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.]

Monday, January 11, 2016

Do the Kochs Have Their Own Spy Network?

Five years ago, when The New Yorker published my piece “Covert Operations,” about the ambitious and secretive political network underwritten by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers complained mightily about the story’s title, protesting that there was nothing at all covert about their political activities. Since then, the two have embarked on an impressive public-relations campaign meant to demonstrate their transparency and openness. But today, the Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel came out with a blockbuster scoop suggesting that the brothers, whose organization has vowed to spend an unprecedented eight hundred and eighty-nine million dollars in the 2016 election cycle, are more involved in covert operations than even their own partners have known.

Trump won't rule out special ID for Muslim Americans noting their religion

Donald Trump would not rule out tracking Muslim Americans in a database or giving them “a special form of identification that noted their religion”, Yahoo news reported on Thursday in an interview with the Republican presidential candidate.

“We’re going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” Trump told Yahoo.

After Paris, now comes the assault on privacy

It is easy, in the aftermath of the attacks on Paris, to be buoyed by the outpouring of empathy and support the Internet has afforded the global community. But, in some ways, that cyber solidarity is a misdirection. We should, I think, also be turning our attention from the French flag and Eiffel Tower avatars towards the less heartwarming reaction of world security mandarins. They are using, as they have always done, the terrorist attacks as a call to arms to increase Internet surveillance and reduce the privacy of global citizens. 
In Britain, politicians including U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron are urging that the Investigatory Powers Bill should be "expedited" and made law "as soon as possible." It was to come into effect at the end of next year. He also plans to hire 1,900 new security and intelligence staff.

Ex-Drone Operator Says Program Is 'Good At Killing People, Just Not The Right Ones'

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. drone operators and technicians spoke out on Thursday about the extensive problems with the Obama administration's lethal program in the Middle East, shedding light on civilian deaths, the callousness of the culture, and the heavy weight of responsibility.

The ex-drone program participants outlined their experiences at an event held in New York that was organized to promote the new documentary Drone.

House Dems Back GOP On Bill To Pause Admittance Of Some Refugees

WASHINGTON -- Forty-seven House Democrats broke with the White House on Thursday to vote for a bill aimed at pausing admittance of Syrian and Iraqi refugees by adding requirements to an already lengthy screening process, and putting pressure on intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security officials to act with caution.

Humans 0 : Carbon 20

The seemingly complicated climate crisis has one very simple yardstick with which to measure progress: the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is the primary "control knob" of our climate. The more we put into our atmosphere, the more dangerous our climate crisis will become. The fossil fuel CO2 we've already put is loading our atmosphere, and the climate, with an additional 400,000 atomic bombs worth of extra energy every day.

James Forcillo Trial: Cop Who Killed Sammy Yatim Had Other Options, Court Hears

TORONTO — A Toronto officer who fired nine bullets at a teen on an empty streetcar had multiple alternatives to lethal force but didn't use them, his trial heard Wednesday.

Robert Warshaw - an expert on police use-of-force tactics - offered an analysis of the 2013 confrontation which triggered outrage across the city, saying the 50 second standoff between Const. James Forcillo and 18-year-old Sammy Yatim "went from A to Z rather quickly."

After Paris, there will be no stopping the surveillance state now

An old acquaintance who spent years in Canada's secret world, where he developed a you-don't-know-the-half-of-it smile, regularly sends me taunting emails and links.

The general theme is that thanks to all the whinging in the mainstream media about civil liberties, and the cavilling by politicians who disagreed with Stephen Harper about the imminent danger posed by Islamic terrorism to Canadians everywhere, our security agencies are unnecessarily hobbled.

What's Behind Facebook's Censoring Of Atheists In India

A few days ago a petition popped up on the website urging Mark Zuckerberg to “support freedom of expression in India” by unblocking an atheist Facebook group there with over 13,000 members.

How Trudeau plans to undo Harper’s legacy, brick by brick

Some Conservatives are marking the one-month anniversary of the election this week with an early dose of nostalgia for the former prime minister.

A photo of Stephen Harper, emblazoned with the caption “Miss Me Yet?”, has popped up on the blogs and Facebook posts of some core Conservatives. A new website,, has declared that Justin Trudeau “is already letting Canada down” and is vowing to “bring conservatism back to Ottawa.”

Scapegoating Edward Snowden Is ‘Irrational’ and Troubling, Advocates Warn

As politicians and security officials rush to shift the blame—with the mainstream media following suit —for Friday’s Paris attacks onto NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a chorus of voices is warning that, in addition to being “unbelievably irrational,” these claims are also very, very dangerous for civil liberties.

The dust hardly settled in Paris before former CIA director James Woosley said that Snowden had “blood on his hands.”

Paul Ryan’s Alarmist Syrian-Refugee Move Is Playing With Fire

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership—and his reputation for conservative pragmatism—is being put to an early test by the GOP’s determination to halt the flow of Syrian refugees because of purported fears that some ISIS killers may be among them. Ryan has come up with what he thinks may be a compromise between voices calling to end Syrian refugee migration, and the administration’s plan to admit at least 10,000 more. But it indulges the fear-mongers and is unlikely to satisfy them anyway.

The Spooky and Scandalous Past of Ben Carson's Top National Security Adviser

On Tuesday, the New York Times published a story that had the politerati abuzz. The headline was bold: "Ben Carson Is Struggling to Grasp Foreign Policy, Advisers Say." The piece reported that the GOP presidential candidate's "remarks on foreign policy have repeatedly raised questions about his grasp of the subject," and it noted that "two of his top advisers said in interviews that he had struggled to master the intricacies of the Middle East and national security and that intense tutoring was having little effect." Duane Clarridge, a top adviser to Carson on terrorism and national security, told the Times, "Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East." Ouch.

Why Are So Many Canadians Relying On Food Banks?

There is certainly enough bad news to go around these days. In Western Canada, companies in the oil patch have laid off 35,000 workers since the price of oil plunged by half.

In Central Canada, the manufacturing sector has not lived up to expectations set by the fall in the value of the loonie.

Precarious workers: Government can't ignore its own

The government of Ontario says it wants to help workers in precarious jobs.
With the launch this year of its "Changing Workplaces Review," the province aims "to improve security and opportunity for those made vulnerable by the structural economic pressures and changes being experienced by Ontarians in 2015."

Food Bank Use Remains at Financial Crisis Levels: Report

The cost of housing coupled with unemployment and poor wages is sending more Canadians to food banks, according to a charity organization dedicated to fighting hunger in the country.

Food Banks Canada released its annual report Hunger Count Tuesday in Ottawa today, showing a 1.3 per cent increase in food bank use by Canadians over the last year.

But the more concerning issue, said the group, is that food bank use shot up 26 per cent when the 2008 financial crisis hit and is holding in place rather than returning to pre-crisis levels.

The War on Terrorism Targets Democracy Itself

George Orwell's nightmarish vision of a totalitarian society casts a dark shadow over the United States. The consequences can be seen clearly in the ongoing and ruthless assault on the social state, workers, unions, higher education, students, poor people of color and any vestige of the social contract. Free market policies, values and practices with their emphasis on the privatization of public wealth, the elimination of social protections and the deregulation of economic activity now shape practically every commanding political and economic institution in the United States.

Trudeau begins to reverse Harper’s ugly legacy of over-reaching legislation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are moving with commendable speed to reverse some of Stephen Harper’s meaner legal legacies, including the Conservative government’s wars on the niqab and citizenship rights. These issues reeked of injustice and fairly polluted the recent federal election campaign.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould rang down the curtain Monday on the Harper government’s unwarranted and unlawful attempt to prevent devout Muslim women from wearing face-coverings such as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.