Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Corporate Lobbyists Continue Fight Against Transparency

WASHINGTON -- As more and more corporations adopt rules governing their political activity, large trade associations engaged in Washington lobbying are pushing back.
Since 2013, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable have been engaged in an effort to discredit activist investors' attempts to force shareholder votes on political spending and disclosure policies.

The Paradox of Paul Ryan: Why the Tea Party's Right to Be Wary

Only in a world where Cosmopolitan magazine can declare the Kardashians "America's First Family" and the multi-billionaire loose cannon Donald Trump is perceived by millions as the potential steward of our nuclear arsenal could about-to-be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan be savaged as insufficiently right-wing.

Justice Ginsburg’s Warning To A Dysfunctional Nation

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a national figure for at least half of her life. As founding director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Ginsburg probably did more than any other litigator in the nation’s history to abolish sex discrimination and gender stereotyping. As an appellate judge, she was among the most admired members of the federal bench and frequently fed her law clerks to the Supreme Court. Now, she is one of the nine most powerful judges in the country.

Corporate and military plunder in the Philippines

For many in the Global North, certain countries only appear on our radar screens as discount winter vacation hotspots. Other times, when natural disaster strikes, these countries serve as empathy-building backdrops to raise millions for charities that, after skimming some off the top, may distribute some of the contributions for the clean-up effort.
One such country is the Philippines, which made Canadian news headlines this month because of a typhoon, and which may again generate some news coverage if Justin Trudeau decides to attend the Asia-Pacific economic summit next month. The Philippines might be mentioned in passing as one of the largest sources of Canada's live-in caregiver program and of  "temporary foreign workers," both groups painfully separated from their loved ones for years by Canada's restrictive immigration policies.

National Defence gave minister more info on public opinion research than on ISIS operation, NATO

A new Liberal defence minister will inherit a self-conscious department that seems more than a little concerned about how it's perceved by the public.

 When Jason Kenney took over as national defence minister in February 2015, he was briefed with a thicker stack of papers about public opinion and media operations than about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Operation Reassurance and Operation Impact combined.

Embassy obtained the transition books for Mr. Kenney through an access to information request. Similar documents may be provided to a new minister when prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau names his Cabinet Nov. 4.

NDP Criticizes Choice of Bureaucrat Tasked with Premier's FOI Responses

The senior bureaucrat given responsibility for improving the response from Premier Christy Clark's office to freedom of information requests himself has a questionable history when it comes to maintaining records, the NDP charged today.

"John Dyble's record in this government is well known, and transparency is not a word most people would associate with him," NDP MLA Katrine Conroy said during question period.

Dyble's involvement came up on Oct. 22 after the release of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's report Access Denied: Record Retention and Disposal Practices of the Government of British Columbia.

BC Government Put Itself Above the Law with Email Deletions

The information and privacy commissioner's report condemning the BC Liberal government isn't really about openness or freedom of information.

It's much bigger. Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's report is really about corruption and a fundamental threat to democracy.

The state has immense power, and politicians and their operatives are motivated to wield that power to protect their own interests.

Province sets strict new limits on police street checks

Police officers will no longer be able to arbitrarily stop people for questioning based on their appearance or the neighbourhood they live in, Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services said Wednesday.

Yasir Naqvi said police officers will also have to tell citizens that the stop is voluntary and that the person can walk away.

Volkswagen and GM's deadly conspiracies pale in comparison to collusion against mass transit

Over the past 18 months, two of the world's largest automakers have been found responsible for deadly conspiracies. But, recent revelations can't compete with the industry's previous scandals.
Last month Volkswagen was caught rigging millions of its cars' emissions testing systems to meet regulatory standards. The German company programmed its turbocharged direct injection diesel engines to activate emissions controls during laboratory testing while in real-world driving the vehicles produced up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide. Hundreds, probably thousands of people will be afflicted with asthma, lung disease and other ailments as a result.

No, Tories Didn't Lose Because of 'Harper Derangement Syndrome'

Connoisseurs of schadenfreude have had a good time since Oct. 19, enjoying the end of the Harper regime. The pleasure is only enhanced by the Conservatives' response -- a breathtakingly high level of denial, for which the climate change variety was only a rehearsal.

While it certainly appears in many Conservative public statements since the election, that denial was the consistent theme in a recent discussion on CBC Radio's The Current. It involved surviving MPs Erin O'Toole and Candice Bergen and Conservative spinner Tasha Kheiriddin, and while it was billed as "soul searching," it was anything but.

Netanyahu Successfully Lobbies To Address Progressive Think Tank During DC Visit

WASHINGTON -- After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacrificed much of his popularity with the Democratic party by crusading against the Iran nuclear deal, and against President Barack Obama in general, he is waging a comeback effort in an upcoming trip to the United States.

As part of the tour, the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to the Center for American Progress and landed an event at the progressive institution on Nov. 10, the day after Netanyahu has a scheduled meeting with Obama. The embassy's push for the invite, sources familiar with the lobbying said, was joined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak.

Senate To Approve Controversial Cybersecurity Bill

WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Sharing of computer data on cyber threats between the private sector and U.S. government would increase under legislation expected to win Senate approval on Tuesday despite objections of privacy advocates who fear excessive government surveillance.

Two related measures won approval in the House of Representatives earlier this year and must be reconciled with the Senate bill before final legislation goes to President Barack Obama.

This Could Be the Worst Climate Crisis in the World Right Now

On Monday afternoon, Indonesian President Joko Widodo cut short a visit to the United States and headed home to oversee efforts to extinguish a rash of epic wildfires that have engulfed his country.

Joko was in Washington, DC, for a photo op with President Barack Obama, to talk about climate change, and to promote Indonesia as a choice venue for foreign investors. His trip was also supposed to include a stopover in San Francisco for meetings with tech industry executives. But Joko's decision to return to Indonesia early underscores the challenges his country faces in stopping the worst deforestation on Earth—deforestation that is playing a critical role in global climate change.

First Nations Don't Have To Disclose Reserves' Finances, Rules Judge

SASKATOON — A federal court judge has ruled five First Nations don't have to open their books to the public pending a challenge to a federal law.

The First Nations Financial Transparency Act, passed in 2013, requires all reserves to post salaries and audited financial statements online.

Oil Price Not Done Crashing, Saudi Arabia Could Be Broke In Five Years: Reports

  • Saudi Arabia projected to run massive deficits
  • Storage getting close to capacity, Goldman Sachs warns
  • Canadian oil producers, Alberta budget in the red

The bad news keeps piling on for the oil industry and the countries that rely on it.

Despite oil prices having already fallen 60 per cent from their highs last year, investment bank Goldman Sachs says they could suffer another major decline as storage space for refined fuel gets closer to full capacity.

Turns Out, the NDP Just Wasn't Ready

"I think we emerged from this with a lot of hope for where we can go from here... We have a lot of opportunity going forward." -- Anne McGrath, NDP 2015 election campaign director

What?! Let me get this straight: the NDP blew its best chance of winning government in history, squandered its lead and dropped by 59 seats -- over half from the 103 it won in 2011 -- and there's "a lot of hope" after the election?

The NDP also lost one million votes from 2011, despite higher turnout, and for the first time in Canadian history saw a third party, Justin Trudeau's Liberals, leap frog over the Official Opposition to win 184 seats -- and there's "a lot of opportunity?"

Think We Can’t Stabilize the Climate While Fostering Growth? Think Again.

When the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference opens in Paris on November 30, annual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be about 32 billion metric tons. This figure is 10 percent higher than the 29 billion tons that were emitted in 2009, when the last major UN climate conference took place in Copenhagen.

There is no escaping the conclusion that we are playing Russian roulette with the environment by allowing CO2 emissions to continue to rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides conservative benchmarks as to what is required to stabilize the average global temperature at its current level of around 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) above the preindustrial average of 56.7 degrees. According to the IPCC, global CO2 emissions need to fall by about 40 percent below current levels within 20 years, to around 20 billion tons, and 80 percent by 2050, to seven billion tons.

Texas Activists Form Statewide Coalition to Confront Fracking Despite Pushback From State, Industry

In a photo obtained in an open records request by Truthout, the Colorado-based oil and gas company Vantage Energy's subcontracted oil and gas workers with Houston-based Weatherford International can be seen openly mocking a nonviolent civil disobedience action taken by anti-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activists in June who were defending the former democratically passed fracking ban in the Texas town of Denton.

At least three out of 10 anti-fracking activists who were arrested in Denton in June also posed with that very same sign, but they weren't smiling at the time. Rather, they sat soberly in front of it, determined to delay scheduled fracking operations at a Vantage Energy gas well site on the edge of the city's west side by blocking the entrance to the site.

U.S. Navy Destroyer Challenges China's Territorial Claims

WASHINGTON/BEIJING, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer close to China's man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, U.S. defense officials said, a move that could heighten tensions over the strategic waterway.

The patrol represents the most serious U.S. challenge to 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China asserts around the islands and is sure to anger Beijing, which said last month it would never allow any country to violate its territory in the Spratly archipelago, where seven outposts have been built.

Wage Theft Comes to America: The Facts That Drive the Sanders Revolt

In Denmark, companies like McDonald's and Burger King pay workers $20 an hour plus benefits, and don't bat an eye. These same companies, which are actually based in the U.S., pay American workers less than $9 with no benefits.

What is going on here?

The answer is simple and painful -- wage theft. In America, corporations can get away with stealing our wages, but in Denmark (and elsewhere), they can't. Virtually the entire bottom 95 percent of American wage earners are victims of wage theft ... perhaps including you!

Greenland Is Melting Away

ON THE GREENLAND ICE SHEET — The midnight sun still gleamed at 1 a.m. across the brilliant expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. Brandon Overstreet, a doctoral candidate in hydrology at the University of Wyoming, picked his way across the frozen landscape, clipped his climbing harness to an anchor in the ice and crept toward the edge of a river that rushed downstream toward an enormous sinkhole.

If he fell in, “the death rate is 100 percent,” said Mr. Overstreet’s friend and fellow researcher, Lincoln Pitcher.

South China Sea: U.S. Sovereignty Challenge Provokes Anger In Beijing

BEIJING (AP) -- A U.S. Navy warship sailed past one of China's artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, in a challenge to Chinese sovereignty claims that drew an angry protest from Beijing, which said the move damaged U.S.-China relations and regional peace.

China's Foreign Ministry said authorities monitored and warned the USS Lassen as it entered what China claims as a 12-mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, a group of reefs, islets, and atolls where the Philippines has competing claims.