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, March 31, 2016

Métis Accuse Oilsands Giant CNRL Of Economic Retaliation Over Environmental Concerns

In her 68 years, Margie Wood has seen the landscape around her transformed from isolated wilderness to an intensive industrial zone. She has lived her life in the heart of what is now the Alberta oilsands.

Today her community is surrounded by open pit mines and massive upgrading plants. Pipelines and service roads snake through the trapline she once shared with her father.

Donald Trump’s Golf Course Is Worsening Pollution In One Of The Country’s Largest Rivers

Donald Trump has fought to block wind farms, said climate change was a concept created by China, and threatened to cut the Environmental Protection Agency if elected president. Now, critics can add one more anti-environmental hit to Trump’s track record: His Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Virginia is exacerbating pollution in the Potomac River, according to one environmental group.

The golf course, as Washingtonian Magazine reports, was purchased by the Trump Organization in 2009. One year later, the company expanded the golf course — in the process cutting down 465 trees along the bank of the Potomac. The loss of those trees created the largest treeless stretch along the river from American Legion Memorial Bridge in Maryland to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, said Hedrick Belin, the president of the Potomac Conservancy.

A Kiss Was Just A Kiss: Hillary Clinton’s March to the Radical Right on Israel

Back in her radical pro-Palestinian days, Hillary Clin … wait, her what?

Take two. Back in 1999, before neutrality on Israel/Palestine was deemed radically treasonous by America’s billionaire presidential anointers, Hillary Clinton actually spoke warmly of Palestinian aspirations. On a visit to the West Bank, she shocked pro-Israel enforcers by kissing the cheek of the Other, Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, who had denounced Israel’s military domination of the Palestinians. The kiss was essentially diplomatic behavior by the then-first lady, but it rattled the enforcers, already skittish about Clinton after her shocking use of the actual word “Palestine” and her endorsement, a year earlier, of an independent state of that name.

Turkey Wants Ban on Mocking Its Leader Enforced Abroad Too

Now that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has nearly completed a crackdown on dissent at home — closing down opposition newspapers, prosecuting students for joking on Twitter about officials and putting journalists on trial — he seems intent on silencing critics in other countries as well.

After the president arrived in Washington on Tuesday night, his security team got right to work, harassing protesters and journalists outside his hotel, as writers for one of the papers recently shuttered by Erdogan’s government noted.

Complying With Israeli Censorship Order, NYT Conceals Name of Soldier Who Shot Wounded Palestinian

LAST THURSDAY, an Israeli soldier was arrested after the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem posted horrific video of the soldier shooting a 21-year-old Palestinian man in the head from point-blank range, and killing him, even though he was already shot, wounded, and lying incapacitated on the ground. The killing took place in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron after the Palestinian man, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, stabbed an IDF soldier at a military occupation checkpoint.

Israeli War Lies Unveiled as Corporate Media Crumbles

A new film narrated by Roger Waters, The Occupation of the American Mind, traces the rise of Israeli war propaganda in the United States. This propaganda, which has skillfully swayed U.S. public opinion in support of Israeli wars and occupations, has in fact been not so much a matter of skill as a matter of control.

The U.S. corporate media has obeyed the Israeli propaganda office, because the U.S. government has done so, and the U.S. corporate media generally obeys the U.S. government. How much the U.S. government’s stance is shaped by its own independent, albeit perverse, interests, and how much by Israeli propagandizing and corruption is one question. But the U.S. corporate media’s lockdown on criticism of Israeli wars is only a slight variation on its coverage of U.S. wars.

How The World’s Biggest Bribe Scandal Unfolded In Iraq

The Bagman

There was little about the man walking through Heathrow Airport to show he held secrets that could bring down some of the most powerful men in Iraq.

Moustached, olive skinned, hair receding, eyes sharp. His name was Basil Al Jarah. His British passport showed he lived in Hull, an unremarkable town in the north of England, but it bore the stamps of a frequent traveller: London, Baghdad, Basra, Amman, Paris, Istanbul, Kuwait.

These borders kill: Canada's lethal immigration system

Francisco Javier Romero Astorga died in immigration detention on March 13. He was 39 years old, from Chile, a father of four. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), responsible for his detention, has refused to explain how he died.

Indeed, Astorga's family in Chile has received scant information, beyond the amount they must pay to return his body to them: $10,000.

Donald Trump Goes Full Anti-Woman, Suggests ‘Punishment’ For Women Who Abort

APPLETON, Wis. — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday that there “has to be some form of punishment” for abortion if it were banned in the U.S. — as he says it should be — and that punishment should fall on the woman.

Trump, who is currently struggling with women voters, was pressed on the issue of abortion during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, set to air Wednesday evening.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mississippi Bill Would Let Churches Create Armed Security Squads

What would Jesus pack?

The Mississippi Senate just passed a bill that would allow churches to train members to carry guns and act as security guards during religious services — and exempt them from legal action if they use their weapons.

“This will allow a church to have a sergeant-at-arms to protect the church body, just like we have (in the Legislature),” Sean Tindell, a Republican state senator, was quoted as saying by the Clarion-Ledger.

FBI Honeypot Ensnares Michigan Man

KHALIL ABU RAYYAN was a lonely young man in Detroit, eager to find a wife. Jannah Bride claimed she was a 19-year-old Sunni Muslim whose husband was killed in an airstrike in Syria. The two struck up a romantic connection through online communications.

Now, Rayyan, a 21-year-old Michigan man, is accused by federal prosecutors of supporting the Islamic State.

Donald Trump withdraws pledge to support Republican nominee

Donald Trump has backtracked on his much ballyhooed pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee as he deals with swirling controversy after his campaign manager was charged with assaulting a reporter.

In a television town hall in Milwaukee with CNN on Tuesday night, Trump insisted he had been “treated very unfairly” by the Republican National Committee and the establishment and revoked the commitment he signed in September. Although the Republican frontrunner previously hinted that he might do so, saying the RNC was “in default”, he had never explicitly revoked his commitment until Tuesday.

Treat ISIS Like an Artichoke: A Non-Military Way to Get to the Heart of the Current Crisis

The recent carnage in Brussels underscores the horrific consequences of ISIS (also known as Daesh) spreading around the globe. Such attacks will likely continue so long as ISIS flourishes in its territorial bases of Iraq and particularly Syria. To stop ISIS's machinery of global terror, Washington, in concert with the international community, must stop the machinery of the Syrian war. And a diplomatic approach, rather than bombing raids, must take center stage.

What a Journalist Learned During 3 Days Undercover at the Israel Lobby’s Biggest Policy Conference

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a cult, and like most cults, its followers would probably object to the characterization.

To AIPAC’s 100,000 members and to the 18,000 delegates who attended its annual convention last week in DC, the organization serves a heroic purpose by securing the protection of Israel, and by extension, the Jewish people. To its detractors, it is a manifestation of the most toxic elements of Zionism and a symptom of the corruption that allows lobbying groups to further their agendas by buying politicians (though not a PAC itself, Israel lobbies politicians through a series of small affiliated PACs).

Senator, the Problem of Saudi Arabia Is Much, Much More Than Lack of Equality

Reproduced below are letters exchanged between Stanley Heller and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The letters were submitted to Truthdig by Heller, executive director of the Middle East Crisis Committee, based in New Haven, Conn. The exchange was initiated by an earlier letter that Heller wrote to Blumenthal concerning human rights violations by Saudi Arabia.

There’s A Huge New Corporate Corruption Scandal. Here’s Why Everyone Should Care.

Most people remember that the Arab Spring started with a guy who lit himself on fire. What they don’t remember is that he did it as a protest against corruption: Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit vendor, decided he’d been shaken down by police officers one too many times.

Bouazizi’s death set in motion the biggest political upheaval of the 21st century. The Arab Spring was “mostly about corruption,” said FBI Special Agent George McEachern, one of the leading investigators of global graft. “Corruption leads to failed states, which leads to terrorism which leads to national security.”

Hydro One players paid for exclusive access to Ontario cabinet ministers

One of the banks that ran the lucrative privatization of Hydro One promoted a $7,500-per-person fundraiser for the two Ontario provincial cabinet ministers in charge of the sale, The Globe and Mail has learned.

The event on Dec. 7, 2015, which featured Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, appears to have raised about $165,000 for the Liberals.

Stephen who? The rapid collapse of the Harper legacy

One of the most remarkable features about the Trudeau Liberals’ first five months in office is the speed and efficiency with which they are undoing the legacy of Stephen Harper.

It began their second full day in office, when the new government announced it would restore the mandatory long-form census. It was a substantive and a symbolic reversal of the previous government’s policy. Since then, they’ve kept their thumbs firmly on the delete key — which carried them right into last week’s budget, where they unleashed the wrecking ball.

Dion might owe the UN’s new Palestinian expert an apology — in person, this time

Stéphane Dion might just owe Professor Michael Lynk of Western University an apology — even if he does end up making it on Twitter.

He certainly owes the accomplished labour arbitrator and human rights advocate something he hasn’t given him so far: a fair hearing.

Fracking Contaminates Groundwater: Stanford Study

Another scientific study has confirmed that fracking, the controversial technology that blasts apart low-grade rocks containing molecules of hydrocarbons, can contaminate groundwater.

"We have, for the first time, demonstrated impact to Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDW) as a result of hydraulic fracturing," says the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Uber’s draft bylaw angers taxi lobby

Uber Canada crossed a line when it submitted a draft bylaw to the city’s licensing division, says the head of a taxi lobby group.

Next week, municipal licensing staff will release the much-anticipated proposed regulations for ride-sharing services and the taxi industry. City council is set to vote on the staff recommendations in May.

“I don’t think councillors are going to like the concept of a foreign, private sector company writing the legislation to staff,” Rita Smith, executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance, said Tuesday.

Trump Campaign Manager Charged With Battery Of Reporter He Called ‘Delusional’

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with battery Tuesday following an incident in which he allegedly grabbed a reporter, Michelle Fields, at a campaign event earlier this month.

Lewandowski turned himself in to police Tuesday morning in Jupiter, Florida, where he was charged with misdemeanor battery.

Debate-Ducking Hillary Clinton in ’08: Candidates Should Be Tough Enough to Debate “Anytime, Anywhere”

THE HILLARY CLINTON campaign is calling the Bernie Sanders campaign’s request for a debate in New York before its primary a “stunt” by a “struggling campaign” — but eight years ago, Clinton was taunting her opponent Barack Obama for not being tough enough “to debate anytime, anywhere.”

Top Privacy Watchdog Suddenly Resigns

THE CHIEF of the independent government agency tasked with evaluating the risk that federal counterterrorism programs present to Americans’ constitutional rights is stepping down unexpectedly.

David Medine, who was confirmed as chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board shortly before NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the massive scale of the U.S. government’s spying operations, has been tugging on the reins of expanding government surveillance power since.


A LAWSUIT FILED last week in Canada is seeking to halt a major $15 billion sale of light-armored vehicles to the government of Saudi Arabia, part of a growing international movement to stop arms sales to the Saudi government over its alleged war crimes in Yemen.

The suit, filed by University of Montreal constitutional law professor Daniel Turp, argues the vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia violate a number of Canadian laws, including regulations on the export of military equipment, which prohibit arms sales to countries where human rights are “subject to serious and repeated violations” and there is a reasonable risk exported equipment “will be used against the civilian population.” Saudi Arabia, which has a deplorable human rights record at home, has inflicted considerable civilian casualties in Yemen as part of its yearlong bombing campaign in support of the contested government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Rights Lab: Can I Film the Police?

Filming police is legal in all 50 states -- so why are people still being arrested while doing it? The issue at hand is how any one set of actions can be interpreted by police officers -- as a constitutionally protected activity, or as a threat.

Noam Chomsky: The Republican Base Is "Out of Control"

The 2016 US presidential election is shaping up to be a fascinating contest between reactionaries (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz), pro-establishment figures (Hillary Clinton) and a progressive of a selective kind (Bernie Sanders). The candidates' views span a political range that is broader than usual, at least insofar as US political life goes, and several of them are taking positions that are rather unusual for mainstream US political culture. For example, GOP candidates are turning their backs on "free trade" agreements, while Sanders has emphasized issues like inequality, class and the connection between money and politics.

Most Israelis Say Army Medic Who Killed Wounded Suspect Is Not a Murderer

WHILE HUMAN RIGHTS activists and defense officials in Israel were quick to condemn an army medic caught on video last week shooting a wounded Palestinian suspect in the head, the soldier was defended over the weekend, and even celebrated, by many on the far-right of the country’s political spectrum.

What’s Behind America’s Widening College Graduation Gap?

Call it the stubborn gray cloud around a bright silver lining: At a time when the graduation rate of the nation’s public universities has improved significantly, according to a new report, the gap between white students who earn bachelor’s degrees and African Americans who don’t has failed to budge—and in some cases has gotten worse.

At more than half of those four-year colleges and universities, the graduation gains among black students didn’t match those of their white peers, according to a new report from Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit that advocates for children. At a third of the colleges where overall graduation rates went up, the rates of black students who earned diplomas fell or remained stagnant.

The Media Did Not Create the Trump Phenomenon

WASHINGTON—One of the more absurd things being said about the Donald Trump phenomenon is that the media created it. For the record, we didn’t.

First of all, there is no “we.” The news media operate in what should be every conservative ideologue’s dream environment: an unfettered free market. Outlets compete every day—actually, in the Internet age, every hour—to provide consumers with information they need and want. Every editor and news director strives to beat the competition, and the fact is that audiences have decided they need and want to know about Trump.

Bank of America, Microsoft Denounce North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law, but Fund Politicians Who Passed It

BANK OF AMERICA, Lowe’s, Microsoft, and American Airlines all have two things in common: They have strongly criticized North Carolina’s new law that prevents local governments from prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and money from their affiliated political action committees helped put the politicians who passed the law in office.

The Culture That Created Donald Trump Was Liberal, Not Conservative

WHO CREATED Donald Trump?

Now that Donald Trump, the candidate, has become both widely popular and deeply loathsome, we’re seeing a cataract of editorials and commentary aimed at explaining how it happened and who’s to blame. The predictable suspects are trotted out: the Republican Party, which had been too opportunistic and fearful to stand up to its own candidate, Fox News, which inflamed the jingoes, and white working-class voters, unhinged by class envy and racial resentment.

This Embarrassing Interview Signals Donald Trump May Be In Trouble In Wisconsin

With the Wisconsin primary just a week away, the remaining presidential candidates are descending on the Badger State. National frontrunner Donald Trump, who hasn’t made a campaign appearance in several days, ventured Monday morning into unfriendly territory: Wisconsin talk radio, where hosts have been viciously criticizing Trump for months.

On Monday morning, influential radio host Charlie Sykes grilled Trump for nearly 10 minutes in an often uncomfortable interview, at one point scolding him for sounding more like a “12-year-old bully on the playground” than a candidate for president.

This Ad by Republicans Against Barry Goldwater Basically Predicted Donald Trump

"When the head of the Ku Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor for the candidate of my party, either they're not Republicans or I'm not," says the thoughtful-looking man as he stares into the camera.

You wouldn't be at fault for assuming such a line was used to describe the existential crisis within the Republican party today, as it wrestles with the very real prospect of Donald Trump becoming its presidential nominee. But it's actually a direct quote from "Confessions of a Republican," a 1964 television advertisement attacking then-nominee Barry Goldwater. It features an actor playing a lifelong Republican who struggles to come to terms with the Arizona senator's rise.

Will the US Own Up to Its Role in Europe's Refugee Crisis?

A small, crowded boat arrives at an isolated beach on a small Greek island. Inside, 49 people prepare to unload their few possessions. On the beach, lit only by a half-moon and a few headlamps, volunteers from around the world wait to assess if there are any medical emergencies.

Soon after landing, vans and cars line up to begin transporting the group of mostly young people from Afghanistan to a support facility established by local villagers and international volunteers, where tea has been prepared and dry clothes have been made ready for distribution.

Death of a Shale Gas Salesman

"I think most people act in their self-interest." -- Aubrey McClendon

On Wednesday, March 2, Aubrey McClendon, the American face of hydraulic fracking, drove his natural-gas powered Chevy Tahoe into a concrete overpass just outside Oklahoma City. He was 56.

According to the Tahoe's black box data recorder, McClendon had the accelerator floored until 1.5 seconds before the crash. He didn't brake in the final 9 metres before impact. McClendon wasn't wearing a seat belt, police reported.

Federal direction to Canada’s spy agency on anti terror bill C 51 largely secret

OTTAWA – The federal government has issued guidance to Canada’s spy agency on using contentious new anti-terrorism laws – but most of the instructions won’t be made public.

Many passages of the ministerial direction to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, issued last July, were withheld from release due to provisions of the Access to Information Act concerning security, internal deliberations and cabinet confidences.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Deceit and democracy: Do broken election promises matter? Part 2: The role of the media

This is the second of a two part series by Osgoode law professor and former NDP Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth, Craig Scott. Read Part 1 here.

In Part 1 of this two-part article, I initiated a discussion of the significance of election promises for our democratic political culture by first focusing on pre-budget Liberal government departures from their campaign commitments, and then by considering the Liberals' campaign plan to limit their deficit to $10 billion. I also devoted much of the piece to acknowledging an NDP government would have had an even greater challenge to meet its spending commitments, but that ultimately a transparent, frank justification for taking an unexpected $18 billion deficit as a starting point would have been an option, just as it is currently an option for the Liberal government.

Deceit and democracy: Do broken election promises matter? Part 1: Liberals with the truth

Breached promises in Tuesday’s federal budget raise questions about honesty and accountability in our electoral democracy.

Have the Liberals driven the final cynical nail into a coffin in which we should bury any pretense that campaign platform promises can be relied upon by voters? Have they banished naïveté from Canadian politics for good by yet again "proving" that the malleability of at least some campaign commitments is the price of (Liberals) keeping Conservatives from power?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Ignores Police Board, Picks His Own Top Cop

CHICAGO — In a surprise move, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rejected the city police board’s three picks for a new police superintendent and selected his own candidate from within the force to replace the current interim top cop.

The Chicago Sun-Times and NBC Chicago, citing unnamed sources, reported that Emanuel will appoint Eddie Johnson, a well-regarded veteran cop who currently serves as CPD’s head of patrol, to the role of interim superintendent.

“I Wouldn’t Lead It”: Understanding Trump’s Incitement to Violence

In the March 20th edition of the Wall Street Journal, political commentator Peggy Noonan reflects on Donald Trump’s saying that if he were denied the nomination by some nit-picking rule (like the rule that you must win a majority of the delegates before you can claim victory), “I think you’d have riots” and “bad things would happen.” Of course, he added, “I wouldn’t lead it.”

Bernie Sanders: Hillary Clinton’s Fundraising Is ‘Obscene’

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday criticized rival Hillary Clinton’s ties to deep-pocketed donors on Wall Street and in the pharmaceutical industry.

“It is obscene that Secretary Clinton keeps going to big-money people to fund her campaign,” Sanders said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In Donald Trump’s Worldview, America Comes First, and Everybody Else Pays

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said that if elected, he might halt purchases of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies unless they commit ground troops to the fight against the Islamic State or “substantially reimburse” the United States for combating the militant group, which threatens their stability.

“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection,” Mr. Trump said during a 100-minute interview on foreign policy, spread over two phone calls on Friday, “I don’t think it would be around.”

Egypt’s Young “Anti-Torture T-Shirt” Detainee Finally Free After Nearly 800 Days Behind Bars

ISTANBUL — Mahmoud Hussein, detained in Cairo while wearing an anti-torture t-shirt, is finally free after nearly 800 days behind bars during which he says he was repeatedly tortured.

Hussein, who was 18 years old when he was taken into custody on Jan. 25, 2014, after attending a demonstration against both military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood, has since spent over two years in detention without being formally charged.

Louisiana Reporter Arrested for ‘Trespassing’ While Trying to Access Public Records

The mayor of White Castle, La., may have some explaining to do. Chris Nakamoto, the chief investigator of local news station WBRZ, was arrested Thursday when he attempted to legally access public files that detail Mayor Jermarr Williams’ pay—specifically, how much taxpayer money went to his travel expenses.

Earlier this week, WBRZ filed for access to the documents and obtained some of them, but Nakamoto later returned to City Hall to search for missing papers. It was then that he was arrested.

Canada's defence budget heads back to the future

"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss," sang The Who in their 1971 classic, Won't Get Fooled Again.

Sadly, though, for geezers who recall that brave song from 45 years ago, The Who were wrong. We always get fooled again.

So meet the new defence budget. Same as the old defence budget.

Huguette Labelle: Senate Advisory Board Didn't Ensure Nominees Met Property Requirements

OTTAWA — The head of the board that recommended Senate appointments to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it wasn’t their responsibility to ensure that all the nominees met the qualifications for office.

Huguette Labelle, a highly regarded former civil servant and emeritus governor of the University of Ottawa, told The Huffington Post Canada on Friday that when her independent panel handed over 25 names to the Prime Minister’s Office as recommendations for new senators, it did not make sure that the five Quebecers on the list met property ownership requirements that apply in the province.

Time for These Two Democrats to Go

There are two Democrats whose resignation from office right now would do their party and country a service.

Their disappearance might also help Hillary Clinton convince skeptical Democrats that her nomination, if it happens, is about the future, and not about resurrecting and ratifying the worst aspects of the first Clinton reign when she and her husband rarely met a donor to whom they wouldn't try to auction a sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Poland approves large-scale logging in Europe's last primeval forest

Poland has approved large-scale logging in Europe’s last primeval woodland in a bid to combat a beetle infestation despite protests from scientists, ecologists and the European Union.

The action in the Białowieża forest is intended to fight the spread of the spruce bark beetle.

“We’re acting to curb the degradation of important habitats, to curb the disappearance and migration of important species from this site,” the environment minister, Jan Szyszko, said.

The Refugee Deal Continues Europe’s History of Dirty Dealing With Turkey

Last week, European Union leaders announced a new deal with Turkey. It was hotly anticipated for a number of reasons: Would it “solve” Europe’s refugee crisis? To what extent would the EU give in to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s demands? The deal seeks to repatriate refugees back to Turkey, which would become a “safe country.”