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, March 30, 2013

Cyprus won’t leave EU; levy on large accounts could be bigger than expected

NICOSIA, CYPRUS—Cyprus may face years of economic recession after the destruction of the island’s banking system but President Nicos Anastasiades has vowed his country will not leave the European Union.

In a speech to civil servants in the capital of Nicosia on Friday, Anastasiades reiterated his commitment to remain in the EU, despite his government’s bitterness over what they feel is an imposed brutal deal to save their state.

Money still flows out of ‘have-not’ Ontario

Over the coming weeks, Canadians will turn their attention to a familiar rite of spring — filing their taxes. Meanwhile, federal and provincial governments are undertaking their own annual ritual — presenting budgets that outline how those tax dollars will be spent.

In Canada, it can be dizzying to track the relationship between the taxes sent from one province’s residents to the federal government and what is ultimately returned in federal spending in the province. Our own analysis shows that this exercise results in a net transfer away from Ontario amounting to approximately $11 billion per year, based on the latest available figures.

Congratulations, America: Congress Has Finally Outsourced Itself

The prospects for comprehensive immigration reform got a bit brighter today, as U.S. business and labor groups reportedly drew closer to an agreement on how to structure a guest worker program aimed at low-skill immigrants. According to the New York Times, the potential accord between the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO would "clear one of the last hurdles" standing in the way of a bipartisan Senate bill.

Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail

How HSBC hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists. And got away with it

The deal was announced quietly, just before the holidays, almost like the government was hoping people were too busy hanging stockings by the fireplace to notice. Flooring politicians, lawyers and investigators all over the world, the U.S. Justice Department granted a total walk to executives of the British-based bank HSBC for the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever. Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks' profit – but they didn't extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws

While Wall Street crooks walk, thousands sit in California prisons for life over crimes as trivial as stealing socks.

On July 15th, 1995, in the quiet Southern California city of Whittier, a 33-year-old black man named Curtis Wilkerson got up from a booth at McDonald's, walked into a nearby mall and, within the space of two hours, turned himself into the unluckiest man on Earth. "I was supposed to be waiting there while my girlfriend was at the beauty salon," he says.

Retired professor wants apology after being bashed by police during tuition protest

Retired professor Charles Castonguay had good reason to take part in a student protest in Gatineau last April 19 over proposed tuition hikes for Quebec universities.

Castonguay, who has many issues with the province’s education system, opposed the hikes and even argues that university should be free, at least until the first undergraduate degree.

Not long after he got there that morning, Castonguay found himself on his back after he was knocked down by riot police. The incident still angers him, he says, because it was unnecessary. Here he was, says Castonguay, an elderly man of 72, being bashed to the ground with a riot shield because he was standing a couple of feet within the perimeter of where police were moving forward.

Sequester Cuts Trickle Down From The Middle Class

SUFFOLK, Va. -- The kitchen floor is curling up at Carol Rood's house. She and her partner removed the edging when they redid the cabinets last year, and now there's nothing to hold down the white-and-green linoleum where it meets the walls.

"This floor is nasty," Rood, 47, said during an interview in her kitchen. "That was the plan this year, was to do the floor. That's not happening now."

Bedroom Tax Protests Take Place Around The UK

Thousands of people around the country have protested against the so-called "bedroom tax", which will cut the benefit of social housing tenants with a spare room.

Campaigners, who have gathered in more than 50 towns, said the move targets the most vulnerable in society, including carers and the disabled.

NCR: Why Richard Kachkar Didn't Get Away With Murder

Richard Kachkar's not criminally responsible verdict has divided observers and is fueling the debate on Bill C-54, the bill to make NCR reviews more restrictive.

There are those who feel that the NCR decision was the right, though imperfect one.

And there are those who are angered by the verdict. They feel that justice was not done, that the jury was duped, and worst of all, that Kachkar's life is going to be spared while that of his victim was not.

To them, a finding of "not criminally responsible" is equal to a full acquittal, a get-out-of-jail free card, a verdict of no repercussions for Kachkar and his actions.

Massive Louisiana sinkhole caused by oil industry just keeps on growing

A sinkhole triggered in Louisiana by the fossil fuel industry grew to 12 acres over the weekend, and it appears that hundreds of displaced nearby residents will never be able to return to their homes.

The sinkhole has been growing since it appeared in August. It was caused by a salt mining operation that sucked brine out from beneath the Assumption Parish marsh and piped it to nearby petrochemical facilities. Houston-based Texas Brine had apparently excavated too close to the surface, and officials are worried that a similar fate could befall another Texas Brine salt mining site nearby.

Fusion center director: We don’t spy on Americans, just anti-government Americans

Law enforcement intelligence-processing fusion centers have long come under attack for spying on Americans. The Arkansas director wanted to clarify the truth: centers only spies on some Americans – those who appear to be a threat to the government.

In trying to clear up the ‘misconceptions’ about the conduct of fusion centers, Arkansas State Fusion Center Director Richard Davis simply confirmed Americans’ fears: the center does in fact spy on Americans – but only on those who are suspected to be ‘anti-government’.

Obama must be thinking he has better things to do than tend to 166 Arabs stuck in Gitmo

Obama, the one person with the authority to shut down Guantanamo, lacks the political will to put the issue at the top of his priorities, Thomas Wilner, an attorney representing Gitmo inmates, told RT.

RT: Why do you think the White House isn’t getting more involved here, it seems reluctant to put a stop to this?

Thomas Wilner: The White House has said that it is still interested in closing the Guantanamo but it has delegated the issue to other people. It has also thrown up its hands and said Congress is stopping us from doing anything. I think that is wrong. I think the White House has to get directly involved.

Armed Correlations

Well, to paraphrase a great Republican, here we go again. The details of Adam Lanza’s home environment—the armory of weapons there, the copy of the “NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting,” there was a useful book kept close—are scarcely out before the insistence that there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to see or to do returns, at a higher volume. The President talks, in his calm and conciliatory tones, about minimal gun control—that there’s no threat to responsible gun owners, just common sense—and gets, in return, no response, no counterproposal at all, just the usual toxic cocktail of fatalism and scorn. And he gets contemptuous references to his merely “emotional appeals” on the issue, to his talk, on Thursday, of “shame on us.” As though the horror of children ripped apart by a hundred and fifty-four bullets fired in less than five minutes is not itself rational evidence for change, as though unbearable parental grief is not itself an argument for altering the circumstance that made the mourning happen.

Buddy Collins Nominated To Plum North Carolina Education Post, Despite Anti-Gay Record

WASHINGTON -- One of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) nominees for the State Board of Education has a long history of opposing anti-bullying measures aimed at protecting LGBT students, and gay rights advocates are worried about the implications if he is confirmed.

A. L. "Buddy" Collins is an attorney and a longtime member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board of Education. He has clashed with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) over the years surrounding the group's efforts to stop bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

James Inhofe 'Proud' To Be A Target In Climate Change Documentary

Sen. James Inhofe is taking criticism of his climate change denial as a compliment.

The Oklahoma Republican is one of the central targets in the newly released climate change documentary "Greedy Lying Bastards," which examines attempts by the fossil fuel industry to thwart emissions standards and mispresent the facts in the face of changing global climate conditions. The film airs Friday at a special screening in Tulsa, Okla.

Conservatives pour $6.4 billion into corporate welfare

IF there was a theme in the recent federal budget, it was how chock full it was with new corporate welfare. The underlying refrain was how big government will help big business with your tax dollars.

For example, early on in Budget 2013, it is clear that crony capitalism is scattered throughout. On Page 6, Ottawa promises $1-billion to the aerospace sector over five years through the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative; that's the main government program for disbursing taxpayer cash to the aerospace sector.

Desertification group laments losing Canada

OTTAWA -- The United Nations said Friday it is "regrettable" Canada will withdraw from a UN convention that fights the spread of droughts.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada was withdrawing from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification because the program has proven too bureaucratic and not worth the $350,000 contributed each year.

The decision would make Canada the only country in the world not part of the convention.

"The convention is stronger than ever before, which makes Canada's decision to withdraw from the convention all the more regrettable," the Bonn-based secretariat for the convention said in a statement Friday.

A glimpse behind the curtain that hides the Harper Conservatives: Are plans afoot to kill the CBC?

Are plans afoot to destroy the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation if the Harper Conservatives get their longed-for majority?

A tantalizing hint by Edmonton-St. Albert Conservative Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber at an all-candidates' meeting Thursday evening in this Edmonton dormitory city of 60,000 suggests this may be so.

"I don't know that we need a national broadcaster in 2011," Rathgeber told about 100 people at a Chamber of Commerce all-candidates' forum in a local hotel. "…We have to wean them off … of the taxpayer's dollar…"

Remembering Ralph Klein: Discussing union bargaining styles over the proverbial drink with the premier

The scene: Just before Christmas 2001 at the Legislative Press Gallery's Holiday "Gala," a conversation takes place amidst of a swirl of intoxicated journalists, politicians, public relations flacks, lobbyists and other political hangers on.

The cast: Ralph Klein, premier of Alberta, clearly feeling no pain; your blogger, only on his second beer, then the PR guy for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the provincial civil service workers' union; and Peter Elzinga, Klein's chief of staff.

Offstage but nearby, Larry Booi, president of the Alberta Teachers Association, then in an increasingly snarly round of negotiations with Klein's government. Dan "Buff" MacLennan, the affable jail guard who was president of the civil servants' union.

Hunger strike continues at U.S. Guantanamo prison

Prisoners on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay are now being denied water among other abuses as prison guards attempt to force them off the strike, the prisoners' lawyers said Wednesday.

Several of the prisoners' lawyers have filed an emergency motion in a federal court in Washington saying guards are refusing to provide drinking water to the hunger strikers and have kept camp temperatures "extremely frigid" in an effort to "to thwart the protest."

'Pipeline Company Bullies'

On February 28th Dave Core gave an impassioned presentation about "pipeline company bullies" before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

The media were not there.

But the 58-year-old farmer and landowner, an expert on pipeline regulation, directly contradicted the testimony of National Energy Board (NEB) chairman Gaétan Caron as well as that of Mark Cory, Assistant Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada.

Why the crisis in Cyprus matters to the rest of us

The crisis in Cyprus is about more than just Cyprus. It is about Europe as a whole and through Europe, the world economy.

More specifically, it is about the euro, the common currency of 17 nations including Cyprus.

That the crisis has hit Cypriots hard is undeniable. Jobs have been destroyed. Currency is scarce. There are limits on how much money individuals can take from their bank accounts (if these bank accounts still exist). There are limits on how much capital can be taken from the country.

Star investigation: Ottawa refuses to say whether drug-tainted horse meat entered food chain

Backstreet Bully was unloaded from a trailer after dawn and led by his halter into an abattoir in rural Quebec. Once owned and raced by Magna’s Frank Stronach, the chestnut thoroughbred was to be slaughtered then packaged for human food.

That same January morning earlier this year, frantic phone calls from the Stronach group tried to save Backstreet Bully’s life — and protect the public from eating toxic meat.

Federal environment policy may not be helping the oilpatch

You don’t have to fit yourself out for a tinfoil hat to convince yourself that the federal Conservatives are taking their marching orders from the oil industry.

Stephen Harper’s political consciousness was formed at the University of Calgary in the early 1980s, when Albertans were rightly furious with the federal government for imposing the disastrous National Energy Program.

Gunmakers Being Urged To Move Across State Lines To Dodge Restrictive Gun Laws

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Firearms manufacturers upset over newly restrictive gun laws and proposals in their home states are getting a message from other places: Move here, where the climate is favorable to your products and so are the tax codes.

In New Hampshire, a group of conservative Republicans sent letters wooing gun companies. Politicians in Virginia and West Virginia have said they would welcome Beretta if it chose to leave Maryland. Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault, in a letter to the head of Magpul Industries this week, said he read "with shock and disdain" reports of new gun laws in Colorado, the home of the firearms accessory and magazine manufacturer. "Though many feel the actions taken by your state government were appropriate," he wrote, "we in Alaska do not."

North Korea Reportedly Entering 'State Of War' Against South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea warned Seoul on Saturday that the Korean Peninsula had entered "a state of war" and threatened to shut down a border factory complex that's the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

Analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely, noting that the Korean Peninsula has remained in a technical state of war for 60 years. But the North's continued threats toward Seoul and Washington, including a vow to launch a nuclear strike, have raised worries that a misjudgment between the sides could lead to a clash.

US warns North Korea of increased isolation if threats escalate further

The White House warned North Korea on Friday that the rapidly escalating military confrontation would lead to further isolation, as the Pentagon declared that the US was fully capable of defending itself and its allies against a missile attack.

After North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific – a response to the US flying two nuclear-capable B2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula this week – the White House blamed Pyongyang for the increased tensions.

It's Not a Hermit Kingdom, and 4 Other Myths About North Korea

Every day the media is filled with reports of North Korea threatening to attack the United States and its close allies. An escalating cycle of threat and counter-threat has been going on for the past few months. It started with the North's partially successful long-range rocket test in December, was followed by its third test of a nuclear bomb in February, new U.N. sanctions in response to those tests, U.S.-South Korean military exercises, Pyongyang's bellicose threats to launch strikes against the United States, and now the temporary deployment of long-range U.S. B-2 bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, to South Korea.

Jobs Act falls short of grand promises

When lawmakers unveiled the carefully named Jobs Act a year ago, backers expected it to get caught up in the typical grind of Capitol Hill: vigorous debate followed by a long wait for a vote that might never happen.

Instead, the legislation sailed through — perhaps too fast. Even supporters say they expected more time to work out the kinks in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which aimed to help small, private firms raise money and grow so they could hire more workers.