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, August 20, 2013

What is behind this fracking mania? Unbridled machismo

If you're a local protester, they call you a nimby; if you come from outside, they call you rent-a-mob. You can't win – and that's the point. The protests against fracking companies are proving so effective that the technique is likely to become inviable in the UK, and the corporate press is in full cry seeking to delegitimise them.

It would be better employed trying to determine why fracking is being used in the first place. Because it makes neither strategic nor political sense. The energy we need could be produced with so much less pain.

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face

In a private viewing cinema in Soho last week I caught myself letting fly with a four-letter expletive at Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times. It was a confusing moment. The man who was pretending to be me – thanking Keller for "not giving a shit" – used to be Malcolm Tucker, a foul-mouthed Scottish spin doctor who will soon be a 1,000-year-old time lord. And Keller will correct me, but I don't remember ever swearing at him. I do remember saying something to the effect of "we have the thumb drive, you have the first amendment".

Career Education Corp. Reaches $10 Million Settlement In Investigation Of Bogus Job Placements

One of the largest U.S. for-profit college corporations agreed to pay more than $10 million Monday to settle the state of New York's claim that the company systematically deceived students by advertising bogus job placement rates at its career-oriented schools.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a $10.25 million settlement agreement with Career Education Corp., which includes a $1 million penalty and assurances that the school will establish a $9.25 million restitution fund for students who were misled from the 2009-2010 school year to 2011-2012. The company admitted no wrongdoing.

Guardian Editor: U.K. 'Security Experts' Entered Offices And Destroyed Hard Drives

Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, wrote on Monday about an unsettling encounter with "security experts" from the U.K.'s GCHQ intelligence agency.

According to Rusbridger, "a very senior government official" contacted him about two months ago demanding the surrender or destruction of all materials in the publication's possession relating to the surveillance operations uncovered by Edward Snowden.

In Canada, Austerity Rules

The exceedingly aggressive austerity cuts carried out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty over the past seven years have come home to roost as millions of Canadians, depressed and without hope, are succumbing to its worst consequences.

Program cuts and tax reductions for corporations and the wealthy have had a huge, disproportionate impact on the poor, working poor, underemployed, and those with health problems including mental illness.

Canada's Arctic Shipping Effort Flags, Russia Sails On

Canada may be missing the boat on using Arctic shipping to encourage development at the same time Russia steams ahead on its own northern waters.

"At this stage, we're not really in the game," said John Higginbotham, a Carleton University professor and former assistant deputy minister for Transport Canada.

Omar Khadr Unfairly Branded Maximum Security Inmate, Prisons Ombudsman Says

TORONTO - Prison authorities ignored favourable information in unfairly branding former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr as a maximum security inmate, according to Canada's prison ombudsman.

In a recent letter to a top prison official obtained by The Canadian Press, the Office of the Correctional Investigator urges another look at Khadr's classification.

Stephen Harper Wants You to Major In Military

The Conservatives' militarism is unrelenting.

Last month, the Harper government launched a Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative at the University of Alberta. The program "allow[s] people to simultaneously obtain a university degree while also gaining leadership experience in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserves." The four-year Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative will be "co-directed by the University of Alberta and the CAF" and the government hopes to export this "test model" to other universities.

Stephen Harper 2015: Prime Minister To Run In Next Election, Wants Parliament Prorogued

Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Monday he intends to prorogue Parliament, with a speech from the throne likely to kick off a new parliamentary session in October.

He also put to rest any rumours he won’t be running again in 2015.

CBC News reports Harper was asked about his political future during a speech in Whitehorse and, specifically, whether he would lead Conservatives into the next election.

The rising price of justice

What price justice? In Canada, if you’re poor, you get legal aid. If you’re rich, you hire Clayton Ruby.

But for a growing number of middle class Canadians, lawyers have become unaffordable. The result is that court cases that normally would take three days may take ten, as unrepresented litigants bog down the process. In other civil disputes, people simply may not exercise their rights at all — justice denied before it’s even pursued.

UK Media Crackdown: Greenwald’s Partner Detained, Guardian Forced to Destroy Snowden Files

The Obama administration has acknowledged it had advance notice British officials were going to detain David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has revealed the National Security Agency’s massive spy practices. Miranda was held Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport under Section 7 of the British Terrorism Act for nine hours — the maximum time he could be detained without charge. Miranda has just announced legal action against the British Home Office for his detention. Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed Snowden’s classified documents or handed them to British authorities. "At its core, what is at stake is the ability for a human being to have dignity and for journalists to have integrity with their sources, [threatening] the whole concept of a free democracy," says computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, who has been detained and questioned numerous times at airports. "And I don’t mean that as hyperbole, but if everything is under surveillance, how is it that you can have a democracy? How is it that you can organize a political function, or have confidentiality with a constituent, or a source, or with a friend or a lover? That’s an erasure of fundamental things that we have had for quite some time." We’re also joined by longtime British attorney Gareth Peirce.

Author: --

Alberta oil money prominent in B.C. election contributions

Campaign contributions for the BC Liberals’ re-election included donations from Texas and Alberta oil, raising concern elections can be “bought” by outside cash, according to taxpayer watchdog IntegrityBC.

Prior to the May election, the ruling Liberals raised $8.3 million in political donations, many sourced from the resource and real estate sectors. In total, 61% of the party’s total contributions came from corporations.

Stephen Harper makes questions more difficult in both languages

WHITEHORSE—It was a bizarre spectacle. One of many when it comes to questioning the prime minister.

A PMO adviser told reporters Monday in advance that Stephen Harper would not provide answers in both official languages, as he has for the past seven years (and he’s uncannily good at repeating the exact same message in both official languages).

It’s a standard request. It means reporters for French- and English-language outlets don’t have to repeat questions and each get replies. And it allows more subjects to be covered since the PM limits the number of questions he’ll take and almost always refuses to answer follow-ups.

Why aren't we asking what's in our pipelines?

Canadians now have a dizzying array of pipeline proposals dominating news coverage. They are presented as though they are alternative options.

Problems getting pipelines to the U.S. approved? Show Uncle Sam we have other markets and get pipelines to the Pacific coast.

Trouble getting pipelines to the Pacific coast? Head east to the Atlantic.

When will the Minister of Democratic Reform reform democracy?

Dear Minister Poilievre:

This week's Deloitte audit on Senator Pamela Wallin has raised numerous questions about a troubling lack of accountability in the Senate.

One of these questions is around the residency requirements for Senators and whether Ms. Wallin is even eligible to sit in the Senate. As a number of Conservative and Liberal Senators are having problems proving they meet the residency requirements themselves, it isn't likely Canadians are comfortable turning to these same senators for accountability.

Chrystia Freeland's Liberal use of economic platitudes

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein has interviewed the presumptive Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland, who declares, "I'm a capitalist red in tooth and claw."

To his credit, Klein asks her a couple of times for policy specifics. She concludes the interview by saying:

    "My job right now is to win the right to be part of the conversation in the Liberal Party. If I do that, I win the right to have a seat at the table as the Liberal Party comes up with that agenda. And in 2015 the Liberal Party can present that agenda to Canadians."

No Security in Canada's Pipeline Plans

On a recent trip to an oil refinery in Saint John New Brunswick, Prime Minister Stephen Harper exclaimed that with TransCanada's proposed Energy East Pipeline, "We're not just expanding our markets for our energy projects... We are also at the same time making sure that Canadians themselves benefit from those projects and from that gain energy security."

It's refreshing to finally hear Harper talk about energy security for Canadians. This country is vulnerable to the next international oil supply crisis because it still imports almost half the oil Canadians use.

Is Your Private Data Lost in the Cloud?

Does it matter where your computer data such as email, digital photos, personal videos, and documents resides? The Canadian Chamber of Commerce apparently doesn’t think so. It recently joined forces with its U.S. counterpart to argue for new rules in the Trans Pacific Partnership -- a proposed new trade agreement that includes Canada, the U.S., Japan, Australia and many other Asian and South American countries -- that would create barriers to privacy protections designed to require that personal data be stored locally.

Bradley Manning Deserves 60-Year Sentence, Government Argues

FORT MEADE, Md. -- Bradley Manning's crimes were so serious that he deserves to spend 60 years in prison, the government asserted during closing arguments in the sentencing phase of Manning's court martial on Monday.

While acknowledging that Manning is young and pleaded guilty to some of the charges against him, Army prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said Manning "betrayed" the United States and "deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in confinement."

So What Exactly Did The US Government Ask Lavabit to Do?

The recent shutdown of Lavabit’s email services prompted a flurry of reporting and speculation about the extent US Government spying, mostly due to the mysterious statement by Lavabit founder Ladar Levison:

Most of us saw this as yet another possibly overhyped government spying issue and didn’t really think too much of it. Much of the media coverage is already starting to die down but there still is some question as to exactly what the government required of Levison that left him with only one option: shutting down his entire business he built from ground up. I wondered if there were enough clues out there to get some more insight into this case. I started by looking at exactly what Lavabit offered and how that all worked behind the scenes.

Stephen Harper to seek prorogation of Parliament

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed he will ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until October, when his Conservative government will introduce the next speech from the throne.

"There will be a new throne speech in the fall, obviously the House will be prorogued in anticipation of that. We will come back — in October is our tentative timing," Harper told reporters in Whitehorse Monday. Harper is in the Yukon on the second day of his annual summer tour of the North.

The Prime Minister's Office later clarified that Harper will ask for Parliament to be prorogued before the scheduled return of the House on Sept. 16, meaning Parliament will not sit again until after the throne speech in October.

Head Start Cuts Services For More Than 57,000 Children Due To Sequestration

WASHINGTON -- Head Start, the federal pre-K education service for low-income families, has eliminated services for more than 57,000 children in the coming school year as a result of the federal budget reductions known as sequestration.

The cuts include a shorter school year and shorter school days, as well as laying off or reducing the pay for more than 18,000 employees nationwide. Others eliminated medical and dental screenings and bus routes.

'Silence is complacency': Against the coup in Egypt

The following article is based on a speech given by Roger Annis to a rally in Vancouver on August 17 that was convened by Egyptian-Canadians in the city to condemn the coup d’etat in Egypt of July 3 and the police and military violence that has continued in the country. The original speech has been slightly edited to include several additional points.

Friends, I am here today to express our shock, anger and outrage at the violence of the military regime that took power in Egypt last month in an illegal and unconstitutional coup d'etat. We express our solidarity with the brave and courageous people across Egypt who are standing up to this regime and its bullets. We join them in calling for a return to constitutional rule.

Toronto Condo Prices Have Likely Fallen Sharply: Developer

Condo prices in Toronto may have fallen steeply from their peak when you take into account incentives being offered to buyers, a Toronto developer has reportedly said.

The Globe and Mail reported Monday that a developer “who declined to be named” estimates the actual prices of condos have fallen by about 15 per cent.

NYC's Disappearing Neighborhood Hospitals

For many New Yorkers, the trip to treat a broken appendage or receive vaccination shots is growing longer. Since 2000, nineteen hospitals across the city have closed due to financial pressures—a number that could have even been higher had a judge not recently ordered Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn to resume services.

Nurses gathered outside LICH in early July to deliver a nearly 7,000-signature petition to SUNY Downstate Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s New York City office demanding she stop the process of closing the hospital. Journalist Sarah Jaffe reported that after a SUNY representative refused to comment on the ongoing situation, the crowd turned to civil disobedience and blocked the doors to the building and refused to move until police took them away in cuffs.