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, August 12, 2012

Lessons from Kalamazoo: Will Harper listen?

In July 2010, an Enbridge oil pipeline ruptured near Michigan's Kalamazoo River. Three million litres of oil spilled into the river, causing extensive damage, killing fish and wildlife, and leading to the evacuation of local homes. The spill cost $800 million to clean up - the most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history.

It looks like one of the biggest victims of this spill will be Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

But the more important lesson is being missed. For the Michigan disaster highlights Ottawa's supreme folly - dismantling our environmental laws at the same time as it approves dramatic expansions in resource industries.

Québec Elections: What if the PQ wins?

“Majority in PQ’s grasp,” La Presse headlined Friday morning. According to the latest poll, even after a lacklustre first campaign week, the Parti Québécois leads the incumbent Liberals, with the new Coalition Avenir Québec a distant third. Within the French-speaking population, which determines the results in most ridings, the Péquistes are way ahead of other parties.

The campaign is still young and if as many things happen in the remaining four weeks as in the first, poll numbers could swing in many different directions. Still, if the vote were held today, the Parti Québécois would form the next government of the province of Québec.

WikiLeaks says site has been hit by week-long attack

LONDON—The secret-busting organization WikiLeaks says it’s been the victim of a sustained denial-of-service attack which has left its website sluggish or inaccessible for more than a week.

In a statement released late Saturday the group said the assault intensified around the beginning of August and has since expanded to include attacks against affiliated sites.

Denial-of-service attacks work by overwhelming websites with requests for information. WikiLeaks has said it’s been flooded with 10 gigabits per second of bogus traffic from thousands of different Internet addresses.

Josh Corman, with online content delivery company Akamai, characterized that as “a bit larger” than attacks commonly seen in the past few years.

WikiLeaks, which has angered officials in Washington with its spectacular releases of classified U.S. documents, remained inaccessible Sunday.

Original Article
Source: the star
Author: AP

Egypt’s Islamist president strikes boldly to seize back powers from military

CAIRO—Egypt’s Islamist president ordered the retirement of the defence minister and chief of staff on Sunday and made the boldest move so far to seize back powers that the military stripped from his office right before he took over.

Mohammed Morsi has been locked in a power struggle with the military since he took office on June 30. But after militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers a week ago at a border post with Israel in Sinai, he has sought more aggressively to assert his authority over the top generals.

Threat from Iran dwarfs all others, says Israel PM; talk of attack mounts

JERUSALEM—The threat from Iran dwarfs all other challenges the Jewish state faces, Israel’s prime minister declared Sunday, as high-level hints of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s suspect nuclear program mounted.

One indirect indication came Sunday, when Israel’s military began sending mock text messages to cellphones warning of incoming missiles, part of a nationwide experiment that is to continue through Thursday and reach hundreds of thousands of cellphone users. Last week, defence officials confirmed that Israel’s top-tier missile defence system has been upgraded.

Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand Fan, Brings Writer's Philosophy To Presidential Stage

WASHINGTON -- When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, he wasn't just picking a self-proclaimed nerd and policy wonk, he was picking Ayn Rand's latest and best literary agent.

Rand's windy, melodramatic prose has been a conservative and libertarian inspiration for decades. Her novels "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" are deemed essential philosophical tracts in defense of capitalism and the will of the individual over a society based on shared sacrifice. Rand titled one of her books "The Virtue of Selfishness."

Rep. Paul Ryan VP Choice Draws Criticism From Some Conservatives

Despite general cheer among conservatives, some in that camp are apoplectic at Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, though they are reluctant to say so publicly.

Here -- anonymously, by his request -- is a critique of the choice by one of the country's most prominent and influential conservatives, who sent this analysis to close friends:

Talk About Poverty (#TAP): Peter Edelman's Questions for Obama and Romney created This Week in Poverty to keep the struggles of the poor and near-poor front and center for its readers every week. Now, as we enter the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, we are launching a new effort to help push the issue of poverty into the mainstream political debate.

Each Talk About Poverty (#TAP) post will feature three to five questions for President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney from experts who know antipoverty policy inside-out. I will profile the individuals asking the questions so you get a sense of why they know what they are talking about; offer background on why these particular questions are being asked; and then lay the questions out for the candidates.

The Republican Right Gets What it Wanted: A Ryan-Romney Ticket

Mitt Romney took some flak for announcing to thousands of cheering supporters Saturday that Paul Ryan is “the next president of the United States.”

For now, Ryan is merely slated to be the Republican nominee for vice president.

But this is one of those instances where the gaffe is more revealing than the prepared remarks.

7 Reasons Why Israel Should Not Attack Iran's Nuclear Facilities

On his Twitter feed, Oren Kessler reports that news analysts on Israel's Channel 2 are in agreement that an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities seems to be imminent. Ari Shavit, of Haaretz, is reporting that an unnamed senior Israeli security official he interviewed who is identified in a headline as "the decision-maker" (If you guess Ehud Barak, the defense minister, you would not be wrong) is arguing that the zero-hour is approaching for an Israeli decision:

    "If Israel forgoes the chance to act and it becomes clear that it no longer has the power to act, the likelihood of an American action will decrease. So we cannot wait a year to find out who was right: the one who said that the likelihood of an American action is high or the one who said the likelihood of an American action is low."

Logan Airport Racial Profiling Allegations: TSA Officers Complain Colleagues Are Targeting Minorities

NEW YORK -- Transportation Security Administration officers at Boston's Logan International Airport are alleging that a program intended to help flag possible terrorists based on passengers' mannerisms has led to rampant racial profiling, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The TSA told the newspaper on Friday that it is investigating the officers' claims. At a meeting last month with the agency, officers provided written complaints, some of them anonymous, from 32 officers.

Is Canada ‘a country of immigrants?’

The saying that Canada is a “country of immigrants” is as commonplace as they come. It ranks up there with hockey, the Mounties and niceness as part of the perceived national identity.

But does it stand up to scrutiny? A former Canadian diplomat and specialist on immigration believes it is a somewhat misleading phrase. He makes an interesting case that the first waves of newcomers to Canada were settlers, not immigrants. And to him there’s a significant difference.

He’s 100% wrong but scientist is 99% certain droughts are man-made

James Hansen is at it again.

Hansen, who runs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, is usually billed as a climate scientist — not to mention the godfather of the current global warming concern.

But Hansen now spends as much time marching in demonstrations and petitioning governments for action on climate change as he does doing research. He engages in plenty of unscientific rhetoric, such as calling trains taking coal to electrical generating stations “death trains” because of the carbon dioxide given off by burning coal to generate power. He has even testified in court in Britain on behalf of environmentalist vandals who sought to infiltrate a power plant and cause it to shut down.

Hansen and two other authors published a study last week that claims extreme weather events, especially droughts, are increasing in frequency and intensity and that it is “99% certain” that the cause is man-made global warming.

Nice conclusion — if your intent is to scare the public and politicians into action. But even many scientists not known as global-warming skeptics have shaken their heads in disbelief at the sloppiness of Hansen’s latest work.

Hansen and his co-authors contend that the chances of having a drought such as the one that has gripped much of the continental U.S. this summer was just one in 300 in the years between 1950 and the 1980s, but the chance now is one in 10. This change, Hansen insists, can only be due to the negative effect human carbon emissions are having on climate.

But to arrive at their conclusions, Hansen and his colleagues had to “cherry pick.” They had to carefully select the past years they compared to today. The period from the 1950s to the 1980s are well known for being substantially cooler than today. It makes the contrast look much more dire when you take a reasonably warm period such as the past 15 years and compare it to a notably cool period.

It may well be that droughts are much more common now than they were during the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. But that doesn’t tell us much about why.

For instance, as much or more of the globe was under drought conditions in the 1930s as it is today. But if Hansen et al admitted that, they might also have had to admit there are possible causes other than man-made emissions.

Much of the world was even warmer in the 1930s, but the cause couldn’t possibly have been idling SUVs and belching coal-fired power plants. To add the ’30s into the mix raises the possibility that other causes are at work or that, perhaps, extreme weather events are cyclical — recurring over time according to natural rhythms.

Martin Hoerling, a climate researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who specializes in extreme weather, told The New York Times he felt Hansen was making too much of the certainty of the connection between possible climate change and drought.

Hoerling, who explains that he is also concerned about unnatural climate change, has published papers explaining that the devastating Russian heat wave of two summers ago was a naturally occurring weather event. The Times reports he has another study coming soon showing that natural factors are also behind the current American drought.

Hoerling insists Hansen confuses drought (which is a lack of rainfall), with heat waves. “This isn’t a serious science paper,” he told the Times. “It’s mainly about perception … (and) perception is not a science.”

Don’t take my word for it. I’m as biased on the skeptic side as Hansen is on the alarmist side.

But you can believe Hoerling.

Original Article
Source: toronto sun
Author: Lorne Gunter

Public faces barriers in accessing Canadian courts, chief justice says

The chief justice of Canada’s Supreme Court says the legal system risks a loss of public faith unless barriers to public access to the courts, especially for civil matters, are lowered.

Beverley McLachlin issued the warning Saturday during a rare news conference after a speech to the annual conference of the Canadian Bar Association.

'Science' will tell what we already know

It should be evident to everyone by now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apparent embrace of science last week was more like an Olympic wrestler's hold.

He said that the Northern Gateway pipeline approval depends on "an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks" associated with the pipeline. He said that it will be "evaluated on an independent basis scientifically and not simply on political criteria."

U.S. Drought 2012: Tales Of Woe And Opportunity Amid Historic Dry Weather

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The United States is in the midst of the worst drought in decades, and the dry weather and soaring temperatures are taking a toll on people living and working in Ohio west to California and Texas north to the Dakotas. Farmers have watched their corn wither and their cattle go hungry. Homeowners have seen their lawns turn brown and gardens wilt. Communities in the Midwest that rarely experience water shortages have enacted restrictions, and businesses are looking for ways to stay afloat as sales fall off. Here are a few of their stories:

Scathing U.S. Report Missing From Northern Gateway Hearings

A scathing U.S. government report on the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, Mich., has yet to be entered as evidence into the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings, a B.C. economist says.

In an interview airing on CBC Radio's The House, independent economist Robyn Allan told guest host Louise Elliott that while the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report was published in July, "Enbridge hasn't tabled any information, at all, about the spill."

Harper's pipeline dilemma: can't reject, can't ram through

Figuring out what's likely to unfold with the Northern Gateway pipeline project felt somewhat easier before evidence began trickling out that not all conservatives agree on how to proceed.

When the Harper government's senior minister for B.C. popped up on private radio sticking up for B.C.'s right not to be treated like a "doormat" by Enbridge, ears perked up at the prospect of serious cabinet dissent.

Canada pledges millions in aid for Syrian refugees

Canada's foreign minister pledged $6.5 million in additional aid to Jordan in its efforts to help displaced Syrians after seeing a refugee tent city and calling the worsening situation in neighbouring Syria "tremendously horrifying."

John Baird praised Jordan, calling it an "incredible example to the world" on the frontlines of the Syrian crisis, saying that the country "should not stand alone."

Middle East needs daring leadership from Western politicians

JERUSALEM—Having not been back to this wondrous city for nearly a decade, I had forgotten its magic. From afar, its politics can smother. But walking its ancient streets — so holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians for so long — can be uplifting. Thousands of years of history and so much still survives.

But we can take nothing for granted in this part of the world, and present-day politics always intrudes. Thus, the question: will Jerusalem survive the bizarre partnership of Mitt Romney, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu?