama from a coalition of environmental leaders, as well as liberal organizations, argues that Keystone cannot exist alongside efforts to contain climate change.

Environmentalists to Obama: Nix pipeline regardless of Canada's climate vows

OTTAWA - American environmentalists are urging the White House not to make any deals with Canada that would green-light TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline — even if America's neighbour to the north gets tougher on carbon emissions.

The letter to U.S. President Barack Obama from a coalition of environmental leaders, as well as liberal organizations, argues that Keystone cannot exist alongside efforts to contain climate change.

Canada's pipeline boom brings message change

After decades of being out of sight and out of mind, pipelines are booming again in Canada with proposals for 14 new or expanded oil and gas pipeline projects.

Compare that to five years ago, when there was only one project before the National Energy Board (NEB), which regulates interprovincial and international pipelines.

What's Causing Mysterious Bitumen Seepages in Alberta?

A major oil-sands company has been ordered by the Alberta government to drain two-thirds of a shallow 53-hectare lake in northern Alberta.

The order follows on the heels of several significant blowouts early this summer at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s (CNRL) Primrose field at Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.

Seeping bitumen from three well sites contaminated 20 hectares of muskeg and killed numerous wildlife with more than 10,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with water.

Changes to Federal Programs Ice Vulnerable Workers: Provinces

Provincial and territorial labour market ministers expressed concern yesterday that the federal government's proposed changes to nationally-funded job programs could harm the workers most in need of help.

But with little evidence available to the public about how well the current programs are working, it's unclear which level of government is right.

On the economy, the opposition is missing a chance to score

Though the Conservatives have lost a whopping amount of support since the last election, they still hold the advantage of being seen as the best economic managers.

Opposition parties have been unable to exploit the economy’s weaknesses. They’ve been run over by the constant Conservative refrain about Canada doing better in tough times than other countries. If the Liberals and New Democrats can’t knock that pigeon over by shifting the debate out of the comparative context, they’re in trouble.

Opposition criticize Tories' 'top down' control after party fails to hold any nomination contest for four upcoming byelections

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under renewed criticism for the control he is known to exercise over the federal Conservatives, after the party failed to hold even one nomination election for four byelections that could take place as early as the first week of November.

Although the Liberal Party will also head into the byelections with at least one acclaimed candidate, the NDP, which has held contested elections to select its candidates so far, is also critical of the Liberals over allegations that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his close aides favoured two winning nomination candidates in Toronto and Montreal.

AIG CEO: Bonus Uproar 'Just As Bad' As Racist Lynch Mob

Maybe you got angry about AIG paying huge bonuses just months after it nearly brought down the financial system and took a $182 billion bailout.

Well, then, you are exactly the same as a racist lynch mob in the Deep South in the Civil Rights era, according to AIG CEO Robert Benmosche.

He told The Wall Street Journal that the outcry over AIG's bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that -- sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong."

"It is a shame we put them through that,” he added, referring to those poor employees who got huge bonuses.