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.]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Missouri House OKs Bill That Could Allow Babysitters, Bar Patrons, And Shoppers To Use Deadly Force

The Missouri House easily passed a bill this week to allow more individuals to use deadly force in self-defense. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R) portrays the bill as authorizing deadly force by a babysitter or nanny “in the event of a home invasion.”
“This is a common sense extension of the law that would empower a nanny or babysitter, or anyone with the owner’s permission to occupy a property, to defend himself or herself against an intruder,” McGaugh said in a press release.

State Executioners: Untrained, Incompetent, and "Complete Idiots"

Last week's botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma has heightened the debate over lethal injection. The United States has encountered a shortage of the drugs historically used in capital punishment as pharmaceutical companies have largely refused to make them, export them, or sell them to prisons for use in executions. Death row inmates have filed dozens of challenges to the lethal injection protocols that states have sought to keep secret. Meanwhile, states are trying ever more desperate measures to procure the old drugs or cook up new cocktails to try on inmates.

From IPO To Rental Boyfriends: Everything You Need To Know About China's Alibaba

Why is everyone talking about Alibaba? 
Because this private Chinese e-commerce company filed paperwork on Tuesday to begin selling stock to the public on the New York Stock Exchange, and analysts say it may be valued above U.S. tech giants like Facebook.
What is Alibaba? 
China’s leading online shopping conglomerate, Alibaba Group has wriggled its many tentacles into almost all corners of the Chinese web. The bedrock of its business lies in two sites that handle different forms of e-commerce: Tmall (a business-to-consumer site often compared to Amazon) and Taobao (a consumer-to-consumer site similar to eBay). Beyond that, Alibaba plays a leading role in online and mobile payments, and other branches touch on areas such as cloud computing, search and group shopping.

Alison Redford's Unbuilt Penthouse Cost Taxpayers $173,000

EDMONTON - Alberta taxpayers were billed $150,000 just for design concepts on a planned penthouse for former premier Alison Redford, show documents tabled this week in the legislature.

The total bill for all consulting work on the suite, dubbed the "sky palace" by the opposition and media, was just over $173,000.

Wireless competition ad campaign leaves Canadians angry

Months after the federal government launched a $9-million advertising campaign announcing it wanted more competition and lower prices in the wireless market for consumers, there are fewer competitors and prices have, on average, gone up.

“They had all the trumpet and fanfare. But when it comes time to actually implementing these policies, nothing happens,” NDP MP Glenn Thibeault said.

U.S. Companies Often Assume Black Job Applicants Do Drugs

More than any other group, black job applicants are being turned away by U.S. companies under the implicit assumption that they are using illegal drugs, according to a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

The study’s author, University of Notre Dame economics professor Abigail Wozniak, looked at how hiring practices differ between states with laws that incentivize or encourage drug testing and states with laws that limit or do not require such testing. She found that pro-testing legislation has a “large” and positive effect on black employment and wages, especially among low-skilled black men.

Fast-Food Protests Expected In More Than 30 Countries

Union representatives from countries including Argentina, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand and Panama gathered in New York this week to share tips and strategize for the demonstrations slated to take place on May 15. Organizers plan to announce the global actions at a news conference outside a McDonald's in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

The protests calling for pay of $15 an hour in the U.S. have gained national media attention since they began in New York in late 2012. The push is getting financial and organizational support from the Service Employees International Union — which has more than 2 million members — and has served as an important backdrop as President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers seek to raise the federal minimum wage in an election year.

Growing outrage over government inaction on missing and murdered Aboriginal women

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network recently obtained advanced release of new information compiled by Canada's federal police force from police agencies across the country showing that over the past 30 years, 1,026 Aboriginal women have been murdered and 160 have disappeared. Eighty seven per cent are mothers.
The federal government has been insisting that the number of missing and murdered women is 600.

Prime Minister denies disrespecting Chief Justice

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejects the notion that he has shown disrespect to Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and refuses to withdraw, clarify or apologize for his assertion that she acted improperly.

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair asked Mr. Harper to respond to an open letter published in The Globe and Mail in which 11 past presidents of the Canadian Bar Association said the Prime Minister’s statements could intimidate Supreme Court judges or harm their ability to render justice objectively and fairly.

Environmentalists Barred Again From Oilsands Hearings

EDMONTON - The Alberta government has again barred environmental groups from hearings on an oilsands proposal in what conservationists say is a pattern of restricting public input on resource development.

The move to deny standing to the Oilsands Environmental Coalition at hearings on a proposed new development by Southern Pacific Resource Corp. comes after a similar decision last fall was overturned by a judge.

Ontario Votes: Clement Keeps Up Federal Pressure On Wynne

Treasury Board President Tony Clement is the latest federal Conservative to jump in to the Ontario election campaign — accusing Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne of inflaming the pension debate to draw attention away from her party's "disastrous record."

Speaking on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Clement called Wynne's provincial retirement plan proposal a "tax grab" designed to overshadow talk of past Liberal scandals.

Wide Majorities Losing Faith In John Roberts' Supreme Court, Want Term Limits

An overwhelming majority of voters would support sweeping reforms to the Supreme Court, as trust and confidence in the institution has eroded in recent years, according to a new survey by the Democratic-aligned firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

Wide majorities disagree with the recent 5-4 party-line rulings that have upended a century of campaign finance law and tilted the rules in favor of the extremely wealthy and major corporations. The landmark Citizens United ruling was opposed by a whopping 80-18 margin. The more recent McCutcheon decision, which lifted caps on total giving, was said by a 51 percent majority to be likely to create more corruption, while 8 percent suggested it would lead to less.

Harper takes a swing at the Supreme Court after losing yet another case

In the past few years, the Harper government has aggressively pursued its own agenda without due regard for the Canadian Constitution, the rights of the provinces and the rights of the most vulnerable Canadians. It has pushed for Senate reform, tougher criminal laws, and even subtly attempted to shift the balance of the Supreme Court of Canada by appointing judges with a conservative bent.
Stephen Harper may have hoped that his five appointments to the Supreme Court would influence the outcome of the cases before it, but a recent string of well‑deserved thrashings in court have demonstrated that the Supreme Court is truly an independent, non‑partisan body, able to act as a check on the government's (inappropriate) actions.

Kijiji Job Postings A Legitimate Way To Measure Job Market: ESDC

Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s department is defending the federal government’s use of job postings at Kijiji and other online sites as part of a legitimate way of determining the health of Canada’s labour market.

“It would be incorrect to exclude Kijiji information from this data when doing job vacancy calculations as a significant number of legitimate job postings appear on Kijiji and similar sites,” a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said in an email to HuffPost Canada.

Climate Deniers: The House Is On Fire, but They’re Staying Put

“Oklahoma is burning, both literally and figuratively,” the state’s climatologist reported Monday, as temperatures soared into the triple digits and draught-stricken grasslands provided tinder for wildfires in several counties. The western part of the state faces the worst of the heat wave; grab the panhandle, and it will singe your palm. In Oklahoma, this is supposed to be the wettest part of the year.

“I don’t know what to tell ya,” the climatologist wrote. He linked to a state drought map from May of 2011, which shows similar swaths of red in the west. “Look familiar?”

All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power

The following excerpt is from Truthdig contributor Nomi Prins’ best-selling new book “All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power.” In this section, Prins writes about the period during the administration of Lyndon Johnson when bankers began to move away from the president as they saw their global ambitions hemmed in by the Vietnam War.

Johnson and the Bankers’ Economy

In his spirited inaugural speech on January 20, 1965, Johnson declared, “In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry.”

Clark's Gas Gamble Now Risks Your Kid's Education, Too

"The descent of the university into the market place reflects the lie in the soul of modern society." -- Harold Innis, Canadian political economist, 1894-1952

The best way to gamble is with other people's money. But as Premier Christy Clark doubles down her bet on liquefied natural gas in a world market riskier than a casino, it's not just your money she's gambling with -- it's also your children and grandchildren's future education.

Clark's recent, breathless photo-op announcement that energy firms Shell Canada, PetroChina, Korea Gas and Mitsubishi have agreed to join something called "LNG Canada" is nearly meaningless without signed agreements to extract, process and export liquefied natural gas.

Ottawa judges accused of ‘insurrection’ over mandatory victim surcharge

The Ontario Crown attorney’s office has responded to a constitutional challenge of the controversial mandatory victim surcharge by lambasting Ottawa judges for their “brazen and very public insurrection” against the new law.

The provincial prosecutor defended changes made by the federal Conservatives to make the victim surcharge mandatory, while also calling out several judges for what the Crown alleges were illegal or improper attempts to avoid imposing the surcharge.

What Happened to Canada?

The left has long admired Canada as an enclave of social democracy in North America: for its openly socialist electoral parties, its robust welfare state, and its more moderate policy profile. Recent developments, however, have thrown that reputation into question. The country is helmed by a prime minister, Stephen Harper, known for his brazenly right-wing views and executive unilateralism. Both federal and provincial governments have embraced austerity and eroded public services. And Canada’s newly aggressive exploitation of its natural resources has it trampling on civil liberties and reneging on its international obligations like, as Foreign Policy put it, a “rogue, reckless petrostate.”

Europe’s far-right coalition in the works

Geert Wilders, the supremely quotable and cartoonish platinum blond leader of the Dutch far right, made headlines again recently. For Dutch journalists, it was about time. Wilders had gone strangely silent in recent months: Not a peep about marauding Muslims or the decline of white Europe. Then, apparently feeling emboldened by gains his Freedom Party (PVV) had made in recent municipal elections, came this at an election rally in The Hague on March 19: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and the Netherlands?”

Supporters: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”

Wilders: “We’ll take care of that.”

This Email Shows Google And NSA's Close Working Relationship

If Google wasn't cooperating with the National Security Agency's spying program, as the company has vehemently claimed again and again, why were the guys in charge of each organization emailing so much in 2011 and 2012?

That's the question raised by a series of emails between then-NSA director Keith Alexander and Google chairman Eric Schmidt and co-founder Sergey Brin starting in late 2011. The emails were published by Al Jazeera America on Tuesday.

Prisoners not entitled to own cells, public safety minister says

The opposition had a wide range of criticisms for the federal government Tuesday after the release of auditor general’s latest report, including concerns about double-bunking in the federal prison system.
The federal prison population could one day outgrow the required capacity, even as new prisons are built, Auditor General Michael Ferguson warned in his report. This means that double-bunking -- putting two prisoners in a cell -- could become a problem in the future, he said.

Shale Gas Plagued By Unusual Methane Leaks

According to a spate of recent scientific studies from the United States and Australia, the shale gas industry has generated another formidable challenge: methane and radon leakage three times greater than expected.

In some cases the volume of seeping methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat 25 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, is so high it challenges the notion that shale gas can be a bridge to a cleaner energy future, as promoted by the government of British Columbia and other shale gas jurisdictions.

Eating organic food significantly lowers pesticide exposure

Eating an organic diet for a week can cause pesticide levels to drop by almost 90% in adults, research from RMIT University has found.

The study, led by Dr Liza Oates found particpants' urinary dialkylphosphates (DAPs) measurements were 89% lower when they ate an organic diet for seven days compared to a conventional diet for the same amount of time. DAPs make up 70% to 80% of organophosphate pesticides.


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — In what legal experts are calling a landmark decision, on Monday the United States Supreme Court struck down what many believe to be the main reason the country was started.

By a five-to-four vote, the Court eliminated what grade-school children have traditionally been taught was one of the key rationales for founding the United States in the first place.

“The separation of church and state has been a cornerstone of American democracy for over two hundred years,” said Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority. “Getting rid of it was long overdue.”

Calling the decision “historic,” Justice Antonin Scalia was guarded in predicting what the Court might accomplish next.

“Last year, we gutted the Voting Rights Act, and today we did the First Amendment,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what’s left.”

Original Article

The U.S. Is One Of The Only Countries In The World Where Maternal Deaths Are Rising

Deaths related to pregnancy and childbearing have increased in the United States over the past decade, putting maternal mortality at nearly its highest rate in a quarter century, according to a new study published in the Lancet. The U.S. is one of just eight countrieswhere maternal deaths increased between 2003 and 2013; the other nations in this dubious category include Afghanistan, El Salvador, Belize, and South Sudan.

Canada's Oil-By-Rail Shipments Jump Nine-Fold In 2 Years

VANCOUVER - There has been a nine-fold increase in Canada's oil-by-rail exports over the past two years.

Data released by the National Energy Board says 15,980 barrels a day of crude were exported by rail in the first quarter of 2012.

By the fourth quarter of 2013 — October to December of last year — that had increased to 146,047 barrels a day.

Moving crude by rail has been on the rise, as production increases in the Alberta oil sands and oil pipeline proposals like Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway remain mired in opposition.

Alarms bells sounded after a crude-carrying train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Que., killing 47 people.

The federal government vowed after the deadly crash to address safety issues and phase out older tank cars being used to transport oil.

Original Article
Author: CP

Auditor General's Report: Public Pension Plans At Risk Over Longer Life Spans

OTTAWA - The auditor general says Canada's public pension plans could pose a significant threat to the government's financial footing because little attention is being paid to looming costs, such as the longer life spans of retirees.

In his spring report to Parliament, Michael Ferguson also warned that prolonged rock-bottom interest rates and lower-than-expected returns on assets could cost taxpayers billions down the road.

Auditor General's Report: Overcrowded Prisons Loom Due To Shortsighted Planning

OTTAWA - The auditor general sees more overcrowded Canadian prisons on the horizon, despite the Conservative government's much-touted revamp of federal penitentiaries.

The federal prison service opted for a quick fix — overlooking long-term needs — when expanding penitentiaries to house a growing offender population, spending watchdog Michael Ferguson says in a report Tuesday.

As a result, the Correctional Service expects the number of prisoners could again outstrip capacity within a few years of completing construction.