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, September 24, 2014

Turkey Mulls Military Role Against ISIS

NEW YORK (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he is considering expanding support for Western and Arab operations against the Islamic State group to include military involvement.

His comments Tuesday to Turkish reporters in New York mark a potential shift in Turkey's position on international efforts to fight the group, hours after the U.S. and Arab allies launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Today in demonstrating contempt for Parliament

Just after 2:15 p.m. this afternoon, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, leader of Her Majesty’s official Opposition, democratically elected member of Parliament for the riding of Outremont, stood in the House of Commons and spoke aloud a fairly straightforward question he thought the government should be responsible for answering. This being within the 45 minutes reserved each day for question period, Mulcair was well within both his rights and responsibilities to do so.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has failed to answer clear questions about his ill-defined military deployment in Iraq,” Mulcair said by way of preamble. “Yesterday, Conservatives refused, once again, to answer in this House, but the member for Selkirk-Interlake stated on CPAC that the mission will end on Oct. 4. Will the Conservative government confirm that the 30-day Canadian commitment in Iraq will indeed end on Oct. 4?”

'Band-Aid' schools: Just the thing for a government suffering the death of a thousand cuts

So we can probably all see how this one is going to roll out: Premier Jim Prentice announced four new "starter" public schools in under-served Calgary suburbs today. That's just Calgary.

Today or tomorrow, if he likes, he can announce four more in Edmonton, a couple more the next day in Red Deer or Lethbridge, and so on, just to keep the good news rolling, day after cheerful day, at least until the next session of the Legislature begins.

BC Gov't Slow to Respond to Info Requests, Routinely Deletes Email

Over the past two years, the British Columbia government has become significantly worse at responding to information requests on time, and some people in Premier Christy Clark's office routinely delete their email, according to a report published today by the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

"I'm discouraged by what I found, not surprised," Denham said in an interview. "I do think the public should be concerned about this report... A lack of timeliness erodes the public's right to know."

By law, public bodies have 30 business days to respond to requests.

Harper Would Rather Make a Quick Buck Than Provide Canadians With Clean Water

In honour of Small Change Fund's National Freshwater Fund, let's talk about all the issues facing our freshwater supply in this country. Canadians are becoming dangerously complacent about the amount of freshwater we have available to us; a luxury we are able to afford due to the fact that we live in a country with the world's third largest freshwater reserves. We waste about 335 litres a day -- almost three times more than European nations and second only to the United States. With these statistics, it seems inconceivable to think that there are actually communities here in Canada that have limited access to clean drinking water.

Amazon Resorts To Wordplay To Keep Salaries Low

Two thousand Amazon warehouse workers went on strike in Germany on Monday. As The New York Times explains, the German labor union Ver.di is trying to pressure Amazon into classifying its warehouse workers as retail employees. Doing so would force Amazon into a collective wage agreement on par with the rest of Germany's retail sector, instead of being able to set wages on its own.

Washington Gripped by Madness: When War Is Not War, Combat Is Not Combat, and Boots Are Never on the Ground

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech at Riverside Church in New York City titled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." In it, he went after the war of that moment and the money that the U.S. was pouring into it as symptoms of a societal disaster. President Lyndon Johnson's poverty program was being "broken and eviscerated," King said from the pulpit of that church, "as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war... We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor." Twice more in that ringing speech he spoke of "the madness of Vietnam" and called for it to cease.

Ebola Cases Could Rise To 1.4 Million By January, CDC Says

NEW YORK/GENEVA, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Global experts issued stark new warnings of the scale of West Africa's Ebola outbreak on Tuesday, with the U.S. government estimating between 550,000 and 1.4 million people might be infected in the region by January.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its projection was based on data from late August and did not take into account a planned U.S. mission to fight the disease, so the upper end of the forecast was unlikely.

Coal CEO Blasts 'Insane, Regal Administration Of King Obama' For Regulating Emissions

Robert Murray, the outspoken chief executive officer of Murray Energy Corporation, compared the White House to the "Gestapo" and said that he is so worried about the reaction to his opinions on environmental regulations that he has hired former CIA agents as security, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"They're trying to silence me, but I won't be silenced," he said, according to the Post-Gazette. "They use the power of the government to silence me, but that won't happen."

America Has More Low-Paying Jobs Than Any Other Developed Country

America may be exceptional in many ways, but it also tops the charts of a new, troubling ranking.

The U.S. has more low-paying jobs than any other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an economic group of 34 developed countries, according to a research note released by Morgan Stanley on Monday.

Economists Ellen Zentner and Paula Campbell based their analysis on the OECD Economic Outlook Report, which documents employment and labor trends in each member nation.

Paul Ryan Declares War Against Math

Paul Ryan has emerged from his long post-election period of repositioning, soul-searching, and secretly but not secretly visiting the poor. He had been caricatured as an Ayn Rand miser and attacked as a social Darwinist, merely for proposing the largest upward transfer of wealth in American history. Ryan has identified the root cause of his difficulties, and it is fiscal arithmetic.

The new Ryan, now fully formed, emerges in an interview with Philip Klein that is revealing precisely for its evasiveness. The overview of Ryan’s new strategy must be pieced together from several elements.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Thinks This Justice Is Responsible For Halting Access To Abortions

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thinks that the Supreme Court’s conservative attitude on abortion access can be traced to one of her colleagues.

“To be frank, it’s one person who made the difference: Justice [Anthony] Kennedy,” Ginsburg told Elle. “He was a member of the triumvirate used to [reaffirm] Roe v. Wade in the Casey case, but since then, his decisions have been on upholding restrictions on access to abortion.”

Black Men in America Are Traumatized by Racism—Are We Listening?

The topic of racism often generates discussions of justice, equality, freedom and human rights. But what about trauma? Although trauma is often accepted as a predictable outcome of war, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing violence, racism is only recently being viewed as a cause of trauma.

In an earlier column, based on conversations I had with three friends—Jon, Mark and Hop—who are black men, I shared the racial animosity they faced on a daily basis. Their experiences are typical of most black men. But it is just as important to consider how racism impacts their mental health as it is to confront the cause of their suffering.

As US Bombs ISIS in Syria, Even Some Pro-War Pundits Express Skepticism

The war whoops of the pundit class helped propel the nation into yet another doomed military adventure in the Middle East. Ghastly beheadings by a newly discovered enemy were the frightening flashpoint. The president ordered bombers aloft and US munitions were once again pounding battlefields in Iraq—and as of last night, in Syria. The president promised to “degrade and destroy” this vicious opponent.

Here we go again, I thought. This is how modern America goes to war. When superpower Goliath is challenged by sudden savagery, it has no choice but to respond with brute force. Or so we are told. Otherwise, America would no longer be a convincing Goliath. When war bells clang, politicians of every stripe find it very difficult to resist, lest they look weak or unpatriotic. And the American people, as usual, rally around the flag, as they always do when the country seems threatened. Citizens and members of the uniformed military are tired of war, but both in a sense are prisoners of the media-hyped hysteria that is the usual political reflex. Shoot first, ask questions later.

How the Koch Network Exploited the Veterans Affairs Crisis

As the scandal over waiting lists at Veterans Affairs hospitals exploded earlier this year, there was widespread outrage—and justifiably so, as the country learned that more than 100,000 veterans waited over ninety days for care or never received it.

An ever-present force in this debate was a group called Concerned Veterans for America. Its leader, Peter Hegseth, frequently appeared on cable news segments about the scandal, and CVA was often mentioned on the floor of the Senate.

What Is Khorasan and Why Did the US Just Bomb It?

On Monday night, a US-led coalition launched air strikes in Syria against members of ISIS, the extremist Islamic group occupying territory in Iraq and Syria. As a "last-minute add-on," NBC reports, the United States also targeted a different terrorist group: a little-known outfit called Khorasan. This Al Qaeda affiliate gained some public attention earlier this month after US officials reported that the extremists were plotting to sneak bombs on to US airplanes. Last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted that the group "perhaps" posed as great a threat to the United States as ISIS. On Tuesday morning, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby maintained that strikes on ISIS and Khorasan were "very successful." The US targeted Khorasan's "training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building and command and control facilities," the Pentagon told the Washington Post.

Wireless Costs In Canada Among Highest, Identical Among Carriers: PC Mag

Six years after the federal government began attempting to create a fourth national wireless carrier in Canada, the big three telcos are still almost identical on wireless prices and remain among the most expensive in the world.

That’s the findings of a PC Mag review of Canadian wireless service, its second annual look at the state of telecom in Canada.

A ‘few hundred’ Canadians have joined ISIL or are likely to: Kenney

A “few hundred” Canadians have joined extremist Muslim organizations like ISIL or are likely to do so, says Conservative Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney.

Speaking to reporters after addressing a Canadian Club luncheon, Kenney said the threat posed by home grown radicalization is very real but shouldn’t be overblown.

“I wouldn’t say it has gone off the rails, let’s not exaggerate the threat. We’re probably talking about at most a few hundred Canadians who have either joined these terrorist organizations or are inclined to do so.”

Trudeau To Boycott Sun News After Ezra Levant's Wedding Photo Rant

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau won’t be answering Sun Media’s questions anymore.

The Liberal leader's office issued a short statement Tuesday saying the organization’s television network, Sun News, crossed an editorial line when it aired a particularly offensive rant by host Ezra Levant during his show last week.

Netflix battles with CRTC over disclosure

OTTAWA - One of the hottest dramas to hit the fall season isn't on your TV screen — it's happening behind the scenes in a battle of wills between the country's fastest-growing video supplier and Canada's broadcast regulator.

Netflix has told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission it won't turn over sensitive corporate information, despite being ordered to do so at a hearing last Friday.

The move calls into question the very authority of the broadcast regulator to institute any rules governing Internet-based video service providers, says new media expert Michael Geist.

10 lessons for Canadians from the Scottish referendum

The Scottish independence referendum offered Canadians lessons on democracy and nation.
1. Fully 87 per cent of eligible voters exercised their democratic franchise. Most impressively, 97 per cent of Scots registered to vote. Canadians turnout rates for federal elections have declined from the 80 per cent range to about 60 per cent. The Canadian permanent voter list inspires little confidence. Lower turnout rates equate with less democracy.

The Conservative war on refugees continues

The Conservatives are it again -- using a low-profile private member's bill to get some nasty stuff through Parliament.
In this case, the Harper government is after people who come to Canada as refugees.
As it stands now, all people who arrive in Canada claiming refugee status under international law -- that is, based on a legitimate fear of persecution or harm in their home countries -- are entitled to provincial welfare from the moment they arrive in Canada.

Tempers flare in the House over Iraq mission non-answers

The government's refusal to answer questions about Canada's deployment in Iraq sparked a flare-up during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Given the already testy atmosphere in the House, that may not be all that surprising. What was unexpected, however, was how Speaker Andrew Scheer chose to handle it.

After several attempts to elicit an answer to even the most basic questions on Canada's 30-day mission — like, for instance, just when those 30 days officially began — it was clear to observers that NDP Leader Tom Mulcair had pretty much had it.

Canada Housing Bubble Doesn't Scare CMHC Chief

The organization in charge of insuring Canada's mortgages isn't overly concerned about a housing bubble.

In a speech to Montreal's Saint James Club last Friday, Evan Siddall, president and CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), downplayed any concern surrounding a housing bubble "based on what we know."

He qualified that statement by saying that the CMHC has a tool known as the Housing Price Analysis and Assessment (HPAA) framework that helps it evaluate the potential for risk in Canada's housing market.

8 Things To Know About The Economy, From Canada's Big Bank Economists

Top economists from Canada’s big five banks assembled for a rare team prognostication Monday to weigh in on everything from how Millennials living with their parents are holding back the U.S. housing sector to why Canada will wait longer than the U.S. to raise interest rates.

UN Climate Summit: 4 Things To Know About The Talks

New York City might as well be the place for a "bold, new course of action" on climate change, as the conveners of the 2014 Climate Summit hope.

Channelling his inner Frank Sinatra, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon likely thought that if climate change commitments can be made there, they can be made anywhere.

In a rousing display of solidarity, tens of thousands of people marched through New York and other cities worldwide ahead of Tuesday's summit to call for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Conservative government spends $20M on media monitoring

The Conservative government has spent $20 million on media monitoring contracts since late 2012, with some of the largest on behalf of a Prime Minister’s Office increasingly focused on message control. Monitoring of ethnic media in multicultural communities was of particular importance for the Tories.

The money is being spent at the same time as recently released figures from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show the federal government’s roster of communications staff is more than 3,300 and is expected to cost nearly $263 million this fiscal year.

Tim Kaine: Congress Has Opened The Door To The 'Cheney Pre-emptive War Doctine'

WASHINGTON -- As bombs dropped over Syria Monday evening, marking the beginning of a U.S.-led effort to eradicate the Islamic State in that country, most members of Congress were back at home.

The legislative branch adjourned its business at the end of last week to tend to elections. In doing so, it left unresolved the issue of authorizing the war that President Barack Obama would start days later. Congressional inaction didn't upend the White House's plans; the administration had already claimed it had legal authority to launch such strikes in Syria.

Says Targets Presented No 'Imminent Threat'

Hours before the U.S. launched airstrikes and cruise missiles into Syria, a senior administration official had told the Guardian that neither of the two groups targeted in the Monday night strikes -- the Islamic State militant group or the Al-Qaeda splinter group Khorasan -- posed an imminent threat to the U.S.

Justin Trudeau: An alternative to the Tories’ broken EI plan

Canadians need a plan for jobs and growth. After nearly a decade of Conservative government, unemployment is still stubbornly high and economic growth is sluggish. In the past 12 months, only 15,000 full-time jobs have been created in Canada. That’s why Liberals are focused on a jobs and growth agenda.

Since I became leader of the Liberal Party last spring, we have been talking about solutions to grow our economy and give Canadians a real and fair chance to succeed — infrastructure investment, access to post-secondary education, strengthening our trade relationships and innovation.

This Supreme Court Case Will Decide Whether Companies Can Treat Pregnant Women Like Crap

It's a rare day when pro-choice activists, anti-abortion die-hards, and evangelical Christians all file briefs on the same side of a Supreme Court case. But that's what happened recently when the National Association of Evangelicals, Americans United for Life, Democrats for Life of America, and the National Women's Law Center joined forces to support Peggy Young, a Maryland woman alleging that she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination.

Shock and Awe in Syria: It Never Works

The London pan-Arab daily “Hayat” [Life] reports this morning on the air strikes conducted on ISIL positions in Raqqah, Syria, by the United States and several Arab allies.

The Syrian government acknowledged that the US gave fair warning it would bomb Raqqah to the Syrian ambassador to the UN.  That is, the US may not militarily be coordinating with Syria, but it does inform the regime of enough information to avoid a shoot-down.

Not only ISIL positions but also some targets of the Jabhat al-Nusra or Succor Front (the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) were struck by the US and its allies.  Once you enter a war, it doesn’t stay limited.

The Solace of Oblivion

On October 31, 2006, an eighteen-year-old woman named Nikki Catsouras slammed her father’s sports car into the side of a concrete toll booth in Orange County, California. Catsouras was decapitated in the accident. The California Highway Patrol, following standard protocol, secured the scene and took photographs. The manner of death was so horrific that the local coroner did not allow Nikki’s parents to identify her body.

“About two weeks after the accident, I got a call from my brother-in-law,” Christos Catsouras, Nikki’s father, told me. “He said he had heard from a neighbor that the photos from the crash were circulating on the Internet. We asked the C.H.P., and they said they would look into it.” In short order, two employees admitted that they had shared the photographs. As summarized in a later court filing, the employees had “e-mailed nine gruesome death images to their friends and family members on Halloween—for pure shock value. Once received, the photographs were forwarded to others, and thus spread across the Internet like a malignant firestorm, popping up on thousands of Web sites.”

Tesco Suspends Execs Over Alleged Book-Cooking

LONDON (AP) — Tesco, the world's second-largest supermarket chain after Walmart, has suspended four executives and launched an accounting investigation after admitting that its half-year profit was overstated by 250 million pounds ($407 million).

The scandal deepens the financial woes for the British company, which on Monday had to issue its third profit warning in two years as it struggles to compete with low-cost rivals. The announcements shocked investors, with shares plunging 11.6 percent to 203 pence at market close Monday. The problems have driven the company's stock down 46 percent in the past year.

Barney Frank And Chris Kluwe Back Campaign To End Discrimination Against Atheists

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe have signed on to a new campaign to end discrimination against atheists, agnostics and the nonreligious.

Openly Secular, a coalition of more than two dozen secular organizations, seeks to debunk misconceptions about secular people by encouraging nontheists to come forward and raise awareness for the 29 percent of Americans who identify as nonreligious.

In an Openly Secular campaign video posted Friday, Kluwe, who described himself as "cheerfully agnostic and openly secular," urged nonbelievers to advocate for their rights.

WHO: Ebola Outlook Is ‘Bleak’

The World Health Organization has issued a very frightening report that basically says as worried as we’ve all been about Ebola in West Africa, things are much, much worse.

The report, which was co-authored by one of the scientists who discovered the disease, says containment efforts are simply inadequate and nothing in the planning stages will be able to realistically tackle the virus, which has already infected and killed thousands of victims.

Tracking Immigrants, Refugee Claimants Via Electronic Tools Gets Tentative OK: CBSA Study

OTTAWA - Electronic monitoring could be a useful alternative to locking up some immigrants and refugee claimants, says an internal study by Canada's border agency.

The research report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, looks at the use of wired ankle bracelets, voice-recognition systems and other tracking tools in seven countries.

It suggests electronic monitoring can save money and reduce the administrative burden of managing detainees in holding cells.