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.]

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Obama Speaks About AP Scandal

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Thursday a "balance" should be struck between national security interests and freedom of the press, in response to a question about the Justice Department's decision to subpoena the phone records of the Associated Press.

"Leaks related to national security can put people at risk, they can put men and women in uniform that I've sent into the battlefield at risk," Obama said, while declining to comment on the pending case.

Why austerity may be wrecking the recovery

As head of the world’s largest bond fund, Bill Gross has the kind of voice that can move markets. For much of the last few years Gross, who runs the $2-trillion Pacific Investment Management Co., has been warning about the day of reckoning that would befall countries like the U.S. and Britain as they buried themselves under mountains of debt. In 2010, Gross declared British bonds were “sitting on a bed of nitroglycerine” and dumped his entire holdings of U.S. Treasuries with a prediction that soaring government debts would pose the greatest risk to bondholders.

Website urges Stephen Harper to get his facts straight on oilsands

OTTAWA — Environmental groups say that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government needs to get its facts straight about the oil industry.

A coalition of groups from Canada, the United States and Europe recruited some high-profile scientists and academics as they launched a new “reality” website Thursday.

Canadian government doubles advertising spend on tar sands

The Canadian government has nearly doubled its advertising spending to promote the Alberta tar sands in an aggressive new lobbying push ahead of Thursday's visit to New York by the prime minister, Stephen Harper.

The Harper government has increased its advertising spending on the Alberta tar sands to $16.5m from $9m a year ago.

Rob Ford has checked out

At around 10:15 last Wednesday morning, as this month’s city council meeting was gearing up, speaker Frances Nunziata uttered a procedural phrase that seemed especially apt. “The mayor has not designated any key matters for this meeting,” she said. No key matters—that’s about the size of things with Rob Ford these days.

The mayor was there in body, sporadically, throughout the meeting. But if he had any particular hopes for what might get accomplished by this council he was elected to lead, he was coy about it. City council itself rejected his inability to prioritize, and voted by a two-thirds majority to have a debate on transit revenue tools that the mayor had tried to keep off the agenda. As city manager Joe Pennachetti got up to speak about how important this debate was—in the professional opinion of city staff and, according to a poll he’d conducted, more than 85 per cent of Toronto residents—Ford got up and left the room.

Jet repulsion

Waterfront Toronto officials are loath to admit it. The agency that’s been orchestrating a futuristic makeover of the water’s edge doesn’t want to piss off Rob Ford, especially when money’s running out.

But Porter’s expansion plan to fly jets out of the Billy Bishop Toronto Centre Airport is smelling a lot like that backdoor scheme concocted in 2011 by Mayor Ford’s brother, Doug, to fast-track monorails, Ferris wheels and shopping malls in the port lands.

Duffy scandal: Senate ethics officer says all Senators required to update disclosure files if any major changes occur

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government’s conflict of interest  commissioner has formally contacted Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office in an investigation into how and why Mr. Harper’s chief of staff rescued Conservative Senator Mike Duffy from a scandal over ineligible living and travel expense claims by giving the Senator $90,000 to repay the money before an independent audit report was made public.

Design for Democracy: Parks over planes, planes over people

"The island and our waterfront are public assets, and we must not turn over these public assets to narrow private interests -- not to a casino, not to a mega-mall operator, and not to an expanded industrial-scale airport."

- Trinity-Spadina MPP Rosario Marchese

One of my great theatrical delights is to watch the cast of councillors hash out the most pressing issues of our time in Toronto's City Hall.

L'affaire Duffy: Will Harper be held to account?

When the Prime Minister appointed longtime journalist and broadcaster Mike Duffy to the Senate it was to represent Prince Edward Island (PEI), not the province where Duffy actually lived, Ontario.

Duffy was born and raised in PEI and still has, we are told, deep connections there.

The original Canadian Constitution, the British North America (BNA) Act, says a Senator must "reside" in the province she/he represents. But the notion of "residence" is, apparently, "undefined."

Stephen Harper's Oilsands Roadshow Meets With Opposition

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Global warming will only be brought under control by deep international collaboration and intense investment in technology — not yelling on street corners, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Harper was in New York all day Thursday, addressing an influential group of American academics at the Council on Foreign Relations and meeting separately with a tight-knit group of business leaders.

Pierre Poilievre: Nigel Wright Protected Taxpayers With $90,000 Duffy Cheque

A Tory MP says Harper’s chief of staff was just protecting taxpayers when he wrote embattled Sen. Mike Duffy a personal cheque for $90,000.

Pierre Poilievre was asked on Wednesday by Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, why Nigel Wright would cover the cost of Duffy’s improper housing expenses.

"Because we didn’t believe taxpayers should have to pay the cost and Mr. Duffy was not in a position to pay them himself," Poilievre said.

Telus Mobilicity Buyout: $380 Million Deal Faces Regulatory Scrutiny Buyout: $380 Million Deal Faces Regulatory Scrutiny

Telus says it has a $380-million deal to buy Mobilicity after it was approached by the indebted small telecom player looking for relief from its financial struggles.

But it remains unclear whether the government, which has sought to foster more competition in the wireless sector, will allow the sale to go ahead, given that it will mean one less option for consumers.

This Copyright Bill Could Help Small Business Owners, Girl Talk, Service Members, and the Blind

The last time Congress tried to pass major copyright reforms, 2011's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), it pissed off just about every corner of the internet, from Google to Wikipedia to the Teen Witch Fan Club. SOPA and PIPA critics certainly wanted an update to America's rusty copyright laws, just not one that trampled on free speech in the name of catching criminals.

The bipartisan Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) on May 8, may be the compromise that privacy advocates have long desired. Instead of giving law enforcement more power to crack down on internet users, the bill protects law-abiding Americans who modify the cellphones, computers, and software that they own—a proposal that could help everyone from DJs to the visually impaired. There's just one problem: The two giant entertainment industry lobbying groups that backed SOPA—the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)—might not back Lofgren's bill.

Saws Cut Off 4,000 Fingers a Year. This Gadget Could Fix That

Gerald Wheeler caught the hot dog demonstration at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta in 2002. A man took an Oscar Meyer wiener and pushed it into the blade of a table saw spinning 4,000 times per minute. As the hot dog touched the whirring saw, the blade came to a dead stop in about three one-thousandths of a second, leaving the dog with only a minor nick.

The saw was equipped with a safety device called SawStop that could distinguish between wood and flesh and then stop the blade fast enough to prevent a gruesome injury. Wheeler was amazed. As the operator of a wood shop in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he was all too aware of the unforgiving nature of table saws. Not long before, two of his employees had been maimed within a few weeks of each other. Wheeler felt awful about the injuries, the loss of two good workers, the $95,000 in medical bills, the doubling of his workers compensation rates. Watching SawStop in action, Wheeler thought: If only this had come along sooner.

Fight Clubs: On Napoleon Chagnon

In December 1919, Franz Boas, the German-born academic widely recognized as the father of American anthropology, published a letter in this magazine accusing four of his American colleagues—whom he did not identify—of having used their research positions as cover for engaging in espionage in Central America during the recently concluded war. Ten days later, the governing council of the American Anthropological Association voted 20 to 10 to censure Boas, claiming that his highly public letter was unjustified and in no way represented the AAA’s position. Boas was a founding member and former president of the association, so the censure was doubly humiliating; it essentially forced him to resign from both the AAA’s governing body and the National Research Council.

Mad About the IRS Mess? Blame Congress

Almost forty years ago, in the shadow of the Watergate scandal, Americans were shocked to discover that the Internal Revenue Service maintained a “master list” of people and organizations it targeted for special scrutiny—a list dominated, The New York Times reported at the time, “by liberals, radicals, antiwar activists and blacks.” Senator Frank Church’s intelligence committee investigation would eventually determine that the IRS had been used during different administrations against both the left and the right. It urged sweeping reforms to address the fact that “men entrusted with power, even those aware of its dangers, tend, particularly when pressured, to slight liberty.”

Pope Francis Slams Global Financial System As 'Cult Of Money'

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has denounced the global financial system, blasting the "cult of money" that he says is tyrannizing the poor and turning humans into expendable consumer goods.

In his first major speech on the subject, Francis demanded Thursday that financial and political leaders reform the global financial system to make it more ethical and concerned for the common good. He said: "Money has to serve, not to rule!"

It's a message Francis delivered on many occasions when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, and it's one that was frequently stressed by retired Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis, who has made clear the poor are his priority, made the comments as he greeted his first group of new ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

Original Article
Author: AP

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant: Our Critics Are Fueled By 'Elitism'

It's not controversial pesticide-resistent crops that fuel Monsanto's critics, according to the company's CEO; it's their own desire to keep poor people from cheap food.

Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, told Bloomberg News in an interview that opponents of genetically-engineered crops, who can afford to choose what kind of food they buy, aren’t concerned with the needs of the rest of the world. And their opposition is preventing those in need from getting access to cheaper food.

OFA Refuses To Push On Keystone

WASHINGTON -- Top officials from President Barack Obama's campaign arm, which was recently rechristened as Organizing for Action, are working to dampen the passionate grassroots opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, just as the organization launches its campaign against climate change, according to donors and OFA members.

Leaders of the group have on multiple occasions told gatherings of activists and donors that OFA will not pressure the White House on Keystone regardless of its members' interest in the project, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would move heavy crude from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf. The administration recently pushed back a decision on approving the pipeline to November, December or even 2014. OFA's refusal to press the administration on the controversial Keystone project is reminiscent of its decision not to pressure Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on gun purchase background checks, despite -- or perhaps because of -- OFA Chairman Jim Messina's close relationship with him. Baucus voted against the president and subsequently announced his retirement.

Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Congressman, Ties School Shootings To Abortion Legalization

WASHINGTON -- Since mass shootings in places like Aurora and Newtown, lawmakers have been searching for answers for how to stop future massacres, examining issues like gun control and mental health. But in a speech this month, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) pointed to different culprits: the legalization of abortion and a demise in religious values.

Cramer made his remarks during a commencement address at the University of Mary on May 4. He decried a local TV anchor who was fired after accidentally swearing on air and then became an Internet sensation, as well as the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

Obama Speaks Of 'Going Bulworth' In Second Term

The New York Times reported that President Barack Obama has spoken privately of "going Bulworth," a reference to the 1998 Warren Beatty movie about a California Senate candidate who becomes unusually honest after having run as a centrist Democrat.

"Probably every president says that from time to time," Obama adviser David Axelrod told the Times. “It’s probably cathartic just to say it. But the reality is that while you want to be truthful, you want to be straightforward, you also want to be practical about whatever you’re saying."

Seasonal workers bear brunt of EI changes

Prime Minister Stephen Harper provided the premiers of Atlantic Canada with a sneak peek of what they can expect in their quest to derail recent changes to the federal Employment Insurance program.

During a visit to Summerside on Tuesday, the prime minister announced $7.7 million in funding from the Atlantic Innovation Fund to be provided to Prince Edward Island businesses.

RCMP under review over native women after scathing report

The civilian watchdog that oversees the RCMP is launching a public-interest investigation into the force’s treatment of aboriginal women and girls this week in response to a scathing report from a New York-based human-rights group.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP will examine policing issues in northern British Columbia, including officers’ use of force, police handling of missing-persons reports, and the treatment of young people. The investigation comes after a Human Rights Watch report detailed allegations of abuse and mistreatment by police and suggested the RCMP has failed to properly investigate a series of disappearances and suspected murders of aboriginal women.

Harper government should make Laskin papers public: Paillé

Prime Minister Stephen Harper should make former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bora Laskin’s papers public because they likely contain valuable information on Canada’s democracy and the repatriation of the Canadian constitution, says Bloc Québécois Leader Daniel Paillé.

In an interview with iPolitics, Paillé said Harper’s government has a “moral obligation” to open access to Laskin’s papers sitting in Library and Archives Canada.

Three brave women behind human rights case against former Guatemalan president

Former Guatemalan President Efrain Rios Montt was hauled off to prison last Friday. It was a historic moment, the first time in history that a former leader of a country was tried for genocide in a national court. More than three decades after he seized power in a coup in Guatemala, unleashing a U.S.-backed campaign of slaughter against his own people, the 86-year-old stood trial, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. He was given an 80-year prison sentence. The case was inspired and pursued by three brave Guatemalan women: the judge, the attorney general and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The only right thing left for Mike Duffy to do now is resign

The bailout of Mike Duffy by the prime minister’s chief of staff is so astonishingly ill-judged it is difficult to know where to begin. (Readers may wish to begin with the disclaimer at the bottom of this column.)

The willingness of the Senator from Kanata to take the money, a $90,000 personal cheque with which he was able to repay the expenses he falsely claimed, is unsurprising: it is of a piece with his behaviour throughout this affair. But it is hard to imagine what Nigel Wright could have been thinking.

Who you know in the PMO

The Conservatives should be very worried about the Mike Duffy scandal. Even Canadians who were willing to forgive waste, incompetence and disdain for Parliament, may not be willing to forgive a secret deal to pay off a senator’s debts to the public purse.

Mike Duffy’s claims of confusion over Senate residency requirements and expense rules were bad enough before CTV broke the news that Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s chief of staff, wrote a personal cheque to Duffy to help the senator pay back about $90,172 in expenses he should not have claimed. This happened before an audit was completed — an audit that confirmed Duffy did owe Canadians the money.

Duffy claimed Senate expenses while election campaigning

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy submitted expense claims while Parliament was dissolved during the last federal election, reporting he was on Senate business on days he appeared to be campaigning for the party.

The full extent of Duffy's Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator's claims and his repayment of $90,172.24.

Senate appointment set Duffy loose as high-profile Conservative

Within days of being sworn into office as a Conservative senator on Jan. 26, 2009, former broadcaster Mike Duffy began making waves with a series of ribald partisan barbs aimed at various detractors of his patron, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Duffy, barely a month departed from his Ottawa-based politics show on CTV, used an appearance at a Conservative event in Winsloe, P.E.I., to paint what he called "a grotesque scene" in which the provincial premier got "the shaft" after getting in bed with his Newfoundland counterpart.

Mayor Rob Ford under investigation for sticking magnets on cars

Mayor Rob Ford, sometimes described as a magnet for controversy, now faces a controversy about magnets.

Ford is being investigated by the city’s municipal licensing and standards department for sticking “Rob Ford Mayor” fridge magnets on dozens of cars in the parking lot of an Etobicoke church on Tuesday evening.

Fresh questions for Amazon over pittance it pays in tax

MPs are ready to haul Amazon back to parliament to answer new questions about its tax status in Britain after a Guardian investigation's findings suggest the online retailer is pushing the tax rulebook to its limits to minimise its tax bill.

Company filings showed Amazon's main UK company paid just £3.2m in corporation tax on sales of £320m last year. However, the Seattle-based group has told investors its 2012 UK sales were £4.2bn.

'Recessions can hurt, but austerity kills'

The austerity programmes administered by western governments in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis were, of course, intended as a remedy, a tough but necessary course of treatment to relieve the symptoms of debts and deficits and to cure recession. But if, David Stuckler says, austerity had been run like a clinical trial, "It would have been discontinued. The evidence of its deadly side-effects – of the profound effects of economic choices on health – is overwhelming."

Cambodia Building Collapse: Shoe Factory Accident Kills 2, Injures 7 In Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The ceiling of a Cambodian factory that makes Asics sneakers collapsed on workers early Thursday, killing two people and injuring seven, in the latest accident spotlighting the often lethal safety conditions faced by those toiling in the global garment industry.

About 50 workers were inside a workroom of the factory south of Phnom Penh when the ceiling caved in, said police officer Khem Pannara. He said heavy iron equipment stored on a mezzanine above them appeared to have caused the collapse.

Dimon Wields Large Influence Over Who Serves On JPMorgan Board

May 16 (Reuters) - For years, JPMorgan Chase & Co Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and other executives have hand-picked new directors, in a practice that is now unusual for a major U.S. bank.

The JPMorgan board's governance committee, responsible for hiring new members, relies almost entirely on referrals from management to find director nominees, according to two sources familiar with the bank's practices and a review of bank regulatory filings. All of the other 10 largest U.S. banks say they use executive search firms, which have knowledge of a range of possible candidates.

"The Other IRS Scandal": David Cay Johnston on Dark Money Political Groups Seeking Tax Exemption

The acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steven Miller, has been forced to resign days after the IRS apologized to tea party and other right-wing groups for putting extra scrutiny on their bids to become tax-exempt organizations. While the IRS targeting of tea party groups has made headlines for days, far less attention has been paid to the roots of the crisis. After the 2010 landmark Supreme Court decision Citizens United, there was a spike in new political organizations seeking tax-exempt status under tax code Section 501(c)(4). The court ruled these groups could raise unlimited corporate money without disclosing donor information. Several groups have claimed to be social welfare organizations while spending tens of millions of dollars on political operations. We speak to David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes about taxes issues. "One of the questions that needs to be examined in the real scandal here is: How did MoveOn, how did Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, how did Bill Burton’s progressive Democratic group get approved as exclusively social welfare organizations?" Johnston says. "There are a bunch of folks out there arguing that, well, 'primarily,' that phrase that pops up in IRS regulations, can mean 49.9 percent of your activity. I’m sorry, is there an adult in America who’s been in a romantic relationship who thinks that 'exclusively' is 49 percent of the time?"

Author: --

CFTC Waters Down Derivatives Rule In Victory For Wall Street

The U.S. regulator overseeing the derivatives market is set to retreat from an ambitious proposal that would have increased competition in the swaps market, handing victory to large banks including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will vote Thursday on final rules that will govern a large portion of transactions in the $633 trillion swaps market. Some derivatives are known as swaps because they “swap” risk from one party to another.

Voter Turnout: BC Election Results 2013 By Numbers

Just over half of British Columbia’s eligible voters showed up to election polls, according to early figures released Wednesday.

Data collected from Elections BC’s preliminary election day results and advance turnout figures suggest 52 per cent of the province's eligible voters voted in Tuesday’s election.

RCMP Members Watch Porn, Snoop On Spouses, Files Show

From snooping on spouses to downloading pornography, a number of RCMP members in Manitoba have been disciplined for abusing their time on duty and the resources available to them on the job.

RCMP documents obtained by CBC News reveal the disciplinary actions taken against 10 members of Manitoba's D Division between the beginning of 2010 and September 2012.

PM's chief of staff paid off Mike Duffy's Senate expenses

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright wrote a personal cheque worth more than $90,000 to pay back Senator Mike Duffy's living expenses, Harper's office confirmed Wednesday.

"Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do," Harper's spokesman Andrew MacDougall said in a statement.

Israel's Poverty Rate The Highest In Developed World

Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world, Haaretz concludes based on a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The newspaper notes that with a poverty rate of 20.9 percent, Israel scores lowest out of 34 economically developed countries. The country also has one of the biggest gaps between its rich and poor in the developed world .

Progress on US-Russia Peace Talks on Syria?

John McCain, who seems never to have met a country he didn’t want to bomb, now appears never to have seen a peace conference he didn’t want to wreck.

Speaking about the current plans to convene a conference on Syria involving both the government of President Assad and the rebels, and co-sponsored by the United States and Russia, McCain had this comment:

    It’s fine with me to have meeting or gathering or conference or whatever it is. But the only way that the Russians are going to be cooperative on this effort is if they believe that Assad is losing. That’s why we should act before any conference takes place…. That means a no-fly zone, that means [giving] heavy weapons to the resistance.

Hefty Insurance Industry Donation Helped Small Business Group Fight Obamacare

The insurance industry helped one of the nation's leading small business groups to push its anti-Obamacare message with a hefty financial donation, the National Journal reported on Tuesday.

According to the news report, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a trade group for small businesses, quietly accepted a donation of $850,000 in 2011 from a large health insurance lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). NFIB is not required to disclose its donors.

Food Stamp Cuts Pursued By GOP, Despite Shrinking Deficit

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans are seeking deeper cuts to nutrition programs this year even as the federal budget deficit is shrinking faster than expected.

The deficit-obsessed House GOP wanted a $16 billion cut to food assistance last year, when the deficit topped $1 trillion, and now wants a $20 billion cut this year, when the deficit is expected to be $642 billion. What gives?

Hundreds Protest Koch Brothers' Possible Ownership Of LA Times

Hundreds of Angelenos, some wearing masks of the billionaire Koch brothers, marched in downtown LA Tuesday to protest the industrialists' possible takeover of the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers.

Union workers, environmentalists and others chanted "Say no to Koch" and "No Koch hate in LA" outside the office of Bruce Karsh, chairman of the Tribune Co. and president of Oaktree Capital Management, the largest Tribune shareholder.

Obama Student Loan Policy Generates $51 Billion Profit, Causing Democrats To Lash Out

Two members of the Senate banking committee on Wednesday criticized excess government profits generated off loans made to student borrowers and their families, increasing pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to reform student lending programs.

“Wall Street, student loan servicers, and now the government are reaping profits at the expense of students,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “When everyone is benefiting from student loan policy except students and graduates, we have a problem.”

Eric Holder: Subpoenas For Hundreds Of Journalist Phone Records May Be Okay

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he may be comfortable with subpoenaing the phone records of hundreds of journalists if warranted by the facts of a hypothetical case.

“In a hypothetical situation, we’re gonna go after and subpoena hundreds of phone lines, phone records for journalists. Does that offend you as an American?” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) asked Holder.