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, January 29, 2015

Wall Street’s Threat to the American Middle Class

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed.

The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors.

Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money.

The Prosecutor Who Filed Murder Charges Against The Cops Is Becoming A Police Target

At least professionally, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office has already paid for filing murder charges against two cops who shot and killed a homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Just a day after DA Kari Brandenburg announced for the first time in recent memory that she would pursue criminal charges against cops for an on-duty deadly shooting, there was another police shooting in the city, which has seen a spate of fatal police shootings since 2010 ateight times the rate of New York City.

Mayor Says Homeless People Are Criminals, Closes Public Park To Drive Them Away

Gary Phillips, mayor of San Rafael, CA, has closed a public park for at least a month in an effort to drive away the homeless population that has been residing there.
In his announcement, Phillips said that the closure is “to allow response to the health and security issues created by chronic littering, illegal behavior, the presence of abandoned drug paraphernalia suggestive of illegal narcotics activities, and vandalism.” But in speaking with the press, he highlighted the fact that it’s aimed at moving homeless people away. “I want to break the cycle so this is not a place for them to hang out,” he told one newspaper. He claimed that the homeless people in the park aren’t interested in improving their life situations. “They sit here, have their methamphetamine and go get a meal at St. Vincent de Paul [a local services organization],” he said. He also says that the homeless come from other areas and that many have criminal records.

The First Canadian Casualty in Iraq Is the Truth

Canada is operating in a foreign theatre of war. Most Canadians expect the Government to be open and transparent about what our forces are doing in Iraq and Parliamentarians need to know exactly what is going on since they will be called upon to debate and vote on a possible extension.

Before Christmas, I wrote to Ministers to request the creation of a joint Defence-Foreign Affairs committee that would meet openly and regularly to ensure all Parliamentarians, the public and the media were kept informed on what was going on. The request was declined as have our repeated requests to know the costs associated with the mission.

Target Canada's Employee Fund: Some Get 'Severance' Pay, Some Have To Keep Working

It turns out Target’s employee trust for its 17,600 laid-off Canadian workers isn’t much of a severance package for those who have to work throughout the chain's full 16-week wind-down period.

Target CEO Brian Cornell unveiled the $70-million trust, to be kept separate from what it owes creditors, when the retailer’s Canadian subsidiary announced its decision to file for creditor protection and pull out of Canada, closing all 133 stores in the country.

'Pay Off Debt' Searches Hit Record High As BoC Entices Canadians To Borrow More

The Bank of Canada last week unexpectedly lowered its key lending rate, in the hope of stimulating an economy sucker-punched by falling oil prices. The idea, of course, is to make it easier to borrow.

The banks seem to be following suit quickly, with reports already coming in of lowered mortgage rates. Some analysts are even forecasting some types of mortgages will be going for below 2 per cent soon. Clearly, the people at the top want Canadians to borrow more.

Tories to table life in prison without parole, shifting legal landscape

The Conservative government is developing legislation that would mean some murderers will have no hope of release from prison.

The new penalty would apply to several categories of those convicted of first-degree murder: killers of police and jail guards, anyone who kills during a sexual assault, kidnapping or act of terrorism and for especially brutal murders. The current penalty for first-degree murder is an automatic life sentence with the first chance for a parole review after 25 years, and the supervision of parole authorities for life.

The Middle Class Can’t Be Saved Unless Wall Street Is Tamed

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed.

The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors.

Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money.

Do we really need reminding about what happened six years ago? The financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor — consuming the savings of millions of average Americans, and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance, and some 1 million to lose their homes.

Harper Government, PBO Clash Over Foreign Aid Report

OTTAWA - The parliamentary budget office is defending itself from a government attack on its latest report on Canada's plunging overseas development spending.

The Foreign Affairs Department accused the parliamentary budget watchdog of relying on "inaccurate financial information" in a report that said spending on poverty reduction shrank 23 per cent in the first six months of the last fiscal year.

Netanyahu to American Jews: Get Lost

It was not so shocking that House Speaker John Boehner would seek to undermine President Barack Obama and his attempt to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to deliver an address to Congress, in which Netanyahu will presumably dump on Obama's efforts. Nor was it so shocking that Netanyahu, who apparently would rather see another war in the Middle East than a deal that allows Iran to maintain a civilian-oriented and internationally monitored nuclear program, agreed to mount this stunt two weeks before the Israeli elections—a close contest in which the hawkish PM is fighting for his political life. Certainly, Netanyahu realized that this audacious move would strain his already-ragged ties with the Obama administration and tick off the president, who will be in office for the next two years and quite able to inconvenience Netanyahu should he hold on to power. (Even Fox News talking heads acknowledged that Boehner's invitation and Netanyahu's acceptance were low blows.) But what was surprising was how willing Netanyahu was to send a harsh message to American Jews: Drop dead.

60 millionaire immigrant investors to be offered permanent residency

Canada will start accepting applications from millionaire immigrant investors and their families on Wednesday under a revamped version of a program critics once denounced as "cash for citizenship."

The government announced in December it would give permanent residency to international investors who can invest $2 million in Canada, in an effort to attract experienced business people who could give the Canadian economy a boost.

The new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program will open on Jan. 28 to Feb. 11 or until a maximum of 500 applications are received, the government quietly announced before MPs returned to Ottawa this week.

The Holocaust's Forgotten Victims: The 5 Million Non-Jewish People Killed By The Nazis

On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Huffington Post UK is running a series of pieces looking at how we remember the Holocaust: The victims and perpetrators and the untold stories, on what's likely to be one of the last major commemorations with living survivors.

A Staggeringly Lopsided Economic Recovery

Just how strong is the economic recovery? Democrats have offered somewhat contradictory answers to that question recently. The picture President Obama painted in last week’s State of the Union address was mostly rosy. “The shadow of crisis has passed,” he declared, citing “a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production.” And indeed, the US economy added more jobs in 2014 than it has since 1999, and unemployment is at its lowest point in more than six years.

Mass surveillance is fundamental threat to human rights, says European report

Europe’s top rights body has said mass surveillance practices are a fundamental threat to human rights and violate the right to privacy enshrined in European law.

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe says in a report that it is “deeply concerned” by the “far-reaching, technologically advanced systems” used by the US and UK to collect, store and analyse the data of private citizens. It describes the scale of spying by the US National Security Agency, revealed by Edward Snowden, as “stunning”.

The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million

The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.

The figure, which more than doubles the amount spent by the Republican National Committee during the last presidential election cycle, prompted cheers from some in the GOP who are looking for all the help they can get headed into a potentially tough 2016 election landscape.

Bernie Sanders Won’t Be Entering the Koch Brothers Primary

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker thanked the crowd of potential 2016 Republican presidential caucus attendees at Saturday’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” for praying for him when he was taking away the collective-bargaining rights of teachers and snowplow drivers and custodians in their neighboring state.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz built his campaign list by telling the crowd of conservative believers to text the word “Constitution” to a cellphone number associated with his campaign.

Dr. Ben Carson got heads spinning with his immigration calculus: “There wouldn’t be people coming here if there wasn’t a magnet… you have to reverse the polarity of that magnet.”

IBM Denies It's Laying Off 100,000 People

SAN FRANCISCO — Calling it "ridiculous'' and "baseless,'' IBM on Monday dismissed a report that said the technology giant plans to lay off 1 in 4 of its workers, or 100,000 people.

The company "flatly denies'' the Forbes report, IBM spokesman Ian Colley said in a phone interview. IBM previously has announced layoffs affecting "several thousand people,'' only "a small fraction'' of the number predicted last week by a blogger on, IBM said in a statement.

Harper’s success part of a global network of lies … and liars

Three of the biggest truth-tellers on the planet — Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning — are out of circulation. One is locked in an embassy, another is in exile in Russia, and the third is in jail in the self-proclaimed world’s greatest democracy.

At the same time, some of the biggest liars on the planet are running governments in the West. What’s wrong with this picture?

The next prime minister of Canada has either got to let Canadians in on what is really happening in this country and this world, or see the profession of politics fall into permanent disgrace. It won’t be lousy voter turn-out we’ll be talking about then — it will voter turn-off and the extinction of democracy, Alberta-style.

Canadian troops in more Iraqi firefights

OTTAWA - There have been two more firefights between Canadian special forces troops and militants in the Middle East — clashes sure to fan the flames of a raging political debate about Canada's evolving combat mission in Iraq.

The elite troops were helping Kurdish commanders plan for an upcoming operation and twice came under direct fire while visiting the largely static front lines near Irbil, the military disclosed Monday.

In both cases the Canadian troops returned fire and "neutralized" the threats, navy Capt. Paul Forget told a weekly technical briefing at National Defence headquarters.

"They were acting in self defence," Forget said.

Surprise. Stephen Harper’s U.S. border deal does imperil Canadian sovereignty

The U.S. government wants American police agents working in Canada exempted from Canadian law. If this is a surprise, it shouldn’t be.

The secret American demand was unearthed this week by Canadian Press reporters looking into Ottawa’s much ballyhooed border deal with the U.S.

Announced in 2011, the so-called North American perimeter security pact would give Washington the right to have its agents and police officers operate alongside their Canadian counterparts within Canada.

Research into controversial topics hurt by Conservative grant priorities

Canadian universities are shying away from research into such controversial topics as immigration and assisted suicide because of the federal Conservative government’s continued focus on matching research grants to corporate interests, experts and advocates say.

Overall funding has dipped about 6 per cent in the past eight years for all three federal granting councils – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – according to federal budget data provided by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

Harper preaches pushback against Islamists, and sells weapons to the Middle East

Only days before the murderous assault on Charlie Hébdo staff in Paris by heavily armed men claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda, Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to support the global Arms Trade Treaty, which came into force on Christmas Eve, 90 days after the 50th nation ratified it.

Canada’s choice: Austerity or prosperity

Imagine for a moment two societies living side by side. One has discovered the wheel and uses it. The wheel makes life easier for workers and boosts the economy for everyone. Prosperity reigns. The society next door is well aware of the wheel and watches as its neighbours move inexorably ahead, becoming wealthier, more efficient and healthier while creating more leisure time for cultural activities.
But the ones who reject the wheel aren’t those who do the work in this society. Those who refuse it are the governing elite, the priests, the official advisors and scribes who have incorporated a moral objection to the wheel into the state religion.
Use of the wheel is thus proscribed by faith, not reason. All practical arguments in its favour are rendered useless.

President Obama, Cut Dirty Nuclear Power From Your Climate-Change Talks

President Barack Obama is getting serious about climate change, a challenge that "poses a greater threat to future generations" than any other, he said in last week's State of the Union. In July, his administration announced an EPA regulation to slash carbon pollution from power plants. In November, he struck a pact with China on long-term emission reductions. And recently the White House unveiled a plan to cut methane emissions nearly in half by 2025.

Addressing climate change means, in large part, stepping away from dirty energy sources like coal and oil and toward cleaner sources. That’s a good thing. But it requires developing more energy elsewhere, including from one alternative source that has gotten scant attention in the mainstream press: nuclear energy, which poses its own serious environmental risks.

Stephen Harper keener about free expression away from home

OTTAWA—The real test of standing up for strong principles, most would agree, is defending them at home and afar.
The current federal government has taken strong stands on gay rights (for), abortion (against) and maternal health (for) in foreign nations.
Yet here at home in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is a bit more hands-off on those very matters.
So it is at the moment with freedom of expression and the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris this month.

3 Minutes Until We All Die

Even as Republicans on Capitol Hill voted repeatedly this week to deny climate science, the Nobel Laureates with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists declared that world leaders’ failure to slow climate change poses “extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.” What’s more, a renewed nuclear arms race has left US and Russian nuclear arsenals poised on fifteen-minute alert to unleash roughly 1,600 total warheads against one another. Combined, the climate and nuclear dangers mean that “the probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.”

Harper's anti-terror bill to criminalize the ‘promotion of terrorism’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will introduce promised new national-security legislation on Friday, including a provision that draws a line between free expression and endorsing terrorism.

Highlighting the new bill in a speech on Sunday, Mr. Harper said he will protect Canadians from homegrown extremists by giving authorities new powers – including the ability to prosecute people for “the promotion of terrorism.”

“Jihadist terrorism is not a future possibility, it is a present reality,” Mr. Harper said.

Lobbying of PM Harper more than doubles in 2014 from year before: registry

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was lobbied more than twice as many times in 2014 as the year before, an increase insiders attribute to a range of factors, including more pressing economic files, more transparent lobby registration, and the absence of his former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) was lobbied 55 times last year, communication reports filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying show, putting him among the top 10 most lobbied government ministers for 2014.

PMO, Cabinet pushed off strategy, must keep tight communications, say former PMO advisers

Plummeting oil prices have pushed Prime Minister Stephen Harper off his important pre-election budget strategy and last week a disconnect emerged publicly between the PMO and Cabinet communications, but Mr. Harper and his Cabinet will have to stick to a disciplined, well-coordinated PMO communications strategy as the opposition parties will try to score political points on any government vulnerabilities, say former advisers to the Prime Minister.

Keith Beardsley, a former deputy chief of staff to Prime Minister Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) who worked in the PMO from 2006-2008, told The Hill Times that it appears the Conservatives were making strategy “on the fly” when Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) comments about how the government intends to handle the budget shortfall last week were later contradicted by an anonymous “federal official” in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Victoria's Secret: Dumping Raw Sewage Like It's 1915

When friends of mine recently got norovirus from eating foraged Gulf Island oysters, my first instinct was a strange one. I blamed Victoria.

More specifically, I blamed Victoria's raw sewage, which is pumped out to the Juan de Fuca Strait at a rate of 130 million litres per day. British Columbia's capital is one of the last major cities north of San Diego to dump all of its untreated waste (including pesticides, street runoff and pharmaceuticals) into the ocean. On Friday, the sewer's screening system failed, spilling three million extra litres of unfiltered crap into Ross Bay.

It's something Washington state's governor writes strongly-worded letters about.