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.]

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In Texas, Arguing That Heat Can Be a Death Sentence for Prisoners

HOUSTON — Last summer’s record-breaking heat wave had a grim impact on Texas, playing a role in the deaths of roughly 150 people. Many of them were found in their homes or apartments, but a few were discovered somewhere else — in their prison cells. 

 Ten inmates of the state prison system died of heat-related causes last summer in a 26-day period in July and August, a death toll that has alarmed prisoners’ rights advocates who believe that the lack of air-conditioning in most state prisons puts inmates’ lives at risk.

Greece Austerity Measures: Leaders Agree On Most Cuts

ATHENS, July 29 (Reuters) - Political leaders in Greece have agreed on most of the austerity measures demanded by its creditors and are now eyeing pension and wage cuts to find the final 1.5 billion euros of savings still needed, a source close to the talks said on Sunday.

Greece must find savings worth 11.5 billion euros for 2013 and 2014 to satisfy its increasingly impatient lenders who are currently on a visit to Athens to evaluate the country's progress in complying with the terms of its latest bailout.

ggressive official attitude at Games seems very American

There’s no doubt that in the modern Olympics the size of a nation’s investment helps determine the number of medals its athletes bring home.

Given that reality, perhaps the real Olympic motto should be: Money means medals.

Like millions of other Canadians, I have watched with frustration for years as our modestly funded athletes turned in mostly mediocre performances.

Plan to get bureaucrats savvy to climate-change risks easy to ignore: documents

TORONTO - Environment Canada is worried that the Harper government's own effort to encourage public servants to more carefully consider the risks and possible impacts of climate change is falling on deaf ears, documents show.

A special framework on climate change adaptation introduced in last year's budget calls on bureaucrats across the government to routinely think about how decisions they make today could be hit by climate change in the years ahead.

Radical environmentalism growing, report warns; Sparks Greenpeace dismissal

OTTAWA - There is a "growing radicalized environmentalist faction" in Canada that is opposed to the country's energy sector policies, warns a newly declassified intelligence report.

The RCMP criminal intelligence assessment, focusing on Canadian waters, cites potential dangers from environmental activists to offshore oil platforms and hazardous marine shipments, representing perhaps the starkest assessment of such threats by the Canadian security community to date.

Mitt Romney pulls back from comments about Israeli strike on Iran

Standing on Israeli soil, U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has “a solemn duty and a moral imperative” to block Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

“Make no mistake, the ayatollahs in Iran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the other way,” he said. “We will not look away nor will our country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.”

Democracy is in the eye of the beholder

What do people mean when they talk about democracy? I’m not thinking of historians, politicians or philosophers; just people.

When I arrived in Tunis, where the Arab Spring began, which spread to Cairo and then was the model for Real Democracy Now in Madrid, which in turn inspired the Occupy movements everywhere, I was hustled by a driver into his taxi. I sat beside him. Neither of us had our seatbelts buckled.

Hong Kong: Thousands protest over China’s new school curriculum

HONG KONG — An estimated 19,000 protesters, including teachers and parents pushing strollers, took to Hong Kong streets on Sunday to march against Chinese patriotism classes they fear will lead to brainwashing.

It is the latest sign of growing discomfort over Beijing’s influence on the semi-autonomous territory.

Mitt Romney Closes Israeli Fundraiser To Reporters

TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans to raise campaign money in private while in Israel, so what he tells wealthy American supporters abroad will be kept quiet from voters at home.

Romney's campaign is barring reporters from a fundraiser at Jerusalem's King David Hotel and not saying why. At U.S. events, Romney's remarks to donors in communal spaces such as hotels are typically public.

The Ghosts of Munich 1972 and the Birth of the Modern Olympics

The XX Olympics in Munich 1972—not those of ancient Greece or the first modern Olympic Games—are the rightful parentage of today’s Olympics. It was in Munich at the height of the cold war that Palestinian terrorists shocked the world by storming the Olympic Village and murdering eleven Israeli athletes in cold blood. The images of the hooded gunmen prowling the dorm’s walkways are seared in the memories of anyone old enough to have absorbed the around-the-clock TV coverage. The legacy of this horrific tragedy has informed every Olympic Games since and still contributes to the security mania and spending orgy that makes the modern Olympics what they are.

4 Ways That Democrats Want To Cut Taxes On The Rich

The big debate in Washington right now centers around whether or not to "tax the rich." This week, Senate Democrats passed a plan to cut income taxes on the middle class while increasing them on families that make more than $250,000 a year. Next week, House Republicans will push through a bill to extend (the erstwhile "temporary") Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class and the rich. But scratch beneath the surface of these dueling tax plans, and it quickly becomes clear that the GOP isn't the only party in Congress that wants to help the rich get richer. As Ezra Klein notes at Wonkblog, the cumulative effect of Democratic tax proposals will most likely be a $17,000 tax cut for the top 1 percent of earners (compared to a $75,000 tax cut under the GOP plan). Here are four ways that the Democratic tax plan would benefit the wealthy:

“I Couldn’t Love Him More”: How Romney Steered a Key Olympic Project to a Friend

As Mitt Romney got ready to take his seat in London for the Olympics' opening ceremonies, the focus of the presidential campaign this week shifted to the candidate's time running the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Romney is generally recognized as the take-charge executive who turned the Games around after a massive bribery scandal. But there's another side to that record. Romney's campaigns, as we've previously reported, have taken in $1.5 million in donations from the families and business associates of two central figures in the Salt Lake scandal. And documents obtained by Mother Jones shed new light on another of the candidate's Olympic connections—his personal intervention on behalf of his closest Salt Lake friend, developer Kem Gardner, in connection with a key real estate deal.

Wisconsin Oil Spill: Enbridge Energy Reports Incident

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. pipeline safety agency launched an investigation on Saturday into an oil spill in Wisconsin on Enbridge Inc's network that forced the partial shutdown of a main artery carrying light sweet Canadian crude to Chicago-area refineries.

Enbridge's 318,000 barrel per day Line 14 pipeline, part of the Lakehead system, was shut after an estimated 1,200 barrels of oil were leaked. This happened almost two years to the day after another major spill in a different section of the line, in Michigan.

Randy Hillier keeps his eye on the goal

He used to blockade highways, stack hay bales in front of government offices and lead farmers on illegal hunts for deer that were eating crops in the Ottawa Valley.

These days, he is organizing academic conferences and drafting legislation. During his transformation from activist to his area’s MPP, Randy Hillier never changed his goal of erecting a barrier to government regulation of private property.

Man vying for broadcast licence urged to donate to Tory fundraiser

The chairman of a proposed new Toronto radio station says he was asked to attend and contribute to a Conservative fundraiser while he was applying for a new federal broadcasting licence.

Stan Antony, who heads a bid for a new station called STAN FM, says he was invited over the phone by the host of a Conservative fundraiser to attend an event in a suburban Richmond Hill basement and make a contribution.

Lori Douglas scandal shows how easy it is to become a judge

WINNIPEG—The checkup into the background of Canadian senior judges before they’re appointed is as light as a feather duster, it emerged at the Lori Douglas inquiry Friday.

And with that revelation alone, the Canadian Judicial Council committee looking into how Douglas was appointed in 2005 — despite the existence of online nude photos and the alleged sexual harassment of her lawyer-husband’s client — has justified its existence.

Douglas’s applications to become a judge had previously been blocked by Manitoba Appeal Court Justice Marc Monnin, who feared that the photos her husband Jack King had posted of her online would lead to embarrassment or blackmail. Eventually he became convinced that they were permanently deleted and the matter was settled.

The provinces shouldn’t hold national projects hostage

A good friend of mine grew up beside the St. Lawrence near Cornwall. The St. Lawrence Seaway was being built, and the family’s beloved summer place had been expropriated to accommodate it. Upset, the boy wondered why his father accepted the loss with such equanimity.

His answer, which so struck my friend and me, was essentially this: The Seaway is a grand project that will benefit people in many parts of this great country that has given us so much. Yes, we will lose something we care about and that is reason to be sad. But when you set against that the progress for the country and all those who will be made better off, it is something that we should support. That’s what being Canadian means.

U.S. securities regulator alleges insider trading ahead of China’s Nexen bid

The U.S. securities regulator filed a complaint in court on Friday against a firm controlled by a Chinese billionaire and other traders, accusing them of making over $13-million (U.S.) from insider trading ahead of a bid by China’s CNOOC for Canadian oil company Nexen Inc.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said the federal court in Manhattan had frozen assets worth over $38-million belonging to Hong Kong-based Well Advantage, controlled by businessman Zhang Zhirong, and other unnamed traders who used accounts in Hong Kong and Singapore to trade in Nexen stock.

First Nations outraged by Clark's Enbridge pipeline 'sales pitch'

First Nations opposed to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project are accusing B.C. Premier Christy Clark of selling out British Columbians and putting a price tag on the future of aboriginal people.

The Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of five First Nations in the B.C. Interior, issued a statement Saturday, saying it rejects Clark’s “sales pitch.”

White congregation bans black couple from marrying at church: Report

JACKSON, MISS.—A Mississippi couple says the church where they planned to get married turned them away because they are black.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson say they had set the date and mailed invitations, but the day before their wedding they say they got bad news from the pastor of predominantly white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs: Some members of the church complained about the black couple having a wedding there.

The Wilsons, who live in nearby Jackson, said they attend the church regularly although they are not members.

A pipeline to provincial politics

In 1966, when Joey Smallwood, then the premier of Newfoundland, was trying to dam the massive Churchill River in Labrador, he got frustrated that Quebec wouldn’t let him build power lines to southern markets.

Smallwood wanted to ask Lester Pearson, then the prime minister, to invoke Clause 10 of Section 92 of the British North America Act, which allows Ottawa to assert jurisdiction over interprovincial projects if parliament declares them to be “for the general advantage of Canada.”

Smallwood later described his meeting with Pearson.