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.]

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hanford Nuclear Tank Leaking Radioactive Waste

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The long-delayed cleanup of the nation's most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank there is leaking.

The news raises concerns about the integrity of similar tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation and puts added pressure on the federal government to resolve construction problems with the plant being built to alleviate environmental and safety risks from the waste.

Obama's Guantanamo Is Never Going To Close, So Everyone Might As Well Get Comfortable

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- In late January, shortly after President Barack Obama began his second term, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz stood inside an old airplane hangar on the southernmost tip of the island and reflected on a central but unfulfilled promise of Obama’s 2008 campaign.

“We’re still here,” Ruiz said, as reporters milled around the aging hangar, which has been repurposed as a work space for the journalists and human rights observers who have been flying in and out of Guantanamo since the first suspected terrorists were brought here 11 years ago. Instead of planes, the hangar is now home to several trailer-size sheds with slanted roofs. More offices line the hangar's perimeter, and a giant map of the base is painted on the floor. Screeching bats fly in and out of the hangar at night.

Why would the defence department pay a nickel more than it had to for armaments?

Of all the reactions to this week’s report by a panel advising the government on defence procurement policy, the most hilarious came from the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries. “This timely and coherent report truly strikes a chord with the defence and security industry in Canada,” the association’s president said. “The panel calls for urgent action by the government, and CADSI echoes this call.”

Councillors skirt ethics because it’s too easy to escape punishment

When will they ever learn — our politicians?

How can they be so willfully blind, so deaf to the concerns about their relationship to developers, corporations and lobbyists, so arrogant and dismissive of proper and ethical conduct?

They can — and do — because, for the most part, they escape real punishment for their failings.

Texas Senator Goes on Attack and Raises Bipartisan Hackles

WASHINGTON — As the Senate edged toward a divisive filibuster vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, sat silent and satisfied in the corner of the chamber — his voice lost to laryngitis — as he absorbed what he had wrought in his mere seven weeks of Senate service.

 Mr. Hagel, a former senator from Mr. Cruz’s own party, was about to be the victim of the first filibuster of a nominee to lead the Pentagon. The blockade was due in no small part to the very junior senator’s relentless pursuit of speeches, financial records or any other documents with Mr. Hagel’s name on them going back at least five years. Some Republicans praised the work of the brash newcomer, but others joined Democrats in saying that Mr. Cruz had gone too far.

Obama’s Top Choice for OMB Led Walmart Foundation’s Targeted Giving

Recent reports suggest that President Obama is about to nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president of the Walmart Foundation, as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Her nomination would be a coup for Walmart and its foundation, which under Burwell’s watch has wielded its massive budget to expand the retail giant’s influence at all levels of government and to pave the way for store expansions.

"Hubris": New Documentary Reexamines the Iraq War "Hoax"

A decade ago, on March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq that would lead to a nine-year war resulting in 4,486 dead American troops, 32,226 service members wounded, and over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians. The tab for the war topped $3 trillion. Bush did succeed in removing Saddam Hussein, but it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction and no significant operational ties between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda. That is, the two main assertions used by Bush and his crew to justify the war were not true. Three years after the war began, Michael Isikoff, then an investigative reporter for Newsweek (he's since moved to NBC News), and I published Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, a behind-the-scenes account of how Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their lieutenants deployed false claims, iffy intelligence, and unsupported hyperbole to win popular backing for the invasion.

Mali: The war no one wants to talk about

The news didn’t get much prominence. In the Star, it merited two paragraphs. But Canada has quietly extended its military support mission in Mali for another 30 days.

And after that? Well, no one seems to know.

Mali is the war no one wants to talk about. Canada’s Conservative government is adamant that our troops won’t be involved, even though some already are.

Harper’s policies undermine our energy ambitions

The tumultuous approval processes for the Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines highlight two glaring problems with the federal government’s approach to energy policy.

First, Canada’s oil and gas industry is extremely vulnerable because it relies almost entirely on a single export market, the U.S., for both these products. And, because of breakthroughs in extractive technology, the U.S. is projected to be self-sufficient in gas and possibly in oil in as little as 10 to 20 years.

Senate boondoggle worsens

The Senate scandal could be worse than we think.

The NDP say they suspect Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin passed off on to taxpayers some of her partisan travel expenses from the last federal election.

They are making a big stink about it in the Commons. They say the travel expenses she charged up to the Senate came from taxpayers' pockets.

Mammoliti has history of involvement in billboards

A Toronto councillor who helped two real estate investors get permission to place billboards on their properties and later accepted loans from the businessmen has other links to the outdoor advertising industry in the city.

Giorgio Mammoliti has received political contributions from people affiliated with the industry, supported numerous applications for billboards and, in 2009, attempted to have his ward designated as a "special sign district" where all outdoor signs would require the approval of the local business improvement association.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts to Coun. Mammoliti's loans

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he would not pass judgment on loans city Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti received from a pair of Toronto real estate investors until he speaks with him — but says he would not have taken such loans himself.

The mayor's comments come after a CBC News investigation first revealed that Mammoliti received at least $275,000 in mortgage loans from a pair of real estate investors who owned billboards along Highway 401.

Terry Branstad: Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project Is A 'Mistake'

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Turmoil deepened among leading Republicans over efforts to ward off controversial candidates in the next election, as Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad blasted a new candidate-steering plan by Karl Rove and warned him to stay out of state and congressional races.

John Brennan Open To Special Drone Strikes Court

WASHINGTON — The White House nominee to run the CIA said setting up a special court to oversee deadly drone strikes against American citizens is worth considering but raises difficult questions over how much authority it would have in decisions currently made by the president.

As Obama Confronts Corporate Tax Reform, Past Lessons Suggest Lobbyists Will Fight For Loopholes

Starbucks had already mastered the art of doing business on multiple continents as it grew from a niche coffee retailer in Seattle into a global brand with thousands of outlets from Saudi Arabia to Peru. Now the company smelled a fresh opportunity that required a presence in mysterious territory with its own unique culture: Washington, D.C.

Enbridge, Energy Transfer To Retrofit Gas Pipelines To Carry Oilsands, Bakken Crude To Gulf

CALGARY - Enbridge Inc. and a partner are planning to spend up to US$3.4 billion to reconfigure a natural gas pipeline to carry oil to the eastern Gulf Coast, a market that currently relies on rail and barge for crude shipments.

Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners would each own 50 per cent of the project, which would stretch more than 1,100 kilometres from an oil hub at Patoka, Ill., to the St. James hub in Louisiana.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is wrong to cut the land transfer tax

Few among Mayor Rob Ford’s many ill-judged promises were more wrong-headed than his pledge to kill Toronto’s land transfer tax. He was supposed to do away with this much-maligned fee but even Ford acknowledges that won’t happen, at least in this term.

Chalk it up as another of Ford’s broken election promises. In this case, it’s a welcome failure. Eliminating the land transfer tax would open a $340-million hole in the city’s accounts. That’s what the fee earned last year. Put in perspective, covering this amount would require hiking Toronto’s property tax by close to 15 per cent. Just try convincing the city to accept that.

North Korea’s nuclear test puts China’s leaders on the spot

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is at it again, with America-baiting rhetoric, long-range missile launches and yet another nuclear test. An irritated U.S. President Barack Obama cited the serial “provocations” in his State of the Union address this week. But for all the Hermit Kingdom’s flouting of United Nations orders to abandon its weapons programs, it poses no great threat to the United States, for now.

Ironically, Kim’s military ambitions are far more problematic for his friends, including China’s incoming president Xi Jinping who takes over from Hu Jintao next month. Prior to the latest nuclear blast on Tuesday, Beijing had openly urged Kim to avoid escalating tensions. His belligerent answer came in the 6-kiloton range by some estimates, rattling nerves in Beijing and stirring anger. “The nuclear test will gravely damage China’s strategic and security interests,” Beijing University professor Wang Dong told Reuters.

Canada’s immigration history one of discrimination and exclusion

Canada has a less than stellar record historically when it comes to immigration policy, having rejected or excluded Indians, Chinese, Jews and Blacks during various periods over the past century.

Today, the country no longer discriminates based on the colour of an applicant’s skin or religion.

But simply having an immigration policy discriminates or excludes certain people in one form or another, says Harold Troper, an immigration historian at the University of Toronto and co-author of None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe.