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.]

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia shrouded in secrecy

The Canadian government is refusing to say whether it obtained assurances that light armoured vehicles being sold to Saudi Arabia in a massive $15-billion deal would not be used against the Saudi people – a key guarantee required by federal export controls when arms are destined for countries with a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.”

This controversial 2014 agreement to ship made-in-Canada light armoured vehicles to the Mideast country is coming under increased scrutiny after much-publicized incidents of torture and mistreatment by Saudi authorities, including the videotaped beheading of a woman in Mecca this month and the flogging and jailing for blasphemy of a writer who has Canadian ties. Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, has a wife and children who’ve been granted asylum in Canada.

Scientists and Doctors Sound Alarm Over Health Dangers of Oil Spill Dispersants

Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a series of changes to its standards governing the use of toxic chemical dispersants during oil spills, like the 1.9 million gallons of dispersants used during BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The EPA claims their new rules will incorporate part of what officials learned during BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, including toxicity testing requirements, information that manufacturers must provide the EPA and the public, and how toxicity must be monitored while the chemicals are used on future spills.

Can Wall Street Take Down Big Pharma?

Here is a man-bites-dog story that might give comfort to those many Americans being gouged by the drug industry’s larcenous prices. A Dallas hedge-fund operator named Kyle Bass who made a fortune attacking over-priced stocks now says he is going to attack Big Pharma for over-pricing drugs. Bass’s announcement set financial industry bloggers aflutter because hedge funds are not usually known for public-spirited motives. Citizen Bass is in it for the money, of course. But he intends to do well himself by doing good for the rest of us.

His firm, Hayman Capital Management, won fame and fortune back in 2008 by “shorting” mortgage securities just before the crash. Bass recognized those packages of mortgage bonds would crash once investors realized the banks were peddling phony paper with false valuations. Now he wants to do roughly the same for fifteen pharmaceutical firms selling drugs based on phony patents.

Dying With Dignity Canada Stripped Of Charitable Tax Status

OTTAWA - Canada's registered charities are not permitted to exercise moral pressure or promote "an attitude of mind" that might influence legislation, the federal taxman has ruled in stripping Dying with Dignity Canada of its charitable tax status.

The organization, a registered charity since 1982, was informed this month by the Canada Revenue Agency that it never should have received favourable tax treatment in the first place and that its status was being annulled, effective mid-February.

Wanda Morris, Dying With Dignity's CEO, refused to speculate on whether a change in political climate is responsible for her group's sudden tax chill.

"For the next 30 days we are still a charity and as a charity we can't comment on political parties or individuals. So I really can't speculate," Morris said Tuesday.

Stephen Harper 'did not tell truth' on ISIS combat mission: opposition

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau's Liberals are accusing the Harper government of misleading Parliament after Monday's revelation that Canadian Forces advisers exchanged gunfire with ISIS in what may be the first confirmed ground battle involving Western forces in northern Iraq.

"I asked the prime minister straight up in September whether this was a combat mission, whether Canadian troops would be involved in combat. I got a categorical answer, and the answer was no," Mulcair told reporters during an event at a Toronto child-care centre Tuesday.

"I specifically asked him in the House of Commons whether or not Canadian Forces would be targeting troops on the other side," Mulcair said. "He did not tell the truth."

BC Gov't Hiding 'Embarrassing' Reports, FOI Advocate Says

An advocacy group is asking the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, Elizabeth Denham, to review the provincial government's practice of withholding "embarrassing" reports from its website.

In December, the government made a report by lawyer Marcia McNeil on the 2012 firings of seven health ministry employees available to the public by request, but declined to post it on its website where anyone could find it easily.

The choice was similar to a June 2014 decision not to post to the Internet the report by finance ministry assistant deputy minister Rob Mingay on compensation practices at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Republicans Gearing Up For Fight Over Obama's Tax Increase Proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican lawmakers are already signaling they will do what they can to block President Barack Obama's pitch for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.

Obama is making that pitch to a huge television audience in hopes of putting the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class.

Gold Rush Leaves Tropical Forests Poorer Than Ever

LONDON—The natural wealth of South America’s tropical forests is at growing risk from demand for its minerals—and specifically its gold.

Researchers says that a veritable global gold rush has led to a significant increase of deforestation in the region’s forests, and is having a growing environmental impact on some of the most biologically important areas in the tropics.

The researchers say the increased mining pressure is caused by rising demand and greater financial insecurity. In 2013, world gold production was more than 10% greater than in 2000, and the price of the metal had increased almost fivefold.

The Ferocious Fight Against The MLK National Holiday​

Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) civil rights record has been under a media microscope in recent weeks, after a Louisiana reporter discovered that the House Majority Whip hadspoken at a 2002 White Supremacist convention organized by a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. But while his 2004 vote against Louisiana’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day put him in a small minority at the time, he was far from the only legislator who fought against commemorating the slain civil rights leader over the decades-long fight to create a nationwide King holiday. And several of the opponents remain in legislative office even today.

Newfoundland Suspends Participation In All Trade Agreements

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador says it is suspending its participation in all trade agreements because of its dispute with Ottawa over a promised federal-provincial fisheries fund.

The provincial government says the federal government has failed to honour its commitment to provide $280 million in exchange for the province relinquishing minimum processing requirements for fish plants as part of a free trade deal with Europe.

Provincial Business Minister Darin King says as a result, he has told federal International Trade Minister Ed Fast that Newfoundland and Labrador won't participate in all trade agreements, including those currently under negotiation.

The federal government has said that an unspecified amount of money would be available for direct losses to the fisheries sector as a result of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU.

But it said that those losses would have to be proven and no "blank cheque" was ever offered to the province.

Original Article
Author: Sue Bailey

Canada Revenue Agency's Text Message Destruction Should Be Probed: NDP

OTTAWA - A New Democrat MP is raising the spectre of a political coverup in asking the federal information watchdog to investigate the Canada Revenue Agency's systematic deletion of employee text messages.

Charlie Angus, the party's access to information and ethics critic, also wants information commissioner Suzanne Legault to look into whether other federal agencies are doing the same thing.

The Toronto Star reported last month that the federal revenue agency had destroyed all text message records of its employees and stopped electronically saving such messages.

Energy Needs Trump Environment For Canadians: Poll

OTTAWA - A new internal government poll suggests a majority of Canadians believe the economic benefit of expanding the country's energy infrastructure trumps the potential environmental impact of such expansion.

But at the same time, the poll suggests, those same people are also concerned about the safety of that infrastructure — whether it be the government's ability to respond to oil spills or the equipment that delivers the oil in the first place.

Energy issues are top of mind for the Conservative government these days, from the potential economic fallout of plunging oil prices to the waiting game surrounding the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Politicians’ frothy rhetoric gives undue credibility to extremists and thugs

Stephen Harper, in the aftermath of the horrific mass murder at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery store in Paris, took to the airwaves to warn the “international jihadist movement” has declared war on countries around the world, and vowed Canada will do what it can to eliminate the threat and protect Canadians.
He could start by eliminating using the war label and other overheated hyperbole and instead try to understand what the word jihad actually means to the vast majority of those who belong to the Islamic faith.

Alberta's Crazy Oil Bender Is Over

Looks like the party's over in Alberta, and the hangover will be a doozy. Collapsing global oil prices mean the high-cost, low-value oilsands industry has suddenly skidded from "unstoppable force" to full stop. For years Canadians were told that Alberta is destined to be a global energy superpower -- a message backed by millions in publicly funded cheerleading and a chorus of uncritical coverage in the mainstream media.

Out in the real world, capital markets were cooling for years on such overheated hype, with some oilsands investment funds shedding more than two-thirds of their value since 2008. The slow, steady decline in investor confidence accelerated into free-fall in the last six months, with blue-chip energy companies like Suncor losing billions in book value since last June.

Kinder Morgan not required to provide full oil spill response documents: NEB

The B.C. government won't be getting the full, unredacted version of oil spill response documents from Kinder Morgan for its proposed pipeline expansion, the Vancouver Observer learned on Friday.

In an email, a Ministry of Environment spokesperson said Kinder Morgan will not be required to provide the documents for Trans Mountain, as the province requested in a motion in December.

The government's request was denied on the basis that "sufficient information has been filed from the existing Emergency Management Plan documents to meet the [NEB's] requirements at this stage of the process."

New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1%

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published on Monday, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

The Movement to Put a Church in Every School Is Growing

On a Sunday morning in July, a stream of cars motors up the scrub-oak-lined roadway that leads to Apopka High School. Passing under a marquee sign with Chick-fil-A: Outstanding Partner in Ed spelled out in black letters, they pull into the parking lot. Single adults, families and groups of teens gather in the school auditorium’s spacious vestibule. Two adolescent boys, one wearing a sports jersey and the other a Confederate-flag T-shirt, linger for a few moments by their truck before making their way inside.

At 10 am, the crowd files into the auditorium to hear the Gospel. Every Sunday, Apopka High School turns into Venue Church. Its motto: “Partnering with schools and communities to serve students and families to gain the privilege of sharing the love of Jesus for eternal impact.”

Can Harper get the chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders?

Stephen Harper’s job in 2015 is simple: get the chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders again.

The task of the opposition is harder: awaken the Sleeping Beauty of the millions who didn’t vote last time.

In Harper’s case, it’s tough work, but God knows the PM is giving it his best shot. Every trick in the book, and a few not yet codified, are in play.

Harper's promotion of pipelines and cuts to science harms oceans

The Energy East, Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway pipelines would add hundreds of export oil supertankers on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, further worsening planetary climate change.

Now the Globe and Mailreports, "A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. ...There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found. Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported."

No Chelsea morning for hypocritical world leaders in Paris

When a former U.S. army private awoke in her jail cell just over a week ago -- some 17 months into a 35-year jail sentence -- she could have been forgiven for thinking, in the immediate aftermath of the terrible Paris magazine attacks, that the commutation of her punitive sentence for exercising freedom of speech and conscience was about to be placed on President Obama's desk. Obama, like many world leaders, had just issued stunning, passionate statements about freedom of the press, human dignity, and all the great things that make countries like Canada and the U.S. just so undeniably terrific.

How to Create Inclusive Prosperity -- And Save Democracy

Lawrence H. Summers is the president emeritus of Harvard University. Ed Balls is shadow chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Parliament. They are the co-chairs of the Center for American Progress Inclusive Prosperity Commission.

History tells us that societies succeed when the fruits of growth are broadly shared. Indeed, no society has ever succeeded without a large, prospering middle class that embraced the idea of progress. Today, the ability of free-market democracies to deliver widely shared increases in prosperity is in question as never before.

Harper portraying himself as economic safe haven when his whole strategy is in ruins

It’s a considerable testament to Stephen Harper’s political skills that he remains in contention to win a fourth straight election later this year. It’s even more impressive that his party continues to retain virtually sole proprietorship of the economy, as an issue.

Why impressive? Just this: Harper’s resilience, one might call it dogged endurance, comes even as his grand economic strategy, laid out with sweeping ambition in late 2011 and early 2012, has collapsed. The strategy had three pillars. Each is now in ruins.

1 In 3 College Men In Survey Say They Would Rape A Woman If They Could Get Away With It

Nearly one in three college men admit they might rape a woman if they knew no one would find out and they wouldn’t face any consequences, according to a new studyconducted by researchers at the University of North Dakota.
But, when the researchers actually used the word “rape” in their question, those numbers dropped much lower — suggesting that many college men don’t associate the act of forcing a woman to have sex with them with the crime of committing rape.

White ‘Survivalist’ Shoots Police Chief Four Times, Is Released Without Being Arrested Or Charged

In Oklahoma, a white “survivalist” shot a police chief three times in the chest and once in the arm. The shooting did not result in an arrest or charges and the man, identified by local media as 29-year-old Dallas Horton, has been released.
In a press release, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said, “Facts surrounding the case lead agents to believe the man was unaware it was officers who made entry.” But Louis Ross, the Sentinel, Oklahoma police chief who was shot, said that he entered the home after “Washita County 911 received two calls from a man who identified himself as Dallas Horton, and claimed to have a bomb inside the head start school.”

More stringent oversight of military intelligence at DND in limbo

National Defence has been looking at ways to introduce more stringent oversight of its intelligence operations, but "fiscal restraint" may prevent the department from implementing the preferred option.

A series of internal documents and slide presentations, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information legislation, show the head of defence intelligence ordered the exhaustive, independent review — which was conducted in the wake of the scandal involving navy sub-Lt. Jeffery Delisle, who was convicted of spying for the Russians.

Can Podemos Win in Spain?

If the current poll numbers hold, Spain’s next prime minister will be Pablo Iglesias, a pony-tailed 36-year-old political scientist who cut his teeth in the Communist Youth and the anti-globalization movement—but whose party, Podemos, wants “to change the rules of the political game,” Iglesias told the journalist Jacobo Rivero. Left and right, he added, are metaphors that are no longer “useful in political terms”: “the fundamental divide now [is] between oligarchy and democracy, between a social majority and a privileged minority.” Or, as Podemos likes to put it, between la gente and la casta, the people and the caste.

Europe Terrorism Fears Leads To Mass Security Operations

BRUSSELS (AP) — With Europe on edge, soldiers fanned out to guard possible terror targets in Belgium Saturday while police in Greece detained at least two suspects as part of a widening counterterrorism dragnet across the continent.

In France, one of the terrorists behind last week's attacks in Paris was given a secret burial as authorities sought to head off glorification of terrorism and civil unrest amid a groundswell of popular antagonism across Europe against radical Islam, and protests against caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad across the Muslim world that have underscored vast cultural differences.

Why The Paris Attacks May Signal A Shift In Extremist Violence

Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. Today, we speak with professor Saskia Sassen about the attacks in Paris and new forms of violent extremism.

Cities are increasingly part of the front line when it comes to challenges faced by governments worldwide, such as forced migration, environmental issues and extremist attacks.
As more and more people move to urban centers, theorists contend that cities have become instrumental parts of a globalized world -- and sites of new types of conflict and violence. Terrorist attacks such as the 2005 al Qaeda bombings in the London subway, the 2008 terror operation in Mumbai and last week's deadly assaults on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris highlight that cities have become a site for asymmetric war in which insurgents or extremists target powerful states and armed forces.
Columbia University Professor Saskia Sassen is one of the most prominent figures addressing the role of cities in relation to globalization, conflict and migration. She has done seminal work conceptualizing the world and the place of cities within it,coining the term ‘global city.’ Her most recent book is Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. The WorldPost spoke with Sassen about how the attacks in Paris fit into ideas of extremism and the city.
What does it mean for a city to be a front-line space for extremist attacks?
A city can be situated either inside or outside the theater of war. On the one hand you have cities that are inside the theater of war, such as Baghdad. On the other hand you have a broader space where asymmetric war plays out even though it doesn’t involve the actual combatants who are in the theater of war. The bombings in London, the attacks in Mumbai and the bombings in Madrid took place outside the theater of war. That’s what makes these attacks disturbing, that they can be locally produced and that they don't need to be in connection with the guys who are in the theater of war.
In the case of Paris, we now believe that there was communication between the attackers and the theater of war. [Al Qaeda in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack and Amedy Coulibaly, the suspect in the kosher supermarket killings, said he was a supporter of the Islamic State group.] In the cases of the attacks in London and in Madrid, they were not connected.
Does Paris mark a new shift in the way these attacks occur?
We don't know all of the facts yet, but I think Paris may represent the third generation of asymmetric war. We had the first stage in Iraq and Afghanistan itself, the second stage are the bombings in London and other cities, and the attacks in Paris reflect the third stage.
Do you feel that the recent siege in Sydney, in which an Iranian-born man took several people hostage in a coffee shop last December, fits into the concept of a third stage?
I think it fits into the second generation. It's the kind of situation that takes a localized condition and doesn't take any live connection with al Qaeda or the Islamic State group.
What is it specifically that makes an attack fit into the third category?
That the attack is not isolated, that people are moving back and forth. We've seen that a bit in the past, but in the case of Paris it is more visible. The bombings in Bali and in Casablanca were locally produced and endogenously generated. There may have been some inspiration from extremist groups but they were mostly endogenous productions.
I think we need to understand that in the case of the Paris attacks, we're dealing with a different type of logistics than London and Madrid. We can attribute part of that to the Islamic State, but it also stems from the mobility between Europe and theaters of war in the Middle East.
Is there a balance that can be struck between the need for security and the negative effects?
Well, I agree with several experts that the way in which we have proceeded to secure our countries in recent years is extreme. In order to prevent another attack, every citizen has become a suspect. If I were black or I were Muslim today I would be subject to harassment. The way the state of emergency is addressed right now has an inefficient feel to it and comes at an enormous price and will generate more anger in the long run. I think a lot of innocent Muslims are going to pay a very high price for this approach to preventing another attack. I think we've got to find a better way.
Original Article
Author: Nick Robins-Early