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, September 30, 2015

Venezuelan President Calls For U.N. To Impose Restrictions On War

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro urged world leaders Tuesday to create new rules governing the use of force in the wake of a series of violent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa that have sparked a refugee crisis, as hundreds of thousands of people flee to Europe looking for safety.

Speaking for the annual gathering of heads of state at the United Nations General Assembly, Maduro said he supported a plan by proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to create an international coalition to coordinate foreign military action in Syria.

How Pope Francis Undermined the Goodwill of His Trip and Proved to Be a Coward

After first refusing to confirm nor deny it, the Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis met with the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, where Davis' attorney -- who made the news public after the pope's trip ended -- said Francis told her to "stay strong." And that simple encounter completely undermines all the goodwill the pope created in downplaying "the gay issue" on his U.S. trip.

The pope played us for fools, trying to have it both ways. As I noted last week, he's an artful politician, telling different audiences what they want to hear on homosexuality. He did that in Argentina as a cardinal -- railing against gay marriage when the Vatican expected him to do so -- and he's done that since becoming pope, striking a softer tone on the issue after Benedict's harsh denunciations were a p.r. disaster for the Catholic Church in the West. But this news about Kim Davis portrays him as a more sinister kind of politician. That's the kind that secretly supports hate, ushering the bigots in the back door -- knowing they're an embarrassment -- while speaking publicly about about how none of us can judge one another.

NATO Concerned Russian Airstrikes In Syria Devastated Rebel-Held Areas

BRUSSELS, Sept 30 (Reuters) - NATO said on Wednesday it was concerned that Russia's air strikes on Syria may have devastated rebel-held areas of the country and may not have targeted Islamic State positions.

Russia launched air strikes in Syria on Wednesday in the Kremlin's biggest Middle East intervention in decades, but Moscow's assertion that it had hit Islamic State militants was disputed by the United States and rebels on the ground.

"I'm concerned about the reports saying that the Russian air strikes were not targeted against ISIL," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to the United States.

"I'm especially concerned because there has been no real effort by the Russian side to deconflict the Russian air strikes in Syria with the ongoing US-led coalition fighting ISIL."

Original Article
Author: Robin Emmott

How Much of Big Pharma's Massive Profits Are Used to Influence Politicians?

Whenever it's called out for charging too much for drugs or outright price gouging, the pharmaceutical industry's standard defense is to assure the public that its profits will be used to develop even better drugs in the future. Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli clung to that defense in late September when asked to explain his sudden decision to hike the price of a longstanding anti-parasitic drug by more than $700, prompting a collective eye roll among medical experts and an outraged public.

In reality, a good chunk of pharmaceutical "research and development" comes from the subsidized labs at universities and the National Institutes of Health, and now angry consumers and even some prominent politicians are demanding that the industry put its money where its mouth is.

The 9 Most Expensive Medicines in the World—Courtesy of Big Pharma

Hedge funder Martin Shkreli reminded everyone of the sky-high—and seemingly arbitrary—costs of prescription medicines in this country when he bought and immediately increased the price of an established drug used to fight a parasitic infection. The price hike was eye-popping, from $13.50 a pill to $750 per pill, prompting Dr. Judith Aberg of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to ask, “What is it that they are doing differently that has led to this dramatic increase?” Shkreli’s answer was similar to what Big Pharma trots out all the time—the extra money will help them to make better drugs. Besides, he noted, not many people get the parasitic infection that the now-$750 drug treats. (Small consolation, one imagines, to the unfortunates who actually have it.)

World's Most Competitive Countries: Canada Inches Up To 13th Place

GENEVA — Canada has moved up two notches to 13th position in the latest Global Competitiveness Report issued Wednesday by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum.

The report says Canada improved its ranking mainly because of a lower budget deficit based on 2014 data and a more favourable assessment of its financial market development.

PSAC prepares to battle Conservative government over sick leave reforms

The federal government and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest union representing federal workers, will exchange documents this month ahead of a court battle over proposed reforms to sick leave. For over a year, sick leave has been at the centre of contentious contract negotiations.
Officially, the government supports continuing the bargaining process, but in May gave itself the power, through budget implementation Bill C-59, to impose its plan regardless of the negotiations' outcomes. 

Margaret Atwood: Bill C-51 isn't just a 'secret police bill.' It's attacking the arts too.

Years of irresponsible government policies and message control have left a serious chill on free expression in Canada. From a crippled access to information system, to the muzzling of privacy experts and federal scientists, the Harper government has been operating under extreme secrecy, while placing innocent Canadians under the microscope with mass surveillance.

'Stolen Sisters' Invites National Reckoning on Missing Women

When Emmanuelle Walter moved to Canada from France five years ago, she thought she was moving to one of the human rights capitals of the world. That vision was soon shattered.

"I came across an article about the United Nations [wanting] to do an investigation about missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, and I was shocked," Walter said in a phone interview with The Tyee from her home in Montreal. "After that I became obsessed with the topic, and at the end I decided to write the book."

Harper defends military deal with Saudi Arabia

Stephen Harper is defending a major military deal with Saudi Arabia in the face of questions about pervasive human rights abuses in that country.

He says cancelling the contract could punish Ontario plant workers.

The issue arises as a young man, arrested at age 17 for protesting the Saudi regime, faces imminent beheading and crucifixion in a country known for crackdowns on opponents and the repressive treatment of women.

Harper sacrificing Canadian agriculture on the altar of "free trade"

OTTAWA – Today, farmers from across the country drove their tractors to Parliament Hill to protest the damage that will be inflicted on the dairy and other Canadian industries by the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. As CBC reported yesterday: the TPP will open our border to “more American milk, without getting reciprocal access for Canadian dairy farms in the U.S.” Farmers are saying it will decimate the industry.

“The Conservatives are picking on farmers, especially family farms,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “At a time when people want local and sustainable produce, the Conservatives are destroying the very system that could support it. Instead, this deal will prioritize factory farms, including those outside Canada. The butter may be cheaper, but the cost to our infrastructure and our environment will be enormous.”

I Am Quitting the Conservatives Because of Stephen Harper's Politics

By the time you read this column, my membership in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario will likely be revoked. I will no longer be a director of the Toronto Centre Conservative Association.

This is not because I am no longer useful to the once-proud party of Bill Davis, John Robarts and, yes, Christine Elliott, but because I am coming out against comrade Stephen Harper -- our party's federal counterpart.

Two Who Moved Through Europe’s Revolving-Door Prisons Get Terrorist Designation

The U.S. government has labeled as specially designated terrorists two French fugitives who during the past 15 years have risen from street crime to alleged front-line roles in the Charlie Hebdo attacks and terrorist violence in Tunisia and Syria.

The announcement today by the State Department targeted Peter Cherif and Boubaker Hakim. They are former members of a crew of a dozen young militants from the Buttes-Chaumont neighborhood in northeast Paris who went to Iraq to fight U.S. troops in 2003. Some died in battle, while others were arrested and eventually convicted of terrorist offenses in France.

The Final Collapse of Bush’s Nation-Building: Kunduz Falls to Taliban

On Monday, the Taliban swept into the provincial capital of Kunduz, taking it in half a day from a large and well-equipped Afghan National Army force.  Tuesday’s riposte had only mixed success, with the ANA saying it had taken back the (no-empty) prison. An attempt to take back the airport failed, and when the Taliban captured an ANA tank, the US Air Force had to intervene to take it out lest it be used to drive an ANA rout.

Those who want the US to go into Syria in a big way should just consider what the Kunduz events mean.  Fourteen years after the US went into Afghanistan, it still has not been able to stand up a successful army to which it could hope to turn the country over.  How many orphans do the hawks want to adopt?

No, GMOs Didn't Create India's Farmer Suicide Problem, But…

Since the mid-1990s, around 300,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves—a rate of about one every 30 minutes, which is 47 percent higher than the national average. The tragedy has become entangled in the rhetorical war around genetically modified seeds.

Some anti-GMO activists, including Indian scientist and organic-farming champion Vandana Shiva, have blamed the high suicide rates directly on biotech seeds—specifically, cotton tweaked by Monsanto to contain the Bt pesticide, now used on more than 90 percent of India's cotton acreage. Shiva has gone so far as to declare them "seeds of suicide," because, she claims, "suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced."

Metro interviews Stephen Harper: PM talks terrorism, Syrian refugees and 'elite political correctness on steroids'

Stephen Harper says the world is full of danger. In a sit-down interview with Metro, the prime minister warned of international financial crises, pandemics, terrorists and, in a measured way, explained why Canadians can’t have the kinder, gentler country that the other leaders are promising.

Harper almost looked casual — the top button of his blue shirt undone — as he brought the hammer down on what he called “Canada’s elite.”

Provincially owned telecom firm sold at loss of almost $61 million

The Liberal government is under fire for selling off a provincially owned telecommunications company at a $61 million loss.

Even so Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle says it was a “necessary decision” and a good deal for taxpayers.

Ontera, which provides local and long distance telephone, data and Internet service throughout northeastern Ontario, was sold to Bell Aliant for $6.3 million — less than the $6.5 million the province paid consultants, lawyers and others advising the government on the sale.

KPMG tax 'sham' used by at least 25 wealthy Canadians, document says

At least 25 multi-millionaire Canadians used an offshore "sham" set up by accounting firm KPMG, a document filed Tuesday in Federal Court shows.

For more than two years, KPMG has been fighting a court order to provide the list of names of multi-millionaire clients who had used what the CRA has alleged in court documents is a "sham" Isle of Man tax avoidance structure. The court file, which had seen virtually no activity for much of that time, had remained mysteriously stalled.

Harper Offends AFN Regional Chief With Inuit Debate Comment

A First Nation chief says Stephen Harper’s cursory “those people” remark during Monday’s leaders’ debate was a “neo-colonial Freudian slip.”

Defending the government’s Arctic strategy during a foreign policy debate, the Conservative leader said that having Inuk candidate Leona Aglukkaq sit in Parliament is an indication that “those people, that the Inuit and the North has really arrived in our country.”