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, February 27, 2015

Canada Won't Take 'No' For an Answer on Keystone XL

Although Barack Obama issued an immediate veto of legislation from Congress that would have forced approval of the long-debated and highly contentious Keystone XL pipeline, the American president still needs to give the project — vehemently opposed by his core constituency but favored by the Republican majority in Congress — a clear thumbs-up or thumbs-down on his own.

That’s a decision that the Obama administration has been weighing for the entirety of its six years, leaving the Canadian company behind the proposal frustrated and the Canadian government, which is deeply interested in ramping up operations at the Albertan oil patch that would be serviced by the pipeline, even more so.

So what’s terrorism? Whatever Harper says it is.

Steve the terror-monger has a lot of reasons to call an early election — not least the fact that the popularity of his security bill, which proposes to turn Canada into a police-state, is likely to be short-duration.

Having managed to convince the public (and apparently Justin Trudeau), that C-51 is going to save us from the beheading hordes, the temptation to take political advantage must be great. An Angus Reid reports that 82 per cent of Canadians have been seduced by this crazed legislation; support is even higher in Quebec, at 87 per cent.

Bill C-51 defies key rulings on security certificates, lawyers say

Immigration experts say the sweeping anti-terrorism bill would give the government — and its spy agency, CSIS — new power to withhold information in cases where suspects are held on security certificates.

The changes are included in Bill C-51's amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which have received little attention to date.

Security certificates allow the government to detain and deport permanent residents or foreign nationals considered to be a security threat using secret evidence that the accused is not allowed to see.

We Can Afford a Missing Women's Inquiry

If the Harper government has been successful at one thing, it is perpetuating the myth that indigenous peoples in Canada can either have an inquiry or they can have "action" to end the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women. Many have challenged this notion presented by federal ministers on a near daily basis.

Challenging this false exclusivity is important for me as the Aboriginal Affairs critic for the federal New Democratic Party. That our government would choose against taking steps to end violence against indigenous women is as offensive as the thought that aboriginal families do not deserve a thorough inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of more than 1,200 women.  

Nova Scotia Bill 1: The saga continues

The drama continues in Nova Scotia this week, after the provincial Liberals announced plans to create new legislation that would reassign health-care workers to unions not necessarily of their choosing.
In a last-minute upset, the Nova Scotia Minister of Health and Wellness, Leo Glavin, announced last week that the provincial government will fire arbitrator Jim Dorsey, after he rendered an unsatisfactory decision in the dispute over the controversial Health Authorities Act, Bill 1.  
"I don't know what to call this," said NSGEU president Joan Jessome, whose union is one of four affected by the bill. "It's quite the theatre."
Dorsey was hired as the government-appointed mediator/arbitrator in October 2014 to determine what union representation would look like after Nova Scotia's 49 existing health-care bargaining units were streamlined into four province-wide units -- one each for nurses, health-care, clerical, and support workers. 

From opposition to retreat: Tom Mulcair and Bill C-51

At the end of last week it looked like Tom Mulcair and the NDP caucus were going to rise to the occasion on one of the great threats to Canadian civil liberties and Canada's activist community in many years, Bill C-51. 
Bill C-51 is sweeping and dangerous. From the Privacy Commissioner, to commentators like Karl Nerenburg, to Green Party leader Elizabeth May, to the Communist Party, a wide-array of people and organizations have denounced and exposed the very disturbing implications of its passage.
Mulcair seemed to say as much and seemed poised to take a strong stance rejecting the bill, which earned him the praise of many -- myself included -- and which reassured many on the left that Canada's historically social democratic party was not going to abandon them or let them down.

ISIS recruits: Radicalized young women motivated by ideology, sense of adventure

Young women who become radicalized and make the trip to ISIS-controlled lands are motivated by the same reasons as male recruits, including a sense of adventure and a desire to right perceived wrongs in the Muslim world, according to experts.

When they arrive they are usually quickly married to a fighter with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and begin a strictly controlled domestic life of child-rearing, cooking and cleaning.

Instalment loans the new high-interest danger for consumers

At a time when she should be approaching her golden years, 57-year-old grandmother Helen Parry is instead supporting two adult children on a wage that hasn’t increased in eight years.

"Cost of living rises but the pay doesn’t and the utilities and everything goes up … so it gets harder each year," Parry says.

Last year, with bills piling up, Parry, who lives in Brampton, Ont., asked her bank for a loan but was turned down because of bad credit.

The Inside Story Of How Citizens United Has Changed Washington Lawmaking

When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cast the deciding vote to gut a century of campaign finance law, he assured the public that the unlimited corporate spending he was ushering in would “not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Because those authorized to give and spend unlimited amounts were legally required to remain independent of the politicians themselves, Kennedy reasoned, there was no cause for concern.

Just five years later, in a development that may be surprising only to Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision is reshaping how, how much and to whom money flows in Washington.

How regulators and legislators make it harder for you to use solar power

When homeowners or businesses install solar panels, state laws ensure utility companies pay for unused electricity that is routed back into the power grid - a practice known as net metering.

Currently, 43 states and the District of Columbia have implemented net metering policies, some of which are more favorable than others, but all of which turn the power grid into a two-way street.

The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices for common fossil-fuel power generation in just two years, and the technology to produce it will only get cheaper, according to Deutsche Bank's leading solar industry analyst, Vishal Shah.

Opposition objections to 'anti-terror' bill go far beyond lack of oversight

For the opposition parties, the lack of effective oversight for Canada's spies and police in the government's new anti-terrorism legislation is one serious flaw. 
It is not the only one, however. 
In a CBC Radio interview on Thursday morning, former Conservative Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day tried to claim that the opposition parties have not said what, substantively, they would change in the proposed legislation, Bill C-51.

Egypt Should Send Canadian Journalist Mohamed Fahmy Home

Mohamed Fahmy was due to begin his retrial in an Egyptian criminal court two days ago on charges of terrorism and broadcasting "false news." But when the court convened, the judges postponed the new trial to Mar. 8. This is when Mr. Fahmy, a journalist who has committed no crime and is currently on bail, must next return to the defendants' soundproof cage.

Earlier this month Egypt's highest court issued its reasons for overturning the original conviction and sentence in the case. The Court of Cassation's decision recognized that the original trial was unfair, as I have previously explained. The judges noted the catalogue of due process violations that revealed a biased and unjust approach by the authorities. The court also considered that Fahmy's conviction for acts of "terrorism" was nonsensical since he was not even charged with threatening or using violence. It concludes that the trial court judgment was "flimsy and based on conflicting reasoning that undermines it and justifies overturning it on appeal."

Crude Awakening: How the Keystone Veto Dashes Canada's 'Superpower' Dreams

Barack Obama's veto of Keystone XL has placed the export pipeline for Canadian tar-sands crude on its deathbed. Earlier in February, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Keystone could spur 1.37 billion tons of excess carbon emissions — providing the State Department with all the scientific evidence required to spike the project, permanently. If the news has cheered climate activists across the globe, it also underscored the folly of Canada's catastrophic quest, in recent years, to transform itself into a dirty-energy "superpower."

In the minds of many American right-wingers, Canada may be a socialist hell-scape of universal health care and quasi-European welfare policies. But it is also home to 168 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the third-largest in the world. Since ultraconservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper — famously described by one Canadian columnist as "our version of George W. Bush, minus the warmth and intellect" — took power in 2006, he's quietly set his country on a course that seems to be straight from the Koch brothers' road map. Harper, 55, has gutted environmental regulation and fast-tracked colossal projects to bring new oil to market. Under his leadership, Canada has also slashed corporate taxes and is eliminating 30,000 public-sector jobs.

ISIS is proof that the 14-year 'war on terror' has been a catastrophic failure

TODAY al-Qaeda-type movements rule a vast area in northern and western Iraq and eastern and northern Syria, several hundred times larger than any territory ever controlled by Osama bin Laden.

It is since bin Laden’s death that al-Qaeda affiliates or clones have had their greatest successes, including the capture of Raqqa in the eastern part of Syria, the only provincial capital in that country to fall to the rebels, in March 2013.

Quebec judge wouldn't hear case of woman wearing hijab

A Quebec judge told a woman appearing in her Montreal courtroom she would not hear her case until she removed her hijab.

In an audio recording of the proceedings obtained by CBC News, Judge Eliana Marengo is heard telling Rania El-Alloul on Tuesday that the courtroom is a secular place and that she is not suitably dressed.

"Hats and sunglasses for example, are not allowed.  And I don't see why scarves on the head would be either," Marengo says in the recording.

How Congress Remade The Economy In Its Own Awful Image

A jury ruled on Wednesday that Apple must pay $532.9 million for infringing on three patents owned by a firm that could serve as a textbook definition of a patent troll. Smartflash LLC had essentially claimed to own the idea of selling stuff with smartphones, arguing it was entitled to a share of all iPhone sales as a result.

Apple and plenty of other technology experts see the verdict as absurd. But what the case says about Congress is actually more frightening than its implications for the judicial system.

New ISIS Video Shows Militants Smashing Ancient Iraq Artifacts

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Islamic State group released a video on Thursday showing militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts in Iraq's northern city of Mosul, describing the relics as idols that must be removed.

The destructions are part of a campaign by the IS extremists who have destroyed a number of shrines — including Muslim holy sites — in order to eliminate what they view as heresy. They are also believed to have sold ancient artifacts on the black market in order to finance their bloody campaign across the region.

John Boehner Defends Benjamin Netanyahu Speech

(Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday challenged an assertion by the Obama administration that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress about Iran's nuclear program would be destructive to U.S.-Israeli relations.

"The president's national security advisor says it's destructive for the prime minister of Israel to address the United States Congress. I couldn't disagree more," Boehner said at his weekly news conference.

"The American people and both parties in Congress have always stood with Israel and nothing, and no one, could get in the way," the Republican leader said.

Scott Walker Says He Can Take On ISIS Because He Took On Labor Unions

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday said his experience undermining labor unions in Wisconsin has prepared him to take on the threat of the Islamic State in the Middle East.

"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," Walker told a packed crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in response to a question about how he would fight the terrorist group, which has killed thousands in Iraq and Syria.

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Bee Die-Off

For years, honeybees were dying, and no one knew why.

There have been some glimmers of hope recently. The number of bee deaths wasn't as dramatic last winter. Studies began pointing the finger at pesticides.

But a simple fact remains: Bees still are on the decline, and no one's sure why.

They're dying in large numbers, and scientists are scrambling to identify the cause. Beekeepers used to see about 5 or 10 percent of the bees in their hives die every year, but starting in 2006, losses jumped to 30 percent. About 10 million beehives, worth an estimated $2 billion, have been lost since then. The numbers are down slightly for last winter, when beekeepers lost about 23 percent.

The Human Costs Of Chris Christie’s Attack On Planned Parenthood

On the first day of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, right-wing attendees gathered to discuss how to get pro-life Republicans elected in blue states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was held up as a prime example — applause erupting to praise the potential presidential contender for vetoing funding for Planned Parenthood five times over the past five years.
“I ran as a pro-life candidate in 2009 unapologetically, spoke at the rally on the steps of the statehouse. I was the first governor to ever speak at a pro-life rally on the steps of the statehouse in the state of New Jersey,” Christie told the approving crowd. “And I vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times out of the New Jersey budget.”

What 7 States Discovered After Spending More Than $1 Million Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

As state legislatures convene across the country, proposals keep cropping up to drug test applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, or welfare. Bills have been introduced so far inMontana, Texas, and West Virginia, with a handful of others also considering such a move. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has gone further, proposing to drug test applicants for food stamps and unemployment benefits. They follow recent bills put into action in Maine, Michigan, and Mississippi.

Ottawa Largely Ignored 700 Recommendations On Missing Aboriginal Women, Study Finds

A new study says the federal government is ignoring dozens of recommendations on how to reduce the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The study, which analyzed 58 others on violence against native women, found most of the reviews spanning two decades agreed on the root causes of that violence.

But Ottawa has largely ignored more than 700 recommendations to address the issue, says the report, which was commissioned by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women that includes Amnesty International.