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, October 23, 2014

Man Who Believes God Speaks to Us Through "Duck Dynasty" Is About to Be Texas' Second-in-Command

As a Texas state senator, Dan Patrick has conducted himself in a manner consistent with the shock jock he once was. Patrick—who is now the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor—has railed against everything from separation of church and state to Mexican coyotes who supposedly speak Urdu. He's even advised his followers that God is speaking to them through Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

Two SWAT Raids. Two Officers Dead. One Defendant Is Black, One White. Guess What Happened.

One Friday last May, the sun had not yet risen when a SWAT team ignited a flash-bang grenade outside Marvin Guy's apartment in Killeen, Texas. Officers were trying to climb in through a window when Guy, who had a criminal record and was suspected of possessing cocaine, opened fire. Four officers were hit; one of them was killed.

Five months earlier, 100 miles away, a SWAT officer was shot during a predawn no-knock raid on another house. In that case, too, police threw a flash-bang grenade and tried to enter the residence. Henry "Hank" Magee, according to his attorney, grabbed his gun to protect himself and his pregnant girlfriend. "As soon as the door was kicked in, he shot at the people coming through the door," says his attorney, Dick DeGuerin. With his legally owned semi-automatic .308 rifle, Magee killed one of the officers.

Women Still Can't Walk Alone Without Being Harassed

Nearly every woman I know has a self-defense strategy when she has to walk alone at night. A popular one is the key trick: you slide a key between two of your fingers and it serves as a makeshift pocketknife. Or more specifically, something you can quickly ram into your assailant's eye. To be extra safe, clutch your keys for the whole walk.

I've been lucky. I haven't been assaulted; or rather, not on the street...yet. Too many friends haven't been as lucky.

Harper Named World's 'Worst Climate Villain' After Damning Report

Canada does well at many things.

Earlier this year, Canadian cities were listed among the world's top places to live. The country ranks high with the best when it comes to wealth and it's been praised foremerging from the financial crisis in decent shape.

Budget Watchdog: Ottawa Must Be Wary Of Turning Surplus Into Tax Cuts

OTTAWA - Canada's budget watchdog is urging Ottawa to proceed with caution if it decides to transform the country's expected surplus into new program spending or permanent tax cuts.

Otherwise, the government risks plunging Canada back into deficit once economic growth slows, warns a report released Tuesday by Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette.

The message comes as the Harper government prepares to unveil tax cuts ahead of next year's election — long-promised reductions that have been contingent on Canada's return to a balanced budget.

Harper’s Hail Mary: Fighting an election on terrorism

Can the prospect of terrorism save Stephen Harper?
If you had doubts about whether the Harper government intended to make terrorism and the mission against Islamic State an election issue, they should have been resolved on Monday.
In St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, police were still examining the crime scenewhere a driver had mowed down two soldiers. But Stephen Harper couldn’t wait. Prompted by a planted question from a Saskatchewan MP about “unconfirmed reports” of a possible terrorist attack, the prime minister announced that he was extremely troubled by what he had already heard.

Mitch McConnell Will Say Anything for a Ham

In an election that could propel Senator Mitch McConnell to become Senate majority leader—a position that would give him wide sway over climate change policy, including influence over the Environmental Protection Agency—, the Kentucky politician declined to respond to a question earlier this month about whether he believes climate change is a real problem. “I’m not a scientist,” McConnell responded in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board.

The Supreme Court Eviscerates the Voting Rights Act in a Texas Voter-ID Decision

In 1963, only 156 of 15,000 eligible black voters in Selma, Alabama, were registered to vote. The federal government filed four lawsuits against the county registrars between 1963 and 1965, but the number of black registered voters only increased from 156 to 383 during that time. The law couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of voter suppression.

The Voting Rights Act ended the blight of voting discrimination in places like Selma by eliminating the literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented so many people from voting. The Selma of yesteryear is reminiscent of the current situation in Texas, where a voter ID law blocked by the federal courts as a discriminatory poll tax on two different occasions—under two different sections of the VRA—remains on the books.

Your vote: It's what the Harper Conservatives fear the most

Less than a year from now, on October 19, 2015, Canadians will vote, or not, in the next federal election. If the next election is like four of the last five contests, about 40 per cent of Canadians will not cast a ballot on election day.
Choosing not to vote is as good as voting Conservative. If you did not vote in the last election, you put Stephen Harper in the prime minister's office with a majority government.
The 25/60 rule says that if one Canadian party can get 25 per cent of the population to come out and vote for it, that party can win a majority government so long as only 60 per cent of eligible voters turn up to vote.

Noam Chomsky at United Nations: It Would Be Nice if the United States Lived up to International Law

After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Amy Goodman interviewed the world-renowned linguist and dissident before an audience of 800 people. Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” Chomsky said.

Author: --


Last Sunday, citizens in Hamburg, Germany’s second biggest city, not only re-elected Angela Merkel as chancellor but also gave their electoral mandate to the city authority to buy back the energy grid in their Hanseatic city. Why? Because they concluded that the private sector cannot be trusted with public services – and that community ownership and participatory governance is the way to go.

Tackle housing, affordability issues with new tax policy

VANCOUVER — Debate about homelessness. Debate about housing affordability. Debate about increasing neighbourhood density. In Vancouver, discussion about the simple act of trying to put a roof over one’s head has become incendiary.

Now, a respected policy consultant is offering a few ideas he believes could help address the city’s housing anxiety.

Tex Enemark, a former Consumer and Corporate Affairs deputy minister in B.C., asserts changes to tax policy are needed to promote rental-housing construction, not just here but across Canada.

Fiddling while the economy burns

Let’s begin with a gross understatement: The outlook for the global economy is not good.

In its October 2014 World Economic Outlook (WEO), the International Monetary Fund reduced its forecast for global economic growth to 3.3 per cent for 2014, 0.4 points lower than the April 2014 WEO forecast. The global growth projection for 2015 was lowered to 3.8 per cent. China accounts for one-third of this growth; take China out of the equation and the growth forecast for the global economy would be less than 2.5 per cent.

The IMF downgrade — just the latest sliding forecast in a long run of them since 2010 — is a harsh wakeup call for G20 leaders meeting next month in Australia. The recovery isn’t recovering. The word of the hour is ‘risk’.

Unreported in Canada: the Globe and Mail’s fight to suppress freedom of the press

You can be forgiven, dear Contrarian reader, for not knowing that a hearing last week in the Ontario Divisional Court sought to determine how far wrongdoers can go to suppress the freedom of those they have wronged to speak about the wrongdoings. And for not knowing that the wrongdoer in the case is Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, or that the person wronged was once its most celebrated columnist, Jan Wong.
You can be forgiven because, in an revelatory display of unanimity, the Canadian news industry has suppressed coverage of the court battle. The sole exception* is a bilious piece of character assassination by National Post columnist Chris Selley, the sort of journalist who makes a fine living comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

Is this a prime minister?

Is this a prime minister? That’s the question a notorious Conservative TV ad asked about Jean Chrétien as the 1993 election campaign dragged to a close.

Unfortunately, the photo it captioned focused on Mr. Chrétien’s crooked smile and that allowed him, reacting as the victim, to talk about how he’d had to live with people making fun of his facial paralysis all his life. After that, the Tories were dead. In what must be the intergalactic record for heroes to zeroes, they won only two seats, down from 169 in 1988.

Premiers united over ‘extraordinary’ Energy East pipeline project

While opposition to the proposed Energy East pipeline might be heating up, the new premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick are united in their support for the project intended to link the oilsands to East Coast refineries.Alberta Premier Jim Prentice met with New Brunswick’s Premier Brian Gallant on Monday at McDougall Centre, with each promising to support TransCanada Pipeline’s planned project.

“The essence of this, in terms of our two provinces, this is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Prentice, who won the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government last month.

“Allowing Alberta’s energy, in partnership with the people of New Brunswick, to access the Atlantic basin ... will afford prosperity to both our provinces.”

Foreign scientists call on Stephen Harper to restore science funding, freedom

Hundreds of scientists around the world are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end "burdensome restrictions on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists."

The call was made in an open letter drafted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that represents U.S. scientists and uses science to advocate for environmental sustainability.

Think tank calls for review of charity audits

OTTAWA - A left-leaning think tank is raising new questions about the possibility of political interference in audits of charities.

The Broadbent Institute says a review of financial records from 10 right-leaning organizations show none of them report carrying out any political activities despite public statements which could be interpreted otherwise.

Yet those groups seem to be escaping the scrutiny of Canada Revenue Agency audits into the political activity of charities even as a host of left-leaning groups are under the microscope, the institute says in a report being released Tuesday.

Voters' list numbers don't match StatsCan data in 100 ridings

In nearly one-third of all federal ridings, the number of people on the voters list maintained by Elections Canada exceeds Statistics Canada’s calculations of the number of people who should be eligible to vote, suggesting potential problems with the accuracy of the data used on election day.

In 100 of the 308 ridings in the 2011 election, the National Register of Electors contained more entries than the number of Canadian citizens age 18 or older – the only people eligible to cast a ballot – estimated in the National Household Survey conducted the same year, a Citizen analysis has found. Most of these ridings with discrepancies were in Quebec.

Feds Back off Patent Reform, Thanks to Corporate Opposition

The Internet Association, a U.S.-based industry association that counts most of the biggest names in the internet economy as its members (including Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, and Yahoo), recently released a policy paper on how Canada could become more competitive in the digital economy. The report's recommendations on tax reform generated some attention, but buried within the 27-page report was a call for patent reform.

The internet giants warned against patent trolling, which refers to instances when companies that had no involvement in the creation or invention of a patent demand licences or other payments from legitimate companies by relying on dubious patents. Studies indicate that patent trolling has a negative impact on economic growth and innovation and is a particularly big problem in the U.S., which tends to be more litigious than Canada.

Indian status: Why Lynn Gehl's court challenge matters

Lynn Gehl, a First Nations woman from Ontario, was in court today defending her right to belong to her family, her community and her Nation. Lynn is prevented from enjoying her Anishinaabe identity because her mother was unwed.

Imagine if Canadians had to worry about losing their Canadian citizenship or the right to live in their home province based on who they married or their gender.

Amazon Deforestation Reaching New Heights—and the Future May Be Worse

Over the past two months, the Brazilian Amazon has registered a sharp spike in deforestation.
Official figures have not yet been released by the Brazilian government, but new satellite footage shows that the rate of deforestation in the region rose 29 percent last year, and it’s picking up speed, according to a report by The Guardian:
Satellite data indicates a 190% surge in land clearance in August and September compared with the same period last year as loggers and farmers exploit loopholes in regulations that are designed to protect the world’s largest forest.
Figures released by Imazon, a Brazilian nonprofit research organisation, show that 402 square kilometres – more than six times the area of the island of Manhattan – was cleared in September.
The Guardian noted that Brazil’s election season is also impacting the deforestation issue, as President Dilma Rousseff’s administration has forged ties with agribusiness groups and her challenger, Aécio Neves, is a pro-business candidate. Given these options for the country’s top political position, the “world’s largest forest” is in imminent danger of losing its title in the near future.

Original Article
Author: Donald Kaufman

How a US and International Atomic Energy Agency Deception Haunts the Nuclear Talks

In 2008, the Bush administration and a key IAEA official agreed on a strategy of misrepresenting Iran's position on the authenticity of intelligence documents, which they used to establish an official narrative of Iran "stonewalling" the IAEA investigation. That narrative continues to shape Obama administration policy in the nuclear talks.

The accusation by US and other Western diplomats that Iran has been "stonewalling" the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) investigation of alleged past nuclear weapons work has been a familiar theme in mainstream media coverage of Iran's relations with the IAEA for years.

Harper Rejects Charges Of Bias In CRA's Scrutiny Of Birdwatchers

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected claims Monday that his government has targeted a small group of birdwatchers for their political activities, saying the Canada Revenue Agency makes its decisions independently, free from political interference.

"There are review processes in place for the Canada Revenue Agency that have been there for many years, long predating this government," Harper told the House of Commons on Monday.

"These are not political decisions or political matters."

Justin Trudeau Says Stephen Harper's Ego Is Driving Combat Mission In Iraq

TORONTO – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “ego” that led him to send six CF-18s to participate in airstrikes in Iraq, rather than a concern for Canada’s long-term interests.

Two weeks ago, the Conservative government decided the CF-18s would join the international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as two surveillance aircrafts and one in-air refueler. Trudeau refused to back the government’s combat mission in Parliament, saying Harper had not made the case for war in Iraq and that, as a result, Canada should only engage in non-combat roles such as training of Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, medical support, logistical support or expanded humanitarian and refugee support.

Elizabeth Warren Is the Star of This Show

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she isn’t running for president. At this rate, however, she may have to.

The Massachusetts Democrat has become the brightest ideological and rhetorical light in a party whose prospects are dimmed by—to use a word Jimmy Carter never uttered—malaise. Her weekend swing through Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa to rally the faithful displayed something no other potential contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, including Hillary Clinton, seems able to present: a message.

Prison whistleblowers in England and Wales being threatened with dismissal

Whistleblowers in the Prison Service in England and Wales are being threatened with dismissal for raising serious concerns about their ability to keep inmates safe and their fears over soaring levels of violence.

The attempts to silence staff have been condemned by a Conservative member of parliament, who was approached in confidence by a number of officers working at a prison in his constituency during the summer with details of how staffing shortages were causing concerns over safety.

Militarily, Germany Should Stay Out of the War on ISIS

While I'm writing this text, the fate of the Kurdish city of Kobani is unclear. But the situation of Kobani, stuck between the Turkish army and the murderous mercenaries of the Islamic State, throws a spotlight on the political and moral constitution of the West, which would itself like to be thought of as a "community of shared values."

Turkey is playing its own game. An intervention with its troops only comes into question, as Ankara is communicating to Washington, if it is allowed to wage war against Assad. In the meantime it is blocking the supply routes for the Kurds, yet still letting potential ISIS mercenaries pass freely. The supply routes of ISIS also still seem to be intact.

Hong Kong Leader Accuses 'External Forces' Of Fueling Protests

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong's leader has claimed that "external forces" are participating in student-led pro-democracy protests that have occupied parts of this financial capital for more than three weeks, but provided no evidence to back his accusation.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's statement in a televised interview Sunday was the first time he has alleged foreign involvement in the unrest, echoing accusations by China's central government, which also has not backed them with any evidence. Leung's statement comes just before his government is scheduled to hold talks with student leaders on Tuesday.

Another Month, Another Global Heat Record Broken

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth is on pace to tie or even break the mark for the hottest year on record, federal meteorologists say.

That's because global heat records have kept falling in 2014, with September the latest example.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit (15.72 degrees Celsius). That was the hottest September in 135 years of record keeping.

Nigeria Declared Ebola-Free After Containing Virus

ABUJA/LAGOS, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Nigeria was declared free of the deadly Ebola virus on Monday after a determined doctor and thousands of officials and volunteers helped end an outbreak still ravaging other parts of West Africa and threatening the United States and Spain.

Caught unawares when a diplomat arrived with the disease from Liberia, authorities were alerted by Doctor Ameyo Adadevoh, who kept him in her hospital despite protests from him and his government, and later herself died from the disease.

The Imperative of Revolt

TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Work-Sharing: A Socialist Alternative to Layoffs?

One of the major overlooked problems driving our country’s jobs crisis isn’t unemployment, it’s just not having enough work. The shadow figure that stalks behind the unemployment rate issued every few weeks by the Labor Department is underemployment: people who wish for, and need, full-time work, but are only able to get part-time hours, or have gotten “discouraged” from job seeking. Including those factors, the broad measure of underemployment hovers around 12 percent.

Workers lacking full-time employment are often full-time struggling: juggling multiple part-time gigs, suffering from loss of healthcare and other social protections, and living amidst long-term joblessness across the community.

Fewer Arctic warships, leased tankers a sign of more modest shipbuilding plan

OTTAWA - The Harper government is trimming its expected order of Arctic patrol ships and evaluating a set of unsolicited proposals to convert civilian cargo ships for use by the Canadian navy, The Canadian Press has learned.

Both steps are a sign that more modest expectations have been set for the government's national shipbuilding strategy, which has yet to deliver a single vessel some three years after the shipyards were chosen in 2011.

The navy is set to retire its two replenishment ships, HMCS Preserver and the fire-damaged HMCS Protecteur, without having any replacements ready to sail, despite a decade-long replacement program.

Peter de Groot's sister says, 'He was executed'

The sister of Peter de Groot, the man shot and killed by police in Slocan, B.C., said today that her brother had been "executed" and that the family was considering filing a civil suit.

Danna de Groot was speaking at a news conference in Vancouver, surrounded by members of her family and their lawyer, Cameron Ward.

In an emotional and lengthy statement, she detailed her many efforts to persuade the police to accept her help in finding her brother, the frustration she felt at misinformation being spread about him and the apparent lack of interest shown in bringing about a peaceful conclusion.