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, February 09, 2015

Province approves controversial Fraser River gravel mining project

The B.C. government has just approved a "precedent-setting" gravel mining project along the Fraser River, which conservationists say will have a devastating impact on one of only two known spawning areas for the Lower Fraser River white sturgeon.

Marvin Rosenau of the BCIT Rivers Institute said he was appalled by the province's decision.

“You’re mining in one of the last sturgeon spawning sites that is known – why would you do it?  It’s just so stupid.”

This Is What Happens When the U.S. Arms Unstable Regimes

Just a few months ago, the Obama administration was describing the U.S. counterterrorism campaign in Yemen as a success. "[The] strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen ... for years," the president said in a September 2014 statement. But recent events in that country raise doubts about that success. On Friday, the Houthi rebels—who gained control of the capital Sana’a last month and forced the country’s president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to resign—announced plans to dissolve Parliament in a Constitutional Decree.

Remembering the Watts Rebellion, Operation Chaos and the Infectious Logic of National Security

Fifty years ago, during the hot, dry days of early August, the city of Los Angeles erupted in flames in a weeklong riot leaving dozens dead, more than 3,000 arrested and $40 million in property damage. This landmark event came to be known as the Watts rebellion of 1965. This year also marks 40 years since the revelations of the Senate committee and Rockefeller Commission investigations of US intelligence covert activity against US dissidents throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Both legendary events and their interrelationship have something important to teach us about the growth of the national security state (NSS) and the criminalization of US dissent.

The Terror We Give Is the Terror We Get

We fire missiles from the sky that incinerate families huddled in their houses. They incinerate a pilot cowering in a cage. We torture hostages in our black sites and choke them to death by stuffing rags down their throats. They torture hostages in squalid hovels and behead them. We organize Shiite death squads to kill Sunnis. They organize Sunni death squads to kill Shiites. We produce high-budget films such as “American Sniper” to glorify our war crimes. They produce inspirational videos to glorify their twisted version of jihad.

The barbarism we condemn is the barbarism we commit. The line that separates us from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is technological, not moral. We are those we fight.

How Rory Kennedy’s ‘Last Days in Vietnam’ Distorts History

At the beginning of last days in vietnam, Rory Kennedy’s Oscar-nominated documentary about the chaotic final days of what the Vietnamese call the American War, an American man tears up, struggling to maintain his composure. “It was a terrible, terrible, terrible moral dilemma,” he says, choking on his words.

“Terrible” is a perfect word to describe the conflict: close to 4 million violent war deaths, about 2 million of them civilians—most of them in South Vietnam—millions more wounded, 11 million made refugees. But the former US Army officer, Stuart Herrington, wasn’t talking about anything of that sort. The dilemma in question had to do with whether a US-allied South Vietnamese army colonel should decide to abandon his post, his army and his country and flee with his family to the United States—surely a gut-wrenching personal choice, but microscopic in a war that saw suffering on an almost unimaginable scale.

Fox News' Eric Bolling Says Only Muslims Kill In The Name Of Religion

Forget the Inquisition or the Crusades, religious fanatics only kill in the name of Islam -- at least according to Fox News' Eric Bolling.

During a segment Saturday on "Cashin’ In," Bolling accused President Barack Obama of lumping "Christians and murderous Islamic terrorists together" at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. In his speech, Obama warned Americans of forgetting the atrocities made in the name of Christianity when condemning Islam.

Corporate Tax Rates Aren’t The Reason American Companies Flee To Tax Havens

Cutting the corporate tax rate in the U.S. would do little to discourage companies from moving overseas to dodge American taxes, according to a new Reuters analysis of the half-dozen largest companies to launch so-called inversion mergers last year.
The list of six companies includes both Medtronic and Burger King, household names whose inversion plans drew significant press attention to the growth of the business practice in recent years. An inversion allows an American company to merge with a foreign entity then set the corporate headquarters of the merged firm in that other company’s home country, shifting the U.S. firm’s tax residence overseas without requiring any actual realignment of where and how the company does business. The maneuver is entirely legal and “mainly driven by efforts to shift profits out of the U.S. and to access overseas earnings at little or not cost in U.S. tax,” Reuters explains.

Anti-terror Tories scare up votes

It’s hard to imagine a worse time than an election year to tinker with the fundamental freedoms of speech, association and political convictions of Canadians. But that’s what is happening with the new federal anti-terrorism legislation now before Parliament.

The governing Conservatives are quite obviously hoping to capitalize on the public fears they’ve worked so hard to promote. After all, why scare people if it doesn’t get you votes?

Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers

Team of journalists from 45 countries unearths secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities

Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.

The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provide a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system — one the public has never seen before.

Harper and Williams: the real costs of lost credibility

Whether it’s news or politics, you have nothing when you don’t have the people’s trust.

Events south of the border provide a striking example. When you sign a $50 million contract to read the news, you’re not supposed to start channeling Hans Christian Anderson.

But that is exactly what NBC’s News anchor and managing editor, Brian Williams, did. Williams falsely reported over several years that a helicopter he was aboard during the Iraq War in 2003 came under enemy fire. He claimed his chopper was hit by a rocket propelled grenade, and incoming from AK-47s. It was not. Now the anchorman’s pants are on fire.

Baird likely to return to politics, after making money in private sector

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird’s abrupt decision to quit federal politics last week stunned political Ottawa, but close aides and political insiders speculate that following the “Jim Prentice model,” he will return to politics in the coming years, most likely at the provincial level.

“The story that is missing is that he looked at what happened to Jim Prentice. Why don’t you go out at the top of your game and make a lot of money? He’s a lot younger than Jim Prentice and you can still come back to politics. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in politics. That door remains open for him without a doubt,” said a senior Conservative who spoke to The Hill Times on condition of anonymity.

PM Harper ratchets up ‘secure in our homes’ anti-terrorism rhetoric as a wedge issue

The Conservative government is ratcheting up the rhetoric on terrorism to capitalize on its perceived strength on security issues, a move that may not work in the long term and could even be counterproductive to dealing with the issue, experts say.

Security has risen dramatically as a concern among Canadians since October, with the threat of ISIS in Iraq and the attacks against two soldiers in October placing it among the top issues for voters. The shift in voters’ concerns has coincided with a reversal of fortunes in the polls for the Conservatives, who had been trailing the Liberals for months and are now neck-and-neck.

Harper's Police State Law

I remember the events of Oct. 22. While I was in lock-down on Parliament Hill, I remember who hid in a closet and who ran toward gun fire. The guy in the closet is now planning to concentrate the powers of the state in his own hands while converting the Canadian spy agency into a secret police with virtually unlimited powers.

And, at the same time, he has decided to demote the security team that performed its role heroically, the House of Commons Security, led by former Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, and put the RCMP in charge of Parliament Hill. Of the two moves, clearly creating a secret police is the most dangerous, but upending the constitutional principle that the government reports to Parliament is no small matter (and, as a member of Parliament, I would prefer security to be in the hands of the people who paid attention that day and not the RCMP who somehow missed an armed man running past their multiple idling vehicles.)

Revenue Canada has new powers to pass suspect criminal info to police

The federal revenue agency can now hand the police possible evidence of serious crime — including terrorist activity — that it happens to come across while reviewing taxpayer files.

The Canada Revenue Agency gained the little-noticed new authority, which does not require a judicial warrant, through an amendment tucked into the government's most recent omnibus budget bill.

Previously, confidentiality provisions in the law prevented the agency from handing information about suspected wrongdoing, on its own initiative, to law enforcement. The exception was information that pointed to tax-related crimes.

NDP calls $2.75M bill linked to satellite offices a 'fine'

The NDP is calling the nearly $3 million in ordered repayments for its use of satellite offices a "fine."

Speaking on CTV’s Question Period, Opposition House Leader Peter Julian accused Liberal and Conservative MPs on the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) of issuing the NDP a "fine" for their political advantage.

"Now they're saying, 'Well, okay, you met the old rules, you met the new rules, but we’re just going to give you a big fine anyhow because it's to our political advantage,'" said Julian. "It's a fine because they put together some figures in a very shoddy way."

Revenue Canada's Call Centres Giving Bad Tax Advice: Report

One of every four business callers who ask for tax help from the Canada Revenue Agency’s call centres gets bad information, an internal survey suggests.

The dismal finding is worse than previous estimates by the agency, and confirms repeated complaints by a small-business group that the call centres are routinely dispensing misleading — and perhaps legally dubious — answers.

The latest survey, specially ordered by the head of the tax organization, tested call-centre workers by asking seven routine questions, phoned in anonymously and randomly by 11 agency employees.

Anti-Defamation League Urges Benjamin Netanyahu To Cancel Congress Speech

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before Congress on March 3, but there's a growing chorus of voices calling on him to cancel the appearance. The latest organization to issue this call? The Anti-Defamation League, a U.S.-based international organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism.

Abrahm Foxman, the group's national director and a leading voice in the Jewish community, told The Jewish Daily Forward that the controversy over Netanyahu's speech is unhelpful. He added that Netanyahu should stay home.

Jason Kenny Says Nova Scotia Shouldn't Lose Young Workers To Western Canada

HALIFAX - Young Nova Scotians are contributing to Alberta's prosperity when there are energy resources that could be tapped into at home that would lead to jobs, the federal minister of employment and social development said Saturday.

"I'm from Alberta," Jason Kenney told a meeting of the provincial Progressive Conservative party.

The Oil Price Collapse Is Not Just Another Bust Cycle

Oil is the most valuable commodity in world trade, so any significant change in its price—whether upward or downward—has far-reaching economic consequences. Because oil also plays a pivotal role in world politics, such shifts can have equally momentous implications for international relations. It is hardly surprising, then, that the recent plunge in prices has generated headlines around the world. Many giant energy firms have announced massive cutbacks in employment and investment, and major producing countries like Russia and Venezuela have been forced to scale back government expenditures. While some analysts speculate that prices have now reached bottom and will soon begin climbing again, there are good reasons to believe that this descent is not just another cyclical event but rather the product of something far more profound and durable.

Site C floods will wash away 12,000 years of human history

Archeologist Jonathan Driver was part of the team that uncovered, more than 30 years ago, what was at that time one of the rarest archeological finds in Canadian history: A treasure trove of evidence of human occupation in Northern B.C. that dates back to the end of the last ice age.

The site, known as the Charlie Lake cave or Tse’K’wa, contained some of the oldest human remains in Western Canada, specialized weapons used to hunt large mammals such as bison and mammoth, and animal skeletons that suggest ancient ceremonial practices.

New Allegations Renew Old Questions About Saudi Arabia And 9/11

WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, some current and former American officials have been urging President Barack Obama to release secret files they say document links between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Other officials, including the executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, have said the classified documents do not prove that the Saudi government knew about or financed the 2001 terrorist attacks, and that making the material public would serve no purpose.

Why’s the FBI visiting oilsands protesters?

WASHINGTON - Unexpected visitors have been dropping in on anti-oil activists in the United States — knocking on doors, calling, texting, contacting family members.

The visitors are federal agents.

Opponents of Canadian oil say they've been contacted by FBI investigators in several states following their involvement in protests that delayed northbound shipments of equipment to Canada's oilsands.

A lawyer working with the protesters says he's personally aware of a dozen people having been contacted in the northwestern U.S. and says the actual number is probably higher.

Talking terrorism: Harper and Obama sound like yin and yang

WASHINGTON - The last few days have shown vivid differences in the way the leaders of Canada and the United States discuss terrorism and the threat posed by Islamist fighters.

One raises the alert level. The other dials it down.

It's been like a linguistic laboratory, with the chance to compare the choice of words from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama over a similar time period.

In a one-week span the American leader issued his 2015 National Security Strategy and spoke to religious leaders, while the Canadian leader introduced new anti-terror legislation.