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.]

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Richest Alberta Wins Most from Federal Transfer Payments

When writer Richard Starr approached Jim Lorimer with an idea for a book about federal transfer payments, Lorimer, the president of Formac Publishing, "wasn't totally enamored with the idea of trying to sell a book to Canadians about equalization." He admitted this to a modest, multi-generational audience on Sept. 4, at the Halifax launch of the book he eventually agreed to take on -- a decision he now believes was the right one.

Starr's book, Equal as Citizens: The tumultuous and troubled history of a great Canadian idea, details the emergence and evolution of Canada's equalization program -- the "arcane" yet surprisingly straightforward system by which the federal government collects a bit more in taxes than it needs to cover its own costs, and pays the surplus revenue back to the provinces so that they can afford public services for their citizens.

Harper Gov't 'Conceded to China' under Pressure: Treaty Expert

At one point during his nearly 20 years in China, Mark Kitto had all the success he could handle.

A publishing company, advertising firm and consultancy business were yielding good money and he estimates his businesses were worth about $10 million.

The Financial Times even referred to him as a "mini media mogul."

Kitto, originally from the United Kingdom, called China home for 18 years and during his time started magazines you can still purchase in the country -- only Kitto doesn't own them now.

Israeli intelligence veterans' letter to Netanyahu and military chiefs - in full

Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu

Chief of General Staff, Benny Gantz

Military Intelligence Director, Major General Aviv Kochavi

Commander of Unit 8200

We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.

Harper OKs Controversial Investment Treaty with China

The Harper government has officially ratified a controversial trade deal with China, it announced today.

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement will come into effect on Oct. 1, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development.

Since its 2012 signing in Vladivostok, Russia, the deal has been subject to controversy, with opposition members calling it a "flawed" agreement.

Ottawa will get $3.5-billion too much from EI premiums in 2015, report says

An independent actuarial report shows Ottawa will collect $3.5-billion more in Employment Insurance premiums than necessary in 2015, a year when the Conservative government is expected to release a pre-election budget jammed with tax cuts and new spending.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver denied this week that his government is using E.I. premiums as a “slush fund,” but the actuarial report released Friday is fuelling criticism that the Conservatives are tapping into E.I. funds meant for the unemployed in order to pay for other priorities.

The political predator

WHEN Stephen Harper led his Conservatives to victory in 2006 and formed a minority government, few Canadians expected it to last. The Liberals, who had dominated national politics for much of the past century, saw it as an interregnum. They did not have the measure of Mr Harper. Through the force of his personality and his ideas, the prime minister kept his party in power, winning a second minority in 2008 and then a majority in 2011. By the middle of this month he will have been in office longer than all but seven of Canada’s 22 prime ministers. Love him or loathe him, as Canadians do in equal measure, no one can deny that he is a remarkably successful politician.

Tesla's Huge Tax Break Deal Is Official

CARSON CITY, Nevada, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a package of bills on Thursday to provide $1.3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives for Tesla Motors , putting a bow on the deal for the electric car company to build a massive factory in the state.

Sandoval said the agreement has "changed the trajectory of our state forever" during the signing ceremony late on Thursday, shortly after the four bills were unanimously passed by both legislative chambers.

The Senate Tried to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Today. Guess What Stopped Them?

A majority of the United States Senate has voted to advance a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of Congress and the states to establish campaign fundraising and spending rules with an eye toward preventing billionaires and corporations from buying elections.

“Today was a historic day for campaign finance reform, with more than half of the Senate voting on a constitutional amendment to make it clear that the American people have the right to regulate campaign finance,” declared Senator Tom Udall, the New Mexico Democrat who in June proposed his amendment to address some of the worst results of the Supreme Court’s interventions in with the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decisions, as well as the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

Who Pays the Pro-War Pundits? Conflicts of Interest Exposed for TV Guests Backing Military Action

A new report finds many talking heads who have been fanning the flames of war in the news media have ties to Pentagon contractors. Reporting for The Nation, Lee Fang details how television analysts including retired generals Jack Keane and Anthony Zinni and former Department of Homeland Security official Frances Townsend have appeared on television recently, but their ties to military contractors were not disclosed. Fang writes many of these commentators "have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world." Keane, for example, is a special adviser to Academi, the contractor formerly known as Blackwater, and a board member to military manufacturer General Dynamics. He is also a "venture partner" to SCP Partners, an investment firm that works with defense contractors.

Author: --

Is the EI cut a 'job credit'? Try 'job killer'

Yesterday the federal government announced a "Small Business Job Credit." The idea is that small businesses with a payroll of under about $550,000 a year will have a portion of what they paid in EI refunded to them. Only the employers get some of their money back, not any of the workers. Also, this is at a time when EI is so restricted that six out of 10 unemployed Canadians can't even get it.
This is going to cost half a billion dollars a year, but will only amount to a maximum of $2,200 per business. Even with this miniscule amount, Minister Oliver is flogging this as a job-creation strategy. Well if $2,200 is going to incentivize behaviour that can go either way and you don't even have to hire anyone -- you can get it by doing nothing.
Say you're a business just over the $550,000 payroll cap. Why not just fire your summer student or cut back her hours to get yourself under the cap? Your reward for firing a student…a tax break! What if you pay minimum wage and don't want to invest in training? Your reward for sitting back and doing nothing…a tax break! Now what if you want to expand your business but you're close to the payroll cap? You may well think twice before hiring that person and losing your tax break.
Don't think small businesses will restrict their business to keep under an artificial cap? Take a look at how they bunch up right before they'd lose the "small business" tax break. I bet we'll see the exact same thing happen with the Job Credit payroll cap.
Original Article

The terrorism we support in Syria

In stark contrast to the sparse coverage of the brutality of ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria over the past few years, there has recently been substantial coverage of the emergence of ISIS in Iraq and the terrorist acts that this U.S.-backed and funded group has been committing. This surge of media focus on ISIS's brutality in Iraq and particularly on the recent alleged be-headings of two American journalists is extensively considered, amongst independent political analysts, to besetting the stage for NATO and the Axis-of-Imperialists to "fight terrorism" in Iraq and Syria, aka destroy both countries (note: there are valid doubts as to the legitimacy of the Foley video itself).

Bosses admit they would discriminate against women not wearing makeup

Almost half (49%) surveyed said it would be a major factor in their decision if the position was in sales or was a public-facing role in the company.

A similar proportion of company executives admitted they would discriminate against female staff who did not wear cosmetics on a regular basis, with almost 61% saying it would have a detrimental effect on the woman’s promotion prospects.

Budget watchdog ‘one step’ from taking government to court

OTTAWA  — Canada’s budget watchdog is one step away from taking the Harper government to court in an effort to uncover the impacts of massive spending and staffing cuts announced more than two years ago.

“I have to eliminate one more step,” Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette said in an interview this week. “At the end, if we have to go back to court, we’ll go back to court. All [other possible] steps will have been taken.”

Franklin expedition disrupts neat divisions between public and private

I'd like to thank the Franklin expedition and its many follow-ups for definitively settling the irritating argument between the private sector and the public sector over who's the problem and who's the solution. That dispute has consumed vast amounts of oxygen since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher ginned it up in the 1980s. The answer is: it's a stupid argument to start with.
Reagan and Thatcher said government wasn't the solution, it was the problem; business was the solution. Business leaders who liked the sound of that funded think-tanks like the Fraser Institute, which generate studies showing government activities like public schools or the Canada Pension Plan are inefficient and superfluous. Meagrely funded leftish think-tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives fire back defending the public side.

Barrick Gold refuses to relocate villagers who suffer murder, rape and house burning

This past July a young man was murdered deep in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, and Canadians should care.
Why concern ourselves with this one act of violence in a far away corner of the Pacific, at a time when there is so much violence in the world?
After all, there is lots of killing closer to home that could concern us, starting with the Ukraine (quiet for the moment) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). That latter group has even compelled U.S. President Obama to take serious military action, with Canada's Prime Minister Harper tagging along behind, calling out: "Me too! Me too!"

Businesses concerned EI cut benefits only small share of work force

Joe Oliver unveiled his first major decision as finance minister with a targeted tax credit for small business to boost hiring without sacrificing Conservative plans to balance the books and cut taxes further before next year’s election.

But business owners and economists raised concerns the Small Business Job Credit would benefit only a small share of Canada’s work force, and leave out the employers that hire the most.

India Seeks to Balance China's Power in Asia

NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept to power in May with a thumping electoral mandate, faces a major test in diplomacy in the form of bilateral summits this month with three powers central to Indian foreign policy: Japan, China, and the United States. Modi met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on September 1, and will now receive Chinese President Xi Jinping in New Delhi. He will then visit the White House at the end of the month.

Hamas Admits 'Mistakes' During Gaza Battle

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas militants used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel, at least at times. Even Hamas now admits "mistakes" were made.

But Hamas says it had little choice in Gaza's crowded urban landscape, took safeguards to keep people away from the fighting, and that a heavy-handed Israeli response is to blame for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Cash-Strapped Moderate Syrian Rebels Blame West For Rise Of Islamic State

REYHANLI, Turkey -- In an empty car dealership turned Syrian rebel office in this Turkish border town, a group of cash-strapped fighters aligned with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army gathered Wednesday. As the world waited for President Barack Obama to lay out his plan for reigning in the Islamic State, the Syrian rebels aired their concerns and fears.

“If the international community doesn’t intervene soon, I expect the FSA will flee -- or we’ll all be beheaded,” said Ramadan al-Helo, 31, who introduced himself as the commander of a rebel brigade in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. His men, part of the Hazem Movement, a rebel group with ties to the FSA, are fighting both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State, the hardline Sunni Muslim group that has recently captured large swaths of Syria and Iraq in hopes of creating an Islamic Caliphate.

Israeli intelligence veterans refuse to serve in Palestinian territories

Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.

The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.

Judge Strikes Down Ohio's False Statement Campaign Law As Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that Ohio's ban on false statements against candidates seeking office is unconstitutional.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion group, challenged the campaign law when they attempted to put up billboards accusing then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion by voting in favor of the Affordable Care Act. The billboard owner chose not to post the ads for fear of legal action after Driehaus filed a formal complaint against the ads' message with the Ohio Elections Commission.

With Ebola's death toll surging and a top United Nations official declaring that "the rate of acceleration is now picking up dramatically," Liberian officials have been making dire pronouncements about the deepening crisis in their country.

At a news conference Thursday, finance minister Amara Konneh said Liberia is at "war with an enemy we don't see." Two days earlier, the Ebola-ravaged country's defense minister, Brownie Samukai, delivered a harrowing warning of his own.

What Obama Didn’t Say

Just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait.

—President George H. W. Bush
January 16, 1991

Good evening. Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq.

President Bill Clinton
December 16, 1998

My fellow citizens. At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

President George W. Bush
March 19, 2003

My fellow Americans. Tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

President Barack Obama
September 10, 2014

When Government Says Teacher Wage Demands Are 'Unaffordable,' Are They?

Representatives of the British Columbia government have repeatedly said that it is "unaffordable" to close the gap between what they're willing to pay and what the B.C. Teachers' Federation wants, but observers say the government has many options for how to come up with the money.

Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender have said the BCTF needs to come into an "affordability zone" that's closer to the small wage increases other public sector unions have accepted.

NYPD Chief Bratton Defends Vast Inequalities In New York Arrest Data

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the reason black and Hispanic New Yorkers are arrested at much higher rates than their white peers for minor offenses is because minorities are the ones committing the crimes.

The New York Daily News recently compiled statistics on who is arrested most for crimes like bicycling on the sidewalk, having an open container of beer or spitting on the street.

Progressive Democrats Push For Vote To Authorize Force Against ISIS

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama maintains that he doesn't need congressional approval before engaging the nation's armed forces in Iraq. But progressives on Capitol Hill think Congress should weigh in anyway -- especially given the possibility of a risky, open-ended mission that is expected to last well beyond Obama's last day in office.

Seniors Forced Into Poverty As Education Department Demands Payment

The Education Department is demanding so much money from seniors with defaulted student loans that it's forcing tens of thousands of them into poverty, according to a government audit.

At least 22,000 Americans aged 65 and older had a part of their Social Security benefits garnished last year to the point that their monthly benefits were below federal poverty thresholds, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Education Department-initiated collections on defaulted federal student loans left at least another 83,000 Americans aged 64 and younger with poverty-level Social Security payments, GAO data show. Federal auditors cautioned that the number of Americans forced to accept poverty-level benefits because of past defaults on federal student loans are surely higher.

Hand in Hand With Kissinger: A Review of Hillary Clinton’s Review

If Hillary Clinton’s latest book, “Hard Choices,” was not an obvious enough sign of her presidential aspirations, then her recent Washington Post review of Henry Kissinger’s new book, “World Order,” seems to have sealed the deal. In it, Clinton builds on her already hawkish tenure as secretary of state to prove she can bang the drums of war harder than President Obama and that she can embrace a diplomatic approach so iron-fisted as to put her in the same league as a man that Christopher Hitchens called “a war criminal.”

Is the War on ISIS Illegal?

Last year, when President Obama declared his intention to take the United States off “perpetual war footing,” he identified a crucial mechanism for doing so: repealing the resolution that Congress passed in 2001 authorizing George W. Bush to use military force against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” in the September 11 attacks—namely, Al Qaeda.

“Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states,” Obama said during the speech, adding that his intention was to “refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate.”