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, May 06, 2014

Stephen Harper’s reckless smear of Canada’s top judge

Watching the Harper government stumble from one needless controversy to another — picking fights, settling scores, demeaning institutions and individuals alike in the pursuit of no discernible principle or even political gain — one has had the distinct impression of a government, and a prime minister, spinning out of control.

But with the prime minister’s astonishing personal attack last week on the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, the meltdown has reached Lindsay Lohanesque proportions. Nothing in the long catalogue of Stephen Harper’s bad-tempered outbursts has seemed quite so extravagantly reckless, if only because it was so calculated.

MacKay repeats allegations against top court judge

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Peter MacKay breached confidentiality rules and tried to intimidate judges when they publicly criticized Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, opposition parties say.

“Does the Attorney-General consider that it is part of his job to ensure that there are never any attempts to intimidate the courts in our country?” New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair asked Mr. MacKay in the House on Monday.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin more than just a 'sitting judge'

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, whom Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to indirectly as a "sitting judge," is in fact a head of a branch of government.

She heads the judicial branch and is the chief justice of Canada, not just of the Supreme Court, and is a member of the Privy Council.

But McLachlin is also the deputy governor general, and if the Governor General were to become incapacitated, she would take his place.

Netanyahu’s Blood and Soil: The Racist-Nationalism of His ‘Jewish State’ Ideal

Binyamin Netanyahu is again beating the “Israel is a Jewish state” drum, and now wants to have it legislated into Israeli organic law.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said,

“There are those who do not want Israel to be defined as the national homeland for the Jewish people…”

“They want a Palestinian national homeland to be established here next to us, and that Israel be gradually turned into a bi-national Jewish-Arab state within our reduced borders…”

The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality

Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven’t stopped lying about what’s happening and what to do about it.

Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth.

Lie number one: The rich and CEOs are America’s job creators. So we dare not tax them.

After Pledge of Sunlight, Gov. Cuomo Officials Keep Their Email in the Shadows

Adopting a tactic that has been used by officials ranging from Sarah Palin to staffers of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are sending emails from private accounts to conduct official business.

I know because I got one myself. And three other people who interact with the governor’s office on policy or media matters told me they have too. None of the others wanted to be named.

The tactic appears to be another item in the toolbox of an administration that, despite Cuomo’s early vows of unprecedented transparency, has become known for an obsession with secrecy. Emailing from private accounts can help officials hide communications and discussions that are supposed to be available to the public.

The Next Frontier In The War Over Science

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.

Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014," the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can't be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.


No wonder so many cultural conservatives, from Pat Buchanan to the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, adore Vladimir Putin: he projects bare-chested swagger, and he is also developing a form of Russian cultural conservatism intended as a rejection of Western permissiveness. First, there was the anti-gay propaganda law. Then came the assault on N.G.O.s and on press freedoms, from the printed page to television to the Internet. Now Putin has decided to take on the Russian language—in particular, its florid and flexible lexicon of profanity, known as mat. On Monday, Putin signed legislation that has been floating around the Duma for years: as of July 1st, there will be no swearing in movies and theatrical productions or from the concert stage.

Egypt's El-Sissi Gives First Campaign TV Interview

CAIRO (AP) — Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former military chief who removed Egypt's Islamist president and who is now poised to win the post in elections this month, said the Muslim Brotherhood will never return as an organization, accusing it of using militant groups as cover to destabilize the country.

For Justices, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With’

WASHINGTON — Justice Antonin Scalia is known as a consistent and principled defender of free speech rights.

It pained him, he has said, when he voted to strike down a law making flag burning a crime. “If it was up to me, if I were king,” he said, “I would take scruffy, bearded, sandal-wearing idiots who burn the flag, and I would put them in jail.” But the First Amendment stopped him.

That is a powerful example of constitutional principles overcoming personal preferences. But it turns out to be an outlier. In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.

Jobseekers being forced into zero-hours roles

Jobseekers face losing their benefits for three months or more if they refuse to take zero-hours contract roles, a letter from a Conservative minister has revealed.

For the first time, benefit claimants are at risk of sanctions if they do not apply for and accept certain zero-hours jobs under the new universal credit system, despite fears that such contracts are increasingly tying workers into insecure and low paid employment.

Foreign Worker Reports Death Threats, Coercion

A temporary foreign worker who sold massage devices and other products in mall kiosks has reported he and his colleagues worked hundreds of hours for no pay, while forced to live under constant threat of deportation.

“It’s all organized from the start,” said Anton Soloviov, 25, who worked for 0860005 B.C. Ltd, a company run by B.C. resident Dor Mordechai and his wife, Anna Lepski.

Joe Oliver: Pension Plan Criticism Is Not Ontario Election Interference

OTTAWA - Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver says he didn't intrude on the Ontario election campaign when he criticized the economic centrepiece of provincial Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne's platform.

The Conservative government found itself knee-deep in the budding campaign last week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper panned Wynne's proposal to introduce a new mandatory pension plan for Ontario.

Majority sides with Supreme Court ruling on Senate reform, not Prime Minister's Office

PARLIAMENT HILL—A majority of Canadians sides with a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Canada’s Constitution would prevent the federal government from unilateral reforms to the Senate, over Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s position that Parliament should be able to impose a form of Senate elections and new term limits on its own, a Forum Research poll has found.

Dear Mr. Harper, we need to talk about the environment

Dear Prime Minister Harper

I'm a singer-songwriter who has put out 12 full-length albums of my poetic, storytelling songs. I'm sending you my latest one, 'Armageddon Blues,' not just to make you aware of myself as a guy who's been creating art in Canada for 25 years, but also because I feel this album has something to say about currents events in the world in general, and those of our country in particular.

Ex-Head of Troubled SNC-Lavalin Named Chair of BC Crown Corp

The B.C. government's Industry Training Authority has a new board of directors, and the May 5 news release heralds the appointment of Gwyn Morgan as the Crown corporation's $1-a-year chair.

While it emphasizes how Morgan was the founding CEO of oil and natural gas producer EnCana Corp., it doesn't mention his tenure as chair of SNC-Lavalin, the troubled Montreal engineering giant.

Alabama Chief Justice Thinks The First Amendment Only Protects Christians

The judge best known for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building suggested earlier this year that the First Amendment only protects the religious speech of Christians.

Roy Moore, the chief justice of Alabama's state Supreme Court, spoke at a January luncheon hosted by Pro-Life Mississippi. In a video of the event obtained by Raw Story, Moore spoke on his interpretation of the First Amendment.

Antarctic Ice Shelf On Brink Of Unstoppable Melt That Could Raise Sea Levels For 10,000 Years

OSLO, May 4 (Reuters) - Part of East Antarctica is more vulnerable than expected to a thaw that could trigger an unstoppable slide of ice into the ocean and raise world sea levels for thousands of years, a study showed on Sunday.

The Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica, stretching more than 1,000 km (600 miles) inland, has enough ice to raise sea levels by 3 to 4 metres (10-13 feet) if it were to melt as an effect of global warming, the report said.

In Email Exchanges, Oklahoma Officials Joked About Trading Lethal Injection Advice For Football Tickets

National attention turned to Oklahoma’s death penalty protocol last week after Clayton Lockett was slowly tortured to death during an execution gone awry. But the execution was the latest development in a long-running battle to continue putting people to death, even when the only way to do to is using unknown, untested drugs for lethal injections.

This Amazing Solar City Produces 4 Times the Energy it Consumes

Although net-zero projects have been creating a lot of buzz lately in the field of green building, the Sonnenschiff solar city in Freiburg, Germany is very much net positive. The self-sustaining city accomplishes this feat through smart solar design and lots and lots of photovoltaic panels pointed in the right direction. It seems like a simple strategy — but designers often incorporate solar installations as an afterthought, or worse, as a label.

Where is Canada's rage over digital surveillance?

In the United States, people didn’t bury their heads in the sand when they learned about the pervasiveness of government surveillance, they did something.
According to a Harris Interactive poll, 47 per cent of American adults changed their behaviour on learning about NSA spying. About 25 per cent said they have decreased their online banking, shopping and email use, for example.