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 30, 2013

Student Loan Forgiveness Program Available To Millions Who Aren't Utilizing It, CFPB Says

WASHINGTON -- More than 33 million workers qualify to have their student loans forgiven because they work in schools, hospitals or city halls, but too few take advantage of the options because the programs are overly complicated and often confusing, the government's consumer advocate said Wednesday.

Roughly a quarter of the U.S. workforce could take advantage of federal rules that give favorable loan repayment options to those in public service fields, including the military, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency recommended Congress review the loan forgiveness programs and encouraged employers to make sure their workers know they are available.

Jimmy Carter: Syria Strike Illegal Without U.N. Support

President Jimmy Carter spoke out against military action in Syria without support from the United Nations, saying any strikes without the U.N.'s blessing would be illegal.

"A punitive military response without a U.N. Security Council mandate or broad support from NATO and the Arab League would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war," said a statement from the Carter Center Friday.

The former president urged "a peace conference" in the statement.

White House Visitor List: Court Rules Against Disclosure Of Records

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Friday that White House visitor logs for the president and most of his staff are not public information subject to disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

The 3-0 decision would keep the visitor records confidential for up to 12 years after President Barack Obama leaves office.

John Kerry Makes Case For Syria Strike, But Questions Linger

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that there was "no doubt" the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in a devastating attack last week that killed more than 1,400 people, pointing to a newly released White House intelligence report that leaves unresolved whether President Bashar Assad himself ordered the attack.

Kerry's speech made clear that the United States was preparing for strikes on Assad's government, even as the United Kingdom declined to join in the military effort.

Lessons from the oil train disaster at Lac-Mégantic

As the toxic oil from the July 6 oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic, Quebec seeps deeper into the town centre's soil and disperses into waterways, and as town residents slowly reestablish their shattered lives, the corporate interests that caused the disaster and have been keeping a low profile are beginning to assert themselves anew.

Irving Oil, the company that brought the ill-fated oil train through the town in the crazed oil-by-train scheme it launched in 2012, says it’s concerned to get the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A) fully operational again. The line is severed at the explosion site in center of the town. The railway was threatened with closure by federal transportation authorities several weeks ago for lack of insurance and then ok’d to continue provisionally. There still looms its eventual and inevitable insolvency.

Supreme Court getting an earful over the future of the upper chamber

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada is getting an earful on the future of the Senate.

The federal government has asked the high court for guidance on what it would take to reform the upper chamber — and whether it can abolish the body without provincial consultation.

The provinces and territories had until Friday afternoon to submit their views on the Senate questions.

Canadian Ministers And Chinese Defence Chief Have Hush-Hush Meeting

OTTAWA - China's defence minister made an unheralded stop in Canada last week, meeting with two Harper government ministers amid rising tensions over the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Gen. Chang Wanquan had face-to-face discussions with Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Foreign Affairs John Baird last Thursday, says Western defence sources and Chinese media reports.

There was even a side trip to Kingston, Ont., where Chang visited the Royal Military College and the Canadian Army staff college before returning to Beijing.

NSA paying U.S. companies for access to communications networks

The National Security Agency is paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to U.S. companies for clandestine access to their communications networks, filtering vast traffic flows for foreign targets in a process that also sweeps in large volumes of American telephone calls, e-mails and instant messages.

The bulk of the spending, detailed in a multi-volume intelligence budget obtained by The Washington Post, goes to participants in a Corporate Partner Access Project for major U.S. telecommunications providers. The documents open an important window into surveillance operations on U.S. territory that have been the subject of debate since they were revealed by The Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper in June.

White House Keeps Congress In The Dark On Next Moves For Syria

WASHINGTON -- A Democratic congressman says that President Barack Obama has yet to make any decision on the timing or scope of a possible U.S. military intervention in Syria.

Congressman Eliot Engel of New York is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He says administration officials told lawmakers in a conference call Thursday that they have "no doubt" that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces used chemical weapons.

Engel says top officials provided limited evidence in the call. He says they talked about intercepted discussions and intelligence showing that Syrian forces moved weapons into position ahead of last week's attack.

Engel tells The Associated Press that the conversation focused on sharing concerns and the need to prevent the Assad regime from using chemical weapons again.

Original Article

Lawrence Wilkerson On Syria Intelligence: 'It Seems Like The Same Thing Again'

Lawrence Wilkerson, the man who reviewed the intelligence in Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous 2003 pre-Iraq War United Nations presentation said Thursday the Obama administration's buildup for a strike on Syria "seems like the same thing again."

"So far all I've thought is I'm living through the five days at Langley again, with people telling me Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction with absolutely certainty," Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as Powell's chief of staff, said in a phone interview, referring to the Obama administration's public case for action against Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack,

Scott Walker's Office Tries To Disappear Story Doubting Jobs Pledge

During his 2010 campaign, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pledged to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. The promise was so central to his campaign that when a TV station recently said he appeared to be backtracking on that commitment, the news outlet reports, his office attempted to get it to take the story off its website.

The Wisconsin governor's office tried to persuade northern Wisconsin NBC affiliate WJFW to pull a Monday report with the headline, "Walker backs off campaign jobs pledge at Merrill stop." The online story said he was moving away from his promise to create 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term.

Canadian Bank Earnings Hit $7.6 Billion In Third Quarter; TD, Scotiabank Profits Slide

By the time you finish reading this, Canada's five biggest banks will have made another $555,000 in profit. That's assuming it takes you 10 minutes to go through the article; the banks are earning about $55,000 in profit, combined, per minute.

That's about $80 million a day.

Canadian Foreign Workers Fee For Musicians Could Cripple Venues

Bars and clubs across Canada have always booked domestic musicians in their venues, but American and other international acts are crucial to their viability. However, a recent change in how the federal government views those "foreign workers" has many club owners, concert promoters and booking agents wondering how they'll be able to cope with what could be anywhere from a 200 to 400 per cent increase in the cost of bringing in foreign talent from abroad.

An extensive report in the Calgary Herald explained what the changes -- which came into effect July 31 -- will mean.

Stephen Harper: Wireless Rules Don't Favour Foreign Entrants Like Verizon

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says there are no “special loopholes” in Canada’s wireless rules for large foreign companies like Verizon, wading once again into a contentious war of words between his government and the Big Three telecoms.

But Harper’s latest salvo comes even as the prospect of Verizon coming to Canada seems more remote than it has in months, as Verizon seems to be distracted by much larger negotiations than a possible entry into Canada.

British Parliament Votes Against Military Intervention In Syria

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes Thursday, a stunning defeat that will almost guarantee that Britain plays no direct role in any U.S. attack on Bashar Assad's government.

A grim-faced Cameron conceded after the vote that "the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action."

The prime minister said that while he still believed in a "tough response" to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad's regime, he would respect the will of Parliament.

Canada must not join U.S. intervention in Syria

The drums of war are again beating in the West, their ominous clamour signaling U.S.-led air strikes against Syria and the Ba'athist regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Following an alleged nerve gas attack in suburban Damascus which is claimed to have killed at least 300 people -- mostly women and children -- the "red line" of U.S. President Barack Obama has been crossed. The result, despite a lack of any tangible evidence that Assad ordered the attack, is a jingoistic call to defend the human rights of the Syrian people with a 'surgical' airstrike. Curiously, such claims contradict American funding which has heretofore armed the rebels and facilitated numerous atrocities in which both parties are directly implicated.

Juan González: Growing Charter School Chain Suspends Special Needs Kids in Bid to Raise Test Scores

Democracy Now! co-host Juan González discusses his reports for the New York Daily News about how one of the New York City’s fastest-growing chains of charter schools, Success Academy, has far higher suspension rates than other public elementary schools. "More than two dozen parents have come to me complaining about their children — who are special needs, special education children, or children with behavior problems," González reports, "that they feel are being pushed out or forced out by the charter school in an effort to to improve the test scores." Success Academy uses its high test scores to attract funding, and just secured a $5 million grant it will use to expand from 20 to 100 schools. González obtained a copy of secretly recorded meetings in which school administrators pressed one parent to transfer her special education kindergarten student back into the public school system.

Author: --

Simon Fraser University Is Falling Down

Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus is not aging well.

Leaky pipes, mould infested classrooms and offices, crumbling stairs, and cracking foundations can be found all over the 48 year old university campus, B.C.'s second largest post-secondary institution.

It's gotten so bad that last year the SFU Graduate Students Society (GSS) held the "I ♥ SFU" contest asking students to submit photos of the damage. They posted the results on a Tumblr, where you can see hundreds of pictures of rusting pipes, mouldy walls, jagged metal, and exposed wiring submitted by faculty and students.

F-35 purchase could cost Canada $71-billion under worst-case scenario: report

PARLIAMENT HILL—A worst-case scenario of cost risks in a Department of National Defence report on a possible acquisition of 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets estimates the airplanes could cost Canada up to $71-billion through acquisition, sustainment and operations over 36 years.

The costs, $25-billion more than the current National Defence estimate, are contained in a section of the department’s latest report to Parliament on the F-35 that outlines “cost risk and uncertainty” and is intended to provide a range of effects on the cost of buying and operating a fleet of stealth attack planes if factors such as inflation, the exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. dollar, the cost of fuel and the rate of aircraft to be produced by Lockheed Martin fluctuates either higher or lower than the estimates that are behind the current National Defence figures.

A mom beaten, a son changed

As a 10-year-old boy, Eric Robinson looked on in horror as his mother was badly beaten, a transformative event that would influence his future political career.

"Her non-aboriginal boyfriend was beating the hell out of her, hitting her like a man would hit another man in a boxing match," Robinson recalls.

"I tried to defend her and I was knocked against the wall" and lost consciousness.

The young Robinson, by then a survivor of three horrific years in a northern residential school, remembers coming to the next morning in his mother's arms.

Bank Profits Hit Record $42.2 Billion In Second Quarter

WASHINGTON -- U.S. banks earned more from April through June than during any quarter on record, aided by a steep drop in losses from bad loans.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says the banking industry earned $42.2 billion in the second quarter, up 23 percent from the second quarter of 2012. CNNMoney additionally reported Thursday that the nation’s biggest banks are expected to hand out more in compensation in 2013 than they did in 2009 -- the final year of the recession -- including $23 billion in bonuses.

NSA 'Black Budget' Provides New Details On Surveillance Agency

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency on Thursday disputed a published report that secret intelligence budget files provided by agency leaker Edward Snowden show that the surveillance agency warned in 2012 that it planned to investigate up to 4,000 cases of possible internal security breaches.

The Washington Post, citing documents it said were provided by Snowden, said the NSA's concerns about insider threats were aimed at "anomalous behavior" of agency employees with access to top secret data. The account cited NSA concerns about "trusted insiders who seek to exploit their authorized access to sensitive information to harm U.S. interests."

Earnings And Employment In Canada: Garbage, Debt Collectors Among Wage Winners

Now might be the right time to get into the garbage collecting business — or the debt collecting business.

Canada’s garbage collectors, debt collectors, call centre operators and temp agency workers are among the people seeing the biggest wage hikes in the country, according to StatsCan’s latest data on payroll employment, earnings and hours.

The agency says people in the broad business sector known as “administrative and support, waste management and remediation services” saw wage hikes of more than eight per cent, on average, in the past year.

Brian Sinclair, Winnipeg Aboriginal Who Died After 34-Hour Hour Hospital Wait, Assumed 'Sleeping It Off'

WINNIPEG - A man who died during a lengthy wait in a hospital emergency room vomited on the floor during his final hours, but a security guard on duty said he assumed Brian Sinclair was intoxicated and "sleeping it off."

Alain Remillard told an inquest that a man in the waiting room at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre informed him that Sinclair had either thrown up or soiled himself.

The intolerable costs of nuclear power and benefits of saying no

Welcome to the nuclear renaissance.

Entergy Corp, one of the largest nuclear-power producers in the U.S., issued a surprise press release Tuesday, saying it plans "to close and decommission its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, Vermont. The station is expected to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014." Although the press release came from the corporation, it was years of people's protests and state legislative action that forced its closure. At the same time that activists celebrate this key defeat of nuclear power, officials in Japan admitted that radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe are far worse than previously acknowledged.

Calls for TPP transparency grow louder at home and abroad

NDP Trade Critic Don Davies (pictured) is asking the Harper government to give MPs the same access to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiating text as U.S. Members of Congress have. Meanwhile in Malaysia, the government is feeling increasing pressure from right- and left-wing opposition to be more forthcoming about what is being discussed behind closed doors. Even The Economist is worrying that unless the 12 negotiating countries involved in the TPP come clean, they risk alienating any possible public support for the deal when or if it is ever concluded.

"The TPP is a sweeping agreement covering issues that affect many areas of Canada's economy and society -- including several areas of policy that have never been subject to trade agreements before," said Davies in an August 28 press release. "By keeping Parliament completely in the dark on negotiations the Conservatives also leave Canadians in the dark and, for an agreement of this magnitude that is abnormal and unacceptable."