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.]

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

How Do the Laws of War Apply to Cyberspace?

As the concept of online warfare advances, the international community is scrambling to lay out rules to regulate this potentially devastating new kind of conflict. Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross released its first ever position paper on the subject, stating that "there is no question" that laws of war apply to cyberspace – but what that actually means remains unclear. The Red Cross paper comes on the heels of the first major international attempt to offer a solution: a nonbinding NATO-backed report called the Tallinn Manual. At the same time, a recently leaked U.S. policy directive suggests that our government is already writing its own rules for cyber-war – and some say the administration's reasoning raises many of the same concerns that surround other kinds of 21st-century American war.

Chris Riddell on saving the Humber from the HarperCons

Riding the subway into Old Mill station, you can look out the window and see the rushing waters of the Humber River and locals on its banks casting lines in hopes of hooking catfish, crayfish, trout or bass.

The only river in the country with a heritage designation that’s accessible by public transit, this torrent collects water from 750 creeks and tributaries and is part of the historic Toronto Carrying-Place Trail used by First Nations before European settlement.

Masking rights -- Police use tactics they seek to criminalize

Against a backdrop of scandal, Canada’s Senate quietly did its legislative duty on June 19, rubber-stamping a democracy-challenged Bill C-309.

The Concealment Of Identity Act, opposed by the Opposition NDP, targets individuals who participate in a “riot” or an “unlawful assembly” while wearing a mask.

Supposedly motivated by events during the G20 in Toronto, the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots and Montreal’s student strike, the law slaps demonstrators who cover their faces with penalties as severe as a 10-year prison sentence.

Rob Ford’s tax cut will hurt social housing, critics say

Rob Ford is sticking to his promise to slash taxes next year, even though not doing so could help offset provincial cuts set to hit Toronto’s poorer residents.

Last week Queen’s Park announced it is phasing out a $150-million grant that the city has been using to pay for social housing. The funding will be completely eliminated by 2016 but will be reduced by about $50 million next year, putting substantial pressure on Toronto’s already underfunded housing programs.

Rob Ford con job

1. The Ford-friendly Sun feeding the mayor’s proletarian base is starting to call Rob Ford the “Teflon mayor.” That’s a bad omen for a supposed man of the people. They used the same title to describe that other guy who seemed above any scandal to came his way. Remember Dalton McGuinty? Where is he now? Has there been a less gracious exit from politics than the one we’re witnessing with Mr. Clean? Ford is destined to similarly fade away, not go out in a blaze of glory.

Much is being made of the latest polls showing Ford’s popularity on the upswing, despite those lingering crack allegations. But those polls gloss over one undeniable fact: Olivia Chow is still running 8 points ahead of Rofo. And practically every poll over the last year has shown Ford losing in any combination of three-way and four-way races.

Federal Poverty Line Doesn't Adequately Reflect Cost Of Living In America, Analysis Finds

Just because the government doesn't define you as poor, doesn't mean you have enough money to live.

The federal poverty line for a family of four was $23,283 last year, nearly one-quarter of what it takes to live in New York City and slightly more than one-third of what it takes to live in St. Louis, according a family budget calculator from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. In fact, EPI found that in 615 cities across the country it takes a total income at least twice the federal poverty line for any type of family with three children or fewer to afford basic expenses.

American Networks Have Little Time For Egypt

American cable news networks continued to have little time in their schedules for the political crisis in Egypt on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Though the country's president, Mohammed Morsi, is on the verge of being driven from office, MSNBC, Fox News and CNN mostly spent their time on other things.

A perfect example of this choice could be seen when Morsi took to television to deliver a live address to try and save himself from being ousted by protesters and the military.

Obama Administration: Federal Court Can't Intervene In Guantanamo Force-Feeding

MIAMI, July 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. federal court has no jurisdiction and no legal basis to intervene in the force-feeding of prisoners at the Guantanamo naval base, the Obama administration argued in a court document on Wednesday.

Additionally, the Justice Department said, the force-feeding will not compromise prisoners' religious rights because it will be done only at night during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast from sunup to sundown.

Chicago Rising!

On a sunny saturday this past May, far down on the city’s black South Side where corner stores house their cashiers behind bulletproof plexiglass, about 150 activists assembled at Jesse Owens Community Academy. In just a few days, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed Board of Education would vote on the largest simultaneous school closing in recent history. Owens, along with fifty-three other public schools, was on the chopping block. A recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll found that more than 60 percent of Chicago citizens opposed the closings, and a healthy cross section of them had turned out for the first of three straight days of marches in protest.

A New Strategy for Voting Rights

Hank Sanders grew up in segregated, rural southern Alabama and in 1971 moved to Selma—the birthplace of the Voting Rights Act. Before the VRA, only 393 of the 15,000 black voting-age residents in Dallas County, where Selma is located, were registered to vote. Less than a year later, after federal registrars arrived in August 1965, more than 10,000 black voters had been added to the rolls. Sanders experienced firsthand how the VRA transformed Selma and the rest of the country. In 1983, he became the first African-American state senator from the Alabama Black Belt since Reconstruction, representing a new majority-black district created by the VRA.

A 'Feminist Army' Storms Texas

In the struggle for equality, it’s not always about the wins. As we’ve now learned from Texas feminists, losing well—gloriously, even—can be almost as important. A sweeping abortion ban is expected to pass the state legislature nearly two weeks after it was shut down by State Senator Wendy Davis’s eleven-hour filibuster and a roaring pro-choice crowd. Its passage will be a travesty: it will force thirty-seven of the state’s forty-two abortion clinics to close; women will be compelled to carry sick and dying fetuses to term; and all abortions after twenty weeks will be banned—even for victims of rape or incest. It’s a horrible defeat for Texas women. But the impact of that loss may be softened somewhat by the extraordinary fight against it, one that brought a state-level bill to national attention and sent a clear message across the country: you can pass this bill, but you can not make us sit down.

'The Andrew Show,' Hosted By Pint-Sized Andrew Pendergraft, Markets Klan's Racist Message To Kids

Andrew Pendergraft is the grandson of Thomas Robb, the modern-day Ku Klux Klan's national director. As a young boy with floppy blond hair and a slight speech impediment, Pendergraft hosted a number of short episodes of his very own amateur talk show, "The Andrew Show," which presents the Klan's ideology in a format aimed at kids -- more specifically, white kids.

Viewable on YouTube, the first episodes of the series were apparently filmed several years ago when Pendergraft was around 9 or 10 years old. The segments use pop culture references to relay advisories against race-mixing and other controversial beliefs promoted by the KKK.

Voting Rights Act Ruling Forces Justice Department Reassignments

WASHINGTON -- In striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last week, members of the Supreme Court didn’t just neuter a major component of landmark civil rights law. The justices also eliminated the workload of several dozen federal employees.

Until the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder on June 25, a few dozen of the 100 or so employees of the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had been assigned to review the 14,000 to 20,000 voting changes submitted each year by jurisdictions that needed DOJ permission before implementing new rules or, say, changing the location of a polling place.

Marco Rubio To Introduce Abortion Bill In Senate: Report

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will introduce a bill in the Senate banning abortions 20 weeks after conception, the Weekly Standard reported Tuesday.

According to the Weekly Standard report, Rubio will announce his sponsorship of the measure after Congress returns from the July 4 recess.

Snowden and Assange Targeted by Mysterious Hacker "The Jester"

A shadowy, self-described "patriot" hacktivist has launched a series of cyberattacks against Ecuador and says he plans to direct a similar onslaught against any country considering granting asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The hacker, who calls himself the "th3J35t3r" (the Jester) and in the past has identified himself as a former soldier, has also taken aim at Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder has been assisting Snowden in his efforts to seek safe haven.

On Monday, the Jester launched denial-of-service attacks against Ecuador, which is considering an asylum request from Snowden. He targeted the primary email server for the second biggest Ecuadorean stock exchange and the country's official tourism website. Gabrielle Murillo, a spokeswoman for Ecuador's tourism site, could not confirm the attack and said only that "the internet was working," but the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Dave Maass, who follows the Jester, told Mother Jones that he was unable to access the tourism website after the infiltration occurred. Officials at the stock exchange did not respond to questions sent by Mother Jones.

Stephen Harper's Military Jacket Is Irritating and Offensive

Harper's military-jacket tribute story rings like a cracked bell -- discordant and irritating.

The PMO says that Stephen Harper wore the Canadian Forces flight jacket "as a tribute to the military assisting the people in difficult times." Really? Then someone explain to the PM that a CF jacket is not like a Calgary Flames jersey. Rather than boosting morale, he likely just boosted activity as the troops tried to burn off anger.

If there's one thing I've learned during three years of working with veterans, it's this: troops hate seeing military gear on civilians. Not dislike. Not have distaste for. HATE.

Pipeline companies need to act on public opinion

Pipeline politics are all the rage this summer, with two megaprojects, one in B.C., awaiting top-level political action.

A federal review panel has started deliberating on recommendations on the Northern Gateway pipeline, a $6-billion proposal to traverse B.C.’s midsection en route to Kitimat. Its recommendations will go to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet by Dec. 31, with a political decision anticipated early in 2014.

Harper already has labelled the project “a strategic imperative” for Canada, enabling exports of Alberta crude to Asian markets.

Pipeline politics and the cross-border blame game

Some Canadians tend (mistakenly) to treat speeches from President Obama as tablets of unassailable wisdom from on high — while many Americans view them as acts of political theatre in a highly polarized America. Obama’s recent speech on climate change is a case in point.

Having unsuccessfully exhausted efforts to get Congress on-side even when his own party controlled both houses, the president moved to the bully pulpit to sound the alarm and signal his desire to invoke the executive authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curb emissions on existing and future coal plants in the U.S. Since U.S. coal plants generate 40 per cent of the United States’ GHG emissions — more than thirty times the emissions from Canada’s oilsands — such action would be long overdue.

Military study into mental injury underplays problem, say experts

OTTAWA — A new Department of National Defence study claiming that 13.5 per cent of Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan returned home with mental illness severely underestimates the problem, say specialists in military mental health.

Of the soldiers who deployed, eight per cent have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says the study by David Boulos and Mark A. Zamorski titled Deployment-related Mental Disorders Among Canadian Forces Personnel Deployed in Support of the Mission in Afghanistan, 2001-2008.

Baird in China: Conservatives are running out of time to fulfill trade promises

It wasn’t so long ago that Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood on Chinese soil and declared it was “no accident that China and Canada came through the global recession avoiding the severity of the financial, economic and employment crises seen elsewhere,” and wrapped up his trip heralding that Canadian-Chinese relations had reached “a new level.” Proof was in the 21 commercial agreements signed potentially worth as much as $3 billion, combined. Also: there were pandas.

Yet, just over a year removed from that visit and over the many months during which the much lauded Canada-China Financial Investment Promotion and Protection (FIPA) has sat, waiting for cabinet approval (something that could have been done as far back as last October), and it seems as though the bilateral relationship’s new level appears to be rather flat and very boring.

Tar Sands Healing Walk is part of process of fundamental transformation

While studying at the University of Ottawa, I attended a conference called PowerShift, where I first came to learn about the Tar Sands. I learned about the impact on Indigenous communities, about the link between Tar Sands destruction and climate change, causing displacement and death for people for people around the world. I knew in my gut I had to speak out, but I was afraid.

I thought about speaking out when performing in a talk-back session after a play I performed in called "Iron Sticks," but an organizer of the event advised me not to. He said it might trigger Conservative friends, and I did not have the courage to disobey.

Tar sands leave legacy of cancer and polluted water for aboriginal peoples

As I walk up Alice Rigney's driveway in Fort Chipewyan, I pass a garden with vegetables growing, and a dog happily chewing on a bone in the shade. It's already 7 p.m., yet the air is still hot and humid, the sun high in the sky.

Inside, Rigney has just finished carving a caribou shoulder. She graciously invites me in for dinner and shares her story. Her story helps me understand the tar sands mega project as part of a broader colonial project and what is at stake for her family, community and culture if this project continues unchecked.

"It was a wonderful life"

The importance of the Tar Sands Healing Walk

A couple years ago I was asked by the Keepers of the Athabasca to be Master of Ceremonies for a unique event: the first annual walk to heal the Canadian tar sands.

It took place in the region of the most controversial energy project on earth. The idea was not to have a protest, but instead to engage in a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry. Members of the five First Nations of the Athabasca region and residents of the nearby town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, tired of the never-ending fight with big oil and its supporters in the Canadian government, had made a conscious choice to protect their way of life. This was done by turning to ceremony and asking through prayer and the physical act of walking on the earth for the hearts of those harming Mother Earth through extreme energy extraction to be healed.

The price of American inequality

The most significant, recent news -- that trust in neoliberalism is dead, that confidence in the unrestrained free market has become unfathomable to the majority of U.S. citizens -- has become more evident since 2008. The event is of course obscured by neoliberalism's continued dominance of conservative and centrist governments, political parties and media, yet it is evident that we are now witnessing its inevitable sequence of delegitimation, ruin and replacement.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, in his recent book The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future, summarizes some of the failures of neoliberalism via a number of statistics -- for example, by 2007 the average after-tax income of the top 1 per cent  in the U.S. was $1.3 million while that of the bottom 20 per cent was $17,800. The richest 20 per cent earn in total after tax more than the bottom 80 per cent combined. Young men, aged 25 to 34, who only have a high school diploma, have watched their real incomes decline by more than 25 per cent in the last quarter century. Between 2005 and 2009, the average African-American household lost 53 per cent of its wealth, the average Hispanic household lost 66 per cent and the typical white American household lost 16 per cent. The American story over the past generation is one in which the rich get richer, the richest of the rich get even more rich, the poor become poorer and a number of the middle class have dropped into poverty. The above numbers defy political spin -- conservatives cannot explain away people's lived experience of neoliberalism's degenerative economic impacts.

Oil and gas industry emission rules still not ready from Ottawa

For the second time in two years, the federal government has missed its target to publish greenhouse gas emission regulations for Canada's oil and gas sector.

Environment Minister Peter Kent told the House of Commons environment committee in March that he hoped to have the regulations ready "by mid-year." Now, at the midpoint of the year, those hopes appear to have been dashed.

Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing sparks a debate America needed to have

U.S. President Barack Obama presides over this week’s Independence Day festivities under a cloud. Fully one in two Americans no longer thinks their commander-in-chief is “honest and trustworthy,” as the full scope of Washington’s vast telecommunications surveillance program sinks in. That’s the biggest show of mistrust since he was first elected. America’s image as a nation that vigilantly cherishes civil rights is in tatters. And key European and Asian allies are unsettled at finding that they, too, are targets.

Federal Reserve Completes Basel Rules As Biggest Banks Face New Threats

Big banks were warned of further government-inflicted pain, small banks won concessions and mortgage lenders were granted a reprieve as the Federal Reserve on Tuesday finalized a key rule meant to strengthen banks to guard against another near-collapse of the U.S. financial system.

The directive requires banks to more than double the amount of capital they use to fund loans and investments, reduce borrowing, and obey stricter standards when classifying the riskiness of assets such as securities and derivatives.

Desert Solar Power Presents Opportunities For Green Energy, But Challenges In Application

The vast and glittering Ivanpah solar facility in California will soon start sending electrons to the grid, likely by the end of the summer. When all three of its units are operating by the end of the year, its 392-megawatt output will make it the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, providing enough energy to power 140,000 homes. And it is pretty much smack in the middle of nowhere.

The appeal of building solar power plants in deserts like Ivanpah’s Mojave is obvious, especially when the mind-blowing statistics get thrown around, such as: The world’s deserts receive more energy beamed down from the sun in six hours than humankind uses in a year. Or, try this one: Cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, and you generate enough electricity to power the world. In other words, if we’re looking for energy—and of course, we are—those sandy sunny spots are a good place to start.

Egypt Military Deadline: Showdown Looms After President Mohammed Morsi Vows To Stay On

CAIRO - With a military deadline for a resolution to Egypt's political crisis looming, the country braced for a showdown Wednesday after embattled President Mohammed Morsi insisted he will not step down in the face of demands by millions of protesters, vowing to protect his "constitutional legitimacy" with his life.

On the streets, the sense that both sides are ready to fight to the end sharpened, with overnight clashes between supporters of the Islamist president and opponents that left at least 23 dead, most of them in a single incident of fighting outside Cairo University.

North Carolina Abortion Bill: State Senate Votes On Restrictive Measure

North Carolina's state Senate voted Tuesday to pass a second reading of a measure placing tougher restrictions on abortion after Republicans in the legislature tacked the abortion regulations on to a bill targeting Sharia law.

The state Senate passed the second reading of the omnibus bill by 27-14. A final vote will be held Wednesday.

The bill, according to the News & Observer, would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers. Just one clinic in the state currently meets that standard, according to staffers in the state legislature. The sweeping legislation would also place limits on health care coverage for abortion procedures, require clinics to have "transfer agreements" with hospitals, and require doctors to be present when women take RU486, the drug that induces abortions.

Bolivian Minister: Morales' Plane Rerouted On Suspicion Snowden On Board

VIENNA — The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted to Austria after France and Portugal refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, Bolivian officials said Tuesday.

Officials in both Austria and Bolivia said that Snowden was not on the plane, which was taking Morales home from a summit in Russia, where he had suggested that his government would be willing to consider granting asylum to the American.

Happy Canada Day? Learning about Treaties in tar sands territory

While many Canadians are celebrating the 146th anniversary of this country, I don’t much feel like celebrating today. Right now, I am at the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, a community whose traditional territory is on both the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands projects.

It’s hard to take part in the festivities when you understand the colonialism, genocide, theft of land and resources and broken treaties that are part of the history of this country.

Unprecedented ocean acidification from greenhouse gases putting Canadian waters at risk, says report

OTTAWA – Canada’s Atlantic waters may be “particularly vulnerable” to increased carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere that are causing “unprecedented” acidification of the planet’s oceans, says a report by scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Quoting from numerous scientific publications, the government report, posted on a website without a formal announcement or news release, noted that the world’s oceans have absorbed a significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, with profound effects on marine ecosystems that could damage the Canadian economy.

Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi Defies Military's Ultimatum

CAIRO — His fate hanging in the balance, embattled President Mohammed Morsi vowed not to resign Tuesday, hours before a deadline to yield to the demands of millions of protesters or see the military suspend the constitution, disband parliament and install a new leadership.