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.]

Monday, September 16, 2013

Win! Alberta Auditor General announces pipeline review

A network of more than 50 organizations from across the political spectrum in Alberta scored a major victory last week with the announcement from Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher that his office would "as soon as reasonably possible" begin an audit of the safety of Alberta's 400,000 km of pipeline infrastructure. In a letter sent to the NDP Opposition confirming the audit, Saher wrote, "we will be auditing the government's monitoring systems to ensure compliance with Alberta's pipeline regulations. Our audit would also include inspection and enforcement processes."

The announcement of the Auditor General's investigation into pipeline safety is a major victory for the network of groups in the province, including the Council of Canadians, that has been pushing for an independent review of pipeline safety since a series of spills last summer, including a Plains Midstream spill of 475,000 litres of light sour crude into the Red Deer River system, brought the issue of pipeline safety to public attention.

Partnership in bad taste: Harbourfront's Pan American Food Festival partners with rights violator Pacific Rubiales Energy

It is with grave concern to see the upcoming Pan American Food Festival at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto being sponsored by Pacific Rubiales Energy, a Canadian-based oil and gas company listed on the Toronto and Colombian stock exchanges. Pacific Rubiales Energy has been accused of being engaged in serious human, Indigenous, environmental and labour rights violations in Colombia. These abuses have been well documented by Colombian civil society and also Canadian-based organizations.

Know your government!

This time of year depressed the prophet Jeremiah. "And Jeremiah said: 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.'" Talk about your jeremiads.

Did The Man Upstairs really grant these Old Testament kvetches clairvoyance? Several Christian sects believe those apocalyptic, end-of-days prophecies will come true one day, and of course we can't prove they won't. But clearly old Jer knew of which he spake: for us poor sinners here in Harperland, summer is also ended and we too are not saved.

Who Pays as BC Puts Industry in Charge of Recycling?

British Columbia's environment minister is downplaying the impact of the province's imminent paper and packaging recycling shift to producers and consumers.

In May 2011, the B.C. Liberal government amended environmental regulation laws to force every producer of paper and packaged goods to be responsible for the life cycle of their goods, including the collection, processing and marketing, beginning in May 2014. It put control into the hands of an industry-led group, called Multi Material B.C., which is overseen by a three-man board of directors that includes an executive from the world's third-largest packaged goods corporation, Unilever, and another from Loblaw Companies, Canada's largest food retailer, which recently bought the Shoppers Drug Mart chain.

For Residential School Kids, a Legacy of Sex Abuse

Jerry Adams hears "Just get over it," a lot. He hears it from some young aboriginal kids who say they're sick of talking about their grandparents' residential school experiences. He hears it from some non-native people, dismissive of the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which is coming to the PNE Coliseum in Vancouver Sept. 18 to 21 to record the stories of residential school survivors and their descendants.

Legal Aid's Coming Denial of Service

The government-funded agency that provides legal aid in British Columbia is advising its lawyers not to book any hearings for criminal and child protection cases in the last six weeks of the fiscal year because it is running out of money.

"Because some very busy courts are about to set hearing dates for that time period, we strongly recommend that you avoid booking hearing dates for your criminal and child protection cases or doing any hourly paid legal aid work from February 17 through March 31, 2014," says a Sept. 4 Legal Aid Brief to lawyers from the Legal Services Society (LSS). "You might consider booking hearings for your non-legal aid cases in this period."

A spokesperson for the LSS said the recommendation is being made out of caution while the agency continues negotiating with the provincial government for more funding. LSS chief executive officer Mark Benton was unavailable for an interview by publication.

Blurred lines on lobbying, strategic advice after leaving public office, say critics

A former chief of staff to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty taking a job with a national bank and a former PMO adviser moving to a government relations firm indicate that the lines are blurry when it comes to life after public service, say critics.

“Conservatives used to howl like banshees when it was all those Liberal operatives in the revolving door. Where are those lofty principles now?
‘Who you know in the PMO’ is not supposed to be a marketable commodity,” NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Man.) told The Hill Times last week.

What do empty legislatures mean to Canada’s democratic institutions? By

OTTAWA —Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had the beginning of the fall session pushed back one month, while B.C. Premier Christy Clark has decided to shutter the legislature there until next year.

Although neither leader is setting a precedent, each is contributing to the emergence of a pattern increasingly seen across Canada.

A quick scan of provincial legislatures shows that many premiers seem to find it easier and more efficient to govern when Parliament is shut down.

These 2 Stats Prove California's $10 Minimum Wage Is A Big Deal

California is very, very close to making a $10 minimum wage a reality. Doing so nationwide would change the lives of America’s working poor.

A June study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national organization focusing on racial equity in the restaurant industry, found that (statistic #1) a $10.10 minimum wage would have pulled roughly 58 percent of the nation’s 10.4 million working poor out of poverty in 2011.

Times Square Shooting: 2 Reported Shot By Police

Multiple outlets reported that police shot two bystanders in Times Square on Saturday night while trying to control an unstable pedestrian.

CBS Local reported that police were "trying to corral an emotionally disturbed man who was moving in and out of traffic" around 42nd Street and 8th Avenue when they opened fire.

The New York Daily News reports that the two unintended victims were a 35-year-old woman and a 54-year old woman.

Jonathan Ferrell Killed: Man Shot In North Carolina Was A Former FAMU Football Player

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The deadly encounter was set in motion when a former college football player survived a wreck and went searching for help in the middle of the night. A frightened woman heard him pounding and opened her front door, then called police. Officers found the unarmed man, and one shot him when a Taser failed to stop him from approaching.

Within hours, investigators determined that the shooting had been excessive and charged the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer with voluntary manslaughter in the death of former Florida A&M University football player Jonathan A. Ferrell.

On 5th Anniversary Of Lehman Collapse, Americans Still Angry

NEW YORK, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A few years ago, Larry Summers, then the director of President Barack Obama's National Economic Council, held a private meeting with some of Wall Street's top bankers and executives.

Although the worst of the financial crisis was over by then, Summers - now seen as a candidate to be the next chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve - chastised bankers for being out of touch, saying they didn't understand how angry average Americans were with them, according to a participant in the meeting.

GOP, Tea Party Face Growing Divide

FLETCHER, N.C. — Tea party activists, once unquestioned as a benefit to the Republican Party for supplying it with votes and energy, are now criticizing GOP leaders at seemingly every turn.

They're demanding that Congress use upcoming budget votes to deny money for putting in place President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, despite warnings the strategy could lead to a government shutdown.

'Charter of shame'

MONTREAL -- Thousands jammed the streets of Montreal on Saturday afternoon to denounce Quebec's proposed charter of values, calling on Premier Pauline Marois to put an end to "politics of division."

The protest march, billed as an inclusive, multicultural event, drew many members of the Muslim and Sikh communities in particular. Others who claimed no religious allegiance also took part.

A group from a local mosque walked with a large banner that read: "Multi-faith gathering for peace."

Prime Minister Harper accelerating trend away from provincial consultation

By rarely meeting with the provinces, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accelerating a trend started by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien in the 1990s of having less consultation between the two levels of government, says former Saskatchewan deputy minister and University of Regina professor Greg Marchildon, one of six authors of the recently-released book, Governance And Public Policy In Canada: A View From The Provinces, published by the University of Toronto Press.

“This is not new, Jean Chrétien limited the number of first ministers’ meetings, although not on the scale of Stephen Harper. Before Jean Chrétien, there were many more meetings, and during the Trudeau period, there were many, many, meetings, partly because of the Constitution,” said Prof. Marchildon.

Syria crisis: Baird calls Assad's timeline for handing over weapons 'ridiculous'

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Canada's foreign minister John Baird is calling Syria's offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons "ridiculous and absurd."

Baird said Syrian President Bashar Assad could not be given extra time. Baird said: "This is a man, who up until a week ago denied that they had any such weapons."

Inside AIPAC's Syria Blitz

WASHINGTON -- As Jews all over the world marked the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on Friday, uncertainty loomed over both the U.S. and Israel as to what role the United States, Russia, and the international community would play in resolving the brutal civil war in Syria.

On Tuesday night, President Obama made the case to the American public that Congress should authorize airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's military, in response to Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. But as Obama was honing his argument Monday, Russia came forward with a surprise proposal whereby Assad would surrender his vast stockpile of non-conventional weapons, and by doing so, avert a U.S.-led military intervention.

Lawrence Summers Cancels Citigroup Events While Federal Reserve Decision Pending

CHICAGO, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has pulled out of speaking engagements and other events involving Citigroup Inc while President Barack Obama considers whether to nominate the Harvard economist as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, the bank said in a statement.

"Mr. Summers has withdrawn from participation in all Citi events while he is under consideration to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve," Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a spokeswoman for the third-biggest U.S. lender, said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters on Saturday.

Gun Violence Study Links State Levels Of Gun Ownership And Homicide

A new study of gun violence published by the American Journal of Public Health found that states with greater levels of gun ownership tend to have higher rates of gun-related murder.

The study, conducted by Boston University professor Michael Siegel and coauthors Craig S. Ross and Charles King III, examines this relationship in all 50 states from 1981 to 2010. The researchers found that "for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9 percent."

Companies Can't Force Employees To Get Pay Via Debit Cards: CFPB

WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators say companies cannot require employees to receive their pay on debit cards, citing complaints from workers of high and unexpected fees on the cards.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a bulletin warning employers against using only so-called payroll cards to pay workers. The agency said that by law workers must be able to choose how they receive their wages. If they choose to be paid with payroll cards, they are entitled to protections such as disclosure of fees, it said.

"Terrorism is Part of Our History": Angela Davis on ’63 Church Bombing, Growing up in "Bombingham"

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, a watershed moment in the civil rights movement. On Sept. 15, 1963, a dynamite blast planted by the Ku Klux Klan killed four young girls in the church — Denise McNair, age 11, and Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, all 14 years old. Twenty other people were injured. No one was arrested for the bombings for 14 years. We hear an address by world-renowned author, activist and scholar Angela Davis, professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz. She spoke last night in Oakland, California, at an event organized by the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law.

Author: --


“We’ve found through our experience that timid supplications for justice will not solve the problem,” declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 as he announced the civil rights movement’s pivot toward the economic justice message of the Poor People’s Campaign. “We’ve got to massively confront the power structure.”

With those words, King spoke a language every bit as American as his “I Have a Dream” message of four years earlier. There are times for optimism and hope, and there are times for acknowledgment of an overwhelming challenge and the radical demand that it be addressed. Often they merge, and in these moments, great movements fundamentally redirect the nation. Tom Paine knew that. So did Frederick Douglass, and Jane Addams, and A. Philip Randolph. There is a rich American tradition of recognizing that some crises cannot be answered by tinkering at the edges of the problem. At such times, the people have responded with a boldness that ushered in new political parties or a New Deal, new understandings of the rights of citizens and the responsibilities of governments. And they have amended the Constitution, not once or twice but twenty-seven times.

An attack on Syria would be an attack on the climate

Syria. It's about oil. Again.

It's more complex than that, but as noted in the Guardian, the plans for an attack on Syria are "fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern". Obama, Harper, and other war proponents are quick to claim that a US-led war on Syria wouldn't be another Iraq. But with an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan in the balance, that's precisely what it would be -- the latest Western war waged against a Middle Eastern country to ensure control of the oil and gas in the region.

Another war for oil

Toronto protesters call for higher minimum wage

Protesters gathered in Toronto’s west end today to rally in support of raising Ontario's minimum wage.

About 100 people were outside Dufferin Mall Saturday afternoon. Many were holding red balloons and wearing t-shirts reading “Fair Wages Now.”

They were calling on the province to raise the legal minimum wage to $14 per hour. It’s currently at $10.25, where it’s been frozen since 2010.

Stephen Harper in B.C. for pipeline push

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has landed in Kelowna, B.C., Friday for a meeting with his B.C. caucus, with the expectation much of the talk would be about oil and pipelines.

While the Prime Minister's Office released few details about the agenda, it did tweet a picture of Harper and his MPs at the caucus meeting.

Later Harper and his MPs met with local supporters at a Conservative Party barbeque at the Quails Gate Winery in West Kelowna.

Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer Toronto Talk Flagged By Canadian Muslim Leaders

TORONTO - A Canadian Muslim organization is calling on Ottawa to spell out how it decides whether to allow controversial foreign speakers into the country ahead of a planned appearance by two conservative American bloggers.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims worries Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer will spread "hate and misinformation" about the Islamic faith when they speak at a Toronto-area hotel Tuesday evening, the group's executive director said.

One Weird Trick to Fix Farms Forever

Chatting with David Brandt outside his barn on a sunny June morning, I wonder if he doesn't look too much like a farmer—what a casting director might call "too on the nose." He's a beefy man in bib overalls, a plaid shirt, and well-worn boots, with short, gray-streaked hair peeking out from a trucker hat over a round, unlined face ruddy from the sun.

Brandt farms 1,200 acres in the central Ohio village of Carroll, pop. 524. This is the domain of industrial-scale agriculture—a vast expanse of corn and soybean fields broken up only by the sprawl creeping in from Columbus. Brandt, 66, raised his kids on this farm after taking it over from his grandfather. Yet he sounds not so much like a subject of King Corn as, say, one of the organics geeks I work with on my own farm in North Carolina. In his g-droppin' Midwestern monotone, he's telling me about his cover crops—fall plantings that blanket the ground in winter and are allowed to rot in place come spring, a practice as eyebrow-raising in corn country as holding a naked yoga class in the pasture. The plot I can see looks just about identical to the carpet of corn that stretches from eastern Ohio to western Nebraska. But last winter it would have looked very different: While the neighbors' fields lay fallow, Brandt's teemed with a mix of as many as 14 different plant species.

Not One Top Wall Street Executive Has Been Convicted Of Criminal Charges Related To 2008 Crisis

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Will top bankers' behaviour ever land them in jail? Or are bad business decisions even a crime at all?

Five years on from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the debate over how to hold senior bank bosses to account for failures is far from over, but legal sanctions for top executives remain a largely remote threat.

Even as laws evolve - in Britain, the government wants to criminalise recklessness in banking - a repeat of the global financial crisis and near-collapses of 2008 would not necessarily result in many more prosecutions today, lawyers say.

Pakistan, Yemen And Afghanistan Have Children Too, And They Are Being Killed by Our Drones

The death of a child -- any child -- is always painful and shocking. The awful gassing of children in Syria breaks the heart and tortures the soul. We all should and must speak up about this outrage.

But the deaths of 178 Pakistani children by American drones must also be acknowledged. We must put an end to killing children in the name of security. As National Security Advisor Susan Rice has said, "Nations cannot unleash the world's most horrific weapons against innocent civilians, especially children." She was talking about chemical weapons, but "death by drone" is equally horrific. Take one look at the photos of children killed by our drones, provided to me by Noor Beham when I made a trip to Pakistan last year, for graphic confirmation.

Colorado Flood: Thousands More Evacuated, Several Unaccounted For; National Guard Moves In

LYONS, Colo. — By truck and helicopter, thousands of people stranded by floodwaters came down from the Colorado Rockies on Friday, two days after seemingly endless rain turned normally scenic rivers and creeks into coffee-colored rapids that wrecked scores of roads and wiped out neighborhoods.

Authorities aimed to evacuate 2,500 people from the isolated mountain community of Lyons by the end of the day, either by National Guard convoys or airlifts.

When good data goes bad: The 2011 National Household Survey

Two findings stand out in the National Household Survey (NHS) data released Wednesday, both critical in this post-recession era of uncertainty:

1. A quarter of Canadian households spent 30 per cent or more of their pre-tax income on shelter, the official measure of housing affordability.

2. There was virtually no change in the rate of home ownership between 2006 and 2011. It was 68.4 per cent in 2006, and 69 per cent in 2011.

Derailments in Calgary, mislabelled oil at Lac-Mégantic: Oil-by-train dangers further exposed

For the second time in three months, a CP Rail train carrying toxic and flammable hydrocarbons has derailed in the city of Calgary.

Wednesday, eight railway wagons carrying a diluting product used in the pipeline shipment of tar sands bitumen derailed in the Inglewood neighbourhood of Calgary. The train was traveling at a slow speed while exiting CP Rail's Alyth yard in the southeast of the city. Brian McAsey, assistant deputy fire chief of Calgary, told the Calgary Herald, "[The product] is extremely flammable and very volatile."

The Conservatives’ economic stability message becoming a myth

OTTAWA—Stephen Harper won a majority in 2011 on a simple message of economic stability and he has left no doubt he wants that to be the ballot question again in 2015.

But a flurry of inconvenient numbers released this week is muddling that message.

They have provided us an early glimpse of where the next campaign will be fought.

Parliament Officially Prorogued By Gov. Gen. David Johnston, New Session Starts Oct. 16

OTTAWA - Gov. Gen. David Johnston formally prorogued Parliament on Friday, setting the stage for a new session to open with a speech from the throne on Oct. 16.

The prorogation gives Prime Minister Stephen Harper a chance to re-boot and map out his approach to the scheduled October 2015 election.

Canadians' Household Debt Reaches New High: $1.63 For Every Dollar Earned

OTTAWA — Canadian household debt climbed to a new high in the second quarter, turning around after creeping lower for two quarters, according to Statistics Canada.

Statistics Canada said Friday the ratio of household credit market debt to disposable income increased to a new high of 163.4 per cent in the second quarter compared with 162.1 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Sen. Pamela Wallin Reimburses Senate For Questionable Travel Claims

OTTAWA - Sen. Pamela Wallin has paid back her dubious travel claims, although she did so with gritted teeth, accusing some fellow senators of succumbing to a "lynch mob" mentality.

The embattled Saskatchewan senator says she gave the Senate personal cheques Friday amounting to $100,600, plus interest. That's on top of the $38,000 she has already repaid.

Wallin sounded bitter about an outside audit that called into question a litany of travel claims spanning nearly all of her career as a senator, which began late in 2008.

Lockheed Martin: F-35 Cancellation Would Mean Canada Out $10.5 Billion

MONTREAL - Canada's aerospace industry could lose about $10.5 billion worth of contracts over several decades if the federal government ultimately decides not to purchase the controversial F-35 Stealth Fighter, says a senior executive at Lockheed Martin.

Orlando Carvalho, executive vice-president of the U.S. defence giant, says Lockheed will honour $500 million worth of business already awarded to Canadian partners but that other work would be in jeopardy without a Canadian jet order.

Report: NSA Mimics Google to Monitor 'Target' Web Users

Buried in a Brazilian television report on Sunday was the disclosure that the NSA has impersonated Google and possibly other major internet sites in order to intercept, store, and read supposedly secure online communications. The spy agency accomplishes this using what's known as a "man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack," a fairly well-known exploit used by elite hackers. This revelation adds to the growing list of ways that the NSA is believed to snoop on ostensibly private online conversations.

Steve Bracknell, Lake Mary Police Chief, Walks Back George Zimmerman Comments: Report

Lake Mary, Fla., police chief Steve Bracknell has distanced himself from comments he made in a response to an email from a town resident who was upset that George Zimmerman has not been charged with any crimes following an altercation Monday with his estranged wife and her father.

In a Sept. 10 response to Lake Mary resident Santiago Rodriguez's strongly-worded emails, which called Zimmerman "a ticking time bomb... [and] a Sandy Hook [or] Aurora waiting to happen," Bracknell initially replied "I agree." On Thursday, WTSP reported that the chief walked back his comments about Zimmerman.

The Totally Unfair And Bitterly Uneven 'Recovery,' In 12 Charts

The financial crisis was hell for pretty much everybody, rich or poor. But the recovery that has followed has not been nearly as fair.

Wall Street, the wealthy and the powerful have done amazingly well since the crisis ended. Little of that has trickled down to everybody else, in what has been the most uneven recovery in at least several decades.
How about some charts to illustrate this infuriating result?