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.]

Friday, September 04, 2015

Bobby Jindal Defends Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis

DENISON, Iowa -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said on Wednesday that a Kentucky county clerk had a right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite an order from a federal judge to do so.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses on Tuesday, even after the Supreme Court rejected an application for a stay on a federal court order. As HuffPost's Cristian Farias reported, Davis cannot be fired from her position because she is an elected official. She can only be removed from office if she is impeached by the state legislature or charged with a crime.

Kentucky Clerk: It's 'Impossible' For Me To Marry Gay Couples

WASHINGTON -- The Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples said in a court filing on Wednesday that it's "impossible" for her to authorize these marriages and she should not be punished.

After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear (D) ordered county clerks in the state to uphold their oaths and follow the law. Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who has been married four times, refused. After she was sued in federal court for her noncompliance and ordered to issue marriage licenses to all couples in the county, she refused again. After she sought a delay of that order and lost, she brought her plea all the way to the high court, which on Monday effectively required her to comply. She has since continued to defy the order, citing "God's authority."

'Provocative' Police Tactics Inflamed Ferguson Protests, Experts Find

WASHINGTON -- Law enforcement officials responding to demonstrations and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown last August used a variety of inappropriate tactics and strategies that often exacerbated tensions, according to a report by policing experts that the Justice Department is releasing this week.

The assessment finds that deploying dogs for crowd control was "provocative," positioning snipers on top of armored vehicles during daytime protests "inflamed tensions," tear gas was "deployed inappropriately," and law enforcement used unconstitutional policing strategies that suppressed First Amendment rights. Such strategies "had the unintended consequence of escalating rather than diminishing tension," the report states.

Last September, as Islamic State militants rampaged through Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon hosted a top-secret meeting to debate strategy. At the invitation of the Defense Policy Board, which advises the secretary of defense, a small group of foreign policy eminences, including former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, gathered in a conference room in the E-ring of the building.

China Puts On Huge Parade For World War II Anniversary

BEIJING, Sept 3 (Reuters) -- President Xi Jinping announced on Thursday he would cut troop levels by 300,000 as China held its biggest display of military might in a parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War Two, an event shunned by most Western leaders.

China's confidence in its armed forces and growing military assertiveness, especially in the disputed South China Sea, has rattled the region and drawn criticism from Washington.

No receipts? No problem: Taxpayers reimburse parties for election expenses anyway

Federal political parties will be reimbursed tens of millions of dollars by taxpayers for their election expenses without having to provide any receipts or supporting documents detailing their costs – a situation Elections Canada describes as an “anomaly” that must be changed.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has urged changes to elections laws that allow federal parties to claim election expenses, half of which are reimbursed by taxpayers, without providing “vouchers” such as itemized receipts and other supporting documentation of their expenses.

AFN Urges Aboriginals To Vote, National Chief Doesn't Vote Himself

OTTAWA — The Assembly of First Nations says aboriginal voters could be deciding factors in as many as 51 ridings and, in a close race, could determine the outcome of the Oct. 19 federal election — if they actually cast ballots.

But AFN national chief Perry Bellegarde may have undercut his organization's campaign to mobilize aboriginal voters with a frank admission that he's never voted in the past and doesn't intend to do so this time either.

Fossil-Fuel Executives Are Making Obscene Amounts of Money for Wrecking the Planet—and Their Own Companies

Last month, one of the largest coal companies in the United States filed for bankruptcy, citing an “unprecedented period of distress” in the industry. The demise of Alpha Natural Resources wasn’t exactly a surprise. Twenty-six other coal companies folded in the previous three years, and in the six months before the bankruptcy announcement, Alpha’s own stock fell by 36 percent. By August, a share in Peabody, the nation’s largest producer, was worth just 99 cents. Up against a market flooded with cheap natural gas, depleted reserves, and the prospect of new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, coal is doomed.

Amazon's Environmental Record May Be As Bad As Its Work Culture

Amazon's quasi-dystopian workplace culture is far from its only moral failure in a corporate world that increasingly expects big companies to do the right thing.

Its environmental record is badly smudged.

Unlike some of its biggest rivals, the e-commerce giant refuses to release information about energy consumption at its data centers. Only last November did it start using renewable energy to power some of these electricity-guzzling facilities. In addition, the company offers to recycle customers' old devices, but the program is far from comprehensive.

Throw Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in Jail

Kim Davis, a county clerk in Morehead, Kentucky, will face a contempt hearing Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples—an act of unlawful defiance that has made her a hero to the religious right and a villain to progressives. To their credit, many conservatives—particularly those without deep ties to the religious right—have called upon the Rowan County clerk, who claimed to be acting "under God's authority," to issue the licenses or resign. But others have rallied to her side, or silently assented as she's abused her state power by denying same-sex couples a constitutional right.

US Special Forces May Have Gone On a Murder Spree in Afghanistan—Did the Army Cover It Up?

The US military has reopened a criminal investigation into some of the most serious accusations of war crimes against US forces in Afghanistan since 2001. As The New York Times reported last week, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command will again investigate allegations that a Special Forces team was involved in the murders of at least 17 civilians in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013. The question now is why the investigation has dragged on for so long—and whether there has at any point been a coverup by members of the military.

Gaza Could Become 'Uninhabitable' By 2020, UN Warns

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- A new United Nations report says Gaza could be "uninhabitable" in less than five years if current economic trends continue.

The report released Tuesday by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development points to the eight years of economic blockade of Gaza as well as the three wars between Israel and the Palestinians there over the past six years.

Dick Cheney Still Has 'No Apologies' For Going Into Iraq

WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney has no regrets over his administration's decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein.

"It was the right thing to do then. I believed it then and I believe it now," Cheney said Tuesday in an interview on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

"No apologies," he added.

The Iraq War became an issue in the presidential campaign earlier this year, when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of Cheney's former boss, George W. Bush, struggled to elucidate his position on the costly mission. After a week of bungled answers, Jeb Bush finally said that "knowing what we know now, ...I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq."

However, later in August, the former Florida governor appeared to backtrack on that statement somewhat when he said that taking out Hussein "turned out to be a pretty good deal.”

Original Article
Author: Igor Bobic

Britain should not take more Middle East refugees, says David Cameron

David Cameron faced accusations of heartlessness after he insisted Britain should not take any further refugees from the war-torn Middle East, as community groups prepared to show that councils in the UK are willing to take thousands more.

The prime minister knows he and the home secretary, Theresa May, will be pressured over the migration issue when parliament returns next week, but some senior Tory backbenchers said they expected Cameron to shift his ground after distressing pictures of a drowned child, who had been found washed up on a beach in Turkey, went viral.

Revealed: the widening gulf between salaries and house prices

The gap between income and house prices has sky-rocketed so much in the last 20 years that even in the most affordable regions of England and Wales buyers are forced to spend six times their income, a new data analysis reveals.

The situation is most dire in the capital, where the median house now costs 12 times the median London income.

Coal Companies Are Dying While Their Execs Grab More Cash

These are dark days for coal. In July, the industry hit a milestone when a major power company announced plans to shutter several coal-fired power plants in Iowa: More than 200 coal plants have been scheduled for closure since 2010, meaning nearly one-fifth of the US coal fleet is headed for retirement. President Barack Obama's recently completed climate plan, which sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, is designed to keep this trend going over the next decade. But the industry was in deep trouble even before Obama's crackdown, thanks to the rock-bottom price of natural gas made possible by America's fracking boom.

Two dozen secret cabinet decisions hidden from Parliament, Canadians

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has made more than two dozen secret cabinet decisions, hiding any trace of them from Parliament and Canadians, iPolitics has learned.

A review by iPolitics of more than 21,000 orders-in-council published on the Privy Council’s website since 2004 found that 25 OICs adopted by the Harper government are missing. Only three OICs adopted by the previous Liberal government between 2004 and 2005 aren’t in the database.

Raffi vs. Maclean's: Election Coverage Will Never Be the Same

Iconic children's entertainer Raffi isn't waiting by his Bananaphone for an apology call from the political editor of Maclean's.

Paul Wells raised a few eyebrows Tuesday morning by calling the "Baby Beluga" singer a "flatulent crank" on Twitter, after the B.C. troubadour criticized Canadian media for its election coverage.

Just another sign of how much social media has changed how Canadians learn about and dissect an election -- and who may now spar with whom. In the battle for voters' attention, this was at least a middleweight match. Paul Wells has 42,300 Twitter followers, and Raffi is not far behind with 31,900.

It's a Recession: Now, Who's Hurting and Where?

Canada earned official recession status yesterday, a fact that pundits and politicians on the campaign trail wasted no time trying to spin.

According to the latest Statistics Canada data, the country's gross domestic product shrank by 0.5 per cent (annualized) in the second quarter of this year, following a 0.8 per cent (annualized) decline in the first quarter.

Reacting to the news, the Conservatives played up the fact that the economy improved this quarter over last -- though party leader Stephen Harper refused to utter the word "recession" at media stops in Ontario.

Judge In California Delivers Uber’s Worst Nightmare

Uber’s business model is on the rocks late Tuesday after a federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit targeting the company’s treatment of drivers as independent contractors.

The case is one of several high-profile suits brought by drivers against the technology start-up that has displaced traditional taxis in many markets. A California labor board ruled against the company in a separate but similar case earlier this summer, in an administrative decision that does not bind the courts but outlined some weaknesses in Uber’s legal argument.

One Day Soon, That Drone Overhead May Be Pointing a Taser at You

North Dakota has just become the first state to legalize police use of drones equipped with “less than lethal” weapons, including rubber bullets, Tasers, tear gas, pepper spray and sound cannons. Now, police will be able to remotely fire on people in North Dakota from drones, much as the CIA fires on people in other countries.

Although drones in North Dakota will be limited to “less than lethal” weapons, some of these devices can cause injury or even death, according to Christof Heyns, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. He reported that rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas have resulted in injury and death. “The danger is that law enforcement officials may argue that the weapons that they use are labeled ‘less lethal’ and then fail to assess whether the level of force is not beyond that required,” Heyns wrote. The Guardian reports that at least 39 people have been killed by Tasers as far in 2015.

Harper Did Not Decide To Not Fill Senate Vacancies: Federal Lawyers

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper may be surprised to learn that he has not made a decision to let vacancies in the scandal-plagued Senate go unfilled.

There are now 22 empty seats in the 105-seat chamber and Harper has signalled he has no intention of filling them — or any others that arise — in the foreseeable future.

He has not appointed a senator since March 2013.

Fossil Fuel Execs Made Twice As Much As U.S. Pledged To Help Fight Climate Change Overseas

WASHINGTON -- The top executives at the largest publicly held fossil fuel companies in the United States have made nearly $6 billion in the last five years -- enough to double the U.S. commitment to addressing climate change abroad.

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, released Wednesday, analyzes the compensation for the top five executives at the 30 largest oil, gas and coal companies in the country as reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which totaled $5.97 billion between 2010 and 2014.

Uber Drivers' Labor Lawsuit Granted Class Action Status In California

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Uber drivers are entitled to class action status in litigation over whether they are independent contractors or employees, a key development in a case threatening Uber's business model and that of other hot startups dependent on similar service workers.

Three drivers sued Uber in a federal court in San Francisco, contending they are employees and entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gas and vehicle maintenance. The drivers currently pay those costs themselves.

Harper's war with the law

One single email among several hundred entered into evidence at the Duffy trial throws glaring Klieg lights onto the dynamics inside the PMO. It reveals Stephen Harper's inbred contempt for the rule of law, his own legal advisors, and even the Canadian constitution itself. And it sheds more light on the PM's disgraceful head-butting last summer of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

Canada's prime minister wants to make it harder for people to vote against him

Acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood faced censorship in the national press late last week for her satirical take on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hair. It might have been a rather amusing episode if it wasn’t symptomatic of darker, Orwellian trends that have marked Harper’s nine years in office.

Stephen Marche’s article in the New York Times mid-month does an excellent job of summarizing how Harper has pulled tight the reins of power, stifled criticism and eroded the freedoms of Canadians. But it is in the prime minister’s assaults on the most fundamental of democratic acts, a citizen’s right to vote, that Harper’s lust for control finds its most disturbing outlet.

Recession Election: Leaders, Give Us a Grown-up Debate

Canada now officially in a recession, politicians have been falling over each other to make economic promises they cannot keep, all the while firmly stuck in the muck of a right-wing frame. The debate has mostly been limited to whether there will be a deficit and how big, rather than the real questions of who the economy works for and why.

Last week saw wild swings in global stock markets. While it's important to remember that the stock market is not the economy, a lot of global economic fragility and instability affects Canada. The price of oil is at lows unseen in years with no sign of an upswing. China is turbulently moving from faster, investment-led growth to slower, consumption-led growth. Europe is performing ritual suicide in the name of paying off unpayable debts.

Don’t regulate carding — eliminate it, consultation told

It wasn't even 10 minutes into Tuesday night’s final public consultation on “street checks” when the shouting began, hurled from the back of the room towards Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services.

Voicing his concerns about the police tactic better known as “carding,” Cecil Peter — sitting at the same table as police Chief Mark Saunders — attempted to make a point by calling for an impromptu vote in the crowd of roughly 200 gathered at the Toronto Reference Library, to gauge the crowd’s take on carding.

This Is What Greece’s Refugee Crisis Really Looks Like

Lesbos, Athens, and northern Greece—In the baking midday August heat on the Greek island of Lesbos, Ziad Mouatash bounces out of an overcrowded inflatable raft and touches EU soil for the first time. The 22-year-old from Yarmouk—the Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of Damascus that has been besieged and bombed since 2012 by Bashar al-Assad’s forces and recently invaded by ISIS and the Al Qaeda–affiliated Nusra Front—hugs everyone around him, ecstatic to be alive.

A Supergroup Of Academics Is Trying To Stop People Who Profit From Campus Rape

Jennifer Freyd, a longtime researcher and advocate against sexual violence, has been pleased to see so much focus in recent years on campus rape. But the University of Oregon psychology professor has also been worried.

As a record number of universities have come under federal investigations for allegations they mishandled rape and harassment cases, it seemed like every week a new app, consulting group, conference or educational program cropped up to help colleges improve their responses to sexual assault -- as long as the schools were willing to pay a price. In some cases, including at UO, Freyd said, schools would rather spend close to six figures on a product that promised to address the problem than engage with faculty to devise their own program.

If you care about veterans, defeat the Conservatives

War is hell. To experience that life-changing chaos is like nothing else on Earth.

Indeed, the highest demand a country can make of its voluntary soldiers is to send them off to war.

As veterans we know full well the toll of war on the human body and mind. Since the carnage of the First World War, Canadian soldiers have believed our federal government, having sent us off to a foreign battleground, would take care of us upon return.

Donald Trump Is the Favorite to Win the Republican Primary

The hopeful case for Republicans concerned about Donald Trump’s persistent lead goes something like this:

At this point in the last Republican primary, Rick Perry was pulling away from Mitt Romney. He briefly opened up a 10-point lead, and then just as quickly gave way to pizza magnate Herman Cain, who in turn gave way to Newt Gingrich, and so it went until Romney cleaned up in the end. Yes, Romney polled better than Jeb Bush is currently polling, but Romney was pretty much alone among establishmentarian candidates, while Bush is splitting that share of the primary electorate with two or three other candidates. Likewise, in 2012, the reactionary share of the vote was about the same as it is now—larger than the establishment share—but it wasn’t enough to win then, and it won’t be enough to win this time around.

Obama Is a Climate Hypocrite. His Trip to Alaska Proves It.

On Monday morning President Obama headed to Alaska—the front lines of climate change—for a trip the White House is calling "a spotlight on what Alaskans in particular have come to know: Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face, it is being driven by human activity, and it is disrupting Americans' lives right now."

Problem is, those words fall flat when compared with Obama's mixed record on climate. The widely publicized trip comes at a delicate moment for the president. Barely two weeks ago, his administration gave Royal Dutch Shell final approval to drill for oil offshore from Alaska's northwest Arctic coast—not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from someone who professes to be "leading by example."

‘Joe Where?’ Missing finance minister attracts NDP jibes on campaign trail

OTTAWA — Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark may remain the most famous Joe in Canadian election annals, but the "Joe Who?" moniker that followed the underdog Clark may be about to get a run for its money from current Finance Minister Joe Oliver.

With the 2015 election trail ablaze with talk of recession and the significance of Tuesday's latest economic growth numbers, Oliver is being ridiculed by New Democrats as "Joe Where?"

Oliver, 75, has been all but absent from the Conservative party's campaign so far, although he's running for re-election in Toronto, the country's media and financial mecca. He cancelled scheduled talks at two Toronto clubs last week and this week without explanation.

Harper deflects StatsCan recession report as NDP and Liberals pounce

OTTAWA - It was either a few weak months or a lost decade.

That distinction was carved into the federal election campaign trail on Tuesday after Statistics Canada reported the economy met the technical definition of a recession at the end of June.

The agency said the economy contracted at an annual pace of 0.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2015 — a second straight quarter of contraction — and it laid down a key marker for the leaders of the three main federal parties.

Harper: New GDP Numbers Show Canada's Economy Rebounding

SAULT STE MARIE, Ont. — What's a few bad months ahead of an election?

That summed up Stephen Harper's approach Tuesday to new Statistics Canada data showing the country fell into a technical recession in the first half of the year.

Rather than focus on those numbers, Harper instead saw a silver lining, which was that GDP actually rose 0.5 per cent in June — proof, he said, of the renewed growth upon which a Conservative government is basing most of its own economic projections.

The World on Fire: Record-Breaking Wildfires, Greenland Melting and Earth's Hottest Month Ever

When I go up into the mountains, I'm used to being afforded magnificent views of alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, crystal-clear mountain streams, glaciers tucked under the shoulders of high valleys, stratified ridges arcing into the sky, and views so far into the distance one can sense the curvature of earth.

But on August 22, as I carefully climbed my way toward one of the high summits of Eastern Olympic National Park, the solace of the mountains eluded me due to an ominous sign. The view east - toward what has now officially become the largest complex of wildfires in history for Washington State, where over one-quarter million acres have burned - was dominated by a large, greyish-white plume of smoke that stretched as far north and south as I could see.

IF YOU visit south-western Ontario and the Niagara peninsula you will see scenes of industrial decay. Steel mills, vehicle-parts factories and food processors sit abandoned, their car parks studded with tufts of grass. The region has the look of a rustbelt, and that has Canadians worried.

Manufacturing took a beating in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when high oil prices drove up the value of the Canadian dollar, making factories less competitive. But Canada should now be recovering from that bout of Dutch disease. The “loonie”, as Canadians call their currency, has been dropping along with oil prices. On August 25th it fell to its lowest level in a decade against the American dollar. That, plus the strong economy in the United States, the market for three-quarters of Canada’s exports, should have scraped off much of the rust.

Harper avoids recession talk on eve of report

Conservatives are distancing themselves from their own definition of a recession on the eve of a key Statistics Canada report that will show whether the country’s economy shrank for a second consecutive quarter.

Stephen Harper sidestepped questions Monday about how to define a recession as the Conservative Leader noted that broader factors should be taken into account when looking at the economy.

Conservatives have to tie themselves in knots to sustain their narrative about Alberta's fiscal situation

Given the history of this province and its current goings on, our various stripes of conservative really had to tie themselves in knots yesterday to put their complicated spin on the state of Alberta's finances after Finance Minister Joe Ceci delivered his first-quarter fiscal report.
Having found themselves in the unexpected position of dealing with a New Democratic Party majority government early in a strong and unequivocal mandate, the Wildrose Opposition and its Progressive Conservative sibling have three fundamental problems with their preferred narrative:
1) It's pretty hard to blame the NDP for the mismanaged state of the province when the government of Premier Rachel Notley has been in power for less than four months and it was self-evidently one of the two conservative parties, which trade members like baseball cards, that set the province up for the financial troubles it now faces.

One Fine Dropped, One Upheld for BC Lobbyist

Brad Zubyk, a lobbyist with ties to the federal and BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver, had a $2,000 fine rescinded by the provincial lobbyists' registrar, but still must pay $1,500 by Sept. 29.

Registrar of Lobbyists Elizabeth Denham found that Zubyk failed to register as a lobbyist for Urban Impact, a Richmond-based recycling company, within the required 10 days.

Denham upheld the initial finding by investigator Tom Mots on Zubyk's failure to register. But she rejected Mots' finding that Zubyk had named the wrong client. Mots had found that Zubyk should have identified Recycle First, a coalition of 11 companies including Urban Impact, as the client.

Ex-Tory Senator Segal: Why I Fought Anti-Labour Bill C-377

Bill C-377 was a Private Members Bill touted as one to provide transparency and accountability to the public and union members relating to the business of unions and where and how money was spent.

My opposition to this bill, when it reached the Senate of Canada, reflected several serious concerns expressed by various expert witnesses who appeared during Senate Committee hearings after second reading.

The Canadian Bar Association questioned its constitutionality, as it sought to circumvent normal provincial jurisdiction over labour relations and trade unions by imposing Canada Revenue Agency reporting requirements via federal statute.