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, January 30, 2013

Gayle Trotter Testimony Captivates Senate Gun Control Hearing

WASHINGTON -- Lawyer and gun rights activist Gayle Trotter gave vivid testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Wednesday hearing on gun violence. Trotter, a senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum, argued that a proposed ban on assault weapons would "disarm" vulnerable women and "put them at a severe disadvantage" in fights with multiple criminals.

Trotter painted a picture of mothers under siege in their homes, and when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) questioned the details of one example she offered, she told the lawmaker he didn't understand the issue. "You are a large man, tall man, a tall man," Trotter said to laughter from the audience.

Ottawa ordered to provide all residential schools documents

The federal government is obliged to turn over its archival records on Indian residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an Ontario court decided Thursday.

In his decision, Justice Stephen Goudge said the obligation to provide the materials is clear from the settlement agreement that established the commission.

Stephen Harper lists his government’s priorities, doesn’t say a word about aboriginals despite Idle No More movement

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled Wednesday that the economy and criminal justice reform are at the heart of his government’s priorities, but improving the lives of aboriginals didn’t merit a single word in a speech to his MPs and senators.

The prime minister’s office allowed journalists in to the normally closed session of the Conservative caucus to hear Harper deliver an address about the upcoming session of Parliament.

NDP MP slams feds’ use of PCO letterhead touting more tough-on-crime bills in works

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gone too far politicizing messages from the public service with a recent news release on Privy Council Office letterhead touting yet more tough-on-crime bills in the works and the “Harper government’s” top priority of creating jobs, says NDP MP Pat Martin.

The PCO news release quoting Government House Leader Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe, Ont.) and Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney (Lévis-Bellechasse, Que.), who often assists with French-language commentary for unilingual Cabinet ministers, was issued on when the House of Commons resumed sitting Monday.

Syria says Israeli warplanes hit military site

Israel conducted a rare airstrike on a military target inside Syria near the border with Lebanon, foreign officials and Syrian state TV said Wednesday, amid fears President Bashar al-Assad's regime could provide powerful weapons to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

Regional security officials said Israel had been planning in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah, Lebanon's most powerful military force and a sworn enemy of the Jewish state.

Three former Toronto mayors write joint letter to oppose casino

Three former Toronto mayors have written a joint letter to Mayor Rob Ford and city councillors saying that a casino is not in the city's best interest.

They also urge city politicians to consider the social costs of allowing a casino development within Toronto's city limits.

The letter was penned by former mayors David Crombie, John Sewell and Art Eggleton.

Scientology and the cloak of religion

Scientology is a religion. Of that there is no doubt.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service says so, and in this country, that's pretty much the final word.

The designation means a lot legally, but as a matter of objective fact it is neither a laurel nor a pejorative.

Proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline should not go ahead without Indigenous consent

The community hearing phase of the Northern Gateway Pipeline environmental impact assessment wraps up this week in Vancouver. Craig Benjamin, Amnesty International Canada's Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be making a presentation on February 1, the final day of these hearings.

Amnesty International takes no position either for or against oil and gas development, mining, logging and other resource development per se. However, we do call for the rigorous protection of international human rights standards in every phase of the decision-making process. Meeting these standards means that some projects must be substantially amended or rejected altogether.

Government Drops Insider Trading Probe Of Media Companies, Baffling Investors

The dismissal of an investigation into major media companies suspected of giving clients a sneak peek at crucial data drew great surprise on Wall Street, where traders make their living profiting from blips of information moving at the speed of light.

Federal authorities had been pursuing allegations that various media companies -- including Bloomberg LP, Thomson Reuters and Dow Jones and Co. -- leaked key economic data to select investors, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. But the investigators dropped the probe, according to the paper, in part because they could not conclusively determine that investors were able to use the advance look at the numbers to extract profits.

John Brennan, Obama Nominee For CIA Director, Had Detailed Knowledge Of Torture

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the CIA, had detailed, contemporaneous knowledge of the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on captured terrorism suspects during an earlier stint as a top spy agency official, according to multiple sources familiar with official records.

Those records, the sources said, show that Brennan was a regular recipient of CIA message traffic about controversial aspects of the agency's counter-terrorism program after September 2001, including the use of "waterboarding."

Syria Strike: Israel Reportedly Hits Target In Border Area

BEIRUT, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Israeli forces attacked a convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border on Wednesday, sources told Reuters, after Israelis warned their Lebanese enemy Hezbollah against using chaos in Syria to acquire anti-aircraft missiles or chemical weapons.

"The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon," said one Western diplomat, adding that the consignment seemed unlikely to have included chemical weapons.

U.S. Economy Shrinks For The First Time Since The Recession Ended

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank from October through December, the first quarterly drop since 2009 and a reminder of the economy's vulnerability as automatic cuts in government spending loom.

The Commerce Department said the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent mainly because companies restocked at a slower rate and the government slashed defense spending. Those trends partly reflected uncertainty late last year about the fiscal cliff, which Congress averted in a deal reached Jan. 1.

Recession's Legacy: Young Workers To Suffer For Up To 20 Years

OTTAWA - The loss of tens of thousands of youth jobs during the recession was not only painful for the young people involved but will impact them and Canada's economy for years to come, says a new paper from TD Bank.

The report estimates that the legacy of unemployment for the young lasts up to two decades after the event and the hit to Canada's gross domestic product will be about 1.3 per cent — or about $23 billion — in 18 years.

$1 Million Spent To Ship PM's Armoured Cars To India

The government says it cost more than $1 million to ship Prime Minister Stephen Harper's armoured cars to and from India for his visit last year.

The information was released after New Democrat MP Peggy Nash filed two written requests for the information. The government is compelled to answer those sorts of questions.

The responses, which were tabled yesterday in the House of Commons, show it cost $1,030,092 for the operating costs of the C-17 Globemaster used to transport the vehicles to India and back

Never mind the deficit, Mr. Flaherty. You have bigger problems

Dear Minister Flaherty:

You have stated recently that you intend to stay on as finance minister until the next election, or when the deficit is eliminated, whichever comes first. Your November 2012 Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections forecast the deficit would be eliminated in 2016-17, one year later than the forecast in the March 2012 budget.

Military ombudsman says DND must rethink relocation policies for thousands of military personnel

OTTAWA — Canada’s military ombudsman is calling for the Department of National Defence to re-examine its long-standing practice of sending thousands of military personnel to new postings every year, including the relocation policies to manage those moves.

Pierre Daigle said the military should rethink how often it needs to transfer soldiers and uproot their families as part of its “operational requirements.” He said moving 20 per cent of the forces every year is expensive for taxpayers and can impose major personal and financial hardships on military families.

The baffling response to Arctic climate change impacts

The Arctic may seem like a distant place, just as the most extreme consequences of our wasteful use of fossil fuels may appear to be in some distant future. Both are closer than most of us realize.

The Arctic is a focal point for some of the most profound impacts of climate change. One of the world's top ice experts, Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, calls the situation a "global disaster," suggesting ice is disappearing faster than predicted and could be gone within as few as four years.

Bailout Costing Taxpayers Billions, TARP Watchdog Warns

Guess what, American taxpayer: More than four years after the financial crisis started, you are still on the hook for a nearly $15 billion investment in a subprime mortgage lender.

That's just one of a litany of troubling facts in a new report by Christy Romero, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which pumped more than $600 billion into failing banks and other companies during the crisis. The report details the many billions of taxpayer dollars still sunk into hundreds of struggling banks, some of which are still failing, and the risks still festering that could create a future crisis.

KKK Robes In Class Spark Controversy In Las Vegas, Teacher Won't Be Punished

A teacher in Las Vegas, Nev. who allowed students to wear Ku Klux Klan robes in class for a U.S. History project will not be punished, the Las Vegas Sun reports.

The unnamed educator at Las Vegas Academy -- a magnet high school specializing in the performing arts -- asked students to write a paper, perform a skit or recite a first-person narrative to demonstrate their knowledge of American history. With the teacher's permission, two juniors elected to dress in KKK robes and hoods.

Guns In Churches: Arkansas Senate Approves Bill To Allow Concealed Firearms In Churches

The Arkansas state Senate voted Monday by a margin of 28-4 to pass a bill that would allow concealed guns in churches, reports ABC local affiliate KATV.

The bill, called the Church Protection Act of 2013 (SB 71), was authored by Arkansas state Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) and would repeal the current ban on concealed handguns in churches or other places of worship.

Let's End All Gun Deaths, Not Just Mass Killings

In 1995, Chicago resident Shirley Chambers lost her first child to gun violence. Her 18-year-old son, Carlos, was shot and killed by a 16-year-old high school classmate. Five years later, her 15-year-old daughter, Latoya, was killed by a 13-year-old boy. Only two months after his sister was gunned down, Shirley Chambers’s son Jerome was shot and killed outside of the Cabrini-Green housing projects in which they lived. He was 23-years-old. Jerome’s death left Shirley with one surviving child, Ronnie. “I’d pray for God to protect Ronnie and keep him safe day and night,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. She was speaking to them on the occasion of Ronnie’s death, shot and killed this past Sunday at the age of 34.

Egypt on the Brink

The second anniversary of Egypt's revolution has been marked by rocks, firebombs, tear gas and bullets. More than fifty people have been killed and over a thousand wounded across the country. The army has been granted arrest powers, and military troops have been deployed to the three cities where President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency and ordered a curfew.

This outbreak of rage has laid bare the precarious state of a country plagued by a disfigured transition process, a lingering sense of injustice and the repeated failures of an entire political class that has forsaken a host of popular grievances in its scuffle for power.

The Surprising Connection Between Food and Fracking

In a recent Nation piece, the wonderful Elizabeth Royte teased out the direct links between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the food supply. In short, extracting natural gas from rock formations by bombarding them with chemical-spiked fluid leaves behind fouled water—and that fouled water can make it into the crops and animals we eat.

But there's another, emerging food/fracking connection that few are aware of. US agriculture is highly reliant on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and nitrogen fertilizer is synthesized in a process fueled by natural gas. As more and more of the US natural gas supply comes from fracking, more and more of the nitrogen fertilizer farmers use will come from fracked natural gas. If Big Ag becomes hooked on cheap fracked gas to meet its fertilizer needs, then the fossil fuel industry will have gained a powerful ally in its effort to steamroll regulation and fight back opposition to fracking projects.

"A Killing Machine": Half of All Mass Shooters Used High-Capacity Magazines

As lawmakers across the country and in the nation's capital debate possible restrictions on high-capacity magazines, one question emerges: Are these ammunition-feeding devices, which allow a shooter to fire many times without reloading, in fact commonly used by mass killers? We examined the data from Mother Jones' continuing investigation into mass shootings and found that high-capacity magazines have been used in at least 31 of the 62 cases we analyzed. A half-dozen of these crimes occurred in the last two years alone. (With some of the cases we studied, it remains unclear whether high-capacity magazines were used; for more details, jump to our data set below.)

Defeating Harper Is Not Reason Enough to Sleep with the NDP

Some are making impassioned pleas for cooperation among "progressives" to "beat Stephen Harper". Those that throw out the term "progressive" are loath to describe its meaning in a Canadian context.

Progressives are generally considered to represent the left or far left. They typically view business as a necessary evil. They embrace social justice, pacifism, environmentalism, human rights, and are rarely in the same corner as Israel in middle-eastern policy.

Harper under fire for proposed bills

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his government's aboriginal policies for a second straight day in question period as opposition leaders grilled him on the issue.

Public criticism has focused on the Conservatives' two omnibus budget bills, which have already become law. But a few of pieces of legislation are still before Parliament that will affect aboriginal Canadians if they pass. Here are three of them.

Conservatives have ‘no clue’ how privatization plan for bases will affect military, critics say

OTTAWA —The Conservative government refused Tuesday to identify which military installations will be affected by its sweeping plan to privatize the management of some buildings and facilities, while opposition MPs decried the scheme as being based on ideology and not sound business practices.

The Citizen broke the story that the Defence Department will turn to the private sector to help manage its vast holdings of properties and plans to have a number of companies in place by 2015 to handle that job.

The department is the largest landholder in the federal government, with more than two million hectares from coast to coast. Holdings also include 20,000 buildings as well as 23 major installations such as CFB Petawawa.

Senate still all about patronage

Even those who've been touched by suicide might not necessarily appreciate what Denise Batters has gone through since the death of her husband David in 2009.

It's commendable that Batters has attempted to turn her former MP husband's suicide into something positive by raising public awareness about mental illness. The question, however, is whether this merits her appointment to the Senate, or for that matter, if it's why she received the appointment?

Jonathan Kay is a poster boy for why Canada needs rabble's brand of journalism

For Jonathan Kay, it must be a sad case of history repeating.

Sun News TV is dying, as no one is watching. Now they want the public to keep their TV station alive... as blogger David Climenhaga has noted, coming hat in hand for the kind of public subsidies that they regularly pillory.

The 10 per cent delusion: Fraser Institute gins up fake facts about Alberta public sector pay

The Fraser Institute didn't write the book "How to Lie With Statistics," a guy named Darrell Huff did, but they might as well have!

You've got to have a little respect for the tireless political lobbyists at the Vancouver-based "institute" -- they just never flag in their efforts to twist facts like pretzels to fit their paymasters' ideological agenda.

Media Wars in Paradise

Washington-based Qorvis Communications has long been the dictator's spin doctor of choice in the Middle East, where it has whitewashed authoritarian regimes and attacked their critics with social media smear campaigns. Its underhanded tactics there, however, proved too much for even some of its own staff members, who quit in disgust. Now the public relations firm has branched out to the South Pacific, where for more than a year it has masterminded the perception management strategy of the dictatorship in Fiji. Military commander Frank Bainimarama seized power there in a 2006 coup, and while he has promised a return to democracy with elections next year, many are beginning to wonder if democracy will ever return to that benighted Pacific outpost after its dictator's latest antics.

Why You May Soon Pay for TV You Don't Want

Canadians frustrated with ever-increasing cable and satellite bills received bad news last week with the announcement that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will consider whether to require cable and satellite companies to include nearly two-dozen niche channels as part of their basic service packages. If approved, the new broadcast distribution rules would significantly increase monthly cable bills with consumers forced to pay for channels they may not want.

Whistleblower John Kiriakou: For Embracing Torture, John Brennan a "Terrible Choice to Lead the CIA"

Days after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, John Kiriakou — the first CIA official to be jailed for any reason relating to the torture program — denounces President Obama’s appointment of John Brennan to head the CIA. "I’ve known John Brennan since 1990," Kiriakou says. "I worked directly for John Brennan twice. I think that he is a terrible choice to lead the CIA. I think that it’s time for the CIA to move beyond the ugliness of the post-September 11th regime. We need someone who is going to respect the Constitution and not be bogged down by a legacy of torture."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Canadian troops drawn into Mali’s war, despite what Prime Minister Stephen Harper says

Inch by inch, Canada and the West are being drawn into an African war we don’t understand.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists Canadian troops are not involved in any meaningful way in Mali’s civil war. But they are.

We now have an unspecified number of special-forces commandos in Mali — in addition to one C-17 cargo plane and the 35 military personnel that go with it.

Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou speaks out just days after he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, becoming the first CIA official to face jail time for any reason relating to the U.S. torture program. Under a plea deal, Kiriakou admitted to a single count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing the identity of a covert officer to a freelance reporter, who did not publish it. Supporters say Kiriakou is being unfairly targeted for having been the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding. Kiriakou joins us to discuss his story from Washington, D.C., along with his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project. "This ... was not a case about leaking; this was a case about torture. And I believe I’m going to prison because I blew the whistle on torture," Kiriakou says. "My oath was to the Constitution. … And to me, torture is unconstitutional."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Top Conservatives Run PAC That Funded White Nationalists

Two prominent conservative movement officials who hold leadership positions for several right-wing groups—Ron Robinson and James B. Taylor—run a political action committee that donated thousands of dollars to a white nationalist organization, according to public records. And for several years Taylor was vice president of another white nationalist organization.

Robinson and Taylor are each board members of Young America's Foundation (YAF), which cofounded the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and runs the conservative youth group Young Americans for Freedom. (YAF owns and manages the Ronald Reagan Ranch, trains conservative journalists, and calls itself "the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement.") And Robinson, YAF's president, is on the board of two other conservative groups: Citizens United, which brought the landmark Supreme Court case of the same name, and the American Conservative Union, which operates CPAC.

Guantanamo Censor Remains A Mystery After Sept. 11 Hearing

GUANTANAMO NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Judge Col. James Pohl insisted he was the only person who could close the military commission courtroom here a day after a mysterious censor improperly cut off an audiovisual feed of courtroom proceedings.

Journalists and observers are permitted to watch a feed of the courtroom proceedings at Guantanamo on a 40-second delay, a measure intended to prevent the accidental disclosure of classified information. A court reporter in the courtroom has the ability to cut off the feed by pressing a button. But Monday, as a lawyer for confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was speaking about a motion, an anonymous censor cut the feed off, frustrating Pohl.

Harry Reid On Guantanamo: 'Nobody's Fault' Prison Camp Hasn't Closed

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a Tuesday press conference that it was "nobody's fault" the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is still open four years after President Barack Obama promised to close it. Reid blamed Congress for making it "legislatively impossible" to shutter Guantanamo -- but offered no sign he will push to loosen restrictions on closing the facility this congressional session.

Reid's comments come just one day after the White House reassigned the full-time special envoy working on fulfilling a 2009 Obama executive order to close the Guantanamo camp.

JPMorgan Bet Against Itself In London 'Whale' Trading Scandal

NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - There is a new twist in the London Whale trading scandal that cost JPMorgan Chase $6.2 billion in trading losses last year. Some of the firm's own traders bet against the very derivatives positions placed by its chief investment office, said three people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, which launched an inquiry into the trading loss last fall, is looking into the how different divisions of the bank wound up on opposite sides of the same trade, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

3 Conservative MPs raised concerns about CNOOC-Nexen deal

Three Conservative MPs wrote to the prime minister and the industry minister to raise concerns about the contentious takeover of Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen by a Chinese state-run company, the CBC has learned.

Documents obtained by CBC News Network’s Power & Politics through Access to Information reveal strong opposition to the $15.1 billion deal from key industry people and the Conservative backbenches.