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 17, 2013

Harper's Cabinet Shuffle Was All Sizzle, No Steak

If I had any lingering doubts regarding my decision to resign from the Conservative Caucus to sit as an Independent in the House of Commons, this week's Cabinet shuffle certainly removed them. The facelift did nothing to either restore an appropriate balance between the front and back benches or address the other democratic deficits that plague Ottawa.

Rep. John Lewis: 'The Voting Rights Act Is Needed Now Like Never Before'

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing today on the Voting Rights Act since the Supreme Court gutted the landmark civil rights law last month. The key witnesses were civil rights icon Representative John Lewis and Representative James Sensenbrenner, the former chair of the House Judiciary Committee who led the effort to overwhelmingly reauthorize the VRA in 2006.

Mitch Daniels Sought To Censor Public Universities, Professors

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels pledged to promote academic freedom when he became president of Purdue University in January, but newly released emails show he attempted to eliminate what he considered liberal "propaganda" at Indiana's public universities while governor.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request show Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn's writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a "cleanup" of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

Microsoft Tries To Outdo Google, Facebook Outrage Over PRISM: 'The Constitution Itself Is Suffering'

In a strongly worded letter, Microsoft is pressing the Obama administration for permission to disclose more information about the U.S. government's secret program to spy on Americans' Internet activity, including how often authorities are snooping online.

"[T]he Constitution itself is suffering, and it will take the personal involvement of you or the President to set things right," Microsoft lawyer Bradford Smith wrote in an unusually emotional plea to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Vehicle Records Taken By Law Enforcement Agencies Across America: ACLU

WASHINGTON — You can drive, but you can't hide.

A rapidly growing network of police cameras is capturing, storing and sharing data on license plates, making it possible to stitch together people's movements whether they are stuck in a commute, making tracks to the beach or up to no good.

Anger erupts over Harper’s ‘enemy’ list as dismissed cabinet minister Peter Kent draws Watergate comparison

OTTAWA — Comparisons with the Nixon administration and Watergate are being raised following revelations the prime minister’s office asked for “enemy” lists compiled in advance of this week’s cabinet shuffle.

The PMO sent an email to Conservative ministerial aides on July 4 asking to develop lists of troublesome bureaucrats as well as “friend and enemy stakeholders” for incoming ministers and their staff.

Here's Florida’s Next Trayvon Martin Case

A white man named Michael Dunn shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Jordan Davis in Florida last year after a brief dispute. The prosecutor overseeing the case is Florida state attorney Angela Corey. Dunn, who will be tried for murder, claims the shooting was in self-defense. Sound familiar?

Now that the state's nationally televised and notorious self-defense case has ended with the acquittal of defendant George Zimmerman, a next potentially high-profile test of the state's criminal-justice system may come when Dunn goes on trial for first-degree murder this September. And while Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground gun law didn't in the end figure into the Zimmerman decision, it may be tested in the Dunn case.

Edward Snowden Nobel Peace Prize: Swedish Professor Nominates NSA Leaker

A Swedish professor named Stefan Svallfors has nominated Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize, RT reports. In a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Svallfors said Snowden deserved the award due to his “heroic effort at great personal cost,” and that he had shown “individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Svallfors also mentions the awarding of the 2009 Novel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, arguing that giving the 2013 prize to Snowden would “help to save the Nobel Peace Prize from the disrepute incurred by the hasty and ill-conceived decision to award US President Barack Obama 2009 award,” according to RT.

Original Article
Author: HuffPost Live

PMO withholding email about Wright-Duffy deal from RCMP: sources

The Prime Minister’s Office has been withholding from the RCMP an email about the $90,000 cheque Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff wrote to Sen. Mike Duffy, CTV News has learned.

RCMP investigators have been trying to obtain the email ever since CTV News first revealed its existence two months ago.

The prime minister’s communications director, Andrew MacDougall, confirmed that the email exists.

Oh, To Be a Harper Enemy

Leonard Garment died this week at the age of 89. Garment's name will be familiar to scandal buffs as the Nixon advisor who advised his boss not to destroy the presidential tape recordings that eventually blew open the Watergate scandal. "Erase them?" he probably said. "But Dick, they'll be a blast at the Christmas party!" Garment will go down in history alongside such figures as Bobby "Peg-leg" Wilson of Florida who declared, "Don't worry, Ma -- this here gator's dead!" And the unknown passenger who announced, "Gentleman, the Hindenburg has arrived safely! Light up the cigars and fireworks!"

UK approves £12bn of arms exports to countries with poor human rights

More than 3,000 current export licences for arms and military equipment worth more than £12bn have been approved for 27 countries classified by the Foreign Office as "of concern" because of their poor human rights record, a cross-party group of MPs reveals on Wednesday.

Countries for which significant sales have been approved include Israel - the destination of the bulk of the arms sales - Saudi Arabia, China, and Zimbabwe, according to the arms export controls committee's annual report, drawn up by MPs from four separate select committees.

The Problem with Record Bank Profits

What do these large dollar numbers have in common: $6.5 billion, $5.5 billion, $4.2 billion, and $1.9 billion? They represent the latest quarterly net profits made by too-big-to-fail banks—in order, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs, the last of which reported its second-quarter figures before the market opened on Tuesday.

Five years after being bailed out by the federal government, the U.S. banking system hasn’t merely recovered from the financial crisis that brought it to the brink of collapse. It is generating record profits—the sorts of figures usually associated with oil giants like ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. During the past twelve months, for example, JPMorgan, the country’s biggest bank, has earned $24.4 billion in net income.

Charles Koch on the Poor: Let Them Eat Economic Freedom

Quit whining, American poor people and refugees from the middle class. You’re actually part of the 1 percent.

That’s the laughably misleading claim in a new ad from right-wing multibillionaire Charles Koch. The $200,000 ad campaign, now running in Kansas, starts off like one of those breathless infomercials: “Are you in the 1 percent?” a male voiceover asks. “Well, if you earn over $34,000 a year, you are one of the wealthiest one percent”—he pauses slightly before the kicker—“in the world.”

Pierre Poilievre's Cabinet Promotion Angers NDP, Sun Columnist

New Democrats say the promotion of Tory MP Pierre Poilievre to cabinet is a sad reflection of what it takes to get ahead in the Harper government.

The controversial MP with a reputation as a Conservative attack dog was named Minister of State for Democratic Reform this week.

TransCanada Pipeline Proposal Fuels Ottawa Opposition

The Energy East pipeline proposal to carry crude from Alberta's oilsands to a refinery in Saint John, N.B., is now igniting opposition in the nation's capital.

Support for the pipeline has gathered steam in the past 10 days since the devastating train explosion in Lac Mégantic, Que., where a train carrying crude to Saint John exploded in the small southwestern Quebec town. The death toll in that blast is now up to 37.

Clement digs in heels with striking diplomats, says he's not going to 'fold'

OTTAWA - Striking diplomats should get back to work, Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Tuesday, because he's not about to fold "like a $3 suitcase" in the ongoing stalemate between the two sides.

But the head of the striking Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers said the union is prepared to extend the strike into the fall if necessary.

Clement and Tim Edwards, the union president, both dug in their heels in separate interviews Tuesday after engaging in a heated exchange on Twitter.

Conservatives won’t say who is on “enemy” lists

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is facing demands to reveal who it has placed on “enemy” lists reportedly compiled for new ministers after Monday’s cabinet shuffle.

Opposition critics were using words like “creepy” and “paranoid” in reaction to reports that government staffers had armed ministers with lists of people, organizations and public-service projects to avoid in their new jobs.

Scarborough subway is bad policy at virtually every level

After a history of absurd flip-flops Toronto city council is, yet again, poised to vote on the city’s transit future. The choice is between a subway’s costly uncertainty and the fully funded sure-thing that is light rail. Unfortunately, with Queen’s Park increasingly open to a Scarborough subway, the political tide is running in the direction of an underground route. Here’s what that entails for Torontonians:

It means replacing an ultra-modern light rail line, complete with seven new stations — entirely paid for by the province — with a more expensive subway, with three new stations, serving fewer areas of Scarborough. That translates into a big convenience gap. Only 24,000 Scarborough residents and employees would be within walking distance of the proposed subway. In contrast, 47,000 would be within walking distance of the light rail line. But never mind, people still love subways.

Aboriginal Nutrition Experiments: Hungry Kids, Adults Were Test Subjects, Paper Reveals

Recently published historical research says hungry aboriginal children and adults were once used as unwitting subjects in nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.

"This was the hardest thing I've ever written," said Ian Mosby, who has revealed new details about one of the least-known but perhaps most disturbing aspects of government policy toward aboriginals immediately after the Second World War.

Goldman Sachs, Other Bank Earnings Somehow Soar Despite Onerous Regulations

It's a Festivus Miracle in July! Banks are somehow making gigatons of money despite onerous new regulations and capital requirements. Why, it's almost like they're not telling the truth when they warn, repeatedly, that these new rules will destroy their profits and the economy.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday reported second-quarter earnings of $1.86 billion, up 100 percent from a year ago. The high numbers make Goldman the latest big bank to not only survive but thrive in the post-crisis era, when everybody hates banks and is trying to crimp their pay and their risk-taking.

Why are Canada's Trains Vulnerable? Good Old Capitalist Cost-Cutting

The fireball in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, flashed around the world last week as a very hot news item. Thirty-five people are now confirmed to have been killed, with 15 more still missing and presumed dead, as a result of the explosions of crude oil carried by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway's (MM&A) runaway freight train. When Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper quickly showed up to offer his condolences, this also made international news.

The Facts in the Zimmerman Trial

Here’s a hypothetical about the George Zimmerman trial. Imagine that all the evidence is unchanged, with one exception. Suppose there was a dog walker who came upon Zimmerman’s confrontation with Trayvon Martin, saw the whole thing, and testified before the jury. Who threw the first punch? Who was the aggressor? Which one of the two shouted for help? Presumably, all those mysteries would be solved. The facts wouldn’t change, but our understanding of them might be entirely different.

Flaherty statement on Scarborough project calls Sheppard funding into question

Replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway, rather than the light rail line currently planned, could threaten funding for the separate light rail line planned for Sheppard Ave. E.

A subway replacement for the RT would cost at least $1.1 billion more than light rail. Mayor Rob Ford, who argues that subways are superior, says the proposal is “dead” if the city cannot secure hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government.

McDonalds’ suggested budget for employees shows just how impossible it is to get by on minimum wage

McDonald’s has partnered with Visa to make a website dedicated to showing its employees how to properly budget their meager peasant salaries. However, what it actually does is illustrate the fact that it is nearly impossible to get by on minimum wage, as shown in this “example” budget chart:

OECD On Canada: Long-Term Unemployment A Growing Problem

PARIS - Unemployment rates in Canada and the United States will fall significantly by the end of next year but the overall rate among some of the world's advanced economies will remain high, the OECD forecasts in a report issued Tuesday.

For the 34-country Organization for Economic Co-operation and Devepment, overall unemployment is projected to fall slightly next year to 7.8 per cent from eight per cent.

James Moore tapped for industry post as B.C., feds face off on Northern Gateway

James Moore’s new post as Industry Minister puts him at the helm of a portfolio that will steer the future of Canada’s oil and gas developments.

It is a mammoth challenge, particularly here in B.C., where the B.C. government has been at odds with its federal counterpart over Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to the west coast.

Moore, MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, said he is looking forward to working with Premier Christy Clark and her caucus, many of whom he knows personally.

Lisa Raitt met with ethics watchdog ahead of shuffle into Transport

Hours before she was named as transport minister Monday, Lisa Raitt spoke to the federal ethics commissioner about her new job.

Raitt’s common-law husband, Bruce Wood, is the president and chief executive officer of the Hamilton Port Authority, a federally mandated organization with considerable regulatory involvement with the department she now leads.

Raitt’s press secretary, Ashley Kelahear, would not say what the minister and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson spoke about Monday morning, or whether Raitt was given any guidance on the matter.

All change?

FOR A party that trumpets the virtues of small government, the governing Conservatives of Canada have trouble practising what they preach. The new cabinet Stephen Harper, the prime minister, revealed on July 15th has 39 ministers, two more than the one it replaced. And it will reach a record 40 members when the role of government leader in the Senate, which was inexplicably left vacant, is eventually filled.

Trayvon Martin's killer walks free

This much is clear: Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in the rainy evening of February 26, 2012.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American teenager. Zimmerman, 28 years old, is a man of multi-ethnic heritage who was patrolling his gated community in Florida.

Martin had been walking back from a 7-Eleven where he had bought a bag of Skittles and an iced tea and was unarmed when he was shot by Zimmerman's semi-automatic. He can be heard begging for his life on the police dispatch recording of the incident.

Peddling fantasy: Public choice theory and political failure in Canada

Separating fact from fiction, true from false, reality from fantasy is something people do routinely, and that journalists do for a living. What readers recognize as news is an untruth discovered, or a truth revealed. Reporters do the work.

Other professionals work within the same frame or reference, looking for good evidence, and discarding the bad. Doctors, engineers, scientists and other academics all want to get to the same place: a clear, precise picture of what is going on. Understanding the world requires testing for true or false -- within a larger picture of what constitutes reality.

Yakama/Umatilla fishing rights activist threatened with arrest for traditional cultural camp

Sid Mills, Yakama/Umatilla tribes, long time frontline fishing rights and other indigenous sovereignty movement leader was harassed and threatened by US Forest cops with arrest on Saturday July 13, 2013.
Sid is notable as one of the frontline activists who fought with the Franks Landing Indian Community, which was recently noted by President Obama in his speech at the December 2012 meeting with tribal leaders at the White House . (The activist of Franks Landing!)
Sid was threatened with jail for trying to reestablish a traditional cultural camp in the Indian Heaven Wilderness Area surrounded by the US Gifford National Forest in Washington State.  The camp is called Meadow Creek Indian Camp and is within the Handshake Treaty area.

Sea Level Rise Study Shows Each Degree Of Warming Could Bring 2.3 Meter Shift

BERLIN, July 15 (Reuters) - Sea levels could rise by 2.3 metres for each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase and they will remain high for centuries to come, according to a new study by the leading climate research institute, released on Monday.

Anders Levermann said his study for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research was the first to examine evidence from climate history and combine it with computer simulations of contributing factors to long-term sea-level increases: thermal expansion of oceans, the melting of mountain glaciers and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

Travon Martin Protest California: Angry Over George Zimmerman Verdict, Demonstrators Raid Wal-Mart And Block Freeway

LOS ANGELES — After a spate of vandalism and violence, Los Angeles police vowed Tuesday to crack down with quick action and arrests if further disturbances arise from street protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of a black Florida teenager.

Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who took office barely two weeks ago, said peaceful protests are welcome but violence won't be tolerated. Beck vowed that anyone committing violence will be arrested.

Mining Company Deploys More Masked Militiamen Against "Eco-Terrorists"

Debate over a proposed open-pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin went from heated to outright bizarre last week when masked guards brandishing assault rifles showed up at the site in the remote and scenic wilderness of Penokee Hills.

Local activist Rob Ganson, 56, first came upon three heavily armed guards while leading a small group on a hike to view the mining site. (The drilling site is on private land, but the owner has been given a tax break in exchange for keeping it open to public use.) The guards, said Ganson, carried semi-automatic guns, were dressed in camouflage, and wore masks covering their faces. "As you can imagine, it was quite a shock for five middle-aged people out for a walk," he said. Ganson tried to engage the guards, but was "met with stony-faced silence." He was alarmed but managed to grab a few photos of the men. "I was thinking if the worst scenario happened, at least there would be photos on my camera."

Racism Isn't Just An American Thing

If you've been following the news, as I have and do, you'll know that yesterday, the verdict in the Trayvon Martin shooting case was due to come down. The case has been one of great media interest and public outcry. A 17-year-old black boy was followed and shot because George Zimmerman, a white-passing man who fancied himself a "neighbourhood watch cop", decided he looked suspicious. As famously reported, Martin was not armed and was found carrying a pack of Skittles and an iced tea. He looked suspicious because, as Zimmerman said, "he was wearing a hoodie".

Yesterday, George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges. He was found not guilty, despite his own admission that he shot and killed Martin, despite police advice not to follow the boy, despite being told to leave things alone. He was cleared and is a free man.

Ministerial staff asked to develop blacklists in lead-up to shuffle: source

OTTAWA – In the lead-up to Monday’s cabinet shuffle, ministerial staffers were asked to develop lists of troublesome bureaucrats and “enemy” stakeholders, Global News has learned.

The information was to be included in a transition binder traditionally prepared for incoming ministers.

Global News has obtained a July 4 email written by Erica Furtado, an executive assistant with issues management in the Prime Minister’s Office, with the subject line “Transition Binder Check List”.

In the e-mail, Furtado lists 10 items that need to be addressed in the transition binders. See a scan of the actual email below.

Harper's talk of renewal, generational change masks status quo on steroids

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's mid-summer cabinet shuffle had all the trappings of a major makeover, including a novel social media delivery platform choreographed in real time.

As each ministerial appointee emerged from their car Monday morning at Rideau Hall, the Prime Minister's Office would post the new cabinet assignment on Twitter.

Cabinet shuffle 2013: new ministers given “enemy” lists

OTTAWA—Ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newly shuffled cabinet are being armed with “enemy” lists of people and bureaucratic interests to avoid, according to a PMO email obtained by the Star.

The July 4 email, from Erica Furtado in the PMO’s issues-management department, directs government staffers on what to include in the transition booklets that are given to new ministers.

Addicted to bitumen: The hidden face of the Alberta oil boom

Last week, accompanied by some dozen other Quebecois activists, I visited Fort McMurray, Alberta. This city, the global nerve centre of tar sands production, is a city like no other. What I saw and heard there moved me deeply, and the tragedy of Lac Megantic has only served to reinforce those feelings. I will be back.

Our flight from Montreal landed in Edmonton, and as we strolled through the airport, we passed a gift shop. On prominent display in the front of the store were a series of sweatshirts bearing the evocative slogan: "Got oil? Alberta oil!" It's hard to know whether to be shocked or not, but here oil is truly a matter of national pride. As we drive into the heart of the city my initial impression is confirmed. SUVs and over-sized pick-up trucks are everywhere. The amusement park on the outskirts of Edmonton welcomes its visitors with a towering and triumphant replica of an oil rig.

Police who lie: Illegal searches by Peel Police allow alleged gun offenders to walk free

Judges in Peel Region have let at least eight alleged gun offenders walk free after finding police made illegal searches and, in some cases, misled the court to cover up the misconduct.

A “disturbing pattern,” Justice Bruce Durno recently called it before tossing the case against Jahmarr Sterling-Debney, who was found with a .22-calibre pistol and faced a minimum of three years in prison if convicted.

Subway in Scarborough would be a transit mismatch

Never mind that old adage, Not In My Back Yard.

In Scarborough — and now at city hall and Queen’s Park — there’s a new rallying cry that has everyone running for political cover:

Subways In My Back Yard.

Not NIMBY but SIMBY (s.v.p.).

While NIMBYism is based largely on fear, SIMBYism is driven by pure envy. Subway envy.

Heartbreak at the Edge of Canada's Tar Sands

"Here," said a Heiltsuk friend as we began the walk, "put this in your pocket, it will help protect you." She handed me a piece of dried Devil's club bark, medicine from the B.C. coastal rainforest to carry with me as we walked by Alberta's tar sands facilities for the 4th annual Healing Walk.

Strong medicine was definitely in order as my lungs hurt, heart ached, and eyes welled up with tears with all that I witnessed.