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, January 28, 2016

CSE Broke Privacy Laws With Metadata Sharing, Watchdog Says

OTTAWA — Canada's electronic spy agency broke privacy laws by sharing information about Canadians with foreign partners, says a federal watchdog.

The Communications Security Establishment passed along the information — known as metadata — to counterparts in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, said Jean-Pierre Plouffe, who keeps an eye on the highly secretive agency.

Mark Zuckerberg Made A LOT Of Money During His Paternity Leave

Mark Zuckerberg did pretty well for himself while he was out on his paternity leave.

The Facebook founder and chief executive just got back from leave, which he spent cozied up with his brand-new baby girl, Max. He shared many deliciously cute photos during that time.

Apparently, Facebook did just fine while its leader was away. On Wednesday, the social network announced that its revenue had grown by an astonishing 52 percent over the three-month period ending Dec. 31 -- profits for that quarter were more than $1 BILLION. Zuckerberg was out on leave for about one-third of that time.

Paul LePage Urges Maine Residents To Shoot Drug Dealers

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) wants state residents to start shooting drug dealers on sight in order to help alleviate Maine's heroin crisis.

"Everybody in Maine, we have constitutional carry," LePage said Wednesday.
"Load up and get rid of the drug dealers."

Since October, Maine has allowed legal firearm owners to carry concealed handguns without a permit.

How America's Gun Manufacturers Are Quietly Getting Richer Off Taxpayers

In January 2013, a month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the state of New York passed gun control legislation that included a ban on the retail sale of assault weapons. Soon after, Remington Outdoor Company, the maker of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the massacre, announced it would lay off workers at its 200-year-old factory in Ilion and move production to Huntsville, Alabama. Then CEO George Kollitides explained in a letter to New York officials that the move was brought on by "state policies affecting use of our products."

How Americans Are Increasingly Turning Their Backs on the Poor

With the winter winds of January came a flurry of reports that several states were moving to cut thousands of people from their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamp”) rolls.

In New Jersey, for example, Governor Chris Christie pulled the plug on benefits to 11,000 unemployed state residents.

American Democracy Down for the Count

Some years ago, I faced up to the futility of reporting true things about America’s disastrous wars and so I left Afghanistan for another remote mountainous country far away. It was the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.

It’s true that they didn’t work much, not by American standards anyway. In the U.S., full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20% clocking more than 60. These people, on the other hand, worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations. At the end of the work day, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three in the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest or a swim with the kids or a beer with friends—which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs.

Half Of Canadian Soldiers Experienced Abuse As Kids: Study

OTTAWA — A new study says approximately half of military personnel in Canada begin their service with a history of abuse in their childhood, including corporal punishment, or witnessed domestic violence as children.

Don't Tell Me Letting Uber Ignore Rules Is about Competition

I was in Houston, Texas, last Thursday when the BC Liberals performed an about-face in favour of Uber, a controversial transportation provider seeking access to the B.C. market.

At the end of my night, I asked the bartender for the name of a cab company. He told me to use Uber because a taxi would take between 60 and 90 minutes, and might not come at all.

On Nature's Death Row: It Used to Be BC's 'Eden'

Picture this scene: It's a bright spring morning. A light breeze scented with sea salt sets wildflowers nodding. Overhead, a pair of cappuccino-coloured butterflies the size of quarters flicker and pirouette around gnarled trees freshly dressed in green. In the deeper shade, a keen eye might pick out, like a fat comma in bright blue, the slow advance of a slug across a rotting leaf. Suddenly a small bird bursts up into the spring air, the sun catching its lemon-yellow face and black raccoon-mask, a sharp musical trill following its rise.

Donald Trump Could Do Something Unprecedented In Modern Elections

Donald Trump may be about to do something that has never been done in the modern presidential nominating era: Win a state primary without a single endorsement from a member of Congress.

In a testament to the oddity that is 2016, just days before primary voting begins, Trump -- the GOP frontrunner that the GOP refuses to believe is the frontrunner -- has yet to win the official support of any elected official on Capitol Hill.

Bernie Sanders’s Radical Environmental Proposal

There isn’t much daylight these days between the Democratic candidates on the environment. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley all agree that humans are responsible for climate change and that it’s one of the world’s most pressing problems. To that end, they support clean energy tax breaks, reject drilling offshore and in the Arctic, and oppose the (now-rejected) Keystone XL pipeline.

But there’s one environmental issue where Sanders truly stands apart: He wants to ban hydraulic fracturing outright. Clinton and O’Malley have proposed lesser measures, and show no sign of going further. That’s an indication of just how radical Sanders’s stance really is, but it also raises an important question: Is a fracking ban remotely plausible?

Ted Cruz Assures Voters He Will Address ‘Crisis’ Of Gay Marriage

KEOSAUQUA, IOWA — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz ended a seven-stop tour of Iowa on Tuesday with extended comments against marriage equality and transgender-inclusive policies, which he said represented a “time of crisis” in America.

His remarks came in response to a question from Keosauqua resident Randy DeLong, who expressed concern with the “moral decay in this country.”

Note To Media: The Heavily Armed, Law-Breaking Oregon Militants Aren’t ‘Protesters’

With news that the leader of the Oregon militia occupying a federal wildlife refuge was arrested last night, and another member killed in a confrontation with police, it’s worth taking a look back at how the media has described the crisis in the last few weeks.

The armed militia first seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon on January 2, and proclaimed early on that they were willing to kill and be killed if necessary. Since then, their occupation of the land, and their refusal to seriously negotiate with the FBI, has cost the U.S. government over $133,000 per day.

Documents Reveal How Harper Government Cherry-Picked Syrian Refugee Files

OTTAWA — Newly released government documents paint the clearest picture to date of how the Conservative government's controversial approach to Syrian refugee resettlement played out last year.

Before last winter, the previous government had only committed to take in 1,300 Syrian refugees from the millions fleeing the civil war there and spilling into surrounding countries.

Rogers: Wireless Price Hike Needed Because Running Network 'More Work Than Making Cup Of Coffee'

TORONTO -- Rogers CEO Guy Laurence on Wednesday defended the communications giant's decision to raise cellphone rates despite higher revenue and profits, saying it was necessary to cover the high cost of building and maintaining mobile networks.

Canada Gas Prices vs. Oil Prices Show That Drivers Are Getting Screwed

Gas prices are giving Canadians very little relief from a rocky economy, says a recent report from the Bank of Canada.

The central bank's Monetary Policy Report contains a chart showing that Canadian gas prices remain relatively high compared to the falling price of oil.

Did Harjit Sajjan read his mandate letter?

In Justin Trudeau's mandate letter to defense minister Harjit Sajjan he ordered him to "end Canada's combat mission in Iraq and Syria." But as former defense minister Jason Kenney, who has bravely served this country as a four-star collector of World War II paraphernalia, pointed out with this graphicon Twitter, our airstrikes continue. 

Another Study Shows Why 'Pulling Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps' Is A Complete Fantasy

In the nearly seven years since the end of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has rebounded on the macro level. But for a huge number of people, the "American dream" remains as elusive as it's ever been.

New research released Monday by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit, illustrates key facts about financial insecurity and inequality in the U.S. -- and shows how these features of our economy put women and people of color at a major disadvantage.

Lawsuit: Chicago Police Entered Family's Home, Shot Their Dog, Won't Explain Why

CHICAGO (CN) - Chicago police shot and killed a man's dog in front of his kids and they refuse to turn over records about the incident, he claims in a Cook County lawsuit.

Antonie Glasper's attorney, Torreya Hamilton, said Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers showed up at his house in August 2015 and busted down his front door while he was home with his 9-year-old and 20-year-old autistic children.

Fox News Threatened By Trump's Latest Faustian Bargain

This week's Republican debate, scheduled to take place on Fox News, is all ass over tea kettle now, thanks to that great disrupter of tea kettles, Donald Trump, who is threatening to "boycott" the debate because of Fox's apparently naive insistence that they should be allowed to deploy their journalists as they see fit.

Trump is aggrieved that Fox anchor Megyn Kelly -- who at a previous debate made the impertinent choice to ask him a question other than "Why are you so amazing?" -- is slated to continue to ply her craft as a debate moderator, despite Trump's objections. All of this has led to a round of "What is everyone playing at here?" questioning.

Facebook Is Making Billions Off Its Smartphone Users

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc <FB.O> reported a 51.7 percent jump in revenue for the final quarter of 2015 as new advertising formats and an improved mobile app drove a sharp rise in ad sales.

The company's total revenue rose to $5.84 billion from $3.85 billion a year earlier, with ad revenue increasing 56.8 percent to $5.64 billion in the holiday shopping period, when spending on advertising typically spikes.

Donald Trump Expects The Media To Do What He Wants -- Because It Often Does

NEW YORK -- After Donald Trump announced Tuesday night that he would boycott Thursday's Fox News debate, Megyn Kelly, one of the event’s moderators and the frequent object of Trump's ire, warned the real estate mogul on her primetime show that he “doesn’t get to control the media.”

Events of the past seven months suggest otherwise.

More Than 100 Teens Have Been Sentenced To Die In Iran

At least 160 young Iranians are currently awaiting execution and 73 others have been put to death between 2005 and 2015, a chilling new report from Amnesty International says.

As the world's leading executioner of offenders under 18 and one of the world's largest users of the death penalty overall, Iran had nearly 700 people executed in the first half of 2015 alone.

"The situation overall is shocking and distressing,” Raha Bahreini, the report's lead researcher, told The WorldPost. “It is absolutely shocking that the majority of countries in the world have rejected the death penalty, but Iran continues to sentence girls as young as 9 and boys as young as 15 to death."

GOP Still Investigating Planned Parenthood, Even After Sting Videos Backfire

Republicans are determined to push on with their investigation of Planned Parenthood, even after a Texas grand jury cleared the organization of wrongdoing on Monday and instead indicted two anti-abortion activists who targeted the family planning provider in a series of undercover videos.

One of the videos, taped at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston and purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff members discussing the sale of fetal tissue for medical research, inspired Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, to ask Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to initiate a criminal investigation of the organization in August.

Fox News Statement Taunting Trump Was ‘100 Percent’ Roger Ailes

As the war between Fox News and Donald Trump ratchets up, Roger Ailes is fighting off criticism from his senior executives over his handling of the crisis. According to one highly placed source, last night, Ailes sent out the now-famous statement mocking Trump as being scared to meet with the “Ayatollah” and “Putin” if he became president. “That was Roger 100 percent,” the source explained. “A lot of people on the second floor” — where top Fox executives work — “didn’t think it was a good idea.”

How TPP Helps Workers Still a Mystery, Says National Union Leader

The head of the country's leading labour association says he still has no idea how a major Pacific Rim trade deal will help Canadian workers, despite recent meetings with the minister responsible for the deal.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, added that he doesn't understand why Canada is signing on to the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership when there are still unanswered questions about how it will benefit Canada economically.

Christy Clark's LNG Comments 'Paternalistic' And 'Mindless': First Nations Leaders

VANCOUVER— Premier Christy Clark had sharp words Monday for what she calls the "forces of No'' in British Columbia who mount resistance efforts to government initiatives purely out of a fear of change.

First Nations leaders quickly shot back at the premier, labelling her comments "paternalistic'' and "mindless.''

Zuckerberg’s Get-Away Car -- The Facebook founder's “philanthropy” lets him stash his billions without paying taxes.

Let us now praise “Lord Zuckerberg, The Magnificent!”

Mark Zuckerberg, the wunderkind of Silicon Valley who co-founded Facebook and amassed roughly a gabillion dollars in personal wealth, is now being hailed as a new giant of American altruism.

Here's What Ted Cruz Won't Tell You About His Days as a Corporate Lawyer

In the pegged-to-the-campaign memoir Ted Cruz released last year, A Time for Truth, the GOP presidential contender chronicles his rise from the son of a Cuban immigrant to a tea-party-beloved, Obama-obstructing senator. But a chapter in his life gets short shrift: Cruz's years as a highly paid private lawyer who often defended powerful corporations. And there are several significant cases he handled—politically inconvenient cases—that he has photoshopped out of his personal narrative.

Indiana Lawmaker Tries To Seriously Limit The State’s Ability To Make Environmental Rules

State lawmakers are often at odds with Washington when it comes to prescribed environmental laws. But Indiana may soon become an odd exception with a sweeping environmental rule that some critics have called one of the worst legislative bills the state has considered.

The commonly called “no more stringent than” bill would prohibit state policymakers from creating environmental rules that go beyond comparable federal standards. More than 13 local organizations oppose the measure, according to Indiana’s Hoosier Environmental Council, which said the bill would hinder the state’s ability to swiftly address local pollution problems or water emergencies like those happening in Flint, Michigan.

Boosting the economy for the rest of us

Elites and the talking heads in the media are arguing about how to respond to Canada's soured economic outlook. Who should try to boost the economy: the federal government via fiscal stimulus or the Bank of Canada via monetary policy? But while elites argue amongst themselves, the overriding context is a transfer and concentration of economic power upwards. This, not $10 billion here or 0.25 per cent there, is what hamstrings any policy response going to the benefit of the many.

Extreme wealth, the plutocrats and Canada

Just ahead of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the global charity and relief organization Oxfam issued a stern warning about increasing global inequality. Oxfam's new report, "An Economy for the 1%: How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped," points out that in 2015, a handful of billionaires held wealth equal to the world's poorest 3.6 billion people. The world's 62 richest people -- less than 0.000002 per cent of global population -- had as much wealth as the poorest 50 per cent. And global inequality continues to get ever more extreme.

Ammon Bundy Arrested, Follower Killed, During Confrontation With Law Enforcement In Oregon

Ammon Bundy, leader of the month-long militant occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, was arrested Tuesday in a highway confrontation with law enforcement that killed one of his followers and wounded another, according to the FBI.

TPP's Economic Impact Will Be Fewer Jobs, More Inequality, New Study Says

The Trans-Pacific Partnership meant to create the world’s largest free trade area will cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality, says a new U.S. study.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the study found that the two largest economies in the TPP — the U.S. and Japan — would actually shrink as a result of the trade deal, and that the deal would result in fewer jobs overall in all the participating countries.

Canadians not getting full benefit of falling crude prices

Prices at the gas pump fell 4 per cent in December, but crude prices fell by more than three times that amount during that time.

Gasoline prices in Canada averaged $1.02 per litre last month, when crude averaged $37 a barrel (U.S.). But in February 2009, when oil sold for $39, the average price for gas was about 15 per cent cheaper at 85 cents a litre.

GOP Candidates Freaking Out About Grand Jury That Indicted Anti-Abortion Activists

After a Texas-based grand jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood on Monday, clearing an Austin-based clinic of any wrongdoing, GOP presidential candidates are simply doubling down on their opposition to the national women’s health organization. Although the jury chose to indict the videographers who tried to discredit Planned Parenthood in a misleading video campaign, rather than the organization itself, the verdict has only further inspired candidates to speak out against the nonprofit and its “disturbing” mission.

The real (and shocking) story of Kevin O'Leary's business career

Is Kevin O’Leary a good or bad businessman?

Buried in the back pages of the financial press last October was a story about the sale of his mutual fund company, O’Leary Funds, to Canoe Financial, an investment firm run by former Dragons’ Den cast member and entrepreneur Brett Wilson.

O’Leary had launched his funds with great fanfare back in 2008, introducing them to viewers on his Business News Network (BNN) show, SqueezePlay. Before the cameras, wearing a natty navy-blue suit and matching azure tie, O’Leary resembled a proud father with a new infant as he explained to co-host Amanda Lang how his fund was designed to produce yield on a monthly basis.

Hillary Goes Up to 11, While Bernie Dials It Back

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shared a stage—separately—at Monday night’s Iowa Democratic Forum on CNN, the most noticeable thing was the difference in volume. By reputation, Sanders is a shouter, but on this occasion he came across as much quieter than Clinton, who gave forceful, directed, and impassioned answers to some difficult questions from Iowa Democrats. Both candidates were fighting against stereotypes that voters have formed of them, using a new tone to win over those still wavering before the Iowa caucuses next Monday. And both of them gave, in their different ways, remarkably convincing performances.

Noam Chomsky Says GOP Is 'Literally A Serious Danger To Human Survival’

Noam Chomsky, the noted radical and MIT professor emeritus, said the Republican Party has become so extreme in its rhetoric and policies that it poses a “serious danger to human survival.”

“Today, the Republican Party has drifted off the rails,” Chomsky, a frequent critic of both parties, said in an interview Monday with The Huffington Post. “It’s become what the respected conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein call ‘a radical insurgency’ that has pretty much abandoned parliamentary politics.”

Danish parliament approves plan to seize assets from refugees

Denmark has become the latest European state to force refugees to hand over their valuables, with the continent increasingly using scare tactics and physical deterrents to deal with the continent’s biggest migration crisis since the second world war.

Following similar moves in Switzerland and southern Germany, Denmark’s parliament voted on Tuesday to allow police to search asylum-seekers on arrival in the country and confiscate any non-essential items worth more than 10,000 Danish kroner (about £1,000) that have no sentimental value to their owner.

How Two-Party Political Systems Bolster Capitalism

Mainstream economics has always privileged one debate above all others as its most central. Should production and distribution of goods and services be private or public, done by individuals or the state? Mainstream economists likewise keep aggressively projecting this question as the central debate for politics and politicians. Such arrogant self-confidence is the other side of the insular self-absorption that characterizes so much of the mainstream economics "discipline."

The Poisoning of Flint Was Not an Accident - It Was a Crime

What does lead do to the human body? Infants and small children can suffer brain and nervous system damage, weakened immune systems and general physical collapse that can lead to death. Pregnant women have a higher risk of stillbirth or miscarriage. A raft of studies has pretty much concluded that lead can cause cancer. It causes cardiovascular diseases and kidney damage which, like cancer, can also kill. The people of Flint, Michigan, are now subject to all of these impacts and more, due to the lead in their water.

How Putin Started Winning Big in Syria and Got Europe to Embrace Him

Russia is so far winning big in Syria, and making Moscow’s projection of force in the Middle East a reality that the other great powers have to recognize.  As Russia has emerged as a major combatant against Syrian al-Qaeda and against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), it is being accepted back into a Europe traumatized by two major attacks on Paris.  France is signalling that it hopes to end sanctions on Russia over Ukraine by this summer.  While the Minsk peace process is going all right, the motivation here is to ally more closely with Moscow against Muslim radicals in the wake of Russia’s successes against them in Syria.

Russia's bleak winter: Protests grow as ruble weakens and Kremlin makes painful cuts

A dazzling display of festival lights makes Moscow look magical, brightening up the dark winter night. But the image of a bright, confident 2016 is a mirage.

"To tell you the truth, we are really worried for our country," says Anya Zhurova, passing by and lured in by the light show.

"We feel sick for our country and we hope our president [Vladimir Putin] can sort out all the plans he's made, but it's a difficult period."

Telecoms Must Defend Our Privacy, Court Confirms

In today's communications driven world, no one collects as much information about its customers as telecom companies. As subscribers increasingly rely on the same company for internet connectivity, wireless access, local phone service, and television packages, the breadth of personal data collection is truly staggering.

Whether it is geo-location data on where we go, information on what we read online, details on what we watch, or lists identifying with whom we communicate, telecom and cable companies have the capability of pulling together remarkably detailed profiles of millions of Canadians.

Mayor's task force recommends shakeup at Toronto Community Housing

The expert group tasked by Mayor John Tory with improving Toronto Community Housing is recommending the biggest shakeup of the country’s largest landlord since its creation.

The result of 29 recommendations from the mayor’s task force to be released Tuesday morning, and obtained by the Star, would see the creation of a new non-profit housing provider and put more emphasis on direct support for, and input from, tenants.

Ottawa discriminated against kids on reserves, human rights panel says

OTTAWA—The federal government discriminated against children on reserves in its funding of child welfare services, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled Tuesday.

The quasi-judicial body was ruling on a 2007 complaint from the Assembly of First Nations and The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, who had argued the federal government failed to provide First Nations children the same level of services that exist elsewhere.

Clintons's $200,000 an Hour Pay From Goldman Sachs is Nothing to Laugh At

Goldman Sachs -- the investment bank that was so instrumental in causing the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression -- pays Hillary Clinton $200,000 an hour or more to speak to their executives and investors. (The median income for an American family is $52,259 a year.)

What do Hillary and the Wall Street bank discuss that's worth over $200,000 an hour? And what does Goldman Sachs, and other Wall Street firms who have paid Hillary $2.5 million in the past two years, expect in return?

Leaked Documents Undermine Official Story Of Flint Water Crisis

As tens of thousands of Flint, Michigan, residents remain without drinkable tap water and are wondering if their children will face lifelong damage from lead exposure, new documents released in recent days cast significant doubts on the narrative embraced by Gov. Rick Synder’s (R) administration regarding how and why the city’s water supply was replaced by corrosive Flint River water to begin with.

Armed Oregon Militia Creates Kangaroo Court To Indict Government

An armed group that has taken over a national wildlife refuge to protest federal land use policies continues to escalate the situation by introducing a common law grand jury, which has no actual legal standing. They have chosen Joaquin Mariano DeMoreta-Folch, St. Augustine Tea Party government accountability chairman and a longtime proponent of convening secret citizens’ panels to indict government officials to be their common law judge and at a recent event held at the refuge a New Mexico rancher, Adrian Sewell of Grant County, New Mexico, renounced his federal grazing contract from the U.S. Forest Service.

Militia Says It Will Take Up Arms To Defend Flint If Necessary

A group of vigilantes has vowed to take up arms to defend the city’s residents. During a rally in front of City Hall, an executive officer for the Genesee County Volunteer Militia announced the group is “not going to allow [the government] to step on the people of Flint any longer.”

“We’re here to defend this community,” said Matthew Krol, who was joined by approximately 30 supporters. The Detroit Free Press reported that the group carried “Don’t Tread On Me” signs and some of its members had pistols. “We’re not going to allow (the government) to step on the people of Flint any longer.”