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 09, 2013

Disaster in Quebec Reveals Regulatory

A debate about the relative merits of transporting crude oil by pipeline or by rail reignited over the weekend, after a runaway freight train carrying seventy-two cars of oil exploded and leveled Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

The disaster exposed a significant lack of regulation governing the shipment of crude oil via rail, and raised questions about the continued use of old tanker cars known to be unsafe.

The volume of crude carried via trains has grown exponentially in recent years, as the amount of oil flowing from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and the oil sands in western Canada outstripped existing pipeline capacity. With new pipelines like Keystone XL caught up in the permitting process, freight rail infrastructure expanded to accommodate the glut of new oil with little oversight.

Meet Greg Abbott, the Man Who May Make You Miss Rick Perry

During his tenure as Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott has developed a bit of a routine: "I go into the office," he told a GOP audience in San Angelo in Februrary, "I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." It's a line he uses in virtually every speech he gives and it has the benefit of being basically true. Abbott has sued the Obama administration 27 times in five years. Now he might be getting a promotion.

After Gov. Rick Perry's announcement on Monday that he will not seek reelection for a fourth time in 2014—while leaving the door open, improbably, for another presidential run—Abbott, who is expected to announce a gubernatorial bid as early as Sunday, is now the favorite to be the chief executive of the nation's second-biggest state. (A recent survey by Public Policy Polling gave him a 8-point advantage over the Democrats' top prospective recruit, state Sen. Wendy Davis.) More than a few people will hail the departure of Perry, a politician who embraced crony capitalism, supported criminalizing sodomy, crushed abortion rights, and almost certainly allowed an innocent man die. That's about right. But in the hyperlitigious Abbott, Texas Republicans have a replacement who may just do the impossible—make progressives miss Rick Perry.

Canada Day bomb plot said to have elements of entrapment

The lawyer for one of two Surrey, B.C., residents accused of planning to bomb the province's legislature on Canada Day says the case has elements of entrapment.

John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Korody were charged earlier this month with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity, making or possessing an explosive device and conspiracy to place an explosive device with the intent to cause death or injury. Court documents show Korody and Nuttall are each facing an additional charge of conspiracy to murder persons unknown.

Bradley Manning Aided The Enemy Because He Knew Al Qaeda Uses The Internet, Prosecutors Charge

FORT MEADE, Md. -- As military prosecutors wrapped up their case against Bradley Manning just before the Fourth of July, their most serious charge against the Army private first class -- aiding the enemy -- rested tenuously on circumstantial evidence.

When the government brought the charge against Manning in May 2011, the move aroused a firestorm of criticism over fears a dangerous precedent could be set. Manning is being tried in a military court martial, but some have argued that the rarely used aiding the enemy charge might also be applied against civilians. Press freedom advocates claim the charge could be used to give a severe sentence to anyone who uploads sensitive information on the Internet -- by the government's own admission, it would have made no difference if Manning had given his 700,000 files to The New York Times instead of WikiLeaks.

How the Sequester Savages the Long-Term Unemployed

The sequester isn’t so scary—that’s what The Washington Post proclaimed this week. It’s an attitude many people in Washington seem to have adopted, as momentum to solve the slashing automatic cuts has almost entirely vanished.

But for Sharon MacGregor, a graphic designer and medical education worker in Paterson, New Jersey, the sequester is terrifying indeed. MacGregor was laid off last July when her company went belly-up, and she is still looking for work. She is one of the 4.3 million* Americans who are “long-term unemployed,” which is defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as being unable to find work for more than twenty-seven weeks.

Ground Zero Sum

Many months before America’s allegedly tallest building—the 1,776-foot One World Trade Center—was topped out in May, it had already asserted itself on the skyline, especially around my home, half a dozen blocks away. The height of the building has been the object of some contention because its uppermost 408 feet comprise a toothpick-like spire implanted on a flat top. The body empowered to confirm its stature, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, has yet to reach a final decision. The matter has become controversial because the developer decided some months ago to forgo, for reasons of cost, the fiberglass sheath with which the architect, David Childs, had intended to protect the spire and establish it fully as part of the building. Childs was so indignant that he publicly criticized the developer—a palpable nip at the feeding hand from the country’s leading corporate architect. The ludicrous and jejune controversy has been joined, waggishly, in the architectural blogosphere by discussions of whether the natural expansions and contractions of the building as it heats and cools somehow queers the calculus. Because of constant thermal flux, might One World Trade Center not actually be 1,776 feet high most of the time?

Complaints pile up over airport border guards

Dozens of travellers arriving home at Ottawa International Airport have filed complaints about rude treatment and harassment by Canada Border Services Agency officers, including one who allegedly asked a young woman if she was menstruating.

Many of the complaints share a consistent theme: the aggressive tone of border officers who greet them when they return home.

Oil and blood in Lac-Mégantic

Oil and gas flow throughout the Canadian economy like blood through the body, powering the industries which depend on those resources. The blood of oil is pumped through the body of the country by the veins of pipelines, shipping routes, railways and trucking routes.

Sometimes these veins tear, and the blood spills.

In the middle of the night on Friday in the eastern Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, one such vein tore in the worst possible way.

Parliamentary democracy and the last Canadian monarch

On July 14, France celebrates the storming of the Bastille, marking the passing of the Ancien Régime, which included feudalism, and an absolute monarchy. On July 4, Americans celebrated Independence Day, the end of colonial rule by Great Britain.

July 1 Canada celebrated Confederation, a constitutional arrangement replacing the 1840 Act of Union, which had abolished the Quebec National Assembly, and had been called by future Québec premier P.J.O. Chauveau in a celebrated poem "Union of the Canadas, Party Day for Bankers."

After the Shooting In Cairo

Fifty-one dead at dawn. A doctor who said he preferred not to give his name lives in an apartment building that overlooks the Republican Guard barracks in Cairo. He told me he woke for the dawn prayer before 4 A.M. Shortly afterward, he heard gunfire and went onto his neighbor’s balcony for a better view.

“I saw that the Army retreated about ten metres and began to fire tear-gas cannisters, about ten or fifteen of them,” he said. “I couldn’t see if the other side [the protesters] was shooting, but I heard people through megaphones encouraging jihad. Then I saw four to six motorcycles coming from the direction of the Rabaa intersection to the Republican Guard barracks. Some people were still praying, some were not, because the dawn prayer had finished by then. The men on the motorcycles were all masked, and it was hard to see them through the dark and the tear-gas smoke, but they seemed to be shooting, they were coming from behind the protesters, so they were shooting toward the protesters and the Army. Then the Army started firing. And the protestors were firing. I saw firing from both sides.” As for details, though—what they were firing, whether it was one or two protesters or something more organized—he said that it was dark and that he couldn’t exactly tell.

113th Congress On Pace To Be Least Productive In Modern History

WASHINGTON -- The current Congress has had just 15 bills signed into law so far, the fewest in recent history.

This is not an insignificant feat. After all, the 112th Congress (2011-2013) was the most unproductive since the 1940s. But even that Congress, by this time in its first year, had 23 bills signed into law.

And the low number can't be blamed on President Barack Obama. He's vetoed just two pieces of legislation during his time in office, both in 2010.

Edward Snowden: NSA Lying, Collecting All Communications Into And Out Of U.S.

WASHINGTON — NSA leaker Edward Snowden claims the spy agency gathers all communications into and out of the U.S. for analysis, despite NSA claims that it only targets foreign traffic.

The fugitive systems analyst spoke in video released Monday, filmed by The Guardian in June in Hong Kong before Snowden fled to avoid extradition to the U.S.

Sequestration Pushes Head Start Families To The Precipice

WASHINGTON -- Rhonda Reynolds was paying bills in downtown Pratt, Kan., on a hot and sunny mid-June afternoon when the second call came from her daughter's Head Start teachers.

Reynolds, 48 years old with shoulder-length blonde hair and a reassuring smile, jumped into her Ford Taurus and drove several miles home. It was 2:30 p.m. Just one hour earlier, those teachers, April and Misty, had told her they wanted to chat. Now they had called back, asking to meet in person and soon.

Eliot Spitzer: Great Policy, Arrogant Politics

Eliot Spitzer is a walking, talking political contradiction.

As the crusading New York State Attorney General during the Bush-Cheney years, he filled the regulatory void created by the most business-friendly administration in modern American history and renewed our understanding of the power of state officials to check and balance Wall Street.

Then, as New York’s governor, he crashed and burned his own career—and an opportunity to redefine states as the liberal “laboratories of democracy” that they were in the Progressive Era.

Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA: Mass Spying "Not Something I’m Willing to Live Under"

In a newly released interviewed conducted just before he came forward early last month, Edward Snowden explains why he has devoted his life to expose how the United States is spying on the world. Snowden says he thinks the biggest revelation to emerge from his leaks is the National Security Agency’s collection of all communications into and out of the United States — despite NSA claims that it only targets foreign traffic. Snowden also predicts that the U.S. government would seek to demonize him and accuse him of aiding America’s enemies. Journalist Laura Poitras filmed the exchange, and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald asked the questions. "America is a fundamentally good country," Snowden says. "We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing, but the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedoms of all." Watch part 1 of the Snowden interview.

Author: -

Snowden's Ticket to Venezuela: A Private Jet?

Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is marooned in the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, trying to avoid extradition to the United States where he faces indictment under the Espionage Act. But if Snowden wants to go to one of those countries, will he be able to get there?

Cuba is the only country that a commercial plane carrying Snowden could safely land in without him facing the threat of US extradition—and en route he would have to pass through airspace belonging to the US or one of its allies, whereby the US government could force his plane to land based on extradition treaties. There is a route that Snowden could take to avoid crossing the airspace of Canada, Norway and the state of Florida, but he would need to charter a very expensive private plane to do so.

Incomes for Canada’s middle class stall

OTTAWA — Incomes of Canadian middle-class families have lagged behind some other groups due to modest wage growth, say briefing notes prepared for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, as the Conservative government closely monitors an issue gaining traction with all political parties.

Alleviating the financial pinch facing Canadian families, especially the middle class, has been a rallying cry for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in recent months and continues to be a common theme for NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

Canadian Army goes back to the future with return to British-style ranks and designations

OTTAWA—The Canadian Army is marching into its past.

As part of the ongoing image makeover of the military, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced on Monday that the army will replace the Maple Leaf rank designation on the shoulder boards of officers with the traditional “pips” and Crowns in a nod to the country’s past.

The ranks of non-commissioned officers will also be returned to the original British Army and Commonwealth designations.

Train rolling too fast when it crashed in Lac-Megantic

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. - Transportation Safety Board of Canada officials say the train that derailed in Lac-Megantic was travelling well in excess of its authorized speed when it careened off the tracks.

Officials with the agency did not say how fast the train was going.

The board's lead investigator, Donald Ross, told a news conference this morning the train started to roll after firefighters and an employee of the rail company that owns the train had left the premises.

A North America with No Roaming Charges?

Reports that U.S. telecom giant Verizon may be preparing to enter the Canadian market has sparked considerable speculation on the likely impact of a company with a market cap greater than Bell, Rogers, and Telus combined. While much of the discussion has centred on wireless pricing, the more significant development may be the shift toward a single North American communications market.

Canada and the U.S. share much of the same communications infrastructure -- the same North American numbering plan (calling codes), closely aligned spectrum policies, and easy access to broadcast signals along the border -- yet for decades the two systems have been separated through regulation. Foreign ownership restrictions, Canadian content requirements, and simultaneous substitution policies (which lead to the annual complaints about missing U.S. commercials during the Super Bowl) have all ensured that the two markets remain distinct.

How Not to Elect a Sociopath

It's an understatement to say that Quebec municipal politics has a credibility problem. The latest casualty is Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum, arrested at his home last month on 14 charges of fraud, breach of trust, conspiracy and corruption. Applebaum replaced former mayor Gérald Tremblay, also driven from office on allegations of corruption.

The mayor of Laval recently resigned on sex and extortion allegations, less than a year after his predecessor was driven from office by charges of corruption and gangsterism.

BC's Affair with Troubled SNC Lavalin

The Kelowna-Westside constituency, where Premier Christy Clark and seven other candidates are running in a July 10 byelection, includes one of SNC Lavalin Inc.'s more visible projects in British Columbia, one that provides a reliable source of income for a company whose international reputation has been badly damaged.

The William R. Bennett Bridge across Okanagan Lake provides some $20 million a year from B.C. taxpayers to the large, Montreal-based engineering firm, whose former board of directors chair Gwyn Morgan donated $10,000 to Clark's leadership campaign and was on her 2011 transition team. Morgan resigned his position with the company in May.