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, April 15, 2014

Over 100 scientists and economists call for rejection of Keystone XL pipeline

Over 100 scientists and economists urged President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to reject the Keystone XL tar sands in a letter today. The contested 1,897-km pipeline would have the capacity to transport up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen from Alberta to refineries in Texas.

Now He Tells Us: McCutcheon Attorney Admits Money Is Not Speech

Dan Backer, the lead lawyer behind a landmark case that further opened the campaign finance floodgates, conceded in an interview with HuffPost Live that money is not, in fact, speech.

The effort to repeal laws regulating the role that moneyed interests can play in elections has long been animated by the notion that any such restriction is a violation of the First Amendment's right of free speech.

Fair Elections Act May Hurt Plan To Increase Youth Voter Turnout, Groups Warn

OTTAWA — An Elections Canada pilot program aimed at encouraging student voting during the 2015 election could be grounded if the Fair Elections Act passes, students groups fear.

The Huffington Post Canada has learned that Elections Canada met with several student groups last summer to develop new ways to increase voter turnout among young people. The Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec were all consulted on the changes.

Who Gets in on NEB Pipeline Hearing? It's 'Kafkaesque' Says Planner

Among the 468 people rejected outright from participating in the National Energy Board's Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings next year, one professional planner is calling the process "Kafkaesque" -- and now questions its legitimacy altogether.

Eric Doherty, a registered professional planner whose resumé includes energy research for BC Hydro, was among the list of applicants "denied participation" by the NEB. While others have expressed dismay that an additional one-in-five applicants were downgraded to a single letter expressing their views, that was all Doherty had requested.

Gov't Loans Saddling 'Most at Risk' Refugees with Debt

The same day she was to fly from Lebanon to Canada with her family last May, Zeena Alhamadani learned she owed the Canadian government over $5,000.

An Iraqi refugee, Alhamadani came to Beirut, Lebanon, with her three sons in 2010, waiting to be placed in a safe country by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. After three years the United Nations arranged for the family to come to Canada as government-assisted refugees.

Harper's (Un)Fair Elections Act could be a useful crisis of democracy

The Harper government seems intent on proving to its detractors and critics that things can always get worse. No matter how many anti-democratic outrages and subsequent unapologetic stonewalling they deliver to Canadians, they can always manage to one-up themselves. This is the case with the truly repugnant and shamelessly anti-democratic farce called the Fair Elections Act.
It has been described as a direct threat to the right to vote and an assault on democracy by the very people our democracy assigns to examine these things. But as is the pattern with this government, it seems likely they will ram it through no matter what critics say.

Elections bill ‘exacerbates’ lack of privacy, political parties micro-target voters more

MPs may be federal law-makers, but there are no laws restricting how political parties can collect or use personal information about voters in Canada, and with the development of micro-targeting techniques, information is more important than ever in politics, however, parties aren’t working to close this legislative gap out of “self-interest,” say experts.

Fair Elections Act: Public Prosecutor Not Consulted On Planned New Role

OTTAWA - The Harper government did not consult the director of public prosecutions about its controversial plan to put him in charge of the investigative arm of Elections Canada — a move that departs from a long-standing principle that prosecutors and investigators should be kept separate.

The plan to hive off the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada and move him under the auspices of the director of public prosecutions is a key component of a proposed overhaul of election laws, which has been almost universally panned by Canadian and international electoral experts.

Rand Paul Says Dick Cheney Pushed for the Iraq War So Halliburton Would Profit

Last week, continuing the sometimes catty intraparty feud between Republican hawks and GOPers skeptical of foreign intervention, former Vice President Dick Cheney took a shot at Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). But Paul is not likely to be fazed by criticism from Cheney, for several years ago the Kentucky senator was pushing the conspiratorial notion that the former VP exploited the horrific 9/11 attacks to lead the nation into war in Iraq in order to benefit Halliburton, the enormous military contractor where Cheney had once been CEO.

Top 10 Ways in Which It Was Actually the Israeli Government That Derailed the Peace Talks

Right wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday blamed the Palestinians for the collapse of peace negotiations that began last August under the auspices of Secretary of State John Kerry.  In fact, the Palestinians took no Israeli land whatsoever since August, whereas the Israelis doubled their pace of building squatter settlements on Palestinian territory, territory over which they said they were negotiating!  It is like discussing with someone sharing a piece of pie and then looking down and seeing that the other person had snarfed up half of it already.


On April 1st, Chris Christie, the beleaguered Republican governor of New Jersey, attended a celebrity roast, in Newark, to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Brendan Byrne, the state’s governor from 1974 to 1982. “He’s an inspiration,” Christie told the audience, referring to Byrne, who won reëlection against long odds, because he has “shown that political comebacks can actually happen.”

Christie sat on a long dais with five former governors and five local comedians, listening to the guitarist John Pizzarelli sing an ode to the state: “I may leave for a week or two, but I’m always coming back.” Christie was seated next to former Governor Thomas Kean, a longtime supporter, but he did not say hello or shake his hand, and he glared at the comedians as they delivered their lines. “You scare the shit out of me,” Stewie Stone said to Christie during his routine.

Is Canada Tarring Itself?

START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.

Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive.

Canada's attack on democracy sets tone for Australia

Australians who value democracy should turn their eyes to Canada to catch a glimpse of what might be heading our way.

Two weeks ago, international academics added their names to a call by 160 Canadian experts to stop a piece of legislation being rushed through parliament that aims to radically change electoral processes in Canada.

Pelosi Says Cheney 'Set The Tone' For CIA Torture, And Is Proud Of It

Former Vice President Dick Cheney "set the tone" for the CIA's use of torture, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Sunday.

"I do believe that during the Bush-Cheney administration ... Vice President Cheney set a tone and an attitude for the CIA," Pelosi said, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" about a Senate Intelligence Committee report critical of the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The report, which the committee voted last week to declassify, is said to be harshly critical of the CIA program, claiming that it was both excessive and ineffective and that the CIA had for years misled Congress and the public about its effectiveness.

But Pelosi didn't think Cheney would be concerned about his role, saying, "I think he's proud of it."

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post  | by  Emily Swanson

Gingrich: Remove All Donation Limits To 'Equalize The Middle Class And The Rich'

After last week's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v FEC striking down total limits on campaign donations, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that even more deregulation is necessary to "overnight, equalize the middle class and the rich."

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Gingrich cited the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo, which first equated with money with speech and said that to limit certain contributions was tantamount to limiting freedom of expression. Gingrich said that "you've gone from that original decision to Citizens United, which said, in effect, that corporations could give and created super PACs. Now you've said they're unlimited."

World Running Out Of Time To Stop Global Warming, UN Report Says

OSLO, April 6 (Reuters) - World powers are running out of time to slash their use of high-polluting fossil fuels and stay below agreed limits on global warming, a draft U.N. study to be approved this week shows.

Government officials and top climate scientists will meet in Berlin from April 7-12 to review the 29-page draft that also estimates the needed shift to low-carbon energies would cost between two and six percent of world output by 2050.

Israel may take 'unilateral action' over Palestinians' UN move, says PM

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has said Israel may take "unilateral action" against the Palestinians after the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, signed 15 international conventions that could pave the way for a renewed attempt to gain United Nations statehood.

Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: "Unilateral actions from the Palestinians will be answered with unilateral actions from our side". He blamed the Palestinians for the current impasse over the US-sponsored peace talks.

Wall Street Got $26.7 Billion In Bonuses Last Year. That's Enough To Feed Every Hungry American

The average Wall Street bonus increased 15 percent in 2013, bringing the industry's overall bonuses to a total of $26.7 billion, the largest since 2008. This milestone came just a few months after an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 14 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of Wall Street, five years after a financial crisis spurred by these institutions. We're talking congressional popularity numbers. Ouch.

U.S. Sending 2 Warships To Japan To Counter North Korea

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered a two-pronged warning to Asia Pacific nations Sunday, announcing that the U.S. will send two additional ballistic missile destroyers to Japan to counter the North Korean threat, and saying China must better respect its neighbors.

In unusually forceful remarks about China, Hagel drew a direct line between Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region and the ongoing territorial disputes between China, Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea.

NSA Uses Corporate News to Spread Propaganda and Silence Dissent

Investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald published an expose this week detailing how the NSA has been feeding “propaganda” to various news publications, which have happily played along. The propaganda isn’t limited just to schlock networks like Fox News, but is promulgated also by widely trusted newspapers, including The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. 

The message NSA and other officials send to the public every time a whistle-blower and journalist step forward to expose an inconvenient truth is, “You’re all going to die because of these leakers and the journalists who publish their disclosures!” Greenwald writes. This encourages a fervor of fear that has led some legislators and “journalists” to openly call for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for disclosures made through his site. The “danger” of these leaks is the general reason given for convicting Chelsea Manning, who exposed war crimes committed under the name of Americans. (Manning’s failure to expose what she witnessed would have been a violation of the Nuremberg Laws.) Of course, this justification was never subjected to scrutiny during Manning’s trial and never criticized in the corporate media. Truthdig columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who was at the Manning hearings, has said the U.S. government was never able to find a single example in which lives were endangered by Manning’s disclosures.

Failure to Comply

A woman in dire financial straights starts stealing the things she needs but can't afford. The police catch her shoplifting and charge her with the crime for the first time in her life.

During the wait for her court date, she leaves Vancouver several times to visit her boyfriend. Those visits result in 16 separate administration-of-justice offences. That's 16 separate offences on top of a shoplifting charge that hasn't even seen its day in court.

This GOP House Candidate Proposed Eliminating the Weekend

Wisconsonites tired of relaxing on weekends and staying home on federal holidays are in luck: On Thursday, GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman announced his challenge to 18*-term moderate Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.). In a conservative district that went to Mitt Romney by seven points in 2012, Grothman hopes to channel dissatisfaction with Republicans in Congress whom he believes haven't done enough to slow down the Obama administration's policy agenda. But he comes with some baggage of his own.

Will Phony Populists Hijack the Fight Against Inequality?

In late January, President Obama met some two dozen CEOs at the White House to discuss the plight of the long-term unemployed. Frustrated by the refusal of congressional Republicans to extend unemployment insurance benefits, Obama persuaded several hundred companies to sign a “best practices” hiring pledge promising not to discriminate against those who have been unable to find work for a lengthy period of time.

Where Laws Intended To Protect Women Are Used Against Them

Rennie Gibbs, a Mississippi woman, was 16 when she gave birth to a stillborn child in 2006. Although the baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, a medical examiner found "traces of a cocaine byproduct" in the infant's body and ruled the death a homicide because Gibbs used cocaine at some point during her pregnancy. A Mississippi judge dismissed Gibbs' case this week, saying that no law clearly applied, and cited its similarity to another case recently dismissed by the Supreme Court.


If you think that the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was bad, just wait: worse may be on the way.

The issue before the Court was fairly narrow, even a little obscure. Congress bars individuals from contributing more than fifty-two hundred dollars to any candidate for federal office in any election cycle. It also bars individuals from contributing more than a hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars, in total, to multiple federal candidates in a cycle. In the McCutcheon case, by a vote of five to four, the Court struck down the overall hundred-and-twenty-three-thousand-dollar limit. But this ruling will affect relatively few campaign contributors. In the most recent cycle, fewer than six hundred donors maxed out to candidates.