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 22, 2013

Exclusive: Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes

A secret document obtained by the Bureau reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.

The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.

Detroit, the New Greece

When Detroit declared bankruptcy, or at least tried to — the legal situation has gotten complicated — I know that I wasn’t the only economist to have a sinking feeling about the likely impact on our policy discourse. Was it going to be Greece all over again?

Clearly, some people would like to see that happen. So let’s get this conversation headed in the right direction, before it’s too late.

Court: Chevron Can Seize Americans' Email Data

Thanks to disclosures made by Edward Snowden, Americans have learned that their email records are not necessarily safe from the National Security Agency—but a new ruling shows that they're not safe from big oil companies, either.

Last month, a federal court granted Chevron access to nine years of email metadata—which includes names, time stamps, and detailed location data and login info, but not content—belonging to activists, lawyers, and journalists who criticized the company for drilling in Ecuador and leaving behind a trail of toxic sludge and leaky pipelines. Since 1993, when the litigation began, Chevron has lost multiple appeals and has been ordered to pay plaintiffs from native communities about $19 billion to cover the cost of environmental damage. Chevron alleges that it is the victim of a mass extortion conspiracy, which is why the company is asking Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, to cough up the email data. When Lewis Kaplan, a federal judge in New York, granted the Microsoft subpoena last month, he ruled it didn't violate the First Amendment because Americans weren't among the people targeted.

Canada aids and abets the spectre of nuclear terrorism

Earlier this year, Michael Walli made a blunt confession in a Tennessee court. "I was employed as a terrorist for the United States Government," he told the judge hearing his case. And sure enough, Walli is facing down a potential 35 years in prison for what his prosecutors successfully argued was an action that fit the "federal crime of terrorism."

Walli is an army combat veteran of the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, and is certainly not the first to take some personal responsibility for America's genocidal occupation and relentless bombing of Southeast Asia (with at least 3 million murdered). Indeed, as the recent book Kill Anything that Moves reminds us, American military units were committing so many atrocities that the Pentagon opened up its own, secretive war crimes investigation unit.

Safer from Violence, Still Seeking a Home

The sunny sidewalks of south Fraser Street in Vancouver are full of the casual energy brought out by blue skies and a long weekend. It's Good Friday. People crowd the produce markets, pack the bus stops and fill patios to toast four days off work.

To one young man browsing a produce stand for Red Delicious apples, bananas and mango juice, the statutory holiday means little.

Delawar, 27, (he asked that his last name be withheld) is about ready to give up on his hopes of making a new home for himself in Vancouver.

PMO’s ‘enemies’ list reveals tight management of Cabinet, say former Conservative staffers

Despite the “unfortunate” wording, the leaked PMO memo outlining what information Cabinet ministers should leave their successors, including a controversial list of “enemies,” reveals the Conservatives have become sophisticated in the way they manage major transitions, say insiders.

“It’s exactly part of good practice. I think the idea is, try and have issues managers work with the ministers’ offices to make sure that new ministers are prepared and have the information they need,” said Dan Mader, former chief of staff to Conservative Cabinet ministers who went through several portfolio changes.

Cornel West: Obama’s Response to Trayvon Martin Case Belies Failure to Challenge "New Jim Crow"

For a response to President Obama’s comments on the acquittal of George Zimmerman and racism in the United States, we’re joined by Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary and author of numerous books. On Obama’s remarks comparing himself to Trayvon Martin, West says: "Will that identification hide and conceal the fact there’s a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of precious, poor black and brown brothers? [Obama] hasn’t said a word until now — five years in office and can’t say a word about a 'new Jim Crow.' … Obama and [Attorney General Eric] Holder — will they come through at the federal level for Trayvon Martin? We hope so — [but] don’t hold your breath. There’s going to be many people who say, 'We see this president is not serious about the criminalizing of poor people.'"

Author: --

The Inevitable Downfall of Your Password

Last night, on the Tumblr staff blog, Derek Gottfrid, the company’s vice president of product, posted an “important security update for iPhone/iPad users.” He instructed them to download a new version of the Tumblr app, and, more alarmingly, to “update your password on Tumblr and anywhere else you may have been using the same password.” At the end of the post, Gottfrid added an assurance: “Please know that we take your security very seriously and are tremendously sorry for this lapse and inconvenience.”

Rick Snyder Front, Center In Detroit Bankruptcy Drama

DETROIT -- Seven governors came and went during the decades-long decay of Michigan's largest city that culminated with a humiliating collapse into financial ruin.

It's the eighth, former business executive and relative political novice Rick Snyder, who is aggressively tying his legacy to the prospects of a Detroit turnaround.

When he took office, Snyder pushed for more powers for the state to intervene in distressed cities and schools. After voters repealed the law last November, he ignored critics and signed another one. He also hired the city's turnaround specialist and, nearly four months later, blessed the request to file for bankruptcy.

Report questions costs of villas and mansions for top military brass

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Marine Gen. John F. Kelly works in a fortress-like headquarters near the Miami airport. Starting this fall, he will live in Casa Sur, an elegant home with a pool and gardens on one of the area's swankiest streets.

The five-bedroom residence, across the street from the famed Biltmore Golf Course, is provided rent-free to Kelly as head of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Caribbean Latin America.

Antonin Scalia: Holocaust Was Partially Brought About By Judicial Activism

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's warnings on judicial activism appear to have gained a new chapter at the Utah Bar Association's 2013 summer convention.

The Aspen Times reported Sunday that Scalia drew upon the Holocaust as an example of how judicial activism can lead to problems. According to the Utah Bar Association's website, Scalia was slated to be the keynote speaker for the 2013 Summer Convention event, which was held from July 17-20 in Snowmass, Colo.

Leona Aglukkaq Could Be Help Or Hindrance In Environment Portfolio

OTTAWA - If there are any questions about why Leona Aglukkaq, the soft-spoken Inuk politician from Nunavut, was chosen by Stephen Harper to lead Environment Canada, the Prime Minister's Office is eager to dispel them.

"As an Inuk woman, minister Aglukkaq grew up with a cultural connection to our country's proud and vast Arctic," Julie Vaux, Harper's spokeswoman, told The Canadian Press in an email.

'Action plan' TV ads landing with a thud for many Canadians: internal survey

OTTAWA - Slick television ads this year for the Harper government's "economic action plan" appear to be inspiring a lot of, well, inaction.

A key measure of the ads' impact is whether viewers check out, the web portal created in 2009 to promote the catch-all brand.

But a survey of 2,003 adult Canadians completed in April identified just three people who actually visited the website.

A Shuffle of Aluminum, but to Banks, Pure Gold

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. — Hundreds of millions of times a day, thirsty Americans open a can of soda, beer or juice. And every time they do it, they pay a fraction of a penny more because of a shrewd maneuver by Goldman Sachs and other financial players that ultimately costs consumers billions of dollars.

The story of how this works begins in 27 industrial warehouses in the Detroit area where a Goldman subsidiary stores customers’ aluminum. Each day, a fleet of trucks shuffles 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the warehouses. Two or three times a day, sometimes more, the drivers make the same circuits. They load in one warehouse. They unload in another. And then they do it again.

'The scale of low pay in Britain is a national scandal,' says Sentamu

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has condemned the low wages of millions of Britons as a "national scandal", saying businesses have ignored a moral duty to ensure that all employees are paid enough to live on.

In an outspoken intervention that will reignite tensions between church leaders and the government, Sentamu accuses those in power of offering only "warm words" and "sticking plaster" solutions to a problem that is having "devastating" effects on people's lives.

Shadow of past abuse lingers over First Nations education debate

MONTREAL -- Aboriginal leaders are pointing to past abuses as evidence that the federal government should let their communities craft their own education policies.

When news broke that more than 1,300 aboriginal people, mostly children, were used as subjects of nutritional experiments initiated by the Canadian government in the 1940s and '50s, it struck a chord with aboriginal leaders that was all-too-contemporary.

Boehner: Congress 'Ought To Be Judged On How Many Laws We Repeal'

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner says Congress "ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."

The Ohio Republican makes the comments on an interview aired Sunday on CBS "Face the Nation." He was responding to a question about how little Congress is doing these days.

Boehner says Congress "should not be judged by how many new laws we create."

He says the U.S. has "more laws than the administration could ever enforce."

Boehner says that view may be unpopular because this country has a divided government. Boehner says he and his allies in Congress are fighting for what they believe in. And he adds, "Sometimes the American people don't like this mess."

Original Article
Author: AP

EI whistleblower suspended without pay

A federal fraud investigator has been suspended without pay, after she leaked documents showing that investigators had to cut people off their employment insurance benefits in order to meet quotas.

Sylvie Therrien told CBC News that she and other investigators were given a target to recover nearly $500,000 in EI benefits every year.

Detroit, and the Bankruptcy of America's Social Contract

One way to view Detroit's bankruptcy -- the largest bankruptcy of any American city -- is as a failure of political negotiations over how financial sacrifices should be divided among the city's creditors, city workers, and municipal retirees -- requiring a court to decide instead. It could also be seen as the inevitable culmination of decades of union agreements offering unaffordable pension and health benefits to city workers.

FISA Court Approves Continued U.S. Phone Surveillance

WASHINGTON — A secret U.S. intelligence court renewed an order Friday to continue forcing Verizon Communications to turn over hundreds of millions of telephone records to the government each day in its search for foreign terror or espionage suspects.

The order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has been in place for years but must be renewed every three months. It was exposed in June after former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of two top secret U.S. surveillance programs that critics say violate privacy rights.

LCBO Gives 49 Per Cent Discount To Government Workers, Diplomats

OTTAWA - Ontario's liquor board has sweetened an already sweet deal for the federal government and foreign diplomats as it chops the prices they pay for beer, wine and booze almost in half.

Late last month, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario began offering its products to federal departments and agencies at a 49 per cent discount from the retail price that everyone else pays.