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.]

Saturday, December 14, 2013

UBS Off The Hook For $2.3 Billion In Losses From Rogue Trader

NEW YORK, Dec 13 (Reuters) - U.S. securities laws have their limits and do not justify making UBS AG liable to shareholders for touting its ability to control risk even as it harbored a rogue trader who caused $2.3 billion of losses, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan threw out a lawsuit seeking to hold the Swiss bank responsible for shareholder losses stemming from revelations about unauthorized and fictitious trades made by former UBS trader Kweku Adoboli.

Google Acquires Boston Dynamics, Adding To Its Fleet Of Robot-Makers

The rich get richer. And they also get more robots.

Google confirmed Friday to The New York Times that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, the Waltham, Mass., engineering company that has designed robots for the Pentagon. The company, purchased by Google for an undisclosed sum, is the eighth robotics company Google has acquired in the last several months.

Last week, the Times also reported that Google's newest "moonshot" effort to create a division focused on building and experimenting with robots would be developed by Andy Rubin, the boss behind Google's Android operating system. Unlike Google's computerized glasses or driverless cars, these robots will be available only to businesses that want to streamline the manufacturing process.

Alberta Electricity Prices: Calgary, Edmonton Prices Among Highest In Canada, Study Finds

Albertans are paying some of the highest rates for power in the nation, according to a new study.

An annual survey conducted by Hydro-Quebec, which compared power prices across 22 North American cities on April 1, 2013, found Calgary residents pay the third highest power bills in Canada and Edmonton the fourth highest.

Rick Hillier Calls For Public Inquiry In Wake Of Soldier Suicides

Former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier fears more soldiers may take their own lives over this holiday season and is calling for a board of inquiry or Royal Commission into what the military is doing to help those with mental health problems.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, retired general Hillier told host Evan Solomon the recent apparent suicides of four serving Canadian soldiers was a tragic and needless loss of life.

"What a tragedy it is and I really do worry about this next period of time, as we head into the Christmas season, that we could in fact see more," because personnel may feel more alone in the Christmas season as they are away from their combat units and comrades.

Canada's Economic Growth To Lag U.S. For Years: CIBC

So much for Canada’s economic miracle.

After years of stagnation, the U.S. economy is set to outgrow Canada’s for at least the next two years, according to a forecast from CIBC World Markets.

It’s not all bad news: The bank sees Canada’s economy strengthening somewhat next year, thanks to that economic growth in the U.S. helping Canadian exports, and also thanks to a weaker loonie that will make Canadian products cheaper on the global market.

China lands rover on the moon

China on Saturday successfully carried out the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades, state media said, the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

The unmanned Chang'e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth's nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

Newtown Plans Quiet Anniversary Of School Shooting

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Church bells tolled in Newtown on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the shooting massacre that killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and President Barack Obama called on Americans to help prevent future violence in a radio address on the tragedy.

The bells rang 26 times as names of each of the victims were read at St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown, one of several houses of worship that held private services Saturday for a community still grieving the deaths of 20 children and six educators.

Democratic Candidate Paid Herself Handsomely Out Of Own Charity

WASHINGTON -- A charity run by Democratic congressional candidate Marjorie Margolies has spent an unusually large proportion of its revenue on her own salary and benefits, much of it paid for with taxpayer dollars, according to documents on file with the Internal Revenue Service.

The charity, Women's Campaign International, aims to get women into leadership and politics around the world, and has been a central part of Margolies' work since her first term as a Pennsylvania congresswoman ended in 1995. The charity has created programs for women abroad, and after lower funding between 2009 and 2011, has regained its financial footing, with more than $2 million in revenue in 2012 putting it back near 2008 levels, as reported in the organization's IRS filings. The tax documents were flagged for HuffPost by Philadelphia blogger Laura Goldman. Margolies has not taken a salary from WCI in 2013, a spokesperson for her campaign said.

Here's A Look At All The Gun Control Laws Congress Has Passed Since Newtown

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., sent a shockwave through the collective conscience of the nation. The images of distraught children leaving the school. The details of a gunman sweeping through classrooms filled with kindergarteners and first-graders. The murders of 26 people, including 20 young students, before the shooter killed himself. The event haunted us, and left many, including scores of lawmakers, saying that it was finally time to move forward on legislation to address the all-too-frequent episodes of mass gun violence.

The Republican Mainstream Strikes Back

The unusual display of reasonable behavior by House Republicans this week should be seen as a retreat—a change in tactics—but not a surrender. Democrats had better note the distinction.

Sooner or later, it had to dawn on the GOP that repeatedly re-enacting Pickett’s Charge was not advancing the party’s agenda or enhancing its electoral prospects. In martial terms, President Obama and the Democrats held the high ground; they were the ones visibly making an effort to govern, while Republicans did nothing but throw themselves into battles they were sure to lose.

The “fiscal cliff” showdown last December established the template: House Republicans made absolute and unrealistic demands, Obama said no, Democrats maintained their unity—and Republicans eventually caved amid bitter recriminations. This pattern held all year, through the debt-ceiling fight and the government shutdown. In each instance, I believe, Republicans could have won more concessions if they had chosen to negotiate rather than throw a tantrum.

First Guantanamo Commander Calls It ‘A Prison That Should Never Have Been Opened’

A top military commander who established the Guantánamo Bay prison is now asking lawmakers to close the now notorious facility once and for all. In an editorial in the Detroit Free Press Thursday, Major General Michael Lehnert bluntly called Guantánamo “a prison that should never have been opened.”

The general recounted how he and his task force were told shortly after the September 11 attacks that the prisoners at Guantánamo were “the worst of the worst.” However, he quickly realized that this was not the case.

Why It Matters That North Korea’s Leader Just Killed His Uncle

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is often inextricably linked with the Kim who is in power at any given time, a legacy that goes back to the end of the Second World War when the family’s scion Kim Il-Sung first declared North Korea a communist state in his image. The trappings of the cult of personality that has surrounded Kim, his son Kim Jong-Il, and grandson — and current leader — Kim Jong-Un has provided the country with the only modicum of stability available under such a regime. That same devotion to the Kim family has also been the regime’s greatest weakness, as illustrated in Thursday’s announcement of the execution of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle proves.

Karen Katz, B.C. RCMP Officer, Files Lawsuit Against Norman Hofmann

VANCOUVER - An RCMP officer who is suing the force for harassment and abuse has now filed a lawsuit against a man who tried to serve her with legal documents from the force.

Const. Karen Katz filed a notice of civil claim Wednesday, alleging Norman Hofmann defamed her and then damaged her reputation again in a written report to the RCMP.

The B.C. Supreme Court document alleges Hofmann asked the building manager in February 2013 if he could access the parkade to inspect Katz's vehicle because it was involved in a hit and run.

Omar Khadr Explains 'Hopeless' Choice Led To War-Crimes Guilty Pleas

TORONTO, Cananda - Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr has explained for the first time why he pleaded guilty to five war crimes, saying it was because he found himself in a "hopeless" situation.

In a new court filing obtained by The Canadian Press, Khadr says he knew the Americans could have held him indefinitely — even in the highly unlikely case he would have been acquitted.

Genocide on Trial

People began lining up even before the sun rose over the mountain ridge, quietly waiting their turn at a makeshift desk outside a home of wood and earth. One by one, relatives of the dead come forward.

Brother. Uncle. Father. Nephew. Grandfather. Cousin. Son. Do you know where their bodies are? Estrella Polar. North Star. All the men were rounded up in the church, executed, and dumped in a mass grave in the plantation.

Ten years ago, representatives from the National Coordination of Widows of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA) visited the Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR) of the Sierra, gathering information from family members of Indigenous civilians killed by military and paramilitary forces in the 1980s. It’s seven hours of bus and pick-up rides from Guatemala City to the end of the road in the municipality of San Gaspar Chajul, department of El Quiché, and an even longer hike to CPR communities further up into the Cuchumatanes, leaving the shrill hum of insects behind.

There’s no shame in politics, and that’s the problem

The greatest threat confronting Canadian politics is not the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office. Nor the suffocating clutch of party discipline around backbench MPs. These are consequences of a deeper rot. A crisis of character. A crisis that should be properly identified as the deliberate and gradual extinction of shame from our politics.

Shame, more than any other attribute, is vital to the proper functioning of the democratic process. Shame, to paraphrase Gordon Gekko, is right. It works. Shame is disciplining and correcting. It charts the boundaries of permissible discourse. It defines the limits of fit public conduct. Shame is the guarantor of honest, if not always polite, debate. And while to some shame may seem a quaint, even anachronistic notion, it remains of critical practical importance to contemporary politics. Because the absence of shame steadily corrodes confidence in our democratic leaders and institutions. In extreme circumstances it even leads to outright paralysis.

Canada Post cuts doom mail service but help Tories

First, they took away the trains. They did so by making passenger train service so slow and uncomfortable that, in the end, few complained when the rails were torn up.

Now they’re doing it to the post office.

The “they” in question refers to a series of national governments that, over time, have been dismantling institutions devised to hold this nation together.

City dwellers don’t vote Tory

Montreal’s loud-mouthed mayor, Denis Coderre, posed a good question Thursday about Canada Post’s decision to end door-to-door mail delivery: “Les maudites boîtes, y vont les mettre où?”

Where are they going to put the damned boxes?

Changing technology likely means we have no choice but to do away with home mail delivery, but there’s reason to worry both about Canada Post’s ability to manage the change and the federal government’s will to supervise the Crown corporation.

Tories on Senate scandal: from denial to obstruction

The government having left town, as it were, in a hail of bullets — one day before the post office announced it is ending home delivery — we are left to marvel at the prospect of a government, and a prime minister, who are quite literally hiding out from the public.

Not only was the House of Commons conveniently shuttered, but neither the minister responsible, Lisa Raitt, nor any Canada Post executives were on hand to answer questions regarding this drastic reduction in public services. But then, in this they were only following the example set by the prime minister, who has for months avoided answering questions about the scandal that is slowly destroying his government.

CPP reform divides Jim Flaherty and finance ministers

We've heard it time and time again: Canadians just aren't saving enough for retirement.

In capitals across the country, the fear is that many of the growing number of baby boomers settling into retirement face an uncertain financial future.

But while the country's finance ministers can agree on the demographic challenge, there's only a sliver of common ground on how to solve it as they prepare to meet Monday at Meech Lake.

Information commissioner probing why PCO failed to disclose Wright-Duffy emails

The federal Information Commissioner has assigned an investigator to probe why the Privy Council Office, which reports to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, failed to disclose thousands of emails involving the deal for Nigel Wright to pay Sen. Mike Duffy’s ineligible expenses.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale had filed an access request for all emails in June, but the PCO replied that no such emails existed.

Crude Oil Rail Transport Could Get New Hazard Standards

The federal transport minister is considering a number of changes to how crude oil is transported across Canada by rail.

The move would come after last summer's tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que., where 47 people died after a runaway train carrying tankers of crude oil derailed and set off massive fireball explosion in the centre of town.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt set up three working groups in November that are looking at, among other things, how crude oil is classified.

Right now, crude oil is listed as a flammable substance, but not a highly explosive one.

Another working group is examining whether companies should be required to have emergency response assistance plans for the shipment of crude oil.

That exists now for hazardous goods, and includes having specialized response teams along the route in case there is an accident.

It's also a sign Transport Canada understands there is a need to treat crude oil differently.

The working groups will report back with recommendations in January. The department will then come up with proposed regulations for consultation in February.

Original Article
Author: cbc

Are the Harper Conservatives Joking When They Claim to be Women's Saviours?

In case you missed it, the Harper Conservatives claim that they have "done more for women and girls across Canada than any other government."

The actual evidence simply does not support such a wild claim. A 2013 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Canada an embarrassing 20th of 133 nations -- behind Nicaragua (10), Latvia (12), Cuba (15), and Lesotho (16) -- among countries where women are most able to participate fully in economic and political life, and enjoy most equal access to education and healthcare. In 2006, the WEF ranked Canada 14th, falling to 18th in 2007, and 31st in 2008.

The Volcker Rule: Wins, Losses and Toss-ups

After three years, multiple missed deadlines, and at least 111 meetings between regulators and Wall Street groups (versus only twelve meetings with pro-reform groups), we finally have a final version of the Volcker Rule—and if properly enforced, it will change the business of banking for the better.

The Volcker Rule aims to ensure that banks that enjoy the backing of the federal government and the cushion of customer deposits do not get to make risky bets (or, in the language of the rule, “proprietary trades”). In other words, banks that have a taxpayer-provided parachute don’t get to BASE jump off of mountains for the thrill (and profit) of it.

Our Greatest Political Novelist?

Sometime in the past couple of generations, capitalism’s victory over our hearts and minds seems to have become complete, in that hardly anyone even notices it anymore. It’s a monoculture, taken for granted, like monogamy, or monotheism, or having one sun. It’s hard to think of any “serious” literary writers in the United States under the age of fifty who engage the big political issues of our time as directly as Boomer authors like Paul Auster (“Leviathan”), Thomas Pynchon (“Vineland”), or Robert Stone (“A Flag for Sunrise”), let alone in the way that muckraker novelists like Upton Sinclair used to. When we call literary writers “political” today, we’re usually talking about identity politics. If historians or critics fifty years from now were to read most of our contemporary literary fiction, they might well infer that our main societal problems were issues with our parents, bad relationships, and death. If they were looking for any indication that we were even dimly aware of the burgeoning global conflict between democracy and capitalism, or of the abyssal catastrophe our civilization was just beginning to spill over the brink of, they might need to turn to books that have that embarrassing little Saturn-and-spaceship sticker on the spine. That is, to science fiction.

Hollywood's Big Women Problem, In 1 Chart

womenIn November, the New York Film Academy took a look at gender inequality in films from 2007 to 2012. The results were startling: there five men for every one woman working in the industry. As the year comes to a close, we decided to take a closer look at the films of 2013. Adding up the leading roles in this year's 50 highest-grossing films (as listed by Box Office Mojo), we tallied how many featured a female lead, how many featured a male lead, and how many included a co-ed ensemble cast.

The results: Not only are women -- as the New York Film Academy found -- less prominent in the film industry, the movies that garner the most attention rarely focus on female narratives. Of this year's 50 top-earning movies, just six starred a female lead ("The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Gravity," "The Heat," "Frozen," "Identity Thief," "Mama" and "Safe Haven"). More than 32 of the movies among the top 50 starred only male leads and 20 percent of the total films did not even include women as secondary characters.

Original Article
Author: Lauren Duca  

Unemployment Benefits Are Expiring And Congress Has No Clue What To Do About It

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives has left town for Christmas vacation, making it all but certain that unemployed workers will lose their federal benefits on Dec. 28, as they are currently scheduled to do.

But if you think that 1.3 million longterm jobless Americans taking a financial hit would be a hot topic for the lawmakers still in town, you'd be wrong. Senate Democrats have conceded they'll miss the deadline to extend the benefits and have begun hatching plans to renew them retroactively in the new year. Senate Republicans don't seem to have given much thought to the matter at all.

These Are The Most Water-Stressed Countries In The World

Stable and abundant water supplies are becoming increasingly difficult to come by on a warming planet with a growing population. And according to new data, 37 countries in the world already face "extremely high" levels of water stress.

The Washington, DC environmental research organization World Resources Institute released the data from their Aqueduct project Thursday. Extremely high water stress means that more than 80 percent of the water available to the agricultural, domestic and industrial users in a country is being withdrawn annually and that the risk of water scarcity in a region is remarkably high.

Arapahoe High School Shooting Leaves Student Injured, 1 Dead

A student was left in critical condition after a shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo. on Friday.

A 15-year-old girl was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, though previous reports suggested a second student was wounded by the gunman.

Authorities identified the shooting suspect Friday night as 18-year-old student Karl Pierson.

County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said at an afternoon press conference that the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities “found his body in the internal portion of the school in a classroom." The shooter is believed to have acted alone.