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, June 29, 2014

Denmark's Welfare System Means It Has One Of The Narrowest Wealth Gaps In The World

COPENHAGEN - This is what it's like to live in Denmark, a nation with a narrower wealth gap than almost anywhere else: You've been jobless for more than a year. You have no university degree, no advanced skills. You have to pay a mortgage. And your husband is nearing retirement.

You aren't worried.

If you're 51-year-old Lotte Geleff, who lost her job as an office clerk in January 2013, you know you'll receive an unemployment benefit of 10,500 kroner ($1,902) a month after taxes for up to two years. You're part of a national system of free health care and education for everyone, job training, subsidized child care, a generous pension system and fuel subsidies and rent allowances for the elderly.

And high taxes.

Oilsands wages driving push for temporary foreign workers

If you are a temporary foreign worker in Fort McMurray, the gap between your wage and the wage that workers earn in the oilsands sector is immense.
On average a worker in a fast food outlet in Fort McMurray — and there are lots of them in a place where at almost any time of day there is a long line of pick-up trucks waiting at the drive-thru — earns $14 to $17 an hour. If it’s part-time work, which it usually is, that works out to $400 to $500 week at the most.
In the oil and gas sector in Alberta where wages are mostly driven by the fierce competition for all kinds of labour in the oilsands industry, the average weekly wage as of December 2013 was $2,067, up 73 per cent from 2001.

Moms change diapers, Dads form leaders: Justice minister’s emails to staff

OTTAWA - Justice Minister Peter MacKay raised eyebrows in his department with two very different tributes to female and male employees for Mother's Day and Father's Day this year.

Emails obtained by The Canadian Press show that in May, MacKay saluted mothers in the department for holding down two full-time jobs — at home and at work.

"By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you’ve already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner," MacKay said of the moms in a staff-wide memo that went out to thousands of employees before Mother's Day.

No, Northern Gateway Is Not a Nation Builder

Martha Hall Findlay, a former Liberal MP, wants all good Canadians to say yes to Northern Gateway.

In a recent Globe and Mail commentary, the executive fellow for University of Calgary School of Public Policy (funded in part by Imperial Oil) writes that you simply can't build a nation by saying no to a pipeline.

It will bring us that ever-popular deity, prosperity. Prosperity for us, and for generations to come.

Who cares about the truth when you’ve got a hefty ad budget?

Stephen Harper has made an amendment to the old saying that bullshit baffles brains: marketing trumps all.

Care to play Snakes and Leaders Stevie-style? Easy-peazy. You screw the veterans and then divert attention by surrounding sporting events with commercials saying what a swell job you’re doing for them. The veterans will know you are a fat-faced liar, but that doesn’t matter. They are old and expendable — a disappearing demographic of no political importance. There’s no political upside to them.

There Are 1,401 Uninspected High-Risk Oil and Gas Wells. Here's Where They Are.

Johnson County, Wyoming, is the kind of remote, quiet Western community wherelife revolves around cattle—it was the site of an infamous 19th-century armed battle between cowboys and suspected cattle rustlers. The county ranks only 11th statewide for oil production, but it holds the No. 1 ranking nationwide for a more ignominious distinction: It has 249 new, high-risk oil and gas wells that the federal government has failed to inspect for compliance with safety and environmental standards.

The Ghoulish Face of Empire

The black-clad fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sweeping a collapsing army and terrified Iraqis before them as they advance toward Baghdad, reflect back to us the ghoulish face of American empire. They are the specters of the hundreds of thousands of people we murdered in our deluded quest to remake the Middle East. They are ghosts from the innumerable roadsides and villages where U.S. soldiers and Marines, jolted by explosions of improvised explosive devices, responded with indiscriminate fire. They are the risen remains of the dismembered Iraqis left behind by blasts of Hellfire and cruise missiles, howitzers, grenade launchers and drone strikes. They are the avengers of the gruesome torture and the sexual debasement that often came with being detained by American troops. They are the final answer to the collective humiliation of an occupied country, the logical outcome of Shock and Awe, the Frankenstein monster stitched together from the body parts we left scattered on the ground. They are what we get for the $4 trillion we wasted on the Iraq War.

Isis threat justifies greater surveillance powers in UK, says Liam Fox

Britain's security services may need to be given greater powers of surveillance to monitor extremists from Isis when they return home to Britain from Iraq and Syria, the former defence secretary Liam Fox has said.

A majority of people will accept that an "ideological battle" means that the authorities will need greater powers to intercept the communications of extremists, Fox said.

Why I'm for Massive Civil Disobedience

The Conservative government's decision to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline is the greatest threat to national unity since the Quebec crisis in 1995. It is reminiscent of Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program of 1980 except in that case the program could be and was cancelled. It is, simply put, an "up yours" to our province.

What we must understand is that there will be spills and serious spills along this pipeline. This is a certainty. Enbridge's own record demonstrates this but the law of averages makes it certain.

It's worse than that. Because of the terrain over which the pipeline would go, access to the spills is all but denied. One only has to look at a map to see that there is no more hostile territory in the world for a pipeline.

Northern Gateway and National Aboriginal Day: Reconciliation postponed

We're at a watershed moment for Canada, one where we have the opportunity to carry on as we always have in our relationship with Indigenous peoples, or one where we can move forward in new, more respectful ways. Which path will we choose?
On June 17, the federal government signalled that it was content with the status quo when it approved  construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, a bitumen viaduct that will cross the Arctic and Pacific Ocean watersheds, travelling though the traditional territories  of more than 100 First Nations. While the approval is conditional on meeting the review panel's 209 recommendations and improving relations with Indigenous Peoples along the pipeline's path, the review panel's ecological conclusions have been critiqued by a panel of 300 scientists, and the consultation process with First Nations has been characterized by government's own experts as deeply flawed.

Narendra Modi's Hindi-only-tweets order stirs fears of India language shift

Narendra Modi's landslide victory in the Indian general election last month marked a turning point in the country's politics – but it has also resulted in a radical change in the country's language of power.

India's home ministry has instructed civil servants in Delhi to use Hindi rather than English in all their communications on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, it emerged this week. Hindi is to also get priority on all government websites.

Profit in passport chaos? Passport Office makes £13 per application

The Passport Office was accused of "profiting from public hardship" after it was revealed it is making a £13 surplus on every passport it issues.

MPs have been told that it is now having to spend nearly a £1m in a month on overtime as it attempts to deal with the chaos of 490,000 outstanding applications.

Detailed Passport Office figures also confirm that the closure of overseas passport posts has caused a significant increase in applications this year.

Egypt sentences Muslim Brotherhood leader and 182 followers to death

An Egyptian court has confirmed death sentences against the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and at least 182 of his supporters.

The court's decision came two months after it referred the case against the Brotherhood's "general guide", Mohamed Badie, and hundreds of others to the state's highest religious authority, the grand mufti, the first step towards imposing a death sentence.

Enbridge approval ‘declared war’ on the rights Indigenous people

Three days after the federal government granted approval to the $7-billion Enbridge Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, a group of women in Gitgaat First Nation held the first — albeit symbolic — blockade of the controversial project.

It is no doubt the first of many to come, as opposition continues amongst many First Nations in the province, who say they will never back down and allow the project through regardless of government rulings.

Stephen Harper: EI Rule Changes Have Nothing To Do With People Leaving Maritimes

CHARLOTTETOWN - The flow of workers from Eastern to Western Canada has nothing to do with changes to employment insurance, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

Harper was asked about outmigration and what, if any, relationship it may have to EI changes while he was in Prince Edward Island, a province where those changes have been met with protest.

Here's What Canada's Public School Classrooms Look Like If Teachers Don't Buy Supplies

Teachers at public schools in British Columbia, Canada, went on a full-scale strike Tuesday.

The British Columbia Teachers' Federation and the government are locked in a bitter labor dispute over wages, class sizes and additional support for students. The strike effectively ended the school year early for public school students.
It's no secret that a lot of classroom materials -- from books to supplies to decorations -- are purchased by teachers themselves. But the magnitude of teachers' contributions and dedication to their students really becomes clear when the teachers remove their belongings.

Prosecutors: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Part Of 'Criminal Scheme'

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Newly released documents show prosecutors are alleging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a nationwide "criminal scheme" to illegally coordinate with outside conservative groups.

The documents were filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the probe by the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth. They were ordered publicly released Thursday by a federal appeals court judge after prosecutors and the Wisconsin Club for Growth did not object.

One of the filings from prosecutors outlines previously unknown details about the investigation that began in 2012 as Walker was facing a recall election.

Prosecutors say Walker, his chief of staff and others who worked for him were discussing illegal coordination with a number of national groups and prominent figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.

Original Article
Author: AP  | By SCOTT BAUER

Canadian Forces' return to old-style ranks, insignia costs millions

At a time of federal belt-tightening, the Conservative government's return to World War II-era ranks and insignia will require new dress uniforms for Canadian soldiers and naval officers at a cost of $4.5 million.

Defence Department figures show the bulk of that cost — $3.1 million — will go to buy new jackets for the dark green dress uniforms army officers wear to formal events and on parades.

A similar change for naval officers — the addition of a curl to the top bar of their traditional naval rank — has a cost of $1.35 million, the Defence Department says.

Northern Gateway and class politics in British Columbia: Ready for war?

But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence… illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.
- Feuerbach, Preface to the second edition of The Essence of Christianity

Russia Resumes Military Buildup Near Ukraine Border: NATO

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is resuming its military buildup along the Ukrainian border in an apparent attempt to intimidate its neighbor, NATO's chief said Thursday as Ukrainian government forces unleashed a major offensive against pro-Moscow insurgents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, voicing strong concern about the Ukrainian military onslaught. Putin said he expects Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to immediately launch his plan to end the violence, the Kremlin said.