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.]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Who was Sammy Yatim?

He was the sweet, skinny teenager with striking green eyes, described as an introvert by friends and someone who struggled to fit into a new culture.

The death of Sammy Yatim on a downtown streetcar has become a lightning rod for competing political agendas, but in life he was just an immigrant kid from Syria, described as “average,” even by his father.

His death continues to shake the city.

What Is Wrong With The Keystone XL Pipeline?

Just Greed and Politics.  Pipeline defects have been identified along a 60-mile stretch of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, north of the Sabine River in Texas (Winnsboro, Texas). 
Sections of pipe have dents, faulty welds, and pin-holes in some sections enough to see daylight through.

The installers have been digging up parts of the new southern segment of the Keystone pipeline that only recently have been installed. 
It seems that the existing leg of the Keystone has spilled more oil in its first year than any other first-year pipeline in U.S. history (HuffPost).

Consumers will pay more for mobile phones over two years instead of three

MONTREAL - Even though it has yet to confirm it is coming to Canada, Verizon is already having a major influence on the cellphone market here.

Canadians need look no further than new data-sharing plans that made their debut this summer in what is generally seen as a response by Canadian wireless companies to the looming threat of competition from the U.S. telecom giant.

Pussy Riot's Yekaterina Samutsevich: 'I Support Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Boycott'

Freedom is only the first battle for Pussy Riot’s Yekaterina Samutsevich.

The Russian punk pioneer, radical artist and gay rights campaigner is the only member of Pussy Riot on Russian soil who has her freedom, since three of the band were jailed a year ago.

The oldest of the Pussy Riot three, aged 30, Samutsevich was released in October, her two year sentence suspended.

Ted Cruz 'Not Convinced' Obama Wouldn't Defund Obamacare

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Sunday that he is "not convinced" that President Barack Obama wouldn't defund his own signature health care law if Congress gave him the opportunity to do so.

"I am not at all convinced of that," Cruz told Candy Crowley in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."

Cruz and other Senate Republicans are pursuing what's known as a "continuing resolution" that would defund the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, as a condition of funding the government. Cruz, in particular, has been leading the charge, doing town halls on the subject and being featured in "Defund Obamacare" television ads.

Syria Chemical Inspections By United Nations 'Too Late To Be Credible,' U.S. Official Says

BEIRUT, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Syria agreed to let the United Nations inspect the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack from Monday but a U.S. official said any such offer would be "too late to be credible" and there was little doubt the government was to blame.

Foreign powers have been searching for a response since many hundreds of people were killed by poisonous gas on Wednesday in the suburbs of Damascus in what appears to have been the world's worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years.

'I am beginning not to recognize this country': Bonnie Klein on receiving the Order of Canada

"They desire a better country" (Desiderantes meliorem patriam) -- Order of Canada motto

September 1967. We are holding our breath. We have to get into Canada immediately or Michael, my new husband, will be jailed. At the advice of the Montreal Committee to Aid War Resisters, we have arrived at Dorval Airport after midnight, when mostly sympathetic French-Canadian immigration officers are on duty. Michael has a hastily-offered letter of employment from Montreal Children's Hospital. Twenty minutes later, we are relieved to be welcomed as landed immigrants! We are among the wave of over 200,000 Vietam-era women and men who became an integral part of the Canadian mosaic.

NSA Spied On The U.N.: Der Spiegel Report

BERLIN -- The German magazine Der Spiegel says the U.S. National Security Agency secretly monitored the U.N.'s internal video conferencing system by decrypting it last year.

The weekly said Sunday that documents it obtained from American leaker Edward Snowden show the NSA decoded the system at the U.N.'s headquarters in New York last summer.

Quoting leaked NSA documents, the article said the decryption "dramatically increased the data from video phone conferences and the ability to decode the data traffic."

In three weeks, Der Spiegel said, the NSA increased the number of decrypted communications at the U.N. from 12 to 458.

Snowden's leaks have exposed details of the United States' global surveillance apparatus, sparking an international debate over the limits of American spying.

Original Article
Author: AP

Court Is ‘One of Most Activist,’ Ginsburg Says, Vowing to Stay

WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition on what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.”

In wide-ranging remarks in her chambers on Friday that touched on affirmative action, abortion and same-sex marriage, Justice Ginsburg said she had made a mistake in joining a 2009 opinion that laid the groundwork for the court’s decision in June effectively striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The recent decision, she said, was “stunning in terms of activism.”

Police wrongdoing on rise, changes needed now

It would be an understatement to say that people are upset about Toronto police shooting to death 18-year-old Sammy Yatim. Indeed, more than a million people have watched the video footage showing a police officer shooting him nine times on YouTube.  In the outrage following this incident, many people asked the question, “Why would the Toronto police shoot a man holding a knife who posed no immediate threat to the public, the police, or himself nine times and then taser him after he was lying on the floor of the street car?”  There are no easy answers to explain the actions of the officer involved but it does raise a red flag that something is seriously wrong with the way police deal with crisis situations.  The negative impact of this event and the way in which it was handled by the Toronto police will have a profound and negative effect not only on the victim’s family and friends but also on the increasingly precarious relationship that exists between the police and the public.

Harper’s government ‘devaluing’ Parliamentary opposition: new book

The Conservative Party has “devalued” legislative opposition in Parliament, which has transformed Canadian politics, says Ryerson University visiting political science professor David Smith in a new book.

“The governing party (the Conservative Party of Canada) has devalued legislative opposition whose status was long derived by tradition from Parliament and the unwritten constitution, and has devalued it for that very reason—because it was not elected,” writes Prof. Smith in his book, Across the Aisle: Opposition in Canadian Politics, published by University of Toronto Press and recently released.

Grass crime no! Grain crime yes! The inconsistencies of Prime Minister Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is open in his disdain for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's politically calculated admission he has recently consumed marijuana.

Fair enough under the circumstances, I guess. I'm enough of an old fuddy-duddy myself to feel that a citizen, let alone a Parliamentarian, ought to obey a law even if he or she is working to have it overturned as ill-conceived, harmful or unneeded.

So I have to admit that Trudeau's comment left me feeling uncomfortable, especially since it so clearly illustrated the difference in the way the law treats a well-off young man with powerful connections and working class kids with no house, little influence and a beater or a bus for a ride.

B.C. Oil Spill Would Overwhelm Resources: Documents

VANCOUVER - Officials in British Columbia privately warned the province lacks the ability to manage oil spills from existing and future oil traffic, and even a moderate spill would overwhelm their ability to respond, documents show.

Ottawa's decision to deal with coastal oil spills from a base in Quebec would make it much harder to contain spills, and Transport Canada and the Coast Guard lack the needed "environmental expertise" to manage them, officials said the documents obtained by The Canadian Press under freedom of information laws.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford On Alleged RCMP Abuse: Mountie Says Force Seeks To Dismiss Her

VANCOUVER - A Mountie whose sexual harassment complaints against the RCMP prompted dozens of similar allegations and heralded legislation to modernize discipline for "bad apples" within the force says her employer is moving to dismiss her.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford said she received a letter saying the RCMP is seeking to discharge her because she's unable to do her job.

Yale Student Says Man Who Attempted Sexual Assault Punished With 1-Day Suspension

A Yale University student's punishment for attempting to sexually assault a fellow student amounted to a one-day suspension, the victim said.

The New Haven, Conn. university investigated the December 2012 incident and suspended the perpetrator for a semester after finding him responsible for both "sexual harassment" and "sexual misconduct in the form of intimidation." But because the punishment was handed down the last week of classes before spring finals, and the university gave the student 72 hours to leave campus, his punishment amounted to a one-day suspension, said Winnie Wang, a rising junior who was the victim of the attack.

Homophobia still rife in UK, survey claims

Many lesbian, gay and bisexual people continue to live in fear of prejudice, despite the significant progress in recent years to improve equality.

Gay in Britain, a report by the campaign group Stonewall, suggests that large numbers of Britain's 3.7 million gay people fear they will be discriminated against if they stand for political office, seek to foster a child or look to become a magistrate.

Press freedom: an open letter to David Cameron from Nordic editors

We know that you will agree that one of the hallmarks of free and open democracies is a vivid public debate addressing all fundamental aspects of society, including the balance and possible conflict between the legitimate security concerns of governments and the protection of privacy and the free press. We all understand both the imperative to uphold domestic security and the equally important imperative to protect our open public debate about the limits to and legal implications of these efforts. The debate is not a sign of weakness of our democracies. It is the basis of our strength.

Walmart CEO Mike Duke Pushes Back Against Company's Minimum Wage Reputation

Fast food and retail workers across the country have taken to the streets this year to decry their low wages. But the CEO of Walmart, which is often a target for criticism in that battle, claims a very small share of its workers actually make the bare minimum.

“I think less than one percent of our associates make the minimum wage,” Walmart CEO Mike Duke said in an interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo. "The vast majority of our associates are paid more than that.”

Canada's Inflation Rate Is Low, But Still Eating Your Pathetically Small Wage Gains

Inflation has been very tame in Canada over the past year, coming in at the low end of the Bank of Canada’s target, but not low enough to allow Canadians to keep much of their growth in earnings.

According to Statistics Canada data released Friday, consumer prices have grown 1.3 per cent in the past year. But average wages have grown 1.8 per cent in the same period, meaning Canadians on average have seen real wage gains of a paltry 0.5 per cent in the past year.

Seeing 'New Jim Crow' Placards Seized by Police & More From the March on Washington

I spent eight hours today amongst thousands at the March on Washington, and the people present were some of the most remarkable, resilient people I have ever had the privilege to be around. The number-one face on T-shirts, placards, and even homemade drawings was not President Obama or even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was Trayvon Martin. I also witnessed homemade signs calling for jobs programs, speaking out against the school closures and in solidarity with those overseas victimized by US militarism. The people at this march are the face of resistance to what Dr. King called the “evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism.”

John Lewis Speech: 1963 March On Washington Speaker Urges Crowd To Fight For Voting Rights

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) urged the crowd at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Saturday to fight for the Voting Rights Act in the wake of a June Supreme Court decision gutting its core provision.

"I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote," he said, referring to Bloody Sunday in 1965 when police beat him and hundreds of other peaceful protesters. "I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us."

Edward Snowden Covered Electronic Tracks, Government Officials Suspect

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded.

The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

Harper’s apparent outrage over the Senate is nothing more than a diversionary tactic

OTTAWA — Something simply doesn’t square.

It’s not just the hollow outrage rising from those who appointed Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin to the chamber of sober second paycheques. It’s not just the ruthless (and largely unremarked-upon) removal of Senators Marjory LeBreton and David Tkachuk from the scene of the crime, stripped of their positions and sidelined by obviously displeased powers-that-be. It’s not even the lingering whodunit surrounding the $90,000 Nigel Wright slipped to his frenemy from the tiny island province of Kanata.

Obama's New Education Proposal: Change, or Changed Subject?

It's been a strange week in the history of Barack Obama's presidency. On Sunday, the NSA scandal exploded in one of the clumsiest political gaffes in recent memory, with British authorities (with American foreknowledge) snatching up Glenn Greenwald's Brazilian partner David Miranda and preposterously detaining him at an airport for nine hours, citing a subsection of the West's increasingly dystopian, Matrix-like anti-terrorism laws.

How Keeping Abortions Underground Makes Health Care Worse for Everyone

Like many African nations, Kenya's health care system faces many challenges, including severe rates of malaria and HIV/AIDS. But according to a new report published by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, one change could go a long way toward reducing stress on a hugely overburdened system: allowing more women to have an abortion.

Though Kenyans reconsidered an existing abortion ban when writing their 2010 constitution, the nation's top legal document still virtually forbids the procedure. Exceptions are only allowed during health emergencies, as determined by a trained health professional (although at least one US congressman was outraged that even these exceptions made it into the final constitution). Yet outlawing abortion has done little, if anything, to reduce the number of procedures. In 2012, the period of the study's analysis, researchers estimated that Kenyan women underwent nearly 465,000 induced abortions—about 48 for every 1,000 women of reproductive age, well above the estimated rates for both Africa (29 per 1,000) and the world (28 per 1,000).

Why I'm suing the police: Montreal activist explains her groundbreaking Superior Court case

I would like to begin by thanking all of you and by also offering my gratitude to the thousands of people who have offered me support during this time. I appreciate your kindness, will and determination to fight against repression; not only in my struggle, but in yours as well.

As many of you have now heard, with the guidance and representation of Me. Julius Grey, I will be suing the City of Montreal and the SPVM in Superior Court on the grounds of political profiling and violation of fundamental rights. A letter of demand was served to the City of Montreal late last week asking for $24,000 in damages. Yesterday an action was filed in the Superior Court of Quebec.

Taxpayers Dinged $1.25 Million for Post-Election Severance Pay

B.C. taxpayers were dinged almost $1.25 million for 'golden parachutes' to three veteran deputy ministers that Premier Christy Clark replaced after the BC Liberals won May's election.

Don Fast (Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development), Cairine MacDonald (Ministry of Advanced Education) and Graham Whitmarsh (Ministry of Health) were fired without cause on June 6, the day before Clark announced her cabinet, and given generous severance packages.

The June 6 severance letters from B.C. Public Service Agency head Lynda Tarras, obtained by The Tyee's Andrew MacLeod via a freedom of information request, said Whitmarsh was to receive $388,924, MacDonald $347,234 and Fast $312,773. The terminations were effective the end of June 10, swearing-in day.

Rep. Dave Joyce On Unfilled Jobs: Businesses Can't Find Enough 'Sober,' 'Drug-Free' Workers

WASHINGTON -- The economy and jobs continue to dominate discussions lawmakers have with their constituents during the August recess, as many Americans are still out of work and worried about their next paycheck. In a speech to a local Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) argued that part of the problem is that there are millions of jobs that remain vacant each month.

"There's 3 million jobs every month in this country that go unfilled," said Joyce in his remarks to the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce. "Believe me, the [Cleveland] Plain Dealer already fact-checked me on it because they couldn't believe me. They thought I was lying, and they actually came up with a higher number than 3 million."

Alberta Pipeline Safety Report Released After Long Delay

CALGARY - A long awaited report on pipeline safety commissioned by the Alberta government has taken an overall positive view of the province's regulations.

But the study released Friday was quickly dismissed by critics as lacking in substance as it neither examined the effectiveness of enforcement nor drew lessons from specific spills in recent years.

Harper's Tour Ends With Chinese Reporter Being Hauled Away By RCMP

RAGLAN MINE, Que. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tour of the North ended Friday with a dust-up involving a Chinese journalist who was prevented from asking a question about rules surrounding foreign takeovers.

Li Xue Jiang of the People's Daily, China's largest newspaper, has been following the week-long tour.

The Prime Minister's Office limits the number of questions during public events and other journalists on the tour offered Li the opportunity to query Harper.

The Guardian's Computer Smash-Up Story Grows Increasingly Bizarre

Every publication makes mistakes. Every major publication has, at some point, botched a story. But the way things are going with The Guardian as it publishes this series of Edward Snowden "bombshells," we're well beyond isolated glitches. The publication has botched nearly every story on this beat -- arguably one of the biggest stories of the Summer. The ongoing trend of highly suspect coverage of various trespasses orchestrated by the U.S. or U.K. governments continues unabated, and even a cursory degree of scrutiny has revealed vague reporting or self-debunking details, then, after reader outrage has been sufficiently peaked, a slow drip of mitigating information emerges.

Putin Bans Protests In Sochi During 2014 Winter Olympics Amid Outrage At Russia's Anti-Gay Laws

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning demonstrations and rallies for two and a half months in Sochi around the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, published the presidential decree Friday, listing an array of measures tightening security in the Olympic host city, including the ban on public assemblies. All "gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets" that are not part of the Olympics or the Paralympics will be prohibited in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, the decree said.

U.S. Soldier Robert Bales Sentenced To Life In Prison Without Parole For Afghanistan Massacre

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — The U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians last year in one of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance of parole – the most severe sentence possible, but one that left surviving victims and relatives of the dead deeply unsatisfied.

"We wanted this murderer to be executed," said Hajji Mohammad Wazir, who lost 11 family members in the attack by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. "We were brought all the way from Afghanistan to see if justice would be served. Not our way – justice was served the American way."

New York Times Partnering With Guardian On Snowden Reporting

The Guardian has decided to partner with the New York Times for some of its reporting on global intelligence and national security, BuzzFeed revealed on Friday.

The paper has been the subject of a very aggressive attack from the British government over its reporting on both American and British intelligence activities. The prime minister, David Cameron, ordered his top civil servant to demand the return of the documents provided to the Guardian by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. When the paper refused, it was forced to destroy several hard drives in the presence of security officials.