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, October 18, 2015

Fraternities Hire Trent Lott To Lobby For Limiting Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

National fraternity and sorority groups have hired former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to lobby for legislation that would prevent colleges from punishing certain students accused of sexual assault.

Lott is among a group of lobbyists who have collected $140,000 from the "Safe Campus Coalition" so far this year, according to congressional disclosure filings. The coalition is made up of the National Panhellenic Conference, North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), Kappa Alpha Order, the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the Sigma Nu fraternity.

An $81 Million Betrayal of Medical Ethics

What would you be willing to do for $1 million? Most of us would probably do something foolish or embarrassing. In Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, many Afghans sold out their neighbors for bounties offered by the United States for "terrorists." Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen designed and implemented a torture program for the CIA for more than $1 million each, $5 million in indemnity against legal liability, and $81 million for the firm they established - Mitchell, Jessen, & Associates. That $5 million indemnity payment was a tacit recognition that in designing and implementing a torture program, Mitchell and Jessen were breaking the law and that should this come to light, they might need some money to defend themselves. The ethically challenged psychologists, wanting to prove the effectiveness of their methods of torture, tested the theory of "learned helplessness" on human beings.

Fact check: Canadians likely to lose more than they gain under TPP

The claim: Conservative Trade Minister Ed Fast says the Trans-Pacific Partnership will net $3.5 billion of additional economic activity, far outweighing any potential losses in individual sectors. Is that true?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a sweeping trade deal that has the potential to fundamentally change Canada's economy. This column has examined the negative implications of the TPP in the dairymanufacturing and pharmaceutical industries.

Jason Kenney: Liberals Running 'Dishonest Fear Campaign' On C-24

A top Conservative is accusing Liberals of running a "dishonest fear campaign" around a new law that allows the federal government revoke the citizenship of some dual citizens.

Jason Kenney made the charge Wednesday after a reporter tweeted a photo of a Liberal flyer that apparently courts new Canadians by bashing controversial Bill C-24, the so-called Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Putin's Syrian Adventure Will Cost Russians Dearly

"Has the country run out of poor people?" is a fitting question to today's Russian leaders who, not having ended the geopolitical and military conflict in eastern Ukraine, have unhesitatingly thrown the country into a new one, jumping straight from the fire into the hellish frying pan of the Middle East.

President quietly closes in on China investment treaty

It’s the most important international trade deal no one is talking about.

Largely lost amid the furor over the recent Asia-Pacific trade deal, a separate bilateral economic treaty with Beijing that could have huge implications for U.S. businesses wanting to invest in China is moving toward completion.

Trans-Pacific Partnership text won't be available before election

Canadians won't be able to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before they vote.

Government officials told CBC News on Wednesday that the exact wording of the full agreement in principle announced Oct. 5 won't be finalized until next week.

The federal election is next Monday, Oct. 19.

Exxon's Climate Change Cover-Up Is 'Unparalleled Evil,' Says Activist

Exxon Mobil's decision to hide research that confirmed fossil fuels' role in global warming for decades amounts to "unparalleled evil," environmentalist Bill McKibben said.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The Guardian, the activist once called "the nation's leading environmentalist" said the oil giant set back by decades any effective action to curb climate change when it publicly disputed the very facts its research confirmed.

France's Proposed Solution To Israel-Palestine Conflict Sidelines U.S.

WASHINGTON -- Since the the latest round of U.S.-led peace talks collapsed last year, the international community has left the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to fester.

Three months after talks failed, war broke out in Gaza between Hamas and the Israeli military, leaving 66 Israelis and more than 2,000 Palestinians dead. In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured re-election after a campaign in which he suggested he would not allow for the creation of a Palestinian state. And on Sept. 30, amid escalating violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly he would no longer abide by the Oslo Accords, a Clinton-era attempt to finalize Palestinian statehood by 1998.

Is Campaign Cash From Police Unions Watering Down Democrats' Reform Efforts?

At every turn, police unions and law enforcement lobbying groups have staunchly opposed measures aimed at policing reform. They have been the first and loudest voices to defend the perpetrators of each new incident of police murder and brutality caught on camera - no matter how heinous.

Most recently, in California, unions called on Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a recently passed bill that aims to curb racial profiling by requiring police to report the race and other demographic features of any person stopped by an officer. Craig Lally, the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, called the law "a joke," while Lt. Steve James, who is president of the Long Beach Officers Association and the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), asserted that racial profiling does not exist, saying that police simply engage in "criminal profiling."

Sanders Won the Focus Groups and Online Polls. So Why Do the Media Say Clinton Won the Debate?

Who “won” a debate is inherently subjective. The idea of “winning” a debate necessarily entails a goal to be achieved. What this goal is, therefore, says as much about the person judging its achievement than the goal itself. Pundits are ostensibly supposed to judge whether or not a candidate said what “the voters” want to hear. But what ends up happening, invariably, is they end up judging whether or not the candidate said what they think voters wanted to hear. This, after all, is why pundits exist, to act a clergy class charged with interpreting people’s own inscrutable opinions for them. The chasm between what the pundits saw and what the public was quite big last night.

Hillary Clinton's Big Climate Change Accomplishment Was Actually a Huge Failure

During the past two presidential campaigns, environmentalists cheered at the mere mention of climate change. Today, the urgency of the issue—where decades of inaction by world leaders has combined with steadily increasing extreme weather to produce an obvious threat to humanity—is undeniable. And throughout Tuesday night's debate, it was clear the tide has shifted.

Joe Oliver Charged Taxpayers For Flight Upgrades, Exclusive Hotel Rooms: Receipts

OTTAWA — Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver charged taxpayers hundreds of dollars to upgrade his seat on flights and spent more than $5,000 twice on in-country flights during his time as a cabinet minister.

In July 2012, Oliver spent $5,593 on two one-way flights between Toronto and Calgary so he could hold roundtable meetings with oil, gas, steel and pipeline companies.

This Is When Toronto, Vancouver Housing Markets Will Come Down, According To TD Ban

In Toronto and Vancouver’s hot housing markets, affordability is “becoming a growing challenge for many individuals and families,” Royal LePage noted in a new report.

Buying any type of residential property in Greater Toronto is 11.9 per cent more expensive today than it was a year ago, the realtor said in a survey released Wednesday. In Greater Vancouver, residential real estate is up 12.9 per cent in a year, to an average of $928,532.

Conservative ads aimed at Chinese, Punjabi voters claim Trudeau backs brothels, pot sales to kids

Stephen Harper is defending a Conservative ad campaign targeted at Chinese and Punjabi-speaking voters in Vancouver and Toronto that claims Justin Trudeau supports the sale of marijuana to children, the expansion of safe injection sites and the establishment of neighbourhood brothels.

A spokesperson for the Conservative leader said the party doesn't comment on its advertising strategies, but Harper defended the campaign.

The 2011 voter-suppression fraud: How they got away with it

It would not have been hard to predict, in advance of our 2011 federal election, that if large-scale vote-suppression fraud occurred the regulatory and law-enforcement responses to it would be inadequate.
In the 2008 election, the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands was subjected to what amounted to a dress rehearsal for the 2011 fraud and a laboratory test of the efficacy of fraudulent robocalls. The re-election bid of Conservative Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn, in that B.C. riding had been thrown into crisis by the late withdrawal of NDP candidate Julian West, which gave Liberal Briony Penn a strong chance of upsetting Lunn. But taking advantage of the fact that West's name remained on the ballot, Conservative agents or supporters flooded the riding on the day before the election with robocalls, falsely claiming to be from the NDP riding association, which urged NDP supporters to vote for West. A poll had indicated that less than one per cent of the electorate intended to vote for this non-candidate -- but on election day another 4.7 per cent were deceived by the robocalls into throwing their votes away.

This election, politicians and media have you thinking about what matters... to them

When it comes to ideas, a frame is the starting set of assumptions about how we should think about an issue. Framing is central to political campaigning. It's also an integral part of the news process -- and perhaps never more critical than during an election.
Framing highlights what news producers deem to be the most important parts of a story, and do so again and again across different media platforms and different constructions, but ultimately rest on the same set of assumptions and ways of interpreting an event.
Mike Barber spoke with Dr. Bob Hackett, a long-time professor of communications at Simon Fraser University and the director of NewsWatch Canada, a media monitoring project at SFU since 1994, to discuss how frames have come to define the 2015 federal election.
This interview has been edited and condensed.

Mother of Saudi man sentenced to crucifixion begs Obama to intervene

The mother of a Saudi protester sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion has begged Barack Obama to intervene to save her son’s life.

In her first interview with foreign media, Nusra al-Ahmed, the mother of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, whose case has made headlines around the world, described the intended punishment as savage and “backwards in the extreme”.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Reprieve, the US talkshow host Bill Maher and the British prime minister, David Cameron, have all weighed in with calls for clemency to stop Nimr, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, from being beheaded and then crucified.

We Warned You,’ Say Israeli Arab Leaders at Large Rally

Some 20,000 demonstrators demonstrated in the northern Arab city of Sakhnin on Tuesday, the largest such gathering since the current wave of violence began. All the political movements and parties in Arab society were represented at the demonstration, which was held in the Sakhnin Municipality square.

Police, who were stationed at the entrance to the city in large numbers reported that a few dozen protesters, some masked, were heading toward the nearby industrial area “with the intent of clashing with the force.” However, the rally ended without incident.

Israel’s domination of Palestinians makes violence inevitable

In the past week there has been an onslaught of Palestinian stabbing attacks across Israel and the West Bank, several each day – so many it is hard to keep track. In the span of just a few days, at least 20 Israelis have been wounded in over a dozen incidents, in addition to four Israelis killed at the start of the month. The violence is targeting both civilians and soldiers on both sides of the “green line”, the old pre-1967 boundary, with no distinction between far-off settlements or cities in the heart of Israel. There have also been increasing incidents of Israeli Jews attacking Palestinian citizens of Israel. The geography of the violence is beginning to take on the character of a civil war between Israelis and Palestinians.

Hillary Clinton Leans In, Embraces Role Of First Female President

WASHINGTON -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night emphasized the historic nature of her candidacy, highlighting the possibility that she could be the first female president in U.S. history.

Clinton largely avoided playing the gender card during the 2008 presidential campaign, but famously declared in her concession speech to Barack Obama that her candidacy had put "18 million cracks" in the glass ceiling. If there was any question of how much she’d focus on gender this time around, it was answered repeatedly on Tuesday night.

Harper's Been in So Long We Suffer Political Amnesia

Back in September, while the rains were sluicing away all memory of B.C.'s summer drought, the Vancity Buzz site offered a list of survival tips for Vancouverites who'd forgotten how to deal with the wet stuff.

Don't smirk, Rest-of-Canada. We can all fall victim to "landscape amnesia," a term perhaps best associated with historian Jared Diamond and his book Collapse.

Diamond was asked by one of his students: "What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say as he was doing it?"

From Housing the Neediest to Serving the Home-Selling Industry

Once upon a time, Canada's most powerful national institution for putting a roof over people's heads, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), applied itself to housing all Canadians, not just homeowners.

During the 1970s and 1980s, CMHC remade Canada's housing market -- for better and sometimes for worse. It financed unprecedented social housing construction, while tinkering with incentives to make single family homes more attractive to middle class buyers.