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, November 01, 2013

Marc Nadon, Supreme Court Nominee, Already Has Office At Top Court, Despite Challenge

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada's newest nominee already has an office amongst his colleagues despite the fact that his appointment is being contested in court.

Two sources tell The Canadian Press that Marc Nadon has an office at the Supreme Court building in Ottawa, even as his new office neighbours are preparing to judge his case.

Taseko Prosperity Mine Environmental Study Predicts Death Of Fish Lake

VANCOUVER - Shares of Taseko Mines Ltd. fell Friday as First Nations groups called on Ottawa to reject the company's New Prosperity mine proposal in British Columbia after a new study raised environmental concerns.

Taseko shares were down 33 cents at $2.23 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The First Nations Summit, which represents dozens of B.C. aboriginal groups within the treaty process, called on Ottawa to reject the project following the report by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Bell 'Reprehensible' For Violating Privacy Rights: Judge

HALIFAX - The Federal Court of Canada has awarded a Nova Scotia man $21,000 in damages after a judge ruled cable giant Bell TV acted in a "reprehensible" fashion when it checked the man's credit history without permission, violating his privacy rights.

Judge Michael Phelan said not only did Bell violate Rabi Chitrakar's rights, the company also demonstrated no interest in offering compensation and later failed to take the court proceedings seriously.

What Happens When Canadians Speak Out Against Big Telecom

Great news from Ontario -- the legislative assembly has voted unanimously for customer-friendly new cell phone rules to tackle some of the worst abuses of Big Telecom. The rules, which come into effect next year, will complement the positive new federal rules introduced in June by the CRTC.

Under the new legislation, Ontarians can look forward to plain language contracts, caps on ridiculous cancellation fees, and a requirement for cell phone companies to get customer consent before amending contracts. On top of this, the Ontario legislation improves on the federal CRTC rules by bringing in stiff financial penalties of up to $250,000 for cell phone companies who break the new law.

Senate Expense Scandal: Outside Audits Cost Taxpayers Almost $530,000

OTTAWA - The effort to hold Canada's allegedly free-spending senators to account has a new price tag — and it's a whopper.

The independent audit of Sen. Pamela Wallin's expenses has cost taxpayers $390,058, nearly three times the amount of ineligible expenses which she was required to pay back, Senate officials disclosed Friday.

It's also more than twice the total cost the auditing firm in question, Deloitte, billed for its review of expense claims filed by senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and now-retired Liberal Mac Harb.

Pacific Ocean Warming at Fastest Rate in 10,000 Years

Just how rapid is the current rate of warming of the ocean? There is an interesting new article by Rosenthal and collaborators in the latest issue of the journal Science entitled "Pacific Ocean Heat Content During the Past 10,000 Years" that attempts to address this question. The article compares current rates of ocean warming with long-term paleoclimatic evidence from ocean sediments. So how rapid is the ocean warming? Well, for the Pacific ocean at least, faster than any other time in at least the past 10,000 years.

Harper’s office spends more as rest of government holds the line

When it comes to most spending, Prime Minister Stephen Harper runs a tight ship. The Canadian government’s expenses were up just a smidgen in the past year. Ottawa spent $275.6 billion in 2012-13. That’s less than 0.1 per cent more than the $275.4 billion the year before. It speaks to serious belt-tightening.

But as Conservatives gather in Calgary to cheer this frugality, they might want to ask Harper how it is that his own office managed to burn through a whopping 7 per cent more last year. When it wasn’t arranging secret payoffs for Sen. Mike Duffy, the Prime Minister’s Office spent $8.25 million on staff, messaging and other things, up from $7.65 million. Basically, it gave itself an increase that was more than 70 times that of government as a whole.

The Senate drama: a character study

Thrice the brinded cat hath mewed/ Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined/ Harper cries ‘tis time, ‘tis time. (Macbeth). Scholarly note: Some early manuscripts have “Harpier.” But those are corrupt, unreliable sources.

The prime minister. Why is Stephen Harper often seen as supersmart? The National Post, for instance, says he’s never been accused of being stupid. Is it because he’s an economist, his preferred self-description? Then why are economists smart? The economics mainstream, to which Harper belongs, has been wrong on every major economic crisis for almost a century: from the Great Depression of the 1930s to the Great Recession of 2007-8. Is it because economics is the only social science eligible for a Nobel Prize? So what? Is it because, since the Second World War, economics has managed to mathematize itself on the model of physics, giving it a gloss of objectivity in return for a disconnection from the messiness of actual social life?

Conservative Convention To Debate 'Less Progressive Tax System'

Conservatives gathering at this weekend’s party convention will consider a motion that would likely mean lower taxes for Canada’s biggest earners.

A proposed amendment to the Conservatives’ policy book would “encourage the Conservative Party to move to a less progressive tax system by reducing the number of personal income tax brackets.”

Kimm Fletcher, Dying Mother, Asks For Help With Cancer Drug Coverage

An Ontario mother with terminal cancer has gone public with her plea for the province to fund a drug that could prolong her life.

Kimm Fletcher, 41, was diagnosed in 2010 with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer. She went into remission, but last summer the cancer returned. Her diagnosis is now advanced stage four. She was told by doctors there was little hope, and has been given two months to live.

Senate Intelligence Committee Passes Bill That Codifies, Expands NSA Powers

Just days after expressing outrage over reports of widespread surveillance of foreign leaders by the National Security Agency, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pushed through the Senate Intelligence Committee on an 11-4 vote a bill that enshrines the bulk collection of Americans' phone call records into law, and expands the agency's authority to track foreign nationals who enter the United States.

The bill, passed on Thursday, is meant to respond to the revelations of leaker Edward Snowden. But critics immediately charged that it does little more than offer a fig leaf for the NSA's controversial surveillance operations.

Noam Chomsky slams Canada's shale gas energy plans

Canada's rush to exploit its tar sands and shale gas resources will destroy the environment "as fast as possible", according to Noam Chomsky.

In an interview with the Guardian, the linguist and author criticised the energy policies of the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He said: "It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it's shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result."

NSA's Advice On How To Defend Its Domestic Spying: When In Doubt, Invoke 9/11!

The National Security Agency released a "final talking points” memo in response to an Al Jazeera Freedom of Information Act request this month, showing that the agency had advised members of Congress, the media and the Obama administration to bring up the Sept. 11 attacks in defense of NSA's mass surveillance.

The memo was drafted in June, soon after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s rogue disclosures of massive NSA spying on ordinary Americans. The document repeatedly advises officials defending the program to emphasize its “lawful,” “narrow” and “limited” scope. It cites “9/11” more than 30 times.

Canadians Held 50 Days in Egyptian Prison After Documenting Massacre Speak Out Following Release

As Egypt sets a date for ousted President Mohamed Morsi to stand trial for inciting the murder of protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood calls for mass demonstrations, we speak with two people who witnessed one of the bloodiest massacres of Morsi supporters by Egyptian state forces. Acclaimed Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and emergency room medical doctor Tarek Loubani were in Cairo on August 16, en route to a humanitarian mission in Gaza, when they went to film a protest and then rushed to the scene of a massacre — Greyson reportedly began filming the shooting’s aftermath while Loubani treated some of the injured. Then, along with 600 Egyptians that day, the pair of Canadians were swept up and detained without charge. They were held in cockroach-infested jail cells with as many as 36 other inmates. Greyson and Loubani launched a hunger strike, while supporters in Canada mounted a massive campaign to lobby for their release. Then, in early October, the pair were freed. They have since returned home to Canada, where they continued to call for the release of their Egyptian cellmates who remain imprisoned. We go to Toronto, where we are joined by Greyson, who is also a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. And in Ontario, we’re joined by Tarek Loubani, an assistant professor at Western University. He is a Palestinian refugee and one of the architects of the Canada-Gaza academic collaboration, a project that brings doctors from the West to Gaza to train physicians.

Original Article
Author: ---

Walmart Is One Of The Biggest Beneficiaries Of Food Stamps

One of the major beneficiaries of the nation's food-stamp program is actually a hugely profitable company: Walmart.

Americans spend about 18 percent of all food stamp dollars at Walmart, according to company estimates told to the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by The Huffington Post. That's about $14 billion of the $80 billion Congress set aside for food stamps last year. The company's total profits for 2013 were $17 billion.

The news comes just as food-stamp benefits are about to be cut for 47 million Americans. On Friday, a key provision boosting the program is set to expire.

Provision Of Texas' New Abortion Restrictions Reinstated By Federal Appeals Court

AUSTIN, Texas -- AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that most of Texas' tough new abortion restrictions can take effect immediately — a decision that means a third of the state's clinics that perform the procedure won't be able to do so starting as soon as Friday.

A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can take effect while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward. The panel issued the ruling three days after District Judge Lee Yeakel said the provision serves no medical purpose.

Male prisoners to wear uniforms and be banned from watching television

All convicted male prisoners are to be banned from watching violent and sexually explicit films as part of a crackdown on "perks" that comes into effect today.

Inmates will also be required to wear a uniform for their first two weeks behind bars, and will lose automatic access to daytime television and gym equipment.

House Reduces Workdays On 2014 Calendar After Working So Hard In 2013

Who banks a $174,000 annual salary and works less than a third of the year?

Members of the House of Representatives, apparently.

The 2014 calendar for the House was released Thursday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and shows members will only work only 113 days. That's down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called attention to the House's sparsely populated 2013 schedule in July 2013, highlighting the fact that the House had only nine workdays scheduled for September.

HuffPost reported in July that the 113th Congress was on pace to be the least productive in history. Many House members are running for reelection in the 2014 midterm elections and will spend part of their time campaigning.

Original Article
Author: Paige Lavender

Stop-And-Frisk Ruling Blocked By Federal Appeals Court, Judge Scheindlin Removed From Case

NEW YORK -- NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge's order requiring changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program and removed the judge from the case.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the decisions of Judge Shira Scheindlin will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city.

House of the whopper: PM has spun such a web of deceit he should resign or be dismissed

Unless it is OK for the prime minister to lie repeatedly and openly on an important matter, Stephen Harper must resign or be dismissed.

On Monday, Harper told a Halifax radio audience he “dismissed” former chief of staff Nigel Wright over the mysterious $90,000 cheque to Sen. Mike Duffy. But last Thursday, he told the House of Commons Wright “resigned.” So one or the other was a brazen, in-your-face lie.

Wright-Duffy cheque affair: Harper's explanations changing by the day

The prime minister doesn't need to give voice to his exasperation with the Senate expense scandal as he heads to Calgary for a two-day policy convention.

Stephen Harper pantomimes his frustration almost every time he rises in the Commons to answer another barbed question.

He raises his palms heavenward, shakes his head balefully and repeats how "crystal clear" he's been since May in telling Senator Mike Duffy that he had to repay $90,000 in improperly claimed living expenses, in saying his former chief of staff resigned for deciding, on his own, to pay that money back out of his own pocket, and in reiterating that — had he known — he would have directed Nigel Wright not to do it in the first place.

Tories legal bills far outstrip those of opposition parties

Responding to questions in the House of Commons this week about the Conservative Party paying Sen. Mike Duffy’s legal fees, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said such arrangements were not unusual and were practised by all parties.

“The party regularly reimburses members of its caucus for valid legal expenses, as do other parties,” Harper told the Commons Tuesday.

Indeed, while all parties retain legal help from time to time, records filed with Elections Canada suggest that the Conservatives do it a lot more often.

Financial statements for 2012 show the Tories spent $3.4 million on “professional services,” which would typically include lawyers, accountants and consultants.

The Republicans' War on the Poor

The way the program to provide the poor with the bare minimum of daily nutrition has been handled is a metaphor for how the far right in the House is systematically trying to take down the federal government. The Tea Party radicals and those who either fear or cultivate them are now subjecting the food-stamp program to the same kind of assault they have unleashed on other settled policies and understandings that have been in place for decades. Breaking all manner of precedents on a series of highly partisan votes, with the Republicans barely prevailing, the House in September slashed the food-stamp program by a whopping $39 billion and imposed harsh new requirements for getting on, or staying on, the program. The point was to deny the benefit to millions.

Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters

The documents leaked to media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year have brought national intelligence gathering and surveillance operations under a level of scrutiny not seen in decades. Often left out of this conversation, though, is the massive private surveillance industry that provides services to law enforcement, defense agencies and corporations in the U.S. and abroad – a sprawling constellation of companies and municipalities. "It's a circle where everyone [in these industries] is benefitting," says Eric King, lead researcher of watchdog group Privacy International. "Everyone gets more powerful, and richer."

Why the Right Wing Is Targeting Birth Control Again

What does birth control have to do with the congressional budget? Not much – unless you're a House Republican. In their latest effort to thwart Obamacare during the recent budget negotiations, several right-wing legislators attempted to tack a so-called "conscience clause" onto the law. The idea, which dates back several years, is to give employers who cite religious objections a way to block their employees from getting contraception covered by their health insurance.

Nobody Should Shed a Tear for JP Morgan Chase

A lot of people all over the world are having opinions now about the ostensibly gigantic $13 billion settlement Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase have entered into with the government.

The general consensus from most observers in the finance sector is that this superficially high-dollar settlement – worth about half a year's profits for Chase – is an unconscionable Marxist appropriation. It's been called a "robbery" and a "shakedown," in which red Obama and his evil henchman Eric Holder confiscated cash from a successful bank, as The Wall Street Journal wrote, "for no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies."

A Year After Sandy, New York’s Inequality Is Still Growing

When Hurricane Sandy engulfed New York a year ago, David Del Valle helped me instead of his mother. Del Valle’s choice was not voluntary.

For the last 10 years, the 48-year-old New Yorker has worked as a doorman at the hotel where my wife, daughter and I stayed after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan. Eager to hold on to his job, Del Valle stayed at work but worried about his mother—who lives on the city’s Lower East Side, which lost electricity and flooded.