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.]

Friday, July 12, 2013

The War on Coal Obama Isn't Fighting

As the pending decision on the Keystone XL pipeline dominates the climate focus in the United States, an even bigger carbon bomb is ticking quietly in a remote region of the American West.

Big Coal and Republican lawmakers are pushing to expand mining operations on federal lands in the Powder River Basin, which straddles eastern Montana and Wyoming and holds the bulk of the country’s coal stocks.

JPMorgan Chase Fires Back At Warren-McCain Plan To Reinstate Glass-Steagall

Shocking news: JPMorgan Chase is not exactly jazzed about some recent plans to regulate banks, including Elizabeth Warren and John McCain's bill to reinstate the Glass-Steagall law splitting investment and commercial banks.

Even more shocking: JPMorgan seems to think it will probably be able to water down or avoid these plans.

The Harper government vs. the public servants

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once said he could write a book on what he had learned about the often-tense relationship between politicians and public servants.

“Probably the most difficult job, you know, practical difficult thing you have to learn as a prime minister and ministers, our ministers as well, is dealing with the federal bureaucracy,” Harper told the CBC’s Rex Murphy in 2007, about a year after taking office.

Zimmerman Verdict: Why Is the Right Worried About Race Riots?

As George Zimmerman's much-watched trial winds down, speculation has whipped up in the conservative media and elsewhere about how people—that is, black people—will react if the killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is acquitted. The implication is that if Zimmerman goes free, this racial powder keg of a case could explode into riots.

Ever since Zimmerman shot the unarmed teenager last year after a scuffle in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, the case has been racially fraught. Supporters of the Martin family portrayed Travyon's death as a clear incident of racial profiling and questioned the actions of the Sanford Police Department, which was criticized for initially dismissing the incident as a self-defense case and declining to arrest Zimmerman until more than a month after the shooting. Many on the right, by contrast, have cast Zimmerman as a poster child for Second Amendment rights and a victim of the liberal media.

The Doubters Are Wrong: Edward Snowden Is a Game-Changer

One of the arguments about Edward Snowden that I've occasionally gotten caught up in is: What difference has he made? Has he really told us very much we didn't know before?

In a broad sense, you can argue that he hasn't. We knew (or certainly suspected) that NSA was collecting enormous streams of telephone metadata. We knew they were issuing subpoenas for data from companies like Google and Microsoft. We knew that Section 702 warrants were very broad. We knew that domestic data sometimes got inadvertently collected. We knew that massive amounts of foreign phone and email traffic were monitored.

B.C. First Nation School Funding Must Increase, Budget Watchdog Says

Decaying First Nations schools in British Columbia need nearly double the amount of money the federal government is currently providing, said Canada's federal budget watchdog.

The study by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, released on Thursday, said on-reserve schools in B.C. are older than B.C. public schools, and they need $39 million this fiscal year just for upkeep.

It also said required funding could reach $47 million by 2028-29, based on anticipated growth in student populations. Ottawa typically provides $26 million annually.

Welcome mat for North Koreans yanked by Jason Kenney

They call Nettie Hoffman an “honorary mother” at the Alpha Korean United Church. The retired United Church minister from Windsor, who now lives in a Toronto seniors residence, is a tireless fundraiser for refugees from the Hermit Kingdom. She works with other church volunteers to find them a safe place to live, legal help and social services. And she listens — raptly, patiently, with no demands. Hoffman is one of the few Canadians they trust, to the extent that fugitives from repressive North Korea trust anyone.

Life of Pi, The English Patient authors among 70 Canadian writers calling on Israel to stop evictions

OTTAWA — The best-selling authors of Life of Pi and The English Patient have joined dozens of other Canadian writers opposing Israeli government efforts to evict and forcibly resettle thousands of Palestinians and Bedouins.

In an open letter to Canadian and Israeli leaders, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje and 68 other Canadian authors and poets say the evictions “are manifestly unjust, and will gravely damage Israel’s international reputation.”

First Nations alliance set to challenge AFN on dealings with federal government on treaties

OTTAWA — A leader of a nascent First Nations alliance set to challenge the Assembly of First Nations’ authority has issued a sharp warning in advance of parallel meetings to be held by both groups next week.

Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak has told AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo that his province’s chiefs are unanimously opposed to the AFN’s dealings with the Harper government on treaties.

Jason Kenney calls David Suzuki ‘xenophobic’ over magazine quotes

OTTAWA — In what looks like a philosophical role reversal, a high-profile environmental activist appears to have suggested Canada has had its fill of immigrants, while a Conservative minister calls that point of view “xenophobic.”

Prominent environmentalist David Suzuki, in remarks published earlier this month in the Paris-based publication L’Express, is quoted as saying Canada’s immigration policy is “disgusting” because “We plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders, and we want to increase our population to support economic growth.”

More harm than good from celebrity humanitarianism

Recently I declined to sign an ad on behalf of a clearly worthy cause, as I generally do. The organizers were lining up people they consider "prominent" or with a "profile." There are A-lists and much lower ones (where I reside) both for signers and causes but if you believe in it, why not do what you can?

The reason I give for declining is that I dislike the implication that some voices count more than others on these matters. I know that sounds churlish and self-indulgent, especially if the issues are urgent. U.S. comic Janeane Garofalo once went on CNN to criticize the Iraq War. She was asked what gave her the nerve, since she's no expert and was only there because she's famous. She said she'd rather see Noam Chomsky on but CNN won't have him because he isn't famous enough so there she was. Then they attack her for it. She sounded smart and ambivalent.

Vic Toews and torture: A shameful legacy

On July 8, 2013, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced his resignation from Stephen Harper's government, as well as his departure from politics altogether. He mentioned personal reasons for this move. We still don't know if his torture legacy came back to haunt him, or if the recently publicized American spying program PRISM quietly affected his political career.

But who really cares, because for his supporters Vic Toews will always be remembered as Mr. Tough On Crime, the man who defended the "rights of victims," or rather some particular victims, to be precise.

Canadian citizenship oath to Queen will be challenged in court

Forcing would-be Canadians to pledge allegiance to the Queen before they can become citizens is discriminatory and a violation of their constitutional rights, three permanent residents are set to argue in court on Friday.

All three maintain they oppose the oath on religious or conscientious grounds, saying pledging allegiance to Canada should be sufficient.

The Citizenship Act requires applicants for citizenship to swear or affirm they will be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”

Josh Fox on Gasland Part 2, the Fracking-Earthquake Link & the Natural Gas Industry’s Use of PSYOPs

Scientists are warning that the controversial practice of natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may lead to far more powerful earthquakes than previously thought. Fracking injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth in order to break up shale rock and release natural gas. A new study published Thursday in the journal Science by a leading seismology lab warns that pumping water underground can induce dangerous earthquakes, even in regions not otherwise prone to tremors. The new report comes as Academy Award-nominated director Josh Fox has released the sequel to his highly acclaimed documentary "Gasland," which sparked a national discussion on fracking. The new film, "Gasland Part II," exposes how the gas industry and the government’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is highly suspect. He also discusses how drilling companies have admitted to having several former military psychological operations, or PSYOPs, specialists on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania to counter opponents of drilling. "What’s really disappointing about this is that this is a moment when an American president has come forward and spoken about climate change and exhibited his obvious and earnest desire to take on the problem; however, the emphasis on fracked gas makes this plan entirely the wrong plan," says Fox, noting that methane released from fracking sites is more potent than other greenhouse gases. "Moving from coal to fracked gas doesn’t give you any climate benefit at all. So the plan should be about how we’re moving off of fossil fuels and onto alternate energy."

Author: -

5 Reasons American Companies Refused To Sign Bangladesh Safety Accord

Earlier this week Walmart, Gap and 15 other North American clothing companies were roundly criticized by labor groups after the retailers signed on to a plan meant to improve conditions for workers in Bangladesh.

Their agreement was separate from an earlier pact signed by fast fashion monolith H&M and 69 other mainly European retailers also meant to address problems in the developing nation after a catastrophic garment factory collapse killed 1,129 workers earlier this year.

Willie Brown On Hillary Clinton 2016 Run: 'Everybody Fears Hillary'

Most of the political punditocracy that rules the American airwaves comes from Washington, D.C., and New York City. But Willie Brown, one of the most outspoken and adroit politicians on the West Coast, appears to have more than enough insight and opinions to hold up his side of the continent.

For decades he was one of the most powerful politicians in California history, serving as the speaker of the state assembly and finishing up his official career after two terms as mayor of San Francisco. But Willie Brown continues to exercise his power even in "retirement," both as a behind-the-scenes power broker and advisor to office-holding allies, and as a public commentator and critic.

States Push Post-Citizens United Reforms As Washington Stands Still

WASHINGTON -- Pushback against the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision keeps growing in the states. Over the first six months of this year, even as campaign finance reforms go nowhere in Congress, five more states have backed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 ruling. That brings the total number of states supporting an amendment to 16.

"Amending the Constitution is hard -- and it should be," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who has himself sponsored a proposal to constitutionally overturn Citizens United and other campaign finance-related court decisions. "But it is not impossible, especially with the growing momentum we are seeing. Sixteen states, including my home state of New Mexico, have called on Congress to overturn Citizens United and send them an amendment for ratification. That’s more than 30 percent of the U.S."

Hillary Clinton Speeches Bring In Over $200,000 Each

It pays to be a rumored 2016 favorite- $200,000, to be exact.

That's how much Hillary Clinton earns to give speeches on the speaking circuit these days, according to the Washington Post.

The former Secretary of State draws huge crows--sometimes close to 20,000 people--at industry group speeches in places like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

James Inhofe: Climate 'Alarmists,' Obama Bureaucrats Plot To Control Americans

WASHINGTON -- Denying climate change isn't new for Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe. But in a Senate floor speech Wednesday night, Inhofe added a conspiratorial wrinkle -- proposed new carbon dioxide regulations are meant not to curb greenhouse gases, but to curb people's freedom.

Inhofe was reacting to President Barack Obama's recent speech detailing his administration's intention to restrict emissions from coal-powered power plants. Inhofe pointed the language that officials were using as evidence they're trying to hide their true intentions, noting that environmental advocates and the administration are using the phrase "carbon pollution" rather than manmade global warming, which Inhofe said he doesn't believe in.

North Carolina Motorcycle Abortion Bill Passes State House

WASHINGTON -- The Republican-controlled North Carolina House pushed through anti-abortion legislation on Thursday, using as their vehicle a motorcycle safety bill that lawmakers had stealthily turned into a measure on abortion.

The final vote was 74-41; the bill now heads back to the state Senate for approval.

The legislation (S.B. 353) would bar so-called sex-selective abortions and impose additional regulations on abortion clinics. Public employees and individuals who obtain health coverage through the federal health care law's new public exchanges would also not have access to a plan that includes abortion coverage.

The dirty view from Windsor: Canada's petcoke problem

There's a perverse irony at play in Windsorites' protests against the petcoke piles on neighbouring Detroit's shores.

For years, residents downwind from dirty coal-fired plants in Michigan and other Midwestern U.S. centres have been breathing nasty transboundary air pollution -- including the burning of petroleum coke, also known by its nickname 'petcoke'.

How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.

Glass-Steagall Act Would Be Revived In New Bill From Elizabeth Warren, Bipartisan Coalition

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of four senators that includes Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced an updated version of the landmark Glass-Steagall Act on Thursday, aimed at reining in risk at America's largest Wall Street banks.

The legislation is unlikely to be signed into law, but underscores a deepening rift between the House and Senate over financial accountability. While bipartisan coalitions in the House have been moving legislation to deregulate swaps -- the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 banking collapse -- a host of Senate bills cracking down on Wall Street risk have garnered Democratic and GOP support.

Charles Koch Foundation: An Income Of $34,000 Puts You In The Wealthiest 1 Percent

If you earn $34,000, that puts you in the wealthiest 1 percent of the world, according to the Charles Koch Foundation.

That's one of many assertions made in a new ad that attempts to undermine government policies that protect low- and middle-income Americans. You can watch the ad, which is produced by Koch's conservative non-profit group, here:

Tens of Thousands of California Prisoners Launch Mass Hunger Strike

On Monday, July 8, prisoners at the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison began a mass hunger strike to protest long-term solitary confinement. It is not the first time such an action has taken place. In 2011, prisoners staged two separate hunger strikes to protest their continued placement in long-term solitary confinement.

Hunger strikers issued five core demands:

1. Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations.

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.

4. Provide adequate food.

5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

Academia's Pink-Collar Workforce

Victoria Baldassano, an English instructor at Montgomery College and the mother of a child with disabilities, thought turning to teaching from her previous career as a journalist would offer more stable pay and a better career path. But in the nearly eight years she’s been working at the community college, she hasn’t seen much improvement in the long hours, the inadequate office space and the poor salary—she told me she made $26,000 last year teaching a couple of classes and picking up extra work doing disability tutoring.

Confirmed: Fracking Triggers Quakes and Seismic Chaos

Major earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger reflex quakes in areas where fluids have been injected into the ground from fracking and other industrial operations, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday.

Previous studies, covered in a recent Mother Jones feature from Michael Behar, have shown that injecting fluids into the ground can increase the seismicity of a region. This latest study shows that earthquakes can tip off smaller quakes in far-away areas where fluid has been pumped underground.

DND unable to spend billions in what critic says is stealth deficit cutting

OTTAWA - New figures from the parliamentary budget office show National Defence has not spent billions of dollars set aside for it during the last budget year, a trend described as deficit slashing by stealth.

The data on quarterly expenditures in the federal government show that by the end of the last fiscal year in March, the department had spent $2.3 billion less than allocated by Parliament.

That's more than 10 per cent of the annual defence appropriation, also the single biggest discretionary line item in the federal budget.

Is Peter Kent’s trail of destruction finally coming to an end?

Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent recently let the cat out of the bag on Facebook that he expects to be demoted in the upcoming cabinet shuffle. After two and a half years of acting more as a facilitator for eliminating environmental protections than as a steward for our air and water, Kent may want to also change his status byline to “Canada’s Worst Environment Minister Ever.”

Objectively, I believe Mr. Kent can lay claim to this title. It’s a tribute to his dedication that no one else even comes close.

PST scrap may send province to poorhouse

The stalemate in the legislature threatens to push the government over a "fiscal cliff," NDP house leader Jennifer Howard said Wednesday.

Howard, who was loath to use those two words six weeks ago, said the possibility the government could run out of money by the end of July looms larger as Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives continue to plug up the government's legislative and fiscal agenda.

Employment Discrimination Pushes Felons Onto Food Stamp Rolls, Increasing Program's Costs

By refusing to hire people who have been convicted of crimes, employers may be adding billions of dollars to the total cost of the country's ballooning food assistance program.

Citing data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimated that about 2 million workers are shut out of the economy each year as a result of a felony conviction or a prison record.

States Make 'Historic and Disturbing Cuts' To Unemployment Benefits

This piece comes to us courtesy of Stateline. Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

North Carolina drew national attention last week when it dramatically scaled back its unemployment insurance program, ending benefits for tens of thousands and slashing the amount of time that jobless people can collect aid.

'Signature Strikes' and the President's Empty Rhetoric on Drones

On March 17, 2011, four Hellfire missiles, fired from a U.S. drone, slammed into a bus depot in the town of Datta Khel in Pakistan's Waziristan border region. An estimated 42 people were killed. It was just another day in America's so-called war on terror. To most Americans the strike was likely only a one-line blip on the evening news, if they even heard about it at all.

But what really happened that day? Who were those 42 people who were killed, and what were they doing? And what effect did the strike have? Did it make us safer? These are the questions raised, and answered, in a must-watch new video just released by Robert Greenwald's Brave New Foundation.

Eminent writers fight literary battle for Palestinian cave-dwellers

In a world of catastrophes, coups and civil wars it’s hard to focus on the off-track issues that seldom hit the limelight.

But the plight of 1,000 obscure, traditional cave-dwellers in the arid southern West Bank has moved 25 of Israel’s most famous authors to aim the sharp end of their pens at the Israeli authorities.

Their petition, written by acclaimed novelist David Grossman – named among the 100 greatest Israelis of all time -- calls for a halt to the planned evacuation of eight Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills.  Israel says the move is needed to clear the way for a military training zone.