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, December 17, 2014

Irene Joseph's takedown by Smithers RCMP captured in photo

A 61-year-old Smithers Wet'suwet'en elder is filing a formal complaint claiming police used excessive force when an officer shoved her to the ground for refusing to answer questions about an alleged theft.
Jospeh said she visited a store last weekend where she talked to someone inside. Outside she said she was met by an RCMP officer who said he was investigating an alleged theft.
Surrey RCMP alleged assault
Irene Joseph shows the injury and bruising to her arm after she was taken down by an RCMP officer for refusing to cooperate with a theft investigation. (submitted by Irene Joseph)
She said the police officer wanted to know her name and the name of the person to whom she had been talking
"I forgot her name," she said in the newspaper report. "And then he was asking me for my name. And I said, 'I'm not going to give it to you. Why should I give it to you? What did I do wrong? I never did anything wrong

Courting Disaster -- Why does the Pakistani military pick unwinnable fights?

Pakistan suffers from an enduring sense of vulnerability that was born of the calamities that attended its creation. It was the trauma of partition that formed Pakistan’s national psyche. The new nation inherited all of British India’s security challenges but with a fraction of its resources. In the post-partition distribution of state assets, it got the short end of the stick. Its military was formed from the rump of the old British Indian Army. Handicapped and impoverished, it had to contend with a troubled western frontier where Afghanistan—the only country to vote against its admission to the United Nations—was making irredentist claims. Its eastern neighbor, India, bore it even less good will. Its most populous province, Bengal, was separated by over a thousand miles of hostile territory.

Russia Reaches Out To Europe's Far-Right Parties

VIENNA (AP) — A Russian loan to France's National Front. Invitations to Moscow for leaders of Austria's Freedom Party. Praise for Vladimir Putin from the head of Britain's anti-European Union party.

As the diplomatic chill over Ukraine deepens, the Kremlin seems keener than ever to enlist Europe's far-right parties in its campaign for influence in the West, seeking new relationships based largely on shared concern over the growing clout of the EU.

Ascendant China spurs increased military spending in Australia

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is to spend $30 billion on defence next year.

For Canada to match that, on a per-capita basis, the Harper government would have to dole out close to $42 billion instead of the $20 billion that it plans to spend on defence.

Fat chance of that happening, of course. An increase in defence spending of more than one or two billion dollars a year by Ottawa is most unlikely, especially with an election in the offing.

Dozens Killed In Afghanistan Violence As Foreign Troops Prepare To Leave

KABUL, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The Afghan Taliban killed a Supreme Court official, a dozen mine clearers and several national and foreign soldiers but also suffered heavy losses from intensifying violence ahead of the withdrawal of most international troops in the next two weeks.

In Kabul on Saturday, a bomb ripped through a bus carrying soldiers in Kabul, killing at least six of them, mangling the vehicle and sending a column of black smoke over the capital.

Jeb Bush sending signals that he may be getting ready for 2016 presidential run

Jeb Bush and his emissaries are sending increasingly strong signals that the former Florida governor is gearing up for a 2016 presidential campaign, with associates saying he could announce his intentions within a month.

Bush recently e-mailed major Republican donors asking them to, as several of them put it, “keep your powder dry.” His allies are urging would-be bundlers not to commit to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or other potential rivals. Bush’s top strategist, Mike Murphy, has also been telling potential campaign staffers not to sign up to work for another candidate and to expect Bush’s announcement soon.

Oil Spill In Bangladesh Wildlife Sanctuary Threatens Rare Dolphins

oil spill bangladeshDHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Authorities in Bangladesh were urgently assessing environmental damage in one of the world's largest mangrove forests on Friday after an oil tanker sank, threatening wildlife in the UNESCO World Heritage site, officials and local media said.
The oil tanker carrying more than 350,000 liters (92,500 gallons) of bunker oil sank Tuesday on a major river flowing through the Sundarbans after being hit by a cargo vessel.

Protests begin as Congress tilts toward upending D.C. law legalizing pot

D.C. officials and activists for marijuana legalization launched a long-shot bid Wednesday to halt a federal budget deal that appeared poised to upend the city’s successful ballot measure last month to legalize the drug.

The day after Congress came to a tentative budget deal that included language intended to block the city’s measure, proponents chanted and marched to Capitol Hill, held a sit-in at the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and promised to keep urging congressional leaders to let the District govern itself.

Minister rejects new call for inquiry

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says some aboriginal men have a "lack of respect" toward women on reserves and that a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women won't accomplish anything.

Rejecting renewed calls for an inquiry, Valcourt said aboriginal communities should work for a solution to violence against indigenous women and provinces should assume a greater role instead of just talking.

Valcourt said that "if we're honest here," it's apparent what part of the problem is.

Foreign workers: Microsoft gets green light from Ottawa for foreign trainees

The federal government has granted an exemption to Microsoft Canada that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia as trainees without first looking for Canadians to fill the jobs.

A notice posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website says foreign workers will receive specialized training in a new human resources development centre in the province. The tech giant will not have to perform a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) — a rigorous process that would include a search for Canadians who could fill the positions.

Lawsuit Settled Involving Ferguson Officer Accused Of Choking, Hog-Tying A 12-Year-Old

WASHINGTON -- A lawsuit against a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who was accused of choking and hog-tying a 12-year-old boy in 2010 has been settled for $4,500.

The 2012 lawsuit alleged that Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma, who was then serving as a police officer in Jefferson County, Missouri, and his then-colleague Richard Carter approached the shirtless 12-year-old as the boy was checking his mailbox at the end of his driveway.

The Torture Party: Why Republicans Defend the Most Sadistic Government Program in Recent History

If George W. Bush’s fervent insistence that his government did not engage in torture does not define and haunt him forever—like Richard Nixon insisting he was not a crook, or Bill Clinton denying he had sexual relations with that woman—it will only be for the paradoxical reason that he insisted as much too many times for any one clip to supply the iconic denial.

The Bush administration’s supporters, operating under the assumption that its most brutal “enhanced interrogation technique” was waterboarding, spent much of the past decade defending this singular practice. Waterboarding did not amount to torture, they insisted, because Navy SEALS allegedly undergo the same treatment as part of their training. Anyway, it happened just a handful of times. Marc Thiessen, the Bush administration’s torture point man, later insisted, “We waterboarded in the CIA—the CIA waterboarded three terrorists. Just three.”

Uruguay Takes on London Bankers, Marlboro Mad Men and the TPP

What the hell is happening in tiny Uruguay? South America's second smallest country, with a population of just 3.4 million, has generated international headlines out of proportion to its size over the past year by becoming the first nation to legalize marijuana in December 2013, by welcoming Syrian refugees into the country in October 2014 and by accepting the first six US prisoners resettled to South America from the Guantánamo Bay prison on December 6, 2014.

Outgoing President Jose Mujica, a colorful former Tupamaros rebel who was imprisoned and brutally tortured by the military during the era of the disappeared in the 1970s under US-supported Operation Condor in Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and other nations of the Southern Cone, is a favorite media subject and has been at the center of these actions.

A Handful of Corporate Lawyers Have the Supreme Court’s Ear

The marble facade of the U.S. Supreme Court bears the words “Equal Justice Under Law,” but an elite group of attorneys has emerged as first among equals, and they represent corporations, not people.

California Parents Outraged Their Kids Are Learning About Consent, Gender Identity

Parents in one northern California school district are accusing Planned Parenthood of trying to pressure their kids into having sex by providing them with information about consent, sexuality, and gender identity. They’re trying to get the national nonprofit, which is currently the largest sex ed provider in the country, kicked out of school.

Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate passed a measure authorizing the nation’s defense programs Friday, and along with it managed to give lands sacred to Native Americans to a foreign company that owns a uranium mine with Iran.

The $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 is one of the must-pass pieces of legislation that Congress moves every year. But like they did in attaching extraneous riders to the must-pass government funding bill, lawmakers used the defense bill as a vehicle to pass a massive public lands package.

House Price Index Shows Declines In 8 Of 11 Cities

Only one major Canadian metro area avoided falling or stagnant house prices in Teranet’s latest house price index.

Overall house prices fell 0.3 per cent in November from October, but thanks to strong price growth earlier this year, they were still up 5.2 per cent from a year ago.

Eight of the 11 cities measured in Teranet’s index saw house prices fall. Halifax and Vancouver were flat on the month, while Edmonton was the only city to see prices grow (up 1.1 per cent).

Senators Find Mistakes In Tory Bill C-525, Pass It Anyway

OTTAWA - The Conservative-dominated Senate has discovered inadvertent drafting errors in a bill targeting labour unions — but is poised to pass it anyway.

Conservatives used their majority on the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee Friday to reject Liberal amendments that would have corrected the mistakes in C-525.

Amending the bill would be tantamount to killing it, they argued.

Latin Americans Are Paying the Price for Corporate Climate Destruction

Information contained in a new report that details how multi-national corporations are destroying the environment and causing serious climate damage in Latin America brings attention to an important area not being discussed at the UN COP 20 climate negotiations being held in Peru.

The report describes in detail how the destruction caused by three European multi-national corporations is typical of the damage caused by multi-nationals throughout the continent.

Paul Davis 'cannot trust' Stephen Harper, says rules for fisheries fund changed

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday evening saying the province will not be able to access a fisheries fund linked to the EU trade deal.

However, a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said the agreement was "never intended to be a blank cheque" something the federal government said earlier in the week.

The two have been meeting to discuss a disagreement between the provincial and federal governments on funds associated with the free trade deal with the European Union.

SCOTUS Rules Workers Don’t Need To Be Paid for All Their Time Working

Stories of the horrid conditions for workers in Amazon warehouses have been trickling out for years: The temperatures at the warehouses vary wildly, with some workers having to work in sub-zero conditions, others passing out from days where the temperature soared above 100 degrees, workers crying from not being able to keep up the brutal pace demanded, and then being threatened with termination for crying. And we can now add another indignity to the list, coming yesterday at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in a 9-0 decision that it is legal for Amazon warehouse workers not to be paid for a portion of their workday.

John Tory's Toronto and the false promise of political unity

It has been a month and half since the election of John Tory as Mayor of Toronto, and a scant 12 days since Tory actually took over the office officially, and we have already witnessed a return to the nauseating displays of false recrimination and psudeo-differentiation that have marked Toronto's civic politics for a very long time and that are reflected by the seemingly unalterable sameness that grips the faces and forces that govern it.
Toronto's election, overall, resulted in nothing new. There were no ideological shifts of any interest and just one incumbent lost, only to be replaced by a very similar ideological "opponent." Where there were vacancies on City Council they were filled by birds-of-an-ideological feather, including the replacement of the feisty Adam Vaughan by the likely to be functionary Joe Cressy, who, despite having battled each other during the federal by-election, in which Vaughan defeated Cressy rather easily, are really not different ideologically in any meaningful sense at all.

Obama's New Triangulation Strategy Has Democrats On Edge

WASHINGTON -- Thursday night's close House vote to pass a government funding bill split both political parties into factions. But it's the division among Democrats that got the most attention Friday morning.

That's because, like few other times during President Barack Obama's tenure in office, disagreements over economic policy and legislative strategy have erupted not just between the White House and Congress but within Congress itself.

The disputes were prompted by a couple of policy riders added to the $1.1 trillion spending bill, the first of which guts a key part of financial regulatory reform, providing government insurance for the type of risky Wall Street trades at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. The second dramatically increases the amount of money individuals can give to national political parties for the purpose of retiring debt, hosting a convention and replenishing recount funds.

Untrained CIA Agents Were Just Making Up Torture Methods As They Went Along

On Tuesday morning, the Senate intelligence committee released an executive summary of its five-year investigation into the CIA's interrogation and detention program. (Read the executive summary here.)

Among the report's most striking revelations is that CIA interrogators were often untrained and in some instances made up torturous techniques as they went along.

The CIA was "unprepared" to begin the enhanced interrogation program, the Senate report concluded. The agency sent untrained, inexperienced people into the field to interrogate Abu Zubaydah, the first important Al Qaeda suspect the US captured.

F-35 saga soars to ineptitude, piled upon bungling

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is nothing if not cautious. But sometimes his catastrophe-avoidance reflex can backfire rather badly. Case in point? The F-35.

Does the Royal Canadian Air Force need serviceable fighter jets? Most Canadians would say so. The Conservative government shared that view once: A sole-sourced purchase of 65 new Lightning II stealth fighters, from U.S.-based Lockheed-Martin, formed a part of the Tory election platform in 2011. At the time, Conservatives argued that the “brave men and women in uniform,” deserved nothing but the best, that the F-35 fighter was indeed the best, and that the opposition were ninnies for questioning this.

The media, the message and the money

With Stephen Harper, it’s always about the marketing.

Those who prefer facts to his relentless manipulations of reality are, in the PM’s mind, members of the ‘reality community’. Like the “plankton people” — to borrow a phrase Russians sometimes use to describe the flotsam and jetsam of Russian society. The nobodies.

But why is the media — including some of the biggest players in the mainstream — enabling him? It’s particularly baffling when you remember that the Harper government wanted to steal material from news outlets in order to schlepp it out as political advertisements. Thankfully, CTV’s Don Martin zapped the Cons with the right word: What they were suggesting bordered on fascism.

PM has time for John Tory but not premier

TORONTO - Toronto's newly elected mayor says he had a private meeting with Stephen Harper on Thursday, the same day the premier of Ontario publicly complained she hasn't had a chance to meet with the prime minister in over a year.

John Tory — a former Ontario Conservative leader — said Friday he sat down with Harper for a brief meeting at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Hiding torture from us

In my October rabble column, I spoke about the horrible treatment of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, one of the Guantanamo detainees who was abusively force-fed by his American guards to dissuade him from continuing his two-year-long hunger strike. In that article, I wrote that Abu Wa'el Dhiab was another example of the collateral damage of the War on Terror, and indeed he was, as U.S. officials proved recently.
A few days ago, we learned in the news that Abu Wa'el Dhiab was released from Guantanamo after being detained there for over 12 years. He was never charged with any crime. Abu Wa'el was sent to Uruguay, a country that accepted him as a refugee, along with five other detainees. Apparently, the transfer deal was sitting for a year on the desk of Chuck Hegel, the embattled U.S. Defense Secretary, before it was finally approved.

It's Time to Nationalize the Tar Sands

It would be hard to invent a more destructive ritual of national self-punishment. Year after year, we hand oil companies gigantic tracts of pristine land. They skin them of entire ecosystems. They vacuum billions of dollars out of the country. Their oversized power, sunk into lobbying and litigation, upends government lawmaking.

And Canada's return? The exploitation of the tar sands provides just two per cent of our GDP. It has gutted manufacturing jobs and made a mockery of our emissions targets. And now that oil prices are crashing -- as resource commodities predictably do -- it is putting a vicious squeeze on government spending.