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.]

Thursday, May 29, 2014

To Many Egyptians, Presidential Elections Only Mean A New Dictator

CAIRO -- A sense of celebration permeated the scene outside many polling stations here on Monday. People lining up to cast ballots for yet another president chanted and sang songs in support of former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as military helicopters hovered low in the sky and heavily-armed masked soldiers guarded the lines.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Topped 400 PPM Throughout Northern Hemisphere In April, WMO Says

GENEVA, May 26 (Reuters) - Carbon dioxide levels throughout the northern hemisphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history in April, an ominous threshold for climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.

The 400 ppm level in the atmosphere, up 40 percent since wide use of fossil fuels began with the Industrial Revolution, is rapidly spreading southwards. First recorded in 2012 in the Arctic, it has since become the norm for the Arctic spring.

Front National's success not surprising to heartland supporters

In the Calvados town of Lisieux in Basse Normandie (Lower Normandy) it is hard to escape the beady eye of Saint Thérèse whose imposing basilica dominates the skyline attracting thousands of pilgrims from around the world.

On Monday, however, Lisieux was paying tribute to a secular heroine whose blue-eyed stare was equally hard to avoid. From the campaign posters, newspapers and magazines ranged in the station kiosks and newsagents, the smiling – now triumphant – face of Marine Le Pen was everywhere.

Hey Stevie, start with ‘I’m sorry’ and go from there

Stephen Harper owes Canadians an explanation and now would be a good time to offer it.

How did a lawyer twice convicted of fraud, who went to jail for 18 months for stealing from his own clients, who was charged with influence peddling in 2012, and is now facing three new counts of illegal lobbying and another of influence peddling – how did such a talented guy get to sit at the right hand of power in the Prime Minister’s Office?

Integrity Commission probe zeroes in on Tory hiring practices

Findings from a year-long probe by the federal Integrity Commission that centres on the hiring practices of John Lynn, appointed head of a Cape Breton federal Crown agency by senior cabinet minister Peter MacKay in 2008, will be released this week.

The probe into Mr. Lynn, who is a friend of Mr. MacKay, will look at the hiring of four senior executives at the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation. It was provoked by complaints from the federal Liberal Atlantic caucus that accused the Tories of a pattern of patronage abuse.

Cabinet ministers on P&P get $1.3-million more on ministerial staff annually: report

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government spends $50-million to $60-million annually on ministerial staff, including $8-million on the PMO, and ministers who are on the powerful Cabinet Priorities and Planning Committee spend $1.3-million more annually on staff than others who don’t make it to the “inner” Cabinet, says Jennifer Robson, a former staffer now teaching at Carleton University who recently concluded an analysis of ministerial staff spending based on the government’s public accounts.

Ottawa approved thousands of foreign worker requests at minimum wage, data reveal

The federal government approved thousands of requests to bring in temporary foreign workers at minimum wage in recent years, a practice that undermines claims from government and employers that there are serious labour shortages and that all efforts have been taken to hire Canadians.

The revelations in newly released data come as the Conservative government is weighing major policy reforms – including a new “wage floor” – in response to criticism that employers are relying on the temporary foreign worker program as a way to avoid raising wages.

The Rockefeller files: Jim Prentice and the oil industry

Any day now, the Harper Cabinet will make its decision on Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project, approved with conditions by the Joint Review Panel in December 2013. Cabinet's decision is expected by mid-June.
That decision is deeply linked to the fact that Jim Prentice is now officially in the race for leader of Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party and is considered the front-runner to become premier of Alberta, replacing Alison Redford who resigned in March. The Progressive Conservative leadership vote is scheduled for September. If Prentice wins, he would be Alberta premier for about two years, until the 2016 provincial election.

Far-Right National Front Wins European Vote In France: Exit Polls

PARIS, May 25 (Reuters) - Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front stunned France's political elite on Sunday by taking first place in European Parliament elections, with President Francois Hollande's Socialists beaten into a poor third, provisional results showed.

It was the first time the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party had won a nationwide election in its four-decade history. If the results are confirmed, it could secure as many as 25 seats in the new European Parliament, more than eight times the three it won in 2009.

Civil Liberties Endure Nightmarish Week In Congress

Before heading home this Memorial Day weekend to honor those Americans who fought and died for the principle of liberty, Congress did a number on the basic rights that define that liberty: Guantanamo remains open, Americans are still subject to indefinite detention, our endless wars abroad still have an open-ended legal basis, the NSA will keep spying on us, and the lawyer who said U.S. citizens are legitimate drone targets was just confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.

Behind The Sexist Ideology That Preoccupied A Mass Murderer

Hours after 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger shot and killed 7 people near a Santa Barbara university campus in California on Friday night, an internet user on a messaging board siteasked, “Will [A]merican women become nicer after today’s attempt?” “I heard that New Yorkers became a lot nicer after 9/11,” he wrote. “Could this happen to women as a gender after today’s events? I’m seeing that some feminists subreddits are toning down their anti male vitriol after today’s incident.”

Athabasca Glacier Melting At 'Astonishing' Rate Of More Than Five Metres A Year

COLUMBIA ICEFIELDS, Alta. - What's believed to be the most-visited glacier in North America is losing more than five metres of ice every year and is in danger of completely disappearing within a generation, says a Parks Canada manager.

The Athabasca Glacier is the largest of six ice sheets that form part of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. It is a popular destination for tourists from around the world who climb aboard huge snow coaches to get an up-close look.

Tim Hudak’s debate boycott disrespects democracy

THUNDER BAY, ONT.—So it has come to this. Again.
For the second election in a row, one of the big three party leaders will be missing in action during a major campaign debate.
Dalton McGuinty snubbed democracy with a telltale display of arrogance in the 2011 election. Now, following in the former premier’s footsteps — or more precisely, his empty chair — Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak will be the nay saying no-show at Monday’s scheduled debate organized by northern municipalities.

TFWs, Unpaid Interns, Cash Hoarding: Stop Being So Cheap, Corporate Canada Told

OTTAWA - What's plaguing corporate Canada?

In recent weeks, Canadian businesses — sitting on historically massive cash reserves — have been under fire for using temporary foreign workers or unpaid interns, and chided by political leaders for failing to raise wages or invest in employee training.

They've been maligned even by the traditionally business-friendly Fraser Institute for collecting billions of dollars in so-called corporate welfare for decades.

Harper Government Ignores Advice About Ukraine Election Observer Mission

OTTAWA - For the third time in four years, the Harper government has sent a large, Canada-only mission to observe an election in Ukraine, despite a report that concluded it would be cheaper, more credible and more effective to join a multilateral international mission.

Some 338 observers are part of Canada's current independent mission in Ukraine; they are fanned out across the troubled country to assess the integrity of Sunday's presidential election process.

Colleges Are Buying Stuff They Can’t Afford and Making Students Pay For It

With tuition costs more than doubling over the past generation, and student debt now exceeding $1 trillion, everyone knows the cost of college is too damn high. About 40 million people nationwide are weighed down by education debts that often reach into the tens of thousands. But those numbers are just a sliver of the bleak shadow that Wall Street casts over higher education.

A new study on debt across the higher education system reveals that the massive debts borne by both students and their institutions has climbed to about $45 billion per year. So the debt-related payments to the financial sector—including Wall Street investors, institutional lenders and the mammoth federal student loan system—drive about one tenth of all spending on higher education nationwide. These debt-servicing costs are tied to tuition lending as well as financial debts accrued by schools themselves, which finance investments of all kinds, from professors’ salaries to libraries to indulgences like sports teams and administrators’ bonuses.

Egyptian Journalists Self Censor Ahead Of Upcoming Presidential Election

CAIRO, May 25 (Reuters) - During Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's autocratic rule, the state often shaped media coverage to make him appear flawless, hauling in editors who did not fall into line.

After next week's presidential election, which former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win, authorities may not have to impose glowing reviews of his performance.

UC Santa Barbara Rampage Leaves 7 Dead

GOLETA, Calif. (AP) — A California gunman who went on a rampage near a Santa Barbara university stabbed three people to death at his apartment before shooting to death three more in a terrorizing crime spree through a neighborhood, sheriff's officials said Saturday.

The three people in the apartment were among the six left dead Friday night during the shootings near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Elliot Rodger, 22, the suspected gunman, apparently killed himself, authorities said.

Final Word on U.S. Law Isn’t: Supreme Court Keeps Editing

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include “truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon.

The court can act quickly, as when Justice Antonin Scalia last month corrected an embarrassing error in a dissent in a case involving the Environmental Protection Agency.

House Directs Pentagon To Ignore Climate Change

WASHINGTON -- The House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill on Thursday that would bar the Department of Defense from using funds to assess climate change and its implications for national security.

The amendment, from Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), passed in what was nearly a party-line vote. Four Democrats voted for the amendment, and three Republicans voted against it. The bill aims to block the DOD from taking any significant action related to climate change or its potential consequences. It reads:

‘A Government Of Thugs’: How Canada Treats Environmental Journalists

I attempted to enter Canada on a Tuesday, flying into the small airport at Fort McMurray, Alberta, waiting for my turn to pass through customs.
“What brings you to Fort Mac?” a Canada Border Services Agency official asked. “I’m a journalist,” I said. “I’m here to see the tar sands.” He pointed me to border security. Another official, a tall, clean-shaven man, asked the same question. “I’m here to see the tar sands.” he frowned. “You mean oil sands. We don’t have tar here.”

Return of the Oligarchs: Ukraine Poised to Elect ‘Chocolate King’ as President

The Euromaidan protesters in Kiev who ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich sought an end to the corruption, selective justice and crony capitalism that had plagued the country since the fall of the Soviet Union.

How ironic, then, that the man who will likely be elected president of Ukraine this Sunday is a leading representative of this old way of doing things. Petro Poroshenko is an oligarch who has shifted political allegiances—even serving in the Yanukovich government—and exploited political ties for commercial gain.

The Truth About Race In America: It’s Getting Worse, Not Better

Progress is an essential tenet of America’s civic religion. As someone born and raised in England, where “not bad” is a compliment and “could be worse” is positively upbeat, this strikes me as an endearing national characteristic. But as with any religion, when faith is pitted against experience, faith generally wins. And at that point, optimism begins to look suspiciously like delusion.

Koch Brothers Get Ready To Drill In The Oilsands

The uber right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, owners of the U.S.'s largest private company, are some of the country's most influential Tea Party supporters, climate change deniers and anti-union activists.

Now Canadian oil is on the cusp of adding to their empire.

Already the largest foreign leaseholder in Alberta’s controversial oilsands, a Koch Industries subsidiary has filed an application to start development on the Dunkirk commercial scale oil project.

The secret short list that provoked the rift between Chief Justice and PMO

Early last summer, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin sat down with five federal politicians at the stately court building on Wellington Street, just down the road from Parliament.

The Supreme Court selection panel – three Conservative MPs, a New Democrat MP and a Liberal MP – had come bearing a list of six candidates to replace Justice Morris Fish of Quebec, who was nearing 75 and about to retire.

Ugandan gay activists denied visas to World Pride conference

Canada has refused to issue visitor visas to 10 Ugandan activists invited to Toronto’sWorld Pride human rights conference in June over concerns they would stay to seek asylum.
Gay rights advocates say the decisions by the Canadian visa posts in Nairobi and London speak to the hypocrisy of the Stephen Harper government, which, in February,joined other Western nations in condemning Uganda for passing one of the world’s harshest anti-homosexuality laws.

Narenda Modi’s Transformation From International Outcast to India’s Prime Minister

It isn’t often that President Obama makes a flattering telephone call to a man who has been denied entrance to the United States for nearly a decade. But he did just that on Friday, May 16, when he telephoned Hindu nationalist hardliner Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister elect, to congratulate him on a clear victory in the Indian elections and to invite him to visit the land of the free. In doing so, some claim, Obama has “pressed the reset button.”

This Drug Defendant Spoke Her Mind, Then A Judge Told Her She’d Stay In Jail Until She Retracted Her Statements To The Media

After federal and local authorities raided Ilana Lipsen’s Alpine, Texas, store in search of illegal drug evidence, there was a dispute over what happened that day. Lipsen told reporters that Drug Enforcement Administration agents at the scene violently threw and kicked her sister Arielle, who was charged with assaulting federal agents. Prosecutors countered they never beat her.

North Korea Fires Into Disputed Waters, South Korea Returns Fire

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's artillery shelling near a South Korean warship patrolling disputed waters was likely a warning, not an attack attempt, Seoul officials and analysts said Friday.

On Thursday, the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire along the poorly marked western sea boundary. South Korean officials say the exchange started after two North Korean artillery shells fell in waters near a South Korean navy ship on a routine patrol of the area.

France's Former President Nicolas Sarkozy Calls For Two-Speed EU, Tighter Borders

PARIS, May 22 (Reuters) - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy weighed into the European Parliament election campaign on Thursday, calling for tighter controls on immigration and a two-speed Europe with a powerful Franco-German economic zone at its heart.

The conservative former leader, who is widely expected to seek re-election in 2017, argued for a profound overhaul of EU institutions ahead of a May 25 European Parliament election in which the Eurosceptic National Front is currently tipped by polls to emerge as France's leading party.

Memo contradicts Harper’s stance on emission limits

The United States has implemented limits on emissions from the oil and gas sector that are “significant” and “comparable” to those the Conservative government is considering, says a newly released Environment Canada memo, one that contradicts Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s assertion that Canada is waiting for the U.S. regulations before it will act.

Mr. Harper has said Canada will proceed with long-promised regulations to rein in the sector’s burgeoning greenhouse gas emissions only “in concert with” the United States.

Is Scalia Too Bigoted to Serve on the Next Gay Marriage Case?

The issue of same-sex marriage is destined to return to the Supreme Court, perhaps as early as next term, to resolve once and for all whether gay couples should have a nationwide constitutional right to wed. When it does, Justice Antonin Scalia—to quote a line from the old James Bond movies—must be shaken, not stirred, from any notion that he is fit to deliberate on the subject. As a matter of fundamental fairness and decency, he should recuse himself as soon as any new case reaches the high court’s docket.

New revelations show Harper's warm embrace of Big Oil lobby

Just when it looked like Nigel Wright could return to being just another guy who runs through city streets in the middle of the night, along come some intriguing new disclosures revealing more questionable behaviour on his part inside the PMO.
Of course, for months, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the central player in the saga of that $90,000 payment to a scandal-plagued senator.

Why the Left Should Look to Jackson, Mississippi

A new political and economic model is emerging, and it is not appearing where we might suspect it would. In the heart of the South, in a city named after one of the most racist presidents in United States history, in a landscape that resembles parts of Detroit and other decaying industrial centers, an impressive intergenerational collection of community organizers and activists have launched a bold program to empower a black working-class community that 21st -century capitalism has left behind.

The Untold Story Of What Happened At An Overcrowded West Virginia Jail After The Chemical Spill

When roughly 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked into a West Virginia watershed this January, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency. Officials shut down schools, deployed the National Guard, and rallied volunteers to bring water and support to the 300,000 people without potable water.
But in the state’s emergency response, there was one group that many forgot: the 429 prisoners locked in Charleston’s overcrowded jail, who were entirely dependent on the state to provide them clean water.