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, February 13, 2013

Icelandic MP who released WikiLeaks video plans US visit despite legal threat

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic MP and member of the WikiLeaks team that released secret footage of a US Apache helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq, is planning to visit America for the first time since the 'Collateral Murder' video was made public to express her support for Bradley Manning, the video's alleged source.

Jónsdóttir plans to travel to New York on 5 April to mark the third anniversary of the posting of the footage, one of the most dramatic WikiLeaks releases and one that helped put the website and its founder Julian Assange on the global map. She is making the journey even though she has been advised by the Icelandic government not to do so for fear of legal retribution from US authorities.

Seven Other Targeted-Killing Memos Still Undisclosed

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office revealed Wednesday that the Obama administration has yet to show members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence seven additional opinions laying out the legal basis for targeted killing.

Disclosure of the existence of the additional seven opinions from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel came the day after President Barack Obama pledged greater transparency during his State of the Union address.

Marco Rubio Still Not a Scientist, Man

If there’s a single line that encapsulates the mindless anti-government doggerel that characterized Marco Rubio’s response to the State of the Union address it was his flip dismissal of any government response to climate change, because “our government can’t control the weather.”

What does this mean? Let us run through the chain of causality at a level of simplicity that Rubio is capable of grasping:

1. The government has a bunch of rules that control how much coal, oil, and whatnot gets burned.

2. The more greenhouse gasses we burn, the warmer the climate gets. It’s science.

3. The warmer the climate gets, the more frequently we have extreme weather events. This is also science.

Board of Sex: Pining for pin-ups at the CWB

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has been at the intersection of political controversy. The Harper Government's Bill C-18 (which came into effect on August 1, 2012) legislated an end to its monopsony (a single buyer facing many sellers) as purchaser of Canadian wheat and barley. Given the importance of the CWB in protecting individual grain farmers from the immense marketing force of multi-national corporations on the one hand, and the determination of the Harper Conservatives to splinter the collective muscle of the CWB on the other, this is hardly surprising. What is surprising is the normally staid CWB being at the center of a controversy in a clumsy attempt to foster participation with a sexually charged advertising campaign.

Why it Takes a Whale to be Heard: Public Blocked From Enbridge Hearings

The most striking part of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway community hearings in Vancouver is that they’re not open to the community at all.  Only a limited number of people get to present their position to the federally appointed Joint Review Panel, and the rest of the public aren’t welcome to watch them, despite thousands of Vancouverites who are passionate about this proposed pipeline and what it means for our future.

In response, a group of Vancouver multimedia artists have built Hope the Whale, an interactive art installation designed to allow anyone the opportunity to have a voice. The 25-foot whale, surrounded by a dozen large water drops, is set up in downtown Vancouver outside the Wall Centre where the proceedings are taking place. This collaborative art project, supported by First Nations and conservation organizations, is engaging the public in a welcoming and inclusive way – much the way we would expect a public process to be run.

The Execution of Christopher Dorner

If the murder of Oscar Grant on an Oakland transit platform marked the dawn of the Obama era, the cold-blooded murder of former Naval reservist and Los Angeles Police officer Christopher Dorner might just mark the end of whatever optimistic hope people can muster in his administration. Whether an innocent young man just trying to get home, shot in the back after being racially profiled and slurred, or a man driven to his breaking point after being fired from a similar police force that operates according to its own warped morality and overarching objectives, the state of the union is a powder keg whose wick has gotten shorter due to decades of looking the other way.

Canada: Abusive Policing, Neglect Along ‘Highway of Tears’

(Ottawa) – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in northern British Columbia has failed to protect indigenous women and girls from violence, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Women and girls Human Rights Watch interviewed also described abusive treatment by police officers, including excessive use of force, and physical and sexual assault.

Now’s not the time to jump into ‘constitutional upheaval’ over Senate, says Trudeau

PARLIAMENT HILL—The crisis now gripping the Senate over allegations of false residency claims and the temporary expulsion of newly-Independent Quebec Senator Patrick Brazeau is no time to jump into radical changes that would spark “constitutional upheaval,” Liberal MP Justin Trudeau says.

Mr. Trudeau singled out Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) recent decision to go to the Supreme Court of Canada in a bid for the court’s backing of his government’s plan to limit Senate terms and move toward an elected Senate on its own, without the support of a majority of the provinces.

Patrick Brazeau: Harper's strategic aboriginal appointment

Opposition politicians are now claiming that Stephen Harper should have known that Patrick Brazeau was bad news when he appointed him to the Senate in December 2008.

They point out that, within a few weeks of his appointment, there were a string of public allegations of workplace sexual harassment and missing child support payments, some of which the government was apparently aware of in advance.

State of the Union: Obama’s New Rallying Cry

Article II of the Constitution says the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” The original idea was that the President, given his job, would have all sorts of specialized knowledge about the proper functioning of the government and would therefore be an excellent person to “recommend” legislation that Congress might take up. The language in the Constitution almost makes it sound as if the State of the Union was supposed to be little more than a particularly important committee hearing. (From Jefferson to Taft, it was submitted in writing.)

Delisle responds to Duncan on Bill C-27

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan said the First Nations Financial Transparency Act will enhance economic development and job creation in Native communities. The act, also known as Bill C-27, would require First Nations that are not self-governing, and are operating under the Indian Act to publish the salaries and expenses of their elected leaders, Duncan said in a letter written in the National Post.

“First Nations community members want assurance that public funds are being used to improve their communities and to create the economic opportunities that will lead to a better quality of life,” Duncan wrote. “We believe they have a right to access this information and while there are examples of band leadership voluntarily disclosing it, they are under no legal obligation to do so.”

Joe Jones Manifesto: Former LAPD Cop Says He Had Similar Experiences As Alleged Cop Killer, Chris Dorner

A former LAPD officer has written a manifesto sympathizing with Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-LA cop who has declared "war" on the LAPD.

"The 1st thing I would say to [Dorner] is, I feel your pains!," Joe Jones wrote in his manifesto, circulated Tuesday by hacker group Anonymous and posted to Jones' Facebook. "But you are going about this the wrong way. To take innocent lives could never be the answer to anything. I say this as a Man who experienced the same pain, betrayal, anger, suffering, litigation and agony that you did in many ways."

NATO Airstrike Kills 9 Civilians In Afghanistan, Afghan Officials Say

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike struck two houses, killing 10 Afghan civilians and four insurgents near the Pakistani border, officials said Wednesday. President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, the latest in a series of civilian casualty reports that have raised tensions between the Afghans and the U.S.-led foreign forces.

The attack occurred about 10 p.m. Tuesday during a joint NATO-Afghan operation in the Shigal district of Kunar province, a lawmaker from the area said. The U.S.-led military alliance in Kabul said only that it was looking into the reports.

Colorado Democrats Pass Bold New Gun Control Measures In House Committee

After a full day Tuesday of listening to testimony from gun control advocates and opponents, Colorado Democrats passed two bold new bills aimed at curbing gun violence in a state that has the dubious distinction of being the home to two of the bloodiest mass shootings in American history -- Columbine and Aurora.

First, the House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 1229, on a 7 to 4 party line vote, which requires universal background checks on all private gun sales in Colorado. Read the full text of HB-1229 here.

Obama SOTU Address: President Says GOP Should Back His Plans

WASHINGTON — Uncompromising and politically emboldened, President Barack Obama urged a deeply divided Congress Tuesday night to embrace his plans to use government money to create jobs and strengthen the nation's middle class. He declared Republican ideas for reducing the deficit "even worse" than the unpalatable deals Washington had to stomach during his first term.

In his first State of the Union address since winning re-election, Obama conceded economic revival is an "unfinished task," but he claimed clear progress and said he prepared to build on it as he embarks on four more years in office.

Obama's Empty Promises of Transparency on National Security

During his first term in office, President Barack Obama often pledged to honor American 'values'—especially transparency—in the war on terror. During the first State Of The Union address of his second term, Obama returned to that theme, promising to "enlist our values" while killing suspected terrorists.

This time, Obama spoke of past accomplishments as well as future commitments, and responded, perhaps for the first time, to critics of the administration's largely opaque targeted killing program:

    [M]y Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields?

According to the biotech industry, genetically modified (GM) crops are a boon to humanity because they allow farmers to "generate higher crop yields with fewer inputs," as the trade group Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) puts it on its web page.

Buoyed by such rhetoric, genetically modified seed giant Monsanto and its peers have managed to flood the corn, soybean, and cotton seed markets with two major traits: herbicide resistance and pesticide expression—giving plants the ability to, respectively, withstand regular lashings of particular herbicides and kill bugs with the toxic trait of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

OECD Report On Corporate Taxes Finds Multinationals Are Dodging Their Fair Share

PARIS - The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says large multinationals are using legal loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and that global solutions are needed to combat the problem.

The OECD report says many rules designed to protect multinational corporations from being double-taxed go too far and sometimes allow them to pay no taxes at all.

North Korea Nuclear Test: Japan, South Korea Ready Armies Following Provocation

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea's neighbors bolstered their military preparations and mobilized scientists Wednesday to determine whether Pyongyang's third nuclear test, conducted in defiance of U.N. warnings, was as successful as the North claimed.

The detonation was also the focus of global diplomatic maneuvers, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaching out to counterparts in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to assure U.S. allies in the region and warn of "firm action."

Sorry about what we said, Tom, but spare a sigh for Alberta, latest victim of Dutch Disease

Who would have thought Alberta, of all places, would end up suffering from Dutch Disease?

Surely it was just weeks ago we Albertans, always ornery and lightning quick to take offence, were excoriating the likes of federal Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and then-Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for daring to suggest such a thing might even be possible.

No exception for Assange: Rape apologetics and the left By matt fodor

Fallen left heroes.

Their mythology is often the hardest to defeat.

Just the other night, Bill Maher, the libertarian who, due to his willingness to confront the "sacred cows" of the right, has become a seeming icon to many on the left, conducted a live TV interview with Julian Assange, safe as he is from serious accusations of rape, secure in the Ecuadorian embassy, and with millions of uncritical supporters around the world, including Maher.

Senate puts Sen. Brazeau on leave of absence; Senators say media should focus on good work of Upper Chamber too

PARLIAMENT HILL—Newly-Independent Senator Patrick Brazeau drew a crush of television cameras and surprised even Senate staff when he turned out for a Senate vote Tuesday forcing him on a leave of absence over assault charges, and was the only Senator in the nearly full Chamber to voice opposition to the government motion intended to protect the Senate’s “dignity” and “public trust in Parliament.”

In the midst of the media circus and prior to the overwhelming and rare vote, with Sen. Brazeau charged but not yet even tried or convicted on charges of assault and sexual assault after a domestic violence 911 call in Gatineau, Que., last week, governing Conservative and Liberal Senators revealed recent controversies over Sen. Brazeau, Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy, and Liberal Sen. Mac  Harb have struck nerves on both sides of the Upper Chamber. Sen. Brazeau was also kicked out of the Conservative caucus last week.

RCMP accused of repeated abuse of B.C. aboriginal women

An international human rights organization is calling on the federal government to launch a national inquiry into claims from aboriginal women of abuse and threats by RCMP officers in northern British Columbia.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, known for bringing worldwide attention to victims of torture and abuse in places like Syria and Burma, says the eyes of the world should also be on northern B.C.

Woman dies after waiting 3 hours for ambulance

An 87-year-old Toronto woman died in December after waiting three hours with abdominal pain for an ambulance that was delayed "due to limited resources," a CBC investigation reveals.

An internal Toronto Emergency Medical Services ambulance dispatch record also shows a series of ambulances were at first dispatched to her location but then diverted to other calls.

Kenney’s citizenship-stripping plan good politics but dodgy policy

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s plan to strip Canadian terrorists of their citizenship is clever Conservative politics.

It’s a law-and-order proposal that speaks to an unspoken disquiet about immigrants in general and dual-nationality immigrants in particular.

There’s a feeling out there that just too many people are using Canada as a country of convenience — that they obtain citizenship to take advantage of programs like medicare but that their real loyalties are elsewhere.

Crunch time for oil exports puts focus on the east:

This country is fast approaching crunch time.

Just lend an ear to some of the words being tossed around by the country’s business and political leaders.

Canadian oil is not getting to export markets, creating what is being described as the country’s “biggest challenge” in decades, has been deemed a “crisis” in Alberta and causing “concern” in Ottawa where Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has chosen rather cooler language.

Mazza shared fine dinners, finer wines, with AgustaWestland execs arrested in Italy

Giuseppe Orsi stayed in the Milan room of the Thunder Bay hotel. Bruno Spagnolini had the Athens room.

The two top executives of Italy’s AgustaWestland helicopter company were the guests of ORNGE founder Chris Mazza at one of several events in Ontario in 2010 to celebrate ORNGE’s purchase of 12 helicopters to use as air ambulances.

Along the way, in what was a close relationship between Mazza and Agusta boss Orsi, there were fine dinners, finer wines, and a trip to La Scala opera house in Milan. The Thunder Bay rooms where Mazza played host were just $140 a night, paid by ORNGE. Mazza’s room in the European-themed White Fox Inn was “Elise.”

Government must heed environment commissioner's warnings

When the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded in 2010, killing 11 people and spewing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it cost more than $40 billion to mop up the mess. In Canada, an oil company would only be liable for only $30 million, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the rest.

That's just one of a litany of flaws Canada's environment commissioner identified with the government’s approach to environmental protection. According to environment and sustainable development commissioner Scott Vaughan, who released a final series of audits before stepping down, the federal government’s failure to protect the environment is putting Canadians’ health and economy at risk.

John Baird won’t take advice from former diplomat and hostage Robert Fowler

OTTAWA—Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has no interest in hearing any direct advice from former Canadian diplomat and one-time Al Qaeda hostage Robert Fowler.

“He obviously had a distinguished record as a former diplomat . . . I can tell you I have one better than that: I have the entire foreign service, diplomatic team at the Department of Foreign Affairs that I count on and rely on,” Baird said Tuesday as he testified before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.