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.]

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Anonymous Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond Promotes Prison Abolition From Behind Bars

Jeremy Hammond has spent two birthdays in captivity now, but his friends have promised to celebrate each one. As with many political prisoners, his supporters send him cards, but they've also invented a new tradition: turning his birthday party into political protest against his enemies.

Hammond was sentenced to a decade's imprisonment in November 2013 for his part in the hack of Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based private intelligence agency. As part of LulzSec, an infamous collective from the Anonymous movement, Hammond liberated 5 million emails and the credit card numbers of Stratfor's clients, which included government and military officials. The emails became part of a searchable archive on Wikileaks called the Global Intelligence files, while Anonymous used some of the credit card numbers to charge donations to charity.

Truthdigger of the Week: Whistleblower John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou, like others who have become known by the term, did not set out to be a whistleblower. For the first few years after he revealed the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency, he didn’t even consider himself to be one. In his eyes, he had simply confirmed a truth that many Americans suspected. However, as his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower herself, would tell him, his actions could fall under no other name.

He spent the first half of his 14-year CIA career as an analyst for the spy agency and the second as one of its counterterrorism operations officers. He said in an interview with Vice News that he was incensed by the 9/11 attacks and eager to join the effort to bring those responsible to justice. He did his part as chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism operations in Pakistan, a role in which he helped arrest Abu Zubaydah, whom the CIA considered a high-ranking official in al-Qaida.

RCMP Class-Action Suit Sought By Female Mounties Alleging Discrimination

VANCOUVER - At age 22, Quebec native Joanne Mayer was greeted at her first RCMP posting in Gibsons, B.C., with a handshake and a blunt statement from the sergeant: "We don't think women should be in the force, and especially not French-speaking ones."

Mayer said that along with her regular duties, she spent over two years doing "sexist" chores including making coffee, ensuring there was an ample supply of cream and sugar, and cleaning police cruisers.

MacKay departure underscores fact Conservatives are one-man show: former Tory adviser

OTTAWA — The unexpected decision from Conservative stalwart Peter MacKay to leave politics has left a string of questions for the party faithful, not least of which is what will happen to the Nova Scotia seat he’s vacating.

“This was a safe seat in an area that’s now being impinged upon by the Liberals,” said David McLaughlin, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney and adviser to Conservative governments.

Walk for reconciliation draws thousands to downtown Ottawa

An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people walked through downtown Ottawa-Gatineau in an effort to "transform and renew" the relationship between aboriginal people and other Canadians as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada prepares to release its final report on Tuesday.

"It's a dark chapter in Canada's history, no question. It was cultural genocide," said National Chief Perry Bellegarde, head of the Assembly of First Nations, who took part in the walk on Sunday.

Canadian Passports Can Now Be Revoked By The Government

TORONTO - The federal government says it now has the power to revoke the citizenship of some Canadians convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

A controversial new law, first introduced last June, went into effect on Friday.

Moore says decision to grant escorted outings to child killer an insult

VANCOUVER - A senior federal cabinet minister has launched a scathing attack on a review board's decision to grant escorted outings to a British Columbia man who killed his three children.

Industry Minister James Moore issued a statement Saturday saying the decision to grant Allan Schoenborn the privilege is an "insult."

Schoenborn has been held in a psychiatric facility since being found not criminally responsible for the 2008 killings of his 10-year-old daughter Kaitlynne and sons Max, 8 and Cordon, five.

The B.C. Review Board ruled Friday that Schoenborn's illness has been in remission for many years.

Oil-price drop impact on Canada lessened thanks to foreign ownership

Canada has been partly insulated from the sharp drop in oil prices because so much of the energy sector is foreign owned, says an internal Finance Canada document.

The Feb. 20 memo says up to half of Canada's oil and gas sector is owned by foreign investors, higher than reported by Statistics Canada using different calculations.

Chinese Security Laws Elevate the Party and Stifle Dissent. Mao Would Approve.

BEIJING — China’s new national security law, released in draft form this month, has little to say about such traditional security matters as military power, counterespionage or defending the nation’s borders.

Instead, to the surprise and alarm of many people here, it reads more like a Communist Party ideology paper and a call to arms aimed at defending the party’s grip on power. The law, together with two other recently published draft laws, constitutes the most expansive articulation yet of President Xi Jinping’s vision of national security, and the widest interpretation of threats to the Communist Party and the state since the Mao era.

Wearing a mask at a riot is now a crime

A bill that bans the wearing of masks during a riot or unlawful assembly and carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence with a conviction of the offence became law today.

Bill C-309, a private member's bill introduced by Conservative MP Blake Richards in 2011, passed third reading in the Senate on May 23 and was proclaimed law during a royal assent ceremony in the Senate this afternoon.

Paul LePage Vows To Veto Every Democratic Bill Until Party Helps Kill Maine's Income Tax

WASHINGTON -- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) pledged on Friday to veto every single bill sponsored by Democratic state lawmakers until they allow his constitutional amendment banning the income tax to pass through the legislature.

Amending Maine's state constitution requires the approval of two-thirds of the legislature and a majority of voters.

In a fiery press conference Friday, LePage went after Democrats for opposing the amendment and pledged to make their lives miserable unless they allowed the income tax repeal to get on the ballot in November 2016.

Texas Handgun Open Carry Bill Clears Legislature

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas lawmakers on Friday approved carrying handguns openly on the streets of the nation's second most-populous state, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who immediately promised to sign it and reverse a ban dating to the post-Civil War era.

Gun owners would still have to get a license to carry a handgun in a visible holster.

Residential schools findings point to 'cultural genocide,' commission chair says

At least 6,000 aboriginal children died while in the residential school system, says Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Sinclair, who has been tasked with studying the legacy of the residential schools, says that the figure is just an estimate and is likely much higher. Residential schools were established in the 19th century and the last ones closed in 1996.

Peter MacKay, who killed the old PC party, will leave politics

The last leader of Canada's federal Progressive Conservative (PC) Party announced his resignation from politics on Friday.
Peter McKay is currently Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Minister of Justice.
He is the son of Brian Mulroney cabinet minister Elmer MacKay and a former crown prosecutor in Nova Scotia; and was first elected to parliament, as a Progressive Conservative, in 1997.

MacKay 'Bailing' as Conservative Fortunes Wane, Political Analyst Says

The departure of one of the most high-profile ministers of the governing Conservatives is a sure sign members are concerned about this October's election, according to a professor at the University of Toronto's political science department.

Peter MacKay, who represents the riding of Central Nova, announced his retirement from MP duties on Friday afternoon. He has served as a Member of Parliament since 1997.

MacKay has been the minister of National Defence and Foreign Affairs, and is Canada's current minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Freedom of information laws a poor match for secretive governments, advocates say

The promise of a freedom of information request is tantalizing: ask your government a pointed question about what really happens behind closed doors — and then wait for a fat envelope full of headline-grabbing documents.

But the reality too often is an endless wait, countless challenges and — if you get any response at all — a package of blacked-out pages that wouldn't look out of place for a request about the design of a nuclear bomb.

We Pay A Shocking Amount For Police Misconduct, And Cops Want Us Just To Accept It. We Shouldn't.

In November 2012, Cleveland patrolman Michael Brelo joined more than 100 fellow officers in an armada of 62 police cruisers to pursue a 1979 light blue Chevy Malibu. After a 22-mile chase that reached upwards of 100 miles per hour, the vehicle came to a halt in East Cleveland.

Neither the driver, 43-year-old Timothy Russell, nor his passenger, 30-year-old Malissa Williams, ever got a chance to explain why they fled. Moments after they stopped, 13 officers, including Brelo, unleashed a hail of 137 bullets into their car. Brelo fired 49 of those rounds, reloading his weapon twice and finishing the assault from atop the hood of the rusty Malibu. When the shooting subsided, Russell and Williams were both dead, each suffering more than 20 bullet wounds.

Brutal 2015 Winter Took A Toll On The U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy shrank at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, depressed by a severe winter and a widening trade deficit.

The government's revised estimate for last quarter was weaker than its initial estimate of a 0.2 percent growth rate. The U.S. trade gap — the difference between the value of exports and the larger value of imports — was found to be wider than first estimated. And consumer spending was slower than previously thought.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Authorized Billions in Arms Sales to Foundation Donors

Among all the rivers of money that have flowed to the Clinton family, one seems to raise the biggest national security questions of all: the stream of cash that came from 20 foreign governments who relied on weapons export approvals from Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Federal law designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In practice, that meant that Clinton was charged with rejecting or approving weapons deals—and when it came to Clinton Foundation donors, Hillary Clinton’s State Department did a whole lot of approving.

We Are Citizens, Not Just Taxpayers

These days, it's more likely to hear politicians and the media refer to us as "taxpayers" rather than "citizens." Such political discourse assumes that every voter is asking "what's in it for me?" instead of "what's in it for everyone?" As citizens, we have rights and responsibilities to each other. Paying our taxes is just one part of citizenship.

Taxes are a way to pool our resources and develop common infrastructure that can have a positive impact on us all. They build our roads and bridges, pay for our police and firefighters, offer support for raising children, provide income security and housing for people who are poor, contribute to foreign aid, and help to ensure our environment is clean and safe. All of these things are much cheaper and effective when we pay for them collectively. The taxes paid by previous generation benefits us today and the taxes we pay will hopefully benefit the generations of tomorrow.

CETA's Promise of 80,000 Jobs Doesn't Add Up

With every new free-trade agreement comes the promise of shiny new jobs and economic prosperity.

CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade agreement, is no different.

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, has repeatedly promised an 80,000 job windfall from CETA. A Google search shows that this is one of the government's main CETA talking points. According to Blacklock's Reporter, "The Prime Minister's Office in 2013 first cited the jobs claim after signing the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement."

Okinawans Want Their Land Back. Is That So Hard to Understand?

Living in a country where people learn world geography through frequently fought overseas wars, Americans are accustomed to reading about places where we've fought wars - Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But one formerly war-ravaged part of the world most Americans don't think much about is Okinawa.

Once the independent kingdom of Ryukyu, Okinawa, was annexed by Japan in 1872. At the end of World War II, exactly 70 years ago, Okinawa was the site of one of the war's most ferocious battles. Caught between the armies of Japan and the United States, Okinawans suffered unspeakable horrors during the "typhoon of steel." Viewed as expendable under imperial Japan, many Okinawans were killed outright by Japanese soldiers or forced to commit mass suicide. An estimated 120,000 Okinawans - between one-third and one-quarter of the population - died between March and June 1945.

Vladimir Putin declares all Russian military deaths state secrets

Vladimir Putin has declared that all military deaths will be classified as state secrets not just in times of war but also in peace – a move that activists worry might further discourage the reporting of Russian soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine.

The Russian president has amended a decree to extend the list of state secrets to include information on casualties during special operations when war has not been declared, among other changes. Previously, the list had only forbidden (pdf) “revealing personnel losses in wartime”. He has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in a pro-Russian rebellion in Ukraine.

Enlightened. Elitist. Undemocratic.

In the spring of 1812, on the eve of commanding more than 600,000 soldiers to invade Russia, Napoleon Bonaparte laid out his plans for the future of Europe. “We need,” he told his former police minister, Joseph Fouché, “a European law code, a European high court, a single currency, the same weights and measures, the same laws. I must make all the peoples of Europe into a single people, and Paris, the capital of the world.” The French emperor had not previously expressed such vaulting ambitions, but as his empire swelled, he came to believe he could bring the continent a degree of unity that it had not known since the fall of Rome. After falling from power himself in 1815, he frequently referred back to these ambitions, and lamented his failure to create an enduring European superstate.

Canadian Economy Shrank In First Quarter Of 2015, StatsCan Says

Statistics Canada confirmed Friday what many economists had been saying: That Canada's economy shrank in the first quarter of 2015, under pressure from low oil prices.

The economy was contracting at an annual rate of 0.6 per cent in the first three months of 2015, StatsCan said. It's the first time Canada's GDP numbers have been negative for an entire quarter since 2011.

Which way will Nigel Wright jump?

The trial (or is it ‘smile’?) of the century is about to resume.

Before it’s done, Mike Duffy’s day in court could resemble an extended Rick Mercer skit. In the end, the former happy Buddha of the news biz could wind up convicted of … being a senator. (Unless, of course, the Royal Conservative Mounted Police learn that Duffy converted to Islam just before he took all that money.)

So far, nothing has been established in court to suggest that Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, is far wrong when he describes his client’s behaviour in office as “normative” given the Senate rules in place at the time.

Free Trade Deals Put Profits Over Public Interest

Opponents of so-called free trade deals have always struggled with the question of why these international treaties don't generate more alarm and vocal opposition from Canadians. These treaties, after all, trump all other Canadian authority to make laws -- provincial legislatures, Parliament, the courts and even the Constitution. If, instead of being bored by news of another ho-hum "trade deal," Canadians were told that a panel of three international trade lawyers would be reviewing all new laws and determining, in secret, which ones passed muster by meeting with the approval of their giant corporate clients, would they react differently?

Rachel Notley: Document Shredding May Have Been Justified

CALGARY - Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the public shouldn't rush to judge allegations that documents have been illegally shredded since the Progressive Conservatives were defeated earlier this month.

The privacy commissioner and Alberta's public interest commissioner are both investigating.

Opposition parties were demanding action after bags and bags of shredded documents were seen being hauled away from the legislature after the PCs lost their 44-year hold on power in the May 5 election.

Tories Scramble After Joe Oliver's Call For Looser Labour Laws At G7

Finance Minister Joe Oliver said Wednesday he believes relaxing labour laws to make it easier to lay off workers would help spur economic growth.

The Conservatives insist he wasn’t talking about Canada. But party officials gave conflicting statements Thursday as to which country he actually was speaking about.

Canada would consider deploying troops if NATO puts base in Baltic states: Jason Kenney

KYIV — If NATO decides to establish an army brigade next door to Russia in one of the three tiny Baltic states, Canada will seriously consider contributing troops to such a force, Defence Minister Jason Kenney says.

“We will certainly consider any requests that come our way,” he said in a telephone interview from Ottawa this week, adding he expected the subject to come up at the next NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels on June 24.

“We see an ongoing need and a role for Canada to play. We are the only NATO member that does not have a permanent troop presence in Europe. We do think we have a role to play through periodic deployments of this nature.”

Ontario slams Tories' Canada 150 infrastructure plan as rushed

Ontario is warning it won’t be able to participate or match funds for the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program because the federal plan is rushed and will only fund projects that are politically motivated “frills” like gazebos instead of more urgent needs.

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, said the province had no advance notice of the $150-million fund when it was announced on May 15.

PM calls Liberal plan for mandatory CPP expansion 'a $1,000 pay cut'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several of his Conservative MPs pounced on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s position on the Canada Pension Plan during question period on Thursday.

After the Conservatives announced Wednesday their willingness to consider voluntary expansion of the CPP -- an idea the party had long dismissed – Trudeau said he supports a “mandatory” expansion of the CPP “of the type Kathleen Wynne put forward in Ontario.”

Premier Wynne was re-elected in 2014 after promising an Ontario pension plan where employers and employees will each contribute a percentage of earnings. According to the Ontario Liberals, the average worker who earns $45,000 will pay $788 into the plan in exchange for about $6,400 per year in old age. That would be on top of the $6,800 average benefit that retired Canadians currently get from the mandatory Canada Pension Plan.

The third Freedom Flotilla is ready to sail to Gaza

Despite mounting international pressure, Israel contines to attack Gaza. The apartheid wall, the mounting death toll and the general disregard for human rights and international law characterize the current state of affairs.
We are a coalition of civil society members with diverse backgrounds who all believe that Palestinians have a right to self-determination and freedom of movement.

Letting corporations sue governments protecting the environment is no way to solve the water crisis

As the world looks for innovative solutions to solve the rapidly worsening water crisis, two Salvadoran experts toured Canada this month to promote a simple strategy that could save the public billions of dollars.

Yanira Cortez, Deputy Attorney for the Environment for El Salvador's Human Rights Ombudsperson's Office and Marcos Gálvez, President of the Association for the Development of El Salvador are calling on Canadians to help solve the water crisis by challenging investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that have enabled corporations to sue governments for hundreds of millions of dollars when policies aimed at protecting the environment threaten corporate profits.

Stephen Harper defangs another watchdog

In days of yore, kings and queens festooned the castle gates with the severed heads of miscreants who had been executed as a lesson to others who would dare question their authority.

Metaphorically speaking, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has put his own, contemporary stamp on the medieval practice by only reappointing prison ombudsman Howard Sapers to a one-year term. By cutting short what ought to have been a long career, Harper has sent a resounding message to anyone interested in Sapers’ job: Clear-eyed, courageous prison reformers need not apply.

The Kokopenace case and Aboriginal representation in the administration of justice

The recent backlash over the actions of prosecutors in the criminal trial of Bradley Barton, accused of the first degree murder of Cindy Gladue and found not guilty by a panel of 11 jurors, raised concerns over the treatment of Aboriginal victims by the justice system and how Ms. Gladue in particular was dehumanized by the way prosecutors presented evidence of the crimes committed against her. Some commentators noted that underrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples on juries in Edmonton was a problem and asked whether this underrepresentation played a role in the outcome in this case.

Report finds Kinder Morgan proposal violates First Nation legal principles

On May 26, the Sacred Trust, acting on behalf of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, released an 89-page Independent Assessment Report, about the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline. The comprehensive report, which incorporated the findings of six expert reports, conclusively opposes the pipeline proposal.
The proposal includes two pipelines and an expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. Kinder Morgan seeks to transport 890,000 barrels a day, in the two proposed pipelines between Edmonton and Burnaby. The terminal expansion would include an increase of traffic from 60 to 408 tankers per year.

Wildfires In Alberta, B.C Blamed On El Nino, As Season Kicks Off Early

VANCOUVER - Experts are blaming El Nino for speeding up nature's clock and forcing firefighters to deploy weeks ahead of normal to battle wildfires across rural Western Canada.

They say the natural phenomenon that cycles every two to seven years has been activated early this year and is predicted to accelerate wildfire activity across the northwest.

India Heat Wave Persists, Claiming Over 1,400 Lives

HYDERABAD, India (AP) -- Eating onions, lying in the shade and splashing into rivers, Indians were doing whatever they could Thursday to stay cool during a brutal heat wave that has killed more than 1,400 in the past month.

But some had no choice but to venture into the heat.

Temporary Foreign Workers' Vulnerability Noted In Sexual Harassment Case

An Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling has highlighted the vulnerability of temporary foreign workers in a case where two women worked in what the tribunal called a "sexually poisoned work environment."

The women had their work permits revoked and were sent back to Mexico after resisting the sexual overtures of their employer at Presteve Foods, a fish processor in Wheatley, Ont. One woman was forced to perform sex acts under threat of being sent home and both were sexually harassed in other ways, the tribunal found.

With an election in sight, Harper budges a millimetre on pensions

More than five years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government briefly considered expanding the universal, contributory Canada Pension Plan (CPP, paralleled in Quebec by the Quebec Pension Plan, QPP).
After some cursory study they rejected the idea.
The late Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, quite unabashedly said he did not want to cut into the business of the financial private sector.

City Of Ottawa To Ask Feds To Move Victims Of Communism Memorial

Ottawa city council voted Wednesday to formally ask the federal government to move a national memorial for victims of communism away from a location next to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a vigorous debate Wednesday, council approved the motion 18-6 to ask the federal government to respect their own long-term vision for the Parliamentary and judicial precincts, which outlined the importance of completing the judicial precinct with the future construction of a Federal Court building.

Will Jeb Bush Get Away With His ‘Scheme’ to Skirt Campaign Finance Rules?

With candidates and outside groups already raking in money for the 2016 presidential contest and the Federal Election Commission abdicating its duty to enforce campaign finance laws, watchdog groups are pushing the Department of Justice to fill the void. To start, groups are asking the DOJ to investigate one of the most blatant exploiters of lax enforcement: Jeb Bush.

For months now the former Florida governor has insisted that he is not quite sure if he will run for the Republican presidential nomination. “No, no. I’m not an official candidate,” he said during an exchange with reporters a few weeks ago—never mind that he’s been crisscrossing the country raising amounts cash unprecedented for an undeclared candidate. Bush himself has struggled to maintain the farce, as he demonstrated minutes later when he accidentally declared, “I’m running for president in 2016.”

Dick Fuld, Disgraced Former CEO Of Lehman Brothers, Makes Bizarre Comeback

Dick Fuld, part villain and part unforgivably very confused bystander to the financial crisis in the eyes of most -- and a victim of the financial crisis to himself -- made a bizarre comeback at a conference in midtown New York hotel on Thursday.

In his first public appearance (other than sworn congressional testimony) since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Fuld blamed regulators, borrowers and rumors for the end of the 158-year-old, $47 billion firm he led. It was a “perfect storm” that sank Lehman, not his own leadership or decisions, Fuld said, while touting Lehman’s “success” to the audience. He also claimed that every one of the 27,000 employees who once worked for Lehman had been a risk manager, because they owned stock in the firm.

Warren Pushes Obama To Keep Slavery Ban In Trade Deal

BOSTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday decried efforts by the Obama administration to undermine an anti-slavery measure that the Senate approved last week as part of a major trade bill.

The provision, authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would bar the U.S. from expediting trade deals with governments that the State Department deems to be among the very worst offenders on human trafficking. The Senate passed the Menendez language late Friday night, despite strident objections from President Barack Obama's administration. Both Obama officials and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are now working to defang the anti-slavery effort.

Uber Wants Swanky New Headquarters To Match Its Huge Valuation

Uber is building flashy new headquarters in San Francisco.

The ride-hailing company is also reportedly seeking a new round of financing that would raise its valuation to $50 billion -- which would make it the world's most valuable private startup. It clearly wants a home base to match.

Emails relating to B.C.'s Highway of Tears allegedly deleted

A former staffer at the B.C. Ministry of Transportation alleges that more than a dozen emails were deleted in November 2014 following a freedom of information request relating to the Highway of Tears, a stretch of road notorious for cases of missing and murdered women.

The NDP has made public a letter written by former executive assistant Tim Duncan to Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. In the letter, Duncan says that when he protested an instruction to delete the emails, a ministerial assistant took hold of his keyboard and did it himself.