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, August 23, 2013

Peter MacKay Beer Bong Photo Tweeted By Rick Mercer After Trudeau Pot Criticism

Justice Minister Peter MacKay was quick to slam Justin Trudeau Thursday after the Liberal leader admitted to HuffPost Canada that he smoked marijuana since becoming an MP in 2008.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper would say only that Trudeau's actions "speak for themselves," MacKay issued a stern statement denouncing what he said was as a "profound lack of judgment" from the Liberal leader.

New York City Council Overrides Bloomberg's Veto of the Community Safety Act

In an afternoon session today, the New York City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act, striking a major blow to some of the more controversial aspects of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

The City Council initially passed the Community Safety act in June. But when Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the bills last month, he set the stage for today’s vote.

Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald Challenge Independent Story

NSA leaker Edward Snowden accused the British government on Friday of leaking sensitive material to a newspaper he'd never worked with, the Independent, and attributing the material to him — a charge the paper heatedly denied.

The paper published an exclusive story about a secret British spy base in the Middle East on the front of its Friday edition. The story's presence there came as a surprise to media-watchers. Snowden has only been known to have given his material to a handful of journalists and outlets. The Independent isn't one of them.

Telecom policy would put ‘Canada last’

I am frankly quite puzzled and astounded by the federal government’s current attempt to increase competition in the mobile phone market by courting massive U.S. companies such as Verizon. I am confused as to how this can be viewed as consistent and appropriate public policy that will benefit Canadians.

Providing Verizon with unique advantages in the Canadian market which are not equally available to Canadian companies goes against everything we, as a country, believe in. For decades, Canadian governments have been champions of our industry, our companies and our fellow Canadians who work so hard to support, clothe, feed and educate their families for a better future by ensuring that a level and competitive playing field exists. Welcoming foreign competitors to our markets is one thing, but we absolutely must not undercut our Canadian companies while subsidizing foreign corporations whose interests in Canada are superficial at best, and who undoubtedly see us as a source of profit to be reinvested elsewhere or shared with their U.S. shareholders.

Why Canada needs the Senate

A conventional wisdom has emerged that goes something like this: Canada’s Senate is an anti-democratic anachronism stuffed with self-absorbed party hacks who care more about their perks than the public interest. The Red Chamber operates like the worst kind of private club and is rife with corruption and possibly criminal conduct. The Senate serves no useful purpose, costs lots of money, and if it cannot be reformed it should be scrapped.

The outrageous expense habits and grotesque entitlement mentality of a handful of senators lend credibility to such generalizations. Nevertheless, Canadians cannot afford to scrap the Senate because it serves an increasingly important function in our increasingly dysfunctional Parliament.

Refugee advocates raise concerns about ‘inhumane’ deportations

OTTAWA — The federal government has already removed more than 7,500 failed asylum claimants this year, 60 per cent of them to countries listed as “safe” under new legislation aimed at cracking down on so-called bogus refugees.

The deportations come amid growing concern from refugee advocates over the unprecedented zeal they say immigration enforcement officers have brought to the job ever since the Conservatives won a majority two years ago, and particularly over the last eight months since the new asylum system was implemented.

Canada's oil pipelines will not build a nation - they are a great swindle

The defeat has been barely noticed by the media. Amidst the rolling hills of Quebec's lush farm and wine region, the small town of Dunham has beaten the oil giants.

It's here that Enbridge and Portland-Montreal Pipe Line – owned by Imperial Oil, Suncor and Shell – have been trying to construct a pumping station to pipe heavy crude over a nearby mountain range. The infrastructure is integral to Enbridge's plans to ship Alberta tar sands, via Quebec, to the eastern coast of the United States.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canadian groups demand end to secrecy

Ottawa – Ministers from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, including International Trade Minister Ed Fast, should stop their secret negotiations and immediately make public the 26 chapters of the TPP when they meet in Brunei this week, say Canadian groups, citing precedent for transparency in previous trade negotiations of this size and scope.

"It is a scandal that a far-reaching deal like the TPP could be signed in the coming months without anyone across the 12 participating countries having seen or had a chance to challenge some of the many new restrictions an agreement will put on our ability to govern in the public interest. The only acceptable road forward for the TPP is for ministers to publish the text now before it's too late," says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, a national grassroots activist and social justice organization.

Aboriginal peoples need to flip the narrative

Since December of 2012, and the rise of Idle No More events, there have been numerous "teach-ins" throughout the country. Some of them focused on the theme of reconciliation, others provided necessary background to those unfamiliar with the causes of "indigenous discontent," while others attempted to provide a possible vision for the future. Whether you agree with a focus on education versus a widespread series of actions, it is nonetheless clear that much work is needed to overcome some very pervasive and damaging stereotypes.

This year alone, we have seen some very telling opinions being given a public platform, all of which depict indigenous peoples in a...less than flattering light.

Why the coup in Egypt must be defeated

In a move that came as a surprise to me, wide sections of Egypt's middle and upper classes threw their support behind the military in the first days of July and accepted the military coup as the path to the country's salvation.

Those supporters were really a bunch of "strange bed-fellows" including intellectuals, thinkers, political and human-rights' activists who one would have not imagined to choose a military led coup d'état over a democracy -- no matter how unsatisfactory the performance of the elected government was. And stranger still -- despite the bloodshed and oppression practiced by the coup leaders -- very few of them repented to date and saw the error of their ways (most notably Mohamed El-Baradei, the acting Vice President for international affairs and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Lavabit founder: 'My own tax dollars are being used to spy on me'

The Obama administration has created a surveillance state on a scale not seen since senator Joe McCarthy's infamous 1950s crackdown on suspected communists, according to the tech executive caught up in crossfire between the NSA and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"We are entering a time of state-sponsored intrusion into our privacy that we haven't seen since the McCarthy era. And it's on a much broader scale," Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit, told the Guardian. The email service was used by Snowden and is now at the center of a potentially historic legal battle over privacy rights in the digital age.

As a Democrat, I am disgusted with President Obama

What are you thinking, Mr President?

Is this really the legacy you want for yourself: the chief executive who trampled rights, destroyed privacy, heightened secrecy, ruined trust, and worst of all, did not defend but instead detoured around so many of the fundamental principles on which this country is founded?

And I voted for you. I'll confess you were a second choice. I supported Hillary Clinton first. I said at the time that your rhetoric about change was empty and that I feared you would be another Jimmy Carter: aggressively ineffectual.

Racial Equality: Not Yet A Reality Report Finds

WASHINGTON -- Has the U.S. achieved Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of a colorblind society? Fewer than half of all Americans say the country has made substantial progress in the past 50 years toward racial equality, a new poll shows.

Despite a heightened sense of racial progress immediately following the 2008 election of the first black president, Americans' views of black progress have waned.

The study, released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, offers a mixed picture of progress five decades after King made his historic "I Have a Dream" speech calling for racial equality. The center is a Washington-based research organization.

Is There a Difference Between a Third World Autocrat and a Wall Street Mogul?

In America we tend to look down on Third World autocrats who siphon their country's wealth into their personal Swiss bank accounts at the expense of their citizens. But I would argue we have our own class of kleptocrats that in many ways behave the same way -- and often with the same result.

I was recently at a seminar in Africa that focused heavily on human rights.

One of the most insightful participants made a powerful argument that autocratic leaders who violate their people's human rights by restricting their freedom of speech and assembly were even more culpable for human rights violations when they siphon off millions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts and deprived their country's children of decent health care, education and an opportunity to make a prosperous life.

Matt Taibbi Rips Idea Of Larry Summers Running Federal Reserve

Ever since it leaked that Larry Summers could very well replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, he's become the intellectual punching bag of many a critic -- Paul Krugman and Bette Midler included.

Add to that list Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi. The bestselling author joined HuffPost Live Thursday and while there expressed his reservations with the idea of the former chief economic adviser to President Barack Obama taking over the Fed.

Jerry Brown Considers Prison Alliance Between Private Company, Union

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has no intention of releasing state prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, despite a federal court order requiring the state to reduce its prison population by the end of the year, sources told HuffPost.

Instead, Brown and legislative leaders are discussing a proposal to create an unconventional partnership between the state's powerful prison guard union and the nation's largest private prison corporation -- an alliance that may permanently expand California's prison system while curbing nascent efforts to reduce the state's mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders.

Here's Obama's Plan to Make College More Affordable

President Obama laid out a new plan today to make college more affordable:
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend…"All the things we're measuring are important for students choosing a college," a senior administration official said. "It's important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back."
Mr. Obama hopes that starting in 2018, the ratings would be tied to financial aid, so that students at highly rated colleges might get larger federal grants and more affordable loans. But that would require new legislation. "I think there is bipartisan support for some of these ideas, as we've seen in states where the governors have been working on them," said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information not yet made public.

Sammy Yatim Report: Teen Hit By Eight Bullets, Family 'Distressed'

TORONTO - The family of an 18 year old who died after being shot by police on a Toronto streetcar says they are "distressed" by reports the young man was hit by eight bullets.

The Special Investigations Unit has said Sammy Yatim was shot "multiple times" and Tasered, and has charged Const. James Forcillo with second-degree murder in his death.

Justin Trudeau's Marijuana Admission Slammed As 'Poor Example' While Liberals Defend Leader

OTTAWA — As Conservatives pounced on Justin Trudeau's admission he smoked marijuana as an MP, saying it is proof he is unfit to govern, Liberal MPs say they believe the public wants an open and honest leader.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay denounced what he called a "profound lack of judgment" from the Liberal leader.

"By flouting the laws of Canada while holding elected office, he shows he is a poor example for all Canadians, particularly young ones," MacKay said in a statement. "Justin Trudeau is simply not the kind of leader our country needs."

Independent review on F-35s says fighter jets could cost $20-million more per plane

PARLIAMENT HILL—A review of Department of National Defence forecasts reveals a fleet of 65 F-35 stealth jet fighters will cost Canada an estimated $95 million-per airplane in acquisition alone—$20-million more per airplane than the government projected only three years ago.

Although the review of the National Defence figures says the current average cost of the Lockheed Martin fighters still in early production and testing stages in the U.S. is an average of $88.5 million—the figure most often cited by the government—the review and a National Defence update to Parliament both forecast a price tag of $95.2-million per aircraft if acquisition of the first round of F-35 jets goes ahead in 2017 under a timetable that still exists despite the government’s temporary suspension of the program last year.

DOJ to Texas: Voter Suppression Will Not Stand

In one week last August, federal courts found that Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting maps were discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s recent decision invalidating Section 4 of the VRA, which previously covered Texas, tragically wiped away those rulings. Now the Department of Justice is once again stepping in to fight for voting rights in the Lone Star State.

The DOJ announced today that it is objecting to Texas’ voter ID law under Section 2 of the VRA and will also seek to join a similar lawsuit against the state’s redistricting maps. Last month, DOJ asked a court in Texas to force the state to approve its voting changes with the federal government for a period of time under another provision of the VRA, Section 3, based on a finding of intentional discrimination in the restricting case. The federal courts found last year that Texas’ new maps for Congress and the state house were “enacted with discriminatory purpose.”

Obama, Surveillance, and the Legacy of the March on Washington

A half century past its zenith, the civil-rights movement has been invested with the kind of moral authority that is derived only from being on the right side of history. We’ve compressed the grand scale of the March on Washington—which took place on August 28, 1963, fifty years ago this coming Wednesday—into succinct quotes, a vine of grainy footage of Martin Luther King, Jr., at the crowded dais, and a dream metaphor whose ubiquity is matched only by its anodyne appeal. There’s an easy certainty afforded to the cause that drew a quarter of a million people to the Washington Mall in August, 1963, not only because of its subsequent success in ending legal segregation and disenfranchisement but also because the fruit of its efforts is currently evident in the office of the Presidency. Yet the massive gathering in Washington, D.C., was driven by the concern that, in the nearly ten years that had passed since the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the movement had yet to achieve meaningful legislative change—and the uncertainty that it ever would.