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.]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joy Smith, Tory MP, To Introduce Porn-Block Bill: Report

Canadians will have to contact their internet provider and request access to pornography under a forthcoming proposal from a Conservative MP.

Joy Smith, MP for the Manitoba riding of Kildonan-St. Paul, is formulating a private members’ bill that would likely mimic a new U.K. law that automatically blocks access to porn for all web users, the National Post reports.

It has the backing of an unusual alliance of feminists and socially conservative religious groups.

Rob Ford Outrageously Suggests Toronto Star Reporter Daniel Dale Is Pedophile

In just the latest example of how strange — and sad — the Rob Ford saga has become, the embattled Toronto mayor has now suggested a top Canadian journalist is a pedophile.

Ford sat down last week with former media baron Conrad Black for an interview which aired Monday night on Vision TV. The mayor blamed much of his current problems on Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, whom he said has held a grudge over Ford's desire to find "efficiencies" and cut costs.

Regulators Finalize Stricter Volcker Rule

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators toughened key sections of the Volcker rule's crackdown on Wall Street's risky trades on Tuesday as they finalized one of the harshest reforms after the credit meltdown.

The rule - named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who championed the reform - generally bans banks from proprietary trading, or speculative trading for their own profits.

Egyptian boy arrested after teacher finds stationery with pro-Morsi symbol

Scissors and compasses are traditionally considered the most dangerous items in a student's pencil case. But for one Egyptian schoolboy it is a ruler that has allegedly led to his detention for 16 days in an adult jail without trial.

Khaled Bakara, 15, was arrested last month after his teacher spotted a ruler on his desk bearing a symbol indicating his opposition to the overthrow of Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi, alleged Khaled's lawyer, Amr Abdel Maqsoud.

How Inequality Became as American as Apple Pie

Last week, five days after Black Friday’s Walmart strike and the day before a nationwide fast-food workers strike, President Obama delivered a speech at the Center for American Progress about economic disparity and low wages. The president didn’t mention the strikers, but his talking points weren’t so different from their rallying cries—he called for a higher minimum wage and supported the right to organize. His speech was too sweeping, too ambitious to focus on the week’s news. He spoke about Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, education and the tax code; he provided statistic after statistic about the severity of inequality in the United States. The thread that tied all these points together was “economic mobility.” (“President Speaks on Economic Mobility,” the banner of the White House website read.) The president may have been speaking to a room full of liberals, but his focus on mobility rather than inequality seemed especially marketed to conservatives. It was Obama at his campaign finest, recasting himself as the great uniter between the two parties. “The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough,” the president said, “But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or healt care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.” Poverty, in other words, is a sad but inevitable consequence of a competitive economy—it’s “heartbreaking,” but so it goes—while mobility is essential to the American mission. Children, we can all agree, should at least be given the bootstraps by which they can pull themselves up.

Seymour Hersh Stirs Dispute After Casting Doubt on Syrian Chemical Weapons Intel

As most of you probably know by now, Seymour Hersh has written a major piece on the claims by the US (and others) that the pro-Assad forces used Sarin gas in Syria, and President Obama’s eventual response. This came after the article was turned down both by The Washington Post (which planned to publish it) and Hersh’s frequent home, The New Yorker.

Months ago I was among those strongly criticizing media coverage of what I saw as hyped, unproven (if not necessarily false) claims that nearly took us to war. After much protest from the left, and some on right (plus many MPs in the UK), Obama pulled back, somewhat mysteriously—and Assad then agreed to dismantle his arsenal. Soon Iran’s leaders were also responding favorably on nuclear inspections.

Repression Deepens in Egypt

The Abu Zaabal prison complex lies some twenty miles northeast of Cairo, where the dense urban cacophony of the capital quickly gives way to rolling fields, rubbish-strewn canals and small clusters of hastily built red brick buildings. Outside the main gate—a pair of large metal doors flanked by Pharaonic-themed columns—sit four army tanks, their long snouts pointed up and out.

Gehad Khaled, a 20-year-old with an easy laugh and youthful intensity, has been coming to Abu Zaabal on a regular basis for nearly four months to visit her imprisoned husband. Abdullah Al-Shamy was among hundreds rounded up on August 14, the day security forces violently stormed two sit-ins in Cairo and Giza that formed the epicenter of support for the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, leaving up to 1,000 people dead.

Canada Housing Market Still A Concern, While Risks To Financial Systems Lessen: BoC

OTTAWA - The Bank of Canada is again flagging Canada's overheated housing market and sky-high household debt as the biggest domestic threats to the economy, while at the same time judging overall risk to financial markets has lessened.

The continued emphasis on debt and housing, despite what the central bank's governing council concedes is improving levels of risk, adds credence to the view that governor Stephen Poloz appears set to keep interest rates unchanged until 2015.

Jim Flaherty Receptive To Idea Of Ending CMHC

The International Monetary Fund recently suggested that Canada should consider winding down government backing of mortgages — and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is sounding receptive to the idea.

Ending or limiting the activities of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the government-run mortgage insurer, would certainly rock the country’s real estate business to the core, as it has long relied on the CMHC to reduce risk in the home loans business. By law, any mortgage on which the borrower put down less than a 20 per cent deposit must have insurance, usually from the CMHC.

Presumed guilty: DNA and the police

Justice Minister Peter MacKay has said his government is examining legislation that would authorize seizing DNA samples from people who have been accused — but not found guilty — of criminal offences.

The idea is, of course, getting support from the police. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said that allowing police to take DNA from people on arrest would help solve more crimes.

Without a safety net: Canadians still in dark about budget cuts, says parliamentary watchdog

OTTAWA—Canada’s budget watchdog, created by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006, has taken to filing $5-dollar-a-pop Access to Information requests as a last-ditch way to try to find out how Conservative budget cuts will impact the public.

That Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette has been reduced to filing such requests like any citizen in hopes of getting details on the government’s own plans is seen as a telling symbol of the cloak of the secrecy thrown up by the Conservatives during nearly eight years in power in Ottawa.

Who's influencing reproductive policy in Canada?

As Canadians, we’re proud of our reputation for tolerance and fairness. Even with a socially and fiscally conservative government, we still maintain that we are the sane alternative to the extreme Tea Party doctrine so prevalent south of the border. Unfortunately, this national sense of self is more illusion than reality.

We may not be seeing much evidence of a resurgence of debate over reproductive rights, we may not see a need to abandon our complacency and raise alarm bells over the increased influence of the religious right, but to ignore the growing evidence that we are not as tolerant as we‘d like to think would be a mistake.

Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA

A top secret document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals Canada has set up covert spying posts around the world and conducted espionage against trading partners at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency.

The leaked NSA document being reported exclusively by CBC News reveals Canada is involved with the huge American intelligence agency in clandestine surveillance activities in “approximately 20 high-priority countries."

On Human Rights Day, remember freedom of movement for Palestinians

When I finally entered the Gaza Strip on October 18, 2012, I wept. The trip across the Sinai and the crossing at the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza (as described in detail by my colleagues Máire Noonan and Verena Stresing) seemed long and fraught. This was my fourth attempt to reach Gaza, so it was emotional for me to finally arrive. We were there for a linguistics conference, and had the opportunity to meet some wonderful young people who were thirsting for contact with the outside world. We felt lucky to be able to travel there and meet them, and to enjoy some legendary Palestinian hospitality.

The bad jobs party: Seeing through Harper's claims about Canada's strong economy

On December 7, the Conservative Party of Canada marked its 10th year of operations. With Stephen Harper subject to gossip about leaving office and the party slumping in the polls, celebrations were limited to a top 10 list, buried behind a Stand With PM Harper sign-up page on the CPC website.

Harper himself jetted off to South Africa surrounded by former governors general, and prime ministers.

Where once Conservative were under orders not to be seen with Brian Mulroney, thanks to brown bags of unexplained cash the former PM collected from lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, now Harper was looking to boost his own popularity by including Mulroney in the photo-ops.

At Least 194 Children Have Been Shot to Death Since Newtown

You've heard this story before, the one that played out again the week of Thanksgiving—this time in Lakeland, Florida—where 2-year-old Taj Ayesh got his little hands on his father's loaded pistol, pulled the trigger, and crumpled to the ground. You may have heard about 9-year-old Daniel Wiley, who was playing outside his house in Harrisburg, Texas, when a 13-year-old mishandled an unsecured shotgun, blasting Wiley in the face. You may also have heard about 2-year-old Camryn Shultz of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, whose embittered father put a bullet in her head before turning the gun on himself. Maybe you didn't hear about the case in which a child shot others and then committed suicide, but that also happened this year. Twice.

It Takes A McDonald's Worker 4 Months To Earn What The CEO Gets In An Hour

A McDonald's employee working overtime for nearly four months straight would make as much as the company's former CEO earned in just 60 minutes, according to an analysis published Tuesday.

The analysis, compiled by the financial information company NerdWallet, assumes the average salary of a McDonald's hourly worker is $7.73, based on information from self-reported salary site Official figures on McDonald's worker pay aren't publicly available, but the median wage for fast-food workers overall is $8.90 per hour.

Snowden and Greenwald: The Men Who Leaked the Secrets

Early one morning last December, Glenn Greenwald opened his laptop, scanned through his e-mail, and made a decision that almost cost him the story of his life. A columnist and blogger with a large and devoted following, Greenwald receives hundreds of e-mails every day, many from readers who claim to have "great stuff." Occasionally these claims turn out to be credible; most of the time they're cranks. There are some that seem promising but also require serious vetting. This takes time, and Greenwald, who starts each morning deluged with messages, has almost none. "My inbox is the enemy," he told me recently.

NSA Spying Has Tech Companies Worried About Their Most Precious Thing

Big technology companies are seeing signs that the public's worries about government spying are a threat to their future profits, analysts say.

These concerns haven't started to hit their bottom lines quite yet. But critical international growth, particularly for businesses selling cloud-based products, has become more challenging after the disclosures this summer about the National Security Agency's methods, which reportedly include obtaining data from big tech companies.

Senate Republicans Block More Obama Nominees

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans blocked a batch of mostly minor nominations by President Barack Obama late Monday in the aftermath of last month's Democratic move weakening the minority party's traditional ability to block most presidential appointments.

The action demonstrated that the GOP was intent on exacting a price for the changes majority Democrats muscled through the Senate in filibusters, or procedural delays minority senators can use to delay or kill nominations or bills.

Monday's confrontation came as the Senate returned to work for the first time since Democrats made those changes on Nov. 21.

GM Bailout: U.S. Government Sells Stock, Loses $10.5 Billion

DETROIT - The U.S. government ended up losing $10.5 billion on the General Motors bailout, but it says the alternative would have been far worse.

The Treasury Department sold its final shares of the Detroit auto giant on Monday, recovering $39 billion of the $49.5 billion it spent to save the dying automaker at the height of the financial crisis five years ago.

The importance of unions: Lessons from the auto industry

Lance Livingstone well remembers the Canadian Auto Workers slogan "30 and out" -- referring to a contract provision that allows autoworkers with 30 years service to retire with a full pension -- from when he joined the CAW. He was also fortunate enough to retire early and says he has no regrets over his experience with now Unifor Local 222 at GM Oshawa.

When he began in 1973, there were 20,000 workers at GM Oshawa, now there are 4,000. Lance has seen a reduction in bargaining power with the reduction in workers and points to the loss of the cost of living allowance for wages.

World's leading authors: state surveillance of personal data is theft

More than 500 of the world's leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people's digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show'

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It's astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There's no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We've somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you're seeing this more and more in the west. I don't think it's unique to America.

Spy watchdog decries ‘misinformation’ flowing from recent document leaks

OTTAWA - The watchdog over the national eavesdropping agency says many recent leaks about the Five Eyes intelligence network are being taken out of context by the media.

Jean-Pierre Plouffe, who keeps an eye on Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, says the leaked tidbits often then become misinformation.

Plouffe told senators on the national security and defence committee that he aims to clarify such information so that it is no longer promoted as myth.

Neil Young Helping First Nations Fight Oilsands With "Honor The Treaties" Tour

Neil Young has announced four intimate benefit shows as part of a week-long Canadian mini-tour dubbed "Honor The Treaties" to assist the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) Legal Defence Fund.

The four-city tour will include special guest Diana Krall as well and commences at Toronto's Massey Hall on Jan. 12. Additional dates include Winnipeg's Centennial Concert Hall (Jan. 16), Regina's Conexus Arts Centre (Jan. 17) and concluding at Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall on Jan. 19. Tickets for all four benefit gigs go on sale tomorrow (Dec. 10). Ticket prices have yet to be announced. The Canadian dates follow four scheduled concert Young has at New York City's Carnegie Hall starting Jan. 6.

'Proactive' PMO Now 'Entirely Reactive,' Says Ex-Harper Aide

OTTAWA - Here's the scenario: Prime Minister Stephen Harper finds himself besieged with questions about whether he knew of unethical — possibly even criminal — activity that transpired in the past and failed to take action.

Documents are central to the controversy, as is the question of how much information he was provided by his staff. Court affidavits are picked apart by reporters. Calls for an inquiry echo throughout question period.

Nobel Prize-Winning Writers Say NSA Surveillance Power 'Is Being Systemically Abused'

Some of the world's most famous writers have signed an open appeal against the National Security Agency that says the U.S. government's mass surveillance chills freedom of thought.

Nobel laureates Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Elfriede Jelinek, Günter Grass and Tomas Tranströmer are among hundreds of "writers against mass surveillance" worldwide who have signed the open appeal, which calls on governments and corporations to respect citizens' privacy rights.

"Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion," the appeal says. "As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused."

Inequality Hits People Hardest At Worst Possible Moment, In 1 Chart

The growing gap between rich and poor affects all of us, but it's hammering middle-aged Americans the most, with dire implications for their ability to save for retirement.

The rise in income inequality in the past 20 years has been sharpest among people between the prime earning ages of 35 and 54, according to a new analysis of Census data by Bankrate, a financial news service. Because those years of life are supposed to be prime years for wealth creation and retirement planning, this suggests inequality will haunt these Americans for the rest of their lives. (Story continues after Bankrate chart.)

The income gap for Americans aged 35-44 is a hefty 21 percent wider than it was 20 years ago, according to Bankrate, compared with less than 3 percent for people aged 65 and older and less than 11 percent for people aged 18-24.

The Great Recession caused many middle-aged workers to lose high-paying mid-career jobs and suffer plunging home prices that eroded their wealth, Bankrate noted. Not only does that contribute to inequality, but it also makes it less likely that these workers have enough saved to survive their retirement.

"If you handle that period well, it sets the course for the next decade; if you don't, in many cases you can't recover," Jason Flurry, president of Legacy Partners Financial Group, told Bankrate.

Original Article
Source: huffingtonpost. com/
Author: --

Ukrainian Opposition Headquarters Stormed By Security Forces

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Heavily armed riot troops broke into an opposition party office in central Kiev on Monday and seized its servers, the party said, as Ukraine's anti-government protests crippled the capital for yet another day.

Hundreds of police moved into Kiev early in the day and some began to dismantle a few of the protest barriers and tents that had been blocking city offices.

20 Domino's Workers Fired In New York City After Protesting Low Wages, According To Lawmaker

A second protest is scheduled Monday outside a New York City Domino's Pizza after 20 workers from the restaurant allege they were fired after complaining about low wages.

Last week, workers at fast food chains in 100 cities across the United States went on strike, demanding higher pay. Among those who walked off the job were 20 delivery workers at a Manhattan Domino's on 181st Street in Washington Heights. The group of workers had been earning less than minimum wage on the job, at just six dollars an hour, and were dependent on tips to scrape by.

Mark Jacobs, Iowa GOP Senate Candidate: The Way To Talk To Women Is On An 'Emotional Level'

WASHINGTON -- As Republican candidates figure out how to best win over women voters, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs thinks he has the answer: appeal to their emotions.

In an interview Sunday with WHO-TV in Des Moines, host Dave Price asked Jacobs what the "biggest difference between men and women" is, in terms of reaching out to them as voters.

"I think you have to connect with women on an emotional level," said Jacobs. "And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I've had a lot of coaching on that."

LA Sheriff's Deputies Arrested In Jail Probe

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal officials said 18 current and former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies saw themselves as being "above the law" when they engaged in crimes that included beating inmates and jail visitors, falsifying reports, and trying to obstruct an FBI probe of the nation's largest jail system.

The investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses led to the arrests Monday of 16 of the 18 defendants. At least two no longer work for the department.

Congress' NDAA Deal Could Make It Easier For Obama To Finally Close Guantanamo

WASHINGTON -- The Senate and House Armed Services committees have reached a deal that would, for the first time, loosen restrictions that impede the Pentagon's ability to transfer Guantanamo detainees to foreign countries, making it slightly easier for the Obama administration to pursue the president's longstanding goal of closing the detention facilities.

The compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 would expand the executive branch's ability to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to other countries, while maintaining the ban on bringing them to the United States. The proposed NDAA would allow detainees to be sent to Yemen, but would require the administration to report on the Yemen government's ability to detain, rehabilitate or prosecute them.

Cops Asked For Cell Phone Data More Than 1 Million Times Last Year

Where you've been, whom you've talked to and even what you've been saying -- police can get it all from your cell phone company, and frequently without a warrant. The big wireless carriers received more than 1.1 million requests from law enforcement for customer data in 2012, according to letters to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that his office released Monday.

Markey, who sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, asked the major wireless carriers to detail how often they turn over data and in what circumstances they require a warrant signed by a judge before they do so.

UK government issues warning over doing business with Israeli settlements

The UK government has issued an explicit warning to British businesses over the risks of involvement in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including potential damage to a company's reputation.

New guidance published by UK Trade & Investment, a government body that works with British businesses in international markets, says there are "clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements, and we do not encourage or offer support to such activity".

TransCanada: Keystone XL's Southern Leg Now Pumping Oil

CALGARY - Oil has begun to flow on the southern leg of TransCanada Corp.'s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL pipeline.

Spokesman Shawn Howard says the company began filling the US$2.3-billion line with oil Saturday morning in Cushing, Okla.

That crude will eventually make its way to Houston-area refineries.

Howard says over the coming weeks, TransCanada will inject about three million barrels of oil into the system.

TransCanada is still awaiting approval from the Obama administration to construct the US$5.4-billion northern portion of Keystone XL more than five years after it applied for a permit.

The company was able to move ahead with the Gulf Coast portion first because it doesn't cross the Canada-U.S. border.

Original Article
Author:  CP  |  By The Canadian Press 

Canada's Top One Per Cent Holding Steady: StatsCan

Canada’s top one per cent of earners took home 10.6 per cent of all income in the country in 2011, while the top half of earners took home 83 per cent of all the money earned, new data from StatsCan shows.

The statistical agency’s report on high-income earners noted there was no change, nationally, in the concentration of income from the previous year. Alberta and Newfoundland were the only provinces where high-income earners increased their share of income. The share going to the top one per cent fell in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, StatsCan said.

Lack Of Rural Broadband Access Creating Divide Among Canadians

A boat, nets, traps, hooks and lines: This is the gear the fishermen of Newfoundland’s sleepy hamlets have relied on for centuries. The last tool they thought they’d need to earn a living on the high seas was a high-speed internet connection.

These fishermen are some of the Canadians most affected by a push by the federal government to phase out in-person counters in favour of online applications for fishing licenses. The move has left them struggling to to adapt to the online world as the rhythm of the ancient trade is disrupted by technological shifts.

Tory MP wants to look into 'legal protection' of 'children before birth'

Just days after Stephen Woodworth launched his latest bid to reopen the abortion debate, a second Conservative backbencher has served notice that he, too, may soon put the question of what, if any, changes should be made to Canada's abortion laws to the parliamentary test.

The motions, which were added to the Order Paper by Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott last Friday, incorporate slightly different wording, but share a common goal; namely, striking a special House committee to study the "legal protections" accorded to "children before birth," either by reviewing past court decisions for evidence of "any negative impact on women, men, children and Canadian society," or, alternately, looking at what changes might be required to bring the current regime in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

President of the OFL talks 'right to work' laws, union attacks and diversity

It’s the Friday afternoon on the last day of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) convention and Sid Ryan, President of the OFL, is tired. For a week he’s been leading the convention through its paces, which included a protest to raise the minimum wage and a whole host of eminent speakers, including Maude Barlow and the Official Opposition leader, Thomas Mulcair.

Most significantly, delegates voted to approve a new common front plan that will see the OFL expand its activism outside of its traditional labour scope.

Tar sands funding pollutes snow exhibit at Museum of Civilization, says Frosty the Snowperson

Snowpeople are now distancing themselves from controversial tar sands funding of the Museum of Civilization by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Friday morning Frosty the Snowperson protested the funding arrangement with a sign saying "CAPP pollutes snow." Photos are available here.

The Council of Canadians, Ecology Ottawa, and the Polaris Institute organized the action to raise concerns about the $1-million contribution to the museum from CAPP, and were on site sharing leaflets with museum visitors. CAPP includes tar sands producers that pollute snow, air and waterways in Alberta, and the organizations argue that increased corporate sponsorship threatens to pollute precious cultural institutions like the Canadian Museum of Civilization.