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.]

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that Massachusetts' protective buffer zone around abortion clinics violates the free speech rights of protesters, four other buffer zones around the country have already disappeared or been challenged in court.

The City Council of Portland, Maine, repealed its 39-foot buffer zone around a women's health clinic this week, and the cities of Burlington, Vermont, and Madison, Wisconsin, have stopped enforcing their buffer zones. In Burlington, people had been legally prohibited from protesting within 35 feet of the clinic, and Madison had a "floating" buffer zone that prohibited protesters from coming within eight feet of a patient entering or exiting an abortion clinic.

Why the Supreme Court’s Attack on Labor Hurts Women Most

The War on Women found an ally at the Supreme Court last week with two rulings that threaten to deepen gender inequality in the workplace. The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case is more clearly aimed at women, with its religiously inspired assault on women’s contraceptive healthcare access. But it was the ruling on union rights in Harris v. Quinn, which threatens a vital union for public healthcare workers, that may prove even more consequential for the lives of working women.

Washington has for years been paralyzed by the right’s anti-abortion agenda and resistant to funding the most basic welfare supports for low-income mothers. Now the Court has expanded the attack on women through legal clampdowns on women’s economic and civil rights—attacking reproductive healthcare in one ruling and gutting women’s labor power in the other.

Using Tragedy to Change the Narrative

When the Presbyterian Church (USA) made the unprecedented decision to divest from three corporations linked with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, it marked the first time that a large entity within the United States actively divested millions from those that contribute to the violence and repression against Palestinians. As the Huffington Post reported, they chose Motorola Solutions because the Israeli Defense Force purchases their communication technologies, Caterpillar because its bulldozers have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, and Hewlett-Packard because the Israeli Navy uses its products at checkpoints and to coordinate the blockade of the Gaza Strip. In total, the Presbyterian Church divested $21 million from these three specific companies. While many attempted to downplay this historic move, the world -- including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- took notice. And unlike movements from around the world, this push came from within Israel's biggest ally, the United States. In an effort to counteract this growing rallying cry for Palestinian self-governance and a two-state solution, Netanyahu is now using the tragic death of teenagers to shift the narrative and further reign terror on a minority already living in subjugation. Too bad for him, the world is once again watching.

Hamas Steps Up Rocket Fire, Israel Readies For Escalation

GAZA, July 7 (Reuters) - Hamas stepped up rocket fire at southern Israeli towns and Israel called up reserve troops on Monday in anticipation of a possible escalation of hostilities with the Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip.

The armed wing of the Palestinian group said it fired dozens of rockets within about an hour, after hundreds since mid-June.

First Nations Report: Heavy Metals From Oilsands Contaminating Food

EDMONTON - A new study by two Alberta First Nations and University of Manitoba scientists says there is a link between oilsands pollutants and higher levels of heavy metals in wildlife, and higher cancer rates in residents.

"There's something unique that is happening in Fort Chipewyan," Stephane McLachlan, the lead researcher from the university, told a news conference Monday.

"It's a situation that is alarming and demands attention."

Islamist terror threat to west blown out of proportion - former MI6 chief

The government and media have blown the Islamist terrorism threat out of proportion, giving extremists publicity that is counter-productive, a former head of Britain's intelligence service has said.

Sir Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6 at the time of the Iraq invasion, said that Britons spreading "blood-curdling" messages on the internet should be ignored. He told an audience in London on Monday there had been a fundamental change in the nature of Islamist extremism since the Arab spring. It had created a major political problem in the Middle East but the west, including Britain, was only "marginally affected".

TransCanada's Contract With Mattawa Requires Town To Stay Silent About Company

The mayor of a small northern Ontario town along the route of the planned Energy East pipeline is defending a contract with pipeline builder TransCanada that critics say amounts to a “gag order” in exchange for a $30,000 gift.

The town of Mattawa has negotiated a deal that will see TransCanada, builder of Energy East and the Keystone XL pipeline, pay for a $30,000 emergency vehicle for its fire department.

TPP Talks' Last-Minute Venue Shift Marks 'A New Low In Transparency'

Negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have long been a guarded secret, but critics say the Harper government went the extra mile to keep the latest round of talks out of the public eye.

Talks on the world’s largest (so far) free trade area were slated to begin July 3 in Vancouver. But in a last-minute move, the Department of Foreign Affairs shifted the talks to Ottawa.

Critics of the TPP say it was an attempt to avoid protests. The Council of Canadians, which has been opposed to the TPP and other trade deals Ottawa is negotiating, said the government’s secrecy on the latest round of talks marks “a new low in transparency for an already secretive trade deal.”

The New Way of War: Killing the Kids

In 1994, on the eve of Rwanda’s genocide, Radio Mille Collines, in Kigali, incited listeners with a venomous message: “To kill the big rats, you have to kill the little rats.” It was a veiled command to murder the youngest generation of Tutsis, the country’s minority tribe. In less than four months, an estimated three hundred thousand children were slashed, hacked, gunned, or burned to death, according to the United Nations. Among the dead were newborns.

The Rwandan slaughter was not unique. The specific targeting of children is one of the grimmest new developments in the way conflicts have been waged over the past fifty years. In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, roughly half of all deaths in conflict zones were civilian, according to the U.N. During the Second World War, civilians accounted for two-thirds of the fatalities. By the twentieth century’s end, almost ninety per cent were civilian.

Rail safety upgrades inadequate, critics say

LAC-MÉGANTIC, QUE.—It wasn’t until the winter passed and the snow cleared on the train tracks running into this destroyed town where 47 people died in last year’s rail disaster town that John Giles saw for himself what his company had signed up for.
“There was a problem. We couldn’t see the true condition until the snow departed,” the head of the new Central Maine and Quebec Railway said in an interview. “I could travel over it and look at it and get a sense of how many bad ties there were and I was shocked.”

Oilsands economic impact over-rated Canadians overestimate industry's value

A majority of Canadians overestimate the contribution the oilsands make to the world's 11th largest economy, according to a recent poll.

Non-conventional oil production - which comes mostly from mining and steaming bitumen from beneath the soil of northern Alberta - accounts for about two per cent of national output, Statistics Canada data show. A majority of Canadians believe the impact is greater, according to a survey conducted by polling company Environics for the environmental group Environmental Defence.

"We are routinely told our economy will sputter, governments won't be able to balance budgets and social services will have to be sacrificed if we don't triple the size of the tar sands as fast as possible," Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, said in a statement.

NSA's Intercepted Data Mostly Not From Intended Targets, Washington Post Reports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Post said on Saturday a study of a large collection of communications intercepted by the U.S. National Security Agency showed that ordinary Internet users, including Americans, far outnumbered legally targeted foreigners caught in the surveillance.

"Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else," the Post said.

Decision Looms In Lawsuit That May Actually Crush Obamacare

Obamacare was left mostly unharmed this week despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled against its contraception mandate. But a far greater threat to the law is alive and well a few blocks away in Washington, D.C.

Any day now, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in Halbig v. Burwell, an expansive challenge that goes directly after federal insurance subsidies. An unfavorable outcome stands to cripple a core component of Obamacare, without which the law may not be able to survive. Two of the judges, both Republican appointees, expressed varying degrees of sympathy for the challengers' case.

Refugee health-care cuts: Doctors gave voice to 'most vulnerable'

Like many doctors across the country, Dr. Paul Caulford breathed a sigh of relief Friday morning when he heard that a judicial ruling had declared the federal government's controversial refugee health-care cuts "cruel and unusual."

"There was so much on the line," said Dr. Caulford, a physician and co-founder of the Toronto-area Community Volunteer Clinic for the Medically Uninsured. "We were a voice, all the people there were voices for people who didn't have one."

Tories' Health Care Cuts For Refugees 'Cruel And Unusual': Federal Court

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has another legal battle on its hands after the Federal Court ruled against controversial reductions to health-care coverage for refugee claimants.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says the government will appeal Friday's decision by Justice Anne Mactavish, which denounced the cuts as "cruel and unusual" treatment — particularly to the children of claimants who have sought refuge in Canada.

Invoices were backdated for 2008 election campaign at MP Dean Del Mastro’s request, trial told

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. — Computer records introduced in court Friday show that key financial documents in the trail of Dean Del Mastro were created during the 2008 election campaign but dated months earlier, backing up the testimony of the key witness and posing a challenge for the MP’s defence.

Crown prosecutor Brendan Gluckman spent Friday slowly going through metadata with RCMP Cpl. David Connors, a computer forensic examiner, laboriously establishing the dates and times of the electronic documents drawn from the laptop of Frank Hall.

Deadly Violence In Egypt On Anniversary Of Morsi Ouster

CAIRO, July 3 (Reuters) - Five men died in Cairo in separate incidents involving a bomb blast and protester clashes with security forces on Thursday, the first anniversary of the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, security sources said.

Thousands of Egyptians opposed to the army's ouster of Mursi last year joined rare protests in cities and towns around the country, witnesses said. Previous protests had much lower turnout after a new law required official approval.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right, and We Already Have Proof

Among the many questions raised by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is how sweeping its legacy will be. Supporters of the decision have insisted that the ruling is “narrow,” as it explicitly addresses “closely held” corporations objecting to four specific types of birth control—including IUDs and Plan B—because the business’ owners consider them (inaccurately) to cause abortion. Besides, the Court argued, the government can just fill any coverage gaps itself, and it’s only women whom corporations are now permitted to discriminate against. “Our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate,” claimed Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority. “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employers’ religious beliefs.”

Secretive VANOC Finally Shuts Its Books

The number they will always want the public to remember is 14.

That's the number of gold medals proudly won by Canadian athletes on home ice and snow during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Whistler and Richmond. A record for a Winter Olympics host nation that the Russians failed to match at Sochi in February.

But the other numbers you need to remember are zero and 2025.