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 20, 2013

Sequester Would Chop Long-Term Unemployment Insurance

WASHINGTON -- If the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration take effect as expected at the beginning of March, long-term unemployed Americans receiving federal unemployment insurance will see their weekly benefit checks reduced by 9.4 percent.

"Affected long-term unemployed individuals would lose an average of more than $400 in benefits that they and their families count on while they search for another job," the White House said recently on its website.

Sequestration Is Austerity, but Not Enough for Simpson and Bowles


Cue the return of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, frontmen for American austerity.

If sequestration is not averted by the end of the month, America will experience an arbitrary austerity agenda that shifts burdens from the wealthy onto working families. It makes across-the-board cuts to vital services. As President Obama noted Tuesday, sequestration would impose “automatic brutal spending cuts” to job creation, infrastructure and education initiatives. It would, as well, slash funding for air traffic control, federal prosecutions and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants that make it possible for states and local governments to hire needed firefighter and emergency personnel.

Monsanto: All Your Seeds Are Belong to Us

Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75-year-old Indiana farmer, says that switching to Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans "made things so much simpler and better." Monsanto's patented beans can survive when they are sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup, which makes pest control much easier. Monsanto is less impressed with Bowman: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on a lawsuit that the company filed against him in 2007, accusing him of violating its patent on Roundup Ready soybeans.

13 Governors Screwing Over the Uninsured

Stephanie Mencimer's latest Mother Jones cover story showcased the grim impact tea-party-influenced state lawmakers have had in Florida. Under Gov. Rick Scott, the state rejected billions of dollars in federal funding for any kind of Affordable Care Act-related program, with Scott leading the fight against the expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor. But Scott's certainly not the only governor to balk at the idea of making public health insurance more inclusive. In the last month, Govs. Tom Corbett (R-Penn.), Pat McCrory (R-N.C.), and Scott Walker (R-Wis.) announced their states would not be expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income, uninsured residents, and Koch-funded super-PAC Americans for Prosperity expressed its support for a bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature that would reject the expanded Medicaid coverage in state code.

Mike Duffy: I Rent 2nd Prince Edward Island Home

CHARLOTTETOWN - Sen. Mike Duffy, embroiled in a controversy over living allowance claims, says he has two homes in Prince Edward Island so he can have better access to health care.

Duffy says he rents a home in Charlottetown during the winter — in addition to a house he owns in Cavendish, P.E.I., where he stays in the summer — so he can have quicker access to care in case of a medical emergency.

Canada's Carbon Tax Options 'Politicized' When Reason Needed: Report

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has politicized its policy options at a time when harmonized federal and provincial carbon policies are needed to cut emissions as cheaply as possible, says a new report.

An increasingly fragmented national approach to carbon policy could result in higher costs, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Rick Mercer: Mike Duffy Is Stephen Harper's Fault

Rick Mercer isn't a big fan of Senator Mike Duffy, but his feeling toward the portly P.E.I. 'resident' pale in comparison to those he reserves for Stephen Harper.

On Tuesday night, Mercer argued Canadians should be focusing their anger about the behaviour of senators on the prime minister who appointed them.

Alberta government targets public service for cost cutting

EDMONTON - The Redford government announced plans to cut the size and cost of Alberta’s public service Tuesday, starting with a three-year pay freeze for managers and plans to cut their ranks by 10 per cent.

The move comes as nurses, teachers and other provincial employees grapple with or prepare for contract talks. The province’s doctors also are locked in a fierce year-long fight with the government over their fees.

4 questions about Canada’s new Office of Religious Freedom

It has been almost two years since Stephen Harper announced his government would establish an Office of Religious Freedom to monitor the safety of religious minorities around the world.

It was during the spring 2011 election campaign that the Conservatives promised that this new office would become a key pillar of Canadian foreign policy.

Canadian voters are the real target of Stephen Harper’s new religion office

When Jason Kenney, minister in charge of getting immigrant and ethnic voters to dump the Liberals and vote Tory, was asked on the CBC what the new Office of Religious Freedom would do, he gave a fairly lengthy response.

It would ensure “that the department of foreign affairs and the government broadly will address issues of  persecution of religious minorities as part of our foreign policy.” It would monitor “a growing wave of violent persecution” against “minority faith communities,” and “make sure we look through a religious freedom and freedom of conscience lens when we are addressing different issues.” Also there would be research and analysis, and projects “that empower and advocate on behalf of religious minorities,” and a new ambassador who would “have a representational role around the world.” All for five million bucks. A steal at twice the price.

National summit on pensions: We must protect the most vulnerable during golden years

This week in Fredericton the provincial government is sponsoring a national summit on pensions. The aim of the gathering, which includes Premier David Alward and federal minister of state for finance, Ted Menzies, should be to help ensure that all Canadians have a reasonable standard of living during their golden years.

In recent years tens of thousands of Canadian retirees have seen their pensions wiped out during bankruptcy proceedings. Under the current rules working people who've paid into pension plans have little protection when their employer goes under.

Homelessness takes a tragic toll in Toronto

A sad, sparsely attended ceremony was held in an alcove behind the Eaton Centre a few days ago. A handful of homeless people, street workers and anti-poverty activists gathered outside the Church of the Holy Trinity to add the 700th name to Toronto’s homeless memorial.

It belonged to Stewart Poirier, 53, a mentally disturbed man who admitted to setting fire to the historic Empress Hotel. According to information introduced in court at his sentencing hearing, he had been sexually abused by both his father and the staff at the mental hospital where he was sent at the age of 7. Three years ago, he was beginning to get a handle on his addictions, take care of his physical health and settle into an apartment. But he got into a fight with his landlord, became homeless and snapped.

Harper-controlled DFO is censoring federal scientists with research rules, critics say

Angry scientists and academics are accusing the Stephen Harper government of muzzling and censoring its scientists to the point that research cannot be published, even when there is collaboration with international researchers, unless it matches government policy.

Under revised Fisheries and Oceans Canada rules, scientists working in its central and Arctic region cannot be involved in publishing research until a DFO division administrator has reviewed it “for any concerns/impacts to DFO policy.”

That amounts to censoring scientific findings, says Jim Turk, Canadian Association of University Teachers executive director.

Tony Clement Handling Touchy Ring Of Fire Mineral File

OTTAWA - Treasury Board President Tony Clement will publicly take on federal responsibility for the massive Ring of Fire mineral discovery today in northern Ontario today.

He'll be walking on eggshells as he makes his first speech on the chromite and nickel interest in Thunder Bay this afternoon.

Alberta Caribou Population: Environmentalists Take Their Concerns To U.S.

EDMONTON - Alberta environmentalists are going south with their concerns over the effects of the province's energy industry on caribou.

Convincing Alberta's oil customers in the United States that they should press for greater protection of the vanishing herds is the only way to get action, said Helene Walsh of Keepers of the Athabasca, one of the groups behind the move.

Office Of Religious Freedom: Harper Makes Long-Awaited Announcement From Mosque

MAPLE, Ont. - A Ukrainian-Catholic has been picked to lead a new federal office with a mandate to promote religious tolerance globally, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday followed through on an election promise made almost two years ago.

At a mosque north of Toronto, Harper named Andrew Bennett as ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom, which will operate as part of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mandatory sentences hurt some: Ottawa

TORONTO -- A small group of people might be harmed by mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, but Parliament is entitled to deference in how it tries to enhance public safety, the federal government argues.

The point is one of many Ottawa is making in support of mandatory minimums, as Ontario's highest court gets set to hear a number of landmark cases.

A special five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal for Ontario will consider the constitutionality of minimum sentences for several gun-crime laws in six cases that are set to be heard together from today to Friday.

DND To Spend Up To $530 Million On New Jetties For Arctic Patrol Ship, Submarines and Other Vessels

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was at CFB Esquimalt on Monday to announce plans to replace the existing A and B jetties at the dockyard there.

The two projects involve the construction of two fully-integrated steel and concrete pile jetties as well as the replacement of other associated support infrastructure, according to the DND news release. The total cost is currently estimated to be in the range of $430 million to $530 million.

Canada 'procrastinating' on improving air passenger rights

An MP who introduced a bill to better protect plane passengers, such as those stuck in a grounded aircraft for over 13 hours in Toronto in early February, says Canada has been slow to improve legislation for inconvenienced air travelers.

José Nunez-Melo, the MP for Laval, Que., suggests that U.S. regulations are far more consumer-friendly. For example, passengers who have been stuck on a grounded U.S. flight for more than 30 minutes after their scheduled departure have the option of getting off.

Throwaways: Recruited by Police & Thrown into Danger, Young Informants are Drug War’s Latest Victims

New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman has just been awarded a George Polk Award for her article, "The Throwaways," which investigates law enforcement’s unregulated use of young confidential informants in drug cases. Stillman details how police broker deals with young, untrained informants to perform high-risk operations with few legal protections in exchange for leniency — and sometimes fatal results. Stillman joins us to discuss her eight-month investigation, which has spurred calls for reform in several states. We’re also joined by Margie Weiss, the mother of Rachel Hoffman. After police found drugs in her apartment, Hoffman agreed to assist Florida officers in a major undercover deal involving meeting two convicted felons alone to buy two-and-a-half ounces of cocaine, 1,500 ecstasy pills, and a semi-automatic handgun. Within days, her body was found shot five times with the gun that the police had sent her to buy. We also speak with Alexandra Natapoff, professor of law at Loyola Law School and author of "Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: -

Duffy claims to live in Charlottetown too

Aha! So that explains it.

There’s a third residence. A mystery residence. In Charlottetown. That’s where Senator Mike Duffy stays when he comes home to P.E.I. in the winter. Not the little yellow cottage in Cavendish pain-in-butt reporter Teresa Wright went knocking on 15 days ago and started this whole quest to find out where Mike Duffy really lives.

“In the winter, I live in town because the road in Cavendish is blocked,” Duffy said yesterday — Islander Day — at the airport, moments after landing on the 5:34 flight from Ottawa.

Is China The World's Biggest Trader? Beijing Says No, Data Says Yes

BEIJING, China - China has a new status its government doesn't want — world's biggest trader.

Trade data from both governments indicate China passed the United States last year in total imports and exports by a margin of $3.866 trillion to $3.822 trillion. That is about $44 billion, or just over 1 per cent of China's total.

Missouri Bill Would Make It A Felony For Lawmakers To Propose Gun Control Legislation

A Republican state legislator in Missouri has proposed legislation that would make it a felony for lawmakers to introduce legislation to restrict Second Amendment rights in the state.

Legislation introduced Monday by state Rep. Mike Leara (R-St. Louis) would make state legislators guilty of a Class D felony if they introduce legislation "that further restricts an individual's right to bear arms." Leara said that the bill is needed because he sees a growing number of his colleagues looking to take away gun rights from the state's residents.

Anonymous Helps Researchers Link Hackers To Chinese Army

An American computer security company released an explosive report Tuesday linking a Chinese military unit to a growing number of cyber attacks against American companies, organizations and government agencies.

But some of those connections -- including profiles of the individual hackers in China -- could not have been made without the work of the hacker group Anonymous, according to the report by the security firm Mandiant.

Supreme Court Takes Campaign Finance Case, Will Rule On Contribution Limits

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will hear a case challenging the per-biennial cycle limit on campaign contributions from individuals.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, argues that the limit on what individuals are allowed to give candidates ($46,200 per two-year cycle) and parties and PACs ($70,800 per two-year cycle) is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor's free speech rights.

State of the (G.O.P.) Union

Something there is about the experience of being the leader of the free world that can drive a man to paint. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s homely canvases of barns and the like weren’t that bad, an opinion the artist did not share. “Let’s get something straight here, Cohen,” the great man told Richard Cohen, now a Washington Post columnist but then, in 1967, a wire-service cub. “They would have burned this shit a long time ago if I weren’t the President of the United States.” Jimmy Carter’s folkloric watercolors of home-town scenes sell for respectable sums to benefit the Carter Center. What you won’t find in the oeuvres of Ike and Jimmy are any nude self-portraits. But, as the wired world has learned, courtesy of an unscrupulous hacker, the works of W include two.

The Real Problem with the Big Banks

Ask what’s wrong with America’s banks, and you’re likely to hear that they’re just too complicated, too opaque. Banks are doing too much trading and not enough traditional lending, and their speculation with complicated financial instruments (like the ones that led to J. P. Morgan losing six billion dollars with its “whale” trade last year) is a recipe for disaster, with the financial crisis of 2007-2008 seen as proof positive of the dangers of too much complexity and too little disclosure. (Thus Jesse Eisinger and Frank Partnoy argue in last month’s Atlantic that the panic of 2008 resulted “from a lack of transparency.”) And so we get calls for banks to simplify their operations—to go back to what’s often called “plain vanilla” banking—and to disclose more about what they’re doing. This quest for simplicity and transparency is understandable in a world of collateralized-debt obligations and endlessly proliferating derivatives. But it doesn’t actually get at the heart of the issue. The fundamental problem with the banks isn’t that they look (and act) more and more like hedge funds. The fundamental problem with banks is what it’s always been: they’re in the business of banking, and banking, whether plain vanilla or incredibly sophisticated, is inherently risky.

Bitumen bubble gives Alberta the vapours

Alberta Premier Alison Redford brought her sad tale of budgetary woe to Ontario last week. Her province isn’t collecting enough money for its oil. It suffers from overreliance on a single export market. That market is not as needy as it once was. And so Alberta is headed for a $6-billion surge in its deficit. Her finance minister described the situation as a perfect storm.

Cry me a Bitumen Bubble.

Newfoundland Shale Oil Find By Shoal Point Energy Is Potentially Huge

CALGARY - As a junior energy explorer comes closer to finding out whether North America's next big shale oil find lies beneath the western coast of Newfoundland, concerns are being raised about the environmental effects fracking could have in the remote region.

Shoal Point Energy Ltd. (CNSX:SPE) spent the winter holidays hammering out a farmout deal with Black Spruce Exploration, a subsidiary of Foothills Capital Corp., that will enable as many as 12 exploration wells to be drilled over the next few years in the Green Point shale.

Oilsands Monitoring Plan Still Shows No Public Results After One Year

OTTAWA - The revamping of environmental monitoring of the oilsands was supposed to be the federal government's defence against suspicions of widespread damage.

Now, a full year after Alberta and Ottawa unveiled a three-year plan to set aside their differences and keep a closer watch on the air, water and habitat in northern Alberta, there are still no formal results.

The Conservatives are striving to shore up their environmental credentials in the wake of a public chiding from the federal environmental watchdog and weighty words about climate change from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.

On the outskirts of Shanghai, in a run-down neighborhood dominated by a 12-story white office tower, sits a People’s Liberation Army base for China’s growing corps of cyberwarriors.

 The building off Datong Road, surrounded by restaurants, massage parlors and a wine importer, is the headquarters of P.L.A. Unit 61398. A growing body of digital forensic evidence — confirmed by American intelligence officials who say they have tapped into the activity of the army unit for years — leaves little doubt that an overwhelming percentage of the attacks on American corporations, organizations and government agencies originate in and around the white tower.

Prisoner X: Doubts Grow on Jailhouse Suicide Claims for Australian Israeli Linked to Mossad

An international scandal is growing after an Australian-Israeli man with ties to Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, died inside a maximum security prison in Israel. For more than two years, the Israeli government imposed a strict gag order on his 2010 death, but now the secret is leaking out. Israel has called his death a suicide, but new information could emerge now that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has revealed his name: Ben Zygier. We’re joined by Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has led the effort in Israel to uncover information about Prisoner X and has successfully challenged a gag order on its role. We also speak to Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist, author and co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Built

Marine Major Aric "Walleye" Liberman was uncharacteristically modest for a Navy SEAL turned fighter pilot. He had just landed an F-35--one of the 2,457 jets the Pentagon plans to buy for $400 billion, making it the costliest weapons program in human history--at its initial operational base late last year. Amid celebratory hoopla, he declined photographers' requests to give a thumbs-up for the cameras that sunny day in Yuma, Ariz. "No, no, no," he demurred with a smile.

Liberman's reticence was understandable. For while the Marines hailed his arrival as a sign that their initial F-35 squadron is now operational, there's one sticking point. "It's an operational squadron," a Marine spokesman said. "The aircraft is not operational."

Is Britain's arms trade making a killing?

In the town centre of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, between McDonald's and Carphone Warehouse, there is an unusual statue. Four firm-jawed figures in factory clothes stand back-to-back. One wears a flat cap, one wields a sledgehammer, one has a welder's visor. All of them are in purposeful poses, idealised workers cast in bronze. Around the statue base run the words "labour", "courage" and "progress". Its structure feels like something from the Soviet Union in the 30s.

Progress in the fight against global poverty

The news is better than anyone anticipated. This year’s Human Development Report, which measures how well countries are doing economically and socially, shows a profound global shift. Forty nations – not just economic tigers such China, India and Brazil – are rapidly lifting their people out of poverty.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has issued 21 of these annual reports, called this year’s edition, which will be officially released on March 14 in Mexico City, “The Rise of the South.” It is the most upbeat report in years. But it also challenges the once-dominant North (Europe, North America and Japan) to cede some its policy-setting power to such nations as Turkey, Mexico and South Africa as well as the emerging superpowers.

Is this just the beginning of Idle No More?

You may not see the next stage of Idle No More in public -- it might not take the form of a round dance. Rather, it will take the form of now educated aboriginal community members working with leaders to shut down a mine until the government consults, or withdrawing from a process with government, or opposing a business licence on aboriginal land. People won't call these actions Idle No More, but they're all connected.

One year later, fed-prov oilsands monitoring plan still shows no public results

OTTAWA - The revamping of environmental monitoring of the oilsands was supposed to be the federal government's defence against suspicions of widespread damage.

Now, a full year after Alberta and Ottawa unveiled a three-year plan to set aside their differences and keep a closer watch on the air, water and habitat in northern Alberta, there are still no formal results.

Canada's Coal Cutbacks Best U.S., Baird Argues

OTTAWA - Canada can teach the United States some lessons on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Sunday in a blunt rejoinder to recent chiding by the Obama administration on climate change.

Baird told The Canadian Press that the U.S. should actually be following Canada's lead on working to cut back on the use of coal-fired electricity generation.

Dead: Body Of Russian Lawmaker Found In Barrel Filled With Cement

Police made a gruesome discovery in a private garage in the Noginsky district of the Moscow region on Sunday night. A body found hidden in a metal barrel filled with cement reportedly belongs to Russian lawmaker Mikhail Pakhomov.

"Pakhomov’s body was discovered in a barrel of cement near the village of Obukhovo in the Moscow Region district of Noginsk,” a spokesperson for Russia's Investigative Committee told state news agency RIA Novosti.

Planned Parenthood Wisconsin Closes Four Clinics Due To State Funding Cuts

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced the closure of four family planning health centers on Monday as a result of the state legislature's elimination of funding to the health care provider.

The clinics in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano, which serve approximately 2,000 patients, will close between April and July of this year. Planned Parenthood says that it is the only provider of reproductive health care in each of those four communities.

Pipe dreams: A look at Canada’s six leading pipeline proposals

Pipelines are to a landlocked oil economy what supply lines are to invading armies: critical to success but vulnerable to attack.

Canada’s prairie oil producers – led by Alberta but including Saskatchewan and now Manitoba – have been wildly favoured in geology but less so in geography. While the provinces are enjoying a boom in production from oil sands and new light oil prospects, they are located far from the massive refining hub on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and far from ocean ports that would allow them to reach energy-hungry customers overseas.