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.]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ukip's 'Blue-Collar' Tax Plans Would Actually Help The Rich Most, Experts Warn

Ukip's new "blue-collar platform", offering policies like raising the point at which the 40p rate income tax kicks in to £45,000, has been panned as "windbaggery and spin" that would end up helping the rich most.

Tim Aker, Ukip's head of policy, said that the party wanted to "stop George Osborne's fiscal drag for middle earners". He also indicated that Ukip would abolish income tax for those on the minimum wage.

Mount Polley, a tragedy foreseen

B.C.'s economy – already facing what seems like the perfect economic storm of stagnant job growth, an acute skills shortage and the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision on First Nation land title claims – can now add one more low pressure system into that mix: the Mount Polley Mine disaster.

In its wake to date: government announced delays to Imperial Metals' Red Chris Mine and the suspension of the environmental assessment of the Morrison open-pit mine project northeast of Smithers. For the mining sector – who had wanted environmental assessments and mine approvals reduced from upwards of ten years to as little as three – Mount Polley threw a big wet dish rag on that one as well.

Imperial Metals Mount Polley disaster could cost $500 million, but bonds only a fraction of this amount

Analysts say cleanup costs for Imperial Metals' Mount Polley tailings disaster could cost anywhere from $50 million to $500 million, but the security bonds available today to help cover that are now a fraction of that.

Documents from the Ministry of Energy and Mines on July 25, 2013 suggest that Mount Polley Mining Corporation (owned by Imperial Metals) was expected to pay security bonds of $38 million by 2023, and that it had deposited $14.5 million as of March 2014.

$24M ad campaign for Keystone pipeline had little impact: survey

America and Canada are friends. That’s the main message Americans got from phase one of the federal government's multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to promote Canadian oil in Washington and drum up support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

That’s no surprise to some Washington-based Canada-U.S. relations experts who say the first leg of the campaign was too polite and, well, too Canadian to have any real effect.

Strange Fruit in Ferguson

The people of Ferguson, Missouri, have rallied and marched and protested for eleven straight days and nights. They want justice for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed black boy killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. They’ve been met with tear gas, assault rifles, rubber bullets, armored police cars, dogs and the National Guard. And they show no signs of letting up.

But why?

Bank Of America Reaches Record $17 Billion Settlement With U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bank of America has reached a record settlement of nearly $17 billion to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, officials directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

One of the officials, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement isn't scheduled until Thursday at the earliest, said the bank will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion.

The Racist Housing Policies That Helped Fuel The Anger In Ferguson

Ferguson, MO, which erupted in chaos this week after police shot an unarmed teenager, has seen extensive racial segregation over the last century. The long history of discriminatory policies has bred simmering tensions about race that have burst forward after the death of Mike Brown.
Ferguson is a prime, and egregious, example of discriminatory housing policies and segregation. Out of 50 metro areas across the country, the St. Louis area where Ferguson is located is the ninth most segregated between whites and blacks.

Lac-Mégantic: Government oversight, so to speak

Let us dispense with two defences the government can use after the Transportation Safety Board report on the Lac-Mégantic catastrophe, both of which are true but which fail, nonetheless, to let government off the hook.

First, the report (here’s a summary) identifies 18 “causes and contributing factors” to the accident, and only three are the direct responsibility of Transport Canada. So for the most part, 47 people died because the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail company was very bad at doing its job. If MMA had been more vigilant, Transport Canada would not have had to… well… not be very vigilant either.

Strapped federal criminal law policy section not sustainable: report

The federal Justice Department’s criminal law policy section is growing demoralized. It has lost several top lawyers but not replaced them, and has weathered budget cuts to the point where “it is not operating in a manner that is sustainable.” These are just some of the findings of an evaluation of the once-influential section, posted quietly to the department’s website earlier this summer. The internal report undoubtedly reflects the frustrations of bureaucrats coping with dwindling resources. More than that, though, it suggests the Conservatives are pursuing their high-profile criminal law agenda without getting the sort of deep research and analysis the section previously provided.

SWAT-Team Nation

The moment the assault rifles surrounded her, Angie Wong was standing in a leafy art-gallery courtyard with her boyfriend, a lawyer named Paul Kaiser. It was just past 2 A.M., in May, 2008. Wong was twenty-two years old and was dressed for an evening out, in crisp white jeans, a white top, and tall heels that made it difficult not to wobble. The couple had stopped by a regular event hosted by the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), a red brick gallery with the aim of “turning Detroit into a model city,” and arrived to find a tipsy, jubilant scene: inside, gallerygoers were looking at art and dancing to a d.j.; outside, on the patio, several young women were goofily belting out the lyrics to “Hakuna Matata,” from “The Lion King”:

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase.
It means no worries for the rest of your days.
It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata!

Mining Spill Near U.S. Border Closes 88 Schools, Leaves Thousands Of Mexicans Without Water

An acid spill from a large copper mine in northern Mexico is keeping 88 schools closed starting Monday due to uncertainty over the safety of drinking water. The 12-day-old spill, which sent 10 million gallons (40,000 cubic meters) of toxic wastewater into portions of the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, may keep schools closed for over a week according to the Associated Press.

Russia Has Already Invaded Ukraine: Strobe Talbott

Strobe Talbott, one of America's top Russia experts who translated Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs into English, was Deputy Secretary of State from 1994-2001. He is presently President of the Brookings Institution. He spoke with WorldPost editor Nathan Gardels on Monday, August 18:
WorldPost: How should the West respond if Putin actually invades Ukraine?
Strobe Talbott: They have already invaded Ukraine. I find it maddening and incomprehensible how governments and the media keep talking about the possibility, the danger, the threat of Russia invading.

Why won't Canada help the injured children of Gaza?

Just imagine... 

Imagine that you are a 10 year-old child born in Gaza. By now you would have witnessed 11 of what Israel calls "Operations" having such fanciful names as Rainbow, Autumn Cloud, Summer Rain, Warm Winter, Returning Echo, Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge, the last three actually being devastating all-out wars.  

In our haste to politicize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one often overlooks those most vulnerable. One forgets the horrendous price that Gaza's children are paying, robbed of a future, maimed and deeply traumatized, or killed. A study conducted by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (CMHP) after Operation Cast Lead found that 75 percent of the children over the age of six were suffering from one or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Why won't Canada help the injured children of Gaza?

Original Article

'They Killed My Beautiful Lake'

A telephone ringing in the predawn darkness does not bring good news.

It was 5 a.m. on the morning of B.C. Day, a statutory holiday for much of the province but a regular summer workday at the Northern Lights Lodge on Quesnel Lake. The eight rooms in the lodge were occupied, as were five cabins.

The owners were enjoying what they expected to be their final summer operating the fly-fishing lodge before retirement. The property had been recently listed for sale. A lifetime of labour was nearing an end. "We were cramming for finals," said Skeed Borkowski, 66, who owns the lodge with his wife, Sharon.

Canada Revenue Agency delists foreign charities

The Canada Revenue Agency’s small list of approved foreign charities has been whittled down to zero, meaning Canadian donors hoping to give money to former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s foundation, for example, are out of luck if they were banking on a tax credit.

The move has some charities and charity regulation experts scratching their heads. In recent years, the government has usually allowed a small, but seemingly arbitrary, list of foreign charities to be treated the same as domestic ones for tax purposes.

Government Memo Criticized Top Biologist For Comments On Oilsands

One of Canada’s top biologists says he will not stop talking to the media after a government memo accused him of bias and speaking out of turn about the environmental impact of Alberta’s oilsands.

Queen’s University professor John Smol said Monday he was shocked and outraged to learn earlier this month of an internal Natural Resources Canada memo criticizing him over comments he made to reporters about a study on lakes near the oilsands.

“They cannot stop me from talking about research done in my lab,” Smol told Huffington Post Canada.

For-Profit College Grads Have The Same Shot At A Job Interview As People Who Never Went To College

In their television ads, for-profit colleges promise to deliver credentials that will jump-start students’ careers. The people lured in by that marketing end up deeper in debt than community college students but fare no better with hiring managers, according to a new study. In fact, for-profit graduates don’t even gain a job hunting advantage over applicants with no college experience at all.
The study results are based on a simple experiment that the authors believe is the first of its kind performed on for-profit schools. Researchers sent nearly 9,000 fake resumes in response to job postings in six different categories of work and compared the response rates their fake applicants got to see if a for-profit college degree would be worth more in the job market than an equivalent community college certification. Some of the fictional resumes listed no education beyond high school in order to evaluate the claim from for-profit supporters that the industry “draws some students into postsecondary schooling who otherwise would not have attended college at all” and should therefore be viewed as a useful bridge to economic mobility.

Veterans Watchdog: Half Of Badly Wounded Ex-Soldiers Not Getting Disability Cheques

OTTAWA - A new report by Canada's veterans watchdog says nearly half of the country's most severely disabled ex-soldiers are not receiving a government allowance intended to compensate them for their physical and mental wounds.

Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent also concluded that those who are receiving the permanent impairment allowance, along with a recently introduced supplement, are only awarded the lowest grade of the benefit.

Five Children Murdered After They Were Deported Back To Honduras

Between five and ten migrant children have been killed since February after the United States deported them back to Honduras, a morgue director told the Los Angeles Times. Lawmakers have yet to come up with best practices to deal with the waves of unaccompanied children apprehended by Border Patrol agents, but some politicians refute claims that children are fleeing violence and are opting instead to fund legislation that would fast-track their deportations.

The Disease of American Democracy

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother?

Cop Being Sued Over Beating Is Now a Ferguson City Councilwoman

In 2009, police in Ferguson, Missouri, arrested Henry M. Davis on suspicion of driving under the influence and took him to jail. What followed is described in court documents as "physical contact between the officers and Mr. Davis." One officer, Kim Tihen, allegedly "struck [Davis] in his head with a closed fist and hit [him] in the head with handcuffs." Davis suffered a concussion and severe facial lacerations, while an officer was left with a broken nose. Afterwards, prosecutors charged Davis with four counts of destruction of property—because his blood had dirtied the officers' uniforms.

The Government May Soon Send This Reporter to Jail. Here Are the Embarrassing Secrets He Exposed.

The Obama administration has fought a years-long court battle to force longtime New York Times national security correspondent James Risen to reveal the source for a story in his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Risen may soon serve jail time for refusing to out his source. The fight has drawn attention to Obama's less-than-stellar track record on press freedom—in a recent interview, Risen called the president "the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation." But lost in the ruckus are the details of what Risen revealed. Here's what has the government so upset.

Capt. Ron Johnson Defends New Protest Rules In Ferguson: 'We're Not Violating Your Rights'

FERGUSON, Mo. -- Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson defended the new rule that protesters cannot stand and congregate in one place, saying it would protect community members from criminal elements who were trying to hide in their midst and cause trouble.

"We are not going to let groups congregate and build into larger groups because that's what causes problems," Johnson told reporters in a press briefing Monday night, in response to a question from The Huffington Post. "Because what happens is, the peaceful protesters gather, and the other element blends in. Now they blend in, and that's what's been causing us some issues. So by allowing them to walk, that's not going to let the other element blend in and define this group."

Lakes across Canada face being turned into mine dump sites

CBC News has learned that 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly "reclassified" as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland.

Environmentalists say the process amounts to a "hidden subsidy" to mining companies, allowing them to get around laws against the destruction of fish habitat.