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, July 02, 2013

House Dems Press Ben Bernanke On Risks Of Bank Expansion

WASHINGTON -- Four House Democrats sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday, pressing him on the risks of the market manipulation and economic disruption that could be caused by extensive commodities operations at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase.

Banks that receive federal deposit insurance have traditionally been barred from engaging in commercial activities beyond finance, to prevent market abuses and restrict the frequency and scope of financial bailouts. Banks with commercial operations can buy or sell large quantities of physical commodities to ensure that their financial bets pay off.

Washington Post's Edward Snowden Editorial Draws Incredulous Reaction

The Washington Post's editorial board drew catcalls on Tuesday for calling for the leaks from Edward Snowden to be stopped--even though the Post itself had benefited from those leaks.

The editorial board, which is run independently of the news division, allowed that the scoops published by the Post and other outlets had "shed useful light on some NSA programs and raised questions that deserve debate." But, the board said, "The first U.S. priority should be to prevent Mr. Snowden from leaking information that harms efforts to fight terrorism and conduct legitimate intelligence operations ... The best solution for both Mr. Snowden and the Obama administration would be his surrender to U.S. authorities, followed by a plea negotiation."

America's New Cold War: Why the Allies Are Siding With Snowden

There is a depressing statistical comparison that should shame all of us who voted twice for Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. Our man, a former constitutional law professor who pledged to reverse the Bush administration’s abuses of national security concerns, has charged seven government whistleblowers, including Edward J. Snowden, with violating the Espionage Act. That’s more than double the combined three charged with leaking classified information by all previous presidents, George W. Bush included.

What's Behind the BART Strike?

Commuters were scrambling on Monday morning as the main transit system for one of the largest metropolitan regions in the US came to a halt because of a labor strike. Here's a closer look at what unionized workers are demanding and why you should care:

Who's on strike?

Workers for Bay Area Rapid Transit, more commonly known by its acronym BART. After contracts with the agency's two largest unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, expired and renewal talks broke down, the unions announced they would strike. This morning, instead of reporting for work, BART employees picketed the rail system's stations. It's BART's first strike since a six-day protest in 1997.

Privacy debate looms as Canada prepares to share bank data with U.S.

A debate over fighting tax evasion versus protecting personal privacy looms large for Canada as it prepares to announce a deal with the United States to share banking information.

The arrangement would allow Ottawa to soften the blow for Canada – and the roughly one million Americans who live here – when it begins complying with the more controversial aspects of a sweeping new U.S. law that takes effect on Jan. 1.

The Republicans of the Supreme Court

In order to fully understand what the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court have been up to when they make decisions that affect our democracy, as they did last week on voting rights, you need to understand what the Republican Party has been up to.

The modern GOP is based on an unlikely coalition of wealthy business executives, small business owners, and struggling whites. Its durability depends on the latter two categories believing that the economic stresses they've experienced for decades have a lot to do with the government taking their money and giving it to the poor, who are disproportionately black and Latino.

Dark-Money Group Defended Kelly Ayotte With Money From Her Colleagues' PACs

Freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte found herself under serious political fire. The New Hampshire Republican's vote in April against enhancing firearm background checks prompted withering ads from a gun control group. Then another. And another.

But shortly thereafter, a conservative nonprofit—funded in part by some of Ayotte's own Senate colleagues, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of campaign finance filings—sprang into action on Ayotte's behalf.

Edward Snowden Asylum: NSA Leaker Faces Legal Hurdles Applying For Asylum In Europe

WARSAW, Poland - Poland has rejected NSA leaker Edward Snowden's asylum request, while officials in Germany, Norway, Austria and Switzerland say that he cannot apply for asylum from abroad.

The anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks says Snowden, who is believed to be at a transit area of a Russian airport, has asked for asylum in 21 countries including 13 in Europe. Many European countries require an asylum request to be made on their soil.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Tuesday that Snowden has made a request for an asylum in Poland, but the request has faults and was rejected. He did not elaborate.

Original Article
Author: CP

Senator sending wrong messages to the masses

OTTAWA -- Sen. Pamela Wallin is still waiting for results of an independent audit examining the validity of her expense claims while in the Senate.

She is one of four senators whose spending claims are under scrutiny in a Senate scandal that has many Canadians questioning the purpose of the Senate in Canadian democracy, but the only one audit firm Deloitte has yet to finish investigating.

A government running on fear

Secrecy, corruption, deficit, lies and lapdogs: Happy Canada Day from the land of strong, stable government.

While Conrad Black, that non-Canadian, prison-savvy ex-tycoon and lineal descendant of Polonius, thinks Canada is in the poll position in the wreck ‘em race of global politics, we actually went off the track several laps ago. On the roof, tires spinning, obscured in a cloud of dust.

There is no surprise in Lord Black’s blitheness about the government’s shortcomings. There are many Bilderberg Brethren, current and former, who would like to see Canada become the odalisque of the biz gods.

Questions remain about Sable Island, our newest national park

Sable Island has become not just Canada’s 43rd national park but the first national park in the middle of a petroleum field.

The bill to designate Sable a national park reserve came into law last month after nearly being derailed in the House of Commons.

Environmental groups say the bill is not perfect because it allows for potential future offshore development in and around the island. Despite this, they agree giving Sable national park protection is a big step forward.

Many questions remain. Will there be oil exploration? Will people be able to visit? What exactly comes next?

Tories propose to raise health plan contributions and limit eligibility for PS retirees

OTTAWA — The Conservative government’s effort to bring public servants’ benefits and compensation in line with the private sector is now taking aim at retired public servants with a proposal to limit their eligibility and boost their share of the cost for the public service health care plan.

The health plan, negotiated by the union-management National Joint Council, allows anyone who collects a public service pension to join the health plan. Under the pension legislation, anyone who contributed to the pension plan for two consecutive years is eligible for a pension.

Why can't we talk about energy conservation in Nova Scotia?

Efficiency Nova Scotia, the conservation agency funded by your power bill, is reporting good progress as the public buys into the notion of saving both energy and money.

The province-wide electricity load has been cut by 4.3 per cent so far -- enough energy saved last year alone to power 16,000 homes -- and an "energy-efficiency industry" of small businesses is growing to service all this.

Excellent. Now what's keeping us from going all the way and actually adopting those forms of energy that conserve by definition?

Alberta's floods and corporate power in an age of climate disaster

Perhaps the only thing more stunning than Alberta's ruinous flooding has been the realization that not even a disaster of this magnitude, right in the heart of oil country, seems sufficient to break the torpor surrounding climate change.

Indeed, federal and Alberta authorities seem undeterred in their dream of turning Canada into an energy superpower, even if it means immersing the country neck-deep in water.

WikiLeaks Blasts U.S. for Leaving Snowden "Stateless" as NSA Leaker Withdraws Asylum Bid in Russia

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has reportedly abandoned his effort to stay permanently in Russia, but has submitted asylum requests to 20 other countries. His decision comes one day after President Vladimir Putin said Snowden could only seek asylum in Russia if he stopped leaking U.S. secrets. When Snowden arrived in Russia last week, it was initially believed he was on his way to Ecuador, but that prospect is now in doubt. For more, we’re joined by Kristinn Hrafnsson, spokesperson for WikiLeaks, which is assisting Snowden in his attempt to seek political asylum. Hrafnsson is a longtime investigative reporter who was named Icelandic journalist of the year three times.

Author: --

Canada’s access to information law is still full of holes after 30 years

OTTAWA—The federal access to information law turned 30 on Canada Day as thousands of people frolicked, sang and gazed at fireworks on the lawns of Parliament Hill.

But in an ironic twist driven home by the current Senate scandals, the institutions housed within the neo-Gothic buildings are not covered by the Access to Information Act.

Many advocates of transparent government are now calling for the law to apply to the House of Commons, Senate and cabinet — with appropriate exceptions to protect matters of parliamentary privilege.

James Clapper is still lying to America

“James Clapper Is Still Lying”: That would be a more honest headline for yesterday’s big Washington Post article about the director of national intelligence’s letter to the U.S. Senate.

Clapper, you may recall, unequivocally said “no, sir” in response to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asking him: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper’s response was shown to be a lie by Snowden’s disclosures, as well as by reports from the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News (among others). This is particularly significant, considering lying before Congress prevents the legislative branch from performing oversight and is therefore a felony.

Why the Story on Snowden and the NSA Doesn't Add Up

What was Edward Snowden's job when he worked for Booz Hamilton as a contractor to the NSA? Most of us have been under the impression that he was a systems administrator or network administrator. The initial Guardian story described him as a "former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton." The same story mentioned him talking about things that were comprehensible only to his "fellow communication specialists." The Washington Post described him as a "tech specialist" and quoted several sources who were baffled that someone with his background had access to all the documents he had released.

'Why Austerity Kills'

Every time a government makes an economic or political decision, it also answers key medical questions: Who will live, and who will get sick, and who will die?

This is not a new observation. Dr. Rudolf Virchow, a 19th-century German politician and physician, famously observed in 1848 that "Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a grand scale." We can't even say we've forgotten his insight; today's politicians know very well that some of their policies kill people. But they go ahead and carry out those policies anyway.

Unpaid internships exploit 'vulnerable generation'

At least 100,000 young Canadians are working as unpaid interns — with an unknown number of others missing out on key, early work experience because they cannot afford to go without a paycheque.

Liberal MP Scott Brison is on a mission to raise awareness of the issue. He's calling on the federal government to measure the scope of the unpaid workforce, identify acceptable unpaid work placements and legislate changes to protect an increasingly "vulnerable generation."

Ottawa accused of making ‘frivolous’ appeals against successful refugees

Refugee lawyers say Ottawa is abusing the court system by launching “frivolous” appeals of refugee board decisions to grant protection to Tamil asylum seekers who arrived en masse by boat three years ago.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who has complained about failed refugees abusing their rights to appeal, is being criticized by lawyers for asking the federal court to reverse positive decisions granted to some of the MV Ocean Lady and Sun Sea passengers, who arrived here in 2009 and 2010.

The Fall of the American Worker

There’s a moment in Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson’s “Someplace Like America,” a documentary account of three decades of American downward mobility, when Maharidge spontaneously decides to phone up Charles Murray. It’s around the year 2000, welfare reform is on the books, and Maharidge wants to know what Murray, the author of “Losing Ground” and the country’s harshest critic of the welfare state, has to say about the growing phenomenon of the working poor—Americans who have jobs but still can’t make ends meet.

U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study -- or about a third of the statutory rate many of those same companies are lobbying hard to cut.

Profitable companies with more than $10 million in assets paid an average rate of 12.6 percent of their global profits in 2010, the latest data available, according to a new study by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. That compares to the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

Edward Snowden Letter: Former NSA Contractor Breaks Silence For First Time Since He Fled To Moscow

LONDON/MOSCOW, July 1 (Reuters) - Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden broke his silence on Monday for the first time since fleeing to Moscow to say he remains free to make new disclosures about U.S. spying activity.

In a letter to Ecuador seen by Reuters, Snowden said the United States was illegally persecuting him for revealing its electronic surveillance programme, PRISM, but made it clear he did not intend to be muzzled.

"I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest," he said in an undated letter in Spanish sent to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

Egypt Military Intervention: General Says Army Will Intervene If Crisis Not Resolved In 48 Hours

CAIRO — Egypt's military issued a "last-chance" ultimatum Monday to President Mohammed Morsi, giving him 48 hours to meet the demands of millions of protesters in the streets seeking the ouster of the Islamist leader or the generals will intervene and impose their own plan for the country.

The military's statement, read on state TV, put enormous pressure on Morsi to step down and sent giant crowds opposing the president in Cairo and other cities into delirious celebrations of singing, dancing and fireworks. But the ultimatum raised worries on both sides the military could outright take over, as it did after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.