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, November 03, 2014

You'll Probably Never Know Why The CIA Spied On The Senate

WASHINGTON -- When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took to the Senate floorearlier this year to allege that the CIA had spied on the U.S. Senate, she confirmed the existence of a secret document.
That document, she said, could further validate a scathing report on the spy agency's torture practices that is expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks.

Women's Rights Group Demands Investigation Into Rape Allegations At Detention Center

A women’s rights group is demanding that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights investigate allegations of sexual abuse at a Texas immigrant detention center that houses families.

In a press statement issued Friday, UltraViolet pointed to multiple allegations of abuse contained in an open letter published by the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund earlier this month against Karnes County Residential Center.

Harper's Silence On Anti-Muslim Backlash Disheartens Muslim Groups

OTTAWA - Muslim groups are disappointed that Stephen Harper hasn't spoken out against a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since two separate attacks by jihadist sympathizers left two Canadian soldiers dead last week.

The prime minister has not publicly uttered one word of support for Canadian Muslims following the incidents, which Harper and the RCMP have labelled acts of terrorism.

Defiant Del Mastro: This isn’t over yet

LINDSAY, Ont. - The fight of his political life is far from over, Dean Del Mastro declared Friday after an Ontario judge who found his credibility lacking convicted the former Conservative MP of spending too much on his 2008 election campaign.

After the ruling, a calm but defiant Del Mastro insisted that he would continue to sit in the House of Commons — even though anyone convicted of breaking the Canada Elections Act is barred from doing so for at least five years.

Arizona School Board Votes To Get Rid Of Textbook Pages That Discuss Abortion

An Arizona school district is making sure that students are not educated about abortion in biology class.

This week, Gilbert Public Schools’ governing board voted to remove pages from an honors biology textbook because the pages talk about mifepristone, a pill that can induce an abortion, reports local outlet 12 News. Members of the board contended that the pages violate a state statute, which prevents school districts from providing instruction that "that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion," says the outlet.

Dean’s done — and Harper’s eye for talent is as keen as ever

If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funnier than Rick Mercer on St. Paddy’s Day with a straw in his rum and Coke.

On Friday, MP Dean Del Mastro — late of the Conservative caucus, lately an independent — was found guilty on all counts by Justice Lisa Cameron in his election expenses trial. It turns out he did “overspend” (read “cheat”) in the 2008 federal election.

How did he do it? By making a personal contribution of $21,000 to his own campaign … and, uh, failing to report it. By knowingly submitting a falsified document to Elections Canada. And in my books, he kept up the charade that he had done nothing wrong by lying his brains out for years.

Canada to open the door wider to ‘higher calibre’ immigrants

The Conservative government plans to increase immigration levels significantly as it heads into an election year in 2015.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said on Friday that Canada aims to welcome as many as 285,000 new permanent residents next year, which is the highest planned total “in recent history,” according to the Minister.

The last time Canada admitted as many as 280,000 permanent residents was in 2010. A greater proportion, nearly 65 per cent of all admissions, will be economic immigrants and their dependents. That’s up from a target of 62 per cent in the planning for 2013 levels. Mr. Alexander said the goal reflects the government’s view that immigration is crucial to Canada’s economic prosperity.

Homegrown terrorism proves police need more powers: Kenney

The threat of homegrown terrorism arising from Calgary and elsewhere points to the need to boost police powers in Canada, Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney said Friday.

RCMP have charged five individuals — including three from Calgary — with passport fraud as part of efforts to intervene with young Canadians they suspect have becoming radicalized into violent extremism and are preparing to go abroad to fight in the Middle East.

Another Calgary man who had converted to Islam was killed fighting in Syria in December or January for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Income splitting would not benefit low-income single parents, minister says

Income splitting would not benefit single parents because the majority are considered low income, says the Minister of State for Social Development, Candice Bergen.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon asked Bergen whether the government would consider adopting income splitting for single parents — similar to what is offered in France where a parent could split their income with their child, instead of a spouse.

Shuswap chief’s salary highest in country

OTTAWA — An elderly B.C. First Nations chief and his ex-wife, along with one of their sons and a grandson, received more than $4.1 million in remuneration over the past four years.

Shuswap First Nation Chief Paul Sam, 80, gets a tax-free salary that has averaged $264,000 over that period to run a tiny reserve near Invermere, a resort community near the Alberta border.

The Shuswap have 267 members, of whom just 87 live on the reserve.

Forecast: Right Turn Ahead -- The newest Senate Republicans will cement the party's conservative consensus.

October 30, 2014 GUTHRIE CENTER, Iowa—In her campaign appearances, GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst is composed, courteous, and emphatically unthreatening.

Her speeches focus less on ideology than biography, especially her experience commanding a transport company for the Iowa Army National Guard in the second Iraq War. Now a state senator, she talks less about Washington's failures than the success of what she calls "the Iowa way." Her grandest rhetorical flourish comes when she promises "common sense … good government … working for the people of Iowa."

Officer Shot And Killed Psychiatric Patient While Transporting Him To The Hospital

Psychiatric patient Adam Daniel Lopp was being transferred to the hospital in a police vehicle when he was killed by an officer in Iredell County, North Carolina this week.
Sgt. Scott Culler, a Davidson County deputy, said he he shot and killed Lopp on the side of Interstate 40 because he was under attack. Lopp, a 41-year-old patient who was involuntarily committed, has no known criminal history — not even an arrest, and other deputies did not report any other trouble with Lopp, according to local reporting by NBC Charlotte.

A windfall for the rich, a sop for everyone else

Everyone was expecting Prime Minister Harper to announce a significant change to the tax system Thursday — one that would allow income-splitting for families with children aged 18 and younger.

He did a lot more than that. He basically delivered much of the 2015 budget.

According to the material provided with Harper’s announcement, the total cost of the proposed tax changes amounts to $3.1 billion this year and $4.6 billion in 2015-16. In the February budget the government forecast a deficit of $2.9 billion this year and a surplus of $6.4 billion in 2015-16. Clearly, the better-than-expected outcome for the last fiscal year has carried forward into this year and next year, allowing the government to make yesterday’s announcements. (We won’t know the final numbers until Joe Oliver delivers his long-awaited fall Economic and Fiscal Update next month.)

Chevron Refuels Debate over Corporate Money in Schools

The Non-Partisan Association says it would have forced the Vancouver School Board to accept a charitable education program run by Chevron, which provided about $200,000 in school supplies and field trips to the Surrey district last fall.

The issue became part of the Vancouver municipal campaign last week when NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe criticized Vision Vancouver school board chair Patti Bacchus for rejecting Chevron's funding program -- called Fuel Your School -- for "ideological reasons."

I Was a Climate Change Denier

I, a scientist with a PhD in microbiology and immunology, was a climate change denier. Wait, let me add, I was an effective climate change denier: I would throw on a cloak of anecdotal evidence, biased one-sided skepticism and declare myself a skeptic. Good scientists are skeptics, right? I sallied forth and denied every piece of evidence that was presented to me for a relatively long time.

It feels strange when I look back -- I inadvertently fell into almost every pitfall of pseudoscience, shutting my eyes and repeating a series of mantras, such as "I don't believe it!" "Why does it even matter?" and "I don't care!"

In Polley's Wake, Downstream Alaska Fears BC's Mining Boom

Roaring at seven knots up the U.S. side of the Stikine River, a grizzly bear of a man named Mark Galla steers our jet boat through a gauntlet of protruding logs, attempting to point out the exact point at which Alaska becomes British Columbia. Against the vastness of the surrounding wilderness, the border is invisible, almost arbitrary. Until recently, most Alaskans couldn't see it either.

That all changed in August when YouTube video highlights of the Mount Polley mine disaster circulated through panhandle towns like Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell. Media from across the state drew comparisons between Mount Polley and the tailings dams that could one day accompany the half-dozen open pit mines proposed in the wild river watersheds that Alaska and B.C. share -- the Unuk, Taku and, more than anywhere else, the Stikine.

Here Are The Top Super PAC Mega-Donors In 2014 Elections

WASHINGTON -- In Iowa, a television station recently created a new program so it could sell more advertising to political campaigns, party committees and independent groups bombarding voters in this year's battleground states.
The advertising crush is being driven in large part by big-spending independent groups, including super PACs and nonprofits, which are on pace to set a record for independent spending in a midterm election cycle. The groups are set to spend more than $600 million -- double their expenses from the 2010 elections. Super PACs accounted for $332 million in spending through the end of October, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Latest Debate Over Taxing the Rich Misses One Crucial Fact

Hard work. Technology. Globalization. Skills. Grit. These are just some of the reasons used to explain why the top 1 percent has more than doubled its share of the national income in the past thirty years. Whatever the cause, progressives have historically responded to inequality by advocating higher taxes on the wealthy.

Who’s Buying the Midterm Elections? A Bunch of Old White Guys

This is the year of the mega-donor: just forty-two people are responsible for nearly a third of Super PAC spending in the 2014 election cycle. Super PACs, meanwhile, are outspending the national parties. The list of would-be kingmakers includes Tom Steyer, the former hedge-fund manager who’s poured out $73 million to elect environmentally friendly Democrats; Michael Bloomberg, who’s distributed upwards of $20 million on behalf of both sides; and Paul Singer, the “vulture-fund billionaire” and powerful Republican fundraiser.

New Voting Restrictions Could Swing the 2014 Election

On Monday, October 27, eight activists with Moral Monday Georgia occupied the office of Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, holding signs that read “Let Us Vote.”
There are 800,000 unregistered African-American, Hispanic and Asian eligible voters in Georgia. This year, the New Georgia Project registered 85,000 of them. After the applications were submitted, Kemp subpoenaed the group’s records and accused them of voter registration fraud. It turned out that only 25 of the forms were fraudulent and the group was required by law to turn them in regardless.

Republicans Tried to Suppress the Black Vote in North Carolina. It's Not Working.

"THE FIRST QUESTION I ask my customers is: Are you registered?" Jolanda Smith says.

Smith runs a hair salon on the outskirts of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her hair is dyed lavender and her arms are covered in heart and shooting-star tattoos. In the lead-up to the midterms, she's lending her storefront to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's reelection campaign. Smith passes out sample ballots and flyers and tells customers how to register and where their polling location is. Last Saturday morning, she was talking God and voting as she straightened a customer's hair.

"It's: Are you gonna vote, yes or no?" she says, sectioning off a lock and pulling it through the iron. "God gave us a choice, and the choices are always yes or no. It's not maybe. It's not, 'Let me think about it,' 'cause those are excuses…On down from choosing Christ to voting. You gonna vote? Yes or no?"

To Beat Obamacare, Opponents Resurrect an Old Birther Argument

The Supreme Court today is considering whether to hear a challenge to Obamacare that could deprive 8 million people of their newly acquired health insurance. If the court does decide to take the case, though, it will be buying into a legal argument that is frequently deployed by a different group of anti-Obama litigants—those who are trying to challenge the president's citizenship.

The case, King v. Burwell, is one of a pair of lawsuits (the other is Halbig v. Burwell) seeking to strike a blow to the heart of the Affordable Care Act. As I explained last year:

Ebola: Canada suspending visas for residents of outbreak countries

Canada is following in Australia's footsteps and has closed its doors, effectively immediately, to people from the West African countries battling Ebola.

In a move that puts Canada at odds with the World Health Organization, the federal government said Friday it is suspending the issuance of visas for residents and nationals of countries with "widespread and persistent-intense transmission" of Ebola virus disease. As well, work on permanent residence applications for people from the affected countries is also being suspended.

Canada accused of 'boasting' with doctored photos of Canadarm2

The Canadian government is being criticized for digitally pasting its "Canada" logo onto a photo of the Canadarm2 robotic arm that appears on federal government websites.

The Canadian Space Agency says the use of the photo was a mistake that the government is taking steps to correct.

The Economist flagged the doctored photo in an online opinion piece posted Friday titled "Canada's astronomical boasting."

It’s not women who need to ‘smile and move on’

We are hypocrites. It’s high time that we face this reality and release ourselves from our cozy but illusory blanket of equity, diversity and inclusiveness in Toronto.
Each time we turn a blind eye to sexism, racism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination, we reinforce our own mantle of hypocrisy. And in this past 2014 election season, we showed our true colours (pardon the pun) — quite ironically, via an exercise that is meant to be the foremost symbol of equal democratic representation and respect for the rights of all people.