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.]

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Federal government balks at backing Arctic Internet project

OTTAWA — The head of a company trying to lay a broadband fibre optic cable along the Northwest Passage — a project that would connect Tokyo to London — says the project may not go ahead unless the Canadian government becomes a major customer.

After three years of lobbying — and an appeal directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper — the federal government doesn’t appear ready to do what Arctic Fibre is asking it to: Switch over three-quarters of its Internet services in the North to broadband cable from satellite services.

B.C. today: Labour conflict or school reform?

Did the B.C. Liberal government just bluff on that $40 a day voucher plan or do they really want to have that battle over public education now?
It was telling that one of the earliest responses to the announcement came from a former top ranking B.C. Liberal. "Hmm. Did BC govt just take the first $40 per day step towards a voucher system for public education?" asked former Attorney General, Geoff Plant on Twitter.

What's Really Locking BC's Schools Shut

With the failure of mediation talks over the Labour Day weeks, B.C. schools face their greatest crisis since the shock of the Socreds' "restraint" budget in the fall of 1983.

The province then teetered on the edge of a general strike. We are nowhere near that point now, but the prospect is grim enough: a crippled start to the school year for hundreds of thousands of students, 40,000 teachers still on the picket lines, and the likelihood of a resolution that will leave our schools a permanently toxic workplace.

Jobless on Labor Day

On Labor Day we celebrate with barbecues, baseball and beer. But the original idea was to celebrate the contributions working people make to our country. And work is a crucial part of our identity as Americans. In fact, the United States is home to some of the most productive people on the planet, and apart from Korea, we put in more hours at work than every country in the world.

In America, Only The Poor's Eating Habits Aren't Improving

CHICAGO (AP) — Americans' eating habits have improved — except among the poor, evidence of a widening wealth gap when it comes to diet. Yet even among wealthier adults, food choices remain far from ideal, a 12-year study found.

On an index of healthy eating where a perfect score is 110, U.S. adults averaged just 40 points in 1999-2000, climbing steadily to 47 points in 2009-10, the study found.

Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments.

Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context.

The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs.

In last-minute reversal, Ford backs out of two mayoral debates

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will be a no-show at two mayoral debates planned for this week, after dropping out at the 11th hour.

Jeff Silverstein, Mr. Ford’s director of communications, confirmed on Monday evening that the mayor will not attend debates held by Greenwood Community Association on Tuesday and FilmOntario on Wednesday.

Mr. Silverstein cited scheduling reasons. “Things have come up,” he said. “He’ll be participating in a number of debates.”

Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives Targeted For CRA Political-Activities Audit

OTTAWA - A left-leaning think-tank was targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency for a political-activities audit last fall partly because the research and education material on its website appears to be "biased" and "one-sided."

That partial rationale for launching the controversial audit appears on a newly released document that the think-tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, obtained under the Access to Information Act.

Leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk flew daughter on government planes

Original Article
Source: CBC

"A Slaughter of Innocents": Henry Siegman, a Venerable Jewish Voice for Peace, on Gaza

Today, a special with Henry Siegman, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s "big three" Jewish organizations along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Henry Siegman was born in 1930 in Frankfurt, Germany. Three years later, the Nazis came to power. After fleeing Nazi troops in Belgium, his family eventually moved to the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement, pushing for the creation of a Jewish state. In New York, Siegman studied and was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. He later became head of the Synagogue Council of America. After his time at the American Jewish Congress, Siegman became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He now serves as president of the U.S./Middle East Project.

Over the years, Siegman has become a vocal critic of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories and has urged Israel to engage with Hamas. He has called the Palestinian struggle for a state "the mirror image of the Zionist movement" that led to the founding of Israel in 1948. In July, wrote an op-ed for Politico headlined, "Israel Provoked This War." Democracy Now! hosts Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh sat down with him on July 29 — in the midst of Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Author: --

Joe Oliver, Finance Canada Issue Rebuttal To Grim Analysis On Middle-Class Economic Woes

OTTAWA - Finance Canada has issued a rebuttal of a politically embarrassing report on middle-class economic woes that was compiled last fall by experts in another federal department.

The duelling analyses highlight an economic issue almost certain to dominate the federal election campaign next year, as political parties cite the same data to make opposite points.

Vladimir Putin: 'I Can Take Kiev In Two Weeks If I Want'

Vladimir Putin has boasted that he could take the Ukrainian capital Kiev in "two weeks", according to reports of a telephone conversation between Russia's president and the outgoing European commissioner.

Putin, who has repeated his categorical denial that Russian troops are in Ukraine, despite evidence to the contrary from Ukraine's leadership, has been defiant in recent days about Moscow's right to protect its interests in the country.

B.C. Teachers' Strike Violates My Right To Education

Hi there, I'm Callista. I'm a 16-year-old student whose future is at stake, my rights are being violated, and I need you to hear me out.

I'm writing about how I feel regarding the current B.C. teachers' strike, because I'm a student, and as a student it is my duty to speak up about this. Because the rights of students under the age of 18 are being violated.

Yes, everyone is affected, but it's the students and their futures that are at stake. I understand and know what the BCTF is fighting for: smaller class sizes, more special education teachers, and higher wages. And that's understandable, but the government doesn't seem get that they're putting a large amount of students' futures and careers at risk. What is happening to the public education system is not okay.

How I was raped – and pressured into dropping the charges

Former judge Mary Jane Mowat’s recent comments about rape convictions are outrageous. (“Rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk,” she said this week.) To me, however, they are also personal.

In the first term of my second year at Oxford, I was raped while passed out in my bed. Yes, my unconsciousness was due to alcohol.

Greece's migrant fruit pickers: 'They kept firing. There was blood everywhere'

Is a man worth nothing when he is branded illegal? Tipu Chowdhury has spent the past 17 months wondering. The answer has not been easy. Even now, after being forced to endure subhuman living conditions, after being starved and worked like a slave, the Bangladeshi does not speak ill of Greece. Instead of anger, there is resignation, an almost fatalistic acceptance that this is the life meted out to those who go "undocumented".

Had he and his fellow strawberry pickers not been shot at – had the case not reached the courts and the men who did the shooting not been scandalously freed – he might not have pondered the question at all.

Mine Disaster: Who Will Investigate Gov't Failings?

The blue ribbon panel team set up by the provincial government to investigate the Mount Polley mine disaster will find out what caused the tailings pond dam to collapse.

The second and critically important question, however, is what, if any, role the government of British Columbia played or should have played. In fact, this is the most important aspect, because B.C. had a longstanding legal, not to mention moral, duty which it appears from all the evidence was not fulfilled -- and which, if fulfilled, may well have stopped the catastrophe from happening in the first place.

Dear Christy Clark, You And I Disagree On What Taxes Should Be Used For

Dear Christy,

I'm sorry that you did not take my advice in my last letter when I suggested that you should get teachers back into classrooms as soon as possible.

Today I'm writing to you about what you've said in response to the breakdown in talks to end the teachers' strike. You said that you want a negotiated deal that taxpayers can afford.

1/2 We remain committed to negotiating a fair deal with the BCTF as soon as possible, but it has to be affordable for taxpayers.
— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) August 31, 2014

David Cameron Accused Of Offending 'Basic Principles Of Law' With Terrorism Plan

David Cameron has been warned that his plan to prevent British citizens who are accused of fighting with terror groups abroad from returning home offends the "basic principles" of British law.

On Monday, the prime minister announced that police will be given temporary powers to seize passports from people at the British border.

Vladimir Putin Isn’t Going To Stop

On Friday night, a local lawmaker left his home in the northern Russian city of Pskov when he was attacked from behind by three men and beaten unconscious, only to wake up, bloodied, in a hospital hours later. The lawmaker, Lev Shlosberg, had been leading an investigation into the mysterious burials of several members of the Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division who were rumored to have died fighting in Ukraine. Journalists who attempted to reach the cemetery days earlier were also attacked.

More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft’

MIRA LOMA, Calif. — Week after week, Guadalupe Rangel worked seven days straight, sometimes 11 hours a day, unloading dining room sets, trampolines, television stands and other imports from Asia that would soon be shipped to Walmart stores.

Even though he often clocked 70 hours a week at the Schneider warehouse here, he was never paid time-and-a-half overtime, he said. And now, having joined a lawsuit involving hundreds of warehouse workers, Mr. Rangel stands to receive more than $20,000 in back pay as part of a recent $21 million legal settlement with Schneider, a national trucking company.

Inappropriate Government Watchlisting Threatens Innocent Lives

“A single, uncorroborated source of information—including a Facebook or Twitter post”—is enough to put innocent foreigners and Americans on a watchlist of “known” and “suspected” terrorists shared with foreign and domestic agencies as well as private contractors, ACLU legislative counsel Arjun Sethi writes at The Guardian on Saturday.

Top 5 Reasons ‘Labor Day’ Isn’t for Laborers Anymore

Calling the bottom of a river a “bed” is a metaphor.  Imagine the river restlessly sleeping on its muddy mattress.  But when we’ve so internalized a metaphor that we forget it is a figure of speech, as with the phrase “river bed,” it is called a “dead metaphor.”

Labor Day is, alas, akin to a dead metaphor in contemporary America.  There was a time when, as in 1936, the unionized auto workers could make effective demands from their employers, for higher wages and better working conditions.  Workers no longer get better off in today’s U.S.A.  They are often summarily dismissed if they try to unionize.  They are badly paid.  Good jobs have been switched out for bad jobs.  Tax policy has been manipulated by the wealthy and corporations, who have bought Congress and state legislatures, so as to ensure that the rich get richer, and richer and richer. 

The True Story Of How One Man Shut Down American Commerce To Avoid Paying His Workers A Fair Wage

In 1894, Chicago was the Midwest’s gateway to the rest of the United States. Twenty-four different railroad lines centered or terminated in Chicago, covering the nation in over forty thousand miles of rail. Farmers, merchants, craftsmen and factories hoping to bring their goods to the rest of the nation — and potentially, to the rest of the world — had to first bring those goods to Chicago to begin their journey down one of the city’s many rail lines. Without Chicago’s railroads, much of the country lost its access to the nation’s commerce and was essentially plunged back into a pre-industrial economy.

B.C. Teachers' Strike: The Feud Dates Back Decades

VANCOUVER - All summer long, there's been one overriding conversation amongst the hundred-plus employees at a Vancouver financial firm who have school-age children: British Columbia's acrimonious teachers' strike.

Project analyst Robert Ford, with Credential Financial, has a 12-year-old daughter and six-year-old son who won't be starting their school year this Tuesday, and he said the parents at his company all feel the same.

National inquiry wouldn’t impact investigations: RCMP

The director of the RCMP’s aboriginal policing unit says a national inquiry is “immaterial to the prevention efforts that we are implementing” and wouldn’t impact the force’s investigations.

Facing renewed calls for a national public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women, the Conservative government remains steadfast in its position that action is needed to solve the crimes rather than an inquiry.

Canadians expose foreign worker 'mess' in oilsands

Canadian tradesmen from a huge oilsands construction project are waving a red flag about safety hazards and near misses, which they blame on the use of foreign workers who aren't qualified and can't speak English.

"When you bring in a bunch of workers who are unqualified to do this job it's only a matter of time before you kill someone," said Les Jennings, who was an ironworker supervisor at the Husky Sunrise plant until a few weeks ago, when he quit in frustration.

Three Reasons Teachers Must Keep Picketing to Keep Pressure on BC Gov't

Education Minister Peter Fassbender has publicly suggested the BCTF take down teachers' picket lines for a 2-week "cooling off period" while veteran mediator Vince Ready works with the government and BCTF negotiating teams to reach a collective agreement.

Don't do it, is my strong advice to teachers -- it's a trap.

I am sure many teachers are running out of cash or into deeper debt without a pay cheque and the thought of some cash in hand is tempting, as well as the enormous pressure from media, parents and students to get school started on time.

Israel Announces Massive West Bank Land Grab

JERUSALEM, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a U.S. rebuke.

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared "state land, on the instructions of the political echelon" by the military-run Civil Administration.

Canada's Refugee Policy Risks Tearing Parents From Their Children, Activists Say

MONTREAL - For the past month, Sheila Sedinger woke up every morning fraught with worry over the prospect of being deported to Mexico without her two young children.

But Sedinger, who came to Canada in 2005, was recently granted a stay, guaranteeing her at least two more years in Montreal with her eight- and six-year-old daughters while a custody battle with their father plays out.

Other families haven't been so lucky.

Israel Appropriates 1000 Acres Of West Bank Land For Possible Settlement Expansion

Israel has appropriated 1000 acres of land in the occupied West Bank in a move described as 'the biggest in 30 years'.

The area in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem where currently around 10 Israeli families live, will most likely be used to build a permanent settlement.

In Search of a Strategy

At the end of the eighth century, Harun al-Rashid, a caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, built a palace in Raqqa, on the Euphrates River, in what is now Syria. His empire stretched from modern Tunisia to Pakistan. It was an age of Islamic discovery in science, music, and art; Rashid’s court of viziers inspired stories in “One Thousand and One Nights.”

In June, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared Raqqa the seat of a new caliphate, presided over by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a fierce preacher who was once an American prisoner in Iraq, and is now in hiding. The city has lost its splendor. Public executions are “a common spectacle” on Fridays in El Naim Square or at the Al Sa’a roundabout, a United Nations human-rights commission reported last month. ISIS fighters mount the dead on crucifixes, “as a warning to local residents.”