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.]

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Republican Neo-Imperial Vision for 2016

It’s a ritual long familiar to observers of American politics: presidential hopefuls with limited international experience travel to foreign lands and deliver speeches designed to showcase their grasp of foreign affairs. Typically, such escapades involve trips to major European capitals or active war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, however, has broken this mold. Before his recent jaunt to London and into the thickets of American vaccination politics, he chose two surprising destinations for his first trips abroad as a potential Republican candidate.  No, not Kabul or Baghdad or even Paris, but Mexico City and Alberta, Canada.  And rather than launch into discussions of immigration, terrorism, or the other usual Republican foreign policy topics, he focused on his own top priority: integrating Canada and Mexico into a U.S.-led “North American energy renaissance.”

Bobby Jindal Says America Needs Educated Population, Slashes Education Budget

Louisiana Governor and likely presidential candidate Bobby Jindal told a conservative audience in DC on Wednesday that public education is a fundamental pillar of American democracy.
“Why is it important to fund and support public education?” he asked the attendees of the American Principles Project’s conference. “Because if we want to keep the republic we have, our republic can only be as good as our citizens. So we need an educated population with critical thinking skills. We need to train citizens to be responsible, functioning adults. I always hear from parents, from the Chamber of Commerce, from business groups that we’ve got to fund education.”

No, The Koch Brothers Aren’t Socially Liberal

The anti-government billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who helped bankroll the Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, reportedly plan to spend $889 million over the next two years in order to ensure their favored candidates control the entire American government after the 2016 elections. In recent weeks, the historicallyprivate duo has mounted something of a media charm offensive, attempting to frame themselves as not as partisan Republicans but as fiscally conservative, social libertarians eager to defend individual liberty.

There’s No #BlackLivesMatter Without Net Neutrality

Net neutrality scored a big win recently when Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler changed course on the issue and put forth, in his words, “the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC.” The plan calls for reclassification of the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, such that the Internet would be regulated as a public utility, much like telecom services. This would prevent broadband companies from potentially charging websites for better, faster uploading and access, setting up a two-tiered Internet in which larger sites with the ability to pay these fees come to dominate the information we all have access to. Considering the odds (Wheeler is a former lobbyist for the cable-TV and wireless industries, while Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others spent over $75 million last year lobbying on the issue), Wheeler’s decision to support an open Internet is more than welcome, if not a little shocking.

Baird's Claim About Canada's Stature In World Contains 'Some Baloney'

OTTAWA - "I have seen the stature of our country grow, in the eyes of the world ... Today, Canada stands tall in the world." — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in his resignation speech in the House of Commons, Feb. 3.


Canada looking at LNG tax breaks in federal budget: document

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government is studying the idea of providing new tax breaks in the upcoming federal budget for companies that build liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, according to internal records obtained by Reuters.

Such incentives could help companies move forward with stalled developments in Canada, even as they cut spending around the world in response to plummeting oil prices.

Republicans Think They've Finally Figured Out How to Kill Unions

Remember unions? You know, those organizations that helped raise wages, made workplaces safer by pushing for laws that would punish employers for dangerous conditions, and gave us the 40-hour workweek?

You could be forgiven for forgetting them, considering that union membership has been on the decline for decades from its high of about 35 percent in the 1950s. That makes it all the more strange that in 2015—when union membership in the U.S. has fallen to a measly 11.1 percent—Republicans have cast unions as the ultimate economic villain, responsible for job loss, stagnating wages, and increased foreign competition for labor. The less power unions have, the more Republicans seem to fight against them.

Sucked in by the soap opera while democracy burns

So what’ll it be? Eve Adams and blond ambition? Heartbreak Justin’s dubious judgement? Or Mrs. Harper’s salsa?

The most arbitrary government Canada has ever had is transforming the country into a war-mongering, arms-selling police state while the nation debates recipes and political soap opera.

Consider the coverage of the Adams and Steve parting-of-the-ways. So far, the theme has been one of almost unanimous denunciation of Justin Trudeau for accepting into his party a woman whose political ambition is not apparently constrained by any particular principles. Adams now wears the Scarlett letter — in her case, the “A” is for actress.

Secrecy shrouds information-sharing agreement with Five Eyes allies

OTTAWA—A veil of secrecy has dropped around a series of immigration information-sharing agreements between Canada and its “Five Eyes” allies.

In Washington this week, Francis Taylor, Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, informed a congressional committee that “with the Five Country Conference — which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom — we have concluded immigration information sharing agreements that reduce the likelihood that a person applying for asylum or a visa in any of the five countries who has an illicit past could hide that history.”

Denver Police Killing of LGBT Teen Jessica Hernandez Sparks Outcry as Officers’ Claims Disputed

The fatal police shooting of a teenage girl in Denver has drawn protests amidst a nationwide push for more police accountability. On the morning of January 26, Denver police shot and killed 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez. They say she and several teenage friends were driving a stolen car that struck and injured an officer. Police Chief Robert White says his officers repeatedly told her to get out of the car before they opened fire. But a passenger says Hernandez lost control of the car only after she was shot and became unconscious. Witnesses say Hernandez was dragged from the car, apparently unconscious. A video captured by a neighbor shows police handcuffed and appeared to search her after she was shot, rolling her on her back and stomach as she lay limp and motionless. The two officers involved in the shooting have been put on administrative leave while the incident is investigated. Last Thursday, activists at the National Conference on LGBT Equality that took place in Denver protested Hernandez’s killing by forcing Mayor Michael Hancock to cancel a planned speech. And on Saturday, an estimated 800 people gathered for Hernandez’s funeral. We are joined by two guests: Mimi Madrid Puga, a community organizer and board member of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, and Qusair Mohamedbhai, a civil rights lawyer and attorney for the Hernandez family.

Author: --

Coastal First Nations Call Out 'Eagle Spirit' Pipeline

After a Wednesday press conference in Calgary announced new partners in a First Nations-led pipeline project, two major alliances of First Nations have publicly rejected the proposal.

The Eagle Spirit Energy project, which positions itself as a less risky alternative to Enbridge's Northern Gateway, first set out to secure "social license" for a high-volume energy corridor through northern B.C. in September 2012. With financial backing from the Aquilini Group, president and chairperson Calvin Helin said his company consulted with First Nations and is in the process of designing a proposal that meets those terms.

Harper Vows Legislation To Prevent Early Release For Repeat Offenders

VICTORIAVILLE, Que. - The federal government will introduce legislation aimed at preventing repeat offenders from being released after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday the proposed change will be tabled "very soon."

He made the announcement in Victoriaville, Que., following through on a commitment made by the Conservatives in the 2013 throne speech.

Harper: Government To Appeal Ruling Allowing Niqabs During Citizenship Oath

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government will appeal a Federal Court ruling that would allow someone to take the oath of citizenship with their faces covered.

A federal judge ruled in Ottawa last week that a portion of the law requiring citizenship candidates to remove their face coverings while taking the oath was unlawful.

The case had been brought on by Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani national who had sued the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration claiming the government's policy on veils violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Yes minister: Can Steven Blaney stand up to the boss he loves?

Richmond Hill is a suburb north of Toronto, a place of nature-themed street names and cookie-cutter faux mansions. Relatively wealthy, multicultural and just far enough from Toronto’s lefty sensibilities, it is exactly the kind of place the governing Conservatives need to retain in order to stay in power following the next election in October. On a recent Friday morning, hundreds of Richmond Hill residents descended on the Bayview Hill Community Centre to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper speak about his government’s new anti-terrorism legislation, and a world growing less safe by the day.

Why Arming the Ukrainian Government Would Be Disastrous

Nearly seventy years ago, a group of Manhattan Project scientists, having seen the power of nuclear destruction, created what they called the Doomsday Clock. It was a mechanism designed to warn the world about the threat of imminent global catastrophe—the closer the clock moved to midnight, the closer we were to doomsday. In January, the group of Nobel laureates charged with maintaining the clock changed its time to 11:57, denoting the closest we’ve been to doomsday in more than thirty years. Their reasoning is based not just on the world’s inaction on issues like climate change, but on its provocative march toward a new Cold War.

Poilievre's Promotion Worries Labour

Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative's new employment minister, is an intense partisan who cares more about his party than he does about working Canadians, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Gil McGowan said Poilievre, 35, is a bad choice for the employment file, which has a mandate to create jobs.

"The only time he's ever paid attention to working people at all is when he's been viciously attacking unions in an effort to undercut any political threat that they might pose to his Conservative Party," McGowan said. "Putting this guy in charge of the employment department is like putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department."

Plastics dumped in world's oceans estimated at 8M tonnes annually

New research shows for the first time the enormity of the problem posed by the amount of plastic finding its way into the world's oceans.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, estimates that 4-12 million tonnes of plastic are dumped every year by coastal countries.

"It is an enormous, staggering amount of material that we believe might be entering the ocean every year," Roland Geyer, one of the authors of the report, said in an interview with CBC News.

Poilievre obstructed efforts to improve EI system: Jennings

Canada would have a fairer and more equitable employment insurance system today if it weren’t for the Conservative government’s new employment minister Pierre Poilievre, says former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings.

Jennings, who served in 2009 on a blue ribbon panel set up to look at Canada’s employment insurance system, says Poilievre deliberately obstructed the panel’s attempts to improve Canada’s employment insurance system from the very start – seemingly carrying out instructions from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper has not made politics more conservative, but more authoritarian

There is a story out there that Stephen Harper has made Canada more conservative. In fact, he has made it more authoritarian and the question now is how future leaders will deal with this.

John Ibbitson is the latest to make the claim and his piece provides a useful foil for getting at the points I want to make, so bear with me.

Ibbitson’s analysis focuses on six policy areas: spending, crime, immigration, security, democracy and federalism. We can dispense with the first three quickly.

Canada's Iraq Mission: Special Forces Exchange Fire With ISIL For 4th Time

OTTAWA - Canadian troops were recently involved in another exchange of fire with extremists in northern Iraq, a skirmish that comes as the U.S. prepares to expand the scope of its special forces missions throughout the region.

A draft resolution before the U.S. Congress would, if passed, authorize "ground combat operations in limited circumstances" and special forces missions targeting leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

That will put pressure on the Harper government as it prepares to renew Canada's commitment to the combat mission against ISIL, defence experts said Thursday.

Net Neutrality Opponents Go To War

WASHINGTON -- With two weeks to go until the Federal Communications Commission votes on the future of the Internet, net neutrality opponents are ramping up their fight against FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's open Internet proposal.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans have launched probes into the rulemaking process, drumming up support for legislation they plan to push after the vote. At the federal agency, industry groups for the phone carriers are meeting with commissioners' staffers to advocate against parts of Wheeler's plan.