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.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Three responses to Gaza: despair, cynicism, (maybe) hope

Writing in these pages, Dr. Gabor Maté expressed the sense of despair around Gaza exquisitely. That’s exquisite as in painful. Speaking as a writer who’s written on this for 35 years, and still hopes to find lifelong Jewish friends among my readers, I’ve never found communication so hard. I don’t mean agreement, I mean the simple ability to engage among people of goodwill.
This despair is greater regarding Jews in Canada than in the U.S., where a limited but perceptible critique of Israeli policy has emerged not just on the “left” but in the mainstream. There’s nothing parallel here. Stephen Harper seems to have recruited the self-identified Jewish vote (which doesn’t mean all Jews) with a blanket call to support anything Israel does. I have no idea why that works so effectively in Canada.

Canada-EU free trade deal to be rejected by Germany, says report

Germany is to reject a multibillion-dollar free trade deal between the European Union and Canada which is widely seen as a template for a bigger agreement with the United States, a leading German paper reported on Saturday.

Citing diplomats in Brussels, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that Berlin objects to clauses outlining the legal protection offered to firms investing in the 28-member bloc. Critics say they could allow investors to stop or reverse laws.

'The Right to Protect' and the loss of Parliament's moral compass

John Baird, Canada's Minister of External Affairs, allows for no nuance in his declaration of unconditional support for Israel in the current tragedy where more than 639 Palestinians, nearly 80 per cent of them civilians, have been killed by Israeli bombs. "We believe Israel has the right to defend itself by itself."
This statement, of course merely echoes statements by Israeli officials. On the face of it, such declarations seem to make sense. Article 51 of the UN Charter recognizes the right of self-defence against foreign attack. However, Noura Erakat, a Palestinian American legal scholar, points out, "A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is 'foreign' and poses an exogenous national security threat."1In 2004 the International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion that Article 51 had no relevance to Israel's relation to Palestine.

John Baird Maligns UN Human Rights Council On Gaza Resolution

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is once again maligning the United Nations, accusing its human rights council of singling out Israel and making no mention of Hamas in its resolution on the Gaza conflict.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted 29-1 on Wednesday to authorize an international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged abuses since mid-June in the Gaza Strip.

How America Finances the Destruction in Gaza—and the Cleanup

On Monday, Israeli warplanes fired 182 missiles into Gaza, Israeli ships launched 146 shells into the territory, and Israeli tanks shot 721 shells, with all these attacks striking 66 structures and killing 107 Palestinians (including 35 children), while Hamas launched 101 rockets toward Israel, and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. That day, the State Department announced that the United States would be providing $47 million "to help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza." A third of these funds would go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is providing food, water, and shelter to tens of thousands of war-affected Palestinians in Gaza. So once again, US taxpayers are in an absurd place: They are partly paying for the Israeli military action in Gaza and funding the cleanup.

The Canada Revenue Agency becomes an arm of the PMO

There is a salty expression that seems apt at the moment: "Don’t p*ss on me and tell me it's raining." A number of charities that have spoken out against various policies of the current Harper administration might well echo the sentiment expressed in that injunction.
The Canada Revenue Agency is currently auditing several Canadian charities, sniffing around for suspect "political activity." The list of targets reads like a Who's Who of Canadian charitable institutions: Amnesty International Canada is included, and so is Kairos, stupidly denounced as "anti-Semitic" a few years back by the egregiously dishonest Minister Jason Kenney; the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, PEN Canada, Canada Without Poverty, even the United Church of Canada.

PLO Backs Hamas Truce Demands

GAZA/JERUSALEM, July 23 (Reuters) - The Palestinian decision-making body led by U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday endorsed demands by Hamas for halting Gaza hostilities with Israel, a closing of ranks that may help Egyptian-mediated truce efforts.

With Israeli and U.S. encouragement, Egypt has tried to get both sides to hold fire and then negotiate terms for protracted calm in the Palestinian enclave where officials said 624 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in 15 days of fighting.

Luxury Apartment Building Will Have Separate Door For Poor Residents

A luxury condo building on New York City’s Upper West Side has gotten clearance from the city to have a separate entrance, or a “poor door,” for low-income tenants, according to the New York Post.
Extell, which is building the 33-story complex, will build a specific door for the 55 affordable housing units it’s including in order to be allowed to build a bigger building. The low-income units, which are available to people making 60 percent of median income or less, will also be in a segment that only contains affordable apartments and that faces the street while the luxury apartments will face the river.

Here's Why Wall Street Reform Is Still in Limbo

Four years ago today, with a who's who of congressional Democrats standing over his shoulder, President Barack Obama signed into law the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, hailing it as the answer to preventing future financial meltdowns. "For years," the president said at the signing ceremony, "our financial sector was governed by antiquated and poorly enforced rules that allowed some to game the system and take risks that endangered the entire economy."

Canada's anti-union lobby is at the heart of the deceptive campaign for more TFWs

Judging from what they read and hear in the news, Canadians can be forgiven for concluding a large number of organizations representing a broad range of opinions are lobbying public-spiritedly for more access to Temporary Foreign Workers by Canadian businesses.
But while many individual business owners would no doubt love to have a direct pipeline to the huge international pool of compliant, vulnerable and easy-to-exploit foreign workers instead of yielding to market pressure to pay Canadians a living wage, the seeming multitude of public voices calling for more access to TFWs originates mainly with a small group of individuals and well-financed interlocking organizations.
It turns out that this network involves many of the same people sitting on the boards of each other's groups. What's more, these groups are repeating the same key messages and skillfully feeding press releases to Canada's dysfunctional mainstream media to generate sound and fury against the modest restrictions on Ottawa's TFW Program.

Eight reasons why Israel is under rocket attack

The 'peace-loving nation' of Israel is yet again at the brink of an existential annihilation due to home made rocket attacks from Gaza -- or so they would have you believe. As the Israel-Palestine conflict rages, we've heard the same boiler plate statements about 'Israel's right to defend itself' and 'No country would tolerate rocket attacks, so why should Israel?'

Four Canadians who have had their lives turned upside down because of Peter MacKay's privacy deficit

It's been a busy few months on privacy issues here at OpenMedia. Our small team has been campaigning hardon your behalf to secure effective legal protections that safeguard the privacy of every resident of Canada.
Recently we've seen a number of disturbing stories come to light that underline just how important this campaign is. It can sometimes be difficult for everyday Canadians to see privacy as an issue that impacts their everyday lives -- when in fact the human consequences of privacy breaches can be immense.
Here are just a few concrete examples of Canadians who've had their lives turned totally upside down because of this government’s privacy deficit.

Cdns at odds with Harper gov’t priorities: Finance Canada focus-group report

OTTAWA - Public-opinion research for the federal Finance Department suggests key government policies are out of step with Canadians' priorities, including the Northern Gateway project.

Members of focus groups consulted prior to the February budget had "little enthusiasm" for the proposed bitumen pipeline to the British Columbia coast — even those who said they support the controversial project.

And among the 12 groups consulted — from Coquitlam, B.C., to Bridgewater, N.S. — the economy itself was not a top-of-mind concern.

How the Anti-Iran Lobby Machine Dominates Capitol Hill

In the basement of Washington’s swank Mandarin Oriental Hotel on a balmy spring day, the conference guests were finishing up their boxed lunches as the conversation shifted to their host’s pet topic—Iran. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, perhaps DC’s premier neoconservative think tank, had gathered donors, supporters, press and other interested parties for a two-day meeting on Middle East policy. And some of the Hill’s most rapacious hawks for sanctions on Iran were in the room that day to receive awards.

Eight Members of One Family Killed in Their Home as Israel’s Attack on Gaza Continues

Ezbet Beit Hanoun, Gaza—The Abu Jarads died together. Eight of them. They were nestled into the second-floor bedroom of their family home in northeastern Gaza when the Israeli artillery shell came crashing through the wall.

It was Friday evening. After Iftar—the sunset meal that marks the breaking of the fast in Ramadan—some family members headed to the local mosque, some were in the kitchen, some milled downstairs.

Israel expands Gaza offensive as diplomacy intensifies for truce

Diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza intensified on Sunday as Israel expanded its ground offensive and the death toll in the 11-day conflict climbed to more than 350.

The Israeli military said in a statement on Sunday that it had sent additional forces into the Palestinian enclave where at least 50,000 people had to flee their homes in the face of the military assault from ground, air and sea.

Gaza officials said at least 345 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the 13-day conflict. On Israel's side, five soldiers and two civilians have died.

Americans Have Spent Enough Money On A Broken Plane To Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion

Just days before its international debut at an airshow in the United Kingdom, the entire fleet of the Pentagon’s next generation fighter plane — known as the F-35 II Lightning, or the Joint Strike Fighter — has been grounded, highlighting just what a boondoggle the project has been. With the vast amounts spent so far on the aircraft, the United States could have worked wonders, including providing every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 home.

Timeline: The Month That Brought Gaza Back To The Breaking Point

Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip for the sixth day on Monday as rockets continued to fire from the Palestinian territory into Israel, in a renewed conflict that appears to be increasing tempo as time progresses. It was one year ago that Secretary of State John Kerry successfully pushed the two sides to the table, warning that a window for a two-state solution was closing. Mere months have passed since that attempt to bring the two sides together in a lasting solution for peace in the Levant collapsed. Instead, war has returned to the Gaza Strip, twenty months after the last Israeli major incursion to punish the leadership of Hamas — the group that controls the territory and the United States and others consider a terrorist group. Though both sides have intermittently broken the cease-fire that ended that last flare-up, with rockets flying into Israel and Israeli forces entering the Strip, here’s how the latest round of the seemingly endless conflictbegan, with the kidnapping of three Israeli youth and the end nowhere in sight:

Death and Destruction in Gaza as Israel Launches Ground Invasion

Gaza City—Gaza is filled with the sounds of war. Normally a bustling and noisy place, the cacophony of its dense urban life has been replaced with the incessant buzzing of drones, the booms of naval artillery, the screech of F-16s and the blasts of missiles, shells and bombs crashing down.

There are no sirens in Gaza, no shelters, no air defense system. There is only destruction and death.

More than 240 Palestinians have been killed in ten days of bombardment by the Israeli military. Around 77 percent of the dead are civilians, including nearly fifty children, according to the United Nations.

Harper's one-sided approach to Gaza is a betrayal of Canadian values

Certain minimal standards are expected of a national leader in what is known as the "civilized world."
One of those standards would seem to be that, when massive numbers of defenceless civilians are being killed, a national leader should call for the killing to stop.
Questions about responsibility, blame, punishment, repercussions, etc., can always follow. But surely the first order of business -- the one with moral urgency -- is to halt the killing of innocent people.

Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students

In the spring of 2012, Spenser Johnson, a junior at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas, was unpacking his acoustic bass before orchestra practice when a sign caught his eye. "Do you want to make money?" it asked.

The poster encouraged the predominantly poor students at Highland Park to enroll in a new, yearlong course that would provide lessons in basic economic principles and practical instruction on starting a business. Students would receive generous financial incentives including startup capital and scholarships after graduation. The course would begin that fall. Johnson eagerly signed up.

The Duffy disaster

SENATOR Mike Duffy has been living in a political twilight zone ever since questions were raised about his housing and travel expenses. First he was railroaded out of the Conservative party’s caucus; late last year he was suspended from the Senate altogether. One way or another, a denouement is now approaching. On July 17th the national police force charged Mr Duffy with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Canada starved aboriginal people into submission

You were never taught this version of Canadian history in school. If the guardians of the nation’s collective memory are successful, your children will also shielded from the truth.
Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, deliberately starved thousands of aboriginal people to clear a path for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and open the prairies to white settlement. His “National Dream” cost them their health, their independence and – in many cases – their lives.

The 12 Scariest Findings in the New Report on the Bundy Ranch Standoff

The standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Clark County, Nevada, has faded from the headlines, but a startling report released today by Southern Poverty Law Center warns that the incident may have some long-lasting, and potentially bloody, consequences.

Many of the militia members that flocked to the ranch were part of the anti-government Patriot Movement, an extremist movement with a long history but that gained serious steam during the Obama presidency. In 2008 there were about 150 Patriot groups nationwide—and there are over 1,000 today.

Israel calls on residents to leave northern Gaza as death toll continues to spiral

Israel has called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its naval commandos earlier launched a brief raid in which soldiers exchanged direct fire with Hamas gunmen.

The death toll passed 160 on Sunday on the Palestinian side, with no Israeli fatalities reported. The United Nations called on Israel and Hamas to end hostilities. Instead the violence escalated with more exchanges of rocket fire from Gaza and missiles from Israel.

Donors Who Lavish Money on Elite Institutions Only Exacerbate the Wealth Gap

Most Americans probably think a major goal of philanthropy is to fight poverty. But a closer look reveals that giving by foundations and philanthropists exacerbates wealth inequality in the United States.

A Congressman Questioned A Woman Living In Poverty And Revealed A Lot About Himself

On Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) held his fifth hearing on the War on Poverty, and for the first time he allowed a person actually living in poverty to testify. Tianna Gaines-Turnershared her personal experiences struggling to make ends meet and provide food for her three children who suffer from medical conditions along with her husband. She works as a seasonal employee with children for $10.88 an hour, while her husband works at a grocery store for $8.50.

House Republicans Will Sue Obama Because He’s Not Implementing Obamacare Fast Enough

House Republicans intend to sue the Obama administration for unilaterally delaying the employer responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act, Politico reported on Thursday, in effect trying to speed up the implementation of the health care law.
The lawsuit will come after the administration twice delayed the provision — which requires employers with more than 50 employees to pay a fine if they don’t offer affordable quality coverage — citing complaints from firms that claimed they wouldn’t be ready to meet its requirement by 2014.

Was Iraq's Top Terrorist Radicalized at a US-Run Prison?

In early July, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the jihadist terror group now known as the Islamic State—formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS—preached on high in Mosul and declared himself the "Caliph Ibrahim" of a new fundamentalist Sunni state stretching from western and northern Iraq to northern Syria. This announcement came after months of fighting over territory and skirmishes with Iraqi forces, as ISIS invaded and captured dozens of Iraqi cities including Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

The smoking gun... Harper's plan to privatize Canada Post

After repeated denials from the Conservative government that their service cuts and rate hikes at Canada Post have anything to do with privatization, we now know the opposite to be true. An access to information request by Blacklock's Reporter reveals that the Prime Minister's Office conducted a secret study into privatization only months before Canada Post announced their five-point plan to cut services, jobs and increase prices. It would appear the government has deliberately misled the public.