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 08, 2016

The Pope Looks East Toward Russia and China

ROME -- Pope Francis is about to leave for a five-day trip throughout Mexico. This country is among the most visited by recent popes, especially John Paul II. Francis will reach areas where his predecessors never wandered, ending his journey at Ciudad Juarez along the border with the U.S. Generally for his visits abroad, he seeks both meaningful and unexpected destinations (Albania, the Central African Republic, Sweden next October), and when possible, chooses places that are free of other pontiffs' footprints.

Tens Of Thousands Flee To Turkish Border As Aleppo Assault Intensifies

ONCUPINAR, Turkey/BEIRUT, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Russian and Syrian government forces on Saturday intensified an assault on rebel-held areas around the Syrian city of Aleppo that has prompted tens of thousands to seek refuge across the border in Turkey.

Martin Lewis Accuses David Cameron Of 'Snubbing' Millions Of Students' Over Loans Hike

High profile finance expert Martin Lewis has said he has been "snubbed" by David Cameron after writing an open letter to the Prime Minister highlighting an "unfair" hike in student loans.

Lewis, the founder of and former head of the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information, penned a lengthy note to Cameron explaining why the retrospective loan repayment changes were unfair - and potentially illegal.

Jeremy Corbyn Wants Britain To Stay In European Union, Will Use Referendum To 'Stand Up For Public Ownership'

Jeremy Corbyn will push for the UK to remain in the European Union as he vows to use the referendum campaign as an opportunity to "stand up for public ownership".

The Labour Party leader will say on Saturday that staying in the EU is in the best interests of the British people.

TPP would make it harder for Canada to innovate, Jim Balsillie warns

Ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would seriously impede Canada's future prosperity, according to Jim Balsille, the former co-CEO of Research In Motion and co-founder of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

​"We're in an innovation deficit in this country and when you find yourself in a hole, the first rule is stop digging. What TPP does is it locks in that competitive advantage [for other countries] which makes it much, much harder for Canada to become an innovation nation," Balsillie told host Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

Ratify TPP or Canada will be 'shut out' of foreign trade, Christy Clark says

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership or face what she says would be the dire economic consequences of rejecting the largest trade deal in world history.

Clark said she supports the 12-nation Pacific Rim agreement — which was negotiated by the former Harper government — "100 per cent."

BC Hydro Pledge Saves Mining Jobs? Not So Fast, Says Union

British Columbia's mining minister says allowing mines to delay paying for electricity will help workers through a time of low commodity prices, but the head of a union representing many of those workers dismissed the announcement as a photo op and said there are better ways to help.

"We're not doing this for the corporations, we're not doing this for the shareholders, we're doing this for the people who work in these mines," Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said in a conference call with reporters. "There's 30,000 people in this province who depend on mining."

Scolding BC's 'Forces of No,' Our Premier Crassly Divides Us

Our premier actually said something true last week.

''The world is being divided into two,'' Christy Clark told reporters in Vancouver on the heels of an historic Salmon Nation Summit in Prince Rupert. There, a powerful coalition of First Nations leaders, scientists, citizens, elected officials, sport and commercial fishermen and environmentalists declared Lelu Island, at the mouth of the Skeena River, off limits to industrial development.

John Tory doesn't seem to get what a conflict of interest is

On the afternoon of Thursday, February 4, City Council was confused. This was not a terribly unusual state of affairs, but the particular circumstances were.

Councillors were debating a motion from Mike Layton concerning "competitive and affordable internet prices." It asked Council to express its support for a July 2015 decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requiring big telecom corporations to open up their next-generation networks to smaller companies at wholesale prices. Just as internet service providers like TekSavvy are now able to make use of current Bell and Rogers lines to offer their own products, the July ruling extends the conditions to the newer, higher-speed infrastructure that is now being built out.

Marathon 2015 Election Campaign Cost 53 Per Cent More Than 2011 Vote: Elections Canada

OTTAWA — Elections Canada says last fall's marathon federal election campaign cost $443 million to administer — 53 per cent more than the 2011 election. And that's just the preliminary estimate.

The independent agency doesn't yet know how many millions it will have to pay out to political parties and their candidates, who are eligible for rebates of up to 50 per cent and 60 per cent respectively on their campaign expenses.

Number of Victims of Female Genital Mutilation is 70 Million Higher Than Thought

The real scale of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide has been revealed in alarming new statistics. At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual cutting, half of them living in just three countries, according to UNICEF, the UN children’s agency .

“If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FGM will increase significantly over the next 15 years,” UNICEF said on the eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.

Bill Boyd, Saskatchewan Minister, Threatens Legal Action Against CBC

A Saskatchewan minister is threatening legal action against the CBC, after the news organization broke a story alleging that the minister made an inappropriate land deal in 2014.

According to a CBC story published Wednesday, Minister of the Economy Bill Boyd asked a government-owned corporation to buy a piece of land for two to three times more than the appraised value.

Fed-Up Uber Drivers Aim to Disrupt Super Bowl 50—With Their Own Mobile App

A disruptive smartphone app turned Uber into a $50 billion global juggernaut. Now a group of disgruntled Uber drivers, with the help of their own smartphone app, aims to kneecap the car-hailing service precisely when and where it will be most in demand: Super Bowl Sunday in the Bay Area.

For Uber, the stakes are high. The big game is in Santa Clara, about an hour from Uber's San Francisco headquarters. The company has chipped in $250,000 to $500,000 in cash and services to sponsor the Super Bowl Host Committee, according to Quartz. In return, it gets to be the first ride-sharing service allowed to access a Super Bowl game. It will even have exclusive pick-up and drop-off zones at the stadium—a coup for Uber's marketing department, assuming the company doesn't fall on its face.

Why Progressive Groups Have A Problem With Clinton On Social Security

Hillary Clinton refuses to rule out any and all benefit cuts to Social Security, angering leading progressive groups that have not endorsed a candidate in the Democratic primary.

The issue has arisen as Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), her remaining rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, debate who has stronger progressive bona fides and progressive groups call for a red-line pledge not to cut benefits.

Hillary to Bernie: You Smear Me When You Tell the Truth

I watched yet another Democratic debate last night, this one moderated by MSNBC in a more traditional format instead of the previous version's "town hall." Much was repeated: Bernie Sanders wants a "revolution" to overthrow a rigged economy and to enact campaign finance reform, Hillary Clinton says she's a progressive who can get things done and who will build on the legacy of President Obama.

Homelessness in Canada: Its growth, policy responses and advocacy

On February 1, I gave a guest presentation on homelessness to a graduate seminar class on housing policy taught by Steve Pomeroy at Carleton University's School of Public Policy and Administration. The focus of my presentation was the emergence of homelessness in Canada as a pressing public policy area in the 1980s. I discussed the growth of homelessness, policy responses and advocacy. My slides from the presentation can be downloaded here.

Raising the Minimum Wage Won’t Reduce Inequality

Walmart is giving more than one million of its employeesa raise later this month as part of a plan that will lift all but its newest hires to at least $10 an hour.

The move, first announced last year, follows an aggressive campaign to get the largest private employer in the U.S. to lift worker wages and coincides with a nationwide push to raise federal and state minimum wages and a prolonged period of little growth in pay.

More Bombs, More Boots: The US War on ISIS Is Heating Up

For months, members of Congress and former Pentagon officials have been criticizing the Obama administration's approach to defeating ISIS, arguing that airstrikes and occasional special-forces operations are not enough to destroy the Islamist insurgency. In November, Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, told CBS's Face the Nation, "I think it's now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy vis-à-vis ISIS, is not working." The following week, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined a collection of Democrats breaking with the president over his Syria policy. She called for "a new phase" and said it was time to "intensify and broaden our efforts to smash the would-be caliphate and deny ISIS control of territory in Iraq and Syria."

The Fight Between Sanders And Clinton Isn't A Purity Test. It's A Genuine Divide Over Gender And Corporate Power.

The increasingly contentious primary battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is about much more than a Twitter fight or different theories of change. The deepening divide between the two candidates -- even more acrimonious among their respective supporters -- reflects a major rift within the Democratic Party over gender, corporate power and the very idea of what a just society looks like.

Student Calls For LSE's Free Speech Speakeasy Society To Be Banned

A free speech society, set up at a London university to challenge the growing trend of censorships and "safe spaces", is facing being banned.

The Speakeasy society, set up by LSE students Charlie Parker, Chiara Cappellini and Christian Benson, hopes to challenge the "problem" of student unions banning speakers and objects in case students are offended.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Founder, Condemns Philip Hammond's Response To UN Panel Ruling

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has condemned the "insulting" British government response to the UN ruling that he is being "arbitrarily detained" by hiding in an embassy to avoid extradition over alleged sexual offences.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention panel called on Swedish and British authorities to end Assange's "deprivation of liberty" but the Foreign office said: "This changes nothing."

David Cameron's Warned European Parliament A 'Serious Roadblock' To EU Renegotiation

David Cameron has been warned the European Parliament could present a "serious roadblock" to his attempts to renegotiate Britain's membership of the EU

Speaking at the London School of Economics today, Martin Schulz, the parliament's president, said the prime minister's hopes for an "emergency brake" on migration would be difficult for MEPs to swallow.

Spallumcheen's Drinking Water Polluted By Liquid Manure Says UVic Law Centre

The University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre is asking the Interior Health authority to order a permanent moratorium on the spread of liquid manure on a dairy farm above a drinking water aquifer that serves the North Okanagan community of Spallumcheen.

The formal request, on behalf of the town's residents, comes after nearly two years of a water quality advisory warning residents of the potential health risks of high nitrate levels in water supplied by the Hullcar aquifer.

Council breaks with Mayor John Tory over internet regulation

City council voted Thursday evening to push the federal government to uphold a ruling in favour of competition for internet providers.

But that overwhelming support, 28 to 5, contradicts the position of Mayor John Tory — who still holds at least $5 million in shares of large telecom Rogers, where he was previously an executive — after he sent a letter in favour of an appeal for big telecom companies.

Canada must act now to save its steel-making industry

Thousands of steelworkers and their families rallied in downtown Hamilton on Jan. 30 to stand up against the actions of U.S. Steel and the potential shutdown of Canadian operations and the loss of workers' pensions and benefits.

Both the United Steelworkers, the union representing the 2,200 employees in the Hamilton and Nanticoke plants, and the Ontario government are in a Toronto court opposing a legal move by the American parent company to scuttle the possibility of a revived and restructured steel operation.

Tsleil-Waututh First Nation releases scathing report on Kinder Morgan expansion

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation has decided to deny approval for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline project to proceed in its territory based on the outcomes of its own assessment of Kinder Morgan's proposal.

The assessment, which took over a year to craft and consists of six expert reports, was released yesterday at a press conference held at Whey-ah-Wichen Park in North Vancouver.

Rick Snyder's Office Was Warned Of Deadly Legionnaires Outbreak, Did Nothing

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has said he didn't know about an uptick in deadly Legionnaires' disease around Flint until this year, but newly released emails show a Snyder aide had been warned last March.

Snyder's office said the agency that has already accepted blame for much of the Flint water crisis dropped the ball on the Legionnaires' disease issue and nobody told the governor about it. The Michigan Democratic Party has now called on Snyder to resign.

Trade Minister Needs to Break Out of Bureaucrat's Bubble on TPP

Are Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland's officials misleading her about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Freeland signed the agreement Thursday in New Zealand, but repeated her assurances that critics shouldn't worry -- the government hasn't committed to ratifying it and consultations and a full debate will precede a vote in Parliament. That could be up to two years away.

The Truth About Israel's National Security

Israel's historical experiences, coupled with decades of violent confrontations with Arab states and the Palestinians, have created a major psychological barrier embedded in the psyche of every Israeli, placing Israel's legitimate national security concerns at the center of its domestic and foreign policy. That said, no military might or even the expropriation of the entire West Bank will guarantee Israel's security, short of a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace.

People Have A 'Fundamental Right' To Own Assault Weapons, Court Rules

In a major victory for gun rights advocates, a federal appeals court on Thursday sided with a broad coalition of gun owners, businesses and organizations that challenged the constitutionality of a Maryland ban on assault weapons and other laws aimed at curbing gun violence.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the state's prohibition on what the court called "the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles commonly kept by several million American citizens" amounted to a violation of their rights under the Constitution.

Take 2 Minutes To Learn Why Obama's $10 Fee On Oil Is So Important

A forthcoming White House proposal to put a $10 per barrel fee on oil essentially amounts to a partial tax on carbon.

Over the next decade, that fee, to be paid by oil companies, would fund $300 billion of investments in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving vehicles and other forms of transportation that reduce dependence carbon, according to Politico.

It's long overdue.

Denmark Has Figured Out One Way To Foil Corporate Greed

NEW YORK -- Denmark is not the socialist utopia celebrated by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the first Democratic presidential debate in October. Just ask Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who responded two weeks later to say his country is "far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."

But at least when it comes to the ownership of its biggest companies, Denmark has an unusual way of doing business.

Actually, Marco Rubio Is The One Pitting Americans Against Each Other

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) slammed President Barack Obama's visit to a mosque on Wednesday, during which the president denounced anti-Muslim rhetoric, for "pitting people against each other."

But Rubio, who often advocates for religious liberty and speaks of his faith on the campaign trail, is the one engaging in divisive rhetoric.

At Town Hall and in Campaign Filings, Clinton’s Cozy Wall Street Ties Are on Display

Hillary Clinton’s deep ties to Wall Street are under the spotlight again following her defense of taking large speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, as well as campaign finance records showing the tens of millions her campaign and super PACs have received from the financial sector.