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, July 15, 2013

After the Verdict: The Zimmerman Non-Riots

At some point in the saga of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, it became a truism in certain quarters that a not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial would be greeted by fire, chaos, and mob violence. This idea has apparently survived the almost completely peaceful protests over the verdict that took place this weekend: on Monday, Newt Gingrich—a man who has taught history in the state of Georgia—remarked on CNN that those in the crowds were “prepared, basically, to be a lynch mob.” The faulty narrative of impending doom has yielded to an equally inaccurate story of doom narrowly averted.

This Week in Poverty: Confronting Congressional Hunger Games

The congressional hunger games began when Senate Democrats voted to cut $4.1 billion from food stamps, or SNAP. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said it was a matter of slicing “waste, fraud and abuse” from the program.

Except that’s not what they were doing.

Trayvon Martin: From Lament to Rallying Cry

There isn’t a good reason for me to be as angry as I am over the “not guilty” verdict handed down for George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. I always knew that would be the outcome. No amount of flat-out lies or inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s story, nor compassion for two grieving parents who lost their son in the most heinous and senseless of ways, was going to override the lack of respect the United States justice system has for black bodies. Disappointment is for people who have faith in the system. I knew that better than I know my own name.

Taseko Mines Williams Lake Project Rejection Prompts Company To Lobby Feds, Documents Reveal

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - The company behind a rejected billion-dollar gold and copper mine in the British Columbia Interior has been lobbying for the federal government to change the environmental assessment process that previously rejected the project, documents show.

And Taseko Mines Ltd. likes what it's heard, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

Texas conservatives reject Harper's crime plan

Conservatives in the United States' toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction — Texas — say the Harper government's crime strategy won't work.

"You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up," says Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. "And there will come a point in time where the public says, 'Enough!' And you'll wind up letting them out."

Native American tribes are blazing a trail for solar power

In the past five years or so, a combination of factors including government mandates surrounding clean energy and lower costs for equipment, have led to what has been dubbed a "solar gold rush" in parts of the US.

As energy companies compete fiercely to find large tracts of land with ample sunshine to develop solar projects, Native Indian tribes, many of which have an abundance of both, have been presented with a unique opportunity to become leaders as solar developers and users.

Commercial drones could have 'endless' uses under Canada's laws

The word “armed” blinks red on the laptop screen as a propeller whirs to life. Soon, the drone rises steadily over a dusty landscape.

But this isn’t Afghanistan – it’s Milton, Ont., where geographer Scott McTavish is using his autonomous aircraft to survey a gravel pit.

McTavish first turned to drones, officially named unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), in 2008, while working for a forestry company in B.C.

Promotion to prime minister's inner circle comes with financial perks

OTTAWA - A promotion into the prime minister's inner circle instantly ups a member of Parliament's political cachet.

But becoming a cabinet minister or parliamentary secretary also brings with it financial perks and some strict new rules.

In addition to their base MP salary of roughly $160,000 a year, cabinet ministers earn an additional $76,700 while parliamentary secretaries get a $57,500 bump.

How the GOP Hopes to Take Away Americans' Right to Collective Bargaining

The right to collective bargaining in the workplace is a human right -- just as fundamental as the right to free speech or the right to vote.

It is enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948.

Three quarters of a century ago, our country passed labor laws that gave every worker the right to organize a union in their workplace to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers.

Virginia Abortion Clinic, Busiest In State, Closes Due To New State Regulations

The busiest abortion clinic in Virginia has closed its doors, the Washington Post reported Monday.

NOVA Women's Healthcare, which had been located in a Fairfax City, Va. office building since 2006, needed to either upgrade its facilities or move to a new location after state regulations changed to require clinics to meet strict, hospital-level building standards. The Associated Press reports that the clinic submitted an application to retrofit another space to meet the new codes, but was denied due to inadequate parking.

Hillary Clinton: The Right-Wing Cash Machine

Is she running or not? Hillary Clinton herself may not know if she'll seek the presidency in 2016. But such uncertainty is not stopping right-wing political operatives, and a host of Republican political action committees and nonprofits in full buck-raking mode are using Clinton's name, face, and the chance of a President Hillary Clinton to fill their own coffers.

Immigration minister Jason Kenney, not David Suzuki, is the one being intolerant

Name-calling, someone once said, is the last refuge of the intellectually bankrupt. Jason Kenney qualifies for that characterization with his denunciation of environmental gadfly David Suzuki’s recent contention that Canada is taking in too many immigrants.

Suzuki, an elder statesman of the evergreen set, was recently quoted in the Paris-based publication L’Express as saying “Canada is full,” arguing, it seems, that to continue to bring in hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year is “crazy.”

Farley Mowat vs. the zombies: game on

“I am on permanent call by God.”

That is how Farley Mowat at 92, bearded, blue-eyed, and bemused, describes his presence in the waiting-room of eternity.

This should be a time to make morning tea for his wife, Claire, listen to the bullfrogs harrumphing in the two ponds on his 200-acre sanctuary in River Bourgeois Cape Breton, and reflect on the closet-full of books in his study, all 44 of them, that he has written over an extraordinary life.

Stephen Harper prefers pips to the maple leaf

Crikey. Stephen Harper is taking the maple leaf off the uniforms of Canadian army officers and replacing them with fiddly bits straight from Carry On up the Khyber/the British Army.

Seriously, our soldier’s shoulders will have “pips” on them, whatever pips are. But one thing is certain, they do sound silly. Army ranks will revert to a colonial level, the CBC reports, with the rank of private pretty much replaced with “trooper, bombardier, fusilier, rifleman or guardsman.”

Profits over safety: 'Pipeline on rails' plans boom in Quebec

The boom in oil fracking and tar sands has lured the great and small to the rails in search of profits and jobs.

The great include Bill Gates, who took time from the virtual world of software to acquire controlling interest in the Canadian National (CN) railroad, part of the real world of steel rails, mile-long trains and the rumble of linked diesel locomotives pulling tar sands oil out of Alberta.

The not so great, like Edmund Burkhardt, CEO of Rail World, which controls the short line "Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway," saw the boom in rail-transported petroleum as a way to make his mini-empire of short lines profitable.

Fair wages and city cleaners: The battle for a living wage in Toronto

On July 16, Toronto City Council will vote on a proposal to amend the city's Fair Wage Policy. The policy, which was established in 1893, requires contractors and suppliers for the city to pay their workers the prevailing market wages and benefits in their field of employment or, for unionized fields, union rates. The basic idea behind the policy is to protect workers from unscrupulous contractors trying to underbid their competitors by paying their workers less than the prevailing wage rates. A second goal of the policy is to enhance the city's reputation for engaging in ethical and fair business dealings.

The city's Fair Wage Policy currently covers workers in six sectors, including construction workers, cleaners and security guards. Fair wage rates are determined by local market conditions and vary significantly across sectors. For example, the fair wage rate for carpenters employed by city contractors in Toronto is nearly three times higher than that of light duty cleaners.

The Crisis of Extreme Capitalism

Our current incarnation of capitalism -- variously referred to as savage capitalism, extreme capitalism or euphemistically as the "free market" (free of any constraints) -- is in one of its periodic crises. For years many assumed that the smart people who ran the system and benefitted from it would find a practical way to fix it. The problem is that the solutions are all framed within an ideology that makes that extremely unlikely. That ideology, neo-liberalism, is like a religion. Once you are a true believer you see other solutions as heresy.

Does this undocumented family deserve to stay in Toronto?

They own two cars, a 3,000-sq-ft home by the lake and run a successful landscaping business that rings in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in revenue.

By most accounts, they are the hardworking and well-established immigrants that Canada needs and wants.

Since their arrival from Mexico in 2007, however, the Dias family has lived a life of secrecy — off the population map and, by necessity, the radar of Canadian immigration officials.

Oka, 23 years on

Nothing has changed. But everything has changed.

That was the refrain at a gathering for the 23rd anniversary of the Oka Crisis and protest of recent oil company representatives in Oka and Kanehsatà:ke.

Nothing has changed in the way natives are treated by the federal government, but everything has changed for people involved in the struggle for indigenous rights, activists told the crowd.

Justice Department To Review George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin Case

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it is looking into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case.

The department opened an investigation into Martin's death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.

In a statement Sunday, the Justice Department said the criminal section of the civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Middle District of Florida are continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal probe, in addition to the evidence and testimony from the state trial.

The statement said that, in the government's words, "experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation."

Original Article
Author: AP

White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman

A jury has found George Zimmerman not guilty of all charges in connection to death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But while the verdict came as a surprise to some people, it makes perfect sense to others. This verdict is a crystal-clear illustration of the way white supremacy operates in America.

Throughout the trial, the media repeatedly referred to an “all-woman jury” in that Seminole County courtroom, adding that most of them were mothers. That is true—but so is that five of the six jurors were white, and that is profoundly significant for cases like this one. We also know that the lone juror of color was seen apparently wiping a tear during the prosecution’s rebuttal yesterday. But that tear didn’t ultimately convince her or the white people on that jury that Zimmerman was guilty of anything. Not guilty. Not after stalking, shooting and killing a black child, a child that the defense insultingly argued was “armed with concrete.”

Marissa Alexander Gets 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot

TAMPA, Fla. -- Marissa Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody got hurt, but this month a northeast Florida judge was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison.

Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of a toddler and 11-year-old twins, knew it was coming. She had claimed self-defense, tried to invoke Florida's "stand your ground" law and rejected plea deals that could have gotten her a much shorter sentence. A jury found her guilty as charged: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she fired a gun while committing a felony, Florida's mandatory-minimum gun law dictated the 20-year sentence.

George Zimmerman, Not Guilty: Blood on the Leaves

The not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial came down moments after I left a screening of “Fruitvale Station,” a film about the police-shooting death of Oscar Grant four years ago in Oakland. Much of the audience sat quietly sobbing as the closing credits rolled, moved by the narrative of a young black man, unarmed and senselessly gone. Words were not needed to express a common understanding: to Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, the seventeen-year-old he shot, fit the description; for black America, the circumstances of his death did.

The familiarity dulled the sharp edges of the tragedy. The decision the six jurors reached on Saturday evening will inspire anger, frustration, and despair, but little surprise, and this is the most deeply saddening aspect of the entire affair. From the outset— throughout the forty-four days it took for there to be an arrest, and then in the sixteen months it took to for the case to come to trial—there was a nagging suspicion that it would culminate in disappointment. Call this historical profiling.

Edward Snowden accuses US of illegal, aggressive campaign

The American whistleblower Edward Snowden has accused the US of waging a campaign of "historically disproportionate aggression" against him during an extraordinary meeting with human rights activists and Russian officials at the Moscow airport where he has been trapped since 23 June.

In his first appearance since disclosing his identity in the Guardian last month, Snowden insisted he had no regrets and had made a "moral decision" to leak dozens of secret documents outlining US surveillance programmes. He also announced that he would apply for political asylum from the Kremlin and appealed to those present for help in leaving the airport.

Glenn Greenwald: Snowden Documents Could Be 'Worst Nightmare' For U.S.

BUENOS AIRES, July 13 (Reuters) - Fugitive former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden controls dangerous information that could become the United States' "worst nightmare" if revealed, a journalist familiar with the data said in a newspaper interview.

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first published the documents Snowden leaked, said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday that the U.S. government should be careful in its pursuit of the former computer analyst.

Marc Garneau Canadarm Event Snub: Event Planned In Part By Ministers' Offices

OTTAWA - This is Ground Control to Major Marc: you didn't make the grade.

Documents show at least two ministers' offices helped plan a Canadarm event that snubbed Canada's first astronaut, Marc Garneau, now a Liberal MP.

Rob Ford’s subway would cost $1.6 billion, need tax hikes

Ditching a plan for a Scarborough LRT line and building a subway instead could cost up to $1.6 billion extra, necessitate multi-year property tax increases, and risk skewing Toronto’s transit priorities, a highly anticipated report has found.

City manager Joe Pennachetti released his report on Scarborough rapid transit options on Friday, and while it did not recommend council choose one option over the other, it warned that the subway project would present significant financial and planning challenges for the city.

Ford says he'll raise taxes to pay for Scarborough subway

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has thrown down the gauntlet, declaring on Friday that he is not wavering on his promise to bring more subways to Scarborough — he's even said he's willing to raise taxes.

At issue is a heated debate over whether to replace the ageing Scarborough Rapid Transit line (SRT) with a light rail train (LRT) or subway.

Bursting Our Petroleum Power Bubble

This is a story I have watched unfold since the midpoint of the 20th century. The total transformation of planet Earth has happened due to cheap energy. Has this been a good idea? Perhaps even if we could find a new, cheap energy source, it might be a bad idea. Do we need to change our goals?

At the beginning of the 21st century, the modern world of developed countries is living in a beautiful bubble. The luxury and conveniences of this bubble are prodigious and would have been unimaginable at the beginning of the 20th century.

Israel's ethnic cleansing zones

Were it not for the razor wire, giant concrete blocks, steel gates, watchtower and standard-issue surly teenage soldier, it would be impossible to tell at what point the barren uplands of Israel's eastern Negev give way to the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank.

The military checkpoint of Shani vaguely marks the formal demarcation between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, but in practical terms the distinction is meaningless. On either side of the Green Line, Israel is in charge.

Phil McNeely’s complaint about DND’s Nortel move falls on deaf ears

The country’s language watchdog says he won’t investigate a complaint that alleges moving Defence department staff and military personnel to the former Nortel campus would harm Ottawa’s francophone community.

Liberal MPP Phil McNeely spearheaded an effort in April to try to stop the proposed move, arguing it would force large numbers of francophones who work for the Department of National Defence and currently live in Orléans to relocate to the city’s west end. He argued that they would have less access to French language services in that part of the city.

To Rescue Local Economies, Cities Seize Underwater Mortgages Through Eminent Domain

In 2005, Rodney Conway and his wife, Vicki, paid $340,000 for their 950-square-foot two-bedroom home in Richmond, California, a blue-collar city in the Bay Area. Today the home is worth about $140,000. But the couple still owes $320,000 and makes monthly mortgage payments to the Bank of America. “We’re basically renting this house for $2,000 a month,” said the 52-year-old Conway, who was disabled while serving on a Navy ship in Lebanon in 1983.

With her office job and his disability income, the Conways can barely make ends meet. “We don’t take trips or go to restaurants. We just went to a movie for the first time in a year,” said Conway, who spent twenty-six years as a letter carrier before being laid off in 2009. “I’d like to be able to give my wife a nice birthday present, but I can’t afford it.”

Worldwide Air Pollution Deaths Per Year Number Over 2 Million, New Study Claims

Air pollution may be responsible for more than 2 million deaths around the world each year, according to a new study.

The study estimated that 2.1 million deaths each year are linked with fine particulate matter, tiny particles that can get deep into the lungs and cause health problems.

Exposure to particle pollution has been linked with early death from heart and lung diseases, including lung cancer, the researchers said; meanwhile, concentrations of particulate matter have been increasing due to human activities. The study also found that 470,000 deaths yearly are linked with human sources of ozone, which forms when pollutants from sources such as cars or factories come together and react. Exposure to ozone has been linked to death from respiratory diseases.

White House: Prosecution Not Always The Best Way To Address Leaks

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, who has overseen a record number of leak prosecutions during his time in office, has directed his team to look into alternative ways to crack down on leaks without bringing criminal charges, a White House spokesman told The Huffington Post Friday.

After the Justice Department issued a new report on Friday laying out guidelines for investigating leaks to the media, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said the administration believes that pursuing a criminal investigation and prosecution is “not always the most efficient and effective way to address leaks of classified information. He suggested withdrawing security clearances and imposing other administrative sanctions could suffice in certain cases.

Pat McCrory Would Sign Motorcycle Abortion Bill, Despite 2012 Campaign Promise

WASHINGTON -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said he would sign into law a controversial anti-abortion bill if it reaches his desk, despite a 2012 campaign promise to oppose new abortion restrictions.

The legislation (SB 353) passed the state House on Thursday and is now headed to the Senate. On Friday, McCrory said he was pleased with the House version and, according to the Associated Press, didn't think it limited abortion access.

Sinai Militants Grow Bolder As Egypt's Political Crisis Continues

CAIRO -- Military attack helicopters rattle over the impoverished desert towns of northern Sinai and the sound of gunfire erupts nightly, raising fears among residents of a looming confrontation between Egypt's military and Islamic militants who have intensified attacks since the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

Militant groups have grown bolder, striking security forces almost daily and also turning on local Christians. Some are now openly vowing to drive the military out of the peninsula on the borders with Israel and Gaza and establish an "Islamic emirate." Further fueling the turmoil is the longtime resentment among many in the Bedouin population over decades of neglect and harsh security crackdowns by the state.

Texas Senate Passes Abortion Bill

The Texas Senate has passed a controversial bill that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and will force all but five of the state's abortion clinics to close.

The bill was passed in a vote of 19-11.

Protesters on both sides of the issue took over the Texas capitol Friday because of the abortion bill. The AP reported earlier:

    Dozens of extra state troopers guarded the gallery and patrolled the hallways Friday, which filled quickly with vocal activists. Opponents of the bill settled on the main floor of the rotunda, displaying homemade "wanted" posters of several prominent Republican lawmakers and chanting "Whose choice? Our choice!" Supporters of the bill competed to be heard, some praying and holding up crosses and signs that read: "We choose life."

What the Zimmerman Trial Was About

A three-week long legal spectacle involving life-size human cutouts, a block of concrete, a forensic dummy, and a poorly considered knock-knock joke can be distilled down to two statements from the trial’s closing arguments: the prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda telling the jury that Trayvon Martin was dead because Zimmerman had profiled him as a criminal, and Mark O’Mara, one of George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, saying that Trayvon Martin, unfortunately, fit the description of people arrested for burglaries in the retreat at Twin Lakes. The State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman is about many things: what constitutes self-defense, the echoing consequences of an increasingly armed public, the enduring and toxic way that race stains the most basic interactions. But, most fundamentally, it’s about what we’ve decided to do with our fear.