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, October 09, 2014

'We're Not Gonads': Iraq Debate Sparked Odd Exchanges In House

OTTAWA - The 13 hours of debate on Canada's mission in Iraq mostly centred around one central question: is bombing militants in Iraq the right way to deal with the escalating situation in the region?

The answers and arguments were sometimes creative. A look at some of the more interesting quotes:

Male private parts: "Canada, we're not gonads. We won't take terrorism lying down," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney declared in French, using a slang word for testicles (couillons) that roughly translates into "idiots."

One year in: Jerry Dias on Unifor's first year and its future

It's been just over a year since the formation of Unifor on Labour Day of 2013. Last weekend, the union held the Good Jobs Summit, where the Unifor's first president, Jerry Dias, spoke several times about the importance of reaching out to all sectors to keep and create more good jobs. 
Speakers at the summit came from the realms of business and politics. They included prominent Liberal politicians like Wynne and Justin Trudeau, leading some to speculate that Unifor might be breaking their traditional ties with the NDP. But Dias says no.

America’s 14 Richest People Made More Money Than Needed to Fund Food Stamps for 50 Million People

Fourteen of the 1 percenters made more from their investments than the $80 billion allotted for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to feed 50 million Americans. And that food assistance budget had been slashed by $8.7 billion due to a lack of federal funding, a cut that hit Americans in need hard but represented a mere tenth of the profits the über rich made on top of other forms of revenue. It gets worse.

The Planning Machine

In June, 1972, Ángel Parra, Chile’s leading folksinger, wrote a song titled “Litany for a Computer and a Baby About to Be Born.” Computers are like children, he sang, and Chilean bureaucrats must not abandon them. The song was prompted by a visit to Santiago from a British consultant who, with his ample beard and burly physique, reminded Parra of Santa Claus—a Santa bearing a “hidden gift, cybernetics.”

The consultant, Stafford Beer, had been brought in by Chile’s top planners to help guide the country down what Salvador Allende, its democratically elected Marxist leader, was calling “the Chilean road to socialism.” Beer was a leading theorist of cybernetics—a discipline born of midcentury efforts to understand the role of communication in controlling social, biological, and technical systems. Chile’s government had a lot to control: Allende, who took office in November of 1970, had swiftly nationalized the country’s key industries, and he promised “worker participation” in the planning process. Beer’s mission was to deliver a hypermodern information system that would make this possible, and so bring socialism into the computer age. The system he devised had a gleaming, sci-fi name: Project Cybersyn.

Here’s How the U.S., China and Russia Are Supplying Islamic State’s Weapons

The U.S. is preparing to send more military supplies to the Middle East to fight Islamic State at the same time a report has revealed that most of the radical group’s weapons come from America. Although much of the armament IS uses was seized, the group is also believed to be buying equipment “directly from the companies and dealers that routinely profit from strife in the Middle East.”

‘The Right To Protest Is Under Attack’: Why This 83-Year-Old Woman Was Kicked Out Of Federal Court

Eve Tetaz was arrested while wearing a plain white tee shirt at a U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
She had been wearing a bright orange tee-shirt with the words “Close down Guantanamo, Stop Torture” stamped across the front in big, bold letters when she first entered the courthouse. Tetaz said that a guard told her to turn the shirt inside-out and cover it with a jacket. When she asked why, he said, “I know your intent.” In an interview at the courthouse Tetaz said, “[It was] interesting, because what is my intent? Is it to blow up the courthouse? Of course not.”

Tanya Tagaq: Being An Aboriginal Woman Is Like Being Scared At A Horror Movie. All The Time

Part way into a discussion of environmental issues, Tanya Tagaq, fuelled by a mix of frustration at the current state of the Canadian government, passionate hope for the future and an endorphin high from the workout she completed right before our interview, calls Prime Minister Stephen Harper a "douchebag."

Who benefits from B.C.'s LNG tax and regulatory regime?

This fall's legislative sitting will be an important one for shaping the future of LNG in B.C. Will one or more companies make final investment decisions? And if they do will there be any public benefits?
One of the key questions is whether the B.C. government will cave on its proposed 7 per cent LNG income tax rate. Industry has criticized the LNG income tax as an extra tax not applicable to other industries, but this misses the point. B.C.'s natural gas is a public or Crown resource, so, ultimately, this jockeying is about what is B.C.'s fair share of the profits. If I was to sell your car for you, because I had special infrastructure for that purpose (a used car lot), how should we split the proceeds: 50/50? 80/20? 95/5?

China's Economy Just Overtook The U.S. In One Key Measure

This was inevitable, but it still feels momentous: By one important measure, China's economy is now the biggest in the world, topping the United States.

A Syrian Student's Harrowing Journey Smuggled Through Eight Countries In Search Of Asylum

ISTANBUL -- On a warm summer day in June last year, 21-year-old Soultan headed to his university campus in Damascus, where his classmates were being rounded up and arrested by regime soldiers. It was time to leave Syria.

What lay ahead of him was an exhausting year and a half of sleeping on jail-cell floors, dodging beatings from authorities, crossing rivers and hopping freight trains with one goal: to seek asylum in Germany, where he had relatives. Soultan packed his bag with some clothes and an engineering book, bid goodbye to his family, and embarked on an illegal and expensive journey through eight countries by land and sea.

Republicans Are Trying to Make Sure Minorities and Young People Don't Vote This November

As candidates across the country are kicking their get-out-the-vote efforts into high gear, many states are feverishly litigating to defend newly implemented voting restrictions that could prevent many voters from casting a ballot. The outcomes of those cases could shape critical races—and even influence which party wins control of the US Senate.

In a way, Barack Obama can be blamed for this. In 2008, his historic campaign inspired record turnout, drawing more people to the polls than the country had seen in 40 years. Almost all of the record increase came from black, Hispanic, and young voters, who tended to vote Democratic. Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures, not surprisingly, saw this as a problem. They responded by throwing up a host of new obstacles to voting that disproportionately affect black, Latino, and low-income voters.

Canada's Housing Market Draws IMF Warning

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is reminding Canada that its overvalued housing market remains a vulnerability, even as it expects the economy to grow this year and next.

The IMF encouraged "continued vigilance" around real estate in its latest Global Economic Outlook, saying that housing prices remain "high relative to both income and rents" and estimating them at about "10 per cent higher than fundamental values."

What possible reason can eBay have for standing by ultraconservative climate change deniers at ALEC?

The tech world’s strange love affair with ultraconservative ALEC is unraveling.

Over the past two months, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo have distanced themselves from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch Brothers-backed think tank that’s pushed just about every controversial right-wing legislative initiative you can think of. Teaching climate change denial in schools? Check. Advocating for Voter ID laws that disenfranchise minorities? Uh huh. A national “Stand Your Ground” law? Why not?

White House Delays Enforcement Of Minimum Wage, Overtime For Home Care Workers

WASHINGTON -- The Labor Department announced Tuesday that it plans to delay its enforcement of new minimum wage and overtime protections for the country's home care workers, though the protections will go into effect as planned.

Workers who tend to the elderly and people with disabilities in their homes had beencarved out of the labor protections that cover other hourly workers in the U.S. After a years-long campaign by worker advocates, the White House announced last year that it would extend those rights to roughly 2 million home care workers as part of the president's economic agenda for low- and middle-income earners.

Vladimir Putin Immortalized in Herculean Fan Art

Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly knows his best angles and how to play to the camera, and he’s staged many spectacles that have stretched the outer limits of credulity in a series of memorable photo-ops since the global spotlight was first trained on him.

We’ve seen him shirtless in a bracing array of outdoorsy settings: fishinghorseback ridingswimming and packing heat in Siberia (images that provoked the venerable Associated Press to drop its usual hard-news reportage style in favor of dubbing him “K-G-Beefcake”), and frolicking with dolphins.

Water is a weapon of war in Iraq and Syria

In May, Council of Canadians chairperson and Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlowstated that water is increasingly and deliberately being used as a weapon of war. She said, "Water as a weapon of war is a strong argument to governments and the United Nations they must make real the human right to water and sanitation, regardless of other conflicts taking place."
In that IPS interview, "Barlow [said] the al-Assad government's denial of clean water is consistent with its history of using water to punish its enemies and reward its friends. In 2000, the Syrian regime deregulated land use and gave vast quantities of land and water to its wealthy allies, severely diminishing the water table and driving nearly one million small farmers and herders off the land, she added. Ironically and tragically, many of them migrated to Aleppo where they are being targeted again, said Barlow. ...[And] during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Mesopotamian Marshes were drained, she said. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein drained them further during the 1990s in retribution against Shias who hid there and the Marsh Arabs (Ma'dan) who protected them, she pointed out."

Keystone Be Darned: Canada Finds Oil Route Around Obama

So you’re the Canadian oil industry and you do what you think is a great thing by developing a mother lode of heavy crude beneath the forests and muskeg of northern Alberta. The plan is to send it clear to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast via a pipeline called Keystone XL. Just a few years back, America desperately wanted that oil.

Then one day the politics get sticky. In Nebraska, farmers don’t want the pipeline running through their fields or over their water source. U.S. environmentalists invoke global warming in protesting the project. President Barack Obama keeps siding with them, delaying and delaying approval. From the Canadian perspective, Keystone has become a tractor mired in an interminably muddy field.

Cell Phone Video Captures Police Smashing Window, Using Stun Gun During Traffic Stop

A northwest Indiana police department is facing a federal lawsuit after a family claimed an officer used excessive force on them during a dramatic traffic stop captured via cell phone video.

Lisa Mahone was driving, along with her boyfriend Jamal Jones and two children, to visit Mahone's ill mother at Stroger Hospital on Sept. 24 when they were pulled over by Hammond, Indiana, officers for a seat belt violation, the Post-Tribune reports.

According to the lawsuit, officers pulled them over in a "highly aggressive" manner, placing spike strips in front of the car and asking for both Mahone's driver's license, as well as Jones' identification.

North Korea Acknowledges Existence Of Labor Camps For First Time

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea publicly acknowledged the existence of its labor camps for the first time Tuesday, an admission that appeared to come in response to a highly critical U.N. human rights report earlier this year.

Diplomats for the reclusive, impoverished country also told reporters that a top North Korea official has visited the headquarters of the European Union and expressed interest in dialogue, with discussions on human rights expected next year.

North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador Ri Tong Il said the secretary of his country's ruling Workers' Party had visited the EU, and that "we are expecting end of this year to open political dialogue between the two sides." The human rights dialogue would follow.

SWAT Team Shot David Hooks At Home After Tip From Meth Addict

Deputies shot and killed a man inside his Georgia home last month following an apparently bogus tip they received from a confessed meth addict and thief.

East Dublin resident David Hooks, 59, was killed because, according to Laurens County Sheriff Bill Harrell, he aggressively brandished a gun at the SWAT team that broke in his back door. But Mitchell Shook, a lawyer for Hooks' widow, contends that the sheriff has misled the public about the shooting and raid, which turned up no drugs.

How Much Do You Trust Canada's Wireless Giants?

Fresh off the contentious hearing on the future of television regulation, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) jumped back into the fire last week with a hearing on the wireless market that focused on whether changes are needed to the wholesale market to improve competition.

The Big Three -- Bell, Telus and Rogers -- unsurprisingly oppose new measures, arguing that the commission should reject the Competition Bureau's independent finding that there are competition concerns along with the smaller players and consumer groups that support new regulations. Instead, they argue that Canadians can trust that the market is already competitive and that reforms would reduce investment and harm the quality of the networks.

Don't Give Postmedia More Local Monopolies

Canada's three dominant newspaper chains will be reduced to only two -- one of them largely owned by U.S. hedge funds -- if the federal Competition Bureau allows Postmedia Network's proposed $316-million purchase of the Sun Media chain.

Postmedia already owns a partnership between the Vancouver Sun and Province. The deal would create four more joint publishing operations -- in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto -- between supposedly "competing" dailies. In three of those markets, Postmedia would own both daily newspapers and would thus dominate the market for print advertising as it has in Vancouver. (Toronto has four dailies -- the Star, Sun, Globe and Mail and Postmedia's National Post -- although the latter two are published nationally.)

Why don't women's issues matter in the Toronto mayoral election?

It's an almost perfect paradigm of the importance of women in municipal politics.
It's November, a year ago, and Rob and Doug Ford are roaming up and down in front of the gallery seats, taunting the members of the public who have come to watch Toronto City Council strip the mayor of most of his powers.
Just after the mayor has turned away, he hears a scuffle break out between his brother and a citizen; rushing around the tier of councillor seats in a frenzy to join the fray, the tank-sized mayor crashes into diminutive Councillor Pam McConnell and knocks her over, grabbing and righting her just before she actually hits the floor.

Ten questions about the Harper Government's embrace of war with ISIS

Stephen Harper, John Baird, Laurie Hawn and the rest of the boys yesterday finally got the war in Iraq they've been pining for since 2003.
"We should have been there shoulder to shoulder with our allies," Prime Minister Harper, who was still the leader of the opposition, complained back in April 2003. At the time, the United States had just invaded Iraq to punish it for having nothing to do with 9/11 and having no weapons of mass destruction, although we were told a slightly different version at the time.
Well, we're playing with the big boys in Iraq War III now, just as Harper wanted.

Fracking is proceeding without research into its effects, says study

A decade into North America's fracking boom, the impact on wildlife and the environment remains largely unknown, according to a new study.
"We're conducting a giant experiment without even collecting the important data on the water, air, land or wildlife impacts," said Sara Souther, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, one of the co-authors of the peer-reviewed research examining the environmental impacts of shale gas development in the U.S. and Canada.
Although the technique of hydraulic fracturing shale has been used for at least 20 years, there is "surprisingly little research" on impacts, found the study, published in the journalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Fracking Moratorium Backed By 70% Of Canadians: Poll

A large majority of Canadians would support a moratorium on fracking until there is conclusive evidence that it’s safe, according to a new poll.
Seventy per cent of respondents said they would back “a national moratorium on fracking until it is scientifically proven to be safe,” according to the survey carried out by EKOS for the Council of Canadians, a group that has been critical of fracking operations.

Black Teen Pepper-Sprayed By Cops After Entering His White Foster Parents’ Home

Eighteen-year-old DeShawn Currie was walking into his foster parents’ unlocked side door after school Monday afternoon, when a neighbor called 911 to report what they perceived to be a burglary on the residential block in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. When cops arrived, they walked inside the house and ordered Currie to put his hands up, as Currie, confused, questioned what he had done wrong. Cops responded by pointing to a picture on the wall that showed several white children together, implying that Currie, black, did not belong.

New Environment Commissioner slams Harper with frank and tough words

There is a new environmental sheriff in town and the Conservatives are not going to be happy.
Her name is Julie Gelfand, and she is tough and blunt.
This sheriff's official job title is Commissioner of the Environment, an office that is part of the Auditor General's (AG) operation
Like the AG, the Commissioner reports to Parliament, not the government of the day.
Before taking her current job this past March, Julie Gelfand had a background in environmental organizations and in industry. She worked for both Mining Watch and Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company.

Harper's Iraq war plan: Save people by killing them?

The Harper government's plan to send Canadian air power to help combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, and possibly Syria, and for Canadian special forces to continue operating there is homicidal, won't achieve its supposed goals and needs to be opposed.
Legislation tabled by the federal government on October 3 says that "unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow."
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that exactly the opposite is true.

Judge To Ferguson Police: You Can’t Arrest Protesters For Standing Still

More than a month after Michael Brown was shot dead, protesters are still waiting for the grand jury to decide whether it will indict Darren Wilson.
But the first court ruling has been issued telling police to stand down when it comes to dealing with protesters. U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry held Monday that police can’t force protesters to “keep moving” — what some have dubbed the “five second rule.”

Health Insurers Are Spending Millions to Defeat California’s Proposition 45

From the start, even fans recognized that one of Obamacare’s great weaknesses was its failure to regulate insurance rates. Washington orders you to buy insurance, but can’t police how insurance companies raise your rates, a decision that made the Affordable Care Act a big moneymaker for the insurance industry.

Now, determined to preserve and increase profits, the industry is waging a fierce and expensive battle against a ballot initiative in California that would regulate insurance premiums. The vote in November has national significance. California, according to the Insurance Journal, is the largest insurance market in the country and what happens there politically and economically can be felt elsewhere in the country. Certainly, the fate of the measure, Proposition 45, is likely to have a great impact on consumer advocates’ efforts to improve Obamacare.

Regional Inequality In Canada Among Worst In Developed World: OECD

Canada’s regional disparity is among the widest in the developed world, but the gap between the richest and poorest regions has actually shrunk since the financial crisis, according to a new OECD study.
The country’s regional levels of inequality of economic output per person (GDP per capita) were the third highest among OECD countries in 2010, the year used for comparison in the international organization’s Regional Outlook 2014.

Inside the $316-Million Postmedia-Quebecor Deal

Postmedia Network has struck a $316-million deal with Quebecor Media to purchase all of Sun Media's 175 English-language newspapers and digital properties.

The deal is subject to approval by the Competition Bureau, which will likely take several months. But if it goes through, it would give Postmedia a major presence in many Canadian cities -- such as Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver -- where it would own both the daily broadsheet and tabloid newspaper.

Christy Clark's No Pro at LNG Poker

Imagine being a lousy poker player facing some of the world’s sharpest aces and you see the odds that the B.C. Liberals will lose big money to get giant liquefied natural gas companies to invest here.

The only consolation for the government is that taxpayers will pay for the LNG players’ winnings.

This week the B.C. Legislature resumes sitting to table legislation setting the taxes on LNG exports and the environmental standards that will have to be met by the companies considering building extremely expensive plants to process exports to Asia.

No Women Invited to Iceland’s Conference on Gender Equality

In case you missed it, Iceland and the South American country Suriname announced last week a “barbershop” gender conference that intentionally excludes women.

“We want to bring men and boys to the table on gender equality in a positive way,” Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi said in a speech to the U.N.

Israel and the United States Are Headed for a Breakup

Nearly every intelligent witness to the nearly seven decades of Israel’s alliance with the United States and Western Europe now understands that the affair is about to be over.

In 1948 and the years that immediately followed, the alliance was the salvation of Israel and an obligation upon Western Europe. This was because of what had been done to Europe’s Jews during the war, and not only by the Nazis.

The Arab nations’ attempt to destroy the U.N. creation of a Jewish national home at the expense of the Palestinians was also widely understood, and granted a certain international sympathy, but in 1948 the Arab states carried little political weight against the array of West European states and the United States, at a moment when the Cold War was beginning.

More Questions Than Answers in War With Islamic State

The decision of President Barack Obama to wage air war against ISIS, while leading an as yet nebulous—militarily speaking—new coalition of Arab and other ground forces, against what claims to be the New Islamic Caliphate still is swimming in a sea of confusion and doubt. What does he think will be accomplished? Who is going to fight this war (rather than just bomb it)? History says that an asymmetric war has never been won by airpower alone.

Moreover, is anyone sure who the players really are? Turkey still is in an ambiguous position although defending its own crucial border, across which jihad volunteers and ISIS supplies have passed. What is its objective in this war, as an increasingly fundamentalist and predominantly Sunni state, as well as a NATO member? What would an enlarged Turkish role in the war mean for NATO?

Amazon Warehouse Workers Head To Supreme Court Over Unpaid Theft Screenings

WASHINGTON -- Anyone who's ever worked filling orders in an Amazon warehouse knows the drill: Once your shift is over, you must stand in line and wait to be screened for stolen goods before you can leave. The process can take 20 minutes or more depending on how busy the warehouse is, and you don't get paid a dime for the wait, according to numerous lawsuits.

Workers across the country have sued to be paid for that time, and now they'll have their day at the Supreme Court, where oral arguments in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk are expected to begin this Wednesday. Integrity, the temp firm that helps staff Amazon's warehouses, is arguing that the screenings aren't "integral and indispensable" to the work, and that therefore it shouldn't have to pay workers for the time.

Scott Walker Wants to Totally Outlaw Abortion. In This Sneaky New Ad, He Pretends He Doesn't.

In one of the nation's most hotly contested campaigns, incumbent GOP Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has recently been slammed by a new ad blitz highlighting his staunch opposition to abortion rights. He and his campaign consultants are obviously worried about this line of attack: On Monday, they issued one of the slyest ads of the campaign season. Titled "Decision," the ad attempts to depict Walker as a reasonable fellow on this issue. It's a brazenly misleading spot—almost a flip-flop—that is designed to create the false impression that Walker respects a woman's right to choose. The ad is camouflage for the fact that Walkerhas supported outlawing all abortions, even in cases of rape of incest.

Iraq Combat Mission: Commons Vote Green Lights CF-18 Airstrikes

OTTAWA - One by one, Conservative MPs in the House of Commons led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted late Tuesday to join the war in Iraq, passing a controversial motion that clears the way for Canadian CF-18s to embark on airstrikes in the Middle East.

After two days of debate, the motion to launch a combat mission against the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant passed 157-134.

CMHC Brings Home Ownership To The Masses, And Billions In Risk To Taxpayers

When business professor Ian Lee asked a taxpayer-funded, multibillion-dollar insurance scheme for information about the risks in its portfolio, his request was denied. The information was deemed “commercially sensitive,” he recalls being told.

But it wasn’t, Lee insists. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is a government-run institution, not a commercial competitor. He was not asking for names or personal information, but for aggregated data about the borrowers most likely to default on their mortgage.

Taxpayers gave Ford $140,000 per job – but deal’s details are secret

Canadian taxpayers are giving Ford Motor Co. more than $140-million towards its revamped operations in Oakville, Ont., which is expected to create 1,000 direct new jobs.

About $71 million of that is from the Ontario government; $71.6 million is from the federal government, under the Automotive Innovation Fund, introduced in 2008 and renewed last year, which is meant to provide “support for leading-edge innovation in automotive manufacturing and research and development (R&D) to build advanced, greener products and processes.”

That works out to about $140,000 per job.

Feds dragging heels on emissions cuts: audit

OTTAWA - Canada is all but certain to miss its Copenhagen Accord target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, the country's environmental watchdog warned Tuesday.

And not only has the Harper government failed to introduce regulations to limit emissions from the oil and gas sector, the fastest growing emitter, it has no plan for meeting the target, Julie Gelfand said in her first report as Canada's commissioner of the environment and sustainable development.

Under the accord, which the government signed in lieu of participating in the Kyoto Protocol, greenhouse gas production was to be cut to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Partisan military intervention: A first for Canada

Canada is going to war. That we know, and not enough more.
In voicing support for military intervention in Iraq and possibly Syria, the House of Commons divided along partisan lines. The Conservative majority approve military support for the U.S.-led coalition, currently bombing the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. New Democrats, Liberals, Bloc and Green members are against it.
In the past, Canada has not sent military into a war zone without support from the Official Opposition party in the House of Commons. In World Wars I and II, Korea, all UN missions, the first Iraq war (1993), Afghanistan, and Libya, Canadian military action had bipartisan support.