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.]

Sunday, December 15, 2013

‘Economic Action Plan’ ads to continue for the rest of our lives

Those “Economic Action Plan” ads we’ve all come to love over the last four years are going to continue until at least 2016, but probably forever.

The Harper government has called for bids from ad agencies willing to plan a campaign that could run for up to three years, with the purpose of strengthening “ongoing consumer confidence in the Canadian economy and the direction of the country.”

Economic Action Plan Ads: Harper Cites Pride To Defend $113 Million In Ads

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is justifying the more than $100 million his government has spent on economic advertising by pointing to Canadians' confidence in the economy.

Taxpayer-funded government ads are supposed to inform citizens about programs and services, according to Treasury Board guidelines.

But when the Conservatives recently put out a tender for a major new ad agency contract that could see the feel-good "economic action plan" brand continued until 2016, they highlighted consumer confidence and the direction of the country as key objectives.

Federal minister says child poverty not Ottawa’s problem

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It appears the federal government won’t be helping BC get out of the top spot when it comes to child poverty.

“Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” That from Federal Minister of Industry James Moore who is also the Member of Parliament for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam. He says it’s the responsibility of the provinces to deal with child poverty, and Ottawa has no plans to step in.

The federal government has been criticized for not meeting a unanimous motion passed in the House of Commons back in 1989 to end poverty by the year 2000. Nothing was done, but the motion was renewed in 2009. Child Poverty Watchdog Campaign 2000 says to this date there has been no movement from Ottawa on helping the estimated 1 in 7 kids living in poverty in our country.

Here in BC, thousands of kids go to school hungry every day because they’re not getting enough to eat. Of late, schools across Metro Vancouver have been left with the difficult decision on whether to put already strained resources into creating lunch and breakfast programs for students in need.

“Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast?” Moore says Ottawa is helping keep kids fed by creating more jobs, and while unemployment was up in BC last month, joblessness across Canada was down.

“We’ve neven been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier,” Moore claimed at an event Friday. He says how poverty is defined is not the same across the country.

Original Article
Author: Sara Norman

Stratfor, a.k.a 'Shadow CIA,' Had Contracts With 13 Federal Departments: WikiLeaks

OTTAWA - At least 13 Canadian government agencies have had subscriptions with U.S. private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. or Stratfor, sometimes dubbed a shadow CIA, newly released WikiLeaks emails indicate.

Stratfor came under fire recently after a leaked company document prepared for an oil company outlined ways to counter activist groups, such as Greenpeace, who oppose Canada's oil-sands development.

The same cache of leaked emails indicates Canadian federal agencies have purchased at least half a million dollars in Stratfor services.

Tom Steyer Addresses Keystone Motives

WASHINGTON - Yes, the influential activist spearheading the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline has made a fortune in oil investments. Yes, he's invested in a rival pipeline that would compete with Keystone.

But no, Tom Steyer says, there's nothing untoward about his motives.

Steyer, the well-connected donor to successful U.S. political campaigns, says he left behind his previous life as an investment banker to dedicate himself to the fight against climate change.

Pope Francis: 'Marxist Ideology Is Wrong, But I Know Many Marxist Who Are Good People'

In a new interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis responded to allegations that he is a Marxist, after he recently criticized 'unfettered capitalism.'

The Pope told La Stampa that “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended ... there is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church.”

He was referring to an apostolic exhortation from November, in which he wrote, "As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems."

Lisa Raitt defends Canada Post plan, says it must be 'self-sufficient'

Canada Post has "a responsibility to be self-sufficient," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says, and its plan to end urban door-to-door mail delivery and bring in other changes is meant to stanch the bleeding of its bottom line.

Last Wednesday, Canada Post announced a new five-point plan that includes moving to community mailboxes in urban centres, increasing the price of stamps and cutting up to 8,000 jobs in an effort to return the Crown corporation to financial stability by 2019.

One Year After Sandy Hook, Gun Lobbyist Says 'The Legislation That Is On The Books Is Lethal'

WASHINGTON -- Guns don't kill people. Gun laws kill people, argued Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, on Fox News Sunday.

Host Chris Wallace asked Pratt if the complete inability of Congress to pass any gun safety legislation in the year since the Newtown massacre counted as a victory for the gun lobby.

"We're not really going to be able to talk about a victory until we get rid of the laws that prohibit people from having guns to protect themselves in schools and in other places," Pratt said. "Every one of our mass murders in our country has occurred in places where guns were prohibited."

Paul Ryan Was 'Frustrated' By Conservative Groups, But Still Thinks They Are 'Very Important'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says he was frustrated with conservative groups that protested the bipartisan budget deal he helped engineer, but distanced himself from House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) public criticism of the groups.

The House Budget Committee chairman tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that these groups are "very important elements" of the conservative movement. But the Wisconsin Republican says discussions about these groups should be kept "within the family."

"I think John just got his Irish up there," Ryan said. "I think these groups are valuable. The way I look at it is this: They're part of our conservative family. I'd prefer to keep these conversation within our family."

Ryan also responded to conservative criticism of his deal on NBC's Meet The Press, saying, "You don't get everything you want in divided government."

The 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate says he shares the same goals as the groups — trying to balance the budget and pay off debts without raising taxes. But Ryan says they sometimes differ on tactics.

Ryan says the compromise agreement is an important first step.

Original Article
Author:  AP/The Huffington Post

Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi Calls For 'Two Child Limit' On Benefits

Families would only be able to claim benefits for two children under plans put forward by a member of David Cameron's policy board aimed at cutting billions of pounds off the welfare bill.

The radical proposals set out by Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi would limit child benefit and child tax credits to families' first two children.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday he said capping benefits by family size would "save billions and help the next generation think more carefully about their relationship with the welfare state".

Paying politicians too much harms their work ethic, study claims

Paying politicians too much harms their work ethic, claims ground-breaking new research that could be used as an argument not to give British MPs a proposed 11% pay rise.

The findings, published in this month's issue of the Economic Journal, say that there is a significant link between how much politicians are paid and the effort they put into their day job. A study by Professors Naci Mocan and Duha Altindag examined changes to the salary structure of MEPs serving in the European parliament.

Orangutans fight for survival as thirst for palm oil devastates rainforests

Even in the first light of dawn in the Tripa swamp forest of Sumatra it is clear that something is terribly wrong. Where there should be lush foliage stretching away towards the horizon, there are only the skeletons of trees. Smoke drifts across a scene of devastation.

Tripa is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the world's most ecologically important rainforests and once home to its densest population of Sumatran orangutans.

Mandela’s Mixed Economic Legacy

As is the custom these days when great figures die, the beatification of Nelson Mandela has been immediate, overwhelming, and, here in the United States, not a little ironic. Long regarded by the U.S. intelligence services as a seditious figure, and even a terrorist threat, he has been recast as a world-historic freedom fighter, the heir to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. Speaking at his memorial service on Tuesday, President Obama said to the crowd, “His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.”

Cruel and Unusual

Pity the modern executioner. The Supreme Court has burdened him with obligations that reflect considerable ambivalence about his profession. (States generally do not release the names of executioners, but they appear to be almost all men.) The underlying task has remained unchanged throughout history, but over the years the Court has mandated that executions be conducted with some finesse. In 1890, the Justices said that the process could not include “torture or a lingering death.” Accordingly, in 2008, the Court rejected a challenge to execution by lethal injection—the prevailing method in the thirty-five states with prisoners on death row—because, as Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his opinion, the procedure did not present a “substantial risk of serious harm.” In other words, death is required, but harm is forbidden. Clear?

How to Destroy an Entire Country

From a recent 188-page report by the World Health Organization come these ghastly and appalling factoids:

    Suicide rates rose 40 percent in the first six months of 2011 alone.

    Murder has doubled.

    9,100 doctors in Greece, roughly one out of every seven, have been laid off.

Blurring Mandela and Neo-Liberalism

On the Monday after Nelson Mandela’s death, The New York Times’ specialist on deals, Andrew Ross Sorkin, dealt the truth a few blows by offering an incomplete and superficial story about Mandela’s infatuation with the “freedom of markets” and, by extension, in Timesspeak, a “Free Economy.”

Rather than frame the story as a case of how the power of global corporations and banks threatened and pressured the new Mandela government—even before it became a government—to embrace their notions of neo-liberalism, to ensure that those who wielded economic power in the past would continue to do so in the future, the paper of record built its story of an event that is on the record: Mandela’s “seeing the light” at a meeting of the World Economic Forum.

That was the tip of an iceberg.

North Carolina Shows Why the Voting Rights Act Is Still Needed

A federal judge in Winston-Salem today set the schedule for a trial challenging North Carolina’s sweeping new voter restrictions. There will be a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction in July 2014 and a full trial a year later, in July 2015.

This gives the plaintiffs challenging the law, which includes the Department of Justice, the ACLU and the North Carolina NAACP, a chance to block the bill’s worst provisions before the 2014 election. Earlier this year, in July 2013, the North Carolina legislature passed the country’s worst voter suppression law, which included strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cuts to early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration, the repeal of public financing of judicial elections and many more harsh and unnecessary anti-voting measures.

Judge Delays Lubicon Hearing For Application To Get Blockade To Move

LITTLE BUFFALO, Alta. - A anti-fracking blockade of an energy company's drilling site in northern Alberta will continue over the weekend after the protesters say a judge delayed hearing an application to get them to move.

A news release from the Lubicon Lake Nation says a Calgary judge who was to hear the request by PennWest Exploration (TSX:PWT) has postponed the hearing until Monday.

Jim Prentice Sees Stronger Year For Oilpatch, But Warns Of Foreign Investment Chill

OTTAWA - Senior CIBC executive and former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice says he sees positive signs emerging in Canada's energy sector, but remains worried about the message the country is sending the world on foreign investment.

Prentice was one of the first to sound the alarm last fall that the Harper government's decision to hang out a not-welcome sign to state-owned enterprises would be a disaster for foreign investment in Canada's oilpatch.

The postman won’t ring at all

IN A move that now seems like subliminal messaging, Canada Post celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Canadian postal service in 2012 by issuing a special set of stamps featuring the Royal Mail Ship Titanic. The drastic changes announced by postal management this week, the most significant of which is the eventual elimination of home delivery, are meant to avert disaster.

Canada Post has been hit by a familiar story: rising electronic communication and declining volumes of letters. The decline did not start until 2007 but has picked up astonishing speed, with 1 billion fewer letters delivered in 2012 than in 2006. Canada is the first of the Group of Seven countries to signal the end of home delivery but it will almost certainly not be the last. Globally, the volume of letters posted has been sliding for a decade, dropping by 4.7% between 2011 and 2012 to 346.5bn items; a further 4% global decline is expected this year.