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.]

Monday, August 12, 2013

Does the Chief Justice Have Too Much Power?

John Roberts has a way of inserting himself into almost every political setting. He upstaged Barack Obama at his first Inauguration; he made his the most important single vote cast in the 2012 election; he has upended 2014 politics with his opinion gutting the Voting Act. Now it turns out he has assumed a key role in the War on Terror.

So it seems entirely reasonable for The New York Times's Linda Greenhouse to suggest that "we have given the chief justice -- any chief justice, not just this one -- too much to do."

The Battle Over Russia’s Anti-Gay Law

Yelena Mizulina is the chairperson of the Russian Duma’s Committee on Family, Women, and Children. As a champion of high moral standards, she has framed laws and launched legislative initiatives to improve the morality of Russian society.

Kseniya Sobchak is a celebrity, TV figure, and socialite, whose love affairs—up until early this year, when she married a popular actor—were a subject of media gossip. Sobchak, whose late father was mayor of St. Petersburg and, in the early nineteen-nineties, a kind of mentor to Vladimir Putin, is an attractive woman of about thirty known for her audacious, even provocative, talk about any matters from politics to sex.

Stop And Frisk Violated Rights Of New Yorkers, Judge Rules

A judge has ruled that the NYPD's controversial use of the stop-and-frisk tactic violated the rights of thousands of New Yorkers, The New York Times reports. Judge Shira Scheindlin's decision Monday called for a federal monitor to watch over the police department to ensure cops are in compliance with the constitution.

From the Associated Press:

    The New York Police Department deliberately violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers with its contentious stop-and-frisk policy, and an independent monitor is needed to oversee major changes, a federal judge ruled Monday in a stinging rebuke for what the mayor and police commissioner have defended as a life-saving, crime-fighting tool.

Obama Seems Lost in the 'War on Terror'

It ought to be pretty clear that President Obama doesn’t have the slightest clue about what to do about terrorism and radical Islam.

How else to explain why the United States, after saying that Al Qaeda is pretty much dead and buried, closed nearly twenty embassies around the world last week after US intelligence agencies intercepted a single message from the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan to the leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen? And then, making things worse, the United States unleashed an unprecedented barrage of terrorist-creating drone strikes against targets in Yemen? And, finally, with allied branches of Al Qaeda in both Syria and Iraq, the United States is offering to help Iraq’s government battle the group—which is setting off waves of suicide bombs that kill hundreds—while, at the same time, supporting the same Al Qaeda group in Syria?

Member of Congressional Science Committee: Global Warming a ‘Fraud’ to ‘Create Global Government’

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a senior member of the House Science Committee, used a portion of his time at a town hall this week to launch into a rant about global warming, which he described as a plot by liberals to “create global government to control our lives.”

On Friday, the President Treated Us Like Five-Year-Olds

This is ancient news by blog standards, but I still feel the need to comment on President Obama's singularly disingenuous remarks on Friday about Edward Snowden and the surveillance state. The fact that Obama doesn't consider Snowden a patriot comes as no surprise. Presidents don't generally approve of people who release large volumes of national secrets. But this was really too much:

    Back in May...I called for a review of our surveillance programs....My preference — and I think the American people’s preference — would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws, a thoughtful fact-based debate that would then lead us to a better place. Because I never made claims that all the surveillance technologies that have developed since the time some of these laws had been put in place somehow didn't require potentially some additional reforms. That's exactly what I called for.

The cancer of the surveillance state

I am not surprised by the new Obama Doctrine — truth is treason.

But can the United States avoid morphing into a monster if its slide into executive lawlessness is not arrested?

Everywhere you look, governments are systematically becoming more and more authoritarian and ultra-secretive. It is as if what they fear most in their citizenry is the old habit of liberty — that quaint passion for discussion, dissent and information it engenders. In a democracy, people put limits on the government. Somehow, that has been turned upside-down. Whatever that topsy-turvy world may be, it isn’t one regulated by the rule of law.

No thanks, Enbridge: Line 9 refit is all pain, no gain

The National Energy Board (NEB) has been empowered by the federal government to rule on Enbridge Inc.'s project to re-purpose a pipeline (Line 9) so it can carry tar sands oil across Toronto. We regret that the NEB has declined to allow East End Against Line 9 to take part in its hearing on the Enbridge project. The reason given is that the areas we represent -- 8-15 kilometres downstream from Line 9 -- are allegedly "not in close vicinity to the pipeline route" and we "therefore did not persuasively demonstrate a specific and detailed interest that would be directly affected by the Project." [1]

Supreme Court likely to rule Parliament can unilaterally impose term limits: experts

There’s a good chance Canada’s Supreme Court will agree with the government that it can unilaterally impose term limits on Senators, say constitutional experts who spoke with The Hill Times.

“I think term limits can definitely be seen as part of what we would call just Parliament having control over its sort of internal house-keeping [amendments it can make unilaterally under s.44 of the constitution]. I wouldn’t see term limits as being so integral to the role of Senators that you’d need the 7/50 rule,” Carissima Mathen, an associate law professor at the University of Ottawa, told The Hill Times.

Aglukkaq’s commitment to environment questionable, say critics

Leona Aglukkaq has yet to make a public statement as Environment Minister since she was appointed to the file in July, and some critics are concerned that her appointment signals a continuation of vague commitments and partisan attacks that have defined the national environmental debate in recent years.

After years of intensely partisan debate over Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, critics of the government’s environmental policies see few signs of change with Ms. Aglukkaq’s (Nunavut) appointment.

IMF report says PBO ‘earned reputation for good quality, independent analysis,’ but it’s not what Tories wanted

The Conservatives may have turned on their creation, but an International Monetary Fund study is full of praise for the Parliamentary Budget Office and the contributions it has made to better fiscal planning and greater public spending transparency despite efforts by the government to derail its work and undermine its credibility.

The IMF report—Case Studies of Fiscal Councils: Functions and Impact—examines six such bodies, all of which drew on the experience of the U.S. Congressional Budget Office and all of which were designed to improve fiscal performance and transparency. Our own PBO seems to have had some of the greatest difficulties in getting its work done. But nonetheless, the IMF study says, its work has been impressive.

No guarantee spectrum auction will benefit consumers: critics

The Tories’ handling of the upcoming wireless spectrum auction is “a failure” for consumers, say NDP and Liberal critics, despite the fact that the federal government’s rules for bidding on scarce airwaves will promote competition in Canada’s telecommunications sector.

NDP MP Dan Harris (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.), his party’s deputy industry critic, described the government’s attempts to promote the entry of a fourth nationwide service provider into the Canadian wireless market  “a categorical failure.”

Four Questions for Fed Chair Candidates

The decisions made by the next chair of the Federal Reserve will have a powerful impact on the economic well-being of every person in America.

While the largest financial institutions and corporations in this country have been bailed out and are now back to making enormous profits and rewarding their executives with outsized compensation packages, recovery hasn't gone so well for the rest of America. Middle class families have continued to lose ground economically, the number of Americans living in poverty is near an all-time high, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.

Michael Hayden, Former NSA Chief: After A Major Attack, U.S. Likely To Seize More Surveillance Powers

WASHINGTON -- Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Michael Hayden hinted Sunday at how the NSA's eavesdropping and data collection program is likely to evolve over time. Critics of the project have warned that by building the capacity to track the electronic communications of all American citizens, the government will inevitably be tempted to employ every tool it has at its disposal and scuttle whatever constitutional safeguards stand in the way. Not to do so eventually would in fact be more surprising, goes the argument.

Cold Lake Bitumen Leak: Critics Call For Review Of Oilsands Steaming

An investigation into the cause of a major oil leak in northern Alberta is underway, but critics are calling for a review of the extraction process that may have lead to the spill in the first place.

Clean up crews have been working around the clock to contain a bitumen leak at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s (CNRL) Primrose operation, which has been spewing for nearly two months now.

Deep, narrow fissures have been seeping bitumen -- a sticky, black form of petroleum -- from within the confines of the Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake's air weapons range, approximately 300 km northeast of Edmonton.

For Freshmen in the House, Seats of Plenty

WASHINGTON — Representative Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky with little experience in the intricacies of Wall Street, was among the lucky House freshmen to secure a seat on the powerful Financial Services Committee.

Now, half a year into his first term, he has emerged as a telling example of why the panel is sometimes called “the cash committee” — a place, critics say, where there are big incentives for freshmen to do special favors for the industry.

Lon Snowden: Obama 'Either Being Misled... Or He Is Intentionally Misleading The American People'

Lon Snowden, the father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, offered some harsh words for President Obama on Sunday.

"I was disappointed in the president's press conference," he said on ABC's This Week. "I believe that's driven by his clear understanding that the American people are absolutely unhappy with what they've learned and that more is going to be forthcoming."

First Nations stand between Canada-China investment agreement

A legal challenge filed in a federal court by the Hupacasath First Nation in B.C. is standing in the way of the Canadian government ratifying a controversial investment treaty with China, says a member of the small B.C. community.

The federal government was swift to sign a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China last September, but it cannot take effect until it has been ratified by both sides.

Israeli Settlements Get Go-Ahead On Eve Of Palestine Peace Talks

JERUSALEM — Israel approved building nearly 1,200 more settlement homes Sunday and agreed to release 26 long-held Palestinian security prisoners – highlighting an apparent settlements-for-prisoners trade-off that got both sides back to peace talks after a five-year freeze.

Yet concerns were mounting, especially among Palestinians, that the price is too steep. Sunday's announcement was Israel's third in a week on promoting Jewish settlements on war-won lands the Palestinians want for a state. It fueled Palestinian fears of a new Israeli construction spurt under the cover of U.S.-sponsored negotiations.

Twitter Forms PAC, Registers Its First Lobbyist

Twitter is making strides into the world of politics, forming its own political action committee and registering its first federal lobbyist.

Twitter#PAC, as the PAC will be called, aims to exert influence on issues of government surveillance, patent reform and internet freedom, the Washington Post reported.

In tandem with the new PAC, Twitter's policy manager William Carty, who joined the company in 2012, has officially registered to lobby the government on consumer issues, foreign relations, technology and copyright.

The microblogging service will be joining the ranks of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, which have each carved a presence in Washington with their own PACs.

Microsoft's PAC made $1,041,500 in political contributions during the 2012 campaign cycle, according to the Center For Responsive Politics. Google contributed $885,000, and Facebook contributed $270,000.

Original Article
Author: Braden Goyette

Yemen Drone Strikes Bring New Round Of Terror To Embattled Country

On Friday night, Farea al-Muslimi, a young Yemeni journalist and activist, went for a drive with a friend around the capital city of his home, Sanaa.

It was a holiday weekend, the second day of the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Fitr, and the streets were calm. But what struck al-Muslimi the most as they crossed through the town, was that they hardly encountered any security presence.

Wyden: Obama's NSA Proposals Are Nice, But They Don't Go Far Enough

On Friday afternoon, President Obama held a press conference where he promised to bring increased transparency to the NSA's digital surveillance programs. He announced a series of proposed reforms to the way the NSA collects data and to how the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) operates, along with plans to convene a group of "outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies."

Senate Insider Speaks Out: Ex-Wyden Staffer on Secret Laws, Domestic Spying and Obama’s NSA Reforms

As President Obama proposed a series of changes to reform the government’s surveillance policies and programs, we speak to Jennifer Hoelzer, the former deputy chief of staff for Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a longtime critic of the Obama administration for using a secret interpretation of the USA PATRIOT Act to allow the NSA to conduct domestic surveillance. "Unfortunately Edward Snowden was the only means by which we have been able to have this debate," Hoelzer says. "We, working for Senator Wyden, did everything to try to encourage the administration to bring these facts to light. We’re not talking about sources and methods, we’re not talking about sensitive materials, we’re talking about what they believed the law allows them to do." Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper has revealed the National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases to search for email and phone calls of U.S. citizens without a warrant. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, NSA operatives can hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information.

Author: --

U.S. Drone Strike In Yemen Kills 2 Al Qaeda Militants, Officials Say

SANAA, Yemen — A suspected U.S. drone strike killed two alleged al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen on Saturday, military officials said, making it the ninth such strike in just two weeks.

The strike in Lahj province wounded two other militants, one of them seriously, the officials said. The four had been traveling in a car in the area of el-Askariya. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said it was the first time a U.S. drone fired on this area of Lahj.

The N.S.A.’s Dirty Dishes: Obama’s Press Conference

What has Edward Snowden done for Barack Obama? According to the President, who spoke at a press conference on Friday, all Snowden did was rush him; he was already going to look and see if “some bolts needed to be tightened up” on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs before Snowden gave any documents to the Guardian or the Washington Post. Obama just would have done it quietly, getting a few things straight. Instead, here he was, coming out with a list of proposed reforms that somehow directly touched on programs and previous lies exposed by the leaks, and being asked by Chuck Todd if he considered Snowden a patriot.

Harper vows to stick to wireless plan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government is sticking with controversial wireless industry policies despite the growing outcry from Canadian cellphone companies over what they call an unfair advantage for foreign competitors.

“Our government has pursued extremely consistently and extremely clearly a policy of fostering greater competition in this industry for the benefit of consumers,” Harper told reporters in Miramichi, N.B., in response to questions about the Canadian industry’s stance.

Ottawa plans to go ahead with plan that could let in U.S. telecom giants: Harper

MIRAMICHI, N.B. - The Conservative government won't budge on rules that Canada's biggest telecoms say will give foreign wireless firms an unfair advantage, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.

Harper said he understands companies like BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) have to stand up for their shareholders and employees against allowing giant foreign firms like Verizon Communications Inc. to move into the Canadian market.

But he said Canadians want to see more competition in the industry and lower cellphone rates.

Same Old ALEC

Chicago—The American Legislative Exchange Council wraps up its fortieth annual conference in Chicago today, after facing what organizers estimate to be the largest protest in the organization’s history on Thursday.

Despite the recent exodus of dozens of corporations and a public attempt to tamp down some pieces of its more explicitly far-right agenda, this year’s ALEC conference made clear that the group still wants to operate in secret, away from potential criticism—and with a group of corporations and interest groups that are as committed as ever to anti-worker, anti-environment, pro-gun legislation.

Obama: Larry Summers Isn't Front-Runner For Fed Chair, Would Make Excellent Fed Chair

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday pushed back against rumors that his former economic adviser Larry Summers has "the inside track" among potential nominees to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

When asked by Major Garrett, a reporter for National Journal and CBS News' Chief White House Correspondent, whether Summers indeed had "the inside track," Obama said that both Summers and another top choice, Janet Yellen, were excellent candidates who would make superb leaders at the Fed. Yellen, who is currently vice chairman of the Fed, has been endorsed by several Senate Democrats and a majority of House Democratic women.

Black, Gay and a Pacifist: Bayard Rustin Remembered For Role in March on Washington, Mentoring MLK

The White House has announced it will posthumously award the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to the trailblazing civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Obama will honor Rustin and 15 others, including President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and baseball great Ernie Banks, at the White House later this year. Rustin was a key adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. and introduced him to Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on nonviolence. Rustin helped King start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. Six years later, he was the chief organizer of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, rallying hundreds of thousands of people for economic justice, full employment, voting rights and equal opportunity. "Rustin was one of the most important social justice activists in the U.S. in the 20th century," says John D’Emilio, author of "Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin." "Rustin pioneered the use of Gandhian nonviolence as a way of calling attention to segregation and other forms of racism in the United States." We also speak to former NAACP chair Julian Bond and Rustin’s partner, Walter Naegle.

Author: --

Obama Proposes FISA Reforms Amid Growing Concerns Over NSA Surveillance

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama announced new measures Friday to increase transparency and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court amid growing concerns over the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance programs.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Obama proposed the first of several steps "to help restore public confidence" following revelations in June that the federal government was secretly mining millions of Americans' phone and electronic communications.

The N.S.A. and Its Targets: Lavabit Shuts Down

Not every suspension-of-service notice for an e-mail company comes with a link to a legal-defense fund. Ladar Levison, the owner and operator of Lavabit, whose clients, reportedly, have included Edward Snowden, made it sound today as though he could use the help. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit,” Levison wrote in a note posted on his site.

    I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on—the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.