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.]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

FBI Director James Comey, Who Signed Off on Waterboarding, Is Now Losing Sleep Over an iPhone

FBI Director James Comey said his agency’s ongoing dispute with Apple raises “the hardest question I’ve seen in government.” Comey was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday about the government’s attempt to force Apple to write software than undoes its own security protocols.

But Comey has faced considerably tougher questions in his career. Before becoming FBI director, he was the deputy assistant attorney general in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, where he pushed back on certain elements of the Bush-Cheney torture and surveillance programs — but ended up signing off on both.

How Can Black People Trust Hillary Clinton After the 2008 Campaign?

Hillary Clinton appears to be playing cynical racial politics again, as she did in 2008. It’s just got a different look and feel.

Today, Clinton is wrapping herself in the flag of Obama to appeal to Black voters, arguing that she’s the candidate who will address the needs of Black people. She’s got her surrogates attacking her opponent’s civil rights bonafides, and she’s built a large stable of Black establishment players to support her. Clinton is proclaiming that Black Lives Matter and offering bold promises to fight systemic racism and inequality.

Tenants’ advocates decry proposal to privatize evictions

Tenants’ rights advocates are concerned Ontario might privatize the enforcement of eviction orders, introducing a “U.S.-style” system where profits trump the wellbeing of low-income residents who fall behind on the rent.

Currently, government officers in the “civil enforcement service” carry out eviction orders from the Landlord and Tenant Board, and impose court orders to seize property from people in debt, among other duties. The Ministry of the Attorney General issued a notice in January that it is mulling whether to privatize the enforcement service.

Michigan Officials Decided Not To Test Flint’s Water For Deadly Bacteria

Hundreds of cases of bottled water are stored at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 in Flint, Mich. Michigan.

Lead-contaminated water isn’t the only toxin sickening residents of Flint, Michigan. Since the city switched its water source from Detroit’s water system to the local Flint River in April 2014 — a water source left dangerously untreated for corrosive elements — the city has seen a sizable uptick in cases of Legionnaires disease. The waterborne bacterial infection, which usually afflicts around 13 people a year in Flint’s Genessee County, has infected at least 87 residents — and left ten dead — since June 2014.

Richest Nation On Earth Can’t Afford Tiny Program To Feed Poor Kids, Congressman Says

After pilot programs significantly reduced child hunger in select states over the past few years, the White House wants to expand low-income students’ access to food assistance during the summer.

But there’s a Republican congressman standing in the way.

At a hearing on Wednesday focusing on agriculture program spending in fiscal year 2017, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) acknowledged the summer food assistance program had bipartisan support. But he argued the White House’s proposal to offer assistance to hungry kids is simply too expensive.

Florida Officials Drain Lake Full Of ‘Toilet’ Water To Coast

With tourist season just around the corner, Florida’s beach communities would normally be preparing for a happy, healthy summer. Instead, they’re reeling from polluted water that is likely to inflict severe damage to the local economy and environment.

Lake Okeechobee, a large inland lake in southern Florida, is experiencing its highest water levels in nearly a century due to heavy rains that fell during the month of January. This should not be suprising, because heavy rainfall events are increasing as the planet warms. But after water levels reached a foot above normal, public officials began to worry that the excess water was putting too much stress on the lake’s aging dike. Officials then made the decision to drain the lake out toward Florida’s coasts. There was one problem: Lake Okeechobee’s waters are toxic.

TV Pundits Praise Hillary Clinton On Air, Fail to Disclose Financial Ties to Her Campaign

Tune into television coverage of the presidential campaign and undoubtedly you will hear from various pundits described as “former campaign strategists” and “political contributors” explaining the latest developments of the race. But in many cases, these pundits — though introduced as neutral experts on campaigns or party politics — in fact have financial ties to the candidates they praise on the air.

Human Rights Activists Dispute "Success" of "Plan Colombia"

A group of award-winning human rights activists from Colombia traveled to Washington, DC, from February 15 through 19 to share their perspectives on the armed conflict that has roiled their country for more than half a century, as well as the historic negotiations aimed at ending it.

Their visit comes just two weeks after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in Washington for an official visit to celebrate "Plan Colombia," a 15-year long counterinsurgency and counternarcotics campaign backed by billions of dollars in US funding, most of which went to Colombia's military and police.

Democracy and Decentralization: UK Labour Leaders Reframe Socialism for the 21st Century

Bernie Sanders has made an unprecedented and extraordinary contribution to the US political landscape this election cycle. Whatever the outcome of the primaries, a whole generation has learned that talking about socialism, explicitly and proudly, is no longer as politically radioactive as once supposed. But can we not expect more from our economic populism than just knitting back together a frayed social safety net, kick-starting the engines of Keynesian demand with ecologically appropriate infrastructure and imposing some long overdue reforms on our largest financial institutions? Might the United States not be ready for a socialism that actually takes the question of "who owns the economy" seriously?

White Supremacists Mobilize For Donald Trump

As the Republican presidential primary moves into the American south, white supremacist groups are working to mobilize racists to get out the vote for Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, David Duke, the white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, encouraged his radio show listeners to volunteer for Trump's campaign. "Call Donald Trump’s headquarters [and] volunteer," he said on the "David Duke Radio Program." At Trump campaign offices, he said, "you’re gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have.”

Mayor Tory in Tinseltown to hype city's film industry as labour dispute simmers

Mayor John Tory is in Los Angeles this morning to promote Toronto's $1-billion film, television and digital media industry, as an unresolved and ongoing labour dispute simmers back home.

Over the next three days, Tory will meet with officials from 11 prominent studios including CBS, Paramount, Sony and Warner to encourage them to expand their presence here. According to the mayor's office, these studios currently have over $800 million in development planned for Toronto this year.

GOP Candidates Likely Don’t Want You To Know This Fact About Undocumented Immigrants

Particularly as GOP presidential candidates promise to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, there’s a lot of public debate over whether those people make any significant contributions in this country.

But there is one area where they are clearly contributing. Undocumented immigrants living in the United States pay $11.6 billion in state and local taxes annually, according to an updated Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy report.

FBI Director Ducks the Most Important Question in the Apple Fight

If Apple is forced to help unlock the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, what else can the government make private companies do? Don't ask FBI Director James Comey.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee repeatedly asked Comey that question during a committee hearing on Thursday. It was Comey's first public appearance before Congress since a Los Angeles court ordered Apple last week to help the FBI by writing new code that would bypass security features on Farook's phone. Apple refused, and the battle between the company and the FBI is now major national news.

FBI Director Admits Apple Case Could Be a Game Changer

FBI Director James Comey reversed himself on Thursday when he acknowledged that the outcome of a California court order compelling Apple to write new code to unlock a terrorist’s phone could “be instructive for other courts” when interpreting how far third parties have to go in helping the government hack their products.

5 Ways The Tory Government Is 'Rigging The System' To Stay In Power

The Tory government has been accused of attempting to “rig the system” in its favour after details of another policy emerged that gives the Conservative Party a huge advantage over their rivals.

Officials have announced details of how the UK’s electoral map is to be re-drawn, but an analysis of the Boundary Commission’s proposals suggest it could cost the Labour Party 10 MPs to the Conservatives at the next election.

Bill C-24: Liberals Seek To Repeal Tories' Controversial Tory Changes On Citizenship

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are getting started on repealing some of the previous government's sweeping — and controversial — changes to how people get or lose Canadian citizenship.

But the Liberal plan promises to be controversial in its own right, since it would, if passed, restore the Canadian citizenship of Zakaria Amara — sentenced in 2010 for his role as a member of the so-called Toronto 18.

I get food stamps, and I’m not ashamed — I’m angry

My name is Christine, and I get food stamps. I've had to apply off and on over the past 16 years in order to make sure my family was fed. I don't feel the least bit ashamed of myself for this, but apparently some people think I should.

Some people think I, and people like me, am lazy. Or that we're taking advantage of other (smarter, harder-working) people. Those people seem to have an image in their heads of how someone who "deserves" assistance  behaves, and a very narrow idea of how we should feel about it.

The cost of privatized food in public institutions

Earlier this year, inmates at the Regina Correctional Centre started and ended a second hunger strike over the quality of prison food. In December 2015, the first hunger strike was sparked in part when inmates were served raw eggs. Issues with equipment, quality and the status of a cooking job skills program were resolved.

Premier Brad Wall remarked in early January that if prisoners did not want to eat prison food, they had best avoid prison. Unsurprisingly, reports of the strike garnered little sympathy.

Forgotten African refugees: Canadian nation-building through exclusion

In recent months, Canada has been inundated with press coverage and debate over the Syrian refugee crisis. The crisis and subsequent arrival of 25,000 refugees to Canada has been meticulously documented, including sentimental photo-ops with politicians, to a horrific pepper-spraying hate crime in Vancouver.

But Daniel Tseghay, an Eritrean writer and organizer in Vancouver, says the crisis has put "a focus on some groups of people at the expense of others." In fact, Tseghay starts his day off with an Internet news search with the key-term "refugee" and every hit is related to Syrian refugees.

How the Republican Elite Created Frankentrump

After Donald Trump's third win in a row, pundits and political observers are beginning to accept a stark reality: This guy may become the Republican Party standard bearer in the 2016 presidential election. (The morning after the bigoted, bullying tycoon triumphed in the Nevada caucuses, the Drudge Report splashed a headline simply declaring, "The Nominee," above a photo of Trump.) And tweeters, scribes, and analysts throughout the political-media world began wondering if the GOP elite could do anything to stop him from seizing control of the Republican Party. Whether possible or not to de-Trumpify the GOP at this point, Republican insiders, pooh-bahs, and bigwigs only have themselves to blame for Frankentrump. In recent years, they have fomented, fostered, accepted, and exploited the climate of hate in which Trump's candidacy has taken root. For the fat-cat donors, special-interest lobbyists, and elected officials who usually run the Republican show, Trump is an invasive species. But he has grown large and strong in the manure they have spread across the political landscape.

Hunting Boko Haram

GAROUA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, proclaimed the sign on the concrete and glass terminal building. The designation was something of a misnomer, because only three or four planes land each week in this sleepy outpost in northern Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, all of them domestic flights. The schedule of the flights tends to be unpredictable. The aging jet that had just flown me to Garoua from Douala, for example, had made an unscheduled stop in N’Djamena, the capital of neighboring Chad, so that a government minister could attend a funeral nearby. As a result, the plane had touched down in Garoua five hours late.

The Mad Violence of Casino Capitalism

American society is morally bankrupt and politically broken, and its vision of the future appears utterly dystopian. As the United States descends into the dark abyss of an updated form of totalitarianism, the unimaginable has become imaginable in that it has become possible not only to foresee the death of the essential principles of constitutional democracy, but also the birth of what Hannah Arendt once called the horror of dark times. The politics of terror, a culture of fear, and the spectacle of violence dominate America’s cultural apparatuses and legitimate the ongoing militarization of public life and American society.

Bill Blair: Marijuana Laws Should Be Upheld, Enforced Until Liberals Legalize Drug

OTTAWA — Canadian laws on marijuana remain on the books and must be upheld and enforced even though the government plans to usher in legalization, former Toronto police chief and Liberal MP Bill Blair said Wednesday.

Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, was among several officials who spoke at an open Senate Liberal caucus meeting focused on the legalization of marijuana.

Tax Loopholes For Rich Cost Canada $16 Billion A Year: Study

Closing five tax loopholes that mostly benefit the wealthy would raise nearly $16 billion annually for Canada’s federal and provincial governments, according to a study from a prominent economist.

Toby Sanger says these tax loopholes — which have grown more generous since the late 1990s — have increased inequality and led to greater financial instability.

Air Christy Climbs to Half Million Dollar Mark

Premier Christy Clark has spent more than half-a-million dollars in almost five years on private jets to fly her and her entourage, according to documents released via Freedom of Information.

More than $65,000 of that was spent on round-trip flights from Vancouver to Kelowna since she became the area's most-senior BC Liberal MLA in July 2013. Clark's annual disclosure statement makes no mention of property in the Okanagan, but she owns a house in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

Ben Carson Acknowledges His Presidential Campaign Might Be A Big Scam

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson smiles as he speaks during a town hall meeting Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, in Reno, Nev.

As Ben Carson slid down the polls after cresting around Halloween, firms closely connected with his campaign advisors and consultants hauled in millions of dollars in Carson’s campaign funds.

If Fourth-Year Presidents Shouldn't Do Things, How About Sixth-Year Senators?

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is in the last year of his second term, Republican senators argue, so he should no longer have a say in something so important as who sits on the Supreme Court. Let's wait for the voters to weigh in this fall, they say.

But Obama isn't the only elected official in the last year of his term who has a key role in choosing the next justice, whose party may or may not hold onto his power post, and who generally makes consequential decisions.

Iowa Lawmakers Approve Bill That Would Let Kids Have Handguns

Children of all ages in Iowa would be able to lay down their toy guns and pick up the real thing under a bill that passed the state House of Representatives.

The measure approved Tuesday by 62-36 vote would allow children 14 or younger to possess “a pistol, revolver or the ammunition” under parental supervision. It now heads for the state Senate.

Justice Scalia spent his last hours with members of this secretive society of elite hunters

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died 11 days ago at a West Texas ranch, he was among high-ranking members of an exclusive fraternity for hunters called the International Order of St. Hubertus, an Austrian society that dates back to the 1600s.

After Scalia’s death Feb. 13, the names of the 35 other guests at the remote resort, along with details about Scalia’s connection to the hunters, have remained largely unknown. A review of public records shows that some of the men who were with Scalia at the ranch are connected through the International Order of St. Hubertus, whose members gathered at least once before at the same ranch for a celebratory weekend.

7-Eleven workers beaten and forced to pay back wages, Senate inquiry hears

Franchisees are still taking 7-Eleven workers to ATMs to withdraw and pay back wages, and some have resorted to violence and intimidation to deter underpayment claims, a Senate committee has heard.

The Fels wage fairness panel investigating the 7-Eleven underpayments scandal reported to the Senate employment committee on temporary work visa holders on Friday that it had made 188 determinations that 7-Eleven was liable to pay workers a total of $4.36m. On average, workers were underpaid $23,000 each.

The Absurd Timing of Michael Hayden’s Drone Campaign

MICHAEL HAYDEN, the former director of the CIA and the NSA, has been making the media rounds over the last few days, discussing and defending some of the most emblematic policies of the post-9/11 era in an effort to promote his new book.

According to its Amazon description, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror delivers “an unprecedented high-level master narrative of America’s intelligence wars.” The title is a reference to Hayden’s philosophy of pushing national security policies to their limits — what he envisions as the edge.

Mitt Romney Thinks Donald Trump Releasing His Tax Returns Might Be A 'Bombshell'

Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday called on real estate mogul Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner in the 2016 race, to release his tax returns.

Nearly 20 percent of Trump’s supporters disapprove of Lincoln freeing the slaves

The New York Times took a dive into whether Donald Trump's supporters are unusually racist — or, in the newspaper's delicate phrasing, "responsive to religious, social and racial intolerance." And they came up with a stunning statistic: Nearly one in five Trump supporters didn't approve of freeing slaves in the Confederacy.

Our Food Issues Are So Much Bigger Than Overpriced Cauliflower

We've fielded several calls lately from journalists working on stories about rising food prices. You've probably read a few: most aim to provide quick tips for how Canadians can make a dollar go further in the grocery store, and how to eat healthy for less.

Many of those tips are helpful: buy in season and in bulk, soak your beans, get comfortable with a few empty-the-fridge recipes that can help you curb food waste. Making the most of what you've got is always good practice, especially when what you've got is not a lot. And eating well doesn't have to be complicated. These are ideas that underpin the many healthy cooking and growing programs offered by our partner Community Food Centres. When a few good ideas or skills can make the difference, making changes is easy.

CSIS Using New Powers To Disrupt Terrorists Since Bill C-51 Became Law

Michel Coulombe, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told a Commons committee today that Canada's spy agency has used new disruption powers it was granted when Bill C-51 became law this past summer.

This marks the first time CSIS has publicly acknowledged the use of its new powers under the Anti-terrorism Act to disrupt suspected plots rather than just relay information about those plots to the federal government and the RCMP.

Corporate Canada And Africa's Last Colony

In violation of international law two major Canadian companies are buying the non-renewable resources of Africa's last remaining colony.

Saskatoon's PotashCorp and Calgary's Agrium have partnered with Morocco's state owned OCP to export phosphate mined in Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory in northwestern Africa that was ruled by Spain until 1975. When the Spanish departed Moroccan troops moved in and a bloody 15 year war drove tens of thousands of Sahrawi into neighboring Algeria, where they still live in camps.

Bernie Sanders Will Ban Private Prisons. Hillary Clinton Accepted $133,246 From Prison Lobbyists

Bernie Sanders has never taken money from prison lobbyists.


Why would politicians accept money from interests they oppose? I explain Clinton's prison lobbyist donations in this YouTube segment.

Mining companies' declining fortunes imperil the restoration of land they've mined

The vast black canyons have not always been here and they are not supposed to stay.

After the coal has been carved out and hauled to market, the sprawling surface mines that helped make the Powder River Basin one of the world's most profitable sources of fossil fuels are supposed to return to what they were before: unspectacular grassland. No more hard hats and signs warning of toxic orange clouds released by blasting. Just ranches and antelope and the relentless Wyoming wind.

Black thinkers like Bernie Sanders. They've studied the Clintons' true cost

Spike Lee is the latest black public intellectual to endorse Bernie Sanders and to question the sanity of black voters and politicians pledging their allegiance to the Clintons, who have done as much harm to black America as any living political couple. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am mystified by robust black support for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing helped me wake up about race in America when I’d first watched it as a teenager. That’s why I was delighted to read that Spike Lee encouraged South Carolina democrats to “Wake up” in a radio ad on Tuesday and to vote for “Brother Bernie”.