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, March 31, 2014

Sheldon Adelson: Wild card

LAS VEGAS — Luxury buses pulled up to the front entrance of the private hangar here where Sheldon Adelson keeps his corporate jets, dropping off Republican donors to hear Jeb Bush speak.

But Adelson arrived late — and in more extravagant style, pulling right into the massive structure in his Maybach limousine with dark tinted windows trailed by a second Maybach carrying glaring bodyguards.

Mounties in Robert Dziekanski case allege witness tampering, intimidation

An RCMP constable and a former Mountie charged with perjury for their testimony at the Braidwood inquiry have lodged complaints with B.C.'s civilian police watchdog.

The complaints by Const. Gerry Rundel and retired corporal Monty Robinson mark the first time any of the officers involved in Robert Dziekanski's death in 2007 have attempted to defend themselves outside of the grindingly slow prosecutions against them.

Canada Is a Lousy Oil Negotiator

There is an old adage in business that you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. And there are few businesses bigger than Big Oil. The top 50 petroleum companies collectively have annual revenues over $5.6 trillion.

Subsurface mineral rights worldwide typically remain the property of sovereign nations, and oil companies only access that bounty through negotiated leases. You can imagine these negotiations are high stakes affairs. With potentially trillions of dollars on the table, both sides have a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

Daphne Bramham: Sense of entitlement runs rampant among political and community leaders

There’s a surprising lack of character in evidence these days among our free-spending, entitled-seeming political and community leaders.

Even though many are better paid than ever, it still doesn’t seem to be enough.

Here’s my theory: The people working for the public good are rankled that guys like the wolves on Wall Street are making so much more money and, for what?

Stephen Harper: a smart tactician or just graceless narcissist?

Someone described Stephen Harper as a Sphinx without a riddle.

Sphinx or not, as he moves government in Canada towards something that is plainly tyrannical, there is no mystery about his increasingly dictatorial nature.

“You have to appreciate Orwell to get a feel for Harper,” former Liberal interim leader Bob Rae told me. “His government doesn’t like alternate sources of information. It likes to be the sole source of information.”

Bad news, Stephen. Democracy is always a choir, never a soloist.

If This Terrifying Report Doesn't Wake You Up to the Realities of What We're Doing to This Planet, What Will?

The impacts of climate change are likely to be "severe, pervasive, and irreversible," the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan, as the world's leading climate experts released a new survey of how our planet is likely to change in the near future, and what we can do about it.

Blue Is The New Green: How Oceans Could Power The Future

In February, a natural gas power plant along the Central California coast closed after operating for more than 50 years, thus ending an era that saw the surrounding community of Morro Bay grow up around it. In an unlikely partnership, the shuttering may also help usher in a new era of energy generation — this one reliant on power from the waves that undulate through the bay before crashing up against the nearby shoreline.

Conservative Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its second of four planned reports examining the state of climate science. This one summarizes what the scientific literature says about “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” (big PDF here). As with every recent IPCC report, it is super-cautious to a fault and yet still incredibly alarming.

Fighting the Militarized State

The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.

“The administration’s unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens,” Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. “It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.”

North Korea, South Korea Trade Fire Near Disputed Sea Border

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea fired artillery shells into each other's waters Monday, a flare-up of animosity between the rivals that forced residents of five front-line South Korean islands to evacuate to shelters, South Korean officials said.

The South Korean artillery fire came after shells from a North Korean live-fire drill fell south of the Koreas' disputed western sea boundary, an official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, said the official, who provided no other details and spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

One Percenter Convicted Of Raping Infant Child Dodges Jail Because He 'Will Not Fare Well'

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he "will not fare well" in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Climate change 'already affecting food supply' – UN

Climate change has already cut into the global food supply and is fuelling wars and natural disasters, but governments are unprepared to protect those most at risk, according to a report from the UN's climate science panel.

The report is the first update in seven years from the UN's international panel of experts, which is charged with producing the definitive account of climate change.

‘An interesting leap of logic,’ author of report touted by Conservatives says

What started as a slow burn of opposition to the Conservatives’ proposed election reforms has burst into a five-alarm fire for the Harper government.  Since Bill C-23 was introduced in February, the official Opposition has staged a filibuster and experts, including current and past chief electoral officers, have ripped it apart.

The man sent out to sell the bill, Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre, has often cited a report former British Columbia chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld authored, touting it as proof some controversial proposals in the bill are necessary to preserve the integrity of Canada’s elections.

DND ditched years of research new plane plan

OTTAWA - National Defence was forced to throw over six years' worth of research and planning for its desperately-needed search and rescue plane out the window when the Harper government elected to take a different procurement approach.

A briefing note prepared for the former associate defence minister, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, spells out in detail how the project, which has been grinding its way through the defence bureaucracy since 2004, was being further sidelined.

Two public sector unions working to defeat Harper government

Two of Canada’s biggest public sector labor unions say they have already begun working towards getting rid of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in the next election.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) have both begun campaigns to inform Canadians about the impact the government’s actions are having, union leaders told those attending the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit.

Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said it is important to start now to replace Harper’s Conservative Party.

Dear Ryan: The Fair Elections Act is an insult to our intelligence!

Ryan Leef
Member of Parliament for Yukon
Dear Ryan,
In a letter to the Yukon News, March 19, you said, "the Fair Elections Act will ensure citizens are in charge of democracy."
While Bill C-23 imposes punishments to those who are caught committing electoral crime, you are incorrect to state that it will empower the Commissioner of Canada Elections (CCE).  The CCE may no longer compel witnesses to testify.   The CCE will be answerable to the Attorney General, which unlike Elections Canada is not an arms length institution.  The Act enforces secrecy about investigations undertaken by both the CCE and the Director of Public Prosecution.   These cases will be exempt from Access to Information requirements. 

Brazil police, military raid Rio slums ahead of World Cup

More than 1,400 police officers and Brazilian marines rolled into a massive complex of slums near Rio de Janeiro's international airport before dawn Sunday in the latest security push ahead of this year's World Cup.

Not a shot was fired as the Mare complex of 15 slums became the latest impoverished area to see security forces move in to take control and try to push out heavily armed drug gangs that have ruled Rio's shantytowns for decades.

Truth and Reconciliation: nearly 4 years of hearings wrap

The commission delving into the sordid legacy of Canada's Indian residential schools was wrapping up nearly four years of public hearings Sunday, where thousands of victims recounted stories of cruelty and abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care.

The heart-breaking accounts — almost all videotaped — will now form part of a lasting record of one of the darkest chapters in the country's history.

For many, being able to tell their stories was at once cathartic and a validation.


In this week’s magazine, I’ve got a lengthy piece about “Capital in the Twenty-first Century,” a new book about rising inequality by Thomas Piketty, a French economist, that is sparking a lot of comment and debate. (Brad DeLong has a useful summary of some early reviews.) I’ll go further into that discussion in future posts, but first I thought it might be useful to portray the gist of Piketty’s story in a series of charts.
The charts aren’t merely illustrative: they are an essential part of Piketty’s contribution. Fifteen or twenty years ago, debates about inequality tended to be cast in terms of clever but complicated statistics, such as the Gini coefficient and the Theil entropy index, which attempted to reduce the entire income distribution to a single number. One thing that Piketty and his colleagues Emmanuel Saez and Anthony Atkinson have done is to popularize the use of simple charts that are easier to understand. In particular, they present pictures showing the shares of over-all income and wealth taken by various groups over time, including the top decile of the income distribution and the top percentile (respectively, the top ten per cent and those we call “the one per cent”).

Do You Have The Right ID To Cast A Ballot In A Federal Election?

Much of the debate over the government's proposed changes to Canadian election laws has focused on its plan to eliminate vouching, a process that lets those without proper identification have someone else in the same polling division swear to their name and address.

A less-discussed change proposed in Bill C-23 would also roll back a pilot program that allowed 400,000 people to use their voter information card as proof of address in the 2011 election.

New leftist collective aims to make a splash in Vancouver municipal elections

A new collective comprised of a broad group of activists from diverse organizations in Vancouver, B.C. has been meeting over the past few months to bring radical politics back to the municipal arena. Calling themselves the Left Front, the collective intends to "connect social movements in order to affect policy and generate dialogue that reflects the realities of the renter-majority, marginalized communities and the working class living in one of the most unaffordable cities in the world."

Canadian Cities Where An Average Income Will No Longer Buy You A House

Average-income families can no longer afford a detached house in more than a quarter of Canada’ largest cities, according to an analysis carried out by The Huffington Post Canada.

And while Toronto and Vancouver are famous for their high house prices, HuffPost’s survey shows those cities’ traditionally affordable suburbs are now out of reach for middle-income earners as well. In these cities, average earners have basically no choice but to buy a condo, or stay out of the housing market.

Bankers Win Both Ways: Now They Can Take Both Taxpayer and Depositor Money

As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power.
– Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011
On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and “bail-ins”—the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to lock taxpayer and depositor liability into place before the dire state of Eurozone banks is exposed.

Dear President Obama: Freedom and Democracy Must Come First in Egypt

Dear President Obama:
As you embark this week on your visit to Saudi Arabia we write to you out of deep concern with regard to the policy of the United States and its allies in the region.
Despite your assurances to the Muslim world in 2009 in Ankara and Cairo that your administration would support the promotion and spread of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, your administration's record in the last year shows that such pronouncements were not backed by concrete policies and actions. No less than the future of the Middle East and the credibility of the United States are at stake.