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.]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Americans’ cellphones targeted in secret spy program

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of cellphones through fake communications towers deployed on airplanes, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

UN: ISIS Denies Food Aid, Medicine To Hundreds Of Thousands

GENEVA (AP) -- The Islamic State group has denied food and medicine to hundreds of thousands of people and hidden its fighters among civilians since a U.S.-led coalition began launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, a U.N. panel investigating war crimes in Syria reported Friday.

The panel said Syrians and Iraqis are subjected to an Islamic State "rule of terror" from its calculated use of public brutality and indoctrination to ensure the submission of communities under its control, and that the tactics include repeated violations against children and women.

North Korea To Send Special Envoy To Russia

SEOUL, Nov 14 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is to send a personal envoy to Russia, state media said on Friday, the latest in a series of diplomatic moves by the isolated country as it fends off accusations of crimes against humanity.

North Korean diplomats have been on a vigorous campaign in recent months to counter a U.N. resolution urging the country's referral to the International Criminal Court, a move which it has dismissed as part of a U.S.-led plot to destroy its political system.

U.N.: Obama Takes Torture Seriously? Give Us A Break

WASHINGTON -- America, the Obama administration says, takes its history of torture seriously. President Barack Obama outlawed the harsh practices of the Bush era days after taking office. The government has released documents, attempting to demonstrate accountability. There’s a 6,300-page Senate report that has been given to the White House and even a Justice Department investigation into abuses of the Bush years.

The United Nations doesn’t buy it.

A U.S. delegation, in a first appearance before the U.N. Committee Against Torture since 2006, told the panel in Geneva this week that it rejects Bush administration interpretations of torture statutes and affirms U.S. commitment to closing the dark chapter of the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program.

Obscure Nebraska Panel May Hold Sway Over Keystone XL Pipeline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Congress is suddenly scrambling to vote on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but the fate of the oft-delayed $5.4 billion project could still wind up in the hands of an obscure commission in Nebraska that regulates telephones, taxi cabs and grain bins.

The Nebraska Supreme Court is expected to rule within weeks on whether the Nebraska Public Service Commission must review the pipeline before it can cross the state, one of six on the pipeline's route. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman gave the green light in January 2013 without the panel's involvement.

Michael Brown Protesters Stage 'Die-In' In Missouri

ST. LOUIS, Nov 16 (Reuters) - A crowd of a couple hundred demonstrators, angry about the fatal August shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, took to the streets of St. Louis on Sunday, briefly blocking a major intersection in protest.

Dozens of people lay down in the street outside of a downtown theater hosting a film festival, pretending to have been shot by other protests playing the role of police officers in an action intended to evoke the memory of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who died 100 days ago in front of his home in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.

It's a Slippery Slope for Canadian Species at Risk

In 2012, Canada's Fisheries Act was changed so that protecting fish habitat would no longer be mandatory in all cases. The government's rationale was simple: conservation laws were overly invasive, and went "well beyond what is required to protect fish and fish habitat." Over the years, similar arguments have been made for laws that manage Canada's rivers and lakes, and for the conduct of environmental assessments on industrial projects -- we are doing too much, more than is needed to protect biodiversity.

In a new scientific article authored by myself and colleagues from the University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, we have found that 86 per cent of species considered to be at risk of extinction in Canada are either deteriorating or failing to recover. Despite the fact that many of these species should be receiving protection, the government has largely failed to identify the critical habitat necessary for the species to recover, and as a result this habitat may be going unprotected.

Radio-Canada Supporters March In Montreal Ahead Of CBC Job Cuts

MONTREAL - Supporters of CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada have a message for the federal government: no more cuts.

Thousands marched through downtown Montreal on Sunday as part of a series of protests across Quebec as well as in Moncton, N.B.

Nicolas Bedard, who organized the Montreal event, said Quebecers value Radio-Canada and want to ensure it gets adequate funding. He said the public broadcaster is vital for a healthy democracy.

James Risen: The Post-9/11 Homeland Security Industrial Complex Profiteers and Endless War

Unintimidated by the efforts of two administrations to force him to reveal a confidential source who disclosed the betrayal of the public by the government, Pulitzer Prize- winning New York Times reporter James Risen exposes more about the reality of greed, power and endless war in his new book, Pay Any Price. You can get the book now with a contribution to Truthout by clicking here. 
In a revealing interview with Truthout about his new bookPay Any Price, journalist James Risen provides evidence of how the United States has become enmeshed in an endless war. He also discusses how the post-9/11, military-surveillance state has enriched - with little oversight or accountability - many opportunists. Risen tells Truthout: "Four trillion dollars is the best estimate for the total price tag of the war on terror, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and much of it has gone to shadowy contractors. It is one of the largest transfers of wealth in American history, and yet it has gone largely unnoticed."

Michigan Tells Court That 300 Same-Sex Couples’ Marriages Are Void

Last March, a federal district judge in Detroit held that the Constitution’s promise that no one shall be denied “the equal protection of the laws” extends to same-sex couples who wish to marry. One day later, officials in Michigan married approximately 300 same-sex couples before the district court’s decision was stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Last week, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision outright, becoming the first federal appeals court to rule against marriage equality since the Supreme Court struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

G20 Global Growth Plan To Boost GDP By $2 Trillion

BRISBANE, Australia - Leaders of the G20 nations finalized a plan Sunday to boost global GDP by more than $2 trillion over five years by investing in infrastructure and increasing trade.

The communique issued at the conclusion of their summit in Brisbane, Australia says the leaders plan to jumpstart growth, in part, by creating a global infrastructure hub.

The Marshall Project Aims Spotlight On 'Abysmal Status' Of Criminal Justice

NEW YORK –- Neil Barsky has taken on varied roles over the years, from Wall Street Journal reporter to Wall Street analyst, hedge fund manager to documentary filmmaker. Now he has returned to the newsroom as founder and chairman of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering criminal justice and edited by New York Times veteran Bill Keller.

Barsky’s interest in criminal justice and the inequities of the U.S. system was ignited in recent years by two books: The New Jim Crow, which tackles mass incarceration and the over-representation of African-Americans in prison, and Devil in the Grove, which focuses on a 1949 rape case fought by Thurgood Marshall, then head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and later the first black Supreme Court justice. The project gets its name from Marshall -- and for Barsky, its inspiration.

Prosecutors Troubled By Extent Of Military Fraud

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fabian Barrera found a way to make fast cash in the Texas National Guard, earning roughly $181,000 for claiming to have steered 119 potential recruits to join the military. But the bonuses were ill-gotten because the former captain never actually referred anyone.

Barrera's case, which ended last month with a prison sentence of at least three years, is part of what Justice Department lawyers describe as a recurring pattern of corruption that spans a broad cross section of the military.

Sen. Claire McCaskill Distances Herself From Obama, Senate Democrats

WASHINGTON -- Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill reiterated on Sunday that she is unhappy with both the leader of her party in the Senate and with President Barack Obama's plan to take unilateral action on immigration reform. McCaskill's tone will likely help fuel speculation that she is considering a bid for governor of Missouri, a traditionally Republican-leaning state, in 2016.

Appearing on CBS "Face the Nation," McCaskill was asked about Obama's plan to use executive action in order to defer the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants. "I'm not crazy about it," she said, before shifting her criticism to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over his refusal to take up an immigration reform bill in the House that was passed by the Senate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: 'Iran Is Your Enemy'

WASHINGTON -- Less than 48 hours before the start of final talks on Iran’s nuclear program, set to begin Tuesday in Vienna, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on American television to warn the Obama administration against agreeing to a deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

“Iran is not your ally; Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy,” Netanyahu said Sunday on CBS "Face the Nation."

Israel is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. But relations between the two countries have become strained in recent months, as the U.S. participates in multi-party talks aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting economic and trade sanctions against the country.

White House announces push for next generation of hi-tech weapons

The US military will pursue an ambitious programme to identify and develop new weapons systems based on cutting-edge technologies in a bid to maintain its dominance, the defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, has announced.

Hagel announced the Defence Innovation Initiative and said it would include an effort to develop and field new systems using technologies such as robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturisation, data processing and three-dimensional printing.

Why Women Should Get the Rest of the Year Off

As of October 11, the average American woman who works full time, year-round started working for free.

That’s because she makes just 78 percent of what a man makes. If a man’s pay lasts the whole year long, hers doesn’t even make it to Halloween.

Women of color have been putting in even more time. Black women have been working for free since August 21. Hispanic women have been doing so since July 16.

Don Blankenship, Coal Country's 'Dark Lord,' Indicted

When things go dramatically wrong in corporate America – the financial crisis of 2008, the BP oil spill in 2010 – punishment seldom manages to find its way to the people at the highest levels of power. But sometimes it does.

In 2010, according to investigators, a longwall-machine shearer in Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia cut into a piece of sandstone, creating a spark that ignited a small pocket of methane gas and then exploded through more than two miles of tunnels filled with elevated levels of explosive gases and coal dust. Twenty-nine miners, all but two of those working on the site, were killed.

Maui's GMO Ban Blocked By Federal Judge

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge says Maui County may not implement a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms until he can consider arguments in a lawsuit against the measure.

Judge Barry Kurren said Friday that both sides have agreed to delay the date the law goes into effect.

Kaci Hickox, Ebola nurse, questions Canada's West Africa

The woman who became known as the Ebola nurse as she defied quarantine orders in the United States has a few words for the Canadian government.

Kaci Hickox believes the quarantine orders that were issued for her after she returned from Ebola-affected Sierra Leone had more to do with politics during U.S. midterm elections than with health concerns.

The Dangers of the Temple Mount

On Friday, protests and clashes between Israelis and Palestinians continued throughout Israel and the West Bank. From northern Israel to northern Jerusalem to Hebron, there were reports of protesters and police throwing rocks and stun grenades, respectively.

Surprisingly or perhaps miraculously, one place where there wasn't violence on Friday was the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The central point of focus in the recent unrest in Israel and the West Bank, the Temple Mount, the same location as the al-Aqsa Mosque, is Judaism's holiest site and Islam's third-holiest site.

The Value of Whiteness -- A lawsuit is being waged against the “wrongful birth” of a black child.

In a recent encounter between Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, the two men discussed “white privilege.” O’Reilly maintained that his accomplishments had nothing to do with race and everything to do with hard work. Stewart pointed out that O’Reilly had grown up in Levittown, New York, a planned community to which the federal and local governments transferred tremendous mortgage subsidies and other public benefits—while barring black people from living there—in the post–World War II period. O’Reilly thereby reaped the benefits of a massive, racially exclusive government wealth transfer. As legal scholar Cheryl Harris observed in a 1993 Harvard Law Review article, “the law has established and protected an actual property interest in whiteness”—its value dependent on the full faith and credit placed in it, ephemeral but with material consequences.

These Charts Show Growing Numbers of People Being Excluded From the Economy

The language of inequality is not enough to capture the extreme conditions we are confronting across much of the world. Inequality is a distribution, and it has long been present. What matters in the current period is the specific mix of conditions that have made it so extreme and expelled so many from their habitual life.

What Is Fueling Rising Tensions In Jerusalem?

Tensions in Jerusalem have been boiling for months. In July, Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burned to death in the city in revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. Soon after, war broke out between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, fueling more protests in Jerusalem. In recent weeks, the attempt to assassinate a controversial Jewish activist and deadly driving attacks on Israelis have heightened the city's unease.

Hong Kong Activists Denied Permit To Go To Beijing

HONG KONG (AP) — Three Hong Kong students who have led protests for greater democracy in the former British colony were denied in their attempt Saturday to go to Beijing to meet with top Chinese officials.

Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Eason Chung — members of a student group that played a main role in organizing massive street protests that started nearly two months ago — arrived at the Hong Kong airport greeted by dozens of well-wishers holding up yellow umbrellas. But they were denied boarding passes for a Cathay Pacific flight when they were told their documents that would allow them to travel to Beijing were invalid.

Revealed: how coalition has helped rich by hitting poor

A landmark study of the coalition’s tax and welfare policies six months before the general election reveals how money has been transferred from the poorest to the better off, apparently refuting the chancellor of the exchequer’s claims that the country has been “all in it together”.

According to independent research to be published on Monday and seen by the Observer, George Osborne has been engaged in a significant transfer of income from the least well-off half of the population to the more affluent in the past four years. Those with the lowest incomes have been hit hardest.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe: House Vote in Favor of Keystone XL Pipeline an Act of War

Rosebud, SD – In response to today’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the Rosebud Sioux Tribal president announced that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) recognizes the authorization of the this pipeline as an act of war.

The tribe has done its part to remain peaceful in its dealing with the United States in this matter, in spite of the fact that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has yet to be properly consulted on the project, which would cross through tribal land, and the concerns brought to the Department of Interior and to the Department of State have yet to be addressed.

What the US-China Climate Deal Means for Tar Sands

The climate deal between the US and China is a historic moment. It's not enough to match the scale of the climate crisis, but it's implications for extreme energy projects like Canada's Tar Sands are major. Here are five reasons why.

1. The Deal Reinforced Political Commitments to the 2°C Warming Limit. 

In announcing their climate deal, the US and China committed to "the longer range effort to transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the global temperature goal of 2℃", referencing the ceiling for warming agreed upon at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009. With the world already close to crossing the 1℃ threshold, the prospects of 2℃ are dire. Even so, according to the International Energy Agency, current tar sands developments are on track to be triple the size they can be under a 2℃ limit, meaning that this deal also reinforces the reality that tar sands expansion are incompatible with global climate action.

The Sisyphean Plight of Women from Elections to Ghomeshi

In ancient Greek mythology, King Sisyphus was cursed for an eternity to heave a massive boulder up a steep hill, only to watch the rock roll back down again and again when he nears the top. Compared to the struggles of women everywhere for equality and respect, you could say Sisyphus had it soft.

At the current rate of progress it will take at least 81 years for women globally to achieve global equality in key areas, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF). Meanwhile, from the studios of the CBC to the streets of New York, recent stories of harassment and violence against women abound.

Public service, government battle rages over sick leave

“We don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree,” Treasury Board president Tony Clement said on the eve of the third round of bargaining talks with unions representing federal civil servants.

Clement has consistently maintained that there is “excessive absenteeism” in the civil service.

“He’s out there saying we abuse sick leave, that we’re slackers,” counters Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). “This is the first president of the Treasury Board who treats his employees with such disdain and disrespect.”

Watch Stephen Lewis rip apart the "absurd" Conservative family tax plan

Stephen Lewis is fired up.

In a keynote address to the Child Care 2020 conference in Winnipeg, the former Canadian ambassador to the UN ripped apart the Conservatives' claim that their new income splitting tax scheme and expanded Universal Child Care benefit will offer meaningful help to families struggling with their child care needs.

G20: Australians bury heads in sand to mock government climate stance

More than 400 protesters stuck their heads in the sand on Australia’s Bondi Beach on Thursday, mocking the government’s reluctance to put climate change on the agenda of a G20 summit this weekend.

Prime minister Tony Abbott’s perceived failure to address climate change is all the more galling in the wake of an agreement between the United States and China on Wednesday to limit their carbon emissions, they said.

New Details Of The Encounter Between Michael Brown And The Police In Ferguson

After Mike Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson on August 9, his body lay on the ground for four hours. But an investigation of police records, conducted by St. Louis Post-Dispatch, concludes that the encounter leading up to Brown’s death was less than 90 seconds long.

Due to Missouri’s Sunshine Law, which keeps public government bodies’ records open to the public, the Post-Dispatch accessed interviews, radio calls, EMS records, and video surveillance from the Ferguson Police Department for its report. According to the publication’s findings, a dispatcher alerted officers about a theft at a convenience store at 11:53, which Brown was accused of after the shooting. At 12:02, Wilson told dispatchers he was on Canfield, where he told Brown and friend Dorian Johnson to stop walking in the middle of the street. He then realized that Brown matched the description of the theft suspect.