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, March 08, 2014

Study Finds Keystone XL Would Have Much Larger Impact Than State Department Suggests

WASHINGTON -- The State Department's final environmental impact analysis for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline downplays the significance the pipeline would have for development of the Canadian tar sands, according to a new analysis from a United Kingdom-based group. The analysis also argues that the State Department underestimated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would come with that development.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a nonprofit that focuses on how carbon budgets interact with financial markets, released the new report on Monday, making its case for why Keystone XL is more important in the context of global emissions than the State Department's study indicates.

Mining companies pay huge amounts to foreign governments, but there is no public disclosure

The Harper government is making a show of pushing for greater transparency from Canada's mining companies -- but how serious is it really?
On Monday, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver used the occasion of a major mining industry convention to announce that, sometime in the future, Canada will require "extractive companies" to publicly report payments of $100,000 and over that they make to federal and provincial governments in Canada -- and, more importantly, to the governments of other countries.
This means that when a Canadian mining company pays royalties to the government of say Eritrea, the company will have to report those payments, even if the African country's government chooses not to.

Tories Kill Bid To Investigate Brad Butt Voter Fraud Claim

After a rancorous daylong debate, Conservative MPs resoundingly rejected an opposition bid to have a House committee look into their MP's claim — now retracted — that he saw voter information cards stolen to be misused to commit fraud.

Earlier in the day, the government invoked closure, a measure that's rarely used, to force a time limit on debate about whether the procedure and House affairs committee should study whether Conservative MP Brad Butt breached MPs' parliamentary privilege.

This Chart Pretty Much Says It All About Canada's Income Inequality

Employment Minister Jason Kenney has been boasting about data showing that Canadians’ net worth boomed in recent years, arguing, in essence, that Canada isn’t facing the sorts of income inequality problems that others are facing.

It’s a political gambit, of course, and it’s aimed at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s recent talk about income inequality. Last week, Kenney accused Trudeau of “making things up” when the Liberal leader asserted that Canada’s middle class is stuck in neutral.

But is Trudeau really making things up? Not according to a new study of incomes from the University of British Columbia, which found that nearly all the gains since the 1980s have gone to the top 10 per cent of earners — and much of that went to the very top 0.01 per cent of earners.

Stephen Harper, John Baird compare Russia to WW II era Germany

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has repeated his charge that Russia's occupation of Crimea is like Germany's annexation of Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, just before the Second World War in 1938.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoed the remarks when he said in the House of Commons Tuesday, "What we've seen is the decision of a major power to effectively invade and occupy a neighbouring country based on some kind of extra-territorial claim of jurisdiction over ethnic minorities. We haven't seen this kind of behaviour since the Second World War."

Tom Flanagan, Former Harper Adviser, Opens Up About Prime Minister

Tom Flanagan is back.

About a year ago, the former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper became persona non grata among most Canadian conservatives for publicly questioning whether it makes sense to jail those who view child porn.

Though he apologized for the remarks, Flanagan was virtually disowned by Harper Conservatives and members of Alberta's Wildrose Party.

Adolph Reed and Electoral Nihilism

So it’s beginning already.

It was probably inevitable, given widespread left-wing disappointment with Obama and longstanding reservations about Hillary Clinton, that we’d see another outbreak of electoral nihilism: the conviction that it doesn’t really matter which of the two parties holds the presidency. This myth has tempted radicals for a long time. In 1960, back when Commentary was still a liberal magazine, Dwight McDonald took to its pages to declare the outcome of the Nixon/Kennedy election a matter of indifference, as “the effect of one as against another built-up-torn-down candidate is in the realm of metaphysics and so of little interest to sensible people.” Fourteen years ago, this belief led otherwise smart people to declare that there was no meaningful difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

Marissa Alexander Now Faces 60 Years in Prison for Firing a Warning Shot in Self Defense

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to triple Marissa Alexander’s original prison sentence from twenty to sixty years, effectively a life sentence for the 33-year-old woman, when her case is retried this July, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Alexander was convicted on three charges of aggravated assault in 2012 for firing warning shots in the direction of Rico Gray, her estranged husband, and his two children. No one was hurt. Alexander’s attorneys argued that she had the right to self-defense after Gray physically assaulted and threatned to kill her the day of the shooting. In a deposition, Gray confessed to a history of abusing women, including Alexander.

Why Much Of What You’ve Read About Ukraine Isn’t Quite Right, As Explained By Ukrainians

Though protests had been raging in the capital city of Kyiv and cities across Ukraine since November, the eyes of the world turned sharply toward the former Soviet republic at the end of February when then-president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia and Russian president Vladimir Putin decided to directly insert himself in his neighbor’s internal turmoil. Citing an imminent danger to Russians living in the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea, Putin sought permission from Russia’s parliament to send military forces into Ukraine. As of Monday, Ukrainian officials said 16,000 Russian troops were in Ukraine and in a Tuesday press conference from his Moscow home, Putin said they “reserve the right to use all means to protect” Russian citizens in Ukraine, but denied having sent Russian forces there.

Wall Street Has Found Its Latest Dangerous Financial Product, Activists Warn

Housing and consumer activists warn that Wall Street is about to crash the housing market -- again.

The activists said they are particularly concerned about the growing number of companies looking to issue bonds backed by rental properties -- bonds that a coalition of groups described as "eerily like" those mortgage-backed securities that helped fuel the last housing bubble.

"We are poised to experience another crisis if federal regulators fail to recognize and take corrective action to address red flags that are all too familiar," more than 75 housing and consumer groups wrote in a letter Tuesday to federal bank and housing regulators.

Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada's resource agenda, documents reveal

The Canadian government is increasingly worried that the growing clout of aboriginal peoples’ rights could obstruct its aggressive resource development plans, documents reveal.

Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.

Why Russia No Longer Fears the West

The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West?

Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.

New database lists 824 murdered, missing native women in Canada

Some of the names are familiar, such as Cherisse Houle, the 17-year-old found lying face down in a creek just outside Winnipeg.

Some are forgotten, such as Constance Cameron, whose murder 30 years ago has never been solved.

One name is famous -- Helen Betty Osborne, whose death is emblematic of violent racism in Manitoba.

The Specter of Authoritarianism and the Politics of the ‘Deep State’

Mike Lofgren, a former GOP congressional staff member for 28 years with the Senate and House Budget committees, has written an essay for Bill Moyers & Company titled “Anatomy of the ‘deep state’.” The notion of the “deep state” has a long genealogy and serves to mark the myriad ways in which power remains invisible while largely serving the interest of the financial elite, mega-corporations, and other authoritarian regimes of commanding power. The form the “deep state” takes depends upon the historical conjuncture in which it emerges and the forces that drive and benefit from it can either be at the margins or at the center of power and control. The notion of the “deep state” also points to different configurations of power. President Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex is one example of the elements of the “deep state”that emerged in the post-World War II period. Another register can be seen in the coming of age of corporate power in combination with various forms of religious, military, and educational fundamentalisms in which war becomes aligned with big business, corporate power replaces state-based political sovereignty, religious extremism shapes everyday policies, and the punishing state works in tandem with the devolution of the welfare or social state.

Suffering? Well, You Deserve It

OXFORD, England—The morning after my Feb. 20 debate at the Oxford Union, I walked from my hotel along Oxford’s narrow cobblestone streets, past its storied colleges with resplendent lawns and Gothic stone spires, to meet Avner Offer, an economic historian and Chichele Professor Emeritus of Economic History.

Offer, the author of “The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950,” for 25 years has explored the cavernous gap between our economic and social reality and our ruling economic ideology. Neoclassical economics, he says, is a “just-world theory,” one that posits that not only do good people get what they deserve but those who suffer deserve to suffer. He says this model is “a warrant for inflicting pain.” If we continue down a path of mounting scarcities, along with economic stagnation or decline, this neoclassical model is ominous. It could be used to justify repression in an effort to sustain a vision that does not correspond to the real world.

The Loophole Big Oil Uses to Pump More Crude

When the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel recommended cabinet approve Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project in December (with 209 conditions), it was greenlighting its "applied-for" export capacity of an average 525,000 barrels a day on the crude oil export pipeline and 193,000 barrels a day on the condensate import pipeline.

That alone raised public hackles. What wasn't discussed is the fact that Enbridge has the chance to export much more, and with less oversight, thanks to a loophole in the National Energy Board Act.

A relentless fossil fuel industry is radicalizing politics in Canada

The anti-environment offensive by Canada’s fossil fuel industry and its flacks in government is radically shifting the political landscape of the country.
Each day, it seems, brings some new announcement and outrage being committed against Earth and the humans. More pipelines to be built, and more leaks and cover-ups of existing oil and tar sands facilities that poison the land and water. More threats of oil train disasters as the rail industry and governments claim they can make it safe. More Arctic sea ice loss and the disastrous consequences that will certainly result.

Conservatives’ big bang is fast approaching

Don’t be surprised if something big happens inside the hermetically sealed world of the Stephen Harper Party — and sooner rather than later.

It could be the departure of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, or a spectacular policy pivot, or even an election from space. Some people think there is still a chance it could be a Harper resignation.

Prime Minister Harper, like senators Duffy and Wallin, is beginning the most painful journey of all — from key political asset to major party liability.


Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly.

Poilievre uses debate on Senate reform to attack Trudeau’s ‘elitist’ proposal at Manning Conference

OTTAWA CONVENTION CENTRE—It was billed as a conservative debate on whether to reform or abolish Parliament’s Upper Chamber, but Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre saved his harshest criticism to debate Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in absentia at the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa on Saturday.

In a meandering address sprinkled with historical pomp, Mr. Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) managed to reference the Wright Brothers, Nazism, the invention of the telephone, the Magna Carta, and the Gettysburg address, before using his final moments to lace into Mr. Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) “elitist” proposal to have a Senate of appointed, non-partisan Canadians chosen by an independent commission.

Elections bill would give incumbents too much power, expert warns

Harry Neufeld, who wrote a report on problems in the last federal election, is warning of the potential for more abuse at polling stations if one part of the government's proposed fair elections act goes ahead.

Neufeld, B.C.'s former chief electoral officer and now an independent electoral management consultant, wrote the compliance review that identified polling problems in the 2011 election and made recommendations on how to fix them.

Ukraine Mobilizes For War, Calls Up Reserves

KIEV/BALACLAVA, Ukraine, March 2 (Reuters) - Ukraine mobilised for war on Sunday and Washington threatened to isolate Russia economically after President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbour in Moscow's biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War.

"This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in English. Yatseniuk heads a pro-Western government that took power in the former Soviet republic when its Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted last week.

Who Is Provoking the Unrest in Ukraine? A Debate on Role of Russia, United States in Regional Crisis

Russia is vowing to keep its troops in the Ukrainian region of Crimea in what has become Moscow’s biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War. Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said Russian President Vladimir Putin had effectively declared war on his country. Concern is growing that more of eastern Ukraine could soon fall to the Russians. Earlier today, Russian troops seized a Ukraine coast guard base in the Crimean city of Balaklava. On Sunday, the new head of Ukraine’s navy defected to Russia. To talk more about the crisis in Ukraine, we speak to Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder. His latest article for The New York Review of Books is "Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda." We also speak to retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern. He focused on Russian foreign policy for the first decade of his 27-year career with the agency. He recently wrote an article titled "Ukraine: One 'Regime Change' Too Many?"

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Don Cayo: Flaherty is right, Harper is wrong — income splitting is bad policy

VANCOUVER — Income splitting tax provisions are a great gift from the taxman for some people, my wife and I included, as we’ll benefit significantly from the provision for seniors when I decide to retire.

But, personal advantage notwithstanding, it’s bad policy. And in the debate dividing the federal Tory caucus, it’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who has facts and logic on his side, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper — so often described in past as “a trained economist” — who does not.

Female college student denied apartment because she’s not Jewish

Hanin Majadli, 24, originally from Baka al-Garbiyeh, has lived in Tel Aviv for five years now. On Monday, her search for a place to live led her to a shared apartment in the Florentine neighborhood. Y., the departing roommate, knew her from “Kilma,” the Facebook page she edits, which posts a new word in Arabic every day. Majadli liked the apartment and agreed to the price, and Y., who was responsible for finding a replacement, told her the room was hers.

Tensions Rise Between Ukraine And Russia Over Crimea

MOSCOW/KIEV March 1 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament's approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where his troops have apparently already seized the Crimea peninsula, spurning Western pleas for restraint.

Talk of confrontation or outright war spread rapidly across Ukraine, with pro-Moscow demonstrators raising the Russian flag above government buildings in several cities and anti-Russian politicians calling for mobilisation.

Baird’s silence on Indian anti-gay law puzzles human rights experts

OTTAWA – He has hammered Russia, blasted Uganda and even gone after the state of Arizona.

All of which makes Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s silence on a tough anti-gay law in India puzzling to outsiders who have come to expect a strong Canadian statement when it comes to gay rights abroad.

Baird’s office says the federal government has raised the issue in private discussions with Indian officials, and that there is no “one-size-fits-all approach” when it comes to the issue of gay rights abroad.

Conservative message to ethnic voters is starting to look a little creepy

Nobody knows — maybe not even the prime minister — whether he will lead the Conservatives into the next election.

Since April of 2013, when Justin Trudeau won the Liberal leadership, he has been ahead of Stephen Harper in the polls. Trailing politicians always point out that the only polls that matter are the ones on election day, but such blithe assurances often conceal stomach-curdling anxiety.

Harper may have a secret plan to win the next election, or to avoid being bested by young Trudeau at the ballot box, he may declare victory and pass the reins sometime in the next 12 months.

'Dromocracy' Now: When the Streets Take Over

The mass demonstration as political act is nothing new. Major cities deal with them all the time: I saw Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington in 1959 at such a demonstration, and took part in Vietnam protest marches in San Francisco during the mid-1960s.

In the early 1980s, the anti-nuclear marches in Vancouver were major events. So was the protest against the Bill Bennett Socreds' convention in 1983, when an estimated 60,000 British Columbians surrounded it at the Hotel Vancouver.

Venezuelan Protests: Another Attempt by U.S.-Backed Right-Wing Groups to Oust Elected Government?

In Venezuela, at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. The latest casualty was a local beauty queen who died of a gunshot wound. The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest last week, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes. On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition. Our guest, George Ciccariello-Maher, looks at the recent history of the U.S. role in Venezuela opposing both the Chávez and Maduro governments. He is author of "We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution" and teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

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Venezuela's growing middle-class revolt

On Monday, Venezuelans woke up to find barricades of pipes, trash and branches burning in the streets.

Improvised roadblocks, cutting off neighbourhoods from each other and from the central core of certain cities, appeared simultaneously in eight states of Venezuela, most of them in middle-class areas, and show no signs of letting up.

Venezuela protests: the other side of the story

Last week, we published a readers’ panel on the Venezuelan protests, sourced via GuardianWitness and Guardian comments sections. We sought to hear from those who were taking part in the protests, and those who supported them. We received many responses.

At the same time, a social media campaign was taking off, using#SOSVenezuela on Twitter and Facebook in particular, to highlight the situation in the country.

How One Right-Wing Christian Group Is Leading Arizona's March Toward Conservative Extremism

On Thursday, a day after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed the state's highly-criticized SB 1062 -- a measure that would have allowed business owners to reject services to any individual on religious grounds, which was widely seen as discriminatory toward the LGBT community -- the state House passed another controversial measure: the "Women's Health Protection Act," or HB 2884.

Canadians believe Tory election act settling scores

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe that the ruling Conservatives are settling political scores with their Fair Elections Act, a new poll has found.
And that skepticism about the motives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government only rises among people who say they’re “fairly” or “very” familiar with what’s in the bill, according to the poll, conducted by Angus Reid Global.
“The more Canadians are aware of the Fair Elections Act, the more they oppose it,” is the headline on the poll findings, which were shared with the Star in advance of their release on Friday.

Linking ‘tax fairness’ to family stability, Kenney comes out in support of income splitting

Jason Kenney, one of the Conservative government’s most senior ministers, has launched a full-throated defence of the Tory Party’s controversial income-splitting campaign pledge, linking a policy that would ease taxes on households with stay-at-home spouses with the notion of a “stable family.”

The measure has come under fire from critics who argue the Tories should not follow through on a 2011 campaign pledge – contingent on a balanced budget – to allow parents with kids under 18 to share income for tax reporting. Even Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has voiced public misgivings about the fairness of a policy that would deliver lucrative tax breaks to 1.8-million households.

Fossil fuel drive spurs political radicalization in Canada

The anti-environment offensive by Canada’s fossil fuel industry and its flacks in government is radically shifting the political landscape of the country.

Each day, it seems, brings some new announcement and outrage being committed against Earth and the humans. More pipelines to be built, and more leaks and cover-ups of existing oil and tar sands facilities that poison the land and water. More threats of oil train disasters as the rail industry and governments claim they can make it safe. More Arctic sea ice loss and the disastrous consequences that will certainly result.