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.]

Friday, November 07, 2014

Calgary skyscraper targeted by man who pleads guilty to explosives offences

A Calgary man who once worked in military intelligence has pleaded guilty to firearms and explosives charges, after police found evidence suggesting he was planning an attack on a downtown Calgary skyscraper that houses a Veteran Affairs Canada office.

The 45-year-old man, who can only be referred to as GG under a court-ordered publication ban, had undergone a preliminary psychiatric exam and was fit to stand trial, but pleaded guilty Thursday in a Calgary courtroom to three of seven charges.

ArcelorMittal, Multinational Steel Giant, Asks PM To Reverse Ebola Visa Ban

TORONTO - An multinational company with major operations in Canada is asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse the government's decision to restrict entry to Canada from Ebola-affected countries.

The federal government announced last week it was suspending the issuance of new visas to residents and citizens of countries with widespread Ebola transmission, and was also halting work on residency applications from those countries.

Chris Alexander's Slammed For Remarks On Murder Case Before Courts

TORONTO - Criminal defence lawyers are dismayed that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander publicly branded a man charged with killing his wife a murderer before his trial.

Alexander brought up the case of Nasira Fazli this week as he talked publicly about the need for legislation to crack down on so-called "honour" killings and polygamy among immigrants.

"Not much more than one year ago, she was killed — 48 stab wounds — by her husband, Feraidon Mohammad Ibrahem, who had been in this country only for a few months, sponsored by her," Alexander told a news conference at a women's centre in west-end Toronto.

Encouraging Youth To Engage in Unpaid Work Is a Recipe For Exploitation

Almost 400,000 young Canadians are officially unemployed. Their unemployment rate (13.5 per cent in September) is more than double the national average. True youth unemployment is much higher, if we count those who have given up looking for work (and hence disappear from the official statistics). For the lucky ones who have a job, almost half work part-time, many in precarious short-term positions. Youth participation in the labour market is historically weak, and has actually deteriorated since the economic recovery began in 2009.

Canada Needs Zero Tolerance For Its Own 'Barbaric Cultural Practices'

Out of the blue yesterday, Canadians were suddenly informed that a bill, tabled by Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, aims to target polygamy and forced marriages.

"We want to make it clear to anyone wishing to enter the country -- as well as those born in Canada -- that domestic violence, genital mutilation, forced marriages, and polygamy are illegal in Canada and "won't be tolerated," said Minister Alexander.

Tough-as-nails words there, Chris. Way to crack down! ZERO TOLERANCE! *waves flag*

Give Gas a Pass on Toxic Spill Clean-up, Says BC Official

British Columbia government officials, who were in discussions to set up an oil and gas sector-funded pool of money to pay for cleaning up toxic spills, suggested granting the natural gas sector an exemption, according to emails released through the province's freedom of information process.

The suggestion was made in an email exchange last March between a provincial environment official and two assistant deputy ministers. They were discussing which type of industries would be required to contribute to the proposed clean up fund. In one email, an official suggested that the natural gas sector be exempt from paying into the fund.

Brussels protests end in violence

About 100,000 workers marched across Brussels on Thursday to protest against government free-market reforms and austerity measures, and the demonstration ended in violence when people set fire to cars and threw cobblestones and police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

About 50 people were injured and 30 detained, police said, in one of biggest postwar labour demonstrations in Belgium, a country long vaunted as a shining example of an efficient welfare state.

Missing: 3 million News International emails

Three million emails at News International are missing after Rebekah Brooks changed the company’s email deletion policy, a jury heard.

Brooks ordered the change in June 2010, which resulted in a large quantity of emails being deleted, including those “covering her entire period as editor of the Sun”, Kingston crown court was told.

The issue of missing emails emerged as the prosecution completed its case in the trial of six Sun and former Sun journalists accused of making corrupt payments to public officials. All six deny the charges.

UK intelligence agencies spying on lawyers in sensitive security cases

The intelligence services have routinely been intercepting legally privileged communications between lawyers and their clients in sensitive security cases, according to internal MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents.
The information obtained may even have been exploited unlawfully and used by the agencies in the fighting of court cases in which they themselves are involved, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has been told, resulting in miscarriages of justice.

This Chinese City Is Becoming The Silicon Valley Of Hardware

SHENZHEN, China -- Chinese technology is chock-full of awkward analogies and misfit metaphors. The social network formerly known as "the Facebook of China" (Renren) turned out to be a flop, "the Twitter of China" (Weibo) is slowly sliding toward irrelevance, and e-commerce behemoth Alibaba has burst out of several rhetorical straitjackets.

But recently, international tech circles have been buzzing about a new analogy, one that doesn't pigeonhole its subject as "the [insert U.S. tech giant] of China" but instead embeds it firmly in global innovation networks. They're talking about the city of Shenzhen, and they're calling it the Silicon Valley of hardware.

Unhappy With The Election Results? Just Look At The People Your Neighbors Voted Into Office

As the dust settles and we take a closer look at Tuesday night's election results, we can't help but wonder what some voters were thinking. As with every election, there were the incumbents who were able to win re-election, like Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who just won a 23rd term in Congress despite being found guilty of a number of ethics violations in 2010, and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who joked about suicide just weeks before the election.

Takata Saw and Hid Risk in Airbags in 2004, Former Workers Say

Alarmed by a report a decade ago that one of its airbags had ruptured and spewed metal debris at a driver in Alabama, the Japanese manufacturer Takata secretly conducted tests on 50 airbags it retrieved from scrapyards, according to two former employees involved in the tests, one of whom was a senior member of its testing lab.

The steel inflaters in two of the airbags cracked during the tests, a condition that can lead to rupture, the former employees said. The result was so startling that engineers began designing possible fixes in preparation for a recall, the former employees said.

U.S. Mishandling Of Iraq's Chemical Weapons Worse Than Previously Thought

WASHINGTON -- In the latest revelations about chemical weapons that may now be under the control of Islamic State militants, The New York Times reported Thursday that hundreds of U.S. service members were exposed to chemical weapons materials in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003. The Pentagon did little to help the affected service members, Defense Department officials confirmed to the Times.

The news adds to a litany of dire tales about the fate of Iraq's chemical weapons.

Supreme Court Gay Marriage Showdown Looms After Appeals Court Upholds Bans

CINCINNATI (AP) — The march toward gay marriage across the U.S. hit a roadblock Thursday when a federal appeals court upheld laws against the practice in four states, creating a split in the legal system that increases the chances the Supreme Court will step in to decide the issue once and for all.

The cases decided were from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Western Premiers Ask Feds For $1 Billion To Bolster Asia-Pacific Trade

REGINA - The premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are asking Ottawa for more than $1 billion to support port and transportation infrastructure.

The three leaders met for two days as part of their New West Partnership and focused on the future of regional transportation in light of railway backlogs that plagued the Prairies earlier this year.

Canadian Access To Information Act Reform Rejected By Tories

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has rejected calls to reform the Access to Information Act as part of a new openness plan.

The final version of the federal blueprint on open government for 2014-16 remains silent on updating the 32-year-old law despite public pleas during several consultations — including a recent round of public feedback on a draft version.

Parliament 'back in another decade' when it comes to harassment

Parliament is in many ways living in another decade when it comes to how things work and how women are treated, NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie says.

Leslie spoke to CBC News about the culture around Parliament Hill, one day after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suspended two MPs for "personal misconduct." The candidacies of Newfoundland and Labrador MP Scott Andrews and Quebec MP Massimo Pacetti for the 2015 federal election are also suspended. The allegations of misconduct come from two female New Democrat MPs.

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase's Worst Nightmare

She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn't take it anymore.

"It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street," she says. "I thought, 'I can't sit by any longer.'"

Fleischmann is a tall, thin, quick-witted securities lawyer in her late thirties, with long blond hair, pale-blue eyes and an infectious sense of humor that has survived some very tough times. She's had to struggle to find work despite some striking skills and qualifications, a common symptom of a not-so-common condition called being a whistle-blower.

Entirely Predictable: The U.S. Is Leaving Afghanistan Worse Off Than Before

With very little fanfare and barely any major news coverage, U.S. Army units have begun leaving Afghanistan. The drawdown signals the wrapping up of what became—officially at least—the United States’ longest war. A few thousand American troops will stay indefinitely. And, says “Reena,” a spokeswoman for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan worse off than when the Taliban was in power. This should come as no surprise, given that for decades the U.S. has refused to back anyone other than corrupt and criminal elements.

Banks Urge Investors To Buy For-Profit College Stocks Now That The GOP Is Taking Back Congress

The Republican resurgence on Capitol Hill makes for-profit education company stock a hot commodity, according to industry analysts who expect a GOP-controlled Congress to loosen oversight of both student lending firms and for-profit colleges.
Investment advisers from both Credit Suisse and BMO Capital Markets issued research notes this week connecting the Republican victories on Tuesday to an improved outlook for education companies. The analyses were based primarily on future legislative predictions. The Higher Education Act needs to be renewed, and BMO’s Jeffrey Silberargued that a Republican Senate will produce a bill that is much friendlier to the companies that run for-profit schools, according to Buzzfeed. Credit Suisse wrote in Barron’s that the “diminished regulatory risk characteristics of a Republican-controlled electorate” makes student lending company stocks likely to rise in value because “Republicans have historically fought detrimental legislation originating from Congressional Democrats.”

John Boehner Warns Obama Will 'Burn Himself'

WASHINGTON -- Fresh off an overwhelming victory in the midterm elections and sitting on an even larger majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was anything but conciliatory Thursday, chastising President Barack Obama for "playing with matches" and pledging to challenge the administration on multiple fronts.

Speaking to reporters in his first news conference since the GOP won control of the Senate and added at least a dozen seats in the House, Boehner vowed to hold more votes to repeal Obamacare and challenge existing regulations. He also promised a tough response if Obama tries to do anything on his own.

7 Reasons Why Working for Free Is Great for Your Career

Recent comments by Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz have stirred up a debate that has been percolating for years, but is especially loud during lean economic times. Addressing the issue of high rates of unemployed young people in Canada, Poloz commented that he thinks they should consider working for free.

Judging from the response to his comments, you'd think Poloz suggested they should all jump in a lake. Of course, the ensuing outrage is no news to anyone who has worked for free. People think you're nuts to work for nothing, and love to argue the point, often suggesting that only people who can actually afford to work for free benefit from it.

Capitalism Is a Tumor on the Body Politic: What's the Alternative? Beyond Mid-Election Babble

The biggest challenge facing those who believe in social justice is to provide an alternative discourse, educational apparatuses and vision that can convince US citizens that a real democracy is worth fighting for.

The right-wing Republican sweep of Congress testifies to a massive memory and educational deficit among the US public and a failure among progressives and the left regarding how to think about politics outside of the established boundaries of liberal reform. The educative nature of politics has never been more crucial than it is now and testifies to the need for a new politics in which culture and education are as important as economic forces in shaping individual and social agency, if not resistance itself.

Russian Actor and Putin Adversary Alexei Devotchenko Found Dead in Moscow

On Wednesday evening, 49-year-old Russian actor Alexei Devotchenko was discovered dead in a pool of his own blood in Moscow. In recent years he had been a prominent and public critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Whether those facts are related, or if linking them would represent another instance of mistaking correlation for causation, wasn’t yet known as the news of Devotchenko’s passing spread Thursday. 

Did Voting Restrictions Determine the Outcomes of Key Midterm Races?

Bryan McGowan spent twenty-two years in the US Marine Corps, including four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. When he was stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina from 2005 until 2010, McGowan used same-day registration to register and vote during the early voting period in the state.

The Ebola Quarantine Isn’t Just Stupid—It’s Deadly

In early September, Ryan Boyko, a PhD student in public health at Yale, heard of an opportunity to travel to Liberia to help fight the spread of Ebola. Boyko had been to Africa eight times, including a trip to Liberia in 2012 to study the transmission of intestinal worms from domestic animals to children. The decision to go again was an easy one: his work could have a big impact, and the risk of infection, he surmised, was very low, especially given what he would be doing there.

SNC-Lavalin Layoffs To Hit 4,000 Employees, Or 9% Of Total

MONTREAL -- SNC-Lavalin says it will reduce the company's global workforce by 4,000, or nine per cent of the total, over an 18-month period starting in 2015.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction company (TSX:SNC) says the job cuts are part of its ongoing efforts to get out of underperforming business segments.

This Week, Canada's Poor Climate Change Reputation Got Wors

Canada's dismal record on fighting climate change was brought into the spotlight twice this week -- first with a crucial UN report spelling out the tough task ahead for the world's nations, and second, with the president of France delivering an embarrassing lecture to the Harper government in our own Parliament on Monday.

Despite efforts to suppress journalistic expression, no longer a quiet Canada

Canada has been turned upside down in recent weeks. From the attacks in Ottawa to the sex allegations against CBC’s top cultural broadcaster, it’s been a shock to what many considered a relatively uneventful country. But, if anything good can be said to have come from these events, it is the elevated level of discussion and awareness in the Canadian public sphere, where millions of the usually disengaged are engaging in [mostly] constructive dialogue about serious issues like mental health, militarism, surveillance, and rape culture. And this time, we’re not looking to the crazy antics of our friends to the south, this time we’re taking a deep look at ourselves and our society, what defines us and what our values are.

Kinder Morgan lawyer strikes back at Burnaby pipeline protesters

Describing Burnaby Mountain protesters as having an “abundance of exuberance and an absence of judgment”, Kinder Morgan’s lawyer led a legal assault against environmentalists in a B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday to try and get its $5.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion back on track.

Corporate lawyer William Kaplan, Q.C., told the judge the issue was neither “climate change” nor enviro-protesters’ right to freedom of expression.  The real legal trouble, he argued, was the protesters systematic and organized “conspiracy” to thwart and delay its Edmonton-to-Burnaby oil sands pipeline project.

MP Nathan Cullen calls Harper government "corrupt and entitled"

"This shows a government that has become corrupt and entitled—they have special privileges,” Nathan Cullen, NDP MP said of Conservative-turned-Independent MP Dean Del Mastro who quit his seat in Parliament today in advance of a vote to suspend him.

A judge found Del Mastro guilty on three counts of violating the Canada Elections Act less than one week ago.

“There seems to be a culture that has long persisted in the Conservatives that while they are tough on crime, they’re not tough on Conservative crime,” said Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkey Valley.

Climate change denier Jim Inhofe in line for Senate's top environmental job

The Senate’s top environmental job is set to fall to Jim Inhofe, one of the biggest names in US climate denial, but campaigners say Barack Obama will fight to protect his global warming agenda.

Oklahoma Republican Inhofe has been denying the science behind climate change for 20 years – long before it became a cause for the conservative tea party wing. Following midterm elections which saw the Republicans take control of the senate, he is now expected to become the chairman of the senate environment and public works committee.

Back to the kitchen, Mrs. Cleaver: Income-splitting and social engineering

Stephen Harper is gearing up for the next election with a plan for rewarding “hardworking Canadian families”. Or at least a few of them.

In truth, Harper plans to give something to all families by enriching the Universal Child Care Benefit by $60 a month per child — thereby providing parents with an extra $2 a day.

Having taken care of the “fairness” issue with this toonie-a-day (almost enough to buy a child an ice cream cone) Harper goes on to propose what really interests him: a new tax cut that moves in the direction of ending progressive taxation, the long-established notion that the rich should pay higher tax rates than the rest.