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.]

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ex-CIA Chief David Petraeus Won't Be Demoted Over Scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says it will not demote retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information while CIA director, an incident stemming from an affair with his biographer.

"The Army completed its review of his case and recommended no additional action," Stephen C. Hedger, assistant defense secretary for legislative affairs, wrote the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday. Given that review, Hedger said Defense Secretary Ash Carter "considers this matter closed."

US Building Boom Fuels Spike in Construction Worker Injury and Death

They fall from ladders, roofs and scaffolding, get electrocuted, and breathe in toxic chemicals and dust. They get hit by falling objects and find themselves on the receiving end of mechanical failures and equipment malfunctions. For 7.45 million construction workers - one-fourth of them foreign born - going to work as a bricklayer, carpenter, electrician, framer, mason, painter, plumber, or drywall or tile installer means facing acute dangers within their daily work.

22 Clinton Emails Deemed ‘Top Secret’ by State Department

Confirming that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private computer server held highly classified material, the U.S. government Friday censored 22 emails.

The seven email chains from the Democratic presidential front-runner will be withheld from the public because information in them has been deemed “top secret,” announced John Kirby, State Department spokesman. However, “These documents were not marked classified at the time that they were sent,” he said, having been upgraded at the request of intelligence agencies.

Alberta Royalty Review: 'We Were Right All Along,' Wildrose Leader Says

EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley's critics delivered a collective I told you so Friday in light of a review that concluded the amount of money energy companies pay for the resources they develop shouldn't change.

"We were right all along," Wildrose Leader Brian Jean told reporters in Edmonton after Notley released in Calgary her government's action plan following a review of oil and gas royalties.

Big Brother's tough week

One of Canada's foremost privacy experts is challenging the government's assessment that the impact of a privacy breach involving the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy agency, "was low."

"The privacy impact is not low," Anne Covoukian, the executive director of the privacy and big data Institute at Ryerson told The House.

Sorry Rick Mercer, Energy East won't unite our country but it will destroy our planet

I look up to Rick Mercer and have a huge amount of respect for him, and I've been inspired by many of the rants he's filmed in this alley. But as someone who cares deeply about climate change, I'd like to respond to his most recent rant framing the Energy East pipeline as not only necessary for our economy, but a linchpin of national unity.

Why Hillary Clinton’s Take On Abraham Lincoln Is 'Total Fantasy'

During a Democratic forum this week, Hillary Clinton gave an account of American history that glossed over the racist terrorism that dominated the South after the Civil War.

When asked who her favorite president was, Clinton said it was Abraham Lincoln, but soon lost the plot:

    I don't know what our country might have been like had [Abraham Lincoln] not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant. ... But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the re-instigation of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So, I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.

The Pied Piper of Zion

Hamelin, A small town in Germany (not so far from where I was born), was infested with rats. In their despair, the burghers called upon a rat-catcher and promised him a thousand guilders for liberating them from this plague.

The rat-catcher took his pipe and played such a sweet melody that all the rats came out of their holes and joined him. He marched them to the Weser river, where they all drowned.

PS unions want more than 'review' of contentious labour bill

The Liberal government and federal unions are locking horns over a piece of Conservative-era labour legislation even before they reach their first round of collective bargaining.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison said Friday he is sticking to his plan to review rather than repeal Bill C-4, the contentious Tory legislation that completely changed the ground rules for collective bargaining in the public service.

Why the Jian Ghomeshi trial may change nothing for sexual assault survivors

There were promising signs in the days after the allegations about Jian Ghomeshi were published — and more so after charges were laid.

The stories that emerged on #beenrapedneverreported prompted conversations, on and offline, about what changes were needed so women would not feel afraid, failed, betrayed or ignored by the justice system. The police chief at the time, Bill Blair, appealed for victims to come forward so police could investigate “as quickly and compassionately as possible.” The provincial government launched a framework to tackle sexual violence and harassment and announced additional funding for sexual assault centres — though demand still exceeds the services provided.

I Traveled to Palestine-Israel and Discovered There Is No 'Palestinian-Israeli Conflict'

The mind has a way of making traumatic experiences seem like distant dreams to those who survive them. As it goes, the more traumatic the experience, the quicker the paramedics in one's mind rush to dress wounds, resuscitate and stabilize the victim; the victim being you.

Since returning from Palestine 36 hours ago, I find myself confronted with feelings of detachment and minimization of what I encountered. My subconscious has decided the horrors I witnessed in the 'Holy Land' were nothing serious-horrors which include a 26-foot-tall concrete wall enclosing the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank, and the sniper towers seemingly on every other corner of this open-air prison.

House Investigates Flint Water Crisis, But The Governor Isn't On The Invite List

WASHINGTON -- The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, on Feb. 3. But the list of witnesses does not include Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), an omission that some are calling inexcusable.

The oversight committee has called a hearing for next Wednesday at 9 a.m. focusing on violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint. The Flint water crisis came as a result of officials in the Snyder administration telling city officials not to use corrosion treatment after the city began pulling drinking water from the Flint River. The water then corroded the city's pipes, causing lead contamination. State officials dismissed complaints from Flint residents about the water quality for over a year.

Republican Activists Think Donald Trump Is Their Best Shot To Win

The most politically active members of the Republican Party have warmed to Donald Trump’s bid for the party’s presidential nomination since last summer, according to a new Huffington Post/YouGov poll, which finds 68 percent now think he could win the general election.

While most surveys attempt to reflect the entire electorate, this one is the latest in a trio of polls focusing solely on Republican activists: well-informed party stalwarts who've run for or held office, served as party officials, worked on campaigns or volunteered their time before elections.

Tens of Millions Wasted on "Ghost" Schools, and That’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Things are going from bad to worse in Afghanistan, according to a new report filed by the US government's top watchdog for Afghan reconstruction spending.

"In this reporting period, Afghanistan proved even more dangerous than it was a year ago," writes John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), in a quarterly report released Friday morning. Sopko says recent "vicious and repeated attacks" in Kabul have shaken the confidence in the national government, and that American and British forces have had to step in several times to back up Afghan security and police forces, even though the local forces were given that primary responsibility a year ago.

The Anti-Slavery Roots of Today’s “-Phobia” Obsession

Where do phobias come from? And how do they become political? In a recent New York Times article, Amanda Hess addresses these questions in an investigation of phobia’s rise as a sociopolitical register. Titled “How ‘-Phobic’ Became a Weapon in the Identity Wars,” the essay shows that the “modern ‘-phobia’ boom” can be traced back to New York psychologist and gay rights activist George Weinberg, who coined the term “homophobia” in his 1972 book Society and the Healthy Homosexual. “‘Homophobia’ was a hit,” Hess explains. It became the go-to “descriptor for the intolerant” and a rallying point for gay liberation worldwide. Since then, phobia has fully infiltrated activist lingo. “Islamophobia,” “xenophobia,” “transphobia”—each fulfills a hallowed role for a corresponding social movement, organizing an array of discriminatory acts into an all-purpose buzzword.

Government Finds 'Top Secret' Information In Hillary Clinton's Emails

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration confirmed for the first time Friday that Hillary Clinton's home server contained closely guarded government secrets, censoring 22 emails that contained material requiring one of the highest levels of classification. The revelation comes three days before Clinton competes in the Iowa presidential caucuses.

State Department officials also said the agency's Diplomatic Security and Intelligence and Research bureaus are investigating if any of the information was classified at the time of transmission, going to the heart of Clinton's defense of her email practices.

Hungry Children in Rich America 01/29/2016 04:00 pm ET | Updated 16 hours ago

Sarah is three years old. She and her six-year-old brother, Bryce, are inseparable except when it’s time for him to visit the summer food program that provides meals at a school near his Ohio home for children who otherwise would go hungry. Sarah’s too young to make the trip. One morning after Bryce had his fill of food for the day he made a detour before heading home. He walked to the trash cans and began rummaging through food others threw away. Winnie Brewer, the Food Services Supervisor in Marion City Schools, noticed the little boy and tapped him on the shoulder to ask why he was sifting through the garbage. “My little sister,” he explained. “She’s hungry.” Bringing her leftover food was the only way he knew to help.

State Rep. Praises KKK, Wants New Holiday To Honor Confederacy

The Ku Klux Klan has gotten a bad rap, according to one Georgia lawmaker. He says the terror group “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order” that “made a lot of people straighten up.”

That leader is now hellbent on stopping the “cultural cleansing” of the South’s heritage. So far this year, State Rep. Tommy Benton (R) has co-sponsored two bills to preserve the Confederate’s legacy.

Alberta government introduces industry-friendly oil and gas royalty system

CALGARY — Pent-up anxiety over changes to Alberta's oil and gas royalties dissipated Friday after the provincial government revealed it's keeping the status quo for oilsands players and simplifying the system for conventional oil and gas wells.

A four-member panel led by Dave Mowat, head of Crown-owned bank ATB Financial, has spent the last five months studying Alberta's royalty system — amid a worsening outlook for oil prices.

Dear Mulcair: Fighting income inequality is not just an email petition away

A few days ago the NDP sent out an email to those who subscribe to their party email list that was ostensibly from its leader Tom Mulcair and that had as its title "Tackling income inequality."

It read, in part:

    "Our NDP team is back in Ottawa this week and ready to get to work for you.
    Front and centre is the issue of income inequality -- one of the most glaring injustices in our society. It's not enough to say that everyone has the same chance in a game that's rigged against the most vulnerable.
    That does nothing to help a child who lives in an overcrowded, unheated apartment and goes to school cold and hungry in the morning. Or the pensioner whose income is slipping away.
    In 2015, Canadian banks earned a record $35 billion in profits and handed out $12.5 billion in bonuses. Meanwhile, those same banks eliminated 4,600 good-paying Canadian jobs last year alone."

Wages vs. workers: How Canada's minimum rates compare

Workers in Canada have fought for higher minimum wages for more than a century and a new wave of this campaign is percolating in workplaces across the country.

Low-wage workers struggling to make ends meet and organizations advocating for a realistic living wage -- like the Fight for 15 movements -- have won successive wage increases despite fierce opposition from business owners and politicians. Opponents usually point to unmanageable labour costs and warn that increases in unemployment will be a result.

Snowden files reveal US and UK spied on feeds from Israeli drones and jets

A joint UK-US intelligence programme has been spying on electronic feeds – including video – from Israel’s military drones and jet fighters going back to 1998.

In a potentially embarrassing disclosure for Israel, which prides itself on its technical capabilities, a new release from material held by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has revealed that UK and US intelligence officials have been regularly accessing Israeli cockpit cameras even in the midst of operations in Gaza and Lebanon.

Ontario watchdog urged to investigate WSIB

Citing “systematic disregard” for professional medical assessments of injured workers, advocates have asked Ontario’s government watchdog to launch an investigation into the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

The 200-page submission made Friday to the provincial ombudsman by health professionals, workers, lawyers and labour groups blasts WSIB for ignoring the medical advice provided by doctors treating injured workers, in favour of so-called “paper doctors” who have not met patients directly.

Sale of concert tickets a ‘fixed game,’ inquiry finds

ALBANY, N.Y. — Had a hard time getting a ticket to a concert or sporting event? New York’s attorney general says that’s probably because more than half of tickets to many events are held for industry insiders or otherwise unavailable to the general public.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a report released Thursday that his investigation of the industry was prompted by consumer complaints, which his office receives regularly.