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.]

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals

Today a special on "kids for cash," the shocking story of how thousands of children in Pennsylvania were jailed by two corrupt judges who received $2.6 million in kickbacks from the builders and owners of private prison facilities. We hear from two of the youth: Charlie Balasavage was sent to juvenile detention after his parents unknowingly bought him a stolen scooter. Hillary Transue was detained for creating a MySpace page mocking her assistant high school principal. They were both 14 years old and were sentenced by the same judge, Judge Mark Ciavarella, who is now in jail himself — serving a 28-year sentence. Balasavage and Transue are featured in the new documentary, “Kids For Cash,” by filmmaker Robert May, who also joins us. In addition, we speak to two mothers: Sandy Fonzo, whose son Ed Kenzakoski committed suicide after being imprisoned for years by Judge Ciavarella, and Hillary’s mother, Laurene Transue. Putting their stories into context of the larger scandal is attorney Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center. The story is still developing; in October, the private juvenile-detention companies in the scandal settled a civil lawsuit for $2.5 million.

Author: --

Pipeline rupture report raises questions about TransCanada inspections

A CBC News investigation has unearthed a critical report that the federal regulator effectively buried for several years about a rupture on a trouble-prone TransCanada natural gas pipeline.

On July 20, 2009, the Peace River Mainline in northern Alberta exploded, sending 50-metre-tall flames into the air and razing a two-hectare wooded area.

Few people ever learned of the rupture — one of the largest in the past decade — other than the Dene Tha’ First Nation, whose traditional territory it happened on.

Palestinian children write to UN pleading for return of soccer ball

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A group of children in a Palestinian village south of Tulkarem have taken the unprecedented step of writing a letter directly to the United Nations in a bold attempt to win back their soccer ball from Israeli occupation authorities.

The children in the village of Kafr Sur sent the letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon via social media, asking him to intervene after the ball fell into lands confiscated by Israeli authorities to build the separation barrier through their village.

Three Paths to a Non-Partisan Senate

In 1865, David Reesor rose in the Legislative Council of Upper Canada to argue that if the prime minister was granted the power to appoint senators he would "deluge this House with party tools." Unfortunately, Canada's founders did not heed his warning, and a 150-year flood began. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made the right move this week by partially damming the deluge of partisanship in the Red Chamber.

Admittedly, Trudeau's policy execution left much to be desired. Senators themselves were caught off guard and confused by the change. Some were supportive, others dismayed. It's still not clear how committee memberships and research budgets will be distributed to these newly "independent" senators.

Advocate quits Conservative party as veterans groups prepare to step up pressure

OTTAWA — A recently retired Canadian soldier and national veterans’ advocate has quit the Conservative party over what he says is the federal government’s lack of respect and “spectre of indifference” towards veterans.

Retired Sgt. Major Barry Westholm, director of Armed Forces Engagement for Canadian Veterans Advocacy and a vocal advocate for ill and injured soldiers, also returned his Reform Party membership card signed in 1996 by former party leader Preston Manning to his Member of Parliament, Conservative Cheryl Gallant, along with a letter bitterly criticizing both the MP and her government.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino Blames Union Amid Controversy

Embattled Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is blaming the union that represents federal government workers for much of the current friction between Canada's ex-soldiers and the Harper Conservatives.

And, just days after apologizing for arriving more than an hour late for a meeting with vets protesting the closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices, Fantino insists he has done nothing wrong.

Missouri Senate Committee Votes To Jail Federal Agents Who Enforce Gun Laws

The Missouri Senate’s General Laws Committee voted 5-1 last week in favor of a bill thatpurports to make it a crime for federal law enforcement agents to enforce the nation’s gun laws. Under the bill’s terms, these agents could be imprisoned for up to a year and be fined up to $1,000.
Much of this unconstitutional legislation mirrors a bill Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed last year. In September, Missouri’s overwhelmingly Republican senate came just one vote shy of the votes necessary to override Nixon’s veto. Like the bill Nixon vetoed last year, the new legislation contains a provision to arm public school personnel. It also would lower the minimum age to receive a concealed weapons permit from 21 to 19.

New Saudi Counterterrorism Law Alarms Activists

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia put into effect a sweeping new counterterrorism law Sunday that human rights activists say allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.

The law states that any act that "undermines" the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism. It also grants security services broad powers to raid homes and track phone calls and Internet activity.

Corruption Costs European Union $162 Billion Each Year

BRUSSELS (AP) — An EU report says corruption affects all 28 member countries of the European Union and costs their economies around 120 billion euros ($162.19 billion) a year.

The report, the EU's first on corruption, was issued Monday by European Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

The report, summarized in a news release before publication, finds that EU member states have taken many steps in recent years to fight corruption, but that the results are uneven and that more needs to be done.

Malmstrom said in a statement that "Corruption undermines citizens' confidence in democratic institutions and the result of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue.

"Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today's report shows that it is far from enough."

Original Article
Author: AP

Worldwide cancer cases expected to soar by 70% over next 20 years

Cancer cases worldwide are predicted to increase by 70% over the next two decades, from 14m in 2012 to 25m new cases a year, according to the World Health Organisation.

The latest World Cancer Report says it is implausible to think we can treat our way out of the disease and that the focus must now be on preventing new cases. Even the richest countries will struggle to cope with the spiralling costs of treatment and care for patients, and the lower income countries, where numbers are expected to be highest, are ill-equipped for the burden to come.

Ministers savage UN report calling for abolition of UK's bedroom tax

A United Nations report on UK housing conditions calling for the suspension of the bedroom tax has been dismissed by the government as partisan, discredited and a "misleading Marxist diatribe".

The full report by the UN's special investigator on housing, Raquel Rolnik, who made a research trip to Britain last August and September to look at housing provision, was published by the UN on Monday.

Now Peace Talks, John Kerry, Are ‘Anti-Semitic’ in Eyes of Israeli Far Right

The Likud-led Israeli government doesn’t like US Secretary of State John Kerry at all. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ridiculed him as “obsessive” and “messianic.” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this week slammed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as being under Kerry’s influence, when Netanyahu was said to be considering leaving Israeli squatters on Palestinian land under the authority of the Palestine government in a peace deal leading to Israel relinquishing its current annexation project.

Rethinking the home ownership dream

If Canadians have a preoccupation these days, apart from the winter weather, it seems to be real estate. Specifically: the ever-rising prices in most of our big cities.

Is this a bubble? Will there be a crash, or a so-called soft landing? No one really knows.

For generations, we've cultivated the home-ownership dream — the idea that rising house prices are a measure of the country's overall prosperity and one's own financial security.


Whatever happens on the ice and snow of Sochi in the next couple of weeks, one thing is certain: this Winter Olympics is the greatest financial boondoggle in the history of the Games. Back in 2007, Vladimir Putin said that Russia would spend twelve billion dollars on the Games. The actual amount is more than fifty billion. (By comparison, Vancouver’s Games, in 2010, cost seven billion dollars.) Exhaustive investigations by the opposition figures Boris Nemtsov, Leonid Martynyuk, and Alexei Navalny reveal dubious cost overruns and outright embezzlement. And all this lavish spending (largely paid for by Russian taxpayers) has been, as Nemtsov and Martynyuk write, “controlled largely by businesspeople and companies close to Putin.”

U.S. Abortion Rate Hits Lowest Point Since 1973

The U.S. abortion rate dropped significantly from 2008 to 2011 and hit its lowest point since 1973 (the year Roe v. Wade was decided), according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute. The big drop occurred just prior to an unprecedented wave of state anti-abortion restrictions going into effect.

The rate declined to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2011, a 13 percent drop from 2008. The rate had peaked in 1981 at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women -- roughly twice the 2011 rate -- and plateaued at about 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women from 2005 to 2008.

This Is How Americans Are Grappling With Income Inequality

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The wealthiest county in America is settled deep in 4 a.m. slumber when Neal Breen threads the mini-mansion subdivisions and snow-blanketed fairways on his way to open shop.

There's two hours yet before the business day begins, but Breen, who is 21, has plenty to do after flipping on the lights. Donning a green apron without taking off his tweed cap, he boils the first of more than 500 bagels, then shovels them into a waiting oven. When the early risers step from their cars at a few minutes past 6, a chalkboard meets them at the door: "Breakfast of Champions."

The Menace of the Military Mind

I had my first experience with the U.S. military when I was a young reporter covering the civil war in El Salvador. We journalists were briefed at the American Embassy each week by a U.S. Army colonel who at the time headed the military group of U.S. advisers to the Salvadoran army. The reality of the war, which lasted from 1979 to 1992, bore little resemblance to the description regurgitated each week for consumption by the press. But what was most evident was not the blatant misinformation—this particular colonel had apparently learned to dissemble to the public during his multiple tours in Vietnam—but the hatred of the press by this man and most other senior officers in the U.S. military. When first told that he would have to meet the press once a week, the colonel reportedly protested against having to waste his time with those “limp-dicked communists.”

Why Wall Street CEOs Deserve Their Big Bonuses

Three of the country’s largest financial companies are giving their CEOs huge raises for 2013, complete with large stock packages. Despite the outrage those raises have prompted, the three men more than earned those pay bumps by sidestepping major legal and financial consequences for their contributions to the financial crisis.
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, is getting paid $23 million for 2013, a roughly 10 percent raise despite a flat year of revenues and steep drops in trading income from some of its core businesses, the company announced this week. Earlier this month JP Morgan’s board revealed that it is paying CEO Jamie Dimon 74 percent more than it did for 2012, and might throw him another $34 million later this year. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman is getting an 88 percent bump to his stock options, although his total compensation isn’t yet known.The government is subsidizing all three of these big pay raises thanks to a loophole in the tax code.

Should the NFL Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status?

Times are good for the National Football League. Viewership is up. For the 47th year in a row, Harris Interactive named pro football the most popular sport in America. And with overall revenues north of $9 billion, the NFL is the most lucrative sports league on the planet.

That's not enough for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He wants to nearly triple the league's revenues to $25 billion by 2027—a mind-bogglingly large number. But here's an even more shocking fact: The NFL pays nothing in taxes on all those revenues. Not a nickel. And now the anti-corruption organization Rootstrikers wants to put an end to the NFL's free ride.

Middle class, social cohesion may be at risk: David Crane

TORONTO—Both the NDP and the Liberals have made the plight of middle-class Canadians a focal point for their campaigns in next year’s federal election, and deservedly so. But neither party has yet shed much light on what it sees as the real threats to middle-class life, nor on what can be done to make a real difference.

Unless they get the analysis right, they won’t get their remedies right. Yet there are many different explanations on why middle-class jobs are disappearing and incomes stagnating. These range from offshoring, weak domestic demand and a skills gap to a relentless drive by corporations to drive down real wages to maximize shareholder value and exponential technological change which is making it increasingly easier to substitute machines for people.

Health Accord ‘fell short,' says Health Canada briefing notes

Recently-released briefing notes on the future of the Canada Health Accord prepared for Health Minister Rona Ambrose make it clear that the federal government has no plans to strike a new long-term agreement on health care with the provinces and territories.

The documents, prepared for Ms. Ambrose (Edmonton-Spruce Grove, Alta.) following her appointment to the file in last summer’s Cabinet shuffle, offer a grim assessment of the 10-year accord that is set to expire at the end of March.

Veterans ombudsman warns political parties not to play politics with vets

Canadians should treat the needs of veterans as a “debt” that needs to be repaid and political parties should not use veterans’ issues for political purposes, says Canada’s veterans ombudsman.

“When we look at the obligation of the government or the citizens of Canada towards its veterans, it’s not a matter of a political issue, it’s a matter of a debt that needs to be repaid. So, if all the citizens of Canada are responsible for that obligation and all politicians are citizens of Canada, then it should not be a political issue,” said Guy Parent, a retired chief warrant officer who has been serving as Canada’s veterans ombudsman since 2010 to advance the issues and concerns facing Canadian veterans.

Tougher Conflict of Interest Act needed following SIRC controversy, say experts

The part-time nature of the Security Intelligence Review Committee and inadequate conflict-of-interest rules are behind the recent furor that led committee chair Chuck Strahl to resign, say ethics experts and a former SIRC member.

Mr. Strahl spoke with The Hill Times three days before he announced his resignation from the committee on Jan. 24. He expressed frustration at the criticism he had received for lobbying the B.C. government on behalf of Enbridge while chairing the Security Intelligence Review Committee, but gave no indication that he was considering resigning from the intelligence oversight committee.

Former Natural Resources chief of staff, PMO adviser joins Barrick Gold

A former PMO staffer and chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has taken a position leading mining company Barrick Gold’s government relations department.

Dave Forestell joined the Toronto-headquartered multinational last month as its director of government relations. He was a policy adviser and staff director at the PMO from 2009 to 2012 before moving to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) office in 2012 as chief of staff, his LinkedIn profile says

Ghosts' Exploit Canada's Foreign Temp Worker Program

One year's salary is what is cost Zhu Hangshen to learn his lesson about exchanging cash for a new life.

A resident of China's Anhui province, Zhu paid $2,000 USD to a Vancouver-based company with the hopes he would eventually live with his family in Canada.

The dream was never realized and Zhu was instead left with a nightmare trying to get his money returned.

I-Team: Sandy Funds Went to NJ Town With Little Storm Damage

Gov. Chris Christie's administration is again facing questions about how Sandy aid was distributed in New Jersey after it was revealed $4.8 million in relief funds went to help build an apartment tower in New Brunswick, a town that saw relatively little storm damage.

New Jersey's Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency approved the disbursement as part of the state's Fund for Rebuilding Multifamily Housing. The program is intended to speed the construction of new affordable housing in communities ravaged by the storm.

CSEC Wi-Fi Snooping Experiment Prompts Calls For Review

A B.C. MP is calling for an independent review of the activities of Canada's electronic spy agency, after CBC News revealed this week that the agency conducted an experiment tracking internet users who logged in through wireless access points at Canadian airports.

Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray, the Liberal Critic for National Defence, said the Vancouver and Toronto Airport Authorities should investigate the alleged security breaches that allowed the information of airport Wi-Fi users to be harvested en masse.

"This agency is out of control," Murray said in a written statement Friday.