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, November 08, 2013

In Harper’s strategy, the truth is irrelevant

That Question Period is contrived political combat is a well-worn truth, and whether it is a Liberal or Conservative government, it is all about the drama and not a search for truth.

So when the Senate expense scandal broke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a way, was playing to form as he offered stock answers to questions, and refused to take responsibility for the actions of his senior advisers. But since Senator Mike Duffy dragged Harper and the PMO into the eye of the storm with his stunning revelations, the prime minister appears to have taken his disdain for accountability to new heights — or lows.

Greenhouse gas reduction called threat to oil industry

Alberta's proposed oil and gas regulations are too ambitious and will hobble the Canadian industry's ability to compete, says the industry association in Alberta government documents obtained through provincial freedom of information laws.

The industry group says the proposed regulations won't buy any goodwill and the government should delay their introduction.

Fight Brewing Over Pensions For Duffy, Wallin And Brazeau

The president of the Treasury Board says he'll work to reverse an interpretation from his own department in order to disallow pension contributions for suspended senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.

In a bizarre twist, Tony Clement contradicted advice that came from the Treasury Board about whether the senators, who are banned from coming to work and have had their Senate incomes eliminated, are on pensionable time during the two-year suspension period.

Tawakkol Karman, First Arab Woman Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Gives Away Her $500,000 Award

Tawakkul Karman, the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, has donated all $500,000 of her award money.

Dubbed the “mother of the revolution” in the mass uprising against the authoritarian regime of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Karman was one of three women to get the esteemed prize in 2011. Two years later, Karman has decided to give away all of the money she received to further advance her mission, CNN reported.

Feds Call Cluster-Bomb Bill Loophole Necessary Amid International Criticism

OTTAWA - Officials from Foreign Affairs and the Defence Department defended a loophole Thursday in a much-maligned bill that would ratify Canada's participation in the international treaty to ban deadly cluster bombs.

The officials told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee that the so-called interoperability clause is necessary to allow Canada to participate in joint operations with countries that are not signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions — namely the United States, which has opted out of the treaty.

Big Food Wants to Crush the GMO Labeling Movement

In my post yesterday on the defeat of Washington State's GMO-labeling initiative, I speculated that the junk-food industry, which had poured millions into defeating the measure, might support a national label.

My logic was this: Coke, Pepsi, Nestle, etc, profitably operate in Europe, where GMO ingredients are scarce and labeling is mandatory. Presumably, they could do so in the US, too. Eventually, I figured, they'd tire of fighting the agrichemical/GMO seed industry's fight. I pointed to a statement made by the Big Food trade group the Grocery Manufacturers Association yesterday, to the effect that it would advocate for "national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients."

Ted Cruz's Dad Declares God Is Pro Death Penalty

Evangelical pastor Rafael Cruz, father of shutdown dramatist Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), served up a stemwinder this week, laying out God’s positions on the death penalty, guns in schools, gay marriage, communism and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), all in an impassioned 45 minutes.

The Cuban-American creationist quoted Bible verses that he said described God’s hardline position on capital punishment. “You know, the Bible is so clear," he said. "Go to Genesis chapter nine and you will find the death penalty clearly stated in Genesis chapter nine ... God ordains the death penalty!”

Largest Civil Disobedience In Walmart History Leads To More Than 50 Arrests

Surrounded by about 100 police officers in riot gear and a helicopter circling above, more than 50 Walmart workers and supporters were arrested in downtown Los Angeles Thursday night as they sat in the street protesting what they called the retailer's "poverty wages."

Organizers said it was the largest single act of civil disobedience in Walmart's 50-year history. The 54 arrestees, with about 500 protesting Walmart workers, clergy and supporters, demonstrated outside LA's Chinatown Walmart. Those who refused police orders to clear the street after their permit expired were arrested without incident. Those who fail to post $5,000 bail would be jailed overnight, Detective Gus Villanueva, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman, told The Huffington Post.

How Strong Is Pope Francis?

On Wednesday, Pope Francis went into St. Peter’s Square, where a crowd had gathered, and saw a pilgrim who has certainly been met in his life with averted gazes, and worse. His skin was covered with hundreds, maybe thousands, of bulbous tumors that contorted his features. Francis embraced him, touched his face, and prayed with him. There is a picture of him kissing the man’s head, where there is no unmarked skin and tumors push through his thin hair. (This is the result of a disease called neurofibromatosis.) The image was electrifying, in a way that mercy can be. But it took on more significance as a stage in what many people are hoping is Francis’s own pilgrimage.

Decent wages or a breadline economy: it's a no-brainer

Ed Miliband's speech at Battersea power station in London on Tuesday this week attracted a lot of attention. Not least because of the Labour leader's own choice of battleground for the 2015 election, the debate has focused on his ideas about wages: his proposal to raise minimum wages in sectors such as finance, and to provide tax breaks for firms that pay living wages.

The reactions have been predictable. Many people are up in arms against the very idea that the government may "artificially" raise wages through market intervention. Many, including a former adviser to Tony Blair, solemnly warn that this will create unemployment and hurt British companies – or, to be more precise, companies that operate in Britain, as so few are owned by British citizens nowadays.

MPs attack proposal to make landlords check immigration status of tenants

Millions of landlords could be unwilling to rent property to immigrants if government proposals requiring them to carry out immigration checks are put into practice, an influential crossparty committee of MPs has warned.

The Commons home affairs committee says the measures – contained in the government's new immigration bill – are designed to create a hostile environment for illegal migrants. But it warns that the proposals will discriminate against all immigrants, regardless of their status.

Government outlines 'defined ambition' pension proposals

A new category of pensions which would give employees some certainty about how much they will retire on, but be cheaper for employers to run than traditional final salary schemes, has been outlined by the government.

In recent years, firms have been closing final salary (or defined benefit) pension schemes as increased life expectancy, high inflation and poor investment performance have made it increasingly expensive for them to offer retired workers a guaranteed payout based on their earnings.

BlackBerry's new chief John Chen in line for $85M

A hiring agreement between new BlackBerry chief executive John Chen and the troubled smartphone maker could see him getting paid more than $85 million US.

Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show that Chen will be paid a yearly salary of $1 million, and a performance bonus of $2 million.

In a deal struck with Fairfax Financial earlier this week, BlackBerry agreed to hire Chen, known for turning around Sybase, as interim CEO and to give him a leadership role in restructuring the company.

War Crimes in Afghanistan? 10 Bodies of Abducted Villagers Found Outside U.S. Special Forces Base

Shortly after the U.S. military was forced to vacate a base in Afghanistan’s Wardak province this spring, the bodies of 10 Afghan villagers were found nearby. All of the people had disappeared after being detained by U.S. Special Forces. The base was used by a unit known as "The A-Team," which has also been linked to eight other murders in Wardak. The mystery behind the deaths is the center of a shocking new exposé which reports the disappearances and killings could amount to some of the gravest war crimes perpetrated by U.S. forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. We are joined by Matthieu Aikins, an award-winning investigative journalist based in Kabul who spent five months investigating the killings for his Rolling Stone article, "The A-Team Killings."

Author: --

Sharp decline in Parliamentary reviews of AG’s scrutiny, reports on feds’ spending, MPs say

PARLIAMENT HILL—Opposition MPs are blaming Conservative government majority tactics since the 2011 election for a sharp decline in Parliamentary reviews of the auditor general’s scrutiny and reports on government spending.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson flagged the reduction of committee reviews of his reports to Parliament in a submission to the House of Commons and the Senate earlier this week outlining the past year’s performance of his office and its plans for audit work over the coming year.

Meet the 32 Senate Republicans Who Voted to Continue LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a landmark bill that would end decades of employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. The bill moved forward with support of 54 senators who caucus with the Democrats (Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania didn't vote because he was attending to his wife's surgery) as well as votes from 10 Republicans, only a few months after the Supreme Court ruled that the government must recognize same-sex marriages. But most GOP Senators came out against it, and House Speaker John Boehner has promised to oppose the bill, which means it will likely be killed in the House.

‘The Voice of Greek Radio Falls Silent’

“Even words lose their meanings,” says the disembodied voice. It’s speaking to fill the space before the silence, to be present. “Are these your orders? Yes, those are my things….Somewhere here we close, dear listeners. The voice of Greek radio falls silent. Good luck to everyone. We’ll find each other, we’ll meet again. These microphones are shutting down. Deep soul.”

Early this morning riot police broke into the Athens headquarters of ERT, Greek Radio and Television, which was officially closed by ministerial decree on June 11 but whose journalists and technicians have continued to broadcast over the Internet. After dispersing protesters outside with teargas, armoured police cleared the building room by room. Union representative Nikos Tsimpidas was last at the microphone, calling for a “magnificent demonstration, not just for ERT, not for our jobs, but for democracy itself, against…this virulent repression, this rewind through decades, for all the things we should have stood up for but couldn’t…”

New York Fed Chief Levels Explosive Charge Against Big Banks

The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday that some of America’s largest financial institutions appear to lack respect for the law, a potentially explosive charge against an industry already roiling from numerous government investigations into alleged wrongdoing.

William Dudley, one of the nation’s top banking regulators whose organization helps oversee Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, made the comment during a speech focused on the problems posed by banks perceived to be “too big to fail,” and possible solutions to correct them.

In the Battle for Tax Subsidies, Big Oil Beats Renewables and the Poor

A collection of reports and articles this week helps illustrate just how economically skewed the nation—and the world—have become. Even as Big Oil continues to exploit heavy tax subsidies for near-record profits (and the occasional market-rigging scheme), tax subsidies for the industry dwarf those available for renewable energy sources.

That means we, as taxpayers, are (often unwilling) accomplices in the increasingly rapid deterioration of global ecosystems.

Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?

I turned on the television in my Damascus hotel room to witness a dreary sight: all the boys and girls of BBC World wearing their little poppies again.

Bright red they were, with that particularly silly green leaf out of the top – it was never part of the original Lady Haig appeal – and not one dared to appear on screen without it. Do these pathetic men and women know how they mock the dead? I trust that Jon Snow has maintained his dignity by not wearing it.

Boxed In: How a Criminal Record Keeps You Unemployed For Life

Luis Rivera had some peace of mind for about five months, from late fall of 2010 through early spring of the following year. That’s the closest thing he’s seen to financial stability in more than twenty years.

“I got hired for a wonderful job. It was a clerk/porter/doorman position at a high-rise classical building in the East Village,” he recalls wistfully. Rivera, 44, has a wife of twenty-five years and three teenage daughters. They live up in East Harlem, where the Puerto Rican–born New Yorker grew up and has spent much of his life. He’s ferociously proud of his marriage and children; his back straightens and his tone turns serious when he talks about his family, like a man who’s managed to achieve something he’s been told he can’t accomplish. Yet looking back on those five months as a jack-of-all-services for wealthy downtown hipsters, Rivera still gets excited about an opportunity that tore him away from home at all hours.

Billionaires Received Millions From Taxpayer Farm Subsidies: Analysis

Congress recently altered the country's farm bill, cutting billions from the food stamp program over the next decade.

That comes after more than a decade of the same bill providing millions in farm subsidies to billionaires' businesses, according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group, a left-leaning think tank. Those billionaire subsidies would only increase in the coming years, the report found.

In total, U.S. taxpayers provided $11.3 million in subsidies to businesses with ties to the 50 billionaires between 1995 and 2012. The subsidies were first instituted to help family farms keep afloat when prices of certain crops got too low, but now smaller farms have largely been crowded out by larger farming corporations that control many levels of production.

Military Sexual Assault Reports Up 46 Percent, Pentagon Says

WASHINGTON -- WASHINGTON (AP) — Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased by an unprecedented 46 percent during the last fiscal year, the Pentagon said Thursday.

It wasn't possible to know whether the spike represented an increase in assaults, an increase in the percentage of people reporting them, or both. Defense Department officials portrayed the sharp increase as a sign that people are more confident about coming forward now that improvements are being made to the military's system for handling assaults.