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.]

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Alan Rusbridger, Guardian Editor, Summoned To Parliament Over Snowden

LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - British lawmakers will question the editor of the Guardian newspaper next month over publishing intelligence files from U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden after warnings from security chiefs that the leaks damaged UK national security.

Alan Rusbridger will appear before the House of Commons home affairs select committee, the Guardian said. "Alan has been invited to give evidence to the ... committee and looks forward to appearing next month," a spokeswoman said.

Dark Money Groups Are Funded By Dark Money Groups That Fund Dark Money Groups That Fund...

WASHINGTON -- A recent million-dollar settlement in California has stripped back the curtain on how "dark money" is secretly moved in and around electoral politics. Documents and interviews revealed how a networks of nonprofits passed dark money -- that is, money whose source is not disclosed to the public -- from one to another to another to further obscure the original sources.

Examples of similar financial transfers uncovered by The Huffington Post, in addition to a host of examples reported by the Center for Responsive Politics and NPR, demonstrate that the California case is no isolated incident.

Deconstructing Mayor Rob Ford's fiscal record

Mayor Rob Ford’s brother calls him Canada’s most honest elected official on budget issues.

“That man is the most honest politician in the country when it comes to saving taxpayers money,” Doug Ford told AM640’s John Oakley.

In truth, the mayor’s fiscal claims are exaggerated. He has repeatedly claimed to have saved taxpayers $1 billion — a figure endorsed by the city’s senior bureaucrats but one that relies on creative definitions of “savings” and “taxpayers,” exaggerations and omissions. Many of his other fiscal claims are also suspect.

Washington State Vote to Label GM Food Defeated By Corporations’ "Sophisticated Propaganda Machine"

As a measure to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods fails to pass in Washington state, we speak to one of its major supporters, David Bronner, the grandson of Dr. Bronner who founded Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, who spent $2.3 million on the "Yes on 522" campaign, but was outspent 3-to-1 by opponents. The campaign against Initiative 522 drew millions of dollars from major corporations and out-of-state organizations who spent more than $22 million to defeat it, including Monsanto, which donated more than $5 million, and DuPont, which gave almost $4 million. Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Nestle dedicated more than $1.5 million each. This comes as a recent New York Times poll found 93 percent of Americans want labels on food containing GM ingredients. Sixty-four countries require it. Bronner notes votes are still being counted and the measure is not yet officially defeated, and says similar measures are pending in Connecticut and Maine.

Author: --

Canadian Forces Ombudsman finds housing, employment opportunities lacking for military families

One group of Canadians is figuring prominently in the House of Commons this week as they demand rights people might more commonly associate with the labour movement -- they are the members of the Canadian Forces.

Amidst media reports that soldiers were purposefully discharged from duty early before they could claim their pensions, a new report released on Tuesday by Canadian Forces Ombudsman Pierre Daigle criticized the living conditions faced by the members of military families, from sub-standard living conditions on the base to the inability of military spouses to find meaningful employment.

Harper fails to explain his unconstitutional appointments to the Senate

Earlier this week this writer suggested that the Prime Minister has not yet answered what is at once the simplest and the toughest question about the Senate scandal.

The question concerns the fact that Stephen Harper named folks to the Senate who did not live in the provinces they were supposed to represent.

The Canadian Constitution, the British North America Act, states, in a "very clear" manner, that a Senator must be "resident in" the province he or she represents.

Trudeau under fire for expressing admiration for China's 'basic dictatorship'

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau met with criticism for the second time in as many days Friday, after telling a Toronto fundraising crowd that he admired China’s “basic dictatorship.”

Speaking to a sold-out crowd of women, Trudeau was responding to a question about which nation’s administration he most admired.

The Liberal leader said: “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say, ‘We need to go green … we need to start investing in solar.’”

Jason Kenney gets 'frosty' reception to job grant plan

Canada's provinces and territories continue to seek an opt-out option from the controversial Canada Job Grant plan following a "frosty" meeting between their labour ministers and federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney in Toronto on Friday.

Kenney got a chilly reception from provincial and territorial labour ministers as he tried to sell them on the federal government's Canada Job Grant at a meeting in Toronto Friday, CBC News has learned.

Discussions that began early Friday morning were described as "frosty" and "tense" by a person privy to the meeting.

Right-To-Work Laws In U.S. May Be Hitting Canadian Incomes: CIBC

Right-to-work laws in U.S. states may be putting downward pressure on Canadians’ incomes, a study from CIBC suggests.

The study comes days after the Conservative Party of Canada made right-to-work a part of its policy platform.

Declining unionization rates are likely “reducing worker bargaining power, particularly as Canadian workers now compete with ‘right to work’ states south of the border,” CIBC economists Avery Shenfeld and Emanuella Enenajor wrote. “That could reduce the wage inflation pace at any given level of unemployment.”

Sea King Helicopter Replacement Standard Questioned By NDP

As the Conservative government mulls whether to scrap its bogged-down purchase of Sikorsky Cyclone helicopters to replace the fleet of aging Sea Kings, the NDP is raising fresh questions about whether those new helicopters are capable of doing the job.

The federal government concluded meetings with three helicopter manufacturers this week and is expected to decide by the end of the month whether to scrap its multibillion-dollar Sikorsky contract and choose a rival competitor to build new helicopters, CBC News has learned.

Tesco's Facial Recognition Scanners Raise Privacy Concerns

A major British retail chain is raising concerns among privacy activists after announcing it will start using facial recognition technology to serve up customized ads to shoppers.

The news has immediately raised parallels to the movie Minority Report, in which ads in stores and on public transit address commuters by name after an eye scan.

Tesco, the world’s third-largest retailer after Walmart and France’s Carrefour, says its technology won’t be quite that invasive. The facial scanners will identify a person’s gender and age, but won’t identify them by name.

"We Are Living in the World Occupy Made": New York City Voters Elect Mayor Who Vows to Tax the Rich

Tuesday’s election signaled a political sea change in New York City as voters chose a candidate who repeatedly emphasized his progressive vision. The city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, crushed Republican Joe Lhota in the mayoral race to replace billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg. De Blasio is set to become the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades. During his campaign, de Blasio’s signature message focused on what he called a "tale of two cities" and challenge the police department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" program. Mayor-elect de Blasio rose to power with the help of the Working Families Party, an independent political coalition sponsored by labor unions and focused on reducing social and political inequality. The party’s grassroots organizing efforts are not limited to New York. It recently won landmark legislation to tackle the student debt crisis in Oregon; fought the corporate education reform agenda in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and won paid sick days in Jersey City, New Jersey. Voters in New Jersey also approved a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage by a dollar to $8.25 an hour and add automatic cost-of-living increases each year. "We are living in the world Occupy made," says Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party. "We are the beneficiaries of what they did in terms of making this [about] inequality, which is from our point of view the core issue of our time."

Author: --

Kerry Scolds Israel For West Bank Occupation

In Jerusalem to rekindle negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry dropped his usual diplomatic air in an interview this week, blaming Israel for the lack of progress, according to the Times of Israel.

Kerry said Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank suggests it's not committed to peace.

SeaTac $15 Minimum Wage Squeaking By In Early Returns, But Vote Count Could Last Days

Three days after residents in SeaTac, Wash., voted on a ballot measure that would create the highest minimum wage in the nation by far, the results remain too close to call.

Supporters of Proposition No. 1, which calls for a $15 minimum wage, led 51.58 to 48.42 percent after the latest vote tally was finished on Thursday night, according to King County Elections. That signals a declining lead for the wage measure's backers, who enjoyed a roughly 8 percentage point lead after the initial count on Tuesday.

Street Cop

Mary Jo White, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has a personal page on the New York Road Runners Club Web site, which records a battery of figures (Pace per Mile, Age-Graded Performance Percentage, and so on) for each of the official events she has completed. There are two hundred and seven entries since the first one, which was recorded a week before her fifty-sixth birthday, in 2003, seven of them since she began working in Washington, late last year, just as she was turning sixty-five. Friends and colleagues characterize White as the most competitive and driven person they have ever encountered.

In the nineties, when White was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, she would arrive in her office, a few blocks from Wall Street, early in the morning, with a stack of newspaper clippings. They were marked with yellow Post-Its bearing a recipient’s name and a nudge: Where are we on this? Are we on top of this? She had a famously expansive sense of what her office should be worrying about. She once sent Patrick Fitzgerald, who was in charge of terrorism cases, a note about some white powder that had been found at the site of a truck accident in another state, involving a driver with a Middle Eastern name. Today, she blizzards her staff and her friends with e-mails at all hours. Friends with insomnia who write to her at 2 or 3 A.M. may get an immediate reply.

The GOP’s Poverty Denialism

Here is how little the Republicans care about the increasingly harrowing situation of the poor: they can’t even be roused to blame President Obama for it—because to do so they’d have to acknowledge that it matters.

The news recently has been full of stories of mounting desperation in America. In The New Yorker, Ian Frazier reported that there are now more homeless people in New York City than at any time since the concept of “modern homelessness” arose in the 1970s. Nationwide, new Education Department data reveal that the number of homeless schoolchildren has hit a record high of 1.2 million. Meanwhile, on November 1, the benefits of every food stamp recipient in the country were cut by an average of 7 percent and already overburdened food banks prepared to ration distributions or turn people away. “It is too bad we have come to this in our country,” the head of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Grand Old Tea Party -- Why today's wacko birds are just like yesterday's wingnuts

A Democratic president begins a new term in the White House. Two years later, America votes a cadre of aggressive conservatives into Congress, loaded for bear. At first the Republican establishment, thrilled to have the Democrats on the run, puts its wariness about the fire-breathers aside. Within a few years, though, the new guys throw out all the old rules of consensus and compromise, and the establishment shows signs of buyer’s remorse. One of the new conservatives, a bulky, take-no-prisoners senator who sees socialist quislings everywhere, takes control of the agenda and threatens to drive the GOP into the ground.

But this is not 2008 or 2013. It’s the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the senator is not Ted Cruz but Joseph McCarthy.

Swastikas, Slurs and Torment in Town’s Schools

The swastikas, the students recalled, seemed to be everywhere: on walls, desks, lockers, textbooks, computer screens, a playground slide — even on a student’s face.

A picture of President Obama, with a swastika drawn on his forehead, remained on the wall of an eighth-grade social studies classroom for about a month after a student informed her teacher, the student said.

For some Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District in New York State, attending public school has been nothing short of a nightmare. They tell of hearing anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, and horrific jokes about the Holocaust.

Alison Redford and Christy Clark may agree, but the public is wary

Alison Redford and Christy Clark agreed this week on B.C.’s conditions for supporting pipeline development in the province.

That the two premiers finally are singing from the same song book marks progress but means little in terms of broadening popular support for the pipeline megaprojects being planned for B.C.

Enbridge continues struggling to sell its Northern Gateway project and Kinder Morgan soon will face long odds in pitching its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The mindless tantrum of a self-pitying thug

They’re trying to make me go to rehab but I say, ‘No, no, no.’
Yes, I’ve done crack but T.O.’s in the black — why should I go, go, go?
The press thinks I should resign, but brother Dougie thinks I’m fine
They’re trying to make me go to rehab but I won’t go, go, go

(With apologies to Amy Winehouse)

As far back as July, journalists were referring to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford as the Amy Winehouse of Canadian politics. Ottawa Citizen columnist Andrew Potter drew the following parallel with the late singer, whose life became one long battle against substance abuse: “The worse things get, the more you spiral down, the more your so-called supporters cheer you on and tell you that is exactly how you are supposed to behave.”