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.]

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TransCanada Rejects Tom Steyer's Challenge For Keystone XL Debate

A live debate on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline between TransCanada's boss and a San Francisco billionaire was rejected by the company.

Tom Steyer, an ardent critic of the project and a major Democratic financier, challenged TransCanada CEO Russ Girling to a debate on the merits and faults of the Keystone XL pipeline.

There Is No Such Thing As NSA-Proof Email

Since last June, when Edward Snowden tore the veil off the National Security Agency's vast data dragnet, Americans have been flocking to ultrasecure email services in the hopes of keeping the government out of their private business. Use of the most popular email encryption software, PGP, tripled between June and July, while revenue for the data-encryption company Silent Circle has shot up 400 percent.

But even these services may not be able to protect your email from government prying. That fact came into stark relief last Thursday, when Lavabit, the secure email service used by Snowden, abruptly shut down. Lavabit's 32-year-old founder, Ladar Levison, issued a statement saying he pulled the plug because he didn't want to be "complicit in crimes against the American people." He has since given up using email entirely, and he urges others to consider doing the same. "I would strongly recommend against entrusting your privacy to a company with physical ties to the United States," he told Mother Jones. "I honestly don't think it's possible to provide a secure service in this country."

Drawing Down: How To Roll Back Police Militarization In America

When the FBI finally located Whitey Bulger in 2010 after searching for 16 years, the reputed mobster was suspected of involvement in 19 murders in the 1970s and '80s, and was thought to be armed with a massive arsenal of weapons. He was also 81 at the time, in poor physical health, and looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. Of all the people who might meet the criteria for arrest by a SWAT team, one might think that Bulger would top the list.

Were Journalists Deliberately Targeted In Egypt?

Several news outlets and press freedom groups are raising the question of whether journalists have been deliberately targeted in the bloodshed currently engulfing Egypt.

Wednesday saw at least three journalists shot dead, and several others wounded, beaten and detained.

Bubbling up throughout the day was the contention that reporters and other journalists were being singled out.

On The Fly: When Did The Customer Stop Being Right?

Actually, the answer to the question of when the customer stopped being right is "somewhere around 1980." For those old enough to remember, there was a time when you pulled into a gas station and four guys would rush over to service your car. One pumped gas, another washed your windshield, the third checked your tire pressure and the fourth one looked under the hood and advised you whether you needed a quart of oil.

But then Gordon Gekko became the poster boy for corporate greed. When eating your young became the new business model, customer service was kicked to the curb in favor of not wasting money.

Obama On Egypt Crisis: 'We Deplore Violence Against Civilians'

President Barack Obama spoke out on the crisis in Egypt on Thursday, saying he's "concerned" by recent events.

"The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces," Obama said. "We deplore violence against civilians."

Egypt Violence: Death Toll In Cairo Clashes Climbs Above 500, Health Ministry Says

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying more than 500 people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country.

Despite the government's declaration of a nighttime curfew and a state of emergency, violence continued into the next day. Angry men presumed to be supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi stormed and torched two buildings housing the provincial government of Giza, the city across the Nile from Cairo.

Questlove on Police Racial Profiling, Stop & Frisk, the Message He Took from Trayvon Martin Verdict

On the heels of this week’s historic ruling declaring the "stop-and-frisk" tactics of the New York City Police Department unconstitutional, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots joins us to talk about his own experiences being racially profiled by police. Questlove describes the first time he was harassed by police, as a young teenager in Philadelphia on his way to Bible study, to the most recent: being pulled over in his car by the NYPD two weeks ago, despite being one of the most acclaimed artists in hip-hop. He also discusses the message he took away as an African-American male from the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin: "You’re guilty no matter what, and you just now have to figure out a way to make everyone feel safe and everyone feel comfortable, even if it’s at the expense of your own soul."

Author: --

E. Clay Shaw Jr. On Minimum Drug Sentences: 'We May Have Overreacted'

Former Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (R-Fla.), an author of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 that imposed mandatory minimum penalties for drug crimes, said during an Al Jazeera interview that Congress "may have overreacted" in passing the law.

Shaw, who retired from Congress in 2007, said the bill was drafted at a time when crack cocaine "started popping up like crazy." He admitted he'd never heard of the drug before then, and noted that crack, at the time, was preferred by "the least affluent."

How Pamela Wallin claimed more than $100,000 in questionable travel expenses

Senator Pamela Wallin is being asked to repay $121,348 after an independent audit found a series of problems with the former broadcaster’s expense claims – including billing taxpayers for partisan fundraisers.

The release of the audit Tuesday gave new life to the ongoing Senate expenses scandal, including questions about claims made by Ms. Wallin as well as Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb. The four have been asked to repay a combined total of roughly $490,000.

Egypt: global outcry steps up pressure on US to suspend aid to military

The United States has led a chorus of international concern about Egypt's crackdown on demonstrators, publicly condemning the violence that resulted in the worst loss of life on a single day since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi last month.

The White House said "the world is watching" after a day on which at least 278 people were killed. But there was still no sign that the US was prepared to characterise Morsi's removal by the army as a coup – which would trigger an automatic congressional ban on $1.3bn in annual aid to the powerful Egyptian military.

Google: don't expect privacy when sending to Gmail

People sending email to any of Google's 425 million Gmail users have no "reasonable expectation" that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing.

Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a "stunning admission." It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals.

Allen West: Muslim Brotherhood 'Infiltrated' Obama Administration

Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) claimed individuals tied to the Muslim Brotherhood have "infiltrated" President Barack Obama's administration.

"[W]e do have Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups and individuals infiltrated into this current Obama administration," West wrote on his Facebook page. "This is serious."

West slammed Obama's Middle East policies, criticizing his "very conciliatory speech" in Cairo in 2009 and his stance on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in 2011.

Harper's Lax Environmental Laws Set Canada To Become Pollution Haven, B.C. Watchdog Warns

VANCOUVER - A British Columbia group has told an international panel reviewing the environmental effects of NAFTA that the worst fears about the historic trade agreement's impact on the environment have come true, especially under the federal Conservative government.

West Coast Environmental Law has sent a submission to the Commission on Environmental Co-operation as part of the commission's look back at the 20 years since a side deal was signed between Canada, the United States and Mexico in response to concerns that NAFTA's environmental impact.

Companies Extracting B.C. Groundwater For Free

Several groups are calling on the province to tighten groundwater laws as B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not charge major corporations for groundwater use.

Nestle is bottling and selling up to 265 million litres of water from the area around Hope, B.C., every year for free, says Sheila Muxlow of the WaterWealth Project.

Witness Account Of Egypt Violence Describes Chaos And Blood

CAIRO, Aug 14 (Reuters) - First came the tear gas, the bulldozers and the flames. Then came the bullets and the blood.

Egypt's security forces arrived after dawn on Wednesday to disperse the camp where thousands of Islamists have held vigil for six weeks. Helicopters roared above. Police fired tear gas into the crowd. Armoured bulldozers knocked down the makeshift walls made of sandbags and piles of rocks.

Redwood Trees May Help Battle Climate Change, Study Finds

A study released Wednesday on the effect of climate change on old-growth redwood forests revealed a surprising silver lining: not only have the trees thrived as the temperature has risen, but they may also be an unparalleled tool in fighting global warming.

The Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, a multiyear research study by UC Berkeley, Humboldt State University and Save the Redwoods League, examined the tree rings of coast redwoods in Northern California, providing the most comprehensive redwood chronology available today.

Food Stamps Avoided By Millions Of Eligible Americans

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Republicans say too many Americans receive food stamps, and that too many of them obtain benefits fraudulently when they could just get jobs instead.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's enrollment has risen from 26 million in 2005 to 47 million today, pushing its annual cost to nearly $80 billion -- but costs would be much higher if everyone eligible for benefits actually received them. In fact, contrary to the idea that America's poor people are collectively gorging themselves on food stamps, they're actually leaving food on the table.

New York Post Warns 'Welcome To Chicago' After Stop And Frisk Decision

For two days in a row, the New York Post has warned that -- with NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy in question -- New York could soon become beset with an increase in violent crime rivaling that of Chicago.

On Wednesday, the paper's front page screamed "CHI KIND OF TOWN" to accompany a story including interviews with the parents of Hadiya Pendleton and Heaven Sutton, two Chicago youths killed in shootings earlier this year.

Ron Johnson Accuses Group Fighting Climate Change Of 'Environmental Jihad'

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) coined a new term to describe the push for climate change action: "environmental jihad."

In a fundraising email to supporters on Tuesday, Johnson hit back at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), an environmental advocacy group, for a new ad campaign attacking the senator and other climate change deniers in Congress.