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.]

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Marijuana Dispensaries Becoming Exclusive Domain Of The 1 Percent

Once a business proposition that required little more than a few thousand dollars and some gardening equipment, selling medical marijuana is quickly becoming a dream fit only for deep-pocketed entrepreneurs.

Regulations in states that only recently legalized medical marijuana are mandating that would-be dispensary operators set aside large amounts of cash before even applying for a license, tipping the scales in favor of businesspeople with money to burn. Drawn-out licensing processes being devised in those states mean permits to run dispensaries will likely only go to those able to afford a cadre of consultants and lawyers.

John Lewis On Voting Rights Act: Supreme Court 'Put A Dagger In The Heart' Of The Law

Civil rights hero and longtime congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) reacted in dismay to the Supreme Court's ruling striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday.

Discussing the decision with ABC's Jeff Zeleny after it was announced, Lewis said the Supreme Court had "put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act."

In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down the provision of the civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws precleared by the Justice Department or a special federal court.

How the PMO Became the Butt of Its Own Protest

Political staffers always walk a fine line between what they are willing to do and what they shouldn't be doing when it comes to partisan political activities. Today we have a good example of that with allegations in the media that PMO staff had a direct involvement in organizing and coordinating the demonstration that took place earlier this month when Justin Trudeau gave his outdoor press conference.

Kudos to the Liberal Party research team that was able to track down the names and bios of the Conservative interns that took part in that demonstration. That is a job well done. A search of that magnitude can be pretty time consuming, but for political partisans it is always fun to embarrass your political opponent. But wait a minute, party research offices are funded by the taxpayers, in this case the Liberals got $1.2 million. The Liberals will be walking a fine line when complaining about the Conservatives using taxpayer's money for partisan activities when their own researchers are also paid by the taxpayers.

Why has the Official Opposition not gained the respect it should have earned?

Here's a dilemma.

You are the Official Opposition and have, by all accounts, been doing a more-than-competent and effective job in Parliament.

But, for all that, you seem to get too little recognition or respect.

That seems to be the dilemma of the NDP as Parliament's summer break gets under way.

Chronicle of a disaster foretold: Calgary and the floods

The frequency with which Canada experiences events such as heavy rainfall of a given intensity (known as the return period), is projected to increase such that an event that occurred on average once every 50 years will be likely to occur about once every 35 years by 2050." -- Telling the Weather Story, Insurance Bureau of Canada, 2012

My city, a vibrant place that often transcends the province's narcissistic oil culture, has had a Manhattan moment.

Welcome to the (Don't Be) Evil Empire

Finally, journalists have started criticizing in earnest the leviathans of Silicon Valley, notably Google, now the world’s third-largest company in market value. The new round of discussion began even before the revelations that the tech giants were routinely sharing our data with the National Security Agency, or maybe merging with it. Simultaneously another set of journalists, apparently unaware that the weather has changed, is still sneering at San Francisco, my hometown, for not lying down and loving Silicon Valley’s looming presence.

Whistleblowers Are Not the Enemy

What a disgrace. The US government, cheered on by much of the media, launches an international manhunt to capture a young American whose crime is that he dared challenge the excess of state power. Read the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and tell me that Edward Snowden is not a hero in the mold of those who founded this republic. Check out the Nuremberg war crime trials and ponder our current contempt for the importance of individual conscience as a civic obligation.
Yes, Snowden has admitted that he violated the terms of his employment at Booz Allen Hamilton, which has the power to grant security clearances as well as profiting mightily from spying on the American taxpayers who pay to be spied on without ever being told that is where their tax dollars are going. Snowden violated the law in the same way that Daniel Ellsberg did when, as a RAND Corporation employee, he leaked the damning Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War that the taxpayers had paid for but were not allowed to read.

In both instances, violating a government order was mandated by the principle that the United States trumpeted before the world in the Nuremberg war crime trials of German officers and officials. As Principle IV of what came to be known as the Nuremberg Code states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

That is a heavy obligation, and the question we should be asking is not why do folks like Ellsberg, Snowden and Bradley Manning do the right thing, but rather why aren’t we bringing charges against the many others with access to such damning data of government malfeasance who remain silent?

Is there an international manhunt being organized to bring to justice Dick Cheney, the then-vice president who seized upon the pain and fear of 9/11 to make lying to the public the bedrock of American foreign policy? This traitor to the central integrity of a representative democracy dares condemn Snowden as a “traitor” and suggest that he is a spy for China because he took temporary refuge in Hong Kong.

The Chinese government, which incidentally does much to finance our massive military budget, was embarrassed by the example of Snowden and was quick to send him on his way. Not so ordinary folk in Hong Kong, who clearly demonstrated their support of the man as an exponent of individual conscience.

So too did Albert Ho, who volunteered his considerable legal skills in support of Snowden, risking the ire of Hong Kong officials. Ho, whom The New York Times describes as “a longtime campaigner for full democracy [in Hong Kong], to the irritation of government leaders of the territory,” is an example of the true democrats around the world who support Snowden, contradicting Cheney’s smear.

But US Democrats have also been quick to join the shoot-the-messenger craze, ignoring the immense significance of Snowden’s revelations. Take Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Fool me once and shame on her, fool me dozens of times, as Feinstein has, and I feel like a blithering idiot having voted for her. After years of covering up for the intelligence bureaucracy, Feinstein is now chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and clearly for some time has been in a position to know the inconvenient truths that Snowden and others before him have revealed.

Did she know that the NSA had granted Booz Allen Hamilton such extensive access to our telephone and Internet records? Did she grasp that the revolving door between Booz Allen and the NSA meant that this was a double-dealing process involving high officials swapping out between the government and the war profiteers? Did she know that the security system administered by Booz Allen was so lax that young Snowden was given vast access to what she now feels was very sensitive data? Or that private companies like Booz Allen were able to hand out “top security” clearances to their employees, and that there now are 1.4 million Americans with that status?

As with her past cover-ups of government lying going back to the phony weapons of mass destruction claims made to justify the Iraq War, Feinstein, like so many in the government, specializes in plausible deniability. She smugly assumes the stance of the all-knowing expert on claimed intelligence success while pretending to be shocked at the egregious failures. She claims not to have known of the extent of the invasion of our privacy and at the same time says she is assured that the information gained “has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks. …” If so, why did she not come clean with the American public and say this is what we are doing to you and why?

Instead, Feinstein failed horribly in the central obligation of a public servant to inform the public and now serves as prosecutor, judge and jury in convicting Snowden hours after his name was in the news: “He violated the oath, he violated the law. It’s treason,” she said.

Treason is a word that dictators love to hurl at dissidents, and when both Cheney and Feinstein bring it back into favor, you know that courageous whistle-blowers like Snowden are not the enemy.

Original Article
Author: Robert Scheer

Poof! The IRS Scandal Evaporates

Republicans on Capitol Hill have sought to turn the IRS mess into a full-fledged political scandal, charging that President Obama or his White House or at least liberal IRS staffers deliberately tried to punish tea partiers and other conservative outfits. But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) & Co. have come up empty-handed. A Treasury Department inspector general found no evidence of political influence or bias. The head of the IRS division in question in Cincinnati identified himself to investigators as a "conservative Republican" and said politics played no role in their vetting decisions. And now it turns out, as the Associated Press reported, the IRS also singled out for extra scrutiny groups applying for nonprofit status with "progressive, "occupy," and "Israel" in their name. That is, liberal outfits were targeted, too. Oops.

Right To Be Forgotten: Google Gets Support From European Court Of Justice

AMSTERDAM - A top lawyer at the European Court of Justice said Tuesday that Google and other search engines should not have to remove web pages containing personal information from their search indexes.

In a blow for the "right to be forgotten" privacy principle in Europe, the court's independent Advocate General, Niilo Jaaskinen, said in a formal opinion that websites, not Google, should bear responsibility for information they publish.

Ford Friend, Now Staffer, Made Calls To Mayor's Radio Show

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is employing a man who has made repeated calls to his weekly radio show in the past, CBC News has learned.

- CBC interactive: The Agony of Rob Ford

- Special report: The Rob Ford crack scandal

The mayor and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, have hosted a radio show on Newstalk 1010 for more than a year.

Oakland Police Department Settlement: City May Pay $1 Million To Protesters

The City of Oakland has agreed to pay approximately $1 million to end a lawsuit filed on behalf of 150 demonstrators alleging police misconduct in their 2010 mass arrest.

The preliminary settlement approved by a federal judge ends the class-action lawsuit filed by the National Lawyers Guild on behalf of 150 people arrested but not charged with a crime during a protest in November 2010. The protest followed the sentencing of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle for the shooting death of Oscar Grant, which the demonstrators complained was unacceptably light.

Obama Hates Medical Marijuana And He Doesn't Care What The States Think

Lawmakers across the country are fed up with the Obama administration's disrespect for local marijuana laws.

On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution asking the federal government to allow states to implement their own marijuana policies and to stop draining limited resources by targeting marijuana in states where it is legal for medical and recreational uses. A bipartisan group in Congress has also introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from interfering with state marijuana laws.

Hillary Clinton: China Damaged U.S. Relationship By Allowing Edward Snowden To Flee

LOS ANGELES -- Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that China damaged its relationship with the U.S. by allowing National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to flee from Hong Kong, despite a U.S. request to arrest him for extradition.

"That kind of action is not only detrimental to the U.S.-China relationship but it sets a bad precedent that could unravel the intricate international agreements about how countries respect the laws – and particularly the extradition treaties," the former secretary of state and possible 2016 presidential contender told an audience in Los Angeles.

Vladimir Putin: Edward Snowden Still In Moscow Airport Transit Zone, Won't Be Extradited

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin bluntly rejected U.S. pleas to extradite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday, saying Snowden is free to travel wherever he wants and insisting that Russian security agencies haven't contacted him.

Snowden is in the transit zone of a Moscow airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, Putin said, meaning he is not technically in Russia.

Roberts's Rules of Order

In his impeccable Senate confirmation performance in 2005, John Roberts provided for himself a sort of mission statement. As chief justice, he pledged to be restrained, modest, and deferential toward precedents and legislatures; he would seek consensus and not decide more than was necessary to resolve a case. Modesty,  he testified, “means an appreciation that the role of the judge is limited, that a judge is to decide the cases before them, they’re not to legislate, they’re not to execute the laws…. It is their job to say what the law is.” Congressional Republicans, ecstatic about President George W. Bush’s selection of such an impressive nominee, perceived that the conservative legal revolution was finally at hand. They proudly presented Roberts to the nation as the very model of a Supreme Court justice.

What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Understand About the Voting Rights Act

No sooner had the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, after two hundred years of slavery and nearly 100 years of Jim Crow, than Southern conservatives, who failed to stop the law, began to attack it. South Carolina mounted the first constitutional challenge to the law only a month after it was enacted. President Nixon tried to weaken the law take the “monkey…off the backs off the South,” as did Presidents Ford in 1975 and Reagan in 1982. Every effort to gut the VRA failed. Each time the law’s constitutionality was challenged, in 1966, 1973, 1980 and 1999, the Supreme Court upheld the act. Every congressional reauthorization, in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006, made the law stronger, not weaker, in protecting voting rights. Each Congressional reauthorization was signed by a Republican president, cementing the bipartisan consensus supporting the VRA. “The Voting Rights Act became one of the most consequential, efficacious, and amply justified exercises of federal legislative power in our Nation’s history,” Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent today.

The Best Lines From Ginsburg's Dissent on the Voting Rights Act Decision

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a fiery dissent to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Tuesday striking down the part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that determines which cities and states need to seek approval from the Department of Justice before changing their voting laws. The provision was designed to focus attention on areas with a history of discrimination. "Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the VRA," Ginsburg wrote.

Supreme Court: The Voting Rights Act Worked—So Now It's Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, ruling that the United States had sufficiently moved beyond its Jim Crow past and has rendered the law's formulas unconstitutional. Writing for the conservative 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, who has a long history of trying to undermine this law, struck down Section 4 of the act. This part of the law determines which states and counties must adhere to strict guidelines governing any change to their voting laws. (The point of this provision is to prevent regions that have a history of fiddling with voting laws to discriminate against certain groups from trying such stunts again.)

Al Sharpton: Supreme Court 'Canceled' Martin Luther King's Dream

MSNBC was the first cable news network to turn to the news of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday.

Both MSNBC and NBC simultaneously aired legal correspondent Pete Williams' take on the case. Williams said that the Court had struck down a "key part" of the Act by ruling that one of its sections was unconstitutional.

"It's a huge defeat for the civil rights community on the most important civil rights law ever passed," he said.

Voting Rights Act Section 4 Struck Down By Supreme Court

The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.

The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

Harper government eliminated reviews for oilsands projects following warnings of water disruption

OTTAWA — The federal government removed some oilsands projects from a list of those requiring environmental screenings, after being told in an internal memorandum that this form of industrial development could disturb water sources and harm fish habitat.

The memo to the deputy minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, dated May 5, 2011, came a year before Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government introduced hundreds of pages of changes to Canada’s environmental laws, which will allow the government to exclude some oilsands projects from reviews.

TransCanada plans pipeline through Ottawa

OTTAWA — TransCanada Corp.’s proposal for its massive $5-billion Energy East pipeline project could send as many as 850,000 barrels of crude oil a day through rural areas in the south end of Ottawa and across the Rideau River.

The “conceptual” route map for TransCanada’s cross-country pipeline sees oil routed east near Highway 7, through the former municipality of Richmond, then south near Malakoff Road. From there it will transport oil through environmentally sensitive lands around the Rideau River before passing through the waterway. The pipeline will then continue further southeast, through North Grenville, a neighbouring municipality that includes Kemptville.

Harper's Military Jacket A Tribute To The Troops, Spokesperson Says

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew to Calgary Friday to see first-hand the damage caused by floods in southern Alberta, it was hard not to notice the green jacket.

In each picture, whether aboard his helicopter or surveying the devastation with Premier Alison Redford and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Harper could be seen sporting a military flight jacket with wings.

One could say he looked downright presidential.

How Canada's banks help money move in and out of tax havens

The murky world of offshore finance physically resides mainly in tropical islands, but it is not a world unto itself. As the recent leak of secret tax-haven files attests, offshore havens rely for their existence on the financial infrastructure of the big wealthy countries.

And in Canada, our banks play a role.

Where Is Edward Snowden? Ecuador Foreign Minister Says He Doesn't Know

QUITO, Ecuador -- Edward Snowden's stop-and-start flight across the globe appeared to stall in Moscow as the United States ratcheted up pressure to hand over the National Security Agency leaker who had seemed on his way to Ecuador to seek asylum.

In Ecuador's most extensive statement about the case, the foreign minister hailed Snowden on Monday as "a man attempting to bring light and transparency to facts that affect everyone's fundamental liberties."

Insider Threat: Government Employees Urged to Tattle On Coworkers in Effort to Stop Classified Leaks

As the media focuses almost exclusively on Edward Snowden’s possible whereabouts, more details on the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers have come to light. A new investigative report has revealed the administration’s crackdown on leaks extends far beyond high-profile cases like Snowden or the Associated Press, to the vast majority of government agencies and departments — even those with no connection to intelligence or national security. For nearly two years, the White House has waged a program called "Insider Threat" that forces government employees to remain on the constant lookout for their colleagues’ behavior and to report their suspicions. It targets government officials who leak any information, not just classified material. All of this leads McClatchy to warn: "The [Insider Threat] program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations." We’re joined by the reporter who helped break the story, Jonathan Landay, senior national security and intelligence reporter for McClatchy Newspapers. Landay also discusses his reporting that revealed how drone strikes carried out in Pakistan over a four-year period ran contrary to standards set forth publicly by President Obama.

Author: --

Trudeau Protest Was Manned By Tory Interns And Organized By PMO

OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office orchestrated a protest earlier this month at which Conservative party interns mocked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau during an open-air news conference.

It is the latest revelation about the lengths to which Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office — the nerve centre of the federal government — will go to meddle in partisan politics. Staff in the PMO, who help the party plot election strategy and who designed the first round of attack ads against Trudeau, have also been behind recent negative stories about his speaking fees.

New Brunswick: Tensions rise as anti-fracking protests dig in is very pleased to partner with Montreal activist and writer Claire Stewart-Kanigan to provide daily coverage from the front lines of the Indigenous and allied resistance to fracking in New Brunswick. Stewart-Kanigan, who drove from Montreal this weekend with Grand Elder Raymond Robinson and other activists, will be filing daily dispatches while living in the anti-fracking encampment. You can also follow her on Twitter for regular updates @CStewartKanigan

Tensions are rising at the Highway 126 anti-fracking camp near Elsipogtog First Nation in Kent County, New Brunswick (traditional regional name: the Wabanakik). With the total number of arrests climbing from 17 to 29 on Friday, National Aboriginal Day -- and the heat of last weekend's confrontation, which led to the hospitalization of a community member, still heavy in the air -- a sense of momentum is palpable.

Senators Say There's A 'Significant' Inaccuracy In NSA Surveillance Fact Sheet

WASHINGTON -- Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) called on the director of the National Security Agency to correct what they called a "significant" inaccuracy in a fact sheet about the agency's use of the law that underpins its Internet surveillance program.

Demonizing Edward Snowden: Which Side Are You On?

As I write this, a bunch of reporters are flying from Moscow to Havana on an Aeroflot Airbus 330, but Edward Snowden isn’t sitting among them. His whereabouts are unknown. He might still be in the V.I.P. lounge at Sheremetyevo International Airport. He could have left on another plane. There are even suggestions that he has taken shelter in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow.

Standing Athwart History Shouting, 'Okay, Spy on Us Constantly'

On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer commented on the FBI's use of surveillance drones in the United States, articulating a coherent position for a conservative: If there's a natural disaster, or a specific, serious crime, like the kidnapping of a child held on a remote property, then using surveillance drones is okay, if there's a court order and a warrant giving permission to deploy the technology. "What I think has to be made clear at the beginning of the entire era of drones, we should never have it up there like a stationary camera in the streets of London," he said, "operating all the time, and having a view all the time of public spaces, or obviously private spaces."

Is Canada a petro-state?

Calgary-based author and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk says Canada has become a “rogue petrostate” under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, and he’s taken to the pages of an influential American magazine to make his case.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Nikiforuk says Canada has shed its polite, boy-scout ethic and now pursues a reckless domestic and foreign policy platform, fuelled by “the cursed elixir of political dysfunction — oil.”

6 Mind-Blowing Stats on How 1 Percent of the 1 Percent Now Dominate Our Elections

Here's a statistic that should jolt you awake like black coffee with three shots of espresso dropped in: In the 2012 election cycle, 28 percent of all disclosed donations—that's $1.68 billion—came from just 31,385 people. Think of them as the 1 percenters of the 1 percent, the elite of the elite, the wealthiest of the wealthy.

That's the blockbuster finding in an eye-popping new report by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan transparency advocate. The report's author, Lee Drutman, calls the 1 percent of the 1 percent "an elite class that increasingly serves as the gatekeepers of public office in the United States." This rarefied club of donors, Drutman found, worked in high-ranking corporate positions (often in finance or law). They're clustered in New York City and Washington, DC. Most are men. You might've heard of some of them: casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Texas waste tycoon Harold Simmons, Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Glenn Greenwald Is 'Aiding and Abetting' Democracy

Imagine if the Sunday morning talk shows had existed in 1776.

Surely, they would have welcomed the most widely read and provocative journalist of that historic year.

Perhaps the hosts would have asked Tom Paine if he felt that by penning articles calling out the hypocrisy of colonial officials—and incendiary pamphlets such as Common Sense—he was “aiding and abetting” the revolutionaries that King George III imagined to be “traitors.”

'A Slow-Motion Train Wreck': The Real Consequences of the Sequester

The Republican-led House voted to eliminate $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending through 2022 during the much-publicized sequester, causing widespread pain and havoc through American communities, the effects of which we’re starting to see. In some cases, these cuts are stripping the clothes from children’s backs and taking food and shelter from the needy.

In Kentucky and Southern Indiana regions, tens of thousands of individuals are receiving smaller emergency unemployment checks, while thousands of elderly will be receiving fewer meals from federal assistance programs.

Race at the Supreme Court

In a trio of decisions on race discrimination, the Supreme Court today stepped back from the precipice of invalidating affirmative action in university admissions, but made it harder for victims of discrimination and harassment to sue their employers. In Fisher v. University of Texas, one of the most important and closely watched cases of the term, the Court reached a nearly unanimous compromise decision that essentially leaves intact the constitutional status quo, which permits affirmative action for diversity purposes. But the decision may make it easier for disappointed white students to challenge affirmative action plans and therefore invites further litigation.

Conservative MPs seek $355K from voters who launched robocalls court case

OTTAWA – Seven Conservative MPs are seeking a combined $355,907 from a group of voters who went to court and lost their bid to overturn election results in their federal ridings because of misleading robocalls.

A document recently filed in Federal Court says the Tories are asking for a “modest fixed amount” in legal fees plus disbursements.