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, August 24, 2014

1 In 6 Food Charities Could Close Down Soon, And 5 Other Disturbing Facts From A New Hunger Report

Every four years, Feeding America releases its massive “Hunger In America” (HIA) study to document how millions of volunteers and tens of thousands of anti-hunger charities bring aid to the tens of millions of people who live on the brink of hunger in the planet’s richest country. The newest HIA, released Monday, reports that 46.5 million people in 15.5 million households received food from the roughly 58,000 separate programs operated by the network’s affiliates.

The World’s Most Repressive Regimes Delight In U.S. Crack Down In Ferguson

After years of being critiqued for its own crackdowns against dissidents, China has begun to use the ongoing clashes between police and protesters and police in Ferguson, MO as a way to lambaste the United States for hypocrisy, joining other repressive regimes in expressing no small amount of schadenfreude at the current situation.
The Chinese government either directly owns or oversees all media within the country, including the Xinhua news service. As such, the op-ed published on Monday from commentator Li Li can be read as being an unofficial statement from Beijing. In the article, Li takes the United States to task for not yet realizing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, noting that “despite the progress, racial divide still remains a deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart, just as manifested by the latest racial riot in Missouri.”

Ten areas of regulatory failure that contributed, directly or indirectly, to the Lac-Mégantic disaster:

My report, Willful Blindness?, released today, summarizes the regulatory failures behind the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. The federal government has so far not acknowledged any culpability or responsibility for the accident. On the contrary, the Minister has blamed the accident on the negligence of individuals and not on gaps in the regulatory regime.

In reality, there were multiple regulatory failures. It is one thing if there was just one or two, but the many failures contributing to the accident begs the question: was this a case of willful blindness?

Federal government puts polar briefings on ice

Federal scientists who keep a close eye on the Arctic ice would like to routinely brief Canadians about extraordinary events unfolding in the North.

But newly released federal documents show the Harper government has been thwarting their efforts.

In 2012, as the Arctic ice hit the lowest point ever recorded, scientists at the Canadian Ice Service were keen to tell Canadians about the stunning ice loss.

The Longest River In The U.S. Is Being Altered By Climate Change

Climate change is altering the flow of the Missouri River, the nation’s longest, causing increased streamflow in some parts and decreased flow in others, according to a new report.
The report, published by the U.S. Geological Survey, looked at streamflow data from 227 streamgages — tools that estimate water flow — in the Missouri River from over the past 50 years. According to the study, almost half of the streamgages showed either increasing or decreasing trends in flow since 1960. In the eastern part of the river’s watershed, which includes parts of North and South Dakota and Iowa, streamflows have increased, while in western states like Montana and Wyoming, streamflow has decreased.

A Movement Grows in Ferguson

In the eight days since Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, what began as an impromptu vigil evolved into a sustained protest; it is now beginning to look like a movement. The local QuikTrip, a gas station and convenience store that was looted and burned on the second night of the protests, has now been repurposed as the epicenter for gatherings and the exchange of information. The front of the lot bears an improvised graffiti sign identifying the area as the “QT People’s Park.” With the exception of a few stretches, such as Thursday afternoon, when it was veiled in clouds of tear gas, protesters have been a constant presence in the lot. On Sunday afternoon the area was populated by members of local churches, black fraternity and sorority groups, Amnesty International, the Outcast Motorcycle Club, and twenty or so white supporters from the surrounding area. On the north side of the station, a group of volunteers with a mobile grill served free hot dogs and water, and a man stood on a crate, handing out bright yellow T-shirts with the logo of the National Action Network, the group led by Al Sharpton.

How the Defense Industry Convinced Congress to Militarize Local Cops

The Ferguson, Missouri, police department's display of armored cars, officers in riot gear, and assault rifles over the past week shocked Americans who didn't realize how much military equipment is now available to local police departments. But since the 1990's, more than 8,000 federal, state, tribal, and local police agencies across the country have armed themselves with the military's excess gear, free of charge. The inventory includes everything from office furniture and first aid kits to aircraft, armored cars, rifles and bayonets, according to the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of Defense office that manages the transactions under an initiative called Program 1033.

In June, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced an amendment to de-fund aspects of the program. Grayson's bill would have exempted certain military equipment, including planes and armored cars, from Program 1033. That effort failed; just 62 members of the House of Representatives voted for the measure, with 355 voting no. Maybe the outcome shouldn't have been a surprise: According to a new analysis of campaign finance data, the politicians who voted against Grayson's bill received, on average, 73 percent more campaign donations from defense industry sources from 2011 through 2013 than their peers who voted for it.

The analysis—conducted by the Berkeley-based research group MapLight using data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics—also found that of 59 representatives who received more than $100,000 from the defense industry from 2011 through 2013, all but four voted against the amendment.

Original Article
Author: By Alex Park

Ferguson Police Fire Tear Gas At Protesters Hours Before Curfew

FERGUSON, Mo. -- Police cleared Ferguson of protesters Sunday hours before a state-imposed curfew was set to take effect, throwing tear gas at individuals who were out in the streets over the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.

What had started out as a loud, party-like gathering -- with protesters honking horns, dancing and yelling -- quickly dissolved into chaos as the midnight curfew approached. Police, equipped with armored vehicles, shields and gas masks, fired tear gas down Ferguson's West Florissant Avenue.

How neonicotinoid pesticides are poisoning Canada's agriculture

Agriculture in Canada is heading down a dangerous path, promoted by Health Canada's willingness to continue to approve the use of neonicotinoids despite the harm done by these chemicals. On July 24, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) registered a "seed protectant" with the neonicotinoid clothianidin, manufactured by Valent Canada, Inc. for commercial use on wheat.  
Members of the public have the opportunity to file a notice of objection when a pesticide is registered for a major new use. However, PMRA has already received five notices of objection to previous registration decisions on clothianidin to which it has not yet responded.

The Ones Left Behind

The fire this time is about invisibility. Our society expects the police to keep unemployed, poorly educated African-American men out of sight and out of mind. When they suddenly take center stage, illuminated by the flash and flicker of Molotov cocktails, we feign surprise.

The proximate cause of the rioting in Ferguson, Mo., is the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was stopped, a witness has said, by a white policeman for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk. Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown at least six times, according to a private autopsy and, reportedly, one conducted by the county medical examiner. Two of those bullets struck him in the head.

Oilsands, Deepwater Among Riskiest Oil Projects In The World: Report

CALGARY - Some of the world's costliest energy projects are in Alberta's oilsands and some could be cancelled without higher oil prices, according to a new report by a London-based financial think-tank that focuses on climate risk.

The study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative highlighted 20 of the biggest projects around the world that need a minimum oil price of US$95 a barrel to be economically viable.

Canada's Doctors Decline To Join Anti-Marijuana Campaign

The main groups representing Canadian doctors have declared they will not participate in Health Canada's upcoming anti-drug campaign targeting young people.

“The educational campaign has now become a political football on Canada's marijuana policy,” said a joint statement released Saturday by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

How the mainstream media is trying to get us to forget about Mike Brown

Two days after 18-year old Mike Brown was shot eight times by a Ferguson County police officer, comedic actor Robin Williams hanged himself. As a relatively middle-class white person of a certain vintage, I saw my social media feed shift from displaying the odd note about the latest mainstream example that we live in a racist, white supremacist police state (a fact visible at all times to low-income people, persons of colour and colonized peoples) to all Williams, all the time. Even Barack Obama issued a statement a matter of hours after Williams died and didn't release anything about Brown until three days after his murder.

Yet Another Man, Omar Abrego, Died After Police Beating In Los Angeles

Los Angeles Police Department officers allegedly beat a man to death little more than a week before their fatal shooting of Ezell Ford, KTLA is reporting. An officer broke his hand during the incident, Cmdr. Andrew Smith, an LAPD spokesman, told the local TV station.

Roughly four blocks from where Ford was later shot and killed, Omar Abrego pulled over outside his home and was beaten, still wearing his Amtrak uniform, on Aug. 2. A preliminary coroner's report suggested that Abrego, who had been driving erratically, was on cocaine.

Alabama Official Proposes Ten Commandments Display, Says It 'Has Nothing To Do With Religion'

In an effort to educate the public on the divine origins of America's founding documents, Jackson County Commissioner Tim Guffey (R) has proposed erecting a Ten Commandments monument, as well as displays of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, outside the county courthouse.

"If you look at the documents that was written -- the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence -- they are all stemmed from the word of God, from the Ten Commandments," Guffey, who proposed the projects at a recent commission meeting, told WHNT on Thursday.

Police In Ferguson Let High-Profile Journalists Go While Charging Regular Folks With Crimes

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday night, reporters from The Huffington Post and The Washington Post made national news when police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, assaulted and arrested them for not obeying orders quickly enough. Outrage, a demand for answers and calls for press freedom grew as word of what happened spread on social media. Shortly thereafter, the two men were released, in part, it seemed, due to their high-profile status.

Here's How Lawmakers Use The War On Terror To Defend Police Militarization

WASHINGTON -- Local police forces need military equipment to fight terrorism, members of Congress argued in June when they successfully beat back legislation that would have restricted the Defense Department's ability to transfer such weaponry to police departments.

During a late-night debate on an annual defense appropriations bill, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) tried to attach an amendment to demilitarize the police. Specifically, his measure would have blocked a Defense Department program that provides surplus military equipment -- Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and M16 assault rifles, among other things -- to local law enforcement, free of charge.

The Economics of Police Militarism

Two crucial battles broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, this week. The first began with the public airing of sorrow and rage after the death of the eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer, on Canfield Court, in the St. Louis suburb, at 2:15 P.M. last Saturday. Then came the local law enforcement’s rejoinder to the early round of protests. Officers rolled in with a fleet of armored vehicles, sniper rifles, and tear-gas cannisters, reinserting the phrase “the militarization of policing” into the collective conscience. The tactical missteps by the town’s police leadership have been a thing to behold. (They’re also to be expected; anyone doubting as much should pick up Radley Balko’s “The Rise of the Warrior Cop.”)

Ferguson Erupts Again; Tear Gas Fired

After a relatively calm Friday in Ferguson, Missouri, tension flared again early Saturday morning as protesters rushed into a convenience store that Michael Brown was accused of robbing and were confronted with tear gas from police wearing riot gear. Multiple stores were said to be robbed, while other protesters protected several stores from looting.

Former U.N. Specialist for Palestinian Rights Suspects War Crimes

Richard Falk, who for six years served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, argues in a recent interview that there is no evidence that Israel’s air campaign has decreased rocket fire from Gaza. Likewise the claim that Hamas uses human shields is unfounded and Israel’s siege of Gaza is missing from media accounts of the cause of the current conflict, he contends.

What Matters in Ferguson

Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. This is what matters.

The name of the officer has been released (it’s Darren Wilson, who has been on the force for six years), alongside allegations that Brown was involved in a robbery. This does not matter.

It doesn’t matter because people accused of robbery should not be shot. It doesn’t matter because people who put their hands up in surrender should not be shot. It doesn’t matter because a body should not lie in the streets for hours after being shot by a police officer.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Indicted For Abuse Of Power

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday for allegedly abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption — making the possible 2016 presidential hopeful his state's first indicted governor in nearly a century.

A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit run by the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg, a Democrat, was convicted of drunken driving, but refused Perry's calls to resign.

Jim Flaherty's State Funeral Costs Revealed In Government Documents

OTTAWA — The federal government spent just over $400,000 on the state funeral of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, while it spent only $2,571 on late Liberal deputy prime minister Herb Gray’s service.

Documents obtained by the Huffington Post Canada through the Access to Information Act show taxpayers have already spent $324,589 on Flaherty’s service, with another $80,000 still to be paid out.

‘There will be no pipeline’

The waters of Nak’al Koh are a deep emerald, almost black at times.

The forest presses in at the sides — a mixture of spruce, pine, aspen, birch and willow — so thick it seems like a primeval blanket.

A fierce rain rises up suddenly, hammering the water and the aluminum boat that Stuart Todd navigates, strengthening the already deep, tangy-earth smell.

John Baird Heckled By Protesters Over Canada's Israel-Gaza Position

LONDON, Ont. - Protesters who oppose Canada's position in the Israel-Palestinian conflict interrupted a speech Friday by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in London, Ont.

Baird was speaking to the Chamber of Commerce about global challenges that could affect Canada's economy and security in the future when the incident happened.

Canada To Move Weapons Into Iraq To Bolster Kurdish Forces

OTTAWA - Two of Canada's military cargo planes will soon be ferrying weapons to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq — and the Harper government sounds prepared to do even more to counter the "barbarous attacks" of hard-line Islamic militants.

A CC-177 Globemaster and a CC-130J Hercules transport will begin shuttling arms provided by allies to the Iraqi city of Irbil over the next few days, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

Koch Brothers' Toxic Legacy Detailed In New Report

WASHINGTON -- A report released Friday by a top Democratic political research group details what it calls a "legacy" of layoffs and environmental damage at subsidiaries of Koch Industries, the holding company owned by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

The 51-page report was produced by the group American Bridge 21st Century. Titled "Legacy of Loss: Koch Industries' Layoffs and Environmental Harm in Battleground States," it looks at 12 states where Democrats are facing tough races in the fall.

The Reflections of a Black Father

The shooting death of eighteen year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday, August 9, 2014, is tragic but not new. Far too frequently, black and brown men have their lives snuffed out by over-aggressive police personnel who seemingly construct scenarios after the fact to justify their use of deadly force. What I find most frightening is the fact that once the public outrage subsides, it is business as usual until the next police shooting or unprofessional conduct. Let's be clear about this: I am just as saddened by the loss of black life at the hands of other blacks as I am at the loss of life at the hands of police personnel. Police, however, have a sworn duty to serve and protect the lives of all citizens irrespective of race or ethnicity.

'Beyond Outraged' Family Of Michael Brown & Their Attorneys Release Statement

The family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last week, released a statement Friday.

The statement, from both the family and their lawyers, was tweeted out by attorney Ben Crump after police announced Darren Wilson as the officer who shot Brown, and named the teen as a suspect in a robbery that occurred before the shooting.

Cops Should Be Cops—Not Combat Troops

By now, you may well have seen the video of heavily armed cops in Ferguson, Missouri, apparently firing tear gas at a film crew from Al Jazeera America and sending the journalists fleeing. Coming on top of the arrest of two reporters, one from the Washington Post and the other from the Huffington Post, it’s yet another stain on the reputation of the St. Louis police, which has been struggling to handle the protests that have followed the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen-ager.

My colleagues Jelani Cobb, who is in Ferguson, Amy Davidson, and Jay Caspian Kang have done excellent jobs of covering the fatal police shooting and its aftermath. The teargassing incident was so gratuitous, however, that it demands an additional comment.

Ukraine Artillery Destroys Part Of Russian Armored Column: Poroshenko

KIEV, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Ukraine said its artillery destroyed part of a Russian armored column that entered its territory overnight and said its forces came under shellfire from Russia on Friday in what appeared to be a major military escalation between the ex-Soviet states.

Russia's government denied its forces had crossed into Ukraine, calling the Ukrainian report "some kind of fantasy", and in turn raised its own serious concerns about activity by the U.S.-led NATO defense alliance near its borders.

South Carolina Woman Arrested For Cursing In A Grocery Store

Telling someone to “stop squishing the fucking bread” will get you handcuffed, tossed into the back of a police car and arrested for disorderly conduct in North Augusta, South Carolina, as one unfortunate woman discovered last Sunday.

Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger

On the political right, it's pretty popular these days to claim that the left exaggerates scientific worries about hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." In a recent National Review article, for instance, a Hoover Institution researcher complains that 53 percent of Democrats in California support a fracking ban "despite the existence of little if any credible scientific evidence of fracking's feared harms and overwhelming scientific evidence of its environmental benefits, including substantial reductions in both local and global pollutants."

B.C. government using affordability excuses to underfund education and health

Affordability is becoming the new buzzword of the B.C. government. In the dispute with teachers, for example, the Minister of Education has repeatedly argued demands for lower class sizes and improved class composition, as well as fair wages, are unaffordable and unrealistic (see here). When parents and businesses make the case for more public funding for child care, fed up with the high fees and long wait lists, the official government line is that B.C. can't afford a $10-a-day program (see here).

Jamie Dimon’s $13 Billion Secret

For much of 2013, Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of the formidable JPMorgan Chase & Company, was telling anyone who would listen that it was unfair and unjust for federal and state prosecutors to blame him and his bank for the manufacture and sale of mortgage-backed securities that occurred at Bear Stearns & Company and at Washington Mutual in the years leading up to the financial crisis. When JPMorgan Chase bought those two failing firms in 2008, Dimon argued, he was just doing what Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner had asked him to do. Why should his bank be held financially accountable for the bad behavior at Bear and WaMu?

Amazon Vs. Hachette: What Would Orwell Think?

“Review of Penguin Books” might qualify as the single most obscure thing that George Orwell ever wrote. It was published in the March 5, 1936, issue of New English Weekly, when the writer was thirty-two years old. Like other struggling novelists, Orwell was doing a lot of reviewing to get his name in print, and, in this case, he’d undertaken the thankless task of reviewing a batch of ten Penguin paperbacks, sold at sixpence apiece, including such immortal titles as “The Owls’ House,” by Crosbie Garstin, and “Dr. Serocold,” by Helen Ashton. A few years ago, when I was compiling a two-volume edition of Orwell’s essays, “Review of Penguin Books” would not have made the long list even if I’d remembered that it existed. All the stranger, then, that this eight-decade-old trifle surfaced last weekend in the business dispute between Amazon and Hachette and, from there, moved onto Twitter and into the Times.

Michael Brown shooting: The police's military-like response to Missouri riots

Video shows men dressed in camouflage, carrying rifles, riding armoured vehicles around the streets of Ferguson — the small U.S. town that erupted in protests after an unarmed black teen was killed by police over the weekend.

But are they soldiers or police officers? It's hard to tell, and that's part of the problem.

The militarization of state and local police forces — now outfitted with the armoured vehicles, battering rams and flashbang grenades once reserved for troops — is a rising concern in the U.S. and a trend that experts suspect is seeping north of the border.

The Constitutional Crisis in Ferguson, Missouri

The constitutional crisis that has developed in Ferguson, Missouri, begins as is so often the case with a human tragedy. Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager has lost his life, following an incident—now under investigation not just by local authorities but by the US Department of Justice—in which a witness tells CNN, “I saw the police chase him…down the street and shoot him down.”

When circumstances spin out of control, as they clearly have in Ferguson, it is essential always to remember the human element at the heart of the matter. In another time and another place, the singer Peter Gabriel nailed this with the gripping refrain of “Biko,” his anti-apartheid anthem that steadily reminded the world, “A man is dead, a man is dead.”