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.]

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Feds Launch Criminal Investigation Into JPMorgan Employees

NEW YORK, Sept 4 (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into whether several employees of JPMorgan Chase & Co tried to impede a regulatory investigation into alleged manipulation of power markets, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The probe, which is in its early stages, is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecutors in Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office. It comes after a JPMorgan subsidiary agreed on July 30 to pay a $410 million penalty to settle a manipulation case brought by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Failed Amendment Would Have Put War To National Vote, Forced Those Who Voted 'Yes' To Enlist

With congressional lawmakers and the rest of the nation buzzing about potential military intervention in Syria, a nearly century-old failed constitutional amendment resurfaced on Reddit Tuesday, sparking debate about a dramatic restructuring of the power to declare war.

In 1916, with World War I looming for the United States, a group of Nebraska residents gathered petition signatures and sent a constitutional amendment to Congress that would have enacted a national referendum before lawmakers could declare war. On top of the national vote, anyone who cast a ballot in favor of war would have been required to register as a volunteer for service in the United States Army.

Canada's Potemkin Parliament

There's the British Parliament. And then there's Canada's "Potemkin" Parliament. The name "Potemkin" derives from Grigori Aleksandrovich Potyomkin, a favourite of Catherine the Great of Russia. He reputedly gave the order for sham villages to be built for the empress's tour of the Crimea in 1787.

Potyomkin's name has become an adjective. Dictionary definitions of Potemkin describe an action or stance that has "a false or deceptive appearance, especially one presented for the purpose of propaganda; "a pretentiously showy or imposed fa├žade intended to mask of divert attention from an embarrassing or shabby fact or condition."

Israel orders school textbook publishers to remove sex education material

Israeli education authorities have ordered the removal of sex education material from textbooks destined for state religious junior high schools in a move attacked by liberal reformists as a capitulation to ultra-Orthodox extremism.

The publishers of scientific textbooks have been told to revise content related to human reproduction and contraception aimed at pupils under the age of 15.

Eisenhower 1954, Obama 2013

In April, 1954, President Eisenhower was being pressured to take military action in Vietnam, where the French were losing a symbolically important battle at Dien Bien Phu and were about to be driven out of what was then their colony. At a press conference that month, Eisenhower acknowledged the “falling domino” principle—the idea that if one land were to fall to Communism others would follow. John Foster Dulles, his Secretary of State, declared that a Communist political system imposed on Southeast Asia by means of the Marxist and nationalist guerrilla forces fighting the French “would be a grave threat to the whole free community,” and Vice-President Richard Nixon, in a talk to newspaper editors that April, dropped hints about dispatching American troops. Eisenhower never used a phrase like “red line,” as President Obama did when he warned the Syrian regime that the use of chemical weapons would be punished, but he did say that the defense of the Southeast Asia region was of “transcendent importance.” He sounded determined to act.

Putin Talks Syria, 'Doesn't Exclude' Supporting UN Resolution Despite Warnings

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia -- President Vladimir Putin warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria but also said Russia "doesn't exclude" supporting a U.N. resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television, Putin said Moscow has provided some components of the S-300 air defense missile system to Syria but has frozen further shipments. He suggested that Russia may sell the potent missile systems elsewhere if Western nations attack Syria without U.N. Security Council backing.

Senate Reaches Resolution On Syria

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama gained ground Tuesday in his drive for congressional backing of a military strike against Syria, winning critical support from House Speaker John Boehner while key Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed to back a no-combat-troops-on-the-ground action in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack.

Refugees Canada: Tories Examined Limiting Refugees With Health Woes, Docs Reveal

MONTREAL - The federal government has examined setting limits on the number of refugees that Canada takes in with health problems, such as trauma from torture.

Staff at Citizenship and Immigration Canada were asked last year to suggest ways to cut down on the number of "high needs" refugees in order to reduce strain on the health-care system, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

Eli Lilly's NAFTA lawsuit should prompt rethink of investor 'rights' deals

It's likely that until recently very few people in Canada knew what a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) was. But when the Harper government announced it had signed one of these things with China, the situation changed quickly. The FIPA attracted immediate public suspicion and an unusual amount of opposition compared to other recent trade and investment deals. A month later, a small community in B.C. had even taken the FIPA to court, claiming the federal government had a constitutional responsibility to consult with First Nations before ratifying such far-reaching international treaties.

Lockheed Martin announces three-year contract to Apex Industries to supply parts for F-35 fighter jets

PARLIAMENT HILL—The latest Canadian aerospace contract to supply parts for the Lockheed-Martin F-35 stealth fighter jet is for an initial term of only three years because of uncertainty over production rates at the F-35 assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas, says a top executive with the New Brunswick firm that won the contract.

Lockheed Martin announced the contract with Apex Industries of Moncton, N.B., on Monday, noting that more than 34 Canadian aerospace suppliers are contracted to supply parts for the F-35 production at Lockheed Martin and Canadian firms have won more than $500-million since Canadian participation in development of the fight jet began in 2002.

Snooping Idle No More

When Native protesters were talking last year, CSIS was paying close attention

Sitting in her teepee on Ottawa’s Victoria Island in December 2012, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was officially starting her hunger strike, breathing fire into the Idle No More movement and setting off a chain reaction that would eventually force Ottawa into talks on the nature of Canada’s relationship with First Nations. Meanwhile, five blocks away as the crow flies, the federal government’s security and emergency nervous system was ramping up its efforts to keep tabs on the movement. Just how extensive, and often ham-handed, the surveillance was is only now coming to light with the release of thousands of new documents.

Federal government to reduce citizenship backlog by slashing dormant applications

OTTAWA — The federal government is hoping to reduce wait times for citizenship by slashing its inventory of dormant applications, Postmedia News has learned.

Starting Wednesday, Citizenship and Immigration will shut the files of those who fail to attend multiple scheduled citizenship tests or interviews. Applications submitted on or after April 17, 2009 will also be considered dormant and closed if applicants fail to provide proof of residency after receiving two notices to do so from the government.

CFB Petawawa to get name change in latest government rebranding

Canadian Forces Base Petawawa will soon be no more.

The military installation in the Ottawa Valley is in line for a name change as part of the Conservative government’s rebranding of the military.

It will be called 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa, although that new name has yet to be officially announced and a date for the renaming is still undecided, say army officers.

What Congressional Approval Won't Do: Trim Obama's Power or Make War Legal

One of the most misleading metaphors in the discussion of President Obama’s Syria policy is that the president has “boxed himself in” or has “painted himself into a corner.” These metaphors treat a president’s available actions as if they were physical spaces and limits on action as if they were physical walls. Such metaphors would make sense only if we also stipulated that Obama has the power to snap his fingers and create a door or window wherever he likes. The Syria crisis has not created a new precedent for limiting presidential power. To the contrary, it has offered multiple opportunities for increasing it.

Federal infrastructure fund was great for business, Quebec corruption inquiry hears

MONTREAL - The federal government's historic multibillion-dollar infrastructure program has been lucrative for a few Quebec construction companies involved in illegal collusion, a witness testified at the province's corruption inquiry on Tuesday.

That testimony produced a rare mention of the federal government at the probe — where politics outside Quebec has been declared off-limits and beyond the mandate of an inquiry that has severely rattled governments within the province.

Freedom House Church, North Carolina Congregation, Under Fire For Requesting 'Only White' Greeters

Churches often do their best to welcome new members and make new congregants feel welcome, but one North Carolina congregation caused a firestorm when a lead pastor requested "only white people" serve as greeters.

Carmen Thomas, a member of Freedom House Church was outraged after receiving an email from Pastor Makeda Pennycooke asking people of color to refrain from serving as greeters at the 9 a.m. service during the congregation's busiest season, WBTV reports.

Lowering our standards for workers' rights

The right-wing Fraser Institute has released a paper that, if implemented, would dramatically lower our standards for worker pay, workers' rights and workplace protections.

It urges governments in Ontario and B.C. to adopt American-style "right-to-work" (RTW) laws which violate a core principle upheld in Canadian law: if a majority of workers in a workplace vote to form a union, everyone should be a member and pay dues -- because all workers in that workplace benefit from the gains made by the union in their workplace.

Effectively, it would undermine unions' right to organize in Canada.

EI: Self-insurance or three-card Monte?

Monte Solberg, the former Conservative cabinet minister responsible for Employment Insurance, proposed to eliminate the program in a recent Sun Media column:

    An alternative would be to self-insure. Employee and employer premiums would accumulate in an account in each worker's name. Including interest, anyone who managed to stay employed through their lifetime earning even a modest income would stand to collect several hundred thousand dollars at retirement.

Taser used on 80-year-old woman in Mississauga

Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after officers deployed a Taser on an 80-year-old woman who suffered a fractured hip after falling to the ground.

The Special Investigations Unit said the incident under investigation occurred in the Thomas Street and Erin Mills Parkway area in the early hours of Aug. 28 in Mississauga, Ont.

Their preliminary information indicates that Peel Regional Police had received calls about a woman walking along the road.

Canadian House Prices 'Bubbly,' The Economist Says As Feds Mull More Mortgage Changes

Canada’s real estate industry has declared the prospect of a housing market bubble dead, but The Economist isn’t listening.

The U.K.-based magazine has once again declared Canada’s housing market to be “bubbly,” in a survey that shows Canadian house prices to be 30-per-cent overvalued compared to incomes, and 74-per-cent overvalued compared to rental prices.

The survey comes out amid reports that Canada could see another round of mortgage rule tightening, as last year’s round of tightening seems to have done little in the longer term to slow house price growth.

Quebec Economic Development 'Banque' Raises Red Flag In Federal Government

OTTAWA - It's a coming war of words between Ottawa and the Quebec government that you can take to the bank.

Premier Pauline Marois's Parti Quebecois government introduced a bill in the spring that would create an economic development bank for the province, offering loans and seed money for new businesses.

Protesting Activists' Firings, Walmart Workers Plan the Biggest Mobilization Since Black Friday

Walmart workers and supporters plan to mount protests in fifteen cities Thursday, a mobilization that the union-backed group OUR Walmart expects will be its largest since last November’s Black Friday strike. This week’s rallies follow an August 22 civil disobedience action at which the campaign announced a Labor Day deadline for Walmart to raise its wages to at least $25,000 per year, and reverse the terminations of twenty workers who participated in a June strike.

As The Nation has reported, nearly eighty OUR Walmart members have been disciplined by the company since returning from the June walkout. OUR Walmart’s response to the alleged illegal retaliation has included protest rallies, pressure on Yahoo! CEO and Walmart board member Marissa Mayer and outreach to members of Congress. The campaign has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the discipline violated federal labor law. Walmart has denied wrongdoing; a spokesperson told The Nation last month that “no associates were disciplined for participating in any specific protests.” The company did not respond to a Monday request for comment regarding the strikers’ demands and their deadline, which passed yesterday without any public concession by Walmart.

Acting Older Isn't Being Older: How We Fail Young Rape Victims

Last year, a defense attorney called an 11-year-old gang rape victim a “spider” luring men into her web. When the New York Times covered the case, they reported that she “dressed older than her age,” wore make up and hung out with teenage boys. It wasn’t a new framing; when young girls are raped—especially young girls of color—they’re frequently blamed for “enticing” adult men or painted as complicit in the attack because of their supposed sexual maturity. From the criminal justice system that re-traumatizes assault victims to a media that calls rape cases “sex scandals” or insists statutory rape isn’t “rape rape”, we are failing young sexual assault survivors every day.

Congress, Think Carefully Before Intervening in Syria

President Obama’s decision to ask Congress to authorize any action towards Syria is both courageous and correct. He ignored the inevitable scorn he would get from the armchair patriots who believe the U.S. president can dispatch the military anywhere, at any time, for any reason. He reportedly overruled the advice of most of his national security team that wanted to strike Syria without going to Congress. After the British parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s appeal for authority to join the United States in the Syrian strike, Obama knew the vote in this bitterly divided and dysfunctional Congress would be “a tough sell.”

Pope Francis Calls For Peace In Syria, Announces Worldwide Day Of Fasting On September 7, 2013

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis on Sunday condemned the use of chemical weapons, but he called for a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Syria, and announced he would lead a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace there on Sept. 7.

Francis abandoned the traditional religious theme of the weekly papal appearance to crowds in St. Peter's Square and instead spoke entirely, and with anguish, about Syria.

Here Are All The People Who Have Died From A Marijuana Overdose

Just how deadly a killer is marijuana? Here's a GIF showing all of the people who have died after overdosing on pot:
panda gif

U.S. Strike In Syria Could Unleash More Turmoil, UN Chief Ban Ki Moon Says

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday warned that any "punitive" action taken against Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month would be illegal without Security Council approval or a sound case for self-defense.

The U.S. and France have blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime for the alleged Aug. 21 attack and are considering military action in response. Such a strike would almost certainly occur without the approval of the Security Council, where Russia and China have consistently used their veto power to block action against Assad's regime. The Obama administration argues that a chemical weapons attack cannot go unpunished because of the council's inaction.

John Boehner Backs Obama's Call For Military Action In Syria

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Tuesday that he would support President Barack Obama's call for action in Syria, and urged his colleagues to do so as well.

"I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action," Boehner said after a meeting with Obama and congressional leaders. "We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior."