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, June 27, 2013

Ecuador breaks US trade pact to thwart 'blackmail' over Snowden asylum

Ecuador has ramped up its defiance of the US over Edward Snowden by waiving preferential trade rights with Washington even as the whistleblower's prospect of reaching Quito dimmed.

President Rafael Correa's government said on Thursday it was renouncing the Andean Trade Preference Act to thwart US "blackmail" of Ecuador in the former NSA contractor's asylum request.

CRTC approves Bell Canada purchase of Astral Media

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has approved the $4-billion acquisition of Astral Media by Bell Canada Enterprises.

The companies had their merger rejected by the CRTC last fall.

But an amended version of the deal won over the commissioners — even though it applied some new conditions in response to the fact that Bell will have a 35.8 per cent share of the English-language television market in Canada.

David Gergen: Obama Administration 'Went Way Over The Line' With Journalists

David Gergen weighed in on the debate about the NSA leaks, telling HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin that the White House has crossed the line in some of its dealings with journalists.

The Obama administration recently came under fire over revelations that the DOJ secretly monitored phone records at the Associated Press and named Fox News reporter James Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in a leaks case. Both of those controversies prompted questions about whether the White House would investigate Glenn Greenwald for his bombshell stories about the NSA's secret domestic surveillance programs.

The Expendables: How The Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed

It's 4:18 a.m. and the strip mall is deserted. But tucked in back, next to a closed-down video store, an employment agency is already filling up. Rosa Ramirez walks in, as she has done nearly every morning for the past six months. She signs in and sits down in one of the 100 or so blue plastic chairs that fill the office. Over the next three hours, dispatchers will bark out the names of who will work today. Rosa waits, wondering if she will make her rent.

Egyptians to Morsi: "We Don't Want You"

Egypt is bracing for June 30. Anticipation for the first anniversary of the inauguration of President Mohammed Morsi has reached a fever pitch, as millions prepare to take to the streets to demand his removal from office. Fears of a showdown between protesters and the president’s supporters have led people to stock up on food and fuel supplies. The military and police are deploying extra forces and barriers around public buildings and army tanks have reportedly taken up positions outside the capital.

Rob Ford: Ontario Liberals Balancing Budget On Backs Of Poor

TORONTO - Ontario's governing Liberals are trying to eliminate their $11.7-billion deficit on the backs of the city's most vulnerable residents, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford charged Thursday.

The province's decision to kill a special fund that helps pay for Toronto's social programs will force the city to make cuts to social housing that will have a "devastating impact," he said.

The trouble with Obama's plan for the climate crisis: Too much fracking, too little urgency

Environmentalists warn that President Obama's 'climate plan' -- announced Tuesday in a speech at Georgetown University -- does not contain the urgency required by the fast-spiraling crisis of global warming and climate change and that though some aspects were welcome, the overall approach falls well short of what's needed.

The plan hinges on Obama's claim that he plans to use his presidential powers to override a Congress under 'partisan deadlock' and order the Environmental Protection Agency to impose carbon emissions limits on current and new power plants.

Complete vindication for Council of Canadians' role in funding electoral fraud court case

Amidst all the excitement around the Federal Court's May 23, 2013 decision (pdf) in which the court held that "electoral fraud occurred during the 41st General Election," the court was also asked to dismiss the applications outright on the basis of how the applicants were funding their legal bills.

This was one of many tactics employed by the respondent Members of Parliament (MPs) to derail the litigation and prevent it from ever being heard.

This issue around how the litigation was funded is of general importance in the context of public interest litigation. In public interest cases, the litigants, whether non profits or individuals, have limited financial means to pursue the litigation. Funding public interest litigation only gets harder and harder, so it was refreshing to see a complete vindication of the funding of this case by the Council of Canadians.

Outside the Texas Death Chamber

Huntsville, Texas—At 4 pm on June 26, the road in front of the tall red brick perimeter walls of Huntsville’s prison is quiet, but Texas State Troopers begin to cordon it off with yellow tape in anticipation of what’s about to happen.

In an hour, some fifty men and women will have gathered at the western end of the road, waving banners that read “Stop Executions,” “Don’t Kill For Me,” and “Abolish the Racist Death Penalty.” By 6 pm their numbers will have swollen to around sixty and they’ll be shouting, some of them gathering by the yellow tape and causing the ranks of troopers to swell too.

NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama

The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata "every 90 days". A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.

Forced to Work Sick? That's Fine With Disney, Red Lobster, and Their Friends at ALEC

Before jetting off last week for a trade mission at the Paris Air Show, Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott took a moment to sign into law a bill that banned local governments from requiring employers to offer paid sick leave. The restaurant industry and Florida's big theme parks lobbied hard for the passage of the legislation, which blocked local efforts to give low-wage workers a basic benefit that's standard in virtually every industrialized country in the world except the United States.

The Florida law is the most recent in a series of victories by low-wage industries that, with the aid of Republican-led state legislatures, have succeeded in derailing or overriding measures providing this benefit to workers. Working behind the scenes in this campaign is a familiar foe of employee rights, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose membership includes a range of major corporations and industry groups. The corporate-funded organization's model "preemption" legislation—disallowing municipalities from enacting their own paid leave laws—have been introduced by state legislators around the country.

Federal Reserve Not Helping Student Loan Borrowers, Top Official Says

The Federal Reserve's efforts to help households with student debt are being stymied, a top regulator said Wednesday, preventing millions of distressed borrowers from benefiting from cheap borrowing costs and likely increasing pressure on fiscal authorities to act.

At nearly $1.2 trillion, the amount of outstanding student debt eclipses all other forms of household debt except home mortgages. Yet while interest rates on home loans and other common forms of debt have fallen over the past few years, enabling millions of borrowers to refinance into cheaper rates, student debt is nearly impossible to refinance, federal regulators have said.

Tim Huelskamp Readies Constitutional Amendment To Ban Gay Marriage

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional isn't stopping Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) from trying to block same-sex marriages through another route: by amending the U.S. Constitution.

Huelskamp said he plans to introduce the Federal Marriage Amendment later this week, a measure that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. DOMA did the same thing, but was a federal law, not a constitutional amendment. As such, the Federal Marriage Act is more far-reaching but also a tougher climb. It requires the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the states, or 38 states.

What the G.O.P. Can Learn From DOMA and the Roberts Court

On a day when gay-rights activists have been cheering from the steps of the Supreme Court to Greenwich Village to the West Coast, an interesting question arises: Just how conservative is the Roberts Court?

Not so long ago, the answer seemed straightforward. In reviewing the Court’s record back in 2010, shortly after the Citizens United decision that upended the nation’s campaign-finance laws, Adam Liptak, the Times’ SCOTUS man, reported that it had “not only moved to the right but also became the most conservative one in living memory,” and cited some academic research to support his case. In more than sixty per cent of cases, the data showed, the Roberts Court had issued conservative rulings.

The Six-Point-Four-Billion-Dollar Question: Will the Redford Tories drop their budget balancing act?

It is not unreasonable, in a purely academic sort of way, to recognize that no major natural event happens without political consequences.

As Mitt Romney, the now nearly forgotten Republican candidate in last November's U.S. election lamented not long after he was soundly beaten by President Barack Obama, "obviously, a hurricane with a week to go before the election stalled our campaign."

Hurricane Sandy may or may not have actually damaged Romney's presidential chances. Certainly the president's pitch-perfect reaction to the disaster did Obama no harm. But under the circumstances the Republican contender's reaction was understandable enough.

Did Russia, China Harvest Snowden's Secrets?

President Obama is risking a serious break in relations with both Russia and China over the travels of Edward Snowden. “We are not looking for a confrontation,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. But the United States just might get one if it’s not careful.

Snowden, still apparently hanging out in the transit area of Moscow’s airport, isn’t talking. But, at least in the view of US intelligence specialists, it’s all too late, and both China and Russia have harvested Snowden’s classified bounty.

Pamela Wallin says she has Saskatchewan health card

Senator Pamela Wallin has broken her silence about her health card, saying she's got a Saskatchewan one.

Staff for the senator who calls Wadena, Sask., her home told reporters Wednesday that Wallin indeed has a Saskatchewan health card. Reporters have been asking her that question for months.

However, when asked how long Wallin has had a Saskatchewan health card, Wallin's office didn't answer.

Wendy Davis: Rick Perry Has 'Made A Mockery' Of Texas' Rules

Less than 24 hours after an epic abortion bill filibuster propelled her into the national spotlight, Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) went directly after Gov. Rick Perry (R) on national television.

Perry ordered the Texas State Legislature Wednesday to meet for another 30-day special session on a plan that would impose severe abortion restrictions, including the closure of nearly every clinic in the state. Part of Perry's official statement cast Tuesday's events as a "breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do."

Bill C-377: Tory Senators Gut Union Disclosure Bill Backed By Harper Government

OTTAWA - The already testy relationship between Conservative MPs and the Senate hit more rocks Wednesday, as a group of Tory senators helped to gut a bill backed by their colleagues in the House of Commons.

The private member's bill would have forced unions to file financial statements, making public any expenses over $5,000, along with the salaries of their employees making more than $100,000.

Attorney General can't clarify which law keeps Bill Blair mum on Rob Ford

Attorney General John Gerretsen said he does not know what law is preventing Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair from commenting on whether Mayor Rob Ford is under criminal investigation.

“You’d have to ask him about what law he’s citing then,” Gerretsen told the Star on Wednesday.

Blair has repeatedly refused to answer questions about any potential Ford link to the Project Traveller drugs-and-guns investigation, whether there is a criminal probe of the mayor’s office, or if police have recovered a video appearing to show him smoking crack cocaine.

The Voting Rights Act: An End to Racism by Judicial Order

Among the many things that can be gleaned from Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision eviscerating the Voting Rights Act is this: we live in an era of American history which is, if not actually post-racial, then officially post-racism. Race may still exist as a social reality—and so may racism—but no amalgamation of facts, studies, or disparities is sufficient to the cause of proving that there exists a system which produces inequality. In short: we have overcome whether the data agrees with us or not. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion:

    In 1965, the States could be divided into those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the Nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.

CEOs Paid 273 Times More Than Workers In 2012: Study

The average CEO makes hundreds of times what the average worker makes. And the average CEO probably didn't earn it all.

The average chief executive of one of the 350 biggest U.S. companies made about $14.07 million in 2012, including exercised stock options, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. In contrast, the average national pay for a non-supervisory worker was $51,200 last year. That means that in a typical top-350 company, the CEO made 273 times more than worker drones, by the EPI's estimate.

Rick Perry Calls Second Special Session To Pass Abortion Restrictions

AUSTIN, Texas — After a one-woman filibuster and a raucous crowd helped derail a GOP-led effort to restrict Texas abortions, Gov. Rick Perry announced Wednesday that he's calling lawmakers back next week to try again.

Perry ordered the Legislature to meet July 1 to begin 30 more days of work. Like the first special session, which ended in chaos overnight, the second one will include on its agenda a Republican-backed plan that critics say would close nearly every abortion clinic across the state and impose other widespread limits on the procedure.

Equality Under Law—Now You See It, Now You Don’t

It was the best of weeks and the worst of weeks at the Supreme Court. Today the Court struck down a law that erased the marriages of same-sex couples from the benefits and burdens of all federal programs, and pulled the plug on efforts to keep a ban on gay marriages alive in California. These two decisions—especially the one on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act—took the Court to a new high in establishing formal equality under law regardless of sexual orientation. On Monday and Tuesday, however, the Court battered affirmative action, eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and added new obstacles to individuals who file anti-discrimination claims under Title VII.

The Supreme Court's Constitutional Hypocrisy

In his dissent in the Defense of Marriage Act case today, Justice Scalia wrote: “We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.”

Justice Roberts wrote in his concurrence: “I agree with Justice Scalia that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review the decisions of the courts below… I also agree with Justice Scalia that Congress acted constitutionally in passing the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Immigration Reform: Good News for Contractors

On Monday, the Senate voted 67-27 to clear a path for the bipartisan passage of comprehensive immigration reform by ending debate on the border security compromise reached by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). But many senators voted for their so-called "border surge" amendment with major reservations about its costs, projected to add $40 billion to a bill already expected to cost $6.5 billion. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called it a "Christmas list for Halliburton." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News that it "practically militarize[s] the border." Corker himself called his amendment "almost overkill."

Syria Death Toll: 100,000 Killed In War, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Says

BEIRUT — The civil war in Syria has now killed more than 100,000 people, a grim new estimate Wednesday that comes at a time when the conflict is spreading beyond its borders and hopes are fading for a settlement to end the bloodshed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been tracking the death toll through a network of activists in the country, said most of the 100,191 killed in the last 27 months were combatants.

Supreme Court DOMA Decision Rules Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON -- The Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday by a 5-4 vote.

"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."

Tensions inside Tory caucus flare over Senate snub on union transparency bill

OTTAWA - The already testy relationship between Conservative MPs and the Senate hit more rocks Wednesday, as a group of Tory senators helped to gut a bill backed by their colleagues in the House of Commons.

The private member's bill would have forced unions to file financial statements, making public any expenses over $5,000, along with the salaries of their employees making more than $100,000.

Authorities 'Caught Flatfooted' on Alberta Flood Disaster: Expert

Canada's greatest flood, which has severely crippled Alberta's infrastructure and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 homes, caught flood prediction authorities unprepared, says one of the country's top hydrologists.

"We were caught flatfooted on this," says John Pomeroy, the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate at the University of Saskatchewan and a resident of Canmore.

Conservative senator's amendment guts union disclosure bill

In a nail-biter vote in the Senate Wednesday, an amendment by Conservative Senator Hugh Segal was passed that changes a bill that would force unions to publicly disclose salaries and spending.

The proposed legislation known as Bill C-377, and originally introduced by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert as a private member's bill in the House of Commons, now must be sent back to the House because of the amendment passed by the Senate.